The self-titled debut 7” from Glaswegian quartet, Goldie Dawn, is a loud, snotty piece of very diy rock. Oozing boogie woogie choogle, it’s four, riff-heavy tracks bathe in the showers following Johnny’s thunders, with a heady dose of Bolan pomp and Sex Pistols grease thrown in for good measure.
Goldie Dawn’s musical stomp finds the band standing firmly on the necks of the ℅ ’77 punk giants and their influencers. ‘Crime’ rolls in on a Stooges worthy guitar muddle and proceeds to doff its cap to first album The Damned with a “smash it up/break it up” chant (the band even sells totes with M. Vanian’s mug). Personal fave, ‘What’s Inside (Never Dies)’, uses monster Chuck Berry riffage to soundtrack the lyrical kiss-off to a turncoat friend. It’s thrillingly raw stuff – the band members sound like they’re bouncing into and off one another during the recording. Kate Rambo’s sneering vocals are perfect, her almost breathless delivery makes it sound like she’s singing from the middle of the pit. Lines such as “be the beast/be the burden/be the idol that they all must worship” (‘Crime’) serve as a manifesto. After the melee of the first three tracks, the stumbling country of closer, ‘It’s Nothing to Me’, feels a fitting soundtrack to getting the bum’s rush. Polished? nope. Ass-shaking? yep. Guaranteed to make your hands raw from keeping time with the claps.
The single arrives May 29, courtesy of the lovely folks at Drunken Sailor. It’s up on bandcamp now to stream and pre-order the vinyl. Do it.
P.E. is a new quintet comprised of former members of Pill and current members of Eaters. Two teasers from their forthcoming debut long-player, Person – namely, ‘Soft Dance’ and ‘Hot Ticket’ – have stoked much anticipation for the record here at tgh hq.
‘Soft Dance’ is a taut, deconstructed body mover. The bassline and sparse rhythm will have you grooving, but it feels almost detached from the rest of the arrangement – the lyric “the roots make shapes/interwoven – interwoven” sums it all up rather nicely. Veronica Torres’ vocals are reminiscent of Bjork in ‘oh so quiet’ before the storm’ mode, but here the storm doesn’t quite make it, just a plea to not “forget to have a good time”. ‘Hot Ticket’ rides in on a melody that begins like an interpolation ‘Born to Be Wild’ before heading off the highway to a basement club over a stuttering Kid A rhythm. Here, again, Torres’ slinky, commanding performance steals the show – her message requiring “strict compliance” to follow the groove exhilarating. Head over to the P.E. bandcamp page (link below) to also check a remix of ‘Hot Ticket’ from fellow travelers, Liars.
‘Anticlimax’ is lead track of the latest double a-side single from New York’s Vanity, an outfit which has previously layered elements of punk, glam and straight up rock across their releases like so many ‘suicide’ Slurpees. The new track sees the band flexing its muscles over a glorious slice of riffing power-pop.
The arpeggiated intro is a glorious rush sure to melt even the most frozen of hearts, but there’s more than enough salt to balance the sweetness. Rushing by in a tic under four minutes, ‘Anticlimax’ feels like a lost b-side from first album Cheap Trick, and finds Vanity (who now include former VEXX-er, Mike Liebman, on guitar) at the peak of their powers. Highly recommended. Released, together with ‘A Seat at the Table’ February 28, courtesy of Feel It.
Back in 2017, White Flowers (née, Britain) seemed to blip, fully-formed, across our radar with the tracks ‘Day by Day’ and ‘Tried to Call’. We loved those tracks’ heady mixture of ethereal, Cocteau Twins’ style dream pop and rafters-raising psych reminiscent of early Doves. Fast forward, then to last month, which saw the release of ‘Night Drive’, the Preston, UK duo’s latest – produced by none other than Doves’ guitarist Jez Williams.
Part of a 12″ double-a side (with ‘Portra’) that was released on Valentine’s Day (hooray for the new music, since it appears their older material has been taken down) ‘Night Drive’ feels a step forward. Built on a similar musical foundation, the track’s multiple layers reveal themselves at a considered pace. There’s a directness in the composition that does nothing to blunt the pleasant buzz created by the combination of Katie Drew’s swooning vocals and a kaleidoscopic melody crafted by her and Joey Cobb. Great stuff – the double a-side is out now, courtesy of Tough Love.
Activity, ‘Calls Your Name’; ‘Earth Angel’ (Western Vinyl)
Activity are a new quartet featuring members of Russian Baths, Grooms, and Field Mouse. The band’s debut long-player, Unmask Whoever, is due soon and, based upon the evidence of teaser tracks, ‘Calls Your Name’ and ‘Earth Angel’, it’s going to be very good, indeed.
“Calls Your Name” (check the video, above) carries a hypnotic feel, woozy boy/girl vocals bringing to mind Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird’s work on Maxinquaye, et al. Vocalist Travis Johnson’s repeated invocation of a “lit’ral hell” where “houses spread and swell” is mirrored by the circular feel of the arrangement, underpinned by a sinuously insidious rhythm. “Earth Angel” (inspired by Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk, less so The Penguins’ doo-wop hit) has a bit more sprawl, but with a surface-level tension that adds menace to Johnson’s stated desire to “wanna fuck around” over a roiling, 90s industrial boil and even a bit of Hurting-era Tears for Fears. Both tracks manage to feel both insular and heady, and unsettlingly lovely.
I recently had the opportunity to re-watch Donnie Darko with my oldest (who – proud dad moment – loved it) and, if they ever decided to do a re-make, Activity should contribute to the soundtrack. Unmask Whoever is due March 27, courtesy of Western Vinyl – pre-order a copy 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.
Obnox is the musical alter ego of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Lamont ‘Bim’ Thomas (pictured). Having released five long-players under this moniker in the last 3 years, the word ‘prolific’ seems apt. I must admit that new release, Niggative Approach, is the first one I’ve fully sat down with – and now I’m both damn glad I did and in a hurry to dig deeper into the earlier material.
The title might be a wink and a bow to Detroit hardcore godheads Negative Approach (whose singer, John Brannon, makes an appearance on the album’s intro and outro), but the album is far too diverse, dense and interesting to damn with the faint praise of a hyphenated ‘punk’ or other descriptor. Frankly, there’s so much going on in this record, it can be giddily overwhelming. Jazz, psych, garage, soul, blues, punk, funk, r&b, hip hop, Beastie Boys, Funkadelic, Rudy Ray Moore, Kid Congo, D’Angelo, Shabazz Palaces, Sun Ra, War, Curtis Mayfield, MF Doom, sky high riffs, heavy funk bass, kick drum grooves, eye of newt and a partridge in a motherfuckin’ pear tree – all this and more await across the album’s 14 tracks (excluding intro-/outro).
I found it best to just strap in, give in, and let it all wash over me, repeated listens bearing ever sweeter fruit. The spy theme raga of “You”. The hot, humid synth feel of “Hardcore Matinee”. The wide lapel groove of “”Beauty Like the Night”. The diamond amidst the rough of the beautiful “Carmen, I Love You”. Exhale.
Niggative Approach is out now, on 12XU. Monitor M. Thomas’ (social media) movements on fbook and the twitt. No tour dates as yet, but here’s hoping.
Highlights include: “Audio Rot”; “Afro Muffin”; “Carmen, I Love You”; “You”; “Niggative Approach”; “Beauty Like the Night”.
Compilations. “Comps”. They come with a higher risk/reward factor than your average long-player. Like soundtracks or anything filed under “V/A”, they can be a veritable goldmine: a place to unearth new aural treasure; discover heretofore uncharted styles and territories; find a new band worth obsessing over. For all they promise, though, comps are often fickle beasts. Lured in by the inclusion of new or unreleased tracks from old favorites, you often find more coal than diamond in the rest. Disillusioned, you create a playlist of the 3 or 4 good cuts and ignore the rest, cursing the heavens that you’ve been duped …again. [Ok, that was a bit melodramatic, but it’s the first day following a long weekend]
All of which makes Typical Girls, Volume 2 – named for The Slits’ song and presented by the Emotional Response label as a “global celebration of female fronted bands” – such a satisfying listen. Where the presence of tracks from bands including Flesh World, The World, Sex Stains and Cold Beat (this last a recent discovery) drew me in, what kept me hooked throughout was an impressively curated group of tracks showing a breadth of styles loosely grouped as ‘indie’, including post-punk, surf, punk, hardcore and straight up rock/roll. New discoveries that had me running to the interwebs for a back catalogue listening party include: the dizzying “Space is Bent” by Bent; the punk “La Bamba” of Midnight Snaxxx’s (yes, three exes) “No Time to Spend”; “Vallecas” by Juanita y los Feos, the now defunct – argh! – goth wave precursor to Rata Negra; the Wire-infused “Machine” from Naked Lights; the slinky mud-boogie of Soft Tug’s “Toys are Not for Children”; and the off the leash, old school hardcore of “Eat It“, by Patsy. While I can’t say that every track here is my new favorite, and should be yours, as well (and, gentle reader, you wouldn’t believe me even if I did), what I can say is that each of these 16 tracks has something great to discover. Explore.
Typical Girls, Volume 2, is available now from Emotional Response. Once you’re done purchasing that, take a look through the label’s impressive catalogue (new and back) on bandcamp. As for the bands, let your fingers do the walking.
Teasing new full-length, Subordination – the follow-up to 2015’s stellar Catharsis – Institute return with last track/first single “Powerstation”. If you were expecting an homage to the ‘80s supergroup of the same name – all mulleted, bespoke leathered, cocaine-addled, overproduced glam – fear not. For, despite (cheekily?) opening with a beat straight outta the Glitter vault, this “Powerstation” is all spit and no shine, quickly morphing into a snarling mid-tempo Sabbath riff, vocalist Moses Brown’s delivery evoking a blindfolded captive swinging wildly in the dark. Sacrificing the jittery post-punk angularity found on much of Catharsis, it feels simultaneously heavier and more tuneful. It’s a great listen, stoking the fires of anticipation for the new album.
This just in from the local weather bureau – a.k.a., my window. It’s windy. I mean like, shit is creaking and banging and I don’t even know what it is windy. It’s also wondrously sunny – like, over-exposed 9mm film of an old road trip sunny.
So, as I’m sitting here, squinting and expecting the Wicked Witch of the West to cycle by any moment, I stumble upon this gem of a track – “Midnight Junkie”, by Brooklyn five-piece Baked – and it all clicks. The track is a magnificent howl, with a glowing melody at its heart that leaves you seeing spots and a guitar shred at around 2 minutes like they don’t make much of anymore, all held tenuously earthbound by a dolorous, Jim Reid-esque croon. It’s the perfect aural accompaniment to the arboreal bowing and scraping taking place outside under the watchful glare of an ever nearing fireball.
“Midnight Junkie” is taken from Baked’s latest long-player, Farnham, which was released last week on Exploding in Sound and which I can’t wait to dig further into. If you’re headed to SXSW, you can catch Baked at the Exploding in Sound showcase March 16 at The Velveeta Room. Follow Baked on fbookbandcamp and the twitt.
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.
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.
Difficult to find a lot of info on this band, but here’s what we think we know about the band, after exhaustive* research:
– they may have six members (website lists Idle Edsel – Vocals, Bobby Conquer – Guitar, Paddy Bullocks – Guitar, Lance Brainstrong – Guitar, Johnny Davenport – Bass, and Jubal Fearing – Drums) or 9 (Facebook page has a different list of names, aside from repeat offender Fearing) – side note: 3 guitars!! suck that, .38 Special!;
– their name may actually be The Jacked Bennies (website is under this name, but not Facebook, and it also comes up on the google); not sure.
Here are the things we can say for sure about the band:
– they hail from the land of Gabe Kotter;
– members were previously in bands such as Saint Bastard and the Candy Snatchers;
– they kick butt.
Gloriously sloppy, sweaty, down and dirty rock and/or roll from NYC. Not young, perhaps, but definitely loud and snotty. Chancing upon a magical spike found lying, unassuming, in a trash-strewn alleyway in the Bowery, The Jack(ed) Bennies tapped the Dead Boys/Heartbreakers vein, throwing in some Stoogey proto-punk and Motör(head)boogie for good measure, vocalist Edsel/Diedrick snarling and yowling like the reincarnation of Stiv himself. Boss tunes that never go out of style.
Debut full length, Chopping Down the Weeds, is out now on Human Head Records and can be purchased through Goner, Slovenly or Juno in the UK, among other places. Go forth and like them on the usual social media blah blah and celebrate them live July 25 at Otto’s Shrunken Head, if you happen to live near New York City. Shout out to the mighty Late Risers’ Club for the pro tip.
Check out: “Sweet Sally”, “Plastic Pat”, “What You Want”.
*Actual research may not have been overly exhausting.