20 June, 2015

Another piece done.

My past as a contortionist revealed.

09 May, 2015

Recent Love (Almost Didn't Happen Edition)

Tyranny is Tyranny, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
The last time I slept on a record to review, you know, what with working sixty three hours a week, having this, that, and the other iron in the project fire, blah blah blah, the label that was nice enough to send me their stuff stopped sending me their stuff.
So Russell from Tyranny is Tyranny sends me the new Tyranny is Tyranny record, I accidentally delete the email and I'm all, Fuck, hey, sorry, Rusty, can you resend that? and he's all, "No sweat," and I'm all, Cool. And then I go to review it and I can't find it and I'm all, What the fuck? I'm like the worst record reviewer ever. My credibility's shot and nobody's going to send me a review copy again. And then I find it on my desktop, not in the download folder. So, thankfully, I can review the new Tyranny is Tyranny record.
First of all, I don't know whether to refer to this as an EP because it has only five songs or an LP because the motherfucker clocks in somewhere around forty minutes - I'm estimating there - is the designation based on number of songs or how long the recording is in total? I'm not a technical genius anymore, my talents have withered... Or have they exploded?
Yeah, that was a bad joke. Sorry. You see, that's because the first song is called "Or Does It Explode?", the title coming from the Langston Hughes poem, "Lenox Avenue Mural" (and the only reason I know that is because of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, otherwise, I'm not much of a poetry guy). It's heavy, it has a nice dual-guitar solo at the end that I'm going to say evokes Thin Lizzy because fuck Iron Maiden, it has a chant here and there, there's an instrumental passage that reminds me a bit of Explosions in the Sky, and, like a good bit of Explosions in the Sky's output, it's seven and a half minutes long. Not necessarily a marathon run like you'd find with Self-Evident, a band that I like but I always forget before seeing them how much I need a water bottle and a sweat rag to get through their set. Like a long march to the sea, that band, I tell ya. But worth it. And Tyranny is Tyranny is worth it, too. Like any band that dabbles in pushing song lengths past the five minute mark on the reg, they know well enough to make things a rollercoaster ride of sorts, to play with the ebbs and tides of song craft, not just bludgeon the listener with plodding fuzz. The bands that just go bbbbbbrrrrrruuuuuuhhhhhhmmmmmmnnnnnnvvvvvvffffff for eight minutes never really held my attention much. Sure, you can accuse Melvins of doing that, there are some folks who think Melvins do that, but those are the people who never heard Lysol which only sounds like that's what's going on but if you listen deeper to the subtext of the arrangement, you find it has much more to do with tension and release. Tyranny is Tyranny's arrangements are more obvious in their tension and release, "She Who Struggles" being a good example, and also the next song, and also playing footsie under the table with the seven and a quarter minute mark.
Wait. Did I just say that "Hung Bunny / Roman Dog Bird" has subtext? Jesus. OK, forgive the digression. I'm still new at this.
"She Who Struggles", Jesus wept, I'm jealous of the arrangement on this one. I wish I had come up with it. I probably would've made it either half or twice as long, though, because I'm an asshole like that. But "She Who Struggles" easily pulls off the quiet-loud-quiet-loud arrangement and I'm listening to it and wondering, Is it just the same part over and over just played with varying levels of volume? Because there are songs like that, where you divide the song up into sections based on the volume, not the chord changes. And it might seem like cheating to you but it really isn't. Consider Ravel's "Bolero" for instance. That song is, what? a hundred goddamned minutes and it's the same thing the entire time and it's a hugely respected piece of classical music. Stop being an asshole and open your ears to "She Who Struggles".
"Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire" starts with a feedback drone, some plaintive guitar, and a lone trumpet, then the drums come in, and you can see in your mind's eye a burning rice patty from your chopper. "Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire" is easily the most cinematic of the songs on this record. This song, more than the previous two, is the one where you sit and have a smoke and a think with your chin resting on folded hands. You escape into this song, kind of go into your own head with it. "Kabuki Snuff Theater", by contrast, is a real lurching beat-'em-up tune, little cues to Shellac's more pissed off moments and Helmet without the weirder chord voicings. It's the most straightforward rock song on The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (considering the title sounds like it would be part of Naked City's oeuvre and we’ve been over the lysergic weirdness of Naked City over and over on this blog) and the shortest, as well. Perhaps it’s the most accessible for newcomers to Tyranny is Tyranny but, even if it is the most accessible, it would be a terribly misleading first impression and I suppose that’s why the band placed this song next to last on the record: Yes, they make this kind of music but, moreover, they have tendencies to thoughtful, delicate passages to intertwine with the heavier moments; “Kabuki Snuff Theater” doesn’t do “delicate”.
And then we come to the end: “Victory Will Defeat You”. Fucker is fifteen minutes long so buckle up and fix a cocktail, kiddoes.
Again, I feel pressed to invoke the name Explosions in the Sky. And the intro is five and three quarter minutes long.* But it’s a part of the ride, so just enjoy yourself. I mean, at least this Tyranny is Tyranny know how to use those five and three quarter minutes. As mentioned earlier, they pay attention to song craft, so the intro is compelling and holds your attention and you, the listener, are rewarded with the heaviness and complex arrangements, guitars that weave around each other, death metal chants in the background, passages that come to abrupt changes... Basically, you’re getting three or four songs in the form of one. Think of all the changeups in “Dopesmoker” but this is more emotionally compelling, more intellectually stimulating. You’ll enjoy it, you really will. I trust you will. Here, give it a try.


* Grouses the guy who wrote “At Once Smitten”, which, if you’ve heard KRAKOA, you know is 40BPM for seventeen minutes, and that’s just the recorded version, so I really have no place to talk shit about long intros. For real, that intro was just bbbbbaaaaahhhhhmmmmm bbbbbaaaaahhhhhmmmmm bbbbbaaaaahhhhhmmmmm bbbbbaaaaaWWWWWEEEEEHHHHH repeat ad nauseum.

10 April, 2015

Recent Love (Nobody's Getting Laid Tonight Edition)

Beauty School, Residual Ugly
We all know I'm going to say it eventually so let's just get it out of the way now: I can't fuck to this.
And if I could manage to find a woman who would fuck to this, she'd probably be a white girl wearing feathers in her hair (which she washes about as often as she washes her clothes), she'd be from Manitoba but talk like she was from California, go to art school (majoring in video collage), claim to be vegan but secretly eat Wendy's Crispy Chicken Sandwiches with frightening regularity at a location nowhere near her home, bite her nails with a chipped front tooth, have one pair of combat boots she wears year-round, all of her t-shirts would be spray-painted, and she'd have a bunch of scary homemade tattoos, like "PUNISH ME" in that little dimple between the inner-thigh and the vulva and a crude rendering of the Zodiac's helmet between her shoulder blades above the caption "SUPRESTAR" (yes, intentionally misspelled). She'd speak fluent German and beginner's French and have an extensive knowledge of the Dadaist movement, have an extensive knowledge of Nin and Paglia, pick her nose at the Farmer's Market, and call me a dirty imperialist because I like baseball. She'd have old photos of herself with a mohawk, pictures of her with her ex-boyfriend who has purple hair and never smiles, her favorite movies would include Fando y Lis, Daisies, and Sleepaway Camp. She'd consider NPR News to be too conservative a media conduit, relying only on foreign news outlets from third world countries. Occupy wasn't proactive enough for her. She smokes her cigarettes in one of those long cigarette holders from back in the day and the girliest girl thing about her is that she'd wear a choker. That's the kind of woman that would fuck to Residual Ugly.
One day, I will find this woman. One day.
So, now what does it sound like?
Well, honestly, at first I was apprehensive about listening to it. My cassette copy showed up in the mail on Tuesday (thanks, Jacob) with a one-sheet that used the words "nasty homemade electronics and circuit-bent keyboards" and I was all, Oh, man, nerd alert! Motherfuckers going to sound like DEVO.
But it doesn't sound like DEVO. If anything, Residual Ugly, a largely improvised recording, reminds me of the more intense moments of Naked City's Absinthe (my favorite of the Naked City records, if you haven't picked up on it the thousand times I said it), the more somber moments of Bitches Brew, and everything that's better than that hack-cunt what's playing folk-rock on acoustic guitar across the street from me as I write this. Motherfucker's probably writing songs about his girlfriend or some dumb shit like that; DUDE, THE MOODY BLUES ALREADY WROTE THAT SONG! GO BACK TO ENGLISH LIT., DOUCHEPONY! I'm trying to listen to this cassette! Fuck!
Residual Ugly reminds me - and forgive me for referencing a band only two of you who read this have ever heard of and, no, that number is not an exaggeration - of a short-lived collective from Bowling Green about eleven, maybe twelve years ago now called Naughty Arabia. It had Joel from Bullet Teeth and I think Chris from CE was in it, too, and there were some other people, and they played in some hall on the BGSU campus, and Joel started the set with "We're Naughty Arabia... And we want to be your friend..." and then chaos ensued, much along the lines of what I'm hearing with Beauty School: Horns, detuned and retuned instruments, circuit bending, and unconventional percussion, no written songs, and at the time, I didn't hate it but I also didn't get it. Thank fuck I didn't have a blog back in 2003; I would've revealed how far up my ass my head was, being spoon-fed by AOR and MTV as I was. All I remember clearly about Naughty Arabia's set is Joel's greeting and the baby-taking-a-shit expression on Chris's face while he pounded on a car bumper.
Years later, I'd be exposed to another improvisational recording, this one being Colossus of Destiny by the Melvins, the only record to ever make me feel duped as a fan (I believe I've said that a thousand times too) (because it's true) (and I'll never forgive the Melvins for that). What made that shitshow different from other improvisational recordings is that it's the Melvins playing with samplers for forty five minutes, there's no ebb and flow, there's no reading of the other members' actions. That's what you need to pull off records like Absinthe, Bitches Brew, and, now to add to that list, Residual Ugly.
Sure, I can't fuck to it.
Sure, there were a few times while listening to it that I thought somebody was texting me.
Sure, that asshole across the street is butchering Neil Young or maybe it's Led Zeppelin or maybe it's some obscure hipster Bon Iver-esque bullshit that I don't know anything about, GODDAMN, DUDE, PUT A BUCKET OUT FOR CHANGE IF YOU'RE GOING TO HUMILIATE YOURSELF LIKE THIS! If you were working, right now, I wouldn't mind, but, no, you're doing this for enjoyment! Are you going to do this all summer, you cunt!? Because I'd like to have my windows open and I sure as hell don't need your limp-lettuce wimpy bullshit fucking up my whole universe. I'm trying to write a goddamn record review here and I don't need to know about how special your girlfriend is, asshole! You want to show her how special she is? Put the goddamn guitar down and do the dishes, you fuck; she's been on your unemployed ass all week to get the fucking apartment cleaned. What? What? Yeah, unemployed, you asshole! That's why you're home on a Friday! Why am I home on a Friday? Because my 2014 PTO was use-it-or-lose-it by the end of this week, I'm getting shit done! I've been to the courthouse twice in two days, I worked on this collab I got going with some guys from the PRF, I made tacos last night and I'm making spaghetti and meatballs tonight, I bought an egg slicer, I guided a cute hipster girl from Missouri to the Greenway, I'm writing a goddamned record review, I'm going to St. Paul tomorrow just because; I'm sure as shit not playing an acoustic guitar outside, in public, with a fucking capo, singing "About A Girl" or some dumb shit like that!
Oh.
He must have gone inside.
Back to Residual Ugly... This is not the kind of performance that builds up over time into the part where everybody starts rocking a big up-tempo anthemic number in 4/4 time, this is perhaps closer to Karlheinz Stockhausen's...
Jesus wept! Now somebody's using a goddamned circular saw out back!? For crying out loud!
Where were we? OK, so this is perhaps closer to Karlheinz Stockhausen's Trans, which works a lot on tension and dissonance and drone. Residual Ugly is basically doing the same thing; it's musique concrete, essentially. And if that's your thing, then you click this link and give it a listen. It's worth your time if you're into thinking fellas' music; I gave it a first listen while making meatballs, (you can hear side A in the background). In the meantime, seeing as how I have a sweet new phone* that does those apps things, I'm going to get on that Tinder thing and try to find the woman described in the preamble/ramble.

* For real, my phone is so awesome, I sang the Chia Pet jingle into it and it spelled out "chi chi chi Chia" on the screen and then took me to the Chia Pet commercial on YouTube. It was pretty fucking sweet.
That one time.

15 March, 2015

T-Shirts Soaring To The Sound of Shrieking Recorders: Soup Moat, "Enjoy Your Hobbies" 7"

It's not often that a band triangulates themselves so well, but Milwaukee band Soup Moat kind of asked for it when they wrote that their 7" was "RIYL if you like: Karp." They also wrote a few other bands as well, but why let that get in the way of a point I'm trying to make on a Saturday night while lying in bed perfecting my repulsoid recluse act. Now Soup Moat isn't a Karp ripoff, but you can hear the influence all over this very brief 5-song single. Like Karp, this band specializes in a kind of boozy, heavy, riffy camaraderie that sounds like it would be an insane amount of fun live - the kind of band you would want to see with your friends on a Friday night while doing semi-hardcore-informed jumping around in an impromptu pit, making insanely specific references to late-'90's WWF matches and shotgunning tallboys of Hamm's. (I live in Wisconsin; this is how we get down.) And like Karp, this band has a real penchant for roaring out unison gang vocals in their songs in order to make their music sound that much more chummily anthemic. In fact, the vocalists' rhythmic emphasis on "Comfy One" calls to mind "Get No Toys (When You Pay The Money)" off of Suplex.

I like it best when Soup Moat gets a little weirder and funnier with the overall sound that they have going on. "nevernotfuckedup" fits that bill nicely, mixing badly edited loops of harrumphs and a recorder played worse than you did in preschool with a very funny and very knowingly stupid hardcore parody about, fittingly enough, how often the band dudes party. "Uptowner Girl" also gets a lot of mileage out of a solid hook and some of the funniest lines on the 7".

However, the odd thing about this release (YAHTZEE!) is how short the songs are. Brevity may well be the soul of wit, and this band definitely prides themselves on their jokes. But these guys aren't the Minutemen, and when the longest song is 1:52, the average length is 1:05 or so and there are 5 cuts total, it's kind of hard for the songs to really take much hold after a few listens. Now if all the songs had tons of different parts in that length of time, it'd be another story - but Soup Moat write the kinds of songs that seem to cry out for at least a little more running time and a little more development. And that's basically where I am with it: I think this band has the potential to lay down some really well-written and hilarious 3-minute sludge-n'-roll anthems, and I hope they let themselves stretch out enough to write those songs in the future. As it is, it's all a little too foreshortened - but any band which has the gall and observational eye to shout "T-shirts smelling like an onion patch" has a good chance of doing something really awesome soon enough.

25 January, 2015

Recent Love (Effluent Edition)

Hyperslob & The Goat Meat Explosion, Infectious Yarn
OK, so at first listen, I wanted to say this sounded like Fear. On the second listen, I still want to say this sounds like Fear. Hyperslob & the Goat Meat Explosion - henceforth referred to as HS&TGME - trade in the sort of simple, straightforward, lo-fi punk that -
OK, I can’t do this. I can’t act like Mr. Fucking Music Historian right now because usually my assessments are just way to the fuck wrong. I wasn’t around the So-Cal eighties punk / hardcore scene; hell, I was starting in kindergarten when that style was becoming passé. But HS&TGME do remind me of the vintage Fear I’ve become accustomed to on recordings; there are tinges and swaths of Clockcleaner out of Philly and the Birthday Party that you could argue one way or another were out of Australia or Berlin. “Belt Box” is easily most fucktoable / beatsomeoneupable song, will probably remain on constant repeat for me. There’s plenty of creep factor on this one, plenty of drunken drug-induced ritual murder scene hijinks on this song to keep a music lover such as myself enthralled.
But there are a lot of burps within the first five songs - OK, so only two. Still, though, are we at the point in popular culture and forward movement in art culture that a burp on tape is somehow a pinnacle of the aural expression of the extended middle finger? The apathetic “fuck you” that strips away any pretense of sincerity?
Overall, this record sounds somehow reminiscent of a fantasized So-Cal punk, the stripe that showed up in a Penepole Spheeris or Alex Cox movie or something: A couple of young reprobates driving around LA, splitting a sixer, Emilio Estevez is there, flipping off the squares because that’s teenage rebellion.
But, hey, the sixth song caps off with another belch. OK.
“Car Chase Anthems” throws out the Fear comparisons and is probably one of the few songs that gets pop punk right in the last ten years. To the point where I’m not even sure this is the same band. And it’s the bassline that reminds me of an old (here meaning only about eight or nine years) Minneapolis band that only a few people (here meaning only about fifty, maybe a hundred) will probably remember called Holy Sockets; the lyrics evoke an image for me a teenaged and more twisted Jonathon Richman.
But then the magic and mystery is totally contradicted, taken back, just shattered, almost as if the band might be trying to say that they don’t want those sentiments expressed in “Car Chase Anthems” to be taken seriously by serving the listener a rhythmically-spliced sound collage of dudes pissing in toilets.
Seriously.
A rhythmically-spliced sound collage of dudes pissing in toilets. Maybe it was one toilet, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Granted, nobody has ever made a sound collage of piss hitting porcelain before, not that I’ve been made aware of, anyway. And it’s probably because I officially entered my mid-thirties recently but it strikes me as insufferably juvenile. But, hey, I’ve not heard it before, I guess this is the new cutting edge and I am a fan of that photo-study that stirred such a huge amount of controversy in the nineties, the “Piss Christ”, so, in theory, this shouldn’t annoy me the way it does. At any rate, it should be interesting to see the band recreate this one for the live show. Imagine with me, if you will, a group of guys pissing into some receptacle on a stage and pinching and releasing in time. Only Thomas Pynchon at his most delirious - think of the grodier parts of Gravity’s Rainbow - could write such a scene and only Larry Clarke at his most self-celebratory-(read-masturbatory)-edge-pushing-ness could translate the page to celluloid to achieve a similar visual effect.
And then there’s some choral shit.
And then there’s a song that starts out with some intense sounding, really dark, zoning-out type of - nope. There’s a belch. OK. Guys. Got it. You don’t take it seriously. And, yeah, I get it, I drank the punk Kool-Aid, too. Still do. I get that part of things is not taking yourself too seriously or even seriously at all but really. The belches. Can I get high to this? Nope. Can I fuck to this? Nope. Is this a comedy record? Because, I mean, the songs are solid, I don’t need the ornamental belches hung on (next to) everything. This song, “Little Claus” even comes with a cough and a fart.
And, really, imagine having to be the poor bastard that has to sing into the mic that somebody has previously farted into. I really, really hope that the fart guy brought his own mic for that. I also hope he took it home with him, too.
Now, you want some big assed but tight sounding drums? Hot rats, check out “Blood Bank”. For real. All you rap-dudes, sample the fuck out of that intro. The lead guitarist does his best impression of Greg Ginn channeling my beloved Rowland S. Howard. This one is gold. Gold.
And then we end with a song whose bassline reminds me of the last 7 Year Bitch record. Have I told you how much I love 7 Year Bitch? So this? This is good. And this is also where I cross my fingers and repeat “Please don’t burp… Please don’t burp…” It would really mean a lot to me if there are no burps on this song.
OK. Guitar fading out. Almost to the end. Is there going to be… I mean, really…
THANK. FUCK.
So, overall, Hyperslob and the Goat Meat Explosion have made what could have been an insanely great record that’s impeded only by its effluent humor. It’s still worth checking out, I won’t tell you not to. But I also feel like a shithead when I have to include a warning. That warning being that there’re a lot of burps on this record. Maybe it’s just for funsies, maybe it’s intentionally trying to invalidate any sincerity on the recording, maybe it’s some perverted take on kabuki theater; I don’t know, I wasn’t there when they made the record. And if you haven’t made a DIY record, you probably don’t know how much booze and grass is consumed. Hell, if I was a member of this band, I’d probably be toiling late into the night and be drunk and/or high enough to say “Burp on it!”
And that sounds harsh because I’m making it sound like the band could only be drunk and/or high to decide on the burps. For all I know, they could be straight edge. But, hey, even Cobain told Michael Azerrad that Nirvana could release a record of the band farting and force DGC to release it. And he was sober. Or maybe he’d just shot up. I wasn’t there for that either, I don’t know. So I guess effluence is a thing some bands aspire to. My band is pretty boring and run of the mill comparatively, at least in that arena, what do I know?
So my only problem is the burps. And the fart. And the peeing. I’m just an old man anymore, I guess. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic noise-punk record that’s worth your time. You might have a different sense of humor than I have.

11 January, 2015

It's been a while since I posted anything.

Let's see if I even remember how to format a post with HTML.
I had a dream the night before last involving my ownership of a Volkswagen Rabbit or maybe Passat, a hairdresser, bubbles, and a vampire. So, seeing as how my life is almost back to normal, I decided to break out the sketchbook and have a go at drawing one particular scene. Thus, I present you with the pencil work for Volume 6, Issue 66 of The Late-Night Hairdresser.
What is it with me and hairdressers, anyway?
 
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.