Monday, September 28, 2015


It has been a whirlwind month.  Just non-fucking-stop.  And I mean that in the absolute best way possible.  From getting momentum rolling on the Ex-Breathers LP, Grizzlor 7", and Dialysis 7", to getting some of those records back and packing them up that was just the homefront stuff.  A great deal of travel, including a handful of shows out of town with Dialysis, going to a wedding in DC, checking out the Small Press Expo (also in the DC area) and meeting some artists and creators who I have enormous respect for, and coming back in time for the annual Westcott Street Fair.  Oh, and then taking off again so my wife could give a lecture in Worcester, followed by a visit to Providence to see an awesome show (what's up Grizzlor, Die Choking, and Empty Vessels), and then back on the road with Dialysis before playing an awesome hometown show to cap it all off.  So yeah, there are a few things that caught my ears and eyes and I'm about to tell you about them so dig in....

ANCRESS, “Victoria”
Ancress is a band from the Toronto area that has former members of Villipend, and I believe this is their first offering to the civilized world.  Much like Villipend (who released material through A389 Records among others) this hammers out harsh metallic hardcore that double dog dares you to call it metalcore, lest you enjoy getting slapped across the face with a rusty saw blade.  That being said, there are a few different things happening here and I feel like with a bit more time those influences will become more focused.  As it stands, the band dishes out metallic heaviness with some nods to noisemongers like Page 99 and a slight black metal feel (particularly in some of the vocals).  It’s not a bad start, but doesn’t quite grab a hold of me completely.  (self-released)

ELTINGVILLE CLUB #2, by Evan Dorkin
And thus concludes the final chapter in the Eltingville Club, a series of shorts started back in the 90’s (often in Dork- one of my favorite comics ever), put on pause for many years, and brought back to life a year ago (yeah, there was a year between issue 1 and 2), and now ends on a pitiful note.  And that’s not disrespecting this comic.  It’s a remark on the characters who make up this club.  They are the lowest of the low (arguably aside from Jerry).  You do not root for them.  And when they do bad things, which is often, you cheer when they are hurt.  They represent everything that is wrong with people into comics, movies, gaming, and other sorts of collector culture.  They plot against each other, they argue about the most minute of details, they have no allies, and the world is better off without them.  The first issue re-visits the gang where a cordial meeting results in one of them burning down a comic shop.  In issue #2 we fast forward 10 years and none of them have spoken to each other, but all end up at San Diego Comic Con where they end up getting together, discussing how awesome (i.e.- terrible) their lives are now and then talking shit on each other and everyone else in attendance until they get trampled.  Evan Dorkin’s art, as always is spot on, a great mixture of cartoon-ish, but stunningly detailed.  He’s a guy who knows way too much about comics and puts it on display not only with tons of background detail over the most obscure of  references, but also in the humor, which gravitates between absurdly hilarious and cringe-worthy insulting (I mean, he really makes you hate these characters).  Get this, read it, laugh, enjoy comics, and be the complete opposite of the goobers in this book in your daily life.  (Dark Horse)

This is one of the last groups I would have ever expected to get back together and record new material.  Into Another existed in a strange time.  By all accounts, they should have never been popular with hardcore kids and it remains a mystery to me, to this day, how they were.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved this band, but yeah…  how did they do it?  Between Ritchie Birkenhead’s near-falsetto singing/screaming and the mind-altering talent of the various players in this group standard meat and potatoes hardcore should have put a hood up over a furrowed brow and crossed their collective arms as if to say, ‘not here pal.’  But, just the opposite- they were embraced.  And I say ‘great’.  Picture, if you will- a band that seamlessly melded the sludgy mood of Black Sabbath with the virtuoso fantasy rock of Rush.  Yeah.  In hardcore.  In 1994.  It happened and I was there to bear witness.  And now, 20 years later they decide to give it another go on this five song EP.  I’ll give them credit- they all have their chops firmly in place.  Ritchie still has quite a set of pipes.  Peter Moses continues to be a guitar symphony in and of himself, and new bassist Reid Black aptly fills the void left by Tony Bono.  These songs have a little less instantly catchy flair that was found on “Ignaurus”- most fans vote for the band’s zenith- but they are well-written songs, and after a few listens they sink in .  The artwork is beautiful and works well to the band’s creepy nature.  I feel as if they are a group that has returned in a non-cheesy way.  They fail to be a poor imitation of themselves.  They have simply continued, and done so respectfully.  (Revelation/ Ghost Ship Records)

SACRED HEART,  by Liz Suburbia
After a bunch of self-published comical zines, and an online series that started the first half of this book Liz Suburbia takes those collected online chapters, re-drew/re-kajiggered them, and added what seems like a zillion more pages, and thus spawns this big fat book called Sacred Heart.  It’s great to see her art progress and the tone of the story get a bit more serious while still retaining a quirky fun that only results from years of John Hughes films, the Decline Of western Civilization, and a heavy dose of punk rock livin’.  The story is that there’s a town where all the parents and adults are gone and the kids are trying to go about their lives as if nothing is out of skew (still going to school, still going to dumb jobs, still hanging out on the weekends for shows, or prom, or high school football games).  There are plenty of moments that recall those best of times- piling into your friends car to go see a show, or chilling in your pals basement to watch horror flicks, the typical tropes of being a teen in love with the person just out of your reach and the awkwardness that goes with it.  But then odd stuff happens too- lots of people are getting killed, no one quite knows why, and the kids seem to not react too heavily to it.  Then a big flood comes, takes out a bunch of stuff, and leaves you with a huge cliffhanger of an ending.  It’s a wonderful story, though I guess might benefit from a little more development around building up those cliffhangers as the ending seems to come very quickly and abruptly.  The art is exceptional- all black and white, a combination of Los Bros Hernandez simple punk line art, but more fluid and almost grafitti-esque in ways, as well as very inviting and fun.  It shows a great deal of promise and I can’t wait to see what comes next.  (Fantagraphics)

While I enjoy reading about punk history, and all sorts of different aspects regarding it from a variety of different people’s perspectives it always feels a little weird when someone’s book on the subject reads like their doctoral dissertation.  There is a tipping point when punk-related subjects move from philosophical discussion to…  I dunno…  something else that’s boring.  But the older I get the more attention I guess I have for that, which means I’m probably getting pretty boring.  This here is a whole book dedicated to mostly the inner-workings of basement shows.  The author has interviewed a number of people who had lengthy involvement in booking shows at houses/living in houses that booked shows, their effect on the community around them (both neighbor-related and punk scene-related), the economics of it all, party vs. sober spaces, dealing with cops, and the transition to community/legal spaces.  I can get down with a good chunk of it because there are a lot of good stories about different spaces getting busted up, or evading authorities, sneaky ways in which places kept going, and so forth.  But when it gets bogged down in the politics of it all and constant quotes from various MRR articles and letters (seriously, there has to be tons of other source material to draw from aside from an old stack of Maximum Rock n’ Roll zines the author has sitting in his attic) it feels redundant and unnecessary.  I’ve always felt that punk is a great learning experience from not only just winging it and hoping for the best, but also from great stories that listeners (or in this case, readers) can absorb and make of it what they will.  The parts of this book focusing on the stories are great.  The academia half of it really seems kind of silly when trying to make a case study out of some bands playing in a basement for a bunch of punks.  (Microcosm)

WILD MOTH, “Inhibitor”
I remember listening to this band a year or two ago when they were getting started and they had a really heavy older Sonic Youth vibe in relation to a noisy reckless abandon to their otherwise punk-influenced indie sound.  I thought it was the sound of a band with a loose notion of a song structure, but letting it totally fall apart around them on purpose.  This full length record definitely makes a big effort to have strong song structures and catchy melodies, however noisy they might be.  I’m really digging this as they’ve gone to a more Superchunk style of rock, but still kind of loose and airy, a bit more shegaze-y, for lack of a better word.  I was quite surprised by this given how different I felt their previous material sounded.  Regardless, if you want to check a great upbeat indie band that both has a lot of excitement within their sound, as well as a laid back sort of beauty at the same time this is a good record to roll with.  (IronPier)

WINDHAND, “Grief’s Infernal Flower”
On their second release for Relapse Windhand seem to try and sound exactly like they did on their last effort.  Well, that’s half true.  The production is a bit different and almost sounds a bit cleaner, particularly in the vocals.  I kind of prefer the sound that they got on “Soma” though.  The vocals have a bit more reverb, thus making them sound more spooky, which works in their favor when the vocalist already has a somber, melancholy wail to begin with.  The music was grittier, dirtier, and had an almost sense of attack about it, even though the songs were complete stoner doom Sabbath worship.  Sure, it was nothing new to the trendy doom style going on these days, but I liked it.  “Grief’s Infernal Flower” feels like a band trying to ride on the coattails of “Soma” and not quite grasping it.  It feels like at least three of the songs on this start with the exact same riff (a play on “Soma”s opening song “Orchard”), and a couple more veer off into very long jam territory before coming back with a monster of an ending.  In some ways it works nicely, and in others it feels really redundant.  I’d like to see this band make something special because I felt they really had something good with their last outing, but this one only half gets there.  I have to admit though, the artwork on this record is something beautiful indeed and worth getting a gander at if you get a chance to see it.  (Relapse)

YAUTJA, “Songs Of Lament” EP
This was kind of a surprise follow-up for this band, as I think most people are still reeling from their debut LP released not all that long ago.  On this EP (which I guess you could call it a short LP really) they really don’t push any new boundaries, but instead continue on the killing spree they began with “Songs Of Lament”.  Think early mastodon with a crustier vibe.  So, you know, it’s good.  Weird, twisting chords on top of a crushing bulldozer rhythm section give way to grinding speed and an almost non-stop assault of riffs and heaviness.  Play both albums one after another and it will sound like one big, long, enjoyable ride.  (Forcefield)

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