Posts Tagged ‘New Wave’

Powerplant – “A Spine / Evidence”

London label Static Shock has been a solid bet over the past few years, culling in some of the best punk and post-punk from fields afar and corralling them all under the SS umbrella. They nab London via Ukraine new wave miscreants Powerplant for a new EP that finds the band both tucking into their Screamers / Devo / Units foxhole and grasping outside of it. They employ tweaked, frantic synth/guitar grappling that begs to be bagged in plastic and freeze-dried to a flaky crisp. Yet on the opener there’s a loose and limber bout of post-punk at play. The bass line lassos and grabs, with expectations high for a nasal wormhole of wobble on the vocals, but instead the band swerves to an almost cartoonish croon. It almost sounds like the band is playing at one speed and the vox at another, but somehow it works. As they careen into the rest of the EP the pace picks up and the rubber grooves get traded for some frantic scratch, passing their new wave wavelength through an MX-80 torque and letting it sizzle and smoke. Most of the songs here barely let the band take a breath, but the invigoration feels vital and vibrant. Recommend throwing this on the table and turning the volume ’til it snaps.




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Romy Vager on Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now

Still plenty of essentials on the way in this strange timeline we’re on and RVG’s sophomore LP is pretty high on that list. The band’s debut was an emotionally fraught, tumultuous record that stood high with ‘80s classics from Echo and the Bunnymen, The Go-Betweens, or Siousxie Sioux. The band has only refined and expanded on that sound with their follow-up, out soon on Fire Records and Feral aims to be one of the best of the year. Naturally, that put the band’s songwriter and driving force Romy Vager high atop the list of inquiries for a Hidden Gems, and she digs further into that ‘80s influence with a spotlight on Psychedelic Furs’ mid-period gem Forever Now. While its predecessor may have gotten all the acclaim for the John Hughes tie-in, this one begs further exploration and Vager explains how it came into her life and the impact its had on her own writing.

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RVG – “I Used To Love You”

Couldn’t be more excited for this one. Aussies RVG released an instant classic LP in 2017 – a record that was draped in emotional weight almost to the point of breaking, but so steadfastly resilient that it seemed like a life preserver flung into a sea of sadness. As is fitting, others responded to the sweeping grandiosity and laid bare honesty of Romy Vager and her band and they shot from the small scale to larger avenues. With a new LP on the way from Fire Records, produced by Victor Van Vught (PJ Harvey, Nick Cave) the band follows up one of their most crushing singles, “Alexandra,” (also on the album) with a taste of what’s to come.

While it’s hard to top the heart wrenching “can’t go home again” anguish of “Alexandra,” RVG still come to stun with the quiet composure of “I Used To Love You.” The song doesn’t crack into the emotional dam break that some of their past singles have, instead opting to operate as if holding back tears, not giving the subject of the song the satisfaction of seeing them suffer. There’s the feeling that after the dying notes of the song at least a few tears are shed for self-preservation, but the rest is a brave face cushioned in the resolve to move on to better things. The new LP is out April 24th.



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Peter Ivers – Becoming Peter Ivers

There’s every chance that, even if you’re a fan of New Wave and punk, the name Peter Ivers has never crossed your lips. Even if you’re a David Lynch fan, Ivers’ involvement in Eraserhead may have escaped your attention. Ivers was more often known as a proponent of music than a writer of music. He had, in fact, recorded several albums – 1976’s Knight of the Blue Communion, 1974’s Terminal Love and 1976’s eponymous affair. Despite this, he was best known as a TV host, presenting the utterly essential cult classic New Wave Theater until his tragic death in 1983. The first album bears little resemblance to the songs on Becoming Peter Ivers. His first outing was threaded with jazz and blues, building to something more idiosyncratic in the future. Those other two albums were headed toward the New Wave he championed through a valley of singer-songwriterdom that was rumpled in the vein of Moon Martin or Warren Zevon.

Many of the songs here would wind up on those latter two albums, but here they’re stripped of any gloss. Demos seems a crude label, because it gives the impression that they weren’t up to snuff, but if anything the version of the songs on Becoming prove that even in private and without the intention of these versions finding their way to the audience, Ivers was still an undeniable charmer. Given his predilection for more outre visions on his show, its always been a bit at odds that Ivers’ own records were more in a lounge singer vibe, but he gives that genre a proper Lynchian feeling – the singer wrapped in plastic, alone at the piano, while a cadre of regulars ignore the emotional exfoliation going on upon the stage. The moments here feel private, like we’ve wandered into a closed session with Ivers. Its almost conceivable that we’re all intruding, until Ivers whirls around and gives a wink, letting us all in on the voyeurism for hire that he’s peddling.

Ivers was a singular entity, part Lou Reed, part Max Headroom. This era of music has been scoured and repackaged, but somehow there’s still a hole where Ivers once stood. His musical voice is a worthwhile addition to the strange bedfellows made of punk, pop, post-punk and ultimately new wave boiling under Los Angeles’ sanded soul. I’m eternally grateful that RVNG has made this available. Now someone issue New Wave Theater in its entirety for a viewing audience in need of a licorice strip search.



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The Hecks

Chicago art-punk experience The Hecks have been laying down a solid revue since 2012, stepping up to the long player party with their 2016 eponymous record for Trouble in Mind. While that was a solid shot at shoving pop on its ass, the band finds their full groove on this month’s My Star. Wedding the pocket pop reactions of new wave and post-punk to the prog that preceded it, the band invigorates the past by folding fractured glass sounds onto themselves – letting their torqued hooks repeat like Krautrock gone glycerin and snap steadily in plastic precision. They capture that moment when the collection of sounds seeping into post-punk felt fresh. The Hecks bend the freakishness and experimentation of the early ‘80s into a whirlwind of light and sound and we all come out better off for it.

Standouts like “Flash” stretch and contort their sound through cracked mirror caverns, taking the normal pop song into a headier direction. They’re quick to compact it back into a plush and prim box when needed, though. They run a Prince flexidisc through the hot n’ warbled presses on “So 4 Real,” going for full sweat cycle and making it sound easy. Like fellow Trouble albums Omni they know how powerful tone can be, and the band nails the core of their sound to guitars that oscillate from metallic to plasticine, keys that shimmer and shine like mall lights off of plexi displays and drums so crisp they threaten to shatter if pushed any further. The record walks the line of nostalgia forward – there’s so much familiar about what The Hecks are doing but it’s all been jumbled and shuffled to obscure their source material. It’s disorienting and thrilling, making for one of the year’s more compelling pop pieces.



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Kelley Stoltz

Just a quick jump after his last offering from Banana & Louie, SF one-man supergroup Kelley Stoltz returns with the even more enticing My Regime. The record is one of Stoltz’ most packed platters in a long time, absolutely awash in bittersweet New Wave touches and moments of pop perfection. He’s long since jettisoned the garage gears from his persona, but there were still some inklings on last years’ Natural Causes and 2015’s In Triangle Time. This one falls closer in spirit to the prismed perspective of 2017’s quiet gem Que Aura, his last for Castle Face. Crammed with strums, multi-part harmonies, and an ingrained melancholy that imprints these songs on the high registers of the listeners’ soul, this is exactly where Stoltz excels.

He’s been found cropping up behind the boards more often these days, with his name swirling about the inserts for Spiral Stairs, RAYS, The Love-Birds, and The Staches, but unless he’s in front of the mic, I always feel like he’s a bit underused. There’s been shades of his work as a sideman for Echo & The Bunnyman on the last album, but as his tenure ended with the band it seems he’s processed even more of the imprint the band had on his formative songwriting years. There’s a warmer aura about Stoltz than Ian McCulloch would often employ, but the insistent, and emotionally complex pop hallmarks line up quite nicely here – think more along the lines of Crocodiles rather than Porcupine. Speaking of ‘80s impressions, and (sadly) timely reminders, there’s also a pretty heavy Cars shadow on this one and, if anyone can make it work, Stoltz is up to the task. There’s a dense catalog of works when approaching Kelley’s work, but after a few spins through My Regime, I’d say this is as good a place to start as any. Among his very best, to be sure.



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Peter Ivers Anthology on RVNG, Intl.

RVNG Intl. is bringing long overdue attention an ‘80s icon with the release of Becoming Peter Ivers. There are probably a few routes to be familiar with Ivers, the highest profile being his collaboration with David Lynch for Eraserhead. The song “In Heaven” features at a pivotal junction in the film and the scene itself has become somewhat iconic. However, I was more familiar with Ivers from his work with New Wave Theater, which can be found floating around Youtube these days, but was a lifeline to night owls in my youth. Ivers served as the host of the show, starting in 1982, broadcast on LA UHF channel 18. Though it would eventually be rerun on USA late at night (that’s where I found it). It brought some well needed attention to punk and New Wave bands, mostly originating around the Los Angeles area. Ivers served as the nasal-voiced host and his skewed delivery and Dadaist sense of humor gave the show a direction that helped make it a cult classic. The show’s success was cut short when Ivers was murdered in his apartment in 1983, in a crime that was tragically never solved.

The collection gathers up the most complete account of Ivers’ recordings, many of them rough, but still full of the artists’ winking humor and engaging personality. The double disc set is out November 8th and includes a massive clutch of photos and liner notes by close friends. The first 300 also have a bonus 7” of additional demos. There are a lot of anthologies and reissues that come and go but I’ve got a feeling that few are going to be as idiosyncratic or vital as this one this year.



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Robert Sotelo – “Mister”

‘Nother good one from Upset the Rhythm runs down the line. Robert Sotelo follows up his 2017 skewed-pop album Cusp with the equally beguiling Infinite Sprawling. The second single from the set, “Mister,” is a fuzz-beset pop-skimmer, slinging twang and jangle in equal helpings. Sotelo plays it straight, but the song’s got a bit of the curdled crowd in its DNA, picking up crumbs from the Deep Freeze Mice and The Soft Boys on the way through the wires. He’s paired the track up with a simple, yet unsettling video that’s cryptic as it is crazy.

Sotelo gives a bit of background behind the meaning of the clip, offering ”The video was made by Iain McCall and translates the lyrics for the song into Bliss Symbols. Iain himself stars in the vid. The song features Joan Sweeney from Current Affairs on vocals also and is about how constant online organisation around your creativity starts to take up more time than the creativity itself (well it kind of is haha)” His sophomore LP is out September 14th, and it’s a jittery shaker well worth your time.



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Red Channel – “Demons”

Can’t go wrong with a new track on UK DIY powerhouse Upset the Rhythm and they’re offering up some prime post-punk/new wave goodness today. “Demons” is the first cut off the debut LP from L.A.’s Red Channel. The band has cobbled together an EP of stripped-down simmer that calls back to punk’s willingness to lop off the fringes. Atop a squirming beat the band backdrops the vocal magic of singers Melody and Casey who slash at singles from Blondie, The Go Go’s and We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and reassemble the pieces into their own image. The resulting track keeps its cool, never breaking a sweat but inviting dance and debauchery with a great detachment that pulls in some of their more Teutonic peers as well (Monopol, Starter). It’s a pulsating cut that positions the band as ones to watch indeed.



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U-Bahn

The debut from U-Bahn arrives as a right proper wobbly chunk of New Wave weirdness out of Melbourne. The band, formed by synth savant Zoe Monk and guitarist/engineer Lachlan Kenny, holds nothing back in its dedication to the legacy of jerkin’ jitter-punk in its purest forms. The band’s eponymous LP is a frayed-nerve Booji Boy banquet of toasted-cone freak fritter – chomping down the detritus of DEVO, The Units, Starter, and Magazine then spitting them back as hot plastic pellets of song. There are quite a few that want to genuflect at the alter of Mothersbaugh’s heyday, but to truly don the Dome is to embrace the band’s boundless affection for subverting pop’s principles with a dose of torqued perspective.

U-Bahn aren’t just playing dress up in this regard, they’re swimming in the deep end of squirm rather than just soaking their sound in crushed angles of guitar and Stretch Armstrong bass wiggles. The record’s got an undercurrent of kink and cocked-eye towards technology – going so far as to construct a future funk interlude draped in samples from vintage erotica on “Damp Sheets” and waxing poetic about right swiping their way to ecstasy, placenta, the ruling class, and beta male blues over the rest of the slab.

The record’s both timeless and timely. The recent upswing of band’s embracing the plasticine snap of ‘80s miscreant pop is telling, and I say viva the bellyache bliss of Mind Spiders, Uranium Club, Andy Human & The Reptoids, Future Punx, Alien Nosejob, and Wireheads. Now add U-Bahn to the list. We’re back in an era of larger than life political pinatas, its time for some audible chaos to reign. If that starts with a dose of synth punk sizzle, that’s just fine with me.


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