Mar 27, 2013

Brewery Vivant Solitude

     From that magical land on the opposite side of the mitten from where I am sitting called Grand Rapids comes Brewery Vivant. Unlike a many of Michigan's top notch breweries that are very high hopped driven-Vivant prides itself being much more Belgo-centric and paying tribute to some brews that have been around since the first crusades. Their use of yeasts from Belgian Abbey breweries give their beers a traditional base of flavor without excess spices. Then good ol' American microbrewing experimentation follows.
     The beer pours chestnut with some ruby highlights from a 16 ounce can. Head is off tan in color. Fluffy and strong that melts into some spotty lacing. The aroma is understated at first but as it breaths nutmeg, green apples, vanilla and raisins.
     Plum is the initial thing that pops into my mind upfront. Very earthly and tart. White tea and pepper make and appearance in the middle. Interesting counter balance between the sweet and the savory. Things wrap up with a mix of grapes, toffee and a hint of baker's chocolate. A slight tang linger in the mouth for just a right time for the finish.
     Because it is on the average age of the alcohol content (6% abv) and a fresh sweet and sour flavor this beer has I can see it becoming one I might grab for after being out working in the yard, heading to the beach or going with whatever may be cooking over the wood fire.
www.breweryvivant.com

Mar 21, 2013

PURLING HISS "Water On Mars" LP

     Previous Purling Hiss offerings sound like they were recorded at a biker club.
     Scratch that, they actually sounded like they were recorded in the dirt parking lot of a biker club. While straight drag pipes rumble and dust is kicking up everywhere. All captured on one microphone.
     Loud. Blaring. Everything cranked as loud as it will go in some battle of trying to drown each others roar out. Dirt hanging in the air. Sound and vision muddied as angry boogie and disturbed ambiance is blown forth in a mass of distortion and grit filling all the senses with the smell of exhaust, perspiration and contempt for the subtle. Nuances and detail in the sound be damned-this is a go for it moment before chains start swinging, bottles start flying and blood starts spilling.
     On Water On Mars, their first album for Drag City, the smoke and muck has cleared.
     Well, somewhat at least.
     On the album's opener "Lolita" tracks such tracks as "Face Down" and the title song all the factors of the Hiss are there. Overdriven, hit the highway and drive recklessly fuzz riffs, vocals split the difference between basement apartment dwelling psychedelic warlord growl, punk rock cynicism and old fashion pothead yearning.
     The difference is though that instead of sounding like Blue Cheer, jam band era Black Flag and and those bad trip tales from the guy up the street who will tell you how he used to roadie for Molly Hatchet crammed into the trunk of a car to suffocate instead is a lot of breathing room here. You can actually hear what the rhythm section is doing for instance. Actual production values have allowed the sound to show off much more variety and colors.
     It's something like Dinosaur Jr orchestrating a feel good sunshine pop for Black Sabbath on "Rat Race". Neil Young and Crazy Horse raiding a pharmacy before heading off to the beach an look at the stars for "Mercury Retrograde". Indie slackers attempting the blues but not in a snarky or ironic way for "The Harrowing Wind." Where Purling Hiss releases of the past where all about burning everything to a crisp and frying eardrums there is much more sizzle and appreciating for spice and simmering. All of their records still find their way to my turntable but the do tend to cause fatigue. Now they have made one that can be played over and over again all day long without feeling woozy and and envisioning things so monochromatic.
     Some bands lose their "thing" when they get away from the trash can lo-fi rattling. Water On Mars has successfully made the transition like a champ.
www.dragcity.com

Mar 12, 2013

RATSAK "20th Century Bricolage" 7inch EP

     Taking their name from a popular brand of rodent poison in the land down under seems pretty obvious without even giving the record a listen that this Aussie band isn't gonna sound like the aural version of a warm and cuddly teddy bear. Especially when it is taken in consideration that it features members of thrash-n-burn Bloody Hammer and Circle Pit.
     Blown gasket 80's hardcore (which means without the, thank goodness, fat bald guy with a goatee palm mutes) is given a good work over of with bits flying of the rails garage punk wiggliness in the guitars, an unhealthy dose of the Confederacy of Scum dirtbagging (like there is a healthy dose of it) minus the that joke wears thin fairly quickly "we're redneck and proud" antics in the rhythm section, some twisted pieces of 70's hard rock and a singer who sounds like he eats a roll of pink insulation when he wakes up and then spends the rest of the day body slamming cows, buses and old folks that get in his way.
     Four songs in eight minutes so it's a perfect record to play when plotting throwing bricks through windows and speeding off for no other reason than general thrill and juvenile delinquency.
www.12xu.net

Mar 7, 2013

CRAPPY DRACULA "....Presents 'DEER JOHN' or Concerns of the Moderne Womb Wiggler" 7inEP

     Some months back I got involved with Facebook discussion amongst some Wisconsin music acquaintances  concerning the merits of Crappy Dracula. A huge basis of the conversation seemed to be questioning if the band even took making making music seriously yet themselves. First off, with a name like Crappy Dracula it would seem kind of obvious that the band isn't striving to be some deep thinking prog rock or something but it was like that part was lost on some in the debate.
     Having only seen the band once (so far) when they came through Michigan it was a set of laughs and just as much bewilderment. On stage a little guy who looks like Ernie the Muppet wearing glasses and a guitar played who's brother may be a star on the basketball team but for himself is most likely declared the king of of the AV club if not for any other reason he has over 1000 hours of 80's porn VHS's the he has been uploading to all the free sites and won the contest of making the loudest fart sound underneath BOTH armpits. Behind them a hippie/hesher drummer who hopes someone at the show will smoke a joint with him afterwards but knows the chances are slim as he it is his job to single the other two when the songs are suppose to start and end even though they never really pay attention to him. Their set seemed more about returning the heckles they invite from the crowd (and they are really funny at it) if simply for the reason to chew up time and not have to play as many songs. It really irks those who are in the crowd there to rock out or to bop their head while taking in some musical godhead experience.
      A lot of people leave thinking "Crappy Dracula really live up to their name. Ugh!" C'mon though-what did they really expect. It is also what makes them the best at the dumbness they do.
      Short songs about the ghost from Three Men and Baby (????) and Bill Cosby's ghost from Ghost Dad coming to get you, taking the stairway to heaven (which is only 29 steps) because the escalator is full and giving step by step of instructions of how to build muscles by guys who probably had towels snapped on every part of their body during gym class showers done in a way that makes the Dead Milkmen sound like deep thinkers who were striving to emulate Yes.
     Crappy Dracula's musical indulgences are not about transcending the mind to some higher plane through notes and sound. They also don't seem to be deliberately trying to deconstruct modern music by reducing it to a clumsy thud as they put that across in a way that seems effortless.
     I wear a Crappy Dracula button on my leather jacket with pride. When people ask what they are all about I respond "You probably would get it." I am not saying it in a snobbish or elitist way either.
Crappy Dracula on Facebook