Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 9
As promised, here are the singles that have been piling up over here at Still Single HQ. Well, some of them, at least. I’m looking into ways to make this more of a regular thing, where records get reviewed as they’re received, but that’s a good bit off for now. In the meantime, just enjoy the sour vibes and inhuman heat behind these little gas giants that could.
Recently active outlet for Neil Campbell (Vibracathedral Orchestra) and guests, with an aim towards strobing, densely layered psychelectronic stomp. The single on Dirty Knobby was performed with Karl Bauer (Axolotl) and features a bit more of the noise aspect, which threatens to drown out the constant pulse of Wipeout XL-style trance beats beneath, but it’s a champ. Even better is the Trensmat release, seeing the project as some sort of continuation from tracks Stewart Walden started creating in 1992. This one’s more obviously devoted to rave confusion and UFO pants – though “Ginnel” is fairly passive, grey-sounding radio transmissions with piano, “Skelp” is like a Binky shoved between your grinding teeth. The included CDR features the two tracks from the 7” and three remixes; space-funk interference by Richard Youngs, minimal tech-glitch action by Magnetize, and chirpy John Clyde-Evans lie down on top of the originals and bring out new layers of complexity previously unheard. Dirty Knobby single: 500 copies, black vinyl; Trensmat single: 200 copies, yellow vinyl.
Better than the last Blank Its single I had the occasion to listen to, but still not up to par for garage in general. They're competent but unadventurous, leaving the crazy stuff up to the singer and his vocal distortion pedal. This sort of gimmickry doesn’t work any better now than it has in the past. “Divorce” edges out here as a winner, but are you really winning anything?
Two quick peeks into the work of this jaunty Canadian singer-songwriter. Methinks that Simone White scooped her at this game, but she’s givin’ ‘er, at least on the musical acumen (not all laid upon session guys), and her brassy, more common-sounding voice finds very favorable backing over the Sam Cooke cover “Touch the Hem” and her own track on the B-side. Parlor country/old R&B standards for the big room and the Brill Building. Nice stuff.
Two short, sharp little blasters here, rolling up NYC glam against jagged, violent-sounding garage. A bigger sound than I remembered. My first encounter with this band was when they were a side project of Be Your Own Pet; what a difference a year makes, as frontman Jeffrey Novak has cleaned house and restocked the rhythm section with folks a little more down with the cause. Haven’t heard the LP yet but I’m excited.
Substantial bedroom-synth creep from Interzone. A-side is a cover of the Troggs’ “I Want You” and sets the sleaze levels at “imposing,” maybe a little bit of Trent Reznor fantasy-play, but it works and that’s really what matters. “Waste of Spaces” is more earnestly electro-pop, zipping along an insistent drum loop with mechanical imperative. Would spin again. Pretty sweet.
Three records, and now three significantly different sounds for this Florida trio. Fantastic Metal Eye is the new one, and its painfully tinny exterior showcases some decent garage/wavo chops, in more of a synthetic manner befitting of their first single, but without forgetting the charge of punk rock in the mix. But I prefer Chewing Gum, as it’s not as aggro but still carries the heft of isolation and lash-outs at abandon that keep this sort of music vital. The “throwaway” side on this (shortie “Super Fluorescent Hippo Flashback” and existential wanderer “The Stranger”) might be my favorite side of music these yobs have yet to produce. But both are good enough to own, and play multiple times.
Following their pretty great 12” from last year, here are three more crossover thrash/metal/sci-fi originals (and one cover) by Olympia’s Funerot. They still come off as a more austere, less flashy version of the Accused, leaving their technical precision as the sole defense against parody. Their case is a bit more realized by the time you get to the cover of “Weird” Al Yankovic’s “Funzone”; that is, if the drafting-class Heavy Metal drawings don’t set you off first. It’s a nostalgia trip, and it’s fun. 500 copies, serious band photo inside.
Picked this one up in a brace of punk and hardcore records that, while perfectly enjoyable, don’t necessarily need to be reviewed here. Hex Dispensers, however, is a very noteworthy exception: crazy catchy, thick, tense garage pop, and a solid example of how to do this sort of thing right: guitars loading the front, good separation between instruments and vocals, and an expressive vocalist who knows not to show off. Two originals and a Wipers cover (“Tragedy”); title track smokes. Good times.
”No More” b/w “Declination” 7” EP
Writing’s on the wall – punk/crust major, NWOBHM minor from these Pittsburgh kids (ex-Mary Celeste and Aphasia for those keeping an eye on the Steel City). Reminds me an awful lot of Signal Lost and the like. Chani’s vocal range and abilities strut out in unexpected places, and Stacy’s riffing is bolt upright and immediate. Hey, we’ve heard it all, but this is actually improving past initial listens into a raging, even showy peek into a tightened-up politipunk steamroller. Smell the garlic. This is 1996. Pretty rad. 300 copies, a handful on clear. Together with Brain Handle, Kim Phuc and Baby Bird, Pittsburgh remains a city to keep an eye on.
Idea Fire Company
“Lost at Sea” presents merely vocal treatments and analog synths, but in such a warm, buzzing, sonically enveloping fashion that its best stretches sound like the modulations of a thousand machines slowly switching on in a sunrise. Really sweet. “Sunspots” is just a simple, hypnotic drone, totally works on its own merits. Deep, deep, deep. Deep like Blackstreet. 200 copies, packaged in a vacuum-sealed envelope. Very much worth hearing.
Emotionally flat, serial killer vibes in the sense of someone who’s taken the music of Crispin Glover to heart. “Skeletons Part 1” holds up OK, but “Part 2” trades in for badly-executed funk and a talk-through mic vocal that gives away the element of being in on the joke. Truly lonely and creepy, all on its own.
California tools try to recreate “Gimme Indie Rock” with quirky, disastrous results. Namechecks of ‘90s favorites are held in check because the titular character won’t go to see the band in question. Maybe this person has, I dunno, taste, or his time is worth more than your band can supply? “1983” offers up predictable Rentals-style synth crud and sappy sentiment. A single that makes this band’s carbon footprint unnecessarily large.
Strident, kinda ragged sounding punk/HC from Boston, with a compact, no-frills sound and a raspy female vocalist. Title track is an anthem, aiming at the Avengers but ending up somewhere near “The Legend of Billie Jean.” Two fast ones on the back showcase some frantic yet together drum fills. Wished it sounded a little bigger but maybe on the next one.
Two sides of a garden variety indie rock band. “Something…” hugs along and tries to get epic at the chorus, but the slightly blown-out quality of the recording sort of robs it of its power and turns it into mud. “Scalpels” is a shambolic pot ballad, swaying lethargically back and forth. Not much to recommend here. Green marbled vinyl.
“848” kind of has an early Wire feel to it, at least until the cowabunga vocals kick in. Too bad, because the instrumental tracks are crisp and bright, and sound as if they might lead somewhere promising until the drunks come in and puke. You get the same deal with “Hey Hey Hey” – here is a band that can do one thing, and has issues making it the best that they can.
Laid-back R&B/production hype from Toronto. Really not that bad – they pick up on a breezy late ‘70s sunset notion on “Windseeker” and sail that right out to Thunder Island. Could do without so much crab-scratch over the trumpet sample, but I assume that’s just the point. “Odyssey” relies on some homebrew organ lead and is a bit too thin to hold up on its own, but one side out of two – especially in a genre for which I have little hope, and from a country that really never offered much in that way to begin with – is borderline monumental. Also glad this wasn’t dicked up with any rhymes from the next Sage Francis.
Houston doesn’t sound like too great of a place to hang out, as far as this debut 7” is concerned. Fronted by Beau from Insect Warfare on guitar, this is a whole other direction from that band’s relentless grind – No Talk dishes out short, burly punk boppers, rallying against cop injustice on both sides. I don’t really hear the Big Boys comparison but the Dicks would be apt. Simple, to the point, and hard to fuck with. 250 copies and it sold out in a day, so you might not even want to bother, but it’s a good one.
20+ minute space/Kraut/doob rock extrapolation courtesy of this Olympia, WA outfit (ex-Tight Bros from Way Back When, too). Saw these guys once a year or two back and they definitely had the kegger vibe soakin’ up the room, and were real chill dudes otherwise. This recording shows their willingness to expand, riding out a similar sidelong strategy as had so many in the past, but they have an inventiveness that makes the stages of the track build to a fully righteous head by the finale. Really, all you gotta do to get this sort of thing right is nail the feeling, and if you can play well with one another, the rest will take care of itself. That’s what’s going on here. Tim Green contributes a Concentrick “remix” on side B, re-envisioning huge chunks of the track into something more meditative but no less enthralling, over the length of the original track. No slouchin’ here, they’re right on it. 600 copies (200 numbered on purple swirl vinyl), all in silkscreened sleeves.
Wicked Awesomes get weird in a neat, mannered sorta way, kinda reminiscent of Sebadoh, back when all those 4-track tricks were more surprising than they are now. No midrange at all, it seems – guitars and vocals are arranged trebly, bass and synths are way down low, heavy with the drums. Hollow middle sounds ghostly (ghastly?) Has all the workings of a Blank Dogs or Dead Luke out on the teenline. O Voids come off rather punk on “One Two,” but “On Fire” settles into a darker style of UK postpunk, sort of in a Comsat Angels-style, and handles that level of emotional depth and boisterous, guarded choruses with the appropriate care. That song is great and I’ll be remembering it for a while – that and both bands are Canadian, which is just crazy.
Old Haunts have been sluggin’ at it for quite some time now, and as such they’ve ended up sounding like an American response to Clinic; on “Out of Sight,” the affected vocals, rhythms constant and pounding, and choruses big and old-fashioned – an electrocuted Dwight Twilley, if you must, though Clinic’s concessions to dub are replaced here by raw-dog garage rock aspirations. Either way, it’s excitable music, if not entirely exciting. Red Eyed Legends are still at it, lining up a lot of the elements that were somewhat scattered in their earlier days, so “Monsters” sounds like a pretty tight, chrome-plated punk band with the most distinctive vocalist of its generation up front. Hard to mess with that. Silkscreened covers.
And the Jay Reatard singles train picks up steam. So many people complained about the first one, it would seem that the bar would have to be set pretty high for #2. I hear few if any complaints from my corner of the globe about either “Painted Shut” (beautiful 105 second mad dash from C86 to Adverts) or the more traditionally garage-ripped “An Ugly Death.” People are trying to turn this one into $ already, but you stand a chance of getting one without a problem. Avoid eBay and nerds, buy with confidence from a store. Red vinyl on some, and a smaller pressing size, but likely still in the low 2000s. And it just gets crazier from here.
Gentle, fragile, pretty beautiful home musings from a woman and a man based in Baltimore. No preening or preciousness required getting to these feelings; barely-there song construction hangs these five quiet numbers out on the line to dry with a steady, late spring breeze behind it. I feel like any more of a review would disturb the very nature of these songs, so maybe you should just find out for yourself. 300 copies, silkscreened manila folder sleeve. Very nice.
The Shearing Pinx music I’ve heard (and it has been a while since I heard it) struck me as competent no-wavo stabs into a corpse, and as we know, corpses are dead. Haruspex presents three deconstructions that continue to reveal this bunch as Canucks who are willing to goof around with the best of ‘em. “Negaman” is like 40 seconds of song, followed by push into the danger room of spindly guitar and spoken word transmissions, not unlike the end of Sonic Youth’s “Mote.” “No/Face” captures Trumans Water’s flag and runs straight uphill with it, begging to be labeled as ANGULAR PUNK but that’s a boring way to talk. Nobody likes an obtuse angle, just the acute one, because pointy is sharp is danger, but this one really isn’t. They bust things up OK, but it even sounds at times like Little Singer Boy is yelling “NO WAVE” over the disparate scrabble, and it just drags the beleaguered point right back to you. The EP closes with a live mess called “Sinking Ship” and you can pretty much take it from there. Very little substance to this noise. 500 numbered copies and I think the cover art is the best thing about it.
“Rooks” is one of the more straightforward numbers off the new album, a minor-chorded little gut punch of a track that does well to steer away from all the Talk Talk references that get thrown at this bunch. Just too obvious, though, and the choice to cover their late period track “The Rainbow” on the flip doesn’t do a lot to curry favor. Look, I like a good celebrity impersonator as much as the next American, but I’m more impressed that they were able to jam nearly ten minutes of music onto one side of a 7” than anything else. I’d hope that this would drag any non-believers over to the side of Laughing Stock or Spirit of Eden, but once you get there, you will see through much of what Shearwater can offer, and might wonder why they carry on, or you with them. It’s not party time.
The first guy who learned how to play guitar probably taught the first guy who bought one how to play it, and somewhere down the line, somebody got laid for the originator’s efforts without offering any sort of wingman-esque support to the one who started it all. Maybe this Soft Black guy can do some sort of personal blood sacrifice for making me sit through this wishy-washy “Real World” s/s grabbage. You can almost hear his unwanted erection straining against his jeans. The insert claims these songs to be “for all the actresses in my life.” “Dude, she’s fuckin’ crazy, I got outta there.” You reap what you sow. This record is making me unreasonably angry, and represents every musician who comes to NYC to “make it” in the worst way. Blue vinyl on the first 200, don’t all rush out at once. One of these songs comes from a CDEP by this guy and there really is not much of a reason for it to exist – in a year when all the copies are hanging out in some guy’s apartment, he’ll wish he’d stuck with the Vivian Girls.
Jana, Djamilla, Jodee and Pascale are Titmachine. “Left” is a cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “Right” is a spoken German tract over the sort of noise you make when you’re still learning how to get going. It rises up into a fervor of “schneller spielen und lauter spielen,” which is pretty much the only way to go if you’re them (and if you’re me, listening). Titmachine nails the DIY aesthetic, and there’s really only one way to do that, but their gleeful lack of formal training and unvarnished approach is not-so-secretly lusted after thousands of people who have crossed a line with respect to the music they make, and the tens of thousands who are now dissatisfied with the methods by which they consume it. They got it down. Preach, don’t practice, Titmachine. Your sound heals the divide. Our shit dollar should be used for toilet paper, and at these rates you’re essentially spending over $2 per minute on the music contained within, but let me assure you that this is a wise decision. 300 copies.
“Kutter” starts out in some plodding, kind of questionable James Williamson Stooge Explosion action, but once it lets loose it gets fucking crazy – fast rhythm and totally solid riffs, hurdled back and forth with reverb and delay, and benefiting from very sympathetic post-production. Buzzsaw jammer, will rock. Not too sure about “Porkys” as it points into a Lightning Bolt/Dan Deacon sorta artjock thing, but the same production and killer mixing helps this one out too as it gets going. A pure noise-rock single in 2008, right down to the offensive cover art; everything old is new again. Pretty rad.
Pop punk + distortion = garage rock, sadly, and it’s becoming more apparent with each passing month. Verbose, long-winded melody crash. Of course there’s a guitar solo. B sides are nothing to crow about either, sort of more traditional Texas cowpunk, but too clean in the arrangements to make it work. Music is ruined, broken.
Noise/power electronics duo serves to enhance very skeletal, basic treatments of rock music and doesn’t opt for restraint. When the entire signal gets run through a wah-wah pedal, you know you’re on the edge. Flat gray soundscape rumble on the back. Pretty real stuff “from the hood,” three stinging doses of manfeelings.
Meneguar sheds a piece of its past and releases this brand new LP on their own, and surprise – it’s their best yet. They’re sliding into an innate comfort within the nervous, driving approach to their music, settling into an accomplished-sounding crossover with legit ‘60s acid-flash pop and crumbling 12-string Gibraltars. “Black Death” is a legitimately great song, like Meneguar meets the Three O’Clock (AM, not PM) and straightens each others’ ruffled collars out, and there’s at least four or five more on here that are just as good. Polvo’s Celebrate the New Dark Age EP comes to mind in terms of the sort of headspace generated here, and by the end it’s all clear: they could righteously pick up where Unwound (and, hell, Harriet the Spy) dropped their unfinished tabs, and grow unkempt and restless in that direction. That this is the most uneven of any of Meneguar’s releases shouldn’t matter, nor the mention of everyone in the band switching instruments in order to record this batch. Doesn’t matter. Record fuckin’ rules. Champs all around.
Reissue of 1986 album by a gritty-sounding, metal-influenced hardcore band from Richmond, VA. You might have seen bassist Greta in the American Hardcore movie. Kind of a metal/crossover influence, particularly on the B-side, which nearly breaks from punk completely and moves into mid-tempo stress rock. No qualms here. The present is running out of worthwhile bands, so we might as well stripmine the past. 1000 copies (300 on yellow), doubling the original pressing.
Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. I will not review CD-R copies of a vinyl release – you need to send the vinyl itself, even if it includes a CD. 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 is accepted for review. Do not be afraid.
Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.
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By Doug Mosurock