Late Bloomer, “Things Change” LP

Posted in indie, punk, reviews, streaming audio / video, vinyl on July 21st, 2014 by Nick – 3 Comments
coverEver since Late Bloomer debuted "Use Your Words," I've been foaming at the mouth to hear all of Things Change, their sophomore LP on Tor Johnson, Lunchbox, and Self Aware Records. I tried to hold back until I had the LP in my hot little hands, but caved and listened to it streaming a few weeks back. This all goes to say that Things Change is an album which -- once you've had a taste of it -- you want to hear in its entirety, over and over again. "Use Your Words" was and is an excellent introduction, kicking off the album in a way that reminds me a lot of any number of bands I hear in the mid to late '90s, but more in terms of tone than specific sound. Late Bloomer is one of those acts like So Adult or Squarehead that mines the '90s for ideas, but does so wisely, discarding all the dross and waste, keeping only that which worked. It's essentially the mirror image of a band like Creed or Bush: rather than aping the bombast and pomposity, Late Bloomer takes the energy and verve of a Dinosaur Jr or Nirvana's indie / alt rock and mixes in the melodicism and emotional release of early emo like Sunny Day Real Estate. A perfect case in point is "Mirror," which is -- not coincidentally -- the album's highlight. It's this constant building up of layers: plucked bass lays a downbeat foundation, distorted guitar fuzz grows on top of it, and then things start to pick up momentum. The song builds a head of steam, with "I'm not who I think I see in the mirror" operating as a mantra as the song ebbs and flows. Each new build gets a little faster, a little stronger, and a little more until it absolutely explodes. The title track which follows takes the formula further, building upon "Mirror," as well as itself, and just being a loudly-proclaimed declaration of fealty. The entirety of the album is a relative surprise, given that it's at least partially released on Tor Johnson. It's really cool to see the label starting to branch out into music that -- while still heavy -- embraces melodicism. [embed][/embed] Late Bloomer's Things Change is out now, and available on gorgeous split red and blue vinyl. The album artwork by Michael Muller continues inside and on the back of the jacket, with individual icons representing each song. It's pretty damned wonderful, looks lovely, and you should fucking buy a copy, already.

Red Kate / Bad Ideas split 7-inch

Posted in local, punk, reviews, rock 'n' roll, upcoming events, vinyl on June 26th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
cover - bad ideas red kate split The first release from Kansas City's Mills Record Company features the finest punk rock 'n' roll the city has to offer, with two songs each from Red Kate and the Bad Ideas. Red Kate continues the wonderful racket they had on last year's full-length, When the Troubles Come. The first cut, "On My Mind," is a melodic rocker, almost wistful in the way it recalls someone gone. The cover of Naked Raygun's "New Dreams" clocks in at half the length of its predecessor, and blasts away for its entire 80 seconds. Factor in the copious "way-oh"s, and you've a pile-on pit classic reborn. The Bad Ideas have always been a live force with which to be reckoned, but these two recordings are fantastic. Mixing classic-era Epitaph Records energy with Sonic Youth guitar work and absolute snottiness, they're absolute keepers. I can't decide whether the straight-ahead energy of "Apocalypse Detroit" or the off-kilter jerk of "I'm Stuck" is my favorite, so I just keep flipping the record and starting over from scratch.
It's on a solid slab of 7-inch black vinyl, with cardstock covers (union-made, too -- check the mark), and might be the nicest single I've laid hand on in a good long while. It's a hand-numbered limited edition of 516. You can buy it direct from Red Kate via Bandcamp or you could easily pick it up in person when both bands play this weekend. They're at Mills Record Company in Westport Friday, June 27 at 7:00pm for the split's release party. It's free and all-ages. They're also playing as part of Lawrence Field Day Fest on Saturday, June 28. The Bad Ideas play at the Bottleneck at 9:00pm, with Red Kate on the Jackpot stage at 11:30pm.

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

Posted in garage rock, label, punk, reviews, streaming audio / video, vinyl on June 18th, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
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][/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][/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][/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][/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][/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.

The Big Iron, “We Will Fall” LP

Posted in local, punk, reviews, upcoming events, vinyl on June 12th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
cover - big iron we will fallThe Big Iron's We Will Fall sounds like the '80s, but not the one you remember. This isn't the 1980s of synth-pop, New Wave, or yacht rock -- the Big Iron are the sound of VFW shows, of the bands documented in Our Band Could Be Your Life, of the punk rock underground. We Will Fall hits every sweet spot of diverse influences you could possibly hope for. "Climate Refugee" rocks it Agent Orange surf-punk style, "Past the Pavement" pays homage to Lawrence punk rock mecca the Outhouse with anthemic SST-style ... argh. It's fun to play "spot the influences," but it's ultimately reductive of the Big Iron's sound to do so. Their songs aren't so much in the vein of "this is the Husker Du one, that's the Naked Raygun song," as they are the sum influences of guys who have been playing rock 'n' roll music for decades, and those influences are the foundation upon what this album is built. And holy fucking shit -- can we just talk about how good the title track is? It wouldn't do for a band called the Big Iron not to have some country in there, and the twangy gothic sturm und drang of "We Will Fall" has become one of about three songs this year that I've obsessed over, playing again and again and again, to the detriment of the rest of the album. The whole album is just a powerhouse. Knowing the bands from which all of these guys come, I'm completely unsurprised by how strong this sounds, but the way it all comes together is just wonderful. It really puts the rock in punk rock when you have two guitarists, instead of just one, so the band's got that full, Bad Religion kind of sound. What really impresses me about the Big Iron's work on We Will Fall is that it's not just an old-school punk album. It could've been, easily, but the band's not afraid to work in a song like "Trees Explode," which is a slow, dirty piece of work that uses huge drum hits to work a desperate, dangerous groove. It's fucking intense. The Big Iron plays an in-store release party at Kansas City's Mills Record Co. this Saturday, JUne 14, along with Lucky Graves and Freight Train Rabbit Killer. The show starts at 7:30pm, is all ages, and free. You can get the Big Iron's We Will Fall as a digital download from iTunes, or go to Mills Record Co. in Westport to get a copy on vinyl -- although, I'm sure that if you hit the band up on Facebook, they'll get you a copy of this monster piece of wax. The lyric sheet and band photo inside are wonderful. Get this.

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

Posted in garage rock, punk, reviews, upcoming release, vinyl on June 11th, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
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.

Madrid’s The Parrots on their upcoming single for Bachelor Records

Posted in garage rock, interview, streaming audio / video, video, vinyl on June 9th, 2014 by Nick – 2 Comments
parrots Hailing all the way from sunny Spain, Madrid's The Parrots rock a fresh take on garage rock, imbuing the genre with a woozy, surfy vibe. They've a new single out on Austria's Bachelor Records on June 24, but they've shared the a-side, "Loving You Is Hard," online for everyone to check out. We enjoyed it so much, we got the band to answer a few questions for us via e-mail. The Parrots' music is kind of woozy. What lends it that slightly off-kilter, drunken sound? Lots of Sangria in the park! There's also this serious surf vibe going on -- you guys are sunny. How'd that happen? I guess it all comes down to jealousy. In Madrid, we don’t even have a coast, so we really envy not having that relaxing place and that comes out in the music. I’ve never really thought of it until now but maybe this is our way of bringing the beach to Madrid! Is the sunny, happy vibe kind of what influences all your videos to be so fun? Yeah – like everyone, we like to have a good time and I guess that imprints on both the music and the videos. [embed][/embed] Was there a change in the recording process for the new single? It sounds a little cleaner. Last time we were in the studio – we only had one day to get everything – even the mastering - done. This time round, we wanted to do things the proper way - so we took 2 days! What is it about the garage scene in Spain that brings out such a diverse array of musicians, do you think? The garage scene in Spain is not actually that big on the whole but within it there are some really great bands. The places we hang out and the venues we play are usually the same for bands in the same city and I think it’s this that breeds these strong local scenes. On top of that, we are all very diverse and influenced by a lot of different things and so this is infused between the different bands. Are there any bands to whom you think you gained a lot in terms of influence? I know the Black Lips comparison gets thrown around a lot. We do love the Black Lips, but we´re also big into stuff from the 60´s and 50´s - like French pop, and The Kinks.  How thrilled are you guys to be releasing something on Bachelor, given their strong roster? We really love the stuff Bachelor has released, and thus far, we can only be really thankful for how they´ve treated us. What's the chances of the United States getting to hear any of these new songs in a live setting? Hopefully we will be there sometime soon. We need to arrange things but if anybody gave us a keg of beer and somewhere to sleep - we would be willing to provide for a good party! [embed][/embed] Go check out everything the Parrots have done on their Bandcamp page.

Josh Berwanger, “Oh Bis!” 7-inch

Posted in garage rock, label, pop, reviews, streaming audio / video, vinyl on June 2nd, 2014 by Nick – 4 Comments
cover - berwanger too much rockKids! Kidskidskidskids! Guess what? Josh Berwanger put out a new single! And it's part of the too Much Rock single series! And it has a cover of the Jags' "Back of My Hand" on the b-side! I literally responded to the initial news of this with a linked article on Facebook and something along the lines of "THE FUCKING JAGS?!?!" But, really, everybody: I'm a huge fan of Josh berwanger as a musician and just a guy to chat with in general, and this might be my favorite thing he's thus far done. "Oh Bis!" has been part of Bernwager's live sets for a while now, and the fact that he uses the word "bozos" has always endeared the song to me. I also really like the fact that the song flips the usual pop song narrative, working in a certain element of self-awareness, wherein Berwanger's singing about how "he could never love you like he does," rather than railing about how he could do so much better. It's a clever bit of mirroring, and the lyrics give lie to the postivity of the music. [embed][/embed] The flipside, a cover of the Jags' "Back of My Hand," is pretty much perfect. The addition of Heidi Gluck on backing vocals is always a welcome addition -- her work on Berwanger's album, Strange Stains, resulted in some of that record's highlights. The cover's pretty straightforward, but fits in nicely with the band's previous cuts. The single's out tomorrow, and can be found at Lawrence's Love Garden Sounds, as well as Kansas City's Mills Record Comapny, who will play host to a release show for the single on Thursday, June 5. If you're not able to get to either shop, you can buy it from Josh Berwanger's online store (which, in the interest of full disclosure, is my day job). You've your choice of black vinyl (a pressing of 416) or random color (a pressing of 109, which includes blue, turquoise, purple, and red, amongst others). Additionally, the Jay Shaw artwork lends a bit of continuity to the look of Berwanger's releases. Nice job on the reto picture sleeve. This sucker looks straight out of 1981.

Bloodpheasant, “Traum” LP

Posted in hardcore, punk, reviews, vinyl on May 28th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
cover - bloodpheasant traumThe newest Tor Johnson Records release, Bloodpheasant's Traum, showed up a while back, and it took me nearly a week to get to listen to it. I'm usually prone to throwing whatever Paul's sent in the mail straight onto the turntable after I get in the house, but somehow, this languished on my coffee table for the better part of six days. The reason I say all of this is to emphasize how bummed I felt halfway through opening cut, "A Bird and Its Wings." I could've listened to this all last week, but no -- I had to do productive things instead of getting lost in this Rhode Island quartet's twangy, apocalyptic doom. That opening cut is an instrumental, and the sound's like a more aggressive Earth (I'm guessing the fact that Traum's cover resembles that of The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull isn't mere coincidence). The instrumental cuts work better than those with vocals. Something about the recording process' end result of a slightly lo-fi distortion works well with the the guitars' swimmy delay, but the vocals just come across as flat. "Farwell, Viking" just hurts. Now, "Wyola" is the exception that proves the rule. Bloodpheasant's guitars sound absolutely huge on this cut, and there's a storm-bringing, thunderous low end. The interplay between Shannon le Corre's soaring vocals and the gutteral roar of Chris Carrera is also excellent, with the theremin ending up as the creepy frosting on the cake at world's end. Bloodpheasant knows how to really make songs work. There's a definite element of surf, with those phased and washed guitars, and it suits the band's loose, groove-oriented approach to the genre. That almost jammy looseness can sometimes lead to aimlessness, however. It's especially evident on album closer, "Fell Short," which is a shame. When you've a record like Traum that's otherwise so forthright and strong, having it peter out at the end is a bit of a letdown.
Bloodpheasant's Traum is available now from Tor Johnson Records on yellow or black vinyl.

Rev Gusto, “Still There” 7-inch

Posted in covers, local, pop, reviews, vinyl on April 29th, 2014 by Nick – 7 Comments
rev gusto header With the second installment of the Too Much Rock single series, we have the first-ever physical release from Kansas City power-pop group Rev Gusto. As longtime readers will recall, we were super-hyped on their first EP when it was released digitally. It's good to see that the band has managed to both retain their loose, shimmery tones, as well as tightening up their melodies and harmonies. The a-side is an original, "Still There," which balances that shimmering guitar with tight drums and bass, resulting in a song that bridges the gap between slightly psychedelic '60s and early '80s power-pop. The cover of Graham Parker's "Local Girls" on the flip only makes that comparison more accurate. I'd not heard Parker's original in years (it's not like anything along those lines except Marshall Crenshaw's "Someday Someway" ever makes it on the radio anymore), and it was interesting to revisit the song after hearing Rev Gusto's take. They do a lovely job of energizing the slightly-lethargic original, in the process rendering it less morose, and more snotty. The band's goddamn catchy and everyone who sees or hears them just can't help but fall in love with these guys. Here's to hoping some of you pick up the single and do the same. It's a delightfully catchy pair of songs, just in time for summer. [embed][/embed] More info on the single series can be found at Too Much Rock.

Thee Tsunamis, “Delirium and Dark Waters” 7-inch

Posted in garage rock, punk, reviews, streaming audio / video, vinyl on March 27th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
cover - thee tsunamisThee Tsunamis' Delirium and Dark Waters 7-inch on Magnetic South is just so much fun, I can't believe they haven't hit the Terminal Boredom hype machine. The songs aren't scary -- you look at the cover art and song titles, and you immediately assume Cramps-ish psychobilly or Deadbolt-style death surf -- but instead, the trio works in a lo-fi garage vein with a shitload of twang to work their atmospheric magic. There's some swampy surf vibes going on instrumentally -- and they're really good, too. Thee Tsunamis rock a wave of late-night creepiness enhanced by the sneer in the voices of Betsy, Sharlene, and Josie. Opening cut "Haunted House" sounds like the trio's singing from the perspective of the house's denizens, daring you to risk a trip through the front door. The whole thing comes together on the last track of the EP, "Psycho," which features a ripping guitar from Betsy and surprisingly melodic vocals in the fading seconds of the song. You get the feeling that the band members can sing, as opposed to working in shouts and screams, and it's a cool little left turn. All of the songs are worth hearing, though, and the album artwork and green vinyl really tie everything together. The jacket looks like something to a lost '50s b-movie, perhaps featuring Arch Hall, Jr.
You can buy Thee Tsunamis' Delirum and Dark Waters 7-inch from the Magnetic South store. You can also snag their A Goodbad Man is Hard to Find cassette, while you're at it.