SEWERS OF MARS #2
Jul 10, 2007, 09:00
This month, I'm finally getting to some of the stuff sent to Your Flesh that I've been meaning to tackle.Â Â
The popularity of Weirdo Rippers by No Age [Fat Cat] has me scratching my head a little. Sure, the way the duo move from ambient passages to punk anthems of the Dischord variety is commendable, but there's nothing here that Japanther hasn't already done with more balls and better melodies. Though I did find the â€˜songs' more likable than the utterly unnecessary instrumental passages, the whole package gives me the feeling I'm listening to a snack cake.Â
Equally ponderous is this Battles album, Mirrored [Warp]. I suppose for a generation that thinks TV on the Radio is a good band, this constitutes music with balls. The press kit boasts of “fractured rhythms, crystalline staccato guitar lines and throttling drums,” and all that is true, but doesn't that sound boring to anyone else? The truth is there is some very interesting stuff on this album, mostly courtesy of brilliant guitarist Tyondai Braxton (his solo album is mostly fantastic), but the overall effect is Tortoise with a Black Dice fixation. I've probably just sold a few hundred copies right there, haven't I?Â
The Brian Wilson baroque of Jennifer Gentle's latest for Sub Pop, The Midnight Room, is certainly quite a departure. The band is down from a duo to just Marco Fasolo, who wrote, performed and produced the entire album at his studio in Northern Italy, and the album is poppier and far less psychedelic than their Sub Pop debut Valende, but still pretty thick and obtuse. Interestingly, Fasolo's voice often sounds like Carla Bozulich. Not sure if it's sped up or what, but the effect is cool and makes tracks like “Take My Hand” sound like Syd Barrett's “Effervescing Elephant” at 78rpm. Fans of the much missed Pleasure Forever should hear this immediately. One song even features a kazoo!Â Â
The back story on these Betty Davis reissues sounds a little better than the music itself, but what a back story! Betty introduced husband Miles to the music of Jimi Hendrix, inspired Bitch's Brew, and was said to be a, erm, close friend of Hendrix himself.
Her first two albums, reissued here legitimately by Light In The Attic for the first time ever, are chock full of Davis's unique brand of burlesque funk, a great deal of which you may recognize from the many hip hop tracks that sampled them. Davis gets points for being a total freak (one song details how she whips her man with a turquoise chain, whatever that is), and for laying down some serious wailing despite a singing voice that leaves a tad to be desired. “If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up” from the self-titled album features a killer riff and one of the few honest-to-goodness hooks, and “They Say I'm Different” from the album of the same name shouts out John Lee Hooker and Leadbelly over a delicious punk funk groove. Pretty cool.
Hadn't really connected with what I'd previously heard of this Mike Wexler fellow, but his latest on Amish, Sun Wheel, is quite enjoyable. The eight songs here break from folk traditions by marrying thoughtful arrangements to melodies cribbed from the Beatles. Perhaps a little more earnest than it needs to be at times, especially vocally (think Billy Corgan or Jeremy Enigk), Sun Wheel's slightly prog-touched dourness is understated enough for optimal Sunday morning listening. Given the title, I was surprised to not see a swastika on the cover. Well, not really.
The insufferably titled The Ultimate Cult of Psychedelic Psychosis pretty much sums up Chicago band Dark Fog's modus operandi. Wonder what they sound like? Led by founders of the great Original Sound Recordings labelÂ (home to Buried At Sea, and, more recently, Minsk), Dark Fog's sweeping psychedelia recalls all the bands you would expect, and at the risk of parroting their previous press I will abstain from referencing Hawkwind, My Bloody Valentine and Blue Cheer. Oops. Did I mention My Bloody Valentine?Â Anyway, if there's a problem here it's a real case of middle of the road-ness—Dark Fog don't completely overtake you with sheets of dreamy feedback like The Goslings or The Angelic Process, nor do they lull you into a trance via sappy melodies over total guitar tone blitzkrieg like Jesu or, say, Slowdive. Regardless of this, Dark Fog's songs are all completely likeable and will likely make fans of anyone with a fetish for well-played drug music, or those who think that
Acid Mother's Temple were the first band to ever use an effects pedal. Oops again.
I dug Goon Moon's unexpectedly weird first album and was looking forward to this new one, the oddly titled Licker's Last Leg [Ipecac]. While retaining plenty of the studio batshittery of the first album, the songs are occasionally too eclectic for their own good and are full of unfortunate lyrical colloquialisms that seriously ground the tunes (think Clutch). Still, Twiggy Ramirez and Chris Goss are two of the more adventurous rockers to have flirted with mainstream approval, so I'd just as soon encourage their endeavors. It sure beats what's on the radio right now.
Dead Child is a new metal band featuring Dave Pajo, and I'm not sure if it's the killer riff that opens “Angel of The Odd” or the fact that vocalist Dahm sounds uncannily like Anthrax's Joey Belladonna, but I'm completely sold on this debut EP [Cold Sweat]. This is well played, well sung, well produced metal that will likely get ink in indie rags based on Pajo's involvement, but the truth is, he's only one of the two guitarists here, and the guitar playing is pure metal chugging, so if you're expecting to be distracted by post rock-isms, prepare to eat your words. If the dudes in Dead Child are tourists, they've certainly mastered the language. So who cares?Â
Speaking of metal, I told Your Flesh head honcho Peter Davis not to send me the new Megadeth album on the grounds that I thought the band lost its way around the time of Rust in Peace, but I think I showed my cards a little too much, because he sent it to me anyway. Megadeth were always one of the finest thrash / speed metal bands of all time, and it's important to remember that their best records are as good as Metallica's, Iron Maiden's or Slayer's. That said, their best days have been behind them for a long, long time, and United Abominations—a howlingly bad title if ever there was one—is just the most recent slip into mediocrity, complete with the bassist from White Lion. While not even half as bad as 1999's Risk, United Abominations is Megadeth as a caricature of itself, only now with self-righteous, heavy-handed lyrics about the Middle East. Dave Mustaine has always been political but, golly, this is just ridiculous. On the plus side, the rock radio-ready
“Ã Tout Le Monde” features Lacuna Coil hottie Christina Scabbia, and the guitar playing throughout is, as always, outstanding. [Roadrunner]
Tio Bitar, the newst from Swedish psych saviors Dungen, is a real surprise. While not as immediately likable as 2004's terrific Ta Det Lungt, Tio Bitar is a real slow burner, full of beautiful guitar playing and song forms unique even to the Dungen catalog. While not every song requires patient listening (“Mon Amour” has teeth like few Dungen songs before it, and “Familj” is this album's “Panda”), the album as a whole is best experienced attentively. Listen closely and the album that reveals itself is quite remarkable, and all in a relatively digestible 42 minutes. Nice to see folks reigning it in a little. [Kemado]
As for personal favorites this month, Forgotten Woods' newest, Race of Cain, on the 20 Buck Spin label, is an absolute killer. More consistently brutal than their previous work (which sounded as much like The Cure as it did Emperor), Race of Cain cements the underrated band's reputation for total savagery and makes as good a case for the future of black metal beyond its current role as indie rock fad.Â Â
OK, now it's time to discuss the record of the month. As a longtime Swans fanatic, I may be biased, but this latest Angels of Light album is a masterpiece. Michael Gira has been steadily issuing Angels of Light albums since the mid nineties and each one gets better and better, but We Are Him [Young God] is not only his finest achievement but also easily one of the year's best albums. Backed by members of Akron / Family, among others, the meticulously layered instrumentation is the perfect foil to Gira's dry, menacing vocals. Dirges and rockers sit side by side as songs are built on single hiccupping electric guitar lines, trippy drones, and even Akron / Family's collective vocal prowess, used to great effect throughout. Absolutely perfect.
Lastly, I'd like to talk about this amazing Pisspounder triple LP compilation on Deathbomb Arc. Each of the six bands—Sword Heaven, Rainbow Blanket, Dreamhouse, Foot Village, Grey Skull, and Aa—bring the noise something fierce. Each band was given a whole side to work their magic, and of the six, Foot Village's submission is the most riveting. Working with only drums (and what sounds like drum machines) and vocals, the band create an ungodly sludge that is as heavy as it is unnerving. Better to ignore the lyrics, though. Elsewhere, Sword Heaven is their usually relentless self, Aa's twittering chant rock makes for a nice respite from the din of their comparatively aggro company, Grey Skull introduce the noise crowd to the pleasures of funeral doom vocals, Rainbow Blanket's visceral drones argue with tweaked out drums (spoiler: white noise wins), and the under recorded Dreamhouse (if anyone has their self-released LP, please send it to me!) seamlessly move from Casio / drum warfare to loner folk ramble to short bus free jazz. All this, housed in a gorgeous fold out silkscreen cover. If this compilation is any indication, the future is supremely fucked. Hand-numbered edition of 700.
That's it for now, friends and secret admirers. Check back next time to read me gush over the latest from Pig Destroyer, the live Black Lips CD, and Greg Ashley's Painted Garden. Please keep sending shit to me c/o Your Flesh. And in addition to the above mentioned Dreamhouse LP, I'm looking for any live Tanya Tucker bootlegs and Phil Yost's Fog Hat Ramble LP. Get in touch if you wanna sell or trade. I've stumbled upon a recipe for venison meatballs that'll win your fucking heartâ€¦
For consideration in this column, please send music on any format to me, James J. Toth c/o Your Flesh. Please no “dance punk.” Lutes and mandolins and shit welcome.