Reviews 11.23.09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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