Reviews 5.25.09

Big Cheap Motel LP (Siltbreeze)
Boring old context: The Axemen are legendary Kiwi sound terrorists, they were active in the 80s, back when the Kiwis still knew how to bang out fantastic riffs without coating them in studio gloss or drowning them in spiderwebby melancholia. The Axemen have one stupidly fantastic double LP called Three Virgins and another only slightly less jaw-bopping disc called Derry Legend. The former is organized chaos, the latter great guitar-pop. This LP is neither; it’s a legit reissue of a 1984 cassette that makes the chaos of Three Virgins sound like a Windham Hill sampler. So, a review of this record is a more a review of you, dear reader. If you want to hear a record that evokes nothing so much as chopped salad, with great song fragments ricocheting off each other a la the more crazed sections of the Homosexuals box set (this record, according to the liners, was written in a day or something in response to a series of advertising billboards) with the occasional brilliant song shining though the confusion: then here’s your date for next Saturday. The rest of you waiting for something that makes you think you can slot it in next to the New Bomb Turks, Episode Six, Detroit Cobras, Regulations or Flamin’ Groovies, well, you’re going to want to hit the next bin over. More nearly almost free acid from Siltbreeze. –RW

Bare Wires Let Down 45 (Milk'N'Herpes)
On the title track, there's Matt Melton's trademark guitar drive, only it's softer, a lot more lo-fi and generally catchier than what we've heard outta him before. The flip, "Looking for Some Action", is more illuminating and a better representative of this band as opposed to his others (what makes one tune a Bare Wire while the other is a Snakeflower?). Bare Wires are a move away from Melton's "Biker-Psych" to something that they call "Smooth Punk" (I'm not lying). They even call it "Soft Punk". Can you believe this shit??? This is the world we live in now. Soft Punk. FUCK. Embarrassingly, I even understand exactly what they are talking about...and it works. SHIT. It's good. –MC

Bloody Gears s/t cs (self-released)
Toxic Reason-style punk rock that is played well but is also played safe. No new sounds here, though, to be fair, I don’t think Bloody Gears have any intention of breaking out of a 30+ year punk mold. Good for what it is. –SS

Brilliant Colors s/t EP (Make A Mess)
Brilliant Colors Highly Evolved EP (Captured Tracks)
Early 90s indie pop is back in a big way nowadays, no real problem with this development in this corner. I thought that sound got diverted way too quickly (and exclusively) onto the CD, and later CD-R, formats for its own good (the records got too damn long for one thing). You could still track down good shakey-grate on labels like Blackbean & Placenta, but too many of the bands by mid-decade had incorporated noisy bits that cut the songwriting quotient with pure laziness; or they went all-acoustic “Elliot Smith” world-weary sob sister on you. I bailed completely. The debut EP by Brilliant Colors brings it all back into focus, from the vocals (a very confident twelve -year -old gurl I reckon), to the stinging guitar riffs (front and center in the mix), to the references on display (late-80s K Records and mid-80s Flying Nun). It’s all a non-diabetes-inducing pop-rocks coma for all comers. The follow up on Captured Tracks goes whole-hog for the FN soundz, a bit to its detriment methinks. Where the debut effectively maps out several different styles, this one sticks to that one vein, but the flipside track, “Takes So Little”, saves it from spiraling into the froth. When the guitar leaps out of the murk and lightly slaps you across the chops about 2/3 of the way through, the band all at once seems to get a third and fourth wind and sprints up to the finish line. I love that shifting mid-song dynamic, more bands should, uh, rip off Brilliant Colors in turn. Shamelessly. Please. –RW

Calle Debauche s/t CD (Egg Helmet)
Ethnic music from an indie rock approach or, to be a bit more exact, Calle Debache sounds like a Klezmer band with a Zappa obsession and some fondness for Mickey Katz. Technically there is nothing wrong here. The musicianship is pretty insane. The playing is spot on. However, this CD would be more at home featured on NPR than sitting in my music machine. –SS

Christian Mistress s/t cs (self-released)
Got this one by mistake; it was in the tape case for a Milk Music demo. Fine by me: this Olympia band kills. It's New Wave of American Bands Influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal or NWOABINTNWOBHM for short. While the vocals take a few to get into, the guitars rip like junior Judas Priest fanatics. The music does the speedy plod that is typical of the stuff on NWOBHM indie singles. A good solid four song demo. –SS

El Jesus de Magico Scalping the Guru LP (Columbus Discount)
The last thing I reviewed by El Jesus was their debut CD and I dumped on that as much as one can dump on an album, so I have to say that this record is a pleasant surprise. El Jesus has creamed up a good goo of CLE '75 and OZ '83 or so, for one long song (actually three songs strung together) that would have fit on Homestead during its prime. The album's flip treads similar territory (think mod psych + Death of Samantha). Though I gotta say that starting the side with a couple minutes of contact mic nonsense had me up to the television to see what Dr. House was doing (sending himself into insulin shock, in case you were wondering) and over to Antiques Roadshow during the commercials. Listen, you: Bad move, cut the art, keep the momentum going. Still, this is an excellent album, far far far far better than their debut. –SS

Ebonics Rock ‘N Roll EP (Daggerman)
Wow, I haven’t seen a freehand cartoon-comics-style 7” cover this ‘tarded since another local outfit name of the Neumans, from out of the South Bay, spat out a late 90s garage punk classic that this outfit could only wish they were the equal of. Which isn’t to say that this thing is bad or a waste of your hard-earned, hell, both of the B side tracks are solid punk rawk that would’ve done mid-90s Empty Records proud. Makes me think dreamily of ye olde Kent 3, in fact, before they swallered the Goofy Dada Kool Aid. The problem is a lack of ambition, a flat sound, a lack of zazz, zip or zim. Nothing jumps off this record and kicks my nads through the uprights for that extra special point. I’ll go see them live and report back… –RW

Endangered Ape Ape Shall Not Kill Ape CD-R (self released)
Smart move these Apes did releasing these songs as a demo and not pressing it to vinyl. Though there is nothing remarkable here, the sounds are promising. The band has three styles: sloppy pop punk, near melodic thug pound ala Hank IV, and Blank Dogs style spooky pop - all of it recorded loud enough to distort the sound. Of the three styles, the thug pound seems most natural for these guys. The pop punk is feh and the spooky pop is as good as any of Blank Puppy band, but who needs more of that, eh? –SS

Henry Flynt & the Insurrections I Don’t Wanna LP (Locust)
Henry Flynt Back Porch Hillbilly Blues Vol. 1 LP (Locust)
Henry Flynt Back Porch Hillbilly Blues Vol. 2 LP (Locust)
Henry Flynt Raga Electric LP (Locust)
I first heard Henry Flynt – the artist/philosophy/musician – about a year ago and upon initial listen I thought “Christ, that sounds like me playing guitar.” I’ve been fucking around on guitar since the late-80s and I can’t play worth a shit. The style I’ve developed for myself is some merge of country blues and wildly jabbing at notes, which is, on the surface, what Flynt sounds like when you drop needle on I Don’t Wanna. But listen further, and closely, and enough, and you find that Flynt’s flailing isn’t flailing, that there is a logic to what Flynt plays. Perhaps randomness plays a part in his music, but it isn’t without technique. Still Flynt’s playing is not conventional and, though recorded in 1966 with a backing band of drums, keyboards, and bass, I Don’t Wanna still sounds unconventional today. Being that it is Flynt’s “garage” record (stretch for a comparison to early Fugs, at times), I Don’t Wanna is his most accessible for those with a rock & roll background…Recorded, as well, in the mid-60s, the two volumes of Back Porch Hillbilly Blues are Flynt solo on guitar, fiddle and ukulele. Again, the roots are country blues and hillbilly music, but the playing is unconventional. Minimalist repetition and Indian drone play as much a part in the Back Porch songs as Americana. Volume 1’s highlights are Flynt sawing away at the fiddle on “Acoustic Hillbilly Live” and his pretty amazing side-long “Blue Sky, Highway, and Tyme”, a hypnotic blues that melts in the mind. Volume 2 is more far out than the first Back Porch, partially because Flynt plays nothing other than fiddle. On this volume it becomes more apparent that Flynt’s “sawing” is anything but that. Amidst the discordance and under the repetition are traditional fiddle songs. The longer you listen to the songs, the more spins of the album, the more complex Flynt’s work becomes…Finally we come to Raga Electric. Subtitled “experimental music, 1963 – 1971” it begs the question, “If Flynt’s other work isn’t experimental, how strange is this one going to be?” Drop the needle and not very strange. “Marines Hymn” is one note on guitar and chant/sung vocals, of the style psych artist Bobby Brown did a few years later. Very nice, very relaxing…until the “Central Park Transverse Vocal” starts up. Then you get elastic mouth work reminiscent of Alan Watts’ There It Is LP (also reissued by Locust) or something off the Poetry Now series of albums. Good but brief. Then Flynt takes out the guitar and goes raga, throwing more fucked up vocals atop the pick n’ drone. Side two is one long sax workout called “Free Alto.” As Flynt is not an accomplished saxophonist, the sounds are skronks and squeaks. Still, Flynt is able to “fake it” for about fifteen minutes, at times making some captivating noise…While all of this stuff was recorded in the early Sixties to early Seventies, it wasn’t released until a few years ago, and then – except for I Don’t Wanna – only on CD (I Don’t Wanna had a limited vinyl run on the Bo’Weavel label). Locust is to be commended for getting this stuff out on vinyl. Those enthusiastic about left-of-center experimental rock and ESP Disks or wish John Fahey got more extreme will be pleased. –SS

Foot Village Fuck the Future II CD (Gilgongo)
An odds and sods collection of Foot Village stuff from singles, splits, and comps. Aside from the remixes this pretty much sticks to the standard Foot Village formula of lots of drum pounding and shouted slogan -vocals. The only revelation here (if you haven't heard it already) is the 9 minute long bomb blast "Race til the End of Food", which originally (and recently) appeared on a split 12" with Black Pus. If you don't have that or have a Foot Village fetish but are missing their last year of non-album tracks, you might want this. If you are a casual fan and have enough to listen to, move on. –SS

Francis Harold The Holograms Who Said These Were Happy Times LP (Square Wave)
Are you a fan of...
1. Hatred?
2. Not having friends?
3. Being resentful?
4. Muttering to yourself in the basement all night while taking headache medicine that doesn't help at all?
5. Your existence being defined by the remorse you constantly feel for unspeakable acts you committed that you're too ashamed to even confront?
6. All of the above, plus more shit I can't get into right now because it’s just too heavy?
Well, then these mysterious lowlifes' bag is right up your dank, garbage filled alley. This is punk rock reduced to a oily puddle of antisocial sludge, no sped-up Chuck Berry riffs, no juvenile politics, no playful sense of rebellion, no post punk monotony with art school pretension - just harrowing scrape that makes the hair on the back of your neck goose-step and any passerby that hears you playing it wonder what the hell your problem is. These guys have more in common with the wail of despair a mother makes after discovering her half eaten newborn in a crib with a bloody doberman then the Ramones or the Vibrators. Its about as friendly as the ebola virus and less catchy then teflon. Shit, I haven't even got started on the cover, which is a fucking classic, in the hands of anyone else it would be a real hoot at their expense, but Francis Harold pull it off with panache. Soup to nuts, this thing is the bee's knee's if you're into elderly abuse, firebombing, or throwing wicker baskets full of kittens off of overpasses. Think Pissed Jeans with a lot more midrange, no self-deprecating humor (it might be there, but it's lost in the blast), and “whose the wiseguy that spilled sand in the grooves?” fidelity & you're in the neighborhood. This is music to listen to while you get drunk and hit a priest with your car, or to drown out the pleas for mercy coming from the people you have tied up in your basement. For the vast majority of citizenry who have way more important things to worry about then the latest apex of vicious scuzz steer clear... But for folks with inner-ear calluses that dig the comfort of extreme ugliness; drop a needle on this platter, pop an innertube under your arm and come take a dip an fragrant ambrosia sea with Francis Harold & The Holograms. –MB

Frozen Cloak
s/t LP (self-released)
Guitar drum duo does hard rock instrumentals which alternate between heavy and jammy. I'd guess the influences are Sabbath, Melvins, maybe early Monster Magnet, etc. The performance is mostly fine, but the recording is not. Lo-fi works fine for garage bands and loner weirdos, but when heavy bands try it, the result is practice tape, which is what this sounds like. So the guitar has flat fuzz instead of a hearty punch in the chest and the drums are tinny and slop into nowhere. A better recording and this thing would have rocked. Too bad some of the money spent on the swank packaging wasn't funneled into a studio job. Live and learn. –SS

Frustrations Glowing Red Pill LP (X!)
Ah man, I don’t wanna do this. I like the Frustrations. They’ve released a couple stellar singles, so they are capable of doing killer stuff. And there are a couple songs here at are as good as anything they’ve done. However the band is hampered by two things: Something is wrong with the recording and/or mix. While the guitar sounds hot, the bass tends toward anemic and the drums are really boxy. There are also times in which the drums nearly disappear in the mix. So none of the songs build to a pow. Second thing is that these guys are really in need of a distinctive singer. It isn't that the vocals are bad. It is that they are unremarkable. None of the other instruments – especially on this recording – take up the personality that the vocals lack, The result is a handful of good songs waiting to be done right. Perhaps if the recording was better, I’d overlook the vocals. Or if the vocals were distinctive, the recording flaws wouldn’t be so obvious. But two strikes and you have a good sketchbook but a flawed album. –SS

Ganglians s/t LP (Woodsist)
This Sacramento band shows two big influences, The Clean and Brian Wilson – but rather than sounding like every other indie band with the same influences, the Ganglians bring it into the garage as well as into the Now. They also remind me a bit of the Celibate Rifles, a band that has drifted into obscurity for some reason I can’t figure out. So is this stuff any good. ? Hell yeah it is. In fact, being that we’ve had a string of hot days in the month of May, I’d say Summer is here and so far this is the Record of the Summer. If I have one complaint it is that this fucker is too short. –SS

Ghost Hospital D+ 45 (Teen Ape)
Sounds more like something on K Records than anything on Florida's Dying, but then again it might just be the singer who reminds me a little of Doug Martsch. Hey, no need to run. This is more proof of something good boiling down in Florida. Two bouncy indie-pop sides which play it safe until the end of each song where they either lose interest or decide to jam in some big ideas without fucking up the song. Not earth-shaking but I don't think that was their intention. Not every band needs to find their inner Hairdryer Peace, sometimes a good pop single should be be just that. –SW

Guinea Worms Lost & Found 45 (Savage)
A damn good two sider from Ohio fixtures Guinea Worms. "Lost & Found" has a late Country Teasers feel to it and "Jeans & Heels" is similar to early Intelligence, but to stop there would not be fair to the Guineas. Head Worm Will Foster has been cranking out tunes of this ilk for years and is at the point where he's found a way to translate his ideas to killer finished songs. That was true with last year's excellent "Box of Records" and it is true here. Quality stuff, worth seeking out. –SS

GG King Last of the Night Wiggers Ruff Demo cs (self-released)
Solid punk rock which draws from various KBD bands, NYC 75, Rolling Stones, and (surprise surprise) the Scum Fucs, done by some Carbonas. The punkisms balance convention with cliché. Plenty of attitude, a good amount of slop, and a spirited version of the Boxtops’ “The Letter” (which begs, it took this long for a punk band to record this ‘un?). A good demo. –SS

Hentai Lacerator Sugarsplash CDR (Outfall Channel / Realicide Youth)
There's a lightheartedness here that is obvious as soon as you look closely at the art/packaging, but it's nice to find it carried over into the sound too, which manages to be both playful and hardcore without trying too hard either way. OK, pigeon time: Hentai Lacerator's sound is some kind of grindcore offshoot, as the name-font indicates (originally one of the more reliable guides for pre-judging a band's overall aesthetic, though nowadays, with everyone appropriating everything in hopes of blindsiding with unlikeliness/uncanniness, this is becoming less and less true), blended with elements of power violence in the bipolar slow/fast/heavy/blur riff templates (ala Crossed Out, etc.) and the dual silly/earnest vocals (ala Spazz, Bathtub Shitter, etc.); traces of gore in the layered puke-bucket gut vocals and the vibe of the splattered porn and tentacle-rape obsessed hentai art; and strains of more "arty" grind like Discordance Axis in the angular, undistorted guitar parts. But what ends up reducing any potentially interesting combinations to a familiar and finally bland stock is the mud-fi recording, in the dull din of which much is lost (if anything was there to begin with: I guess we'll never know...); this hardly sounds like it's supposed to be noisecore, but that's how it got recorded. Honestly, while the band isn't bad, I think the singer/illustrator (one Robert Inhuman) should go full- time into erotic lesbian-Picachu Pikachu sci-fi manga stories, because he's a talented artist with interesting and funny ideas that come across, even as sketches. And no one ever actually listened to grindcore anyway. –FSS

Higgs Boson Music for Dark Matter CDR (John Frum)
Not the drippy jazz keyboardist but a free group from New York. I’m not sure at what level of jazzbo-ness these guys are but this has a feel-your-way-through sound to it and the drummer tends to pound more than he riffs. When the group goes crash ‘n’ bash, they tend to lose personality, sounding like any number of punk-jazz CD-Rs I’ve heard over the last couple years. Higgs Boson is best when they are at their most subdued, the highlight here being a short Out to Lunch style vibes piece – difficult to pull off as a group, but fine for the solo vibes player on this disc. –SS

Josetxo Grieta Hitzak, Eginak, Animaliak, Pertsonak DVD (Discos Trudos/Munster)
The Basque band Josetxo Grieta are not very well known. They have released on poorly distributed album (excellent!) and a couple of CD-Rs. The notoriety they have is largely due to sound anti-artist Mattin’s membership in the band (guitar/laptop). This DVD is their final release and probably the one that will turn the most people on to them. A 45-minute performance in front of a handful of friends, Hitzak…is either two songs or one long piece of music. It is difficult to tell, which is nothing new with Josetxo Grieta. Their previous releases also challenge the notion of “song”. Abstract noises give way to shattered riffs which are submerged in ur punk jams until sound fractures or a near silence takes over, instrument hum filling the room. That is on record and that is live on this DVD. However what the vinyl and CD-Rs don’t capture is vocalist Josetxo Anitua’s intensity. Rather than just sing, Anitua groans, spits, growls, pants, screams, moans, wails, and stutters. He wanders the room, stands convulsing, and collapses in a pile. Fine: lots of bands have front men who do the same, but Anitua is different. In his performance – and I hesitate to use that word – there is no showmanship. As corny as it sounds, Anitua becomes part of the music, unaware of anything but the noise that surrounds him. He is possessed. And by the end of the “show”, he looks like he’s aged ten years. As noted this is not only the final Josetxo Grieta release but it is of their final concert. Shortly after this was recorded, Anitua died. This is not only a worthy tribute to his music/performance, but is a captivating watch/listen. –SS

Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds Dracula Boots LP (In The Red)
Dracula Boots is bad-ass City strut soul, complete with noised-up psych intervals bringing it into The Now. How Now? Well, their cover of "I Found a Peanut" recalls The Intelligence more than Thee Midnighters, if you can believe it. It goes on from there, tackling the expected dark, semi-spooky backdrop themes and then moving to more trad' grrrage noise "schtuff", deviating juuuuuuuust enough to keep you interested throughout. Still, this is the Kid Congo Show, and repeated spins keep bringing me back to this simple truth: this LP is essentially Kid talking over groove. The whole LP is banking on him oozing Cool. It's a successful gamble most of the time, but the best case scenario here is a vibe. –MC

Locrian Drenched Lands CD (At War with False Noise / Small Doses)
I feel safe using the word "emo" to describe the particular mood-path taken here, since it stopped meaning any one thing at least a year ago. So: Locrian does a somewhat emo version of a sub-doom/drone mutation, in a recognizably Earth/Sunn 0))) kind of orbit -but their approach to the metal side of this legacy is a bit more Bathory and a bit less Sabbath/Melvins. Which is to say it is "black ambient" played with heavyish guitars and keys, and occasional witch-shriek vocals, but when the inevitably minor chords do rip they're more melancholy and broody and cold, less stoned and crushing and warm. Outside of the picked-over corpse of metal, though, I hear good stuff like Asmorod and CMI eeriness on the 'spherics side of things, and even more good stuff like Ash Ra Temple and Skullflower on the mystic kult of thee guitar side. And while it's usually worth getting suspicious when I drop this many names in the process of trying to lay out some sense of what's new here, I'm not saying Locrian does nothing new. I like how they combine and toggle around with several of these inputs, and I'm especially sold on the tracks where they hold off the moody chords and screams and stick to drawn out, pulsing horrordream soundtracks, with time-stretch guitar weaving and droning and even chug-chugging in and out like a cross-dimensional reacharound from one genre to another. –FSS

Long Legged Woman Nobody Knows This Is Everywhere LP (Pollen Season)
I like this album, but there's no getting around that the opening song sounds like Soundgarden. It's terrible. The rest of the album reminds me of the first Dinosaur Jr album both in terms of sound and inconsistency. The inconsistent thing about this album is the sequencing - the A-side is mess, the B-side is dramatic. After a few listens I don't have the stomach to hear a band capable of such powerful psych pop get thrown around in the dryer, so I've just learned to stick to side two. Beyond Dinosaur Jr, I also hear some Bailter Space, some Bardo Pond, and maybe even the contemporaneous influence of their soon-to-be label-mates the Hospitals and Eat Skull (hell, Pollen Season is their label). This LP's worth hunting down if the aforementioned bands don't bug you, but start with the B-side and give it some time to build. –SW

Mattin, Taku Unami Attention CD (h.m.o/r)

Turn up the volume …

...............and decide for yourself .....................whether or not

this....... is ..........worthy .........of your attention.

I …

.......laughed, ...........................awkwardly.

Los Microbios take care...beware! CDR (self-released)
Vermont band with a New England rock & roll sound, the kind of VU cum Modern Lovers shang-a-lang that could have appeared on Arf! Arf! back in the early ‘80s if their bands at the time stumbled a bit more and laid on the fuzz, fuzz which I have to say is problematic at times, especially when the guitar KO’s the drums. Whew. The band sounds best when they are at their most naturalistic, just playing songs. When they try to put on an act, play out characters like low down rock & roll hip hick, it sounds cliché, like a gimmick the band doesn’t need. Nothing revolutionary here, but certainly something to build on. –SS

Middle America Every Night EP (Fashionable Idiots)
An ugly little record, in only the best way. Some art forms that evoke Bon Scott choking on his vomit on an elementary school playground at 3 PM as the kiddies bop out of class bound for home have the unfortunate habit of bumming out the viewing public, as this sort of spectacle rates as just a bit “too much” in today’s overexposed, instantly cynical domus-writ-large. Middle America are thus operating in a very treacherous sonic terrain, filled with frauds, shitheels and wannabe carnival geeks. Luckily, this EP instead evokes Blight, the Nuclear Crayons and Drunks with Guns; early-to-mid 80s Negative Vibe Central. Walking this tightrope is as fraught as trying to do early 80s songwriter-pop; One false move and you’re the Cherubs or Fresh American Lamb, boys. Keep it in-house, don’t talk to the other bands at shows, stay in the van and glare invisibly out the spray-painted windows. You can’t keep this up forever without dying, so try to maximize the experience while you can. We’ll appreciate it in 20 or so years, promise. –RW

Moondog More Moondog LP (Honest Jon's)
Moondog The Story of Moondog LP (Honest Jon's)
Two more Moondog records from Honest Jon's out of London - their fourth and fifth, and both worth a look and a listen. But don't give the label too much credit: More Moondog and The Story of Moondog are exact re-releases of Moondog's third and fourth records -both originally put out by Prestige in 1956/1957, in between stuff by other unknowns like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, etc. - and other than some handsome repackagery/remastery, they are what they were. Which is not to say that if you haven't heard Moondog you're not missing something: you're totally missing out on the Trimba, a device invented by Moondog that sounds like a heavy-swinging Navajo beat machine (AKA Sun Dance in a Box); and you're missing out on 1950s Manhattan city sounds (Moondog was a street musician for many years) and polyrhythmic jazzical counterpoint and horn rounds and the Oo, another invention. My favorite Moondog songs are always simple, shuffling, fully-in-tune-with-his-moon percussion jams, mostly tapped out in snaketime on his beautiful homemade drums by what sound like eight or nine limbs, and built up with an easy - yet - profound sixth sense (or really fifth sense, since he was blind) for sound and space and variation … it's like someone constructing a purely sonic beaver lodge out of syncopated drummings - right in front of you. The only problem with his fifties records is that Moondog was working before "Minimalism" as a genre and "Albums" as we now understand and expect them, so they're either short on content (the two 10" reissues still available from Honest Jon's) or short on context (these and the other early long-playing reissues/compilations also still available from HJ and others): the individual compositions and ideas are great and forward-minded in the best way, but they're missing the overall frame and pacing and follow-through of a full-on masterpiece and are more like grab -bags for mixtapes or hash parties or something. Still, a respectable number of these tracks are some of the sweetest-ever compositions that can be called "avant-garde" by any standard, and they hold up even better than a lot of good jazz from this era - and I mean the good stuff. Really: you have to hear Moondog if you haven't, and this is a fine place to pick up the trail. –FSS

Jeffrey Novak After The Ball LP (LMN Records)
Jeffrey Novak Home Sweet Home/Three Sisters 7” (Shattered)
Now here’s a nice little evolution that I didn’t see coming. Former garage snot-nosed one-man-bander J. Novak has cornered himself in a cabin outside Woodstock (sure, why not?) with a case of Old Grandad, a piano and a fresh new batch of sonic tonics to source, to wit; early-to-mid-70s rockin’ songwritery junque in the post-Ray Davies mode. “Post”, hell, some of the roly poly tracks on here could be Everybody’s’s in Showbiz outtakes I haven’t never heard. Novak’s got a nice slightly chirpy-atonal vocal style that sucks the schmaltz factor out of the danger inherent in going heavy via the piano rag route, but he also doesn’t really display varied vocal chops, neither. He’s trying to write effective songs that don’t rely on some of the stock schtick that dominates too many indie-punk releases these days: pointless feedback, repeating the same lyrical line over and over and over (for effect, riiiiight?), failing to find a central riff for the song to revolve around or play off of, etc. This he manages to achieve, to best effect on the Shattered-label single (which is frankly great) and on about half the tracks on the LP. The stuff that doesn’t work so good are the songs that have an almost unfinished, unfleshed feel to them, like “The Lost Parade” or “Tired Eyes”. Feels like he’s trying on a new persona but can’t quite fill it out yet. He’s aiming high on this LP, which is a lot more than I can say for many of his contemporaries. But isn’t a .500 batting average about all you can expect from a solid rock LP anyway? Solid rock LP here. –RW

Okie Dokie Bad Hammer 45 (Goodbye Boozy)
Let's hear it for the nu-skool!!! Anyone? Anyyyyone? Maybe not. T'would appear that Mr. Okie is actually Mr. Charlie Moonheart, wearing a chipped-to-shit tiki helmet (naturally affixed with 90s electrodes and PBR labels) and some other bros with a couple hours to kill in the practice room. Aided by divine inspiration and as much noise as possible, it's much more aggressive and uneasy than anything else I've heard outta these folks. Power Garage? Actually, strangely, yes. Too bad it's only a couple hairs better than ho-hum. –MC

OvO Croce Via LP (Load)
I haven't heard this Italian duo's four previous albums, but Croce Via (their second Load release) is being touted as their heaviest yet. Well, it's not all heavy all the way, but considering the fact that the band consists of a two-piece drum kit (floor tom + snare), guitar and vocals (with subtle overdubs), they certainly know how to throw some weight around. (Besides: doesn't "heavy" indie rock only exist in relation to "light" indie rock, the way sad only exists in relation to happy, night to day, etc.?) I love the drums, which are minimal, yes, but so, so metal in their perfect double-chuck bass (tom) flams and rolls that they should make all six-pedal cage-drummers rethink their kits and simplify their lives. Vocalist Stefania Pendretti has my undiluted support when she does the Sepultura growl mixed with quirky throat-gasps, and mostly the Yoko-type acrobatics and wailings please me too - but I'm less enthusiastic about the other Yoko-inherited voice she brings out on a few songs (the annoying monotone "Japanese girl" yip also used by Deerhoof and Melt-Banana and plenty of non-Japanese singers). The title translates to "Crossroad" (or "Daggerpath" or "Roodway," according to my translator, iGoogle), and while they do successfully criss-cross that swollen hump between the lowlands of emotion-driven heavy metal and high-minded art rock, it's difficult to place OvO firmly on one side or the other. But that's probably the point: they like it just fine on the fence, grazie! –FSS

Kabyzdoh Obtruhamchi Estcho 2CD (Stunned)
At its best Kabyzdoh Obtruhamchi sounds like what the Butthole Surfers if they wallowed in their dark, fucked up side rather than push their aggressively goofy angle. Unfortunately, this Russian one-person thing hits such heights far too few times to justify two CDs. Estcho contains a lot of self-indulgent, amateurish noodling and long, drawn out, navel-gazing tedium. The lead song, "Jahendra Shitzaga", is fine stuff but only over the last three minutes. Same goes with the lead song on the second CD, another "short" song, "Bendefele Kuhe." The two long songs on CD1 could have been left off, as they are so boring that they made me dread listing to the second CD. Duty prevailed and good thing: "Viva Piskadero!" and "Enptuhi Campusabba" are the winners. At ten minutes "Viva..." is just right; it is violent and hypnotic, the repetition has enough accents to keep me from wandering. "Enptuhi" is a bit too long at sixteen minutes - not enough ideas to sustain it - but it still held my interest, albeit serving as background music to a silent but flickering TV screen for part of its play. As noted, the band is actually one guy, Sergey Kozlov, and like a lot of one-person projects KO lacks a second person who could say "Hey Serge, you are boring the fuck out of me, quit noodling and move to another song". Condensed to one CD, some songs edited, and this would be a might fine thing. As it is, Estcho still needs work. –SS

Pillow Talk Down Town Unga Wunga EP (Columbus Discount)
Hyper-annoying, synthed-out retardo punk, which for about ten seconds has a Black Randy charm but then quickly becomes a cheap joke that only friends, relatives, and the entertainment-starved would enjoy. Sometimes annoyances like this charm over repeated listenings, kinda like some "so grating, it’s good"; but that isn't the case here. Multiple spins just lead to multiple disappointments. Next. –SS

Pygmy Shrews Big Time cs (Work to Death)
The Shrews remind me of a dozen of different band that blurred drunk past me in the 90s, but no names come into my head. What does rattle out of the hippocampus is metal by way of Black Flag + sludge, which is more or less the same thing, isn’t it. Throw in some Splotch-like NY art poses and you got a nice concoction of punk noise. –SS

Neptune's Folly s/t LP (Milk & Chocolates)
I'm guessing that as teens, these guys immersed themselves in Wipers and Naked Raygun records - as NF’s "hardcore that's melodic but doesn't suck" sound seems to be instinct rather than instant. The noise is sure-footed enough that the band can break convention a bit to get a spindly spiral going, something that further removes them from Just Another Band. Really, with this style of punk you either pull it off and create a record that is infinitely listenable or you suck. There is no middle ground. Neptune's Folly has made a record that keeps returning to the turn table. –SS

The Rantouls Little Green Hat 45 (Chocolate Covered)
The resurgence of interest in bubblegum pop is probably the trigger for most readers here to punch a fucking hole in their wall. As if the annoyances of the post-Exploding Hearts power-pop chumps weren't punishment enough. Whatever...calm down. I submit that The Rantouls deserve your fandom rather than your scorn, and an open ear will probably be all the convincing you'd need. A consistent live favorite act for me, I was slightly underwhelmed by their debut single, specifically because it didn't feature the tunes here, my faves outta them by a huge margin. To say that this band "feels" bubblegum would be an understatement: it's true Gum rather than a genre exercise. Innocent, playful trademarks and hit-factory qualities abound, yet there's a beer-friendly undercurrent to it all, making The Rantouls one of the last (potentially latest, assuming the milking can continue) great Bay Area Budget Rock bands, sitting atop the throne with The Flakes. And Gavin's voice is golden, you assholes. See you around best-of-year-list time, you "Little" delight. Buy one for your grand-mammy too! –MC

Royal Pendletons Louisiana Party Music 7" (Allons Records, Inc.)
Wasn't able to pluck a Normals single outta my recent trip to NOLA, but this made a worthy souvenir. It's always been kinda puzzling to me that The Royal Pendletons aren't held in higher regard: the sounds, outfits and party appetites were at roughly the same levels as any Budget Rock project. Fuck, maybe even better outfits?!?!? Location, location, location I guess. Anyhoo, Allons has made a success outta Summpi Werthiemer's (imaginary) failure by actually releasing this 45: the first and hands-down best Pendleton recordings ever, captured in some plaid rumpus room in the oh-so-early 1990s. Songs tackled? "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)" and "What a Way to Die". Old hat, you say? Predictable? Yes...yet they still fucking smoke. It's rough recommending such a trad' single at this stage, assuming everyone with even passing interest in this has already cleaned their plate and moved on to the next course (synth-punk, apparently). BUT...Yes, Fratty garage fueled by alcohol/amphetamine, played by men with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for gash. A recipe older than any of us. Some might call it soul. Thee Olde Law states that any release touting the excavation of early demo records by a known act at their "savage, young" phase is likely to be nothing more than vinyl dogshit. Certainly not the case here, as this is my new favorite Royal Pendletons record. Put this up against yr Nice Face and see what moves you more. My money is on this. –MC

Silla Electrica Cloaca EP (Solo Para Punks)
Now, this is the current state of punk that I like to imagine in my hazy, time-immunified mind’s eye: fast without blending into puree, passionate without preachiness, quick four-note guitar solos that only underline the adrenaline rush, a sense of melody without devolving into sing-songy chanting, etc. The great part is that this band actually exists and can deliver this package at the drop of a needle. Spanish punk that channels everything about 1981 without draping themselves in cobwebs in the process. Bravura! –RW

The Slowmotions Mystery Action 45 (HG Fact)
Nothing (NOTHING!) gets me going more than a high quality Japanese punker (HC and D-Beat excluded), an all-too-rare commodity now compared to the 90s boom spear-headed by Hiroshi and Fink. One of the recent (and by recent, I mean six years back) greats in this mode was the "Make Love" b/w "Yes, Future" single by The Slowmotions (their fourth). Charting behind Zymotics and The Sneeze, that single is my #3 pick for primo Japanese Punk in the last decade: a frantic, chop'n'stop classic that I'd recommend to ANYONE. None of their other releases touch that single...with the notable exception of this new one! Assuming I've charted the course of International punk correctly, "Mystery Action" is the closest Japanese relation to the sounds of the current Danish retro crop (cue MRR reader interest), which actually works better here than I had envisioned. A strong 80s punk vibe (courtesy of Wipers worship) with trademark anthemic hints, falling just shy of fist-pump due the sheer number of sunglasses and safety-pinned ties worn by the band. Every scene's gotta stick to certain core principles, after all. The flip, "Dance" is the Japanese punk you know and love, delivered at almost hardcore speed (they seem to be friendly in that camp as well, note the label's other releases). It's as if time stopped after that Coastersride 45 and the dominant punko formula of Japan wasn't polluted by Pointed Sticks re-discovery. All balls. One of those "You'll never find it" records too, which sucks. Excellent!!! I can coast for another 4 years after this one. –MC

Snakeflower 2 Renegade Daydream LP (Tic Tac Totally)
Stones-groove from deep in their boring period (when the world -at -large began realizing that maybe Mick Taylor wasn't such a hot idea) that have me looking at my watch & tapping my foot with impatience. SF2 have a way of making the second hand rotating around the clock three and half times seem like a few orbits north of seven. I bet at least one person in this band wears a scarf when the weather doesn't call for it, and they oughta give nice (but not too nice) plaques to people that can tell the dif. between the tracks. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the vocals are way better then average - there's some real feeling & nuance - but they're topping on a musical cake that needs to be taken to the foodbank already. Come to mention: anyone claiming psyche on this LP needs to have their earholes worked over by a disgruntled union janitor with a used toilet plunger. Some of this stuff makes me picture 60's duds and maracas, an image which makes me picture murder. Worst track? “Face In The Crowd” - tries for a fearsome throb but wouldn't be out of place coming a late night TV backing band's musical fade into the the commercials for new vacuums. Best? “Younger Daze,” besides having a title that should be taken out into the street and killed with a hammer, has some nice soaring Greg Cartwright-ness to it. At least they wait until the last song to downshift into a lousy ballad - that's something (I guess). –MB

SS Boat s/t cs (self- released)
Charming DIY punk reminiscent of the stuff squeezed on comps by the early 80s San Pedro crowd, but lacking the variation of the aforementioned and anything close to sound fidelity. A good sketchbook for (hopefully) something above demo quality. –SS

Static Static Psychic Eyes LP (Tic Tac Totally)
Not enough records by these guys to say that they are one of the top punk bands going but, shit, man, my teeth are chattering fast. Like Red Mass or the Wax Museums (at least for the first two singles), Static Static cherry picks the warped loner side of vintage p-rock (Black Randy, Screamers, Simply Saucer...), changes things up just enough and injects the mess with new energy. Right now, Static Static’s music is more individual power blasts than songs. We'll see how far they both draw from their influences while coming into something that is totally their own. When faced with having to murder their mentors, most bands either implode or take the easy path of 1-2-3-4 garage band (see Spits or Wax Museums). Hopefully, Static Static aspire to count to five. I'm eagerly waiting to hear what comes next. –SS

Strange Boys And Girls Club LP (In The Red)
It took me several listens to warm up to And Girls Club (the vocals take some getting used to...how's that for polite?), but they wore me down. Good songs have a way of doing that. "Heard You Wanna Beat Me Up" and "Probation Blues" are way up there with the other heavyweights, garage-wise, but I find myself going back to the countryish tumblers like "Death and All The Rest" for the true meat of this band. One of the great by-products of the doors-thrown-wide-open head space right now is the re-emergence of the dirty, drugged youth big-banging their own universe through their bands. You can add Strange Boys to that list, go ahead. I could speak on and on and on about supposed influences, but I much prefer to think that this is just naturally what comes outta folks today who want to Rock. Fuck...please let that be true! –MC

Sunny & the Sunsets Love & Death 45 (Soft Abuse)
Time machine says 1972, when it was just starting to sink in that The Revolution was not to be and long-haired popsters started turning out cynical sounds soaked in either opiates or nostalgia or both. At least, that is what I hear in this addictive 45. "Death Cream" has a lazy knockabout Stones feel to it, which also owes a bit to Big Star. The flip, "Strange Love", reminds me of one of those songs John Lennon would close an album with. Now the problem with me (or anyone) dropping names this big is that you might think that the songs are as good as those by the names dropped or that I am trying to create some kinda hype around an otherwise average band. Banish both thoughts from you mind. Sunny & the Sunsets are not the Stones, Big Star, or John Lennon; however, they are a very good band and this is an excellent single. I'd like to hear an album. –SS

Tee Pee Aware EP (Weird Hug)
Tee Pee Heal EP (Florida’s Dying)
This band has real sonic ambitions, which will always score points in the paint from me. A band throwing some stylistic elbows is at least halfway to getting me out of my chair and becoming “an active listener”. You know, paying attention to your fucking record. Tee Pee have two EPs to work with here but I have to say, they rather fail to finish their drives on both. The one on the Weird Hug label is the static-driven, mumbling genius effort but nothing particularly pants-wetting occurs on either side. It doesn’t bore me so much as make me restless. The EP on Florida’s Dying is a more engaging affair, as more aggression is evident from the get go, but the vocals (which I think would work great in a punk context) are just too who-gives-a-fuck to keep the interest level at peak levels. I know dissolution is the point, but I picture myself standing on a concrete floor watching this band go through it’s paces and I am not feeling optimistic. I will backtrack for one song: “I’ll Cut You Some Slack” makes me think of the Slugfuckers: nice touch there. They have a couple of cassettes I need to get through, perhaps there is more to this story. Despite my shrugs, I have a positive feeling about this endeavor, the same way the non-classic cuts on a Swell Maps record are still better than a shitty band’s best efforts. Ya know? –RW

Tankj Puissance 36 kw LP (Bloc Thyristors)
Odd juxtaposition of instruments on this one by French free jazz quartet Tankj. Here we have trombone, percussion, bass, and electronics – all of them making a hell of a lot of noise. Some of this is bombast and skronk (that is as much skronk as you can get out of a trombone), some of it is a bit more subdued in volume but not in tension (the sound of a trombone squawking over a drone of electric pulse is pretty damn cool). This isn’t amateur hour. Some of these guys have been doing experimental music and free jazz since the 70s and 80s and are part of the crowd that Thierry Muller runs in. Best free jazz record I’ve heard since Gary Hassay’s Live at WDIY. –SS

Tyvek s/t LP (Siltbreeze)
The bar for this one was set somewhere deep in the cosmos: Tyvek's LP washed in on a tide of borderline-brilliant singles that mixed Modern Lovers uptempo simplicity & flypaper catchiness with a healthy splat of the playful off-kilter experimentation that made UK DIY famous, all coalesced into a happy cloud of skittering adenoid anthems that made you feel like you were in a convertible on its way to the beach no matter where you were actually listening to it. Our jittery chums painted themselves into a corner with all their previous greatness, leaving fickle lady Anticipation just itchin' to clamp her pearly whites on their keisters if their debut didn't make the rest of your record collection grow legs and run away in shame. Let's get it out of the way: 1) This album doesn't cause a thud as your lower jaw involuntarily disengages and thumps onto the floor as you sit paralyzed with awe & wonderment. 2) After gingerly thumbing the tonearm towards the grooves, this album doesn't cause a tremendous aural explosion that just leaves a shadow in the shape of the listener on the wall and the feint smell of burnt hair. 3) Nothing on this album (although “Summer Things” comes awfully close) can touch the outta-this-world moon shots of “Honda” or “Sidewalk”. 4) However, this album is great, and the last thing you will do upon hearing it is make you want to grab a torch and pitchfork and start heading towards Detroit. 5) Some of the material on this album ain't exactly new, but the tunes that got recycled are top-notch, and any crybabies that want some sympathy because an excellent song was already released in an absurdly small edition single, they're barking up the wrong record reviewer. 6) The LP has some meandering little detours that sound half-baked by their lonesome but when they romp through the tall grass as part of a cohesive vinyl whole, they fit like Legos. 7) Its not all beluga: “What To Do” bites where it shouldn't, the intended spontaneous ray of joy vibe doesn't pan out for skunkcrap and slogs slowly to the finish line instead of bursting through the polyester rope with arms raised in triumph. 8) Don't let a real clunker from clumsy town deter you, dear reader - this LP is top shelf full tilt happy racket with catchy to spare. You gotta enjoy this stuff on the rare occasion when it comes around. Why even bother otherwise? –MB

Kurt Vile & Violators The Hunchback 12" (Richie)
The majority of Vile's Constant Hitmaker LP could've been mistaken David Kilgour's last couple of solo albums, but with the Violators at his side, Kurt Vile is hitting close to those classic Clean instrumentals. Even when Vile is singing (2 of the 6 songs are with vocals) the music has that same type of throbbing tribal beat that makes songs like "Fish" and "At the Bottom" so trance-inducing. A lot of people are going to overlook this in search of the gimmicky LP of filler that Mexican Summer put out simultaneously, or the Woodsist reissue of Contsant Hitmaker, but this is by far and away the best thing the guy has made. I have hardly been able to keep away from this for more than a few hours since first the first listen... no wonder I've been zoning out at work so much thinking about the last time I listened to Screamadelica or Ride's Nowhere. It's that good. –SW

Warm Climate Edible Homes cs (Stunned)
From getting this in a batch of unsolicited cassettes to wondering if the first track was a parody of Tyrannosaurus Rex, once this pup kicked in, and upon repeated listens, I remained a bit shocked. Though Warm Climate (one Seth Kasselman) has released about a dozen CDRs and cassettes since 2000, I haven’t heard of it ‘til now. And now this great blend of psych-glam, DIY experimentalism, and Tangerine Dream/Sorcerer style prog comes into my hands and I don’t know what to say other than, “Where is the vinyl?” –SS

Wetdog Enterprise Reversal LP (Angular Recording Corp.)
I was frankly shocked that this LP let me down, seeing as how the English have always been top shelf about reinterpreting/channeling stuff in the Slits mode, which is the vein this outfit is working in. You know, Slampt Records territory, their own national backyard indie theme music; it’s the same deal with rock-a-rolla-muthafuckah!!! stuff, in that only the American bands (with an occasional OZ contender) can bang that shit out with any sincerity. Well, Wetdog have retained the right record collections to dig through before practice, but they forgot to write any really compelling songs. On one track after another, they get the atmosphere and the guitar sounds right and then…nothing. Then the next song. What the fuck!? Plus, the cover’s ugly. –RW

Wicked Witch Chaos: 1978-86 CD (EM)
Cool record here. Two sounds - the first being Richard Simms' solo (almost) instrumental DIY Prince-worship from the 80's, and the second is a muscular twelve-minute full-band Funkadelic meltdown - both hit so fuckin hard that it rattles my license plates. Most of you are going to want to hear this for the solo stuff. Simms is much more maniacal in the bedroom, loading his simple bass riffs with gritty synths, guitar shredding and psychotic head voices. This is deranged Mark Tucker style, but its much more interesting hearing this type of chaos coming from a skilled musician. The six-piece Wicked Witch is tight but more conventional-sounding, and would most likely appeal to those who've already found their way through some great George Clinton albums. It couples well with the more out-there sounds of the first 4/5ths of this, so if you're new to good funk music you get a good idea where this guy was coming from. Wild sounds like these shouldn't be a surprise coming from an Honest Jon's affiliate. –SW

Various New Kids On The Block EP (Randy)
Four-way split of tinky teeny midwest pop-a-billy from the Yolks' label. I started warming up to this Gulcher-style roots revival when that first Romance Novels 7" dropped a few years ago, but until hearing this compilation not much more has made such a strong impression. I heard the two Bad Sports singles when they came out but I honestly can not remember one thing about them. They do well here, giving the comp an energetic start, that is in and out so quickly that the thuggy title-chanting doesn't wear itself out. Day Creeper is one of the best new Columbus bands to emerge in the last couple of years. Their "Outerbelt" has the right mix of Richman, Springsteen and Rep, a combo that has had me follow them around town since last summer. Eric & The Happy Thoughts' effortlessly brilliant "Bad Days" has been bubbling in my head for weeks. I don't know much about Eric or The Happy Thoughts aside from a fantastic live show of theirs I caught last fall, but I'm looking forward to hearing some more from the ex-Romance Novels. Closing this comp is Pleadin' Bradford Trojan's acapella "Amanda", which sounds like a demo from the first Weezer album, but I won't hold it against him. It's little league but sells the romantic innocence at the heart of of this collection. Even the title of the compilation had me cringe a bit, but this is about as unpretentious as you get and I can raise a glass to that sort of conviction. –SW

Various Ten Grand Tonearm LP (Heard Worse)
Pasted-on LP cover art lends the frugal touch to this solid Aussie experimental comp of artists coming together in the spirit of generally whacked and/or wrecked shit. I’m thinking the ordering of tracks must have been done by someone with at most half an ass, because it never once seems chosen, just picked—but then it is a noise comp, so fair enough. Only one of the 14 participants even tries for True Greatness, though, and that is xNoBBQx, who do well what they always do well—despite the fact that their entire sound is built on not going or getting anywhere, and there seems to be a good chance that they’re joking about the whole thing. They make every guitar-and-drums sound except the one you’re waiting for, and then they keep on going: toggle-switching, cable-tripping, field-buzzing, pickup-twurking—plus drums that aren’t exactly “grooving” … they do it all (and their 2007 Siltbreeze LP is well worth the pain). Then before you can say “Hrmnm” the comp’s moved on to more of the grey squall and echo and crushed audio that makes me feel skull-dull like after a long morning smoking black-baked resin off a Sprite can (plastic lining and all). There are some other high-ish points: Castings brings some rhythm and energy and is, if nothing else, briefly overwhelming; Misty Lavender Doughnuts of Shame digs up some good/funny samples but can’t quite do them justice; and Arse Lunch’s nice, simple layered hypno-feedback number could safely be twice as long. Inevitable low points include pointless samples and loops, pointless droning, pointless squealing, pointless contact info and track titles, etc., etc. Like I said, it is a noise comp. (Also-reps: Loachfillet, Marco Fusinato, William de Cunting, Rahdunes, Werewolf Jerusalem, Pigs in the Ground, Mark Harwood, Sun of the Seventh Sister, rlw, Cygnus, The Vitamin B12.) –FSS

Various The World’s Lousy with Ideas Volume 7 (Almost Ready/Aarght!)
Another winner of a comp from the best franchise going. This ‘un is all Aussie and has Super Wild Horses doing primitive girl punk, UV Race sounding as “together” as I’ve ever heard them, Straight Arrows with dreamy 60s fuzz psych, and Eddy Current Suppression Ring being as excellent as they always are (how’s that for objective!). Ten years from now when mooks are trying to figure out what was good about ’00 underground rock & roll they need only turn to World’s Lousy… —SS