Reviews 4.18.10

First off, much apologies for the tardiness of this update. Massive life changes hit the editorial staff over the last six months to a year and we are just starting to dig out. The reviews below are a bit dated and we have a big back log of stuff sent to us that we need to go through. With the backlog, we are gonna review what we normally would have regardless of release date. We will also be working in more recent releases. Hopefully the updates will come sooner, even if it is only two or three releases at a time. We also restarted work on issue four. I don't want to promise a release date right now, but we are writing! ---SS

Collage Forty Seven Minutes Four Seconds CD (Wool)
A collection of material made by this Estonian group, from 1971 to 1977, excerpting three albums. The group evolved from the work of three academic institutes operating in Soviet controlled Estonia, and working with Estonian Television. The sounds are a hybrid of sunshine pop vocals, jazz and Estonian folk music. At it's best Collage sounds like a funky, ethnic Free Design doing Morricone pop and it's best is very good stuff. However, the best also tends to be based on one or two different folk melodies. At it's worse, Collage dives into jazz vocals with the grating (but talented) flair of Manhattan Transfer. Fortunately those moments are few. --SS

Mako Sica Mayday at Strobe LP (Permanent)
A live album documenting an open studio recording by three piece Mako Sica. Here they do two long songs, "W" and "Red Rivers." While both songs have different construction, they draw from the same sounds: 100 Flowers/Human Hands-style post punk, Bowie/Eno's Low, Spaghetti western soundtracks... The guitar is heavy on delay, but for the most part it adds rather than hinders the performance. There are several moments at which Mako Sica edges toward the predictable and then take a surprising turn. They are even able to climb out of introspective, delicate passages without straining, something which is damn difficult to do. Good record that would have sound at home on Blackvelvetfuckere. 120 copies so scramble! --SS

Lonnie Eugene Methe Hey Jack 7" (Unread)
Methe has a long history of playing with other folks (Mountain Goats, Simon Joyner, Ed Gray) and on a few thousand cassette only releases (Naturaliste, Arnoux, under his own name), but this is his first record under his name. It has gotten lots of spins, and that might be no big deal to you, but, considering this is "singer/songwriter" stuff, it is a big deal to me. Simple, understated songs done with mostly just guitar or piano and hushed voice, Hey Jack reminds me a bit of Johnny Thunders' Hurt Me album. As good? Nah, Hurt Me is a fucking classic. Still, Hey Jack keep returning to the record player and it has me eager to hear more. --SS

Plexi 3 Tides of Change CD (Certified PR)
If this is change, I'd say the tide coming in pretty damn slow. Plexi 3 listen like a B-grade punk band from '79 - Diodes, Bizzaros, PVC - which is not a bad thing. But if your ears are tuned to more than that era of punk sounds, you won't find much here other than competance. --SS

Purling Hiss s/t LP (Permanent)
A fucking wretched waste of time. Mundane, cliche-ridden wah wah psych, which relies on grinding a single riff from banality to boredom. The guitar solos show that the guy can play, but are as dull as the background. There is absolutely no originality here, just wanking by numbers. Even worse is the recording and mix. Be prepared to crank the bass on your stereo, as this was mixed for those who enjoy that crackling, treble-drenched AM sound. Perhaps the only real accomplishment here is making the drums sound so damn muddy under all the tint. There are vocals but they are an afterthought at best. Useless garbage from an otherwise reliable label. --SS

Rank Xerox s/t 7" (Mongo Bongo)
The sleeve suggests some kinda Rough Trade/Fast Records outing. And there is some post punk here. The first side is speedy, early 80s style stuff that reminds me of when hardcore bands got bored with playing as fast as they could and matched velocity with Gang of Four. Rank Xerox do it fine, but I've heard too many bands do the same. The B-side, "Masking/Confessions" starts off as textbook Ameri-post punk ala Monorchid, but midway shifts into a weirdo synth/rock pulse, which begs the question "Why not build the sound on this foundation?" Hopefully, this departure from standard (post) punk convention is more than just a song twist. Good record, but not essential. --SS

Dead At Twenty-Four Blast Off Motherfucker! LP (Ride the Snake)
The back story on this beast is similar to that of the Robot Assassins, that angular Bay Area art-agitator outfit of the mid-90s that disappeared w/o much of a trace, much to the head-shaking disgust of our orbiting Alien Observers. “Oh well, another missed chance for this race to advance, but we cannot intervene in their development…” Well, in the case of Dead At Twenty-Four someone at orbiting Mission Control must’ve finally got fed up with “the rules”and beamed a sizable enough shot of violet energy into the sleeping, but fevered, brains of the creeps behind this label to stimulate this ten-years-too-late release. This stuff is absolutely top shelf art punk, pulling off all the tricks that keep people listening at 3am after they get back from the bars and/or clubs, namely a restlessly dour whine leavened with great guitar noise. But they had songs, kids, really angular, plotted-out songs. That this stuff could’ve been created in the depths of 1998 (where the real kicks were mainly in the KBD-worshipping garage punk vein) is nothing short of a miracle, and it’s also faint praise to say this “could have come out last week”. The only drawback is the live fidelity, which leaves you pining for a proper studio jobbe, but this will have to do. It’ll do. Buy it. –RW

Druid Perfume Other Worlds/Weird Wally Wigwam 45 (M’lady/Italy)
Man I hate to rip on Alice Donut again (no, I don’t really) but this is the sound those creeps were really shooting for and missing time and again; a churning, burly, scattershot free-jizz rock attack that calls to mind the Magic Band, or the Birthday Party at their most far-flung. This is especially true on the flipside, which also sounds like a more human-scale Jesus Lizard sans all the flaming hoops and scab parade (and scab-suckin’ fellow travellers). I wonder though, about putting this out as a 45. It’s not like someone wants to dip their toes into something this brutal, it’s not like it’s catchy or something. It’s kind of like watching video of your Dad’s funeral over and over. It’s powerful ‘n such, but… -RW

Fergus & Geronimo Blind Muslim Girl/Powerful Lovin’ 45 (Tic Tac Totally)
Snappy two-piece rock ‘n roll powerpop with some goddamn brains for once, both in the concept and the execution. Wow, what a full sound, let me look at that sleeve again…just two nerds hiding in those bushes, yup! “Blind Muslim Girl” is the fast one and it’s a toe-shredding tapper alright, with a good strong rhythm going that “should please dance enthusiasts”, except for those stone-faced jerks who refuse to remove their hands from their pockets at shows, why are you here then? The flip is soulful and tender and well-sung. Yes, sung. This group is a living challenge to the grumps and blowsy cynics who have no use for anything that smacks of the pop impulse. It could all go horribly wrong very soon, but here is an effort that stays on the rails. -RW

Flight Feels So Good/In the Morning Night 45 (Hozac)
Sometimes my deliberately maintained ignorance of band members’ provenance can be a blessing instead of a curse. This band has “someone” innit, but damn if I care. How are the songs? Well, the a-side is a snore that tries to coast on some watery-sounding computer effects on the vocals but the song is lacking any momentum or compulsion so it neither pushed my broom nor emptied my ashtray. Dry as a bone afterwards. The flip picks up the game considerably, they drop the gimmicks and just write an effective plodding head-nodder that I’ll wager is even better live than here, that being said because no one can really master 45s properly in 2010 anymore, nothing personal against nobody, but this song could warp floorboards if it were louder. Another 50-50 loser/winner single. –RW

Sandwitches Back to the Sea/Beatle Screams 45 (Southpaw)
Man, I can’t remember the last time I heard a single as thoroughly enjoyable as this one that hung on a more fragile, gossamer thread of a conceit. You’ve got a band that sounds like they are playing the trade-that-instrument-and-hit-record game, and the playground-styled vocals are being made up on the spot, I’m sure, but the whole mess teeter-totters on the edge of cloying nausea and pop genius and manages to slop itself 90% on the right side of that razor’s edge. It’s the Happy Accident school of song creation, and the vast majority of the time this stuff belonged on the tape comps that used to be their permanent homes, but whoops! It works here in spades and earns vinyl immortality. –RW

Work / Piles Split LP (Rad Key)
A split full-length by two current San Francisco bands, Work and Piles. I wouldn't be surprised if Siltbreeze hasn't already moved on Work- loud (kinda) melodic DIY art-punk, WITH Ohio ties (Columbus ex-pat Sarah Bernat of 16 Bitch Pile-up). Top shelf stuff, kinda like a nastier Finally Punk. The Piles side reminds me a bit of The USA Is a Monster, but simpler and without the Native American business. Not quite as strong of a statement as their colleagues, but memorable enough to keep both sides of this sleeper in heavy rotation for a couple of months. -SW

Life Partners
- Men Are Talking LP (Ride The Snake)
Interesting collision between light Yo La Tengo-style indie pop and hardcore punk, with a plenty of prog thrown in to keep the pot from boiling over and making a mess of kitchen. It took me the full 6-minute length of the opener to settle in to their unique sound, which is comprised of Flying V, drums and a trumpet. The singer runs wild with the music, largely escaping the Faith No More-ness expected when melodic singing turns aggressive. I have a lot of respect for bands willing to commit to their ideas with little worry about how taboo the outcome of their experiments may be, especially when the end result is an inspired album which opens itsefl up with each listen. -SW

Various Just a Little Bit of Milvia Son Reccords EP (Milvia Son)
Bad Drumlin Grass Live at Timber Cove LP (Milvia Son)
The handwritten post-script plea to "get high" before listening to this crap was enough reason to trash the one-sheet and throw these in the dark end of the review pile reserved for the never ending stream of Bipolar Bear promos. I eventually felt bad about throwing these Milvia Son records in with such bad company without even giving them a fair listen - I'll start with the label comp: two instrumentals, bookended by two vocal songs, the first is a love song about Carl Sagan roughly to the tune of Bruce Springsteen's "The Angel", the second sounds like Van Morrison (now, not then) singing roughly to the tune of Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit". Not bad, actually, but the instrumentals were formless and left no real lasting impression.
The LP by Bad Drumlin Grass (who were responsible for one of those instrumentals) is the other record of the Milvia Son Records care package. One song per side, both similarly sparse and atmospheric with synths, guitar, pedals - not a whole of character which distinguishes Bad Drumlin Grass from the weaker half of the Not Not Fun roster, but in all, makes for a relaxing half-hour in an otherwise busy day. -SW

Uke of Spaces Corners Flowers In the Night LP (Turned Word)
This is my first taste of UoSC, and makes for a nice winter companion. Spaced folk music along the same trajectory as The Holy Modal Rounders and The Cherry Blossoms. The nasally M/F harmonies are in the foreground, while the accompanying music simply colors their voices with a drone of intricate acoustic instrumentation. Very enjoyable, and enough motivation to get me to check out some of that back-catalog. -SW

Back to Basics In The Cloud EP (Fine Tuning)
First Alert might be merely an also-ran for Japanese 90s punk fans, but for my money, there wasn't a band with mod-punk tendencies that could touch them during their lifespan. Back To Basics is the singer's new outfit, and predictably, it's much softer than First Alert. I suppose this is more comparable to Brightliner than it is to Firestarter in terms of 90s Japanese punks making a go of it in the 2000s. If that doesn't make sense to you, then this is "shitty" instead of "great". Back To Basics finds these mod-punks in "Setting Sons" territory, which might not be terrible, but certainly lacks the immediacy and (sorry) balls I was hoping for. You can go your entire life without hearing this and you'd be just fucking fine. -MC

The Black Jaspers S/T LP (In The Red)
King Khan pairs up with Euro punker Jasper Hood (of the occasionally impressive Moorat Fingers), for another famed one-off LP of scuzzy, dumb-as-hell punk rock of the Killed By Death school. While that premise would normally equate to something I'd probably really enjoy, the actual record leaves me more annoyed than anything else, and that's coming from someone who loves inept punk rock bullshit more than just about anyone. This record, like most Khan projects not featuring The Shrines or Mark Sultan, is just too half-assed to get excited about. It isn't completely devoid of merit ("Long'n'Wavy" and "Born In '77" are actually really good, gross punk rock tunes), but it's all more of a joke than exciting (dumb) punk. It might go against all logic to say this, but if you're gonna set out to make a dumb punk record, why not try to make a GREAT dumb punk record? I'm all for being a callow and ridiculous rocker, but how many more of these records do we need outta Khan? -MC

Fever B The Lonely Sailor Sessions 12" (Burger)
This one seems to have gone under the radar for some unfathomable reason, but I suppose the same could be said for just about everything this guy's been associated with (Fevers, Donny Denim, Sweet Faces, Retardos). I've always felt that this previous work was of the sleeper classic variety, growing more potent and awesome as the years go by. I'd return to those records happily if I were able to pry this one off the turntable. Yup, this debut solo outing is easily the most immediately likable of the bunch. Mid-fi with the guitar right up front, the 5 songs featured here are just perfect, unapologetic power-pop. What really wins you over is that the entire record is equal parts sincerity and piss-take. How could it not be with a tune like "Pop Punk Love"??? This delivery just makes things feel all the more...authentic. There's a scant few around today that I'd trust with this stuff and Fever B is at the tip-top of the list. Hands down, the best pure power-pop record since the first Gentleman Jesse single. -MC

The Horribly Wrong C'mon And Bleed With... LP (Eradicator/Shit In Can)
Oh, where have you gone, Demolition Derby Records? Where art thou, Casting Couch Records? Where and why did 007 Records vanish? 15 years ago, the above-mentioned labels and their fellow fifth-tier compadres would've been chomping at the bit for a Horribly Wrong single. We're talking a singles barrage of Morning Shakes-ian levels! This LP, all 18 (overkill?) tunes, is a time-warp record made in that sound, perhaps with those exact motivations. Let us return to a time when the human brain couldn't simply call punk like it was and had to call it "garage punk". Midwestern, fast, drunken, cruddily-recorded punk, complete with not one but TWO songs about blood. Perhaps a tad too tuff at times (hence their imaginary Scooch Pooch double 7" from '96), but not enough to ruin it for the purists. Of course this doesn't hit it like, I dunno, The Brides, but it's a fairly decent attempt. For those of us out there unwilling to let go of this warts-and-all 90s style, here ya go. -MC

Louder Idiot Mind/No Way 45 (Louder)
Yet another new Japanese punker signaling the end of power-pop's stranglehold on the country (further proof can be found on singles by Perfectform, Erazer and Slowmotions). Rooted in the same mine the current crop of retro Danes are drilling (80s SoCal punk), Louder's debut features 2 tunes, both of which are based around this semi-metallic guitar that conjures some cliche-ridden middle ground between Agent Orange and Johnny Thunders. The trouble is that it actually works, especially against a totally spiky Japanese HC delivery lurking underneath. On par with Erazer and Slowmotions in that (A) it's capital-p PUNK and (B) the chances of finding the records state-side are nearly impossible. Bonus points for the spray-painted cloth sleeve. -MC

Predator S/T EP (Rob's House)
I'm a sucker for anything produced by this particular sect of Atlanta punks, and this debut Predator EP is no different. All three of the songs here rule, each managing to be simple and anthemic amidst some darker tension. And not a tweener-core record like some of the predecessor bands: all punk here. Perfectly executed and one of the handful of great debut punkers for 2009. -MC

Spencey Dude & the Doodles S/T EP (Rob's House)
Annoying, smarmy and cutesy pop-punk. This is music for stoned girls. -MC

Tandoori Knights Pretty Please/Bucketful 45 (Norton)
A "world garage" one-off from King Khan and Bloodshot Bill. "Pretty Please" is a not-funny-but-trying attempt on some kinda Hindu rock, the result being exactly the kind of totally grating soundtrack choice someone like Jim Jarmusch or Wes Anderson might select. I'm sure a moped would be involved in the scene too. "Bucketful", by comparison, goes down much easier, rocking with an up-tempo Bo Diddley beat and the appropriate...no, expected amount of gusto. A one-sided single good enough for, ohhhhhh, three solid spins before filing away. -MC

Useless Eaters Hear/See EP (Shattered)
Useless Eaters Sucked In EP (Goner)
Six tunes spread across four 45rpm sides, each and every one a short, fantastically crafted punker. While it's a given to link them to some mythical Killed By Death influence, that notion can't possibly outshine just how interesting these singles are. Translation: None of the songs unfold how you would expect them to. The guitars range from awkwardly surfy to full thrift store gutter-buzz, oftentimes shifting between sounds mid-song. The arrangement on, for example, "Sucked In", begins with Wire-ish choppiness, descends briefly into a noise spiral and finishes off totally unhinged. "Just A Person", off the Shattered EP, features a more melodic approach, yet still manages to be sinister, immediate and mean. Flirtations with vaguely Cold Wave sounds are even present and pulled off flawlessly. This is just far too crafty to be an act of accidental genius, so let's just call it like it is. It's tough to ask for more out of a contemporary true-blue punk single than what's found on these EPs. Pick one or both up to round out your best-of list for '09. Great goddamn stuff. -MC

Diskad The Answers 7” (DF)
Tell me that there’s a trace on a Brainbombs’ fingerprint on something and I’m gonna be all over it. Even when these mighty Swedes leave a mark bellow their usual high standard, their spuzz is more enjoyable than most bands’ flagship product. The entity known as Diskad is a solo outing by Brainbombs drummer Drajan Bryngelsson. This debut release on Mr. B’s new DF imprint finds the man hammering away unmercilessly amidst a sea of feedback. I gotta think that the between song interludes of a live Brainbombs set aren’t too far a field from about half of the tracks on this record. The other half possesses enough form to conjure the thought that they exist as the “songs” that punctuate the interludes of a Diskad set. If you’re expecting the rhythmic bombast and recursive grind of the Brainbombs, then be forewarned that this little slice of degeneracy is a much freer affair. If you’ve ever wondered what Adris Hoyos was up to when Bill Orcutt left his guitar leaning against his amp while he stepped out of the practice room for a Skittles break, then this Diskad record may just provide the fly-on-the-wall perspective you never knew you needed. – MT

Dragsters Desert Race one-sided LP (8mm)
Italy’s 8mm label is famous for releasing super limited records by somewhat known and completely unknown bands whose vinyl platters seem to vanish in a matter of hours. This Dragsters one-sided LP in an edition of 113 copies is a prime example of such an artifact that fewer people than are currently standing in your local unemployment line will ever get a chance to experience. Dragsters is yet another incarnation of Italy’s Neokarma Jooklo ensemble, an ever-changing constellation of musicians who play all manner of cosmic and wastoid musics in the higher key stylee, and who have released records on labels such as Qbico, Troglosound, Conspiracy and others. Dragsters features Maurizio Abate on electric guitar, David Vanzan on drums, Virginia Genta on saxophone and Luca Massolin on electric bass. The four tracks on this disc push a helluva lot of air with their acid, dub n’ funk-fueled psych moves that make me think of a boogiefied Bardo Pond were those Philadelphians ever to attempt a run through of the Funkadelic songbook. These Dragsters strut and bounce like nobody’s business, lemme tell you. Of course, their use of 100% pure uncut distortion will forever prevent Dragsters from getting spun at all but the most rarified of block parties where gin n’ juice would most definitely give way to hops n’ herb. I’d be lying if I told you I couldn’t use another few dozen records like this one propped up next to the stereo, but I suppose it’s the scarcity of such treasures that truly makes one appreciate a record like this one when it lands on your doorstep. Consider me grateful. – MT

Frozen Cloak s/t LP (private)
In the musical lineage of Bellingham, Washington’s Frozen Cloak lies a connection to the sadly underheralded Reeks and the Wrecks in the form of drummer Jason Sands. Beyond this I know not. Yet let’s not let this lack of biographical information tarnish the enjoyment of this outstanding record. As the band’s name might imply, there is some overt cloaking going on here via the limited presentation of information anywhere on the record’s sleeve except for band name and song titles. To this end, the labelless clear vinyl record tucked inside seems only apropos. Frozen Cloak let loose with a massive, kraut-inspired, Stoogoid take on instrumental rock that brings an ear-to-ear smile to my face. I think it’s the band’s use of thug rock pummel to support their kosmiche excursions that places Frozen Cloak’s music head and shoulders above that of a similar-minded traveler such as Nudity. Frozen Cloak inhabits territory navigated by the likes of Tivol, Heavy Winged, and Circle (all at their jamming best) over both sides of this album. I’ll even toss Earthless into that comparison (minus Isaiah Mitchell’s guitar acrobatics). Frozen Cloak’s music has an ageless feel and sounds like it could have been recorded at any time over the past couple of decades. To me, this represents staying power and a relevance that will serve repeated listens well into the future. If ever there was an instrumental rock universe out there that encompassed everything from The Process of Weeding Out to the latest Expo 70 record, I gotta think that Frozen Cloak’s orb would provide key gravitational forces that would keep all the planets in their proper alignment. Ladies and gentlemen, around these parts this is what we call a keeper. – MT

No Balls No/Balls 7” (DF)
The Brainbombs’ Drajan Bryngelsson is on a bit of a roll with a second release on his DF label in about as many months. No Balls adds a healthy dose of rhythmic swagger and repeato riffage to the Diskad blueprint to create a brand of rockist bludgeon that any Brainbombs fan would have no trouble identifying as progeny from the loins of a certain Swedish patriarch. I have no idea if No Balls is again a solo effort on the part of Mr. Bryngelsson, or if he’s joined by another human or two. I can say that whoever is letting loose with the riffs is a well-studied acolyte of the Ginn-cum-Jaworzyn school of string bending. It almost goes without saying that this type of pummel isn’t well served by the physical limitations of the limited groove length afforded by seven inches of wax. No Balls needs some space to extend the jamz. Fortunately, the band will get exactly this on an upcoming long player on the Release The Bats label. I have no hesitation in stating that you needed this little gem in your collection three months ago, and if you wait too long, the 187 copies of this up for grabs won’t be easy to come by. – MT

Sex Church Dead End/Let Down 7” (Sweet Rot)
There’s no need to tug with much force on a hook in my mouth that reads, “Influenced in equal parts by Cheater Slicks and Spacemen 3 …”. In fact, skip the tugging and allow me to swallow the thing on my own accord. Said tagline has been used by the folks at Sweet Rot to prompt more than just window shopping of this new release by ex/current members of Catholic Boys, Defektors, Ladies Night, and Vapid. This Vancouver, BC troupe lives up to the comparison, although I’d say the mix is three parts Cheaters and one part Spacemen. Take the better elements of today’s garage music, infuse them with a 60’s songwriting sensibility, subtract a modicum of punk tarnish, add just the right amount of hypnotic keyboards, and you’ll be approximating what Sex Church delivers on the disc. Having only these two songs as examples, I’m going to wager that Sex Church favors the groove over the hook. I will also speculate that seeing these folks perform live is where their music really catches fire. This single is a fine debut and another feather in Sweet Rot’s cap. If you’re looking for something a little left of center in the garage rock arena, Sex Church might just be your house of worship. – MT

Billy Bao May '08 LP (Parts Unknown)
Please, Billy, stop yelling at me. Please, I feel sick, I'm nauseated. I can't stop shaking my head. Do you know why? Of course you do. What's that sound? What are you doing in there? What's that noise, Billy? How are you doing that? How are you making those noises . . . and why? Where are they coming from? No, no: I don't mean literally. I mean where do they come from in you? I think you need to talk to someone about this, Billy. I think these episodes point to a serious problem, especially that 15-minute one at the end. Was that a saxophone I heard somewhere in there? I'm glad you're trying new things, but--why do you keep screaming at me? It's making me feel bad about the world. -FSS

él-g Tout Ploie LP (S.S.)
Acoustic guitar up front, fuzzy lead guitars around back, organs in the middle, male/female vocals right in your ear, just enough bass and percussion (here and there) and tons of atmosphere (mostly gloomy)--with some subtler electronics and sideways tape tricks and ambients sewn in for a touch of cold warp to balance all the au naturel warmth . . . welcome to Maison Tout Ploie, and thanks to ambassadors él-g for the lift. (Watch where you step.) Ask yourself: Why would S.S. would want to re-release this LP (300 copies originally put out in 2008 by Belgian label KRAAK) when there are plenty of unknown/unreleased records to be debuted all over the world? Now buy a copy and figure it out on your own: I can't do everything for you. Anyway, regardless of how you (or I) feel about re-releases, and whatever else you (or I) want to say about this or that record, you (and I) have to admit the topography of S.S.'s discography gets more interesting with every outing. (By the time SS050 comes along rap-metal may be the only unexplored area. Then again...?) Truth: I've never been crazy about the "weird-folk" craze--which (with the addition of the hyphenate "SUPER-FRENCH") is how I would describe él-g, were I asked to give a totally unfair and superficial description--but even I can recognize that Tout Ploie deserves to be heard, and not just by 495 Europeans and some import-savvy US beards. Especially for the proper songs, which are shuffled with little interludes that are nice and surreal but inessential and ultimately disappointing in a half-way-there kind of way, actually; the longer, fuller songs are straightup mesmerizing, and they deserve attention if only for their ability to stand so firm on one conventional and one outré foot--but by my count there are only four such songs on the record, and that does leave me wishing they had dropped a couple of the miniatures for more of the stick-to-your-brains verse/chorus numbers. Everything less than 3 minutes comes up a little short, literally, and the two songs that go beyond 5 minutes are the best on the record . . . these are not meaningless numbers! "Du Beurre" is like the accidental discovery of an underground Parisian stargate back-linking Smiley Smile and Pet Sounds in a multiverse where the Beach Boys may or may not have ever been. -FSS

Sikhara Anduni CD (Urck)
I was expecting "INDUSTRIAL GAMELAN" after the label's description on the little cover sticker ("Post-Asiatic/Extreme Ethnic...") and the band's name, the look of the packaging, etc.--but I'd consider it unethical to call this anything but "INDUSTRIAL PLAIN VANILLA." Sure, there are some "worldly" sounds along the way (tribal-ish drums, sampled wailing, creepy chanting), and a few fleeting moments of effectively simple eerie drones and groans--but god, I'm bored right now even thinking about it, and if I had just emerged from a fifty-year hibernation session I could easily guess that this has been done a million times over. The only track that grabs at all is "Anduni," thanks to an operatic singer grooving on a nice mournful melody while martial drums and a bassoon or something swirl the air--but I assume it's a sample and either way I can only give so much credit for such a tiny grain of goodness in what's otherwise a mound of bland sand. Like mid-period Der Blutharsch without the extreme military/fascist fetish and never quite hitting any of the high or low points. And really, what kind of fun is that? -FSS

Omar Souleyman Highway to Hassake 2xLP (Sublime Frequencies)
I'm not going to pretend that the way IN to this collection by Syrian sensation Omar S was as easy for me to find as it was on those amazing African guitar group records that were my introduction to the (sublime) Sublime Frequencies label back in 2007. I'd be lying. I mean, let's be real here: those records perfectly fulfilled what I was audio-visualizing after hearing about tripped-out Africans backed by family and friends playing super-raw, generator-powered psychedelic electric guitar grooves. Is there anyone who didn't immediately backflip for that stuff? Omar's sound does have a few things in common with groups Doueh/Bombino/Inerane, like banshee trills, phase-shifting lo-tech recordings, Easterly melodies, etc.--but mostly this is different terrain (for me), largely uncharted and largely electronic--and by "electronic" I mean synthesized, digitized, computerized (not just amplified)--with spinning keyboard leads, relentless dance beats, samples'n'loops and heavily delayed vocals mixed with traditional-sounding stringed instruments and percussion and, most important, a definite party vibe (Syrian Domicile-Style). And when Omar drops the BPM and gets really loose on songs like "Atabat" you can't deny the sudden heaviness of the situation: wake up, you’re having your mind blown by something very, very true. My guess is that most ZG readers will have to adjust the reception on their ears a little to get past the "Arab Techno" aspect (that was my experience, and I’ve actually been known to listen to techno)--but give the four sides of this 2xLP a few go-rounds and tell me you're not starting to reconsider: Ahaah, my friend, you're only falling under the trance-spell of the enchanter Souleyman . . . a wonderful way to be. . . . -FSS

Various The Dead Hand: Human Machines CS (Damage Rituals)
So tapes are officially the new CDrs. The circle comes full-cycle, I guess. I bet the population of people who still have their tape decks probably includes like 90% of the group interested in the kind of music that gets released on tapes and CDrs these days anyway, so why not--except you can't buy quality blank tapes at Radio Shack or Rite Aid anymore, but that's what tapes.com is for. This is actually a printed, well-mastered compilation of mostly unreleased material from 27 bands, nice cardstock cover with art, band info, etc.--in other words, way more than can be said for most of the 60million CDr "releases" I've ended up with over the past eight years, so E for effort on presentation. Now--the other theory/suspicion of mine confirmed/supported by this little comp (and this one's a bit more controversial) is that nobody wants to acknowledge that we care about genres anymore, and eclecticism/all-inclusiveness is becoming this kind of perceived authenticity badge or something, like people are saying, You can't pin me down, maaan, I'm into Drunkdriver AND free jazz AND proggy emo stuff!! Which is great for a live show (I love shows like that, though I usually sit out the sucky bands) and fine for tastes in general (more power to you: my tastes are nothing if not allovertheplace)--and it arguably might even work for a label (see S.S. records, where there's a little bit of almost everything off-radar, hand-picked with some of the most precise and controlled eclecticism I've seen)--but within the bounds of a single compilation or album I find there's a limit to how much genre-clash I can take, and I quickly start to get annoyed, then pissed (and, soonafter, twatted). Maybe I'm simply reacting badly to the stuff I don't like, which is mainly "math-rock" with distinctly "screamo" tendencies--but then it's interspersed with great stuff like Burmese (still so mean--and they mean it!!) and good stuff like Weasel Walter Trio (drums/bass/trumpet free-blast) and Zs (noisy, with a sax) and Dan Friel (new to me, cool electronic distorted rhythm stuff). And of course all the decent cuts are super short while the terrible ones go on forever. . . . So it goes. I suppose a comp like this could be pulled off, but it would have to be really, really well put together, track-wise, and not just stacked up like this. (And the 4:1 bad/good ratio would have to be improved upon.) There is one thing I can say about the proggy/mathy bands that are patently way outside my realm of interest: most of them at least bother to sing, which makes them sound even worse but makes me dislike them a little less because they're acknowledging that winding, proggy all-over-the-place instrumental music has been done to done to done to DEATH--and if you think about it, they're getting the ball rolling on playing out the next variation: winding, proggy all-over-the-place music with vocals. Might as well get that over with. -FSS


Reviews 11.23.09

Bassholes ...and without a name LP (Columbus Discount)
I don’t know what they serve for lunch at the Greater Columbus Senior Center, but please give me a helping of whatever Don Howland, Tommy Jay, and Mike Rep have been eating because it seems to be good fuel for rock & roll. With …and without a name, Howland and drummer Bim Thomas make an excellent album, full of great noisy songs and unexpected turns. The record starts with “Leather Boy Blues” and one of the evilest sounding mouth harps I’ve ever heard. On to “Mother, Goosed” and its excellent play on nursery rhymes and then the understated “(I like) Smoke & Lightening” with a very cool sounding thumb piano…and those are just the first three songs. The rest of the album keeps up and, man, Bim Thomas is the perfect drummer for this stuff. I thought that a few years ago when I was lucky enough to see the Bassholes live and this confirms it. Columbus Discount bills this as part of their “Archives Series”, though it was only recorded a year ago. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that the Bassholes are over. I know Howland’s been doing this band for a couple decades, and if this is where the band is at, I could use a couple decades more. –SS

John Wesley Coleman III Steal My Mind LP (Certified PR)
Judging by the cover (dude in Lester Bangs shirt pointing two revolvers at the camera) and song titles (“Lawyers Guns & Money”, “Liquor Store”, “Threw It Away”, etc.), I would have guessed this some Confederacy of Scum-style, “FTW, you PC bastards” slab of “punker than thou” punk rock. No way, not a chance. The “Lawyers Guns & Money” is a Warren Zevon cover and you can hear his influence spread across the album, as well as that of Dylan, Peter Laughner, Richard Hell, and other punk singer-songwriter types. One song in, I get to (thankfully) dismiss the punk posturing of the record cover and settle into a pretty damn good record of “adult” punk rock, something you might hear coming out of the Greater Columbus Senior Center. Side one is so fab that it is over before I want it to be. Side two starts off a bit slow, but picks up by the end, finishing with a Lester Bangs song. And, I am playing this one a few more times. Well, worth seeking out and very much recommended. –SS

Colour Buk New Nice Speaker/Don’t Forget Yr Coat 45 (Wir Sollen Wulle)
Pounding + lots of loud fractured guitar = noise jams. At times this reminds me of xNOBBQx or the Pork Queens, and like both those bands a little goes a long way. This duo pushes my patience with the A side, does me fine on the B. Nothing here particularly mind-blowing, but for those who dig the aforementioned bands, Colour Buk is worth checking out. –SS

COUM Transmissions The Sound of Porridge Bubbling LP (Dais)
Early in his life as a career subversive, Genesis P-Orridge hung out at Hull University in Yorkshire, making experimental music with friends under the name COUM Transmissions. In 1967/68, they produced a bunch of recordings, which were released as Early Worm a year or so ago on Dais. The Sound of… is a set of recordings that G and pals did in 1971 in an attempt to get played on John Peel’s radio show (didn’t happen). What’s here is pretty far out for the time: Odd spoken word pieces, freeform noise jams, appropriated music, freak improve, and weird songs. And like most things produced by P-Orridge, COUM plays with extremes. As libertine as the early Seventies was, there was no place in recorded music for a guy singing strange cut-ups over a single drum with a fellow reading bi-sexual pornography in the background. No wonder Peel passed on COUM…and that this stuff hasn’t seen release ‘til now. As the Seventies wore on COUM mutated into an extreme performance art collective and then into Throbbing Gristle. You can hear some TG in COUM, more the approach to music than the sound, though, funny thing is that COUM sounds like some of the stuff inspired by TG, particularly the Mission is Terminated bootleg, which comps TG with a bunch of experimental bands. So is this good? Yeah, but unless you are a TG/P-Orridge, cassette culture, or extreme DIY fan, you might want to check this out somewhere before you track it down. –SS

DC Snipers s/t LP (Daggerman)
With their first album, The Damned not only made a great template (what, are you gonna complain about speedy, compact rock & roll?), but a durable one; and any talented band that uses it is gonna make a good record. The DC Snipers are no exception. Two sides short and with no filler, these guys nail it. There are a few small twists, but no innovations – though I am sure the point here isn’t to break ground. Need a solid, speedy punk rock record? Here ya go. –SS

Flight s/t 10” (Kill Shaman)
This one took me by surprise. From this record label I expected something a bit arty and/or mathy and the record cover got me thinking of Man’s Ruin style stoner rock. Wrong wrong wrong. This is mostly-excellent punk rock very much influenced by 60s mod sounds, but sifted through lots of noise. I am divided about the production. It is part blown out and part piled on. At times it works and then it’s a bit too much. The vocals are processed and, again, for a listen or two it’s fine but after that it starts to grate. What this record lacks is restraint, but given that this is a one-man thing, with no one to play “Uh hey, enough with the effects,” there ain’t gonna be much hold-back. That said, I still like this record a lot. –SS

Ganglians Blood on the Sand/Make It Up 45 (Captured Tracks)
One thing that always used to annoy the fuck out of me about Rolling Stone magazine (this is circa maybe 1983) was their constant wishy washy hedging in the record reviews section. Specifically, if “they” said the record under their cock-eyed microscope was the best thing to come out that year, an unholy combination of everything great about the Allman Brothers and New Order (what have you), no matter what: 4 stars max. I think in a half decade of flipping through the reviews (mainly to see which indie bands had graduated to RS-level critical vanilla-ization…oh neat, Husker Du, how about that…) I saw one, one, five-star review and that was for Springsteen, I think. That’s another great thing about zines, ain’t no Wenner lurking over the proceedings, nixing the Sex Pistols as band of the year for 1977 in favor of Fleetwood Mac, for instance. So I can safely give this Ganglians 45 a 5-star review, I can say it’s better than any Kurt Vile I’ve heard this year, I can throw it out there that the title track is as good as any chimy-arty UK band’s best effort from the 85-92 period you could name (more epic than any Nightblooms kid, right up there with MBV), all without having to check in with marketing to see if the check cleared. It might be because this is only one lonely 45 swimming against the incoming tide of indie shit in 2009, but records like this one make me feel that volunteering to write for free for the last 15 years has been worth it. –RW

General Interest s/t LP (Ride the Snake)
This is a tough record to review. While General Interest has a sound that totally lacks originality, I like where they steal from and they do it very, very well. The sound is early 80s hardcore but not the mindless thrash rehash that’s too common nowadays (why anyone wants to rip off the Mystic catalog is something I do not understand). General Interest has studied the Minutemen, Really Red, the Big Boys, and hometowners The Proletariat. Their lyrics – including some about those misty over the reign of Reagan – also remind me of those years of my wasted youth. So while I am inclined to dismiss these guys as a nostalgia act, I can’t. This record is not only a solid listen, it sounds fresh. Good job. –SS

Mano de Mono s/t EP (Discos Humentes)
Speedy pop punk with an organ, kinda Buzzcocks gone farfisa, that sounds best when they sing in Spanish. Solid but not remarkable. –SS

Mass Shivers Torrid Sex in East Berlin/Tickled on Poppers 45 (Licking River)
Metally & funky but not funk metal or metal funk, instead picture Ides of March/Steely Dan fused with a Guitar Institute of Technology graduate riffing away. Now, that is either gonna send you diving for cover or make you abnormally excited. Count me among the former. The flip is an instrumental with builds toward numbness. Dreadful stuff. –SS

Mayor Daley Facial Expressions LP (Rotted Tooth)
New label Rotted Tooth’s first release and a fine way to kick things off. Mayor Daley plays four songs, each 8+ minutes long. Though MD relies on repetition, big chords, and slower tempos, Facial Expressions is not ponderous. There is too much space here for that. At times the music is very minimalist, even primitive, cut with USA is a Monster-style metal-art riffage. The vocals also remind me of USA is a Monster, especially when the male & female singers start to work together (or against each other). While the songs are not intellectualized, Mayor Daley has thought this stuff through. I’ve played this a few times and find new angles with each listen, which is strange, as the album seems to have very little to dive into. Remarkably good. –SS

Moon Duo Love on the Sea 12” (Sick Thirst)
Moon Duo Killing Time 12” (Sacred Bones)
Ripley Johnson took some time from the helm of the Wooden Shjips to do the Moon Duo. Like the Shjips, the Duo starts with “less is more” and then subtracts. “Love on the Sea” is basically one note/one beat extended over eight or so minutes, with some stuff swirling in and out. I’ve read some complaints that there isn’t enough going on. If I had any criticism, it is that there is too much going on. I say strip this beast down to the bones! “E-Z Street Ext” reminds me of the Seeds sans vocals, and ends in a minute or two of percussion for nice effect.
...While Killing Time, a four song ep, has a beefier sound, it is no less minimalist than the debut. However, Killing Time does offer a bit more variety. The title track and “Dead West” have a proto-goth sound to them, while “Speed” rolls with Suicide. The EP’s closer, “Ripples”, is a mellow guitar/drum meditation. Those who were put off by the first record’s “lack of things going on” might find this a bit more pleasing. –SS

Las Nurses Apples & Hatreds/So Tired 45 (Discos Humentes)
These Spaniards have gotten better since I last heard them. Here they ditch their garagey inclinations for something a bit more art punk, loud art punk of the variety done by Popular Shapes or Hiroshima Rocks Around. I also hear a bit of the Lars Finberg influence here, a man whose impact on Spanish rock & roll surpasses even the Ramones, really. Ahem. So Las Nurses…two songs, high energy, twisty, and damn good. Excellent single, mis amigos! –SS

The Nymphets I See EP (Signed By Force)
Good but unmemorable EP. Title song has a Buzzcocks demo out of the garage sound. Punky version of a Troggs hit. One speedy punker. Thousands of records just like this one out there. –SS

Pigeon Religion Dead Boss EP (Gilgongo)
The newest by a promising, young Southwest band. Not quite as immediate as the Scorpion Milk EP, but given a few listens, a worthwhile release. All the cuts have a nice sludgy swing to them and some good guitar squall. Right now my favorite song is “Henderson”, a dark thuggish anthem. No reason not to check these guys out. –SS

Primitive Hands Split Mind/I’ll Die Alone 45 (Tic Tac Totally)
The guitar fingering on the flipside track is the heatbringer on this 45, a spindly mid-70s lift that gets me every time, since I freely admit I’m a sucker for the anemic “bing-bing…bingbingbing” distortion-free jangle that makes me immediately channel the Sneakers or a Modern Lovers demo. The a-side pales in comparison, kind of an attempt at a rocker that lacks a solid foundation, but the tambourine on “I’ll Die Alone” brings it all back home. 22.5 score, alright, that’s always a passing grade for a 45 from me. And we all die alone, so don’t sweat it. –RW

Psychedelic Horseshit Golden Oldies LP (Wasted)
Psychedelic Horseshit Shitgaze Anthems LP (Woodsist )
Psychedelic Horseshit know full well what they are doing, their image to the contrary. They know that their entire catalog, fumbling beginnings and all, are worth getting down on wax, and so they have presented us with Golden Oldies, a self-released collection of their first CD-Rs from 4 years back or so, back when the shitgaze tag was not even yet an ironic glimmer in the pop-culture watcher’s eye (I wish I still had my original copies, but they’re lost to history and one too many moves). They had the best titles, those early releases: The Anticoncept; Blown Speaker Standards; Dancey Pants. The very first, the all-killer King Tubby’s Badness Dub, starts with enduring favorite “Can’t Get Enough,” and the two following tracks, including “Alastic” and its minimalistic-piano-motif intro, have aged just as well. And the rest of the collection follows suit (and not just the hits, like “Anxiety of Influence”—forgotten gems abound). At times like this I miss PHS’s original bassist Jason Roxas: he provided a relentless, muscular foundation that has not followed them into recent incarnations. These early tracks show them fully exploiting the sonic possibilities of their begged-borrowed-and-stolen equipment, not to mention the psychological weaknesses of their peers (Matt’s nasally invective, aimed with deadly accuracy at scenesters, poseurs, and, more generally, everyone), so basically—no surprises here, just great to hear this stuff again.
...There are lots of terrific bands these days, but few others so perfectly zeitgeist-y, so effortlessly quotable, so brimming with tiny, perfect, crystalline sonic moments. Within the first few moments of Shitgaze Anthems, PHS is telling us, "Let's get off the Internet and hit the streets,” as though they’ve been listening to the clatter of the online hoards and boards arguing their relative worth. The band’s supposed off-the-cuff-we-could-give-a-fuck attitude is a myth and a lie: It's not that they don't care at all, it's that they care so very much. This is a record crafted with obvious loving care by someone in love with the sound of sounds, like the perfectly recreated dub of “Dreadlock Paranoia.” There’s also classic PHS silly Dylan worship with "Are You On Glass?” (“are you on glass or just really stoned?”) and the Donovan-esque “As in Dreams Pt. 2,” a fantasy of a hippified world “frosted with clichés … and tambourines.” If I had to choose 30 minutes of music to accompany an eternal, drug-hazed, dissolute, halcyon summer, this would be it. —LB

Rib Cages Right On or Wrong EP (Lemon Session)
No frills, drum/guitar with a garage aesthetic but Black Flag style riffs and speed. Guitar, cymbals and snare are very much out in front accentuating the fact that this is a two-piece. Good but if you aren’t into bands without bass, you probably won’t get past its absence. –SS

Robedoor Raiders LP (Not Not Fun)
Over the last couple years, Not Not Fun has turned into one of the most trusted labels when it comes to modern psych. And by modern psych I do not mean hair farmers stealing moves from the past. Nah, the stuff NNF puts out isn’t psychedelic in style, but in sound, as in music that taps into “aspects of one's mind previously unknown” or something like that. Hello, Robedoor. Raiders is four songs long, each one of them featuring guitars whining and squalling over primitive, near tribal drums. The guitars sustain and play with feedback a bit, but not to the point of droning. Vocals are done in a near chant. There are a lot of “almosts” here, and that is one thing that makes this record good. Robedoor bring things right up to the point before the music falls into cliché, something too many bands don’t seem to be able to do. While there is nothing inherently loud about this record, it certainly begs to be cranked up. It also produces fantasies of seeing them live. Good shit. –SS

13th Chime s/t LP (Sacred Bones)
Little known outside of collector’s circles and goth fanatics, 13th Chime were an early 80s post-punk band from the south of England. They self-released three singles in four years and called it quits. This archival release comps their singles with three unreleased songs. Until this hit the platter, I hadn’t heard the band. Hell, I hadn’t heard of them, so this one caught me by surprise. In this day, when “everything” you want to know or don’t is on the interweb, it is very nice to be caught unaware of a band, especially when they are good…and 13th Chime are good. The sound isn’t ground breaking – it is your basic Joy Division/Bauhaus inspired music and certainly sounds of its time – but it is very good, at least the first two singles and the unreleased tracks (as strong as the singles). The third single has 13th Chime easing onto the dance floor, the typical path of such bands. Still, “Hide & Seek” and “Sally Ditch” aren’t crap; they just aren’t great. That’s a small mark against them. A worthwhile pick up for genre enthusiasts and those just wanting a taste of early goth sounds. It’s said that there is more unreleased stuff on the way. –SS

Tortured Tongues Arizona Murder/Extension Cord 45 (Lethal Triad)
I’m given to understand that “punk is back” but if that were true I would have a stack of 50 or so killer new scunge 45s crowding my turntable, turning back the legions of the mopey and the introspective with raw cock-thumping rage, or at least a dose of righteous fist swinging sloganeering. Welllll, I’m listening (new hardcore/thrash doesn’t count since at that BPM its “angry” by default, riiiiiiiiight…) and that posited 50-single stack is mighty slim at this late date. Fuckers are lying to someone, not to me. Before I turn out the lights, I give the Tortured Tongues 45 a spin, and turn the dimmer slowly back up to 10. You know from the first few seconds on each side that you are in the presence of a punker band that gets it. The vocals are dissipated without falling into Thunders-ania (think early Clone Defects) and the guitars are both drony and spiky, always a neat trick. Can’t understand a word so I don’t know if the ban is still on against Nestles’ products (???), but I can tell you the Tortured Tongues have one of the best raw rockin’ punk 45s of the annum. Encore shitheads! –RW

Unnatural Helpers / Intelligence split EP (Dirty Knobby)
Always nice to see the name Unnatural Helpers, especially when that name is attached to two good songs, as they are here. The Helpers turn a couple scrungy Red Cross style tricks. Lars Finberg and pals flip three as good as any thing he’s released this year, and I don’t think any of them clock over a minute. –SS

Jackson Van Horn s/t CS (Jerkwave)
Eel Life Cycle The World and Its Demons CS (Dry Well)
Jackson Van Horn, whom you may know as the drummer from teen punk ghouls TV Ghost, has released two cassettes in quick succession, one on Dead Luke’s Jerkwave cassette label and one under his own power, and in the process manages to put the contents of his quite nearly schizophrenic brain on display. If I didn’t know better, I’d be hard-pressed to say they both sprung from the same brain. The Jerkwave tape has a dignified, British-Invasion-era romance about it - the melodramatic twang of “Grey” and an earnest cover of New Folkie Josephine Foster’s “Stone’s Throw from Heaven” show impressive emotional depth and sonic maturity.
...The self-released (under the name Eel Life Cycle) cassette, however, is the sound of slack wit and shut-in paranoia personified, backed by cheap Casio beats. “I can’t play the guitar/though I try really hard/everyone tells me to give up/but I just wanna play my guitar” Van Horn deadpans, nonetheless asserting, “I rule the world with my piece of shit guitar.” Most of the first side is an experimental, sound-collage-y ephemera of keyboard glissandos and the tinkling of – what? A prepared piano? Some Harry Partch-esque contraption? The World… is just this side of “who cares?” bedroom indulgence, while the self-titled release is all sophisticated control, but there’s just enough THERE there to keep me coming back repeated listens … even as I get the feeling it’s telling me to fuck off. In fact, THAT might be the very thing that keeps bringing me back for more. —LB

Vee Dee Public Mental Health System LP (Criminal IQ)
Vee Dee’s new 2xLP is the usual patented blend of Mudhoney and Sabbath I’ve grown to know and love. Unfortunately Vee Dee succumbs to gate-fold fever as their reach exceeds their grasp. Total rookie move: padding what could have been a solid 45-minute single disc to fill it out to two. To make matters worse, instead of front-loading the 4-sided beast, they save the juiciest cuts for sides 3 and 4, where the casual listener might never find them. Only those strong, or stoned, enough to endure will reach the mildly euphoric pleasures of the 2nd disc. Vee Dee are supremely un-selfconscious, in the way that the best heavy rock always is, their occasional ham-fistedness exposed and even glorified, like the archetypal Shadoks basement-psych release but without the requisite 25-year wait for the unveiling. Their taste, wit, and sheer desire enable them to transcend cliché. “Glimpses of Another World” quotes Television’s “Friction” and “Wall of Fire” and “Cleveland, Outerspace” slowly build into the epics of miniature yet powerful proportions. PMHS’s lyrical themes range from Sun Ra-ish exhortations towards a post-apocalyptic utopia, general glorification of outer-space- and other-plane-seeking exploration, paranoid rants about the pressures of urban life in the 21st century - you get the drift. I admire the sheer ambition of the project, even if it fizzles at points, and there are moments of - if not greatness - a certain workaday grandeur. Worth wading into, let yourself get wet. —LB

The Watts Ensemble Crime and Time CD (Kill Shaman)
Noir jazz, the smokey, dark sound most associated with 40s and 50s crime film soundtracks. The difference here is that the Watts Ensemble has a beat that rocks more than it swings. I love the noir sound but don’t like the beat and the production tends toward slick. Crime and Time isn’t my thing. –SS

Peter Wright The Terrifying Realization We Might Be Wrong EP (Dirty Knobby)
“The Terrifying Realization….” is a fantastic soundscape – fantastic in imagination and fantastic in quality. Emotionally bleak and somewhat tortured, Wright’s composition has an alone against the world feel to it, the sonic representation of the moment when you realize that that’s all there is. The flip has two short, quiet pieces which serve as a comedown from the intensity of the A side. Excellent. –SS


Reviews 9.20.09

Baseball Furies Throw Them to the Lions LP (Big Neck)
After the first few records by these guys, I stopped paying attention. Not that they started turning out shitty records. Nah, they made good, energetic garage punk songs with a touch of buzzsaw and enough rawness to tell me that they'd probably be a great live band. But I'm not in Buffalo so I'm not gonna see them live and I've got enough good garage punk records that, well, the Baseball Furies got put on the shelf. Then Throw Them to the Lions comes in the mail and I give it a spin. The Furies are back on the Keep Tabs On list. Lions… is a great punk rock record, one that nabs sounds from past and present, pumped up by smart ears and an always forward driving drummer. This is the kind of punk that a band plays after they've exhausted the genre ghetto they've lurked in, when they get a bit older and bored with counting to four. Not that this is "weird." Rather the Furies pay attention to songwriting - a novel concept, huh?. It results in a "mature punk" sound, one that started with "Blank Generation" and We've Cum for Your Children and exists today in bands like the Hank IV. Also notable is a singer who not only sings but has his own voice, kinda a fusion of Mike Hudson, Eric Davidson and a Cajun with a broken jaw. This pup is well worth checking out. –SS

Black Pus Down Down Da Drain 45 (Corleone/Skulltones)
The list of contemporary bands that make interesting, authentically exciting, noise rock is a pitifully small one. I won’t go into it here, but Black Pus has added their name to the short list. Okay, fine, Sword Heaven and Sightings and AFCGT and a few others are on there…and now Black Pus. The drums are pounding without dulling the sweeping blade of the guitars, which are busy slashing their way through a thicket of hysteria and shattering glass, I would reckon. This thing has actual menace emanating from its grooves, and the sounds they are bashing to pieces spend some effort actually fighting back! This is called tension, and it’s something most noise-rock bands lack because they are trudging through a pre-ordained, well-worn avant-garde groove whose lack of any critical analysis from the audience has rendered the whole process a frictionless squeeze from the puckered asshole of post-Sonic Youth grayness into a welcoming, smothering gauze of low expectations. Most noise bands fail because no one can honestly tell them that they suck, since there are no standards anyone cares or agrees upon. Black Pus seems to be inventing their own standards, which is the sign of true sonic rebels. And, they ain’t boring. –RW

Boppopkillers Rocker in Wasted/Jagermeister! Yeah! 45 (Les Disques Steak)
Damn. I am so fucking tired of basic blown out garage punk. Heard too much of it. However, the French have this shit down, especially now that they aren't trying to sound like some jackass Jon Spencer clone. With the Boppopkillers we get "Hidden Charms"-like punk blasts with very nice overdriven guitar, lots of energy, good sludge and raspy Frenchie vocals. If I was in these guys hometown of Paris and some Kemp said "Get your ass to the Gambatta to see the Boppops, I'll fill you full of beer," how could I say "No"? --SS

Buckets of Bile Outside Mind cs (Speed Tapes)
Back in the mid-90s, a UK band called Crayon Summer released a terrific but overlooked seven called Kiran's Dollar. It's good, dreamy, hypnotic, lo-fi pop, sort of a down-at-the-heels House of Love. Buckets of Bile do two that remind me a bit of Crayon Summer; however like the bunches of other contemp lo-fi pop it isn't very original nor memorable. –SS

Chrome Spiders Black Butterfly 45 (Big Neck)
I know lots of people who really, really dig the late-period Scientists aesthetic; swampy, dirgey, plodding, “evil” growling vocals, etc. This sound pretty much ran rampant across indie releases from about 86-93, when every rock record that wasn’t aping Husker Du or Metallica was instead doing this po-faced Birthday Party thang: it’s all pre-Blueshammer to me. The problem with this stuff is so basic it’s laughable; it’s boring. Bands like this, and Chrome Spiders are just the latest exponent, seem to think that heaviness is a stock setting that can be achieved by tuning to a specific, predictably accessible sonic frequency. See the flaw there? It’s so predictable. You know what the last minute of their songs will do after 10 seconds has elapsed. What’s the point? –RW

Davila 666 s/t EP (Douchemaster)
To be totally honest, this particular label has been letting me down lately. Some, hell, most all of their releases are way past the tipping point between mediocre and dead average, which is all the more perplexing considering the quality of their earlier waxings. The Sweet Faces, the Wax Museums LP, the Perfect Fits…all yawnsville. That doesn’t exactly set poor old Davila 666 up for any luvin’, but I’m here to tell you that they are the band that arrested the run (runs?) of poop from DMR. All three songs on this are sing-along winners that are A-one smyle factory rock ‘n roll that recall all the naïve but sharp retro pop that flooded out of LA in the late 79s/early 80s. And unlike many current bands that dip their toes in the retro trip and choose to completely strip their sound of anything beyond the reverential (thus turning it into a freezer-burned exercise in pure pandering nostalgia), Davila 666 still sound like a “band of today”. Maybe I’ll even dust off that New Years resolution circa 1997 and start learning Spanish beyond the taqueria level so that I can sing along with the choruses without sounding like a douche in the process. –RW

Extra Sexes Gash Bulb cs (Skrot Up)
Cut-ups, loops, glitches, weird vocals over computer songs, etc. Twenty years ago this would have been made on two cassette decks and with tape & razor blade. Nowadays it is assembled with some software sound editing program. Either way, it isn't bad, but probably more rewarding for the people making the music than those listening to it. –SS

Exusamwa Please Allow Me to Induce Myself CD (100% Breakfast)
Man wakes up from coma to college radio set of Idiot Flesh, Boredoms, and Hickey, sinks back into the netherworld and is transported via rocket train to an island in a marshmallow ocean, where people speak only in Pig Latin and close their eyes when they touch you. Could be friends of Le Club des Chats or Oso el Roto. Contains members of Fat Day, Life Partners and other Boston weirdos. Sounds like an army of day-glo vermin. Would find a nice home on Apop. –SS

The Gears Rockin' at Ground Zero CD (Hep Cat)
The D.I.s Rare Cuts! CD (Hep Cat)
This is the third reissue of The Gears classic album. Like the Bacchus Archives version, this features cut from the Gears' 7"; unique to this are five demo recordings from '79, which are good but not essential. Yes, this is one of the Top 100 punk albums of all time. Yup, Ground Zero is pretty much the template for beach punk. And, yeah, if you don't dig "Trudie Trudie", you might as well give up on this rock & roll fad. But if you already own a copy of Ground Zero, no reason to put down some lovelies for another.
...The D.I.s were Gears leader Axxel Reese's post-Gears band (and not the same as the Orange County band D.I.). The liner notes to this CD state that it is "ridiculous" that "the D.I.s are an unknown quantity." To which I say, bullshit. The D.I.s are forgotten because right away they produced a criminally lackluster rockabilly EP (1983), bland like the Polecats, ugh. They quickly switch to proto-garage ('84), before becoming the Gears II ('85 - '90). The liners pump the Gears II errrr the D.I.s to be some army of punk rebel survivors keeping the spirit alive and I guess that is so, but like too many punk survivors that means the style remains consistent while the energy fades. That no one really went looking for the D.I.s post their rockabilly phase is understandable: They weren't a bad band, but why waste your time on them when younger, louder, better punkers - like the Lazy Cowgirls - were starting to blast? And, today, why spend 75 minutes with the D.I.s when there is tons of better music new and old being released?
Packaged as a "Deluxe Edition 2 CD Set", you can also buy these CDs individually. –SS

Hawks Barnburner LP (Army of Bad Luck)
One look at the artwork had me cringing - think Heath Ledger's Joker gone New England metal-noise-core (actually not a bad way of summing up this shit). I had to listen to heavy mediocrity like this each time I went out to a show in the three years I lived in Providence. Apparently Hawks operate on the delusion that they are next in line to top the Six Finger Satellite/Landed/Snake Apartment totem - but they are not - they are worthless, and the album they made is garbage. Sorry dudes, summer's over. –SW

Kaa Antilope VPRO RadioNome, April 2 1982 LP (Enfant Terrible)
This past Summer, Enfant Terrible introduced an on-going series documenting live broadcasts from VPRO's legendary RadioNome radio program (the liner notes on these releases focus as much on RadioNome as on the artists, which luckily clue us young-ish Americans in on its significance). ET kicked off the series with sessions from Belgian synth duo Kaa Antilope and Luc Van Acker (also reviewed...read on). Kaa Antilope released one elusive four-song EP in 1982 and dissolved within a year of their inception. Fred Walheer's eloquently arranged synths and singer Bernard Vranckx's John Cale/Alan Vega balancing act are nothing if not mesmerizing on "Break of Day" and "Island Girl's Game", two of the most gorgeous songs I've ever heard. Elsewhere, the sounds are more abrasive but still somehow retain the intricacies which make their more melodic songs so unforgettable. Fantastic. One of the best records Enfant Terrible has released. –SW

Love City s/t EP (Certified PR)
Vox driven, punkified ? & the Mysterians/Love, Six-Oh inspired tunes which means nothing new to the ears, but very very very good! –SS

Luc Van Acker VPRO RadioNome, December 18 1981 LP (Enfant Terrible)
The second of two LP's documenting VPRO's RadioNome radio program courtesy of the always fabulous Enfant Terrible label. I have to admit that I am out of my element here - I'm approaching this early session from Van Acker without much knowledge of his more famous work in the mid-80's with Ministry side project, Revolting Cocks. The LP opens with a vocal track, Van Acker summons the apocalypse and shrieks his way through its aftermath, and as the piece progresses his screams begin unravel down to a digestible croon. From there, Van Acker surveys the nightmare terrain via guitar, violin, and Revox B77 tape recorder. Interesting stuff, but hard to declare it essential. –SW

The Mantles Don’t Lie/Secret Heart 45 (Mt. St. Mtn)
The Mantles debut 4-track EP was uneven but still had a few great tracks on it, so on this follow up they opt to dump the shaky tunes and just keep the winners. Both songs are straight-on psych pop in the mode of the more “aggressive” Sarah Records-label bands from the mid-late 80s, a time period that is seeing more and more archeological digging these days. The vocals are delivered in that lazy, off-hand style that Mr. Reed perfected on the third VUs LP, an approach that has buoyed singers with a similar limited range ever since. It’s fine, I’d rather have understatement than bellowing technical achievement a la the castrato metal style (say). The brass ring is taken by the song that is slathered in hissing background fuzz that never lets up. I dunno how this will rate in a year, but at least I’ll pull it out for a relisten. –RW

Mayyors Deads 12" EP
The Mayyors make Chrome sound like a bunch of stockbrokers playing top 40 covers at a wine bar, Lake Of Dracula sound like a pre-teen cheerleading practice for religious youth, and Black Flag sound like candy-assed kids. I played their first single in my apartment and it vaporized the roaches, cleaned the refrigerator, paid my bills, added a tasteful patio, and made my elderly landlady explode like Andrew Robinson at the end of Hellraiser. I played it for a homeless guy and all of a sudden he had a monocle, spats, a Bentley, and a butler named Jeeves. I played it for a bald friend and he sprouted a giant pompadour right in front of me. I played it for my dog, and now he has a part-time job at Denny's. I played it in a graveyard and all the corpses clawed out of the ground and started doing the monkey. If this was a fair and just world (note: it is not), this release would have been heralded from on high, the Mayyors riding in a the Popemobile through a ticker-tape parade while grown men wept and screaming nubiles tore out tufts of their own hair and threw their undergarments at the band, instead of their impact being reserved for unkempt, socially maladjusted single people with clothes that smell faintly of urine and who enjoy blogging about records, as if their thoughts carried any economic heft (note: they don't). On Deads, the Mayyors upgrade their scuzzy fidelity for a bit more sonic space, but its not them eating caviar and thumbing their powdered noses at you, its more like giving a painting a gentle nudge to make it flush with the walls, so its presented the way the artiste intended. The skittering clouds of insectoid noise and the guitar that sounds like a UPS truck backing up in a bad acid flashback remain, just with a bit more breathing room. Four tracks on here, all of 'em sound like the middle ground between a controlled avalanche demolition and dissonant sonata fed through a feedback loop, and all of them are home runs. Holy shit. –MB

Dan Melchior und Das Menace Obscured by Fuzz LP (Topplers)
Another new one by Z-Gun office fave Melchior, he of warbley-in-good-way voice, and the cartoon-devil-in-a-good-way facial hair, comes tumblin' off the mountain at the same time as a gaggle of singles and splits with different lineups and iterations all sandwiched after one double LP in 2009 and another due by the end of the calendar year. Enough to give you a numerical headache and more then enough to make you feel lazy for your own dribbling output. Not to overstate the O-B-V-I-O-U-S here but Melchior is in danger of suffering from the Billy Childish syndrome - releasing records too often for his own good. But unlike Childish, Melchior hasn't dug himself into a rut so deep his head is sticking out in fucking China. It may be that one of Dan's recs is easy enuf to overlook, since its a better-then-even-money bet he has another tumbling down the pike destined for the already overburden rackspaces in the better vinyl emporiums, and hey hey Hook Or Crook is finally gonna give the O, Clouds Unfold double LP its belated proper release almost a decade or so after somebody went for the gold shit-for-brains competition. But that's no reason to skip Obscured By Fuzz, where Melchior does more of what he's best at: Writing creative songs which are played well. Its might not be the most flashy stuff you've ever heard, but its still great. –MB

Mudboy Music for Any Speed 45 (Lexi Disques)
Through a freak occurrence, I became a dealer of collectible theatre organ records, a gig that lead me to research the instrument, as well as listen to more pipe organ versions of "Calcutta" than a person probably should. Every once in a while a record gets a little eerie but very, very, very rarely do I find one that strays from standards and silent movie scores. So when I get my paws on something new by Mudboy (real name Raphael Lyon), I am positively psyched. On this slab, Lyon gets philosophic: The title of the record is a challenge to the listener, as well as himself, to do with the record as one wishes. Play it at any speed, play it backwards, alter it: Do what thou wilt to make the listening experience your own. That includes throwing it on a turn table and listening to it as is. And as is what I hear are two songs that swell in sound, as they crash keys. It is difficult to describe Mudboy, because even with a head full of too many Wurlitzers and Conns, I don't have a reference for his sound. Gerd Zacher? Quintron? Rex Koury? What I do hear, though, is something great. --SS

Non! s/t EP (Mono Tone)
Stripped down, neo-garage of the variety the French were thrilling people with in the late 90s/early 00s - very well put together to the point of song-by-numbers. That I predicted the garage scream in the last song pretty much tells you what is up. –SS

Bill Orcutt High-Waisted 45 (no label)
This guy played guitar in Harry Pussy. It’s funny, at the time I was very conscious that that band would become legendary in experimental rock circles, which would have been a safe call at the time given the hyperbole that was heaped on them while they existed, but think about it: who really gives a crap about Blowhole? Or any of the Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers-label bands outside of the self-fellating noise cassette/CDr culture? Harry Pussy are still both funny and exciting to listen to, especially that first LP on Siltbreeze, both of the debut singles on their own label, that double live LP…oh, and the Toxic Drunks side project single, that’s excellent noise-punk right there a la Sunshine Super Scum. Tremendous stuff, indeed. Oh, this single? It’s okay, it’s Orcutt kinda wanking his guitar sonic missile-style to varying levels of effectiveness, but nothing all that game changing, you’ll probably want it to complete the “box set”. Sounds like someone seeing what they could get out of their instrument one random day and someone else saying, “I’ll put that out.” It ain’t no Toxic Drunks! –RW

Adam Payne Maybeline Weeks 45 (Malt Duck)
Malt Duck had previously knocked me out with a pair of bleak and ethereal out-of-nowhere 7"s from Mattress and Them, Themsleves or They... but this here single is startling hyper and melodic. Judas! Payne (formerly of Residual Echoes and the undeservingly ignored San Francisco Water Cooler) goes full pop on this single, like Kleenex Girl Wonder aiming for Sic Alps with a bit of David Kilgour's "Tally Ho" organ. As wonderful as that might sound, its crammed so tight with hooks that the songs start to suffocate. It's not necessarily a deal-breaker, maybe a few more listens would open this up a bit, but I think I've had enough for now. –SW

Pens Hey Friend, What You Doing? LP (DeStijl)
Honestly, I wouldn't have picked this up if it wasn't for it being on DeStijl. I ignored that fact that Times New Viking exists in order to get through the first couple of minutes of this (hell, I think Pens tries to ignore the fact that Times New Viking exists in order to validate their unique UK "craft"), but a few songs deep I start to hear some great hooks sneak their way into my head. They are at their most terrible when they play shrill girl art-core, and are much more effective when they reveal they are not Shaggs-gone-bad after all, but are actually able pound out Love Is All-type pop anthems like "Freddy" and "I Sing For You". The constant switching between focused songwriting and pretentious posturing is frustrating. As much as they'd like to be a wonderfully strange and unique Messthetics-era UK band they are as derivative as you can get. Their only redeeming value is the songwriting talent they seem to mock because Thurston Moore might be looking their way. –SW

Pheromoans Savory Days EP (Savory Day)
Easily my favorite UK band going right now. Like all good Brit bands, they sound like they are from the Island and they have one digit poked in the past while another points to the future. Here the references are UK DIY in the form of the Prats, the Petticoats, and File Under Pop. I could also drop a Fall in there but Mark E Smith has gone beyond influence is part of some collective limey musical unconsciousness or something like that. So the P-moans thrash around the living room as they twang 'n pound, guitars slightly out of tune, drums primitive enough to matter. Four cool tunes on this one, the spectacular "Late Night Mad-Fest" being me fave, at least when "Tattoo Room" isn't. –SS

Pink Noise Graffiti Youth LP (Kill Shaman)
This is Pink Noise's third album, after a handful of singles and comp tracks, and they are doing just fine. They are one of the few bands to mine early Industrial and DIY sounds and actually make something out of them. Granted, Pink Noise isn't a Giant Step into the Unknown, but the map they use isn't trod into tatters. They also don't linger long in the past and are worth a few well constructed songs per release (surrounded by mostly good sounds). If Pink Noise has any flaws it is the over reliance on muffled vocals, which over the span of an album get a bit weary. –SS

Prunalog Susan Pentagram 23 e.p. EP (Trigger on the dutendoo)
Winner of the What the Fuck? award of 2009, PSP's 17 "song" seven inch sounds like these guys took the best 10 - 20 seconds of practice tape jams, faded them in and out, interjected a few moments of dialogue and called it with a record. It is difficult to think of these things as songs in the traditional sense of song and even trying to think of each side of some composition doesn't work. This is closer to a field recording than an actual rock & roll release and that is fine. Time capsule records are a good reference even if they aren't throw-on pleasure listening. –SS

ReachaRounds Rocks Off EP (Certified PR)
Six blasts of Samoanesque p-rock from a turn-of-the-century band of Roy Oden of Last Sons of Krypton and "Human Zoo" fame. Raw, loud, '90s out of the garage style that would have fit fine in that era. 100 pressed. –SS

Reactors s/t EP (Artifix Records)
This reissue of one of the rarest 70s punk singles on Planet Earth is going to either drive the price even further up through the roof or cut its hamstrings and drop it into 127th place behind Sudden Fun and the NY Ravers. Well, let me tell you that I think its rarity factor is definitely a big factor in play here, as my journey began on the flipside, where 3 tracks in a row did nothing but remind me of that scene in Mad Max where The Goose is looking to get some at that roadside café/bar from the singer in the band…you remember, the chick with the head full of pubic hair ululating about licorice? Well, apparently the vocalist must have honed her chops with this crew, as all three songs wither under the attack from the “powerful” blues-warble of her quite ample lung-itude. Now. However. The a-side tracks, “Meltdown” and “LA Sleaze”, are another story entirely, as both are about as punk fucking rock as any femme-fronted Cali band you’ve ever heard this side of the Avengers or Cosmetics, and they more than make up for the wasted vinyl of the flipside tracks. Break out the old editorial screwdriver once again, we’ve got a one-sided monster! –RW

Roman Soldiers Warmer/Yuppie Fires 45 (Captured Tracks)
To the quick: “Yuppie Fires” is blah, but “Warmer” is an amazing underwater synth-art-pop song that sounds like it fell out of the sky from the Heaven of UK DIY pop rarities where all the Fuck You-label tapes exist in great profusion hanging from golden trees and every angel is playing the Beyond the Implode single on their fucking lutes or harps or xylophones or whatever those busybodies strum on. I could listen to the a-side of this thing, let’s see…five times in a row, which I just done. Probably the best few minutes I’ve heard from this label yet, or from anyone else on the weird-pop front in ‘09 for that matter. –RW

Shannon and the Clams Hunk Hunt EP (Weird Hug)
It’s a garage-surf-punk record. What do you look for in a record of this ilk? I want spontaneity, naiveté, a non-slick recording, perhaps a spirited cover of a lost classic to get it back into the canon, distinctive vocals (read: local kooky characters) from either sex, one nice band-defining anthem, and most of all it should sound like it could almost, almost, slide onto a comp from the period without much distress or notice. Shannon and the Clams are lobbing me a curveball in that they succeed a little bit at all of these things, especially the “anthem” part with the ditty “Hunk Hunt”. I would instantly recognize that one played live. But, they fail to really hit it out of the park on any of the other levels, it’s sort of like the various Miss Alex White records I’ve run across; not awful at all, but looking for the perfect vehicle to really bring it home. Both bands are in serious need of a Kim Fowley-esque character to breed a little terror or ambition into ‘em…at least on record. Not bad and not mad but not moved. –RW

Stupid Party s/t LP (Freedom School)
Timeless punk rock made today - which in 2009 means go back five years and five more years and five more years and back and back and you will find pretty much the same record by a band with a different name (albeit some of its own personality). Zero point is 80s Los Angeles just as punk rock was shifting into hardcore and maybe some Halo of Flies wreckage, but that also translates to: I've heard this record before. There are a couple of stand out moments but by the time they came around, I was already bored. Redeeming qualities: It is played well and it is short. –SS

Teenage Panzerkorps s/t EP (Captured Tracks)
Here’s an idea which pops into the discussion while listening to our art-punk friends TPK’s new wax; is someone going to be influenced by this EP in 20 years? I’m listening to the bombastically declaimed vocals, which bellow hollowly over an apathetic drums-n-synth skitter (which is kept firmly chained in the background), and consider the bands’ motives for working in this style. You can’t really want to fuck, drink, dance or read to this, it’s purely Music in Opposition. I have to admire the chutzpah of just going for it but my punk rock bullshit detector always kicks in at that point, because at the end of the day I want to be entertained and this thing does nothing but frustrate that impulse. And while 90% of garage rock bores me because there is no thinking involved, the obvious flipside to that is thinking too damn much about the whole process. This EP is the flagship for the franchise of “thinking too damn much”. Theory can strangle your ass. And so, the verdict is that this EP shall resonate through the ages every bit as much as My Captains or Duet Emmo does. –RW

The Uzi Rash Group Band s/t LP (Freedom School)
If you were "lucky" enough to get on the Uzi Rash mailing list, over the past couple years you probably received more than a dozen CDrs and cassettes documenting pretty much every musical breath that Uzi Rash (Max Trashington AKA Stanley Bingman) took. Unfortunately, many of those breaths were bad, or at least uninspiring. For the first few months (I gave up after that) the CDr was Uzi Rash's notebooks. Great for him, but a waste of time for anyone with a stack of records that they'd rather listen to. So, when the Uzi Rash vinyl LP came in the mail, I was both looking forward to listening to it and dreading what I'd hear. Was it more half-assed, impulsive song dribbles or was this going to be a solid record? Answer: Pretty solid. I am not sure if these tunes were created for this release or some poor sucker waded through the last couple years of Uzi crap to pull out the peanuts. Whatever the case they came up with a good collection of songs, a record that merits repeated listens. The sound is modern DIY which owes a lot to Seattle bands the Factums and the Intelligence. There are also some lo-fi pop things going on here. All of the songs are stripped down and the sound is very boombox-ish, both things that are a plus here. The Uzi Rash play nothing ground breaking or mind melting, but that is fine. Especially considering that they/he has (hopefully) stepped beyond tossing every notebook out for public consumption. –SS

Vibes Psychic EP (Not Not Fun)
Here is a record that is so good and so far in front of the crowd that its difficult not to spew accolades and nothing else. Everything about this four song EP works - the super funky wah-wah guitar, the trashy drum sound, the simple groove of the bass, and the seen-it-all drabness of the vocals. Throw that list at me and I'd think "hipster crap" but Vibes puts it together to make a sound that is fresh and they attack the sound with enthusiasm. I don't want to over hype this thing but, man, what I hear reminds me of that oddball Sly Stone experimental funk (Joe Hicks, Little Sister) filtered through late 70s Frisco art punk, but with a rock solid groove probably informed by shit produced by Dr Dre. One of my favorite records of the year. –SS

The Wicked Awesomes Punk Holograms LP (Psychic Handshake)
When Punk Holograms started off with a modern twist on old Ultravox, I settled myself in for another sound-a-like rip-off of old New Wave. Not that "Time Shit & Crystal Snot" is a bad song; just that I am really tired of hearing the same crap rehashed by a generation who were barely in diapers - if they were even born - and gobbled up by goobs heralding said sounds as something new, when it is really just SOS badly recorded. Sooooo...I was pleasantly surprised when the Wicked Awesomes jangled into some primo Leaving Trains cum Celibate Rifles p. rock. Any New Wave moments that followed were paisleyed-out enough to keeping me happy. Tight songwriting + loose playing, propelled along by cool guitar runs and keyboard accents. I bet that these guys are a killer live band. Looking forward to them tripping out west...and more records! –SS

Wild Thing s/t EP (Clown College)
Speedy 90s style garage punk which would have sounded right on Mortville 15 years. Imagine Jetpack emerging from cryonic tank. –SS

Woven Bones Janie/Let it Breathe 45 (Needless)
It’s used to be easy to review indie records: the fast side was almost always better than the slow one. This was due to the fact that every other band was in the process of escaping their hardcore roots, so you got the residual manic energy still sloshing around in the tank combined with an attempt at tunefulness from the emerging “higher mind”. You know, they had started smoking pot or reading Jung, or something. Now, with Woven Bones in 2009, I think it’s just a case of the band being frankly more interested in rocking out than they are willing to give themselves credit for, since the a-side track, “Janie”, is a really appealing fuzz-pop song that traces its rocket-rocket appeal back to early 60s surf, while the flipside literally comes off like them attempting to play a song “slowly”, like it will lend gravity to the proceedings. Nah, it’s not weird or entrancing guys, just boring. Stick with the giddy-up, and I’ll ride with you any time. –RW

X TV Cabaret Roll EP (Zenith Records)
Here we have a reissue of a reissue of the 4-track X (this is the Australian X) EP that originally came out on the much-missed Rock ‘N Roll Blitzkrieg label like 27 years ago, I think (and was on the Why March When We Can Riot? comp before that). All 4 tracks are pretty much at the top of the heap of primal, throbbing-neck-vein, sweat-drenched punk rock ‘n roll, and are probably already known to the vast majority of “you”. If not, uh, jeez, I don’t even know if there is anywhere you can get their debut record legally at the moment, that’s what your ever-questing typographical fingers are for. It also seems that there has been some futzing around with the mix on this version, the guitar and bass are not at the same familiar levels, but unlike the brightly shitty remix that the reissue of the Absentees single was subjected to, it does not detract in any way, it only stimulates the ‘ol molecules. The only thing wrong with this release on any fundamental, human level is the sleeve: bleeeeeeeeeeeeech. Double blech. Oh well, toss the sleeve and hug the vinyl to your bosoms. –RW

XYX Momento Acido Contemporaneo EP (Skulltones)
This two-piece put out one thee best, if not thee best, art-punk singles of 2008, that’s becoming clearer with every passing month due to the fact that when a pile of singles topples over onto the floor in my record room, and I bend over to straighten them up, the XYX single gets pulled out of the accordion mess and put on to provide me with a brief soundtrack. This follow up single has most of the energy and propulsion while expanding the palette a bit more into the “arty” side of their approach. In other words, they dosed, baby. But unlike their fellow Mex-heads Los Llamarada, XYX are too damn punk to drift into the realms of ESP Recordslandsia; besides, I don’t think they’d be as good at it. There is a directness to the XYX sound that is pure original recipe no wave in it’s approach in only the best way: stripped down and aggressive, so that instead of drifting through hippie-fried sonic cough syrup they are more like a ’70 Galaxie 500 plowing through an abandoned lot full of empty fridges and razor wire, engine roaring, metal bending and giving in protest under the assault. And the lead singer maintains amazing hair throughout. –RW

Various Artists Siamese Soul CD (Sublime Frequencies)
If Thai pop music was looking for a champion, it certainly couldn't do better than the team of Alan Bishop and Mark Gergis. With Siamese Soul, they have put together one of the best compilations I've ever listened to, and that is regardless of genre. In collecting tunes for Sublime Frequencies second volume of Thai Pop, they have come up with 15 winners. Every song on this CD is good, most of the songs are great. True to the title, the songs are as soulful as they are "Siamese," funky grooves are mixed with traditional instruments and vocal styles, and nowhere is there one bit of kitsch or novelty. This collection was put together by and is for serious music freaks, though it will also please those looking to stretch their tastes. And for those of us who have gotten a bit jaded, there are more than a few cuts here that will melt your mind, particularly the two by Kwan Jai & Kwan Jit Sriprajan, which have some of the best vocals I've ever heard. Bishop says "...this is the tip of the iceberg-so many more comps to come...we're dealin with hundreds of top flite tracks to comp in the coming years from thousands of tapes, 45s and lps we have now!" Right fucking on! –SS

Columbus Discount Singles Club rundown

Cheater Slicks Erotic Woman 45 (Columbus Discount)
The Cheater Slicks, unwaveringly primordial garage mutants, de-volving ever further as they age, unleash their sensual side with “Erotic Woman.” Drummer Dana Hatch’s death-rattle yelp is, surprisingly, not terribly sexy (“COME ON!! Erotic Woman!”), but their explicit lack of sex appeal has never stopped them from delivering the goods straight from the groin (check out Tom Shannon’s subtle hip-thrusting when you see them live). But the B-side cover - as usual - of the Outcry’s (some long-lost MI rockers) “Can’t You Hear (My Heartbeat)” - wins as the Cheater Slicks, once again, tap into an eternal vein of hormonal, sweat-soaked truth. –LB

Jim Shepard The Voices of Men 45 (Columbus Discount)
The extra-special super secret surprise record in this series, as promised by the head honchos of CDR, is a marginal-music nerd’s wet dream. It took me years to be persuaded of Jim Shepard’s genius because I’ve lived in Columbus long enough to realize that it’s often supportive to a fault and trust me, I’ve heard the same sort of evangelizing about far lesser groups. There’s simply no reason to think that every 7” shat out by any band that was a Tuesday night regular at Stache’s is worth revisiting. But Shepard, as you probably knew long before me, is the Real Thing, and sealed the deal by hanging himself in 1998, taking leave of a world that appeared to have lost its luster for him many years before. Anyway, this one-sided gem from the vaults (there’s some back story involving Shepard’s widow and her desire to keep this song out of the public’s hands, for whatever reason, and how CDR got a hold of it … you’ll have to ask them) is reminiscent of Husker Du’s introspective moments. He collaborates here with Nudge Squidfish and the result, with its backdrop of droning voices and dread, is truly great and truly disturbing. Appropriately, the voice of Rev. Jim Jones is heard as the song fades out. –LB

Guinea Worms I Know Where Will Foster Lives 45 (Columbus Discount)
Will Foster’s eternal man-child persona cracks a bit on this edition of the CDR Singles Club Year One. Where he’s usually talking about snack cakes and ghosts, he’s now talking about being a stud (if a mutant one). The A-side opens with lecherous horns and a stiff-gaited riff before launching into a creepy and hilarious self-examination: “I know where Will Foster lives/I know how big his ego is.” The flip side, the freak anthem “C.H.U.D.,” is the usual crude blues grind, a 4-note non-riff that is the heart of the Worms’ oeuvre. As you know, that’s short for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller.” So they’re still somewhat obsessed with monsters of the radioactive sort (and not just monstrous egos). On toxic orange clear vinyl. –LB

Little Claw Prickly Pear 45 (Columbus Discount)
The first time I saw Little Claw, maybe 5 or more years ago, they were the worst band I had seen up to that point in time. The drummer (Jaime from the Piranhas, I believe?) refused to deviate from his monotonous caveman thudding the entire set; Kilynn I pegged as a hopelessly amateur Patti Smith impersonator, and Heath—well, Heath has always just been Heath. Still, there was something impressive about their commitment to this absurd spectacle, and now, several years later, that dedication bears fruit in their most recent recordings. “Prickly Pear” is precociously avant-garde, and proves that indulging LC’s sometimes tedious meanderings can pay off (still, they probably could have cut the last minute or two off the song’s hand-percussion coda). The flip, “Crawl Around Inside”, is womb-like in its claustrophobia, with a slow, opiate guitar riff that echoes densely throughout the song, and it’s become one of my favorite LC jams after a few listens. When it works, it works, and you have to admire their insistence on just putting everything out there and letting the listener sort it out. –LB

TV Ghost The Fiend 45 (Columbus Discount)
So, TV Ghost’s recently-released first full-length LP is in retrospect maybe a bit of a disappointment, considering I had such very high expectations for it. How could I not: these guys are so unrelenting live, so commanding, I couldn’t imagine Cold Fish being anything other than a mind-melter. And it’s … good. Really good. But over the course of a full-length, their lurching gothic punk gets a little formulaic. “The Fiend” is more in that vein—and let’s face it, as formulas go, it’s a great one—but it doesn’t really bleed like their live show. The B-side, though, bodes well for the future. The tension is slow-burning instead of explosive, and metallic guitar shards ping like shells on pavement. Recorded by Tom Shannon (Cheater Slicks) and Will Foster (Guinea Worms) as a dramatic vortex of echo, “Prodrome” indicates they could be the modern Midwest equivalent of the Pop Group. While the Pop Group were motivated by a visceral existential nausea, though, TVG just seem attracted to the dark glamour of the undertow. –LB

Dan Melchior und Das Menace The Post Office Line 45(Columbus Discount)
Dan Melchior, like fellow curmudgeon Ben Waller, is here to tell you what’s wrong with what. Like the Rebel, Melchior is dry of wit and a sharp observer of human nature, and ridiculously prolific to boot. And he doesn’t shy away from the provocative phrase: “An urban brown clown filled with crack.” or “A post office line filled with peasant rage.” Melchior’s crankiness is tempered with compassion, though; he clearly pities the miserable fools with whom he has to share society, the “Tourists” in the B-side song of the same name (and the highlight of this release). Alternating a quiet contemplation of his inability to argue facts with the great unwashed, and a ridiculously vicious recurring blast of guitar noise driven by a sledgehammer drumbeat, Melchior’s mirthful anger and disappointment are, as usual, on raw display for your amusement, edification, and commiseration. –LB

Mike Rep Donovan’s Brain 45 (Columbus Discount)
Mike Rep, local treasure, legendary eccentric, and wizard (maybe), offers a twisted tribute to two pop heroes on this latest nugget dug up from the backlog of Harrisburg Player recordings. If you suspect “Donovan’s Brain” is about abducting the Sunshine Superman’s gray matter from the scene of a car accident and holding it hostage for experimentation in a lab - well, you’d be right about that. Ridiculously catchy and just plain old ridiculous. The B is a short and sick ditty sung to the tune of “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” that celebrates the messy end of one Jim Croce. I don’t think you can ask for any better in death than to be immortalized by Columbus’ high priest of rock. Too bad, Jim - and most likely Donovan, either, though he’s alive, ALIVE! - won’t ever get to hear it. –LB

....And, yes, we are working on Z Gun 4. We are aiming for November....