Taking after Gang of Four, Joy Division, Dead Kennedys and more recently Viet Cong, Savak stir up the pot right from the get go by naming themselves for the Iranian secret police under the Shah of Iran. They probably won’t be invited to play at Oberlin College in Ohio, but I doubt they care. Featuring members of Obits, Nation of Ulysses, the Cops,Holy Fuck, Edsel, et al, these punk rock veterans know what they’re doing and will not be dissuaded or deterred.
Former Obits guitarist and Edsel front guy Sohrab Habibion and former Cops front guy, Mt Fuji records proprietor and Seattleite Michael Jaworski share vocal duties throughout. Their styles mesh well and lend themselves well to the earnest and tempestuous songs. You can hear the old DC punk influence of the Dischord sect mixed in with some good old fashioned That Petrol Emotion acerbic energy on Alive In Shadows, Drop the Pieces, Call It a Night and Early Western Traders. Traders also features some great skronky saxophone that makes it an easy highlight of the record. Elsewhere you can hear some REM influence on Reaction and Burned by a Fever which should keep listeners with fainter hearts engaged. Best of Luck In Future Endeavors is a solid record with something on it for old punks, new punks and punks in training.
Dot Dash are named after a Wire song and consist of Washington, DC veterans who are old enough to remember Wire from their Pink Flag/154/Chairs Missing days. Terry Banks, when we last tuned in, was co-fronting Julie Ocean with ex-Velocity Girl and ex-Piper Cub Jim Spellman. Julie Ocean ended and now Dot Dash is his latest band. Banks is joined by Julie Ocean bassist Hunter Bennett, Bill Crandall who played in A Modest Proposal in the ’80s and drummer Danny Ingram formerly of Youth Brigade.
Your first question of a band named after Wire might be, do they sound like Wire? Answer: a little, but not tons (song Gripped has a throbbing bass and Banks kind of growls a few lines the way Colin Newman does sometimes and a few other songs have some wirey guitars). Really, though Dot Dash are an amalgam of Banks’ former bands Tree Fort Angst, the Saturday People and Julie Ocean. Banks shared vocal and writing duties in Julie Ocean with Spellman and Saturday People was more of a democracy in the songwriting category. Dot Dash is soley Banks’s band in the way that Tree Fort Angst was. Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash is a album full of power pop songs that Banks delivers with his sometimes whispered, slightly strained voice that has been a constant in all of his bands.
The songs are in the vein of Julie Ocean’s power pop, but there is still some guitar jangle left in him too. Opening song The Color and the Sound has a modish, jabbing riff that reminds me of another DC band from the past, Ted Leo’s Chisel. Dissolve starts out sounding a little like a Tree Fort Angst song, except with a big meaty bass and a swooping angst filled chorus that ends up making it an entirely different beast. The band also know a thing or two about sequencing a record in this age of front-loading. They don’t wear themselves out on the first lap and save some of their best songs for second half of the record. The detective sounding bass and drums of Alright, Alright is smile inducing (and reminds me a little of Max Eider) and the chorus keeps the grin on your face, and Seconds In a Day has a vein of melancholy in it but the jangling guitars and the hook to keep you above water .
This is record with so many good songs. It’s not groundbreaking, just well crafted the whole way through. Every song burns bright, and the each listen to the album, a new one flares into my long term memory. Spark, Flame, Ember, Ash indeed.
With the 90’s revival in full swing, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to do a little research to find out what all the rose colored nostalgia is about. We here at the Finest Kiss are here to help. Stop number one on the 90’s history tour is Washington, DC’s Edsel who have just digitally reissued two of thier albums from that era: The Everlasting Belt Company and Detriot Folly.
Edsel mined the more atmospheric side of post punk. Early on, their records sounded good, but the they didn’t really stay with you, but as their career progressed the songs got better and the band developed a distinct sound that would worm it’s way into my long-term memory. The transition seemed to happen between their second album The Everlasting Belt Company and the third one Detroit Folly. Everlasting Belt Company took the heavier elements of the shoegaze movement, some DC hardcore and some old fashioned Krautrock to form a dense album that had its moments, but it didn’t really leave a lasting impression. It felt self-conscious as if they were still trying emulate their influences and overwhelm you with sound.
mp3: Edsel – Buckle (from The Everlasting Belt Company)
By the time Detroit Folly arrived. It was obvious that Edsel had made some great strides with their sound. Their influences had been distilled into something new, and unique. The first thing you notice is their sense of restraint and use of space. They’re not in a rush to bowl you over, instead they sneak up on you. Songs slithered like snakes into your sleeping bag. The twin guitar and vocal front of Sohrab Habibian and Steve Raskin was at the forefront and much more intricate than on Belt Company. They seemed to finish each other’s sentences and their guitars intertwined into this kind of restrained, dissengagement that created a unique intensity. There was a new sexuality in their sound too, like they figured out how to incorporate T Rex, Rolling Stones and Gang of Four into one record. Detroit Folly was the record that cemented Edsel in my mind permanently. It’s a record that many history tours don’t stop at, but off the beaten path tours are the best ones.
mp3: Edsel – Draw Down the Moon (from Detroit Folly)