Saturday, July 18, 2009
This album (for lack of a better word) was one of my favorites last year. Pocahaunted are a female duo out of LA who make some serious psychedelic drone. They're tinged with both an ambient and a noise sensibility and, as the somewhat silly name suggests, they're not afraid to drop in some tribal elements. They've got some impressive collaborations under their belt, having released splits with heavyweights Christina Carter (Charalambides) and Robedoor. Peyote Road is named pretty aptly and sounds about as you'd expect but - and don't get disappointed - it's only two songs. (Don't worry, the whole thing is just over thirty minutes.) Side A is a studio track and side B is live from a show they did opening for Thurston Moore.
But since it's the weekend and I feel kind of guilty for choosing a two song album, there's a bonus round.
Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults is a compilation of mostly singles from generally off-the-beaten-path artists. As with plenty of comps, some songs (Brass Buttons - Hell Will Take Care Of Her) are fucking fantastic and some songs are terrible. So be warned, but do enjoy yourself with these old tunes. For fans of psych folk, sunny rock, the 60's, and the Paisley Underground.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I figured since it's summer you can never go wrong with pop, especially when it's this good. I also had a hell of a time picking an album from this under-recognized band because they're all fantastic.
Anyway, On was produced by Anna Waronker (her own work, both solo and with that dog, is worth checking out) and Steven McDonald (of Redd Kross). That basically means it's short, easy, catchy, and everything pop ought to be. This album has less of the themes that have gotten Imperial Teen pigeonholed as a "gay band," maybe intentionally, as reviews for the previous album What Is Not To Love tended to focus on the gay thing instead of the music. Best songs in my opinion are "Ivanka" and "Million $ Man." Fun fact: frontman Roddy Bottum used to be the keyboardist in Faith No More.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Since it's Wednesday and I'm minorly bummed by this I thought I'd post a soothing album that'll make everything better. No really, it will. Just look at the cover art.
Anyway, Feedle is a man from Sheffield who makes mostly wordless electronica. I realize that's a pretty open statement and a fairly common style but he does it in a new and lovely way. I'm not the biggest fan of electronic music, but he layers noise, scattered beats, and effortless melodies with a sense of wonder. This is a dreamy, throbbing, emotional album that's been largely and unfortunately overlooked. The best track on here is the sprawling "This Troubles All Dust," which will somehow zen you out but also make you (or at least me) an emotional mess. A calm emotional mess, if that's possible.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
All credit goes to Andrew for introducing me to this album. Entrance are an absolutely unique band, melding psych, folk, blues, and more, all overlaid with Guy Blakeslee's impressive voice. He howls, yelps, and sometimes even croons - and does all of it exactly at the right time. This album is, obviously, focused on death, with some great lyrics and even better tunes. The groovy hooks will probably get stuck in your head and you might find yourself listening to this more than you would've guessed - it's definitely best of the decade material. Seeing these guys live was something of an amazing experience and if you get the chance please take it; if you don't like the music it might be worth it just to see Blakeslee in his full hippie caftan getup. Entrance gets extra legitimacy for managing to get Paz Lenchantin on bass/violin/co-producing.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Beulah's got a spot pretty close to my heart - when I first got interested in music they were one of the first bands I came across and I've been hooked since. They were part of the Elephant 6 family, though often ignored because a) they only put out one lp on the label and b) it's pretty hard to compete with widely acclaimed peers Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. Nonetheless, Beulah deserve appreciation for their sunny 60s styled pop and brilliant use of horns/strings.
This album is the last before they split up. It was made in the aftermath of pretty much every band member's personal life falling apart and it clearly shows. This is a more restrained Beulah, with less over-the-top instrumentation and a pervasive melancholy despite the great pop hooks. Standout tracks include "Me And Jesus Don't Talk Anymore" and "Don't Forget To Breathe". If you enjoy this but think you'd prefer it with a bit more joie de vivre be sure to check out The Coast Is Never Clear - it's pure shiny fun.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
This band was truly San Diego's finest. Ridiculously noisy, snotty, atonal punk band from my hometown, often considered players in the small genre of "jazz punk." Never got very far out of this city, unfortuantely, despite a tour with the Blood Brothers, and they "broke up" in 2006 (the lead singer and guitarist now make up the relatively boring duo Crocodiles; the drummer plays for The Muslims/The Soft Pack; their bassist, Willy Graves, passed away a year ago.) But I do believe they will play together again someday in some form. They may not be for everyone, but I consider them brilliant at what they do: chaotically noisy riffs, shambling song structures, sarcastic fascist and neo-Nazi lyrics and imagery, and a wonderful sense of groove. They set out to play a very distinct sound and style and they achieve that sound perfectly. And when they lock into a riff or groove and play the living hell out of it -- they're just indestructable. Sometimes dancey, sometimes heavy, sometimes free-form, always fun.
For fans of: Blood Brothers, Drive Like Jehu, Nation of Ulysses, The Locust, John Zorn.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival are the quintessential hip Midwest novelty band. They pose as a Christian rock band, indulging in booze and fast women in order to better battle Satan on his own ground. Of course, this is just an excuse to have a blasphemous good time playing lo-fi blues rock numbers like "I Banged A Sinner" on the cheapest equipment possible. Uncle Scratch is best experienced live, often performing near the bathrooms of rock clubs or on street corners where they're not particularly welcome, but even without their typical between song banter ("The devil is a pussy! And some times, pussy is the devil!"), this album captures their stupid-smart wit and primitive energy. Here's a glimpse of their live show:
Make sure not to miss the secret track at the end, a cover of "Purple Rain."
I'm also including a short mix of songs from Northeast Ohio bands I didn't cover this week. If you want any more info about these bands, just ask. Here's the tracklisting:
1. Rocket From The Tombs - So Cold
2. Styrenes - Drano In Your Veins
3. Mirrors - She Smiled Wide
4. Electric Eels - You Crummy Fags
5. Rubber City Rebels - Child Eaters
6. Defnics - 51 Percent
7. Bizarros - Lady Doubonette
8. Pink Holes - Brooke's Song
9. Kill The Hippies - My Pussy's Going To Make You Hot, My Cock Is Going To Drive You Crazy
10. This Moment In Black History - Last Unicorn
NE Ohio Comp
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Cult Of The Psychic Fetus are a goth-surf-punk-psychobilly band from the "eerie shores of Ohio's Lake Erie," and while these types of bands are typically a dime a dozen, COTPF stand out due to their catchy songwriting and tongue-in-cheek theatrical sound. Although the band plays their songs about dead brides and feasting on the corpses of Christians straight faced, the prevalent mood is one of trashy rock & roll fun. The Cult's greatest asset is its reverb heavy surf guitar work, which adds extra bite to rockers like "Coffin Beggar" and "Dark Stella" and atmosphere to slower numbers such as "Dead Of Night" and "The Hunting Hour." The rest of the band are fantastic too, with lead singer Reverend Doom's howls and moans being especially effective for the material. Anyone who's a fan of the creature feature rock of bands like the Cramps and the Misfits should give this album a shot. It's a hell of a lot of fun.
Monday, July 6, 2009
C.D. Truth are pretty much Akron's poster band. They hail from Akron, they've been part of the local music scene for a good 15 years at least, they write songs about Akron, and they'll probably never leave Akron. Every Christmas they do punk covers of holiday songs as Missile Toe at various venues around town. They're a local institution, and a pretty good one at that. That said, they're not much more than just a fun local band. No one's perceptions about music are going to be radically changed here, but there are a handful of really strong tracks scattered across this album from 1998. Most of the material is post-punk influenced alternative rock delivered with a snide sense of humor. The two best tracks come back to back early on and are the most Akron-centric, although being a denizen of the city isn't necessary to enjoy them. The first is a quick, loud, and fast punk screed against one of our local highways that's ALWAYS under construction called "I Hate Rt. 8" that I'm sure any city living American driver can relate to. Even better is the dirgey, tongue-in-cheek slice of local pride "We Got The Blimp," which takes solace in one of our more famous local landmarks in the face of poor schools and lack of clean smelling air, although you don't need to be from Ohio to appreciate lines like "And don't ever call it a zeppelin! John Bonham drowned in his vomit."
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Pere Ubu - Dub Housing
The first thing you need to know about Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas is that he has these arms and legs that flip flop, flip flop. The second thing you need to know is that he has one of the most annoying voices in rock, and that's an asset. I originally wasn't going to include a Pere Ubu album in my week covering artists from Northeast Ohio, opting for something more obscure like the Mirrors or the Styrenes, but then I realized the vast majority of the board has probably never even heard of Pere Ubu and they're a far superior band than those other two. While all of their 70s material is essential, Dub Housing is their masterpiece, and one of my top ten favorite albums of all time. While the predominant adjective to describe Pere Ubu is usually weird, which they undoubtedly are, they're much more than that. This isn't the sound of a band going out of its way to be weird for the sake of being weird, but rather of a group of people who just are genuinely weird making rock and roll the way they hear it in their heads. Despite all the strangeness and darkness creeping around at the edges, most of these songs are upbeat pop numbers at heart, although ones from an alternate universe where Captain Beefheart, Lee Perry, and Sun Ra are superstars. "Caligari's Mirror" perfectly encapsulates their dual nature, alternating between a ghost ship sea shanty and something that approximates the feel of a show tune. Every song is filled with a variety of unusual, inventive textures and sounds popping up randomly at all the right moments. On a few songs, like the faux-horror-soundtrack "Thriller!", the sound effects overtake the songs, creating atmospheres even more delightfully sinister than PiL's death dub. Much of the lineage of what would become alternative rock can be traced back to what Pere Ubu did in the mid to late 70s, but they also managed to accomplish the rare trick of still sounding like the future of music thirty years after the fact on Dub Housing.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Today's selection was born out of the same scene that produced the Dead Boys, the Electric Eels, and Pere Ubu, although it's far closer to the former two in sound and intent. Every bit as young, loud, and snotty as the Dead Boys, and maybe a little bit more, the Pagans wrote quick blasts of catchy garage rock inspired Midwest punk, full of desperation, alienation, nihilism, and self deprecating humor. This compilation collects thirty of their best tracks, from self penned classics like "What's This Shit Called Love?" and "Street Where Nobody Lives" to covers of 60's classics by the Rollings Stones, The Who, and the Nightcrawlers. The sound quality varies from track to track, ranging from abysmal to serviceable, but for the most part, the songwriting is pretty consistent. Most of the subject matter is bleak ("Dead End America," "Give Up"), offensive (fag-bashing "Six And Change"), and juvenile ("She's A Cadaver (And I Gotta Have Her"), but they don't take themselves too seriously, and neither should you. "Boy Can I Dance Good," supposedly a cover of some long lost Cleveland garage rock gem, sums up all their strengths, equal parts genuine angst and stupid fun, with lyrics like the slyly delivered "Got psychological problems, my parents are to blame" and "You told me I was a waste and I'd be better off dead" giving voice to generations of frustrated teenagers faced with the prospect of "no future". If you've never been able to relate to that, this probably isn't for you, but for the rest of us, these songs are the perfect soundtrack to another wasted night drinking PBR.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Devo - Hardcore '74 - '77, Vol. 1
Today's album hails from the darkest reaches of America's subconscious: Akron, Ohio. Before our industrious young spuds found fame and fortune through a hit single about sadomasochism, before they moved to a festering cesspool referred to as the City of Angels, before they caught the attention of one Mr. Eno and recorded a landmark post-punk/new-wave album, they were recording weird, subversive four track demos in their basements that sounded like artifacts from a future gone wrong and pissing off the jocks, squares, and hippies foolish enough to attend their performances at Kent State. This collection is the first of two collecting those demos, and they demonstrate that the mythology of de-evolution was fully formed from the very beginning. Closer to the skewed pop sensibilities of the Residents and the primitive abrasiveness of the New York no wave scene than the just-left-of-center synth pop of their later work, these tracks speak to the endless creativity that Devo was in possession of at the beginning of their career. Although a few tracks are early, slower Booji Boy versions of songs that would reappear on their debut album ("Satisfaction," "Jocko Homo," and "Mongoloid"), most of these songs were previously unreleased before this collection. From mutant space funk to industrial factory worker anthems to juvenile sex studies, Devo capture the essence of a technologically advanced society deteriorating at every corner with equal parts humor and horror. This isn't going to appeal to everyone, but for people sympathetic with Devo's odd wavelength, some of this material will be a revelation.
BONUS ROUND: Just as an extra, I've uploaded Vol. 2, which I don't think is quite as good as Vol. 1, with a lot of the tracks coming closer to novelties than genuinely strange brilliance, but there's still a lot of decent to great material scattered about to make it worthwhile to the truly devo-tional. Give it a shot if Vol. 1 really catches your interest.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Human Switchboard - Who's Landing In My Hangar
Most reviews of this band focus on the influence of the Velvet Underground, but who wasn't influenced by them? The only album by this Cleveland band, 1981's Who's Landing In My Hangar? falls somewhere between the garage rock of the 60s and the punk explosion of the late 70s. The guitar work and self conscious style weren't too different from what many New York bands of the era were doing, but the desperate, passionate vocals of Robert Pfeifer, the occasional melancholy vocal turn from Myrna Marcarian, and the constant hum of the Farfisa add an underlying sense of sadness and ennui common in the Midwest. Most of the songs concern failing relationships and sexual frustration, with the lyrics often focusing on the mundane details, especially on centerpiece "Refrigerator Door." This all makes it sound like this isn't a fun record to listen to, but it is. There's a combustible energy to these sharply written songs that prevents things from ever sinking into self pitying drudgery. This is a small masterpiece from a band that was destined to never quite make it out of Ohio.
FUN FACT: Lead singer Robert Pfeifer was convicted in 2006 for wiretapping while stalking an ex-girlfriend.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Scott Walker - Scott 4
The atonal and surreal material that worked so well with Walker's croon in "Scott 3" is mastered in this album. Beyond that, his writing style developed a brilliant literary edge. He draws from clear references throughout the album, whether they be rooted in film, literature, or simple history. The instrumentation is flawless throughout and consistently surprises from track to track. "On Your Own Again" is easily one of the greatest ballads ever written and is brief enough to leave you wanting just a little bit more. Luckily, Walker maintains control over that anticipation throughout the rest of the album. The climax of the album occurs about three quarters of the way through with "The Old Man's Back Again," a piece which takes the precarious balance that Walker toyed with in previous tracks to a new level. The album winds down and wraps up with "Rhymes of Goodbye," perhaps the best example of what his voice is capable of. The album was a financial failure compared by the runaway successes of Scott 1-3.