Wednesday, December 20, 2017


What a year it's been.  Blink and it's gone.  Some part tragedy, some part fun, some very big changes, some milestones hit, and a bunch of great records and shows.  I got nothing else to impart other than hoping for an excellent 2018 and hopefully releasing some new records into the void.
Here's what did it for me in 2017:

Favorite records, in no particular order, except for #1

10.) QUICKSAND, “Interiors”
Lots of hot takes on this one from frumpy old hardcore dudes.  Let’s just take a few universal laws into account though:  Walter is one of the greatest songwriters in American music, Alan Cage is an incredible drummer, Sergio Vega has an amazing bass tone and sense of rhythm, and all these factors put together create the unique chemistry that is Quicksand.  It’s what 22 years of living after your last record results in when you’ve grown as human beings.  It’s not “Slip” because that’s my favorite record ever and I’m not 16 anymore.  It’s “Interiors” and it’s a highly enjoyable record for a fan who is now 40.

9.) UNSANE, “Sterilize”

Old reliable.  They never made a bad record.  Consistent to a fault.  You know exactly what you’re getting and it’s ALWAYS sonic devastation crafted well, made by guys living rough lives and somehow still alive to tell you about it in the loudest way possible.

8.) METZ, “Strange Peace”
Their weird, jittery, and erratic punk pushes the boundaries of what one can do with two notes in the space of a song on their third album.  The Canadian riff dojo where Nirvana, The Wipers, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu, and the Ramones all meet.

7.) CLOAKROOM, “Time Well”

It’s a bit of a grower.  But then, if you played your riffs this slow you would probably need some time to digest it all as well.  Taking some chances here with trying some psychedelic passages to go with their mountainous riff avalanche Cloakroom succeeds with a recording that is not only more pleasing to the ears in terms of production, but a nice step forward in their self-described ‘slow-core’ sound that is parts stoner rock, shoegaze, and enormous distortion.

6.) OPEN CITY, s/t
Philly punks keep it low key with adult lives, small and sporadic shows, and downplay the ‘supergroup’ tag as much as they can.  But the sum of their parts create radical, uplifting songs in the tradition of the bands they each were culled from (Lifetime, Paint It Black, Bridge and Tunnel, etc).  Short, sweet, to the point rockers with an incredible message

5.) OUT OF BODY, “Voiceless”

It’s like the feel-good post-hardcore record of the year, ya know?  Cobble together all that Failure, Quicksand, Shift, and Hum love and toss out a record’s worth of bouncy, melodic, and big-sounding rock jams.  There’s no re-invention of the wheel here, nothing ground-breaking, but it’s a certain style of hardcore done right.  It’s an easy, fun, and engaging listen.

4.) PISSED JEANS, “Why Love Now?”
I was ready to call it a day with these noise rock titans after the last LP was a bit lackluster.  But they spring back to form with some interesting choices for production and guests, and unleash another great record full of sloppy, pulverizing riffs, feedback, guttural shouting, snarky humor, and one of the wildest tracks of the year- “I’m a Man”.  Oh, and how awesome is the mid-life-crisis drudgery of “Waiting On My Horrible Warning”?

3.) BUMMER/ PINKO split 12”

Two very promising newer bands team up under a ‘noise rock’ umbrella to each give their take on it and I like where it’s heading.  Bummer relies on quick and burly headbanging riffs with plenty of feedback, and it’s real catchy.  Pinko smash their Refused riffs with spazzy, frenetic hardcore (I suppose people would term it ‘skramz’…  fuck, I hate even typing that), deft attention to intricate changes, and vocals that sound like Guy Piccioto (Fugazi) at his most frantic.

2.) TED LEO, “The Hanged Man”
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Ted Leo album.  The man has been through a lot.  It shows on this record.  It’s a wealth of emotions spread across his patented mod punk/power pop landscape with all the brilliant lyrics, heartwrenching subject matter, and ‘fuck yeah’ sing-a-longs you would expect.  Well, there’s also a good dose of saxophone and piano on here too.  Don’t be afraid, it’s an incredible record.  

1.)  PILE, “Hairshirt Of Purpose”
I didn’t think I’d like this very much.  It’s slower, more reserved than previous material, and more contemplative.  But after awhile the songs wormed their way into my skull and haven’t left all year.  Rick McGuire is one of the most creative songwriters I’ve come across in a long time and with the weird chemistry that the rest of Pile add to these brilliant songs it makes for one hell of an amazing listen.  It’s two of the most attention-demanding slow songs- “Leaning On a Wheel” and “Dogs”- that come off as the best ones on the record.  Five albums in and they’re dropping their best record yet.


BEAUTY PILL w/ ARTO LINDSAY, NYC Bell House, 4.28.17
I’ve been waiting to see a band Chad Clark fronts for at least 15 years, if not longer.  Beauty Pill are an astounding, very unique band in a category all their own.  However, having zero familiarity with headliner Arto Lindsay I guess I see where Beauty Pill got some of their inspiration.  As a surprise, the guy had fuckin’ Melvin Gibbs (ex- Rollins Band) in his group!

CHERUBS @ St Vitus, NYC 4.29.17
Who would have thought this obscure, long-dormant Texas noise rock trio would ever record again, let alone play shows?  I wouldn’t have expected it.  But fuck it, they invaded NYC and played a sold out show that was super fun, incredibly loud, and a near-perfect execution of their swirling, massive sound.

PILE w/ GNARWHAL @ Bug Jar, Rochester 5.15.17 (?)
I spent Mothers Day chilling with my mom.  I spent the night in Rochester witnessing Pile play most of the stuff from their incredible new LP and tearing the place down.  Gnarwhal opened, another band I had wanted to see for some time, do their thing, completely shredding bizarre tuneage and impossible fretboard gymnastics.

TED LEO @ Crocodile, Seattle 11.7.17
The man killed it onstage for two hours, nary a week after I landed in my new place in the Pacific Northwest.  The range of emotions that night went from sheer joy dancing wildly to “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone” and “Run To the City”, to contemplative attention during “Nazarene”, to actually crying a little when he played “Let’s Stay On the Moon”, and back to transcendent joy shouting along to every word in “Biomusicology”.  The world needs Ted Leo.

A bittersweet show for me, as it was essentially the last show I booked in my hometown before moving.  Thankfully it was with long time friends, some of which hadn’t played together in many years.  I was really happy to play a raging set with my own band, and close a door on a 20 year long chapter of my life.

QUICKSAND @ Warsaw, NYC 10.1.17
I was a bit skeptical of my favorite band ever playing with only ¾ of their lineup, but they proved to pull it off with aplomb and double the energy.  It definitely helped with it being a hometown show for them, and being surrounded by a bunch of dear friends to sing a long to the songs with.  Nothing will quite compare to seeing Quicksand play a tiny after-show in a 150-cap room a couple years back, but this was pretty damn good too.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


I was considering just writing up my end of the year list, but a few things came my way that I really wanted to write something up about before that, and then a few more things, and well...  here we are, with a pile of records that have some real black and white theme going on for the most part.  Anyway, in the mad dash of everyone's holiday bullshit please consider not purchasing gifts for other people, be greedy, and get some of these items listed here for yourself.

BUG, “Calamitas”
There is such a thing as Austrian noise rock and apparently Bug has been doing it for 20 years.  And this is apparently their 8th record.  So how about that, huh?  I have approximately zippo to go on if this holds up to any of their previous stuff, so I’ll just get to it and dissect this as best I can.  Alright, so this group apparently wrote this record as a concept based around an Italian prime minister and all sorts of other tangentially related stuff.  I can’t make out what they’re saying, but the vocals are slurred and growling, like they’re at one speed and the music is another, kind of Harvey Milk-ish.  Musically it’s all over the map.  There’s wide swaths of Unsane-style meaty rock, more experimental and weird pedal-heavy parts reminiscent of USA Nails, some epic math-y sections recalling Breather Resist at their best, and even some areas that dabble in black metal-s speedy onslaught.  Like I said, it’s a mixed bag, sometimes within the same song.  It’s a bit of a detriment because it causes the band to lose a sense of consistency.  However, the overall result is generally enjoyable because it’s a lot of neat things coming together that don’t always meet up.  (InterstellarRecords)

EFFECTS, THE, “Eyes To the Light”
Devin Ocampo is one of the most recognizable musicians to emerge from the ever-vibrant DC scene in the last 20 years.  From his start with art-rock masterminds Smart Went Crazy (where he played more second fiddle) to branching out more on his own with Faraquet and then Medications his distinctive wide-ranging vocals and peculiar style of math-y, complex yet insanely melodic and catchy guitar work is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever paid any sort of attention to any of his bands.  Now, with The Effects he sets off on another project on their first official full length (they have released a series of EPs so far) and it follows suit with much of the other work Ocampo is known for.  If there is any noticeable difference I’d say that with the Effects the drumming tends to be a bit more reigned in and straightforward, giving the guitars a lot of space to take center stage.  In previous outfits his leads were often competing with the other instruments, which were just as intricate, complex, bewildering and jaw-dropping.  Additionally, The Effects feels slightly more like a traditional rock band in places, where an occasional big rock part meets bits and pieces of XTC or early 80’s Genesis worship, butted up against the signature style of the main fellow I’ve spent most of this review verbally jocking.  So yeah, if you’re still a fan of what Dischord continues to release (and why wouldn’t you be?) this is definitely one of the better records released by them in the last few years.  (Dischord)

Eastern Massachusetts Kindling has been pretty damn consistent throughout their discography, which is pretty sizeable when compared with how long they have been a band.  Anyway, their formula is a good one:  giant distortion and ethereal vocals with a punk beat.  My Bloody Valentine, as filtered through countless basement shows, and always on 11.  They even have a consistent design aesthetic flowing through all their record artwork.  I really liked it all.  So on “Hush”, their newest LP, things are a bit different and it’s been a bit hard for me to digest.  I mean, yeah, they’re still using huge distortion and the vocals are as atmospheric and dreamy as ever.  But it’s a different (more boring) looking record.  They have expanded their songwriting palette, which definitely shows some growth on their part by including bits of synth, mellotron, and even sitar.  The recording is more polished and professional sounding and again, I’m a bit on the fence there because I really enjoyed the massive fuzz on their previous output.  But after a number of listens this is finally growing on me and I can sit back and enjoy it as a whole for what the band has accomplished in terms of growth.  (6131)

“LIARTOWN The First Four Years”, by Sean Tejaratchi
Anyone who knows me knows I dabble in design and have been making flyers for punk shows for over 20 years.  And people often ask, ‘where do you come up with this stuff?’ and my answer has more often than not been ‘Craphound’.  It’s an 8-volume zine dumping ground of every odd assortment of weird and obscure clip art one could hope to find to fill all those graphic design holes you never knew existed.  It’s essentially my design bible.  Well, the man behind it all is one Sean Tejaratchi, and for the last four years he has been the man behind a site called Liartown USA, which is his digital dumping ground for all the bizarre ideas floating around in his head that he makes reality…  sorta.  He focuses his design on creating fake advertisement for billboards, 70’s chapbooks, TV shows that never happened, magazine covers, business cards, products, catalogs, you name it, and he makes it look believable.  And all that stuff has been collected into one gigantic book filled with literally thousands of hare-brained ideas and fake stuff.  Need a calendar of Shitty Lighthouses?  He made it.  Billboards for “Pillows:  Houston’s First Pansexual Fuckspace”.  Done.  Book covers for Hardy Boys mysteries that never actually happened, including (but not limited to), “The Hardy Boys Lose Their Shit”.  Theres several.  Multiple pages of fake dialogue Ice-T ‘said’ on “Law and Order”?  It’s there and I currently can’t breathe because I’m laughing too hard.  I can’t comprehend why this guy spends a massive amount of time designing things long since forgotten, thrown away, or never useful in real life to make his fake stuff look incredibly believable, but I’m incredibly happy that he did.  (Feral House)

OPEN CITY, “City Of Ash” 7”
I believe the two songs that make up this 7” are culled from the same recording session as this Philly group’s stellar debut full length from earlier this year.  However, I can see why they were left off the LP.  They don’t quite fit with the overall character and feel of that record.  These two tracks are a bit longer (I use that in a loose sense of the word) and slower (again, ‘loose’) than the rest of their material.  The title track fits more with the LP with its catchy melodies and overall upbeat feel.  “A Condition Worth a Mention” is the second track and it is way slower, way harsher, and definitely out of character with everything else this band has done.  There is a 7” version of these tracks, but it’s pretty pricey.  However, it’s Open City and they rule, so my suggestion is go to the bandcamp and plop down a few bucks to keep up with what is going on with this group.  (Open City)

SECT, “No Cure For Death”
I’m not even sure if I can classify this as a hardcore record.  On the vegan straight edge old man’s supergroup round two (and, I might add, a pretty quick follow-up to their debut last year) they go even deeper into grind, powerviolence, and death metal displays of HM-2 worship, a la Entombed, Trap Them, Dismember, All Pigs Must Die, and groups of that ilk.  I’m totally OK with that.  Additionally, I’m not sure if you can classify this as a ‘full length’ either because the entire record is over in all of about 17 minutes.  There is some part groove and a lot of parts blast beats, where most songs struggle to hit the minute-and-a-half mark.  But within those short blasts the band manages to cram in a whole lot to think about including missives on voting with your dollar (so to speak), our current political state of affairs, and the dreary state of ‘what the fuck sort of dystopian future am I living in’ paranoia happening like every waking moment.  If you know the deal with this band you know what you’re going to get.  If you don’t I suggest holding off judgment of hardcore dudes over 35 as being old and tired because these fuckers will blow your hair back.  (Southern Lord)