City Yelps a three piece band from Leeds have just released an album called Half Hour. It’s rough around the edges, but like all good punk records its white hot delivery overshadows sound quality. In fact, the band seem to revel in their lo-fi. The liner notes state “City Yelps think they’re these DIY puritans but let me tell you now, you are being conned if you buy this record because they’re just lazy bums and nothing more.”
It’s noisy and rambunctious like Swell Maps and the Beatnick Filmstars, but has a literacy and outsider style that reminds me of Animals that Swim. They make the mundane sound interesting like on We Like the Hours which is about a girl who works nights in a bakery, and 11.99 about going to a theatre and having to sit down to watch a band. Another highlight, Music for Adverts takes some shots at bands that make advert ready music…”making people wish they were dead.” You can hear the spite and spit into the microphone. City Yelps’ Half Hour is the real shit with no polish!
You may remember Brighton’s Slum of Legs from their demo last year. I certainly do! The six piece avant indiepop group have just released their first single on Tuff Enuff records. The record has elements of the Velvet Underground’s Lady Godiva’s Operation and the Fall’s Sing Harpy. Like both of those bands, Slum of Legs ably combine dissonance and melody into a delicious stew. I especially love how they feature the violin in both songs. It gives a cathartic tension and melancholy not often found in strictly guitar, bass and drum bands. Begin to Dissolve slithers and stabs at once. It’s downright Hitchcockian in the way it builds up tension that culminates in a bloodbath of noise at the end. The flip side Razorblade the Tape starts with a warm jangle that morphs into a near-anthem with the huge refrain of the band chanting “I won’t let you get away!” Don’t let this single get away!
Last year Seattle’s Universe People released the very high quality Go To the Sun. Since then Universe leader Jo Claxton has seen her entire rhythm section change. In this new space time continuum Universe People feature drummer Min Yee (Dreamsalon, and A-Frames) and bassist Kimberly Morrisson (Dutchess and the Duke). Their second album is called Universe People Are Coming To the Dance.
Above is the premier of the video for The Modern Girl. It is directed and edited by Claxton and filmed by Kelly Burton who worked with the band on their two previous clips Vampire Prison and Druids. The Modern Girl a clinic in how to do minimal sharp pop right with dissonant elements of early Fall and the Intelligence but with always an eye towards melody. Claxton writes sparse angular songs that will elbow you in the ribs with their sharp riffs, and then continue to keep you off balance with their wry humor. The video is a pin-ball epic in which Claxton attacks Yee and brawls with Morrison. Thankfully they both survive which is more than I can say for former bassist Kellie Payne who was killed in the Vampire Prison video.
Universe People’s second album Are Coming To the Dance is available now digitally on bandcamp. For you vinyl enthusiasts, there are plans for a vinyl version on Dragnet Records later this summer. You can also catch them live next month in Seattle, and Portland.
Protomartyr, Grave Babies, Unnatural Helpers at Black Lodge, Seattle | 20 May 2014
Detroit post punks Protomartyr played the Black Lodge in Seattle Tuesday night. This was their third time in Seattle, but only the first time I had the pleasure of seeing them. After sold out singles and the band’s debut album No Passion All Technique selling out of multiple pressings on Urinal Cake records, the band have followed it up with Under Color of Official Right on Hardly Art. Where Techniques was a lo-fi punk record, the new record keeps the punk attitude and intelligence while adding in better songs and better sound.
Label mates and localites Unnatural Helpers and Grave Babies began the evening’s intensities with two quality if workman-like sets. When the time came for Protomartyr, there was no big entrance or formality for the band, they merely stopped setting up and started rocking. No pomp, no circumstance, just the goods. In Protomartyr’s case the goods are frontman Joe Casey barking over his very good band. The solid rhythm section (besides being really good, drummer Alex Leonard was wearing a Spray Paint shirt) laid down the law which left Casey and guitarist Greg Ahee to fill in the picture with their riffs and rants.
Protomartyr write gutter anthems. They write about the underbelly of society and coming from Detroit they have first hand knowledge of the downtrodden. Detroit and Detroit rock is in their veins. They employ the abrasive qualities of the Stooges, MC5 and Tyvek (Kevin Boyer was the original Protomartyr bassist) while incorporating the likes of the Fall, Girls Against Boys and Nick Cave into their brew. Their first record was recorded on the cheap while their new one has a noticeably better budget. Live they veer toward the budget sound of the first record but that rawness keeps it vital. I like how Casey dresses in a double breasted blazer and a button up shirt but sings like he’s dressed in rags. The juxtaposition catches your attention and you wonder why this mad man is dressed up. Besides looking quite good, Casey is the kind of songwriter that will have you looking stuff up in your encyclopedia. He’s smart, he dresses up and he rocks. I also loved Ahee’s endlessly inventive guitar. Casey gets a lot of attention for his lyrichs, but Ahee’s guitar really took these songs to the next level beyond just another garage band.
Before the show I had heard from numerous people about how Protomartyr were a jaw-droppingly good live band. They did nothing to make me think otherwise. My only complaint would be that Casey’s vocals weren’t as clear as the recorded songs, but that’s what the album is for.
When we last checked in on Seattle’s Dreamsalon, they were calling themselves Evening Meetings. After Erin Sullivan left, the remaining three Min Yee, Craig Chambers and Matthew Ford rechristened their pop noise machine Dreamsalon.
It’s a different name but Dreamsalon’s new album Thirteen Nights is essentially the band’s second album as it is forged in the same post-punk furnace as the Evening Meetings album. Thirteen Nights is tight and intense. The songs are sparse, built around a solid rhythm of Ford’s drumming and Yee’s bass. Chambers fills out the songs by raining sparks sparks down with both his guitar and roughhewn voice.
It’s fairly obvious listening to Dreamsalon that they were influenced by the Fall and the Fall of course are still around and making records, but they don’t make them like this anymore.
You might not know this, but seattle is home to a significant number of extra terrestrials. How did they get here? Who knows? What are they doing here? That is a question I can partly answer. Three of them materialized at the Rendezvous in Belltown a couple months ago in the form of a band Universe People. Apparently earth’s Scientist have been beaming songs from the Fall, Wire, and Dolly Mixture into space in the hope of attracting cool alien types instead of the typical maniacal ones. Finally our tax dollars put to good use. Like all respectable aliens this trio were disguised as humans so as not to alarm us. The drummer took human male form and looked uncannily like Dave Ramm of Wimps, Pulses & the Intelligence (these universe people had obviously done some thorough research). The remaining two took human female form and went by Jo and Kel. Jo played guitar and sang, was also formerly in the Intelligence (beginning to wonder who hasn’t been) and spoke with an Australian accent while Kel played a huge bass that looked like one would need super alien strength to wield it.
That night at the Rendezvous was either love at first sight or their mind control rays got me. Where had Universe People been hiding out? Actually they hadn’t been hiding out, they’ve only been a band for about a year. They’ve got an album’s worth of white hot songs in the can and are currently waiting for just the right time to unleash them and begin their full on alien invasion and world domination.
Les Cox (Sportifs) don’t sound like they just released an album last week. They sound like they could have been born in the late 70’s post punk scene. Their dissident noise accented by choppy rhythms, minimal crunchy guitar and Christopher Rollen’s heavy accent makes me believe that they are the rightful heirs to the stolen chalice of arty lo-fi art school pop that Yummy Fur snagged from the Fall, Fire Engines and the first Modern Lovers record.
Scheiß Mit Reis is the first full length album from the Newcastle, UK band. It follows an eight song ep that came out two years ago on Stop Looking and a 7″ single last year on Clunk Click. Each release has seen the band progress. Last year’s Total Straightness single was ace, especially the A-side The Hand and the Heep and Scheiß Mit Reis sees the band continuing with a full head of steam. The Cox (can I say that?) can get downright silly with songs like God Vor Domma and the title track. The former sees them employ Adam Sandler accents to somewhat amusing effect while the latter ends with the punch line: But I don’t like rice!. Then there is the song C.O.A.S.T.A.L.M.O.T.H.E.R.F.U.C.K.E.R which in some alternate reality is the hit of the summer with kids blasting it out of their parent’s minivans as they wait for the red light to change as Les Cox spell it out.
It isn’t all shits and giggles with these smarmy art school boys. John E Millais is a story song about the English painter reminiscent of Johnny Horton and Dead Beat Formula deconstructs, dismantles, and kills rock n’ roll and then realizes that all that isn’t quite necessary as Bo Diddley shows them the light. Mixing Up the Cordite is an anti-war and anti-establisment song commenting on the current and past geopolitical ignorance of the masses that enable governments to wage wars in far off places to general apathy with lines like Well I hear there’s a war on in a country I don’t know, and Well, I couldn’t care less who wins the war. The songs are played in a rudimentary minimalistic way and if you don’t pay close attention you could easily assume that it’s one goofy art school joke after the next, but scratch the surface and it becomes much more. It’s only the middle of the year, but I can safely say Scheiß Mit Reis will be in my year end top ten.