Sunday, April 29, 2018

How It Can Be: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Cut Worms

The new album from Cut Worms, Hollow Ground, out on Friday via Jagjaguwar, is as fine a collection of indie-pop as 2018 is likely to see. Song after song charms and quietly amazes here, with main-man Max Clarke revealing himself to be a substantial talent on this record. But we sort of knew that already, didn't we?

Opener "How It Can Be" sounds like something from The Beau Brummels, while numbers like "Coward's Confidence" signify a considerable debt owed to Phil and Don. Elsewhere, "It Won't Be Long" suggest the influence of The Kinks in their Muswell Hillbilly-phase, while "Till Tomorrow Goes Away" is bright, chippy music hall-stuff, the sound of a Yank sifting through a dozen or so worthy influences from the British music scene some decades ago. The longer "Like Going Down Sideways" didn't work as much for me, but when Max keeps things concise, like on the peppy "Think I Might Be In Love", Clarke hits at a sort of timelessness that imbues these cuts with a weird familiarity, such that a listener can grasp at pieces that sound like bands you're in love with already.

There's so much here to love that Hollow Ground seems like one of the more significant records of 2018 and we're only 4 months in. Max Clarke as Cut Worms has crafted a set of tunes here that all charm. Fans of chamber-pop, and the Nuggets-era stuff, should love this record, and so should anyone who's looking for well-crafted indie-pop.

Hollow Ground by Cut Worms will be out on Friday via Jagjaguwar.

More details on Cut Worms via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Joyce Lee]

Stars Align: A Few Words About The New Belly Album (Yes, I Said The New Belly Album)

I don't think anyone was losing sleep waiting for a Belly reunion. Sure, some of us positively loved Star in 1993 and King in 1995, but it's doubtful that there seemed a need for the band to return, especially considering Tanya Donelly's consistent career as a solo artist.

Still, there's reason to rejoice as the band -- Donelly, Thomas Gorman on guitars, Gail Greenwood on bass, and Chris Gorman on drums -- have reconvened to present us with the surprisingly melodic Dove, due for release next Friday. If the record doesn't quite punch with the intermittent ferocity found on those earlier 2 releases, it at least succeeds remarkably well as a showcase for the talents of Tanya Donelly, one of the most formidable band-leaders from the heyday of alt-rock.

The lyrical "Stars Align" finds Donelly offering up that familiar mixture of vulnerability and bravado found in her best vocal performances, as the band revs up comfortably behind her, while the easy-to-love "Girl" features a hook to die for. Elsewhere, the mid-tempo "Artifact" sounds a tiny bit like something from The Pretenders, while the more expansive "Human Child" takes more risks musically than one might expect to find on a Belly record. Some of this ("Suffer the Fools", "Quicksand") is going to sound very familiar to anyone who's been following Tanya Donelly's solo career, but stuff like "Army of Clay" has a kick that echoes those earlier, great Belly recordings, and suggests that these players are still capable of firing on all cylinders when the material's right.

A record full of of modest successes, Dove sees Belly offer up an album that's not only an extension of the sound of the band's earlier releases, but also a set of many reminders of what a fantastic singer Tanya Donelly is, and how much joy her voice can continue to bring listeners.

More details on Dove via the official Belly website.

[Photo: Uncredited promo picture from the band's website]

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What's Your Secret? A Quick Review Of The New Bart And The Bedazzled Album

Bart Davenport is a guy who knows exactly how to craft a pop song. In that regard, he's the sort of natural at songwriting that places him within range of favorable comparisons to Michael Head and Paddy McAloon. The new record from Bart and the Bedazzled, Blue Motel, drops on Friday and it's a sublime affair, full of the sort of melodies and hooks that echo old Associates singles and more recent Divine Comedy offerings.

The band is made up of Davenport, bassist Jessica Espeleta, guitarist Wayne Faler, and drummer Andres Renteria, and the players here make this material positively soar. The title cut chimes, while the even-lighter "What's Your Secret (Cleo)?" nods in the direction of both Aztec Camera and The Pale Fountains. Elsewhere, the lovely "The House That Built Itself" made me think of stuff from The Wild Swans and, oddly, Squeeze, while the superb "Grownups" is the sort of thing that Roddy Frame once perfected, all smart lyrics over rippling guitars. There aren't any serious missteps here, though the laconic jazz of "The Amateurs" suggests weaker album cuts from Everything But The Girl. Still, for the most part, Blue Hotel is rapturously beautiful in the fashion of old Pearlfishers albums, or even that first great Danny Wilson release.

Blue Motel will be out on Friday. More details below, or via the links on the band's Bandcamp page.

More details on Bart Davenport and Bart and the Bedazzled via Bart's official website.

[Photo: Carlie Kinnear]

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Next Heroes: A Brief Review Of The New EP From D.C.'s Own Piramid Scheme

Piramid Scheme are a relatively new band from the D.C. area but front-person Lisa Said has been a mainstay of the local scene here for some time. She's now brought her formidable talents to this act, along with Darrien Day on bass and guitars and Andrew Toy on drums, to offer up forceful and assured post-punk. The group's debut release, the EP Get Rick Quick Too, drops on Friday, and it's a blast.

Opener "Bandwagon Jumping Machine" sees Lisa offer up a near-snarl, near-purr over top of a slinky riff that suggests something from Concrete Blonde, or even Marianne Faithfull, while the memorable "Next Hero" finds the band riding a rhythmic hook full of coiled tension. The cut illustrates the wonderful symmetry between these players, as does the poppy "Regular Guy", a track which has a great video from director Scott Crawford (Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC 1980-1990). Lisa's vocals on this one have an undeniable Patti Smith-like quality to them, and one can't help but favorably compare this song to stuff like "Glitter in Their Eyes" or similar numbers from Patti's Nineties Renaissance. Piramid Scheme close their EP with the blues-y strut of "Pay2Play", a selection that marries a guitar-figure like something off of a Radiohead record with a more insinuating approach to alt-rock, like those recent Afghan Whigs songs.

Centered as they are around the powerful vocals of Lisa Said, the tunes of Piramid Scheme are fresh additions to the rich musical history of this region. Get Rick Quick Too is out on Friday and I'd urge anyone who's a fan of Lisa Said, or the acts I mentioned in passing here in this review, to seek this release out and see the band when you can.

More details on Piramid Scheme via the band's official Facebook page, or via the band's official website.

[Photo: Lynda Julie]

Monday, April 23, 2018

Isn't It Obvious? A Few Words About The New D.A. Stern EP

It seems only days ago that I was raving about D.A. Stern's Aloha Hola, out now on Slumberland Records. And while that hype should certainly continue since that is a great record, it's time to crank up the enthusiasm again as D.A. Stern has offered up a brand-new EP featuring 2 originals and 2 choice covers.

Opener and title cut "Isn't It Obvious?" positively chimes. A distant sonic cousin to "Everything With You" from Slumberland Records legends The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, the track expands on the sort of power-pop found on Aloha Hola to offer up a fuzzier sort of indie-rock. Elsewhere, a cover of "Art School" from Frankie Cosmos sees Stern turn the number into a woozy bit of business that sounds a whole lot like "The Concept" from Teenage Fanclub to these ears, while "My Baby (Axe Nice)", originally by Mannequin Pussy, roars by on a bed of buzzsaw guitars. Closer "Tenafly Cop" finds Stern delivering an original that echoes both glam rock and early Cramps numbers.

Isn't It Obvious? may not be a long record but it is a superb one. A nice dessert treat following the feast of Aloha Hola, this new EP from D.A. Stern is a real gem, and the sort of thing that should please both fans of earlier Slumberland Records bands, as well as those who've come here for bright, modern American power-pop.

Isn't It Obvious? is out now via Slumberland Records.

More details on D.A. Stern via his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Christopher Chou]

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Be Positive: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Trevor Burton (The Move)

Founding member of The Move, Trevor Burton has returned to offer up a really affecting album of cover versions, and a few originals. The release, Long Play, drops on Gray Sky Records this week, and it's a nice blend of the sort of English pop one would expect from the guy behind "Blackberry Way", as well as a record of modern British folk.

Burton wisely chose some good songs to cover here, from the sweet "Flirted With You All My Life" by the late Vic Chesnutt, and on to the loveliest song Tom Petty ever wrote ("Wildflowers"), Burton reveals himself to be an expert interpreter of these compositions. Elsewhere, "After It Ends" offers up a hook that's vaguely reminiscent of a Move single, even if the cut was written by the genius John Vanderslice, while "Just Breathe" by Eddie Vedder allows Burton an opportunity to inject a good deal of emotion into his performance here on Long Play. The odd "Be Positive", originally by Refrigerator, sees Burton approach the track like he would have the rougher numbers on the final Move records, while the more familiar "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel allows Burton a chance to move beyond the folk-y vibe here into something more complicated.

Trevor Burton has revealed talents here that are markedly different than those that allowed him to create so much great music with The Move. And yet, there's something familiar here in his delivery that allows, say, a cover of a Mountain Goats song to sound vaguely like those wonderful Move singles from so many decades ago.

Long Play by Trevor Burton is out this week via Gray Sky Records.

More details on Trevor Burton via

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Come Down Softly To My Soul: A Few Words About A Few Spacemen 3 Reissues

In the very near-future, the fine folks at the fine Superior Viaduct label are going to be offering up a bunch of Spacemen 3 reissues. For lots of you, this material is stuff you're familiar with. For lots more, it's stuff that you probably have on some format, but which you now want on vinyl. Whatever the reason for your attraction to these releases, these records are some of the best proto-shoegaze offerings from an era when indie rock in the U.K. was lurching through the diminishing C86 wave, and about to crash into another one, with bands like My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3 at the helm of the ship.

Originally released in 1990 or so, Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To is a collection of demos from the early days of the band, when Jason Pierce and Peter Kember were finding their way, and before Spacemen 3 settled into being the garage-y outfit found on records like The Perfect Prescription. Tracks here bristle with life, with numbers like "The Sound of Confusion" and "Come Down Easy" serving in these versions as rough templates for the longer, more out there editions that were released later on subsequent Spacemen 3 albums. The sharp brutalism of "Amen" is the V.U.-style of drone rock reduced to its most basic elements, a shadow of "No Fun" by Iggy and crew casting itself over the track as well. Elsewhere, "Things'll Never Be The Same" rips things up, while the eerily-lovely "Transparent Radiation (Organ Version)" sees a familiar number from the band's catalog in its earliest, purest form.

The essential Playing With Fire from 1989 finds Spacemen 3 riding between musical poles that suggest pure bliss ("Come Down Softly To My Soul") and the start of an anarchic uprising ("Revolution"). What's here from Sonic Boom (Peter Kember) and the guy who'd form Spiritualized (Jason Pierce) is the melange of the sounds that both musicians would unveil in other outlets later. At their best here, like on the brief "I Believe It", one can hear the very sound that Bobby Gillespie would use as the basis for his best tracks on the Screamadelica album some time later, or, on "Honey", the kind of thing that suggests what bands like Slowdive and The Telescopes would pursue in the years after the release of Playing With Fire. And to say that is to acknowledge that this release is indeed that seminal to the entire genre. Kember and Pierce may have been on the outs here but what's on the record is remarkably coherent and cohesive. This remains one of the great, underrated shoegaze records.

Recurring from 1991 is an album I didn't really like back then but which I sort of appreciate now. Of a piece with the sort of band-simplifying-their-sound-approach found on the self-titled Love and Rockets album from 1989, Recurring sees the sonic attack of Spacemen 3 polished and refined to its simplistic core. Gone are the Nuggets-style work-outs from earlier releases, and in their place are gems like the spacious and space-y "Hypnotized" and similar numbers that foreshadow what Pierce would do on the best Spiritualized records, and Kember would do on those Sonic Boom releases. Still, for the moments that shine here, there's stuff like the lengthy and unwieldy "Big City (Everyone I Know Can Be Found Here)", a 10-minute trip through the detritus of acid summer in England, that is far less successful for being too of its era.

The very essence of the sound of Spacemen 3, and, as such, some of the building blocks of an entire genre of music in England and elsewhere, Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To, Playing With Fire, and Recurring make the collective case for the continuing importance of Spacemen 3, and, by extension, the genius of Peter Kember (Sonic Boom, J. Spaceman) and Jason Pierce (Spiritualized). The records remain expansive, near-visionary listening experiences.

Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To, Playing With Fire, and Recurring are all out this week via the Superior Viaduct label.

Monday, April 16, 2018

You Could Be Better: A Quick Review Of The New Drinks Album

Some few years ago, I expressed my befuddlement at the first Drinks record -- and I also explained why I simply refuse to write the band's name in all-caps as it's shown elsewhere. And, since I only review things here that I like, I faced the challenge of trying to outline the positives of a record that really sort of puzzled me.

Well, now, in 2018, I'm happy to report that the new Drinks album, Hippo Lite, out Friday on Drag City, is a good deal easier to embrace. If anything, Hippo Lite sacrifices none of the experimentation of the first album from the band, while offering up a new layer of accessibility. "Blue From The Dark" blends a bit of Sixties-style chamber pop with an insistent melody to start the album, while the jittery "Real Outside" echoes both early Talking Heads and Slits records. To name-drop those artists is not to suggest that Tim Presley sounds like David Byrne, nor that Cate Le Bon sounds like Ari Up, but, rather, that Drinks clearly owe a huge debt to artists that pursued new textures and rhythmic attacks in the immediate post-punk years some decades ago. "In The Night Kitchen" is more angular, while "Greasing Up" nods in the direction of those V.U. cuts where John Cale took the lead, to go even further back for a comparison point. "Leave The Lights On" is a good showcase for Cate Le Bon as a vocalist, while closer "You Could Be Better" marries the more avant-garde approach of Drinks with something that sounds a bit like the sort of thing routinely offered up by bands like Broadcast or Lake Ruth.

Drinks have taken a lot of risks here on their second album, even as they've edged a tiny bit closer to what makes up a fairly mainstream strain of alternative music in the 21st century. Given that, I'd heartily recommend Hippo Lite to both fans of Tim Presley (White Fence) or Cate Le Bon, as well as to listeners in search of something a bit more adventurous than lots of what's out there at the moment.

Hippo Lite is out on Friday via Drag City.

[Photo: H. Hawkline]

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Made Out Of Honey: A Quick Review Of The New Azalia Snail Album

Azalia Snail has been a mainstay of the American indie scene for a long time. And one can understand her longevity when one hears the sort of bright pop she routinely cranks out. Her newest record, Neon Resistance, is out now via Silber Records and it's as fine a record as any in her rich back-catalog.

The trippy "Celeste (Can You Feel It)" kicks things off, before the percolating electro-pop texture of the peppy "Field Rep" propels things forward into the ether. This is spacious, nearly-dazzling indie, the sort of thing that should soundtrack a spring day nicely. Elsewhere, the lovely "Cherry Blossom" recalls stuff from Broadcast a bit, as does the more languid "Made Out of Honey" after that. The very best tunes here, namely "Weekend Back" and "The Moral Chemist", nod in the direction of The Go! Team and Danielle Dax, respectively, Snail wisely layering multiple electronic effects upon the tracks to offer up lo-fi that's less reliant on guitars than other stuff out there in the market-place. The subtle and space-y "I Am The Night Sky" closes the record in splendid fashion, the tune a nice cousin to the sort of thing Laetitia Sadier has been attempting as a solo artist recently.

Every Azalia Snail record is interesting. That's a given. But I'll venture that Neon Resistance is one of her better, bolder recent releases. Azalia has taken some chances here and the results are some of the lightest-and-loveliest compositions in her rich back-catalog. Subtly brave, the electro-tinged indie on Neon Resistance is great stuff that's easy to love.

Neon Resistance is out now via Silber Records.

More details on Azalia Snail via her official Facebook page.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Never Coming Back: A Brief Review Of The New Album From A Place To Bury Strangers

Three years, A Place To Bury Strangers dropped a record which was loud and boisterous. Back then, I found a lot to enjoy in the band's music. With the release today of their new album, Pinned, out now on Dead Oceans, I find myself not as enamored of what this crew is doing.

Whereas before it seemed as if the band was at least cribbing a bit from My Bloody Valentine and Loop, now, it seems like they have been listening to and taking notes from a bunch of Interpol and Sisters of Mercy records. Admittedly, "There's Only One of Us" has a nice throb reminiscent of Eighties electro-poppers, while the brighter "Execution" offers up a more interesting set of textures. "Look Me in the Eye" suggests Nine Inch Nails, while the catchy "Never Coming Back" is more 21st century Depeche Mode than anything else. The harder songs here -- "Attitude", "Act Your Age" -- are moderately enjoyable but, really, for a band that was previously a bit derivative, I kinda wish that A Place To Bury Strangers had picked more interesting reference-points this time around.

Pinned by A Place To Bury Strangers is out today via Dead Oceans.

More details on A Place To Bury Strangers via the band's official website, or their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Ebru Yildiz]

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Everybody Needs You: A Quick Review Of The New Laura Veirs Album

The new Laura Veirs record, The Lookout, out tomorrow via Raven Marching Band, is the sort of release that both surprises and soothes. There's a lot of rich and artistic material here from the prolific singer-songwriter, and one gives thanks to whatever deity is watching over indie-pop that music like this is still being made.

From the bright, skittering rhythms of lead single "Everybody Needs You" and on to the rolling chords of "Watch Fire", a number with Sufjan Stevens, lots of what's here on The Lookout is superbly-realized art-folk, for lack of a better term. Veirs understands both how to construct a hook, as well as how to create texture, and that's darn important. "Lightning Rod", for instance, uses a loping rhythmic figure underneath vocals from Laura that makes the composition seem to recall songs from both Nanci Griffith and Jane Siberry. To name those other artists is to place this in some sort of context for newer fans such as myself. While some of this, like "Seven Falls", nods in the direction of past giants like Judee Sill, lots of other cuts here, namely the rich "Canyon", recall the more lyrical work of The Roches, for instance. There's even something vaguely Stones-y about "Mountains of the Moon", another highlight here.

For all her tremendous talent, Laura Veirs remains an artist who can control her gifts, as the material here is concise, and expertly-performed. The Lookout is so easy to enjoy, and so full of moments of grace and heart, that it stands as one of the best releases of this season.

The Lookout by Laura Veirs is out tomorrow via Raven Marching Band.

More details on Laura Veirs via her official website.

[Photo: Jason Quigley]

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Soundtrack To The Void: A Quick Review Of The New Manic Street Preachers Album

There's something so big, so majestic about the chorus of "International Blue", the lead single off of Resistance is Futile from Manic Street Preachers, that one marvels at how this band have consistently not been embraced on this side of the Atlantic the way they have overseas. Then again, look who's president now, eh? So much for the mystery of Yankee bad taste. As the Welsh band prepares to drop this, their 13th album, there's something reliably ambitious about the kind of pop being pursued and crafted by this lot here.

And what we're confronted with here on Resistance is Futile is an assessing and an assimilating. For as much as some of this sounds like bits from Send Away the Tigers (2007), or has flashes of the futuristic sheen of Futurology (2014), or even dashes of the odd punchiness of Know Your Enemy (2001), there's something new here, something slicker, more refined. If the Manic Street Preachers have done anything here on Resistance is Futile it's to swing for the fences (to use a baseball metaphor about a bunch of guys from Wales). And what this all means for fans, both old and casual, is that we've to give ourselves over again to that strange mix of brain-and-heart at work here in the music of Sean Moore, Nicky Wire, and James Dean Bradfield. What's here is, as always, the sound of a trio of smart fellows surrendering to their own pure-pop inclinations, with the result being the band's best -- and most consistent -- record in ages.

Now, for all that, there's also a lot of cribbing here, perhaps more than is normal for a trio of guys who've always worn their love of a bunch of diverse influences proudly on their sleeves. Maybe even more than on any recent release, the band seem content to nod in the direction of dozens of fine reference points: "In Eternity" is all Ultravox-pining-for-Bowie's-Berlin, echoes of the Manics' own Futurology (2014) abounding, while "Hold Me Like a Heaven" is easier to get stuck in the head, the tune's big hook decidedly radio-friendly, almost like an Imagine Dragons chorus. The song is, like a few here, almost catchy in spite of itself, the Manics pushing themselves dangerously close to the mainstream yet again, even as the more contrary "Broken Algorithims" ends up sounding more like Rush than anything else.

"Dylan and Caitlin", featuring guest vocals from The Anchoress, about Dylan Thomas and his wife, is this band's "Angel of Harlem", which is to say an unexpectedly peppy throwback to an era when Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick were in the Top 40, while AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" seems to have been the inspiration for "Sequels of Forgotten Wars", another clear winner here thanks to Bradfield's success with a skewed, understated guitar-line. On "Song for the Sadness", James nicks the faintest hint of a Slash guitar hook to serve as the central riff of the track, even as drummer Sean Moore seems to be channeling every John Bonham skin-smash ever sampled by the Beastie Boys. The cut is the more bombastic cousin to earlier numbers like "The Second Great Depression", but more buoyant, while the chugging "People Give In" has all the "Autobahn"-like precision of cuts from Futurology, even as it breaks into grand, sunshine-dappled string-breaks, the peaks of "Australia" writ even larger.

Those moments, and many in the first 2 singles ("International Blue" and "Distant Colours"), highlight the genius of this band, that unique blend of intellect and emotion that is rarely pulled off so deftly and precisely. The moments that move here -- and there are many, especially on the Hillsborough-referencing "Liverpool Revisited" -- season tracks every bit as big and shiny as those of, say, ELO, with the sort of smart pop that post-punk perpetually promised (and rarely delivered). Resistance is Futile sounds like the culmination of something, the search, sans Richey, for those moments when rock-and-roll truly can deliver us from our misery, and reveal something large and majestic within us as listeners and fans.

Resistance is Futile is out on Friday everywhere.

More details on Manic Street Preachers via

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture from band's Facebook page]

Monday, April 9, 2018

Just Passing By: A Brief Review Of The New Anton Barbeau Album

The new album by Anton Barbeau blends the musician's familiar, playful take on power-pop, with a more lyrical, inspired spin on the sort of stuff Todd Rundgren could once be reliably counted on to provide. Natural Causes, out on Friday via Beehive, is a fine record, one that is sure to appeal to fans of XTC and Jellyfish, and, of course, Rundgren's stuff.

Robbie McIntosh of McCartney's band adds some guitars to the lush "Disambiguation", one of the highlights here, and "It's The Coffee" reminded me of Split Enz a bit, another major compliment to the skills of Barbeau at delivering this sort of thing. Elsewhere, "Magic Sandwiches" sounds like you might imagine, but it's less silly and brighter than you'd figure, while "Just Passing By" positively rocks, the chords sharp and crackling ones. And while I suppose that a lot of listeners will be drawn to this because of how Rundgren-ian lots of Natural Causes sounds, or because of the guests on this record (Andy Metcalfe, members of Bevis Frond, Karla Kane, etc.), but what those listeners should really be attracted to is Barbeau's ease here at crafting material like this. This is really good stuff for power-pop fans, especially anyone who's worn out their copy of Oranges and Lemons.

Natural Causes will be out on Friday via Beehive Records.

More details on Anton Barbeau via his official website.

[Photo: Kristine Chambers]

Friday, April 6, 2018

Unnatural Act: A Quick Review Of The New Wreckless Eric Album

The new album from Wreckless Eric, Construction Time and Demolition, out today, is as good a showcase for the multiple talents of the legendary singer-songwriter as one is likely to encounter. A ramble through multiple genres, Eric Goulden (birth-name of Wreckless Eric) tries his hand at various styles here and succeeds at most of them.

From the twang-y near-glam of "Unnatural Act" and the absolutely lovely "The World Revolved Around Me", the cuts here are uniformly excellent, with Eric operating with a level of assurance that is wonderful. Goulden uses "Wow and Flutter" to tell a cautionary tale, while the brighter "Flash" offers up a jaunty hook in an all-too-brief song. The pointed "Gateway to Europe" stands as one of Goulden's very best compositions to date, even if the longer, rambling "Forget Who You Are" seems less successful.

Construction Time and Demolition sees Wreckless Eric traipse through the forms of both classic pub rock, and the sort of singer-songwriter stuff that owes far more to Luke Haines, for example, than it does to Richard Thompson. An excellent record, Construction Time and Demolition works for a listener who's deeply familiar with this guy's back-catalog and for those who only know that one big hit from "40 Years" ago (as the track here goes).

Construction Time and Demolition is out today. More details via

[Photo: Uncredited Bandcamp image]

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Few Words About This New Henry Kaiser Project

This new Henry Kaiser project is full of music that's both sublime and jarring. En Las Montanas de Excesos, out on Friday via Self Sabotage Records, is the sort of thing that straddles a few genres with the sort of bravery that far too few players attempt these days.

The players here -- Chris Cogburn (drums), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (electric bass), Bob Hoffnar (pedal steel guitar), and Henry Kaiser (electric guitar) -- attack these 4 long tracks with gusto, with even a shorter number like "The Shadow Over Overkill" seeing Kaiser run up and down the neck of his guitar like some odd combination of Fripp and Vai, the rhythm section pulsing behind him. Elsewhere, the epic "The Luxuriance Horror" spools out over the course of 22 minutes, quiet sections alternating with thunderous drum-rolls, and throbbing bass-runs, and throughout Kaiser's absurdly-supple guitar-work. The slightly-shorter "The Dream Quest of the Unknown Plethora" sees these 4 players ride the swells and crests of the fusion-y number with a real fearlessness.

En Las Montanas de Excesos, out on Friday via Self Sabotage Records, is the sort of record that deserves attention from astute listeners, the work of Henry Kaiser here alone something marvelous and consistently-inventive.

Chris Cogburn / Ingebrigt Håker Flaten / Bob Hoffnar / Henry Kaiser "En Las Montañas de Excesos"

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

To The Morning Light: A Review Of The Second Album From Hinds

What the world doesn't need is a long, rambling review of the spry new album from Hinds, I Don't Run, out on Friday via Mom + Pop Music. I mean, the music of the band on 2016 debut Leave Me Alone was unpretentious, and full of the sort of easy indie-pop hooks that were absolutely infectious to even the most jaded of listeners. And, really, I Don't Run is more of the same, with some indications of subtle growth.

And to say that is not to suggest that this is the dreaded difficult second album, but, rather, that I Don't Run varies the Hinds formula just enough to keep things interesting for fans both old and new. It's not that things are more complicated this time out, but that it seems like there was more deliberation in the crafting of this second Hinds long-player, a fact that's apparent within seconds of the start of the record. Ade Martin's throbbing bass on thumping opener "The Club" sets things moving in the right direction, the cut a superbly-produced, richer variation on earlier, more casual numbers (and the closest Hinds have yet come to sounding a lot like Luscious Jackson). If this is maturity in the world of Hinds, I'll take it. Lead single "New For You" is a sunny singalong, the obvious hit here, while "Echoing My Name" is enough of a throwback to the first Hinds releases (when the band was called Deers) to please die-hard fans who pine for something a bit gentle. Elsewhere, "Linda" charts a winding melodic path underneath Ana Perrote's earnest vocals on perhaps the loveliest composition on I Don't Run, further proof of the care with which these selections were composed and arranged.

If the easy and familiar interplay of vocalists Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote is what originally made Hinds such a delightful proposition a few years back, the singers are now also parts of a musically-muscular four-some. And what makes so much of I Don't Run work so well, most notably the sublime "Tester" with its rev-ups and wind-downs, is the way the players here work together. That cut, a faintly Pixies-ish approximation, is invigorating and the sort of thing that soars, even amid the Janet Weiss-style attack on the kit from drummer Amber Grimbergen on this one. The clear highlight of I Don't Run, "Tester" is followed by "Finally Floating", this album's "Garden", a hooky bit of indie-pop business. And those cuts, like the fun "To The Morning Light", and the peppy "Rookie", nod back to those early releases from this band, when things sounded spontaneous and carefree.

If lots of I Don't Run retains that sort of appeal, the overall sound is more robust this time around, with the musicians having found a way to make music that's both thoughtful and (seemingly) effortlessly simple. There was always something pure and unaffected in the music of Hinds, and if that quality now vies with moments that (clearly) indicate a greater level of attention paid in the studio, the overall effect is still a wonderful one, as the tunes here positively bounce with life.

It's just so hard to be impartial about this group. And that's great. The world needs more indie-pop like this, stuff that reminds a listener how much fun life can be, even as people grow up.

I Don't Run by Hinds will be out on Friday via Mom + Pop Music.

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

[Photos: Neelam Khan Vela (top); Alberto Van Stokkum (middle)]

Monday, April 2, 2018

You Dreamt: A Quick Review Of The Debut Album From MIEN (Members Of The Horrors, The Black Angels, The Earlies)

MIEN is sorta a super-group. And admittedly what will draw listeners to this is the fact that the members are from other bands: Alex Maas from The Black Angels; Tom Furse from The Horrors; Rishi Dhir from Elephant Stone; and John-Mark Lapham from The Earlies. However, and most importantly, there's really compelling music on the self-titled debut from MIEN, and one's enjoyment of this music doesn't depend on a working knowledge of any of those other bands.

If some of this, like "You Dreamt" and "Earth Moon" recalls "Swastika Eyes"-era Primal Scream with ease, the more troubling and invigorating "(I'm Tired Of) Western Shouting" suggests a lifetime spent absorbing Can and Cabaret Voltaire records. The supple and insinuating "Ropes" and "Other" are down-tempo purrs of electronica, throwbacks to an age when more artists were attempting to map out territory like this. Elsewhere, the more driving "Ropes" and the spry "Odessey" seem to owe debts to early New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen, the bright surfaces of the latter song being particularly inviting.

There's a lot here in the grooves of this MIEN record that you may have heard in bits and pieces elsewhere -- swatches of MGMT here, a blast of Chemical Brothers over there -- but the way the pieces were assembled on this release renders MIEN a largely compelling listen.

MIEN by MIEN is out on Friday. More details via the link below. And more details on MIEN via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Speaking In Tongues: A Very Brief Review Of The New Cavemen Album

It would seem silly to spend more time writing a review of the new Cavemen album, Nuke Earth, out Friday on Slovenly, than it would to listen to the record. And as the album is only 24 minutes long, I best get typing, eh?

The New Zealand band whip up an infectious blend of The Cramps, The Misfits, Iggy and The Stooges, and a dash of fellow countrymen Hoodoo Gurus here on this record, and if this kind of rock-and-roll doesn't inspire you in some way, you're probably already dead inside. From the bad intent of "Lust for Evil", and to the buzzing "Batshit Crazy", and then on to the Dead Boys-aping "Chernobyl Baby", the cuts here on Nuke Earth are all effortlessly-cool bits of garage rock done in the trappings of all the best bands in your record collection. The nicely-titled "Don't Wanna Hang" sees the boys take a flash of inspiration from The Ramones, while the lively "Elvis is Alive" updates the Cramps template for a new century. By the time you get to "Speaking in Tongues" at the end of Nuke Earth, you're wired and amped up. I can think of no higher praise than that. The Cavemen are doing it right.

Nuke Earth is out on Slovenly on Friday. More details on The Cavemen via their official Facebook page.

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

Don't Look Back: A Brief Review Of The New Pere Ubu Box From Fire Records

The remarkable series of Pere Ubu reissues from Fire Records has seen the label bring back into print one of the best back-catalogs in the entirety of post-punk. And if the albums on Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales 1987-1991, the next box-set, out on Friday on Fire Records, seem like less essential ones than other, earlier ones from the David Thomas-fronted band, the 4 discs here may very well upend that conventional wisdom, offering up proof that the vitality of Ubu continued well into those bleak years before Cobain made alternative music safe for more listeners.

Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales 1987-1991 is the last set to be released in this series, but the third in chronological terms, what with Elitism For The People 1975-1978, Architecture Of Language 1979-1982, and Drive, He Said 1994-2002 coming out in 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively. And if disc 1 of Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales 1987-1991, 1988's The Tenement Year, suggests a bridging of earlier, rougher post-punk styles with more accessible alt-rock ones, it's really 1989's Cloudland that does that work. Still, there's a lot to enjoy here on this 1988 album: the art-roar of "Something's Gotta Give"; the jazzy whirl of "George Had a Hat"; the gallop of "The Hollow Earth"; the plaintive balladry of "We Have The Technology" and so on.

Still, all my praise up there is sort of obliterated once a listener gets to breakthrough album Cloudland (1989). The record is such a pleasant surprise when you hear it again after all these years, that it's a wonder that it's not more often mentioned as a sort of crucial link in the leap from New Wave to college rock in general. "Race the Sun" positively soars, and "Love Love Love" is all peppy goodness, the very sort of thing one imagines being in short supply in David Thomas' world, while the band's big hit, "Waiting For Mary" is gloriously of the era and also the culmination of the rise of American post-punk. Famously mixed at Paisley Park, it's not that this long-player sounds like Prince, but that maybe some of the Purple One's joy when performing can be heard here in these grooves, the band sounding like they are having obvious fun. What a radical concept that was then when considering Pere Ubu!

Disc 3 of Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales 1987-1991 is taken up by 1991's Worlds in Collision, a record remembered perhaps more for its atrocious cover art than what's actually burned into the grooves. And now, having heard this for the first time in quite a few years, I feel criticisms of this one are kinda misplaced. "Don't Look Back" surges like The Pixies, a band who owed quite a lot to David Thomas and Pere Ubu, while "Mirror Man" and the title cut offer up jaunty alt-rock that still tickles the brain while causing the toes to tap. Elsewhere, "I Hear They Smoke The Barbecue" is one odd bit of business, part-Americana, and part-college rock stomper. The song remains surprisingly good, a tight offering from the Ubu that still provokes a curious thrill in a listener.

One would expect Disc 4 of Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales 1987-1991 to be 1992's Story of My Life, but, alas, it's given over to a Lost Album that is essentially a collection of demos. While one can wonder about the fate of that really lost album that would have nicely connected this set with Drive, He Said 1994-2002, it's better to just dive into what's here and enjoy it all. "Postman Drove a Caddy" is weird and vaguely like Tom Waits material circa Frank's Wild Years, while "Invisible Man" is more accessible. "Like a Rolling Stone" is, thankfully, not a cover of the Dylan song. What it is is another reminder of this band's bravery in throwing so many ideas at the wall. The group's sense of abandon at times saw the musicians pursue dead-ends, and at others vast highways leading into undiscovered countries. The soundscapes here, on rare cuts like "Wine Dark Sparks", are little bits of proof of the greatness of this band, and their endurance through multiple decades of trends that drew listeners in different directions.

And while so much of Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales 1987-1991 seems to indicate an era in which Pere Ubu were intent on going a bit more mainstream, I prefer to play these albums and hear Pere Ubu seize their chance to break through, and grab a whole new class of fans. Reminders of the consistent greatness of David Thomas and his evolving team of players, and testaments from an age when post-punk found itself morphing into alt-rock, the 3 studio albums on Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales 1987-1991 are all superb. And if the 4th disc is more of a curiosity, at least it's one from Pere Ubu when the band was still on fire, and still offering up the sound of something legitimately subversive and alternative, a respite from the mainstream.

Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales 1987-1991 by Pere Ubu is out on Friday via Fire Records.

More details on Pere Ubu via

[Photo: Frank Ockenfels, 1991]