Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Teen Suicide-I Will Be My Own Hell... LP (2012)

The sentence-long title and appropriately washed out Polaroid cover art are a dead give away that Teen Suicide is moving past the ramalama Ramonesisms of the Goblin Problem EP on their first full length.

Sho' 'nuff, the ten songs run the gamut between ambient noodlings ("Anne") and contorted stabs at post-rock ("Dead Bird Skeleton"). Even the songs that most clearly hearken back to "Teen Goblin" ("Dan Collins vs....", "Dead Bird Skeleton") slow the pace down and grind on a mid-tempo beat.

"Cop Graveyard" oes in for an infectious synth-and-kick drum minimalism, paired with whispered vocals, that makes it the best track here. One could easily pass out in a pool of one's own vomit while playing it as a night capper. "Swallow," the closer, echoes "I wanna be a witch," from the Goblin Problems EP: tender acoustic guitar and mumble-mouthed vocals make it the sort of thing all you young'uns could put on a mixtape for yr favorite girl/boy/whatever before asking 'em out.

To conclude, the LP finds Teen Suicide branching out, with mixed results. I could do without some of the emoisms ("Give me back to the sky" in particular is awkward), and most of the synthesizer-based tracks feel like rough sketches, not fully-developed songs. In general, it feels like a collection of songs more than a unitary album. Nevertheless, "I Will Be..." shows Teen Suicide's ambition, and I'm curious to hear what they dish out next.

Listen to, download, and buy the LP here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nite Fields-Vacation 7" (2012)

I've never been to Brisbane, Australia, but the welter of hot new bands from there makes me wanna start selling coke so I could afford a trip: Kitchen's Floor, Meat Thump, Cured Pink, and, in a different register, Nite Fields.

Whereas most Brisbane bands I've heard lately specialize in charmingly ramshackle "Downer Pop" (Matt Kennedy's words), Nite Fields is another trip altogether. Following on their split with Happy New Year,  this two-song EP finds Nite Fields refining and deepening the atmospheric glum rock found therein.

"Vacations" opens with a snare lick that tips its hat to the opening of "Decades," before laying down an insistent guitar note that slowly builds into a swirling, hypnotic post-punk revel. The synth and drums layer each other to create dense cloud of gloom, with the singer maintaining the one-foot-in-the-grave monotone on "Come Down." This would be a great opener or closer to a darkwave night at yr local bar.

"Hell/Happy" is more downed out and somber. Ethereal might be the right adjective here: synth and cymbals swirl in and out of focus while the guitar and bass pluck away in an inobtrusive way. The whole thing makes you feel like you just ate a few Xanax and wandered into a fogbank.

I'll add Nite Fields to my list of reasons why the Brisbane/Melbourne/Sydney arc is where it's at these days, musically. Listen to the EP here. If you're Down Under, catch 'em at the Lost Race festival November 17; you can get tickets from the Lost Race site.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Marked Men/Birthday Suits-Seven Inches for your Ex split EP (2009)

Denton, Texass' The Marked Men are one of the best garage punk bands of the last ten years. If you haven't heard them yet (what's wrong with ya? Seriously.), this is as good an introduction as any.

"Lost it All" opens with a sick, chugging guitar riff to introduce a tale of, well, losing it all, apparently in a fight. The bouncy rhythm will keep you either dancing or shuffling in place, depending on your hangover level this fine Saturday morning. Marked Men have been playing together for years, and it's amazing how focused the instruments are: no excess notes, no errant snares, nothin' but trebly, nervous hooks. "Oh My Pretty Face" slows it down a bit; it almost sounds like a pisstake on a Buzzcocks song.

Minneapolis' Birthday Suits contribute two songs to their side, "Jarrasha Be" and "It's About Time." "Jarrasha Be" could be a Go-Gos outtake: it has that big, boisterous beat I associate with Benatar & CO., but the guitar and vocals are all snarling, razor-wire punk nastiness. "It's About Time" is more contorted garage punk.

The EP is sold out, but check out Nice & Neat Records for other cool stuff. Blow yr eardrums out with Marked Men & Birthday Suits HERE.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bad Liar-Yours Truly EP (2012)

My major problem with emo (using the term in its narrow sense, to refer to a distinct strand of post-punk originally developed in mid-80s Washington, D.C.) has always turned on the matter of authenticity. The genre developed as an earnest reaction to the violent, macho poses of American hardcore, and its best exponents (Embrace, Rites of Spring, One Last Wish) crafted an engaging, if often brutally pretentious, songcraft. While I now cringe at the raw sincerity of Ian MacKaye's singing on the Embrace LP, I still respect his courage in letting it all hang out over music that didn't hide, but exposed, his vulnerability.

Yet emo's been around for going on 25 years, now, and this leads us to the problem of form vs. content. When kids in 2012 make songs that sound a lot like Embrace, or for that matter, Sunny Day Real Estate or Mineral, do they sound sad, heartbroken and emotional because they're genuinely experiencing problems that are expressed via a sound that hinges on loud guitar and dramatic time shifts? Or do they sound like this because they want to sound like the aforementioned bands, which happened to sound sad, heartbroken, and emotional?

Which leads me to San Francisco's Bad Liar. This guy means it, I think. But the songs on this EP are good enough, qua songs, that it doesn't matter if they're as ironic as I Hate Myself supposedly was. That sets the "Yours Truly" EP apart from virtually every emo recording I've ever heard. It's also one of the cleanest recordings I've heard recently, which means Bad Liar isn't hiding incompetence behind a layer of guitar sludge.

I still haven't told you how they sound. Here's a gander: Bad Liar hinges on clear, earnest, hollered singing and a dynamic guitar sound that owes more than a bit to Cave In, Mineral, etc. i don't know if there's a bassist, because the guitar and vocals take up almost every bit of space on the recording, with brisk drumwork filling in the details. "Temescal Morning" breaks up the intensity a bit with gently plucked acoustic guitar and what sounds like a few piano notes. "Youthanized" is one of the best rock tunes I've heard in 2012: it has a nagging harmony (melody? whatever.) or hook that kept me coming back drunk, sober, and all things in between. The bridge is fucking sick; it has a bitterly heartfelt vibe that I last heard in Leatherface. The vocal shifts are perfectly matched with the instrumentation, and it should get these guys attention outside the Bay Area. 

This was a much longer review than usual, but Bad Liar deserves it. They're the only emo band I've heard of late that deserves attention from those us (like myself) who hate most of the No Idea Records discography. Those of you in the Bay: someone set up a show with Bad Liar and Wild Moth on the bill! I dunno what the scene is like up there but I kept hearing shadings of WM in this EP.

Listen to the EP, then buy it, here.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Kremlings-s/t EP (2012)

The cover art features the five bandmembers as sperm. The genre which pops up when I play this EP on Itunes is "lazy punk." It's easy to tell what's going on with The Kremlings.

Opening with a hefty wash of guitar sludge and non-lingual moaning, "Abort Clusters of Sprawling Sapiens" is 1-2, 1-2-3-4 garage punk. "See in a Bedlam" could pass as a Ramones tune, with heavier guitar. In fact, the guitarist of the Kremlings may be a better guitarist than Johnny Ramone.I'm pretty sure it was tailormade to skateboard to. "Know Nothings" wallows in grunge-esque sludgy misery, with the singer mewling and whining over a ponderous beat.

You'll dig the Krelmings if you like guitarcentric, straightforward rock 'n' roll. Where's my skateboard?

Listen to the Kremlings here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Walrus-Soft Hands EP (2012)

Walrus seems to find me in the right mood every time they drop a new album. Odobenus Rosmarus, released earlier this year, crossed my desk in May; I was in a suitably social, outgoing mood to dig that EP's wistfully blissed out tone.

Well, now it's October, and I just want everyone to fuck off so I can drink red wine alone. The Soft Hands EP is a good soundtrack to that. The songs here use a bit more guitar and instrumentation than the synthscapes of Odobenus Rosmarus, resulting in a fuller sound that still maintains the distance that got me hooked on their earlier EP.

"It's No Myth to Me" opens with click-clack taps and gently strummed acoustic guitar. The dual vocals emphasize the casual, slow-day-on-yr-front-porch vibe. "Spirit Animal" turns up the psych factor a bit, with the vocals mixed behind some sort of radio communication sample, before reverb-drenched guitar fades in around 1:20. The song fades out with the pitter-pat of a snare drum, ushering you into "That's What Happens...," the best track on the EP. Fulfilling on the buildup of the first two tracks, cresting cymbals and acoustic guitar introduce tenderly remote female vocals, with the guy crooning near-incoherently in the background. The whole EP exudes the atmosphere of Bardo Pond, and nowhere more than with "That's What Happens..." Halfway through, the song brightens up a bit, only to drift back out of focus as it ends.

"Long Walks" really comes off like a Fleet Foxes tune. In fact, I sorta like some of Fleet Foxes' stuff, but I like this more 'cause I can listen to a whole Walrus EP without skipping through it, so check this out if you like Fleet Foxes but haven't heard good music. "Tender Buttons" is good too, but the Percoset kicked in a quarter of the way through it, so you'll hafta take my word on it.

Make Walrus yr autumnal soundtrack, and buy the EP, here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More anti-internet censorship biz....

So the 6 biggest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the States are apparently teaming up with the record companies, movie companies, et. al. to start harassing internet users accused of violating intellectual copyright, eventually resulting in restriction of internet access.

I strongly encourage ALL OF YOU to sign this blog, even if you're not US citizens. If the whole Lemaire/LinkID shitshow taught me anything, it's that U.S. law, especially as concerns the internet, has pretty much become international law.

Please sign the petition available at this link!: http://act.demandprogress.org/letter/six_strikes/?akid=1700.1952659.An9vFl&rd=1&t=6#1

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Big Swamp Thunder-s/t CS (2012)

I haven't had a coherent thought in several days, and generally, in these situations, I blast some noise until clarity returns.

Rochester's Big Swamp Thunder are perfect for a little cathartically distorted oblivion. Found sounds, atonal shouting, distortion that sounds like insects: these are just some of the many delights awaiting thee, dear listener, on their debut tape.

"In Virtue" opens with some savage skronk that could be an outtake from the "No New York" comp: shrill horns, breaking glass, and what sounds like someone clacking away on a videogame console. "Gargantuan Pfailure" opens with tape hiss that eventually develops (sorta) into noodling insectoidal noises and a meandering bass that gets pummeled back into the ground by clickclack drumming.

Big Swamp Thunder could adequately be described as sounding like how a panic attack feels: everything's moving fast, in no set direction, nothing stops long enough to impose order. But anyway, it washed some of the bad shit outta my head and I can get back to reading about medieval legal disputes. Fun!

Listen here. Then go buy the tape over at Anonymous Dog Records!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Alone & Forsaken XIV: Slipping Away.

I'm too hungover to write a real review, so this is whatcha get instead.

A lot of these songs were included on previous installments in the "Alone & Forsaken" series, but thanks to Lemaire, those are gone, soyabigdealwhatever.

That picture's actually of the Red Dons, not the Observers, but it's more or less the same band.

It starts off big, brash, and beautiful with Broken Water but by the end it's just the same 'ole galling frustration, as expressed by Portland's Criminal Damage. Sorta like an average day in these parts.

Hopefully, my brain cells whill have regrouped enough to form coherent sentences and dash off witty commentary tomorrow. Or not.

Dig it (or not).

1. Broken Water-Say What's on your mind
2. Kitchen's Floor-No Love
3. The Observers-Walk Alone
4. Royal Headache-Girls
5. Wild Moth-Morning Sickness
6. Dead Moon-My Escape
7. Negative Approach-Nothing
8. Husker Du-59 Times the Pain
9. Jawbreaker-Ashtray Monument
10. Heavy Times-Alone
11.  Buzzcocks-What do I get?
12. Wipers-Romeo
13. The Repos-Half a Hole
14. Government Warning-Self Destruct
15. Criminal Damage-No Solution

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kent State-Behind Closed Doors EP (2012)

Kent State does it again, on their slickest release yet. Continuing to develop the vein hinted at on their slew of early 2012 EPS, these are four songs of polished '90s retro jams.

"Behind Closed Doors" manages the difficult feat of sounding as cocky, confident and brash as any Brian Jonestown Massacre or Dandy Warhols song. Tambourines, backing female vocals and clean production set this apart from previous KS tunes. "Disconnected," featuring Airlooms, makes it very clear that the singer's disconnected from society and really doesn't give a fuck. "Formaldehyde" continues the brash tone of the first two songs, but "Time Crimes II" might be my favorite track on the EP. Opening with gently strummed guitar and distant, indecipherable singing, "Time Crimes II" slows the pace down and effectively changes tempos. After the swagger and snottiness of the first three songs, it hints at something different lurking behind the 90s popisms.

Download the EP here, then BUY THE THING HERE. Check out the video for "Behind Closed Doors" here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Trauma Harness-The Way You Press On Harder CS (2012)

Trauma Harness, from a 'burb of St. Louis, joins the contingent of recent bands worldwide mining the darker edge of British anarchopunk (Rudimentary Peni, The Mob, etc.) and guitar-based darkwave on this, their first full length after 2011's Trauma Demolitional demo tape.

 I'm completely ignorant of musicianspeak, but it sounds like Trauma Harness is using multitracking and delay to good effect here. The guitar creates a cavernous circuit for the drums and wobbly, wailing singing. "Pearl Moon" is the poppiest tune here, but "poppy" in the way the 4 Skins were: just when you think the band's gonna jump into a super-catchy hook, the music jerks back on itself, and the whole thing's over before you've really gotten yr bearings.

"Frances Bay" is the other standout here. The guitar really makes this tune: Trauma Harness could probably have played this at a senior prom ca. 1983 and gotten away with it, while the drummer  deftly mines Stephen Morris' cymbal/snare technique. Sure, dood is singing about (I think) the death of a loved one in oblique terms, but then, what is high school if not a theater of sadism and slow social death?

"Blue Flames" coulda been released on one of those Mortarhate compilations that Conflict put out back in the early '80s: mindlessly repetitive synthesizer bumps into and around a subdued guitar riff.

Trauma Harness is a good soundtrack for all you Midwesterners out there, as a sweltering summer morphs into a grey fall and savage winter. The only quibble I have is the recording quality: I couldn't make out the bass, to the extent that I didn't realize it was even in the mix. Whatever, it's a postpunk cassette.

Listen to the tape, then BUY IT, HERE. Doods even include a pin with it.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sonic Death-Uncomplete Session LP (2012)

St. Petersburg's Sonic Death is one of my favorite new bands, so I resume frequent blogging with a writeup of their recent B-sides, live tracks, and rarities LP.

I'm surprised that they already have enough material for a collection like this, but I'm not complaining: in addition to the rambamthankyamam garage stomp you know and love from their Gothic Sessions EP, there's hidden gems like "untitled" and the pounding slow burn of the live track "Temnota."

The LP confirms the impression I got from the "Gothic Sessions" EP: Sonic Death pretty much has the market cornered on tight garage with a heart of gold. There's a tenderness in the singer's voice that's rare in this genre, and Sonic Death's subdued, brooding interludes ("Son", "Boyfriend") are just as enjoyable as their more straightforwardly garagepunk numbers. Hell, I didn't even cringe at the guitar-'n'-banjo tune "Boyfriend," and I hate banjos! "Zmeya" is the best track here, though: a propulsive, atmospheric drumbeat digs out a rhythmic trench that blurs together guitar and drums.

Anyways, Sonic Death does it again on this LP. The only vice, implicit in the nature of the album, is its uneveness: there's no flow to the songs, but whatever. Look for more madness from these demented fellas soon.

Listen to "Uncomplete Sessions," then BUY IT, HERE.

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Well I just got back...

...and I wish I never leave now/where'd you go?"-The Clash, "Safe European Home"

That's right, folks, yr humble narrator is back in the US. Given that convenience is pretty much the only thing us Americans excel at these days, this means that my internet problems should be a thing of the past, and that new posts will be following apace in the next few days. Look forward to more reups, new reviews, pithy commentary, and brooding, miserable prose in the near future. Stay tuned for more stoopidity.