Rat Columns Emerge From the Murky Depths


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:

22-Sep MON – DALLAS w/ IDIOT GLEE: Three Links – Deep Ellum, TX, 2704 Elm St



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)

I Am Your Density

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.

Repricussing from Woolen Men

Last night was the second time I had the pleasure of seeing Portland’s Woolen Men here in Seattle. I didn’t realize until they mentioned it, that I was two for two with them. This being only the second time they’ve made the trip up the Five to play here. The last time being at the Josephine in January of last year with Orca Team and their Australian brethren the Woolen Kits.

I remember remarking at that show how they seemed to have a stash of dB’s records and an innate ability of making killer noisy skewed pop. Those special powers have not been lost in the year and a half since I last saw them. In fact they have been enhanced, they’ve signed with Woodsist,  released their ‘debut’ record, and self-released a pre-Woodsist greatest hits record.

Last night at the Comet opening for BOAT, they played a short set that left me wanting much more. Their songs can sound like early REM, Wire, the Clean and the unheralded west coast obscurity 100 Flowers (if unfamiliar seek out this year’s reissue on Superior Viaduct). Woolen Men are only a three piece, but they pack the power of four or five. All three members sing which leads me to believe they all write songs, but they’re all well versed in the same school of rock. You feel like you are in the south in the mid-80’s with Mitch Easter in a garage or in Dunedin in early 80’s with one of the Kilgour brothers by your side. Go see them if they decided to come to your town, there are few bands that pack this kind of power and prowess in one guitar, one bass and drums.

stream: Woolen Men – Head On the Ground (from their self-titled album on Woodsist)

BOAT were fun as usual. I thought that Forever In Armitron was the best BOAT song, but Lately sounded pretty killer last night and they threw in a cover of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love just for fun. Who knows when they’ll play again as their drummer is moving to New York. I doubt it will keep them down long though. D. Krane tells me that there are plans afoot to release the first two BOAT albums on vinyl and he’s working on something totally new with Charles Bert from Math and Physics Club. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

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.

mp3: Universe People – Druids

There are two more songs available from Universe People’s bandcamp.

Three Girl Rhumba

Wire at Neumo’s, Seattle | 13 April 2011

Wire have been covered to death (note to bands: we don’t need another cover of Outdoor Miner), blatantly stolen from, lauded with praise, reinvented themselves more than once, and possibly possess the secret to the rock and roll fountain of youth.  Pushing 60, what more could they possibly do at this point? Most bands at this stage, if they are ever lucky enough to reach it, would be most likely trampling over their legacy making sub-par records as some lame an excuse to tour, or just blatantly cashing on nostalgia prone fans touring without anything new to show off.  Wire were always more than two standard deviations from the mean. Too arty for the punks and too standoffish for the mainstream and too cool for everyone else. Their legacy speaks for itself and they eschewed it for many years refusing to play the old stuff and hiring a cover band the Ex-Lion Tamers to open for them to do the old stuff.

Wire are still outliers, they’ve acquired a grudging comfort with their past but continue to forge ahead with uncompromising records that may not live up to their first trilogy, but they easily equal their second incarnation and at times come close to Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154. Still prickly about fully giving into nostalgia, Wire plucked from all points of their lengthy catalog last Wednesday night at Neumo’s. The focus was obviously on the present but they tripped us back to Pink Flag, 154, A Bell Is a Cup  and the Ideal Copy. Granted we didn’t get any ‘hits’ with the exception of Kidney Bingos and Map Ref. 41 N 93 W, which I never in a million years expected to hear. Kidney Bingos was every bit as sublime as I could have expected with Bruce Gilbert’s strained vocals at the end being a highlight. It still was a pleasure to hear songs like Drill, 106 Beats That and Pink Flag.

As Colin Newman, Bruce Gilbert and Robert Grey set up their equipment, they looked like they could have been from a symphony orchestra instead of a punk rock band. Well dressed and looking professional the band looked all business.  The audience didn’t look like they were there for the symphony, but there was a more seasoned air to it than most audiences at Neumo’s. Once they hit the stage, though the spring came back into everyone’s step. The set list mixed all three era’s of Wire together nicely.  On record, each era has it’s distinctive sound, yet live the songs took on a more uniform fell.  The new stuff fit nicely with the old and vice versa. Of the new songs, I’m partial to Gilbert’s eerie deep voice and his Please Take and Bad Worn Thing were great. Newman switched between three guitars seeming to prefer his mint green Airline the most.  Drummer Robert Grey was hidden behind Newman’s amps but his precise drumming made him a presence nonetheless. They also had a second guitarist taking the mysteriously departed Bruce Gilbert’s place. He was noticeably younger but held his own and had an Air Line guitar of his own. Nary a word was uttered by the band except for a thank you, but we didn’t need it. It was elder statesman putting on a show and the music was the event. Wire knew that the older (and probably jaded crowd) didn’t need any BS interrupting a perfectly good show.

mp3: Wire – Please Take (from Red Barked Tree)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcZEJIdwLMo]

Single of the Week and Other Stuff

Getting this in just under the um…wire. It’s been kicking around in zeros and ones for a few weeks, so if you’ve heard it already, then here, listen to it again because it is worth the repeat listening that I’ve been giving it. Wire are gearing up for their 47th release, it’s a full album and is called Object 47. Guess why. So in order to get you excited about release number 47, the song One of Us has been posted to their site as the first single/teaser to the record. Continuing in the a similar vein as last year’s Read and Burn 03, One of Us has an Ideal Copy feel to it, an excellent slithery bass line, a few flourishes of synthesizers and Colin Newman singing in his icy voice about ruing the day he met someone. Wire is back again, be amazed and be thankful!

mp3: Wire – One of Us (from Object 47 out 15 July)

Now for the other stuff: If you haven’t checked out the Slumberland podcasts, you really should get on over to the pod cast section and check out June’s edition. It’s done by this collective called I Smiled Yesterday and it’s nothing short of amazing. Not only do they include some current favorites of mine like the Vivian Girls and Let’s Wrestle, and old favorites like the Bodines, but there’s a whole bunch of other stuff that I’ve never heard of that is so totally ace. It’s like a treasures trove of favorite music you’ve never heard. I’m already ordering a whole bunch of stuff from that mix, and number one is Antoine et Les Problemes, if you like Jacques Dutronc, Antoine is like his long lost cousin!

Podcast: Slumberland/I Smiled Yesterday
mp3: Antoine et Les Problems – Il Suffirait d’un Rien (from Antoine Recontre Les Problemes)

Popfest NYC was this weekend. I missed it on the count of I live on the wrong side of the country to go, but my friend Bill who happens to live in the NYC environs has been attending and posting over at his blog about the many fine bands that are playing. Do Cats on Fire, Cannanes, Hermit Crabs, Oh Custer! and the Orchides get you excited? Then click over to Sound Bites to hear about it and to get the latest about the mysterious Pelle Carlberg guitar that seems to keep appearing at every single PopFest local.

mp3: Thee Headcoatees – Have Love Will Travel (from What Do You Want a Japanese To Do Again?)