Andrew Earles

2009: Everyone Has A Year Like This, Right?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Earles on December 27, 2009

What follows is each and every review I wrote for Still Single/Dusted Magazine during this, the worst year of my life. Grammatical errors and typoes might be found, and a review might have been skipped, but sometimes it just bees that way.

 

Estrogen Highs – “Echo” b/w “They Told Me I Was Everything” 7” (Never Heard Of It)

Estrogen Highs 7"

More of trash-rock’s marginal solidarity as communicated through a self-deprecating imprint name, and more music that’s next-to-impossible to write about because it doesn’t do anything. It’s that simple. The most fascinating musical development in one’s frame of reference will become a tiresome writing venture at some point, but this innocuous effort (that could be one of a gazillion bands operating between the years 1992 and 2010) puts the brakes on the review process before the gate is barely opened. Does it matter if a band is good at what they do if what they do is the opposite of good? At least the Estrogen Highs explore the scope afforded a band that puts up-tempo garage-psych on one side and mid-tempo quasi-balladry on the other; their conclusion being to make sure each track is properly ORGAN-DRENCHED because a common-denominator is always needed to tie everything together in that motionless world. (http://www.myspace.com/neverheardofitrecords)

(Andrew Earles)

The Dogmatics – “Gimme the Shakes” b/w “20 Flight Rock” 7” (Ramo)

Dogmatics 7"

This is a reissue of the Dogmatics’ first and sole 7” from 1984, preceding their full LP on Homestead. This largely unknown player in the mid-80’s Boston post-punk sweepstakes leaned heavily on psych and garage revival tendencies (see also included the the Neats and the Lyres) without letting it become an overwhelming crutch. “Gimme the Shakes” is as great as anything in the Lyres discography, probably better, but The Dogmatics sound a lot different today after a listener has weathered 25 years of willfully unsophisticated and blindly-uninspired Nuggets-ninnies beating the usefulness out of a once-ballsy move in the garage/punk game. It’s plausible that purchasing this 7” in 1984 with no preconceived idea of what was in store produced an end result of satisfying heights, as the A-side is more infectious and wound up tighter than anything in the Estrus catalog. The Eddie Cochran hit on the B-side is done in respectful tribute to the original, but won’t bring any new recruits over to the rockabilly-revival side of the fence. They need to cut the grass and take out the trash over there, anyway. (http://www.myspace.com/ramorecords)
(Andrew Earles)

Cortez/Language of Light – split 12” (AntiClock)

Cortez/Language of Light split 12"

I wasn’t sure what side of this record I listened to first, but I am sure that it will remain in mint condition for the duration of its time under this roof. Let me get this straight: it’s 2009 and I just spent 20+ minutes paying close attention to something that makes Stars of the Lid sound like Meshuggah? Was it a field recording of the Labradford practice space circa ‘96, after the band accidently left some things on while they went to grab dinner? Was it an unearthed, previously-unreleased Eno recording titled Music for Dilettantes? No, it was Cortez, or it was 20-minutes of affirmation that you too can cobble together that $500 burning a hole in your pants and strut on into Guitar Center then strut on out with whatever you need to replicate this side. Language of Light can put more than two notes together in a melancholic manner and end it with a locked-groove, a talent that makes their side of the record feel like Dream Theater crammed into a clown car with Dillinger Escape Plan. This isn’t so much a poor-man’s version of Boards of Canada or what Seefeel devolved into (think Ch-Vox for the latter), it’s a living-under-the-overpass-with-chiggers-in-your-colon-man’s version of what they devolved into. (http://www.anticlock.net)
(Andrew Earles)

Capputtini I’Lignu – s/t 7” EP (Shit Music for Shit People)

Capputtini I'Lignu 7"

The imprint’s standard-issue garage-rock “Look at us! We’re all a bunch of morally-deficient dirtbags” moniker (which I seem to remember as an older label….this is ‘shit #01’) does not mesh with the beautiful packaging (elaborate band logo, screened onto parchment paper envelopes…all done in a nice and bright red). But it fits like a bad habit once the first few chords are smacked out of what must be an appropriately-crappy, 30-year-old guitar. Home-recorded in Rome by Seb Normal (The Feeling of Love, Cheveu, just about every worthwhile French garage/noise outfit), who is one-half of this claustrophobic trash-bash experiment in extreme audio compression, this is a sous vide, ultra-trebly affair that leaves very little breathing room, sure to tickle the tits out of anyone bemoaning the diminished profile of Bob Log III. (http://www.myspace.com/shitmusicforshitpeople)
(Andrew Earles)

The Last Rapes of Mr. Teach – s/t 7” EP (Les Disques Steak)

The Last Rapes of Mr. Teach 7"

Yes! Here’s proof that no matter how saturated, over-exposed, or unsavory the genre, there will always be the special participants that call the top-shelf home and transcend the nest to stand on their own. These Frenchmen close out a garage/trash-rock and punk gauntlet with chops so good they sound inborn and unavoidable. It’s always nice to discover a band so adept at sounding fantastic that their fuck-ups are keepers. The first incendiary factor of their arsenal is speed, a musical muscle flexed on the first track … with refreshing returns. Elsewhere, the LRs of MTs run through three different attacks on the sonic common thread that binds all of garage revivalism together. It’s obvious after one go-thru that they’re giving everything an admirable, heartfelt shot, something that cannot be said for an alarming number of their contemporaries who are way too concerned that every step be approved by whoever reps garage punk on the nefarious taste-programmers’ board of directors. (http://www.myspace.com/disquessteak)
(Andrew Earles)

I Heart Lung / DWMTG – Ecstatic Jazz Duos split 12” (Thor’s Rubber Hammer)

I Heart Lung/DWMTG split 12"

Three tracks per side/band, with each band deciding to lock onto some fun and rocking structure for a few minutes of What-Post-Rock-Should-Have-Been (skuzzy and…well, rocking?) This action, approximating 15% or 20% of the entire record, elevates it above a tough-to-swallow reality; that there’s a decades-old, perpetually-confusing landfill of similar releases hiding the good stuff, and showing some breadth by detouring into the forbidden (rock) side of the tracks is enough to push this split into the better-than-average realm. Too bad “average” is as relative a term as they come. And too bad that both bands are identifiable from one another when this record is taken between Electric Wizard and The Softies, but in the middle of some guy’s out-jazz college radio show … that’s when it disappears amongst all of the other records he’s going to sell on eBay within the next three years. (http://thorsrubberhammer.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Little Claw – “Prickly Pear” b/w “Crawl Around Inside” 7″ (Columbus Discount)

Little Claw 7"

If you’re going to teeter on the edge of falling apart, there had better be some charm to the flimsy glue holding things together. Tuneless, obnoxious caterwaul may pass for charm while the garage-punk scene finally makes it around to exporting/appropriating poorly-executed femme-folk-“damage” with a major focus on trying way too hard or cultivating aggressive leg hair rather than accomplishing the most rudimentary of songwriting skills. But the reasonable among us must hope that this won’t pass for anything but a semi-hearty laugh one, maybe two, years down the road. Like Nobunny, this is another entity that makes me feel as though I just found the box of sunglasses in “They Live.” What’s “catchy” and “brilliant” or “hilarious” is little more than sub-skiffle TV-jingle melodies coming from a guy in his underwear and a rabbit mask with mid-‘90s rejected-by-Estrus, eyeball-poppin’/boner-pants Fake Daddy Roth cover art. With Little Claw, I’m going to guess with a measure of confidence that lofty accolades are reserved for what’s really the ghost-of-Dame Darcy-past envisioned by a CocoRosie fan holding Joanna Newsom hostage and forcing her to play an out-of-tune acoustic bass with her knees and elbows while a contact mic is stuck in the throat of a really fat housecat as it’s being slowly bathed. Cream yellow vinyl, edition of 250, Columbus Discount Singles Club Year One release. (http://www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Mi Ami – Techno 1.1 12” (Hoss)

Mi Ami 12"

Early ‘80s Tangerine Dream soundtrack pulsing instro-pop infused with G. Moroder and first appropriated by Trans Am and ilk … was this ever a THING that WENT AWAY so as to be reevaluated a decade later? No, so we can remove the Trans Am part just to show that I’m not going to start submitting color-coded timelines and flowcharts when editors ask for reviews with actual words combined to make actual sentences that say something about actual music. Still, it’s next to impossible to personally erase the image of a woman being chased through a parking garage or a mish-mash of scenes from Michael Mann’s “Thief,” De Palma’s (drill-through-the) “Body Double,” and Paul bless-his-heart Schrader’s “American Gigolo.” Like the latter, these instrumental electro-workouts are a lot better than they should be. (http://www.hossrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Diminished Men – Shadow Instrumentals LP (Abduction)

Diminished Men LP

Attention middle-aged males: Do you still own the entire Sun City Girls discography? Did you spend the ‘90s with air travel-negating girth, oblivious to your wood-warping, paint-peeling, lunch-reversing, HAZMAT suit-necessitating body-odor? Were you afflicted with a mysterious ailment known only as “cobweb crotch”? Abduction is here to help. Put on this record. The professionally-executed surf-jazz-post-rock NPR-bait filling the room is none other than a conceptual project created by Abduction (at one time, or still run by one or both of the Sun City Girls) for the sole purpose of assisting male Sun City Girls fans in the acquisition of living and breathing strange. There’s nothing like the smoky, faux-sultry sounds of Morphine and Calexico when it comes to attracting Pilates instructors with sub-boob chests, bodies like one big piece of rope, and serious delusions of sexiness. Throw open the windows and blast this aural lube into the neighborhood; there’s bound to be one of these exercise-addicted wenches power-walking down the street. Remember…show restraint with the rest of your record collection! “Live From Planet Boomerang” will make her brain melt from her ears. (http://www.suncitygirls.com/abduction)
(Andrew Earles)

The Real Ones – Ekko (Instrumental Opus I) LP (Warner Music Norway)

Real Ones LP

If bands like Darkthrone and Enslaved get whatever they call a lifetime achievement award in Norway, at whatever they call The Grammies over there, what does a band like Real Ones get? Killed? Of course not! It’s just that I win a Ford Focus if I’m the 10,000th music critic to joke about the contrast between Norway’s sleek, ultra-tame bands and their blackened (or formerly blackened) countrymen. Like the album title states, this is an instrumental record. Like the 80-year-old homeless guy down the street would assume, post-rock can be heard at the core of these tracks. Everything is noticeably more upbeat, and has that pinch of charm that so many likeminded bands disregard (or simply cannot muster), though this matters little when these fairly-tight and busy songs lack hooks. To do the instro route these days, it takes more than a conversation-starting country of origin to get people’s attention. The Real Ones boys know this and elected to shove both a banjo AND a viola up to the top of the mix for the majority of Ekko. The band’s home with The Bunny suggest a past or present affiliation with a bank or car commercial, or it’s quite plausible that Real Ones are Real Famous in Norway, with a taste for the iconic (literal album titles, and approachable, positive-feel instrumental drivers with a distinct salute to Kraftwerk, Moroder and late period Tangerine Dream). Otherwise, the banjo gives one track a hint of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, though the album’s innocuous undercurrent erases the urge for repeated listens. (http://www.warnermusic.no)
(Andrew Earles)

Sissy Spacek – Epistasis 7” EP (A Dear Girl Called Wendy Productions)

Sissy Spacek 7"

There’s a good chance that many readers will never hear this 17-track EP, as it’s limited to 200 copies, so let’s cut to the chase: it’s tempting to award Sissy Spacek/this particular release the distinction of providing a logical end to the grind/noise marriage. The recording itself is so bad that differentiating between the power electronics and guitar/bass loses out to uncontrollable giggling at the world’s most inept blast-beats. Two vocal styles (each reader has one guess as to which two styles) manage to kind of stay out of each other’s way, but that’s where the search for dynamics comes to an abrupt end. So as not to let a fine-tuned talent for accurate and fun reference-point coining go to waste, this might sound like Bill from Harry Pussy after a lost weekend with the Nasum boxed-set if listeners can suspend reality for a few minutes, or at least forget that the liners reveal Sissy Spacek to be a three-person band. Maybe one is the money guy … it cost serious scratch these days to make a record sound this bad. (http://wendyprodz.altervista.org)
(Andrew Earles)

Twin Stumps – s/t LP (Dais)

Twin Stumps LP

This is how it’s done. Period. An album that perfectly illustrates what every new-ish band should aspire to, regardless of genre … you take what you love, you allow it to inspire you, then you add so much to it that a new standard is created, if not a new sub-genre. That’s right, Twin Stumps may have actually created a new sub-genre underneath the umbrella of noise-rock. It’s called “The Real Shit for a Change.” They took an idea and pushed everything abso-fucking-lutely beyond established and accepted limits, but not in a cloying, try-hardish way. Same goes for thresholds, here beaten back to the point where sounds approach something other than structured rock. Twin Stumps lowers its drawers and does the stinky-business on the entire discographies of Load, AmRep, Bulb, early Trance, Glitterhouse, Treehouse … it could keep going if it didn’t involve proverbial dump-taking. Just get settled in with this one truth: The ultimate noise-rock album has now been made; guys, in the event of a day-ruining screamer-weeper with the girlfriend that ends in break-up or hiatus, will feel its importance. Later in the day or month, when she shows up to return his key – using it one last time to enter without knocking – this album MUST be playing. LOUD. Several beneficial messages can be communicated to your fragile ex. There’s the venerable and fortuitous “I make him want to listen to something like this?” greasing the wheels of forgiveness. But the most likely response is “I was having second thoughts on the way over, but now I’m convinced this is the best decision.” 300 numbered copies. (http://www.daisrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

(Twin Stumps bassist Michael Yaniro was attacked last month, badly beaten, and without medical insurance. To help, visit http://mikeyanirofund.wordpress.com. -Ed.)

Damage Pants – s/t LP (Bombay Cove)

Damage Pants LP

When two-pieces are interviewed, readers can always count on the “two people communicate better musically” excuse from the band, which can be read as “two people get paid more” or “it’s still a prop that audiences find entertaining.” And writers love to lean on the “it sounds like a full band” crutch, so one both parties get a back-scratching. Ever stop to think that “it sounds like a full band” because the duo is trying to cover up various weaknesses? Why is it that at some unimportant career juncture, pop/rock/garage-angled two-pieces feel as though they needed to release recordings with the overdubbed, multi-tracked density of Spiritualized or Mercury Rev, while the metal-angled duos behave SLIGHTLY better but still overcompensate into Melvins or stock four-piece crust/doom territory? Because they can’t make this record. When Death from Above 1979 got momentarily famous by dumbing-down godHeadsilo and C/Average for the masses, they were probably hoping to sound something like Damage Pants’ debut LP. They failed, but now the successful heir to the 90’s duo-thud, proto-indie-metal trailblazers is here, steadily blowing one mind at a time since the album was released all the way back in June. This band is great, so no Dubious Hype Machine was called in to attempt media saturation. The Termbo/HoZac/Goner Army overlooks or dismisses Damage Pants because they operate outside the acceptance boundaries dictated by some nebulous power, or perhaps it’s simply because neither one of these guys was in a shitty plural-noun band before forming the pinnacle of two-man rock-pummel superiority. This record is big and loud but never belies the two-piece instrumental engine at its core. Vocals are yelped or screamed or quivered yet the songs contain good instro-hooks that keep the affair from easy “noise-rock” classification. Not only is this record refreshing, it’s also comforting … everything’s not completely screwed. People can still make albums like this. (http://www.bombaycove.com)
(Andrew Earles)

The Loners – Revolution! LP (Churchkey)

Loners LP

This inoffensive garage/hard-rock two-piece, with a full-length on a tiny label and released in a hand-numbered edition of 500, could be any number of innocuous “Rock is Back” hands played by the majors over the past ten years. There’s something honest about The Loners gleeful disregard for a decade’s worth of faux-garage boardroom creations found on X-station radio or 561-sponsor festival stages (in early-afternoon slots). Sadly, the hooks, imagination, and presentation are all deficient in that special way that almost exclusively warns of a terminally-local band. Revolution! is the obligatory yet ill-advised first and last jump over the city limits, bringing along a condensing and neutering of ‘90s and ‘00s hard/garage rock so complete, it’s practically an artistic achievement in and of itself. Songs like “Soul Shaker” (as in “I wanna be your…”) and “Crank it Up” are rare cases of mediocrity so acute it transcends the common idea of the term. Is this a weird new super-mediocrity that has yet to be discovered? Possibly. As for the cover art, even the members’ respective moms might find it impossible to get past an armed cartoon bunny bursting from “tripped-out” circa-Windows 95 clip art and the public domain trash-rock font. (www.churchkeyrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Bipolar Bear/Talbot Tagora – Abstract Distractions split 10″ EP (olFactory)

Bipolar Bear/Talbot Tagora split 10" EP

A warning to the “it’s about the music” types that find everything under the presentation umbrella an unimportant factor when judging an artist’s creative strengths: Dismissal, or even downright disdain, is in the cards when “Bipolar Bear” wins a band-naming conundrum … sound unheard. Even with the Avant 101 title of Abstract Distractions, all jaded and grouchy preconceptions are washed clean by Bipolar Bear’s wonderful microwaving of some mid-90s bent-all-to-hell noise-pop leftovers. It will be a sad day if this is passed up by the A&R rep scenesters working for Fat Possum, Woodsist, and In the Red, but that’s the thing about reality; it is often a sad thing. Bipolar Bear gives the world five blasts of alternately fuzzy/jagged dissonance; a suitable stepping stone towards more adventurous fare like Wildildlife. It’d be off to bed happy and fed if Talbot Tagora’s side didn’t manage to measure up, but TT’s side is what really saves Abstract Distractions from the “records that could appreciate” pile. They put together late-80s Sonic Youth (the best aspects of the same’s subsequent yet worthy imitators) plus 1st-gen NYC No Wave from minds that have more than simply read about 1st-gen NYC No-Wave, like an engine for about half of the story, happily stopping short of an easier assessment. Talbot Tagora is a band to look out for because we won’t know what’s coming. During this era when bands desire homogeneity, unpredictability of any stripe is welcome. (http://www.myspace.com/olfactoryrecords)
(Andrew Earles)

13th Chime – The Singles 1981-1983 LP (Sacred Bones)

13th Chime LP

Sacred Bones, the first label we can thank for slowing underground pop/rock-based progress to a dead halt by participating in the first Blank Dogs onslaught, has now reissued a wildly-inoffensive early-80’s post-punk band that carbon-copied Entertainment! so blatantly that I wouldn’t be surprised if some barristers were put on retainer … if that’s indeed what Brits do with their lawyers. Is the 652nd revival of angular post-punk on the horizon? If Sacred Bones can get over ten people excited about a garage-rocker pulling a Jandek on a lo-fi version of what The Killers and Hot Hot Heat do, then perhaps they’re blazing a trail and have no idea that when Henry Rollins reissued the worthy Gang of Four albums fifteen or so years ago, he was selling great songs by a (very) temporarily-great band whose one-and-a-half album’s worth of amazing material actually broke ground in the late-70’s, and had yet to be trampled to the earth’s core by imitators. The mindset here could be the horribly-wrong good-by-default-of-being-really-obscure way of thinking, as the 13th Chime were unremarkable IN THEIR DAY, which today makes them about as exciting as a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am with high miles. (http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Various Artists – Shiftless Decay: New Sounds of Detroit LP (X!)

Shiftless Decay LP

Detroit’s particular brands of urban decay, economic disintegration, political corruption, science fiction-worthy crime have individually, or as a whole, made for magazine-filling, CNN headline-grabbing content for some time now. For a statement like Shiftless Decay to really work, the element of surprise is a necessity, and regardless of the shrinking population or prevalent watch-your-back/bootknife-required environments, it is not surprising that these twelve bands came from an urban area of 900,000+ people, especially a known producer of underground rock that’s been the subject of several high-profile surveys within the past decade (remember SPIN Magazine’s White Stripes/Dirtbombs-fueled feature?). If Newark, Cincinnati, or Indianapolis generated a similar comp, it’d be a different story. Furthermore, 85% of Shiftless Decay could have emerged from any midsized city boasting a healthy Terminal Boredom/Horizontal Action support network, which is just about any one town in 2009. The socio-economic trappings of Shiftless Decay will no doubt distance it from the glut of comps choking the sub-genre at hand here, but the Let Them Eat Jellybeans or Bands that Could be God of deregulated garage-punk it’s not.

Unsurprisingly, Shiftless Decay is worth a look for the underdogs and more challenging fare. Human Eye pulled the post-punk instruction manual out of the garbage and illogically bled forth the legally-insane “Fix Me First, Universe Nurse,” a scarily cathartic break-shit/throw-chairs exercise that sends a loud and clear message of negation to any and all future bands considering Chrome as a possible influence. The much-touted Frustrations disappoint, as does the early Tyvek contribution, but Terrible Twos’ “Negative Drip” burns circles around the rest of the comp with what sounds like garage rocking a power-violence obsession. Little Claw’s “Feeding You Your New Home” is another amazing and unbelievably noisy spazz-out that poor THTX are made to follow with an underwhelming Echo and the Bunnymen/Television by way of a Ponys rip titled “Monorails to Nowhere”. The same can be said for Heroes and Villains’ “SDWC”. The Mahonies and Fontana burn decently somewhere between the forgettable and unforgettable displayed elsewhere. Tentacle Lizardo and Johnny Ill Band show a tendency towards serviceable post-punk garage that didn’t get the Human Eye memo in time, and spacey closers Odd Clouds put a painful strain on the powers of recall. Remember, what looks bad on paper for a proper album (three killers and two strong contenders out of twelve) is a fine score for a compilation. (www.x-recs.com
(Andrew Earles)

Black Panda – Shake Me 7” EP (Super Secret Records)

Black Panda 7"

“Well, maybe the next time around, they’ll push themselves to make a better album.” Only the most idealistic (a.k.a. inexperienced or terrified of an ass-kicking) music writer would offer this sort of pipe-dream when justifying an overtly negative review. Oddly enough, Black Panda’s Shake Me 7” EP (4-songs) does this fairytale duty by existing and providing other bands with a model to avoid when crafting their respective recordings. That is, of course, if they can remember anything about Black Panda after this aggressively-forgettable EP makes its one and only visit to the turntable. Hailing from the land of too many damned bands (Austin, TX), Black Panda is but a few minutes extracted from the Goner Records blooper reel. Each track features vocals barked/sung in a boring place equidistant from both Brit-snotty and Japanese-unintelligible, along with the particular neutering of riffs, beats, and tempo that’s mired garage-punk ever since Estrus, Norton, Crypt, and Sympathy launched an early-to-mid-‘90s campaign to choke the genre with filler. Savvy listeners will be scared off by the combined primary color AND zoological/naturalist qualities of the band name, but the chosen audience is known for pathological acceptance of like-minded tedium or whatever is recommended by the demographic’s upper 10% (the founders + some great bands). When folks form bands after learning how to mimic their heroes instead of learning what was special about them in the first place, the world gets clutter like Black Panda. Not coming to an eBay auction any time soon. 300 copies. (www.supersecretrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Hindutronic – s/t 7” EP (self-released)

Hindutronic 7"

Once again (and no less refreshing this time around), band name, vintage calculator graphics, plus the use of “Port Side” and “Starboard Side” complete another bundle of aesthetic red flags promptly brushed aside by four distinct electro-pop ditties that, for lack of a better summary, are impossible to dislike. Of course, this stuff has been done to death since Eno discovered hooks, but anything done to death will always be worth doing right. It’s plausible that Hindutronic doesn’t know Blank Dogs from The English Dogs, but still makes sense of approachable Isolationism or the idea of an Anticon stable without the abstract pretentions. Side A’s “Solitude” and “The Paradox” are low on dynamics but remain pop-song electronica, like a courteous Boards of Canada or late-90’s Magnetic Fields sans the asshole factor. Side-B opener “Hangover Cure” is more trad pop; dynamics arrive via audibly-separated instrumentation and the chorus sticks in the head like an irritating jingle (in the best way). Sign-off “Among the Boys and Girls” revisits the atmosphere established on the other side but not at the expense of through-and-through hum-ability. In the end, it’s nice to hear electronic pop from Brooklyn with barely concealed wide-eyed/small-town optimism instead of one that reinforces negative expectations. (www.myspace.com/hindutronic)
(Andrew Earles)

Man Man – “Little Torments” b/w “Snakehandling the Moon Sault Kick Comeback“ 7” (Obey Your Brain)

Man Man 7"

The latest empty gesture by Man Man is proof positive that Generation Lemming will gobble up every steaming coil approved by the board of tastemakers, whoever that happens to be this week. The Mysterious Tastemaker Machine is not such a mystery, to be honest. Man Man’s pointless and random cluster-you-know-what of sonic elements is no more adventurous than the equally accepted and popular Crocodiles’ status as the 291st band adding a big fat nothing to the fifth Jesus and Mary Chain album. “Little Torments” is an impossibly-perfect amalgam of what college-aged pot smokers have been programmed to get all hot and bothered over: faux-gypsy culture, Tom Waits (a sound that no one actually enjoys), Tin Pan Alley, waltz, skiffle (a sound that Generation Lemming doesn’t historically understand), and off-kilter instrumentation (spoon-fed example of “going against the grain”). Criticizing Man Man is never a case of “not getting it,” nor is it comparable to the first time John Lydon heard a Japanese grind band … or Bill Cosby a Too Short song. Throwing a bunch of crap at the wall in an attention-grabbing manner is very easy to understand, namely when it’s done without a hint of heart. It is a white lie when one claims to feel something after listening to this for-the-sake-of-it, ham-fisted deviation of what is incorrectly perceived as underground music. “Snakehandling” is a noisy rave-up from an alternate universe in which Oneida somehow became a super-irritating fourteen-piece in a perpetual trap opening for MGMT. Check please! (www.obeyyourbrain.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Pictureplane “New World” b/w “Trance Doll” 7” (Lovepump United)

Pictureplane 7"

It wasn’t THAT long ago that Out Hud was coasting on a handful of lofty or gorgeous songs and touring with Hella, so why does “Indie Dance” seem like another planet? Because yet again the story arc has us deeply embedded in a rockist world, the front line ready to hand out preapproved credit lines. Former garage-punks reinvent as poorly-recorded O.M.D. Jam-band hippies, peddling one-ninth the inspiration found in a water-damaged box of Shrimper cassettes, somehow manage to get exalted labels to come out of hiatus and release music they wouldn’t have touched with a 50-foot pole in the mid-to-late-‘90s. So yes, it’s a confusing day for the shiny beats and sampled femme-vox of Pictureplane’s “New World,” a track so similar to authentic techno that it undeniably reminds some listeners of trolling certain bars for stepped-on cocaine, their favorite Spits t-shirt bringing much laughter from the well-dressed regulars. Only by getting messy does clarity emerge with “Trance Doll (Post-World Dub)” on the flip, a nice meeting point for inconsistent drum ‘n’ bass, beautiful keyboard swells and repeated vocal coos (male and female, sampled and sung), and nicely-contained electronic disturbances that make sense of the Lovepump United imprint (Aids Wolf, HEALTH, Genghis Tron). (www.lpurecords.com)

(Andrew Earles)

Enablers – Tundra LP (Lancashire & Somerset)

Enablers LP

Perfect! I’ve been waiting years as a June of 44 fan to some use, when along comes the third Enablers full-length (followed by an assignment to review it). How else would I be able to point out that not only does Tundra recall June of 44 more so than did previous Enablers releases, the San Francisco quartet even packaged this one as a giant matchbook…just like JO44’s Anatomy of Sharks mini-album from 1997! In reality, Tundra’s packaging made it such a royal pain in the ass to access the vinyl (without permanent damage to the otherwise gorgeous idea) that I was practicing “Nope, must’ve sent that one to someone else” in the mirror. It’s easy to forget, and even easier for younger readers to never realize in the first place, that June of 44 represented the better (and earlier) end of what indie rock did to Slint. This was commonly tagged as “math rock” when it kept the metal riffage then “post-rock” when the metal-riffage was replaced with someone’s idea of jazz, which lasted for a couple of Tortoise records before the whole mess can be historically understood as “post-good.” Instrumentally, Tundra resembles “still-heavy” June of 44, a period when the band fired on all cylinders, that more or less came to an end after the above-mentioned EP. To be honest, hearing this sound again is a nice surprise, complete with the loud/soft dynamics and snaky guitars that we grew so tired with back then. Enablers does it well and with enough of a unique take to distract (somewhat) from the delivery of poet Pete Simonelli’s spoken lyrics. He really does sound like Ken Nordine, a hilarious antithesis of the emo-savvy singing/shouting that the underlying rockings were largely associated with during the petering-out stretch of this subgenre in the late ‘90s. Still, we’re not talking Mike Patton here, so the vocal-sensitive can rest easy and rest of you can get off your asses, because this pretty little thing is limited to 400 hand-numbered copies. (www.lancashireandsomerset.co.uk)

(Andrew Earles)

Nice Face – “Mnemonic Device” b/w “Situation is Facing Utter Annihilation” 7” (Sacred Bones)

Nice Face 7"

Is everyone sitting down? Within that sub-genre that no writer should have ever tried to name (thanks, Brits, now go boil an omelet or something), Sacred Bones has released the pinnacle recording. Nice Face’s perfect A-side and no less powerful B-side combine for the first flat-out 100% solid release to come out of, well, to come out of “it” in the alarmingly short time “it” has taken to rise to prominence. That’s right, this 7” locks Blank Dogs in the pound, erases “Psychedelic” from “Psychedelic Horseshit”, makes purses and boots out of Crocodiles, and, oh I don’t know…makes a puddle out of Wavves? If listeners can promptly forget about reading the previous sentence, they might want to be concerned with the sharply-angled downhill nature of things to come (excepting further releases by Nice Face, ‘natch). This twofer (wow…up next…a traffic report!) will turn negative opinions positive and pretty much silence all of the naysayers lurking in this shadows, waiting to fill deaf ears with tales of how this band and that band did this stuff first and did it better back in the mid-to-late-90’s (note: These folks are identifiable by their tendency to hit on YOUR woman, and most importantly, age range between 30 and 40). So what makes this 7” so special? Hooks, hooks, and hooks. Well, just one hook per song, but each is a whopper. Also, it helps that the pulsating distortion comes with some real teeth and the B-side (“Situation is Facing…”) lets loose with clumsily Hendrix-ish fretboard-burning solo not unlike Robert Smith’s occasional surprise attacks on very early Cure tracks. Finding this on eBay will be like trying to find a used VW Golf … no one parts with quality! (www.sacredbonesrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Bhob Rainey/Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase – Journey to the Center of Something or Other split 7” (Sedimental)

Bhob Rainey/Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase split 7"

It all boils down to mood and whether or not a noise/improv/free-whatever record can fill the room with it. When one of these kind of record lacks mood, it forces an opinion I’ve never been proud of: Anyone can do what I’ve just heard. I always feel like my mom when I get on this trip, but could the Dead C.’s Operation of the Sonne or Gate’s “Prophet”/“Rebel” 7” have been recorded by “just anyone”? Nope, but anyone could have made the 7” at the center of this review. This is an unstudied, short-sighted opinion, of course, but it will have to do until someone points out the emotion, charisma, and talent in rubbing a contact mic across the surface of a football, tossing in some pitch-shifted samples of “authentic” blues harmonica/field recordings, plus adding other pointless sounds (rips and tears and zippers and howls and groans), then bringing the anti-procession to an abrupt end w/out so much as a skree climax or fade-out. By the way, the previous description applies for both sides of this 7”. I bet several pairs of terminally-stained size XXXL whitey-tighties are in knots right now because I haven’t even ID’d these two artists who (I can’t believe I’m reading this on the label’s site) ARE COVERING EACH OTHER’S PIECES! Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase is the nom-de-noise of Chris Cooper (Fat Worm of Error and other noisenik units without clever monikers) and Bhob Rainey is a Boston-based musique concrete of some note to readers still lamenting the disappearance of Bananafish Magazine (no slight to hilarious and painfully-clever editor, “Seymour Glass”). When disagreeing with this review, ask yourself why you’d never play this when females are present. Though I find it a little frustrating that the ladies don’t dig more extreme or “adventurous” metal, the other gender is invariably dead-on in their collective hatred of this small-scale hoodwink. Thankfully, every other review of “Journey to the Center…” will consist of properly over-intellectualized, densely-theorized, or wildly-academic (re: life-snuffing) writing and there will always be someone deeming identical works worthy of catalogue numbers, as I just spent $100 at the pawn shop after firing up an MP3 blog for my new musical outlet, Vacuum Cleaner Bag Dashboard Compass. (www.sedimental.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Oblivians/Gories: Live at the Hi-Tone, Memphis, TN, June 20th, 2009

Both of these bands were at the forefront of a garage-rock revival that may have morphed into several different strains, but has yet to weaken over the past two decades. It just adapted to absorb power-pop (around 2000), post-punk in the form of darkwave (also around 2000, and again today), and parts of today’s CollageCore movement. The trash-centric among the garage demographic still wholeheartedly swallow the idea of the Gories as a band incapable of any wrong moves. They’re right, as long as “having an insanely overrated discography” and “sucking wildly on the evening of June 20th” are not seen as “wrong moves.” First off, when I walked into the sold-out, sauna-like Hi-Tone approximately two songs into the Gories set, I honestly thought that the sounds were coming from a CD being played through the house stereo. And Mick didn’t move. The man that fronts The Dirtbombs performed as if his feet were glued to the stage. Of course, the crowd treated it like an ex-con treats the first post-incarceration sirloin steak.

This was remedied by what followed, and my opinion has little to do with hometown bias. Along with Cheater Slicks, The Necessary Evils, and a few Japanese bands, the Oblivians kept 90’s garage rock from collapsing under tons of assembly-line retro-robot mediocrity as Estrus and Crypt lost the quality plot and spat out anything with an unfortunately-topless barfly on the cover. The Oblivians that reunited to play this inaugural one-two reunion punch (the weekend kicked off several weeks in the states and Europe) shows was the Oblivians from the mid-’90s. The phone stayed on the hook during the second half of the evening; an almost full circle journey bulldozing over the three members’ respective post-Oblivians endeavors. Let’s put it this way: When Quintron joined the band for the final third of the set, he WASN’T the focus of what was happening onstage. That’s a first.
(Andrew Earles)

Circle X – Dijon ‘79 10” EP (Fractal)

Circle X 10"

There are two types of first-gen post-punk: The bands/artists who continue (somehow) to influence new, young bands/artists and whose reissued vinyl can be ordered alongside a doves-in-flight/Commodore 64/neon-bars-shooting-out-of-an-elk’s-ass collage t-shirt, and the bands/artists that would clear an Urban Outfitters if played through the overhead system. Circle X is one of the latter. Always more of a passionately antagonistic OG noise outfit than quasi-Communist punks that want to sound like The Gap Band, Circle X formed in the no-longer-all-that-unlikely city of Louiseville, KY in 1978, after the city’s two punk rock bands dissolved. After relocating to France, Circle X played their first-ever live show, the recordings of which make up 100% of this 30th anniversary 10” EP. Equal parts anyone-can-do-it attitude, authentic yet antagonistic No-Wave experimentation, and disjointed messiness slicing in all directions, Dijon ‘79 makes Gang of Four sound like Joe Jackson with ease and even neutralizes  no-wave contemporaries DNA, Lydia, and The Contortions. Circle X deserves a big nod for lasting three decades on their own terms, through the death of a member and extreme (but invited) obscurity, though the curious should start with the studio works or at the very least, have an idea of what they’re getting into. (http://www.fractal-records.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Ghost Aquarium – “Light Cannot Escape” b/w “Spiritual Cramp” 7” (Ripping Records)

Ghost Aquarium 7"

The sole release by Florida’s Ghost Aquarium made it to my PO Box by way of two closely-related things I haven’t done in ages: Purchased a record through an advertisement in MRR, and making that decision based on the description contained therein. In my late-teens, a single Dinosaur Jr namedrop was all it took to liberate cash from my tenuous finances, and I simply wanted to revisit this era of mail-order success and disappointment. Thankfully, “Light Cannot Escape” does what a song should do when a band anchors a sound with Eugene Mascis’ handiwork: It feels like early Dinosaur Jr. The way every part of the song – chorus, verse, intro, etc – serves as a stand-alone hook, and the quasi-metal chug of the guitars is, well, also a big hook … a band can either do this right or do it horribly wrong, and Ghost Aquarium do it so well that I would purchase their debut album (if one ever pops up), content unheard. I’ll even continue to overlook the “Ghost” part of their moniker. (http://www.myspace.com/rippingrecords)
(Andrew Earles)

Ghost Hospital – “D+” b/w “Religious Bias in Nursery Rhymes” 7” (Teen Ape)

Ghost Hospital 7"

Just like the cover photo of an infant wearing adult’s eyeglasses, the music on this 7” isn’t witty, clever, memorable, or cute. That would be less of an issue if Ghost Hospital didn’t believe they invented those four attributes. It would still be bad, but it wouldn’t be bad AND irritating. Underneath an equally tedious sub-genre that won’t be named or discussed in this review, there exists a micro-genre of early-to-mid 20-somethings that worship at the altar of faux-naiveté and wide-eyed kiddie quirkiness like late-period (read: “godawful”) Jonathan Richman, Daniel Johnston, the worst of the Irrelevant 6 bands (care to join the Music Tapes on an onstage trampoline? Anyone?), the altogether separate exploits of Of Montreal, or the Pacific Northwest (the part without a literal and figurative set of balls) never happened. Yes, navel-gazing has enjoyed yet another resurgence; this one fueled by AAO (the Arrogance of Assumed Originality). Ghost Hospital is acoustic-based pop set at half-spazz; grating nonsense that settles for public-domain melodies (like what a child would hum, or the random notes in a commercial jingle) over the task of writing REAL HOOKS. So, if your thing is obnoxious LA! LA! LA!’s on top of sub-par Violent Femmes/Dead Milkmen/Beat Happening shamble-crap courtesy of art-school manwafers that haven’t heard one or all of those bands and proudly say things like “I don’t own a TV,” and if the word “Ghost” in a band name or “Teen Ape” as a label name doesn’t send red flags crashing through the roof of your skull, suit-up in your stinky and wrinkled middle-management/horse-track-parking-lot-bum duds and please wreck that overpriced single-speed on the way to the record store. Now, if these guys didn’t believe that they invented witty, clever, memorable, or cute, I’m going to feel terrible.

Cex – Dannibal LP (Must Finish/Wildfire Wildfire)

Dannibal is an understated outing for Mr. Kidwell. Two Cex traits you won’t find here: retarded sexuality and ridiculous swagger. The middle-finger by way of uncleared samples has been conspicuously dialed-down as well, unless he’s built Dannibal with Boards of Canada samples as a primary source, and Kidwell has definitely made a conscious decision to put the vocals in the backseat. The focus seems to be on repetition, groove, and accessibility; not one second of Dannibal falls into the realm of “noise” and halfway through “Hotso” (side 1, track 2), a handful of notes are repeated for so long that I checked for a locked-groove. Don’t read me wrong, things get dense and layered throughout the album, but Dannibal is never a BUSY record. New listeners coming to Cex through misguided Girl Talk comparisons are simply scheduling a future disappointment. This is not a party record, nor is it track-after-track of pop songs made out of pieces of pop songs. It’s a mood, and by extension of achieving such, a success. (http://wildfirewildfire.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Grappling Hook – …And Those Who Would Keep Us Safe LP (Blastco)

 

I hope these guys sent a promo copy of …And Those Who Would Keep Us Safe to Mike Patton or whoever it is that decides the future Ipecac release schedule. Theirs is a very specific, near-tribute approach to early/mid-90’s noise-rock love: clean singing/yelling, organ, pristine production, nonsensical chord-progressions, loads of drama. Sort of a throwback to yesterday’s artsy-aggro that WANTED to be on a major label, like Ethyl Meatplow, Therapy?, Gallon Drunk, Cop Shoot Cop, and especially Claw Hammer. Not exactly a bunch of bands beating the reissue offers off with a stick, but what’re you gonna do? As far as contemporary acts go, I’m drawing a bit of a blank. Racebannon with a lot less Racebannon? Just imagine a boardroom creation by the aforementioned Ipecac label, if they did that kind of thing. Side A is dubbed the “Crushing Side” while B is the “Carnage Side,” and I hear no discernable thematic difference between either half. I can tell you that Grappling Hook’s music is neither “crushing” nor violent, but rather a very loud post-avant-aggro, but not very distorted, nor very thick, nor very guitar-based post…hold on a sec, did I just write “post-avant-aggro”?  The organ makes the riffs on …And Those Who Would Keep Us Safe, not a guitar, so inherent heaviness is replaced by forced heaviness. This is going to blow some listeners away, really; there are tons of people out there that would give their firstborn to this band after hearing this album. I, however, take my aggro-revival with a side of subtlety, and this is one subtlety-allergic band. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blastco-Records/51940381745)
(Andrew Earles)

Cult Ritual – LP1 LP (Youth Attack)

Cult Ritual LP

It could only happen in the late ‘00s! A hot-on-a-weekly-basis band releases an album with variants that command top dollar almost instantly, yet can be ordered for regular price with a minimal amount of investigative work. In the case of Tampa’s Cult Ritual, though, does it really matter? The latest do-no-wrong ‘er in hardcore, or so goes every single thing ever written about them, it should come as no surprise that when an entity generates enough writer/band reach-arounds – the music-writer equivalent of loud-mouthed back-patting in a live setting – mediocrity spreads even further/deeper with regards to a demographic in which the “individuals” make a regular habit of hijacking other people’s favorite music lists on Facebook. Cult Ritual is hardcore for college-aged beautiful people …with penises. This isn’t the best extension of a musical peace-pipe when one gets into an argument with the more beautiful better-half…that’s what Sunn O))) is for. Boil it down to the working parts and this is Sex/Vid exchanging dumb looks with Eyehategod. Sure, the vocals are different. How? Like it matters. You’ve already made the decision to track this down after visiting a cash-for-title outlet. Recommended for nest-eggers with a lot of trolling time. So many colorways. 1000 copies. (http://www.ihateyouthattack.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Needle Gun – Afternoon Computer Umbrage LP (EHSE)

Needle Gun LP

OK, here’s a joke for the ladies: What type of Harry Pussy album does Needle Gun’s s/t LP resemble? Give up? Well, that would be the one they kept sitting around for years in the event they had to initiate the three-pronged whammy of terminating a contractual agreement, getting sued, or cleaning the cobwebs out of their unwieldy fan-base! In case you didn’t understand the word-count advancement coupon just used as an opening, it means that Needle Guns take the free/spazz-noise rock to the harsh lands on the other side of the most challenging of Harry Pussy albums. The racket made by Miami’s favorite whatever-the-hell-they-were trio isn’t the only thing going on here, as it’s a tighter attack than most who toil in these thankless waters. Hey, if only they could travel back in time to when SPIN did that spread on noise?!? Uh, no, this may be too crazy! In closing: Thumbs up on the cover art! Two sentient trees arguing, but it’s obviously the type of arms-crossed and nose-in-the-air argument that bickering, elderly couples are traditionally supposed to have. (http://www.ehserecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Teenage Cool Kids – Foreign Lands LP (Protagonist Music)

Teenage Cool Kids LP

Foreign Lands has a could-be-anyone-this-late-in-the-game feel; consummately inoffensive most of the time, nudging up to the low end of “good” in spots, and on a debt consolidation plan to repay the first run of bands from earlier in the decade that neutered the Y2K version of the Flaming Lips. Let’s go over that again with the gift of clarification: Singer sounds identical to Wayne Coyne, the song structure is rocked-up and traditional, the instrumentation standard and bereft of heavy-handed fake psych effects, the drums providing the occasional attention-getter next to the usually-forgettable, at times decent, and quite infrequently-great hooks. But you, dear listener, can fix all of the above by imagining how bad this band SHOULD be based solely on the three words they chose as a name. (http://www.teenagecoolkids.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Dylan Shearer – Planted/Plans LP (Yik Yak)

Dylan Shearer LP

Dylan Shearer simply lacks the goods needed to properly navigate the freak-folk ruins. That sub-genre, like all now-forgotten, phased-out, or bulldozed-over developments in underground pop culture, was born of dominating chapters that can themselves be traced back to one governing genre of the past twenty years: indie rock. You can pile on as many forgotten Xian obscurities and 70’s “outsiders” as you like, but the engine is indie rock, and as with, say, post-rock, the strong weather the trend period that devours the weak. That’s why we still have a band like Mogwai, and within freak-folk or weird & bearded America or whatever you want to call it, Devendra is going to continue to do what he does, and he might even spit out a great album or two before old age. Planted/Plans is like a freak-folk karaoke machine, a seemingly perfect mixture of Espers, Feathers, Devendra, J. Newsom, and extra-orbital untouchables like Ghost, but excepting the last example, people seem to forget how grossly mediocre the movement was in the first place, and records like this happen. 100 copies. (http://www.yikyak.net)
(Andrew Earles)

Coach Fingers – One Jack Shy of a Cycle LP (Black Dirt)

Coach Fingers LP

Once again, a band’s name or cover art erects an impenetrable barrier, forever separating listeners with good taste from whatever constitutes the music, good or bad. I always stop to give serious consideration to the following: If a band settles on a wildly unsavory presentation – moniker, art, or both – it’s a safe wager that the music is going to follow suit. This time, it’s cover art. Spoofing a swinger/exotica/retro-robot cocktail menu with song titles in place of the actual drink names, this was the collective conclusion reached amongst the members of Coach Fingers. More than one literate adult that, more than likely, lives outside of the prison system pushed for the album art described above. Think about it: I had to review this; therefore I’m going to be the only person in the world that has actually heard this record. Wow, that’s a lot of unneeded pressure, because this band, when they’re not stroking hemp necklaces with back-hatter’s delight jam-tastic wacky-pop or hopping in bed with some Nu-Grass or dirtied-up Nickel Creek bullshit, can knock out a nice piece of mood-pop…and exactly ONE excellent piece of instrumental ambience (not minimal at all…a head-sticker). That’s not all, really, as they are quite adept at college-quirkiness. Roll everything into one confused release, and we get the future house band for all Bonnaroo promotional gimmicks. So the “cover art has nothing to do with the music” types get a point on the surface with this one, though terminally misguided when all is said and done (as always). 500 copies, silkscreened sleeve. (http://www.blackdirtmusic.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Free Choice/Mental Powers – split 7” (Fifth Column)

Free Choice/Mental Powers split 7"

Two Australian artists (one from Perth, one from Melbourne) that appear to harbor an equal disregard for how any cool points Neu!, Kraftwerk, and late-70’s/early-80’s OST (not disco) Giorgio Moroder finished out today with. Good stuff is good stuff no matter how many years ago an inaugural resurgence stole its name-drop-ability in some circles; something Mental Powers and Free Choice lovingly embrace with bedroom/isolationist warmth and we’re all the better for it. Mental Powers come closest to electronic pop, a la Fog or even particular Portastatic moments in history, sans vocals, ‘natch. Conversely, Free Choice’s side fills the head with the lucid vision of a woman being chased through an oddly-deserted parking garage at an unsavory hour, or, more specifically, the horribly awry foot-pursuit scenes in the final third of “American Gigolo” (or does it just seem like those exist?) (http://www.myspace.com/fifthcolumnrecs)
(Andrew Earles)

Impractical Cockpit – Freedom Types LP (Trd W/d)

Impractical Cockpit LP

It’s tough to say if the anagrammed moniker is symptomatic of Impractical Cockpit’s chosen sub-genre (not uncommon in noise/free-improv) or some nudge-nudge one-off prop to a Faygo-swilling entity so far gone it’s come full circle as an ironic target. No beef is had with either direction, so long as the answer is the least confusing of the two, as no more confusion needs to be piled on top of this band. Hurricane Ultimate Clusterfuck 2006 scattered the members of this once NOLA-based unit, but they’ve managed to get in the good graces of Load for a proper that’s worth checking out, and still stay relatively prolific with releases like this, a reissue of a tape that was sent out for free to anyone that signed the band’s on-tour mailing list … during the 2006 tour in question (which may or may not have been impacted by the aforementioned weather-centric catastrophe). The band’s relation to H-Kat is important when it hits that this is SUPPOSED to sound like it was recorded underwater (and three blocks over). IP’s a looser Lightning Bolt on some occasions and can be full-on noise-skree if the temperature is right, yet this rarely deviates from the band of your dreams….literally. This is indeed the weird shit you’re grooving to with tons of other people during the twenty seconds before the snooze button gets hit for the fourth time. (http://turnedword.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Mrtyu – Ornate Shroud LP (Tipped Bowler)

Mrtyu LP

Apologies in advance for what will be one of at least two recent Dead C. references, but it was only a matter of time before one of these selfish, silly, and nihilistic wanna-be sociopaths operating under the banner of one-man BM released something that owed a little more than a drone or two to the NZ kings of abstract heart/mood. Ornate Shroud is the work of a Finnish BM gentleman who prefers that “The Un-Named One” do the same job that “Richard” or “Stephanie” does for the rest of us, and prefers that anything he didn’t directly create on said album be credited to “the Mrtyu Fellowship.” It’s not so much a point arrived at on the Progression Line-Graph in the Adventurous Metal boardroom (answering/disputing an otherwise dead-on blogger’s question as to whether or not we’ve traveled “from Ozzy to this in 38 years”) as it is metal falling apart all over itself in a rather moving manner, just so long as the listener can keep remembering that it’s all about the mood. Put something on top of the sleeve/cover while it’s playing. (http://tippedbowler.com)
(Andrew Earles)

3 months ago0 notes

Mudboy – Music for Any Speed 7” (Disques Lexi)

There’s something about download cards inside of 7”s that makes me want to gripe about various aches and pains while fearing that the vet just put a tracking chip inside of my cat. Not that either “Thaw” or “Freeze” will have iTunes hitting up the nearest temp agency to help with an explosion of single-track orders; it’s just that no one can be blamed for a hint of sour stomach after dutifully chewing up and swallowing the “nothing is sacred” reality re: the basic idea of the 7” (combined with the boys-from-men line of demarcation when hitting on the album-as-artistic-statement vs. song-as-bite-sized-artistic-statement/car-commercial-fodder debate). Mudboy can’t be faulted for making music for a particular R.P.M., as “Thaw” pleasantly passes by as something one could imagine languishing unused on a hard drive belonging to any artist who last received a royalty check from Warp Records in 2002. “Freeze” is of much greater interest (and length at over six minutes), not only as something that should have seen proper release on Warp “back in the day” (a good thing), but as what might have happened if Boards of Canada decided to cover the six-minute chunk of righteousness found smack in the middle of the Dead C.’s “Air.”. That, dear readers, is an endorsement. (http://www.lexidisques.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Bone Rattle – Which Toy LP (Trd W/d)

Bone Rattle LP

Another serious crime has been committed against my intelligence, but unlike that harmless man-wafer in Ponytail, it’s time for some restorative justice by way of levying stiff fines against whichever regional art college is found to be root stimulus behind both this “band” and “album.” Funny this should come from Turned Word, who, by extension of also releasing Impractical Cockpit material, should know better. Throwing facts to the wind, I’m going to venture an inch or two out on a limb here and place Bone Rattle as two art-insty sophomores who have amassed a body-odor alert level of def-con: “hot garbage,” achieved through daily Adderall sweats underneath short-sleeve button-downs … underneath bright-ass swishy-swish nylon windbreakers. They harbor a knack for gluing together whatever’s found after an indiscriminant arm-scoop through any thrift shop’s “worst Christmas ever” section, and considering the parent-funded hours a success when a skull can be made out of the day’s pull. Then, digi-pics are taken so that their reason for making a record can have presentation. Rest assured, oh harpers of the “you’re too old and out of touch and bitter to be writing about what you don’t get,” apple sauce, I GET IT. Remember, being a dinner time or two on the “introspective” side of 30 only means that I’ve witnessed identical endeavors clutter up record bins for 15+ years. Bone Rattle’s ADD-yelps, clattering away on trashed drums, keytars/80’s video game noises, and stabbed guitar combine to make something so devoid of drive, creativity, charisma, sonic interest, and general worth … that I can’t even insult the noise genre with a suggested association. That last sentiment means a lot. Trust me. (http://turnedword.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Dustin Wong – Seasons LP (Wildfire Wildfire)

Dustin Wong LP

Dustin Wong is a member of Ponytail (you’re forgiven if now tempted to skip ahead) and this is an entire LP’s worth of his instrumental home-recordings. According to various promo/bio works written in Wong’s best interest (or by Wong himself), actual hand-held instruments were played and recorded using the internal microphone on Wong’s computer. “These songs are really not performable … if I do [perform them], I would need about seven to nine people to help me out and that would be too ambitious and I would feel weird about that,” Wong blurts out in the liners. Help him out? He can’t place a chair and a small table on a stage? Elsewhere the claim is made that this album was six years in the making. Wow … I wonder how many missing person’s reports have been filed after Wong was sent to the corner with a four-item grocery list? Seasons (each quarter of the record correlates to a particular season, despite no audible difference in mood or dynamic throughout the entire LP) has less going on than the most tedious of late ‘90s IDM/laptronica mishaps, and could easily be mistaken for more complex pre-programmed cell phone rings or the tunes that come loaded into any $49.99 Casio. (http://www.wildfirewildfire.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Li Jianhong – Lovers with Cloisonne Bracelet LP (Tipped Bowler)

Li Jianhong LP

From the label that brought us a black metal guy’s interpretation of the Dead C (Mrtyu) comes two long tracks of guitar improvisation of the noisy & warm rather than noisy & painful type. Either through effects or multi-tracking or both, there’s a few layers here that are normally absent from such one-dimensional endeavors. This record is really going to do it for the 100 people worldwide that probably already own a copy, especially if their gold standard of guitar-improv was achieved way back in the 90’s, like Alan Licht’s Siltbreeze cutout-bin clogger or any number of Keiji Haino solo efforts. As stated, there’s a warmth to this that removes any antagonistic attributes, putting it a few notches to the left of Fennesz, for instance, if Fennesz was purely interested in improvisation via a single guitar + effects board set-up. One can almost picture Li Jianhong’s grandiose foot-forward (or foot –on-the-monitor) stance as he wails away in the live setting…in front of 100,000 fans, because China is ridiculously ahead of the curve and this record is probably in their fucking Top 40 or something. (http://www.tippedbowler.com)

(Andrew Earles)

Mass Shivers – “Torrid Sex in East Berlin” b/w “Tickled on Poppers” (Licking River)

Mass Shivers 7"

A-side of the year, hands-down. Heavy, prog-ish rock (not metal) with shit-hot playing and shit-hot hooks. A little mid-90’s aggro thrown in and hope for interesting new bands seems far from dashed (for the moment). The b-side is an instrumental rave-up that recalls Major Stars at their most succinct, and after a few spins, it’s as amazing as the a-side. This isn’t the easiest 7” to find, it being self-released and all, but do go out of your way, as it does what a single should do: gets those tongues a-draggin’ the floor for a future full-length. Another reason to find this 7”, see this band, and buy a full-length upon its (hopeful) release: Mass Shivers almost died in a one-van accident a few weeks ago, but emerged relatively unscathed. The ruling forces want them to go on, and so should you. (http://massshivers.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Movie Star Junkies – Junkyears: Rarities and Farm Recordings 2005 – 2007 12” EP (Avant!)

Movie Star Junkies 12"

A split single in which the MSJ side is typical garage tedium and one of the dumbest band names in a genre marred by dumb band names … these were the only reference points going in. Once again, the power of pleasant surprise is a good feeling. It helped with forgetting how obnoxious it is when a band this old releases a rarities & rejects comp of material that’s not even five years old. Thank god this one pulls a Singles Going Steady, winning the blindfolded taste test (against nothing in particular) as a proper and consistent body of song. Not really garage punk per se, but garage post-punk with sax, which is nothing new, duh, but the heaviness is nice and the energy is there … most of the time. They’re from Italy (I think), so the thematic offenses and arrogant statement of format can be partially overlooked as long as the record is playing. If the Intelligence traded The Fall/Urinals fixation for the Gun Club or Birthday Party (huge presence here) and more contemporarily, Cheater Slicks and Oblivians, then this is absolutely not what would happen, because Intelligence would have to live in Italy and make all kinds of cute presentation mistakes, but the point has been made (yet again). (http://www.myspace.com/avantrecords)
(Andrew Earles)

Pillow Queens – KooKoo Legit LP (Monofonus Press)

Pillow Queens LP

Wow, if there’s one thing the Pillow Queens are experts at, it’s memorizing a script. They do not improvise or deliver any surprises, as they’re well aware that surprise is unacceptable to the nebulous What Matters Shot-Calling Committee in power during the second half of this decade. Another big “no-no” is displaying too wide a sonic palette within the boundaries posed by a single album. You don’t want listeners asking themselves “Is this the same band?” after every second or third track gets half-a-minute in and you want them to be comfortable with vocals that go beyond inspiration and straight into the loving arms of plagiarism. Once again, The Pillow Queens score high, as the vocalist, (most assuredly a ‘Zach’ or ‘Ryan’ or ‘Joel’) does get a little wild with the decision to copy Isaac Brock and then simply skip that middleman to copy Frank Black, though Zach-Ryan-Joel never does this in the same song. The world can only handle one Mike Patton! Now that everyone is wondering what currently-approved, safe-and-easy style The Pillow Queens chose as the sonic recipe…the ready-in-five-minutes instrumental hand that the Queens hope to play and win with…I should just bring the review to a grinding halt, concluding in five words or less that You Are Going To Like It! Not ‘Love it’, but ‘like it’, because ‘loving’ a band’s chosen direction implies that the target audience listens to their respective guts with a genuine affinity for certain artists or that they rock personal tastes as yet untarnished by what’s heard on some marketing department-programmed satellite channel (named “The Indie Way” or “Left of Boring” or something) or inside of an Urban Outfitters. The Pillow Queens are three Zachs/Ryans/Joels and one probable Rachel, Bekah, or Lindsey that really, really, really hope you like their spazzy-but-not-too-spazzy song structures and approachable guitar histrionics and yelp-yelp-rated-PG-13 vocals, because they really hope it wasn’t a bad idea to drop out of college and spend a ton of money on the Warmed-Over & Loaded w/ Quirkiness Early Modest Mouse package, especially since everyone seemed perfectly comfortable and ready to go with the 100% Heart-Free Shoegaze w/ Co-Ed Vocals Mixed Way-Up-Front deal. (http://monofonuspress.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Uke of Spaces Corners – Flowers in the Night LP (Turned Word)

Uke of Spaces Corners LP

Turned Word can’t be accused of having “a sound” but it can be accused of lacking discriminating release practices. What they do have is the ability to cater to a particular micro-sub-set of photo-collagecore, the one in which Load Records is seen as a sort of Matador Records, if you will (or won’t). Let’s say the aforementioned scene needs its very own Nickel Creek. Enter this band with the name that’s friendly to word-counts everywhere. Flowers in the Night is rural free-pop/folk with a lot of small stringed instruments and high-pitched man-child Danielson-style vocals, but no hooks or atmosphere to save the day. That’s pretty much the album in a rusty hubcap. Caroliner would eat this crap for breakfast. Comprised of folks (literally, they wished) that are not finished with the whole animals-doing-things/amateur-naturalists angle, Uke of Spaces Corners include a hand-screened card in each LP that shows such determination. This copy came with the image of a single-antlered, deer-headed humanoid (or sentient deer) preparing to boo-foo a bird-headed humanoid wearing a onesie. Funny how this is the perfect visual manifestation of the album’s Animal Collective-gone-all-Appalachian-hill-country-amateur-hour, because I don’t want to hear or see any of this again. (http://www.turnedword.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Animals & Men – s/t 12” EP (Convulsive)

Animals & Men 12"

A new Animals & Men record would’ve gone totally unheard unless an accident happened or the album ended up in the review queue. I blindly dismiss any and all reunions of “once-seminal”, “once-great”, or simply “discovered” bands initially active over twenty years ago. Save for Mission of Burma (who are clearly from another planet) and bits and pieces of the current Dinosaur Jr. incarnation, 99% of the time my instincts are correct. Imagine my surprise when this EP made it to the keeper end of my personal collection! This EP gets me out of a negative headspace, I forget that no completely-undiscovered gems actually remain in the KBD/DIY/post-punk era, and I rejoice that this squashes most of what’s going to surround it in smaller record collections. “New Material” is never something I want to read regarding a band this old, but this little fighter makes me forget that momentarily unshakable gun-in-mouth feeling that took over after hearing a new ESG record. Animals & Men enter the late-00’s sweepstakes with a sound uncanny in its similarity to the likeminded and seemingly forgotten Feedtime, not to mention the younger but defunct A Frames. So yes, there’s some thud-rock heavily influenced by The Fall and courtesy of guys who probably bought Live at The Witch Trials out of a headshop’s import bin in 1979. (http://www.myspace.com/convulsiverecords)
(Andrew Earles)

Bird by Snow – Songbread/Another Ocean LP (Gnome Life)

Bird by Snow LP

Bird by Snow is a grocery list of things, aesthetic and musical, that lesser bands have ruined…dramatic vocals, string arrangements, widescreen pop, the naturalist movement, apocalyptic overtones, and general eccentricity. Think back when Godspeed! You Black Emperor first happened, when their “thing” was a little more interesting tiresome crusty punk concerns packaged in Tindersticks’ chops. Then, jump a year or two to the first time A Silver Mt. Zion filled your shitty apartment with the “Godspeed! With Heart!” feel still used by said band to make better-than-boring albums. Though there is a tangible quality here and there, Bird by Snow is not all that similar on paper to the Constellation crowd, but we’re not peddling “tangible” here, we’re interested in “feel” and charm, two things on the 3rd Bird by Snow album alternately used as tools and outputted to the listener as intangible goodness. To put it another way: If Arcade Fire had lived up to ¼ of their INITIAL hype/promise, before anyone had actually heard the band, instead of becoming an excuse to over-intellectualize The Hooters, it might’ve hinted at the accomplishments found on Songbread/Another Ocean. Occasionally, nothing is more refreshing than hearing a band totally ace the “Everything Irritating … Done Right!” hat trick. (http://www.gnomeliferecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Failures – s/t LP (Youth Attack/Clean Plate)

Failures LP

No record was given the chance that this one was given…all year, and maybe most of last year. I’ve never tried to like a record like I’ve tried to like this one. It’s spun continuously over the past five days and sadly it will forever remain classified in a mental compartment I like to call “Similar to First Over-The-Jeans Handjob”, next to other mental compartments with names like “Local Rock Feel” and “Post-Good.” For one, I require my topical hardcore to be heavy, to bulldoze, to move air, and not necessarily in the metallic sense, either. This is not heavy, though I realize that’s not the point. Also, at the time of this writing, Failures have been discussed into the ground, usually behind their super-group status. It’s hard to approach this without the members’ former bands in mind; like a new hardcore record by a band I know nothing about, but it falls short on both levels. The self-importance by way of self-deprecation, self-awareness (Band Name = We Know We’re Too Old To Be Doing This), and vague packaging (no credits…so that people DO absorb this like a band they know nothing about), has overshadowed (in an ill-advised positive way) the average nature of the recording. Someone please tell me why each and every contemporary of this band manages to come off as more honest and more sonically-propulsive. Please… (http://ihateyouthattack.com)
(Andrew Earles)

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So, which one of you…

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Earles on December 22, 2009

…will be responsible for giving me this complete discography for Christmas? Vinyl were applicable, please. Proceeds from selling the doubles will be donated to a Cat Condo  fund of my choosing.

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Andrew Scott Earles’ Pazz and Jop Greatest Hits

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Earles on December 22, 2009

Dear Andrew Scott Earles,

Hello. You are one of the 1,500-odd critics we’d like to include in the 37th edition of the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, which aims as always to compile everyone’s Top 10 records and singles of 2009….

…and so on. Why yes, I will contribute to this yearly tradition. While we wait (an entire month) for the results, I have for you…

Andrew Earles’ Village Voice: Pazz and Jop Poll Greatest Hits

2008

Albums

1 Times New Viking, Rip It Off
Matador
Points: 10
2 Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Common Life
Matador
Points: 10
3 Earles and Jensen, Just Farr a Laugh, Vol. 1 and 2: The Greatest Prank Phone Call Ever!
Matador
Points: 10
4 Shearwater, Rook
Matador
Points: 10
5 Matmos, Supreme Balloon
Matador
Points: 10
6 Mogwai, The Hawk Is Howling
Matador
Points: 10
7 Jay Reatard, Matador Singles ’08
Matador
Points: 10
8 Jaguar Love, Take Me to the Sea
Matador
Points: 10
9 Dead Meadow, Old Growth
Matador
Points: 10
10 Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Real Emotional Trash
Matador
Points: 10

Singles

1 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “Knockers At Nine”
Confidential Informant Records
2 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “How Would You Like To Get Hit With A Boat Oar?”
No Sanka No Dice Records
3 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “Don’t Smudge My Al Di Meola LP’s”
My Parrot Saw You Break Into My Boat Records
4 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “That Walking **shole Is Based On Me”
I’m Parked Out Front Records
5 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “I’ll Blog You”
The Capri 120’s On Your Breath Records
6 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “Your Teeth Are Stuck In My Phone Book”
I See You Looking Over The Newspaper
7 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “Our Business Is Finished Here”
My Eggs Are Soggy Records
8 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “Robert B. Parker and Me”
I Just Felt You Step Onto My Houseboat And I’ve Loaded My Shotgun Records
9 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “Asleep With One Eye Open”
Estranged Junkie Son Records
10 Skag Winesack, Retired P.I. & Former Celebrity Security Consultant, “She Looked Like The Daughter My Ex-Wife Says I Have”
That X-Mas Present Is Ticking Records

[Forgotten Year]

(artist)
(song)
(label)
(points)

1. FuckHaus
I Am A Noise Duo
Human Parvo
20 Points

2. TailWaters
I Am An Illbient Duo
(reissue of 1996 release on Ubik Records)
5 Points

3. Hey! Student!
I Am A Jagged, Soft-Boiled Anarcho Post-Hardcore Band
Vice Records
5 Points

4. Vivendo Cada Dia Mais Sujo e Agressivo
I Am A Portuguese Death Metal Band, The Band Members Of Which Do Not Own Watches
Shanty Grind Records
5 Points

5. Bearded Attacker
I Am An Indie-Twee Pop Band
My Thirties Will Be My Best Records
5 Points

6. Lubricate Your Alcove
I Am An Angular Yesterday’s Post-Punk Today Band
It’s About The Music Records
5 Points

7. Wood Sergeant
I Am An Inoffensive Boogie Band
Heard It On The X Records
5 Points

8. Mass Grave
I Am The Un-killable East Coast Power Violence Crust Grind Band
A Check, A 40, My Dog, A Ride To Portland, and Your Guilt Records
5 Points

9. Under The House
I Am A Band Comprised Of Prolific Indie Rockers That Decided To Start Making Metal
Saddle Creek Records
5 Points

10. Casual Sex
I Am A Currently Obscure Dance-Oriented Outsider Band That Will Soon Blow Up All Over The Fucking Place
P.O.S. Records
40 Points

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Hall of Greatness: The Funniest Metal Record…Ever

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Earles on December 22, 2009

The award goes to….

…..Sepultura for 1993’s Roots.

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