Wednesday, December 21, 2011


That's right. It's my own damn list. Feel free to post yours below. It's rather comprehensive, but it was a pretty eventful year, so deal with it. Next year will obviously have a 'doomsday' theme... what will annihilate us in 2012? Aztec mystics? Republicans? Zorp/Reasonablists? Massive corporations? Only time will tell. Place yr bets.

FAVORITE RECORDS (in no order):

CUTMAN, "Universal Laws"- Dude rock, as played by dudes with fully functional brain stems. I do not expect anyone under the age of 27 to really enjoy this since it nitpicks from a variety of early 90's heavy rock such as Helmet, Jesus Lizard, Clutch, and post-hardcore-meets-mainstream type bands. But they do it so damn well! Intelligent songwriting, incredible guitar and bass tones, and one of the coolest record layouts I've seen in a long time. (Underground Communiqué)

RESTORATIONS, s/t- Sometimes when a new band's former band makes a big impression on you it's hard for the new band to do the same. But the Philly dudes in Restorations really hit the nail on the head here. They know exactly what they're doing and the result is a record taking all sorts of things- post-hardcore riffing, folksy introspection, hints of Americana, and big anthems, and rolling them into a cohesive whole. (Tiny Engines)

HELMS ALEE, "Weatherhead"- These are the loudest riffs you'll hear all year. This is the sound of The Melvins, KARP, Unwound, and Sonic Youth butting heads and spewing forth this most excellent collection of massive riffs, off-timed weirdness, subtle melody, and the bear-like howl of guitarist Ben Verellen alongside the soft croon of bassist Dana James. (Hydrahead)

CREEPOID, "Horse Heaven"- Best surprise I had all year. This isn't my typical platter, but something about this record just slays me. There's a spooky vibe, mixed with plaintive melodies, loud-quiet-loud stoner riffs, and beautiful soothing vocals. Hearing them sing, "It's gonna kill you all" in such a way that really makes one not fear death at all is kind of downright awesome. (Ian Records)

LIKE WOLVES, s/t- Kicked it into the next level. I used to be so-so about their music, and way into their live set. Now I'm all about both. They cut the fat out of the songwriting, and distilled it down to raw punk power, recalling the bad ass rock of Hot Snakes and some of the post-hardcore riffing of At the Drive In. (Hex)

OAK & BONE, s/t- "Hello, Oak & Bone? This is Riffs. You won." Psychedelics, sludge metal, weed, and raging crusty hardcore combined to lay down a smoke-filled haze that will turn your face to dust and melt your bones into your feet. Get destroyed. (Hex)

PRAYERS FOR ATHEISTS, "New Hymns For An Old War"- I'm not terribly concerned that most people find music like this to be out-of-date (or, when done poorly, or for radio rock intentions, nothing short of nauseating). Jared Paul and crew have made some of the most inspirational music my ears have heard all year. Take the dissident protest rhymes of Rage Against the Machine, stack it up against the punk power of The Clash and Propaghandi, and spit it out at an apathetic world. "Guns Up" might be the protest theme of the year, while "Keep Left" is for those struggles you share with those closest to you. (self-released/ Strange Famous)

THE MEN, "Leave Home"- I used to think they were far too noisy. Their previous records had that recorded in a trash can quality that doesn't exactly appeal to me. But here they broke out, still pressing forth with lots of noise, but refined in a such a way that makes everything stand out. You can hear all the really cool melodies alongside their ferocious roar all their own. (Sacred Bones)

FUCKED UP, "David Comes To Life"- It feels like all the progression this group has made over their last two full lengths has come to fruition on this double LP. I don't care if the whole thing is one big, complicated story. The A-side of this is unfuckwithable. Probably 5 of the best back-to-back songs I've heard all year. The rest of the record ain't bad either. (Matador)

ENGINEER, "Crooked Voices"- Every Engineer record takes a few listens to fully sink in, and that makes a good band. This one took at least 6 or 7 listens before I really got it. So that makes it a great record. If this is the last thing they do it will be a great way to go out. Knowing them, they'll probably hide in the shadows for another 4 years and then drop something even better. (Black Market Activities)

HONORABLE MENTIONS: JESUS LIZARD, "Club" (Since it's a live record of a reunion tour, does it count? Either way, still middle-aged men putting on a better show than most bands in their prime), TRAP THEM, "Darker Handcraft" (a fully realized bludgeoning to the face from beginning to end, non-stop riff fest), NIGHT OWLS, "Rapture" EP (swan song for this Syracuse group, all-around super catchy, but aggressive, punk/rock jams), YOUNG WIDOWS, "In and Out Of Youth and Lightness" (Enthralled by their progression, and all the great sounds they always conjure up, but doesn't supply quite the kick I was hoping for)

BEST SHOWS OF 2011 (in no order):

1.) ANOTHER BREATH final show(s) weekend, 8.26.11-8.28.11 with Achilles, Oak & Bone, Engineer, Soul Control, Victims, Whiskey, Mayflower, Night Owls, and more in Syracuse and Fulton, NY: A really fun way for a really great band to go out. A total weekend rager.

2.) GAINESVILLE FEST 2011, Gainesville, FL, 10.28.11-10.30.11: tons and tons of bands, great weather, fun people, good times, exhausting weekend. The only reason to really miss Halloween at home.

3.) GREAT FALLS & ENGINEER, 8.9.11, Syracuse: So all of about 20 people were there, but to hear Engineers new full length the whole way through live was inspiring. And to see the Seattle dudes in Great Falls just destroy the place (as it is rare to see these dudes at all) was an extra-special treat.

4.) PRAYERS FOR ATHEISTS, 5.26.11, Syracuse: Sometimes you like a band so much that other people really don't get, and you wish there was a show where people really 'get it' and all go nuts and have fun? This was that show. Maybe 50 people there, but every last person was having fun, dancing, going off, singing along, and having a blast. Plus, drinking smoothies and watching "Dune" late at night with Jared was pretty fun too.

5.) OAK & BONE/ LIKE WOLVES record release show, 7.24.11, Syracuse: It's nice when you have great faith in a couple bands, feel really confident about their new records, and then over 100 people show up in a small venue to share that as well and go totally bonkers for all the bands playing.

BEST OTHER STUFF (in order):
1.) Getting engaged: it only took 6 years
2.) Seattle vacation in April: most relaxed time in my favorite region of the country with great people
3.) Involvement with the Occupy movement: Finally, a populist movement that draws from the experience and energy of many different sub-sections of the activist community under one umbrella to really work for change in desperate times
4.) Flyerstorm: My first art show, a history of Syracuse flyer art from the last 20 years. The crew involved were the best ever to work with and the whole thing went off really great
5.) Great garden harvest this year: If we planted it, it grew. And we ate well. Up the compost soil.

1.) Getting my wallet stolen in Alexandria Bay, the safest, whitest place in the Northeast on the 4th of July
2.) R.I.P. Chocolate. Our poor, young foster cat got sick and died within a couple of days, right in our arms. He was a good little fella.
3.) Having an ulcer most all of the Winter and giving up coffee because of it (see Translate #6)
4.) My car suddenly died out on me at only 90,000 miles when the timing chain snapped and destroyed my engine.
5.) Delta Airlines canceling my flight to NYC (connecting to Seattle) and upon my return as well as a week later. Bastards.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Read on all ye who enter here. I figured I'd throw in some reviews of some stuff that arrived at my doorstep before getting on to an end of the year list thing (which I'll do in another week or so). Behold these offerings, and take heed to what I have to say about them.

The last thing this fella released was some pretty weird stories/comics and this is no different. You get some fairly entertaining tales of his family moving to Alaska via school bus when he was a kid, to the story of a dog's day as seen through the eyes of the dog, to a spiritual Buddhist retreat to relieve stress. On the more bizarre end of things we get a brief how-to on taking a proper shit (squat, don't sit). Honestly, the strangest part of this zine is the artwork. It's like pre-adolescent kids drawings mixed with sociopathic prison dweller. I'm not sure what to make of it all. (Microcosm)

This particular issue of this conspiracy-theory themed zine focuses its lens this time on Lee Harvey Oswald and the utterly confusing litany of events that led him to being pegged as the guy who pulled the trigger on Kennedy. This zine has always tackled compelling topics that are not easily explained, but it has consistently failed to do so in a way that doesn't further confuse the issue. I can appreciate shedding light on things that others try to bury, but hey, at least do it in a way that compels one to look further into it instead of confusing readers to the point where they wish it got buried forever. This zine makes Oswald look like either a flip-flopping idiot, or a complete schizophrenic who changes his mind like the wind blows. On one end he has a master plan, on the other he bumbles his way through all sorts of wild adventures seeking attention, eventually stumbling into the business end of Jack Ruby's pistol. And in the background it appears there is a watchful government ready to set him up as the patsy who takes the attention off of however many different shady organizations who really pulled the trigger on JFK. Is that what the author was going for? That's what I read anyway. Confusing? Yes. But the whole ordeal from beginning to end no matter what version you read is pretty damn confusing. (Microcosm)

The first proper full legit full length from this Syracuse band that only took a good year of intense OCD-style scrutinizing over every minute detail of the mix before being unleashed on the public. It works in their favor though I guess because this sounds great. How can I properly describe this band without sounding too ordinary? Upbeat rock music puts it out there in broad strokes. A bit more specific would break things down into a range of influences that seems to include everything from King Crimson to Cheap Trick, to XTC, and about every J. Robbins band to ever exist filtered into intelligent and well-thought out songs. The only exception being "Gus", a track found later on that has a decidedly heavier rock feel akin to Far or Texas Is the Reason (and bringing it closer to home a nod to Syracuse's former mainstays This Afternoon). It's actually my favorite song on here, though quite a bit different than what you get on the rest of the recording. Nevertheless, a great first official effort (self-released)

FRODUS, "Soundlab 1" 7"
I know this has already been out for a bit, but I was really into Frodus when they were originally around so I felt it worthwhile to write something up about this reunion 7". It really remains true to the Frodus people knew best- the spazzy and uncontrolled-sounding punk band from DC. Commonalities abound to groups such as Nation Of Ulysses, but perhaps with a tightness that gives the illusion of unhinged chaos, but in fact, has their spasms down to a science. This is far more in tune (and could basically be unreleased tracks from) their most well-known record, "FCI" as opposed to the more refined and introspective "We Washed Our Weapons..." swan song. Two songs, both pretty blasting make this 7" worth picking up. (Lovitt)

JESUS LIZARD, THE, "Club" 2x12"
I realize I probably reviewed the DVD version of this show captured on the bands reunion tour from 2009 and likely verbally jacked off to it. Well, this LP is no different. Two 12" slabs of wax documenting the same show as the DVD, but with better audio quality I suppose (my TV speakers suck). Finding the band just as tight, coiled, and springing forth with raw energy as they were in their heyday these old farts bring it like no other. This is why they are easily one of my favorite bands ever. Whether it's David Yows between-song off-color humor, or his desperate howls/shrieks/blathering in the songs, or David Wm. Sims surreptitious bass rumbling, Duane Denisons sinewy guitar work, or the polyrhythmic drumming of Mac McNeilly there is no stopping this band as they barrel through about 20 songs. Basically, their whole catalog is represented with a few songs from each record and I couldn't be happier. If you're at all curious about how a live band ought to bring it get this and see how a group can take 10 years off and come back just as hard as ever. (Chunklet)

I'm at the point where any record that bears the Eulogy Records logo on it is an instant turn off because I know it will more than likely be total garbage. Victory may have them beat for now, but this label tends to draw some real bottom-of-the-barrel crap and shits it out usually in the form of terrible beatdown mosh nonsense. So it was really weird to see they took a left turn and released this record from a band that takes about as many cues from later-era Hot Water Music as they possibly can. I guess that's not such a bad thing, but then again, it's already been done... so what's the point? The silly song titles don't really save it from being above mediocre. Musically it's decent, nothing to write home about (though I guess worthy to write a review about). And maybe the label is doing itself a service by releasing something palatable for once. (Eulogy)

Here we go- two punk bands that can play catchy pop-punk inspired hardcore and actually have a weighty set of balls in their collective trousers! Prevenge are the better of the two I think, and a bit more catchy in their approach. Both groups have a raw dirtiness to them, but know how to dish it out in spades. I can back these bands and this record. Comes in a fancy package complete with a big booklet with some wild artwork inside. Well done! (Pavonos Records)

Points to the author for having fronted Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live, and for being a funny-ass dude. But while this claims to be a cookbook it basically only qualifies as a short zine. Additionally, 'cookbook' is sort of a misnomer seeing as this is for raw recipes and no actual 'cooking' ought to be taking place. Amirite? Still, I do not adhere to the raw regimen in my vegan diet, but I'm down to check what's out there and I have to hand it to Josh- he's come up with some really strange recipes, combining a lot of things I would never think to put together in new and interesting ways. Most of these recipes involve coconut so I will never in 1,000 years try them. But others give me ideas on how to tweak them my own way and put a spin on regular things I make. In that respect, as a conduit for further creativity, this succeeds. And if you're into the raw diet thing this zine will probably give you some ideas as well. (Microcosm)

THOU, "To the Chaos Wizard Youth" 10"
Can this band do no wrong? If you dig having your hearing ruptured by slow, agonizing and ungodly heavy music Thou is the place to be. Apparently, this was recorded at the same time as their most recent outing "The Archer and the Owle", but this takes a much heavier, more dirgey approach, complete with lots of noisy feedback, guitar strings flapping around from how low they are tuned, and a B-side that has the band playing at their most upbeat I've heard since "Tyrant" (which is still just a shade below 'mid-tempo'). They are this decades Ire, for lack of a better comparison, but in a class all their own. I feel like I'm being crushed under the weight of life every time I hear this stuff. Truly awesome. (Howling Mine)

WILD, THE, "A Collection"
I'm at odds as to what to think about this. OK, here's the basic description of band: jangly campfire rock with lots of harmonica, a stack of Woody Guthrie recordings, and a desire for social change. Fair enough. Typically, when it's a decidedly punk band doing this I really hate it because bands of that ilk are usually not very good at all, really smelly, and have that 'spare some change/good vibes' Plan-It-X thing that really irritates me for no particularly good reason. But when bands of this sort do not really associate with punk, and are talented I tend to think they are quite good, though not anything that I would find myself listening to. So my issue is this- I think that The Wild do most certainly consider themselves 'punk' and are also quite good at what they do. It seems a discrepancy that should not exist in reality. So I'm left to feel as though I back what they do, they do what they do well, they have a catchy way of providing social commentary, but it is a style I do not really care for. (Asian Man)

The Wild.. well, see above. Harmonica punk. Run Forever are more or less a rock band who happen to enjoy punk music from time to time. These are bands I think I appreciate more from looking at all the political literature they leave on their merch table as opposed to the actual music they play. And it's true. I saw this group at Fest for a bit and had a nice discussion with one of them about the vegan lit and Occupy Wall Street pamphlets they had at their table, as well as DIY run spaces and was completely disinterested in the music they played. Good intentions nonetheless. This particular split comes with a nice little zine that both bands created and has quite a bit about the importance of DIY spaces, and all ages venues. (Solidarity Recordings)