Posts Tagged ‘Ausmuteants’

Smarts

A jittery shot in the arm reaches the masses today with the proper debut from Smarts. The band brings together some ace Aussie talent, with members of Living Eyes, Ausmuteants, Parsnip and School Damage in tow. Smarts captures the kind of fork in the light socket jolt that spread through the Midwest around the tail of the ‘70s, injecting punk with a stable of bands who were heavier on damaged scope than effortless cool. They knit together Devo’s caustic worldview with the jagged edges of underground currents like The Pink Section, Pere Ubu, MX-80, Dow Jones and the Industrials, and Geza X. Though they’d drop down nicely next to current squirm-punk purveyors like Uranium Club. While planty of punks, especially in their vicinity are looking to the smashed glass school of riff wrangle, Smarts wield their fury with a sense of fun.

The band has an admirable ability to not take themselves too seriously, while still drawing quite a bit of blood musically. The pace is breathless and its pretty easy to see how multiple players behind Living Eyes and Ausmuteants are in the mix here. The latter’s sense of chaotic drive comes to mind more than once over the course of the album’s scant playing time, though they don’t drop too heavily in the shadow of their former bands. The blasts of sax from Stella Rennex lace the record with Downtown ‘70s vibes. The chewed foil guitars butt heads with ozone-crusted synths and Billy Gadner’s nasal delivery gives this one a perfectly fried-nerve approach. The best of the ‘70s twitchers weren’t in it because picking up a guitar made you cool, they were tearing apart the rock idol with each ragged riff. Who Needs Smarts, Anyway is born out of that bloodline and it jolts just as hard.


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Alien Nosejob – “Television Sets”

Excellent news rolling in today from the South Hemi as Alien Nosejob sets up for a new LP with Anti-Fade and Drunken Sailor. The band, led by Jake Robertson (Ausmuteants, School Damage) has been a pretty loose-genre affair, finding inroads in synth, disco and punk but it’s sounding like a combo of the synth and punk strands on this one, leaving the leanings of his disco days behind. “Television Sets” slings into the screen with a driving rhythm and both the guitars and the keys on full-bore fuzz. There are definitely a couple of Ausmuteants overhangs here, but this is less angular than their agenda, letting the teeth sink into the flesh a bit more. I’d definitely recommend hitting this one up and getting it on those wishlists.



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Hierophants

Aussie squirm-pop savants Hieorphants landed a propulsive chunk of post-punk on the chin of 2015 with their album Parralax Error. While the band issued a few singles before and after, its largely the last we’ve heard from the band until a surprise resurfacing this month on Anti-Fade. Spitting Out Moonlight is as twisted and taut as their previous effort, squeezing strains of synth-pop, jumbled jangle, and post-punk pounce into thirteen packed tracks that squeegee the soul. The band, which contains members of ORB, School Damage, The Frowning Clouds, and Ausmuteants revels in knocking the listener off their axis, while at the same time, providing just enough of a blistered beat to shake a dose of dance out as well.

The record benefits from a cache of strong songwriters, and while the needle vacillates through genres pretty freely, it all comes together like a lovingly curated mixtape adorned with shades of crushed velvet, plastic, and chrome. Peeking through the haze, the synth wobble of tracks like “Thoughts of Speech,” and “Carbon Copy” give the album a glue-huffed giddiness that’s immediately wiped to the waste bin by bent tin tangles guitar on “Memory Card,” and there are even a few prog-pegged whiffs that come seeping through the floor boards on opener “Shoemaker Levy” and closer “Everything in Order” with the latter taking the winked patter of Daevid Allen to heart. Its good to have the band back as they solidify their catalog with a sophomore platter as vital as the first. Who knows how long it’ll be before the stars align and a third hits, so enjoy this one while it lasts.



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Ausmuteants – “Forever Cops”

New Ausmuteants on the scene this week and it’s a doozy, as could only be imagined by the band. Taking off from the dyspeptic seeds they sowed on the track “We’re Cops” from 2014’s Order of Operations, the band swings back with a full album written from the perspective of an authority crazed walker of the beat. The band cites a loss of faith in law enforcement worldwide as the impetus for the album and they paint a vivid picture of overreach on “Forever Cops.” Its no less dystopian than they’ve ever been, just maybe a bit more prescient. The song is soaked in drunk-sick keys, rabid guitars and fever panicked vocals with a finger on the trigger. Take a listen below and look for the full rager on April 26th.



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School Damage

Oftentimes when a debut hits a particular sound on the head so well, there’s a nervousness approaching the follow up to see if that solid connection can be repeated when the band comes around to taking the next swing. On their debut, Melbourne’s School Damage found the woozy, wobbly ground between art-punk’s nerve-damaged tempos and the spare class of post punk that counted Pylon, Young Marble Giants and The Units as alumni. Jumping into their sophomore LP, they pretty quickly dispel any lingering worries. “Assimilate” starts off strong, but by the time they hit the carnival careen of “Psychick Damage” they’re doing laps around any band that’s attempting to wrangle up and repeat the same strand of influences.

The band’s Jake Robertson and Carolyn Hawkins have a deep bench of wobbly pop favorites in their pockets, which speaks well to the Internet’s ability to let a couple of Aussie’s get their hands on US/UK rarities with relative ease these days. Though access isn’t synthesis by a long shot, and the pair’s ability to pull from the nervy nooks of the ‘70s and addled ends of the ‘80s and kick out consistently brilliant gems is laudable. The pair still tag team the vocals and each singer lends a different shade to the record, with Robertson bringing a slightly tempered version of his cracked glass approach in Ausmuteants and Hawkins channeling a more silken cool that works well with their less is more approach to space and sound.

If anything, the record bests their debut, fanning the spark they scratched last year into a flame. A to X, gleefully explores the post-punk road less traveled. Without the sinewy shades of angst that often infect the genre, the band has time to explore the unease, anxiety and aloof discomfort of the bands that handed them down the sound. That they do it with a creeping catchiness and seemingly rapid ease makes this a record that’s impossible to ignore. If you missed their opening volley last year then catch up quick because School Damage shows no signs of slowing their domination of the itchy underground.



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Jake and Carolyn of School Damage on Tommy Jay – Tall Tales of Trauma

Though I’ve been a fan of both Jake Robertson (Ausmuteants, Alien Nosejob) and Carolyn Hawkins’ (Chook Race) individual projects, they’re often at their best when they come together as School Damage. The band embraces a raw, yet catchy form of post-punk that finds a through line from Young Marble Giants to Wire and Television Personalities. The two songwriters balance each other out in their reach for grit vs hook, so with that in mind Jake and Carolyn team up for a joint pick in Hidden Gems. The pair both harbor a love for Tommy Jay’s Tall Tales of Truama, aMidwest lo-fi treasure that’s sure to have eluded most.

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School Damage – “Scump Damage 1”

One of last year’s favorite albums around here came from Aussie upstarts School Damage. Featuring members of Ausmuteants and Chook Race, the band captured a kind of woozy, wobbly pop that drew comparisons to The Vaselines and Young Marble Giants. Their simple, yet potent brand of post-punk was full of charms that only get deeper on their new 7” for Upset The Rhythm. The new single works under the concept of four songs about one cat – which on paper sound like it could get real twee, real fast. However, the band maintains their usual off-kilter sensibility pinning Jake Robertson’s tale of Lumpy (aka Scump) to a headrush synth line and enough jangles to stuff your socks. They continue to be top shelf Aussie exports, and this little taste only makes me want more from the band. The single is out on UTR on May 25th.



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Vintage Crop – “Gerald Part 2”

Feel like I’m leaning hard on Anti-Fade lately, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t kicking out some choice gems from their stable of upcoming cuts for 2018. Vintage Crop, like labelmates Civic, are full of brutal punk slap, but they knot it up with the kind of muscular precision that made Eddy Current Suppression Ring perennial favorites here, and well, everywhere. “Gerald Part 2” sweats it out with the best South-hemi stranglers but veers to the frantically weird, which is always something I’ve found heartening about bands hanging in Ausmuteants’ orbit (the band’s Billy Gardner produces). Gonna want to keep the ears peeled for this one when it hits in April. Maybe stash away some lunch money until then to put this one on the table proper.




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School Damage

Having started strong with the single “Tall Poppies,” Melbourne/Geelong foursome School Damage come even stronger with their first full length for Chapter Music. The album plays well into a type of post-punk that prized catchy swings over a full sound, often feeling ramshackle but giddy in the process. School Damage captures that giddiness bubbling in the pit of the stomach and fashions it into a kind of worming social anxiety come to life through woozy keys and sprinting drums. They find the sweet spot between The Vaselines, Kleenex and, as evidenced by their homage, Aussie footnote The Particles. They capture the austerity, sincerity and don’t give a fuck attitude of those groups and translate it into bubbling pop that’s ’80s in root but frothing with a lyrical sensibility that could only belong to present day. Somehow they make it all coalesce into sweaty charms in a mistmatched print.

There’s a delirious, but fun, edge to their eponymous LP and at its most dizzying it has the effect of riding the tilt-o-whirl on a stomach full of cotton candy. The songs are primarily helmed by Chook Race’s Carolyn Hawkins and as much as she adds to her other home in Chook, she’s clearly found her niche in School Damage. Other vocal duties are headed up by Austmuteants’ Jake Robertson, and I tend to have a hard time divorcing his voice from that group. Though, if Ausmuteants aren’t a heavy fixture in your life then the pair act as nice halves to the quiet cool/geek-rock freakout coin, alternating their turns as the wheel amiably.

Plenty since punk crumbled into even more primitive forms have found success in spare squirming, from Beat Happening and C.O.C.O. to the nervy lo-fi of Bitch Prefect, but there’s something that gives School Damage their own space in the sound. They’re perfectly pinning jangle-pop’s heartfelt bubblegum swing to the anxious bulge of early synth-punk, finding a freedom to explode in both directions at once in any given song. They even find time to slow things down from their Adderall rush to strum out a couple of Vaselines poet-souled ballads. Its a history lesson encapsulated and as a jittery post-punk primer, you couldn’t ask for much more.





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School Damage – “Tall Poppies”

This one brings together members of two RSTB faves, Carolyn Hawkins of Chook Race and Jake Robertson of Ausmuteants. The group is self-admittedly going for a Vaselines meets Young Marble Giants sound, which on paper is an excellent idea that could go very wrong in execution. Thankfully the pair has the chops to pull it off pretty much perfectly. “Tall Poppies” hews closer to the Young Marble Giants side of that axis and they capture the stark, edge of electronic/edge of post-punk feelings with a deadpanned swagger that’s studied and superb. The track bodes well for what’s to come on their upcoming full length. If they can extend the exorcism of indie’s rise out of post-punk’s bones then it promises to be an intriguing entry in not only the Australian underground but also a welcome return to a sound that’s been explored far too seldom.




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