Friday, April 13, 2018

Book Review: Damnation by Alabama Sharp

    Over the course of 35+ years, Alabama Sharp has led such legendary and infamous underground Alabama bands as The Knockabouts, Monster Dog, Monster God, and the Go-Go Killers, all the while quietly writing some of the sickest fiction ever imagined. Seriously, the reason why we’re just now reading this stuff is because no one was brave enough to publish any of it. In the true spirit of D.I.Y. (of which he was an early purveyor), Mr. Sharp finally said, “Fuck it!” and decided to publish the work himself. This means that Sharp doesn’t answer to anyone, which in turn means we get even sicker stuff than we would have gotten had somebody else published him.
    The first half of the book is a collection of Sharp’s art. Simple crude pen and ink drawings of hyper-violent and over-sexed demonic debauchery. Readers of our print zine have likely bared witness to some of his work, which is downright quaint when compared to some of the demented smut found in these pages. Like Clive Barker guiding the hand of Helen Keller to mock Picasso. Or a five-year-old trying to explain why the house is empty and there’s blood everywhere. Reminds me of the little kid’s art in Jay Anson's Amityville Horror book, but instead of a sprinting pig, we get a two-headed three-breasted naked lady with a dead baby draped between her necks. *And the prosecutor points to the child’s drawing, “Is this where the devil touched you?”* Doodles of the damned. Viciously visceral. A gnarly introduction and a helluva visualization of what might come.
    The text portion of the book ranges from brutal abstract poetry to deranged short stories. Alabama Sharp is a man who's brain is packed with a lot of (fucked-up) ideas, but I’d wager that this being something of a compilation picked from different periods in the writer’s life has added an even deeper layer of stylistic variety. Luckily, Pissed-Off-Kid Sharp is just as talented a writer as Punk-Rock-Elder-Statesman Sharp. The entire book is well-written. Which makes it even more hard-hitting. Any warnings of offensive content should be taken very seriously, but make no mistake, this is finely-crafted. Interesting stories that really pull the reader in. But these are intense stories. We’re talking extreme violence, rape, murder, rituals, and gore. Ramshackle prose gives way to slice-of-life torture porn to the tale of a family trip gone waaaay wrong to the musings of broken-brained stalkers and serial killers to what amounts to a throbbing Penthouse Forum gone bad. Much of it from the monsters' (human, inhuman, and non-human) perspectives. All masterfully imagined and the very definition of explicit. EXPLICIT. Gorehounds rejoice, but this book is not for everyone. It will haunt you and disgust you and it will get under your skin. This book is grotesque and challenging. Damnation was clearly published to push buttons, let’s hope one of those buttons isn’t your doorbell. -Harmless

Monday, March 26, 2018

Review: Metayouth - Speech Balloons In June

    This is what I loooove about the digital age: THE IMMEDIACY. Just last month, Metayouth released their debut self-titled full-length on Bandcamp, and now they're already back with an E.P.! Dakota Gilliland hasn't lost his chops when it comes to creating catchy poppy kinda emo-y punk rock. I should hope not; like I said, it's only been a month! But that's not to say that there hasn't been some growth. Everything seems more effortless (in the good way) this time around. The distorted overblown instrumentation is a potent tool for this artist and he's become more adept at it. I've always said that I've rarely heard a pop-punk band sound bad live, but that something is often lost in the translation to tape (or digital computer pixie dust or whatever). Metayouth agilely avoids this by (1) writing lyrics that are interesting regardless of the vessel, and (2) Co-opting the raw intensity of a rough demo while having the skill to build upon it and manipulate it to get the point across. Fearless and fragile. This'll get ya digging for more noise. This is gateway garage. -Harmless

Metayouth on Bandcamp

Metayouth on Facebook

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: Rapid Randy - Widow Maker

    Rapid Randy Hughes (Nic-O-Teens/NcSeventeen/Model Citizen/Parasites/Backseat Virgins/too damn many more to name) is back after close to a five year hiatus. And his return is nothing less than an extraordinary experiment. Gentle, but brash by virtue of its very existence, Widow Maker is a delicate, personal, and strange return for the one-time (and hopefully once-again) prolific musician. For this 4-song EP, Randy has traded in his bass for an other-worldly autoharp and subtle electronics. Using these devices, and a little help from his equally creative family, a soft, spectral soundscape is crafted. A skilled pop and punk and pop-punk singer, his voice is now distant and low in the mix. Spoken poetry and observations. He shares his thoughts as spacey soundbites. A salesman of the soul. Melancholic. Cathartic. Magical. This is the fragile sound of a brilliant artist freed. I can't wait to hear what else he has in store for us. Glad to have you back, Rapid, hope you stick around for a long time. -Harmless

Rapid Randy on Bandcamp

Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: Postal - Engineering the Antagonist

    Before Alabama was treated to the often political themed punk metal hybrid of The Crashing Falcon, there was Postal. Active from 1998 to 2004, the band was very much a proto version of TCF. Recorded over ten years ago, the album was never given a proper release due to incomplete vocals. Recently, however, TCF decided to throw it up on their Bandcamp as a "name your price" purchase, and it's well worth a download. Featuring members of other Huntsville AL acts such as Radiotron Barricade At Night, the release is a nice little time capsule of early 2000s metalcore and certainly better than many of the local releases this writer picked up from around the same time. Of the thirteen tracks, roughly half feature no vocals, which may be a strength of the release rather than a detriment. After a brief intro track, "Sober Sunday" gives you a good taste of what you're in for. The deathcore vocals are mostly inaudible, and one may say subpar, but for a demo recording from that era, the music is surprisingly strong. Next "The Coffin Nail Choke" picks things up with the type of familiar metalcore jam you may fondly recall in abundance from the mid-2000s. Again the vocals may be a bit lacking but the head banging and mosh worthy breakdowns should give you a dose of nostalgia if you once frequented these types of shows. Track four, which has a completely nonsense title, serves as an intermission before the album begins with the tracks that vocals were presumably never finished for. If you weren't a fan of the rough vocals the album arguably improves as it moves into the instrumental works. Starting with "You Sank My Battleship" you're then treated to 5 tracks of quite retro thrashy metalcore/deathcore. If you were around when the genres were popular in the state, the tracks make for quite the nostalgia trip and it seems safe to say these guys are more talented musicians than many of AL's metal bands from the era. The vocals return with "Murder Weapon Can Opener" but again they are fairly rough and incomprehensible. The release ends with "The Hell in Venus" which by far has the best vocal mix of the release. Here the vocals rotate between metalcore growl and cleanish vocals at times with a somewhat rap delivery. The track is of course quite heavy, though with a bit of catchiness mixed in thanks in part to the improved vocals. If every track were up to this standard the release would be an even more noteworthy one.
3.5/5 A must for The Crashing Falcon fans as well as those in need of a throw back to a bygone age of the State's scene. -Kevin Spann

Postal on Bandcamp

The Crashing Falcon on Bandcamp

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review: Owls And Other Animals

    I'm kinda a sucker for lo-fi singer songwriter stuff. But I can't stand Dylan. And I'm not even normally a fan of acoustic guitar. (The dude who brings an unrequested acoustic guitar to a party is only marginally less a pile of scum than the dude who brings an harmonica. And at least that fits in your pocket, so you can pretend that you just happened to have it with you. The jerk with the guitar clearly has plans...) I do, however, find that I am drawn to music that is unusual, fragile, broken, noisy, and.... honest. In my book, basement tapes of a kid strumming his cheap hand-me-down while his voice cracks will always kick Eric Clapton off his lame-ass stool. Folk duos can be particularly treacherous, often little more than pretentious sleepy jammers feeding each other's most boring inclinations. But Owls And Other Animals are unique in that they seem to recognize the aural charms of budget recording, but have strong writing and performing chops, plus they seem to share the same mental orbit as one another. They seem to reside on the same page of "The Moody Arts". (I just made up a book.) OAOA provide a shaky cool brand of authenticity to the audience. Owls And Other Animals, while achingly simple, are many things. They can be your atmosphere, they can be your poetry, but they can also hold their own with the Trash Cats. They understand pop and they understand beauty. They strip it down. They can croon unironically. They are masters of minimalism. Check 'em out and keep listening cuz I bet we're gonna hear a whole lot more. -Harmless

Owls And Other Animals on Bandcamp

Owls And Other Animals on Facebook

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review: The Moose - Earth Mover

I don't like genres, or adjectives for that matter. But we have to use them to describe music, which often doesn't do the bands justice. The Moose are like that. Southern as fuck. A kind of fuzzed hard rock stew; thick, fat grooves that you can cook a pound of bacon in; and vocals that flow so soulfully and naturally that if you hadn't seen The Moose, you'd think it was created with studio gadgetry (it isn't). This is the kind of music that can only be created and done to this level of perfection in the South. You need to check this out. -Alabama Sharp

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review: Party Gator - Cover Singles 2017

    Memphis, TN's Party Gator is an artist/band that I otherwise would have never heard of if it wasn't for a close friend posting about this release on social media. Listen, I rarely feel the urge to write a review, but holy wow this is sick! Fuzzy guitar, vocals that sound like they're recorded underwater through a vienna sausage can, and overall just a super fun selection of songs covered here.

The production is also beautiful here. How can something so RAW be so CLEAN?

They even cover Madonna here! You'll have to just go listen for yourself.

It's up now under the "pay what you want" option.

Out on the Weekend (Neil Young)
Girl U Want (DEVO)

Would recommend to fans of:
Ty Seagall, Deftones (White Pony era), Sludge Rock/Garage Rock fans

-ON signing off

Party Gator on Bandcamp

Party Gator on Facebook

Monday, March 12, 2018

Live Review: Swiss Army Brat

Live at Sidetracks

    Swiss Army Brat has been playing a TON of shows in and around the Huntsville area lately, and I can see why they keep so busy…. it’s because THEY FUCKIN' KICK ASS! The region is known for having bands that push the limits of power, of taste. Let’s just say Hville and their regularly visiting neighbors have a reputation. But what is often left out of that narrative are all the women that rock just as hard as, or even harder than the boys. S.A.B. is a prime example. Snotty, angry, funny, take-no-shit, LOUD. I first saw them playing GAD! Fest 2 at Sidetracks Music Hall late last year. They were the one band on the bill with which I was kinda unfamiliar, but Salina Brilla knows how to book a brilliant show. Who was I to question it? Glad I didn't, because Swiss Army Brat KILLED. Since then, my own band was asked to share a bill with them, and we jumped at the chance. And again they did not disappoint. In fact, I think they were even better than at GAD! Fest!! If they haven't hit the studio yet, they need to, like day before yesterday! Go see them before they implode from so much punk rock attitude. – Harmless

Friday, March 9, 2018

Review: LiL $hiro - InFriendsWeTrust EP

    LiL Shiro is a fairly prolific rap artist who effortlessly blends nightlife partying with kinda-geek culture. He finds angles that will take what might at first seem to be a trope and turn it into something fresh. Makes sense. The Rap/Hip-Hop community has come a long way in this state over the last few years, with many more musicians opting to delve deeper and look beyond just copying what they find in the "Rap" section of FYE. LiL $hiro and several of his cohorts are prime examples of this movement. So what about the EP? The music that serves as $hiro's backdrop is just about always pretty as hell. It works in excellent contrast with his vocal delivery one moment and in melodious unison the next. He also gets the most out of everyone with which he collaborates. Every song on this EP stands on its own as a killer single and at the same time belongs with the other tunes. That's an artist at work. -Harmless

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Review: Various – I’ve Got The Bible Belt Around My Throat (1981-2003 vinyl; 1981-2010 digital)

    I’ve been waiting forever to finally hear this comp! At last, there is a collection that gives Alabama Punk Rock the history it deserves. Pioneers like the Knockabouts, Grossest National Product, and Dead Pigeons are all represented. Other must-haves like Random Conflict are also here. Where the hell was this comp when I was a kid?? Oh yeah, and we get to hear that Skeptic? 14 years ago sounds a lot like Skeptic? today. Wouldn’t want it any other way! Some production is a little rough in places (a lot of old friends will vouch for how hard it was to get a decent-sounding punk record made in ‘bama even by the late 90’s) but overall the sound is pretty damn solid. The great mastering further shows what a labor of love this project has been for Ian Wise. I'm sure some locals will find holes where their fave band is unaccounted for, but that's the nature of the beast. Make your own gap-fill comp with this much enthusiasm and I'll buy it too! This is essential listening that still pisses off the neighbors!! (Review is of the extended digital version) -Harmless    

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

I Knew Chuck Mosley....

FNM comic book autographed by Chuck!

    “I knew Chuck Mosley.” “Chuck Mosley was a friend of mine.” “You, sir, are no Chuck Mosley.” Ok, so I’ve used that particular set of quotes before, in a previous review of IZZY MILLER (now known as IZZY MILLER AND THE BLACK MARKET SALESMEN). Which is paraphrasing a purloined phrase from a prized political parlance of that magical decade that was invented strictly for the satirical cannon fodder of millennial (and The South Park guys) humor-huckers worldwide: THE 1980S. (So if I am plagiarizing myself, from a time I parodied a quote, that was also plagiarized, what exactly does that make me? A “plag” on society, that’s what!) And ok, maybe Chuck Mosley wasn’t an *actual* friend of mine. But after talking with him for a few minutes, I felt as though he was. He was one of the most disarmingly humble and gentle souls it’s ever been my pleasure to meet. The fact that he parlayed that lovable psychedelic weirdness into some sort of half-muppet, half-toddler, half cartoon character that served as a beacon of focus and haven to a generation of disenchanted weirdos that couldn’t find their place in the spectrum of the zeitgeists that made up the culture at the time. (If you counted three halves, you count reaaalll gooood!) Those first two FAITH NO MORE records are more than adequate to get them on the ballot every year for “weirdest band on earth” some thirty years later. And at no point does it sound forced, contrived, concocted, conspired or crafted. It’s completely organic. Nothing shoved in there sideways just for the sake of creating a new gruel just to do it. Listening to “Soul Pretender” by PRIMITIVE RACE outlines just how pointedly tragic losing Chuck has been. Because that album is a snapshot (not snapchat…damn kids) of a Newton’s Cradle of defenseless sincerity, hope, joy, elation, chunk funk, exploration, and the “happy strange” Chuck was the personification of (at least to me). If being part of GAD! has benefited me in no other way, it made this happen, due to the humbling generosity of founder and editor-in-queef Adam Harmless. Not sure if I’ll ever pay that debt off, but maybe if more people discover something that changes their lives, or at least gives them a badass soundtrack to work behind, then I’ll continue to bear my burden to spread this here gospel. Rest In Peace Charles Henry Mosley III. Save me a table at the Arabian Disco. -Jackson A.D.

More love for Chuck...

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: Friendly Fingermen - Do No Harm EP

Here’s a good dose of fast moving aggression from a local supergroup collaboration aberration, the Friendly Fingermen. Their debut EP has 4 smashing tunes, just enough to hold your face underwater until you have to come up for air only to get smacked again, and again with each track. Then you wonder what the hell just happened, and when you can get more. Embrace the chaos brothers and sisters, as this put a smile on my face…. I can’t wait to see them throw down live. -Alabama Sharp

Friday, March 2, 2018

Review: The Vorpal Sword - EP

      As a longstanding fan of EVIL EYE (Jasper/Birmingham, I dunno… it’s in the directory for chrissake) I felt that proverbial Christly compulsion power to buy this recording sound unseen, attributable in no short order as well to my personal-yet-intermittent (meaning I don’t run into him much) friendship with frontman Joseph Higgins (journalistic bias? What’s that? Who you callin’ a journalist anyway? Oh. Nobody did. I see. Well, this certainly is awkward.) My initial mule-kick reflexive analysis of the EP is just what I told editor-in-queef Adam Harmless: It’s as if Rik Ocasek ditched The Cars and went for something “country”, something more jangly, or if Peter Murphy decided he would rather relocate to Hidden Valley Ranch or some other first-world village that wants to parade as a diorama for Charlotte’s Web but, in reality, is more akin to the town from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?. (There never is a Burger Barn though, and if there is it’s always closed when you go by it.) While EVIL EYE sits quite snugly in between the slots in your CD tower of 90’s alt-rock giants (because really, how else are you gonna listen to them??), THE VORPAL SWORD (a phrase found in the Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky) is jerking the wheel abruptly and going down a side service road that may or may not come back out on the interstate. No need to worry about scoring merits in some sort of morality game show; all the boys and girls get the gift of a good band and a good time when the man in the red suit brings THE VORPAL SWORD to the stage. Go! -Jackson A.D.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Reviews: Owen Ni - Studies and Various Artists - AWAKEN: Incoming Frequencies III

    Owen Ni is one of those very creative guys who's constantly working, either on his own projects, collaborating with other artists, or promoting through his podcast (Run On Radio) and record label (Run On Recordings). Music is his passion and he loves to share that passion.

    His own music tends to be of the techno variety and much of the folks he works would fall under the broad electronic umbrella of that genre, but Ni is open to any music or sounds that touch his brain. Speaking of his own music, one need look no further than his "Studies" EP, which received a vinyl release last year, to hear that the man is a master of minimalism and texture. The beats are memorable and the textures are eloquent. One track, "Running By The Beat" gets a very cool remix from Whim-ee. Gotta love it when a remix is actually slightly SHORTER than the original. The project is at once kinda modern and kinda retro. Timeless? If you're not dancing or hanging out or doing something nefarious to Mr. Ni's music, you really need to drive late at night with the windows down and let him be your GPS.

    Probably should've mentioned this already, but I do know Owen Ni. Not much of a revelation if
you've read my interview with him on this site! Anyway, I bring this up because one of my solo tracks appears on AWAKEN: Incoming Frequencies III, the compilation I'm about to tell ya about. For the sake of some vague impartiality, I will forgo reviewing my own song. However, I will say that, as of this writing, it is exclusive to this album. Skip past my noise, and you'll get tunes that range from early-90's-esque dance grooves to ethereal sound-scaping to rambling electronic organ to New Ordery stuff to just damn solid house. Some songs are more challenging than others: Echo's "Vertical Tala" is something of a slow-burn with 14+ minute runtime that starts with very repetitive notes that eventually build into full atmospheric rewards. Chumps will skip, while the enlightened will ride it out into aural oblivion. The comp plays as a diverse but cohesive full-length album. Seriously, not a bad track on here. My faves (and I keep changing my mind): the aforementioned Echo's "Vertical Tala", Argiflex's beautifully abrasive "Lost Cancels", Owen Ni's own haunty "Dreams Of Fish", and "Animals" by uh.... Adam Harmless.

Run On Recordings is celebrating their 4th year with this release. Here's to a thousand more!! 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: Zarek - WAVVYBABY

    Zarek's been around the North AL scene in one form or another for a while now. He's done his share of hardcore punk, and lemme tell ya, this ain't it at all. Zarek's latest passion is the indie hip-hop scene. And it's one to which he has comfortably transitioned. The beats are simple but catchy and a lotta the music is kinda mello techno. This the stuff that you can dance to, chill to, drive to. And crash to, cuz Zarek's voice is over-the-top as fuuuuuuck! And I like it! He gives every track 150%. You say that's impossible? Well, math is for folks painting by the numbers. And Zarek don't. Oh, yeah and I gotta say this: For some reason, he occasionally reminds me a tad of the late Dave Brockie. I think I must be as crazy as this dude. Anyway, as I was getting at before, Zarek is unrestrained in the vocal department. Unafraid. Says what he wants to say. How he wants to say it. It's the contrast between his yapping/rapping/hollering and the looped beats/pretty electronic music that makes this release stand out to me. I'm definitely curious to see where Zarek goes next with this.

Zarek on Bandcamp