Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’

Paint Thinner

Invariably when Detroit is thrown down as a geographical pinpoint, thoughts turn to soul, funk, proto-punk, and to the Aughts’ onslaught of garage. More recently, though, with an abundant availability of warehouse space and relatively lower living costs, noise and art-punk have hunkered down in the Motor City as well. Not such a stretch, considering the same has been true of anchor points just south in Columbus and Cleveland, and as a native of Michigan, I can’t think of any better forms to express the pent-up frustrations of six months of frigid climes pinned to the creeping permanence of strip mall sprawl. Its in this climate that Paint Thinner make their move. While the band isdefinitely not garage, they aren’t exactly punks by design either.

The group (which pulls members from Human Eye, Terrible Twos and Frustrations) hovers in the crevices between noise and punk, soaking in the acerbic juices that once fostered Wire’s transition away from streamlined punk strategies and towards something more sinister. There’s a lot of tension at play in the band’s songs – builds that don’t necessarily resolve, a chewing of strings, a twist of discordance that gives the album an overcast pallor. Like Sonic Youth, Royal Trux, and Television before them, though, the band tends to find their best moments in emerging from noise just slightly to play with catchier forms, before lurching back into the churn.

The bulk of The Sea of Pulp, however, raises its head above the noise barrier only to establish forms and then it tugs between the dirge draggin’ modes of the ‘90s and the more introverted dropouts of Slint and their ilk looking to find bliss between the pedals. There are some genuine moments that raise this up, but also a few that lose steam in the pot. In the end the album runs on the unexpected ninety-degree twist, as perhaps most articulated by their admitted influence in Syd Barrett. While Barrett might have been truly lost in his own musical non-sequiturs, Paint Thinner seem to always be eyeing the crowd with raised brows. This makes that unexpected twist, rather expected by the end of the record. Lots to love here, but perhaps it feels like we’ve been down these roads before.



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F.U.K. – “Road Kill”

If you’ve kept your eyes off of HoZac’s archival series, then you’re missing out on some choice punk gems that have slipped through the cracks. They’ve found all manner of leather bound ephemera and packed them back on the wax for eager archivists and crate diggers alike. Their next project documents a barely-there notch in Midwest punk history. The 7” bounds up the sole recorded existence of F.U.K. (Fucked Up Kids), the duo of Roger Miller and Sue Rynski. Miller did time in Detroit’s Sproton Layer and was brother to Larry and Jim of Destroy All Monsters, but you may best remember him as holding down the strings in Mission of Burma. F.U.K. played one show and spit out two tracks before they slipped away, but thanks to general biz wiz and musical oracle Byron Coley those tracks are finding their way back to you via HoZac and company.

The A-side is a pure primitive corker, tough and twitchy and cracking its knuckles at the back of the room lookin’ for a fight. The track bashes out a low-slung rumble before barreling headlong through the quantum mist for a static n’ acid solo that’s begging to burn the place down. Its easy to see how this beast was too weird to live, but I’m damn glad that it was recorded for posterity. Gonna want to grip this one when it comes out later this month.


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The Dogs – “Slash Your Face”

Not to be confused with French punks Dogs, this Motor City three piece conjured up hard-nailed proto-punk of the MC5/Stooges variety. The title track is a burner, wrestling with tempos and fueled by the energy of the room. The tracks were all recorded live at Mabuahy Gardens in San Francisco and it’s easy to see that the band felt at home on stage. This is one of those pieces of punk lore that’s been run in illegitimate circles more often than legitimate, but it’s nice to have a solid, official version circulating again. It’s full of sludge and shot from the hip, the way the best bits that crested into punk’s true age often were. NYC, London and San Francisco always get their due in punk circles but Detroit had its own brand of leather-burnt fury and it’s on full display in these three tracks.




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Stef Chura

As a Michigan native, I gotta love Stef Chura, just for stickin’ it out and never pulling roots on the rust belt. There’s a certain kind of malaise and self-flagellation I inherit to living in the mitten and it comes through on her debut record, Messes. She’s landed in Detroit and made the city headquarters to the recording of the album, enlisting fellow Midwest holdout Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good to Me) on production and bass here. The record leans into certain ’90s touchstones that anyone coming of age during the era might let warm their nostalgic heart; the distortion pedal punch of noise rising out of the calm chorus, feminist punk prose, and a starkness that feels like Albini might be creeping ’round the cables (alas, he’s not). The sum of the parts, though, doesn’t sound like it’s lost in the past, just keeping the best parts aloft.

Chura packs the album full of doubts, anxieties, stresses and breakthroughs. Its an album about all the shit that life throws as you and coming out, at least somewhat, better on the other side. It’s not about erasing that emotional heap from your slate, just not letting it overwhelm. Perhaps that vulnerability is what really brings the album swimming to the surface out. Chura’s ability to be self-effacing and pack it on top of thick, fuzzed, slightly knotty, and certainly catchy songwriting lets her stand as not just another artist flipping surf, jangle, or girl-group swoon into faded memories and faint touchstones. She’s cheekily mentioned that she decided she’d had to write at least album before she dies, but now that she has, I’m hoping its by no means a solitary creation.



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The Intended

Still mopping up the great untouched leftovers from 2016. It was a crowded field, but that’s no excuse for leaving a good one on the table. The Intended was born out of members from Tyvek and fellow Detroiters Odd Clouds, simmering over years of practice space knockarounds and well-intentioned promises. Captured to four track in a basement space, the record is raw, like a nerve exposed and picked at til its sore. Long past lo-fi’s swan song the band aren’t looking to create an aesthetic, merely finding a means to an end and the end is a record that’s wielding noise cradled garage like perfectly muddied sketchbook rendering. The songs aren’t polished, but they’d be neutered if they were.

The power in The Intended’s arsenal is their dirty, sweat stained charm. The band are pulling this record off like a recovered demo session from the best of the Nuggets generation. Like a Remains session, a Nazz demo or John’s Children practice room cut, they’re finding the nerve of garage as it’s rarely still presented. Sure, there’s a scuzzed up sensibility to many garage bands, but they still don’t feel like you were maybe a fly on the wall for the best take. That’s where Time Will Tell finds its strenth. Each one feels like the band let the listener in on their unguarded moments and everyone won in the process.

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Timmy’s Organism – “Lick Up Your Town”

When news of a new Timmy’s Organism release wafts down the halls, there’s a general feeling of dread and motion sickness that kicks in. The band aren’t made for these, or any times. The noxious vibes that emanate from their stacked amps can only be set to an irradiated boil and the newest slab from Total Punk is leaking its fair share of vileness. Even from a two-tracker, the band make their mark. Their profile was notched up to meet the public eye through a Third Man record last year. It was a well deserved escalation of terms that was meet with far too little thunder. Perhaps the populace hasn’t been to see Vulgar and co. tear down a stage. Its a sight to behold and a true marker of the band’s sci-fi punk prowess. New track’s a scorcher and well recommended fodder to heat up your turntable’s needle.



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Stef Chura – “Spotted Gold”

When I wrote about Stef Chura last year she was just pumping out short form tapes and splits across a wealth of labels. Now, the Detroit songwriter has an album on the way from Urinal Cake Records and it’s packing up the heat of that first single “Slow Motion” with a few other gems, including the ’90s strummer “Spotted Gold.” The newest peek at her record, Messes, capitalizes on a lot of what endeared Chura to me in the first place; the shaggy, unassuming songwriting that’s potent, but not flashy, a stripped down arrangement and fizzing hooks. The real draw here, though, is Chura’s spring-loaded voice, quivering and flexing in ways that make it an invaluable asset. Chura’s been racking up a chorus of praise in the interim since “Slow Motion” came my way, and can’t say that it isn’t well deserved. Eking out in the wee hours of 2017, this is one you shouldn’t sleep on.

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Danny & the Darleans

So without every recording another note, Daniel Kroha is already in the pantheon of rock heroes for his membership in The Gories. The long running Detroit scrappers have gold status in pretty much any garage lover’s book. But Kroha’s never leaned on that membership as a way to coast, he’s cut ragged acoustic blues under his own name, teaming up with Third Man for an album, explored glam pop with the Demolition Doll Rods and gotten scuzzy in his own right time and again with the Darleans. The last Darleans album came down the pike in 2013 and Bug Out follows pretty much in its shoes. Its ruffled and ragged party rock that’s dirty, sweaty and flecked with the right kind of smirk to keep people moving and having a good damn time. Add in Kroha’s natural soul that funnels the ethos of The Troggs, early Shadows of Knight, Motown’s rockers and that other garage demon with a smile, Mr. King Khan, and its shaping up to be a damn fine party in here.

Kroha stacks the Darleans with talent that can’t help but swing, drummer Richie Wohlfeil was in The Detroit Cobras, probably one of the finest garage bands to ever hit the stage. Bassist Colleen Burke cut her teeth in We Ragazzi, and though they may have had a more serious bent, they gave her the chops to wail on Bug Out. There’s little room to really make garage rock new, or to break the mold. What’s left these days is the way to perfect the form you’re fighting in and in that regard, Danny & the Darleans are knocking out most who step to them. They’re tight as hell, and to prove it this sucker was recorded pretty much live to tape, giving very little mystery as to what these songs might sound like up on the stage, you’re living it every time the needle hits the wax. Its a hard trick to pull, but when it goes right, this is what it sounds like.

When it comes down to it, The Darleans know that a great garage band can tackle covers as handily as they can simmer an original, and both should mix seamlessly, giving the listener little pause when a cover hits the speakers. If they make ’em their own, then who cares who wrote it, its theirs now. The Darleans pack heat into songs by The Night Crawlers, bluesman Jim Jackson and Eddie Holland while making them seem as much a part of their DNA as any of their own cuts. The album shapes up to as solid a garage album as you can hope for. It never flags, never begs forgiveness and never seems to care – and that’s what any garage band should aspire to. Kroha’s a human jukebox, serving up singles that cook the whole record through. Bug Out is the kind of record that lights up any room it hits.




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Stef Chura – “Slow Motion”

Detroit’s Stef Chura brings a dose of grunge love to her half of a split tape with fellow motor city resident Anna Burch. Both halves of the tape were recorded by Saturday Looks Good To Me’s Fred Thomas and he contributes instrumentation to both artists’ tracks. “Slow Motion” has a scuzzed but sweet quality that recalls Colleen Green’s recent grunge revitalizations, though Chura’s got a tougher delivery by far and hits the 90’s grit dead on. Like Green, she knows what she likes and her flannel influences wear sleeve deep. This one bodes well for some more material from Chura and if the EP’s just a taste, I’m interested to hear where she’s going. There’s an album in the works, titled Messes so all ears on that when it comes out later in the summer.

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