BRAIDEDVEINS, “What Did You Do To Survive?” 7”
Here comes a new offering from this Detroit crew, off the heels of an LP from last year. Their style of rhythmic and angular post-hardcore puts them in league with bands like local notables Bear Vs Shark, as well as groups such as Q and Not U and At the Drive-In to a lesser extent. However, there is a rough, burly edge to their sound as well that brings to mind lesser known outfits like Cutman or Pigs. It’s a good mix of noodly technical spazz out stuff without going overboard and heavy-handed post-hardcore, rife with creativity and introspection. I enjoy it. The seven inch has three songs, as well as a digital-only cover of the Nine Inch Nails/David Bowie song “I’m Afraid Of Americans”. (Dropping Bombs)
CHILD BITE/ STNNG split 12”
If I’m not mistaken I’m guessing this is the first Child Bite material with their new lineup because the playing on these two new songs sounds quite a bit different than their last two records. It’s like the weird Jesus Lizard tendencies have been upped (especially on the “Nub”-influenced slide guitar of “The Will To Disappear”), and the more thrashy metal aspects have been dialed back. I hardly mind. Basically anything this band does is gold to me. They have such a unique style that borrows heavily from several disparate sources to combine into quite their own thing, no matter who is in the band. I could say the same for STNNG, who I have never heard, but who have been around for quite awhile now. They are also an odd band, but have a catchier indie rock appeal to them. I’m not sure why they inserted Joy Division lyrics in the middle of one of their songs here, but hey, it was a pretty good song so why not right? They offer up three songs that lean on the slightly aggressive, but an overall more pleasant listen, for the tame listener. I should make note of the obvious ridiculous packaging for this thing where they did a several layer screen print on the B-side and pressed the record on colored vinyl and it looks awesome. This is not the first time Child Bite has done this and I’m glad they keep doing it. (Forge Again Records)
IRON MONKEY, “9-13”
I’ll admit to never having bothered to listen to Iron Monkey in the past. Maybe it was because their previous records album artwork was so awful looking. Without hearing them I got the gist that their brand of aggressive music fell somewhere in the sludgy and chaotic realms of Eyehategod, Buzzov*en, and Cavity. So this arrives in my inbox and I figure it’s about time to give them a listen. It definitely sounds a lot like the aforementioned bands and that’s just fine by me. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of this new album and I’m not sure why. I understand the whole ‘shitting on the legacy of the deceased frontman by continuing the band’ thing and people get kind of emotional about it. But I compared this record to “Our Problem” and, aside from a somewhat slicker production and a little quicker tempos on some of the songs, I’d say this fits in pretty well with the Iron Monkey canon. But what do I know? I’m a novice with this band. All I know is I hit play on this thing and got beat up by some monster riffs, tortured screeching vocals, and lots of bad vibes. So what’s not to like? (Relapse)
TED LEO, “The Hanged Man”
Ted Leo is one of the greatest songwriters of my generation. He’s the Billy Bragg for people between the ages of 25-40. And he hasn’t made a record on his own (not counting The Both, his collaboration with Aimee Mann) in quite awhile. But here we are, and here it is, and it’s some of his most varied and compelling music of his whole career. Abandoning the ‘and The Pharmacists’ tag in favor of just releasing this as a solo record it’s far from that. It’s just that Leo wrote all the songs and played most of the instruments. However, a number of guests (including current and former Pharmacists) contribute to the record too. Ted Leo’s knack of drawing from his mod punk influences is on display, as always, but there’s a greater reach into less ‘punk’ sources (maybe ones just on the outer fringes of) like XTC and Joe Jackson to counter his adoration of the Buzzcocks and Cocksparrer. It’s power pop at its finest and most creative. Ted Leo always has an incredible lyricism to his songs and manages to make complicated words and phrases into the catchiest of tunes. It took a little for this to grow on me because it is a departure, in some ways, from his older work. “Run To the City” works in the well-honed Pharmacists framework until a ripping saxophone lead torn straight from some Clarence Clemons/Bruce Springsteen high-fiving 80’s session takes over. It’s one of the most fun songs on the record and one of my favorites. However, “Nazarene” is the complete opposite. It’s a slow burner where the first half of the song is just Ted Leo singing over a simple piano coda before a sludgy bass section dominates the rest of the piece. There’s variety like this all over the record and it all works together very well, when in some instances, it shouldn’t. And like most of Ted Leo’s output there is a strong political commentary, often wrapped up in tales of personal interactions, and the socialist ‘were-in-this-together’ sort of vibe I enjoy immensely. But in reading interviews with him there was a great deal of sorrow in writing some of these songs, some extreme hardships he dealt with, and it is reflected in songs like “Lonsdale Avenue” and “Let’s Stay On the Moon” (try to hold back tears listening to it, it’s tough). Repeated listens (and seeing this stuff live) has really made a huge impression upon me and because of that I’m finding this to be one of my favorite releases this year. Ted Leo truly is a master of his craft. I encourage everyone reading this to give it a shot whether you’re a long-time fan, or have never heard of the guy. (self-released)
PLAQUE MARKS, “Anxiety Driven Nervous Worship”
This collaboration of Philly miscreants draws from some guys who are well-versed in playing this kind of music, and a couple others you might think wouldn’t be game for it based on the kinds of bands they’re known for. But either way, some people from Fight Amp, Creepoid, A Life Once Lost, Ecstatic Vision, and the Powder Room got together and wrote a handful of straight-up noise rock jams and threw them onto an LP/EP. They are drawing straight from the noise rock playbook so it’s nothing earth shattering, or groundbreaking. It doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. But it is satisfying. “Oregon Chem-Trail” sounds like Cows, “Chow” with more glass-gargling vocals while “Urban Blighters” takes a passing semblance to bands like Glazed Baby. The title track takes up the entire B-side of this EP and is essentially a spiraling mess of ultra-fuzzy slide guitar over acid-drenched sludgy wooziness that sounds like going to town in the woodshop with a table saw while drunk as a skunk and high on fumes at 3AM for 8 minutes. Take that as you will. Aside from a somewhat lackluster recording and a desire for more songs this is a pretty good start for a bunch of guys who just wanted to make some racket and go on tour. Mission accomplished. (Learning Curve Records)
Yeah, how do I review the new record from my favorite band ever- their first in 22 years- and not hold it to incredibly unrealistic expectations? C’mon. It’s a fool’s errand. I have entered into this new Quicksand material with a few notes to self: I am not the same person I was when I was 15 and having my mind blown as an impressionable, identity-seeking teenager hearing this band for the first time. The members of this band are certainly not the same people there were 22 years ago (I would certainly hope that they have grown as songwriters and as people with different things going on in their life). Take this record for whatever it’s throwing at the listener and not as some cash-in nostalgia trip.
So, with those ‘notes to self’ in mind I have to say this is an overall good listen. There is a chemistry that happens when the members of this band collaborate together that cannot be replicated. I certainly wonder what would have happened had Tom Capone been involved in the writing process, as he certainly brings his own style to the table. Or how would this sound if they had recorded with Wharton Tiers or Don Fury like they had in the past instead of Will Yip? There is a noticeable bit of gloom missing from this album, compared to previous records, and it sounds brighter and more crisp. My feelings about some of Quicksand’s older music was that it was for the bad times in life, rising above it all despite surrounding negativity and that always came across in the way the music was recorded and the vibe they put out. On this new album Walter and company still pine the depths of interpersonal conflict, working out rough spots in life, but seeming to have an overall more introspective vision regarding it all. I suppose that happens more as one gets older. Certain songs have a consistent Quicksand feel that long time fans will enjoy (like most of the A-side), some songs dabble more in shoegaze-y parts that the band probably wanted to do more of in their initial run but never got around to, and some songs feel like stuff that Walter would be using for more current projects or Rival Schools stuff (like a lot of the B-side).
As a Quicksand super fan who has been along for the ride since around 1993 I’m happy to see that these guys can get together, write enjoyable music, play it live and genuinely look as if they are having the time of their lives while doing it and not just going through the motions of a reunion cash grab. It’s real. The title track, “Under the Screw”, and “Illuminant” are probably the strongest tracks here that resemble the Quicksand everyone knows and loves. And there’s some stuff that you know is them, is pretty great, but takes things in a direction more consistent with what each of the members have been up to musically in the last 10 plus years. And that’s perfectly OK. Don’t be some grumpy old fart complaining that this isn’t “Slip” part two because that’s just stupid. With any luck, some younger people will take notice, get into it, and go backwards from here, and take away something positive from this. (Epitaph)
USA NAILS/ TONGUE PARTY split 7”
I’ve been all about USA Nails lately, but on this split I think Tongue Party is taking the cake. Not only do they have a pretty disgusting name, but their music is pretty gross (in a good way) too. For those heavy into this kind of stuff (like me!) think fellow labelmates Powertakeoff in terms of that heavily-distorted bass and give-no-fucks attitude, but with faster tempos and insane breakdowns. That bass dominates almost everything while the guitar takes a backseat with some tense, nervous racket. Two songs, smash everything. USA Nails comes back with their jittery post-punk and Jesus Lizard-like songwriting. These Brits have a pretty big catalog and while I don’t feel like this is their strongest stuff I would highly suggest checking out their full lengths for some truly jaw-dropping post-punk noise rock, especially “No Pleasure”. Learning Curve once again unleashes a quality record. They got themselves a pretty good track record. (Learning Curve Records)
V/A, “Shattered, Flattered, and Covered” comp.
In this day and age compilations are a dicey proposition. People don’t really buy them as physical products. Like, maybe you can convince some people to plop down a few bucks on bandcamp if it’s a benefit of some sort. What’s even more difficult to not only organize, but get people to spend hard-earned dough on is a tribute compilation. But lo and behold this guy got like 30 bands to record Unsane covers and put it out as a double LP/ 2xCD. That takes some boulder-sized stones and what I can only imagine is a Scanners-blowing up-your-head-level headache.
The groups on here are split about half from the US and the other half from Europe (or elsewhere). Well known noise rock bands of North America that you would expect to be on an Unsane tribute comp are present and accounted for, and turn in exceptionally good takes on some of the best songs (Grizzlor doing an awesome version of “Sick”, Multicult putting their spin on “Trench”, Child Bite doing an almost boogie rock version of a more recent track “Don’t”, and KEN Mode transforming “Broke” into… well, a KEN Mode song). Also of note are the Beige Eagle Boys doing an awesome, and somewhat humorously sampled take on the mighty “Streetsweeper”, while France’s Sofy Major gets the award for best sample in the middle of their cover of “Backslide”. The CD has a number of bonus tracks on each disc that you won’t find on the LPs, some of them for good reason, some I wish got on the LP. Hawks turn in an ultra slow and subdued cover of “Body Bomb”, which is sort of funny because it’s such an incendiary (get it) track otherwise, while Joe 4 attempt a medley of “Ruin”/”Swim” that just doesn’t work at all. Some groups I’d never heard of make their mark, such as Flying Disk, Suma, and especially Seawhores doing a hell of a take on “Lead”.
It’s a hell of an undertaking, and while there’s no surprise with the addition of some of these bands, it’s welcome to hear them pay homage to an obvious influence. Unsane are one of my favorite bands (if that wasn’t totally obvious to anyone who knows me) who know how to write really good mean-spirited and agitated music. Their influence is probably a reason why so many of the bands covering them I tend to like quite a bit as well. (Antena Krzyku)