Tag Archives: rock

Review: White Manna, PAN

White Manna, PAN (Cardinal Fuzz (UK); Captcha (US))

A dose of riff-heavy psych candy from White Manna, a five-piece band hailing from Arcata, California.

Arcata is a city in Humboldt County, an area of Northern California known for (based on my own, incomplete understanding – and Wikipedia):  dense, lush forests; long, beautiful stretches of coastline; earthquakes; and, um, weed.  These natural elements and wide-open vistas (and, um, weed) are all in evidence throughout PAN, the band’s new offering.

PAN’s six tracks soundtrack a space truckin’ joyride through time, veering off the road and over the “Land of the Lost” waterfall into a primordial world filled with the roar of ten-story riffs, looming above a dense fog, while underneath tectonic rumblings roll and buckle.  Tracks such as “Evil” and the relentless “Dunes I” churn with the stomp and kick of bands like The Stooges, Hawkwind and Machine Head-era Deep Purple, with a bit of a garage and punk slant and a Sabbath-worthy buzz.  Swirling cascades of reverb bump and grind with organ lines that sing praises to the (Jon) Lord; out front, the Danzigian croon of singer David “J” Johnson.  Several songs linger past the seven-minute mark, but maintain the same, tensely coiled punch of shorter, faster tracks.

PAN is out now on Cardinal Fuzz (UK) and Captcha Records (US).  The digital version on iTunes includes two bonus tracks, a live reworking of Hawkwind’s “Master of the Universe” and “Slow Dust”.

Go, like the band on Facebook and, if you’re fortunate to live close by, check them out June 19 at The Peg House in Leggett, CA or June 20 at the Brick and Mortar Music Hall in San Francsico.

Highlights include:  “Evil”, “Dunes I”, “Pan”.

New Track: Dot Dash, Rainclouds

Dot Dash, “Rainclouds” (The Beautiful Music)


This D.C.-based quartet has been releasing records since 2011 – though, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit to having missed the boat on these guys up ’til now.

The lineup is packed full of D.C. scene muscle, featuring vets of acts such as Minor Threat, Government Issue, Youth Brigade, Swervedriver and Julie Ocean. “Rainclouds”, taken from new album Earthquakes and Tidal Waves – out now on The Beautiful Music – arrived in our inbox from the band themselves (THANKS!).

The song cleaves a channel between the punkier side of power-pop and the woozy, post-punk take on pop of mid-period Wire (the band’s name is taken from the title of a Wire song, though not one from that period).  Lead singer Terry Banks sounds…go with me…a bit like a two-faced Janus – one side Colin Newman; the other, Robyn Hitchcock – fronting first album Cheap Trick, The Records or Hoodoo Gurus, throwing kiss-offs to a friend ‘neath a perpetual dark cloud: “summer breezes dancing through the trees/and you can put, the blame on me/your concrete shoes are giving you the blues/I’m footloose and fancy free”.  Throw in some sweet falsetto and you’ve got the makings of a breezy, yet muscular track.  Can’t wait to listen to more from the band.

Check the band out on Facebook and/or Twitter.  Earthquakes and Tidal Waves is available on iTunes or via the band’s Bandcamp page.

New (To Me!) Band of the Day: Sheer Mag

7” (Wilsuns RC)

“Button Up” (Katorga Works)

Sheer Mag are a Philadelphia-based outfit with an obvious love of ‘70s rawk.  Many reviewers have pointed to the obvious indebtedness to blues/hard “classic” rock stalwarts like Thin Lizzy (hell, the band’s logo on their Bandcamp page even looks like a cross between those of Lizzy, Van Halen and, um, early Voivod) and their take on muscular, blues-y riffage.  I can’t help but hearing tuneage that would’ve fit nicely with a lot of the 70s output of labels like Stiff Records.

That is, gloriously throwback rock and roll; a messier version of the slick sound of ‘70s FM rock radio.  Bands indebted to a leaner, simpler, catchier vision of blues rock; more T. Rex stomp than Led Zeppelin pomp.  There’s more than a hint of the fuzzed-out power pop of a Wreckless Eric or The Only Ones on songs like “Hot Lovin’” and “What You Want” from their debut 7” (even the song titles are as ‘70s as bellbottoms and shagwagons, no?).  Singer Christina Hallady’s pipes sound like they’re fittin’ to burst under the weight of all that fuzz, as she channels the fiery throatiness of the likes of Joan Jett.  On new track, “Button Up” (from an upcoming 7” to be released on Katorga Works), the band sound (a bit) less charmingly messy, but more anthemic.  Building from a straight-up Chuck Berry as channeled by Angus Young riff, the song uses an overlay of surprisingly shimmery guitar to accent the proceedings.

This shit is fun – get out your hair brush and sing along, then get out of the house and check them out on tour.

New Track: Pile, The World Is Your Motel

Pile, “The World Is Your Motel” (Exploding In Sound)

This little tornado blows through your farm in less time than it takes to scream “Auntie Em!”, so I’m gonna give it a short and sweet write-up.  The track bucks and kicks amidst Fugazi-style stop/start pacing and stabbing guitar work, while singer Rick Maguire starts off sounding like Black Francis channeling Lee Ving and ends sounding a bit like Mark E. Smith.  Great stuff.

There; you can come out of the cellar now…

From the album, You’re Better Than This, out now on Exploding in Sound (US) and Fierce Panda (UK).  Also available on their Bandcamp page.  Go forth and purchase.

New Track: Ezra Furman, Restless Year

Ezra Furman – “Restless Year” (Bella Union)

The title says it all, really – this song bounces around breathlessly from style to style like that guy trying to bust out of the comic book at the end of that A-ha video:  a 70s cheese ooh-la melody, a bass line that sounds like a spazzy version of the same from a Three Dog Night “classic”, a frenetic bridge that starts off sorta sounding like The The’s “Infected” played on pots and pans and closes with Ezra shrieking over power chords of “death” being his “Tom Sawyer”.  He’s like the guy who gets distracted in the middle of telling a story to start another one – and you go with it.  Ezra Furman’s back, with his Boyfriends – hooray!

From his as yet untitled new album, due this summer on Bella Union.

New (To Me!) Band of the Day: Landshapes

Two new tracks, representing my first exposure to this London-based four piece. Both are taken from sophomore album, Heyoon, to be released by the consistently great Bella Union label.

The first, “Moongee” is trippy, moody, and vaguely psychedelic.  A turn down down a dark, cobblestoned street, lamp posts encircled in fog, the moon creating a corona of misty, distorted light, stalked by a churning rhythm underpinning a swirly interplay between tense guitar work and detached vocals.  Reminds a bit of Mezzanine-era Massive Attack.

The newest, “Stay”, is less languid – all stabby, post-punk guitar shredding and insistent drum/bass work.  Think everything from the Banshees, up to Savages and Wytches, with more than a bit of the low end thump of early Bunnymen and even Interpol.  Music to pogo to, ‘neath the strobes; sweaty, propulsive stuff. Check the video, directed by David Graham.

For a band that, I believe (at least in it’s current iteration), has only been around for 3 years or so, they have a very strong dynamic.  Lead guitarist Jemma Freeman is a revelation; she has the ability to command through both the front and back of the mix.  Vocalist Luisa Gerstein carries a bit of a Joni Mitchell-like vibe with her phrasing and intonation, while the rhythm section of Dan Blackett (drums) and Heloise Tunstall-Behrens (bass) keep it tight.

Their artist bio page on the Bella Union site ends with a suggestion – “climb inside and explore” – I second that emotion.

Heyoon debuts May 4.  Check them out on their Facebook page.

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.