Posts Tagged ‘Rock’

The Men

While a longtime fan of The Men, I have to say I slipped on the last record and didn’t get it into my life when it came out in 2018. That proved a mistake, as they trio picks up the journey began there among the glowing embers of Mercy. The band, led by Nick Chiericozzi, has never been tied to a genre wholesale – mining the bittersweet, and often dark underbelly of rock that moved from their noise-laden beginnings to the last whiskey, jukebox bombast of Tomorrow’s Hits and New Moon. Drift brought down the lights quite a bit from where they were positioned prior to 2018. There’s a lonesomeness to the record, but also a coiled danger that’s considerably palpable. They brought the sax that had opened up the wooden dancefloors of their ’13-’14 run to a new oil-slicked prominence. Notably, the record also let in a few other new impulses – country sway and a tendency to push the guitars deep into the crimson.

The impulses that were forming like rain over Drift pour down on Mercy with a cool simplicity. The band careens a country calm on opener “Cool Water,” while ushering their acoustic moments into turns of bottomless desperation and ache in “Fallin’ Thru” and the shuttered twilight of the title track. In these songs there’s a stillness that’s escaped the band’s past catalog. These songs are scars but wear it well. The other side of the album brings as much heat as The Men ever have, though. While their noise-coated early days certainly had teeth, there’s something much more savage lurking in the guitars on “Wading in Dirty Water” and “Children All Over The World.”

While portions of this might fit in well with the current crop of the Cosmic Americana seated set, the band’s almost an inverse of the sound. They find the same grooves and hit the same body high burn, but there’s a darkness here, not unbridled joy, rather the exhumation of demons through the wires of a thrice fixed amp. The vapors of carcinogenic choogle burning through tubes at a ferocious frequency. There are many points of entry for a band with the longevity of The Men, but this chapter, begun with Drift and flung open wide with Mercy seems to be one of the band’s most potent.



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Weak Signal – “Rolex”

A little while back I posted up the other side of this great split from Wharf Cat Records – a seismic cut from NY’s Endless Boogie. Splitting the flip with the Boogie is NY trio Weak Signal. The band, led by Mike Bones (Soldiers of Fortune, Endless Boogie), proves adept at carving memorable matter from minimal hooks. Their sound glows with a dark neon pull, strobing in blacklight brilliance and rendering everything around it in an inverted glow. There’s an aloofness to their sound, but it’s hardly affected with ill intentions, rather it just seems to crop up around them effortlessly like a miasma hung with the intangible vapor of cities at night.

“Rolex,” in this spirit, centers on the story of a con man who steals instinctively, his disgust at a rich mark translating to an impulse to strip the person of property punitively. He is the night and the street and the interloper barely registers save his offense of wealth and banal obliviousness. Karmic collection is brought down and the balance returns. The single follows the band’s sorely overlooked, but quite necessary album from last year, LP1, and a follow-up EP that solidified their status in quick succession. Check the new cut and if you’re unfamiliar, walk back through their works. You won’t be disappointed.

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Bardo Pond – Adrop / Circuit VIII

Oof, almost too late with this one, despite the LP having been released just last Friday, but there’s still time as long as good outlets hold out. Pretty sure if you’re landing on the shores of Raven Sings the Blues that familiarity with Bardo Pond is a given, but I’m not one for assumptions. Philadelphia’s reigning noise wranglers have fallen under many banners from psych to space to noise and experimental – each assessment is 100% correct and can’t be divorced from the other. The band is a force of nature and that force is on full display over this two-record reissue of their ‘06/’08 releases for Three Lobed — Adrop and Circuit VIII. Both records were part of CD series that the label put together in these respective years. Adrop was only available as part of the “Modern Containment” collection that included Hush Arbors, Kinski, Mirror/Dash, Mouthus, Sun City Girls, Sunburned Hand of the Man, MV & EE with the Bummer Road, and Wooden Wand and the Omen Bones Band. I believe it was that last one that brought me into the TRL awareness in the first place, but the set also opened up a world of post-Matador Bardo Pond to me that was more sinister and more visceral than they’d ever been on the mini-major.

Adrop works in movements and they push a cloud of static through the heart of a dying sun. The record saws at the consciousness and proves that the Pond is not an average psych band by any means, defying any usual metrics at the time. The following set, Circuit VIII is equally scorched and unsettled, having found its way into the label’s next series “Oscillations III.” This series found them alongside fellow travelers Bark Haze, Tom Carter, GHQ, Howlin’ Rain, Magik Markers, The Michael Flower Band, Lee Ranaldo, Vanishing Voice, and Jack Rose. Eschewing movements, but operating in much the same way as Adrop, Circuit VIII is one longform piece that travels from deep, volcanic growls to tender acoustic tears. It’s a record that, much like its predecessor, defies convention or categorization, but as any Bardo collector might surmise, also elevates the form of mining cosmic vibrations beyond what many of their peers were doing at the time. Side note: that “Oscillations III” box contains one of the very earliest Robert Beatty covers and is worth nabbing a CD copy for this as well. Nice to see the label pack these two back together and set them aloft on vinyl as well. Both of these CD series were pretty formative in terms of how RSTB came about, so its got a special place in my heart.




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Wasted Shirt – “All Is Lost”

Another great single/video from Wasted shirt seeps out into the atmosphere and its an offering at the altar of gnarled noise that won’t be ignored. The duo of Ty Segall and Brian Chippendale is pretty much everything you think that combination would warrant — frantic, frazzled, brutal, and, well, beautiful in a way. Their brand of noise-punk chews glass and spits out the dissolved shards of shape and shake onto the pavement below. There’s something inherently heavy about “All Is Lost.” Its a nihilistic grind through the futile ravages of time in an era when each day seems to bring new horrors. This was a frustrating week on a national level, perhaps nothing can sooth the savage burn like Wasted Shirt right about now.



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Kayla Cohen of Itasca on The Groundhogs – Solid

The new record from Kayla Cohen’s Itasca is full of crisp mountain air and rivulets of gorgeous folk guitar. Its the culmination of her many years as an artist welling her writing into a soft breeze of folk that places her in ranks with Linda Perhacs, Vashti Bunyan, and Jackson C. Frank. The record is full of isolation and loneliness, an absolute treasure of meditative bliss. Naturally I was curious to see what Cohen might pick as a hidden gem, delving back into her own influences. She went not towards the delicate side, or into the garden of fingerpicked folk, but to a source of power from T.S. McPhee and company’s later years as The Groundhogs. Check out how Kayla found Solid and what effect it’s had on her own works over the years.

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Gong Gong Gong – “Ride A Horse”

An absolute pounder from Chinese rhythm merchants Gong Gong Gong up today. The band’s debut for Wharf Cat is on the way next week and “Ride Your Horse” is a prime argument as to why it should be on your radar. The band’s stripped-down sound – just guitar and bass – is as primal as ever here, pulsing with menace and urgency. The song is split into sections take startling turns, based on Chinese classical structures, but feeling far from buttoned up or traditional. The pair are always riding the sharpened edge of groove, using it to slice through the dense morning air. Despite the breathless beat of the song, the accompanying video, co-directed by bassist Joshua Frank, is calm – featuring swordplay, but purely in an exercise setting alongside other forms of meditative sport. The contrast adds to the tension of the throbbing beat and the ozone charged air that wafts around the band. Check the clip above.



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Monarch

Pulling far from their shores, Danish psych outpost El Paraiso issues the second album from San Diego quintet Monarch. The record is a fuller offering than their debut, built around a tense nest of guitar interplay and storm-worn waves of organ. Owing much to the latter half of the ‘70s in the formation of their sound, the band eschews the type of loose, sandy riffs that have permeated a lot of their fellow West Coasters these days and they’re toughening this one up into the kind of sweat-shined, coke-veined records that blew out through ’75 and beyond, hardening the arteries of rock into the beast it would become in the ‘80s. Now, on the surface that sounds like a setup for the kind of rock n’ roll dress-up that’s perpetrated by Greta Van Fleet among other shoddy revivalists, but Monarch are careful to embody the spirit and not just the signifiers of this era.

They’re not working wholesale to scratch at one particular band’s niche, instead weaving the excesses of the era into a tumbling, tussling album that’s not afraid to tack on a sax coda if need be. They embody the feeling of artists holed up in the studio working to put their sunken eyes and shaking fingers to work on the riff that won’t let them sleep. The album has a ragged opulence to it, the kind of rock album that’s not necessarily approached anymore because it had been deemed a bit bloated in its day. The same kind that are now finding second wind with new generations scratching below the surface of the radio royalty and essential albums lists. The band centers the album on a trilogy of songs “Beyond The Blue Sky > Phenomena > Counterpart” that sees them building something bigger than mere single takes. This isn’t the same vein as the more amiable jam contingent building around the country, there’s progression, but also desperation and it’s an oddly welcome feeling to the newer progressive movements.

Beyond The Blue Sky’s title might hint at what the band is aiming for here, an album that leaves behind the sunny notions of California and instead finds itself slumped in the back of a towncar staring at the lights on the strip as they creep by, numb to charms of the salt air outside of the air-conditioned cab. This one might not be a constant companion, but its worth absorbing at least a few times. It’s thornier, slipperier and harder than it appears at first blush, a slowly unfolding story full of lies and leers.



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David Nance Group – “Meanwhile / Credit Line”

Last year the David Nance Group brought the Omaha native’s sound to a wider audience with their LP Peaced and Slightly Pulverized on Trouble in Mind. While he’d long been bashing out cover versions of Lou Reed, The Beatles, and Doug Sahm, with the crystallization of the ‘Group’ he’d channel his disparate influences into a fried pickle porridge of a record that sweats boogie blues a la Crazy Horse interpreted by a pack of holed up Pere Ubu fanatics. Come 2019 and Nance is back and broadcasting his disjointed choogle on a bigger bullhorn, with a two-track twister out this month on Third Man. “Meanwhile” and “Credit Line” feel right at home as spillover sides from last year’s long player, both finely toasted, ragged, raw and looking to taste the barroom floor. It’s recommended that you pick this one up and give the windows a rumble this week. This won’t be the last we hear of the DNG, but it’s a good quencher ‘til the next LP gets handed down from above.

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Black Mountain

Black Mountain’s latest record thickens up its mustache and heads to puberty for an ode to newly minted freedom in the form of a driver’s license and a set of keys (rabbit’s foot not included). The album is named after the ’85 Dodge Destroyer that songwriter Stephen McBean’s been fixing up in the wake of his late life adoption of driving following a lifetime spent away from the wheel. It’s a paean to the open road, to the sort of symbiosis between man and machine that apparently forms when the engine’s revved and the paint is lacquered on the right shade of performance orange. Coupled with a lineup change that folds in new and returning members and an adoption of the crux between prog’s dirt weed swan song and the rise of metal’s caveman party pound, the album gives Black Mountain a good shake around the foundations.

Now I’m probably not the one to go pining for automobile anthems. Despite living among the scenic views of NY’s weekend escape route of choice, I still see cars as somewhat of a necessary evil. This is heresy as someone born in the shadow of Ford’s stomping grounds as well, but I’d just as soon hop a subway if it were always a choice. I drive a Civic, and it the motor rumbles the way that McBean’s pining for, I’d damn well get it checked. But I certainly understand the notion of needing cars to escape, to get freedom. Small town roots always leave the scar of tire tracks on your back as the only way to get some air of your own. Even if the smell of exhaust doesn’t boil your blood, there’s a sense of anticipation in getting a moment to oneself without anything but gas money holding you back.

Lyrical theme aside, the band is nailing the new direction that coincides with the troubled teen trappings they’ve employed here. There’s dirt under their nails from scratching Deep Purple into the back row of desks. There’s just the right amount of tatter on the cuffs of their denim jacket and this thing hasn’t washed its hair for a good four days. As much as the album evokes the love of the car, its also a love letter to the car as listening experience, which is actually something I can get behind. They’ve stuffed Destroyer full of the kind of anthems that rattle the windows while hotboxed teens park in the back lot. They find the sweet spot between volume and spaced synths that pair well with lying on the hood staring at the stars and wishing away the last year of high school so that you can finally be free of this damn town. They’ve created an album that sums up the center line metronome that taps along to the tempo. As much as the album is about that rumble beneath the pedal, its about giving a finger to authority, and that’s something we can all get behind.




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Chris Forsyth – “Tomorrow Might as Well Be Today” & “Mystic Mountain”

The last record from Chris Forsyth was a monster of guitar grit – his style is emotive, fire-ridden, and fluid, but not flashy or maddeningly technical. Dreaming in the Non-Dream felt like it barely fit into the one LP allowed, especially the namesake shaker. For the follow-up Forsyth has spread the fire onto four sides of wax, for an even heavier statement that begins with these two tracks. “Tomorrow Might As Well Be Today” is a pronouncement of what’s to come. It’s a gauntlet asserting Forsyth’s place in any imagined pantheon, but its quickly supplanted by the hearth-hammered rocker that follows it. “Mystic Mountain” is Forsyth and the Solar Motel band taking root and burning a circle of ash around them not only with the power of their performance but with the fire-throated growl of Chris’ vocals as well. The song-writer doesn’t always chime in with words, but “Mystic Mountain” makes its case for quality over quantity. Like that David Nance LP from last year, this has all the earmarks of an album ready to writhe. Make sure you’re paying attention.



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