Everybody’s Happy Nowadays

Jacuzzi Boys, TV Ghost & Love Tan at the Funhouse, Seattle | 7 October 2011

The second album from Miami, F-L-A’s Jacuzzi Boys is one of those records that demonstrates a band taking a giant leap from their previous record. Their first album No Seasons which came out Florida’s Dying back in 2009 was kind of all over the place. I mean that in a good way because the places that it was coming from were good places to originate. It just didn’t have a cohesiveness to it. It seemed like they knew what sounded good, but hadn’t yet gotten the three minute pop song thing down yet.
Sometime in between screws were tightened, chops were honed, and Buzzcocks albums were studied. Glazin’ is a record that owes much to that Manchester punk band whether it knows it or not. Singer and guitarist Gabriel Alcala even sounds like Pete Shelley, and their short sharp shards cut right to your skull’s pleasure center just like Singles Going Steady still does.

Their set last night at the Funhouse was blistering and glazin’. Right from the start people were slamming and jamming. The Funhouse is a punk rock dive bar, but more often than not people don’t seem to treat it that way. Last night they did, and it wasn’t just guys. The pit was half girls rocking out to the band. Adhering to rule number 10 in Robert Forsters‘ 10 Rules of Rock and Roll: “The three-piece band is the purest form of rock and roll expression”, the Jacuzzi Boys were tight making every song cut to the quick. Friday night they were real life proof that executed properly rule number 10 is no lie. There ain’t no studio trickery behind the curtain on Glazin’. These guys are the real deal. Alcala has a funny Ramones/Comic book guy persona where he has something weird he says after each song. Nothing hilarious, just weird-isms that make it obvious that this guys is operating at a different frequency than the rest of us. I hope the Jacuzzi Boys keep it tuned to that frequency because they are dialing in something special. Go see ’em if they’re in your town.

mp3: Jacuzzi Boys – Automatic Jail

mp3: Jacuzzi Boys – Cool Vapors

If you haven’t got their new album yet, Hardly Art has it for sale.

Lafayette, Indiana’s TV Ghost got revved up everyone into a stupor with their unhinged Cramps/Scientists/Birthday Party cave stomp. Singer Tim Gick with his Gene Vincent hairdo has this thing where he rolls his eyes back when he sings making himself look possessed by some demon or other. He also displays uncanny cat-like balance. He has the ability to concoct his lanky frame in ways that most humans would fall flat on their backs trying. I found myself transfixed with these abilities and sometimes forgot about the music wondering how he was defying gravity. Eventually gravity did get him when he careened into the drum set, but that only happened once. It obviously took a lot out of him, because after their set he crouched in a corner, exhausted trying to recover.

mp3: TV Ghost – Doppleganger (from Mass Dream)

Seattle’s Love Tan preceded TV Ghost. It had been a while since I’d seen them, but they have gotten better. I recognized a lot of the songs from their album Miscellaneous Night Feelings which came out a few years ago. The songs seemed to have had time to gel or they’ve just had more time to practice. In any case, their set left me hoping that there’s more to come from them.

Sing Sang Sung

Another one from Seattle: Le Sang Song is the low key solo vehicle of Craig Chambers who is also in the Lights (new album from them due out latter this month) and Love Tan. Apparently the record has been in the can for a couple years gathering dust. Min Yee of the A-Frames and AFCGT decided it was too good to not get released so he resurrected Dragnet Records to put out the record.

Recorded on Eric Blood’s old 8-track, the album is sparse and claustrophobic at the same time. The songs have a folk influence to them, but the big echoing drums,  and space in the recordings give the songs a tense feel.  Chambers is economical with his guitar, to great effect.  He seems to conjure a good groove in every song, not one you can really dance to necessarily, more of a hypnotic groove.  I think my two favorite songs on the album are the first and the last ones.  Gingerella starts the record off with a catchy riff that is then overlayed with a slithery lead part that quickly disappears when Chambers starts singing from what sounds like deep below the earth’s surface through some long hollow tube.  Aloha, the final song begins with a bass riff that sounds like it was lifted from Curtis Mayfield‘s Superfly, adds in some weird keyboards and guitar and then proceeds to groove over four blissed out minutes with Chambers singing over that skeletal structure about remembering swimsuits on sunny days.  The song and the record itself is not one designed to get you through the bleakness of winter, as much as one that feels your pain.

mp3: Le Sang Song – Gingerella (from s/t album 0n Dragnet 660 copies pressed)

mp3: Le Sang Song – Aloha (from s/t album 0n Dragnet – 660 copies pressed)

Blank Dogs at the Funhouse

Blank Dogs, Naked on the Vague, Love Tan, Idle Times at the Funhouse, Seattle | 2 April 2009
blank dogs funhouse seattle

This was easily the most packed I’ve ever seen the Funhouse.  I arrived around 10 o’clock for the last part of Idle Times opening set and there was already a crowd around the stage.  The combination of two really good Seattle bands as openers and highly prolific and getting better with each release Blank Dogs from Brooklyn as headliners was a pretty good reason to be at the Funhouse on Thursday night.  I saw Idle Times back in December at the Sunset and liked them, but they sounded much better this night.  The guitars sounded bigger and they just seemed more confident as a band.  The live version of Idle Times is bigger than the recorded one.  Instead of  just Brian Idle you get a full band which means the songs just sound bigger.  The guitar riffs become more accented, giving them a more Dinosaur Jr. feel.

Love Tan are the project of the Lights’ Craig Chambers and former Intelligence drummer Matthew Ford.  Armed with the ever popular combination of guitar and drums, on paper these guys may seem like minimalists, but they are fully capable of rocking. Their stage personas come off as kind of smart-ass with Ford renaming all their songs to include skull in their titles and Chambers with a mischievous look  that reminds me of the bully Scott Farkus in A Christmas Story.  These guys clearly are playing without a rock rule book.   Their knob twiddling jam Dissolve where Chambers screechy, piercing sounds without actually playing his guitar was killer and the highlight of the set for me with their most pop-like song This Land is No Good coming in a close second.

mp3: Love Tan – Ex (from Misc. Night Feelings, buy it)

Blank Dogs were on tour with Naked on the Vague who are from Australia.  I had checked out the Vague’s myspace a couple days before the gig and thought they sounded like industrial music, literally.  Not the Sisters of Mercy, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry gothic style that Blank Dogs are fond of, but the clanging, and pounding dissonance of a factory.  Live, they were no different deconstructing songs to their most basic noise elements.  To quote Bob and Doug McKenzie from Strange Brew, Beauty sound, but not my style of music.  Blank Dogs, with a few minor quips,  did not disappoint.  Mike Sniper, who is Blank Dogs on record brought along a full band including a keyboard setup that looked like medical machine in an intensive care unit with knobs and wires sticking out everywhere.  The band were in no need of life support ripping through a ten song set with hardly a pause.  Sniper’s vocals were pretty much indecipherable, partly because there was so much reverb and partly because the everything else was so loud.  He left most of the lead guitar work to  the other guitarist who’s leads seemed to pierce through the industrial haze of the rest of the band.  My two complaints were that one song didn’t sound much different from the next, and that you could barely hear the drums.  On record Sniper seems to be stretching out a bit with his latest Captured Tracks EP putting a emphasis on more clarity and melody.  Live, he hasn’t quite gotten there yet, though his band does pack quite a wallop.

mp3: Blank Dogs – The Tied (from Seconds, buy it)

Bringing the Noise

Thee Oh Sees and the Intelligence at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 9 October 2008

Not having seen Thee Oh Sees or the Intelligencebefore I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Well I sorta new what to expect, lots of white noise drenched pop songs.  The Intelligence’s new album Deuteronomy is leaps and bounds ahead of their previous two with clearer production and better songs, but the band stick with their noisy punk rock roots only delivering them more effectively.  The Oh Sees new album, the lengthy titled The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In is sonic trip drenched in loads of echo and reverb with songs that are part Brian Jonestown Masacre, part Raveonettes and but mostly Cramps.

So when I saw two drum sets being set up for what I thought was to be Intelligence I was intrigued.  In my world, two drummers is almost always a cool thing.  Then I saw John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees setting up his amps and tuning his twelve string guitar so I figured that the schedule had been switched up to let the hometown Intelligence headline.  Then I saw Lars Finberg of the Intelligence on the other side of the stage with his twelve string.  Not knowing what to think at this point, I figured that since these two guys are friends and their bands having just put out a split 12″ (on mtn st mtnand it’s sold out already), that Dwyer was maybe going to play with Intelligence for their set.  I was totally wrong, and actually a little confused when both Thee Oh Sees and Intelligence bounded on the tiny Sunset Tavern stage.  What exactly did Thee Oh Sees and the Intelligence have in store? 

With Thee Oh Sees on the A-side and Intelligence on the B-side, the bands ended up playing the entire show like the split release they just put out.   Thee Oh Sees would do a song and then the Intelligence’s, and that’s how it went for the whole set back and forth with various members of each band joining in the other’s song here and there.  At one point after Thee Oh Sees one of their songs, Finberg says, I hope you liked that song and then the Intelligence proceed to play the same song.  That song, Block of Ice, was written by Dwyer and is on both Thee Oh Sees record as the new Intelligence record.  You might think delivering a set like this would feel a little disjointed, but these two bands have such similar sounds that it really worked.  First there are the obvious similarities like Dwyer and Finberg’s twelve string guitars and apparent disdain for the bass guitar.  Both bass players (I shouldn’t call them that, they were really guitarists)  were playing bass lines on regular guitars.  Though they do have a similar sound aesthetic, the bands are easily distinguishable from one another.  Thee Oh Sees have with their Cramps fetish and psychedelic garage rockabilly tempered with sunny west coast melodies courtesy Brigid Dawson. The Intelligence verge more towards a Dragnet and Grotesque era Fallschool of angular garage rock with a heavy dose the weirdness exhibited Ohio noiseniks Braniac.  Both bands looked like they were having a blast doing their ping pong set.  Dwyer was always making weird facial expressions, and manhandling his guitar with Chuck Berry poses.  Finberg, when he sings has this infectious grin his face that belies the artiness of their sound. There was also some lite hearted jabbing at one another with Finberg flipping his guitar over displaying the words ‘Fuck You’ and gesturing at Thee Oh Sees.   The double decker set really worked, with the Sunset crowd totally digging both bands, cheering them on as if they were in a race.

I got there early enough to catch the openers.  The first band was Love Tan which is another project of Craig Chambers of the Lights. Love Tan is Chambers on guitar and vocals accompanied by drummer Matthew Ford who use to be in the Intelligence. It was a perfect fit for this treble heavy bill. Also caught Ty Segal who is a one man band from San Francisco.  He played drums, guitar and sang all at once. I’m amazed by anyone that can do two things at once, Ty can do at least three.

mp3: Thee Oh Sees – Block of Ice (from The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night)

mp3: The Intelligence – Block of Ice (from Deuteronomy)

mp3: The Intelligence – Moon Beams (also from Deuteronomy)