Posts Tagged ‘Kill Rock Stars’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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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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Lithics

When it comes to post-punk these days, I’m a fan of the brittle, parched-throat approach that’s stuffed with bulbous bass and crimped wire guitars. Stow your smokey-eyed goth crooners, I want those guitars to lacerate and the atmosphere choked to hospital waiting room levels of forced air. Portland’s Lithics serve up just the thing, a satisfying album that’s scoring and snapping hooks off like drywall – rough-edged and choking the listener on their dust. The band is bred on a cocktail of The Contortions, Galaxo-Babies and Au Pairs – hiding rusted hooks in their surgical slice with ill intent. The approach is just enough to let the listener wander close before the sucker punch of Aubrey Hornor’s ball peen hammer vocals knocks them sideways.

Perhaps only labelmates Taiwan Housing Project or British dance diviners Shopping are working in quite such frantic strokes these days. But Lithics, unlike their contemporaries in label parentage or their UK counterparts don’t let on the sly wink that there’s fun to be had. Not that you can’t move to Lithics – you can and should, but they inspire a top-button tamped down, full-body jerk that feels manic and draws looks of concern from other occupants of the mashed mass audience. There’s beauty in their dissonance and order to their entropy but there’s menace in their strings and you best not take them too lightly.

If all this sounds like it’s not fun, then perhaps things are too kush on your side of the couch. Anxious energy throttles the sinews and Lithics know just how to draw it out. They’ve created a perfect conduit for shaking the itch that threatens to catch in the lungs. Lithics know you either face the panic head-on or let it consume you. Your choice I suppose.


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Lithics – “Excuse Generator”

It’s been such an embarrassment of riches for wiry post-punk of late, from OMNI to Ganser, Total Control and too many more to name, there has been an upswing in the kind of crushed aluminum guitar stringers that sweat with nervous energy. I’m not gonna ask questions about what’s in the water, I’m just going to enjoy the pretzel bent singles that fall down each week. Following on an excellent bit of post-punk in the form of Taiwan Housing Project, Kill Rock Stars posits Portland’s Lithics as their next stellar export and first single “Excuse Generator” is a gem of chewed glass dynamics and nervous stomach nuance. Definitely gonna want to grip this one when it lands in May.




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Taiwan Housing Project

As I may have mentioned when the first single hit, I’m thoroughly excited for the full bore return of Kilynn Lunsford, she of the sorely overlooked caustic rockers Little Claw. The singer returns with the first full length from Tawian Housing Projet, a sprawling post-punk noise collective she started with ex-Harry Pussy mainstay Mark Feehan. The band also pulls in members of Tyvek, Writhing Squares, Tickley Feather and Dan Melchior’s gang of garage punks. That lineup reads like an RSTB who’s who and as expected the band chews noise-spun frantic panic into a vital stew that dips the listener in a cauldron cradled acid bath of sound and squelch.

Taiwan Housing Project, like Little Claw before them, pulls the same slight of hand shuffle; brutalizing at first blush with dented and demented guitars, clattering percussion and a free jazz hazing ritual of horns, but dig further and the sonic debris disguises some of the most solid pop hooks to find their way crawling out of the post-punk puddle in 2017. Lunsford and Feehan plug straight into a high-functioning wavelength that channels the B-52s if they’d relocated to New England and stapled their house-party punk to Sonic Youth’s tornado of feedback. Atop this ragged and glorious din, Lunsford howls, swoons, gnaws and accuses as if she’s the heir apparent to Poly Styrene’s crown of thorns.

The LP follows on a promising EP from M’lady’s last year, but after hearing Velben Death Mask those tracks seem like preamble to the main event. The record is as bracing, breathless and acerbic as anything you’re likely to hear this year and it’s jockeying heartily for the top spot as one of the best of 2017. In an age that’s more likely than ever to see labels softening their signings to fit into a narrowed view of consumer acceptance and exposure through licensing, it’s reassuring to know that Kill Rock Stars is still out there ignoring commercial appeal in exchange for immortality. This is the kind of record that grows in legend with years to come – a miss it now and kick yourself kind of noise gem that winds up collector’s fodder and fan lore. This is the real thing.




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Taiwan Housing Project – “Authentic Alien Perfume”

Taiwan Housing Project popped up with a great 7″ on M’Lady’s in 2015, a shot of promise from two artists that bubble up on the RSTB faves list, Kilynn Lunsford (LITTLE CLAW) and Mark Feehan (HARRY PUSSY). I was always particularly saddened by the loss of Little Claw. Their brand of chaotic, aggressive post-punk was few and far between in this century. So with that in mind, it’s great to have Lunsford back at the helm of Taiwan Housing Project. The first cut from the upcoming album on Kill Rock Stars shows THP embracing that ethos and going a few steps further, upping the ante with frantic squalls of noise married to an insistent dance beat. The song winds up like a B-52’s single run through the wood chipper with with copies of The Contortions, Maximum Joy and This Heat. Easily one of the most vital songs released this year. Put this one high up on your anticipation index.




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Kleenex/LiLiPUT – First Songs

There have been few punk bands whose catalog remains in as much demand for reissue as Swiss group Kleenex (later: LiLiPUT). The originals go for high marks on the secondary market and the box set that Mississippi put out back in 2011 is long gone. Kill Rock Stars packs up the first two discs of the box in a nice set that’s undoubtedly going to sprint off of shelves as quickly as people hear about it. There’s always a new generation of kids just learning about Kleenex/LiLiPUT and it seems that each one is no less rapt than the last. The band was formed by Marlene Marder after a poor experience as part of a predominantly male punk band. After leaving she connected with friends Lislot Hafner, Regula Sing, and Klaudia Schifferle to form their own band that owed less to the sound of punk but plenty to the spirit of it. They adopted the form’s stripped down style but injected a bit of bite and bounce to their two minute pop songs. The results pair better with the post-punk generation, finding common ground with Wire, The Raincoats, The Slits or The Au Pairs.

The band’s confusing name swap comes from the the group achieving just enough fame in their time to attract the attention of Kimberly-Clark, manufacturer of the Kleenex brand, who shut them down and threatened to sue. The band shifted to the name LiLiPUT in reference to the Gulliver’s Travels setting. Following the name change the band signed to Rough Trade, where they issued their two coveted albums. This collection, however, focuses on the earlier singles that saw them through 1980’s Eisiger Wind which appeared on Off Course Records. The collection wraps up some of the band’s most vital tracks, bouncing with life and bursting at the seams. They have a way of cracking a smile on the most dour listeners. Its cacophonous, boisterous and essential. The group disbanded in 1983 and, sadly, Marder passed away earlier this year. This set is a great start to getting the band’s works back into regular rotation, though. Hoping that this sparks Rough Trade to put their two albums back into reissue as well, since I (and probably most people) haven’t got $70-$100 lying around for originals.




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