Review: House of the Rising Fuzz – Boston Rock & Roll Comp (2015)


This is Boston’s House of the Rising Fuzz compilation. Who, what, when, where, and why. Well let’s see, read on! It’s a physical artifact, a tangible, audible documentary. It’s a beauty and it’s so mid-2010s, underground garage and punk and noise and dirty pop. A full effort coordinated by the inspiring bands on here and also 456 Records, Primordial Sounds, Theives Grotto, Boston Hassle, and Ben Semeta. It took a while to get here, but honestly is there a better time than now? Just days away (August 6th through 8th) is the Boston Fuzzstival – curated by the one and only Jason Treft’s Illegally Blind – and featuring most of the bands included on this compilation. Both the Fuzzstival and the release of House of the Rising Fuzz are dream come true events not only for the people directly taking part, but those slimers, those fanatics, like us, like You and Me, who can’t get enough of that F word.

From my perspective, I’ve seen all of these bands perform – some maybe just a couple of time, others a dozen or more – and a few (Barbazons, Nice Guys, and Miami Doritos) we are grateful to have released records and tapes for on our own label. We share a similar fondness for rock ‘n roll music that’s nicely being built up through the abovementioned proponents of underground culture here in Boston. There’s no reason why House of the Rising Fuzz can’t be our Casual Victim Pile. For those unfamiliar, that was a compilation of Austin TX rock ‘n roll bands released in 2010 by Boston area native Gerard Cosloy and his Matador Records. Where that album definitely had more innate spotlight given Austin’s reputation for live music and the big independent label distribution, House of the Rising Fuzz is a decentralized group effort that is very indicative of the spirit and community vibes in Boston. It’s one of those situations where the people that are fortunate to live here or tour through here can literally feel this energy, however, the larger, national music media sources don’t cover our bands anywhere near as much as groups from San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Memphis.

I can say for certain that House of the Rising Fuzz captures all the bands at their highest moments. I agree with Ben in his interview with Allston Pudding where he’s like for every band it’s “their best song yet”. In fact, his band Black Beach’s contribution “Kreep” is in the early lead for my favorite thing on this compilation. It is crunchy, punchy, slippery – an exhilarating blender of spacey garage punk tropes and odes. Bless its soul. I could get real nerdy and boring with descriptions and stuff, but the main thing I note is that I can toss this thing on and be like oh yeah That’s New Highway Hymnal. “Isolation” yup – I recognize Hadden’s vocals, Amelia’s bass, and Travis’ drumming style. They groovy. With The Monsieurs
“Shadow,” there’s also no mistaking. Except, they work over there in the blown out bubblegum punk department. There’s a reason why that group is universally revered around these parts. They make ya crazy with their memorable ramble and stampeding swagger.

The bands that I am least familiar with – Midriffs and Dinoczar – do a helluva job saying HI THERE… Midriffs offering “White Washed” is the longest journey at 5 minutes and 37 seconds, but one would be damned to call this a psych slowburner. It’s more comparable to what we know and love from NHH and The Televibes, the ole penchant for intoxicating instrumental freakouts. And speaking of which, the North Shore’s own Televibes “DMT” takes this style to every ticklish cavity of what has been revealed to us as psychedelic rock and roll music. Dinoczar might be the sludgiest and rawest talent on the compilation – their “Cream” unlocks the doors to the Slaughterhouse, if ya catch my drift.

It’d be a shame for me to not mention Miami Doritos and Nice Guys together. Subconscious and literal promotion and testimony to the greatness of their Splifft 7″ aside – they’ve lived together, toured together, and what not. I’ll tell you briefly the sonic difference. Miami Doritos is a guitar and drums duo but they make for a brutally concise, maximalist use of that nice fuzz, that nice noise. It’s intimidating, lovely on “Cut the Rope”. Now as for the “Chips” boys, the four Nice Guys. Their contribution is the previously UNreleased “Chips in the Moonlight” (though, if you’re keeping track – and you should be – they released an EP with this name. If you’ve never heard Nice Guys, you might want to start with this tune and work forwards, backwards, etc. At the heart, these fellas write catchy riffs. Also at the heart, they breakaway from these winner choruses and verses to what amounts to best-in-class dueling guitar breakdowns like in “Chips.”

This leaves us with Barbazons and Creaturos. Both have been around for some time now (Barbazons since 2010, formerly as Fagettes, and Creaturos since 2011) causing a racket but mainly making a name for themselves because they perform lush garage pop. Who am I to say, but if I’m trying to show someone whose only experience with Fuzz is the police what’s up, I might first direct them to Barbazons “Jake” which is surely many bits chaotic, but it is sunny and breezy and shiny. If they respond positively and I know they will, I’ll send them over to Creaturos “Bleeding Like A Stone,” which plays out as a psyched up slap to the best of good times ‘classic’ rock. I believe I’ve always felt this way with Creaturos and it is a compliment owed to their distinct playing.

Listen to these bands, support them at shows, book them. It might sound cheesy and everyone says it about everything, but seriously this is special. It’s super fun and rewarding for those who know and love these bands and the same for those who might be all ‘why should I care about Boston rock & roll in the year 2015’? I hope this reaches far beyond a local scope — it would not be nice for the thousands of appreciators of this kind of music to miss hearing this compilation!

Review: Black Lips – “Underneath The Rainbow”

Release: 3/2014

Black Lips, my friends, the godfathers of this website, the band that started it all for us. And for thousands of others that have partaken in the pleasure of the Black Lips experience over the course of the last fifteen years. That’s no easy feat for any band; though there have been many a stimulating garage/punk band in rock ‘n roll’s history, Black Lips have gone from DIY Atlanta naughty boys to Vice’s most prized musical possession. And this wasn’t over night. They toured the world relentlessly for years, maybe a couple times over, before getting any ‘legitimate’ attention from the press. Once that came, some of their old time fanatics abandoned their former favorite sons on the basis of their new found hip major label, but in came so many more others, who like us, never heard or seen anyone like ’em.  Call that musical naivety, if you will, but hey, ya gotta start somewhere. That brings us to Underneath The Rainbow or not really.

I’ll call this their eighth album – for those unfamiliar with these guys, I’ll recap real quick: ’03, ’04, ’05, one album per year, each one funner than the previous. Then came the ultimate live/studio LP (they fooled us for years, maybe never fooled Jay Reatard, though) Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo. That was ’07. Later that year came their Vice debut, Good Bad Not Evil, an introduction for the masses. Their gunky, excitable style still very much in tact, they popped out 200 Million Thousand in 2009. Two years later they got Mark Ronson to work with them in the studio and eat some raw meat. That was 2011’s Arabia Mountain. We really enjoy that one like the rest before it. Stained and pristine. Black Lips just doing their thing as they’ve always done.

Sure, it’s a little early to be writing about a Black Lips album before it’s released. This ain’t nothin new for nuts like us that make the trip to NY to see these guys every time Boston’s not on the itinerary. For the best live band in the world – there I said it and I’m not alone in my view – a blase record is not gonna stop us from appreciating these dudes. Underneath The Rainbow is quite Black Lips. No one’s going to be confusing the voices of Cole, Jared, Joe, and Ian for anyone else. The instrumentation is trademark BL as well: distorted, fuzzy, dying guitars, big bass sound some of the time, Joe’s drumming. You know. As I listen over and over again to this new batch of songs, I find myself searching for something that the Lips have previously always stuffed deep into my ear drums. Maybe I have always taken for granted the immediacy of Black Lips songwriting. For the first time I feel almost as if a decent number of ’em were crafted while the band was on a creative vacation.

“Waiting” is just like Arabia‘s “The Lie,” with its skeleton guitar lead, “I Don’t Wanna Go Home” is a genericy synthesis of the bells and whistles of Side B of that same album. Then there’s “Do the Vibrate” and “Dog Years,” that revisit some of the band’s rougher/punk inclinations, yet just don’t have that ole rawness that might freak out some arena attendin’ Black Keys fans. The bluesier, southern rock that the Lips have spoken of as inspiration for this record shows through most notably on the fine first taster “Boys in the Wood” and album opener “Drive By Buddy”. Both tunes have really catchy choruses, not sounding rushed or put together in any noticeable way. My jam for this record is “Funny,” the Mr. Driver of 20-14. Cole’s always had a crazy way about him, the way he sings, plays guitar, acts, etc. I’ve met him a few times now, he’s the man…a catalyst that gets the juices flowing in the dullest of spirits. So ya, “Funny” is exactly that – eccentric, a “banger for the club” as Ian might say, with some real real lines, maybe the most accessible song on the album in its irreverence i.e. COME SUCK SOME MILK FROM MY TITTIES.

Where do I go from here? I love Black Lips and you know it, I’m not counting this album out just yet. I’m still longing for a propa “Italian Sexual Frustation” in a post “Hippys” society. But hey it’s only March 3rd and all them Spin / Pitchfork ‘writers’ are gonna miss the mark in some way shape or form. Go see Lips and buy all their records, ya nerds! I don’t know what I’m talking about either, ask me more soon. Or I’ll just tell ya right here on Kids Like You and Me. Bad Kids.

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BL Website: http://black-lips.com/
Stream of Underneath The Rainbowhttp://noisey.vice.com/blog/stream-the-first-black-lips-lp-in-three-years-two-weeks-before-release

It’s Never Too Late: Part 2 – SARALEE [SARALEE]

SARALEE – “Saralee”

LABEL: Ride The Snake Records 

Our town’s own SARALEE released their self titled debut full-length earlier this year by way of Ride The Snake and yup, I am a happy man. SARALEE’s that rare band that I fondly remember seeing then obsessively continuously listen to ’til the present. That was two and a half years ago roughly. Sounds a little intense I know – but you go ahead; open up seven song Demo. Positively I can say, this record Saralee is more of the same as that: intimate, nostalgic, rock and roll. Leave the labels on your desk, the duo go hard, go soft, go at a pace that works so very well for them. They haunt the rest of us. As I hear this record through my speakers, the drum set in my room is vibrating. There’s no obvious drumming on “Bugs In My Coffee,” but I picture Lee’s set making similar noise. Sara and Lee complement each other so well that their minimalist aesthetic is a continuous stream of ‘gettin it right’, just really how they like. It reminds me of my very first basement show which wasn’t that long ago. A perceptive experience that you want to perpetually familiarize yourself with. That’s Saralee and with them I can’t quite find any points of musical reference. Pop music for the non-masses, it’s too real stuff for most people to handle. I feel this way about The Beets as well. Count every song as a favorite of mine though special props to “Jackalantern House” as one that’s sorta planted on the back end of Side B, but has that trademark saralee ending that ya, I can never properly write about. Check out the organ part that concludes “Lead The Fire” for enchantment. Also this is the most neatly packaged record that I bought this year with silk screen cover and insert. Very nice.

SIDE A
1 Lead the fire
2 The Motion
3 White pipes
4 Sidewalks
5 Silence

Side B
6 Children of the night
7 Hesitation
8 Cold Feet
9 Jackalantern House
10 Bugs in my coffee
11 On a train

klyamrecommended

It’s Never Too Late: Part 1 – SECRET SONGS [NOBUNNY]

So it’s the end of the year and I realize, damn I never got a chance to write about some things that are truly the shit – highly deserving of some KLYAMing. That’s where I am right now – screw professional journalism with its timeliness. It’s nice to sit or bop around with stuff for a bit and truly enjoy. It’s too easy to be all key pounding XXXXXXXXXXXXXX after a day of listening. So you’ll be seeing some posts like these – replacing year end lists, for me anyway.
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NOBUNNY – “Secrets Songs” – LP

LABEL: Goner Records

If y’all haven’t noticed over the past four years, we’ve got that perpetual NOBUNNY fever. And we’re hoping it’s contagious! For far longer than our fervor, Nobunny’s graced the world of music with his gold glove of rock ‘n roll – performance and sound recording. Cassettes, CDRs, vinyl singles, full length’s, he’s done it all. Love Visions (2008) is the release that set the underground punk/garage world afire, a powerful enough LP that makes the squarest of triangles rip out a mic, karaoke, and create demented sounds all whilst making Double Bubble salesmen lose their hat. In other words, buy that LP if you haven’t. And then there’s Raw Romance (2009) a grab bag of largely tenderly menacing acoustic recordings from bunnyman who can, yes, do it all. And I fondly remember jotting stuff down about First Blood, almost analyzing it. To be a kid again. Shoulda just wrote ‘FUNNER THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE’ – ’cause a good 40 months later I’m motorheading and blowing dumb like it was new. All the wonderful records have this timeless quality, yup here I say it: Secret Songs is a sweet package deal like its predecessors.

I don’t know why deconstructing Nobunny is a joyous celebration for a guy like me – it is a mystery that I compare to a journey, destination unknown. Secret Songs was recorded by several individuals in various locations spread throughout the land (props to these familiar folks) – all tunes written and performed by the lone Bun man. That alone is more than impressive, but his references sweep in and out of early rock ‘n roll, speedy PUNK, bubblegum garage, you name it. Yet as I say time and time again, there’s nobody like NOBUNNY – that discernible figure screams, whistles, adds a lil Australian vocally, covers The Kids of Widney High. I could go on and on about lil parts here and there in each tune or that fine insert – lyrics, most in pen on ole white lined, these kinda personal touches that make Secret Songs what it is. If ya got a mind and soul congenial for sounds that are everyday, no day, warm, rotten. I’m not much a dude for same ole same ole musically, modern rock ‘n roll’s DIY master Nobunny ain’t about that either. Tell a friend, this is for REAL!

A1. Bye Bye Roxie – Yes!!!!!!
A2. True Vulture – Yes!!!!!
A3. Pretty Girls – YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A4. Trouble In Mind – YES!!!!!
A5. It’s Pathetic – YES!!!!!!!!!!
A6. Lizard Liars – YES!!!!!!!!!!
A7. Rotten Sweet Tooth – YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
B1. Do The Stooge – YES!!!!!!!!!!
B2. My Blank Space – YES!!!!!!!!!!!!
B3. Little Bo Bitch – YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
B4. Red Light Love – YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
B5. The Birthday Girl – YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
B6. Buried In A Bong – YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
B7. Lovin Lovin You – YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

klyamrecommended

Local Music Review: Ben Tan – “Inside Out”

Band: Ben Tan
Release: July 2013
Link To Listen: http://bentan.bandcamp.com/album/inside-out

1. “Come Out”
2. “Marielle”
3. Inside Out”
4. “Upper Lower Middle Class Blues”
5. “Dance The Night Away”
6. “I Will Follow You”
7. “Singulair”
8. “Half A World Away”

Comments: The road to Ben Tan’s debut release Inside Out is a fascinating road. One could argue that the multi-instrumentalist and acclaimed former Emerson College radio host was born a musical virtuoso. I’m not quite sure anyone expected this kind of output from him, though. He had long been a piano man before picking up the guitar and all other such instruments. That he somehow wound up playing keys in a psychedelic rock ‘n roll band (Moontowers) is still a tidbit mind-blowing. At any rate, Tan has played in bands since before his voice cracked. That’s all well and good, but I felt there was always so much unrealized potential. “When’s the Ben Tan solo album coming?” Some years later, here we are. While I’d never expect the dude to include Magic Kids, High Places, and The Lost Sounds on a list of ‘influences’, Ben Tan’s home recordings (with the help of more than a handful of conspirators) are odd enough that it wouldn’t be totally random to think the dude is more informed by the past two decades of underground rock ‘n roll than the real legends Tan adores. ANYWAY.

Inside Out starts out with “Come Out,” which immediately strikes me as one of the finest songs I’ve heard this year. It is totally POP. Multi-track vocals, check. Brian Wilson, check. This song and the next one “Marielle,” are light numbers, playful and straying from complication. The kind of stuff that the Malt Shop Memories minded youth of today (where are you people?) long desire. Tan goes into softer rock mode for “Inside Out,” with unbelievably strong background vocals.  Witty lyrics (sup, Bob Dylan) reign on “Upper Lower Middle Class Blues,” some coming out of the mouth of the man himself, others via vocalist Holly Dalton. This one (along with the haunting, thousand word per minute, no-fi “Singulair”) is one of the oldest songs in Tan’s repertoire. Not my favorite stuff on here when stacked next to stuff like the retro-fitted “Dance the Night Away”; piano bar musicians ought to fear for their jobs with this original nugget. Girl groups of the past ought to blush. Okay so if I venture into superlatives, the “most psychedelic” song award goes to “I Will Follow You,” a sublime experience that doesn’t overstay its heady, nearly six minute existence. On the grand finale, “Half A World Away,” we get to hear Tan hit some crazy notes. Genuine Beach Boys worship.

Inside Out hits the spot as far as rock ‘n roll with bursting pop sensibility go. Originality isn’t so much the star on this one as it is Tan’s ability to work in and around walls of sound that long have had lasting power. Stuff like this ought to be more widely appreciated.

klyamrecommended

Review: Ravi Shavi – “Ravi Shavi”

Band: Ravi Shavi
Release: 2013

1. Indecisions
2. Bloody Opus
3. Hobbies
4. Accidental
5. Local News
6. Amphetamine
7. Old Man
8. Problems
9. Critters
10. Vacation Holiday

Comments: The first time I saw Ravi Shavi (Firehouse 13, November 10, 2012) , I was blown away by the Providence band’s energy and pop sensibility. It wasn’t really ‘garage,’ not quite ‘punk’ or traditional ‘power-pop’; just poppy rock ‘n roll. Well after seeing them a couple of times more, I was thoroughly convinced of their talent. Rafay Rashid, the group’s main vocalist and guitarist, is like a King Khan kind of figure, very infectious and engaging. His vocal assault varies as much as Ravi Shavi’s rock ‘n roll stylings. Some times like on “Bloody Opus” and “Hobbies,” there is some Brit in him…at least it seems. “Hobbies” particularly shimmers with some oldies charm until transitioning into an unexpected Lovely Feathers sorta charge. That’s one of my favorite specific moments of the album definitely, but there’s that kind of fun running all throughout. When there’s the familiar repetition of verses and choruses as on “Accidental,” the listen never ends up tiring or monotonous even as there are more sticky transitions and repetitions. Getting back to vocals again – “Local News” is a tidy example of a long list of dynamics. After the what you’d expect from a song called AMPHETAMINE, the crash sets in and no no I don’t mean a bad crash or anything. Just a slower, Hamilton Leithauser just stole your mic and Matt Barrick conveniently got behind the kit, deal. That sorta early ’00s NYC reverby guitars and (all time period) hollering continues on through “Problems,” and “Critters” has some instrumentation/technique not previously as apparent…until now. Closing tune “Vacation Holiday” is pure pop dynamite. This one takes its time and sends me off reminiscing of everything Ravi Shavi did right in the making of this record. Good work.

klyamrecommended

Review: Durt Dog The Band – “Weight”

Artist: Durt Dog The Band
Release: 2012

Comments: Durt Dog The Band makes a home in Lowell, a fine city in the Merrimack Valley (in north/eastern Massachusetts) that has living in it various talented young and veteran musicians and artisans. I’ve had the opportunity to make it out to a few shows in Lowell; KLYAM’s other half, Chris, has essentially called the City home for the past four years, all while soaking in several, all memorable Lowell based musical performances at a variety of locales. And while there isn’t a “Lowell sound” that audibly unites its performers, there is definitely a sizable body of individuals who enjoy the shared experience of eccentric, varied, and underground (often literally) entertainment.

Durt Dog The Band on Weight epitomizes a nostalgia that to me is specific to Lowell. A soundtrack to a place that is mysterious, but oddly familiar. That is the feeling I get on Durt Dog’s acoustic compositions. The strumming, the melodies, and the apparent minimalism on Weight are not very far away from the eclectic musings of accomplished acoustic guitar lovers like Christopher Owens or similarly light Walkmen and Tapes ‘n Tapes offerings a la mid-2000s. But let us not get weighed down on such big name comparisons… Durt Dog The Band finds a way to tinker with quite a few styles, production values, and song structures. Weight, nevertheless, sounds delightfully consistent from the beginning. “Things I Do Care About” never strays from its poppy beginning melody, only building upon it with increasingly pleasant additions such as drums, a layered guitar lead/solo, and some choice vocals/ear panning (starting as the line “Adjust what my voice sounded like” is sung). This is playful material. The instrumental tracks on here, while perhaps not as immediately intriguing as the other songs, are delicate pieces, fragile as blown glass art and just as colorful, and not unnecessarily intricate.

Such a knack for relaxed and friendly sounds carry on the next two tracks. “Ashes” affects itself as equally stream-of-conscious as personal and random. It ends (to my surprise) with the second verse repeated, its dream inducing imagery, and its second-to-last-word stresses. This would be my favorite track on the album, if it wasn’t for “Rat Traps”. This prolific, triumphant tune is comprised of a ton of layers – vocals and guitars making up most of them, but there’s also some percussion, and let me not forget – Weight’s most prominent display of hefty bass work. AND those last two lines, sung in unison. The album’s chin rubbing realization: “There’s nothin’ that pirates can’t do /You will never kill piracy and piracy will never kill you.” Rat traps, I see. I hear. Weight is peculiar and psychedelic, alert, not spry. Not once boring. It’s the most interesting album I’ve heard of its kind.

You can listen to Weight on Bandcamp: [LINK]

klyamrecommended

Review: Colleen Green – “Sock It To Me” (2013)

Artist: Colleen Green
Release: March 2013
Label: Hardly Art

The long awaited Sock It To Me is here and I am a happy camper. I say long awaited because Colleen has mentioned this release being in the works at least since December 2011, when she played two of these tracks on WMBR’s Breakfast of Champions. Those recordings sure were exciting and left me in anticipation for the unnamed release…which we know now is this record! Well well well, Sock It To Me features the likes of Colleen, her trusty drum machine, and some additional support and engineering from Danny Rowland. The guitars are still fuzzy as ever, the melodies go above and beyond previous tracks, and in general, I’d say these are some really fleshed out tunes.

I really really enjoy “Time in the World,” as it is particularly sticky, thanks to a varied drum beat, layers of guitar and sound, and Colleen’s brilliantly stretched out vocals. To continue in the direction of talking about some more interesting tunes, I’ll mention “Close to You,” which is like the ultimate pop song – almost R&B/slow jam style – distinctly CG, but pretty different from a lot of the songs on this record and in her catalog at large. These vibes continue on the title track, which sounds like it is destined to explode into noise, but keeps the pace with a healthy amount of uh-huhs. And that’s fine!

Side B of Sock It To Me is a good degree faster and heavier than the songs I previously mentioned, so if you found yourself previously big into tunes like “Worship You” or “Rabid Love,” Side B might be your side…or if you are into pretty much anything that Colleen composes, it’s all good! In fact, the heavy shit of “Heavy Shit” straight up rocks. The production throughout the record stands out, as I feel that we now get a super sized listening experience, with differentiation between the trebly guitar parts, the bassy guitar parts, and the other instrumentation instead of one chunk of sound. Colleen is such a good songwriter that she can really do a lot with a little (technically speaking) and Sock It To Me is her latest and greatest example of that. The entire record is very catchy. Additionally, I’m not sure that anyone is really doing the kind of stuff that Colleen is. And that’s cool because she does it so well.

klyamrecommended
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Colleen Green is playing with Fat Creeps, Fedavees, and Ronnie Nordac on April 25th at Radio in Somerville, Mass. This will be a show’s show.

Review: Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin (2013)

Band: Thee Oh Sees
Release: April 2013
Label: Castle Face Records

Thee Oh Sees have been cranking out album after album of tremendously crafted rock ‘n roll for a long while, to the point where keeping up with their output is a bit of a task in itself. They are the kind of band that intrigued me pretty early on in the discovery process so it was particularly entertaining to journey from release to release. Partially what makes Thee Oh Sees so endearing a group is the momentum and energy transferred between band and listener. You could say that about any group, I suppose, but if you like rock ‘n roll that stomps you, messes with you, has you moving, etc, etc, this band, as you’ve figured out, does the trick for you.

I look back on releases like Help and even Castlemania and realize those were hard-hitters, albeit in a more retro, more straightforward psych-infused manner. The band throughout Floating Coffin seems much more at ease to indulge in thicker, faster sounds, showcasing jams that aren’t as immediately catchy as say 2009’s “Rainbow” or “Flood’s New Light” from Putrifiers II. There’s almost a perennial sense of teasing on this record, but that teasing is almost always elevated to no bullshit rocking out. I’d say the most prominent example of this is on “No Spell,” which is by no means short on repetition, but hooks right into one of the band’s biggest and best riffs. The song’s only a little over four minutes, but it feels much longer (this is a good thing). Speaking of time, a pivotal moment comes on Floating Coffin‘s lengthiest tune — “Strawberries 1 + 2”.  I say pivotal because in all earnestness, there are not many bands like Thee Oh Sees. I might be talking instrumentally – 12 stringer, guitar as bass, amps, and effects – but no, no, I’m talking sound. I sense a keen level of comfort the band has in all things drone – lingering parts, a wide assortment of effects, solos, and feedback … that kind of stuff. But this isn’t just sort of bob your head slowly drone, this is the kind of drone that could result in chaos and danger.

Thee Oh Sees are at their most intimidating on Floating Coffin when “Night Crawler” commences. It takes a while for the real scary stuff to appear, but it does in the form of alien vibes, glitches, haunting familiarity. A band would have to be really intense to make an album full o’ this kind of stuff; Thee Oh Sees’ particular creation reinforces the fact that they aren’t shy about messing with all sorts of tones, attitudes, and approaches to making rock and roll. I find myself really into this versatility, in addition to having a weird sense of trust in the group’s ability to satisfy. That’s why it is also kind of odd to talk about how I exactly feel, as a lot of that is owed to a relatively recent acquaintance (2009) to a band that has experience greater than my age. So it sounds messed up to say “Tunnel Time” is like Coachwhips with flutes, but that’s what I’m thinking. The closing song – “Minotaur” – was our first taste of this record, the first to be released, and it is beautifully arranged, carefree, and honest. The contrast between Dwyer’s singing style and the rest of the music is amusing and awesome.

I often used to compare albums in my reviews, but Floating Coffin seems to stand on its own turf, a few blocks from civilization (with Warm Slime in nearest vicinity). The album truly is impressive in scope and delivers on several levels. It is not truly mind-blowing either, but who asked for that! Thee Oh Sees are not ones to disappoint and what they’ve done here continues that legacy. The band live is a crazed monster. I am curious to see if they are going to try out some of the more peculiar tracks showcased on Floating Coffin – the ones that might be plenty random in an Oh Sees set. Not like that really matters for a band that rules hard like this one.

klyamrecommended

LP Review: Barbaras 2006-2008

Artist: The Barbaras
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Label: Goner
Track List:
1) Day At the Shrine
2) Heaven Hangs
3) Grief Touches Everyone
4) Topsy Turvy Magic
5) Superball
6) Only One
7) Breathing Underwater
8) Devour the Jungle Deer
9) Grey Eggs
10) Flow
11) Why Should I Love You?
12) Bluebirds
13) How Many Times
14) Summertime Road
15) Annual Botanical

Comments: Two years ago my ears had the pleasure of hearing both The Barbaras and The Magic Kids for the first time. The latter gained national attention/critical acclaim with the release of their debut LP Memphis, but sadly few have ever heard of the former. Which is a shame because the Magic Kids are basically the product of the Barbaras, at least that’s one way to look at it. In the time since then, I have often YouTube’d Barbaras songs and viddied thee old live clip or two. I fell in love with these songs, the few of them that were available, but I wanted more. Now in 2012, the Barbaras album I and so many other weirdo Memphis pop creeps have been anticipating has finally arrived. I honestly never thought I would see the day.

Okay, let’s get to the record itself. It’s beefed up that’s for sure. In my mind, I envision members Billy Hayes, Stephen Pope, Will McElroy, Bennett Foster, and Alex Gates hopping on stage with tremendous, roid induced muscles- like pro wrestlers.  That’s what this LP is- Barbaras beefed up. Anything you’ve heard before, it’s bigger – with the help of  producers Jay Reatard and Alicja Trout, I must add. And you can definitely see where Jay’s production style plays a role in this record.  Songs like “Day At The Shrine,” “Grief Touches Everyone,”  and “Devour the Jungle Deer” possess that fast paced, hard hitting drum quality. It’s honestly like hearing another Jay record at some moments. Oh and I should mention, for you sad folks that are unaware, Billy is the former drummer for Jay Reatard’s live backing band and former drummer for Wavves; Stephen is the former bassist for Jay live and current bassist for Wavves. These aren’t mere accomplishments for the resume, oh no, they are all intertwined.

On this record, you can hear the similarities in all three bands. In particular, in the eccentric songwriting of Billy Hayes. Tracks like “Grey Eggs” and “Why Should I Love You?” are reminiscent (for me as a listener) of Billy’s main songwriting contributions on Wavves’ King of the Beach (2010) – “Convertible Balloon” and “Baby Say Goodbye.” Billy creates his own world with these songs,  and I’m constantly reminded of old school Nintendo video games,  just lying around with a Nintendo in my room. In general, Billy’s vocals play a big role here, but he is certainly not the only one. Pretty much all the guys lay down some nasty vocals, and the singing is probably the highlight for me. This is where I best hear the Beach Boys/Phil Spector references everyone makes. Of course, you really can’t not listen to this and not walk away with those feelings. Specifically, some of my favorite moments are when the band unabashedly mimics a 60’s favorite. The very Beach Boys esque  “buh bub bub buh” in “Topsy Turvy Magic,” the girl group stylings of “Breathing Underwater,” the doo woppy vocals in “How Many Times,” or the epic, insanely layered, psychedelic Beatles 1967 ode “Annual Botanical” that closes the album.

So yeah, Barbaras are obviously heavily influenced by the music of the 60s, but they take this music and subvert it with their own bizarre, demented personalities, which is a key factor in why this band outshines most of their contemporaries. They are derivative, yet they carve out their own distinct character and in that way no one can say they sound like anyone else, past or present.