Monday, February 26, 2018


Oh, is it 2018 already?  Oh, it's already nearly March you say?  No kidding.  How about that.  For all three of you who are avid readers of this stuff you will notice I have not added anything since late December.  It's not like I've been one bit lazy (however, I did consider the thought of just not doing reviews anymore).  I have been getting settled in my new home in Portland, OR, getting acquainted with a new job that takes a good deal of time, eating waaaay too much awesome vegan food, seeing an endless stream of awesome bands as they pass through town, and learning how to do letterpressing (if you check the Hex webstore you'll currently see three separate poster projects that I am selling HERE ).  And, as always, working to get the records from the label out to anyone who wants them.  So your boy keeps active, OK?
However, the year is already ripe with great music and it's not even Spring yet.
ALSO, now that I'm, like, a full-on resident out here, I thought it would be apt to feature a couple local bands who just released great new records and get out-of-towners interested in them.
Finally, I'm trying a new feature with these reviews by adding a song from each record reviewed so you can listen and read at the same time!  I know, super futuristic.  Give it a try.

BUGG, s/t
I’m completely aware that it’s a big trend for musicians and bands to recall 90’s music in various forms these days. And since my formative teenage years were spent within that decade, absorbing incredible sounds in my highly impressionable mind that formed a large part of the foundation that makes up my personal musical landscape, I have no problem with current bands doing their best to rehash that era.  Incredibly, many new bands have done a pretty good job of it, and Bugg is one of them.  Seemingly the project of primarily one songwriter Bugg kind of has a sort of Breeders feel (maybe it’s because their logo looks just like theirs), mixed with a sort of simplified and bouncy Dinosaur Jr vibe (minus the soaring guitar solos).  At times it ventures off into some Alternative Nation territory (yes, my age is showing) that was even somewhat embarrassing to listen to when it was new.  However, when Bugg are on the more aggressive side of their game it’s pretty excellent.  (PopWig)

I feel like the collective umbrella of Pygmy Lush extends into about a thousand other bands and projects and making any attempt to try and figure them all out is an exercise in futility.  One such offshoot of that group is Governess, which has a sort of middle-of-the-road upbeat indie feel for the most part.  It’s nothing that blows my hair back, but does at times have parts that remind me of the more mid-tempo bits of Pygmy Lush, as well as a little of Creepoid too.  There’s a touch of ethereal soothing haze to their sound, which is often broken up by the more straightforward parts.  I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to describe this further because it lacks distinction to set it apart.  It neither offends or inspires, it just kind of is what it is.  The ultra-plain simplistic cover art doesn’t help.  It’s music you could listen to if you want, ya know?  (Radical Empathy/ One Percent Press)

In their relatively short time as a band Iron Reagan has had quite a prolific output, and to be completely honest, this is the first time I’ve really given them a thorough listen.  And to be 110% honest, I’m hard pressed to really see a big difference between this and Municipal Waste.  OK, so the Waste has more ripping guitar solos and IR tends to be a little more on the ‘keep it fast and simple, stupid’ end of hardcore.  But where an unbridled love for thrash runs through each members DNA it’s difficult to get away from that which ultimately defines them as people.  Not like that’s a bad thing.  IR do what they do well and you’re already circle-pitting like a maniac and not even reading. Five songs on their side and…  quit shoving asshole, I just came to watch, OK?  Gatecreeper are (gets punched in the face), ow…  fuck…  a more traditional death metal band that (gets foot stomped on, beer poured on my back), also seems to be getting the masses riled up lately…  SHIT! With a sound that is nothing new, but done with the idea of paying homage to the greats and (smelly unwashed hair gets whipped in my face)…  gross… and implores the crowd to mosh, and…  fuck, does anyone in this place own a t-shirt that isn’t black?!  OK, I’m moving to the back. Three rippers on their end to complete this split. (Relapse)

They have kind of an odd name, but the goods delivered by this Portland-area band on their first full length are nothing short of gold.  Imagine the raspy vocals of Nirvana at their most somber set against some fever dream mash up of The Jesus Lizard, Unwound, and Drive Like Jehu in some strange kind of bummer mode.  I’m definitely hooked.  Getting an exact read on this band is difficult though as their songwriting process flows in a pretty strange sort of way.  There’s an occasional hook (the bass shot that opens this whole record is pretty memorable), but songs feel like they’re built more around peculiar guitar stabs, the hoarse nature of the vocals, and ebb and flow between aggressive and strange.  It’s a record that is immediately satisfying upon first listen, but you don’t know why really.  It’s going to take a few more listens at least to really unwrap how good this record is.  It’s also the band’s debut and one of the more interesting listens I’m sure I’ll be revisiting a lot this year.  (Self-Sabotage Records)

SHAME, “Songs Of Praise”
Man, people in England are just miserable, aren’t they?  Years ago, when I visited there everyone was so damn polite.  I imagine they’re just hiding all their gloominess under a cordial veneer.  London’s Shame are one such band of cheery-looking young lads who are just full of spite.  They blend the brightest and catchiest aspects of excellent post-punk and doses of Brit-pop and add snarky, shouted vocals on top of it to make for a hell of an excellent debut record.  At times repetitive and catchy like Gang Of 4, at times bluesy, sleazy, and sinister like The Fall, and at other times just wildly catchy and anthemic in the way that The Clash were able to conjure.  It’s kind of a nice mix of all those elements, which makes for music that doesn’t take a college degree to get into, but is also simply a product of great songwriting and a healthy dose of angst.  Also, if you happen to get the opportunity to see them live you must do it, as it’s one of the wildest times you will experience.  (Dead Oceans)

TURNSTILE, “Time and Space”
There’s a real conundrum at work here because Turnstile are a band associated with being really huge amongst a much younger crowd.  And there is that saying about ‘never trust anyone over 30’.  Well, I’m 40 years old and I fully endorse the shit out of this band.  So either this band has jumped the shark because old farts like me are all over this, or I’m just apparently hip to what’s cool these days.  Where is the truth?!  All that aside, there is no denying the massive amount of energy this band has, and how wild they can get live.  Everyone can agree on that.  Not everyone is pleased with the stylistic shift they have undergone from Madball clones to something else.  That couldn’t be more obvious on “Time and Space”, where they are making every attempt to keep that catchy and raw, live energy, but try out all sorts of other things.  The album starts off with “Real Thing”, an excellent opener if I’ve ever heard one that works around a grooving post-hardcore rhythm and ends up as a solid anthem.  Most of the other songs go fast, yet still somehow retain that groove.  I’ve started comparing this group to a modern day Bad Brains and I fully stand by it (even the re-recording of “Come Back For More” adds the sort of cowbell thing in the same fashion as “Pay To Cum”).  But you will hear them adding elements like a piano part in “High Pressure” that Andrew W.K. would be proud of, some mid-90’s breakdown and vocals on “Can’t Get Away” that sound like they were culled straight from some lost Snapcase record, and some more melodic vocals taking center stage in “Moon” (also featuring back ups by Sheer Mag’s Tina Halladay).  Don’t get too flustered though, those seeking the slow heavy parts will find them scattered at various points on the record without feeling like they were shoehorned in just to appease long time admirers.  To me, this is one of the most exciting bands flying the hardcore banner.  It’s fun, there is boundless energy, and they keep it fresh.  I say good on them, I wish them the best.  Now, leave me be so I can go back to yelling at kids to stay off my lawn.  (Roadrunner)

UNWELCOME GUESTS, “Anything You Want”
Buffalo stalwarts who have been a local fixture for a number of years now release their latest LP, again full of made-for-Gainesville Fest rockers, heavy on the grown-up rock, with some slight nods to punk and The Replacements.  I wasn’t aware that they were still a band, but then again I’m not too in the loop of local Buffalo indie bands.  There’s nothing totally mind-blowing going on here, but these are rock lifers playing earnest music and there’s no shame in that.  This comes with a very nice insert/poster, as in, some quality control went into making this.  (Dirt CultRecords)

While I am a fan of Windhand I feel like they’re writing the same song over and over.  I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way because it’s a good song, but sometimes a little variety goes a long way.  This opening track on their side of this split is strongly reminiscent of the opening on their debut full length, which was amazing.  Their next LP sort of missed the mark though in my opinion, so it’s nice to see them getting their groove back on this split, even if it does sound a little too close to their debut.  Nonetheless, expect quality doomy sludge with more than a hint of Sabbath and Electric Wizard and excellent, soaring vocals.  Satan’s Satyrs (who share members with Electric Wizard) are more upbeat on their side of this split with straight up 70’s biker rock, though I’ll say the recording doesn’t quite lend itself to that sleazy analog feel that goes well with the sort of evil rock n’ roll their aiming for.  A little work to nail it down is in order.  I’ll take this split for the Windhand side.  (Relapse)

Local Portland trio Year Of the Coyote unveils their first full length and it is rife with an uncompromising onslaught of non-stop grinding heaviness.  My first thought was that it has qualities similar to Coalesce’s “Give Them Rope” in that it never gives you a chance to catch your breath, it’s just relentless and suffocating in it’s audio density.  However, a couple more listens and it definitely recalls my hometown brethren in Engineer, in particular their early material.  The vocals have that consistent guttural scream and the avalanche of riffs that the defunct Syracuse wrecking crew were known for are front and center here, whether this band is aware of that or not.  Nevertheless, in a town that sort of typifies that laid-back Northwest attitude there is a band fully attempting to significantly harsh your mellow and I’m alright with that.  (self-released)

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