The 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.
local, punk, reviews, upcoming events, vinyl on June 12th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
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" 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! - 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 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 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.
garage rock, interview, streaming audio / video, video, vinyl on June 9th, 2014 by Nick – 2 Comments
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]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXGTZ99G5m4[/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]https://soundcloud.com/theparrots/loving-you-is-hard[/embed] Go check out everything the Parrots have done on their Bandcamp page.
garage rock, label, pop, reviews, streaming audio / video, vinyl on June 2nd, 2014 by Nick – 4 Comments
Kids! 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]https://soundcloud.com/sidmuchrock/josh-berwanger-oh-bis[/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.
hardcore, punk, reviews, vinyl on May 28th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
The 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.
covers, local, pop, reviews, vinyl on April 29th, 2014 by Nick – 7 Comments
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]https://soundcloud.com/sidmuchrock/rev-gusto-still-there[/embed] More info on the single series can be found at Too Much Rock.
garage rock, punk, reviews, streaming audio / video, vinyl on March 27th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Thee 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.
garage rock, punk, reviews, vinyl on January 29th, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
If Panda Kid ever deigns to tour the Midwest, I can't begin to think of how much I'd thank them for the absolute joy they bring into my life with each and every release. Summetry, their latest LP, got a US release a few weeks back courtesy of Chicago's Already Dead, and much like everything this Italian group releases, it's taken a while to figure out what I think about it. I mean, granted, I like it. It's pretty much a given that any Panda Kid release will get some form of thumbs up from me at this point. It's really more of figuring out what tack the group will take on any given release. On Summetry, it's a vibe that reminds me if it were possible for a time-traveling Beatles to have grown up listening to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/already-dead-tapes/panda-kid-party-monster[/embed] The record has that strange, off-kilter vibe that so many of the best moments from the White Album and Sgt. Pepper have, but even more psychedelic and laconic. "Daltonic Eyes" is as if someone managed to take that breakdown from the end of "Helter Skelter" and stretch it into a four-minute song. It's pop, it's skewed, it's so fucking hazy that it's sometimes difficult to determine where the album is going amongst the wash and sheen, especially on cuts like "A Long Long Summer" (which appears in pretty much the same form as it did on Scary Monster Juice). However, those cuts can butt up against something like the title track, and it's a perfect take-off on New Order, ran through this lo-fi process that will blow your mind, and make you reconsider all over again what this band is capable of. Panda Kid's Summetry is available in a limited edition of 30 on white vinyl from Already Dead Tapes and Records, with a hand-screened cover.
indie, punk, reviews, vinyl on January 27th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Jumping up and down in my chair, listening to everything kick in on the first track of Acid Fast's Rabid Moon, it's like that first time I heard Ned's Atomic Dustbin doing "Kill Your Television" on 120 Minutes -- I am happy, I am elated, and I'm wondering how this band figured out how to make such catchy music sound so dark. Acid Fast demonstrate time and time again they know how to make you anticipate, then lose your shit. It's not quite build and release, but more of a sense of knowing when you can drop out certain sonic elements to emphasize the others. Case in point: if a band has a song called "Shred Forever," there damn well better be a guitar solo, and while it's not quite what you'd expect, it's there, and it's boss. It's super-exciting fun party music. This is a band that's made for house shows. I don't mean that Acid Fast should stick to small venues -- no, no, no. I mean that they're a band that's perfectly suited to getting sloppy drunk and stealing the mic from to sing along. The grammar in that sentence couldn't be any worse, but you get what I'm saying: this is a band I want to see up close, loud, and fuzzy. Basically, I would pay good money to be able to drunkenly air guitar the instrumental break in the middle of "Descending." If you like Lemuria or Shang-A-Lang, or pop-punk with '90s college rock influences, or just really amazingly great drumming, you should totally take a listen to Rabid Moon. Acid Fast's Rabid Moon is available from their webstore on black or green vinyl, CD, and cassette.
indie, punk, reviews, upcoming release, vinyl on January 15th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Pairing Adventures with Run Forever is such a ridiculously perfect idea, it's basically one of those "shut up and take my money!" releases. Adventures' dreamy indie pop has a certain angular melodicism to it that hints at part of the band's involvement with Code Orange Kids. It especially comes out in the feedback-drenched ends to their songs. Run Forever, however, works it a little differently. Rather than fading out their songs, they opt for epic intros, leading into harmonies suited perfectly for lifted hands and heartfelt sing-alongs. The bands compliment one another, and they're both on the rise, so why wouldn't the two acts come together? While both acts do what they do well, this split single works because they're both best in small doses. Run Forever's "Lost the Feeling" comes in with punchy guitars, chugs through, and is gone in under two minutes. It rocks an early Alkaline Trio vibe, kind of reminding me "I Lied My Face Off" in terms of lyrical delivery. The rest of the tracks are decent and well-executed, but much like Run Forever's last LP, Settling, this split EP is a nice listen through, but not something I think I'll find myself returning to on any sort of regular basis. The split is available on 7-inch vinyl and digital download from the No Sleep Records store, and the record comes out on January 28. Pressing information is as follows: 20 Test Pressing (Black) 125 Coffee w/ Creamer (2014 Subscription) 300 Blue 300 Transparent Orange 500 Half Red/Half Light Blue You can stream a track from each artists at Alternative Press.