09 April, 2016

Recent Love (Healthy Life Choices Edition)

Lamb's Legs, A Dozen Torsos Within Spitting Distance
The liner notes mention Soup Moat. M. reviewed them here a while back. That must be how Lamb's Legs heard of the half-assed shit-show this blog has become. Lo! my empire! Lo! my legacy! How pitiful thou hast become, derelict in thoust duties my once proud and shining achievement, thou are naught but a scrap of candy wrapper floating in the wind on a blustery day. How I lament you.
Yeah, SD&A isn't exactly the hotbed it once (thought it) was.
ANYhoo, let's get into the review. You know, why I opened up shop today and - Holy shit. It's almost twenty after four and I'm not blackout drunk yet!? Am I... old now? Fuck, man. Anyway, yeah, opened up the shop today to talk to you about this little Milwaukee outfit called Lamb's Legs who - let me check... Yep. The liner notes say "Lamb's Legs was..." so, you know, you're not going to get to see them any time soon. So, A Dozen Torsos Within Spitting Distance is a posthumous release. Shame, I'd have seen these guys. How are they only now on my radar?
I mean, the email I got from them refers to them in the present tense though with "is". A lot of "is"es. So, perhaps we have license to blur and mix our tenses throughout this review. You'll never get to see this band except for when you get to see them because they didn't break up except they totally did.
Being that they're from Wisconsin (aka the State That Stole All Ohio's Serial Killers) (Dahmer was ours, goddamnit!), you know they're going to get this noise rock thing down right. Well, maybe I wouldn't say "noise rock", evoking a sense of big bruisery beat 'em ups, perhaps more post-punk, playing with sturm und drang, dissonant chord voicings, melodic bassline sweeps, drums that seem to roll along smoothly rather than bash everything in sight, and I'm just going to say it: Holy fuck, that dude sounds like Nick Cave. Really. From the minute he opens his mouth, I'm all, Is that Nick Cave? over here.
"Taklamakan" is a slow burn for an opener but stick with it, not every opening track is a baseball bat upside the back of the head. It gets a little artsy post-rocky toward the end with the bass but it doesn't go all Jaco-Pastorious-left-in-a-dark-room-with-a-bag-of-indica on you. The bassist does just enough and then pulls himself back. He's just breaking out the burnt sienna crayon instead of the orange one, serving the song.
OK, how do I put this without sounding like a dick? Look, that goddamned bassline needs to be that way and we all know it. If it wasn't that way, it would be wrong!
You see? You see this? This is why I can't write a review on two energy drinks! All those other reviews? At least two beers before I even got started. Fuck, I reviewed Big Knife Little Knife drinking chartreuse and that came out OK. Right now, though, I'm second guessing every linguistic decision I'm making because I've started making healthy fucking life choices and doing shit like watching my fucking sodium intake and drinking Red Bull during the daylight hours. Yes, even on the weekends. Fuck.
Man.
OK, guys. Guys? Guys. Let's do the next song.
"Death To The Tunnel Shepherd" would've made a better opener in my opinion. This is all action and bluster and menace and it's the shortest song on the record. I hope this was / is the set opener for the live shows and I hope that Sconnies know what to do at a rock show (you know, opposed to the folded-armed statues that attend Minnesota rock shows) because this is easily the one that's going to cause some weird skank-headbang-hairball-hork dance on the floor. Not really a booty shaker, no, but it should('ve) drive(n) the masses to convulsions.
"The Flaying Song" comes in with a metal intro and then retreats into more subdued, haunting, psychological terror territory and this would've been the one where we would've seen Lamb's Legs' measure of control over an audience. Think of a more chilling version of the part of Otis Day and The Knights's "Shout" where it goes "a little bit softer now, a little bit softer now"; this would('ve) be(en) where we'd see a band start things off with a room full of folks throwing horns and bopping, pogoing, and then the band shifts gears and gets the whole room quiet and still. You know, like at any show in Minneapolis except in Minneapolis it's for the whole show. (For real, what is with these self-conscious fucks?) Would('ve) be(en) a sight.
"Knee Jerk" starts off with a lurching intro before getting into a straight-forward bee-buzz straight-eight section. If there's a starting point to recommend, it's going to be "Knee Jerk".
Side B kicks off with "Plague Song", a lumbering little beast that grows and grows and grows and is perhaps, especially when paired with "The Flaying Song", indicative of Lamb's Legs' Oxbow influence. I can definitely hear some Oxbow in there.
"I Want To Believe" is the most straight-ahead rock tune on this eight-tracker featuring a string of conspiracy theories that are mixed too low to hear every word of and drums that perhaps get as close to the classic kick-kick-snare four-time beat as they will anywhere on the record.
"Salt the Earth"'s bassline, holy shit. I can't play that. Can you play that? I can't play that. Goddamn. And then to come out of the chorus back into that bassline? Fuck you, dude. I know why this band broke up (except they totally didn't): The bassist must have broken his whole everything in both his wrists because holy shit.
"Glam's Baes" is the least malevolent seeming thing on this record and easily one of the best closing track choices I've heard a band make in a while. Going out on a note like this? This kind of exultant, nearly exuberant? When a lot of noise rock and post punk bands try to go out on a death rattle? I'll take this closer, thank you.
Overall? I thought the drums could've been a bit beefier. I hate to say the word "beefier" because this isn't fucking Arby's we're talking about but - Excuse me for a moment.
Hm?
Why, yes. Yes, I have switched to scotch. Why do you ask?
Look, you are not my mother! I am thirty five years old, I can fix a lowball of scotch at five thirty on a Saturday if I want to!
So, where were we? Ah, yes, my quibble with the drums. They could've used a bit more oomph. I get it, for the sound the band was going for, maybe that tight and dry Marquee Moon sound better served them and, hey, the drums are never buried under anything, I just enjoy hearing drums with a bit more ass behind them. From the performance, I'm thinking this was on the recording end of things and not on the drummer's end. I mean, he really is playing his ass off.
Because I'm a guitarist, I'm going to Mean Girl the guitarist in this band because that's what guitarists do to each other. If you're new to the whole guitar playing thing, just watch out because we throw shade at each other like we're on RuPaul's Drag Race. Like when you get me and M. in the same room? It's nothing but catty side-eyes between the two of us until I come for his ass with some biting remark about all the goddamned treble he uses and then he comes for me and reminds me that my band isn't even a real band and I need to take my Pinnochio ass on to Craigslist and ask Tinkerbell to make me a real musician.
Wow.
I just made myself feel bad about myself.
I can't say shit now.
I like the guitarist in this band. He plays like I play.
Damn.
I still feel bad inside.
ANYhoo!
For the sake of making lazy comparisons, I can hear allusions to Scratch Acid, the more aggressive side of Sharpie Crows, the more straight-ahead side of Oxbow, and the bass playing on the first Liars record. Well, better bass playing than what was on that first Liars record, really.
Goddamn, dude. I really hurt my own feelings.
Check Lamb's Legs out.

26 January, 2016

Bizarre Coincidence of the Day (After Close Edition)

Yeah yeah yeah, I know I said SD&A is dead last week but the thing is that I've been immersing myself in Latin culture lately for the erroneous prospect of becoming functionally bilingual. Much like I never exercised but factory work kept me buff, I figure if I go to the marqueta every weekend for mis cacahuates y ajos - chinga te, pendejo - I'll eventually have the grasp on a sixth grade level of Spanish that I wouldn't get from studying. Thus, I subscribed to Mitú, the site that brought you those "Cholos Try" videos.
Today, between mail runs (I have an office job now, don't know if I ever told you) I took a quiz to discover my Latina Diva Spirit Animal. ¿Por que no? You'll take some Facebook quiz over what kind of cake you'd poop if you could poop cake, don't tell me shit about having a Latina Diva Spirit Animal and the quiz I need to take to discover that.
Anyway, my results came back that Latina Diva Spirit Animal - Chinga te. - is Gloria Trevi.
I know nothing about Gloria Trevi.
Naturally, I look up Gloria Trevi to see who my Latina Diva Spirit Animal - Chupas mis huevos. - is and this is the first song I hear, "Doctor Psiquiatra" from 1989's ¿Qué Hago Aqui?:
From the goddamned get go, I think, This sounds like "Baby Doll" from Tapeheads. Really, cold check it:
Here's the thing: It's easy to say, "Holy shit, Charlie! It's a rip off! Wait! ... When did what come out first?"
Well, Tapeheads was released in 1988 and, again, ¿Qué Hago Aqui? was released in 1989 but consider this: First of all, it takes a long time to make a movie. Whenever I see the release year of a movie, I consider it as having been made the year before that. Secondly, I have this notion, probably super unfounded, that pop records like ¿Qué Hago Aqui? take just as much time to make because yeah, something something In Utero was made in ten days or something but something something Mariah Carey blah blah blah Beyonce something Phil Spector. I don't know how to make a pop record, is what I'm saying. But there're these people who just write songs all day, like it's their job or something, their called songwriters. Chances are that "Doctor Psiquiatra" could've been sitting in a stack of papers on somebody's piano for a while long while, perhaps even before Devo wrote the Cube Squared song, "Baby Doll". I don't know, I wasn't there for any of this. Maybe "Doctor Psiquiatra" was written specifically for ¿Qué Hago Aqui?, maybe the songwriter saw Tapeheads and thought, "¡Maldito, eso es el gancho!" Maybe Devo heard some early version of "Doctor Psiquiatra" and thought, "Damn, that's the hook!" Or maybe it's just a bizarre coincidence that two songs that entered public consciousness within a year of each other were possibly written around the same time and sound alike, at least in the hook. I don't know, something something something "Eighties" blah blah blah "Come As You Are" yada yada yada not the same anyway fuck it.

19 January, 2016

Taggged S01

This is the the 2750th post at SD&A. This blog is dead, available only for record reviews.
Goodnight.
It's been a good run but now it's time to put this bullshit to bed.

13 September, 2015

SUGAR BALLS!

Just a quiet jab at cutesy hipster food truck culture.

30 August, 2015

Recent Love (Them Fucking Canadians Edition)

Big Knife Little Knife, Too Many Words
Yes, I've been sleeping on writing a review for this because that's what happens when you work sixty to seventy hours a week. But, I assure you that I've not been sleeping on listening to this. Why? Because this is absitively, posilutely one of the best goddamned records of the year. I mean that, I really do. This is a record that makes you air drum against your wishes, this is a record that makes you want to drop obscene amounts of money on their goddamned t-shirts. This is a record you can have cocktails over, discussing politics whilst chain-smoking; cook dinner to for that dinner party you're hosting; listen to on road trips to college town music festivals while you sit in the passenger seat and illustrate your latest metafictional webcomic in your sketchbook; this is a record you can fuck to. This is smart rock 'n' roll, anxious rock 'n' roll, and exhilarating rock ‘n’ roll all in one package. Short version: Great rock ‘n’ roll. Just three people banging out some tunes; you never have to worry about what they’re going to do next, you can trust that it’s going to be as awesome as what they just did.
Seriously, this is a record you put on repeat and just fucking marvel at.
This is a record where you listen to it and wonder, “Why isn’t my band doing something this cool?”
This is a record you listen to and want to get your band on a bill with that band pron-to.
And if this unassuming little EP doesn’t grab you the way it grabs me, you have problems in your life that require immediate attention that I am not qualified to attend to. Simple as that, end of discussion.
Sure, “Suspensive Hyphen” kicks it off with a Sex Pistols-esque intro but it kicks that nonsense off to the side with the quickness and gets into some real shit. It’s uptempo, knocks your chest cavity a couple of times with heavy hammers, it’s a car chase for a couple bars and then turns into a dramatic crash replete with car flips. It practices an economy of progressions, going from this break-neck pacing to this beautiful little piece of drama of a waltz which... Cripes, did I just write that? Please forgive me. This record is easy to get swept up in. Especially when you’re trying to juggle writing a review, drink a cocktail of chartreuse and NOS, and play air drums at the same time.
“Circumlocution” starts off a little Gang of Four-ish, which is an immediate AOK in my book, and then the bass comes in all swirling and the drums just cut right to the goddamned quick with, “Hey. You know what? This is the beat, motherfuckers.” Just totally solid. Out of everything on this EP, this one is the one that reminds me most of Ann Arbor’s Javelins. Or were they from Detroit? I can’t keep remember.
“(Probably Misses His) Old Glasses”, as long as we’re drawing comparisons here, reminds me a lot of Ann Arbor’s (or was it Detroit’s?) Morsel. The beat swings here a little, the band plays a little more with space than on the first two songs - not so much sturm und drang as shadow and light, gradations of space and fullness - and there’s a gang vocal to boot.
It’s at this point that I really want to suggest that this record is very Lake Erie influenced: I hear hints of Javelins, Morsel, and, if you move further down south, Afghan Whigs (at their less melodramatic moments). This is kind of what was happening around that area of the rust belt, musically, back when I lived there. This is the good shit, the real deal; this is shitty grass, this is smoking in bars, this is dancing all night in front of the stage, drunk off your ass that night and not remembering a single goddamned song the next morning in the throes of a hangover; all you can tell your friends who didn’t make it that night was how awesome the show was. Can’t remember it for shit but it was awesome, sure as hell. And you danced and you met a nice gal and you never saw her again and everybody who was there had a great time and felt good and nobody fought and there was a moment or two of unison fist pumps in the middle of this song or that when the breakdown came and you crowdsurfed. It’s exaltant music, basically. It feels fucking awesome just listening to this record and thinking about the great time it must be to see this band.
For real, if this band comes to your town and you don’t have the night of your fucking life when you see them, you are a shallow husk of a person whose heart has never beat.
I’m not the hyperbole guy this often but really, Big Knife Little Knife should really be the biggest band of 2016. At least for one year, they should own the planet. If they don’t make three million dollars - a million per member - I’m holding all of you loveless bastards accountable.
Yes, I’ve been drinking. Fuck you. This record by this band is this great.
“Boredom or Apathy” ends the record and I don’t want it to. I want at least four more songs. But this is a healthy little time capsule - No. Stop. Wait. I’m writing bullshit again. But really: This song is full of great stop-start rhythms and that great, illusive “angular” guitar work, whatever the fuck “angular” means; nobody’s ever defined it solidly. It’s like the difference between art and porn: I know porn when I see it. I know “angular” when I hear it. I’m pretty sure this angular.
There’s no angry frontman here, there’s no browbeating politics, there’s no overwhelming pyrotechnics, there’s no over-tutored theory, there’s no bullshit. It’s just three people playing their asses off to deliver some art. Some well-rendered art. Just getting together and banging out some music. And there’s no way to argue with the results; it sounds awesome. Your band could only hope to put together a little package of comparable quality; I’m absolutely enthralled with this EP and you should be, too. I look forward to hearing a lot more out of this band.
Watch this video for “Circumlocution” and tell me it’s not the best thing ever. Because it kind of is.
I need more chartreuse.

04 July, 2015

Recent Love (Thank Fuck It's Not In Quad Edition)

Voicehandler, song cycle: You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end.
Ah, behold musique concrete, one of my favorite words and one of my occasional dirty little pleasures that next to none of my friends really understands.
Oh, don't bullshit me. Really. Show of hands, right now: Who here actually owns a goddamned Stockhausen record?
Right. So fuck all y'all.
Anyway, Jacob (or, as I prefer to call him, because I'm an asshole like that and because J. Felix Heule sounds like a Prohibition era robber baron which is pretty awesome, J. Felix) from Beauty School hooks me up with this other thing he does called Voicehandler. Now, I dug Beauty School's Residual Ugly, I'm sure I can dig this. And I do. But it should come with a warning: Do NOT put this on whilst making Sunday morning breakfast for your girlfriend because, no matter how into left field shit she is, this ratchets up her anxiety to the point where she's just going to wait for her eggs out on the goddamned porch.
The first impression I got from this record was pretty cheesy. Upon first listen, I thought, This sounds like Björk vamping to the good parts from Altered States. I thought to myself, Nah, blad, that's shitty and dismissive even if attempting to be complimentary. I still stand by it a little, though now I think the vocals remind me more of Giovanna Cacciola.

Still, though, Altered States.
So, what's to know about this record?
First of all, it's minimalist. J. Felix and Danishta Rivero (whose first name feels pleasant against my teeth when said aloud) are playing with only a handful of instruments - percussion, electronics, and hydrophonium - that last being an instrument of Ms. Rivero's own design which, according to her website was inspired by a short story called La Luz Es Como El Agua by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. (I haven't read it so I can't quote the scene here or anything.) Ms. Rivero also gets a lot of mileage out of her voice, switching from lullaby singing to tortured stomach-in-throat gags to chirps to purrs to slurps to hisses to growls. She's like fucking Pazuzu.
Second of all, it's thick. Dense, layered, complex, whatever. It's fucking thick, man. For two people using only a couple of instruments, it's got a lot going on. Of course, there's a good deal of lllooonnnggg dealy and looping going on but it's used in such a pleasing manner that it feels like an "organic" necessity - NO! STOP! Forgive me, father, for I have sinned... I said "'organic' necessity" like some sort of Williamsburg-moustachio'd-twat. Like I'm at the fucking co-op or some shit: "Hey, honey! Look! Free Range French Endives! These are an organic necessity! I heard so on NPR!"
Look, the music presented here is layered and dense, much like my sense of immediate shame.
Third, yes, the music is creepy. You know what else it is? I can hear influences from Latin and Central America, especially on the first track, and not just because the lyrics are in Spanish. It's also highly literate, each song being tied to a particular story, be it a creation story, a beat novel, or an epic poem. Accordingly, the music sounds with gentle bell sounds and distant heartbeat drums which then, on whim as these pieces are improvised, turn to staticky bee buzzes, and hellish, cyclical chimes and shambling dad's-shit-faced-after-the-UAW-meeting-again-and-thinks-now's-a-good-time-to-take-that-wall-out-of-the-kitchen-with-the-sledgehammer-like-he-and-mom-have-talked-about drums and then there's that voice that's kind of pretty much just commanding the demon spirit to leave my corporal vessel.
It's like this: Have you ever wanted to know what the exact fucking opposite of "Walking On Sunshine" sounded like? Because this is it; this is not good time music. However, that's not to say this is bummer music and, it should be noted, if this music terrifies you, you're not listening to anything more than the surface. Sure, this music plays heavy on tension and release but there's more than that to sink your teeth into. This is trance music without the implications of techno that that term carries. This is the kind of music you hear through the jungles of the Darién Gap, sure enough there's some blood-letting going on where you can see that far off fire that you know better than to venture toward, and there's probably some peyote because why wouldn't there be? And this music still could turn a voodoo shaman's shit lily white.
So, we all know the joke by now: Can I fuck to this? Man, I can't even get high to this: there's too much going on; thank fuck A) this wasn't released in quadrophonic and B) that I don't have a quadrophonic system in the first place: this would be too much to handle in that instance. Nor can I shake my caboose to this. I'm surprised I made breakfast to this.
Are there any real negative points against this record? Not just the smart-assed ones listed above? Well, I can say this much: I don't know how much mileage this record is going to get around here. This is not the sort of music made for repeated and repeatedd again listenings, especially active listening. This music, and this is not meant as a slight to the band, is the kind of music best presented with a curator and an installation, which is kind of what I infer how they normally perform it from their one sheet.
But the positives outweigh the negatives. There's an inventiveness here, especially considering that the singer invented her own goddamned instrument. (Motherfucker, have you ever invented an instrument? Like one that sounded as good as this one? No? Then sit the fuck down and quit pretending you're not impressed.) In its denseness, the aforementioned thickness, it never gets complicated; that thickness exists by virtue of the band's minimalism. It's heavy without being blunt, layered without being cumbersome, pleasant (if you're anything like me) without being saccharine. This is the kind of fun you have when you visit an art exhibition after smoking a few onies, and then you see the big assed art installation and the minimalist duo performing in front of it and you think, "Man, why aint I doing something like that? That's fucking awesome. What the fuck am I doing? I'm going to go home and do some twisted shit on my guitar tonight." And then you're out in front of the museum, hanging out, having a cigarette with your homie, Dan, and Dan says he knows a guy that does circuit bending and saxophone and you all should get together and jam at Dan's place because Dan's old lady moved out on him last week so he can finally set up the drums in the living room and he's got these contact mics that he wants to attach to the drums and run through a Space Echo and yeah, man, yeah, totally.
So, yes, this record is fucking awesome. I wouldn't recommend it if you have a high-strung cat or something. If you can handle your hallucinogens, I guess you could listen to it whilst tripping but I've never cared much for hallucinogens so I'll just listen to this straight. You could set up a playlist in iTunes splicing cuts off this record and Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska and ensure that none of your neighbors ever bug you about anything ever because you might be that guy they've been reading about in the paper that the police have no leads for.
Anyway, you should really check it out.

20 June, 2015

Another piece done.

My past as a contortionist revealed.

 
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