The Cave Comes Alive

Ty Segall & Idle Times at the Comet Tavern, Seattle | 28 June 2010

Prior to Melted I was on the fence about Ty Segall. After seeing him at the Sunset Tavern a few years back opening for Thee Oh Sees and Intelligence, I was kind of amazed how he played guitar, drums and sang all at once, but I thought the songwriting on his first two albums was  monochromatic and sonically they seemed a little flat. It was all  three chord jams that pegged the VU meter in the red. Listening to his self-titled debut or Lemons all the way through could be monotonous and a little bit mind numbing. Somewhere along the way Segall eschewed the garage for some acid.  Last year’s Reverse Shark Attack record he did with Mikal Cronin  and the single on Trouble in Mind (that included a cover Echo and the Bunnymen‘s Do It Clean) hinted at a move toward something a little different.  His third album Melted which came out earlier this month on Goner meets those heightened expectations and  is leaps and bounds ahead of than anything he’s done to date.  It’s got this rich garage-y psychedelic sound, and sees Segall hitting a sweet patch with regards to his songwriting.  Melted boasts songs so good they could make you start believing all of the wunderkind accolades this guy was getting early on are valid.

I’m not sure if the packed house at the Comet cared whether or not Segall was branching out as a songwriter or not. They mainly cared about getting their PBR’s and rocking out. The bar seemed a little overwhelmed for the thirsty mass of Ty Segall fans on a Monday night, but Segall was more than obliged to provide the jams for the rocking out part.   The set was sprinkled with a couple new songs, some older ones, but mostly concentrated on the new album. He set the bar high early on with the song Imaginary Person. While good on record, this song really shined displaying its huge unabashed pop hooks. Segall looked all California, with his sun bleached Surfer Joe locks and his laid back, rocker attitude. He sweetly dedicated songs to his muses, his home state California and the girl at the merch table, but forcefully delivered the garage jams. The set ended with Caesar, the song from Melted that features piano and Thee Oh Sees’s John Dwyer of going nutty on a flute. There was no piano or flute at the Comet just a killer song with a huge chorus and a room full of sweaty Ty Segall fans wanting more.

mp3: Ty Segall – Imaginary Person (from Melted, destined to be one of the better albums of the year)

Seattle’s own Idle Times opened as a three piece and sported a new drummer.  Leo Gephardt who is usually in the band only stepped out of the crowd and played guitar for one song, leaving Brian Standeford to handle all the guitar and vocals the rest of the time.  This downsizing didn’t seem to alter Idle Times’ ability to rock out. In fact, I think every time I see Idle Times I’m more impressed by them than the last.  To me, their songs evoke Led Zepplin and Bad Company without being too obvious. Their first full length is due soon from Hozac and is something you should keep your eye out for.

Under the Paving Stones, the Beach

As they say in La France: Quelle surprise! The two singles currently on the street from The Liminanas were something of a surprise to me for a couple reasons: It’s not often that you hear a band wrapping Stereolab, Ye-Ye, surf, and a bit o’ that wall of sound thing into a soufflé and; You don’t expect to hear a band like that on Trouble In Mind or Hozac. Both labels are Chicago based and known for their grimey punk singles, not the beaches of the Mediterranean. The band call Perpignan, France their home.  Perpignan is a short drive, or bus ride to the beach, which seems to color the bands music.  The b-side to their Trouble in Mind single evokes sunsets, crashing waves and bonfires.  The a-side would more likely be found in a disco than the beach.  The spoken dialog reminds me of listening to how to speak French tapes, only there’s groove a mile wide that will make you want first Dance and then start speaking French. The perfect hot and cold single.

mp3: The Liminanas – Je Ne Suis Pas Trés Droguee (order your copy from Trouble In Mind)

The second Liminanas single out on Hozac is a little more in line with the Garage/Spector sounds of the day, but no less agreeable.  This time singing in English, the band go for the jugular with Baby I’m Dead, and then switch back to 60’s Ye-Ye style for the b-side.  Trouble In Mind are promising to release the band’s first album later this year.  It will be the first 12 inch from the exclusively 7″ singles label to this point.  A Liminanas album could quite possibly be a genius move for both the Liminanas and Trouble In Mind.  In the meantime, get these two singles and count the days until the album appears.

mp3: The Liminanas – I’m Dead (order your copy from HoZac)

France Has the Bomb

regardez! france has the bomb
Photo from France Has the Bomb’s myspace

France Has the Bomb apparently chose their name because they wanted something that when you heard it, you wouldn’t immediately know what they sound like. It worked. Based on their wasn’t sure what they’d be like, but since they just put out a single on Hozac I had a pretty good idea.   Based in Minneapolis, but with roots in Chicago their sound straddles influences from both of those cities. Their songs have lots of scratchy, jagged guitars and vocals front and center. They’re certainly not trying to hide behind any of that lo-fi distortion du jour.

To date they’ve got two singles, one on Dusty Medical that was released last year and one on Hozac that was put out at the beginning of this year.  Both remind me of the 80’s midwest postpunk scene and bands like Bitch Magnet and Big Black from Chicago and Husker Du from Minneapolis.  The band are working on an album according to their MySpace, no word yet on when and where it will be released.

mp3: France Has the Bomb -Invisible Angle (buy the Hozac Single)

mp3: France Has the Bomb – World of Mirrors (buy the Dusty Medical Single)

D.I.Y.

how to make a record
making-a-record
Back in the early 90’s Simple Machines put a pamphlet that they called the Mechanic’s Guide. It was a how-to guide for putting out a record and starting a record label.  The guide outlined the steps it takes to put out a 7 inch record, cassette and compact disc and covered all the bases from designing the sleeve, to getting the tracks mastered and finally how to sell them.  Back in the day, you used to have to write them to order a copy, now you can click a link and read it for free.  It’s still relevant, and I would bet it still gets read and used as a resource for people starting out.

In the last few years, out of thin air, or more likely sweat and hard work, a bunch of labels have been materializing with a fetish for vinyl and a similar aesthetic for noisy, treble heavy bands that are decidedly lo-fi.  These labels seem to be championing bands that creating a garage revival except the these are bands without garages.  I don’t know if any of the labels have read the Mechanic’s Guide, but their grass roots efforts and limited editions have much in common with what Simple Machines did in their time.  There are a handful of labels at the core of this scene, and it is certainly a scene because these bands and labels seem to switch between each other for releases and even team-up in some cases to make new bands.  There are a number of well established labels that have been putting out records that fit this description like In the Red, Goner and Castle Face, but it seems like a few newer labels have really caught the imagination of a lot of people of late (or at least mine).  At the center of the scene I’m talking about, are HoZac in Chicago, and Woodsist and Captured Tracks in Brooklyn.  A little bit on the periphery are Art Fag and Zoo Music out in San Diego.  Like so many indie labels of the past (Merge, Teenbeat, Dischord, Matador, Creation, Simple Machines to name a few) Woodsist, Captured Tracks and Art Fag are run by music obsessed guys who are also on bands.

Woodsist is handled by Jeremy Earl who is also in bands Woods and Meneguar while Captured Tracks is run by Mike Sniper who records under the Blank Dogs moniker.  Earl’s Woodsist label has grown out of his Fuck It Tapes label which only releases tapes (of course).  Woodsist started back in 2006 and not only release vinyl, but they’re not afraid of putting out a cd either.  The label’s track record is already stellar with released by by Sic Alps, Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls.  He also put out last year’s Wavves record, a Blank Dogs ep, and just released the first 7 inch from Seattle’s Idle Times.  Up next for Woodsist are new albums from the Woods and Meth Teeth, a Psychedelic Horseshit 12 inch from Columbus, Ohio pot-smoking noise rockers and a full length from New Jersey band Real Estate.  Sniper’s Captured Tracks label is much newer, brand new in fact, with release number one and two having just hit the streets.  They’re both four song 12 inch eps, one by Sniper’s own Blank Dogs who get a lot of Joy Division comparisons, but I think they sound a lot more like a warped Tubeway Army,  and the other buy Dum Dum Girls, who are a one woman band based out of Los Angeles sounding a lot the Vivian Girls but with less controversy.  Coming up on Captured Tracks is a single by the Mayfair Set which is a Blank Dogs – Dum Dum Girls team-up and from what I’ve heard of it is definitely more than the sum of it’s parts!  Also look out of singles from the Woods, and San Francisco’s Brilliant Colors.  The Brilliant colors are an all girl three piece that sound a bit 80’s New Zealand and a bit like Life Without Buildings currently have a 7 inch out on Make a Mess a label  run by Nodzzz drummer Eric Butterworth who put out last year’s excellent Nodzzz’ I Don’t Wanna single) .

Moving out of Brooklyn and out to Chicago where HoZac was born out of the Horizontal Action zine that Todd Novak  and Brett Crossout wrote until 2005.   The duo reformatted and resurrected the name into a record label a little over two years ago.  Their label specializes in limited releases of 7 inch records which includes the afore mentioned Blank Dogs as well as Nobunny, France Has the Bomb and the Dutchess and the Duke among many, many others. There limited runs go out of print pretty fast so you gotta jump fast when one hits the street.  The big news earlier this year from HoZac was that they were going to do a singles club which promised records from many of the bands I’ve already mentioned like Idle Times and Dum Dum Girls  as well as Teeth (a Blank Dogs side project) and Box Elders.  The singles club 500 subscriptions is sold out, but you should keep your eyes peeled for the first LP from the Dum Dum Girls and Medication from Connecticut who sound like the Mama’s and the Papas trapped in a cave.

It’s almost overwhelming, the number of releases that these bands and labels have put out and are planning to release, and I haven’t even mentioned a couple new San Diego labels, Art Fag and  Zoo Music.  Zoo Music was the first out of the gate this year with a cd-r ep from the Dum Dum Girls and a killer Jesus and Mary Chain-esque single from San Diego’s and former Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower,  the CrocodilesArt Fag is run by the Crocodiles, but they won’t be allowing themselves to put out their own album.  They’ll be entrusting Fat Possum to do that on 28 April.  Instead, they will be releasing a mighty fine split 7 inch featuring the Pens, Crocodiles, Graffiti Island and Dum Dum Girls as well as a full length from Philadelphia’s Ye Olde Maids. With all of this action going on down here in the underground, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn about a few more labels this year taking the initiative and doing it themselves, economy be damned.
mp3: France Has the Bomb – Invisible Angle (buy it from HoZac)

mp3: Nobunny – Motorhead with Me (buy if from HoZac)

mp3: Mayfair Set – Desert Fun (comming out on Captured Tracks)

mp3: Blank Dogs – Calling Over (buy it from Captured Tracks)

mp3: Wavves – Teenage Super Party (buy it from Woodsist)

mp3: Idle Times – Driving You Sad (buy it from Woodsist)

mp3: The Woods – The Dark (buy it from Captured Tracks)

mp3: Dum Dum Girls – Ship of Love (currently out of print, from Zoo Music, but you can buy her 12″ from Captured Tracks)

mp3: Crocodiles – Neon Jesus (buy it from Zoo Music)

If you live in Seattle, Blank Dogs will be at the Funhouse along with Idle Times and Love Tan on 2 April, and Wavves will be at the same place a few days later on 9 April.