Girl Ray, “The Way We Came Back” (Moshi Moshi)
Girl Ray are Poppy Hankin, Iris McConnell and Sophie Moss. We’ve previously genuflected in their general direction before, and here they go making us bow and scrape again with a new single, “The Way We Came Back”, to compliment last summer’s full-length debut, Earl Grey.
An early composition described by the band as, er, “[a] plump cow that needed to be milked”, “The Way We Came Back” bears the same well-worn elegance that has become a signature of the band’s short catalogue. Quirky rhythmic changes jostle the more straight forward chord progressions. Hankin’s wistful vocals, delivered with a resonance that makes her sound a less-Teutonic Nico (the timbre and accenting always has me thinking they’re Welsh), float over butterscotch smooth harmonies. Lovely.
Watch the video for “The Way We Came Back”, below, and catch Girl Ray on tour in the US for the first time through the end of March, ahead of their first UK headlining tour beginning in April – all dates here. The single arrives April 20 as a limited-edition 7”, available for pre-order from Moshi Moshi or the band.
ACLU Benefit Compliation (Wharf Cat)
Artwork by Emma Kohlmann
I often view compilation records in the same way I view most festivals – too often, you need to wade through so much flotsam to enjoy the treasure. When the tracks on the compilation in question are culled from the roster of a label like Brooklyn-based Wharf Cat, however, they are well worth the effort.
Happily then, Wharf Cat recently announced the April 20 release of a compilation benefitting the ACLU ($30 from every $32 double-LP sold will go to the organization) — an ever-worthy cause, and no more so in these times of heightened, and increasingly naked, race baiting and attacks on civil rights under those tired dog whistles of ‘law and order’ and ‘national security’. Or, as the label puts it, the “ongoing assault on the Constitution”.
The bands on offer include tgh favorites like The Men, Snakehole, Profligate, Trust Punks (represented by Joe’s new band, Cheerleader – can’t wait to hear that one) and Psychic Blood, as well as a host of other notable acts. Wharf Cat has shared two tracks to whet your appetite (check them out, below): the freewheeling ruminations of “Too Sensitive” by Dollar Band (featuring members of Gun Outfit) and the glistening psych-wave of “Hourglass”, courtesy of Alice Glass.
The ACLU Benefit Compilation is up for pre-order now, via bandcamp or the Wharf Cat site.
Posted in Reviews
Tagged aclu, alice glass, benefit, compilation, gun outfit, indie, profligate, snakehole, the men, trust punks, wharf cat records
VV Torso, LPVV (Jurassic Pop)
Photo credit: Rachel Enneking
VV Torso, a four-piece hailing from Indianapolis, self-describe as a combination of post-punk, no-wave and (in one of those ‘damnit, why didn’t I think of that first’ moments) “regret-hop”. I first stumbled upon the band courtesy of the mighty Post-Trash, who premiered their track, “Boy”, back in August. That track served as both a debut and an appetizer for the band’s debut album, LPVV, released in October on the Cleveland-based Jurassic Pop label (home of past faves like TV Ghost).
Their label bio states, in part, that the band was originally conceived as a performance compliment to vocalist Natty Morrison’s poetry (Morrison is also a professional creative writer so, no pressure on, like, the words here or, um…). On LPVV, Morrison’s spoken word/bark is pushed, stretched and provoked by his bandmates’ (Brent Smith, Gareth Ney and Tom Lageveen) propulsive, tightly-wound post-punk (think early Gang of Four and Killing Joke) into a 10-song set that’s simultaneously in your face and nonchalant. Morrison’s tone is reminiscent of Protomartyr’s Joe Casey, and with his arch – sometimes baleful – poesies (closing track, “Giant”, includes lines like “he’s going to the war/with a violin as a weapon” and “he’s in an art museum…/he’s in a grass-roots rebellion against a free market economy”), he is become a kind of heartland™ John Cooper Clarke. Smith’s guitar is a frequent scene-stealer, a dizzying combination of stabbed stutter, freewheeling improv and restrained melody that often morphs into a third member of the rhythm section. It’s an exciting release, placing the band in line with fellow midwestern travelers like Pere Ubu.
Grab a copy of LPVV here, and check out all things ‘Torso’ on the band’s fbook page. Album cut, “Blood”, also appears on the new Post-Trash comp, proceeds from which will benefit the Maria Fund for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. Why not both?
Highlights include: “Success”; “Object”; “Wish Machine”; “Giant”; “Taper”.
Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Rot (What’s Your Rupture?; R.I.P. Society; Agitated Records)
Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys are a four-piece hailing from Sydney, featuring members of bands including Royal Headache and Red Red Krovvy. Following on 2013’s great debut, Ready for Boredom, the group released Rot this past November, and it’s amazing.
Rot finds the band barreling through an 11-song, 30 minutes and change set of fuzzed-out power pop that recalls folks like Wreckless Eric or a punkier Replacements. The combination of the raw, strained emotion in singer Joe Sukit’s voice over the grin-inducing melodies crafted by guitarist Ben Warnock is a potent one, and the band pulls off wry piss takes like “Expanding Horizons” and “Company”, and wistful reflections like opener “Away” and album highlight, “Device”, with equal aplomb. As closer, “Turn of the Page” ascends to an extended call and response between saxophone and a crunchingly beautiful solo worthy of ‘Starry Eyes’, the album leaves you with a hopeful sense that, despite leaving some scars, its titular degeneration is clearing.
Rot is available now, courtesy of a trio of labels: What’s Your Rupture? (US/Canada), R.I.P. Society (Australia, New Zealand) and Agitated (UK/EU) – pick your fave currency and buy a copy. The group also have a few tour dates coming up down under (sorry) – you can find them on the band’s fbook page.
Highlights include: “Victoria”; “Away”; “Device”.
Site fave Preoccupations recently announced that their new full-length – cleverly titled New Material – will release March 23, courtesy of Jagjaguwar and Flemish Eye (in Canada). To tide us over until then, the band have also shared the Nathan David Smith-produced video (below) for new track, “Espionage”, which incorporates the album’s artwork, by Calgary-based designer Marc Rimmer.
The track itself feels typically unsettled, structurally calling to this mind a kind of industrial-edged Heaven 17. The lyrics feel desolate (singer Matt Flegel has described the album as an “ode to depression and self-sabotage”), with a defiant call and response between lead and backing vocals rising to a persistent call for “change”. Whether this defiance brings catharsis or is a mere kick out against the pricks is open for debate.
You can pre-order New Material now, and make sure to catch Preoccupations on one of their forthcoming tour dates.
Patsy, LA Women (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Patsy are a New Orleans-based quartet. After a series of excellent singles over the past couple of years, the band recently released their debut ‘mini’-LP, LA Women.
Where prior singles tended to stay firmly in the hardcore lane, LA Women finds Patsy blending an inspired mix of surf, garage, 80s hardcore, skewed 80s new wave, and garage. Their straight ahead hardcore jams – including a re-recorded version of “Nazis are so Plain” from their 2015 demo – bear a slippery quality that reminds of DKs, particularly in the woozy guitar work (see, in particular, album highlight “Society Ape”, which sounds melodically like a DKs/Damned mashup). Elsewhere, tracks like the excellent “Heathen” and opener “Count it Down” bristle with a-go-go worthy garage energy.
LA Women is out now, courtesy of the ever-excellent La Vida Es Un Mus (seriously, check the roster). Patsy have a few tour dates forthcoming, which can be found below and on their bandcamp. Here’s hoping for more soon (including a date closer to thegrindinghalt HQ – *cough*).
10/12 Montreal @ L’Escogriffe
10/13 Toronto @ Sneaky Dee’s
10/15 Detroit @ Help!
10/16 Chicago @ TCC Gallery
10/17 St Louis @ B Line
10/18 Memphis @ Murphy’s
First things first: I count myself a massive Cocteau Twins fan. So much so that when I read/hear bands compared sonically or otherwise with them, it’s met with a healthy skepticism. Few, either during the contemporaneous rise of dream pop and shoegaze or during their more recent revivals, seem to match the visceral thrill, the desolate euphoria, gleaned from the original. While I grew to like many of these bands over time it was in spite of, rather than due to, their supposed level of “Cocteausiness”.
Which leads me to Britain, the duo of Joey Cobb and Katie Drew that I recently stumbled across (thanks to an email blast from the good folks over at Heavenly). They come bearing Cocteau comparisons – and it’s easy enough to see why on first listen to the demo for track, “Day by Day”: the glistening guitar cascades, crisp drum machine patter, even an ending that sounds as though the song’s been suddenly unplugged – it’s all there. Yet, in spite of my decidedly caveat emptor approach to such things, I was immediately swept up and carried off by “Day by Day”.
Much of this is down to Drew’s vocal performance, which matches not only the wispy end of Elizabeth Fraser’s delivery but, more importantly, its soulfulness. So, yes, it does sound like the Cocteaus – but “Day by Day” is no mere pastiche. The light and dark in the track’s woozy melody gives a feel like the reveal of sun through a slowly lifting fog. It’s also incredibly fully-formed for a ‘demo’ – so hopefully, if included on their forthcoming debut, it won’t be messed with. A second track, “Tried to Call”, can be heard by watching their “Stay Fresh” session over at theskinny. Building from a similar 4AD building block, “Tried to Call” ratchets up the psych in a way that reminds of Lost Souls-era Doves (a band Britain name check as an influence in the corresponding interview).
Per the bio on fbook and the twitt, Britain are currently working on their debut, which will be released on Heavenly. Stay tuned, and catch them out on tour with Jane Weaver this autumn in the UK (dates here).
Rat Columns, Candle Power (Upset the Rhythm)
Rat Columns is the project of NYC-by way of Western Australia’s David West, whose previous work with bands such as Total Control, Rank/Xerox and Lace Curtain, as well as his solo material (most recently, last year’s great Peace or Love), explored different musical territory, from noirish post-punk, new wave imbued rhythmic explorations and dazed and confused psych.
Candle Power, his latest release with Rat Columns, finds West stitching together these various elements into a seamless and truly wondrous indie pop gem. “Blinded by the Shadow” expands on the Hot Chip (and their 80s antecedents) stomp of Lace Curtain, burnished with the addition of backing vocals from bassist Amber Gempton (featured throughout) and the inspired use of violin to add texture. “Northern Soul” weds the jittery, gothic post-punk of West’s work with Total Control and Rank/Xerox (I also kept hearing Lords of the New Church) with hazy psych. The album is shot through with moments of sublime, pop bliss. Opening one-two, “Someone Else’s Dream” and “She Loves the Rain”, jangled perfection in the spirit of classic Flying Nun on through to The Byrds. Closer, “Dream Tonight” a dancefloor ready mashup of New Order and Prefab Sprout (“Time’s No Vessel” also reminds of a less blissed-out Sprout with a shot of Orange Juice).
A dreamy, sepia-tinted melancholy hangs over the album, showcasing West’s ability to coalesce wide-eyed melodies with urbane, sometimes caustic lyrical takes on love and relationships, which are at variously “like driving a motorbike straight into a wall” (“Is This Really What You’re Like?”), an ephemeral, ‘did that really happen?’ experience (“Someone Else’s Dream”), and portentous “dark cloud that rains down from above” (“Time’s No Vessel”). It’s brilliant.
Candle Power is out now, on Upset the Rhythm. You can follow along with all things David West on his bandcamp and fbook page.
Highlights include: “Someone Else’s Dream”, “Time’s No Vessel”, “Blinded by the Shadow”, “Dream Tonight”.
“In My Dreams” cover art.
Makthaverskan haven’t released any new material since 2015’s “Witness” 7”, but that all changes now. The group has shared a new track, “In My Dreams”, and announced that a new album – the numerically appropriate, III – will be released in October.
“Dreams” finds the group continuing to mine the kind of swirling, cathartic melodies found on their previous work, but with a fuller sound. Reverbed guitar jangle, an increasingly active bassline and propulsive drumming engulf and elevate vocalist Maja Milner‘s plaintive upper register, now rounded out with more lower tones and a wordless purr at the 2:27 mark recalling Siouxsie. Headphones revel tubular synth notes, which add to the overall depth. The track positively shimmers, and we can’t wait for the album.
According to the band’s fbook page, III was recorded at Svenska Graommofonsutdion with the help of Hans Olsson-Brookes, and is due October 20, courtesy of Swedish label Luxury Records and US-based Run for Cover Records.
Rips, Rips (Faux Discx; Wharf Cat)
Rips is a four-piece based in Brooklyn. According to their bio, they’ve developed quite the following through “virtuous melodies and sheer ferocity amidst an endless flurry of shows” (crikey!).
Not situated in the Tri-State area, I had not run across the band until hearing their self-titled debut, and was hooked from the off. It’s fantastic, start to finish, showcasing a host of styles and incluences – the ‘artier’ end of the early CBGB days, post-punk, 70s power pop and rock, 60s via 80s jangle, 90s psych-slack – blended in such a way as to make them new again. “Break” is like REM covering Tom Petty; “Malibu Entropy” a woozy elegy to a relationship; “Save Room” as instantly familiar as the proverbial open road. The arrangements are sharp and taught, vocals recalling, to these ears, Love Battery’s underrated Ron Nine or Pete Doherty in their ability to seem both plaintive and beyond caring.
While much seems to have been made of the NYC/‘downtown’ feel of the band’s compositions, using as exhibit ‘a’ the involvement of Parquet Courts’ guitarist Austin Brown as producer, it rings too limiting. For me, the funneling of disparate eras and sounds into something so cohesive and, frankly, catchy gives Rips the feel of one of those ‘lost classic’ platters missed by many and later held up as a landmark. Let’s not wait.
Rips is out now, courtesy of Faux Discx (Wharf Cat handling distribution in the US). Follow along with the band Rips on fbook and their site, where you can find their current slate of upcoming gigs.
Highlights include: “Malibu Entropy”, “Save Room”, “Vs”, “Psychics”.