Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

Various Artists – “La Contra Ola”

It’s always heartening to see that the wealth of reissue material isn’t hitting dry sands at this point. While the majors scramble to repress issues of records that could easily be found lying in the dollar bin (Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits I’m looking your way) labels like Swiss imprint Les Disques Bongo Joe are digging into the grit and grime of post-punk, exploring the not remotely picked over fertile ground of 80’s Spanish Synth Wave. And while the album could easily act as a companion piece to the great issue Sombras (Spanish Post Punk + Dark Pop 1981-1986) that Munster put out, it picks a little deeper at the wound of Spain’s brittle underground.

As with any compilation of this type there are curiosities and obvious standouts that feel like they should have been part of the national conversation for years. Heading up the standouts is an entry from the woefully named Zombies (no relationship to the UK band) whose RCA single “Extraños Juegos” is a delight that should populate pretty much any post-punk mixtape you’ve got going. There are shades of industrial (La Fura Dels Baus), squirming nerve-pop (Tres) and frantic synth pop (Todo Todo) that seems like someone in the Sega music mill might have been listening in when soundtracking the 16-bit generation (esp. Kid Chameleon). All around, a great collection that shines a light on quite a few acts that have been languishing out of the spotlight for years. If Les Disques Bongo Joe hasn’t been on your radar up to this point, keep an eye for some truly necessary gems.


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Total Control

While a good majority of the Aussie indie releases tend to get glossed over here in The States, Total Control seems to have struck a chord. Their releases on luminary labels Sub Pop and Iron Lung probably go a long way in that regard, but that’s not to discount their unique slant on post-punk impulses in any way. Following on their laser-focused 2014 album, Typical System, for Iron Lung, they hop to the short format with a 12″ EP that’s clean, yet eclectic in its influences, but also one of the most cohesive shots across the bow they’ve put together yet.

The record is bookended by pt. 1 and 2 of the title track, a chaotic rip of nervous energy and pointed punk anthem respectively. The rest of the EP has shuttled aside some of their noisier nuances to amp up their off-kilter pop senses instead, littering the tracks with duct-taped beats and sprightly strums that might have found their way to the cutting floor previously. It’s hard not to hear a slight extension of Terry’s excellent LP from this year peeking through – with members Al Montfort and Zephyr Pavey acting as guiding lights in both bands. Still, Laughing at the System is as essential as any other piece of the Total Control puzzle and by no means a frivolous aside. While they’ve begun shading in the bite with a bit of levity, they’re still offering up a few of their most acerbic flayers. Total Control contains some of the top players from the Aussie underground and this release proves how potent they can be even when time is a factor.

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The Living Eyes

One of the most consistent exports from the Aussie underground comes via Anti-Fade Records’ agit-punks The Living Eyes. On their third LP for the imprint they continue to sneer ‘n shred their way through a dozen compact punk nuggets that feel like they’re handed down from the conglomerate schools of The Saints, Richard Hell, Pere Ubu and Toy Love. While keeping things distinctly Aussie (and sharing a searing similarity to labelmates Ausmuteants) they’re kindred spirits to the kind of itchy, agitated, raw-nerve of punk that festered in the American Mid-West some 40-odd years prior.

The difference is that while they seem to carry the outsider jitters in their very DNA, they’ve also found a way to inject an incredible amount of catchiness into the core of their songs, much like South-Hemi heroes Eddy Current Suppression Ring before them. That band’s Mikey Young pops up in the supply chain here on mixing and mastering duties, so you know things are kept brittle and pushing well into the red. The band has always been a fave around here but I have to admit they’ve outdone themselves on this one. They’ve never sounded more vital, electric or combustible as they do on Modern Living.

At the risk of beating the drum too hard in their praise, this is one of the rawest, most delightfully jagged pieces of punk to roll down the belt this year. Its been a good year for unrest and a bad year for everything else, but this one jolts like a car battery to the tongue. It’s chomping tinfoil like breath mints and dusting any contenders that are hoping to paddle through their wake. I know we’re all looking for a salve these days, and it’s nice to sink back into a malted hazed of indie stupor sometimes, but Modern Living is a good reminder to stay agitated and jolt a few others on your way out of the room.




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The World

There’s been a rash of post-punk creeping up from the gutters these days of the elastic joy ride variety. Jumping off the fertile ground that bands like ESG, Delta 5, A Certain Ratio, Maximum Joy and Au Pairs covered, the new crop has found their way to all the sandblasted bare, jitter-pop, rubber bass touchstones that made the original few so incredibly vital. What most have lacked though is the full commitment to the ’70s mantra and Downtown aesthetic. They found the grit but needed that something extra to push the paradigm to its furthest reaches. In a word, they lacked sax, and more often the paranoia a good squall could induce. The World bring both crashing down on listeners in nail biting giddy rushes that can’t elicit anything but jerking dance motions and flop sweat.

The World’s cheekily named First World Record instantly positions them among a cache of records that push punk towards new heights, absorb the anxious energy of an age and spit it back hard in the face of a populace that needs a good hard smack awake. The record is frantic, but never sloppy. It’s full of crushed aluminum edges that are rough hewn but not foreboding. Like the aforementioned Delta 5 and Maximum Joy before them they inject an vitality and tension into their work that’s incessantly itchy. They hold a cracked phone up as a mirror to a barren society that’s disorganized, disingenuous and quite possibly diseased. Still they do it with a sense of fun that’s positively infectious.

In an overstuffed 2017, this one feels like it could get lost, but its well worth some time between the speaks, jolting your week awake with blasts of horn-donked skronk and plenty of Zoloft-level anxious guitar jolts. This is probably the state of mind you need to be in to escape the misery of this foul year.




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Omni

Omni’s sophomore album is upon us and it’s a perfect update of the influences they chewed on their 2016 debut. They’re still chomping wire nervously in the corners of the room, and I can’t help but love it – with an overture of itchy guitar lines emanating from Broyles’ fingers like broken clockwork puzzles. This is agit-pop proper, full of the introverted excitement that bands like The Embarrassment or Girls (the ’86 version) embraced in their horn-rimmed glory. Multi-task is a record for the deep divers that dance alone to a pincushion pop that matches their disjointed sensibilities. Broyles and Frobos understand why The Voidoids felt the need to run a trickle of sulfuric acid over their love songs – pure pop is far too sincere for a cracked consciousness run rampant with insomnia and idle time.

They don’t just shackle themselves to bent metal licks alone though, the band has a self-professed love for the Postcard records sound and the jittery pop preen of those esteemed ’70s agitators comes through atop the band’s serrated songcraft. Though they pair again with Nathaniel Higgins on recording duties, this time they sound a bit more present than on Deluxe. Where that album felt like a faded demo found and re-salvaged from the discard pile of some asshole A&R with too little scope, this sounds like a true workup – one ready for mass production, post-punk infamy, and modern rediscovery.

There are a whole host of bands that want to pull on post-punk like a $5.00 last minute Halloween costume and the baggy seams show easily on their accomplishments. Omni are a different sort of band, one that’s clearly spent their spare time riffling the same racks a lot of us inhabit, creeping YouTube in the wee hours looking for one more step beyond the normal essentials lists. Multi-task feels like a band making the album members have been reaching for in their other bands. It feels like finding that elusive sound that’s been nagging at the back of your brain, nailing it and sharing it with all the other freaks looking for a salve to the same itch.



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The World – “Hot Shopper”

The World’s solidly slung EP from a short stretch back was full of taut post-punk nugs that cracked the window to their new full length for Upset The Rhythm. First single “Hot Shopper” is a spring-loaded knuckle-popper full of rubber band bass and staccato horn stabs that bring to mind Maximum Joy and A Certain Ratio. Its got a scrubbed up fidelity from the short format predecessor and bodes well for an album crackling full of the certain kind of dancefloor ozone that lived in the underground of the ’70s. If this Oakland band is missing from your radar, adjust, and quick.

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Omni’s Frankie Broyles on China Crisis – Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms – Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain

After splitting from Deerhunter, Frankie Broyles has taken a tumble through post-punk’s most angular avenues with his band Omni. The band’s debut for Trouble in Mind was a loving run at Television, The Voidoids and Wire, a sound which they only crystallize on their follow-up this year. For the latest Hidden Gems, Boyles takes a run at an album he feels has been left out of the public conversation, the synth-pop debut from Brits China Crisis. If the album’s cover is any indication, they’ve at least lifted a bit of aesthetic vision from the band but Frankie explains how the music has seeped into his own life below.

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Woolen Men

Portland stalwarts Woolen Men snuck out a low key release last week and it’s further proof that they’re cementing their status as heirs to the crooked crown of spindly post-punks. The band trawls through the catalogs of Kiwi scrappers like The Clean and Chris Knox then staple their approach the the steel wool scrape of The Fall, the no frills delivery of The Modern Lovers and the ensconced pop pilfering of The Feelies. And while that might make them sound more like archivists than innovators, the band’s appeal is more in how they fit the pieces together rather than any Where’s Waldo spot-the-influence challenge.

Woolen Men have shown up strong ever since their scruffy self-titler back in 2013. They came gunning for listeners with a whiff of familiarity that acts as bait to their acerbic world, then hook ’em in with rusted barb of guitar that bites deep. What’s surprising is that this release, while actually an odds n’ sods collection of tour tape cuts, splits and even a flexi, works as well as anything they’ve put out in their regular rotation. Even their chosen covers weave seamlessly, proving that the band both emulate their heroes well and have absorbed those sounds into the very DNA of their own work. That this doesn’t feel like an unplanned release cobbled together speaks highly to the creators. If even the extras are this strong, I can’t wait to see how the next proper LP shapes up.




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Flesh World’s Jess Scott on Section 25 – Love & Hate

Jess Scott’s membership in the under-sung, shambolic trio Brilliant Colors would cement her status around here alone, but she’s doubled down on great bands, heading up the equally great Flesh World. Their second LP is on the way from Dark Entries and it’s an intoxicating mix of brittle, anxious post-punk and dreampop that will undoubtedly convert a few more fans to their cult of sound. As usual with Hidden Gems, I’ve asked Jess to elaborate on an album that she finds underrepresented or overlooked in the halls of musical accolades. She’s dug deeper into the Factory files than most cursory listeners with a dive into Section 25’s 1988 album Love & Hate.

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Pregnancy

A shift from the usual ragged indie of the Aussie underground, Pregnancy is wrapped in a clipped urgency perpetuated by shards of post-punk guitar, broken-leg disco snare and the muted blare of distant horns. The band’s members pull roots in Ciggie Witch, Totally Mild and The Ocean Party, but they leave the more laconic territory of those names behind. Urgency lives up to its name for the most part, pounding breathless through a ten-piece of post-punk’s darkened corners. Though, they get some extra points for not just biting off the tension via rubber-band bass aesthetics.

What gives the album the upgrade is a focus on atmospheres – pinprick guitar lines are shot forward in bas relief when the background is full of synth fog and streaked with neon tones that splashed across in a gossamer glow. They avoid the early aughts’ tendency to take post-punk’s angles and throw them into twisted metal spotlights. Their approach is much more soft-focus, learning a lesson or two from shoegaze, but never going full-stop with the fog machine. Pregnancy’s less is more approach to a genre that’s sometimes wrought with drama makes them welcomed newcomers to an overcrowded scene.




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