Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Their Solutions Are Our Problems

Stiff Little Fingers, Inflammable Material (1979) 

When Inflammable Material was first released, Northern Ireland had been in the midst of absolute chaos for years, due to sectarian divides. In Irish music of the period, bands from the province always seemed to steer clear of any mention of the violence and bloodshed as though it was just how life was and nothing could be done about it. So, when Stiff Little Fingers released Inflammable Material, there was something almost seditious and revolutionary about the brutal and stark manner in which the bitter conflict was brought to the foreground. This album more than compliments the mood a of country on the brink of civil war, it spoke for thousands of kids who felt they weren’t aloud to acknowledge the terror that was unfolding before them.
The Fingers' approach is strong, but limited; what distinguish them is their incredible drive, boisterous power and uncompromising anger. This record leaves a lot to be desired (which was never really delivered on later albums), the song structures aren't incredibly sophisticated, and the band play like fucking punks. Which translates to no musical skill, but what they lacked in skill they made up for in attitude. Despite all that, the band comes hauling ass through the station, not stopping for anybody or anything. "Suspect Device" is the best-known and also best song here. “Law and Order" and "Alternative Ulster" are also amazing. In fact, most of the tunes here are good. Tracks like "State Of Emergency", "Law And Order", "Alternative Ulster", "Suspect Device", "Wasted Life" and "White Noise" blast through on waves of hatred and persecution that are difficult to stomach but hit the bullseye with impeccable accuracy. The lyrics are seething with rage and venom, delivered by Jake Burns, who is always screaming at the top of his lungs, yet never forgetting the importance of ripping a sturdy melody on his gee-tar. The downside is that over the course of an album, the Fingers' lack of stylistic variety may have you skipping tracks. The Clash was a great band because they covered a lot of musical territory brilliantly; the Fingers are simply a really good band because they only do one thing, but they do it fucking well. Rightly so, they are considered a punk classic.

-King Funclor in effect

Where Is the Future?!

Graveyard - Hisingen Blues [2011]
Many years ago in a town far, far away called Gothenburg, Sweden, a retro-doom band lived by the name of Norrsken. This band of slaves to all in the name of rock decided to split ways. One valiant member went on to form Witchcraft. The remaining would go on to begin what is known to me as the greatest rock and roll band of my generation-GRAVEYARD.
If you thought rock died in the seventies, think again. Yes, you can call this classic rock and yes, you can say they are retro and you would not be far off if you said that the majority of their influence is derived from a time long ago; but if you even thought for a second that this band is a copy-cat piece of shit throwback band that'll blow in the wind for 15 minutes before crashing to the ground you are sorely mistaken.
Their self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records showed promise and they gained much critical acclaim in the underground. Over the course of the last four years, after serious touring and dialing in on their sound we finally see the release of a second album-Hisingen Blues, and I can't love it more.
Staying true to their roots, it's all recorded in analog using vintage equipment and the production done by Don Ahlsterberg is truly remarkable. Every instrument gleams. The guitar interplay by guitarist/vocalists Joakim Nilsson and Jonatan Larocca Ramm is incredibly tight-a match made in heaven. Time has really treated them well. The riffs hook you like a fish on a line and are instantly memorable, not to mention the bluesy bass grooves from Rikard Edlund. His thick bass work really holds the album together through the relentless as well as the intermittent. Their catchy-ness is really what makes this album a grower, and with repeated listens you'll see what I mean. Nilsson and Ramm don't stop there either-their strong vocal chords ooze with character. Nilsson carries like a Robert Plant. I mean his voice isn't super similar tonally, but the huge power and impact on your soul is just the same. Drummer Axel Sjöberg's fills throughout the album are perfect. His stunning malleability seeps into every nook and cranny of the guitars. The album just wouldn't stand as it does without his infecteous work, most notably on the snare. This is a band with destiny, I hope you agree.

buy here
and here's a download of the whole thing plus some bonus tracks. The first is only available on iTunes (and US indie store CDs?); the second is only available on the b-side of the limited 7" single they released, which is long gone.

this is a video taken from their album release show that took place a couple days ago:



Califone, Quicksand/Cradlesnakes, 2003

Opening the shades of the window next to my desk this afternoon, I greet patches of blue sky rolled over by thick storm-clouds and the occasional rumble of thunder. Springtime in Salt Lake is like this; an undecided outside hints at the magic of blooming life to come, but suspends our hearts in their winter retreats as we yearn to emerge. Earlier, I was reading a close friend’s account of the death of his grandmother, and, like always, this friend broke me wide open with a single sentence: “What I want to say is that we live at edges.” Today, like every other day in which I am actually awake to the world, I open my eyes to namelessness, to an edge of weather showing its remarkable knack for refusing my language (R. Blaser: “the tree stands before me of what name”).

Right now, Califone is meeting me at this particular edge. A band that itself emerged from lead singer Tim Rutili’s former blues-rock outfit Red Red Meat, Califone, with their first release dating back to 1998 and nine albums following, navigates on each of their albums the peculiar intersections between folk, psychedelic, blues, electronica, and pop with haphazard grace. With my attention so focused on the shifting April weather, I threw on their incredible 2003 album, Quicksand/Cradlesnakes, and sank sweetly into its ramshackle beauty.

The kind of experimentation with Americana that Rutili and company do so well strikes a certain chord with me because of the power with which its soundscapes conjure landscapes. Quicksand/Cradlesnakes is sparse, delicate, and full of movement. High deserts, plains, tundras, country roads. For me, the promise of these open, often arid spaces (both geographically and musically) is that they leave what's living there the room to move freely, But, of course, the knowledge of additional presences drives us towards companionship, so the players and their instruments find their own paths toward each other. Droning strings collapse instantly into ambling banjo plucking, catchy melodies are dissolved by clattering percussion, and the guitars move from cooperative riffs to surreal dissonance in a way that evokes the playful dance of light and dark outside my window.

The high points of this album are the points where it is most focused, namely “Michigan Girls” (one of my favorite songs ever recorded), but I think they hold up so well because of the understated sonic explorations they get to intermittently peek through. This is not an album full of atemporal songwriting gems that can stand alone, but rather a study in the process of “song” that walks itself up to the edge of its own considerations and waits there for us, softly tapping its boots in the dust.


Download here

Califone - Michigan Girls by henryfess

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Boogie Ad Infinutm

Endless Boogie, Full House Head


     Jon The Fisherman/Jonny Rotten/Blackreignbow told me to go check out Endless Boogie at The Hemlock Tavern on Polk St. I immediately consulted their latest LP ‘Full House Head’ and was sold within the first minute. I assumed that this band I had never heard of, branded all over the internet as “heavy-psych,” were going to be 4, 20-something-year-olds with beards, western-style plaid shirts and skinny jeans. So I enter this upscale bohemian venue that has poured every dollar and inch of energy it has, trying to maintain that hole-in-the-wall dive bar vibe, and they do a pretty fucking good job at it, woulda’ fooled me until my the bill came and I took a moment to look around at the clientele, which consisted of legal interns and barista’s struggling to pay for acting school even though they just graduated from Yale, all done up in the finest ‘Darkside,’ costume versions of themselves. Needless to say I am floored when a band from Brooklyn whose combined age is 169, walks on stage and fucking shreds my face off with an industrial vegetable grader for the next 50 minutes.
                  Endless Boogie is not a high-and-mighty concept; their music is easily deconstructed. There’s pop music song writing… then there’s these guys, and they aren't especially concerned with songs… though their second album has some good ones, such as “Mighty Fine Pie” and “Empty Eye.” The band believes in guitar interplay for its own sake. There’s very little delicacy or patients for getting right to the thick of there tracks. You’re there, with all the positive aspects of a riot. There’s no attempts at minimalism or pop jockin’ or rebranding of the form. It’s just riffin’ and soloin’, in the best possible sense of the terms, and you better love those riffs, because it’s gonna take ‘em a while to resolve it all. Their music comes from confinement... in a garage probably, filled with exhaust fumes, the effects of asphyxiation would actually account for the vocals... Class and personality is not on display here. The front man of Endless Boogie, Paul Major, sways in his beer stained t-shirt and delivers raspy, croaking, sand-papery vocals, in random increments that reflect a car hitting gas pockets on it’s empty tank, from behind his salt and peppery-bangs-n’-all-main of hair that sets its conclusion around his ass.
It's about comfort folks, the comfort to rock it both endlessly and intricately. This zone is short of pretense and long in talent. Given the breadth of the excellence that's passed through before, you might spin this and hear everything from Canned Heat moaners and Groundhogs riffage, to Primus-like chatter-mumbling or even goddamn 'Exile' era Stones aesthetic. But it's none of that, cause it can't be. They invest in the past with a stark originality and rock your fucking face off. Keep in mind while your listening, that the only pieces of distortion equipment on stage are a wha-wha pedal apiece, for each guitarists.
          This is a band that has two-full thength albums to its name, and two more awaiting arrival this summer. Humans take a break from everyday life to do something they love, and in the case of these gents, they attempt to give back. I’ve always loved the likes of classic rock. It was easy to get there but has taken me years to get back, connect it all, map it’s evolution and try to figure out how any of that was important for anything standing today. That struggle is represented in these 9 minute asphalt melters and the fumes they generate. You’re either impressed with their single mindedness, or you’ve stopped reading this review. 

            Endless Boogie uses the infinity symbol as its logo, their only problem is their solution.

           I've posted 3 things here. The first is a track off their latest album, Full House Head. The second is the their latest album, Full House Head. The other is a random live performance I found online. Personally, I like the live show best, but it is more long winded, and for those who's ears aren't particularly tuned to the likes of epic guitar solos, I recommend the album, but grab both regardless, great for driving, drinking, homework, headbangin'..... enjoy. 

Anchor Steam, Baby Back Ribs, Spring Break, Great Dane, Sunshine, Hemmingway, Cigarettes, Fuck You

Yours Truly,
Deacon of Crunk,

Don Magic Juan,

Boogiloo Fedor

Monday, April 18, 2011

And the Dance?

Luz Elena, the main voice and songwriter behind Portland band Y La Bamba, has quite a story to tell. Her parents were Mexican immigrants that brought their family to America for a better life. She grew up in the San Francisco area with a socially sheltered and staunch catholic upbringing listening to mostly traditional Mexican music. Later in life she traveled to New Zealand to further study Theology, eventually missioned to India, contracted disease, suffered from Insomnia, lost 60 pounds, etc. and her journey back to health left her in Portland. She mingled with the eclectic music scene there of and Y La Bamba was born...kind of. So that's the short story of her background that can give you an insight in to where her incredible songwriting is being pulled from. She's had a wild ride it seems. She started mostly doing acoustic stuff-recording raw songs to her mac-book, which kind of turned into her first effort entitled "Alida St." Her style is her own, a version of freak-folk, if you will. You'll instantly fall in love with her voice. Very classy and crisp, but the way it unpredictably twists up and down through the songs is what hooks you. She has an uncanny prowess and is great alone, but when she meshes with the full band their sound really shines. They're a super talented group of musicians (6 including Luz) using horns, accordion, fiddle, singing saw, percussion, and guitars to delicately carry their complex vocal harmonies through the songs in an almost jazzy sort of way. It's very light, beautiful and blissful music that you can sway and groove to with ease. Something like a Latino influenced Thao Nguyen meets Beirut meets Devendra Banhart. Hooky acoustic guitar melodies, an ambience of horns, strings and accordion, and groovy drum rhythms backing a powerful vocal force that instantly consumes you. Their first real full-length entitled "Lupon" was released in 2010 and is highly recommended.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baltimore Blues

Mother Sun Flower is a new heavy psychedelic power trio from Baltimore, Maryland grabbing members from The Flying Eyes and Whoarfrost. They released their debut EP back in January for FREE and I've been jamming it ever since. I can't get enough. The production helps all three members stand out stunningly as a good power trio should. Heavy powerful drumming with lots of cymbal play especially during the psyched out jams. The bass grooves are super bluesy-always prevalent and riffing through the guitar parts. The vocalist usually sings with some sort of distortion, fuzz, delay or reverb and adds a lot of soul and, at times, anguish to the heavy hitting Baltimore blues rock they've conjured up.
These guys are a great mix of Sleep-esque heavy stoner jams, classic 70s psyche guitar worship, acid trippy space psychedelia, and have a some sort of no-wave type edge (you'll get what I mean when you hear the sketchy sloppy guitar solos on the Skip James cover: "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues".) Rhythms change franticly and guitar work is all over the place. It's incredible how they pack so much into this 4-song EP. I literally giggle with excitement through the whole fuckin thing.
The opening track "See the Enemy" begins with the sparks of these high pitched guitar pricks acting as the flint for the fire about to burn through your ear drums for the next 18 minutes. Drums and bass then come stampeding in with a thunderous roar setting the stage for an epic heavy psychedelic journey-the vocalist begins to sing-tons of delay here-and just when you think you know where you're going, you get swept up by a whirlpool of guitar riffing straight off a ZZ Top record. But you keep getting sucked deeper and now there's high guitar shrills spiking up through the spacey haze of the riffs until the current eventually spits you back into the heavy stoner jam. It's really quite a ride. Their music is devastatingly heavy and stonery, but it plays much like a prog-rock record. The rhythm transitions are just absolutely flawless. Incredibly infectious and catchy with a raw and intense attitude that makes your heart scream. If you like anything rock'n'roll get this without hesitation. I've spent many hours listening to it on repeat. Great band to burn one to.


Mother Sun Fucker EP <--download this shit now!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kush In My Cologne

Skeme, Pistols and Palm Trees, 2010

Question for today: where do we draw the line between rap and pop? The two have always been in conversation, but I’m starting to get discouraged with rap’s increasing inability to actually sound like rap. Don’t get it twisted, I love throwing Wiz Khalifa or Drake on at a party just to watch the hips wobble, but if I have to hear one more song of some overly-manicured dude harmonizing with himself for four minutes about how many other guys’ girlfriends he’s slept with, I am going to lose it. The genre of rap has always celebrated lyrical creativity, brash delivery, energy, confidence (i.e. swaaaaaag), etc., etc., and frankly, too many of these young guns sound too fucking lazy.

Fortunately, and in large part due to the insane networking skills of my good friend Nick (I see you Deek!), I have been put on to the burgeoning L.A. rap revival. For far too long, the Left Coast has been relatively quiet; partially because of the blogosphere’s de-emphasizing of regional loyalty, and partially because 50 Cent killed our faith in gangsta rap. Whatever. Cali is back, and they are going hard! That shit I can’t stop bumping right now? Skeme’s Pistols & Palm Trees mixtape. While the sound quality is so-so (Skeme, if you ever read this, I’ve been told to pass it on that you should’ve had Glenn at Truth Studios master your tape), the raps are absolutely on point. It’s pretty easy to gather from the choruses, the production, and Skeme’s sense of melody that he has paid attention to the ongoing trends in contemporary rap music, but nowhere on this tape does he pander to the sissies who don’t want their rappers to actually do any rapping. Take “Keep it G,” a bouncy, club-friendly swagfest featuring Young Money’s Tyga that surprises with one of the catchiest choruses EVER about keepin’ it gangster as fuck.

As the title infers, there are dozens of toasts to the good life, but he’s armed at the party. This mixtape is everything I love about West Coast hip hop for that exact reason. It’s got a little bit of danger (“Pistols”), a rough-around-the-edges first impression that comes mostly from Skeme’s intense, almost snarly delivery, but after that it’s all kush smoke, fly girls, and $100 bills (“We Know”). Listen to standout track “Chuck Taylors” and light one up; pure California cool.

- Dylan

Download Pistols and Palm Trees here

Skeme - Chuck Taylors by henryfess

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bring the drugs, baby, I can bring my pain

The Weeknd, House Of Balloons, 2011

Keep an open mind on this one. I’m becoming more and more fascinated with the Internet’s increasingly heavy, and rapid, influence on the mixing, matching, and re-imagining of the term “genre.” We, as aspiring connoisseurs, have a duty placed on us by the very fact of being alive in 2011 to pay attention to these processes, unless you feel like rendering yourself a dinosaur. Without a doubt, the biggest shift happened in hip-hop, where that oh-so-played-out tough guy bullshit fell by the wayside, replaced with sleeker, more playful, and much gentler sensibilities. Drake became one of the biggest signifiers of the contemporary scene not by showing up hungry and angry, but by stripping away a few of those layers of gangster-forged armor to reveal a sultry set of pipes and an affinity for smiling (WTF, a rapper smiling?!?!) in music videos.
Thank GOD, the next recipient of a Web-driven makeover is R&B. As the lines continue to blur, and we see underground darlings like How To Dress Well and oOoOO taking blatant hints from mainstream R&B, finally a project has emerged that truly refreshes the soundscape. The Weeknd’s House of Balloons, a free mixtape released via the collective’s web site, takes R&B’s nonstop obsession with getting laid, and drenches it in narcotic indulgence. The production sounds like Beach House on ketamine, and singer Abel Tesfaye’s croons swirl around in the murk and mist rather than shine through it. Don’t get me wrong, his voice is gorgeous, but the emphasis here is all atmosphere; dark, druggy, and dangerous. The title track rides the current of a filthy synth line while simultaneously employing a Siouxsie & the Banshees sample that screams ingenuity, while part two of the track, “Glass Table Girls,” seems to be all about doing copious amounts of cocaine.
Clearly, these guys don’t give a fuck about sexual taboos. I'm hesitant with a good deal of contemporary R&B because its notions of lovemaking feel forced, packaged, and homogenized. Here, it’s “XO ‘til we overdose.” The lyrical content walks that rather precarious line between love and obsession, desire and dependency, and the mixtape's attention locates itself in the moments where that boundary gets shattered. Album opener “High For This” is downright terrifying (“Don’t be scared/ I’m right here/ Even though/ you don’t know/ Trust me girl/ You wanna be high for this”), but the intensity and the uncertainty only make me more curious as to what exactly this girl has agreed (?) to do. The sex on this album (and hopefully, the sex that happens because of this album), fueled by chemicals, fully embraces the darker nuances of passion in a way that celebrates our more instinctual inclinations and says to hell with what society says sex should be, let it be ALL that it is. You know what? I’ll co-sign the hell out of it, purely for the sake of keeping hedonism alive and well in my life.


The Weeknd - High For This by TomJenkins

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Where the vodka and blood flows all night

oOoOO – oOoOO EP

You can say that “labels are for jars,” and I would much rather just talk about the music than lump it into categories, but sometimes you just have to generalize. So there's that whole chillwave phase what with Toro y Moi, Washed Out, Memory Tapes, and others spearheading the quite literally “chill,” dreamy, slow lo-fi that's perfect as a blissful soundtrack to high times at the beach. But with Toro y Moi's new album spearheading a new direction into the forays of live-instrumentation and funk, it seems to have lost some of the luster that made it so fashionable last year. Pitchfork probably would call it “dead.” But it's not dead, it's a genre, and even though I dig chillwave, I'm gonna talk a little bit about it's cousin. Maybe it's more of an evil twin, but either way it's being dubbed the inane name of “witch house.” It's the dark side of chillwave; super-slowed down electronic with drippy synths, a notable dirty Southern rap accent, and a load of weird, creepy sounds that just have to have been sampled from horror films. The big guns here are Salem, Balam Acab, and oOoOO (props to anyone who can think of another band/artist's name that's longer than “xx” and consists of only one letter). There's also this bro who goes by the symbol of a triangle. With two crosses on either side. Or something. Anyway, I got kinda turned off by Salem because their live show is so mind-numbingly awful so I proclaim this oOoOO thing king of “witch house,” as much as it pains me to use those two words. I recommend taking in his oOoOO EP as a whole, but if you're not gonna download it, at least listen to “Hearts,” which is oOoOO at his best. It bridges contemporary hip hop with its share of snaps and claps, and drugged out, depressing electro-goth. A forlorn, fairly monotone female voice gives it some personality, sounding as if this is the last song she'll ever sing, and it gets a little funky with a bassline that's a departure from his other stuff, but it's still otherwordly with synths that dizzily twist and turn and writhe around your head as you get transported to some unknown place in the dark of the night. Call it a party song for the apocalypse, where you chill with people that look like that thing on the EP cover. I shouldn't quote YouTube, but after reading this comment under the “Hearts” clip I just felt compelled: "this song is so fucking good i'm hosting a halloween party this year where all we do is cocaine and listen to this song on repeat and what's the spookiest booze..? VODKA AND BLOOD. you're all invited." oOoOO, look what you've done to these people. Now where's my invitation?


Download oOoOO EP

Friday, April 1, 2011

he said DRUMS!

When I first set eyes on the cover of Waxeater's Sleeper I immediately wanted to break it open and figure out what the hell it meant. After about thirty seconds into the opening track entitled "Are Those Fucking Beers Ice Cold Yet?" I gave up. It doesn't matter. An open book, a winged demon squid thing, and Anne Frank-together forever, it doesn't have to make sense. Angsty post-punk/hardcore is a beautiful thing. That being said-be prepared to destroy shit when throwing this in your player. Hide your valuables, you won't regret it. Relentless drums, maniacal guitar swirls, bass that bludgeons your skull and raw angry teens screaming about anything and everything that's worth hating and screaming about. Really shitty dirty production, but I don't think that's a bad thing. It adds to the attitude, which they have oodles of. Some similar bands that come to mind include The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Melvins, Future of the Left, etc.

fuck shit up pussies