Andrew Earles

THE THEME FOR 2011: NO REGRETS!! + I’VE REPOSTED TONS OF MY REVIEWS

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Earles on December 28, 2010

     2009 – 2010 made for a two-year block that was, for lack of a better descriptive, FLAT-OUT HEARTBREAKING. 2011 will be my year. 2009/2010 will always be branded into my noggin as concentrated discontent. Good riddance.

 2009/2010, I give you a parting gift in the form of my writing for Doug Mosurock’s Still Single site.  I don’t even know what that means. But before we get to the reviews, I wanted to revisit some songs. Remember, it’s right there in my surname. Wow, how many years did it take before I used that one? 15? 20? Get it? EARles

Mercury Rev – “Meth of a Rockettes Kick”

Boris “Next Saturn” (from Smile)

In 2011, I’m going to show the world that Fly Ashtray erases all underground/off-kilter/leftfield/out-pop with sheer HOOKS and QUALITY. For illogical reasons, the NZ thing is officially on my fucking nerves. It’s been two years since the decoy-cool crowd adopted kiwi-pop as its cause, rarely going any deeper than the surface-level entities (The Bats, The Clean, Verlaines, The Chills, Tall Dwarfs and for airs: The Dead C), therefore neglecting the high-quality booty like Bailter Space, Peter Jeffries, Straightjacket Fits, or Snapper. Every know and then, someone will surprise me with a love of the Peter J./A. Galbreath 2×7″ but they usually follow it up by spitting in my face or removing their face to reveal some sort of V-style alien. Ok, enough ranting….here’s Fly Ashtray with a handful of pop songs that you should care about:

“Soap”

“The Big 1-2-3-4″ (1993)

Fly Ashtray “Dead Louise” (1991)

08 How To Avoid Probate

 And now here’s V3/Jim Shepard with   “Son of Sam Donaldson” – the b-side tothe “American Face” 7″, a record that was liberated from me by a lack of common sense.

AS PROMISED BUT ANTICIPATED BY NO ONE! ALL OF THE FOLLOWING REVIEWS APPEARED ON DOUG MOSUROCK’S STILL SINGLE SITE AS WELL AS DUSTEDMAGAZING.COM

December 27, 2010

Crushed Butler – “It’s My Life” b/w “My Sons Alive” 7” (Windian)

This is more like it. Authorized cherry-picks of two excellent proto-metal stompers recorded in 1970. This is one of the few original hard-boogie bands touted as “proto-metal” or “heavy” who are really metallic and shockingly heavy for the time. The a-side plows along at such a velocity that it qualifies as proto-punk and erases every single minute the MC5 committed to record. Highly recommended, though both songs have been issued on a still-available LP. Limited to 600 copies on black vinyl. (http://windianrecords.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

1 day ago0 notes

Family Trees – Dream Talkin 7” EP (Father/Daughter)

So another three or four friends get together, reach rudimentary competence on their respective instruments, and learn how to string a few melodies together that sound like doo-wop or late ‘60s non-orchestrated lounge-pop. Congratulations, you are now an official member of the Sad-Is-Bad movement. This EP has a track titled “Baby Come Back”; it’s a totally different (and less memorable) endeavor than the Player or Equals songs of the same name, so don’t be fooled into thinking someone in the Family Trees camp actually recognizes a hook. Once again, a short quiz: What does a made-up tune hummed by a four-year-old have in common with the jingle heard on a commercial for orthopedic shoes? Both are MELODIES, and neither are HOOKS. Yes, I am shitting on your good time, now please break up or return with something I can remember five seconds after I wrote this. Clear vinyl. (http://www.fatherdaughterrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles>)

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Gold-Bears – Tally 7” EP (Magic Marker)

Once again, the universe intervenes and halts my possible removal from this mortal coil via my own hand. Why would I do this? Well, one reason would be a succession of 7”s that sucks away my faith in the current state of whatever it is I do this for in the first place. Remove the animal reference from this band’s name, and this EP would be flawless, relative to what it is trying to accomplish. It’s right there in the one-sheet (hey, they’re written to be read, right?): The Mountain Goats, the Wedding Present, early My Bloody Valentine, and Boyracer can all be clearly heard in these three songs; each sandwiching a perfectly-workable (and real) hook in some teeth for a change. If you went apeshit for this kind of thing in 1991, 1997, 2002, 2007, or yesterday, go find this EP, go see this band, write an e-mail and encourage them to record a full-length. Put out their full-length. Offset the shit-saturation one band at a time, and then the Culture Wars of 2013 will be just that much shorter (and less bloody). On white vinyl. (http://www.magicmarkerrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

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Maus Haus – “Winter” b/w “Zig Zag” 7” (Rocinante)

Is this why Pram, Piano Magic, Broadcast and Stereolab records are still gathering coin? “Winter” is a male-sung amalgam of all four of those bands, and a good one at that. Wait for the powerful hook at the end and you’ll be awarded accordingly. “Zig Zag” is problematic. The indie-prog of such overbearing quirk-enthusiasts like Man Man and Islands is added to the dialed-down mix previously-mentioned, but the irk-factor lies in the one-sheet’s claim that the track is “sonically referencing Bollywood, Cambodian Rocks! compilations, and old spy films.” Oh wow, so one person is into The High Llamas, and another is into O.M.D., and another one is into a band or two named at the beginning of this review, and maybe there’s some New Order thrown in. Pre-1980 this isn’t in the least, nor does it necessarily think outside of the box. My cat thinks outside of the box more often than these jokers do. Literally. Where can I get my hands on the program that writes these one-sheets? I want the one that doesn’t list “push tracks” from a digital EP I’m not going to listen to. Stupid me, when I’ve been hired pen these things, I used my brain and ears. Seriously, throw me a bone. White vinyl. Includes a digital EP with these tracks plus three more. This review will do nothing to stop Maus Haus’s world domination. You watch. (http://www.rocinanterecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

1 day ago0 notes

Meercaz – “Never Too Late To Learn” b/w “Brainscanning” 7” (Sweet Rot)

The universe seems to know when I’ve heard enough shitty 7”s. The universe can sense when I’m reaching for a vial of cyanide or about to drive to Home Depot for some garden hose and duct tape. So it secretly rearranges the stack of records so that a record like this is next in queue. This falls into the ruined genre of today’s garage-rock, but feels like (this fact alone should garner mention … that it feels like something) what Ty Segall is doing: Taking shit to the next level, where only a special and tiny few will reside. And like Segall, these guys know a little something about volume and how to properly hit heaviness within the constraints of the style at hand. Unlike the great S.F. hope, though, this is stuck in retro-mode, though understand that it’s not retro-robot mode. If I’m processing the lyrics correctly, “Brainscanning” questions the scene’s lemmings-to-the-water/moths-to-the-porch-light idiocy. That would be almost too-perfect, so I’m amenable to personal error on the assumption. Black vinyl. (http://www.myspace.com/sweetrotrecords)
(Andrew Earles)

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Off! – s/t 7” EP (Vice)

Off! is Keith Morris’ new band. Or rather, it’s a super-group with Keith Morris in the vocalist slot. Drummer Mario Rubalcaba is late of Hot Snakes (and currently plays in Earthless), bassist Steven McDonald is the Steven McDonald of Red Kross fame, and Dimitri Coats, he of The Burning Brides and perpetual behind-the-scenes hustling about. This 7” is one of four that make up an entire album, on Vice no less, who had probably hoped or contracted for a Circle Jerks record, though what they got might be better than that. How they got it is quite bizarre. Not as bizarre as that genuinely insane blip in the mid ‘90s in which Debbie Gibson joined Morris for a duet of The Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You” on the band’s sole major label effort in 1995. Of course, that record (the last proper Circle Jerks studio album) appeared on Mercury, the major whose navigation of the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy was almost as entertaining to watch as Chrysalis Records support inaugural crap-shoot Butt Trumpet during the same period.

Nor is this record, or the genesis of it, as bizarre as Keith Morris working as an A&R rep for V2 (work’s work, dawg) until said (major) label shut down about six years before the entire industry shit its trousers. Tons of money in A&R rep work these days. That was a joke. What’s no joke is that the rest of the Circle Jerks walked out on Morris, or vice versa (doesn’t really matter), when album producer Coats started rejecting CJ content. But Morris went in Coats’ corner, they wrote a song a day until they had this record, and the damned thing isn’t half bad. That’s coming from someone who’s heard a fourth of it, so throw that in the equation, too. It does not sound like Burning Brides fronted by Morris, nor does it sound like Hot Snakes fronted by Morris. The former might be a possibility, the latter would not, as only rare instances have surfaced in which a drummer has trademarked a band’s entire sound (Turing Machine, Don Cab/The Speaking Canaries). Redd Kross? You have one guess. But the Circle Jerks? Does this sound like the Circle Jerks? Well, it doesn’t resemble what most thinkers would assume a Circle Jerks record would sound like in 2010, which likely hovers between “hot garbage” and “surgically base”… no, this is better than all that. That said, it’s not great or especially good, yet it is passable and perhaps superior to the bulk of the Fat Wreckords roster. This assertion is not saying much due to the lack of much to say re: these four songs. Uptempo but not blurring. Melodic but not catchy. And lyrically? I regret to pass along that what I can make out on “Black Thoughts”, “Darkness”, “I Don’t Belong”, and “Upside Down” hardly ventures much further than what those titles would imply.

Even from day one, the Circle Jerks were a crystal ball showing how pedestrian hardcore would go bad four or five years down the road. They were also that half of the genre I like to call “afterthought hardcore” …  nonsense (potty humor, socio-politico-light musings, violence, fuck-up behavior) overshadowed the music because the music was easy to overshadow. Morris didn’t cut it in Black Flag because of the practice mentality, it has been reported, but Ginn and co. were upper-echelon thinkers posing as everymen, and Morris has always been an everyman posing as a teenager. That’s not the slight that it might appear to be; Morris is likeable, and that means something. It also means something that he’s pushing 60 and can pull off this performance, especially with adult-onset diabetes lurking in his system. His voice is in perfect form here, and so are his dreadlocks, it must be stated. Jesus, that shit is off the chain; he could be hiding the cure for diabetes in those things, or the Shroud of Turin. Or both. David Allan Coe, move over. As for this 7”? A whelming curio? That’s it. (http://www.viceland.com/vicerecords)
(Andrew Earles)

1 day ago0 notes

Shane Lobotomy – “I Can’t Help Myself” b/w “The Way Things Go” (Fatal Seizures) 7”

This is kind of similar to when a guy wears flip-flops outside of the house. I just want to run up and whisper “Others can see you” much in the same way I want to scream “Others can hear you!” at this guy, whose stupid performing moniker I refuse to acknowledge. Or how about: “You know people have heard Jay Reatard’s music before, right?” Tribute is one thing; plagiarism is another, and absolutely no personal touch has been added to make this anything more than a blatant rip of any and all of Blood Visions. A dumber aesthetic (photos of dude bleeding from the mouth) is not an addition. Mr. Lobotomy even rips the songwriting style, creating two songs that are by default slightly catchy. The parent source was of a certain quality, and the trickledown is audible. Too bad everything else is, too. And visible. Lastly, there’s a chance this guy claims to have never heard Blood Visions (the type of arrogance seen more and more these days), we will then have a fine example of unintentional comedy. White vinyl, numbered edition of 300. (http://www.myspace.com/shanelobotomy)
(Andrew Earles)

1 day ago0 notes

Testors – Two Sides of Death 7” (Windian)

Couple of live tracks from 1978 by Sonny Vincent and his crew of fuck-ups, who, at this juncture could be seen as an American answer to The Only Ones … sort of. The recordings here are so poor that the point comes into question…the lack of fidelity not only removes any dynamics whatsoever, it makes it nearly impossible to tell what the hell is happening. Both songs are good if not great post-punk pub-rock/street-rock, with the previously unreleased “Drac” taking the traditional ballad position. “It’s Only Death” is noted as being a version exclusive to this release, which is true, but only in the sense that each shitty live recording of a song is “exclusive” to that time it was played. Maybe no poorer version of “It’s Only Death” exists. I can’t even tell which screeching noise is the guitar. Ltd to 1000 copies on black vinyl. (http://windianrecords.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

1 day ago0 notes

The Union Electric – “Thylacine” b/w “Bugs” 7” (Poetry Scores)

When alt-country was popping off fifteen years ago, this is what I wished, and have always wished, it sounded like. Instead, it sounded like what it was: First wave indie-rockers getting old too quick and providing the ‘90s version of bland college rock in the form of blatant slumming. The crap seems to be making a tepid comeback in the form of 20-member tedium-fests disguised as review-style bands. The next time I hear a mandolin or a ukulele, I might just grab the fucking thing and break it over the offending musician’s back. Play a real instrument, you goddamned show-off. What’s for breakfast, asshole? Lentil soup in a rusty hubcap? Vegan burrito party on the out on the porch! Don’t let the screen-door hit you in the ass on the way to whatever constitutes the dollar-bin these days. Turds, all of you!

But back in the day, some bands that were not alt-country at all, made fucked-up pop songs that were folk/country-tinged, and that’s closer to what we have here. These songs are dark, moody, and missing that ham-fisted instrumentation that doesn’t belong in underground rock that’s worth its salt. “Thylacine” has a catchy groove, get noisy when the time is right, and the vocals don’t set off my slummer alarm, which is always set on high-sensitivity when a place like Memphis hometown. The Union Electric comes from St. Louis, a city that has exported a tiny amount of notable music given its size. As to whether this contains former members of Bunnygrunt, I highly doubt it. What I’m positive of is that both these songs have that intangible, ineffable, and oh-so-welcome ‘IT’ that is rare for a reason. In closing, I thought I’d never want to hear a trumpet in a rock song again, but these magicians pull it off. On yellow vinyl. (http://www.myspace.com/theunionelectric)
(Andrew Earles)

1 day ago0 notes

December 23, 2010

Adult Themes – “Four Fires” b/w “Young Bodies” 7” (Cardboard)

This side-project of thinking-person’s avant-hardcore combo Graphic Violence digs in like ankle-herpes. Nothing in that sentence exists. I like this band’s moniker because it IS a direct reference to something a particular age group remembers from the loose childhood and teen years punctuated by the weekly delivery or arrival of the cable TV guide. I never knew what “Adult Themes” meant. I know that it was the only warning issued about Ordinary People and it always popped up for PG-Rated movies that should have been rated G but didn’t have any talking animals. As for bands and the music they make, there’s a sexual thing running through this, for sure. Just like there was a sexual thing running though early Blonde Redhead, the slap-you-upside-the-head influence here. Hard, heavy drums that are no doubt a blast to watch, female vocals with a faint, sexy husk accenting the hook on the A side and the quasi-hook on the flip, and the bass set to 90’s aggro-lite all around. The drumming is amazing and I bet it’s L.O.U.D. live, and as these things settle into place up here in my brain, I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to see an influx of bands heavily influenced by Oneida, or if things will be a trickle with the parent band remaining just outside of their proper due. (http://www.cardboardrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

5 days ago0 notes

Dimples – “Heaven Blotted Regions” b/w “I Can Feel You Out There” 7” (Mexican Summer)

Earlier this year I received a package that contained Dimples’ debut LP, Council Bluffs, along with the Silkworm-ish soul-tug Devices + Emblems LP by the fantastic Tre Orsi. The latter knocked me sideways for weeks, thus overshadowing Council Bluffs, a record that has been awarded exactly two full listens. There’s no denying I was hearing something of possible interest, but that didn’t keep it from falling through the cracks. This 7” will. The closing statement on Dimples’ Mexican Summer page is “Two goddamned great songs” and I am concurring as hard as I possibly can. I am also digging out Council Bluffs immediately after I figure out how to articulate this record’s impact on my ears. The two tracks couldn’t be more different on paper or via the basic approach to writing, but both hemorrhage personality and stick-to-the-rest-of-my-days infectiousness. Permanently fastened to my noggin is Side A’s frantically-fucked ballad, perhaps a nod to the accidental greatness of the best outsider, private-press, post-punk urban psychedelic lounge-rock littering the second half of the ‘70s. That song’s a lifer. Side B rides on a real metal riff and equally authentic hook, proving these smiling freaks to be capable of, and driven to, make high-quality rock. I’m elated at the existence of this band. 500 hand-numbered copies. (http://www.mexicansummer.com)
(Andrew Earles)

5 days ago0 notes

December 22, 2010

For Ex-Lovers Only – Coffin 7” EP (Magic Marker)

I really want to like No Age more than I do, but it’s their fault for following “Teen Creeps” with what appears to be a terminal water-tread a few quality-notches below that watershed moment. For Ex-Lovers Only isn’t going to fix my money woes, buy me a 1996 Toyota 4-Runner with low miles, or write me a can’t-lose book proposal, but they are going to fill that space in between “Teen Creeps” and every other No Age song. That’s a compliment. “Coffin” is all of side A and it’s got that intangible, melancholic hook that you’ve heard before (or maybe you haven’t … try to find and absorb something by the ‘90s band, Further), but that never gets old. Side two is split between two little gems that show some spark of inspiration, though they can’t quite reach the prize. The No Age comparison shouldn’t be understated; automatically ranking For Ex-Lovers Only as one of those bands that “appropriates” liberally from the decade that grandfathered their chosen sound. Let’s hope they give credit where credit is due. (http://www.magicmarkerrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

5 days ago0 notes

XBXRX – O 7” EP (Polyvinyl)

The world would be a shittier place had XBXRX never booked that first tour in 1999, leaving Mobile, Alabama in someone’s mom’s van and blowing minds through the backs of heads all over the country. I was lucky enough to see one of the first shows on said tour, my town of Memphis resting one long state’s length from their home. I was joined by what couldn’t have been more than five other standing patrons plus a table full of Fat Wreck Chords/Warped Tour water-heads. This band turned into a figure-eight bowtie wind of noise and bodies, very much in the neighborhood of a (much) more playful Flying Luttenbachers (high-pitched or screamed vocals have always been a constant … think Load Records-meets-Trumans Water) but unlike any noise band I could, or still can, reference from live memories. And they were YOUNG. Not even out of high school at the time of this inaugural tour, XBXRX had the drive, passion, balls, irreverence, and charm of an entire scene (they probably WERE Mobile’s entire scene). When it was clear the $5 Bottled Water fans were “not getting it” (only a matter of time…I believe I remember a wager based around how long these dipshits would be sticking around), the herd shuffled towards the door and received a tongue-lashing for the ages from the six tiny kids in weird matching faux-hazmat suits. “Seriously, nice shorts, No Use for a Name … what, ya keep all your musical ideas in those giant pockets?”

If someone had whispered “In ten years, XBXRX will be around, respected amongst the noise-nik cognoscenti, and on a rather professional label for most of their full-length discography” into my ear that night, my reaction would have been a fist into the air rather than one of disbelief. And here they are, not ten, but eleven years into the future with a 10-song 7” titled O and released by Polyvinyl. Like previous titles recorded at home or in a studio, this one barely begins to achieve the planet-aligning shit-storm that is this band live. All ten tracks are structured skronk with a heavy reliance on static-y noise. You know this band? You know what you’re in for. Probably prefacing a full-length soon, which of course, will serve as a souvenir from the live experience. Black vinyl. (http://www.polyvinylrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

5 days ago0 notes

December 6, 2010

Frontier(s) – “The Plains” b/w “Radiomine” 7” (No Sleep)

Take out the weighty U2 influence, and this could have been recorded at any juncture since 1993 or 1994, and clearly comes from minds that both grew through and contributed to the catchier, non-dumbass camps within the Revelation and Jade Tree camps. And the players (members of Elliott, Falling Forward, Mouthpiece and Stay Gold) have been around for a lifetime of emo, screamo, and sXe development and disintegration. Side A is the clear winner, with the clean vocals veering into a genuine scream for the climax (three quarters of the way in) and the guitars doing the big and loud thing better than other contemporary examples of this stuff that’s crossed my desk since 2005. I like that the main guy (Chris Higdon of Elliott) still has the drive to make music; that he still has the need, but that says more about me than it does anyone else. Probably out of print due to built-in fan base. Sealed up in shrink and presented in a nice screened cover that opens as a tri-fold with a nice little pouch for the record. Download card falls out into lap, so naked listeners with smooth skin need to be warned of possible paper cuts. (http://www.nosleeprecs.com)
(Andrew Earles)

3 weeks ago0 notes

Robedoor – Pacific Drift 7” EP (Not Not Fun)

Did I just listen to the beginning of a song for three, maybe four, minutes, only to have it “end” with my needle lifting? Yes, and it’s also known as the title track. Side B has two disparate chunks of reverb & wah-pedal & pounded quasi-jazz-cave drums appreciation sessions, both surgically removed from that jam….wait….what night was that? Oh yeah, Zach hung the upside-down cross on the wall and the two other dudes felt the evil vibes. Then they got online and made fun of that guy in Morbid Angel that’s into all the positive-power new-age gobbledygook, then they listened to some stuff on the Century Media and Relapse sites that had funny names, universally declaring all of it “a lot of hilarious bullshit” before setting the mics, choosing some axes, and impersonating an imaginary “welcome back” Comets on Fire gig that took place immediately after each member suffered from a near-fatal bout of spinal meningitis. This is on Not Not Fun, where Robedoor’s otherwise blasé attitude towards tightness and focus on the jam fits right in, but also where the volume of this record, while not notable in the grand scheme of things, does place it with the noisier half of that label’s roster. The three gentlemen in the band are pictured on the back cover, where they deftly demonstrate how to combine the style seen in Tad’s “Wood Goblin” video with one represented ten years later at a Locust show … while staring at different points on the floor. Caution! Blown Minds Ahead! (http://www.notnotfun.com)
(Andrew Earles)

December 6, 2010

Seamonster – Two Birds 7” EP (Gold Robot/Martyrs of Pop Records/Royal Rhino Flying)

One man, in this case Mr. Adrian Todd Webb, played everything the listener hears on all five tracks of this EP. Therefore, he had five chances to win the hook sweepstakes, and he does on the third track, but then the remaining two songs end up with the first two, with an effortless toss into that place where one would get hit by a car if we were talking reality rather than the popular idea of underground music … the middle of the road. “Bearsuit” is Mr. Webb (or Todd-Webb if the JC Penney exchange-counter demographic was responsible) elevated atop his one divorce from the type of man-wafer fare that echoed through dorm rooms as the Irrelevant 6 posse came grinding to a halt over ten years ago. If the great tastemaker phantom of all-powerful blog and Facebook-Favorites-List manipulation takes a liking to Mr. Webb, the unfortunate end could be mass panty-dampening amongst those under the age of 22 who wear panties, and amongst the ones who wear flip-flops on first dates and know no limits when it comes to verbal volume of bad humor? Well, they will display an equally as widespread trend of purchasing brand new acoustic guitars with the names Taylor and Martin adorning the headstocks. And more little ghost labels will pop up with names like It Is What It Is, or Stop Shitting On Our Good Times! Records. No longer will the lemmings have to hear about the days of troublesome culture-clutter like passion, danger, uncertainty, making a record with your last $600 because you are in love with its contents (be it yours or someone else’s), buying music you are totally unfamiliar with but the cover looks promising, not giving a shit because you genuinely give a shit where it counts, understanding that great bands can be both brutally abrasive and beautifully poignant within the same album, individuality … making room for everyone that’s awesome and rad. And the world will keep sucking. (http://gold-robot.com) (http://royalflyingrhino.wordpress.com) (http://www.martyrsofpop.com)
(Andrew Earles)

3 weeks ago1 note

November 10, 2010

Informational posts for you to think about.

Still Single’s own Andrew Earles has written his first book. It’s about the band Husker Du, and is the first biography exclusively about their career. He worked himself to the bone on this book in order to get the story straight, and I can assure you it’ll be worth your time and money to procure a copy, which you can order from Amazon.com here.

Doug Mosurock’s DJ appearances for the rest of the year are as follows:

Cockfight: Saturday, November 13 @ the Commodore w/ DJs Mr. Vacation (his 40th birthday! doesn’t look a day over 32) and Catalyst

Cockfight: Saturday, December 11 @ the Commodore w/ DJs Mr. Vacation and Gasface

Bats in the Bell House: Thursday, December 16 @ the Bell House (Front Bar) w/ DJ Bunnicula

Cockfight is where I play rock records and such. ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, with occasional new joints. Any of you contributors wishing for the thrill of hearing your record in public, this might be your chance. The Commodore is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, right across from the new Knitting Factory. They have great Southern food (courtesy of chef de cuisine Stephen Tanner, who moonlights as Harvey Milk’s bass player), great drinks, and video games set on free. I love this bar.

Bats in the Bell House fills the much-requested need for a goth/industrial party in Brooklyn. The room is big and dark, with room to dance. Last one was the most fun, this one will rage as well.

1 month ago1 note

November 7, 2010

Colossal Yes/The Good Fear – split 7” (Gold Robot)

History is important, and the history of HOW WE GOT HERE is especially important. To clarify: How did we arrive at a musical landscape littered with bands like Colossal Yes and The Good Fear? Well, the first offender/step in this direction is a little something we used to call “alt-country”, or when indie and punk rockers woke up one day and decided to slum because whatever previous genre they were toiling in, well, it had too many constraints or it was boring or they grew out of it. All of those excuses can be translated into: “I sucked at it.” So, hordes of mediocre bands and musicians simply migrated to where mediocrity was the order of the day (yet shrouded by the toning-down that comes along with getting “back to one’s roots”) … alt-country. So while these lemmings were “feeling a connection” to “you know, GOOD country music,” the actual sounds they made were little more than Americana-flavored indie rock with all of indie-rock’s interesting bits removed. Enter NPR. Enter Wilco and Radiohead. Enter Letterboxed Indie-Rock (vocals up front, more than 5 members, boring as watching dragonflies fuck). Enter bands like these two.

The tempo is slow. The chords are minor but devoid of any emotional pull. The instruments are many and most are “quirky” or “adult” (pianos, mandolins, etc). Colossal Yes (side project of Utrillo Kushner from Comets on Fire) turn in the lesser of evils here. The production doesn’t sound like Butch Vig circa ‘91 and the tune is catchy enough to make it. The Good Fear, by virtue of name alone, should be a forgotten 7”-in-a-paper-lunch-sack screamo band from 1995. Featuring a former member of Lucero (who long-ago ditched the alt-country thing for their own thing and who should be respected for an intense work ethic and total disregard of trend-saturation), The Good Fear does that despicable, neutering beast of boredom with a yawn-inducing professionalism. If people still give a shit about Arcade Fire and getting culturally disgraced at giant summer festivals, then The Good Fear will do just fine. Oh, and by the way…there’s no such thing as a “good” fear. (http://gold-robot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

1 month ago0 notes

October 27, 2010

Ättestupa – Begraven Mot Norr LP (Release The Bats)

There are black metal concerns that deviate so far from metal that the riff disappears, the atmosphere gets dialed up until the knob is ripped off, and if you exclude the reliance on synthetic percussion, the world gets yet another worshipper at the folding chair of Current 93, Coil, Nurse w/ Wound, “darkwave,” Psychic TV, Chris and Cosey, and the list could (and does) go on. Then there are the noisenik outfits that start out on the other side of the fence from Whitehouse antagonism or the largely American trend of affixing 80 effects boxes to a picnic table and just being brutish about the whole thing. It’s the latter that always wants to align with black metal imagery, packaging, and attitude, despite the vicinity boasting an absence of any actual metal people. It’s this latter group in which Sweden’s Ättestupa fall, and one need only a glance at who they’ve shared tours and shows with for proof (Sudden Infant, Fabulous Diamonds, The Skull Defekts, Deathroes, etc).

But this isn’t a noise record. It’s noisy funeral drone with rhythm courtesy of drums, pulsating keys, bass, and piano, and at first, the “’70s German prog” comparison in the promo material seemed laughable, though this was before I noticed I was listening to a full-length record with one song per side. Meaning, each of the tracks contains several movements, even if the tempo remains below “spirited plod” at all times. And the recording quality is calculatedly poor, not only in the sense that the thick layer of audio-shit caked across each side is used as an additional instrument, but also in the sense that dynamic recordings are the aesthetic antithesis of this mindset. Yawn. If you could see me right now, I’d be looking at my watch and tapping my foot impatiently. How tedious is the M.O, of the overtly elite, willfully obscure human-haters? Don’t answer that; it’s a trick question. One gets the impression that the only thing scarcer than a guitar riff is a sense of humor, an approach that works when the music is appropriately intense. Another band; another album. Can I get Fenriz’s opinion on this, please? I need a hearty guffaw. 512 copies. (http://releasethebats.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

Grave Babies – “Gouge Your Eyes Out” b/w “Traumatic Visions” 7” (Skrot Up)

Noisy as all hell and clearly not from these parts, the B-side is Sisters of Mercy-style goth-pop hooks suffocated by tons of aural garbage. A-side is less sludgy with discernable lyrics; something that had me leaning towards its opposing side as the favorite, but the melody used in the only-so-slightly-less sparse “Gouge Your Eyes Out” is a killer, so both win. Too messy for the common rube’s idea of “minimal synth” or “coldwave” … and too catchy, for that matter, Grave Babies (one dude) will nonetheless be lumped in with the aforementioned future landfill content. That is, until this guy tries to distance this project from that brief party when the world stops caring, and that should have happened about nine months ago. (http://skrotup.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

David Grubbs & F.S. Blumm – Back to the Plants 7” EP/book (Ahornfelder)

Each attempt to process a work that exists in the world of visual art always manages to steal another tiny chunk of my soul, so I will avoid commenting on the booklet that accompanies this 7”, as one flip-through reveals a near-future with the same outcome in store. F.S. Blumm joins Grubbs on this soundtrack to the booklet; a disjointed ride through fractured versions of David Grubbs circa-early ‘90s, acoustic-only Gastr Del Sol. I’ve consistently enjoyed Grubbs’ humanizing of a usually-alienating form, but this is too heavy with what I’m assuming (the booklet helps) are the avant-tendencies of his favor-receiver, who is here on 12-string acoustic to Grubbs’ 6-string. Nice packaging and good to see long-form print media coming with records, but these days, my acoustic tastes run towards something like Bill Orcutt’s living-room/cathedral run-from-the-devil sessions. (http://www.ahornfelder.de)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

Ichi Ni San Shi – Everything 7” EP (Super Secret)

There are six people in this Austin, TX band and not one of them is a decent drummer? Putting a drum machine behind their combination of wide-screen pop and shambling late-‘80s C86 cutesy-strum is not a decision based on “wanting to do something different” or “digging the retro beats we can get out of this $20 box” … it’s a decision based on laziness. Ultra-upfront squeaky-clean vocals and quirky instrumentation are someone’s idea of fascinating party conversation (“Hey, we found this crazy little kid’s organ on the side of the road!”) for painfully boring people. If there was a decent hook within four miles of this record, I’d be whistling an altogether different tune, but I’m so so so so so so so so sick of melody being mistaken for catchiness/hooks and records that beat my ears purple with their pointlessness. Seriously, so much energy is wasted. Do something else. Open a cat rescue or head up the development of a local greenway. A certain number of pointless records are needed to maintain balance, but we haven’t enjoyed that balance in a few years. This record is part of the problem. Make a life-shift or make a much better record next time around. 300 copies (200 black, 100 color). (http://www.supersecretrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

Times Neue Roman/Kids on TV – split 7” (Art Metronome)

What should that spelling of “new” say to readers? It should say “WARNING: CONTAINS UNDERGROUND CANADIAN HIP-HOP!” Bragging of meeting a girl with a “Moleskin bulge in her back pocket” and name-dropping PJ Harvey, Jack Keuroac, plus numerous topically-cool “indie” entities is all too much. Can people still listen to this crap without convulsing with spiteful laughter? Is this a spoof of something that should have died out but clearly thrives in unfortunate pockets? Why is this 7” $10 retail? The sleeve is one fold-over job … it’s not a short novella. The lyrics are graciously absent. As for Kids on TV, this is a “high-disco” remix of some previously-released track by a band “so steeped in edgy audio anarchy” as the promo one-sheet states. The song’s name doesn’t matter. Expect shitty St. Etienne or any number of femme-led dance-pop outfits that have ambled down the pike into the world of terminal irrelevance. 300 copies with special “art” on the inside of the fold-over…and #1 in a vinyl-only series titled “Art Metronome.” Utterly unremarkable on all counts. (We now have four copies of this record at Still Single HQ, so that should tell you how things have gone. – Ed.) (http://artmetropole.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

October 20, 2010

JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound – “Get it Together” b/w “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” 7” (Rabbit Factory)

Call me a negative ninny, but I’m just going to write what many of you are thinking anyway: I find the idea of a soul revivalist cover of a Wilco song to be infinitely irritating. Any guess as to what might be worse? Listening to a soul revivalist cover of a Wilco song. 100% of this is a safe and predictable made-for-NPR circle jerk. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to soul, R&B, funk, and the blues, I have about as much soul as a former kid from the proto-sprawl of a mid-sized American city should have. None. My roots are in a bedroom, poring over zines and losing my shit to Mercury Rev and TFUL282. My “blues” was listening to the first Dinosaur album on factory-made cassette over and over the day after my father died, and still failing to conjure a great deal of emotion over a man I really didn’t know that well. And get this: The mid-sized city of which I write is none other than Memphis, TN, and I’ve never felt the need to dive into its Stax/Hi/Volt or Sun history, even when I worked at a local record store for over half a decade (I was the token go-to person for “indie” or “out there” inquiries). Watching French and Japanese record-geeks file out of cabs in the parking lot of said record store was enough to make my stomach turn at the thought of spending the next three hours pulling $100 records down from the safe spots near the ceiling, or giving directions to eateries where one can have their meal served to them through a hole in the wall. I’ll also admit to deriving an ounce or two of pleasure when a Yank or a foreigner realized that “authentic” could be another word for “very, very fucking dangerous.” Serves their asses right, the goddamn slummers. So am I really the right person to review a record of mirror-image soul-funk made by Second City funnymen-via-theater-geeks? Yes, because the music that I love is music that makes me feel something, and slummers like this claim to feel something from a form when that type of art-to-heart communication is completely impossible. And yes, I am writing all of this with an accurate understanding of the band’s racial make-up, a fact that means nothing in this context. Here’s a challenge for all of you: Make or get into something interesting for a change. Trust me, I understand the appeal of the ‘90s – I lived the times that I miss – but the minstrel show/omnipresent slumming aspect of that decade is one tradition meant to be left in the past. (http://www.therabbitfactory.net)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

CSC Funk Band/Superhuman Happiness – split 7” (Electric Cowbell)

“CSC brings the horns, the rhythm and the swagger like it’s 1972” … so goes the first line of proam-splooge included with this 7”. I’m really trying for a subtle way to put this … OK, here goes: That’s a lie. I’m tired of the lies. That last sentence makes no sense, but I love saying it to people (Raymond and Peter fans will understand). So back we go to questionable statements about questionable indie-dance-funk that features “many of the finest from the Brooklyn underground…Colin Langenus (USA is a Monster) and Matt Motel (Talibam!) and Dave Kadden (Invisible Circle) playing an effected obow that will send your brain into opium-drenched wanderings through your wildest Ethiopique dreams!!!” This “sentence,” appearing a few words after the opening untruth, has more problems than a single mom with four fuckbuddies. Opium smoker, huh? My white ass you are. I can assure you, dear readers, that the effected oboe on said song will NOT produce any opium-drenched anything; that would only comes to these jokers and their target audience through Lortab addiction or stepped-on dope, and when enough girlfriends catch their respective boo’s secretly chain-smoking at 5 A.M. and mysteriously catching the flu eight times in four months, we’ll see how fertile such pharmaceutical vacations remain for promo-sheet glorification. And as for the Ethiopian psych-funk that receives the closing nod … it has about as much to do with this music as Terminal Boredom has to do with Terminal fucking Cheesecake. We can blame reissue labels for this, as they need to get their hands out of co-opted boogie and reissue Eggs’ Exploder or the Swirlies’ Blonder Tongue Audio Baton. Yeah, USA is a Monster is the first band I think of when pining for some third-rate Y2K indie-groove. I will say that as much as I love the Ethiopian buffet in my neighborhood, the “round two” that reliably confines me to a bathroom for at least forty-five minutes can indeed be psychedelic at times. See SHH review below for further details. (http://www.electric-cowbell.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

Superhuman Happiness – “GMYL” b/w “The Hounds” 7” (Electric Cowbell)

A-side is electro-pop with tons of instruments piled on top of a groove that vanishes from my mind five minutes after hearing this song eight times in a row. Oh, there’s a funk thing going on with this, too, but it’s 99 Records post-punk “funk” … not Meters or Undisputed Truth funk. The B-side is a little more memorable, and hits you upside the head with the TV on the Radio-style vocals/vocal-phrasing. Maybe SHH can find the modern-day Brill Building where TVOTR buys its songs. Maybe it’s 2005 all over again. To wrap: This 7” is for people who are so enamored with Outhud and !!! that an $4-a-day version will do (in the hook-creating dept). Comes in a plain paper sleeve that’s been stamped with the label name, plus coz’s phone # and e-mail address. Either he runs the label or is looking to jump ship… (http://www.electric-cowbell.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

Wilt – She Walks the Night 7” EP (Husk)

It looks like a one-man USBM 7”, alright, but the elitist fans of that terminally limited boys club will be giving this one the cold shoulder in no time. Sure, some of those records are pretty challenged when it comes to dynamics, but there’s usually a drum-kit nearby and an egomaniacal cobweb-crotch to sit behind it, who will likely fail at delivering what the chosen genre demands. This … this is a drone record, and not the type of drone that happens when drums are barely played and mixed super-low into the sub-cardboard box realm. Yep, befitting the cover art and, I guess, the band’s logo, it’s a pretty dark strain of drone, but drone nonetheless, especially the A-side’r, “She Walks the Night.” Percussion-less, and with instrumentation of unknown type (probably some kind of keys), the Goth-literate tone is suitably creepy and not at all cheapened by the cheapest chill-tactic of them all: Wilt greets listeners within a few seconds is a public-domain recording of a wolf howling. Thankfully, it only happens once. Assisting the creep-out factor is the regular sound of what could be a woman walking, with heels on, over a concrete floor. Whether or not this is occurring at night is anyone’s guess. Or it could be the sound of someone disassembling and reassembling a rifle……or rummaging through the family’s token “junk” drawer in the kitchen. On the flip we get two more tracks, and both work a lot better than the A-side. It should be mentioned that this is in fact a single-person affair (James P. Keeler), and considering I’ve heard much less and much more mediocre crap credited to full bands, Mr. Keeler deserves the attention of those who gobble up Coil, Current 93, Mortiis, and jailhouse-era Burzum. He is joined by a guest on “Cold Grave,” and I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that those noises came from a human’s mouth. On “Haunting the Chapel” (if this is the Slayer song, someone needs to win 2010’s Best Deconstructionist award), an ominous bass-line moves the guitar and Wolf Eyes-ish “folding table of noise” along at a crawl, and I’m left patting myself on the back for scrapping the habit of hitting the diggity-dank right before bedtime. Husk Records hails from middle-of-nowhere Kentucky and this is its 28th release. Kudos. (http://huskrecords.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

October 18, 2010

Brock Enright & Kirsten Dierup – Torben LP/Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same LP/DVD (Factory 25)

The gatefold LP/DVD enchilada in which Factory 25 delivers Jody Lee Lipes’ documentary is an idealistic future vision in packaging that may end up as little more than a hopeful gesture. Two thumbs and two toes up re: the packaging, even if it does include a congestion of blurb hype on the back cover. Now, upon first digestion, I had to beat back impulses to map out how Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same reminded me why the contemporary, art-school idea of “the artist” (or the artist’s idea of himself/herself) meshes perfectly with this era of underwhelming-to-whelming returns. The following bit of dialogue is an unwittingly telling one: “But I’m the girlfriend, and I’m the one that’s going to have to explain to our roommates the reason why we don’t have our part of the rent when we get back. I know you don’t think about that, but I do…I think about it.

I suppose a brief synopsis is in order, lest everything I write fail to make further sense. Brock Enright is an artist in what appears to be his mid-to-late 20s. Unexpectedly, he’s a pretty likeable, self-effacing guy with the pretention level dialed down to “stomachable,” which, relative to his demographic, will be way too pretentious for a lot of potential viewers. Lipes documents Enright and his longtime (long-suffering) girlfriend, Kirsten Dierup, as they travel across the country to her family’s cabin in the Redwood forest outside of Mendocina, CA. The cabin is the destination where Brock is to work on an installment commissioned by Perry Rubenstein Gallery in NYC – his first solo show in the city.

The film starts out as a visual look at the most boring road trip ever, with night after night staying and filming in built-yesterday, pre-fab comfort-cubes presumably owned by Middle Easterners. This makes sense, in a way, as off-the-beaten path motels with personality can lead to scary road situations for robbery-inviting parties like this one. Before long, this backdrop is livened up with uncomfortable Misunderstood Artist vs. Responsible-Therefore-Embattled Girlfriend drama. Then we’re at the cabin, where Dierup’s family steps in as the source of discomfort for the participants, and later, the viewer. Hard to watch.

Enright lacks almost everything that makes today’s version of a visual artist such an insufferable personality. He is not a quasi-intellectual. He is not an asshole. He could be struggling at any form, be it writing, music, or what-have-you, and the basic conflicts would be the same, namely in terms of his relationship with Dierup, who with a very gendered brush, paints her own work of jealousy over his work. Throw her passive-aggressive (disguised as laid-back) family (dad, mom, and fireman brother) into the mix, and viewers might have to stop every five minutes for a breather.

All in all, this movie was a pleasant surprise, but not a pleasant watch. The LP that provides the soundtrack was a surprise as well. Composed by Enright and Dierup (it would be interesting to know WHEN it was composed … relative to the filming), it shows the former to be an occasional genius in the songwriting dept. It’s very contemporary and shows up Animal Collective big-time in the context of memorable one-man psych weirdness, though the omnipresent influence predictable. Each of the two core participants has a respective side, and I gotta say, Enright’s shames his little lady, erasing her sonic diddle-daddle with real talent. Top to bottom, this is a fairly fascinating project that’s worth SOME of the hype. (http://www.factorytwentyfive.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months ago0 notes

Young Governor – “Call Me When the Cat Dies” b/w “Fade Away” 7” (Criminal IQ)

This gentleman’s current day job (in the not-so-witty parlance of music journalism when profiling side projects) is that of Fucked Up’s third guitarist and back-up vocalist. I’m naturally adverse to the practice of backlash, as it showcases an individual’s ignorance towards the target of criticism, not to mention a tendency towards predictable behavior. I know way too many people that dislike musical entities based on some really fucking flimsy reasoning. An unwitting byproduct of Fucked Up’s larger-than-life reputation, one that precedes the band by an insurmountable distance (making thematic defense very hard for the creative minds behind the band), is that it nurtures the type of mouthy, do-nothing, talentless, low-rent human irritant that talks shit on bands that he or she hasn’t even heard. These types should be thrown in a great big ditch and dispatched via a variety of painful methods. I take great pains to know what I’m criticizing when it comes time to lay down some caustic slice ‘n’ dice, but I am certainly not here to do anything like that to Fucked Up, who I tardily came to realize are a special and important band for our times, or the outings of Young Governor, which have mostly ripped nicely. “Call Me When the Cat Dies” made me immediately think of the late Jay Reatard circa Blood Visions, when the pop and fury were in perfect balance. Not only that, but there’s a certain poignancy in basing a song’s thematic content on that one unfortunate event that unanimously results in contact between two bitter exes. Having just recently watched one of my own felines (the 15-year-old part-Ragdoll that I raised from a kitten) return from looking the eternal dirt nap right in the face, it took me a while before I could even look at the cover of this single, featuring young Mr. Cook holding what I believe is a full-blooded Ragdoll. There’s that intangible audio feel of someone who has conquered the art of home-recording, as well as the playing of all of the instruments and sounding like a band rather than a guitar player who has a barely-workable grasp of the other instruments. My only complaint is that the reverb-happy agenda and particular use of distortion (on everything) both serve to historically-stamp this 7” with a great big “2010”. B-side is solid but a little less perfect than the pet sentiment that precedes it. Can’t see there being a ton of these pressed up, so … (http://criminaliq.bigcartel.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months agoNotes

October 6, 2010

The People’s Temple – s/t 7” EP (Hozac)

First track follows a popular circa 2008-to-present recipe that calls for one ultra-simple garage-revival song template to be buried under suffocating, disorienting amounts of reverb. Save plenty for the vocals, and if any extra FX are sitting about unused, plug those orphans into the daisy-chain. Deception is thusly served, and it works on two levels: first, the thick buzz and rapid-fire noise-bounce covers up the lack of songwriting skill for unseasoned listeners (target audience), and if it works really well, all of that vapid, emotionless echo-skree will actually DISTRACT the listener enough so that they never notice the band’s inability to write its way out of the unlocked exit doors. Second level: It matters none whether the band/entity uses a tableful of effects boxes or one Line 6 rack-mounted Pod, your sub-Gories amateur-hour endeavor isn’t automatically qualified for the psychedelic mind-fuck sweepstakes just because it’s carrying around 350 lbs. of effects. If a listener alleges that he or she “got lost” in a song like “Make You Understand,” it’s a lie, or that listener doesn’t understand the meaning behind those words. It is impossible to get lost in a sound or a song’s sound when the sound is done for the sake of itself, or for the sake of meeting the nebulous guidelines required by a mini-trend gasping its last breaths.

Convinced that the journey was headed into predictable waters, I had to check the sleeve in case I’d somehow confused a compilation with a proper 7” EP by a single band/entity. “Machine” is a sterling success in the context of understated quasi-instrumentals (the vocals are nonsensical murmurings designed to add texture) and recalls the beautiful, fully-formed but tiny passages of song glue that held together ‘90s masterpieces like TFUL282’s Mother of All Saints or Fly Ashtray’s Clumps Takes a Ride (shortsighted critics always disregarded these perfect little pop gems as “filler”). It’s got a Flying Nun feel to it, too, though that should come as no surprise in this era of the tardy name-drop. At the end of the day, however, “Machine” is, as the lazy critic once penned, “worth the price of admission.”

Side 2 is taken up by the maddeningly self-referential “Jim Jones,” a standard issue Lou Reed/Velvets rehash done with the same process used in the creation of the opening track. Lastly, when a naming scheme uses references to the Reverend Jim Jones, it speaks volumes about the pop-cultural illiteracy afflicting the minds responsible. (http://www.hozacrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

October 2, 2010

The Vermin Poets – s/t 7” EP (SmartGuy)

Another Billy Childish joint. Song-structure suggests a post-Beatles template was decided during the inaugural band meeting. To these ears, there’s the bounce and melodic lines of freak-beat with the low-impact punch of pub-rock and production values short of professional but still way north of garden-variety garage-scuzz. A theme song? Sounds like a good idea. Also sounds like something a prog-rock band would do to lighten things up. The unit is a non-traditional four-piece in that the back cover credits two drummers (one’s a lady). Or they could be a three-piece that went through two drummers in the process of recording four songs. What’s certain is the neither good nor bad music on this record has nothing to do with the exhilarating pummel possible when double drummers are done correctly. The band is named after the literary movement born when Billy Childish and four other people decided to affect a fictional literary movement’s fake history for the purpose of writing, recording, and releasing a four-song 7”. (http://www.smartguyrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

2 months agoNotes

September 27, 2010

The Better Letters – “That’s Not All” b/w “Container” 7” (4:3)

Does the first wave of post-punk still has anything left on the shelves to shoplift, or is something different and more disturbing taking place when a new band smacks listeners over the head with that era? Not that long ago, bands could get away with sounding like a Post-Punk 101 amalgam; an aurally-amorphous support structure of Gang of Four, Wire, Joy Division, Devo, P.I.L., circa-‘80 Clash, and maybe The Fall if the front-man happened to be halfway interesting. They got away with it because it’s all in how you wrote the song. And keep in mind that the initial run of highly-rhythmic, treble-happy post-punk retreads became viable as an inspired retroactive foundation (or “influence”), sonically, pretty early … Circus Lupus, Fugazi, Coral, and others I can’t remember right now … those bands made it their own. Things stayed interesting throughout the ‘90s, but the gesture became a little emptier each time a skinny little half-man picked up a stock Telecaster (read: no humbuckers) and got all jagged and tight with the riffage. Pretty soon, coworkers with proven sub-shit taste are saying, “I heard a band you’d probably be into…have you heard of ______? It sounds like some of that stuff you have on your computer.” This comment could be about Futureheads, Bloc Party, Hot Hot Heat, or any of the acts pushing it half a decade back. If you haven’t cared to noticed, we’re far past the point in a review where I’d try to rattle your proverbial cage with something like “but out of nowhere, this record spits in the face of the historical poo-pile that post-post-post-post-punk became sometime in the mid-‘00s,” and if I’m the only writer careless enough to sit back and watch my fingers type the words “historical poo-pile”, then The Better Letters are the only post-x10-punk band cribbing the Talking Heads and absolutely nothing else. At least Clap Your Hands Say What? incorporated enough secondary crappiness so as to distract from their worship of the creators of quirkiness-as-embraced-by-art-pop (for which they should have been incarcerated after Byrne was finished making one of his only tolerable musical statements with Eno). This band adds nothing to a post-punk GPS system that so desperately needs extra sonic/stylistic accessories. If more than 100 of these were pressed, it will be in print forever. No worries. (http://www.thebetterletters.com)
(Andrew Earles)

3 months ago2 notes

September 20, 2010

The Rebel – The Incredible Hulk LP / Mouth-Watering Claustrophobic Changes! LP (Junior Aspirin)

Jumping over a couple of proper LPs and an epic (and great) singles/unreleased/rare double LP finds Wallers suffering from some serious creative cabin fever in the latter half of the latter half of the past decade. It was during the former year that bins were just starting to fill with LPs sporting a particular design layout we now know as the calling card of Sacred Bones Records. One of these records bore the same moniker as the two that are now four miles away, sitting at the beginning of this review. Titled Northern Rocks Bear Weird Vegetable, I had no idea what it was. My ignorance would continue for a few months, no doubt fueled by a strong and continuing distaste for another Sacred Bones concern, Blank Dogs. I felt threatened and alienated by the hype surrounding Mike Sniper’s recycling of a form that thousands of talentless twerps spent the previous 10 to 15 years beating into sub-mediocrity. Am I proud that a handful of solitary, windows-up drives were consumed by long (overlapping) monologues of ripping dissection aimed at Blank Dogs? Am I proud that I treated Blank Dogs like a sort of seventh sign; the confirmation that we were then irreversibly fucked by a controlling era of creative bankruptcy? No, these tantrums of bitter overreaction represent misspent negativity against a guy who, if his MRR interview is any indication (showing my naive side here), seemed like a good guy, if not a candidate for a shoot-the-shit kind of friend if personal history had undergone a slight shift in reality/geography. Point being that despite some snark-rockets fired in the direction of both Sniper, Sacred Bones, and the ponytail that runs said label, I never employed my heightened (of the past two years) sense of self-reflection to obtusely applaud the ear and inspiration shown by deciding to release Northern Rocks Bear Weird Vegetable, a great record drowned out by the dismal shit-storm that was 2008/2009. So yeah, sorry about that.

Conversely, neither Mouth-watering Claustrophobic Changes! nor The Incredible Hulk hint at the genius Wallers is capable of. They sound exactly like the desire at their respective cores … a desire to fuck-off in the home studio. The self-deprecating liners, when they can be understood, tell of stupid amounts of time belaboring these insufferably long explorations into the very essence of filler. Amusing moments are sporadic, such as recording most of The Cure’s “A Forest” unadulterated until some forced skips and hand-powered backwards repeats as the five or six minute mark approaches. By and large, these two records put Wallers’ keyboard minimalism front and center, making them similar to many of the other 40 or so titles bearing The Rebel name. That last sentence was a guess. I’m too let down by Mouth-watering Claustrophobic Changes! and The Incredible Hulk, as Wallers knows and could do much better. One is definitely released in an edition of 500. As to which one that might be, well, that information is going to fall victim to my apathy of disappointment; blocking any further research or memory refreshment in favor of advancing onwards to something that might mandate a much more positive review. (http://www.junioraspirin.com)
(Andrew Earles)

3 months ago0 notes

September 19, 2010

Tonstartssbandht – Midnight Cobras 7” EP (Psychic Handshake)

Looks like the contemporary underground (for lack of a less shudder-worthy term), has finally pulled its head from its ass. This month’s run of review releases, while larger than normal, has nonetheless yielded a much better percentage of disparate bands/entities with one common factor: They are either on-the-level, or less frequently, next-level. Unless this is some cruelly elaborate carrot-waving prank, a cross-section of new records reveal that inspiration, balls, skills with a hook, forward-thinking, volume, force, subtlety, and not-giving-a-fuck are all back. Obviously, all these recently-scarce attributes rarely show up on the same record, and this one is no exception. But this band, one that has committed moniker suicide, transforms early Comets on Fire into what I always thought it should be anyway: Really, really loud pop. With a signature personality poking out through the blatant love of pre-Hot Tuna Ben Chasny, and a more understated resemblance to Wildildlife (an example of hemorrhaging inspiration and laminated Next-Level-Shit ID cards), Tonstartssbandht is the sort of band that reminds me why I’m in this mess. In closing, the world would be a much more accommodating place if SHITTY bands had names that rendered them impossible to recommend to other people. How in the hell am I supposed to word-of-mouth this ooga-boogaland nonsense? Black vinyl … pressing unknown, but probably not into the four digit realm. (http://www.myspace.com/psychichandshake)
(Andrew Earles)

3 months agoNotes

September 8, 2010

Sleepovers – “Secret” b/w “Sleepovers Are Fun” b/w “Together Forever” 7” (Hozac)

Truthfully, some sleepovers are not fun. Especially loathsome are the ones peopled by former members of various plural noun bands, all over the age of 20, no, scratch that, clearly over the age of 25, wearing footie PJs and confusing car dealership/community college TV-jingle or parents-are-at-work daytime PBS kiddie programming melodies with a little sum-sum the trained ear knows as a hook. As Calvin Johnson proved IN 1988…this shit is caaaah-reeeeeee-peeee! Is this a spoof of the Sad is Bad agenda? See, once again, someone needs a refresher course. Dawgs can’t even get the fonts right. Forced positivity works a lot better if you use cute and squeezable visuals. You can use every shade of every approachable color in the spectrum, but if your S’s, L’s, E’s, P’s, O’s, (especially your O’s) V’s, and R’s are all scrawny and semi-jagged, your Hozac moment is getting flipped over like it was IDM; your 7” forgotten like the movement in question “forgot” (selective intellect!) that Olympia, Washington happened. Puff that shit up; make each letter round, fat, furry, and sentient…bustin’ out of the produce section, takin’ tickets at the petting zoo, catchin’ a back-atcha smile from the sun a la 1st Dinosaur LP, pickin’ up trash in the courtyard at the old folks’ home, that’s it! Sad is bad, indeed! And make some shambling pop that doesn’t induce 10-second bouts of short-term memory loss. Introducing a new micro-sub-offshoot-branch-wing genre of the Sad is Bad movement: This is Bad. 500 copies. (http://hozacrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

3 months agoNotes

Tired Old Bones – “Country Circus” b/w “Do Not Disturb” 7” + 4-song CDEP (Skeleton Heads)

One of the more irritating and false claims about bad music writing is that it’s identified by exposure/reinforcement of topical or historical similarities between different entities, influence-spotting, writing about the thematic, visual, or sonic linkage connecting two eras, and other methods of calling it like the writer sees it. Those making these irritating and false claims usually fall back on the umbrella accusation that the critical device, if you want to call it that (you probably don’t), is a “copout” and writers should, “just express what it sounds like without leaning on the crutch of who it sounds like” or some other instructional horseshit often delivered by musicians, label-heads, publicists, self-righteous “writers” forever stuck in whore auto-pilot, or walking grammatical holocausts confusing “writing” with whatever it is they do besides create promotional fluff. A unifying factor among these types is the uncontrollable bristling that occurs after reading, “Tired Old Bones bear the strongest resemblance to peak alt-country deregulators, The Geraldine Fibbers”. Behind different reasoning, this faction of ninnies would react the same way to, “As band names go, Tired Old Bones holds the distinction of being what may be the worst…ever.” A roll-call of ‘90s alt-country bands that shoehorned experimentation into their respective styles would be skipped over entirely, despite the inappropriateness of said word count-reaching trick due to Tired Old Bones’ complete lack of experimental qualities, and the lameness of the venerable and admittedly half-ass “but you get the point” defense as an acting over-and-out gesture. Switching over to the artists under the knife, it’s presumed that Tired Old Bones members prefer the Mekons as a name-checked influence over a forgotten ‘90s band, but that’s the thing about body odor….you can’t smell yourself! (http://www.myspace.com/tiredandold)
(Andrew Earles)

3 months agoNotes

September 6, 2010

Claw Toe – “Ingrown Ego” b/w “Girl from the Gas Station” 7” (Criminal IQ)

In theme alone, Claw Toe could be this generation’s answer to Strangulated Beatoffs, Happy Flowers, or deeper, darker tardcore concerns of the 80’s and 90’s, except that C.T. has a lot more gas in the clever tank than the bulk of that trash. Think a modernized (or more primitive, depending on which hairs one decides to split) Big Stick….funny, stupid, and semi-genius but nowhere near as brilliant as the untouchable Frogs when that duo was firing on all cylinders (My Daughter The Broad). This will appeal to adventurous Hozac/Termbo acolytes behind the use of shitty drum machine, pointlessly-noisy guitar and feed-backing pedal-train, and half-ass Wax Trax “German” industrial inflection to the spoke-spoke (rather than spoke-sung) vocals, not unlike the Spits without the sub-literate halfwit element or gross case of terminal unoriginality. Claw Toe’s lyrics are quite funny, and the not-quite repetitive lines with comedic tweaks make for subtle hilarity. On the non-vocal side of things, Claw Toe is an entity on its knees begging for a full-length on Load (a good thing). The only drawback here is the tiny concern that Claw Toe might be a lot smarter than its intended audience, and whether or not I just revealed “the point” is lost to an unknown blurriness. Perhaps “concern” is too strong a term. But let’s bring things back around to the realm of clarity: This 7” deserves to be owned, enjoyed, and talked-about. 300 copies. (http://www.criminaliq.com)
(Andrew Earles)

3 months ago0 notes

Fey Gods – “Untied” b/w “Bury Me Standing” 7” (Hozac)

There must be more than one set of ears governing the Hozac intake/output pipeline. A wildly inconsistent label can be wonderful so long as one extreme is extremely interesting/inspired, and for this particular patch of history, Hozac is like watching several days’ worth of “The Wire” back-to-back with seasons of “According to Jim.” Fey Gods is a haunting, unprecedented mood-setter with the best of ‘em, and a solid representative of the “should” part of home-recording circa-2010’s “just because everyone can, doesn’t mean that everyone should” doctrine. Hey, if a record can sound like 400 discarded reverb units marched up single-file and took a dump on the first three Sisters of Mercy 7”s and still find itself repeatedly spun during pleasure-listening time, it’s the sound of something being done right. 500 copies. (http://hozacrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

3 months ago0 notes

Rocket from the Tombs – “I Sell Soul” b/w “Romeo and Juliet” 7” (Hearpen/Smog Veil)

Thanks for excluding the RPM instruction. At 45 RPM, “I Sell Soul” is at best, not embarrassing. Unfortunately, at 33 RPM, it’s the song that they probably wrote and recorded, which is the aural equivalent of a Megan’s Law-mandated sign in someone’s front yard. Formerly seminal musicians of this vintage have a really hard time understanding that “intensity” and “darkness” do not traverse generational gaps with any grace whatsoever. I am not a young person, though I’d hesitate to think what one would think of this. These guys sell soul, huh? By the looks of the full-band photo (in the studio, no less) on the back cover, they could also sell Radio Shack products, real estate, air conditioners, insurance, drum lessons, disaster-salvaged furniture, and extremely low-grade BJ’s behind a Winn Dixie dumpster. Yes, Mr. Richard Lloyd, we know you’re a guitar player. There’s no need to flash your authentically road-worn Strat to enjoy the photo-op. What does Cheetah Chrome’s guitar look like? His face? I don’t know why this exists. It’s so bad it hurts my feelings. Seriously. (http://www.smogveil.com)
(Andrew Earles)

3 months agoNotes

August 19, 2010

Chicago Thrash Ensemble – s/t one-sided 12” EP (Plastic Airlines)

According to most underground metal elitists, in order to be of “the true,” one must fall from the womb clutching an original copy of Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends on vinyl (ouch!), or do more time in the woods than in school between the ages of 13 and 16. “True” folks love to bemoan its underrated status. “True” folks will probably not like the Chicago Thrash Ensemble, but fuck those lonely assholes; this is exactly the type of record that metal needs. That’s right, metal needs a one-sided, 45 rpm interpretation of thrash metal by a bunch of dudes that cut their teeth in ‘90s hardcore bands. And as for the current thrash revival? This stomps the life out of all but 10% of that ridiculous cause.

Obviously, the charm of this record is not in the ground that it breaks, which falls somewhere between “none” and “nil”. Zach Petrusa and Mike Heerboth, the two guitarists at work here, should be applauded for their complete dismissal of solos and embrace of riffs, riffs, riffs, a pick-squeal here or there, and even more riffage on top of that. A lack of technical know-how? No … thrash stores its hooks, its heart, its feeling, and its general catchiness in RIFFS, not in all that dumbass shredification. This probable one-off is spawned directly from the wiseasses behind Hewhocorrupts, Kung Fu Rick, and Iron Reminders as well as a hundred additional hardcore and fine-grind bands, not to mention its indirect relation to the same Chicago scene that can be thanked for Tusk, Pelican, Russian Circles, and 7000 Dying Rats. The vocals, courtesy of Jimmy Dunn (with everyone else contributing backing or side-bellows/screams), are rooted firmly in the higher register area of ‘90s crust…an identifying factor right out of the gate. Still, dude sounds like he means it, and this is galaxies better than any of that crossed-arm boys-club-boo-foo nonsense that the NYHC scene has poisoned heavy music with over the last two decades. The Chicago Thrash Ensemble’s LP is the eighth release by Plastic Airlines Records, (a label with a tendency towards great packaging and limited editions – only 100 of last year’s wonderful Iron Reminder LP), and is available via a pressing of around 335. The other side of the record is screened, as is the fold-over cover, and the package comes with a laminated sheet of nine baseball cards wherein six are professionally-made representations of the band members (in team garb with stats on the reverse), two are seemingly random choices of real cards (I got the Cardinals’ Willie McGee and the Reds’ Tom Browning), and one is the record’s actual liner notes. Nice. While this one took a few spins to win me over, the cover of The Fighters’ “Motor Man” is one of the more intense and perfectly-executed moments in metal circa 2010 (thus worth the price of admission). A keepuh!! (http://www.plasticairlines.com)
(Andrew Earles)

4 months ago1 note

Fecalove – “Dead Weight” b/w “When” 7” (BloodLust!)

And the “Least Likely To Attend Jessica Hopper’s Next Potluck” Award goes to … Fecalove! These two sides of power-electronics are very much on the super-harsh side of the spectrum, and the thickly Euro-accented spoken vocals overdubbed in different pitches are very much on the silly side of said spectrum, so long as one doesn’t eat pot brownies ahead of time or generally think too hard about how this shit actually SOUNDS. That shouldn’t be a problem, actually. Printed on the back sleeve as well as perfectly understandable if/when consumed via ear-hole, this is very literally a recorded story of oral-rape, with the additional subtext of an old-guy/young-girl dynamic. Wait a second, my secretary is calling with some info I requested before I started writing this review. OK, it turns out that, much to my surprise, that grown adults are behind this. While the depravity does beat the listener over the head, it does so with a Nerf Bat. And some will most assuredly find the subject matter to be inappropriate, and this isn’t EXTREME in the bright green sports soft drink sense of the word; my biggest issue is the blatant stupidity of the whole package. Check, please! 200 numbered copies, pink vinyl. (http://bloodlust.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

4 months ago0 notes

July 16, 2010

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

With uninspired, apathetic plagiarism and incorrectly-assumed entitlement befouling the spectrum of new releases/new bands, I sincerely hope that as many people as possible get to hear the debut, self-released Arctic Flowers 7”, and I hope those people appreciate the care, songwriting attention, production quality, and playing that went into this record. A.F. features Stan Wright (Signal Lost, Deathreat) on guitar, and he also engineered this 7” at his Buzz or Howl Studios in Portland. 50/50 gender-split with vocals going to the ladies, this 4-piece comes from hardcore but sonically tackles Team Dresch, The Au Pairs, Fugazi, Amebix, Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain, and 154-era Wire with skill and an obvious love and knowledge of their inspirations. The exclusivity and stylistic straightjacket plaguing a certain degree of ‘90s/’00s hardcore is nowhere to be heard or seen regarding this strong, memorable bolt from the gates. (http://www.myspace.com/arcticflowerspdx)
(Andrew Earles)

5 months agoNotes

Disfear – Misanthropic Generation LP (La Familia)

Originally released in 2003, Misanthropic Generation is Disfear’s fourth full-length release … on paper. This album is the line of demarcation between Swedish D-beat band and Swedish D-beat band fronted by Tomas Lindberg with 50% of the guitar duties going to Uffe Cederlund of The Entombed. These two additions hijacked a perfectly decent band and immediately transformed it into a vehicle for a very special type of rock and roll, one that pushes the form’s components against the threshold of what can still be identified as part of the genre. Misanthropic Generation is the first of the band’s two-album final word statements on d-beat. If made to follow Disfear in a listening sequence, forefathers like Discharge sound like a band of 400-lb slobs with brain-melting fevers, and the music of Motorhead becomes silence. 2008’s Live the Storm (Relapse) is Disfear’s perfection of vision – literally one of the heaviest, loudest, and most aggressive examples of rock and roll to emerge. As proven by this limited edition, German reissue of Misanthropic Generation, the vision was always within reach. A very slight warning: Those rightfully enamored with Kurt Ballou’s production on Live the Storm need to be aware that the sonic dynamism of that album is absent from Misanthropic Generation, but hardly an issue in this particular summit of excellence. This reissue is still fairly easy to come by, despite being released in early 2009. Don’t fuck this up, people. (http://www.lafamiliareleases.com/temporary/index.html)
(Andrew Earles)

5 months agoNotes

Innumerable Forms – Dark Worship 7” EP (Hell Massacre/Painkiller)

So I throw this thing on the portable Ion (left or right of the primary laptop – whichever side isn’t the glorified abacus/previous laptop before it took a hit of lightning up through the power cord and became a “research” computer) and imagine my surprise when I soon reach the conclusion that this is among the heaviest bands I’ve ever heard. I’m decently versed in heavy, but more importantly, I’m trudging through my mid-30s that way because it’s always been about the two H’s for me: the Hook and Heavy. Dark Worship is so heavy that it matters very little that no hook comes within 50 miles of this fucker. The band’s articulate moniker and legible logo both mean exactly what some in the metal community don’t want: Next level shit. Aww, so sorry we can’t keep it duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmb. What little promo-scrawl there is about this record seems to rely on the nonsense that this resembles early-‘90s elitist 20-count fan-base style death metal like Convulse. Well, this sounds NOTHING like Convulse. If my poseur ears are to be considered (humor me), this recalls prime Bolt Thrower but only in the riffing, which is 98% of B.T., sure, but it was the first thing that popped into my head re: its similarity to the general act of fucking up over it being too hard to resist comparing one band to another band, and so on. This is a WALL of the heaviest, moodiest, and most powerful metal to come along … ever. For the ninnies: The vocals are waaaay understated. For the hair-splitters: This is a project of Mind Eraser’s singer, Justin Detore. For the good ones: This is highly recommended. (http://www.painkillerrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

5 months ago0 notes

Nice Face – Immer Etwas LP (Sacred Bones)

So I’m about four years behind on turning in this review but I’m still dancing around in the Internetherworld doing a little of the dead art known as “research” when I come across the Sacred Bones site. Imagine how proud I was to find, among the promotional text written to peddle this full-length album, this passage: “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?” This was quoted from my previous review of the Nice Face 7” for Still Single. Sure, if someone wants to punch up their promo copy with an “-ism” pulled from a review that I wrote, have at it, but please try to remember that my name is ANDREW EARLES, not “one writer prone to curmudgeonly ranting” and I don’t understand why anyone would want to use “curmudgeonly ranting” in their promo text, especially when the passage is followed by the claim, “we think this is the cheesiest sentence ever written, even if it was intended as a compliment.” Let me get this straight: If I put out some records, and I’m trying to win over potential listeners – you know, get the Paypal gears a ‘turnin – I should go out and find the cheesiest sentence ever written and blurb it in my descriptive text? This greases the mechanism that separates people from their money? Should I make sure that the comment was written by a reviewer that I clearly disagree with? Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but rants written by curmudgeons … shouldn’t they read a little differently than lighthearted 27-word descriptions that indicate the writer is CLEARLY FUCKING AROUND? Caleb, do you need a mailing address to direct my W-2 towards? Figured I might get a little kick back or something, seeing as how my writing and the subject of my writing are seemingly worthy enough to take up at least a fourth of the one-sheet for this LP. Tell you what, if you end up releasing the follow-up to this record, I’ll make it much easier for you when it comes time to write the one-sheet. Ok, ready? [Left click] “There is no such thing as a phoned in, uninspired, hook-free version of latter-period Jay Reatard, but if for some unknown reason, listeners are curious as to what that might have sounded like, look no further than Immer Etwas.” [Right click] [Right click] (http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Coyote Slingshot – First Word of Evil Omens – VITIUM 7” EP (Super Secret)

Well, let’s just take this zoological/biological fad to its logical manifestation of unknowing self-parody. Isn’t that the final stage in any movement’s pathetic home-stretch? Coyote Slingshot is the artistic moniker of Domenic Rabalais, an (obligatorily) small-town kid who tried really hard to freak out the square-johns in his small Midwestern hometown by wearing truck-stop Native American head-dresses and attaching coyote skulls to his homemade sleeveless t-shirt, which appeared to be his only piece of above-the-waist clothing. After all, his folks own three motels, four service stations, and two restaurants in town and he could buy the entire outlet mall if he wanted. The shirt has the Black Flag logo underneath the words “Neutral Milk Hotel.” The locals didn’t quite understand the cultural car-wreck imagined by the latter … a band t-shirt is a band t-shirt … at least it didn’t say “Impaled Nazarene” like the one worn by the one weirdo kid that’s still in town. After he had lived in Austin, TX for a few months, Mr. Slingshot sent some small records back to a few of the locals. Mainly family, but also that neighbor girl who was able to wear a D-cup by the time she was eleven. The songs on the record, they aren’t crap, when you can comprehend what the hell is happening. Everyone in town who heard it had the same concern: Did he keep the receipt for his studio time? Sure, it’s pretty impressive that he played every instrument on that record but it’s not like there’s much drumming to be heard on the little record, and something on the computer showed him how to record all of those instruments, and showed him how to dress like that, too. (http://www.supersecretrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

5 months ago1 note

Gay Beast – “Charm” b/w “We Keep Our Victims Ready” 7” (Skin Graft)

Skin Graft is like that immortal drifter that the philandering wife simply cannot kill in Creepshow 2. Just when another Made in Mexico seemingly lets out a booming death rattle, a silly looking hand puppet pops out of your air-conditioning vent and growls “Thanks for the ride, lady…” before throwing a Gay Beast 7” at your cat. Both of these songs are constructed in an interesting manner relative to the confining musical prison cell that is warmed-over, modern-day No-Wave. Maybe four or five more atonal riffs or keyboard farts than normally heard on such a record, and more personality. Regardless, atonal riffing is a troublesome affair, yet this is just tuneful enough to transcend the irritatingly-typical four-year-old-with-four-riffs trap that no wave-ish nonsense finds itself in. Yep, I get it, no wave is supposed to irritate listeners, but is it supposed to irritate listeners through the act of seriously sucking? This doesn’t seriously suck, and it’s degrees friendlier than the company it keeps. (http://www.skingraftrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

5 months ago0 notes

Shearing Pinx – Weaponry LP (Div/orce)

Positive (re: not aggro) noise-rock with semi-spazz setting glued in place. This band is from Canada so it’s friendly, approachable, and structured, more or less. Think Aids Wolf with the “confrontation” replaced with hyper-awareness (first song: “I am Jim O’Rourke”….probably NOT a tribute). Instrumental makeup is guitar, guitar, and drums with everyone yelping, yelling, and accidentally singing. Expect long exercises in improvisational drone and noise plus very short examples of the jittery song-blast variety. Invariably, this is one more record that feels, sounds, and lives out its days with one or two spins to its credit. Forever. (http://www.divorcerecords.ca)
(Andrew Earles)

5 months agoNotes

July 7, 2010

Ensemble Orlando – At the Lake LP (self-released)

In typical Murphy’s Law (not the band) fashion, the first real show of latent Thinking Fellers Local Union 282 respect would come from across the pond. Denmark lots-a-members outfit Ensemble Orlando formed in 2007 and proudly advertises a love of San Francisco’s greatest non-Steel Pole Bathtub export. But what really matters is that At the Lake expertly flies the flag of authentically-bent pop during an era when the charlatans and amateurs are flying the plane, while everyone (including those in their thirties or older that know better) gladly sits in front of the proverbial plates of shit being served, stuffing their faces like first-day-free ex-cons at a catered wedding. Some listeners or readers (who don’t plan on listening at all) will scoff at the fact that this album could’ve been time-machined from an especially adventurous corner of underground goings-on circa-1995. Hey, someone is buying all of the Thinking Fellers albums on eBay, and it’s not this writer (kept my originals …) It looks really awesome when the promotional organs of so many lesser acts of today reference a bunch of older artists that the collage-core set has memorized and understands as “seminal”, regardless of the past artists’ actual similarities to the entity being pushed. In the spirit of this, let it be known that the following artists really did inform Ensemble Orlando during the creation of At the Lake: Sun City Girls, Fly Ashtray, Furtips, Meringue, Uncle Wiggly, and you know whooooooooo … Highly, highly, recommended. (http://www.ensembleorlando.dk)
(Andrew Earles)

5 months ago1 note

Yves/Son/Ace – Parade of Thought LP (Night-People)

This is a solo side-project of the Factums/Love Tan vector, and according to the Sacred Bones site, this is an album of “experimental synth pop” with a “desolate, murky atmosphere and references to Suicide, Joe Meek-style futures, the most paranoid Ralph Records releases and Industrial 80’s minimal wave.” Other loaded phrases and words include “Alan Vega,” “oscillating music box melodies,” “doomy three note keyboard patterns giving way to boombox drones,” “Hive Mind-style static,” “perfect weirdo edge,” and “Japanese Vanity label” (as in “would’ve fit nicely on one.”) I do agree that this album is experimental; it is an experiment in half-assed outcomes, in the art of fucking around with FX boxes and neglected keyboards, left over in a practice space from some other band, for what better not be more than one evening’s duration, the art of starting in one place and eventually reaching maximum threshold of cool-approved references in an online bio. By virtue of the names mentioned and nods made, reading the bio out-loud creates a far more interesting audio situation than is created when the album is physically placed on a rotating turntable. (http://www.raccoo-oo-oon.org/np)
(Andrew Earles)

5 months agoNotes

July 6, 2010

Los Buddies – s/t 7” EP (Buddy Brand)

It makes me want to hurt strangers when mentally-touched folk, and especially the things that mentally-touched folk make or employ, spark the use of the faux-adjective “buddy”. It’s almost as infuriating as the scene parlance of “boo you!” to express discontent with another person’s actions. But I’m referencing loathsome vermin here, and I’m almost convinced that the members of Los Buddies occupy an altogether different personality-spectrum. Check out this passage from the handwritten note (always a nice touch) that accompanied this 7”: “Los Buddies are from Jackson, Mississippi. We put this out on our own Buddy Brand label. There are 150. All black. All vinyl. MP3 cards included. They are available via Goner Records and Florida’s Dying – or as a last resort, the band.” Why is that last line so funny? Seriously. Belying the band’s self-deprecating tone is one major fact, and it will have the proverbial needle scratching across then grinding to halt, the day of each reader … and yet, within the context of the dismal garage-pop realm, this is next-level shit. The hooks are sterling hitters that underscore everyday activities like driving a car, making this a sublime experience. Opener “UFO” and its dumber-than-dumb lyrics are nullified by a chorus that MUST have be stolen from the Last or the Only Ones or some other top-shelf hook royalty. When the hook sounds stolen but one cannot place the song of origin (because there isn’t one), that hook is most likely a keeper. Driving the catchiness is a noisy form of garbage-pop that doesn’t beat listeners about the head and neck with reverb but DOES employ all manner of FX boxes (or just one box as a modeler – nothing wrong with that). When the songs stop, the squealing and ringing barbs continue for a few seconds or fire up first before the power-pop propulsion takes over. This is being noted because the noisy nature of this record is yet another quality built with QUALITY instead of affected for future party conversation. “Hey, love the extra reverb on your single … it goes perfectly with the discarded early ‘90s personal computer photo collage you used for cover art.” There will be none of that when one of the 150 copies of this record is the topic of discussion! (http://www.myspace.com/losbuddies)
(Andrew Earles)

5 months ago0 notes

June 30, 2010

The Sloppy Heads – First Gasp! 7” EP (Chocco Salo)

Pretty close to Sleepyhead and/or the Mommyheads in name and task, NYC’s the Sloppy Heads continue in a tradition of area pop bands given to brainy, possibly over-educated, ebullient modes of creative expression. Curiously, they start their approach with a ballad, and it’s a classic in the making: “Noland (2 Souls in Confusion)” trades off a simple, last-call reverb guitar melody, as male and female vocalist trade stanzas about two self-deprecatory romantics. It’s as stirring as it is comforting. B-sides are “I Need Yr Luv” (three chords, some intrusive synth, and a big oversexed heart) and “The Electric Momz,” dimly chilled-out strum that plays like a tribute to Small Factory. These are not bad things! Really stands out in a pack of new bands trying to adhere to some genre they can’t possibly improve upon; alongside that Fly Ashtray single that Earles is about to release, records like these make me wonder if 1991 begins next month. Fine by me. Oh, one last thing: IT’S NOT LO-FI! Thank fucking Christ people are starting to pull away from that sonic millstone. These songs ably recorded by Kid Millions of Oneida. Good times inside. (http://www.myspace.com/sloppyheads)
(Doug Mosurock)

6 months ago0 notes

June 18, 2010

Fontana – s/t LP (X! Records)

Sloppy, spastic, or confused hardcore LPs are always welcome, so long as they’re good driving (meaning, good for the car) records. By the looks of the cover, twee-tedium was expected, but that’s what expectations are for: a good dashing! Everything that makes this sort of record great: frustration, members are sick of everyone’s shit, everyday is a bad day, feel like a broke-dick dog by Monday morning even though you’re only 21, a sense of humor that’s worth a shit, and a band name that tricks people into thinking it might be one of those fake shoegaze/noise-pop bands assembled in a boardroom during the latter half of 1993. “Fellas, I like the striped tees, OK, so do you want to be on Seed Records, Grass Records, or SpinArt? The world is your polluted freshwater clam. Kidding, dudes! This is going to be awesome!” Truthfully, that latter attribute was just tacked on for the sake of observational humor, and no one thinks pathetic nonsense like that and no one buys Madder Rose or Dig or Sammy records but people should buy this record. Kudos for the song about Vietnam and the singer/guitarist’s non-ironic use of what appears to be a paint-splattered Charvel. Enter my gear-geek phase. Black vinyl. (http://www.x-recs.com)
(Andrew Earles)

6 months agoNotes

Night Owls – Fun and Games 7” EP (Barbarossa/Hex)

This debut 7” by Syracuse’s Night Owls is essentially very muscular pop-punk with just a pinch of grit on the vocals and the type of professionally-thick, dual-guitar riffs that causes an automatic mental association with Y2K, when we were seeing two things come to fruition: the popularity highpoint/creativity low-point of Turbonegro/Hellacopters & Pals and the first widespread instance of overnight Thin Lizzy and AC/DC love by ‘90s cruster, sXe, and post-hardcore dudes. Instead of the Hot Snakes/Drive Like Jehu wishful-thinking found in the bio-blurb on the Barbarossa Records site, Night Owls could easily be a holdover or recently discovered never-was from approximately ten years ago, rooted across the country in the Pacific Northwest. The introductory paragraph or review in Hit List almost feels real: “No one really remembers who brought the beat-up Johnny the Fox LP, the red Grand Funk album, or Montrose s/t to the Food Not Bombs holiday party last year, but once the overpowering aroma of cultivated B.O. and lentil flatulence was replaced by cheap tree liquor and grade-A rock, it wouldn’t be long before a hard-rock bond was formed between Gabi from Fat Fucks Better, Ray and Porter from Human Parvo, and Steven from grindologists Half-Eaten Ant-Covered Tampon. That bond is what we now know as Night Owls.” Before this Night Owls record – the real one that’s supposed to be the subject of this review – comes away with little more than an unfair dismissal, repeated listens have revealed what is probably a band of serious adults who are definitely as trained as a band can possibly be in the non-art of what was once disgraced with the sub-genre term of “Punk ‘n’ Roll” – a fact proven by an especially exciting minute or so of guitar swells and solos that rises up from the (B-)side-long “Germaphobe” with such confidence that the song may very well become a staple over the next week or two. A sonic monument to the down-stroked and blurrily-picked Gibson/Epiphone SG that behaves as though such a thing has never made it to record before. In this case, the quasi-obliviousness is a good thing. On red, white, and black vinyl. (http://www.barbarossarecords.bigcartel.com) (http://hexrecords.bigcartel.com)
(Andrew Earles)

6 months agoNotes

Ty Segall & Mikal Cronin – Reverse Shark Attack LP (Kill Shaman)

Reverb can the Bondo of noise-pop, soft-garage, and medium-noise riff-repeat rock (this). It can elevate sub-par flimsiness up a grade, but the trained ear can figuratively finger-thump the exterior, hearing and feeling the hollowness where there should be inspiration. On other occasions, reverb is like the third or fourth child conceived behind a marriage-saving motive. Or like the act of marriage itself, like when junkies get married to add a false-sense of normality to a chaotic life. Pile on the reverb, and songwriters of questionable merit will cause writers of questionable merit to uncontrollably pen phrases like “the records molest the listener’s ears with blown-out psych boogie filth piled on top of sugary hooks” or some such horseshit. Ty Segall almost fell down this slippery slope, before he started making different records. His first full-length LP from ’08 or ’09 proved a quick repellent, through the plain-jane garage-rock tedium of which ears in these parts (Memphis, TN) get beaten to death. Segall’s connection to Thee Oh Sees, plus the pop-hook hints he dropped in lieu of reality seemed to be doing the ‘ol hoodwink, but he was what, twelve years old when he made that record? Later titles have shown improvements here and there (or have slipped through the cracks), and while the maximalist desire to release recordings of breakfast table conversations and walks to the store in order to build a body of work is one that this writer admires, there’s always that quality-control issue sitting on the other shoulder. The 7” by this particular union is a little thing that, like Ty’s first LP, must be an indicator of a greater problem, because no memories of the three or four spins can be exhumed. So this LP was placed on the table-top ION portable turntable and Sony low-end studio monitor headphones of wonderful comfort and brain-rattling volume were slipped over the ear-holes, and the one thing came to mind immediately: sounds like someone’s been listening to what occasionally emanates from the Kyuss-commune half-a-state south of the Bay Area, be it from that Bjork fella, or from someone older and less cool. Since when did this guy get heavy? Or sort of heavy? The recent Goner 7” is heavy, too, on one side definitely, and this stuff is lifetimes ahead of the paper-thin mediocrity I heard coming off of a stage about a year or so back. Is it the other half of the duo? Progress is good. You got my attention, now get heavier. (http://www.killshaman.com)
(Andrew Earles)

6 months ago1 note

Sharp Ends – “Northern Front” b/w “Ghost of Chance” 7” (Hozac) / “Crack Traps” b/w “Loaded Hearts” 7” (Mammoth Cave Recordings Co.)

Remember when everyone was comparing Interpol to Joy Division musically, yet it was clear that the comparison was rooted in the band’s cutout-bin Peter Murphy-meets-Carlos D’s Flying Burrito Bros. Go To West Berlin! agenda? No? Good…let sleeping dogs lie. Or die. Interpol did the vocals of Starfish-era Church and the guitars of 90’s indie-rock, and nothing more complex than that. HoZac could release an album that sounds identical to Interpol and people would go apeshit over that joint, mark my words! My point is…with Interpol, all of the garage-punk knuckle-draggers locked into homo-baiting epithets on vocab auto pilot, just like they did in the ‘90s when faced with anything that didn’t have some topless bar stool barnacle on the album cover and a “raw” appropriation of the same worn-out Gories riffs ad infinitum. But the Ponys are accepted? I love the Ponys, but they sound like the Church (who I also love). Am I the only person on earth that finds it hilarious that some of these same retro-robots have now stripped off their racehorse-blinders and fully embraced music that would have threatened their manhood some 10 to 15 years ago? These days, there’s very few degrees of separation between a former Estrus intern and someone filling Slumberland’s pockets with the stuff that makes the world go round. What’s my point again? Sharp Ends’ 7” on HoZac sounds IDENTICAL to the more rocking tracks from Turn On the Bright Lights, and the parties involved want you to believe that the single on Mammoth Cave Recordings is influenced by The Fall or No Wave, but I’m going to go with GoGoGoAirheart if you don’t mind. In case listeners feel like these records have more teeth or might be grittier than the influences or source material I’m claiming, step back and consider that “crappier production values” isn’t the same thing as “more teeth” or “grittier”. Would you believe that I really like one song off of each 7” (the A-sides)? Of course I do, because I’ve always dug stuff like this. I dug it when it when Coral, Candy Machine, Trenchmouth, Circus Lupus, etc did it, I dug it when Monorchid/Skull Kontrol, The In/Out, and Pavement did it, and we could keep climbing the ‘90s chronological tree and enter the last decade with strength and quality, but I keep having bad memories of a guy in a Rip-Offs t-shirt standing behind me in line at a to-remain-unnamed record store in Chicago and whispering “art-pussy” in reference to my stack of Siltbreeze and Slumberland purchases. Tunes have changed … tunes have changed. (http://hozacrecords.com) (http://mammothcave.bigcartel.com)
(Andrew Earles)

6 months agoNotes

Spencey Dude and the Doodles – s/t 7” EP (Rob’s House)

This 7” is about the girlfriend or spouse cattin’ around behind our Mr. Spencer’s back. Maybe some of our readers have “the fear” and need to give the rambunctious little lady some hints. Before ripping out the big guns (this 7”), I recommend Type O Negative’s debut album Slow, Deep, and Hard, specifically the opening track, “Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity” – a 12-minute study of “fookin’ whooo-ahhs!” anchored by a chorus of the late Pete Steele yelling “I know you’re fucking someone else!!” followed by the remaining band members’ back-up shout-along of “He knows you’re fucking someone else!!” As your girlfriend takes a seat on the couch, stand next to the stereo and stare at her. Six minutes later, when Type O launches into the first of five identical choruses, try to adopt the worst frown possible while giving an affirmative nod to the rhythm of the song, pointing one finger at her, and the other at the stereo. Don’t forget the unblinking stare. If that doesn’t work, two songs on this Spencey Dude & the Doodles 7” are definitely about that stretch of a relationship ruled by paranoia and jealousy. If listeners happen to be suffering from one or both of those unflattering issues, the entire record (4 songs total) could be the perfect soundtrack to fumbling through your girlfriend’s phone while she’s in the toilet. Turn it up REAL loud so you can’t hear her flush. Busted! Spencer Hicks is the man behind these tunes, which are not entirely afflicted with the public-domain curse; I remember the words sung…..but not the music. That’s too bad, because the 7” has only been off the table for five minutes and I expected more sonic fuckery from producer Greg Ashley. The back cover is too charming to allow any more negative criticism. There’s just so much music coming out, and so much music I need to go back and absorb, and so much music that I’m enamored with…these three categories take up 150% of my listening time, is it too much to ask that everyone try a little harder? (http://www.robshouserecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

6 months ago0 notes

April 16, 2010

Mess Folk – Something I Remember 7” EP (Hozac)

There was a TON of Hozac input this review cycle. Not sure how so much of it ended up under this roof, because the exchange of money for records almost never gets Hozac releases through the door these days. One look and listen to Nobunny and fear shot straight up from the scrotum to the throat … it was that feeling again. Like being Rowdy Roddy in “They Live,” or being 15 on the morning after your father has suffered a massive stroke in his sleep and suddenly can’t read the paper … that feeling of not-knowing what’s next on general well-being level. But the problem with acts like Mess Folk is one of KNOWING and GETTING IT but not wanting to accept that standards have sunk like they have. Once again, let’s hope that no part of a reverb unit is derived from plant or animal for the sake of avoiding yet another dodo bird sitch, or tree-extinction … same reason decent wine comes to you through a screw-top these days … we boozies made the goddamn cork tree go extinct. Reverb. “Psych” with nothing remotely psychedelic taking place within a five-mile radius of the portable USB Ion-brand record-ripper from Target, or vintage late-‘70s Pioneer component system, both of which did their respective bests (hey, not too shabby of a cartridge on this little portable jobs!) at cranking the living shit out of this record in hopes that it would cancel itself out in favor of silence. Whenever someone records THAT record, the hands will be put together in repetition. (http://www.hozacrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

8 months ago0 notes

Lonnie Eugene Methe – “Hey Jack” Plus Six Other Songs 7” EP (Unread)

This could have been recorded directly into a computer or it could have been recorded directly into one of those $30 Tascam analog 2-tracks that fooled many-a-90’s hack into believing they were a bedroom Albini. Thin, but the songwriting is there on three or four out of the seven, and when it’s not there, at least it’s replaced by the aural implication that it COULD be there. A guy, a bedroom, a guitar, and whatever he recorded this on. Oh, and a probable cavalcade of age-appropriate lady friends in and out of that room. Each song feels like it’s about a different girl. I looked at this record, noticing the brevity and other slapdash qualities, and my MEDIOCRIDAR began automatically fine-tuning its settings. This record is charming and from the gut and impossible to dislike, so there was no use for it. You know, the word “MEDIOCRIDAR” does not set off spell-check. Still mine to keep. (http://unread-records.com)
(Andrew Earles)

8 months ago0 notes

Prince Rama of Ayodhya/Kegs of Acid – split 7” EP (World War)

Prince Rama of Ayodhya roll out a long guitar rave-up cock-tease, like Bardo Pond or Serena Maneesh, except for the “sucking” part. Kegs of Acid sound exactly like the type of band that would call themselves that; then think that a “Point Break” reference is clever. Hmmm … mysticism by way of lazy slumming … so we’re on the 415th or 416th recalling of that unfortunate rock trend? Which is it? At least one of these bands exists as “something to do” or a vehicle for attaining attention while school is finished. I can smell it. Bands should be more than that. Once its members embark on their respective graduation walks, Kegs of Acid will be tossed aside and forgotten like so many pairs of flip-flops. And like that should-be-illegal form of footwear, bands like these two never seem to go away. 300 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/princeramaofayodhya)
(Andrew Earles)

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

 

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)

1 year agoNotes

Pillow Queens – KooKoo Legit LP (Monofonus Press)

 

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)

1 year agoNotes

November 5, 2009

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

 

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)

1 year agoNotes

September 7, 2009

Deerhunter – “Vox Celeste 5” b/w “Microcastle Mellow 3” 7” (Sub Pop)

 

Not sure how some of these newer releases in the Singles Club (looking Thee Oh Sees, and Tyvek, specifically) managed to get away with providing barrel-scraping outtakes for their release. One would expect the same of Deerhunter, who here offer alternate mixes from the Microcastle/Weird Era Continued sessions, but I gotta say, even though this isn’t a band I listen to a lot, they have a knack for writing a really catchy melody, and that talent is very much on display here. This take of “Vox Celeste” buries Bradford Cox’s vocals into a multi-tracked haze, itself becoming another instrument in this sumptuous, plangent pop song. The acoustic take of “Microcastle” is fittingly B-side material, but is as pleasant a comedown as you could hope for on such a release. 1500 copies, yellow marbled vinyl. I like this band alright, pretty sure Andy Earles hates ‘em. Maybe someday we’ll get a Siskel & Ebert type show to do this sort of thing in real time. You’d like that, wouldn’t you. (http://www.subpop.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

1 year agoNotes

Bone Rattle – Which Toy LP (Trd W/d)

 

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)

1 year agoNotes

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

 

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)

1 year agoNotes

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

 

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)

1 year 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)

1 year ago0 notes

August 28, 2009

Needle Gun – Afternoon Computer Umbrage LP (EHSE)

 

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)

1 year agoNotes

July 19, 2009

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)

1 year agoNotes

Illuminations – See Saw LP (All Hands Electric)

 

See Saw is the best album I’ve reviewed for Still Single, hands-down. There, that’s out of the way. (HA!-Ed.) NYC’s Illuminations choose to be a part of the CollageCore (I made that up…it’s mine!) movement, a trend guilty of visual rather than sonic homogeny. It’s true that, upon processing See Saw’s neon stencil cover art, I expended to hear yet another band wholly-unburdened with songwriting skills and flaunting a calculated lack of fidelity. I was wrong on both counts…embarrassingly so. As in, it was quite surprising to hear at least three AMAZING pop songs before the record was flipped. Stylistically, don’t expect to be knocked silly by invention. Expect countrified indie-pop and psych lite, recorded clean and efficiently. But the fucking hooks on this one … wow, it makes writing about a good hook ten times harder than it usually is. Wilco wasn’t the American Radiohead (figuratively) during the first half of its career because no song was positively devastating or uplifting, and Illuminations has assembled a whole album of what the world wants old Wilco to sound like. You think it’s easy to operate within the confines of Americana/roots-rock/alt-country without coming off as insufferable slummers or instantly-forgettable rural action figures? It isn’t, but Illuminations do this … perfectly. As a closing clarifier, See Saw dabbles in enough Elephant Six-isms and dressed-down indie rock to carry a wide appeal. If this band sticks to it, they will be huge. You know … in a good way. (http://www.allhandselectric.com)
(Andrew Earles)

1 year agoNotes

Movie Star Junkies/Vermillion Sands – “I Love You More as Dead” b/w “Slow Dance” split 7” (Rijapov)

 

Some three or four decades ago, there walked a 100% to-the-core idiot, a man so asinine and irrational that he was homeless because of stupidity rather than financial woes. Additionally, this pathetic soul suffered from a very, very rare affliction that causes one to uncontrollably cram potting soil and cat litter into their ears. But this human mistake held sway over a handful of sycophantic disciples, and they would spread his ass-backwards, senseless murmurings across the land. One day, our über-moron stumbled upon the first Tom Waits album and immediately forced his minions to preach the greatness of this Waits character. “Everyone should soak up and revere the music and more importantly, the IDEA of Tom Waits!” Soon, the dunce (with an oddly ample vocabulary) and his followers had ticked an alarming number of music “fans” into believing they genuinely enjoyed the music of Tom Waits. On a related but unrelated note, this is also how tomatoes became part of a food group. Back in the ‘00s, a number of young, attention-starved musicians saw Tom Waits as the perfect escape from the far-too-demanding world of timeless songwriting and big hooks. On top of the Tom Waits blueprint, even more charlatan-bait was piled…some gypsy poppycock here and there, some gross misunderstandings in the name of torch songs, etc. Italian bands Movie Star Junkies, a band that should be ignored based on name alone, and Vermillion Sands (I like that name), both toil here in this aural ghetto, a micro-genre that is hopefully on its way out if there is any goodness at all in the world. (It should be said, though, that the bands are covering each other’s material here, and in both songwriting and execution, the Movie Star Junkies are clearly the corrupting influence here. –Ed.) Listening to this 7” brought me back to, well, a couple of months ago when I had to review that Man Man 7”. I did not want to visit this part of the past. 500 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/rijapovrecords)
(Andrew Earles)

1 year ago1 note

July 6, 2009

Circle X – Dijon ‘79 10” EP (Fractal)

 

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)

1 year agoNotes

June 4, 2009

Enablers – Tundra LP (Lancashire & Somerset)

 

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)

1 year agoNotes

Michael Hurtt and His Haunted Hearts – “Lonely Mardi Gras” b/w “Orbit Twist” 7” (Allons)

Perhaps there’s purity to his or her day-to-day execution, as if we’re in an era other than present day. The present, after all, is no picnic, sitting cocked and loaded, waiting for a minor misstep or gullible mood so that every concievable type of GRADE-A awfulness can be thrown at our feet. Mike Hurtt is a NOLA garage/roots fixture primarily known as the front man for that town’s premiere ‘50s-‘70s revivalists, The Royal Pendletons. He’s also a serious head when it comes to first-wave rockabilly and rockabilly/country crossover (also first-wave but heading into the early-‘60’s), namely what poured from Memphis and Jackson (Tennessee…home of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame for a reason) when 45s could be purchased in hotel lobbies and full-blown songs were recorded upstairs in the rooms. Aside from a little splitting of fidelity hairs and the fact that the record lacks decades of wear, Hurtt original “Lonely Mardi Gras” sounds like an old Satellite A-side (meaning, it’s up-tempo) and “Orbit Twist” probably sounds like the slow, obscure ballad that the crack band is covering. With disrespectful plagiarism infecting every corner of rock and roll today, it matters little if Hurtt sees punk rock as a musical Book of Revelations or if the walk-he-walks and talk-he-talks mirrors a time some fifty years in the past. There’s something to be said for an artistic copyist flexing a creative mind this dedicated to the chosen source material. (www.myspace.com/hauntedhearts)
(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)

1 year agoNotes

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)

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My father was a big fan of the Murphy’s Law books…

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Earles on December 26, 2010

Spikey mope that I am at the moment, there was just the urge to post what I consider to be one of my best moments (re: creation of comedy). This is just over 2 years old, and to state the obvious, it is a parody of the Brooklyn Vegan site.

ONE OF MY FUNNIEST MOMENTS

This post is dedicated to N. Kinski

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Book of Face, you got some explaining to do…

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Earles on December 24, 2010

Kritics Korner: When people make FACEBOOK status updates that look like this…

Prince – “Lady Cab Driver”

…and don’t post any music, or a link to music, or a video, or anything at all…it universally means:

“You should check this out!” or “This song is knockin’ my dick off right now!” or some assumed hyperbole of some variation.  

Because no other words are actually written, it’s to be understood that said piece of music is ineffable(1). Or more likely, the individual making the status update is an expert, right? No. They are someone who wants everyone to know about their love of Wire’s 154 or Electric Light Orchestra’s “deep” cuts or Silver Apples’ “A Pox on You” or any Beach Boys song because these will already be accepted and credible, diminishing the affair to some nudge-nudge “I know about this, too!!” gesture. No piece of music is ineffable. But there’s no shortage of lazy, grammatically-challenged people out there; all afflicted with Tastemaker’s Delusion Syndrome. But that’s getting into another problem…right now, I’d like to address this one:

What if one wants to warn people of music that sucks wildly? As many of you may know, the GMail application offers an “emoticon” that is little more than a steaming coil with a halo of flies (not the band). Facebook status updates should feature a similar option.

Endnotes:

1. Thank you.

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I’ll be on Tom Scharpling’s Best Show on WFMU this Tuesday 12/21/2010!!!

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Earles on December 20, 2010

Tune in to Tom Scharpling’s The Best Show on WFMU TONIGHT TUESDAY 12/21/10 @ 8:30 CST as I will be calling in to discuss my new (and first) book about the band Husker Du and…..well, I’m sorry if that’s not exciting enough for you. Perhaps next time I’ll roll out the sharks-in-tanks, low-impact celebrities, plus the a…uthor of “Zombie-Ninja-Unicorn Post-Apocalyptic Dating Guide To The Word ‘F**K'” Perhaps.

Go here for the podcast!

Go here for the live stream!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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