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.
Out 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.
While 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.
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.
This 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.
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.
Is 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.
"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.