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Still Single: Vol. 7, No. 1

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Mosurock, Andrew Earles and the rest of the Still Single crew kick of 2011 with almost 80 reviews, including assessments of The Soft Moon, Brown Angel and Milk Music.

Still Single: Vol. 7, No. 1

Adrenalin O.D.
The Wacky Hi-Jinks of … Adrenalin O.D. LP
(Psychic Volt/Chunksaah)

Exact reissue of this ’84 New Jersey hardcore milestone. For as lighthearted and jokey as AOD could get (come on, a song about a bad deal on a car is about as suburban as you can get, only to be topped by someone calling the singer and getting his mom on the phone), the level of intensity here is pretty goddamn high … then again we’re dealing with, like, 2nd gen hardcore here, and the speed and ferocity of riffs at that time were almost always a given. Sounds about the same as the original, and there are certainly far worse ways to spend $15. First 500 copies on pink vinyl. Pop a zit, kill a cop. (http://psychicvolt.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Adult Themes
“Four Fires” b/w “Young Bodies” 7”

This side-project of thinking-person’s avant-hardcore combo Graphic Violence digs in like ankle-herpes. Nothing in that sentence exists. I like this band’s moniker because it IS a direct reference to something a particular age group remembers from the loose childhood and teen years punctuated by the weekly delivery or arrival of the cable TV guide. I never knew what “Adult Themes” meant. I know that it was the only warning issued about Ordinary People and it always popped up for PG-Rated movies that should have been rated G but didn’t have any talking animals. As for bands and the music they make, there’s a sexual thing running through this, for sure. Just like there was a sexual thing running though early Blonde Redhead, the slap-you-upside-the-head influence here. Hard, heavy drums that are no doubt a blast to watch, female vocals with a faint, sexy husk accenting the hook on the A side and the quasi-hook on the flip, and the bass set to 90’s aggro-lite all around. The drumming is amazing and I bet it’s L.O.U.D. live, and as these things settle into place up here in my brain, I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to see an influx of bands heavily influenced by Oneida, or if things will be a trickle with the parent band remaining just outside of their proper due. (http://www.cardboardrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Black Math
Phantom Power LP

Listening to Black Math makes me think how hard the recession has hit Chicago, and how the collective belt-tightening of the average American city, in response to being fucked over by the market, really put the screws to much of the creative energy a place like the Second City once possessed. Much like the law students of the past few years, who are allegedly condemned from working at any top-flight firms due to the readjustments made at the upper levels of management – adjustments that are said to squeeze new jobseekers out, as those who were not jettisoned were forced to take pay cuts or furloughs in order to keep the practice afloat – there is a certain blemish on the music of these years from many parts of the USA that really cannot be ignored. Black Math would probably love to be better than they can be, but the cards are stacked against them; despondent but directionless, their synth/guitar/cello lineup mopes and bops along to a drum machine, trying to conjure up a dark and sinister sound but missing almost entirely, some occasionally not-as-derivative rhythm programming notwithstanding. I listened to Phantom Power twice and felt nothing; the look, feel, and play of the record lends itself to a bankruptcy of new ideas and modes of play, like three people literally got together, said they sorta liked goth and darkwave, and had a few ill-advised goes at it all before deciding this was an agreeable way for them to pass the time until their respective employment agencies call. Some of their music leans towards pop, particularly an indie/twee sensibility, which is almost negated by the poor recording and mastering, as if a level of grime had artifacted its way into the master and the band just thought to leave it there for character. Other times they stumble upon the low effort of Kiwi mope, but without the good sense to brand it as such, it sounds like an accident against the more pronounced goth-style efforts. Rather than push on the sides of a genre to give it shape, Black Math huddles inward, careful not to even glance at the lines, never soaring up or out, just meandering inside – only the vocals and drum machine have any real definition as the guitar, cello and synth melt into one another, dirty tones with a finite range and listless composition. The competing Chicagoland goth-punk band Population has ideas in spades by comparison; even Daily Void has volume and aggression to let out. None of that exists here, and even on a song as jarring as French sleaze the Anals’ “Commando of Love,” covered here at the end of the record, the group’s lack of concrete affectations dampen the sick joy of the original track. Shocking in its inertia, Black Math might want to consider adding something, anything to its dynamic, because at this point the group is just about canceled out. 500 copies. (http://www.permanentrecordschicago.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Blank Realm
Deja What? LP
(Bedroom Suck)

These Australians made a bit of an impression with their first album, Heatless Ark, but that’s squandered here. Deja What? clearly demarcates the line between improvisation and simply making shit up, and any of the subtlety and drama built up on their past effort is severely diminished here – the surprises have been usurped by monotony, and it sounds as if they’re playing under fluorescent lights, making every bad idea glare and everyone’s skin look as gray and unappealing as this record sounds. I was a bit excited at first that Blank Realm decided to turn up a bit and get out of the murk, but far greater problems are afoot. (http://bedroomsuckrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

“Bright Idea” b/w “Cameo” 7”
(R.I.P. Society)

Catchy lil sunshine popster from down under, and a sign of stretching out for vocalist Brendan Suppression, here manning both sides on a brief respite from such a hard life fronting Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Of the two, I’m more taken by “Cameo,” an occasionally perfect little song that sounds like something which might have fallen out of the Verlaines or 3Ds songbook way back when, with a nice amount of space between notes on the scale in the bassline that tugs at the heart. It honestly took a couple of listens to get past Suppression’s braying vocal style, but I think “Cameo” was the one to help it happen, as he’s splitting the duties with a woman named Steph, whose dulcet tones provide the necessary juxtaposition to believe this as pop, to say the least the catchiest and most heart-tugging of the season. What a great song. A-side’s not too bad either. Another decent job from the R.I.P. Society bunch. (http://ripsociety.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Brainwashed Youth
The Trilogy 7” EP

Three dicks, out and proud, not touching each other, makes up the only trilogy I can discern from this latest cheese fart out of Cleveland. Buncha dudes from a buncha bands (Inmates, Cider, H-100s, etc) get real loose with the punk and UK snotlocker affectations and try to hooligan around, making fun of commitment, Jamaicans, the Police … you name it … actually, don’t. Dudes playing guitar and bass and drums with crayons used to draw the cover art for picks-n-stix. For those deep in the glue bag of the Homostupids, Wolfdowners, Darvocets, Sockeye, etc., your chariot awaits. (http://testostertunes.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Brown Angel
s/t LP

Seven horrifying eruptions of sexless, glacial metal punishment from Pittsburgh. Most of the older buildings in that city have a toilet in the basement – just a toilet, not a full bathroom – and the music of Brown Angel sounds as if it seeped out of one of those, coated the concrete floor in three feet of muck, ate your pet and climbed up your stairs; by the time you come home from work, your house is busting at the seams with living sewage, and everything you own is ruined. Slow and methodical, the music owes a great debt to groups like Godflesh, particularly in the drumming and songcraft – John Roman’s long, measured hi-hat hits count a deathmarch over hangnail riffage on tracks like “White Flight” and the torturous “Celibacy Pact.” Elsewhere, guitarist/vocalist (and sometimes-Dusted scribe) Adam MacGregor exercises his love of Indian culture through music, creating a somewhat Eastern take on metal chanting that resists the temptation of psychedelic flourish, looking instead towards the sort of desolation and destruction of monsoon season. Grey sleet, nuclear winter, debilitating bouts of depression … this one captures it all in metered, exacting strokes. Features members of Creation is Crucifixion, Pay Toilets and (((Microwaves))), and while we’re being honest, I released some previous recordings by people who were in this band, so if you can’t take my word for it, then fine. For what it’s worth, this album sat around unreleased for several years before the group decided to reconvene. They’re active once again and playing shows locally in support of this beast, limited to a scant 150 copies. Each comes in a silkscreened sleeve with an ingenious two-sided insert, printed on clear acetate, and mine also included a photo of a distraught mime sitting on a commode, in a town square somewhere in Europe. (http://www.myspace.com/br0wnangel)
(Doug Mosurock)

Circle Pit
Bruise Constellation LP

Two kids (and three others) from 7000 miles away try their hand at understanding American underground rock, of the sleaze/heroin/hard luck white blooze variety. Circle Pit had a decent single a year or two back, and for their first full-length, they build up an interesting, if wholly unoriginal repertoire of sounds, an Australian pop/alt influence clearly creeping in among the sleaze. Jack Mannix and Angela Bermuda are working the image pretty hard, so if you think of Jennifer and Neil, Exene and John, Toody and Fred, or other power couples of rock’s dangerous past (hell, even Kim and Thurston) while Bruise Constellation trudges along, you wouldn’t be to blame. However, if that’s the music you’re into, and you already have like 10-20 records like this one (and you probably do), nothing here is really going to turn you around. From the live setting I hear these youth can turn it out, but on record there is a certain exhausting flatness and a void of good ideas that haven’t already been done better. Only the closer “Beginning and the End,” with its slower pace and more deliberate guitar melody, carries this off to someplace a little better than the averages the group clings to. There’s nothing wrong with Circle Pit but there’s not much that’s all too righteous either. (http://www.siltbreeze.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Circuit Des Yeux
Ode to Fidelity 7” EP

The title here cuts both ways, and for the most part leaves the lilting confusion of Haley Fohr’s project behind – someone’s in love with being in love, or wants to rethink her stance on recording. Perhaps both: “Barrel Down” and “Self Satisfaction” play like CDY’s most straightforward efforts to date, the former a long, dirgelike march towards nowhere, dyed black with operatic vocals and oozing with larvae ichor, and the latter a song that could have appeared on the Cro Magnon single Ms. Fohr created (or for that matter one of the earlier Pink Reason singles). Closer “March with the Rich” brings back the electronics and the abstraction keens forward, but doesn’t hit the weirdo heights of the last CDY full-length Sirenum; really, nothing does. Still quite curious to see where this ride goes next, something that a lot of the Class of ’07-’08 can no longer engender. (http://destijlrecs.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Cola Freaks
Mig Mig Mig 7” EP
(Rob’s House)

YES! A much-needed visit from the quality fairy, as I wander aimlessly through a landscape of low expectations. Side-A track “Mig Mig Mig” is so much more than the Buzzcocks worship favored by those making a written assessment of the band. Down-stroked Rocket From the Crypt slashing and a vocal approach that does a major hat trick in leaping way over any style associated with garage-punk/rock, pop-punk, or post-punk than sounding uneasy, or even scared, but forceful and much darker than most Bloodstains filchers. Listeners will repeat this one five times before flipping the party over for two economy-size versions of the A-side’s brilliance. Rec’d hard! Black vinyl. Probably less than 500 pressed. (http://www.robshouserecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Withdrawn 7” EP
(Labor of Love/Side Two)

Another configuration of a Boston HC inner circle emerges, this one the most overtly political and direct of intent in some time. Everything about this package – the tragic, inhuman photos; the articulate personal essay; the six-panel poster which decries “THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE PERSONAL AND THE POLITICAL IS A LUXURY AFFORDED TO THE MOST WILLFULLY IGNORANT,” framing an image of a person doing a handstand with his head buried directly into the earth below – screams from an era that’s largely faded from our view. Said essay comments on this development, in how the power behind a political movement has fallen into a “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” polemic, augmented by Tea Party/neo-Libertarian outrage that directly feeds into the ruminant stomachs of corporate America, while punk/HC has succumbed to the sort of base, sexually degrading instincts it once put on notice as people scramble to find ways to become more popular and accepted, all ways in which apathy wins out and things get worse. It’s a fascinating read that will probably reach less people than it should, and it comes with four songs of expedient American hardcore, long on technique and chops, and delivered with a fury that is only slightly undercut by reason – not necessarily a bad thing, but if these guys exploded like they do/did in Failures or Cancer Kids, there might be a bit more people looking on. Still, a great record by a band that wants to turn things around. (http://laboroflove.tumblr.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Crazy Spirit
s/t 7” EP
(Toxic State)

This one is empirically the best single on top of the recent punk pile over here, and might win out the year. Young rawpunx from NYC trudge away across six songs of wild, septic HC and drawn-out underage boozehound stomp, with lyrical content leaning towards the gory, fleshy rot of death metal. Speeds up, slows down, but the fury never wavers. Some have argued that they are a hair’s breadth away from the loathsome shitpunk stinklines that emanate off of groups like Leftover Crack, and it’s entirely possible, maybe even certain, that the members of Crazy Spirit were caught lurking around the back of one of their shows not more than a few years ago. Still, there’s something really vital about the CS experience that’s hard to classify – I saw them in someone’s kitchen in Bushwick over the summer, and was impressed at how they balanced a chord-loaded complexity along with a wild screeching/hissing singer with at least the appearance of slingin’ slop, for a practiced, almost effortless intensity. A few days later I saw one of them (maybe the bass player) stumbling around Greenpoint with two 40s in hand. I applauded his restraint in choosing brew over Four Loko. And while I was initially pretty bummed about having to wait about a month and a half for the band to fulfill my order for this single, what arrived – a silkscreened envelope, with a hand-stamped single wrapped in an insert that was screened in two colors on both sides – justified the long wait. It’s better than just about any “Myspace crust” out there, and it’s not like you need to hang out near them or their fans to get the effect of this ripper. Now into its second pressing, which likely will not last. Piece of work right here. (http://toxicstate.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

“Swedish Child” b/w “Trial” 7”

Straight-up ambient of the OG Eno Airports/Films varietals, without percussion of any sort, and a minimal amount of layers working separately. Still, “Swedish Child” works in that cascading-into-sadness way that all successful ambient music works, and “Trial” fails in that rudderless way that all failed ambient fails. “Swedish Child” is good enough to warrant a listen to the full-length this 7” is probably designed to precede. Blurb sticker quotes an Aquarius capsule and claims that this is supposed to be on clear vinyl (in an ed. of 400) but this one’s root beer-colored (“black”). (http://www.flingcosound.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Crushed Butler
“It’s My Life” b/w “My Son’s Alive” 7”

This is more like it. Authorized cherry-picks of two excellent proto-metal stompers recorded in 1970. This is one of the few original hard-boogie bands touted as “proto-metal” or “heavy” who are really metallic and shockingly heavy for the time. The a-side plows along at such a velocity that it qualifies as proto-punk and erases every single minute the MC5 committed to record. Highly recommended, though both songs have been issued on a still-available LP. Limited to 600 copies on black vinyl. (http://windianrecords.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Daily Life
Necessary and Pathetic LP

Load’s entry into the synth/wave market, Daily Life, has all the trappings of your average Load artist; namely, some manner of extremity, either lyrical or musical, that pushes things beyond an acceptable social limit. Hell, even Astoveboat, with their comically large drum and shortwave radio, turned talk of whaling into some sort of man-to-man erotic art. Daily Life takes a more literal approach to the prurient side of synth and coldwave, sing-speaking of trysts in a dungeon, wholesale murder, nights of bondage and days of blackmail that might have fallen out of a Sodality record. However, this co-ed duo, wisely donning pseudonyms (“Clean Tom” and “Mirror Memori,” they say), frame their libertine actions against the Christian rigor of a New England upbringing, and make music that is lovely as it is chilling; a richly melodic waistcoat of sound carefully constructed from vintage equipment, form-fitting and sheer like riding pants customized with devices of pleasure, and come along with a twinge of guilt and self-awareness that the noiseniks usually decry. If you can deal with their wild imaginations, the music will more than suffice, providing the much-needed septic foil to a clean and buzzing companion such as Cold Cave. Grab the whip and do what’s been asked of you. (http://www.loadrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

AG Davis/Jamison Williams
“May 6. 1937” 7”
(Skrot Up)

These kids sent a nastygram to a colleague of mine the other day, and I’m eagerly awaiting my own after this one runs – though to be fair, like said colleague, I like this one too. Davis and Williams are from somewhere in Florida and abuse an alto sax, electronics and the human voice in avant-entertaining ways, either by simulating an alarm clock with reed skronk, or by yelling unintelligible epithets like Jaap Blonk burning like a monk in protest … with skronk. Apparently some musical training went into this effort, which I can believe, but the one part I can never accept is when people who make music like this (with the exception of Weasel Walter) get their hackles up when someone intimates that their work might have an alternate use as a rendition tool in breaking down suspected terrorists, or launched out of a sonic cannon to disperse rioters. For something so wild and not so serious sounding, there are all-too-serious ideas behind it, willing to disparage you to justify themselves. That’s jive. Boogie-woogie. And it doesn’t need to happen. 100 copies, for some reason I have two. (http://skrotup.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Dead Meat
s/t 7” EP

This will be a positive review, perhaps even one of the more positive reviews I’ve written this year. I wish each one of these songs was over 15 minutes long … I need this in full album form and not a damn thing has to change (except, you know…). Compatible with this concept is the weird fact that each track fades out at the end in an almost abrupt manner, exposing each as a longer concern but my fantasy was probably not the root cause. Both sides are 45 RPM, a wise choice, considering the music I have yet to give even a descriptive nibble. If you are older than 28, no, make that 30, you might remember the source material these dirtballs (I have no idea how these gentlemen lead their lives) are riding to unique places here and there. The side-long track (side A) is an updated Birthday Party via AmRep via a contemporary “feel” that has nothing to do with the ’90s. Cascading guitar … when was the last time you read that phrase? Three hours ago? Well, my application makes strong sense. Not unlike some of the harder Sonic Youth moments on Goo and Dirty. Vocals are modern Nick Cave-ish but that claim isn’t based on any personal knowledge of Grinderman, a self-professed band of MILF-hunters. I could name the current “noise-rock” bands that this beats the living piss out of, but why rattle a genre that I believe should actually exist? Black vinyl (store-bought copies come with a download featuring like seven or eight bonus tracks along with the three here). (http://www.flingcosound.com)
(Andrew Earles)

DC Snipers
s/t LP

I’ll be the first to admit that this review is late. You don’t need to remind me that this record came out a long time ago, and the band was long broken up even before that. But given all that time, isn’t the perspective worth the wait? Haven’t I said this before? Is anyone out there already doing heavy field-level analysis of the cultural products present in, like, 2008? Won’t it be super-depressing if (maybe even when) we find people starting to pick apart the advancements and regression in music between 2008 and 2009? Here’s hoping the Snipers can keep themselves out of that discussion, for there is a classic dilemma at play here: the difficult sophomore album; the desire to move on while still retaining that which made the band special in the first place. Near as I can tell, this one was recorded when these guys were just about ready to hang it up, and though the energy doesn’t flag, the direction splits between the original IQ 32 style garage punk they spat out in the first place, and a newer and more thought-out direction (see the Hives, maybe Eddy Current, and the bands that used garage as an excuse to make alt-rock for more ideas). Not surprisingly, both sides work, whether it be “I Drink Seawater” or “I Want Some Knives” – this was a capable band, and if they lost a little of their image on this one (their debut album was Fonzie-like in the best ways possible, and that’s no diss – that band at the time of Missile Sunset could hit the jukebox and make it play every time) the foolhardiness and willingness to destruct were welcome qualities, well-played by this too-short-lived outfit. If you can still find this one around, give it a shot. 400 copies, hand-stamped sleeves. (http://www.daggermanrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

En La Oscuridad LP
(Todo Destruido/Trabuc)

Spanish-language punk/goth downers from Austin, TX, rockin’ in fine cause with grit, fury and determination. En La Oscuridad has the screamin’ vocals you’d expect from the punk/HC community they inhabit, but also plenty of flange pedal and ominous chord phrasing, running for the mid-tempo brooding of barely-hidden Bob Smith fandom employed by stressed out, desperate-sounding bands in a lineage that includes Honor Role, the underrated Crime Desire, hell even the Pack and UK Decay. There’s always room for more bummers when they are captured with this much passion and nasty noise, and that they don’t trade off one for the other makes me personally happy to endorse Deskonocidos – they’re not HC kids who decided to turn dark, and they’re not trying to be the next Interpol, but rather mixing two traditional sounds on the surface and letting their inner turmoil and proven punk songwriting mechanics take it the rest of the way. Really good record, definitely packing it in the crate for goth night. First hundred or so on “putty” marbled vinyl, 500 pressed, nearly gone so hurry up. (http://www.nodo50.org/trabucrecords) (http://www.myspace.com/tododestruido)
(Doug Mosurock)

Technology and Truth LP
(Skrot Up)

Miss Kevyn Greene of Austin, TX is said to have made this music under a desk in her room, and the synth-cabaret of Technology and Truth, her first full-length following a tape or two, speaks to such claustrophobic climes. The dark content and compromised fidelity of these eight songs speak of a controlling personality and a science obsessive working within the limits of cheap recording and commercially available gear (no laptops here, I’d guess, more like a couple of synths, a drum machine, the mic on a MicroKorg and a sequencer) – perhaps a UT grad student getting her frustrations out on her gear, like some sort of half-lucid, biomechanical, dementedly melodic mash note to Sleep Chamber. There’s even a song called “Dark Magicks” that seems to address pleas of concern to the character of Willow from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Where has this been all my life? 350 copies. (http://skrotup.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Dikes of Holland
s/t LP

“Keep Austin Weird,” huh? Dikes of Holland might be doing exactly that, on a debut album that cuts a left-field party/garage rock influence across a number of possible outcomes, all of which are interesting and relevant to a time-machine-centric approach wherein we roll back the calendar to the mid-’80s and start over. For the most part this is a pretty loud rocker from start to finish, full of big hooks and bashing rhythms, ranging from a front porch holler that would suit the Volcano Suns or maybe Dumptruck to some serious aggression on “Anymore” that, without the keyboard or quieter moments, bears resemblance to the Cherubs. There’s as much jangle to their sound as there is gut punch, and it seems clear from this set that the band doesn’t want to differentiate between the two. That’s one of the main reasons why it all works, too, these Dikes taking the left turns necessary to differentiate themselves and eventually stand out. Sounds like it’d be a trip live, and in January some Americans are going to get to find out for themselves. Good times, though I wish the excellent photograph on the inner sleeve would have replaced the odd painting on the front cover. 500 copies, includes a download code. (http://www.sundaerecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

“Heaven Blotted Regions” b/w “I Can Feel You Out There” 7”
(Mexican Summer)

Earlier this year I received a package that contained Dimples’ debut LP, Council Bluffs, along with the Silkworm-ish soul-tug Devices + Emblems LP by the fantastic Tre Orsi. The latter knocked me sideways for weeks, thus overshadowing Council Bluffs, a record that has been awarded exactly two full listens. There’s no denying I was hearing something of possible interest, but that didn’t keep it from falling through the cracks. This 7” will. The closing statement on Dimples’ Mexican Summer page is “Two goddamned great songs” and I am concurring as hard as I possibly can. I am also digging out Council Bluffs immediately after I figure out how to articulate this record’s impact on my ears. The two tracks couldn’t be more different on paper or via the basic approach to writing, but both hemorrhage personality and stick-to-the-rest-of-my-days infectiousness. Permanently fastened to my noggin is Side A’s frantically-fucked ballad, perhaps a nod to the accidental greatness of the best outsider, private-press, post-punk urban psychedelic lounge-rock littering the second half of the ’70s. That song’s a lifer. Side B rides on a real metal riff and equally authentic hook, proving these smiling freaks to be capable of, and driven to, make high-quality rock. I’m elated at the existence of this band. 500 hand-numbered copies. (http://www.mexicansummer.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Drink to Victory
Health 7” EP

Denton, TX lugnuts munch their way through five greasy cuts of Amrep style noise rock with bellowed, belching vocals. Intriguing package here (black, foil-printed envelope with Bible-style vellum lyric sheet) but they might as well have left a bird shit inside this thing, which woulda been third-stringin’ in 1989, and now just sounds a bit inexcusable. There’s some exceptionally gross lyrics on their track “Stop,” too, the sound of angry guys who don’t understand or particularly like women all that much, and it makes Health that much more of a chore to get through. (http://www.paperstain.org)
(Doug Mosurock)

Drum Kit
“Dead Vibrations” b/w “I Got a Knife” 7”
(Executive Bird)

Maybe this is a one-man band, and maybe he got sick of people asking “what’s your band’s name?” It came to a head one day, when he grabbed two handfuls of his own hair, screamed a curse-laden rant about how people won’t leave him alone about naming his recording project, then finally threw a glance around the room, landed on an Alesis SR-18 then looked at the hastily-thrown-together kit in the corner, finally screaming “Drum Kit!!! The stupid name is Drum Kit!!!” Sadly, no one should have a stroke over this mildly-catchy salute to what the Lost Sounds were doing when no one was paying attention. But this is less keyboard-centric and more pop-punk informed, a difference that messes up the usually clutter-free trip from the Screamers to contemporary “darkwave,” and it should be noted that there’s absolutely no hint of some idiot’s idea of what constitutes “minimal synth” … thank god. Hey, this isn’t so bad after all. (http://www.executivebird.com)
(Andrew Earles)

The Eat
“Communist Radio” b/w “Catholic Love” 7”
(Last Laugh)

I suppose after all this time, some people really do need a review of this one, a legend in the punk canon, the kind of record that makes the palms of men grow damp with fervor. It’s also part of Last Laugh’s exact reissue series, one of the nicest discoveries of vinyl present – pitch-perfect reproductions of records you might have to take out a second mortgage to own an original of, if you even got that lucky. The Eat’s “Communist Radio” single surfaced in Miami in 1980, one of the first – if not the first – punk single from that community, and definitely one of the best. The years saw its miniscule pressing vanish, and most people never heard it until its appearance on Killed By Death #2. Both sides are rippers for real, more supercharged rock than punk, but with the attitude and sarcasm to pass, and surpass, most records of its local lineage. Recorded live for extra shit sound, the Eat would surface a few more times, live and on record, culminating in a double-discography a year or two back on Alternative Tentacles. If you’re just looking to get your feet wet, though, this repress will get you awfully damp, really fast. (http://www.lastlaughrecords.us)
(Doug Mosurock)

Sam Egan
“Good Album Cover? More Like BAD Album Cover!!!” LP

Certainly this is the most passive-aggressive presentation delivered to me since the Them, Themselves or They single. Check out what Sam Egan wrote on the back cover!

Okayyyyy … Anyway, Egan is from NY state somewhere (seems suburban), and despite his lack of social grace, he’s managed to string together an eclectic work here, using a wide variety of instruments, technology and treatments to portray an avant-savant weirdness that might indicate he’s better at music than talking about it. The artist vacillates between earnest neo-folk chills and a parody of such (the songs are all untitled, but the next to last one derides the music biz in the late ’90s), from jazzy meanderings to long-mulled-over constructions of laptop noise and fragile playing. It’s a weird one for sure, and there’s not very many good ways to approach it other than to play it through a few times and see how it suits you. As the picture above indicates, the record can be yours for $3, meaning that it’s essentially free, minus shipping, to the first 280 Americans who write to Egan at the address below. Right now I don’t know whether to celebrate this, or be worried that ol’ Sam here is gonna follow me home one of these nights with an ice pick. I can’t help but call this out for what it is though: an interesting, albeit fragmented piece of work that will appeal to a few of you out there. (email to rebeccasachshatesme@yahoo.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Family Trees
Dream Talkin 7” EP

So another three or four friends get together, reach rudimentary competence on their respective instruments, and learn how to string a few melodies together that sound like doo-wop or late ’60s non-orchestrated lounge-pop. Congratulations, you are now an official member of the Sad-Is-Bad movement. This EP has a track titled “Baby Come Back”; it’s a totally different (and less memorable) endeavor than the Player or Equals songs of the same name, so don’t be fooled into thinking someone in the Family Trees camp actually recognizes a hook. Once again, a short quiz: What does a made-up tune hummed by a four-year-old have in common with the jingle heard on a commercial for orthopedic shoes? Both are MELODIES, and neither are HOOKS. Yes, I am shitting on your good time, now please break up or return with something I can remember five seconds after I wrote this. Clear vinyl. (http://www.fatherdaughterrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Far Out Fangtooth
“Pathways” b/w “Why Don’t You Say” 7”

Heavy Cheater Slicks-ish garage-pop that also jammed a “what if” scenario into my head, specifically, if Girls (as in the San Francisco band, not the category of humans) started really getting into Flipper. These dudes rock that dirtbag-dandy look (floppy leather hats, button-up vests), and while I can’t dance with that shit, they also just plain rock in a nicely sludgy manner that might give away a love for Ty Segall’s Melted (yes, I love that record). And who missed the band meeting held for the purpose of naming the outfit? Hopefully one day, “we used to be called Far Out Fangtooth” will be coming out of these guys’ mouths. Black vinyl. (http://ianrecords.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

The Flips
s/t 7” EP

The cover features the disembodied heads of all six band members, every one of which is a woman who is either classically or sublimely easy on the peepers. Rumor has it that Paul from M.O.T.O. took one glance at this cover and it caused some full-on “Scanners” action right there in the record store. Historically, all-female bands that were also all-beautiful have sometimes been counted on for something other than their music to get them by, which always struck me as an easy problem to avoid. Well, The Flips avoid it. In no way does this band suck. This is reminiscent of the Crabs or some other band that was not as good as the Softies or Tiger Trap, but without the ’90s-style hooks. That’s right, more of that weird ’50s pre-rock melody with ’60s girl-group leanings. Unbelievably, they pull off a hook on side-A (“I Just Don’t Know Where I Stand”) AND the closing track on side-B (“Sooner Than Later”), putting this closer to Vivian Girls territory (hey, that first LP has more hooks Singles Going Steady … check for yourself) than shit like Super Wild Horses. (http://hozacrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

For Ex-Lovers Only
Coffin 7” EP
(Magic Marker)

I really want to like No Age more than I do, but it’s their fault for following “Teen Creeps” with what appears to be a terminal water-tread a few quality-notches below that watershed moment. For Ex-Lovers Only isn’t going to fix my money woes, buy me a 1996 Toyota 4-Runner with low miles, or write me a can’t-lose book proposal, but they are going to fill that space in between “Teen Creeps” and every other No Age song. That’s a compliment. “Coffin” is all of side A and it’s got that intangible, melancholic hook that you’ve heard before (or maybe you haven’t … try to find and absorb something by the ’90s band, Further), but that never gets old. Side two is split between two little gems that show some spark of inspiration, though they can’t quite reach the prize. The No Age comparison shouldn’t be understated; automatically ranking For Ex-Lovers Only as one of those bands that “appropriates” liberally from the decade that grandfathered their chosen sound. Let’s hope they give credit where credit is due. (http://www.magicmarkerrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

“The Plains” b/w “Radiomine” 7”
(No Sleep)

Take out the weighty U2 influence, and this could have been recorded at any juncture since 1993 or 1994, and clearly comes from minds that both grew through and contributed to the catchier, non-dumbass camps within the Revelation and Jade Tree camps. And the players (members of Elliott, Falling Forward, Mouthpiece and Stay Gold) have been around for a lifetime of emo, screamo, and sXe development and disintegration. Side A is the clear winner, with the clean vocals veering into a genuine scream for the climax (three quarters of the way in) and the guitars doing the big and loud thing better than other contemporary examples of this stuff that’s crossed my desk since 2005. I like that the main guy (Chris Higdon of Elliott) still has the drive to make music; that he still has the need, but that says more about me than it does anyone else. Probably out of print due to built-in fan base. Sealed up in shrink and presented in a nice screened cover that opens as a tri-fold with a nice little pouch for the record. Download card falls out into lap, so naked listeners with smooth skin need to be warned of possible paper cuts. (http://www.nosleeprecs.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Giant Princess
Zip Zop Wow LP

I think we can all agree that bands with outsized hearts/lungs/senses of drama, like Modest Mouse and the Paper Chase and the Walkmen, all actually exist, no? And that each band has grown from one point to where they are now, right? Other than having fun with that sorta sloppy, drunken, agonizingly emotional/cathartic rock sound (and might I add, not dressed as well, or nearly as smart or funny as the Walkmen, either), what purpose does it serve to recreate these bands from where they began in the current day and age? Don’t ask Giant Princess, because this Houston band went ahead and did it – and decided to show you exactly what they sound like on the cover. No more appropriate, this dork, face contorted into some sort of lungbusting scream, yelling about nothing that matters. No more needs to be said about this shitty, historically irrelevant souvenir. (http://www.giantprincess.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Tally 7” EP
(Magic Marker)

Once again, the universe intervenes and halts my possible removal from this mortal coil via my own hand. Why would I do this? Well, one reason would be a succession of 7”s that sucks away my faith in the current state of whatever it is I do this for in the first place. Remove the animal reference from this band’s name, and this EP would be flawless, relative to what it is trying to accomplish. It’s right there in the one-sheet (hey, they’re written to be read, right?): The Mountain Goats, the Wedding Present, early My Bloody Valentine, and Boyracer can all be clearly heard in these three songs; each sandwiching a perfectly-workable (and real) hook in some teeth for a change. If you went apeshit for this kind of thing in 1991, 1997, 2002, 2007, or yesterday, go find this EP, go see this band, write an e-mail and encourage them to record a full-length. Put out their full-length. Offset the shit-saturation one band at a time, and then the Culture Wars of 2013 will be just that much shorter (and less bloody). On white vinyl. (http://www.magicmarkerrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Hank IV

Things to like right away about the new Hank IV album: it’s not got the ugliest looking sleeve of the decade (last one might have beat out Sweet Sixteen by Royal Trux), and it doesn’t say “HIV” on the cover. Open it up, slap it on, and another thing happens – you start to hear this band of 40-something punk/DIY vets (Icky Boyfriends, etc.) hitting their stride, getting meaner and stronger, more determined as the years roll on. It’s also their shortest and best-produced effort to date, so the effort to include naught but their best (like opener “Garbage Star” and a cover of Stereolab’s “The Noise of Carpet,” tastefully reupholstered in human skin) further strengthens the case for the special ways in which they swing the sledge. For those who get it, this is like the moment when the Volcano Suns ended and Kustomized began, and if you get that, you get it in general. (http://www.siltbreeze.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Best Bless 12” EP/7”
(The Social Registry)

The hardasses among you – those who would rather I only review noise cassettes packaged inside sandpaper – are likely to balk at any column inches spent towards praising an ethnically Caucasian man appropriating the guitar music of West Africa. Even those of you who have multiple volumes of the fantastic Ethiopiques collections in your racks or hard drives might find reason to bristle at such a development. But Sleepy Doug Shaw is no hack, no charlatan; he’s a consummate musician, skilled beyond reason on the guitar, and his love of this music sent him to Trinidad to get into position and hone this latest project. Highlife is the result, a gorgeous EP that plays just like it’s named, various Kenyan and Tuareg guitar styles performed immaculately by Shaw and guests (Mira Billotte, his bandmate in White Magic for a time, Tim Koh from Ariel Pink’s band, Jesse Lee of Gang Gang Dance), a sparkling effort filled with love and respect. Shaw credits where due, pointing towards the sources he borrowed from, and in the three main songs on the EP, he transports the listener to someplace warm and free, without conflict, the sound of human joy played on acoustic guitar with just the right amount of percussion. He’s got a very good voice as well, which pushes these songs even closer to a domestic ideal of pop (Tim Booth of the band James is as close and honest a comparison I can levy, one which I hope Doug wouldn’t take issue with). The single that accompanies the record sounds almost wistful by comparison, solo near-dirge efforts when held up to the bulk of the release, giving the sense that he’s had to leave and wishes to return on “Wet Palm Trees” (the car alarm going off in the background cannily represents the distance traveled). Perfect for Sunday afternoons or any time you might want to take your mind off of life. (http://www.thesocialregistry.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Kitchen’s Floor
Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress LP
(R.I.P Society/Bedroom Suck)
Too Dead to Notice CS
(Negative Guestlist)

Here’s a good pair from Brisbane, part of what seems to be a nonstop supply of quality music from Australia as of late (the LP came in a package with several other releases, the tape shortly thereafter). Kitchen’s Floor is a duo of guitarist Matt Kennedy and drummer Julia Morris, augmented by various others – there’s a bass player on Loneliness, which dates back to 2009, and an organ player on Too Dead to Notice – but with a time-tested sound all on their own, raw pop and bludgeoning rock in the template of many great New Zealand outfits of the early ’80s. When they want to get into Gordons-style sledgehammer mode, as on “Twenty-Two,” they conduct themselves with the requisite rage and brick wall-dissolving stare necessary to complete the transaction (Morris has a piece of metal in her kit that punctuates the din at just the right moments), but the group handles itself just as well, if not better, amidst the grind of the more contemplative gears in their tractor. “Lander,” available on both releases, truly shines on the cassette, some of the burrs of unfinished production present on the album filed down in a hissy murk that allows this pop song to shine in tribute to the Terminals, and the percolating rhythm of “Graves,” from the same live session, shows a band that’s quickly developing into a rival to American pop-noise counterparts like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit. The chunnel from Ohio to Down Under may have to wait, but here’s the music that prefaces such hard work. (http://bedroomsuckrecords.com) (http://ripsociety.blogspot.com) (http://www.myspace.com/brisbanefanzine)
(Doug Mosurock)

Shane Lobotomy
“I Can’t Help Myself” b/w “The Way Things Go” 7”
(Fatal Seizures)

This is kind of similar to when a guy wears flip-flops outside of the house. I just want to run up and whisper “Others can see you” much in the same way I want to scream “Others can hear you!” at this guy, whose stupid performing moniker I refuse to acknowledge. Or how about: “You know people have heard Jay Reatard’s music before, right?” Tribute is one thing; plagiarism is another, and absolutely no personal touch has been added to make this anything more than a blatant rip of any and all of Blood Visions. A dumber aesthetic (photos of dude bleeding from the mouth) is not an addition. Mr. Lobotomy even rips the songwriting style, creating two songs that are by default slightly catchy. The parent source was of a certain quality, and the trickledown is audible. Too bad everything else is, too. And visible. Lastly, there’s a chance this guy claims to have never heard Blood Visions (the type of arrogance seen more and more these days), we will then have a fine example of unintentional comedy. White vinyl, numbered edition of 300. (http://www.myspace.com/shanelobotomy)
(Andrew Earles)

The Love Triangle
Splendid Living 7” EP

Five years into covering most of the records that get sent in over here (and acknowledging those that are given to my contributors), a garage/punk/spazz single such as this would have to be pretty exceptional to win me over. But the Love Triangle showed up when making this record, cranking three songs out in under five minutes that sound as if they were playing inside a burning building. Take away the Elvis/’billy side of this music, the slavish Ramones worship, and the too-earnest power popsters, and you usually aren’t left with much, but here, plan D is in effect: wiry, nervous, jacked-up speed freakers racing each other to the end of the songs with panicked expressions and howling determination. Every song is filled to the brim energy, the hiccupping, Brit-snot vocals barking out words of action and the band slamming it down in a way rarely heard since Teengenerate (or the Feelers) (or Halo of Flies) wrapped it up. Heavy on the attitude, light on substance, but goddamn if this one doesn’t get you movin’. Side project of UK punkers The Shitty Limits, but this is much better. (http://www.direrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Maus Haus
“Winter” b/w “Zig Zag” 7”

Is this why Pram, Piano Magic, Broadcast and Stereolab records are still gathering coin? “Winter” is a male-sung amalgam of all four of those bands, and a good one at that. Wait for the powerful hook at the end and you’ll be awarded accordingly. “Zig Zag” is problematic. The indie-prog of such overbearing quirk-enthusiasts like Man Man and Islands is added to the dialed-down mix previously-mentioned, but the irk-factor lies in the one-sheet’s claim that the track is “sonically referencing Bollywood, Cambodian Rocks! compilations, and old spy films.” Oh wow, so one person is into The High Llamas, and another is into O.M.D., and another one is into a band or two named at the beginning of this review, and maybe there’s some New Order thrown in. Pre-1980 this isn’t in the least, nor does it necessarily think outside of the box. My cat thinks outside of the box more often than these jokers do. Literally. Where can I get my hands on the program that writes these one-sheets? I want the one that doesn’t list “push tracks” from a digital EP I’m not going to listen to. Stupid me, when I’ve been hired pen these things, I used my brain and ears. Seriously, throw me a bone. White vinyl. Includes a digital EP with these tracks plus three more. This review will do nothing to stop Maus Haus’s world domination. You watch. (http://www.rocinanterecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

“Never Too Late To Learn” b/w “Brainscanning” 7”
(Sweet Rot)

The universe seems to know when I’ve heard enough shitty 7”s. The universe can sense when I’m reaching for a vial of cyanide or about to drive to Home Depot for some garden hose and duct tape. So it secretly rearranges the stack of records so that a record like this is next in queue. This falls into the ruined genre of today’s garage-rock, but feels like (this fact alone should garner mention … that it feels like something) what Ty Segall is doing: Taking shit to the next level, where only a special and tiny few will reside. And like Segall, these guys know a little something about volume and how to properly hit heaviness within the constraints of the style at hand. Unlike the great S.F. hope, though, this is stuck in retro-mode, though understand that it’s not retro-robot mode. If I’m processing the lyrics correctly, “Brainscanning” questions the scene’s lemmings-to-the-water/moths-to-the-porch-light idiocy. That would be almost too-perfect, so I’m amenable to personal error on the assumption. Black vinyl. (http://www.myspace.com/sweetrotrecords)
(Andrew Earles)

“Highway Bound” b/w “Wild Kind” 7”
(Florida’s Dying)

A lot of people can deal with this sort of thing. An equal if not greater number of people are really into this sort of thing. Glam has been a pet interest of the D.I.Y.B.D.T.F.Y. (“Do-It-Yourself-But-Don’t-Think-For-Yourself”) movement for a couple of years now, but Mickey really leaves no guesswork as to what’s going on here. Think (but not too hard) The Sweet being blatantly ripped-off by some dudes that were in plural noun bands within the past five years. So yeah, garage-y glam with period-appropriate (or period inappropriate, it is 2011 after all) lyrics so dumb they make Best Coast’s read like William Gaddis. “There’s a show this Friday afternoon, you know what to dooooo” (get it? Skip school!) or “We’re coming to town, we’re coming for you” or something very close to that. Yes, I realize rock is supposed be dumb, but that doesn’t mean it HAS TO BE dumb. That’s the other problem … this rocks about as hard as an over-the-denim tugjob. It’s so calculated and paint-by-numbers that there’s no window for reckless abandon, and the band does not deviate from the structural template, one that has been in place for almost 30 years. They have a full-length out, too, but thanks to this highly-effective warning flag; I wouldn’t listen to it with my arch nemesis’s ears. (http://www.floridasdying.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Milk Music
Beyond Living 12” EP

I have to be honest with you: the records you send in don’t get reviewed in the order in which they are received. That shit would be crazy at this point. I was stuck in Chicago for the better part of the past two weeks, as Christmas with some real good people turned into a snow-covered delay. Had that not happened, I probably would have blown through the entire review box by now. It’s pretty big. And today, I went to my PO box for the first time in two weeks, and was greeted with five slips, which translated into a veritable mountain of vinyl, CDs, DVDs, books, magazines, even a cassette. Milk Music’s 12” was part of that pile, and you’re hearing about it the day I got it, in front of records by bands that waited patiently for the proverbial kiss-or-diss response from these quarters. Some of those records might be as good as Milk Music’s, too, but tonight I’m in no mood to find out. My real hope is that a young kid in some backwater listens to this record, then is inspired to burn some symbolic shit down, steal a car, split town, and live off the land for the rest of his or her days, free to do whatever the fuck they feel like. It’s like that kid Colton-Harris Moore, “the Barefoot Bandit,” who was busted in Jamaica for stealing a plane, had never got caught. This would be his soundtrack.

Fresh out of Olympia, WA, these guys sent in a tape a while back, which got passed on to our on-again/off-again tape guy Ryan. He slammed it. I don’t know why; if it was anything like this EP, I’d have stolen a police horse, strapped this record to its bare ass, and slapped them flanks for a full Lady Godiva run across Manhattan. First listen displays a young band anchored into the soil with roots of GRUNGE. The immense, pillowy tone of the guitar and bass (credited to “N/A”) and highly-attenuated tone of both recalls a wonderful mix of Karp, J Mascis and Thin Lizzy/NWOBHM dynamics, oozing charisma and busting through walls of shitstorm melodic rock ’n’ roll, Kool-Aid Man style. They have the woods sound, the flannel feel, and the singer hollers over top, barely in control, kinda like Lou Barlow on the first Dinosaur record, or Greg Sage on Over the Edge. Combined with some solid, Murph-style drumming, this is a very simple but infinitely fulfilling exercise in riff worship and less-is-more songwriting that improves with each spin it’s gotten over here tonight. The title track, in particular, features a triumphant and telling moment; when vocalist Alex Coxen blows out his voice yelling “I went down! To! My! Room!,” about eight years of tormented adolescence comes rushing back, the compacted experience of middle school, high school and freshman year of college conspiring to throw a big fuckin’ ceramic middle finger through a giant plate glass window in defiance of all that was taught to me. I’m also feelin’ the “Flame On” riff lifted in “Out of My World,” and the way that the acid/harmonic melody creeps out of opener “Fertile Ground” a good 45 seconds to a minute into that jam, that precise moment when this record made a spark in my head which signified that these guys were out to write leads instead of just hurling chords around in petulant teen drug post-acid comedown style. Big as gods, every song on here is a legit anthem, and a rager. You probably have records like this, but you haven’t heard one for a while, and certainly not this good. Yet another Capt. Trips Ballsington recording perfectly nails the vibe of the proceedings. Self-released, so it’s extra hard to find as well. Get on the case, team. P.S.: Bonus points added for someone allegedly from Milk Music leaving this comment on a Vice post about that shitty Woven Bones band: “Im in MILK MUSIC and we didnt play with that band in olympia because they sound like boring garage bullshit. In fact I threw that dumb singer asshole across the venue floor and told him he couldnt stay at our house. total tool.” I like these guys even more now, whether that statement’s true or otherwise. (contact milk_music@hotmail.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Mrs. Magician
“There Is No God” b/w “I’m Gonna Hang Out With the Lesbians Next Door and Drop Acid” 7”
(Thrill Me!)

Haven’t gotten in anything this shitty in a while. Really lazy, reverb-afflicted pop from people who have likely seen records and bands before and decided to make their own. Simple, 5th grade rhyming structures (line up “die” with “cry” one more time, see what happens), sloppy musicianship, poor mixing (drums too far in the back) … they even fell for that whole punch-out 45 hole that United is offering. What a bunch of saps, and what’s worse is that they yanked their logo of handsome actor Tom Atkins and their label name from the movie “Night of the Creeps,” which deserves a better band associated with it than these turkeys. (http://www.myspace.com/thrillmerecords)
(Doug Mosurock)

Natural Law
Slump 7” EP
(Katorga Works)

Young guy hardcore in a stencil/pamphlet/socio-politically wise formation, with four rippers and one circle pit number to close off this short but fulfilling EP. Chord progressions aren’t super complicated, but are driving and vertiginous when they need to be, and the vocalist (whose name is either Rob, Colman, Jay, or Rob) has a nice, pissed-off snarl reminiscent of Faith-era Alec MacKaye, with lyrics that are a bit abstract but never obtuse, coming off as smart and with more than one reading to be taken from them. “Slump” is the best song here; after a spoken intro, it’s certainly one of the fastest, as well as the best example of how higher-register riffs come together to increase the song’s internal tension. The lyrics to this one are not the band’s own, but credited to a Jerry Cohen. A quick Web search for that writer and the term “slump” led me to some randos pontificating about the suicide of actor Nick Adams in the late ’60s. I’m almost certain that is not what the song is about, but it brought an interesting and somewhat campy turn to this first evening of 2011. (http://katorgaworks.bigcartel.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Other People’s Memories LP
(Lo-Bit Landscapes)

Outta nowhere statement-pop/synth/darkness from a mystery NYC project. Nihiti crosses up electronic and acoustic instrumentation to offer up a somewhat cold but altogether intriguing mix of songs and sentiment, ranging from rigid electro/ball bearing sleet nightmares to piano-driven stress-pop to ruminations on melody. Many of the tracks run together, and on the first side, it gives the proceedings a feeling of togetherness that is rare these days – the tracks are beatmatched and fold into one another like a suite, a daunting development for a musical act no one knows, that also can’t seem to sit still, yet the group manages to pull it all together. Everything sounds like Nihiti, who write their story as they’re performing it, which is very exciting. The whole work sounds very deliberate and professional in an era where Scotch taped-production values reign, and there’s not a lot on Other People’s Memories that sounds much like anything else currently happening, unless there’s some cadre of well-presented electroacoustic savants out there churning out music of this gloss and caliber. My only complaint is that things start to get a little diffuse on side two, to the point where it can be difficult to find an entry point into the material, even with repeated spins. However, that is often when I decide that I need to try harder, and in the case of this album it seems well worth the effort. (http://www.nihiti.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

s/t 7” EP

Off! is Keith Morris’ new band. Or rather, it’s a super-group with Keith Morris in the vocalist slot. Drummer Mario Rubalcaba is late of Hot Snakes (and currently plays in Earthless), bassist Steven McDonald is the Steven McDonald of Red Kross fame, and Dimitri Coats, he of The Burning Brides and perpetual behind-the-scenes hustling about. This 7” is one of four that make up an entire album, on Vice no less, who had probably hoped or contracted for a Circle Jerks record, though what they got might be better than that. How they got it is quite bizarre. Not as bizarre as that genuinely insane blip in the mid ’90s in which Debbie Gibson joined Morris for a duet of The Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You” on the band’s sole major label effort in 1995. Of course, that record (the last proper Circle Jerks studio album) appeared on Mercury, the major whose navigation of the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy was almost as entertaining to watch as Chrysalis Records support inaugural crap-shoot Butt Trumpet during the same period.

Nor is this record, or the genesis of it, as bizarre as Keith Morris working as an A&R rep for V2 (work’s work, dawg) until said (major) label shut down about six years before the entire industry shit its trousers. Tons of money in A&R rep work these days. That was a joke. What’s no joke is that the rest of the Circle Jerks walked out on Morris, or vice versa (doesn’t really matter), when album producer Coats started rejecting CJ content. But Morris went in Coats’ corner, they wrote a song a day until they had this record, and the damned thing isn’t half bad. That’s coming from someone who’s heard a fourth of it, so throw that in the equation, too. It does not sound like Burning Brides fronted by Morris, nor does it sound like Hot Snakes fronted by Morris. The former might be a possibility, the latter would not, as only rare instances have surfaced in which a drummer has trademarked a band’s entire sound (Turing Machine, Don Cab/The Speaking Canaries). Redd Kross? You have one guess. But the Circle Jerks? Does this sound like the Circle Jerks? Well, it doesn’t resemble what most thinkers would assume a Circle Jerks record would sound like in 2010, which likely hovers between “hot garbage” and “surgically base”… no, this is better than all that. That said, it’s not great or especially good, yet it is passable and perhaps superior to the bulk of the Fat Wreckords roster. This assertion is not saying much due to the lack of much to say re: these four songs. Uptempo but not blurring. Melodic but not catchy. And lyrically? I regret to pass along that what I can make out on “Black Thoughts”, “Darkness”, “I Don’t Belong”, and “Upside Down” hardly ventures much further than what those titles would imply.

Even from day one, the Circle Jerks were a crystal ball showing how pedestrian hardcore would go bad four or five years down the road. They were also that half of the genre I like to call “afterthought hardcore” … nonsense (potty humor, socio-politico-light musings, violence, fuck-up behavior) overshadowed the music because the music was easy to overshadow. Morris didn’t cut it in Black Flag because of the practice mentality, it has been reported, but Ginn and co. were upper-echelon thinkers posing as everymen, and Morris has always been an everyman posing as a teenager. That’s not the slight that it might appear to be; Morris is likeable, and that means something. It also means something that he’s pushing 60 and can pull off this performance, especially with adult-onset diabetes lurking in his system. His voice is in perfect form here, and so are his dreadlocks, it must be stated. Jesus, that shit is off the chain; he could be hiding the cure for diabetes in those things, or the Shroud of Turin. Or both. David Allan Coe, move over. As for this 7”? A whelming curio? That’s it. (http://www.viceland.com/vicerecords)
(Andrew Earles)

Outer Minds
Bloodshot Eyes 7” EP

Outer Minds belies even such an unsubtle band name by following the ’60s Nuggets-bagger rules to a fault, predictably going for the “psycho” or “unhinged” right hand path but resembling some rightfully-forgotten ninth-tier Estrus band. This is how I imagine something very, very early in the Hozac catalogue to sound, long before they Sam’s Club’d some reverb units and cut the ankle bracelets off every garage-goth sociopath in Canada. Can you go the rest of your life without hearing another band play connect-the-dots with the simple building blocks that make up the ? and the Mysterians equation? Yes, you can. That was a trick question. There was great music made after 1990, and it didn’t look to a time before 1978 for inspiration. If that fact is troubling to you, get help. (http://hozacrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Passe Montagne
Oh My Satan LP
(Sick Room)

There’s this other side of mathrockin’ that I could never really appreciate – the tuneless, attention-starved/deficit-having approach of a two guitar, no bass instrumental trio, needlessly tangling themselves up in the mirror. Oxes was the pratfalling impetus of this sort of nonsense and it’s troubling to see a band like the French/Italian project Passe Montagne carrying the unstable, poorly constructed torch for such unnecessary practice jamming. The concept of bending Eddie Van Halen riffs into painful, sharp angles is not enough to support this brand of wordless, sassy mush. Can’t abide. (http://www.sickroomrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Peaking Lights
Space Primitive one-sided 12” EP

Their Imaginary Falcons was a slow burner but proved to be one of my favorite records of 2009, a Jeep-sized chunk of blond hash dislodged from the ear of a deity. Space Primitive follows such grand assumptions to a trance-a-delic time/matter void, where we are all inverse colors and every breathing moment is vibrational cell ecstasy. Still can’t get enough of what’s going on in the Peaking Lights duo, an elliptical-mechanical tuneful drone thrum of mind Farfisa and thick plastic shields, a score to a life-sized game-dream of Moon Patrol where you’re jumping over people you went to high school with, and the sky is pitch-black with the occasional falafel streaking by for extra points. Indra Dunis’ voice cuts through this in a way not fully realized since Fuzzhead’s massive LSD album of the early ’90s. Three important songs, rescued from a Fuck It Tape, pressed to clear silkscreened vinyl. Legalize it, they’ll advertise it. (http://www.raccoo-oo-oon.org/np)
(Doug Mosurock)

Visions of the Valley 7”
(Soft Abuse)

Would the ability to write golden pop hooks elevate one from the dangerous, suicidal clutches of living with “But I Love You Like a Brother!” syndrome (the less common Older Ponytailed Dude strain)? When I hear records like this one, I wonder if that madman in Best Coast (Bobb with two B’s) had a casting couch for the role of front-woman, and this gal didn’t make the cut because no one has pipes like Bethany Cosentino. This is exactly what Best Coast would sound like if the Asian dude was standing over in the dark corner of the stage, pulling all of the necessary strings. As it stands, this single is about as sexy as a Grotus record, about as fun as a ring of shingles around the abdomen, and about as memorable as an over-talkative ex. I’m the judge; as the mallet comes down it is with great authority that I issue the following verdict: a “Show back up in six months and make sure you have an impresario!” Cease and desist order is pending…too many in print even if it’s out of print. (http://www.softabuse.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Pissed Jeans
Your Life is Worth Pissed Jeans 7”
(Sub Pop)

Two new ones from the most divisive band on Sub Pop next to CocoRosie, or maybe that new signing with that dicknozzle from Man Man. There are people out there who just wanna pick poor Pissed Jeans apart – people who don’t know or care about anything but their own immediate gratification. Does watching a shirtless man writhing around against a mic stand like a stripper on a pole really upset that many people? How is that not gratifying? Did they not think about what might happen when they went to a show and saw that a band called Pissed Jeans was playing? What purpose, for that matter, would it serve to be jealous of this band for their modest successes? They have a better idea of what to do than most bands in their position, and furthermore, everyone complaining is never going to get to taste the wine of their meager rewards anyway. If anything, the band has the freedom to do what it wants, when and how it wants, but so does any musician without a label. Pissed Jeans has little to worry about, though, as the smarter homo sapiens among us, the cultured few, know what is afoot: a man expressing himself with contortion and force. There are two new songs here. “Sam Kinison Woman” might be their most normal one to date, at least musically, and one of the few Jeans songs that actively addresses someone, who I’m sure plays into Matt Korvette’s life somehow – “I wouldn’t tell her to knock it off/If she plays with what’s left of my hair,” he bellows over what sounds like their approximation of “Anarchy in the UK.” I’m moe into the B-side, “L Word,” a slow, agonizing grind about things that are fine to love (a piece of pie, the Philadelphia Flyers, a good surprise). Brendan Suppression shows up for the second time this month to do one verse of backing vocals. (http://www.subpop.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Radar Eyes
“Shakes” b/w “Not You Again” 7”

There are two distinct things going on here. Instrumentally, in service of “Not You Again,” I can see how this band might be appealing to folks who have never heard Naked Raygun or Pegboy. The vocal-style and lyrics utilized for “Shakes”, however, are both so stunningly awful that they steal a great amount of charm from what the band does with its eight hands. I have no problem with The Ramones as an influence, but perfect karaoke “wa-oh’s” should be a base goal for any vocalist at this stage in the game. You have a voice; use it … like you did on the B-side. Yes, you should listen to this record backwards.

“Not You Again” illustrates a fundamental issue with the garage-punk corner of our topical D.I.Y.B.D.T.F.Y. (“Do-It-Yourself-But-Don’t-Think-For-Yourself”) movement. Yep, that’s a mouthful, and it’s meant to be. Let’s stop being so half-ass about everything, shall we? Back to the hilarious situation posed by this song: Every once in a while, a band borne squarely of this demographic will write music that sounds exactly like Interpol or the Ponys doing what they do best, and by that, I mean doing the Church, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Chameleons, or other proto-indie-rock outfits with dual guitars on their minds, but an allergy to noise and major dynamics. It’s a well-written song and one that I’ve wanted to hear again when I’m doing something else, like the dishes or cleaning out the cat litter. The conundrum for other people, though, arises when certain message-board knuckle-draggers are taken to task. See, when the word “Hozac” appears on a record, it gets an automatic pass from people who would never be caught dead listening to a C86 band, much less Interpol. It’s as if part of the brain turns off. This is not the fault of the label, of course, and I’d go so far as to say an element of adventurism as well as eclecticism exists amongst the small handful of minds that make that logo show up on records. If every Hozac release was lined up from #1 to the most recent title, it would be a schizophrenic snapshot, with the only somewhat unifying factor being a frequent affinity for abusing reverb units. This ranks as one of the more interesting singles on the label, despite what will predictably be seen as a negative review. I’m downplaying how well the guitar is utilized on both tracks, and the recording quality isn’t overdone, nor is it poorly-executed. The vocals on side B and a perceived reaction to side A are two things that I could have glossed over on the journey to a positive review, but that’s where thinking too much will get you. Hookup Klub edition of 500. (http://hozacrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Ranil’s Jungle Party LP
(Mass Tropicas)

First release from a new American label dedicated to unearthing the legacy of Peruvian music, here showcasing the self-produced and altogether DIY sounds of guitarist Ranil. Light on the vocals and heavy on the electric twang, Ranil rips through a clean, sunny, well-mannered tone that balances somewhere in between surf guitar, African highlife and salsa (the rhythms, singing and lyrics put these tracks firmly in the Latin camp), making for an interesting juxtaposition as he defines his own take on traditional cumbia. Recorded in the ’70s, these songs reflect the transformative nature of Ranil’s homeland, an Amazonian jungle sanctuary that floods for most of the year, creating the need for gondolas and water transport, a la Venice – in those same ways, he floods outside influence into centuries-old musical traditions, and the music adapts successfully in kind. Really beautiful, expressive playing that doesn’t go over the top. This actually came to me through punk channels, as the label guy’s brother played in some Western Mass bands covered here (Mudlark, Guilt Lust), and found us through those reviews. Really nice stuff, 1000 copies, one-time pressing. (http://masstropicas.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Red Mass
Jesus 12” EP
(Florida’s Dying)

More all-over-the-map confusion from the man known as Choyce. Earlier efforts were very much in the garage/weird punk vein, but this new self-titled effort throws in balladry and greasy teener crooning that crawl into my personal intolerance zone – sorry, but adding a little white noise blast here and there doesn’t turn this doowop bullshit into something more, and reminds me of why I can’t stand any of that King Khan/BBQ shit either. It’s like Fonzie is coming to pin you down in the back seat of a Studebaker which he jimmied open by hitting the door. There is one good jam on here called “Blackeye” that marches along with one-chord in its tiny robot brain, and keeps going to the point where some sort of qualification for a higher thought/purpose could be extracted from the whole thing, but overall this record is a thin, bleak, first-thought mess, unfocused and ridiculous in the wrong ways. (http://www.floridasdying.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Pacific Drift 7” EP
(Not Not Fun)

Did I just listen to the beginning of a song for three, maybe four, minutes, only to have it “end” with my needle lifting? Yes, and it’s also known as the title track. Side B has two disparate chunks of reverb & wah-pedal & pounded quasi-jazz-cave drums appreciation sessions, both surgically removed from that jam….wait….what night was that? Oh yeah, Zach hung the upside-down cross on the wall and the two other dudes felt the evil vibes. Then they got online and made fun of that guy in Morbid Angel that’s into all the positive-power new-age gobbledygook, then they listened to some stuff on the Century Media and Relapse sites that had funny names, universally declaring all of it “a lot of hilarious bullshit” before setting the mics, choosing some axes, and impersonating an imaginary “welcome back” Comets on Fire gig that took place immediately after each member suffered from a near-fatal bout of spinal meningitis. This is on Not Not Fun, where Robedoor’s otherwise blasé attitude towards tightness and focus on the jam fits right in, but also where the volume of this record, while not notable in the grand scheme of things, does place it with the noisier half of that label’s roster. The three gentlemen in the band are pictured on the back cover, where they deftly demonstrate how to combine the style seen in Tad’s “Wood Goblin” video with one represented ten years later at a Locust show … while staring at different points on the floor. Caution! Blown Minds Ahead! (http://www.notnotfun.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Two Birds 7” EP
(Gold Robot/Martyrs of Pop Records/Royal Rhino Flying)

One man, in this case Mr. Adrian Todd Webb, played everything the listener hears on all five tracks of this EP. Therefore, he had five chances to win the hook sweepstakes, and he does on the third track, but then the remaining two songs end up with the first two, with an effortless toss into that place where one would get hit by a car if we were talking reality rather than the popular idea of underground music … the middle of the road. “Bearsuit” is Mr. Webb (or Todd-Webb if the JC Penney exchange-counter demographic was responsible) elevated atop his one divorce from the type of man-wafer fare that echoed through dorm rooms as the Irrelevant 6 posse came grinding to a halt over ten years ago. If the great tastemaker phantom of all-powerful blog and Facebook-Favorites-List manipulation takes a liking to Mr. Webb, the unfortunate end could be mass panty-dampening amongst those under the age of 22 who wear panties, and amongst the ones who wear flip-flops on first dates and know no limits when it comes to verbal volume of bad humor? Well, they will display an equally as widespread trend of purchasing brand new acoustic guitars with the names Taylor and Martin adorning the headstocks. And more little ghost labels will pop up with names like It Is What It Is, or Stop Shitting On Our Good Times! Records. No longer will the lemmings have to hear about the days of troublesome culture-clutter like passion, danger, uncertainty, making a record with your last $600 because you are in love with its contents (be it yours or someone else’s), buying music you are totally unfamiliar with but the cover looks promising, not giving a shit because you genuinely give a shit where it counts, understanding that great bands can be both brutally abrasive and beautifully poignant within the same album, individuality … making room for everyone that’s awesome and rad. And the world will keep sucking. (http://gold-robot.com) (http://royalflyingrhino.wordpress.com) (http://www.martyrsofpop.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Secret Message Machine
Orphanville LP

Singer-songwriter Michael Barrett has made a record here that deserves a far wider audience than it’ll likely receive. He writes in a contemplative, poppy style that somewhat recalls Robyn Hitchcock and Robert Pollard in leveled-off spoonfuls. Orphanville is his third album, and while it’s far from a perfect record, it is balanced like you’d hope it might be, with the best songs (also some of the most quiet, like the title track, which expertly recalls the pre-dawn drift of the Chills) silencing everything in the room, and spread evenly around the record amidst some merely good songs and some OK ones. That there are even songs worth talking about here should have most of you on the horn; the Secret Message Machine project seems to play up its homemade/multi-instrumentalist qualities from a technological standpoint – proud GarageBand user, it seems – but, again, that belies the quality of the production at hand; certainly not Bob Rock levels of gloss, but certainly full, and a far cry from the lower depths of fidelity. You can listen to and probably download the entire album for free, but the artist has pressed 100 copies to vinyl in a limited edition with silkscreened sleeves. It looks nice and the physical copies out there will likely outlast the collapse of our civilization (http://secretmessagemachine.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Dry Heat/Valley Low LP
(The Riley Bushman Recordings & Archives)

Well, I have to give credit where due: the folks at The Riley Bushman label held back from using the word “psychedelic” to describe the music of Shahs in their press materials. (They use the term “hauntologic” though, which is just sad.) As Shahs, Tom Helgerson could easily get that misnomer slapped on its ass and sent out into the zones, but there’s more of a method going on here, a method somewhat realized and rarefied among a select few, particularly given its station of life in Missoula, MT. Helgerson bathes in the same bongwater as Blues Control and Peaking Lights, and probably four-track ballad Ween as well, due to his R&B-meets-Pere Ubu-divided-by-Steve-Winwood singing and harmonizing along to organ, percussion loops, and electronic/synth treatments, all of which collude to some bizarre dream of a YouTube remix of Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” skits. He’s makin’ music with his mouth and all, and it’s cool and groovin’ with a cause, but falls into a gray zone between people who like Arthur Russell for his music and people who want to dance to it; it’s kind of difficult to take your shirt off to this and bust a move due to the AM radio recording quality, but it’s too infectious too leave cooped up alone in your home. Either way, it leads to the promise of more, and is one of the rare surprises that comes along in the work done here at Still Single in the subset survey of one-person bands. 500 copies, clear vinyl, silkscreened sleeve. (http://www.rileybushman.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Sharp Ends
s/t LP
(Kill Shaman)

From past experience, which is all I have to go from, I can tell you that Sharp Ends are from Calgary, play in a decidedly punk/post-punk/British inflection, and have released a couple of singles that have varied in sonic template from Fugazi to Mission of Burma to (maybe) the Chameleons UK, because I feel generous. I don’t know why, because on their first album, Sharp Ends want to tell us nothing more than the names of their songs along with some monochromatic artwork and blocky lo-res typeface, which is something that’s been around for so long that it has earned a distinction between computer-illiterate and a valid stylistic choice. Why you’d want to parade around representing yourself with a 72dpi JPG is another story, which unfortunately leads me to the other thing I can tell you about Sharp Ends: that they don’t really care about much. That these songs even bear titles is something of wonder; they are noisy and abrupt, jagged in construction and obscured by digital-to-analog crud in their capture and playback. The only thing that I could remember after it was over was the last song on side A, “Senseless Feeling,” because it was the last thing I heard on the side. At 45rpm, these songs sprint past, with the same treatments, and with little to no distinction between one another. The band is certainly playing different songs at each point of separation, to be certain, but you won’t outlast the fatigue that their midrange-saturated attack brings upon itself. Look, I can understand having no money, no label interest, no way to get out. But if that’s the case, why not make something to be proud of anyway? I am very sure that a better rendition of this material could save it, that we may be looking at a great live band, despite the wearing down of a post-punk aesthetic from the faceless many, the guy who works in advertising who is rockin’ out in a salmon-colored Izod polo with his Anchor Steam in hand at a Radio 4 show years ago. I’m so sure that I can give this one half a pass, but come on – you’re a punk band, you provide no lyrics for your songs, no identifiers as to who you are or why you exist on YOUR FIRST FUCKING ALBUM which sounds like dogshit … why should I care, other than because there are some other good bands from where you live? (http://www.killshaman.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Sky Needle
Time Hammer 7” EP

Aussie weirdos haunted by Silver Apples, Shadow Ring, Sun City Girls and human flatulence, the inappropriately-named Sky Needle is not heavy at all. Probably done with indigenous or homemade instruments, Time Hammer is three tracks that loosely share the glue of ramshackle rhythm. The song titles were cut out and glued to the generic white labels, but the cover appears to be a notably expensive gatefold done up by the dubious-sounding “Independent Press” (Hey! Don’t rip off my countrymen!). Not for everyone, and that means you. Pressed in an edition of 200, hand-numbered copies (numbered on the white sleeve) on black vinyl. There’s no label, but a photo of the very normal-looking home-brew brahs adorns the inside front cover. 200 copies. (http://iebrisbane.wordpress.com/artists/sky-needle)
(Andrew Earles)

The Soft Moon
“Breathe the Fire” b/w “Phantoms” 7”
(Captured Tracks)

You know that current trend of reverby vocals over a vaguely 80’s claptrap that has been all over the place lately because the world is a mean and horrible place? The Soft Moon isn’t like that, on the A side, instead of singing over the clanging repetitious drone, whoever vocalizes for Soft Moon whispers. If American can invade Vietnam based on pretending we had a torpedo shot at a boat, I shudder to think what this A-side can provoke. The flip is an inconsequential instrumental, inconsequential even by the standards of instrumental B-sides, that takes what seems like a hefty thirty years to get going, and you can almost hear the slide whistle go off. Joke’s on the listener. Apparently they have an LP out. but I [REDACTED] until you’ll need at least three or four steam cleanings to get it all. (http://www.capturedtracks.com)
(Bob Claymore)

The Soft Moon
s/t LP
(Captured Tracks)

Our own Bob Claymore recently proffered an unreasonable level of disgust over one of the Soft Moon’s singles because the artist chose to whisper his lyrics. Was it that much of an issue? I decided to find out myself. The handiwork of one Luis Vasquez, a desert dweller with an alleged punk background and a serious case of bedroom gothitis, I’ve come to the conclusion that, yes, when appropriate, whispering can work. Maybe I was hasty in assigning such a subtle, nuanced release to our staff Vietnam vet, because I love this album as much as he holds a grudge against Jane Fonda. A retro-minded but forward thinking foray into digital reverb, pulse-pounding rhythms, and cold, windy ambiance, The Soft Moon’s music, while very dark, keeps up a sense of forlorn and dread at all times, plenty of distorted choruses and fearful, fitful bursts of obscured vocals over a coolly menacing soundfeel, especially on the second side – all while maintaining a fairly pure, austere sound design and presentation. I don’t know if Sniper has a line out to the And Also the Trees fan club, but he might do well to push over on that side of the Internet, because I’d hate it if all the real Goths out there missed out on something as exquisite as this. Limited edition on red vinyl with silkscreened sleeve is numbered and most likely gone, but the regular pressing is very much available. End of the year fave right here. Get dark. (http://capturedtracks.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Super Wild Horses
“Enigma (You Say Go)” b/w “World’s Gone Bad” 7”

I am not hearing this. Is there an impresario in the house? Seriously, can I get a svengali over here, stat?! One seemingly inherent and terminal flaw with the topical infestation of history-allergic bands/artists like this one is the affinity for subtraction rather than addition. Yet with this ill-advised venture, it seems so much reduction took place that this 7” is but a handful of dinners away from a recording of pure silence. Started out with three chords … took away two and made sure the remaining downward-slash chord carried nothing of substance at all. It’s a chord that the shittiest of No Wave bands (first wave or revival or revival-revival) would reject, and it just stabs away for the entirety of the a-side. The vocals are shouted/barked, which fits with the failed minimalism or calculated ineptitude on display elsewhere. B-side is the same as the A-side, and despite omnipresent promo-fluff written by the latest herd of 21-year-old positive-power pea-brains, this resembles nothing contemporary, and is only historically significant in that it’s a brand new low. 500 copies are out there somewhere. (http://hozacrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Sword & Sandals
Good & Plenty LP
(Empty Cellar)

Reeds and percussion going in a somewhat circular, improvised direction, courtesy of John Dwyer and some punk/jazz mainstays from the Bay Area, namely Randy Lee Sutherland and Shaun O’Dell. Fans of Dwyer’s drivel in Thee Oh Sees will gladly steer clear of such artistic relevance, as Sutherland provides both a respectable voice and a grounding presence to these seven untitled sax wailers. Subtlety isn’t the group’s strong suit throughout the set, and the snare-heavy fireworks drumming that begins side two threatens to derail the whole enterprise. When Sutherland regains control, as on tracks three and six, there is constancy and beauty in the work, at points recalling the spirit, if not the character, of Ayler’s early ’60s explorations. Overall, a pretty good work that adds some dimension and thought to the sometimes difficult intersection of two musical mindsets. (http://www.endlessnest.com/empty_cellar)
(Doug Mosurock)

Sword Heaven
Gone LP

Go rampaging through other peoples’ Flickr accounts, or people you barely know on a social networking platform, and take a look at their New Year’s Eve photos. There will be many, and you will see a lot of people who look like they are straight up DEAD. Bloodless lips, vacant stares, a life that’s not yours, that you can’t possibly know, rendered flat and starving for air and anima that these images – and quite possibly the people in them – will never find. They will start to turn up in your everyday life, in cars, waiting in lines, walking without purpose, weighted down with sundries, impervious to stimuli. You’re going to be seeing this more and more, so the best thing to do is to prepare yourself, and that’s where this Sword Heaven record comes in. These Ohio quarter-pounders have been banging away at huge drums and tweaked electronics for some time, but according to legend, Gone is their first studio recording (or first in a while … who cares really). So all that undertone you might have heard on their previous releases is separated here with pro gear and baffles and whatnot, and it is a stunner, the industrial slog dreadnaught you’ve been waiting for all decade. “Dead End” starts the record with a frenzied blast of slo-mo OSU drumline poisoning, as unintelligible voices bark evil suggestions and a sax flails in the background, all while the cab from an 18-wheeler idles into a contact mic. It’d be intense even for an outfit like Wolf Eyes but here it’s purely terrifying in a way that numbs rather than nags. “Driving Through Old Town” builds off the same preface, but strips out much of the traffic, leaving a percussion plod and some time-marking electronic squiggles to remind you of the dead in your view, drowning in vice, pupils dilated. Death is “the winning team,” after all, and in the sidelong funeral march of “So What,” agonized screams and an eventual shift into the rhythms of the new tribe that awaits you upon your demise take over. Happy? How could you be? Happy fucking New Year, viscera pouches. (http://www.loadrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Two Sides of Death 7”

Couple of live tracks from 1978 by Sonny Vincent and his crew of fuck-ups, who, at this juncture could be seen as an American answer to The Only Ones … sort of. The recordings here are so poor that the point comes into question…the lack of fidelity not only removes any dynamics whatsoever, it makes it nearly impossible to tell what the hell is happening. Both songs are good if not great post-punk pub-rock/street-rock, with the previously unreleased “Drac” taking the traditional ballad position. “It’s Only Death” is noted as being a version exclusive to this release, which is true, but only in the sense that each shitty live recording of a song is “exclusive” to that time it was played. Maybe no poorer version of “It’s Only Death” exists. I can’t even tell which screeching noise is the guitar. Ltd to 1000 copies on black vinyl. (http://windianrecords.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Three Second Kiss
Long Distance LP
(Sick Room)

This Italian band has been at it for a while, swinging at low-strung postpunk of the Midwestern US and central Europe, its sound borrowing liberally from Slint, Bastro, US Maple, and Storm & Stress but fine-tuned to resemble a Faberge cinderblock. On Long Distance they take part in a conversation mostly abandoned by the domestic forefathers – compared to the instrumental intricacy and enmeshing of abstract ideas into a coherent and engaging whole that’s displayed here, maybe home taping is killing music, or at least the ambitions to stretch out beyond the most basic and opaque of emotional thrusts one can achieve through songwriting. You’ll likely never hum one of TSK’s songs, nor will you run to them for meaningful lyrics or an impassioned delivery of same, but once each of these nine songs gets going, you will find a surprising amount of depth and significance within, a progressive rock trio working in balance with itself, tying its fingers into sailor’s knots with a dizzying array of confuse-chord guitar runs and a significant heft in the rhythm section. There’s not much of an industry for bands such as this anymore, outside of Europe, where they have thrived for decades in the wake of package Amrep and Touch & Go touring throughout the mainland. When done correctly, when not played for cheap thrills or maudlin gimmickry, the math of a band like Three Second Kiss still packs a good bit of the wrath. (http://www.sickroomrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Tooth Ache
“Skin” b/w “Lazarus” 7”

So this just so happened to be the next 7” spinning after Super Wild Horsemen of the Culturapocalypse had me planning to climb the nearest water tower with a high-powered rifle. Tooth Ache (a/k/a Alexandria Hall) is the rare instance when the gears turn in the increasingly populist underground and out spits a modern day rarity. Hall plays sea-sick keyboards and sings like a tiny whale, two things which would have me cold walking away mid-sentence from someone trying to explain the merits in conversation, but this is special in the way that Piano Magic and Pram are no longer special. I sometimes lack the ear needed to officially differentiate between a laptop and analogue equipment, but those nit-picky worries are erased by the mood this girl nails without effort. Not for everyone, but then again, what worthy piece of expression is? 400 copies. (http://fatherdaughterrecords.bigcartel.com)
(Andrew Earles)

The Union Electric
“Thylacine” b/w “Bugs” 7”
(Poetry Scores)

When alt-country was popping off fifteen years ago, this is what I wished, and have always wished, it sounded like. Instead, it sounded like what it was: First wave indie-rockers getting old too quick and providing the ’90s version of bland college rock in the form of blatant slumming. The crap seems to be making a tepid comeback in the form of 20-member tedium-fests disguised as review-style bands. The next time I hear a mandolin or a ukulele, I might just grab the fucking thing and break it over the offending musician’s back. Play a real instrument, you goddamned show-off. What’s for breakfast, asshole? Lentil soup in a rusty hubcap? Vegan burrito party on the out on the porch! Don’t let the screen-door hit you in the ass on the way to whatever constitutes the dollar-bin these days. Turds, all of you!

But back in the day, some bands that were not alt-country at all, made fucked-up pop songs that were folk/country-tinged, and that’s closer to what we have here. These songs are dark, moody, and missing that ham-fisted instrumentation that doesn’t belong in underground rock that’s worth its salt. “Thylacine” has a catchy groove, get noisy when the time is right, and the vocals don’t set off my slummer alarm, which is always set on high-sensitivity when a place like Memphis hometown. The Union Electric comes from St. Louis, a city that has exported a tiny amount of notable music given its size. As to whether this contains former members of Bunnygrunt, I highly doubt it. What I’m positive of is that both these songs have that intangible, ineffable, and oh-so-welcome ’IT’ that is rare for a reason. In closing, I thought I’d never want to hear a trumpet in a rock song again, but these magicians pull it off. On yellow vinyl. (http://www.myspace.com/theunionelectric)
(Andrew Earles)

Whatever Brains
Rapper’s Delight II 7” EP
(Sorry State/Funny Not Funny)

Third single from these Carolina caterwaulers, largely dialing back the panoramic ambitions of the last few records (and a CD-R, Trim Jeans, which really should have netted these kids some sort of deal or recognition) in favor of a jagged and dissonant approach with close roots to ’90s sheet metal cutters like Trumans Water or Slug. “What Makes a Man Make What Makes a Man Start Fires” might rankle some with the cleverer-than-most title, but the gem-cutting sharpness of their sound, the vocal cord-shredding ambition, and the general pride in such an oblique tangle of guitar-led shred puts Whatever Brains far, far ahead of the game for whoever might sneak up with, like, a laptop and some Native American headband and try to put that art school education to use. This band is so good that I hope they are secretly introducing their contemporaries to risky lifestyles in order to increase its own chances. What is it gonna take to get them noticed? (http://www.sorrystaterecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

O 7” EP

The world would be a shittier place had XBXRX never booked that first tour in 1999, leaving Mobile, Alabama in someone’s mom’s van and blowing minds through the backs of heads all over the country. I was lucky enough to see one of the first shows on said tour, my town of Memphis resting one long state’s length from their home. I was joined by what couldn’t have been more than five other standing patrons plus a table full of Fat Wreck Chords/Warped Tour water-heads. This band turned into a figure-eight bowtie wind of noise and bodies, very much in the neighborhood of a (much) more playful Flying Luttenbachers (high-pitched or screamed vocals have always been a constant … think Load Records-meets-Trumans Water) but unlike any noise band I could, or still can, reference from live memories. And they were YOUNG. Not even out of high school at the time of this inaugural tour, XBXRX had the drive, passion, balls, irreverence, and charm of an entire scene (they probably WERE Mobile’s entire scene). When it was clear the $5 Bottled Water fans were “not getting it” (only a matter of time…I believe I remember a wager based around how long these dipshits would be sticking around), the herd shuffled towards the door and received a tongue-lashing for the ages from the six tiny kids in weird matching faux-hazmat suits. “Seriously, nice shorts, No Use for a Name … what, ya keep all your musical ideas in those giant pockets?”

If someone had whispered “In ten years, XBXRX will be around, respected amongst the noise-nik cognoscenti, and on a rather professional label for most of their full-length discography” into my ear that night, my reaction would have been a fist into the air rather than one of disbelief. And here they are, not ten, but eleven years into the future with a 10-song 7” titled O and released by Polyvinyl. Like previous titles recorded at home or in a studio, this one barely begins to achieve the planet-aligning shit-storm that is this band live. All ten tracks are structured skronk with a heavy reliance on static-y noise. You know this band? You know what you’re in for. Probably prefacing a full-length soon, which of course, will serve as a souvenir from the live experience. Black vinyl. (http://www.polyvinylrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

The Zebrassieres
Gooey Zoo one-sided 12” EP
(Going Gaga)

Cutesy waste of time here from some zany Canadians who probably would like to smoke some of Mark Hudson’s Technicolor facial hair. The Zebrassieres play vaguely wavo punk in a sub-Dickies template, running a synth all over some beach-inspired nonsense, not good enough to warrant notice of anything they do to add to this tired mode of expression. This is the line that musicians must face: whether they are good enough to warrant making it public, instead of just keeping their wholly unique and special charms to themselves. Competence is the Zebrassieres’ only selling point, and competence is boring. No way are any of you really gonna enjoy this, unless you’re friends of theirs or have not bothered to listen to anything remotely punk- or new wave-influenced before. (http://www.goinggagarecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

s/t LP
(R.I.P. Society)

Debut album by a Melbourne outfit set to pave the Earth. Heavy, heavy shoegaze that reaches into black metal but thankfully does not cross that line. Rhythm section is big, guitars are beast. Vocals are reduced to a moan or a treatment here or there, as the focus in Zond is on the big, spreading mass of hot asphalt sound that spills out of its container and smothers every surface nearby. I’ve heard a few complaints so far that this band favors its sound over actual songs, and with that in mind past a couple of spins, the argument did present itself – with a curtain of noise this thick, moving around takes some effort, like trying to walk through three feet of snow. Where a group like Lightning Bolt can run in any direction at top speed and volume, there’s only two people in that band, and a very defined sound; Zond does not choose to follow that path, getting by on racks of effects, synth treatments, and fairly basic melodies and song structures. Adding these elements, either before or after a song is written, can weight them down. Still, I feel that Zond has a good bit to offer within, a formidable, suffocating album of monstrously doomy manners, coming across like an eight-by-eight grid of stereos playing 64 copies of Bailter Space’s Robot World slightly out of sync with one another. Your average noise junkie or Hydra Head completist looking for the next cheap thrill will no doubt find satisfaction here, and others will revel in trying to pull apart the sounds presented within. I think it’s a really strong effort from a band that can only improve its position (they’re up to a five-piece membership now) in a world saturated with plenty done wrong, and few up to the challenge of bettering an established form. Also I’d like to see them live in a crumbling building, and play coke dares with myself about when would be the best time to escape. (http://ripsociety.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Various Artists
The New Hope 2xLP
(Smog Veil)

Alongside They Pelted Us with Rocks and Garbage and Cleveland Confidential, this is THE comp to have from Cleveland. Unlike those other two, The New Hope was 100% hardcore, and remains one of the kings of regional first/second wave HC documents. Scrappy and memorable, the eleven bands here play off slight variations on one another, but every last one of them is tough and intense, from Outerwear’s inept, slow grind to the fast, intense rippers like the Guns and Zero Defex (whose “Drop the A-Bomb On Me” is a classic), to Brit-sounding thugs like the Offbeats, from whom you can draw a line to more modern Clevo attack squads like the Inmates and Cider. Smog Veil is a label known to dig up the past in a somewhat embarrassing fashion – hey man, do you like shitty Photoshop and green goblin UFOs with your Rocket from the Tombs reissue? COMIN’ RIGHT UP! – but here the environmentally-respectful imprint keeps it in their pants, design-wise, only adding an outsized logo where Tom Dark’s Hit & Run imprint once resided. Better still, they tacked on a whole extra LP of tracks that were submitted but didn’t make it onto the initial 1983 release, and the MP3 download that comes with the record contains even more. This bonus material was initially omitted for space and timing concerns, because no one in their right mind would leave off such ragers like the Dark’s “Put Your Hand Through the Plastic” or the Guns’ “Preps Suck” – it’s no “Your Mistake,” but what is? Some of these offerings are even better than what turned up on the album, showing a little more diversity, the bands trying to push at the edges of hardcore without losing the speed or the aggression. Original copies of this one have always escaped me, so I am glad this one turned up. Essential, primal expression from the dejected youth of a decaying metropolis, who did it for themselves and few others – the sound of a bunch of young lives going straight down the shitter, brought to you by those who survived it. PPG’s insert copy says it best: “Thanks to: helpers. Fuck you to: hinderers.” 500 copies on brownish-purple marbled vinyl, worth every cent. (http://www.smogveil.com)
(Doug Mosurock)


Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. We 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.

ANY genre of music is accepted for review. Do not be afraid.

Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.

Submissions can be sent to:

Doug Mosurock
PO Box 3087
New York, NY 10185-3087

Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise.

Keep sending in submissions, please!

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