Mar 23, 2011

Founders KBS (2011 edition)

 A week or so ago when we had temp's in the 60°F range I told friends and family "I have to finish up whatever straggling stouts I have kicking around. The warm weather is here to stay and it's time for warm weather beers. These thick stouts just ain't the kind of thing that cut it in that kind of climate."
"What about KBS" It'll be in stock in a few days" a buddy who orders the beer at one of my go to party store's in town asked.
"Well, that doesn't count because it's not just a stout but something close to pure manna" I said to him "but even after that NO MORE STOUTS til the old man winter weather returns."
Then last night BOOM! ANOTHER FREAKING WINTER STORM. Mean, thick, heavy sleet fell down. It was some back breaking work digging the car out of the nasty and wet mess that had dropped from the skies out but it had to be done. KBS had arrived to the area. It's a rare bird and is not something that can be put off picking up "sometime later in the week" because it doesn't last long on the shelves after it's released and when it's gone IT'S GONE FOR A WHOLE 'NOTHER YEAR (unlike this freaking snow though it seems).
A thin but hearty coffee with cream colored head sits on top on what has the be the darkest stout brew on this and, though it melts a bit, still hangs on all the way through the session. The aroma is first and foremost bourbon and oak wood due to it being casked in whiskey barrels for over a year. Other scents that follow it are coffee, chocolate and vanilla.
The scent alone is enough to make one smile and the flavor bursts open the tastebuds senses in ways the aroma was just hinting at. The bourbon characteristics warm the tongue and body even faster than they did the nostrils. Warms the heart of a serious beer lover too as it is making me smile despite no matter where I look outside I see a six inches of cold and clumpy mass covering everything.
The bourbon flavors don't overtake everything in this velvety and thick brew though as the sweetness from the chocolate and vanilla flavors and coffee bean bitters come in and balance each other out. Compared to other years this finishes with a slight hop hotness but it works incredibly with the bourbon warmth that goes along with it.
Other brews attempting the same kind of thing that Founders is doing with this may try to come close but none of them can match the twists of  complexities that are going on here. There's a reason why KBS gets ranked one of the top end beers of the world in places like Beer Advocate (where it currently ranks as #4). Utterly amazing stuff here. No doubt about it.

Mar 17, 2011

the BABIES s/t LP

Not to be confused with the band from a few decades back that featured John Waite and future members of Journey but still the proposition here wasn't enough to get me all that enthused. First thing is that it's one of the guys from Woods. Their sound has just not set well with me. Too "oh we're so clever and weird with what we're doing with hippie folk rock, huh?" thing going on
y'know? The concept of Jandek joins the Grateful Dead aided and abetted by some tape effected manipulations may sound good on paper to some ears but not in practice to these (especially when it's sounds like it's trying too hard to be clever or odd.)
The second thing was that made me shrug and think "Yeah, whatever" is that it's another Vivian Girls side/new project. I'm not a Vivian Girls hater by any stretch (I'm at an age where I don't bother to keep up with most backlashes these day) but in the last year or so there's been so many "featuring Vivian Girl..." projects coming out, doubled with marshmallow clouded female voice mixed with Jesus and Mary Chain goo releases coming out what seems every week (The Vivian Girls are the now like the Ramones or Nirvana in that respect it seems) these days it's hit a saturation point.
Imagine my surprise then when there wasn't much fake outsider freak folk going on AND the digital reverb is used but kept under control from getting too ridiculous. Instead, hints of the Modern Lovers with less "maybe he has Down's Syndrome" singing show up in tunes like "Sunset" and on tracks like "Wild 1" and "Wild 2" it's akin to Syd Barrett's Madcaps Laughs if he sounded more wide awake and not so far at the end of his rope. Songs like the wake-n-bake before for the day can be seized "Meet Me In The City" (not the Junior Kimbrough song) walk through Black Lips shambling neighborhood while others like the albums opener "Run Me Over", the slightly off key harmonies laden "Breaking The Law" (not the Judas Priest song) and the waiting for the sun to burn the morning fog off feeling "Sick Kid" sound like the Vaselines hobnobbing with Clinic. Bedroom pop that knows when to get loud but also doesn't mind zoning out when the time is right.

Mar 13, 2011

DANIEL JAMES GANG "Nothing I Can Do" 7inch EP

What is it with it these days that when bands look towards the 1970's for hard rock inspiration they tend to take themselves so seriously and lack the main ingredient of honest to goodness fun? It seems not all that uncommon any more for a band to come along with the kind of riffs a person would want to crank out of a '73 Dodge Charger but after a few times around it just becomes another tune that gets ya thinking "Whatever?"
Is it because of Gene Simmons who fancies on thinking he invented hard rock then wrote the book on the business of it and looks as fun as just something needed for the ledger line in a marketing plan? Or is it douche bags like the clowns in Buck Cherry who try so hard to make everyone dumb enough to believe they are total poon magnets by reminding whoever will listen to them that they mention it every song. It's not even like they are singing about the poon itself but how cool they are for getting the poon. Freaking overcompensating to make the mooks jealous I guess. Y'know, the kinds of bands that will mention the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols as being major influences but don't really like the Dolls other than in theory and are more influenced by the well past expiration date era Motley Crue or Megadeth cover of "Anarchy In The UK" (in which they probably had to look up word Anarchy in the dictionary after hearing the song) than the Sex Pistols themselves.
Luckily there are band's (though rare) that can do the hard rock thing, infuse it with a proper amount of punk rock and sound like they're having actual fun just acting like they are. Wisconsin's Daniel James Gang is one of those kind of bands. Dragging glam into the garage, and though they are far the best looking boys on the block, leave the make-up, hairspray and bedazzled with studs spandex get ups out in the yard, this gang kicks it the sound around giving it some must needed dings and bruises, have fun and even score some poon along the way too.
Instead of listening intently to some Gene Simmons lecture they get kicked out of the party after bringing up Ace Frehley's name when Gene asks "What is the soul of the music". It's no big deal them though because while keying Gene's cars on they're way out to the street Ace drives up in yes, a '73 Charger, and asks them if they need a ride. They get along so well, Ace not only lets them drink all his booze but then gives them cash to go out and pick up some more.

Mar 7, 2011

OVERNIGHT LOWS (JACKSON, MS) and DALE BEAVERS at Port Huron's Roche Bar Sunday March 3rd

The manic punk-n-rock roll sounds of Goner Records recording artists the Overnight Lows and Dale Beavers deep blues stomp will be making a Sunday night in sleepy city of Port Huron go all nuts.

Mar 5, 2011

Smashin' Transistors Fave 20 Albums of 2010

Yep. This is waaay late but, hey, life gets in the way sometimes. Because of the distractions, diversions and duties 2010 laid down on me I was not able to give a chunk of the albums listed here a "proper review" posted up even though I listened to them quite a bit. For those I jotted down some scattershot thoughts. For those I did actually manage to get something posted about in the year that just passed-follow the link the revisit the review. Now without further ado and ranked in alphabetical order here's THE 20 albums (and five honorable mentions) from 2010 that stuck to Smashin' Transistors ear holes the most.

BESNARD LAKES - ....Are The Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar) Lushly orchestrated but not bombastic. Brooding but not alienating. The sound of angels singing above crashing waves or a unforgiving thunderstorm on a otherwise pleasant summer day.

BEST COAST - Crazy For You (Mexican Summer) Loud and (even the quieter songs) swimming in echo girl voiced mid-fi pop that brings some sunshine into the otherwise long dark shadow that's been cast since the post Vivian Girls sweepstakes.

the BLACK ANGELS - Phosphene Dream (Blue Horizon Ventures) Though their previous album's of Roky E and Spaceman 3 worship were find and dandy for what they are-this Austin, Tx band has really hit their stride this go round. A rollercaster ride of reverberation, days in the park and spooky dark corners.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Wilderness Heart (Jagjauwar) Smashin' Transistors review of it here.

ISOBEL CAMPBELL and MARK LANEGAN - Hawk (V2) Lee and Nancy...Serge and Jane...Johnny and June. They've all been bandied around when talking about Campbell's heavy sweet cream coo meets Lanegan's parched whiskey and mud croon. With tracks ranging from dirtroad folk blues and country tinged jangle rockers to 70's style slinky and string laden RnB love jams all the descriptors fit but that's not to say these two don't have their own thing on.

JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN - Bad Lady Goes To Jail (Goner) This is the 2nd solo album from Golden Boy Wes and for those who like their reckless and weird Americana will find this just the right thing when they want it but a bit louder, looser, stripped down and loud. The album reeks of booze, weed and sweat dripping all over the tape machine it was recorded on.

the GOODNIGHT LOVING - The Goodnight Loving Super Club (Dirtnap) To call this Wisconsin combo's sound Alt-Country seems a little short sighted. It's not like their trying to ape some "Imagine Merle Haggard fronting AC/DC" thing or sing with a nasally down south I grew up on a farm twang when they actually lived at at the end of a cul de sac in a prefabbed subdivision. Country Rock is not on the mark either because some might think they sound like the Eagles. To call them a true blue American rock band in the tradition of CCR, the Byrds, the Replacements and Big Star might work though. GnL has had a great track record so far and this is one of their best yet.
My label, Bancroft put out a record by the Goodnight Loving a couple years ago. I still have a scant few copies of it. If you'd like to purchase one let me know.

GRINDERMAN - 2 (ANTI) Most dudes hitting their mid life crisis stage usually go out and buy a hot rod or some shit to compensate. Nick Cave doesn't need all that though. With Grinderman as his time away from being Mr. Bad Seed he gets all the fulfillment he needs. Crotch stuffed raunch rock gets tweaked and mutilated into a bloodied stomp, crawl and creep with Nick the Strippers tells stories from seedy hotel rooms and brothels located between churches and graveyards.

GUINEA WORMS - Sorcererers of Madness (Columbus Discount) People have been calling Dick Clark the world's oldest teenager for something like two hundred and forty eight years now. Is there anyone in the running for the world's oldest drunk poet college sophomore? And so-is it Guinea Worms main dude Will Foster? Lots of libido, lots of leering, lots of inappropriate pick up lines, lots of intellectual references fueled by lack of sleep and the last beer in the fridge backed by hippie blues one minute, difficult jazz punk the next and some stadium sized hip-hop damaged heavy pettin' garage punk sing-a-longs thrown in for good measure.

IDLE TIMES - Idle Times (Hozac) Smashin' Transistors review of it here.

JAILL - That's How We Burn (Sub Pop) A Wisconsin supergroup if you know their background or current associations but we're here to talk about THIS album. Like how some college rock bands of the 80's took a 60's feeling and sound but brought it into the now while still staying faithful to the feeling and spirit Jaill is talking their cue from those college rock bands. Not lo-fi but also not overadorned jangle and harmony from guys who can stay up til the beer and pop is all gone BUT also do smart things like read books and talk philosophies. Not to be confused with the band from Halifax, Nova Scotia that were on Sub Pop in the early 90's called Jale.

JOE KILE - Southern Beauty Queen (Eastern Watts) Smashin' Transistors review here.

the MENTHOLS - Michigan Works (UFO Dictator) Smashin' Transistors review of it here.

SCOUT NIBLETT - The Calcination Of Scout Niblett (Drag City) The much bandied descriptions of Scout's music is "the illegitimate daughter of Kurt Cobain and PJ Harvey". Though it's a lazy/easy description her songs are sparse, her guitar can be all quiet then perforate an eardrum with sick feedback and her voice goes from a cracked whisper to heartbreaking wail-it's somewhat accurate. The princess of the New Weird Blues.

OVERNIGHT LOWS - City Of Rotten Eyes (Goner) This is one of those punk rock-n-roll albums that flies fast out of the gate with hyperactive energy and it's 12 songs in 22 minutes don't let up til the record finishes to a dead stop. Think the Marked Men raised on a steady diet of catfish or a less nerdy and much more pissed off Wax Museums and you be coming close to getting an idea on what these Jackson, Ms. rabble rousers are putting down.

the PLEASURE KILLS - Bring Me A Match (Polypore) It's like the guitar player from the Rezillos never left to hang out with the Human League, Blondie decided to speed things up after Eat To The Beat instead of trying to appeal to suburban moms or the members of the Go-Gos never discovered high limit credit cards, young republican courters and heroin. Bubblegum smacking dancefloor filling new wave party rock. Seeing their full on energy live show seals the deal cuz the band plays hard and Lydia can really belt them out.

the SUGAR STEMS - The Sweet Sounds of...(Dusty Medical) Another Wisconsin band who's lineage and "Featuring members of..." thing I could go on about for days but know I already have done that somewhere else in public as well as the internet so no need for that now. Glossy and sparkling bright rooted in 60's girl groups and 70's power pop and guitar solos that nod to both James Burton and Rick Neilsen at the same time.
Betsy and Stef Sugar Stem are also in the Flips. My label, Bancroft, put out a record by them awhile back. If interested in picking up a copy drop me a line.

SUPER WILD HORSES - Fifteen (Hozac) Smashin' Transistors review of it here.

WHEELS ON FIRE - Liar, Liar (Alien Snatch) Smashin' Transistors of it here.

WHITE WIRES - II (Dirtnap) During the height of the whole pop-punk explosion I wonder if the Ramones ever weighed in on their take on it and if they did were they pissed about it. I imagine Johnny was but, then again, judging from the End Of The Century doc when wasn't Johnny pissed or miffed at something. I would hope though that they'd tell all those bands to realized what the Ramones reference points were and look for those as inspiration instead of, well, just aping the Ramones (and, for the most part, not doing it all that well). It's practically impossible to doubt that Ottawa, Ontario's White Wires haven't listened to the brudders from Forest Hills albums but for them it's a jumping off point instead of having their (Converse High Top) shoes cemented in the foundation. Ramshakled but right catchy buzzsaw rock-n-roll songs that nod to good times/great oldies and the 90's garage punk and have you humming the hooks right after the first time you hear them. Their first album was a charm and this follow up is even better. This ain't pop punk. Punk pop perhaps?

Honorable mentions: Ty Segall Melted, Sleepy Sun Fever, Superchunk Shredding Majesty, Tyvek Nothing Fits and the Vaselines Sex With An X.

Mar 1, 2011

Goose Island Pere Jacques

The first couple of Goose Island brews I tried a couple years back left me unimpressed so I laid off trying any of their other things til about a year ago when Jordan of the Mystery Girls brought over some of their saison take, Sofie, for me to try last spring. I liked it quite well and have intended on trying some of their other takes on Belgium styles but with so many other things and brews taking precedent it wasn't until tonight that I've really had a chance until tonight.
Rich ruby with gold highlights in color with a slight head that fades fairly quickly. Lots of warm dark fruits such as black cherry and raisin up front in the scent which are then followed by LOTS of caramel malts and bready yeast notes. Quite a few different nuances come out in in the flavor. Up front it has a cherry tartness along with some dates, peaches and a bit of woodsiness, towards the middle it takes on some green apple and grape nuances then towards the end a bit of cinnamon along with a touch of maple syrup. There's a bit of warmth to the end but nothing to really make one think it's over the 8% abv it sports.
None of the flavors are overbearing which makes all of it's complexities understated and interesting while working well and in tandem with each other. I'm kinda bummed I only have one bottle of this at the moment because I wouldn't mind having another as I could sip on this all evening.