22 September, 2012

30 Reviews In 30 Days: Review #22

Slices, Still Cruising (Iron Lung Records, 2012)

Oh man does this record ever rule. While it's not a completely unexpected followup to Slices' debut Cruising, it certainly is much more of a stylistic departure than you'd expect from the band. Cruising was an excellent, unexpectedly arty hardcore record that primarily distinguished itself through a collection of deeply fucked up (and great) riffs, awfully convincing psychotic shouting, and an incredibly bitter, disturbed and threatening emotional atmosphere. On Still Cruising, the riffs retain the quality of before, but the emotions have significantly lightened. The vocals no longer sound tortured, but they're just as intense as before: there's almost a sense of joy in the singer's shouting on the happier songs. Oh yeah, speaking of happier songs... Unexpectedly, the happier songs are the better songs here. The band was so convincing and frightening on Cruising that it almost seemed like they'd never end up feeling happiness again. But on the more cheerful songs here, the band manages to combine the intensity, brutality and speed of great hardcore with classic rock-influenced riffs and a wonderfully happy-go-lucky, boozy rock and roll sensibility. And this combination is insanely hard to pull off correctly. One band that sort of managed to do this was Harvey Milk, with The Pleaser. But remember, Harvey Milk was an experimental doom metal band making a full-on classic rock record. Slices are a hardcore band combining existing elements of their sound with classic rock-influenced riffs. The fusion here of hardcore and classic rock, shockingly, isn't awkward or corny at all. It's so natural that it feels like Slices were almost supposed to take this stylistic route, when they could easily have made a Cruising Part II with no complaints from their fan base. And the record feels like it gets even more enjoyable as it goes along. "Horse Race," "Class Time," and "All My Life" are all filled with awesome riffs, shredded-throat screaming and pure rock and roll attitude. Actual rock and roll. Remember what that sounds like? It sounds like the AC/DC-influenced boogie-at-lightspeed riffage of "Trying To Make a Living," or the brilliant garage rock hardcore of "Slices Is Dirts," or the catchy, great, slide guitar-infused "Why Do You Make Yourself So Sad." And the funniest moment is... well, I can't spoil that for you, because it's really, really funny. But it soon makes way for the most blindingly intense hardcore on the record - and, needless to say, Slices is really, really good at making blindingly intense hardcore. That they managed to fuse this approach with catchy, feel-good hooks and riffage is a stylistic and artistic coup, and it distinguishes one of the best and most under-appreciated records that came out this year.

30 Reviews In 30 Days: Review #21

Pop. 1280, The Horror (Sacred Bones, 2012)

This came out in January and was an early highlight of the year. Pop. 1280's sound - a surprisingly natural amalgam of Chris Bug's theatrically paranoid rockn'roll sneer, Ivan Lip's Birthday Party-worshipping guitar, Cop Shoot Cop bass grinding, monolithic synth lines that call to mind Suicide, Devo and even Cabaret Voltaire occasionally, and stiffly unorthodox, stop and start rhythms that sometimes slightly recall The Scream-era Siouxsie and the Banshees - consolidates itself into a far artier and darker, though not quite as intense or hooky entity on this album. Where their first EP, The Grid, featured some extraordinarily catchy, funny and/or hard-rocking songs on it - "Step Into The Grid," "Redtube" and "Midget" come to mind in particular - the closest thing The Horror has to a song like any of those is a synthesizer-corroded tom-trashing number called "Bodies In The Dunes," which repeats its main theme ad nauseum as Bug talks about seeing dead bodies wrapped head to toe in a sack. The enjoyably campy humor that was such a distinguishing characteristic of the band on The Grid has mostly vanished here, with the exception of the hilariously lockstep dance of "Hang 'em High." And the full-on descents into all-out noise rock hell, as characterized by The Grid's "Data Dump" and the career peak of B-side "Dead Hand," are also mostly not in evidence. What is here, though, is a deeply depressive, clotted, cold sound. It sounds like Pop. 1280 have finally committed fully to the dystopia they'd previously had a sense of humor about before. Most of the instruments are grouped together in the middle of the mix, sounding like one smoggy cloud full of enough nightmares to last you a few weeks. This album is a bleak lump of distemper, and at its' best - "Bodies In The Dunes," the vicious opening one-two punch of "Burn The Worm" and "New Electronix," the organ-driven dirge "Beg Like a Human," the wonderfully driving and pulsing "Crime Time" - it takes the band to coldly hateful places they've never been before. And while I hope that their next album puts together the frigid, creepy artiness on display here with the hooky humor of before and the completely unhinged, brain-frying noise they're eminently capable of, The Horror is a great debut album, which takes many risks with a strongly established sound and mostly succeeds.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.