Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year-End Lists: LPs

[Here we go again:] Well, it's that time of year again, folks. Another calendar year's circling the drain and with it swirls a lot of music, most of it total trash but some of it very good.

These are the albums I'll be listening to past the new year. Maybe you will too, maybe you won't.  I disavow all claims to objectivity or universality. I rarely check my email, don't answer my phone, have no fixed mailing address,  and do my best to only listen to The Clash & Joy Division (and  the Supremes, of course), so I don't hear much new music.

 Go start your own blog, or better yet, go work for a major record label, if you think I'm fulla shit. I love you all.

These are the LPs.

 Dirty Beaches-Drifter/Love is the Devil:
I hate to be obvious, but this was a no-brainer.* This LP is sprawling, and sprawling in its ambition: we go from the crude, jaunty techno of "Nightwalker" to the despondent, bittersweet melancholy of "Berlin." In between lies a bewildering series of sounds and sketches, and probably a lifetime's worth of personal anguish on the part of Alex Zhang Hungtai, the frontman of Dirty Beaches.

If it wasn't a great album on its own terms, this double LP would still be a brilliant act of character assassination. Said character being the too-cool-for-school crooner of 2011's Badlands: in numerous interviews, Hungtai has described his desire to walk away from this persona, and being interpellated back into it by fans, critics, and a listening public that really doesn't listen very well.

What about the music? The two LPs have a certain internal coherence: Drifter is a series of throbbing, synth-based tunes grinding out late-night frustration, too much drinking, too much neon sleaze, too much everything. The psychosis undergirding it all begins to surface on the third track, "Belgrade": it's nothing but screaming synthesizer and howling feedback. On Drifter,  Hungtai emphasizes the imminent breakdown by switching back and forth between English, Spanish, and French for the vocals.

Love is the Devil throws form to the wind and drifts within a swirling world of missed connections, broken relationships, and memories that grow fainter the harder you try to hold on to them."This is Not My City" sets the tone: stray piano keys, xylophone(?), gusts of gray ambiance filtered through whatever memories you, the listener, impose on it. No words. The titular track is hollow, despondent: you can feel the bitterness seething just underneath the surface. "Like the Ocean We Part" might be the best track here, though: a single guitar note, repeated 'til numbness, preludes Hungtai's hushed, impressionistic tale of distance and despair.

Hungtai is easily the best musician out there these days, insofar as music consists of the attempt to create a shared experience with the listener, sonically or lyrically, and then push on towards something different than whatever emotion or impression we started with. Hungtai and his band could be smash hits with the masses, and they've chosen not to. That takes courage, but even if it didn't, they're making compelling music that demands attention. This LP puts most of the rest of 2013's garbage in the shade.**

Buy the LP HERE.

*Or maybe not; apparently it didn't make Pitchfork's list, and no one I've spoken to about this album-even those who love DB-have listened to it in its entirety. Are we just too stupid and impatient for full-on narrative soundscapes, these days? Or am I just a retarded recluse? Whatever.

**Unless you want something to dance to, in which case go get whatever Rolling Stone or Vice tells you to buy. Or just get Kanye's newest 'cause all the kiddies shake their asses to him, from what I'm told, and he had a kid with Kim Kardashian so dude must be something right, right?

 Der Tanz-Kaktusz
As I said in my original review, this was the only LP that came close to equaling or surpassing Dirty Beaches in 2013. Budapest is home to a thriving, diverse punk and garage scene right now and Der Tanz is the weirdest, and maybe the best, BP band I've heard yet.

This LP, recorded live in a disused community house, is a sonic wasteland that you can't look away from. The bass dips and dives in and out of focus, the singer intones impressionistic tales of post-capitalist collapse, and the rest of the band improvises sound collages. Der Tanz sounds like some horrific machine that kept working long after its creators died out, steadily and relentlessly threshing away in the buried ruins of a mythical civilization. Deep in the background, a lone survivor tries to warn of what has happened, but he's too little, too late: Nick Cave masquerading as Jonah?

This is difficult, challenging music that can't be fit into a genre, and you certainly can't dance to it. It's horror punk but in the Lovecraft sense of horror, not those idiots, the Misfits: der Tanz dishes out disturbing, visceral explosions of revulsion and destruction, and they're good at it.

Kaktusz was easily the strangest album I heard this year, and was also the most surprising. How bands are either strange or surprising, these days? BUY IT HERE!

Criminal Damage-Call of Death
Punk has always operated on the quantity over quality principle: better to burp out cheap 7" EPs crammed full of generic songs every coupla months than invest in high-quality production, improved song-writing, or anything else that might take time and/or skill.This is one reason why most of us lose interest in the scene after a few ebullient years' worth of being in it "for the kids."

Criminal Damage, on the other hand, is proof that you can be a top-notch punk band while barely existing, and also that the traditional punk form is still capable of expressing real problems and sharing emotions grown up humans (not that nebulous group known as "the kids") have. They've been eking out a patchy existence since 2006, averaging an LP every 3 years or so. All three are a formalist's wet dream: this band on occasion ("No Solution," "Anesthesia," "Anxiety") beats out the originals in this genre, and Paul Burdette is one of the best punk lyricists since Frankie Stubbs. The band is a tight, efficient unit: each song is economical to a fault.

The opener, "The Storm," exemplifies the Crim Dam sound: a sinuous bass line, sledgehammer drumwork, drill-presser guitar and Burdette's gruff, shouted reportage of sleepless nights, deadening frustration, and general disgust with daily life. "Anxiety" pulls off the strange feat of being an anthemic sing-along about a psychological disorder. IBurdette's lyrics will ring true for any of you who have anxiety attacks, incidentally.

This isn't even my favorite Crim Dam record, yet it still-like Der Tanz-puts most punk of recent years in the shade. Burdette and co. clearly loves what they do, and they're fucking good at it. Find out why by buying a copy of the LP, which you can do at the Katorga Works distro site!

Homeless Records' website calls Sewers "thug punk," and that's an apt moniker. This is real knuckle-dragger music. This is the best image I could think of to capture the Sewers sound:

A caveman comes home from another long day out hunting dinosaurs, scratching headlice, and other enlightened activities. His cavewoman burnt the wooly-mammoth soup, so caveman gets real angry. So angry he starts thumping the floor rhythmically with his burnished wooden club and things ain't lookin' too good for poor Ms. Cavewoman.

But all of a sudden a fucking volcano erupts and a pterodactyl comes screeching down out of the sky! No more Ms. Cavewoman, no more Mr. Caveman to carry out threatened domestic violence in Sweet Home Sweet Cave! Everything's covered in magma and pterodactyl shit! Boyhowdy!

Or, to try it another way: Sewers sounds like a buncha Vicodin freaks sitting around trying to play along to Clockcleaner records, but they can't pay attention long enough to carry the beat so they accidentally recorded one of the best noise punk LPs of recent years. All the while, the singer gurgles out disgusted grunts of joy as he no doubt makes sweet caveman love to the mic stand.

Buy this piece of stellar sludge over at the Homeless Records website!

Horrible Houses-Songs Recorded Under the Influence of the Yellow House

Everyone's favorite Scandinavian outdid even himself this time. Songs Recorded.... is a curiously coherent collection of new songs, old demos, b-sides, and other bric-a-brac from the past coupla years. Most of these tunes are fragmentary, snapshots of a mood or fleeting feeling, improvised on acoustic guitar.

The album is heavily indebted to John Fahey, but Daniel has come a long way towards crafting his own sound this year (Songs is only one of several EPs and LPs he dropped in 2013). Throughout, complex guitar picking is paired with a bittersweet, distant voice that rarely narrates but always tells a story. Occasionally, as in "Bed," a harmonica line highlights the spartan desolation of the songs.

Despite this hollowness, there's a warmth to these Songs that will stick with you after the tape ends. Crack a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red, settle into your favorite armchair, and get fucked up under the influence of the Yellow House, HERE.

Anadelta-Vita Brevis:

Electronica and shoegaze are one of the more unlikely pairings I could think of, even in this age of "throw all your influences into the same toilet and see what flushing it produces." Seeing the two genre names together sorta makes you cringe: surely this is just some cutesy, bored MIT student demonstrating his mastery of modern music in an attempt to get a date, right?

No, oddly enough. What this is, instead, is a series of carefully considered tracks, using beats and bass to flesh out the expansive dreamscapes of post-rock. Sometimes, Anadelta sounds like a natural progression from Boards of Canada: once you've stopped making electronic music that's danceable, why not go for post-rock landscapes sculpted around beats? Anadelta is adept at sketching out sounds without losing control of them: they drift in and out of focus, but never become boring.

Believe it or not, sometimes I wake up in a good mood. This is the sorta stuff I listen to when I find myself in that surprising situation, and Anadelta is a good curative for the winter blues: imagine a sunny beach emerging from the hazy guitar notes.

Buy the LP here! It's hard to see, but the cover art is also quite beautiful, so fuckin' get a copy before they're sold out. Limited to 200.

 The Dictaphone-s/t:

Tours' Dictaphone has been making monotony marvelous for several years now. On their second LP, they re-trace some of the same ground covered on previous outings: cranky no wave, bang-clad punk idiocy, and krautrock noodlings.

In fact, "Verkehr" is the best track here: the Dictaphone comes dangerously close to ripping off a Neu! song, but they speed it up and shorten it. Like if Teenage Panzerkorps wasn't so noisy and could focus on one musical idea for awhile. Think dub reggae without the riddim.
This is stoner music for cranks, those suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and those terminally bored by their own boredom.

Don't you wanna buy this thing? Of course you do.

The Wonderfuls-2004-2007: Forgotten Years
"I'm looking over the wall/and they're looking at me"-Johnny Rotten, "Holidays in the Sun," 1977

It's sort of fudging the rules, I guess, to include a retrospective collection in a "best of the year" list. Go tell Mother if it offends you. Last year's debut LP by the Wonderfuls was a tight, focused trip to the dark side and back again. Built on nothing but guitar and vocals, it was a desolate, unsentimental look at collapse and recovery.

This collection is a dive into the deep end of what came before. Recorded over several years, these songs are raw, demo-quality ventures into the dark corners of the mind, where the only company is Danny's guitar improvisations, Bobby's mutterings, and inner demons too ugly to confront directly. Bobby's debt to Iggy shines out here in a way it didn't on Salty Town: imagine the Pop stumbling through the studio, shouting out whatever came to mind, while Jim Shepherd was recording a B-sides collection, and you have a pretty good picture of what we're dealing with here. Some of the songs are truncated blurbs; others rival the material on Salty Town.

The Wonderfuls do not make happy music, they do not make fun music, but they do make enjoyable music, in a perverse sort of way. This album will not appeal to most people, and I can't imagine that anyone will like every track, but it's alive in a strange sort of way, more alive than Vampire Weekends or whatever the fuck else people listen to these days. Most of contemporary pop culture seems fundamentally dead to me, and the Wonderfuls don't, and I hope they keep making music.

You can buy the LP HERE. Stay tuned for a new Wonderfuls 7", due out sometime in 2014.

Tony Molina-Dissed and Dismissed:
Weezer for the internet age. This LP establishes Molina as one of the best songwriters in rock right now. This is despite the fact that most of these songs are over in lesss than two minutes (but who wants to listen to opera anyway, right?).

From the opening, screeching guitar tone, the influence of Rivers Cuomo and his rotating cast of underlings is obvious. Molina still manages to worm away from being simply a Weezer ripoff artist, though, and there's a winking sort of honesty along with a healthy dose of Pollard-style silliness. In fact he even covers a GBV tune.

Basically, this is the funnest guitar record that came out this year. If you like short sharp songs about girls and stuff, you'll like it.

Melters is sold out of the LP, but I think you can download it over at I could die tomorrow blog. Then go back to the Melters bandcamp, find their email address, and pester them to re-press this.

The Dead C-Armed Courage

What can you say about a band that's been around for 20 years, and is still releasing quality music? I dunno, but the Dead C is just that. If you're familiar with this band, you're familiar with what to expect. "Armed" and "Courage" are long-form improv pieces fashioned from rock instruments. The tracks sort of sound like Godspeed, if you took away the classical cues, dramatic tension, and paranoid dystopianism: what's left is burbling, hissing, clattering, deconstructed rock and roll. So maybe it's closer to rock-based jazz? I dunno, but it's good.

You can still buy copies of this over at Midheaven.

I'm too hungover to write proper blurbs about these LPs, but they're great and you should buy them:
Michael Wohl-8 Pieces for Solo Guitar: Long boy far from home blues, or, night time is the right time. Buy it here.

Crystal Soda Cream-Escape from Vienna: Jerky post-punk for twitchy, neurotic times, from the capital of the bourgeoisie's pathology, Wien. Buy it here.

Various artists-Noise from China: A double-LP compilation of truly ferocious noise from the world's most populous country. Not for the faint of heart. Here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Year-End Lists: EPs

Well, it's that time of year again, folks. Another calendar year's circling the drain and with it swirls a lot of music, most of it total trash but some of it very good.

These are the albums I'll be listening to past the new year. Maybe you will too, maybe you won't.  I disavow all claims to objectivity or universality. I rarely check my email, don't answer my phone, have no fixed mailing address,  and do my best to only listen to The Clash & Joy Division (and  the Supremes, of course), so I don't hear much new music.

 Go start your own blog, or better yet, go work for Pitchfork, if you think I've slighted your favorite band that somehow expresses all the profundities of life in 2013. I love you all.

What follows is a year-end list organized by EPs, LPs, and then a miscellaneous list of demos, tapes, and any other detritus that didn't fit elsewhere (like obituaries, which there were a few of this time 'round). There's not much rhyme or reason to it, since I can't organize my own life let alone a list.

Kitchen's Floor-Live at Real Bad:
 Matt originally gained a rep for terse, off-the-cuff misery rock that squalled past in a flurry of 4-track hiss and autistic GBV-style guitar licks. Last year he changed gear  with the stark midnight hush of the Bitter Defeat EP. This one follows in that line: we're given 8 tracks of Matt alone, howling out some of KF's best with only his guitar backing him up (and charming Aussie heckling, of course.

I've always thought of Kitchen's Floor's as a blues band, even at their noisiest, on songs like "Lander." On this one, however, Matt's a lot closer to the blues. All the frustrated, apathetic anger and hints of catharsis that were buried under the distorted sludge of previous efforts shine through. The adolescent noise of early KF was fun but this EP proves that KF is a band you can get older with. Wiser, that's another story (but whoever does that, anyway, right?).

BUY IT HERE, or email Breakdance the Dawn to see if CDRs are still available.

Wikipedia tells me that a pharmakon was a specific kind of priest in ancient Greece. Said pharmakon was charged with performing the ritual exile, stoning, or execution of a sacrificial scapegoat, usually a criminal or cripple. The intention was to ritually clense and purify the community.

Margaret Chardiet is from New York City though, so she probably chose the moniker after reading Derrida on acid. Either way, this is a harrowing series of ritual incantations filtered through warped synthesizer moans and proto-lingual howls. Industrial noise horror usually ain't my cuppa tea, but this EP is fucking evil, kiddies. Pull the curtains down, turn up the treble, and zone out to this psychotic piece of Lovecraftian terror issuing from the inner depths of your contorted soul, which awaits ritualistic cleansing. So purge your way to purity!

 Merchandise-Totale Nite:
 If you're from a miserable backwater like Tampa, nobody's gonna pay much attention to you unless you punch 'em in the face and force them to. That gives you a lot more freedom than you might otherwise have to improvise.

And improvise these guys certainly have. The rest of the world finally noticed them last year, with their brilliant Children of Desire LP. Technically this is the follow-up LP, but it clocks in at just a tad over half an hour, so I'm counting it as an EP.  Children of Desire was melancholic break-up goth at its best. Totale Nite, however, is prom night in a John Hughes film, following a suitable dramatic interlude: the guitars are sunnier, the synth less dramatic, Carson Cox a bit more expansive. This brief LP/EP sucks you into a  swirl of synthesizer where daylight has dawned and Merchandise is exploring what it feels like to, maybe, sometimes, fleetingly, be happy. It's a transitional work, and is well worth adding to your nerdtard record collection.
Just fucking buy this thing already!

Nuclear Spring-s/t:
 Bangs said back in 1982 that hardcore punk is like the womb, and lord was he right. If you listen to music like this expecting originality, that's your pathology, not mine. Punk in 2013 is the aural equivalent of comfort food. You put it on to comfort you in your impotent rage and recurrent, mindless frustration.

Nuclear Spring is chock fulla that on this 4-song EP. Heroic guitar leads, impassioned, self-righteous dual vocals, chugga-chugga-gunka-gunka riddim: they've got it all! They also happen to write killer songs in the Blitz vein, with all the moralizing intonations associated with U.K. anarchopunk.
So go on, kids: Slap a circled-A buttflap on your posterior, break an empty whiskey bottle over your head, and start screaming along to Nuclear Spring as they chant, "I wish I'd never been born!"
LIfe stinks, I need a drink.

The Zoltars-Live Like Dragons:
Unlike most garage bands, Austin's Zoltars don't wanna sound like badasses, greasers, or wasteoid scumbags. Most garage bands go in for amped up dum-dum stumblebum; the Zoltars turn the tone down and focus on writing songs that deserve the name. They sound like self-disciplined nice guys you could bring home for dinner, even though they write songs with the word "heroin" in the title.

These are three mid-tempo, precision tunes that hypnotize you insteada bashing you over the head like the Reatards' legion of imitators. It's perfect music for drinking beer on a hot summer's day, so go buy this and throw it on when July comes rolling 'round.

The Zoltars also released an impressive second LP this year, which you can check out on CQ Records' site, too.

Buso-Five Songs 'til the Spring Wakes Our Hearts Up:
 Operating at the fringes of several sounds-punk, goth, ambient noise, etc.-Hungary's Buso feeds urban isolation and winter numbness into his computer and burps out glacial artifacts of this age of rubbish. And it doesn't sound contrived. That's saying a lot in 2013, given that every asshole who wants to be Ian Curtis can dump a 4-track EP on bandcampand call it a career.

This music seems frigid but feels warm. Listening to this EP for the first time since winter, it's clear how much Buso owes to early-'00s Icelandic bands like Mum: this is deeply emotive electronic music that you cannot dance to (unless your preferred move is the sedative shuffle). As the snow falls and I sink deeper into winter depression, Buso's second proper EP will be a constant companion.
Dude is so nice, you can download the EP for free, HERE.

Glass Cake-Lunar Caustic:
Michelle Shofet's been recording under this moniker for awhile, and her demo tracks are damn near heart-breaking in their beauty. Since then she's found a full band and dived into the deep end of the freakfolk scene.
Freakfolk is a known enemy of this blog, but Glass Cake is one of maybe two exceptions* I make to a scene full of Neil Young and Catpower wannabes. This EP is a whimsical series of light-hearted, even fun, folk cutsiness. Airy guitar notes, minimal drums, and a massive mix that sounds like GC recorded it live. At the heart of it all is Shofet's thin wail, full of inaudible sentiment, soaring above the music and then descending for the choruses.
 I don't know what sorta people listen to this kinda music but they probably live happy, productive lives in San Francisco skyscrapers. Go buy the EP, so you can too!
*The other exception being Horrible Houses, for different reasons altogether.

These are EPs I liked, too; I'm too lazy to write a(nother) blurb on them:
Catholic Guilt-Futile Attempts (here)
Sick Thoughts-Need No One (here)
Nnevtelga-s/t CS (here)
Multiple Man-s/t CS ( here )

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Year-End Lists: Tapes, Demos, and assorted Miscellanies

What follows is the first installment in my year-end list. EPs and LPs will follow; this here is a list of tapes and other jazz. Most of this is hardcore or punk, since it's mostly punks that bother doing demos these days. The exceptions are mostly recordings I liked but didn't quite fit the LP/EP format, but were fuggin' good, and you should, uh, buy 'em.

These guys were huffing glue and beating up nerds for their copies of the Negazione discography while you were studying for high school finals, kiddies. Named after a piece of American prison slang (watch "Oz" if you don't get it!), Prag dishes out majestically vicious noisepunk that bridges the garage//punk gulf. The rhythm section's a grist mill threshing through granite, the singer's a demented gremlin, and the guitarist very well might have murdered Crazy Spirit's guitarist and stolen his notebook of guitar tabs.

Prag is a hot band to watch in 2014: scuzzy enough for the garage kids, noisy and bratty enough for the ponx, and they can even write songs coherent enough that maybe some civilians could dig 'em too.

You can buy the demo and bash your brains out HERE.

6 tracks of bitter, isolated noise that fly by in a flurry of desperation, muttered declamations, and manic drum fills. Helsinki's Shoplift reminds me of Warsaw:  they probably don't have such a luminous craeer ahead of them, but there's the same crude sense of rhythm and rudimentary skill at song-writing. This is despite (because of?) the fact that it sounds like the band recorded each instrumental track in separate rooms and then glued these tracks together, on top of each other. Basically, this is what punk should sound like: young, desperate, and with a trace of talent beneath the sonic muck.
Shoplift is nice enough to let you download the tape for free, which you can do HERE.

Deformities-Sometimes I Wish for my own Death EP:
The more I listen to it, the more I think that Nick and Drew pre-programmed a coupla drone-droids to record this, went out on a two-day bender, came back, and uploaded the results to bandcamp.

This 2-song EP is a note-perfect statement of why we all listen to noise and garage: Sheer obnoxiousness, first and foremost. There are also occasional glimmers of musicianship somewhere in there, along with grunted/growled gremlin  noises of, presumably, hatred and wishing for one's own death.

If you like these guys' other projects (Sick Thoughts and Kent State), you're guaranteed to like B-More's Deformities. Bratty, not retarded.

Gay Kiss-Summer 2013 demo:

My my, are these boys angry. Like, apoplectic fits of rage in the Mojave Desert angry. Bashing yourself in the face with the mic over and over, angry. The sort of anger that gave us grindcore.

Somehow Gay Kiss makes mindless masculine rage appealing, though. This tape is three tracks of demented-yet-highly-mannered hardcore violence. There are even blastbeats in there, at times! Save this one for the truly bleak days when you're not just thinking about killing yourself, you're actually trying to figure out what's the quicker way to die, pills or jumping off a bridge.*
Buy it, or not, HERE
*To quote a character in The Sopranos, "if you wanna try suicide, pills are A LOT easier."

Barbiturates-Shades 10":
I stumbled upon this band while trying to buy barbiturates with BitCoins.

That's a lie, but it could be true (if I knew how to use and/or buy BitCoins). Brisbane's Barbiturates are serious fucking downer music, though. This EP is like going to the prom blitzed out of your mind on whatever pain pills your parents keep in the family pharakopeia: there's a synth beat pulsing in the background, things are mellow, but there's a pervasive sense of irritation somewhere in the background, which will in due time rear its ugly head. Probably when you sober up, come January 2014. Nah I'm just kidding, this is fun music, save it for your next hangover!

Buy the EP for a reasonable 1 dollar, HERE!

Shape Breaker-Eyes Wide CS:
Extended My Bloody Valentine paraphrases, stellar guitar rave-ups, a singer who could very well be the asshole behind BrianJonesTownMassacre: this is Shape Breaker. If you want endless guitar riffs, bratty vocals, and drumming that seemingly never ends, go buy this tape. Good for drinking highly alcoholic red wine to.

Buy the cassette LP here!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Kurve-Su Bolje Majke EP (2012)

I've come to expect good things of a strange kind whenever eastern European punk* winds up on my review pile. For whatever reason, these bands rarely sound like they're simply stealing Mick Jones' ot Greg Ginn's best ideas and ruining them.  It's possible that isolation and lack of automatic attention have a roll in this. When no one outside your language group's gonna listen to you simply because of American cultural hegemony and Anglophone provincialism, that gives you the freedom to do whatever you want.

If they were from the States, Zagreb's Kurve would be huge. The band specializes in massive, tuneful guitar riffs bolstered by an airtight rhythm section. The result is five tracks falling somewhere between Leatherface and heavy blues. In other words, this is great rock 'n' roll. Rock 'n' roll made for singing along to. Rock 'n' roll made for getting drunk on a Saturday night and puking on your parents' couch, then throwing bricks at cops on Sunday morning. There's a more intelligent undercurrent to Kurve, though:"Ravno U Srce" opens with a idiosyncratic prologue part-dub, part-a capella hymn. Then the usual chaos begins. Mayhaps they've been studying up on their Grazhdanskaya Oborna LPs?

This woulda been on my Best of 2012 lists, if I had known about it. You should give it a spin (you can download it for free HERE) then BUY IT, here. Like the person who recommended them to me said, "this band would be huge if they weren't from here [Croatia]."

*Of course, this is a broad term. I use it to refer to bands from the European part of the old USSR, the countries of the Warsaw Pact, or those in what once comprised the non-Austrian parts of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire (look it up on Wikipedia if you don't know what that is, lunkhead). 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A festivus for the restofus

Christmas is a pretty annoying holiday in my book, so instead of wishing you season's greetings, I'll simply quote good 'ole G.O.:
"Christmas itself, a pre-Christian festival, probably started because there had to be an occasional outburst of overeating and drinking to make a break in the unbearable northern winter."

In that spirit, join me in drinking and wishing for spring with Leatherface.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fuseism-Search and Seek More EP (2013)

"All alone. No one to talk to. Come over here so I can talk to you."-Lou Reed, 1960s

 Fuseism's newest: Confusion, frustration,  and trying to keep going despite it allMy problems with long-form confessional punk are those of most people, and Fuseism is one of the few exceptions I make to my general hatred of this genre.
Things are bad now, and there's very little reason to think they're going to improve any time soon. That's even more the case in Hungary than in the States: over in Budapest, they have real fascists like Jobbik* strong enough to heavily influence the course of national politics, whereas fundamentally us statiunitesi just have the perennial enemy: sociopathic, oligarchic capitalism. Without drifting into Greil Marcus territory re: politics and music, I'll say that Fuseism does an excellent job of breathing life into what usually is a morbid, hackneyed genre of music on this EP, and that's partially because of the current political conjuncture; their indirect response to it is an explosion of conversation. As in, this band sounds like they're starting a conversation and want other people involved in it.

Jerky guitar riffs, a rumble-bumble rhythm section, and Gabor on vocals, who sounds like Ian MacKaye back when he made interesting music**: instead of simply being the figurehead of independent music. That's Fuseism's sound. There are fast and slow parts, surges and withdrawals; I haven't been to a show in years but this is the sorta music that makes me wanna do stagedives again. Fuseism succeeds at injecting life into a rather stale genre and that means that they're worth supporting even if you don't much care for the emo scene, which I don't. This band is interested in communicating, interested in argument, and interested in connecting with other humans. Nebulous hippy horseshit, you sneer, and I'm sure you're right. But conversation is the beginning of anything worthwhile, isn't it?

Listen to the EP, then BUY IT, here.

*Like, Golden Dawn, Magyar style fascists. Like,  fire-bombing gypsy encampments fascists. Like, they came for the Jews and no one spoke out, and then they came for us, and there was no one left to help us, fascists.

**I.e., before MacKaye became, simply, a figurehead for independent music (as well as a maker of rather boring music). 

Friday, December 20, 2013

der Tanz-Kaktusz LP (2013)

 Living for the Depression, or, Der Tanz is proof that Punk still Matters (despite everything)

In case you've had your head up your ass the last coupla-5 years or so, we're living through one of the largest crises of capitalism since the Great Depression. It's triggered revolutions in the Global South, and has robbed us children of the (over-)developed world of a future even more thoroughly than our own apathy and drug habits woulda, all other things being equal. It's debatable whether Hungary is part of this over-developed world, but it's certainly produced some of the best commentary on the situation, musically speaking, in any case.

Misery, frustration, desperation: one can sing about these things, certainly, but few bands manage to (let alone WANT to) sound like they feel. Budapest's der Tanz does. I haven't heard anything this menacing all year, and enraged frustration has rarely sounded so fiercely, joyfully vibrant. Marxists, nihilists, ponx and others have written a lot bout how not having a future creates a freedom of its own: witness the history of punk since 1977, or how much the working class of the U.S. achieved in the 1930s, as opposed to, say, the 1950s.

Well, this LP is further proof that there's still worthwhile work to be done, here, among the ruins of our lives and dreams.

Der Tanz has obvious references: The Birthday Party, Pere Ubu, Bauhaus, and so on. But unlike most bands mining the whole post-punk biz, der Tanz uses these references as a starting point to do whatever the fuck they want. The result is a series of expansively suffocating soundscapes, that drag you in and pummel you around. Squalling feedback, a singer who sounds like Nick Cave on a good day, and looping, now-ya-see-me-now-ya-don't bass: these are the building blocks for der Tanz's sound.

 There's something here that goes far beyond instrumental components, though. The album was recorded live and has all the limitations of such: der Tanz makes a virtue of this. Take "Over your cities grass will grow": it opens with a plodding beat and stumble-bumble bass, with the singer's incoherent rumblings hovering above the din. Behind the noise is, well, nothing: it sounds like the band is playing in a soundproof bunker deep beneath the concrete of a major city as grass grows above them. "The Garden" is even better: nothing but a metronome until someone starts gurgling bloody murder over it, then silence. Eventually, something quite close to a conventional song fills that void, before jerking into a piledriver piece of industrial terror.

Writing sometime around the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Brecht posed the question:  "Will there be singing in the dark times?" He immediately answered himself with the retort, "yes. About the dark times." Der Tanz isn't an anarchopunk band, they're not subject to democratic centralism, and they no doubt have exactly NO snazzy answers to Lenin's eternal question, "What is to be done?" But holy hell, are they masters at exploring the depths of our collective squalor without ever once whining about how oppressed they are, or ever once being obvious, and hence sentimental, about it. Sentiment, as any good Leninist knows, is the death of all true politics, and der Tanz-whatever else they are-are an effective political band, exactly because they do not sing of such.

Rarely have I heard an album so politically charged, so of its moment, without ever once making an explicitly ideological point. Der Tanz's debut LP is a perfect explanation of why punk is still a worthwhile mode of expression, even as it puts 99% of all punk I've heard in the last 15 years in the shade.

 This is the only album I've heard in 2013 that could slug it out with Dirty Beaches' Drifter/Love is the Devil for best LP of the year. They're night and day, of course, but both address the same question: What do you do with your life when your future has been taken away from you?

Listen to one of the answers HERE. THEN FUCKING BUY IT, JERKS! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nonagon-The Last Hydronaut EP (Controlled Burn, 2013)

I haven't heard a band so thoroughly from and of Chicago since the much-missed Loose Dudes. Nonagon operates on the direct opposite spectrum of punk from the Dudes, but if you've spent any amount of time in my home town you'll know what I'm talking about.

Nonagon features ex-members from a slew of bands well-loved in Chicago and virtually unknown outside it. That's typical of the city's best, since fundamentally Chicago is a big city with nothing around it for about a thousand miles in either direction.* Bands here either make music because they love it, or more to towns like LA or NYC and develop bad attitudes and the  coke habits to go with 'em.

Nonagon plays the sort of contorted, long-form post-punk initially popularized(?) by bands like Jesus Lizard,  etc. etc. You know the sound: plaintive/snide singing, strange time changes, and pummeling drums mixed in the front. Bass lines chiseled enough to cut granite. And so forth. Most cities killed off this end of their scene back in the mid-90s but Chicagoans are still at it. It's what happens when literate punks get tired of sheer noise but don't wanna end up sounding late-period Husker Du, either.

You either love this music or don't understand why anyone plays it. It's not my favorite sorta noise, but I love every instinct that leads people to play it.

So check out Nonagon here, then BUY THEIR FUCKING EP, DUDE!

*I might make exceptions for Detroit & Cleveland, but fuck you, St. Louis! As the Necros said, IQ 32, Midwest, fuck you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Catholic Guilt-Futile Attempts 7" EP (Doomtown Records, 2013)

Hardcore's psychology and historical development can be divided into two categories: Giving a Fuck and Not Giving a Fuck. The former produced such luminaries as Minor Threat, Black Flag, Aus Rotten, and pretty much every band on Revelation Records. The latter gave us relatable deadshits such as Poison Idea, Negative Approach, Government Warning, and The Men.

Of course, most of us oscillate somewhere between these two moods, depending on how hungover or high we are. So it's nice to have a few records from the former category in your collection. Hell, on a fine spring day, I find myself singing along to "Minor Threat"! Usually, though, I wake up feeling like nothing. So I typically turn to the carrion pit of misery offered up by the second category.

Catholic Guilt falls squarely within the Not Giving a Fuck category, so blasting this EP at 3 AM was a whole lotta fun. My juvenile kicks were bolstered by the knowledge that I was waking up any upstanding neighbors of mine who actually have jobs and/or families (HA!). CG almost measures up with Poison Idea when it comes to dashing off cogent, well-written songs that eloquently express the entire band's lack of interest in most of humanity. The singer sounds as apathetic as Jerry O., and the band is adept at stop-on-the-dime hardcore humdingers.

Throw this one on when you're slobbering drunk, lurching around your apartment in a Vicodin-and-whiskey haze, and don't wanna remember the whole ugly experience. Shit, who woulda thunk it that Austrians could relax long enough to write music this loose, huh?

Listen to a few tracks from the EP here; the physical deal drops on December 20th. Just in time to buy it for your high school sweetheart before asking if you can kiss her on New Year's, kiddies!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Horrible Houses-Songs Written & Recorded Under the Influence of the Yellow House (2013)

 These tunes are beautiful fragments of melancholy. Like one of his heroes, John Fahey, Daniel is very good at coaxing emotional depth out of a simple series of guitar chords. Clanging off the 4-track hiss, the guitar plays off the lack of other sounds in the mix and gathers strength in the process. They'll never meet each other, but Horrible Houses and Michael Wohl should share a bill, or maybe split an EP. They're the only guys I know of making folk- and blues-based music at this late date that actually fucking matters.

Horrible Houses never fails to surprise: buy the ticket, take the ride, as the good Doctor once said. By now I've come to expect freakfolk* of some sort from this guy, but nothing he's done sounds quite like his previous releases. That's saying a lot, given that anyone who wants to sell records or push downloads can simply cut-and-paste a genre's sound onto blank tape again and again and be guaranteed attention, if not fame 'n' fortune (fancy that).

This is a collection of improv recordings done "under the influence of the Yellow House." I'm guessing that's a new kind of acid the Swedes are keeping to themselves. Hell, us Yankees and Itals probably couldn't afford it anyways, them Scandis always get the best shit with their sizeable welfare checks. Point is, I want some of what this guy's doing so I can make more interesting bad life decisions.

The first five tracks are empty. Not lifeless, but empty, the way Neil Young's Dead Man soundtrack sounds hollowed out: stripped of all the dross and over-produced horseshit that hides most bands' lack of talent or passion. Empty the way the best American folk music sounded empty. Arthur Rothstein says at some point in Boardwalk Empire that all of life's problems arise from not being able to sit still in a room. In the same spirit, most music is desperate to fill that silence and stillness. Dismissing such anxiety, Daniel turns off the drum machine and ratchets up the vocal mix on these bedroom recordings.

 Some of his previous work was quirky for the sake of being quirky: certainly more interesting than most of what washes up on my "to review" pile, but not necessarily keepers. This album is nothing if not that. Dude claims that he buried some of these records under a real-existing Yellow House 6 years ago and dug 'em up in May; apparently Swedish dirt is more creative than American dirt, since these songs grew in the mulching. Throughout, it sounds like he's chasing a memory or constellation of images that slip away just at the point of recalling them clearly.

I'll close by encouraging you to CHECK IT, THEN BUY IT, for yourself.

*"Freakfolk" in the sense that this guy uses the forms of American folk music to craft his own sound, NOT in the sense that he is in any way indebted to or aping the driveling mimicrky and contrived jive of shitheads usually associated with this neologism.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Idle Minds-Teenage Suicide CS (2013)

Maybe it's the winter blues, maybe it's the terminal lack of leisure options if you're dead broke, but I've been listening to more hardcore lately. As much as I'd like to think I'm somehow too old for it or that I've learned enough to not need obnoxious noise in my life, hardcore is like alcohol. You think you can live without it when things are going great, but those periods are fundamentally transitory and it's always waiting for you, patiently, when you bottom out and your friends leave you in the cold grey dawn.

Melbourne's Idle Minds are ready for you, the next time your life hits the skids, and you'll be met with sweet sonic oblivion. It takes a lot of wasted years to be able to distinguish between different strands of hardcore, but I wasted said years happily and eagerly. So it sounds like Idle Minds is torn between the possibilities of manic fastcore (Dropdead, et. al.) and "emotional," grown-up hardcore like American Nightmare.* I'd like 'em either way, but that's a backhanded compliment: hardcore is either abject teenage oblivion or it's self-conscious, which is to say, it negates its own reason for being.

This tape is as frenetic as a 15 year-old hardcore kid who just gobbled up a month's worth of Adderal, and as crude as the cover art. The songs tear by in a whirlwind of juvenile anger, pulsing rage, and sheer annoyance with whatever's happening when you play this tape. Idle Minds is as bratty as you are in your worse moments, and it's better to embrace them rather than reject them as somehow below you.

Check out Idle Minds here!

*It's only a matter of time before this stuff is popular among yuppies and "cool" parents. Buy your copy of the last AN LP now and start dubbing copies for your grandkids.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Dictaphone-s/t (Totally Wired, 2013)

Quote-un-quote-noise-rock bands are a dime a dozen these days. Most of them drop forgettable records on forgettable labels, before sliding back into the scuzz pit of hipster trends and idiot fads that bequeathed us such luminaries of dogshit culture as The Killers.

Not so the Dictaphone, hailing from St. Martin's home town. First-gen No Wavers' avant garde pretensions aside, the fundamental intent of this sort of music is to annoy the listener, preferably in the most obvious and thus even more irritating way possible. The Dictaphone are past masters of this sort of nuanced-'cause-it's-not annoyance, and they don't let us down on their new(ish) LP. Everything I liked, and which you probably hated, about their previous essays in the obscene, is present here. Maybe the boys spent the past year huffing the ashes from St. Martin's reliquary, or they just found better recording equipment; either way, their sound is honed down into a precision-guided missile of pure, snide snark on this LP.

"About Blank" could be a lounge tune as written by Klaus Kinski: it offers the lilting repetition of lounge music, with a numbingly snide blandness I could only see the famous Hungarian dishing out. Nuthin' but a 4'4 time metronome, deadpan robot talk-singing, and the occasional blare of a synthesizer somewhere in the neon haze. There's a bit more life to "The Recording," but not much more. Really the best track here is number 3, "Verkehr." In my review of these guys' first LP, Let's Not, I described one song as ripping off the drumbeat from "All Tomorrow's Parties" while leaving the rest to the ages. Either these guys read the review and loved my comparison, or their speed habit coincides organically with a love of Lou Reed pop blueprints: "Verkehr" hijacks the bass vamp from "Rock & Roll" to weave it into a stand-alone piece of cosmic krautrock. Gradually this bass riff builds into a piece of coruscating majesty replete with animal-noise sound effects. "Hardness of Nuns" is the next highlight. Ditching the sophisto-70s references of "Verkehr," this is a bit of knuckle-dragging moron music almost as goofy as the Gorilla Biscuits LPs gathering mold in my record collection. This song sounds like if you spent all day reading 'ole Martin Heidegger then got punched in the face: you're still smart but in a really fucking stupid sorta way.*

Blahblahblah, if there's a point to this review it's that The Dictaphone is by far the best band making monotonous music these days.**

But don't trust my word for it, dear readers, FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF! Then you can buy the real deal from Vienna's Totally Wired, once you bow down and acknowledge the Dictaphone's brilliance. 

*Really, it's your fucking fault for reading that hippy dipshit's ontology mumbo-jumbo, anyway!
**Yes, that's a genre. If you don't believe me, ask my long-suffering friend who used to work at the record store with me. And no, I'm not telling you his name. Or why he would be an expert on monotonous music. He just is.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Black Gust-Psychedelic Maelstrom 7" EP (Doomtown Records, 2013)

Somewhere around 2006, lots of hardcore kids started smoking weed and re-discovered the weird end of mid-'80s hardcore. Maybe everyone was burnt out on the early-'00s revival of early '80s HC (notice a 20-year cyclical pattern here, kiddies?), maybe people my age starting having sex and became real people; anyway, all of a sudden you'd be doing bong rips to Bl'ast instead of chugging bad beer to the Jerks.

The heavy, drawn-out, slightly more considered sound of bands like Bl'ast is alive 'n' well with Zagreb's Black Gust. Black Gust dishes out 6 tracks of mid-tempo HC that falls somewhere between Leatherface and Annihilation Time. Just when you think they're gonna speed it up, they change time and slow it down. This is the sorta band that could, based on musical skillz, be doing something stupid like selling lots of records, but instead are making music they enjoy playing. They threw me for a loop with "Reinventing Lexicon Devil"-I always appreciate it when the kids have a sense of history, and this sounds like what'd happen if Darby bothered learning how to sing, and Pat Smear stopped huffing glue long enough to teach the drummer how to keep a beat.

I'd recommend this as one of the better hardcore EPs of 2013. Lots of us prefer getting high to Wu-Tang or King Tubby, but this is great for getting ripped. Especially if you have a Christmas break coming up and are staying at mom's house for it.  Throw this on at the holiday party and teach yr momma how to slamdance!

Get started on mom's tutorial here! Then buy the real deal from Zagreb's Doomtown Records!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hot Fuzz: Night Collectors Radio Show

Back when I worked at a record store, our standard retort to any annoying customer who wanted us to listen to the garbage s/he loved was "I just listen to whatever's on the radio." Well, "whatever's on the radio" is still as dismissive as it ever was for me, dear readers, but there's at least one worthwhile show out there.

Dood from Noise in the Zen Arcade blog started a radio show and the first two episodes (airings? Whatever.) don't disappoint. Pop some Xanax, sip some high-grade Johnny Walker, and sink deep into the music mellifluosity of Night Collectors Radio Show!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Feral Future-"No Means Nothing" single (2013)

It's getting close to party time in my neck of the woods, and I figured this one's as good as any for kickin' out the jams on a cold Friday night. I gather that Feral Future trafficks in uptight, jerky post-punk from this video; I'm still trying to figure out if the double negative of the song title implies a positive (if "no" means "nothing," does that negate itself into "no" meaning, in fact, "something"?). Toss this one on, splatter some blood (your own, maybe?) on your face, and hit the bars in a dancin' mood. All the kiddies will love it, trust me.

FF is dropping their debut LP on Western Medical Records come February, so stay tuned for a review.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"If they've got anything to say...."

 "If Adolf Hitler flew in today/they'd send a limo to see him on the way...."-Joe Strummer, 1978

I'll never forget the first time I heard The Clash: I was 13, and had just acquired a copy of the double-cassette "The Story of the Clash" collection through ill-gotten means. This was the first song on the tape, and, nostalgia notwithstanding, it was life-changing. The beauty and understated brilliance of the music; Joe's terse lyrical elegance; and the ability to look reality in the face. It's a melancholic assessment of the (lack of) hopes for the Left at the very beginning of the Capitalist Counteroffensive of the Thatcher/Reagan years, in a first-person narrative of dashed expectations, and the desire to find a bit of fun in the ashes. All the hopes, failures, and gut instincts gone awry that constitute most of the Left's recent history are on abundant display here.

On the second Clash track I'm showcasing, we flash forward to the mid-80s, to what one historian called the "starless midnight of the left." "This is England" is the last great Clash song, recorded when they hardly even qualified as a band. Strummer & Simonon were the only original members left. By most accounts it was Bernie Rhodes, their first manager, who "created" most of the album it's taken from, scrapping Strummer's versions of songs and recording his own.

The razor-sharp, mechanical quality of the tune is repellant at first. Slowly, though, Joe's bitter, deadened voice emerges from the steel gloom. After a few listens, you realize that the automated soullessness of the track is essential to its beauty. As the glistening machinery slices through verse/chorus, it creates a panorama of smashed communities and ugly, vicious reaction triumphant and gloating. This is the sound of defeat, a defeat without dignity. It's the sound of a boot stomping on a face over and over, sneering and laughing while doing so. If "White Man...." commemorates the failure of one more attempt at rallying the resistance, "This is...." describes a world in which, as Thatcher loved to insist, "there is no alternative." Things are bleak right now, just as they were then, and we need music like this, and don't have it. RIP, Joe.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Prag-demo CS (2013)

Trashed noise is a staple in these parts, and Prag delivers on their demo. I know nothing about this band but the music speaks for itself (it also helps that their name is an Oz reference). This is nasty, brutish rock played by a buncha cretins who sobered up long enough to do their homework on what good garbage sounds like. Somewhere along the line-I'd place it around the emergence of all the bands that followed in the Reatards' wake-garage and punk diverged from each other. By now conditions have worsened so badly that my punk friends think I'm being too obscure when I rave about Heavy Times, and my garagescuzz friends don't bother listening to anything, like Criminal Damage, that's popular amongst hardcore types. This is, of course, despite the fact that bands like Crim Dam and the Times are sonically indistinguishable to folks who haven't devoted (wasted) their youth to this mess we call punk.

    It's stupid, and someone should get to work healing the bridge between Punk and Garage (since at this point they deserve capitolization, given the sharp divergence). Prag may help us on that bridge over the River Kwai. Their sound is extremely simple, and thus effective: flailing morning star drumming, incoherently distorted gits, a bass that I'm sure is in there somewhere, and a singer who may or may not be singing in English-if it is, it's filtered through the raw Italish of bands like Negazione. "Concentrated Visuals" is the best track on this demo: a killer opening of brooding guitar and galloping bass drums, followed by vocals that sound like Tolkien's orcs. The song goes nowhere in particular; it just sorta swirls in and outta focus, like that hot girl/guy you just saw at the bar through whiskey-streaked eyes.

   Prag's good at building a world of misery out of the crude instruments afforded by the garage punk sound. And fuck do those drums nail you in place, while you watch the Discharge-style guitars soar and swoop like Stukas outta da sky. Hell, the singer's so bored by the band's radness that he's whistling by song's end!

I just spent two 'graphs ranting about one song and I didn't even talk about the coolest part of the demo (it follows "Concentrated Visuals"). If I hadda name-drop, I'd say these doods passed out in the rainwater-choked gutter somewhere between early Crazy Spirit and the brazen, chest-thumping stupidity of Sick Thoughts.

Do your part in re-inventing the wheel and making peace between Punk and Garage by supporting Prag. You can do that HERE! Then do yourself a favor and BUY A COPY OF THIS TAPE!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dot Dash-s/t LP (Totally Wired, 2013)

What can I say about an Austrian band that does  a pisstake on one of Johnny Cash's best and manages not only to not insult the Man in Black, but also does the tune justice, in the band's own incredibly idiosyncratic way? Tell you that they're good, that's what. Vienna's Dot Dash sound the way late November feels: playful in a somber sorta way. Like, it's cold now but fuck the Danube's gonna freeze soon and man I don't wanna leave my apartment but shit I REALLY won't wanna go outdoors in January, so I might as well go out while I can still get outta bed before 9 am.
The point is that winter's coming, folks, and this is one of the only good post-punk LPs I've heard in this beshitted year of Our Lord, 2013. There's a fundamental tension between work and play in Dot Dash's sound that they never resolve, intentionally, I think. After all, that was the question at the heart of the original bands' work, right?: Gang of Four, the Au Pairs, et. al., were always demanding that you answer for yourself the question, "revolution or drugs?" "good times or doing something that matters?"

Retrogressive snark aside, Dot Dash does the lilting, Leeds ca. '79 sound full justice on this LP. The winter gloom progressively darkens as the album moves forward: "Freeze" is trite, "No" simply confusing, "Care" fucking discombobulating, but by "Shy" we're in fully disconcerting territory. The singer barks out "I like watching things on TV" over numb, insistent minor-note guitar and Bauhaus-style riddim. The song mourns without stewing in gloom. The bassline of "Voodoo" is sinuous, menacing enough that I could probably listen to it alone without the slow-burn guitarwork. Sure it sounds like  Joy Div outtake, but at this point I'd rather listen to Dot Dash than Peter Hook & the Light. "Escape" could be the best track of the LP: a staccato, stop-start beat, talk-singing vox not unlike the great, majestic Sally Timms..

Anyways, look for this one on my year-end best-of list. Check it out, then buy it, HERE. Brought to ya care of Totally Wired Rex.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Natural Child-White Man's Burden 7" EP (2010)

I'm pretty sure that this is the sorta music white American teens had sex to back in the '70s, disco notwithstanding. Look up "sleaze rock" in the dictionary and you very well might find the cover art for this EP. Keith Richardisms aside, I love Natural Child for their unabashed celebration of rock as dumb teenage noise: blunt, straightforward riffage, lyrics about sex 'n' drugs, and a complete lack of interest in everything else.

I won't bother exploring why Natural Child felt compelled to write a song about the White Man's Burden; I'm pretty sure they're not in favor of (re-)colonizing Central Asia. Either way, it's a majestic, sprawling rock ballad that coulda been penned circa 1973. Best line: "thought rock 'n' roll was my own/but I found out we stole IT!/we ain't been here long enough to ever pay for IT/we ain't got 'nuthin' to our names but a shitload of MONEY...." Could you do better than that if you were Ernest Hemingway? No.
"Ray Thompson's Blues" is even better: pitterpatter drumming and vocals mixed so clearly you can hear every line as the singer yearns for Mexico. He probably isn't aware that for the last decade, Mexico's been a warzone, 'cause he's celebrating what us Yanks think of when we hear the name: beaches, sun, easy sex, and generally a life without any superego to get in the way of good times. It's blues-based sendup rock of the best kind. "Bang My head" is more of the same. Slightly more aggressive than the first two tracks, it's rambunctious, teenage blooz of the highest caliber.

I'm unabashedly re-blogging this from Iamtheleastmachiavellian blog. If you don't follow that dood already, you should be; you can download the EP there. Then you should BUY IT, for one lousy stinkin' gringo dollar, HERE!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lauren Bousfield-Avalon Vales LP (2013)

I don't know how this thing wound up on my "to review" list, nor do I understand why someone thought I would dig it. The PR page for this guy says that his main influences are Renaissance music and Tori Amos.*

I'm not remotely qualified to review this slab of high-pitched nebulousness. It reminds me of the first time I did 'shrooms. I was at some fancyschmancy outdoor concert (not a show, but a concert: y'know, assholes in suits and evening dresses on DATES! With their FIANCEES! Hilarious!). Half-way through this debacle, as choral singers were intoning about whateverthefuck over a harpsichord or somesuch classical biz I started seeing various historical figures of yore in the clouds: Genghis Khan, Charlemagne, Kim Il Sung (well, not him, but you get the idea). Shit got ugly real quick and I had to smoke about an eighth of weed with a friend before I started calming down.

 This LP  is a nightmare of fat, shrieking opera singers, breakbeats, and some sort of incessant, throbbing tic that may be my own impatience with pretentiousness, or it may be some sort of downtempo bullshit background noise, whateverthefuck.

 Listen to this LP, or not, here.

*When I'm not busy with real life (that is, punk rock, drugs, and alcohol) I study the Middle Ages and thus have a professional grievance with the Renaissance, conceptually. Buncha over-educated, under-employed Italian mofos workin' for the Medici and Visconti and Sforza et. al. thought they were fuckin' clever 'cause they re-discovered Carolingian minuscule and were duped into thinking they had found original, autograph-copies of Cicero's works when in fact C.m. was from the 9th century! HA! Fooled ya!And those assholes invented the term "Middle Ages" (Lat. medium aevum) 'cause these pretentious fucks thought that nothing worthwhile had happened between the Roman Empire and the 1400s.  Fuck the Renaissance and fuck high culture. And Tori Amos? Well, the less said the better.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Another anti-censorship petition

Signing petitions is a pretty passive and futile sorta form of political action, but there ya go-looks like the U.S. govmint is trying to re-tool SOPA in conjunction with several Pacific Rim nations. This treaty would vastly expand the power of ISPs, private companies, and the US government (as if it isn't already powerful enough?) to store info on internet use and ramps up the penalties for downloading music.

Anyways, you should sign another petition, HERE!
(Do it even if you're not a U.S. citizen; it's not like the government of the U.S. listens to us more than you foreigners).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thee Hugs-Drug Use & Alcohol Abuse LP (2013)

Drums rarely set the tone for a band, at least in rock. Brisbane's Thee Hugs is an exception to that rule: this band's rhythm section careens, thunders, and clunks through this LP like a truck driver on crank. These ten songs manage to walk a thin line between Dick Dale surfrockisms and the more musically-adept end of  first-wave L.A. punk (like dis crew).

The debut single, "She's My Girl," spurts jangled surf guitar before the drums set the pace: this is rave-up garage played right, by guys who prolly were at home playing along to Sham the Sham records while the rest of us were...at home, smoking weed. Again, though, the drums set the tone: mid-way through, they jerk the song to a halt and it closes on a crooning note. Helps that the singer ain't half-bad at sounding like a more frenetic, less controlled Jeffrey Lee. The guitar edges out the competition on "Sarsaparilla Shoes," putting in a memorable performance. My faverave track here though might be "Nazi Shooter," which is so charmingly juvenile in its faux-swagger that Legs McNeil himself couldn't'a done a better job. Holler-shouted vocals, needle-thin guitar notes, and rumble-in-the-jungle bangclang, although the rock-out-with-yr-cock-out bassline of "How Good Looking" is in a league of its own. Live it up.

In short, Thee Hugs are trafficking in an extremely formulaic and formalized genre, and manage to make it their own. That's no mean feat, given that most of the musicians and bands they reference here are at least thirty years old, if not going on fifty.

Get into it, and then buy the LP, HERE!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sideasideb-Old Adventures in Lo-Fi EP

Any of you kiddies like doing downers? Lemme tell ya, there's nuthin' like it this side of a major depressive episode. Things just sorta slow down and then (if you're lucky) stop moving altogether. Kinda like a normal day except with all the bad shit (read: most of it) carefully edited out so that it becomes a choose-your-own-adventure.

Of course, if you're operating on a head fulla Xanax, there ain't many adventures happening, but I digress. Sideasideb's second EP is sorta like that: things are indeed moving, out there, somewhere, but it all sort of mushes together in a blur of glacial synthesizer and mumble-whispered vocals in the distance. "Ten Speed" is probably the best track here: cutesy artsyfartsiness gradually gets serious by imploding into drum-guitar spazzfukery worthy of Hella. In fact, the mix of beats and spazziness sort of makes the comparison more apt now that those Hella guys are doing DeathGrips. I think they sped up the drum track at one point but who cares, right? Just let the Xanies guide you through this bit of rambling rattlenhum.

You can demo this bit of downed out weirdness here; hang out with the band here.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Louie Louie"

....'cause I'm too out of it to write:
"you know the pain/that's in my heart/it just shows/I'm not very smart...."
"...I said, ah, we gotta go now....."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Divided Minds-s/t tape (Doomtown Rex, 2013)

One of the reasons I started this blog was to scream and shout (textually, that is) in English about bands whose native language ain't said bastard tongue, in an effort to force you fuckers to check out non-Anglo bastard noise. So I'm always happy to rave about another Eastern European punk band,* and this time it's Zagreb, Croatia's Divided Minds.

DM traffiks in the same sorta mid-tempo slopcore we know and love from such past luminaries as Young Wasteners and The Observers. But both those bands just ripped off these guys or even The almighty Saints, you're saying to yourself. So what? Since Sham 69 started by stealing Mick Jones' best riffs, punk has meant nothing more than making good choices about who you wanna steal ideas from, musically or politically.

So Divided Minds does a good job of it! My favorite track is "Close to Death," which as far as I can tell is sung in Croat (I dunno which dialect, I understand that there's 3). Snazzy, mid-tempo punk much like the bands I mentioned above. Although "Black and Blank" is even better: neurotic, nervous, jerky punk that never slides into sheer ripoff runoff slop.

The cover looks like a cheap Discharge offprint, but don't let that deter you (or, depending on who you are, that's an endorsement). Check it out, THEN BUY IT, on bandcamp. Brought to ya care of Doomtown Records, Zagreb's best. DT Recs also dropped the Nuclear Spring 7", which you should be blasting as you get blackout drunk, RIGHT NOW. You haven't heard Nuclear Spring, you say? What are you, wicked, or something? Jeez.

*NOT a Warsaw Pact nation, thanks to lokalpatriot for the correction. All hail Comrade Tito!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sick Thoughts-Need No One 7" (2013)

So in case you fuckers haven't heard or noticed, B-More's Sick Thoughts is the current toast of the null-node-garageville-scene (constituted by me, whatever bartender can stand my presence here in the Old Country, a rolling pouch of Vannelle tobacco, and a bottle of bottom-shelf gin). Monsieur Jay Reatard left a massive void in all uv ower hartss when he kciked the bucket awhile ago and, dare I say it, add two or three more years to his run than I envision him actually goin', and Sick Thoughts' Drew will (is, in fact) fill[ing] said void.

Yup, the I-don't-give-a-fuck-but-God-do-I-love-Rock vibe I always got from Jay's best shines, even spits and shouts,* through, on everything Sick Thoughts has shat out since its brilliantly moronic inception. Which is a lot, in fact-dood has thrown three or more proper releases at us since the beginning of 2013, in addition to the sickeningly-awesome collabo project he's got goin' with Nick from Kent State.
All of this makes for preemo-primeo noise, voidoids. "Need No One" has everything you need for a great Saturday night: throwaway guitar leads that Johnny Ramone woulda thought rude, drums that Tommy never bothered learning 'cause they're that crude, and vocal lines that, and I have it on good information straight from whatever Ramone is still alive, y'all, Joey himself wrote and then discarded in a dumpster in Queens ca. 1976 'cause the kids at CBGBs woulda laffed him outta da rooom for singin' 'em. This beautifully beshitted 7" is ample proof that dood behind the sleez, Sick Thoughts don't need no one, and neither should you!

Get the picture? No? Well let me illustrate it WITH CRAYONS, you stupid cunts. Good, I finished this review and now I can get back to drinking gin straightout ov a plastik cupp.

Anyways, if you love crude rock and everything it entails, go buy yrself a pack of smokes, go home, blast this as you get blackout drunk, then start yr evening. I love you all, shitbirds.

*Especially given the blatant aesthetic rip-off-appeal of the cover aesthetics. JR LIVES, SHITBIRDS!

The Zoltars-Walking through the Dark LP (2013)

This band has a real knack for writing quirky, off-the-cuff garage tunes. Their Live Like Dragons EP had me jazzmatazzed and their second LP don't disappoint, neither. The sound is much the same, but there's more of it and the songs feel more focused than on said 3-song effort.

You get the feel, listening to this LP, that the Zoltars are playing more for their own enjoyment than 'cause they really wanna sell records or impress the girls. The production (recording? Same shit to me) gives it a hushed, almost subdued feeling that suits the lyrics well. Topics usually focus around lonely night trips, and wanting to get out of yr house simply 'cause it makes you feel alright. Sentiments I'm certainly familiar with, and the instruments are balanced just right on tunes like "Here in My Room," the opener. But let's take "Fear not Death" for a showpiece: constrained, restrained instrumental layouts, menacing guitar notes, and a singer gently, menacingly, repeating "fear not death." Ok, fucker, gimme that 6-shooter, the gin, and whatever pills you've got.

Make of that what you will, Zoltars are one of the few smash-it-up stellar reps of what passes for a garage rock scene in the States these days. Unlike most of the other groups in that category, they deserve garage star status because of their restraint: this band understands how much drama can be packed into build-up and the rising-action part of the story, and use the climax scenes very sparingly. They're best to blast when starting your evening. That means when you're on your 3rd drink of a 10-godknowshowmanynight, and you haven't done any (hard) drugs yet. Have fun, kids.