Wouldn’t ya know it, one of the better records of the year comes out by a band that’s already broken up. Punk trio Feature released their debut LP Banishing Ritual last month, but have already moved on. Too bad, because, this group has attitude and style combining elements of Brilliant Colors and early Lush and the Ramones into and undeniable punk melange. The lead off track Psalms grabs your attention immediately with its Lush meets Ramones riff and harmonies. The highlight of the record is Schedules Align which starts with a killer riff and features a monotone melody made infamous by OG punks Wire. Like most great records, Feature’s debuts molds its influences into something that sounds at once familiar and new and exciting.
I wonder if anyone could convince Sauna Youth‘s Jen Calleja, Slow Coaches‘ Heather Perkins and Liv Willars to get back together and make another record? Maybe selling a couple hundred thousand of their debut long player would do it. I bought one so the rest of you 199,000 get on it and do your duty.
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.
City Yelps a three piece band from Leeds have just released an album called Half Hour. It’s rough around the edges, but like all good punk records its white hot delivery overshadows sound quality. In fact, the band seem to revel in their lo-fi. The liner notes state “City Yelps think they’re these DIY puritans but let me tell you now, you are being conned if you buy this record because they’re just lazy bums and nothing more.”
It’s noisy and rambunctious like Swell Maps and the Beatnick Filmstars, but has a literacy and outsider style that reminds me of Animals that Swim. They make the mundane sound interesting like on We Like the Hours which is about a girl who works nights in a bakery, and 11.99 about going to a theatre and having to sit down to watch a band. Another highlight, Music for Adverts takes some shots at bands that make advert ready music…”making people wish they were dead.” You can hear the spite and spit into the microphone. City Yelps’ Half Hour is the real shit with no polish!
So at this point it’s looking like Protomarty‘s Under Color of Official Light is the record to beat this year. But, hold on a minute, coming up fast on the outside lane is Pittsburgh’s Gotobeds with their debut album Poor People are Revolting. Just by their name and the album title you know the band have a sense of humor and relish double meanings and have some smarts. You may be scratching your head wondering if it’s pronounced like Robert Gotobed or got to bed? Do the band hate poor people or are they trying to incite a riot? The Gotobeds seem to have an irreverent sense humor and they are adept at letting loose with angular jabs of impertinence.
In the song Jenna Rations there’s a part that references Lou Reed, followed by someone letting the singer know he’s dead and then a sample that sounds like Lou himself uttering an expletive. The Gotobeds move pretty fast and if you snooze you miss a lot. They will likely remind you of Pavement from the way they sound. They’re certainly as sharp as Malkmus, Kannberg and the gang ever were and they bring a certain mania to their songs that keeps you wondering if it will all come crushing down into a giant pile of debris. It doesn’t. In fact it blows away so much of the mundanity of today’s scene that it (along with Protomartyr) may actually restore your faith in rock n’ roll. Nah, but it’s good!
The Gotobeds album is available on vinyl from 12xu and on mp3 via bandcamp.
As the 7″ single seems to fade into the sunset, it’s nice to see some labels haven’t given up on the format. France’s Croque Macadam and Requiem Pour Un Twister are still believers and they’ve just released a couple beauties.
Psychedelic tricksters Forever Pavot are lead by Emile Sornin, based in Paris and have much in common with Jacco Gardner and Soundcarriers. Their first single is cinematic, bucolic psycheldia that rustles the leaves and bundles the hay and makes birds chirp all on a widescreen. It has great organ swirls and galloping bass that will have you seeing a kaleidoscope of dusty colors. It’s a wonderful record and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that a label like Trouble in Mind would be interested in putting out their next record over here in the States.
Cheap Riot are also from Paris, but their debut single is all about punks and mods. They owe a dept to the Television Personalities and the Buzzcocks. Part Time Vacancy has a great little riff and a pithy chorus that you can’t get out of your head. I also love the punky bridge with ooh-ooh’s. It’s a a fun record that should be required playing at any part, even a party of one.
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.
I like weird and I like good and Cheveu fits that description. The French band has just released it’s fourth album titled Bum and it just might be their best and weirdest record yet. How could they surpass their cover of Vanilla Ice‘s Ice Ice Baby in terms or strangeness you ask? Ok, maybe Bum isn’t their overtly strangest album. Actually they dial down one kind of weird and dial up another kind. Before they came off as arty punks willing to graffiti over anything, on Bum they are more into a prog rock otherworldly weirdness. They take elements from bands like Hawkwind, Wall of Voodoo, the Intelligence, Brainiac and Devo and come up with something all their own.
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.
When I hear Spray Paint sing the refrain to Yawn Factory: “She drives a heavy load in the dark part of the country.” This image pops into my head of Large Marge in her big rig describing to Pee Wee the “the worst accident I ever seen”. Spray Paint are not the worst accident I ever seen, they are more like a traffic jam. Their spare twin guitar and drum attack pierce you’re conscious and create anxiety, stress and general disquiet. Spray Paint can grate on you and grow on you all at once.
After two attention grabbing singles the Austin band have released their first full length album. The songs are short and taut with lyrical spikes as well a guitar ones. The best ones on the record seem to come at the beginning of the album. Canadian Trash, Yawn Factory and Nose Whiskey all grab your attention. The second half of the record suffers from the band’s inability to ease up and let a little space into their claustrophobic and hyperactive sound. A little more variation would provide more space for impact. In that respect it reminds me a little of XTC‘s White Music. Maybe they should have tried a Dylan cover to lighten the load.
The album may not be an out and out winner, but I really like it. Spray Paint are working with a different set of instructions than most of today’s indie/ punk bands. They sound part Terminator futuristic and part back woods Deliverance.
Funny how Austin’s Big Boys were considered by many to be hardcore and/or skate punk. Sure, they were skaters and they were punks but their music isn’t so easily put into either of those categories. Back in the early 80’s, if you were doing something out of the ordinary or mainstream you were considered a punk. Punk was not just Sex Pistols, Clash and Ramones. In those days punk was what you made it, and Big Boys were one of the originals who made it up as they were doing it.
Don’t let the hardcore, skate punk tag scare you off. Big Boys had more in common with Gang of Four, XTC, Pylon, the Embarrassment and the Minutemen. Back in the early 90’s Touch and Go reissued the band’s full output on CD on the Skinny and Fat Elvis disks. Those two CD’s are highly recommended to get the full Big Boys picture, but up until now nobody had done a vinyl reissue. Light In the Attic has just changed that via their Modern Classic Recordings imprint. They have just reissued the band’s first album Where’s My Towel aka Industry Standard on vinyl in an array of colors in a vibrant yellow gatefold sleeve. Not only is it pretty to hear, but pretty to look at too.
My pre-order came in on Saturday and the record was on my turntable most of Sunday and then on my headphones at work today. It has been total fun to rediscover Big Boys in the vinyl medium they way it was originally intended. The years have not made this record any less vital, humorous and intelligent.
stream: Big Boys – Self-Contortion (from the Light In the Attic reissue)
Check out this short documentary that LITA had made for the reissue. Guitarist Tim Kerr and bassist Chris Gates (Singer Randy “Biscuit” Turner died in 2005 from Hepatitis C) reminisce about what it was really like.