Review of Thee Oh Sees’ “Live In San Francisco” at Modern Vinyl

thee oh sees cover
"Okay, okay — I get it. I’ve been listening to the music of Thee Oh Sees, off and on, for six or seven years now, and every album has been hailed by friends as being the next best thing since their last. I’m always fairly ambivalent and don’t get the appeal. 'See them live,' say my friends. 'That’s the real deal.' I’ve been mostly disinclined, because if I don’t like an album I streamed for free, why in God’s name would I pay $15 and stand on a concrete floor to hear them play those same songs? Again, I get it now. Thee Oh Sees’ Live In San Francisco had me pretty much convinced as to the band’s live effectiveness with its four sides of intense rock ‘n’ roll, but then there’s a DVD which comes with the set, and you watch the band, and it’s another level of intensity."
Read the complete review at Modern Vinyl. Published 7/1/16

Psychic Heat signs with High Dive Records

psychic heat Oh, shit. Lawrence's premiere psychedelic garage-rockers (we have enough of them for that to be a thing) Psychic Heat signed with Kansas City label High Dive Records. The label and band both announced that info today via their respective social media pages, along with this tasty jam called "Stargazer." The track's not new: you've been hearing it in promos for KJHK all semester, and it comes from last year's Brighter and Lighter EP, but it's definitely a solid taste of what you can expect from their debut full-length, out later this year. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/high-dive/psychic-heat-stargazer[/embed] That full-length, by the way, was recorded by Kid Congo and the Pink Money Birds' Ron Miller, and mixed and mastered by Kliph Scurlock, so I've no doubt it's going to sound bonkers. High Dive's been signing every local band worth knowing lately -- we're eagerly awaiting Bummer's Spank EP -- so here's to hoping for some kind of label showcase soon. I'm sure it's warp minds and melt faces. Speaking of shows, Oh! Snap! Photography shot some video of Psychic Heat at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence this past weekend, and you should totally watch it. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVdh69Fhd84[/embed]

Windian Records’ Subscription Series Number 3 is bonkers cool

windian subscription header Let us discuss the amazingness that is the new Subscription Series from Windian Records. We really enjoyed the singles we heard from the last round, with music from the Ettes and Mrs. Magician, but those were just solo copies, not as part of the whole collection. In other words, how do you talk about a box set when you have neither the box, nor the set? Well, we've the third installment sitting here in the Nuthouse basement, and it is the bee's knees. It's six 7-inch, bog hole, 45rpm singles in a custom box with a big, glossy booklet that showcases the sleeves these singles would have, were they to be purchased individually (which you can, with the art for an additional 79 cents). There's even a download code, and a glow in the dark 45 adapter. The cardboard shipping container the set came in was custom-stamped with the Windian logo, and the pieces of cardboard inside the box, holding everything tight were stampd with the logo of the Subscription Series on the top piece, with another on the bottom saying "Thank You, Come Again." That is devotion to an aesthetic ideal far beyond anything I can remotely conceive of. How's that for vinyl fetishism? This is beyond fetish object into full-on totemic territory. As a bonus, you can get two versions, on black and clear vinyl, limited to 150 and 100 copies, respectively. However, for $6 a single, I'm assuming you want some quality music, too, unless you're just one of those peopel who buys things and sticks them on a shelf to stare at. It's a bit of a mixed bag, as are all single series. In this case, I wasn't familiar with any of the artists being featured, so it was rather like getting a label sampler and hoping for the best. Norfolk, Virginia's the Seeers do a rather nice straight-ahead garage power pop. It's a little muddy and midtempo, but I can really see myself getting into those harmonies come springtime, while DD Owen (aka Drew Owen of Sick Thoughts) rocks dirty electronic punk with enough reverb to drive you mad. Platinum Boys hail from Wisconsin and certainly do have the guitar chops of Thin Lizzy, if a bit skinnier in terms of tone. "Candy" is pure pop sugar, while "Wild Child" has an underlying scuzzy fuzz. NYC's Church Bats could be accused of worshipping a little too devotedly at the feet of cavestomp artists. The way they ape that whole lo-fi, hollow recording aesthetic on "Foreign Man" could come across as fake, were it not for the fact that the song's a genuine rave-up, excellently contrasted by the perfect fuzzed-out instrumental "Half Man, Half Shellfish" that does Link Wray's grinding strip club undertones in a way I've not heard in ages. War Party's a-side is absolutely perfect psychedelic pop, but the b-side is another garage song about being drunk, and if you're not going to bring anything new, find something else to write about. Finally, John Wesley Coleman III's a-side is the cut that really doesn't grab me. "I Feel Like A Sad Clown" is fine enough power-pop, but "I Found A Home" is so absolutely off-kilter musically (that keyboard really goes freaky at points), but absolutely touching lyrically. It sounds like nothing so much as the Troggs covering "Care of Cell 44," and I can't get enough of it. You can listen to 8 out of the 12 tracks below, via Soundcloud. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/sets/windian-subscription-series-3[/embed] The Windian Subscriptions Series #3 is available for order through the Windian Records store

Reviews of No Love and Davidians’ entries in Sorry State’s North Carolina Singles Series

sorry state north carolina singles series Sorry State Records recently launched their first single series, dedicated to releasing bands from North Carolina, and the first two installments are now out. The singles come in identical sleeves, and the design asthetic is clean, with a color scheme that calls back to the North Carolina flag, without directly referencing it. With hand-stamped center labels on the vinyl, the packaging combines thoughtful with the slight sloppiness of DIY, making for a cool look. But looks aren't everything. What of the music? Davidians' release is thrashy, but not in the metal sense -- it's more like the "throw yourself around the room, twitching arhythmically." The beat and melodies on the b-side, "Gimme All Yo' Dope," are off-kilter and disjointed, but infectious. It's a song constructed to throw the listener off-balance, especially as it slowly builds to a passionate middle, which then slows, only to abruptly blast through its final seconds. The a-side, "Night Terrors," is a blast of energy, start to finish, filled with the same shrieking energy to be found on the flip, but it's bit more sonically straight-ahead. While good, it's "Gimme All Yo' Dope" that's the solid jam. No Love's "Dogs//Wolves" does that thing where it starts out with a lo-fi, distorted guitar all alone before just exploding into rock 'n' roll. If there's not a term for it, there should be. Dead smack in the middle, there's a simple three-note bridge that takes the tone down for just a second, before blowing everything up with more short, punchy riffs that leave you breathless and curious as to why the song's suddenly over. The only answer is to put the needle back to start, and go at it again. "Bad Things" has the vocals buried way down in the mix, so it's not quite as much fun. The energy's there, but straining to hear what's being sung makes it hard to enjoy cut, especially the crazy build during the last half. You want to be able to shout along, but straining to hear the words just takes away from the whole experience. Still -- good, just not as great as it could be. Both singles are limited to 250 copies each, and come with download codes. They're available now from the Sorry State store. You can get No Love's single by clicking here and Davidians' single by clicking here.

The Nevermores, “Lock Your Doors” LP

cover - nevermoresBig thanks are due Magnetic South for resurrecting these 14 cuts from wherever they've been hidden the last 25 years. Honestly, at this point, I'd thought all the lost recordings worth hearing had been collected by Pebbles, Nuggets, Back From the Grave, Killed By Death, Bloodstains, et al, and that we were at the end of the road for quality dirtying rock 'n' roll. It's nice to be surprised. From the unlikely town of Bloomington, Indiana, comes the Nevermores: this great, strange, organ-fueled garage rock from the early '90s. This a band for which little information exists, and as the history on the back over was written with a eye to whimsey, it's difficult to parse what's fact and what's fantasy. That said, Gretchen Holtz is your most famous alumnus, having gone on to found the all-woman trash power trio the Smears, and you can hear a little of the dirt and filth in these songs. Not lyrically -- this is typical garage rock innocence, down to the point that the group turns "Auld Lang Syne" into a twistin' and turnin' masterpiece. The whole thing is ramshackle as hell, and to more sophisticated ears, this might sound like garbage. The absolute joy in these recordings has made it a favorite this past month or so, and while there's not a lot that really rises up and makes you wonder why the Nevermores weren't ever previously comped (the brilliant "Auld Lang Syne" notwithstanding), Lock Your Doors is way more fun than usually comes across the turntable these days. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/magnetic-south-recordings/nevermores-theme-from-nevermore[/embed] The Nevermores' Lock Your Doors is available from the Magnetic South store on black vinyl. It's limited to 300 copies, and comes with a fanastic-looking screenprinted jacket. There's no download code, but you should be spinning this on a turntable, anyway.

Acid Baby Jesus, “Selected Recordings” LP

cover - acid baby jesus selectedAcid Baby Jesus' last proper full-length, 2011's LP was kind of a hodgepodge of '60s rock tropes. There were sludgy stompers, flower-power psych jams, and jangly bouncy things. It was fun, but never quite got into regular rotation the way their "Hospitals" single had originally hooked us. In the meantime, they did a teamup with Hellshovel for the Voyager 8 EP, which was fun, but never really gelled the way I wanted it to. The two bands seemed to be doing their own things simultaneously, rather than finding a joint sound together, which really kept otherwise-agreeable numbers like "I Went Down" from clicking. So, why should you listen to their upcoming full-length, Selected Recordings, out November 17 from Slovenly Recordings? Because it's amazing! It's been a solid two years since the band's released anything of note (not counting the "Vegetable" single they released in advance of this back in September), and they've changed, but in a good way. The whole psychedelic rock thing is 100% in the forefront. The album manages to remain thematically and tonally coherent, while also playing around with tempos and textures. A big part of the problem with LP was that it sounded like a collection of singles, but Selected Recordings sounds like an album (although the names seem to suggest otherwise -- weird). Acid Baby Jesus remains the band they once were. You can hear echoes of LP in this new album -- "I'm Becoming a Man" rocks that dirty fuzz the same way "Tomboy" did, and "Row By Row" echoes the stomp and freakout of "Tyrannosaurus Rex." Also, in addition to just being recorded more coherently, Selected Recordings is sequenced in such a way that the album flows, rather than jumping from B to X to G to V to Z. By the end, you feel like you've journeyed down the river of Lethe, and things are groovy and all right. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/slovenly/acid-baby-jesus-selected-4[/embed]

Aaron and the Burrs, “Release the Bats” 7-inch

cover - aaron and the burrsSurf trio Aaron & the Burrs does an excellent job of keeping everything short and sweet on their "Release the Bats" single. With instrumentals, it's difficult to know where to stop, but both of these tracks had me repeatedly flipping the 45 to listen to it over and over. While absolutely standard in terms of genre, it's loaded with flourishes and detail that reveal a new delight with every repeated play. As I said, both cuts on this 45 aren't breaking any new ground. Aaron & the Burrs play sunny surf-rock, the same as has been purveyed since the '60s. This still sounds absolutely wonderful, though. The songs are short, catchy, and well-executed. The a-side, "Release the Bats," has a nice workout somewhere in the middle that really brings it to life, and ends with a fantastic bit of revved up guitar. "Oh No, More Bats" is the more sonically interesting. It changes up the tempo several times as it goes, and works a much more complex interplay between the guitar and bass, with the bass at times even doubling the guitar line for a much more full sound. For a three-piece, Aaron & the Burrs have a sonic fullness to them that hearkens back to the likes of Joe Meek-produced cuts like "Telstar." Producer Geza X is well-known for his work in giving punk rock far more musical depth and heft than is usually given it, and he's applied his talents just as well to these two tracks. If you get this as a physical product, it comes with a download code, and is housed in a screened 3/4 sleeve. The 45's on solid black vinyl. Ut Records and Feral Kid gave a simple single a very nice treatment. The Daniel Clowes-looking artwork is eye-catching, as well. Additionally, notice needs to be given for the fact that the songs are "Release the Bats" and "Oh No, More Bats," which gave me a solid chuckle. However, the lyric sheet, which reads simply, "NA," might be the real selling point of this single. Never underestimate the allure of cleverness, folks. You can buy Aaron & the Burrs' "Release the Bats" single from Ut records (who also have their first two cassettes) or Feral Kid.

Apache Dropout’s Seth Mahen and Sonny Alexandre on “Heavy Window”

apache dropout flier Indiana garage trio Apache Dropout just released their latest album, Heavy Window, via Magnetic South Recordings this Tuesday. The album's much darker than their last record, Bubblegum Graveyard which was released in 2012 on Chicago's Trouble In Mind. We've been enjoying the hell out of the LP, so we reached out to the band's Seth Mahern and Sonny Alexandre to ask them about how Heavy Window came together. cover - apache dropout heavy windowThe new album seems to be a lot darker than its predecessor. Is that intentional? Seth Mahern: Certainly. We were trying to create something both more heavy and tense. More along the lines of our self-titled record. Sonny Alexandre: Heavy Window was definitely a reaction to Bubblegum Graveyard -- that album was seen as our "pop record", even though it was macabre in its way, and contained a lotta gritty lo-fi heaviness. With the new album, I really wanted to make a straight ahead ripper, something more about resurrecting Ron Asheton than Archie and Jughead. The tunes for Heavy Window were never meant to be a syrupy jaunt beneath marshmallow skies, and what I ended up writing was actually a kind of exhibition of my darkside. The record is presented as a piece of occult paranoia, with its Saul Bass-style Psycho-vibes and glow-in-the-dark monster movie chic, but it's actually about my life. How dark is that? Was it sort of an outgrowth of the slightly more psychedelic folk songs on Bubblegumn Graveyard, like "Hey Valentine"? I mean, I was almost expecting this to be full on Tyrannosaurus Rex. Sonny: We tried to leave the folky stuff alone for this one. Only one song on the record has acoustic guitar, and it's more of a Keith Richards-style thing. We did try to make the record as psychedelic as possible, that's why we went stereo. Mono sounds better; stereo sounds headier. 100% of the songs on Heavy Window were written under the influence. Death to false psych! [embed]https://soundcloud.com/magnetic-south-recordings/apache-dropout-trash-is-treasure[/embed] In addition to being darker, it's a little heavier -- still bubblegum, but definitely a lot more low-end. What precipitated that? Seth: I think alot of that has to do with this being our first record that was mixed in stereo. Panning the guitars gave the bass a little more sonic space. Sonny: We recorded Bubblegum Graveyard so fast that we forgot to, like, jam on it, y'know? That record needed a lot more space, a lot more room for us to just play our guitars really loud. We took a long, frustrating time making this record, so we had a little more perspective on it. We thought, "Hey let's do what we do best and play our guitars really loud." cover - apache dropout bubblegumBoth Bubblegum Graveyard and Heavy Window have artwork that mirrors the lyrical content -- Graveyard looking like a twisted Archie-meets-EC comic, with Window reading like the back pages to the same book. How important is the design to Apache Dropout's records? Seth: Design is certainly really important to the band's over-all aesthetic. We're really keen on '50s and '60s commercial design. Equally important to your sound seems to be the audio design. It's very lo-fi, but not to the point where it distorts the hooks and lyrics. What's the recording process like for an Apache Dropout record? Seth: We've recorded almost everything we've ever released at the Magnetic South studio. Its all analog and alot of the process is based on late '50s and early '60s recording techniques. From where did you source all of the amazing audio samples on Heavy Window? Seth: We're all big record and VHS collectors. They came from our personal collections. What led you to release this on Magnetic South, after your last LP on Trouble In Mind? Seth: Magnetic South finally had enough money in the coffers to pay for the pressing. It looks like there are scattered dates to promote Heavy Window, but are there any plans for a tour, or does the label take up too much time? Seth: We're doing a month long US tour. Gonna see the Atlantic and the Pacific. We'll be in Lawrence on October 15. You can find all of the dates for Apache Dropout's upcoming tour at their Facebook page, and buy Heavy Window from Magnetic South Recordings.

The last batch of singles from Windian Records’ founder, Travis Jackson

windian singles Getting a big package of singles in the mail is always exciting, especially when you're not expecting them. It's bittersweet to open the box and realize that these are the last singles overseen by the late Windian Records' head honcho, Travis Jackson. Jackson died unexpectedly earlier this year when hit by car as he worked on a road construction crew. Looking at the note, which was right on top of the stack of singles when I opened the package, I basically burst into tears. Now, I don't claim to have known Jackson very well, but he'd been helpful with providing some promo stuff for review and play on the podcast, and every interaction I had with him was kind and excited and full of life. It's strange to think that a man who I never met in person would be missed so much, but Jackson's verve for music and excitement for what he was doing with Windian was infectious, and you wanted him to succeed. Eric Brady will continue the label on, and the music looks to be coming strong. cover - mrs magicianOut of this stack of singles, there's not a one that didn't grab me in one way or another. Top of the list has to be Mrs Magician's "Friday Night" b/w "Crosses" single. It was part of the second Windian Single Series, and it's a masterful piece of reverb-drenched surfy power pop. It sounds like summer. Comparisons to the likes of Dum Dum Girls and New Pornographers are inevitable. However, who cares? Because both of those bands are wonderful. I want to put "Friday Night" on a mix CD in my truck and drive around listening to it while drinking lemonade at 2 o'clock in the morning. The flip, "Crosses," ups the surf angle, and jangles its way through three minutes of the catchiest anti-established religion cut you've ever heard. "Crosses" twangs and harmonizes everywhere you'd want a song to do so, and works in girl-group (by way of dudes) "sha-la," "woo-hoo," and every other onomatopoeic vocal affectation in the book. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/mrs-magician-friday-night[/embed] cover - the ettes cryWhile not reinventing their sound with every new release, the Ettes manage to tweak it just enough to sound fresh and interesting. The last thing I'd heard from them was the gothic country of "Teeth," and it was a full switch from their second album, Look At Life Again Soon, which featured the frantic stomper "Crown of Age." I just never know what to expect from the trio, other than it'll be fucking good. The a-side cut's a little more loose and hazy than we've heard from the Ettes before, and it's fucking great. "Girl I'll Never Be" is darker and more ominous than the a-side, with the bass distorted to the point of almost breaking. It pulses, while the guitar cuts right through in counterpoint. The Ettes spin it around in a whirl of declination, going down into a dark hole of contradictory shouts. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/the-ettes-cry-on-my-shoulder[/embed] cover - ar-kaicsThe Ar-Kaics are previewing their forthcoming Windian LP (although neither of these tracks on on it), with these two primitive bangers. Snotty vocals, simple pounding drums, and basic churned-out guitars suddenly give way on "Why Should I?" to a surprisingly catchy chorus, replete with an equally-catchy guitar line. "Slave to Her Lies" is a little less poppy, sounding like a dark mirror image of the Turtles' "Happy Together." It's almost as if the relationship in the Turtles song has long since gone sour, for reasons of infidelity and distrust. It stomps along, nearly dirge-like, punctuated by shouted "SLAVE!"s, for its entirety. Dark, dirty, dirgy, and damned good. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/ar-kaics-why-should-i[/embed] cover - killer beesThis bit of Dictators worship from D.C.'s Killer Bees, Buzz'n the Town, has a lot in common with most punk songs about television. Be it "TV Party" or "Television Addict," the songs have a glee about them, even as they denigrate that about which they sing. The kick drum hits with a flat thud, pegging out the meters, and lending a strange metronomic effect to an otherwise propulsive cut. The guitars rip along, and you know this was a pogo cut in its day. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/killer-bees-tv-violence[/embed] The flip's very much in the same vein, chooglin' along like an amped-up southern r&b act, but manages to throw in some nice stop-and-start "I like it! I love it!" breaks, as well as a solid guitar solo for the bridge. Wish the ending "rock & roll hangover" bits could've been more harmony or more shouted, rather than some half-assed middle ground, though. cover - penetrators shopping bagIs there a bad Penetrators recording? I mean, I know they all sound like crap -- seriously, for all of the Mummies' claims, the Penetrators are the real kings of budget rock -- but the band's songs always manage to have something about them. "Shopping Bag" is nasal, and the attempt at a guitar solo is almost laughable, but damned if this tinny piece of schlock isn't going to worm its way into your head almost immediately. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/the-penetrators-shopping-bag[/embed] "Everybody Needs Lovin'" might've been recorded in a closet by mentally deranged individuals, but it's still danceable in its own weird way. The guitar solo succeeds more on this side, but Syracuse's finest fascinate in spite of possible displays of technical proficiency. It's mainly due to a spoken word intro and outro that makes no sense, but sounds cool, like an avant-garde take on the Blues Brothers' version of "Someone to Love." All of the singles are available for purchase from the Windian Records store.

Four new Slovenly singles from The Anomalys, PUFF!, Thee MVPs, and Useless Eaters

Three upcoming singles from Slovenly Records, as well as one (PUFF!) on their new imprint, Mondo Mongo. These all came into my inbox at the same time, so they're all getting reviewed simultaneously. Each review was limited to a certain amount of space, and I kept to that, in the interest of brevity. THE ANOMALYS -Deadline Blues- EP - coverThe Anomalys - "Deadline Blues" b/w "No More!" Ignore the a-side, which is pretty rote, even though there's a nice reverb on the guitar tone. The vocals are so high up in the mix as to irritate, especially given the tone-deaf delivery. The crazed drumming and insistent background vocals on "No More!" make it the far more interesting track on here. It's frantic and the surf bridge makes it completely danceable. You can freak the fuck out on that one. PUFF -Identitatsverlust- EP - cover 1PUFF! - Identitätsverlust Behind all the weird synth work, guitar insanity, and otherwise is a steady, motorik / mechanical beat. This German group might operate like Devo on speed, but there's a solid foundation behind all three songs that keep them from collapsing into complete messes. "Routine" is the least outre of all the tracks, yet manages to use its simplicity to provide a severe and claustrophobic discomfort. THEE MVP'S -Oh Sally- EP - coverThee MVPs - "Oh Sally" b/w "Amok Time" Jangly, shaggy garage at its most simple might not be breaking any new ground, but Thee MVPs know how to rope you in and keep your attention. "Oh Sally" is bright and sunny, "Amok Time" is a little darker and intense, and any song that uses Kirk battling Spock as an analogy for troubles in a relationship is aces with me. The wails and guitar workout in the last minute make this one a real winner. I also like the fact that these folks don't fade out -- both songs end with these great little codas. USELESS EATERS -Desperate Living- EP - coverUseless Eaters - Desperate Living Synth-y, Spits-y garage. It's dirty, like the contacts on Useless Eaters' electronics haven't been cleaned in a while, giving everything a patina of filth. I love the fact that the combined running time of both songs on the flipside is less than that of the title cut. "Desperate Living" takes its time and stretches out, but "Dungeon" and "I ThinK She Wants to Find Out positively revel in their brevity. "I Think..." even throws in a solo at the end, as if to say, "Oh, we've plenty of time." You can preview a track from each of these releases at the Slovenly Bandcamp page.