Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Sirens" b/w "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"
Not on Label [2012]

This debut two-songer by New York City's Plant will come at you fiercely, without warning, and without apology . This self-released single features cover art by Brooklyn's own tattoo go-to, Eli Quinters of Smith Street Tattoo fame -- giving a quality seal of approval before the actual record even whispers a single sound to your ears. Then there's the actual music: hard rock, proto-metal influenced shredding and thunderous smashing that rivals strong in-your-face vocals. Imagine taking all of your favorite aspects of good 80's metal, including a taste of 90's hardcore, and fronting the group with a powerful, flown off the handle badass. Metaphorically the songs scream "anger" and "frustration" but what I hear is good times, cold beer, and tailgate party while this group of excited newcomers anxiously but boldly await their opening position for the rock n' roll concert they've only before seen on VHS tapes their imaginary older brothers made thirty years ago.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Celebration Rock
Polyvinyl [2012]

I’m trying to get a feel for the average Japandroids fan, because honestly, I don’t know many. I assume that in this time of tenuous hipster boundaries, casual music fans may be wary of their name and minimalist album covers, I know I was at first. All I’ve really come away with is this: If you are a woman and you have a serious boyfriend who likes Japandroids, marry him. Sure, he might be a little too optimistic for his own good, and there’s an even better chance that he’s an alcoholic; but deep down he’s probably a great guy, and at least he smiles in pictures. Alright, let’s get serious, we all know girls don’t read music blogs anyway. Japandroids, Vancouver B.C.’s posi-rock Batman and Robin, have been one of my favorite current bands since I picked up 2009’s Post Nothing on a whim. Their exuberant songwriting, Replacements-tinged guitar tone, and penchant for yelling is some of the most infectious stuff around. Celebration Rock builds on a foundation which has somehow remained equal parts veteran and novice allowing them to grow without losing touch. “The Nights of Wine and Roses”, “Fire’s Highway”, and (the previously released) “Younger Us” may not break new ground, but should satiate the desires of the drunk sing-a-long crowd. “For the Love of Ivy” is a competent and enjoyable Gun Club cover (they also covered X’s “Sex and Dying in High Society” on the “Younger Us” 7”), and personally I appreciate any band who shows respect for LA punk. I’d like to put in a request for some Geza X or Rik L. Rik, and I’m sure they’d kill “Trouble at the Cup”. Closer “Continuous Thunder” doesn’t do much for me, their pattern of closing with a slow song reads a little stale, but is forgivable. As for the best tracks on Celebration Rock: “Adrenaline Nightshift” is jaunty, progressive, and fantastically titled, “Evil’s Sway” succeeds as a jangly mutation on past work, and “The House that Heaven Built” is easily the best song they’ve written since the first three tracks on the No Singles collection, my personal benchmark for JDs greatness. Perhaps I’m biased due to my weakness for Canadians, yelling, and bands who try to fit at least one “woah-oh” into every song, but here’s hoping that Japandroids’ brand of unadulterated optimism and (at least apparent) good guy-ness continues to attract new fans… and that you invite me to the wedding.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

UV Race / Eddy Current Suppression Ring split LP
Live at Missing Link

Sourced from soundboard quality tapes originally released in an edition of 300 cassette copies (each with hand drawn cassette layouts) Live at Missing Link is now finally available for the first time on vinyl. The 2008 performances by Melbourne, Australia punk rockers UV Race and indie punks Eddy Current Suppression Ring comfortably take place in the "Cultural capital of Australia" and the sound quality of the show does each group and their homeland much deserved justice. UV Race rocks tracks off of their demo tape as well as their debut 7", Lego Man and even wraps up their set with their very own band anthem "UV Race". Eddy Current Suppression Ring shred some mid career tracks off of 2006's S/T LP, 2008's Primary Colors as well as an early version of what would end up as the title track of their 2009 7" That Time of Day. Both groups hold their short but tight sets together. Don't believe me? Limited test presses are available now HERE. Find out for yourself.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This Summer
Merge [2012]

Sometimes something is better than nothing and sometimes that something is amazing. Superchunk's new single This Summer is a perfect example of that exact scenario. We've waited over two years not knowing what the future might hold for these nearly dormant Chapel Hill, NC indie pioneers and finally, we are graced with the arrival of two songs: "This Summer" and a cover of Bananarama's 1983 hit, "Cruel Summer". The title track is classic Superchunk in such a hard way that it makes the entire purchase worth it just for the one new song. It's raw and catchy and could've been one of the more memorable (deleted) tracks off of their 1991 album No Pocky for Kitty. The B side cover song can stand alone as well. A faster, punkier, version of a song that has been ingrained in your soul so permanently over the past thirty years that you can still smell the gals' hairspray. I'm impressed, excited, and so appropriately affected considering Summer began here in NYC just a few days ago with temperatures hitting 100 degrees right off the bat. Timing is everything. Available on white vinyl and hand numbered out of 1,300. The record also includes a download for both songs plus an acoustic version of "This Summer". Stay cool.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

King Tuff
King Tuff
Sub Pop [2012]

I feel silly actually sitting down to review a King Tuff record. The voice in the back of my mind just wants to write, Buy it! You’ll like it! Let’s get drunk! But if I only listened to that voice, well, I’d probably be a much happier person – so let’s attempt to view King Tuff with a critical ear, just for a minute or two. For those uninitiated, King Tuff is your typical non-stop party dude who seems to effortlessly write bizarre pop gems, plays in about a thousand bands, and has a voice that’s a mix between a young yet energetic Mickey Rourke and that singing French baby, Jordy. This is the King’s first record since 2008’s Was Dead, and the denim-jacketed masses will not be disappointed. “Bad Thing”, “Stranger”, and “Hit & Run” will rock your faces off, and the mellow smoothness of “Unusual World”, “Loser’s Wall”, and “Evergreen” seem tailor-made for toking doobies (sorry, I’m not a weed guy). “Anthem” and “Stupid Superstar” are massive, hooky tracks most reminiscent of “Eyes Music” and the outrageously catchy “Girls FM” by his other Sub Pop band, Happy Birthday. My favorite cuts here (besides the aforementioned viral sing-a-long “Bad Thing”) are “Alone & Stoned”, “Baby Just Break”, and “Swamp of Love”. There’s something accomplished about these songs, a certain degree of care woven in which makes you feel like you’re experiencing something special (which of course, you kind of are). The album was produced by Bobby Harlow of The Go (God, I haven’t thought about that band in years, but they had some hits) and thankfully they eschewed typical low-fi garage standards, instead opting for a crisp, quality sound more conducive to the caterwauling and crooning alike. Basically, if underground pop is your thing you’ve probably already got this album in your sights, and if you’re unsure but think it might be your thing, then this is a great place to start. NOW let’s get drunk. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bobb Trimble
"Take Me Home Vienna" B/W "Selling Me Short
While Stringing Me 'long"

The more digging I do on the enigma who is Bobb Trimble, the weirder he seems to get. My initial experience, or first impression I should say, of Bobb Trimble was confusing, memorable and freakishly enjoyable. The man sings like an angel, his guitar playing is dreamlike, and his vocals coax me the way my mother would when i was feeling too down to attend grade school. This reissue of Trimble's 1981 obscure 45 oddly credited to "Bobb and the Kidds!" gives me a strange guilt that I could liken to the first time I admitted to enjoying the earlier songs by the band Heart. The cover of the record screams Bad News Bears, with Trimble peering out from behind a child playing a snare drum on an ironic rock and roll meets baseball themed photo shoot…but he's no Walter Matthau.. and I'm not really sure what role these kids play on this record whatsoever. The songs don't drift far from classic Bobb Timble though; you can expect his effeminate glam vocals atop an array of sparkly, low impact guitars and drowned out drums. The end of "Selling Me Short…" gets a little aggressive, but it's a cozy and convincing direction that somehow makes enough sense to work. If I were you I'd pick up this limited reissue and I'd keep my kids away from Bobb. He seems like a really great guy, but isn't that how all those horror stories start? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Grass Widow
Internal Logic
HLR [2012]

This record opened up with what almost immediately convinced me was a sample off of 60's moog and analog electronic pioneer Andrew Rudin's great avant garde work, Tragoedia (or at least something ripped from a Nonesuch composition from that time). It reminded me of a time around eight years ago when my good friend Matt came over to my house after a hard day of work and I was blasting Tragoedia. He passed out on my couch for about twenty minutes while the quirky record blared and awoke to report violent "space nightmares". Thinking back to that time, and given that scenario, I almost now wish that the record I was playing then was Internal Logic by San Francisco three piece female dream poppers, Grass Widow. He would have appreciated this. After the brief aforementioned experimental sample, the record gets dark and mild and then quickly slides into soothing non-stop back to back ear candied splendor. It's the kind of stuff you hoped your friend's hotter older sister's band played back in the mid 80's… the girls who dressed like Death from the Sandman comics or the darker side of the wild hair studded belt-wearing Go-Go's fan base. They're a modern day Chin Chin or a wish granted to finally have some of my 30 year old Swedish girl punk 45s actually translated into English. Not to mention, my friend Matt is still single, and still dreaming.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mrs. Magician
Strange Heaven
Swami [2012]

Certain recordings, whether they attempt to or not, are unable to shake their regional imprint; Mrs. Magician's Strange Heaven is unmistakably California from start to finish. Contemporaries like Japanese Motors and The Soft Pack also dabble in this type of sound, but Mrs. Magician (they’re actually four guys, what a subversive misdirect) have a slightly darker edge to their sound, due presumably in part to production from the legendary John Reis. His work with the Sultans isn’t a bad comparison to Strange Heaven either, but let’s not lose focus. The first three cuts (“Nightlife”, “There is No God”, and “Don’t Flatter Yourself”) are probably the best on the album, their energetic surf punk approach blends effortlessly with equal parts fuzz and reverb as they creep into the back of your mind, you WILL be humming them throughout the day. The same can’t be said for songs like “Dead 80’s”, “The Spells”, and “Actual Pain”, which are immediately forgettable, yet somehow don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the record. “Heaven” comes off as a sort of reluctant ballad, an essentially successful experiment somewhere between Phil Spector and Spacemen 3. Closer “You Can’t Be My Man” has an odd guitar tone, reminiscent of the first Elastica album, which I really enjoy. Little touches like these are what rescue the bulk of the this record from obscurity. As for content, one line from the otherwise mediocre “Hours of the Night” tends to sum it up: “It says ‘fuck you’ on the note, but I sent you flowers”. It’s absolutely a collection of jilted love songs and expressions of the virtues/agonies of a solitary life, so in that respect Strange Heaven should connect with all of us post-emo sensitive types. Chances are, though its impending-sand-worm-from-Beetlejuice-attack-landscape cover is intriguing, I probably would not have picked up Strange Heaven if I didn’t get it for free. That would have been a mistake, and I’m glad its part of my collection. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Intelligence with Kelley Stoltz
"(They found me in the back of) The Galaxy" b/w "Lake of Dracula"
In The Red [2012]

Seattle's The intelligence lead man Lars Finberg (also of Wounded Lion and Thee Oh Sees) and his gunk rock flunkies grab San Francisco post-rock talent Kelley Stoltz for this single off of their upcoming full-length, Everybody's Got it Easy But Me, and prove a theory my girlfriend stands by in just two songs: most records featuring cute cats as album cover art are at least decent. The tracks "They found me…" and "Lake of Dracula" are essentially the exact product of post punk/post grunge/post neo-garage that twenty-somethings from both coasts (all hip cities in between included) could and would gravitate toward. The songs are melodic and dirty at the same time, giving the listener the option to dwell on his or her miseries, or to mindlessly smile while another group successfully taps into his or her dopamine supply. The full length will also be released on In The Red, and given this preview I can confidently say that the album will be, at the very least, pretty good.