Saturday, January 31, 2009

Vampire Weekend - The Kids Don't Stand A Chance 7"

Side A: 'The Kids Don't Stand A Chance'

This is one of the simplest, most effective songs on the Vampire Weekend self-titled album, which is in itself quite a simple and effective pop record. Sure, this song's got strings on it (like the other best tracks, such as 'M79' and 'Walcott') but they don't come in for a while, and when they do arrive, they're restrained. Originally I thought this song, coming at the end of the record, stood out more from the rest of the album - like a pop-punky Clash track - but now I see it's more of a perfectly pitched, langurous finale.

I'm never really sure what people object to about Vampire Weekend, or what they find irritating about one of 2008's deserved best debuts. Too cloying perhaps, too quirky - for me it's just great indie pop songwriting. 'The Kids Don't Stand A Chance' has more than a good melody and hook; it's the absorbing sense of atmosphere that weaves the sound of Vampire Weekend into my soul - vocal affectations, slow beats and lush Afro-Caribbean guitars with a swirl of faux-Baroque decoration. It works for me, if evidently not for others:

"Baroque-ska!? Like a hellish mix of UB40 and The Left Banke."

Mark Prindle's Micro-Reviews: Hip New Bands That The Kids Dig

'The Kids Don't Stand A Chance' was the Vampire Weekend song I used for my end-of-year mixtape:

The (very) Best of 2008 Pt. 1

Side B: 'The Kids Don't Stand A Chance' (Chromeo Remix)

Ever wondered what Vampire Weekend would sound like in 1983? Despite what Mark Prindle might say, it's not exactly the same; it's this. Blocky, upfront synthesiser beats and New Romantic keyboard side-swipes. That is, until the quietitude and following euphoric ascent, as the entrancing beats give way to more natural snippets of the songs - and then back to - horns?

Stereogum says "It's a fun listen -- syncopation and synths run rampant, the signature guitar line gets a keyboard makeover with some new chord movement in the mix. Sounds like Ezra gave 'em a new vocal melody to work with, too".

It's remarkable how Vampire Weekend have managed to fold some twenty-five years of pop music (twenty-five, or twenty-eight, decades if you want to include Vivaldi) in on itself, making chronology irrelevant. Like the cover picture for the record, a sodium-lit tableau of Risky Businness-esque privilege, or a Janus-faced, empty winter scene. They're a sort of end-of-history pop band, with no groundings in these modern times except for being them. They don't represent a point in time in pop music, but a sweeping together and away of all those points. I'll take this over any indie trend-setters, thanks.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Boxes - Animal; Road Records

Boxes - 'Animal'

There's been a lot written in the Irish blogosphere (blogo'sphere?) about the decision of Road Records to close down. The causes and consequences of Dublin's premier independent record shop disappearing have been discussed at length here, and the best tribute to the store is written here. I think the most I can add is to highlight a recent purchase from the shop, an independent band from the same city, just by way of showing what was important about Road Records to the alternative music scene in Ireland and Dublin.

Personally, I had only been going to Road on a regular basis since about this time last year, when I got a USB turntable and, separately, got into Irish indie music. Prior to that, the shop was too esoteric and, well, indie for my tastes; and besides, there's a perfectly good Tower nearby for more ordinary-alternative sorts of purchases - a fact which must have sidelined Road for most music fans of my generation.

The combination of vinyl and Irish, however made, Road a real necessity for my listening experiences. The excellent Human Bell LP was album of the week or month; Shooting at Unarmed Men's superb Triptych album was displayed in the window for some time (possibly because it looks awesome); and favourite Irish albums from last year like So Cow's I'm Siding With My Captors and Chequerboard's Penny Black came from there as well. Of the Irish releases sourced in Road, I invariably got the crucial listen from the Indie Hour radio show/podcast - which has also unfortunately come to an end at the same time.

I heard the track above from Boxes in passing on that show, and was going to buy the album but put the purchase off (and should have gone to the album launch in the Lower Deck, too) and never did. Until I was looking for some last purchases to make from the shop -it doesn't even seem like there's a sale on, but people just seem willing to help clear their stock and buffer some of the losses. So Boxes - Animal it was (plus the new Cap Pas Cap 12" and Fucked Up - Year of the Pig, which is about as underwhelming as The Chemistry of Common Life). As it turned out, I should have been listening to this album a long time ago.

Here's the description from the store - that was one of best things about Road, the little mini-reviews of practically every album or single - as displayed on the Boxes website:

"album number three from this irish based two piece featuring mark hayes on drums and gavin cowley on bass and vocals. the album is another superb slice of post punk, math rock, post rock and old style sludge rock. its full of hard hitting but also quite intricate sounds with hints of no means no, shellac, don caballero, jesus lizard, fugazi and all things amphetamine reptile related."

(Road Records july 2008)

Animal is Boxes' third album - their second was recorded with Steve Albini, so you can tell there's a track record there - and was recorded in Experimental Audio studio in Dublin. Sonically, they're like a heavier version of current Irish favourite multi-instrumentalist R.S.A.G, or a funkier Young Widows (or, equally, a more AmRep-py Fugazi). It's metallic without being too metallic, which is what I like, and it's got the intense mathy sound of their influences down well, while still sounding sufficiently original to be interesting.

I've chosen the title track because it's, predictably, a good introduction to their sound (though far from the sum of it), but also an extra track from the album, 'Picture', because in part it exhibits, in a way that 'Animal' doesn't quite, the Irish nature of the band - 'Picture' has the typical post-rock/post-hardcore vocals in a quite noticeable Dublin accent. Which may not be particularly important, but I still like the song even more for it:

Boxes - 'Picture'

You probably won't be able to buy Animal online from Road anymore (though try your luck if you're actually in Dublin), but you can get their second album Bad Blood on Cargo Records

[Update: Road Records have Boxes - Bad Blood for sale]

Monday, January 26, 2009

FLApes album review in NME

via Unarocks, the New Musical Express review of Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion: - Fight Like Apes

"post-hardcore synthery" Wtf?

"built a nest from shards of Enter Shikari, Test Icicles and Le Tigre and then thrashed the shiny fuck out of it" Engaging metaphor, but Test Icicles? Enter Shikari? Two/three bands I vaguely remember hearing about, and not in a positive way, in 2007? (2006?)

"Dananananaykroyd gone new wave" Ditto. I dunno, Dananananaykroyd sounds pretty new wave in the first place to me. Like Kajagoogoo.

"comic-book geek-joy of early Ash" Okay, I like that one. Bonus points for mentioning an Irish band.

"FLA are the anti-emo..." If you say so, Emily Mackay (How ironic.)

"...a funny, clever slap of fun. Turn the other cheek, eh?" Quoting scripture is always a good conclusion.

Actually, apart from those quotes, the review's not too bad - if a little vacuous. The album itself is awesome, of course.

Fight Like Apes UK album release & tour - details

Arty new video for 'Tie Me Up With Jackets' review of Fight Like Apes live at Koko, London

David Grubbs, Live @ Whelan's 24/01/09

David Grubbs, 'An Optimist Declines' from An Optimist Notes the Dusk (2008)

This show is the first time I've been sitting down in Whelan's, with candles in little glass jars, jazz-club style, and beermats on the table. David Grubbs was listed in The Ticket as 'Rock-pop experimentalist. Recommended'; I knew him before from appearances on Codeine's The White Birch, from (pre-Slint) band Squirrel Bait, as well as Bastro; and his latest solo album garnered considerable praise in the Prisonship's best-of. Armed with those recommendations and connections - though Gastr Del Sol passed me by, insofar as bands from past decades can be said to have done so - I still wasn't sure what the show would sound like, apart from that track from his album above.

The set-up was sparse: an amp on top of a case with a mic in front of it, and another mic in front for vocals. Support was from Debutant from Aberdeen, an impressive singer-songwriter with a penchant for heavily-delayed post-rock guitar, building up from quiet chords to full-on looping ear damage. The show was promoted by Forever Presents, who brought Dan Deacon and Matmos to Dublin last year, and gave respective support slots to Jape and Si Schroeder, the latter my favourite Irish proponent of the shoegaze-y post-rock guitar style. Here, though it was a bit one-man-band Mogwai at the very end, on the whole his set was varied and interesting, and very enjoyable to listen to.

It didn't prepare you much for Grubbs, and it's hard to know what would. Obviously the context was the same - one man + electric guitar; but the content of the performance was quite different. In fact, if you were doubting the versatility of the guitar as an instrument, this would have been the show to go to. Personally I don't know much, if anything, about the technique of guitar-playing, but as with all art, I know what I like. And I liked David Grubbs.

That's not to say that the show was all rapt adoration of his axemanship. He could have played a full set of slowcore guitar, all spaces and reverbating chords, and it would have been amazing. However, he didn't, and the performance gained from being challenging. Combining stoner rock (echoes of Earth and Grails) and slowcore (especially Codeine) with bluesy riffing, the set built up through a diverse range of songs including 'An Optimist Declines', with its affecting vocal cadence and heavy guitar; through more pop-oriented folk and Americana, but still imbued with the slowcore ambience, such as 'Eyeglasses of Kentucky'; and concluding with a lengthy instrumental which seemed to blend the sounds of stoner rock guitar with those of a banjo and an ambulance siren.

I picked up the album from him at the edge of stage after the show, too. It doesn't disappoint either, but it's still quite challenging. Reading the press one-sheet (pdf), there's an interesting paragraph which says

"Much continues to be written about the end of the album and its splintering into the MP3dom of individual songs. An Optimist Notes the Dusk is at one and the same time an album and a collection of splinters. There is no contradiction. Do we dare suggest it sounds very 'playlist'?"

The album is just six tracks, which can be either described as varied or incoherent (if you wanted to be negative), without getting into Zen-like oppositions. Opener, and easy stand-out, 'Gethsemani Nights' is very reminiscent of the earlier For Carnation, though here the guitar, while still as (largely) clean and sparse, is more insistent, heavier in its tread, like a fastidious bluesman; and behind it a trumpet - by Nate Wooley - somewhere between Abilene and Human Bell. It's slowcore with an extra weight, an initially challenging further dimension.

Musical Rooms Part 52: David Grubbs

(Just trying out posting in Trebuchet. Let me know if you'd prefer reading in a serif font)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Video: Grails - Acid Rain DVD Trailer

I got an email today from someone at Temporary Residence Limited about a new video from Grails promoting their new DVD, due out in April. I had been planning on posting the new-ish live videos of Dan Deacon - w/ ensemble - from Pitchfork, but this is probably more useful for me to post. Grails have the whole visual and sonic art combination down quite well (see this post), so their videos are usually a joy to watch. The 'commercial' for Doomsdayer's Holiday was a great idea - though I'd love to see the television channel that interrupted its programming for a Grails video - and this is the same concept, except for a DVD rather than an album:

"Grails - Acid Rain DVD [due out April 7th]

Following up their widely acclaimed and most successful album, Doomsdayer’s Holiday, Grails unleash their first-ever DVD, the career-spanning Acid Rain. Centered around a half dozen mind-altering music videos from their last few albums, Acid Rain also features nearly two hours of live shows from the past several years. Packed full of bonus material and special treats, Acid Rain is as bizarre, eclectic and otherworldly as their albums, with the added spectacle of debaucherous activities, vicarious cult obsessions, and street preachers on rollerskates."

'Acid Rain' happens to be my favourite track from Doomsdayer's Holiday, the epic, surf-drenched and slow-moving finale. It's a good title for a "career-spanning" DVD; as it is a culmination of the varied and progressive post-rock styles of Grails, and also distinctly different from most of the rest of the album. It's impossible to predict where Grails will take their sound next, which is great for a band in an otherwise often repetitive genre.

Since another TRL band, also broadly in the post-rock genre, Envy, produced an excellent DVD - Transfovista - not too long ago, I'm assuming this release will live up to a similarly high standard.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rockin' the Obama-nation

(click to increase size)

An updated and more refined version of this graph.

Left to right, the ratio of visits on Hardcore for Nerds received from each state (August-November 2008) to its share of US population (adjusted for broadband penetration). And on the vertical axis, the positive or negative vote-margin in each state for Obama-Biden (Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois have been re-adjusted to 2004 levels). The trend (regression) line has an r-squared value of just under 0.55, which is an expression of how well the date points conform to a linear trend (answer: moderately well).

For example: Pennsylvania (PA) had 1.54 times the number of visits that would be expected from its population size (against the number of readers from the US overall) and broadband penetration, and went for Obama by a margin of 10.37%. It's also quite close to the trend line, meaning it's not an outlier...

Alaska, what's up?

D.C., rock top!

Mississippi, you need more punk...

Addendum: same graph with the readership expressed as visits per 100,000 population (adjusted for broadband penetration) here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Video: Foals, 'Olympic Airways', post-Skinscore

A nice summery video from Foals, the best popular math-rock band of 2008 and one of my records of the year with Antidotes. The sound seems (intentionally?) muffled at first, but it's a beautifully shot video of one of the most thrilling, trilling quiet-ish songs on the album, and a great display of youth shenanigans. Which brings me to the point that, after their performance of 'Hummer' on the popular TV show Skins which gained them a large and youthful fanbase, they proved to be a tremendously interesting and worthy post-punk band. Antidotes is a crystalline, energetic post-rock album, filled with sweet hooks and a pulsing beat that keeps it going through eleven tracks of desultory experimentation. And no guitar chords.


Anyway, I'm sooo over Skins... At first, I thought getting rid of all the old characters mightn't be too bad an idea, given that the show isn't Saved By The Bell and youth is a transient phase, but now it seems that the new cast is allowing them to regress the central attitude and vision of the show. Parts of the second series were actually really classy television, and the first season had novelty and daring behind its shock! hedonism! aspects - this season appears to have neither quality.

The trailer looks exciting enough; of course, neither of the two previous elaborately shot sequences was meant to bear more than a figurative resemblance to the events of the series itself. So in this case, it's what the creators of Street Wars would have you believe the average Friday night out in Britain is like. Dubiously aged drinkers in a stereotypical English pub suddenly turn to ransacking the place, beginning with lighting distress flares indoors. The opening sequence of the series - "this day has potential. It's pregnant" - introduces: a cocky skater kid who cheats death and serious traffic accidents; a semi-Chav-like guy who drinks lager in the morning; and a semi-autistic nerd who counts calories. Eventually, Harry Enfield gets nutted in the face. Oh dear.

Nobody expects Skins to be realistic, but we do expect the comedy to have a point. So far, this series seems as aimless as the tabloid idea of drunken teens it was supposed to lampoon. Nevertheless, I'll probably still watch it - the first episode at least - to see if the jokes or the characters get any better.

Series 3 trailer (featuring TV on the Radio, 'Halfway Home')

Episode 1, part 1 (featuring Fucked Up, 'Son the Father')

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Joseph McRedmond Interview + TCR Unreleased Demos w/ Alex Dunham

'An Open Bottle'

First of all, here's a set of unreleased demo tracks from the Crownhate Ruin with Alex Dunham that were temporarily lost from the internet - Joe McRedmond still has them on tape - but which have resurfaced recently. This is what the man himself said about them on his Facebook page, apparently:

"Some unreleased not very good, poorly recorded The Crownhate Ruin songs with Alex joining us, and David Titus Batista on drums. I’ll be surprised if you enjoy it."

True, they're not great sound quality, but they're still a fascinating - and enjoyable - listen if you want to hear the sound of the Crownhate Ruin paired with some of the extra guitar/vocal pyrotechnics of Regulator Watts. Essentially an album's worth of new songs - tracklisting at the bottom of the post - plus a great version of 'Blood Relative' from Until the Eagle Grins:

Download (thanks to Nick at dischord dot org)


Secondly, here's an interview I did in the last couple of days with Joe McRedmond - the guitarist for Hoover and the Crownhate Ruin, as well as many other Hoover-related projects (see below).

If you want to hear what he's doing now - and I definitely recommend this - check out Saggiatore.

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Joseph P. McRedmond, I am a half Irish half Sicilian male born and I am considered tall.

Of the various bands you played with after Crownhate, i.e. The Boom, The Sorts, Sea Tiger, etc., which albums/singles did you record on?

I remember recording on a couple of songs with Sea Tiger, The Sorts last record "Six Plus", touring with the Boom, recording on the Him record "New Features", playing bass on two Michael Nace LP's, recording demos with The Perfect Souvenir with Vin, and many practice tapes and live recordings of Rancho Notorious, and unheard demos playing bass with Gun, and a couple of singles with Admiral before all of this. [Edit - and my short lived project with James Brady from Trusty called "The Velvet Kid"; there is 1 limited edition single out there somewhere. I think Tanzania.]

Of those groups, were there any experiences that were especially memorable, or groups that you enjoyed playing with the most?

I remember them being all memorable at the time it was happening.

Within Hoover - e.g. 'Electrolux', and 'Relectrolux/Electrodub' - and in later groups like the Sorts, and in Regulator Watts as well, there's a lot of dub influence: I know that's common with a lot of Dischord and related bands, but was there anything or anyone specific it came from in Hoover? Or was everybody into it equally?

Everybody turned each other on to different musics, we would all bring mix tapes and would request things when necessary...and Jamaican music is the best music, as you can see in its influence on the world...there'd be no hip hop without's deep late night party music with your friends usually with a message.

Until the Eagle Grins is usually the first record people get into after The Lurid Traversal. When you started up The Crownhate Ruin with Fred Erskine, what was the musical idea behind it? Where did you want to go from Hoover?

To keep playing and touring and recording and find a good drummer. and that's just what we did. And then we would jam forever and take our time putting music together and mostly just play as much as possible. We did a lot of quick out of town trips those two years.

What was the origin of the name Crownhate Ruin?

On the way home from rehearsal one night we passed a Crown Gas Station and Fred said "What do you think of the name The Crown Ruins? and I said what about the Crownhate Ruin? and then it was the name.

Kerosene 454 are listed in the thanks for Until the Eagle Grins, and I heard that you jammed with the Wall brothers for a while. Apart from the label (Slowdime Records), what was the connection with that band?

I originally met Alex in the summer of 1989 in Pittsburgh when Admiral played a show with Wind of Change which also featured Jim and John Wall. When Alex moved to DC he moved in with me, and I was already playing with Fred and Chris after Chris and my band with Geoff Farina of Karate, (our band was called Victor Deluxe) broke up after two shows as Geoff decided to move back to Boston. Alex started playing with us of course. On our first tour we played some shows with Kerosene, and then they moved from LA to DC. Hung out together at parties and more and more people move out here. In the middle of The Crownhate Ruin times, Fred and I moved into a house directly behind Kerosene's house, so we put two ladders up and climbed the chain link fence. After Crownhate and Kerosene broke up we had a little band called Vita Bruno with Jim, John, Vin, and myself. Rehearsed for a year and never got anywhere. Then Fred asked me to join The Boom, with a little prodding by myself, to go on a tour of Europe. John Wall was in the band at the time. We would practice in the Kerosene house. While we were gone, Vin replaced us with Mike Markarian who I lived with and Brandon Butler. They played as Vita Bruno til Brandon replace everybody and started an earlier version of Canyon.

The unreleased Crownhate demos with Alex Dunham are pretty much all new songs, apart from 'Blood Relative'. How likely was a second Crownhate Ruin album?

It was very likely, but we just couldn't play together anymore... Fred was busier with June of 44, Alex with Regulator and Vin with school. So David and I continued playing together off and on.

What do you think about the term 'emo' (or its sister codeword, '90s post-hardcore')?

I don't think about shit like that.

Anything in current punk or hardcore, or post-hardcore that you still listen to or enjoy?

The Eternals. The Good, The Bad, and The Queen, the more funky stuff.

Favourite record (new or old, I guess) of 2008?

Kutiman's "Kutiman" or the Jackson Conti record.

Favourite record in the Hoover family tree (that you didn't play on?)

The Him record "Universe Peoples" or "Many in High Places Are Not Well" or The 2nd Boom record "Any Day of The Night", or The Sorts "Contemporary Music" or most of the Sea Tiger LP.

Favourite record in the Hoover family tree (that you did play on?)

The 3rd Boom LP that never got released, but I have on soulseek.


No sweat.


Demo tracklisting:

10. An Open Bottle

11. The Two Fuckers

12. Trapped Like A Mime

13. As Your Hatred Grows

14. Baby Blue and Black

15. Blood Relative

16. Dismantling Hell

17. Success

(6- An alternate version of 'Open Bottle', from this four-song, 8-track recorded first demo by the band, from 1995 - thanks to Matt)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sinaloa/Wolves - split 7"

(The picture above is a hand redrawing - by me - of the actual cover, which isn't available in any significant size on the internet [actually, go here]. A much smaller, but more accurate thumbnail, is below...)

Wolves - '16'

Sinaloa - 'New Teen Craze' & 'Strike Aloud'

From 2004, this split 7" - long out of print - features one of the very last songs by Wolves (who never had any songnames, just numbers - high-concept hardcore) and a pair of comparatively early songs from Sinaloa, who released their third full-length in 2008, Oceans and Islands.

Wolves were a post-Orchid band: the guitarist and singer Brad Wallace was the bassist for Orchid, and went on to play in Bucket Full of Teeth; the drummer went on to play in Ampere; and this split was released on Will Killingsworth's label Clean Plate Records. Quite apart from that - and I'm not the hugest Orchid fan - Wolves were an awesome frantic emo band for the time they were together. Essentially, they were the closest the 21st century has gotten so far to reproducing the combined energy and melody of the Swing Kids.

Like last week's post on Loma Prieta, both these bands recreate different elements of the 90s emo sound in modern fashions; Sinaloa, in turn, sound like a more muscular Moss Icon. Previously I posted the split LP by Ampere and Sinaloa - there's also a Wolves/Ampere split, and a Wolves/Transistor Transistor split, both on 7". However, this is possibly the best, and certainly ultimate, Wolves song, and out of all those other bands Sinaloa are definitely my favourite.

Here's good review of the split from Andy Malcolm of the excellent Collective Zine:

"I think this 7" has been hotly anticipated by certain folks. Luckily, it doesn't disappoint, as both bands contribute some fine songs. Wolves have split up, but they go out on a high note with a quality slice of their emotive hardcore. Garbled vocals and excitable guitars fire off rapidly for the duration. One guitar keeps the melody going at a torrid rate whilst the others and drums blast a tight rhythm. Sound.

Sinaloa then blow me away every time with 2 stunning songs on the b-side. They are a Moss Icon for the 21st century! Heh. I'm sorry. Anyway, this is amazing music, full of so much passion and sincerity and all the other things which I get out of my favourite records. The varied vocals by times spoken and cried spill out over the repetitious guitar and rhythm, inducing much swaying back and forth in my little wooden chair. The guitars roll and twinkle, the drumming marches on and it's all so perfect. As an added bonus they explain their songs. I personally couldn't ask for more. My favourite style of music played by kids that care. Wonderful. Apologies to the band, but it's your own fault for being so fucking good."


Wolves discography on Zen and the Art of Face Punching

Sinaloa discography on Achilous

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Videos - Ramones, Subterranean Jungle

The Ramones, 'Time Has Come Today' (1983 music video)

'Time Has Come Today', Chambers Brothers original version

The song above (insert your own joke about cowbell) is from one of my very favourite Ramones albums, along with Ramones and End of the Century. 1983's Subterranean Jungle is a glorious psychedelic punk-pop album, that tends to get explained away as their last confused experiment with the Spectorised pop dreams of End of the Century and Pleasant Dreams and the necessary precedent to 1984's Too Tough To Die 'comeback'. For me, however, the Ramones I fell in love with was the kooky experimentation, not so much the leather-jacketed posturing, though that was good too - more so in 1976 than in 1984.

Pleasant Dreams does have, of course, 'Psychotherapy' and 'Timebomb', two great blistering Ramones punk rock tracks, but the rest of the album is largely made up of late 60s psychedelic/soul covers - the opener 'Little Bit O' Soul', originally by the Music Explosion, and the Chamber Brothers' 'Time Has Come Today' - their own attempt at psychedelic rock, 'Highest Trails Above', as well as the obligatory bouncy pop song, 'My-My Kind of Girl', and the slightly stranger take on the concept, 'Everytime I Eat Vegetables I Think Of You'.

The best part about Subterranean Jungle is how the 60s pop and soul sound mixes so well with the pioneering pop-punk sound of early-80s Ramones. 'Outsider', for example, a classic Dee Dee Ramone song covered notable enough by Green Day, comes off a "throwaway" cover of 'I Need Your Love' by The Boyfriends, and the rather unlikely Music Explosion opener. The psychedelic covers fit in with the more straightforward punk songs, even though Johnny Ramone was the most in favour of the band taking a harder, non-pop stance, it's his vibrant guitar that cements it all together. 'Time Has Come Today' thus sounds like a relatively normal Ramones song to me, at least in the context of this album.

From the liner notes to the reissue of Subterranean Jungle, by Gil Kaufman:

"...In that spirit of commitment, the nearly epic (for the Ramones, anyway) four-and-a-half-minute cover of the Chambers Brothers' 1968 psychedelic hit "Time Has Come Today" made sense as a last-minute addition to the sessions. Although they had also been preparing a cover of 1910 Fruitgum and Co.'s "Indian Giver" (originally cowritten and produced by Cordell and included in this expanded reissue), the group decided to include "Time Has Come Today" after Marty went to get help for his drinking problem.

With session drummer Billy Rogers behind the kit, they cut the song with former Heartbreaker Walter Lure - Marty's drinking buddy for much of the sessions - doubling most of Johnny's guitar parts. According to Johnny, the cut marks the first and only time in the group's history where two different guitarists are playing simultaneously on a studio recording. It was pegged for a single, and longtime manager Gary Kurfirst says it was the latest in a line of songs the label thought would be the band's breakthrough hit.

And while Johnny says they tried to reproduce the Chambers Brother sound as closely as possible, there were limitations. "It was difficult for Joey to sing," Johnny says. "He was competing with the Chambers Brothers, and when your getting into soul singers, it's hard for a white rock singer to compete with that." Joey gives it his best, though, alternately growling the lyrics and sing-speaking them in a rubbery baritone as the band plays a reverential cover of the song. They made a video for that song as well, but the single didn't take off, and the album stalled out at #83 on the Billboard charts."

Last night I was watching Remember The Titans - as there's no episode of Friday Night Lights on this weekend - for the first time and, as much as American football is still a largely mystifying activity to me, it's a pretty great film. Okay, it gets a little wholesome for its own good sometimes - compared to the remarkable dramatic realism of Friday Night Lights, the TV show - but the true story of racial conflict and triumph is still quite impressive in its exposition. 'Time Has Come Today' appears briefly in the film, at the scene where the newly integrated high school opens its doors to the accompaniment of protesters waving "Parents against Busing" placards; it's a revolutionary song for revolutionary times (according to Wikipedia, the sound effects on the long version of the song were intended to replicate the sounds of the war in Vietnam).

Incidentally, the cast of teenage football players is very interesting to look at now - the movie was made in 2000 - starring as it does Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris as Julius) from The Wire, as well as Turk (Donald Faison as Petey) from Scrubs and Randy (Ethan Suplee as Louie) from My Name Is Earl.

Long version - 9 minutes - of 'Time Has Come Today' on YouTube.

Ramones - Subterranean Jungle (Expanded Edition) via ABC Afterglow

I talked about Pleasant Dreams and Subterranean Jungle by the Ramones previously here.

'Little Bit O' Soul' by the Music Explosion, 1967 (first song on Subterranean Jungle):

Friday, January 9, 2009

Loma Prieta - Last City

Loma Prieta - 'Bridges' (01:52)

This excellent screamo (aka 'skramz' in modern ironic hip-speak) album didn't get enough play for me to include it in my end of year list, and though it still probably doesn't beat out the rather different ...Who Calls So Loud album, I think it's worth highlighting, in a manner of speaking. What impresses me the most about Last City is how much it sounds like one of the most extreme 90s emo/hardcore groups, Honeywell - their discography is on the blog, here - while also fitting in with contemporary sounds and styles of screamo. It's essentially a pastiche, but a perfectly executed one, and one leading to a rather creative and original album.

Given that what the 'screamo' genre has evolved to now is a complex, intense jumble of sounds - especially very technical patterns that I'm totally incapable of discussing - emotions, and of course screams, it's probably not worth trying to a lay out a road map of where the different constituents of this album - or any other, but particularly this one - come from. If I did create one, however, it would be a complicated journey through Honeywell, and San Diego-core, into proper 'screamo', from Orchid out to Ampere, across to Japan and returning via Euro screamo and France, and into 2008 with a few more connecting flights added on. As well, there are many recent paths that don't match my tastes - Kidcrash, Off Minor - and the (separate) fact that listening to mediocre screamo becomes rapidly tiresome. Perhaps because it is still quite a specific genre, songs tend to abound in cliches drawn from a rather narrow pool, and it's easy to become disillusioned about screamo's ability to still pack a creative punch.

So by rewinding the spool of musical development back a decade or so, Loma Prieta's latest album resurrects some emo signifiers - primarily, very distorted screaming vocals and sharply pitched, almost screeching feedback - that haven't lost their contribution to musical intensity since 1995. At the same time, Last City is full of modern touches, like the melodic arpeggiated interludes between the blasts of noise, the Ampere-like attention to rhythm and heaviness, or the fuller, more epic (read:better produced) crests of the screamo sound itself. It's the interplay between these - in a sense - contrasting elements that makes the album so interesting; although it doesn't hurt that the ten songs average out at about a little over two minutes each, blasting through concentrated experimentation at attention-deficit speed yet with just enough breathing space to actually appreciate the music as a whole.

I'll wrap up with the concluding paragraph from Nick's review for

"While Last City is not a genre redefining album (there are still obvious traces of Ampere and You and I here - but what better bands to rip off?), it certainly is an excellent album. Its 22-minute runtime makes good on Loma Prieta's claim that "our LP is your EP," and feels like a complete, if bite-sized unit of music. Ultimately, in a genre where recombination is being done with increasingly disappointing results, it's nice to hear a band that "gets it." Loma Prieta have produced a vital and compelling emotional hardcore album in 2008 that unabashedly invokes its predecessors while still fighting the genetic dilution that has plagued emo in recent memory."

CHUG LIFE: Loma Prieta (discography)

Leatherface - Little White God

Leatherface - 'Little White God'

(Click to view larger)


Leatherface - Little White God 7" (RUG16/Domino, 1994)

A1 - 'Little White God'

B2 - 'I Gotta Right'

B3 - 'Meaning'

& from Leatherface - Win Some, Lose Some 7" (DUMP018/Rugger Bugger Discs, 1994)

04 - 'Discipline' (live)

05 - 'Colorado Joe/Leningrad Vlad' (live)


Buy Little White God 7" from Domino Records

Discography information from the Shipyards


I found this via an mp3 blog a week or so ago, but I just listened to it yesterday. The five tracks appear to be from two different 7" releases, albeit consecutive ones. In any case, 'Little White God' is one of the indescribably superb Leatherface's best songs (the opening track from The Last album, previous post here), while a couple of prime-era Leatherface b-sides and a pair of early live tracks make for a nice collection.

I've read 'Little White God' described as 'reggae-influenced', which makes a certain amount of sense from the song's bouncy nature; plus, ever since the Clash or the Ruts, British punk has often absorbed strong elements of its companion genre. It's somewhat akin, in a hardcore setting, to the dub reggae influence on Fugazi's Repeater, which was released around the same time as Leatherface reached their early-90s prime.

Aside from that, 'Little White God' is an outstanding post-hardcore song about drugs and personal choices/addictions. Leatherface lyrics always have a certain ambiguity about them, in the combination of apparent positives and negatives, or ironic and (apparently) sincere statements. I'm never sure exactly what they're saying, but I understand just enough for them to make an impact.

Further impact comes from the excellent cover artwork, a masterpiece in the technological-industrial blazing punk post-hardcore meme. Though I'm not quite sure why someone would be welding a razor blade - if that what's it is - it sure looks fantastic. Added to that, as I just realised today, is the strength of the block-lettered 'Leatherface' name - in red or black on the other albums - with its dropped shadows and almost-typical font (look at the R) which is just the right side of subtle and artistic.

Of the B-sides, 'I Gotta Right' is an enthusiastic fast-loud rock'n'roll hardcore type of song, with prominent, riffing guitar work; while 'Meaning' is the slower, more melodic type of post-hardcore typical of the Minx album - where Leatherface lost some of the cathartic immediacy of their masterpiece, Mush, but mostly made up for it with less obvious, almost balladic pathos. The two live tracks - flip-side to the 7" release of 'Win Some, Lose Some' and 'Ba Ba Ba Ba Boo' - take several steps further back, right to Leatherface's first album, 1989's Cherry Knowle which was much more straightforwardly hardcore-like than anything else the band did after.

Sonically and lyrically, the authority-critical 'Discipline' and the obviously cold-war-era 'Colorado Joe/Leningrad Vlad' ("USSR, USA, they're so gay" - I think using the word in an ironic twist on the 'happy' meaning rather than simplified homophobia) are the link between 80s hardcore punk and its progression, in the Leatherface sound, into 90s post-hardcore - quite outside of Dischord Records and the post-Revolution Summer group of bands, although there is a Leatherface/Jawbox live split.

As it happened, Leatherface moved - largely via Mush - from being purely known in the UK scene to relatively wide recognition in the US, and joining the Avail/Hot Water Music/J Church group of alternately gruff and poppy post-hardcore bands - and eventually leading to the sublime Leatherface/Hot Water Music BYO split series album (posted here) that marked the return of Leatherface after the Last breakup.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Dan Deacon Cover Art (+ new track)

(via egoeccentric)

The new Dan Deacon album, Bromst (out March 24th on Carpark), one release I'm very much looking forward to this year, has been revealed to have this rather beautifully - and unconventionally - autumnal cover art. Given that Dan Deacon is part of a multimedia art collective, I guess it's no surprise that it looks good (see the cover to the previous album, Spiderman of the Rings, here). While speaking of the new album's "promise of a thematic and aesthetic shift", Stereogum sums it up rather nicely:

"The Bromst stuff offered hip-hop glints with scratched vocal-samples in the mix and deeper, more deliberate dance beats than Spiderman, while retaining some of the album's quirk and whimsy at its core. This album cover is very true to that."

It also reminds me of the secret Skins episode, but that's probably just me. And no, that's not a bad thing.

UPDATE (via Thrill Pier): A track - the last - from the album is now streaming on Pitchfork. It's very, very good. Key phrase from their description: "Deacon somehow manages to keep the densely packed midrange just this side of a headache"; but read (and listen) to the whole thing, it's great. I think it sounds oddly and momentarily quite like U2 at around the 5-minute mark, but apart from that it's a really interesting denser, slightly darker reprise of the Spiderman of the Rings sound.*

What is curious, though, is that I can't think of anything from 2008 that made a major impact on me - or appeared to have impacted on the wider critical consciousness - in the same way that Spiderman of the Rings (and to a lesser degree, Battles' Mirrored) did. I'm not one of those people who say 'this year was disappointing in music' because, well, it wasn't, and I don't see how you couldn't find some stimulating art somewhere in the world - but at the same time I don't recall meeting anything as interesting-sounding as Dan Deacon in 2008.

Potential candidates? Vampire Weekend or Fucked Up, to take two oddly connected groups: both interesting and accessible sounds, and although I react to the hype(/backlash) surrounding each band quite differently, I still don't see either as revolutionarily novel. I'm talking popular non-mainstream albums here, aka 'indie' - the stuff that gets picked up by Pitchfork and other, worthier publications, and not obscure post-hardcore/screamo/regional artists that actually made my Best of 2008 list ahead of, or nearby, the aforementioned Vampire Weekend.

Also, 'ahead' of Spiderman of the Rings in 2007 I placed Arcade Fire's Neon Bible and Dinosaur Jr.'s Crumble, not because I though either were particularly challenging and new-sounding, but just because I liked them so much. However, I still rate Dan Deacon as an artist who opened my ears and eyes that year to fantastically good music, as well as joyously action-packed live show. Perhaps it is too much to expect that every year, but why not be ambitious about living in a global network of music enjoyment and discussion?

Of course, I already have a few areas of interest in retrospectively exploring the 'new' music of 2008 via some of the Best of 2008 lists spread across the internet, particularly those featured in this earlier post. Fennesz's Black Sea, as noted in josephlovesit's Best of 2008: Pop Art list and in several other locations, seems an interesting, intriguing, out-of-my-usual-listening-orbit choice, but then again that's probably why I haven't actually listened to any of it yet. Dan Deacon also originally appeared to lie at a similar distance from my usual listening habits, but crucially it had - in 'Crystal Cat' at least - a certain punky aesthetic and accessibility.

On that last basis, I'd nominate So Cow's very accessible, very - if tangentially - punk rock, and very interesting album I'm Siding With My Captors - plus a great live show, even if only as a supporting act - as my Dan Deacon of 2008. Especially as Karl of Those Geese Were Stupified has written a brilliant review of it for the latest instalment of his year-end list (#7 of 10-7). A more novel or worthy album to fill the 2008-shaped mental gap in Dan Deacon-like indie music excitement, I can't think of.

* Now, I just need a translation for "8-bit euphoria" into the frantic, ska-happy sound of the So Cow album.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sack - Other Voices set

'Sugar Free' & 'Tag'

'Latter Day Saint' & 'Pressures of Modern Life'

Shortly before Channel 6's Nightshift - Ireland's only halfway decent music video show on TV - got shut down by its evil corporate bosses in TV3, I saw for the first time ever the video for Sack's 'Laughter Lines', aka the song that Morrissey said "should be No. 1 forever". Unfortunately, I'm unlikely to see it again anytime soon, because it's not on YouTube - proving a) that good music television is not made completely redundant by the internet (it's not on either, or (laugh) MTV Music) that b) most things by Sack, one of Ireland's best modern bands, are really hard to find.

So here is Sack's set from (Irish public broadcaster) RTE's Other Voices series in 2006, partially as a two fingers up to TV3 and an illustration of where the license fee actually goes (as opposed to Green Party, government minister for communications, Eamon Ryan's less than fantastic performance in explaining the virtues of public broadcasting against Vincent Browne's disingenuous block-headedness) and also because it's a very good live performance. In fact, it's probably my favourite performance of the several Other Voices series, even ahead of Fight Like Apes.

Self-described as "Frank Sinatra fronting the Pixies", Sack actually fits that description quite well. Crooning vocals revolving around a subtle electro-poppy, shoegaze-y indie sound and, yes, a certain Morrissey/Smiths quality. I wasn't very familiar with the band before seeing their Other Voices performance. 'Sugar Free' starts it off slow and gentle, not even touching the keyboard until three minutes in, and then only to accentuate the gradual curve of the song. 'Tag', by contrast, opens even quieter, yet stronger, with Martin McCann's vocal hook "I've spent this evening, watching you leaving", and from thereon in the song soars ever more upwards. Sack presents a certain sort of combined sonic and visual scenery in their carefully crafted pop. In the background, there is the beautiful musical textures created by the band; and in the foreground, the dramatic gestures of the frontman in his snazzy Suggs-style Fred Perry shirt.

At the time, I was only just getting into keyboards and pop music in general as valid means of artistic expression, something that also went along with discovering Bob Mould's post-Husker Du band Sugar and their first album Copper Blue. It may be an odd association, but it's not one without parallels. Both Mould and McCann are active as DJs in the gay club scene - and both are balding, stocky 30- to 40-something year old men - but what really interests me is the music here and the use of keyboard melodies in guitar-based indie or 'alt-rock' music. There's something about Sack that replicates the expressiveness of Sugar or later Husker Du, when they hit something sweetly poppy yet still obviously alternative.

In the second part, 'Latter Day Saints' is an upbeat, driving, melodic song with a groovy, slightly jazzy - in the showtune kind of way - chorus, "I'm trying hard to be a latter-day saint". The longer, more melancholy 'Pressures of Modern Life' combines instrumental atmosphere - vibrato guitar and keyboard blips and bloops - with the same kind of gentle melody and shoegaze-y drive: "suicide in a college town (ooh-ooh-oooh)". It's an almost defiantly pop sort of song, in its ending lines followed by the last, sugary riffs - "they got him, those demons/they repossessed his soul".

You Are What You Eat - b-sides and rarities