Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Walk Backwards: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Papercuts

The new album from Papercuts, Parallel Universe Blues, aligns in sonic terms with a lot of what's on parent label Slumberland Records. And yet, at the same time, there's a gentle lyricism here that suggests new directions for modern indie-pop bands to pursue. If Jason Quever's project is the sort of thing that chimes in all the right ways, it's always a record that bridges smart-pop with dream-pop, the brain and the heart sharing control here.

While some of this ("Clean Living", "Waking Up") indicates a love of shoegaze pioneers, Quever at least imbues this material with a remarkable amount of charm, such that the bigger numbers here ("Laughing Man", "How To Quit Smoking") positively ring with promise. These brighter selections are buoyantly tuneful and ripe with a lot of possibilities. And while the catchier tracks here on Parallel Universe Blues took me back a few decades to the heydays of bands like The Ropers and Lilys, a few others, like the poppy "Walk Backwards" brought to mind both The Clientele and Ride. While I quite liked the Medicine-y "Sing To Me Candy", I preferred the compositions here that put more emphasis on melody than effects. Now, that's not to say that Quever gets lost in his pedals here, but, rather, to praise how easily he finds his way around a big hook. There are loads of bands out there mining this vein of shoegaze gold, but few finding nuggets as peppy and promising as, for example, "Kathleen Says", a nice blend of Ultra Vivid Scene and Black Tambourine.

Jason Quever as Papercuts has already earned plenty of praise for earlier releases, but Parallel Universe Blues is such a pleasant listen that I'm sure he's going to get lots of new fans when this one drops. Fans of Pale Saints, Swallow, and all those bands I referenced up above, are sure to love this one as much as I do.

Parallel Universe Blues is out on Friday via Slumberland Records, or the official website.

More details on Papercuts via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Courtesy of the artist and PR firm]

Heads Up About The New Single From Shogun And The Sheets (Ex-Royal Headache)

Shogun was the lead singer of Royal Headache. He's now fronting his own band, Shogun and the Sheets, and the band's debut single is out next month on What's Your Rupture.

Now, there's not a lot to write about at the moment but I do like this, and I liked Royal Headache quite a bit, so this is certainly something to pay attention to. These two tracks are, hopefully, nice indications of what direction Shogun and the Sheets will go on their debut album next year (fingers crossed), with "Hold On Kid" having a vibe like something from Rich Kids or The Undertones, while "Pissing Blood" is more lean, bad intent dripping off Bad Seeds riffs.

More details on Shogun and the Sheets via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Aaron Blakely]

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What If: A Brief Review Of The New Album From The Moles (Richard Davies Of Cardinal)

Richard Davies is an Australian-American with a Welsh name. I think he's a lawyer here in America now. And, of course, he's also one of the most brilliant songwriters to have bubbled up from the indie-pop depths in decades. He's recorded with Robert Pollard (as Cosmos), Eric Matthews (as Cardinal), and Bob Fay (from Sebadoh), but he's also the main-man behind The Moles. The band, without a lot of fanfare, have been prepping a new release, and I'm happy to share some thoughts on it. Code Word, a double-album, drops on Super Secret Records on Friday, and it's a big, sprawling, sometimes-messy-but-never-boring sort of record.

Some of this, like opener "Moon in the Daytime" and the supple "Queen Anne", sounds a whole lot like those solo albums Davies offered up to some quiet levels of acclaim a few decades ago. If this is chamber pop, it's a robust sort, the kind that suggests that Davies has been influenced by not only Davies (the other two), but also McGuinn. The punchy "Riptide" segues abruptly into some spoken word stuff, while the excellent "What If" seems a funked-up cousin to the best material on that one album from Cardinal. Oddly, despite a large list of players under his command here on Code Word, Davis seems more confident throughout this offering than he did on parts of the last excellent Moles release. And that gets at the crux of the difficulty in praising what is -- perhaps intentionally -- a disjointed collection.

Now, that's not to say that Code Word is more seamless overall, 'cause it's not, but, rather, to indicate that Davies' strengths as a singer and performer still positively leap out of the speakers as the selections on Code Word unfurl. While the title track is a jazz piffle, the blast of "Prison Girls" restores faith in this guy's chops once again. A rough beast that's part Stones, part GBV, the cut is one of the real highlights here, as is the lovely "After May", a Forster-ish ramble punctuated by the bleeps of a Stereolab single. Swinging between the lilting psych-folk of "Psych Folk" and the DIY rawk of "Cheaper To Keep Her" seems a bit insane, frankly, but Davies makes it work. Not once during Code Word was I anything less than charmed, and that's saying a lot for what is essentially a double-album.

Code Word is a slightly schizo release, but it's one that shows the genius of Richard Davies succeeding far more often than it fails. Assuredly adept and boldly out-of-step with expectations, this is a borderline-great record, and one that should please fans of Cardinal, Sebadoh (Boy Fay's on this too), and Seventies stuff like solo Harrison, Rockpile, Roxy, and Nick Lowe.

Code Word is out on Friday via Super Secret Records.

Monday, October 15, 2018

"I Am A Hopeless Optimist At Heart": My 2018 Interview With Martin Phillipps Of The Chills

The music of The Chills has meant a lot to me over the course of the last 30 years. There's something smart about the indie-pop of this group that has made Martin Phillipps one of my very favorite songwriters and performers. The band is riding high after the release of their most recent album, Snow Bound, out now via Fire Records, and reviewed by me here. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a superb record, full of life and energy, and the sort of release that really makes me happy as a fan and a reviewer.

What also made me really happy this year, as it did in 2015, is that I got a chance to sit down and talk to Martin Phillips about Snow Bound and other Chills-related matters.

Glenn, kenixfan: Snow Bound has a slightly more holistic feel than Silver Bullets, to my mind. Is this, not Silver Bullets, really the first full record you've produced with the new line-up of The Chills? How did the other band members contribute to the creation of these songs?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: The whole band has been involved with both the Silver Bullets and Snow Bound albums, but there was material (or parts and ideas for material) which dated back a long way for Silver Bullets whereas nearly all of the parts for Snow Bound have arrived since the previous album. The band were therefore much more involved in the development of the new material and had a much better idea of what I was trying to achieve. They also were able to put forth better ideas and solutions to musical problems than I could possible have come up with by myself.

Glenn, kenixfan: Can you speak to the role of producer Greg Haver on this one? Snow Bound has a very clean and uncluttered sound.

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: On the album Silver Bullets I didn't want to work with a "name" producer as I was determined to find our own atmosphere and style and bring the sound of The Chills up to date using only an excellent engineer/co-producer -- who we were lucky to have in Brendan Davies. But with Snow Bound, having shown everyone where we could be heading with our albums, it was time to work with a good producer who could take us further than we were able to go ourselves. Greg Haver was excellent in understanding what I was trying to achieve and also in seeing the whole potential of the band to take the material to a higher level. He respected my song-writing but was prepared to push me further when necessary. He also has an excellent team who he works with to achieve the wonderful audio quality that many are commenting on.

Glenn, kenixfan: Your music has admittedly helped me when I've been depressed as a young man, and yet I read that you have suffered from depression in the last few decades which seems astonishing given how "positive" so much of the music of The Chills seems. How much of the tone and mood of your more recent songs is a result of these battles you've faced?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: I guess that one of the problems with depression is that if someone puts on an outwardly bright front or sends out positive messages then most people can miss the darkness that may often be eating away at the person behind those messages. This is something I am not alone in having to battle with constantly and life will always provide new fuel for that fire -- but it can also bring a sense of acceptance as we grow older and learn to see our situation, and that of others, with a much broader view.

Glenn, kenixfan: Songs like "Time To Atone" and "In Harmony" could be read as both personal and political. Has the way you write lyrics changed in the last few decades?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: The main thing that has changed for me is that I now tend to filter out the more frivolous material and concentrate on what seems more important because I believe we live in a time of urgency and I don't wish to add more mediocre material to the growing heap of disposable rubbish being produced these days. That is not to say that there is not also more wonderful and adventurous music and art being produced now around the world than perhaps ever before, because I believe that could be the case, but one may have to look that little bit harder to find it.

Glenn, kenixfan: One of the things that drew me to the music of The Chills so many years ago was what seemed a lack of ironic detachment; I can think of no other songwriter who could get away with songs as directly affirmative as "Look For The Good in Others And They'll See The Good In You" and "Heavenly Pop Hit", for example, and have the results work so well. Do you write for yourself or do you write for some imagined audience?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: I began by trying to create the albums that I wished to listen to myself but could find no-one else actually creating at the time. Now I feel I have made some of that music become real and that I have also inspired other people to explore similar areas. But the downside of that is that I can never really separate the final product from the memories of what went into its creation, so I can never simply enjoy it as others might when hearing it unaccompanied by the baggage of the back-stories. So I keep moving forward because, in some ways, I am a hopeless optimist at heart.

Glenn, kenixfan: Is "Deep Belief" the result of your recent health battles? A hymn to finally turning a corner and getting healthy, if not cured?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: I think that "Deep Belief" is one of the more important songs I have written and it deals with that knowledge which comes with maturity but also having to face the reality of one's own mortality. Yet it also acknowledges the realization that you have not therefore been given the right to preach to others about your own beliefs just because you are starting to experience the calmness of acceptance.

Glenn, kenixfan: Looking back at the last 30 years of The Chills, do you ever feel like you've had to compromise your vision as an artist and performer?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: I feel that we have generally been very fortunate in that we have existed largely outside of the trends of the mainstream and we have also been lucky enough to have produced a string of catchy tunes which have made, for many, The Chills music a recognizable sound after all this time. And that is without us having to bow unduly to the pressure of adapting what we naturally do to achieve more far-reaching commercial success.

Glenn, kenixfan: What's next for this iteration of The Chills? Any U.S. tour in the near-future?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: Plans are being finalized to tour and promote Snow Bound in the U.S. and also the U.K. and E.U. as early in 2019 as is possible. There is a feature-length major documentary about The Chills being released early next year which will also be needing our promotion. Then we will be working on the next album because we feel we are in a very positive place again and that we need to keep creating and moving forward.

Glenn, kenixfan: Will the box set ever see wider re-release?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: The Secret Box box-set was really a kind of official bootleg release but we are hoping to re-issue it in a much expanded form with improved quality and replacing tracks like the BBC sessions (which are now available separately) with other lost gems from our catalogue of rarities.

(NOTE: the BBC sessions are available here from Fire Records, and the disc was reviewed by me here).

Glenn, kenixfan: Thank you so very much for your music and your time today! All the best Martin!

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: Thank you and thank you for the interesting questions. It does make a difference.

Snow Bound by The Chills is out now via Fire Records.

More details on The Chills via the band's official website, or their official Facebook page.

Special Thanks to Scott Muir for helping set up this interview!

[Photo: Alorx]

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Heads Up About The New Anna Connolly Album (Featuring Joe Lally Of Fugazi, Stefan Bauschmid Of Numbers Station, And Devin Ocampo Of The Effects)

The new album from D.C. figure Anna Connolly, After Thoughts, out tomorrow, is a set of bracing post-punk. If some of these numbers seem like skewed folk, there are a few more that suggest pioneers like Kristin Hersh or PJ Harvey.

"21" is a frank confessional that is surprisingly astute and clear-headed, no easy nostalgia for the early days of the scene here, while the affecting "Stars" sees Connolly offer up a Joni Mitchell-like vocal performance even as the rough chords underneath her voice suggest bands from Dischord in the Nineties. That makes sense given the presence of Joe Lally on this album. The Fugazi bassist adds subtle inflections here, as does drummer Stefan Bauschmid (Numbers Station, Garland of Hours). The lilting "Jewels" haunts, while the rougher "Three Times" serves as a superb showcase for Anna's vocals, and the production by Devin Ocampo (The Effects). After Thoughts closes with an austere cover of "Copper" by Shellac. The track for me echoed the sort of thing Kristin Hersh frequently pursues, poetic post-punk for lack of a better term.

Connolly has poured a lot of herself into these tracks and a listener is rewarded with music that is at times confessional but never too confrontational. After Thoughts was a record that was surprisingly easy to dive into, numbers like "Drink Up My Love" seeping into the ears like honey being poured. That Anna didn't simply rely on her own gifts as a singer is to be commended as the bits and pieces here that momentarily punctuate or complement the tunes make this record something special indeed.

After Thoughts by Anna Connolly is out tomorrow. Anna Connolly is playing a record release show in D.C. tomorrow night at Dew Drop Inn.

More details on Anna Connolly via

Monday, October 8, 2018

"I Don't Want The Spell To Be Broken": My Interview With Lawrence (Felt, Denim, Go-Kart Mozart)

In early 1987, my friend Wolfgang bought Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986) from Felt on vinyl at Olsson's in Georgetown largely because the album cover vaguely reminded us of the front of Filigree and Shadow by This Mortal Coil. I can still recall Wolfgang's frantic call the next morning to say, "This sounds nothing like 4AD stuff! The singer sounds like Tom Verlaine!" As we were also fans of Television, this was seen as a good thing.

Sometime after that, I got Gold Mine Trash on import cassette, likely at the same store, and I drove around D.C. for ages memorizing those singles, and the instrumentals on side two. And that's how I fell in love with Felt.

The folks at Cherry Red Records have this year been putting out remastered editions of all 10 albums the band Felt released in the Eighties. The reissues have been offered up in two batches, reviewed by me here, and here. This is the sort of undertaking that fans have long deserved, the albums from the band having long needed this level of attention. And while front-man Lawrence has pursued other projects after the demise of Felt, it's these records that have secured his place in the hearts of anyone who loves UK indie-rock.

I sat down today to call Lawrence, to discuss the new Felt reissues, Denim, and Go-Kart Mozart. Having read recent interviews with the man who is nothing if not an enigma, I didn't know what to expect. In other pieces, there are indications of recent hardships suffered by Lawrence, hardships that have prevented him from being as famous as he surely deserves to be, and as famous as he longs to be. Knowing all that stuff, I was pleasantly surprised by how gracious Lawrence is with his genius and his time.

"I can't remember the actual seed of it anymore," he says describing the idea of reissuing the Felt albums. "It seemed to be the right time for Cherry Red," he explains, "but I was never satisfied [in the past]." As he says, "This was the last chance to get it right," a process that has taken six years.

When asked if he is happy with the albums now, Lawrence said, "Absolutely. We made those 10 albums really fast in a decade," making what he calls "minor mistakes" at times. "But, at this point, I was able to rectify [any minor mistakes]."

In some instances, those "minor mistakes" were really the results of others. The Robin Guthrie mixes of the tracks on album number 4 famously remained a big issue to be fixed. As for Ignite the Seven Cannons (1985), Lawrence has gone back, having kept the tapes of the six vocal tracks from the release, to "re-model," in his words, the album.

Having been present at the mixing of "Primitive Painters", Lawrence explains that it still sounds great, "because I was part of" the mixing with Robin Guthrie, unlike the other selections on the album. And "'Primitive Painters' has not been need to mess about with that." As for the rest of the record, he elaborates: "You couldn't hear the songs for the production. Robin Guthrie from the Cocteau Twins produced the record...and I wasn't allowed to be in the studio when he mixed the songs." That lack of input from Lawrence allowed Robin too much of a free rein and, as Lawrence explains, "he covered the songs with a blanket of effects." By making the songs on Ignite The Seven Cannons "shine" now, Lawrence has dramatically restored the album to its intended glory, and one gets a real sense of the front-man's genius here in this noble and well-intentioned mission to save this LP. Long-time fans may be surprised (as I was upon first listen), but this version of Ignite the Seven Cannons is how it was always intended to sound, and Lawrence's work with John A. Rivers has removed "the fog over the tracks." As Lawrence explains, "All I've done is peel the fog away," partly to elevate the sound of Maurice Deebank's gutiar "right to the top" of the album's mix.

This discussion really illuminated for me how involved Lawrence has been with the 2018 reissues of the Felt records. While Cherry Red rightly has a lot riding on these, it remains Lawrence's project, his intentions guiding this effort to shape the releases that will continue to grow "the cult of Felt," as he calls it.

Naturally, I had to ask some questions about a few of my favorite Felt songs, songs I know and love because of the versions on Gold Mine Trash. The demo versions of "Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow" and "Dismantled King is Off the Throne" found on that compilation are the result of the band being poised to sign to a Warner Brothers label, a proposed offshoot from Cherry Red. Lawrence and the band recorded those for that Warners pitch, but having nowhere else to place the cuts once it seemed Warner Brothers was not going to sign the band, he placed those two John A. Rivers-produced versions on Gold Mine Trash (1987). "We had to do demos for Warners, basically," he explains. "I thought it was the perfect place to put them," in order that Gold Mine Trash would not have just album tracks.

For The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988), the eighth album from Felt, Lawrence says, "What I've done, is put it back to the way it originally was." When it was about to come out, "I panicked," and "that's why the original album is an album of two halves," with the instrumentals on side two. But with this 2018 version, he's righted what was a "wrong thing to do," and now he's "gone back to the original album... This is how it was when we actually made The Pictorial Jackson Review" in 1988.

Following the dissolution of Felt, Lawrence launched Denim, a project he agrees one can hear foreshadowing of in the grooves on the final Felt release, Me And A Monkey On The Moon from 1989. "We were trying to get out of an independent ghetto, that's what we were in." And that's a sentiment one gathers applies to both Felt and Denim. "We wanted to be part of the everyday pop world." As for Denim, the need to hit the road to support the band's releases seems to have taken its toll on that group. "We had to do some shows," since the band had to play live to get an audience. "What we're gonna do is, in a couple of years maybe," he says of Denim, "we're probably going to do a Denim box," he indicates, "The three albums, and the single that was never released." But the band was an "idea that was so big, so grand, it couldn't possibly last."

"It's very unusual for someone to have three great bands," he says of what he accomplished with Felt and then Denim. "Go-Kart Mozart was... [taking my] foot off the pedal" Having realized he would never have a hit, he approached the Go-Kart Mozart efforts with a new perspective. "It's not a big commercial venture, it's about having fun...and making some great music with some great musicians." Does Lawrence agree that he might sound liberated here on these recent Go-Kart Mozart releases, like 2017's Mozart's Mini-Mart? "Yeah, I think so." Having released a few albums now, "We're coming to the end of the cycle now. Go-Kart Mozart was about doing four albums really quick, in really quick succession." But, as he explains, "Another one is coming in February [2019]", and then the band will have a break and "wait for people to catch up again."

And while the other projects are certainly important ones, it was with Felt that Lawrence rose to some sort of fame. And it's that band which will assure that Lawrence is rightly heralded as a genius forever.

"We had to wait a long time for the cult of Felt to happen, and I knew that was going to happen. I knew that," Lawrence instructs. And, if fame is the one thing he's never quite entirely grasped, "At the moment, I'm satisfied. Obviously, I'd love to be in a big band," with a bigger level of fame, and one imagines, greater familiarity with newer waves of fans. "I want to be on national television. I want to be famous." But, as he explains, by way of discussing Denim and Felt, and the lack of ambition he sees in other indie musicians, he seems content. "But at the moment I'm satisfied, because the cult [of Felt] is building. It's not like an avalanche. But it's building everyday," he says of the enduring legacy of the band.

And these reissues, this whole A Decade in Music project is a way for Lawrence to correct the record, and the records themselves. As he says, the blogs -- (hopefully not this one) -- have "gotten lots of the facts wrong about the Felt Decade" project, he says, indicating his displeasure with some of the reactions to the 2018 versions of the albums. "There are lots of misrepresentations of what we've done. All I've really done is try to make something really special and beautiful for the fans," he says. And when Lawrence says he's put his "heart and soul" into the project, one realizes how monumental this undertaking has been for the artist. These 2018 reissues of the Felt studio albums are meant to be the final word on the releases, and given the input from Lawrence himself, they certainly should be.

Dismissing any fears that these would need to be reissued again, "This is it," he states. "This is the final look at the decade of Felt." Gold Mine Trash and Bubblegum Perfume are out next year [on vinyl from 1972 Records], but this whole project now with Cherry Red represents the final, purest versions of these 10 Felt albums.

"There's nothing [else] in the can. When we recorded a record, we recorded all the songs we had," he says, "We recorded what we had and everything's been released." And, he stresses, "All I've tried to do is make something really, really special for the fans," he says of these reissues of the Felt albums. "There's no extras at all. I'm really proud of that, and Felt have not joined in the disease," of reissuing everything from sessions, like demos and live albums, which "spoils it, really."

"Sometimes people make too much stuff," he says. "I think I'm in a good place now because the time away gave people a chance to catch up and re-evaluate [the Felt records]," he explains.

"I'll always hold on to that mystery. I've been safeguarding the reputation of Felt for so long even when there was hardly anybody interested," he stresses, "nurturing" the band's image and legacy. And, he adds, "If you say that you're a fan of what I do, please go out and buy a vinyl record. You don't have to buy them all. Just buy one. Don't listen to it on Spotify. If you don't buy the vinyl, you're not a fan. If you don't buy the vinyl, we're gonna lose the chance to make more music."

While Lawrence's music has meant so much to me and many others of my generation, it seems as if the legacy of Felt is one that is to be cherished by Lawrence, and cherished in such a way that it's never tarnished or diluted. And, at times in the interview, I felt like I was simply a happy-and-willing messenger for the conveyance of Lawrence's final word on the band's work.

"I'm going to do my best to make sure nobody writes a biography of Felt," he says. "I do not want Felt to be broken. Felt is about mystery. It's about 'under-the-covers, in-the-dark', and it's not about shining a light on the background of the members, what we did in school, and all that shit." And that's why he says, "I'll never collaborate on a Felt biography."

"I don't want that spell to be broken. I really think that the music stands up for itself."

All the Felt albums are out now via Cherry Red Records.

More details via

Many thanks to Lawrence. Extra special thanks to Matt Ingram from Cherry Red Records for arranging everything. And special thanks to my friend Stan for helping me prep for the interview.

[Photos: PP Hartnett; Deegan; P. Kelly; Band photo by Jane Leonard; Color band photos: PP Hartnett]

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Heads Up About A Brand New EP From Des Demonas

While many of us are still playing that first full-length from Des Demonas a whole lot, a few of us are also looking forward to new tunes being offered up by the D.C.-based band. Now, while the debut Des Demonas, out now on In The Red Records, and reviewed by me here, was a superb album, new music from these guys can only be a good thing.

The new Bay of Pigs EP from the band is, unsurprisingly, superb. Out on November 16 from the Slovenly label, this is a blast of post-punk sure to please fans of this group, and devotees of this esteemed label.

Opener "Bay of Pigs" glides in on a keyboard riff like something off a Tubeway Army single, electro-menace positively oozing out of the speakers. The cut is a progression of what's on Des Demonas but Jacky Cougar's vocals anchor this, his near-drone on the mic an instrument every bit as formidable as the others in the mix, while a fiery, closing guitar solo by Mark Cisneros pushes this further into the ether. The flip, "Skrewz", is punchier, a nice amalgamation of Sex Pistols riffs and faints hints from the hooks of a slow-burner from The Buzzcocks throughout.

There's a real wall of sound-thing here on this EP that suggests Des Demonas have stepped up their sonic attack for 2018 and beyond, their garage rock now louder and more ruthless. Bay of Pigs will be out on November 16 from Des Demonas. Des Demonas by Des Demonas is out now via In The Red Records.

More details on Des Demonas via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: me, 2018]

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Little Jumpy: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Electric Six

The new record from Electric Six, Bride Of The Devil, out today via Metropolis Records, is a blast. A set of tight, punchy pop-punk tunes, the release flies by with more enthusiasm in its grooves than records from newer bands.

"Daddy's Boy" roars like earlier Electric Six numbers with the guitars only louder this time around, while the peppy "(It Gets) (A Little) Jumpy" is a spry bit of guitar-rock, a nice melody wrapped in a studded glove. Elsewhere, the tight "Hades Ladies" buzzes with real bad intent, even as the title cut suggests the best hair metal from the Eighties, the riffs crunchy and the lyrics tongue-in-cheek. Amazingly, on this, album number 14, Dick Valentine manages to sing these cuts with the conviction of a young upstart, the sleazy "You're Toast" another riff-tastic throwback, and "Full Moon Over The Internet" an admirably tuneful bit of alt-rock.

At their best, Electric Six make music that's a bit silly, very loud, and entirely fun. There's not a lot of depth here, of course, but there's a lot of cleverness behind these numbers. That (and a big hook) counts for a lot in my book.

Bride Of The Devil by Electric Six is out today via Metropolis Records.

More details on Electric Six via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional pic]

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Sleeping With Angels Is No Way To Live: A Brief Review Of The New Kristin Hersh Album

There's a point during "No Shade In Shadow", one of the standout tracks on the new Kristin Hersh album, Possible Dust Clouds, out tomorrow on Fire Records, where the whole Kristin Hersh machine grinds-and-churns like the joints of the Tin Man as he stumbles down Yellow Brick Road. If the cut, like many here on this superb record, suggests a new path for this sonic explorer, it seems if Hersh is already on the scent, the ruminative and vaguely-sinister compositions here making up one of her best releases in years.

With multiple Throwing Muses alums and other players in tow (Fred Abong, David Narcizo, Rob Ahlers, and Chris Brady), Kristin here charts territory that juts up against that found on Led Zeppelin IV ("LAX", "Lethe"), and some other stretches that nod in the direction of those who've taken formative inspiration from Hersh herself like PJ Harvey ("Loudmouth"). If lots of Possible Dust Clouds sounds more direct and in-your-face, it's worth noting that this is her first release on Fire Records, and her first since the epic Wyatt At The Coyote Palace in 2016, reviewed by me here. Which is all to say that, something like a fresh start was all but inevitable.

While one might be tempted to fall back to praising "Gin" and "Lady Godiva" since they feel familiar to a long-time fan of Kristin, it's clear that Hersh is interested in stretching here, with the real standouts on Possible Dust Clouds remaining the woozy "Breathe In", and the hard "Tulum", a swampy slow-boil, all undulating bass-lines and caveman drum-thumps. If these numbers, and a few others here, signal Hersh's desire to try some new musical shadings, the lyrics throughout Possible Dust Clouds retain that Muses spark. And even with tempos slowed, and frenzy coiled, Hersh remains an amazing singer, lines like "sleeping with angels is no way to live" (from "No Shade in Shadow") purred as if foreshadowing something wonderful and terrible coming over the horizon.

A rough beast of a record, Possible Dust Clouds has a heavy creak about it that indicates something timeless being brought to life, the neo-primitive hooks here carrying forward Hersh speak-and-beats like Karloff lumbering as Frankenstein's monster. For old school fans of Kristin Hersh -- and are there any other kinds!?! -- Possible Dust Clouds reveals some new tricks in her kit, fresh sinister angles from which she can pursue, or stalk, her own muses.

Possible Dust Clouds is out tomorrow via Fire Records.

More details on Kristin Hersh via

[Photo: Peter Mellekas]

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

My Word's The Only Thing I've Ever Needed: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Cat Power

Cat Power does more with less than perhaps any other musician active in 2018. Her approach on her new album, Wanderer, is minimalist, perhaps, but there's depth here that's lacking in the releases of nearly any other artist making music these days. The record, her first since her escape from Matador Records to Domino Records, is an elegant, nearly elegiac tone poem, the sort of album that manages to feel as light as air and as heavy as the purest blues.

Chan Marshall marries a slight classical piano-figure over the trace of a rumba on the catchy "In Your Face", even as she touches a nerve on "You Get", the rough marriage of a soul hook with an admirably Simone-like stab at a jazz ballad. Throughout Wanderer, there's a real purity in the presentation, Chan's mission seemingly one that aims to strip away everything unnecessary from these compositions.

Now, if that sounds suspiciously like the austere approach one found on a few earlier records from Cat Power, Marshall, thankfully, projects a new vibe of limber confidence here, a cut like "Nothing Really Matters" retaining a power that stuns in its simplicity. If the strut-shuffle of "Woman", a selection with guest vocalist Lana Del Rey, is more direct, Marshall boldly declaring that "my word's the only thing I've ever needed", the hazy "Horizon" pulls us further into the void. The tune is, clearly, one of the highlights here on Wanderer, Chan once again blurring the lines between genres even as she conveys a starkly beautiful, profoundly sorrowful flash of feeling here. This is music that is flush with emotion even as it's remarkably concise, a note or chord never wasted.

Her skill as a performer extends to an exquisite run at the Rihanna hit "Stay", rendered here so perfectly that one forgets this is a cover. A breathtaking piece of work, the cut stands as, frankly, one of the best covers Chan's ever committed to vinyl. Still, for all her skill as an interpreter of others' songs, Chan Marshall remains a stunningly gifted performer of her own compositions. Numbers like "Black" and "Robbin Hood", and a bunch more on Wanderer stick in the memory with the sort of instant immediacy that sets Cat Power up as the heir of artists as diverse as Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, and Laura Nyro, among many others.

Wanderer by Cat Power will be out on Friday via Domino.

More details on Cat Power via her official Facebook page, or her official website.

[Photo: Eliot Lee Hazel]

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Poison: A Quick Review Of The New Album From The David Nance Group

The new album from The David Nance Group, Peaced And Slightly Pulverized, out Friday on the fine Trouble in Mind label, is a strange beast. Equal parts acid rock nostalgia trip and post-rock exploration, it's a formidable release.

Some of the shorter numbers here, like the greasy "Poison", suggest a neat blend of early Royal Trux and Stones-obsessed Primal Scream, while others, like the epic "Amethyst", hint at a seamless melding of the sort of guitar-rock Neil Young favored with Crazy Horse with the mindset of formative Sonic Youth work-outs. The music is, if not accessible, at least brave, the kind of thing that takes skill to pull off. Thankfully, David Nance and his crew can make credible stabs here at this brand of stuff, a number like "In Her Kingdom" roaring past with the fervor that one can find in earlier Bad Seeds selections. If Nance is not quite Nick Cave, he's at least wholly committed to this approach. And if I can't quite love the entirety of Peaced And Slightly Pulverized, I can at least admire its brute force, and the bravado with which the David Nance Group even attempts this sonic attack.

Peaced And Slightly Pulverized is out on Friday via Trouble in Mind Records.

[Photo: Anna Dewey Nance]

Monday, October 1, 2018

Anorak: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Peel Dream Magazine On Slumberland Records

If a record could be said to have time-warping properties, it's likely Modern Meta Physic. The debut full-length from Peel Dream Magazine, out on Friday via Slumberland Records, sounds so much like bits of Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements in spots, that a listener to this NYC-originating band's new release could be forgiven for thinking this was some lost recording from Sadier and co. Now, that said, there's loads more here that suggests a fresh spin on the sort of indie being perpetuated in these grooves. The band might have a song called "Anorak", but even anoraks can advance the form, you know?

Opener "Qi Velocity" purrs with a familiar near-Krautrock rhythm, even as the dreamy "Shenandoah" strays just this side of dream-pop, the strong hook here keeping this from flying away into the ether. Elsewhere, the droning "Deetjen's" nods in the direction of My Bloody Valentine's output right around the time of the Tremolo EP, a nice buzz looping through this, even as the excellent, previously-mentioned "Anorak" put me in mind of stuff from D.C.'s own Unrest.

Now, for all that talk of those other, earlier excellent bands, there's no way to deny how effortlessly Peel Dream Magazine pull all this off. There's a real subtlety here that other bands would have stumbled over. Where it would have been an easy move to lose themselves in feedback, Peel Dream Magazine instead ride easy hooks through the future funk of "Fires", or glide off into a woozy haze on Due To Advances In Modern Tourism", a real highlight here on Modern Meta Physic.

There's something special here on Modern Meta Physic and if, admittedly, some of these numbers sound familiar, at least Peel Dream Magazine manage to make these selections sound fresh too. A listener is likely to feel a renewed, invigorated enthusiasm for this kind of thing thanks to the tuneful offerings here.

Modern Meta Physic by Peel Dream Magazine is out Friday on Slumberland Records.

More details on Peel Dream Magazine via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Migs Govea]

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Nutty: A Word About The New Lost Thelonius Monk Album

The new lost Thelonious Monk album, called Monk and out now via Gearbox Records, is the sort of release that, understandably, has the potential to set the jazz world on fire. The long-player, a concert recorded in Copenhagen in 1963, constitutes an excellent example of Monk's power, if not further proof of the pianist's genius in this era.

Backed by Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, John Ore on double bass, Frankie Dunlop on drums, Monk runs through a mix of standards and originals for an appreciative (and thankfully, quiet) audience in Denmark. An epic "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" showcases Monk's ease with a ballad, the piano lines unfurling like ribbons, while the looser "Monk's Dream" sees Monk choose his notes and chords with expert care even as Rouse boogies up and down the hook with his sax. Throughout this set, Ore is to be commended for serving as the anchor as so much of this concert feels like a duel between two titans, Monk's piano and Rouse's sax battling it out for a listener's undivided attention. On "Nutty", Thelonious exercises some lyrical restraint amid Charlie's squawks. If the runs on the keys on this one are nearly gentle, Rouse seems to be the one carrying the melody forward, Monk's piano-work so subtle here.

For those of us who, like me, positively love that Columbia Records Monk stuff, Monk is absolutely essential as it features the players for those releases at the peak of their powers. The folks at Gearbox Records are to be thanked profusely for putting this out on a variety of formats (download, vinyl, and compact disc).

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Space Rinse: A Brief Review Of The New Album From GØGGS (Ty Segall)

The super-group GØGGS is Chris Shaw (vocals), Ty Segall (guitars), Michael Anderson (bass), and Charles Moothart (drums, guitar). The guys have worked together before -- Ty having teamed up with Moorhart on that Fuzz release a while back -- but perhaps never in the service of something so hard. Pre Strike Sweep, out as of yesterday on In The Red Records, reveals GØGGS to be the sort of band that may be up to something nefarious.

If the title cut here has a near-playful strut, the more in-your-face "Space Rinse" is an unholy racket, bits of hardcore blended with real noise-nik stuff. Elsewhere, GØGGS uses the longer "Vanity" to explore the sort of territory Black Sabbath once charted on numbers like "Electric Funeral" early in their reign. Lots of what's here on Pre Strike Sweep is furious proto-metal and a bit unhinged, things nearly going off the rails on "Disappear" and other neo-grunge-y selections here.

To their credit, Ty and his crew keep things moving and focused in order to deliver the maximum punch. And while lots of Pre Strike Sweep feels like a fun side-project for these guys, so much more has a genuine sense of purpose. GØGGS have put out a record here that feels like that of a real band, whatever the hell that means, and Ty Segall and his boys are to be commended for making this work so well, and feel so legitimately and wonderfully unsavory.

Pre Strike Sweep is out now via In The Red Records.

[Photo: Denee Segall]

Friday, September 28, 2018

Dark But Bright: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Ana Da Silva (The Raincoats) And Phew

The new collaboration from Ana da Silva (The Raincoats) and Japanese punk-and-noise pioneer Phew is a record that's almost entirely not what you might expect it to be. Island, out today, is a truly adventurous exploration of textures and soundscapes that both provoke and soothe.

The more-or-less title song, "Islands" coasts in on a glide of electronic washes, a glistening surface made into a composition, while the percolating "Strong Winds" sees a jittery beat roughed up by bursts of static and whirring noise. The two musicians here are both experimenting and enjoying themselves, the cuts uniformly easy to enjoy even as they push at the boundaries of what constitutes indie-pop. Elsewhere, "Bom Tempo" purrs and throbs, dark undercurrents coming to the surface, while the more playful "Konichiwa!" offers up some vocal samples and more obviously-placed beats in the service of thoroughly-enjoyable electro-pop. If album closer "Dark But Bright" suggests a more abrasive direction, thankfully Ana da Silva and Phew didn't pursue it here on Island.

Out now, Island by Ana da Silva and Phew is one of the most challenging, and most enjoyable, records of this busy release schedule.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Things To Keep Up With: A Brief Review Of The New Hater Album

It was only natural for Hater to modulate their sound when they made the leap from PNKSLM to Fire Records. And while the band's new record Siesta, out on Fire Records tomorrow, reveals a refinement of the Swedish band's approach, it's, like those earlier releases on that other wonderful label, just sublime. This is really, really special music.

In the past, Hater have sounded a tiny bit like Bettie Serveert, and there are moments here where I still feel that way ("Closer", "Things To Keep Up With"), but there are loads more where this band's music hits new transcendent peaks ("It's So Easy", "Your Head Your Mind"). At their very best, Hater whip up a rich stew on Siesta of indie-pop inspiration-points into something fresh, faint traces of The Cure peaking through the seams of "Cut Me Loose", or a near-Cocteau Twins-like elegance in "From The Bottom Of Your Heart", the first selection on this one. Caroline Landahl is really a fantastic vocalist, and she imbues these cuts with heart and a bit of mystery. It's not fair to call this shoegaze, but there's the same sort of vibe here that carried so many of those recent Slowdive songs to success, the languid "Fall Off", for example, or the cathartic whirl of "Seems So Hard" near the end of the album, being the best examples of what I'm talking about.

Siesta is an album that's easy to love. It's also the sort of album that one can positively sink into. Quietly euphoric, the tunes on Siesta reveal what a great band Hater has become.

Siesta is out tomorrow via Fire Records.

More details on Hater via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Kamila Schneltser]

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Oh Yeah: A Quick Review Of The New Mudhoney Album

The new album from Mudhoney, Digital Garbage, out on Friday via Sub Pop, is full of the exact kind of unhinged, unstable, unsafe alternative rock that 2018 oh so desperately needs. Who ever knew that one day the guys in Mudhoney would be hailed as pop saviors, eh?

From the Iggy-strut of opener "Nerve Attack" and on to the more hard-charging "Paranoid Core", it's clear that the boys -- vocalist Mark Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, bassist Guy Maddison, and drummer Dan Peters -- are intent on being topical this time out on Digital Garbage, or at least hold a mirror up to these awful times. While "Please Mr. Gunman" seems to tackle the rash of mass shootings, and our propensity to let them happen over and over again, the Nuggets-flavored social media-skewering swirl of "Kill Yourself Live" mixes a throaty vocal turn from Arm with some stellar kit attacks from Peters. The cut, one of the real highlights here, manages to be sorta smart and altogether unseemly. If the tunes on Digital Garbage seem a bit punchier than lots of stuff from the band's peers from that first wave of grunge, it's as if the band wanted to remind listeners of the kind of garage rock that so many of those acts were inspired by in the first place.

The wonderfully-titled and surging "Hey Neanderfuck" is a savaging of the worst sorts of fellows from our society, while the more direct "Prosperity Gospel" drives a car into the heart of the sun, Stooges-hooks mixed up with a sort of rough metallic kick. Frankly, the only misstep here on Digital Garbage is the blues-tinged one-two-punch of "Prosperity Gospel" and "Messiah's Lament" near the end of the record, before "Oh Yeah" comes in to push us all right up and into chaos.

The strength of these players this time out, especially Mark Arm and Dan Peters, seems perfectly showcased here, Arm having grown into an uncanny approximation of "Loose"-era Iggy Pop and Peters punching far above his weight, Moon-like, on the skins. Steve Turner and Guy Maddison shine here too, but it seems at times that Peters' percussive skills are the things that are both pushing this whole unholy endeavor forward, and beating out its time as it runs into the void. Digital Garbage is boss, babies, and I'm thankful that Mudhoney are here to save us all.

Digital Garbage is out on Friday via Sub Pop.

Follow Mudhoney via the band's official Facebook page, or via the band's official website.

[Photo: Emily Rieman]

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

You Have Got To Feel It: A Brief Review Of The New St. Lenox Album

An artist's music, it's said, should stand on its own. And while I sometimes believe that, I also believe that sometimes the back-story of the artist informs a listener's experience in such a way that it would be silly to not at all acknowledge it. Would the new St. Lenox album, Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love, out Friday on Anyway Records, succeed on its own, a listener unaware that Andrew Choi was a gay, Korean-American man from the heartland of this country and now a lawyer in NYC? Sure, yes. The poetry here would make that happen.

Now, that said, knowing Choi's background adds a depth to things here, a richness that informs the intellect, even as the tunes touch the heart. From the heartfelt "First Date", and onward to "More Than Romantic Love", it's clear that St. Lenox has this uncanny skill at making his specifics things that we can feel, his voice an instrument that can convey so many universal truths by casually rattling off this one guy's own personal story. One marvels at how easily Choi turns "Don't Ever Change Me New York City" into both his own personal anthem and a near-rallying cry for those struggling in 2018 to not sell out. A cry of the heart that's remarkably observed and related, the track is utterly unlike anything else you're going to here this year, Choi's voice a reassuring reminder that real art can be crafted in these dark days of Trump.

If "The Hungry Years" reveals some personal details of Choi's family, the realities of being the child of immigrants in Middle America, it also punches with a broad and bracing force, flashes of easy electro-pop and "Dancing In The Dark"-style optimism-in-the-face-of-defeat blending nicely. Choi, like The Boss before him, manages to take very American forms and bend them to his vision, his POV informing the material with a kind of soul every bit as valid as that pumped out for decades from Motown. When Choi turns his gaze further out, like on the stately "Vincent Van Gogh", he manages to frame the struggles in the song in stark relief against those of the Dutch painter. While that sounds presumptuous and silly on paper, it works spectacularly here, Choi's voice quivering on the chorus. A long-time fan of St. Lenox should rightly see this track, and the straightforward "You Have Got To Feel It", as proof that there are still new avenues for Choi to travel as a performer. "You have got to feel it, baby, you have got to feel it..." indeed!

So much of what's here on Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love is so invigorating that a listener is really pressed to not rave about this. And if part of that urge to tell your friends about St. Lenox is due to how different his work is from that of 99% of what's out there in indie-pop, that's okay. Representation matters, as they say, and Andrew Choi is owning that (and on multiple levels). The American Dream refined, dissected, and re-defined effortlessly, Choi's Art is never oppressive, even as it imparts some deep truths with wit and ease. There's a vibrancy here -- in the style, the words, the performance -- that is downright exciting. Informed by his own unique experiences, Choi's made one of his most universally-appealing St. Lenox records so far. Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love is a wonderful, wonderful album.

Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love is out on Friday via Anyway Records.

More details on St. Lenox via the official St. Lenox Facebook page, and the official St. Lenox website.

[Photo: Uncredited photo from the St. Lenox Facebook page]

Monday, September 24, 2018

Gone Tomorrow: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Exploded View

The new album from Exploded View, Obey, out Friday on Sacred Bones, is an affecting release, the sort of bravely-iconoclastic sonic offering that suggests a real desire to strike out into uncharted territory. If the album is palatable and challenging at the same time, that says a lot about the skills of the 3 players here: Annika Henderson, Hugo Quezada (Robota), and Martin Thulin (Crocodiles).

At times, like on the bleeping "Open Road", one supposes that this band owe a debt or two to Dots and Loops-era Stereolab, even as the more sinister "Dark Stains" buzzes with the sort of bad intent found on certain Throbbing Gristle records. Elsewhere, the elegant "Gone Tomorrow" and the title cut venture closer to traditional forms of electro-pop, even as the stark "Sleepers" sees Henderson deliver an arch, ice princess-sort of vocal performance, equal parts Sadier and Nico. The jittery "Rant" and rough "Come On Honey" suggest another path, dashes of Non and Mary Chain atop a techno throb.

Exploded View have produced something a bit abrasive here, and yet it's also lovely in spots. Obey straddles a line between the truly alternative and something closer to alt-rock, Exploded View favoring an approach that balances norm-challenging with a desire to maintain accessibility.

Obey is out on Friday via Sacred Bones.

More details on Exploded View via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Exploded View]

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Selfies In The Sunset: Play New Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) Video Here!

The lead singer for Super Furry Animals consistently amuses and enlightens. His latest record, Babelsberg, out now on Rough Trade, and reviewed by me here, is a special thing. Full of elegant alt-rock, and flashes of bright chamber-pop, the long-player reaffirms Gruff's special place in the world of indie.

One of the better tracks from Babelsberg, "Selfies In The Sunset" now has a fine, and funny, video featuring Lily Cole. The video has dropped as Gruff Rhys is heading out on the road abroad and here, including a stop in D.C. at DC9 next month.

More details on Babelsberg and Gruff Rhys' tour via his official website, or his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Delphine Ghosarossian]

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Secret Escapes: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Picturebox

The new album from Picturebox, Escapes, out tomorrow via Gare Du Nord, is perhaps the finest this band has released to date. Fans of The Great Escape-era Blur should find lots to love here. And I can think of no higher praise than that.

Now, even as main-man Robert Halcrow (bass, keys, guitar and lead vocals) sounds a tad like Albarn on the sly "Divvy Cabs", or on the languid and lovely "Sirens", there's loads more here on Escapes that reveals debts owed to The Kinks, XTC (in their The Big Express phase), or even Television Personalities. The fun "I Got The Pox" nods in the direction of "I'm A Boy" from The Who, or even something from Jilted John, the effect a gently-unhinged one that made me smile. The track seems a distant cousin of stuff from Go-Kart Mozart, and drummer Ian Button was featured on the last album from that Lawrence-fronted act. Elsewhere, the title cut borrows a bit from the glory days of power pop to give energy to an infectious hook, while the elegant "Nice Boys' Mobile Disco" again channels Go-Kart Mozart and even Luke Haines for a cut that's at once elegiac and a bit silly.

On Escapes, Halcrow and the rest of his crew -- Ben Lockwood, Button, Alex Williams, Jack Hayter, and Matthew Dutra -- manage to make this material seem entirely original despite the bits and pieces that clearly owe so much to earlier pioneers like, say, Martin Newell and Andy Partridge. Escapes works so well because Halcrow and company exercise a light touch. Nothing feels forced here, and the strong melodies and clever lyrics shine with a listener left to sort of marvel at how refined the Picturebox approach has become in just the space of a few years.

More details on Picturebox via the band's official Facebook page, or via the Gare Du Nord website. Escapes is out tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How Far Is Spaced-Out? A Brief Review Of The New Album From Lonnie Holley

The new album from Lonnie Holley, MITH, out this Friday on Jagjaguwar, is a transcendent thing, the sort of record that illuminates, educates, and invigorates. Not since the peak years of Patti Smith has an artist really tried to bring the worlds of Art and rock together like this. Bits of poetry bump up against riffs, rhythms caress vocals, and it's all in the service of something that aims so much higher than most of what's out there right now.

The timely and urgent "I'm A Suspect" sees Holley blend his soulful voice with free jazz and atmospherics, while the excellent "How Far Is Spaced-Out?" skirts the edges of coherence, a Sun Ra-like sense of performance imbuing the cut with a loose verve. Elsewhere, on the harrowing and epic "I Snuck Off The Slave Ship", Holley uses his voice like an instrument, purring and roaring underneath and around the jazz and ambient passages. The song is nearly 18 minutes long and seems the sort of bold and brave endeavor that only an artist of Holley's stature would attempt. A Big Music that is nearly impossible to pin down to one genre, the cut reaches out and grabs the soul, quite frankly. "I Woke Up In A Fucked Up America" is far more direct, the necessary anthem for these awful times, while the lighter "There Was Always Water" recalls Monk and Mingus even with Lonnie's plaintive vocals over top of things. There's a near-funky looseness on album closer "Sometimes I Wanna Dance", Holley pulling everything together here in order to leave a listener with something vaguely hopeful after the earlier, starker selections.

MITH is a staggering work, the sort of album that will rightly be feted on year-end lists. Lonnie Holley has done some serious stuff here, but it's a release that rewards a listener, despite the heaviness of the subjects covered within. An adept visual artist, Holley is equally adept here as a musician.

MITH is out via Jagjaguwar on Friday.

Follow Lonnie Holley via his official Facebook page, or his official website.

[Photo: Tim Duffy]

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Heads Up About The New Album From Skeeter Enoch Thompson Of Scream

That guy is Skeeter Enoch Thompson. The world knows him as the bassist in harDCore legends Scream but now he's gone and recorded a solo record. That the album, The Book Of Enoch In E Minor, is full of ferocious rock-and-roll shouldn't be a surprise, but I think a few folks are going to be impressed at how far outside the confines of hardcore punk Skeeter strays here.

Opener "Andalusian Dog" roars in the fashion of early material from The Cult or Hanoi Rocks, even as the more adventurous "Spoiled To The Facts Of..." offers up flashes of funk and dashes of reggae, the insinuating rhythm one of the highlights of this album. Elsewhere, a rough cover of "Down In The Hole" by Tom Waits charms, while the fierce "You Wanna See Me Bleed?" sees Skeeter at his best as a singer and performer, the cut a deft blend of both punk and metal forms. And while Scream took some chances, broadening the palette of punk, Skeeter pushes things a bit further with "Dirt", a languid near-blues-y work-out with some excellent guitar hooks.

Lots of us know and love Skeeter for everything he's brought to this city's legacy of harDCore, but it's clear that the guy has many skills as a performer and musician. And for many fans, it is a real pleasure to hear Skeeter venture into new territory, and succeed so admirably.

The Book Of Enoch In E Minor by Skeeter Enoch Thompson is out now via CDbaby, and other online retailers.

[Top photo: me, 2012]

Monday, September 17, 2018

Written In Lightning: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Mutual Benefit

The new album from Mutual Benefit, Thunder Follows The Light, out Friday on Transgressive, is a lovely piece of work. I suppose there's already a following around Jordan Lee, AKA Mutual Benefit, but I'm a bit late to that party. Having heard this new release, I'm now firmly on-board here as a fan of this guy.

Opener "Written in Lightning" pursues a path once trod by Jon Brion and the artists he's produced, while the achingly-beautiful "Storm Cellar Heart" coos with the sort of gentle melodic grace found on certain Lennon records, and late-period Elliott Smith offerings. Elsewhere, "Come to Pass" succeeds thank to a faint folk-y hook, while the elegant "No Dominion" purrs by with a real neo-classical sense of deliberation. Lee has a knack for crafting compositions that feel like ornate contraptions with some of the pieces removed. At times, like on "Mountains Shadow", his music makes me think of early efforts by Ed Harcourt, but Jordan Lee seems to owe less to forefathers like Tom Waits, say, than Harcourt does, and that absence of messiness adds a real vibe of care to things. And what Lee is doing here is presenting an updating of familiar chamber pop forms, albeit in decidedly modern trappings.

Fans of Radiohead ballads, Badly Drawn Boy, and Philip Glass, should find many things to love here. Thunder Follows The Light is lovely and contemplative, and yet never pretentious. Jordan Lee as Mutual Benefit has grounded his material in such a way that each cut shines around a central hook, the pieces around the hook carefully-chosen ornamentation designed to remind a listener what a great songwriter is capable of.

Thunder Follows The Light is out on Friday via Transgressive.

More details on Mutual Benefit via his official Facebook page, or his official website.

[Photo: Ebru Yildiz]

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Here In The Shadows: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Film School (Featuring Adam Wade Of Jawbox, Shudder To Think)

The band Film School makes music that's perched somewhere between that of Swervedriver and Slowdive. To suggest that the tunes found on the band's newest album, Bright To Death, were shoegaze would not be entirely wrong. Still, there's a lot more life here than that genre-label might suggest, and things are buoyed considerably by the presence of stellar drummer Adam Wade (Jawbox, Shudder To Think) on lots of the cuts.

"Don't Send My Love" shimmers and chimes, shades of early Church singles popping up here, while the bright "Bye Bye Bird" offers up a faint hint of the sort of electro-throb that propelled many an O.M.D. or New Order single in the Eighties. If Film School are interested in the textures of that era, they are also keen to update the sounds for a new century. The excellent "Two In Sun" is a model of how to marry a melody to a pristine arrangement, and every bit as affecting as the slower numbers from that recent Ride record, even as "The Celebration" goes all-in on the sort of twitchy New Wave that soundtracked an era between post-punk and alt-rock. If this superb cut sounds a bit like, say, both Bauhaus and Wire Train (think "Chamber of Hellos"), that's the highest praise I could give the music of Film School. I wouldn't want to label this group a retro-act but I do think that by highlighting the portions of this record that feel so familiar, a prospective listener can get a better idea of what these superb musicians are capable of, and the ease with which they blend some worthy influences.

Bright To Death is out now via HausKat Records and the link below.

More details on Film School via the band's official Facebook page, or via the band's official website.

[Photo: Howard Wise]

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ivory Past: A Quick Review Of The Next 5 Felt Reissues From Cherry Red Records

Following on from their reissues of the first 5 albums from Felt earlier this year, the fine folks at Cherry Red Records are set to offer up reissues of the next 5 (and final to date) albums from the band. Collected here in a box-set are Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986), Poem Of The River (1987), The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988), Train Above The City (1988), and Me And A Monkey On The Moon (1989), along with scattered singles. The releases cover both the peaks of this band's output, and the odd detours they were to take later in their career.

Let's dive in, shall we?

Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986)

When people talk about Felt, the sound of this record is what they're really talking about. "Rain Of Crystal Spires" and "Grey Streets" positively chime, even as Martin Duffy's organ takes a more prominent role in conveying the melodic aspirations of this band. If a few numbers here sound a bit like contemporaries Lloyd Cole and The Commotions ("Gather Up Your Wings And Fly", "Down But Not Yet Out"), it's likely that Lawrence was, like Cole, revealing a huge debt owed to Tom Verlaine, and a smaller one due to Bob Dylan. Still, there's no mistaking that this is British indie, and for the morbid wit displayed here ("All The People I Like Are Those That Are Dead"), a listener would be right in holding this band's work in 1986 right up there with that of The Smiths.

Poem Of The River (1987)

Produced by the legendary Mayo Thompson (The Red Krayola), Poem Of The River (1987) sees the band's sound expanded a bit, enough to take in the languid "She Lives By The Castle" as well as the brief "Stained Glass Windows In The Sky", an easy, organ-fueled swirl. Perhaps nothing here is as adventurous as "Riding On The Equator", which, at nearly 9 minutes, sees Felt venture into new territory even as familiar guitar-figures (played by front-man Lawrence himself) trace patterns that one could almost say prefigured the work of shoegaze bands not so long after this.

The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988)

Released here in slightly-altered running order, 1988's The Pictorial Jackson Review features some lovely, spry numbers (the bright "Apple Boutique", the Lou Reed-aping "Ivory Past"), even as a few other cuts here ("Tuesday's Secrets", "Christopher Street") seem to prefigure the sort of jangle-rock acts that would, in the early Nineties, name-check Felt as a big influence. A strong contender for being their most consistent long-player, The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988) sees Lawrence at the height of his powers, his best compositions here ("Jewels Are Set In Crowns", "Don't Die On My Doorstep") offering proof of the man's talents and examples of his knack for both a hook and an effect.

Train Above The City (1988)

Train Above The City (1988) is a mess. It's a record that I really don't feel bad about not loving. More a curiosity than an essential release, the brief offering sees Martin Duffy and Gary Ainge deliver an album's worth (barely) of near-jazzy instrumentals. And, as if it needed to be said, without Lawrence, selections like "On Weegee's Sidewalks" and "Run Chico Run" are nothing more than tracks that sort of make you scratch your head. Bully to Lawrence for letting the band put this out under the Felt name as the move seems more astute and clever now than it did then, when it seemed like an act of career suicide.

Me And A Monkey On The Moon (1989)

The final Felt album, Me And A Monkey On The Moon (1989) offers up both familiar moments and quick flashes of a new style in the band's arsenal. Produced by Adrian Borland (The Sound), the record finds Lawrence adding more players than in the past, even going so far as to include B.J. Cole on pedal guitar. Some of what's here works spectacularly ("Free"), but parts of this ("New Day Dawning", "Down An August Path") seem like leftovers from a Dire Straits record. There was no way that Lawrence could have produced such great music for so long, and after nearly a decade, one can't be surprised that quality finally flagged a bit here. And, for all that snark on my part, Me And A Monkey On The Moon does contain "Mobile Shack", a Sixties-tinged ramble, and the simply-effective "Get Out Of My Mirror", a neat approximation of "Foggy Notion"-era Lou and the Velvets.

Spread throughout this batch of reissues from Cherry Red, are a few of the absolutely essential singles from Felt's back-catalog, notably "I Will Die With My Head In Flames", the sublime and affecting "The Final Resting Of The Ark", and "Primitive Painters", an utterly-transcendent collaboration with members of the Cocteau Twins. Felt were, in some ways, a singles band, and that case can be made just by listening to these 10 or so singles from this set. And yet, the albums here show a real progression of Lawrence and his assorted band-mates. Frankly, there remains more variety on these final 5 Felt albums than I remembered from the era, and only a churlish old grump would deny that the band took some spectacular chances, and succeeded far more times than people remember. The building blocks of the output of every indie band you've listened to in the last 20 years are here, really, and there's no other way to explain just how essential this handful of records is.

You can order Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986), Poem Of The River (1987), The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988), Train Above The City (1988), and Me And A Monkey On The Moon (1989), from Cherry Red Records now.