Thursday, December 29, 2011


Inspiration glowing hot in a windowless room.

Spontaneous combustion exploding in a vacuum.

A springtime lullaby that wishes you ill.

Ladies and gentleman, for your pleasure -

"Escape Artist"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Literally years in the making, LIQUOR STORE’s debut, the two LP set Yeah Buddy, serves as the epic statement that a certain resident of New Jersey (hint: it’s not Snooki) has been desperately trying to make for years. But he has been lacking in one key arena – Youth. Liquor Store are true sub-urban punks raised on mountains of pizza, bottomless kegs of Budweiser, and enough ennui to kill a normal human. Luckily, these doods are anything but normal, and their sprawling, yet focused, twin platter rolls up the heavies (Ramones, Dictators, Creedence, Motley Crue, Adrenalin O.D.), and smokes a giant doobie of Truth, Justice, and The American Way.

Take a hit. Hold it in.

The first puff is “Pumpin’ With Red Rock,” opening with a rumble reminiscent of “Hit the Lights,” from Metallica’s immortal Kill ‘Em All. And, much like that classic track, “Pumpin’” will be the soundtrack to many a basement gravity-bong-and-weights session for years to come. “Banned From the Block” follows with the sweet sounds of CCR segueing into an unbeatable combo of the Ramones and New York Dolls, pure fun rock n’ roll, well-earned and well-played. Band mastermind Sarim al-Rawi lays down a pretty solo, completely unrushed, at the perfect tempo for boogieing and taking a slug of beer. If the title “Manchild in Paradise” conjures unwelcome memories of Jimmy Buffet and his pack of marauding idiots, the Parrotheads, then you are not alone. Thankfully this supremely catchy tune stomps all over their cheeseburgers and beer-cozies and brings some tough rock ‘n roll that would make Handsome “Dick” Manitoba proud.
“Gas Station” sounds like a summer spent huffing gas fumes 40+ hours a week so you can pay rent, eat some frozen burritos, and hopefully have enough money to go to the bar and try to get laid. The possibly homoerotic “Oilin’ Up My Boy” keeps the proceedings rolling, until we reach the triumphant pop of “Commando;” like Fogerty penning an ode to our finest combat export, Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Detroit Weirdness” delivers on its title, ending with several minutes of tripped-out sonics meant to enhance your PCP buzz. Good thing the New Jersey/New York City-based Liquor Store counts Detroit shredder Craig Brown (of Terrible Twos & Mahonies) as one of its own. Brown, along with Steve “Bones” Dessimone, lay down sweet riffs all over Yeah Buddy. The fact that three guitarists manage to not step all over each other is a testament to the songcraft on this record. And we can’t forget the pounding of the rhythm section provided by Block and Will, two no nonsense dudes who like to drink beer and smoke ‘em if they got ‘em. A solid unit. A gang of miscreants. The Bad News Bears of the rock n’ roll underground.

Since Liquor Store was not satisfied with a single debut LP, they figured if you’re gonna go, go BIG. Hey, they’re from Jersey.

Side “L” opens up with the hesher battle of “Showdown at Wookie Lake” (“They got sweaty palms and sweaty manes/gonna make you feel their Wookie pain”), then segues via chanting into the rapidly-shifting hardcore/power pop hybrid of “Jerkin It.” On the final side of their opus, Liquor Store goes for the throat. The side starts off with the maniacal hardcore of “Bud Lite Killers,” a rant about some vague enemy, some good-time destroyer in our midst. But it ends on a high note – the epic, these-colors-don’t-run “Proud to Be an American Man.” Standing tall next to Grand Funk’s “We’re an American Band,” this song is an anthem to be sung at county fairs and rib cook-offs for decades to come. Liquor Store leader Sarim al-Rawi (who has done time in VCR, LiveFastDie, and Titus Andronicus) may be a first-generation Iraqi-American, but he knows where his bread is buttered. In the U S of A.

With Yeah Buddy, Liquor Store has crafted a true rock n’ roll journey; perfectly dumb, like The Spits or Black Lips, but speaking to something larger; the fleeting moments of youth before the inevitable adult crash. Much like another New Jersey resident: Bruce fuckin’ Springsteen.


Sunday, December 25, 2011


TOTAL CONTROL   Henge Beat  [Iron Lung]

During the last few years, the World, and esp. thee United States, has seen a honest-to-G-d real living breathing Australian underground Invasion. Scores of Oz acts are washing up on our shores, bright-eyed, eager to take this country, or wherever they may be, by storm. And this Invasion has yielded some real quality acts, such as: Circle Pit, Eddie Current Suppression Ring, Fabulous Diamonds, Naked on the Vague, Deaf Wish, UV Race, etc etc. That last one has a connection to this Long-playing record. And that connection has many tendrils, creeping like vines into all manner of Aus underground rock.
Musically, Total Control is the brain-child of Mikey Young, a musical polymath responsible for much of the sounds in groups like the aforementioned Eddy Current; weirdo garage-punks Ooga Boogas; and an electronic project called, uh, Brain Children. The range of this man’s sonic palate is quite impressive, as is his restraint and knack for the subtle hook. Lyrically and vocally, Total Control is essentially the vision of one man; DX, a fellow who seems to accomplish quite a bit on a daily basis, maintaining an intensity and integrity which would exhaust most normal folks. I’m guessing Daniel doesn’t feel like a normal folk very much, thus his lung-scorching in Clevo HC-worshippers Straightjacket Nation; his primitive drum-bashing in weirdo punk ensemble the UV Race; his “All Foreign Junk” column in MRR, and his long-running top-of-the-heap punk zine, Distort. All of a sudden 24 hours doesn’t seem like such a long time. And I’m guessing he saves Total Control for nighttime. After 3 excellent singles, all of which revealed a different facet of this glittering jewel, Total Control unleashes its first full-length on the general populace, and I’ll be shit-pickled if it isn’t one of the finest LPs I’ve heard this year. A real head-turner, crowd-pleaser, and melon-squeezer. Buckle up.
One of the more interesting things about Henge Beat (hanging on a hinge; Stone-) is how it simultaneously evokes images of neon-lit cyberpunk cityscapes, and wide-open vistas with vast horizons, streaking through the night in your automobile, headlight trails in the rearview mirror. Opener “See More Glass” (OK, a Salinger ref? Maybe. A little corny but…) pulses down some existential highway like it’s being ghost-ridden by Rev/Vega with a suitcase full of Kraftwerk LPs in the back, and is that an Another Green World sample floating to the top? Hell if I know, but it sounds great. Is this one of the finest Suicide rips out there? Just might be. Yet it also evokes a similar journey to the heart of the city as Pop. 1280’s “Neon Lights” from their split single with Hot Guts last year. “Retiree” follows, and it hits harder and better than the original 7” version (also on Iron Lung). “One More Tonight” appropriates the haughty sound of 1980 UK wave, almost Magazine-esque. The coda/chorus is irresistible, a rush of sound collapsing into a snippet of Cabaret Voltaire-ish abstraction which fades perfectly into the most accessible cut on the album, “The Hammer,” a pitch-perfect sliver of early Human League/OMD synth-pop with soothing vocals and cascading keyboard lines. Sandwich this between any number of New Wave hits on an 80s night and no-one would bat an eyelash. Even in the Batcave. “Stonehenge” closes out the first side with another guitar-driven post-punker.
Side Two is dominated by its opener, “Carpet Rash,” seven full minutes of angular and danceable electro-rock that shoe-sniffers like Bloc Party or Arctic Monkeys would kill to lay down so effortlessly. The music takes a turn into queasy territory culminating in “Meds II,” which features the refrain “taking pills to remember to take pills to forget.” “Sunday Baker” is a lovely Cluster confection before Total Control bring back the neonlicht ambience of “Love Performance.” The Man Machine sings to himself in the big sky night: “These are not the last days….”

Kitchen’s Floor  Look Forward to Nothing  [Negative Guest List]

Here we have a perfect, succinct (10 songs/20 minutes) example of depression-in-action. Not inaction as in paralyzed (although a few of these songs will stop you dead in yr tracks), but as in harnessing-of; reign-taking, a shouting-down of all the crummy black feelings collected at the bottom of yr coffee cup, the existential nullification of one’s own distress. In pop song format.
Look Forward to Nothing opens wide with the blasted doom-pop of “No Love,” bits of Bill Direen poking thru its suffocated screen, then jumps right into “Graves,” which sounds like the killer, quasi-triumphant second half of the previous song. A slight pause, then a genuinely great song sticks itself in yr craw. “116” has shades of the appealing domesticity of Guided By Voices (is that a house number?); simple but effective guitar hook, a bummer of a chorus (“I am the last one you’d love”), and then it’s over. A minute and a half. Anything more would be frivolous.
And despite its raw Ahia squall, Look Forward to Nothing is not necessarily a lo-fi record. The vocals are blown-out, providing that extra desperate edge, but the band plays tight and economically. The longest song, “Everyday,” is an instrumental, as if the singer is just too numb to be bothered. In fact, the entire proceedings are deep-fried; not in a boiling oil sense, but in an acid-exhausted sense. There is a weariness to these sounds, as if Kitchen’s Floor are ringing the last remaining life out of this style. What style? Well, 90s “indie-punk.” Tons of Columbus, some fellow Southern Hemisphereans (Doublehappys? S. Fits?); pull-quote: “Skip Spence raised on Archers of Loaf.” The smeared acoustic drawl of “Kidney Infection” would almost sound at home on Beck’s One Foot in The Grave
This album reminds me of cursed times past. Go nowhere, do nothing. There was something comforting in the aimlessness of a “Don’t give a shit about shit” lifestyle. I suppose there still is. Kitchen’s Floor are down on their knees, searching out the final crumbs from this particular table. Crawl on, say I.

Degreaser  Bottom Feeder  [Negative Guest List]

Sometimes a record is nail-on-the-head titled. The package complete. Song titles clue you into what the record will do for, and to, you.
Bottom Feeder is a heart-of-darkness kind of safari; a trench that your ego fell into, and it’s down there in the muck, swimming around, sucking off the other scavengers for sustenance, and hoarding any remnants of pleasure remaining. “Swampy” doesn’t even begin to describe this album.
Singer/guitarist Tim Evans, a very tall man borne of Tasmania, and member of several significant Oz bands, channels the darker ends of human emotions. I can’t make out most of what he’s saying but I’m not sure it matters; it sounds as if he’s recounting all the nasty things he’s done, but to himself, trying to figure out if he should feel “bad” for these things, or if that is just the nature of ourselves, Man, men.
“Teeth in Mouth” “Like a Ball” “On the Throne” “Snake Dick Blues” “Caveman’s Lament” “Human Postcard” “Treat You Right”
That last one is probably a cruel joke. These are the blues; NYC transplant no wave blues for sure, but the unmistakable bleakness is older than time. The music on here is heavy in the way Godflesh or SWANS are heavy. It is smothering. Endless trails of delayed-out noise-guitar flail over the rumbling and crashing of the rhythm section as they plow forward, as if of one mind.
This album is most certainly a maelstrom, a vortex; Evans is down in his hole, with the Devil perhaps, but even worse, with himself. Does he even want to climb out? Listen to this album and hazard a guess. Unless you get sucked down there with him, another victim of the black Hole.

[Last two reviews originally published in The Negative Guest List #30.]