Sunday, July 10, 2016


Generally speaking, these days most of the stuff I end up reviewing are things I am personally interested in and seek out on my own, and then I feel compelled to write about it.  But I still get solicitations here and there and do my best to write something up about the ones I find unique in one way or another.  In the last month or so I've had more solicitations than usual and so there is a fairly eclectic array of stuff on this list this time around.  Oh, and the past review is from one of my favorite, and oft-overlooked, DC bands as they had a short-lived tenure.  But, ya know, big surprise that I write up something about a DC band right?
A.M. NICE, s/t
My frame of reference for most things goes back at least 10 years so forgive me if what this sounds like to me has no bearing on you whatsoever.  This sounds just like early Chisel.  Ya know, the Ted Leo band before he went solo.  It’s like those demos, or maybe “Nothing New”-era where they were still kind of rough around the edges before the total Jam worship set in with “8AM All Day” and “Set You Free”?  No?  Nothing?  Well, screw you.  This sounds like early Chisel.  It’s fine with me.  Think some rough n’ tumble jangly guitar and some nods towards mod bands in the background.  It’s catchy, poppy, and still playing it kind of loose.  (Phratry)

A second full length dose of noisy goodness spews forth from this low-key band of weirdoes.  If any diligent readers recall my last review of this band I described them as The Cars as played by KARP, or something to that effect.  This new release is a little less overtly catchy, and goes for uglier stabs at delivering earworms, though probably not intentionally.  Things start off with some strong Jesus Lizard-meets-Girls Vs Boys vibes before going into “Love and Infection”, probably the most riffy, Sabbath-y, and lyrically funny song on the whole thing.  The remainder of the recording tends to be a bit more upbeat and frantic with the exception of the drunken swagger of “Midnight Mayor” and the closing droney epic “Way Out”.  This is good stuff, a bit progressed from their last record but just as freaky.  It would be nice if they played out a bit, I bet they would be fun live.  (Peterwalkee Records)

FAKING, “Goddamn Cowards”
I’m the last one to call out a band for paying respect to another band in their sound.  I like all sorts of bands that wholesale rip off their predecessors and peers.  But I really have to say, Faking play Young Widows, “Settle Down City” a little too close to the nose (they even have a very similar lights set-up live).  I mean, it sounds just like that record.  While it’s hardly a bad thing for a band to choose YW as an influence it comes off as a little too obvious and that may put some people off.  On the other hand, Faking do have a good sense of groove and power to their songs.  Their lyrics read like short stories of people making bad decisions, and they also somehow manage to turn a Gladys Knight and the Pips cover (“If I Was Your Woman”) into their own song.  I’m not sure how they pulled it off, but it works.  It could be a lot worse ya know?  They could totally suck.  But they don’t and so that makes this alright.  (Reptilian Records)

This band has a pretty interesting set up by forgoing the bass guitar and using a baritone guitar instead, which always sounds cool to me.  It’s like having a second guitarist and a bassist all in one instrument!  Hooray for efficiency!  Maple Stave border on the space between what could be Dischord-influenced rock (Bluetip/Jawbox) and clattering noise rock.  It’s a little too clean for a noise rock bit and a little less inventive than my Dischord heroes, but it gets the job done nonetheless.  In fact, I’m getting a strong Faraquet vibe from this, minus the algorithms needed to fully execute what that band did so effortlessly.  (Phratry)

MELVINS, “Bases Loaded”
Here’s the idea- since the Melvins have had about 50 different bass players throughout their time as a band why not make a record that puts the spotlight on the bass players, in which the band got several different people (including drummer Dale Crover) to slap the 4-string over the course of a dozen tracks.  Current bassist Steve MacDonald (also of OFF!), former (slah-occasional) bassist Jared Warren (of Big Business), Pinkus (usual guy, and former Butthole Surfers member), Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle musical prodigy), and even Krist Novaselic (from some band) all contribute tracks to this record.  As the Melvins have progressed their sound has veered from less sludgy mountains of riffs to more just weird rock (with some not-so-slight nods to Kiss and other arena legends) and to be honest, it doesn’t really do it for me.  I appreciate that they have done this forever, still tour year-round, still have creative juices to do whatever weird shit comes to mind for them, and seem to be completely satisfied and stable with how it is done.  I respect the shit out of that.  And while the music is obviously well-written it’s just not for me.  I think the last thing that really blew my hair back (as I now have none) was “A Senile Animal” so maybe it’s just me being an ignoramus regarding Melvins massive output.  (Ipecac)

Generally, SDF would be the lead name on a split simply because of how prolific they are.  But I gotta give the nod to Null, a side project of Coliseum drummer Carter Wilson (and others), for the stellar contribution here.  They go with a brooding True Widow-esque slow burner with haunting vocals and spooky riffs and I’m all over this like flies on that weird salad your aunt made for the family reunion BBQ.  I’d like to add, if you have not checked out their LP “Sleepwalking Days” they released earlier this year I highly recommend it as it is quickly becoming one of my favorite records to come out in 2016.  OK, so the SDF side is a meandering dream of a song with a single line repeated over and over.  I’m into the idea of them just doing whatever the fuck they please and not kowtowing to any sort of pre-conceived notion of what they’re supposed to sound like.  But the most recent spate of material they have released is a little too on the mellow side for my tastes and I kind of prefer when they have a little more energy going with their music.  (Protagonist)

OLD LINES/ WILL POTTER, “To Build a Fire” split 7”
One is a Baltimore d-beat wrecking crew, the other is an award-winning investigative journalist specializing in animal rights issues and how government surveillance impedes upon others fighting for the voiceless (and many other related issues).  The idea is to combine both music from the band and have it segue into Potter’s spoken sections on the topics listed previously.  On the b-side Potter opens things up with a very emotional and personal piece before Old Lines breaks into a fiery ripper.  It is nothing short of visceral, between Potter’s political/personal rhetoric (featuring some noisy sampling textures in the background) bleeding into feedback and Old Lines then completely annihilating the turntable with their super heavy, intense, and beyond pissed brand of hardcore fire.  Highly recommended for those needing a reminder that we are constantly being trampled on by the powers that be and why sometimes you just need to set something on fire to turn the tables just a little bit.  (Life Advice Records)

Did this band design their demo to match their name?  I ask because this literally is sound on a disc placed inside a card.  Ya know, a sound disc card.  I got jokes for days, I tell ya.  All that aside, this new Syracuse-area band has picked on that shoegaze stuff that has been all the rage with the kids these days.  I might discard (no pun intended) this as young kids riding the coattails of the flavor of the month if these weren’t all seasoned musicians who have been playing in a multitude of bands over the years.  So while their music may take hints from bands like Nothing they certainly have a well-informed approach to it that is ethereal, spacious, melodic, and still loud as all get out.  Not a bad start.  (self-released)

SPRAY PAINT, “Feel the Clamps”
Did six months go by already?  They must have because another Spray Paint LP has arrived.  In what is approaching some sort of record this Austin, TX band has released 4 full lengths in less than three years, by my count.  These dudes obviously like to write and record.  And like their last release, “Dopers” (or was it “Punters On the Barge”?) it shares a similar production quality and song writing style.  I hate to say it, but Spray Paint is getting a little predictable lately and while I still enjoy what they do quite a bit I have to admit being partial to when they sounded a little more gritty.  Yes, the jittery fucked up guitar reverb is ever-present, as is the nasally vocals going on about weirdoes and white trash.  While most of the songs move at a pretty good clip I think I like the slow ones the best- “Shovelling” and “Heaps Of Ice” have an extra creepy/dude-on-cheap-drugs-coming-down feel to them.  Best line on the record:  “Shut up/I’m drinking over here.”  (Goner)

Bonus Round:

REGULATOR WATTS, “The Aesthetics Of No Drag”
Rising from the ashes of Hoover this DC band excelled at creating moody, feedback-driven songs driven by thoughtful and intricate bass lines.  Alex Dunham, who provided many of those guitar squalls and low, howled vocals in Hoover really accentuates the mood in these songs.  The cover art by Jason Farrell, somewhat out of character from this usual style, just drives it home with whatever the huge sleek machine engulfing a bridge over a bay, as if that picture was the sound of the band.  Things start off with “Mercuchrome”, a burst of feedback on top of a slick and repetitive bass riff that quickly jumps into a lock step groove with those sharp, yet steady, guitar jabs somehow making a melody over it all.  “20th Century Ltd.” follows a similar path, energetic and complex, but flowing together in a weird and noisy caterwaul.  As the moaning of guitars open “Seedtick East” one is reminded of a foggy bay in the dead of night as a ship sounds it’s foghorn to call out to other lonely ships passing in the night.  The high point of the record comes next with “The Ballad Of St. Tinnitus”, almost like welcoming the dawn and it’s huge swell of sustained guitar skree and harrowing account of losing one’s parents to drug and alcohol abuse before an epic finale and shouts of “The ring, rings/ Make the people sing”.  Things move into more melodic territory on the B-side with the rather smooth and upbeat “Pemberton red” and “Chechero”.  Bobby Sullivan from Soul Side does guest vocals on “False Idols” and it’s heavily dub-influnced sound.  The record closes with “Witchduck”, a move back into noisy and somewhat chaotic territory.  There’s really no way to describe what Regulator Watts did in their brief existence because there is really no one who plays guitar quite the way Alex Dunham does.  But if you are familiar with the more haunting aspects of Hoover (or any of the bands he’s done post- Regulator Watts) it will give a hint.  As well as being backed by an incredible rhythm section this is a true overlooked gem in the DC canon.  I never got to see this group, nor any other band these guys were associated with, and scant live video exists of them either.  They only released this full length, as well as a couple of EPs that were grouped together on the “Mercury” CD.  This record isn’t too hard to find though so I highly suggest doing a little digging and hearing for yourself the very unique thing that they brought to the table.  (Slowdime)

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