Wimps

On their third album, Seattle’s Wimps knock the production into gear and embrace the best moments of squirm pop that slid from the tail of punk into the birth of New Wave. They trade in a brand of sax squall that hits like a belt sander to their chunky hooks. They rope in heat exhausted synth lines to the kind of twitchy punk that would make Devo and Magazine proud. There’s no small love for power pop in the band’s sound either, they wrap their heads around pop and punk (without necessarily combining the two) and work it out like Ric Ocasek was twiddling knobs in the nineties when this one was made. While dipping their toes into Slacker pop from a lyrical standpoint, the band never lose a moment to sweat on the tempos. They’re couch surfing and grousing about procrastination but damn well motivated when it comes to moving a crowd.

The band has a penchant for elevating the mundane – pontificating about their love of cheese pizzas, dragging ass around the house and penning odes to Monday like Garfield hopped up amphetamines waiting for his intro by Perter Ivers before they lay waste to the set of New Wave Theater. They’re tapping into tried and true feelings but making the banal brilliant, flooding the phones with a sparkling barrage of hooks twisted with enough tin foil freakout to make it more than nineties pogo retread digging into the stack of discount bin weirdness from the previous decade. This seems like it could easily slip between the cracks of 2018, but don’t sleep on Wimps. This one cuts with glee and makes any day just a bit more bearable with its lash of levity.




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The Lavender Flu

Considering Chris Gunn’s past in The Hunches and The Hospitals, the most glaring quality that permeates Lavender Flu’s sophomore release is a renewed sense of calm. While there are pop outbursts aplenty and redline levels that would make his history proud, the record also drags up moments that recall Galaxie 500’s quiet woolen itch and The Cakekitchen’s hazy jangle. Overall the record is locked together with quite a bit more glue than Heavy Air. It seems that the time spent touring his previous record and working out these new cuts with a full band in tow had an effect on Gunn. He translates the cohesion into a slightly less sprawling take on this particular niche between grunge, garage, psych-folk and the tentpoles that propped up an indie generation in their wake.

The band relocated to a Pacific Northwest cliffside for the recordings and the cool air may have tempered the band’s direction into the reluctant sighs that waft off of Mow The Glass. Gunn still has an urge to swing the style spinner to find his muse – crunching guitars through the grunge-flecked “Dream Cleaner,” dousing the burn with country slides on “Like A Summer Thursday,” and “Distant Beings,” then twisting his experimental nerves on “A Raga Called Erik.” He even dredges himself back into the arms of noise-pop with the graveled blast that accompanies “Floor Lord”. Within the span of Mow’s relatively brief half-hour(ish) span he covers a lot of ground. It reads like a mess on paper but sounds like a dream through the speakers.

The album never feels disjointed and that’s to Gunn’s credit more than anything. It comes off as capturing a college rock heart that beat somewhere between ’87 and ’93 – heartbroken and healed, besieged by angst and calmed by numb resolve. It’s unsettled at its core, scratching at the walls that would try to contain it. For all its ambitions it truly succeeds on Gunn’s ability to throw himself into a song harder than most would ever even try.



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The Babe Rainbow – “Eureka / Alan Chadwick’s Garden”

The Babe Rainbow shine on a second single from their newly released album Supermoon. “Eureka” blends psych-funk hooks with eastern touches of raga that blend right in to the instrumental follower “Alan Chadwick’s Garden.” While the album has a few lulls, both of these tracks show the band dipping into their pop and psychedelic strengths. They pair the tracks with footage from the 1971 documentary ‘Garden’ directed by Michael Stusser, and the period appropriate vibes and garden imagery feel like a perfect match for the tracks.

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The Myrrors – “The Blood That Runs The Border”

After a caustic blast introduces the fourth album from Arizona’s Myrrors the band lays into the lyrical and tonal mood setter for Borderlands. “The Blood That Runs The Border“ is a heatstroke invocation to gods of the salt and sand. The title is particularly apt in an age of contentious nationalism that’s led to fierce protection of the imaginary (and very real) walls we conjure around ourselves. The Myrrors divine that no good will accompanies the lines in the sand we draw and they reflect back the feelings of desperation, denial and hackled defense that we pour into our plexiglass and concrete castles. The band often invokes images of nomadic travelers caked in the dust of their desert surroundings and parched as thirsty blacktop in the summer sun, so it’s only natural that they run afoul of systems built on borders.

Giving some insight to the track the band confirms, “The Blood That Runs the Border” is actually an old live standard that for whatever reason never translated into a recording until now, a time in which the issues of manufactured frontiers and the human cost of xenophobic immigration controls are perhaps more immediate than ever before. Destroy all borders, tear down all walls and the governments that build them! In a sense this track actually sowed the seeds for the entire record, from its subject matter to our conscious effort to more accurately capture the sound of The Myrrors in its current live incarnation.”

The track, along with the rest of Borderlands ably achieve a closer communion with the band’s live sound, feeling looser and wilder than they have on any album up to this. Check it out below and put the record on your radar for August.



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NRP: The Weather Prophets – Mayflower

Rounding back into the trenches of sorely overlooked fodder for vinyl reissue in a time when greatest hits albums are somehow finding their way back to the plants. The wanting bin of treasures that should be made available is too deep to measure and sadly the reissue marker isn’t set by how deserving an album is of new review, just how many copies are going to rush out the door. If the majors are going to comb their back stacks there still remain quite a few more deserving records than whatever post-Eagles solo records are in the queue. Case in point, before they found their way to Creation, a stable I’d lobby should be entirely back in print if at all possible, The Weather Prophets issued a debut for WEA. I’d submit Mayflower as an essential record and one that’s profoundly deserving of a new life among the racks.

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77:78

When it came to psych-pop, the early aughts slipped a few good ones on up the ladder to bigger stages. I’ve always had a soft spot for The Bees, sadly named A Band of Bees if you were listening this side of the Atlantic, and the band’s ‘60s radio dial spin approach let them dip into several styles without ever sounding like a novelty. They created albums that listened like mixtapes, winding through sunshine pop, Ventures-styled instrumentals, Everly Brothers soul, and touches of reggae, funk and psych with a precision that was admirable. Its been a while since their last album rolled down the belt in 2010, but now the band’s Aaron Fletcher and Tim Parkin have taken back up together to continue the eclectic digging through sounds as 77:78.

The record embraces the mixtape aesthetic that drove The Bees, though this time there’s less of a separation of influences and more of an amalgamation of their indulgences into a psych-pop brew that’s decidedly more influenced by DJ aesthetics while also winding up more languid than The Bees at its core. Jellies is a pure summer melt, with songs that sluice together like episodes of Love Boat music directed by Joe Meek. There are some mid points that get a bit too limp in the heat (“Pour It Out” and “Copper Nail” come to mind) but overall the album works as a great genre crush. The vibes are too cracked and plastered to be Yacht Rock but this is definitely psych-pop with an easy listening ambition. They wind up something like Castaway Houseboat Rock – an Island born mixtape of pop singles flown in by charter plane every other week.

While this is certainly not The Bees, 77:78 sate a bit of the thirst for a hi-fi pop project that’s searching for aesthetic niches and digging through their own crates to mix up genre into some sort of aural alchemy. The gold that the duo finds is rippled like a sunset on the water. Its hot out there and as such, 77:78 have you covered for vibes that beat back the UV crush.



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School Damage – “Assimilate”

In further proof that 2018 will be bad on my wallet, good on my ears, Melbourne’s School Damage have a new album on the way. Their sophomore LP for Chapter Music starts off with “Assimilate,” a slightly less bare bones take on their New Wave / Post-Punk bullseye that usually sees them working the wires of Young Marble Giants, Galaxo Babies and Devo into a nervy pile of art punk. The band still cuts Exacto angles out of pristine pop, tacking their guitar shards to staccato beats and pillowy synths that refuse to sit still. This time ‘round though the band is filling up every corner of the composition, fleshing out the edges with a bigger sound that’s a step removed from their brittle, yet charming debut. In particular Carolyn Hawkins (see also: Parsnip, Chook Race) fills the ‘phones to the brim with her barbed accusations and those synths buzz like a wasp’s nest rendered out of cotton candy. Can’t wait for the rest of this one to come tumbling down the line, but for now “Assimilate” and its equally effervescent collage barrage of a video are sating my need for pop wobble today.



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Loose Tooth – “You Say”

Getting genuinely excited for this Loose Tooth debut and I’m damn scuffed no one is talking about the record this side of the world. The band’s next single “You Say” is an even headier pop nug than the first taste of Keep Up. The cut is slightly brittle on the outside with a sinewy bass line knuckling its way through the track, but they open up for a soft gush of pop with those harmonies and a hook that’s all sunshine and swoon. They’re picking up goosebump punk from Cherry Red comps and 80’s indies and giving them new life for a generation ready for a little bounce in their post-punk discard pile. Can’t help feel some Kate Fagan or Holly & The Italians or The Flatbackers in this one, though it might just be that the band has gotten into the same bundle of twitchy pop rocks as those acts. Either way, its shaping ups to be a hell of an album.



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Smokescreens

Drawing breath from their love of Kiwi pop, Smokescreens’ second album bumps up the stakes and sharpens focus to match the exuberance and quirks inherit in albums from The Clean, 3Ds or The Great Unwashed. In tune with the wave of artists who made up the inaugural class of Flying Nun, Smokescreens have built their sound on a bedrock of jangles made to ring off the clouds, a relaxed lyrical style not overly fussed with cleanliness, and a close-quarters recording approach that makes the band sound like they’re playing from the comfort of your couch. Owing to members Corey Cunningham and Chris Rosi spending their off time in a few other bands (Terry Malts and Plateaus respectively), there’s more than a little punk and power pop that finds its way into the mix as well. Though much like the current crop of Aussie and NZ scrappers that have popped up in the wake of the Nun of late, the addition of a broader bent takes the record from pale imitation to interesting interpretation more often than not.

All this homage is nothing without the songs though, is it? Thankfully Smokescreens have a good handle on pop hooks and they stuff Used To Yesterday well full of them. From the bittersweet pine of the title track to the chewy nougat bounce on “Waiting For Summer” the record doesn’t spend much of its time weighing the listener down. Buoyancy abounds and its hard not to feel a slight sense of carefree bliss during the thirty minutes it takes for this one to wind its way through the speakers. In the best sense of South Hemi janglers and their UK counterparts, even when the record’s a bit somber its still pretty damn fun. They take cues from blissful mopers The Wake or McCarthy in this regard, turning their heartbreak into earworms for all to enjoy. Vaulting a head and a half above the songs on their debut, this is Smokescreens coming into their own even while they’re living out that life in thrift store shoes borrowed from friends of another era. They might not be wholly working in fresh kicks, but it looks and sounds good on them so we might as well all just enjoy the breezy results.



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Terry – “The Whip”

Not much better news on a Wednesday morning than a new Terry album on the way. Three albums in three years, I’d say the Melbourne band is beginning to make a habit out of it and with their brand of post-punk plonk mining the years when the punks spread their wings through weirder sounds, it’s always interesting to see what the band’s been digging up. “The Whip” kicks the jangles aside, clips a driving punk guitar line to a curdled coif of organ squeal and gives this track an off the rails quality that’s biting harder than usual for the laid-back bunch. While I love the band’s cowpunk preening and clang-hearted dirges its good to see them go for the pop pounce – albeit with enough squirm to make it pure Terry. Its an art-punker kicking the New Wave kids down the stairs for coming on too soft and too slow. If this track doesn’t get you sweaty for a new Terry long player then I can’t fathom what’s eating you.

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