It’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you, &etc. Please accept our apologies for the wait between posts, in the form of some phenomenal new tracks.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “Don’t Go” (Universal/UMG)
“Don’t Go” represents the 40th, and most recent, single from new wave legends Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), whose music has been a constant companion to yours truly for longer than I care to admit. “Don’t Go” glides in on an arpeggiated melody that carries with it a whiff of Yaz(oo), but the achingly romantic textures are quintessential OMD. Andy McCluskey’s voice (which is in amazing form) remains as shot through with desperate emotion as ever. Paul Humphreys’ arrangement is stellar – the fill at the 1:25 is tear-inducing, either from the wistful tug of memory or the fresh pain of something more recent. Feels like it would fit equally well alongside tracks like “Hold You” (from 1985’s Crush) as with more recent tracks like “Metroland” from 2013’s English Electric. Gorgeous.
“Don’t Go” serves as 2019’s musical corollary to 1988’s “Dreaming” – i.e., the new track appended to OMD’s new (and massive), greatest hits collection, Souvenir, which is out now.
Routine Death are the husband/wife duo of Lisa and Dustin (also in Holy Wave) Zozaya. The track “Tubeway Revolution” is taken from their sophomore long-player, 2 Weeks to 4 Months (the follow-up to 2018’s excellent Parallel Universes), and it’s a great mélange of the hypnotic and the terse. Tensile synths and a woozy bassline lull you in before a jagged guitar scrawl jars you awake – while Lisa’s multi-tracked vocals beguile throughout. There’s a bit of a “lost 80’s” vibe in the arrangement, its icy cool goth-new wave veneer peppered with with exhales of psych vapor. The press release accompanying the track mentions a shared drive through a desert as a catalyst for the song, and it feels apt for anyone who’s experienced time in such vastness.
From 2 Weeks to 4 Months, which is out now on Fuzz Club.
The Orielles are, without doubt, one of our favorite new(er) bands here at tgh hq. From the first time we heard 2017’s “Sugar Tastes Like Salt” we were hooked, and the band haven’t let us wriggle free since. Excitement, then, for “Come Down on Jupiter”, the (now) quartet’s dizzying new track – and it proves justified. While adding depth in its arrangement, the track happily retains the insouciant charm of earlier efforts. As with those previous tracks, “Jupiter” sees the band donning several musical styles over the span of 5 minutes or so – bouncing back and forth between cinematic psych that sounds like the soundtrack to an impossibly cool, 60s bohemian movie, the dreamiest, Lush dream pop, and a full-on freakout of an extended outro – and doing so seamlessly. It’s marvelous, each member in top form – though, for my money the (not so) secret killer is Sidonie Hand-Halford’s drumming, which rearranges each of these scene changes with aplomb. Can’t wait for the record.
Taken from forthcoming long-player, Disco Volador, due February 28, 2020 from Heavenly and available for pre-order here.
Bristol, UK’s Katy J. Pearson recently released the brilliant single, “Tonight” – billed as her first solo effort following the end of a joint project with her brother. Arriving on an inspired, strings-based melody, the track weaves a vignette in which the characters are made to choose whether to take the proverbial leap, in spite of all while being “so vulnerable/in the eyes of our beholder”. Pearson’s voice is sweet without being saccharine and, while carrying a bit of a twang, the song isn’t country – I kept hearing a bit of Gwen Stefani, a dash of Kirsty MacColl. The chorus will follow you around for days, and you won’t mind a bit. It’s light (but not lightweight) indie pop that should be popular – make it so.
“Tonight” arrives November 15, courtesy of Heavenly, and will be paired with a cover of “Poison Cup”, by M. Ward.
Siamese Twins are a “cross-continental” band, currently based out of Leverett and Cambridge, MA and Chicago, IL and featuring members of bands including Ampere and Libyans (a personal fave). Their bio suggests that the group “don’t get together often”, which helps to explain why new 7” single, “Listless/Second Skin” is arriving roughly five years on from their debut full-length, Still Corners. However long it took, it was well worth the wait for these two new tracks. Both feature haunting vocal interplay and guitar melodies reminiscent of early Cure under heavy washes of synth. Slight edge goes to the b-side, which adds rockabilly noir to an otherwise wistful beauty. Death-dream rock? If Beauty and the Beat had been produced by Martin Hannett? Ladytron goth? You decide – I’m going to keep listening.
EXEK, Some Beautiful Species Left (SDZ; Anti-Fade; Digital Regress)
Melbourne, AUS five-piece EXEK released their latest long-player, Some Beautiful Species Left, last month. A follow up to last year’s double, A Casual Assembly and Ahead of Two Thoughts, the album finds the band further fine-tuning their kitchen sink production approach (the promo for the album mentions use of kitchen appliances in the recording, so I couldn’t resist) – and the results are phenomenal.
“Hobbyist” opens the proceedings along a discordant whine that sounds produced by something hand-cranked, unfurling into a full-on motorik headbuzz. Amidst the din, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Albert Wolski teasingly invites the listener to ‘go on/have a second guess’, like a spaced out Mark E. Smith fronting Clinic. It’s a fittingly bewildering start to a record that’s equal turns arresting, unsettling, chaotic, caustically hilarious and inspiring. Strings, horns, guitars, bass, drums, and persistent echo chambah effects swirl into a musical trail mix including dub, abrasive post-punk (pre-Brix The Fall, Wire, Metal Box-era PiL), jazz, and Syd-led Floyd experimentalism.
Highlights are many: the jittery dub of “Lobbyist”; the intriguing guitar/vibraphone (I think?) interplay on “Plastic Sword Retractable”; “Iron Efficiency”’s rugged narco-psych; the lightheaded, infectious melody of “Unetiquetted”. Instruments traditional and non- at times sound as if they’re being played forwards and backward simultaneously, Wolski’s gnomic sing-chant recalling bits of the aforementioned Barrett and Smith, Robyn Hitchcock and Jah Wobble in tone.
The magic of Some Beautiful Species Left lies in how it all hangs together – even for a listener who maybe has a more punk-inclined/birdlike musical attention span (cough). Veering from sprawling to terse, short blasts, the album’s eight tracks go in many directions. But for all the experimentalism on display, EXEK’s jammier tendencies enthrall rather than disappear too far into the navel. Perhaps a cheeky reference can be found in closer, “How the Curve Helps” (at 8:11, the longest track on the album), Wolski intoning ‘about an hour ago/I should have left’. We’re good to hang out longer.
Some Beautiful Species Left is out now, courtesy of the good folks at SDZ (Europe/Africa), Anti-Fade (AUS/Asia) and Digital Regress (North America).
Warm Leather are a trio of initialed gentlemen hailing from Auckland, New Zealand (to be more precise, AT (guitars/vocals, JP (drums) and MF (er, ropes?)). We don’t know much about them, aside from what’s on their fbook and the fact they recently played Gonerfest, which is how we had our heads turned by their excellent debut single, Manic Static.
Don’t let any preconceptions of Warm Leather’s home country lead you astray – this is defo not the jangle-pop you’re listening for when you reflexively think of bands hailing from this part of the world. Instead, what you get is a punch straight in the gob (that’s the right term, n’est pas?). The a-side charges in on a riff that had me thinking of a heavy take on ‘Rock Lobster’, AT weaving a tale of insomnia (“I got a buzzin’ in my head/tossin’ and turnin’ in my bed/… but the needle keeps on swinging into the red”) over rough guitars and a heavy, compact rhythm section (the drum sound, in particular, packs a wallop). The band cite such luminaries as The Birthday Party and Wire as influences, and who are we to argue? But the rather maniacal breaking point in AT’s vocal delivery on both tracks (b-side, “Vocabulary”, is equally good) reminds of Kurt Cobain at his weirdest/best (see, e.g., “Turnaround”). In fact, that’s what this single felt like most – early Nirvana, at their rawest. Tuneful, yes, but shot through with a paranoid energy. All good; rec’d.
The Manic Static single is available now, order your copy here. Warm Leather have a show upcoming November 1, at Cupid Bar in Port Chevalier, New Zealand – details here.
Assuming the internet isn’t lying to me (again, bastard), the words “virvon, varvon” form part of a ‘spell’ cast by young Finnish children dressed as witches during Easter, by which they offer decorated willow twigs in exchange for candy or other rewards. Fascinating, no? More pertinent to this review, Virvon Varvon are a five-piece wrecking crew of a band based – I think – in London (reading between the lines of a fine feature over at 50thirdand3rd.com). They’re debut EP, Mind Cancer, was released last month, and it’s been on repeat here at tgh hq ever since.
Mind Cancer is chock full o’ turgid, roiling tracks best described by the umbrella term ‘rock and roll’. Like fellow travelers including NYC’s Vanity, Olympia’s VEXX (rip) and Perth’s Zerodent, Virvon Varvon decant a heady mix of punk (the hardcore, ℅ ’77, proto- and post- varietals), NWOBHM, guitar-oriented new wave (see, the chiming guitars in ‘Listen’), and 70s ‘hard rock’. At various points, I heard bits of Dead Boys, B52s, Black Flag, Judas Priest, Love Battery, and the Damned. While there’s plenty of roughness on display, some absolute melodic gems can be uncovered by sifting through the production’s layers of dust – but the real revelation here are the vocals of Hanne Highway, who has a knack for a tuneful roar.
Highlight, “Radical”’s opening riff sounds like a revved up “Livin’ After Midnight”, guy/girl vocals rapidly going off in different directions – like trying to listen to two people simultaneously describe how that fist fight last night really started. Another personal fave, “What Did You Say?”, marries a Damned-worthy drum crunch underneath a B52s-y guitar melody, all crescendoing to an absolute rager of a chorus. There’s even a rousing shout-along about allergies. The whole thing is damn good and, flying by in a little under 20 minutes, doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. Go get it.
Mind Cancer is available now, courtesy of the good people over at Girlsville. Haven’t seen anything yet about a tour, but would be great to hear these tunes live.
Sydney-based quartet Body Type was a ‘new to us’ band when we stumbled upon their fantastic EP2. Released in May, it’s quickly become a favorite here at tgh hq.
Self-described as “scuzz//rock” (or, alternately, “scuzzzzzzz”), the tracks on EP2 trace a majestic arc through driving, mid-90s indie rock to spikier, more 80s indebted post-punk. The blistering opener, ‘Stingray’, sets the tone nicely – the band’s taut, bright hooks counterposed against Sophie McComish’s vocal delivery, whose languid quality thinly veils a sneer as she warns that the titular, spineless fish is nonetheless able to “sting just fine”. Elsewhere, the slower pace of standout tracks like ‘Insomnia’ feel almost humid, but never cloying. The lead guitar melodies – in particular – are transfixing throughout and will rattle around in your brain for days. Sounding a bit more polished than last October’s EP1, there is more than enough of a Breeders-y off-kilter approach to the arrangements to keep it from feeling too safe.
EP2 is out now, courtesy of Partisan Records and Inertia Music. Head over to Partisan’s website, and you can purchase both EP1 and EP2 as one, long-playing vinyl release. Long live the “two ‘fer”!
“Todmorden-by-way-of-Europe” trio, Workingmens’ Club, released their debut 7” in February. ‘Bad Blood’ arrives with an almost “Maniac[al]” opening, adding scratchy guitars until developing into a full-blown early new wave/post-punk stomper. The talk-sung vocals, punctuated by energetic backing interjections reminds of Brix-period The Fall (and, somewhere, I kept hearing a bit of Thompson Twins?). There’s a bit more gloss on show here than your average post-punk but, fear not, there’s grit ‘neath the polished nails. “Be happy when the sun shines”, indeed.
‘Bad Blood’ is being repressed April 26, courtesy of Melodic Records The band is also touring soon, including as opener for the mighty Fat White Family – dates here. (Psst – the band’s guitarist, Julia Bardo, also has solo music out that is worth checking out, over at The Line of Best Fit).
Chicago’s Dehd offer the latest taster from their forthcoming album, Water, with ‘On My Side’. A halcyon jangle underpins lyrics that feel like an open, possibly unsent, letter to someone missed – lines like “let me know/if you’re coming/back again” delivered with a mixture of wistfulness and detachment. The sedated feel is broken, here, with a wall-crumbling chorus from Emily Kempf, there with playful bass runs and elsewhere with a jittery, bent guitar solo. It’s lovely, reminding in spots of bands like Posse (RIP).
Based on this and previously shared, equally fab track, ‘Lucky’, Water – due May 10 from Fire Talk – is going to be one to covet. Dehd have a bunch of upcoming tour dates, which can be found here.
Crumb are a four piece, formed in Boston (well, Medford) and now based in Brooklyn. “Nina” is the band’s latest, and presents us with a dreamy slice of psych-tinged indie pop that shows off the band’s gift for hazy, infectious melody. There’s a bit of a gallic tint (think Melodys Echo Chamber or Stereolab), paired with an r&b vibe that gives a throwback feel to the days when hip hop, trip hop and mellow jazz swam in the same waters. Lead singer/guitarist/writer Lila Ramani’s diaphanous vocals stitch it all together beautifully, at once above and dead center in the mix.
“Nina” is taken from Crumb’s debut album, Jinx, which is due June 14 and is now up for pre-order. Catch the band live on one of their upcoming dates.
Hailing from Montréal, The Pretzels bring a twisted (Ed.: insert eye-roll emoji) take on proto/punk/garage in the form of ‘Kick it with K’. Flinging together bits of sassy, discomfiting punk, experimental noisiness and slightly-hinged rock (think Flipper, Dead Kennedys, early Butthole Surfers, Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster), the track is an apt aural accompaniment to the (presumably) titular anesthesis. Oh, and it suddenly left turns at the 1:40 mark into a long, doom metal-style outro for the remaining 2:30 or so… you’re welcome.
Brilliantly deranged. Must be amazing live – see for yourself if you’re near Quebec and let us know.
Sydney, Australia’s Low Life last week released Downer Edn (pronounced like “edition”), their first set of new material since 2014’s Dogging. Having expanded to a quintet with the addition of Dizzy Daldal and Yuta Matsumura to the ranks the result, as you might expect, is a fuller-sounding record that retains all of the roughness that made Dogging such a thrill.
Opener “The Pitts” starts us along, wrapped in a gothic fog, music and vocals heavily cloaked in grit, before galloping off into a four squared mosh pit groove. Highlights are many, the group’s knack for a burying moments of melodic bliss amongst the gloom in tracks like ‘Lust Forevermore’, which feel like a rope thrown over the bow. The album’s mixing of death rock, psych, Magazine-style post-punk and flanged new wave is a heady concoction that’s as much fun to drink deep as it is to parse through. Personal fave, ‘Rave Slave’, sounds a bit like A Bell is a Cup or Ideal Copy Wire pushed into the red of the more dramatic Killing Joke on Brighter Than a Thousand Suns.
As with Dogging, these tracks can barely suppress a sneer at the general state of, well, most things – a kind of equal opportunity disregard that tends to underpin most worthwhile critical pieces, musical or otherwise. Mitch Tolman’s vocals generally idle in a fixed simmer, as though he can’t be arsed to indulge the anger underneath and, when so moved, can only summon a withering “fuck it” (‘Glamour’). According to the notes accompanying the record, it was heavily influenced by their hometown, and I think many can relate to a heavy ambivalence towards the place they grew up (either from inside or from a distance) – particularly one as iconic as Sydney. The changes (the good, bad, and eye-roll worthy) that take place over time can inspire both pride and dismissal in equal measures. Downer Edn feels as much an embrace – without sparing the rod – as a mirrored shield held up against the cities ills.
Downer Edn is out now, courtesy of Cool Death (AUS), Goner (US), and Alter (EU/UK).
The Murder Capital, “Feeling Fades” (Human Season)
Dublin, Ireland, quintet The Murder Capital are a rising force, and not in a cheesily histrionic, Yngvie Malmsteen kind of way. Having stormed out of the gates with debut track, “More Is Less” (which, I believe, is only listentoable via live video (and worth it)), they come for the castle on follow-up, “Feeling Fades”. James McGovern’s intensely sung/shouted vocals are equal measures antagonizing and resigned (not a million miles from Birthday Party-era Cave) like a heated discussion with a stranger at the bar at closing time, climaxing in a wordless paean. The music tip toes the proverbial razor wire, building tension if not release, putting them of a piece with other modern post-punk purveyors like Protomartyr. The band have a host of upcoming tour dates, which can be found on their site.
Hash Redactor, “Good Sense” (Goner; Upset the Rhythm)
Can a band featuring members of two great bands be, unto itself, great? If that band be Hash Redactor then, gentle reader, early evidence suggests a resounding hell (to the) yes. The contributing bands in question are NOTS (bassist Meredith Lones and drummer Charlotte Watson) and Ex-Cult (singer/guitarist Alec McIntyre) – whose musicalstylings have often rattled the bookshelves at tgh hq – joined by guitarist George Williford. Debut track “Good Sense” welds a brilliant, lurching bassline onto phased-out guitar swoons and deadpan vocals. A bit reminiscent of the Butthole Surfers in spaces, the track just continues to build across its 2:50 run time, before abruptly downing tools. Hash Redactor’s long-form debut, Drecksound, is due April 26 from Goner (US) and Upset the Rhythm (UK/EU) and is now available for pre-order here and/or here.
NOTS, “Half Painted House” (Goner; Upset the Rhythm)
Speaking of NOTS, the Memphis psych-punks have a new album – 3 – coming out May 10 (also) from Goner (US) and Upset the Rhythm (UK/EU); it will be the band’s first new music since 2017’s “Cruel Friend” 7” and its first as a trio, following the last year’s departure of keys player Alexandra Eastburn. Album teaser track, “Half Painted House”, is one of the best things they’ve done. Further tightening the loosely-spooled, straight out of the garage ravers of their earliest output, the track glides along a solid groove (those basslines again!), providing a north star through the hazy, fogged synth sounds and stage-left siren howls. Each new release from this band makes us antsy to hear the rest, and “Half Painted House” is no exception. Pre-order 3here and/or here.
Olivia Neutron-John (bka, On-J) – self-proclaimed leader of the ‘post-bro movement’ we all need – is the project of Washington, D.C.’s Anna Nasty, who has also done time as a member of the Ian Svenonius-fronted Chain and the Gang (see what we did there?). “March” is her first On-J release since 2014’s “Injury Train and I’m Never Getting Off It” single, and serves as a teaser for a forthcoming, eponymous debut long-player. The simplest of rhythms and basic melody – the titular, casiotoned beat and one note key – is soon wrapped in a truly beguiling, serpentine bassline, Nasty’s words sounding as though processed through a megaphone as she vocalizes a relationship’s push/pull (“is this what you want?/..but it feels good at night/doesn’t make it right”). Olivia Neutron-John is due May 10, on Sister Polygon, and is available for pre-order now. On-J is also currently on tour (including some dates with Priests), with dates to be found on her site.
Our latest in a series of recaps of albums we loved from the last calendar year…
Starchild and the New Romantic, Language (Ghostly International)
Starchild and the New Romantic is the brainchild of New York-based Maryland transplant, Bryndon Cook. A multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who has also worked with fellow travelers like Devonté Hynes and Solange Knowles, Language is an exemplary slice of lush, 80s-inflected r&b. Drums don’t so much hit as disperse, synths probe longingly, guitars flicker and wane. While the purple one’s haze hangs thick over this set, you also hear the ambitious, heart-on-sleeve arrangements of bands like Force MD’s or the Blue Nile – Cook’s revelatory voice reminiscent of the underlauded Jesse Johnson or Melvin Riley in its plaintive tenor notes. As an added bonus, ‘Only If U Knew’ and ‘Hangin’ On’ might be the best ‘quiet storm’ summoning slow jams I’ve heard in an age. It’s a record that takes things back and pushes them forward simultaneously. Highlights include: “Hangin’ On”; “Language”; “Good Stuff”.
Austin-based trio Borzoi released their latest, A Prayer for War, last September. I’ve listened to it many times since and, though I find it absolutely stunning, I’ve no real idea what to make of it – and that, friends, is what makes it great. Sure, there’s elements of punk, acid-drenched post-punk, funk, a free kinda jazz, noise, dweebs, wasteoids, dickheads, righteous dudes, a fuckin’ partridge in a mother fuckin’ pear tree. All there. In the end, though, the record breaks down to a feeling – and that feeling is “tenuously hinged”. The skittery, jittery atmosphere is shot through, here, with bursts of melody (“Schlock”) and, in many other places, with a heavy boot to the face (“Lizard Men of the Third Reich”). Buckle up. Highlights include: “Schlock”; “Big Pink”; “The Tonsure Twist”.
Rose Mercie is a quartet based in Montreuil, France. Their debut, self-titled album came out last March, and it’s intoxicating. Stripping elements of hypnotic psych, folk and dream pop to their bare essentials – there’s nothing adulterated in the arrangements or production here – then building them up again, with a layer of girl group in the rhythms and vocal interplay. Tracks like highlight, ‘Moyen-Age’, recall a less ornamental Broadcast; elsewhere, ‘The End of Love’ projects The Raincoats jamming in a hazy flat with the Velvet Underground. While largely bucolic in feel, there is a bit of welcome menace “In the Valley” – it’s an album to sit with, the eight tracks unspooling at a deliberate pace. Settle in and listen. Highlights include: “Moyen-Age”; “Floating”; “How Can I Talk”.
Nashville, TN trio Datenight (US) serve up garage-punk with a side of power pop hooks and classic, driving midwestern rock on last February’s Comin’ Atcha’ 100mph. It’s an apt title, with no more than half of the dozen tracks in the set clocking in on the high side of two minutes. Each cut, though, leaves a mark; the melodies linger long after the band has roared on to the next. Be it the straight up Sonics’ garage rumble of ‘While it Lasts’, the blissful lo-fi jangle of ‘Poor Exchange’ or the perfected combo of highlight, ‘Tennessee Rider’, the set drips with brio – it’ll have you singing along, even when you don’t know any of the words. Fab. Highlights include: “Tennessee Rider”; “Poor Exchange”; “In and Out”.
Olympia, WA-based Gen Pop released a six-track EP last May, entitled II. Lifting off from their devastatingly potent debut, On the Screen (released less than a year prior), II offers a virulent slice of old school hardcore for the modern world. Featuring MaryJane Dunphy and Ian Corrigan from the fantastic Vexx, the band manages to push a swirl of sounds into a tight timeframe. [Update: MaryJane Dunphy has left the band. Elle Svete both sings and plays guitar on “No Change”] features tepid vocals transposed over Flex Your Head-summoning musical righteousness, while tracks like ‘Waxing State’ and ‘Din’ inject a bit of post-punk jitter and Buzzcocks’ guitar melodiousness. Highlights include: “No Change”; “Waxing State”.