The cover for the Hanging Valley, the second album from Brighton band Cold Pumas, looks like it is inspired by Salvador Dali. If you caught a glance of it in a record store or on line you might think that it was made by a group with prog rock tendencies and a penchant for mind altering substances. That take wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but if you were hoping for flutes and butterflies you might be in for a surprise. Long narrow shadowed bathtubs pink soap and odd falling vases aside, the Hanging Valley is a study in what happens when you start with angular post punk that gets co-opted by a motorik groove and then sometimes is doused with some ethereal washes of guitars.
LP number two is a decidedly stronger record with better songs and more varied sound. The band are clicking on this record and deftly pummel you with songs like Fugue States, the Slump and Slippery Slopes and then turn around an caress on A Change of Course and The Shaping of the Dream. Like the best post-punk records the Hanging Valley has intensity about it that nearly overwhelms, but pulls back when it’s just at the brink.
Portland, Oregon post punkers Lithics have just released a scorcher of a debut album. Fans of Pylon, Gang of Four and the Au Pairs should take note of this record. Borrowed Floors is chock full of rolling bass, jagged guitars and androgynous vocals. The songs sound like they’ve pulled in from the wild hinterlands of the Rose city. It appears as though someone tried to domesticate them, but failed. Careful entering the cage, this one will pin you down and make you buy a copy.
Downloads available from bandcamp and vinyl at Water Wing Records.
Last year Seattle’s Universe People released the very high quality Go To the Sun. Since then Universe leader Jo Claxton has seen her entire rhythm section change. In this new space time continuum Universe People feature drummer Min Yee (Dreamsalon, and A-Frames) and bassist Kimberly Morrisson (Dutchess and the Duke). Their second album is called Universe People Are Coming To the Dance.
Above is the premier of the video for The Modern Girl. It is directed and edited by Claxton and filmed by Kelly Burton who worked with the band on their two previous clips Vampire Prison and Druids. The Modern Girl a clinic in how to do minimal sharp pop right with dissonant elements of early Fall and the Intelligence but with always an eye towards melody. Claxton writes sparse angular songs that will elbow you in the ribs with their sharp riffs, and then continue to keep you off balance with their wry humor. The video is a pin-ball epic in which Claxton attacks Yee and brawls with Morrison. Thankfully they both survive which is more than I can say for former bassist Kellie Payne who was killed in the Vampire Prison video.
Universe People’s second album Are Coming To the Dance is available now digitally on bandcamp. For you vinyl enthusiasts, there are plans for a vinyl version on Dragnet Records later this summer. You can also catch them live next month in Seattle, and Portland.
7/10 Sunset Tavern w/ Amen Dunes
7/19 Foggy Notion (Portland) w/ Appendixes
7/22 Chop Suey w/ Magik Markers
If you are still lamenting the demise of Long Blondes, or maybe you still pine for the sounds of Kleenex/LiLiPUT or Girls at Our Best. If you answered yes to any of the above you should definitely check out Pang. The Oakland, California band has just released its second 7-inch single Young Professionals. The single is really an EP since it has five songs. All of them are packed full of umbrage, intensity and punk glamour. The title track and companion So It Goes especially are guaranteed soon to be classics.
stream: Pang – Young Professionals (from the 7-inch single available on Grazer Records)
Sometimes you meet a microphone stand that you just want to fight. Last night at Barboza, moody post punkers Weekend were scheduled to play. Their alter ego’s who don’t seem to give a fuck are who actually played. I don’t know if bassist and singer Shaun Durkan had taken the wrong elixir or was off on a bad trip, but he appeared to be in an erratic state almost from the start of his band’s set. During the first song of their set the mic stand went floppy, drooping down to his knees, Durkan seemed slightly perturbed by this, but not too upset. The guitarist came over to fix it in the middle of the song and all was good.
Not quite. Durkan then proceeded to grab the mic stand and wrestle with it. Apparently the stand was more stable than he was, because he lost his balance in the mic melee and bounded out into the audience, in the process whacking his bass against the monitor and then the floor. Song over. He picks up the pieces of the mic and his bass with the help of the band and the Barboza sound guys. He tries to tune his bass only to discover that one of the tuning nobs is bent so badly that he can’t tune it. He hurls some incoherent insults at the audience and then asks with a smirk if anyone has a bass he can borrow. Nobody is eagerly volunteering their instrument having seen the damage he’s done to his own guitar so the band proceed to play another song with the broken bass and no vocals since the mic seems to have lost round one. The bass player from the opening band Haunted Horses takes pity and bravely offers up his bass. Another song is played with the loaner bass but the mic still doesn’t work. Durkan is visibly annoyed that the mic could not withstand his attack, so he walks off the stage at the end of the song. The rest of the band look like they’re not sure what to do so they walk off the stage while the sound guys fix stuff.
Eventually Weekend come back out and play End Times and everything seems ok, but not for long. Coma Summer is next and it looks like Durkan wants to fight the mic stand again. It’s almost a like a total replay of the first round, except this time he’s fighting with someone else’s bass guitar. Not Ok. The sound guy rushes to the stage, grabs the bass from Durkan and walks off with it. Show over.
Upset that he didn’t get the chance to destroy someone else’s instrument, Durkan grabs his board of effects pedals and lifts it above his head and slams it to the stage. House lights, queue exodus. Not quite. Durkan comes back out yelling at nobody in particular and lumbers to the merch booth where he hopes to sell some t-shirts and records. Worst show I’ve seen since the Fall in 94 at the Black Cat in DC.
I missed first opener Haunted Horses, but caught Cities Aviv who is really just a guy and a laptop. He’s from Memphis and makes industrial noise come from his laptop. Sometimes it was abrasive loud, sometimes it was ambient loud. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but it sounded cool.
The Soft Boys had one, and so did Minor Threat. Public Image Limited and Public Enemy both did. Tallulah Gosh did as well. Hell, even Julian Cope has one and he isn’t technically a band. I have long thought that Any band worth its salt should have a theme song. Or at the very least, have a song that mentions the band’s name.It serves as a statement of the band’s intentions. Every band should have a manifesto and what better to way to put it out there than in a song?
Slum of Legs from Brighton, England have three songs so far and one of them is called Slum of Legs so you already know that they’re doing something right. Slum of Legs are a band of six which is an army in band terms. They have a three song demo that they have released as a cassette on Tuff Enuff Records. It’s the best parts of punk, indiepop and noise pop recorded on what sounds like boombox they found at a rummage sale. All three songs are really good, but the best one is their manifesto. It begins with a circular rhythm that made me think of the Dixie Cups Two-Way-Poc-A-Way, but then the scrawling guitar starts in and singer begins stating what the Slum of Legs are: super structures spiked with glass, the bleeding present, the final hour of idle boasts, an army of losers, the hissing of trains. Noisy pop music to my ears.
You can get Slum of Legs’ three song tape from Tuff Enuff Records.
stream: Slum of Legs – Slum of Legs
Either I haven’t been paying as close attention as I use to or there just haven’t been that many new British bands riding waves of hype over to the United States. Maybe since nobody reads the NME anymore bands don’t reach critical mass outside their home towns these days. The UK’s Savages are an exception. Their single Flying To Berlin from last year deservedly got a lot of attention as it received appropriate comparisons to Siouxsie and the Banshees. The band reportedly were no slouches live either, so it was with some excitement that I attended their Seattle debut last night at Neumos. The band’s debut album Silence Yourself isn’t due until next month but that didn’t stop Seattle anglophiles from crowding into Neumos on a Tuesday night.
Savages have style. They’ve got cool clothes and hair cuts. You can tell they take themselves seriously. It’s eyecatching to see a band that dress and look their sound on stage. The music was stylistically cool too, but unfortunately it did not go much beyond style. I have been a Savages fan since hearing last year’s Flying To Berlin 7-inch and still consider myself one, but I doubt Tuesday night’s performance did much to convince someone who wasn’t already a fan that this band is truly great. Up to this point I had heard three Savages songs and liked them all. The problem was those three songs and maybe one or two others were all that stood out. The rest of them were muddled, uninspired and kind of boring. Not having heard the full album yet, it may have been a case of a bad night or poor sound at Neumo’s (which would not be the first time at this venue). Bass player Ayse Hassan seemed to be the heart of the band. Her riffs dominated the sound and seemed to be what the songs were built around. Sometimes singer Jehnny Beth stood out with her energetic and intense delivery, but most of the time her singing was monotonous and devoid of any melody or hooks. The same could be said for guitarist Gemma Thompson. Her playing seemed uninspired and tentative and was often overpowered by the rhythm section.
There were a handful of songs that soared though and they saved them for the end of the set. Both songs from last year’s single (Husbands and Flying to Berlin) stood out. The guitars took on a Gang of Four funk to them and Beth had a melody that she could really deliver. The band seemed to come alive with additional swagger when they played their stronger songs, so maybe it’s just a matter of building up a catalog of good songs. I just was hoping that there would have been more of those moments from this band that has gotten so many glowing reviews for their live shows. I left underwhelmed, but still a fan, just one with lowered expectations for the album.
video: Savages – Shut Up (from Silence Yourself. Out on Matador on May 7)
I wasn’t sure about opener No Bra. She walked on stage took her shirt off and performed her set topless. Undoubtedly, she did it to get our attention, but it was actually distracting. After I stopped wondering why she took her shirt off, and would I be as distracted if a guy took his shirt off, and does she do this for all her performances, and does she like being on stage half naked, and does she take her shirt off just to prove she has no bra, etc. I decided that I kind of dug her monotone delivery over laptop beats. Not enough to buy one of her records though. She closed with Munchausen that reminded me of LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge with its theme of I’m cooler than you one-upmanship.