Dude York

DudeYork-Under-Review

Despite the undeniable inevitability that they were pups during its actual occurrence, the members of Dude York are savants for the ’90s. True to form, that’s the way the winds of influence have begun to blow, the kids are cribbing my adolescence and I hate to admit, it’s kinda working on me. The songs on Sincerely are built on a trifecta of bands tied by a qualifying “Super” – shades of Supergrass, Superdrag and Super Furry Animals all bound throughout; each imparting their own sense of distorted, crunch-crusted power pop. The band breezes through a yard littered with the slick pieces of Matthew Sweet’s outsized hooks, cribbing more than a few for their own use. They even snag an unshakeable likeness to Spacehog at one time or another.

Now, the ’90s being a time of radio pop shots and one-offs that pulled bands into the spotlight and dumped them down to a few devotees, these anchor points might seem like a well-worn wast of time. They’d be chalked up as an homage paid to bands people dump in the dollar bin of their memories. But for those of us that got the hook of something better from late night radio waves embracing an new alternative, the crunch of distorted hooks feels like coming home. Between the forgettable punch of Eddie Vedder wannabes there were some true gems that funneled restless energy into spring-loaded pop hits.

This is what Dude York captures, on Sincerely. Along with the production team of John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill) and Cody Votolato, the band have packed up all the right pieces into a tight compilation built for ’90s kids who were too invested in Britpop for their own good. The kids with an NME subscription that caught confused glances in Midwestern lunch rooms. They’ve stacked the hooks high and glossed it all down to a tight sheen. And just like sense memory, this feels good in the headphones, a comfort food crunch that’s part after school snack and part drinking buddy. It may not be breaking any new ground, but it’s digging up the time capsule right.





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Power – “Slimy’s Chains”

Power-BitsandPieces

Aussie punks Power get down to the nut of it on “Slimy’s Chains,” a hard-knuckled pumper that begs comparisons to the proto punk knock of ’76-’77, harnessing hard rock’s slip towards leaner territory. The band built up a reputation in their homeland as ferocoius live bashers and they’d harnessed at least a portion of that sweat and energy here. The set snuck out at the tail of ’16 in Australia but finds its way Stateside via In The Red next month. Plenty of pockets still pushing out quality rockers from Oz and Power feel like they’ve got a tap into the divine boogie beast.



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Ride – “Charm Assault” & “Home Is A Feeling”

Ride-BitsandPieces

Now I’m all for the comeback of influential bands these days, but I’ve learned it’s best not to hold one’s breath too hard in terms of them recapturing the spark that might have caught early on. That said, Ride come crashing through with two new tracks that embrace all the elements that made them such favorites over the years. The first is “Charm Assault,” a powerful, driving jangler that feels its own debt to Going Blank Again. The band spent a good deal of time honing their current sound while bouncing the reunion circuit and the renewed live legs may well have given them the drive for new material. It seems that immersing themselves in their catalog did well for finding a classic catch with some popped-on new production from dancefloor mainstay Erol Alkan. While this track captures the upbeat catchiness of their slightly more outgoing material, the second peek, “Home Is A Feeling,” creeps back into the warm blanket of Shoegaze that they built on Nowhere. So it seems they truly are embracing what made them work and blending eras on the new LP. Good to have them back.


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Group Doueh & Cheveu

GD-CH-Under-Review

As far as collaborations that would land in 2017, these are not necessarily names I would have even pulled out of a hat as working together. The French post-punk provocateurs Cheveu have been constantly reinventing their sound over the past few years. They’re a hard bunch to nail down, so maybe it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that they ended up in the desert working with Saharan blues unit Group Doueh. The latter has spent time putting records out on Sublime Frequencies, typically their only approved outlet, and spreading the heavy gospel of their Saharawi brand of electric blues. The collision of these forces seems like it couldn’t have common ground, but surprisingly the bridge feels seamless. It becomes a brand of music out of time, the kind of intrinsic otherness that music directors search out to explain alien worlds or dystopian society.

There’s a heavy sense of rhythm, indebted both to Cheveu’s frantic pacing and to Doueh’s stacked rhythm section, filled with a plethora of extra beats and psychedelic rumble. The tone wavers between celebratory and unhinged. There’s a sense that the spark between the two groups lit fast and hot, burned while they had a short interaction and then left its mark etched fresh in the black lacquer. The whole session was only two weeks, but it appears that both parties dug deep and brought something unknown out of each other. Psych, world and post-punk records proliferate the bins with varying degrees of necessity; but rest assured, there are no others like this one. Through fate, chaos and strange divinity; this has come together with the frayed soul of Yggdrasil and it’ll light up any pair of speakers with a strange and smirking dance.

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Six Organs Of Admittance

6Organs-Under-Review

Following on the heels of Ben Chasny’s experimental Rubik, Hexadic, he returns to the smokey, raw emotion of records like like School of the Flower or The Sun Awakens. The album, for the most part, steers its way shy of the guitar explosions that collided Six Organs with elements of Comets on Fire and instead focuses on the soft touch and texture of Chasny’s songcraft. On those two particular records, he honed the beauty in his work, sanded the raw edges and focused the froth of emotion through the tangle of strings and his own cedar smoke drawl. The next phase would bring fire, and while the fire was satisfying, there’s something inherently interesting about calm laced with the haunt of pain. That element has returned with eperience on Burning The Threshold.

Chasny’s voice is high and present in the mix, putting the focus on the man, rather than any hint of din rising around him. The only noise seeping through on many songs is the light flutter of tape hiss that wraps the songs in a Kodachrome weather of age. Largely, it’s just Ben and his guitar, recorded cavernous and enveloping, as if the listener is observing from inside the instrument itself. As the record builds to a peak, he strides outside of the lone troubadour mode for the standout, “Taken By Ascent,” which acts as a single focal point for the full release of the tensions bubbling throughout the album. Where every other track is building and aching, “Ascent” is the moment when there’s a flash of menace in the eyes, a wounded bristling that turns dangerous but rides the rise into a tense bout of prog-laced psych without exploding into noise.

After the track simmers to a close the album returns to the lonesome and even wistful modes of the closing numbers, picking up some of the same solemnity of that preceded the row on “Ascent.” There are no other glimmers of that tension on the album, but collected as an arc, it plays well as an argument for albums in a renewed age of singles. The songs are all inherently interesting apart, but when stacked into the tableau that Chasny has assembled, they create something bigger than any of the pieces. Six Organs has a deep catalog, but this easily stands out as a high water mark in a lifetime littered with gems.




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Vietnam

Vietnam-Re-released

Not to be confused with the constantly entertaining Social Registry stalwarts from the early aughts, this incarnation under the heading Vietnam reared its head in ’85 on New Zealand’s Jayrem records. The short release falls center square into the hearts of Joy Division and Cure fans. It’s got the moody makeup of the best kind of dark, yet oddly poppy post-punk (see: The Sound, The Names, The Comsat Angels) and knows its way around a smudged eyeliner hook. Pairing a set of damp, reedy vocals with the kind of pessimism that plays well with the goth table, these would have killed had they had wide distribution at the time. Alas, Jayrem was more of a localized label that filled out the needs of the NZ scene at the time, without expanding the way that, say, something like Flying Nun did.

The reissue culls the existing and previously released studio recordings along with a couple of unreleased cuts that round out the picture but pale a bit in comparison with the heavier hitters on the LP. The details are scant on what happened to the band post release of the original, but it’s a nice piece of Kiwi-pop history and a decent addition to any post-punk playlists that might need a bit of an outlier to liven things up. The reissue comes courtesy of the diggers over at Spain’s B.F.E. records, who for their part, are always scrounging the fringes of the ’70s and ’80s for oddities. The only real problem is that the release sounds a bit like a needle drop in terms of quality, but beggars can’t always be choosers. Perhaps the original tapes were long gone. The music remains though, and it’s a worthwhile dig to be sure.





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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

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King Gizzard have never been accused of slacking, but 2017 might just be pushing the limits for the band. Flying Microtonal Banana is the first of five proposed albums to be relesed by the end of the year and it booms out with a concept no less. The album is built around member Stu McKenzie’s acquisition of a microtonal guitar. The decision was then made to challenge the rest of the band to acquire instruments operating in microtonal tuning. The band then set out to lay down the workings of Banana. The result is an album that’s still fed on the band’s relentless rhythm, but with the addition of the insturmentation limitations, gives the album a middle-eastern psych quality that’s a nice shift.

Basically the album winds up sounding like King Gizzard as fed through bent psych of Turkish guitar slinger Erkin Koray, the heavy otherworldlinesss of Flower Traveling Band and the North African shuffle of Tinariwen. But its not all just cribbing notes and rolling them in rumble, the band adds plenty of their signature atmosphere to spacey bits on “Melting” and “Sleep Drifter.” They stretch out into a slower slink on “Billabong Valley” which really ups the Middle Eastern aura, adding in Zurna to float the track into a sea of psych vibes. While not quite as overly ambitious as their loop of fury on Nonagon Infinity, this is nonetheless another more academic approach from a band that never ceases to challenge themselves under the guise of limitations. If this is just the tip of the iceberg in 2017, then I’m plenty excited to see what else lies in the coming months.




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CFM – “Rise And Fall”

CFM-BitsandPieces

2017 appears to be the year when the members that have made Ty Segall’s backing bands so potent get their own shared glow of the spotlight, and deservedly so. With Meatbodies heading up the glam-psych concept album and The Cairo Gang shined into pop prettiness, it’s left to Charles Moothart to lift the garage baton high and get into some dirty riffs. The first taste of the band’s upcoming LP on In The Red is the tar-thick garage-pscyh stickiness of “Rise and Fall.” The recording here, like Moothart’s compatriots in Meatbodies, takes a notch up from the shredded psych salad he’s released in the past. He has West Coast studio wizard Eric Bauer and old pal Segall to thank for that, as the pair get down on recording and mixing duties. There’s an air of Motorhead’s laryngitis howl, a thatch of Sabbath via Satori riffs and a cloud of smoke so thick that the band can cut their dry ice budget in half. Couldn’t be happier to see all these solo runs adding up to a year of heavy gems.




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Mind Meld

MindMeld-Under-Review

L.A.’s Mind Meld follow up their tease of single, “The Viper,” with a full length that makes good on all the promises locked into that rock candy double-shot. The album shares a a few obsessions with the current crop of metal-dipped, space-rock altar worshipers, and they’re making a very worthy bid to be running in the same pack that Ty, Meatbodies and Aussie heavies like King Gizzard and Orb are heading up. The band knows their way around the yoke of heaviness, but for every Winnebago flattening riff they add a dose of catchy crunch topping and an air of spaciness that speaks to their love of ’70s wizards like Hawkwind or The Edgar Broughton Band. The latter, they even pay double down respects to here with a cover of the band’s Why Can’t Somebody Love Me”.

The eponymous album is pure hedonistic fury, amps on fire and tumbling down with pumice and ash. Though that almost tips a cap into doom territory, and while its obvious that the record shelves of Mind Meld members are not without a few Sabbath records, they actually keep the tone celebratory. Its heavy, but not evil. There’s more Blue Cheer in their growl than anything, frying out the West Coast vibes and feeling like they’re having a pretty good time doing it. Check out the band’s album in full below, dressed up in all is garage-psych glory. Recommended you tip the volume knob rightward here. Shake the windows.



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Paperhead

Paperhead-Under-Review

A distinctly polished upgrade of Paperhead’s nostalgia-centric rock trip, their latest Chew is an ambitious reach that pays off for the most part. The Paperhead is one of those band’s that has been clanging around in RSTB’s reach for a few years now. They came up as underage wunderkinds with a taste that spoke to hours dosed in YouTube fodder that knocked through Nuggets-era material like Kaleidoscope, Gandalf, Tomorrow, July and Rainbow Ffolly. They emulated the off-kilter, day-glo pastiche so well that it was charming, but not didn’t necessarily speak to carving out their own space. They’d excelled at winking at collectors who couldn’t help but feel that “the kids were all right.” But on Chew they begin to move away from that and into their own space, finally coming to terms with the influences that have bubbled up in their formative years, blending that ’60s sweet tooth with a more complex pop that speaks to their familiarity with the Elephant 6 catalog as that stable developed out of their own adolescence.

Tracks like “Emotion (Pheromones)” speak to the kind of lush pop made by Beachwood Sparks and middle marks of Beulah. “Little Lou” is a hazy dose of Olivia Tremor Control’s outer reaches. Elsewhere they fully embrace a ’70s eclecticism that found a home for country’s mellow glow within psych-pop’s walls. They dabble in dual languages on standout “Dama De Lavanda” and they seem to fully swell into a sense of who they want to be. Yes, they are still quite smitten with the seeds of the past, but now they appear to have let more of themselves into the mix. As an added plus those skin deep and sleeve worn influences have all seeped deep into the system and germinated in delightful ways. This is a band still having fun with the kind of music they enjoy, indulging but also adding to the conversation. It’s psych-pop with a human heart.




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