Sacred Product, “Tram and Train” from Wastex (2014)
I was blindsided by this release from Quemada Records over the weekend, a fantastic double-seven inch (!) from former Satanic Rocker Lynton Denovan. I missed out on the cassette he put out under the Sacred Product moniker last year, but chances are good that Wastex is gonna fill that Satanic Rockers-sized hole in your heart or head. Deranged double-tracked vocals are chock full of cynicism and sharp observations; you bet Denovan sees you eatin’ burgers with the cops, kid. But the real treat here is that the music isn’t quite as dour as the Satanic Rockers’ work, more light grey than sludgy black-brown - just listen to the coda of “Tram and Train” above for proof. It seems Denovan doesn’t dwell so much in the murk as much as he observes it and asks for the check. The record label calls it “doom pop” and I can’t call ‘em out on it. Hey, it’s a free ride away from all of this shit, no reason not to strap in. One listen to “Sonic Country” and you’ll be sold that this lil’ record(s) is the will of divinity, too.
Interested parties (I assume all of you) should buy the record direct from Quemada. Don’t get left in the pit of regret.
Happy Watery Love day to the entire universe.
Geto Boys “Fuck ‘Em” from The Geto Boys (1990)
(February 2013) Gutter Gods - Innersense LP
Here is a long-winded explanation of why this album improves the standard of living of citizens just like you: http://messandnoise.com/releases/2001305
“Innersense is not an anti-societal statement of mindless aggression; it’s mostly experiential. From its tacky intro sampling interviews about lucid dreams and alternate realities to the mirrored artwork and relentless space-punk aesthetic of Nathan Williams’ guitar, any violence or malevolence seems to stem from a perverse attraction to new experiences, not one of politicised ill-will. It treats its aggressive staples as that of a parallel universe, where expressing and dealing with rage – violently or musically – is every part as important as the seeking out of love or faith; where citizens have been untaught to suppress the primal urge to strike out. It’s an incredibly pure form of selfish exhilaration.”
Read the rest of this review, listen to the killer sample tracks, Americans can preorder it here.
Ruined Fortune, “Black and Red” from Ruined Fortune (2014)
Nic Warnock and Angie Garrick put their heads together for another Ruined Fortune release, an LP out soon-ish on HoZac Records. The label hits the nail on the head with the Royal Trux comparison: the vibes are heavy, the groove is locked. “Black and Red” kinda continues the downer of Angie’s solo LP but the guitars aren’t diggin’ graves here, they’re hustlin’ you at the pool table. Put your wallet in your front pocket and dive in.
Hot on the heels of the Más Allá de la Muerte 7” EP on Warthog Speak, Permanent Ruin are back with yet another 7” forthcoming on Not Normal Tapes. The band’s as ferocious as ever, getting better with each subsequent record, finding their balance between blistering assaults and beatdowns. My only complaint with Más Allá de la Muerte is that the record finishes with a slow fade-out - petty, I know - but the San Jose EP ends with arguably the band’s best song to date, "Land of Nod." It’s a real punch in the teeth. As with the last two EPs, the vocals elevate this band above the pack, and the whole package - searing guitars, machine-gun drums, enough stops and starts to give you whiplash - makes Perm Rü just about the best hardcore band going right now. Think you’re over hardcore? Permanent Ruin is here to give you a shot in the arm. Your blood’s boiling, and it should be.
Jacques Charlier, from the exhibition Galerie 18, c 1970 — photograph by Eustachy Kossakowski
The Bomber Jackets “The Lister” from The Lister (2013)
Albums like The Lister are a strong argument for waiting until the year is over to reflect on the best releases of the past year. This is an album that shouldn’t fall through the cracks: the mechanical and cold music of the Bomber Jackets is given a very slight touch of human warmth through the vocals of Russell Walker, whom you might recognize from the Pheromoans. Drums crack like ice over a lake, synths glisten and glide, sometimes from a distance (“The Lister”) and sometimes reflecting right in your face (“Holborn Voodoo”). If you find yourself walking around a grey city in a post-holiday gloom, this is your soundtrack.
You can stream the whole album right now over here via Self-Titled Mag. US residents can grab the LP from Fusetron or overseas direct from the label - not cheap, but your seasonal affective disorder won’t be as strong without it.
Best of 2013
The year’s burliest no-frills rock ‘n roll long player. Maybe some people talk about other bands being able to induce their audience to drink lighter fluid and smash glass bottles over each others’ heads, but unless they were talkin’ about the True Sons of Thunder, you’ve been duped. Seemingly spawned from years of shit accumulating in sweaty basements, Stop and Smell Your Face puts to rest lesser contemporaries through sheer force. This one’ll put some hair on your chest and make you hang out of your car going 85 mph. Could be a party starter or party ruiner, but either way it’s good to know that volatile records like this still exist.
9) dreamdecay, N V N V N V (Iron Lung) listen//SOLD OUT from Iron Lung
This year Iron Lung Records reached into the darker corners of the Pacific Northwest and pulled out the debut LP from dreamdecay. The heavy reliance on percussion and the repeating tinny guitar lines make this one both hypnotic and uncomfortable. The titles are cryptic, the artwork is ripe for varied interpretation; everything is left up to the listener to create his or her own damaged vision of the future, past or present. Whatever that may be, dreamdecay doesn’t allow much light to pass through the overbearing darkness.
The Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys’ music might be a highly contentious subject for a small percentage of the population, but there’s nothin’ to discuss here - this is a great record. There is only everything to like about a modern-day Australian band creating ten songs reminiscent of Thin Lizzy with gruff, barely tuneful vocals atop. The vocal delivery and lyrics give the songs an “everyman” feel; issues tackled are not reinventing the wheel, but that hardly matters when they’re presented without irony. That last bit is important: rarely is music played with such unabashed feeling, with such effective results.
Jesse and Shane Matthewson had a breakout year in 2011 with Venerable and shortly after solidified their lineup by permanently filling their often-rotating bass player position with Khann’s Andrew LaCour. The band wrote and recorded Entrench as a trio and it’s their strongest material to date. Few bands have the stamina to keep up the high levels of anger and disgust that KEN mode is known for, and they don’t take any breathers on their fifth record. From the double-bass attack of “No; I’m In Control” to the grinding pressure of “The Terror Pulse” to thrashers like “Secret Vasectomy” and “Why Don’t You Just Quit?,” Entrench is your release when the world ain’t workin’ like it should. In such regressive times, that makes Entrench as important as ever.
…and when the world inevitably runs itself into ruin, there’s Scorn by Primitive Man to soundtrack the post-apocalyptic desolation. This is uncompromisingly filthy doom metal: no clean vocals, no clean breaks. Every downtuned chord and anguished growl feels like a death knell, but the band keeps churning and writhing thanks to the tight rhythm section. Only two short and unnerving interludes allow you to look away, to rest; otherwise you are faced with a stark view, painted in shades of grey and black.
Crystal Stilts’ third and most refined album, Nature Noir, likely disappointed a few fans on first listen, especially in the wake of 2011’s In Love With Oblivion. That album was somewhat of a psychedelic juggernaut, throwing everything into the mix and coming out with a through-and-through winner. This one pares back that approach, making every move deliberate, and it’s their best album yet to these ears. The band is so restrained that you almost don’t want to move too much while this record is on, and small flourishes like the violins on “Memory Room” pull as strong as ocean currents. Lean in closely and let this one bowl you over.
Constant Mongrel follow up last year’s excellent Everything Goes Wrong and live up to the goth-y imagery of that album’s cover with the 8-song, 20-minute burst of Heavy Breathing. Right off the bat, “Complete” hits you with that signature wah-ing deathrock guitar and the band never lets up for a second until the looped sample of heavy breathing at the end. The band added a second guitarist for this one and maybe that’s why it sounds a lot angrier, targeting hoarders, pill poppers and divorce courts with the same vitriol. This is a more potent Constant Mongrel than before: the noisy coda to “Choked” mows down everything in its path, and “Black Hole” seemingly celebrates its namesake with an 80-second stomper. Heavy Breathing is sharp enough to draw blood, a rapid, turbulent tour that’ll leave your jaw on the floor.
I described Tile before as a “brick wall boxing opponent” and I stand by that comparison: the band doesn’t give an inch on their debut LP, nine songs of feedback-drenched downtuned chords and drums that are beaten, not played. This ain’t your daddy’s noise rock: the trio comes closer to sludge metal musically, but they play a little too slow on most songs to slot into that crowd (check out how “Overdose Lane” falls into a pummeling slo-mo riff after about 90 seconds). The vocals are somewhat buried in the mix, shrieking to compete for attention, and the result is very powerful and unnervingly human - your throat is sore after listening to a couple of these songs. It’s ugly stuff for bad days, strong enough to slow down time so that you feel every short shot in close cling.
Ron House (Great Plains, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Psandwich, etc.) and Jared Phillips (Times New Viking) bring their respective talents to the table and come up with one of the year’s finest recorded offerings. Ron House sings his struggles with finding internet access and the inevitability of becoming non-essential while Jared Phillips cycles through clean, sharp instrumentals that maintain an undeniably Columbus, OH feeling while flirting with punk (“Anarchy on Your Face”) and spin until the thread is gone (“Neo Confederate Cred Pts. 2 & 1”). It’s the type of stuff that would be a mess in just about anyone else’s hands, but this Counter Intuits LP is endlessly listenable, a confident record that lets itself be rough around the edges. Certainly an album that’s going to be proven essential over the coming years. Highest recommendation possible.
Peter Escott’s track-by-track detailing of Dallas will tell you more about this record than I ever could, and maybe it’s more than you want to know, but it provides proof that this is a heavily thought-out and immersive record. This alone hardly differentiates it from other Native Cats records, though the spare opening notes of “Pane e Acqua” certainly do. Dallas finds the Native Cats paring down their signature sound in some places (“Pane e Acqua”, “Hit”), and piling it on until it collapses on itself in others (the instant classic “Mohawk-Motif”). Peter Escott’s sinister, noir-ish vocals sound as bulletproof as ever, but he opens up a bit on the moving “C of O,” a reflection on the too-soon passing of Broadcast’s Trish Keenan. “C of O” lyrically and sonically approximates the unexplainable feeling of loss when someone you’ve never met or physically touched has passed; Julian Teakle’s bass line creeps up to the heavens, across seas, but never quite bridges the gap, and all is wiped out by the burgeoning wash of noise at the end. It would be the Native Cats’ best song if it weren’t followed by the stunning 12-minute closer “Mohawk-Motif,” a krautrock-inflected exercise complete with a hypnotic bass line and vocals that are almost seething until the whole track is thrown into the stratosphere. Dallas is a strange place, certainly one that reflects some of the darker parts of oneself, but it’s one I returned to more than any other this year - for the creeping, vocal-less “Hit,” for the highs of “Cavalier” that send chills down my spine, for the lyrics of “I Remember Everyone” that could be interpreted as a blessing or an unfathomable burden. There is not another band that sounds like the Native Cats, and Dallas is the band stretching and refining their sound, pushing it to ever-higher heights. This is the sound of a truly innovative band firing on all cylinders; I suggest getting on board with ‘em now.
7) Yi, Punk Memories 7” (self-released) listen (free download)//SOLD OUT from the band
5) Good Throb, Culture Vulture 7” (SuperFi) listen//SOLD OUT, American repress coming soon from Accidental Guest Recordings
The two red-hot singles from Australia’s Eastlink couldn’t be topped this year, both remasters from their self-titled cassette. Four guitars pound chords into dust as vocals are shouted into the feedback that reigns supreme. A sarcastic whistle opens the Aarght 7”, with both compositions stretched out and repeated until you’re left in the desert, hallucinating; the latest 7” on In the Red is more straightforward, a punch to the chest that you never knew you wanted so badly. Infinite replayability is what you get. With an LP in the pipeline, 2014 is looking to be the year of Eastlink, so familiarize yourself with your new masters.