KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Arcade Fire/Rey,Alvino [coll] – [Merge Records]

Max Level   1/26/2006   7-inch, A Library

Arcade Fire are from Montreal, and have somewhere between 5 and 8 members, depending on who you ask. Side A is a pop number that rushes along with a nice buildup of keyboards, guitar, drums, and background vocals. Arcade frontman Win Butler’s vocals sound pretty worked-up emotionally, describing what might be a suburban neighborhood’s unseen underbelly; tunnels connecting bedrooms and such. Side B is an interesting thing: an old recording (previously unavailable?) of Butler’s grandfather, bandleader/steel guitarist Alvino Rey. He passed away in early 2004, and his 1940 performance of the standard “My Buddy” is included here as a tribute. Rey plays his famous talking steel guitar, and there’s a subtly amusing bit in the middle of the song.

Mutts, the – ” ” – [Fat Cat]

Max Level   1/7/2006   7-inch, A Library

Respectably rocking material by straight-ahead UK quartet. Guitar/bass/drums/vocals. Three tracks around three minutes each. Nice job of walking the line between clean and gritty. I’m definitely up for more of this.

Macromantics – “Four Facets/Conspiracy Remix ” – [Quaketrap]

Max Level   1/7/2006   7-inch, Hip Hop

Australian MC Romy Hoffman, aka Macromantics, delivers sharp-tongued, rapid-fire wordflow. I’m loving her Aussie accent, it’s a totally fresh sound in rap, but she’s no novelty act. Her rhymes are literate and tough, and seriously I’d put her up against anybody. Side A: the four elements of hip hop. Side B: urban violence. Unusual production by Quake Trap artists Shaggy Manatee (side A) and Yoko Solo (side B). This thing is dangerous.

To Hell and / Shemps [coll] – [Gloom Records]

Max Level   1/7/2006   7-inch, A Library

Two rowdy New York bands kick in your front door and grab everything they can while your security alarm howls. To Hell and Back is a hard rock/punk combo with gruff vocals, big riffs, and short, wild guitar solos. Their two tracks are each around 2? minutes long. The Shemps crank up three sharp slices of ripping pogo-beat, under 2 minutes apiece. The message: you’re stupid and you hate us and we don’t care. Bonus points for the band’s name, the cover art, and for having a guitarist named Squeaky.

Anodyne / Keelhaul [coll] – [Chainsaw Safety]

Max Level   1/7/2006   7-inch, A Library

Side A: Brooklyn outfit Anodyne offers a 5:41 medley consisting of an original composition (a minute and a half burst of hardcore madness), which segues into a version of Throbbing Gristle’s “Persuasion” that’s all rumbling bass throb, odd loops, and spoken words off in the distance. Side B: Cleveland’s veteran hard rockers Keelhaul blast off with a killer 6-minute piece that twists and turns through several sections of tightly focused riffing and chording. Drummer Will Scharf is worth the price of admission here. Side A is cool, but Side B rules!

Crispus Attucks – “! Yo Peho ! ” – [Six Weeks]

Max Level   1/7/2006   7-inch, A Library

Posthumous release of super destructo hardcore from Washington DC quintet. Radical politics and skateboards. Smash the state, resist and fight, shred ’till death. Each side has 3 very short tracks clocking in at a total of less than 3 minutes per side. Forget the individual tracks, you’ll want to play a whole side. It’s all good.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 2 – “Kids Are in the Mud, the ” – [Japan Overseas]

Max Level   1/7/2006   7-inch, A Library

Pop music from the furthest reaches of Bizarro-World. The “Kids” side is talk-singing with scraping, loops, pitch-shifting, electronics, and no sign of a “real” instrument to be heard, except for a short section with some vibes or bells or something. The “Bones” side conjures up the Residents with drawling vocals, warped carnival calliope, and a rhythm consisting of boings and thuds. What makes people do stuff like this, anyway? Do I like it? Oh yeah. Do I understand it? Not a chance.

Lost Sounds – ” ” – [Holy Cobra Society]

Max Level   1/7/2006   7-inch, A Library

Memphis TN’s contribution to the “blackwave” school of music, Lost Sounds are sort of a goth-y rock and roll synth punk conglomeration. There’s a compelling air of desperation to Lost Sounds, as if there’s nothing else these people can possibly do except to make this music with this band. Side A is a frenzied guitar/keyboard rocker that ends with a more restrained piano-driven section. Side B has an excellent cover of Joy Division’s “Ice Age”, and also a Joy Division-ish original.

Olive Green – “Doo Bad Hustle, the ” – [Candle Wax Records]

Max Level   1/7/2006   7-inch, Hip Hop

This joint straddles the line between hiphop and rock. Side A has a sweet funky beat with nasty bass riffs and electric piano providing the bed, while Candle Wax main man DJ Blake 9 does some fine cutting on top. Sampled voices keep reminding us how funky this track is. Side B is more of a guitar-fueled rocker- a high-powered instrumental incorporating a few slices of movie dialog. DJ King Most does something or other on this track. If your taste falls firmly on one side or other of the hiphop/rock dichotomy, there’s something here for you. But I’m betting most people will dig both sides of this.

Teengenerate – “No Time ” – [Dog Meat]

Max Level   1/6/2006   7-inch, A Library

Maximum trash punk rock from this now-defunct Japanese quartet. Australia’s Dog Meat label brings us this limited re-pressing of 1995 material. Pick your poison. 4 tracks, each of them around 2 minutes long. Meters in the red and who gives a damn? Howling guitars and a straight-out-of-the-garage rhythm section. Slapping you around are Fink and Fifi on guitars/vocals, Sammy on bass, Shoe on drums.

Ex-Models/Seconds, the [coll] – [My Pal God Records]

Max Level   1/4/2006   7-inch, A Library

Ex-Models are from NY, and if what I’ve read is accurate, The Seconds are pretty much the same guys playing under a different name for some reason. The two bands are similar in that they both play short, bizarre songs that pummel the listener with crazed nonsense vocals, violent changes, and unexpected jolts. As a reference point, both bands have been favorably compared to Melt Banana. The second song on Side 2 by The Seconds is a bit different; not as hyper-wacko as the other three tracks, it has an actual repeating riff, and is within spitting distance of being funky. However, for these guys frantic is a better fit.

Found [coll] – [Found Magazine]

Max Level   1/4/2006   7-inch, A Library

The groovy folks at FOUND magazine enlisted a few artists to contribute pieces of music based on found objects. All tracks are in the 1 to 3 minute range and all are strangely moving. A1: TRS-80 assembles a jungle-ish track with mixed-in snippets from a pre-teen’s 1960s audio diary. A2: Claudine Coule combines melancholy ambience with phrases from a tape found inside a broken telephone answering machine. B1: The Victrolas concoct a country-fried tale of longing and heartbreak from nothing more than a found playing card with someone’s first name written on it. B2: Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Bros, etc) sets to music a tragic note found in a hotel room bible. Also a tiny untitled audio blurb at the end of Side B. Sure hope FOUND releases more such collections in the future; there must be thousands of great finds in the world waiting to be set to music.

Screamers, the – ” ” – [Meeuw Muzak]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

LA’s legendary synthpunk godfathers (1977-81) blast their way through two songs live at the Whiskey in 1978. The formula: ugly, aggressive keyboards, car-crash drumming, and snarling/ranting vocals by theatrical front man Tomata Du Plenty. Like if Kraftwerk jammed with the Stooges. If you weren’t there then, be there now.

Lee, Ben / Pony Up! [coll] – [Dim Mak Records]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

Side A: the busy –and evidently much more famous that I thought– Ben Lee covers a Modest Mouse song. “Float On” is a gentle dreamy thing, likely in a minor key although I didn’t verify that, with an optimistic message. Side B: this year’s perfect summer single by Pony Up!, Montreal’s freshest new quintet of cutie pie beer-drinking boy-crazy female pop rockers. “I Heard You Got Action” is the name of the song, and check out vocalist Laura’s lusty tale about taking a handsome guy named Neil home, where they proceed to grind hot jams on the floor, whatever that means. The call-and-response with fellow vocalist Camilla is amusing, and the extremely catchy chorus is full of baseball references, Fun fun fun!

California Lightening – “Penitentiary ” – [Sound on Sound]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

East Bay duo keeps busy with this project while also comprising half of the quartet Erase Errata. Jenny provides distinctive female vocals and busy guitar strumming, while partner Bianca nails it all down with powerful drumming. The two songs on Side A are nice slices of TeenBeat style guitar pop, melodic and strong. Uplifting. The song on Side B is blurry no-wave monotone noise-pop, much different from the songs on the other side. The whole thing could have been better recorded, but for a local lo-fi rock/pop project it works just fine. I’d love to hear more from this duo. This 7″ dates from summer 2000. And yeah, there’s an “e” in Lightening.

Msbr/Government Alpha [coll] – [Rrrecords]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

Two extreme Japanese noisemakers wreak havoc. MSBR (Koji Tano) generates groaning, whistling noise for 5:30. Sometimes harsh, but varies in intensity over the course of the piece. We hear the sound of an appreciative audience. False start and false ending on this side. On the flipside, Government Alpha (Yasutoshi Yoshida) attempts to kill everything within range, as usual. No relief anywhere in his 6:36 wall of noise. Cuts off cold, no need for applause, etc.

Rapture, the – “House of Jealous Lovers ” – [Dfa Records]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

Two dancey little numbers with sparse guitar/bass/drums arrangements recalling Gang Of Four. The male vocals are high-pitched and semi-yelling, not exactly my favorite style, but whatever. “House?” doesn’t have a whole lot of lyrics other than repeating the song’s title over and over. That track was also on the band’s 2001 full-length; not sure why a “radio edit” is out now, two years later. “Alabama?” is a bit more artsy, starting off with a quote from Captain Sensible’s “Wot”; after that, I can’t really tell what the singer is on about. Raw funk from white boys with a Telecaster. Not Bad.

Total Shutdown – “Broadcast Performances ” – [Life Is Abuse]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

The “thank you” list inside says it all: shout outs to Black Dice, Burmese, Coachwhips, Flying Luttenbachers, Lightning Bolt, and many more. Horns and a broken Casio compete to be heard above the maelstrom of guitar/bass/drums. There is also some screaming. Short jagged pieces of jazz-damaged noise catharsis, and then quiet sections while the band figures out where to go next. Tracks range from :20 to 2:10. “Fighting Witches” is my favorite here. Noisy, scary fun.

Fourtet/Hella [split] – [Ache Records]

Max Level   12/30/2005   7-inch, A Library

Ache is putting out a series of split 7-inchers, calling it the “Divorce” series (split = divorce, get it?). Here it’s Fourtet, a solo project by Kieran Hebden, on one side, giving us a slow instrumental full of blippy keyboards and random drumming. On the other side, the duo known as Hella bring us their usual spazzy madness; chaotic keyboards and samples atop some pretty incredible drumming. I think Ache’s idea with each of these splits is to bring together two artists who aren’t normally linked, but who work in similar fashion. These two tracks aren’t particularly similar sounding, but both feature keyboards/samples and live drumming. A cool release.

Dr. Ragtime – “Buckdancer’s Choice ” – [Sacred Harp Library]

Thurston Hunger   12/30/2005   7-inch, A Library

A Rose by any other name (Jack) would sound as sweet. With more pluck and swagger and a fellow Pelt banjo carpetbagger (Mike Gangloff) the title track feels like a strut around the chicken coup without stepping in any poop. Steel strings smiling chicken wire.

The mood darkens and drops about six feet on the flip side…the good doctor is dispatched alone to cover “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground.” Taking a bluesy scalpel to slide and slice up his guitar, this thing moves with the slow purpose of a drop of sweat down Harry Stanton’s back in “Paris, Texas.” Blind Willie Johnson is turning in his grave, only so’s he can get an ear as close to the sound as is post-humously possible.

Two done the right way, for pickers and sinners alike.

Also this is the firstborn for a fine new label too, with a package near as purty as the sound purveyed therein.

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