The New Scheme
City Of Ships My Heart To Joy Disappearer Quieting Syrup Beware Of Safety Majority Rule
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Issue 20 1
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The New Scheme
Back In Business...
Editor Stuart Anderson
Contributors Joe Birone Ryan Canavan Nick Cox Pat Dixon Michael Flatt Zach Moroni David Quattrocchi Josh Tyson
The New Scheme is published quarterly. Feedback is encouraged, but letters are rarely, if ever printed
Photographers Xiaotung Duan Rich Gaccione Nicole Kibert Lauren Matulis Andrew Weiss
Cover Photo City of Ships by Nicole Kibert
Published By The New Scheme 325 Manhattan Ave. #1 Brooklyn, NY 11211 http://www.thenewscheme.com email@example.com
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Advertising rates, and review material deadlines are available on the website All contents are ÂŠ 2009, New Scheme Publishing Concern, All photos ÂŠ by each photographer
Beware of Safety
My Heart To Joy
pg 11 pg 15
Quieting Syrup :: THE NEW SCHEME ::
City of Ships
It happened again. Last issue, I decided to suspend the printed version of The New Scheme (previously known as, you know, the only version). The fact that it was a long-coming change didn’t make it much less painful. But there are, of course up-sides to the digital-only world. The biggest one is the lack of a printing bill. And so, as I’ve done before, I made big declarations about getting the next issue out (this one) almost right away (that was more than six months ago). And I’m here to make that same declaration again.
Editor’s Note :: ISSUE 20 ::
This time, I have a good excuse. Since the time that #19 came out, my life has changed in far more ways than it has stayed the same. I switched cities, jobs, outlooks, routines, and just about everything else. I miss a bunch of people in and around Denver, the lack of humidity, and being able to find a decent burrito. But most everything else has changed for the better. But moving crosscountry, on a shoestring budget was a difficult, draining, and timeconsuming project. In the process, this issue was pushed back, and pushed back again. But along the way, a lot was happening behind the scenes. The first thing is this all-new website. It was set up with simplicity in mind, though there will be some new features added over the next month or so. The digital mixtape is now available as a high-quality mp3 download, and soon as a podcast, in addition to the flash player. There will also be supplemental content added between issues, though the now-more-regular issues, will continue to be the focus of The New Scheme. Each issue will continue to have band features, and reviews as the bulk of the content. But the focus will slowly evolve, toward more of the substantive records and issues surrounding the looseknit world we’d like to think of ourselves as part of. The newest thing, whatever it is, is interesting. But The New Scheme is not just a list of links to whatever mp3s just leaked. There are blogs for that. The New Scheme is a magazine about music, and records, new and old. Finding the connections between that music and the people that are enthusiastic about it is all we will ever do. See you in November.
New Scheme Mixtape issue twenty
Majority Rule 49 Words
Celeste Comme pour leurrer...
from Emergency Numbers magicbulletrecords.com
from Misanthrope(s) denovali.com
My Heart To Joy Giving My Hands Away
This Town Needs Guns Baboon
from Seasons In Verse topshelfrecordings.org
from Animals sargenthouse.com
City Of Ships Wraiths In Flight
Mouthbreather The Night That Richmond Died
from Look What God Did To Us translationloss.com soundstudyrecordings.com
from Thank You For Your Patience kissofdeathrecords.com
Beware Of Safety The Supposed Common
Women Black Rice
from dogs mylenesheath.com
from Women ep flemisheye.com
Quieting Syrup Password to a Fort Full of Pills
Syrens The People vs. Mother Wolf
from Songs About A Sick Boy lovitt.com
from Syrens ep magicbulletrecords.com
Olehole Jukebox Creek
from The Clearing magicbulletrecords.com
from Holemole undercomm.bigcartel.com
Tigers Jaw Arms Across America
from Tigers Jaw prizonjazz.com
from Alchera denovali.com
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
This digital mixtape is available at www.thenewscheme.com as an embedded music player, downloadable ZIP file, or a Podcast 6
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My Heart To Joy 8
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C— Laurelin Matulis
Sincerity is the white whale of any community that’s even vaguely art-related. As subjective as it is rare, whether or not someone “means it” can, and should be a make-or-break proposition. Trying to explain the criteria is impossible—like pornography at the Supreme Court—you just have to know it when you see [or hear] it. Whatever it is, My Heart To Joy already have more of it than they know what to do with. Hailing from the cultural hotbed of Kensington, Connecticut, with an average age still on the cusp of their teens, the band was born My Heart To Joy at the Same Tone. What began as a two-person side-project, according to Alan Huck, half of MHTJ’s guitar/vocal contingent “with the intention of ripping off bands like Orchid,” quickly found two more members and its own direction. Much of what MHTJ are doing is heavily nostalgic for a time when the members were entering elementary school. Braid’s slightlyoblong melodies, the reckless vocal harmonies of early Piebald, and Samiam or Drive Like Jehu’s grimy sentimentality all collide. “I’m sure we all wish we were born 5-10 years earlier,” Huck even readily admits. But there is more than enough enthusiasm and urgency to make Seasons In Verse much more some musical flux capacitor, set for 1998. Not one of second during the record’s eleven songs is an idle time piece or simple rehash of a bygone sub-genre. Aside from their one, passing mention of Braid, the genre resurrection seems to be little more than a happy accident. Recorded live, with just vocals overdubbed, the production is crisp and clear, then loose and slightly dusty enough to gain traction. It’s full of vocal lines often begging for, and occasionally receiving, the full gangvocal treatment. Melodic guitar and vocal flourishes trade off, plentiful enough to keep things moving and far enough apart to maintain spontaneity. Seasons In Verse operates on a very common, straightforward, and ruthlessly effective arc. It opens slow, with a short instrumental track, before the short, immediate burst of “Empty Homes.” Three standout tracks fall right in the meaty, middle third of the record. “Worn Out Weather” is a near-perfect fifth track, a mid-tempo, windingly-melodic scorcher. Like Crank! Records’ heyday, though with youthful energy in place of jaded self-pity. “Giving My Hands Away” starts on the dramatic end, but without even a second worthy of any eye-rolling. It quickly finds its way to a breakdown that is simultaneously the most chaotic, and catchiest moment here. “Old Capitals” is a a dirtier, quicker take on the same theme, like Sunny Day Real Estate covering a Swing Kids song. It takes much less time here to land on a huge, monolithic breakdown. Wide-open, dramatic and victorious at the same time. Even if you aren’t sitting in the car, you’ll find yourself reaching over to roll the windows down. The record closes with “Watch Me Live,” a consistently loud and chunky ballad. It’s a closer to be sure, but hardly a quiet, passive ride into the sunset.
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C— Laurelin Matulis
When asked directly about the use of ‘the eword’ when describing their sound, it didn’t seem to be an issue for Huck in the least. Which is, frankly, a first for any band I’ve breathed it to in the last five or more years. It’s been years now since “emo” was on everyone’s lips. It’s just hard not to find MHTJ’s sound directly-tied to its heyday, as long-over as it may be. “There are some people who will fully understand the term [emo], but generally we’ll just describe ourselves as a ‘punk’ band—which I suppose is just as true.” Fucking A. This is isn’t some sort of “40 is the new 30” or “generation-whatever” hype. Seasons In Verse is probably the most thoroughly “punk” record I’ve heard this year, and it couldn’t possibly be less tied to The Ramones, or whoever the hell else.
It seems any plans for the record were far from grand, with a sincere ‘aww shucks’ element to anything that was mapped out at all. When asked about the approach to Seasons In Verse— as opposed to their rough, early efforts—Huck told me “I think the writing process was basically the same, although we tended to work towards more melody than previous stuff. The goal was just to do a full length and eventually there were enough songs to do so.” Modest hardly covers it. These kids set out to warm up their campsite and ended up burning down most of the forest. [Anderson] Seasons In Verse is available from:
www.topshelfrecords.org www.asbestosrecords.com www.myhearttojoy.com www.myspace.com/myhearttojoy Lauren Matulis Photography: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thisjaneisplain
C— Laurelin Matulis
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C— Rich Gaccione www.richgaccione.com
DIS APP EAR ER Being first to the party seems important, particularly in the constantly subdividing universe of a musical genre. No one who is paying close attention likes to waste time with bandwagon-hopping pretenders. This rush to find out who is doing the new thing is exponentially worse in the postmp3 world. Blogs after blogs, dedicate themselves solely looking for the newest thing. These “new” things almost always accomplish nothing more than throwing a thin layer of primer on the same thing that was already happening. If you really luck out, that primer is some bright color, or the same thing is maybe some old idea no one has rehashed in a year or two. Of course, there are gems to be found, but this fruitless effort to find the newest thing misses out on
much more than it discovers. The Clearing could not be a more perfect example. True to their moniker, Disappearer released a short, but intriguing EP on Trash Art in 2006 and then promptly vanished. Just as quickly, they reappeared earlier this year as The Clearing was being finalized. On first (and fifteenth) glance, they are playing thoughtful, heavy guitar music in a similar way to many, many bands before them. In fact, you could say that it was already a pretty worn path when they first travelled on it four years ago. That much is hard to debate. It’s also completely irrelevant in Disappearer’s case. First, the “thing” they are doing isn’t half as simple or definable as it seems with any quick mp3 fly-by. Second, every note on
The Clearing is too fierce and humungous to fit on whatever path it may seem to be following. As is the case with any record you’re bound to listen to more than four or five times, the devil is in the details. Disappearer take the corpse of stoner-metal and pick it clean of every extraneous, lazy or repetitive thing (and there are plenty). With only one
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guitar, the bass parts step up in a big way, and the two work together flawlessly. There are heavy, head-banging riffs and melodic flourishes, but more often, they present a mixture of the two. The vocals, and just barely off-center rhythm section harken to the best things about dark new wave—done without a single hand on a keyboard, or anything even slightly melodramatic. 11
In short, The Clearing is huge, heavy, melodic, punishing and catchy. All within the same record, and often all at the same time. They’ve done something completely refreshing, relevant and powerful, all within a tired sub-genre. What Disappearer are doing is not, and doesn’t ever strive to be “the new thing.” And I’m as thankful for that as you’ll be when you close the browser window and put on the record. [Anderson] This interview was conducted with bassist and vocalist Jebb Riley, just before The Clearing was released... Explain what has happened for and to Disappearer since you did the Trash Art EP four or five years ago. After we released the EP, we spent most of that time in our space writing new material. Since we had no concrete plans or dates to do another record it gave us the opportunity to spend a lot of time going in weird directions and exploring different ideas. You can usually chart a bands growth over the course of a few albums, but that happened for us over about three or four years without releasing anything. We parted ways with our original drummer, so for a while it was just Thomas and I writing songs... some fairly odd stuff. We wrote and arranged some songs with JR Connors from Cave-In/ Doomriders and then finally got together with our friend and current drummer Matt and ended up putting together The Clearing. All in all there was a lot of upheaval and uncertainty, and we were always being forced to re-assess our situation. There was always a wealth of material, but rarely an opportunity to go in and document it. We invariably ended up favoring the newer songs so there ended up being a shift between the EP and The Clearing but for us it totally made sense. How has your songwriting process changed, going from an instrumental band to one with prominent vocals much of the time? I think one of the goals in the early days was to have the song convey a certain mood without relying on lyrics of vocals. Plus, none of us were fully comfortable with taking up singing duties... so there you go. The climate eventually turned to one of experimentation. Rather than getting 12
bogged down in a sea of other bands doing the ‘instrumental metal’ thing not to mention repeating what we had already done, we figured it was a good time to try other stuff. I think I first got the idea when it was just Thomas and I writing together. He was playing drums instead of guitar and i was playing bass and writing parts on keys as well; we were just trying to challenge ourselves to keep from going insane because we didn’t have a drummer. I knew it would be hard, so I figured “why not take the plunge and see if I can do this”. We were getting better at producing ourselves and making brief, powerful songs rather than rambling 14 minute ones. The shorter jams sounded so much better with vocals, so we knew we were on the right track.
Many of your peers (at least in a broad sense) obviously have 4 or often 5 members. How do you think the more open sound of a trio helps or hurts your take on heavy music? What can you do that the average five or six member band can’t? What are the disadvantages, especially when it comes to pulling off everything live? I love being in a three piece. Each person is solely responsible for their instrument. However, it’s not really the fact that we are a three piece that we write the way we do. That probably has more to do with our respect for each others as musicians. That helps us in the long run because it’s not a run-of-the-mill “here’s the guitar riff: everybody back it up” or, “everybody do what I do” scenario. If you’re in a 6 piece it
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can be hard to get everybody to put aside their egos for two minutes while JUST the drummer is drumming or JUST the guitar is playing. We tend to serve the song rather than being show-offs. I’ve seen plenty of 3-piece bands where dudes are just stumbling over each other or not paying attention to their bandmates. I think all of our songs are written to be played live, with the exception of the last song on the record, but hopefully we’ll find a way to pull that one off. Bands should be more powerful live than on their albums: you don’t want to see a band and then go home thinking, “Ugh, should have just listened to the album.”
Did you consciously try to write a continual, cohesive record on The Clearing or did you mostly string together mostly separate songs? We wanted to write a full, well-rounded album and once we decided on a goal we really hit our stride and things started to work well. We edited a lot during the writing process; just axing stuff that didn’t work, but we weren’t afraid to take chances on stuff that we believed in. Ultimately it’s a record that WE feel very proud of and it’s nice that we finally passed that milestone. What is the plan, for the rest of the year now that The Clearing is out? We’re working on doing some touring. We have odd schedules so it’s tough to get out there as much as other bands, but we’re doing our best. We will be playing a show with our friends in Cave-In. They are ending their hiatus and have a new EP coming out. Good times. Obviously you are also in Doomriders, but other than that what do the band members have going on outside of the band?
Doomriders recently finished work on the second album, so I’ll most likely be hitting the road when that comes out this summer/ fall. Aside from that, I’ve been collecting songs that don’t really fit into either bands category but at the moment it’s pretty loose and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with them all. Matt’s been fairly busy with school lately. Have you started working on any new material? We have a handful of new songs that we’re working on and hopefully we’ll go and demo them shortly. One song we’re playing live. I’m stoked on the stuff because it’s definitely different than the last record but it still sounds like us. Hopefully a new record before long!
The Clearing is available from Magic Bullet: www.magicbulletrecords.com
Thomas has been working on some solo stuff. It’s hard to describe but I’d say it’s warm and atmospheric and sometimes heavy guitar-based stuff that doesn’t leave you feeling cheated after a listen like other ‘ambient’ artists I’ve heard. I know he’s collaborated with other people on ideas. I’m not sure what his plans are for it but I hope he does a record because the stuff I’ve heard is awesome.
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Quieting Syrup Adding to the canon of sad bastard music in any significant way is a daunting task these days, and one usually taken up by the self-involved. There’s no better way to meet a new, improved female than to publicly reveal each distressing detail about the last few. Stephen Howard has passively thrown his own hat into the ring under the Quieting Syrup moniker. Over the years, Howard has played in bass in Denali and then Ambulette, and maintained a spot on baritone guitar in the semi-active and legitimately under-appreciated Pinebender. He has also been carving out a living as a touring blues bassist. All this time, he’s been recording songs on his own. But, instead of idle post-relationship wondering/accusing, Howard’s sad songs tend to focus on something more tangible. He has struggled with a number of chronic medical problems since a young age. Most of Songs For A Sick Boy was written during, or in the breaks between hospital stays. In other words, Howard had a prescription for the drugs that were ruining his life and a legitimate reason to feel like the sky was falling. The result is fucking sad alright, sticking closely to a script that mixes solo/acoustic and wandering shoegaze. Basic, well-crafted guitar lines, subtly crucial drumming and
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unassumingly-melodic vocals populate every song. The distribution of each ingredient is even, but the songs still have plenty of individuality. This is partly due to the nature of the songwriting process. It took place over the course of more than a decade, before finally seeing the light of day. As with any powerful, but mellow record, it’s hard to break apart most of these songs to analize what’s going on inside them. Subtle interactions between the fragile vocals and tip-toeing guitar lines keep it moving. At times devastating, just as often catchy, and occasionally both, it’s best when it all collides at once. The best example is the towering eight minutes of “Goin For The Gold.” When Howard sings, “If I’m alive at 25, I’ll be surprised,” it isn’t some melodramatic hopelessness. It’s actually of a very literal observation. This sort of heavy and intensely personal subject matter is a blunt instrument, no matter how it’s wielded. But on Songs About A Sick Boy, Stephen Howard uses it to crush you slowly, deliberately and completely. Given some years since these songs were written, Howard seems to have a fresh outlook on a continuing cycle of health problems. The record is a bit of a time capsule, but a stark, poignant, and relevant one from beginning to end. [Anderson]
Explain a little about the general plot twists in your life, during the years these songs were being written.
How many Quieting Syrup shows have you played? Do you plan on continuing to do live shows?
Well, I really started writing songs while I was in college. I had been sick quite often since about the age of fifteen, but had not really thought about writing about it. While in college I was in a cock rock band where all the lyrics were jokes, very tongue-in-cheek. Pretty amazing though. At some point in between writing about mine or other peoples’ dicks, I started writing about more serious stuff. I ended up getting really sick and had to leave school. I was back living at my parents’ and was on all types of terrible medicine. That was about that time that I probably wrote most of this record.
I think I have done four shows as Quieting Syrup. I do plan on doing more, but I need to get a band together. Sometimes I drag my feet because I feel like nobody really wants to hear it and maybe the world does not need another band. But if I assemble the right people it should be super fun. I suspect I will ultimately just want to start playing covers though, if the band is great. Like I could play my song which is pretty good... or I could play Guided By Voices, “A Salty Salute” into 20 minutes of Funkadelics’s “Maggot Brain.” It’s these decisions that will probably keep success at a safe distance from Quieting Syrup.
Does it make it any easier to release such personal songs a few years after everything has happened?
Obviously, there is a really heavy context to all the songs on Songs About A Sick Boy. Would that make it tough for you to do future releases under the same name? Would/will they be similar?
No, not really. This record was made so long ago and the songs were written way before that. At this point it sometimes seems like someone else’s record cause if I made it now it would not sound anything like it does. I’d probably make it shittier now with more production. Or maybe it would sound more lush and beautiful. Maybe I wouldn’t even make it, we will never know. I don’t mind singing about personal stuff. But I can get insecure that my lyrics are basic and not poetic; just kind of matter of fact. The content does not scare me, it’s just my ability or inability to convey it.
I am and will always be sick. Since recording that record I have had a second septic infection that nearly took my life, four more hip replacements, many many bouts of random auto-immune bullshit... the list goes on. When I recorded Songs For A Sick Boy, I had probably three records worth of songs to pick from. So there is a backlog as well as new life material for songs. But they are not just all about sickness. There are also the two topics of loneliness and drug addiction. I am married now so I don’t write sad “please love me” songs and I am not on drugs. So, new material would be about sickness and maybe why my insurance won’t pay any of my bills
I understand that the songs were written over a long period. Were they all recorded during the same time? They were all recorded at the same time in my friend Greg’s basement. But yes, they were written over many years.
Why do you think the timing worked out the way it did with the record? How, exactly do you know when a set of songs you’ve been working on for so long is ‘done’?
What is the status of Pinebender these days? Do you still play in other bands, as well?
The timing worked out because: 1—I am lazy; 2— sometimes on drugs; 3—often sick; 4—had other bands like Denali and Ambulette taking most of my time (I had a major label recording deal with Ambulette right after finishing this record); and 5—I get insecure and decide its not good enough to release... then I eventually get over that. You just have to decide something is done or else you will just keep changing it.
We are playing this Saturday in Chicago. By the time this goes to print, “this Saturday” will be more like last month. So sucks for all y’all who were not there. Pinebender plays very infrequently, but when we do it’s one of the most enjoyable things I can think of. It’d be nice to make another record; it’s a long shot but still possible I suppose. Chris is like a hit factory. If we got motivated to practice I know that within like two weeks he’d have a new record worth of epic jams written. I also play in a band called Tight Phantomz. We have a record called Silk Prison which is finished and just looking for a home. Finally, I make a living playing in a blues band called Mississippi Heat. We travel a lot.
Songs About A Sick Boy available from Lovitt: www.lovitt.com
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Originally from Northern Florida, it didn’t take City Of Ships long to transplant into their adopted home of Richmond, Virginia. Consistently known as a breeding ground for post-hardcore bands of many shapes and sizes, Richmond has really hit its stride the last decade or so. It’s hardly a surprise that brothers Eric and Andrew Jernigan—City Of Ships’ guitarist and bassist respectively—decided to put down roots along the James. Two early, eyeopening EPs [later put together on Live Free Or Don’t last year] mixed dynamic posthardcore with vaguely-Southern metal and melodic rock. After getting a foothold further up the coast from Florida, they headed further north to Brooklyn to record their first proper full-length with Andrew Schneider. Having worked with Cave In, Daughters, Keelhaul, and Pelican, Schneider specializes in helping mostly-heavy bands show off both ends of their personalities. It seemed a perfect choice for City Of Ships, and the result, Look What God Did To Us refines the ideas of their early EPs into a cohesive, nuanced record. At times, it sounds a bit like every era of Cave In all at the same time. This sounds like a recipe that would be messy at best, but City Of Ships turn it into a surprisingly solid foundation. A “siblings as a naturally-cohesive unit” is an obvious, played-out story line, used on every band with matching last names. Is that any different than the two people who have been friends forever? What about a married couple? But, like every cliché, this one is both annoying and true. In this case, the brothers Jernigan have an obvious shared wavelength, though exactly what it is varies from moment to moment. The riffs are strong, though often shortlived and loosely stitched together. Instead, Eric (and sometimes Andrew’s) vocals, the guitar, and the bass parts all share the spotlight in even proportions. A rotating cast of drummers haven’t hindered the band, and on record, the drumming isn’t often a focal point, nor is it a weak link. Each of prominent section of each song has a loose, but never sloppy, jammed-out feeling to it. I hesitate to even use ‘the j-word’ as none of this is longwinded, or self-indulgent. It’s never either. But the natural flow to many of the riffs and especially the transitions between them (the easiest hurdle to trip over) are obviously the
result of open-ended, but finite repetition. True to their Southern roots, there is a fistin-the-air rock and roll feel to every second of the record. But it almost never makes its way to the front of the stage. Posthardcore may encompass a lot of things these days, and City Of Ships seem to have sorted through most of them. The result is a thoughtfully-reckless collection of the best things about thinking man’s metal and intellectually and emotionally-intense rock music. [Anderson] Explain how the band first formed, and the reasons for your relocation to Richmond. In late 2005 one of my best friends and I were looking for a new creative outlet, so we smoked a lot of weed and recorded instrumental improv sets on a cassette deck a few nights a week. Eventually we
invited my brother to play with us, started crafting some songs from the riffs we found most interesting, and the rest fell into place pretty naturally. There wasn’t any firm plan to tour and record initially, but our friends were genuinely interested in our music so it made sense to get out there and play as much as possible. We were all finishing up (or dropping out of) some level of college at that time, so it was either do the band seriously or sell our lives away to shitty jobs. The decision was pretty easy. The Richmond move happened primarily because we needed to get the fuck out of Northwest Florida, where we spent most of our formative years. The climate in that area of the deep south isn’t conducive to the music we love, whereas Richmond is a veritable breeding ground for it. I met Tim who runs Forcefield Records in 2004 while on tour with my old band and we kept
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in touch over the next few years. He knew we were looking for a change, and after solidifying our friendship through a series of awesome times together in 2006 and early 2007, he offered us a couple of available rooms at the Bonezone, the house where he was living and putting on basement shows. It was clear immediately that we made a good choice, cause all the people we met there were and are top notch. It’s a truly vibrant city. Did you approach the writing of the songs on Look What God Did To Us differently than you had on your previous, shorter releases? I think we came at these songs a bit differently, yeah. The EPs were written in the band’s infancy, so we laid down everything we had in an effort to capture the strengths 19
of the band in a concise package. Like I said, a lot of those songs were born from jam sessions before we’d even figured out what we were going for. I don’t remember giving as much thought to the flow of those releases, both in terms of the relationships of songs to one another and track order. With the full-length we knew we had more room to let the songs breathe. But that came with an obligation to ensure the record would hold our attention, were we the ones listening to the full 40 minutes of it. How and why did you end up recording with Andrew Schneider? It was as simple as an email, a few phone calls, and the dude being amazingly flexible and able to meet us in the middle of an insane string of bad luck. He had great references and we love tons of albums he’s worked on, so we got in touch with him. He wasn’t familiar with us, but he checked out some older material and expressed interest in working on the album. Three months after finishing the project I can’t think of another producer I would rather have worked with.
Do you have a drummer after your European tour at this point? How much do you think a member change might affect the songs you’ve just finished? A few friends have expressed interest in touring with us, but none can commit to the band permanently. Andrew and I have already started fielding Spinal Tap references on the road, so I hope we can fill the vacancy soon. I’m extremely happy with the drumming on the new album, but it’s not so inimitable that we won’t be able to move forward with a new member. In fact, the drummer we’re currently playing with is not on any of our recordings and he’s doing an awesome job. Are there any parts or songs on the new record that you have to change live to make them work with just the trio? We took some liberties with textures and layering in the studio, particularly with vocal harmonies, but I feel confident in our ability to reproduce the songs live in a compelling manner. Most of them were written months before we actually went to record, so we had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted
from the recording process. Andrew Schneider focuses heavily on bringing out the best aspects of bands’ live sounds, and that was exactly what we were after. What is the plan following the big European tour this summer? Is the record being released there? Ideally we’ll do a full US tour in the fall. No Idea invited us again to do the Fest 8 in Gainesville, FL so the tour will probably coincide with that somehow. We’ve also got a few offers on the table to do collaborations and split releases with some friends’ bands, but it’s not worth announcing until we actually write the material. These things have a tendency to fizzle out or take ages to actually complete. We aren’t working with any European labels currently. Fortunately both Translation Loss and Sound Study have great distribution so it looks like the vinyl and CDs will be available overseas, albeit not as widely as in the states. Your songs seem similar in some ways to many more metal-oriented bands. But your approach seems, at least to me, rooted as much or even more in older
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Dischord or even No Idea bands. Were you all influenced by one more than the other before you started the band? My brother (Andrew, bass player) and I write an equal share of the music, which partially accounts for the amalgamation of genres our sound has become. On tour we hear the most wild comparisons from people: “Y’all sound just like...” And more often than not it’s a band we either have never heard or aren’t huge fans of. We grew up listening to all the same albums, but we’re developing more unique tastes as we get older. Andrew is into a lot of metal and dark ambient sounds while I gravitate more toward driving rock and soaring melody, so your observation is pretty much dead on. Still I think we have an equal share of influence from nearly all forms of heavy underground music.
Look What God Did To Us is available from: www.translationloss.com www.soundstudyrecordings.com All photos by Nicole Kibert © www.elawgrrl.com
Beware of Safety
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A serious glut of instrumental, post-metal bands have been appearing more rapidly every year of the new century. It seems obvious that the whole genre is about due to be enter its important herd-thinning period. It usually happens gradually—and sometimes painfully—with plenty of pretension to go around. But this process is an important one for any sub-genre hoping to gain long-term survival. Every sixteen year-old kid can thank an earlier generation for undertaking this collective process. It’s the reason that they don’t have to sit through Anti-Flag before getting to London Calling. No more dry humping with with all the hangers-on, before honing in on the strongest specimens. LA’s Beware of Safety have stamped their ticket well into the later rounds of any genre purging with dogs; their massive second record. But, they seem totally exempt from the whole charade anyway. First, their music is more heavily-rooted in Pink Floyd’s precise grandeur than any post-Neurosis bong/riff session. They have the dynamic, instrumental part of it going, though any influence from metal is incidental; three or four degrees of separation away. Secondly, while only one member grew up there, Beware of Safety is based in Los Angeles. This grants them a geographical exemption from much of the sub-genre as well. They couldn’t really be further from any of the stronger scenes for instrumental rock music. Right in the middle of the land of two or three million aspiring front-men, and they never went looking for one. All members of Beware of Safety’s three-guitar core originally met in and around Boston. At the tail end of the 1990s, Steve Molter and Adam Kay filled the guitar contingent in a band called Chambers. The band, according to Molter, “sounded kind of like Tool or Pearl Jam...” Both were generally not feeling it and quit the band after a handful of shows. After all this, with college finished and no
band, both Molter and Kay relocated to Los Angeles. By the Fall of 2003, they had begun piecing together a new project from the opposite corner of the country. While the two were trying out people to form this new band, mutual friend Jeff Zemina also ended up in LA. Zemina, was a guitarist as well, so Beware Of Safety was born as a trio. Of guitars. By 2005, they had added drummer Morgan Hendry,—also from the Northeast—though they connected in LA through Craigslist. This configuration wrote and recorded their debut EP, It Is Curtains an then dogs, before the eventual addition of bassist Tad Piecka earlier this year. The addition of Piecka will alter Beware of Safety’s sound, though the lack of bass did not hurt their approach on dogs. There are hints of Pink Floyd’s atmospheric rock, with Explosions in the Sky’s, no-nonsense, melodic-but-never-poppy guitar lines in everything BofS does. But they manage, even without a bass player, to present an imposing wave of sound as well. Any era of Mogwai will come to mind, though in form more than function. This is, at its core, what Beware of Safety is all about. It’s heavy, but never metal. Ambitious and cinematic, but never theatrical or over-the top. There are huge dynamic and tempo shifts in almost every song, but they rarely happen suddenly or arbitrarily. A careful attention to detail is obvious, though the more than an hour of dogs took even longer to construct than you might guess: “... over the course of all of 2008, basically. We recorded the drums in one weekend at the end of 2007, which seemed insane but Morgan pulled it off. And then we recorded guitars and everything else off and on from January until June of 2008. Then we were mixing and mastering from June until October. We have realized over the last three and a half years that when we give ourselves an unlimited amount of time to do something, we will take up that unlimited amount of time. We spent a lot of time on our first record, but we still recorded it very shotgun. We didn’t use click tracks, we just sort of jammed it. But on dogs we really wanted to get serious about it. We did a lot of pre-production and ended up basically recording the whole record twice– first on our own and then with our engineer. We didn’t really want it to take a year, but it did and we realized it was taking a long time about halfway through but decided we didn’t want to rush it.” For better and worse, at least 90% of similar bands to Beware Of Safety can be traced directly back to one of two things; either a real ambient, Godspeedstyle thing, or right back to Neurosis. Sometimes it’s some combination of the two, but it’s rarely neither. BofS certainly have elements of both, but you don’t fall into either camp in a meaningful way... “That’s a good observation, we really don’t have any metal elements, at least not to my knowledge. There are a couple times where we get pretty heavy, but it’s more like a slow-rolling heavy. I wanted to write instrumental music from the time I left Chambers in Boston. Dealing with singers just became a bit too much for me. I felt the stereotype of ‘the singer’ too much. Not that our singer really :: THE NEW SCHEME ::
fell into that, but I felt it becoming something I didn’t want to deal with anymore. Kay and Jeff were on board with that when I brought it up to them. So we continued from there and it became it’s own beast. And one of the things for me as far as influences go, I have direct influences from instrumental rock, especially Do Make Say Think and Mogwai, or even MONO. These were all bands that I discovered, sort of by accident back in the early part of the decade. I stumbled on them and really liked the atmosphere and what they were doing... But guitar-wise, I grew up on Seattle. I was 13 when Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana were all crushing people. So I was part of that, and Pearl Jam became my favorite band along with Tool. I really love Adam Jones’ guitar work in Tool, I was hugely influenced by Tom Morello too when he didn’t suck. And I know for Kay and Jeff, we all had sort of a similar, mainstream introduction to guitar. For the band, what we really try to do is just be dynamic. We don’t want to be heavy all the time or really quiet all the time because that obviously gets boring for us. We try to do things that are different than what each of us
is used to playing, even though we are each playing the same instruments. In so doing, we all take different roles. We just want to be as dynamic and as direct as possible.” It’s interesting—but hardly surprising— that only the new bass player is actually from LA. Almost every element of dogs has its roots somewhere east of the Mississippi. When I asked Molter if they had found a lot of like-minded bands in and around LA the last few years, he didn’t have to think too long to add them all up... “One: Signal Hill. We share a rehearsal space with them and those guys are like our brothers, but they’re the only other one. That’s something I really like about doing an instrumental band in LA, is that no one else is really doing it right now. Red Sparowes are from here, but I don’t really see them playing much. So it’s nice to know that when Beware of Safety and Signal Hill have a show, that’s basically it for instrumental rock in LA. We could be in Chicago or Boston or wherever and it would be cool because there are great instrumental bands out there, but we feel sort of on an island out here.” The whole ‘singer syndrome’ Molter had already mentioned fits with most of the stereotypes about LA. As a band, they have consciously tried to avoid this whole phenomenon, while arguably living in the center of a city based on it. “The thing we’re doing is completely the opposite of what people would think would be coming out of LA. People stereotype LA all the time. I see it when we go on tour and even when I go home to Massachusetts to visit. People have this stereotype that Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards are LA and that’s it. But I live in West LA and I work in Santa Monica, this town is gigantic and there’s so much going on musically and artistically. But the problem is that people just skim over LA, because it’s LA. I’m sure there’s the same stereotype about New York being just Manhattan or Times Square or whatever. But what we’re doing really does contradict the stereotype of LA.” When asked about record labels, in the supposedly ‘post-label’ era, Molter was quick to credit all the help they’ve gotten, even recently from their label, the Mylene Sheath. “For us, it’s been a huge help. There :: ISSUE 20 ::
are bands at this point that don’t need labels, that’s for sure. They have that automatic fan base. I don’t know how the hell it happens, and I don’t understand how they get so many plays on their MySpace or whatever without it. But for us, The Mylene Sheath has a been a huge catalyst for us. They took such a burden off of us, especially on dogs. They were just starting out when they originally contacted us and told us that they just wanted to put out Curtains on vinyl. They paid for all of it, and wanted to just talk about doing something in the future. I remember talking to Joel for the first time, and all we really talked about was how awesome the community was that we were both involved in. His sort of hidden reason for doing the label was to just be involved with, and friends with the people in the bands he liked. And there’s nothing more pure than that, it’s the greatest. So I told the guys, and they were down. They did Curtains for free, and then just gave us our tour copies. So that was our introduction to Mylene Sheath, and to their generosity as business people. When we began to talk about dogs we just drew up a one-record contract and went back and forth about the specifics. But at the end of the day, they were taking on a huge burden of pressing it and all the artwork. We just put it together and handed it all over to them to deal with. So we could focus our time, energy, and most importantly our money on recording the album. For us, they were our lifeline and still are. They are such a huge part of what we’re doing and how we’re getting out there. They’ve given us a lot of exposure, especially now. They are working with a ton of bands, like Gifts From Enola who are getting a lot of play, or Actors & Actresses and Caspian. It’s just all these bands that are also moving in the right direction. Caspian especially, I love those dudes and now they’re our labelmates and it’s pretty flattering to be able to call them that. Without The Mylene Sheath, none of this would be possible. [Anderson]
Dogs available from Mylene Sheath www.mylenesheath.com All photos © Andrew Weiss www.andrew-weiss.com 23
New Scheme Classics:
Majority Rule — Emergency Numbers C—Ines L.
Since hatching this hardly-original idea (with an appropriately hardly-original name) for a “Classics” feature in each issue, deciding a record to feature never happens the same way twice. The first couple were more “obvious” choices, at least in the minds of the staff. This time, I heard that Magic Bullet Records was gearing up to reissue the vinyl version of its two proper Majority Rule records. The rest of it became an obvious choice pretty fucking quickly. Interviews With David Frost was a stunning, intense, even crucial record. It was followed by Emergency Numbers, which is better. Zach used the word “flawless” and he’s right. 24
Hailing from the DC area, on either end of the change in centuries, Majority Rule ran with a crowd that were serious business. Pg.99 were their most consistent partner in crime, though Darkest Hour, Waifle, Crestfallen, City of Caterpillar, and Corn On Macabre were all in the wings as well. All had a take on heavy music that relied more on intensity than toughness. Hugs and high fives over mosh pits (though there were plenty of those, I’m sure). All had their moments, captured in countless releases. But at the time, and even more so since, the six songs on Emergency Numbers are something bigger. Calling them post-hardcore’s secretly-defining
moment would be hyperbole. But probably not inaccurate. It might also be giving the idea of “post-hardcore” too much credence. Emergency Numbers is about more than that. It was three guys in a sea of friends, many of whom made up the bands listed above. In the process, they just managed to make one of the most intense, wide-ranging hardcore records of any era or sub-genre. While we’re summing up big things in short paragraphs, let’s cut right to the chase. Every second of the six songs on Emergency Numbers helps tell a story. Some of them tell a story on their own. But the epic, top of the mountain moment that
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is the last third of “49 Words” sums up why I got so interested in heavy music in the first place. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. The last minute of that song is worth the thousands of hours you spent suffering through lame hardcore bands in nowhere towns. Or digging through new and old records, chasing the dragon that is the first moment you really “felt it” from any aggressive music. That, as they say, is “it”. If one kid (young or old) discovers Emergency Numbers now, and feels anything even close to that, it’s all been worth it. [Anderson]
Brent Eyestone, Magic Bullet Records Explain how you met the guys from Majority Rule?
Now this is a classic album. Majority Rule were a band that always felt like they were from somewhere other than the world we’re used to here. Sure, it was man-made guitars and drums making those sounds, but there was always a special dynamic there. The first time you hear Majority Rule, it’s a similar feeling to that scene in Event Horizon when the crew first listens to the transmission from the lost ship: “How fucked are we?” Really, these three guys managed to put together one of the most incredible albums of the century thus far. In the early 2000s, there were only about five million bands aping this sound, but very few could ever pull it off this well. Metallic rock with screamed vocals that, despite any sonic abstractions, was 100% punk rock. There was a real sincerity to these songs that a lot of their contemporaries sorely lacked. Kevin and Matt’s vocals are remarkably scathing, yet so compelling and interesting.
When either of them goes off, it’s exciting. Vicious, even. But there’s a lot of heart behind those teeth, and when you sit down with Emergency Numbers you realize how important of an album it really is. It’s a fierce piece of work, and it really did set the bar for other bands playing any similar style. Everyone likes to get up with their friends and wail and yelp into a microphone, but Majority Rule showed how to really create something of substance. Perhaps that’s why so many of those early-century “screamo”—and I use that word with an ugh—acts have already managed to find their way into the dollar bins before the next decade has even begun. When every one of us is old and weak and can’t remember what half of this nonsense was even about, I’d love to put on “A Prescription” and remind myself exactly how good it felt to be young and alive.
I had always seen them around DC shows... especially Frodus shows. They also had a tape and a few 7”s floating around at the time... I think the split with Positive State was the first thing I picked up. The packaging was great and I remember thinking that the guy who designed/screened it must be pretty sweet. I guess you could say that we knew about each other via mutual friends and just general awareness... the hardcore scene was pretty small and tight back then. This was all around late 1998, when I moved back to the DC area after college. I took a job at a CD broker and, about a year in, Kevin (bass) came in to drop off their latest demo for duplication before their summer U.S. tour. What I heard on that thing really knocked me on my ass. To this day, it is still one of the greatest demos I’ve ever heard. It must have been around this time that full-on friendships took their roots. Our bands would play together and there was a lot of hanging out going on. Things just sort of fell into place from there. Interviews With David Frost was originally slated for Schematics Records (Steve from Assück’s label), but a chain of events happened while the band was recording and I ended up with it on Magic Bullet. Probably a testament to how close we had all become as friends more than anything else. Do you remember what your first impressions of Emergency Numbers were, when you first heard the songs recorded? Emergency Numbers was a very wellplanned album in many ways. We were always very organized and worked way in advance of their records being released and/or one of their tours being booked. I think that had everything to do with living a block away from Matt for the duration
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of the band and even being around each other for work... hell, Kevin was even sleeping in my garage at the time - ha! So in that regard, I already knew the material both forward and backward by the time they went up to Outpost to put it on tape. We booked something like four or five days to get it tracked and mixed. They had it done in just over two—that’s how dialed they had the material by the time they were to record it. That being said, I still remember the very first time I heard the mixes. Matt drove straight from the studio over to Maha (his then-girlfriend, now wife)’s parents’ place in Chantilly. I met them over there and we all piled into Maha’s car to listen to it on her stereo. It was a very emotional experience for me and I know that Maha was equally moved by what we were hearing. We knew first-hand what drove the band to make those sounds and write those lyrics and we were already extremely proud of Matt, Kevin, and Pat for basically revitalizing DC at the time and really representing the area well to the outside world. So to hear six more songs from our guys, seeing the cathartic satisfaction in Matt’s face, and knowing what was ahead of them (more U.S. and European touring), it just made me really proud to be both alive and a part of their band. Where did you think they fit in musically, around that time, (compared to similar bands (musically or geographically)? They really got lumped in with the whole “screamo” thing going on in the early 00’s. I guess that’s only because the genre was super en vogue then and they were one of the best things going. Everyone wanted to claim them. But anyone around at the time can attest that Majority Rule was truly something above and beyond. They ALWAYS had their levels dialed in perfectly at each show and they just had this... whallop that nobody they were playing with could ever seem to figure out. 25
knew who their audience was, we knew where the tour was going to hit, we knew what stores it was going to be in. It was all very manageable at that point... the product of 3-4 years of working hard together on their other records. The only thing we didn’t/couldn’t account for was that 2003 in some ways was the point where filesharing really caught on. I was basing my pressing numbers on how well Interviews... did and over-pressed initially. It’s since evened out of course, but that was definitely the year that most labels just had no clue what was going on with CD sales trends. I remember being so frustrated over not knowing exactly how many people had the album. What place do you think it holds in the grand scheme of Magic Bullet?
Why was Kevin’s bass tone so huge? How the hell did Matt pull off all of those guitar parts and melodies while screaming? Why didn’t a little, malnourished guy like Pat just spontaneously combust beneath the weight of those extended epileptic-yet-pinpointprecise flurries behind the drums? It never really made sense how all of that came from three people. I’d say locally and abroad, they just always favored real friendship in terms of whom they aligned with at shows and beyond. Locally, it was always some combination of Majority Rule, pg.99, Crestfallen, Waifle, Darkest Hour, City of Caterpillar, Darkest Hour, Strike Anywhere, Corn on Macabre, etc. at their shows. Same when they’d hit the road... how many 26
people saw Majority Rule and pg.99 on the same show? Most people didn’t see one without the other. I guess in that regard, it was always insular in terms of how it was done, but they definitely weren’t stand-offish toward people when they traveled. Quite the opposite. At the same time, there were a ton of opportunities to tour with much larger bands and align with much larger labels... but the guys knew exactly what they wanted and what mattered to them. It always boiled down to friendship. Very simple. I remember panicking greatly over who was courting them at the time of Emergency Numbers. I even went so far as to draft up this extensive outline of what I could “counter-offer” to these other labels, followed by a formal
dinner where I could present my case. When I was done, all three paused, looked at each other, and then burst into hysterical laughter... followed by “Dude, do you honestly think we’d ever do a record with anyone else?” I remember being humbled by that statement and realizing that these guys were cut from a completely different cloth than most any band I’ve ever encountered. What were you expectations for the record, before and then after it was completed? All I was ever concerned about was whether or not the guys would be able to realize their own vision for the record and have it turn out exactly how they wanted it to be. At the time of Emergency Numbers, we already
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I always get a really nice, warm feeling when I think about Majority Rule’s impact and influence on both the label and myself. I don’t get to see those guys nearly as much as we used to back then, but when we do see each other, I always get this sense of pride for what they were able to do with their band and, more importantly, how we were able to do it. If I could bottle it, I’d jab IV’s of it into the veins of every band I’ve worked with since. Scratch that... I’d jab it into any human being I’ve encountered since. Maybe the world would be a happier, more responsible place. What was the quintessential MR lyric? “I’d trade it all in for late nights and impossible dreams.” My roommate/Majority Rule’s roadie (Brian) got that tattooed on his chest and we made it the back cover of Emergency Numbers. That’s how we lived it and how I still apply it. It saved me and taught me what’s important in this journey. Why have you decided to repress it now? Is it one of the titles you will continue to try and keep in print? The CD has always been in print, but the LP has been gone for quite a few years. I always knew I’d bring it back at some point... I guess that time is now. I definitely intend to keep the LP around with more regularity from here out. And don’t tell anyone, but I’m hoping that the re-release of the LP’s will make the band feel obligated to set up and cut loose just one more time for the DC folks...
Matt Michel Guitar/Vocals, Majority Rule Explain a little about what was happening with the band between when Interviews with David Frost came out and Emergency Numbers. Man I wish my memory was better. Between those two records we did a full US, and full European tour. We put out the split with Pg.99. I was still in school so that took up a lot of my time. Some of the record was written in DC where Pat and Kevin lived and it was finished out in Vienna VA where I lived at the time. How long did you spend recording? Was there anything drastically different between then and earlier recording sessions you’d done?
I don’t remember exactly, around a week. The main difference about the recording was we travelled to do it. Up until that point we had always recorded locally. We went up near Boston to record with Jim Siegel on Brian McTernan’s recommendation. We stayed above the studio and got a little stir crazy. What role did the bands you guys were sort of intertwined with at the time (Pg.99, Crestfallen, etc.) have on your sound, or how you conducted the band? I don’t think they had effect on the sound but they definitely helped us tour and play more. I would say 75% of the touring we did we did with PG99. They were a pretty inspirational group of guys and always made things interesting. Do you consider Emergency Numbers to be an EP? No I don’t. I don’t think record length was something we thought too much about. Listening back to the record it feels like its the right length and the songs are meant together.
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At what point during the making of the record did you start thinking about the artwork? I started taking the photos for the record before we recorded. Brent from Magic Bullet and I had talked about how we wanted the layout to work. So I started trying to compile a group of photos that worked as we wrote the songs. How long did you spend working on it? Did the other guys have much/any say in the way it turned out? Most of the time I spent on the layout was just taking the photos, developing and printing. Other than that the layout is pretty simple. I showed the other guys what I was working on while I did it but they kind of let me have free reign to do whatever. What were your expectations for the record, around the time it came out? No expectations. Just to keep playing and touring. Hoped to reach some new places and people. Is it important to you at this point, that it is being repressed and is staying in print? As long as people want to hear it I would love for it to stay in print. Im glad Magic Bullet has kept up with it. I’m still as proud of those records as the day we did them.
Emergency Numbers has been repressed on Magic Bullet: www.magicbulletrecords.com
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Actors & Actresses
Actors & Actresses are from Kansas City, though I feel like I could have guessed it before I double-checked. KC has never really had a specific, definable sound when it came to rock music. But A&A have a strong, almost overwhelming Shiner/ Life And Times vibe going on. They fill a ton of space for a trio, without ever being even remotely heavy. In fact, some of the songs seem to drift by, but never in a complacent or light way. It’s like huge, post-metal, but with melodic shoegaze vocals and a couple Valium after all the bong rips—slowed down, but still complex. Something that’s usually “crushing” is more like “soothing,” with just a few details switched around. Overall, it works. They leave out the meandering electronics or winding guitar parts and (most importantly) the tortured vocals that can ruin similar, dreary bands. But they also don’t put quite enough to grab onto, at least on the first handful of listens. It’s there, but a bit too buried in some ways. “Hello Tornado” is the big highlight, which, fittingly, is toward the end of the record. I bet this either really works or really doesn’t live, which will probably decide how people go into a record like Arrows. If you go in looking for something, you’ll find plenty of it. If you’re waiting for it to come and find you, you’ll probably wait for a while and then wander off. [Anderson] www.mylenesheath.com
Amber Asylum is the long-running moniker for Kris Force—as frontwoman, songwriter and producer—and a rotating cast of supporting musicians. Her voice is easily the most memorable thing about Amber Asylum’s recordings, though it’s not always front and center on Bitter River. Thanks, in part to past collaborations with Neurosis and Swans, her haunting, free-form vocals could be compared to Jarboe (who makes a “narrative cameo” here as well). Force also plays violin, viola and cello, in addition to all the production and arrangement. It seems that Force’s ‘day job’ is soundtrack work for film and video games, which isn’t surprising after even a brief listen to Amber Asylum. There is an obvious, soundtrack quality to everything here, though it’s much more than simple background music. The word “haunting” is bound to come up a lot with this project, and it’s as accurate as it is incomplete. There is much that is sparse and, well, haunting about the slow, layered journey here. But there is also delicate and thoughtful neo-classical noodling going on as well, especially on “Winter Winds.” Even there, the high, winding vocals threaten to dominate your attention, despite the strong, almost quaint minstrel classical backing. Amber Asylum is at its best when it finds a happy medium between the cold, haunting elements and the more traditional, post-classical side. This is clearest on “Auger of Thrall,” which builds slowly and steadily, into a cold, complex place that most any black metal band would kill to find. Very little here is going to be something you’ll want to put on every day. But it’s a surprising and varied album, covering a lot of time and even more ground. Allusions to misty forests or long, strange walks just before dawn are cheesy, but sort of inevitable. The construction of most every element of Bitter River is complete and deep, making it a perfect headphone album. Somewhere between epic music piece and strange, winding sound installation, Kris Force and company have nailed it.
Stuart Anderson // Pat Dixon // David Quattrocchi // Zach Moroni // Michael Flatt // Josh Tyson // Joseph Birone
Ala Muerte Santa Elena
Ambient, ethereal, visceral, raw and polished; Ala Muerte is Bianca Bibiloni. Just Bianca—she does everything on Santa Elena. Keyboards, vocals, guitar, bass, mixing bowl, drums, a traditional Puerto Rican instrument, you name it. Hell, she even throws in a couple recorders—remember the stuff we had to learn to play in elementary school? Bianca puts it all into her record, and it’s brilliant. Oh yeah, she also harmonizes vocals with herself (also excellent). Spacey, atmospheric, and tense, Santa Elena is an excellent debut. Songs melt in and out of each other, taking you through a journey within and without. I can’t really tell you which songs are better than others, because they’re so entwined it’s tough to separate them. However, the album does seem to work its way to the finale, with “Fireweed” being the only song that has drums. It’s really a fantastic debut—a little bit of everything in here, focusing mainly on atmospheric elements and raw emotion. An incredibly interesting debut, check this out! [Dixon] www.publicguilt.com
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Anchor Arms Cold Blooded
Sometimes, it’s so damn refreshing when a band keeps it nice and simple. They don’t try writing complicated breakdowns; no needless guitar noodling through the verses; the melodies are catchy without being trite; everything just clicks, and it sounds effortless. To that end, Gainesville’s Anchor Arms gives us Cold Blooded, where the only thing that could have used a little more effort is the album title (Cold Blooded? Really?). But let’s not pick the thing apart, they’ve created a very good album with little to no filler. At nine tracks, this album is so concise it barely gives the listener time to criticize the
elements. There’s plenty to enjoy, though. To begin with, singer/bassist James Austin has a gifted voice that rarely needs accompaniment; when he is backed up, it usually sounds like a double effect on his own voice. This guy has such a gift for melody and putting together simple and memorable vocal lines that I am sure he has taken some material the band has felt lukewarm about and made it into a salvageable music. Probably the strongest element of the band is an ability to craft choruses as if they were the original Misfits. Now, this is not to say that Anchor Arms sound anything like the Misfits, but the good-choruses-per-song ratio is about 1:1. “Cold Blooded” and “Poison Arrows,” are great examples of this. “Girl and a Glacier,” the third track is the first glimpse of the utter magnificence of this group. His lyrics, though good, are largely eclipsed by his ability to deliver them, a rare skill that allows him to be vague and still evoke lower levels of pathos. By the time you get to the penultimate track, “Good Dead Me,” this album is already demanding multiple plays. Though Anchor Arms surely weren’t writing the lyrics for “Good Dead Me” as a portent for their band, you can take the pre-chorus line, “We all know just where we’ll go/please just keep an eye on us,” as notification of good things waiting to happen for these guys. [Quattrocchi] www.failsafe-records.com
Thresholds Of Imbalance Almost half a decade as an active band, Thresholds of Imbalance is Battlefields’ debut full length. I remember liking both of Battlefields’ previous EPs, but rarely putting on either after writing the reviews. There is much more to mull over on Thresholds of Imbalance, which covers just over an hour with nine tracks. I’m sure the guys in the band get tired of hearing it, but the fact is that Oceanic-era Isis is still their guiding light musically. Muddy production—whether intentional or not—helps to give it a classic doom feel. As on each EP, their strength is the transitions between quiet and loud parts. Often, this is where their peers’ songs tend to lose steam, tripping over themselves during big shifts in dynamics. But it’s Battlefields’ strong point. Using tasteful, gritty analog electronics here and there, they manage to make even the most abrupt shifts seamless. Along the way, a few things about Thresholds Of Imbalance do start to lose me. The vocals sometimes feel forced, even by genre standards. They work some of the time, but often the heavier screams land somewhere between being a little much and a little comical. Their songs—again, unlike many peers—tend not to be strictly riff-based, which is refreshing. They obviously put a lot of time into each of the sections. But the whole record seems to be in exactly the same, slow tempo. This gives the heavier parts a really sludgy feel, especially on “The Thresholds,”
driving the point home. It works much of the time, but after an hour, it can start to feel like sludgy wallpaper. [Anderson] www.translationloss.com
Variable Speed Drive (Reissue) Cable has been around—seemingly— forever. Variable Speed Drive is their original 1996 recording, re-released on Translation Loss Records. Cable was one with bands like Botch, early Coalesce, and much of the noisy hardcore that was starting up in the mid-1990s. Variable Speed Drive has a lot of great off-beats, dissonant guitars, and the scream that I’ve always associated with Cable. This is a great disc for fans of the old school hardcore/noise—early Cave In, Boy Sets Fire, etc. This reissue also contains three bonus tracks, “Plastic,” “Chained,” and “Flowers & Funerals.” [Dixon] www.translationloss.com
Joey Cape Bridge
Joey Cape has always seemed an introspective, songwriter-type of musician. Lagwagon is a different beast from its peers on the whole. Their brand of punk is heavily technical when it wants to be, eschewing pop-punk criteria for ninety-degree turns into challenging time signatures, acoustic passages, and Cape’s uniquely personal lyrics. Even when Lagwagon veered toward the safer side of the Fat Wreck songwriting establishment, Cape’s melody lines and ability to deliver louder, shouting vocals mixed with more sensitive belting tied the entire Lagwagon catalog together. Considering this, we now get Cape’s first solo album—a captain without his crew—it’s safe to assume Cape can steer this project into pleasant waters. And damn it, that’s pretty much what the whole thing is: pleasant. Cape sticks to an unplugged setup the entire album, usually with no accompaniment; just voice and guitar. No problem, except the songs are dry and—regrettably— forgettable. Bridge begins promising enough with “Errands,” a Spanish-flavored tune about living too fast. It sounds like a fully realized version of a song that the Lagwagon guys never got their hands on. After that, the album wears thin musically until the peppy “The Ramones are Dead.” Not so much a eulogy, Cape uses The Ramones as the tombstone for record shopping and appreciation. At once mourning the death of small record shops and the fact that “it’s far too easy to find anything in demand.” The troglodytic sentiment is very much sympathized with, but by now may be a rather embarrassing point to hang onto. The song—the cheeriest thing on the album—is good, though, and a relief in the middle of an otherwise tough album.
Cape’s effort is good, strong, and completely acceptable in singer-songwriter terms. But it’s that pleasantness, that easy sound, which fails to conjure much in the listener and makes Bridge a bit of a disappointment. “Home,” the closer, hints at an album that almost was: a busy guitar pattern, simple and unforced vocals, and a booming coda that the acoustic part of the song hints at fully realized with drums and an electric guitar. Plugging in is not necessary for a good album, but “Home” serves as an example that Cape—an exceptional pop-punk songwriter—may have stayed unplugged too long on Bridge. [Quattrocchi] www.suburbanhomerecords.com
The Casting Out
Go Crazy! Throw Fireworks! The fact that Boy Sets Fire’s Nathan Gray fronts this new band is likely to be the first (and maybe only) thing you’ll hear about The Casting Out. The “ex-members of...” tag can be an incomplete, or even deceitful guide when checking out new bands. But the distinct nature of Gray’s vocals, and a broad similarity between the two bands backing him make the big sticker that will surely adorn the CD in stores all-too-helpful. If anything, The Casting Out is a bit syrupy and unapologetically poppy; much more even, than BSF towards the end. They use similar anthemic, bouncy cut-time rhythms in most of the songs. This makes them blend together to a large extent, just like it always has. It also works some of the tim just like it always has. Familiar on the first listen, but not really to a fault, many are still potent the 10th time through. “These Alterations,” complete with handclaps, is the catchiest and simplest song here, but one of the last to grow old. Gray’s lyrics are far from the political fare on most Boy Sets Fire material, which isn’t automatically bad. But specifically, they are mostly bad. The template here is pretty apparent, and hasn’t changed a ton in the last 15 years or so. But The Casting Out wield it effectively enough (at least musically), never smudging Dag Nasty, Lifetime’s fingerprints from it along the way. [Anderson] www.failsafe-records.com
Misanthrope(s) If something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it. On their first full-length, Nihiliste(s), we saw Celeste make the jump from the stellar, yet uncommonly heavy screamo on their EP to a full length that is almost hyperbolically bleak, heavy, and distinct. After creating their own distinct sound they have worked very hard on their second album to improve it without changing any of the fundamental elements. Anyone who found themselves bored at times with Nihiliste(s) should give this album a chance. It flows better, with more hooks and manages to be
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
even more depressing without invoking the feeling of time standing still. They have succeeded in putting out their strongest release yet, and carved out a niche. Celeste are the only band around playing dissonant hardcore riffs at depressing tempos to create a sound that inevitable leads the listener to think... black metal? Almost, but not quite. Maybe this is what black metal would sound like today if the inspirations at the beginning were Amebix and Black Flag instead of Venom, who knows. The music of Celeste is apparently born out of an impossible past, and in the present I can’t imagine this band being entirely comfortable in any scene. This should be fantastic news for anyone that shares my opinion, that we need a lot more bands today that just don’t give a fuck. Trends come and go, but good music will always be good music. If Celeste isn’t getting the attention they deserve now, then they just need to wait a few years for the rest of the world to catch up. [Moroni] www.denovali.com
Dear Landlord Dream Homes
It has been more than a decade since the wars over what was “really” pop-punk were raging. Dear Landlord would be in danger of reigniting all of that, though it didn’t matter then, and it really doesn’t matter now. The band is half of the now-defunct Rivethead from Minneapolis and half of The Copyrights from Carbondale, Illinois. When Rivethead broke up, the two members moved to Carbondale, which is actually closer to St. Louis and Indianapolis than it is too Chicago. Ouch. But great punk rock often came out of unfortunate geography, and Dream Homes is another great example. This sounds like an updated, hungrier, and less straight-faced version of Crimpshrine. Twoand three-part vocals dominate the songs, adding an immediately-catchy edge to most of them. They are, thankfully, short on the ‘ooooohs’ and ‘aaaaahs’ that can result from a lot of harmonies in punk records. Instead, three different singers, all with similar and strong vocals trade off and overlap in a natural way. The record flows well, never reaching too far to force song-to-song variety, but never feeling like the same song over and over. The nostalgic/classic element to Dear Landlord is hard to deny. It sounds much more like 1996 than 2009 for the majority of these 14 songs. In doing so, it only ends up seeming all-the-more relevant. This is pop-punk done well, just gruff, and just catchy enough. Fifteen year-old me is freaking out, rushing from the record store listening station to the cash register. 28 year-old me is loading the mp3s for the train ride to work in the morning. Is that progress? Who gives a fuck, Dream Homes rules. [Anderson] www.noidearecords.com
It has been fully ten years since Coalesce last released a full-length. In that time, they were never really broken up, but never out pounding the pavement on tour either. The songs on OX find a similarly rare and potent middle ground. There are moments where it seems that nothing has changed. But most of the time, it’s obvious that Coalesce have completely redrawn the boundaries that every other band claims not to see. Again. Coalesce has combined the worlds of groove and math in a way many bands like Every Time I Die, The Chariot and The Dillinger Escape Plan have tried, while maintaining a tone of sincerity and DIY principles that those bands seem to have lost. Staying out of the spotlight of package tours and other mall-core avenues has secured the band’s integrity, personally and artistically. OX is a tribute to their dedication to craft over chrome, diligence over dollars, etc. There probably isn’t anyone who would call OX as flat-out aggressive as their most recent LP, 1999’s 0:12 Revolution in Just Listening. Jess Steineger’s gigantic Southern-rock riffs don’t stand out, leading the pack like they did on classics like “What Happens on the Road Always Comes Home” and “Jesus in the Year 2000/Next on the Shit List.” However, it’s hard not to think that the more laid-back style, which puts their intricate in the foreground, isn’t exactly what the band had in mind when they picked their name, almost 20 years ago. “Wild Ox Moan” and “Dead Is Dead” rely on the same starkly-epic dynamic arc of the bands’ strongest moments to date. The upper-crust hardcore bands always knew how to put together a fist-raising buildup [while almost everyone can put together the equivalent breakdown]. The magic of Coalesce has always been that, at their best, they can raise goosebumps in place of fists. There are at least a half dozen such moments on OX, some of which are in the most unlikely places. Even “Where Satire Sours” and “We Have Lost Our Will,” both short, acoustic guitar-based interludes are tense in some undefinable way. Always aggressive and intense, never macho. Always heavy, never metal. Always intellectual, never preachy. Always D.I.Y., never shoddy. Always consistent, never regular. Everything about Coalesce lives in the grey area between opposing ideas. Somehow taking the best things about the worlds they simultaneously inhabit, and never the bad. OX is an endlessly-frustrating contradiction. And a perfect record.[Flatt/Anderson] www.relapse.com C - Jennifer Brothers
Born on Flag Day Deer Tick is great and all, but I’d rather use this space to talk about how fucking cute Brian Williams is. It’s patently amazing that the managing editor of NBC’s nightly news has a web series called BriTunes, on which he interviews bands he’s stoked on. What’s one better is that he is a sweaty-palm fanboy about it. When interviewing Deer Tick during the inaugural episode [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/ id/21134540/vp/30585895#30585895], his giddiness and nervous grin make Patrick Fugit seem like Nick Tosches. “For a music fan, a fan of indie of emerging music, it’s such a great time to be alive,” he prefaces one question. Well, duh ... but fucking hugs! Williams’s July 2nd playlist demonstrates remarkable savvy—Luna covering Wire, The Breeders, The Walkmen, Ratatat—but what’s more important is his consistently inquisitive demeanor, which much more useful than the Pitchfork collective’s yawny omnipotence. Next, imagine this entry from his blog being spoken in his authoritative Good Night, and Good Luck voice: “For music fans, a new suggestion: Camera Obscura. Actually, they’ve been around for a while—but some new cuts on their latest effort named My Maudlin Career deserve a listen.” I don’t even care for Camera Oscura and I’m intrigued. Plus, him saying they’ve been around a while doesn’t come across as smug. He’s not trying to make you feel out of the loop, it’s more like he’s just your bro and wants to talk about how good some deep cut is that you’re both hearing for the first time. Maybe we’re even sharing a spliff, who knows? Now I kind of want to see a cage match between Chuck Klosterman and Stringbean Williams. Things will remain honorable for the first five minutes, but when Bri catches him with that second uppercut, Klosty will get all flustered and launch a diving low blow. Brian will parry and save Chuck’s pride and expensive Palin glasses by finishing things with a measured sleeper hold. As he surfs out of the area on David Gregory’s shoulders, Deer Tick’s “Straight into a Storm” can rattle on the PA. [Tyson] www.partisanrecords.com
Drag the River
Bad at Breaking Up Having never caught the Drag the River bug, this collection of singles and rarities is potential overkill for this drop-by listener. As all Drag the River releases I’ve heard, though, Bad at Breaking Up is inoffensive and mostly pleasant. Their take on Uncle Tupelo-style country-tinged rock—and I’m sure that comparison is very tired—balances Chad Price’s and Jon Sodgrass’s vocals evenly. The results are often a less derivative and more pleasing, sometimes-vanilla, close-to-the-vest alt-country. (And if you don’t like a slide guitar roaming in the background of your solo numbers, clear the room quickly.) The problem with reducing Drag the River this way is that there’s heavy substance behind most of their music. So, the deal when reviewing compilations is not whether this band is worth it—you’re either with them or against them by this point, I’d think—but rather if this is worth picking up outside diehards and completists. Ignore the Sam Cooke cover, “Havin’ a Party,” that unfortunately starts the disc off and get to Price’s “Best & Worst,” where he reflects on a life of hope and optimism turned to
:: ISSUE 20 ::
sobering realizations of his own limits and expectations: “A simple man says simple things/don’t know what else I can bring…I’m tired, not through.” Price’s voice can convey a deep sense of regret, appreciation and intimacy all within a minute or so. At other times, as in “SeaMiner,” the music is the deal-breaker: behind a driving 4/4, the background slide guitar becomes an eerie focus accompanying Snodgrass’s words. Towards the end of the song, drums chop the fragile two-minute song up, and the it’s over as it begins. Other songs, such as the rocker “Re-Rangement,” have the same kind of focused burst of music, rather than drawn-out acoustic musing. These short bursts suit Snodgrass better because his affected country drawl is not always the strong suit of his songs. Again, either you’re in or out with these guys, and the hour-long compilation here may only be completely satisfying to dedicated fans, but there are some gems. For those finally thinking of checking them out, now that Drag the River decided to continue touring, this would be a questionable place to start. [Quattrocchi] www.suburbanhomerecords.com
East Of The Wall Farmer’s Almanac
You’ve got to love a band that’s willing to go balls-out and give the first track of their first record the most phallic title you’ve ever heard. East of the Wall’s instrumental progressive debut, Farmer’s Almanac begins with a track called “Meat Pendulum.” While I suppose that could be a term for a man hanging from a noose, I have my doubts. Other ironic titles include, “Clowning Achievement” and “I Am Crying Nonstop Hysterically.” The bands I think of first listening to these guys are Pink Floyd and Mastodon. Mastodon, as we all know, has gone off the deep end of prog, and East of the Wall isn’t far behind. This isn’t a bad thing. With their mix of Latin stylings, old-school thrash, new-school post-rock and 70s-era psychedelic, East of the Wall creates very dynamic long-form songs. There is something new happening every five to ten seconds, and those augmentations produce logical, but unpredictable crescendos and decrescendos. My favorite track may be “Switchblade Knife.” It’s just under five minutes long, which is short for these guys. It starts off with loads of double-bass and noodling riffery. Once it comes to the bass solo (I love bass solos) you expect it to pick right back up again, but they use an effect which makes it sound like the bass solo runs out of batteries and pick their way through a Latin-sounding bridge. Throw The Mars Volta onto that list of comparison bands. They never return to the ultra-catchy opening, which is a choice I have to admire. Instead, they find ways to implement the early riffs into a conclusion that gives a similarly crushing, but more mid-tempo effect. My last comment will be that they are one of the rare bands that seems capable of using the guitar in every sense it has been known to be used. From the wanky-fast chromatic solos to Nirvana-esque slides to just plain-old feedback noise, their guitar-playing is across-the-board awesome. In terms of instrumental metal, East of the Wall is a great contrast to the swarms of ISIS imitators. There are
sneaky, jaw-dropping moments all over this record. If technicality and unique songwriting are within your areas of interest, check out this record. [Flatt] www.forgottenempirerecords.com
Hindsight is 20/20 My Friend (CD/2xLP) That’s It…Bye (12” EP) Two bittersweet releases for Ergs! fans are released in the wake of their calling it quits. First, an exhaustive collection of their rarities, then a new three-song single to cap things. Both releases reveal a band obviously unconcerned with taking themselves seriously. It’s also easy to tell that they cared about the music they played, and that each song is an absolute labor of love. Hindsight—a brilliant title for a retrospective coming from Norm MacDonald’s overlooked Dirty Work—compiles not enough for über-fans and way too much for casual listeners. “Introducing Morrissey,” the opener, is good as any Ergs! song to be microcosmic of their sound. Reminiscent of the Lookout! heyday, the Ergs! signature was more power-pop songs with palm muted verses and singalong, power chord choruses. Hindsight reveals other sides of the band that are just as easily enjoyable. “Honolulu Hornrims” is a minute-and-a-half surf rock instrumental that was apparently a theme song for a show. Also, there’s a really great take on Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus & Lucy,” as well as a pretty decent cover of the Gin Blossom hit, “Hey Jealousy.” The cover of Nirvana’s “Blew,” however, should probably be neglected. The fact that the band’s last single was on par with the rest of their stuff says something about their songwriting efficiency. “Anthem for a New Amanda,” the single’s opener, is a well written, tightly constructed piece of power-pop. “… And the True Believers” and “Piltdown Man” are also easily digestible tracks, the latter a pleasing throwback to early Green Day, that make the single nearly flawless: it’s an ironic beacon of vitality for a moribund band. [Quattrocchi] “Hindsight”—www.dirtnaprecs.com // “That’s It”—www.dongiovannirecords.com
not the only element that reminds me of The Mr. T Experiences early flashes of brilliance. Each of the songs is also well-executed, with musicianship and singing that are all tight and proficient, but no more technical than they have to be. Lookout! pop-punk, combined with The Beach Boys isn’t exactly a recipe for something cutting-edge. But Ghost Town Trio wear it well, feeling surprisingly relevant and current along the way. This is obviously easier to do on a four-song 7” than a whole record, though it seems like these guys have the chops to pull that off too. [Anderson] www.teamsciencerecords.com
Ghost Town Trio
All four of the songs here present a retro sound that is very broad and endearingly-accurate at the same time. Hailing from Oberlin, Ohio, Ghost Town Trio combine post-Ramones pop-punk and classic 60s or 70s pop-rock. Luckily for them (and me), it’s at least as seamless as it is shameless. The vocals are nasally, but never annoying—a rare feat on its own. They are the strongest, but
Cosmic Rock One of the best releases of 2008 is now in its second pressing. Any fan of heavy rock music would be a fool to let this slip by. Imagine The Jesus Lizard being held by the hair and drowned in a vat of whiskey, then resuscitated in a weed-filled incubator. Git Some hails from Colorado and includes Chuck and Neil of Planes Mistaken for Stars, a band who were sensational in their own time. Plenty of people were bummed when that band broke up, but this album sonically bombards you until you damn well forget about that past incarnation. The main attraction in this band, however, is vocalist Luke Fairchild, who has a voice that can’t be matched to mortality. There’s something inhuman about it, the sheer intensity stinging through it is palpable. Each member matches this level, and the foursome drives through an eleventrack hellride in just under half an hour. Songs like “Nice Suit,” “Wish Cigarette,” and “Fabric Eyes” help propel the momentum of the album, but it’s the final stop on the trip, “Time Bomb,” that slows things down in order to grind the listener into the dirt one last time. When it’s over, all that’s left to do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and ask nicely for another go. [Birone] www.1234gorecords.com
Come With Me If You Want to Live
Have You Heard? (7”)
Over all, I’m quite surprised I like this as much as I do. It’s a mix between stoner rock and Pinback. Oddly enough, rumor has it that Lord Phallus himself is Rob Crow from Pinback. But those rumors cannot be confirmed without really examining the Cock, which I’m not quite willing to do. I’ll go on with the illusion. This is a great disc, and certainly doesn’t disappoint considering how well the debut was received. Artwork is typical Manowar-style art—a goblin bustin’ through a door. Classy! Definitely pick this up if you’re into old school stoner stuff and (of course) Pinback.
Lord Phallus, Bane Ass-Pounder, King Sith, Braindeath, and Loki Sinjuggler are back with the sequal to their debut, Bagged and Boarded. Starting us off is “Hissless,” a doomy intro, before going into unfiltered stoner-rock on “Loch.” Lord Phallus’ voice is similar to a lot of stoner rock icons; a cross between Lowrider and Kyuss. The music is crunchy, doomy, and pretty damn good. “Big Up Your Willies” is a straight-up riff-rock tune, with really strange effects on both the vocals and the fuzzy guitars. “We Got a Bleeder” picks up the pace a little bit, and pumps its way through. You can’t help but start banging your head.
Golden City Self-Titled
Eric Richter has the best, but most annoying problem a musician can have. He fronted Christie Front Drive, who had more to do with shaping the better things about “emo” in the mid-90’s than most any other band. Like many other accidental pioneers, I’m sure he’s sick of hearing about it. And with the CFD material finally being rereleased soon, it may only increase. Golden City is his newest project, following up The 101— which was charming and straightforward, sometimes to a fault—and the more spacey Antarctica before that. Golden City finds a middle ground between the soaring, slow-motion melodies of CFD and the more stripped-down approach of The 101. His nasally, but intricately-catchy vocals are the centerpiece of these eight songs. Richter could sing for Coldplay or Incubus, and I’d probably start buying their records. The rhythm section don’t make a lot of sudden movements, but are solid and stray from the path enough to keep things interesting. You can tell Richter bases the songs around the vocal lines, with sly guitar lines that sometimes harmonize with the vocals and often work in subtle opposition. The result is pleasing the first time through, feeling warm and familiar. It’s hardly a light, sentimental genre piece though, forging engaging songs without jumping right out in front of you. It’s easy to go back and forth about Golden City. Do I just like it because Richter’s vocals have become so familiar to me over the years? Maybe. But plenty of great singers have started awful bands in the latter years of their career, and Golden City aren’t one of them. If anything, the more I listen to this, the more I hope that we aren’t even in the latter years of Richter’s musical output at all. [Anderson] www.magicbulletrecords.com
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
Destination Time: Today So after nearly two years of waiting, at last we have the final chapter in Graf Orlock’s Time Trilogy. Many skeptics are probably wondering how a collection of three unconnected albums, whose content is derived almost exclusively from action movies could even be called a ‘trilogy.’ Graf Orlock probably doesn’t want you to worry about it. In all likelihood, the impulse that will drive you to buy this album is the same one that drove you to see the third Matrix movie. Our culture’s mindless fascination with trilogies is one that seems to have become even more pointed in the first decade of the new millennium. Recently illustrated by the ending of Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen, which paves the way for a third and final chapter despite the fact that the movie will go down as the worst reviewed blockbuster of all time. The idea that the same mediocre concept can be sold to the public three times is one that Graf Orlock has successfully been able to appropriate from Hollywood fat-cats for their own purposes. “Cinema-grind.” If you didn’t like it then, you sure as hell won’t like it now. But if you’re like me and you need to know how it ends, you won’t be disappointed. This time around, the band has musically traded in almost all characteristics of grind for groove. Though the tempo remains as fast as hardcore can possibly be without crossing into grind territory the majority of the time. Most spots where you would expect a frantic blast-beat session based on previous experiences, instead go the opposite direction into punishing mid-tempo riffage. In the end, this might render their gimmick obsolete, but I suppose “cinemaspastic-hardcore-with-a-heavy-Southern-groove” doesn’t have quite the same marketability, does it? Action movie geeks will be pleased to find appearances from the likes of Shooter, The Rock, Terminator, Twelve Monkeys, Congo, and, at last, Conan The Barbarian, whose battle charge laid over the band’s playing might be the most epic thing the band’s ever done if the horns didn’t make it sound so damn ska. Level-Plane handles the CD version, with Vitriol Records putting out the LP in the US and Adagio 830 in charge overseas. The jacket is a transparent set of cross hairs with an insert that folds into eleven cultural icons who all got their brains splattered all over the place, allowing each customer’s experience with the record to be both educational and personal. [Moroni]
CD: level-plane.com / LP: vitriolrecords.com / Euro: adagio830.de
Alchera Aside from album art that lands pretty high on the scale, the relative metal-ness of Heirs seems way off. First, their band name seems thoughtful, maybe even a bit humble—seemingly acknowledging what every heavy band should already
know. They are not the first, the last, or the heaviest. Heirs also hails from Australia. The history of Australia is, arguably, the most metal of all—what with the punishing geography and past as England’s Alcatraz. But, there were never vikings, glaciers, sword/axe battles, pimply pale dudes with scary-sounding names, or any of the other things associated with metal-ness. Plus, all the surfing (a shirtless, physically-difficult pastime—extremely un-metal), and warm weather don’t help either. Despite it all, Alchera is a varied, bleak and successful metal record, beginning to end. There are a lot of cold, hissing black metal-influenced tones here, some of which have a ritualistic feeling ala Wolves in the Throne Room. Each of the six lengthy tracks has its own cyclical thing going, though the intent of each seems surprisingly different. “Mockery” is dominated by a slow, careful guitar lead that is downright melodic, seemingly in spite of itself. Unlike most black metal though, Heirs’ guitar parts seem to be created with the notes in mind, as opposed to just tone. The crushing middle section of “Mandril” is a perfect example. It is one of the heaviest sections of the whole record, but even then, both guitars are working together in a way that’s much more payoff than build-up. Heirs have rewritten many of the least-effective rules of dark heavy metal, and left out the generally-unimportant vocals. In the process, whether or not they meant to, they have stumbled upon something surprising. Almost every moment of Alchera is bleak, slow and cerebral. But it’s also melodic and engaging almost as often, even on the first or second listen. I don’t know how they did it, but they have. I’m sure it has something to do with the toilets flushing in the opposite direction, but who cares. They should just focus on making another, and then another. [Anderson] www.denovali.com
How Dare You Comfort Road
Gifts From Enola
What might be most problematic about a large, prolific local scene is the homogenization of ideas and styles. It’s great to find a group of bands that you identify spawned from multiple releases on your new favorite label. Things can get frustratingly comparable after a while, and usually—for the discerning listener—it’s off to a new genre or region. How Dare You sounds like a band that will snag some latecomers but not fool too many veterans. The music sounds earnest and heartfelt—two adjectives that can surprisingly doom a band—but ultimately derivative and predictable. That earnest and heartfelt part is the wild card for How Dare You. After exhibiting the familiar touchstones of pop-punk in the last 15 years on opener, “Scout’s Honor,” the band surprisingly bounces back with “Beacon St.” While it contains some fat that could have been cut, the bouncy chorus they return to is pleasing. The downside to earnest and heartfelt can be heard in pretty much every other track on the album. By having Hot Water Music as such a strong influence, it’s difficult to escape the trappings of a band that did it before (and better). Though aspiring to emulate the bands that came before them, How Dare You doesn’t sound lost in a music they don’t have an understanding for or about; that’s a positive. They’ve got chops—never in danger of making any grave musical mistakes—but Comfort Road showcases a band primed to step out and establish an identity of their own. [Quattrocchi] www.failsafe-records.com
In The Red Volume Two
The First Five (7”) As the title lets on, this 7” features the first recorded output from Higher Giant. Whether or not they feel like fighting it, they’re the very definition of a resume band. Drummer Dave Wagenschutz has seemingly been in about every melodic hardcore band ever, including Lifetime, Kid Dynamite and Good Riddance. Frontman Ernie Parada also led Grey Area, who put out a couple under-appreciated records during Victory Records’ semi-legitimate middle period. Higher Giant don’t pull a ton of punches here, and they don’t need to. Their take on contemplative, but still energetic hardcore is rooted in the mid-90s heyday. “Caballero,” the mid-tempo, near-ballad is the most memorable of the five tracks. The faster closer, “Dangerous” is another highlight, with the catchiest vocal and guitar lines here. Energetic without being aggressive and melodic without really being poppy, just as it should be. It’s more classic than it is nostalgic, though there is plenty of both to go around. [Anderson] www.runneruprecords.com
Is this really In The Red? This is Mike Hale, the guy from Gunmoll who gave me songs like “Less Than You Hoped For” to cherish? What’s going on out there on the West Coast? “Volume Two” isn’t bad at all, but it definitely came as big surprise. Even Volume One didn’t sound like this. It retained the energy and punk rock spirit that had become familiar with Gunmoll, despite Hale transplanting from Gainesville to California. Volume Two, however, is much different. If it didn’t have the band’s name printed on the disc, I would have been sure I put in the wrong one. The songs on Volume Two are much more polished than anything I had heard from Hale previously. They’re the type of songs you would hear when you turned on the local rock radio station. That’s not to say that the album is uninspired or mindless. After all, there’s no rule about having to play gritty punk rock for your entire life. Hale is definitely changing things up, which may be the natural thing to do after investing years in one kind of music. While some songs manage to drag, or fall into typical radio-rock clichés, there is still some material on here that came out solid. “Alone is Still a Sound” is a track that I could imagine appearing on the title menu for an EA Sports game or being sold to some other soundtrack down the line. Seriously; it’s catchy and seems like it could appeal to a lot of people, and the same could be said for several other tracks. My personal favorite track on here is called “My Point of View,” though I think there was an
:: ISSUE 20 ::
I’ve spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out a way to say this, without it sounding disparaging. But I can’t, so here goes: From Fathoms is like the pop-punk of the (mostly) instrumental, post-rock scene. Much like punk rock was around at least a decade before proper pop-punk existed, it seems like the epic instrumental scene is due. But Harrisonburg, Virginia’s Gifts From Enola don’t water it down to make it accessible, they trim the fat. This is quickly apparent; “Benthos” opens the record and finds its way toward a soaring, melodic pay-off within 90 seconds. Is it less rewarding because we didn’t wade through two or three 9-minute epics to get there? Possibly. But in a genre famous for confusing “epic” with “long-winded,” it’s nice to see someone get to the point. There are plenty of well-paced build-ups and cool-downs here as well. It just isn’t such a hike to get there every single time. In fact, the best song by far, “Trieste,” is also the longest—covering 12 minutes. Overall, Gifts From Enola use a three-guitar approach, but often sound a bit like (the one-guitar) Russian Circle’s louder moments. Both the guitars and production are more treble-heavy than is usually the genre standard. Sometimes—especially in the case of the production—it comes across a little hollow. But it usually works, and helps to set them apart from the masses looking for the loudest, heaviest wall of sound they can find. The tempos on even the heavier riffs are also a bit quicker than you’ll usually find. This actually works more in their favor the heavier the riffs become. Their relation to—and semi-obvious deviations from—the genre aside, Gifts From Enola aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel either. They are spinning it a hell of a lot faster, though. Soaring guitar lines, brief (but rewarding) chugga-chugga breakdowns and sudden, drastic dynamic shifts stretch every seam. In the process of stepping up the frame rate, none of the individual parts are glossed over. There are just a few more of them crammed into each song. And, most of the time, it works. Go ahead, roll your eyes. Assume From Fathoms will be the entry point to the genre for every casual music fan. Post-rock for the Bonaroo campsite-dwelling philistines. In reality, this is a rewarding, ballsy take on a sub-genre that seems more marginal and self-impressed all the time. It’s also a really fucking good record. [Anderson] www.mylenesheath.com
La Dispute Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair I’m warning you now that you are going to have to bear with me a little on this one. There’s a lot to like about La Dispute’s debut record. But I’ll start with the bad news—the singer sounds more than a little like the guy from Chiodos some of the time—there, I said it. Do you need a minute? Alright, let’s move on. Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan La Dispute spent the better part of a year writing Somewhere at the Bottom of the River... and it shows. The songs are more carefully thought out than just about any younger sing/scream bands. They make it work on the 90-second intro track and for all twelve minutes of “The Last Lost Continent”—a complete, rousing and sentimental kick in the pants. The guitar work especially is smart, and wisely short on easy chuggachugga parts. Instead, they mix winding intro/outro parts with strong, varied riffs and solid second or third-generation Maiden leads. With such focus on steep shifts in dynamics, the transitions between parts are always the toughest parts to construct. La Dispute opt mostly for abrupt, but effective jumps from one part to another, only bogging down one or two songs. Most of the vocals are actually an asset to the songs, though there are a handful cringe-worthy typical nü-screamo whimper and growl parts. The kid can definitely sing, and can sort of scream, though I do wish he wouldn’t use the word “darling” in every other song. In some ways, this is already straddling the line where sentimental meets sappy and that shit isn’t helping. It’s sort of like a stand-up comedian who drops “cunt” twice in every punch line. But even with the first paragraph’s mammoth disclaimer, it turns out that La Dispute even do Botch-meets-Journey vocals pretty fucking well. The best songs, outside of “The Last Lost Continent” are the ones that land furthest on either end of the spectrum. The shorter, thrashy “Damaged Goods” is actually a bit more fun than they probably intended, but it still works. But “Andria” the slow, “Baby, I miss you” number is deceivinglycatchy, complete with a slow, graceful build-up. Beyond all the scary genre-ghetto issues, La Dispute are more than just the prettiest fat girl at the party. These kids put out a surprising, complete and addictive debut record. [Anderson] www.nosleeprecs.com C - viewfromherephotography.com
error in the track listing, as that track is listed as “Something Shocking” on the back cover. Regardless, it’s a somber lamentation of lost love over a pleasant guitar line, and it would probably be the song I’d revisit the album for in the future. It seems that Hale has got a full-fledged career as a rock musician, spending a lot of his time on the road in support of both In The Red and his solo material. Despite the confused state this album initially put me in, I’d still say that if you were a fan of Gunmoll, you should at least check out the In The Red albums (start with Volume One first) to see how he has progressed. [Birone] www.suburbanhomerecords.com
Iron Hand Demo ’08
Hartford, Connecticut’s Iron Hand is pretty angry. Whether it’s challenging the status quo (hold on), bemoaning supposed class war (stick with me!), or questioning authority (still there?), these five guys have ample rage and angst with a hardcore/thrash pedigree to supplement. Yes, it’s 2009. Sure, punk and hardcore have come a long way in their evolution and development. And yeah, politics in music is seemingly always going to be present when we have a political landscape including neverending war, economic failure, and all the rest. OK, so, here’s a political punk band raising its hand, voice, and right to criticize whatever is going on. Instead of taking anything head-on topically, Iron Hand sort of skirts specifics and cries foul very generally on modernism, industrialism, and gentrification. What’s tough is that punk fans will probably want to give this a chance. (Iron Hand sent me a personal note, hand-written on loose-leaf paper, introducing themselves, and thanking me for checking them out. Damn, they get a 10 for sincerity.) But for as much as they mourn the death of individuality, the music here is pretty much thrash by numbers, and the message is more the same. No doubt, many thrash and hardcore fans will dance around madly to this, but these meager beginnings can’t sustain a lifetime of music. And really, the figurative death of many punk bands is probably their sincerity for the genre getting in the way of real artistic progress. [Quattrocchi] www.myspace.com/ironhandcrushesall
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
When guitar-weirdos Mick Barr (Orthrelm, Ocrilim) and Colin Marston (Behold The Arctopus) come together and form a “black metal” band, you know the end result is going be completely baffling and in fact sound almost nothing like black metal. You also know it’s going to rule. Compared to the rest of the genre, this is black metal on paper only. The blast beats, tortured vocals, and relentless guitar picking are all here, but in a way that is so skewed and perverted that it will likely have purists in an uproar. If anything, Krallice is black metal played by aliens. From the guitar tone and chord progressions to the production quality, everything about this album is stark, sterile and inhuman. That doesn’t mean it’s boring, though. Even with all of these characteristics, it somehow manages to be beautiful and fucking epic at the same time. The result is six songs, most of which hover right around the ten-minute mark, invoking some tragedy told in a language I’ve never heard before, concerning a culture I could never hope to understand. This should sound familiar to fans of Mick Barr, as it has the same science-fiction aesthetic as Ocrilim, just pictured through a different lens. If at first you find yourself uncomfortable when listening to this, at least try to make it to the climax of “Molec Codices.” If that doesn’t sell you, then stick around for “Timehusk,” which immediately follows. It’s the shortest and most brutal track on the album, with a guitar solo and thrash metal ending that comes out of nowhere. The stuff Barr plays 99% of the time is so weird that when he finds a chord that sounds even remotely conventional, you really notice. At the end of “Timehusk,” and in a few other places, he seems aware of this. He uses it to emphasize the listener’s cues to rock out. In a live setting, Krallice puts on an amazing show, and is touring heavily enough to lead me to believe that this isn’t just a one-time collaboration. One can only hope. I have no idea what these guys will do next together, but I’m definitely stoked. [Moroni] www.profoundlorerecords.com (CD) www.gileadmedia.net (LP)
Lickgoldensky Demo (7”)
Recorded more than a decade ago, this is the first demo by Pennsylvania’s Lickgoldensky. They went on for a handful of years, releasing proper records on Level-Plane and Escape Artist. I remember seeing them once, years ago, with Hot Cross. They were solid, but I do remember not really “getting it” in any significant way. Maybe it was the mood I was in, maybe it was the dark, sleepy venue they played, or maybe it was my anticipation for Hot Cross. Either way, it left a pretty mediocre taste in my mouth. These songs don’t fuck around at all, which isn’t such a huge surprise from a hardcore demo—especially in the late 90’s. The band does driving post-hardcore in a way that’s consistent with Neil Perry, Joshua Fit For Battle, or any number of other giants of mid-90’s screamo. But the vocals are much more metal-driven, which gives the songs a more frantic/less dynamic quality. I do appreciate heavy music as completely un-moshable as this, no matter what sub-genre it inhabits. Lickgoldensky wore it well, even on their demo, which has now been given attractive, proper 7” treatment. [Anderson] www.squareofopposition.com
Liquid Limbs Orquid
This is one of those albums that is somewhat difficult to give a fair review. I can tell that there is some interesting musicianship taking place, but it’s not really hitting me the way I wish it would. Though it’s this Florida duo’s debut, both members certainly have prowess on their respective instruments. I just wish the songs had a better feel to them. In the album’s most interesting moments, it’s a bit reminiscent of Q and Not U. Then, at its blandest it comes across with the pseudo-epic nature of a band basing their efforts on recent Thrice albums. Sometimes the guitar work will have a bit of a Minus The Bear-esque shimmer to it, as on the track “Cooler Than Thou.” It sounds appropriate without simply being lifted from another band’s repertoire. With an experimental band like this, it’s rough to shoot them down simply because the chemistry didn’t work for me. It could be just what someone else is looking for. It’s not earth-shaking material, but it’s far from terrible. [Birone] www.soundstudyrecordings.com
Living With Lions Dude Manor (CDEP)
Formed in Vancouver comes Living With Lions, five squatters who met each other in their quest for a roof to live under. Dude Manor, their debut EP named after the now-condemned house where they met, is a five-song introduction to their brand of melodic hardcore. The problem with describing a new band’s take on “melodic hardcore” is that you’ve heard a lot of bands like this already. Being that this is the first EP, their debut album on Adeline coming out this year may be a leap into new territory for these five. But there’s just not enough here to lead you to believe that they’ll surprise anybody anytime soon. For example, “Mark Has Bedroom Eyes,” the cutesy-titled mid-EP track is catchy and tight, but my Dag Nasty and Lifetime albums sound downright revolutionary next to Living With Lions’s best moments. And this may all sound like a case for their not being enough room for new bands to come along and do something new with an old formula. On the contrary, new bands are all the more welcome to innovate. I’m just not sure if fast/slow/ sensitive/aggressive/strategically-placed gang vocals/melodic breakdowns is going to turn a lot of heads. [Quattrocchi] www.weareblackbox.com
Somebody Loves You The Common Cold (Reissue) With such a noticeable uptick in dudes from punk bands starting country-ish projects the last few years, the question of authenticity is bound to come up. Which, if any of these groups have anything to do with “real” country music (I won’t pretend to have any idea what that is)? Does it even matter? Who will survive when the trend inevitably fades? Luckily for Austin Lucas, he is in a small group of musicians who seem likely to be exempt from the whole debate. Sure, he spent some of his early years in hardcore bands. He even went on tour with Chuck Ragan, Ben Nichols and Tim Barry last year. But he also grew up on country/bluegrass music, the child of a professional songwriter in the Nashville circuit. It also doesn’t hurt that 2007’s Putting The Hammer Down was one of the few of the glut of these records that I actually listened to more than twice. It didn’t take the nü-country formula in any drastically new directions. The songs were just perfectly put together, plus the dude can really, really sing. Regardless, these two releases are bookends on either side of Putting The Hammer Down. Somebody Loves You is his newest full length, and first for Suburban Home. The Common Cold was his first full length, just reissued on Magic Bullet. In truth, even these two records don’t sound drastically different. In general, The Common Cold is a bit more stripped-down, though Somebody Loves You is hardly glossy or overly complicated.
It was recorded in the living room of his fathers’ house. There are extra layers of tasteful banjo and lap-steel guitar on both, though they are more prominently featured on Somebody Loves You. As on Putting The Hammer Down the songwriting is strong and the singing is exceptional. Lucas is a classically-trained vocalist, but was also born with a voice that just works perfectly. His range is dramatically wider than just about any of his alt-country peers and commands every inch of it perfectly. Even on The Common Cold, his first proper release as a solo artist, he nails last every note of it. I still have a soft spot for Putting The Hammer Down, but both of these releases are well worth tracking down for anyone even peripherally interested in this genre. Lacking all of the spaghetti Western-ish elements of almost all his peers, Austin Lucas is the real deal. A great singer and a great songwriter, which, as it turns out, is all you really need. [Anderson] www.suburbanhomerecords.com www.magicbulletrecords.com
The Stark Arctic Doomy and slow, Maegashira starts off The Stark Arctic with “Ongoing Corneal Erosion,” an almost ambient beginning. “Caribou Crossing” comes in next, with a totally different feel – wah guitars and a stoner rock groove come in to begin the rock. Vocals come in with Warhorse-like growl, then shift to clean, then back to a shout. Frickin’ great! I can tell these guys turn up to 11 on stage—the energy is excellent. Songs are not short either: the intro ambience is the only song under six minutes. Down tuned, slow at times, sludge mixed into straight groove, Maegashira are meandering through Arctic snow. Some almost-death growls in “Ammonia for Sweat” and a slow dirge make this a great song to just velcro yourself to the couch with. “Baggage Claim/Skin Slip” comes in next, and is slow and heavy, just like I prefer my doom. The long songs allow these guys to give the songs different segments, and this is an excellent example of it. Hey, when you’ve got almost 11 minutes in the tune, you can do a lot of different things to keep it from getting boring. At times almost like Bongzilla, others like YOB, these Jersey guys can really rock it. “Hi From Jersey” gives us more doom before the 22-minutelong behemoth of “Back to Muro” comes in to finish us off. Noisy, deep, doomy, clean, dirty, slow, fast—each dichotomy lands in this one tune. Artwork is cool winter shots of desolate areas. Definitely makes you think of winter in the doom and dirge of this album. Christ, this is just their debut. Prepare yourself to have your face ripped off. [Dixon] www.sparechangerecords.com
The Marked Men Ghosts
The Marked Men, from Denton, Texas, exhibit a talent that is hard to come by when you’re listening to dozens of records a week. They write good music. They write catchy music. They don’t pack their albums with filler. Like the first Ramones album, each song off their latest, Ghosts, blazes by (often around the two-minute mark) and is pleasing the whole way through. This may simply show an ability to cut the fat, which is a musical virtue in itself. The Marked Men have a knack for exceptionally like-able chords and typical, yet hook-filled progressions. The only thing that’s hard to get a sense of is the vocals, which are distorted at varying levels throughout Ghosts. Yet, even the singing is catchy and complies with the undeniable head-bob-ability of the music. Like the Denmark band Figurines’ breakthrough album, Skeleton, the Marked Men plug in and kick it out at full speed most of the time. There aren’t sing-along choruses or completely memorable individual sections on Ghosts. It’s a stream of 15 succinct songs, exhaled in 30 minutes. An impressive, pleasing mini-marathon. Catch your breath before beginning, because “All in Your Head” will floor you if you’re not paying attention. If you stop somewhere in the middle and tune in, you’ll hear the punchy “Stay Away” knock you on your ass a few times. It’s hard keeping up with it all, but the beauty is that once it’s done, you’ve always got repeat. [Quattrocchi] www.dirtnaprecs.com
Matt & Kim To/From (10”)
To/From is a between-album 10” from Matt & Kim, who have made a very successful run so far by being just cute enough, but never too cute. The male/female, drum/keyboard duo can be hollow when attempted recklessly, or more nauseating than a Zooey Deschanel rom-com when overdone (re: Mates Of State). Thankfully, Matt & Kim seem to have always found the happy medium. Their arrangements are pretty sparse, without a lot of extra studio magic to add extra layers. But the drumming is energetic, the nasally vocals work, and the keyboards fill a lot of space, without resorting to samples or canned sounds/beats. These five songs are all solid, with more variation than I expected. “5k” is a subtle, consistent build-up that works perfectly. “Verbs Before Nouns” is like a stripped-down, but updated Devo song in all the right ways. Side B opens with “Jesse Jane,” which is the best of the bunch. It uses doubled keyboard lines that work perfectly with each other, somehow avoiding the muddy mess that this seems it should become. Even though their new full-length, Grand has since come out, To/From is still a great compliment for the converted, or a nice introduction for the
:: ISSUE 20 ::
uninitiated. Matt & Kim are a perfect example of something I’m almost never into in theory, that works way better in practice than I’d ever expect. [Anderson]
The Measure [SA]
Songs About People… and Fruit n’ Shit (12” EP)
Oh, those sweet boy/girl tradeoff vocals! This is the Measure [SA]’s umpteenth release, and by the time I’m done writing this review there will likely be another nine available. It’s an eight-song EP featuring some of the best material the band’s ever released. Lauren’s got one of the most like-able female voices in pop punk today, not dissimilar from Alison of Discount. Lauren takes the lead on a good portion of these songs, crooning her way through them in such a lovely way. She’s not just “the girl” in the band though, she really leads the charge and guides the band on its merry trek. The other vocalist, Fid, holds his own just as well. The song “singleseriesnumberzero” has the sound and feel of a song that could have easily fit in on one of the earlier installments of the Hopelessly Devoted to You comps from the 90s, its only telltale from a later era being its lyrical content, which is reactionary to post-9/11 “security.” But where the band shines best is when both singers share the spotlight, such as “Drama-Free Youth” and “Hello Bastards” (a nice homage to their fellow Jersey brethren). They seem to have a great chemistry, and listening to them reminds me of listening some of the more upbeat selections from Fifth Hour Hero’s discography. At the rate that they’ve been cranking out new songs, it’s only a matter of time before this band blows up. It could have happened before you get to the end of this sentence. [Birone] www.dongiovannirecords.com
Gather Scatter I really like that some bands are turning back to the Amphetamine Reptile-era noise rock these days. Millions is the latest, really good example of this. Fusing elements of other Seattle acts like Akimbo and Big Business, their first record, Gather Scatter provides a pretty (sonically) upbeat take on the old Chicago sound. It turns out that singer/guitarist Scott Flaster owns the label putting out the record, so take that for what it’s worth. As far as I’m concerned, who gives a shit? This is a kickass record indulging in an older, underused sound, and doing it really well. “View from a Sinking Ship” is a really good example. It starts off with a dissonant, high, single-
string riff and moves into a solid early hardcore hook laid underneath a classically ironic chorus, “Well it beats / being / alive!” These guys know how to switch gears between all-in-unison crunch and more variegated sections, and they use that dynamic in every song. There are even traces of southwestern dessert rock in these tracks, but the band is usually too busy switching times signatures to get into a real stoner groove. Millions isn’t going to break any old paradigms, but they know how to write some great hardcore-infused noise rock. [Flatt] www.seventhrule.com
Conscious/Unconscious It’s been a little while since these guys first caught my attention with Glacial Reign album a couple years ago, which I still find myself rocking out to regularly. After looking into their earlier releases, I was pleased to find that Mind Eraser has been continuously improving upon their sound. They grew from a cut and paste job of 90s sludge, Crossed Out, and Boston hardcore—the city they hail from—into something much more unified in its destructive power. Of course I had high expectations for the new LP, but couldn’t help but be skeptical when I heard it was going to be some kind of over-the-top concept album, with only one song on each side. Most of the songs on Glacial Reign weren’t even two minutes in length— were they ready for this? By the time I was done with the first side, my question was answered. After an anxious anticipatory minute of quiet feedback and guitar strumming, singer Justin DeTore lets out a gruff howl and the band launches into new territory: old-school grindcore. It’s only for a few measures, but it’s there all right, and not just there, but all over the album. Their previous albums may have had the speed at times, but not the heaviness—Mind Eraser’s music was always unquestionably hardcore, not metal. I’d say in the past couple years these guys have added the likes of Terrorizer and Extreme Noise Terror to their influences, but without becoming jerky or contrived. Nothing seems out of place; every part, regardless of where it’s coming from musically, contributes to the overall sound. It would come across as formulaic if another band tried to do ten minutes of slow, fast, really slow, really fast, slow again, etc., all within the same song. But Mind Eraser pulls it off by making sure that every riff is amazing. The first side blew me away, but “Unconscious” managed to top it with one of the most evil guitar lines I’ve ever heard. I don’t see how any band in any genre of heavy music can top it this year, and even after dozens of spins it still gives me the same chills. [Moroni] www.cleanplate.com
The Monahans Dim The Aurora
A few things are clear within the first two minutes of opening track “It’s Enough To Leave You...”. First, The Monahans’ sentimental take on indie rock and Americana is pretty easily traced to a handful of prominent bands. Second, this hardly matters as—unlike so many similar bands—they also have songwriting that can stand on its own two feet. Let’s face it; many moments in this record—most notably in the opener and the title track—sound almost as much like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as anything Wilco recorded during the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sessions. But “It’s Enough To Leave You...” is still a strong, entertaining song, even for someone who’s lukewarm on Wilco. As the band settles in, the remaining tracks vary from the familiar, but narrow path of the opener. Dim The Aurora meanders more than a little, but with enough genuinely complete, semi-permanent hooks to keep things moving. Even the 20-minute instrumental “Terrene” comes off as more of a legitimate “exploration” than just the masturbatory studio jam I was half-expecting. “Into The Expanse 1849” opens a bit like fellow Austiners Explosions In The Sky, before becoming one of the most even-keeled (and best) songs. On it, they lean a toward a slow Springsteen-style pot boiler, pulling it off effortlessly and un-ironically. In that sense, The Monahans seem to have got it just right. Without feeling like another paint-by-number indie rock/country crossover, they color inside the lines, but with bright colors and few easy, broad strokes. [Anderson] www.absolutelykosher.com
Thank You For Your Patience Now this is a treat. I have a hard time expressing just how much I loved Wow, Owls!’ sole full-length Pick Your Patterns when it was released four years ago. It was well-developed raucous punk in the Level Plane vein, complete with clever lyrics and the perfect demeanor. It had just the right kind of bite. Mouthbreather features 3/5 of that band, along with two former members of The Setup—another great Richmond band. On this album, Mouthbreather shows that they are here to stay. If you enjoyed the band’s demo from a few years ago, you’ll be happy to hear that several of those songs have made their way onto this album, but not before receiving a proper spitshine. “Dropping Cylinders” sounds much tighter, and my personal favorite of the batch, “Best of Seven,” sounds fiercer than ever. The track stands as an anthem for all those living the “alternative” lifestyle of playing in bands and touring, and it features the infectious chant: ‘How can you say that I am / wasting my life on this / when I am living tenfold / and you’re just waiting to die?’ It blasts the perspective of punk being a frivolous hobby and points the finger back at those who, as the Fresh
Prince would say, just don’t understand. Of course, the new songs are just as impressive. The opening track, “The Night That Richmond Died” begins the incredible fireworks display. They erupt throughout the next half hour over frenzied guitars and sharp, cutting vocals that don’t let go until the final utterance of the album’s closer, “Revolution Bummer”: ‘We’ll take a stand against the pain of repetition / We’ll hold our own against the same old story.’ This is a band playing hardcore the right way. 2009 is already shaping up to be a great year for Mouthbreather as they’ve just released a new split 7” with Environmental Youth Crunch, and have a new 10” slated to be out on Adagio830 in September as well. It seems like the sky is the limit and we’ll just have to see what 2010 brings for them. [Birone] www.kissofdeathrecords.com
Mouthbreather/ Environmental Youth Crunch Split (7”)
This thing is succinct, even as split 7”s go. There’s not much time to fuck around with just five songs total, but thankfully there’s very little of it here. Richmond’s Mouthbreather contribute two songs, including the four-minute “We Speak In Blades” which is almost as long as every other track here combined. They play a very gruff melodic hardcore, leaning on early Dischord attitude and Descendents bite. There are plenty of engaging, careful and layered moments buried in both Mouthbreather songs. It works for them; recklessly precise and accidentally catchy. Environmental Youth Cruch are from Northern Florida, and follow the same path as Mouthbreather. Their style is a bit more of a mid-tempo, and upbeat take on things, nodding equally toward NoFlo institutions Plan-It-X and No Idea. “Slow Jamb” is the only one of their three tracks that covers more than a minute, and reminds me of the best things about early Against Me! Their other two contributions are much faster, and bouncier, mixing head-nodding folk and beard punk seamlessly. [Anderson]
Backstage Passport In 2007, NOFX decided to embark on multiple runs of shows in less-traveled countries all over the world. During the most intense run of these shows, they took along a camera crew for what would become a cable special. Backstage Passport collects all the episodes of the show, along with a disc of bonus footage. NOFX have never been a band that toured all year every year, though they do seem to land on Warped every other year or so. Understandably bored, their plan is to play in sketchy cities, in
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
sketchy clubs, for sketchy kids, to relive their early, Peter Pan years. NOFX have always made a point of doing things themselves and not resting on their laurels. It’s an old punk rock cliche; but it got me off the couch when I was 15, too. The funny thing about NOFX is they’ve been one of the few to actually follow through with most everything they do off-stage. On-stage and on their consistent stream of records, they rest 99% on their laurels, rarely making even the slightest gesture toward branching out. But in the two or three hours of footage on Backstage Passport there is maybe a total of two or three minutes of actual NOFX music. Most of the eight proper episodes feature a combination of general tourist fare, and a lot of the wrangling along the way, to actually make the shows happen. Not surprisingly, more than a few of the day-to-day logistics fall somewhere between interesting and scary. Along the way, the fans and the guys in the band both seem naïve—including Fat Mike super bummed that the gig in South Africa was full of white people. There are a few cringe-worthy moments, including playing the first show of the tour in front of 3,000 or 4,000 without having practiced at all. I know it’s punk rock—and NOFX was never about musical precision—but these kids in Brazil finally get to see their favorite band, who show up and practice on stage. But the heartwarming and funny moments far outweigh the bad. Fat Mike freaking out on drugs in Singapore is funny and endearing. The kids who come up to/mob the band (except for the drummer, another funny running joke) seem to completely embody what NOFX was looking for on the tour. These kids really are offering a fresh and excited perspective on the same thing these guys have been doing for more than 20 years. But these kids—from four different continents—seem to have a full appreciation for what the band went through just to arrive in any of these places. As packaged as it seems in small ways, thankfully Backstage Passport is at least as much Get In The Van as it is Jackass. [Anderson] www.fatwreck.com
Now Denial Facemelter
First off, let’s discuss the artwork since that pretty much slams you in the face. There’s a demon-like skeleton head, skeletons of birds standing on a half-skeleton/rib cage coming out of severed and decaying hands. With eyes. Oh yeah, and spiny snakes. I know just by looking at it, that this is going to either be great or awful. Well, I wasn’t disappointed—it’s great stuff. Somewhere between stoner rock, hardcore, and ambient, Massachusetts’ Now Denial put out a great disc. Starting off with “Notes from Americatown” mixes stoner riffs and punk/hardcore vocals, melting (pun intended) into the punk-ish fury of “Days of Rage.” “Bloodfeast” might have been on a Motorhead record, it’s that punchy and riffy. A half-bluesy “Sleazy Livin’” comes next, with some interesting stops and meanderings through the
song. Distorted/shouted vocals contrast the strange stop-go riffs. Tongue in cheek song titles like “Genius Einstein from Hell Meets the Wolfman on Steroids” and “We Follow the Night (On the Wings of Thunder)” keep this album interesting and punchy, crunchy and unique. Oddly enough, this album was recorded in 2006, but wasn’t released until 2008 from Tor Johnson Records. Nasty groovy and dirty, this is a good stoner/punk album from the Northeast. Rock on. [Dixon] www.torjohnsonrecords.com
O Pioneers!!! Neon Creeps
Yes, there has been an overload of bands described as “Hot Water Music-esque” for years. When a band that momentous spends the better part of a decade on the top of the punk rock pyramid, it’s a no-brainer that the kids who admired them are going to carry some part of that into their own musical endeavors. There’s already a tremendous amount of bands from the Southern part of the country that sound like this, and after a while I just reached a saturation point. But, oh hell, one more doesn’t hurt. O Pioneers!!! play the gritty punk style that fans of the No Idea Records catalogue are always waiting for with open hands. Eric, their singer, has got a gruff voice that is commanding yet inviting. The themes on Neon Creeps are familiar ones: stresses of daily life, friendsturned-strangers, and the general malaise that comes along with self-doubt. But there’s something special here that helps the album stand out a bit. I really like the pair of songs that make up the album’s half-way point, “My Life as a Morrissey Song” and “Stressing the Fuck Out.” The former is a 57-second bout which begins by baiting the absent “you” on how “empty” and “worthless” life is before handing out a reality check and insisting you “get up and get over yourself.” The latter is fairly simple, and mostly consists of the lines “Just calm down, everything will be alright.” It’s just a reminder of catching your breath and not letting the weight of the world crush you, and this message resonates throughout several other tracks. It’s not a bad message to spread, given how “positivity” is referred to as more of a gimmick these days in punk rock than as an actual, healthy atmosphere for expression. It’s sometimes hard to step back and admire the tree when you see it amongst the rest of the forest. At first, O Pioneers!!! had seemed like just another band in the
sea of rowdy punk rock bands, but I really found myself enjoying this album. It rings with sincerity and emits an aura of punk kids who are playing music for all the best reasons. And I mean, really, you can’t listen to No Division every day of the year, can you? [Birone] www.asianmanrecords.com
It’s nice to see Brian Moss playing this kind of music again. Don’t get me wrong, I really thought that the Hanalei albums were beautiful. But their place was in the early morning after daybreak, while Olehole lights a torch and rips straight through the night. This band is more reminiscent of The Ghost, but it feels much more developed. Moss has an awesome vocal delivery: he can keep control over himself one moment and then completely lose it the next. It sounds like a public speaker having an anxiety attack midway through a town hall meeting. The rest of the band provides an unyielding barrage that bolsters the album’s march forward. There’s no sense in picking apart the individual songs, as they all possess the same level of energy—though “ Jukebox Creek” and “Monuments of Motion” are my favorites. The only thing that irks me here is the order of the tracks. The songs that make up the first half of the album are all pretty brief and punchy, averaging about two and a half minutes each. But those that make up the second half are all floating around the four to five minute mark. It doesn’t cause side B to drag, but it does sort of change the flow of the album. That shouldn’t deter anybody though, since you can always decide the order in which you listen to the songs. If you’ve ever been a fan of any of Moss’ projects (The Ghost, Hanalei, Wunder Years) then this is essential. Even if you’ve never heard of the guy before, this is as good a place as any to start. [Birone] www.undercomm.org
This Might Be Coincidence (CDEP) The bio that came with this would have you think it sounds as such: “Throw a cobra and a mongoose in a gravel pit, give them both rusty chainsaws, two shots of tequila and you might get an idea.” Haha. In all honesty, these five songs do sound like the feeling you’d get, thrown in said pit.
There’s a sense of terror, in the disjointed post-hardcore madness here, but there’s also an absurdity to how massive and brutal Outclassed’s music is. The lyrics often read like esoteric post-high school poetry; there’s nary a traditional song structure to be found, really; and most of the guitar work sounds like they’ve found and/or made up their own noises. Sound like a mess? Well, it is. But dig this mess, man. Though citing influences from contemporaries such as Ampere and Orchid, the closest thing I hear is the Hal Al Shedad in the way Outclassed embraces chopped-up rhythm and winding guitar lines. As chaotic as this all may sound—and the fact that the opener is unfortunately called “Kick God in the Face, Hail Satan” for no apparent reason along with other non-sequitur titles— Outclassed present musical ideas and patterns that are pleasingly challenging and interesting. The vocals are more or less indecipherable lyric-wise (like I said, you must say goodbye to lyrical meaning early on), but, mixed with the whole, the songs sound like palettes of energy. If you have any inhibitions about checking these guys out, listen to “Truck Mark” on their Myspace and proceed to be lovingly clubbed over the head many, many times. [Quattrocchi]
The Poison Arrows First Class, and Forever
Having been around since 2004, The Poison Arrows hardly rushed toward releasing this, their debut full length. Those first five years did see the release of two solid EPs, the first of which, Trailer Park was a solo release for lead arrow Justin Sinkovich. After Trailer Park, Sinkovich—who previously played in the hard-charging Atombombpocketknife— rounded out the band with drummer Adam Reach and former Don Caballero bassist Patrick Morris. All of the songs on First Class, and Forever seem to have been kicking around for a while. They are layered, but obviously the result of careful construction and gradual revision. The basic tracks were done at Electrical Audio in 2008, with songs from the same sessions released on last year’s Casual Wave EP. After all the basic tracks were done, they did overdubs in separate sessions at the band’s own studio. This two-part process is fairly obvious, with songs that are carefully thought out, but still heavily layered. Each song has a solid base, built on melodically-dreary Midwestern
:: ISSUE 20 ::
Self-Titled With the recent success of Trash Talk and Ceremony in “mainstream” hardcore circles, it seems like it’s now acceptable for hardcore bands to play ridiculously fast, so long as they don’t touch any obligatory mosh parts. As you can see from the crop of bands following in their footsteps, it doesn’t take long for this formula to be beaten to death and not only sound completely uninteresting, but also insincere and impassive. Fortunately, we have a band like Punch to show everyone how it should be done. Punch’s first full-length, which follows a great debut EP, has everything that an ultra-fast hardcore record should have, without succumbing to the temptation of uncreative songwriting that comes with playing at that tempo. The fact they hail from the Bay Area, with that pedigree to draw from certainly couldn’t have hurt. This album should not be written off as just another fast-as-fuck album, though. It also manages to have all of the guilty pleasures of typical melodic hardcore, kind of like if Kid Dynamite tried to write powerviolence songs and the end result was actually really good. Gang-chants, melodic riffs, hairpin starts and stops, and undeniable heaviness are all pulled off with the veteran skill. As a final comment, something that needs to be mentioned about this band and this record is the female singer. Her vocals are about as high-pitched and abrasive as it gets, which seems annoying for some of the friends I have played this for. I admit I was a little freaked out at first, but got over it fast and now think it’s totally awesome. If people can listen to the vocals on Jane Doe, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be able to handle this record. Her primal banshee call adds a unique edge without in any way coming across as some sort of gimmick, and during the fast-but-catchy choruses of “If Not Me” and “Not So Posi Afterall” (among others), you’ll still want to sing right along even if you can’t match her pitch. [Moroni]
post-punk (think Shiner or Hum). But most also feature big swings in dynamics and rhythm, with gritty synths that nod in a more eclectic direction. Songs tend to hover around the five-minute mark, but never take real similar routes to fill the similar length. “Twenty Percent Brighter” is a careful, pulsating post-rock song that really works by the end of its five minutes and demands attention by the third or fourth time through. “An Unexploded Dream” is more of a rainy day ballad, relying on cold (but poppy) synth lines. It spends over five minutes trouncing Appleseed Cast at their own game before moving on just as quickly. “Peruvian Mountain Fight” is the darkest of the three standout tracks, though it’s also the most immediately-effective. Guitar and drum parts fill space by loosely applying fragments of riffs to one another while melodic and purposeful bass lines carry most of the weight. It took fully five years for The Poison Arrows to become a full band and finally put out a full length record. Not surprisingly, this thing is a serious, fairly dense grower. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean it seems abstract on the first couple listens. It’s often dark, sometimes catchy and wideranging without ever presenting itself as academic or heavy handed. It’s actually a fun, melodic record that doesn’t seem intended to be either. [Anderson] www.file-13.com
Twelve Winds The Poles features former Band of Horses bassist Matt Gentling, and that’s where the similarity ends. The Poles have a dissonant and haunting sound, somewhere between post-whatever and just straight up rock and roll. Twelve Winds is the North Carolina band’s debut full length album, and is tough to pigeonhole into any conventional genre of music. Starting off with “Van Exodus,” you’ll immediately get the idea they use strange time signatures, off-beats, and really unique vocal lines. The vocals are raspy, moody, melodic, and atonal all at the same time. Immediately I know this is going to be a great album. “Gasoline” follows it with a very interesting beat and music line. Complicated and simple all at the same time, The Poles have made an incredible debut full length. “Trampoline Days” is among my favorite on the album. Instruments all go in different directions until the chorus, when it all comes back together brilliantly. The songwriting does not follow the standard verse-chorus-verse-bridge, branching out along the way. “Twin Cities” is a deep and brooding song, clean guitar and bass lines mixed with an almost ethereal background that sounds like water fowl. “Dark is Electric” comes in with a really interesting key signature, making it even that much more intriguing to listen to. The vocal line almost directly contrasts the time signature, giving it more depth. The title track is among my favorites on the album, starting off dark and dissonant, loud and crusty. Then, about two minutes into
this seven-minute opus, it has a distinct shift into a cleaner, almost celebratory mode. Yet, it never loses that initial darkness and moodiness. The artwork is very surreal—birds, vegetables, and a strange man with a clock for a head. Judging from the music contained, I’d love to see what else these guys would do in a live setting. Definitely check this out if you’re a fan of really original and truly unique music. It sounds a little like everything, yet it sounds like nothing. I’m looking forward to more of these guys. [Dixon] www.doubleplusgoodrecords.com
Quatre Tête Art of the State
This is really compelling math rock from Chicago, played by talented, veteran musicians with an inventive perspective. A definite Shellac comparison could be made, which shouldn’t be a surprise seeing that Bob Weston produced the album. There’s also an underlying King Crimson vibe moving through, like a hidden river beneath a city. The trio writes some great songs together, with each member going off on their respective instrument and then lassoing them all back, to create a cohesive sonic arrangement. The disc features eight frenzied songs and three instrumental pieces that hold the album together. At thirty-nine minutes, there is a lot of material crammed in here, though my favorite track is the first instrumental, “Gamelan 7.” It exemplifies the band’s precise musicianship in a quick, hook-filled burst of momentum. On tracks like “Sleeping Dragon,” bassist Becka Joynt impresses by hunkering alongside the fast tempo of the guitar and really makes the song come alive. All in all, it’s a truly satisfying release from an artistic band that will probably catch on very well with most of the people who sit down with it. [Birone] www.sickroomrecords.com
The Reptilian Boys’ Life (CDEP)
Now here’s something to get enthusiastic about! These guys have taken all of the music I was listening to in high school and blended it into a really refreshing sound that, while reminiscent of older bands, feels entirely new. A four-song EP clocking in at around eighteen minutes, I’ve been getting more enjoyment out of it than most full lengths I’ve heard in the past year. It’s like they took the Midwestern emo sound of the 90s Polyvinyl and Revelation rosters and added a healthy dose of that energy you would find if you dug through Perpetual Motion Machine’s catalog. For a young band, they’re really quite precise with their instruments, and their singer, Jon Sacha, sounds just like someone else from the screamo/ hardcore scene that I can’t quite put my finger on. I had never heard of these guys before receiving this CD, but now I’d definitely consider
myself a fan. If this is just their first release as a band, I can’t wait to see what comes about if they manage to get a full-length out. [Birone] www.cylsrecords.com
Richard Cranium Self-Titled (CDEP)
These dickheads spill out six songs of indie-pop with jangly guitars and wacky vocals. At times it reminds me of the Algernon Cadwallader album from last year, but it’s not exactly in the same boat—more kicking alongside it in the water. There is a certain charisma here, of impassioned youth, but a lot of these songs just meander into nothingness and never really strike gold. The singer’s voice is pretty nice, sometimes hectic and sometimes controlled, but I can’t make out a single word he’s strewing out on this album, and the exclusion of a lyric sheet doesn’t help. The vocals function as another instrument making noise in the background, which I don’t really have a problem with. The fellas definitely know their instruments, and in another release or so, I could see them making something with more lasting appeal. Though, I did really like the instrumental track, “Lights Out At The Inner Sanctum,” and I probably could have listened to an album’s worth of this. It’s a decent album to listen to on a summer afternoon, but you probably won’t be raving about them to your friends just yet. [Birone] www.myspace.com/officialrichardcranium
The Riot Before
Fists Buried in Pockets Most of those who listen to this album will most likely be downloading it and missing the artwork. Good thing, because it might deter them from hearing an otherwise-pleasing record. Hailing from Richmond, VA—a venerable hall of fame for punk the past 20 years—Riot Before tries their hand at punk in 2009. It’s clear from the first song that there are bigger and better things to come from this group. At this infancy stage, songs are pieced together, creating a flow that works to string a handful of styles of punk into a very cohesive statement. The first highlight comes with “5 to 9,” addressing immigrant workers’ simple and natural human rights. They show great restraint in conveying the tension of the song’s subject matter with singer Brett Adams’s well-delivered, sensitiveto-the-subject lyrics: “Not a debatable statistic/I’m not your problem economic/I’m not a threat to patriotic/That’s idiotic!” he yells. The song fades into the much poppier “You Can’t Sexy Dance to Punk Rock,” which will probably get a pit going much quicker, but replaying “5 to 9” has been one of the pleasures of this album. “Words Written Over Coffee” and “I Have My Books” show what the seed of the band
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
might’ve sounded like before getting signed, though “Books” is somewhat of a challenge to listen to. Adams tells of loneliness and vulnerability sounding as though he cut his vocals in the same bedroom he wrote the lyrics. The absolute tension shows a bit of courage, recording something so personal. But the edges are rough and the rest of the album is an indication that The Riot Before will hit vulnerable spots on their subsequent albums, but the songwriting and melodies will excel and improve. This may not be the album to save punk—as some people already seem to think from Riot Before’s early press—but these four from Richmond have expressed an interest in becoming a progressive band in a field that often ostracizes bands that grow and succeed. The ideas are there, the band is tight enough and will get better, and Adams sounds as though he’s got a mind to make a difference. [Quattrocchi] www.myspace.com/say10records
Praise The Divide Praise The Divide is a poppy, precise, well-sung and keyboard-heavy record, delivered with the structure and earnestness of a serious Midwestern post-punk record. Roma 79 may hail from San Francisco, but it’s obvious that their hearts lie at least partially in both DC and Chicago. The rhythms and song structures are angular, but never come off particularly choppy or oblong. But the vocals are on-key, higher and considerably more conventionally melodic than most of their post-punk peers. “Brand Of Virtue” is probably the best example of this duality. Guitar and drums work tightly—but never predictably—with alternating bass and keyboard lines. It comes in like an early Dismemberment Plan song, before quickly turning into a sparse, almost heavy post-punk breakdown. Like so many others here, the transition between the two is somehow seamless. Roma 79 are sort of a like a guy who shows up to the party in a well-tailored 500-dollar suit, only to get hammered on jungle juice and jump in the pool. They take the precise, thinking-man’s indie rock of the late 90s and mix it with danceable keyboard lines and spot-on vocals. Sometimes they trade between the two, other times they mash them together, but it’s always done surprisingly gracefully. The result is a complete and unique take on two things that have been blended before, but almost never so smoothly. [Anderson] www.asceticrecords.com
Rural Alberta Advantage Hometowns
I thought about starting a band like this once, only it was going to be called the Suburban Littleton Disadvantage. Coming from any suburb
Self-Titled & Spirit Desire (7”/Digital) The first time through—and on a lot of subsequent listens for that matter—Tigers Jaw’s sound is familiar. I’ve heard this before, and more than once. It’s going to be easy to pawn this off on someone else, or toss it in the “maybe/probably not” pile and move on to something else. But after a handful of listens trying to pin down exactly what band/era/location/hairstyle Tigers Jaw are ripping off, the songs started getting stuck in my head. This all happened around the time that I was realizing that I also didn’t have the slightest idea what neat category to try and jam them into. The truth is that most everything about Tigers Jaw’s debut full length is completely familiar, but never easily categorized. Their songs are structured like much of the more melodic early-to-mid-90’s cardigan-toting indie rock. Warm, analog-sounding keyboards replace what would traditionally be a second guitar part. A majority of the vocal lines are harmonized with a second or third part. An endlessly-refreshing lack of studio magic leaves many of the vocals just off-key, but never off-putting. In fact, their real, if not smudged quality only make the songs catchier—take that every fucking modern pop-emo band. Tigers Jaw unintentionally expose all those little Fearless/Victory turds as the ugly girl who spends hours Photoshopping her Facebook photos. Hide it all you want sweetheart, but now you have to hope you meet everyone in the real world in a dark room. Along the way, Tigers Jaw manage to throw in a few trappings of more recent, young and melodic bands. But they lean mostly on 90s Midwestern bands—think the most melodic of the Crank! or Merge catalogs over the years. “I Saw Water” is the first obvious highlight, with the keyboard-heavy “I Was
Never Your Boyfriend” close behind. But the slightly slower songs are the real winners, especially “Arms Across America” which shows tempo restraint far beyond the bands’ years (each under 20). But by the time the trade-off vocal lines arrive during the chorus, it feels like the fastest song you’ve ever heard. Without the need for a lot of extra frills—or even the apostrophe that should land in their band name— Tigers Jaw have done more than magic ProTools features ever could. They’ve put together a perfectly familiar, catchy pop record without any of the extras that make similar attempts get old in 0-5 listens. It’s exactly what every overdressed, vapid hot girl hates more than anything. Tigers Jaw are a natural beauty. [Anderson] Hot on the heels of their debut full-length, Tigers Jaw return with four new songs. Each side has one longer song and one much shorter. It makes for a strange, symmetrical EP that works in their favor (though the actual 7” features just three tracks). The title track is a love song that shows the members’ young ages lyrically, but not musically. It is a gritty, mid-tempo indie pop song that’s catchy in spite of its monotone vocals and slow tempo. The last song, “Meet Me At The Corner” is the other big highlight, and it’s essentially different in most every way. It’s less than half the length, and much quicker. It uses the two and three-part harmonies throughout the whole song, but it never gets old. It’s hard to say if it would have held up as well for three or four minutes, but it doesn’t have to. All four songs are strong, though the first and last are big highlights. Both take the best things about the full-length and expand on them subtly in every direction. It’s a promising progression for a promising band. It’s still far too early to declare Tigers Jaw the great white hope for what’s left of melodic post-emo. But neither of these first releases would lead me to believe that they aren’t just that. [Anderson] CD: www.prisonjazz.com 7”: www.tinyengines.net
:: ISSUE 20 ::
presents you with several serious, clinical setbacks, like acute culture deprivation, milquetoast meningitis and total boredom. Singing about it always sounded like a good idea, but naturally my friends and I were too complacent to actually pick up instruments—a cyclical symptom of total boredom. We focused on binge drinking instead. But oh, to have the rural advantage! Nights spent reading Robert Frost by flashlight under skies thick with twinkling stars; every day a sweaty blur of character-building labor; lemonade on back porches; and, specific to rural Canada, early evening soaks in Molson-filled claw-foot tubs. What’s odd about this RAA is that the lyrics and delivery are a touch bleating, which is a distinct characteristic of milquetoast meningitis. It’s all broken hearts this and dead grandparents that; the ache of empty sex offset by the thrill of, well, mining disasters ... so there’re at least some pastoral touches. And it’s all well-executed, but I was hoping for more songs about hopping trains, raising barns and bonding with farm animals, and the scant prairie imagery here only whetted my appetite. Plus the drums, while technically dazzling, are so frenetic that one can’t help but think of a stop-motion swarm of people, lights, autos, and Squarepusher. Turns out the singer, Nils Edenloff, is the only true Albertan in the band, which explains some of the confusion. RAA formed around an open-mic night in Toronto—which is like the NYC of the Great White North, bringing with it a set of metropolis advantages, like sex with strangers, sex with strangers and sex with strangers. [Tyson] www.saddle-creek.com
Songs In The Keys of F and U The first track on Stereotyperider’s newest album is titled “We Are Dinosaurs,” but it isn’t meant in a cutesy way. The band released their first EP ten years ago, which in pop-punk years translates to about a century. This album highlights the efforts of a band that is fully schooled in how to make a pop-rock record. While their previous album, Prolonging the Inevitable leaned more toward the “rock” side of the spectrum, Stereotyperider have returned with a full pop-rock assault. Many bands of this style of music will “mature” by branding themselves as a “darker” or more serious act, and a lot of the time it comes off as phony or pathetic. But Stereotyperider didn’t go for makeup
or a bunch of unnecessary screams to appeal to a shallow corner of the market; they simply put their experience in the genre to use by releasing the strongest album of their careers. Granted, at fourteen tracks, it could have lost a track here or there, but there is still a good chunk of quality music in here. “We Are Dinosaurs” is a very strong opening track, bursting out of the gate at a good pace. It’s followed by “Dive In” and “Twon Song,” both of which are strong enough to fill slots on your average college radio station. Both demonstrate how far this band has come in the past decade. “Luck,” is perfectlycrafted pop-punk, and probably the song from the band’s catalogue that could best exemplify their sound. Stereotyperider just called it quits, playing their final show in June, so Songs In The Key of F and U is their swan song. For an act that lasted longer than most of their contemporaries, they went out on a high note, without ever really losing sight of how to craft a proper pop-rock record. [Birone]
Self-Titled (CDEP) I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gradually started losing my most-cherished adolescent, punk rock knee-jerk reactions to things. But seeing some reference to Jesus front and center in a hardcore band’s thank you list still weirds me out. That shouldn’t matter, right? I mean, I get that the pseudo-Satanic thing is just as pointless. It’s probably more of a cliché, too. And at least Syrens went for the sightly more general “Our Lord” when kneeling after their touchdown to point toward the sky at their bearded friend. At least Syrens, for all their Jesusthanking, seem not to have grown up on the same Solid State dribble of their peers. They cover a lot of ground in just over 20 minutes, nodding mostly toward more volatile late-90s metalcore. They obviously picked up the frantic, but not overly-fragmented Botch song structure. The vocals vary a bit, but harken back to early Poison The Well and it works for them. From time to time, they also go for short bursts of modified blast-beats, which usually works as well. On the longer tracks, especially the seven-minute closer “Poison Begat Poison” they find strange and subtle, but solidly-melodic progressions. It ends up landing between old PTW and pre-Jupiter Cave-In. Instead of being impressed with the mere
existence of varied influences, Syrens actually make songs out of them. Considering that these dudes seem fairly young, this is their first proper release, and they’re from Dallas, TX—never exactly known as the epicenter of progressive hardcore—only makes this seem more impressive. I may not need them to tell me about “the good news,” but they’ve put together a metalcore debut that is serious business. Even my old, jaded ass thinks so. And that, my friends, is the real miracle. [Anderson] www.cavityrecords.com
Keep Breaking Down Scenester Credentials is a label that I really admire. Matt’s always picking out unique bands from all corners of the hardcore universe. Keep Breaking Down is the second release from this Iowa outfit, and it rocks pretty hard. Imagine Sleep and Black Sabbath dropping acid together in a cemetery and you’re about halfway there. There’s actually a lot of melody buried within these songs. “Kingdom of Spite” is a really interesting track with a heavy, fuzzy bass line, reminiscent of Death From Above 1979 before it erupts into euphoria. “Pick a Fold,” feels like it was written to engage troops storming into an interplanetary battle of monumental proportions. I mean, I’m not sure if the Earth’s army is actually planning on using it for that or not, but it’s good to know that now we have it should we ever need it. I’m sure this band destroys live. They’re doing something really interesting without being too obscure or “out there” for their own good. It’s definitely not something that every person out there is going to like, but those that do are going to love it. [Birone] www.scenecred.com
Midwestern, literate emo, while maintaining a much wider footprint. First and foremost, all four members can absolutely shred. Thankfully, they do it in short and coordinated bursts. Melodic, literate indie rock and a warp-speed jazz rhythms alternate and blend together seamlessly. Staccato guitar leads weave in and out of the songs, a bit like early Minus The Bear. Singer Stuart Smith has remarkable range and instincts, especially for the style. Equal parts Kinsella and early Gibbard, his vocal lines soothe and stun in just the right proportions, stealing the show then disappearing off-stage just as quickly. “Gibbon” is the most prominent show-stopper, with a crisp, precisely-flailing rhythm section and the catchiest vocal line of the record. At the same time. “Badger” is a bit slower and lower, opening with the most prominent bass line on the record. The chorus is a legitimate toe-tapper, provided that you have seven or eight feet. Tightly wound and intricate, but seriously melodic at the same time. “Elk” is a slow, intermission that substitutes melancholy horns for vocals (another nod to American Football). And god damn if it’s not also catchy... somehow. The CD version also includes two strong bonus tracks, which stick out for less-polished production and titles that aren’t simply zoo placards. Both are strong, and seem to be from a slightly earlier, but no less potent time in TTNG’s history. Ten years and the full width of the Atlantic Ocean away, and This Town Needs Guns have perfected, then rapidly advanced their chosen medium. Animals has been out for some time in Europe, thankfully arriving stateside this Spring. Hopefully this means more is on the way from these four gentlemen sooner than later. But in the mean time, it’s practically perfect—an exciting, addictive and refined post-emo time-lapse. [Anderson]
This Town Needs Guns
Stay Home (CDEP)
So much about Animals is carrying Midwestern indie rock with both arms, it’s a wonder they can lug it all the way home to their native Oxford, UK. They have tackled a style that hit its heyday a decade ago, thousands of miles away. Animals graciously modernizes and expands the sound, making it their own without losing any crucial elements. The songs are traceable back to CapN’Jazz or American Football at all times, but don’t actually end up sounding directly like either. The anthropology of their thing is important, but in practice it hardly matters. Scientifically, I’m something like 98% Neanderthal—but if we sat down for coffee, there’d be very little communication. I’d want to argue about politics and across the table, there’s just grunting and sugar packets being dumped out overwhere. The same thing is going on here. TTNG sit squarely on the shoulders of the giants of 90s
On first, second, third and forth glance, Stay Home is easy to file down into a pretty narrow sub-genre. I’m sure the band, and everyone else will be upset to hear me say that. Like every band, and every bio, they are rightfully hoping to avoid being tossed into a “melodic hardcore” genre. But they won’t. Luckily for them (and me), this is really the only forgettable thing about Transit’s third release in two years. It’s like an old, familiar t-shirt you’ve washed 1,000 times, but these guys wear it exceptionally well. Hailing from Boston, they do remind me much more of say Fastbreak than Lifetime or Dag Nasty (the usual torch-bearers). There are a few extra wrinkles thrown in, with some unexpected— but never course-altering—tempo changes and guitar leads. The rhythm section strays just far enough from the path to keep things interesting, without ever betraying a formula that has remained intact all these years for a reason. All the important
pieces—gruffly melodic vocals, catchy guitar leads, tasteful gang vocals—are mixed in just the right proportion. Similar to Shook Ones or Polar Bear Club, they are taking something tried and true and updating it just enough to file the “nostalgia” tag off it completely. I think that given more than 15 minutes or so and six songs, they could really carve out a bit more of their own niche. But for now, I could care less. If my neighbors have been home the last three days, they’ve probably memorized this by now too. [Anderson] www.runforcoverrecords.com
Seizures in Barren Praise Although I’ve been aware of Trap Them for the last few years, I was never particularly impressed, or interested in them until now. It’s not that they’re bad—they’ve always been good at what they do—I’ve just never been a huge fan of the d-beat. Even though they play it at a manic pace, the monotonous drum patterns on their first few releases bored me for the most part. When Seizures... came out I decided I wasn’t going to spend the money this time around. Oh me of little faith. When this band opened up for Napalm Death this past May, I couldn’t believe that only a year had gone by since I last saw them. They had a new drummer, new songs, and were more frightening on stage than almost any band I have ever seen. After seeing them again recently on their own headlining tour, they strongly reinforced my opinion that Trap Them is one of the most intense live acts around, and the main reason behind it is that these new songs fucking rip. They’re not breaking any molds on this record (not even their own), but their immense growth as songwriters is evident from the side-winding riff that opens to the album’s crushing, seven-minute closer. Things that didn’t quite work on Sleepwell Deconstructor were re-examined, improved upon, and written into Seizures... much more effectively. Where it often seemed to me that their first LP pulled the same stops over and over again, the new record has something unique and awesome in every song. Favorites include “Angles Anonymous in Transit,” “Flesh and Below,” and “Gutterbomb Heaven on the Grid.” [Moroni] www.deathwishinc.com
True Widow Self-Titled
Not a lot about this record really leaps out at you. It’s a self-titled debut by a new trio from Dallas, fronted by a guy that used to be in Slowride, whom I vaguely recall. Their music is a slow-motion, hazy, more melodic version of grunge and mid-90’s shoegaze. They do pack quite a bit
:: THE NEW SCHEME ::
into some of the songs, despite combining two styles not known for obvious bells and whistles. It’s like Siamese Dream without the big rock moments, or Shiner without the math. What comes out the other end is dull, but never simple. The sum of all these parts relies on patience, not apathy, surprisingly layered for a trio and slyly melodic. Later in the record, on “Flat Black” and “All You Need,” with great male/female harmonies seem downright poppy by the time they appear. The whole record sounds huge, but not at all in the heavy/wall-of-sound way. There is plenty of room for all three instruments in the mix, and the production captures them perfectly. The guitars especially are clean, but warm and never onedimensional. The songwriting is careful and deliberate, which can be a blessing or a curse. For the most part, True Widow stay on the correct side of the line. The story here is long-winded, but always engaging. [Anderson] www.endsounds.com
Frank Turner Love Ire & Song
Now that this record has been released in the US as of last year, we’re due for a new release soon. Turner is a prolific solo artist, touring and releasing records year round has finally gotten him signed by Epitaph. As a self-described acoustic singer/songwriter who wants to avoid the trappings of trite commercial stars doing the same, watereddown thing, Turner brings his punk rock pedigree to the table and attempts to fight off comparisons to those pathetic peers. Not so quick! Take “Photosynthesis,” his mission statement of sorts, where Turner sings about being out of touch with modern music and how kids talk while spilling this chorus: “I won’t sit down/I won’t shut up/And most of all, I will not grow up.” Ouch. Though there’s plenty to say about wasting your life away at a job you don’t feel passionate about, Turner phones in a campfirestyle singalong about sticking it to whichever man by being successful at some ideal, alternative lifestyle. It’s embarrassing enough to make me wonder to whom he is singing this to. That’s really a shame, as Turner’s can be a vital and relevant voice. On the title track, he goes over the same topic of growing old but with a bit more defeat in his tone, before rallying his friends to the pub for a confusing call to thoughtful action. The track wants to be so romantic, but it might be wise for Turner to shelf the punk rock records he still dwells on and dust off a constructive voice like Billy Bragg. It’s obvious Turner’s been going rounds with Bragg (or like-minded musicians), but it seems he hasn’t learned much yet from them. The melodies and lyrics seem too facile for a musician bent on making a meaningful dent in traditional societal structures. [Quattrocchi] www.arborrecords.com
Chris Wollard & the Ship Thieves Self-Titled
I was always a “Chris guy” when it came to Hot Water Music. Although I loved Chuck’s intensity and ability to take their gritty harmonies to blistering levels, Chris’s voice always had a melodic side to it that nabbed. With Chuck’s neverending schedule of solo releases not slowing down, it always seemed curious to me that Chris had yet to dip his toes in the solo pool. Nevermind the Ship Thieves: in 2009, we’re finally getting something in the form of a Wollard solo album. As strong as the songs are, the album proves to be a grower of sorts. When I first heard opening track, “No Exception” on a compilation earlier this year, I was a little underwhelmed with the somber tone. I fooled myself into not caring much about the forthcoming album, and just sort of forgot about it. When this arrived in my mailbox, though, my ears perked and I knew it was time for a good sit-down. If I can urge anybody checking into Wollard’s career at this point, just know that this record deserves undivided attention. Whereas HWM got faster and simpler as they got old, there was something subtly brilliant developing in Wollard. There may not be a better example of where this record came from than “Oh Whatever.” Within a couple verses, Wollard paints a picture of the calmer life he has grown into: ‘It’s quiet now, but it seems to me that without the noise, I’ll create something…oh whatever…sounding old and full of shit.’ The music sounds passive in a way –and if you take into account that Wollard put this record over the course a year with no rush or deadlines, it seems appropriate—but there’s a comforting
heaviness to most his tone and lyrics. Really, the whole idea of the project seems to be easy-going. They may never play shows, this album may go wholly unnoticed outside HWM diehards. Some may never hear one of the year’s best tracks, the enjoyable shuffle of “You Always Leave.” Oh well. Wollard has charted an underrated, yet strong discography, which is fortified with this release. It’s a crime if it’s only a toe he’s dipping here. [Quattrocchi] www.noidearecords.com
Self-Titled I’ve always loved women. As far back as I can remember, really. From the strange childhood mystery of Loni Anderson in stretched sweaters, through book-blocked, middle-school boners, high school fawning, college fawning, and post-college fawning—right up through marriage. Women have been there every step of the way, complicating things with their maddening wiles. Women, women, women! Even though the cover of this self-titled debut by Women suggests a collection of workout music for sweatshop employees, the excitement of women is there in bold text. And while the excitement on the album isn’t erectional, it is quite remarkable. The songs are potent, erratic and have a habit of leaving you thirsty for more—very womanly. What’s more is that live, this band kills shit with precision tools. Loud, dexterous, engaging; these bitches have it going on. What else ... oh, they are Canadians, and while I can’t
thoroughly explain why, they remind me of The Kids in the Hall. It mostly has to do with the weird little smirks that hung on their faces while they played—like they were sharing some oddball fucking joke that no one else was in on, but that probably wouldn’t have been funny even if it were out in the open. It also seemed like the fellow who sings most of the songs was staring directly at me through their whole set. I’m not saying I’m a whole lot to look at, and it’s totally possible that he has a lazy eye or that the club lights were playing tricks, but his unwavering glare sure made the songs more intense (and sorta made me feel like a piece of meat, which women have been putting up with for centuries). The spliff I smoked in the parking lot with Brian Williams probably aggravated things as well. Dude gets the fluffiest shit. [Tyson] www.flemisheye.com
Diamonds in the Ditch The guys from Yesterday’s Ring were all in punk bands, or still are (The Sainte Catherines and Fifth Hour Hero) and decided along the way to start a country side project. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You can’t accuse Yesterday’s Ring of being anywhere near the first or the last bunch of bearded bar chord merchants to try it. Thankfully, they avoid a handful of the usual pitfalls—obvious and subtle—along the way. First, almost all the songs have at least one electric guitar. The songs sound fuller and it just works better for them. Too many of these bands try to go all the way with the country-faking and switch
:: ISSUE 20 ::
exclusively to acoustic guitars. But most of these bands—Yesterday’s Ring included—don’t have what most old country songs had. Mostly, subtle guitar parts or singers with a big range. These guys have wisely chosen the middle road, more of the Springsteen school than trying for a full Merle Haggard (which sounds painful). Along the same lines, this is produced more like a punk record, with the vocals not as loud. This serves the songs, with at least five or six people playing on many of them. There is a lot more space for everything mixed the way it is, though the instruments and mixes do vary from song to song. Most of the lyrics are pretty bad, which is another well-known trait of much country, real and imitated. In this case, singer Mudie doesn’t go too far out of his way to put these songs together. He uses the term “honky tonk” twice in the first three songs, which is a bit cartoony, but endearing enough. Rocking, spending time with the dudes and whiskey are all covered pretty extensively along the way as well. With fifteen songs covering the better part of an hour, “Diamonds in the Ditch” is hardly a thrown-together after practice, side-project release. These guys went for it, and it’s somewhere between optimistic and thorough. Surprisingly, the songs tend to vary quite a bit from one to the next, which helps a lot. I’ve grown tired of this expanding trend as a whole, but Yesterday’s Ring are thorough, and more nimble than most. All sub-genres, it’s an engaging and just-sentimentalenough take on it to actually end up a solid rock record—something that crosses any trend. [Anderson]
featuring: Majority Rule retrospective, City of Ships, My Heart To Joy, Disappearer, Beware of Safety, Quieting Syrup