Greg Mank’s latest, “The Very Witching Time of Night” a surprisingly cohesive collection of leftovers

Posted in books, movies, reviews on June 30th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment

book cover - Very_Witching_Time_of_NightThe books on classic horror cinema seem to be coming rather regularly these days. The latest in the march of essays is The Very Witching Time of Night: Dark Alleys of Classic Horror Cinema, by Gregory William Mank, out now from McFarland.

Comprised as it is of pieces the author couldn’t fit into other books, the various chapters still manage to gel nicely in terms of thematic elements. Taken as a whole, this is a fun, interesting read that dips and delves into some unexplored corners of early film history.

That said, the chapters themselves seem incomplete. Mank is quite fond of production timelines, and while those provide invaluable data with dates and times of each film, they come off more as outlines for potential chapters than actual work itself. After making it through the book, you wonder if Mank’s capable of creating an actual narrative.
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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.
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Poole’s “Vampira” an interesting biography of the horror host, but thin on details

Posted in books, movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, tv, upcoming release, video on June 19th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment

book cover - vampiraSoft Skull Press always presents a unique twist with its biographies or memoirs. It’s never just a straightforward history of the titular individual, but rather an analysis of the environment which produced the subject. In the case of W. Scott Poole‘s Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror, the author uses the ’50s horror host as an entry point to discussing the era’s social mores and how the woman born Maila Nurmi challenged the status quo.

The author has a wealth of information on which to draw. Sadly, little of it is regarding Vampira herself. There’s minimal evidence of her television program, and what remains of her work is, essentially, bit parts in a few films. The thing for which she garnered her initial acclaim exists only anecdotally, leading to a great amount of speculation on Poole’s part.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Gareth Murphy’s “Cowboys and Indies” provides an excellent record industry overview

Posted in books, reviews on June 10th, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment

book cover - cowboys and indiesIn Gareth Murphy‘s new book for Thomas Dunne Books, Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry, you get exactly what the title tells you. It’s certainly epic, going all the way back to the start of recorded sound, and documenting every technological, genre, and business change along the way.

Murphy’s writing demonstrates an obvious excitement regarding his topic, especially in the book’s early chapters, wherein there are new discoveries — wax cylinders! shellac discs! — nearly every few pages. The only issue is that, in trying to incorporate everything, details are given short shrift. Cowboys and Indies covers excellently the development of the technology of recorded sound, but misses out on how that actually changed the already-extant music industry of big bands (for an in-depth analysis of that, check out Elijah Wald’s How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ā€™nā€™ Roll).
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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

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.
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Vacation Club, “Heaven Is Too High” LP

Posted in garage rock, pop on June 4th, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment

cover - vacation club heaven is too highThe first full-length from Indiana’s Vacation Club, Heaven Is Too High, took a couple listens to really work its way into rotation. Samuel James‘ vocals are an acquired taste — they’re high, they’re snotty, and they’re fairly monotonic.

It took picking the LP up after a little time away from it, putting it on the turntable, and hearing the opening strains of “Gas Station” to get what Vacation Club’s doing — this is a trimmed-down, lo-fi version of something like the Sweet or Slade.
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Night Birds, “Monster Surf” 7-inch

Posted in mp3 on June 3rd, 2014 by Nick – 3 Comments

cover - night birds monster surfCan Night Birds succeed without Brian Gorsegner‘s snotty vocals, which are so integral to the band’s sound? Is it possible to achieve that sense of horror and and b-movie grime without lyrics?

Shit yeah, it is. Granted, Gorsegner has a hand in playing synths on the dystopic sci-fi cut, “Agent Zero,” but the rest of the band handily rocks it pure surf style for the other three cuts on this EP.

It’s a nice chance to really focus on the fact that PJ Russo‘s guitar work is just lovely. The interplay between Russo’s guitar and Joe Keller‘s bass is what really makes this EP. Granted, it doesn’t get exceptionally complex at any point, but the songs are catchy. The same goes for drummer Ryan McHale, who — while he isn’t really called to do much more than standard timing — hits the skins with enough heft to give these songs a tiki-torch nighttime dance party feel.
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