Music Reviews

Black Ox Orkestar – “Everything Returns” – [Self-release]

Brian Damage   12/15/2022   A Library, CD

As much as this radio station seems to hate getting the band back together, here’s one that works just as well as before, and perhaps more so.

Black Ox Orkestar is a Montreal-based quartet who perform a modern spin on Jewish diasporic music utilizing traditional acoustic instruments. All are members of other bands, or are solo artists in their own right (Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Land of Kush, Sackville, etc.) and formed in 2000 to play what was essentially their spin on their grandparent’s music. Disbanding in 2006 after two albums, they recently reconvened and recorded this magnificent record, recorded with vocals in Yiddish and English. Themes are timely and politically charged: nationalism, fascism, refugees, anarchism, despair, optimism, community, tradition, innovation. It simultaneously despairs and uplifts. It’s dark, but it’s looking for the light.

Both Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave would be equally proud of Black Ox Orkestar.

Damage gives this a big yes.

Dangerous Chairs – “Introducing Dangerous Chairs” – [Self-release]

Brian Damage   12/15/2022   A Library, CD

Chicago’s Dangerous Chairs describe themselves as “dark rock with exposed punk roots.” One listen to the quintet’s ragged guitars tells you that they’re from Chicago. But they’re slippery – one minute, I hear Bob Mould influences, the next minute it’s ALL; hey, is that an echo of Slint that just flew past?

Definitely an act honed and focused on live gigs, the songs and performances mostly hit the mark. Solid songwriting and arrangement, fine musicianship, and a varied approach to rocking like a hurricane lead to high points like “Jeweler’s Lens” and “Rooftops.” Lows are limited to the songs “Plenty of Room,” which seems to be written and recorded by another band entirely, the I-think-it’s-supposed-to-be-positive-and-inspirational “Follow My Lantern”, and the majority of the backing vocals, which seem well-intentioned enough, but Dangerous Chairs are not the Beach Boys, and they should stay out of that sandbox.

Introducing Dangerous Chairs would work better as a ten-song record, but it’s a solid and rocking first effort, and well worth a listen.

Torpedo – “Orpheo_Nebula” – [Broken Clover Records]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, A Library

Teutonic ambient industrial from Switzerland.

Torpedo gets bonus points for not relying too heavily on synths and computers, but the vocals remind me of being at a party with a bunch of European exchange students, all hyped up for whatever reason, and all talking excitedly at once.

For me, Orpheo_Nebula is best administered in regulated doses.

Trouble Seekers, The – “The Trouble Seekers” – [Ruined Records]

Brian Damage   11/20/2022   12-inch, A Library

The Trouble Seekers is a brand-new collaboration between Kevin McGovern (The Prostitutes) and Hillary Burton (The Pandoras), and it’s every bit as raucous and noisy as a rock ‘n roll record should be.

If your sketchy second cousins (you remember them, right? the chain-smokers from Ohio who drive a beat-up Buick Wildcat and will eventually end up featured on America’s Most Wanted?) show up uninvited and unannounced at Thanksgiving dinner with a half-empty handle of Gilbey’s to offer, claim that they have a band, and proceed to dig a battered C90 out of the back seat to prove it – The Trouble Seekers is that record.

Heavy doses of early rock ‘n roll, first-wave synth punk, and post-punk noise combine to make a relentless sonic assault. There are no slow songs here. There are no slow moments here. The beatings begin within a few seconds of the opening song, “Cool Liar” and don’t let up in the ensuing 37 minutes. The real surprise is that these are actual songs with structure, melody, and hooks. There are two touchstones buried in here to allow you to gasp for breath: covers of Cheap Trick‘s “He’s A Whore” and Madonna‘s “Borderline,” both of which make convenient points of entry for the uninitiated.

This is a pop record buried in a barrel of rattlesnakes and razor blades.

HIGHLY recommended.

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