SmartGuy records, the ones who brought you singles by Total Control, the Boomgates and Rat Columns have a new single. Leon Stackpole of Ooga Booga‘s fame using just plain old Leon has just released a four song 7-inch.
The Ooga Booga’s were some weird combination of garage, kraut and disco, but here Leon strikes out down a more pastoral introspective road. Where the Ooga Booga’s sounded like a party band, Leon’s new four song EP is like the comedown. He gets some help on guitar from Ooga Booga’s cohort Mickey Young. All four songs have a Velvet Underground feel to them. Angry Again is dissonant VU, Sentimental Stranger is the sleepy Sunday morning country VU and Eat Sleep and Spy is the pop single buried in the rough. Quality stuff!
So you’re perusing the internet and you come across something about a band that is made up of members of Total Control, UV Race, East Link and Dick Diver. What do you do? Try not to get too excited, right? Why haven’t you heard of this band before? Have you had your coffee yet today? Do you take sugar?
Well the the first thing I would tell you is that there is nothing obvious about Russell St. Bombings. If you’re looking for the next great unheard pop record from down under then you are looking under the wrong rock. This is an intentionally difficult record. It’s something that probably started as jam between friends and then because it had a few elements that were intriguing it continued.
Hey lets go get some beer and noodle around. A studio costs too much, so lets record ourselves with our phones. What’s the flight time from Perth to Manila? Let’s use odd tunings and make the songs run together. Have you ever recorded a guitar solo in an airplane toilet?
The Clean were known to go off on tangents like this and they called those records Oddities. Today I was scraping moss from the steps in the back when out popped a somewhat large wormlike creature. Pop songs squirm out of the cracks unexpectedly, and then they burrow back down into the dirt just as quickly. If Syd Barret would have conducted symphonies I think this is what it may have sounded like on the even days.
Oddly I find myself listening to this a lot more than I ever would have thought. Sometimes it feels good to listen to music that isn’t obvious. It’s exciting because you don’t know where it’s going and it’s exciting because you get the feeling that the band don’t exactly know where it’s going either. Where are you going?
When we last checked in with Rat Columns they had just released their debut 7″ single and were (mostly) a one man band. The band, now officially a three piece, have just unfurled their first long player Sceptre Hole. The band is now based in San Francisco, though guitarist/singer David West began Rat Columns in Perth, Australia. Geography seems to be irrelevant though, because Rat Columns do not not sound like they adhere to any scene or current musical trend in that city or any other.
Eastern Vibrations starts the record off on a four minute dissonant excursion making you wonder what you’re in for. Then they go all noise pop on you with Death Is Leaving Me and you start to get the idea that you are in for a roller coaster ride of a record. The way they mingle short instrumentals and sounds between songs reminds me of the Pale Saints album The Comforts of Madness, and the sound aesthetic employed is very similar to the noise/dream pop of the Pale Saints first record. Rat Coluns are a pop band, but not an obvious one. At the end of side one they deliver the instrumental Spectre in the Wall which is so high quality that it will have you reaching to hear Simple Minds‘ Themes from Great Cities. Then on side two they start to show some of their Clean and 18th Dye leanings that were so evident on that first single on the songs Ashes Of a Rose, Frozen Over and Summer Thighs.
Scepter Hole is not a record that is immediately obvious, but it is one that continues to reveal itself the more you listen to it. It jangles, it drones, it weirds out, it keeps you off balance, while pulling you into its world and not letting go. It might seem experimental and somewhat dense at first, but its many facets and pleasures reveal themselves the more you listen to it. Not a record that will ever be flavor of the month, but more like one that you pull out to listen to year after year.
Rat Columns is a one man pop project from Perth, Australia. The one man David West no longer lives there. He’s since relocated to San Francisco, USA. Earlier this year Frisco’s Ros Records put out a Rat Columns Cassette and now the highlights of that cassette have been released on a 7-inch on another San Francisco label SmartGuy Records.
Even though West is now living in the US, Rat Columns sound decidedly down under. Both the Clean and the Moles are good points of reference. I Wonder, and Darkness have dark pop essence to them. Catchy yet moody, verging on goth. The other two songs Keep Waiting and Glass Coffin come from a more experimental and weirder realm. The former drones with screeching guitars while the latter sounds like he’s been listening to John Cage records. West is also in Rank/Xerox who have just released their debut album on another SF label Make a Mess. He seems like he is a restless guy, trying different styles of music on like jackets. They all seem to fit quite well, but I’m more partial to his more straightforward side on which this SmartGuy single focuses.