Posts Tagged ‘Third Man’

Redd Kross – Phaseshifter / Show World

It’s not entirely at odds that Third Man — a label that has existed to showcase the works of Jack White, bring home to the power pop of Brendan Benson, and explore the underground to the degree that Timmy’s Organism once found its way onto the racks — should eventually bring back the work of Redd Kross. While the name doesn’t filter into fashion as much as it should these days, the band was instrumental in smashing together punk, metal and power pop into a nexus of grunge that would linger long into the DNA of radio hits that would eclipse the band several times over. Redd Kross’ sense of humor was only rivaled by their knack for pop and over the course of a long and rocky tenure they created some true classic records. Growing out of the L.A. punk scene when they were still in high school, the band’s McDonald brothers would play with members of Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, and Black Flag before settling into their early lineup and smashing boundaries with their debut EP and the elastic approach of Neurotica. Sadly the latter was stalled in its reach when their label, Big Time, folded. The setback held the band’s name in contract to a grounded business and the band spent the next five years in limbo recording psych-pop under various names with members of Three O’ Clock, Pat Smear. Cherrie Currie, and Danny Bonnaduce (though not all at the same time).

The Third Man reissues focus on the time period just following this relative upset. The band would gain control of the name and reset themselves as they signed to Mercury. They stripped back a bit of the eclecticism that had made their early work fun and focused on the heavier side of their sound for Phaseshifter. While longtime fans might have missed the paisley pop experiments, what made them infectious remained in tact. Power pop stood at the crux of their sound and they’d embraced the hardcore heat long before others around them would do the same to find a foothold at radio. This album should have been a hitmaker, yet it found them relatively settled into the middle of the pack in popularity. The follow-up Show World takes the a similar approach, but gives a bit more of a glimpse into their magnetic pull towards plastic fun.

The album starts with a thickened and throttled cover of The Quick, embracing the light-delivery, heavy guitars approach to power pop that made it potent towards the end of the ‘70s. The band oscillates between the thick pop pedigree that fellow undersung act Sloan was soaking up around the same time in ’97 with a shiny new batch of hooks ready for radio. Still the band never quite stuck the way they should, but a few good years on Merge seemed a better fit and this latest round of respect for their mid-period work gives folks the hindsight to get back into what they missed. Definitely worth a spin or three to brighten up the turntable these days as the originals were released during the prime CD-only years and they never got a US release on vinyl. Pick ‘em up and work your way through the catalog of the champions of pop that shoulda been.




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Traffik Island’s Zak Olsen on Public Nuisance – Gotta Survive

Keeping the wheels turning on Hidden Gems and pulling more and more psychic diggers into the fold. This week the honors fall to Zak Olsen, the Aussie indie utilitarian who crops up in quite a few RSTB faves, to be honest. From the fractured pop ooze of Hierophants to the crushing grooves of ORB, Zak has done time in The Bonniwells, The Frowning Clouds, and keeps time in his own solo work as Traffik Island. The latter’s work caught my ear a few years back with a spot-on deep-dive into loner folk, but of late the band has embraced an aesthetic of psychedelic beat driven on an engine of Library Music funk. Zak gives some background on California garage band Public Nuisance and how their Nuggets-era works came into his life. Check out Zak’s take on the band’s works below and head to Flightless for the latest Traffik Island thumper.

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Caetano Veloso – S/T (Tropicália)

Not that the folks at Third Man don’t have wide ranging taste, but its not the enclave I expected to birth the first official version of Caetano Veloso’s eponymous solo debut. The man, responsible for the name of, and in large part the direction of, the Tropicália movement, moved from former child prodigy to art impulses with this 1968 album. Along with Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Ze and Os Mutantes, Veloso was integral to the shift away from indigenous folk music and towards a larger psychedelic consciousness within Musica Popular Brasileira. Though Costa and Veloso recorded a duet album, Domingo, together in ’67, it wasn’t until the release of a pair of self-titled albums by Veloso and Gilberto Gil the following year that the movement would begin to take shape musically. The reaction wasn’t necessarily always to the welcome reception of fans, who objected to the shift away from folk. Moreso, given his and other Tropicalists’ critique of their military-led government, it was even less popular with the powers that be.

The album was aimed at becoming a cultural hinge-point, inspired by the open pop format of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s. The record embraces traditional bossa rhythms, spoken word passages, heavy electrics, and a newfound interest in effects. The resultant album, though attempting to veil its political leanings in cheeky implications, drew ire as it grew in popularity. For as much ground as it broke in shifting traditions, it broke twice as much in emboldening and codifying youth culture against their own broken systems and American institutionalism. Eventually this would result in the exile of Veloso and his compatriot Gil.

The two performed on TV in 1968 and the ensuing uproar sent both artists overseas to London until 1972 when they were finally allowed return. There Veloso would work write and record the somber and superb follow-ups (also self-titled, but typically referred to by their first tracks “Irene” and “A Little More Blue”). As he returned Veloso would become the center of Brazilian pop for more than twenty years. This is, essentially where it began, and in many ways still some of his best. The record has been reissued several times over the years, but this is the first sanctioned US-pressed copy. As with any version, it is utterly essential.


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YAK

The backstory behind Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is almost unbelievably excessive – with tales of the band’s Oli Burslem tracking back and forth across the globe in an attempt to make the album he heard in his head – working to acquire extra band members, couching in studios, and eventually leaving himself without a permanent home in the process. Thankfully for Burslem the resulting album’s breadth speaks well to the hassles he endured. Along the way Burslem connected with Jason Pierce of Spiritualized, who contributes to some tracks and lent his home studio to the cause. The involvement of Pierce dovetails nicely with the idea of making something almost too big to fail. The artist, whose own epic was notoriously hard to tour, given the necessity of orchestras and choirs, seems like the perfect foil to push another into embracing their inner grandiosity.

To that merit, Pursuit can’t be accused of sounding economical or sparse by any means. It is, in fact, the kind of big rock epic usually reserved for bands who’ve paid half a decade’s worth of dues. The album starts out on fire, albeit a fire that sounds like it was borrowed for a job interview at their eventual landing pad, Third Man Records. Opener “Bellyache” is full of the ratcheted staccato that marks much of Jack White’s delivery, feeling like it’s got someone else’s hands on the tiller. Thankfully, though, this affectation dissipates as quickly as it arrives with Burslem aiming for the kind of orchestral space occupied by his mentor Pierce welded to the dirty psych blues that slips through the veins of Night Beats and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The band wades through some Bowie-isms (most notably on “Words Fail Me”) further cementing their pursuit of an album that’s next to impossible to fit into the room, however once they find their balance between weightless and reckless, the grand plans find their payoff.

Reaching for the ineffable is commendable, but POMH often works best when its reaching not for the stars, but rolling in the dirt. When the band cranks the coils on their diesel-bred guitar scorch, they light up. The heat off of Blinded By The Lies is enough to melt skin. “Fried’ and “White Male Carnivore” are similarly breathless, boiled, and bent. The band feels most comfortable when they’re cobbling together a beast built of feedback and bile. When properly positioned the uptempo fare makes the ozone-scraping opulence of the other tracks feel like a balm. YAK are strapped to a scrap metal spaceship gazing back at the arc of the horizon. After the intense tumult of breaking through the atmosphere they give the listener a little time to breathe, an the scope of Pursuit begins to come into shape. The white-knuckle parts leave the deepest scars, but its nice to feel that breeze on the wounds in the end.



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Timmy’s Organism – “Lick Up Your Town”

When news of a new Timmy’s Organism release wafts down the halls, there’s a general feeling of dread and motion sickness that kicks in. The band aren’t made for these, or any times. The noxious vibes that emanate from their stacked amps can only be set to an irradiated boil and the newest slab from Total Punk is leaking its fair share of vileness. Even from a two-tracker, the band make their mark. Their profile was notched up to meet the public eye through a Third Man record last year. It was a well deserved escalation of terms that was meet with far too little thunder. Perhaps the populace hasn’t been to see Vulgar and co. tear down a stage. Its a sight to behold and a true marker of the band’s sci-fi punk prowess. New track’s a scorcher and well recommended fodder to heat up your turntable’s needle.



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Timmy’s Organism – “Back In The Dungeon”

Ah bless Third Man for bankrolling the insanity of Timmy’s Organism. Those who have experienced the band in the live setting know that theatricality is so ingrained in Tim Lampinen’s DNA that giving him a budget can only lead to psychotic episodes and, in this case, a D&D breakdown fueled by cosmic VHS tapes. The track, from last year’s killer LP Heartless Heathen, is still a stomper, and its only given a gothic goose with the addition of the Organism’s Game-of-Thrones-on-a-Halloween-pop-up shop-budget visual accompaniment. You don’t own Heartless Heathen you say? Why the hell not? This should be reason enough.


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Timmy’s Organism

All right, back on duty after a week’s vacation and its nice to find an old friend in the stacks. Timmy Vulgar, as permanent a Detroit fixture as corruption and hockey, returns to his gas leak garage project Timmy’s Organism for another grapple with reality. Long since my favorite incarnation of Vulgar’s cracked corner of the universe, the Organism is a bastion of fuzz crunch and pop debris, mangled and kitted out in tin foil hats before being flung out into the unwelcome world. On Heartless Heathen, Vulgar finds his way through the exhaust billows and clears the room with a few down and straightforward soul-jerkers. Perhaps its the inspiration of jumping onto Third Man’s Audio Social Dissent series of releases, perhaps its just always been in ‘im. But for the initiated, there’s also plenty of fry here to love as well; those sickening gasps of guitar that seem to scream out of the instrument against its will, the fifteen foot howl of Vulgar’s vocals building like a storm and the barbed wire beat stomping like a broken jackhammer. These are the hallmarks that I’ve come to anticipate from Timmy’s Organism and they’re all here in abundance. If Jack’s holdin’ up hometown heroes and garage punks these days then bless his pale visage for knocking this piece of sickness out onto the table.

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Video

Third Man’s digging deep into their personal picks it would seem, tackling records from RSTB faves Timmy’s Organism, Wolf Eyes and Texan punks Video. Feels like forever since Video first came our way via shared members in Bad Sports and Wax Museums (2011 to be exact), but second time ’round is just as crushing as the first. A tough-knuckled album for the likes of Jack White’s anointed, but its good to see in times like these that deep pockets have good tastes. The record is muscular and cut through with the kind of punk that’s bound in scuffed leather and bruised to the marrow. Driving and forceful, the pace doesn’t really relent, its all ball peen hammer to the knees, smash and grab rockers that knock the wind out of listeners and pull back for another punch. Hard to say that they’re breaking fresh soil but as I’ve said before, when you’re doing it right, you don’t need to be a pioneer. Sometimes just hitting harder and dirtier than the rest is enough. Rock still needs its saviors and some nights power will always overwhelm depth.

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