Doug Mosurock and his Single men size up new records from Woven Bones, Double Negative, Mike Rep and more.
Still Single: No. 6, Vol. 16
Oakland, CA’s Acephalix delivered a sobering wake up call to punx, hobbling crusters, heshers, headbangers, and guys like me on a Saturday morning in Austin, TX earlier this year. Concerned parents shielded their young, worried children as this otherwise pleasant café filled to capacity with festgoers from Chaos in Tejas, who were plied with coffee and terrible Texan bagels, and who in turn promptly clogged both toilets. The band opened for Iron Lung after destroying a side show with Saviours the night before at the first and possibly now annual breakfast show at Thunderbird Coffee on the east side, somewhere near the UT campus, and even through a half inch of treated window glass, my vantage point from which I watched their set, they delivered a punishing performance on the venue’s front patio, swinging from the trees, banging on the frame, climbing every scalable surface and preparing us overall for the brutality that would be the day’s weather and the festival’s events. Moreover, they understood the irony of their surroundings, and integrated it into their unfeasibly brutal display of dual-kick motorcrust, throat-peeling vocals and divebombing metallic countenance. Perhaps it was because I woke up so early for this particular show that I was put out of commission earlier in the evening than I would have liked (and a long detour at the goth bar Elysium down the block was certainly not helping my cause either), but Acephalix remained one of the top three bands I saw down there this year, and if their debut full-length Aporia is any indicator, this band is going to destroy us all in no time flat. Some may bristle at the group’s blend of punk and metal, as it’s going to be too much in either direction for some to handle. That shit doesn’t bother me; I’m tired of purism in such approaches, and I’m tired of bands that half-ass it in order to show allegiance to one or the other – give me something that’ll cave my forehead in with swift and unerring authority, something like the B-side of this monster, some of the strongest examples of technically-minded, rib-cracking thrash fury we’ll get this year, slowing down just enough and in the right spots to remind you how much it hurts. Mailorder edition (first press) white vinyl, and a beautiful job in the execution overall. Get on this NOW.
A Faulty Chromosome
Craving to be Coddled So We Feel Fake-Safe ‘Cause We Can’t Quite Coalesce and Fix This Mess They Made 2xLP/comic book
Nearly an hour’s worth of troubled sounds and pages upon pages of illustrations comprise this sprawling work, a queasy shove into the general direction of the private press/“real people” style monstrosities of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Eric Dalke made all of this under the moniker A Faulty Chromosome, and while I’m sure there was some semblance of relief for him to put all of this out there, listening to it for enjoyment is something few will experience. A one-man band, harboring intense confusion and resentment towards his own childhood and possibly his own family, AFC spews forth an oozing pop swirl of keyboards, drum machines, samples and treated vocals in one sympathetic, yet extremely difficult movement of kiddie exorcism, the kind of thing that Shimmy-Disc would have likely pounced on back when they were still a label. There’s a lot to get into here, but the pre-set nature of the sound and the woozy similarity and pity-partiness from track to track is exhausting and messy, like coating the soles of your shoes with chewed gum and running on hot asphalt. As an outsider artist, he’s more of a puppy with a bad leg than a Gary Wilson or Benjamin Schurr, you know, someone you might need to worry about. Also, even a quick glance at the album title should tell you that he really needs an editor. Overall, it’s a depressing piece of work that is ambitious but quite hard to recommend. I’m glad Dalke got it all out there, but maybe now he can move on. That’s what therapy is for!
Two Weasel Walter jabs in the space of a month is treading dangerous territory. Might as well close my primary email account. Ol’ double W produced the Satanized side of this and grabbed some other vague credit for the AIDS Wolf side. Meaning, the name “Buttfuck Magoo” could be in place of “Weasel Walter” in each instance, and this record would sound exactly the same. If there exists more than one noisenik out there that can actually identify W.W.’s “touch” on any of the 5,921,901 improv-skree/nu-no-wave-scuzz records currently enjoying in-print status, I will record a phone-apology to Sir Do-You-Know-How-Many-Records-I’ve-Played-On? And release it as a 7”. “Oh yeah, this is definitely a Weasel Walter production, you can tell by how he places a two-foot pile of photo-copied medical atrocities and issues of Answer Me! between the solid-state, 30W Crate amp and the mic.” Make like the late Nell Carter and give me a great big you-know-what. Look, you know whether or not this record is worth your bux or, if the procrastinating type, your sweat, detective work, and bigger bux. It’s worth mentioning that Satanized are about as satanic as a healthy bowel movement, and both sides are appropriate for those pining for side F of a fantasy Harry Pussy triple-LP of outtakes. Let it be known that honesty was chosen over etiquette, in that AIDS Wolf is responsible for one of the only band interviews that constituted good conversation. Not only that, but Badmaster is a label driven by real smarts, and I don’t think it needs to be emphasized that real smarts is becoming increasingly rare in the context of the now omnipresent micro-label.
Hideous Racket 12” EP
Hideous racket?!? Far from it. This is synthy pop disguised as house music. Solid and buoyant examples, too. Big progressive house sound meets UFO pants and acieeeeed bite. Hideous racket. I’ll show you a hideous racket. It’s called the HOZAC HOOKUP KLUB. Come on.
… and six dark hours pass LP
Adult film star Sasha Grey makes good on her Myspace page’s rambling list of musical influences with aTelecine, a dark ambient/difficult noise project conceived with two other individuals, Pablo St. Francis and Anthony D’Juan. In the tradition of Nurse w/ Wound or Throbbing Gristle, the six tracks here creak and meander in nightmarish ways, sounding as if we have stumbled into the middle of someone else’s bad dream and had been left to sort it out on our own. When not too busy building an impenetrable, neutral-tone wall around its meaning and significance, aTelecine’s first LP simply vanishes in between stations. I’ve given it way more time than I had to devote to any records as of late, and it failed to connect apart from the obvious ways (recognition, etc.) Anyone attempting to look for further clues in and around the packaging need only check the run-out grooves for some unfortunate significance. Side A reads “it’s 4 am and your [sic] naked and bleeding too,” while side B states “Chinese erotic, masterpiece psychotic.” The artwork – touched-up vector drawings of a naked woman bound, running masked, being ignored by two individuals in deep conversation, in a supine pose, smoking a cigarette while writing – contributes to a creep factor here that goes beyond what most noise records of its type have to offer; that the woman in charge here might have lived whatever is abstracted in the music. It’s virtually impossible to separate Grey’s role in this project from her other roles, and no matter what the gentlemen from Dais has to say about it, this is an extremely difficult work to evaluate, due to its personnel and background. Those of you who’ll be impressed by aTelecine no doubt own or have access to dozens of recordings much like theirs. I can empathize with how compelling it must be, how liberating it must feel for a celebrity, particularly one as controversial and noticed as Ms. Grey (who might have the distinction of being the worst thing about the worst show on television, “Entourage,” apart from the character of Turtle, or Jeremy Piven’s hair plugs) to create a new work that is completely distant from her typical surroundings. But there needs to be a little more unpacking, or more than a previous single to compare this work against, and while I’m sure there are far lazier listeners and reviewers out there who will not be able to take this record at face value (which it demands), there are far fewer who’ll have the patience to divine its purpose. As it stands, it sounds at once directionless and forced, unmoored and unconcerned. For whatever intentions Grey might have, the record states otherwise; it’s like she is trying to hide while yelling “HERE I AM!!!” and that simply doesn’t wash. 500 numbered copies.
Br’er/The Chord and the Fawn
The Soft Mountain/This Has to Be Meant to Be split LP
Having unloaded previous Br’er atrocities onto the erstwhile Killedbyjeff, I feel I can avoid this bullshit no longer, and must face this hideous music head-on. I got a really icky feeling from Benjamin Schurr’s previous efforts, intricately packaged as to intimate a deeper meaning that would never come. He’s fled Philadelphia to Asheville, NC (lucky you, residents of that town), stuffing all his purple lyrics and overly dramatic musicianship and borrowed, of-the-moment tropes of musical significance, from the drama club-crescendo of Godspeed You Black Emperor to the notions of fuzz/shoegaze textured backing and harrowing night of the soul to which Xiu Xiu staked claim, to the cutesy shoebox diorama/“maybe Zooey Deschanel or that girl in Tilly and the Wall who tapdances will notice me” of the ukulele, Schurr’s choice of lead instrument. All this pastiche wouldn’t matter so much if Schurr wasn’t the most insufferable vocalist around. Ornate to a fault, and then coated with insincere layers of sound, which magnify his ambitions to a nauseating finish, Schurr should probably be seeking professional help rather than unloading his baggage about the girls who got away. Everything he does musically, and how he presents himself on records, makes him seem like a total creep, and I doubt I’m wrong. The Chord and the Fawn are brave indeed for wanting to associate with this assclown, and if you’d think anything could be better than more songs by Br’er … well … hm. Female (more like “fe-lame”) duo of ukulele, vocals, and minor treatments of bells, flute. The groups is thankfully devoid of the pretension of Br’er’s side, but sink themselves all the same with the straining-for-recognition sensibilities of the coffeeshop-to-Saddle Creek hopeful set. Cloying as fuck! If someone asks you how much ukulele music you can endure, tell them “less than this.” Comes packaged in a sewn felt bag (one side’s got a mountain on it, the other side … a silhouette of a kittycat! AWWWW!), and if you’re unfortunate enough to be presented with a copy, throw the record away and stitch some straps to the sleeve – viola, you just got yourself a new tote bag, which you can fill with anything more substantial than the twelve inches of bullshit it originally contained. It really stuns me that anyone would spend so much time handcrafting packages to contain such miserable, unoriginal music. This isn’t Etsy – this is music, and bad music at that. 300 hand-labeled copies (yes that seems to be crayon rubbings on the labels … christ).
“Normal Never Happened” b/w “Faux King Vogue” 7”
New single from this winning Olympia, WA trio hangs closely to their earlier triumphs, building off of a somewhat narrow formula to satisfying ends. The ladies sing “Normal Never Happened,” which shifts gears from a sludgy slam into a bass-heavy, nimble post-punk/gaze hybrid, with galloping drums and a somewhat clean, classy demeanor – you’ve never seen anyone get dressed up this fast, buttoning up the top button, and snapping straight up. Diffuse vocals don’t take away from this aboutface, and the shift back into heavy dissonance at the end shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise, but it’s a well-assembled song anyway you cut it. “Faux King Vogue” features guitarist Jon on vocals, the guy who sounds almost exactly like Thurston Moore, and his songwriting has been in somewhat of a similar trap since Sisters, the band Broken Water morphed out of. Serious A Thousand Leaves plagiarism vibes are leveraged with burly riffs, a welcome change out of something we know this band can do, and do well. Excellent single nonetheless, but they are going to have to try to branch out more on future releases, because they’ve covered all the ground they can in this small corner of sound. The group’s infatuation with saturated cyans and aquamarines in their cover art is a nice, woozy touch as well – this time they did a letterpress sleeve, and it looks sweet.
Prisoner of Type 7” EP
To put it bluntly, the last Car Commercials record made me want to hurt myself. Particularly Eric’s Diary – seriously, they are blasting that shit at captured al-Qaeda operatives under a fucking prison somewhere as I write this, and one of those dudes is about to spill Bin Laden’s coordinates. It’s dark, really. Somehow it’s still comforting that Big Dan and his friend David are still hammering away at new Car ‘Mersh, and actually coming somewhere in the vicinity of songs with melodies on side B while they’re at it. Shook teenage awkwardness, like the Supreme Dicks after atomic wedgies and the kind of gym class shower hazing that might bring about criminal charges. It hurts to listen to this band because life hurts in general and dudes often fail to acknowledge this. I don’t know that we need a band to remind ourselves of this so much as we could use LIFE to let us show our hand more often than the opportunities afford. Go ahead, let it all out, and put your suffering to rest. 300 copies with those “punch-out” center holes now on offer in the USA.
“Ingrown Ego” b/w “Girl from the Gas Station” 7”
In theme alone, Claw Toe could be this generation’s answer to Strangulated Beatoffs, Happy Flowers, or deeper, darker tardcore concerns of the 80’s and 90’s, except that C.T. has a lot more gas in the clever tank than the bulk of that trash. Think a modernized (or more primitive, depending on which hairs one decides to split) Big Stick….funny, stupid, and semi-genius but nowhere near as brilliant as the untouchable Frogs when that duo was firing on all cylinders (My Daughter The Broad). This will appeal to adventurous Hozac/Termbo acolytes behind the use of shitty drum machine, pointlessly-noisy guitar and feed-backing pedal-train, and half-ass Wax Trax “German” industrial inflection to the spoke-spoke (rather than spoke-sung) vocals, not unlike the Spits without the sub-literate halfwit element or gross case of terminal unoriginality. Claw Toe’s lyrics are quite funny, and the not-quite repetitive lines with comedic tweaks make for subtle hilarity. On the non-vocal side of things, Claw Toe is an entity on its knees begging for a full-length on Load (a good thing). The only drawback here is the tiny concern that Claw Toe might be a lot smarter than its intended audience, and whether or not I just revealed “the point” is lost to an unknown blurriness. Perhaps “concern” is too strong a term. But let’s bring things back around to the realm of clarity: This 7” deserves to be owned, enjoyed, and talked-about. 300 copies.
During the intro, I thought I was in store for some early-Organum sounding weirdo soundscapes, but Dark Lingo went straight into the opposite direction. This husband and wife outsider art rock jam session offers uo lo-fi, stone cold bangers that pound out some solidly diverse rock cuts with a layer of phaser-treated vocals cutting in and out of the mix. Great oddball segue samples keep it all fairly interesting. I look forward to seeing where this project goes next.
-/- is a Carolina hardcore supergroup, staffed by Raleigh scene vets from Erectus Monotone, Snakenation, Shiny Beast, Patty Duke Syndrome, Polvo, and a handful of others. While their earlier LP clung too hard to convention, and the follow-up single swung away at abstract aggression almost to a fault, they have hit the proverbial sweet spot some years into a career that’s running exactly the way they want it to. Daydreamnation (they have a hard-on for name appropriation) rips so goddamned hard I can barely believe it, the band having grown into a sound that blends Flag, C.O.C., and all manners of loud, heavy music both inside and out of fast-paced punk into the smoothie of death, made of puke, lead paint, celery hearts and Pepto-Bismol. Mechanized wehrmacht, driven by Brian Walsby’s double- and triple-time drumming shifts, runs amok all over this new batch of songs, miles away from their beginnings and even their roots, as guitarist Scott Williams smears twisted, reckless riffage all over the place, bassist Justin Gray locks down in between, and vocalist Kevin Collins busts a lung with seriously upset-sounding rage. For once, the confusion within a band such as this actually works to their favor, a blur of sound with so many screws and bolts sticking out of it that it can’t help but leave an impression on you, maybe even in you as these thirteen songs detonate all over the place. Easily trumps the methodical HC-for-the-non-HC of Fucked Up as one of thee most important bands of its kind in action today, and since they rarely tour, you pretty much have to go to the mountain to see ‘em. Double Neg will be kept a secret for as long as these guys wish to stay down, and it’s your loss to ignore. Absolute fury in a beautifully embossed, metallic sleeve. First 286 copies on pink vinyl with numbered obi strip, long gone. Regular press is good enough for you.
“Untied” b/w “Bury Me Standing” 7”
There must be more than one set of ears governing the Hozac intake/output pipeline. A wildly inconsistent label can be wonderful so long as one extreme is extremely interesting/inspired, and for this particular patch of history, Hozac is like watching several days’ worth of “The Wire” back-to-back with seasons of “According to Jim.” Fey Gods is a haunting, unprecedented mood-setter with the best of ‘em, and a solid representative of the “should” part of home-recording circa-2010’s “just because everyone can, doesn’t mean that everyone should” doctrine. Hey, if a record can sound like 400 discarded reverb units marched up single-file and took a dump on the first three Sisters of Mercy 7”s and still find itself repeatedly spun during pleasure-listening time, it’s the sound of something being done right. 500 copies.
Fix My Head/Knife in the Leg
Looks like somebody got into the short range time machine and sent me a 2002 themed record? Razorblade/suicide imagery, magenta halftone patterns, Photoshop default star shapes, and my biggest pet peeve: distressed text that is just regular text with sharp chunks taken out. When shit degrades, it degrades all over; the letters’ edges shouldn’t stay crisp. Also, you can’t put drop shadows on distressed text. Onto the music: Oakland’s Fix My Head plays fast USHC, with enough hooks and turns to keep it out of the “no frills” territory, like a not-as-wild H100s, but with Tony Erba singing. They’ve got the obligatory song about those damn hipsters and their coke. Poland’s Knife in the Leg are more melodic, but still rough, giving their side that Paint It Black sound. Octave chords and sweeping leads add to that emotional amazingcore EuroxEdge kinda ambiance. They reinforce the time machine theory by keeping it early ‘00s with songs about limited vinyl, and another one about the hipsters, but being Euros it’s most likely club punx, and that they’re ok with it. Comes with a download code.
“Turquoise Hotel” b/w “Doldrums” 7”
Hope you like monotony, as well as familiarity with all things going on down on the sticky movie theater floor that is the lo-fi/shitgaze poopdeck of 20xx. I’d been told Fungi Girls were a better band than what’s evidenced in between these two stylistically mix’d-n-match’d songs – a little surf, a little reverb, diminutive male vocals, a lot of repetition, and no personality to speak of. If you like the Fall, JAMC, Crystal Stilts, and the Vivian Girls, and you don’t think about why, this is gonna be your favorite record for like 12 minutes at some point. But why stop here when there’s something newer and shinier around the bend? 500 copies.
Gaze 1 CS
Junked up, scrap heap electronics on this tape offering by SF based outsider noise label Beach House. Sounds a lot like the early Mudboy output, or a release that would have a quiet home on the DNT imprint, filled with circus-like synthesizers and distorted, echoey vocals that play like a pisstake on electronic music. Very well assembled; even though each track sounds extremely different from the next, there is a hard-to-define signature weirdo thread that strings them all string together. I’m iooking forward to seeing what this label-cum-rodeo of like-minded artists has in store for the future.
Not Friends 7” EP
Burly, melodic punk from Calgary, a good place. Four simple, shouty songs with a good notion of how to craft a pop hook and beat its hide raw. What their singer lacks in subtlety, the trio makes up for in the sort of unison guitar/bass action you might have heard on parts of You’re Living All Over Me, or maybe that mythical Descendents/Minutemen combo that never materialized. The Miscendents. Better than Minuteflag, anyway. Short songs, catchy shit. Not much else to say. These get the job done. 500 copies (100 red, 400 clear).
Remember all that mediocre indie rock of the mid-’90s? (Hey! – ed.) Well, Hari Kari is not gonna let us forget about that time which most would like to keep in the past. (HEY! – ed.) Eight song demo by this Olympia, WA three piece in which every song sounds pretty much like the last … that being forgettable. At times, they remind me of a sloppy Honor Role or Chavez at their worst, even possibly channeling Sebadoh, only not all that good or cohesive. Lacking any style or charisma, this band is referencing a sound of their early Sub-Pop/Merge fantasies but missing the mark by a long shot. (email to hari.kari.hari.kari [at] gmail [dot] com”)
The Joe Hebert Band
“I Don’t Wanna Be A Preppy” b/w “First Date” 7”
Fans of the lighter side of KBD punk and raw power pop can’t really lose with the A-side of this reissued collector’s fave, of which original copies are so scarce that less than an armful have been accounted for. The great preppy scourge of the ‘80s was frustrating rockers everywhere, and this 1981 single is proof that Blaines and Buffys were causing a ruckus in Rhode Island. Our man Hebert has fallen for a girl, it seems, but sure enough she’s been bitten under the sweater set by the prep bug. He’s not having it, and with a rude and crude fuzz tone supporting the sheer force of his voice, he sounds off on the topic with an increasingly unhinged delivery. But the flip “First Date” is not to be overshadowed, its chorus one of the more uncanny earworms to nestle in my lobes recently. It features the same inept yet pulverizing fuzz and a “real people” linguist’s dream as he hollers “I only got five bucks!” in all his L’il Rhodey glory. The backing band was the comparably obscure locals, the Tits, and Joe went on to drivetime radio “morning zoo” and regional comedy infamy. If this sort of stuff floats your boat shoes, you won’t regret gripping this one.
Hot Guts/Pop. 1280
split 7” EP
Doing a turnaround all Hozac-style, Badmaster does good by well-manicured tastes with this split. Mark my rarely-read words, Hot Guts is one to watch, though I sense and fear a nebulous instability with this band, and identical fates have painfully sent many a great act hurling irreversibly into the crevices of cultural obscurity. If Nick Cave’s Grinderman project is predicable or silly for you, try out Hot Guts, who take everything you like to namedrop, mix it all up with the day-to-day shitheap of life, and heave it back as the very type of greatness that has the moths-to-a-porch-light demographic looking at each other for mutual approval, then checking arsenals of “cool” profiles to see if Hot Guts might be listed as a fave, all while filling their pants with the negative warmth of fear. Pop. 1280 should stop putting music opposite Hot Guts if they crave the next step, as it’s hard to move down new paths when you’re continuously getting blown off of the earth’s surface by undiluted superiority.
We Breathe Strange Loops 12” EP
(Touch Your Life)
Burning synth ‘n’ drum machine action from the duo of Jason Letkiewicz (Manhunter) and visual artist Aurora Halal, captured here in still-bleeding form, seven songs, mini-LP, nice package, why thank you. The bars are jammed up on the drum computer, so it’s pumping out breathless combo-rhythms for most of the run, with wild, lo-res electronic leads and phased out vocals moaning over top. The Cabaret Voltaire reference some might throw would be too lazy, and anyway, this is far too one-dimensional for it to fit that way, but I’m too tired of trying to describe minimal synth works to ANY of you, and besides this is pretty maximal as far as the closeness and humidity these songs generate. Sure, there are lead melodies of a few notes apiece, but they are countered and at points overpowered by flanged synth waves and loops. It’s incredibly easy to get into, if your brain works the right way. Which mine does. Night moves in a rapidly changing environment – four musclers, three creepers. I always loved to pull a record out of the sleeve and be able to see in gradients where the beats hit, and that’s the case here with “Perception Reception,” a particularly hard cut at the end of the first side that bites “Blue Monday” pretty hard but works out just fine. New Order can take it. Definitely good times inside, don’t miss out. 500 copies; tools and tricks found at
Southern Beauty Queen LP
To all aspiring singer-songwriters out there, especially those who have gummed up their proverbial works with GarageBand’s additive processes, and the concepts of grandeur as big sound/big lineup/loads of instruments and geegaws: how do your songs stand up on their own? It certainly feels like there’s a lot of self-consciousness and hiding of the source amidst a lot of that kind of crap pap. Not so with Joe Kile, a New Orleans singer-songwriter who’s stripped his second album down to the bone – cracking Southern drawl to his vocals, and a shimmering austerity in his acoustic guitar, but apart from the occasional violin overdub, it’s just Kile and the wind. Even in this skeletal approach, you’ll be surprised by how much sentimentality he wrings from this collection of short songs, somewhere in between the dusty pathos of Simon Joyner and the lonesome crush of Townes Van Zandt or NYC’s own Zachary Cale. There are a few song fragments here that seem kind of slight, but they add to the sketchbook qualities of the music within, and are bolstered by even-handed playing and Kile’s winsomely hangdog singing. Overall it’s a really beautiful record with nothing to show but its own strengths, which in this case are plenty. In the old days, something like this would be considered “private press folk”; now, in an era where artists like Kile drown digitally in a sea of anonymity, the boutique pressing of 100 copies, in plain disco sleeves with a color insert, are as close as we can get to extending the traditions of obscure record collectors past. Totally recommended.
Throned In Blood LP
Heavy music/metal will always be plagued by two serious problems: Too many dumbasses and too many exclusionists. I’d call them “elitists”, but that implies some sort of credit is deserved, and it’s not. So it’s “exclusionists” for this review. Of course, I’m not referring to the husband and wife duo that have been performing as Jucifer for over 15 years, but to the dumbass factor and shortsighted exclusionists in heavy music audiences that have unknowingly worked in tandem to curse this band into a type of “misunderstood” status. The complaint of the exclusionist? Jucifer is for poseurs. Jucifer isn’t true metal. Jucifer is for indie rockers or hipsters (or whatever out-of-date term the X-Large t-shirt metal elitist crowd is using to describe patrons at a Best Coast show).
Following their epic-length tribute to everyone’s favorite assassinated queen (that I’ll take any day over Sofia Coppola’s ruining the Gang of Four and New Order through uncreative creative anachronisms), Jucifer makes like many a heavy band and leave the seemingly problematic embrace of Relapse Records for sturdier land. Following the epic with economy (this is a relatively short album) is another no-brainer, but the duo veers from the script for most everything else, barring fifteen-too-many minutes of their needless doom-crawl. In brief: The one quality of Jucifer that always killed it for me was the almost improvisational act of riffing. They are so heavy and slow and there’s so much dead air in between the riffs that the towering, guitar-abusing she-beauty at the forefront of this band seems to go about song-construction the way a contestant picks options 1, 2, 3, or 4 on “The Price is Right.” The riffs may be miles apart, but they still have to sound good together.
That complaint aside, around a quarter to a third of this record finds Jucifer confidently trampling territory previously unknown to the duo. There’s HUGE snail-slow pop, murder-balladry (or Jucifer’s interpretation of the form), a quasi-torch song, and a closer that knocks Garfield out of the frame to take the cake in a big way.
“Paralyzed”/”Keep Waiting” one-sided 7”
Uber-catchy fastcore good enough to get a pass for wasting an entire side, Libyans are known and loved by the quasi-elitist, ultra-topical secret-handshake hardcore club that includes a bevy of bands that sound nothing like each other while sharing an affinity for a certain form of visual presentation behind packaging that ranges from the subtly-tasteful to the downright beautiful. 399 hand-numbered, etched, vellum-sleeved copies of this 7” are not sitting on my desk, its temporary home until moved to first-class keeper-section accommodations.
Low Red Center
s/t 10” EP
It’s been a big year for synth enthusiasts, but the Austin collective Low Red Center doesn’t quite fit into the pre-fab/Altered Zones zeitgeist of pitch-shifted ‘80s radio deep cuts, droning vocals, and Youtube-borne lunacy; rather, they eschew samples and midi for a pure analog synth sound. The songs have a non-specifically “ethnic” quality that remind me of a comedy-free Men’s Recovery Project’s Bolides Over Basra. The group shares that record’s approach in sound design, building a foundation of dense, synth gurgles and blurts with lockstep barebones drum patterns, all delivered by human hands I’m told, with melodies formed by brighter, washed-over, synth chimes. Those sounds always work for me. Sometimes they’ll break out some guitars for angular, occasionally funky riffs which compliment the main singer, who chirps and weirds it out in the tradition of Ari Up sound going on, crisp and clear. I’m not usually a fan of the 10” format, but the length and sequencing of this work shows a lot of smart editing, over the course they build a cold but robust scene, and close with a great, cheery instrumental.
“Showstopper” b/w “Cypress” 7”
(Not Not Fun)
I didn’t cover the first two Magic Lantern LPs (another arm of Cameron Stallones from Sun Araw) here for some reason, but maybe I should have. Those were minor psych records with a big sound, a gale force gust of noise that often came at the expense of good ideas or well-structured songs. Yet, the records were extreme enough to make an impression. Since low wattage reviews have likely kept Still Single out of the graces of Not Not Fun, a busy and sporadically awesome label that seems to have problems telling the good from the bad, a copy of their third album Platoon was not forthcoming. Either way, this single came out, either before or after. “Showstopper” is best known now from its inclusion on the bootleg compilation Chains & Black Exhaust, from which the audience eventually pieced together a track listing. There, it exists as an early ‘70s slice of greasy psych-funk, the sound of a funk band working through its chops and coming out with something far gullier than most hard rock bands could have mustered. It’s a great song, and Magic Lantern’s cover of it almost works. Here’s why it doesn’t: it’s like 7 minutes long, doubling the original’s length for no apparent reason other than these guys wanted to flex on the fuzz-wah pedals, or maybe to adhere to the repetitious qualities of their earlier works. The recording is very roomy and mid-rangey, with too much lyric-obscuring reverb. They seem to understand the groove, but trade in the original’s abrasive, rude edges for something more palatable, and it really doesn’t work at all. “Cypress” on the flip is more worthwhile, as the Lantern isn’t pissing all over something that should have just been left alone. It’s another lengthy one, a rudimentary funk instrumental whose chops wouldn’t pass a high school jazz band’s, but it’s more of a success because they’re not trying to draw an immediate comparison to something rare and pretty untouchable, as far as their own status and skills are concerned.
The Maine Coons
H.L.I.I.G.T.F.Y.T.F.G. 7” flexi
(Gebos! Brand Circular Plastics)
Figured it was only time before someone sent in a flexi. Apparently they are being manufactured once again. This one comes from the Maine Coons, the one-man band of Matt Spent (Closet Fairies). It’s reasonably catchy pop with big choruses, strong scratchy vocals, and heavy reliance on organ – indie pop that resists the cozy draw of twee atmospherics with noise and vigor. The label in question is committed to pressing up small-batch flexis from Single Piece Slate, a boutique lathe cutting operation, so the quality of the record is a little thicker than the Eva-Tone flexis of the past. It even played on my turntable, which was a big surprise, though the needle did jump a bit near the opening of the first cut. Three songs overall, from an 11-song recording session that is promised to be released on LP, so if you miss out on the 100 of these that were pressed, you may have a chance later on. Nevertheless, it’s a cool idea that I hope more artists and labels start to take advantage of soon. Silkscreened, numbered sleeve, too.
Montagna & the Mouth to Mouth
“Ultrapolyamorous” b/w “At Full Speed” 7”
(Once a Great Surgeon)
Swirly, hazy pop from Asbury Park, NJ, a monument to ruin with some great goat tacos in the back of a grocery store – literally that is all I know about the place, other than the bowling alley that has shows. Whether slow and syrupy a la Mercury Rev (“Ultrapolyamorous”) or upbeat and propulsive in the spirit of Velocity Girl (“At Full Speed”), both songs display a drive missing from a lot of these seven-inch-wide piles of shit piling up in my mailbox. On occasion, a little bit of professionalism, a little borrowing from popular ideas that aren’t necessarily the same ones everyone else is using, and a little bit of polish – and the knowledge of where and how to apply it – mean the difference between perking up someone’s ears or making them drown you out. Montagna and company have two songs here that are well-crafted, sound good, and are familiar without beating you over the head with influences. If it were still the ‘90s I wouldn’t kick either one of these outta bed, and today I feel the same way. 300 numbered copies, purple marbled vinyl.
The New Heaven and the New Earth
All Saints’ Day 12” EP
Having sent in three execrable records by Br’er, the Edible Onion label swings at our fence yet again. There’s no Benjamin Schurr on this record (except in the thanks list), so here’s the chance to figure out if the label just has problems figuring out what is worthwhile to foist upon the world, or if it’s Br’er’s doing. Packaging, once again, is beautiful and ornate: hand-cut art paper is stitched together, and colored shapes in aluminum foil are mounted behind the front cover to give the appearance of stained glass. The churchlike reminiscence extends to the music, some manner of workable chamber pop which has ambitions (lots of ornate and specialized instruments – cello, harp, autoharp, clarinet) and one major setback, namely, the reedy, affected vocals of principal songwriter Roger Alejandro Martinez. There is one track where soprano Gabrielle Smith takes over, and she brings an almost Lutheran quality to whatever works she touches. Musically this thing shows promise (the band can play, and they have frequent flashes of brilliance, though nothing which can sustain an entire song), but as with Br’er, we’re presented with someone whose ambitions appear to have blinded him; folks like Martinez clearly need to stick with what they do best, and not let lyrics like “And I like to pretend I’m a very old man/And I live in a house where everything is soft/And everything is friendly/And everything is boring/And everything is dying” – words that successfully describe the music being played, and articulate its sometimes-benign-but-mostly-insufferable ambiance – get in the way of making something that more people than their friends, too polite or maybe too inexperienced to know better, will want to champion. So yeah, all parties at fault here. Especially CocoRosie, now and forever.
Soft Coast CS
(Nice Up Intl.)
Super dosed out Krautrock vibe here, laid on thick – groove box drum machines laced up tight with every possible funk drone electronic beat you could possibly imagine. Every song comes off as some aspiring Cluster / Roedelius outtake, but then deforms into something completely its own. Little can be found about this creepy Canadian, other than a label page which only has this sole release and has a crossover obsession with the avant-garde and west coast rap. Completely distorted and 100% danceable jams, highly recommended for the future age.
(Teenage Death Girls)
Two new young, noisy Brooklyn bands from the wrong side of the J/M/Z tracks square off on this split. Passive Aggressor sound like they could have been uprooted from San Diego 1992 and put on a local stage; they have the spindly, careening feedback and meaty chordriffin’, but most of all a yelling, atonal singer who sounds like he could be fronting Trumans Water. This gives their two songs a sort of disorienting effect, like all at once they sound weirder and more out there than they actually are, but here’s to them: they are on a potentially great path and I cannot WAIT for the moment when all of the straitlaced, formulaic elements of their band splinter, they decide to keep the noise and disconnect their cable TV, and start speaking in a language all their own. Too early to call it, but there’s evidence here that they could. Prsms are West Coasters living out here (I recognize Aleks from Battleship in the credits, a pretty great band from a few years back that’s all but forgotten now) and squeeze off four short blats of ocean spray, economical Jehu/heavy alt-rock punk with all the noise you’d want, as well as a case of homesickness, as there’s sort of a “dude-brah-sup-obvies” quality here that’d be hard to pin down if you weren’t aware of California public schools. It seems that at this stage these two bands need one another, and they can only help one another. For some reason I’m thinking about someone from southern California learning what it’s like to have to own a winter coat when I put this record on, how strange and possibly depressing that might feel. I’m projecting of course, and it can’t possibly be as sad as having to wear one every year from the giddy-up. This record is pretty good. Nice look and feel. Silkscreened sleeves.
Mike Rep and the Quotas
Stupor Hiatus 2xLP
To my readers: you should know what’s up by now. Mike “Rep” Hummel is one of the most interesting performers of the ‘70s underground tradition who still walks this earth, and without him, huge chunks of Ohio rock history would have been handed over to nobodies like the Left End or Wild Cherry. Instead, Mike Rep, along with Tommy Jay, Nudge Squidfish who wrestled in their basements with the few scraps of UHF-borne, chemically-reactive, skull-drilling rock ‘n’ roll available to them in the early ‘70s, and never really came up from the count. Adding six tracks to the contents of a long-deleted Siltbreeze LP (Stupor Hiatus Vol. 2, released in 1992), this pair of albums is covered in the proverbial black mold and beer breath, wood paneling and piles of rotting ephemera, the sum total of a handful of men who fear daylight, and who bring us the news in song. It’s kind of inspiring to think that someone’s first exposure to Roky Erickson might’ve been through the Quotas attacking “Creature with the Atom Brain” or “She Lives in a Time Of Her Own,” who may have heard the band’s loose original “This Island Earth” (with incredible lyrics like “You human beings, you really do perplex us/The only one who understands us – some acid head from Texas”), and deduced that The Evil One was just some guy ripping off Mike Rep! Given the scope of this retrospective (1974 up through the late ‘90s), it’s hard not to consider Rep and friends part of the eternal conversation, one which went on to include such luminaries as Ron House, the Mays sisters, Jeffrey Evans, Robert Pollard, and the late Jim Shepard and Jerry Wick, among dozens of other hard workers and lost souls whose lives, pain and joys were ground out on some 2-track tape recorder in a fortified root cellar and shared with the raw, the searchers, and the students. Mike Rep has given his entire life to extending that feeling that only the best of rock music’s VU/Elevators lineage can provide. If you can’t understand, I’m fine with that; please get the fuck out of my way and let me finish this case of Old German.
“Funeral Song” b/w “Drunk Punks” 7”
Bedroom goth with sunny popshine qualities, Minks is the kind of band that exists to remind us that the Ocean Blue was once a band, and that Blankdoggin’ is bankdoggin’. Alternately anonymous and precious, it’s hard to hate on a simple, singsongy little Sarah Records bauble like “Funeral Song,” unless of course you do. Racquetball bass, synth confusion, mumbly vocals and sheets of guitar both help and hurt the cause within; fine, fey music that both requires the pedestal it’s being placed upon, and hates that it’s there. The songs are catchy but extremely vapid; where there should be fangs, there are only gums; where we miss innovation, we only find tribute – and a slavish one at best.
Relatively unknown SF-based sound artist Eric Haney has compiled two sides of stripped down drone noise, drawing on the dark, sublime textures of delayed feedback. First half starts off as somewhat typical noise, delay through contact manipulation but then transforms into what sounds like ambient field recordings of a summer thunderstorm set to the backdrop of effected oscillators. Side B reminds me of a lost Prurient outtake from Pleasure Ground … blown out waves of synthesized drones ebbing back and forth, with an occasional scratch and hiss of various effects and found samples. A really well thought out release of someone who clearly has some direction and vision.
Portland, OR’s Pity Fucks blurt out eight rowdy, drunken party anthems in the vein of their great 7”. Burly, fuzzed out guitars and a wild, thick voiced howler gives this record a Persuaders vibe, plus a full toilet of bouncy organ sounds; put more simply: Nuns-style thug punk. The blaring ‘60s style Hammond, enthusiastic playing, and strong songwriting puts them well above the standard garage thrum. The John Barry style organ-driven instrumental replete with hand claps complete the 1950s youth-gone-wild movie vibe. I’ve got a complaint though – for an eight song LP, with two covers (R. Stevie Moore and Oblivians, with whom the Pity Fucks share in the lack of a bass player in exchange for more gnarly guitar sounds), plus a repeat song from their only other record, leaves me wishing they churned up a little more original material, and maybe took a second pass at that cover. That aside, Felony Fidelity maintains its strong yet underrated track record.
Rocket from the Tombs
“I Sell Soul” b/w “Romeo and Juliet” 7”
Thanks for excluding the RPM instruction. At 45 RPM, “I Sell Soul” is at best, not embarrassing. Unfortunately, at 33 RPM, it’s the song that they probably wrote and recorded, which is the aural equivalent of a Megan’s Law-mandated sign in someone’s front yard. Formerly seminal musicians of this vintage have a really hard time understanding that “intensity” and “darkness” do not traverse generational gaps with any grace whatsoever. I am not a young person, though I’d hesitate to think what one would think of this. These guys sell soul, huh? By the looks of the full-band photo (in the studio, no less) on the back cover, they could also sell Radio Shack products, real estate, air conditioners, insurance, drum lessons, disaster-salvaged furniture, and extremely low-grade BJ’s behind a Winn Dixie dumpster. Yes, Mr. Richard Lloyd, we know you’re a guitar player. There’s no need to flash your authentically road-worn Strat to enjoy the photo-op. What does Cheetah Chrome’s guitar look like? His face? I don’t know why this exists. It’s so bad it hurts my feelings. Seriously.
“Secret” b/w “Sleepovers Are Fun” + “Together Forever” 7” EP
Truthfully, some sleepovers are not fun. Especially loathsome are the ones peopled by former members of various plural noun bands, all over the age of 20, no, scratch that, clearly over the age of 25, wearing footie PJs and confusing car dealership/community college TV-jingle or parents-are-at-work daytime PBS kiddie programming melodies with a little sum-sum the trained ear knows as a hook. As Calvin Johnson proved IN 1988…this shit is caaaah-reeeeeee-peeee! Is this a spoof of the Sad is Bad agenda? See, once again, someone needs a refresher course. Dawgs can’t even get the fonts right. Forced positivity works a lot better if you use cute and squeezable visuals. You can use every shade of every approachable color in the spectrum, but if your S’s, L’s, E’s, P’s, O’s, (especially your O’s) V’s, and R’s are all scrawny and semi-jagged, your Hozac moment is getting flipped over like it was IDM; your 7” forgotten like the movement in question “forgot” (selective intellect!) that Olympia, Washington happened. Puff that shit up; make each letter round, fat, furry, and sentient…bustin’ out of the produce section, takin’ tickets at the petting zoo, catchin’ a back-atcha smile from the sun a la 1st Dinosaur LP, pickin’ up trash in the courtyard at the old folks’ home, that’s it! Sad is bad, indeed! And make some shambling pop that doesn’t induce 10-second bouts of short-term memory loss. Introducing a new micro-sub-offshoot-branch-wing genre of the Sad is Bad movement: This is Bad. 500 copies.
D. Charles Speer & the Helix
By my estimate this is Speer’s third or fourth full-length, and it shares all of the strengths and weaknesses of the ones prior. On the plus side, no one in this band is wanting for talent or pedigree; the core membership is Speer (a/k/a Dave Shuford, No Neck Blues Band), Marc Orleans (Sunburned Hand of the Man) on guitars and other strings, and Hans Chew on keyboards and piano. They’re backed here by Black Dirt Studios owner Jason Meagher on bass, and Robert Gregory on the drums. Their abilities are formidable, and they play music that hints to having digested every last piece of country, bluegrass, and backwoods stomp they could find, and reprocessed it into a simulacra of ownership. Shuford can sing, too, in a number of styles. The total package, but stare at it too long and you’ll likely get confused, just as I have – the inventiveness comes at a cost of cohesion; where contemporaries like Oakley Hall have learned how to rein in some of its more wandering tendencies and focus on power within their music, the Helix spirals onward, like its namesake – complexity for complexity’s sake, an endless variety of gee-gaws and whathaveyous, like taking a complex shuffling rhythm in “Gravedigger” and shoving it in and out of double-time hustle, like they’re doing really first-class transmission drops in grandpa’s borrowed Coupe de Ville just because. There truly is too much going on in a number of these songs, which makes them a bit more enjoyable to take one at a time, as there’s too much to digest in one sitting, let alone three. It’s a shame that some of these songs are literally too busy to be remembered, and it really detracts from the flow of an album. That said, there is still one-half to two-thirds of a KILLER lost rural rock heater within, my favorites being most of the B-side, and the stormy “Open Season” – the group nails a memorable ballad in “Elderflower,” a stunning piano-pounding instrumental in “The Fallika Stair,” borrowing from Russian folk music and sticking it in the Stray Gators’ craw before taking it in a Dead-style sojourn, and the scorching backwater finale “Shorty – A Bastard Cat,” which makes like Jim Ford in a range war with Skynyrd. While I certainly would not want to tell these guys how to do their jobs, they make mine too difficult to enjoy the way I’d hope to, and I doubt I’m alone in that feeling. Still, each album progresses and improves on the one previous, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll be too long before they drop another one, and hopefully knock it all the way out. 891 copies.
Tired Old Bones
“Country Circus” b/w “Do Not Disturb” 7” + 4-song CDEP
One of the more irritating and false claims about bad music writing is that it’s identified by exposure/reinforcement of topical or historical similarities between different entities, influence-spotting, writing about the thematic, visual, or sonic linkage connecting two eras, and other methods of calling it like the writer sees it. Those making these irritating and false claims usually fall back on the umbrella accusation that the critical device, if you want to call it that (you probably don’t), is a “copout” and writers should, “just express what it sounds like without leaning on the crutch of who it sounds like” or some other instructional horseshit often delivered by musicians, label-heads, publicists, self-righteous “writers” forever stuck in whore auto-pilot, or walking grammatical holocausts confusing “writing” with whatever it is they do besides create promotional fluff. A unifying factor among these types is the uncontrollable bristling that occurs after reading, “Tired Old Bones bear the strongest resemblance to peak alt-country deregulators, The Geraldine Fibbers”. Behind different reasoning, this faction of ninnies would react the same way to, “As band names go, Tired Old Bones holds the distinction of being what may be the worst…ever.” A roll-call of ‘90s alt-country bands that shoehorned experimentation into their respective styles would be skipped over entirely, despite the inappropriateness of said word count-reaching trick due to Tired Old Bones’ complete lack of experimental qualities, and the lameness of the venerable and admittedly half-ass “but you get the point” defense as an acting over-and-out gesture. Switching over to the artists under the knife, it’s presumed that Tired Old Bones members prefer the Mekons as a name-checked influence over a forgotten ‘90s band, but that’s the thing about body odor….you can’t smell yourself!
“This is Critical” b/w “Invisible Map” 7”
Baltimore sound artist Jason Urick (Wzt Hearts) continues to extend his base and build a bigger pyramid than most of his contemps, if indeed he has any. A mere mortal rarely learns how to manipulate the toys of a god, but on these two new tracks, that seems to be exactly the cortex of Urick’s success. “This is Critical” runs through a intense, punishing feedback loop of overleveraged electronics, burning alive, before the semblance of melody – the kind some people claim to hear in their heads when they are too stoned to move – cuts in, bouncing around a bit in dub-familiar ways but never fully succumbing to the dome of atmosphere-devouring noise in which it marinates. “Invisible Map” is slower and MUCH more the epic, time-stretched reflections thundering around a three-note trumpet fanfare – it’s like Cyber-Spartacus crushing the patriarchy with his big metal fist, glacial enormity on his side. I like that someone has taken the initiative to move beyond the notions of chippy, laptoppy haze (Fennesz, etc.) and taken sound source abuse back to push it in even bigger ventures. In an ideal world, this track would make your head explode. Fortunately, the record keeps the safety on just long enough that you can survive multiple listens. I’m living proof!
Headless Supplicant CS
Schizophrenic harsh noise ala Bloodlust is all over this tape – blasting feedback with overblown dumping of Metal Zone effect pedal worship, sounding a lot like early Sickness or Richard Ramirez. Both sides are fairly similar, with lots of contact mics feeding back from broken amps, and abrupt edits of squelching electronics in which the only semblance of structure being when all the punishment subsides into white noise tones that break up the monotony of brutality unleashed on this release. Out of print, too.
“I’ve Gotta Get” b/w “Hey Kid” 7”
Austin’s Woven Bones couldn’t make a tune stick in your head if they had one of those memory implanting machines from Total Recall and a six-week course from the University of Phoenix in how to use it. Some dummies – who, if they had the inside of the skulls MRI’d it would just reveal a big pile of shit – might be impressed by the Bones’ shameless aping of the Jesus And Mary Chain, and their strip mining of the past few years of overhyped dimwits going for same lazy/droney throb, but not me. Hum half a bar and they’ll repeat it for the rest. I thought these hairballs sucked like a black hole when I saw ‘em live, and this 7” confirmed any doubts I had, which weren’t many. If this 7” is the best Hardly Art (the farm team for Sub Pop) can come up with, then cracker eatin’ Christ, somebody is asleep at the wheel. On these two turkeys the Bones eased off the fuzz a bit and took the advice of the handbook “How To Cover Up Something That Sucks” (specifically, chapter 1, “Reverb,” written by Marcus Durant). JAMC worship without fuzz is about as worthwhile as a library with no books, and now the reverb makes me want to start a fund to hire the Goodyear Blimp to follow the Woven Bones around trailing a banner that says: YOU SOUND LIKE THE CRYSTAL STILTS IN 2008, WAY TO GO. Two ho hummers indistinguishable from each with some of the blandest cover art I’ve EVER seen (seriously, look at it), there is no reason to buy this record unless you can only achieve orgasm by wasting your money, and even then, there are better ways to do it.
By Dusted Magazine