Saturday, November 23, 2013


In yet another mind-numbing installment of 'reviews' I collect a random assortment of things sent my way, as well as leftovers from the best of Fest, that were not some insane rare gem from 1994 or cheap repress, but in fact somewhat current.  So take this mish-mash of offerings as you will (there's quite a bit) and indulge your senses.  And while you're at it, give a little this holiday to starving artists who made these things and buy some of it ya freeloadin' jerks.

AS YOU WERE zine #1 & 2
This makes me very excited.  Here we have a professionally put together comics anthology zine put together by punk folks making punk comics.  The first issue has a theme of house shows, so all the stories revolve around that.  The best of the bunch here involves the haunted house ghost circle pit (Anthony Sorge), the incredibly detailed and wacky spread from Liz Suburbia, and curator Mitch Clem’s rumination on missing a Mountain Goats living room gig.  The second issue features a grim cover by Ben Sears and focuses on ‘the pit’…  so ya know, moshing.  It’s pretty funny really.  Mitch Clem again offers a tale of slipping on his ass feeling like a shmuck, Ben Snakepit (whose comics I’m usually not really into) makes an incredible short based around a D.R.I. song, and the single page gag from Will Laren is worth the price of the zine alone.  Other notable offerings come from Ramsey Everydaypants and Marcos Siref.  A very worthwhile purchase if I do say so myself.  (Silver SprocketBicycle Club)

BLEAK demo
This must be two different recordings, both done fairly close together, because this band has only been active a short while and they sound radically different.  For Syracuse-area people, if the bands Architect, Blood Money, and Cowards ring any bells just mash ‘em all together and you get Bleak.  It’s quite an apt summation of what they’re doing.  For outsiders, think Disembodied worship.  The first two tracks are the newest of the lot and represent an excellent step forward, both in terms of writing and recording.  It sounds loud, mean, and heavy as garbage truck full of bricks.  The second batch of songs, in my opinion, should have been shelved until the band could get a proper recording, and had been playing together for awhile.  I feel they are too premature.  A couple of the songs are pretty good, but one of them is missing the boat completely as the drums are out of whack and it feels disjointed in a negative way.  But as far as the new tracks go, keep ‘em coming because now that they have their bearings they sound pretty unstoppable. (Bleak)

It’s kind of awesome when people you’re friends with, whom you had no prior indication that they could play instruments, just get it together, make a band, and record some jams.  A couple Syracuse-area transplants got this band going down in Philly not too long ago and what you get is some mid-tempo indie-leaning punk.  It has energy, but it’s also perfect for those Spring days where you know Summer is coming up and you’re just relaxing in the backyard taking it all in.  That’s what these songs feel like.  It’s nothing mind blowing, but having seen them live recently they broke out a whole bunch of other songs not on this demo that hint towards pretty awesome stuff to come.  I’ll be on the lookout for sure. (Cayetana)

EX-BREATHERS, “Collision”
So I’m not sure when exactly this record was released, but when I caught this band playing at Gainesville Fest this year they were the surprise hit for me.  They exploded with such energy and balls-out chaos, all the while still playing incredibly tight, I didn’t know what to make of it all.  Musically it took a few listens to nail it down, but it still is far from perfect.  So I’m not sure if this is what they intended, but I’m definitely reminded of noisy mid-90’s Wreck-Age Records offerings like Die 116 and Gern Blandsten math rockers 1.6 Band colliding in a frenzy of Keelhaul-esque drum fills, and blasting urgency.  Sure, weird references, but that’s the best I got.  Lyrics are fairly straight forward and the album artwork definitely does not allude to the wildness contained within.  A very intriguing band to be sure, one with some uncommon sounds, but it will shave your scalp clean off once the needle hits.  I suggest seeing them live (if you’re a Florida panhandle resident this might be easier) as the record hardly does justice to their live sound.  Total blast rock.   (Living Lost Records)

Mandate Of Heaven is synonymous with Syracuse underground rock, as salt potatoes are to local cuisine.  Yeah, salt potatoes.  Look it up and salivate, bonehounds.  Either way, Greg Pier (AKA Mandate Of Heaven) has been dishing out album after album for a dozen years or so now, and he, and a regularly (semi) rotating cast of musicians rarely play outside of town.  My preference is on the bands more aggressive and raw output, but they have, over the years, laid down some excellent slow jams.  “Mark Music” (already having been out for some time) is not only the best-sounding recording the band has done, but it’s most ‘grown-up’ (for lack of a better term).  While we get a couple more Sabbath-y style beefy tracks (“From the Center” and “If Twenty”), it’s balanced out by some bluesy jams featuring some pedal steel (“Riverbed”) and boogie rock (“Cruel, Cruel Aristocrats”).  The group also has a long-standing affair with tricky off-time riffs, as showcased on “Scrapper’s Blues”, which might be my overall favorite song on the album.  It sounds like an eclectic mesh of styles, but it’s all tied together by Pier’s distinctive crooning and melodious wail.  Outsiders might see this as left-of-center bar rock.  But those who reside here know better, that there is more going on.  While this album sits somewhat in a mainstream context, and is not my overall favorite of their catalog, it certainly is yet another awesome offering from the always reliable Mandate Of Heaven.  (Neon Witch)

NONAGON, “The Last Hydronaut” EP
I’m getting a real Frodus/Forstella Ford/Keleton DMD vibe from this group.  While that may mean nothing to the reader (or heck, even to this band), it means a great deal to me and should demonstrate that I have an instant affection and respect for what they’re doing here.  Nonagon hail from the Chicago region and DNA strands of stellar indie/punk groups that have littered the scene there over the years show up in the stylings of this group with their nimble bass flogging, angular guitar gymnastics, and dedication to analog recording techniques (at least it sounds as if this were recorded analog).  So yeah, my initial reference points hold no ground as none of them are from Chicago.  But what do you care?  You should be at least checking this out for a taste of some great rock. (Controlled Burn Records)

NO SIR, “The Future Is Bright”
Yes.  Beat me senseless with loud and dirty hardcore.  Some people look to 90’s grunge and noise rock with contempt, like it wasn’t hardcore enough.  Sure, if you’re talking Silverchair or some such horseshit.  But when hardcore kids pick up on Cows, early Helmet, Unsane, and Melvins…  well then, argue all you like.  I consider those bands pretty hardcore.  They have buckets of spite and noise to go around and I feel like No Sir is picking up on that pretty well.  All these dudes have played in (or currently play in) hardcore bands that fit a fairly typical framework of the term.  But No Sir brings the noise and filthiness to the game, all the while keeping it pretty catchy too.  Upbeat ragers like “I Doubt You’ll Ever Swim Again” bash skulls against slow clomp-and-thud cranium crushers like “Wet Worlds”.  Highly impressive stuff.  You should get this now-ish.  (TwelveGauge Records)

PILE, “Dripping”
One of my friends talked this band up to me recently, and then a few weeks later I ended up seeing them at Fest.  They were excellent.  I immediately picked up a couple of their records, this being the most recent of them.  And since that time I have been trying in vain to accurately describe just what they sound like and I still don’t think I can quite capture it.  But I’ll give it a shot, again.  It’s as if The Pixies got into playing stoner rock.  It has many of those quirky song structures, strange vocal inflections, and really off-kilter guitar melodies.  But then it all comes crashing down in thunderous rock fury, and some anthemic riffs.  This is considerably ‘heavier’ than the other album of theirs I picked up (“Jerk Routine”), but equally as interesting.  I’m sure this band doesn’t give a shit what I say about them, so I’ll just sum it up as saying that this rues and is one of the more interesting bands I’ve heard in the last couple years.  (Exploding In SoundRecords)

This has been out for several months already, I know, but hey, I’m just getting around to it.  Rival Schools were the perfect pick me up after years of post-Quicksand depression, hoping that somewhere Walter was cooking up more brilliant post-hardcore.  When “United By Fate” dropped in 2001 it may have moved a bit further from post-hardcore to indie rock, but whatever, I’ll take it.  That record has remained, over the last 12 years, a staple in my rock diet.  Its such a wonderful record that I adore.  So, seeing as this long-lost collection of demos recorded in 2003 has surfaced on vinyl, it still fits in that time frame of when the band was still pretty fresh.  Granted, second guitarist (and supplier of insane guitar effects) Ian Love is not on this recording.  He is replaced with the very capable Chris Traynor (Fountainhead, Orange 9mm, Helmet).  But I have to admit, the songs on here certainly are in the demo stage.  I can see most of them having turned into great songs by the time they made it to a legit studio/album.  Whatever.  I’ll take it.  I think the best of the bunch comes in the second half of the record, culminating in the wonderful “Big Waves”, which kind of sounds what the title suggests.  They also do a great Buzzcocks cover of “Why Can’t I Touch It”.  For the completist.  (SRC Vinyl)

SAN ANGELUS, “Soon We’ll All Be Ghosts”
By all accounts this is a supergroup that I ought to be very down with.  But such is the 50/50 odds that just because the people who are in the band might individually have created great stuff and together might not turn out what you expect.   That being said, the performers on this record are dudes from Undertow, Sparkmarker, and Pelican.  This should be the greatest aggressive post-hardcore to hit since about 1997.  Instead we get very mainstream friendly rock, heavy on atmosphere and a dreamy disposition.  It’s not bad, just kind of bland.  A lot of the songs don’t really go anywhere honestly.  They have some nice parts, mediocre rocking, the occasional catchy riff, but it just sort of sits there overall.  And I guess a couple of these dudes already moved on to other things, so I guess we’ll see where they go next?  (Amber andWool Music)

More like ‘Dank farts’, amirite?  Ya know, because this couple is always talking about farting?  Anyone?  Anyone?  OK, that being said, SD are one of the most sincere couples out there making music.  And for such softies they play so loud and hard it’s stupid.  I mean, you get keyboards, soft vocals, and drums.  That’s it.  But Carly lays on those keys like no one’s business, boosts them through some bass thingy, and Tom beats on his drums like they just mugged his mother.  So, live, they always kill it.  But this record feels a bit more reserved than their live show and I think I’d be way more into it if they captured more of that live energy.  A few of these songs are meant to be chill and I can understand that.  And there are a few that have a very live, big feeling to them that are better experienced from the pit of some basement show, or small stage.  “Rasta Bacca” is probably the best song on here (even though I think it’s about smoking pot) just because it has such a wonderfully catchy lead that sounds like it could have come from an old Devo record.  (Top Shelf)

I remember seeing this band once, years ago, when they were still pretty new and I couldn’t get over the fact that the singer looked like he flipped out on people for a living.  The music reflected that attitude of flipping the fuck out, repeatedly.  While I have not exactly paid attention to their recorded output I know their live shows are typically nothing short of burning-mattresses-prison-riot intensity and the songs on this all-too-brief LP have that same kind of intensity I recall.  How does it stand up to other records they have done?  No idea.  But here’s what I hear:  short bursts (typically) of down-tuned and freakishly tight grind/powerviolence, followed by slabs of meaty riffs Crowbar wished they wrote (or that Weekend Nachos respectfully borrowed).  It’s a great combo if you’re the type to wear your Iron Lung t-shirt to the dojo.  (Relapse)

You think you like Electric Wizard?  Yo, Windhand REALLY likes Electric Wizard.  I mean, a lot.  I thought I was listening to an Electric Wizard record actually.  I’m not complaining though.  I probably have a better chance of seeing this band than I ever do the English titans of sludgy doom.  Windhand will have to do.  But, so help me, if they play that 30 minute long track that’s on this record live I might not be into it.  13 minute long songs, max.  And yeah, that describes the longest of the six songs on this monster.  The rest keep it a tidy 6-8 minutes each…  no worries.  Regardless, bask in riffs slower and heavier than one of those Jawa sandcrawlers, complete with atmospheric female lead vocals over top of it all.  It’s a pretty bad ass experience, man.  (Relapse)

No comments: