Posts Tagged ‘Poison City’

Bench Press

On their sophomore album, Melbourne’s Bench Press have tightened their sound and hammered out a focused approach that whittles away any excess. Built on a bedrock of muscular postpunk, the band brings an unusually milkfed force to the typically wiry genre. The guitars still bend and contort, attempting to squirm away in distress, but the frame they’re fashioned to is fortified by knotted bass grooves, a thick pummel of drums, and the gruff growls of singular singer Jack Stavrakis. The record works hard to avoid the typecast tropes that have bogged down so many in their field, giving the crushed glass crowd a hardcore makeover.

It’s really Stavrakis’ oversized personality that pushes Bench Press out of the common channels that modern day post punks have allowed themselves to be filed. His voice swings wild, almost always at a gale force gusto, deconstructing doubt, self-care, self-improvement, and hypocrisy. From the name on down, the band seems like it should be a bro’s dream of dirgey hooks, and testosterone stained 20 rep jams, but the band’s self-aware, turning their bombastic frustration into a manifesto for change, not status quo.

When the band’s edges are sharpened and their hooks are harnessed right, it’s a powerful record that charges breathlessly at any target. Occasionally it stumbles, with the flipside cooldown “Take It Slow” going at it a bit literally, and bogging down the energy. For the most part, though, this is another win for Poison City, an angular, damaged punk rumble that’s bashing at all the right recipients.



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Hexdebt – “Loops”

Melbourne four-piecer Hexdebt drops a jagged jolt of post-punk down on us with the second single from their upcoming album Rule of Four. The track is shot through with the anguished guitar and vocal venom of singer/slinger Agnes Whalan. The rhythm section batters the listener until the glass around one’s resolve cracks under pressure. The song’s a short shout, but effective as hell in its mission to bury the bullshit under a wave of amp fury. Much like their Poison City label-mates, the band has a knack for dipping the targets in an acid bath of sound, stripping those who’d cross them down to the bone and coming back for more. As the band have mentioned elsewhere, the album seeks “the evolution and hopeful deconstruction of archaic systems of power, the monetization of personal pleasure and social capital, autonomy over the self and the painful muffling of oppressed voices and the passing of time.” For anyone on the receiving end of their ire, I feel quite sorry. If any album has the sonic might to achieve these goals, Hexdebt are topping the pile.




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Bench Press – “Respite”

Melbourne’s Bench Press release a blunt force blast of a single – the wiry, nervy post-punk nug “Respite” for Poison City and knock it up a notch with an excellently crisp infographic inferring video created by Defero Productions. The song is tough and sinewy, as their work has been in the past, but this time it’s got a breathless immediacy to it as well. The song huffs steam and belches bass, but it’s the solar-plexus-jolt of Jack Stavrakis’ vocals that draw the attention the most. His voice is an instrument of constrained chaos locked onto a song that singes like science – a perfect mesh of hi/low tensions that brings to mind a host of Dischord alumni and their own homeland’s heroes Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Check the design nerd eye candy above.

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Moody Beaches – “Weird Friends”

Following up their inclusion in the excellent Poison City / Our Golden Friend split singles series, Moody Beaches stretch out into two sides with their new single “Weird Friends”. While the flip snags “Guns,” from their debut split, the a-side sees them take a tough rumble through muscular punk, pinned to a menacing bass line but softening the corners with their swooning harmonies. Like labelmates Mod Con they aren’t glossing up their hooks, but rather burrowing deep into the grind of menace, snapping off tension like The Breeders, Green River or L7 before them.

Its the b-side that still steals the show here, though – built on rusted springs and smashing its hooks into the walls with gleeful abandon and gnashed teeth. That first taste is still the most addictive but it pairs well with the slower burn of “Weird Friends.” Its a tease of single – a two shot from a band that feels like its more suited to the long play slow burn than the flash paper dazzle of the short format. Hopefully they’ll build off of these two and dig their heels in for an album that seethes with a full measure of rat trap tension and explosive catharsis.



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Mod Con

After being charmed and invigorated last week by Mod Con’s “Kidney Auction Blues” its nice to put the song in context alongside the rest of their debut long player for Poison City. Mod Con actually boasts the same lineup of players that grace songwriter Erica Dunn’s previous work as Palm Springs, but they leave their previous shell’s dusty Americana far behind in the rearview. Scratching at a discontented form of post-punk, Dunn and her compatriots use their platform on Modern Convenience to pick at the scars of consumerism, complacency and disillusionment. In the tangles of twine-bound guitar that pump this record along, the band spends their energy wrestling twang into muscular, yet rubbery explosions of tension. Almost every song is hanging on the edge and waiting to tip.

Then there’s Dunn’s voice. Unlike the sonic shock precision of some of her post-punk contemporaries, she seems to be reaching her wit’s end at some point in most every track. She breaks and strains against the mounting pressures she sings about like a hammer on glass. It feels like one more push might just break her, but the heroic act of throttling out one more bone crunching number is worth her pain. The band is taught and at times even tender (“Bad Time At The Hilton”), but whatever the tempo the Dunn’s urgency remains the catalyst that drives Mod Con far past lesser contenders. It’s a crackling debut that puts them forward as key players in not only the Aussie scene, but post-punk at large.




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Mod Con – “Kidney Auction Blues”

Seriously, this new Split Singles Club run from Posion City and Our Golden Friend is putting up some killer tunes for 2018. The second split in the set sidles alongside the first as a vital blast of female fronted Aussie rock. This time the split features RSTB faves RVG, whose LP from last year ended up on the year-end list. On the flip Mod Con tears it down with a track that’s barbed and wiry with some jagged and juiced guitar work that heats up the needle on any hi-fi. Check the video wherein the band tear both the track and some faux kidneys apart – gross n’ great all at the same time.



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Moody Beaches – “Guns”

Following up on last year’s installment of the Split Singles club, started last year as a collab between Milk! Records and Bedroom Sucks, the new incarnation sees Poison City Records and Our Golden Friend take up the selector’s duties this year. The open the club up with a split from Bench Press and Moody Beaches. The single comes complete with a pair of videos that see each band work the same color blocked concept with guest spots in each other’s vids. The Bench Press side gives its all, but the winner here is Moody Beaches, a new ‘un that’s making is debut here. The band features members of La Bastard, but eschews their surf sound for a more stripped down post-punk punch. The single is strung up on nimble yet fuzz-rattled bass but shines brilliantly once the infectious shout-along vocals of Anna Lienhop surface along with some chopsaw guitar bliss. Gonna want to hear more from this trio for sure, but this should hold me over for quite a few repeated plays.



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Cable Ties – “Tell Them Where To Go”

OK I told myself I wasn’t going to gush about Cable Ties again but, c’mon, the band are back with a great new single inspired by their work with the Girls Rock Camp. The single is a goosebumps-inducing rocker that shoves the boys’ club in the corner and encourages girls to pick up and play with no mind to the detractors or nagging self-doubt. As usual the cornerstone of the track is Jenny McKechnie’s vocals, a weapon any band would be lucky to have at their disposal. Pretty much anything she’s singing about becomes a rallying cry, but in this case the subject matter and the system of delivery match in their buoyant blast. The track itself is amped up on chewed wire, spitting voltage in thick slabs through speakers and headphones alike. Much more than a stopgap single, this is exactly the kind of track that drew me to the band in the first place. It was available as an exclusive 7” at the band’s recent Cable Ties Ball, but should also show up in full form on Poison City as a digital single.




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