Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Videos: AD/BC - A Rock Opera

"An outstanding accomplishment in late '70s British religious rock opera, this lavishly produced adaptation of Tim Wynde and Solomon Homerton's 'fringe stage sensation' celebrates the life-affirming story of Christ's nativity as told through the eyes of the Innkeeper (played by Wynde)..."

I was hipped to this in the comments section of the AV Club's Gateways to Geekery: Contemporary British Sitcoms (they suggest starting with Peep Show). I'd never even heard of it before, likely because it only ever aired once, on BBC3 (which is one more BBCs than I have), in 2004, although it was released on DVD in November 2007. Essentially, this is a combination of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh, starring as it does Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade of the former, and Julian Barrett (Howard Moon) of the latter, with Noel Fielding (Vince Noir) in a smaller role too. And Matt Lucas (Little Britain) as God.

Sometimes the music is better than the comedy, but that's not too much of a bad thing in such a brilliant pastiche of 70s rock musicals. There are the metafictional conceits of Darkplace along with the bizarre theatrics of the Boosh (though not quite as bizarre) as well as the musical skill obvious in both shows. Plus large parts of the performance remind me of Grails videos, that strange irony/reverence for 70s psychedelia, and cowbell, just with a more obvious(ly) comedic target. DVD

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shooting at Unarmed Men - Yes! Tinnitus!

Shooting at Unarmed Men - 'Pathos Ate Bathos'

Shooting at Unarmed Men's second album Yes! Tinnitus! is not really as good as last year's third effort, Triptych, but it's a testament to the strength of that album (my favourite of 2008) that Yes! Tinnitus! is still pretty great. In parts it benefits from being able to go back from Triptych in order to appreciate it better; in others it has a certain charm of its own.

The standout first song 'Pathos ate Bathos' starts off with Shooting at Unarmed Men's typical rhythm-heavy songwriting, post-hardcore guitar with a few spaghetti-western flourishes and a frantic but relatively simple beat. Four minutes of rocking out in this vein make for a badass introduction to the album, plus a little bit of start-stop dynamism tacked on at the end as well.

Writing about Triptych on Geek Down's Best of 2008: Rock Albums, josephlovesit referenced the Jesus Lizard and this band's "confident assholism"; likewise, the next couple songs here feature a misogynistic God and a capitalist-acquisitive cowboy. It's a snarling, intense bridge to the next really great song on the album, the single 'Girls Music' (post of the promo 7" here).

Rather like (the ever-unavoidable comparison) a Mclusky b-side put into overdrive, or "a great twisted pop song" as I described it before, 'Girls Music' is the fun, inventive side of Shooting at Unarmed Men which condenses down post-hardcore creativity. The following songs stretch things out a bit more, from the shoutalong "D-I-S-M-O-U-N-T" of 'I Am United Nations' to the slow, ratcheting melodicism of 'Pat Yourself On The Proverbial ("In the summer... she blisters... and her skin peels"). At this point, despite the garage-y immediacy of 'I Cry For No Man' and 'Get On Out And Come Right In', the album begins to drag somewhat; indeed slowed down almost unnaturally for the closer, 'In Flight Instructions Are A Joke, Say I' with its rousing chorus "she drank the whole bottle down".

Still, this is definitely a Shooting at Unarmed Men album as you would recognise from Triptych, if not quite of the same quality. Jon Chapple's voice, both literally and figuratively - i.e. musically - speaking, in this latter-day post-punk, ex-Welsh post-hardcore band deserves to be heard a lot more.

Shooting at Unarmed Men on eMusic


a rather brilliant and suitably disturbing 'Girls Music' video:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

slowcore/shoegaze/springtime post: Si Schroeder - Coping Mechanisms

Si Schroeder - Duck!

This is a conglomeration of different things, but mainly yet another post on this truly great Irish album. For me, Coping Mechanisms is Ireland's Spiderland, though in general it sounds quite different. This week is Slowcore Week on Drowned in Sound, as highlighted on do you compute. Watching the video on his blog of Codeine's 'Loss Leader' from the excellent The White Birch album, the particular way in which Steve Immerwahr sings "water" (and, I think, "watch her" as well) reminded me of that same word in Si Schroeder's 'Duck!' ("water/off a duck's back").

So, a flimsy enough connection. Si Schroeder doesn't really play slowcore (but then neither does David Grubbs, quite, anymore) or even shoegaze, both genres largely fixed in time as early-to-mid 1990s and probably deserving the prefix post- in their current configurations. Coping Mechanisms is an album of, at first, exceeding quietness and then consequently layered and shimmering loudness, all threaded together with a rich diversity of sounds - most of them electronic of some kind. Post-rock is the obvious but relatively uninformative classification for this beautiful, atmospheric - yet substantial - album.

Diverse electro sounds make their way through current indie rockers, post-rockers and shoegazers. Best example is Asobi Seksu's new album Hush which blends shoegaze, pop and electro to a hardcore punk back-beat (somewhat softened) to impressive effect. The latest Fight Like Apes b-side 'Telephone the Real Ham Jackson' spends some time in a tasty electro-shoegaze jam after its thick, bassy and synthy pop experimentation. King of the latter, Dan Deacon's upcoming album Bromst is a dense, familiar affair (read a first impression here and an unlikely negative review here) underpinned by modern big-band percussion. With lunchtime like a mid-summer's evening here in north-western Europe, spring has arrived with a shoegazing, electrifying soundtrack.

Coping Mechanisms vinyl from Road Records

Myspace - Si Schroeder

Trust Me I'm A Thief record label

and three of Ireland's best post-rock type acts, Jape, The Jimmy Cake and Si Schroeder, are playing a benefit + celebration gig for the aforementioned Road Records:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fight Like Apes - Tie Me Up With Jackets, 7"/video

Side A - 'Tie Me Up With Jackets' (2:36)

(Go here for the high-definition version)

Side B [fixed] - 'Telephone the Real Ham Jackson' (6:10)

previous post - 'Jake Summers' and 'Lend Me Your Face' 7"s

'Tie Me Up With Jackets' is the first fresh song from Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion to be released as a single, excepting 'Something Global' which was released as an EP before the album... to show people what they sounded like with producer John Goodmanson. While I still don't think any of the songs quite surpass those of the original EPs, 'Tie Me Up With Jackets' was a definite grower from the full-length. I like the sweet guitar (bass) intro, with its carefully placed synthy squawks, and the agreeably daft/weird/poignant(/scary) lyrics -

"Same goes for you, I like my meatballs in a dish

and I like other people too

as the saying goes, I'm pretty nift

but I'd love to see you in the nude with overcoats tied around your head

and Japanese children in your bed"

From its quiet, low twee-dark beginnings, the song shifts several gears into the "lovely noise" chorus, which was what grabbed my attention listening to the album at first. And the "cha cha cha" part is crucial in a live setting too.

The video outdoes the song, really, however, with its arty conception of Fight Like Apes, the cartoon pop band, and the band of technicolour sonic experimentation. Combining synched-up ink blots with rotoscope-like overpainting of film footage (a brief flash of the underlying image at about 0:25) along with the gratuitous, clichéd shots of an Irish-band-on-a-windswept-beach (North Strand/Dollymount?) it's an impressive work for the Irish scene. Just like Fight Like Apes themselves, then.

The b-side, 'Telephone the Real Ham Jackson' - possibly their most inpenetrably bizarre title yet - is at once a bit of an oddity and a natural progression from the style of the a-side. Starting off again with some great bass, it then develops into a weird, chanting Indian-like melody and briefly a Suicide lo-fi moment, before kicking back in with the stomping, poppy bass rhythm and ultimately tailing off into shoegazey-electronic noise.

Today I listened to this and the leak of Bromst for the first time, and the two - b-side and sophomore album - seem to go well together. At just over six minutes it's unusual for a Fight Like Apes song, and probably too much of a digression to get much play live, but it's in a similar vein to 'Lumpy Dough' which I found similarly engrossing on hearing it first. Maybe not as immediate or as catchy as the rest of their work, but certainly an interesting direction for them to go in as a powerful - more in artistic than commercial terms yet - pop band.

(if anyone wants a mediafire file of these rips, just ask I guess)

Get the 7" from Norman Records

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Boom: parts 2 + 3

(inset from the cover of the first Boom album, Movin' Out)

'Sacrifice' from Any Day of the Night (1999)

untitled sixth track from The Death of A Star (unreleased, third album)

As a big fan of Movin' Out, a jazz-flavoured but still very rock-y album, it's a little strange to hear these two later, instrumental albums which sound, if anything, more jazz than rock. Except that there's also dub and ska (Chris Farrall of the Sorts and Hoover plays percussion on Any Day of the Night) and definite funky overtones - the review on Insound for the same album says "one might mistakenly address The Boom as a funk revivalist band. Not so. Though the brass section shows reverence to the seventies, their swerving and strutting are more Miles Davis than P-Funk, more blue than red".

The unreleased follow-up, on which Joseph P. McRedmond of the Crownhate Ruin and Hoover plays guitar, seems to steer even deeper into jazz territory, like it actually could be a Miles Davis album. Obviously the switch to the instrumental style on both albums allows Fred Erskine more time to concentrate on playing on trumpet, alongside Carlo Cennamo on all three albums with his alto sax. Other line-up changes, for this third album include the substitution of Lincoln drummer Justin Wierbonski for J. Carrier, and John Wall, previously of Kerosene 454 and co-owner of the Slowdime label, for bass player Booker T. Sessoms III.

It's that last change that seems to me to make a marked difference between the second and third albums. Whereas Movin' Out and Any Day of the Night have that excellent and stylish jangly, funky jazz bass sound, the third album shifts more to the softer dub and ska wnah-wnah (like 'wah-wah', but with more 'n') of the Sorts and Sea Tiger. The lengthy track I posted from the third LP for streaming above (apologies to people with sub-optimal internet connections) focuses on the guitars and sax in a remarkable jazz fusion opus. At half the length, the six-minute 'Sacrifice' from Any Day of the Night runs like an earlier version, with its dubby electronics and frantic horn phrasing.

Although both these albums are great, in my opinion at least The Death of a Star is probably the more accomplished jazz record, so it's a pity that it was never released, due to John Wall's departure for better things from the band and label. However, thanks to Joe McRedmond, we have at least the untitled tracks:

The Boom - The Death of A Star

and for comparison (this is a reader's link):

The Boom - Any Day of the Night


Insound - Any Day of the Night LP/CD, Movin' Out CD

Friday, February 13, 2009

Asobi Seksu - Strawberries 2x7" (+ live at Crawdaddy, Dublin 11/02/09)

(inside of the gatefold. All artwork by Sean McCabe)

("Limited Edition Red Vinyl With Strawberry Scented Sleeves" - yes, really. Subtle enough, but in a sugary-sweet flavouring sort of way. As one might expect.)

'Strawberries' - Edit (3:29)

'Strawberries' - CSS Remix (3:19)

This double 7" came out in November 2007, a month before the Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) single, both in support of their second album, Citrus. Currently they're touring their third, Hush, which officially comes out on February 17th, on Polyvinyl Records. Obviously I'm more familiar with the songs from Citrus, of which there were a few played at the gig - notably 'Strawberries', 'Pink Clouds Tracing Paper' and 'Thursday'. The songs from Hush sound very strong though.

First thing that hit me about the band was the sound of the drums - absolutely pummelling, a piercing bass drum - which makes a lot of sense given the drummer's previous work. Actually it reminded me, in a live setting, of a favourite Irish band of mine, Ham Sandwich (though I would make the comparison more generally anyway), who have a heavy rhythm section, shoegazy guitar and a female vocalist as well. Though there can be few modern comparisons with the vocals of Yuki Chikudate, which are simply stunning (and surprisingly audible in the context).

The show drew to a close with the My Bloody Valentine-clone of 'Pink Clouds Tracing Paper', and for an encore, a transcendentally distorted version of 'Red Sea'. Thankfully it didn't reach the sound levels or duration of MBV's recent "holocausts", but it's always a good thing when, in a gig, the visual and auditory inputs from the stage cease to appear to be 100% experientially, in-the-same-room real. Now that's shoegaze.

Other reviews here and here. It also was Gig of the Week in the Irish Times too, with a nice photograph, but only it seems available in the print edition.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Reasons to be Emo #200 / Hoover - The Lurid Traversal of Route 7

200th post/reason -

Previous Reasons to be Emo*:

#150 / Hot Water Music - Moonpies for Misfits

#140 / Swing Kids - Discography

#100 / Jawbreaker - Dear You

#50 / Shotmaker/Maximillian Colby - Split

#1 ? / Han Shan - s/t 7"

* if you think about shit like that, that is. Excellent analysis of that question here on the Prisonship. The half-dozen featured examples here aren't meant to be canonical, and definitely are not intended to be definitive; instead, they are choices of what that genre means to me, an ongoing selection of diverse highpoints.


The core of the genealogy, The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 was Hoover's only full-length recording. Originally recorded in 1993, in the first year of the Clinton administration, released on Dischord Records in 1994, and remastered in 2004/5. The last three songs on the CD version, 'Return', 'Private' and 'Dries' were from a separate vinyl release from the LP of Lurid Traversal, and together make up thirteen tracks on the album.

'Distant' opens up with atmospheric noise, harsh and mechanical, and a little bit of percussion, then rhythm, and then the heavy guitars kick in. It's taut, it's tense - barely controlled rage and stop-start dynamics over low, slinking basslines. "3000 mile view/ through a telescope" with the last word screamed out with an unexpected, yet not incongruent, intensity. 'Pretender' operates on the same kind of taut rhythms, locked into a driving groove with propelling guitar and vocals. The song moves forward and upwards with every riff, until disintegrating momentarily at the end.

'Electrolux' builds the sound up again slowly, with deliberate beats and ominous, humming guitar. Clearer guitar balances the equation, lulling the dubb-y, intense atmposhere of the song along. 'Electrolux' erupts, first in guitars, in shouts and screams, and then in vibrant trumpet, a soaring cacophony of sound that swells and collapses back into the rhythm below, which has grown in intensity. Minimalism conflicts with outward expression, emotion with weighty, deliberate pace.


Every song on Lurid Traversal drips with intensity and emotion, balancing explosive hardcore and post-hardcore with near-empty, Slinty post-rock, shifting between states with every verse (though, of course, there are no verses to the lyrics). Thus a song like 'Shut' winds it way between quiet and loud in a very Fugazi-ish way, focusing its emotional punch on the crescendo of guitars, yet also expressing itself in the transitional spaces between sounds. The tone created is extremely dark but with carefully crafted, melodic moments of beauty - like the cricket-filled instrumental passage of 'Route 7' - entwined with deep and sonorous rhythms. It's accessible at the same time - the opening to 'Regulator Watts' trips lightly and gently underneath whispered, distant vocals.

Again, the emphasis on rhythm propels the album on through each song, carrying the momentum of post-hardcore heaviness onwards each time, ripping it up and building it up again. 'Father' combines the stop-start dynamic with a near-continuous, insistent beat, rapidly advancing towards its chaotic explosion, and disintegrating like 'Pretender' into annihilating noise. Similar but more immediate and direct than 'Electrolux', 'Cable' shouts out its rhythms with brassy, brash anxiety, and climbs into the heights with distorted reggae and blues riffs.


The dynamics and contrasts of typical 'emo' guitar bands, like the tender yet destructive passions of Indian Summer, course through The Lurid Traversal, but are combined with the equally typical complexities of Dischord post-hardcore groups, resulting in epic and intense creations of late-model punk rock. The first part is evident on the arpeggiated, whispered intro to 'Letter' and its linear progress to ear-crushing, violent catharsis; the second in the equally quiet, almost abstract opening to 'Cuts Like Drugs' and, then, its expressionistic guitar jabs combined with enveloping sound and tense rhythm. In fact, the catharsis of the latter eventually emerges as the most intense of the Hoover sound.

'Cuts Like Drugs' (Live on WFMU - thanks to Matt for splitting it up)

"Some people say this sounds like Fugazi,and they miss the point. It sounds like classic DC twin-guitar midtempo style, as do Fugazi and a hundred other bands. The important part was the way the evil slithering basslines made it seem so dark and serious, and the way the singer worked up from whispering to a tortured animal howl at the end. 'Cuts Like Drugs' has it all."

Andy Radin (

"The epic "Cuts Like Drugs" plays out like the bastard child of Lungfish and Fugazi, a slow plodding drone with the guitars feedback chiming in and out wrapping itself in and around the package fully developing the experience. But it is the song "Cable" that in my eyes stand out on its own. A hymn of dissatisfaction, the brooding demons that swim through all our minds. When they cry out, "I was programed to kill you." it's almost heartbreaking in how at its most earnest these words speak out in the most succinct fashion of modern day society."

sweetbabyjaysus (Burning Down the Dreams of Forever)

"Hoover were one of the greatest DC bands to come from the Dischord label. Their full length, The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 was and is one of my favorite records. Fred Erskines bass (later of Crownhate Ruin and June of 44) is a driving force and the twin monotone guitars of Dunham and McRedmond cut and scathe and slither while Christopher Farrall keeps everything in time. Or out of time, in a very Hooverish way."

blend77 (Zen and the Art of Face Punching)

"hoover is probably the most influential dischord band never to feature ian mackaye. They arrived in them halcyon early 90s days when DC was starting to register the profound effects of dubby, downbeat-y rhythms and of touch and go records heavies like slint, the jesus lizard, rapeman et. al. Their the lurid transversal of route 7 is for me a high point in american hard/punk/core/rock…

despite so many of our friends getting engaged one way or another with corporate rocking for best and worst, dischord - and hoover - always spoke to a kind of freedom (to rock, to angst-i-fy, to experiment) that only the outlands of indie rock could abide, at least back then."

lexdexter (The Prisonship)

I'll leave you to appreciate 'Return', 'Private' and 'Dries' yourselves:

The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 on Dischord Records (CD/digital)

Download link (from Burning Down the Dreams of Forever)

Slowdime (reunion) EP and Side Car Freddie/Cable 7"