Smiles – EP

San Francisco’s Melters label has an impeccable ear for pop with all the gooey charm, power chord explosions and healthy-sized crushes on our favorite childhood bands. Turning out records from Tony Molina, Ovens, and Swiftumz, they now present the debut 7″ from Smiles; a band that snuggles up equally to Teenage Fanclub and early Primal Scream (before they got better pills). Like labelmate Molina, they’ve got a knack for brevity, though they don’t leave you hanging on wanting just one more verse of pop crushed perfection as he would. But they do smear the speakers with moody maneuvers and chunky riffs and then bring things down in perfect precision with a strummer that chokes up the dreamers on its way out the door. Its a pretty good showing for a first release and one that does what a good first EP should, leaves me wanting way more from this band.




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Timmy’s Organism – “Heartless Heathen”

If you haven’t had the pleasure, there really is nothing better than Timmy Vulgar on stage in his crazed hobo, psychedelic warlord element. This video might be the best approximation of the experience I’ve seen next to feeling the paint thinner vibes head on from the stage. Gotta love that Jack White’s honoring a hometown hero with the release of this record on Third Man’s new imprint. The people need more crazy in their life and, hell, Timmy can shred with the best of them so more power to the folks that find their way down the rabbit hole this way. If you haven’t picked up a copy of the long player yet, then now’s the time.

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Slick!

The force of glam runs strong through Slick! and that’s probably because Nick Slick has spent his tenure in quite a few acolytes of the glittered stomp, trading time in Glitz, Apache and backing The Runaways’ Cherrie Currie for a time. In the wake of Glitz’ demise he’s back with a new outlet for 70’s riffs taller than a triple stack and pulling a spot on sweat tribute to his forebears. Yeah yeah yeah, I know, what the world needs is another glam punk band like it needs another pothole, but I say, hell if you can bleed leather and rock the alter of Alice Cooper and The Sweet with equal aplomb then more power to you. The album’s a full tilt, dance inducing slice of sex obsessed rock ‘ roll and its easy to see how this is a close sibling of Glitz’ Its Glitz. Though in a way it also reminds me of Cozy’s Button by Button an album that knew that bubblegum lies at the heart of glam. The frothy organ lines that thread their way through a few tracks find the band tripping on that excellent tipping point when rock took itself less seriously again and glam found its childish heart and sense of swagger. For an album only available as 500 run cassette, this has a huge sound and its the kind of album that luck should stick permanently in the deck of your ’87 Escort. Blowin’ lights with Slick! on the speakers seems a natural fit.





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RSTB Most Overlooked

So, here it is. Raven has turned 10, which means that I’ve been doing this for a friggin’ decade at this point and I have to say, it hasn’t been a bad ride. With the site’s turn into the double digits it seemed time for a new coat of paint, which you may notice in the form of our new design and move to the proper .com address.

I spent quite a bit of time pouring over the site’s past in the last few months leading up to this relaunch and while I will work to get some larger features going this year, I’m not going to make lists a regular part of the site, outside of the mid-year and year-end wrap ups. I’ve never been a fan of running down rut-worn lists of records based on a loosely tied theme. But…nostalgia begged a bit and I came across several posts on records I thought just never got a fair shake. Its not a list of my best of the last ten years, those you can probably put together yourself from year end lists, rather these are some great records that just never seemed to garner enough yelling about them.

However, rest assured that despite a new look, the ethos of RSTB will remain largely the same. I’ll still focus on reviews that don’t get too gabby, some videos and now a short bit on tracks that are exciting from releases to come. There will still be a focus on the physical formats and prods to buy them, because paying artists for music you can hold in your hands will always be a good idea. So, without further adieu… the list.

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Kevin Morby – “I Have Been To The Mountain”

Kevin Morby’s rise has been well deserved. Coming out of The Babies into a weightier singer-songwriter territory that coalesced on Still Life, the singer’s jumping to Dead Oceans for his latest and the first sounds are just as engrossing as that LP. The video for “I Have Been To The Mountain” is equally striped with death and comedy, a mix of light and dark that seems pretty spot on for a Morby track. The LP arrives in April and hopes are high that the full release lives up to the expectations set by Still Life


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Mozes and the Firstborn – Power Ranger EP

RSTB faves Mozes and the Firstborn have been pretty quiet since their super solid 2013 eponymous LP. But it would seem that the silence is broken and hopefully its just the tip of the ‘berg for the Dutch crew. They’ve got an EP with four new tracks up for free download over at their Bandcamp this week. Still mining their same classic rock impulses, via the oversized sound of early aughts psych Juggarnauts like Soundtrack of Our Lives and building choruses on a shaggy 90’s Pavement / Pixies axis, the band’s always come off much slicker than many of their Burger brethren and better for it. Along with fellow EU garage diggers Death by Unga Bunga they’re ushering in a hard hankering over here for some big, crisp pop that worms its way into your head for days. Pick up that EP below. There are very few reasons not to. Hopin’ this leads to an album announcement on the horizon.

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Ty Segall

So Segall ropes in a huge crew of ringers on his latest collection, Kyle Thomas (King Tuff), Mikal Cronin, Emmett Kelley (The Cairo Gang), Charles Moothart (Meatbodies), Cory Hanson & Evan Burrows of Wand and Melvins Drummer Dale Crover, each one a holding a record nerd’s pedigree in their own right; and together they make exactly the kind of case study in explosive, yet powerful rock that you might think that they’d unearth. What’s maybe missing, is perhaps any of that polish that found its way to the forefront of Ty’s last record. Here he’s going for a barbed wire aura that puts listeners on their haunches from the get go, grinding through the dirt rather than working to nod heads and let the teens bop. The cast of characters on display are torn from some similar territory from past releases, all matter of loners and speckled creepers, but now it seems that the disconnection they inspire is intentional and perhaps crucial, as the core of his “emotional mugging” stems from the electronic barriers of social feeds and the constant filter of glowing screens.

The first half of the record cuts the flesh and licks a few wounds, barreling through Television, Beefheart and Voidoids machinations if they were blown through the filter of Chrome and throttled a few turns in the vice of MX-80. The second half opens up its scope, though its still got an evil hangover of guitar gnash that keeps it at arm’s length from the glittered pop of Manipulator. This is one for the true grit, those who’ve come as much for the hooks as for the blown cone ethos. In a way, this whole album reminds me of one of Segall’s greatest tracks, “My Sunshine,” a shot over two minutes of melted wire fury with a caramel center of melody that makes it uncomfortable in its own skin while still making you smile every time. Who knows if this mask will stay on long, but for now this is an enjoyable bit of squirm from one of the modern masters of string wrangled fury.

Listen:
Watch ’em play it HERE

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Night Beats

Night Beats are back, steadily threading the needle of psych and garage with a strand of soul that’s just fine enough to get lost in the clamor while still tying things up nicely. The band’s climbed up to a larger label and a bigger sound, though still genuinely on the same general path they’ve been weaving along all these many years. The record opens on a cryptic note before exploding into the ravaged psych of “Power Child,” one of the standouts of the set. As is typical of Night Beats, while there’s a certain amount of sweat (see “No Cops”), there’s plenty more instances where the band lays back into groove, letting a dark, smokey veneer overlay the record like a pervading ethos. The band knows how to keep their garage dipped and dripped in the low hang of stage fog, swaddled in sunglasses and baking in leathers in the 90 degree heat without so much as a break in stride to acknowledge there might be any cause for discomfort. They’re longstanding dues payers to the cult of composed cool and for the most part they know how to wield that cool like a weapon throughout Who Sold My Generation. Most garage long players are best when taken to task on the hi-fi speakers but the grotto nuance here actually finds this album best set on headphones or confined to the car; its a loner’s record and it’s best to keep it contained. Let the outside world wonder what’s moving your head.

Listen:


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Honey Radar

So this one is one of those reviews that feels like an exercise in frustration. First, the music on Instant Replay in an excellent shadowbox of 60’s psych and tissue screened jangle that feels like its got lots of room to grow wings. Sadly and secondly, its also exceedingly scarce, which I suppose makes it a bit more desirable in its own right. Jason Henn’s own Third Uncle, along with BK mischief makers What’s Your Rupture? have released this in a scant run of 50 lathe cut copies and the digital seems to be looking hard to come by to boot. Good news seems to be that there’s talk of an album that should make fans of White Fence and Jacco Gardner happy campers in the long run, but for now these streamers will have to hold ya over. The tracks flicker pop-sike through a 16mm lens coated in sepia oils and gently burning away at the edges. There’s a homespun charm that drives the three tracks along and a warmth that feels so real you could heat you hands on it. I’ll definitely be interested to see where Henn takes Honey Radar next (aside from that Chunklet single, which is almost, but not quite as captivating as this.) Keep this one primed and on radar.

Listen:


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Laddio Bolocko – Live and Unreleased 1997 – 2000

No Quarter have painstakingly sought to elevate Laddio Bolocko’s legacy with this collection of live recordings, augmented with a companion DVD, for those (like myself) who missed out on LB’s heydey in the Brooklyn underground before being anywhere near the Brooklyn underground made you noteworthy. The set captures the band’s ability to carve catharsis out of chaos and shape noise into a gleaming force for physical change. The band dives off the cliff of pop sensibilities, there’s no regard among the players for how much carefree fun you’re having but instead the pieces chip away at the listener until they force physical, emotional and mental release. Drummer Blake Fleming, later of The Mars Volta, hammers rhythm against a wall of sax and clatter of noise, kicking his way into your head in a stutter-stop chug that’s lets the sweat through the speakers. The rest of the band aren’t playing peek-a-boo either, they strangle sound until it screams and relents and hell that’s just the first set.

The second set finds the band moving away from a bit of the clatter and more towards a realm that finds the link between Laddio’s past and a few players involvement with No Quarter alums Psychic Paramount. Math riddled free jazz fights for breath with with pummeling noise rock and the band seems to truly find their place near the sun. Its easy to see how the legend was built on performances like How About This For My Hair and As If By Remote. For the uninitiated (which I’d imagine numbers high) this is going to be both a dense entry and a welcome shake awake. Its exhausting but rewarding in the way that distance runners seem to cling to; a high that somehow pushes you through the collapse.

Listen:


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