My review of Crazy Al's Indiana Punk & New Wave '76 - '83 on Twitter consisted mainly of "BUY IT" repeated a dozen times, and I stand by that. Hell, even if the majority of the bands and songs were mediocre, I'd probably recommend you snag this cassette just for the previously unreleased Zero Boys song, "I'm Absent." However, it also has the amazing compilation staple of Dow Jones and the Industrials' "Can't Stand the Midwest," and it's just crazy good across the board. The advantage of this being punk and new wave is that we're not limited to three-chord bangers for two sides. There's weird synthesizer and keyboard cuts like the Dancing Cigarettes' "Pop Doormat," which is one of those things you discover and wonder why it's not getting played during those retro radio lunches instead of another run through "Take On Me." There's also the electro-punk of We're Jimmy Hoffa, whose "Rock 'n Roll" seethes and oozes like the nastiest underground goth, only to blast through with razor-edged guitars. It's the sort of thing that counterbalances the snotty basics of Panics' "I Wanna Kill My Mom," which is exactly the sort of thing the Killed By Death crowd adores (having appeared on volumes 9 and 15 ½ of that compilation series). Crazy Al's even dips into power-pop with Latex Novelties. Their "Kiss and MakeUp" is a perfectly Midwestern take on early UK underground pop: Boy-era U2 or the Skids, for instance (although both of them are actually Irish, come to think of it). There's a two-disc CD version of this comp that has another unreleased Zero Boys song, "Commies." The CD version is about double the length of this cassette, and some artists have more tracks than are on the tape, while others have the same, and there are even bands on the CD that don't make it onto the tape. I don't know enough about the Indiana punk scene to say whether the bands on the Magnetic South cassette are more notable or they're better cuts, though. You can buy the cassette version of Crazy Al's Indiana Punk and New Wave 76-83 from the Magnetic South store, or the double CD version from Time Change Records.
Big 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.
When you get a cassette by a band called Sitar Outreach Ministry, and you know nothing more than whom it was released by, you put it in the tape deck the instant it shows up in the mail. So it went with Revolution In Dimension 5 the band's release on Magnetic South. It's probably the most novel thing a band could do these days, but it's not the unusual nature of Sitar Outreach Ministry's music or the novelty which sets them above anything, despite their Soundcloud featuring covers of the Velvet Underground and Bill Withers. However, it is those covers -- and, more specifically, the breadth of music which they represent -- that gives a clue as to why this one guy from Bloomington, Indiana, is such an interesting cat to listen to. There's psychedelic swilring going on here, obviously. To think otherwise would be ludicrous. It's the fact that there's some warmth and soul going on that's made Sitar Outreach Ministry's tape become my go-to for lousy days. Putting it on and letting everything swirl and drone from my speakers pretty much kills any negativity I might have going on. Is it even possible to be in a shitty mood as you hear the Spider-Man theme raga-fied and reverbed almost out of context? Nope. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/sitar-outreach-ministry/web-wizards-theme[/embed] [embed]https://soundcloud.com/sitar-outreach-ministry/spidersong-for-the-lost-souls-of-dimension-5-part-1[/embed] Sitar Outreach Ministry's Revolution In Dimension 5 can be found on Bandcamp or as a physical edition red cassette, limited to 75, from the Magnetic South store.
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. The 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." Both 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 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. The stomp's all there, along with the bubblegum catchiness. It's 100% pop, despite the echoing vocals and pretty basic song structures. "Hound" will instantly remind you of something like the Dave Clark Five's "Anyway You Want It," and much like that stomping bit of circular pop joy, you'll want to get the hell up out of your seat and dance. This is sugary-sweet, like Vacation Club distilled oldies radio into a syrup you pour directly into your ears. It'll go straight from your ears to your brain to your hands and feet. Dancing will happen, your teeth will rot, and your cavity-riddled mouth will be fixed with shiny metal fillings. That metal will, in turn, start picking up radio stations. Radio stations that only play the Association, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, and on and on and on ... until your brain will accept only the finest sugary choruses. At that point, you'll be hit with "Boiled," your face will melt in the face of its psychedelic madness, and you won't know what to expect. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/styrofoamdrone/vacation-club-oh-patty[/embed] Vacation Club's Heaven Is Too High is out now from Magnetic South Recordings, and comes in a pressing of 500 LPs on black vinyl. You should really go buy a copy. The cut-and-paste, Xeroxed aesthetic of the cover extends to the back, the insert, and even the LP labels. It's a cool-looking package.
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.