Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Quick Look At The Mary Timony-Produced EP From Nox Ahead Of The Band's Upcoming Salad Days Gig With Dot Dash On Friday

Nox is a relatively new D.C. band and their EP was produced by Mary Timony. The band is playing a gig on Friday night with the harDCore legends in Dot Dash and I think that's gonna be an awesome double-bill.

"It's No Use" opens the EP with a burst of Ex Hex-like energy while "Now We're Even" admirably unfurls with a hint of menace not unlike the stuff Timony cranked out in Autoclave long before she was in Helium. This is not to say that the members of Nox are intentionally trying to sound like their producer but that their sound bears worthy comparisons to Timony's stuff. High praise indeed, eh?

"Test Subject" bops along like some lost gem from the glory days of the first youthful wave of U.K. post-punk, while EP closer "Insane" charms like some of the early singles I used to like so much from Britpop-era rockers Kenickie. Over the course of only 4 songs, Nox show some considerable skill in a few genres. I consider myself a fan now and am anxious to hear more from this band.

Nox are playing a special gig at D.C.'s Comet Ping Pong on Friday to celebrate the release of the Salad Days (2014) DVD. They're opening for Dot Dash and assuming that the city doesn't get flooded this weekend thanks to the hurricane brewing down south, it should be a great show. It will also be the third weekend in a row that I've seen Dot Dash live.

Details on the Nox/Dot Dash Salad Days gig are here.

Follow Nox via their official Facebook page.

Follow Dot Dash via their official Facebook page.

Catching Up With The Glorious Racket Of Lucern Raze

Maybe it's 'cause I was home sick today and doped up on 'Tussin that the music of Lucern Raze seemed so positively mind-altering, maybe it's 'cause it is so mind-altering? I don't know. Lucern Raze is the band formed by Luke Reilly, head of PNKSLM Recordings, among other deeds. I'm here today to talk about the fairly recent Happy and Astray EP and the earlier Stockholm 1 LP. Both are mind-warpers. Both are great. Continue please.

On stuff like "Burn" from the Stockholm 1 LP, Lucern Raze impressively expand on the template being worked to death by a guy like Ty Segall. Here, Lucern Raze add something to that scuzzed out-Sixties vibe and the cut remains surprisingly nimble for something this...scuzzy. Elsewhere, on "Yours to Keep (ft. The Hanged Man)" the band add a surf vibe to the mix. The effect is reminiscent of Royal Trux with more melodic sense. The delightfully-titled "La La No" clatters past in a mess of cymbals and riffs, all snarly vocals like on the best Nuggets gems.

The tempo slows on "Someone Like You" and album closer "I'm Only Gonna Let You Down" which sounds like nothing so much as Temple Songs. It's worth noting that that makes perfect sense 'cause Temple Songs/Pink Teens frontman Jolan will be putting out an album from his new band, The Foetals, on PNKSLM in the near-future.

The Lucern Raze sound is expanded a bit on the fairly new Happy and Astray EP. Opening cut "Cheep Speed" roars like early Pixies atop some truly majestic drum-work. If the title cut sounds like mid-period Jesus and Mary Chain, "Baby J" is a more strum-riffic version of the stuff on the earlier Stockholm 1 album, equal parts catchy hooks and blasts of fuzzy gnarliness. Happy and Astray closes on the perfectly titled "Snarl" which does indeed snarl in the best possible Bobby Gillespie-at-his-worst-way. Bridging about five genres with ease, "Snarl" is exactly how to make exciting and vaguely dangerous indie rock with an emphasis on the rock portion of that term.

Lucern Raze, like Allah-Las, and label-mates Holy, make music that sounds like about a dozen different genres from various eras put together in a blender and stirred up. That the results are so strong, so coherent, and so focused says so much about the strengths of the players in Lucern Raze. Plop any one of these cuts from either the album or the EP down in the middle of your best mixt of stuff and you'll see how perfect these cuts are on their own.

Happy and Astray and Stockholm 1 are out now via PNKSLM. Follow Lucern Raze via their official Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Holy Show: My Review Of The New LP From Sweden's Holy

I'm coming at the psych-pop of Sweden's Holy after first loving the music of Nora Karlsson's Boys. Like on the Boys EP, there's a decided retro vibe to the cuts on Stabs, out now on PNKSLM. But, like the music of Temple Songs and Pink Teens (whose Jolan is due to release his album as The Foetals on the same label soon), the music of Holy is warped Sixties pop that creates an uneasy mood even as a listener nods along to the beat.

"Silver of Your Heart" glides by like an old Jefferson Airplane cut, while the title track on The Holy Show clatters in a style not entirely unlike those early Temple Songs singles. If Holy are charting unfamiliar territory here, they are doing it with a great deal of panache. There is not one moment on Stabs that is boring and a listener has to admire any band that tries this hard to keep things this interesting. "Get By" charms in the style of early Pixies numbers where things rushed by in a haze of guitar hooks and noise. Decidedly throwback, cuts like this are blasts of energy that raise Holy above dozens of less inventive peers in the market-place at the moment.

"Lights" makes one think of that "Vegetable Man" cover by The Jesus and Mary Chain; like that fuzzed out version of the Pink Floyd nugget, Holy here bring to bear decided Sixties influences in the service of something that sounds like now. The only other bands even close to pulling off this sort of thing are Allah-Las and Temple Songs/Pink Teens. As "Lights" devolves into a mess of noisy feedback, the slow-burning "Clouds" fires itself up in the sort of hazy rage favored by Ty Segall when he's trying to update the Blue Cheer template. Decidedly more nuanced than a lot of that stuff, this Holy cut is, like most of the cuts on Stabs, the sort of thing that gives this listener chills. Brave and blazing, this is indie pop that is pushing at the edges of the genre while remaining wildly catchy and accessible.

If I belabor that whole Sixties vibe-thang here, it's worth noting that "Five O'Clock World"-hook keeping the percolating "Rooftops" grounded. Despite some JAMC-worthy feedback, the cut is impressively direct and still the sort of thing I'd have a hard time describing to most indie rock fans.

The more laidback "Sympathy Stings" recalls early Primal Scream crossed with The Move in some odd way. Gently melodic, the cut showcases yet another side of this inventive band. Like most of the cuts on Stabs, "No Horror" nods enough in the direction of those worthy earlier influences to instantly captivate a listener even while the track subtly and wonderfully goes off the rails. This is at once decidedly fucked up music that still retains an effortless pop gloss. Wholly catchy and altogether out there, the tune-age of Holy is something special indeed. Fans of Temple Songs and Ty Segall will love this.

Stabs by Holy is out now via PNKSLM. Follow Holy on their official Facebook page.

Catching Up With The Brainy Pop Of California's The Corner Laughers

There's something irrepressible and brash about Karla Kane's frontwoman persona. It's like Mary Tyler Moore's Mary Richards formed a band and ended each song with a hat toss. I'm being silly but that's sort of the vibe I'm getting here.

Karla Kane leads The Corner Laughers, a California-based four-piece that makes winning pop in the style of Swan Dive, Rilo Kiley, and Aimee Mann...only a happy Aimee Mann. Frankly, their newest album, Matilda Effect, is loaded with great, expertly crafted pop. "Octavia A" rides the sort of jaunty melody that Mann collaborator Jon Brion would use in one of his film scores, while "Queen of the Meadow" showcases Kane's Lesley Gore-like delivery of the early Bangles-ish melody line.

Behind Kane we've got bass player Khoi Huynh and drummer Charlie Crabtree plus KC Bowman on the guitars. Bowman is part of the superb four-piece Pop4 and the guy peppers these tracks with spry licks (the delightfully propulsive "Sophie in the Streets of Stockholm") and near-Hawaiian hooks ("Lammas Land" which in its sunny vibe makes me think of my old island home of Lamma Island, Hong Kong, though I doubt the kids in The Corner Laughers mean that Lamma).

The sublime "Go Fly Your Kite" calls to mind again the late period pop of Lesley Gore for me. Like Gore's stuff, there's a decided West Coast vibe here that makes this song, like so many on Matilda Effect, such an absolute joy to listen to. This is the sort of thing that makes me dread the arrival of fall; maybe I need to move to Cali where I can crank this stuff out as I cruise the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down all year round?

What makes the music of The Corner Laughers so winning is that mix of elements in the service of tunes that are so joyous and so smart. The Corner Laughers have learned, as I wish so many bands would learn, that there's no shame in making music that makes people happy. You can still make them think too but first you've got to get the toes tapping and one listen to "The Girl, America" had me firmly in the fan-camp of this band. The Corner Laughers might be from California but on this song at least they sound like Scotland's Aztec Camera in spots.

Matilda Effect is out now from The Corner Laughers. I highly recommend this to anyone who's a fan of Aimee Mann, Paul McCartney, and Rilo Kiley. Decidedly upbeat, this is the sort of indie pop that deserves to be huge and played on Top 40 radio. Each cut made me smile a little and I need to do more of that so count me an instant fan of this four-some.

Matilda Effect is out now. Follow The Corner Laughers on their official Facebook page.

In Which I Add To The Chorus Of Voices Singing The Praises Of This New Warm Single From The Chills

I don't mind repeating what other bloggers have already written about 'cause I love the music of Martin Phillipps and The Chills. I have for nearly 30 years now. That he and the band are back with their first real new album in nearly 19 years -- Silver Bullets, out October 30 on Fire Records -- is certainly one more reason to share my enthusiasm for this music.

"Warm Waveform" is a lithe bit of business that sees Martin's voice hover around a nearly-dancing guitar figure. Exceedingly simple elements here combine to produce yet another memorable tune to add to the already impressive body of work of New Zealand's The Chills. I am not allowed to post a review of Silver Bullets until closer to the release date but I can hint that you probably won't be disappointed with the record.

And with a songwriter like Martin Phillipps at the helm, was there ever any doubt?

Silver Bullets from The Chills will be out on October 30 via Fire Records. Follow The Chills on www.SoftBomb.com.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Ska Legends Return: My Review Of The Superb New One From The Selecter

One could say that ska is the most resilient of genres. Seemingly easy as pie to master -- I said "seemingly" -- and a bit more difficult to sustain yourself with for a career as a musician -- the familiar bounce of ska is something that hasn't really changed much since the heyday of Two-Tone Records.

An act that helped define the sound of that label and, subsequently, the sound of ska itself was The Selecter. And I'm very, very happy to report that the band sounds absolutely fantastic and as timeless as ever on their new one, Subculture, that's out on Friday.

From the opening bounce of "Box Fresh" to the horn-based languid funk of "It Never Worked Out", a listener is immediately reassured that this band still has it, to use an overused phrase. Sounding positively more youthful than one would have imagined possible, Pauline Black and the lads rule the riffs on the spooky "Breakdown" which nods in the direction of the seminal "Ghost Town" from label-mates The Specials.

The percolating near-reggae rock of "Karma" charms a listener with something to nod his or her head along with, while the rendition of Patti Smith's durable "Because the Night" gives Pauline Black and the band something to add a bit of punch to. "Walk the Walk" is the sort of classic ska that makes one recall the glory days of Two-Tone Records even while appreciating the fact that The Selecter still sound this great. The insanely catchy "Hit the Ground Running" is pop music in the very best sense. The good folks in the United Kingdom that can hear this sort of thing on the radio everyday are lucky listeners. Subculture closes on the Pauline Black-showcase of "Still I Rise" which is a semi-anthem and statement of intent for these ska pioneers.

The members of The Selecter -- Pauline Black (vocals), Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson (vocals), Winston Marche (drums), Neil Pyzer (saxophone, guitar, keyboards), Orlando La Rose (saxophone and flute), Greg Coulson (keyboards), Anthony Harty (guitar) and John Thompson (bass) -- all deserve praise for making Subculture such an absolutely enjoyable record. Already a chart-topper in the U.K., Subculture is just a fun, fun, fun album by a band that happens to be legends.

Follow The Selecter on their official website. Subculture is out in America on Friday.

Martin Newell Is Back: A Quick Review Of The New One From The Cleaners From Venus

Martin Newell remains a treasure. One almost gets tired of reading that but the reality is that it needs be read. Until Newell is as respected and well-known as XTC's Andy Partridge -- a sometime collaborator -- then it needs to be written.

If you're late to Martin Newell's genius, that's all fine and good 'cause Rose of the Lanes, out tomorrow on Soft Bodies Records, is a pretty good place to get started or get yourself reacquainted with the man's work. On this Cleaners from Venus release, Martin offers up his style of very English pop that seems to be, yet again, the product of a life spent listening to records from The Kinks and XTC. Not that there's anything at all wrong with that if the results sound like this.

Here Martin offers up spry tunes like "Isn't She The Biz" next to more expansive stuff like "Ministry of Light" which seems to nod in the direction of Robyn Hitchcock's output in terms of the title and the guitar explorations of the cut.

"Third Summer of Love" offers up exactly the sort of song you'd imagine from that title and it's placed next to the more whimsical and heartfelt "Liverpool Judy" on Rose of the Lanes. "Billy Liar" pleased this fan of the classic film, while "Lazy Elaine" charmed me with its blend of a Ray Davies-worthy hook played in a Marc Bolan style. The joining together of the legacies of those two English legends sounds so easy when Martin attempts it.

"Denmark Street" rollicks along like XTC in their Dukes of Stratosphear guise, while "My Young Mum" offers up a piano-based, intensely charming Martin Newell gem. That the Cleaners from Venus frontman can switch gears from whimsy to heartfelt sentiment so easily speaks volumes to how much he's processed from the history of British pop. A true treasure, Martin Newell continues to be one of the great cult figures in indie rock. Rose of the Lanes, out tomorrow on Soft Bodies Records, is a fine, fine showcase for the genius of Martin Newell and The Cleaners from Venus.

Find out more about Martin Newell via his official website.

Why Choose: Shopping Are Already Back With Another Winning Album

It seems like only a few days ago that we were talking about Shopping. Last time I around, I wrote this post that sort of admitted that I liked the band's stuff even if I cynically doubted their approach. Why Choose, out Friday on Fat-Cat Records, is a quick update on the band's previous album with the fire snuffed out a bit in favor of more nuanced explorations of mood and rhythm.

By all rights, this should be a miserable failure but the 3 members of Shopping so thoroughly commit to this sort of updating of The Slits that the album works. "Say It Once" bears traces of The Raincoats and even Talking Heads in its groove and the band are to be applauded at melding those two separate styles into something this direct and piercing. If nothing else, one can say that nothing overstays its welcome here; the tunes breeze -- or, rather, bounce -- by in a flurry of aggro vocals and pumping beats.

On the percolating "Why Wait", Shopping urgently channel the sort of ska rhythm that The Specials wouldn't have been entirely unhappy with and add in a plucked guitar figure that keeps the song bopping along. On the album, Shopping run the serious risk of the songs all sort of sounding the same next to each other but I promise you that if you take a track like this off the record and place it on a mix-CD -- or whatever the hell the kids do these days with mixes -- you'll be rewarded as a listener with a blast of something fresh and invigorating.

The very real problem with Shopping is that they've really entirely committed to recreating the sort of music and ethos of bands like The Slits and The Raincoats. But, on the flip, the very best thing about Shopping is also how much they've committed to this. If one is honest, one has to admit that the results here are not entirely original -- not really at all if you know anything by The Slits -- but at least the results are buoyantly consistent. There's real fire here even if the overall product is not in any way new. It's all well and good to become a fan of Shopping -- I encourage it, really -- but by all means please go get some Slits records too.

Follow Shopping on their official Facebook page.

Why Choose by Shopping will be out on Friday.

You're Going To Thank Me For Introducing You To The Pop Charms Of Pop4

Usually it works like this: some band or their PR flack emails me to say "Hey, I saw that you posted about [band x], well maybe you'll like [our shitty band]." The reality is that [our shitty band] sounds nothing like [band x] and I get angry and delete the email.

However, this time when I got an email from Andrea Perry saying that her band, Pop4, sounded like Pugwash and the New Pornographers, she wasn't lying. There was not an ounce of PR bullshit in her email so I thank her for getting in touch. The tunes of Pop4 are some of the brightest slices of pop I've heard in ages. Blending bits of ELO ("Einstein and Sunshine") and Aimee Mann (the wonderfully-titled "Miserably Pursuing Happiness"), the music of Pop4 is a revelation. These tunes touch on all the things I liked already but somehow the songs still sound new and vibrant.

On The Feeling-like "Straight to my Head", there's even a twang-y hint of the best moments of Jellyfish. That tune segues into the marvelously self-aware "You're No Aimee Mann" which manages to out Jon Brion Jon Brion himself. Funny, smart, and altogether perfect, the song is the sort of thing that makes a listener such as myself a bit angry at not having heard this band and song before now. I heard this and wanted to lay my hands on everything that Pop4 have done, you know?

"Lover's Limbo" even nods in the direction of college rock legends Let's Active, while "Tour for the Brokenhearted" imagines an impossible Nilsson/Jon Brion collaboration.

And I haven't even mentioned the fact that this record is the result of the four members -- Andrea Perry, Scott McPherson, Kirk Adams, and KC Bowman -- recording their parts separately. That sounds like a gimmick but it's worth mentioning because you'd almost never believe me when you listen to Summer. What's on this album is the sound of one of the best new American bands I've heard in quite some time. That they did this without actually meeting in person is even more astonishing.

Summer by Pop4 is sure to charm fans of Jeff Lynne, Brian Wilson, Neko Case, Jellyfish, and Jon Brion. The tunes here are big and catchy. The cuts are all carefully crafted and show the hard work of 4 musicians pooling their love of some worthy shared influences in the creation of the very best kind of pop.

Play these songs and then get with the Pop4 program. More details on Summer by Pop4 are on the band's official Facebook page or the band's official website.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Being Part Of The Best Gang In Town: My Interview With Members Of The Loft

The internet is understandably all abuzz this week with the release of Cherry Red Records' monumentally important Creation Artifact: The Dawn of Creation Records 1983-1985 box set. As I tried to explain in this review, the box does a very good job at providing evidence of the reasons why the label secured such an important foothold in the worlds of what's now called indie rock. Of course, I don't think I ever heard that phrase very much back then.

What a lot of these bands were labelled almost immediately in the era covered by the tail-end of Creation Artificat was C86. Even if a band didn't actually appear on that influential tape, if they had a certain sound -- jangle-y guitars, usually -- then they got labelled a C86 band. It was certainly a better label than twee, I guess.

One band that was neither twee nor jangle rock, was The Loft. The Pete Astor-fronted band created some of the best singles on Creation Records in those early days of the label, as Creation Artifact illustrates pretty well.

So, to provide a bit more evidence of why The Loft were so important to the story of the rise of Creation Records, and a bit of background on what made their music so enjoyable, I offer up this brief interview with a few members of the band.

Glenn, kenixfan: At a certain point, The Loft were one of the more established bands on Creation Records. Was there a sense in those early days that The Loft were essentially defining the very sound of the label?

Andy Strickland: No I think all the bands and artists in the early days felt they were pretty much stand alone. Perhaps that changed a couple of years later with more of a label look and stance. I'm not sure there was a sound for the label in those days -- more a shared attitude -- that we were all brilliant! I think the Loft was much more influenced by NYC bands than other Creation bands were at that time.

Glenn, kenixfan: How much control did Alan McGee exert over the individual bands, including The Loft and the Weather Prophets?

Andy Strickland: Alan left the Loft alone completely really. He didn't manage us or advise us -- just encouraged us and let us play gigs at his club and then put a couple of singles out. He also didn't do anything to help stop us imploding. People were generally a bit wary of us I think as we appeared to have it all sewn up and to be heading for success. It was just the four of us -- no manager, no agent, no roadie -- just us.

Dave Goulding: Alan McGee had the chutzpah to whip up a press storm which generated enough money to make things happen, and the enthusiasm to make us believe we were a part of something special. The label was full of youngsters who shared equipment, musicians and taste. As far as I could see Alan exerted no direct control over any of the bands. He fomented an atmosphere of being part of the best gang in town and let us get on with it.

Glenn, kenixfan: How did The Loft break up and the Weather Prophets form?

Dave Goulding: I had briefly played music with Pete in an art college band and his girlfriend (Heidi Berry) was one of my best friends. I believe Pete only auditioned myself and Oisin (who was a friend of Dave’s) and we all clicked. Just like that.

Glenn, kenixfan: You've reformed The Loft. How does it feel to be playing these songs again? What's the audience response been like from people who may be too young to remember the band's music from the Eighties firsthand?

Andy Strickland: We play every few years now if people want us -- always the four original members. It's been an absolute joy. The songs really stand up and we either add a couple of new ones (we released "Model Village" on Static Caravan back in 2006) or we find things long forgotten on old cassettes and breathe life into them. We played in the US in May of this year for the first ever time and it was quite touching how happy people were to see us -- really. New York was a young crowd and they loved it. We are a damn good live band I think -- we make a good noise. It's always great fun to spend time and to play music together -- we didn't speak to each other for 25 years so have lots of catching up still to do and there's a definite chemistry between us when we play Pete's songs.

Glenn, kenixfan: What's next?

Andy Strickland: The Loft have a BBC 6 Music session on 24 September for Gideon Coe -- a great way to wrap up activity for the 30th year anniversary of "Up The Hill and Down the Slope" topping the indie chart. Then….who knows. Pete's got a new solo record in the offing and is doing lots of shows.

My many thanks to the guys in legends The Loft for agreeing to this interview and to the fine folks at Cherry Red Records for arranging.

Creation Artifact: The Dawn of Creation Records 1983-1985 is out now via Cherry Red Records.

A Few Pics And Video From The Ash/Dot Dash Gig Tonight

Ash rocked Vienna's Jammin Java tonight. The venue is a cool space even if some of the practices seem odd -- herding people out from the back area and into the small front bar while the staff set up for the gig even though the only bathroom in the place is back behind the stage. But I digress.

The Irish trio played songs from their new one Kablammo! and a few other older cuts. Highlights of the set for me were "Girl From Mars" and "A Life Less Ordinary" along with stuff like "Cocoon" from the new record. Despite multiple broken strings on Tim's guitar, the band made an impressive amount of rawk noise tonight and put on a pretty darn good show, despite some issues with sound in the venue.







Dot Dash played a bunch of new songs tonight with "The Infinite" -- complete with Terry's high notes -- being a particular highlight. Before the band goes back into the studio again -- presumably with Mitch Easter -- now might be a good time to see them as they are playing with a particular amount of fury these days. For example, despite cranking it out at an impressive volume, the band's rendition of "Hands of Time" tonight sounded more nuanced than the version on record, straddling the worlds of both punk and classic alternative with ease. The Dot Dash sound is a sort of muscular power-pop -- a whole lotta hooks with a hardcore punch behind the melodies. See Dot Dash next week at Comet Ping Pong for a Salad Days (2014) DVD release party. Details are here.

Follow Dot Dash on their official Facebook page.

Earthquakes and Tidal Waves is out now via TheBeautifulMusic.com.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Few Words About The Wonderful EP From Boys That's Out On Friday

Boys is essentially Nora Karlsson. The EP from Boys called Kind of Hurt drops on Friday via the awesomely up-and-coming label PNKSLM Recordings. Kind of Hurt is a blast of inventiveness in an era of easy indie. What separates these cuts from those of the band's peers is the care in the song-craft.

If "Dream" purrs like Julie Cruise fronting a Brill Building-era backing band, "Ever Before" is the updating of the work done by Temple Songs and The Pink Teens a few years ago (Jolan from The Pink Teens, the follow-on band to Temple Songs, has a connection to PNKSLM for his upcoming release as The Foetals). "Ever Before" nods in the direction of stuff like Black Tambourine and even the Cocteau Twins but it's altogether its own thing. And I love that about the track.

"Believe Anything" is a sort of update on early Mazzy Star filtered through a chamber pop sensibility, the traces of the blues replaced with precise studio alchemy, while EP closer "Stars and Lies" is like an early lineup of Stereolab attempting to write a song for Lesley Gore.

Music like this is rare and, as a result, hard to describe. When something breaks barriers between genres and melds styles this effortlessly, the results are more memorable than 90% of the indie rock being made today. Like the first singles I ever heard from Temple Songs, the tunes of Boys are haunting, beautiful, catchy, and pure pop in the very finest sense.

Kind of Hurt by Boys is out on Friday via PNKSLM Recordings.

Follow Boys on the band's official Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Mantles Share Slice Of Lovely Pop Ahead Of New Album

There's gonna be a lot of blogger love out there today for this one. The Mantles just shared a new cut from their upcoming Slumberland Records album All Odds End. That album will be out on October 16 but first, let's enjoy this slice of pop.

"Hate to See You Go" has a decidedly Sixties vibe to it and yet the tune is anything but retro. Nimbly linking up the kind of pop favored by The Beau Brummels and their contemporaries with a more modern sort of indie, the music of The Mantles charms and deftly tickles the eardrums. Catchy, modest in scope, and altogether splendid, this is exactly how pop is supposed to sound.

All Odds End will be out on October 16 via Slumberland Records. Follow The Mantles on their official Facebook page.

You Can't Always Be Liked (But You Can Play Awesome Music By Expert Alterations Here)

Baltimore's Expert Alterations today shared quite possibly one of the best songs you're likely to hear in 2015. Produced by Archie Moore of local indie legends Velocity Girl, this cut from the young men in Expert Alterations is a supple mix of various influences all swirled together to make something wholly affecting and fresh.

"You Can't Always Be Liked", the title cut from the band's upcoming album on Kanine Records, out October 30, breezes in with bits that sound like The Sundays and bits that sound like The Wedding Present. After a careful and deliberate intro passage, it's pure perfection all the way. Chiming, catchy, and all kinds of awesome, "You Can't Always Be Liked" could almost be my favorite song from this band. Well...let's talk about that when the album drops in about a month.

Follow Expert Alterations on their official Facebook page.

You Can't Always Be Liked will be out on Kanine Records on October 30.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Quick Review Of The Excellent New One From Wand

One listen to the blissfully beautiful title track from the new one from Wand made me a more fevered fan of this band. Already on-board since last year's tripped-out Golem, this year's 1000 Days, out on Drag City on Friday, expands on the band's sound. The result of that expansion is a record that rawks ("Lower Order") and perplexes ("Dovetail").

Earlier single "Stolen Footsteps" is here and it's a perfect example of how Wand have retained their trippy sense of adventure while tempering down ever so slightly the rough edges that were on earlier albums. Sounding a bit like Ty Segall, lead singer Cory Hanson owns these cuts. "Sleepy Dog" charts a lovely course between space rock and Sabbath riffs. Wholly original in its melding of disparate genres, this is a smashing good track.

Still, to stress the loveliness here on 1000 Days is not to deny that the album still blazes by in spots of fiery acid rock ("Dungeon Dropper"). "Passage of the Dream" melds what sounds like a classic Bill Nelson guitar solo circa Be-Bop Deluxe with an ascending melody that is held together by Hanson's Syd Barrett-like delivery.

1000 Days closes on the brief "Morning Rainbow" which is another bit of blissed out business like "Broken Sun" earlier on the record. 1000 Days is a sort of refinement of Wand's formula. Thoroughly enjoyable, 1000 Days signals the start of a fruitful period of creation for Wand now that they are on Drag City.

1000 Days by Wand is out on Friday via Drag City. Follow Wand on their official website.

A Few Words About The New Album From Downpilot

It took one listen to the yearning "Reno" to make me a fan of Seattle-based Downpilot. The cut, from the artist's new album, Radio Ghost out Friday on Tapete Records, is a near-countryish slow rocker that unfurls to sublime effect.

Elsewhere on Radio Ghost, things veer in the direction of the Pernice Brothers ("Day of the Long Sun"), or even The Jayhawks ("Rosaline"). With just a few chords, the music of Downpilot seems to be the product of both the past and now. "Hallowed Ground" employs a subtle use of slide guitar to convey a sense of worldweariness, for lack of a better term. "Chutes and Ladders" evens sounds a tiny bit like The Eagles, specifically a country ballad with Don Henley doing vocal duties.

All that being said, Radio Ghost is a consistent album that rewards careful listeners. Poised close to the sort of alt-country favored by Joe Pernice and his crew, the music of Downpilot here also bears favorable comparisons to the best stuff from Beulah and even Pavement at their more pensive moments.

Radio Ghost by Downpilot is out Friday, September 25, on Tapete Records. Follow Downpilot on his official Facebook page.

A Look At The Holy Grail-Like New Creation Artifact Box From Cherry Red Records

My pursuit of everything on 4AD Records was, more or less, a fad. Despite some great bands on the label, and the release of some of my favorite records -- Surfer Rosa by The Pixies, Throwing Muses, Victorialand by Cocteau Twins -- I consider my fevered search for albums on that label to be a hobby that largely has a start and end in my mind; by 1990 or so, the bloom was off that rose.

On the other hand, at some point in very early 1988, right after I got my first CD player, I started buying almost everything on Flying Nun and Creation Records thanks, largely, to hearing 2 albums for the first time: Brave Words by The Chills and Creation Purple Compilation. If one of those defined the sound of arguably the best band on that seminal New Zealand label, the other -- a collection -- gave me a crash-course into a label that seemed to be ransacking the past to draft the blueprint(s) for the future of indie-rock (called at that time "alternative", or "college rock" still).

A bit after that point in 1988, when I had paid the seemingly obscene amount of $25 to get the Creation Purple Compilation on import CD in Georgetown -- a process reflected on in this early blog post of mine -- I got the first House of Love album and I was firmly a junkie. Creation Records was the most reliable of labels I ever followed and while things might go from the jangle of early bands like Biff Bang Pow! to the mid-period bliss of My Bloody Valentine, and on to the Britpop genius of Super Furry Animals, Boo Radleys, and Oasis, whatever was on the label for a good 15 years was worthy of being heard, whatever the cost.

And how did that happen? This miraculous 5-CD box set from Cherry Red Records is here to answer that question. Contained in the marvelous Creation Artifact are the "hits-and-misses" of those early, early Creation releases. There are flops and moments of staggering beauty and brilliance and yet, overall, the box set serves as the ultimate testimonial as to why this label was so important to so many people around the world for so long.

Label boss Alan McGee (r) might have been conferring with Television Personalities whiz Dan Treacy (l), as shown in that pic, but he was also cultivating pioneers in what could only be called "noise rock" back then (Meat Whiplash), or ramshackle punkers (The Membranes), or his own lot of stuck-in-the-Sixties musicians (Biff Bang Pow!). What Creation Artifact reveals more than anything else was the sheer diversity of talent on the label in its early days; those buying this set expecting 5-CDs' worth of "Velocity Girl" by Primal Scream are in for a rude lesson; check the grim Nick Cave-isms of The Moodists to cure yourself of that idea.

Discs 1 and 2 of this give you the singles -- the "hits", as it were. These are the cuts that defined the sound of the label for a generation up until Oasis blew the doors off the thing. The jangle of stuff like "All Fall Down" by Primal Scream is here, along with the neo-psychedelia of "Flowers in the Sky" by Revolving Paint Dream, and the nearly-Mod stomp of "There Must Be a Better Life" by Alan McGee's Biff Bang Pow! or "Where the Traffic Goes" by the Jasmine Minks.

The Jasmine Minks, shown above, joined bands like The Loft in recasting Sixties influences -- and obligatory nods in the direction of the Velvet Underground -- into something that was both DIY pure and pure pop for now people. "Up the Hill and Down the Slope" is clearly aimed at the charts and it's all the better for that. In one moment, Astor and co., whether knowingly or not, were bridging what would was indie and what aimed to be catchy and -- dare I say it? -- nearly mainstream. Tuneful and punchy, the single remains one of the seminal tracks on Creation.

And what can one possibly say of the brief appearances of The Jesus and Mary Chain here? A friend played Psychocandy on cassette for me in 1987, almost a year before I got my hands on any genuine Creation product, and somehow I didn't make the connection that they were a Creation band until a bit later. Here represented by the blast of "Upside Down", a few demos, and a cover of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd-castoff "Vegetable Man", the band sound like -- at least on "Upside Down" -- like they are making music from another planet. It's hard to overstate just how noisy this was in 1984 or so. Yeah, there was punk rock being made on both sides of the Atlantic, and D.C. hardcore bands like Void were scorching the earth prior to that, but the early tunes of The Jesus and Mary Chain threw caution to the wind in the creation of entirely new music. This was largely uncharted territory until My Bloody Valentine -- another Creation band -- would come along a few years later to push things farther out.


Disc 3 of this set offers up the Alive in the Living Room compilation and a slew of other live tracks. These are the only appearances on Creation Artifact of inspirational postpunk bands The Mekons and The Three Johns, along with the only cut from The June Brides on this box (even though they were ostensibly a Creation band). Disc 3 is rounded out with demos and rarities, including the punch-in-the-face of "I Am Fisheye" by The Membranes.

The real highlight of Disc 4, the demos section of the box set, is the nearly-Bacharach-like "Everybody's Got To Grow Up Some Time" by The Jasmine Minks. Still, that track might not be nearly as memorable as the rough-around-the-edges charms of "Home" by The X-Men. Decidedly less jangle rock than 90% of the stuff on this box set, the band's tunes are little lost treasures from the pre-C86 era in UK postpunk.

Disc 5 is devoted to the BBC sessions recorded by these bands, a showcase for the skills of acts like The Loft (pictured above in a 1985 support gig for Felt). Pete Astor's skills as a songwriter are shown on tracks like "On a Tuesday", an update on late Sixties tropes featured here in a BBC session, and the more charging "Wide Open Arms", one of a few live "bonus" tracks on this final disc of Creation Artifact.

What we're hearing here on Disc 5 is the landscape of UK indie captured shortly thereafter on the canvas of the influential C86 cassette issued by the NME. Maybe the once-great music mag didn't intend to start a revolution but that tape, and its subsequent genre label derived from its name, continue to shape indie rock even now. Equal parts jangle and attitude, the bands on that cassette combined a brash DIY ethos with loads of winning melodies. That so many McGee-signed Creation bands are thought of as C86 bands says a lot about the man's dominance of UK indie in the popular imagination. Creation Artifact shows a listener exactly how that battle was won. If there are not a lot of C86 bands here in terms of the sound, then there are loads of them here in spirit.

This set from Cherry Red Records does nothing so much as force a significant reassessment of the legacy of McGee's label. Reshaping how we think of the output of the label, and what we think of as a Creation band, Creation Artifact presents both a rounded picture of this brand's output, as well as a concise overview of non-mainstream UK indie from a certain moment in time.

Poised to be seen as the most important reissue of 2015, Creation Artifact fills in the gaps in a listener's understanding of the importance of Creation Records, even a fan who thinks he knows the label thoroughly. Spanning 124 songs and more than 6 hours of music, Creation Artifact is a refresher course in what made this label so great, and a gentle reminder of the great work being done by Cherry Red these days. Important and essential, and a downright blast to listen to, the music here is the best indie rock from one of the most fertile periods in British music history. Here is a chance to hear the first flowering of a certain brand of tune-age before other acts would get signed to Creation Records and forever change things. Before Britpop and those early Oasis singles, before My Bloody Valentine invented shoegaze, and even right before C86 bands rode a wave of jangle rock into the future, Creation Records was putting out some of the bravest and most challenging music in the United Kingdom. It's all here on Creation Artifact.

Creation Artifact from Cherry Red is out on Friday but up for pre-order now. Grab yours now.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Few Pics And Video From The Dot Dash/Tommy Keene Show Tonight

D.C. legend Tommy Keene brought his music to Arlington's IOTA tonight in support of his wonderful new album, Laugh in the Dark. He delivered a fantastic set with highlights -- for me at least -- being new one "Last of the Twilight Girls", "Back to Zero Now" and a medley of Lou Reed's "Kill Your Sons" and "Street Fighting Man" by the Rolling Stones.

Follow Tommy Keene on his official website and get Laugh in the Dark on Second Motion Records now.



D.C.'s Dot Dash brought the postpunk power tonight as they blazed through an all-too-quick set of some of the best cuts from their latest album, Earthquakes and Tidal Waves, a couple of older tracks, and a few newer ones -- including a number that Lorelei drummer Davis White said sounded a lot like The Clash. And that's an awesome compliment, isn't it?

Most of these pics were taken by my wife 'cause I'm a klutz with my camera. And that's her cellphone in front of me during the video for "Flowers" below.






Dot Dash are really hitting a new peak now with the players seemingly looser and more comfortable together onstage. Heck, I even saw Minor Threat man Steve Hansgen smiling a few times tonight and he wasn't the only one. The appreciative crowd seemed to dig these gems that comfortably held their own next to headliner Tommy Keene's stuff. And saying that is to highlight just what a great songwriter Terry Banks has become these last few years.

Follow Dot Dash on their official Facebook page.

Earthquakes and Tidal Waves is out now via TheBeautifulMusic.com.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Look At The Fab New Tommy Keene Album Ahead Of His D.C. Gig With Dot Dash Tomorrow Night!

For everyone who thinks of D.C. as a hardcore town, or the D.C. suburbs the birthplace of seminal indie labels like Slumberland Records or Teen-Beat, there are probably another dozen people who think of this area as the home of a genuine power-pop legend. Mr. Tommy Keene has been crafting damn-near perfect pop for more than 3 decades now and he's back with his newest album, Laugh in the Dark, out now on Second Motion Records.

The platter, like most of his records, is a collection of sharp, punchy rockers and more expansive takes on the legacy of Beatlemania. If opener "Out of My Mind" crashes along like a classic Cheap Trick single, "Dear Heloise" offers up more intricate and layered guitar hooks in the support of something that's more Raspberries than Big Star. At his most direct and immediate, like on the wonderfully-titled "Last of the Twilight Girls", Tommy sounds positively invigorated. With more rawk oomph than many people remember hearing on his classic stuff a few decades back, the cut roars past in a blast of drums, cymbal crashes, and guitar chords. Joined by players Brad Quinn on bass and John Richardson on drums, the band on Laugh in the Dark makes Tommy Keene sound like the true heir to the power-pop crown worn at one time by cats like Marshall Crenshaw and Mitch Easter.

"All the Lights are Alive" adds an aching, chiming guitar-line to that familiar Keene crunch to wonderful effect, while the title cut showcases Keene's axe-work as the equal of Peter Buck, circa 1983. If you close your eyes, you'd think you were hearing a lost cut from the Songs from the Film sessions; it's not that Keene is stuck in the past -- in "Places That are Gone"? -- but, rather, that he's become the master at this sort of thing. The cat can crank out something this beautiful, with this much bite and heart, and make it look so easy. "I Belong to You" may be catchy but it still has a Westerberg-like kick to it, especially that sublime instrumental bridge.

If the smartly-titled "Alone in These Modern Times" is another welcome nod to past Keene glories (updated for the present day), then "I Want It To Be Over Now" is more explicitly a Beatles homage, specifically the Fab Four of the "Can't Buy Me Love"-era. More perfectly pop than a lot of what we heard in That Thing You Do! (1996), Keene has found a way to update those worthy power-pop templates for current listeners. Crisp, catchy, and concise, this is one to use to introduce new listeners to Tommy's world of hooks.

As his press indicated, "Go Back Home" is Keene's stab at the rough blues-folk of Led Zeppelin III, complete with slide guitar. Still, one can still hear traces of Tommy's best stuff here just warped into another shape. Laugh in the Dark closes on the high note of "All Gone Away" with its complex take on the Beatles' brand of psychedelia. Still tuneful, Tommy expands his horizons here with this bold one and if it's not quite as power-pop crunchy as the other 9 cuts on Laugh in the Dark, it's every bit as brilliant. A refresher course in why this guy is one of the great underappreciated guitarists in rock -- especially D.C. rock -- "All Gone Away" sways and unfurls like an American draft of "Champagne Supvernova" with the bombast pulled down to a more manageable level.

With another record that solidifies his right to say he's got no duds in his catalog, Tommy Keene has (again) delivered the goods with his new album. Laugh in the Dark is out now via Second Motion Records. More details via Tommy Keene's official website.

If there was any justice in the world, Tommy Keene would sit in for a cover of The Beatles' "Rain" with openers Dot Dash tomorrow night at IOTA. Yeah, that sounds a bit crazy when you think that there are one-time members of Dischord legends Youth Brigade (Danny Ingram) and Minor Threat (Steve Hansgen) in Dot Dash but you've also got Terry Banks up front and that cat, along with bassist Hunter Bennett, seems to be trying to somehow magically combine the musical pop-punk of The Jam with the sort of classic song-craft favored by the Beatles and their generation. Doubt me? Try out the band's latest, Earthquakes and Tidal Waves and get with the program. It's out now via TheBeautifulMusic.com.

More details on Dot Dash on their official Facebook page.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Interview With Salad Days Director Scott Crawford (And Your Chance To Win A Free Salad Days DVD!)

I'm here today to highlight the wonderful documentary Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990) which is coming out this week on DVD and Blu-Ray via MVD Entertainment Group. In the next week or so I'm going to be posting a few things about the film and the DVD and offering 2 copies of the DVD as giveaways. More details on that giveaway below. But first, my interview with the very gracious director of Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990), Scott Crawford.


Void in a still used in the film...

Glenn, kenixfan: Salad Days manages to condense pretty much what many would say is the most important era in D.C. hardcore history into something that makes a tight, concise documentary. Did you ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material you had in front of you?

SCOTT CRAWFORD: Yes, at times it felt totally overwhelming. But I knew the story I wanted to tell, so it was really just a matter of focusing on the main points and weeding out the geeky details that I have a habit of obsessing over. Doing that easily took 6 months -- because, well, I'm a geek.


Gray Matter playing a 1985 set on the rooftop of D.C.'s legendary Food for Thought...

Glenn, kenixfan: I started working in record stores in 1987 and one of the things I reflected on while watching Salad Days is that the inescapable Dischord behemoth in D.C. that I was a bit reluctant to fully embrace back then was largely a label and scene that had been shaped by Revolution Summer; what I thought of as "D.C. hardcore" was that post-Revolution Summer version. Salad Days makes things seem gleefully anarchic pre-Revolution Summer and a bit more focused afterwards. Can you speak a bit on how you look back now on the pre- and post-Revolution Summer vibe of D.C. hardcore?

SCOTT CRAWFORD: I can understand why you or anyone else might've been a bit hesitant to fully embrace something that at times may have felt a little exclusionary. Everybody has their own take on that and I wanted to show that in the film. However, I do recall feeling that at a lot of the “Revolution Summer”-type shows you knew you weren't going to have to contend with a lot of knuckleheads. They just weren't tolerated. At shows previous to that, things could get out of hand at times between the audience and occasionally, with the neighborhood residents as well.

Glenn, kenixfan: Salad Days is a labor of love and the results show that. When you watch the film now, do you see anything missing? Looking back on the making of this film, is there anything you'd do differently if you had to do it all over again? What are the lessons learned from the making of Salad Days?

SCOTT CRAWFORD: Oh sure. It's hard to watch it and not want to change little things. But for the most part I'm pretty pleased with it. I would've liked to included a few more voices that just weren't available for whatever reason. The lack of strong live footage for the early part of the decade was also challenging, but it's also a reflection of the technology of the time.

Glenn, kenixfan: What seemed monolithic at the time, seems more multifaceted and diverse now. Salad Days may concern itself primarily with D.C. hardcore, especially Dischord bands, but within that, there was a lot of variety, as the film shows. Did you feel the need as a fan to highlight certain bands, or draw attention to others that may have been neglected in the wake of the success of Fugazi, for example?

SCOTT CRAWFORD: I wanted to show a broad range of people and music, but it's hard to not have you favorites as well. There was so much powerful music that came out of that decade. Having said that, I wish I would've had more No Trend material to work with. I always liked them and Jeff No Trend's no bullshit approach was always kind of refreshing.

Glenn, kenixfan: In one of the deleted interview clips, Nicole Thomas of Fire Party makes a point about how people in that era were simultaneously moving among different circles and things weren't entirely as monolithic as they may have seemed to some of us. So what were you listening to back then that *wasn't* part of D.C. hardcore, or a Dischord act?

SCOTT CRAWFORD: I remember liking a lot of the SST stuff (Husker Du, Minutemen, Descendents, etc.) at the time. Bands like Naked Raygun, Big Black, Articles of Faith, Big Boys, Replacements, Squirrel Bait were in heavy rotation in the mid-80s. I was exposed to a lot just being a pest at the local record stores and hearing what they were into. I discovered a lot of the Brit-stuff that was happening by hanging out at Y&T [Skipp Groff's legendary Yesterday and Today record store in Rockville, Maryland] and listening to bands like Chameleons UK, Felt, The Mission, etc.


Brian Baker of Minor Threat, Bad Religion, and loads of other bands...

Glenn, kenixfan: Brian "Later, Nerds" Baker seems to be the antihero of Salad Days, articulating some points of view that gently puncture the Dischord mythos. And I can recall "back in the day" a certain cynical line of thinking that said, "If Fugazi are so good, why don't they sign to a major label?" But, when watching Salad Days, one doesn't get the sense that that was ever the point for Ian MacKaye. The film is really about celebrating people in a scene doing things their way, whether it was under the Straight Edge banner or not. Looking back now, how does that major label/indie label schism seem to you? The inclusion of other local labels like Teenbeat and Simple Machines in the film adds to the idea that D.C. hardcore is really about DIY more than it is about hardcore punk, on some level.

SCOTT CRAWFORD: Absolutely -- this was a town without any infrastructure when it comes to putting out music or booking your own shows. It wasn't just the punk scene that had to contend with it -- that's why the go-go part of the film was so important. I wanted to show that these 2 organic scenes both grew from a DIY approach.


Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, Embrace, Fugazi, and Dischord Records...

Glenn, kenixfan: When we were watching the film at the premiere, my wife leaned over and whispered what I was thinking: how did you manage to get your parents to let you go to punk shows when you were only 12 or so? How did your family then feel about your "hobby"?

SCOTT CRAWFORD: My parents had split up and I think my mother gave me a pretty long leash because she knew I was really struggling to find my place. Many of the people in the film would give me rides to shows back then and would always let my mother know that they'd look after me. I think that helped tremendously. When I asked her this same question while doing the film, she said she'd never seen me so enthusiastic about anything before, and didn't want to deny me the thrill of any of it. Thanks Mom.

Glenn, kenixfan: Is there any story untold, one band not mentioned that should have been in Salad Days if you had to do it again?

SCOTT CRAWFORD: Lots of stories that weren't told (simply due to the 100-minute limit I put on myself). I would've liked to have had a bit more of the non-Discord bands perhaps.

Glenn, kenixfan: Can you tell me a bit about the process of selecting the tracks for the film and the miraculous job done by Archie Moore (Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine) in mixing the whole thing?

SCOTT CRAWFORD: I'd had this soundtrack running in my head for 30 years so I'd known which songs I’d wanted from the very beginning. Archie is brilliant, creative, patient and passionate -- working with him was a real highlight of making the film.

Glenn, kenixfan: I just wanted to say thanks again for letting me help out in a tiny way at the premiere back in December and thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.

SCOTT CRAWFORD: Oh thank YOU!


Picture of Salad Days director Scott Crawford, yours truly, and John Stabb of Government Issue (and loads of other bands) at the premiere of Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990) back in December at AFI Silver in Silver Spring..

Now, here's your chance to win 1 of 2 free Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990) DVDs courtesy of MVD Entertainment Group.

Name one of the D.C.-area bands Dave Grohl was in before Scream. There is a film clip of one of the bands on the Salad Days DVD. Simply email me (kenixfan [at] gmail [dot] com) or Tweet to me on Twitter and send me your name and mailing address and I'll get the DVD out to you ASAP and post the winner's name here later.

Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990) is out now via MVD Entertainment Group.

Learn more about Salad Days via the film's official website or via the film's official Facebook page.

Salad Days Official Trailer from Scott Crawford on Vimeo.