Review: Ausmuteants @ Barack’s Barracks (10/1/14)

NO I DONT WANT TO TOUCH. Australia’s Ausmuteants (Goner Records/Aarght Records) came through to 1500 Penn Ave on October 1 as part of their first US tour. They had just hit up Gonerfest 11, making for contemporary rock ‘n roll history, and here they are now in a packed cozy basement playing for interested brass.

Well before the actual playin and stuff, I saw these guys loading in. They gotta grab some Blanchard brews and I introduce myself and go with them. Some were familiar with my playing over “Kicked In The Head By A Horse,” and do I love that song. Yeah I do. Well a couple a hours later there they are up on the non-stage cranking out chart toppers from their first LPs and their most recent Order of Operation CD/tape – though the vinyl is coming girls and guys. I found myself feelin as if I was seeing a favorite band for the second time. That’s a nice feeling. Rest assured it was my first time, but I’m telling you these Aussies play strict pounders. There are some blunt force punk hits, no synths. Like “Kicked” and “Felix Tried To Kill Himself,” so demented so sweet. But Jakes’ synth does definitely stand these guys out a part from a lot of the straight away garagers of today. Part of this group are tunes like “Tinnitus” where they made the money (ya I watched the live Gonerfest stream), “No Motivation,” “Wrong” and set closer, “Boiling Point” from their latest. Like I said, just being here, specially in this choice environment, was incredible. I never got to see Jay, the Lips, and so on, bands of like-minded noisy catchiness in a spot like this. Anyway, nearly all Ausmuteants take turns singing and hollering, they got their own ways of doing things. Particularly ruling things, maybe cause I wasn’t expecting him to start singing, was Shaun. On “Freedom of Information,” the lead-off track from Order of Operation, the delivery of the tune is that DEVO maybe more like Lost Sounds shout and repeat after me post Social Media rampage. It’s positively funky not funk – imagine if these guys were from around here. Be on some serious see ’em every chance possible grind. It’s a pleasurable, at times funny, grind and we wish ’em safe travels and hot jams across the United States, back in Australia, and everywhere else.

While you’re at it, go along and check out some Australian recommendations that Jake gave me: the label ANTI-FADE which is run by drummer Billy, and the bands TV Colours, Velvet Whip, Wet Blankets, and Yoghurt Blood.

Catch ’em on their remaining dates:

10/7 – Minneapolis, MN @ Hexagon w/ Real Numbers
10/10 – Portland, OR @ Dante?s w/ King Khan & BBQ Show
10/11 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile w/ King Khan & BBQ Show
10/15 – San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock Tavern
10/17 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Smell

Review: The Growlers, The Garden @ Brighton Music Hall (9/14/14)

By Joanna Trachtenberg

This was my 3rd time seeing The Growlers in the last 2 years. The opener, The Garden, I’d heard of but wasn’t familiar with their music. They are a duo that consists of two twin brothers from So Cal. They started with a few short punchy punk songs. Then about midway through their set I saw the singer/guitarist put down his guitar and the drummer got up from his throne. I was thinking “They couldn’t be done so soon. They were only on for about 10 minutes.” Then I saw one of the guys press some buttons and a drum machine turned on. They both started rapping and it turned into a hip-hop show. I was not expecting to see 2 skinny guys rapping at a Growlers show. After a few minutes of that they got back to their regular instruments and the short punchy punk tunes continued. Their punk songs almost reminded me of a less aggressive version of The Hussy (who are also a duo).

Right before The Growlers took the stage a drag queen dressed in stereotypical Asian dress came out and started singing and dancing to the crowd. Some of the songs that played when she was out there were “Jet Boy Jet Girl” by The New York Dolls and “Homosapien” by Pete Shelley. At first it made me wonder if Brooks Nielsen had a new career, but once she started singing I knew it wasn’t him. After about a 10 minute performance the drag queen introduced The Growlers. The stage was decked in Chinese style fans and dragon heads in honor of their new album Chinese Fountain. The best part about seeing The Growlers live besides their music is watching Brooks do his funny little dancing. For some songs he was dancing with the drag queen and then he pushed her in to the crowd so she could crowdsurf. I didn’t recognize Brooks right away without a mustache. I personally think that mustaches should be mandatory for any members of The Growlers. Their set lasted a little over 90 minutes. Sorry but I don’t remember the actual setlist because I didn’t write it down but I know they did a bunch of new songs. The crowd seemed to get most excited towards the end when they did One Million Lovers and Someday. After the show when the bandmembers went off stage I could see one of The Growlers (I think it was Anthony) moon the crowd. They have been great everytime I have seen them and I am hoping for their thereafter walkabout.

Review: Phaze, Shame Thugs, John Flannelly @ Charlie’s (6/30/14)

Bands: Soft Eyes, Phaze, Shame Thugs, John Flannelly
Date: Monday, June 30, 2014
Venue: Charlie’s Kitchen [Cambridge]

This was SHAMEFUL to admit it, my first Charlie’s Kitchen experience. Don’t get me wrong here, I always see the events, the spectacular musical parties thrown by some of the finest Boston bookers, FAST APPLE, on Monday nights. I was able to make things work, unfortunately not for the entire duration of the show. Very bummed I missed seeing Soft Eyes – the home spun psych ventures of Luke Goudreault (formerly of MMOSS, The MIGS!!!, and New Highway Hymnal) whose live band also includes Rachel Neveu (formerly of MMOSS), drummer Travis Hagan (Fat Creeps, NHH), and possibly some other members that I did not see roaming the venue. Do head over to the SE BC and stream Lazy Life in its mono White Fencian/Migsian chromatic splendor.

John Flannelly of Indiana got things started ground level as he worked on his keyboard and pedals set-up, delivering what sounded like an experimental combo of beats and loop effects. John’s take on music is certainly deeper in the sense that I had not a clue what he was going for and perhaps nobody did except for the performer himself. I found the unpredictability and non-conventional nature of his set-up somewhat more fascinating than the actual rhythmic collage. http://johnflannelly.bandcamp.com/

Next up was the bass/keyboard duo $hame Thug$, also from Indiana and on tour with John Flannelly. I don’t think I will be forgetting their set anytime soon at least not their first song which prominently featured a hip-hop sample of this guy shouting YEAH!. The keyboardist rapped with some voice modulated echo throughout the course of the set. I will say I haven’t really seen any band like SHAME THUGS – the taping of individual keys, the total surreal dreamy r&b mood – though maybe the closest thing to them I’ve heard is Kitty Pryde so take that for whatever, but the Thugs are rawer which I like.

PHAZE get ready KLYAMers, PHAZE is a band you’ll be hearing about a lot more. At least from me and hopefully beyond and beyond. Jesse DeFrancesco is at the helm of this rock ‘n roll band, which, live, we have Nick on drums. PHAZE is riffy rock ‘n roll, bluesy in some spots, anchored in all by Jesse’s prepunk singin and tenacity for going hard and going nuts. On recording PHAZE is chiller (real real neat, just wait and see), but with the drumming, these guys wallop. Being in the audience and hearing PHAZE for the first time was quite like when I first saw The Migs. All excitement, the ‘this is really special, I’m grateful I’m here right now’ feeling. Specially on “Backwards”. Ya know! http://allstontapes.bandcamp.com/releases

New ACLU Benefit Release: “FINALLY”

They travel far and wide to see him play and when he does, it is a show experience they do not forget. True T-shirts and postcards in his back pocket I can only assume – Noah Britton is back with a new album (which follows, as order has it, his really spectacular release Love and Fame that I wrote about last year) entitled yes I know you know FINALLY! because these songs finally sound great. Those aren’t my words; I’ve had my way with Benefit’s Bandcamp and I recognize some of FINALLY! from his recorded live sets. Check those out if you have not. The souls of sing-a-long staples “Love of my Life,” “Riding” and “Love Your Family” are kept in tact and beaming. The arrangements and production are courtesy of Dane Filipczak. Such dynamics push these songs further into beautiful abyss – pianos, toy instruments, percussion, extra voices. Noah is quite the minimalist, a master funny man, funny by way of bona fide lyrics. “Let’s sing to chickens, They like cock rock!” on new-to-me you say “You give me hope,” I sing these funny lines. Humor is not the case on “We Forgive You” well I mean it could be but I’m going to go with no. Flinty and affectionate. The cowshed burner, the closer,  is that which I mentioned earlier: “Love Your Family”. If I knew anything about ’50s musicality, I would go on about that, but here we have a dreamy oldie with a striking sense of modernity. It is perfect for feeling bad about missing an ACLU Benefit set in the name of leaving early to attend to family functions and longing for the next. Well well this six songer impresses me further. Noah’s been going at it for decades, knows his capabilities, and rolls the dice – in this case working with an arranger who by the end of it seemed to have just as much fun. Cease and resist.

Linkhttp://aclubenefit.bandcamp.com/album/finally

klyamrecommended

Review: Free Pizza, Acidosis, Animal Lover @ JP Drive-In (5/23/14)

Bands: Free Pizza, Acidosis, Animal Lover, Palberta (Missed), Designer (Missed)
Date: Friday, May 23, 2014
Venue: JP Drive-In

It was a pleasure as always to come through the Drive-In to see some bands. This particular spot is a bit more out of the way for KLYAM so unfortunately there’s the usual leaving early and missing out on some groups we would really love to stay and watch. But I got to make the most of a live rock ‘n roll experience and I loved every second.

Free Pizza is an institution around here. They were up first. The threesome powered through a pretty new set – I think they only played one tune from BOSTON, MA. I witnessed these newbies fitting nicely alongside what they’ve done in the past. Jesus has a particular pop inclination present on particularly every FP song, but hell I feel this inclination broadening and really opening things up. I’d probably be scared if anyone other than FP was venturing here; it’s just that the Pizza does things right. Nice and snug.

Next on the agenda was Acidosis. I should not neglect to mention that Free Pizza and Acidosis spent some significant time on the road together in the month of May, which included a couple more stops after this show. So Acidosis is BUFU Records honcho Ben on bass and vocals, Diego on guitar, and Will on drums. They’ve got that metal, that hard rock – stuff not all too often bandied about and extolled on this very site. That said, I greatly respect the punk attitude, the shred, the fun that is these guys live. I’m sure there are bands out there doing something like this around here, but it seems to me like they just don’t matter when you’ve got Acidosis. I was frankly worried about my right ear as I was positioned smack dab in front of Diego’s amp. Lucky for right ear, he turned up just right. So everyone’s wailing, everyone’s pounding, Ben is shouting God knows what while making faces and stances that spew intimidation. These are friendly guys. Birthday man Rory from Designer joins the crew on the mic for the first song.

The last band that my right and left ear and eye could percept was Animal Lover. Now in my younger years I would go see shows and frankly a lot of the openers at these above ground spots were not my cup of tea. At a house show, though, I find a lot more exciting bands on the bill. This makes sense, pal. Alrighty so Animal Lover – a noisy racket from Minnesota. They’ve got the speed and tenacity a la Guerilla Toss, a la Designer. Indulge if you dig on those groups. The packed Boston basement crew was real receptive to these folks and yeah of course I wish I was up front for the action. I saw it go down from the boiler section. I still had loads of fun.

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: 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.

Book Review: Choke

I recently read the novel “Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk. Palahniuk(I don’t know how to pronounce his name either) is also the author of the phenomenal “Fight Club” which I also recommend. But the topic at hand is “Choke.” The story follows Victor Mancini, a Med school drop-out who nows works at a living colonial museum, trying to pay for his anarchist mother’s elder care by choking on pieces of food in high end restaurants. He allows people to “save” him and then, feeling responsible for Victor’s life, these people go on to send him checks. He is also dealing with his Fourth Step in a Sexual Addiction recovery workshop. The style of the book is very much kind of inner monologue like. There is dialogue (very funny dialogue at that) but it is a bit sparse. The action takes place in present day but it flashes back to when Victor was, as the book says, “a stupid little shit” and his days of breaking and fleeing the law with his mother. This book is a great satire for anyone who loves black humor. There is also a movie to accompany it starring Sam Rockwell (which is always a good thing.)

Overall grade: A. A solid read worth your time.

Cover for Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke"