Monday, March 24, 2014


Autodramatics  ‘Reaction’ LP

Former Horror (Iowa not UK) Andy Caffrey comes roaring back on this self-released platter. Plenty of fuzz coats some pretty good songs, with some pretty women singing most of them. “Tigerman” tears it up, hell the whole record does. ‘Reaction’ could’ve come out on Crypt circa 199something and you wouldn’t’ve thought anything was amiss. Ironically, mebbe ahm jus’ gettin’ ol’, but a little more fidelity could’ve helped a bit, there’s not a lot of sonic depth to the band itself. But they could prolly give a shit, so why don’t I shut it. Side B opener “Go Be a Lesbian” is the headsticker, and the swampy blues of the title track get you prepared for the last-call jones of “Methadone."  (Obsolete //

Bone  ‘For Want of Feeling’ LP

Bleak and uncompromising, Bone pull off the weight of their intention. Any band who uses scenes from one of the most fucked movies ever filmed (‘Begotten’) is not dicking around for shits n’ giggles and nuthin’ but a good time. Bone is originally from Perth, with Cuntz drummer Mike on bass, but neither of those bits of knowledge prepare you for the desolate sound of math-rock stripped of all equations, post-punk stripped of any hope, replaced with a steel exoskeleton. A song like “Pedestal” is a perfect fusion of the choked hopelessness of early Swans and the right-angled grooves of the best Shellac. The construction of these songs sneaks into your head when you’re not listening, and when you do listen, they reveal themselves to have all sorts of memorable passages embedded. There is a similar path being trod as Drose, although less metal, more wire-y. Over the course of steady listens for the past half year or so, For Want of Feeling has maintained itself as a compelling listen. (Tenzenmen //

Division Four  ‘1983 Demo Cassette’ 12”

This is goddamn glorious. I live for this shit. Thank you Smart Guy and dude from anti-PC punx Rupture for digging this little gemstone of a post-punk EP up from the cellar. Thirty years ago, five guys on the far side of the world (Perth, Oz) got together, jettisoned the guitar (doubling up the bass in lieu), and squeezed out this six-song mini-masterpiece. Of course, maybe a hundred tapes get made, and Division Four sink into the memory of the punk-scarred few that are still drawing breath following their self-destructive youth. There are similarities to what Soft Drinks were doing as regards to synth-driven punk, but Division Four were far more serious, and even more acerbic. “Doctor’s Wife” busts in like an accessible Screamers, singer Alan Hooper asserting himself with incisive lyrics and a snide vocal delivery that slices quick and deep. “Blank Prostitutes” is my kinda synth-punk, Hooper delivering the lines “Open your wallet and I’ll open my legs/Fuck me til you’re broke/ Your 20 dollars will buy me a hit/Take me away from life’s tedious shit” with such knowing disgust, that you imagine him creeping through alleys, telling himself he’s just doing “research.” It’s that Travis Bickle kind of disgust, the sort that comes from being at the same level as the scum surrounding you. But just when you think it’s all curled-lip bile, side two opens up with the lovely OMD-on-a-budget “I Was Walking”; it’s sensitive New Wave underpinnings go exactly where you expect them to, and the song is no weaker for it. “Azzaria” combines both these modes, verses positively seething in a Rotten-esque manner, chorus resolving into melody, the whole thing reminiscent of Flowers of Romance-era PiL, and reverse vice-versa, Total Control. This EP-that-never-was wraps itself up with the epic trudge of “Sewer Song,” a pit of sonic quicksand sucking you deeper into its foul embrace. Much like this 12”, it’s life-affirming in the worst possible way.  (Smart Guy//

THE FRESH & ONLYS  House of Spirits LP
The Fresh & Onlys are perplexing. Although they are linked to the recently ascendant San Francisco garage rock scene, they are not really a garage band per se. The Fresh & Onlys traffic in the sort of late ‘80s jangle best defined by Flying Nun’s roster, hewing particularly close to the literate sensibilities of bands such as The Verlaines, The Bats and The Chills. Unfortunately, House of Spirits, The Fresh & Onlys’ fifth album in nearly as many years, is far too languid for its own good. The Fresh & Onlys bear a superficial resemblance to standard-setters like Echo and The Bunnymen but, filtered through their Laurel Canyon-leaning West Coast haze, the music is lacking the kind of drama and tension that marks the truly memorable. Where Tim Cohen’s vocals should soar, scream or sink low, they remain at a consistent monotone, rendering his occasionally poetic lyrics into lukewarm sentiments that do not invite further investigation. Cohen seems almost embarrassed to show any visceral emotion that may get the listener’s blood pumping. Ironically, it’s the songs that intend to slow the pulse down that make the strongest impression. “Bells of Paonia” ditches the guitars for a bass-heavy throb featuring elegiac vocals. If “I’m Awake” doesn’t put you to sleep, “Hummingbird” will quicken the pulse a bit, it’s still not enough. After a stretch of colorless, Paisley Underground-recalling, ostensibly rock songs, closer “Madness” mines similar territory as “Bells,” and is far more successful than the bland tracks that precede it. In a different era, The Fresh & Onlys music would have been deemed “college rock,” but, all things considered, now such sounds are quite firmly in the realm of NPR “rock,” tote bag not included.  [Mexican Summer]

The Gotobeds  “Ipso Facto” 7”

Now here’s something to sink your goddamn teeth into. Who'da thunk it? A kick-ass new indie rock single in 2013?!? Say it is so, Joe. Packaged in a snazzy sleeve w/ a printed inner, this “record store day” release (part of a singles series of local bands by Pittsburgh’s Mind Cure record store) hits all the right buttons at all the right moments. “Ipso Facto” is like a great lost Volcano Suns tune rung thru a Swell Maps sweat towel. One rocking guitar, one chiming guitar and a melodic bass driving an insistent rhythm; is that so fucking hard, people? (help, I’m turning into Andrew Earles) Look here, folks, a cool breakdown followed by an extended coda. Is it too late to make up my mind? B-side? Oh, just an above-average run-thru of a lil’ rager called “Television Addict.” Personally (and you know I like to get personal), I wish someone would attempt to out-trip-over-your-own-guitar-chords “TV Freak,” but I also like American Horror Story, so whadda I know? I think I know that there’s an LP coming soon courtesy of 12XU, so…… beans.  (Mind Cure //

The Invisible Hands 2xLP/CD  

Following the dissolution of the long-running esoterrorist art collective Sun City Girls (feels disingenuous and pedestrian to call them a “band”), Alan Bishop found himself in post-Tahrir Square Cairo with a fistful of songs and a need to make sense of the chaos around him. With the help of a few skilled Egyptian musicians, Bishop was able to complete this excellent self-titled album. The Invisible Hands conjures a somber and elegiac mood; the bitter, biting humor of songs like “Hitman Boy” and “Nice On Ice” is pitch-black, nearly suffocating in its hopelessness. “Soma” brings sha-la-las and bright, nearly Beatles-esque accompaniment to an aching plea for “freedom from the slaughter.” Despite its carefully orchestrated and masterfully executed musical framework, violence seems to stalk every step of The Invisible Hands’ existence. “Black Blood” finds Bishop channeling Leonard Cohen; a lament for fallen friends, abducted and tortured by secret police. “Death Zoo” closes the album with a shuddering finality. Fortunately, Bishop is able to balance his fatalistic gallows humor with meticulous sonic detail and deft playing from his cohorts. And this really comes in handy for part two of The Invisible Hands, which shows that Bishop is no mere dilettante cautiously dipping his toes into exotic waters. On this companion album, the same songs are performed (with slightly different mixes), but here they are given voice by Aya Hemeda and guitarist Cherif El-Masri. This is protest music, and it needs to be heard by everyone. Apparently a documentary is in the works, so stay tuned. 

Joel RL Phelps & the Downer Trio  ‘Gala’ LP

The people love Silkworm, as well they should, but the best Silkworm stuff is early-mid 90s when they were a four-piece, and this cat, Joel Phelps, played second guitar and wrote/sang about a third of their songs. After he split following ‘Libertine,’ the band was still good, but diminished without his idiosyncratic voice, both literal and writing. His physical voice is a weedy but strikingly powerful presence, and it enhances songs of naked emotion and a sort of existential clutching -- for others, for meaning, for something, for anything. Phelps’ trio of songs from personal S’worm high point Into the West, still send shivers racing down my spine. Even now, I’m still slightly unnerved by the time I saw this line-up and Phelps played the entire set sitting in a chair with his back facing the crowd, periodically and reluctantly stepping up to the mic, and letting loose with a caterwaul that sounded exactly as his contorted body looked. And that’s pretty much where I’ve kept Phelps all these years, trapped in my own little memory box. But, with his Downer Trio, he went on making records every few years. I never really checked in, which was stupid, cuz the guy is talented, and he’s not so far removed from those twenty year-old songs. ‘Gala’ is the first new one in nine years, and opens with two meticulously-recorded (you can hear every inch of that drumkit, in a warm, non-clinical way) songs -- sparse, yet tense, full of feints, parries and surges. And it continues apace, stopping for the occasional murder ballad (“Exiting the Garden”). ‘Gala’ is an excellent record of minimalist rock music played with a subtle grandiosity that compliments its blatant honesty. (12XU //

Neo Boys  ‘Sooner or Later’ 2xLP/2xCD

I was pretty excited by the prospect of this release, but decidedly underwhelmed with the finished product itself. While it’s obvious that a lifetime of love went into this career-spanning collection, I’m not so sure Neo Boys deliver the musical goods. At least not to an extent that justifies this overlong overview. I’ve always dug the first Neo Boys single (put out by fellow Portlander Greg Sage’s Trap Records), particularly the B-side “Rich Man’s Dream.” Their excellent ‘Crumbling Myths’ EP opens with another of their finest songs, “Poor Man’s Jungle” (detecting a theme here?). ‘Sooner or Later’ jumbles a pile of Neo Boys recordings into a sprawling mess of mid-level femme post-punk. Neo Boys are not boys, but they don’t quite equal the heights of the best in the worldwide boom of female-guided post-punk. As a local concern, the Neo Boys are a classic Portland punk band, but too much of this collection is flat, tuneless and doesn’t quite justify their legendary rep. I’m not trying to out-and-out diss da Boys, they have some good stuff, and you can certainly hear their influence in a band like Grass Widow. But a single LP with the 45, the 12” and maybe the best of the unreleased stuff would have gone a lot further in solidifying their legacy. We don’t always need the kitchen sink. And no, that’s not a “wash the dishes, woman” pun, it’s a plea against warts n’ all. Calvin, some more careful curation next time, please. (K //

Pampers  s/t LP

I’m completely biased re: Pamps by both geography and friendship. I don’t care. You’re a dumbfuck if loud-ass banging cavemen-who-can-write-songs-type rock n’ roll is your bag. And you’re a dumbfuck if it ain’t. If the cover (by bassist/singer Jordan Lovelace) grosses you out, we’re off to a good start. These guys are getting up there in years, so any resemblance to an Oblivian or Spit-style pummel is not a coincidence, nor is it some new affectation. It just is. Lovelace-yelled “Not” is a live favorite, a relentless rocker with a sweet change-up. With bad-ass new slamma-jammas like “The Wigga,” I’ll admit I was slightly bummed about re-recorded 7” cuts, but damn this version of “Monkey Drip” is just stellar. Carl’s songs are generally more melodic, and his “Purple Brain” is the winner on this debut, and was quite literally, my favorite song of this past summer. To me it sounds like a science-fiction ode to love – spacejunked Devo. But the extended psyched-out pounding of side one closer “Sack Attack” comes in a close number two (and live it’ll make you doo-doo). Nice to see the boys on such an esteemed label. I think this was recorded in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Well done, boners. (In The Red //

PYPY  ‘Pagan Day’ LP/CD

PyPy are somewhat of a Montreal supergroup, pulling together Choyce from Red Mass/CPC Gangbangs and Annie-Claude, dynamo singer of aggro-electro unit Duchess Says. ‘Pagan Day’ is a hard record, and a party record. PyPy songs are not quite Andrew WK posi-anthems, and based on the death disco of “Too Much Cocaine,” hard drugs may have contributed to the decadent squall made by this quartet. “New York” captures a sleazy post-punk vibe better than just about any bearded fuckface from the 11211 zip code (or 11249 to you johnny-cum-latelies), and if you think “Molly” is about a girl, then this probably isn’t the record for you. Meanwhile, “Daffodils” could score a Miami Vice drug-dealing montage. “Ya Ya Ya” is a warped dance number that sounds like Les Sexareenos got left out in the sun too long. “Psychedelic Warlords” brings you down easy.  (Black Gladiator //

Quailbones  ‘In Lord Dion’s House of Discovery’ 7”

Good but ultimately forgettable garage moderne. Which means > a whole lotta OhSees. Now, I like them OhSees, still do, if less attention is paid (and payed). And I would put these cats near the top of Oh Sees tribute bands (that Wooden Indian Burial Ground band does a striking imitation too). Well-played, energetic, pretty deece recording, but all the hallmarks of that band’s style are here in droves, spades, and other things that come together. The flipside’s “The Long Hair of Death” does stick to the ribs a bit, but between its yodeling vocal hook and even the title itself, it’s just Dwyer-damaged thru & thru.  (Ghost Orchard //

Sex Tide  ‘Flash Fuck’ 12”          

Things sure have been Sex-y as of late; between yer vids and yer churches and yer cults and yer tapes and 8-traks’s enough to make you say Sorry, not tonight honey, I’ve got a headache. But here’s another Sex rolling in, and once again, we gotta say Yes, let’s fuck, as if we were in a flash-flood of Biblical proportions. UNFFF-NNNGGGGGG-UUUUHHHHHH----OH goddDDDD. Ain’t no atheists in the bedroom, who said that? Here we have 8 songs of loud n’ crude bashing from Cowtown USA (that’s Cbus to you). Sex kitten on obnox vox/standing Moe-drums, two dudes on geetars (one ex-Geraldine, who did the best Gun Club cover I’ve still seen yet).  Plenty of Pussy refs for you ref-heads, plenty of stanky punk for you panty-sniffers. Let's go deeper, baby, and say "Jackknife w/o the speed." Final cut “Gone” is a slo-burner that nicks the lead lick from “You Only Live Twice.” There ain’t no wheel reinvention going on here, but plenty of groovy hate-fucking. How else can we mention swampy genitals in fetid basements? Hey, what’s your name by the way, wanna fuck?  (A Wicked Company //

Sperm Donor  ‘Accidental Incest’ LP

The underground will always have room for bespectacled geeks who carry around bucketfuls of pent-up rage, and attempt to exorcise said rage via tight rock group dynamics, angular riffing and non-melodic speak-singing. Call it the Albini factor. Sperm Donor are the latest to don the wire-rims, and they acquit themselves……okay. Opener “She Fucked Kevin Bacon” is def Rapeman outtake material, and the following “Compulsive Fornicator” doesn’t do much to dispel the notion of Sperm Donor as, well, a collective of compulsive masturbators. “So Long Motherfuckers” and “Dolly Parton” bring the proceedings down to a typical ‘90s plod. I’ve heard enough sludgefeasts like this to last a lifetime. It’s Melvins-lite, and it’s no fun. Besides, isn’t Dolly Parton getting a bit saggy these days? I mean, she’s like 100 years old (OK, yeah I would, fuck you, you would too). These “heavy” rock tropes are goddamn saggy. Soggy, even, but still not heavy enough. Side Two opens with “Song X,” which I wish sounded as close to Karp as Sperm Donor probably thinks it does. Dammit, I wanted to like this more than I did, and while it hits its markers well enough, in the end, that’s really the whole problem. (self-released //

Ultrathin  ‘Minimum Payout E.P’  cass/download

Melty Montreal negative space punk more onna Blade Runner tip than a blast into interstellar overdrive; fun stuff like Monoshock, Simply Saucer and Chrome gets the bomb-shelter treatment. “Walk Into the Void” and the relentless/obsessive “Downward Spiral” seethe with frustration and noisy head-down effects-riddled riffage; not gazing at shoes, just trying to avoid the average citizen’s zombie stares. Didn’t everyone hear yours truly when I declared a moratorium on Urinals covers? It was on Twitter (j/k #notfunny). Despite being slightly gauche, the live “Black Hole” here acquits itself well, but we’re more keen to hear the ‘thin’s take on The Pagans’ “Real World,” which they killed on stage. “A.K.A” is the two-minute punker that makes the Pagans influence more than apparent, convincingly desperate and thoroughly rockin’. If Ultrathin only wrote songs like this, they could open for The Spits in Halifax. No surprise that the cut called “Cyborg Skin” is the Chrome-iest of the lot, but, despite it being a bit long in the tooth, I’ll be damned if it don’t scratch that itch better than anyone has in awhile. “Spaceman” gets loose and far-out, all 3 Ultrathinners going for broke, like Loop huffing gasoline in the garage.  (Bruised Tongue//