So it has been awhile since you all saw of these huh?
Well, sorry if it took awhile, but I've had this little pre-order thing going on for a couple records I'm releasing. maybe you heard about it? Or saw about 500 facebook posts in regards to it? No matter, it's not a big deal (no, really, it is).
And then I got a bit sidetracked when I took off for Maine for a couple days and saw this band:
That's Mission Of Burma playing a pretty small place and they were great. I like them a lot. So yeah, now that that stuff is out of the way, here's some reviews for you.
DAMAGES, “Unrequited” 7”
When a band is described as ‘90’s Touch and Go style’ there is a good chance I will probably be into it. But to see that said band is releasing a record on the exceptionally posi youth crew React label I must admit that I’m a bit confused. No matter really. This group released a great initial 7”, “Scars”, basically on their own and has now followed it up with another two-song slab of wax continuing that same sound. And yes, it’s true that there is a degree of what many would identify as noise rock of the AmRep and Touch and Go variety. That basically equates to a really up front and thick bass sound with the guitars a bit more in the background playing some frantic and feedback-encrusted riffing, while hoarse and strained vocals carry over it all. Somehow, it all stays pretty catchy and rocks quite thoroughly. I think I liked the songs a bit more from “Scars”, but the quality and recording of this new 7” is a bit better. Heck, I’d say just get both and let this band do some damage of it’s own on your eardrums. See what I did there? (React)
“DIY ALBUM ART: PAPER BAGS AND OFFICE SUPPLIES”, by J. Namdev Hardisty
This really takes nerdy record collection shit to a whole new level for me. I’m not quite sure why I splurged on this book (it’s rather pricey for what it is, but then again, there is a level of handmade craftsmanship to this that a lot of work obviously went into constructing), but it’s cool to look at nonetheless. This book collects pictures of records made, mostly, in the early-to-mid nineties, by extremely crafty do-it-yourself’ers. There is some current stuff in there as well. These are the records that came packaged in silkscreened manilla envelopes, sewn patchwork sleeves, rubber stamped center labels, saddle-stitched insert booklets, and so forth. Many may not know this, but these DIY experiments in handcrafted packaging were commonplace in the 90’s and made for some very interesting records that also happened to deliver in terms of quality of band as well. Photos accompany explanations of everything from the initial Crudos releases to the Indian Summer chipboard covers, up to the screened plastic sleeves on Breather Resist’s “Full Of Tongues” 7”, and basically every weird record that Bloodlink (Chokehold, Impetus Inter, Frail, Groundwork) and Gravity (Angelhair, UOA, Unwound, Huggy Bear) ever released. Not only is it cool to see what people could do with their art, but also provides a link to some incredible music being made by some very creative and crafty people then and now. Some of these records showcased were certainly inspirations for some of the records I’ve put out over the years in terms of packaging. (Mark Batty Publisher)
LIEUTENANT, s/t LP
I should be able to write this review as quickly as this 13 song LP flies by. At barely 8 minutes per side this project band out of Buffalo, NY steamrolls through minute-long ragers of vitriolic hardcore. All these dues play in a multitude of bands around the Buffalo area, so it’s pointless to say who’s in what, especially since this was recorded some time ago and I think they may have only played a few songs. So this is basically a limited run posthumous release in a way. They did go all out though with a cool hand-painted chipboard package that has a neat silkscreen design over it. While the B-side (as well as the A-side’s “Instrumental” closer) offer a bit more in the way of hooks and melody coupled with the chaos to help this group stand out a bit more it’s the vocals that supply distinction... mostly because you’ll either love or hate them. Part Youth Of Today growls, part crow-cawing scream it’s a mixed bag. I’m not sure if I care for it, but they certainly do fit the wild nature of these short and fast songs. (Art Of the Underground/ Peterwalkee Records/ Warm Bath)
NOT SORRY, “Our Choices” 7”
The second seven inch from the Northwest Wyld Punx contingent. I’m not going to lie- there isn’t a whole lot that separates Not Sorry from tons of other youth crew/’88-inspired bands, and I am not the man to point out the subtle nuances between this band and others similar in sound of this style of hardcore. Still, I do enjoy what Not Sorry do, and they do it well. They play really fast and they actually have something relevant to say in their lyrics. Placing a strong emphasis on consumerism/over-consumption and it’s effects on the world and those living upon it this is a message I can applaud. With a style that can sometimes feel incredibly watered down it’s good to know bands like Not Sorry have something worthwhile to contribute... even if they do print ‘BUST!’ in their lyric sheet! Review bust! (React)
PRAYERS FOR ATHEISTS, “New Hymns For An Old War”
Here is a band that tours a lot, regularly plays to minimal crowds, survives (somehow) off of nothing, creates music that is not exactly the most popular thing going these days, and sings songs of political protest that often times is yelled at the most blank and apathetic text-messaging-while-standing-in-the-front-row entitled brats. And yet I have never seen a band with more positivity and genuine belief in what they do and what they stand for. It’s straight up awesome and inspirational. And it’s a good thing these songs on their full length are pretty damn good too because it makes me all the more psyched to write about it. For those not in the know, PFA started with national slam poet champ Jared Paul coming up with raspy and gravely verses expounding on social justice causes, environmentalism, and more set to the tune of rock music that mixed three-chord punk and some of the more rhythmic ideas of Rage Against the Machine and released on indie hip-hop label Strange Famous (Sage Francis, etc). Yes, most would call it rap rock, and that term is blasphemy to many. But the execution of the vocal delivery was so well-written, and the music incredibly catchy that any silly genre title just didn’t quite measure up. So that was the first EP. Now the band has self-released a full length, and has shifted gears (mostly) to really catchy anthemic punk songs. The lyrical prose is still just as strong as ever, but the band seems to have found it’s niche, whether it’s in the amazing face-ripping barn burner anthem “Guns Up”, or the could-have-been-a-Minor Threat B-side “Bouncers and Cops”, to the slower and more melodic “May 1st, 1886” there is a bit of variety on the record. Most of these songs have a very fun vibe, like “Keep Left” or the hometown rally cry of “Hope City Sky”, which I think is great. If you’re going to make serious music about serious subjects at least broach it with a sense of positivity and in such a way that is fresh. PFA have done an awesome job of both and this is why this is going to be one of my favorite things to listen to all year. (Prayers For Atheists)
REJOUISSANCE, "Scrudding Wounds" EP
Rather than going the physical release route Syracuse/Brooklyn group Rejouissance decided to showcase their three latest songs via digital-only “format”. It’s a good testing ground as they have re-tooled their style once again and this is the first batch of stuff they came up with in this formation. But it does make me wish I weren’t listening to this on a computer, and instead full blast on a turntable because these are some solid jams. Having started as a mostly acoustic project, they added a couple members and upp’ed the rock. Now they have added a third guitarist to the lineup and moved further into a heavy rock vibe. Yet the additional personnel hasn’t transformed the band into some steamroller of heavy metal destruction. They retain their gravely grizzled rock sound, noodley intricate melodies, and a bit of post-hardcore stop-start rhythms. It’s just laid on more thick now. And I like that. The strongest track of the bunch is “Stutterer”, a colossus of stop-start chugs interspersed with a serpentine melody winding through it. here’s hoping this lineup produces some more songs of this quality. (Rejouissance)
TIME UNDER EARTH demo
As simple as it may be to lump any instrumental band that plays rather long songs and has an affinity for metal into the NeurIsis glut of bands (that has seemingly dropped off- thankfully- since Isis called it a day). but the debut from Syracuse’s Time Under Earth is not so easy to classify into those simple parameters. They do share similar qualities- heavy and well thought-out long songs, various samples and limited- yet tasteful- use of synths. But they definitely have their own thing going on. Maybe it’s in the way this was recorded, which aims more for an analog kind of warmth, and not some over-processed musical clubbing to the skull. Also, various subgenres creep in and out, almost unnoticed, as they weave themselves into the songs. I like that they are a heavy band, but make it all sound even and not over-the-top in any way. Metalheads can enjoy, middle-of-the-road rock fans can rejoice, prog fans can take notes and analyze. Of the three songs, though, I like the third one best because, well, it is the heaviest of them all. (Time Under Earth)
YOUNG WIDOWS, “In and Out Of Youth and Lightness”
A lot of people appreciate their favorite bands growing with each release, but not too much because then they change too much. The resulting feelings of confusion and abandonment are common. Young Widows are one of those bands that never takes baby steps with their development from release to release, they grow by leaps and bounds. And somehow I’m definitely OK with that. It hasn’t always resulted in brilliance. I think between the end of Breather Resist and “Settle Down City” they were still figuring things out. Then “Old Wounds” came out and blew me the fuck away and solidified Young Widows as their own band- an unstoppable juggernaut of hefty rhythm and smart, angular guitar work. And now we have “In and Out...”, which once again shows the band taking a big leap into new territory. I’ll admit, it’s taken some time to grow on me. It’s overall a very slow, dark, and (at times) rather minimalist record. But between the jangly, effects-heavy guitar work of Evan Patterson, his dry crooning drawl, bassist Nick Thineman’s two-ton bass (quite possibly the best tone in underground rock), and drummer Jeremy McMonigle’s deft understanding of making the simple sound complex you know it is still Young Widows. This time around they put a lot of focus on a simple riff and building a whole song around it. Call it the Lungfish school of riffing, but YW have their sights on something a bit different- building vocal melodies, or the entire mood of a song around a simple beat and beat the shit out of it. “Lean On the Ghost” and “In and Out Of Lightness” pull this off wonderfully, while single “Future Heart” is the sole really upbeat track more or less. I will say I enjoy the meaty pounding of their last LP more, but “In and Out..” hits me pretty good in a different way. Give it some time, it will grow on you too. (Temporary Residence)