Photo by Owen Richards
Wouldn’t ya know it, one of the better records of the year comes out by a band that’s already broken up. Punk trio Feature released their debut LP Banishing Ritual last month, but have already moved on. Too bad, because, this group has attitude and style combining elements of Brilliant Colors and early Lush and the Ramones into and undeniable punk melange. The lead off track Psalms grabs your attention immediately with its Lush meets Ramones riff and harmonies. The highlight of the record is Schedules Align which starts with a killer riff and features a monotone melody made infamous by OG punks Wire. Like most great records, Feature’s debuts molds its influences into something that sounds at once familiar and new and exciting.
I wonder if anyone could convince Sauna Youth‘s Jen Calleja, Slow Coaches‘ Heather Perkins and Liv Willars to get back together and make another record? Maybe selling a couple hundred thousand of their debut long player would do it. I bought one so the rest of you 199,000 get on it and do your duty.
Vinyl available from Upset the Rhythm and download/stream from bandcamp.
The cover for the Hanging Valley, the second album from Brighton band Cold Pumas, looks like it is inspired by Salvador Dali. If you caught a glance of it in a record store or on line you might think that it was made by a group with prog rock tendencies and a penchant for mind altering substances. That take wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but if you were hoping for flutes and butterflies you might be in for a surprise. Long narrow shadowed bathtubs pink soap and odd falling vases aside, the Hanging Valley is a study in what happens when you start with angular post punk that gets co-opted by a motorik groove and then sometimes is doused with some ethereal washes of guitars.
LP number two is a decidedly stronger record with better songs and more varied sound. The band are clicking on this record and deftly pummel you with songs like Fugue States, the Slump and Slippery Slopes and then turn around an caress on A Change of Course and The Shaping of the Dream. Like the best post-punk records the Hanging Valley has intensity about it that nearly overwhelms, but pulls back when it’s just at the brink.
Full of buzzing noisy guitars that trace their lineage back through a jagged line connected by th’ Faith Healers, Pixies and Wire, Wichting Waves second album Crystal Cafe is sure to of interest for folks who like noise rock with gashes of melody and ambient interludes. The band have professed a love of Sleater-Kinney, Dischord Records and Beat Happening and there is certainly a DIY aesthetic to their music. It’s raw sounding but their talent shines and rounds a lot of the rougher edges. Opener Twister features a swirling riff and Emma Wigham singing. Seeing Double switches to Mark Jasper singing /shouting. Back and forth it goes at a herky-jerky pace with a couple instrumental interludes that give you some time take stock and reflect right in the middle of the maelstrom.
If Kurt Cobain were still alive I could see him championing Witching Waves either by sporting a WW t-shirt or mentioning them in passing during an interview. As it is, they’ll have to rely on a few blogs and the digital underground to pass the word on about how great this is.
Crystal Cafe is out on HHBTM in the US and Soft Power in the UK.
Versing blasted their way into my life early last summer at the Sunset in Ballard. Their Wire meets Pavement, meets Number One Cup meets Seam meets Swell Maps elixir is a combination often tried but rarely done well enough to actually contribute to the plot line. Right out of the gate Versing have written a new chapter to the story. Protagonists in their story include jagged guitars rumbling bass and choruses that have you hoping for a quick sequel. Nude Descending is their seven song debut EP that blazes a trail through the boredom inducing clutter of today’s new bands who just merely play music.
Download the EP at Versing’s Bandcamp or get the vinyl from Youth Riot Records.
You might remember San Francisco band Pow!‘s album Hi-Tech Boom from two years ago. It was a punk filled diatribe against zombie tech workers taking over their city. In the two years since, the zombie tech worker cancer has moved up the coast to Portland (and Seattle). The nouveau riche are clogging up the city’s’ arteries, causing the cost of everything to go up, encouraging developers to come into neighborhoods and level older cheaper housing to build shiny new, and more expensive housing. Neighborhoods that once were quirky, weird and cool become bland and boring. Where once there was a record store now stands a bank. where there was a fun dive bar or DIY space now stand condominiums and high end furniture stores with on the ground floor.
Like their bay area brethern Portland’s Woolen Men aren’t going take it sitting down. Their new album Temporary Monument is about the experience of their city changing into something that they no longer recognize and don’t much like. On the album’s opening song Clean Dreams they’re choked by the dust of high-rise pits being dug, crowded out and feeling alienated in a city they see changing for the bad before their eyes. The feeling of alienation in their hometown continues on songs Alien City, Life in Hell, Hard Revision and the title track.
Musically, Woolen Men continue on the same trajectory of jangly and jagged guitar riffs inspired by the Clean, the Minutemen, dB’s and Wire. All three members write, sing and play guitar which lends a diversity to the album. Mostly the songs veer toward high energy rage, but they can dial it back and sound pretty like on Walking Out and After the Flood which is so introspective and sad it sounds like it could have been REM‘s Automatic for the People.
If this were just a record railing against the mallification of urban cores it might grate at your nerves over a full album, but Woolen Men take you through the full seven step grieving process with a deftness and ingenuity that could if directed in the right way could create an insulated pocket of creative utopia.
Woolen Men’s Temporary Monument is out now on Woodsist.
So at this point it’s looking like Protomarty‘s Under Color of Official Light is the record to beat this year. But, hold on a minute, coming up fast on the outside lane is Pittsburgh’s Gotobeds with their debut album Poor People are Revolting. Just by their name and the album title you know the band have a sense of humor and relish double meanings and have some smarts. You may be scratching your head wondering if it’s pronounced like Robert Gotobed or got to bed? Do the band hate poor people or are they trying to incite a riot? The Gotobeds seem to have an irreverent sense humor and they are adept at letting loose with angular jabs of impertinence.
In the song Jenna Rations there’s a part that references Lou Reed, followed by someone letting the singer know he’s dead and then a sample that sounds like Lou himself uttering an expletive. The Gotobeds move pretty fast and if you snooze you miss a lot. They will likely remind you of Pavement from the way they sound. They’re certainly as sharp as Malkmus, Kannberg and the gang ever were and they bring a certain mania to their songs that keeps you wondering if it will all come crushing down into a giant pile of debris. It doesn’t. In fact it blows away so much of the mundanity of today’s scene that it (along with Protomartyr) may actually restore your faith in rock n’ roll. Nah, but it’s good!
The Gotobeds album is available on vinyl from 12xu and on mp3 via bandcamp.
stream: Poor People Are Revolting
Edmonton, Alberta’s Tee-Tahs are full of glammy, lo-fi goodness and a few other things. Their debut album comes as download or on cassette if you can catch them live. Their songs are basic, catchy and full of attitude, irreverance and humor. With a song called Slutfucker and another one about “kicking cans and breaking stuff, fucking guys in parking lots” Tee-Tahs seem to be kindred spirits with Seattle’s Childbirth. Both bands have loads of attitude and a knack for being frank, funny and in your face when singing about about sex from the female perspective.
Tee-Tahs take a more poppy, post-punk approach to their songs though. You can hear the Undertones (Fun Forever could be new the Teenage Kicks), some Wire and maybe even some Devo, making these songs get under your skin quickly. And they come quickly too, nary a one longer than two minutes. You’re sure to find yourself with whiplash as surefire hits like Rat Babe, Fun Forever, Okee Dokee and Slutfucker come in swift succession.
stream and buy the album: Tee-Tahs – Buzzkill