Nov 2, 2011

DIRTY BEACHES "Badlands" LP

     "Dark! Seductive! Disturbing!"
     It could be printed in bold across a old exploitation poster from the 50's. It could also be used to describe the overall mood that this record puts across.
     A very mysterious film noir type of air hangs over the entire proceedings from the use of darkness, shadow and smoke that appear in the cover shot of the band's mastermind, Alex Zhang Hungtai, to the use of the same and the making the best of a B-movie budget and equipment that goes with it of the music within.
     On tracks such as the ballads like the treated and looped piano laded "God Only Knows", which on a recent radio show of mine I declared "the darkest make out song in quite awhile" (when hearing it one might wonder if it's written for an imaginary David Lynch movie where it plays during a seduction scene and then again while someone lies bleeding and dying) and the 50's weeper (down to the falsettos) gone goth "True Blue", it's as if Leonard Cohen gave up wine for tall glasses of codeine cough syrup then sent Martin Rev a telegram stating that he had some demons he needs to free.
      The Suicide references (the band not the act-though there is a very dark and depressive place nature looming like an entire year of dark clouds all over the album) don't just stop there as it even exists on the more "upbeat" songs.
     The echoey metallic clang of "Speedway King" is like the story of Frankie Teardrop if he was a hot rod racer if he had had a preference for the OVH 390 cu in Cadillac engine and the plot line of the story was left a bit more open ended.  That same clang makes a lot of showings in "A Hundred Highway", which sounds like something between a gravedigger humming Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him"on a rainy night at work and a track that didn't make it to the Godz (the New York freak band of the 60's-not the Ohio hard rock band of the 70's) 2nd album for being just too minimal.
     "Horses" has a beat that sounds like it was created by the undead soul of the world's gloomiest rockabilly drummer collaborating with Lux Interior and John Cale for the title track of an unreleased Russ Meyers horror flick and if there's such a thing as surfer goths they prowl the coldest and lonely spots for tasty waves and confused girls in their hearse converted into a woody while listening to "Sweet 17".
     Round it out with two atmospheric "noise" tracks and watch pyschobilly dudes leave the room pissed, make them admit that they do that they still have their Nitzer Ebb and Nine Inch Nails cassettes (and listen to them when no one is looking) or realize that most of that psychobilly stuff they listen to isn't really psycho at all and is in reality just cartoon cock rock.
http://dirtybeaches.bandcamp.com/ 

Oct 25, 2011

JACK OBLIVIAN "Rat City" LP

     Each time Jackie O'Yarber releases a record it's like hanging out in a used record store that doubles as a greasy spoon eatery. So not only selling music they serve up cooked in beef tallow french fries, the juiciest burgers for miles around and when you ask for a Coca-Cola they don't tell you "We carry Pepsi products". Instead inform that you've got the choice of RC Cola or a Boilermaker.
     Unlike a lot of record stores too that have their selection somewhat divided up into genres-Jack's used record emporium and grill sometimes don't even bother having them filed in alphabetical order. Forgotten Memphis soul sides of the 60's find themselves leaning next international cheeky pop hits of the 70's, million sellers classic rock standards sandwiched between basement rock and garage punk bands that pressed 300 copies of their only record before fading into obscurity and all but forgotten save for a few collectors of such things and pure country & western slabs find themselves neighboring with synth laden/funny hair driven new wave 12 inches.
     This has resulted in Memphis Jack Oblivian living by the adage of what Pablo Picasso (or was it someone like David Lee Roth) said that "Good artists borrow, great artists steal" and his latest album, Rat City, is no different. Jack processes all of the sounds that has passed through his brain through the years, be it a lick here, a lyric there, and assimilates them into his own brand of musical barbecue sauce. Listening to it can raise some interesting and mostly likely ridiculous conversation amongst collectors of arcane and fans of music that's not so popular with regular everyday people these days.
     For instance would the ghosts of Lightnin' Hopkins and Hound Dog Taylor give Jack the keys to a phantom Cadillac for keeping their boogie alive on the record's full of fuzz title track and the cracked ribs barroom dance beat bottom'd "Old Folks Boogie" or would the pissed and pull out a gun for him not giving them co-writing credit as well doing adding a bit of punk rock mess to the proceedings? A similar question could be raised with the Stax foundation that it sounds "Caboose Jump", a tune about it beinga long time but, baby, she's still looking fine, that would instantly fill dance floors in a more perfect world, is built upon.
    Is the opening line "Yeah, What are you gonna now' of the Jonathan Richman if he wasn't afraid to fight country rock charmer "Girl With The Bruises" inspired after hearing Clash's "Clampdown"? And what happens if you take another country rock charmer, grafted it with some of the vibes that Stiv Bators Disconnected was going for could you get much better results than "Dark Eyes"? I'm thinking mostly likely not. Consult your own Magic 8-Ball if you feel the need though.
     Does Jack hide his copy of the Talking Heads Remain In Light album when company is over because he doesn't want to get cracked on for liking that goofy new york art disco but now is letting the secret out for the goofy new york art disco gets soaked overnight in butter and black pepper with "Crime of Love".
     If Tom Petty heard "Girl On The Beach" and "Jealous Heart" (which opening line has gotta be a subtle nod to Alex Chilton with it's "I'm free to do what I want" and where the songs protagonist goes from working in a gas station in the bad part of town to getting a gig as a late night radio disk jockey. Talk about total American rock! You can't get it much more than that) would he think "I remember when I wrote songs like this. And people still like him" then call Jeff Lynne to curse him for all those plastic coated production jobs he's been doing forever?
    Is it a good thing that Jack doesn't have some disgruntled ex-manager that would try to take him to court over the reasoning that "Mass Confusion" sounds like the dirty funky blues that he's been doing since the Oblivians (but with an, ahem, "more studio rock session guys" rhythm section.)
     With all that said not only are Jack's records a fun time listen but can be a fun game of playing Spot The Difference. Party record of the year!
http://biglegalmessrecords.com

Oct 13, 2011

Spend a Sunday evening at SEX CHURCH

     With a band name like Sex Church some people might be expecting some blatant nudie girl worship thing going on. You know, something silly with a logo that has a wanna porn chick dressed up as a hot zombie nun straddling a cross and a sound band members themselves would consider "Industrial Dance Metal with a White Trash-A-Billy twist" and would tell you so with a straight face.
     Instead of sounding like they have daily dalliances with undead disco dollies though the music of Sex Church is wrought with desperation, depression and daydreams of a handful of downers. The guitars sometimes blare with a wet BLLAAANNGGG of the Cramps living in the dingiest of of windowless basements, at others work up a choir of drone up to the dark skies like Spacemen 3 on a thunderstorming weekend and occasionally howl a Stooges grind. Above it a voice, disconnected and discontented, brays soliloquies of not the best of times. This clamor of celebration of what is electricity electricity is solidified by thudding bass notes & boom-boom drums locked into a throb-n-nod rhythm that nods to the ticking of the motorik heartbeat as well as wiped out surf swinging.
     Featuring Wisconsin expat NickG (Catholic Boys and Strong Come Ons) and Levon (of Ladies Night and some other ridiculousness I can't recall at the moment) Vancouver B.C.'s Sex Church have previously released records on the Hozac and Sweet Rot labels. Their new full length LP, Growing Over, came out on the venerable LOAD records in the past couple of weeks and the band is taking their death trip on the road. They'll be holding an special early Sunday evening sermon/eardrum sacrifice here in Port Huron on October 23rd at the SchwonkSoundStead. Paint may peel, minds may blow, punk rockers may break into hippie dancing.
http://soundcloud.com/sexchurch

Oct 1, 2011

HEAD ON ELECTRIC "Ghost Hunter" 7inch

     Once upon a time it was considered a compliment to say a band sounded like they were influenced by Nirvana. That was many years ago before douchebags like Creed and Nickelback took the basic sound, wiped out all the subtleties, dynamics and nuances out of it, launching a still non-stop parade of other douchebags unimaginatively following in their steps, flooding the ears with a soundtrack appropriate for shopping for a new black t-shirt at Walmart (You know-for "church & shit"), being lame and, when turning it up loud so the neighbors can hear, showing the rest of the world that the average music "fan" not only minds the taste of baloney that has sat on the kitchen counter for three days-they savor it.
    Milwaukee's Head On Electric takes us back to the days when being compared to Nirvana meant something good.
     Full of tension building soft to loud dynamics held together by thick hooks that bring to mind some of the thick and terse moments of In Utero (Nirvana's best album in this writers opinion) and the bad dream daze haunting's of Sonic Youth's EVOL. Much, much more tasty than the wading in a river of mud and Corona Light effect pedal setting that a lot of radio rock bands who THINK they are touching on the same sounds have.
    It's not just the approach they take with the guitar sounds and so on that make them sound like they could've come out of the golden period of "Alternative Rock" in the "years before punk broke". With bands who dream of being heard on the local modern rock station sandwiched between something off Metallica's "Black" album and Theory Of A Deadman-the vocals tend to sound like Emo Phillips with constipation. Head On Electric's are that of a disjointed, moody croon wrapped loosely in a blanket floating in & out around the music instead of a whiny grunt autotuned to high hell and right in your face.
     I suppose it's not really fair to even make such comparisons between what Head On Electric and what some bozo's with a PRS Guitar and Line 6 endorsment deals are doing but all it takes is that ONE SONG to get a band from lugging/plugging it in and out in local dive bars to headlining rock festivals all over the world. This one sided 7inch only hosts one song (they make up for it with some pretty fancy handmade packaging though. There's also a trippy video that goes along with the tune) but it's the first time in a long time where I've said "They remind me of Nirvana" about a band and wasn't ripping on them.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Head-On-Electric/182335031791838     

Sep 9, 2011

WOMEN IN PRISON "Strange Waves" 7inch EP

     I was at the mall earlier today. It was not by choice but I needed something and in this two cow city where the downtown shopping district is pretty much knick knack & trinket shops, a handful of eateries/drinkeries and empty storefronts I had no other choice.
     As we all know the mall is a good place to people to watch. It's also a good place to find something to vent about.
     "YOU KIDS NOT PUNK ROCK AT ALL! YOU ARE ALL BOUGHT AND SOLD! YOU ARE ALL BRING LIED TO! THE PERSON THAT SOLD YOU THAT DEAD KENNEDYS T-SHIRT AT HOT TOPIC DOES NOT GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOU! HELL, THE DEAD KENNEDYS DON'T EVEN GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOU! THEY JUST WANT THE MONEY YOUR PARENTS ARE LETTING YOU SPEND!" and so on goes through my mind on a regular basis on the rare times I set foot in the place seeing all "the kids" walking around like zombies with their tattoos (how rebellious and individualistic are they anymore when insurance salesmen sport full sleeves of ink and grandma's have tramp stamps? You aren't bikers, rock stars or longshoremen. You live in a Pulte built home on a cul-de-sac.), piercings that make the dude from Skid Row's lip to nose chain thing look less like a jackass and filling their faces with Taco Bell (which apparently is more "punk rock" than Hot Dog On A Stick, the Flaming Wok or Burger King judging judging by the fat asses wearing Anarchy t-shirts standing in line, asking for extra sour cream and the largest cup for Mountain Dew Baja Blast available "and we get free refills, right?" Free refills are punk! Long live anarchy!).
     Listening to this Women In Prison single I like to believe that whenever band members have to go to the mall though they are armed with butcher knives and flamethrowers with the intention of doing much more than just thinking vitriol and venting to themselves. And, yeah, they do sport tattoos (a lot of them as a matter of fact) but they're bona fide dirtbags not just weekend rebels.
     The sound is that of jackhammer to a cesspool this Austin based band take the template of things like '81 era Black Flag and splatter it like brains all over the windshield in a car crash with the falling into a vat of battery acid search and destroy punk rock of Chicago's Functional Blackouts. The latter makes sense though as Women In Prison are fronted one time FB's snarly throatman Brian Nervous (now operating under the name of John Bondage). All three tracks here pummel the ears to a pulp with chainsaw violence punk rock that are glazed with echo that doesn't sound like it's some studio trickery as it does like it was recorded in a cave filled with bat shit and coyote carcasses.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/WOMEN-IN-PRISON/34957120381

Sep 3, 2011

Creemore Springs Premium Lager

    Located about just a little bit south from Georgian Bay (the Lake Huron region, not the city itself-that's about an hour and half to the northeast) in quaint little town Creemore, Ontario sits the Creemore Spring brewery which, according to what info I could glean from the internet, is the largest employer in that particular area.
     It's color is nice amber shade accented with a right amount of carbonation to give a bit of a sparkle when drinking it out of glass in the afternoon sun. It's not too big but not too small head is a bit on the tan side filled with bubbles that when it fades leaves a light lace around. Looks good and that's always a good start. The aroma is strong but does have a nice bouquet of caramel, a bit of nuttiness and some citrus and grassy notes to top it off.
     Tastewise it's pretty interesting. It starts off with a bit of a creamy sweetness from the malts, followed by a little bit of hop and then finishes clean. It's light and refreshing but also full bodied and well rounded all the way through.
     I shared a couple of the cans (I was only able to score a sixer from a Canadian friend and fellow beer and music geek who brought them over for me to check out) with my wife and a friend of of ours while sitting out and enjoying the sun on an 85° afternoon this past August. All three of us almost at the same time "It's too bad this isn't available in Michigan because I could easier see this being something I would want to drink all through the summer." Summer is fleeting though but I think even through the autumn months (and probably even into the winter) these would still hit the spot.
http://www.creemoresprings.com/

Aug 25, 2011

the MIDWEST BEAT "Gone Not Lost" LP and "Back To Mono" 7inch EP

     What exactly is the beat of the Midwest?
     Is it the sound of flannel shirts sitting around a bonfire sipping on cans of beer that may not be exactly cold?
     Is it about trying to find the happy medium between being blasted with two to ten foot snowfalls in sub arctic temperature winters and scorching, humid, sweat drenched summers?
      Is it the sound of rust belt wonders revving up outside the corner store mixed in with sound of freighters chugging across the Great Lakes and their can be heard for miles horns?
     Is it the sound one hears while humming to their self at their favorite fishing hole or the songs going through their head being accompanied by the clang of factory noise of the third shift one has to do to make ends meat in these tough times?
     Is it the sound of sound of the country music that rural elders and first cousins listen too which is then filtered through growing up on parents and grandparents favorite songs on the oldies station and "weird" records friends and family acquired during their college years which they then brought home to have them neglected until one decided to look for some kind of new inspiration and give them a spin?
     Is it a sound that could be of naivety of what the world is trying to tell you what is cool and hip but a determination of what it's in the heart and mind musically is more important than some new flavor that'll be discarded in a year or so?
     Who knows for sure but the band the Midwest Beat sound as if they've got a bit of everything from the above rolled up into one nice package.
      Budget beer basement bash find it's way to a Wall Of Sound where harmonies soar like unwashed angels over a musical bed of what sounds like a perfect summer day. The album kicks off with the hyper jangle and squeaky wail of "Ain't It Strange" and then swerves around in plenty of different places. Stoned country rock lounging around listening to the Ohio Express looms large on tracks like "Too Late To Care" and "All Night Long", while others, such as "When She Came To Town" suggest the Walker Brothers raised on hot dogs and Hamm's beer taking a 3 day weekend trip to the Upper Peninsula. They also don't shy away from doing a campfire sing-a-long with the likes of Miss Besty from the Sugar Stems ("Crawling Back"), fiddling with a 50's rock ballad structure ("Firefly") and just wanting to make people dance ("Spent Love" and "Sister Mary Katherine").
     The "Back To Mono" single is exactly that. Tight and concise pieces of guitar pop bliss recorded (side one by Kyle of the Motorz, the flip taped by the band themselves) without any extra adornments or an overindulgence of flourishes. All four tracks on it are just as good as anything they've released in the past, but even if they weren't, the single would be worth the price of admission for their peaches and cream take on the Hussy's rough and tumble "Sexi Lady".
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Midwest-Beat/15907127759

Aug 24, 2011

DAY CREEPER "Problem At Hand" 7inch EP

     At first impression here, if Columbus, Ohio based Day Creeper wanted to, they could be sporting girls pants, Rod Stewart haircuts and killing it in front of power-pop festival audiences all over the world. Loud, catchy and kinda toe tapping kinda stuff is what the first think the ear tells the brain it's hearing.It's the following though where both the ear and brain notice something a little more than standard songs about cars and girls structures going on. It sounds like if the band would ever want to play for throngs of popsters, who are waiting for all the original members of the Spongetones or whoever to take the stage, it would be to confuse or frustrate them.
     The reason why is because instead of spending weeks practicing harmonies that would make the Beatles blush from such idolizing or taking a guitar solo the way Rick Neilsen does this is much more plug in, see what happens and go for broke here. What results is something much more rag-tag, comfortable and broken in on the four songs here than studied and starched.
     The sound is that of the Midwest where 70's punk rock buzzsaw downstrokes the same rust belt environs of 60's teenage jangle and where handclaps and snotty singing are commonplace. Think if during the recording of their album Hootenanny the Replacements spent time wanting to be a machine bent of perpetual motion instead of wanting to sounding like poetic wino's with their hearts wrapped in flannel or bands like the Yolks and Home Blitz laying sloppy kisses all over the Gizmos and you're in the same bar that has Black Label for a dollar a can that Day Creeper call a home away from home. 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Day-Creeper/119929404710560

Aug 8, 2011

CONSPIRACY OF OWLS s/t LP

     At a first and somewhat casual listen I was thinking about counting how many records over the past couple years have been declared Pet Sounds for the modern age. After running out of fingers but before taking off my shoes to keep the tabulation straight I put the album on again. It made me realize that if I was going to start the review off on some kind of "You're not Brian Wilson" rant I would be off base and would look the fool (not that it would be the first time that's happened...but still). All Beach Boys references that can be made about this album would be from some of the things they made after that always touted holy grail of pop music. Y'know, like 20/20 and Sunflower. Even some people that consider themselves "big Beach Boys fans" those are albums that don't really ever come up much in conversation. It was a period when Brian Wilson's influence and musical vision on the band had become diminished due to his brain teetering on the edge of a cliff which left the others scrambling to keep something somewhat cohesive in the sound they had established with their fans. The problem with that though was pop music at the time was growing by leaps and bounds. The band did their best to stay loyal to their original sound while also attempting to keep up to minute. That's not to say those records didn't have their good moments but there were also a lot of things that just fell flat or were trying to hard.
     Taking a wild stab in the dark it sounds as if members of Detroit's Conspiracy Of Owls (which includes cats who've done time in the Go, Rocket 455 and Human Eye just to rattle off a small bit of their lineage) must all own copies of both albums (and at least a couple of them having copies of Wild Honey and Friends in their record collection) and have had them on their turntables on a regular basis.
     Making these comparisons aren't just because the Conspiracy Of Owls, dressed in cut off shorts, tank tops or unbuttoned shirts, hair that looks it needs to be washed with beards to match look like that era of the Beach Boys either. Two songs out of more than a few on the record that particularly show more than a nod to that wilderness period of the Wilson family and friends here are"Tower Of Diamonds" and "The New Me". The former, a song about the days of yore, except in this case not being about malt shops it's about things like when K-Mart was the main discount retail chain and they had a Frozen Coke machine always close to the front door, Sir Graves Ghastly was still on Saturday afternoon TV and video arcade we're located inside bowling alleys and roller rinks, has a cheerful about being melancholy Carl Wilson vibe. The latter about reawakening but without all that creepy Mike Love transcendental meditation hooey and his later rubbing shoulders with the Reagan's and money grab tricks.
     To say that the brain into only clicks into just Beach Boys deep cut referencing while to Conspiracy Of Owls, though it does loom large over the entire album, would be short selling it. For example, the record's lead off track, "Puzzle People" would not sound out of place on  Hawkwind's Quark, Strangeness and Charm while other tracks such as "Raving Mad" nods to Syd Barrett, mid-70's AM radio and "The Lesson" is a fine Flaming Lips from Soft Bulletin that the Flaming Lips didn't write.
     Going in to this record expecting some crazy, wild and loud "Detroit Rock" record based on the members lineage could bum out to downright pissing off some listeners but for those looking for well crafted, harmony laden and clever psych-pop-this record is one that will make them smile.
https://www.facebook.com/conspiracyofowls

Aug 7, 2011

APACHE DROPOUT s/t LP

     Album of the year?
     Is it too early to declare such things?
     So far, it's been a pretty decent year for releases. A lot of things have found themselves on my turntable and in my portable Mp3 playing device when I'm in the car, riding the bike, mowing the lawn, going for a walk, hanging out the beach and so on. Then there are those that find themselves staying there for a much longer time.
     This Indiana trio, who took their name from the classic Edgar Broughton band song, and feature a former member of soul punks John Wilkes Booze (who's song "Whiskey and Pills" is still a standard I whip out on dj nights), have released a debut album that definitely falls into the later category.
     It's a sound of after being cooped up in a humid, claustrophobic cinder block box finally getting out and ready to do a swamp shimmy and hoot & holler. Why are their clothes all bloodstained in the morning though? The don't know and everyone that watch what went down would rather pretend they didn't see what happened.
     Part murder blues finds a back woods baptism, part post Oblivians/Gories slobbering over the bible that the Velvet Underground wrote bonk and all pressure cooker ready to burst tension.
     Sounding like the Good Earth era Feelies battling the Cheater Slicks in a loser the leave town match that ends in static-the album's opener, "I'm So Glad", throws the ears into a world of nervy, dripping in cold sweat sound that works for both shaking the hip or drowning sorrows in poison. Carnival organ accentuates a train chug on the, in a more perfect world, angst anthem "Teenager" and the super-agitated Cramps throwing the distortion into the deep red line of "Nothing In My Hand."
     Legendary records label proprietors and obscure record collector/even more obscure music historians get named checked too. The former with the acid boogie of "Sam Phillips Rising", the latter with a the caffeinated rooster rhythm of "God Bless You Johan Kugelberg".     
     I could go on about each and every track extolling it's execution and at moments sounding CCR covered in used motor oil while practicing fuzz-fest voodoo or some other attempt at rock-crit lit wit but I'd rather just listen to the record again and again as much as I have been these past few months.
Album of the year? So far I am thinking so.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Apache-Dropout/124872621463