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.
read more »

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.
read more »

“Essential Ellen Willis” a varied, sprawling read

Posted in books, reviews on May 27th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment

book cover - essential ellen willisThe Essential Ellen Willis, out now from University of Minnesota Press, collects a lifetime of Ellen Willis‘ work, looking to give a more nuanced and thorough view of her career and importance than was presented in her collection of music writing, Out of the Vinyl Deeps.

Now, important and thorough does not necessarily an interesting or involving read make. I found myself struggling and trudging through some pieces. Historical importance and documentary worth do not equal easy or entertaining reading, because anthologies are inherently exhausting.

They jump topics, tone varies, and just keeping one’s self temporally oriented can leave a head spinning. It requires a nimble mind to be able to read straight through without needing the occasional break. Despite loosely grouping essays together by topic — sex, drugs, et al — it’s a massive undertaking for even those short groups.
read more »

James Fearnley’s “Here Comes Everybody” is an energetic, involving story of the accordionist’s days with the Pogues

Posted in books, punk, reviews on May 21st, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment

book cover - here comes everybodyIt’s always with fear and trepidation that I crack open a musician’s memoir. For every Keith Richards autobiography, there are several dozen tomes that collapse under the weight of their own self-import and overwrought prose.

James Fearnley‘s new book, Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues is as enrapturing as any I’ve read. It starts off shakily, discussing as it does Fearnley’s youth with a bit of a gloss to his upbringing.

After that, however, it’s a fascinating, rollicking series of stories. Fearnley’s time with Shane McGowan begins with the Nips, prior to the Pogues, and those stories are wonderful, giving a little-seen glimpse at the early days of McGowan’s infamous carousing.
read more »

Watery Love, “Decorative Feeding” LP

Posted in garage rock, hardcore, punk, reviews on May 16th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment

Watery Love‘s new album on In the Red, Decorative Feeding is blown the fuck out. It appropriately pegs the VU meters in the red for pretty much the entire duration of the LP.

Waterylove_jacketDecorative Feeding isn’t a subtle album. Vocals are hoarsely shouted, and declamed more than sang. The band rocks the same drum beat for most of the album, with Watery Love seeming like it’s about to fall apart at any given moment.

It’s a tenuous connection holding everything together — you wonder if the first few times this happened live, everyone in Watery Love just ended up sitting on the stage as feedback rolled out of amplifiers and somebody screamed into a microphone. It’s a little better on the second side, when the drone gives up to some thrashed-out riffs, but this is an intensely anxious album.
read more »

Stalins of Sound, “Tank Tracks” LP

Posted in garage rock, punk, reviews, upcoming album on May 14th, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment

cover - stalins of soundMore dirge-like than the Spits, less poppy than Devo, and more abrasive than Digital Leather is Stalins of Sound. Their Tank Tracks LP — out next week on Slovenly — took a few listens to really grab me. However, despite the slow build up to acceptance, some tracks immediately interested upon first listen.

“Monkeys Attack” is insistently metronomic in its rhythm, and the guitar just buzzsaws along. I featured it on the podcast a few weeks back, and the more I listen to it, the more I get what Stalins of Sound are trying to do. Granted, it’s pretty indicative of what Tank Tracks sounds like. The earlier tracks follow that pattern, and if you’re only half-listening, it’s difficult to tell some songs from others.
read more »

Hobocop, “Half Man, Half Cop” 10-inch

Posted in garage rock, punk, reviews, upcoming album on May 13th, 2014 by Nick – 2 Comments

cover - hobocopHobocop‘s Half Man, Half Cop is just the right amount of lo-fi. It’s not quite as rudimentary as Apache Dropout, but it’s fuzzy and dirty. The fuzz and distortion works with the music, though, rather than obscuring good songwriting. “Stench of Death” especially benefits from some extra dirt on its sludged-out garage guitar. The whole lo-fi aesthetic gives everything a sense of mystery — is that keyboard or a weird guitar effect? Is that an acoustic bass or a weird guitar effect?

The element of mystery makes the whole Hobocop thing entertainingly strange. You’ll accept the fact that “Fairweather Scum” is remarkably catchy, despite the fact you’ve little-to-no idea what’s being sung. Just lock onto “yeah yeah”s and “whoo-hoo”s whenever possible, and use those as your guideposts to take you from mumbled guesses to enthusiastic and confident sing-along.
read more »

Podcast #113, “Get Fuzzy”

Posted in podcast on May 12th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment

guitar_catThe annual “whoops, I forgot to replace the turntable stylus when it was sounding weird and now it’s busted” podcast. It’s a very specific episode where I have to dig through the hard drive and see what interesting stuff hasn’t yet been raided for a show.

It’s fun, and while I’m fairly certain a few of these tracks have been played in the past, the show turned out really well, so I don’t care. If I can’t repeat the occasional track over the course of 100+ episodes (and nearly five years), I don’t know what I can do for you people.

Podcast #113, “Get Fuzzy”
read more »

“Dangerous Rhythm” a delightfully catty and insightful look at movie musicals

Posted in books, movies, reviews on May 8th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment

book cover - dangerous rhythmLet’s just dispense with all attempts at sugarcoating the facts: Richard Barrios‘ new book, Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter (out this week from Oxford University Press) is a delightfully catty piece of work. Barrios does an excellent job of being both joyously fun and reflectively considerate of the topic which it is covering.

The organization of Dangerous Rhythm allows Barrios to jump around a bit, but each chapter works pretty much chronologically, meaning the author can use early examples to illuminate more modern work. And, given that each chapter has a starting point somewhere in the beginning of filmdom, Barrios can use prior examples to illuminate the new ones — it sounds more complicated than I’m making it. Suffice it to say, the history covers all the bases, with chapters on the singers, writers, choreographers, directors, race, sexuality, and … whew.
read more »

Muuy Biien, “D.Y.I.” LP

Posted in mp3 on May 5th, 2014 by Nick – 3 Comments

cover - muuy biien dyiI’d never heard of Muuy Biien before I got an offer to have some records sent to me. They were kind of a secondary, last-minute throw in with another record for review. That other record will not get mentioned, because I didn’t care for it at all, buuuuuuuut … D.Y.I. is pretty frickin’ great.

The album title — at least judging from the cover — stands for “Do Yourself In,” and the music is angular and bleak. “Cyclothymia I,” which opens the album, is almost three minutes of droning, chiming guitars. It then goes into this sharp-edged garage rock. It’s evocative of late-’90s indie rock, when everything was taking influence from electronic music, but reproducing it with live instrumentation.
read more »