Monday, October 20, 2008


I'll be perfectly honest. There wasn't a whole lot this week that really tooted my horn. But not all weeks can be amazing for music. I'd say, for the most part, 2008 has proved to be an excellent year for music. Early October, for me anyway, just wasn't. Eh, it's not like there's even a lot of bad stuff here, just some mediocre stuff. And a couple decent books.
I'll be at the Fest at the end of the month. If you know me, say 'hi', If you're a good band I'll do my best to come see you. I hate Florida, but I like good music.

“BRAINFAG FOREVER,”, by Nate Beaty
Alright, so you’re another dude in his late 20’s (early 30’s?) who is bummed on life and cranky all the time because you can’t keep a steady lady in your life, and when you do something goes wrong with it, and then you escape to the wilderness on some island in the Northwest to try and make sense of it all. But it doesn’t work and thus the cycle of being a cranky, bitter chump continues. What a quandary. Why does this happen? Oh, I have a clue! Maybe it’s because you’re a late 20’s (early 30s?) dude who draws corny cartoons of yourself as a half pig man person going through these cycles and obsessing on relationships you had 10 years ago over and over again, drawing them into cartoons that are made for public viewing. Maybe that’s why you might be having trouble in these areas of your life. Throughout this collection of Brainfag comic zines it’s like I’m reading the same story over and over again. Each time the author goes through more heartbreak you not only get the latest tale of woe, but a repeat on the past woes you read about before. Cool. I’m sure the girls who broke your heart really enjoy being drawn as comics that your friends read. At times this guy really seems to put effort into his art and craft (the cover, title page, a couple later issues), especially in the issue that is mostly just pen and ink drawings of bridges and places around Portland (they’re quite extraordinary in fact). But most of it is ad nauseum complaining that really turns me off. (Microcosm,

DEFEATER, “Travels”
Well, raise my rent... who would know that a band previously known under the ridiculously poor moniker Sluts would be such good dudes? Honestly, under that old terrible name this band wanted to play Syracuse pretty bad and I denied them on name alone. There was no way I was booking a band called Sluts. And I still wouldn’t, even if friggin’ Henry Rollins was their frontman and Neil Peart was playing drums (and that would sound amazing, let me tell you!). Yet with a name change, and a new CD I am finding myself happy to have heard this. There is nothing groundbreaking whatsoever about this band. They simply play melodic hardcore that would sit well alongside Modern Life Is War and Another Breath, most of their songs based around narratives about different people. It’s solid and gets the job done. Individually these dudes are behind the scenes running recording studios, renting vans to touring bands that run on veggie oil, doing eco awareness projects, and so forth. The packaging on this CD is all recycled materials (and it looks really kick-ass too)... maybe these dudes are just sluts to good causes? I dunno. Either way, Defeater is a much better name, yet given the resumes the members have inside and outside of music perhaps that name doesn’t do them justice either? (Top Shelf Records,

DON THE READER, “Humanesque”
There’s a bit of mystery with this band for me. For starters, what the hell is their name supposed to mean? Secondly, they sort of came out of nowhere, advertising the shit out of a free record they were giving away. All I could think was how much money they were sinking into this band already. Now they have this full length out (which I’m guessing is NOT free this time) and I finally get to hear for myself what they’re all about. I was hoping for something pretty exciting, but alas, it’s really not all that wild. It’s the same kind of Botch-esque noodling where they kind of get it, but not really. Taking their cues more from pretenders to the throne like Norma Jean than the real masters this delivers very heavy-handed metalcore, complete with some weird time signatures and tons of warped string bends. Yet here we are in 2008, bands were executing audiences with this style 10 years ago and 10 years later it’s gotten fairly dry. I don’t want to say this record is a complete waste or anything. It has it’s moments. But it’s another case of bands working on their brutal fucked up side without writing a good song. It’s just a lot of heavy parts with no one song that really sticks around in the listeners head. (Deathcote,

ENERGY, “Invasions Of the Mind”
Awful. Totally bland music with overproduced vocals that could be taken out of this band , cut and pasted into any number of shitty radio pop bands. Actually, it sounds like AFI, and I can’t stand AFI. That’s just me. I guess this is supposed to be hardcore, but to me it just sounds stale. It’s like the name of this band is a double-edged sword. It’s a pretty bland name in one respect, yet if they really lived up to it the name could really help... but they would really have to kick the shit out of the listener without fail. And well, this fails. (Bridge 9,

“FOLLOW FOR NOW”, ‘by Roy Christopher

“Follow for now, power to the people say, make a miracle. D pump the lyrical. Black is back, all in, we’re gonna win, check it out. Yeah y’all c’mon, here we go again!” Instantly those old Public Enemy lyrics came to mind upon seeing the title of this book. And to my great pleasure I discovered that this book was named after those very same words. That’s a good start. So what lies betwixt the pages? Well, this is a collection of various interviews done between 1999 and 2006 for different publications that emphasize people pushing the envelope with music, culture, science, technology, literature, and media. Through these different people there seems to be an attempt to connect a lot of these folks and their ideas with similar undercurrents to a bigger picture. At times I’m not feeling it, and other times it makes total sense. While the author interviews DJ Spooky he shoots off his influences as computer nerds and philosophers who are interviewed elsewhere in the book. Meanwhile, interviewee Brian Coleman discusses his own book about forming a collected history of hip-hop. Shepard Fairey admits to the influence of punk music on his work while Futurama co-creator David X. Cohen shares how half the show’s writers have advanced degrees in science. Some of these people have great ideas and visions for how they interpret culture while others go right over my head. Others just sound like flat-out new age weirdos. About half the time this book works, but the overall pictures is that it is indeed an interesting look on tying together all these differing aspects of society as a whole. In total there are about 45 interviews that range from post-punkers Milemarker, to author Adam Voith, to hip-hop group Dalek, to writer Bruce Sterling, to skateboarder Todd Swank, to actor/writer Sean Gullette, and a whole bunch of other weirdos and kooks. (Well Red Bear,

GIT SOME, “Cosmic Rock”
I never got really all that into Planes Mistaken For Stars. When they began they were dull and by the time they got exciting I slept on it. I guess that makes me a bad person. Git Some is the remnants of PMFS, as well as a couple characters from a little band called Peralta who I happen to know quite a bit about. Peralta were fucking weird and spazzy, minimalist like the Minutemen, but just as gnarly as Black Flag... made for tearing up a curb with your skateboard. I was into that band. So all these gnarled dudes got together and formed Git Some and the name pretty much goes hand-in-hand with music you’d pretty much expect coming from these two forces of punk rock. It’s wild and unruly, filthy and messy, and a bit off-kilter and weird all in one. It doesn’t exactly flow and it feels like the band is still figuring out exactly who they are because you’ll hear styles change from song to song. Though they have that dirty-ass punk rock grime well established already. With time it will mesh and this ain’t a bad start to build off of, it’s just a little unfocused. (1-2-3-4 Go! Records,

Well done! I like when some band I’ve never heard of comes through my stereo and gives me something surprisingly new. OK, ‘new’ might be pushing it because I’m about to drop some reference points that are hardly new. Let me break it down. This is a two-piece band, a guitarist and drummer. Through the magic of awesome gear they get some real low-end tones to make it sound more full. At times things get into sludge-pop mode, a la Torche, but there is something else at work here and it took me a few listens before I could nail it down. See, Liquid Limbs doesn’t just throttle the listener with the lowest possible tuning they can get with sung vocals on top of it. They work in some weird prog-ish melodies, that when mixed with the clean vocals remind me of Yes. Really. Ya, the 70’s arena band Yes? So, yeah, think Torche and Yes tag teaming as a two-man wrecking crew. It works quite well. So when I say this sounds ‘fresh’ it does, even though what it reminds me of is nothing altogether ‘new’. It works for me. I think I dig “We Don’t Get No Sleep” the best, even though the annoying pronunciation of ‘contri-dict-shee-un’ in “Make Peace With War” is a close follow-up (somehow I get the impression that they repeat it over and over on purpose to bore the absurd pronunciation into your head). Good stuff all around. (Sound Study Recordings,

“MOSTLY TRUE”, by Bill Daniels

Just like the title implies I can’t really tell how much of this is true and what is reprinted, or made up. The cover says it’s volume 19, issue 7 and apparently it’s the year 1908. As far as I know I’ve never seen this publication and it definitely seems like more of a book. Am I being really oblivious? I’m sure I am. I really have little understanding of the whole train culture, riding the rails and so forth. But this missive gives a more historical view of it all, mostly through hobo graffiti. I don’t mean the huge murals that real deal artists do on the sides of cars. I mean small tags that hobos and rail yard workers would scribble on every boxcar they could get to dating back to the early 1900’s. Old reports are dug up, newsletters reprinted from the 1930’s regarding different known people who either rode the rails for years and years, or the legends (like ‘Herby’ and ‘Bozo Texino’) who worked in the yards, marking upwards of 300,000 cars in their lifetime with their signature. It seems like the most marginal of interests to pursue- tracking these people down, or their decendents to make a patch of history for it all. But in the end it makes for some good stories. Of course, this book isn’t just a pursuit of mystery railroad graffiti artists. There’s plenty more. Random stories from traveling hobos, lots of photos and art from hobo taggers, all sorts of reprinted and mock advertisements from years past. Again, I’m not sure what to make of it all as it has a rather esoteric quality to it. But it was quirky knowledge to which I admit to have found interesting. (Microcosm,

PAST LIVES, “Strange Symmetry” EP
I could not get into the Blood Brothers. It was just too all over the place, weird, and sassy for me. So when a handful of their members got together to start this band I was most definitely skeptical. Then again, sometimes bands like that will break up, learn from what they did, and do something totally awesome to make up for past mistakes. The debut from Past Lives is batting about .400 for this debut, so that’s not bad. The opening song, “Beyond Gone” and “Reverse the Curse” manage to take some of those weird sounds, and stick to just a few ideas in each song and make the best of them. It works really well. And for once Captain Sassypants on the vocals doesn’t sound like a tool. He uses his annoying voice in the best way possible. The three other songs here seem to still be stuck a little in that sorta Blood Brothers mode of hissyfit spazzouts and sassy dance rock. I can’t really get down with that. But the subtle and pretty builds in the first song, and the repetitious weird rock in the aforementioned “reverse...” really do a great job of showing a bit of restraint while still being very engaging. Hopefully they continue on that path. If so I could see the next thing they release being really good. (Suicide Squeeze,

RUINER, “I Heard These Dudes Are Assholes”
Man, they couldn’t have come up with a more fitting title! What a bunch of dicks! A bag of dicks, if you will. Not really, but that is a funny title. So, is it really necessary at this point to do a discography? After all, Ruiner songs are really short. And aside from the full length they only have an EP and a split 7” (and a demo, but all the demo songs are on the EP). So why bother really? The only extra on here is a demo version of the title song from the full length. The CD doesn’t offer much aside from a number of live pictures, and what seems to be the progressive filthiness that envelopes Steve Smeal’s face over time (cut your hair, hippie!). There’s not even some notes, or history, or anything to show where these dudes have gone. And I’m sure it would be cool to read about, seeing as Ruiner has been on tour non-stop for about the last two years around the world. I heard the LP version of this comes with a much more thorough booklet with scads of photos, so perhaps that might be more worthwhile. (Bridge 9,

SMARTBOMB, “Diamond Heist”
To my knowledge, this band is following up on another full length that came out pretty recently. So I guess they’re productive, if anything. As far as the music goes I really wasn’t expecting a lot early on probably because this is a pretty ugly-looking record. But they kick right in from the get-go with fast, very Kid Dynamite-influenced punk hardcore. For the first few songs it really works well, until about halfway through when it loses steam and a few of the songs really seem to be about nothing all that important or noteworthy. Yet they bring it back up again before the record is through with “Blood and Sand”, possibly the catchiest song on the entire album. It’s not amazing, but it’s not bad either. It seems to do the job alright, albeit a bit dull around the middle. (Think Fast,

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