Agony Shorthand

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I took a flyer on THE EX for most of the past twenty years, having heard several of what were supposed to be their godhead LPs without any real cerebral registration one way or the other. The only exception was an incredible show I saw them put on in 1991 in San Francisco that knocked the socks off my ass; an abrasive, horn-honkin’, noise-bringing punk rock guitar feast. I thusly bought “Too Many Cowboys”, which was a fairly recent record, and sold it back with shame on my face within the week. Only 18 or so months ago, one of the readers of this very blog tried to bring me back into THE EX fold with CDRs of “Blueprints for a Blackout” and others, but I still found them all to be too strident, too bombastically heavy/scraping & just average when it came to lighting the internal flame. This new comp of their 1980s 45s and EPs, however, is the real deal, and hands-down the hottest thing I’ve heard from the band since that blessed show 14 years ago. All this time these Dutch treats were bowling over their working brothers and sisters across the globe & now I know why! Their earliest stuff definitely fits in with early MEKONS (“Stupid Americans” has the same shambling spillover sound as “Never Been In A Riot”) & barking ’78-‘79 UK punk/oi stuff, and is good-not-great, but right around 1982 this band started setting it on fire like you wouldn’t believe. “Weapons For El Salvador” (oh my god you guys that is like soooooo 80s!) and “New Wars 2” are way beyond par with anything subsequent American acts like BIG BLACK or COP SHOOT COP pulled off, and now that the pieces are falling into place, I can see just how much those two acts in particular were schooled by these hotshit EX 45s. The mid-80s EX, at least on these singles, were this skittering, creepy-flesh punk act that used a thudding, funked-out bass like other punk bands used guitar, and moved that guitar to a supporting role for pure noise damage and swirling, clanging effects. The winning run continued into the early 90s, when they put out the fine “Slimy Toad” 45, which came too late to make this compilation – but all told, it was a hell of a decade for the band on the small vinyl form. A more worthy reissue may be hard to come by this late in the game in 2005, and it’s so ace I’m newly invigorated to take a fresh look into those 80s albums again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005
UGLY THINGS #23......

Someone once said on this site that it was obvious that I didn't "like" UGLY THINGS magazine, yet nothing could be further from the truth. I happen to have a strong appreciation for the way the love of music can make intelligent folks go utterly bonkers, and therefore spend precious waking minutes obsessively cataloguing and testifying to their faves in the hopes that someone else might catch on. It's why, despite my better judgment, I still post entries to Agony Shorthand at least 3-5 times per week. I'm right with you, Stax & co. I'll buy your magazine every time. Where I part company with the Ugly Things crew is in attempting to see the forest for the trees. For every genre of music, including 60s garage and beat, there is a cut-off line, below which the music is so unremarkable or throwaway that it merits not a second's worth of debate. For Ugly Things, that line is waaaay down there. Not only does Ugly Things refuse to really "debate" anything (bad reviews are barely allowed -- you can actually watch reviewers like Mike Fornatale squirm as they attempt to be magnanimous), but they joyfully celebrate every unfilled pothole from the 1960s -- like, in this issue, "The Checkmates", "Charlie Crane", "The Belfast Gypsies" and "Las Mosquitas". Those might be some fucking out of control rock monsters, but I highly doubt it, and the approach to their music is strictly biographical name/rank/serial number scribing. Aggressive skimming is unavoidable.

Still, the sheer repetition of underwhelming 60s rock music paints a picture of a sort, and the Ugly Things team are so incredibly clued-in to their world that you end up getting jazzed about some of it in any case. Not like I need another 60s punk comp, but they've got me excited to buy "The Ikon Records Story" 2xCD (Sacramento!!). They also view just about every cool music DVD that hits the shelves and read every single rock book as well, and if that's your bag, these guys have it nailed better than anyone. This particular Ugly Things issue seems to be lacking a little something, like they're just waiting to get this MISUNDERSTOOD saga out of the way before relatively firing on all cylinders again. And I never thought I'd say this, but I actually miss Johan Kugelberg this issue (I guess he was making his electroclash album with MOBY). Still, for 9 Paypaled bucks, you've got a quality read that'll last you all Autumn. The worst Ugly Things is better than, say, the best "Maxim Blender".

Monday, September 26, 2005

This upstanding new magazine from deep in Portland, Maine (is that really the capital? I thought it was Bangor or Burlington or Syracuse or something) features a two-headed attack designed to please comers from there & yon. The first "head" is an immersive dive into Portland scene arcana, featuring a Homeric interview with a defunct group called SWAMP WITCH REVIVAL. If you can get through it & understand a tenth of it, well, then you're from Portland or a masochist. There are even local ads for places you'll never go (Bangkok Thai Restaurant -- "We now have liquor license!"). But hats off in any case -- publisher/scribe Joe S. Harrington wants you to feel & smell the Portland ethos, one that is likely very different than anywhere else's. Mission accomplished. And while he's a hometowner like nobody's business & in the best sense of the word, it's the top-drawer record, book & live review sections that comprise the other head. Harrington certainly knows his stuff & doesn't suffer fools gladly, which means I'll trust him a smidge more than those who get hopped up about every damn thing. He & his cohort latch on to acts that can be hard to reckon with (I don't think I've seen so many positive comparitive nods to "Nashville Pussy" this side of Hod Rod Dork Gazette), but mostly they seem centered around The Stones, the Brian Jonestown Massacre & lots of weird noise & raw punk. He's a good reader, too, and puts things in intelligent perspective well. His review of Anthony Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour", which I too have read, made me hate the guy a lot less & question my initial take on the book (which was that Bourdain, joyfully politically incorrect as he may be, was a complete showoff blowhard). Reading KAPITAL INK is a great way to while away a plane trip or a hangover & is worth dropping some fast cash for -- $5 to Kapital Ink / PO Box 1098 / Portland, ME 04104. Ot just email Joe himself at

Friday, September 23, 2005

I thought this might be a solid platter, given how pleasing Miss White’s former band the HOT MACHINES were last year on their only 45 & how In The Red, one of my country’s finest labels for a decade and a half now, gave her instant cred vis-à-vis a starring slot on the label for her full-length debut. But it’s better than that – way better. I hear swaths and glimpses of underrated female-fronted punk bands of the first & second waves, most particularly Dee Dee Troit and UXA (famously heard on the infamous and mandatory 1979 “Tooth and Nail” compilation), or Kat Arthur and LEGAL WEAPON (an OK band with a couple of melodic slayers like “Pow Pow” and “The Equalizer”). If it were just about paying tribute, though, there wouldn’t be much to talk about, and there most certainly is. Miss White’s fond of booming, Spector-esque hooks, handclaps, swampy blues of a SCIENTISTS bent, and a set of vocal styles that ranges from girlish to gothy. And there are no ballads. It’s a simple but powerful brew, and the “Red Orchestra” are an exceptional “backing band”. One track in particular, “Cut In 3 Parts”, is so outstanding I’m going to include it on every CD-R sampler I make from now until maybe 2009. It might even get played a couple times at my annual Yom Kippur beer bash. If you’re downloading, you need to hear “Don’t Turn Me Up” and “Picture My Face” as well, but in truth, you need to hear them all. Like the TIME FLYS record, this is something that begs for instant repeat play as soon as it’s over (which is quickly). Alex White comes from and resides within the modern 21st Century garage milieu, sure, but you can just see she’s going places fast that most of her older peers won’t.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

We got an email from SOUTH FILTHY member Walter Daniels a few weeks ago suggesting that we might take a gander at his band, and with a little research, I decided that would be a fine idea. See, South Filthy contains JEFF EVANS among its members, and that usually means that some top-flite backporch ramblin’ & jivin’ is going to be going down. With the former "Jack Oblivian" also in tow, you might call this act a "turdbucket-rock supergroup". The band actually recorded & released this one way back in ye olden times -- 2002 -- and somehow I just flat-out missed it. The record takes many turns from track to track, always settled around the greasy axis of ramshackle blues, cornpone country balladry and straight-up 50s rockabilly. Horns, saxes, organs, and harmonicas are in force like nobody’s business, and it all appears to be recorded straight to mic in a woodshed. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that there were at least 6-7 vocalists swapping turns on the record’s 13 tracks, too, but a couple of times it’s just Jeff singing without the yuckster accent he’s made a trademark over the years. His “Sandra Lynn’s Blues” might just be the saddest song of the millennium so far, so if you GIBSON BROS and ’68 COMEBACK fans thought ‘ol Jeff had locked into that persona, well, you’re in for a tearjerking surprise. The gargantuan run-through of HOWLIN' WOLF's “Somebody’s In My Home” is an excellent, raw and scuzzy blues hopper, too, showing that this act has got more than a few cards to play and play extremely well. “You Can Name It Yo’ Mammy If You Wanna...” is their Southern jubilee celebration to the Dixie that has schooled and which surrounds them. Great stuff!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
HUMAN EYE / KILLER’S KISS / THE PETS, 9/16/05, Stork Club, Oakland CA.....

I had the most disorienting experience walking into this downtown Oakland club last Friday night; knowing I’d seen MONOSHOCK while under the influence of mind-altering alcoholic beverages here something like 12 years ago, I was already prepared to have to reacquaint myself with the club, but was amazed how little (i.e. none) of its interior & exterior I recognized upon walking in. I mean, that’s gotta be some pretty good 1993 vintage Pabst Blue Ribbon, you know what I’m saying?? Turns out the club relocated to a new spot years ago and no one told me. First up was a pop-punk act of some kind, followed by THE PETS, a fast & crunching garage band whose set I mostly missed, dedicated as I was to mastering the nooks & crannies of the “new” Stork Club. I was told the bass player from the GRIS GRIS moonlights in The Pets, so there you have it. I won’t allow myself to logroll about KILLER’S KISS since they’re my pals – they left hours after this show for a 2-week US tour, which, with any fortune, is playing a basement or a party in your town tonight. Look it up!

HUMAN EYE were the band most folks were here to see, and as an unabashed fan of their debut CD of skronking Detroit electro-punk splatter, I had to get an up close & personal look. Unfortunately, the band instantly violated two of my most deeply-held rock show pet peeves – to wit:

1.) Bands should always set their equipment up and get up there to rock as quickly and efficiently as possible, and

2.) Bands should never insult their paying customers by deliberately pogoing into or violently careening onto them, or by condescendingly approaching the audience in a hostile & non-forthright manner

On peeve #1, Human Eye took nearly an hour to set up their wacky stage props (eyeball, space craft detritus, etc) in a tiny club that they’d been hanging out in for hours. Then came tuning, then came a bunch of aimless loafing, and then & only then came the noise. Thank Christ the Stork hired DJ Mitch Cardwell to play the holy bejesus out of his rare punk 45/LP collection at top volume, giving me & others ample time to ogle his vinyl and maybe – just maybe – dance a little bit (on the inside). On peeve #2, well, I never saw the CLONE DEFECTS so I don’t know how much this is part of main guy Tim Vulgar’s shtick, but he was one of those frontmen who just get under my skin in a hurry – preening, flouncing “tough guy” BS, menacing the small crowd with a big “grrrrr” plastered on his mug at all times & committing the aforementioned cardinal sin of physical contact, when physical contact is neither warranted nor wanted. Oh – and they only played 8 songs, and they weren’t really all that exciting. Too fast, or out of tune, or something. I don’t know. The last two numbers got some positive bonzai energy flowing as the keyboards groaned & fed back and the band seemed to be sonically hotwired all of a sudden, then it was “good night” & the dissatisfied Oaklanders streamed for the exits muttering gravely about "their money’s worth". That CD is a must, one of the best things this year, but if this is representative of the Eye’s live show, then goddamn it, I’ll just stay home next time and really show ‘em!

Monday, September 19, 2005

I'll admit to tossing off the word "CHROME" as lazy critical shorthand for dissonant, phaser-heavy, hard synth/guitar rock, despite only owning or even having heard 2 of Chrome's many LPs -- and the two that came easily & posthumously packaged together on a major indie rock record label (Touch & Go) at that. There are times when I've felt I've never given the band enough shrift, particularly when I crank up 1979's "Half Machine Lip Moves" and its overloaded, MC5-ish, Krautrock-spun space rock. I am quite certain this is the first time I've written even a sentence about them anywhere. I reckon that I heard from just enough people who knew their Chrome that it wasn't worth digging too deeply into the late 70s/early 80s San Francisco band's back catalog once you'd heard their two masterworks. So here we are. Maybe you haven't heard even those yet! It's a real dark and moderately difficult set to penetrate, but its key rewards are many, and are brutally cut, violently pasted & tape-manipulated all over the disc.

Starting off with the howling "TV As Eyes", it's easy to see how many cues were taken from some of the more boss early 70s groups -- the Stooges & the Motor City 5 in particular. But as the record builds -- and leaps from one idea to the next as tape is abruptly spliced into the midway point of some sonic jam -- you get the picture that these guys were also on a major CAN bender as well. Some real propulsive, groove-oriented space truckin' at times, albeit with nuclear-meltdown guitars & a general air of robot-led apocolypse and certain doom. "Half Machine" is a completely fried affair, and is just caked with distortion and the tuneful sounds of shorted-out electronics. I really dig it, and need to listen to it far more often than I do. "Alien Soundtracks", which is actually the earlier record (1978), doesn't grab me quite as much just because its experimentation only connects in parts, but it's still some heavy-breathing scuzz. Another fella on the internet says of this era of CHROME, "....Overall, the combination of screwy sound and art on a budget placed Chrome as something like West Coast cousins of early Pere Ubu and Destroy All Monsters....". Only a select handful of freaks really seemed to get much out of the band back then, but it should go without saying this CD belongs on pretty much everyone's shelf now that we've had time to review the historical record & get it right.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A few weeks ago WFMU’s blog posted a knockout track from this wiry UK pop group called “Autonomy Boy” that’s so good that it could justify years of stupid hype about a “post punk revival”. I mean this song has it nailed – weird, complex rhythm patterns; a sultry female vocalist; and moves gracefully copped from so many 1981 British acts you can smell the musty copies of MELODY MAKER and SOUNDS under the bed. It also got me hot on the trail of the LONG BLONDES’ 45s. Like my other favorite UK pop acts this year – JOHNNY BOY and the PIPETTES – their records, all 45s, appear to be released in bizarrely limited editions on tiny indie labels and sell out in a weekend. Thanks to the magic of the internet, CD-Rs and tapes, though, they’ve made their way to me. I bought this recent 45 from The Long Blondes on eBay – and while good, it’s not going to do much for their rep except send major labels into a courting frenzy. It’s still got a real, um, “angular” feel to it, and that singer still sounds like she’s pursing and slowly licking her lips between every breath. No question about it – it’s mersh pop, and while it’s among the upper third of its class, it’s still a class which only garners attention for the top 1% around my house. The “Giddy Stratospheres” 45 is slightly better and I haven’t heard their debut yet. But when you hear “Autonomy Boy”, all bets are off. Let’s all promise to keep an eye peeled & see where they’re at on the ticker few months from now.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The first time I ever listened the Maximum Rock and Roll radio show must have been approximately September 1981, because the Tim & the gang were all abuzz about a brand new comp of LA punk & weirdo bands called "KEATS RIDES A HARLEY". It was very funny to me, that year I turned 14, to know that there really existed a band called "The Meat Puppets". I will never forget hearing the band's "H-Elenore" that very day, and have it form in my head as the most extreme, chaotic & wild music I'd heard to date (still is right up there 24 years later). I also vaguely recall TOXIC SHOCK's excellent nasal/minimal "Sensationalism" from the LP being played. A few years later I had my own copy of "Keats", and it always stood apart from the rest of the LA punk comps I hoarded as something very unique, insular and somewhat hard to pigeonhole. Only a couple tracks qualified as rough-and-ready punk rock, and of those 1 or 2 that did, just barely. But they were all pretty neat. Imagine my happiness when Happy Squid and Warning Label records undertook a CD reissue of it this year, with an extra track by EACH of the original 9 bands and the bonus "Happy Squid Sampler" EP, a collectors' holy grail if ever there was one.

The original "Keats" LP had some of the best mastering of all time, so every song exploded off the vinyl & gave some of these young bands their best tracks ever. I've always been partial to the LEAVING TRAINS' keyboard-infused "Virginia City" as the best thing they ever did, and Falling James himself does some great liner notes to the CD (I have a hard time reconciling my few in-person interactions with a strung-out, cross-dressing James Moreland with the guy who writes like someone who not only possesses all his marbles but perhaps has a few more than most folks. Go figure). Ditto for the GUN CLUB's early version of "Devil In The Woods" -- very raw, echoey and intense, miles better than the version that ended up on their 2nd record. A bit of this is lost in translation to digital, I'm afraid, but not so much to preclude you from immediate purchase nonetheless. There are some real winners among the extra tracks as well -- the funkified EARWIGS come up big on both their numbers; TOXIC SHOCK, who were really an early DIY-core version of SLOVENLY, contribute a good punker called "Fat"; the MEAT PUPPETS tackle Neil Young's "The Losing End" live in the studio moments before they recorded the uber-ballistic "H-Elenore"; and the nearly always-great 100 FLOWERS, who underwrote this comp as well as virtually the whole bastard scene around it, contribute "Sensible Virgins" (later dropping the "s" in Virgins for another punk/art hybrid comp on New Underground Records).

The compilation in its new 23-song form is laden with joyful experimentation from the scene that formed in the small clubs and cramped garages around Los Angeles. The sound tweakers HUMAN HANDS, ARROW BOOK CLUB and PHIL BEDEL will be quite out of place for those who come to slam, but as the bands themselves say over & again in the first-person liners, the definition of "punk" was a lot more broad than us whippersnappers today would have it. I'll bet many were called "Devo" in their time for wearing a black shirt or funny glasses. It's a great thing to again have this glimpse of 1981 LA bands independently operating far below the radar of those whom themselves operated below the radar.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
A FEAST OF SNAKES : "GHOSTS OF YOU / BLACK COAL HEART" 45......Not at all sure if this callous & raw Texas garage band is still active, but when they were around a couple of years ago they were one of my very faves. This 45, just put out in Italy on "Solid Sex Lovie Doll" records in some preposterous limited edition, might just be some whumping leftovers or, if we're lucky, a new 45 in its own right. We're not really "on the tip" over here. The record is just an outstanding guns-blazing, dark and noise-stained punk record, with anger and bile in no short supply. I'd be surprised if there weren't 6 guitarists and at least 2 meat cleavers in this band. Remember the Necessary Evils? Some of the same cast is involved here, but where that band devolved into a cartoonish horror-garage pile of cliches, the 'Snakes are all about the pound, pound, pound and the obnoxo-whine of distorted guitar. The flip is a sort of careening blues stomp that loses control quickly & explodes into a mess of feedback shards. Love it! A Feast of Snakes, if you're not currently active, can you please become active & hit the road posthaste?

Monday, September 12, 2005
STRANGE NOTES, 9/12/05......

"Strange Notes", cleverly taking its moniker from THE GERMS' track of the same name, is the "column" I like to write in which I pretend to be a chain-smoking 1940s journalist, unearthing musical factotums and wittily dispensing with hypocrites and bores. Bear with me as I indulge myself.....So anyway, how about that BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE? A bunch of nutty junkie goofballs or what? As I mentioned earlier this year, before the "DiG!" DVD came out, I'd never even heard the band. Figured I would've hated them, based on everything I read about their dumb tantrums and hippie pants and whatnot. Turns out that the recent "Tepid Peppermint Wonderland" 2xCD overview of the band's decade-long career has got some pretty fine tunes on it. While they're certainly guilty of some overreach with glockenspiels and harps etc. at times, they're often really good at penning concise, 3-minute psychedelic pop songs that can run from lyserically-lush to dirty-raw depending on the approach taken. I'm not finished ingesting this massive collection despite having run through it a half-dozen times; there are some more gems in there, I can just feel it, baby.....I was hoping to be a little more blown away by JOSEPHINE FOSTER's recent "Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You" CD, the way I recently was by her incredible record with THE SUPPOSED called "All The Leaves Are Gone" (one of the single best set of rock recordings the past 2-3 years). Ms. Foster often squeaks and warbles like KATE BUSH circa "Army Dreamers", and while that actually bothers me not one bit, the lack of any real throat-grabbing folk songs sorta does. She's got something pretty special going on, I just don't think it's located here.

I was, however, taken positively aback by a couple of downloaded recordings from a mid-60s all-girl Minnesota band called THE CONTINENTAL CO-ETS (pictured above). Their 45s "I Don't Love You No More" and "Let's Live For The Present" are some outstanding deep-reverb garage pop, with harmonies worthy of a chorus of angels straddling the heavenly throne. Easily one of the best discoveries I've found strolling the mp3 blogs, this one courtesy of one that appears to now be gone, "Mr. Barf's Rock and Soul a Go-Go".....Hey, speaking of mp3 blogs, what's with all the lame bellyaching in the comments boxes over at STRANGE REACTION? The site in question posts multiple 1977-85 vinyl-only punk treasures & a few laughable clunkers from all eras every week, but some folks appear to think that it's only valid if it comes from vinyl purchased directly at a gig in 1980 or from some set-sale auction in a European catalog. Strange Reaction has a few of those, plus a few he found 5 minutes ago on Soulseek. Like me & you, right? Who cares one iota how it got into the guy's hands -- the point is, he's helping it get into yours.....One CD that's left my hands and is sitting in the "to-sell" bag is 1980's "SCIENTIST VS. PRINCE JAMMY - BIG SHOWDOWN" . It's the first flaccid set of dubs I've heard from my man SCIENTIST -- no oomph, no grrrr, no ramalama here, and Jammy's stuff isn't much better. Scientist was a young man early in his career on this one; we know he got better just a year later.....Finally, let's back right up and give kudos to the aforementioned STRANGE REACTION blog for turning me onto the 45 by ROCK BOTTOM AND THE SPYS, a walloping piece of synth-driven KBD punk rock. The band's back story is exceptionally sordid, and one of the guys was just murdered in prison, but thank god "the jamz remain". You can get them at no charge both here and here. That's all for this time, keep your feet on the ground etc....!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005
MODEY LEMON / THE CUTS, 9/2/05, The Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco CA.....

I have been chomping at the bit to see the MODEY LEMON for a couple years now, and -- well, before we get to them, let's talk about THE CUTS. The Cuts have 1979 Sire Records power pop/rock down to a science, from their outre-Madam Wong's clothes to the chooglin' keyboards to the Quick/Fast/Speedies/Jets/Sharks/Knack etc. retro-spew they were offering up. I suppose that's not all entirely fair; there were defintely times when I really enjoyed their more MOTT THE HOOPLE moments, and in general, they're a band with a master plan who most certainly can. It wasn't all power pop, either. And here I was thinking they were broken up 'cuz the main fella's also pulling time in THE TIME FLYS, only one of my favorite bands going right about now. Hey, my leg might've jittered during their set, I'm not gonna lie to you. But when they made way for MODEY LEMON, jesus christ, clear the room. The Lemon were even better and far louder than I'd expected, and though I haven't yet had the benefit of hearing their brand new one "The Curious City", you can sleep well tonight knowing it's gonna be right fucking on. The band started the evening by unfurling a huge Pittsburgh city flag, and it got me thinking how majorly stoked these guys have got to be to see both Lemieux and Sidney Crosby hitting the ice at the same time this year. I mean, that's just awesome, but then, so was the band when they rode out a long, feedback-snarled lead for a minute or more. The drummer, wow, he'll never be accused of "tippy-tapping", that's for sure, and what made this performance work was how weird, frizzled electronics kind of spurted out from time to time amidst the racket, almost as an afterthought really, except they knew full-stop what they were doing. The Modey Lemon are a mighty road-tested rock and roll machine; I figured they would be going in (every time I look at their site they're bombing around the globe on tour somewhere), but now I can speak of it with some informed truth. See this band & ye too shall know of their power.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

In the crazy world of fonts, Times New Roman represents the tried and true, the default "I-expected-as-much" way it's always been done. Viking, on the other hand, while deceptively appearing a little "olde english", represents something a little more bent & deliberately retarded, a shifty font that just might sneak up on you & win your shriveled heart if you're not on guard. The there's this new band TIMES NEW VIKING. “The way it sounds,” drummer and vocalist Adam Elliott explains in this Columbus Alive article, “it’s the idea of creating a drudgy dark sound while singing pop songs....". Well Mr. Elliott, that really is the way it sounds, except way more frantic and maxed-out than you're giving it credit for. Take some of the more cacophonous moments during "Sister Ray" -- maybe about 1/3rd of the way in, when it's still a rock song, and liberally shmear it over a sputtering quarter-inch tape full of very raw male/female organ grinder pop. That just might sound like Columbus, OH's Times New Viking. Wouldn't you know it, our friend MIKE REP dipped his calloused but healing hands all over this thing, and made it even more ruff-n-bleeding than it might otherwise have sounded. Who knows if the band are better for it, but it sure didn't hurt. The band do a superlative job trading off shouted vocals and caking everything in a warn glow of fine crud, yet it's almost as pretty and friendly as THE MATES OF STATE or something -- but far better. Pick of the litter is the the sing-along "Not High", ostensibly about a trip to Amsterdam & with lyrics so abstract I can't figure out if they're praising the martyr Theo van Gogh & my heroine Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or just barking about all the righteous pot they didn't smoke. No matter how you cut it, it's plump and juicy and full of life. A really, really great debut, and one that's been captured by a revitalized Siltbreeze Records.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Are you familiar with Pennsylvania’s tastefully-named PISSED JEANS yet? If not, time to get cracking – they are very quickly among the USA’s top tier electrified, riff-heavy musclebound rock bands, and have improved upon their hot 45 from earlier this year with this screamer of a CD. I hear elements of a warped and desperate BLACK FLAG all over this thing, from some of the exploding Ginn-like leads proudly played on guitar, to the general paranoia and pissed-off bashing throughout. The singer is a credible John Brannon-style howler, as well, so if you can picture being all hopped up on goofballs at a 1986 “Day on the Green” stadium blowout starring final-LP Black Flag, the Laughing Hyenas and DRUNKS WITH GUNS, it might come close to where this record will settle in your noggin as well. It’s some intense shit. The openers are just roaring – “I’m Sick” and “Boring Girls” are merciless, louder than most anything I’ve heard this year and about two steps to the right of an all-out noise war. I therefore find the soft piano at the end of the 7:23 heavy metal whomper “Ugly Twin” very – comforting. A nice and needed touch. PISSED JEANS are just young fellas, as I understand it, and that they’re already playing at such a high-water mark this early in the game means that they’ve probably got some raw and bitter vittles to forcefeed the masses in the months to come. “Shallow” just might be the record that finally unites the punks, the skins, the metalheads and the noise dorks – and in these crazy, hazy, lowdown, mixed-up times, who wouldn't want that?

DUTCH MASTERS : “RADIOACTIVE” 7”EP......Didn’t even know my pal Eric Friedl was in this band when I started writing this review, but some intrepid deep-dives on the web indicate that he is. Should I continue on & violate my logrolling, backscratching rule? Oh all right, since I’d already decided this 45 was aces before I learned the names of the giants behind it. “Radioactive” is fuzzed-out, moderate-tempo’ed punk rock music straight off of “Cumstains Across My Record Collection”. It actually sounds like a re-write of SADO-NATION’s “On Whom They Beat”, and that’s just fine. The other two are also in the same ripping vein and actually contain hooks and choruses of a kind. It’s not likely to start rock and roll revolution in the streets, but it may, at a minimum, set your pants on fire.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

THE INTELLIGENCE are at the vanguard of a nearly-undefinable scene that's part post-punk reverence, part noisy, metallic shard rock & part garage. The chief practitioners of said scene often operate on labels like Dragnet, S-S, Narnack and sometimes Troubleman Unlimited. This shifting-clientele Seattle group have recorded for several of these, and have now moved to In the Red, a label not typically associated with cut/paste metallic shard rock of a post-punk, garagy nature. I've spent some time getting to know the new record the past couple weeks, and I think it's fair to say I like the other one, "Boredom and Terror", more. Where that one was often distant and experimental in a real weird, puzzling and rocking way -- and honestly, sounded like something right out of a 1980 bedroom recording studio in Swindon, UK -- this one's a little more wedded to the straight-on, straight-up pummel. I hear traces of recent-vintage FALL, even in the vocals (nothing wrong there), and I'd be lying if it didn't at times approach some of the A-FRAMES' earlier stuff in stark/bleak tone & attitude. They do, as you may know, share a member. But little sticks to the ribs. It's a lot of big sounds & flying razors, but not a whole lot of 'em are cutting through and violently piercing my spleen, esophagus & bile duct if you know what I mean. Others have already definitively pegged this one as some sort of 2005 landmark, and I won't stand in their way, just on the sidelines.