Monday, November 24, 2014


As the second best holiday of the year dawns upon us (Halloween is still tops, and yeah, there is a holiday between Halloween and X-Mas) let us give thanks for many wonderful records being made and offered up to us.  Give some thanks back and buy a few of these because they're good.  So while gorging on mashed potatoes and tofurkey (because I'm just going to assume every one of my readers is vegan...  if not, your loss) do it to the soundtrack of a band like Today Is the Day, and pretend the lyrics are about beheading European colonizers and eating squash.  It works for me.

BRIEF LIVES, “VHS” cassette
After seeing this band at Fest I was blown away by their wild set and by how wonderfully they channeled a perfect Quicksand/Helmet hybrid of post-hardcore awesomeness.  I immediately went to purchase all the recorded music they had available.  Having recently switched vocalists (Valient Thorr himself now commands the mic) all they had was a demo on that most silly of formats- the cassette.  They made a good joke of it though by drawing a VHS tape on the front (hence the demo title), but I have nothing to play it on.  So I paid for a download of it.  And what I’m getting instead is a little less on the heavy-handed Helmet vibe and more of a DC/Swiz style of hardcore with a good post-hardcore groove.  I can most certainly swing with that just fine.  Two of the songs move along at a pretty good clip, while closing track “Kipple” sticks close to that slower, riff-oriented vibe.  Enjoyable.  Nice little prank call after the credits roll as well.  (Brief Lives)

Anyone who peruses this site knows I got a lot of love for this band.  Heck, I even helped release a record for them (which, shameless plug, you ought to buy).  So, on this new 7” they make an effort to crank out 12 songs in less than 12 minutes.  Seeing as their last full length was about the same amount of songs this is an exercise in making the most out of a small amount of space.  The band does an excellent job here, and pull out some influences that may have been hanging in the back previously but are brought to the fore here.  Kind of imagine a little less heaviness than their full length and split 12”, but still really damn fast (duh, 12 songs on a 7” kind of has to go fast), a good deal of older Mission Of Burma influence appearing in the song structures and shouted dual vocals, and the ‘cut-the-fat’ approach of the Minutemen.  The only two songs to surpass the one minute mark, “Hang” and “Auto-Correct”, definitely get on that aforementioned Mission Of Burma vibe with a slower and plaintive style.  It’s an excellent turn for the band, who continue to take aggressive music, a bevy of various influences, and make it all work under some weird unifying umbrella that cannot be easily categorized.  (Texas Is Funny)

EX-HEX, “Rips”
There’s not too much to say about the debut full length from DC’s Ex-Hex.  It’s catchy as hell, rocks in a Joan Jett/Pretenders/Heart sort of way and has the distinctive croon and guitar riffery of frontwoman Mary Timony.  I would have liked if they didn’t re-record all the songs from their seven inch (“Hot and Cold” somehow sounds way more pronounced and full on the single) and threw on some new songs instead to round out the other nine short and prickly rockers on this record.  Whatever the case, Ex-Hex has a heck of a good debut here.  It’s to the point and still a little rough around the edges in the best way possible.  I guess they chose an appropriate title for the LP because it certainly works for them.  (Merge)

IRON LUNG, “Savagery” 7”
Tell me, can your band blast through 12 songs in about 8 minutes?  Didn’t think so.  Iron Lung can though with ease.  And that’s what you get on their latest 7”, “Savagery”.  Hell, they start the record by yelling it at you; you should know what’s coming.  I guess the theme of this one here is starting every song with the letter ‘S’ and then going through their blasting powerviolence with slow and primal riffs to back it up.  It’s not quite as thought out or refined as the material that makes up their full lengths, but it will do for now…  until the mighty Iron Lung decides to create another full length that redefines what hostile music can sound like.  (Iron Lung Records)

JAZZ JUNE, THE, “After the Earthquake”
Of all the random bands that do reunions this one comes out of left field.  The Jazz June were a mid/late 90’s PA band that were fairly prolific in their time, but didn’t make any sort of huge waves that often warrant drool-worthy reunions that fanboys jerk each other off to with stories of how many times they saw them ‘back in the day’.  That being said, I saw the band several times, back in the day.  Heck, I think I even booked a show for them at one point.  Additionally, the reunions of bands that weren’t by any means big tend to produce the best results because they really have nothing to live up to.  There’s no pressure.  So I guess it’s cool this band decided to make another record?  I don’t have a great frame of reference for most of their later material because they did not make a huge impression on me.  I do remember, though, they had three guitar players, which was pretty unique at the time.  It made for a very layered approach and the band tended to have a very rhythmic and catchy, bouncy sort of style.  But hey, people change with age and this essentially just sounds like a rock record.  There’s nothing terribly unique about it.  There’s also nothing bad about it (though I’m not much a fan of the vocals).  Some of the guitar parts are a little strange in a fun way, but mostly it just exists as a middle of the road sort of rock record.  Hell, if the band is having fun, why complain?  If they’re stoked, good for them.  I’m neither offended nor intrigued.  (Topshelf)

PALE ANGELS, “Primal Play” LP
After seeing this band play an eardrum-splitting set I was so impressed by their energy and volume I picked this LP up right away.  I guess I should have just stuck with the live set.  While they write some excellent scrappy songs that are inspired by equal parts all things Bob Mould (Husker Du and Sugar mostly) and Nirvana the sound on this LP is in serious need of requiring a better recording.  I guess I don’t quite see why a band would take what essentially amounts to a practice room recording and put it on LP.  I mean there are spots all over this record where the sound goes in and out or sounds like a low quality mp3.  I realize the three members of this band all live in very different places, so getting together must be tough, let alone arranging schedules for a proper recording.  But geez, at least throw in a few bucks for a proper mastering.  It’s a disservice to otherwise awesome songs, most of which hit the three minute mark save for the last track that is a 13 minute roller coaster that builds up more and more, until blazing forth before it slowly sputters out again.  Go see them and have your eardrums blown out.  Hold off on the recordings though, it’s just not the same.  (Kiss Of Death)

PSYCHIC TEENS, “Face”/ “All” 7”
The Philly/Jersey psych/goth-y/shoegaze/noise rock/whatever-the-heck-you-want-to-call-‘em-because they’re just going to throw it back at you three-piece returns with their first new material since their incredible “Come” full length.  This time it’s a limited run 7” in a series of PA noise-rock records being released by the back-in-action Reptilian Records.  It comes in a really neat package and offers up two of the finest slabs of music the band has come up with yet.  “Face” opens with a creepy guitar riff heavy on the reverb that soon explodes into grand torrents of epic guitar wail and into one of their trademark post-punk/Joy Division worship bass lines and deep spoken vocals.  But those giant guitars are not far off and soon put about twenty different ‘loud’ and ‘louder’ pedals to work.  It’s a passionate and compelling track.  A good lead-off for this single.  On the B-side is “All”, which is quite different from anything the band has done before as it is about the closest thing they have to a ballad.  Slow, spooky, melodic, and yet sadly beautiful during the chorus and one of the best songs they may have written.  I could use even more hyphenated verbiage and adjectives to describe how red I think this is, but hopefully you get the picture.  (Reptilian)

No doubt this band will always hold a place in my heart as they have consistently released records of a very high quality.  But seriously, how do you top “LP2”?  It was so perfect.  Instead of feeling pressured by the accolades that record received and trying to top it it feels as if Restorations just set out to make a record they felt cool with playing for the joy of it.  In that respect it makes this record awesome.  In another respect it’s a bit tamer than “LP2” and jams a bit more in certain parts, goes for more straight-ahead rock in others.  Some of those huge, sprawling songs I love about them show up here, most noticeably in “Misprint” (my favorite song here), “Tiny Prayers”, “The Future”, and the bass-heavy rocker “No Castle”.  The songs where they try some new stuff (most apparent on trippy opener “Wales” and the country-ish slide guitar on closer “It’s Not”) don’t necessarily succeed as crowd pleasers, but work as a band just giving something new a shot.  Without question worth getting if you’re already a fan.  If you’ve never given them a chance though I guess I wouldn’t suggest this as a jumping off point.  And shit, if you just like good rock music as played by a band with limitless creativity and passion this is certainly worth your attention.  (SideOneDummy)

I kind of wonder if Pat wrote the lyrics on this record, or if it was a collaborative effort with Caroline, who does the other half of the vocals here?  It’s certainly not in his usual clever prose for the most part.  In fact, lyrically, it’s primarily somewhat standard fare.  But both their voices work together quite well and are actually the highlight of this one-sided 12” record.  The band drops five songs that also fall into a somewhat relaxed indie rock vibe.  I realize the band are constantly evolving and shifting their sound, but for lack of a better comparison (and I imagine they will all appreciate this) much of their current output has been in a trance-like repetitive Lungfish style, and I really dig that.  Like, I could imagine these songs being on some chill radio station.  Honestly, some of it is bland.  “Location Scout” is friggin’ great though.  Get some of their current 7”s (there’s basically a new one every month) for great stuff.  This here is for the completist…  or people who like mellow indie rock.  (Iron Pier)

TAXA/ DOE split 7”
Canadian brethren in Taxa return with a split 7” where they put forth one new song of their melodic chaos, heavy on the bass and reeking heavily of Unwound and Shotmaker worship.  That is, of course, a great thing.  Their contribution to this split is a fairly long track and we’re all better for it because it will improve your life most likely.  Doe hails from the UK and reminds me quite a bit of late 90’s Southern Records output like Beekeeper and Lung Leg.  That may not mean much to any of you, but for me that’s pretty cool.  Think catchy and gruff indie rock with female vocals and a pinch of spite…  but mostly in a good mood.  (Clue #2 Records)

TODAY IS THE DAY, “Animal Mother”
I have not purchased a Today Is the Day record in quite some time.  All their early material profoundly affected me in my understanding of weird and heavy music.  They have always had a way of taking sharp, sonic stabs at the listener without necessarily having to beat them over the head to do so.  It was sonic terrorism at its finest and most lethal.  So when they began making moves towards a sound that owed more to death metal and grind I kind of lost interest because that weird abrasiveness was gone.  I will admit being a bit ignorant to their last couple of records so I’m by no means an accurate judge; it’s just what I noticed over the last 10 years.  But yeah, “Animal Mother” is sort of a return to form while still moving forward.  I personally don’t feel the lyrical punch I did on records like “Willpower” and the self-titled record.  The music though…  hot damn.  It takes a lot of those fucked up cues that made “Willpower” so devastating and couples them with the raw, down-tuned explosive power felt on records like “Temple Of the Morning Star” and “In the Eyes Of God”.  I appreciate that TITD can take heavy musical concepts and shove them down your throat in less than two minutes.  They can go from down-tuned sludge with a strange electronic hum over it, to an acoustic track, and into a fast and abrasive attack, one song to the next.  Hell, there’s even a great Melvins cover at the end.  If you were a fan in the past definitely get this.  If you’ve somehow never heard this group, and like heavy music, give it a shot.  (Southern Lord)

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