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Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 4

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Dusted's Doug Mosurock empties out the coffers before his trip to SXSW.

Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 4

OK, that’s it for March. The pile is officially cleared out. I’ll be back in one month – taking a little time off to head to Austin and prepare a panel discussion I’m leading at this year’s SXSW Conference. I’ll be talking about vinyl with a number of qualified industry folks regarding where this whole thing’s going. It’s taking place Saturday March 15th at noon, and I just saw that I’m up against Daryl Hall, but I remain confident that I can win.

Thanks to everyone who sent in submissions, even the bad ones. Still Single will return first Tuesday in April.

Karl Blau
“Slow Down, Joe” b/w “Lake King’s Daughter”

Haven’t caught up with Karl Blau for a while, but he’s the type that seems to have made a decent cottage industry for his music. Two gentle, harmless, upbeat pop tracks with falsetto AM-radio vocals. Lyrics by A.A. Milne on “Lake King’s Daughter” for the preschool set, and the gentle vibes might have this guy playing the Dan Zanes circuit before too long. Blue vinyl.

Blue Sabbath Black Cheer/Pig Heart Transplant
split 7”

Manly low-end, percussion slog, and brute force vocalisms show Blue Sabbath Black Cheer to at least be somewhat good on their namesake, all pain and shackles, uphill both ways. The Man is the Bastard card rarely gets pulled but they’re reaching for it, which is noble and often encouraged. Pig Heart Transplant is Jon Kortland from Iron Lung, drowning Jurassic Park into the tarpits of memory. Loud, slow, hellacious and torturous, which is what you’d expect; noise from the abandoned, vengeful side of the male psyche. Edition of 300 copies.

Born Bad
Moron Music 7” EP
(Fashionable Idiots)

Second EP from this Canadian bunker-buster hardcore act, low to the ground and dirty sounding as before. Kinda basic stuff, but maybe that’s why it’s so appealing. No strings attached straight-up hardcore is cool sometimes, because it makes you focus on what hardcore is, rather than what it sounds like. Their hard, tough approach is refreshingly unbeholden to most modern conceptions of the genre. 1000 copies.

“Babylon by Car” b/w “Tragedy Symphony” 12”

Long, shifting tracks of great skill by Bo’tox, who successfully extend minimal techno, electro, and some moody grooves over a disco-funk canvas. “Babylon by Car” has so many different parts that entire sections would suffice in a live mixing situation, while “Tragedy Symphony” takes on broader strokes but keeps the laidback funky soul ambiance in play. Nice job.

Div/orce Series Vol. 7 split 7”

Man, Ache is gonna finish this laptop/noise artist split series no matter what it takes. Bulbs soak down a bassy, lopsided acid noise sheet; Wobbly sound as the name implies, some Beck-lite polite funk rolling around in a sea of stewed beats. Yup.

Who’s Gonna Care? 7” EP
(Can’t Cope!)

NYC indie pop jangle-nerve-shatter quartet is back at it. Nothing at all has changed or developed about their sound across any of their records, so if you like what they’re doing, it’s here for you. They’ve left their label and are self-releasing records from now on, it seems, with no full-length in sight. Oh well. Foldout comic book sleeve, as usual, screened in a bunch of different colors.

Bored Fortress Year 3 Vol. 2
split 7”
(Not Not Fun)

Charalambides venture even further into Lilith Fair terrain, guitar outlining the blues around its Rubenesque form. Can’t hang. Pocahaunted, who I’ve not heard before this, offer up a likable loose psych drone, building up a nice atmospheric head of corroding guitar before the big, booming rhythm section lumbers in. Can’t argue with it; it’s an agreeable, spaced-out late evening exploration into the sunset. Sounds like the first Bardo Pond single, almost. Looks like subscriptions are still available if you wanna get in the grind this year.

Civic Progress
Disposable 7” EP
(Fashionable Idiots)

Embarrassing guilt-trip hardcore. Wasn’t so sure about these guys with the first record but now, forget it – judgmental, paranoid, nervous, unflattering songs, with a flat recording to match. A trip straight back to the worst part of the ‘90s … don’t go there. Nice minimalist sleeve design, though.

Cult of Youth
s/t 7” EP
(Axiomata Product)

Really dour, anguished goth-folk, very open and stark, bearing down on dark times and embracing the bloody romance within. Not gonna front like I’m well-versed in the intricacies of pagan folk a la Death in June, but to me, this sounds like a gurning, assured stab in the direction of M. Gira, maybe some of the more extreme Nick Cave material out there. Steady guitar that makes some brief moves into flamenco rhythms rush everything along at a harried, dramatic pace. Nice job, 325 numbered copies, white vinyl.

Diet Cola
s/t 7” EP
(Army of Bad Luck)

Atlanta + no wave crush … SIDS has some competition now. Orgies of hectic strobelite sounds include a greasy wall of synth, pinned between the glory of noise and the desire to bear down on this anti-personal mode of musicianship with some sort of frigid, dangerous fantasy. The no-wave Reds you need to know (Red Asphalt and Red Transistor) didn’t need to gussy up their sound to appeal to what was going on commercially, and it’s at this point where we start to see why. But side two here balances out both sides of this argument; “Sick Modern” managing to lower the boom on rock ‘n’ roll action and art-school asymmetry in the proper balance, and “Anything Poisonous” swinging wildly into punk, mowing down all in its path. The rest might make you feel old, and sadly the reflective metallic sleeve on this thing staring back at you won’t help, but the artwork is pretty rad, and there’s definitely a lot of promise inside. 500 copies, white vinyl, nice silkscreen job, includes CDR.

Estrogen Highs
E Major D Construction 7” EP
(Never Heard Of It)

Garage rock, kinda dingy, one-man band style. Here’s a turkey tip about your mama that you might not like. Ragged, dead tired playing, a la the Cheater Slicks of yore, which is admirable, but not exactly earth-moving. It’s OK. You might not have a record like this and in that case it might bring you joy.

I Feel Like a Jerk 7” EP

Buzzsaw garage-punk that’s willing to dirty it up rather than play nice, a rarer quality than you’d think these days, when it seems everyone in practice is going for more of a tight, professional presentation. Nah, though, Fontana slug it out, happily trudging in muddied grey slush once trod upon by the Pagans, Halo of Flies, maybe even GG in the vocals. Great recording with lots of space and a strongly defined instrument sound, particularly the guitar. Even the long, wandering track “You’re Obscene” works despite its loose sound and wayward arrangement. This is a killer!

Gucci Soundsystem
Acarpenter 12” EP

Bright, simple, direct, robotic tracks, with an industrial-flavored firmness and heavy use of synths recalling early Killing Joke, especially on “Acarpenter.” The Joakim remix of that track warms up the dancing robots, for sure. A redeeming time capsule of spacy, straightforward roam and mechanized precision.

Guinea Worms
“Box of Records” b/w “I’m a Cobweb” 7”
(Columbus Discount)

The value of a box of records – a good box of records, in particular – has never been up for debate, so I really can’t tell why everyone is so crazy for “Box of Records.” It’s a really simple, lazy garage rock song done up in basic black and white, and it’s catchy in a very childish, sing-songy way. Plus some of the lyrics are really tough to deal with, appealing to the single male … man, this song is just too easy. I’m more for rampant Ohio punk boosterism than most, but I always liked the sense that there was a fierce, bitter intellect beneath the best of it, while this is merely lethargic and lowbrow. “I’m a Cobweb” fares much better on the flip, a dirgy slice of Fall-inspired rage. 500 copies.

Hearts of Animals
s/t 7” EP
(Dull Knife)

Quite the find here, a natural bridge between straightforward indie pop traditions and some more daring territory, where I thought Tickley Feather might be headed. I’m much more fond of this Mlee Marie’s work when it’s abstract and loaded with delay, skronking horns, and a psychedelic/free mindset at play. And luckily, two of the four tracks here fit that description; opener “Stars Say No” being the hit, and the most far-reaching track here, and the repetitive gait of “Stop Talking” a mincing, relentless blast of blue sunshine. Truth be told, the pop songs are good too, just not as unique as the other tracks. Very excited to hear more of what she’s doing. Good one. 300 copies.

Holly & Joey/Holly & the Italians
“I Got You Babe” b/w “One More Dance” split 7”

Well … yeah, it’s Holly Beth Vincent and Joey Ramone covering the Sonny & Cher classic, and it’s from 1982, and a recipe for error. Error is achieved pretty much at the outset, with that huge, bland wall of gated drums and Thomas Dolby’s synths, perfectly behaved and not really at home here. You know why this cover exists, but you never really thought to listen to it. Now that it’s here, what’s the rush? The song is too strong yet completely restrained by its waltz arrangement, its original performance too etched in the public conscience for anyone to really open it up on their own, making it even less than it needs to be to succeed. A compromised Holly & the Italians, stripped down to a trio, offers up an unreleased track from the same time period on the flip, though, and it’s great – time-capsule wavo power pop riding the starry-eyed beat of the Sunset Strip, and sort of in place with moderns like the Busy Signals, if not as obsessively catchy. Ultimately? Redeemable!

Kid Kishore
Klap Perker 7” EP
(The Social Registry)

Danish-Indian booty beats and ghetto grind. Not a joke – this guy could be the DJ Assault of Copenhagen for all I can tell. Kishore raps in a grunting patois, like Al Pacino in “Scarface,” while lo-tech beats fire off all around him. Pretty cool, and a definite curveball in what’s been a pretty divisive Social Club series thus far. Bummed I never got the Growing single though. Editious of 750 numbered copies in letterpress sleeves.

La Scala
The Harlequin 7” EP
(Highwheel Records, LLC.)

Ridiculous, corny Tom Jones-meets-Balkan cabaret punk abominations from Chicago, led by ex-Menthol/Hum member Balthazar de Ley. Imagine if you were this guy, having presupposed a new wave revival a few years before the fact with Menthol, and now playing this conceitedly overdone oom-pah band crap even our grandfathers would be tired of by now. It’s a thought for the corporation to digest, I suppose, but you needn’t worry yourself. Includes a CD with bonus tracks.

The Little Girls
The Clear Album 7” EP

Bubblegum remainders from this flash-in-the-pan favorite of Rodney Bingenheimer, with some unused demos from 1985 (featuring Clem Burke and Nigel Harrison of Blondie as the rhythm section) and one acoustic ballad recorded in 1982. One Dave Clark Five cover (“Any Way You Want It”) and three originals, none of which really bring anything new or unestablished at this remedial date to the table. Not hard to see why these tracks never got picked up – the Bangles were around at this point, and able to tread the same waters with just as much fun and not as much forced goofiness.

“Plague Journal” b/w “Apocryphal City, Portents Fallen” 7”

Two sides of atmospheric post-industrial drone for guitar and machines. There’s a picture of a wind-damaged storefront on the insert, which makes a lot of sense, I suppose. Synths and loops and oscillators provide the background, noise and scrape, while the guitar scratches out a few melodic blues riffs. Pretty nice take on what can sometimes be a tough thing to bring across on vinyl without sounding overwrought. 300 copies, white vinyl, white sleeve.

Mentally Challenged
“Disappeared” b/w “Surveillance” 7”
(Deer Healer)

One-man gear jammin’ from Mind Eraser’s CC. Lots of distortion, bad tidings, and really compressed, tinny drums give off a no man’s land vibe, one which is only fully realized on “Surveillance” – thorough B-side to My War attitude drearily pounding away at the doctrine of the Church of Scientology and the deaths of Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan. Not for everybody, but for those are ready for the bleakness that this young man’s mind can portray, you sort of need a copy. Alas, it’s sold out, so start digging. 300 copies pressed.

Meth Teeth
s/t 7” EP
(Sweet Rot)

Clearly the latest string of this whole singles racket being a fun and personal endeavor is starting to shine through, Meth Teeth being an obvious example. They’re three dudes from Portland who give off a really unsympathetic “poor vacation” attitude through these white trashy acoustic bike-folk actions, which are then run through a pinned-in-the-red production technique lifted straight off of Sic Alps and the thousands of lo-fi practitioners before them. I learn that one of the guys in this group was in Leper Print, whose single I was very into – what happened? Very much emperor’s new clothes, the songs failing to inspire in either writing or playing, and the poor sonic choice to make everything they’re playing all reverb-y before they push everything into the red just doesn’t work. 500 copies, 100 on white.

Mi Ami
African Rhythms 12” EP
(White Denim)

White-hot post-punk/heavy rhythmic assault action from this Bay Area trio, featuring Daniel McCormick and Jacob Long of Black Eyes. It’s a really strong debut of uptight, polyrhythmic frenzy and a girthy underpinning of dub. McCormick’s vocals are shrieky – really shrieky, so if you never got used to Black Eyes or Arto Lindsay, they might put you off. But the musicianship is so tight and locked down that the vocals fall to the noise side of Mi Ami’s dichotomization of chaos against serious, exacting bass/drum action. “Clear Light” on the B-side mellows out into some vista-expanding deep dub. When people complained about there being too much music like this in the past year or two, they often missed the point: that not enough of it was this good. Mi Ami should have no trouble wading through their wreckage and leading people back to the groove. Only 400 copies pressed, so act fast.

Miss Georgia Peach
“You Blow My Mind” b/w “Do You Know What Love Is?” 7”

Ramo’s in-house artist, as well as director of sales, steps out on a shitkicker country bent, backed by ex-Nashville Pussy couple Ruyter Suys and Blaine Cartwright. All three of them sing on “You Blow My Mind”, which is pretty odd considering Ms. Peach’s titular status, but she really steps out on the flipside, where her vocal part is in a higher register and doesn’t allow her to do that warbling thing that so many ladies take on in this sort of style. Here’s hoping more of Ramo’s singles steer in this heartfelt, non-mersh direction.

Scott Morgan & Miss Georgia Peach
“All Talk No Action” b/w “Put the Blame On Me” 7”

Picking up that Scott Morgan (he of Rationals and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band fame), Ramo’s flagship broad shows she and the label’s pickup band are ready to attack any genre, from country to loud sluggo garage to bar & grill blues, with the same gusto and commitment to the material. Shitkickin’ like this is cool to witness, each of these folks stepping into a professional capacity, not hiding that they’re gonna do whatever it takes to get to the next level. “All Talk No Action” is the winner here, but there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here – just impassioned performances and the sort of machine-tightened consistency that’ll fly with a pretty big audience (one that I am assuming mostly lives in Europe, but no harm in that). If Ramo’s so committed to reissues and representations, they should follow Morgan around until that Rationals’ Fan Club LP shakes out.

“Song for a Working Man” b/w “Cocksuckerbastardmotherfucker” 7”
(Columbus Discount)

Another great one from this Columbus outfit, improving far beyond whatever was expected on their earliest releases. They have a good grasp on Pere Ubu-esque shifting of melodic priority, and are able to write extremely catchy songs within that concept, often reaching for breakneck or ill-advised rhythms but somehow making it all work. Two great ones from some folks who continue to surprise. 500 copies (100 on geen, 400 on black).

Nuit Noire/His Electro Blue Voice
split 7” EP
(Todestrieb/Creations of the Night/Quovadis/Produzioni Sante/Avant!)

Nuit Noire plays kind of haphazard shoegaze black metal, a genre for which I have no patience. No, we’re here for His Electro Blue Voice, a satisfying and heavy goth punk band from Italy. “Call” gets a little dirtier than their other single on S-S, laying in some Cramps-ish rumble in the second half of an already sinister sounding track. Edition of 300.

Occasional Detroit & Gay Bomb
Collaborative 7” EP
(I Just Live Here/Human Conduct)

Bassy, rhythmic mash of all sorts of percussion loops, vocals, tape manipulations and other jarring frequencies, coalescing into a markedly urban futurist feel. O-D don’t discriminate against the beats, so some stoned kalimba can shift violently into jungle breaks before you have time to catch up. It’s a very messy sound but comes together so remarkably, or perhaps obscured just to the point where it gets tough to tell where the transitions are supposed to fall. Still, a fun, ridiculous, and spirited performance. 60 copies?!?

Out With a Bang!
Love My Life 7” EP
(Fashionable Idiots)

Enduring and sloppy shitbag scum punk from Italy, bent on self-destruction. Society failed this bunch, but punk rock did not. Might be the best of the records I’ve heard out of them – frustrated, smeared, and misanthropic.

Right On Dynamite
“Won’t Let It Go” b/w “Wrong, Too Right” 7”

Strokes-meets-emo treacle. They certainly know how to write a memorable riff and play through it, some three minutes into “Won’t Let It Go” perking up my ears. The ballpinch backing vocals will send you running for the bar, and there’s nothing on the flipside that’ll have you coming back. Pinkish-red Czech vinyl. Not a great record.

Rot Shit
Have You Scene Rot Shit? 7” EP
(Fashionable Idiots)

A redeemed mess messes its pants once again, Rot Shit (who are DEAD) announcing retirement status soon after the release of this reckless EP. Overblown and hilarious in its nature – think Angry Samoans, Nip Drivers, and all the comedy that punk can feasibly contain. Hyper-referential songs about emotional-chromosome-dunted topics like the hermetically-sealed world of record collectors and every insecurity they’ve endured in the last year, be they limited pressings, “weird punk,” DJ nights, or the Internet. On side B, they declare all of these things and more to be over, in a three-chord stomp that squeezes the blackheads out of this era’s nose. This is how you take command, folks. Pay attention. 500 copies, gone from the source – check stores and distros.

“Hejrat” b/w “Sprout and the Bean” 7”
(Holocene Music)

Two covers here – “Hejrat” by Iranian vocal superstar Googoosh, and “Sprout and the Bean” by Joanna Newsom. Attention-getting musicianship, with a drummer that knows when to hold back and when to unleash a busy, all-encompassing percussive racket, a strong and versatile singer in guitarist Payam Bavafa, and overall, the taste to discern what to do and when. The two sides to Sholi shown here, a poppy/bluesy/anxious take on current indie rock truisms, a la the Walkmen, and a traditional side to handle the ethnic material like Morricone might have, with a lot of instrumental flash and a noble, heads-up presence. Both tracks are great, and I’m glad this came out.

s/t 7” EP
(Fashionable Idiots)

Three chord garage punk, basement style. Lo-fi and unsteady but tough sounding. Four songs, no frills, a fun if nondescript time.

Slither/Thurston + Flaherty
Bored Fortress Year 3, Vol. 1 split 7”
(Not Not Fun)

NNF starts up their subscription series again for 2008. Slither chirp away with unsteady synths and maybe some sax, making full, pensive, twitching sounds for youth noise. Over on side B, Thurston Moore grinds away at guitar while Paul Flaherty locks down with spazzbo reeds action in a basement with “Western Mass Hardcore Rules OK.” That’s cool, whatever, no big deal.

Spinerty/Dem Suite
split 7”

Soulful modern R&B with chopped drum and vocal breaks. Not bad, but both tracks kinda just hang there, rather than establish a more forceful presence. {erhaps they’re redefining California soul, or at least waking it up. Definitely interested in hearing more. White sleeve big hole 45.

Terrible Twos
Radical Tadpoles 7” EP

Garage-punk-noise-synth slop. Ex-Piranhas, so it’s “crazy” but really I’m having trouble getting my head around what’s happening here, as on multiple listens it still sounds like Rocket from the Crypt at their most non-pro, circling the pile of AmRep remainders and toxic froth. Built to annoy, with some minor touches that tell me this band is probably a blast live but the records don’t really explain why. Really ugly artwork sort of seals it. Just can’t get into these guys.

Vestigial Lamb/Fletcher Pratt
split 7”

Two noise artists move on up from the cassette and CDR netherworld to vinyl. Vestigial Limb delivers a chunk of sedimental power electronic abuse, layered in movements that vacillate between firm and runny. This is the noise of a teenage life you probably didn’t live, a purely cold, grim ‘80s/early ‘90s attack. Pretty great, and I think I know the guy who made it. Epicene calls Fletcher Pratt “one of the best tape collagist [sic] around” and had I not known that tape was his source, I’d have never guessed – the radio transmissions, lumpy noise, and surprisingly dense palette within coalesce into an uneasy, constantly shifting morass of tangled emotions, particularly the pain of a final broadcast. 300 copies pressed.

Neighbors Remixes 12”

Light, clean, somewhat trance-inducing evening revisions by Neighbors for Vetiver here. “You May Be Blue” is the tour de force, an extended, shuffling meditation on the darker corners of a Stevie Nicks ‘80s electro-pop outing, while “Been So Long” hangs in the back with a thick African-influenced drum loop.

s/t 12” EP

Sublime downtown loft blasting zone riffs and hex-inducing female vocals come out of this project of Calder Martin and Caitlin Cook (ex-Excepter), and it’s smokin’ hot, like if somebody pulled taut the skin on Blues Control. Martin’s grimy sunrise guitar blooze creates an enticing bed of chop for Cook’s delay-treated vocals to hang over. A handful of guest drummers show up to firm things a bit, but Vizusa’s debut record is captivating both with percussion or out there buck. Expansive psychedelic drug haze wander, very highly recommended.

Wether/Teeth Collection
split 7”
(Epicene/No Horse Shit)

As a split noise 7” between two guys who run labels, it’s incredibly difficult for the audio content to upstage the interpersonal dynamic between its makers. Looking at the one-sheet for this release is almost better than listening to it; both artists are surrounded by a field netting of CAPITALIZED BAND NAMES and NAMES OF LABELS that somehow represents what the music is or stands for – this Pointillist mesh of low attention span and hyper-curated abstract content being a – for once – pitch-perfect rendition of an audio response (yonder youth noise action), more informed by emo/Godspeed crescendo or black metal than the minds that made noise possible. It’s also why noise never really made it as a pure/slab unit into rock and pop music altogether, as it drowns out any display of talent (explain Serena-Maneesh if you disagree) and reduces the inherent nature for rock or pop to attract attention. Monoculture sound; the inevitable bummer. I feel like Chuck Heston in “Planet of the Apes.” 300 copies.

Birds of Maya
Vol. 1 LP
(Holy Mountain)

Raw, back-to-basics ‘70s basement proto-metal/hard rock pummel. Dirty recording and practice-space dynamics recall some of the best late examples of this kinda sound (High Rise, Monoshock, Comets on Fire). Some might be put off by the loose, jammy nature of most of the tracks, but these guys have a great sense of how far they can hold that shit out there before it gets old. This comes at a cost, however, as some tracks don’t have a solid beginning or end, leading me to wonder how this all plays out live. Nevertheless, this is a great combo of electric blues, Southern rock, and blown-out, handheld Led Zep bootleg played through a boombox, putting most of the recent crop of hard rock revivalists to shame. Power moves all over the place, vocals merely a suggestion of harmony rather than lyrical suggestion due to their choices in production. Nearly flawless, and righteous where it could have been corny, and legitimately sounds like a product of a prior time. Just a great, great record; a shining example of dedication to playing as it is to nostalgia.

Dragged By Horses
In the Woods LP
(Highwheel Records, LLC.)

Hilarious, over-the-top post hardcore cookie cutter boys’ noise rock. I’m sitting here listening to this guy yell, neck veins obviously bulging, “REDLINE! REDLINE!” and all I can see or hear in my head is my pal John Sharkey heckling these guys. So macho, so aggressive, guitarist is jocking Albini’s tone and hiding in the dumpster outside Electrical all night levels of weirdness, and the last song is almost a cover of “My Black Ass.” I grew up around this sort of slab architecture mens’ rock, and I don’t really miss it, but this is almost a parody of that, coupled with musicianship that’s no great shakes. Despite all this, 180g colored vinyl, contains a CD copy so you can give it to a friend.

Tommy Jay
Tom’s Tall Tales of Trauma LP
(Columbus Discount)

Never saw this coming, but perennial Columbus underground rock side-player/Mike Rep buddy Tommy Jay gets his due here, on a vinyl and CD reissue of an Old Age/No Age cassette release from 1986. Fully-formed folk-psych and oddities related, with an accomplished yet sheltered presence that’s unlike anything I’d have anticipated. Material reaches as far back as 1974, when it seemed Jay really found his footing – psych anthems like “I Was There” and a cover of Velvets outtake “Ocean” from all the way back then leak into the headspace of the other tracks like a black pen in the washing machine, prefiguring Roky Erickson’s own solo career and displaying how much Jay was putting forth in terms of home studio discovery. Easily as good as much of the Acid Archives-approved private press material, Jay’s both confident and varied in his approaches, always knowing the right next steps to take. 500 copies (100 of which are on purple vinyl) vs. a CD pressing with seven bonus tracks. Buy both.

By Doug Mosurock

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