Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A HANDFUL OF DUST (ie. some musical reviews)

WOMEN IN PRISON "Strange Waves" 7" EP

Hey all of you heavy-hitting punk collectors out there, I got some news for that ass: Great punk records are still being made! I know, crazy, right? Here (along with that Lognhal… platter) is one of the best of recent memory. Straight-up raging scuzz-punk from Austin TX. This here 45 contains three of the world-beaters from their six-song demo that came out last year. I thought “Suicidal Exit” was the hit, but it’s not to be found here. Doesn’t matter cuz these guys got songs for days. Yeah, they actually remembered to write some! I, for one, appreciate that kind of forethought. This is what this record sounds like: Your cool friends just spontaneously formed a band, they’re bursting with a couple ideas, they get a case of beer, they go down to the basement (I know it’s Austin but bear with me), they turn on the old dust-covered PA, the one from the Seventies, the one with the sick reverb that’s got presence and depth unlike these goddamn tinny pedals of today; they crank the guitars up to a nice Saints-like roar, and as the drummer deals with the fact that the drum kit is a piece of shit, a reverse pride starts forming as a matter of fact. “I’m gonna make this pile of junk sound good,” he thinks. They start playing. You are three floors up, reading a book about autoerotic asphyxiation, slowly squeezing a lemon, when you realize that the distant thunder you feel shaking the house is actually the dudes downstairs and they are fucking killing it. “Strange Waves” makes you wanna freak out, fuck anything that moves, then snort it up your nose, hell shove it up your fucking ass. A lightning bolt hits you: “My dumb-ass friends are the best punk band in the city, the state, maybe even the whole country….?!”(EEK) (HozAc Records //

SPERM WAILS “Lady Chatterley” b/w “Mr Wonderful” 7”

Anyone who is hip to the Sperm Wails knows that it’s a goddamn tragedy that they didn’t release more material. I don’t care if they toured with My Bloody Valentine, I don’t care if they personally rolled Kevin Shields’ spliffs every night, I don’t care if they wore their mums’ knickers when she went to church on Sunday mornings, I don’t care if they diddled dogs’ assholes with their tongues, I JUST WISH THEY HAD PUT OUR MORE SHIT. A 12”, a 7”, a flexi (hey it was the ‘80s), that’s it! Argh!! They had a modest legacy of being a relatively forgotten great band that time forgot, until five years ago, when a video from the Shelter Video Compilation (whatever the hell that is) was posted on YouTube. The video was for a song called “Lady Chatterley,” that didn’t appear on any of their records, and was perhaps their most vicious song (and this is a vicious band). The video seemed to hint at dark and terrible things, while the music sounded like Pussy Galore stripped of everything but the hate and yeah fuck the blues, we got plenty of depression and spite to draw from. A small-scale web sensation for fucked-up losers clued into such things. Enter S-S Records, beloved label of those same FUL, and now this song finally feels the kiss of wax. “Mr Wonderful” is a throwaway, a dalliance, but who cares when you’ve got that song on a little 45 rpm single. What is “Lady Chatterley” like? As scissorkicks comments on the youtube: “This song makes me want to smash everything ever.”  [S-S]

LOGNHALSMOTTAGNINGEN  Fina Nyanser I Nya Finanser 7” EP

Holy fuck, this record. I’m tempted to do one of those ultra-obnoxious “This is what punk should sound like” spiels, but I’ll spare us both and just say that This is what punk should fucking sound like. I have no clue what they’re saying and I have no idea how to pronounce their name, but I do know that the drums are recorded so perfectly it makes me want to cry. The snare just thwacks you in the face with every hit, the bass has a great gnarly, dirty, but not too distorted, tone, and the guitar coats it all in a glorious sheen of treble. The singer rants just right and I dunno, it’s just really goddamn good. The only thing I can make out on the insert is that they lift a “melody” from the Young Identities’ “Positive Thinking.” Hey, great artists steal. But it’s “Nya Lognhalsar” on the B-side that makes me want to jump off a building in pure ecstasy. I swear it’s one of the best punk songs of the last few years. The weird thing is one of these dudes was in Boyracer or something? There’s a Slumberland connect. I love this record. Buy it.  [Local Cross]


Scarcity of Tanks is the ongoing concern of Matthew Ming Shank Wascovich, a reclusive poet perched on the shores of Lake Erie.  Despite his playfully anti-social tendencies, “Wasco” has managed to rope many a talented Cleave musician (and sometimes beyond) into his free-rock band, flirting with noise, jazz, and the more avant-garde offshoots of hardcore punk. 2008’s No Endowments brought all of these disparate factors together in a satisfying long-player. Bleed Now finds the group as close to a “normal” rock band as they have been yet, maintaining a relatively solid line-up and playing shows on a consistent basis. The album storms out with “August,” establishing the template, as Wasco declares his lyrics over Ted Flynn’s guitar, which peels off new directions in Classic rock shred, like Joe Baiza raised on The James Gang. The rhythm section is all muscular throb, bassist Sebastian Wagner occasionally finding the hidden melodies beneath the avant-thrum (like on “Cardboard”); the drums are in the capable hands of journeyman Clevo skinsman (and painter), Scott Pickering, Puff Tube himself, member of bands ranging from Spike in Vain to Speaker/Cranker. At the mid-century mark, he still pounds harder than kids a third his age. The man is a rock.
Not content with just monotoning his abstract lyrics, Wasco sings more on this release than ever before. “Requisite Fire” has a meditative Lungfish serenity, which is blown apart by the hardcore gallop of “Melt Dove Miles.” SoT has gone through some interesting transformations over the years, but this newest version may be the best yet. On Bleed Now, they come across like some sort of mutant post-punk avant-garage Jim Carroll Band, sans the Catholic guilt, instead a heaping pile of Rust Belt blues on their plates.  [Total Life Society/Textile]


Recorded back in 2003, and quickly vanishing into a haze of on-again/off-again possible release (mostly through that notorious scene-hopping label par excellance, Troubleman Unlimited), this legendary (to a certain scene of people at least) album finally sees a proper burial via Gossip guitarist Nathan Howdeshell’s new-ish label, Fast Weapons. The Portland group was a No Wave nightmare, a post-hardcore/math rock MARS, chops to burn, especially the drummer, who executes some truly sick rolls, and alternately pleading and pestering vocals. “INTERFERENCE….B&B Girls” is nearly 6 minutes of relentless No Wave pounding, stripped of all the gimmickry of the majority of Skin Graft bands, leaving the song itself lying in the street, a naked, mutilated corpse. “Scaring the Birds…Don’t Speak My Name” sounds like what you always thought acid rain felt like. This is dark stuff, confronting the more uncomfortable aspects of flesh and its desires, similar to the body horror expressed by contemporaries like early Chromatics and Shoplifting. The slash-and-burn attack of The Scissor Girls (and even Bride of NoNo) comes to mind, but Sleetmute Nightmute shows no sense of humor, instead clamoring forth with an intensity and focus rarely seen in today’s underground. The musical dexterity is off-set by the palpable anxiety and despair. It’s certainly not a fun listen, but I find myself continuously returning to the album, surrendering to the corrosive sheets of guitar and agonized vocals, but most especially those drums, which sound genuinely pained. Despite all the emotional turmoil in these songs, it makes me happy to see this lost slice of early Ought noise is finally out there for the general public.  [Fast Weapons//]

CIRCLE X  Untitled 12” EP

Praise be to the holy god of Nihilism that this monumental slab of No Wave/proto-noise rock is finally once again available in the preferred format, 12” vinyl. Originally released in France back in 1979, reissued on CD in 1996 via Dave Grubbs’ short-lived Dexter’s Cigar imprint, and now, once again, courtesy of Insolito, this 4 song masterpiece is out there roaming the dirty streets looking for kicks, and maybe to get kicked. It’s truly remarkable how contemporary this sounds, yet it is so utterly of-its-time. An additional paradox is how absolutely filthy ‘70s New York it comes across, yet it was written and recorded in France. Opening with the closest they get to a traditional rock song, “Tender” has a guitar line that predicts The Pixies ten years early, punctuated by perfectly-placed feedback breaks. Tony Pinotti’s anguished vocals complement the gradually-disintegrating track with maniacal shrieks to “Bow to me!” “Albeit Living” begins with layered voices reciting a brief poem then dives head-first into an abyss of near-hardcore velocities and eviscerated guitar entrails. “Onward Christian Soldier” is a dirge that plows endlessly forward, an awful invitation to a pointless slaughter; almost like a Black Sabbath song cut adrift from blues and groove, a post-“War Pigs” trudge towards annihilation. “Underworld” starts off prefiguring the violent hardcore poetry of Antioch Arrow and interrupts with mournful breaks before savagely ending just as you are getting a handle on the cacophony presented to you. It is a breathless listen, and it is highly recommended.  [Insolito]

PUFFY AREOLAS  Funk Your Head Up cassette

Like, say, Monoshock before them, Puffy Areolas are the premier psych-punk heavy-skronk noise-blasted rock n’ roll ensemble of their time. There’s (parking) lots of pretenders out there, but I’d like to see any of these new-jacks match the Puffys in either drug use or wah-overload. This 5 song off-the-cuff tour tape seems like a bit of a check-in, songs in progress, and just an excuse to make some more noise and weirdness. “1982” is a scorcher; is Damon referencing one of the prime years of hardcore (the cut is short and fast), or is that the year he was born? I dunno, it rules tho. “Gentlemen’s Grip” killed live, but here it’s a little too blown-out, it really is hard to discern what’s really going on under the mess of in-the-red cymbal hammering and slobbery vocals. Let’s hope this one shows up on a proper release with a better recording.  Side 2 leads off with an untitled jam that shows potential, a sludgy riff  straight from the ‘70s is down there somewhere, waiting to lumber out of its pen.
“Funk Your Head Up” is prime Areola, a basement Hawkwind smoke-out that could last for days.  [self-released]

VAZ  Chartreuse Bull cassette

Vaz has been around for well over a decade now. In that time, they have released many records, become somewhat of a low-key Brooklyn institution, and had many auxiliary members, but the duo of Paul Erickson (guitar/vox) and Jeff Mooridian (drums) still keeps plugging away. On this long-gestating full-length they are joined by second guitarist Tyler, and even though I wish Erickson would return to the bass (which he handled so well in Hammerhead), between the two they make up for most of the bottom end not filled by Mooridian’s still-powerful and inventive drumming. Vaz is all about relentless, mutated hardcore riffs twisted into oddly-melodic shapes, capped by Erickson’s haunted wail. He kinda sounds like someone who went insane in an encounter with a Great Old One, and he’s returned to warn you of the cosmic horrors that await. Lovecraftian hardcore? How did the Mysterious guys miss that one? Anyway, it’s impressive that Vaz can still sculpt new shapes out of their formula, and they have a sound that’s not easy to mimic, which seems in rare supply these days. There’s nothing here that they haven’t done just as well, as on, say, 2003’s Dying to Meet You, but it’s a strong document, and deserves to graduate from the tape format.  [Damage Rituals]

 VOMIT SQUAD  “Amon Ra Bless America” LP

Puke punk by Mon’ Ree-all all-scars Choyce V., K. A. Khan, D. Fuckin’ Marx, and some guy named Dick Ritalin. Stoopid Red Cross vibes ooze all over this sumbitch; it’s catchy and sloppy and might lower your IQ a few dozen points, but do you listen to punk rock music to get smarter? (I do, sometimes, but I’m an idiot) My favorite thing about this is how some of the songs (“Rapture Gun” “Howard Ruark”) almost sound like The Fugs. The chorus of “ABCDEFG” goes “ABCDEFG FUCK YOU,” which pretty much says it all. [Psychic Handshake]

THE SLUGFUCKERS  “Three Feet Behind Glass + Instant Classic” LP

The Fuckers of Slugs practically wrote this review for me. Contained within the thick-ass record jacket, in true Dada fashion, is a manifesto. It trumps any references to Down’s Syndrome PiL, Psychedelic Horseshit in a particularly foul mood, or even merely typing the names People With Chairs Up Their Noses or Makers of the Dead Travel Fast.

CONCEPTUAL OPACITY – AN ABBERRANT MUSIC: The Slugfuckers’ Test of Musical (Dis)Taste [a selection]: “This band is one big joke, one endless experiment, one eternal orgasmic wank, one in TERMINabLe BORE.” “…our only recourse is to be anti-music, therefore pro-noise.” “The audience as beggar.” “The music is just an excuse.” “…better than eating or sex sometimes.” “The sound of stoppage and breakdown.” “We spray it all back at you.” “You dose yourself with mucus, booze, and downers…”
They almost break the spew/spell with a list of “friends and heroes” that includes SPK, N-Lets (who?), TG, Pere Ubu, Lee Harvey Oswald, ATV, The Pop Group, Yippies, Tristan Tzara, Luigi Russolo, etc. But the “CRAZYMIX, SCAPDASH” rant continues, and concludes with a threat of an invitation: “We advise you to keep away. We want to pulverize you with our maniacal love squeeze, hot tears up your cunt, shove spiders up your prick, force hedgehogs up your nose: We want you to feel like us and die. Throw away your strings.” [Insolito]

LOS LLAMARADA “The Restless Light” 7”

This band perplexes me. I thought they were fantastic live a few years ago, but their records never quite get there, that place they found in a dark moist basement of a bar.
This single is a perfect example. The A-side is a formless rant that never quite coalesces into anything very interesting, because of, or despite of, its murkiness. You decide, who cares. The flip sounds like a really drunk bar band barely jamming on a blues riff going nowhere. I feel like this is a good band, but you wouldn’t know it judging by most of their records. I’m waiting for that next moment… [S-S]


There’s plenty of talk on “the Scion issue” spread amongst various forms of readily available media, so let’s skip that and address the music itself. Human Eye’s side was recorded by Ivan Julian (Voidoids) and he’s got a nice touch, softening the Eye up a bit for their take on Timmy’s “Martian Queen.” It works. You can hear early Alice Cooper band in the rolling drums and melodic psych guitar action. Somehow these guys can take that in-bred Detroit influence and twist it into something fresh.
Sex Beet, on the other hand, seem completely out of place on the flipside. Their tune, “Alone,” (and it really is a “tune”) is a pleasant enough slice of catchy, vaguely psych, pop, but, really, what’s the point? You’ve got to try a lot harder if you’re gonna be on a split with HE. Saves the trouble of turning the record over, I guess. [Scion]

BLACK CONGRESS  “Slums of Heaven”/”Defeated” & “London’s Burning”/”Davidians” 7”

Black Congress are a Houston TX rock unit made up of some former Fatal Flyin’ Guilloteens and who knows what else. What I do know is they bring some heavy punk, unafraid to grind out hypnotic riffs with all manner of keyboard/sample noise adding to the din. “Slums of Heaven” almost gets into Loop territory, a rainy day bass-heavy dirge.
You’d probably be happy to know that “London’s Burning” is not a Clash cover, but maybe less pleased with it’s rather pedestrian ‘90s post-hardcore vibe. I think it’s the unnecessarily distorted vocals, but the song itself never communicates the rage it’s attempting to channel. “Davidians” is better, circular bass groove and random noises adding some depth to the proceedings. I just realized how much this sounds like Slug (esp. the vocals), but without the latter’s, shall we say, charm. With a little more focus, Black Congress could be a deadly force. I really dig the black-and-white photo aesthetic they’ve got going on with the sleeves of these two self-released singles. Rumor has it that AmRep is gearing up again, and maybe we’ll be hearing more from these guys via those guys. [self-released; no info!]

ZULUS 4 song 7” EP

Zulus are a Brooklyn combo with a core of Oakland transplants, ex-Battleshipmen Aleks and Daniel. Aleks steps behind the drum kit but still provides his special brand of hectoring vocals; Daniel hasn’t lost a step on playing oddly catchy sharp riffs that both pummel and bite, like on “Blackout” where a snippet of a “trad” blues lick pokes its head out at just the right moments. Some of the pounding on here recalls the best of the Hospitals oeuvre’, like if the Gories got real pissed off and real stoned. This bad boy is self-released and hand-packaged and it’s rock-solid. Scoop it. [Wizard Mountain]

[most of these reviews originally published on Terminal Boredom]