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

Feb 27, 2013

Razor Blazers "I'm Sick" 7inch

     From the name of the band, the song titles and the handmade sleeve one may expect some total loud punk rock with hate and ire. One must learn though that you can't judge a book, or a record in this case, by it's cover, name or song titles. Think about it. The band name could be some reference to chopping up cocaine or a nod to a group of cutters or something.
     Playing in the modern psychedelia playground where Thirteen Floor Elevators can sway to Portishead and dark shades can be donned by all. A nebulous organ line intones impending darkness over a baked Madchester beat to lead off "I'm Sick". The song builds up into a blooong of foggy goth meets musty garage rock guitar buzz. Slightly distorted female come in adding a sultry/does she moon light as a cocktail singer during to the week thing to the building mystery of the tune while the tempo stays locked in a slumberous state.
     Back in the olden day folks had the specific records they would consider late night jazz that fit the mood of street lights reflecting off rain washed streets in a city that never sleep vibe while sipping some something ice cold and warm the body with a slow burn. "I'm Sick" fits right in the middle.
     While that song mushes the trippy meets swanky thing of the past four and a half decades into a potential trance inducing concoction-the b-side's "Linear Rerun" sounds as if it landed right in the middle of the 90's. A time when gals sported dark eyeliner & pixie cuts and would make mixtapes heavy on tunes from Garbage and would give them to boys in the mall who they thought were cute.
http://razorblazers.bandcamp.com
    

Feb 22, 2013

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

     Sierra Nevada is well beyond being considered a microbrewery these days. Their brews are one of the gateways to the crazy world of beer snobbery. The main reason for both is that they are always solid and consistent. They don't get all crazy with a billion different gimmicky concoctions but when they roll out their occasion seasonal or special brews-it's usually a safe bet that it is going to well crafted with very much attention being paid to everything that goes into the particular style.
     According to the Sierra Nevada press blurb this brew is "a hurricane of whole-cone hop flavor. Hopped, dry hopped and torpedoed for incredible hop flavor and complexity, Hoptimum is the pinnacle of whole-cone hoppiness and the biggest Imperial IPA we have ever produced. It features resinous “new school” hop varieties: Magnum, Chinook, Simcoe, Citra and a new experimental hop variety exclusive to Sierra Nevada."
     A "new experimental hop variety exclusive"? Sounds top secret and a challenge to the drinker! Especially when later the one-sheet says it throws down the gauntlet to all other IPAs.
     Even though I have been a serious "Gimme all them hops bitter you can! Citrus peel, pine and skunk bud flavors-BRING 'EM ON AND MAKE IT HURT!" IPA kinda guy for many years now I have found myself needing breaks from them from time to time. A few bottles of this been sitting in my fridge for a few weeks now. In a place where I could see it and reminding me of it's existence. Tonight the craving for one struck my fancy. After a week of hustle and bustle I just wanna chill and not head to the store. Alright, Hoptimum. Looks like it is you and me tonight.
     The color here is hazy copper. The light tan head is slight but keeps a lot of it's retention making lace rings with each sip. The bouquet starts to jump right out of the glass after the pour. I was sitting 3 feet from the glass letting it breath a little bit. Banging huge hop aromas of lime and grapefruit from that distance. Further inspection up to the nose brings out lilts of green apple and rose petals.
     On first sip the first noticed is the how full bodied it feels in the mouth with a right about of carbonation and slight oily texture to give it a fluffy exponent. Then BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The different hops seem to each take a different direction in a grapefruit, pine and white pepper explosion before all joining back together. Quite interesting. The tarts and bitters are then patted down with a caramel and honey sweetness. The finish is a blend of the above with a slight alcohol hotness but enough to think it's an over 10% abv.
     Sierra Nevada never disappoints, do they?
http://www.sierranevada.com/ 

Feb 20, 2013

GOLDEN PELICANS "Hard Head" 7inch

     With a name like the Golden Pelicans a some things come to mind. Firstly, regional soul bands of the 60's had names similar to it. There were always ones with names like the Incredible Macaws, The Silver Excitements or the Platinum Flamingos.
     Another thing it conjures of an impression of is the name of a bowling league team of some Michigan retirees on snowbird time in Florida or the awesome and/or retarded name of a high school mascot.
     Dropping the needle on the record it is quickly learned there is no post street corner doo-wop/Northern Soul/Funky Broadway thing going on. The band is from Florida though but they don't sound like pensioners throwing gutters and spares.
     That leaves is the awesome and/or retarded thing.
     The tunes here made by some of those party crashing lunkheads, the Slippery Slopes, who bummed out your average Ramones loving/good time having agenda punks by claiming "Pizza, I'm Against It"-antsy and obnoxious is the name of the game. Thinking something like the Candy Snatcher with a bit less Misfits bootlicking (little bellowing-much more shouting), many more times getting kicked out of the all you can eat buffet for eating up all the fried chicken and tossing the bones at the retirees and just as much, if not more, stolen intoxicants the two doses of trashy TOTAL PUNK rock will make any kegger/pool party bash could get the cops to show up no matter how far out in the sticks it may be happening at.
http://floridasdying.com

Feb 9, 2013

Lagunitas Brown Shugga

     Who else here spots Petaluma, California's Lagunitas Brewing Company Brown Shugga' on the shelves and start hummin' the Stones song instantly? That's right! I knew I was not the only one.
     Every winter it rolls around and I enjoy the bottles I can find of it. On frostbitten and damp from the Great Lakes winds whipping in kind of evenings the West Coasters have found a was to make it seem more toasty. For some reason though it seems I have never shared my notes on it here.
     Today we will fix that.
     Pours a clear dark amber amber with a 2 finger head that holds tight for a bit then melts into some lacing that resembled what sticks to the side of the glass in a Faygo Rock-n-Rye (or whichever Faygo you choice as most of them work) ice cream float. 
     The aroma is big on caramel malts up front, molasses and maple syrup notes follow it up and a note of pine on the end.  Flavor-wise a roasty caramel introduces itself first. It is followed by the brown sugar adding a twist to the sweetness. That into fresh baked bread notes before they give way to the tart citrusy hops ending. The finish is interesting as it lingering flavor is something tastes akin to having some orange marmalade on a fresh baked muffin with chocolate flecks. It's hearty all the way though which does would fool most people into not remembering that they are drinking something that teeters at the 10% abv label.
     This stock run seems to be at it's end for another year. It wasn't all many shelves in these parts to begin with but it seems winter has at least a few more reminders before it goes to harass some other part of the world. Good thing I have a few more of these stashed away.
http://lagunitas.com/
    

Feb 6, 2013

So after waiting for more blood all these years...

      I gave the new My Bloody Valentine stuff a listen when it was blowing up all over the web a couple days ago. It was late at night and I did give it a serious timely examination. Thought it sounded like they picked up right where they left off. Don't know if that's a good thing or not. Haven't gotten back to it yet.
    The biggest contention I have read from some of the online opinion makers is that the band evolved from a twee Byrds/shambling band that eventually eventually into the loud swirly tornado of bliss noise that made Isn't Everything and Loveless.
     It seems some of those people maybe expected the band to go into another evolution. After all, it has been two decades and all that.
In interview through the years MBV masterbrain Kevin Shields has mentioned many different things that he had gotten into musically and stylistically since Loveless came out and perhaps it was hoped some of those things would be integrated into the band's sound rather than sounding like they are standing in the same place. It would have been funny if the band would have taken some weird detour just to see how people would complain (and there are some that are going to complain no matter what) because then it would sound nothing like the band they remember. 

     Some bands who haven't done records in ages have released ones that are decent to really good (Vaselines, Bailter Space, the Feelies, Subsonics fer instance) that sounded they way people knew and remembered them but still had enough fire, energy or cleverness not to sound too much like complete good times/great oldies, let me see if those clothes I wore back in the day when I could really afford to eat 3 square meals a day (but, for some reason, always had beer money) still thing. There wasn't as much expectation or hype around those records as there has been for the new MBV and that's why there have been some really polarized opinions on it so far.
    


     
    The band will always have it's blurb in the rock-n-roll history books if, for nothing else, nearly bankrupting it's record label Creation. The rock-doc on the label, Upside Down, is now available in it's entirety on YouTube (and posted above here). It doesn't really touch on that part of the story much but is still an cool watch for people into music history of more recent decade.

Jan 31, 2013

CHEATER SLICKS "Reality Is A Grape" LP

     When first started telling pals and associates that there was a new Cheater Slicks album coming out a lot of them shrugged and wondered what the hell I was even talking about. Others said "Fuck Yeah" or "It's about time."
     I will leave the shruggers be. If they don't know/don't care about the Cheater Slicks it's their loss. I  am not going to go out of my way to explain the ugly awesomeness of  the band to them. This album was super-rare the day it came out due to the LP pressing run being only 500. It was luck that I was able to get an ACTUAL copy of in my hands because they went fast. The shruggers don't deserve such things.
     With "It's about time" folks it's like "C'mon, man. Are you for real?"
     Sure, it has been a few years (2007) since the band release a full NEW album of "proper songs" (Not to discount 2009's Bats In The Trees in any way as it was quite the ear drum basher but it seemed to be more of a concept album of freeform freakout jams) but it's not like the Slicks are spring chickens or anything.
     Most bands in the frame of age would have packed it in (and one of them would probably put together a blooze or classic rock cover band that plays in bars on the weekends to help pay child support of some shit.) Making their own kind of gnarled, sick Rock-n-Roll noise is in the Cheater Slicks blood but they aren't going to simply crank out a record every year just to make the market happy and they ain't gonna pack in the van for 6 weeks to just sleep on peoples floors at the end of the night. For fans of the bands the record every few years and the slight chance of them playing close by is a rare, cherished even. Basically, as you get older and have learned anything useful-Quality over quantity reigns anyway.
     One thing that has always stood out about the Cheater Slicks sound is for being a very treble friendly band (two guitars, drums and no bass player) is how, as a trio, the mud thick feeling and absolutely disturbed vibe they give off.
     Sounding like something off Iggy & the Stooges Raw Power encased in ice and being chipped away at by an undertaker with a hatchet in his hand the albums title track kicks off manners with an obvious chilling effect. Shards fly stabbing the eardrums while a frigid blast dries, cracks and peels the skin.
     In the hands of a lot of bands the two or three chords would sound like can rock out and all that but in the world of the Cheater Slicks those same chords sound like the guitars are fighting for their lives under stranglehold grips.
     When it comes to cheating songs they are usually some kind of cry in your beer kind of thing. In the case of "Love Ordeal" it sounds more like rage swinging sledgehammers at gnarled guitar strings that some woe tale. "
     Hold On To Your Soul" gives good advice ("If you never want to grow old") but there is something way sinister sounding bubbling to the top.
     If you've ever wondered what Hawkwind would have sounded like if Lemmy was never kicked out of the band but he in turned kicked all the hippies out of the group and then buried the amps in a landfill for a month before making a return for the studio "Half Past High" may very well be the answer.
     Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but looking past the ragged blaring of the noise that surrounds "Current Reflection" there is something quite pretty laying beneath.
     Most bands don't last into a third decade of making music. Most of those that do usually end up giving diminishing returns, sound like they are phoning it in with hopes of getting another paycheck or embarrass themselves trying to stay modern losing touch with what made them so great in the first place. The Cheater Slicks are one of those rare bands that not only still GOT IT but are making even better records than they did in the past while staying loyal to what people dug about them in the first place.
http://cheaterslicks.tumblr.com