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”.
Feature, “Schedules Align” (Upset the Rhythm)
Photo credit: Owen Richards.
“She’ living a dream/you’re willing to wait”
Feature is the UK-based trio of Jen Calleja, Heather Perkins and Liv Willars, whose collective CVs include memberships in such tgh faves as Sauna Youth, Metronomy, and Slowcoaches. “Schedules Align” is the first track released from the band’s forthcoming debut, Banishing Ritual, and it’s chock full of hi-nrg, shout-along punk.
I stumbled upon this band a few months ago – specifically, 2015’s Tourists EP – working back via one of Calleja’s other bands, Gold Foil, and was immediately hooked. I then read a brilliant piece she wrote for Queen of the Track magazine discussing her then recent discovery of The Misfits (a band whose initial run I hold near and dear), that was part fan letter and part send-up, filtered through a discussion of the masculine and feminine in harder rock circles, and was even more intrigued.
For these purposes, the focus is her admiration for The Misftis’ blend of cartoonish levels of aggression and violence with music indebted to gentil, 50s crooner rock – blue angels transmogrified into pregnant Mexican women birthing still-born monster babies. “Schedules” does provide the listener with a taught display of truly fiendworthy (sorry) guitar, bass and drum work which, combined with the extra sung syllable in “ali-I-ign” and doo-wop backing vocals starting around 1:40, reminded of songs like “Hatebreeders”. Where Danzig and co. would play this on 11, however, Feature juxtapose the arrangement’s raw aggression with a vocal that manages to be both insouciant and breathless. It’s perfect for pogoing (do people still do that?) and you’ll need some kind of drill to get the giant earworm of a chorus out of your brain, should you want to. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the album.
Banishing Ritual is due April 7, on Upset the Rhythm; pre-order here. Follow Feature on fbook and the twitt.
London’s Sauna Youth
Sauna Youth, “The Bridge/Blurry Images” (Upset the Rhythm, 1/15/2016)
Better late than never to touch upon this “new” (as of January) single from Sauna Youth, a four-piece out of London whose members also play in other bands we like, including Cold Pumas, Monotony and Primitive Parts.
A-side, “The Bridge”, is a blisteringly fun track, storming out of the gate with a guitar buzz that would sit nicely amidst gabba-neat c/o ‘77 punk , rougher Jam and “waster” Libertines. B-side (and personal fave), “Blurry Images”, blends the wry, ‘cheeky chappy’ bounce of Modern Life Is Rubbish-era Blur with the starker, repetitive groove-based post-punk of bands like ESG and Delta 5, shout-sung lyrics challenging the listener’s perspective to achieve focus. Something you can think, fight and groove to at the same time.
“The Bridge” features on new full length, Distractions, which is out now on Upset the Rhythm – so I guess I’d better get going on a review of that, too…oof. While you await that with baited breath, follow along with Sauna Youth on fbook and the twitt, check out their other musical offerings on Bandcamp and catch them on one of their upcoming tour dates:
9.22.16 – Chicago, IL – The Owl – W/ Kyle Kaos
9.23.16 – Milwaukee, WI – High Dive – W/ Platinum Boys, Midnight Reruns
9.24.16 – Detroit , MI – UFO Factory – W/ Fire Retarded, Growwing Pains
9.25.16 – Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class
10.1.16 – London, UK – Kamio – W/David West, Score, Middex, General Echo Soundsystem
VEXX, “Do What You Want To” (M’Lady’s Records (US): Upset! The Rhythm (EUR/UK))
Olympia’s VEXX made an immediate impact on ears/minds/souls in 2014 with their debut, self-titled EP. Then followed last year’s equally fantastic, if more nuanced, “Give and Take” 7”, which saw the band stretch their scorched earth punk/hc with touches of the serious blues and r&b riffage hinted at on debut tracks like “Strength” and “Ocean Shores”.
Now, VEXX returns with “Do What You Want To” – the first taste of new EP/mini-LP “The Wild Hunt”. It’s a groovy amalgam of punk/blues crunch and 70s power-pop strut, with a seriously killer Chuck Berry riff and a rhythmic shimmy evoking visions of spandex jumpsuits and the sounds of The Sex Pistols to Sweet to the Runaways.
If your issue with power-pop is its tendency towards a more mawkish (and male-driven) take on romance/‘getting some’, fear not gentle reader. For while singer Maryjane Dunphe is enticed by the person who’s caught her eye, they receive the titular line to do as they wish – no falsetto plea to ‘go all the way’, here, as the track begins to unravel before ending abruptly with a shriek. All killer; no filler.
“The Wild Hunt” is due in October as a joint release of two excellent labels: M’Lady’s Records out of Portland, OR and the UK’s Upset! the Rhythm – and is available for pre-order now via either/or. Do what you wanna, &etc. While you’re doing that, you can check out more about VEXX here.
Posted in Reviews
Tagged do what you want, indie, m'ladys records, olympia, power pop, punk, review, rock, the wild hunt, upset the rhythm, vexx