Tag Archives: garage

Review: The Monsieurs, “High School Star” 7″

The Monsieurs, “High School Star” (Goodbye Boozy Records)

Following their crazy good (and, in parts, just plain ol’ crazy) 2014 self-tltled album, Boston scuzz-punk rockers The Monsieurs are back with a new double-a side single, “High School Star/Jack of Hearts”.

We here at thegrindinghalt wanted to give a glowing review of The Monsieurs (the album) but were, frankly, to busy listening to it and breaking shit to actually get around to writing one, so…if you haven’t yet experienced that aural Misfits/Ramones/Monks/Sha Na Na knife fight (actual knife fight, mind, none of that West Side Story or “Beat It” nonsense) do so, ok?  Great, thanks.

Anywho, “High School Star” continues the three chords and a cloud of dust assault of the full-length.  The band is at full strength here, piledriving their way through roughly two and one-half minutes of relentless rock.  Singer Andy California still sounds like he’s sing/screaming through a swarm of bees over a Hilken Mancini guitar slash reminiscent of “Wild Thing”, while Erin King provides the rhythmic stomp.  While I’m missing, a bit, the backup ‘sha la las’ so prevalent on the album, this still rages.

“High School Star” is out now on Goodbye Boozy Records, a label out of Teramo, Italy that is also home to other great bands like Sick Thoughts and The Husbands.

Check out The Monsieurs on fbook or the twit.

Album Review: Choke Chains, S/T

Choke Chains, S/T (Slovenly Recordings/Black Gladiator, 1/29/16)

Full throttle, stridently miscreant rock and/or roll from Michigan’s Choke Chains.  Hints of proto-punk standard bearers The Stooges and Electric Eels, garage idols The Sonics and newer bands like Rocket From the Crypt can be heard throughout (perhaps unsurprising, given the band features alumni of bands like The Dirtbombs and Bantam Rooster), but the band makes room for their own, individual spin.

The groove-centered, r&b swagger on display is infectious, though the music feels more in the ‘punk’ vein than straight garage.  There are some cool production touches, too – the heavy, loose-stringed bass sound is great (particularly on “Let’s Try Suicide”), and the sax stylings on the understated “Rock, Paper, Rapist” are a welcome addition to the sound.  In case you hadn’t already surmised, the band like to play with tongues firmly implanted in cheek – other titles include “Cracked Dracula”, “Moisture Detective” and “Safe Word”.

Eruditely-monikered lead singer Thomas Jackson Potter’s vocals are heavily muffled on many tracks, painting an image of the band bashing away in a supposedly “abandoned”, makeshift practice space, while Potter screams for recognition (vengeance?) from an underground bunker – or maybe that’s just me…  Other tracks lift the veil a bit, with “Random Number Generator” even featuring a hint of – !!!- falsetto.  Throughout, Potter displays charisma to match the band’s assured playing.

The album is out now through the excellent Slovenly Recordings (via their Black Gladiator imprint).  Get to know the band on fbook and on their bandcamp page. While you’re at it, check out the meaty (sorry) vid for “Safe Word”, below, and catch them at their upcoming March 26 gig at the UFO Factory in Detroit, if you’re able – here’s hoping for a tour!

Highlights include: “She Collects Calendars”; “Safe Word”, “Rock Paper Rapist”.

Track Review: Feels, Bitched

Feels, “Bitched” (Lolipop Records)

Joyously rough-edged rock from new (to us, at least) LA-based band, Feels. “Bitched” is a compact, three minute burr of surf rock, ‘70s punk, garage and ‘90s groups like Sleater-Kinney or even Elastica.  The buzzy guitar and sweet ‘la la la’ and ‘whoa, oh h’ backing vocals stick in your brain and won’t let go – kinda like those weird worm thingys in that Star Trek movie (google it, kids), but in a good way.

“Bitched” is taken from a live lp, recorded last summer at LA studio, Gauchos Electronics, out now on the ever-fantastic Lolipop label – it’s been out since January, but only recently burbled to the surface of our Soundcloud stream (we’ll hit “refresh” faster next time; promise).

The band’s debut long-player will be released in spring, 2016 on the equally loveable Castle Face, with production by neu-garage (is that a thing?) hero, Ty Segall. Go forth and like them on the Facebook.

Track(s) Review(s): The Ukiah Drag, “Open Room In Hell”, “Criminal Authority”

The Ukiah Drag, “Open Room In Hell”, “Criminal Authority” (Wharf Cat Records)

Two new tracks from The Ukiah Drag, the band’s first since last year’s excellent In the Reaper’s Quarters LP.

The first, “Open Room In Hell”, is swirling, vertiginous, reminiscent of early Butthole Surfers.  The titular chamber – a “monument of filth” where “every cocksucker’s mouth has been sewn shut” and third eyes are stabbed; where the narrator “lays [his] head”, “sick” and wanting you to die – is described in lurid detail, making the track a kind of aural Hieronymus Bosch hellscape.  Perhaps the room’s for let, and this is a kind of Craig’s List or Airbnb listing for the fallen – any takers?

The second, “Criminal Authority” swings with a Cramps-like, malevolent strut. The lyrics depict someone condemning with rising, crazed indignation, the “evil ways” of an unnamed other (or maybe the ‘man in the mirror’?) and the way they “play”.  Vocalist ZZ Ramirez rails and moans, and the swampy, acid trip production and use of distorted synth and organ gives the feel of a particularly off-putting tent revival, or the unsettling feel of hearing your unhinged neighbor rant, rave and break shit upstairs.

Both tracks will appear on The Ukiah Drag’s upcoming EP, fittingly entitled Crypt Cruiser, due September 4 on Wharf Cat Records. We can’t wait.

Check out The Ukiah Drag on Facebook and Soundcloud.

Review: Black Beach, The Youth Is Out There

Black Beach, The Youth Is Out There (self-released)

Been a while since I wrote about some good ol’ rock ’n roll, so time to rectify…

Black Beach is a 3-piece hailing from Middleboro, MA, USA.  Their two-track ep (is two tracks an ep?  we won’t judge), The Youth Is Out There, is music to sweat to – part punk, part garage, all rock; fuzzed-out guitars and vocals washed out to the point of incomprehension, duct-taped together by a manic rhythm section (so many crash cymbals….).  The MC5 and Mudhoney in a chicken fight with The Thermals and The Stooges.  Brilliant.

Released in July as a free download on their band camp page, which also has a couple of other tracks to sample (spoiler alert: they’re good, too).  Since the bandcamp embed is not working, I can’t let you preview the ep, so go get it – it’s free – and, while you’re at it, go see their record release show at the Middle East on December 10.

Album Review: The Fresh & Onlys, House of Spirits

The Fresh & Onlys, House of Spirits (Mexican Summer, 06/10/2014)

The Fresh & Onlys are a four-piece out of San Francisco.  Their latest, House of Spirits, is their sixth full length (the band has also released a couple of EPs). On prior releases, the band honed a sound including elements of psychedelia, garage rock, 70s SoCal country-tinged pop, and a bit of Paisley Underground and Brit-influenced 80s indie rock.  House feels like an attempt to broaden this sonic palette further, introducing more drone and ambient textures and hues to broaden the scope.

For this review, I thought I’d try something different and attempt to share my (slightly cleaned up) initial reactions to the each track on the album. Here goes:

“Home is Where” – opens with church organ; crooning vocals over piano, then morphs into a steady rocker – kind of reminds me of Doves.  Retains updated 60s via 80s sound. The dreamy, reverbed vocals once the song harken back to the days of “college radio” and import singles from some great UK band.

“Who Let the Devil” – intro bass/drum line sounds like Lords of the New Church a bit (probably just me…). Dreamy guitar arpeggio laces around muffled, Tim Cohen’s underwater vocals – ‘who let the devil walk into my house/ when i was born dying’.  Something about the melody reminds me of a Neil Young song, but I can”t figure out which one – it’s driving me crazy.  Is that a zither? autoharp? in the chorus?

“Bells of Paonia” – strobed guitar drone, ambient textures over pulsating bass line and lyrics about the effects of a pill.  Druggy, Spiritualized hushed gospel feel overlaid with Warm Jets-era Eno. Invites repeated listening to peel the onion.

“Animal of One” -“the point of forgiving/is so you forget/that being forgiven/is all in your mind”.  Seventies, SoCal country-tinged pop vibe.  Song (quietly) explodes into an absolutely lovely chorus around the 2:30 mark.

“I’m Awake” – to be honest, this song didn’t really grab me.  Was a bit disappointed by the chorus after an encouraging opening melody.

“Hummingbird” – an out and out rocker.  Chugging bassline and straight ahead drums bring echoes of 80s brit/indie – maybe a less dramatic Icicle Works? Interplay between the lead guitar and vocals is great.

“April Fools” – sweet, airy vocal melodies over chimey guitars – not a million miles away from San Francisco psychedelic pop legacy.  Love the guitar line in the chorus.  Could use a bridge/transition somewhere, though.

“Ballerina” – country infused.  A road trip through somewhere flat, where the reference points in the horizon never seem to get closer.  Vocals (here, I believe, by guitarist Wymond Miles) evoke a world weary Roger Miller.

“Candy” – opens with a playful, swinging beat. A slow grower.  Would be nice of the guitars were pushed more to the fore to bring the chorus out of it’s shell a bit.

“Madness” – (closer). intro reminds me of the beginning to “Disappear” by INXS (this is not a bad thing).  Similar in feel with “Bells” – a more languid, ambient arrangement crashes against a rocky shore of heavily distorted guitars.

Highlights include: “Bells of Paonia”, “Who Let the Devil”, “Animal of One”.

Album Review: Ezra Furman, Day of the Dog

Ezra Furman, Day of the Dog (Bar/None Records, 10/8/2013)

An album I took a while to settle down with – having heard tracks featured on many great radio shows, including Marc Riley’s show on BBC 6Music and The Late Riser’s Club on local WMBR – and extremely glad I did. 

Having released several albums with the Harpoons, as well as solo material, Chicago native, Tufts University alum (go Jumbos!) Ezra Furman recorded Day of the Dog with a new backing band, the Boy-Friends.  Musically, much of the album recalls the days when rock and roll, r&b and country were not easily distinguishable, adding glam stomp and proto-punk attitude.  The return of Frankie and Johnny, then.  The soundtrack to a sock hop held amidst the anarchic haze of a flop house in the Bowery.

In a rough, nasal voice recalling equal parts Hell, Johnny Thunders, Alex Chilton and (in quieter moments) Neil Young, Furman sings of estrangement and bewilderment; solace found only in “cold hands”.  I don’t claim to be familiar with Furman’s work with the Harpoons, but it’s hard to imagine their playing being more evocative than the Boy-Friends.  The contributions of saxophonist Tim Sandusky are worthy of particular praise, but the entire band is exceptional throughout.

Guitars and drums swing, pianos boogie and saxophones skronk on cuts like “Tell ‘Em All to Go to Hell’ and “Walk On In Darkness”, where Furman sings with impassioned zeal of being stuck in “a little apartment in Queens”, where everyone’s left save he and “the Lord…the trash piled high and a/chain on the door/and the neighbors don’t know what the hell that means”.  Opener “I Wanna Destroy Myself” finds him treading water in a “world, rising up like vomit/filling up my ugly little mouth”.  “My Zero” (official video below, via YouTube) is deliriously gorgeous and should be a hit – 70s AM gold stripped of cornball sheen; however, since real radio doesn’t exist anymore, I can only hope some music supervisor is paying attention.  I can’t stop listening.

Highlights include:  “My Zero”, “I Wanna Destroy Myself”, “Cherry Lane”, “Anything Can Happen”.