the new scheme issue 19
AVAIL Devo Pygmy Lush The Catalyst Mammoth Grinder
:: ISSUE 19 ::
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
The New Scheme Issue Nineteen
Editor Stuart Anderson
Contributors Joe Birone Ryan Canavan Nick Cox Dave Cuomo Pat Dixon Michael Flatt Zach Moroni David Quattrocchi Devon Solomon Sam Sousa Josh Tyson
Photographers Dan Cohoon Frank Deserto Trent Nelson Tyler Nutter Adam Schneider
Cover Photo Chelsea Bashford
Published By New Scheme Publishing Concern PO Box 18830 Denver, CO 80218 http://www.thenewscheme.com email@example.com The New Scheme is published quarterly. Feedback is encouraged, but letters are rarely, if ever printed Advertising rates, and review material deadlines are available on the website
Devo at McCarren Pool
All contents are © 2008, New Scheme Publishing Concern, All photos © by each photographer
:: ISSUE 19 ::
Classics â€” 4am Friday
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
Since I began printing fanzines more than a decade ago, there has always been one prevailing goal: to cover the printing bill. Early on, I was supplementing every issue with some of my own money. Not much later, I was able to cover the whole thing, and for or a few years, I was even making a respectable sum beyond it. There have been ups and downs since, and even lately I have continued to cover at least the majority of the printing bill—albeit with a smaller circulation. This is no small feat considering that almost every small, independent music magazine in the country has disappeared in the last three or four years. But as issues have gotten further and further apart, and magazines which now cost me more than a dollar each to print, I couldn’t help but start to think of alternatives. Around this time—more than a year ago—I finally leapt into the late 1990’s, focusing more on the PDF version. The response to this digital version has been overwhelming, now surpassing the print run in downloads at least 20 times over every issue. Also, color and black and white cost the same amount (almost nothing) to host online. But for the last few issues, I have held back on any color, not wanting the expensive-to-produce printed version to be inferior. All of this has lead to a fairly obvious conclusion: this will be the final printed issue of The New Scheme for the foreseeable future.
:: ISSUE 19 ::
I have gone back and forth about this for months, and still haven’t decided exactly how to proceed. It was one of the factors that lead this issue to come out late, even by New Scheme standards. One thing is for sure, I would like to maintain at least some of the best things about the printed version. This means that I will still put out issues, though just as PDF files. I still have no interest in running a blog-format news/review site. There are plenty of those. I will also be tying the digital mixtape in with the issues more directly, including a combined download of the mp3s and the issue together beginning next time. There are, even more than usual, a number of other big and small changes in the works. Most of them still need to be ironed out. I am also, at long last, leaving the Denver area for New York before Spring. This won’t have any immediate impact on the magazine, though I know that it will in the long run. In the mean time, I am just going to focus on next issue. With the stress of the mighty printing bill’s guiding light finally fading, just about anything could happen.
New Scheme Mixtape Issue 19
Available at www.thenewscheme.com
from: 4am Friday www.jadetree.com
3 5 7 9 11 13 6
from: Mount Hope www.lovitt.com
“The Palace Stands...” from:
They, The Undeserving
Mammoth Grinder “God Is Stuck in a Black Hole”
from: Rage and Ruin www.depletedresource.com
Bearing & Distance www.adagio830.de
“Applause and Abuse” from:
My Life As The Villain
The Evpatoria Report
from: Oceans of Islands www.level-plane.com
Dissolve “The Ultimate Nullifier” from: Caveman of the Future www.tripmachinelabs.com
“Not Your Choice” from: Invisible City www.seventhrule.com
from: ... I Carry www.radarrecordings.com
8 10 12 14 :: THE NEW SCHEME ::
“Mithridate” (Excerpt) from: Maar www.getaliferecords.com
Young Widows “Old Skin”
from: Old Wounds www.temporaryresidence.com
“A New Roll”
from: Night Terror www.hydrahead.com
from: Out Of Africa www.alternativetentacles.com
Sam Sousa Notes From The Lost & Found
I feel drained, physically and emotionally drained. The past few months of my life, and this is no exaggeration, have been some of the heaviest, most confusing, sobering of my life. It began back in May when I got word my estranged father had a tumor in his lung and an immediate removal was necessary to his survival. Having been a smoker since his early teens this came as no surprise, he was never a health nut; he loved to drink, smoke, do drugs, the bonanza. About three years back I stopped talking to him. He had moved to Rockford, Illinois; spent some time in jail, so on and so forth. I could no longer take it, I could no longer deal with who he was. The truth is I became paralyzed by my past, I could not move forward in my life and in order to do so I had to cut out the cancer (bad choice of words), it was unfortunate he was the cancer. I changed dramatically in the course of that time. I focused in on school, got married, had a son, began working on my MA, got a full time job with benefits (is this a positive?) after spending too long as a Domino’s driver and a janitor. My brother sent word—they remained in sparse contact through the years—and when he told me he also mentioned he was going to visit him and that I should join him. I didn’t, I couldn’t, I threw a phone call instead, the selfish person I can be decided that was enough. The surgery went well, but in the process they discovered he had cancer in the lymph nodes. Fuck. Because his lungs were already weak recovery proved problematic. He had to be sedated and received a tracheostomy. Because he is stubborn, and infinitely sad and angry, he would not stay still. He attacked nurses, ripped out hoses, and tried to leave on several occasions. The sedation lasted for nearly a month. At the end of a June, a few hours before I was to head out to Austin for vacation, my brother called and said this was it, our Dad was starting to die and they did not expect him to make it through the night. A few hours later my brother, sister, and I were on a plane to O’Hare. He was in a hospital out in DeKalb and as we drove through the town I knew exactly what hardcore legends Charles Bronson had been screaming about. In the course of our flight our father had turned around. We spent the next few days at his bedside where he looked like the shell of a man I used to know and hardly recognized us. Over the following months they removed him from the ventilator, began physical rehabilitative therapy, and transferred him out of near death quarters to an assisted living center. In the middle of August, after an hour of calling a nurse to help him to the bathroom, he attempted the walk himself. He slipped fell and broke his hip. They still don’t help him to the bathroom; he has shit his bed a few times. My maternal grandfather died a few years ago just after the same procedure my father went through. Since then my grandmother has begun to wither away in their Hinsdale, Illinois home. His passing was an absolute shattering of her world. We’ve spent that time attempting to convince her to move here, Southern California. Offering both our homes and senior living communities. She wanted neither; she couldn’t just leave her house, which is understandable; you become attached to things—not only the physical layout of your home, your appliances, your books, or whatever knick knacks might be lying about—but emotionally attached to the presence which you used to roam and smoke about. My grandfather took care of everything, he did all the cooking, repaired everything, knew about electronics, drove everywhere; he was a quiet man who liked Old Milwaukee, the Air Force, and riding his bike to TruValue, where he went to work after retiring as a plant manager. At the beginning of August she finally moved here and after two days she popped fifty Xanax and spent the next day and a half asleep. We all thought nothing of it, she complained of not sleeping, saying she only two or three hours a night. I woke up for work and went back to sleep on the couch only to have my mother call me crying. I met them at Pomona Valley Hospital where she went in and out of consciousness for the next few hours, waking up for a laugh and some tears of embarrassment. The rest of the family was angry and rightfully so, but I couldn’t go there, I couldn’t make her feel guilty for not wanting to live, how could anyone. We all
have the right to die, and more importantly I have felt that low, I have felt as if death were my only option or relief. By the end of the day she was transferred to a geriatric psych ward in Verdugo Hills. She spent the next few days trapped on the fifth floor a of a building listening to the screams of the truly insane, or the truly right minded depending on who you ask. Between my Mother and her, they were able to convince the psychiatrist and the social worker she was sound enough to go home. She came back to my Mother’s, began telling lies, and demanded she be allowed to go home so after a few weeks attempting to convince her otherwise we let her go. I remember the day before she left I went to visit her, I couldn’t help but think this would be the last time I will see her. Just a few days before this column was due she attempted again, this time with Nitrate, she wanted her heart to explode. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We have always called her Bash, as a variant for the Polish word for grandma. She is a tiny feisty woman who has always done things her way; she liked the Bears, dated Ditka, and loved disco music and dancing. I had this Honda Civic—1997, black two-door—Black Betty. There was nothing special about her: no rims, no system, a bubbling tint, dents on the side from accidents I never cared to report. It was keyed once, spider cracks on the hood, ripped interior, cigarette burns, so on and so forth. I smoked so much weed in the car, that the dashboard lining had resin caked on it. I brought my son home from the hospital in this car, I put on about 150,000 miles on it delivering pizza, I fell in love with my wife in it, David Cross blew my mind in it, I cried listening to Van Morrison in it. It was a five-speed with great handling on cheap tires, when I was janitor I used the trunk to cart trash from classrooms to the trash bins, the smell never left. In July some assholes stole and trashed it; they threw soda all over it, stole the tassel from when I received my BA, stole our stroller and a stool I had, trashed my stereo, the dash, and the trunk, stole my tires, my rims (stock mind you), and half my lug nuts. What truly pisses me off is they stole my cds and I know you don’t fucking listen to Paint it Black or Twelve Hour Turn or Sleater Kinney you fucking sacks of shit. Furthermore, they stripped the car in the most disrespectful manner, tearing pieces with no regard, which tells me they didn’t need the parts, they only needed to take your lack of self worth out on someone else. Fuck off assholes. They also stole fifteen copies of this magazine I planned to drop at a record store the next day. So I am sure Stuart says “Fuck you” as well. Here are ten records getting me through, you should listen to them also: Pete Wingfield Breakfast Special Palatka The End of Irony Please Inform the Captain this is a Hijack Defeat or Humiliate the United States of America Conor Oberst Self-Titled Hot Water Music No Division Paint it Black New Lexicon She & Him Volume 1 Trash Talk Plagues Dillinger Four all of it, but most notably the song “Doublewhiskeycokenoice” Ceremony Still Nothing Moves You Bikini Kill Reject All American LaGrecia On Parallels Townes Van Zandt Self-Titled In case you don’t know Pete Wingfield he sang the song “Eighteen With a Bullet,” he’s also a rock journalist and a session musician playing with everyone from Paul McCartney to the Housemartins. He cut this one album, which is not available in any format other than vinyl. If you like funky tunes by white dudes, this is the album.
:: ISSUE 19 ::
Check out my band here: www.myspace.com/bringyourbrain 7
At some point last year my band got on a show last minute as part of a bunk tour. It turned out to be one of the coolest shows I’d played in a long time. The bands we played with were excellent, the crowd was good and enthusiastic, and the venue was really sweet. It was on the campus of Bard College in this little space that housed a coffee bar and a zine library. And somehow, in all their liberal glory, they let the students 100% run the place. It was rad. But a zine library! An extremely rare sight for a downstate New York college. Even weirder was that they had copies of my old zine that I didn’t even have. It was a truly humbling experience and gave me hope for a new generation of punk kids doing things their own way. As that memory faded into the back of my mind fall drifted off into winter, and winter soon gave way to spring. Suddenly, out of nowhere, these same kids who helped my band out back in the fall got in touch again about a completely different event. They were setting up a zine fair and wanted me to give a lecture/workshop at it. How about that! This was such a cool thing to ask about. So what to talk about? I tried to get an idea of who would be present and what to expect out of these other speakers. How could I bring something different to the table? It seemed as if there was going to be a focus on the more personal side of zines, so I thought I’d discuss, among other things, the long lost music zine—a forum once so common in underground culture you could spit and probably hit the sad sack behind some anonymous newsprint music zine. I wanted to give a history of the early to late 90s zine scene, how accessible they were, the relative ease of publishing a zine that arose with the affordability of getting a PC, and the different methods of creating and printing—from the handwritten xeroxed variety to the professional, offset printed variety. I brought examples from my personal archive. I thought it was worthwhile to discuss and discover these relics of mid-90s punk/ hardcore fandom. It was a beautiful day. So much so that everyone decided to set up shop in the courtyard outside the actual venue/shop it was supposed to take place in. While a crowd of 20 or 30 sat around me on this beautiful day, trying to tune in to my lecture, it was a mixed bag. Some kids were in rapt attention, and some looked at me as if I were speaking a dead language, passing around these foreign objects of weird newsprint matter, searching in vain for a delete key or download link between the pages. There was also some confusion as to why people would want to dedicate a large portion of their time to writing about bands and records, or reviewing things as opposed to producing a small handwritten diary zine, or some radical guide to dumpstering and smashing the state (with the help of Dad’s credit card of course). It appears that most music zines have gone online, or replaced with more personal handmade projects. Whereas those were once the oddball publication it’s now the music zine that is now the quixotic oddity viewed with confusion.
Overall, the workshop seemed to go alright as I attempted to connect zines, whether done on a professional level or with simply scissors and glue can be a DIY affair. It’s the heart and passion that goes into it that really matters. Regardless, these kids seemed to be more interested in my cut n’ paste traveling zines with covers made from leftover scraps of industrial-grade posterboard, and not so much my book-like music zines. Ah well, maybe music zines have gone the way of the dinosaur. I’d like to think otherwise. Well, I take that back because there sure were a lot of bad newsprint punk rock zines ten years ago. The few that survived and continue to thrive today just evolved, or lucked out, or are just good. It seems more and more, no one wants to help out a printed publication because it takes too long. It lacks the immediacy of the internet. By the time one goes to press (if they’re lucky enough to get that far) their information is outdated. It’s hard to keep up. But I’ll be damned if holding on to a tangible object, something with substance, doesn’t beat staring at a screen endlessly hoping to get something out of that. Because of this I think zines (and especially music zines) have to offer something more than just an interview about some band’s new record. They have to offer art, give a lasting impression, offer some really solid words to readers. They have to offer things that aren’t just reading fodder for the next fifteen minutes. They need to bring forth something that you’ll want to refer back to for years to come. Like the Farside interview in Anti-Matter #5. Who? What? Well, maybe most don’t remember the band or the zine. But that was a damn good interview and it has lasting power. It spoke to me and I remember quotes from that interview to this day. Like Steve Albini’s “What’s Wrong With Music” column that has been quoted and reprinted endlessly since it was printed over 15 years ago. Like anything from “Answer Me!” zine (if you’re into sick and twisted humor). Give us something tangible and memorable. It’s tough. But you gotta be smart. So speaking to a bunch of kids in a courtyard on a beautiful day— some getting it, some not quite—I was hoping that they’d go forth in their own endeavors and do something smart. Something that had substance and would be memorable. Perhaps I got down to specifics of printing too much, but hopefully there was something between the pages of the zines that I let them check out that spoke to them and inspired them to do something cool. Hopefully it’s worthwhile.
Helms Alee, Night Terror Young Widows, Old Wounds Night Owls demo Oak and Bone demo Mandate Of Heaven, Hun In the Sun Suicide Note, Empty Rooms
Challenge me: firstname.lastname@example.org 8
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
:: ISSUE 19 ::
New Scheme Classics Volume Two
4am Friday AVAIL in Salt Lake City, 1996
C—Trent Nelson // trenthead.com
“ The best way to keep a band going is to continue to view it as a hobby, not a career. In fact that’s the only way.
When this “classics” feature was originally envisioned, 4am Friday was one of the first records that came to mind. It’s very much a transitional record for AVAIL, now rightfully seen as one of the best American punk bands of any era. After Dixie arrived like a bolt of lightning in 1994, their sound was catapulted far beyond their native Richmond. 4am Friday arrived two years later, on Lookout!—a label experiencing a boom of its own—with Green Day leading the way and half the roster not far behind. Rather than lean toward the West Coast pop-punk sound that was making some of their peers filthy rich, AVAIL returned with a follow-up record written in the only way they knew how. 4am Friday packs in all of hardcore’s requisite intensity, but with melodic and anthemic guitar riffs, and a Southern charm rarely seen in any era of punk rock. Tim Barry’s lyrics give every anthem an air of clarity and honesty, but with a political poet’s acid-tongue. Even more than a decade later, the impact of AVAIL as a band has grown exponentially, while the impact of 4am Friday hasn’t faded. The following interviews piece together an oral history of 4am Friday. AVAIL singer Tim Barry and Jade Tree Records co-owner discuss the time surrounding the original release of the record, and the events that lead to its re-release on Jade Tree a decade later. [Anderson] 10
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
Explain what was happening with the band between the release of Dixie, through the writing and recording process for 4am. What effect had the push from Lookout! and the response to Dixie to that point have on your approach to 4am Friday? To begin with, much of my answer will be a vague recollection. It's been so many years now. Much of my/our past is clouded in memory. I do know that we toured like mad after releasing Dixie. If fact from Dixie on, we spent most of our lives on the road. And we all lived together in a big cheap house in Richmond. This is when it all became a cycle. We'd tour for as many months as we could, head home, write and record, then do it all over again. A few notable things were going on around that time. We had stopped running our own small record label and had begun to put out our albums on Lookout! Records. Which at the time was run by Larry Livermore, who still to this day I deem the most honest and straight forward person who worked in the music business. He was really a mentor. With touring and the transition to a label who cared about it's bands, we became sort of well-known in the music underground. This was mind-blowing to us. I recall writing journal entries on the road and being amazed that we had played a show in say, Boston and people knew some of our lyrics. For a band who came straight out of the suburbs, lived in a city not well known for music, and wrote music strictly for ourselves, it was a rush to know that some people liked us. As we got into 4am Friday the shows began to swell. Many of our favorite small venues, whether they were dive bars or basements became too small for us to play. Soon we were pushed into medium-sized clubs. When writing 4am, I remember the songs just flowing out. They all came together fairly quickly. And as usual, the studio session was a quick one. We tracked the entire record in a weekend and mixed it the next.
Lookout! Records was a bit of an odd spot for Avail, at least in terms of the fact they were from the opposite coast and mostly known for much more straightforward, pop-punk bands. Did this ever really occur to you, or effect the band around the time 4am came out?
Many of the lyrics on 4am Friday seem to deal with politics/beliefs in a really personal way. This seems especially true on songs like "Nameless" and "McCarthy," while "Monroe Park" is sort of an exception to that. were you in a different place then than you had been before (or since) 4am, which had an effect on the tone and content of your lyrics? I suppose at that point I was in my early-to-midtwenties, which I consider a time of complete confusion and searching for many people. I was no exception. Politics have always played a big role in my life and I think at that point my involvement in local radical efforts was coming out in my words. But I wrote them from my perspective and how I was affected more than telling people how they should think. I was learning about myself while writing. I've always considered lyrics to be journal entries—a document of a time period. While 4am Friday seems like "melodic hardcore" in a sense, the more melodic/catchy elements to it seem rooted more in hardcore intensity and southern/country riffs than any poppier punk/hardcore from the time. Where do you think this met on those songs, whether conscious or not? We've never done anything consciously; meaning we've never come up with a concept or goal. We've always just written by feel. However geography and peers do play into any band (I hope). The southern/country feel comes from Virginia. The hardcore came straight from the intensity of the music up and down the East Coast and Midwest. Places that we felt not only connected to geographically but were dotted with close friends and musical peers. The majority of the typical “pop punk” sound was coming from the West Coast. A place that we never really felt we fit into.
AVAIL is a hard band to find a place for. Although, when we went with Lookout! they had a real strong and diverse roster; Operation Ivy, a Rancid 7”, Green Day, Nerousus, all kinds of different stuff. We felt like that would be a perfect home. Then pop-punk exploded and the entire music industry focused on Lookout. What led to you reissuing the lookout releases on Jade Tree more recently? What about the upcoming vinyl reissues? Is it important to you to keep both formats of those records in print at this point? Sad as it is, Lookout kinda took a dive and never got back on their feet. Many tours went by without them even having our records in stock, so we pulled everything from the label and Jade Tree took on the project of the reissues. Because they don't do vinyl, Suburban Home Records/Vinyl Collective is putting all of them out on LP. Yes, it's important for us to have available both formats. Shit, maybe we'll do a cassette tape again someday. How do you feel about the legacy of 4am Friday, and the earlier Avail releases? Did it ever occur to you before? Does it now, with the band being less active than it used to be? Because I was there for every aspect of AVAIL, I don't really see any of our albums as being important or worthy of legacy. It's an odd position to be in. I know that some people love them, but it's hard for me to see from the inside. We've always just been friends making music without expectations and nothing more.
How did the songwriting process work for the band during that time? Song writing has been the same for AVAIL since the beginning. It's a collective and eclectic process; we all contribute. Sometimes songs just show up while we are in the band room and others are worked on alone and brought into to the group setting. 4am was no different. We had planned on releasing the songs “McCarthy” and “Fix” on a split 7” with Rancid before the formal release of 4am but didn't happen in the end. I'm thankful for that now. The first recorded versions of both of those songs are absolutely terrible. I'm glad we had a chance to rewrite them. C—Trent Nelson :: ISSUE 19 ::
How did your focus on solo recordings (and the upcoming national tour) come about? In a strange way, it seems like you can trace a tiny bit of that to the short "Swing Low" cover on 4am Friday. What is next for your solo material and for AVAIL? As AVAIL began to slow down, I began to start messing with a backlog of songs I'd been writing for years that would have never worked in AVAIL. I've never been one to sit around, so I just started putting out songs on my own and then records followed. Now I do the “solo” thing full time and AVAIL part time. I'm just gonna keep touring and making music until I can't anymore. Which 4am Friday songs still come up consistently in set lists for more recent shows? “Simple Song,” “Fix,” “Blue Ridge” (on occasion), and “FCA.” Those are the main ones. It's hard to make set lists these days. We have so many songs recorded!
I was happy that the reissue of 4am Friday includes the Live at the Bottom of the Hill record, which was also originally on Lookout! Are you glad that release was saved from going out of print? Are you guys happy with the way that turned out? What do you see as the importance of live recordings, especially when they're properly released? The Live at the Bottom of the Hill record, in my belief was done properly. Most bands scream out to the crowd "This is being recorded for an album, everyone yell!" and so on. Many bands also tone down their stage energy, opting to focus on their playing because of the recording. Also, many, many bands that put out "live" records tape multiple shows and mesh together the best takes of songs and release them as one album. Which I think is total crap. Regardless, in San Francisco, at the Bottom of the Hill venue, AVAIL played a show. One of many on a four-week tour. A week later, up
on Jade Tree. I remember calling up my business partner and telling him "This is awesome, it looks like we're going to do this AVAIL record." Then, the next day, Joe called me up and told me that they'd gotten an offer from Lookout and they were going to take that. Now keep in mind that during this time, Lookout was exploding. I was heartbroken that it wasn't going to happen on Jade Tree. But over the years, we stayed in pretty close contact. Years later, it just happened that we were still around and they were still around, and Lookout was closing its doors. They contacted us with the idea of heading back to where we both started and have us reissue the AVAIL catalog. Of course, my response was "Hell yes."
—Co-Owner, Jade Tree
How did you originally became acquainted with AVAIL? It's a long, long story. I've known those guys since the early nineties, probably '91 or '92. My own band [Railhead]; our bass player was in love with AVAIL really early on, when they had the original drummer and a different singer. He was always talking about them and I never paid much mind at the time. So fast forward a couple years, and we started hearing a lot about AVAIL from other people, which was kind of weird. When they released the first record, I picked it up and thought "Wow, this band is good." Our bass player had probably played us a demo at some point, but I remember really being impressed when I heard the first record. So it comes to happen that Railhead ended up going on tour with AVAIL in the summer 1993. This was around the time that things really started happening for AVAIL. That summer they were drawing some bigger crowds with bigger bands. At that time, drawing 300 or 400 people, mostly in the Southeast was a really big deal. I was really interested in working with them at that point. Jade Tree probably didn't have too many, if more than one or two full-time bands and AVAIL was a band we were really looking to work with. Now, the way I remember it—I'd be interested to hear if anyone in AVAIL remembers it the same way—we had been talking about doing the next AVAIL record with Jade Tree and I remember talking to Joe about it. I believe they were already going to do the split with Rancid. Joe told me that they wanted to go ahead with it and do their second record 12
How was the process of reissuing AVAIL’s Lookout! releases? I didn't work on that so much, but it's always a pain in the ass to recreate something that's more than ten years old. In a lot of cases, it’s pictures, or computer files that people had in 1995 that they don't have anymore. A lot of materials will degrade or disappear. So it wasn't the easiest thing to put this all together. The band was easy to work with in that respect, because they were really interested in getting this done. And they were hip to our idea of putting the extra material from each album's time period, tacked onto the end of each record. But it's simply a pain in the ass to put together, especially since we did all three of them at once. We had to hunt down people for three records at once, to write down their memories from that time, or figure out all the lyrics, and who's got that photo, or if we can do that cover song... All that stuff is a monumental task, but it's also a task of love because everyone in the office was psyched to finally have this catalog to where we felt it was always meant to be.
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
in the Pacific Northwest, our roadie Richard mentioned that he had the show recorded. He had gotten some friends who do sound to do a good audio recording with out telling anyone in the band. After tour we listened to it and thought it would be fun to put out as a live album. An honest live album. I like the recording because it captured a moment. There were no bullshit shout out’s, or hype. It was a night on stage playing for ourselves and the folks who came to the show. What do you think it is that has kept AVAIL going, after all these years? Has there ever been a time when you feared the band's end? The best way to keep a band going is to continue to view it as a hobby, not a career. In fact that's the only way.
How do you see the impact and legacy of AVAIL on other bands around the East Coast, and on Jade Tree over the years? Well, the bands’ contemporaries, I'm pretty sure we're all in our late 30's by now. We all come from a similar background in a lot of ways, Geographically speaking, they are four hours south of us. Where I grew up, we're two hours from New York and two hours from DC. DC especially had a real strong impact on bands here, and on the bands from Richmond, where AVAIL grew up. The impact was musical and the political and positive message as well. But Richmond is still four hours away, so they didn't necessarily have an influence on me early on. They were contemporaries of mine in that sense; I was inspired by them in the moment, but not before I saw them play. As I got to be a semi-jaded person in my mid-20's, just out of college, they were the band. You could always go see AVAIL and it would be a good show and a good time and they were good guys. I'll put it this way: AVAIL's one of those bands; it doesn't matter how old I've gotten, when they play certain songs I go off. I dive, I dance, I have a good time and that's just such an awesome feeling. And that to me, is a huge influence over time. A lot of older people now, if they were into AVAIL at the time, and that hasn't diminished. Whether or not the old heads are super excited about the new record, they see an AVAIL show as just a good experience with good friends.
That's the long-lasting impression they've had on me. As people, touring with them even back then, they just had it together. For people my age, they were part of that contingent of bands like Born Against, who had that early, long list of contacts in every fucking place around the globe. They were more than happy to share where you could play in Little Rock, or some trailer in Missouri, or some kid's garage in Montana. I was always intrigued at how well they ran their band, which was something I picked up about them from touring. The way they worked their transportation and their money. They were one of the first bands that I was personally aware of that really knew how to handle their business well. Especially in the early 90's when all of a sudden there were the Green Day's, and the Rancid’s and a bunch of bands started to explode. Bands were suddenly dealing with bigger venues and managers and labels, and AVAIL were a band that you could talk to about these things. And they were always concerned to a certain point, with what steps they were going to take as a band. I just loved both their work ethic and their business sense. It seems like they had thought about this bigger picture stuff that hadn't even occurred to a lot of other bands, so they were better equipped to deal with these situations as they came up. They knew what they were doing, but also never seemed like a band that were looking to maximize their thing at any give point, which may be how they've stuck around for so long. Yeah, they maybe could have [maximized things] at any given point. But they were one of those bands that were actually insightful enough to say "Well, what do we want? Are we a band that wants to tour 250 days a year?" And the answer was no, they had relationships, kids, or other jobs. They are very keen on what will keep this interesting to them. So while other people over-sold themselves or embarked on careers, I never thought AVAIL were a career band. Especially looking back now, they have always just been a band that generates what they generate. Whether it be fans or music, or money, or touring, they're comfortable with what they're doing and I think it keeps other people comfortable with what they're doing. They didn't ever have to come back, because they never went anywhere. I've always gotten the feeling from knowing them as people that it's a simple thing. If they weren't still intrigued by it, then they wouldn't do it anymore. They don't have such a sense of ego, because they don’t need people to love them. They are the kind of band that does it because they love it, and they really don't give a shit if a bunch of people are paying attention. I've seen plenty of bands get jaded and lose that generosity that AVAIL has. I can think of times on tour, when they had a guarantee and the show really didn't do well enough to make that guarantee by a long shot. They would see that they've worked with this club or this
person over the years, and they wouldn't take all the money, even though they had the guarantee. I've been around long enough to know that most bands won't ever do that and take responsibility for something like that. Again, it endears people to the band over time and makes people want to work with them time and time and time again. They seem to have always seen the big picture, even when they're making these day-to-day decisions for the band. Exactly. That was difficult time for a lot of bands, in the early 90's. That's right when Nirvana really broke and people were thinking "Wow, could this happen to me?" It was almost a terrifying cliff that you were looking over. It's not like you want to jump, but what if someone pushed me and I suddenly landed on this pile of money? And it's very real because a lot of bands had friends' bands who this was happening to. What’s your favorite thing about 4am Friday? That’s a tough one. I was trying to figure this out earlier, and it's actually sort of difficult. I always loved "Monroe Park," and "Simple Song" I really like too. It's funny, with my age and being a fan of this band for 15 years or longer. And the albums start to sort of blend together. I actually think it's cool you're doing it on 4am Friday and not Dixie, because that seems to be the one that a lot of people still focus on today as the AVAIL record. 4am Friday is hardly transitional, but I see it as almost their middle record, with so many elements of their earlier and later sound. It's hard to imagine now, hearing Dixie and then
Over The James back to back and thinking it's the same band. I've never actually talked about this with any member of the band, but I've always felt like they almost scare themselves about things. They'd had some success, and they were on Lookout at the time, but when they made Dixie it became really a big deal. So then they went to make 4am Friday and it seemed like "Well, what do we do now?" It's a great record, but you're right; it is sort of like a middle record. Because then they came back with Over The James and it's like a gut punch right away. It's almost like they said "Well, fuck it, we tried and thought so much about it and now we'll just go back to not thinking about it and do what we do best." And I think that's reflected in certain songs and the lyrics. 4am Friday is definitely not a transitional record, but when you say "middle record" yeah, that really resonates with me. Any band that has a level of success early on, you can't help but almost be disappointed if you don't hear the same amount of acclaim right away for a new record, even if it sells more copies. I mean, still today Dixie is the record, Dixie is the tattoo that people have. That's it, so what do you make of that? It's only human nature to really care about that sort of stuff and try and gauge it. Every band wants to play mostly songs from their newest record. But AVAIL never really seemed to care much about that stuff, or get demoralized by people focusing on their older material some of the time. And maybe that's part of why the band has gone on for so long in as pure a form that it has.
:: ISSUE 19 ::
When dudes in hardcore bands start a new project exploring any expressly nonheavy genre, it’s supposedly some big news flash. Pygmy Lush fall right into this predictable phenomenon, but a couple crucial details make their story worth telling. First, the guys in Pygmy Lush were in some of the best forward-thinking hardcore bands of the last decade or so—Pg. 99, Majority Rule, City of Caterpillar and later Malady and Mannequin. In fact, the story goes that Pygmy Lush began the day that Malady and Mannequin both disbanded. 14
Secondly—unlike so many mellow side project bands— Pygmy Lush’s songs can easily stand on their own. They possess way more follow-through, variety and genuine soul than you’ll find in just any old side project. Absent is the intentional or unintentional self-parody and novelty. Pygmy Lush aren’t looking to just strap on cowboy hats for the weekend and kill time between hardcore bands. Their first effort, last year’s Bitter River plays out like a time-lapse version of Pygmy Lush’s development. Its 16 songs vary wildly, but somehow all the pieces seem to fit. “Malady Savvy” is an aptly-titled, 59-second
return to the members’ old habits. “Foul Mouth Mother” and “The Baptism of Isa Lee” represent more of a molting period—a gritty, jagged middle ground between old and new—channelling AmRep’s heyday. “Hurt Everything” and “Send Bombs” stray the furthest from home, but carry the most weight. The new, much more focused Mount Hope streamlines their approach, while losing very little in the process. The songs channel obvious and opaque tactics from Tom Waits’ early work, with an effortless delivery of melodically-dreary hooks at speeds varying from slow to geological. Quiet, layered
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
guitar lines and laid-back vocals are the foundation of every song. Both seem nonchalant in their delivery, but the combination of the two, along with subtle variations from one song to the next stumble onto something potent. At least on paper, Pygmy Lush come off like a musical spaghetti western, with recently-purchased checkerboard shirts barely covering faded Black Flag tattoos. Regardless of the collective intensity of the members’ accumulated resume—which is ample— Mount Hope is massive, heartbreaking, and most importantly, convincing. [Anderson]
Explain what the members were doing musically leading up to Pygmy Lush’s formation. Chris Taylor: Johnny and I were playing in Malady, Mike Taylor, Mike Widman and I were playing in Mannequin, and David was playing with Coaxial out of Long Beach, CA. All of those bands except for Malady and Coaxial are on a indefinite hiatus. Mike Taylor also had brief stints in Majority Rule, and Haram before Pygmy Lush had formed. During Malady’s final drunken days, Mike T, Johnny and I formed a punk band called Teenage Noise, that was the foundation for Pygmy Lush. In fact, Pygmy Lush’s first songs were originally Teenage Noise songs. When Malady broke up, we consolidated members and formed Pygmy Lush. How did the songwriting process work when the band first got together? How was Bitter River put together? Teenage Noise was going to be an outlet for all the fast stuff that was unfit at the time for Malady, Majority Rule, Haram, and Mannequin. It was a seamless flow of fast material, heavy and visceral, and above all simple. Mike Johnny and I have been playing together for years, in pg99 and the fast material was second nature. All those songs were finished after a single practice, and somewhere along the way we started fleshing out these little nothings of songs on four track in our spare time. The idea of putting out a record that was more in the mold of a mix tape than an actual cohesive piece, began to take shape. We played with the idea of putting several versions of our songs on the same record, with multiple recording mediums to give the whole record more depth, in attempt to break from the monotone, flat line that most albums we’ve done inherit. We got it close, but the end result was, (as usual) a far cry from achieving exactly that, but such is the case with music. In my experience you almost never come close to your ambitions in music, the best thing to do, is write and forget.
Given the members’ history in more aggressive bands, do you find yourselves spending a lot of time explaining the sound of Mount Hope to a lot of people? How do you usually explain it? Well, sort of. I field a lot of pg99 and Malady questions when we go on tour, and I try to be very accommodating to folks that want to know why we chose to do this very subdued music, But to be honest, most people aren’t very interested in that stuff, they just want to clear up that we also play the “hard” music that they heard on MySpace. I spent very little time justifying it, we never want to alienate our audience, and realize that not every pg99 fan is going to dig this shit. But I am not going to apologize for playing the music I want to play, I tell people to get a bag of weed and wait for your girlfriend to dump you.
What does everyone do outside of the band? What are your plans, now that the record is out? We teach preschool, we walk dogs, we are carpenters, berry pickers, and delivery drivers. I occasionally do artwork for bands, our plans are really simple; stay together, write more songs, play more shows.
Kurt Ballou’s best-known work is mostly similar to your old bands. Why did you choose him to record Mount Hope? Did he vary his process a lot for you guys? Kurt is a great guy, he knows us well and we feel comfortable listening to him when he says that something can’t be done. He has usually gone out of his way trying to make it possible first. His process seems to vary with every recording, I get the impression that he is a fly-by-the-seat, improvisational engineer. Very adaptable, but very pro.
Mount Hope is obviously much clearer and more consistent musically than Bitter River. How did your thinking and songwriting changed between the two? Just a natural progression, winter settled in, we wrote in the comfort of our own rooms, rather than the spring and summertime shed that allowed the loud stuff to progress. The dive into Mount Hope was just stuff we couldn’t finish in time for Bitter River, we usually just put out a record when we have written about twelve songs, no matter the content. Than as recording draws near we hash out concepts and things we want the record to represent. Ultimately though, we obey our songs as they come out and it just so happens we were feeling a bit low while we wrote Mount Hope.
:: ISSUE 19 ::
An Ohio Story Dave Cuomo
It was my last night of a threeday, four show stint in Ohio. I had probably stayed too long for a stop on tour, especially considering the goldmine of material Ohio has been for songwriters. Just about every folk singer I know has an Ohio song, and they’re all about breakups, vans breaking down, or something else you always relied on breaking. I was in Lakewood, by all measures a punk bohemian dream town that stood as a blunt contrast to the dirty crime ridden streets of Cleveland sitting only a few blocks away. It was an activist town with cheap rent and two dollar cigarettes, where poets and musicians lined the streets and it seemed like everyone doodling on a napkin was capable of greatness. The town was only slightly run down and virtually crime free. Most of the bikes lining the street weren’t even locked up. It was the first thing I noticed that made me realize this place was a little different. “Don’t they ever get taken?” I asked. “Yeah, I think two were stolen last year,” Jeremy, the local promoter, aka Kid With Hair in the Face, told me. “Stolen, you mean bikes that were locked up?” “Locked up?” he laughed and looked at me funny, “who locks them up?” Where I come from, leaning your bike against a wall and walking away for a minute is considered an act of charity. Standing outside after the show, we were killing time and it looked like the night was going to wrap itself up fairly uneventfully. I was smoking and trying not to look awkward while Jeremy hawked my CD’s to anyone and everyone walking down the street. “This is Coomo, he’s a musician from New York!” he yelled. The “cuo” in Cuomo was always lost on his Ohio accent. He had a way of making it sound like where I lived was reason enough to hand me money. “He’s got shit for sale!” I forced a smile while he played my songs from a boombox to anyone willing to slow down. It was kind of uncomfortable, but we sold more than a few CD’s that way. How could I argue when he never kept any of the money for himself? A van pulled up and a girl inside called something to Jeremy.
“Oh yeah, they want to know if you want to go to a protest in Cleveland tonight,” he said turning to me. “Sure, what’s the cause?” Not only would it get me out of selling CD’s on the street, but Jeremy’s dingy basement apartment reeked of mold and I was in no hurry to get back there. “Something with the homeless. Sara!” he called back to the van, “He’s in, what’s it for again?” Sara jumped out of the van and jogged over. She had been at the show, early twenties, dark faced with freckles and thick curly hair falling over her shoulders. “They’re trying to kick the homeless out of Public Square downtown. It’s the main park where they all live.” She spoke quick and excited the way student activists often do. “Tonight’s the first night the curfew is going into effect. They sent out a call over the student radio for a sit in. Bring your guitar!” I wonder now if I’d known how the night was going to go if I still would have been so eager. I like to think so, just like I like to think it matters whether or not we went at all. It sounded simple and straight forward enough. It was the perfect part of my job description as a folk singer, and with the amount of wander lust I had running in my blood I could completely sympathize with the need for a free place to rest your head sometimes. We packed up the merch and guitar and hopped in the van.
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
There were six of us. Jeremy, Sara, myself, and three others I didn’t know. Everyone was passing a pipe and trading war stories about cops and protests, near beatings and arrests. I wondered if this was what a viking ship felt like on it’s way into battle. “Yeah, there’ll be cops there,” I heard Jeremy say, “I’m sure people will get arrested.” He said it good naturedly with his usual shrug. He flipped his hair out of his eyes which was thick and at least two and half feet long, falling out from under the knit cap he always wore. It fell right back where it was, covering the entire right side of his face. I’d heard he’d been homeless for awhile. I didn’t ask him about it much, but was pretty sure it was different from the intentional wandering kind I was dealing with, or the way the young punks I came across were doing it, angry and excited, part rebellion, part adventure game, like a train hopping summer camp. “I don’t know, I don’t want to get arrested,” one of the guys I didn’t know sitting up front said. “Yeah, I don’t either,” said his friend. He was smaller, skinny and had a mop top haircut. The girl driving stared straight ahead. You could tell she wasn’t that into the idea either. They were clean cut and didn’t look much out of high school. I wondered if it was her parent’s van. “It’ll be fine,” Jeremy said, “I’m sure they wouldn’t hold anyone long.”
“There’s going to be a lot of people there,” Sara tried to reassure, “that’s the whole point. What can they do?” “They’re cops,” Jeremy said back with a laugh, “They can do what they want!” I listened to them argue and didn’t say much as they tried to second guess how the night would go. Riot squad or come what may, it was vowed we would not go quietly. I found the talk comforting. As complicated and confusing as the world can be, it’s nice to know sometimes who your enemy is. Given a physical presence to yell at and grapple with, at least everything can finally fit into place and make sense for a minute. We came around the highways into downtown and I lifted myself up to see out the window what an Ohioan big city looked like. It didn’t look much different than most from a window on the highway at night, a cluster of darkened skyscrapers, a vague orange glow of streetlights, and a deep purple night closing in everything around. It was claustrophobic to look at. We parked, made our way to the square and were greeted with a friendly atmosphere. The square itself wasn’t very big, a small block of mostly pavement and bricks with some benches and trees around the rim. The area was dimly lit and office towers loomed large around us on all sides pointing up into a small starless sky. There was a cocktail party buzz in the air. People stood around with tea, coffee, and soup like they were holding martinis and wine or taking bites of cheese. It was an eclectic mix. The homeless, mostly older men, seemed to be enjoying themselves in conversation with middle aged baby boomer activists and students. People slept on benches or put out blankets. Some crusty looking punks sat on the ground singing “Baby, I’m an Anarchist.” I left my guitar with Sara and went with Jeremy to get some soup. There was some talk of police threats and how to respond, battle plans tossed back and forth, but mostly everyone was relaxed and talking just to pass the time. There were two police cars parked along the street, but they were paying us as little attention as we payed them. People were playing cards and chess. I found myself in a conversation with a marine vet and a homeless man about the history of Johnny Appleseed. Apparently he was a tinker, and he gave out the apple seeds to housewives as a calling card so they’d remember him. I guess like most glorified legends of American history it was just another over hyped marketing scheme. I realized the intention was probably to stay through the night, and having nowhere else to be, I didn’t mind at all. “Do you want to play a song?” Sara asked eagerly when we met back up with our group. “I don’t know, I think they’ve got it covered,” I said nodding to the punks who were now singing along drunkenly to “Wagon Wheel.” I know this was the kind of gathering political songwriters are supposed to revel in, but all of the sudden I felt uncomfortable interjecting myself. Who cared what I had to say? I had a car to sleep in and a job to go back to if I ever so decided. I would rather have heard one of the homeless sing. “Do you want to play one? We can trade off,” I asked her trying to deflect the responsibility. “I’m not very good, but sure.” “Her name is Rosie,” I said handing her my guitar. “Hi Rosie! Nice to meet you. Ok,” she looked back at me “I don’t play for people much so bear with me.” She strummed quietly and sang with a pretty but shy voice that at times became inaudible. Her shyness was funny next to the near frantic enthusiasm she had when talking about the protest. She handed me the guitar without looking up when she was done. “I’m really not very good. You play one.” “I don’t know what to play, I haven’t written an Ohio song yet.” “You have to have an Ohio song!” A little mischief flashed across her eyes, “maybe you’ll write it tonight.” I grinned back and played something as cute, quiet, and ineffectual as I could. When I finished I looked around to see if there was anyone else who wanted to play until I got my bearings better or the cops came for the inevitable stand off and let me off the hook entirely.
As I looked up there was a sudden change in the air. It was like everyone knew right before it happened that this was about to spiral quickly away from the pleasant evening we’d been creating for ourselves. A muted tone crept into the conversation around us and there was a subtle shifting of people’s glances. I checked the streets to see if more cops had finally shown up. Instead I saw a bare chested man walking with his shoulders back and an air of authority into the center of the square. “You are all dirty worthless bums!” he shouted. He held his head high looking around at the protestors and homeless. His arms hung out at his sides and he looked like he was flexing. Everyone mostly fell silent as his eyes ran across them.”Your homelessness is your fault!” He raised his index finger sternly in the air in front of his face. “I,” he drew out the pronoun, “work! I own apartment buildings.” He gestured back at the skyscrapers lining the street he’d just come from. “You are all lazy! Looking for a handout!” He sounded like a drunk preacher. I might’ve been able to guess right then, but had it confirmed later that he was homeless and slept in the park most nights. I put my guitar back in its case. “I am an angel sent by god,” he continued in a booming voice, “to clean up this mess!” His head was shaved and his chest was smooth. He almost gleamed in the street lights. None of us said anything. I exchanged a look with Jeremy. Wherever this was going it didn’t look good. Sara was next to us with her usual excitable look now starting to mix with apprehension. The other three were sitting down trying to look away. “Do you hear me?!” he shouted at no one and everyone, stepping aggressively towards people. “I was sent on a mission! I’m going to clean this place up!” He looked ready to pick a fight, but no one was taking the bait. I looked to the street and saw the two police cars were gone. He walked over to a man sleeping on a bench and gave him a hard shove. “Lazy bum!” he shouted. The man jumped up. He was short, had a long greying beard and was wearing a thick coat down to his knees. He faced his attacker for a moment squared off for a fight, then thought better of it and turned and started walking away. It was a far from even match. The instigator was young and strong looking, the older man just tired. The younger one took a step forward and shoved him from behind. He stumbled and almost fell, but then turned back around ready to stand his ground. A soft faced middle aged man walked in the middle and spoke to them calmly like old neighbors. “Hey, hey, cool out.” He raised up his hands in both directions. “We don’t need this here, just cool off. None of that. All these people came out here to stay with us, let’s not do this right now.” They both looked at him and circled each other while everyone watched on nervously. Suddenly the younger man went for the older one again. They met in a scuffle, but the marine I’d been talking to and his friend, also a large marine vet, put themselves in the middle to break it up. Others crowded in and they formed a mass of bodies that stumbled down the walkway away from us towards the street. Through the commotion I could see the two men repeatedly pulled apart only to lunge at each other again. “When two guys want to fight, sometimes you just gotta let them fight, get it over with,” Jeremy said. “Not here. Get them out of here,” a man behind us said. He said it as a command staring intently down at the street. “Let them do it somewhere else where they’re not going to get us all arrested.” “I’m not saying they gotta do it here, I’m just saying if two guys want to fight, they’re going to fight, not much anyone can do about it.” “Yeah but not here. Last thing we need is the fucking cops called.” His eyes flashed and he was getting angry. I heard a shriek of twisting metal and then a crunching sound and looked back down towards the street. The younger man, the angry one, was silhouetted in the street light with something curved and metal held up over his head. It looked like a scythe raised for murder.
:: ISSUE 19 ::
“Holy shit, he tore the bike rack out of the sidewalk,” Jeremy clarified before I could ask, looking as startled as he did impressed. As the bike rack swung down at the old man’s head one of the marines grabbed it from behind and pulled it free. He tossed it into the trees and got ready to get between them again. “Get them the fuck out of here,” the man behind us said and shoved past us to go down to the fight. As the two men went for each other again, more people crowded in to pull them apart and they all came tumbling back up to where we were. “Peace brothers, peace,” an older hippy looking woman pleaded with them walking along side the group. “There’s too much violence in the world, let’s not create any more.” They were separated again with at least ten people between them. For a moment they stood there breathing heavily and facing off. “That’s enough!” said the man who’d originally tried to mediate. “Let’s stop this, we’re done.” He took the older man by the arm and tried to walk him away. Somehow, the younger man came up with a four foot long black metal pipe and ran at the older man from behind. This time he got through and he brought the pipe down twice on him hard. The older man went down beneath it. He shielded himself with his arms and tried to back away across the ground, but the pipe kept coming down on him. “Oh my god, someone call the police!” a woman shouted. “No!” one of the punks who’d been singing yelled at her. “We don’t need any fucking pigs here.” “Someone’s going to get killed!” As the younger man brought the pipe up for another blow the marines finally got behind and grabbed hold of the end, wresting it away. He let it go, scrambled forward and jumped on top of the older man. They fought on the ground for a minute while everyone screamed around them. Standing on the sidelines I couldn’t see anything through the crowd or make out much sound over the yelling. The noise died suddenly like a collective gasp. I heard a clinking sound of metal on the concrete and everything stopped. Before I could see what happened, the older man had run off. “Oh god he’s been stabbed,” I heard. There was a knife on the ground and blood around it. The younger man was walking around with his hands on his hips and his head down, a stab wound in his ribs. He looked like he was walking off jogging cramps. “I’m calling the police,” a woman said pulling out her cellphone. No one protested. “I don’t think that guy’s coming back tonight,” Jeremy said, “If I were him I wouldn’t be. He really got him.” “Good,” Sara said, “It wasn’t his fault.” The three from our group who’d been nervous to start with had seen enough and were walking back to the van. Since they were our ride we had to follow. We walked behind them. It felt as wrong to leave as it had to stand there and watch the whole thing. By the time we caught up to them they were already pulling away. “Why go now?”Jeremy said through the window. “It’s over, he’s not coming back.” “We’re leaving,” the girl said looking at her two friends, “This isn’t a protest, I don’t know what... I don’t want to deal with police or anything else.” They waited for a second for us to get in, then drove off. We walked back up and stood around for a minute. A homeless man was pouring a bottle of water over the blood on the ground shaking his head. The younger man had left and there was a trail of blood drops following him out of the park. “Yeah, Cleveland’s kind of rough sometimes,” Jeremy said to me. It sounded like an apology. I nodded. Most people were gone now except for the homeless and about a quarter of the protestors who were there before. Someone was walking around handing out blankets.
“We’re staying the night, right?,” I asked. I didn’t know if there were any other options at that point, but just wanted it said to be sure. As strange as the idea of a protest seemed then, leaving sounded even more so. Jeremy and Sara nodded. I got us a blanket. There was a documentarian I knew from Lakewood filming the woman calling the police. “Well, I’ve been on hold for about ten minutes now with 911 and no one will talk to me,” she shook her head at the camera. “Yes, hello,” she said back into the phone, “yes Public Square, downtown... the main square in the middle of downtown. You can’t miss it. Hello? Yes, it’s a park...” Then looking up, “Oh god he’s back.” I turned my head quickly and saw the bleeding man walk back into the square. “What’s that in his hand?” “That’s a cement scraper,” Jeremy answered helpfully. His voice had lost the amused been-thereseen-that quality I was used to and came out deadpan. “Probably got it from the construction sight across the street.” It was a two foot long handle with a T shaped blade on top. With the older man gone, and no one in particular to focus on, he walked up to the first cluster of people he saw. He lunged at them swinging the cement scraper in a full arc in front of him, missing them by a foot or so. People backed away screaming, and he stepped forward for another swing. He missed again and people tried to turn and run but were getting cornered against the benches. They were all the way across the square from us. From where we stood all I could do was ready myself to witness something unthinkable. He was starting to swing one more time when the flashing lights and sirens filled the square. One police car and an ambulance pulled up. Seeing the cars, a resigned look came over his face and he stopped and dropped his weapon. People made way for the police and they walked up slowly. The man slumped his shoulders and let his head fall down on his chest as they put him in handcuffs. He looked docile as they walked him down
to the ambulance, like he knew this was where it was all going. Red lights flashed on the trees and no one said anything as the ambulance and police pulled away. Jeremy, Sara, and I walked back to the blanket. Jeremy ate and then we all curled up together and fell asleep as best we could. The ground was hard, and the night had gotten cold. As I was trying to drift off a homeless man looked at me and shook his head with a sad half smile. The morning came bright and clear. The skyscrapers that loomed so dark over us during the night were almost a sparkling grey in the daylight. Mixing with the green trees in the square and a perfect blue sky above us, it was a beautiful day to wake up to. It was just a little cold still and I stayed curled under the blanket for awhile with Sara. Typical city morning bustle greeted us, car horns, construction sounds, people shouting across streets at each other. People in suits walked through the square without a second glance on their way to work. The woman who called the police the night before was standing at a table handing out coffee and bagels. I fought myself awake to get up for some breakfast. Sara sat up still wrapped in the blanket. “Coffee?” I asked. She nodded sleepily and smiled. Jeremy was already at the table talking to the documentarian. “Yeah, I seen crazy shit around here,” he said. “This is the same spot where I filmed that UFO last year, got the whole thing on camera.” “It’s true,” Jeremy told me, “I’ve seen it.” “Did you get much of what happened last night?” I asked. “I did, going to to put it on my public access show, just like I did with the UFO. I got most of it at least, didn’t get a lot of the violence. That’s ok, I don’t like to show too much of that kind of thing. I don’t think that’s what it was really all about anyway.” “Do you think I could watch what you have? I should probably write something about it at some point.”
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
“Sure, of course.” He handed me the camera. “You don’t think the stabbing was a big part of the story though?” I asked looking into the viewfinder. I pressed play and saw a tiny black and white replay of bits and pieces of what I remembered. “Well, I just don’t want to distract from the over all message of what we were trying to do, from the protest itself. I want people to see it for what it was about.” “But that was part of it, don’t you think? What it was about...?” I trailed off. I had the overwhelming feeling that one or both of us was missing the point. It being his town not mine, I decided it was me who was missing it and let it drop. I brought coffee back to Sara and we shared the blanket while sipping. A homeless man stopped and shook our hands. “I just want to say thank you for being here last night. That’s all. We really appreciate it,” he said warmly. “Of course,” Sara said smiling. I smiled too and nodded. “Really,” he said, “it means a lot to us that you’re here.” We all smiled and nodded shyly a few more times until he walked away. It was hard to think of anything we’d done worth being thanked for, but as we packed up and headed for the bus I was glad he said it. Really, all we’d done was show up and watch events take their own course. Still, he thought we’d done something good at least. I looked out the window as we headed back to Lakewood and decided that would have to be good enough.
C—Dan Cohoon // frequencysquared.com
Some time ago, I randomly happened upon a cassette released entitled Freak Out The Squares from a Richmond band called The Catalyst. Upon my first listen, I was already sucked in—hectic punk with a heavy dose of metal. Subsequently, I gobbled up everything I could from this band, and now it’s impossible to turn back. I got the chance to catch up with guitarist Eric Smith, vocalist and guitarist of the band, for a short interview in July. If you missed it, check out the review of Marianas Trench, their newest release in from issue #18. [Birone]
:: ISSUE 19 ::
Alright, first things first. Who are you, and what is the story behind The Catalyst? My name is Eric Smith, and I play the guitar and sing, or what have you. We started out in December of 2002, with Kevin Broderick playing the drums, and Nate Prusinski on the bass guitar. I had decided to move from Richmond to Northern Virginia for no good reason whatsoever. I drank way too much at my going-away party, and still insisted on leaving that night—Kevin gave me a ride up there and just never found a ride back, but he was living under the stairs in someone’s basement at the time, so I think he was OK with it. Kevin had tried out for Nate’s old pop-punk band back in the late 90’s, and I guess they kept in touch. Having noticed that we didn’t have any other friends, and we each played the respective instruments of the classic power trio, we began kicking out the jams in earnest. What began as us hammering out some terrible sappy pop songs on acoustic guitars in my bedroom turned into terrible sappy electric pop songs in our friends’ basement, which frustrated the fuck out of us. But it planted seeds for the noisy mess of a band we are today. At the time we lived in this comically tiny, one-bedroom apartment in Fairfax, Virginia, about 15 miles from Washington, DC. At times there were six or seven of us living in this little apartment, but it was kind of all we had. Fairfax was a brutal place to live, for a bunch of 21-year-olds. In the meantime, we bought a van, recorded a demo, and in the summer of 2003, we went out on a disas-tour of epic proportions, after playing only two shows. A total cliché, I know, but we just had to get the fuck out of there. We came back a completely different band. We scrapped most of our songs, wrote a bunch of new ones, recorded two more demos, and in the winter of ‘04, finally started playing out in DC. In the spring of 2004, we culled the best tracks from our three recording sessions and released the “A Hospital Visit”
EP on the now-defunct McCarthyism Records. That summer, we set out on a slightly-lessdisastrous tour, playing 22 shows in six weeks, and somehow managing to get all the way to the west coast and back. The last few shows of that tour were with a band from Delaware called Take Down Your Art, whose drummer was a skinny, dreadlocked kid named Jamie Faulstich, and we all became fast friends. By June of 2005, we’d had just about enough of Fairfax, and the seven of us that were living in our one-bedroom descended on this massive, eight-bedroom punk dream house back in Richmond, and invited Jamie to move in with us, and become our second guitarist. We started jamming in our new basement three or four nights a week, and though we didn’t really plan on it, we set up a second drum kit one night and it clicked right away. Since then, he’s divided his time more or less equally between the two instruments. Nate quit the band in the middle of a tour we did in October of 2005, he had some sort of weird quarter-life crisis. I’ll spare you the details, but rest assured, it was fucking WEIRD. Michael Backus worked with me at Taco Bell when we were 15, and became our bassist in December of 2005, after we saw his band one night, and drunkenly cornered him and demanded he buy a bigger amp. Over the next 18 months we would record the split LP with Mass Movement of the Moth, the Freak Out the Squares cassette, and the Marianas Trench EP, tour the USA once and the East Coast like a hundred times. Jamie left the band for eight months in 2007-08 to live in Buenos Aires. We recorded the split 7” with Brainworms, toured with a different drummer, and toured Europe as a trio. As of three days ago, Jamie’s back playing shows with us.
Marianas Trench, but unlike most punk/ hardcore bands who sound different because of an amateurish earlier effort, you sound like you’ve just stepped out of one suit and into another.
Apart from a few telling aspects, Freak Out The Squares sounds almost like a completely different band than the one who put out
It was pretty generous of you guys to include the tracks from your splits with Mass Movement of the Moth and Brainworms on the CD version of Mariana’s Trench, especially considering that the initial releases aren’t even out of print. What was the main reasoning behind that?
We didn’t think we were going to release that Freak Out The Squares session when we recorded it, but I’m glad that we did. The nature of that recording session caught us a little bit off guard. We recorded everything live, in one small room, like we were playing a show to a bunch of microphones. I think we had no idea what we actually sounded like, all of our previous recordings had this real slick, highly compressed production value to them, but that’s not what we sound like at all. All of us have pretty diverse taste in music, barely any of which lands on the same radar screen as what we sound like. If anything, the influences we’ve been encountering since then come from each other, becoming more comfortable with each other’s style, and timing, better understanding what’s going to sound the best when we each bring our own influences to the table. We got into this for the same reason I’m sure that a lot of people did; we’d be lost without it. It’s not like we have much else in our lives that’s worth mentioning, we’re all just wage slaves. When you have something that you believe in, something you’re passionate about, you can wake up in the morning and realize that you’re a day closer to some show, or some recording dates, or some tour, and it makes it worth it to you to get out of bed, go to work, make enough money to duct tape your equipment back together and pile into that van. I saw a movie recently, I can’t remember what it was called, but this one line stuck out to me: “I have to keep creating, or I’ll just die.” That pretty much sums it up.
I still think CDs are cool. You can play them in your car, you can put them on your hard drive, and once you find them under your desk after three years, and they’re unplayable, you can put them in the microwave for a few seconds and they, like, explode. The idea for the collection CD came about right before we left for the European tour, mainly because Mass Movement of the Moth had broken up and the chances of Two Thousand and Six Six Six getting any sort of repress were looking pretty slim. That’s the only one of the three records that had previously been released on CD, so it just made sense to get them all together 20
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
on a slightly more portable format. For the children, or people without record players, or whoever. I always hear stories about great shows transpiring at your house in Richmond, and it’s gotten to the point where I can only imagine it being some sort of punk Neverland Ranch. Before we were evicted, I did have plans to put a ferris wheel in the backyard and a waterslide from the upstairs bathroom to the basement. It’s probably best that they never came to fruition, there was plenty of water damage to go around already. If you never set foot in that house, I could never describe it to you. It was total fucking insanity, 24 hours a day. We lived there for just under two years. Around a dozen people lived there at any given time, and if everyone had two friends over, well, you can do the math. At least half of us were throwing shows in the basement on the regular, a little too on the regular maybe. I remember three weeks in February of ‘06 when we did 11 shows. It was nuts. The address got hot with the cops and our landlord, she would go around town looking for flyers, then come kicking down our door threatening to take us to court. We tried to lay low, then successfully re-christened it “The Fortress of Solid Dudes,” for a little while, that got hot too, so we had to stop making flyers altogether. By that point, so many random sketchballs were showing up and fucking shit up that it only made sense to go a little further underground. But still, Richmond has a tight-knit, amazingly positive
and empathic punk scene, so just a little word of mouth could draw out most of the good crowd on any given night to fill up our house with crushed Pabst cans during those last few months. In the end, we saw and raged with fucking incredible bands from all over the world, got to expose an unwitting punk community to said bands, and were able to provide said unwitting punk community with a totally rad space to hang and interact, even if just for a little while. What does the term “stoner metal” mean to you? How does it apply to The Catalyst? Stoner Metal. You know; metal, but tuned down to H, and played really, really, really, really slow. I like a few of these bands, but honestly, I could get just as much pleasure out of listening to 45’s on 33 rpm. It’s just 4th or 5th generation Sabbath worship, and that’s cool, I love Sabbath, but what’s done is done. We’ve been hit with this tag a few times, I hope it doesn’t stick. We don’t sound anything like Iron Monkey or Sleep or any of those bands. Someone called us “stoner punk” once, I thought that was pretty dead on. What’s the most un-metal thing about you? The records we jam in the van, without a doubt. A lot of this is a result of years of dealing with a crummy stereo that can’t hack the mid-heavy, solo-laden, triumphant power of heavy metal. But seriously, these days our tape collection looks a lot like your mother’s
:: ISSUE 19 ::
probably does. It’s the most un-metal thing ever. Lots of new wave, soul, and radio pop records, interspersed with the occasional obscure late 80’s or early 90’s punk rock cassette we come across at the thrift store. You guys are hitting the road in August and September. What is it you look forward to the most when you’re preparing for tour? Things are looking really good! Every state east of the Ol’ Miss is literally peppered with captivating, exciting bands and great friends that we can’t wait to see again, as well as new friends we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. Touring is absolutely the most rewarding experience any band can have—whether it’s unbelievably successful or totally catastrophic— it’s a fucking journey. We just bought a 15-passenger so we can roll two bands in one van, to offset that looming four bucks a gallon. We’re doing two quickie Eastern tours this summer in lieu of a larger national tour; In August with fellow Richmond heads Antlers, and in September with Brooklyn’s Ancient Sky. Both tours should be incredible, Antlers are one of our favorite groups of people in the whole world, and Ancient Sky is Kevin’s brother’s band, they’ve always wanted to do something like this together. We couldn’t be more excited.
Though they haven’t been around long, Mammoth Grinder are poised to make quite an impression on heavy music if they stick around. Hitting the ground running this year with a killer debut full-length and back-to-back tours, this Austin three-piece has already proven that they have the grit and passion to quickly advance to the head of the pack. While it doesn’t exactly re-write the book on heavy hardcore, Rage and Ruin has the carefully-crafted sound of veterans in the genre, and satisfies fans of generally pissed-off music on a basic level. After being blown away by their first Denver show with Die Young, a big group of us headed over to the 24-hour Breakfast King for a midnight meal. Spirits were high as we got some grease in our stomachs and compared lame tattoos. At the end of the evening I asked if they would be good for an interview over email once they were finished the tour and this is what Chris gave me.
Mammoth Boring questions first: Introduce yourself, what you do in Mammoth Grinder, and the other two members and their duties. My name is Chris and play guitar and do vocals. Another person named Chris plays bass and does vocals sometimes, but we call him Campy, and Brian plays drums. For readers who are unfamiliar with you guys, briefly describe your sound/influences. Feel free to drop some names. I would just say heavy hardcore. Bands like Entombed, Crowbar, Mind Eraser, and Eyehategod are some of my favorites. His Hero is Gone and the whole canon of bands that came out of that are huge influences as well. We’ve been listening to the new Disfear on tour a bunch also. That is all I’ve got off the top of my head, I am not too good at describing it. How did you guys first meet each other and get a band together? My old band and Brian’s old band were on the same compilation in high school so we knew of each other but never really talked. After both of those bands were done a mutual friend put us in touch and then it started from there, around the summer of 2006. The mutual friend was our first bass player but it wasn’t really his thing, so 22
once Brian and I knew we would be buds we got a different bass player. I went to college in Nashville after that summer so not too much happened then, but moved back to Texas for the next summer and thats when Brian introduced me to Campy. We played a bunch around Texas that summer and then instead of moving back to Tennessee for school I decided to stay here and they were pretty excited about that. That was a year ago and now we have a full length record out and are touring a bunch, so I am pretty happy with my decision. Rage and Ruin was released as Depleted Resource Records 001. What is your relationship to the label and the dude/dudes who run it? Depleted Resource was first a radio show on KVRX in Austin run by two guys named Matt and Brian. Both of them were pretty enthusiastic about our band and earlier this year Matt decided that he wanted to start putting out records, with ours being the first. We have been good friends for a while and he has been really easy to work with, he is also very lenient about helping us out when we need more records for tour and stuff.
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
The fact that Rage and Ruin, your first release as a band, is a full-length LP, is uncommon in hardcore. Was this a conscious decision, or were the other factors that led up to circumventing the obligatory slew of splits, demos, comps, etc? It just sort of worked out that way. While I lived in Nashville I recorded four songs myself and sent them to Brian to show him some ideas, but it ended up being our first demo tape sort of. Two of my best friends Travis and Jeremy, who have been behind us forever even when we sucked really bad, decided to start a label called Ghosthunt Records and wanted to make about 50 tapes of the demo. Since there weren’t too many made, not too many people know about it I guess.The next time we recorded as a band, those songs were re-recorded with a couple more and thats what turned into Rage And Ruin. Ghosthunt decided to make 100 copies on cassette and Depleted Resource did somewhere around 550 on vinyl. So Depleted Resource did the LP, and Ghosthunt did a tape. Are there any plans in the works for Rage and Ruin to be released on CD? The first form of Rage And Ruin was actually a CD-R that we had made since we needed some music to sell on our first tour. There were 100 white ones and then 100 yellow ones later on the second tour in addition to the East Coast
tour vinyl copies. I would like it to be released on CD really bad because there are always kids asking for them but that stuff is really expensive, so hopefully we can find someone to put it out soon.
then it just becomes funny and turns into a good story. Definitely my favorite summer so far.
With Summer coming to an end, how did your first few seasons of touring treat you?
Sometimes I don’t realize how weird something is until we are all talking about it later or I’m telling someone about tour so there may be some great stuff that I can’t think of, so I will just say a couple of my personal favorites (besides getting that ill ass burrito at Breakfast King with you guys). Most recently when we toured California with Alarm, we stayed at a kid’s house who lived with his parents. We just got back from Denny’s and had to go to bed soon since it was so late and the kid’s dad was waking up soon. In the living room, Jake (the bass player in Alarm) and I found something that looked like a gigantic pile of pillows. He picked it up and it turned out to be this HUGE stuffed camel from the Aladdin movie I think since it was wearing a little hat. He was holding it up in front of me and I was just freaking out laughing but still trying to be quiet. Then he asked me to hold it and point it toward him so he could look since it was so big that he couldn’t even see what it was. While we
It was kind of shitty sometimes. Not shitty in the way how people in bands complain about being on tour and missing home or whatever, because I love it and I hate being at home. But we just had so many shows cancelled or venues shut down, and on tour a day off feels like a week off. This past tour we had four days off in a row because a couple shows got cancelled and then we didn’t have enough money to make it all the way to the ones that weren’t cancelled, and that bummed everyone out pretty hard. It was still lots of fun though and I’d rather be there than at home. East Coast was awesome and Die Young tour was great even though a couple dates fell through. California is pretty tough though so we might have to wait until we know more people to go back for the third time. There were a definitely times when we ate shit pretty hard on tour but you always wake up the next day and it gets better, and
Care to share a memorable story from the road?
are both laughing like a bunch of goons, I looked down the hall behind Jake and saw the kid’s dad come out of his bedroom in only his underwear and just stare at us. I froze up and we just looked at each other for a quite some time while Jake was laughing being completely oblivious. I told him to turn around and then we ran away like two little kids at a sleepover. I am sure he knew we were staying there but probably didn’t remember since he just woke up. Then I could only think about how weird it would be to be a successful family man with a nice house and just one day to wake up and see two idiots playing with a giant camel in your house. Then he kept walking through where we were sleeping and each time he would have one more article of clothing on, it was weird. There were so many times on that tour when someone would say something to us and start off with, “I don’t mean to be a dick, but...”, and those times were the most memorable for me. We borrowed a van from another band so everyone could fit and it ran out of gas while I was driving because I never looked at the gas gauge, and later we knocked off the rails on the top of the van by driving it through a tiny parking garage.
Grinder Words: Zach Moroni
Photos: Tyler Nutter www.nutterphotog.com
Mammoth Grinder www.myspace.com/mammothgrinder
Depleted Resource www.myspace.com/depletedresource
:: ISSUE 19 ::
C—Adam Schneider // www.madaes.com
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
VO I was a nascent young spud back in the early 80’s when MTV came on the air. My already-musical mind began to catch visuals of the same records that my Dad would play around the house—Genesis, The Clash, Talking Heads, and Elvis Costello. Eventually I caught a video by a little band called Devo. In my youth I couldn’t quite grasp just what the hell was happening with the “Whip It” video, but the song was awesome and the visuals were hilarious. Who knows what the point was, all I knew was that I loved it. That was probably around 1982. I was five. Fast forward to 2008 and I’m thirty, and in a trailer where the members of Devo are donning their trademark radiation suits and energy dome hats, and I’m in there about to interview them. How on Earth did this happen? How did I go 25 years of being so influenced by the sounds and ideas of this band, having never caught a glimpse of them live, and then jumping straight into interviewing founding member Gerald Casale right before they take the stage? I’ve never considered myself all that crafty, but I suppose when you envision a goal—when you’ve got your eye on the prize—there’s simply no compromise. It’s destiny and it has to happen. The actual story goes something like this: Devo were playing New York City and that’s the closest I’ve heard of them playing for as long as I’ve been paying attention, and come hell or high water I was going. Upon tracking down all the pertinent details I came across a couple minor ethical dilemmas—the first being that this gig would run me about $60, which I didn’t have. Not a huge deal, I’d figure it out. Second, it was a LiveNation/Clear Channel event, which aside from being a terrible business, they ripped me off of $25 once. It’s just not how I roll. I had to hatch a plan. Seeing as I’ve dabbled in the zine medium over the years, as well as the occasional freelance writing gig for other fine publications, I set forth to see about doing a live review of the show as a fast track around purchasing a ticket. I’m not beyond bartering work for a free show! There was a contact e-mail on the official Devo website and I hit it up, wondering if there was a publicist I could talk to. As luck would have it, the webmaster was also their publicist and he immediately seemed enthusiastic about my proposal and offered me a shot to interview Gerald Casale. I thought this might have been a joke, but I played along, expecting basically nothing. I agreed, but didn’t take it too seriously. I just wanted to see the show. :: ISSUE 19 ::
So it wasn’t until I found myself milling about McCarren Pool Park in Brooklyn, waiting for the guest list to appear. And it did. And I was on it! And, sure that made me feel like a dork, but it was nothing compared to impatient 40-somethings who acted like the poor cute girl behind the table (who was obviously on her first day and learning the ropes) owed their greasy asses a favor. The park is quite literally a massive empty pool surrounded by a big wall on all sides and a giant stage at the end. It was about as good as one could get for a 6,000 capacity outdoor venue. It was about halfway through Tom Tom Club’s set when Devo’s publicist got myself and some Aussie photographer together and brought us backstage to do our press stuff. It was weird. Some stuffy old hipster/schmoozey types were hanging around trying to either cling to some semblance of their former coolness, score some drugs, or perhaps snag some free cantaloupe from the deli tray. Off to the side Mark Mothersbough was on his phone doing something no doubt important, sans Devo getup. Yet seeing that guy wander around in those trademark specs was sort of surreal. While killing time the photo guy and I made small talk and he used me as a guinea pig for how he wanted to photograph the band. I did my best Run DMC pose for him and it seemed pretty tough. The Tom Tom Club finished up their set and all walked back towards us where they were instantly greeted by a gaggle of fake
hanger-on’s. I gotta say, Tina Weymouth still looks great. Chris Franz, on the other hand, looks like a bloated soccer dad. I don’t know what happened there. I think I caught him alternating between wolfing down a hot dog and pulling some fake sophisticate snob voice when he called to another snooty admirer, “Darling!” It was weird. I mean, just because he played in Talking Heads, one of my all time favorite bands, doesn’t exactly grant him a free pass on current crimes. So, a few more surreal moments later some manager type guy calls to me and says I have five minutes to interview the band, so here we go. I was hoping for a bit more time, but hey, I wasn’t about to complain. I walk into their trailer and they’re all getting into their yellow suits, hats already donned. I gotta say, it was one of the more bizarre moments in my life. But it was also one of the better ones. Sure, this interview is brief, but what do you expect out of five minutes? I feel like the necessary details were addressed and, fuck it, I got to interview Devo. What did you ever do? [Canavan] In past interviews you’ve said that you used to be a self-professed hippie, previous to doing Devo. What were you like back then? I definitely had a pre-9/11 mentality. You could accuse me of that. I was a lot more naïve. I really thought that, fundamentally, there was a possibility of justice and that there were just some bad eggs, and that activists could really make a difference and change the world.
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
So you think that they can’t now? That’s right. Well, seeing as the music you make is very catchy, very poppy, very accessible ... a lot of people can get into it. It only seems like that now. We were considered extremely radio unfriendly and bizarre. People wouldn’t even question it. They’d hear us and say, ‘that’s not a song! Those aren’t even songs, they don’t have hooks!’ And now, it’s different. Sure. I’m 30 and when I was a kid I would hear that music and think, “that’s catchy!” I wish more people would have thought so. We had an accidental hit with “Whip It”, but we were met with great resistance from radio, and that’s the truth. Right. So given that, how do you feel about now, where more people can listen to and understand Devo, as opposed to back then when it was a lot more difficult for the general public to get into it? Well, it’s interesting because we’re sort of getting re-discovered as if we’re some sort of prehistoric curiosities, which is cool. So that’s a whole new audience, and they get it immediately. I think it’s because the songs were ahead of their time, and now they’re not. They’re contemporary.
So going back to the hopelessness of change you mentioned, how does that pair up with the sound of Devo, which sounds very cheerful on the surface? What was it on your musical path that led you to say, ‘this is how I’m going to present this music’?
Well, we tried to keep it a secret, but there’s a lot of talent in this room (indicating the rest of the band being in the room). So that’s why we did it. It’s just what we do. I understand that on the surface it sounds catchy and simple, but beneath it you can hear weird time signatures and so forth. Yes. The parts don’t really fit together in an expected manner, and the progressions had some surprises at times. The lyrics were not your typical subject matter of rock n’ roll.
I have a couple somewhat off-kilter questions. The first is I wanted to ask about your Jerry Jihad project and what happened with it? With Jihad Jerry what we were trying to do was to create a character, an alter ego, that was commenting on the fact that we live in a fear-driven climate where the citizenry was more than willing to give up all their freedoms to preserve ‘freedom’. That is, the democratic way of life they were willing to trash in order to catch Osama bin Laden. Of course, no one sees the supreme irony in that, and that’s the problem. Jihad Jerry was trying to point out that his was not a holy war. It was a war on stupidity. But nobody thought I was funny and I got viciously attacked, hate mail, and so on. Another thing is that you do a lot of work for commercials and much of it seems seems like things you’d criticize in Devo. I take it you separate the two? Yes. Do you try to interject a bit of that into the commercial work? You always try to do that; I mean, it’s apples and oranges with Devo. This is us. This is our self-expression. It’s like we’re poets and we’re being paid to be us. What we do is what we do. The commercial stuff is problem-solving. We don’t go to them, they come to you. You’re not the primary creator. So when a beer company goes to you to come up with a campaign and you tell them, ‘OK, here’s my idea—beer is dumb, how about that for a commercial’? That’s pretty much what I did. Any commercial I did for a beer company I was pretty much saying beer is dumb. And creatively, they were OK with it!
Last question—you’re a bass player and you play left-handed, on an upside down, righthanded bass. How did that come about? I was left-handed and no one in my town of Akron, Ohio A) had any left-handed instruments and B) was left-handed and played an instrument to show me. So you never changed? It was too late by then! Exactly five minutes later I was finished with Jerry, shook all their hands, and was on my way. While the schmooze party continued outside I helped myself to the fruit tray and saw Dan Deacon loading up on food as well and figured, “hey, this guy seems alright.” He had opened the show earlier as a one-man whirlwind, playing right in the middle of the crowd, as opposed to the stage. Typically, I hate the laptop/DJ types, but he kept it fun and got not only some ridiculous circle pit going, but a conga line that wrapped around the whole venue. It was pretty entertaining and quite audience-friendly to say the least. And he was an alright fella on top of it all, despite catering directly to the enemy... er, I mean hipsters. In the meantime, Devo were taking pictures with Tina Weymouth from Tom Tom Club/ Talking Heads. Say what you will about putting people on a pedestal, or nostalgia-ladden gooberism, I was spitting distance from the bassist of one of my favorite bands of all time. I thought that was pretty cool. Moments later Devo took the stage and I danced around like a little schmuck the entire damn set.
:: ISSUE 19 ::
So here’s what I got to go on: If anyone has ever seen the 1980 Devo live video that was released a couple years ago, this was pretty much the exact same thing. They set up exactly the same (drums on the far left and up front), the keyboards were still from the 1970’s. They had the exact same stage moves they’ve always been doing—that grouping of all the members and hopping in step to the break in “Uncontrollable Urge” remains exact. The gradual ripping of the outfits until they’re down to t-shirts, short shorts, and kneepads went like clockwork. They only played the most familiar songs: “Gates Of Steel,” “Satisfaction,” “Whip It,” “Freedom Of Choice,” and so on. After all, why mess with a good thing? They know exactly what’s worthwhile and what’s filler. And you know what? Every damn second of it absolutely ruled. Now if I already knew most of what they were going to do why was it so awesome? Well, here’s the thing—if maybe I’d already seen them 20 times perhaps I’d be sort of used to it, maybe a little bored even. But that’s not the case. I’d never seen Devo. And being there right up front while they went through their routine with a ton of other people dancing was excellent. Sure, their set is almost as robot-like clockwork as their intended android stage moves. But it’s done so well and played so perfectly (hell, they’ve had 30 years to get it right) one can’t help but be bowled over with how entertaining it all is. I walked out of there beaming with a smile that lasted a good week.
Mad Cow Disease Devon Solomon
All of his experiences, his convictions, the vision and clarity he achieved from seeing beyond their façade, all of the “important” stuff… reduced to women problems. He floated out of the bar, a mere ghost of a person. A moment of nostalgia came over him and he thought about how at one time he was “going to change the world.” He knew the world needed changing, he just didn’t realize at that moment, the world that needed changing was his own. “You should take a left and get on the train!” He screamed at himself. “You had your train quota, an adequate buzz, 2 beers, 2 shots, 20 minutes, Go Home!” Yet there was something in him pushing the rest of his day in the opposite way. He turned right…towards HER. They had called it quits but decided to live out the lease, prolonging the inevitable, postponing their doom until financial stability could rescue them from complete and utter failure. Lately she seemed like she had such an easy time with the whole thing. He viewed himself as the only one in pain over the ordeal and it burned him. “There has got to be someone else,” he thought. Jealousy reared and roared. Revenge was close behind. He walked up 16th Street grinding his teeth, on a mission to expose her new man and defend his honor from this unforgivable insult. There were signs along the way warning Justin not to pursue this question mark but as life’s signs usually go, they went overlooked. Huge clouds rolled over the sun, temporarily masking its radiance only to roll away, enabling the earth to fire up again. Justin recently bought transition lenses for his glasses and with this dark-to-light play of light, his eyes breathed with the surrounding scene. Light/shadow, in/out, should/shouldn’t, the opposites questioned his choices and tapped his shoulder, but the force of his most base emotions determined Justin so no signs could be seen. 28
Justin was going through the “human” thing again. As the people strolled along the busy Mall Street, swaying their arms, cackling at jokes, eating chips, kissing lips, Justin began to disengage. Every move they made, every sound they produced began to become one orchestrated gesture of humanity, a single predetermined destination of which he felt no part. One living organism unfamiliar, they squirmed in Justin’s eyes and burrowed in his ears like worms. The evolution of man retreated backwards in his mind and all the humans began to look like apes. “How did they all get here anyway?” He mused. The monkeys, the buildings, the McDonalds, the trashcans, it all seemed to have just hatched out to him. Like a little chick breaking out of its shell wet and dumb with birth, life reared its ugly head. If Justin had been paying attention, he would have noticed his own little shell, letting light in through a small crack in his consciousness. He approached California Avenue and a group of people waiting for the light to change. Justin quickly scanned the one-way street and saw no approaching traffic. He barreled past the herd, angry and egotistical causing a chain reaction of fellow J-walkers. “Fucking Cattle!” Justin proudly thought to himself. “I need more booze.” He began to make a kind of booze to-do-list. “First I’ll drink a glass of wine at Marlowe’s. Then I’ll duck into the Satellite Bar to slam some beers, then onto the Thin Man for a couple of shots.” He wanted his night to be cloaked in alcoholic blindness in order to handle what he thought for sure to be the biggest slap in his face since birth. The last thing he remembered around this time was entering the Satellite Bar, appropriate enough.
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
Justin awakened by a slap to the face. He came-to, quickly. His body needed defending and he accessed the scene with as much insight he could conjure at the time. He seemed to be in a mess of one. He was on the ground, his elbows propping him up as if he had just fell and a Neanderthal-like being towered over him with intently focused eyes seemingly waiting for Justin’s response. Justin put his arm up to negate another possible slap and waited for his memory to fill him in, but to no avail. “Look man, I’m not trying to fight…What’s your problem?” “I’m your alarm clock bitch. So wake UP!” Justin combed the obvious metaphor hoping his mind would pick up the slack; the longer the combing went on, the longer he stared away from the situation. Almost like a slap back to reality…another slap came. “Wha! Ow! What the fuck?” …A voice came from behind him: “Hey, get out of here! Stop slapping him or I’ll call the cops!” Justin turned around to face a patio packed with people all wide-eyed and waiting for another blow. He had made it to her place of work and now, for some reason unknown to him, he was getting his ass kicked for all to see. “Wait, I came here to kick ass!” Justin thought to himself. He recognized the women shouting. . She was one of those bridges away from Justin’s used up soul, her new way out-her new friends. As the slapper walked away, Justin turned around to face the faces on the porch, open-mouthed and ready for more action. He was a blithering idiot, a weak slobbering drunk. He picked himself up realizing in any other circumstance he would (or should) be embarrassed. He wobbled around for a second on the sidewalk stage trying to focus on the blur of humans in front of him. “Where is her new man?” he thought. Anger began to swell within him. He scanned their faces for the evidence he made this drunken journey to find.
His futility struck him. He needed to let this blurry mass know he was no one to fuck with. He needed to let her new man know that he what was not up against some weakling. He kicked at a nearby planter of rocks encircling a tree. The rocks kicked back. He ended up falling backward against the same ground from which he had awakened. The crowd laughed, hard. Justin sank back into himself. Once again, he was cut off from them, disconnected, shunned, and to worsen the situation-completely and utterly alone. The situation demanded protection, but what was he protecting? He picked himself up quickly, turned to face the laughing crowd, and screamed. “Fuck all of you! Fuck your God! You are all a bunch of Fucking Cattle!” He articulated every word, surprisingly so, considering how drunk he was. The crowd shut up fast, paralyzed. Justin, proud of himself for being so above the rest of them, straightened his pants, gathered himself as much as he could, turned and started to walk away. “MOO!” Someone flung a verbal knife in his back. “Namasté Cowboy!” another dagger flew. The words tapped his shoulder and called him to a family he always considered an enemy. Justin walked into residential darkness alone in his estrangement.
When he came to, his head was in the gutter and his legs where in the grass. “She” was above him, haloed in streetlight. “Are you OK?” “My soul hurts…how could you?” “Justin you’re doing this to yourself. You cannot blame this on anyone but you. You’re not the only one who is suffering. He thought of the crowds and the slaps. “Then where are the rest of them? Where do they meet? Where is the recruiting office? Where is the sign up sheet? Where do I join these suffering souls?” “Why are you doing this, you’re usually so much stronger?” “Why? Why! Because we…him…what is the point? Ah, yes, the point…THIS STORY BETTER HAVE A FUCKING POINT!” It was silent for a minute. Justin watched “her” blur away in his tears, and then he heard her say… “What do you want the point to be?” Justin woke up the next morning and made it to the bathroom with enough time to puke. The water stung as he showered off the stains and bruises of yesterday. He somehow coached himself into the awaiting day, still drunk, a little guilty, and emotionally spent. He looked down at his hands; his palms cut up from falling on the ground. He recalled the words the slapper spoke :: ISSUE 19 ::
waking him back to life from the blackout: “I’m your alarm clock bitch. So wake UP!” He threw himself forward, toweled off, put on his work clothes, and walked to the bus stop. “Say Buddy.” Justin jumped, startled out of a dream. “Easy there buddy, I’m a human just like you. I just wanted a smoke.” Justin pulled out a cigarette, still perplexed. Soon thereafter, the bus pulled up. Justin looked around. He was the only one there. The bus driver stopped for him. For some reason, tears began to cloud his eyes when he realized this. “You comin’ brother?” Justin looked up at the bus driver, his hand still stretched out in front of him from when he gave the stranger a cigarette. He gathered himself and walked onto the bus. The bus doors swallowed him in, locking him into public transportation. He scanned the herd sitting on the bus. He stood there an awkwardly long time, surveying their faces. He smiled a warm yet silly smile. The herd searched each other, uncomfortably wondering, “What’s the deal with this guy?” Justin thought to himself…” Namasté Cowboy,” as the bus drove into the stampede of traffic already in progress.
Au Are They?
On a calm Wednesday night in September, in the basement of the unassuming Brooks Center for Spirituality in downtown Denver, Luke Wyland, seated behind a stout red synthesizer and lap guitar, tilted his head back, opened his throat and let out a brassy animal cry. A grinning howler monkey, bouncing happily on his stool, he began tickling the keys, and as drummer Dana Valatka entered the fold the room was filled with a luminescent strain of sound. The music, while part of a deft performance, was a symbolic breaking of bread with audience members. Many in the crowd were congregation members—the eager opening acts cycled like a youth group talent show—and they accepted the offer wholeheartedly. Au wasn’t halfway through their first song when nearly everyone in the room took to their feet and started dancing in strangely ancient ways. The duo was touring behind the album Verbs, but a short while later, as Wyland and Valatka rattled scores of bells held between their knuckles, creating an oceanic blast of harmony, the last thing it felt like was a pitch. [Tyson]
You sought out the Brooks Center Arts as a venue, right? Luke Wyland: Yeah. We had been scrounging to get some dates to get us from Portland to Baltimore, where we’re meeting up with The Dodos, so I started asking around. We felt very lucky to be there. I prefer to not play in bars, it changes the band/audience dynamic. It seemed like a lot of the people at the Brooks Center Arts were part of the congregation, which made for a very intimate setting. We got there in the evening and did yoga and there was a free meal, which was great—I think food, even more than music, is a real strong community binder. That space seems like it’s doing great things. I think Laura [Golhamer]—who booked the show—has a lot to do with that. From what I gathered she’s kind of the artistic director. We slept there. I got to play the pipe organ, which I’ve never done before. I’ve been dreaming of playing a pipe organ. I don’t know if it was just me being influenced by the setting, but it seemed like your music was trying to tune into a different wavelength. I don’t want to say speaking in tongues, but it was a different language than I’m used to hearing. That’s very nice of you to say. A lot of our music comes from a background of free improv. The hope is to relax enough, or be present enough to let the music kind of channel through us—that’s on a good night. These are pop songs, but I’m always hoping to write the music loosely enough that it can adapt to the performance. As we tour, songs will sound very different. I think on Wednesday were riding it pretty high. For the recording itself, I felt very lucky to utilize the community of people I have in Portland. It’s a lot different now, because there’s only two of us. Not everybody can travel this way. I was surprised how rich it sounded for just two people. The fullness of the record didn’t diminish at all. Good. I’m nervous. We going to start playing with better-known bands in lager venues and I hope it translates well. I generally feel a little ill at ease in churches, but that wasn’t the case at the Brooks Center. I was born and raised in the church, but I have definitely left its beliefs years ago. But I still think that a community binder is an important thing. In a bar, people are paying to come and drink and be entertained. In the basement of a church or in an apartment, there’s more room for you to be spontaneous. I think that’s a powerful thing and it’s lacking in a lot of people’s lives. Coming together and sharing an experience without really having strong ideals or beliefs going in. Taking out the meat-market aspect has some impact. Yeah, so true. That’s a hard one. I don’t go to many shows at bars anymore. I always get tired, and crowds are usually too cynical to enjoy themselves. I would agree. It’s sad that it’s kind of the standard. Bars tend to be where you can make more money, so I understand why it’s become the standard, but people are conditioned to act certain ways in bars. All ages show are by far the best. Kids are a lot more excited about listening to music and there’s less of that need to play it cool. The more one can blur the line between the audience and the stage, the more immersed everyone can become in the experience of the night. That goes for me as a performer and for the audience. au-au-au.com myspace.com/brookscenterarts
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
Aughra C—Chris Hupman
Bridge and Tunnel
oup Le L
The Mae Shi
Off With Their Heads
Wetnurse C—Jimmy Hubbard
... I Carry (CDEP)
Some Kind of Cadwallader
A band’s configuration tends to be a pretty bad way of describing any band’s sound. Four guitarists you say? A full orchestra for your first show? He made his own 14-string bass in shop class? None seem like winning formulas, regardless of their novelty. Thus, Adai’s scant list of members—two to be exact—befits electro-pop much better than expansive post-metal. But that is more a biographical bullet point than something that dominates Adai’s sound (at least in the studio). Without a wall of extra guitar tracks (though there are a fair share of those), they still construct a sturdy wall of sound. These five songs vary widely in length (from 98 seconds, to almost nine minutes), while working together to create a continuous whole. Much of it is dominated by winding, well plotted guitar leads and oddly-accented, but even drumming. Both give a subtly off-kilter feel to a sound that is proficiently familiar otherwise. The opening of “Home” will almost immediately have anyone thinking of Isis’ Oceanic. But the same could have been said of Isis early on, as many hecklers’ calls of “NEURISIS!” were both unfair and totally apt at the time. Maybe they still are. Adai have a slower, much more thoughtful approach than most similar bands. In fact, the closer “Hawkins” has one of the best, soaring vocal melodies I’ve heard in the genre in some time. This is even more notable, since it’s the only vocal melody on the whole record. So in that regard, they are batting 1000. A porn star can tell you the difference between 8” and 8-1/4” without a ruler, because she sits on the things all day. I can tell you the difference between a pretender in an overrun genre, and a potentially overlooked gem for the same reason. I didn’t sit on ... I Carry but I can tell you that for what it lacks in virginity-smashing originality, it more than makes up for in girth. [Anderson]
I had been anticipating a new release from this Philadelphia outfit for some time, and I must say that the record they delivered was well worth the wait. This band is often compared to Cap’n Jazz, and from the opening of the first track, this party reeks of Kinsella. I’m sure that amongst these guys there must be a few copies of Analphabetapology. But is that a bad thing at all? The album is full of poppy melodies, twinkly instrumentals and off-key, shouted vocals, combining into a gracious cacophony of youthful celebration. AC features Peter from the notorious Peter & Craig duo, and his vocal delivery shines on this release. “Motivational Song” is just that; a carefree romp in adolescenthood and wonderment, and is infectious enough to keep you, your girlfriend, and your mom bop-shee-bopping on the roof of your house ‘til the neighbors call the cops. It leads directly into the album’s gemstone, “Yo Soy Milk,” a head-banging tune that fully demonstrates the talent of each member of the band, as every second of the 2:32 track seems to exude some sort of passionate flair. As a whole, Some Kind of Cadwallader stands as one of the most interesting releases of the year, and certainly one of the most heartwarming. Steer clear of this one if you really, really don’t like the idea of fun. [Birone]
:: ISSUE 19 ::
Corruption Concealed... Refreshing is hardly the word to do Astpai—one of Austria’s best exports of melodic hardcore I’ve ever heard— justice. It’s in their mission statement to not only encourage their audience to question everything. They bring this message to listeners with exciting, new life breathed into hardcore music. The band’s got chops like a budding Propaghandi, melodic leanings similar to the Kid Dynamite/None More Black camps, and straightforward political messages that make other “socially conscious” bands sound dispassionate.
The thing is, Astpai can sound a little too earnest. “This one goes out to the majority of global trading companies!” screams singer Zock before the music officially kicks in, then he continues, “that reach aims by creating oppressed minorities!” On your first listen, the jaded punk in you might roll your eyes; hang in there, it gets better. “Hands Kept Clean” follows, and it’s songs like this one that wouldn’t make me surprised if Fat Wreck scoops these guys up before they officially make waves in the States. There is a passage towards the end that breaks the song down to half-time that is kind of breathtaking. Zock sings, “You have the answers to everything you never questioned,” while the band carries the song to its final seconds and a breakneck coda. And that’s the thing with this group: there are sections revealing musical themes and anthemic choruses that may not seem obvious at the beginning of any given song. “Paving Ways in Cliché Suits” opens with “Paving the way with sorrow” sung a capella, which sounds awkward at first. The chorus of the song explodes with the same chorus, sung the same way but with an octave lead that makes the tune single-worthy (not to mention the Shape of Punk to Come breakdown midway through). The straightforward songs are killers, too. “For Habits of Bitterness” starts off with one of the best intros I have heard all year. Corruption Concealed is by no means a grower, though. It hits early and often and rarely lets up. There’s an acoustic breakdown here (“Hard to Manage Broken Windows”), and another Refused ode in the form of an electronic breather there (“This Declaration of War”) but the band basically sticks to a very intense brand of melodic hardcore. That they can play the music so well, with so many interesting ideas within a sub-genre in need of resuscitation, and convey opinions on some very sensitive subjects with sincerity makes it a crime that they are flying under the radar. [Quattrocchi]
At the Soundawn
Red Square: We Come in Waves Italy’s At the Soundawn start off with “Slight Variations,” an ethereal mixture between Botch, Tool, and Mogwai. At times heavy, at times soft, this is a great introduction to an exceptional disc. A mixture of clean and distorted guitars build atmospheres and urgency, colliding with the clean, aggressive vocals. “Submerged,” starts off faster than the previous tune, as the vocals kick in, you can’t help but to start nodding your head. Crushing and dissonant, At the Soundawn masterfully blend clean melodies with brooding undertones. About halfway through, it gets pretty ugly—crusty and slow, with some interesting samples in the background. “One Day Before” almost sounds like it could be an emo anthem as it starts, before adding some more heaviness to balance it out. It switches between clean and crunch, in a schizophrenic battle. “Phone Will” is the longest song on the disc, and the only one that clocks in over five minutes. Starting off melancholic, the intro gives way to dissonance and gritty vocals. Shortly afterwards, we hit a really mellow, clean break to help add structure. As good as this song is, you catch so much more on headphones. Trippy interludes, and a slow crescendo bring “Phone Will” to new heights as it soars and fades away. The much shorter “Sundown in Rome,” is a clean instrumental that slides and trips its way to turn into some really excellent tweeps and bleeps as a transition to “Rain Falls.” This tune is reminiscent of Rosetta. Not overly distorted, At the Soundawn has figured out how to make the melody heavy and dissonant, and it sounds great. Halfway through, they bust into the clean bridge we were just waiting for. We end our journey with the closing track, “Frames of You.” This opens with an almost Tool-ish bass line, before getting right into the gritty, raw, and at the same time polished, soaring, and melodic closer. Clean vocals are present in this song, and are actually in the foreground instead of the background as a slight change. Hell, there’s even a bass-wah at some point during the bridge. Hell yeah! [Dixon]
Proof of Dark Matter | Light the Lights Aughra is a solo project from Brent Eyestone, who also happens to run Magic Bullet. So, this project is sort of like the boss’s brother who gets put in charge at work. The obvious nepotism doesn’t mean he’s unqualified for the position, but it’s only natural to assume it. Thankfully, that rarely rings true on Proof Of Dark Matter | Light the Lights, Eyestone’s first proper full length after four years of scattered releases under the Aughra moniker. Living on the borderline between drone, IDM and eerie soundscapes, it employs flourishes of the most convincing elements from each. The best and worst thing about this forty minute ride is its lack of any central theme. It gradually—and sometimes suddenly—shifts from melodic IDM (think Boards Of Canada, Lusine) to haunting, beatless textures (Tim Hecker, Kranky Rec.). This lack of continuity is worth the lack of monotony, with Aughra painting effective landscapes, despite using broad strokes. [Anderson]
Best Friends Forever Self-Titled
Here is a collection of songs written over the past few years by Minneapolis’s BFF. Listening through this might make you kind of sad that Ellen Page hadn’t warmed to BFF rather than Kimya Dawson when suggesting music for the soundtrack to Juno. This loose collection of singles provides the same kind of charm and friendly intimacy that said soundtrack had, plus an incredible knack for songs written with a goofy sense of humor and heartbreaking longing. The band name is not just a cute take on zeitgeist jargon, either; the theme of this band is fucking friendship. Unashamed, faithful, take-no-prisoners friendship. Take “Loneliness Song,” where Bri and Jes, the band’s heart and soul, trade words on companionship: “How do you always know what I’m going to say?/ How do you always finish my sentences?/Bri, it’s because we’ve known each other for so long/Bri, it’s because we’ve always been cut from the same cloth.” The girls sing back and forth about spreading the right things on each other’s toast and sharing bongs while leading a dance-floor ready chorus about being lonesome without each other. It’s actually striking and beautiful. “Abe Lincoln” is a retroactive love song about wanting to take care of the former president. Jes sings about making him a happy man by reciting Shakespeare for him and even taking the infamous Booth bullet for Abe. As silly as it sounds, the girls sing very seriously about the subject matter and play very solemn rock to complement it. Of course, if they had been there to marry Lincoln, they wouldn’t be here to play the song, so it’s our victory. The fact that Bri and Jes have actual ideas for songs and subject matter before they write their lyrics makes you feel like you’re not being cheated. They’re giving you some real thought here. Of course sometimes it comes at a price, as “How BFF Breaks It Off with Movie Stars” is a kind-of annoying ode to Orlando Bloom. Eck. There are other questionable songs with really cheesy background music, too. However, BFF “break it off” fun and poppy for the rest of us. When a song is good (as in “Abe Lincoln” or the disco-flavored “2081” about BFF’s future success), this collection makes you glad you’ve stumbled across yet another band doing something inventive and honest. Plus, they sound like they’d be a great time live.
So this is what happens when the heads of two of the biggest labels in DIY hardcore get together and make the slowest music they possibly can. The collaborators, being Brent Eyestone of Magic Bullet Records (Big China) and Mike Haley of Electric Human Project (Little Trouble), originally released this material on two cassettes and a 3-inch CD that came with fur and fossilized shark teeth. What diverse tastes these guys must have. I’d like to see their record collections, especially Brent’s. The guy went from Corn on Macabre to Forensics to this nonsense, which would make more sense released on Woodsist or Not Not Fun than Magic Bullet. What we have here is forty minutes of droning atmosphere that Thurston Moore would probably just love, equal parts viral fever hallucinations, Tetsuo imitations, and recurring bad acid flashback visitations. Sorry, it’s damn hard not to describe music this abstract without using abstractions. It moves around quite a lot in mood, making for a very disorienting overall experience. Even though the songs all fall into the same category, the comforting hum and acoustic guitar of “You Really Believe in Magic” is about as similar to the screaming knobs and wires of “Burning Blade” as Little House on the Prairie is to Eraserhead. Easy comparisons would be Burning Star Core, Birchville Cat Motel and the like, but BC< have a greater attention to detail than their contemporaries, and this album not only features uncommonly good production values for this genre, but also throws in quite a bit of sonic variety, such as the fretless bass and harpsichord lines that subtly fade in and out of the mix. The final product is experimental music that is surprisingly accessible to outsiders. Stimulating in addition to being a complete mindfuck, Big China & Little Trouble are perfect through headphones during a late-night brooding session. [Moroni]
No Consequences When it comes to hardcore, the avid fan and casual observer will usually agree: most of it is boring. I’ve met a lot of people who are into hardcore music in my life and very few, if any of them will claim or admit to liking most of what’s going on at any given point. This is magnified in my case, digging through dozens of hardcore records every issue. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are few, if any definable things that will quickly separate the worthwhile from the derivative. I’ve never been able to quantify what lands bands (especially new ones) in the shrinking percentile of worthwhile new entries into any sub-genre of hardcore. But whatever this invisible list of things contains, Braindead seem to have most of them checked off. The basis for their sound is a modernized take on the more energetic early to mid-90’s straightedge bands, like In My Eyes, Fastbreak, or Turning Point before them. They have sharpened some of the edges on this sound, much like many of the newer Bridge 9 bands. There are melodic, well-sung vocals thrown in, which are good enough to end up an unlikely asset. Unlike almost all of their peers, Braindead are actually at their best in their slightly slower, more introspective moments. “Dear Alison” is more than double the length of the average song here, and much more than a token long, slow song to break up the cut-time monotony. It’s ominous, soaring and convincing, carried by a slow, monolithic guitar lead that is spot-on. Without going too far out on a limb, it makes the songs around it more seem more intense and elevates No Consequences from another collection of hardcore songs to an actual, certifiably complete album.
Big China & Little Trouble
Black Blood of the Earth Pts. 1 & 2 + Fur & Teeth
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
Billy Bragg Mr. Love and Justice Like waiting for Dylan to figure it out and make one more acoustic solo album, I’d always hoped for one more Billy Bragg album like the old days with just the voice, reverb heavy electric guitar, heartbreak and radicalism. I was thrilled then to hear that Mr Love and Justice was being released with a bonus CD of all the same tracks in a solo voice and guitar version. It’s interesting hearing the two version back to back, and not always in the way I thought. The band version of the second song “I Almost Killed You” opens with a burst of acoustic guitars and handclaps that make you want to get out of your seat more than any other song on the album, whereas on the solo version it just sounds like overly-distorted electric noise. On the upbeat tracks most of the energy is lost in the solo versions, whereas the already slow tracks (the majority of the album) benefit much more from the stripped down, intimate recordings. The solo versions also show off Billy’s always great guitar playing while making some of the cheesier songs sound a little more natural. I’m not going to say this is a great album on par with his earlier ones, but it is definitely good, and his most consistent in recent memory. The songs are catchy and with the new band it sounds less overtly poppy then some of his other recent ones. There’s a lot of acoustic guitar, mandolin, and easy bass lines, making it sound more country than anything else. As the title suggests it’s an attempt to unite the two eternal themes of all his songs of girls and politics. When he sings “I keep faith in you,” on the sentimental opener, it’s addressed as much to a loved one as it is to everyone living through ridiculous times on either side of the Atlantic. Most of the love songs read as thinly-veiled social commentary or encouragement to our better natures. One of the best parts is his new found love of word play. “M for Me,” is chock full of corny bits like “take the M for me and Y for you out of Family and it all falls through,” which was just cute enough to laugh at and appreciate the new, middle-aged Billy. Or in “O Freedom,” where he sings “O Freedom what liberties you’ve taken in thy name,” a quip so obvious and unfortunately true you’d expect to have seen it on a t-shirt somewhere by now. The album is at it’s best when it sticks to the friendly and the cute. Most of the more serious political songs fall a little short on inspiration. “O Freedom” is a story about someone sent into extraordinary rendition, and sounds like it was written by a man sitting safely in his living room reading about it in a newspaper. “Sing Their Souls Back Home” is a nice sing-along for the troops, but not the most biting song out there. “The Johnny Carcinogenic Show” is another almost-decent pun, but taking pot shots at tobacco advertising doesn’t seem like the most pressing issue right now. I suppose a wordplay on Zoloft would have been too hard to pull off. I remember after 9/11 I was half waiting for a new Bragg album, thinking if anyone could give us some songs for everything it’d be him. When England, Half English finally came out years after, it was a bit of a disappointment to have hardly a mention of anything going on, with most of the politics being an
Bridge and Tunnel East/West
After little more than a promising demo—pressed onto a 7” by No Idea last year—Bridge and Tunnel seem to have already garnered anticipation for their debut full length. And why not? Their 7” was short and sweet, combining the best things about positive punk rock from both coasts over the last two decades. With a half male/ half female lineup dividing vocal duties, they’ve already positioned themselves to add an extra wrinkle to the genre’s all-important vocal harmonies. The results on East/West are mixed, but usually fall in the direction of the band and what’s left of thoughtful melodic punk in 2008. They deftly use gruff, but catchy hooks from the best of 90’s East Bay punk, especially Crimpshrine. It’s hard not to notice links to much of their own label’s past as well. Early Small Brown Bike is the first thing that comes to mind, though there is a lighter feel to B&T. An even balance between twinkly guitar leads and off-center bar chords works to their advantage. The super positive (but not naïve) feel nods toward Latterman—drummer Pat Schramm’s previous band—lyrically and sonically. There are a few ungraceful moments, especially rhythmically on “Grace For These Wayward Hearts” and “Dear Sir.” But tracks like “Call To The Controller’s Office” and the haphazardly towering “Down For My People Like Joe Carroll” more than make up for it. Well-versed in the past, but never overtly nostalgic
over intellectualized contemplation of national identity. Ever since, I’d given up on anyone from the older generations (Neil Young especially) to give us much in the way of inspiring political music for the new century. This album seemed to confirm that for me until “Something Happened” came on and gave me a little chill. It’s a full minute of building electric guitar and then just the line “Do you know what love is? Love is when you willingly place someone else’s priorities above your own.” After another minute of guitar, “Do you know what lust is? Lust is when you actively force your own priorities on someone else.” Listen to it on the solo version especially and in his drawling croon it’s as naked a lament of the last seven years as I’ve heard. It’s not funny, pretty or catchy, and it’s probably not the best track for a party mix, but it was sung and it’s there, and thanks for that. [Cuomo]
and musically varied without straying too far from the path. Ideally, it would be accompanied by the damp smell of a packed VFW hall on a summer night. Barring that, this is a pretty complete picture of what melodic punk rock should be in 2008. [Anderson]
The Brokedowns Six Songs
These six songs were recorded between the band’s two full lengths in 2006, but never saw the light of day until now. Their use of audio clips and samples is Dillinger Four-esque, as are tracks like “Dan has Powers,” blending a personal anecdote with political subtexts and a shout-along chorus. They throw down a cover of V Reverse’s :Clinical Rock: and it’s almost to the T of the original. A comment on commercial music’s bland “formula pop,” a commentary not sorely lacking, but The Brokedowns do it fast-paced justice. “The Brah of Iran” introduction is thirty-five seconds of bird chirps, briefly soothing you before the band bursts in with off-time, mid-tempo anger seemingly directed at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. All in all The Brokedown play it straight with fist-pumping Midwestern beer drinking anthems. Cop it. [Sousa]
:: ISSUE 19 ::
Destory Modern Rock... (Split 7”) Bust! play pop punk with distorted, snotty vocals. This may sound like a very generic band, but both of their songs here showcase a band with a few more tricks than other bands pushing the same triteness on everybody. “Out West” runs a pretty simple versechorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus, but the music is interesting and catchy (including the backing vocals from interim drummer Johnny Miller). Their other cut, “End It On a Good Note,” is a 90-second ball of fury about missed opportunities. I’d like to hear Bust! stretch their sound out over a full length with some better production. The recording sounds a little primitive, but the songwriting still shines through. The Budgets are a little grittier. Billing themselves as “this guy and that guy,” the Budgets aren’t interested in recognizing individuals, or anyone for that matter (their thank you list includes those two guys that recorded us, that guy that wears that bear suit in the darkworld). Whatever. “City of Devils” has the band storming through some pretty basic rock chords and doing it right. It’s dirty rock and roll, but nothing fantastic. “Recycled Melody” is even less memorable. As with most singles—and, of course, their split partners Bust!—the Budgets ‘ sound may be better explored over the span of a full length. The deal with the singles, though, is to capture the listener’s attention and let a single song or a couple songs stand on their own.
Neither band will blow you away here, but if either seem like your type of thing, this sampler will have you checking out their MySpace pages. [Quattrocchi]
Nihiliste(s) It sort of seems to me like nobody stateside really cares about European screamo anymore. Sure, it was a little trendy. And I for one am glad to be spared of the fans that exhaustively differentiated themselves from the legions of Hot Topic patrons. But some of those bands were undeniably good and all of it lacked the ignorant masculinity that now seems to be the next big trend in punk (again). I guess in the end, DIY punk is DIY punk (and I really like DIY punk), but the whole thing was just a little pretentious. On second thought, maybe that was the appeal all along… In any case, Celeste, from Lyon, France came onto the scene well after the wave’s crest with their epic EP, Pessimiste(s), but have more or less completely abandoned their old approach in favor of something much slower and more sinister. The vocals definitely sound like a raspier Daitro, but the music itself is plodding and atonal, punctuated double-bass drum kicks and unpleasant chords. The overall mood of the songs is reflective of the France itself: images of medieval architecture, overcast skies, cobblestones, and grey statues are all conjured by the persistent rhythms. It is a bleak and colorless album, but the sound Celeste has developed is distinctly theirs—the atmosphere of black metal invoked through the language of slow, heavy hardcore. It is true that they might not deviate much in their unique sound, and there I could certainly understand a listener finding fault. However, the fact that they have created something that is truly theirs is a triumph that few bands can claim for themselves, and that is what makes Nihiliste(s) such a miserable success.
Still Nothing Moves You On the latest full-length from the much-disputed face of modern hardcore, Ceremony makes their most compelling case yet to get you fucking pissed. If your room isn’t in ruins by the time singer Ross J. Farrar barks out “I won’t be skullfucked by faith, I am the upside down cross,” then hardcore might not have anything left to offer you. Seriously. Anyone who criticizes this band for being insincere is probably just bitter because their age forced them into mosh retirement. Ceremony not only maintain the pure, maniacal rage of their previous output, on Still Nothing Moves You, they take it to the next level, if that’s even possible. They exhibit a command over emotions and song structure that make the album startlingly more, well, epic, than any other band that plays at their ridiculous tempo. Producer Dan Rathbun at Polymorph Studios (Tragedy, From Ashes Rise) also helps achieve this through his exceptional use of space within the songs. The effective, but formulaic bursts of speed from Violence Violence are still present this time around, but they’ve also perfected their slow parts and their sense of timing to create longer (1:30 on average) but more distinct tracks. For such a short album, there is a ton going on, and I seem to notice something new every time I turn it on. However, unlike so many of their contemporaries’ sophomore albums that highlight the band’s so-called growth and maturity, while sacrificing the elements that make up great punk rock, when Ceremony plays these new songs live in your town, you’ll know exactly what to do. [Moroni]
We Are Above You Some bands can go through musical styles effortlessly, keeping their audience interested and sometimes unaware that their favorite group is so talented at so many different styles of music. For Clouds, the stylistic shifts from song to song are obvious (sometimes to their detriment). What you’ll read in the press about them is probably going to be a mix of everything from “stoner rock” to “balls-out classic rock” to “pre-punk punk,” etc. Clouds seems impressed by their own versatility, though. Perusing their MySpace page will reveal that they’ve listed influences as disparate as Miles Davis and Bad Brains, ZZ Top and Sun Ra, and Captain Beefheart and Neil Young. Um…OK. (The reason I first went there was to possibly learn a little more about the group than the cocky bio that was sent to me. However, the interview they’ve got up on their MySpace page is just a waste of time, filled with references to how the band “writes hits naturally.”) Can and do they write hits? No. Their pomposity also runs wild through their press image and even in the sometimes ostentatious nature of their musical excursions (check the annoying vocal breathing during the breakdown of “Slow Day”), Clouds actually does sound like a solid rock outfit. But instead of playing to a crowd of cult followers, they’ll most likely end up opening for Queens of the Stone Age or Kings of Leon at 7:00 P.M. while people are still pouring in the building. Even as “The Bad Seat” sounds like one of Piebald’s experimental takes on piano rock toward the end of their days, and its follower “Heisenberg Says” is a typical “stoner rock” facemelter, Clouds sounds as though they cannot even sustain their own musical interests. It’s on to the next thing, over and over again. Are they just over our heads? Only in name. [Quattrocchi]
The Coma Lilies Memento Mori
I should say that I was first attracted to The Coma Lilies’ Memento Mori for superficial reasons: their name has some depth while sounding like an old grunge act. The title of the album is Latin for “remember death” the album’s artwork is awesome; three razor-sharp lances sticking out of a sea. It turns out the music is pretty good too. The Coma Lilies (I just love writing that name) offer unique, ethereal/anthemic post-rock. Their instrumentation includes the standard guitar, bass and drums, as well as other strings and an assortment of keys, a glockenspiel and an accordion, among others. The sad news is that this is a farewell album which collects their EPs and demos from over the years. The two most recent songs, “Memento Mori” and “Penis Envy,” each nearing nine minutes in length, demonstrate the style at which the band had arrived before calling it quits, and its one that makes the listener wish they had stuck it out. I can say that though I’ve heard a lot of slow-burning post-rock in my day, The Coma Lilies came across a singular sound, which wavers its way to its peaks and finds a confident vibrato in its valleys. [Flatt]
Learn the Hard Way Ah, the perils of playing pop punk. It’s truly a burden to be influenced by such a universally-appealing style. We have the Ramones as our Big Bang; the Descendents as a prototypical planet, forming out of the original sound. Then we have NOFX and countless other bands as examples of what an evolving sound can potentially be. These bands, along with countless others, have made some of the most enduring punk rock of the last 30 years. The perils of playing pop punk, though, are wretchedly evident when bands such as the Copyrights try their hand at it. I’m not sure we can blame them for following formulas instead of thrashing them or creating their
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
own. Look at the biggest hit singles and albums of the last decade, and you’ll find “pop punk” groups scattered through the list. If you’ve been shown the ropes by Blink-182 or Good Charlotte, the Copyrights are looking to take care of you (you’re their target audience). Learn the Hard Way is the work of a docile band, playing the safest tunes they could conjure up. Following a handful of party tunes, we get “All Your People,” a light-speed song about nothing. The chorus seems catchy until you figure out that the last three Blink albums sounded this exact way. Aside from the obvious derivativeness, there are flat-out embarrassing moments on this album. Take “Out of Ideas,” the band’s take on what a waste education can be. While lamenting about starving in a three-piece suit, the most confusing point of the album hits with its chorus: ‘I’m out of ideas/What are we gonna do now/We’re gonna roll with a punch-drunk love song.” This is embarrassing and inane on a numerous levels. Sure, employing some cool catch phrase-as-non sequitur for a song’s hook is old news. But this insulting tactic—along with the Copyrights’ general, vanilla appeal—is par for the course throughout Learn the Hard Way. They almost make it too easy, as the album’s closing lyrics from “On the Way Out,” are “We ride it home” over and again. You’re definitely not getting smarter from this, and –truth be told—you’re probably not getting any dumber either. The almost fantastically boring aspect of listening to Learn the Hard Way is that your mind feels as if it didn’t make a move the whole 25+ minutes. It just sits, waiting for you as if you were asleep. [Quattrocchi]
I am in an office chair, in an office, surrounded by office things. Why do I smell morning-after campfire? “Le Pont des Possédés” is doing this. “The bridge of had” has me loitering in the woods, drinking warm beers and frying something in bacon grease. Happy to be here but partially wanting to get home and wash my sweatshirt. These jeans. The octopus with his eight six-shooters and ill-fitting cowboy hat—a contrived hallucination hovering in the fog of burning potatoes. Reach for the dead cubicle wall. It’s okay pardner, a band built this—built this for you ... Fanny, is that you whispering something in mono? Tell me Fanny, if you were busy doing all this in the charred tit of France, why does it sound like hobbled Americana? Can you build a better cubicle from cured pelts and bits of sinew? Can you knock Kraut dick into iron-rich dirt in ten days time with this? A soundtrack to dying things. Not laughing last; reverse sighing instead. This is good like hot breakfast with plenty of coffee. More please. [Tyson]
The Worst Kind of Joy is Hope (CDEP) These five songs—Crocus’ first recorded output— cover just under 15 minutes and scarcely more than one or two tightly-guarded sub-genres. But rather than reinventing the wheel, they’ve managed to successfully make it spin much more intensely than most similar bands. Crocus combines choppy drumming, fluid, but blunt guitar riffs and hoarse vocals in a careful, effective way. Most of this points directly in the direction of posthardcore San Diego by way of the upper East Coast, even though the band hails from the Southwestern U.K. Heavyweights like Saetia, Orchid and Angel Hair start to come to mind pretty quickly. Rather than spend too much time trying to add new wrinkles to a time-tested formula, Crocus just go for it. “When Your Own Heart Asks” and “Merit Lies” are the obvious highlights. The first is more of a straightahead, scorched Earth hardcore song. Shifts in dynamics are stark, severe and sudden and the arc of the song is perfectly succinct. “Merit Lies” is the third of five songs, and is a perfect centerpiece. It starts much softer than the other songs, quickly turning into the most aggressive
and intense moment here, without being the fastest or most aggressive. They are at their best between the choppy, cut-time onslaughts, when the guitars are more dissonant and sparse. This gives the strong (but still one-note) vocals and rhythm section work carry more of the load. It’s the most noteworthy, complete song, though all five are solid. [Anderson]
III; The Architects of Troubled Sleep Since their first full length—the cleverly-titled I— in 2003, Canada’s Cursed have always just gotten it. Their sound runs parallel with many more potent strains of noisy hardcore over the last decade or so. The songs are based on frantic, D-beat riffs similar to Tragedy, with venomous, but still clear, focused vocals that recall Coalesce or Botch. There is an incredible breadth to the songs and the production, from focused songwriting that is never surgical or cold. The result is noisy, unpredictable and ugly. It recalls the best things about the collision of metal and hardcore with very few of the (mostly recent) pitfalls. There are no gimmicky guitar tricks, pig squeals or suburban baby-grind breakdowns. Instead, the guitar and bass riffs are cathartic and subtly melodic, while the lyrics and vocals create an actual narrative rather than the usual variety of two or three noises masquerading as intense and complex. Songs vary from just over a minute long to more than seven. The best of the lot is “Friends In The Music Business,” the nearly five-minute centerpiece. It starts with a slow, crushing build-up, with lyrics that dress down just about everything that’s left of the music business. (“When they say ‘you’ll never work in this town again.’ Is that a promise or a threat?”). By the fourth minute, it self-destructs into a perfectly barren drum and vocal refrain of “Don’t call me, I won’t call you.” It might not be the first song on the record that will grab most people, but it’s a perfect window into the best things about Cursed. Even more than their first two records, III finds Cursed at the top of their game, delivering undistilled and cynical hardcore. Sadly, not long after this was finished, the band was robbed while on tour and Europe and decided the writing was on the wall. So, it looks unlikely that Cursed will ever bring IV into the world, though their legacy as one of the purest and most interesting hardcore bands of the new millennium is already cemented. [Anderson]
Twilight Ritual Arkansas’ Deadbird consists of brothers Chuck and Phil Schaaf, alongside Reid Raley and Jay Minish (Chuck and Reid also play in Little Rock’s Rwake). Everything starts off with “Into The Clearing,” slow and methodical, it sets the stage for a disc that you won’t forget. Twilight Ritual relies on long songs—the shortest being “Feral Flame,” at 5:44, and the longest, “Death of the Self,” which clocks in at 9:21. Doomy and sludgy, Deadbird also use faster tempos, which begin on “Death of the Self,” the second track. And yes, the “Track 2 Theory”—that one of the best songs on an album will almost always be track two— is in effect, as “Death of the Self” is a great song. Deep, with an excellent pace, it really helps you understand what Deadbird is all about. Vocal harmonies also creep in on this song. As expected, at more than nine minutes, the song flows throughout and meanders around a central theme. “Rule Discordia” is up third, with an old school stoner doom vibe. Vocals kick in, and you really can’t help but sit back and let it sink in. This is a great tune—just the right pace for its spot in the album. “Feral Flame” is next, and has an almost crust/punk beat to start. It gets very metal from there, and is really a great contrast and addition to the rest of the stuff on here. “The Riverbed” brings the energy back down, starting its eight-plus minutes off with a clean and slow introduction. Acoustic guitars and soulful vocals make this really draw you in. This is one of my favorites on the album. The title track closes the album with a slow build-up, right into a punch in the face. Vocals are heavy, guitars are fuzzy, and this is a great way to end the album. The artwork is also worth noting—a two-fold digipack with a really cool bird skull on the front, and some really neat adaptations of birds of prey inside. Very cool CD. [Dixon]
The Fear, The Fear, The Fear To say there is an urgency streaming through this record is an understatement; seething below its folk veneer is nervousness and, as the title infers, a sense of fear. The strings don’t calm; BZ’z creaking violin on “The List,” accompanied by Sherri Miller’s cello, ascend into a pulsing bow, while the sentiment marinates on one’s inability to scratch one off while the anxiety builds. The tension lurks on “The Things We Won’t Let Settle
but Let Set” as strings irk over punchy minor piano chords, and crescendos alongside cello into a mournful solo, while voices prepare to look toward the future. Maybe its song titles “Anxious & Worrying,” an upbeat revelation about determining the difference between the fear of routine and running from all that came before, or the closer “Expect the Worst” confronting our fears as realities. The 4/4 pounding of high-hat throughout or a group of angry people yelling “They can’t stop what we can’t stop I fear,” on opener “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.” All of which coalesces to one of the angriest folk records I’ve come across. Unlike their previous efforts, The Fear holds few, if any, moments of relief, save for the cheerful strum of “Eureka”. Yet the record confronts something just beneath the skin of underground; a tension between affecting what an individual can control and affecting what controls the individual. That tension and anxiety seeps through the speakers as Defiance, Ohio have crafted a record about the fundamental issue of our time; how do we maintain a sense of self and/ or motivation in a world looming with apathy? For Defiance, Ohio, the answer is simply to look around you and find the inspiration. [Sousa]
Caveman of the Future These thirteen songs have taken a long, strange path to their eventual release. Dissolve began in the early 90s, before signing with M.I.A. Records (Candiria, Darkest Hour) in 2000 and recording Caveman of the Future shortly after. The label closed its doors just before this was to be released, and Dissolve went on a hiatus of their own shortly after. Hardcore has changed a great deal in the seven years between the recording and release of this record, making it a perfect time capsule.This is similar to a lot of 90’s Northeastern hardcore, with heavy, chuggachugga riffs and mid-tempo metal moments. Bands like Overcast, and Disembodied come to mind, especially in Dissolve’s heavier moments. The vocal range isn’t stunning, but it is much better than many similar bands since. Their approach is relentless and punishing, with fluid drum fills and guitar leads throughout. A density prevails in all the arrangements, while the actual sections they use vary quite a bit. “Those Who Dwell Below” is the best example, channelling Pantera and Biohazard as much as it does any hardcore band. [Anderson]
Cancer Bats Hail Destroyer
Let’s face it. Hardcore may not be dead, but it is, at the very least, hopelessly factionalized. The MySpace metal bands play to the hot pink t-shirt kids. Most of the neck tattoo bands keep chugga-chugga-ing along, with the same riffs and lyrics that were tired ten years ago. The classics are stale, but the new blood seems almost exclusively screechy and irritating. Toronto’s Cancer Bats are here to answer at least a few of these dilemmas. Seemingly disparate influences are combined into 12 songs that are just as trapped between hardcore’s predictable poles. Every minute of Hail Destroyer is focused and direct, at times even familiar. The music and lyrics aren’t traditional, though they do borrow carefully from the best of hardcore’s past and present. Leaning heavily on Black Flag and Discontent-era Refused, their songs are tight, succinct and memorable. Sometimes they remind me of fellow Canucks Comeback Kid, though Cancer Bats have more going on. “Harem of Scorpions” is melodic, but far from poppy; gracefully weaving in guest vocals from Tim McIlrath (Rise Against). “Regret” is another highlight, with choppy drumming and a guitar lead that leans on Skynrd and The Refused at the same time. “Pray For Darkness” is the requisite 90-second thrash song, and it’s even more successful than it is completely expected. All twelve songs on Hail Destroyer carve out their own little corner of Cancer Bats’ surprisingly varied sound. But there is more than enough overlap between them for a cohesive, complete record. It’s been a long time since there
were more than a few bands at any one time doing straightforward hardcore this well. Hail Destroyer may not force Alesana or Emmure to break up, but it will at least make you forget about them for 37 minutes. [Anderson]
:: ISSUE 19 ::
Drag The River
You Can’t Live This Way
What should one say about this new Drag The River album? It’s perhaps the finest album of punk’s recent country embrace yet; a cohesive sentiment about failed relationships and moving on. The album is not without humor, the closer “Bad Side of a Good Time,” revels in its own closing time embracement; as if the band accepts the last song for a long time. And rightfully so, just after completing the record Jon Snodgrass left mid-tour, leaving Chad Price and Co. to pick-up the pieces, and while Snodgrass has re-appeared since, one can’t help but feel like this album is the dueling vocalists breaking up with each other. “Death of the Life of the Party” is a swaying ballad romanticizing partying over a two-step beat and poppy piano, while Chad Price finally grasps the effect of his own gravely voice. Things come together for Price on the album’s more country-heavy pieces “Brookfield” and “Tobacco Fields.” The separation lies in the former’s upbeat small town appreciation and the latter’s slow burning sadness; even the blues-laden “Lizzy” finds Price pulling from places previously unheard. On the other end Snodgrass amps up the guitars; tracks like “Rangement,” including the original and the alternate take on the band’s jukebox track, have a swaying pop sensibility that trademarks his sad, distorted songwriting. Try the Snodgrass live cassette, evident is his penchant for rock rather than folk style balladry and country swooning. On “Brootal” and its accompaniment “Pre-Post Party,” the penchant for riff driven rockers becomes evident. At times Drag The River’s two songwriters belong to separate communities of the same camp; a country-rocker and a porch light picker suffering from their duality. And for all the hype they receive, the two at times fail to mesh; weak recordings and rough harmonies cripple the band’s distinct, yet retro sound. The truth of this record is it showcases two of the underground’s finest songwriters, men who spin personal tales of closing stages and sweet nights into brilliant hooks. One of the few instances where they seem to truly meet is on the closer “Bad Side of a Good Time.” Both voices finally harmonize on this bow out to the road, where the band confesses they should have known better over a bouncy piano; it’s all just an upbeat lament. [Sousa]
Extra Life is the brainchild of New York-based musician Charlie Looker, a bright and talented contributor of important acts like Dirty Projectors and Zs, the latter of which you may remember from some indie show that blew you away, and only partly because the musicians were (gasp!) reading actual sheet music. This is the kind of musician Charlie Looker is. A classically-trained composer, Looker applies his vast knowledge of the musical idiom to projects like Extra Life, creating an incredibly challenging yet paradoxically accessible aesthetic. “I Don’t See it That Way,” for example, includes pizzicato strings over apocalyptic guitar and drum textures; the overall effect is alarming And yet Looker shows his sensitivity with compositions such as “I’ll Burn,” a ten-minute plus meditation with sparse instrumentation, incredible in its subtle beauty. Weighing in at over 50 minutes with only seven tracks, the record does promise to cover an immense amount of musical ground, and so it does. The motifs that tie the intense exploration together are twofold: Looker’s unadorned yet adventuresome and apt voice and his remarkable guitar work. The two elements play against each other with amazing precision and complexity on “See You At the Show,” the record’s penultimate and astoundingly challenging track. The guitar echoes the half-talked, half-sung vocal line in all of its nuanced charm. Still other notable elements are the tasteful and mature percussion—best illustrated by “This Time”—and the strings, which add greatly to the texture of the already lush soundscape. Overall, Extra Life reminds us that musical experimentation and exploration are far from dead. Looker and company have created a force to be reckoned with in Secular Works, and few things are more exciting in music today than what Looker will think of next. [Cox]
Eutheria Equus hail from Geneva, Switzerland, a city which apparently has a vibrant scene for cinematic post-rock. I haven’t heard of any of the bands these guys used to be in, so I’ll spare you the list. Despite only having three tracks, Eutheria covers more than an hour. The opening track, “Hyracotherium” alone is more than half an hour long. These soundscapes aren’t packed with a lot of extra instrumentation or other gimmicks, though they use careful synth and piano lines really effectively. They also stay away from the abrupt, regular shifts in dynamics that so many similar bands rely on. Instead, Equus employ a straight and narrow, soundtrack approach. Songs gently rise and fall, never fading away completely, but only demanding your full attention from time to time. The result is hardly going to have you running for the thesaurus, to come up with some new sub-genre for these guys. Their path is well-traveled, but also executed flawlessly. The middle section of “Orrorin Tugenensis” is a definite highlight, finding them at their heaviest, and most cathartic. It sounds like a cross between early Explosions In The Sky and Russian Circles, but spread out to cover a much larger canvas. Everything about this is patient and careful, resulting in a subtly powerful set of ideas that are seamlessly combined, and often breathtaking. [Anderson]
quickly flares into an up-tempo lament for a women’s love whose eyes are fading and whose flame is dying. In this high energy rock and roll blaze, there is a real nod to history, they see themselves as part of a canon, adding their observations to the ongoing dialogue. This burns brightest on the juke box-sounding “Say I Won’t.” Yet they sing as if youth has burned out; news flash fellas: you’re in your twenties, the best and hardest years still remain. The lyrics sound like nostalgic tales of years near forgotten, like the woes of a jaded bar band with a penchant for their glory days, rather than the romantic idealists their sound emanates. But they have it; when you hear it, it’s authentic. And as they prove on the just released follow up to this EP, in an era of pedals and layered production, they craft from the gut, straight ahead and to the bone. [Sousa]
Bearing and Distance At this point, it’s hard for Graf Orlock and Ghostlimb to not be mentioned in the same sentence. On the surface, there are some important similarities: they share a genre, a tempo, and a singer. However, on Ghostlimb’s second album, their sound takes a healthy leap away from Graf Orlock. Sure, it’s possible to be like me and enjoy both, but if you are a fan of things like “hardcore” or “music,” then you might like Ghostlimb better. Bearing and Distance is some of the fastest melodic hardcore you will ever hear, filled with thought-provoking nautical allegory and heavy-butcatchy chord progressions. Definitely makes me think of Comadre, except a lot tougher and with a bunch of corny posi-core parts. It’s pretty angry, but it really just makes me want to check out a ball game with like nine friends. I might’ve done just that if the album hadn’t made it from start to finish in around fifteen minutes. Bummer, I guess I’ll just listen to My Love. My Way now.
Hungry For Nothing Fight Amp’s Hungry for Nothing should be filed under “Simple But Awesome,” somewhere between Black Sabbath, Sleep and other bands that live by the guitar and for the guitar. There is still something to be said for a band that operates in traditional 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures, and much to be learned from them. For example, Fight Amp switches vocalists track-to-track, thereby heading monotony off at the pass. The greatest part of Fight Amp’s approach is the multi-dimensional guitar work of Mike McGinnis and Rebecca Burchette, who sludge, grind and thrash their way through each song by turns. While it would be hard to argue their work is innovative, the smooth transitions from high-tempo punk to low-tempo stoner rock back to higher-tempo thrash—within individual songs—gives a fan of loud music like myself a cohesive sampling, like a mixed twelve-pack from a favorite brewery. (Though something—probably the band photo—tells me these guys and gal are strictly PBR folks.) The song titles on “Hungry for Nothing” get at the base simplicity of the band’s aesthetic: “Dead is Dead,” “Lungs” and “Get High and Fuck.” The spacious songwriting and crisp production leave little to be desired when the only thing promised is good, smart, loud music. [Flatt]
Senior and the Queen [CDEP] The problem Gaslight Anthem suffers from is an undeserved sense of nostalgia; they’re just not old enough. Musically they have the fury of a hungry group of men, gnawing to go beyond their regional sound, and believe me they sound regional. To say Springsteenesque would be an understatement, these songs are hopped-up versions of the Boss’ earliest angst-ridden tunes—it’s Greetings… on caffeine. The title track begins with a deep dose of feedback and drums, but
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
Old Stories They, The Undeserving (12” EP) We’ve been down this road before. I have to try to describe this band without emphasizing the well-known, influential bands that Giants do, legitimately, sound like. I know as well as anyone that the world doesn’t necessarily need another dynamic, instrumental post-rock band. Explosions In The Sky, and quieter old Mogwai material are bound to come to mind, and quickly. But the fact that these common influences are evident doesn’t change that Old Stories is a solid, complete record. The vast majority of each of these seven songs (and 40 minutes) is guitar-dominated, even by the standards of a notoriously guitar-heavy genre. Each song revolves around careful, pastoral, winding dual guitar lines. Thankfully, they are given plenty of space in the song arrangements. By avoiding the common trap of adding more and more layers to every song, Giants let each part speak for itself. The tempos, and dynamics aren’t quick to arrive, but their slow pace doesn’t come along with a sleepy, ho-hum delivery. “Sleeping False Idol” is the best here. It doesn’t throw anything at you too quickly, but maintains a tense, ominous feeling. The big payoff is in the final minute; a gradual, bottom-heavy unravelling amid a record full of careful, guitar-dominated buildups. It’s the clearest example of what Giants have going on. A well-constructed take on a time-tested post-rock formula that makes all the right turns along the way. They, The Undeserving was recorded in 2007, before Old Stories and is now seeing a vinyl release via Mylene Sheath. Six songs are separated into three sections; “Birth,” “Plague,” and “Rest.” Similar to the material on Old Stories, some of the songs are more immediate in their attack and the production is a bit brighter. “Plague” begins with “Swiftly They Come,
The Evpatoria Report Maar I don’t know who I feel worse for; the members of The Evpatoria Report, or all their potential new fans. Even they don’t seem to dispute that they are, by most accounts, late to the party with their cinematic brand of instrumental rock. I am usually a fan of this sort of stuff, though even I’m starting to lose patience with the now-endless parade of similar bands. Hailing from Switzerland, these guys aren’t a brand new band, though this is the first most people in the U.S. will have heard of them. Their sound hardly reinvents the wheel, but given a couple close listens, it’s obvious they have an ear for the details sorely lacking in most similar records. Maar consists of four tracks, each covering more than ten minutes, while the last comes in at almost twice that long. It’s hard not to pick up similarities to the more melodic Mogwai material, new and old. The dual guitars are crucial to most of the melodies, though they aren’t hiding behind feedback or drowning out everything else in the mix. The refreshing balance between the guitar parts with the rhythm section and alternating keyboard and violin parts gives Maar a much more contemplative, less jarring feel. Persistent, solid drumming and expected (but still welcome) dynamic shifts keep all four songs from becoming the soundtrack to a 60-minute nap.The end result is an endlessly familiar, but never redundant take on a genre that’s too often attempted and way too rarely this successful.
Swiftly They Flee,” as persistent dual-guitar parts arrive much more to-the-point than is usually expected from the genre. The simple, delay-drenched intro to “Upon Eager Eyes” is a sudden and perfect cool-down from “Swiftly.” It sounds like the most melodic Mogwai pay-off, without the booming, wall-of-sound backing or the eight-minute build-up. “The Palace Stands” is the other standout track from the 12”, and is the strongest introduction to Giants from either release. It takes the urgently-layered melodies they rely on, and distill them into a more crisp form. Without losing the slow build-up qualities of their songwriting, it streamlines the process just enough to be all payoff and no repetition. More than any other song, it shows how Giants are one of the stronger bands in an already-overrun genre, without deviating from the formula. [Anderson]
Glass & Ashes Self-Titled
It’s all generic presence with the new blues; duos of regurgitation, third rate riffs, and phoned in lyrics. Callous attempts to create guitar heroes out of men whose libretto never progressed beyond the base level of heartbreak. The new blues—or at least the appropriated new blues—has been seething in the underground for the past few years; Modern Life is War, Paint it Black, and The Gossip have spent the last years conducting new visions of the American musical cornerstone, while conducting a paradigm shift in how the blues is presented. Consider Glass and Ashes on the same road. This is the new blues, no argument, a heavy unrelenting album with a bleak and angry vision of our world unfolding. Lyrically, the album borrows from the themes of yore. “Seconds Before the Floor Drops Out,” a sensescrushing opener, spins about an impending world doom, as “We Will Hang for This” tackles the irresponsible combination of bourgeoisie passivity and nationalism. “Bird’s Eye View” offers the same austere portrait as self-analysis. The guitars sound like dueling wires, scrapping for presence, “To the Point of Paralysis,” is a driving number where the strings slide across the fingers, rather than vice versa. The subtle, but heavy end of the album’s closer “The Rebuttal” weighs like a crumbled building. And rightfully so; this bluesy, crushing album is unrelenting, like a stolen breath of fresh air. [Sousa]
It may be an uphill battle to try and convince people to check out yet another, new, epic guitar-based post-rock band. But if they can, at least in some small way get people to actually dig through the 60 minutes of music on Maar, they just might have their faith restored. [Anderson]
Return to Disruption
Grey Daturas is a pretty impressive three-piece from Melbourne, Australia. They have a frenetic playing style,, capable of interesting repetition of a theme and as interested in the long form as the short, with songs ranging from 2-10 minutes long. The fun part is I can’t think of a band that offers a direct comparison. Post-rockers Kinski are about as close I can get, but Grey Daturas seems more focused on abstraction, as their song titles would indicate, including “Beyond and into the Ultimate,” “Balance of Convenience” and “Answered in the Negative.” They’re willing to use noise strategies, letting feedback ring in and out for minutes on end, and then break into a ferociously focused assault. A longer song like “Answered in the Negative” slowly builds layers of sludge that threaten to dry and fall apart, but cohere to form an increasingly massive and ugly sound. I imagine this band would be a loud, impressive, screeching experience live. I’ll be checking their website periodically. [Flatt]
If you haven’t yet heard of Zach Hill and somehow missed the seemingly endless stream of Hella (and related) recordings on which he wreaks half of the aural havoc, consider yourself blessed. Don’t get me wrong. Hill is rightfully considered one of the more boundarypushing drummers in independent music. Anyone who has had to sit through the jarring barrage of Hella while the duo opened for the band they actually wanted to see can attest to Hill’s simply superhuman energy and agility. And Hill has released his debut solo recording. Contributors include an impressive list of musicians, such as Les Claypool and LCD Soundsystem’s Tyler Pope. In spite of Hill’s accomplices, however, Astrological Straits remains a senses-battering masturbatory musical adventure. “Street People” is perhaps the best example of this; the two-minute track, a blistering drum solo with sparse accompaniment, conjures up what it must feel like to get trampled at a bull run in Barcelona. Let me lend one caveat to these words; I often hear records that I can’t imagine anyone appreciating. Hill’s solo debut, however, is not one of these. Astrological Straits has moments of what could be incredibly appreciable musicianship if you’re able to see past the chaos. Or if you’re able to love it because of the chaos that could easily be considered beautiful by the right listener. However, Hill seems to do away with the “less is more” approach that has recently dominated songwriting, favoring instead the “more is still not enough” school of thought, packing as much cacophony and as many notes into this hour-long kick in the face as possible. At the very least, I’d advise listening to the record in at least 13 sittings, listening to each track as a work on its own. (You may have to further subdivide the songs just to make it through the whole hour.) I can guarantee you won’t have the energy to endure the hour. Indeed, even the most adventuresome listeners will be completely spent by “Toll Road,” the record’s second track. I would recommend Astrological Straits to any listener that can appreciate technicality for the sake of technicality and the simply epilepsy-inducing fervency of Hill’s fanaticism. [Cox]
Amber Gray Amber Gray is a grind/noise hybrid of fast, aggressive, and just plain brutal music from former Discordance Axis vocalist Jon Chang. Chang teams up with technicians Matsubara, Ikeda, and Okada for a full frontal assault. The 11-song disc (totaling just 13 minutes) starts with the title track, a furious screamed tune to set the stage. Whiplash speeds plummet us through “3 Miles Below Sea Level,” “The Jenova,” and “Crash Logs” before you even realize what’s going on. It’s incredibly technical, and ridiculously fast. This is a great grindcore CD of super fast, technical riffs, insanely speedy beats, and Chang’s high pitched scream. Other great tunes on this one: “Pattern Recognition,” “Asuka,” and “Antitheist.” Recommended if you like Pig Destroyer, Napalm Death, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, or hell… any good goddamn grindcore. [Dixon]
:: ISSUE 19 ::
Helms Alee Night Terror / Self-Titled (12”EP) No matter how you slice it, Helms Alee are a heavy band. Fortunately for us, that’s about the only straightforward, obvious thing about them. Hailing from Seattle, the band features former Harkonen frontman Ben Verellen. Rounded out by a strong, all-female rhythm section, the band wasted little time putting together a stunning first effort. The songs find and exploit every wrinkle in post-hardcore, while maintaining a heavy, imposing feel. The songs are finely-orchestrated, making the most out of their classic power trio lineup. But it still feels spontaneous, with a mix of riff-based pummeling and slyly intricate time signatures. The odd, off-kilter rhythms mix nicely with a few downright male/female vocal harmonies and a some, heavy head-bobbing riffs for good measure. There is such strong—even stark—variation from song to song, that Night Terror seems a bit disjointed at first. “A New Roll” is a patient, almost bouncy take on earlier Melvins, with a breakdown at the end that wouldn’t be out of place on a Breeders record. These odd combinations continue to appear, each more unlikely and perfectly-executed than the last. “Betwixt” is a short, slow, and anguished take on early Sabbath, complete with meandering, psychedelic vocal and guitar lines. The best thing about Helms Alee isn’t just the variety of things that inform their sound; it’s the grace that they use to pull it off. Drawing equally from Failure or Quicksand and Sabbath or Botch, they briefly touch on the extremes of each sound. But in the end, it’s so soundly constructed that the variety never comes at the expense of the songs.
emo-influenced bridge and really melodic vocals. The guitar alternates between winding, Built To Spill-influenced leads and heavy chuggachugga riffs that sound like Kyuss on 45 rpm. Would have made a great addition to the CD, but the LP’s production definitely suits it better. The packaging is impressive, with silk-screened jackets and a great etching on the records’ B-side. Both releases announce the arrival of a band that have jumped straight to the forefront of posteverything heavy music. Walking the same thin line as bands like Young Widows, the manage to maintain metal’s intensity by marrying it with Dischord/Touch And Go’s more layered snarl. Over the course of 36 minutes, Helms Alee manage to put together one of the best records of the year, while hardly breaking a sweat. [Anderson]
Their self-titled EP was actually recorded in the spring of ’07, also by Matt Bayles—who recorded Night Terror. These songs were done at a different studio, and don’t sound quite as booming and clear as the full length. It gives the songs (three of which are also on the CD) a less imposing, more complex sound. “A Weirding Way,” “Rogue’s Yarn,” and “Paraphrase” are all interesting, slightly different versions. “Borrowed Wind” is the lone exclusive track. It starts much like many album songs, with a choppy drum and vocal intro. But it has more Midwestern
hrship is a project consisting solely of one man, splitting time between two continents (North America and Asia) creating some of the most refreshing, compelling instrumental rock that has been released in the past several years. Dave Secretary (Black Actors, ex-Van Johnson) has produced an album of mostlyinstrumental songs full of jangly guitars and punishing drums that is sure to captivate listeners of all spectrums. The album opens with two tracks in which the guitar and bass take a back seat, allowing the drums to lead the sonic stampede. These songs draw similarities to Van Johnson, but in a more controlled, precise manner. The particular “sound” of this album varies several times throughout the first few tracks, but this juxtaposition is rather enticing, as the frequent changes in mood elicit a much more excitable listening process. The second half of this album, however, is simply remarkable, consisting of energetic instrumental music with a strong backbone. “Have To Be Sick Ask Me” sets a desperate yet tranquil mood, and is then followed up by the relentlessness of “Culture and Sidewalks.” The album also features an astounding closer in “Anxiety Out,” which opens with an intriguing five-minute guitar riff and eventually teeters into a monumental burst of music, bringing the album to a prevailing, paramount conclusion. Overall, the album comes together as a striking burst of fresh air, full of vibrancy and ability. This project turned out to be quite remarkable, and should certainly find its special place in anyone’s collection. An honest recommendation: you will be sorry if you miss out on this one. [Birone]
Humanfly is somewhere in between it all—at times as heavy as Rosetta and Neurosis, then psychedelic like Pink Floyd and Russian Circles. The disc starts off with “Another Week in the Theme Park of Death...,” an 11-minute opus with three distinct movements. It slowly builds, as these Brits create some great atmospheres before crushing you in movement two. This is the first appearance of vocals, which have an almost Yob/ Mudhoney vibe. The atmosphere and flow of the songs showcases each instrument working collaboratively to create a crushing wall of sound or an airy ambiance, dissonant and distant. After the full 11:33 of the first tune, I can tell I’m in for a hell of a ride. “Shot into Space/Vengeance of Neptune” starts similarly with a deep, slow-building synth atmosphere. Just as you’re lulled into a sense of floating, Humanfly starts to crunch away, and you’re hurtled faster and faster around the bend. “Nenhuns Deuses Nenhuns Mestres” is the shortest song on the album at eight minutes. It starts off cold and crunches right into you with slow, deliberate, and heavy riffing. Almost three minutes in, it gives way to a slow, clean glide. This has some really cool soloing, before getting back into the crust almost five minutes in. “Tjarnargata/A Passage to Reykjavik” is the official end of II (with the final 2 tracks being bonus tracks from an upcoming split with the UK’s Queen of Swords). Volume swells and a delay make this almost like listening to a dijery doo introduction. This is a great instrumental tune, containing all the things we need from a band; excellent clean parts, guitar solos, and crust moments make this one of my favorites on the disc. “Marakech” and “An Intimate Battering” are the bonus tracks. “Marakech” reeks of Sleep/High on Fire, and then just as suddenly drops into an off-beat riff. This builds, until the dam breaks and the song just
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
explodes. We close off with the longest song on the disc, “An Intimate Battering.” This tune clocks in at over 13 minutes, so Humanfly makes it worth your while. Goddamn this is a good CD. [Dixon]
Hunting Lodge Energy Czar
The U.K.’s Hunting Lodge has been broken up for close to a year, but they fortunately left behind this gem of Arab On Radar-inspired controlled chaos, known as Energy Czar, for future spastic generations to enjoy. The album takes listeners on an acid-dosed carpet ride, most notably on the track “The Average Sound of Whitley Bay,” where the guitars and drums swirl together to form the soundtrack to a treacherous car accident, with the unnamed vocalist acting the part of the despondent victim, slurredly shouting against the precautions of the paramedics. Hunting Lodge’s sound could be compared to the likes of xBxRx and An Albatross, but to be honest, is more engaging and hypnotizing than anything either of those bands have put out in quite some time. Tracks like “Holy Quaternity of Country Singers” and “Hero of the Beach” leave the listener questioning whether they should be shimmying on the dance floor or uncontrollably writhing against the tile of a bathroom floor. “Silver Prince” might be the best song on this album, with ecstatic guitars, pounding drums, and vocals that sound like a choking garbage disposal. The rest of the album tip-toes the line between insanity and genius, but wherever the hell it lands, it’s comfortable territory. Recommended for listeners interested in the Arab on Radar sound, but found that the likes of An Albatross or Daughters just didn’t cut it. [Birone]
Boo Human The new effort from the now almost entirely conceptual Joan of Arc is quite an opus in and of itself. JoA has come a long way from the boyish Cap ‘n’ Jazz. The brainchild of Tim Kinsella, one of indie rock’s most seminal musicians, it has now officially become more of a project than a band. “I’m only one man,” Kinsella insists on “9/11 2,” belying some of the frustration that inevitably led to the record being recorded with one week of studio time and a sign-up sheet for the participants. Ostensibly, Kinsella had given up on the “rat-race of band life,” and this record shows it. Yet the incredible thing is that this effort is by far the most honest we have heard from Kinsella and his boyhood cronies. This is evident on “Tell-Tale Penis,” the shamelessly simple yet intimately complex tune one-third of the way into the record. It has the guitar meanderings that you typically associate with long-time Kinsella contributor Sam Zurich (although they aren’t played by Zurich; the guitar duties on Boo Human are split by Kinsella and ex-Wilco member Leroy Bach), yet it also has a maturity that was only hinted at on the Owls recordings. And it is this maturity that is extant everywhere on the record; “Vine on a Wire” is also a particularly apt manifestation; its haunting piano and drony guitar and bass lines envelop the listener. Ultimately, it is good to see Kinsella in this form. This record is the aural equivalent of your good friend that was a few years older than everyone else in your circle of friends—the first one to take the terrifying leap into adulthood, the first one to turn 30, perhaps get married and settle down. You still always loved hanging out with them, and after a while, they stopped seeming hip and started seeming wise. And that’s what this record is. Boo Human, for all of the jadedness with the “indie scene” is a wise record, one that we can look up to. It is, after all, what we have to look forward to. And if that’s the case, our future is bright. [Cox]
Johnny Bodacious & the Bad Attitudes From Here To Outer Space
Johnny Bodacious and the Bad Attitudes have one of the worst band names I’ve ever heard in my life, but it’s pretty obvious that they’re in on the joke. Truth be told, I was half-expecting this to be equivalent to your average dollar-bin throw-away pop-punk disc. But after a couple of spins, there’s something undeniably charming about this release, leaving me almost enamored. The CD compiles the Illinois band’s first two EP’s, as well as six additional tracks. They also throw in samples from 3 Ninjas and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so that should give you a good idea of the territory we’re entering. JBBA play the type of punk-influenced pop rock that you might be familiar with if you’ve ever listened to bands like Unsung Zeroes and Anti-Anti. I’m smiling just thinking about them. It’s unadulterated pop punk for the sheer enjoyment of it all, as it’s clear that image doesn’t mean much to this band. Keep in mind that the album spans the band’s entire existence, so songs range from joyful adolescent sing-alongs (“You Could Do Better”) to rowdy, raucous bursts of punk rock energy (“God Grades On the Cross Not the Curve”) to mature, well-composed and layered indie rock (“Bear At Heart”) without ever running into any sort of identity crisis. I guess when you’re not trying to appease to any specific mold, you can’t ever be accused of losing touch with yourself. There’s some other tracks on here that are packed with poppy punk goodness, such as “Face It Fabio (It’s Not Butter)” and “Dance Like No One’s Watching,” that would fit perfectly on a summertime mixtape. The sad part of all of this is that I realize Johnny Bodacious and the Bad Attitudes probably won’t be stopping by my city anytime soon to sample their brand of music. Gas prices and politics aside, it just seems like bands like this one are destined to play to a devoted semi-local fanbase for a nice chunk of time, but fall completely under the radar of most outsiders. In a perfect world, those enormous unnamed summer punk
rock tours would spend less time and money focusing on absorbing every well-publicized punk band into one city a day, and would instead lend themselves to bands like this, who really could bring some fresh sounds to kids in different necks of the woods. But then again, I’m sure Johnny and the ‘Tudes would be just as happy if you’d just take the time to give them a proper listen. [Birone]
On Parallels Jason Shevchuk seems to be on a natural progression of punk-inspired pop-rock through None More Black and up until this album, where the rock finally surpasses. The rising guitar of “Hey Medic” builds to choppy change ups and vocals over a danceable beat whilst begging for a song to redeem him. The musical romance continues on “In The Grass,” the punkest track in both lyrical and musical content, where Shevchuk lambasts the idle jaded nature of scenesters. The two-three-four punch of “You Like Baseball…,” “According to My Notes,” and “Don’t Wanna Be Right” illustrate phenomenal ability to craft a song, these are straightforward rock songs that rely as much on a blues scale as punk. Even the ballad-esque “Slower than Manassas” has a high school dance quality soaked in sincerity rather than sap. The backup crew doesn’t hurt either Sal Dell’Aquilla’s bass playing is punchy without stepping out of bounds, like a session player with nothing to prove. Check the closer, “The Montage” as he sits on the low-end providing the emotional the track richly deserves. He’s matched by Dana Berkowitz who brings a steady thunder, again it’s showmanship through minimalism most evident on “Two Shotguns,” where a high hat pump and a country-themed roll build to a dramatic ending. The album is absolutely infuriating, because this is it, the band is done, they broke up somewhat publicly a few weeks before the release. The album isn’t just excellent, but promising; real chemistry is in the grooves and Shevchuk finds a place sought for on None More Black records, a place that punk attachments couldn’t let him go. I’m saying it now, this is a classic.
The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium Assembly The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation’s Millennium Assembly? Is that Y2K hyperbole rolling in the dirt with Mormonism? I sure hope so. Oh bother and blow, it’s a throne built by a night janitor named James Hampton who worked at the General Services Administration in Washington D.C. An outsider artist, Hampton built his throne in a rented stable, using foil, paper, plastic, coffee cans, glass jars, vases, light bulbs, furniture, cardboard, glue, tape, and tacks. The ornate masterpiece is 180 pieces deep, and wasn’t quite finished when Hampton died in 1964. So yeah, tall order, Le Loup. To their credit, Sam Simkoff and friends get reasonably close to this sort of manic grandeur on this record. Instead of foil and glue and metal and glass, we get banjo, Eno-esque atmosphere, breathy vocals and all sorts of portended gloom. Great for rainy days, but maybe a little too intense for savagely withdrawn civil servants with shackled artistic ambitions. [Tyson]
downright contemplative. On the surface, The Mae Shi are sonically similar to a lot of the new “cut the sleeves off my t-shirt, roll around on a pile of guitar pedals and scream into this Radio Shack microphone” bands. But they take that idea and energy and channel it into surprisingly succinct songs with a full-on band. Spastic electronics (analog and laptop-based) and melodic vocals by committee are the foundation of The Mae Shi’s sound. At times, especially on the strong opening track and “Young Marks” the combination of the keyboard and vocal sounds actually sound eerily like Atom & His Package. But then “Kingdom Come” sounds like a smart-ass approach to serious Eurotrash club techno. It’s the only track over five minutes, covering more than eleven. Much of HLLLYH seems more likely to pull people in after one or two listens than anything on Terrorbird, but don’t expect all the sorority girls to get it just yet either. An anxious, glitchy and mischievous basis for each song still defines The Mae Shi. “Run To Your Grave” is the obvious centerpiece of the record. It is on the more accessible end of things, but still reeks of ambitious, (but not self-impressed) anxious experimentation. The intro sounds like your stoned little brother, hopped up on Fun Dip and Mountain Dew, and let loose in Devo’s studio. It’s a step slower than most Mae Shi songs, but still holds onto a frantic, uneasy energy. Gang vocals and loose drumming compete evenly with keyboards to be the driving force behind the song, finding a perfect middle ground. Like any class clown, there are a few moments here and there where you can’t help but hope these guys will shut up, just for a second. But overall, this is a delightfully angular and unpretentious combination of keyboard-centered indie rock and ironic beard noise-core. A sense of in-your-face fun and careful song construction combine perfectly, eliminating the worst elements of both styles. [Anderson]
Mammoth Grinder Rage and Ruin
Forget about their name; this shit is no joke. Rage and Ruin is the skull-fuck of the Summer for my money. I know I’m not alone here because friend of the band and KVRX radio DJ Matt Needles started his own record label—Depleted Resource—just to release this monster. The fact that this is their debut album is just ridiculous; their style sounds as if it’s been honed since the exploits of men were recorded on the walls with ash and iron. Lyrically, Rage and Ruin seems to explore the hollowness and self-loathing that can accompany endless partying, as well as a pile of dead rednecks in redneck blood. Piles, bones, blood. After all, the poor bastards are from Texas. Mammoth Grinder’s music can be wonderfully boiled down to Entombed whipped into breakneck speed by Doomriders and the power of the d-beat, but with utterly devastating sludge parts a la EyeHateGod thrown in for good measure. Oh yeah, and these guys gang-chant everything. It might start to get a little formulaic if it wasn’t so goddamned well-done, and they do throw in variety in the form of the all-downtempo beast entitled “God Is Stuck In A Black Hole,” which comes into the album at the perfect point. A nearly eight-minute-long geologic rumble of tectonic proportions, the song proves beyond a doubt that this band can and will destroy you at any tempo they choose. [Moroni]
The Max Levine Ensemble OK Smarty Pants
The Mae-Shi HLLLYH
L.A.’s hardest-working class clowns are back for their second proper full length, though they have put their name on at least a dozen releases in the last five years. As opposed to the predominantly hyperactive, glitchy and uneasy delivery on “Terrorbird”, HLLLYH is
:: ISSUE 19 ::
I originally wrote a pretty horrific review of this record, and I still maintain that it isn’t good, but there lies something undeniably charming in the grooves. The music is hyper, and the band tries to cram as many notions into one lyric as possible. “Franny and Hooey” is an amiable song begging for a sing along in just under a minute, the kind of track that should be a set list staple, as is “The Loss” a fifty second jam with an early Lookout sound. And that’s the crazy thing about this record; it is
undeniably upbeat, poppy, catchy, and inviting. But the vocals, in my opinion at least, are undeniably annoying. This is what initially turned me off, it’s high pitched and squeaky, like Gordon Gano without the irony. I can’t get over this, I don’t buy that every kid with a guitar and an out of tune voice has more heart. I know in some circles this is sacrilege, but it’s true. What redeems The Ensembles is strictly their lyrical content, their adherence to a blend of personal narratives and political insinuations. “Nuclearadio” accuses their own generation for lack of a political voice, and further indicts the repetitious attempt to manufacture one. Better yet is “Aren’t All Songs Political?” a sympathetic criticism of the vague sense of community and belonging in the underground. If you like the label, if you know the scene, you’re going to love this, but it isn’t for me. [Sousa]
Monikers Wake Up
Monikers guitarist Ryan Seagrist was playing in standout pop-punk band Discount long before anyone had heard of that no-talent ass-clown Ryan Seacrest. It’s been the better part of a decade since anyone heard from Discount outside of singer Alison Mosshart resurfacing in as half of The Kills. Seagrist’s new project sounds significantly more like their old band, which proves to be a blessing and a curse. The twelve songs here waste little time, covering less than half an hour. It’s true that there are nods to Leatherface or Jawbreaker, and there are only a couple times that Monikers could hardly sound more like Dillinger Four than Dillinger Four already does. Most of the record is familiar, and easily categorized, but never overly nostalgic either. Only two songs (barely) break the three-minute barrier, though there is enough wiggle room and variation between them to make Wake Up a surprisingly complete record. The poppy snarl of “Settlement” harnesses Scared Of Chaka in the best way possible and is a definite highlight. So is the slightly slower “Them And Us”—a loose, mid-tempo, scratchy ballad that is perfectly-placed right in the middle of the record. It’s surprising that something so directly tied to the melodic punk rock of 8-12 years ago can end up downright refreshing. [Anderson]
Moving Mountains Pneuma
The basic elements of Moving Moutains’ sound are familiar and easy to pin down by the first notes of “Cover The Roots/Lower The Stems,” the second song here. Almost every note of Pneuma leans heavily, but not always predictably, on late 90’s melodic post-hardcore, especially the dynamics of early Jimmy Eat World or a more polished Mineral. A steady stream of much more polished, immediately-catchy riffs and vocal lines borrow from Brand New as much as Appleseed Cast. These more in-your-face melodies walk the line between catchy and obvious, usually landing on the correct side. Most of the songs share a common and time-tested arch, alternating between slow build-ups and soaring, melodic choruses. The obvious highlight is “8105,” which covers more than eight minutes, right in the middle of the record. Showing the quickest wit and strongest melody of anything here. Scarce, but effective trombone and piano parts add just enough of an extra layer here and there, without taking over. It has been the better part of a decade since I was prone to hang on every word and note of any record so deeply entrenched in this style. But Moving Mountains do it much better than most, regardless of how nostalgic it may seem. Naturally, there are trite moments, but there are few enough that it’s easy to ignore or even embrace most of them. [Anderson]
Now Sleepyhead Nocturne
It took me several listens to really figure this album out, which tends to be a good thing right off the bat. The title of this release, Nocturne, is rather accurate, as this album sounds best when taking a long drive at night. This Richmond-based ensemble does a good job of writing pretty songs with downtrodden lyrics, with a generally-dreary atmosphere of music applied. They make good use of piano, acoustic guitars, and interwoven male and female vocals. The opening track, “Eternal Damnation,” is what hooked me on the album upon first listen, and at times it reminds me of some tracks from Hope of the States’ album “Lost Riots”, likely because of the general feeling of despair present underneath the delicate piano. I’m not a big fan of “Who The Fuck” because the chorus is a bit annoying, but the next track, “Pro Deo” is great. It features some rather poignant social opinions, as demonstrated through lyrics such as “There’s an empty expanse I felt since I was a kid. I gave my money to God. I wish I’d given it to someone who needed it.” It’s tracks like this one that make this release worthwhile to me. As the album progresses, it accumulates more hits and misses, but despite not being a perfect album, it still comes off as a sincere album written by seemingly earnest individuals. And because of that, it’s worth whatever attention you can spare for it. [Birone]
Off With Their Heads From the Bottom
With a couple years, a half dozen 7” releases (and subsequent CD collection), an EP and at least 15 different members under their belt, Minneapolis’ Off With Their Heads have finally delivered their debut full length. Channeling fellow TC’ers Dillinger Four, Leatherface and even late-90’s Social D, OWTH maintain relevance without straying too far off the path musically. Frontman Ryan Young seems to scoff of mere cynicism, with twelve songs that do nothing to mask their abject hopelessness. But rather than lash out or blame his problems exclusively on anyone else (an ex-girlfriend, an asshole boss, etc.) Young seems to accept, and often revel in his hopeless existence. Despite their decidedly one-dimensional subject matter, the songs are delivered in a darkly catchy way. The music that accompanies Young’s songs of is often anything but dour. There is something gruff and relentless about the delivery, though the riffs are almost always melodic, sometimes catchy and even downright bouncy a few times (see “Self Checkout,” the standout track). I wouldn’t call this poppy by any means, though it does channel a melodic delivery that was made famous in part by the bands listed above. OWTH uses a heavy-handed, mid-tempo approach to a typically fast and furious genre. The result is immediately effective, and unapologetically familiar, but rarely repetitive or even bordering on predictable. Musically, Off With Their Heads manage to err on the side of reminding you of the classics, rather than just copying them. Emotionally, From The Bottom is sort of like a YouTube video of somebody getting clipped by a car, or a puppy getting snatched up by a hawk. It’s sad, but you forward it on to all of your friends anyway, knowing they’ll enjoy it just as much as you did.
Old Iron Sights
Ex Post Facto 16:29 (CDEP) Old Iron Sights are a new band, as I think these four songs are the first they’ve released. Their sound is rooted heavily in the best mid-90’s post-hardcore, very little (if any) came from the bands’ native Las Vegas. There are shades of The Jazz June’s jangly, melodic chaos, especially on “Epic Patriot,” the well-chosen opening track. The vocal lines are similar at times to old Piebald, though they are generally more on-key. The
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
clash of melodic guitar lines, shouted backing vocals and choppy rhythms borrows from the mid-90s, Midwestern heyday. Braid (at their more straightforward), Texas Is The Reason and Garden Variety all come to mind along the way as well. These songs were self-recorded, most of it done live and it shows, but in mostly good ways. The recording quality is much better than most home demos, but still loose and untouched overall. Everything sounds really clear, and the lack of the requisite, digital effects— which are common, even on most home recordings now—is beyond refreshing. Hopefully Old Iron Sights stay at it, without losing the raw, tense feel to their sound on newer material. If these four songs are any indication, they’ve kept most of the best things about newer, melodic post-hardcore, while staying firmly-rooted in what made it so much better a decade ago. [Anderson]
Harrow and Wealdstone So apparently this band broke up. This is a bummer, because Harrow and Wealdstone is far better than anything they’ve done before. I’m not saying that it’s more original—this band has made no effort to conceal their huge debt to Botch and Tragedy at any point. However, their final release shows more variations in rhythm, tempo, and mood than their whole discography CD (which featured everything up to this point) put together. Skillfully drawing from the rockin’-est aspects of both aforementioned bands, Perth Express blends together tight rhythms and a crushing tempo while leaving out the pretension and melancholy of Botch and Tragedy, respectively. The result is an album that will have you head-banging and air-guitaring along from the first listen. They put on a great show while they were together (though they only came over to the states from their home in Germany a couple times), but I used to feel that their sound made for a tedious listen when recorded. Not the case at all with this album, and if it wasn’t for the boring and overblown Black Heart Procession cover they chose as the closer, I would reach the end begging for more. I don’t know the story behind the band’s demise, but I can safely say that this is going to earn them many new fans. I’m sure many will be wondering what could have been from this band that seems to finally have hit their stride, but such a great swan song leaves little room for complaint. [Moroni]
My Life as the Villain (CDEP) Not long after Hex Records agreed to release this EP, Playing Enemy decided to disband. As with both of their full length releases, this takes most of the good things about metal-influenced hardcore and applies them in new ways. Even better, they manage to leave out most of the bad things as well. Building on the intricate (not just in the guitar noodling) tradition of bands like fellow Seattle-dwellers Botch, they use the space between beats or riffs to their advantage. This angular, chaotic approach has worked best for bands like Deadguy and Coalesce over the years, and Playing Enemy honor that tradition well. The obvious centerpiece here is the six-minute “An Admission to the Shoulders of Giants,” an angular, tense opus that covers a number of semi-related subgenres perfectly. These five songs are an incomplete—but fitting—final release, which is well worth checking out, even if it’s posthumously. [Anderson]
Hot Water Music
‘Till The Wheels Fall Off
Planes Mistaken For Stars
We Ride To Fight!—The First Four Years The collection CD is—like every other sort of CD—dying a slow and ungraceful death. For better or worse, a collection of every non-album track is usually meant for most bands’ existing fans. They already have the albums, but probably haven’t tracked down every 7” and compilation. With almost 50 total tracks, these two timely collections from No Idea don’t lack in quantity or (for the most part) quality. Hot Water Music’s recent run of shows were, not officially reunion shows, as they never officially broke up. This release, along with the inter-hiatus shows gave their notoriously rabid fans something to get excited about for the first time since the release of the ho-hum Draft full length two years ago. These 23 songs offer a good cross-section of the second half of their career. The first five songs come from the sessions for their three Epitaph releases. All five are worthwhile, though only “Kill The Night” makes a convincing case that it was a huge oversight to it leave off the record. Their songs from the Leatherface split and Moonpies for Misfits 7” are the strongest here, along with “God Deciding” from the Alkaline Trio split. All of the above hover somewhere between important and crucial for any fan. I could have done without a couple of the compilation tracks, especially “Jaded Eyes” and “Dreamworld,” which are a bit anemic by Hot Water standards. As with everything else they did though, the batting average here is pretty high overall.
Planes Mistaken For Stars’ collection definitely trumps Hot Water’s in terms of potency and relevance, but it’s not really a fair (fucking) fight. Their collection CD includes their excellent first two EP’s, which were originally available until recently on Deep Elm. Both their now-rightfully revered self-titled debut and Knife In A Marathon EP are absolutely crucial. Planes are the exception that proves the rule. Their earliest work is their best in a lot of ways—culminating with Fuck With Fire, their high water mark. Each later release certainly has its moments; Up In Them Guts had solid songs and uneven production, while Mercy had exactly the opposite. But both fundamentally seemed to lack some of the heart-on-your-sleeve urgency and in-your-face volatility that are, in essence, Planes. In addition to the two crucial EP’s, We Ride To Fight! also has the Fucking Fight 7”. The sound quality on both songs is what I remember from my original 7” version—it’s bad, but could hardly matter less—“Fucking Fight” and “The Part You Left Out” are two of the best songs the band ever recorded. Also along for the ride here are their four Black Flag covers and the solid, but off-balance Spearheading The Sin Movement EP. All told, the hour that this covers is a great reminder of some of Planes’ best work at any point in their career. For anyone uninitiated into Planes’ earlier releases, this one is downright crucial. [Anderson]
Polar Bear Club
Sometimes Things Just Disappear By now the hype of this band has probably gotten to you. On the strength from their debut EP, The Redder the Better, the band deserved attention that has brought a few expectations to Sometimes Things Just Disappear. Before you get to the music, the artwork makes a rather curious impression. A man in agony is seemingly floating mid-screen, ripping at his shirt; his head has somehow turned into a jar with fireflies in it and are being released above him. Expecting the music to make up for the tacky artwork is unfair, though. The problem is not when the Cave In Jupiter-era intro ends, but when choruses hit in any of the songs, it seems. Polar Bear Club seem like a band that may subconsciously be attempting to please too many crowds at once. Sometimes, this “problem” can be a blessing: when Canada’s Grade were still around, there was usually a mention in each of their interviews about not being heavy enough for the metal crowd, but not fast enough for the punk crowd. However, PBC sound as though they’re making concessions to fit in. Jimmy Stadt’s vocals can be brutally wonderful, channeling Tom Gabel and the Reed brothers (of Small Brown Bike fame). On every song, though, Standt takes his voice into this Chris Conley territory; this could be advantageous, but the contrast between his “hard” and “soft” voices is difficult to endure. Plus, his “soft” voice is almost always overdubbed with generic harmonies/back-ups that sound so damn…wimpy. (Hard to say it any other way.) For the most part, PBC has made an interestinglyconstructed post-hardcore album that’s fierce, heavy, and melodic. You can hear in their ideas, they could be onto something altogether greater than their first two releases combined. “Burned Out in a Jar” is the album’s masterpiece, showing how dangerous the band could be. The verses are sung in Standt’s softer tone, but the chorus showcases a great syncing of voice, guitars, and Emmett Menke’s tight drumming. The song closes on a totally WTF Police-like outro. Give me more of this, guys. It’s clear where PBC stands, genre-wise. As much as talk
about them has people saying they are going beyond categorization, we can be realistic and say they can easily stand alongside the bands that come a generation later than Small Brown Bike and early Against Me!. However, there is a little more promise coming the PBC camp than most. For example, check out their take on sexism, “Our Ballads,” and try to count many more bands in their category that are as thoughtful and daring in what they’re singing about on that track. PBC’s next release should show where the band wants to take their sound, which might seem obvious but steps like these are much more important for a band that’s on the cusp of being mainstream mimes or creative catalysts.
Transfuse (LP) It’s hard not to consider Resonance just another melodic hardcore revival, even though this was recorded years ago, during its heyday. They play classic, cut-time melodic hardcore with gruff, but on-key vocals. If you’re really a connoisseur; it is more similar to Fastbreak or Turning Point than Lifetime—though there is plenty of that as well. It feels really similar to Shook Ones as well, especially vocally. There is rarely a time that I’m not in the mood for this style of music, even after all these years. But the amount of time it can hold my interest is way shorter. Resonance didn’t test my patience at any point. The songs are to-the-point and the recording tinnier than more recent bands, but even that is more refreshing than it is a hinderance. There is a certain, specific audience for this style of hardcore, which I happen to fall right into. But even casual observers will hear the merits of this right away. They put this LP out to document what they had already completed years ago, and I’m glad they did. [Anderson]
Romance of Young Tigers
I Have Supped Full On Horrors The once-common path taken by I Have Supped Full On Horrors has gone from common to downright quaint in the space of less than a decade. From their home base in Dayton, Ohio, RoYT self-released this debut full length before sending it to Magic Bullet. At that point, it ended up in a stack of demos, to be discovered by chance months later. Like This Will Destroy You’s Young Mountain, Brent though highly enough of this debut to reissue it. This may be an uplifting tale for any new band, though I would recommend listening to I Have Supped Full On Horrors before assuming your band will have a similar experience. The parallels between This Will Destroy You’s massive debut and this one extend beyond the circumstances of their release and rerelease. Both records are deep and heavy, but rarely loud and slow-moving without ever sitting still. The record was created by just three members, using guitars, bass and analog synths. The results are more dense than TWDY, with a similarly cold—but still melodic—feel. A handful of pulsating synth lines are the only thing close to percussion, lending an open-ended and unpredictable feel to a genre that’s rarely either. “We Sing Sin,” the longest of the four songs here at almost 12 minutes, is also the strongest. Its guitar lines are the most consistent theme present on the record; laying an airy, but still substantive foundation. By the time the pastoral hissing of the songs’ final third kicks in, it sounds like a stripped-down version of Godspeed! or an analog version of drone master Tim Hecker. These thirty-four minutes work as a long-overdue introduction to Romance of Young Tigers. But they are also a strong, complete record that rarely feels much like a maiden voyage. [Anderson]
:: ISSUE 19 ::
The Serious Geniuses
You Can Steal the Riffs, But You Can’t Steal the Talent Yes, what you read above the paragraph is the title of the new Serious Geniuses album. Yes, what you just read means that the name of the band is the Serious Geniuses. Once you’re through shaking your head, come back to the review. Looking down at this new disc made me laugh and cringe. It either has to be the best thing I’ve heard in a while or the dumbest thing. Amazingly, the songs were neither great nor terrible and sustained my interest and made me forget the unbelievable artwork (a giant monster being driven by a man in his brain to puke out the band’s name, some garbage, and a sailing ship). The Geniuses are a sort dense listen. You want to grab an influence here or a reference there, but the music kind of eludes total precise comparison. This is not to say the band artistically avoids comparison through adept skill and inventiveness. No, one can easily say, “This sounds like Piebald or Superchunk,” and nobody in the room would be confused. If you remember If It Weren’t For Venetian Blinds or On the Mouth from those respective bands, including the sort of lo-fi rock sound they both had, the Serious Geniuses are lurking somewhere in that territory. What would separate the Geniuses from either of those bands is the lack of memorable songs. And maybe that’s due to the vocals. I’ve heard from a couple people now that “the music’s tolerable, but the vocals kill it for me.” The whiny, almost nasal quality is a deterrent. However, the song structures and instrumentation are worthy of qualifying as a combative force to the poor melodies and delivery. Take opener “Tour Ture,” which would probably be a straight forward rocker live but sounds a little tame on record. When the vocals aren’t getting in the way, the song is actually so reminiscent of Archers of Loaf or Superchunk that the listener will probably be enticed to ride the album a little longer. The effect wears off after a while, and you’ll probably be looking for an album by the bands who influenced the Geniuses rather than sticking around for too long. But for those who do stick around might be surprised that there’s a band out there playing this type of indie rock anymore. It’s clear that the Geniuses have paid attention to more than what’s praised by blogs and Spin magazine. [Quattrocchi]
Static Radio NJ
An Evening of Bad Decisions Another victory for melodic hardcore. Static Radio has released their debut full-length, and the world of hardcore is better for it. In a scene where everything is judged by how close to Kid Dynamite’s sound it comes, Static Radio makes an album that stands alongside its peers and outshines most of them... without taking countless cues from KD. Hallelujah. Opener “Marc” kicks things off more like Insted than Lifetime. The production and execution on this track is remarkable. Singer Mike waxes existential about life’s problems , but the general vagueness of subject matter is made up with the vocal delivery and urgency in his voice. There is something to be said about Mike’s voice, which is startlingly promising in a field of very similar hardcore vocalists. He can sometimes convey the longing of Lifetime’s Ari Katz, while stretching to an intelligent outburst ala Greg Graffin. It might sound strange, but he gets there and back. Static Radio will most likely be looking at a wide-open road after the impact of this album hits. There are “crossover” songs such as “Places” and “Fin” that will grab a poppier crowd along the way, but there’s no concession made either. The refreshingly genuine aspect of Static Radio is that the lyrics, though they appear simple, seem to be the band’s best attempt at conveying anxiety and personal trauma. They’re not writing esoteric verses and coating their words with meaningless sentiments. This will probably have listeners greeting An Evening of Bad Decisions with an open ear, respectful of the band’s honesty. [Quattrocchi]
Strangers Die Every Day
Stay Sharp’s debut EP is released after only a year of the band being in existence. The first two songs, “Winning is Everything” and “Hatfield of Dreams,” jump out of the gate and are done in about 2:30. Singer Nick Hirschmann shouts atop a dizzying hardcore onslaught as the lyrics cover disappointment and disillusionment. Standard stuff, but the band gets two solid jams right out of the way and ushers in the real meat of the EP, “Sign It.” If you don’t catch it in the blur of the first two songs, Hirschmann possesses a register not unlike Chris’s from Propaghandi. Had Stay Sharp harnessed the chops of the mighty Propaghandi, “Sign It’ would be an audible dead ringer straight off More Rock, Less Talk. But Stay Sharp steers away from muscle riffs and keeps it straight and tight. The closer, “Charge the Mound”, is another barnburner, clocking in around 1:30. The breakdown in the last :30 is satisfying in its anthemic gang vocal: “No, this isn’t me/This isn’t who I’m supposed to be/I’m sure it’s just a phase/I’m gonna fight it(until I’m free).” Hirschmann and crew sound deadest on exorcising demons through their blistering speed and shouted vocals through this debut EP. The variation at the end of “Charge the Mound” and the entire “Sign It” show enough promise that I can see a lot of people being interested in following Stay Sharp along the way, toward their next release. [Quattrocchi]
The explosion of instrumental, heavily dynamic indie rock (or “post-rock” if you must) over the last half-decade has been well-documented. Many of the genre’s heavyweights, as with rock music as a whole, rely mostly on the guitar in one form or another. Often, it’s a whole fucking wall of them. Strangers Die Every Day aren’t the first to fit comfortably within this genre, while forgoing the guitar all together. They opt for drums, bass, violin and cello, resulting in sort of a postchamber music sound. What makes their sound stand out even more is that they give up almost none of the brooding, slow-building intensity of old Mogwai. Along the way, they also maintain the more spaced-out, uneasy feel of Godspeed or even Tortoise. Along the way, they prove that all of the aforementioned bands are much more reference points for SDED’s sound than a full summation. First, the structure of their sound really tends to lean as much toward chamber music as it does anything rock-related. But thankfully, the execution of this—especially the violin and cello parts—is way better than most of their contemporaries. As someone who was forced to play classical music for most of my formative years, I usually cringe at the sound that has passed for “cello playing” in indie rock lately. Bands like Cursive, Murder By Death, and even, to a lesser degree, Apocalyptica and Rasputina have offered up little more cello-wise than simply sawing away. The results are mixed, but the tone is almost always bad. This is partly due to rock producers attempting, with various levels of success to properly capture classical instruments. The production here does a great job of it. Even the bass and drum parts sound different from the usual, bottom-heavy, booming sound that everyone is going for. It works for Mogwai, but Strangers Die Every Day are far better off without it. The record starts off strong with “...And the Blood Shall Spill,” the longest track. It sets a thoughtful, but still energetic, even aggressive tone. The drums are prominently displayed in the mix, driving much of the song. The real winner here is “Bicycle” the next-to-last track. It opens with simple, clean and catchy cello line, quickly joined by violin and viola. It rapidly builds into a surprisingly direct, catchy rock song. The cello seems to adopt most of the melody lines throughout, essentially borrowing the role of the vocals. More than every other song here, it makes you completely forget about the odd clash of genres and instrumentation that defines the band. Instead, it pulls you all the way in to what is, by any measure, a great song on a strong debut record.
A Storm of Light
And We Wept the Black Ocean Within What do you get when you add Neurosis’ visual director (and former Red Sparrowes guitarist) Josh Graham, Domenic Seita of Toms, and Pete Angevine of Satanized? A Storm of Light’s debut begins with an intro that seeps the beginning of a voyage across the ocean, “Adrift (The Albatross I)” before “Vast and Endless” tears out your soul. As noisy as we want (and expect), A Storm of Light is extremely layered with sounds of winds and oceans crashing underneath the downtrodden pulse of the song. Deep, doomy and slow, this takes the genre even further into the the deep end. Long songs allow them to create really complex atmospheres and brooding tunes. Next up, we have “Black Ocean,” another deeply doomy song, swallows you slowly and deliberately. Dual vocals make it especially haunting as the slow drone hypnotizes you. I don’t know that the word “deep” or “brooding” describe this quite well enough. Imagine the weight of the ocean on your chest, fighting your every breath with eons of vehemence. “Thunderhead” is the next storm on the horizon, capsizing what little sanity you have left with its just under eight-minute expanse. Drummer Pete Angevine sounds almost electronic in his precision execution. Haunting, “Undertow (the Albatross II)” brings a slight reprieve with pulsating sounds of rain, wind, thunder, and waves. “Mass,” starts off with an odd chime, and sounds like a last apology to the heavens for deeds left undone, good byes not said. “Leaden Tide” comes up next, as the ocean begins to pull you back under. Vocals are almost chanted, following the drone of the guitars, bass, and slow beat. This song ends leading into the last of our albatross, “Breach (The Albatross III).” As the mast creeks, you can feel the tension as the abominations of the deep start to circle. “Iron Heart” builds on the noise revealed in “Descent.” Vocals start to blur with the guitars, synth, and noise lines, until the tension breaks. The ocean finally envelops you, dragging you down to the deep in the album’s epic closer. The artwork is excellent, blurring the line between the horizon and the ocean’s surface. Overall, this is a deep, dark, brooding album, and is not for the faint of heart. Those of you who are willing to try will reap its rewards.
Aperture For Departure
Four Songs (CDEP)
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
Brendan Sullivan Wooley Eyes
Maybe here is the wrong place to explore the virtues and shortcomings of releasing your music through cassette. For the tape faithful, the form is as obsolete as the collector lets it be, i.e. if you still feel that recording, releasing, and owning cassettes is vital to music, then those who disagree with you cannot prove cassettes are any less important than other types of releases. The music still comes out of speakers, it just rewinds differently. As a reviewer, I must take the form just as any other and maybe thank whatever it was that made me keep my couple of cassette players. Of course, that is if I have something interesting to play from them. Coming to you live and through the hiss of the longforgotten cassette is a collection of demos and home recordings from Brendan Sullivan. For the most part, it’s just Sullivan and his guitar, strumming away slowly and quietly “in three bedrooms and one living room residing in south Florida and Baltimore, Maryland,” as the liner notes tell me. Something this precious and sentimental to the artist is a weird challenge to the reviewer. On one hand, I want to write that putting this kind of honesty to tape (literally) and sending it to zines for review is gutsy, and for that I commend him; on the other hand, I want to write that Sullivan has had too much acoustic singersongwriter in his diet and it’s time to branch out. Rather than commanding the once-in-a-lifetime endearing quality of the mighty Daniel Johnston’s
Sinaloa Oceans of Islands For years, Sinaloa have embodied most everything that was right about independent hardcore over the last couple decades. Their lyrics were idealistic, but not wide-eyed and fiercely political in the most personal way possible. They’ve released material on Ebullition, Clean Plate and Level-Plane, three of the most highly-thought of D.I.Y. hardcore labels around. The only thing is, their music doesn’t sound particularly like hardcore in any obvious ways. A trio (with two guitars—no bass), they use distinct and different guitar sounds, though both are clean throughout. The tempos are generally quick by regular rock song standards, but decidedly slow by hardcore (or even post-hardcore) standards. The vocals are sometimes half sung/half spoken, though usually carefully sung in a decidedly imprecise (but never off-key) way. Without any of the obvious markings of a hardcore band, Sinaloa still manage to harness most of what is best about positive hardcore. The songs harbor an uneasy tension, thanks in large part to shifting, oblong rhythms and precisely off-balance dueling guitar lines. Most songs have tangibly-catchy parts, while “Ashes Of Giants” has a number of them all strung together. But even then, at one of their most melodic moments, there is something complex and uneasy about the delivery. This makes it sort of tough to grasp on the first listen, addictive by the third or fourth, and still not repetitive or boring by the 20th. The lyrics use tangible imagery, but still seem sort of vague. Thankfully, there is not only a lyric booklet included, but really well-written and candid liner notes. After reading through them, it’s obvious that the songs are intensely introspective. Everything is thoughtful and pointed, but never gets up in your face about anything specific. The lyrics and the liner notes especially harken strongly back to the best things about, positive hardcore with none of the downside.
cassette recordings or transcending the trappings of singer-songwriter sameness, Sullivan sits somewhere in the middle in those three bedrooms and one living room. He must love Bob Dylan. He must love Lou Reed. He must at least like Conor Oberst. It would do him no good to stack him up against those three, but aspiring that high can bring your heaviest critics against you very quickly. I guess I’m having a hard time trying to figure out if he’s emulating them carelessly, or really trying to stamp his foot in the same forest and maybe catch some attention. Putting this out solely on tape begs the question even more. If this is just for himself, why release it? Why have me review it? Maybe I’m behind the revolution. Maybe we, those without tape decks or those who have dust-covered cassette players, all need to catch up. Releasing music on cassette is a curious move, especially when it’s something as almost-special as Sullivan’s home recordings. If this were on CD, I wonder if I would be crushing this thing with a critical fist into my desk. No more questions. No more guessing. I think I’m just glad, well maybe sort of glad, that I’ve still got my cassette player. [Quattrocchi]
Front to back, Oceans Of Islands is pointed, meandering, focused and haphazard in all the right ways. After two strong full lengths, Sinaloa have put together an air-tight, 33-minute reminder of the best things about hardcore, from a band that doesn’t play it. Shit yeah. [Anderson]
the sake of conjuring appeal. It’s clear that every word shouted from Brian’s mouth is sincere, usually with an introspective focus on one’s own ideals in a conflicting society, such as on the brilliant track, “The Madman.” My favorite song on this album is the nine-minute epic “Invisible,” an incredibly passionate bout of celebration for, well, wherever we are right now. As the lyrics, “this is ours/this is why we try,” suggest, it’s a song about being content, not complete; an important notion that is all-too-often neglected by those constantly craving betterment before acknowledging their own graces. “Exit Strategy” is another speedy metallic song, akin to some of the faster-paced Curl Up and Die material. In fact, the persistently-pounding drums and insatiable guitars leave me wondering how this band’s music hasn’t left the surrounding Connecticut mansions crumbled in its wake. Ending things off is another nearly ten-minute track entitled “Gift,” which eases us down from the perilous ride, and leaves us with the final reminder that, “All that matters are those around us.” It isn’t just one of the best-sounding hardcore records to come out this year, but, dare I say, it’s one of the most important albums the genre has birthed recently, period.
in an undeniable way. The title track starts the ruckus with an absolute throwdown of an intro in which the instruments build up down the neck of the guitar until vocals explode, “I’m flying! It’s an adventure!” The song is a nice introduction to their record, showing that the band is not afraid to stretch their rock chops out for minutes on end before they feel it necessary to start yelling lyrics over the storm. “Bal Atac” and “Working Nights” follow, showcasing their ability to hang in with the precision metal of Queens of the Stone Age and one-ups the White Stripes in heavy low-end blues rock respectively. This brings up an interesting aspect of the recording, too, as the lower end booms out your speakers; the record presents a massive foundation due in large part to Erik Conn’s excellent drum work. Along with Charlie Wilson’s meaty bass lines the band’s instrumental exercises are enjoyable and durably entertaining. As if you haven’t guessed, Those Peabodys are one of those bands that bring not only fun, but excitability back to indie rock. They inject a massive dose of chops (check Adam R. Hatley’s electric sermon in the opening minutes of the title track) and lightheartedness, without gimmicks or novelty. Anyone who misses their rock—their fucking real rock—will find Animal Saturday is a smack upside the head, needed and appreciated.
They And The Children
Christ, I had forgotten just how heavy They And The Children were. Following a 12” EP and two praiseworthy split 7”s with Daniel Striped Tiger and Towers, the Middletown, CT-based quartet delivers their debut full-length, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t put the majority of 08’s hardcore releases to shame. Truly blistering—yet masterfully composed—this album sounds like a portion of the Deathwish Inc. roster, without any sort of hardcore image to uphold. The album opens with the relentless “Mechanical” complete with thrashy guitars and insistent, brash vocals. It sets the stage for chaos that ensues over the next 38 minutes. There’s no bullshit on this album: no vague narratives of tortured souls or hateful dispositions for
Austin’s Those Peabodys is a band that seems uninterested in impressing you. From their bio that quickly gallops through their history—“many shows, enough lineup changes, not enough releases”—artwork that makes buying physical releases redundant, and an approach to music that is triumphantly self-indulgent. This trio appears fine playing to the crowds that might or might not make it out to their shows for the duration of the band’s career. Ther cut-the-bullshit approach to their own history, the buy-it-or-don’t aesthetic drapes the art of their new disc. Animal Saturday spans 12 songs that go from acoustic interludes to pure rock spazz-outs are alluring
:: ISSUE 19 ::
Tides/Giant Split (CDEP)
Though this split only features three tracks, in context it still seems almost greedy. Boston’s Tides and North Carolina’s Giant are two of the most reputable and interesting D.I.Y. bands left in the slow-metal movement. Contributing just over ten minutes of music each, both make a strong case for anyone still looking for light at the end of the always-lengthening post-Neurosis tunnel. Tides are up first, with two tracks showcasing their imposing, but surprisingly nimble take on
post-post-post-metal. Reverb-drenched guitars and a deliberate rhythm section dominate the aptly-titled “The Invisible,” which operates as a tense nine-minute buildup. A soaring, melodic payoff doesn’t arrive until the final minute. It’s worth the wait, though the first eight minutes are just as strong. They follow it up with “Unfinished Highways,” a short, reverb-heavy interlude. It’s not a filler track by any means, just a bit out of place on a split. Giants’ contribution is “Horned and Blind,” a 13-minute opus that opens with a strong, ominous piano intro. Even by any genre standard, Giants take their time getting from point A to point B. Rather than the usual riff repetition though, new parts are gradually, but persistently arriving. This song in particular also shows off a surprising—and all-too-rare—range of vocal lines. From the standard (but solid) guttural screaming, to a more melodic, soaring harmonies, the vocals are intermittent and hard to predict. But unlike so many other bands, they are actually the highlight of Giants’ sound. In a world known for 74-minute records, it’s refreshing to hear two of the genre’s best examples squeeze onto a split which would fit on just one piece of vinyl. [Anderson]
The Tim Version
The Decline of the Southern Gentleman It almost seems necessary to reveal to you, the reader, that you are being presented with a new No Idea release. There. Some of you already bought this, sight unseen, off the No Idea website—along with a test pressing from some obscure band that influenced a bunch of other obscure bands. Good luck finding money for rent now. For those of you who still need a full review of a No Idea album, here we go. The Tim Version plays highly-charged, guttural punk rock. If Chuck from Hot Water Music started a new band with lesser talents, you’d probably get The Tim Version. This is not to say that this band lacks talent—quite the contrary—the music is filled with competent rocking. The songs just seem to run together, and variation rarely rears its welcome head. The punch that the Tim Version is packing is passion, and there is certainly no shortage of that on The Decline. “Too Many Saturday Nights” is the first break of the record, starting with a guitar and vocal intro where singer/guitarist Scott Laval yells, “I’ve been the asshole and I ain’t too proud, but I still hang out with a drinkin’ crowd,” before breaking into a slow, Gainesville bar singalong. A singalong to steer completely clear of however, is the album’s closer, “League Minimum,” which sounds as though the vocals were recorded by someone attempting to shoot his voice by the end of the song; it’s like listening to somebody gargle gravel. On record, the music rocks and all, but it lacks a certain something that might make it as memorable as some of No Idea’s other output. A group of earnest guys like this gets points just for bringing a genuine spirit for playing loud punk rock for the fun of it. Checking them out live would probably be the best way this is served.
Self-Titled (7”) I’ve been dying for this band to come out with a proper release. Their 2007 demo was one of the best demos I had come across last year, sounding like a healthy blend of Meneguar, Drive Like Jehu, and teenage vigor. Here, their familiar sound is more refined—fun songs, fresh melodies, intelligent lyrics and shouted vocals—right out the gate. “Beginning” launches right into a frantic vocal display and goes on to question the integrity and purpose of our own life pursuits; challenging the notion of always searching for
something better. “Youth Wasted on the Young” is without a doubt the best song this band has created, with guitars that whisk up a frenzy of aggravated resentment toward the underestimation of the new generation. The Meneguar influence is pretty apparent on this track, but it stands out. The B side rounds things out with another three tracks, most noticeably the closer “Thorn City,” which best shows off the talents of the individual members. The track fades out with a chorus shouting “I’m taking some time off from the things I love to do,” and as soon as it ends, you’ll find yourself flipping back over to hear those first two songs again. Hopefully this is just a sign of what’s to come. [Birone]
It’s hard to say that Transistor’s records are classy, classic, clobbering or clairvoyant. They are all of those things; and in a few moments they manage to be all of them at the same time. These parts, along with all the peaks an valleys along they way are hard not to love. Being at the forefront of heavy music at any given time is overrated, and Transistor Transistor will likely never find themselves there. Instead, they seem content to keep putting out outstanding records, and Ruined Lives is easily their best yet. [Anderson]
Kingston (7”) I have to tell you I wanted to like this band, they do a pretty standard take on hardcore pop-punk, which I can be fond of. Fast guitars with quick licks and chuggachuggas for good measure. For a band of teens it’s done well; a bit of skill, and a bit of reserve, keep them from playing beyond their means. The first track “Memorial Field” switches pretty flawlessly from circle pit speed to guerilla style breakdowns, totally east coast friendly. The second track, the harder-edged “Loud and Clear,” keeps the frenzy going into a classic build-up to breakdown, emotionally effective and absolutely the right move. But by the third track, I’ve heard it all before, most notably on Through Being Cool, in fact I’m pretty sure this kid could stand in for Chris Conley and we wouldn’t know the difference. The lyrics don’t help much either, most times they come across like High School poetry, generic and with a lack of insight, and most often just vague enough to be about a girl, friends, parents, or God. On the last track, “You’re Yeah,” their attempt to sound angry and hurt comes across as the whining rant of a seventeen year-old whose Dad won’t give him the car keys. I know this is valid for the youth, but at 28 I couldn’t give a shit. What turned me off most was the band photo; tell the guy second from left to get off his fucking cell phone, you’re taking a photo, look straight ahead and look angry. All in all though, not bad. [Sousa]
Transistor Transistor Ruined Lives
For almost a decade, New Hampshire’s Transistor Transistor have been releasing consistent, but infrequent records. It has been three years since their last full length (the solid, if not outstanding Erase All Name and Likeness in ’05), and the time spent shows. Their brand of hardcore swings between frantic and ominous, and is at its best in the handful of moments when it’s both. This obvious during “Pillar of Salt,” the centerpiece of the record. It opens with a slow, stomping drum and guitar intro, which sounds like a much more clearlyenunciated Breather Resist or Converge riff. From there, it lurches forward; still driven by the rhythm section while both guitars alternate between nearly-melodic feedback and driving chords. The vocals here, and on most of the record, are half screamed and half shouted. They are subtly melodic, with a delivery that is desperate, intense and articulately melodic at the same time. Transistor Transistor share quite a bit with many of their heavier post-hardcore peers, but the fact that their vocals are one of the strongest things about their sound sets them apart. “Morning Sickness” and “Price of Gas” open the record, both are thankfully—and predictably—two of the faster songs here. They’re dominated by awesome guitar and bass riffs, though the vocals add a great accent to both. Upon the arrival of an epic, crushingly catchy breakdown toward the end of “Morning Sickness” (and only two minutes into the record), even the most jaded part of your brain will remember why you ever kept listening to new hardcore bands in the first place. This same feeling is strongest on this opening track, though it appears throughout Ruined Lives.
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
Portland-based four-piece Trees’ album Lights Bane is an immediately menacing listen, in several ways. With two tracks totaling 27 minutes, it requires some attention, not to mention those tracks are titled “Nothing” and “Black,” respectively. This record is an exercise in arrhythmic dissonance. There are points when it seems the drawn-out ringing and feedback is about to develop into a riff or something that progresses in a linear fashion, but the listener is denied again and again. To me, the denial of a desired satisfaction—that assurance that something resembling a pop structure will emerge eventually—is what makes doom metal interesting, and Trees uses it well. There’s nothing cheesy or expected happening here, and yet, though it is difficult to pinpoint and name, something happens. Feedback becomes ambience which is punctuated by cymbal crashes and eventually, a few seconds of a blast beat. Listening to Trees is like reading Samuel Beckett. You always feel like you’re on the cusp of something familiar, but the artists find a way to keep you in the realm of the unexpected. [Flatt]
Vacation Bible School Unlucky (CDEP)
Spending a lot of time with Vacation Bible School’s new EP, Unlucky, is a wasteful enterprise. From the Cometbus/Lookout! artwork, to presumably lifting their name from FYP, to their apathetic lyrics make it seem the band members took courses in 80s/90s pop-punk and used that knowledge to create a band that would reflect these obvious influences. But instead of being influences they ride, the bands that came before them would more than likely be ashamed to be grouped with this derivative trio. OK, so the songs are inoffensive enough. Listening to this EP is about as easy to get through as sitting still for three minutes. And maybe that’s the problem: nothing new, nothing to say except, “We’re gonna die, who cares?” Examples? “The only thing you can say with any degree of certainty is that we’re all gonna die.” “It’s such an ugly world…Hate yourself, hang yourself.” Want more? “Help me I can’t help it. I need a cigarette to waste all my time. Hate me. I know you hate me.” Not enough. Well, if you’re still wondering how doom-driven this band is, check out a left field/out-ofnowhere tune they wrote called “A Song to Kill Yourself To.” Maybe I missed the point. After all, they’ve started a band and are at least singing about apathy and indifference. However, the music just does not justify whole package. VBS might sound worse on paper than on disc; listen for yourself. If you like Green Day and all bands that sound like them, this EP is a treasure trove. When VBS execute to the best of their ability, like on “A Song to Kill Yourself” believe it or not, there is actually a decent band with a chorus hook stronger than anything else on Unlucky. Unfortunately, that small spark of quality is dying at the bottom of this pit. [Quattrocchi]
Triclops! Out Of Africa
No one, in the history of rock bands, has ever admitted their band fit into any genre. It goes against the whole spirit of the thing. But Triclops! live up to true genre-less-ness. They cram 90’s AmRep post-rock, unrepentant prog, and hyperactive, knock-your-drink-out-of-your-hand bar punk into every moment of every song. This sort of genre ADD is almost as common as pretending not to fit into one. But Triclops! mix such powerful elements of each sound, in such a fluid way, that it’s hard to imagine it being half as deliberate as it first seems. While this frenetic mix of sounds was exhilarating on their outstanding debut EP Cafeteria Brutalia, it’s been refined into an even more potent strand for their debut full length. Each of these seven songs utilize a similar set of sounds, while twisting them into seven distinctly different things. Their most immediately-satisfying track, “Freedom Tickler,” still holds up after repeated listens as the record’s best. This is rarely, if ever the case. But Triclops! are able to weave together intricate, but melodic influences together so smoothly that it draws you in on the first listen, and still maintains its shine. “Iraqi Curator” is another standout; with a fast, syncopated, anxiety-inducing drumbeat that slowly builds into a chorus which sounds like a psychedelic Shellac, hopped up on a lethal dose of stimulants. Instead of beating you over the head with this colliding of worlds, they pull it off effortlessly. Both tracks are melodic, and in more than a few spots, downright catchy. All while maintaining a quickly-evolving, even confusing series of rapid-fire tempo and tone changes. “Lovesong for the Botfly” closes the record on an oblong, dense note. The guitar and bass tone are bright, and their parts—especially in the first couple minutes—are acrobatically catchy. But they are poured onto a canvas of drum fills and off-balance rhythms, which come and go in quick succession. The result winds up, then releases all the tension building up over the course of Out of Africa. It’s also the best vocal performance here. For a singer best known
Invisible City Progress within heavy metal as a whole has always happened at a pace that’s incremental at best. Sub-genres in heavy music are some of the most closely-guarded you’ll find anywhere. Thankfully, NYC’s Wetnurse are a living, breathing, five-headed exception to this rule. Lacking odd instrumentation and obvious gestures toward some genre-crossover, Wetnurse broaden their sound much more organically. Using a foundation of unpretentious, classic American metal, they simultaneously expand their sound in every direction at once. “Conversations With The Moon” opens the record, focusing on strong, traditional dual-guitar riffs, which are spread over a slower tempo than you’d expect. The song—even more than the rest of the record—seems to trade the focus from one instrument to the next with an obvious jazz influence. “Not Your Choice” is the first track that will leap out at just about everyone. Of all the songs here, it sticks closest to the script. Dense, choppy drumming compliments heavy, but at times ruthlessly catchy dual-guitar riffs and abrupt, half-growled vocals. Though Wetnurse’s strength lies in their subtle, but complete expansion of their sound, they wear straightforward extremely well too as “Not Your Choice” is a legitimately great song. The rest of Invisible City alternates between eloquently straightforward, stretched-out metal songs and a few abrupt, convincing and melodic thrash moments. It’s rock solid, complete and, in more than a handful of spots, impossible to dismiss. [Anderson]
for climbing into and on everything near the stage during their live shows, the guy can really sing. His approach alternates between subdued semi-crooning and a strong, shouted falsetto. Both are far more enticing that they look on paper, and they’re perfectly-demonstrated here. He’s half Albini and half early Volta-era Cedric, but never too much of either. Even if it’s worth saving, punk rock will take more than 39 minutes to make relevant again. But that didn’t keep Triclops! from trying anyway, and they damn near succeeded. I’m sure the goals this time around were much less lofty, and in that case, it accomplishes any other mission with flying colors. [Anderson]
excitedly pulled one out. “You should really get into this record,” they told you. In your stubbornness, you told them you “totally would,” and then chalked it up to thirtysomething squaredom. Here’s where that comes back to bite you. Active intermittently since 1977, Wire has done it again with a record that shows they’re anything but washed up. They have created an amazing body of work; Object 47 is so named as the 47th item in the band’s discography, an impressive 11th studio album. Tracks like the rocking “Circumspect” show that they can stick with the times, not letting their sound stay in the 70s. In truth, Object 47 is not without its slightly dusty tracks. “Mekon Headman,” recalls later Depeche Mode, and not all of it feels as forward-looking as you’d like. Still, the following track, “Perspex Icon,” could almost have been written by Trans Am today. Wire thus shows their versatility. “Patient Flees” demonstrates Wire’s more angular proclivities; the track begins with a sweetly abrasive and hard-hitting guitar line. It’s songs like this that show you that writing catchy songs goes a long way toward pleasing listeners. Throughout the album, Wire adeptly shows their understanding of this concept; whatever experimentalism goes into a given track, it is not without its foot-tapping chorus, or a breakdown that downright makes you want to dance. So call them anything but square. Wire is back again, for the 11th time, to show you that their status as one of rock’s most underrated and musically innovative acts is well-deserved. [Cox]
Yellow Swans Wire
Object 47 If you’ve been paying attention to music at all for the past decade at least, Wire has come across your radar. Likely, it was at a record store. Someone slightly older than you was flipping through the albums, and
After six years and roughly 60 releases in all shapes and sizes, Yellow Swans recently decided to disband. Deterioration was originally released as cassette-only; to take along on a short European tour. Leaning toward the more organic, tape loop-heavy end of the drone spectrum, Yellow Swans’ sound is overwhelmingly warm
:: ISSUE 19 ::
and unsettling. Bands like Growing and Nadja, aren’t bad reference points, though they are more focused than Growing and much less heavy than Nadja. They do share the heavily collaborative feel of both bands. Much of their prolific output has been the result of collaborative releases, though the heavy collaboration between the two members is obvious on everything they do as well. The twenty-minute opener “Broken Eraser/Time Stretch” is the unsettling, off-balance highlight of the release. With an unpredictable, but gradual rise and fall, bursting with colliding, cold synth lines and glacial beats.
Young Widows Old Wounds
The bass line in the opening of Old Wounds grinds along like a forgotten machine left to run until conquered by rust. Singer Evan Patterson taunts the listener “Are you proud? Define ‘proud’,” before the song is overwhelmed by vengeful drums and a slicing lead guitar line that left me stunned. For a Kentucky three-piece whose debut album did little for me, Young Widows had made quite an impact on me in less than five minutes. It makes sense to expect awesomeness from a band whose entire membership served time in the legendary Breather Resist, and here it looks like they finally came through. Drawing from the dirtier and more bitter elements of several vintage genres, Old Wounds brings together the off-kilter swagger of the Amphetamine Reptile stars, the bittersweet post-punk tendencies of Fugazi, the epic angst of Hoover and Drive Like Jehu, and Nirvana at their most rabid and volatile moments. Throw in a weekor-so-long peyote binge in the desert and out comes a product that strives for often rigidly-defined qualities like “anger” and “heaviness” along a completely different set of criteria than their contemporaries. Recording engineer Kurt Ballou adds to the rawness by seamlessly blending together live and studio clips throughout. It
might not sound like a great idea, but have faith- this guy is a pro and the result sounds great. [Moroni]
Community Records Compilation, Vol. 1 Putting aside general, personal distaste or nostalgia toward certain styles of music always makes record reviewing difficult. In the case of this compilation, it’s the latter. All of the bands on this packed compilation have various methods of combining punk and ska. Depending on my mood, this is either a refreshingly nostalgic bright spot in my review pile, or a tardy rehash of something that hasn’t been relevant for almost a decade. Thanks to a surprising number of energetic entries, there is more to many of the 22 songs here than just another throwback ska/punk hybrid (though there are a few of those as well). The highlights came from Public Access, We Are The Union and The Fad. All three have a driving, straightforward, punk-heavy take on the genre, reminding me in their own ways of old Less Than Jake or Slapstick. With more than a dozen bands and an hour of music, anyone who misses the less (but still once in a while) cheesy side of punk rock, it’s hard to go wrong with this. [Anderson]
DATH+ NO3 (Cassette) On this first release from Germany’s Time as a Color Records, Daniel has compiled a completely remarkable cast of all-star bands who have been floating around miscellaneous European scenes in recent years. Things start off with Austria’s I Not Dance, who deliver the song “What is Real,” which opens with a splendid instrumental intro and soon melts into a critical blast of hardcore similar to the likes of Funeral Diner. Up next comes Germany’s Grave, Shovel… Let’s Go with a sampling of their frantic, dual-vocal brand of emo that I just know would be much bigger stateside if more people gave them a listen. The guitars sound reminiscent of Hot Cross, but the overall feel of the song lands in Lovitt Records’ territory. Following this we have Germany’s Samara with “Purgatory,” a rather slow song that only suffers from its vocals, which come off as unpracticed and a little too forward in the mix. From here, we’re treated to a song by German post-rockers Majmoon, who craft a beautiful song that sounds destined to be the parting requiem of a sinking ocean liner. Songs like this remind me why I love this style of music in the first place. “We’re Still June” Wishes on a Plane serves as a remarkably charming dose of Midwestern-inspired emo, complete with angelic vocals and endearing breakdowns. Fans of Elliot should be sold on this band at first listen. Side B really comes together with an outstanding lineup of bands, leading things off with Autumn in May, another one-man-project fronted by a fella named Cyril from Switzerland. “And We Move” is a really poignant instrumental track, similar in the vein of The One AM Radio, with the only real “vocals” being a sample from Michael Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which actually proves to be much more effective
Still We Ride! The beauty of Critical Mass has to be that it’s the most second grade of ideas. “Hey everyone! Let’s ride our bikes around town and take over the neighborhood!” To watch cops try and turn it into a serious political threat and then move from harassment to brutality and bike theft to try and control it, they might as well have marched into a kindergarten class slapped kids around and stolen their chocolate milk and gram cracker snacks. Still We Ride, documents Critical Mass in New York between 2004 and 2005 starting with the ride that took place right before the 2004 RNC convention. That night the ride ballooned from a few hundred to 5,000 participants and Bloomberg decided to make an example of it as part of the overall marshall takeover of the city during that week. Where previously cops had escorted and facilitated the ride and only passed out a few minor tickets here and there, that night began a year of brutality captured in damning detail on the DVD. Scenes of police violently tearing bikes out of people’s hands, beating riders in the streets, and cutting locked bikes free with power saws while their owners look on helplessly are a little hard to watch at times. The DVD follows the struggle over the course of the next year as the scene is repeated month after month and culminates in a full on siege at the Time’s Up center during an after party for one of the rides. I think my favorite part is the middle aged manhattan woman, obviously far from a radical, who bought herself a new bike for her birthday and went on her first Critical Mass ride to celebrate, only to end up in jail with her bike impounded and spending the next year fighting in court. To hear her talk afterwards she might as well have been wearing a hoody and a black bandana on her face. The DVD makes it case well with the help of obviously hypocritical police making up rules as they go to try and harass the ride into non existence any way they can. It’s a little dated and a future release could use a follow up as it ends without much resolution. The good news is that in the years since, the bikers have apparently won by holding their ground on the street and fighting in court and in the press. In New York now it is a tacitly sanctioned event with no more police interference than an individual ticket here and there, and still without ever having obtained a parade permit or pre registered route. Knowing the history, the best part about this story and DVD is that it provides a good example of how some battles like this can actually be
than one might think. Following this is a fantastic song from Switzerland’s Mr. Willis of Ohio, which opens with an engaging piano/drum intro that evaporates into a screaming-vs-speaking bout of wits, eventually held captive by an infectious guitar hook that carries the listener back into the woods. Perfect. Next, we’re handed two great songs from Germany’s now-defunct The Short Blooming. The first song features biting, insistent vocals and a stalking bass line, coalescing into a formidable screamo gem. The second track is merely an instrumental track which, while entertaining, doesn’t really portray the band’s skill as well as other selections from their short discography would have. Following this is an exquisite live instrumental track from Italy’s Heng for the Future People, showcasing serene, swooping guitars and effervescent embodiment of post-rock/ emo. Closing off the compilation is a band who fully warrants the position as the anchor on this release, France’s Daïtro, who present us with a live version of “De l’eau Coule Sous les Ponts,” a song which was later featured on their split with Sed Non Satiata. The song is impassioned and teeming with emotion, while muddled down with a poor recording that actually showcases the charm and D.I.Y. spirit that brought this entire compilation together in the first place. And in all honesty, this release is about as D.I.Y. as it gets, with a one-time pressing of 300 hand-numbered cassettes packaged in screened cardboard from recycled pizza and cereal boxes, complete with multiple inserts; including a booklet featuring a page made by each of the twelve contributing artists. This is one of those releases that you really need to seek out and obtain for yourself. The tape is available in the US from dyinghorse.com and vinyljunkiedistro.com, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
won against the odds. The added extras on this release range from the silly and irrelevant, like a strange paranoid cut and paste cartoon against congestion pricing (why is that a bad idea again?), to some really interesting bits like the interview with Chris Carlson. One of the San Francisco founders of the ride, he gives good context to the whole thing, especially when talking about how almost every city has had to fight it out with police and how so far they’ve always won when they held out. Combined with the rest of the DVD, it’s a good document for anyone who needs more evidence of repression alive and well in American cities, and an inspiring example of how people can push back. [Cuomo]
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
:: ISSUE 19 ::
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::