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.

You can stream and buy the download at Savak’s bandcamp page, or buy the vinyl and CD version from the record label Comedy Minus One.

Blowin’ Cool

The Chills loved their leather jackets and probably took really good care of theirs. Listening Super Vacations‘ ode to their leather jackets, Faded Leather Jacket, it is more heathen, but no less vital. On LP number three the Super Vacations blow the roof off it. What is “it?” It could be  a car, house, office, lean-to, or bus-stop. It doesn’t matter, you will get the same result.  Roof blown off.  The Richmond, Virginia band work with some pretty basic elements but prove that magic happens. Lots of fuzzy, chiming and angular guitars and always a big chorus.

It’s got a slacker feel of an Archers of Loaf record, sinewy guitars of Edsel, a sandblastedness of Swervedriver and a weirdness of Shudder to Think. Heater is twelve songs that never lets up off the accelerator. It pulls a handful of songs from a few of the band’s previous seven-inch singles, but I for one am glad that they didn’t let those songs languish on format that fewer people pay attention to. As separate singles they were good, but put into an album format along with new songs it is all the more attention grabbing. A cohesive juggernaut, planned or unplanned.

mp3: Super Vacation – Faded Leather Jacket (from Heater Pt. II on Funny/Not Funny Records)

Edsel: Back For Another Spin

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)

Both the Everlasting Belt Company and Detroit Folly have just been remastered and digitally reissued by Comedy Minus One.

Obits in Seattle

The Obits at some abandoned restaurant in Seattle.

Apparently the Obits were in town strategicating with their label about the upcoming release of their debut long player due on 24 March on Sub Pop.  They must have been really itching to play because they took over a half-constructed restaurant dubbed Fen’s Party Palace in the ID and threw what to amounted to a big house party.   There was no cover, no stage, no bar (bring your own beverage),  a single dangling light bulb for light and a fiery, take no prisoners set from the band.  Fen’s was very full, especially  considering the circumstances of  a Monday night, no promotion and vague location details.  I’m guessing when they return for  their May 16th date at Neumo’s, it will be packed.

Probably the most recognizable thing about the Obits is Rick Froberg’s angst ridden, screaming drawl.  Froberg’s former bands, though never insanely popular, each of them (Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes) definitely garnered  rabid cult followings with their complex and aggressive sounds.  In all of  his former bands Froberg’s foil was guitarist John Reis (who also fronted Rocket From the Crypt and now is in the Night Marchers). In the Obits, Froberg’s foil is Sohrab Habibion formerly of  Washington, DC band Edsel.  Back when I used to live in the nation’s capitol, Edsel were one of my favorite DC bands. They never really fit in with the Slumberland, Teenbeat, Dischord or Simple Machines scenes, don’t get me wrong, they were rooted in the DC scene, but their taste for UK post punk made them stand out from the hard core or indie pop scenes and set them apart in my mind. Edsel was fronted by Sohrab Habibian and Steve Raskin, they both sang and played guitar.  The guitars and voices played off of one another whirling it all into tight tense songs.

Going back and listening to both Hot Snakes and Edsel you can really hear the similarities in how the guitars play off of one another.    Dueling guitars seemed to dominate in both bands so it’s pretty damn cool that these two guys are in a band together.  Last night the PA was non existent so Froberg’s voice was difficult to make out and on the song Habibion sang it was doubly so, but it didn’t really matter,  the Obits were lighting up the room with their playing.  Froberg’s guitar played the straight man most of the night, while Habibion’s danced around at odd obtuse angles.  The Obits’ guitar interplay relies heavily on its super tight rhythm section.  Greg Simpson looks like he owns the bass, even when it’s not his own and drummer Scott Gursky exuded power and control even while drumming with a maraca. The set got off to a dubious start when Simpson broke a string during the first song, the  Unnatural Helpers (naturally) offered up their bass to set things right again.   As I said, the vocals were low in the ‘mix’, but the songs jumped out at you.  So much so that they could have all been instrumentals and the set still would have killed.  They did both songs from the currently sold out Stint 7 inch which are both excellent, but they weren’t even the highlights of the set.  Definitely looking ahead to 24 March  when the full length hits the streets!

The Stranger, Seattle Weekly and Seattle Sound were also at the show.

mp3: Obits – Put It In Writing (b-side from the Stint 7 inch)