Tuesday, February 17, 2015

THE FIRST REVIEWS OF 2015!

Hey 2015, it's been a minute.  Let's catch up.  So what have you been doing since the New Year?  Freezing your tucas off?  Yeah, me too.  I've been kinda busy working on a new zine and getting my proverbial house in order, gearing up for a bunch of stuff this year.  But check this out 2015- you're less than three months old and already there's some great fucking music that has come out.  I know, right?!  Things are off to a good start.  OK, so a couple of these things are holdovers from late last year, but so what.  Listen, just sit back, relax, and enjoy what this young year has already given us all.


CLOAKROOM, “Further Out”
I know it’s only January but we already got us a strong contender for year end top 10 list stuff right here.  I’m hearing all sorts of wild shit on this Midwestern trio’s debut full length.  It’s as if a band has finally captured the exact sound of KARP’s lumbering over-the-top bass sludge (one of the all-time best bass tones), turned it into an anchor for melancholy dirges as opposed to rowdy demolition derby jams, and paired it with guitars that quiver and dispatch eerie feedback, like some near-extinct bird howling as it flies from a collapsing glacier.  Bring Morrissey down to 12 rpm and you get somber, yet melodious vocals (isn’t that what Morrissey is supposed to be anyway?  OK, well, this is like an octave lower) waxing poetic about swinging rusty blades through the night in service to Satan.  It’s such a weird, but wonderful mix and I’m hooked on it.  The transition into “Moon Funeral” is one of the heaviest moments on here, as is the upbeat and catchy (but still monstrously dense) “Starchild Skull”.  If I have to gripe, and I will dagblamit, making this a double LP is sort of over-indulgent as one song is just an almost acoustic version of “Moon Funeral”, while the D-side is just the interlude “Sylph” looped for about 15 minutes.  They could have cut those out and had a single, near-perfect LP.  Or, hell, add the B-side “Dream Warden” from the “Lossed Over” 7” (that song appears on here as well) instead of a repeat.  Or, shit, why not just write three more amazing songs before recording a double LP so they could properly fill 2 LPs worth of music.  Basically, I’m saying I want to hear more.  Much more.  (RunFor Cover)

DRUG CHURCH, “Swell”
I’ll admit, I picked this up because it looks awesome.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like this band’s music.  Diligent readers will recall their last LP was one of my favorites of the year.  But this 12” EP comes on this one-sided record that’s clear with a hazy neon green center and this crazy silkscreened back of a pig in a clown suit.  It looks fuckin’ sick.  Even the sandy shit that gets on the records (Pirates Press I presume?) fucking up my record needle making the sound all shitty does not deter me from enjoying the finished product.  As far as the music goes it’s really not a departure from their last record, which means it’s good- super riffy post-hardcore in the best way possible.  Quicksand with a bit more punk vibe?  Seaweed with breakdowns?  There’s some cross-pollination going on.  I have to admit, though, I’m not as swayed by Pat’s lyrics as I was last time.  There was a great sense of biting humor and cynicism present on “Paul Walker” that is somewhat lacking here.  “But Does It Work” has some underlying political themes, but comes across well and not heavy-handed, and I can dig on that.  As a continuation of what they’re already damn good at, and maybe some more depth in the melodies (pushed to the fore by the excellent engineering of J. Robbins), I’d say this is another worthy addition to the Drug Church discography.  (No Sleep)

GODSTOPPER, “Children Are Our Future” EP
I’ve been late to the game with this Canadian band, as they have several releases under their belt and I just came across them a few months ago.  As I was diving into their older catalog this thing was already hot out of the oven.  This is the most current material from the band, which stays true to form with the rest of their brilliant music.  Both steeped in lurching abrasiveness, as well as off-kilter singing Godstopper are an odd animal.  I’m reminded of the short-lived Northern brethren in Mare, who were adept at combining massively heavy riffs with an almost angel-like seraphim wail.  Godstopper are like the ugly cousin who still plays in the mud.  It’s got a fantastic quality to the heaviness that seethes, takes some odd stylistic turns, sings and grunts, and isn’t so caught up in it’s own unique nature that it can’t thrash around a bit and get rowdy as well.  To date this is only online.  Who’s going to be the lucky chap to empty their wallets and press this on to vinyl?  Hmmm?!  (Godstopper)

KRILL, “A Distant Fist Unclenching”
And then sometimes a record just emerges from the ether and lights up your fucking world and you wonder how you got by all these years without it.  I know Krill have been around for a minute, but this is my first experience with an entire record of theirs.  They have a couple other things out but this is the brand newest thing.  I decided to give them a try because it was weird enough that I couldn’t exactly place what they were doing, which ultimately makes it pretty interesting for me too.  What stands out most about this band are the odd vocals.  There’s a sort of nasally twang to them, but it’s more than that.  There’s a hard nod to Brandon Butler of mid-90’s greats Boys Life, but I’m not sure if this band (or readers) will know what that’s about.  Either way, that guy went on to do a more rocking band called The Farewell Bend and his vocals came to the fore a bit more in that group and that’s what I’m hearing with Krill.  And while their music does indeed ‘rock’ they have a bizarre, yet catchy, way of delivering it.  They use all manner of stop-start reverb-y guitars, a bit of off-time signatures, and generally take their time with building up a song.  There’s a hint of maybe The Pixies if they were a little more reserved?  And then they close out the A-side with enormous, shimmering wall of guitar sound, like an explosion of light engulfing us all (“Tiger”).  They bring us back into the fold going into the B-side and then end it all again (on a song called, strangely enough, “It Ends”) with a similar effect and repetitive riff backed by some tastefully used synths.  A gem of a record.  Investigate for yourself.  (Exploding In Sound)

LEMURIA, “Turnstile Comix #3”
Let’s get one thing out of the way- any band that includes a comic book with their record automatically wins.  I don’t know what they win.  Accolades, kudos, nods of approval, gushing praise.  Those are worth winning right?  So artist Mitch Clem has done this with a couple other bands (hence, this being #3), but I didn’t see those so this is a first for me.  Plus, it’s Lemuria and I always adore whatever this band does.  Lemuria singles, in the past, have been hit or miss.  Some are totally classic (“Ozzy”, duh) and others definitely throwaway tracks (anyone remember the Cheap Girls split?  Yeah, neither do I).  This falls into the awesome, memorable, eternally catchy side of the fence.  The two songs on the physical vinyl are both songs that have great vocals, hooks, and just a bit of swaggering rock riffs.  There is a third song on the download (“Courtesy Mercedes”), which is a quick and fun burner.  Very enjoyable.  The comic is over twenty pages of adventure that serves as a document of when the band toured Russia a couple years ago and all the insane experiences that came with it.  Would you ever expect a mob of Nazis to show up at a Lemuria (of all bands) gig and start clobbering everyone in sight, police included?  It happened.  And that’s just one of the crazy parts of this killer comic by an awesome artist about a great band.  It’s a winning situation all around.  (Silver Sprocket)

SICK FEELING, “Suburban Myth”
This is a weird collection of dudes making some weird-ass punk music.  OK, so the drummer of the Mongoloids is here.  And a guy from … And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of the Dead.  But so is fucking Don Devore, the mind-bending wild guitar genius from Ink & Dagger.  So right there you got a few different worlds meeting up.  I’ll admit, I picked this up solely to hear what sort of crazy shit Don Devore was conjuring up these days.  And I’ll assure you, this does sound fucked up.  It’s like all the songs come out of some eerie, dirty underground cavern, then explode into all out noisy punk anthems.  Suddenly, without any sort of warning they just disappear into quiet whispers, odd noises, bits of feedback, before leaping out for the attack once again.  A lot of it is in the production/engineering and I have to applaud them for taking some real wild chances between blasting you in the face with walls of sound and then almost disorienting quiet.  The opening track, “Gave Back” and “Liberal Arts” are the most vicious attacks on the record.  But between the weird intros and sudden drop offs I can’t figure out if this is a band just not sure where they’re going yet, or if they’re mad scientists who know exactly how to fuck with the listener and doing this all intentionally.  Either way, I dig it a lot.  (Collect Records)

SPRAYPAINT, “Clean Blood, Regular Acid”
Another one that sort of got away from me.  This has been out since, I believe, the fall?  I didn’t hear about this band until last summer when they played my town and threw me for a loop, bringing their crazy no-wave Texas strangeness with them.  By then they already had out two LPs.  This is their third and the band continues to grow, if only by small steps.  Essentially, if you enjoy their previous stuff this is not much different, although the recordings continue to get better.  Spraypaint offer up their dual vocals with nasally drawl, reverb-ed out guitars (no bass), and Spaghetti Western film score as played by nervous meth heads.  In short, it’s jittery and weird.  But it’s so fucking cool at the same time.  “Do Less Things” is early on in the record and displays a repetitive saunter before it breaks into a frenzied panic.  “Rednecks Everywhere” bursts forth with quick, raw power and blaring anxiety.  “Cory’s Theme” closes out the record with a herky-jerky riff that carries on for several minutes (with some added bass guitar for a change!) like some low-level criminals speeding away through the night after experiencing a David Lynch movie in real life.  And while I make this out to be total weirdo music (which it is), if you listen to the lyrics there is humor contained within reflecting on all manner of trashy denizens, probably lurking in the alleys of the members hometown.  A great addition to an already very unique catalog.  (Monofonus Press)

THARSIS THEY, “Formless/Shapeless” 7”
New-ish label Dropping Bombs once again releases a record with cool artwork and packaging, but I have to admit I’m not really wild about the band making the music.  It’s the sort of early 2000’s metalcore that was a step up from chug-mosh with stolen Slayer riffs, but before the total onslaught of stupid Dillinger Escape Plan wanna-be’s cramming as many parts as they possibly could into one song.  The band knows the value of a spastic and heavy part, but also doesn’t do anything to keep my attention either.  It’s a lot of screaming, a lot of chunky metal, but hasn’t quite found it’s niche yet and isn’t terribly memorable.  Four tracks on seven inches.  Mosh, headbang, forget.  (Dropping Bombs)

TITLE FIGHT, “Hyperview”
Bands that are somewhat popular tend to cause some fire on both sides of the isle when they decide to go and change the way they sound.  Purists turn into crybabies and long for things to just stay the same.  Smartypants who want to appear that they ‘get it’ applaud the change and point fingers at the crybabies.  It’s all kind of stupid and ugly.  I most definitely applaud Title Fight for the leaps and bounds sort of growth they have displayed over their last few records.  I appreciate that they get into a thing, figure out how to do it really well, and then make an album over it.  I thought “Floral Green” was an incredibly good representation of kick-ass Superchunk and Hum worship.  And on this new record…  I guess they’ve really gotten into Slowdive and The Smiths.  There’s a couple really good songs here that keep with that energy I enjoy about the band, but the majority of these songs are kind of boring to me.  Regardless of any changes they have made to their sound they always seemed to keep that sort of youthful energy in their songs.  That is lacking quite a bit here.  But whatever, if they want to make a mopey, phaser pedal-saturated shoegaze-type record that’s their bag, let ‘em go for it (or get it out of their system).  I’m just not really all that psyched on what I hear.  (Anti)

TORCHE, “Restarter”
Death to false sludge pop.  Torche are the one and only.  I’ve always been a bigger fan of their EPs than their full lengths, for no particular reason, it’s just what appealed to me more.  But I think this is the first LP of theirs that I’m 100% down with everything.  I’m sort of reminded of “Songs For Singles” when listening to this as it has a similar approach.  A number of tracks have a sort of slow, steady riffy vibe.  Some other songs are in upbeat, poppy mode (though not one has the sort of guitar acrobatics displayed on previous catchy songs like “UFO” or “Hideaway”).  And then you get the bomb string.  Oh yes, the glorious bomb string.  It is used more liberally on this record and I couldn’t be happier.  “Undone” and “Blasted” give a taste of that great power.  But then you get most of the way through the record and they present “Barrier Hammer”.  “Barrierrrrr HAMMER!!!” Everyone dies.  They get to that break and it’s like the band carpet bombs wherever they are with a never-ending riff.  I actually cranked this incredibly loud in my car HOPING to blow out the speakers.  It would be a fine death.  So yeah, Torche come back strong on this.  Mandatory listening/headbanging.  (Relapse)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

TRANSLATE #8 IN THE WORKS

Been keeping a semi-low profile so far this Winter and that's mostly because...  well, it's Winter and I don't want to leave the house.  If you lived in Central NY you wouldn't want to either.
But aside from the Taxa 7" repress coming in (after the minor, and quickly corrected, debacle of a bunch of Dialysis records showing up with Taxa labels instead), packing those up, and mailing them out the other work that has kept me sane is working on a new issue of Translate!

The above photo is a teaser of some of the content.  This issue will be a combination of interviews and comics with bands and comic creators. I'm not going to say who exactly just yet, but the theme will be talking to others about their ventures into this DIY world- how they figured it out, how they apply it to their life and work, where it has taken them, as well as corresponding/related comics of my own similar experiences.  It will probably be the most elaborate issue to date.  Big plans!

Look for it before Springtime (for Syracusans, that means June...  but it will definitely be out before then!).

In the meantime...
TAXA repress here
previous issue of Translate here

Plenty of other plans for 2015 brewing....  stay tuned.

Monday, January 12, 2015

TAXA RE-PRESS.... OR IS IT?!

Funny story... so a few days ago I posted a picture of the TAXA 7" re-press online. In my excitement of receiving new records I failed to take a close look at the actual records and discovered that the pressing plant had accidentally re-pressed the Dialysis 7" instead with Taxa labels. Oops.
Long story short, within two days time the plant pressed the correct record and now I actually have (I made sure to check first this time!) the correct records. That being said, get yourself a repress of the Taxa 7" on clear pink vinyl..... or get yourself an incorrect Dialysis 7", both equally cool.


Taxa record here:   http://hexrecords.bigcartel.com/product/taxa-ressurection-year-7

Friday, December 12, 2014

FAVORITE STUFF FROM THE YEAR 2014

It is indeed that time again.  This is extensive.  No room for other people to share their 'opinions'.  I will say this- musically, I happened upon way more new bands than usual and that's a great thing.  Lots of people making awesome music out there.  And I re-discovered some old stuff too, which is always nice.  While so many are quick to proclaim the death of physical music (records, CDs, etc) I found myself buying more records than ever.  And I'm happy to because it keeps the band moving, a good label operating, and good art to continue circulating.  Keep that in mind and put your money into things that matter.  Here's what kept me going this year:

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1.) MOUTHEATER, “Passing Key”
By a long shot the most played, most riffy, most air-guitared and headbanged to record this year.  Dudes spent a good year or so perfecting every twisted howl of feedback, every nuanced affectation of honest and real desperation and depression, every godamned face-smashing slab of molten sludge grunge to make a near-perfect document of harsh sound.




 
2.) GREYS, “If Anything”
Second most played, riffy, air-guitared record this year.  The perfect mix of Fugazi, Jehu, and a little
Quicksand tossed in a blender and shot out with wild and energetic punk songs from these Toronto fellas.




3.) YOUNG WIDOWS, “Easy Pain”
“Old Wounds” is the standard-bearer for this group.  “In and Out Of Youth and Lightness” was a bit harder to digest, a heavy body of work that required thought and patience.  It’s as if the band channeled a perfect mix of “Old Wounds” blunt ferocity, “In and Out”s minimalist approach, and more of the band’s insane exploration of crazy guitar pedals on “Easy Pain”.  Screw me if “Doomed Moon” ain’t the best song I heard all year.





4.) BLOOD SUN CIRCLE, “Bloodiest/Sunniest”
The Syracuse brothers mind-meld and create an incredible album that swirls with love for things Nick Cave, Young Widows, and whatever is louder than what you think is loud.







5.) EYEHATEGOD, s/t
I was never huge on this band until they decided to kick everyone’s asses and get back in action with this long-awaited reunion record.  It’s like all the feedback-strewn sludge noise of the past with a great recording and riff after riff of molten lava heaviness and glass shrapnel vocals over it.






6.) PRAWN, “Kingfisher”
This band has been perfecting their craft for several years already and I just got into them with this, which is a beautiful and carefully calculated collection of uplifting melodic music.  Heavy on the Braid influence, but presented in a way that makes you feel like you’re out to sea; all the beauty, open space, and occasional tumult that accompanies it.




7.) HELMS ALEE, “Sleepwalking Sailors”
I had to warm up to this one a bit.  The production feels a little softer, but the songs hit just as hard as ever.  Ben’s fierce growl.  The ethereal vocals of Dana and Hoiji.  The sinew-y, knotty riffs, and avalanche-as-math drumming.  Oh, and the unbelievably heavy tones they get.  A great addition to their already stellar catalog.






8.) CAYETANA, “Nervous Like Me”
It’s awesome when you see old pals just go for something new/foreign and just nail it.  The ladies of Philly’s Cayetana just went for it and put forth an awesome record of honest emotion, plaintive beauty, and incredibly catchy indie/punk jams.  Very satisfying.





9.) FUCKING INVINCIBLE, “It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better”
Another record where I had to warm up to the recording, as it felt a bit fuzzy and didn’t quite capture the harshness this band is all too capable of delivering.  After repeated listens though it sunk in, which you will need because it takes all of about 15 minutes to get through this whole thing.  One speeding trainwreck of blast beats, primal barbarian breaks, and spewing venom left and right.




10.) PUP, s/t
So it came out last year.  Big whoop.  99% of you didn’t hear it until this year, myself included.  Not only did these Canadians make some of the coolest videos ever, they also happened to make some of the rockinest sing-along punk jams this side of Niagara Falls.  They deftly mix up pop-punk, math rock, insanely talented guitar work, and some post-hardcore vibes into one chunk of wildly energetic music.  Well done.

Runner-up’s:

CREEPOID, s/t
A psychedelic cornucopia in the form of a dozen songs that trip you up, confuse and bewilder you, sing you to sleep, and then rock you the fuck out.  Incredible male and female vocals, followed by layers upon layers of shoegaze dream rock, and chunks of sludge rock in one trippy stew.

SECRET CUTTER, s/t
One singer with a feedback box, one drummer that beats his kit into oblivion, and one guitarist with a store’s worth of gear behind him.  It makes for one album so chock full of heaviness a new word needs to be invented to describe it.  Bits of Coalesce and Turmoil fuse together to make one hell of an awesome record.

HELMS ALEE/ YOUNG WIDOWS split LP
Helms Alee deliver one mathy track, one weird/soothing track, and one song with hands-down the heaviest riff of the year on their side.  Young Widows took the throwaways from “Easy Pain” and planted them on the B-side.  Their throwaways are better than most band’s best stuff.

EVERY TIME I DIE, ”From Parts Unknown”
It’s hard to follow up how awesome “Ex-Lives” was, and that kept me from enjoying this record as much as I should have.  It caught up to me though.  This is seriously an awesome collection of songs.  Great lyrics as always, furious riffing, humor, insane energy; many imitate, none can duplicate.  The record opens with Keith screaming “Blow your fucking brains out”.  Chew on that.

7” category:

EX-BREATHERS, “EXBX”
Definitely a favorite new(-ish) band making the rounds.  I like how they try something new with each release.  This tackles cramming a dozen songs on a 7” and still keeping it interesting.  Minutemen’s musical ethics, Fugazi’s creative energy, Jesus Lizard’s aggressiveness, and just a dash of metal. 

EX-HEX, “Hot and Cold”
All these songs made it to their full length, but I like the recording on these songs better.  Mary Timony and company keep it sassy, tearing through their riffs like it was 70’s arena rock, but still sticky sweet.  The video for “Hot and Cold” with Ian Svenious is ridiculously funny on it’s own. 


PSYCHIC TEENS, “Face/All”
The band can do no wrong.  One somewhat heavy song, another sad and depressing song.  Both make full use of the groups feel for goth-y vocals, ear-piercing volume, and shoegaze guitar squall.  Joy Division meets My Bloody Valentine in arena combat.

By Demos Be Damned:

WRONG, “Stop Giving”
Total Helmet worship done better than the actual Helmet.  If there were an unreleased demo between “Strap It On” and “Meantime” this would be it.

BLEAK
Whatever multiple forms these songs took over the last year it’s still a demo to me and Syracuse does good by these cats that carry the torch of Disembodied to a frightfully heavy new level.  Nothing but next-level destruction from here on out.


TYPEWRITER, “No One Clears Out a Room Like…”
This was sort of an official release by the now-defunct Upstate locals, but presented in a sort of demo form.  Whatever the case, they knew how to throw down multiple styles of catchy indie rock and made it all work.  I got a heavy Elvis Costello vibe at times, Chisel at others, (older) The Men on one song, Superchunk popping up often. 

Favorite  re-issues:

ROLLINS BAND, “Lifetime”
As if this record couldn’t have gotten better, it sounds so loud and present after a commendable re-mastering job.  This is the band just getting their feet wet, back in ’87-88.  No expectations, all crazed energy and revenge.  “Burned Beyond Recognition”?  “Lonely”?  “Wreck-Age”?  “Turned Out”?  Fuckin’ right, this is about as angry and bad-ass as it gets.  “Walking alone down Sunset Boulevard.  Feeling lonely, feeling mean, feeling hard”.  When Rollins sings it it just sounds real.  Anyone else would come off as a cornball.

JIMMY EAT WORLD, “Static Prevails”
This is the only LP by this band that I have ever enjoyed and I have always adored it.  There is an awesome raw energy to it that I feel severely lacks in everything else they did, which I chalk up to over-production.  The band wears their influences heavy on their sleeves here, but who cares.  It’s awesome emo music for nerds, but try listening to “Anderson Mesa” and not getting super emotional about it when that huge climax happens near the end.  You gotta give in.  I got this record and cranked the shit out of it and it felt damn good.

UNWOUND, “No Energy”
These box sets have been getting released all year, each covering about 3 albums worth of Unwound stuff. This is the third one.  Their early material doesn’t quite do it for me.  But once they get to “Repetition” I’m floored.  This has that, “New Plastic Ideas”, some B-sides and a huge book thing in a case.  The packaging is beyond awesome.  The band was nothing short of incredible.

Shows I knows:

ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT/ EX-HEX Boston & NYC 4.1.14, 4.2.14
Not only did I see RFTC two nights in a row at fairly intimate venues, but I was also introduced to the awesome Ex-Hex, a new band featuring Mary Timony (Helium, Autoclave) that was a great surprise.  I got put on the spot at the NYC show when she called me out on my Swiz shirt and I got all embarrassed.  Oh yeah, did I mention I saw RFTC twice?  They’re pretty much the greatest rock n’ roll band ever, always, forever.

LEFT FOR DEAD/ DROP DEAD/ FUCKING INVINCIBLE, Machines With Magnets, Providence, 5.23.14
Three insanely wild bands at a place that holds about 200 people and the whole thing was on the floor.  Best F/I set I’ve ever seen (as a 5-piece, as intended), Drop Dead did what they do so well, and LFD sounded just as pissed and raw as ever.  Old dudes killing it.  Plus, I got to hang in Providence with solid homies and eat good food.

BLOOD SUN CIRCLE/ DIALYSIS/ NIGHT OWLS/ SECRET CUTTER/ AFRO NIPS, Westcott Community Center, Syracuse, 5.30.14
Night Owls re-united.  Blood Sun dropped an awesome record.  My own band played one of our most fun sets ever (“Wheel Of Torture” audience participation ruled).  It was a good day.  Hex Records 15 year anniversary to boot.

MENZINGERS/ LEMURIA/ PUP/ CAYETANA, El Corazon, Seattle, 6.17.14
Friends doing bands that are awesome, and getting to see them last minute while we all happened to be on the opposite coast.  I was going to skip this since my plane left that night, but after running into Lemuria at Mighty-O Donuts it was kismet and we were destined to go.  Pup also ruled face.

LAST BADLANDS SHOW, Badlands, Syracuse, 6.28.14
People talk about violence at shows being a bad thing.  This is an instance where violence and danger were integral to the ‘punk experience’.  Smoke bombs, beach balls, garbage cans thrown around, ceiling lights smashed, blood, bongs, and a bunch of bands (my own sharing the honor of playing) tearing the roof off our stupid little punk venue before closing for good.

CEREMONY/ IRON LUNG/ NOTHING, First Unitarian Church, Philly, 7.19.14
My band played a show in PA and instead of playing a show the next day we just went to Philly instead and watched Iron Lung rip tits.  An Iron Lung show on the East Coast is a rare and beautiful thing, and always incredible.  Nothing and Ceremony were pretty awesome too.  What a bill.  And I got to chill with my dogs in Philly for the day.

BLACK S.S./ DAMNATION ad/ PSYCHIC TEENS/ FUCKING INVINCIBLE/ DAMAGED III, Westcott Community Center, Syracuse, 10.26.14
Here’s some bucket list type shit here.  I booked Damnation A.D. at my favorite venue, no stage.  I’ve been into this band for nearly 20 years and they were so fucking cool and positive (despite their bleak music).  Plus, a couple of my newer favorite bands got to play to a bigger audience, and BSS did a rare show, which is always wild.  I got to play a Black Flag cover set dressed as Rollins and the Halloween tradition was back in effect.

FEST, Gainesville/Tampa, FL, 10.29-11.2.14
Fest is always awesome.  I get to fuck off from Syracuse for several days and forget that it’s probably snowing at home while I’m in Florida.  I walk around all day watching bands and having fun.  I’m the only non-drunk person out of like 5,000 people and there is rarely ever incident of ‘shitty drunk dude’ behavior.  Good food, great record store, I always run into a ton of people I rarely see, and usually make a few new friends while there.

Bomb Comics:

SEX CRIMINALS
Whenever this guy gets off he can stop time.  This other girl has the same power.  They both think they're alone.  Then they hook up.  Then they decide to use their power to rob a bank.  Then they get in trouble with the Sex Police.  Hilarious and well-written adventure/comedy from Matt Fraction (Hawkeye)

HIP-HOP FAMILY TREE
Ed Piskors ongoing serial about the history of hip-hop, going from the mid-70's up to the early 80's.  In-depth, humorous, adventurous, and full of some of the wildest characters in music history.  Drawn like it was a 70's comic book.

SACRED HEART
Liz Suburbia put up over a dozen chapters online of her book to be released by Fantagraphics next year, and supplemented it (sort of) with her zine Cyanide Milkshake and regular contributions to As You Were.  Crazy awesome flowing style, punk, humor, and a story about a town where there are no parents and kids get into stuff that kids do.  In punk speak, "can't wait for the full length".

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LAST OF THE 2014 REVIEWS

Before the annual 'end-of-year favorites' list is put forth (regular readers will probably be able to figure out a few of mine) I shall dispatch one last pile of reviews for you all to pour through.  Filled with many things Philly and 7" format it just sort of ended up that way.  But what better way to introduce oneself to a new band than through that tried-and-true format of the 45?  It's very little investment for something that could prove to be a doorway to something wonderful.  Heck, you all ought to go out and buy a few 7" records right now.  I know a guy who has a label that sells some.


CLOAKROOM, “Lossed Over” 7”
From my understanding this group is sort of a side project of some other, more active, Midwest bands.  They released an EP last year and I remember hearing the first couple songs off of it and was very impressed.  And then not as impressed with the other couple songs on it.  Still, it was enough to keep me curious as to what was next.  And this is it.  I guess this is a teaser of sorts for their full length, as one of these songs is supposed to be on it.  First off, I think this band has a really cool name.  Secondly, I’m very much into their overall style of slow-core/sludgy shoegaze.  Sure, they meander a bit into some slacker melodies, but it’s sort of a soft crushing of the atmosphere and your cranium when the thick riffs are applied correctly, and I can get behind that.  The B-side has a song that engineer and Hum frontman Matt Talbott sings…  and yeah, it sort of sounds like Hum on downers with a big epic chorus.  (Run For Cover)

CLOTH, THE, 7”
First things first, bands that go all out with some sweet letterpress cover that folds up all interesting-like get a free pass.  That shit looks awesome.  Secondly, they got a song called “Freak Beach” that is under a minute and it slays.  The other three songs on this circular fucker aren’t too shabby either.  As if it weren’t evident I dig on noise rock bands and this group chops and hacks away at their instruments in a sludgy, noisy, grungy sort of way.  They take fierce stabs whether it’s throwing in some trippy Breather Resist-style guitar bending, or just hammering away at your face like KARP on an adrenaline rush.  Whatever the case, consider me pleased.  (Reptilian)

COURTESY DROP, “Stabilize” EP
Behind all the emo chill and pretty melodies comes a fierce wave that seems to punctuate each of the five songs on this Nashville (and part Rochester) band’s second release.  I’m not bowled over by what they do, and I hope it doesn’t sound like any sort of insult, but to me this sounds like Touche Amore if they were slow and had longer songs.  I just don’t listen to many bands like this, so I’m sort of in a bad spot with comparisons.  Sunny Day Real Estate if they played a bit more evil?  Fuck if I know better.  It’s cool, just not kick my ass all over town cool.  (Animal Style Records)

FAKING, “Vices” 7”
Philly is an incestuous scene that breeds one awesome band after another.  You’d think with all the cross-pollination and member sharing some of these bands would have extra toes or an extra chromosome or something.  So, with Faking these dudes share a musical family tree amongst former and/or current members of Fight Amp, Ladder Devils, Gunna Vahm, and Creepoid (and probably more).  They clearly have the noise rock thing on lockdown, furthered by a loud, sharp bass sound all over this short-player.  They don’t quite have song transitions down to a science, as breaks between parts sound like almost totally different songs at times, but hey, they make a heck of a racket with what they’re doing and I’m cool with it. These blue-bloods are onto something.  (Reptilian)

LADDER DEVILS, “Clean Hands” LP
Finally, my dudes lay it down on a proper full length that does justice to what I always knew they were capable of doing!  I think they had sort of a slow start, what with changing drummers, and evolving their style over two EPs that collectively made up their last LP, a rather disjointed effort that was the band at two different spots and not quite sure of themselves.  But all these guys have been playing in other bands together for ages (heck, two of them are related) so their natural chemistry is finally showing on “Clean Hands”, their first LP as a band with a now solid lineup and a collection of songs all written together.  Sure, so two of these songs were on the split with Helms Alee, but they re-recorded for this and they sound better.  Those in the know will need no description, but their chunky noise rock culls from the vat that brewed up like-minded noiseniks in Fight Amp, Helms Alee, and Young Widows.  And while all those bands have their own very dialed-in and distinct sound Ladder Devils have done the same with some seriously bad ass tones and riffs.  A solid effort all in all. (Brutal Panda)

PRAWN, “Settled” 7”
Prawn released one of the best LPs of the year and these two songs were left off of it.  I can see why, as they don’t quite fit into the almost seamless transitioning of the tracks on the LP.  It’s not to say they’re clearly throwaways or anything, far from it.  They just don’t fit the overall vibe of the album and so you get them here on this 7” instead.  “Settled” has an almost older Death Cab feel to it for the first half, and then goes for Prawn’s big, spacious build up and bringing in that trumpet that enters their songs every once in awhile to accentuate the awesomeness of the ending.  “Built Of” goes for a faster, slightly more aggressive feel before they roll in with some female backing vocals and violin.  It’s definitely the band throwing some minor curveballs in terms of presentation, but still clearly the band fans will already know and love.  Once again, killer artwork in the packaging of this fella.  A nice companion to “Kingfisher”.  (Topshelf)

SWEET JESUS, “Box” 7”
Swiz worship.  They know it.  I know it.  If you like Swiz you’ll know it too.  And that’s perfectly OK.  Oh, you don’t know Swiz?  First, stop reading this and get “No Punches Pulled”, their whole discography.  Got that out of the way?  Good.  I’m glad you stopped reading this for a few days to absorb all that.  So yeah, Sweet Jesus- part time Providence band filled with dudes from lots of other good bands going for a late-80’s Dischord sound.  Rock n’ roll hardcore with loose guitar, a heavy swing, and swirling around all the ripping action are doses of awesome melody.  The first couple songs are super punchy and short and that would make a perfect blueprint for everything else they do.  And while the second pair of songs are only slightly longer they drag a bit and feel a little less chaotic, they don’t have quite the stabby goodness of the first two.  Still, a solid introduction after a demo that circulated a couple years ago.  (Triple B Records)

WRONG, “Stop Giving” demo
It’s a late addition, but this is easily the best demo of 2014.  There have been plenty of bands that have tried to nail the sound that Helmet perfected over 20 years ago.  Most have failed, or not quite got it exactly.  This sounds exactly like Helmet.  Someone could have told me that this was an unreleased demo between “Strap It On” and “Meantime” and I would have believed them.  Everything down to the recording, the booming drum sound, the clever play on timing, the enormous wall of noise guitar and the rhythmic thud that permeates these 4 songs has me hungry to hear more.  Even the tape cover looks like it came from the early 90’s.  Get on this.  It’s downright incredible.  (Wrong)

Friday, November 28, 2014

WEEKEND DISCOUNTS!



We heard there's some sort of holiday going on?  People are out killing each other for cheap TVs or whatever?  Well, sounds like a good enough reason to start a sale of our own now. Goes all weekend. Everything in the store is marked down. No code, no hassle, just order stuff. Plenty of distro items and current/new stuff going on the cheap. Stuff from Blood Sun Circle, Dialysis, Moutheater, Godstopper, Tendril, TAXA, Ed Gein, Engineer, Achilles, Ex-Breathers, Spit Spewing Snakes, Like Wolves, Oak & Bone, Black Throat Wind, and plenty more!  

Monday, November 24, 2014

GIVE THANKS FOR REVIEWS

As the second best holiday of the year dawns upon us (Halloween is still tops, and yeah, there is a holiday between Halloween and X-Mas) let us give thanks for many wonderful records being made and offered up to us.  Give some thanks back and buy a few of these because they're good.  So while gorging on mashed potatoes and tofurkey (because I'm just going to assume every one of my readers is vegan...  if not, your loss) do it to the soundtrack of a band like Today Is the Day, and pretend the lyrics are about beheading European colonizers and eating squash.  It works for me.


BRIEF LIVES, “VHS” cassette
After seeing this band at Fest I was blown away by their wild set and by how wonderfully they channeled a perfect Quicksand/Helmet hybrid of post-hardcore awesomeness.  I immediately went to purchase all the recorded music they had available.  Having recently switched vocalists (Valient Thorr himself now commands the mic) all they had was a demo on that most silly of formats- the cassette.  They made a good joke of it though by drawing a VHS tape on the front (hence the demo title), but I have nothing to play it on.  So I paid for a download of it.  And what I’m getting instead is a little less on the heavy-handed Helmet vibe and more of a DC/Swiz style of hardcore with a good post-hardcore groove.  I can most certainly swing with that just fine.  Two of the songs move along at a pretty good clip, while closing track “Kipple” sticks close to that slower, riff-oriented vibe.  Enjoyable.  Nice little prank call after the credits roll as well.  (Brief Lives)

EX-BREATHERS, “EXBX” 7”
Anyone who peruses this site knows I got a lot of love for this band.  Heck, I even helped release a record for them (which, shameless plug, you ought to buy).  So, on this new 7” they make an effort to crank out 12 songs in less than 12 minutes.  Seeing as their last full length was about the same amount of songs this is an exercise in making the most out of a small amount of space.  The band does an excellent job here, and pull out some influences that may have been hanging in the back previously but are brought to the fore here.  Kind of imagine a little less heaviness than their full length and split 12”, but still really damn fast (duh, 12 songs on a 7” kind of has to go fast), a good deal of older Mission Of Burma influence appearing in the song structures and shouted dual vocals, and the ‘cut-the-fat’ approach of the Minutemen.  The only two songs to surpass the one minute mark, “Hang” and “Auto-Correct”, definitely get on that aforementioned Mission Of Burma vibe with a slower and plaintive style.  It’s an excellent turn for the band, who continue to take aggressive music, a bevy of various influences, and make it all work under some weird unifying umbrella that cannot be easily categorized.  (Texas Is Funny)

EX-HEX, “Rips”
There’s not too much to say about the debut full length from DC’s Ex-Hex.  It’s catchy as hell, rocks in a Joan Jett/Pretenders/Heart sort of way and has the distinctive croon and guitar riffery of frontwoman Mary Timony.  I would have liked if they didn’t re-record all the songs from their seven inch (“Hot and Cold” somehow sounds way more pronounced and full on the single) and threw on some new songs instead to round out the other nine short and prickly rockers on this record.  Whatever the case, Ex-Hex has a heck of a good debut here.  It’s to the point and still a little rough around the edges in the best way possible.  I guess they chose an appropriate title for the LP because it certainly works for them.  (Merge)

IRON LUNG, “Savagery” 7”
Tell me, can your band blast through 12 songs in about 8 minutes?  Didn’t think so.  Iron Lung can though with ease.  And that’s what you get on their latest 7”, “Savagery”.  Hell, they start the record by yelling it at you; you should know what’s coming.  I guess the theme of this one here is starting every song with the letter ‘S’ and then going through their blasting powerviolence with slow and primal riffs to back it up.  It’s not quite as thought out or refined as the material that makes up their full lengths, but it will do for now…  until the mighty Iron Lung decides to create another full length that redefines what hostile music can sound like.  (Iron Lung Records)

JAZZ JUNE, THE, “After the Earthquake”
Of all the random bands that do reunions this one comes out of left field.  The Jazz June were a mid/late 90’s PA band that were fairly prolific in their time, but didn’t make any sort of huge waves that often warrant drool-worthy reunions that fanboys jerk each other off to with stories of how many times they saw them ‘back in the day’.  That being said, I saw the band several times, back in the day.  Heck, I think I even booked a show for them at one point.  Additionally, the reunions of bands that weren’t by any means big tend to produce the best results because they really have nothing to live up to.  There’s no pressure.  So I guess it’s cool this band decided to make another record?  I don’t have a great frame of reference for most of their later material because they did not make a huge impression on me.  I do remember, though, they had three guitar players, which was pretty unique at the time.  It made for a very layered approach and the band tended to have a very rhythmic and catchy, bouncy sort of style.  But hey, people change with age and this essentially just sounds like a rock record.  There’s nothing terribly unique about it.  There’s also nothing bad about it (though I’m not much a fan of the vocals).  Some of the guitar parts are a little strange in a fun way, but mostly it just exists as a middle of the road sort of rock record.  Hell, if the band is having fun, why complain?  If they’re stoked, good for them.  I’m neither offended nor intrigued.  (Topshelf)

PALE ANGELS, “Primal Play” LP
After seeing this band play an eardrum-splitting set I was so impressed by their energy and volume I picked this LP up right away.  I guess I should have just stuck with the live set.  While they write some excellent scrappy songs that are inspired by equal parts all things Bob Mould (Husker Du and Sugar mostly) and Nirvana the sound on this LP is in serious need of requiring a better recording.  I guess I don’t quite see why a band would take what essentially amounts to a practice room recording and put it on LP.  I mean there are spots all over this record where the sound goes in and out or sounds like a low quality mp3.  I realize the three members of this band all live in very different places, so getting together must be tough, let alone arranging schedules for a proper recording.  But geez, at least throw in a few bucks for a proper mastering.  It’s a disservice to otherwise awesome songs, most of which hit the three minute mark save for the last track that is a 13 minute roller coaster that builds up more and more, until blazing forth before it slowly sputters out again.  Go see them and have your eardrums blown out.  Hold off on the recordings though, it’s just not the same.  (Kiss Of Death)

PSYCHIC TEENS, “Face”/ “All” 7”
The Philly/Jersey psych/goth-y/shoegaze/noise rock/whatever-the-heck-you-want-to-call-‘em-because they’re just going to throw it back at you three-piece returns with their first new material since their incredible “Come” full length.  This time it’s a limited run 7” in a series of PA noise-rock records being released by the back-in-action Reptilian Records.  It comes in a really neat package and offers up two of the finest slabs of music the band has come up with yet.  “Face” opens with a creepy guitar riff heavy on the reverb that soon explodes into grand torrents of epic guitar wail and into one of their trademark post-punk/Joy Division worship bass lines and deep spoken vocals.  But those giant guitars are not far off and soon put about twenty different ‘loud’ and ‘louder’ pedals to work.  It’s a passionate and compelling track.  A good lead-off for this single.  On the B-side is “All”, which is quite different from anything the band has done before as it is about the closest thing they have to a ballad.  Slow, spooky, melodic, and yet sadly beautiful during the chorus and one of the best songs they may have written.  I could use even more hyphenated verbiage and adjectives to describe how red I think this is, but hopefully you get the picture.  (Reptilian)

RESTORATIONS, “LP3”
No doubt this band will always hold a place in my heart as they have consistently released records of a very high quality.  But seriously, how do you top “LP2”?  It was so perfect.  Instead of feeling pressured by the accolades that record received and trying to top it it feels as if Restorations just set out to make a record they felt cool with playing for the joy of it.  In that respect it makes this record awesome.  In another respect it’s a bit tamer than “LP2” and jams a bit more in certain parts, goes for more straight-ahead rock in others.  Some of those huge, sprawling songs I love about them show up here, most noticeably in “Misprint” (my favorite song here), “Tiny Prayers”, “The Future”, and the bass-heavy rocker “No Castle”.  The songs where they try some new stuff (most apparent on trippy opener “Wales” and the country-ish slide guitar on closer “It’s Not”) don’t necessarily succeed as crowd pleasers, but work as a band just giving something new a shot.  Without question worth getting if you’re already a fan.  If you’ve never given them a chance though I guess I wouldn’t suggest this as a jumping off point.  And shit, if you just like good rock music as played by a band with limitless creativity and passion this is certainly worth your attention.  (SideOneDummy)

SELF DEFENSE FAMILY, “Duets” 12”
I kind of wonder if Pat wrote the lyrics on this record, or if it was a collaborative effort with Caroline, who does the other half of the vocals here?  It’s certainly not in his usual clever prose for the most part.  In fact, lyrically, it’s primarily somewhat standard fare.  But both their voices work together quite well and are actually the highlight of this one-sided 12” record.  The band drops five songs that also fall into a somewhat relaxed indie rock vibe.  I realize the band are constantly evolving and shifting their sound, but for lack of a better comparison (and I imagine they will all appreciate this) much of their current output has been in a trance-like repetitive Lungfish style, and I really dig that.  Like, I could imagine these songs being on some chill radio station.  Honestly, some of it is bland.  “Location Scout” is friggin’ great though.  Get some of their current 7”s (there’s basically a new one every month) for great stuff.  This here is for the completist…  or people who like mellow indie rock.  (Iron Pier)

TAXA/ DOE split 7”
Canadian brethren in Taxa return with a split 7” where they put forth one new song of their melodic chaos, heavy on the bass and reeking heavily of Unwound and Shotmaker worship.  That is, of course, a great thing.  Their contribution to this split is a fairly long track and we’re all better for it because it will improve your life most likely.  Doe hails from the UK and reminds me quite a bit of late 90’s Southern Records output like Beekeeper and Lung Leg.  That may not mean much to any of you, but for me that’s pretty cool.  Think catchy and gruff indie rock with female vocals and a pinch of spite…  but mostly in a good mood.  (Clue #2 Records)

TODAY IS THE DAY, “Animal Mother”
I have not purchased a Today Is the Day record in quite some time.  All their early material profoundly affected me in my understanding of weird and heavy music.  They have always had a way of taking sharp, sonic stabs at the listener without necessarily having to beat them over the head to do so.  It was sonic terrorism at its finest and most lethal.  So when they began making moves towards a sound that owed more to death metal and grind I kind of lost interest because that weird abrasiveness was gone.  I will admit being a bit ignorant to their last couple of records so I’m by no means an accurate judge; it’s just what I noticed over the last 10 years.  But yeah, “Animal Mother” is sort of a return to form while still moving forward.  I personally don’t feel the lyrical punch I did on records like “Willpower” and the self-titled record.  The music though…  hot damn.  It takes a lot of those fucked up cues that made “Willpower” so devastating and couples them with the raw, down-tuned explosive power felt on records like “Temple Of the Morning Star” and “In the Eyes Of God”.  I appreciate that TITD can take heavy musical concepts and shove them down your throat in less than two minutes.  They can go from down-tuned sludge with a strange electronic hum over it, to an acoustic track, and into a fast and abrasive attack, one song to the next.  Hell, there’s even a great Melvins cover at the end.  If you were a fan in the past definitely get this.  If you’ve somehow never heard this group, and like heavy music, give it a shot.  (Southern Lord)