Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Made That Way: A Few Words About The New Strobe Talbot (Jad Fair) Album

The band Strobe Talbot is probably fairly counted as a Half Japanese side-project, given the presence of Jad Fair here. That the band -- Fair, Mick Hobbs, and Benb Gallaher, and assorted players -- have made a fine record without being near each other says something remarkable about the current state of the recording industry. Funland, out now via Moone Records, is a boisterous record and one that's full of wild invention, and a whole lot of heart. I think most Jad Fair projects could be described that way, eh?

If stuff like "Superstar" is brightly-optimistic, numbers like the silly-but-great "Werewolf of the Timberland" nod back to some of the better numbers from recent Half Japanese records. That said, there's something else here, as the retro-flavored "The Awakening" suggests, the backing track recalling Stereolab stuff a bit, while the quick-and-dirty "Made That Way" offers up a minute or so of rollicking charm. Elsewhere, "I Love You" and "Poetic Heart" mine a familiar vein of upbeat, and downright life-affirming, rock of the sort that Jad Fair has sort of become a pioneer of, while "A New Day" and the longer "Pretty Flowers" close out Funland with a kind of lyricism that too few indie-pop acts these days even approach with their material.

Strobe Talbot manages to work up a delightfully charming racket here on Funland, and fans of Half Japanese, Jad Fair's other band, will surely love this one as much as I did. Perhaps a trifle more rockin' than some recent Half Japanese releases, Funland by Strobe Talbot is a record of largely unabashed joy. This is pure pop for positive people.

Funland is out now via Moone Records.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image from label; album cover by Jad Fair]

Sunday, February 25, 2018

With Yesterday In All The Right Places: A Quick Review Of That Fabulous New Candy Opera Reissue

I suppose there's no harm in adding my voice to the swelling online-chorus of voices crowing about the release of 45 Revolutions Per Minute from Candy Opera. The album, out as of Friday officially from Firestation Records, is largely fantastic, and the sort of thing that is rightly going to get called a "revelation", especially since so little of the output of Liverpool's Candy Opera ever saw the light of day, or got any sort of big attention, back in the early Eighties.

"What A Way To Travel" opens the set in spectacular fashion, all From Langley Park to Memphis-styled pop, singer Paul Malone sounding so much like Paddy McAloon here that it's literally scary. Elsewhere, the spry "Fever Pitch" recalls mid-Eighties-era Aztec Camera stuff, while the more subtle "With Yesterday In All The Right Places" suggests even earlier work by Roddy Frame and his crew. It's darn near impossible to listen to 45 Revolutions Per Minute and not itch to place this in some context. And, yes, the music here is so good that, for those of us new to Candy Opera, the only natural response is to highlight how much of this bears favorable comparison to peers like those bands I've already mentioned, as well as Liverpool's own Wild Swans and The Pale Fountains. Less successful are numbers that deviate from these touchstones (the indulgent "Slow Down The Slow Dive", The Style Council-ish "The Gravy Train Run"), but there's still a whole lot to love here on 45 Revolutions Per Minute as "Diane" nods, again, in the direction of McAloon and even mid-career Lloyd Cole and the Commotions stuff, while the rougher "Happy To Be The Plot But Not The Crime" recalls lots of what Roddy Frame was doing on Knife (1984) and subsequent records. If this Candy Opera material had come out back then, the band would surely have been spoken of in the same breath as Aztec Camera.

45 Revolutions Per Minute is an absolutely essential release for anyone interested in this era of British indie, and especially for fans of the bands I've been mentioning as reference points. Candy Opera never got the break they deserved but, perhaps now, with the release of this compilation, there will be some considerable attention thrown their way.

There is a Facebook group dedicated to Candy Opera. 45 Revolutions Per Minute is out now via Firestation Records.

Are We Still There Yet: A Quick Review Of The New Amy Rigby Album

Amy Rigby has been writing great alt-rock for decades. That she's never quite achieved the level of attention she so richly deserves is a mystery to me. On her new record, The Old Guys, Rigby delivers another batch of tunes that are both sardonic and beautiful. She has a real knack for this sort of thing, obviously, and it's worth reminding readers that her material is still rich and masterful.

From the opening number about Philip Roth and Bob Dylan, and on to the lyrical "Are We Still There Yet", Amy Rigby reveals her considerable skills at sharply-observed lyrics even as the melodies ache and swirl. Rigby's art has more in common with that of guys like Elvis Costello and Graham Parker than it does anyone of a younger generation. That said, she brings a trace of Americana to this stuff, especially "place" songs like "Playing Pittsburgh" and "Back From Amarillo" here. There's something lived-in about these cuts, and when Rigby references her hometown of Pittsburgh, a listener feels a part of something confessional and truthful, and wildly tuneful. Elsewhere, the lyrical "Robert Altman" offers up a playful ode to the director, while "Bob" is the second song on The Old Guys to reference Dylan. It is a fine track, and very nearly a standout here next to the title cut.

At her best here, Rigby is slyly taking aim at her male peers, and a few male artistic pioneers, and leveling a few keenly-observed shots their way. Her attitude is one of both respect and awareness of the degrees of human frailty all around her, even among "The Old Guys", those who've been put up on a pedestal as artistic greats. Rigby can make this sort of stuff sound effortlessly composed and performed, and that's her real skill as a songwriter and singer. That's she equally adept at crafting a clever turn of phrase as she is composing a melody is something to be praised yet again.

More details on The Old Guys via the link below. More details on Amy Rigby via her official website.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Up Way Up: A Review Of The New One From we capillaries (Feat. Davis White Of Lorelei)

Recorded mostly in an ice hockey rink, the new one from we capillaries is something special. People Food sees front-man Pierre Davis and an assorted cast of players blend elements of prog and jazz-rock with flashes of modern indie and folk. On paper, it sounds like it shouldn't work, but the end result, recorded by Davis White of Lorelei, is a record full of truly invigorating, adventurous music.

"I Don't Wanna Know The End", for instance, sees Pierre Davis pursue a sort of languid brand of post-punk, even throwing in some played typewriter to made it truly something avant-garde, while the more playful "Open Sores" uses a faint reggae-beat to carry things forward, hints of The Police and even Eighties XTC showing up here, with Hewson Chen (Lake Ruth, The New Lines), adding a very insinuating run on the bass to this number too. "New Cachette" builds, a slow-burn straddling of a few disparate genres, while the more supple "Midnight Sun" edges closer to the sort of material that bands like Silver Jews or Pavement dabbled in on occasion. This cut is a bit of languid art-rock with Pierre Davis' vocals determining the momentum of the material, while album closer "Up Way Up" sees Pierre Davis offer up some of his best guitar-work on the record, as drummer Davis White anchors the cut with some forceful work on the kit.

The music of we capillaries is all over the map. Attempting to pin down what's on the fine People Food to any one genre will result in some confusion for a reviewer. Still, this isn't really too out there and, thanks to Pierre's duties as the front-man and multi-instrumentalist here, the album has a certain charm that's easy to latch on to. Solidly post-punk, we capillaries are making some really exciting music that challenges as much as it pleases. Dig it!

People Food by we capillaries is out now. ♫ People Food - We Capillaries. Listen @cdbaby: Click to listen at CDBaby

[Photos: Davis White]

Friday, February 23, 2018

Power And Possession: A Few Words About The New Cindy Lee Reissue

Last year I wrote about a Cindy Lee album that blew my mind. This year, the same label, Superior Viaduct's W.25TH imprint, is putting out an even earlier, rarer Cindy Lee album. Called Act Of Tenderness, the record is perhaps more haunting and unsettling than Malenkost. In a word: I love it.

Numbers here progress with a stately wrong-ness, with selections like "Power and Possession" offering up pleasures both eerie and beautiful. Things remain objectively calm until a burst of static and noise arrives during "New Romance" and a listener is taken back to the days when bands like His Name Is Alive made music that actually seemed as challenging as it was beautiful. If parts of Act Of Tenderness are genuinely lovely, something like "Operation" seems starkly discordant, a blast of electro-pop that confuses amid its own catchy hooks. Elsewhere, "Quit Doing Me Wrong" is even more abrasive, swatches of old His Name Is Alive records again being recalled by Cindy Lee's Patrick Flegel here, while "Bonsai Garden" ventures closer to territory occasionally occupied by Throbbing Gristle and other industrial pioneers. And while there are plenty of numbers like that on Act Of Tenderness, there are a few that are legitimately pleasant, like the faux-folk of "Wandering And Solitude", a track that is as haunting as it is easy on the ears. Still, this record remains a challenging listen, perhaps more so than Malenkost, as here, on the earlier Act Of Tenderness, Patrick Flegel seemed intent on pushing buttons in order to offer up something genuinely transcendent and transgressive.

Act Of Tenderness is out today via Superior Viaduct's W.25TH imprint.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Another Lost Look: A Quick Review Of The New Altered Images Box From Cherry Red Records

Altered Images made music that was very much of its era, even as the band consistently sought to make tunes that would transcend the stylistic confines of the Eighties. The Scottish group, famous for lead singer Clare Grogan's delightfully chirpy duties as a perky front-woman, made only 3 records but each was distinctive and utterly unlike anything else in the New Wave era, even as the singles and album tracks rode forth wrapped in all the trappings of those years.

Collected for perhaps the first time like this, the band's 3 studio albums and singles are gathered together here on Altered Images: The Epic Years box-set from Cherry Red Records. The 4-CD set, dropping tomorrow, collects nearly everything the band recorded, and it is an essential purchase for both long-time fans of this group, and those wishing to discover their charms for the first time.

The debut album, 1981's Happy Birthday, reveals a band that owes a huge debt to Siouxsie and The Banshees. That shouldn't be too surprising given that Steve Severin from The Banshees produced this record. However, the title track was produced by Martin Rushent. While the single "Happy Birthday" remains a glistening marvel of a pop-song, all chiming hooks from the heavens, other numbers here are nearly as infectious. "Beckoning Strings", with its multi-tracked vocals from Grogan, and pulsing bass-lines from Johnny McElhone, is the playful cousin to stuff like "Spellbound" from producer Severin's own Siouxsie and The Banshees, while "Idols" tries to hit at some kind of dark-pop like that band had already produced. Elsewhere, the lighter "Real Toys" offers up a showcase for Tony McDaid's supple guitar-work, over the top of Michael Anderson's forceful hits on the drums. For me, the real highlight of Happy Birthday -- beyond the incredible title track -- has always been the rippling "Legionnaire", a number that very nearly floats away on the wispy mood it conjures up. More proto-Cocteau Twins than anything else here, it's sort of surprising how these Scottish pioneers seem to be inventing the sound of another set of Scottish pioneers. The remainder of Disc 1 of Altered Images: The Epic Years is given over to non-album singles that present another aspect of this band's appeal. And if "Dead Pop Stars" and a cover of T.Rex's "Jeepster" indicate anything, it's that this band could not be confined to the styles circumscribed by producer Severin here on this fine debut recording.

Pinky Blue from 1982 saw the band turn their sound over to "Happy Birthday" single producer Martin Rushent. Decidedly poppy, the record remains the band's most perfectly-realized offering, and the one where nearly every track sounds like a fine single. If the title cut offers up Clare Grogan's chirpiest bit of vocal hiccuping, it's a cute and charming performance, and one that is very much a product of 1982. Elsewhere, the smoother "See Those Eyes" sees Grogan modulate her vocal style a bit to fit the smoother styles of the backing track. Of course, Pinky Blue yielded the monster hit "I Could Be Happy", a blast of icy-edged electro-pop, and the cut still sounds about a dozen years ahead of its time. Rushent, clearly, deserves a lot of credit here for hearing something manageable in the band's brand of peppy New Wave, something that he could tame a bit. Where Severin seemed to want to produce the band in such a way that they sounded like his own band, Rushent, thankfully, gets the appeal of this lot and offers up the very finest performance ever recorded by Altered Images. Elsewhere, a misbegotten cover of Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue" remains an aberration, and the sort of thing that would have been better reserved for a flip-side to a single, while the lighter "Goodnight and I Wish" seems an airy outlier in this band's catalog. Disc 2 of Altered Images: The Epic Years is given over to a bunch of singles, including the seminal "Dead Pop Stars", and re-recordings of "Real Toys" and other early tracks.

The final studio album from Altered Images, 1983's Bite, is not a record that is universally loved. Produced by Tony Visconti and Mike Chapman, and featuring a new drummer (Stephen Lironi), the album is sleek pop that, while well-done, offers few big hooks. Frankly, Bite seems like a serious misstep from the band still, and the sort of thing that remains nearly lifeless when compared to similarly-styled offerings from peers like Human League or ABC. "Don't Talk To Me About Love" remains a faint stand-out track, but it pales in comparison to earlier numbers from this group, while "Change of Heart" serves as a good showcase for Grogan, even as it remains a fairly weak track. Every time I try to find a way to love Bite (1983), the only song that usually jumps out at me is "Another Lost Look", a track that has a bit of life to it, and a number that remains unburdened by the production it's saddled with. Disc 3 of Altered Images: The Epic Years is given over, like the first 2 discs of this box, to a few singles from the era.

Altered Images: The Epic Years offers up a briefer final disc of remixes to complete this collection of the group's studio work. Some of these are nearly as good -- if not better -- than the album versions so this disc serves a listener well, rather than just being a way to offer up the remaining pieces of the studio legacy of Altered Images. The sort of box-set you almost didn't realize you needed, Altered Images: The Epic Years collects nearly everything from Altered Images in one place, and, as such, it remains an essential collection. This is, quite simply, some of the best, most invigorating New Wave one is likely to re-encounter from the early Eighties. And if the band eventually fizzled out on their final studio record, at least they did it with a great deal of style, Clare Grogan remaining the ultimate diva of the post-Blondie era.

Altered Images: The Epic Years from Altered Images is out tomorrow on Cherry Red Records.

[Photo: Uncredited from the band's Facebook page]

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Voyage To Illumination: A Look At The New Felt Reissues From Cherry Red Records (And A Quick Review Of The New Go-Kart Mozart Record Too!)

It seems like only yesterday that I was buying a bunch of Felt albums (again) from Cherry Red Records, the last time the fine label put these out in new editions. If it seems too soon for reissues of these records to be hitting the market again, at least the folks at Cherry Red are going all out this time around. The first 5 Felt albums are being released in deluxe versions on vinyl, or on CD with accompanying vinyl 7-inch singles. I think it's safe to say that these 5 records have never been presented so perfectly. And if the slightly-revised track-listing on a few of these reissues bothers the purist in me, the sound quality here is so good that a long-time fan can forgive that level of minor tampering with these long-familiar releases. The same goes for Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death being called The Seventeenth Century now.

Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty, the austere debut from 1982, here sounds possibly cavernous, the guitars and drums echoing up from impossible depths to caress a listener, with "I Worship The Sun" and "Fortune" chiming like some unholy mix of The Byrds and Television. The Splendour Of Fear (1984) saw the band indulge themselves a bit, pursuing longer, more moody tracks (the morose "The Stagnant Pool"), while offering up a handful of shorter, brighter numbers ("The World Is As Soft As Lace") that revealed Maurice Deebank as one of the finest guitarists to ever emerge from the British Isles.

The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Short Stories, also from 1984, is where Felt really turned into the Felt we all fell in love with, big hits like "Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow" and "Dismantled King Is Off The Throne" making it clear that front-man Lawrence was a genius-like front-man. Sure, he sounded a whole lot like Tom Verlaine but there was something more lyrical and poetic in his concerns as a lyricist here, even as a number like "Spanish House" indicated that Lawrence was capable of leading this band towards very accessible material. Still, for all that, "Semipiternal Darkness" is given over to Deebank's guitar artistry, mainly, while "Vasco De Gama" is an awkward blend of that nearly-lush melodicism with the singer's seemingly-snide and dour delivery. That it works so well is a marvel now, frankly. This version of The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Short Stories is actually longer than earlier iterations of the record given the addition of the brief-but-lovely "Crucifix Heaven" to the running order of the record.

Ignite The Seven Cannons (1985) saw Felt hook up with Robin Guthrie from the Cocteau Twins, famously. If Guthrie's touch here as producer added a sort of ornate and layered sound to things, it also brought band-mate Liz Fraser to the project to deliver one of the greatest indie singles of all time. If "Primitive Painters" still works, it's thanks to Fraser's amazing voice as, really, on paper, the mash-up of Cocteau Twins and Felt couldn't be more wrong. Still, the song remains a moving listening experience, and one that sounds positively amazing here on this new reissue of Ignite The Seven Cannons. Still, not sure how I feel about John A. Rivers (with Lawrence's blessing, admittedly) restoring this to the non-Guthrie original mixes of the album as, frankly, it feels different now and, say what you will about Robin Guthrie's work on the original version, at least it had a distinctive sound. Now, Ignite The Seven Cannons sounds more like the other early Felt records. Read into that statement what you will.

Finally, in the last of this batch of Felt reissues, we come to The Seventeenth Century (1986), the retitled version of Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death. The album consists of a bunch of brief instrumentals and the record is as different from the preceding album as one can possibly imagine. Here, numbers like "Voyage To Illumination" and "Indian Scriptures" succeed on the strength of the keyboard-work from Martin Duffy, later to join Primal Scream. His keys here add a faint jazzy vibe to things that suggests the underlying and persistent beatnik motivations of Lawrence and his crew. If one misses that guy's significant skills as a singer and lyricist, at least the band seems to be amazingly-synced here. One listens to this now and sort of marvels that in the space of only 3 or 4 years Felt had progressed to a place where they felt like they could wipe the slate and offer up something like this, a fairly short record of quiet instrumentals. Imagine Morrissey persuading The Smiths to do that in 1986? You can't.

As we wait for Cherry Red to get around to reissuing the next 5 Felt albums, we can take delight in the arrival of a new album from Go-Kart Mozart, one of the many projects from Lawrence in the post-Felt years. The new record from Go-Kart Mozart, Mozart's Mini-Mart, is full of bright, shiny New Wave of the sort that Lawrence was probably rebelling against way back in the early Eighties when he was writing all those numbers with Felt. Where his earlier band was introspective and given to poetic ruminations on the futility of life, Go-Kart Mozart's output has been one of more accessible (and funny) stuff, and the numbers here on Mozart's Mini-Mart are more of that sort of thing. If "When You're Depressed" features lyrics that seem considered and insightful, the tune is a big, silly bit of electro-pop, complete with a very dated drum sound. Elsewhere, the superb "Relative Poverty" sees Lawrence offer up one of his funniest compositions, and one that sounds more like The Glitter Band than his own earlier acts. Things turn nearly Queen-like on the brief "Facing The Scorn Of Tomorrow's Generation", a lyrical number that is subtle and poignant, and a bit over-the-top simultaneously. If lots of Mozart's Mini-Mart is decidedly lo-fi, at least it sounds like Lawrence is having fun here. As he delivers up these sharply-observed little numbers that blend bits of British music-hall and bright near-glam, one can forgive him for not attempting to write numbers in the same style as Felt anymore. There is, frankly, something more direct here, and if the poetry and mystery of those Felt classics is nowhere to be found on Mozart's Mini-Mart, at least the record is full of catchy tunes that comment humorously on life in modern Britain. Welcome back Lawrence!

Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty, The Splendour Of Fear, The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Short Stories, Ignite The Seven Cannons, and The Seventeenth Century by Felt are all out on Friday via Cherry Red Records.

Mozart's Mini-Mart from Go-Kart Mozart is also out on Friday via Cherry Red Records.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Getting To Me: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Caroline Rose

The new album from Caroline Rose, Loner, is a hard one to describe in words. That said, it is an easy record to love, full of richly-observed New Wave that bears favorable comparisons to artists as diverse as Aimee Mann and Alex Lahey. The album drops on Friday on New West and it's the sort of record that is going to catch a lot of people off-guard.

If opener "More Of The Same" is a near-mournful slow-burner, the revved-up "Cry!" echoes countless acts from the Eighties. If there's something retro here, it's not simply an exercise in kitsch appeal as Caroline clearly spent a lot of time crafting this set of songs, with most cuts here on Loner being ones that are impeccably-produced and fully-realized. If "Money" is both funny and insanely catchy, it's "Getting To Me" that offers up something more sublime, Rose here cooing like Kate Bush on one of her mid-period risk-taking releases. The excellent and chiming "Soul No. 5" made me think of recent cuts from Courtney Barnett and Alex Lahey even as I tried to wrap my head around the sort of smart pop that Rose was laying down here. What carries most of Loner is a fine blend of sharp indie that delivers something intelligent and quirky while remaining wildly accessible. On a number like "To Die Today", Caroline Rose attempts a more austere approach, but it's stuff like "Animal" that really charmed me, and one almost wishes that the whole album was as direct as this number.

Sardonic yet heartfelt, simple yet complex and ornate in spots, Loner is an excellent release and one that should reward listeners looking for something clever and smart, as well as those in search of a batch of electro-pop numbers that you can sing along with in the car in the summer-time.

Loner is out on Friday via New West Records. More details on Caroline Rose via her official website, or her official Facebook page.

[Photo CJ Harvey]

Cut To The Quick: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Olden Yolk (Quilt)

I suppose one could call Olden Yolk a spin-off from Quilt. I didn't really pick up on that until after I listened to the fine debut from Olden Yolk but, armed with that knowledge now, it makes a certain sense as the tunes here bear a slight resemblance to those of Shane Butler's other band. Still, the music on Olden Yolk, the band's debut album, out on Friday via Trouble in Mind, is superb whether or not you've heard the equally-fab Quilt recordings or not.

There's a real folk-y vibe here to some numbers, with offerings like "Cut to the Quick" and "Gamblers on a Dime" owing a real debt to pioneers in that genre from earlier generations. Still, on other cuts here, like the sublime "Vital Sign", Caity Shaffer takes over the singing duties and the end result resembles the music of Widowspeak and Quilt. Caity's quietly-soaring vocal performance here renders the track one of the real highlights of Olden Yolk. Elsewhere, "After Us" and "Verdant" stray into the sort of territory occupied by Broadcast and Mazzy Star. Still, to reference those other artists is not to diminish the significant charms of what's on offer here on Olden Yolk as the record truly is something special, the band's brand of folk-tinged indie something that is both catchy and accessible and also near-classicist in its approach to pop.

A really superb record, Olden Yolk is yet another excellent offering from the very reliable Trouble in Mind Records. Possessing a quiet grace, Olden Yolk is one of this week's very best releases. More details via the label site, or the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Daniel Dorsa]

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ecstasy In Slow Motion: A Few Words About The New Spacemen 3 Reissue From Superior Viaduct

The folks at Superior Viaduct are on a roll as of late. There are a few very fine original albums in their upcoming slate, but it's the reissues they've got going on that are most-deserving of a lot of attention. And none of those could be more worth your time than the upcoming Dreamweapon reissue from Spacemen 3, out on Friday.

The 1987 album is largely 2 long, drone-y pieces billed "An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music" parts 1 and 2, and each is a 22-minute slow roar that burns through the speakers and rewards a fan of this band with a new angle with which to view their output. Where other Spacemen 3 offerings hued more closely to a sort of Sixties acid rock-template, these 2 epic tracks signify an allegiance to other styles from the Sixties, namely those of Cale and LaMonte Young, and Tony Conrad. Moderately abrasive and utterly hypnotic, these 2 sides from Spacemen 3 make Dreamweapon essential, with the bonus tracks here sealing the deal for potential purchasers. "Ecstasy in Slow Music" undulates with a sort of quiet grace, while the peek behind the curtain of "Spacemen Jam" shows Jason Pierce and Sonic Boom engaging in a dual-guitar attack that is as compelling as the longer tracks are insinuating.

Dreamweapon by Spacemen 3 is out on Friday via Superior Viaduct.

Friday, February 16, 2018

What's Chasing You: A Brief Review Of The New Marlon Williams Album

The new album from Marlon Williams, Make Way For Love, dropped today on Dead Oceans. It is that rare record that oozes both warmth and invention while offering copious throwback charms.

If opener "Come To Me" echoes other acts from Williams' home of New Zealand with hints of the orchestral majesty of late-period Chills stuff percolating through the melody, then "What's Chasing You" nods more in the direction of Americans Chris Isaak and Roy Orbison. Similarly, "I Know a Jeweller" layers in a rough rockabilly twang to the cut, while the title track and "The Fire of Love" positively haunt by stripping things back even further, Suicide songs updated for a new century. On the mournful numbers here, like "Love is a Terrible Thing" and a few others, Williams certainly commands a listener's attention, his voice cooing and careening like Jimmy Scott, but on the more upbeat selections something more interesting is happening as Williams attempts to meld his talents with more elegant arrangements.

Marlon Williams is a prodigious vocalist and if a listener prefers the ballads, Williams certainly delivers a rare and beautiful experience for said listener. However, I found it more interesting when Marlon tried to change things up and add a bit of a more jaunty outlook to the songs here. Still, Williams manages to make both approaches work and Make Way For Love is a remarkably compelling record to encounter in 2018.

Make Way For Love is out today via Dead Oceans.

More details on Marlon Williams via his official Facebook page, or his official website.

[Photo: Steve Gullick]

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

You Better Dream: A Brief Review Of The New Pete Astor Album

The front-man of The Loft and The Weather Prophets is in the midst of a bit of a renaissance. Following on from 2016's Spilt Milk, Pete Astor is now back with a spry new record. One For The Ghost, out on Friday via Tapete Records, is another fine release for a guy who's quietly been building a stellar catalog as a solo artist as of late.

The twang-y "Water Tower" sees Astor joined by Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, Withered Hand, Glo-Worm) on backing vocals for one of his best singles in ages. The cut is an assured melding of U.K. indie with a hint of of Americana. Elsewhere, "Golden Boy" continues the fascination with Yankee styles, while the more natural title cut rides a hook reminiscent of mid-period Lloyd Cole and The Commotions stuff, all brainy pop being played by guys who want to be Gram Parsons almost as much as they want to be Lou Reed. The superb "Magician and Assistant" is clever without being pretentious, and very nearly the sort of thing Robert Forster would have killed to have written on one of his solo albums, while the gentle "You Better Dream" offers up the sort of easy and direct melodic hook that Astor perfected as leader of The Weather Prophets so many decades ago. At his very best here, like on the Go-Betweens-recalling "Tango Uniform", Astor manages to easily convey a kind of world-weariness that suits him well. Pete seems to have grown into his current guise, and the adoption of a trace of a country-and-western style seems natural for the most part, and less an artistic device.

It's important to note that one of Astor's partners on this record is James Hoare, from Ultimate Painting. That makes perfect sense as some of this sounds a bit like the music of that now-defunct band, a band that owed a huge debt to earlier British indie musicians like Astor himself. The rhythm section is from The Wave Pictures: Franic Rozycki (bass) and Jonny Helm (drums). And, of course, it's worth mentioning the presence of Pam Berry again as her subtle backing vocals add a real warmth to lots of One For The Ghost. This is a more obviously serious record, it seems, than the slightly-poppy Spilt Milk, but the charms here are richer ones.

One For The Ghost is out on Friday via Tapete Records.

More details on Pete Astor via his official website.

[Photo: Suzanne Ballhausen]

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lost My Brain: A Quick Review Of The New Superchunk Album

It would be tremendously silly to waste a lot like of time rambling about the new Superchunk record. Recorded in the space of just a few months after the election of the monstrous Oval Office resident became a grim reality, What A Time To Be Alive, out on Friday via Merge Records, burns with an energy that is positively infectious, and which is unlikely to be captured adequately in words here. Superchunk have always been wired tight, but in recent years, as the members of the group have eased into middle-age, they've been happy to modulate their rage when offering up their indelible brand of American indie-pop. Now, given the situation this country is in, the band have turned their attention outward to offer up their most obviously-relevant and fiery record in decades.

A real, old-fashioned rooted-in-hardcore-punk rage-to-live burns through the tracks here on What A Time To Be Alive, from the title cut, on to the boundary-shattering concerns of "Break The Glass", and on to the superbly-direct "I Got Cut" with its call for male sexual responsibility. The songs here on What A Time To Be Alive are as unaffected and sincere as any this four-piece have ever committed to tape. Recorded by Beau Sorenson, the album has an immediacy that even the lo-fi early singles from Superchunk didn't quite have. "Erasure" eases the tempo down a bit to offer a catchy track that will sound familiar to fans of this band's more recent releases, with backing vocals from Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) and Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields) smoothing things a bit, while "Bad Choices" rides the sort of easy rhythmic hook that anchored so many of the best Nineties numbers from this act. This cut, and especially the ringing "All For You", benefit immensely from the presence of Jon Wurster on drums and Laura Ballance on bass. Elsewhere, "Reagan Youth" positively soars on the strength of the familiar yearning in Mac McCaughan's voice and Jim Wilbur's relentless guitar-hook. If a listener doesn't even know the band Mac is singing about, it matters little as his vocals convey everything, a triumph (again) of one of the best, most underrated voices in American post-punk. Similarly, the brief "Lost My Brain" and "Cloud of Hate" roar past in unforced tribute to the best tunes from the pioneers from the first flourishing of this country's hardcore scene.

What A Time To Be Alive is immediate and invigorating, the sort of of-the-times recording that bands like The Clash and Public Enemy used to routinely offer up. Superchunk have surprised here by the ease with which they responded with such energy and force, for What A Time To Be Alive is a real punch in the gut. Cathartic and a thing to inspire optimism just for even existing, this record is a refinement of the Superchunk attack, and a sharpening of the band's post-punk power. There's always been something oddly inspiring about the music of this North Carolina quartet, but perhaps never more so than now with the release of what's here on What A Time To Be Alive.

What A Time To Be Alive is out on Merge Records on Friday.

[Photo: Lissa Gotwals]

One Of Your Own: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Lake Ruth

One can only marvel at Birds Of America, the new one from Lake Ruth. The record, out on Friday officially, is a huge leap forward from the band's 2016 offering Actual Entity, an album that was itself something of a chamber-pop masterpiece. Birds Of America, quite simply, sees Lake Ruth offer up their best release to date.

I suppose one could still trot out a few Broadcast references when describing the sound of Lake Ruth but, really, a tune like "Julia's Call" is so bright and direct that it feels less a nod to an obvious inspiration point and more like a strong bit of songwriting from a trio using a near-classicist approach. The members here -- multi-instrumentalist Hewson Chen (The New Lines), drummer Matt Schulz (SAVAK), and vocalist Allison Brice -- sound so confident here that one is a bit surprised at how direct "One Of Your Own" is, all rippling keyboard lines and supple hooks bouncing under Brice's soaring vocals. Elsewhere, the near-jazzy "Radiant City" sees the group pursue more down-tempo pleasures, Schulz's drumming here being especially impressive as he and the players shift genres with ease, while the more precise and propulsive title cut allows the band to venture into the sort of territory once mapped out by Stereolab on their earliest releases. Brice's vocals here are especially marvelous, and, if anything, the entire album sounds more like the work of a group this time around than a bunch of superb players, as on previous releases.

From the retro-trippyness of "VV" and on to the Cardigans-recalling "Westway", Birds Of America is a thing of beauty, and the sort of shimmering indie-pop that is rarely found anymore these days. Fans of Laetitia Sadier and The Clientele, for instance, should find lots to love here. Elegant and unpretentious, the chamber pop of Lake Ruth is gorgeous, glittering stuff. If previous Lake Ruth offerings seemed almost as concerned with the production and instrumental flourishes as the compositions themselves, Birds Of America is wonderfully straightforward in its presentation of a set of great songs. The strengths of the players and vocalist are being used to great effect here, thanks in part to the production from Geoff Sanoff, and a listener can't help but think that Lake Ruth sound more confident here than they ever have before. That assured command of the material makes Birds Of America a fantastic record, and easily the most enjoyable Lake Ruth release to date.

Birds Of America by Lake Ruth is available via the link below. More details on Lake Ruth via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promo pic from band]

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Off The Rails: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Tres Oui (ex-Literature)

I was a huge fan of every release from Literature so I was thrilled to learn that Nate, their front-man, now had a new band. Called Tres Oui, the band's debut full-length record drops tomorrow. Poised To Flourish is every bit as bright and chiming as the best releases from Literature so I'm fairly certain that others will love this one as much as I did.

Now, it makes perfect sense that some of this -- "Off The Rails", "Shy", and "Seance", for instance -- sound remarkably like the best Literature numbers. And, it goes without saying, that that's a good thing and not a knock on Nate's new act. That familiarity in style is forgotten when one hears the numbers on Poised To Flourish that sound like a progression from the earlier Literature tracks. "Looking For", for example, sounds a bit like both Tommy Keene and The Ocean Blue, nods to the glory years of American college rock abounding, while the even more robust "Red Wine and Dry Ice" echoes recent material from EZTV and other acts looking back even further, to the first few years of the post-punk boom in the late Seventies. For every moment here that feels like something we've heard from Nate and loved already, this track is the one that positively soars and surprises. Elsewhere, the rippling "Wash Away" recalls The Wild Swans a bit, while the more languid "Sunday's Crowd" very nearly trips into shoegaze-y territory thanks to the waves of guitars that propel this one forward. It's a real testament to the strength of the players here that a tune like this doesn't just float away in a haze of hooks from a bunch of effects pedals.

Decidedly tuneful, the songs here on the debut full-length from Tres Oui are consistently fine bits of C86-style indie-pop laced with real bursts of robust American power-pop. Much like the music from the earlier Literature, the compositions here reveal their influences while attempting to glide past them. We can probably easily guess the records that the members of Tres Oui love even while loving this one, you know? Fans of Wire Train, Velocity Girl, The Flatmates, and O.M.D. should find as much to love here as I did.

Poised To Flourish is out tomorrow via Shrimper Records and Bandcamp. More details on Tres Oui via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited Bandcamp picture]

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Triumphant: A Quick Look At The Reissue Of The Debut Butterfly Child Album

Originally released in 1993, Onomatopoeia from Butterfly Child got unfairly lumped in with a lot of what was making up the tail-end of the first shoegaze wave back when it was first put on the market. But, in fairness, the songs of Joe Cassidy here are richer and more classically-structured than lots of what was getting attention early in the Nineties. Finally back in print on both CD and vinyl thanks to the folks at the Dell'Orso label, Onomatopoeia reveals itself as a real, somewhat neglected gem from the pre-Britpop boom.

A number like "Lunar Eclipse" owes a faint debt to early band champions A.R. Kane, as evidenced by the subtle rhythmic clip running throughout the song, while the more languid "One Lady Mississipp" sounds like nothing so much as what The Boo Radleys were drifting towards in the same era. Elsewhere, "Young Virgins Call For Mutiny" is gleefully laid-back, all trip-hop grooves made safe for rockers, while the epic "X: Celcius" is like something from Seefeel that's very nearly been stretched tighter. Cassidy, wisely, keeps a firm rein on this material, and for every number here that is in danger of drifting away ("Queen Glass"), there's another ("Triumphant") that is more concise and focused. The best tunes on this debut, like "Verte Ecole", for instance, stand up as some of the very loveliest numbers from the era, less shoegaze-y noise-attacks, than throwbacks to late Sixties songwriting styles.

As we all know, Joe Cassidy pursued similar textures with later Butterfly Child recordings but there remains, truly, something magical here on Onomatopoeia. If the record didn't get quite enough attention back in 1993, maybe it will now, thanks to this fine set of CD and vinyl reissues from the Dell'Orso label.

Onomatopoeia is out on Dell'Orso on Friday.

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

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

In View Of The Circumstances: A Quick Review Of The New This Kind Of Punishment Reissues

New Zealand band This Kind of Punishment may have been on the famous Flying Nun label at one point in the past but their music sounds almost nothing like any other band on that label. Ever. The band's self-titled debut album from 1983 and their second album, 1984's A Beard Of Bees, are being reissued on the superb Superior Viaduct label this week. Each release is a revelation for those of us who are fond of Kiwi rock, and eager to learn about some real unsung pioneers of the post-punk era.

This Kind Of Punishment straddles a stark line between what Bauhaus and Joy Division were doing in the era, with drone-y cuts like "Don't Take Those" and "In View Of The Circumstances" striking out into morose territory, while the more propulsive "Two Minutes Drowning" ventures into the sort of areas John Cale pursued on his more experimental solo records. Elsewhere, the very nearly-lovely "Ahead Of Their Time" sounds like "Spirit" by Bauhaus, to mention that obvious point of inspiration again.

The second album from This Kind Of Punishment, A Beard Of Bees, sees the band use a more robust approach, with a cut like "From The Diary Of Hermann Doubt" offering up a more conventional guitar-oriented attack than the eerie ballads that filled up the group's first record. "Although They Appear" suggests that the band were heading into a folk rock-flavored direction, with the prominent acoustic guitar here softening the starkness of the band's approach. A Beard Of Bees ends with the epic "An Open Denial", a track that leavens the group's semi-dour methods with a softer, minimanlist melody underpinning things.

The band This Kind Of Punishment never made music that was easy to love. They were, as these 2 records illustrate, clear pioneers, and the sort of band that were truly operating on their own, largely outside of trends in the era. If the music here feels a bit timeless, that's a plus, as the 2 records hardly sound like ones made in the early Eighties by the band's peers in the music world. Instead, This Kind Of Punishment and A Beard Of Bees are semi-masterpieces of a sort, serving as nice reminders that the New Zealand rock scene was capable of producing more than just memorable guitar-rock, even as the 2 members here -- Peter and Graeme Jefferies -- had more traditional careers as musicians after this, Peter as a solo artist, and Graeme as a member of The Cakekitchen.

This Kind Of Punishment and A Beard Of Bees by This Kind Of Punishment are both out on Friday via Superior Viaduct.

[Photo: Uncredited]

Monday, February 5, 2018

Usual Freaks: A Few Words About The Fab Debut Album From Chemtrails

Sometimes a record comes along that is such a bold stab at melding a few dozen genres that a reviewer would look like a fool attempting to be "impartial" about such a risky-but-rewarding artistic gesture. And Calf Of The Sacred Cow, out on Friday via the ever-superb PNKSLM label, is just such a record. This album, the debut full-length recording from London band Chemtrails, is so invigorating and downright infectious that it makes even a jaded reviewer like myself a bit excited about indie-pop all over again.

I suppose a listener unfamiliar with this lot would be a bit surprised by the dystopian sci-fi landscapes described in the lyrics of songs like "Tendrils", but for those of us who've eagerly awaited this record while feasting on earlier releases from this band, the song seems the sort of casual brilliance this lot have managed to crank out routinely so far. Elsewhere, the chiming "Usual Freaks" suggests that the band have found a way to blend their glam rock attack with a more accessible tunefulness of the sort that acts like Ty Segall pursue on this side of the Atlantic. And if the T. Rex-stroll of "Lizard Empire" doesn't immediately grab you like it did me, try the roaring "Dead Air" instead, all Buzzcocks chords whipped into a futuristic frenzy. The song is utterly unlike anything else you're going to hear in 2018, and yet, like so much of the music of Chemtrails, it remains supremely catchy and buoyant. If something called "A Beautiful Cog in the Monolithic Death Machine" doesn't charm you on the strength of that title alone, let the cut's electro-buzz wash over you, all Ramones-riffs-as-played-by-robots goodness.

The music of Chemtrails just pleases me greatly. I suppose I would be happy if every song by this act was as good as the bouncy New Wave of "Watch Evil Grow", or as gloriously glammy as "Milked", but I'm also glad to hear the band branch out into new territory here on Calf Of The Sacred Cow as the glistening electronica of "Ghosts Of My Dead Cats" illustrates before things on this debut long-player end on "Overgrown", all 4AD-style effects layered over a truly lovely melody.

Chemtrails -- Mia (vocals, guitar), Laura (vocals, guitar), Another Laura (vocals, bass), Ian (keyboard), and Sam (drums) -- make music that really shouldn't work so well when you describe it in words, given that the melding of a C86-style DIY approach with a near-glam-stomp sounds like a car crash. Still, it works spectacularly for Chemtrails, with the selections virtually riots of sound, and Calf Of The Sacred Cow being a truly kaleidoscopic assault on the senses when taken as a whole.

Gloriously different and instantly catchy, the music here is unhinged goodness, and the sort of risky indie-pop of big, BIG tunes that few are willing to chance making these days. Thank God that Chemtrails do.

Calf Of The Sacred Cow is out on Friday via PNKSLM.

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

[Photo: Uncredited band photo from label]

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Give Me Your Youth: A Review Of Both The New Monochrome Set Album And The New Box Set

This Friday should be a joyous day for fans of The Monochrome Set as the band is set to drop not only a new album, but also a 6-CD or 6-LP box-set of their complete recordings from the first 6 years of their existence. Maiseworld is, as you would expect, another fine example of this act's powers going into the future, while 1979-1985: Complete Recordings is, as you can tell from the title, a collection of everything that the band released in those years in the title. Both releases are coming out on the Tapete Records label and both releases are every bit as essential as most of the albums from this group have been in the past.

1979-1985: Complete Recordings takes a rather straightforward approach, offering up the band's first 4 records on the first 4 discs/records here, with the final 2 discs/records being given over to the band's singles from the era. The early numbers from The Monochrome Set -- ones like "Love Goes Down The Drain" and "Martians Go Home" -- indicate the arrival of a new, arty approach to British post-punk. And one can only imagine how odd some of Strange Boutique would have seemed back in 1980. Released in the same year, the band's second record, Love Zombies, saw the rougher edges of the band's attack smoothed, with numbers here ("Adeste Fideles" and the title cut) serving as New Wave-y nods in the direction of British styles from earlier decades. If one can detect a faint trace of British music hall, and even glam rock, in the style of early Bowie, here, it's probably intentional. The Monochrome Set were always nothing if not out of place, and listening to these early records released in the years that acts like The Clash were hitting a peak only confirms that feeling. It's not that fans of Strummer and his gang couldn't appreciate something like "The Man With The Black Mustache", but that it was asking a lot.

Eligible Bachelors from 1982 is one of the real highlights here, with familiar numbers from the band ("Jet Set Junta" and "The Midas Touch") making appearances on this one. If the music sounds more robust here, it's largely in service of tunes that seem bigger than the band's earlier numbers. "I'll Scry Instead" and "The Devil Rides Out" are both more robust and thought-out than selections on the group's first 2 records, and yet they contain every bit as much of the wit and brains as listeners would expect from Bid and his boys. The final studio album here, 1985's The Lost Weekend, reveals a band that should have been far more successful in terms of sales and notice back in those years. Lead singer Bid was poised to try a solo career in this era, but tunes here like the big "Jacob's Ladder" place this band's work firmly in place as a possible point of inspiration for both The Smiths and all those C86-era acts. There's a real brainy vibe here even as the offerings reveal a truly varied approach from the act, from the twich-y "The Twitch" to the more cerebral "Letter From Viola", an easy dip into chamber pop. The subsequent 2 discs after this provide a nice overview of the Monochrome Set's approach by giving us a bunch of their best singles all in a row. And for every repeat here that's a number from albums 1 to 4, there's something fresh like "He's Frank" that reveals just how nimble and sharp this lot were then.

That sharpness -- a refinement of wit coupled with real pop chops -- is still there as the new album, Maiseworld, from The Monochrome Set clearly shows. From the bright bounce of "Give Me Your Youth", and on to the rollicking "I Feel Fine (Really)", the cuts here are nearly as vibrant as those on those early records. Elsewhere, "Silence Is Rusty" is a jaunty romp, while the more propulsive "Oh Yes, I'm Going To Be In Your Dreams Tonight" ebbs and swells in a manner that suggests nothing so much as the sort of thing that The Smiths would have once penned even as they owed such a huge debt to this lot while doing it. Lots of Maisieworld is suitably skewed pop of the sort that once ruled British indie charts in the past, which is not to say that the approach here is quaint but, rather, that it's a return to the sort of classic songwriting the lads in The Monochrome Set have always championed.

There are, frankly, not many bands who could drop a career-spanning set on the same day that a new album is released without one of the offerings suffering by comparison, but The Monochrome Set is that sort of band. So much of the greatness of what's here is down to the presence of constant front-man Bid. Under his leadership, this outfit has succeeded through various line-ups without a flagging of creativity being exhibited once. Maiseworld and 1979-1985: Complete Recordings are both out on Friday via Tapete Records.

More details on The Monochrome Set via the band's official website.

[Photo: Uncredited band photo from label]

Shake Your Lonely: A Few Words About The New Twin Peaks Compilation

The Chicago band Twin Peaks dropped a series of song-pairs on vinyl singles in 2017. The singles were very limited releases so only a few hundred people got each one of these, or all of them. Now, Grand Jury Music is putting all 12 of the cuts out on a compilation called Sweet '17 Singles, and the set drops on Friday. That the release is, in some ways, more cohesive than the last Twin Peaks album proper is sort of a pleasant surprise.

If tracks like "Shake Your Lonely" and "Blue Coupe" offer up bits of Stones-like lite swagger, the far better "Sun and The Trees" and "In The Meadow" reveal distinctive melodic hooks that suggest that the band have progressed beyond simply regurgitating Exile On Main Street-style rock dressed up in indie-pop trappings. If the brainy stonerisms of the band's very earliest records is long gone, at least a number like "Just Because" indicates that a new sort of lyrical alt-rock, full of ramshackle charm, has found its way into the band's set of tricks. On that song, and the Big Star-ish "On The Line", Twin Peaks succeed immensely, the Mick-and-Keef stuff now subsumed into the the group's very DNA. What that means is that these tunes are easy to love, and far more natural fits for the band than some of what was found amid the risk-taking of Down In Heaven.

Utterly engaging, the things I loved about Twin Peaks a few years ago are back here on Sweet '17 Singles. The compilation, out on Friday via Grand Jury Music, is such a breezy joy to listen to that it's very nearly like hearing these cats for the first time.

Sweet '17 Singles is out on Friday via Grand Jury Music.

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

[Photo: Daniel Topete]

Friday, February 2, 2018

Maelstrom: A Few Words About The New Album From The Cold Spells

The Cold Spells are dropping a new album today on Gare Du Nord Records. The record is the name of the band in Morse code so forgive me for not trying to type it out. Such an odd choice for a title seems to fit the deliberate obfuscation of the band's approach, a sort of skewed neo-folk that suggests acts like John Cale and Soft Machine.

If "Terry" is languid unease set atop a tune, then the superb "Wooden Horse" is like early James stuff, back when the band had a bit more mystery amid their brand of Manc-rock. Elsewhere, "Roll Me Over" rides a nice, rather gentle melody into territory once charted in the early years of The Lilac Time, while the eerie epic "The Ghosts Of Them What Didn't Make It" quietly lurches with a kind of carnival creepiness. Lots of what's here on the new one from The Cold Spells follows a similar trajectory, rendering the rather simple tunes imbued with an admirable and interesting undercurrent of British melancholia. Epic closer "Maelstrom" pulls everything together in a longer example of broken chamber pop, bits of Sixties-era acts jutting up with stuff one recalls from the new acoustic wave that swept through the realms of Britpop in the first year or two of this century.

The Cold Spells make unique music that sounds utterly unlike lots of what's being made these days. And if there are bits here that seem in debt to earlier sonic pioneers, at least the tunes are memorable in large ways, delivering quirky hooks and unsettling melodies consistently.

The Cold Spells by The Cold Spells is out today via Gare Du Nord Records.

More details on The Cold Spells via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited band photo from Bandcamp]

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Turn It Up: A Review Of The Rock Majesty Of The New Album From Bat Fangs

The new, self-titled album from Bat Fangs, out tomorrow via Don Giovanni Records, is the sort of record that is so simple in approach that a listener wonders why more bands don't sound this good. Betsy Wright (Ex Hex) and Laura King (Flesh Wounds) have taken the hard-rock genre-tropes of the last few decades and invigorated them with a hearty dose of enthusiasm. That these 2 women are staking a claim to every hoary hard rock riff attack of the Eighties and earlier makes this record even more of a revolutionary statement; who knew that party metal could sound so vital still?

The hooks of opener "Turn It Up" are ENORMOUS, more Andrew W.K. than Ex Hex, for those looking to gauge how much this Wright project owes to the big hair Eighties like her earlier band's stuff did, while the thunderous drums of "Rock The Reaper" seem an updating of the best Joan Jett and the Blackhearts numbers, only even louder. King's attack on the kit is a relatively simple one, but the force and power with which she imbues every smash on the cymbals or stomp on the kick-drum indicates a seriousness of intent that sits nicely next to the hair metal trappings Wright and her ax apply to the cut. Elsewhere, there's the sass of "Boys of Summer" and the buzzsaw riffs of "Wolfbite", a number that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Scorpions album in 1985 or so. If "Mercury" is a brief respite from the thunderous rawk, album closer "Fangs Out" is cacophonous glory, all bad intent wrapped up in a real big hook.

If Bat Fangs is all caveman rock, at least it's being made by women. This is one hell of a record, and proof that two women can deliver a sound every bit as big and glorious as that of any bunch of dudes in spandex from the old days -- cock rock usurped, indeed. Smart, sharp, and full of bright riffs, Bat Fangs is the sort of album that makes a listener remember how much fun rock-and-roll is, and ought to always be. And that the very existence of Bat Fangs is sort of subversive, is yet another reason to love this band and their new full-length release.

Bat Fangs is out tomorrow on Don Giovanni Records.

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

[Photo: Soleil Konkel]