Posts Tagged ‘Garage’

The Cowboys

While its a weird time to have any music on the dock that’s not just an uneasy drone whirring down to the bone each day, there’s still plenty to love sluicing out of the slicer this week. Bloomington’s Cowboys have been on a personal streak over the last couple of years, kicking out a number of low-key tapes and transitioning to a run of LPs for Feel It / HoZac / Drunken Sailor recently. Their latest scatters some of their more rambunctious garage tendencies and introduces a more brittle brand of post-punk that’s in line with the rising stress levels in a world gone wrong. This pops up on the first single “The Beige Collection” and in turn on “Wise Guy Algorithm.” As the album eases in though, the band can’t help but let their usual shaggy charms seep into the sound once more. They were never built to be the bearers of bad news anyhow.

There’s sobering tones on the spiraling, lonesome, “A Killing,” but even this has a humanness to it that’s well in line with The Cowboys cache. After a short reprieve they find themselves swimming in the same swell later on with “Sweet Mother Earth” — a candlelit, wine-stained ode to diminished resources. They might have gone a bit far into the bottle on the following “Ninety Normal Men” which borders on home grown musical territory, but then again who’s to say they aren’t fucking with us as usual. The band excels at letting the corners of their smile soak into the songs. They’re not looking for a joke in everything, but they’re not above it. Yet when its called for the band brings a real twist of soul to garage, finding common footing with the likes of Black Lips and Royal Headache (though never reaching the alchemical brilliance of the latter). ]

The LP feels like the band in transition. It’s not quite reaching the slapdash superb moments of last year’s The Bottom of a Rotten Flower, but there are more than a few great impulses here. The hearts are peeking out of the sleeves just a tad bit more and they make it work. Interspersed with a couple of welcomed sunshine strums, some hip-shake and shimmy and sonic simmer that never boils over, the band continues to be ones to watch and probably wont’ shake that status anytime soon.


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The Cowboys – “The Beige Collection”

Bloomington’s garage-soul swelters The Cowboys are back and the carefree flow that was palpable on The Bottom of a Rotten Flower seems to have evaporated overnight as we head into their new LP, Room of Clons. “The Beige Collection” is a dark, brooding introduction to their new LP, driving deep into the night with a hungry riff and the vocals of frontman Keith Harman hovering over the listener with a sinister edge. Seems the rest of the album might return to some of their homegrown punk roots but here, for the moment, The Cowboys are post-punk purveyors of a measured menace that’s hard to shake. The record hits shops and mailboxes alike on April 4th.


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Traffik Island’s Zak Olsen on Public Nuisance – Gotta Survive

Keeping the wheels turning on Hidden Gems and pulling more and more psychic diggers into the fold. This week the honors fall to Zak Olsen, the Aussie indie utilitarian who crops up in quite a few RSTB faves, to be honest. From the fractured pop ooze of Hierophants to the crushing grooves of ORB, Zak has done time in The Bonniwells, The Frowning Clouds, and keeps time in his own solo work as Traffik Island. The latter’s work caught my ear a few years back with a spot-on deep-dive into loner folk, but of late the band has embraced an aesthetic of psychedelic beat driven on an engine of Library Music funk. Zak gives some background on California garage band Public Nuisance and how their Nuggets-era works came into his life. Check out Zak’s take on the band’s works below and head to Flightless for the latest Traffik Island thumper.

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Black Lips

Like many I suppose my relationship with Black Lips has been fraught. The band’s always hand a sneer that’s both admirable (their ability to not give a damn about the winds of trend) and irritating (knocking out songs that feel like they coulda baked a minute longer). There’s an irreverence to their humor that skirts juvenile jabs, but it’s a good-natured poke to the ribs. Even when trying to put on a scrappy, dangerous garage guise, the Lips don’t really wish you ill. They’ll pick you up after shoving you to the ground. Aesthetically, their last record seemed to sap the last ounce of steam out of the sandpaper-piped garage that they’d been hounding for the past decade, so good news descends as the band has been born anew beyond the veil of country-rock. The gamble works and the twang sits well in their wheelhouse.

They add a roadhouse grit to the genre, melding their snide asides with the forlorn tales of hard luck, hard living, and hard liquor. It’s not a baptism in the genre but they’re definitely having as much of a dalliance as The Stones ever had. The Lips have always had a hardscrabble heart, now they’re just letting it bleed a bit more Tennessee Whiskey. Some of the renewed sheen might have something to do with Laurel Canyon vet Nic Jodoin at the board. With the exception of their Mark Ronson steered 2011 breakout, the band has often let the layers of sound fall by the wayside, preferring impact over subtlety, but Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart doesn’t just twang the guitar, it adopts the studio slick of their influences as well.

Lonesome harmonica pulls at the heartstrings, even when the song’s about a rogue GI Joe. Pedal steel soaks up the beer from the bar, sax squawks bump the jukebox, and Cole Alexander’s never sounded so buttoned up (but ready to rumple should the opportunity arise). While its nice to keep scratching the same itch, eventually that leads to lesions, so its nice to see the Lips swivel and shine. Country-rock’s a tried and true midlife dabble for a band, but nailing it takes more than a whim as they prove here.



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Oog Bogo – Oog Bogo 12″

Melting like action figures in the microwave, the songs that make up the first solo EP from The Meatbodies’ Kevin Boog are garage nuggets that have skunked and soured. Atop a stutter of drum machine Boog works his way through the cellophane muck of sticky synths and fried nerve-ending guitars that sound like he’s been spending a lot of time with the early end of the last decade. Bringing to mind scum sifters like Nice Face, Gary War, and Flight, the EP is mostly working its way through the primordial ooze, though he hits pretty hard on “Tower’s Ladder,” which might slot in the paint-fumes fun times of your rotation alongside a Damaged Bug tune or two. Similarly the b-side swinger “Coyote Loves the City at Night” drops the fog-machine haze for just a bit to tip-toe into psych-folk’s ripple. This one lands via friend and fellow tone-skimmer Ty Segall’s Drag City imprint God?



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Wasted Shirt – “Double The Dream”

Well I’d be remiss not to mention this one given it involves a couple of Raven faves. Ty Segall and Brian Chippendale team their respective ecstatic impulses under the name Wasted Shirt. While the band name definitely conjures a late-night half-formed promise that “we’ll totally make a record, and its gonna be called Wasted Shirt,” the results are more than just some off-handed impulsiveness. Rooting the sound in a scarred-earth static, the pair explore the ragged terrain of the redline valley. Chippendale’s drumming is as rapid-fire as ever and the pulse pushes “Double the Dream” along like a fevered gulp. The rest of the track is pocked with a scorched hardcore turned inside out by psychedelic impulses. The song’s pace is only matched by the engrossing video laid out with animation by Somer Stampley. Feeling this one for sure. The band’s debut, Fungus II lands February 28th from Famous Class.



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ABC Gum

A power pop powerhouse emerges from Bloomington in the form of the debut from ABC Gum. Call it a supergroup if you must – the band contains members of Bloomington garage royalty from The Cowboys, The Dancing Cigarettes, Purple 7, and Sir Deja Doog – but the connections would crumble if they didn’t bring it all together with an effortless snap that’s catchy as hell and shaded in with a perfectly classic tint. At its heart, the record captures the best of classic power pop with a stripped down sound shaking soul and sweat out of its bones. While ABC Gum are tougher than The Quick or Milk n’ Cookies, they’re digging into the alluring naïveté of that rabble in the lyrical department. The band aims for the heartbroken swagger of Teenage Head, Speedies, or Hubble Bubble and hits it pretty hard on the head with just a touch more of blue-eyed soul seeping through the speakers as well. Maybe it’s the help from The Cowboys contingent, as the record does seem to have some of their same innate ability to feel like its dropped out of the sky and straight into the crate of classic platters that never leave the table when the house is buzzing. You’d be forgiven for double or triple checking the date stamp, that’s for sure.

The band laces the record with a perfect dose of tape hiss tailspin and then litters each song with a thick dose of riff riot propping up their candy floss tales. The stone truth is this will likely wind up just as much of a lost gem as the bands that they emulate, but maybe its all for the best anyway. The greatest power pop records seem like a secret, having long been a diggers dream for lonely souls looking for friends and lovers among the grooves. Should this become a sonic love letter that’s found at the bottom of the dollar bin bottle, then the finder is lucky indeed.


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Bananagun – “Out of Reach”

Another psych-funk swimmer from Melbourne’s Bananagun lands today and its soaked in soul and a mid-70s pastiche that feels tip-of-the-tongue familiar. The band’s got a knack for smelting the past into something that’s reverent to their influences but still manages to whip up a few new feelings. The song’s pinned to a tin-tap popcorn beat that’s part blue-eyed soul and part South American polyrhythm shake. Throw in some funk scratch guitar and sun-faded vocals and this is starting to melt the recent bout of snow that’s laced the US shores. The band apparently see themselves as “merging the proto-garage rhythmic fury of The Monks with the tropicália grooves of Os Mutantes” and that’s not too far off the mark here. The single is out in February from UK outpost Full Time Hobby and Anti-Fade.


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The Gonks

A sly little lo-fi gem that’s snuck out in the latter half of 2019, The Gonks rip the ropes from your favorite post-punk homebaked bands and put them to good use. Throwing the checkerboad charms of Beat Happening, The Vaselines, Cub, Kleenex, and Dolly Mixure into the rock polisher for a few go-rounds, the resulting record gums up the works but still manages to knock some spit-shined weirdness out of the business end. Produced and recorded by Sonny Smith of Sunsets fame, the record has his mark of off-kilter, claptrap humor all over it. Yet, the band’s not just tugging at Sonny’s apron strings.

The Gonks capture the same feeling of ‘anyone can be a rockstar’ fun that gave punk its propulsion. With a few winks and a flash of teeth the band pound out zero-frills freakers that are packed with hooks and destined to shake the shingles. There’s a sweetness, even to songs about hitmen, lonely roads, nuns and death. The Gonks play it all straight from the hip, and though there’s that wink n’ smile at the heart of their work, the band aren’t fooling around. They’re not goofin’ the hooks, so don’t dance half-hearted. They had quite a few good teachers, but these kids are all right indeed.



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WOW

Still sopping up some of those releases that fell between the cracks of 2019 and this gem from Italy’s Maple Death hits nicely on a winter Friday. The record doesn’t rush, rooted in the kind of slinky, candle-lit club vibe that’s somewhere between art-house cinema and tragic jazz chanteuse-ism. There’s something of a lost soundtrack vibe as connective tissue on the tracks that span Come La Notte, a narrative that feels riddled with foul luck and lost love. The band creeps into each track with a careful cool, never breaking stride, never working at more than a sultry saunter. Even when the tempo tips towards acceleration as on “Morire Per Amore,” or “Occhi Di Serpente” the band still rides the rhythms with a detached air, calm as killers letting smoke curl around their heads as they aim the wheel, weapon, or gaze at their desired target.

The band is the very definition of buttoned down, aloof, each song is an icy experience that keeps the listener at arms length while also wrapping them in their own imaginary tale. There’s an overhang of Italian cinema at the heart of the record — punk but buy way of Morricone, Alessandroni, or Stelvio Cipriani. Recommended for the mental traveller or soul searcher looking for escapism with a side of quiet cool.



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