Still Single: Vol. 5, No. 1
Welcome to the first Still Single of 2009 – which incorporates the last Still Single of 2008, which never happened. It never ceases to surprise me how many records can arrive in such a short time. Over 150 releases came through these doors in the past two months. Here are reviews for roughly half of them. Singles took priority, and your submissions came first. LPs are a time killer, and though I got familiar with and enjoyed many of them, their reviews will have to wait another two weeks. Sorry about that. This is but one of the many things I have to do every week!
I’m pleased to announce three exciting things in the world of Still Single. First off, here’s my Top 10 singles from 2008.
10. Eddy Current Suppression Ring - “Demon’s Demands” b/w “I’m Guilty” 7” (Iron Lung)
Why so brief, you ask? I’ve already reviewed these records, and I urge you to dig through the Still Single archives to learn more. The crazy thing is that I could probably swap out about 7 or 8 of these records for some 20-30 singles that were just as good. It was that kind of year. If you made the music, put it out on your label, or supported the bands by buying the records, then thank you for making it happen.
Anyway, It’s time that the column allows the music to speak for itself – which is why I’m starting a podcast that’ll arrive with each new installment of the column. This won’t be up for long, so I hope you grab it before the next edition of Still Single is published. Tracklist is in the comments section. In this edition I’m covering tracks from my Top 10 of 2008, as well as other favorites from last year. I played these records in real time on my turntables, so they run into one another as one track. Sounds fun, right?
Oh, and one last thing: I started a Twitter account to help you stay abreast of when limited vinyl is made available for mailorder, links to where you can get the records, as well as updates on when the column will run. I have heard too many complaints that the reviews run long after the records go out of print. Here’s a way to beat that. You’ll know about new releases moments after I find out. Sign up for Twitter and follow www.twitter.com/stillsingle.
Enough! On with the reviews. Keep the submissions coming in, and look for a new column in two weeks.
Burgeoning collaboration between two Seattle outfits, post-punk nihilists the A Frames and Sun City Girls followers/field recording champs/esoteric sound duo Climax Golden Twins. Both of these groups have made many respectable recordings on their own over the past decade, with the A Frames lineup continuing to splinter off into new, more subtle directions (Children’s Hospital, Rodent Plague) in contrast with the louder factions of the past (The Intelligence, Double Fudge, Dipers). It’s expected, and rather nice, then, that this meeting comes off as successfully as it does, the super unit pushing out eight expedient rock-based improvisations, somewhere between Swell Maps’ hometaped clatter and the spiced interludes of the SCGs circa their Majora releases. Will likely please fans of neither band looking for more of the same, as they’ve gone and worked towards something new. Good show, 500 copies, red vinyl, and very little to indicate what the record is.
French scum discover Arab on Radar, kick it into the goal, stand around, smoke, sound bored yet can’t sit still. There’s a relation to the Feeling of Love, and the Anals (clearly the better bands), and that won’t get me out of thinking how tired this sounds. I get it, you’re dirtbags. Show me something MORE than someone else’s worn out overkill.
Manitoba’s-grade NYC rock rememberin’ the good ol’ days. If that’s your bag, grab some Just For Men and this 45 and find some “Happy Days” on cable.
Vancouver’s big BM has been disrupted in shipping since day one, from a jarringly incongruous yet impassioned debut, to a personality-deficient pomp-rock prog snoozer battling with the stoney groovers living downstairs (In the Future). But it’s that notion that they’re still developing that makes Black Mountain worth keeping an eye on. When they’re great, they’re Great. That is very much evident on these two new songs, “Lucy Brown” staking out some common ground with latter-era Royal Trux and bright, early Motown; and “Shelter” swirling around heavy ‘66 Dead-channeling organ geometry and Ike-n-Tina strut, easily the catchiest and most confident song they’ve written. If this is the step forward, I implore them to take it. Singles Club issue (second best out of the series so far), 1500 copies, green marbled vinyl.
Easygoing Swedish indie pop, sung in its native tongue, heavy on arrangements and momentous melodic incorporation. There’s definitely a heavy lean towards the country grammar of early/mid-period R.E.M. here, with “Lämna Mig Ifred” sounding like an aimless rewrite of their “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” and “Aningar om Dig,” holding more of an original sound, borrowing the strings and lap steel that became prevalent around Out of Time. Pretty, but neither song really goes anywhere once it gets going.
Boron and The Grebes
Boron and the Grebes sit on a Realistic knock-off Minimoog, squeals, yells something incomprehensible, and fires up a drum machine on the track “The Prophet Hooligan.” High noise content meets low volume and considerable tape hiss for a highly impenetrable example of latter-day weird punk, so much so as to be barely comprehended. Title track on side B is a good deal more atavistic in their approach, rolling up tape manipulation, spastic garage-noise blur, and some basic Casio chording. Odd for the sake of oddness, and doesn’t really hit so many pleasure centers as it does merely buzz around your ears. Swat it away, there is no happy here. Gray “putty” vinyl, paste-on sleeves. A strange one, for sure. Not exactly certain why this needed to be pressed to vinyl, where a cassette tape or CDR would have been far more suitable and less expensive.
Cruddy no-fi rock aping Royal Trux but getting stuck somewhere in between Be Your Own Pet and bratty trust-fund kids slumming it. Singer Liza Thorn was once in So So Many White White Tigers, a decent enough band that should have stuck around for longer, for they were far more interesting than either track presented here. If you were DYING to hear some rock music, like you were about to expire due to dehydration and this record was the antidote, then I suppose you’d have an excuse to jam it. Not me. What did anyone hear in this that made them think “hey, I’d better press this up?”
Clatterbang experimental free-for-all action here, with “Twins” dumping out the whole kitchen sink of acoustic squeaking oddity, and “Birdie Flies” largely confining itself to the drumkits. Not a lot to hold on to, kinda projecting the same steam vibes as Caroliner but without the multimedia upchuck value; much more mannered and less trash-picking to go around. 300 numbered copies.
Columbia, MO is the root, and Chicago is the actualization point for CAVE. C-MO also provides a home to the California Raisins, who must have heard through the grapevine that farty synths and sporty, screamy rock moves are the way to roll. They put three tracks through the motions of loud, slightly off-kilter exercises and don’t leave much to discuss or imagine. CAVE has been at their game for a while now, having released a decent LP and comparable single in the past year. They’re from Chicago and I saw one of these dudes – the one with the unfortunate name – wearing ladies’ corduroy slacks once a few years ago that must have cleaved his balls in twain. Their brand of athletic hypno-psych, halfway between Hawkwind and Oneida, was decent for the earlier efforts, but they’re treading water here, displaying full competence in one very specific corner of rock ‘n’ roll but not much in the way of a progression. Silkscreened, minimal-looking sleeve. Can’t get worked up over the same thing, I suppose.
Two new ones by this Richmond, VA punk outfit, sadly displaying little of the panache for gut-busting time changes and jittery energy found on their fine album, We Are. Nah, both of these sound kinda flat and standard, and leaving me wondering if I had assessed them correctly. Sunny pop punk with dark lyrics does not innovation or engagement make. Clear vinyl.
Two missives from a band I love that couldn’t be more different. “Skinheaded Lady” and X’s “Hate City” are from an Australian tour single, of which copies are still floating around here and there. “Skinheaded Lady” is a great new song, partway in between the sleaze of Babylon Rules and the new Goth direction that will see Clockclean Er into its final lap. It is cologne for skanks. Kurt Vile guests on both sides. “Ready to Fight” catches the band in its last live appearance in the States, opening for Negative Approach and making sure everyone got their money’s worth. Covering a band that’s about to play is a huge dick move, so naturally I’d expect it out of them, but the way it’s done – around 20 minutes of detuned, Flipper-style riffage, gets it done in some ways. Seeing it happen live, with the dumb and the violent waiting their turn to play hardcore re-enactment being put through the ringer with a band that simply won’t get off the stage, was probably the best crowd-baiting move I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing, short of Mark E. Smith melting down against the Fall. I’d like to think that it made someone angry enough to beat down Rick Ta Life after the show. 300 copies on both.
First American release by this intriguing French imprint, and its strongest release to date. Cro Magnon, not to be confused with the ESP-Disk outfit of yore, is Haley Fohr (Circuits des Yeux) and Katie Leming, operating in an overmodulated lo-fi gestalt. There’s pop here, in the same way that Times New Viking delivers it (“Wash”), but a lot more anger and discordance (“A Hole”), finally culminating in evocative, obtuse, broken dollhouse sounds of quiet fear (“Apple Orchard”). The slide from somewhat straightforward sounds to deliberate creep-on is quite the thing to behold, and if these two can keep the quality level up (seriously kids, there is NO NEED to release seven LPs worth of material before your 21st birthday), they will be a fondly remembered outfit in this troubled corner of musical expression and instant gratification through unformed scraps.
Crow Tongue is on some goofy world Wiccan chant tip that’s hard to hang with, but WOW to Language of Light, playing dense, controlled folk/drone in the style of the Jefferies brothers. Sorry for the brevity, but not that much needs to be said, other than I’d like to hear more from one of these bands. 300 copies, gray vinyl.
More roots rock action from Dave Shuford of No Neck Blues Band. There’s something flat in the recording that saps both songs of a little power, but the material itself is strong enough to pull through, especially the ornery ramble of “Bar-Abbas Blues.” I need to track down After Hours, their last album, to figure out what I’m missing.
More alien/chrome-plated garage difficulty from Chicago’s Daily Void, backed by two slightly dark and (ugh) angular wavo jams by Montreal’s O Voids. Neither of these bands bring A-list material to this dull, ugly-looking split, and why should they? It’s a split single by two bands with a number of releases out, and as such will likely be sitting in someone’s distro box forever.
Split between two young bands from somewhere in Pennsylvania. Das Black Milk are the more intriguing of the two; three guys doing what one guy could probably accomplish, your basic vague DC indie/scene report band with a few good (albeit recycled) ideas. They use a drum machine and it’s not necessarily to their detriment, cranking out exciting sounds that endure the length of an evening but probably not much further. With work, and most of all time, this could become a decent enough band. Kid Icarus plays harmless, jangly, melodic indie rock, the way you have heard it hundreds of times before. Coffee-colored “putty” vinyl.
Nu wavo minimal synth B-roll, file under Blank Dogs (or under a bus). 2-D tracks that don’t inspire.
Carolina garage/chest thump, served up family style (vinegar slaw, hush puppies, fried chicken, sweet tea). Good sounding band, and the intentions of guitarist/singer/songwriter Reese McHenry are all there, except … man, she’s way out of key, and it hurts rather than helps, especially given how forcefully she delivers the vocals, how much the decent-sounding four-chord stomp behind her depends on it, and how at odds she seems with the recording. Really, one nice set of lungs on this lady, but she’s gotta figure out how to control them a little better. Holds back a good record from being a great one; in the vein of bands like the Ghetto Ways or Pet UFO, but better. Hopefully the situation improves. 500 numbered copies.
This must be the “tropical” thing all the kids are on about this month. Mellow, island-influenced instrumentals made on cheap organs and cheaper tape decks. Lo-fi but flavorful, kinda reminiscent of those Optigan instrumental interludes on Unwound’s The Future of What miscegenating with Vampire Weekend. Sorry guy, but you invoke the boat shoes and the boat shows. Numbered edition of 300.
This is the second Columbus Discount Singles Club release, and it’s a belter. I can’t figure out what it is about El Jesus de Magico; maybe they hit all of my familiarity buttons in the right sequence. But their take on grotty, noise-caked rock dirge recalls both GBV and the Grifters in a way that no band has successfully accomplished since … well, since GBV or the Grifters. “Unclean Ghost” surges forth with a tired determination that really makes it work, while “Pirate Utopia” picks things up a bit, jumping out of its skin like some lost New Zealand pop chestnut. I look forward to seeing what this band can do. Clear vinyl, 300 copies, silkscreened sleeve. Hunt this down.
In some way connected to that whole A.H. Kraken thing, this is a French outfit that, like most of the records I receive from that country, I can’t get enough of. The Feeling of Love, possibly named after an early Blues Explosion number, are bold and cheeky enough to enter Pussy Galore/Doo Rag territory, fusing raw slide guitar blues with an abrasive, near-industrial quality. They aren’t holding much back, which works in their favor; the single is good, the album is extraordinary, a cheese grater to the ears that never forgets its duty to entertain as well as to punish. 500 copies on each? Sounds about right. Excellent efforts.
Supagruppo sporto vito neato. DJ Harvey and Thomas Bullock (Map of Africa) team up with Miho Hatori (Cibo Matto), Eddie Ruscha Jr. (Medicine) and Tim Koh (White Magic) for some longform jammers, and you’ll hear no complaints for me. Less the outsized caricature that was MOA, this is a group that seems ready to tangle with more ideas with greater success. I’m lukewarm on “Boy From Brazil,” a pensive funk not too dissimilar to a Can B-side, but a little too agitated to groove the way it should. “Poison Apple,” however, is fantastic, and has been steadily making it into my DJ sets for months. A hypnotic bassline, wordless vocals, and engaging synth/guitar interplay carry through several minutes of transcendental pop/psych meditation, like the baggy pantsed early ‘90s have caught up with modern appreciation of rhythm-based music suitable for multiple environments. Really gets going, and best of all, since the rhythm and bass octave are so simple, it seems to work at any speed. Drop it down to 33 and it sounds like “Magick Power” by Opal! More of this, please.
The great thing about Fucked Up in these long-form 12” singles is that it gives them even more of a chance to break free from the hardcore punk that defined them early on. “Year of the Rat” builds up from a rolling bassline into a bisected chorus of guitar layers and swirling, stereo-panning. “First Born” works on those same dynamics, and while both sound familiar, there’s still enough FU in them – largely from Damian’s vocals – to give it a signature. Both songs have an internal heaviness that’s supported by the maelstrom described above. This is their shoegaze moment, and the band embraces it fully. Another noteworthy release by a band that insists on breaking down your conceptions of their sound, which is no longer a brave thing to do, but the only thing to do if our notions of music are going to goad society’s inevitable progression into peace and rationalism. Good job.
The Get Offs
Short, simple, somewhat extraneous punk/garage action from some Bay Area folks. You’ll be able to live without this one. Sorry, kids.
Partied-up garage rock co-ed cheerleader squad, featuring Nick from the far superior Viva L’American Death Ray Music on drums. Somewhere between the Fall and the B-52’s, and not exactly the most challenging release in the pile, but it gets you kinda pumped all the same. 600 copies and long gone, though these three tracks are going to be featured on an upcoming Mexican Summer 12”, so if you can wait, you can get ‘em there.
Scrawny, big-mouthed Brooklyn noise rock that owes a lot to Les Savy Fav and the Jesus Lizard, and on the two side-closers to this six-song EP, Clockcleaner. There’s a few odd ideas thrown in the mix, like banjo and accordion mixed in with all those Midwestern power moves, and it sounds like the guys who made it are having a good time. Maybe that’s what matters, but I have about 40 records very similar to this one. Here’s to extending history!
Two heavy electronic/phaser rock outfits bring the sidelong barbiturate dance party to your place. Indian Jewelry has never been able to sit still within its preferred bank of styles, so it’s great to hear them really develop a sickly, nauseating groove on “Zing Zang” that the Butthole Surfers might have taken as their own twenty years back, and by the time the spoken word section kicks in, you’ve either barfed in the sink or passed out. That’s how this works. Future Blondes is a new project from Domokos of Rusted Shut, focusing on driven, heavily distorted drum machine tracks, synths, and obfuscated vocals. You could probably fit this into a set, but you’d have to have a whole set of dance music fucked up enough to pull it off. The trance parts of “Heartless” are offset only by the noise within. Death stalker times, killer record. Dull Knife strikes again.
Jacuzzi Boys continue to make great garage/swamp records amidst a rising tide of mediocrity. They seem to insist on quality, a rare trait in this age of ceaseless releases and constant hype. Here’s two songs to be proud of, both through the conga shimmy of “I Fought a Crocodile” and the late-nite croon of “Blowin’ Kisses,” just because these guys give enough of a shit to realize that their rock is their own, and what they stand behind – it’s more than fun after a while, and if you can’t make an honest, signature attempt to bend it into a truly personal artifact, you might as well give it up. I hope these boys stay in the Jacuzzi until they’re pruny, because clearly they’re doing something right. Great recording too, really clean and gives the right elements the most attention; doesn’t sound like a budget job, and if it is, good work.
Modest rock from Milwaukee, kind of fashion-bent and not necessarily memorable. Local-strength rock revival action, keeping things close to the chest a la the Strokes or French Kicks, with phrasing less sophisticated than either. Not great.
Riff-heavy metallic rock, similar to the Fucking Champs or Children or Diamond Nights. Not too much going on here; not a sexy sound, more a need-based musical goal, pretty much sleeveless dudes shaking things up for fun. There are bigger fish to fry.
I love Lamps, I respect Soriano, and I dig 7”s, and even I’m not sure if a two-song single of covers (Pissed Jeans’ “Boring Girls,” barely altered from its original form, and Devo’s “I Need a Chick,” moderately extended) is really that necessary of a release to listen to or own. No surprises here: if you know the Lamps M.O., you get what they’ve done to these songs. Kinda wish these were two originals. Hope to see these guys play live someday. 600 copies.
Two more releases for Chicago’s dark, foreboding guitar/drone duo Locrian. The split 7” with Katchmare matches up the former’s thick, heavy, feedback-laden punishment with the latter’s signal torture and high-volume pressure/insanity complex to satisfying effect. Greyfield Shrines, recorded live on college radio station WHPK, builds with an organic, spreading menace over two sides from cautious drone into cyclical, delay-based riffing, the kind you’d find in certain strains of black metal were that genre a bit more poker-faced. The levels of thick, evil, cinematic horror Locrian creates are beginning to become more pronounced, and these recordings feature the outfit reaching peak powers. Essential to those who like noise but have grown weary of the low level of entry. 100 copies on the split, slightly more on the LP. Both are on gray vinyl and are packaged in gorgeous letterpressed sleeves.
Os Loosers are some Brazilian nuts whose gently swaying national pop does quite well for itself at 45, even if that’s not the preferred speed. Quite the lovely sound, but made me think I was on the wrong speed altogether after the saxophone wig-out on the Owl Xounds side lurched into the drums. Adam Kriney pushes himself further in the lone wolf direction (see also Weasel Walter or Marc Edwards, or most of the CIMP artists’ stable) in terms of their development of a unique voice in the jazz world by whatever means necessary. He’s certainly swingin’ hard mofo on this side. Nice looking, minimal packaging.
An album’s worth of material from one of the most uncompromising bands in modern hardcore is exciting enough, but Boston’s Mind Eraser have improved upon their earlier efforts with these two uncompromised shows of force. Here is a band that is working hard to put their own stamp on a number of oppressively heavy styles of play, and in doing so has melded and extended several varieties of extremity – powerviolence, doom/sludge, death metal, and Cro Mags worship – with a success that most other bands have been able to take them. Conscious Unconscious drags two ten-minute tracks across a 12”, displaying their slow, methodical side, both pieces taking as long as they need to establish themes of dread and brutality, and striking a noticeable balance between repetition and development of long-form material. The Prodigal Son crams ten tracks onto a 7”, covering their bombastic side while delving into slightly more traditional but no less raging skeins; I dare you to come up with a more crushing moment than the breakdown in 2008 than the one in “Finished.” Mind Eraser shares the reductive logic that makes a band like Sex Vid so successful at what they do, but on much wider canvas; they seem to operate with a lack of the mannerisms that career musicians are forced to perform under, a mentality that allows the group to stick to the development of ideas rather than worrying about pandering to the business of metal. Both of these records hammer you into the dirt without apology. Killer Joe Petagno cover art on the 12”, too. The best around.
Part of that Vancouver basement scene that has always impressed, Nu Sensae are the sort of grotty, frustrated co-ed bass/drums duo that died out in the ‘90s. They play with little sense of dynamics, and push what sounds like a pitch-perfect rendition of the Riot Grrrl band agenda to younger kids obsessed with the times they missed. Suitably shitty recording does its job; screechy screaming vocals and a mechanical, ugly quality to their sound beats you across the head and shoulders. Eight songs, 45rpms, one side, that’s it. File next to Vapid, early Need, Mutators, Metamatics, and that Emergency Room comp as examples of how to get it right. 200 numbered copies in a silkscreened sleeve.
Spanish kids going after the Nation of Ulysses/Refused spazz/total punk experience ideal, and bringing nothing new to the discussion. Noisy, fast punk with unintelligible vocals, bereft of new ideas, and not carrying the borrowed ones out with any sort of panache or originality. Shoulda been a demo! 500 numbered copies, silkscreened sleeves.
Middle-age dudes still kickin’ it. Rick Froberg (Jehu/Hot Snakes) fronts this new Brooklyn four-piece, which is why most folks care. It’s his least energetic outfit today, focusing less on the blistering punk or dynamics of his earlier, more youthful outfits, here content to hang back at jogging pace. “One Cross Apiece” bounces along on an insistent guitar line and canned propellant rhythm section, with typically abstract lyrics. “Put It In Writing” is a bit more special, showing this well-loved artist moving towards a more melodic, tuneful sound that trades in the aggression for a bit more drama. This band’s going to need to find ways to become memorable on its own, outside of the starpower that’s been their main attraction thus far. I have seen them once, opening for Yura Yura Teikoku, and while it’s tough to hold a warmup slot for such a frantic live band, Obits looked like they were getting ready for bed. Froberg’s a hero to a lot of folks, whether he wants to hear it or not, and while he and his band are under no obligation to respond in any way to such expectations, they could at least seem a bit more excited while playing. Hopefully the album and increased activity around it will address this concern.
Boisterous brass section presides over art pop on “Giriama Wedding,” like the army of kazoos playing on the school bus in “Sixteen Candles.” I never want to hear “Scarborough Fair” again, and my memories of the song are tainted after having watched a classmate sing it in our 8th grade choir concert and bursting into tears. Static Caravan, you confuse me.
Welcome Campbell Kneale’s post-Birchville Cat Motel project, relying.a.little.too.hard.on.the.periods. At first I’m reminded of those Astral Social Club singles by the electronic beat fuckery in “Polished.Glass.Autobahn,” but that’s at odds with some strident acoustic strum and a curtain of reverbed fuzz guitar whipping in the wind. The flip is a little less particulate, a sheet of dense synth, backwards-masked guitar and waves of shoegaze dread washin’ over you. Good if a bit nondescript; hopefully as more releases drop this noise’ll take shape. 500 copies, handstamped sleeves.
Guitar/drums noisy rock duo, leaning on the wrath of the math and a good deal of bombast. Singer guy’s got the talkin’ indie rock blues, with abstract lyrics. Calls to mind a XY-chromosome version of SF’s Numbers, or possibly a metallic Minutemen. Jazzy crunchin’ that’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend. Seems like they’re having fun, though, so on with it. Seven songs on very thick vinyl. 275 numbered copies.
Bay Area split single combines harmless, innocuous, passable bedroom pop by teen neons, the Passionistas, with the tacky, slick electro-crap of Hard Place (the poor man’s Ssion, maybe a homeless man’s Sparks). Never would there have been a point in my life where I would have considered purchasing such a record as this, so if you think like I do, best to bail out, now.
Shakin’ some action here with Jason Patrone (ex-FM Knives/Lyme Regis), back at it with a new band that’s not as aggro as the Knives, and far less mannered than the Reggies. Nah, Photobooth is pure fun, a grimy, dingy sorta fun that can barely contain itself with glee. “Da Me Tus Besos” is what appears to be a Spanish language cover of Giorgio Moroder’s wedding reception classic “Son of My Father,” one of the most infectiously catchy songs of the ‘70s. The band gives it the bounce it needs, sounding a little borracho but attacking it with great joy. Two originals on the flip hold up just fine, and make me question why there isn’t any sort of baseline for making a redeemable power pop/garage record. Excellent work, buy two.
First missive from the Columbus Discount Singles Club, which has pound for pound trumped Sub Pop’s reboot of their own subscription 7” series, even with strong contenders like Blues Control boosting their cause. This was the one to get on, and though it’s a bit late for all that, the records still seem to be available here and there. This is one of the strongest of recent Pink Reason releases, comprised of two of their earliest tracks, recorded several years ago. “3:16” is somewhat of a surprise, all windswept emotive rock propulsion, evincing none of the mystery found on the first single or the lonesome goth-folk of the LP. Every facet of this group continues to surprise, and hearing how fully formed and confident they sounded early on is not as much of a shock in the light of their performance model, but still surprising enough to require mention. “Sweet Sinister” is a hand-clappin’ blues ode to cocaine, and though it’s incredibly strong musically and lyrically, it touches on the one aspect of Pink Reason I don’t care for, namely Kevin’s prideful drug/dropout tales. He’s not the first or the last guy to make a case for chemicals as the font of creativity. Anyone can take drugs and write a song, and he’s lucky that his are better than others, but grandstanding the issue takes away much of the mystery behind the material. It’s hard for me to be impressed by that tack anymore, though that’s not a dig on this guy’s art, which I hope he continues to make with as much vigor as previous efforts have called upon. He’s already proven himself to me, and to many others, as someone to watch. Pink vinyl, 300 copies.
Here we encounter the conundrum of middle age vs. having the good time that people older than those playing the music might have classified as such. The Pleasure Kills are a throwback, but dress like clowns, those guys (and girl) who are a little too old to be in the club. Check out the guy with the downy shag on the left, looking like a forlorn supervillain, or the mom in opera gloves laying atop a pile of Elvis Costello and Sparks records. I’d like to know more about their dot-com day jobs, except that then they’d probably bug me to come see their band play third of four on, like, a Tuesday night at some bar where I have to tell the doorman who I’m there to see so they can get paid. These songs are fine for what they are but I’d be more concerned with settling down than playing dress up if you knowhatimean, dude. Local rock rides again!
Lightning Bolt west coast auxiliary is back at it. West Coast two-piece, still jockin’ other folks’ ideas hard. Can’t in good faith recommend this. Green/white swirl vinyl.
Hey, it’s Thee Most Annoying Record Ever. Hyper-lame Japanese power pop that negates all the good music that comes from their land within seconds. Somebody thinks they’re gonna make a mint off of these fools, I’ll bet. Fifi and the Mach III would stomp them to pate then scrape them out of the waffle of their boots with a stick. Just begging to be smashed into tiny pieces.
Admit it, you were waiting for someone to pick up the Digital Hardcore mantle where Alec Empire and company dropped it back when the funding dried up. Enter Realicide, one-man computer-grind machine, a hardcore band traded in for a laptop, jackhammering metric tons of oblivion into your eardrums. Strangely compelling for breakcore, and while I’ll likely never listen again, it’s fun on the first spin. Capital Hemmorhage play detuned, caustic, slow grind with feral, lungbusting vocals. Inept in the best way, their two tracks are lost in a universe of rage, skill level be damned. Had a great time listening to this one, but maybe you won’t…
Ex-Manhunter synth man J. Letkiewicz kicks out two beat box jams that still have the dust on ‘em from 1982. That’s chill, though, as these simple electro numbers (the upbeat “Boogie Vision” and the slightly more subdued “Snow Drift”) get in, get out, and impress with their budget vision and robo-funky ends. Reminds me of the old Vestron Video logo that had Christmas lights superimposed into it. 1” lossy low yo yo tech stuff. 300 copies, damn near gone.
SHOULDA BEEN A DEMO, DARIUS. Seriously man, what happened?
Holy shit, Ron House has a new band. Dramatic, glamorous rock, like Columbus, OH taking on Roxy Music, with all the rust and ugliness you would come to anticipate from such an endeavor. Not being familiar with the other members of the band (playing guitar, bass, drums and synth – Ron plays himself, as usual), I can’t recall ever being disappointed by the works of the American genius up front, so I say go for it. Columbus Discount Singles Club record #4, 300 copies. Must-hear music for those of us who spent time on the barnacled side of the ‘90s.
Precious, esoteric pop from the Deheza twins (On!Air!Library) and Ben Curtis (ex-Secret Machines). Trying to make something out of nothing and succeeding somewhat, here’s some weird pop with electronic leanings that sounds like it should be placed in someone’s curio cabinet. Not exactly for me, but not terrible.
Slick modern rock from Atlanta with some obvious garage flourishes, but altogether pretty distant from any of Rob’s House other quality releases. Was this a favor of some sort? Ugh. Bad news. You can skip this one.
Children’s chewable singer-songwriter alternapop. THE TORTURES OF THE DAMNED!
Haven’t had a chance to hear these guys until now, and wished I’d acted sooner – Spider Bags play memorable, jangly rock music with somewhat of a country-ish, slowed-down side that makes their melodies really stand out and crash down on each other. Hard to pick a favorite between these two; “Professionals” is covered in noise, where “Hey Delinquents” is a bit more put together, but it’ll be hard to shake the slightly menalcholy vibes from both. This is what we call a two-sided burner.
Busy man and occasional genius Paul Dickow processes reggae mix tapes into loops and adds a smattering of electronics to these two sides. It works as you’d imagine, and way better, never sacrificing the rhythm even as it spins off-kilter into progressive time sigs on “Repurposed Dub” – the time-delay urgency and force of dub is used to its fullest extent, across a wide spectrum of sound. The track dips underwater, pushes samples to the front, fades in and out of performance modes, and all through it stays true to the spirit of the music it’s fucking around with. “Taper’s Rock Dub” strays a bit from tradition and finds itself in more of a R&S/Pole sorta ambient dub cloud, but I’ll take it. Art edition of 200 copies sealed in heavy-gauge plastic.
Ramshackle speedy garage-punk with screamin’ vocals, self-degrading lyrics, and a Wax Museums connection. Boilerplate Termbo idealism (“I’m a piece of shit,” etc.) Interchangeable with a number of other bands and records, just another one for the pile. Red vinyl, 300 numbered copies, offensive cover art. Congrats, Teeners, you’ve become “those guys.”
Rickety, flying off the tracks power pop/garage action from some
Second single of cheap fun pop-punk thrills from this recently hatched Austin, TX band. The Marked Men they are not, and too many stock moves threaten to sink this one, but what they lack in ideas, they make up for in spirit. Bouncy, tinny mayhem across one little record. Nice job.
Four-cut compilation of songs from the old guard of Columbus, OH punk/Velvets-based singer-songwriters. Tommy Jay, Nudge Squidfish, The General and T.A. Lafferty all get a turn here, and while these tracks are a bit more marginal than anything from last year’s Tommy Jay reissue, or even the last Mike Rep and the Quotas 12”, it’s more worthwhile than much of what the youth of today have to offer, and it’s very cool that this crew, all staple participants of Ohio rock ‘n’ roll, is back in the limelight for a modern audience. Columbus Discount Singles Club release #3, 300 copies.
Confusing, well-intentioned but under-explained collection of ten songs by ten artists on a 10” record. Hard Skin and the Conversions are the only groups I recognize, and they don’t have much to do with one another aside from being loud and punk, albeit on two very different axes of said genre. There’s also some indie pop (Family Outing, Drei), some twisted-up political rap in German (Bazmati MC), some agitprop empowerment screeds from Gender Fascist, even a bit of Klezmer from Empty Hat Orchestra. The title holds up, and I suppose in spirit this reaches back to the Raincoats and other bands of their era that broke in post-punk’s “anything goes” anti-traditions, but there’s a real lack of cohesion or statement of intent that would bring anyone to this collection. The Hard Skin track is a good one though (“The Boys in Blue”) and completists will need this for that reason alone. 600 copies, spraypainted sleeves.
Jesus, it’s been over ten years since Skin Graft kicked off this series of AC/DC covers on 7”, each one accompanied by a comic book. I still have Sides 1-4 and Sides 5-6. Can’t remember the installment before this, but here’s a grab bag of bands new (Pre) and old, the other three participants – Yowie, Colossamite, and Mule – having long since departed for the boneyard. Yowie’s Luttenbachers-lite “Dunderdruck” splatters that track’s forward heft to the four winds, spindly guitar-nerdery afoot throughout. Colossamite mangles “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” in their “Anti-Christ Devil Child,” relying mostly on the initial riff and running into introspective artist mode for the rest of it. Pre’s cyclonic no-wave-by-numbers interpretation of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” doesn’t satisfy – I’m at the point in my life where there’s been enough listening to kids dicking around with old ideas, and can appreciate the straightforward, soupy tonk of Mule in ways I wasn’t able to when they were around. Their leathery, soulful reading of “Have a Drink on Me,” sounding as if it came from the same session that produced their split with Shellac from way way back, is all I need to redeem this set. Gray putty vinyl.
This collection of split singles finds modern psych and hard rock bands, each owing some debt to Hawkwind in their own approaches to music, paying tribute with fairly faithful covers. They’re split up by mood: Mudhoney and Mugstar get the rockers, AMT and White Hills take the more abstract numbers (White Hills’ read of “Be Yourself” being the most revelatory of the entire set), and Bardo Pond and Kinski splitting up the weighty, psychedelic side of things. Reminiscent of the ‘90s in every way – in particular the Ceres Records’ comp Assassins of Silence/Hundred Watt Violence, in itself a double-LP tribute to said space rockers – this is a straight-up pleasure, somewhat of the guilt-studded variety (especially if you’re paying import prices to own these). However, all the participants step up, Mudhoney’s Peel Session take of “Urban Guerrilla” having blown me away when I caught them live some years back, and you could certainly do worse than support high quality bands covering one of the touchstones of modern intelligent rock music in all its squalor. 600 copies on each, with lovely artwork.
Wasn’t much room for LP reviews this time around (you’ll see those in the next column) and I am up against deadline, so this will be bried. I needed to make some room for this killer record by Gregory Raimo, guitarist of French psych destruction unit the Gunslingers. Urgent and monged four-track mantras, floating somewhere in between Chrome, the Swell Maps home tape material, and Cul de Sac, provide an impressive ebb and flow, lock down on heavy constant rhythmic patterns, lyrical heynonnynonny, and a unique, expressive voice on fuzz guitar. This album rarely lets up, getting closer to the sun with each passing minute. It’s a must hear if you’re even remotely curious of this description, an attractive bright light in a darkened sea of mostly oil and garbage. 300 copies, white vinyl, act quickly.
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.
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By Doug Mosurock