Thursday, July 24, 2014

American Waste: Black Flag and The Jeffersonian Imaginary of 1980s SoCal

So a friend of mine has been blogging on the political economy of the SST scene in particular, and the subtly reactionary aesthetic of Black Flag in particular. He's done three entries so far, the most recent one on Raymond Pettibon's films. Those of you who are into reading books and talking about ideas and stuff should CHECK OUT THE POSTS, everyone else can get back to crushing beer cans on their heads and singing about anarchy and stuff, preferably while playing The 4 Skins.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Looks Like Miaou-Handbrake CS (Bon Voyage Rex, 2014)

Many of my American friends who have never been to Europe think of one thing when said Continent comes to mind: electronic music. Some of you (myself included, at one point) might view this as a gross reduction and misunderstanding of a place old in history, culture, language, blahblahblah.

But there is a nugget of truth to it. For the past century, Europe has been confronting its own decline, rather obsessively, in a myriad of ways. These run the full gamut from extreme right-wing nastiness to the beauty of Walter Benjamin's prose, or Dadaist perversity for perversity's sake. I submit that Europeans' love of electronic music is, simply, another mode of grappling with this terminal decline. For what better way to deal with one's obsolescence (in the Hegelian, big-H-History sense of "obsolescence") than with loud, mindless, bass-heavy dancing?

I would submit that mannered yet excruciating noise is an equally good way of responding to said obsolescence. And Brussels' Looks Like Miaou dishes out early Sonic Youth-style noise in spades. They've got everything: Kim Gordon-esque hollering, stray trumpet notes, a desultory rhythm section, and plenty of subdued guitar squall. The band is part of a burgeoning noise scene in the EU's capital, along with the other acts on Tendresse Records. Take a walk through hollow, cacophonous soundscapes of your own neuroses with LLM. Their harsh clangor points straight at the profound squalor at the heart of the European Union's dream of nihilistic affluence and cultural superiority stuck in apparently permanent decline.

If all of the abovesaid is too sophisticated a description for you, dear readers, just know this: LLM's cassette is a good soundtrack to sweating out late July in a fetid, filthy apartment, guzzling cheap beer and waiting to go home not 'cause you like home all that much, in fact, but 'cause your Safe European Home isn't really home. But what's home, anyway? Nothing, really, except austerity and  refugees turning up dead on the European side of the Mediterranean, that's what.

Anyway, check out Looks Like Miaou, and get the cassette, HERE!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cum Stain-s/t CS (2013[?])

Even by my standards, Cum Stain is pretty crude stuff. These guys (one guy?) channel the puerile antics of Tesco Vee through the charming sonorities of SoCal beach rock, and the result is something like a 14-year-old loser masturbating to pictures of Britney Spears while a Dead Boys live EP blares in the background and his mom bangs on his door, telling him to stop hurting her. Juvenile onanism is just as old as rock, though, so it ain't as pathetic as it sounds. Indeed, some might argue that excessive penile fixation is the very essence of the genre. Throw on “Rocket 88” by Ike Turner (he of the Tina-Turner-battering fame), and it’s the same sentiment, but a bit cockier): Some dude really needs to get laid and feels an all-encompassing need to explain this fact to the listener, since he ain’t, in fact, gonna get laid.

But it’s been a long time since “Rocket 88” dropped, and since then we’ve come a long way [pun intended]. Whereas allusion and allegory were all the rage in sex rock from the 1950s, Cum Stain goes for the sort of graphic, in-your-face, no-imagination-needed imagery of our age of internet porn and sexting: “I don’t wanna love you/I just wanna fuck you/I’m just another cum stain on your rug.” It just goes on like this, through sub-Ramones slop with titles like “Broke my Dick,” “SuckHer4U,” and “Bachelor’s Life.” “No Hearts!!!” speeds it up a bit with cymbal crashes and frenzied (guitar) stroking, veering between hardcore breakdowns and ’77 punk headbangerisms. At some point there’s even a dialogue sample from what I’m guessing is a porn flick. Nice.

This has been a pretty snide review, but I can’t besmirch Cum Stain too much. The music’s halfway-tuneful beach punk, and CS is only as wretched as BrainBombs, whom I love. In fact, CS is a lot more innocent than the ‘Bombs, since this guy’s only singing about his weiner, not murder and snuff films. Cum Stain takes a certain current present most American music (i.e., horny-boy-alone-with-a-guitar) and runs out of the ballpark with it. The singer also sorta sounds like Hunx from Hunx & His Punx, except resolutely, passionately hetero. If this is your cup of tea, get over to the porn store and check out Cum Stain.

You can download the tape here. The cassette itself seems to be out of print, but you should go to Burger Records (i.e., the above-mentioned porn store and get CS' other stuff. It's orgasmic, lemme tell ya.).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

McBain-s/t EP (2014)

McBain's debut EP is as sweet as the candy that rotted out your teeth (like the tooth on the cover). Just when you think the band is going to descend into the standard hardcore speedslop, they jerk to a stop. Full stop. This is the sorta music best experienced in someone's crowded, filthy garage or basement on a hot summer night, half-delirious from heat exhaustion yet still guzzling Labatt's or some other Canadian pissbrew.

"I'm Exhaustion," opening with growled vocals worthy of the dood from Scratch Acid, exemplifies the McBain sound: as the guitar meanders through a postpunk number, the drums counterpoint the singer. Of course you can't understand anything he's singing about, but "whiskey" does get repeated a lot. One can imagine the song was written after drinking a lot of it, but the boys kept it together to throw in coherent choruses. Just when you think it's over, minor notes lurch into more frenetic, seething tension.

The drums win the fight on "Cooking with Feelings"; I haven't heard punk drumming this good since the days of Giant Haystacks. My guess is that "I Survived the Moe Earthquake" is a reference to a Simpsons episode I never saw, and Moe might indeed throw this one on to drive Barney Gumble outta the bar at 3 AM. It's that good!

At the end of the day, Mcbain is a punk band that's a little too clever to play retreaded retard rock with a mohawk cresting over the din. These Aussies is so nice, you can download the EP for free, here!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trobecove Krušne Peći-S Mukom Žvaču Trubadurov Vrat LP (Doomtown, 2014)

You have to love a band that includes aquarium ambience on the first track. From what I understand, Zagreb's  Trobecove Krušne Peći (TKP) were a seminal part of the former Yugoslavia's underground scene in the early '80s. They never released a full record, so Doomtown has collected their recorded output for a latter-day artifact from the days of samizdat culture. 

This is taut, hop-along-jerk-along postpunk akin to [insert here the names of all the bands you're waiting for me to reference]. Like a lot of the European post-punk of the period, it sounds like dub with all the rhythm flattened out and compressed into a tin box: what comes through is the anxiety and brooding, with none of the expansiveness. That's not a criticism-most of the best post-punk worked in that manner. "Zvijezda" is, for my money, the best song here: it stutters along in an offkilter, stumblebum way, with bass and scratchy guitar notes merging with what sounds like seagull noises. "Boje Noć U Krv" could be a Brainbombs tune, stripped of the squalling dissonance-it's built around a lone horn twiling away as the singer intones about, well, something. In a bark that reminds me of the Brainbombs' singer. 

My guess is that one misses a lot by not understanding Croat (I don't), but the music is top-notch, neurotic Iron Curtain punk from the dying days of Tito's "Real Existing Socialism." You keep waiting for the explosion, and it never comes-history would take care of that a little later, of course. 

You can check out TKP here.  Doomtown has released this on a double LP with a fancy insert detailing the history of the band. If you're a geek for all things '80s and all things post-punk, as I am, you should probably get your ass over to Doomtown's site and BUY IT IF YOU LIKE IT!