SEWERS OF MARS #17

Music Features
SEWERS OF MARS #17
By
Apr 20, 2009, 08:52

Sorry for the extended silence, friends. That Thorazine's a beeyotch.....

I'm what you call a “soft touch” any band that wants to get on my good side need only namedrop Royal Trux in their press kit. This very public Achilles heel of mine seems to be coincidentally coinciding with more young bands than ever counting the band as an influence, which is fine by me. One recent example is Bridez, who's debut 7” (World Famous In San Francisco) is a just-short-of-shameless homage to the band's early work, but Bridez has the hooks, not to mention an excellent vocalist in Liza Thorn (late of SF noisemongers So So Many White White Tigers) to transcend the liberal borrowing of Trux's singular aesthetic. These are excellent tunes in the post-Exile on Main Street mold, but the band is best when the self -conscious sleaze subsides a bit, as on B-side “Heart” where they accidentally end up sounding more like The Gits or early Hole. A rare single that rewards repeat listens.

Another of these bands who manage to capture the Trux vibe is Circle Pit, a Sydney-based blues-rock duo whose debut 7” for R.I.P Society,  but do so albeit in a slightly less obvious way. Maybe it's the vaguely Paul Morrissey-esque cover art, but Circle Pit sound somehow slightly more convincing, though their stoned narco-blues is certainly less tuneful than Bridez's. “Everybody Left” is a highlight here, bolstered by an exciting call and response male / female vocals that recall the halcyon days of riot grrl.

 Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand

At my favorite local record store recently, I asked a friend behind the counter if he'd heard the new Black Lips. He went on to tell me he was really tired of all this post-KBD, willfully lo-fi garage rock stuff that seems all the rage these days. I conceded that there did seem to be an unusual number of recent bands carrying on as if the Oblivions never existed, but argued that Black Lips transcended the genre—their tunes were actual tunes, their records were produced with a meticulous attention to detail, and they were just generally more fun than the average band of garage miscreants. Unfortunately, 200 Million Thousand (Vice) is not the album to convert my friend. I can't put my finger on exactly why the album falls short, but it does, with only the adventurous “The Drop I Hold,” which imagines Black Lips as an inept hip hop group, and a swaggering cover of Iggy's “Again and Again,” standing out amidst forgettable tunes and business-as-usual production. The album is by no means a dud, but fails to reach the heights of the band's last album, the occasionally extraordinary Good Bad Not Evil. Let's hope it's just a slump.

 TK Webb & The Visions - Ancestor

Vastly underrated rock and roll hobo TK Webb continues to impress on Ancestor (Kemado), with his new band TK Webb & The Visions, featuring members of Love As Laughter. This time around, Webb has mostly forsaken the country blues of previous albums to mine the zeitgeist of rock and rollâ„¢ unapologetically, making for one of the most exciting road trip records of last year. Explosive opener “Teen Is Still Shaking” perfectly acclimates the listener to Webb's unique blues rasp and inscrutable lyrics, while rockers like the brief, cleverly titled “Isle of Grizzly White” vie for attention amidst mindfucks like “Dreen Drone Death,” which begins like a stab at dream pop before abruptly launching into Sabbath's riff for “Into The Void.” Elsewhere, “Closed Caption Song” sounds like T Rex covering David Lee Roth's “Big Trouble” (and if Webb has a vocal doppelganger, it's Roth), and all the better for it. In a just world, dude would have already gone platinum.

 Brightblack Morning Light - Motion to Rejoin (Bonus Track Version)

I've never been one to let naive philosophies get in the way of enjoying a good record. Take, for instance, the laughably preposterous Brightblack Morning Light, who's latest, Motion to Rejoin (Matador), is something of a masterpiece of lysergic R&B. Imagine the Stax Volt box set played by some long lost band of private press hippies adrift on a sea of acid tabs and their own self-importance. Look past the absurd, howlingly funny lyrics about “city light oppression” (yawn) and a printed endorsement in the insert for the tents front man Naybob Shineywater uses, and you'll discover a masterfully produced (using four solar wind panels, don't ya know!), beautifully played and quite extraordinary record. The best track here, “Past A Weatherbeaten Fencepost,” is the sound J Spaceman has been searching for his whole life. Beginning with a sample of scratchy vinyl, the tune slowly morphs into nod-out oblivion, as harmony vocals, wah guitar, and stoned trombone lazily marinate into a slo-mo Salsoul jam that encompasses the entire second half. I only wish they didn't sing shit like “Where eagles fly past city lights / canoe painted rainbows lends a power.” Still, for an album that sounds this great, I'm happy to bite my tongue (well, I didn't really, did I?).

 The Nerves - One Way Ticket

The increasingly exciting Alive label is responsible for One Way Ticket, a crucial reissue by short-lived but legendary L.A punk band The Nerves. The compilation breaks with common anthological tradition by generously featuring songs that follow the post-Nerves solo careers of both Paul Collins and Peter Case, and as such, makes for a handy introduction to the sublime talents of these power pop dynamos. One Way Ticket (Alive) contains a bevy of live tracks, demos, and an aborted single for Bomp!, but most welcome is the entirety of the band's only official release, a juggernaut of a self-titled EP originally released in 1976, complete with the original (slightly superior) version of “Hangin'  On the Telephone,” later made famous by Blondie, and , err, L7. Some superfluous stuff here and there, but nice to have this all in one place, and good to see this band getting the recognition they deserve.

 Dávila 666 - Dávila 666

It's official—you better start learning Spanish. San Juan, Puerto Rico's Davila 666 is a rare punk rock band who understands both the ‘punk' and the ‘rock.' Their eponymous debut album (In The Red) is full of boisterously reverent garage-pop with infectious (if familiar sounding) melodies, all rendered like lo-fi covers of songs The Wipers, New York Dolls, and the Ramones never wrote (but could have and should have). Though the band plays it pretty close to the vest, they clearly understand what makes a song work—there's nary a stinker on this sucker. The band is best on the Velvets-y “Tú” (complete with xylophone a la “Sunday Morning” —the video for “Tú” is brilliant as well ) and “Muy Chistoso,” which sounds like a Keith Richards solo album reimagined as grunge.

Creston Spiers steps out from his role as frontman for Athens-based stoner metal institution Harvey Milk for this unexpected solo single (Southern Shelter). Pressed on golden wax, the two songs here show Spiers in a reflective mood, as he belts out two unexpectedly gorgeous folk tunes. “Yesterday's Parade” uses Neil's “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” riff as a jump off as Spiers' attack-heavy 12 string buzzes beneath a desperate and beautiful vocal. “The Time Has Come” is just as great, it's a slightly out of tune sleepwalk of a tune that recalls the melancholy despair of Harvey Milk while sounding almost supernaturally like Peter Laughner. One of my most played records of the year, and essential listening.

All hail Taboo! This group of unstable individuals from Maine has released quite the head-scratcher in Their Satanic Majesties Third And Final Request (Asbestos on Ice). When was the last time an album of ‘songs' could still be ‘playable at any speed?' Take the drug fueled abandon of The Cows, the biker scumfuck tendencies of Nicodemus, and the surrealist kitchen sink approach of Caroliner, and you're getting close to what's on the grooves here. This is psych rock the way none of those dateless beardos who horde Jefferson Airplane bootlegs could have ever imagined, and has far more in common with the creepy tape trading scene than with record fair nerds. The whole product is gloriously shoddy—guitars riff aimlessly, instrument cables are audibly unplugged, dogs bark, pitches shift, doorbells are abused, and the entire recording is muddy and pressed on shitty vinyl. As if all of this weren't enough, the band holds the distinction of being the last band on planet earth with no web presence whatsoever. Even the label's hard to track down. One of the most satisfyingly strange records of the year!

 Chriss Sutherland - Worried Love

Speaking of Maine, Chriss Sutherland and his pals have been quietly making some of the best records of the new millennium. First there was Cerberus Shoal, the long-running avant-prog-folk-punk collective, who broke up just as they were hitting their stride. Then a myriad of projects, chief among them Big Blood and Fire on Fire (who recently released an outstanding EP on Young God), began springing up, and with each release, it was increasingly clear that this collective of friends was tapping into some very unusual coastal magic. The best of these recent releases is Worried Love (Peapod), the second solo album by ex-Cerberus Shoal mainstay and current Fire on Fire member Chriss Sutherland. Sutherland's previous album, Me In A “Field” (Digitalis), was a poignant and wistful album that introduced Sutherland's raspy take on folk rock, but Worried Love is his tour de force. First thing you notice is Sutherland's voice. An unmannered, earnest croon reminiscent of Richard Buckner, it is a voice that sounds capable of violence or hysteria, one that sings sweetly but sounds as if it could break at any moment. Then there are the songs, which wouldn't sound out of place on any number of long-gone 70s albums of literate psych folk, except that every song here has the hallmarks of a classic. Sutherland's simple, plaintive songs are usually centered on friendship and family, but he manages to sidestep any heavy-handedness by writing simply and poetically, and occasionally in the blues idiom. Dig “What Are We Gonna Do Now: “The last time I seen it fall down / The last time I seen it fall down / A partner helped to bring it around / I never thought the same would be the same again.” When he throws a curveball, like a fairly straight reading of the Spanish language standard “Volando Voy,” Sutherland inexplicably comes off as a natural. Throughout the album, snaking psychedelic guitar lines cross with rollicking banjo and purposeful guitar strumming, while Sutherland's Fire on Fire compadrés provide the perfect foil in the form of exquisite harmonies that recall James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt's work on After the Gold Rush. Not a single note is wasted or out of place. This is a beautiful, nearly perfect record, one that will fly below the radar of most, which is a damn shame. Worried Love is a rare and unusual treasure, and, by some margin, album of the month. Next month, reviews of Magik Markers and Orphan, along with my award-winning recipe for venison chili, and a warning to certain twee pretenders that they really oughta quit succkking myy dicck. Sleep at your own peril.

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