Angry Angles S/T – Goner Records (2016)

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Formal reviews won’t do this record any good; instead the notes on the sleeve that come from those closest to Angry Angles – Alix Brown (one half of the band) and Zac and Eric from Goner Records – tell the story of the band and this record better than any music writer will. The time frame is 2005, when Jay Reatard and Alix formed the band after the dissolve of Jay’s previous group, the synth heavy “dark wave” Lost Sounds. According to Zac, Angry  Angles were Jay’s “return to punk, in a way. Still raw, but now more focused, with a pop sensibility.” They recorded a few singles in Atlanta and Memphis over the course of two years and even got some studio time in Montreal before Gonerfest 6 that culminated in three songs previously unreleased until now.

Unfortunately I was not hip to Angry Angles (or any of Jay’s pre-solo bands) prior to his death in January 2010. But upon listening to Angry Angles shortly thereafter, I was blown away. Listen after listen, this group became most certainly an all-time favorite, right up there with The Reatards and The Lost Sounds, both of which I also had no previous exposure. What stood out to me, particularly, with Angry Angles is sure they were dark and robotic (like The Lost Sounds), but they were mighty concise and sharp. Hook after hook. Jay’s quick fire/angular guitar playing, quasi Brit vocal inflection, easily identifiable drumming, and fat production – trademarks of what would be his solo style take root here. But this was a dynamic duo and Alix and Jay were musically perfect for each other, often taking the heaviest/simplest moments of Wire and Devo soundscapes and modernizing them with the relentlessness of your neighborhood garage band. It seems like Alix challenged Jay-isms to a most positive affect, to me, most apparently on “You Lied” stuffed with a more traditional sounding bouncy bass line and some piano.

Angry Angles no doubt were the basis for the direction that Jay chose to pursue throughout his mighty solo discography from Blood Visions through his final LP Watch Me Fall, which features a tune I never would have guessed was by Angry Angles — “Can’t Do It Anymore.” In fact the final three songs on here, which I mentioned were recorded in Montreal (and not by Jay himself) with drummer Ryan Rousseau, sound very much like Jay’s solo stuff. His obsession with doing it all himself, as Alix writes in her blurb about the album, gives insight into why they never saw the light of day until now. There are no ‘weak’ songs on here, all memorable jams, and I am so thankful for Goner for putting together this album. It is strange to think that over the past six years many of these songs like most of Side A and the first half of Side B have been so influential for me and I have played them over and over, if only via YouTube or a WFMU session. I’ll always say it and I know at least some others agree, the rock ‘n roll that came out of Memphis in the span of four years – 2005 to 2009 –  is simply the best. Angry Angles, The Barbaras, Girls of the Gravitron, Boston Chinks, these are my favorite groups NOW. Back then I didn’t know such wonderful raw stuff. I was a teenager from Boston, MA, listening to The Strokes and The Libertines, damn was I missing out on the real good stuff, most of it coming from Jay and his adjacent friends and cohorts. I hope this record might incite or re-ignite passion, because Angry Angles and a healthy chunk of the Goners left (and still leave) an impact on me.

OLDER STUFF I’M GONNA REVISIT IN 2016 – ”A”

Adam Green – In 2016, how does one recommend to somebody where to begin? Didn’t have this problem in 2010. I think I first heard a full Adam Green album with his 2010 Minor Love LP. No, I didn’t “get it” at that time, six years ago. I reviewed it like it was Let It Bloom or something. But Minor Love can’t be thought of as a boozy garage album. There’s a lot more fuzz to go around on Minor than his cleaner sounding previous records, but this one is just as witty as it is raw. One could spend an entire article or small history on how Adam beats everyone at the fun game of random.

Almighty Defenders – Why 2009 was seven years ago. It’s officially a long time ago. Think about it. If you were even the hippest 12 year old listening to The Almighty Defenders, you are 19 years old now. There’s no way around it. Their album and their existence is forever special and will not be forgotten. It is laughable that there was any kind of seriousness associated with Almighty Defenders. I mean that in the best way. Black Lips & The King Khan & BBQ Show getting together, on a whim, given some bizarre circumstances. They did it.

Angry Angles – I was going to assume everybody knows this band, but I bet reality is not as convincing. This is Jay Reatard and Alix Brown’s band. They broke up, so did the band, and then Jay made Blood Visions. But from what I understand, a lot of those songs were already being performed by Angry Angles. Whatever – I am familiar with the three 7″s – Apparent-TransparentCrowds, and Things Are Moving. Of course they were from Memphis. I would say contemporary bands from there must think fondly of the Angles.

Animal Collective – Say what you will about these guys, but they meant a lot to me from about 2007 to 2009. Their weirdness and noisiness more often than not IS rock ‘n roll to me, at least in its primitiveness and expanding creativity. I can hear the Beach Boys and Pavement influence as much as any of the avant-garde. I would like to revisit all of it. It will be okay to be weird. Yeah, I’ll check out the new one. Why not?

Atlas Sound – There is only one Bradford Cox. I admire him for his insane stretches of bedroom recordings. He has released some official albums and as well as many self-released Databank Volumes. By himself, Bradford touts absolute freedom, but in a very nostalgic and chill way. He is a sucker for the old fashioned ’50s/’60s pop format maybe more than the sound collage, but he liberally incorporates whatever he wants, however, he wants it. And that is something I admire and really learn a lot from with each thoughtful listen.

Ausmuteants – As far as synth ‘n roll is concerned, at least for the past couple years, these guys are the top. Comfortably. The Aussie DEVO I never grew up with, but with more of the Goner spunk. There’s a live video on YouTube where they played for well over 30 minutes on a bill with The Gories and Thee Oh Sees. And I had the funnest time watching them. Tells ya how excited I am about AUSMUTEANTS. Hope for another US tour this year!