Posts Tagged ‘Punk’

Civic

Not long after their last crackling EP, Civic returns with a follow-up that hits even harder. Where their debut boiled down porto-punk into its grit and grease components, there’s a cleanliness and clarity to Those Who No. The three originals here are scooped out of the ‘80s alt-pummel that birthed Hüsker Dü and The Wipers, but also indebted to an earlier strain of hard workin’ but melodic rock from the ‘70s. Both issuing labels (Anti-Fade and Famous Class) are billing it as power pop, but that’s just a touch off. There’s far more sneer here than any power pop band worth their salt ever inflicted. The closest they get to that camp might be “Heat,” but even on that one there’s a touch of pub sweat and punk brashness that makes Civic hard to get a beat on.

Once they throw in an Eno cover, there’s some sense that they’re toying with the slight wrap of glam they’re invoking here, but they take a savvy approach in which they nether sound like glam revivalists or power pop acolytes. With two such short and admittedly disparate releases under their belts I’m putting the jury still out on what to expect from Civic. Are they equally undecided, trying on hats or just having a laugh at it all? I’d love to see a full album from these guys that pulls that glam swagger permanently into this ‘80s pummel they’re working. I want to see where they’d go with a full length’s scope and some cohesive planning. However this and its predecessor are well worth the time and pick up.



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Priors – “At Your Leisure”

A blast of jittery, caffeinated post-punk bursts out of Montreal’s fertile scene from Priors. On the latest single from their upcoming sophomore LP, the band bites into the cross-section of punk and New Wave with a rabid fury. They’re careening into view on a wave of anxiety and riding the fizzing angst with reckless skill. They pull from the same fuzz-infected well as their Canadian contemporaries Century Palm, though they fall closer to the erratic pop genius of Ausmuteants on “At Your Leisure.” The band cribs from quite a few of Canada’s punk underdogs, with members of Steve Adamyk Band, Sonic Avenues, New Vogue and The Famines rounding out the lineup. New Pleasure sidles out on punk powerhouse label Slovenly on November 16th.



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Rays

On their previous album Oakland’s Rays merged wiry post-punk with the current wave of Aussie indie that’s been riffling through Flying Nun singles and Go-Betweens B-sides as inspiration. There were bright spots of jangle that jutted through the din last time around, but on You Can Get There From Here the band has embraced their more melodic impulses upfront, giving the album an accessibility they’d sometimes rebuffed in the past. Like fellow West Coasters Massage, they’re clearly dog paddling through the best Aussie upstarts – cherry picking bits of Boomgates, Blank Realm and Terry – while leaning on a double-dose of detergent-core from The Clean and Cleaners From Venus.

The slight scrub-up feels good on them, though they’re not wiping away their grit completely. The record leaves plenty of un-sanded edges that give their sound the same kind of unfussed and genuine weight that their South Hemi counterparts have been cultivating in kitchens and practice spaces over the last few years. So many of those bands have embraced a laconic style that gives the impression each humble hummer has sprung fully formed from idle strums and stream of consciousness divining of the universe’s whims. Likewise, Rays, too, have perfected the art of sounding effortless. There are moments on You Can Get There From Here, that were no doubt fussed over in the writing room, but feel like they dropped out of the sky shaggy, shaky and catchy enough to crush your resistance on first listen.

While the particular strain of pop that burrows out of OZ on a regular basis, peddling curdled sunshine and tarnished hooks is still appealing to a niche base with a hunger for a less pristine pop present, its good to see more US bands adopting the model. Rays are proving to be ones to keep a constant eye on and with You Can Get There From Here, they’ve jumped up in the ranks on the list of 2018’s jangle pop essentials.



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BB and the Blips, Tommy and the Commies, Rata Negra, Timmy’s Organism

Its been a packed fall, that follows on a pretty packed 2018 in general when it comes to the volume of releases that have found their way to listeners over the last ten months. With that in mind I’m going to try to increase the visibility on some worthy releases with occasional combo crunched reviews that still allow some depth yet let me move through the inbox faster than my busy schedule normally allows.

Tommy and the Commies – Here Come
First up, Ontario’s Tommie & The Commies crack open a breakneck punk record that’s pulling (almost too close for comfort at some points) right from the playbooks of The Undertones and The Buzzcocks. At only 16 minutes long, the album doesn’t leave a lot of time to catch one’s breath, but this kind of classic punk wasn’t meant for sitting still. It was meant for tossing beer bottles and stray spittle at the torn silhouettes on stage while mashing yer face into the mass of humanity that is the pit. The songs are appropriately nervy, snotty and breathless – never even stopping for a Ramones-worthy 1-2-3-4 to leap into the fray. Lead lugger Tommy Commy’s perfected his Feargal Sharkey impression to the point that its almost torture not to hear the band tear into a cover of “Jump Boys” every time a new track revs up. This one ain’t beating down any new paths, but for those punks who have been missing the glory days, this’ll do to get the pogo pounce out of your system.


BB and the Blips – Shame Job
Swinging the spotlight from Canada to Australia, but keeping the focus on new bands with a classic slant, we arrive at the proper punk burner from BB and the Blips. The band, made up of ex-pats from Housewives, Good Throb and Semi, is nailing down the kind of middle-finger teardowns that made X-Ray Spex and Penatration formative touchstones. The Blips are tackling a ten-track dissection of shame, but they’re hardly stopping long enough to linger on the stomach-sick effects of the emotion. The album blisters by in a growl of guitars and a delirium of helium and heat vocals. As with the Commies, this one feels reverent to another day and age, but they’re pulling it off with conviction and style, so who cares that this brand of gnash-toothed punk has been bought and sold before. Shame Job doesn’t waste a moment and never lets go.


Rata Negra – Justicia Cosmica
Another international jump swings the lens to Madrid, where Rata Negra have been bashing out acerbic post-punk since 2014. Following on the band’s absolute crusher Oido Absoluto the Spanish band continues to mop the floor with most contenders on Justicia Cosmica. The new record seems to lack a bit of the bottom-end grit that marked their previous effort, but it finds them just as frantic and furious as they’ve ever been. Adding some occasional keys to the mix pushes the dial forward on the time circuits here, landing them just a touch into the early ‘80s from where they last left off. Still not taking an ounce of shit, though, the band feels ready to fight via fists or phrases until their dying days. The bass is knotty, the vocals sound as if they could sear the flesh from your skull (at least until the rather wistful “Nada va a Permanecer Dorado” hits) and the guitars are filthy with fuzz. Madrid’s been something of a hotbed for punk and post-punk these days and Rata Negra are leading the charge among the city’s best.

Timmy’s Organism – Survival of the Fiendish
Detroit’s favorite degenerate emissaries are back with a new album and the same oil slick mutant punk in their pockets. Timmy’s Organism has long been a favorite around here and their latest ticks all the same boxes that endeared them to me in the first place. Survival of the Fiendish is sopping up the gutter grease that festers below us while we sleep. Timmy Vulgar is the embodiment of the reasons that parents have been confiscating punk tapes from the dawn of the genre. The album is full of ill will, evil intentions and the kind of oozing riffs that should reduce your speakers to a pile of festering goo. Though, the boys do let themselves evolve. Is that a piano I hear on “Green Grass?” Is that acoustic guitar wafting through “South Shore Train?” Maybe the mutants have softened in their old age. Well, maybe not. There’s still plenty of bile to be had, but the record does show some growth among the Organism’s impulses. After a move through the label ranks – Sacred Bones, In The Red, Third Man – the band graces the spools of Burger and it all seems to make sense. Thanks Baphomet for Timmy’s Organism. They’re perennial solid senders of the evil ooze.



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Kicking Giant – “This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989 – 1993”

Without invoking to much of a pun, I’m kicking myself for missing this when it first found its way back to press. Not to worry, though as this rather essential reissue from Drawing Room Records remains in print. For the unfamiliar, Kicking Giant formed in 1989 in NYC while mems Tae Won Yu and Rachel Carns were in art school. During their time in the city the band issued a run of tapes, one a year, until their eventual move to Olympia, WA. Those tapes – January, Boyfriend Girlfriend, Secret Teenage Summer, and Present – would all be bound into a CD-only collection called Halo in 1993. Its this collection that is now coming to vinyl at last. Their early works were raw, and saw the band work through a range of styles, picking at punk, shoegaze, riot grrrl, abstract pop and indie. While this was a release meant to exploit the large capacity of CDs, its great to see Drawing Room work this out into a gorgeous vinyl package. It was meant as a mixtape for the uninitiated and its still stands as the best primer to the band’s eclectic sound.

The band signed to K Records in 1994, issuing one proper single and an album for the label. Though they’d also contribute to a number of compilations that pretty much summed up their run. Carns joined the similarly overlooked, but no less intriguing band The Need and issued four albums. Yu would instead transition back to visual art, most notably drawing covers for Built To Spill albums. For fans of lo-fi pop and the wild west indie days of the early ‘90s, this collection can’t come with a higher recommendation.




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GØGGS’ Chris Shaw on Final Warning – “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”

Got another edition of Hidden Gems and this time I’ve got Chris Shaw digging into his record bin to pick out a treasure that’s been roughed up by the injustice of history. If you’re unfamiliar with Shaw, he’s been the enigmatic front man for Ex-Cult, who burnt through a run on Goner and In The Red in the last few years. Following that he’s paired up with Ty Segall and mems of Fuzz to bash out psychedelic heaviness with GØGGS. Their latest LP elevates the band to a heady, heavy level that’s enviable to say the least. Now Chris looks back to a perennial favorite from Final Warning, a record that rips as hard today as it did in ’84. I asked Chris how this record came into his life and what impact it’s had on his own music.

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Constant Mongrel

Festering beneath the underbelly of Aussie indie, Constant Mongrel has occupied space on RIP Society and Siltbreeze’s roster and now they make a jump to hometown heroes Anti-Fade and Spain’s pounding punk nerve, La Vide Es Un Mus for a joint release. Living In Excellence perches the band at the acerbic edge of post-punk, as one might expect of Siltbreeze alums to say the least. The record’s riddled with a restless twinge that could read as dance-inducing if your idea of dancing swings towards the asymmetrically violent. Taking up the traditions of The Fall and The Screamers, the band prowls through each song with a manic red-eyed intensity that prickles the skin and pummels the base of the skull.

In tandem with their paint-peeler aesthetic, the band’s lyrically lashing into their surroundings. The bulk of Living in Excellence takes on banality’s bite, the rot of religion and the slow slide towards a fascist state in any corner of the world you happen to inhabit. The band’s “Living in Excellence” theme erodes the notion of making anything great at this point, from America to Australia, but the band is weathering it well. They seem fine watching the ship go down, even if it means they get their own shoes wet in the process. They’ll sink with a sneer, taking the piss out of life rafts if it means they get to rankle the rest of the riders.

The band have consistently brought quality grime over the years and they show no signs of letting up now.



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Doe

With their heels dug into the slightly grimy ‘90s, London trio Doe barrel into their sophomore album with nods to the hooky growl of The Amps, The Muffs, That Dog, and Imperial Teen. While less likely as a touchstone, they’re also dredging up flashes of underground Aussie grungers Fur as they met out their spring-loaded songs about growing older without the burden of ennui. With Hookworms’ MJ at the boards, the album can’t help but ping-pong between the furnace of fuzz and Windexed hooks as his undertakings often do, but the band makes good use of his stucco spit polish. Grow Into It sounds big, but also like it might feel better bursting out of it topcoat at any moment.

The band is remarkably confident on the record, leaning into hooks with a wink and a sneer, but even when they’re flipping the switch to engage, there’s a slight sense that they’re still holding back. They butt up to the cliff but don’t dangle nearly far enough. Songs like “Heated” and “Motivates Me” provide the best example of their unbuttoned abandon, but even here there’s a feeling that vocalist Nicola Leel could let loose with a vocal chord shredding yell to loosen things up to a frantic blast a la Louise Post or Kim Shattuck. The guitars could squelch just a touch hotter, letting the album boil over rather than conserving gas.

That said, at its core, the record is hopscotching through all the right ‘90s dress-up bins, and reaching further back to the Ric Ocasec and Bill Nelson excesses that helped usher in the right amount of sparkle vs. crunch. Doe are on the right track here and moving forward in nice strides from their more muted first album. There’s a sense that the stage might bring these songs out of their shell and the band would do well to keep pushing towards the powder keg moments they bring out under the lights.



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Bad Moves

DCs Bad Moves are sitting square on the Venn diagram between power pop, punk and New Wave. While their songs pogo with abandon, they snag the candy-coated harmonies that stuck The Go-Gos and The Bangles to the airwaves like glue. They round out the mix by adding a 10-foot-tall tower of confidence that picks up the vibes of 20/20, Phil Seymour and The Beat. They never tip the needle too far in the direction of any of their poles, which makes for a record that’s floating in the pop ether, enjoying its own company more than any of its touchstones. As such, Tell No One careens through the speakers with a wide-eyed glee that’s infectious, barely contained and potently palpable.

That glee is central to Bad Moves’ appeal. Their songs, lyrically, are often not celebratory affairs. They center on overcoming anxieties, feeling out a sense of self, weathering family hardships, and dealing with hypocrisy. These songs are often the literal embodiment of butterflies in the stomach. Yet they alchemize the electric tinge in the nerves into a gush of glee to burst through the bubble of doubt. They galvanize an entire audience into overcoming their worry with them. The stakes seem high in Bad Moves’ world, but like the young adulthood they crystallize, the payoff seems just as high.

There’s no rush like being in your teens and twenties and feeling seen by a band. It seems like Bad Moves have the potential to hook a whole generation looking to collectively hurdle the constant lump in their throats. Its freeing to just peel a few layers of paint with pent-up amplifier power, an irrepressible bounce and lyrics about the politics of love. This year there may be no better band to drive the heartswell of hooks n harmonies that crack the shell of youth than Bad Moves.



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Sauna Youth – “No Personal Space”

The recent album from Sauna Youth is a welcomed blast of bracing bile that chewed up wage gaps, gig economies, personal space issues and cultural collapse through constant distraction. The band’s ode to a bubble one’s own to have and to hold, “No Personal Space,” is a match-lit highlight of the album and thy give the track a DIY video treatment through lo-budget means, even leaving in the technical difficulties that arose.

The band notes that, “This was filmed in 5 minutes in the Peckham Arch practice space that we wrote the album in and whose electrical interference from the train tracks above features throughout this song. We used an iPhone 5, two iPhone 6s’ and an iPhone 7 using their inferior front cameras and it was edited in the free software Hitfilm Express in a couple of hours. It’s about constriction and liberation and having no personal space.” If you haven’t picked up the LP from Upset The Rhythm, now might be a good time!

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