Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 1
Ah, good to be back. The holidays netted me a much-needed break from the biweekly crush of deadlines. I didn’t get to everything that accumulated since December (well over 70 releases), but will be clearing through that pile, as well as covering all that gets sent in thereafter, in the weeks to follow. If you submitted anything, thanks for your patience, and I’ll be getting to you very soon.
As for a Top 10 or whatever for 2007, here’s my list. I really loved all of these singles and hate to really rank one above another. If you see a copy of any of these, they have my endorsement.
OK, no more reminiscing. Let’s get to some records.
One of the recent 12”s on DFA’s new “Death From Abroad” imprint, a spot licensing of some pretty bangin’ tracks from abroad. Altz plays it fast and loose, with “Max Motion” cribbing the evergreen Instant Funk break with some live disco funk action, and “Yello” in its original form playing leftfield, somewhat dubby disco wobble and free-range synth tweaks against two Idjut Boys remixes, one of which is quite superb, with a low-strung guitar twangin’ away within. Sounds like it’s fit into place pretty well in a Thomas and Eric or Harvey-esque type set. You know what I mean. I hope you know what I mean. Don’t think too hard on this one; it’s built for fun and that’s that.
Third-world punk discoveries never cease, it seems – Billy Bao was grafted from the oppressive climate of Lagos to the streets of Spain, and aided in being given a wider voice by blacktop noise guitarist Mattin. Wildfire ensued, and yet it’s been years since the debut single (reviewed in the very first edition of this column, no less), and the subsequent minimal CD EP had scratched a militant crease into the minds of a newly enlightened punk rock audience. There’s an LP looming on Parts Unknown, but first up comes this two-song 10”, and it’s thicker and meatier and a whole lot less esoteric than previous offerings, two cross-faded 10 minute barrages of dirt-track muddin’, a wall of force. That one song ends where the other starts, and vice versa, is handled as hamfistedly as the chords slammed out to infinity, but somehow it stays in the groove, even as the rhythms drift off into another; it works as a compositional conceit, almost despite itself. Brutal, bludgeoning blows to the head and chest from the heart of the underserved. Essential listening from and for an angry, fed-up world. Edition of 600, white vinyl, white-on-white silkscreened sleeve.
Another season has begun, so it was inevitable that another Blank Dogs single was going to surface. In keeping with tradition, the 7”s remain superior to the 12”s, Mr. Dogs proving himself to be unmatched in the format amongst primitive electronic hometaper types. “Two Months” is his “Gut Feeling” and the other two tracks are certainly no castoffs, projecting a beam of bright white light through the teen goth murk inna Messthetics-esque sorta way. Emotions run high in this gambit, giving an allusion to foggy, early Magnetic Fields as well. It’s no Gerry and the Holograms, but what is? Outta print already.
South African pop, looking to take a mild world influence and ride it all the way out. “Lakeside” shares some vibes with Vampire Weekend, though it’s no facsimile – brisk tempos, light melodies, and a brooding backbeat cloud the proceedings suitably, and while no new ground is broken, it’s an enjoyable and admirable attempt to get open. The funk gets turned up a bit on “One Must Die,” I suppose for the best, as the patois break and easygoing groove reach for original vibes and legitimacy, and just about make it. Definitely for grownups, but with a nice homemade sincerity that will ultimately be the band’s biggest selling point. 500 copies, hand-stamped sleeves.
Second outing from this Pittsburgh quartet, one which continues to break ground merely by following their own musical passions instead of kowtowing to any manner of prescribed notions for modern, youth-approved independent music. Their influences reach back into the barren deserts of the late-’80s diaspora, when bands started moving outwardly from stale punk and alternative tropes and got greased on a musical fluidity once forgotten (see bands like Mofungo, Saccharine Trust … well, let’s face it, a lot of the mid-to-late SST bands that were firmly on the second string and didn’t outright suck), bent with the interlocked yet asymmetrical guitar dynamics of Sonic Youth or Polvo, atop an arid psychedelic vista once visited by the Dead. From up there, you can see a long way out. Dwell on that as these four songs combine the above concepts with a rhythmic propellant worthy off Watt and Hurley getting linear, of African rhythms gently tugging at the sides of each track, and of your very concept of a jam band tightening up and playing around with some much-needed restrictions. There you will find the centipede, crawlin’ out west. Blows their first CD right off the map, and shows more outright, untapped potential than just about any band on the touring circuit. That they have no gimmick forces audiences to pay attention to the intrepid nature of the musical interplay, and surely you will find that this group houses one of the finest rhythm sections nobody knows about. They’re the kind of band you can’t help but root for; their ideas are so refreshing and ridden with earworms that categorization becomes a moot point. Here’s a band that knows what to do with an influence, and how to make it their own instead of just smashing a couple disparate sounds together and calling it a day. Put your hand on this one and feel it. Edition of 300, beautiful mastering job and abject clarity. Nobody needs this more than you.
Dave E. and the Cool Marriage Counselors
Solo tracks of incredible, unique clarity by one-time Electric Eels frontman Dave McManus, stripped of the trappings of a proto-punk band but finding ways to impact a similarly unsteady, leering quality about them. These have been sitting on cassette tapes for close to 30 years, but the statements therein are so complete and timeless that any generation is lucky to have them. “Searching Through Sears” is easily my new favorite song, one which I played six times in a row just now before writing this. Dave plays sax, rhythm guitar and xylophone, singing about the way Cleveland’s suburbs had turned into an unshifting tableau of chain stores and restaurants, and sarcastically “searching for values”throughout these establishments, the xylophone ratcheting up the demented proceedings to an unparalleled, half-insane glee. Side two’s tracks “Love Meant to Die” and “Psychology 101” cover being broken-hearted in similarly bent approaches, with the former nothing more than Dave in the studio at WCSB (or WRUW, I guess), singing these jazzbo lyrics a capella, crime stories about how his woman’s dooming him to the grave. It’s as captivating and terrifying as when I heard this about one year ago in a living room in North Philly, and it’s stuck with me since. McManus wears the tortured, antisocial Ohio genius mantle as well as anyone who’s ever donned it, and is luckily still with us should he choose to tell us more. 500 copies, no info, good luck.
The sound of two older dudes and some friends (including Tom Price of the U-Men) toughing it out through the late ‘60s and ‘70s before landing on punk rock around 1981. Every bit as ugly as it looks, and then some, with lots of primitive flailing and ultimate annoyance jams crowding the air up until “Skate Tough” hits on side 2, and you kinda wonder if these guys invented skate thrash after all. If it’s a joke, that’s cool. Part Happy Flowers ugmo mash, part Solger-esque scum, definitely missing some key brain cells; ergo, WORTH IT. 500 copies exist, get two.
New slices of weirdness from Steve of Homostupids/9 Shocks Terror. Not too much unlike the Homostupids’ electronic Brutal BirthdayEP, only seems like all seven tracks were realized independently of one another, making for a very fragmented and disorienting listen – kind of exactly what you don’t want happening when you’re out to convince people to spend $5 on a weirdo DIY-style synth record. Very much of a piece with Men’s Recovery Project, which some might not advise, and one track lifts a hook directly from Six Finger Satellite, which is a commendable and worthwhile grab. Whether this EP is or not depends on your tolerance for random presentation and anonymous songs tormenting themselves needlessly through the night. Can’t be too many of this one floating around. Make a choice. Labels reversed on my copy.
From Philly comes this complete surprise – a relevant, weird, highly rockin’ punk single for which you’ll have to dig deep to find anything comparable and modern. Heavily fucked electronic vibes obscure the vocals and coat everything on these four songs like the shit that comes out of fog machines … you know, fog, but with that really sweet chemical odor that lingers in your throat. OK, so imagine huffing that on a fall day, then going out to a metal toolshed and banging out fat, precise, jagged punk rock, both with and without a drum machine, then handing it out to people at a keg party where someone opens up a fire extinguisher but nobody has to leave. Already this is the worst review I’ve ever written, but I am trying to get a bead on these guys and only abnormal activities can bring it into focus. They have a goofy, abrasive quality not unlike Fat Day, and understand the sort of restless, eternally monged headspace that Chrome lived in, but there’s nothing necessarily distancing this band from an audience, and their levels of oddity mesh well enough with their bright, snap-to songs and blistered lo-fi technique that it only adds to the greatness therein. Best Philly punk band since Blue(?) Edition of whatever, mine came on grey splatter vinyl that sort of looks like cigarette ash.
Well, fuck, “Applemeat” is a waste. But “Rising Tide” pulls things together enough so that these young Canucks can finish off their first single with dignity, applying garage aesthetics to an overall fun teenybopper weirdness akin to TV Ghost, No Age, or maybe Harriet the Spy if you wanna go back that far. Let the crowd of imitators begin, and slowly and hopefully let them find their voices, rather than borrow someone else’s. Nice looking silkscreened sleeves, but man, terrible band name. Not gonna get far with that one.
Buy the hype: hard, slow, sexy house, notched up with deliberate, well-crafted source sounds and patches. Both tracks hover around their points of launch, and get to their destination somehow strengthened by the relatively smooth journeys. Next to some Juan Maclean tracks, H&LA might be the most straightforward release yet by the DFA, and yet there’s not really a hint of anything retro or time-specific here; sure, they borrow from classic house, but fit like a motherfucker in these times of ours. Maybe we are ready to deal with that sorta groove again. If the album sounds anything like these cuts, I’m totally sold.
Landed mk. II (or is it III by now) offers up another chestnut from their breakbeat-intensive period, the same one that begat the “Creeping Hand” 12” from last year. “Osama OxyContin” is as good a name as you could hope for, and the track itself falls in place, all tense riddims and crunchy vocals rippled over some assorted guitar moves. It’s Landed, better seen live. Landed drummer Joel Kyack celebrates his move to the West Coast with Megafuckers, his new band. Their two songs are the reason to pick this up, I suppose, as they skirt around a post-1985/Pay Toilets sorta realm, all bent corners, punctuated beats and unchecked male aggression, the band’s internal transmission jamming itself to pieces. I laughed pretty hard at the cover art as well. 300 copies.
Fucking crud garage punk from somewhere out in Indiana, which is understandable. Filth! Tinny noise with some crazy binocular focus that goes right between my eyes. Headache-inducing! Also about the war or something, you think? Vets of splits with Cococoma and others, I’m sure it’s me and not them, but there’s not a lot of character to what’s at stake here (though I’m certain that the band members themselves ARE characters, and from the sound of things would like to prove it any chance they get). Hey, if I couldn’t take a cold six-pack out of a convenience store, I’d be this mad too! 400 copies, all on black. Check out the Ken Rock Myspace page for a good example of how to do it, Euro-style.
German avant-popsters for decades, Metabolismum started making a mark just as the ‘90s were getting exhausted and people were looking elsewhere for kicks, making several wonderful and varied records for the few, not to mention being labelmates of both the Brainbombs and Monoshock on Blackjack, one of the last forward-thinking indies of that time period. It’s always nice to see them return, and doubly so here as part of the Social Registry’s increasingly awesome singles club. “Snowy Meadows” fell off the Sgt. Pepper’s delivery truck and flourished out in the woods by the side of the road, all pert studio drumming and Mellotron rolling through ornate, gentle pop. “Somnia” repeats these charms with the ticking of a clock and Samara Lubelski’s instructive violing cutting a path through it all. Imagine a Stereolab not influenced at all by Krautrock or French pop, but rather turn of the ‘60s British studio excess, and you’re coming close. Gorgeous stuff, limited to 750 numbered copies.
Mikaela’s Fiend are still slammin’ away through a wall of amps that sounds Lightning Bolt huge and able to volley a bassline into a projectile weapon like few can handle. Their side of this split, “Blanket,” wears away a trough in the cement from some heavy back-and-forth pacing, just hitting that G string hard and fast over and over until the gravity of the song becomes magnetically attracted to it. Nice and heavy, but really it’s the catalyst for Abe Vigoda’s side, showing a full and proper transformation from aloof, misguided Trumans Water-esque spazz punk into “World Heart,” a fun little scramble that trips up Big Flame-esque agitpunk scrape against clean, world music rhythms and a nice little syncopated, breezy feel. Really joyous sounding and worthwhile; looking forward to hearing more. 500 copies on various colors of silkscreened sleeves.
Almost as much of a shock as Dad Moon calling it quits was Fred and Toody Cole’s new band, Pierced Arrows, surfacing so quickly. And yet they’re back in it, with Severed Head of State drummer Kelly Halliburton in the throne. No surprises here, as the Coles are decades-worn rock ‘n’ rollers, operating on a basic agenda that works for them. Fred sings “In My Brain” and Toody “Caroline,” and they’re both just as solid as any Dead Moon release you can think of. Heavy touring schedule to start soon, with a West Coast tour opening for the Black Lips and some SXSW action on tap for the next few months. This wasn’t so much a review as a notice of new activity. Virtually nothing has changed except the name and membership. Sorry.
Man, so it’s Prisonshake’s first vinyl in … well, in over a decade, and the first song out the gate is all about how old they are. “The Cut-Out Bin” is pretty prescient, though, and well-thought out, with a great chorus (“Nobody gets to make mediocre record #4!” and “Leave a space for us behind the Pretty Things”) that dwells on Griffin, perhaps, as the lord of overstock GBV made him out to be. A neat lil ripper. Nice one on the flipside too, “Fake Your Own Death” gettin’ groovy with a funky organ before gaining some traction on some rock satisfaction and melty vocals and Farner guitar rip. It never really finds itself but it doesn’t really need to; these songs are a mere dip of the toes in the water that was once so cold. Their double album, talked about since the fucking ‘80s, is finally seeing release, and I am very stoked. If you care about the history of music in Ohio that moved to St. Louis, you will be too. 600 copies, 200 on blue w/ a CDR containing extra tracks. I welcome them back.
Heavy indie rock sounds from England, so you know what that means: 99 times out of 100, it’s some folks who’ve heard some records and are attempting to emulate them. These guys are somewhere between the big riff stoner crunch of Torche and something more strange, be it a half-hearted attempt at Arab on Radar’s spastic recontextualization of punk (“Birthday Mode”) in a half-assed jazzbo shtick, or just plain ill-advised lack-of-idea rock (“Hot Buttons”). I will applaud “Bigger Land” only for its blatant and strident rip of Universal Order of Armageddon’s world-ending howl. Maybe these guys need to focus, just figure out what’s fun for them and get deep into it rather than trying to cram everyone else’s ideas at once.
Sparkle Girl = noise church, climbing up the spires. You thump your chest, and then what? Large chunks of unsorted text on Sparkle Girl’s Myspace page is either indicative of bigger problems, or just really enthusiastic and non-tech savvy. Slicing Grandpa is still slicing away at some dark, obscurant corner of goth, hometaper industrial, and outsider psych dirge. Pretty noisy, sludgy pacing, and doomy dreadful, but this guy knows what’s up as evidenced by past releases, so it’s not an act. Or it is an act, but it’s executed with a modicum of foresight. Either way, 50/50 on here.
New matrimonial power pop action from the loving couple of Dan (Radio Beats) and Yago (Gito Gito Hustler), handily usurping the output of either of those groups. Super-catchy twin guitar burners, recalling the Nerves, Firestarter, and any number of bands that strike the right balance between pop hooks and the energy to carry them out with the most impact. Crusty, overloaded basement recording style suits these four tracks, sung in both English and Japanese, but they’d sound just as good in a real studio. Hopefully someday this will bear itself out, as the promise is strong within this lot. 100 or so on pink splatter vinyl and the rest on black.
Kinda late on the draw here, as that month off saw all copies of this ‘un sell out to stores and fans within a week. Just as well, as the new album is out now, and the single here features two cuts off of that one. Can I still comment on these songs after having heard them every night for two weeks in a different town? Revisiting them is like digging out a winter coat and finding a $20 bill in the pocket; just a warm, overdriven, familiar sound of young, yearning scuzz that belies its fingernails-on-chalkboard recording technique with nursery rhyme charm. Petticoats cover is a nice touch. 550 hand-stamped copies, all gone. Trade you my spare?
Steamroller edgeman hardcore caucus, pretty much guaranteed to fuck you up. Really nice, adequate Boston HC production gets the snare/kick gutpunch down cold, while the somewhat blurry storm of guitars and aggressive, constipated vocals clinch it. Didn’t think I’d be listening to this one as much as I have been, but it’s a real keeper – long, but not overly long, reductive hardcore crunch, blind to modern times and happy to stay that way. 245 on green vinyl, 507 on black, with some cover variants.
Members of Cider, the Darvocets, the Inmates and a bunch of other Cleveland punk/hardcore outfits get lit up and way out there for this brief but killer outing. If the recording were a little less muddy we’d be dealing with a serious contender, but the band is now gone, so these posthumous recordings document an out-of-practice acid scuzz punk mindset just kicking into gear, one that really ought to be more fondly remembered. Jams like “Tooshie Bagel” achieve this killer Funhousemeets Cheech & Chong kinda ambiance that not too many others have successfully navigated, bare-assed and leering madly at the world outside, the barely serious side of free-for-all riffage, maybe akin to an earthbound Monoshock, more than happy to lock itself inside the basement with Chee-tos, canned beer and various prescription drugs. Not really a lazy comparison once you hear this action, nor one that’s missing the mark, so if that’s your thing, there’s 500 of these out there with your name on ‘em, 100 of ‘em on gold vinyl. Let’s get weird.
Noise recording of solo guitar and some light percussion (bells, etc.) by this new Zealand ingénue, but in an attempt to dissuade your thinking from this being some sort of punishment for you to endure, let’s clarify: when the noise finally does break through the gentle opening of “Magpie Attack,” it’s one of the most cleansing, positive stuns you’ll feel all winter, like the alien godbolt of electronic energy terraforming your mind and body to the new way. The reflection of said track on the flipside (the “Driven to Perdition” mix) is a suitable comedown, but man, what a payoff. 500 copies, snatch one up and feel good all over again.
Noise artists rework each other’s source material, but could you tell? Chris Bickel’s Anakrid mixes a Blue Sabbath Black Cheer track down to its puny biorhythms, a breezy and cyclical quiet ambient track that peaks quietly and slowlydwindles down to nothing. BSBC grab onto some of that lo-range Anakrid drowned drone material, however, and kick the crap out of it, adding potent layers of filth before settling down into the bed of silt beneath with uneasy currents of swampgas bubbling up beneath. Clear vinyl, in a vellum sleeve – looks really nice. Limited to 324 copies.
Sidelong psych/Kraut/groove explorations from this mostly tasteful avant-jam sesh quintet out of Wellington, New Zealand. I’ve given this one multiple listens and there’s parts of it I keep coming back to in awe, namely when the finally hit the stride 2/3rds of the way through “If I Were a Pint of Milk,” a 22 minute colossus of slow-burn fuckery that gives way to a crashing, crushing beat, a manipulated reanimation of said beat on top of itself, and layers of bass, synths, and sax that aim right towards the sun. make no mistake: despite the label affiliation, this is rock music, and it rocks pretty goddamn hard at that. I could really, reallydo without the mongoloid vocals of Thebis Mutante flittering all around this otherwise godly heap; his presence brings only distraction and annoyance to what might otherwise be a Kiwi space rock take on Endless Boogie’s endless boogie. Rein this guy in and you might have something. Side B’s medley ebbs and flows a bit in a more erratic fashion, but the peaks are still there, and give notice of some unreal, glowing, enormous promise for future outings. Edition of 500 copies, and taken in its most direct chunks, as killer a time as you’re gonna find in this realm as of late.
Attention-grabbing, free-swinging avant whimsy from John Clyde-Evans, recorded during a year’s stay in India. Two long tracks and one short one offer up a scintillating mix of high-pitched acoustic scrape, wind instruments, synthesizer sweeps and an adventurous, inner ear fuckery motive, playing against the elder staunchness of Euro-free improvisation with bug-eyed glee. Genuinely psychedelic surprise sounds, swirling with a beatific, good-natured spirit. Edition of 300 copies.
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Heavy Winged offer up another full side of wavo-inspired metal murk, they of the Sonic Youth anti-blues progression school, so exect a lot of vertiginous repetition and satisfyingly obtuse pummel. Taiga Remains is some one man piercing noise and I just can’t hang at this late of an hour. Edition of 300, clear vinyl, crazy clear sleeve.
Dutch free/freedom rock, yowling at the abyss and stopping short of themes as they develop, concentrating instead on mood and attack. Four generous offerings of ascendant guitar howl atop bass/drum cycles that notch up the tension all the more. There’s a little more effort and control here than leads on, apparent in repeat listens, and an unmistakably traditional jazz background in the music. Glad they’re still in the grind after what I’d heard were tumultuous inter-band struggles. 300 copies, nearly gone; new record on Holy Mountain this year has you eBay hounds sweating in the groin area. You could buy fifty more tacos to cram down your gullet with the kinda loot you’re looking to generate.
Boston locals who have been around forever; their name rings many bells in the back of my booze-smeared mind, perhaps even back to the ‘90s – the generation you could set your watch to. I mean, it sort of adds up, as these three have allegedly been operating in relative anonymity outside the city walls, if not intentionally, but the time and space left to the trio has allowed them to develop their own musical language, one that’s note- and lyric-dense, one that’s somewhat heavy but never anything less than GRE-prep vocabulary with the gracefulness of progressive rock filtered through the safety of ‘90s indie/T&G/Bitch Magnet/Iceburn-isms. Years in the making, Instanterplays like the trio is having a blast, though, swatting away all the belabored seriousness of many of those bands, and ultimately coming off as a hyper-nerdy amalgamation of Pitchblende, Rodan, Red-era King Crimson, and a handful of similar touchpoints. But they’re so comfortable in this zone, so conversational, that they rise above the influence into their own realm. There’s probably 100 people out there who will feel the same way, and good for the band, as they’ve only pressed up 100 copies of this LP, in paste-on sleeves.
Really aggro, nihilistic noise rock from guys associated with various punk and hardcore bands (Iron Lung, Cold Sweat, Lords of Light) that misses the mark pretty hard. Eleven monotonous tracks that take the promise of their 7” and squander it aimlessly, without a memorable riff in sight past opener “The Crawl” and the two tracks that close the record out. Half really weak Jesus Lizard/Creeps on Candy warmup, half wannabe Swans nihilism, and the two sides don’t ever find a way to meet up eye to eye. I know that hardcore might be somewhat limiting after a while, although Jensen Ward’s work in Iron Lung disproves this case outright, but it helps to find a way to get over a conception of just sounding heavy and evil with, I dunno, songwriting that isn’t just plodding bass and mealy guitar leads and vocals with some level of dynamics past a muscle-bound scream. M. Gira-of-yore impersonations on the borderline ‘90s screamo accusation “Secret Rape” are the most painful affront in recent memory. Congrats, now everyone is bummed out. Ugh. Unconvincing. 233 white, 820 black. Really nice-looking embossed sleeves and great cover art, but really, the niceness kind of stops right there.
Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. CD-Rs of singles will not be reviewed; they will be destroyed. We need the artifact here with original artwork, not some duplicate/digital copy. Only records released within the past six months will qualify for a review.
Still Single now runs bi-monthly, so there is no deadline for submission. I will do my best to make sure that records are reviewed in the order in which they are received.
ANY genre of music will do - don't hesitate to send punk, hardcore, metal, goth, pop, rock, country, hip hop, electronic, experimental, dub and reggae … all genres accepted and welcome.
Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.
Submissions can be sent to:
Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise.
Keep sending in submissions, please!
By Doug Mosurock