Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: Owls And Other Animals & Trash Cats - Happy Birthday Xmas It's Your Birthday

The perfect cover.
    Now, this is my kinda Christmas album! Owls & Other Animals and The Trash Cats (the other other animals??) have teamed up to deliver us a perfect soundtrack for shoving the ol' plastic tree into the fireplace and sitting back and inhaling the fumes. These folks send up the seasonal standards in a fragile, vulnerable lo-fi acoustic set. Whisper-crooning classics like "White Xmas" in a tunnel of introspection. Beauty in the shaky basics. Raw. Another kinda raw is the hellbent hollerin' version of "Grandma Got Run Over" that ain't for the kiddies. Or the adults. Chaos. Hilarity. It is rare to find a holiday release so wobbly, stripped down, schizophrenic, and.... honest. This is what real and interesting people have playing in the background when they laugh and cry and spill their drinks and spill their guts. I dunno who's idea it was to put these two groups together, but what they have created is nothing short of a Christmas miracle! -Harmless



Monday, December 4, 2017

Review: Trash Cats - Wardcore

   
Haven’t had the pleasure to catch this trio live (YET), but they are no doubt a ton of sleazy fun. And maybe a bit of introspection. Alcoholic Appalachian acoustic crust-punk. Not so much cowpunk. More like hillbilly gutterpunk. And kinda um... satanic. Briscoe Darling hocked a loogie on a pet cemetery during a full moon. That snot grew a brain, picked up a guitar, and started singing his heart out. To recap: Mucous grew a brain AND a heart, but the heart is gone, because he sang it out. The bass is deep and sad and as real as an AA meeting. And... Hey, where are the drums? No drums. Washboard. Because fuck you. -Harmless   

Trash Cats on Bandcamp

Trash Cats on Facebook

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review: Eyes On Lips - Sounds From A Theme Park

    Eyes On Lips have just released a new concept album. Wait! A concept album?? Yup. As a band, these guys have definitely progressed as musicians since their earlier recordings. And they’ve always been great. Now, coming into their own with a more overt math rock influence, they’ve wisely recruited Pace House’s Paul Costa to take the production reins. EOL have traded a bit of the lo-fi charm of previous recordings for an overall cleaner, but richer, sound. And it works! These lunatics ooze personality, in their over-the-top performances, in their weird-but-kinda-deep songwriting, and in their... uhh... a description-with-even-more-hyphens! And now we can really hear all the crazy crap they're doing. As the album is (sorta) about a theme park, each tune (kinda) represents a different ride, with titles like "Bumper Cart Coffin" and "Ferris Squeal". Tempo-changes and jazzy rambling from kids musically smarter than myself (doesn't take much) are a frequent occurrence. But this isn't so much about jerking off as it is about seeing where these songs take 'em. And that is the real fuckin' ride. Expect a lot of excitement, fun, and danger. Buy this. It's probably cheaper than going to any real theme park, and certainly more thrilling. -Harmless



Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review: False Suns - The Gospel According To

    Brad Norris holds a special place in my heart as literally one of the best live frontmen I’ve ever seen. I once borrowed his mic at a show and the poor little thing was so beaten and battered, I shed a tear. The emaciated microphone quickly lapped up that tear, and we cried dryly on the barroom floor together for ten minutes. Either that, or the crippled little bastard shocked me into a coma and I dreamed the whole thing. He's an epic dangerous preacher man slinging his device like a yo-yo. Some folks probably still whisper, “That’s the dude from Norma Jean”. I, on the other hand, scream constantly and consistently every day, “That’s the guy from the Divine Shakes!!!!”. Now he’s back with other local-loco legends, Jacob Ragan (Divine Shakes/Russian Love Machine/Tiger Helicide), Jared Loyd (Russian Love Machine/TRME/Boo Radley’s Bones/Tiger Helicide) and Nate Glenn (Boo Radley’s Bones, The Dry Holler). This is kinda my dream band. A super-duper group. Jacob and Jared have been killing for years now as Russian Love Machine. Jacob hits the drums haaaard and enthusiastically, but is really quite thoughtful with his instrument, meanwhile, Jared’s a powerful mega-bassist that can shout his brains out but still make the rhythm lead. I’ve literally witnessed him make others transform into better musicians. He was in TRME, that should tell ya enough. Nate is a superb rock AND roll guitarist, who can conjure insta-hit riffs. A classic rocker for the southern-fried punk rock crowd.

    Expertly produced by Brad White at Analog on Third, TGAT is less of an E.P. and more of a brilliant 3-song singles collection. “Sage.” opens, takes the listener's hand, and drags them right into the danger. Deceptive alternative rock with K00L killer wanky guitar. Is this what those folks in Seattle thought they were doing in the 90's? “To The Brim.” is fantastic post-punk, bringing to mind Joy Division at its start with throbbing rolling rhythm and suggestive guitar leads. It soon turns left and morphs into a cool 70’s radio hit from my imagination (or England or somewhere). Like the 45 of a band of that era just before they sold out. The song that the guy at the record store plays for me and pretends represents the band’s whole catalog. But every song by this band is excellent. E.P. closer "Wild and Free." takes everything you heard in the previous two tracks and conks their damn heads together. It rocks. It punks. Everybody gives 100 gazillion percent. Rollicking bass. Badass guitar. Adrenaline drums. Drummer-boy even throws in his well-documented throat-in-a-blender voice for back-up shouts. As always, our beloved singer is an out-of-control public speaker taking the wheel of a battered tank as it treads purposefully over a cliff. It's a catchy ditty. 
   
    Debuts don't get much better. Buy this and be happy for 10 minutes.
                                                                                                                 -Harmless


Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: All Deep Ends - Secret War

    All Deep Ends is the brainchild of Dakota Gilliland, a kind of indie-pop would-be wunderkind from Alabama. Thoughtful, idiosyncratic lyrics elevate his work, I'd argue, beyond even a few of his likely influences. Whether or not he's aware, he's on a bit of a quest. He's reinventing pop(punk) for his bedroom headphones. Here's the rub: In attempting to describe exactly what he does, I'm likely to scare off folks with my own particular tastes. But that's the point. He does it sooooo right. Acoustic folk launches into jangly full-band electric and back with almost-nasally melodies throughout. Modern emo needs this. This is how it should be. If you're familiar with previous works of this band, I think you'll be impressed with the evolution of Dakota's voice. He was a terrific genre singer before. Now he's coming into his own. As for the overall sound of this record, it is all achingly personal. Even the lighter stuff. Even the "dumber" stuff. 
Even when the music swirls around you in a wash of distortion and synths. This is a work unafraid to use either the charms of studio polish or the cavernous hiss of home-recording to take the listener to another place: a young man's head. All Deep Ends is music for All Deep Ends. We're just eavesdropping. -Harmless 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review: Primitive Race - Soul Pretender

    "Industrial supergroup" Primitive Race is back! And... not quite as industrial as before. The core of Chris Kniker (the very productive producer), Mark Thwaite (Spear of Destiny/The Mission/Peter Murphy/Tricky), and Erie Loch (Wiccid/Luxt/Blownload) return and are joined by Chuck Mosley (Faith No More/Bad Brains/Cement) on vocals and Dale Crover (Melvins/Nirvana/Altamont) on drums. Needless to say, this album is more raw and consistent than their self-titled 2015 full-length debut, which I also highly recommend. The group has aimed in a different direction and is reborn as a full-on rock band to be reckoned with. But there is a surprising side-effect: on Soul Pretender, Primitive Race's killer post-punk skills combine with Crover's legendary pounding and prove to be the perfect backdrop for something of a Chuck Mosley renaissance.

    The album opens with "Row House", a peculiar thick alterna-tune that's crunchy and kinda off-kilter, followed by the hooky-chorused "Cry Out". We take a breath, and PR hits us with the one-two punch of "Cranial Matter" and "Take It All", the punk-rockest songs on the platter. I should've mentioned this before, but Chuck's stream-of-consciousness crooning and rambling are fully intact throughout. "Bed Six", Stepping Stone", and "Turn It Up" will bring to mind elements of early FNM and Cement, but modernized and "Primitized". I guess what I'm trying to get at here is that Soul Pretender is anything but a nostalgia act. It is fresh and vital and it rocks. It just has all the right elements to make its participants shine. Speaking of Soul Pretender, the title track is haunting and dangerous and could be the score of a slasher film. A really creepy one. But with an almost-transcendent chorus. "Nothing To Behold", the sucker charged with following that monster, succeeds and is easily my fave of the bunch. It's like the long lost sister of the Bad Brains' "She's Calling You". What I've always dreamed a proper studio recording of the Mosley era to be. But likely much better. I know I keep bringing 'em up, but the songs just have these brilliant sounding choruses. Like The Killing Joke's "The Wait" but kinda pretty. "Dancing On The Sun" satisfyingly wraps up the disc, leaving me wanting more, yet knowing that I probably couldn't handle it.

    Fans of early Primitive Race may at first be a tad put off by the less-electronic, more "organic" overall sound. And Chuck’s voice is very different from any found on their earlier releases. But this is still very much Primitive Race. The pickier of PR fans owe it to themselves to give this a serious listen (or two) before dismissing it. Fans of early Faith No More definitely need to buy this. Fans of great alternative music should seek this out immediately. Soul Pretender is one of the best albums of 2017. -Harmless



Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: Queens of the Stone Age - Villians

 That new Queens Of The Stone Age record answers a question everyone is afraid to ask, and for good reason: What if aliens watched a lot of Grindhouse and Russ Meyer flicks, and basically found a spot next to the MST3K crew in the theatre, then went to church, then came home and ate spaghetti and wrote a record, after one more spaghetti western? Thankfully, the human race will never have to broach the subject as a species, because the planetary patriots informally known as “QOTSA”, led by General Josh Homme, have made this theoretical, hypothetical nightmare into a nine-track album equivalent to those fear mongering nuclear war training newsreels. It’s some “Reefer Madness” in an era where we have an Attorney General who sees that piece of cinematic chicanery as an instructional video or that video you have to watch when you take Drivers Ed (where they make sure to get close-ups on all the charred corpses inside the twisted wreckage) rather than “Gone With The Wind”. (See what I did there?) The White Boy Funk is strong with this one. B to B-
-Jackson A.D.