SEWERS OF MARS #4

Music Features
SEWERS OF MARS #4
By
Sep 10, 2007, 02:55

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Good tidings, rebels, freaks and prophets. So far, 2007 has been one of the best years for new music in recent memory, don't ya think? I'm just overflowing with things to gush about over here, so without further ado...

Packaged in a cover design I wouldn't look at twice, Arthur & Yu's In Camera (Hardly Art) is a terrific update on the indie pop formula of yore. Vocals fall somewhere between Grant Lee Phillips and Jim James (reverb-phobic? Sit this sucker out), but the music is pure twee in a most delightfully forlorn way. Is this the beginning of an early 90's indie reevaluation? I don't know, but the song that knicks the chord progression from “Creque Alley” won me over instantly. Everything on In Camera sounds so natural and unforced, and the result is a beautiful pop album that sounds as immediately timeless as Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister. The right influences go a long way, and you just know these guys have spent ample time with their Galaxie 500 LPs. Sweet.

Our man MV (AKA, Michael Valentine) is back with Gettin' Gone (Ecstatic Peace!), this time credited to MV & EE featuring The Golden Road. The album is a logical follow up to last year's magnificent Green Blues, and takes that album's flirtations with heavy rock action to dizzying new heights. Gettin' Gone finds MV and EE tempering their shaky blues with Route 66-fried rock guitar and unison vocals a la Royal Trux, while MV's bathtub crank Al Wilson sounds more soulfully damaged than ever. But then there are the sweet ballads like “I Got Caves In There,” which recalls Tower Recordings at their finest, and the beautiful epic “The Hammer,” which pits one of EE's most gorgeous laconic blues vocals against a perilous “Cortez The Killer” guitar slip 'n' slide—the solos here are just pleading. Awesome. Guest spots by J Mascis only add to the heavy communal vibe throughout. The release date on this is October, but when you hear it, it'll feel like summertime all over again, baby! Â

I've been going bananas over everything Jay Reatard's been doing lately, most recently his new harsh electro project Terror Visions, and their picture disc LP World of Shit on FDH. Electro, you say? Damn straight. But leave your negative connotations of Afrika Bambaataa-obsessed fashionistas at the door, because World of Shit is full of SONGS—catchy ones, all transmitted through Reatard's always inventive and always skewed interpretation of pure rock action. Imagine the Misfits appearing on one of those killer Flexipop compilations. Oh yeah. It's that good, sucker. Punk's not dead—it's undead! And ingesting mountains and mountains of graveyard cocaine!

Ghost / White Heaven guitarist Michio Kurihara has made one of 2007's best guitar albums with Sunset Notes (20/20/20). If you're at all a familiar with those old White Heaven albums, you know what a supreme talent Kurihara is, and this solo album exceeds even the highest expectations. More truly abominable cover art here (though the back cover is awesome), but no matter—Kurihara may be the first truly convincing psychedelic guitar hero since Keiji Haino. Sunset Notes features E-bow a plenty, batshit flirtations with surf rock, even obligatory female vocals by Ai Aso on a couple of tracks. But mostly this is just an occasionally mournful, frequently rocking instrumental guitar album for air shredders and peyote hustlers alike. If Kawabata is too far out for your fragile sensibilities, this album is for you.Â

Keep your eye on a dude named Kurt Vile. I got turned on to the music of this Philly charlatan a few years back by our mutual friend Turner Cody. Kurt's been self-releasing CDRs in limited editions for a few years, and his latest, titled Hunchback, is as good a place to get on the train as any. Kurt's eclecticism and willingness to experiment is reminiscent of Greg Ashley or even early Beck—one minute he's Iggy fronting the Standells, the next he's channeling the ghosts of private press issues and letting his mellotron drones percolate wildly for minutes at a time. There are only two common threads in Kurt's totally expressive, unselfconsciously weird music—it's all psychedelic and it's all great. Raise a glass of bongwater for a toast to Philly's newest hit maker. Ariel who?Â

LIGHTS

I recently managed to snag a demo by an excellent band from New York called Lights, and every evening road trip since has been the better for it. The band's ace in the hole is the girl group melodies that perfectly compliment the vaguely haunting / haunted air of the music (think Quixotic). If labels aren't courting these guys like, yesterday, we fucking deserve Interpol and all that other bullshit.

Speaking of demos, Under Satan's Sun is an exciting new metal band featuring two female vocalists—sisters—and ex members of the sorely missed Angelblood. Their brand new self-released demo is chock full of aggressive but highly melodic songs about ghosts, mercy killings, and old-fashioned good and evil. As a whole, Under Satan's Sun are less art-damaged than Angelblood, while retaining that band's aura of obscure ritual and quasi-mysticism. One vocalist ably handles the Gollum-style black metal cackling while the other provides a sweet ‘clean' voice that dances uniquely between operatic influences and British folk stylings. All the while, the band—though firmly rooted in the inscrutable black metal tradition—has the musical chops to allow Under Satan's Sun to easily transcend cult status. Fans of classic King Diamond and Ludicra, take note.

And on the subject of metal, if you thought Today Is The Day's best days were behind them, think again, jerk. Their latest, Axis of Eden (on Steve Austin's own Supernova label), breaks from the full-on assault style of 2004's brilliant and overlooked Kiss The Pig and hearkens back to the more experimental days of Temple of The Morning Star, with lots of pummeling slow passages that recall early Swans. Mainman Steve Austin is as tortured as ever, and Axis of Eden, despite the political-seeming title, is full of intense lyrics that are personal to the point of arousing discomfort. “Free At Last” is as doomy as the band has ever sounded, and is another good case for Austin's instincts as a producer. Dig how the relentless and visceral “Total Resistance” is, even with clean guitars, totally extreme and catchy. The final track, “Desolation” is a nice surprise, too, a Severed Heads-style mindfuck, complete with hyper-speed drums and nervous breakdown bass. While Mastodon and Meshuggah get all the glossy magazine spreads and big money tours, Today Is The Day, who taught those bands almost everything they know, continue to enjoy ‘cult status.' What a world.Â

Album of the month goes, hands down, to Magik Markers, who's new Boss (Ecstatic Peace!) is not only the band's defining moment, but a defining moment for noise rock and underground music in general. Rather than remain stagnant continuing to reign over the third wave noise ghetto they helped construct, the band has instead opted to record nine full-on punk rock songs of a decidedly more traditional ‘western' stripe—choruses and all. What could be fairly construed, going in, as an ‘all hat, no cattle' strategy—an audacious but ultimately superficial statement from a band that's always been philosophically punk at its core—ends up rocking harder than a Laughing Hyenas / Flesh Eaters backyard wrestling match. Elisa Ambrogio has never sounded as fiery or fired up, and drummer Pete Nolan, fresh from his gig drumming for Jandek, is in magnificent form throughout. Sonic Youth-isms abound, naturally (Lee Ranaldo produces and contributes), but Ambrogio's hyper-literate lyrics and evocative vocals in particular put an indelible stamp on Boss that lesser bands work years trying to cultivate. It seems clear that there's a whole new generation of wide and wild-eyed kids out there making a racket, trading spray-painted cassettes and cashing in their Lollapalooza tickets for a three day No Fun Fest pass. For those kids, Boss will be their In Utero. Wonder if they even know how lucky they are?Â

That's it for this installment. Next month, I'll be tackling the new Wooden Shjips LP on Holy Mountain, ponder the finer points of a great new band of scary scumfucks called (wait for it) Blue Sabbath Black Cheer, and hoping to snag a copy of the new Vic Chesnutt album on Constellation.

Please keep supporting Sewers of Mars and especially Your Flesh, the finest periodical on the web or elsewhere. And refreshingly ‘wow word'-free since '81.

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