Further – Where Were You Then? 1991-1997 (Bad Paintings)
Review of a reissue I didn’t see coming. Had Further happened around 2007-08, someone would’ve signed them straight away. They’d have cleaned up their sound by now. Wait, did I just recite the trajectory of Sic Alps?
Hey … I was around, guy. I was there when nobody gave a fuck for Further. People had their reasons, all of which were valid for the early-mid ‘90s West Coast indie rock scene in which they kicked around. The brothers Rademaker – Darren and Brent, guitarist and bassist, respectively – had been kicking around southern California since the early ‘80s, with their new wave band A New Personality. Coupling with drummer Kevin Fitzgerald, they weaved and bobbed their way through the ‘80s, rebranding themselves as Shadowland along the way, and getting a big-money/no-traction record deal with Geffen in the late ‘80s. They slugged it out in the moment before grunge happened, with no takers on their dark paisley sounds, and disbanded just as grunge overcame their former record company’s futures, and the industry overall.
Shadowland would’ve received a drubbing even if the alternative nation never happened, so it’s both interesting and perplexing to see how they decided to operate afterwards, by picking up second guitarist Josh Schwartz and rebranding themselves as Further. Where Were You Then? compiles tracks from the band’s 7”s and EPs, covering their early days up until the Schwartz and the Rademakers became principle members of Beachwood Sparks and The Tyde.
Teargas Rock – s/t 12” EP (Little Black Cloud)
Teargas Rock was essentially an extension of (Young) Pioneers, a rousing protest-punk outlet for ex-Born Against guitarist Adam Nathanson, bassist Marty Key, and an assortment of drummers, who’d continue on in this formation, however briefly, anchored down by Randy Davis, late of Baltimore trio The Great Unraveling. They played one show circa 2000 and folded, giving up the lucrative possibility of having a record released on Troubleman Unlimited. These seven songs are receiving the most posthumous of debuts care of boutique Richmond label Little Black Cloud (which did that essential compilation of Dynamic Truths recordings a few years back). This record is great for a few reasons, least of which is its brevity: the best (Young) Pioneers records were their singles and EPs like On Trial and Crimewave, which ripped past rather than sauntered out by the stockyards, looking for a break in the line to jump on a boxcar and quietly hambone all the way to the Quad Cities. There is a little bit of harmonica-bobo and Guthrieisms at play here amidst the electric guitars, which you’d almost expect for a politically-minded band of the era (and especially this one, which made a record like First Virginia Volunteers years before). What really makes this shine is the time period from which it was dislodged: pre-9/11, post-Seattle, a country awash at the coasts with money they all but printed, and the gains made in the ‘90s towards equality and fairness for all – at least from where I stood, as an idealistic college kid whose heart was at least in the right place most of the time – were being forgotten for long enough that they’d inevitably become the more pointed struggle we witness today. Teargas Rock dealt with it by writing songs that addressed a need and understanding for faith against the hatred and intolerance such systems accumulate by scaring the weak (“Thursday Night Prayer Meeting”), fleeting love and respect at the Tompkins Square Riots (“Tear Gas Rock”), lies buried under the civic South (“As Thousands Cheer”), and most poignant of all, “Ballad of ’85,” a cautionary tale about a New Jersey skinhead who gets the shit kicked out of him in the city, and is lucky enough to make the PATH train back home. Songs buzz with hope and vibrancy missing from a lot of music today (the totalitarian crush of Fucked Up’s guitars of today could take a tip from something so earthy), and the ultimate goal here seems to be to make the kids dance: not to the soul music and DJ culture that a lot of kids flocked to as the millennium crested, but to the protest itself, bodies amplifying the dissent. That’s gotta be remembered; that’s gotta stand for something. Edition of 300. (http://littleblackcloudrecords.com)
Kam Kama – Shift LP (Sister Cylinder)
After an EP and a single that didn’t really have the oomph to get off the ground, Bloomington, IN’s Kam Kama turn up with a full-length that has at least enough ballast to keep it from blowing away. It seems that some time was spent on this release, and it shows: the windswept sound they worked out in the past now has some vistas from which to carom skyward and accelerate, a gently disturbed brace of clean, flanged guitars, careful rhythms that handle corners at speed, and reedy vocals that remind more of Zachary Cale than ever before. For Against seems to be a point of departure here, as does Eleven Pond or a more assertive Ocean Blue, or Deardarkhead, any number of misunderstood bands from farflung corners of the nation’s state-run universities, huddling together out of common interests, far from the wedgies of football players or the rancid dismissals of frat bros. I’d imagine this band is a bit more powerful live than these records let on – the recording on this thing is straight out of 1986, albeit with more depth and less compression – but with Shift they finally have something akin to a keeper, something that’ll pull in fans of darker rock and won’t leave them wanting. The band gives the impression of shyly sidling up to their genre of choice rather than outright aping elements of better-known bands, which at this bleak epoch is the most we can hope for. (http://sistercylinder.bigcartel.com)
More reviews this week
Life has been cray, but some more Still Single reviews will be up and running this week.
In the meantime, why don’t you just read urbankill or goodbysunball?
Autonomes – s/t 2x7” EP (Punkhouse)
The Punkhouse label recently started up of a record shop in Wales, focusing on reissues and first-time-ever excavations of punk and post-punk material rarely heard outside of that part of England. Autonomes are one of the first releases out of this meticulous project, a band comprised of bunch of teenagers with stage names like “Haggis, “Griff” and “The Wedgefaced Axeman,” active in a small town from ’78-’80. The audience for something like this is rather specialized, but this one doesn’t disappoint; pretty much a full-length album is crammed into these two 7” singles, covering the gamut of ’77 street punk (“Chaos” being the highlight), a great protest song against school and work entitled “History of a Western Philospher,” even some slowed down, tense beaters like “Who’s Going Up The Tower” and the dark, atonal “Doomsday” (which set off some standard, non-surprising choices, including a love song called “Enchanted” that seems out of place here). If you want to hear an unknown band evolve, this isn’t the worst way to go about it (the band sounds not unlike if Ian MacKaye jumped straight from the Teen Idles to Embrace by way of the Empire record, skipping the hardcore period entirely), and Punkhouse has made up a very limited and very desirable object to make that mission a reality: there have been two pressings, totaling 200 numbered copies altogether, packaged in a stamped fabric sleeve in several different prints, all made of military parachute fabric. The records look and sound great, and though you might have needed to be there to make owning this essential, it’s certainly no slouch, and a good model for what’s to come. (http://punkhouserecordshop.com)
Harassor – Into Unknown Depths LP (Dais)
Should it matter to you that you’re reading an opinion of a black metal record written by a guy who thinks this is for the most part like the ultimate weak genre? All that matters is that this guy can tell you when something whiffs, or if it rips – and Harassor, for the most part, fuckin’ rips. This LA trio dispenses with the forlorn minor chords rather quickly and gets down to playing really gnarly blackened thrash, with a little room here or there for some mope & murk (seriously one of these songs sounds like Cold Showers gone kvlt). It’s not too over the top, but all most metal needs to survive – not thrive, just survive – is sick riffs, and Lord Foul brings those in spades. Points deducted for no bass player, but otherwise this was a solid way to end a really long and frustrating day of work, shooting daggers from my eyes into all the mortals on the subway with this unholy shitstorm churning between my ears. It is no S.V.E.S.T. to be certain, but sometimes evil has got to give it a rest. Water on the stovetop does not boil right away. 300 copies. (http://www.daisrecords.com)
Harry Pussy – s/t LP (Palilalia)
This one was always on the more extreme end of rock-like music you could get into circa its 1993 release date. 20+ years have not dulled its twin blades; maybe the decades have brought them into even deeper focus, given the undeniable similarities between Bill Orcutt’s reactivation/hook-hand guitar attack, just a shade removed from what he was doing here, back when HP was a duo of Adris Hoyos and B.O., sweating it out in Miami for the damp handful. It was exciting then and tonight as well. The feel of that mode of play, the whole guitar-strings-bitten-for-floss motif, is right there at the one-two kickoff of “Youth Problem” and “1986,” to my estimation the same amplified acoustic on which he returned (or at least a hollow-body, as there’s no other good way to account for the resonance or tonal totality). Hoyos is more or less buried by it, the bandwidth consumed by amplified sound, cymbals occasionally crackling overtop, removed of shape and reduced to mere blocks on a lo-res matrix. Sure, they come back via floor tom on the closing cover of Kraftwerk’s “Showroom Dummies,” dummied down for the ‘80s hardcore set this release pays such respect over (the cover art is famously some clipping of dudes in mosh estrus, turned upside down with a snipping of “Truly Tasteless Jokes” or some such offense underlining it), but this is a sawblade with one person’s name on it, likely explaining the lack of an all-in reissue – this one comes in an edition of 70, a thick, silkscreened sleeve replacing the OG’s paste-on cover, and doled out to the few, perhaps, just to get the conversation going again; a record you could never really get anyway, now returned as one you really can’t get. But did it work…? Yes, yes it did. (http://palilalia.com)
The Rock*a*Teens – A Major Motion Picture 2xLP (Chunklet)
Here we go with another ridiculous
Mad fold-in Chunklet live record, this time by Cabbagetown, GA’s indomitable Rock*a*Teens, who reinvented Southern gothic rock drama for the late ‘90s and very early ‘00s, a time when rock of all nature was in short supply. Took me a while to warm to them back then (can’t help but distrust Team Clermont radio service packages, especially ones featuring indie rock records put out by an Indigo Girls member) but once their fourth album Golden Time rolled out, I got rolled along with it – sweeping, magnanimous statements in rock/opera, treble-boosted and overdriven, with so much bluster via Chris Lopez that it shook off the rocker panels and destroyed the speaker cones in my Chevy Cavalier. These live recordings come from two Atlanta shows circa 1998-99, right around the time of their deal with Merge Records, and focuses primarily on Golden Time and Baby, A Little Rain Must Fall material, with a handful of selections from Cry. The sound quality here isn’t great, and given the expanses of rock music that this band covered are now once again dutifully being fulfilled by the Rock*a*Teens’ actual influences (Nick Cave and others realizing why people like them, etc.), it may not be an entry point for the unconverted. Fans will eat this up, though. Kinda bummed I missed this band’s reunion sets earlier in the month, but shows are not really the priority for me around here anymore. Part of life. I saw them once, near their end, with Pram and the Walkmen (their second show) and it was great. I’ll keep the memory close by, and a record like this’ll surely help. (http://www.chunklet.com)
Connections – Into Sixes (Anyway)
Great record, backed hard.
I’ve been told that Connections, the formidable Ohio guitar-pop juggernaut responsible for some of the best music of last year, has a goal to meet: to see the release of two full-lengths a year, comprising their best studio material, and plenty of room for home-recorded and outtake singles, EPs and splits throughout the other months.
It may be tough for them to pull it off in 2014, as Into Sixes, their third LP in two years, is creeping out at the end of summer, with only four months to go before the holidays end and 2015 begins. But even if they don’t meet their quota this year, Into Sixes should more than cover the spread. Out of all the bands around these days who are simply releasing too many records/tapes/whatever, not knowing what to keep or throw away, Connections is one of a very small handful deserving of those ambitions.
Comet Gain – Paperback Ghosts LP (Fortuna Pop)
My review of the excellent (if you’re a fan) new Comet Gain LP. This band brings out the sap in me. Look at me drip.
You start to wonder after a while what it is that you see that the others don’t, why that is, and why nothing can be done about it. Cursed to the same fate as them, the understanding that you can’t bring across to everyone around you, the love and kinship you feel towards this imperfect band of souls.
The God In Hackney – Cave Moderne LP (Junior Aspirin)
Ultra-ambitious (is there any other kind?), multi-instrumentalist art-rock cheek from some Britons with a theory for everything. Making a conceptual album with a Canterbury lean about some sort of utopian online community seems like a waste of time, but this one is pretty OK, if very affected/touched by the sense of selves among its membership. Henry Cow this ain’t, but I guess it’ll do to think about something harmlessly humorous as the Earth and all of its living things rapidly die off. The computers will outlast us all. Whatever memories we store will be the only remaining evidence of shared experience for our scant ancestors … those, and a floating pool of plastic in the ocean that will comprise the floating bedrock of the 8th continent (or 7th, if you think Antarctica will melt away). 300 copies, orange vinyl. (http://www.junioraspirin.com)
Lace Curtain – The 3rd EP 12” EP (Mexican Summer)
Another go-round for this electronic project of Australians David West, Mikey Young and James Vinciguerra (plenty of other groups between them; go look elsewhere if you need a list) finds them settling into the subdued realm of their first DFA record, but trying to broaden their reach in others. These might be the group’s most accessible tracks to date, but they melt quickly, and accomplish little in the 5-6 minutes apiece of runtime on each. You get the sense throughout that Lace Curtain is more of a “teaching college” for these folks, who are quick to set a mood but kind of limited by a general distance from ambition, which may be tied to their burgeoning abilities in programming and sourcing sounds. If you just want some chilled out electro-pop and aren’t too particular, this will do, but West and the others have done so much better elsewhere that it might make more sense to go there first, as there are countless examples of this sort of thing done better throughout the past 30 years of recorded music. 1000 numbered copies, silkscreened sleeves. (http://www.mexicansummer.com)
Remainderless – s/t LP (Oxen)
Noise rumpus of still, hot pauses of feedback and filet-knife screech, static and grumble and pregnant pauses that explode into a violent uproar. Same parts, just arranged differently than you might expect. Features the man Steve Touchton from XBXRX. Satisfying compositions here, if not entirely groundbreaking; the secret to noise is in the variances, apparently. Best track here is “Redaction,” a sidelong chunk of fairly consistent, oppressive totality. Clear vinyl. (http://oxen-label.com)
Yi – Crying 12” EP (self-released)
Strong follow-up to Yi’s crowning moment (the Punk Memories 7”). Seven new songs from an inventive and fun Bay Area punk band that is sadly playing its last notes soon, though you can catch guitarist Jackson as a post-recording member of Cold Beat. There were either hundreds of anonymous bands just like Yi out there in 2014, or maybe just the one, the one that seemed to channel everything good about Lookout-style pop-punk before the “punk” part of it fell away, merged it with aggressive positivity in the style of the Minutemen, lit the fuse and stepped back. Certainly there are very few in Yi’s own age demographic, and it’s a shame that so many dad-punks in their late 30s/early 40s – the target audience for this sort of feel-good, thoughtful strain of popcore – weren’t looking for new bands to love. “Going Dumb” is their sensitive moment, and it’s a beautiful slow-down for a normally breakneck group. Lyrics seem to be just about life this time around, and are put to some great, chance-taking material: “Freeze” seems to be about once you’re happy with your hair and face, to be able to just set it and forget it; “The Bus” tackles Silicon Valley’s continued assimilation of everything San Francisco had to offer, symbolized by those big buses that take employees to and from work; “Your Lucky Day” is about helping a friend (coolest thing you can do) and the title track gives a moment to talk about what’s at stake here: physical expression of emotions. And there’s three more. 300 copies, paste-on, handwritten sleeves seal the deal. You’re either getting rad with Yi one last time, or you’re out there struggling. (http://yipunx.bigcartel.com)
B-Lines – Opening Band 12” EP (Hockey Dad/Nominal)
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGHSKLJWKLDJLSKJDLJHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH the B-Lines are back. Nine more songs of fast, wacky, tuneful hardcore with snotrocket vocals from this Vancouver band, who handle this style of music the way it should be: with loud, obnoxious abandon, sharp musicianship and an inescapable presence. It’s fun and frantic, just like their last two records were, but with heavier production. And that leads me to another thing: more bands making a short record should follow the lead presented here: 12” vinyl, 45 RPM, pressed as loud as it can be mastered without knocking the needle out of the grooves. The presence of this thing cranking out 5-8 minutes per side cannot be overstated. If it sounded tinny and small, none of us would care, but the actual manufacture and engineering of this particular record is a strong indicator of its success and appropriateness as an item that you can take home. It makes the B-Lines everything they can be on record, and if they toured out this way, I would probably go, because the way they present themselves here is so barking shitnuts. Fast times. No Dice. (http://www.hockeydadrecords.com)