Anteenagers M.C. (Illusions of the) Teens 7” (Plastic Idol)
An Anteenagers release is something like an eclipse in that it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does a small, albeit very rabid and devoted, cult population flocks out to take in the rare spectacle while the rest of humanity stays on the couch. I count myself as one of the devoted. Even got me one o’ the original membership cards back from when Mssr. Laurent Bigot was actually signing and laminating them himself, long before those newfangled plastic dealies with the barcodes started sproutin’ up. And as one of the devoted, I, for one, applaud the infrequency of their releases, as it adds up to quality control (as opposed to some contemp hot topics that come to mind, like that one that’s often found paying tribute to the Monks). So why all the fuss? Well, because these Frenchies blend up a damn good stew: an equal combination of 90’s garage-punk bite with a sharp post-punk sting, topped off with a knack for memorable songwriting. I’m not exaggerating on the memorable part either - “Let’s Not Have a Party” from their last release still randomly pops into my head and, given the constant flood of vinyl coming into my home, it’s been a few months since actually spinning it. This time around Laurent & Co. trade in the Killing Joke neg-vibes of “Party” for a more straightforward late 70s Brit sound, but with those spindly guitar-as-keyboard notes still intact. There’s a strange semblance to those bands that are usually found on Oi comps but don’t really fit the bill. Names like Menace, ATV, Subway Sect, The Lurkers, etc. keep coming to mind but none of ’em really seem accurate. Maybe it’s because in the end it just sounds like Anteenagers M.C. –JS
Bad Sports All the Time 7” (Boom Chick)
Bad Sports No Rest for the Wicked 7” (Big Action)
Call me crazy, but there could very well be a place for the (gasp) Rip Off sound in 2008. The Bold Ones EP struck me as the most solid contender in quite some time, but these Bad Sports trump ‘em by a country mile. 7 tunes scattered across 4 sides and I doubt the total running time beats 12 clicks. That’s practically an LP!!! The title track on All the Time is fucking great: mid-tempo pop with a lovey-dovey hint that’s barely detectable underneath the bombast and guitar bleed - Worthy of actually being called garage punk, specifically the variety that’s free of organ, tambourine, harmonica, a garage, etc. You know, the 90s. The rest of the tunes remove garage from the equation and rival any post-Brides Lowery Hit Factory release, no doubt about it. That Bad Sports can do both LOUD and lo-fi leads me to believe that they’ve got at least one more single in them before someone steps in to do things “properly”, thus fucking up everything good about these discs. Good god, I enjoy both platters! What the fuck??? Featuring some Wax Museum kid. No wonder… -MC
Barn Owl From Our Mouths a Perpetual Light LP (Not Not Fun)
This record benefited immensely from my expectations, which, if they were any lower out of the gate, would have been invisible even under an electron microscope. The name of the band, the pretentious quasi-spiritual title, and yet another fucking wolf-based conceit for the cover, hol-ee sheeit, could this thing have been any more derivative? I was feeling kind of guilty as I dropped the needle, just like I did after I whimsically kicked the shit out of a retarded kid on the playground when I was eight and got hauled to the woodshed by Pa. And as the white vinyl goo turgidly spun ‘round, the damn thing started to grow on me. It’s an all-instrumental effort (apart from some wordless vocalizing appearing and disappearing in the mist…) and quiet like a smart-looking pretty girl reading alone at a neighborhood bar at 7 PM on a Wednesday night. It takes more than a few cues from late 70s Eno, not the Airport/Ambient stuff but more the instrumental passages on Another Green World, or a low-tech attempt at approximating a guitar-dominated Tangerine Dream soundtrack from the same time period. It’s a very pleasant listen, surprisingly pretty at times, and, to be sure, absolutely useless on a rock ‘n’ roll level. Just have to make that clear, kids, this thing is far more likely to hit that hungrily dormant Dire Straits/Meddle part of your brain pan than the section closer to the ‘ol stem that is electrified by close exposure to Voivoid or Eddie Cochran, say. In toto, not a hippie drone record, but an old-new-wave-era stab at cough syrup atmospherics. Change the name from Barn Owl to Electric Owl and they may be onto something. “Of course it’s artificial.” —RW
Alan & Richard Bishop The Brothers Unconnected CD (Abduction)
Subtitled “A Tribute to Charles Gocher & Sun City Girls”, The Brothers Unconnected is an 11 song CD sold at the Bishop Brothers’ late Spring ’08 tour. On the road as an acoustic duo, the Bishops have created a fantastic performance of songs and pieces written or co-written by their late friend and fellow Sun City Girl Charles Gocher. It is a tribute that is both warm and powerful without a touch of sentimentality or mawkishness. No prattling about what a great guy Gocher was or how important his work is; just two guys, two guitars, and a bunch of material from a host of Sun City Girls releases, including Torch of the Mystics, Dante’s Disneyland Inferno, 330,003 Cross Dressers from Beyond the Rig Veda, and other SCG classics. Stripped down to voice and guitar, none of the songs here lose anything in the translation. Particularly effective are “Ballad of (D)anger,” “Cruel and Thin,” “The Shining Path,” and “Rookoobay.” The Brothers’ guitar work is also tops. I am not sure if this closes out the Sun City Girls – I’d be surprised if it didn’t, given Gocher’s central role in the band. If it is the last we hear of the Girls, this is a fitting good-bye. —SS
Blank Dogs On Two Sides LP (Troubleman)
Blank Dogs have been releasing masterful takes on the art-synth scene of the early-to-mid 80s for a fair bit now, pretty much being the first contemporary outfit to truly recreate the pathos and instincts that animated many of the best original artists of this style, those instincts being a wheezy entropic malaise leavened with restless, stabbing attempts to pierce the cloying murk that cloaked legitimate emotional responses. Remember how Lester Bangs went on and on and on and on in 1980 or so about how people didn’t want to feel real emotions anymore? Well, a raft of bands went to town on that concept for close to a decade (without ever really coming to a pro or con stance) and Blank Dogs have picked up the missing thread masterfully in the 21st Century, operating on a stubborn premise that goth never peaked, that emo never happened and that the Cure broke up after Robert Smith OD’d in 1984. This record, unlike previous efforts, features a bit more guitar in the mix which definitely conjurs different sonic forefathers like Kas Product or the Sleepers, this versus the Metabolist/Throbbing Gristle axis that served as the bedrock for their debut on the Sacred Bones label. The extra guitars are used to push the melody to the front of your attention, which serves to slightly lighten the dread that suffused earlier records without getting all Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me about it. No sign of a bouncy horn section yet, okay? Blank Dogs are not sitting still, which is great news for this reviewer because I dreaded having to xerox a review for a record that was itself potentially a carbon copy. Not happening here, this is still a developing story of a boy and another boy and another boy (???) dealing with their innate sense of claustrophobia by using the healing power of a music that feels like it could simultaneously clog your arteries and induce boils across your cheek. The curse of the Living. —RW
Bold Ones Open Your Mouth 7” (Hozac)
What we have here is People’s Defense Evidence #1 that the one singular and ultimately laudatory effect that the opening-up of allowable punk sounds over the last two or three years has had is that bands like the Bold Ones here are not allowed to put out “okay” records anymore. This 4-song EP is soooo close to being kinda “eh,” as none of the four songs is trying to break any new ground at all but, but, the Bold Ones feature such a canny brew of mix-n-match sonic shit picked up from unguessed powerpop/rock ‘n roll obscurities that they are ultimately rescued from their mean ambition to dethrone the Putters or the Hormones as Kings of the Bargain Bins. This is particularly true on the first track of each side, as each ditty rises above their pedestrian indie-punker trappings with things like unexpected gurl background choruses or a guitar chord that comes out of nowhere to actually achieve that precious “catchy” quality that makes you want to play it again rather than blankly toss it into a box. A product of its times, and that’s a good thing. —RW
Cat Party Jigsaw Thoughts 7” (Rich Bitch)
God damn, three records into the Rich Bitch catalog (Pop Horrors, Le Face) and I feel like I am in a fucking time machine with the gears jammed in Los Angeles 1980. Like their labelmates, Cat Party turns out a couple that could have been recorded twenty-five years ago. “Jigsaw Thoughts” is somewhat nondescript but goodly melodic, while the flip, “Entitled” taps Rik L Rik-style coolness. Nothing remarkable here, yet nothing particularly offensive to the ears. —SS
Crash Normal / Cheveu split 7” (Rococo)
How many songs can you fit into a song? No really, that’s not a typo. I’m serious. How many songs can you fit into a song? That’s what that little kid should’ve been asking the owl on those Saturday morning lollipop advertisements. Crash Normal answer the question by reaching back to their split with Splash Four, creating a kind of Crash Normal Radio: segue after segue after segue. This “radio spot” starts out with some sorta mutant garage rock riff that kicks into yet some more mutant garage somethingorother, only to be interrupted by a few seconds of alien electro-funk break-beats, and now all of a sudden we’re on the dance floor of what appears to be a European synth-wave club (hey is that Lars Finberg dancing over there in the corner?), and it’s like they’re remixing themselves while they’re playing, barely even stopping to breathe. The CN gang even foreshadows what’s to come by aping the Cheveu song’s riff, taking it apart and club-fistedly trying put it back together. Crash Normal done, Cheveu comes along to demonstrate how their hair-machine works, “Non yoo eediots, like zees.” They make it sound so easy. Buncha Flat Duo Jets twang ran through some kinda Wax Trax filter with a sweaty, amphetamine-fueled, 6’4” nutjob ranting mush-mouthed over the top o’ things. Crazy man, crazy. I get the impression that whenever Crash Normal are faced with releasing a split record with the other current Big Name of the French Underground they get worried that they’re going to be outdone so they try to cram as much head-fuck into seven inches as is Frenchingly possible, but y’know this is a perfect fit. Oh, and the answer is six. —JS
Eat Skull Sick to Death LP (Siltbreeze)
Eat Skull's first full-length album, after a debut cassette and two singles that, with limited pressings and instant music-nerd appeal, nearly caused riots, might be their ticket to the Big Time, a la Times New Viking's Rip It Off. TNV's rise to minor-league indie stardom, with its attendant mentions in Pitchfork and MTV’s John Norris' new-found love of all things 4-tracked, is either a sign that the apocalypse is nigh for the music industry, or it's just trading the term "grunge" for the equally loathsome "shitgaze." I can't imagine a more interesting time for Sick to Death to make an appearance, and I can't help but wonder if Eat Skull will get taken along for the ride. Will the brave new world of Myspace bands mushrooming by the thousands and the relentless blogging of every boom-box-recorded cassette tape finally prove itself a true meritocracy, or will the public once again reveal itself to be the gutless, bottom-feeding herd music snobs have always known them to be? Sick to Death is the most modern of records, while still showing its roots in records like Guided by Voices’ Propeller—an implied pop album, not bothering to really BE a pop album, which of course could hinder their ascent to the Big Time, depending on the savviness of the audience it reaches. There’s plenty of coherent, hummable melody (“Waiting for the Hesitation”), but you’ll have to dig for it. Its goofy, childlike folk ditties (which bring to mind not only GBV and TNV, but also lesser-known Ohio lights like 84 Nash and Tree of Snakes--at least to these ears, which admittedly spent their formative years in Ohio) sound like ghostly radio transmissions from a neighboring world. At first I thought it far less pleasurable than the 7”s, and my favorite songs were the ones that had already made appearances on previous releases (“Things I Did,” “Punk Trips”) but in truth it rewards repeated listens, and the new stuff eventually pleases as much as the old. Plus it’s got great stoner laughs throughout … in “Puker Corpse” a haunted-house voice intones “HAHAHAHAHA … WELCOME TO HELL, PUKER CORPSE!!” Not to mention the Spock-with-bong cover art. Hilarious, skeletal pop hits for scary, bleak times. —LB
Gentlemen Jesse & Joseph Plunkett split 7” (Rob’s House)
A two-songer from a pair of guys who are plainly inhabiting the rockin’-songwriter mold first championed in the post-hardcore era by Paul Westerberg, and since ruined by hordes of tight-panted emo schmucks who have sadly dominated the whole heart-on-my-dirty-sleeve genre ever since Westerberg himself slid into non-contention sometime in the late 80s. Well, Greg Cartwright (amongst others, but he’ll do for my purposes here…have you picked up his Head Shop LP with the Tip Tops from the late 90s yet?) has certainly helped to rip the chains of bondage from punker-derived types who wanna show some evidence of possessing one of the other 3,176 emotions other than rage without descending into the Purgatory of Jets to Brazil et al. On this EP, you can hear some more chains clanking to the deck, especially on the Joseph Plunkett side, where “You Ruin Everything For Me” is a palpable hit, I reckon. The Gentlemen Jesse side is a bit too flimsy to hold water, it kinda tips over when you pour your expectations into it, whoopsie. Hey DJ, let’s chill out after that Ramones/Stooges/Pussgums rock bloc with a dab of Joseph Plunkett… —RW
Girls of the Gravitron Malthusian Lovesong 7” (Boom Chick)
Holy crap, did I stumble into a Lost Recordings session for the Siltbreeze label circa 1992 here? This thing is pure Laxian nirvana, like some sort of non-discovered land bridge between the continental empires of the Strapping Fieldhands and the Terminals, a languid and fuzz-laden trip through a subterranean jukebox where Monkey 101 plays all day every day and you set your drink down on copies of A Handful of Dust beer coasters. There is a definite art-pop tingle running through this band’s veins, so it belongs more to that aforementioned label’s early indie rock leanings, versus the dust mote expositions of Shadow Ring or Charalambides, but don’t think for a second this thing is pandering to some sort of non-existant Yips fanbase, this is an animal of its own creation. Great psych-art-pop that should please anyone who keeps the Tard and Further’d comp in more than occasional rotation. —RW
Hatewave Sexual Healing 2/Free Rin(g)tones CD (Apop)
Sez the press release (yes, an CD with a vagina on the cover has a press release), ”Disgusting 4 track no-grind from poor white guys on meth and hoarse (no hippie shit)”. Well, I’ll be damned, that sounds just like what the doctor ordered (or what he would, if I had health insurance). My ears pictured Hatewave sounding like No Trend on cough syrup being dragged behind a dumptruck, and who wouldn’t raise their glass to that? But, in reality, this Hatewave CD is smack dab in the nexus betwixt metal & hardcore with a big helping of Weasel Walter spastic on the side. I’m the type that is gonna take Mo Tucker over, say Tatsuya Yoshida, & Weasel Walter’s whackwhack style is shitloads more like the later then the former. Anyway, Hatewave’s a bugfuck fast/ugly/mean/weirdo act so unserious its serious that unhappily putters along with elements o’ aformentioned hardcore & metal stuffing & no-wavey ADD skronk whathaveyou all recorded through a layer (or twenty) of shi-… I mean sheetrock. Sheetrock. I figure (this release anyway) is more some fella named Nondor’s show rather then Weasel’s, and the guitar does some awful, awful things that I’m rather fond of. All these guys are too smart and too stupid to do anything too straight, so it goes all over the place with arbitrary detours to beat the band (beating a university marching band with heavy chains). I’m an enthusiastic flag-waving cheerleader for nihilism, bad intentions, and anti-humanism, but like I said earlier, the proficiency exhibited here isn’t usually my metaphorical jazz (kind of like actual jazz, which ain’t my jazz either), but instead of a brutal case of the shrugs, the arty (but not artsy-farty) veneer saves this one from the meh pile. The fidelity gives me the impression all the amps and speakers and drums were covered with cold & wet sheets right before recording, but it’s too lo-fi to be godawful in a good-way, and not hi-fi enough to be really amplify what could be more brutal to the earholes. Cover art is some ugly, ugly shit. Not good ugly, either, but regional advertisement for a travel agent specializing in trips to countries you’d never want to go to in a giveaway glossy at the liquor store circa 1992 ugly. Fits perfect, if you ask me. —MB
Henry Fiat’s Open Sore Mondo Blotto LP (Alien Snatch)
Kind of a frustrating record here by a band I am almost always predisposed to like. It’s a rock ‘n roll record that takes no big chances, that has an extremely safe production style that makes the songs all bleed together, where each track is predictable as soon as 15 seconds of it have elapsed, and where I find myself irritated and heading to the lyrics insert for relief. And it’s in the lyrics where HFOS have always scored highest, and on this level they ain’t letting me down. “My name is Henry Fiat and I don’t like girls/Now I wanna be with Dad coz he’s really cool.” And: “Cocaine improves your tennis.” And: “Must secure the survival of the gene pool/Gotta secure the continuation of being cool.” There’s a few more winners buried in this stale twinkie, whether that’s enough for you to plunk down for it is based on whether you have fond memories of their Raw Deluxe label offering from a few years back. It’s very odd you see, because I found the Henry Fiat solo 7” to be quite fine wine, oh wellsy-well. —RW
Hiroshima Rocks Around The Matter of Facts 7” (S-S)
From the R. Crumb meets M.C. Escher cover drawing to the band’s lurching Eurothug punk, Hiroshima Rocks Around are here to marry art with the D-U-M-dumb. I’m not sure which side is which; on the sleeve it says that the A-side is “The Matter of Facts”, but the label AND the etching on the record say “Raw-Aids” is the A-side. Going with the record, “The Matter of Facts” is the winner here for me, with its initial squeal of electronic noise, dive-bombing guitar riffs, and HEAV-EE drums. I haven’t been able to write the words “dive-bombing guitar riffs” since the 90s! Come to think of it, this band has a distinctly 90s vibe to it, taking the best parts of Jesus Lizard et al but making it more limber and fun. One of the best of the year so far. —LB
Intelligence Debt & ESP 7” (Plastic Idol)
Read somewhere that the Intelligence’s newest is a return to the spittle that was Boredom & Terror. As the late great Harvey Korman would say, “You’ve got it half in the ass.” While there is a tab of B&T in ”D&E,” I don’t think it is more so than any other Finberg creation. Even the mess that is Deuteronomy (which might one day click with me) has L'Essence de Lars, and that is because while players come and go, the Intelligence is pretty much a one Lars show. You want to reach back in time for a reference, let’s pickle the old obsession of Seattle ur thud, the unlegendary Karate Party, cuz gosh darn if there ain’t some vocalese here that is vint Woodhouse. But, the music of “Debt…” is less spazz and more Great White North smart-dumb, as fine a piece of “ugh” as the Intell has produced. Der flip, “Chateau Bandit”, provides some quality backing to the big man on the A, which is precisely what a good B is supposed to do. —SS
Le Face Salvador Dali 7” (Rich Bitch)
The second single from this L.A. trio shows a greater Joy Division influence than I would’ve guessed from the excited late 70s Devo-meets-The Feelers sound of their first single, and the presence of that familiar influence on these three particular songs creates a bit of an irritating EP. I have no doubt in my mind that if these tunes placed in an album context they would fare far better, but their proximity to each other paints these guys as a lesser-Frustration, which I’m sure couldn’t be further from the group’s intentions. With an LP in the works for Dead Beat, I’m confident that the extended format will more sufficiently cover the wild terrain Le Face has hinted at with their singles. —SW
Naked on the Vague The Blood Pressure Sessions LP (Siltbreeze)
So let’s tick off the Elder Era music scenes that are being rehabilitated these days. Well, then again, let’s not. With Australia’s Naked on the Vague we have some folks tapping on the shoulder of the immediately post-No Wave NYC downtown scene, that being the period in the mid 80s typified by bands (not named Sonic Youth) like Rat At Rat R, Lydia Lunch’s varied post-8 Eyed Spy projects and hoards of Ralph Branca-types. Like those groups, the sonic landscape being proposed by the ‘Vague is windswept ‘n’ arid, bleakly greyish in color, fitfully muscular in its evocation of the pangs of despair; and yet for all of that potential misery, still capable of a stark and steely beauty, like a desert moonscape at midnight. There are some pieces on here that are as good as any noisy rock I’ve heard in years, but there are also sections that seem uninspired and kind of meandering, think: Like a soundtrack in search of an unscripted film to accompany. You do get that latter feeling from “Blood Pressure Drawing,” but any annoyance has been tempered by the great propulsion achieved by the previous two songs, “Lonely Boys” being especially strong. So what we have here is an overall uneven proposition out the gate, but there’s plenty of gristle to gnaw at on this bone, and we haven’t even cracked this case to get at the marrow yet. I’m hopeful. —RW
Nobunny Love Visions LP (Bubbledumb)
How many times are novelty records REALLY pulled off the shelf? I’m talking about intentionally wacky novelties and parodies, not the “everything is parody” ideology we sometimes subscribe to. In the current punk landscape, I know there are plenty of folks out there that define their existence almost exclusively in terms of Twizzlers, polka dots and finger-banging, and for them, novelty is their norm. But at my house, on my turntable, goofy is infrequent at very best. The last punko repeat-spin novelty that I can think of is the Donny Denim 45, a record that transcends novelty and moves into full-blown hit…and back again, gleefully (still spun almost fortnightly on my end, years later). Love Visions has that same DD quality: funny as hell with a concept to boot, yet executed in a manner far better than what the joke even calls for. The result is an LP of completely over-the-top poppy punk performed by a half-naked hobo in a fucking bunny mask, using whatever was at his disposal at the particular time. Founded essentially on fake punk, power-pop piss-take and bubblegum inappropriateness, the greatest strength of the LP is its mutant take on these genres and the inept attempts to replicate them. Instead we end up with something much more fucked…and funny. The fact that countless would-be power-poppers are currently trudging away at a number that won’t hold a fucking candle to “I Am a Girlfriend”, a song NoBunny probably thought up during a single bus station deuce session, brings me such enormous fucking joy, I can barely contain myself. The song is ridiculous any way you slice it, but it‘s fantastic song…and not alone in its greatness on this LP. Not only has the schtick yet to grate, I can barely pry the fucker off the player. Never in my life did I think I’d fall for a gutter-brained, cartoon swipe artiste, but I have. Hard. -MC
Nothing People Anonymous LP (S-S)
It’s hard to argue about their three singles ranking near the top in recent years, but with the release of each new Nothing People EP, I found myself making an unfamiliar audible huff-puff: “Imagine what they could do with an album…” They just have that feel about them. Nothing People are a band capable of making the type of long player that you can just get lost in, marvel at and just fucking play to death without growing tired of. And yeah, Anonymous proves that hypothesis irrefutably. The album is packed with the best aspects of Rock’n’Roll’s past few decades, the dissection of which could take forever. Thankfully, they do it for us over 11 songs here. To say those off qualities of proto and post punk are here in spades is apparent, but the glam tendencies of “In the City” and “Should’ve Known”, a song that melds guitar squall with legit strut in a way I doubt anyone else is capable of equaling today, are the biggest part of what makes this such a winner. The production and effects used perfectly accompany the tunes, not overshadow them, even when shit gets ominous as all hell like “State of Mine“. There’s even the song that refuses to leave your head: “Suspicious”, their “pop” number, which is simultaneously playful and sinister in way reminiscent of early A-Frames. And it’s all done by three nameless, faceless folks who sprang from the Earth with the goal of playing for sheer thrill rather than reaction. The agenda just reads/sounds different with them. A stellar, HUGE album and shoe-in for high honors at year‘s end. Nothing? Pfft. EVERYTHING. -MC
Oper’azione Nafta Cavaru LP (Siltbreeze)
“OPERA’ZIONE NAFTA is a blowjob from Luigi Russolo” reads the headline on the band’s Myspace page. I don’t really agree, as I’m not at all sure what a blowjob from the author of The Art of Noise manifesto would sound like, even in theory, but this band is really just an avant, Sicilian version of your band noodling around onstage before a show, playing snippets of whatever comes to mind (like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor—you’ve heard it—think Dracula playing a massive pipe organ). Except that your band also includes Albert Ayler and so is capable of furious free jazzish outbursts. Except that there’s no sax, only a squeaky thrift-store bass clarinet. Except that it was all captured, with every attention to the highest fidelity of course, on a Walkman, as the back cover explains. Got that? Is this helping? Ultimately, it’s a cheerily adventurous, always honest, occasionally retarded, and frequently ridiculous listen. That’s a recommendation, mind. —LB
Pink Noise Dream Code LP (Sacred Bones)
The sonic theme of this LP seems to be a sort of smothered intensity, like Pink Noise was whipping though their synthy-moody songs with an almost passive aggressive desire to undermine any exposed emotional extremes. This record should come wrapped in a prophylactic device, it feels like a layer of plastic is thrown up between the listener and the songs, even between the vocals and the songs they are supposed to be complementing. Mind you, I thoroughly enjoy this effect, it’s like someone started a band with the express purpose of frustrating their own dramatic inclinations, so songs like “The Put On” end up having the same sort of muted drag to them that some have accused the Endtables (great art punk band of the late 70s South) of languidly soaking in. Pink Noise never cut loose, but the anarchic impulse is quite palpable, like the violence lurking in a sullen teen’s glare. In this respect they are very similar in effect to the murky anger on display on certain Pink Reason songs, (especially on that band’s full length on Siltbreeze). Pink Noise, the kind of band that should record videos on Youtube using only public “security” cameras as their eye. —RW
Poppets Pre-Party 7” (Bachelor)
Poppets Get Back 7” (Plastic Idol)
Things are “lite” here, as they clearly yearn for the trash of Budget Rock through a punk Rip Off filter. Too little, too late? Well, Poppets’ Pre-Party EP recalls what Loli and the Chones would’ve sounded like had they devoted even less thought to their tunes, which might sound like a compliment, but trust me, it’s not. Get Back follows suit, only with the drum machine sprinkles taking more precedence. Sorta like salting pastrami. I hate to be a hard-ass here, but if you aren’t at least equaling Sneaky Pinks with this type of thing, might as well relegate this to parties and MySpace pages. And even then, think long and hard. Total buy’n’file stuff here. -MC
Pumice Providence 7” (8mm)
This four-song EP was recorded during Stefan Neville’s artist-in-residence at the AS200 arts space in Providence, Rhode Island. I picked this single up a day before moving from Providence to Columbus, hoping for a nostalgic homage to the city that we had both called home. I would’ve liked to hear a bit of the ole homestead make an appearance in the recording, but this EP does not stray far from the rambling folk and electronic glitch template that has characterized Neville’s Pumice moniker since its inception. The B side, however, is Neville at his most upbeat, and the playful closer, “Wholehoof,” would’ve been an astonishing left-field pop song even amidst the star power Flying Nun’s early 80s heyday. —SW
Rosemary Krust s/t 7” (Spleen Coffin)
I don’t think that I am as thrilled with this EP as others who’ve previously reviewed it. I’ve heard Charalambides and The Garbage & the Flowers thrown out as comparisons, but I just don’t hear anything on here half as good. Rosemary Krust’s singer sounds exactly like Scrawl’s Marcy Mays, but the lyrics are so juvenile and self-expressive that they could be mistaken as entries from the teenage diary of Diablo Cody. You would think that if the main instrument here is the singer’s voice, that such an apparent struggle to make good with her own voice would be the first indication that there’s something very wrong in the make-up of the band. Even in “Luskin’s Reverie,” the only song here in which the singing is subdued enough to be a moot element within the song, the music brought to the foreground is bland and regressive, sounding like Joshua Tree-era U2 with a Kim Deal bass line. Derivative in the worst sense. —SW
The Unholy Two s/t 7” (Columbus Discount)
The beginning of “Kutter” is a near rip of the Clone Defects’ “Scissor Chop” and that is fine with me as dats one of da best songs of the Nineteen-nineties. But when I thought this was gonna lurch into some Brainbombs gruntage, The Unholy Two flies into Science Fiction Comic Book Land--a kinda galloping thuggery that rides on a defective laser beam. In this hard-to-alienate-the-parents world, this is a record that will annoy ma & pa. As I am for anything that reestablishes punk rock’s secret musical cult, I very much endorse this damage. Excellent. —SS
Vivian Girls Wild Eyes 7” (Plays with Dolls)
First off, this damn thing is too short by a long shot, both sides seem to end before they begin, which demands a launch out of the chair for another replay. Sly foxes, these Vivian Girls, they’re going to get me burning off my breakfast soda pop at the rate I’m getting up to drop the needle on the title track, which sounds like it came out last week on either of the 53rd & 3rd or Bi Joopiter labels (R.I.P.). Fast strumming guitar pop, just the perfect amount of echo on the supremely confident vocals, ratta-tat drums way back in the mix; just a great indie pop single, and I couldn’t really ask for more. Oh, I will though. Apparently they released an LP in Greenland recently, so I’m left waiting for one to float to the surface near me, I’m sure this is just the tip of that severed iceberg. —RW
Welfare Mothers Long Brown Hair 7” (Welfare Mothers)
Two cool grooves here: “Long Brown Hair” captures that 70s power pop sound back when it still rocked a bit and was devoid of sacless Beatle-booted future lawyers and garbage like The Knack. It’s that semi-solid ground between Twinkeyz glam-punk and punkish rock like the Only Ones, though those names are bit to heavy to drop on these, uhhh, moms. “Bloodsucker” is a deceptive bastard. Posing as some meat & potatoes Cap’t 9’s puggishness, the guitars freak in that Modern Lovers’ “I am a little too tightass to totally wig out but I’ll give it my all” kinda freak, which, in this case, is fine & d. as it sounds like a real freak, not some peg in the hole pose. Cherry debut with punch production by Tim Kerr. —SS
XYX Sistema de Terminacion Sexual 7” (S-S)
I trolled around recently and took the temperature of people’s responses to Los Llamarada (non-invasively, I don’t want to know that much), and the consensus of the non-believers (“Poor, poor kids, is there any hope Doc?”) seemed to be that Los L’s sound is too loose and experimental, too much Royal Trux and not enough Pussy Galore. Well, here’s the punk sound from Mexico you’ve been waiting for then, wimps, XYX sounds like Los Llamarada fronted by a time-frozen twelve year-old refugee from the 1979 sessions in Finland that gave unto the world Silver’s “Do You Wanna Dance” and “No More Grease” 7”-ers. Only XYX exist now, so you can dig this shit in real time. XYX are a tight ensemble composed of practitioners of punk moderne, in the style of folks who listen to Sun Ra or ENT or The EX on their ‘phones while they go jogging through the park on their merry way to vandalizing architectural style manuals at the university library. There are ancient hints of post-punk in the rhythmic drum pounding (forward in the mix) and in the distorted femme vox chanting their Spanish couplets over the churning guitars, an archness that denies rock ‘n roll cliché while still keeping the whole operation jammed-out and non-cerebral. It’s a winning combo and a lot harder to pull off than you’d think. Another winner out of Monterrery. —RW
Yellow Swans / Ex-Cocaine split LP (Not Not Fun)
File this under "meh" and move on with your life: that’s what I did. I’ll gladly elaborate, though (it’s only fair, since both of these groups are worth checking out—just not on this record). Yellow Swans do their thing with electronics and guitar and loops and suchlike, and it’s not bad (if it was bad I would’ve said "barf" or "fart" or something instead of "meh"), but it really doesn’t even begin to grab me until the end, when almost all the layers disappear and it spaces out on a guitar loop for a solid few minutes. It’s not just the unoriginal-sounding mildtronics with blippy glitchy stylings and backwards groaning tunnel-vocals that have been done a million times: it’s that none of this is done particularly well (though at least the recording is decent), and no one should be content doing weakly what’s been done right by so many others. (I know that statement shits all over 90% of the bands currently making their way in the world, but it’s meant as tough-love encouragement: keep striving, you lame-asses!) Even when it does get good, at the end, it’s never quite transcendental (for me, anyway: I didn’t transcend), but it starts to get there—and then the record is over. That’s simply not enough to save a side-long track on a split LP: unlike, say, a live free-form/improv performance, where it’s fair to expect a large chunk of the experience to be "meh"-level journeying on the way to those moments of locked-in greatness, this is a recording, so I expect it to be edited and reduced down to its experimental essence—and if that simmering process doesn’t leave you (the band) with enough track time to fill a whole LP side, then I say keep jamming and editing and jamming and editing until you do have 15-20 minutes worth of greatness, or make it a split seven-inch, or expect middling reviews like this one.
lllllWaiting patiently on the other side of the tracks are Ex-Cocaine, who get gently busy with just guitar and vocals and percussion (mostly bongos). We’re still spiking an experimental vein here, though now with a sort of folky/rock bent, so maybe I should have foreseen that for the first ten minutes we’d be floating around aimlessly inside one chord laced with scale-based noodling and droning and some accentual cymbals and hand-drums and not much else. I’m saying, though: Even if you haven’t recently stopped smoking weed, most honest folks will agree that this is more than a little boring. I guess they’re trying to generate mood and anticipation, but any mood-setting potential is sapped by the muddy live (?) recording and the totally earnest bongos, and the anticipation I’m feeling by the end is born less out of enticement or immersion and more out of being sick of this boring track. Seriously, I know these guys can do better (the evidence is on their Myspace page alone). The Meat Puppets cover that follows only makes things worse in the long run: yes, it’s a song—and after the first 10 minutes even the most stoned/spaced/psyched among us is hurting for a song, a chorus, anything—but it’s played so plainly (it honestly sounds like a high school garage band version of Pearl Jam doing the Kirkwood bros), and with those damned deadpan bongos and the muddy give-a-shit sound . . . really, I just get the feeling this is little more than a half-hearted attempt at being the straight-queers in a sea of queer-queers. Know what I mean? No?? —FS
Yokohama Hooks Turn On 7” (Tic Tac Totally)
The Y-Hooks take a turn toward the Y-Pants though with far punkier results and way more vocal warble. Like their debut split a lot but didn’t detect any mutant funk there. Here it skits across the disc. As if someone dared them to do it, the Hooks cover the Agent Orange classic, “Bloodstains.” They throw an extra note in it, which gives the song an odd cant. Listened to it a couple times, got confused and pulled out Rodney on the ROQ to listen to the original for the nth time. Not sure if this band is in a sonic transition or just a stylistic jumping bean, whatever the case, this is telling me to pay attention for future mutations. —SS
Shine A Light Directed by Martin Scorsese
My expectations for this one were trapped in coalmine, struggling for air, but I went and saw it anyway. I dearly love the Stones, but defending them is making me out to be more and more like the Japanese soldiers in WWII who refuse to believe the war has ended, and less like someone that can distinguish their ass from third base. Should I give in to the very compelling negative arguments regarding Mick's vast overestimation of his own current sexual appeal? Well, say what you will about Jagger, the man is in shape, and after donning what can very well be argued as some of the most disturbing wardrobe ensembles of the 80s (Padded shoulders? Check. Kneepads? Check. White sweatpants? Check.) he is has toned it down a bit, & I'll give him this: the man is in shape. Yes, Keith forgot that he is Keith Richards and decided to show the movie-going public his thespian chops as a fictional pirate's father in a big budget movie based on semi-animate amusement park ride, but he is still Keith Richards. And you want to know something? You'll never hear me say a single bad thing about Charlie.
lllll Yeah, I've heard (or at least listened for a few seconds before recoiling in abject disgust) their last two decades worth of records (they all sucked), and I've thrown in the towel on every hearing another good Stone's song. And yes, I am well aware of the fact that they seem hell bent on becoming human cartoons (and I'll tactfully ignore the mortgage lender-sponsored tour merch I saw), but I'll cut them some slack: last time I saw 'em, a few years ago at the Hollywood Bowl, they were excellent. They were lean and mean and you couldn't have picked a better set list if you tried, right down to their superb “Midnight Rambler”. The guitars lacked the sterile blandness Keith has been doing his best to perfect in the studio as of late, and, most encouragingly, The Stones kept a lid on the amount of funny business. As for Scorsese, despite his recent best picture win (the fact that The Departed got Scorsese his Best Picture win is one of the many FUCK YOUs to movie lovers that the Academy has given to the public that has made them rich by ponying up the cash to see their crappy movies) his last couple movies all sucked. Gangs of New York was one of the worst movies I've ever paid money to see, The Aviator was an empty, intellectually invalid biopic with a script they must have found lying in the street, and you don't wanna get me started on Bringing Out the Dead. But he is still Martin Scorsese.
lllll Brass tacks: The Stones are inarguably one of the best rock bands in history. If you want to argue with me, you're wrong, and your mother is a whore. Scorsese, past few movies excepted, is one of the greatest living film directors. If you'd like to argue with me, you're not only wrong, but you're stupid. To top it off, the collection of cinematographers they got workin' on the movie-with the possible exception of How The West Was Won from waybackwhen-is well-nigh unprecedented. Did you see City of Men? Think that cinematographer knew a thing or two about how to photograph? Well, he worked on this movie. Did you see There Will Be Blood? Think that cinematographer can be trusted when he lights something? He worked on Shine a Light. When Terrence Malick, who directed Days of Heaven, commonly considered to be the most finely photographed films of ALL OF CINEMA HISTORY came out of retirement after twenty years to shoot The Thin Red Line and could have gotten any cinematographer in the world to shoot it, who did he pick? Someone that worked on this movie. Did you see Sleepy Hollow? Did you get want to throw a rock at the projectionist because the movie was so horrible, but were you extremely impressed with the photography like me? That cinematographer is working on this movie too. Not to mention the very talented credited director of photography, longhair nice guy Robert Richardson (true story, a few years ago Robert Richardson, Elias Merhige, and I had a conversation about a group of sheep trainers in Hanford, California. The verdict we came to? They were all assholes. Good times.)
lllll I figured if I was going to kick good judgment in the groin and go see this movie, I might as well go whole hog and see it in IMax, and that is exactly what myself and two inveterate Stone fans and dear friends of mine did. Unlike a real film critic, like that funny-looking cocksucker with the Krusty the Clown hairdo, silly glasses & bowtie, I missed the first five minutes of this movie. Like the Holocaust, it wasn't really my fault: the only place in Los Angles it was playing was Universal Citywalk, and getting from point A to point B would have Edwin Abbot rethinking geometry and Kafka knowingly nodding his head. We parked with time to burn, walked through the poorly labeled (and if the L.A. Weekly is to be trusted, structurally unsound) parking lot, into a sea of mouth breathers. Halfway to the theater we saw a guy in a jumpsuit with goggles and a motorcycle helmet hovering two stories in the air. He was over a giant industrial propeller covered in chicken wire that looked like it belonged attached to a big plane that services cargo cults or attached to one of those airboats people drive around in swamps surrounded by a protective conical sheet of transparent plastic to keep him tumbling off and splattering on the pavement in a heap of broken limbs and exorbitant lawsuits. The guy would perpendicular to the ground and fall towards the propellor, then go horizontal and the air would gracefully lift him back up, (like a 180-pound leaf over one of those propellers that propel airboats) as he did acrobatic whatnots that looked more fun then Mexico. We wanted to stay and watch, but we had a movie to make.
lllll We made our way deeper into the crowd until we were within eyeshot of the theater marquee, and then hit a near impassible gaggle of happy eyed fucks. We slogged our way though a massive pie-eyed, slack jawed moron brigade all starting at the same thing. When it seemed like we might finally make it, A filthy security guard told us we couldn't walk directly towards our destination and told us we had to go the opposite direction, and press our way back through the huddled masses, yearning to continue to being stupid. I was already fully prepared to pay $10 to park to buy $15 tickets to see Jagger's face across my entire field of vision, but having to hoof it the long way though a soup of people was nearly one indignity too many. The things I do for momentary diversions.
lllll Pressing our way through the onslaught of scum, I saw the giant signs advertising an impending Mariah Carey appearance. She was due to appear any second, right in front of the theater. You don't want to be surrounded by people who go on Thursday nights to the Universal Citywalk to lineup to see Mariah Carey, trust me. I bet outta the few hundred people there, they collectively owned less than a dozen books, and the ones they did have in their unhygienic paws were all large print strategies to win at Keno. I wondered why I bothered leaving my dirty, dark, depressing apartment and elbowed my way to the box office, where there was a massive line with an obvious vaporskull with her mouth open and both her eyes facing different directions manning the register. We groaned in pain and waited patiently, got our tickets, stepped lightly to the snack bar where we carefully explained to a chickenbrain that we would like sodas, popcorn, and chocolate peanuts and finally made it to the theater which was at maybe (maybe) at 1/100th of maximum occupancy. It was halfway though Scorsese's sad-assed intro, showing how fast he can talk and how neurotic he is during his inexplicable inclusion in his own movie. With all due respect to Scorsese (actually, on second thought, fuck him) there's a reason why Leni Riefenstahl didn't appear at the opening of Triumph Of the Will to bitch and moan that Hitler hadn't told her when he was going to show up and what he was going to be wearing. Now that I think about it, you don't really see Fredrick Wiseman whining about how the guards aren't answering his questions about where to best stand in reference to the elaborate lighting setup while they abuse inmates in Titicut Follies, nor does Hitchcock's cameo in Vertigo include Hitchcock turning to the camera and complaining to the audience how Jimmy Stewart and confess that he doesn't know how he going to cover upcoming scenes, while coming off like a big fucking crybaby.
lllll This superfluous attempt at drama, with Scorsese & his crew not knowing the setlist (which I didn't buy, you telling me the whole Stones crew doesn't know exactly what's gonna happen? My ass.) is something I was very glad to miss. After that bullshit, you do get a glimpse at just how awful being a Rolling Stone can be, having to meet every duckfucker that walks by or every wealthy skinhanger with a sense of entitlement while the Stones get dragged out like wrinkled life-sized party favors for every deep pocketed square rubber chicken dipshit that got tickets to this farce, you can see in their eyes all the people figured the Stones as solipsistic extensions of their own self-centered minds and regard Mick, Keith & Charlie as objects for their own momentary personal entertainment. Its hard to see Keith shaking hands & exchanging hollow pleasantries with the endless parade of faintly grinning rich woodholes or bullshitbag Clintons when he should be somewhere in Jamaica behind the wheel of an Aston Martin doing gram hits of top shelf cocaine off the blade of a bowie knife the size of your forearm. You can see Mick putting on his “SO HAPPY TO MEET YOU” face which looks sadly legitimate, even though he is probably thinking about the size of his personal bank account somewhere in the Caymans. Charlie, to his deep and everlasting credit, looks like he is about to catch on fire during the entire ordeal.
lllll I'm tired and don't feel like writing anymore, so I am just gonna hit the rest of this with bullet points:
- Once they (the Stones) start playing, it’s about what you'd expect. A performance movie roughly similar to every other thing you've ever seen in your entire life. Imagine a boring documentation of a current Rolling Stones performance. Finished? You don't have to see the movie now.
- It is really irritating when the silly-assed backup singer that gets offended when Mick mistakes her Queens origins for Brooklyn (really, who gives a shit--be a fucking adult) during the interminable introduction for the legion of two-bit dipshits on stage, all of whom get just as much of screen time as Bobby Keys, the only one who actually deserves it. What's with this horseshit of being proud of where you're from? Who gives a shit? Why did being born somewhere get mistaken for a goddamned accomplishment? Being proud of the country you're from is pretty dumb, the city is ridiculous, but the fucking borough? Fuck.
- Buddy Guy, who would be the only real serious competitor with B.B. King for most boring blues performer in history, is impressive, and seeing an actual black guy playing the blues (the dude they got playing the bass, the backup vocalist girl from wherever the fuck, and the guy with the shakers that looks disturbingly like Lou Reed do not count) is pretty welcome.
- Their version of “Shattered” is some, sloppy, sloppy shit. Its endearing, actually, seeing that these guys can barely get through their own tune without falling apart. In one of the interviews Scorsese occasionally shoehorns into the movie when it gets too boring, Keith says something to the effect of, "Ronnie and I are lousy guitarists, but together we're great," and he's right: the band is barely keeping their simple song together, but there are moments where you forget how ridiculous it and go with it.
- Charlie Watts is excellent as always, and plays with taste, discretion, and power, in addition to having more dignity in his toenail then most people do in their entire heads.
- Not only can you see the front row tramps, obviously cast out of whatever hooker depot they stopped by to fish for whores to stand in the front row and pretend that they are having a good time, you can see Bruce Willis, covering his bald skull with a hat. Bruce Willis cracks me up.
- Ahmet Ertgun, or, as Otis Redding called him, "Omelet", fell down the stairs and died as a result of his injuries while this movie was being filmed. Nuts, eh?
- Keith mangles the opening notes of “Satisfaction” in a pretty incredible way.
- Jack White's appearance didn't do anything for me.
- Christina Aguiliera is not nearly as objectionable as you'd expect, although why they had her sing ”Bitch,” when she actually coulda hit the notes on 'Gimme Shelter', is kind of disappointing. That should give you an idea of how good this movie is, if Christina Aguiliera and Mick Jagger singing together is "kind of disappointing".
- The ending of the movie resembles one of those rides at Disneyland where you sit in a moving box in front of a screen, the final image is meant to duplicate the feeling of being one of the Stones, walking out to their limo, Scorsese egging them on... It's awful. I don't know what anyone involved was thinking. I wish I could forget it, because it's sad. Real, real sad. Not dead puppy sad, but seeing your Grandfather fall down a set of steps sad.
- Why do they insist on showing another shot of Jagger's shimmying or Keith's arthritic knee bends or Ron Wood looking up to Keith for approval like a puppy after another long solo when Charlie is doing a wonderful drum break? I want to see Charlie, goddamnit.
- The only time the IMax is really impressive is on the shot of Buddy Guy, which ought to give you an idea of how superfluous the film format happens to be in the particular enterprise.
- Overall, the movie is tolerable as long as you're prepared to be seriously irritated, and is somewhere in the deep recess of complete waste of time and nice diversion. As for the Stones and Scorsese? Everyone gets old, and there is no sense in complaining about it. —MB