Apache Boys Life 45 (Douchemaster)
Loud ‘n proud rock ‘n roll music with tuff, big-bellied production hoisting up Apache’s tasty glam exposition unto the heavens. In fact, the production is such an integral part of the charm of this power pop parking lot champeen that it almost seems as if… as if… people in rocker bands are finally able to effectively re-channel and clearly communicate the thrill that older records consistently deliver that so many modern records drown in samey blare: dynamics, motherfuckers! My theory now is that lo-fi’s attempt to return to mono in order to remove all of the gating and effects and harshly arid techno gimmickry (that ruined so many otherwise promising records from about 1983-1990) was an act of desperation to save rock dynamics for future generations. Well, Supercharger and the Motards died on the cross for you fuckers so that Apache could proudly sound like Status Quo and Supernaut, and they do (and don’t evoke the horridly leering mugging of Jack Black for even a second). Great stuff, if you have a tolerance for the explicit retro feel of this thing. –RW

Bad Drumlin Grass The Invigorating Scent of… LP (Milva Son)
This one took a while to sink in. At first listen, I pegged this crew as jamsters who rolled the tape after shemping a crapload of hemp, got so excited over their creation that they had to press it up on record. And I would have left it at that had I not given this another hearing. Well, listen two has led to listen ten and I dig this shit more and more with each spin. There ain’t nothing fancy here, just a bunch of dudes finding a groove and working their instruments. The feel is freak rock meets jazz, in a Louisville/Sapat kinda way, though not quite as hairy. While the songs are longish and jam based, the playing is compact. In other words, the Grass don’t meander off into self-indulgent droolville. While all the songs here are notable, “Moon Trek”, mutant space music gone ESP-Disk, is the star. 300 press. –SS

Better Beatles Mercy Beat LP (Hook or Crook)
Several years ago I fished the Better Beatles one and only single out of a local record store. It was sitting there, in a plain white sleeve, among a bunch of unlike titles. It looked interesting so I plopped down my dollar and brought it home. Dropped needle and was instantly shit grinning. The label said they were from Nebraska and that the record came out in the early 80s. Other than that there was no info. I wrote it up on Crud Crud and posted the songs. Chris Olson, who does Hook or Crook Records, saw it and remembered that one of the band members was a friend of his now living in the East Bay. Around the same time, the vocalist Jean pSmith emailed, informing me that there was a whole tape full of Better Beatles tunes recorded back in the 80s that had never been released. Chris had also been told of the same and took up the task of getting the stuff to vinyl. The result: archival release of the year. Why? Well, the Better Beatles are magical. On the surface you might think, “What is so special about a band covering a bunch of Beatles songs?” and you would be right if the BBs just covered songs, but they don’t. Instead they take the Flab 4s lyrics and mate them with reworked version of the songs. The results are nearly as radical as The Residents’ remakes on Third Reich’n Roll. In some cases, the Better Beatles find something that the Beatles themselves missed. A great example is the song “Paperback Writer”, which the Beatles do as if they were singing about sugar plums and fairies, not a desperate attempt at making scratch. The BBs take the pep out of the song and infuse it with a dull mater-of-factness, reminiscent of The Normal. This is how “Paperback Writer” should sound. A whole album’s worth of Beatles songs get the same rework, some very funny (“Little Help from My Friends”), others very punky (“I’m Down”), nearly all of them revealing a new fresh side to very tired songs. Great. –SS

Blank Dogs
Two Months EP (Florida’s Dying)
Based in the bowels of a noted record store, the Blank Dogs have an unfair advantage on the rest of the rock & roll underground. They pretty much live in a library of good tunes, so record after record (and its been four, five this year?) is full of learned goodness. Like their dozen others, this three song EP is synth-grounded DIY weirdness, an update of cassette culture sounds of yore. The strong song here is the A side, “Two Months”, a warped pop tune with underwater vocals. “Poison Ivy” is also a good’un. –SS

Centipede East Surf Licks and The Wall of Sound for World Peace LP (Legs)
A band as skitzo at the album’s title suggests. Inside their musical mind lurks the Minutemen, Deep Purple, Gun Club, !!!, and dozens other bands, and it all comes out over four long songs. They fuse the sounds well; but, for the most part, the alt mutations don’t do anything for me. Centipede East comes off best is on the album’s closer, “Crawlin’ Out West”, a hairy neo-psych, Quicksilver on HGH jam, the only song that doesn’t change up styles within the song and instead concentrates on nailing down a groove, and then fucks with the songs dynamics. The record notes state that this is an “early version” of the song. Hopefully, that does not mean that CE has abandoned this sound, as I think the organic approach fits them best. –SS

The Daily Void Surprise, Surprise You’ve Lost Your Eyes 45 (Hozac)
The Daily Void Identification Code: 5271-684346864436-4519 CD (Dead Beat)
The Daily Void Mass Communication Culture EP (Boom Chick)
A good mess of these guys were in another band called the Functional Blackouts. While the Blackouts were good, there was something that was missing. Like many people, I bought their records hoping that this new one would be the one to project them to Wow! It never happened. They broke up and along came The Daily Void. The first song I heard by The DV was on their myspace page and it was called “Surprise Surprise…”. Holy fuck! There was a bit of a Blackouts sound there but The Void had found that missing X which their former band lacked. I played that song five times in a row and then messaged them asking if I could put it out. No luck, they had promised it to Hozac. They sent me a cdr of stuff, but others were asking and I was over committed so I took a pass. No regrets as what now sits in front of me is a nice pile of songs! “Surprise Surprise…” b/w “In the Year Zero” tops the pile and for good reason: The songs are catchy, economical, full of energy, and truck in a style that few are doing today. This is easily one of the best 7”s of 2007, in a year with many exceptional sevens….The self-titled full length is eleven songs of like tuneage. Nothing stands out as much as the songs on the Hozac single, but, as a whole the CD rips. Same goes for the songs on Mass Communication Culture. No standouts but an above average record… For their sound, the band vibes the arty side of early 80s hardcore (Saccharine Trust, Angst, Proletariat), sharpened to the no frills single mindedness of something like The Viletones' "Screaming Fist". Someone somewhere commented that had these guys been around in say 1983, they would be a reference point. Most probably so, but this is 2007 and 1983 is twenty-seven years ago. The thing that saves The Daily Void from being just another bunch of corpse fuckers is that they interject some new to the style, an immediacy that eschews nostalgia. I’m hoping that they are able to keep twisting – much in the way the great Rudimentary Peni held on to what made them them yet never settled on a sound. Wherever these guys go, this is a great place to start from. –SS

Goodnight Loving Drafted Into War 45 (Contaminated)
The only reason I could think of why people couldn’t dig the title track of this 7” is that it’s too damn catchy, or something. You know, it’s so obviously good that some residual teenage contrarian impulse must kick in and they would refuse to recognize that the production perfectly preserves everything that’s slam dunky about all those proto-whatever pop singles from 1973-5 that are making such a splash in certain dog- and outhouses at the moment. It’s totally rock ‘n roll and a sub-three minute condensation of everything “indie rock” could be, namely independent rock music with some conviction and guts that could play Conan O’Brien without making you wince. Why the fuck not, I ain’t hoping my favorite rock music stays trapped underneath one to exist merely for my private enjoyment. The flipside is about as good as any of the recent Black Lips tracks I’ve been exposed to, that is to say good but not wig burnin’. That would be getting greedy, snap this up for the title track alone. –RW

Hallux Valgus s/t cassette (Gaffner)
This French duo sounds like they are fighting their way out of an electronic cage. The drums are loud near-artless pounding and the guitar apes an animal in pain. 1 + 1 = violent jags of noise tumbling into music. But is it good? Yeah, sure, like one-twenty cc's of caffeine good. –SS

Hipshakes / Cococoma
split EP (Tic Tac Totally)
The best slab of Hipshakes I’ve heard since their Slovenly 45 of a few years back, outta focus and outta control! Can you cut ‘n paste that tagline okay? Both songs are equally good garage punk, and that means they equal each other in goodnessosity, but unlike me they aren’t inventing anything new under the Yellow Ball. The flip reintroduces us to old friends Cococoma, dudes whose high-water mark after I complete the turn of their screw remains their 7” on Goner, methinks. If you are stepping out of your time machine and you’re watching a Teenage Shutdown band run thru their paces in 1966, would you really get excited when they played “Route 66” to a room full of pimples? No, you wouldn’t, but you’d tap your foot. That’s the Cococoma side of this. –RW

Jacuzzi Boys
Ghost Ghost EP (Florida’s Dying)
I’ll get to the balls of the matter straight off, the longer slower track on this is the one that will milk the bulls every time, as it were. In the echoing vocals and tense atmospherics of “Komi Caricoles” lurks the essence of that “60s” psych-punk sound that every post-Spaceman 3 outfit is always trying to nail and missing. Bravo. The two flip tracks are running at a higher RPM and here we get to other danger implicit in mainlining the Sunset Strip: the dreaded early 90s Dionysus Records sound. “Age of the Giant Jellyfish” is the track I am referring to, a rinky-dink piece of cloying fluff that completely fulfills the promise of its title. Its horribleness is almost enough to derail the proximate title track, which survives wounded and is carried out of the fight by the Hero of this Story, “Kombi Chronicles”. 2 out of 3 is damn fine for a debut EP these days, man, I’ve been hearing a distressing number of O-fers lately. –RW

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Jukebox Explosion LP (In the Red)
Shove a stick in my ass and call me a lollipop! I was dreading this record, but now I feel like a dirt of a dog for my doubts. Why the hessitation? I dunno: Maybe because the Jon Spencer jive ass hipster act got really stale, really fast and the annoyance factor was real hard to divorce from the music…and even then, Extra Width? Okay, but just okay. Orange? Snore. Then there’s the American mutton chop army who sought to emulate Spencer, and after them a hunk load of Euros who seemed more comic book than Spencer himself. But that’s the later work and the legacy. Before that there was something that made me excited when Extra Width came out and that was the handful of singles that In the Red put out, really raw blasts of fuck-it-all energy done with greasy style but not too greasy and not too stylish. In other words, the thrust doesn’t get lost in the swivel. Man, this shit smokes. Forgot what a fucker the Blues Explosion’s version of the Chain Gang’s “Son of Sam” is. Might be sacrilege to say it, but this ‘un might equal the original. Then there is the Tales of Terror-esque “Naked”. “Push Some Air” is a killer. And blah blah blah…I could go song by song but that would be a waste of time. There are 18 tunes on this album, all of them compiled from singles or recordings intended for release but never realized, and every single song on here is great. If this reviewer needed one record to break my knee-jerk about JSBE, this is it. No need to dwell on the shit I hated about this band, when something as fresh sounding as this old stuff exists. Great! –SS

Weibe Messe LP (Holy Mountain)
Gah! Kuala Lumpur’s Klangmutationen play some of the most tortured free jazz I’ve heard in a long time. The label calls this “free metal”, perhaps because of the guitar, but there ain’t no metal here. Substitute guitar feedback and karrang for brutal fiddle sawing and in “In the Beginning…” you have an updated take on Albert Ayler’s “For Coltraine”, a noisy, emotionally wrecked heave into the shit that lurks in the ash heap of one’s soul, or some other dark wet place. It’s a measuring tune, something you can use to compare other songs to. That’s how good it is. The album’s flipside has two more: “Tempel & Eclipse” is part primitive psych punker, not unlike the swill that swirls around the Blackvelvetfuckere label, and part freak out. “Coda/Gently Weeping…” end things with drawn out feedback squalls, subtle bass thumps, and frantic drumming. While there isn’t much structure to it, there is an emotional center – emptiness, pain, regret – that holds the song together. This is one bleak record. Recommended! –SS

1-800-BAND / Snakes s/t 7” (Slow Gold Zebra)
In underground circles, power pop has been all about the speedy, sharp, punkish sounds – the UK and Bomp variety. The Midwestern and Big Star sound, while being acknowledged as good or, in the case of Big Star, godly, hasn’t received the same attention, at least, not until recently. Over the past year, I’ve heard great records by Goodnight Loving and The Thomas Function, two bands who embrace the laid back sound of classic mid-70s American power pop (while incorporating other influences). And now I’ve got two more bands to add to this short list. 1-800-BAND play a very nice combo of Big Star, Dwight Twilley, and Is-It-My-Body style Alice Cooper. The two songs are not pyrotechnic, but the writing and execution is so precise that I can’t help but let this play over and over. Snakes are a bit rawer, like a musically handicapped Faces, with a vocalist who immediately grates with his ruff ‘n sassy style; however after a minute or so, the ears become accustom to his Roddish growl. Snakes one song, “Fakeyed Heartscrew”, tops five minutes, and as it stumbles along, the guitar shifts into really odd runs. ‘tis a grower, this Heartscrew, but, damn, if it ain’t good. –SS

The Pharmacy
Adominable EP (Tic Tac Totally)
These druggists are like a less polished Squeeze hangin' out in Henry’s Dress's neighborhood. Quality now pop that demands multiple needle drops - pretty much
what you’d expect from the Tic Tac camp. –SS

The Rebel Tarscoffsky’s The Snackrifice EP 12” (Emperor Jones)
A near-excellent record by Ben Wallers of the Country Teasers. Here you've got six songs the resemble more recent Teasers, though with a bit less polish - not that the Teasers are slick, it’s just that this is less so. However, it is a bit more together, more focused that The Rebel’s previous output. As usual, Tarscoffsky has Wallers thinking about life in an underground rock band, race, and surrealism (on “Armageddon” Ben speaks of Allah & UFOs, or at least I think so. The vocals are recorded in such a way as to obscure the lyrics). Oh, yes, and then there is the patented Wallers race & jew baiting. We get a “nigger” in “Armageddon”. In “Ads Nu Gyr”, an instrumental, the words “fucking jews” are dropped in. Wallers’ symbol, a distorted swastika, is prominent on the packaging. I imagine this is Wallers trying raise some hackles and, to give him the benefit of the doubt, attempting to create discussion about the power of words or how no words should be verboten or that we are all uptight cunts who can’t take a joke. Thing is that Wallers has been baiting people with this shit for years and it is worse than old: It's predictable. In Agony Shorthand, about Wallers’ lyrics on the Teasers’ The Empire Strikes Back,
Jay Hinman wrote "insistence on punctuating every record with his giggle-giggle-I'm-so-bad "transgressive words" -- "Jew", "coon", "Hitler", "blacks", "queer" etc....It appears that entire songs continue to be built around slipping said words into the lyrics, and that's about as boring as bean curd." On Terminal Boredom, I took up for Wallers,but now I am starting to turn towards Jay’s opinion. While I don’t think that Wallers is a racist or anti-Semite, his nigger-dropping is as tired now as Tesco Vee’s dyke-baiting was in 1988. The words don’t raise the political hairs on my back; nah, they tweak me aesthetically. Baiting is too fucking easy and Wallers seems too fucking smart to resign himself to it. I am not sure if his insistence on word-baiting is due to laziness, habit, or some quirk in his personality. I do know that more than half of this review has been sidetracked by a few words. Too bad, because the music is aces. Verdict: There’s a turd in this punch bowl, but the punch is still tasty. –SS

Time Life
Drumlins 45 (Not Not Fun)
The rain is coming down & the wind is pumping. I’m sitting in my office listening to Time Life and it is making me depressed. Not in the “Fuck this is bad. I want to kill myself” kinda depression. At worst, bad records leave me annoyed. Nah, this is a good’un, but damn if the music isn’t dreary. Slow, creeping, soundtrack like tunes which recall that moment when early Industrialists started treading toward goth – think Psychick TV’s Dreams Less Sweet or something of that ilk. Effective and well done without goobs of pretension. –SS

Times New Viking (My Head) EP (Matador)
For those of you worried that TNV signing to Matador was gonna soften them, if this 4 song EP is a sign of what’s to come, time to quit your fretting. (My Head) contains two shockingly good DIY rockers – one of them a blown out cover of the Petticoats’ “Allergies” – sandwiched between a couple very noisy 90s style pop tunes, all of which is coated with shavings of sheet metal guitar. Pretty tuff stuff. 550 pressed and sold out in a day. Start digging. –SS

Veines s/t EP (Frantic City)
French time capsule p-rock of the Kids variety, with enough spunk to make it listenable today. Top of the pile as far as this stuff goes, but would be better live, on booze, in a dank French bar. –SS

Wizard Sleeve Mommy’s Little Baby 45 (Hozac)
Great heavy weirdness from a unit that seems to be nodding along in agreement to all of the recent Human Eye and Blank Dogs releases, units with whom they share a sense of economy, musical chops and sense of drama. And a shared love for Chrome, certainly, as “Mommy’s Little Baby” sounds like it was rescued from a tape of Red Exposure outtakes. That’s a compliment. I’d really like to hear what these guys could do if challenged with a forty-minute blank space. –RW

Various Hex LP (Hex/Enfant Terrible)
I wasn’t encouraged by the cheapo fold over paper sleeve on this compilation, as that has almost always equated to halfassery in my record digging experience. But this thing reversed my bias upon first needle drop with Laurence Wasser’s “Lydon on TV”, a perfect encapsulation of everything near ‘n dear about the old German Zick Zack label. Electronic robotic pop before MTV got their mitts on the form, par excellence. It’s true, the halcyon days when Die Krupps and Xmal Deutschland were still relevant have been back for a good couple of years now, evidenced by individual bands’ records scattered on indie labels hither and non but this Hex comp brings them all together. Of course, that means the execrable Sixteens and Vanishing are on this to act as Stygian sentinels of what can happen if certain impulses are not nipped in the bud: You can end up merely reinventing My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult or Siouxsie’s Tinderbox LP. Let the sullen children instead follow the examples set by the growling animales of Frustration, or the spacey anti-progisms of the melancholic Hval Mus, or the kitchen table electronics of Punk Soul Loving Bill, or the unabashed artpunk bashing of last year’s returning champeens, Cheveu. Or, my favorite newbie on this thing, the droll deadpan dropping-silkily-off-the-shoulder of Saralunden, who evoke the pathos of the similarly coke-charred (?) Christina of ZE records fame but sans the conscious cheez. Best vinyl comp I’ve paced the floor to since S-S’s Tete de Bebe. –RW

Various Post-Asiatic: Lost War Dream Music 2CD (URCK)
San Kazakgascar Greetings from… CD
It has taken some time but finally the efforts of Savage Republic and the Sun City Girls have influenced enough bands from various places around the globe to warrant elevating this underground rock approach to international music from scene to subgenre. Down in Southern California we’ve got a bunch of folks working under the umbrella of the Hop Frog Collective, their house organ being a label called URCK. Bands associated with the Hop Frogs are spread cross country, though many serve time in the Pacific Northwest. Over there in Louisville-town, there’s the Blackvelvetfuckere crowd, whose music ranges from mutant Beefheartian romp to Eastern tinged psych drone and that is where this subgenre applies. The Hop Froggers call it Post-Asiatic, meaning music derived from Middle Eastern, Indian, and Asian sources – or the aforementioned genre daddies and a bunch of Ethnic Folkways and Nonesuch Explorer records. Others slap the “Eastern psych” tag on this stuff, but I think it goes deeper than that. This stuff isn’t dabbling, nor is it a matter of hearing an Erkin Koray record and trying to be the next “Turkish Hendrix”. It has not only been decades since not only the first Folkways and Nonesuch records of ethnic global sounds started circulating, but many, many years since the Republic and the Girls started their experimentation with musique de la foreigners. And now that Bollywood and Bengla have a hold on hip hop producers, Eastern sounds finding their way into music as pedestrian as Beyonce and Kanye West. We are way beyond the sitar intro and backward guitar solo. I don’t know what to call this breed of bands but it includes the Post Asiatic crowd as well as the Western neo-Eastern psych people, as well as various off-genre experimenters, and perhaps a few from the electronic & dance world. I also need to note that this music is not without touches of exotica. In fact, if exotica is an attempt to musically imagine a world you’ve never lived in, to snatch sounds from other cultures and integrate them with your own, then this stuff is as neo-exotic as it is experimental. And that is not a bad thing.
If the above makes you interest in this trans-world noise, I cannot recommend more highly URCK’s Post Asiatic 2CD. Twenty-four artists give their musical take on “eastern influenced influential music”. It drifts from atmospheric to experimental, from exotic to ambient. The contributors range from pioneers like Z’ev and Muslimgauze to obscurities such as Sikhara, F-Space, and Neung Phak. URCK has also mixes in field recordings from Burma and India, which, at times, gives the collection a Sublime Frequencies feel. Is this 100% good? No, there are enough quality or interesting tracks to make it worth seeking out. This is an excellent “Post-Asiatic” primer.
San Kazakgascar come from Sacramento and, though they developed outside the “Post Asiatic” scene they share much of the same aesthetic. The songs are cleverly crafted and the playing is excellent. Jed Brewer is a hell of a guitarist who has a nice handle on the Middle Easternisms and when these guys get going it is pretty special. Unfortunately, San K. are a little too bound to their college rock roots and the band never really takes this into a different world, something they are certainly capable of. Instead their sense of humor takes over and at a few points the horrible ghost of Camper Van Beethoven comes a calling. When that happens, San K. sounds a bit hokey. Hopefully next time, they will loosen themselves up from the tight structures they’ve mastered on this record and take the international trip interstellar. Still, a good first effort. –SS