It’s my good color. First up, check out this performance by Dinosaur Jr. on the Letterman show in what I’m guessing is ’92 or so. It is mentioned in the comment’s section that this episode followed the last Tonight Show hosted by Johnny, so that makes it….hmmm…..I know I have this somewhere in my brainbox….makes it….May 22, 1992. Make sure to watch the entire clip and take note that Paul and the band are PART OF THE BAND! Paul is getting down to what is clearly one of J.’s greatest concoctions, “The Wagon”…and of course, Letterman makes not entirely unfunny commentary at the very end, after the edited break to a…..break.
….and be sure to check out the new Polvo album when it hits on October 1st. Might be my LP of the year. For real.
The little lady and I wrote the following reviews for Still Single. Bylines included for due credit…
[Again, these originally/currently appear at Still Single, where you should read all of the other writers' contributions as well (for the uninitiated)]
The Fruiting Bodies make their statement with instrumental rock indebted to you-know-when, yet it surprisingly skips the math and the metal for decidedly simplistic mid-tempo largess and chopped-off guitar rave-ups. These could be a couple of Hurl outtakes killed before anyone could cozy up in the vocal booth, two very similar exercises that hit above boredom level and even approach a “pleasantly rocking” verdict, though a big-picture assessment can’t help but deliver the dreaded verdict of mediocrity-with-future-promise. I’m almost certain that The Fruiting Bodies in a live setting can easily destroy this studio effort’s representation of the band’s capabilities. Yep, it’s one of those. Black envelope-style packaging has a bar code on the back in the lower right corner; still a dubious scarlet letter when carried by a band at such a nascent, obscure stage. Such assumptions are aggravated by the insert’s instructions to “Contact The Fruiting Bodies via Manager Ron Ripper.” Honed by years of accuracy at the expense of any positive reality, my gut tells me to close with a couple of “just-in-case” kibbles of advice on behalf of the big ‘IF’ in the room: someone in the band can handle checking emails over the course of many, many more developmental baby steps, and IF the creative collective is separated from an involved outside party by ten or more years, the latter must undergo an unannounced motive-inventory as soon as possible (calling a last-minute “practice” during the small hours of night works well if participants are relatively sober). Apologies in advance to Ron if he plays guitar, bass or drums in Fruiting Bodies, or if he’s a tight-bro who just wants to run a small label (been there…twice…get ready for a new understanding of the term “thankless”). (http://www.subsprawl.com) (Andrew Earles)
Misinterpreted and now-irrelevant girl-groupisms – a la every other breathing band a couple of years ago – mixed with the “not bad, not great” school of OG post-punk Delta 5/Au Pairs is what these Australian ladies specialize in, so it helps that they can write a couple of decent songs anchored by almost-hooks and the airtight-propulsion of Vomit Launch on a good day, or Tiger Trap on any day. If other/further releases bring the hooks up a few notches to meet those structural reference points, then I might put mustard on my opening gripes, but let’s not push it. (http://vertexrecords.bigcartel.com) (Andrew Earles)
Lotus Fucker have been around five years or so and call DC their headquarters, though based on … well, absolutely everything about Forever My Fighting Spirit, the band’s relationship to all-things-Japanese renders the notions of “influence” or “inspiration” way, way too conservatively. Seriously, this is an American band that wrapped their (domestically-released, ‘natch) album in a fake Obi-strip. And this is not a noise record, despite how many times the word “noise” pops up, be it in the liners, on both front and back covers, or in the lyrics. I needed both hands. Lyrics, liner notes and various band-penned blurbs celebrate the revolutionary, motivating and freeing power of noise, with no desire to hide the heavy-handed attempts at converting the uninitiated over to their way of thinking and musical expression. Welcome to 1980, 1996, and 2003. As for what Lotus Fucker does truck in musically, this is fastcore/hardcore with an obnoxious fixation on the high end of things, and actually come across sort of sloppy if one isn’t paying attention … the band hiding underneath all of that treble abuse is somewhat structurally adept … or “semi-tight” if you will. There’s a couple of guitar solos on this thing. For real. Lastly, it appears thatForever My Fighting Spirit >was released through the combined efforts of three labels, something the band and all other optimists can chalk up to the cost of printing an Obi strip and glossy insert, but I’m not sure how honest it would be for me to join the party. After all, this is a band that chose to evoke the fucking of plant matter when it came time to enter the band-name sweepstakes. (http://katorgaworks.bigcartel.com) (Andrew Earles)
This mini-album packs undeniably-excellent duo-driven guy/girl melodic noise-punk; sloppy, catchy-as-all-fuck and aesthetically if not somewhat stylistically comfortable under the banner of hardcore (parent band, social/creative demographic, touring environment – one if not all apply here). We Move is so charming, it unconsciously shoves a screen memory of a long lost micro-genre of greatness that would be situated somewhere in the distant past if it actually existed. Well, I suppose it momentarily did for those who remember the knock-down awesomeness of Kicking Giant, both on record and especially live. And this is one of the rare instances in which not giving a fuck is paramount to an endeavor’s success, as per the inside sleeve’s poignant mission statement: “Music is supposed to be fun. Punk is supposed to be meaningful. Check your ego at the door, there’s no room for bullshit here. This record is for the 20 people in every town.” I’m afraid a massive blooper must be owned by those who allowed the quoted mantra to stir up faint pangs of cynicism. Be thankful you have been lowered a rope through something as simple as hearing, understanding, and enjoying a brief 12” EP. To the fortunately-uninitiated: Things won’t be so peachy once the mire of jaded bitterness is laid thick; leaving behind the quiet language of “faint pangs” to sufficiently define its presence. (http://spokenest.bandcamp.com) (Andrew Earles)
Rather bizarre homegrown industrial noise-churn of an anomalous sound and feel, Sun Splitter’s scary pummel is interesting, intense and worth attention, as opposed to a band satisfied with their unique or original gimmick, therefore failing to add any of that crucial stuff that justifies any act of giving-a-shit on the part of the outside world. This Chi-town gem released III a year ago, making this review late enough to get a “fuck off!” rather than inclusion on the band’s blog, where an array on and off-the-mark (and places in between) reviews are already on display. Preceding this unclassifiable treasure was the impossibly-rare/obscure II (pressed on vinyl in an edition of 25, then “reissued” on cassette in an edition of 100 that were only available from the band at shows – that’ll show ‘em), and before that a 7” split with Bridesmaid. There could have been a full-length debut titled I, but it was probably done in an edition of 15 and exclusively-distributed to the interior of a vacant/condemned warehouse located somewhere outside of Wichita. Ahem.
I’m incredibly picky about drum machines and usually get all Carducci about their inclusion, save predictable exceptions in Jesu/Godflesh, about half of the Big Black discography, Nailbomb, and … well, you get it. Sun Splitter’s replacement for human-manned kit sounds as if it might be an old box of minimal flexibility, and would never be mistaken for its organic alternative, but the goal here is clearly to use the understated rapid-BPMs for texture instead of propulsive dynamics. The uncomplicated bomp-bomp races along underneath what Sun Splitter has awarded a far more prominent position in the assault: Guitars, guitars and behind even more guitars is an ominous vocal wail that transcends anger, not unlike the fatalistic “I’m-all-outta-hate” threatened-seagull shriek of Unsane’s Chris Spencer or a low-in-the-mix interpretation of Mascis’ terrifying scream on Bug’s “Don’t”, though it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve heard the latter – while peaking on some beyond-my-personal-threshold acid near the end of my senior year in high school, I slapped on some sizable studio-grade cans, plugged them into the integrated amp that powered my better-than-average used Pioneer component-system, programmed said Dinosaur Jr’s track on infinite repeat, and blasted that shit into my fragile brain for over two hours. The song title says it all.
As stated earlier in this review, my pickiness can usually be counted on to negate an entire album with this kind of drum machine misuse, but Sun Splitter have enough intensity, newness and earnest creepiness to overshadow, then justify, what would otherwise be a deal-breaking flaw. Not to accidentally come off like a lazy contrarian, but Sun Splitter (or more specifically, III) is less metal or metal-related, fundamentally/stylistically, than one might think, if approaching the band sound-unheard and going on just the collective words of other writers and band-boosters. This isn’t a bad thing. The band is unbelievably heavy and miraculously free of any derivative elements to the point that even subtle influences are few and far between, maybe positioning the band as a plaything for only the deepest and most doomed of heads with a vast frames of reference. Maybe not. Those people scare the shit out of me. I can’t overstate how badly this record needs to be heard by so many more folks operating under the banner of metal or heavy-music…fans, voices of influence, contemporaries, and all of the rest … do yourself a favor. White vinyl. (http://bloodshop.bigcartel.com) (Andrew Earles)
It does not bode well on our creative culture that the music on this record made it past one band practice, much less onto vinyl that leapt over the world’s largest body of water and into the queue of stuff I am required to access. Garage punkabilly of no redeeming value whatsoever. Wasn’t there a backlash at some point that put this shit in check? Fifteen years ago? Twenty? (https://soundcloud.com/thesulphurlights) (Andrew Earles)
If members of Psychic Blood were to suddenly need the kind of anonymity normally provided by a witness protection program, or at least a homespun version thereof, my recommendation would be to handshake their way onto a label roster like HoZaC or Hardly Art and let their moniker choice and design aesthetic work some magic, though the vowel-voiding treatment of a common word would help out, too, but the band chose to waste that one on a song title. So I am happy to report that Psychic Blood are capable of applying loud (almost abrasively so) noise-(indie)rock to song-intensity. It should go without saying that these two skree-pop blasters were good for some low-level, though not unpleasant, surprise … while it lasted. Another record that speaks the language of future potential. Edition of 500. (http://nervehold.storenvy.com) (Andrew Earles)
This here is a split 7” flexi and I don’t even want to know. Cousins’ “Defense” sounds like if Mother Yod had run away from Father at the first inkling of his unfaithfulness, grabbed choice sisters and got in the garage. That is: She plus Campfire Walkers. A riotous interlude, which I think is part of Cousins’ share dissects “A” from “B” (it’s a one-sided affair) and it is worth noting because it’s fierce as fuck. What is most compelling here is the juxtaposition found in the whole. It is one you would find at your buddies’ DJ night that’s not for dancing and nowhere else. Camp Radio’s “The Girl Who Stole My Motorbike” is worthy of a Hershel Savage and the American Flag comparison but not GBV. All in all, quite an impressive flexi, the kind you squirrel away until you meet the right person to impress it upon. (http://www.savedbyradio.com) (Elizabeth Murphy)
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of what happened in the ‘90s should never, ever be revisited. Today’s example, for the purpose of taking the scenic route as a means to a review’s end (as far as habits go, it’s a writer-favorite that I’m trying to turn into a reader-favorite), will be the type of post-rock that inadvertently killed itself in a purposeful effort to kill rock. When post-rock evolution saw the sub-genre become comfortable with its new “post-good” status by eliminating any discord, surprise, passion, energy, noise, nerve, or as what a more youthful version of myself, yesterday or the day before to be exact, might have termed “balls,” yet retained the basic skeletal structure (before the all-out Al Dimeolaization took place … next) of instrumental minimalism. During this era, or “The Day the Earth Stood In Inexplicable Awe of Tristeza”, bands were still bands and there was still mood to be had in the right hands, but things didn’t look good for those of us with a lingering love for the A Minor Forests or The Webs or the Don Cabs or even later, first-album Turing Machine. I’m leaving out a lot of wonderful thumbs in the long-rotten pie (A Silver Mt. Zion for one), but this exact facsimile has time-traveled from that place after the greats/goods, and before going to see a show bore an uncanny resemblance to watching your co-worker check his e-mail (Pan-American). “Indie Rock” waves one through three discovered a lot of important side-genres to plunder, but this reenactment of an aesthetic archaeological dig that found factory-sealed CD copies of Manhattan Transfer, Yellow-Jackets, Spyrogyra, this isn’t one of them. Ultimately, my advice to “grow some teeth” might seem appropriate critic-to-band public correspondence here, but let’s play it safe and start with tomatoes or a hearty type of houseplant before we get too ambitious. (http://www.houseofwatts.com) (Andrew Earles)
I could get into how telling it is that this EP is self-released, but that would be getting into cognitive contradictions and elevate effort and worth far beyond their respective needs/positions re: the task at hand. I could get into how the two-and-half words that accompanied this 7” by way of editorial bio-assistance say more than any 2K I could spew out at the moment, but that would be getting into territory too easy for me to get into … oh, and see conclusion made in the previous sentence. I could get into how the appearance and lack of information speak to a neat little timelessness (it could be many different little micro-strains from many different little movements from many different little chronological touchdowns over the last 25 years) that has nothing to do with the music and everything to do with the only quality provided that would ever require the reasonable use of the word “neat” or any other positive sentiment. I could get into the “why now?” or the much bigger parent concern of “why?” but that would be getting into some line-crossing and the line crossed is the one of demarcation between dismissal and curiosity, when I can’t have any outside motivations of the latter on my conscious right now. It is now recommended that everyone make like me, and move along. [itistheyear2023andathereisaclosetincentralOhiooneeighthfilledwithunopenedboxes.com] (Andrew Earles)
Mikael Jorgenson & Greg O’Keeffe – “ARMZ” b/w “Where To Begin (Love Drug Remix by WAUMISS)” 7” (Odessa)
Nothing about these two songs is bad for you. “ARMZ” is an N64 and Ratatat smoothie with a Bowie in Berlin booster. “Where to Begin” is a “Love Drug” remix by WAUMISS. I haven’t heard the original, so I don’t know where credit is due, but this song reminds one lover of Gift of Screws-era Lindsay Buckingham a lot of Screws-era Buckingham. It contains the same lilt which made that one Vetiver song embarrassingly great, and since we are dealing with electronics – hey, it may be the exact same one. One of these guys infiltrated Wilco for the greater good on A Ghost is Born. If you buy this 7”, you get to behold a piece of the fantastic photomontage work of Cassandra C. Jones as well. Getchasome. (http://odessarecords.com) (Elizabeth Murphy)
My big beef with one-man black metal is its built-in lack of heaviness, an automatic byproduct of its desire for “atmosphere.” Black metal was arguably the first style of underground music for which the lack of fidelity and dynamics was an aesthetic necessity rather than a financial one. Let’s face it … metal’s masters of turning shitty sound into heavy sound (Burzum, Darkthrone, Impetigo, Hellhammer) had or have that little special something that 99.9% will never have because they don’t have serious extra-musical problems in place to begin with, or in the case of Darkthrone, the balls to turn shit on its head at seemingly inopportune moments in the genre’s history. Hahn Kult is one-man BM of Danish origin, but that means very little here. This and the Netherlands’ legacy of groundbreaking/genre-defining super-heavy death metal or techno-death thrash (Asphyx, Pestilence, Sinister) share but the single commonality of residence under the huge banner that begins with the word “extreme” and wraps up with one I’ve already used too much. But it is with a hint of heavy heart (there were only 105 of these pressed, and it looks like you’ll have to work for it) that I can report that the man behind Hahn Kult is pointed in the right direction in terms of single-brained BM: Yes, this is all about “atmosphere”, though if one listens hard with decent headphones and pays attention, the heaviness comes through for whatever reason (labor of love and willful obscurity, perhaps). (http://mastermindrec.tictail.com) (Andrew Earles)
Two wholehearted songs from Seattle that someone or two or three have a lot of faith in. A-side is convincingly mall punk and the flip is a modest indie-ditty for your mousy girlfriend to favor. These guys rely heavily on being good at their instruments and having friends in graphic design. Everything is precious down to the second; oh! how it sits on the (is that puce?) lacquer: each song clocking in within 10 seconds of the industry standard for a pop song. I’ll reprint the descriptions found on the back because they are perfect and I do not wish to inadvertently or otherwise take part in burger-allegory of any kind. “‘Firewood’ by Chef Mike – A delicious medley of flame-broiled and diesel flavor” b/w ‘“Lately” by Taco Josh – This tasty treat contains soy, nuts, fish, red meat, green meats and mellotron.” I got #60 of 500 copies pressed. The label embossed the sleeves with their logo. Fin. (http://finrecords.com) (Elizabeth Murphy)
Surviving avalanches indeed, as this little document survived a downhill dumping of bulk categorical crap (otherwise known as “the rest of the rock landscape”) for five years before it was brought out into the sunlight by the good people or persons behind 25 Diamonds. This is a (really) short-lived dream team of ‘90s turn-of-the-millenium forward-thinkers, who should be the first beneficiaries of a moratorium on the term “screamo” – a tag that predictably makes me uncomfortable regardless of how many times “San Diego,” “GSL,” “The VSS,” “Heroin,” “Drive Like Jehu” or hundreds of other terms create a paper lion of enhanced quality. Do I have a decent alternative? No, because more important things need to eat up my time (like finishing this review). The members of Optional Body clocked hours in groups like The VSS, Dead & Gone and The Camera Obscura (the single-album shoegaze/angular-aggro/power combo that burned around 2001 and broke up in time to be terminally lost to obscurity through a circumstantial/accidental twee-pop assassination). Oh, there’s also someone from the Icarus Line and Vietnam in here, too … in the ever-important, therefore ever-rotating chair found back and to the middle of a drum kit. To hear these guys, all of whom are pushing or exceed the big 4-0, rage in 2008 for this brief totem of expertise in sub-genre, is to hear and have a footnoting reminder that whatever they respectively touch will most likely be of high quality if not lesson-delivering use to the swelling hordes using or getting lumped into the meaningful-if-you-look-hard-enough designator of “hardcore” … regardless of who or how the tag is associated. It totally obliterates any relevance of a five-year vintage. 250 on purple vinyl, 50 on black. (http://www.25diamonds.com) (Andrew Earles)
METAL’S LOST SURVIVALIST ENDEAVORS OF THE
1990’s: Part Two:
With three letters and a hyphen, Destruction goes to war with poster
printers, tour promoters, magazine editors and whoever updated the
marquee at your neighborhood 400-capacity venue.
By Andrew Earles
It is common knowledge that several forms of metal weathered a serious beating at the hands of alt-you-name-it in the early-to-mid-90’s, with hair/pop-metal deservedly forced to take a permanent dirt-nap. And that garbage would make for the only true fatality (aside from a handful of exceptions), despite a revisionist mythology that 1st and 2nd wave thrash, speed and power-metal bands suffered the same fate. The adaptive gestures executed by many of these bands constitutes an overlooked yet fascinating collective phenomenon that I like to call Metal’s Lost Survivalist Endeavors of the 1990’s.
Frontloading my little experiment with German bands wasn’t my intention, but I can’t help it if Helloween, Destruction and Kreator (to be profiled next time around) pack Survivalist Endeavor qualifications are truly off the charts or in the case of the latter of the three, somewhat artistically interesting if one peels back the layer of more overt attributes. Destruction is one third of the “Teutonic Big Three of Thrash” (the other two are Kreator and Sodom), but even in their first mid-to-late-80’s run, never packed enough of what makes Kreator from the same era so special. However, it certainly bears mentioning that the trio did release two essential thrash albums, 1985’s Infernal Overkill and 1986’s Eternal Devastation, and followed them with a couple of good-to-great, if technically-dense, albums before everything went down the shitter.
Trouble arrived early with 1990’s Cracked Brain, as the Dr. Demento-meets-Zodiac Mindwarp title set the deflation of fan anticipation in motion. Their rabid throngs were already conditioned to accept the band’s enthusiasm for aesthetically-displeasing or flat-out funny album art, but Cracked Brain was unacceptably-godawful. The band’s original vocalist and bass player, Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer, exited the train before the wreck in 1989 and was replaced by the vocalist from Poltergeist, who only stuck around for this album. The cover of a Top 40 (or other disparately-soft/mainstream genre) was a Thrash Metal tradition that, without exception, found a perfect storm of suck at the intersection of insufferable irony, pedestrian self-reference and a blatant bid for radio play. It was a reliable indicator that a thrash metal band had, if I may, jumped the shark, and Destruction contributed an interpretation of The Knack’s “My Sharona” to the tedious trend in question. Elsewhere, the vocals can’t find placement while the over-complicated chug-and-thwack threatens to cave in on itself, song after song. Destruction’s one prevailing strength here is to guarantee Cracked Brain confirms all of its glaring red flags.
Everything went down the shitter when Destruction resurfaced in 1994 with a self-titled EP and only one original member, guitarist Mike Sifringer (the band’s only static member), who added the “Neo” prefix to the band’s moniker. Fans vacated the premises when faced with this half-assed grab at Destruction’s designed to also put a little distance between the EP’s everything-terrible-about-1994 sound and the groove-free thrash metal past (then seen as commercially-detrimental). The sonic overhaul is far from half-assed and the band is unrecognizable as Destruction. It followed the most predictable and unfortunate script followed by a great majority of thrash, death and other true metal bands as the 90’s brought the fear of overnight irrelevance for the first and last time to the resilient genre. It can be summed up in one word: Pantera. As much as I respect the metal pillar of Phil Alselmo, and as much as I’ve enjoyed much of his non-Pantera output, my pleasure-listening and fandom of metal remains free of the widespread locker-rooming of underground metal that occurred in response to their mega-success.
For the next two “Neo-Destruction” releases, the Them Not Me EP in 1995 and a full-length uber-mistake that was 1998’s The World’s Least Successful Human Cannonball, the band smeared some additional heavy-music abomination-inspiration across what was already a dirt-dumb template of groove garbage. Primus, 90’s Prong, the worst moments of Helmet, and vocals so bad, dated and embarrassing that such an effective formula for failure amongst Destruction’s contemporaries evades easy detection.
Miraculously emerging from the other end of their lost weekend of whack, a resuscitated post-Y2K Destruction has since banned the three “Neo-Destruction” titles from the band’s official discography. Unlike Kreator’s journey through the same identity-crushing decade, Destruction can’t claim the creative restlessness brought on by experimentation when confronted with history’s middle-finger reach-around.