Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Kevin Drumm - Imperial Distortion (2008)

Download: "Guillain Barre"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

At The Drive-In - Acrobatic Tenement(1996)

So i guess the whole band except for Jim Ward and Cedric the Entertainer was replaced between this record and the one before. It is really obvious because this album is actually not a load of stupid bullshit. None of the songs have any fruity crap in it and Jim Ward's screams in the background now sound like they mean something instead of just the wails of a pre-pubescent teen who just found out his mom took away all his hustler gay porn mags.

Musically, the band has really locked down a sound that is immediately much more satisfying than the preceding records. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on here.Maybe someone slipped something into their burrito bowls.

If every record they did after this one sounded like this, they still would go down as one of the all-time greats. They just had such a great vocalist in front of them! It'd too bad he ended up finding his true calling in life was to stretch peoples buttholes WIDE open and piss into them only to gargle the butt vomit that would eventually spring forth

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

At The Drive-In - ¡Alfaro Vive, Carajo!(1995)

The next year, ATDI managed to record music that is even worse.

The second track literally has a bass-line that feels line a pimple-clad middle schooler would write. There is also this song on here with these annoying background skanks singing on it. I can't remember which one??? Fuck this bullshit. This albums sounds a lot better but the songwriting is literally worse. avoid this EP like a creepy baby fuckerpersons rape truck

Rating: 4/10

At The Drive In - Hell Paso(1994)

I'm now going to go through the entire recording history of Jim Ward. The guy from Sparta. That's's Jim Sparta week here on SLRJ. so rip a joint for this one...

Jim Ward is the real heart to the ATDI sound. he is the only guy who's been around besides the weird afro guy, but that guy only sings so what kind of musical input could he be putting in anyway(those lyrics are so gay anyway) i guess there was another weird afro dude but he's not on this one.

Anyway this record sucks. it's 3 songs and they are really lame. Cedric sounds like this big gay guy and jim ward's background vocals sound like a dude who spent most of his time inbetween classes at high school playing pokemon crystal with his gay friends. i can't imagine what kind of shitty taste in music these guys had at this point in their lives at like 19-20. if you listen to this EP anywhere outside of your comfortable house you will get made fun of.

It's only 3 songs long thank god! Nothing really bad on here, it's just a bunch of songs w/e

Rating: 5/10

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oh, man, just got an advance copy of this joint from my college radio station. Predictably, it is the shit (gaze! LOL...) This latest record was years in the making and it shows because this record is definitely the lo-fi Omar Rodriguez-Lopez & John Frusciante. If you like elite underground music and understand that groups like Pink Reason are the realness and that fakeass Pitchfork shit like Dum Dum Girls and Radiohead and The Nightwatchman is for the lamedick poseurs then this is THE record for you, my fellow interstellar travelers...


Sunday, February 06, 2011

This is definitely the worst shit ever:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Live Blogging The New Akron/Family Thing

Part I: 1/6 & 2/6

A few months ago, a representative of Akron/Family's label Dead Oceans announced that that band's new record would be titled S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT and that the band members recorded it during a period of time spent living in the side of an active volcano in Japan while listening to underground noise cassettes. You can read all about the care put into the album's delivery method elsewhere. Note that Dead Oceans did not even receive a copy of the full album, only samples on a CD-R and a promise from the album's producer that it would "transcend the internet."

And yet, a few days ago, on Christmas day, a leak of the record began circulating and nobody really questioned it. Obviously the music took some people aback because if the leak was any evidence, Akron/Family were gearing up to release a noise record, full of blown out brutality in addition to gorgeous ambient passages, but little in the way of the psychedelic indie folk tendencies that many of their fans go to their music for. The only identifiable moments that fall into that category sound heavily edited and distorted, endlessly remixed and buried under mounds of noise and effects. But there was very little talk of the skull on the cover art that came attached to the files... or the presence of the numbers "2/6" and the color alterations of the cover art from what had been originally revealed months earlier. Or the song titles that seemed to have been written using some kind of pseudo witch house/2010 M.I.A. aesthetics.

I played the leaked record twice, the second listen much louder and more enjoyable than the first. I liked that they went as far as they did. For most of the time that I've spent following them (since 2005), I've known that they are some of the most peerlessly freaky motherfuckers making music in the western world. Without penning a massive treatise laying out all the reasons why I like them, I will say that their versatility had me stunned from the beginning... creating an hour long melodic folk masterpiece here, unleashing some of the most electrifyingly assaultive classic rock freak-outs of the modern day there. On Meek Warrior, I found out that they were into free jazz and were comfortable with releasing a heavy psychedelic stomper about riding dolphins. On Love Is Simple, I found out that they really are hippies who are here to make all my Crazy Horse/Dead/Yes/The Band dreams come fucking true. Seeing them on that tour, I realized that they are incredibly funny gentlemen who will do just about anything to make their performances more amusing for themselves. As I might have guessed from hearing the records, they lacked the highly reserved qualities of many artists and writers associated with independent music. They have loads of humility and an appreciation of the absurd, which is a lot rarer than it should be. Sometimes they write embarrassingly simplistic lyrics communicating embarrassingly simplistic messages, sometimes they kick out the jams and melt the unsuspecting freak folk audience's face for an entire show, sometimes they slip in a couple Dead covers because why the fuck would a band get up on stage and not blow minds with an extended take on "Turn On Your Lovelight"? They've gotten increased exposure over time, sure, but I wouldn't say that they've "crossed over," oh, no. Definitely not, which is a bit odd for a band whose debut record hit so many indie rock sweet spots at the time.

I say all this because I'm not sure if many others have really caught on at this point. With the records that they've done since 2005, I've encountered a lot of statements saying, "They've lost it" or "This album sucks" or "They'll never match the s/t" or "This is their best since the s/t, they finally have it again," with the most oddly polarizing release in their catalog being 2007's Love Is Simple. The detractors miss the humor, the classic rock references, the impressively carried out avant-garde leanings, the way they seriously jam as an ensemble and how that sets them apart from the accepted images of precious bearded indie folk wieners... put these things together and you get a band that far too few people actually give a fuck about, whose general excellence is not reflected by their position in the current critical discourse, too weird for indie fans, too direct and song-oriented for the noisy psych crowd.

S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT. Let's assume that that title is meaningless bullshit. It is an articulation of the concept of their new record as laid out in their message to Dead Oceans, built around a goofy as hell exaggeration of the cosmic "hippy" persona. I'm familiar with their performances. They're hysterical. They play the theme from Top Gun while the short mustachioed bassist waves a Confederate flag. They fill their set on the "Folk Stage" at the Metronome Festival with screaming and effects pedal wankery and end it all by leading the crowd in a chant of "CIRCLE! TRIANGLE! SQUARE!" while some guy working at the festival gets on the drums. They play a show at the London Astoria the same week as a regularly occurring "gay night" and insist on turning on the big neon sign that flashes the word "GAY" behind them as they perform. They are not beyond seeing being in a well liked band as an opportunity to do stupid shit just because it amuses them.

Which brings me to the situation surrounding their upcoming record, as it stands, right now. Several hours ago, on December 28th, I came across a second leak of the album. The song titles were slightly different on this one. Even the album title tag was slightly differentiated from the first ("and" was now "adn" and the "< sbmb >" between the words "of" and "Shinju" was replaced by "< gdbmb >"... I had to add spaces into those because as written, they fuck up the HTML tagging. Blog terrorism!) On the cover art for the new leak... "1/6." The musical content? Similar idea to "2/6", but where the general sound of that one often brought to mind the sounds of indie groups dabbling with noise textures (Fuck Buttons, HEALTH, Animal Collective, etc.), this one most often resembled a full on abrasive headfuck, mining the kinds of territory that nobody but the most extreme harsh noise and sound collage artists ever even bother with. Who would have thought that the nice boys who sang "I'll Be On The Water" would one day be channeling Kevin Drumm, Merzbow, and To Live & Shave In L.A.? It's almost too gloriously unexpected to be something that would actually happen. Even I doubted that they were capable of pulling off such abstract brutality with this much ease.

And I say this with the full knowledge that there are doubters and that we have no idea what this music is or what the new Akron/Family record actually sounds like. I have a hypothesis that has only been strengthened during the past eight hours since it was formed. I believe that this is Akron/Family's idea of what happens when an album "transcends the internet." It is the ultimate way for these guys to just fuck with people and the very idea of internet based music culture. The endless message board discussions and shitfits that ensue with every move that a band makes, the excitement surrounding leaks, witch house... the entire S/T II project is an enormous cosmic joke on anyone who buys into these things. Or maybe that's not it at all. A friend of the band did confirm that the to-be-released product has not actually leaked yet and that what people have heard are in fact head splittingly noisy deconstructions of the finished album that have been assembled and unleashed by the band members themselves as a "prank." But the fact that he felt the need to provide such reassurance just proves that whoever the hell this guy is, he doesn't really get it and he's not combatting anything. The mighty Ak Ak cannot be stopped. During this same night, the band's Twitter was updated with this mysterious and highly unrevealing tweet: "Omg! YouTube new acorn/factory leak! Holy balls. Awesome!!!" Select "Get Info" on a song from either leak and you'll see that under "Composer," it says, "'S BMB +++{{{Giant amazing ACIPD PUNK MIND BMBEd MEler FACE}}}+++" and under "Grouping," the words "U BN BOMBD" (surrounding by multiple "<"s and ">"s on either end but again, I couldn't post them properly here without the formatting getting screwed up.)

What I'm trying to say here is that whatever is going on here, I have faith that one of my favorite bands actually did go to this much trouble for a ridiculous internet prank. And I am genuinely impressed by what has leaked so far, no matter what we end up referring to these recordings as in the future. For a band that has always expressed a fondness for fairly out there musical stylings, they sound shockingly adept at the arguably against type sounds that they're exploring here, particularly on the "1/6" edition of the S/T II leak. My ears aren't broken. I can make out the source material bubbling up to the surface every now and then, and I can also hear that there was some genuine effort put into the arrangement of these sounds. Saying, "It's a prank!" doesn't matter because they're pranking listeners with some damn fine music. If this plays out in the way that I think it's been doing, Akron/Family will be essentially controlling the leak of their album in a way that is as comically frustrating for some fans as it is rewarding for others, all while taking the inevitable concept of the "leak" period as an opportunity to create more art that stands on its own. And when you consider that at least the first leak has probably already been posted to private torrent trackers as an official rip of the completed S/T II album, the Akron/Family members' efforts to make a gigantic mess of their album's web presence is basically foolproof until the to-be-released version somehow makes its way onto the internet.

Maybe I'm biased because last year I spent several days of my life lovingly piecing together a fake leak of an upcoming Vampire Weekend album that got about 5,000 downloads in a little over a month before finally getting taken down. But I think that no matter what S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT sounds like and no matter whether or not Akron/Family dumps four more 50 minute long wacked out noise records onto the internet within the next five weeks, this whole ordeal is fucking brilliant. And dare I say innovative. And I couldn't be happier that Akron/Family is the semi-high profile band that's bothering to carry it out.

And all while having this music associated with a label that releases Bishop Allen records.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Neil Young - Le Noise (2010)

Reading the bits of information about Le Noise that were leaked out by its two chief architects, my expectations were leaning heavily towards this new Daniel Lanois produced Neil Young recording being the most welcome addition to the latter artist's body of work in over a decade. And coming from a rabid Neil Young devotee who couldn't help but listen to Fork In The Road way more than most 2009 releases simply due to the fact that it "wasn't completely terrible, or is at least terrible in a kind of funny and entertaining way," the album that I was expecting would leave me with no choice but to view it as some kind of mind blowingly incredible next level musical achievement. Such is the nature of this writer's Neil fandom.

There were two things that piqued my interest. One was the prospect of a solo album. Not in the sense of "without Crazy Horse" like what Neil's unaccompanied name on a record sleeve implies, but the kind of solo album that he's somehow never gotten around to making until over 40 years into his career despite possessing one of the most powerful and iconic "one man and a guitar (or piano and sometimes harmonica)" presences in all of rock music. Anyone who has heard him singing haunted room filling renditions of "Old Man" and "A Man Needs A Maid" on Live At Massey Hall knows that extra musicians aren't required for him to command the listener with his songs. And anyone who has heard "Will To Love" knows that Neil Young up late at night laying down bizarre multitrack recording experiments is too intriguing and rewarding of a concept to have not been explored further.

And then of course there's Daniel Lanois, a man who helped Simply Saucer get their legendary music onto tape, contributed instrumental and engineering duties to some top notch early Raffi LPs, collaborated with Brian Eno, and made sure that latter day efforts by Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris sounded like nothing else in those artists' careers. "There's no band, but I got in there with my sonics," Lanois stated about Le Noise, and considering that Dylan's Time Out of Mind and Harris's Wrecking Ball were colored by dark reverb heavy arrangements that didn't try to recapture those artists' pasts nor squeeze them into any current mainstream radio climate, Lanois getting in there with his sonics is pretty much an inherently positive treatment for 21st century Neil Young music to receive. At this point, the last thing anyone needs from Neil is rush recorded novelty rockers or bland by-numbers acoustic throwaways like "Shining Light."

Lanois's efforts on Le Noise, besides providing the source of a most delightful pun in the title (goodness, that took me far too long to notice), are largely concentrated upon helping Neil get back in touch with elements of his artistic identity that he never really lost in the first place. Onstage and with Old Black in hand, he's still able to unleash some of the most impassioned musical fury known to man, and when you consider how the past few years of live Neil have been defined by 20 minute jams on "No Hidden Path" and brutally raw takes on "A Day In The Life," he seems as committed as ever to bringing the fire. When it comes to songwriting, however, much of his recent material has been marred by uninspired melodies and awkward lyrics that don't even come close to touching something like "Razor Love," the highlight of 2000's mostly innocuous Silver & Gold and the last time Neil released a song that was as sublime as any of his greatest works.

Neil has spent so much of the past decade venturing too deep into the subdued farming enthusiast side of himself (the "old man" who was heard on Prairie Wind and in the Heart of Gold documentary and who keeps misguidedly letting his loving wife handle backing vocals for some reason) and into his peculiar concept album fixations inspired by fictional towns, politics, and his car, when not so long ago he was dragging Crazy Horse through pulverizing 14 minute long renditions of "Danger Bird," scoring the soundtrack to Dead Man, and taking career advice from Thurston Moore. Of course it's silly to expect him to be the Keiji Haino of classic rock, but there is some truth in that analogy. One of the most significant recurring aspects of Neil's career for me is how his most transcendent works have been the ones that sound like he's holding nothing back and letting the music pour out of him in an unforced manner. It's why his "Ditch Trilogy" records possess such a different character from his up and coming folky singer/songwriter LPs like Harvest and After The Gold Rush. It's why when I want to be floored by Neil Young, I'm more likely to throw on the Weld version of "Cortez The Killer" or side two of On The Beach or "Interstate" or "Soldier" or fucking "Powderfinger." It's why I practically feel guilty for enjoying the non "Natural Beauty" Harvest Moon tracks or anything before the last two tracks on Silver & Gold as much as I do. If neutered easy listening baby boomer jams are what you're going to Neil Young for, you might as well go all the way and stick exclusively to Crosby, Stills & Nash.

So imagine the sense of relief that I felt when the big bellowing opening chords of "Walk With Me" began rattling my speakers. Within seconds Neil is howling, "I FEEL YOUR LOVE!!!! I FEEL YOUR STROOONNNNGGGG LOOOOOVVVEEEE!!!!" and it's clear that this could very well be the most joyously life affirming piece of Neil Young music since the barnstorming rockers of Ragged Glory twenty years ago. But he certainly doesn't stop there. Around the two minute mark, the crunching fuzz brutality breaks open to make way for a perfectly placed moment of heavenly melodicism. By the time you get to the end of the song's 4:26 running time, Young and Lanois have explored so many various dark, distorted textures, it hardly makes sense that this is the work of an aging rocker whose most unanimously recognized and acclaimed work was created over 30 years ago. Even with the vocals, the sounds here are much closer to music that is as concerned with crafting unique, physically moving sonic environments as it is with simply writing a song. Sleeps With Angels and unsung '90s masterpiece "Interstate" contained their fair share of reverb soaked atmosphere, but career moments like that merely hint at the near ambient noise layering that "Walk With Me" eventually devolves into. And even before you've arrived there, the experience of facing the roaring walls of fuzz that comprise the main section of this adventurous rock based music composition is more akin to listening to a Sunn O))) album: down-tuned, massive, overpowering... no drums necessary to knock you on your ass, melt your whole body down to a transparent watery liquid, and leave you honestly wanting to just listen to those fucking guitar chords for an hour straight.

Daniel Lanois definitely deserves a significant amount of credit for wrangling these sounds out of Neil and for fine tuning them in a way that makes this one of the most stunning sounding albums in recent memory, making Neil sound like the larger than life god that he deserves to be heard as on songs like "Walk With Me" and the finally released, absolutely demolishing rendition of "Hitchhiker." Thanks to Lanois's artistic guidance and skills as an engineer, the overall character of Le Noise is one that reminds the listener of what it's like to hear Neil Young at his most awe inspiringly powerful sounding, the Neil Young who pioneered an inimitable brand of dark Americana that was created in order to fight off the looming anxiety of mortality and dispel the demons of hate and human weakness with lumbering storms of electric guitar chords. In varying ways, artists that range from Earth to Pink Reason to The Dead C to Slint to Jandek to Mark Kozelek to Jason Molina have all managed to successfully channel this occasionally abrasive yet entirely beautiful and transfixing quality of Neil's music, that of staring into a bottomless abyss of human emotion while being steamrolled by the otherworldly quality of "Cowgirl In The Sand," "Cortez The Killer," "On The Beach," and more brilliant songs than nearly any other artist would have ever known what to do with. Hearing the completely fucked up and terrifying opening chords of "Hitchhiker" makes you glad that he waited this long to lay down the official studio recording. In addition to benefiting heavily from Lanois's signature dark sonics, the poignancy that the song takes on at this point in his life, particularly with the addition of a new verse, is absolutely crucial to its impact. For a song that is essentially a chronicle of the bridges burned and hardships endured along the trail of destruction that has been left behind by Neil Young, a man who as young as 29 was already distinguished as a ragged survivor, letting the song sit for years has only enhanced it. Consider that since the events described in "Hitchhiker," its writer has lost friends and nearly faced the risk of death from a brain aneurysm: the wait is the song.

I don't want the fact that I'm not going to write up another six paragraphs for each of this album's remaining songs to give off the impression that I'm selling the rest of Le Noise short. Tracks like "Sign of Love" and "Someone's Gonna Rescue You" serviceably communicate the album's moody vibe and as with the previously fawned over tracks, do sound as if Neil is singing them from atop a mountain of awesome distorted guitars. And despite the occasional dopey lyric heard in "Love & War" and "Angry World," the songs nevertheless retain the record's intriguingly intimate qualities and give the first half of Le Noise some shape as it leads up to the final one-two-three punch of "Hitchhiker," the aching seven minute long acoustic "Peaceful Valley Boulevard," and "Rumblin'," a song that would be the devastating existential soul searching black hole of the album if not for the towering inferno of "Hitchhiker." These closing tracks represent the heart of Le Noise, the sound of one of music's most visceral artists being provided with the proper atmosphere to let his potential for transcendence shine through more visibly than it has in a long time. Not unlike the final moments of On The Beach, the ending of this album leaves one with the impression that if Neil Young were to die within days of its completion, it would be the perfect sign-off. It's not something that I like to think about, but it still underlines why this is such a beautifully put together collection of songs that's captivating from start to finish and a reminder of how rich and engaging the work of truly experienced artists can be.

Rating: Four and a half stars out of five on the All Music Guide scale.

Download Link: Just get the whole thing from somewhere.

Friday, August 06, 2010

to live and shave in la - the wig maker in 18th c. williamsburg

music is fun and lucrative so maybe one of you eight or nine record store fags who write/read this recognize that kind of creative anxiety; you only have so many parameters to work with, maybe you'll have what you think is an interesting or cool or new idea, but it's clear that no one's gonna follow your bizarre train of thought and recognize the clear profundity of this genius so why bother? twi8cw has me thinking about this intentional fallacy shit, who cares i know but bear with me

caveat, such is the nature of writing about a fucking album like the pulsing breathing monochromatic jagged world of shit that is wigmaker that this post is gonna get real annoying real quick. it's two hours long, like 30 tracks give or take. it's made of radio samples under extreme noise and screaming and u.s. maple grunting/come-ons, it's just a heap of audio garbage while the guy sits on top and shrugs. i could only sit through the whole thing once. i don't know anything about the brains behind tlasiLA but apparently it took him over half a decade to make this, which assumes tons of painstaking attention to sonic detail that no one who doesn't inhabit this dude's brain will ever notice or care about

it's all here though, constantly, just an amalgam of incidental noise and radio sample bullshit and everything you should hate having to hear, pounded into your brain with sledgehammer electronics and razors in wind tunnels and this particular character layering and melting his voice til it becomes part of the whole thing but stays the focus the whole time. i'm making this sound like it's hard to listen to but it's not - it's the opposite of something like uh imperial distortion; it's every possible destroyed material sculpted together into, as far as i can tell, music that might be intended to be nothing of consequence. which maybe it is. why do i give such a shit about the title and cover though? why does my brain fucking shatter when the tape cuts out and back in around the end of "comet" for instance. there are a lot of little moments like that. this is an actual 'album' for sure, and i mentioned how much work went into it - i keep wanting to bring up endless summer but there's no real parallel beyond the same thing or musical idea dying or decaying in both albums, and in wigmaker it gets resurrected into some fucked up voltron, so you tell me what it's symptomatic of to want to play this into the ground almost solely for that reason. i bet all this sounds really fucking fascinating but it really is a world of its own worth throwing on at least half of one time, especially if youve been sitting on your dick listening to KISS for months and wanna remember that waning feeling of 'discovering' something in a huge piece of music. none of this is an explicit endurance challenge like some of the cornier merzbow shit or whatever, it's just here if you want it. no pretentions just some guy's incredible fucked-up mind, maybe there really is a path to follow down this thing and you'll hit the right one

rating: havent watched this yet, maybe its cool

Monday, July 19, 2010

The-Dream - Love King (2010)

Three and a half weeks and no updates. Sorry about that! Every day that passed since my earth shattering dissection of Hole's Pretty On The Inside was another day that I failed to see any reviews of the new full length solo effort from Terius Nash aka The-Dream turn up at certain major review sources on the internet, a record that has been next in the queue since the Hole review was published. But alas, I waited too long and the reviews are rolling in now. I started writing this a week ago so I might as well just finish it. This blog could be undergoing a slow, inconsequential death, who knows.

Listening to Love King recently for the first time since the initial leak period, I realized that I've lost interest in this recording, anyway. Expectation is a massive bitch, did you know that? It is a vast, multitude containing enigma that can take months and even years to properly assess and come to terms with. Back in late 2008 when I first encountered persons in my small circle of elite music fans who were excited about just how exceptionally good The-Dream's solo debut Love/Hate managed to be, I made special note of it. Only a few months later, the followup Love vs. Money became the talk of the town and suddenly I had two albums that I could look forward to getting acquainted with. After a single meaningless first listen of each, I intentionally began diving into the debut, which despite Nash's rising levels of commercial and critical appeal remains a slept on recording. I was in a car with some fine white girls when I decided that the time was right to give it a legit attentive spin. And let me tell you, for the knockout 1-2-3 punch of "Shawty Is Da Shit," "I Luv Your Girl," and "Fast Car," my unfamiliarity with these songs allowed them to retain a startling level of transcendence that music rarely achieves. Who knows what the white girls thought at the time. Probably some combination of annoyance, uncertainty, and horniness as I sat consumed by sheer ecstasy at the abundance of hooks that were being filtered through some incredibly blissful production and then launched out of the speakers like some vile load being spat up onto the monstrous creamy juggs of my psyche and the many fibers contained within. After being drenched by that opening run of jams, I was brought back to reality. Smooth sailing from there. Over time, the rest of the album blossomed into something that was as start to finish enjoyable as any album with practically zero shitty songs on it ("Mama" is up in the air at this point.) During that summer, I experienced many long train rides, sweaty workout sessions, and long periods spent sitting around dicking about on the internet that were soundtracked by this wonderful Long Player. And since that initial revelatory period, Love/Hate has continued to be the gift that keeps on giving! I also got to Love vs. Money later that summer and that one ended up being stellar, as well. Less seamlessly flowing than the debut and more approachable in 1-2 song chunks, but enjoyable for its more overblown quality and bigger synths. The Electrik Red record was pretty dope, too. Cool!!!

And so I had every right to expect an album that was as all around fantastic as The-Dream's first two. Instead of being transfixed at being repeatedly drawn into this record, however, my time with Love King has felt considerably more forced. Besides an increased level of familiarity, not much has changed since the first listen. The album is structured in such a way that the opening run of songs is enjoyable but bordering on retread territory. Nash is still cocky as hell and confident in his ability to please the ladies but for the first time ever, his fixation on this aspect of his persona is starting to feel played out. Starting with the rightly jizzed upon internet sensation "Yamaha," he begins to hint that he is fully capable of expanding his artistry in terms of musical and emotional content. From a songwriting perspective, "Yamaha" is a triumph in the tradition of "I Luv Your Girl" and "Take You Home 2 My Mama" in how it reveals The-Dream to be awfully good at hurling hooks at the listener in a way that justifies his tendencies towards being a showoff. Very much like how "Fast Car" functioned as a reimagination of "Little Red Corvette," "Yamaha" pumps shit up to "I Would Die 4 U" levels. When that groove kicks in, it makes everything that came before it sound like a painful slog. By the time the second half's vocal refrain kicks in with Nash going right ahead and flat out impersonating the Purple One with a vocal performance, lyrics, and melody that all sound like they could have been transmitted from the creative mind of Prince himself. Or maybe even one of his classic unfuckwitable '80s records (could have fooled me.) It's an exhilarating piece of music that needs to be heard to be believed and completely justifies the special recognition that it has been receiving from the white internet using record nerd contingent of The-Dream's audience.

While clearly the album's centerpiece, the stretch of tunes that follows "Yamaha" has no shortage of standout moments and is a pleasant surprise overall. The segue into "Nikki, Pt. 2" and the way that song's segue into "Abyss" (which sports another out of nowhere classic artist aping refrain... this time, it's MJ) acts as an extension of the near cinematic multipart drama of "Love vs. Money, Pts. 1 & 2" on his sophomore release and "Nikki" -> "She Needs My Love" on his debut, but even more lush and drenched in the sweat of human emotion... good stuff!!! The man carries this through the sensual falsetto led groove of "Turnt Out" and the like-"Fancy"-but-more-syrupy "February Love." These songs are some moody conceptual shit and make me wish that The-Dream would just go ahead and release the R&B Laughing Stock or something. That would be some fresh shit, in my opinion!!!

Ultimately, this album is this year's Watch Me Fall: followup release to some of the best music in recent years but feeling like a messy transitional work that only occasionally lives up to the artist's standards and has me struggling to say anything insightful about it. Or caring about trying to. Bummer. Apparently he's not retiring from making solo records after all, so hopefully he'll finish his next album and not die like Jay Reatard did that one time (also a bummer. Or perhaps more of a harsh realm.)

Rating: Eh.

Download Link: "Yamaha"... this is quite the track!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hole - Pretty On The Inside (1991)

Reading up on this album leads one to believe that the popular grunge rock band Hole fronted by Courtney Love was first introduced to the world as a group that let its more abrasive tendencies run wild, embracing the elite sounds of the Sonic Youth and the Teenage Jesus and the Pussy Galore rather than trying to write "hits." What it really sounds like is Mudhoney minus whatever grasp of songwriting that band displayed on such catchy North American underground rock classics as "If I Think" and "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More." In terms of vocal approach, Love favors impersonating the oh so cool jaded tunelessness that co-producer Kim Gordon pioneered, alternating between that and the wretched screams that would become somewhat of a trademark over the years. All of this is done over a backdrop of unassuming grunge racket that never really crosses over into the anti-music territory of NYC namecheck rock but doesn't have much success with its more traditional songwriting aspirations, either. If you're looking for something more than nostalgia for dated dollar bin classics, I can't imagine you'll come away with much.

Rating: Eh.

Download Link:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Billy Bao - Urban Disease (2010)

Beyond having heard this album, I ceased trying to stay up to date on Billy Bao two years ago when I dismissively threw Dialectics of Shit into a pile with Rusted Shut, i.e. like Brainbombs but not as funny and without the killer riffs. Just pounding headache inducing garbage that I don't particularly enjoy listening to. The 7" and 10" that came before weren't all that different but they were certainly shorter, which is always a good thing. There's a story behind this band but I don't know which parts are true, if the singer is some Nigerian guy howling at oppression or when Mattin joined or if he just fabricated that entire backstory as part of his "conceptual art" schtick that he has going on. All I have is the internet to inform me about these things. There's only so much vague bullshit that I'm willing to wade through.

Let me try, though. This two sided vinyl adventure contains the earliest Billy Bao recordings? Maybe? They're from almost a whole half decade ago, perhaps? The press release said something about Mr. Bao inviting people over to perform Psychedelic Underground in its entirety. Maybe that happened. Maybe the music on here is something else that isn't that. And maybe Mattin fucked with it a considerable amount and that's why there are long stretches of silence jarringly ripped open by primal noisemaking with even more noisemaking smeared over it.

The only thing that puts this within the previously established Billy Bao aesthetic is that it's so listener unfriendly. The music itself has little to do with the sort of punishing downtuned racket that is normally found on the records released under the Billy Bao name. And perhaps this is where the Amon Düül fascination comes in, considering that it begins with a brief passage of inane yelping drum circle freakout bullshit. After all, isn't Psychedelic Underground about as fuzzed to shit as the stuff happening within the grooves of Urban Disease? "Ein wunderhubsches Madchen traumt von Sandosa" began with a stream of white noise blasting its wad out of the mix and it was almost as painful as any of the torturously blunt editing choices that Mattin (???) makes on here.

I'm not sure if this album proves that Billy Bao's roots lie in freeform psych or what amount of influence Mattin has over the group's recordings or anything at all. The sawing power electronics brutality at the beginning of side B certainly reminds me of side B of List of Profound Insecurities, his recorded collaboration with Drunkdriver. But then I hear that followed by two minutes of retarded ELP style prog jazz wankoff and I have no clue what to think. And then ending it all with a synth/drum machine dirge that sounds like Supersilent finally laying down a rough demo for their early Cure recalling goth pop crossover smash... fuck. Urban Disease suggests that there is a hell of a lot more to Billy Bao than "noise rock." There are plenty of moments identifiable as being grounded in some kind of junky but highly dynamic approach to improv but then there's the matter of Mattin, and if he really is responsible for arranging such a bizarre assortment of sounds into a two sided Long Player format... well, kudos to him. Whenever he did this. If he did this. I've never heard an album quite like Urban Disease and it's easily 2010's most confounding releases, but also one of the best.

Rating: Excellent.

Download Link:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flaming Tunes - Flaming Tunes (1985)

What exactly did Gareth Williams bring to the table during his tenure as a member of This Heat? For people who try to talk about that band, his presence provides a great amount of convenience, allowing for a binary to be established with Williams on one end and Charles and Charles on the other. Two formally trained musicians finding their voices within the British prog scene team up with a "non-musician" who serves as their foil. Take away Williams and they could have been Steely Dan. Throw him into the mix and shit gets totally crazy like if Brian Eno had been around to overdub his squishy farts all over Avalon.

But no, that's probably not actually the case. This Heat was just a band of wild and crazy guys, music theory scholars or not. The free improv faceshredding of "Rainforest" was probably born more out of Bullen and Hayward's desires to infuse their prog-rock pedigrees with genuine nihilism than whatever Williams was all about. They must have been thrilled to have him along for the ride, dicking around with keyboard sounds and tape loops and what have you, coming with a background in untainted primitivism that helped his more inescapably cerebral bandmates arrive at something more purely visceral.

To nobody's surprise, Gareth Williams's post-This Heat work isn't some kind of brainily orchestrated Univers Zero recalling RIO odyssey. Not that Charles Hayward's recordings made under the Camberwell Now name were either, but you did kind of get the sense that one of the main draws was the band element, three or however many individuals hammering away all workmanlike at those sexy mathematical grooves. Collaborating as Flaming Tunes, Gareth and friend Mary Currie created music that truly feels "assembled," as if they started by laying down four minutes of one sound and then adding another and another, resulting in music that depends on the ability of its repetitive, simple melodies to be honestly transfixing. I can't say whether or not that accurately describes how Williams and Currie worked, but it's a method that I've often fallen into as a musician, partly due to laziness and partly due to a natural curiosity to see respectable work built up from nothing.

This is the sort of composition style that I get a sense of whilst listening to the recorded output of Flaming Tunes, originally released on cassette 25 years ago. They were often misinterpreted by people as being "This Heat's final demo tapes" and the recordings are awfully crude sounding, but in terms of composition as well as sonics. There are vocal melodies but the closest thing to pop that the songs might resemble are very rough demos for some of the Another Green World vocal numbers, being more about how the drum machine rhythms and plinkety plonkety piano lines and whatever sounds are lurking behind them all manage to just kind of hang in the air as long as they need to, doing what they need to do, which isn't much. Mix that in with the arcane Britishness of it all (something I can't even begin to properly articulate) and I can't help but be reminded of other deconstructions of UK art rock like D.I. Go Pop, early Shadow Ring, Position Normal... yet rather than utilizing "found sounds" (even though they constitute a significant chunk of "Raindrops From Heaven" and probably pop up elsewhere, too), it's the music itself that ends up having a certain "found" aura about it. Maybe that's just the shitty recording quality, though, who the fuck knows. What I'm trying to say is that this CD is pretty all right.

Rating: I enjoy it. Bought it out of This Heat fandom and was kind of underwhelmed at first but it's a grower! I was always under the impression that Gareth's duties in This Heat did not cross over into the realms of the singing/writing of the vocal melodies but the tone of his voice and the things that he sings with it kind of suggest otherwise. Flaming Tunes doesn't quite reveal to the listener who brought what to This Heat but it does provide some fuel for speculation.

Download Link: "Beguiling The Hours"... maybe it's an okay example of what I've talked about so far, maybe it isn't quite that, but the melody is nice and coupled with the vocals it sort of reminds me of Syd Barrett's solo work. Which is a good thing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Defektors - The Bottom of The City (2010)

Hey, this band plays "punk rock." It's easy to get excited about because the slave driving beatz and rhythm guitar action often recall the Wipers, not to mention the fact that the production is clear as a bell and you always get the sense that you're hearing the sort of melodically minded music that is well executed to the point that it deserves to be put up there with all your favorite late '70s classics that have proven to be timelessly listenable through the ages. However, it's not that great and I'll probably never listen to it again once this year has passed. Or hell, once I've finished writing this. I guess they have a neat sound but where's the unavoidable infectiousness of the hooks? Where's the danger? Where's the scummy, cruddy "vibe"? I just hear some solid dudes with some cool records and not much else. Maybe it's a slight cut above those Busy Signals and Daily Void albums that I listened to one time but not much. Still pretty empty shit. I'll nod in recognition at the extended noisy guitar odyssey during the last five minutes of "Burning Light" but that shit ain't "Youth of America." It ain't even Hot Snakes, for that matter. Those guys brought the heaviness and catchiness, whereas the Defektors' game is pretty limp dicked. Might be cool to see live, though.

Rating: Whatever.

Download Link:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Aerosmith - Toys in the Attic

there's so much thought i want to put into dissecting this towering rock classic that beats the pitiful living shit out of appetite for destruction but it'd take a gigantic dedicated block of time that i'm not feeling up to. either way i can't emphasize enough how badly i want people to hear the first decade of aerosmith albums and get their heads out of their asses about some video game cash-in or rollercoaster or whatever. i know y'all love at least rocks which is fine but some intangible quality about this one does it for me the most. this is like the ugliest, brownest fucking album in the world, the coked out titty bar bender with a harvey milk album cover always looming in the horizon, and obv it defines this band perfectly. title track in particular is just this tidal wave of stale smoke and sewer sludge but the guitars and harmonies are still so sharp -just some dudes realizing they could stay the same hopeless hedonistic junkies of five years ago and take over the world with it. and unlike any of their other albums they manage to pull off that attitude back to front, through a seriously, kind of bizarrely creative and dynamic album given the knucklehead type dudes who put this thing together.

track by track rundown cause i got nothing else:

most of the cred for 'uncle salty' goes to whoever engineered this thing because there's no way these fucking slobs could have arranged a song like this. harmonies on the bridge are perfect, all the emoting in general is spot-on no matter how many countless takes there must have been

'adam's apple' is feminist rock with a great riff. this and 'big ten inch record,' they may be all about the loud fast dumb thing but it's safe to say no one who tried to pull this kind of shit off was as knowingly smart-ass or clever or self-aware. generally you think this is an ac/dc-caliber meathead band but of all the songs to make you change your mind somehow it's these two

sweet emotion/walk this way i don't listen to these anymore but obviously they're incredible. the 'sweet emotion' riff is my involuntary mental soundtrack to a lot of daily activities. also i like watching those vh1 hip hop countdowns where they insist that the aerosmith/run-DMC collab was one of the defining moments in american racial relations

i know half this post has been backhand compliments which is completely unfair to a band i love and a catalog i celebrate in its near-entirety so i'll go on record as saying 'no more no more' is at least one of the best rock songs of all time. i don't know why i go for this one over toys or uncle salty but it's like, point out one even slightly objectionable thing about this song. there are two billion examples of 'no more no mores' in this genre and this is no doubt the textbook flawless standard. it'd been floating in the aether since 'satisfaction.' they walk around strung out covered in blood in shitty clothes fucking countless anonymous women with death always lurking around the corner and they're so grateful for this perfect life, this american dream. this song is like walking on sunshine

'round and round' sounds like vanilla fudge i guess, it's good, sounds like it should be a get your wings b-side

'you see me cryin' is pretty catchy, producer kind of fucked it up with the overmixed strings but it's about as good as a song like this is gonna be. steve tyler is a great singer, no homo but dude is insane and this one is kind of his deserved diva moment

all in all i treasure this album dearly and would take it over let it bleed and beggars banquet all day, not to mention whatever other received wisdom bullshit you can come up with. the faces or whatever

here's this but just go get it out of your dad's basement

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Terminals - Disconnect (1988)

This is an EP recording by a band. The music is some bouncy Flying Nun type shit that will stimulate your unpolished idiosyncratic pop boner. Or maybe that's not it at all, I have no idea. Been tired as fuck all day and all I did was cut the sleeves off one of my dope rock tees, watch my DVD copy of Wild Things: Unrated Edition, and not eat.

Rating: I don't know.

Download Link: "Batwing"

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Plush - More You Becomes You (1998)

When we last left our pal Liam Hayes, he was busy offering up the recordings that would introduce his surprisingly fully formed aesthetic to the world: two finely crafted Beatlesque pop gems with restrained production that never interfered with the songs' hazy drifting through the clouds quality. Four years later, Hayes released this full length LP that is clearly born of the same mind that came up with "Three-Quarters Blind Eyes" and "Found A Little Baby." He's still that same songsmith whose influences stick conservatively to Bacharach, Nilsson, Wilson, Harrison, and pretty much zero post early '70s musical developments. His edginess level never rises above "baroque" and the tempos of his songs never accelerate to the point where you can't accurately describe them as "dreamy."

However, Hayes approaches his first album not as a collection of more singles but as a cohesive work that gives the listener a reason to experience it as a whole, which makes my response to More You Becomes You a somewhat conflicted one. Aside from a minimal horn arrangement on the penultimate "Instrumental," the record is all solo piano and vocals. If you love this man's melodic sensibility, voice, and number one favorite tempo (ballady), then you are in for a pleasing listening experience that fortunately reflects an awareness of 28 minutes being quite enough for this sort of thing. Because while "this sort of thing" might bring to mind Brian Wilson and like Pet Sounds this record's foundation is built upon slow songs with complex chord progressions that nonetheless always manage to sound awfully fucking lovely and pleasant in a good way, it's much closer to being a "suite" or "song cycle" or some bullshit like that. No one is going to be able to look at the tracklisting after even ten listens and based on the titles, be reminded of even one or two snatches of melody that may have floated into their brains while listening. This shit runs together. And Hayes clearly intends for it all to do just that, considering that many of those titles exist merely to provide track indexes for "songs" that spill into one another like they're Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh or something, whew!!!

As evidenced by his debut single and then this full length album, his aesthetic was firmly established and in place as the foundation for his work at this point in time, yet there is also something about how the four year gap between releases and the fact that Hayes was attempting this type of music during the mid to late '90s with such perfectionism suggest a brand of distant self-awareness that his most obvious influences had practically zero familiarity with. The "single" is just something that he tries on for size, releases only one of, and then moves on from to the next stop, which happens to be 28 minutes of solo piano/vocals compositions. It doesn't move too far beyond just being a good sound to lose yourself in for this particular length of time, so while the record might bring to mind that original demo of "Surf's Up" (scaled down, gorgeous, elaborate in structure, still too fast for Liam Hayes), a song like that is still on a whole other level of melodic enjoyment. What you ultimately get with More You Becomes You is calculated pastiche with a nice vibe, but that's good, too.

Rating: Inoffensive. Or slightly more than that, probably.

Download Link: "More You Becomes You"... the title track from this recording. You'll like it just fine.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mount Carmel - Mount Carmel (2010)

Wednesday night in the downstairs DePaul University Student Center computer lab was a quiet one. A few nondescript white sluts checking their Facebooks, two or three preteen kids hanging out for some reason, and a frumpy, gender ambiguous, troll-like being watching YouTube videos of Ten Years After. So, sir or madam who loves the real classic sounds, if you are reading this, I heartily recommend that you get on this Mount Carmel LP. This thing is 40 minutes of vintage no frills blues rock for all you totally edgy record collectors out there who fetishize shit like the Groundhogs and Speed, Glue & Shinki. Just three solid bros jamming out. And they're almost as funny looking as Henry's Funeral Shoe. Just imagine "'70s hard rock played in a guitar/vox + bass + drums format" and you probably won't even have to listen to this record but it's still perfectly enjoyable with great playing from all three guys.

Rating: Above average, in my opinion. Leaves lots of room for growth and that's a good thing. A fine addition to the '07-present Siltbreeze catalog, regardless.

Download Link: "Still Listening"

The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter (2010)

I'm playing a few songs from this album this morning. They're awesome. This band makes rock music with balls and powerful production and you probably listen to stuff that's worse than them. Get fucked!


Download Link:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal (2010)

Holy fuck, this is great. Yesterday this dude was just some "space music" fag with a bunch of Klaus Schulze records. Now he's a professional with a full length on Mego of balls deep ambient genius that basically crushes. This shit was made to crank is what I'm saying. Almost as glorious as stumbling upon Solar Bridge back in late 2008 but he's on some whole other thing, with these occasional clicks and whirs and other sounds that just slay you on top of the mind enveloping synthscapes. Not sure why the vocals on "Returnal" sound like a Silent Shout homage but even that's cool. A good friend of SLRJ also hears "Bach, Xenakis, plums, elephant songs of the Ituri forests." I've been playing the fuck out of this album and I don't think there are many reviews of it yet so that's why I'm publishing this.


Download Link: "Describing Bodies"

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vile Gash - Vile Gash (2010)

Remember last summer when I reviewed Vile Gash's second demo tape? Of course you do. It was a groundbreaking piece. Well, anyway, that recording was pretty awesome. Way better than their first one! You had some really fast fucking hardcore tracks that flew by in like three minutes and then a six minute long two chord Flipper/side two of My War thing. I dunno, I liked it. Then they put out a cassette called Leech and it was okay. And now they have a full length album with ten whole songs, all under a minute long except for the epic closer that's about two minutes long. It's just killer punk rock that kicks your ass for seven minutes and sounds pretty good doing it. The three songs from the second demo are here and the song "Leech" is here and then the five others are brand spankin' new. I guess this is actually classified as a 7" but that's really just the format that they released it on so consider it an album released on the 7" vinyl format 'cause it sure as hell ain't a single, man, 'cause singles have an a-side and a b-side and an album shorter than Blood Guts & Pussy is still an album. Once again, they do the thing where they play all the fast ones and then end with a slow one. They're good at doing that, especially here when "Incapable" starts up and suddenly there aren't any guitars and you just hear this slow drumbeat that's dominated by open hi-hat and it's kind of like listening to the beginning of "Damaged I." Whatever.

Rating: Fun record. Play it back to back with the Aerosols s/t some time. Or don't.

Download Link: "Who Are You Today?"... ten seconds of total fury!!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pat Metheny - Zero Tolerance For Silence (1994)

Last Monday night, my parents and I ended up witnessing a Pat Metheny performance in Chicago's Orchestra Hall because my aunt and uncle convinced us to drop 150 dollars on it, I guess. Apparently Metheny was there to show off some new gadgets, an incredibly complex system of automated sound-generating doohickies that coalesced to form what he called his "Orchestrion." Basically, Metheny chose from an arsenal of guitars throughout the night on which he would play in front of a wall of drums, vibra/xyla/marimbaphones, piano, some weird bottle things, and a number of other instruments that were all triggered to respond to tones that Metheny played or foot pedals that he controlled. I'm pretty sure he worked on it all with a team of brilliant engineers to get everything just right. This massive setup served him in both his composed and improvised pieces. It was so remarkable and complex that he and the audience's more enthusiastic contingent seemed to think that it was worth listening to for two and a half hours. It wasn't, though, and ultimately didn't amount to much more than Pat Metheny's New Age MIDI Orchestra. That's right, boringass music that consists of a guy happily shredding over what were more or less backing tracks that, despite Metheny and his little helpers' attempts to choke some slightly more human dynamic range out of this inherently stiff robot technology, still sounded like unengaging Casiotone demo tracks blown to widescreen proportions.

This guy, though. He's always been known to test people's patience in between the good shit. Wait, does he even have good shit? Who the fuck listens to "Pat Metheny"???? "Jazz" fans??? LOL. I bet he has a lot of "fusion" albums to his name. Hoo, that's rich.

Back to the patience testing, though. The guy is fond of exploring uncharted territory and taking YOU, the listener, along with him! Sometimes this means subjecting people to the Orchestrion and sometimes it means dicking around with weirdass custom-made eastern double neck 200 string guitars. It does not always mean "decent music" or "an ensemble unit conjuring some killer energy that might make things at least the tiniest bit engaging" or anything like that.

And sometimes it means "BLOWING YOUR MIND WITH WICKEDLY ABRASIVE NOISE BULLSHIT," which brings us to the classic recording Zero Tolerance For Silence. It's from 1994 and nobody liked it except Thurston Moore, so you know that it's maybe okay or maybe horrible but almost certainly indulgent as all fuck. The thing consists of our boy Pat Metheny overdubbing distorted guitars like crazy, turning them into five distinct "pieces," all atonal and all based around the same angular post-Magic Band guitar tone. The result occasionally brings to mind such respected elite music powerhouses as Metal Machine Music, Matt Bower/Skullflower at his/their/its most brutal (I'm thinking Tribulation here), "black metal," The Flying Luttenbachers, the aforementioned Magic Band, Mick Barr, and even Deerhoof's more obtuse work (particularly the achingly freeform masterwork known as "Look Away.")

But keep in mind... this is still Pat Metheny we're talking about here. For the most part, he's still a much bigger square than Sonny Sharrock and this stuff is about as academically wooden of a take on harsh guitar stranglings as you might expect from the dude. The moments where he slips into some bluesy leadwork are particularly hilarious and also prove that while Metheny was clearly interested in sculpting a dense pile of ridiculous noise, he could never do so with the drainingly persistent minimalism of Bower or Barr. And yet at the same time, that's what makes this album not really all that terrible and most likely preferable to, say, an Ocrilim record or some crap. For all the relentless clanging/dicking around, there's still some organization and effort to keep things somewhat diverse. Breaking out the acoustic for the fifth track, exploring slightly more calming melodic territory on the second, devoting a decent chunk of the 18 minute album opener to a surprisingly black metal-ish wall of white noise... you know what, I kind of dig it. At 39 minutes, anyway. Something tells me that while I'm not sure if hearing the Orchestrion tackle Zero Tolerance For Silence would be worth 50 bucks, seeing all the upperclass Symphony Center membership holders struggling to pretend that they enjoy it most certainly would.


Download Link: "Part 5"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Extra Life - Made Flesh (2010)

Um... yeah, hmm. I dunno about this one. I think these guys are from Brooklyn and hang out with Zs and the Dirty Projectors, which would lead one to believe that they are musically competent all out prog nerds of the highest order. Listening to their record does nothing to dispel this notion. The group's compositions suggest the shameless classical music fetishizing of Gentle Giant filtered through the bleakly heavy intellectualism of R.I.O. Yeah, yeah. So the music is passable avant prog bullshit. These vocals, though, hoo. They are the kind of vocals that will cause most people to say, "Hey, this band sucks." Go check out an mp3 of theirs available perhaps on a music related blog of some sort and you'll hear what I mean. They are not far removed from the kind of shittiness embodying singing of other terrible modern "progressive rock" bands such as Coheed & Cambria and the Mars Volta. There might even be some mild autotune at one point because these guys are self aware subversive types. And as for what is being sung, I can't say that that aspect makes the unbearable vocals bearable. Complex minor key melodies jerking all over the place in that delightfully academic way and never slipping into anything resembling catchiness, not to mention lyrics that are gratingly obtuse. "WET PETAL LIKE A VA-GIIIII-NAAAAAAA, WET PETAL LIKE A VA-GIIII-IIHHHH-NAAAAAAAA." Not far off from the Dave Longstreth school of lyric writing, the kind that is sort of clever but more often just meaningless and kind of hard to process coming from the mouths of such serious artists, who are also white as fucc and probably kind of douchey. I'm just making assumptions here. One of the songs here has lyrics about someone being classified as a "FANCY LAD," so maybe they should get points for being Cabin Boy fans.

Rating: You won't like it.

Download Link:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Z.Z. Hill - Down Home (1982)

The blues sucks, right? Not really, but my personal idea of the blues has been forever tainted by Saturday Night Live, Eric Clapton, and outdoor festivals held in Chicago during the summer that families from Wheaton or wherever the fuck take the good ol' Metra train in for so they can spend a nice hot Saturday cracking brews and dancing poorly. Also, the fact that in the wrong hands, blues chord progressions are often equivalent to "laziness" and "a disappointing listening experience." The Beatles and The Who recorded some great covers of blues/R&B classixx, but you get the feeling that they were devoted to that music to the point where they would have been happy to just crank out full sets of songs that basically all sound the fucking same. But that's early rock 'n roll fetishism for you. That's John Lennon polluting the Help! tracklisting with yet another boringass Larry Williams song instead of strengthening it with "Yes It Is," apparently only good enough for the b-side of a single. Fuck that guy.

Enough of my off topic bitching, though. Since you are all informed music fans who swear by the All Music Guide, you surely have the opening few sentences of Stephen Thomas Erlewine's review of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Texas Flood (1983) recording committed to memory:

"It's hard to overestimate the impact Stevie Ray Vaughan's debut, Texas Flood, had upon its release in 1983. At that point, blues was no longer hip, the way it was in the '60s. Texas Flood changed all that, climbing into the Top 40 and spending over half a year on the charts, which was practically unheard of for a blues recording."

How, then, do you explain Z.Z. Hill's Down Home (1982) and its stay on the soul chart for two years, clearly a sign that a significant contingent of the American record buying public had some taste for the blues? How do you explain Z.Z. Hill's Wikipedia entry and its claim that "Down Home Blues" is arguably "the best-known blues song of the 1980s"? Isn't that just kind of most likely not true? Especially with that delightful caucasian Stevie Ray dominating the proceedings?

Nobody knows, really. Or cares, for that matter. Think about the number of people out there who have their memories of the '80s defined by the output of a 46 year old soul blues singer who was experiencing a somewhat late career renaissance before unfortunately dying a couple years later. I'm guessing that the answer is something in the general ballpark of "not very many." Perhaps it was one of the most successful blues oriented albums of the '80s. The production is nevertheless so wretched that it must have sounded unlistenably dated within minutes after being recorded. The drums don't even sound real. This is especially a shame on the few album defining tracks that go deep into full on 6/8 down 'n dirty blues territory. Hill is in fine voice, sure, but the music is awfully lifeless. Luckily, there's at least some diversity to work from, including excellent melodic R&B tunes like "Cheating In The Next Room" and a couple choice Swamp Dogg jams. Listen to that high hat that sounds like a hot razor, though. It's painful and results in some potentially thrilling music sounding just plain cheesy. Absolutely tragic. This had to have been "one of the first all digital recordings," right? How could it have not been? This poor little album, gee.

Rating: Don't give up on Z.Z. just yet! Just know that the kind of soul that he was capable of unleashing didn't always sound this stifled.

Download Link: You should take some time out of your day to revisit Creed's hits from 1997 through around 2002 or so. That stuff holds up.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dangers - Messy, Isn't It? (2010)

Well, this is some terrible music. I saw this band described as "hardcore punk" and the record had a neat cover so I assumed I was gonna be in for some futuristic powerviolence type shit. Not the case at all. Is this what the term "hardcore" is used for these days? Sub-Converge asymmetrical haircut garbage? They try to fool you by throwing in a couple out of nowhere samples and other sounds that deviate from the onslaught of generic metalcore with unbearable vocals but I'm not gonna fall for it. Even though the songs have hilarious titles like "Teenage Porno Hunter," they're still fucking humorless. It's off putting. I'm not upset that I listened to it but I am upset that it wasn't at least ten minutes shorter. Although, I still was able to hear the whole thing and delete it before finishing this review. So that's cool.


Download Link:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Shadow Ring - Hold Onto I.D. (1998)

When we last left the gentlemen in the Shadow Ring, they were hot on the heels of their debut recording City Lights. Six years later, Hold Onto I.D. was finally released. Lucky for their fans, however, there were two studio records and a live joint released during that time. I'm skipping ahead, though. Hold Onto I.D. finds the Shadow Ring with a hard-on for vocal distortion and all sorts of keyboard fondling. Everything is still drearily slow and your precious detuned rubber band guitars are still being plucked away at, but they are more often complemented or simply replaced by a dusty old piano being fucked about on in its lowest range and insect buzz electronics. These synth tones that drone on and on throughout really are kind of freakin' me out. And you can't go wrong with the British guy's funny voice. 40 minutes of this shit? Why not?

Rating: They're turning into professionals! Look out! Doesn't really have that "endlessly fascinating grainy as all fuck snapshot of a particular special moment in the history of esoteric underground rock-ish musics" vibe that City Lights did but you know these guys are working towards something truly remarkable. Stay tuned.

Download Link: "Hold Onto I.D."... the seven minute title track/closer. Absolutely vicious.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Plush - Three-Quarters Blind Eyes (1994)

Did you have a good Record Store Day? Mine was okay. Showed up late enough to the Reckless Records on Broadway to be worried about the massive line of people being a sign that the "exclusive releases" that I went over there for would be all gone but early enough to be reminded that the shit I wanted is hardly even in demand compared to a lot of the stuff that was being sought out (a limited edition Against Me! single, for instance.) Two minutes after the place opened, more specifically. Scored a reasonably priced double vinyl copy of one of the greatest collections of music known to man, Arthur Russell's Calling Out of Context, in addition to an unreasonably priced white vinyl copy of another one of the greatest collections of music known to man, Sonic Youth's Confusion Is Sex (the first and only SY album I have ever owned! Roughly halfway through to owning everything they've done that's actually worth listening to, as well.) And last but not least, a splendid LP/cassette package of Kurt Vile's previously out of print God Is Saying This To You..., one of the best things I heard last year. Also ended up with a dollar bin CD copy of Eggs Teenbeat 96 Exploder by Eggs thanks to the generous fellow who I was lucky enough to stand around with. Later at Permanent Records, I finally bought the Puerto Rico Flowers 12" and the awfully fucking essential Harry Pussy compilation CD You'll Never Play This Town Again. That's five must have recordings that I needed to obtain sooner or later. And I did. Today. They're covered and I can move on to the rest of my infinite wishlist. And that's not even mentioning the free "Light My Fire" 7" with the exact same song on both sides! Considered splitting this in two and throwing it on the ground but decided that an embarrassingly clean gent like me could use some dust to wipe off every now and then.

Besides spending money and walking an unnecessary amount, I also managed to catch a few in-stores. Outside the Broadway Reckless, I noticed a four o'clock P.M. performance from "Liam Hayes & Plush" at the Milwaukee location listed on a flier. I think it took me a few seconds to even make the connection. "Liam Hayes & Plush as in... the 'band' Plush fronted by that guy Liam Hayes?" Seeing the name written in that way was jarring... what can I say. It's usually just "Plush." Maybe it was listed on the store's website all along and my mind glanced over it for this very reason? That had to be the case, as my second thought, then, was "Shit! Plush is playing for free! What do you know, a band that I'm somewhat interested in seeing is gonna be doing one of these in-stores. Well." And so I ended up in yet another Reckless location by four o'clock.

Plush's recordings are elaborate affairs. Do you remember when everyone in the Chicago music scene was making a big deal about how Hayes's second LP was taking years and far too much money and studio time to complete? And then it was only available in Japan? Of course you don't. Unless you spent the first few years of the 21st century as an internet savvy music fan rubbing his or her dick all over ILX and downloading the This Heat discography on dialup, you most certainly do not give a shit about this guy or his music. Which is great because it means that I have an easier time getting a spot where I can stand up front. Thanks.

Plush's recordings are elaborate affairs. And so I was surprised to enter the store and realize that the only non-Liam Hayes musicians that the tiny "stage" (there's a first for an in-store!) had room for were the bassist and drummer who were already chilling up there. Two black guys who were probably in their 50s. Maybe even 60s. What are they doing hanging out with such a goofily dressed skinny frizzy haired white dude who has forged a career penning '60s/'70s orchestral pop throwback tunes and receiving props from MOJO Magazine? I don't know. The bassist was reading off of charts and the drummer fucked up a couple endings so I'm going to assume that they learned the songs about an hour before. And so it was a charmingly awkward but still enjoyable six song set. Liam played a telecaster through an ultra vintage looking Brownface Fender Vibrolux. No distortion, no effects. I dug the tone and rhythm guitarwork. Decent voice on this guy, too. Perfect for the kind of music he goes for, I would say.

And what does the music sound like, then? I pretty much summed it up back there. '60s, '70s, Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson, George Harrison. Liam Hayes introduced himself to the world with this single released on Drag City back in the mid '90s. Both the songs are fairly slow, about the speed at which you're used to hearing Nick Mason play drum fills. That kind of slow. The floaty drifting in the clouds while listening to "The Porpoise Song" kind of slow. Good production, with tambourine, guitar, some strings and a horn or two. You get the idea. I probably would have been pretty excited about this if I were an indie rock fan in 1994 waiting around for all that fruity Elephant 6 shit to become the talk of the town. Both songs are pretty decent. I might like the second one better. Who knows. There's an instrumental version of that one, too, and it's pleasant. Whatever.

Rating: Pretty okay stuff! This guy was in High Fidelity, apparently. Probably should have referenced that while I was talking about record stores, eh???

Download Links:

1. "Three-Quarters Blind Eyes"
2. "Found A Little Baby"
3. "Found A Little Baby (Instrumental)"

Friday, April 16, 2010

Whip & The Body - Here On Exile 7" (2008)
Altars/Whip & The Body - Split 7" (2009)

Did you guys catch the latest TMZ? The drummer from Drunkdriver is a rapist! Yeah, old news to you underground insider types, I know. Or maybe all those girls are lying and his (now former) bandmates need to stop acting like uptight cunts and not break up just because they're experiencing the natural human impulse to grow overwhelmed by a sense of mistrust and deceit whenever a person finds out that someone close to them has been feeding them bullshit for an extended period of time. Maybe you've never been there. It's not fun, believe me. Or maybe that's not why they broke up. Maybe they just don't want to get raped. Frankly, though, it's none of our business. The facts aren't straight so let's not pretend that we know. Here's hoping that Jeremy moves to another city, starts a new band, and continues to rape people until the band breaks up. Third time's a charm, as they say.

Just playin', LOL. Drunkdriver was a damn good band and one of the best of its kind. They will be missed. I'm also going to assume that Whip & The Body has ended up as another tragic casualty of this whole fiasco. Whip & The Body was a collaboration between Jeremy Villalobos and Michael Berdan, drummer and vocalist for the aforementioned Drunkdriver, respectively. While Kristy was off shedding guitar exercises, the other two thirds of the group turned to the exciting world of brutal power electronics. Noise that is harsh. Harsh noise. All kinds of feedback, screaming, low end rumblings, whatever the fuck. Everything distorting into ungodly realms. You get the idea. From what I gather, their first 7" is occasionally referred to as "Here On Exile" and occasionally as just "Whip & The Body." Sometimes it has that bitchin' cover art and sometimes it's just black with the band name in white text. I don't know what is going on there. Two three minute pieces on side one that take no prisoners, flip it over (or keep your media player of choice running, more likely) and you have an extended industrial face shitter that is as bleak as it is nausea inducing. Gets real loud at the end, whew! Watch out for this one!

The following year saw the release of a split 7" with Altars. Once again, there is a major cover art issue. I count three separate covers showing up on the world wide web. One is inspired minimalist bullshit, one is half-assed minimalist bullshit, and the other is a lovely aesthetically pleasing photograph. I like that one so I posted it. On side one, you have Altars performing their hit "Wood & Rope." The music is recognizable as black metal but also happens to be drowning in a great deal of noise that threatens to knock any sort of "rock" foundation out from under its feet. That never happens, though, and this devastatingly ugly music never becomes any less "metal." Kind of like with Portal. Kind of. A little bit.

Side two, though. Jesus christ! This was my first taste of Whip & The Body and it remains a stunning piece of music. "Black Dahlia Pig" is a continuation of the aesthetic reflected in the most successful Drunkdriver tracks. It also manages to one-up them. I always thought the best thing about a song like "Knife Day" was how it managed to just rip out of the fucking speakers. For a band that had no bass player and preferred to keep dynamic range to a minimum, they sure made up for it with a powerful sound driven by sheer brutality. All that carries over on Jeremy and Michael's contribution to this split. It is a fucking intense six minutes of music. If you're going to take on an amateurish lo-fi junkshop approach to noise, this is how it's done. The pulverizing walls of static might as well be tangible. Sometimes it's like the first time I listened to Land of Lurches. And every now and then, the track grinds to a halt and treats the listener to some jarring silence. By the end, you'll have endured quite the journey. Worth your time, money, hard drive space, risk of having your mind split open, all that. Further proof that these guys know a thing or two about making music that's not utter shit. Hopefully they'll continue doing so. If not together, then apart.

Rating: That first 7" is okay, I guess. Play the Altars split right after and you'll forget that it even exists, though.

Download Link: "Black Dahlia Pig"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Various Artists - Rat Music For Rat People (1982)

This is a punk rock compilation that SST put out during its golden age. It was named in loving tribute to Greg Ginn's mentor Fat Mike and his popular Fat Music For Fat People series. Some of the songs are live. Buncha different bands that are good, even Flipper is on here! The version of "Life" is awesome and boasts a vocal performance that can only be described as "rhythmically inept." More than usual, even. And this is Flipper we're talking about here. I read on the internet that Aaron Dilloway likes the version of "Scream" and he's right to feel that way because it kind of kicks your ass, unlike the My War version which just takes a poop on your ass and gazes longingly as it slips down onto the floor below. You know it is a classic '80s punk rock album because there are songs about how Ronald Reagan sucked. D.O.A. contributes at least one of these and say amusing shit between songs in a funny voice, it's cool. The Dead Kennedys were really good, "Forward To Death" is on here and it's good. "Sounds of Laughter" by TSOL is good. Some of the songs aren't that great. The last song is by the Dils and it is fucking adorable bouncy power pop bubblegum bullshit. I love it, it's the best song here. I like the catchy shit like that song and the Avengers song, not the Circle Jerks and Crucifix songs because I can't remember how they go. Bad Brains play a couple fast ones, yeah.

Rating: Not everything is amazing but it's solid enough. That's my final verdict.

Download Link: The Dils - "Blow Up"... great.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Various Artists - Guitarrorists (1991)

Don't let the Narada Music-style cover art fool you, it might look like an Esteban/Govi record to relax to with your parents, but let's just say you'll be in for a nasty surprise if you bring this to your next yoga class. With a title like that and a quick look at the tracklist, you're probably expecting an all-star electric guitar summit of epic proportions. But surprise! The joke's on you. You've probably heard some pretty terrorizing riffs from some of the artists on this compilation, but here they're shat out in messy bursts that make this who's who of late-80s indie rock royalty meeting of the minds sound like a total pisstake! J. Mascis, Neil Hagerty, three-fourths of Sonic Youth, Steve Albini and lots more surprise guests lay down 26 short tracks of the lowest-fi jamming you'll hear anywhere. No label would want to put out something like this in 2010 unless it was for charity or something, but I guess that everyone today, including kids on foodstamps and plasma-selling undergrads, would rather make fashionable chillwave instead.


Download Link: The whole album!