Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

Jenny McKechnie on Au Pairs – Playing With A Different Sex

As far as new artists in 2017 go, I’d say that Cable Ties are taking top honors right now. In their home country of Australia they’re raking in accolades and topping out mid-year charts, a trend that should hopefully catch on worldwide if there’s any justice. The band’s Jenny McKechnie is pulling triple duty as a cultural force, playing in newcomers Wet Lips alongside the Ties and co-heading a new label, Hysterical Records, alongside Amanda Vitartas of Future Popes and Grace Kindellan of Wet Lips. While Cable Ties is a taut musical force in its own right, much of the credit must be given to McKechnie’s vocal prowess and biting lyrics, both of which have drawn comparisons to crucial feminist punk outfits like X-Ray Spex or Sleater-Kinney. As usual with Hidden Gems I’ve asked Jenny to pick a record that’s been a bit overlooked in her opinion and tell how it came into her life and impacted her music. She gives her take on the Au Pairs’ ever resonant debut Playing With a Different Sex below.

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Teenanger – “Fun Forgot”

Canadian post-punks Teenanger put together a pretty solid collection on their eponymous LP, but “Fun Forgot” sticks out as an obvious highlight. In the clip, the band pairs the elastic bounce of the track with some real bummer summer hi-jinks and true teenage emotions. The video winds up a pretty perfect accompaniment to the song’s letdown lessons and in general the package is a fun ride. Short and sweet and snapping like gum during study hall, this is playlist fodder of the highest order.

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Omni – “Equestrian”

Atlanta’s Omni are back and refining the post-punk jitters from last year’s excellent debut offering. First single, “Equestrian” picks up with more Verlaine-veined guitar lines nestled atop a skittering drum beat. They lean into progress with some syth strains to back the track up, pouring on a glaze of synth-punk that doesn’t dominate, but pays reverence to their brand of ’70s gods as the track progresses. They don’t mess with the formula too much though, making this a nice extension of their knotted punk lacerations from Deluxe. Omni was a nice addition to last year, a collector’s curio that hooked in kindred spirits by the cart load. Lookin’ very likely that they’re about to do the same this turn around.




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Snapped Ankles – “Jonny Guitar Calling Gosta Berlin”

First time I heard this one, I had to double check the credits, make sure this wasn’t an old Tubeway Army or Ultravoxx track lost in the sands of the internet. London’s Snapped Ankles pull hard from the school of post-punk machinations that Gary Numan and John Foxx started, almost to an uncanny degree. But hell, if you’re not going to blaze a trail, at least walk it with confidence, right? That, the band does with a cocked robotic smile. The accompanying clip is a barrage of melted images that pair well with the motorik clockwork of the track, overloading every minute with a caffeinated buzz that throbs in the veins and punches the medula oblongata a few times on the way out of the body. This is a nice throwback to the emotionless arch of synth punk’s architect eyebrow.

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Terry

RSTB is back and running after a nice vacation last week, and just in time as this week is brimming with great new releases. Melbourne’s Terry return to the fold with a new album, Remember Terry. The album generally picks up where they left off with last year’s HQ. It’s buzzing with a post-punk fever that boils over into a fugue state of countrified ambitions that set them aside from anything else in their Aussie indie scene. Their second album pushes further on all fronts, from letting in more twang to dipping further into the gnashed teeth noise of post punk’s grittier offerings.

Some of the most charming moments from Terry still come from their “gang’s all here” vocal styling, melding voices into a sing-song sway that’s easy to love and comforting as an old friend. They employ the tactic liberally, and on standouts like “Glory” it’s hard to keep the smile from forming. The Aussie underground has become its own terrain, spinning out bands that feel homespun and true in a way that hasn’t existed since the US dropped roots into its own indie/college rock boom. Al Montfort can be seen as integral to the sound, and here he’s as vital as ever, fizzing his catalog into existence with reverence to slack-pop proper and a wink to the past that fills each moment with strums and the buzz of synths. Essentially, if you liked HQ, you’ll love Remember Terry.


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The Surfing Magazines – “Lines and Shadows”

Consisting of two thirds of The Wave Pictures and one half of Slow Club, London combo, The Surfing Magazines come locked in with a touch of DIY pedigree. They don’t rest on reputation alone though, brandishing an effortless cool that seeps through the wires, laying the track into territory that’s squeezed out of the Velvets school of punk and into a bone dry twang that belies their British roots. They slide the track home with a slow building of sax that boils over as the track reaches peak, shattering into a thousand pieces of skronk and squelch that burn down any composure built up over the previous few minutes. A barbed first single that hopefully lets on to an equally interesting album.




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School Damage

Having started strong with the single “Tall Poppies,” Melbourne/Geelong foursome School Damage come even stronger with their first full length for Chapter Music. The album plays well into a type of post-punk that prized catchy swings over a full sound, often feeling ramshackle but giddy in the process. School Damage captures that giddiness bubbling in the pit of the stomach and fashions it into a kind of worming social anxiety come to life through woozy keys and sprinting drums. They find the sweet spot between The Vaselines, Kleenex and, as evidenced by their homage, Aussie footnote The Particles. They capture the austerity, sincerity and don’t give a fuck attitude of those groups and translate it into bubbling pop that’s ’80s in root but frothing with a lyrical sensibility that could only belong to present day. Somehow they make it all coalesce into sweaty charms in a mistmatched print.

There’s a delirious, but fun, edge to their eponymous LP and at its most dizzying it has the effect of riding the tilt-o-whirl on a stomach full of cotton candy. The songs are primarily helmed by Chook Race’s Carolyn Hawkins and as much as she adds to her other home in Chook, she’s clearly found her niche in School Damage. Other vocal duties are headed up by Austmuteants’ Jake Robertson, and I tend to have a hard time divorcing his voice from that group. Though, if Ausmuteants aren’t a heavy fixture in your life then the pair act as nice halves to the quiet cool/geek-rock freakout coin, alternating their turns as the wheel amiably.

Plenty since punk crumbled into even more primitive forms have found success in spare squirming, from Beat Happening and C.O.C.O. to the nervy lo-fi of Bitch Prefect, but there’s something that gives School Damage their own space in the sound. They’re perfectly pinning jangle-pop’s heartfelt bubblegum swing to the anxious bulge of early synth-punk, finding a freedom to explode in both directions at once in any given song. They even find time to slow things down from their Adderall rush to strum out a couple of Vaselines poet-souled ballads. Its a history lesson encapsulated and as a jittery post-punk primer, you couldn’t ask for much more.





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Cable Ties

This one has been on the high expectations list for some time. Ever since Melbourne trio Cable Ties’ first single rolled my way, I’ve been eager for an album and now it arrives via Aussie Indie Poison City. Anchored by both sides of the debut single, and augmented with a full batch of equally acerbic cuts, the record makes good on the promises that Jenny McKechnie and crew dropped in the run up. Built around a taught brand of post-punk that’s seething with tension in a way that brings to mind fellow Aussie luminaries Eddie Current Suppression Ring, the band pushes punk past its compact aspirations and into a grinding, chugging assault that ropes a bit of Krautrock to the sound.

The absolute focus, though, remains McKechnie’s voice, which warbles somewhere between Poly Styrene’s sonic assault and Corrine Tucker’s barbed wail. As they build and snap songs into a writhing pile of tension, the anticipation lies not in waiting for the hook, but for the moment that McKechnie lets the floodgates loose. Her songs tend to put their topics in the crosshairs. She’s not one to pine, swoon or ponder — far from it. Creepy dudes, music snobs and money-grubbing shills all get their due and one has to feel a bit sorry for them. Being on the receiving end of McKechnie’s atomic blast would strip the paint off of a resilient subject, let alone such simpering fools.

At a mere eight tracks, the album feels like its just hitting the tip of what the band have ready for the world. Paul Maybury’s production posits it as brittle and bracing, a bare canvas that befits the songs and their makers. It’s the kind of debut that hits like a gut punch hurricane, scattering any other fledgling contenders to the winds and leaving listeners in awe of what just transpired. They’re still young though, they’ve got the angst and a conduit to blow. I’m looking forward to where they take it, but enjoying the ride for now.






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Terry – “Take Me To The City”

Al Montfort’s (presumably) incredible case of insomnia pays off to the public with the announcement of a new Terry album on the way. The man can’t sleep, because when would he have time for all this quality writing, recording and playing if his eyes ever drooped? The band’s back with their cowboy shtick in tow and another song that’s packed with a sighed delivery that plays into the lyrical lean on escapism and living life pining for some excitement. While the ten gallon hats and city lights longing don’t quite make this their “Streets of Baltimore,” it’s a buzzing bit of Aussie new wave that’s picking up right where their eponymous LP left off. The video only serves to add to the tongue in cheek winks that seems to inhabit their very DNA, but serious or no, this takes its place on the highly anticipated list for 2017.

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Jowe Head – Cabinet of Curios

Hardly a household handle here in the US, Jowe Head held down tenures in two UK cult favorites – Swell Maps and Television Personalities. On top of his work with those two outlets Head (better known to his mum as Stephen Bird) released several solo albums that sewed up his bent and fractured pop. Cabinet of Curios collects cuts from his his extensive solo career, culling from 1981’s Pincer Movement, 1986’s Strawberry Deutschmark and 1989’s Personal Organizer. Tracks from that first record stand in stark contrast to the brittle post-punk of Swell Maps, though it seems all solo efforts from that band wound up in verdant and unique pastures, Bird just did it with a certain sense of humor that’s missing from some of his contemporaries.

That humor separates the solo work from his longtime run with Television Personalities as well. Though he’d add a touch of experimentation to their catalog, his solo recordings push the needle much further into DIY eccentricities. While sparse bedroom hijinks feel almost pat at this point Jowe Head held down his own territory in the ’80s spanning ground between the shaved and shorn pop of Chris Knox and the clattertrap psychedelics of Deep Freeze Mice. The collection doesn’t limit itself just to early works, however. It cherry picks from bits of his bands The Househunters and Palookas as well, both bands capturing the nervy essence of Jowe Head’s songwriting.

In 2008 Bird started up Jowe Head and the Demi-Monde and continues the project to this day. In fact a good deal of the collection cherry picks the band’s CD-rs and limited releases then throws in a cache of unreleased tracks as gravy. Its unlikely that you’ll find a more complete picture of Jowe Head’s ecstatic world view outside of the 1994 comp Unhinged. For the casual fan of Television Personalities or Swell Maps this might only come as the title might infer, a curio and nothing more. For the true diggers of post-punk oddments and DIY roots, this is a gem with plenty to offer. Every RSD there’s one that slips through the cracks and this year, Jowe Head takes the prize.


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