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
How many sweet spots lie between Wire‘s 154 and Of Skins and Heart by the Church? By my estimation there are at least a few hundred and Rat Columns‘ second album hits a good many of them. The San Francisco by way of Australia band have just released their second album Leaf on Australia’s RIP Society records. It was recorded in San Francisco at Kelley Stoltz‘s Electric Duck Studios. Main Rat David West employed the aid of both Stoltz and Mikey Young (Total Control & Eddie Current Suppression Ring) to make the record.
Where the first Rat Columns album was murky and dense, album number two sheds opaqueness for sunnier realms and glistens in the pop sun. The first song Straight to hell with its shinny and shimmering guitar immediately lets you know that this Rat Columns album is a more immediate infectious beast than its predecessor. The second song Another day with its Cure-like synthy intro and bouncing bass reinforce the fact. You can just imagine Kelley Stoltz swinging by the control room while the band were recording and yelling ‘more pop’ and then sneaking in and dialing up the pop knob just a tad on each of these songs. There were hints and traces of pop genius on the previous album Sceptre Hole, but Leaves goes far beyond anything I was expecting. It still has some mystery to it and can be obtuse in parts the way Wire pushed the boundaries of art and punk on 154, but at its heart it’s in love with jangly bittersweet pop that the Church excelled at on Of Skins and Heart. A great unexpected record.
stream: Rat Columns – Another Day
stream: Rat Columns – Fooling Around
You can stream and buy the download of the album from Rat Columns’ bandcamp. If you’re in the US, Goner has vinyl copies for sale, or if you prefer you can order from RIP Society in Australia. Also, don’t miss Rat Columns on tour later this summer:
29-Aug FRI – SAN FRANCISCO w/ COLD BEAT
30-Aug SAT – OAKLAND
31-Aug SUN – SACRAMENTO
3-Sep WEDS – PORTLAND w/ RUBY PINS
4-Sep THURS – VANCOUVER w/ RUBY PINS? GET IN TOUCH!!!
5-Sep FRI – OLYMPIA w/RUBY PINS
6-Sep SAT – SEATTLE w/RUBY PINS
7-Sep SUN – BOISE w/ RUBY PINS
10-Sep WEDS – ST PAUL
11-Sep THURS – CHICAGO
12-Sep FRI – ANN ARBOR/DETROIT
13-Sep SAT – PITTSBURGH
14-Sep SUN – NEW YORK CITY
16-Sep TUES – BOSTON
17-Sep WEDS – PHILLY
18-Sep THURS – RICHMOND @ GALLERY FIVE
19-Sep FRI – LEXINGTON w/ IDIOT GLEE
20-Sep SAT – MEMPHIS w/ IDIOT GLEE
21-Sep SUN – HOT SPRINGS? w/ IDIOT GLEE
22-Sep MON – DALLAS w/ IDIOT GLEE: Three Links – Deep Ellum, TX, 2704 Elm St
23-Sep TUES – AUSTIN w/ IDIOT GLEE
26-Sep FRI – TUSCON / PHOENIX-TEMPE??? GET IN TOUCH!!!
27-Sep SAT – SAN DIEGO
28-Sep SUN – LOS ANGELES? GET IN TOUCH!!!
If you are still lamenting the demise of Long Blondes, or maybe you still pine for the sounds of Kleenex/LiLiPUT or Girls at Our Best. If you answered yes to any of the above you should definitely check out Pang. The Oakland, California band has just released its second 7-inch single Young Professionals. The single is really an EP since it has five songs. All of them are packed full of umbrage, intensity and punk glamour. The title track and companion So It Goes especially are guaranteed soon to be classics.
stream: Pang – Young Professionals (from the 7-inch single available on Grazer Records)
Cold Beat and Childbirth at Cairo, Seattle | 9 November 2013
Everything about the neighborhood in Capitol Hill where Cairo the tiny clothing store, art space and music venue is nestled screams density. Try to park a your car near the place and you will likely be driving in circles for a while. Try to get a good spot in the back room of the of the space in the shop where bands play and you’ll either be on your tip toes trying to sneak a peak of the band or resign yourself to just hearing them play.
Cold Beat packed them in like sardines to the back room at Cairo last night. Lucky for me I’m tall, so I was able to sneak peaks of the San Francisco band while doing ballet moves.
Cold Beat are led by Grass Widow bassist Hannah Lew. Lew, taking a respite from Grass Widow, is exploring the darker regions of post punk that Grass Widow seems to be veering more on the trajectory of their last album and the Milo Minute single where they covered both Wire and Portland’s Neo Boys. With Cold Beat she takes a slightly more colder synth approach, employing influences like Fad Gadget and the Normal with some current day Blank Dogs and Total Control.
The set included both Worms and Year 5772 from band’s debut EP just out now on Lew’s own Crime on the Moon label as well as bunch more similar sounding speed induced and harmony drenched rushes or adrenaline. Sitting on top of one of the amps behind Cold Beat there was a box that was labeled goth. I don’t think they let the goth out of the box, but the speedy dark harmony laced songs threatened it at every turn.
stream: Cold Beat – Worms (from the Cold Beat 12″)
Seattle’s self-described super-group Childbirth capped off the evening. Childbirth are the illegitimate offspring of Chastity Belt, Tacocat and Pony Time. They’re sort of a punky joke band. Actually that’s exactly what they are. Looking like they just snuck out of Swedish Hospital, they played with hospital gowns on and had songs like I only fucked you as a joke and Breast Coast.
stream: Childbirth – I Only Fucked You as Joke
I missed the first band of the night Display because I was driving around looking for parking. You can read an interview that Hannah Lew did with the SF Bay Guardian about Cold Beat here.