March 25, 2013
[originally, and currently, published on the Still Single tumblr and at some point, Dusted Magazine's site]
I’ve been known to follow the blindfolded taste-test/invisible jukebox approach when the pending review pile gets out of hand. It’s a good way to wake up the creative juices and have some fun while weathering the occupational hazard of having to endure epically-shitty music. What I’m getting at is that I only knew a couple of things about Forward when I was just getting to know the record: They are Japanese, and that the label on the record isn’t exactly known for lacking quality control.
Now, before I’m buried under a terminal heap of misread or misunderstood wrong turns on my part, I will say that Forward, like an astonishing number of their fellow countrymen who also truck in hardcore, are better at it than the vast majority of collective hardcore endeavor from every other part of the globe. Of course, balancing this out is the Japanese tendency to get all Mr. Bungle on some hardcore/metal/grind/death/whatever, but you will hear no hints of Songwriting Escape Plan, iwrestledanurgetocalmthefuckdownonce, The [InsertIronicallyFunnyWashedUpActorThatWillBeProcessedAsPowerfulHumorByAllOfOurTargetAudience] Tap Dance Extravaganza or the many other magnificent failures that make this subgenre the second detrimental (an) albatross hanging around heavy music’s neck, right behind unwise vocalizing decisions. Parlaying the hardcore perfection of the member’s previous bands (Deathstrike, Systematic Death) into a melodic and slightly thrashy imperative, Forward make it feel as though the traditional aspect of their hardcore is the secret weapon. I’d say it’s similar to how Louie C.K. and Paul F. Tompkins take plain-as-day standup comedy and spin it into gold, though I found it impossible to back up the comparison beyond those surface commonalities. This 7” is good enough to now have me checking the Paypal balance and perusing the websites of a label that has released Forward’s full-length albums. (http://chaosintejas.bigcartel.com) (Andrew Earles)
Let me just start off on the wrong foot here with all my unapologetic cards on the table: In the recent and not-so-recent past, I have donated valuable time to giving Iceage a leg up re: what they seem to do for every other person on this planet, but the band has failed to meet the objective, time and time again. I cannot help it that a lot of the music that changed my life circa “little shit” period makes Iceage sound like fucking Vandenberg.
Lower come from the same scene (one that people hilariously tag with “hardcore”) as Iceage, just to clear up any confusion, but they are a totally different proposal and one that I can really get behind. For starters, this 7” doesn’t really “rock” like Lower does elsewhere in its body of work, though it is sort of heavy. And my initial cluelessness as to where this band came from or what they were about had me thinking “what if [don’t even think about asking what band I wanted to put here] were actually good?!?” Thank Debra Winger’s dirty laundry that the fourth or fifth spin was to begin the unleashing of Lower’s subtleties, and this is a band made great by their subtleties. You know that goth/darkwave bullshit that still seems to be permeating every corner of better genres? Lower reign a little of that in and do it correctly, in that it is barely perceptible but adds a positive element to everything. These songs are powerful, catchy, paranoid, and churn with a rolling urgency. On incredibly thick vinyl for a 7”, just like all of the little records on this fine label. (http://chaosintejas.bigcartel.com) (Andrew Earles)
…plus…look who’s still the first and best:
…but my favorite…(complete with appended Mary Tyler Moore theme song)…has to be this 1985 performance in an otherwise weird and unknown possible hellhole of a city:
(catch Mould pointing at Hart for the “signs in the streets…say where you’re going…” line @ 2:04 the intensity that starts with the windmill at 3:13…and doesn’t let up)
March 18, 2013
Holy Shiite Militias! “Cat Food” is a rager for the ages, and in the context of music that has come out of Memphis, TN since Blood Visions, it is THE rager for the ages. If you are not one of the three or four people who have read more than a handful of things I’ve written over the last fourteen years, it bears mentioning that I would never carelessly toss around such a claim…ESPECIALLY WHERE I DO MY DIRT! “Treehouse” is fine, but Criminal Minds is also “fine” if you watch it after The Wire. Either the song is sung through the eyes and mind of Abe’s (longtime member of The Oscars) cat, or he’s trying to tell the world that cat food isn’t just for old people anymore. Shit, he could be singing that the HAARP weather-control ray is about to level Memphis with a 9.7 on the Richter and put me and mine in a FEMA coffin, so long as it was couched in top-shelf rocker that demands to be immediately played each and every time I walk into the house. Root Beer-colored vinyl (when held up to the light). (http://www.goner-records.com) (Andrew Earles)
March 18, 2013
Underwater-sounding (presumably) one-man kitchen-sink fare that alternates between shoegaze, piano balladry, beats, general weirdness and you get the picture. I can’t outright dismiss this record because my one-man’s-mediacrity-is-another-man’s-genius-is-another-man’s-proof-of-future-potential…..mental alarm is getting tripped by this one. Still, I really wish I had more to say about People Climb Out of Time, because I feel like there’s more here, but you don’t want to read me trying to fish for “more to say”… I promise. 100 copies. (http://www.easternwattsrecords.com) (Andrew Earles)
If someone told me, at any point prior to January of 2013, that a new record (by a “new band”) carrying an obvious Springsteen element would be recommendable, I believe the outcome to be termed as “laughed out of the room” … in the parlance of, say, Mo Ostin. But aside from that invisible ingredient that made the “rock” part of “indie-rock” something to live for about 20 years ago, the other arch reference point is The Boss. And this is a stellar, no-thrills, seasoning-salt-of-the-earth presentation for those with the capacity to appreciate exactly what this little record review is trying to get across. This is their second LP of, as the label summation so deftly handles, “heartfelt Canadian post-hardcore”… and I will end with this: I knew this band was from Canada before I knew this band was from Canada. Don’t act like you don’t know precisely what I am referring to. (http://stalwartsons.bandcamp.com) (Andrew Earles)
Among folks who comprise this Columbus, OH band are Adam Elliot of Times New Viking, Andy Hampel and Kevin Elliott (definite relation) of 84 Nash, and Dave Capaldi of El Jesus De Magico. There’s a fifth guy, Philip Kim, who is described as a “peach district laureate” in the band’s one-sheet, but seeing as how I’m on the outside looking in with such regional nods, I can’t say I know what that means. I can say that this album does not feature so much as one second of spoken-word or recited poetry, the two things that immediately came to mind upon seeing the term “laureate”, yet I don’t want to artistically incriminate Mr. Kim in any way, shape or form, so let’s just get on with things.
84 Nash is responsible for three excellent albums in the late ‘90s-early ‘00s stretch of dead times for rock music, and part of that discography was released by Rockathon as the first (and only?) non-Robert Pollard/GBV band to be awarded such attention. The latter album,Band for Hire, is a masterpiece of out-of-time/place noise-pop laid over elements of that strain of Midwestern adult-emo that just so happened to be great (when it was, uh…great). If one needs a reference point to aid that potentially confusing notion, regional contemporaries The Party of Helicopters were a perfect yet peerless example of that hybrid. Like a gazillion other concerns of that era and quality level, we currently see both bands rocking footnote status instead of being lauded and reissued. Due to both the historical/cultural amnesia suffered some and the campaign to rewrite the ‘90s by others, instead we get lavish packages for bullshit that got laughed out of the room when it was first released. But enough about the ‘90s…
Amazing hooks hemorrhage from Private Airplane, so much so that EVERY SINGLE SONG packs the type of hook that only the certain gifted few can write. The stupid classic-rock radio morning-zoo phraseology of “all killer/no filler” is the absolute undisputable situation with this record. As for stylistic formalities, Connections could be a logical reappearance/next-step re: 84 Nash, though this record is actually a little (and I mean little) more consistent, song-to-song, than what came (or stopped coming) ten years ago. The influence of Guided By Voices is heard with more clarity on two or three of the tracks, but the ruling angle taken here is just classic noise-pop (post-1990), and the greater the noise-pop, the harder it is to articulate that greatness. I can say that Private Airplane feels like it’s over in a flash, in the same way that the first Jackass film felt like it was over in five minutes. It would be a stupid, even loathsome, mistake if this record wasn’t heard by as many people as possible. Go. (http://connectionsband.tumblr.com) (http://www.anyway-records.com) (Andrew Earles)
I love a good second act, and that’s exactly what this little three-song burner hints at. There are two great things about this 7”: one, pretty much what was just stated, though it is augmented by the simple tossing of it out there, sans a lot of chit-chat about where the band has been or what they’ve been through, which will undoubtedly be mired in bullshit that has nothing to do with great music if great music is the goal for the future. Two, the title track is the best thing they’ve ever done, therefore it doesn’t matter when they “did” it, especially considering that Evil Army is playing again, doing some of that playing outside of hometown Memphis (the importance of which many of our local bands still can’t seem to grasp), and the horse’s mouth has informed that the plan is to put a new full-length album into motion (recording-wise) mid-year. It took one listen to floor me … the mid-song tempo-slice/breakdown is perfect and the accompanying shred/solo/lead has, dare I say, a lot of fucking heart. That’s ineffable stuff, and I, Commander is worth every last one of the six hundred and sixty-six pennies Hell’s Headbangers is charging for it. It is also recommended that interested parties move fast, as the remainder of the band’s discography is out-of-print on vinyl and this label isn’t known for saturating the market with massive pressings. Some on green vinyl and some on black. Really, really recommended. Duh. (http://www.hellsheadbangers.com) (Andrew Earles)
Upon first, second, third and 673rd glance, The Midnite Plowboy’s presentation pummels the peepers with all of the hallmarks of that most loathsome of concerns: Outsider Music. A fucking UFO included in the cover art, the gaping void of quirk that is the album’s title, the label being a safe-house for a lot of reissues/unearthed “gems” that irritate the piss out of me, etc. But that’s why I get served every now and again. Recorded in 1977 but unreleased until now (as many of you reading are already aware due to my extremely tardy review), the music contained herein is heartfelt and astonishingly-REAL sounding/feeling country-folk. Sometimes beautiful, often catchy, and never overbearing (despite the packaging), this is recommended to those who like this sort of thing and to those who don’t. I fall into the latter, though I really have a fondness for this record. (http://www.almostreadyrecords.com/mmm.htm)
My thoughts go out to the family, fans and friends of Jason Molina, as he was the latter to me.