Saturday, August 21, 2010


Suffer my reviews all ye who submit music for scrutiny.
Honestly, I'm not sure why it worked out this way, but I just got heaps of more indie-leaning music this time around. Not much in the 'hard' category. Oh well, it matters not to me, even though I honestly don't care too much for a lot of this stuff. Anyways, you have nothing better to do than to read this for the next five minutes....

BARS OF GOLD, “Of Gold” 12”

So the press release on this jammer says a couple cats from that Bear Vs. Shark band are in this new band. Fair enough. That group got pretty interesting towards the end, so it’s nice to know their same penchant for playing things a bit different shows up here as well. And it certainly is an odd vibe going on here. I can’t decide if it works or not yet, but that’s part of the fun of trying something new, and I get the feeling this group is having fun figuring it out for themselves. What you get is this rather odd mix of rugged Americana rock, a dash of post hardcore, and some rather funky organs. It’s like Scouts Honor colliding with later-era At the Drive In, and cut with just a bit of Modest Mouse. That seems a little strange, but hey, I get the impression these aren’t any regular joes behind the music either. (Friction Records)

BURNING LOVE, “Songs For Burning Lovers”
I’ve been quite interested to see what this band was all about since I’m a big fan of Chris Colohan, particularly because he tends to align himself with good bands. It’s been a winning streak thus far, why should I miss out on this new project? Well, this is, in fact, a bit of a departure from the frighteningly loud and metal-tinged raging hardcore those familiar are used to. Burning Love has a far more ballsy rock vibe to it and is right in line with groups such as Turbonegro, Hellacopters, and the Stooges... of course, with Chris’ well worn hardcore scream right up front. And while the music is fun, it’s a weird mix that is confusing me. The vocals are way in front and the rest of the record is really quiet. Is it just me? I have to crank the bass on my record player just to get some balls out of this recording as it is one of the quieter sounding records I’ve picked up in the last few years. I’m not saying it’s like soft rock or anything, it’s just a strangely quiet mix... and for some reason the B side sounds a lot better (maybe I just like songs on that side better?) than the A side. Repeated listens give the same effect. I dunno... weird. Either way, fans of old Colohan bands (Cursed, Left For Dead) might have their reservations. People who like exceptionally rowdy and raucous punk rock n’ roll will more than likely be happy. Just make sure to turn it up loud to get the full effect. (Deranged Records)

CASTAVET, “The Echo and the Light” 12”

This whole section of reviews this month seems to be dominated by the more indie end of the punk spectrum, and I don’t know why, it just ended up that way. And Castavet are another of those bands. They’re taking a route that is often populated by groups that can either make it work alright, or come off as an absolute trainwreck. Thankfully, Castavet seem to know a thing or two regarding a little key ingredient called ‘songwriting’, so they’re in the clear for me. And while it’s not something I’ll find myself singing along to any time soon I give them credit for at least knowing how to do what they do quite well. And what exactly is that, you ask? They’ve chosen a style that combines lots of intricate and complicated guitar melodies (cough-noodling-cough) with some more epic, and sort of driving, shoegaze sections all under that umbrella of ‘we like to play basements’ looseness to it all. Older groups like Casket Lottery come to mind ever so slightly, but newer ones like Balance and Composure, Moving Mountains, and Native are a bit more on point. (Tiny Engines)

EFFORT, THE, “Wartime Citizens”

I’ve seen these dudes a few times now and while sincerity may go pretty far in a lot of situations I can’t say I’m feeling this too much as a record. I know these dudes are pretty young, and I’m always down to support a band that endorses a veg straight edge ethic, but I think they still have some growing to do as a band. There seems to be a heavy influence from groups like Verse, from the (at times) slow melodic hardcore vibe of the music, to the intensely personal yet overtly political nature of the lyrics. It seems like the band is still trying to get their identity totally established, and sometimes the vocals/lyrics are a bit too much to take. They tend to be taking too much space away from the music, often absurdly vicious in awkward spots, and occasionally embarrassingly strange to read. I feel like I’m really dissing the shit out of this band, but I’m just trying to point out some things that sound off here. I’m honestly stoked every time I hear about a band that actually has ethics and talks about something interesting, rather than vapid, pointless music. At least The Effort makes an.... well, ya know, effort. (Panic Records)

FRONTIER(S), “The Plains” 7”
If cost weren’t an issue I’d make every one of the records I release look like this gem. This is one sweet-looking record for a band almost equally as sweet. Frontier(s) is the new Louisville-based band fronted by Chris Hidgeon, formerly of Elliott and Falling Forward. I know it’s kind of corny to describe a band based upon it’s members past affiliations. But in this case it is fitting because Chris has one of the most distinctive voices around and his soaring melodic pipes are in full swing here, though a bit more on the gruff side of his earlier recorded efforts. Musically, it recalls some of that Elliott vide- somewhat atmospheric and ethereal sounds atop a fairly straightforward indie rock sound. There’s only two songs here, but it’s a strong debut and I guess the full length has just dropped? Color me interested, especially if they make every record look this sharp. Well worth checking out. (No Sleep Records)

GIT SOME, “Loose Control”

This wins the award for ballsiest-sounding record recorded at the lowest possible volume. I’m not sure what’s happening here, but even at a ridiculously loud volume this thing sounds tame. Yet I know this band is anything but, as I watched them tear the shit out of a local watering hole last fall, blasting full bore, Black Flag style. Either way, the second long player from these Chicago (with a couple ex-Planes Mistaken For Stars Denver transplants) wastoids slams the senses with 13 tracks of some noisey-ass Cows-meets-Jesus Lizard-skronk punk. The band sounds absolutely filthy, but not in a sludge metal way. It’s more of a ‘crazy bum in the alley’ kind of way that would drunkenly lunge at you with a rusty shiv before staggering off to pass out in a dumpster. The vocals are loud and howling at all times it seems, and they sometimes get in the way of the riffing, but I feel like the overall effect is to attack the sense non-stop for 25 minutes and leave you wondering what just happened. It would work a lot better if this were a bit of a bigger recording, but otherwise it gets the job done. (Alternative Tentacles)

GREAT EXPLAINER, THE, “The Way Things Swell” 10”

Ten inch records cost a lot of money to press. They’re an odd size, you can’t get as much material on them, and they cost as much as regular 12” records to buy usually. That’s why you don’t see them much. This band not only made a 10” for their debut, but also made it one-sided with four songs. I guess they could have as easily pressed a 2-sided 7” and saved a few clams in the process. But who am I to say where a band puts their money, it’s still a nice looking record. Nevertheless, upon my first listen to this record I have a few thoughts, these being, ‘sounds like your typical melodic Gainesville punk meets some of the more thoughtful and intricate parts of a group like Bridge and Tunnel’, and ‘the male-female vocal tradeoffs add a nice diversion from your standard strained throat gruff male standby of this style’. That last thought I have to nix because nowhere in the linear notes is there a female listed in this band. I guess one of these guys just has himself a nice lady-like voice. And that’s what you get with The Great Explainer. I implore you to check them out for yourself. (Chunksaah Records)

HOLY MESS, THE, “Benefit Sesh” 7”

Not really enough here to get a sense of whether this band is worth their salt. The A-side song is your sort of typical Gainesville gruff punk sound. The B-side has a little more promise as it has some fun melodies, good lyrics, and a little more of it’s own style. With any hope they develop that B-side style a bit as there are already way more than enough bands flying the gruff punk flag. (Evil Weevil Records)


What the heck happened here? Is it me or did Hostage Calm actually sound like a completely different band on their last full length? I understand a band growing and coming into their own, but this is like a complete makeover. And that’s fine by me, I wasn’t obsessed with what they were doing before so it’s interesting to see them trying new things. Yet I can’t even begin to describe the myriad sounds they’re working for here. It mostly works, but I think they still have a ways to go before solidifying an identity. This is like the ‘try everything new we possibly can stage’. Some songs have a very solid melodic punk/indie feel to them. It sort of reminds me of some of the stuff off of “Building” by Sensefield (an amazing record if you’ve never heard it), while other times they’re messing with some world percussion stuff akin to David Byrne, and other times it’s simply unabashed pop love aiming for a Beach Boys vibe. Yeah, a pretty mixed bag if you ask me. Like I said, it’s cool for what it is, but familiar listeners will probably be taken a back. (Run For Cover Records)

Something is terribly askew here. I feel like this band has something neat to offer, with it’s mix of rather low-fi indie punk, occasional bursts of rock action, a violin, piano, and saxophone popping up every now and again. All that sounds quite nice. Heck, the back up vocals- a mixture of gang sing alongs, and solo female accompaniment sound real nice too. But whoever is doing the main vocals here is really sullying this entire record to the point where it’s extremely difficult to listen to. His voice is just loud and annoying, often misses the rhythm of the song, and even comes off as kind of rapping sometimes. It’s just bad. Everything else about this group is a good listen. But the vocalist just ruins it. And I feel double bad because I think this guy bought a Lemuria record off of me and it was mailed to the wrong address so he had to wait forever for it to get to the right place. And now I’m dishing smack on his band. I’m just a jerk. (Bermuda Mohawk Productions)

This is one of those records that I put on and it flew by and all I could think was, ‘what just happened?’. And not in a good way. Just because a band can write a zillion noodly parts does not mean that they ought to be randomly drawn from a hat and thrown together and called a song. In fact, I’m not sure I would consider any of these tracks ‘songs’. They’re just tons of parts. Myriad noodly screamo parts, heavy bashing part, overly-complicated part that can’t get it’s timing straight, and so on, so on. This somehow falls into an indie/screamo sort of category, but turn up the distortion and you’d have bad math-metal. Yuck. (Top Shelf Records)

WHY THE WIRES, “Lost Lighthouses” 12”
I’m having a hard time describing this record as I can’t really pin it down to any one thing, and I suppose that’s good. Bands that don’t really lend themselves to easy descriptions are the ones that tend to be pretty interesting. For Ithaca’s Why the Wires, ‘interesting’ is indeed a good descriptor. And I’ll attempt to get a bit more descriptive from there though. The overall vibe is one of relatively moody indie rock, complimented on most songs by either accordion, saxophone, violin, or combinations thereof. These instruments provide more in the way of mood and texture, rather than any sort of lead, which is usually left up to the standard guitar, bass, drums arrangement, as well as a rather distinctive voice that holds sway over these songs and often gives them their moody feel, what with his rather raspy, throaty tenor. I dig it and, at times, am reminded of some of the mid-to-late 90’s Chicago indie/ emo sound of the Southern Records roster. It’s pretty neat stuff for sure and comes in a really nice-looking jacket, limited to only 300 copies. (Habit Forming Records)

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