Cheatahs on the Last Train to the Freak Scene

Cheatahs at the Tractor, Seattle | 23 February


There was a shoegazing dilemma this past Sunday night in Seattle for those of us with a penchant for music made using loads of guitar effects pedals. Option A was for the hot and cool brand of noisy tremolo pop of Austin’s Ringo Deathstarr at El Corazon, and the B option was London based grungy flannel clad gaze of Cheatahs over at the Tractor? Having already seen Ringo Deathstarr a few times I went for option B.

Cheatahs come from London, but the four guys in the band are from Canada, Germany, the US and the UK. Their debut self-titled album is just out on Witchita and follows up the Extended Plays record from last year that compiled their first couple EP’s. There are obvious similarities to Swervedriver in the same way that back in the 90’s Gene looked to the Smiths for inspiration. Like was the case with Gene, I’m sure that Cheatahs have their detractors for sounding too derivative, but when you’ve got the songs to back up your boast of sound it goes a long way in quieting any detractors. As loud as they are with their feet on the pedals they drown out the babble anyway. Beyond Swervedriver and some Dinosaur Jr, you can hear Teenage Fanclub and early Buffalo Tom. I’m not going to kid you, these guys are full on 90’s revivalists, but they make it fun and throw in some switch-ups to keep it interesting.

The show itself was a blast. It felt like I was at a Dino Jr or Swervedriver show 20 years ago. The two guitar players Nathan Hewitt and James Wignall slashed and dove around on stage and dialed up nebulous waves of feedback on every song. Fall may have been the highlight of the night with its My Bloody Valentine-like guitar refrain, but really every song was blisteringly good. Northern Exposure, Cut the Grass and Mission Creep were nothing to sneeze at either. All the songs revved at optimal RPM and at one point I pinched myself to make sure it was real. Realness was confirmed as I walked out of the Tractor with my ears ringing.

Cheatahs Album

stream: Cheatahs – Fall (from Cheatahs out now on Witchita)

These are the remaining US tour dates for Cheatahs:

27 Feb,  Los Angeles    Echo
01 Mar,  San Francisco     Brick & Mortar Music Hall
01 Mar,  San Francisco     Amoeba Records
04 Mar,  Brooklyn, NY     Baby’s All Right
05 Mar,  Philadelphia     Boot & Saddle
06 Mar,  Washington     U Street Music Hall

Swervedriver Scawl and Scream Again


Swervedriver got back together five years ago for touring purposes but like many bands that reform they toured on the strength of their heyday not releasing anything new for the occasion. Now five years on from their reunion they have just released their first new song in 15 years. The obvious question about these sorts of things is always  should they have bothered?

Yes. A first glance at the cover and you notice that it slightly reminds you of the covers of their early EP’s like Son Of Mustang Ford and Sandblasted. So they obviously haven’t lost their knack for choosing an eye-catching cover.  The song Deep Wound seems to pick up where one of their best singles Last Day On Earth left off. The lazy scrawl and scream of the signature Swervedriver guitars are certainly there and Adam Franklin’s singing sounds like he hasn’t aged a day since Ejector Seat Reservation came out back in 1995.

Dub Wound the second track on the virtual single is a spacier and yes a dub version of Deep Wound.  Just as good as the guitar version I think, but you don’t have to decide because they come together.

This apparently isn’t akin to the Pixies one off Bam Thwok, Swervedriver say, according to their facebook page, that they plan to release an album sometime in 2014. Welcome back again guys.

stream: Swervedriver – Deep Wound

The College of Ruptured Ear Drums


This week I was blasted out my post turkey malaise while listening to Chromewaves Radio. Out of my cheap earbuds came some of the best possessed white noise I’ve heard in ages. Kent State, not the Ohio one but the Los Angeles one hit a sweet spot that is somewhere in the red and poking its bony elbows into Sonic Youth, Swervedriver, Boyracer and Times New Viking territory.

Earlier this year the band released The Wrong Side of History which collects all of their cassette only releases onto a single slab of vinyl. The album is also up on their bandcamp site as a free/pay what you like download. Yes, to some noise annoys, but Kent State can deftly bury a melody just beneath their squall or stash a bass line somewhere deep under their maelstrom and make you feel like you’re floating on a bed of spikes just above the fray. Bleeding ears never felt so good.

stream: Kent State – Spahn Ranch (from The Wrong Side of History)

Legal In Two States, But Not In Canada


At first I thought Weed were grunge. Maybe I thought it because they’re from the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver, BC to be precise, and their guitars rain torrents down on you. Their singer can also let loose with a monster scream, but also sound like he really means it…but not too much. You know, the cool kind of caring, emphatic but disaffected.

Then I thought better about the grunge thing, not knowing if they owned flannels or could grow facial hair in large amounts and they looked too young to have lived through the 90’s or if they did they don’t remember it. Yes on second thought,  Weed aren’t really grunge, they’re more noisy slacker rock with a bit of 90’s shoegaze. like Dino Jr and Swervedriver with a little bit of Sugar. Who knows, if they existed back in the day they may have been offered a huge major label deal because they kinda sound grunge, and many bands were signed for lesser reasons.

As it is in these times, nobody signs to major labels especially a bunch of noisy popsters scraping the sky and tunneling the depths of rock with a great record like this.

You can stream Weed’s debut album Deserve in its entirety at the band’s bandcamp page.

stream: Weed – Gun Shy (from Deserve out on Couple Skate Records)

Catch Weed live on the West Coast.

NOV 7 – Vancouver BC: Em Carr Parking w/ Cindy Lee, Kiss Painting
NOV 8 – Seattle WA: Heartland w/ Vats, Thee Samedi
NOV 9 – Portland OR: Recess Gallery w/ Hausu
NOV 10 – Eugene OR: Bonaroo Tattoo w/ Martian Manhunter
NOV 11 – San Francisco CA: Vacation w/ Permanent Collection
NOV 12 – Los Angeles CA: Almost Holden Gallery w/ Gangrene Gang, Mutant City
NOV 13 – Temecula CA: The Dial w/ Crisis Arm, Underpass
NOV 14 – Tuscon AZ: Topaz w/ Prom Body
NOV 15 – Las Vegas NV: Hellpop!
NOV 16 – Stockton CA: D Thrift Store w/ Surf Club, Monster Treasure, Satan Wriders
NOV 17 – Olympia WA: Old School Pizzeria w/ Naomi Punk, Broken Water, Vexx

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)

Swervedriver: The Sequel

Swervedriver at Neumo’s, Seattle | 26 May 2008

Depending on you perspective, ten years is either a long time or a merely a blip. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since Swervedriver hung it up after the release of their fourth album 99th Dream. Although it’s been ten years I certainly don’t remember this many people packing into see them back in DC at the Black Cat or 9:30. Neumo’s last night was full of Swervedriver faithful, packing the main floor, pumped up and excited. Yelling out for their favorite songs, and pretty much just yelling and cheering for every song. Between songs there were constant shouts for songs, one woman in front of me yelled, ‘Just play everything!’ They didn’t play everything, but the set left no one disappointed, pulling from all four albums as well as a few surprise b-sides like The Hitcher and Planes over the Skyline.

Filing on stage to the sounds of the instrumental interlude at the end of Ejector Seat Reservation, and bringing down the gauntlet right off the bat with For Seeking Heat and then into Sandblasted. They didn’t let up either, barely pausing between songs for a thank you, Adam Franklin was a man of few words, though none were needed when you’ve got songs that Swervedriver have. The band just seem to exude an effortless cool, but you could tell they were having a good time playing these songs. Franklin’s laid back hazy croon hasn’t changed a bit and it was great to hear it front and center, just about perfectly mixed over the onslaught of guitars. Drummer Jez counted off the songs with the angst and energy the they deserve, bassist Steve George was mouthing the words even to the parts where he wasn’t singing backing vocals, and guitarist Jimmy Hartridge handled his Gibson guitar and myriad of pedals with ease and playing off of Franklin’s guitar that makes it seem like they’re connected telepathically. They seemed to really kick into sixth gear near the end of the set with Rave Down and then returning for an encore of the spacey The Hitcher and then ending the night with two more from their first album Raise, Son of Mustang Ford and Deep Seat. If I could change anything about the set, I would have asked for a few more songs from Ejector Seat, but really any Swervedriver set list would not have disappointed me. This band has not lost a single thing in their ten years off, really the only thing that was different or missing was Franklin’s dreads.

First two songs obscured: For Seeking Heat, Sandblasted
Encore: The Hitcher, Son of Mustang Ford, Deep Seat

Go see them if they’re anywhere near you:
May 27 Wonder Ballroom Portland OR
May 29 The Fillmore San Francisco CA
May 30 Casbah San Diego CA
May 31 Henry Fonda Theatre Los Angeles CA
Jun 3 Emo’s Alternative Lounging Austin TX
Jun 4 One Eyed Jacks New Orleans LA
Jun 5 The Masquerade Atlanta GA
Jun 6 Cat’s Cradle Carrboro NC
Jun 7 Theatre of Living Arts Philadelphia PA
Jun 8 930 Club Washington DC
Jun 10 Paradise Boston MA
Jun 11 Bowery Ballroom New York NY
Jun 12 Music Hall of Williamsburg Brooklyn NY
Jun 13 Lees Palace Toronto ON
Jun 14 Metro Chicago IL

More photos from the show over at my flickr.

Anglophiles Don’t Despaire

For those of us that were less than enamored with the Sasquatch festival this year there is some consolation this week here in Seattle. I thought that the Sasquatch line up was less than imaginative, I know that it’s a NW festival, but I just didn’t have much motivation to make the drive over the mountains to the Columbia River Gorge to see a bunch of bands that play here on a regular basis. With hardly any bands from outside the US , and heavy on the Seattle scene, it just didn’t feel like it was living up to the big event that it’s supposed to be. It’s not like there weren’t a bunch of UK bands on tour that could have played Sasquatch as is evidenced by this week’s line up of bands coming through Seattle. Not that I’m complaining, now I don’t have to drive a few hours to see some bands I like, only a few minutes. Hey this is a carbon neutral blog don’t you know!

Starting off the week with a bang, tomorrow sees the reunited Swervedriver at Neumo’s. They don’t have a new album, so they’ll be playing all of the classics like Duel, Last Train to Satansville, Rave Down, Kill the Superheroes, and the Other Jesus. Seattle doesn’t get My Bloody Valentine, but this is a pretty good consolation.
mp3: Swervedriver – Duel (from Mezcal Head)

On Wednesday, Sheffield’s Long Blondes are at Neumo’s. While I’m not as enthusiastic about their new more electronic, Abba-esque second album Couples as I was about their first more angular guitar driven Someone to Drive You Home, I’m still looking forward to seeing Kate Jackson and band strut their stuff.
mp3: Long Blondes – Guilt (from Couples)

Friday the Foals are in town. Earlier this year the Foals put on a pretty kick-ass (free) show at the smaller Chop Suey. They’re back this time at Neumos. The Foals album is quite good and even though a lot of their songs sound similar, it’s a good song.
mp3: Foals – Mathletics (from Antidotes)

Competing with the Foals this Friday is one Peter Murphy over at El Corazon. Yeah, he’s best known for being the singer of Bauhaus, but he’s had a respectable solo career as well. I think Deep is my favorite Peter Murphy album, but who knows he could even throw in a Bauhaus song. Plus it gives you an excuse to bust out those old goth clothes and make-up that have been gathering cobwebs in your closet.
mp3: Peter Murphy – Shy (from Deep)

Finally, Saturday sees Welsh band Los Campesinos over at Neumo’s (Are you beginnig to see a pattern here, hint, Neumos?). Their rammshackle, hyper, everything and the kitchen sink songs are bound to put you in a party it up mood. If for no other reason show up to hear You! Me! Dancing!
mp3: Los Campesinos – You!Me!Dancing! (from Hold on Now, Youngster…)

Stuff Going On (or Swervedriver Swallow Noir Heart)

SwervedriverUp to now there were only 5 dates for the Swervedriver reunion tour. Well, now there are six. The regrouped band bring their juggernaut into town at Neumo’s on 26 May. I saw Swervedriver a few times back in the day and they never failed to bring it. I’ll be there with my Swervedriver t-shirt on (that’s lame I know, but that’s how excited I am about this show).

mp3: Swervedriver – Chateau In Virgina Waters (Mark Bolan/Tyrannosaurus Rex Cover)

NoirBarsuk has put up an mp3 from the upcoming second album from Jim Noir. The eponymous album hits stores on 8 April. I was a fan of 2005’s bedroom psychelia Tower of Love, and this new song is a good omen for the new record. So no Mr. Noir, I’m not worried.

mp3: Jim Noir – Don’t You Worry (Barsuk)

photo by Lucy Davies

Fans of the late Monkey Swallows the Universe will be heartened to know that main Monkey Nat Johnson has posted a bunch of new demos to her myspace page. You may remember that MSTU went on indefinite hiatus last year after releasing the wonderful Casket Letters. Listening to these demos, it’s like they never broke up. Here’s me looking forward to a Nat Johnson solo album. Check her myspace for more songs and dates for her UK gigs throughout April.

mp3: Nat Johnson – Heart of Clay(demo)

Pains of being a 7″ recordYou’ve probably heard about the new Curt Cobain Converse sneakers. But have you heard about Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan? It’s the A-side of a split single that excellent NYC band the Pains of Being Pure at Heart share with The Parallelograms. It’s limited to 300 copies, and with a song as catchy as the Pains of Being Pure at Heart have written, I’m betting that thing will sell out.

mp3: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan (Atomic Beat Records)