Monday, June 18, 2018

Cassette Review //
(Crass Lips Records) // //

What is time?  What is SNARLY?  At first, I have this punk rock feeling and it has that mixture of Buck Wild (google them, trust me) and Twisted Sister but the more you listen to these songs the more they just come out in a punk rock manner like Pennywise or Guttermouth.    I can't find this as a cassette anywhere so you might have to do some digging (or emailing) to purchase it as such, but this was originally posted to the SNARLY Bandcamp page in 2015.   That's wild.   I hadn't heard it before so props to Crass Lips Records for bringing it to my attention and hopefully the attention of others.

Of these nine songs, two of them are covers- one by GWAR and one by The Trashmen.   The audio samples on here are also noted on the Bandcamp page.   I particularly like "Obviously the human race is in love with self destruction", which was made by GWAR to Joan Rivers and that's just a scene I'm sure you could look for on YouTube but just seems all too surreal to me. 

A lot of these songs are what they say in the title.   "You Don't Wanna Eat Lunch With Me", for example, is pretty straight forward and, yes, the lyrics not only have the title in the chorus but they explain why you should not eat lunch with SNARLY (I mean, I assume this applies to everyone in the band and not just whoever wrote the lyrics)   And yet "I Saw Evil" gives us one of my favorite punk rock lines in "Don't wanna go to jail / already in hell" which has a Bad Religion feel to it.

When I was a kid I discovered what punk was from a classmate but I feel like this SNARLY cassette is one you'd keep hidden under your bed and someone would find it for the first time and it would completely change their world.   Even as old as I am, I can still appreciate this side of punk rock and I think everyone should be able to do the same, really, but if you need to hide this from the kids until you feel like they're old enough I understand.

Cassette Review //
Flesh Narc
"Songs of Reality"

$7 //
Edition of 50 // //

"Songs of Reality" opens with this chaotic rock song.   It's a little screamy and has this screechy guitar vibe to it as well.   It reminds me a bit of FBMTOF and then... Is that autotune I hear in there?   It certainly has taken on some sort of Frampton Comes Alive form within the distinct scattered guitars and drums.   It feels like the vocals are doing the scales, but it also sounds a lot like when Finn sings during "Adventure Time", which there is an app for, but is that a genre like T-Pain or something?   I guess I've not studied voice patterns that much but perhaps I should.

The second song has more of a video game thrash feel to it with spoken words and this sounds kind of like Tastes Like Burning but aside from that old band (Which might have actually just been one person) I'm not sure what else to compare this with.    Records scratches or radio frequencies take us into the next track- "Optical Intrusion"- which has that weirdo punk rock sound that is somewhere between Fred Schneider and My Name Is Rar-Rar.   This goes into a psychedelic song which has vocals coming through screeches which make me think of modems.

Whooshes and whirrs make it feel like we're in space but the singing comes through with that feeling again like Finn, yet also there is a Sun Hammer sense to it as well.     Louder bass and higher treble come through and this has a feeling of Primus but something else as well.    I checked the Flesh Narc Bandcamp before writing this and I wrote about two of their earlier cassettes but they seem to have put out a decent amount of music since then and if anything it just seems to be getting weirder, more defined in the weirdness and I enjoy that they're really cementing their own sound on "Songs of Reality".

It gets back into that FBTMOF way, but it's not as heavy, it's more of the art rock/punk side of FBTMOF than the hardcore/screaming/metal, though don't get me wrong, at times this does thrash more than you might expect if I was to compare it with some sort of indie rock weirdo band that I can't quite put my finger on.     The flip side comes out really fast though, so it's starting to lean more towards the punk side even though I still don't have the same comparisons to make as I had in the previous reviews for Flesh Narc. 

I definitely hear a jackhammer now and then the music comes through with "Everyone's taking my advice".    Sharpness and grinding come out with these vocals and it's like watching a musical episode of "Adventure Time" on acid.    I then begin to feel as if the tape is going into rewind.    These next few songs just seem to grind through in a way like you would drive fast around a winding road- which I know is a scene from a Carey Grant movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock but maybe not everyone has seen it yet.     I feel like I'm being asked about yarn as the buildings get richer.

What I perhaps enjoy most about Flesh Narc is that they're a weird band.   I don't mean that in the sense that you go, "Oh, this is a weird band" and then they're still out there on Merge or some fucking record label like that.   I mean this is weird in the sense that it's not "cool weird" where people listen to it because they like that it doesn't sound like everyone else even though it still has some sort of underlying pop appeal to it.    Flesh Narc is weirder than what you're likely thinking of when I type the word "weird" and this music isn't for everyone but I absolutely love that about it.

CD Review //
"Blood Of Cushing"
(Custom Made Music)

$10 // //

Not that long ago (Though it will likely be longer by the time you're reading this) I was submitted an artist who had covered a particular song and I listened to it just to hear how it went but I didn't enjoy it.   This made me think of another artist who covered the same song and that of course made me go back and listen to the music of that artist, who is 1000 Mona Lisas.   I'm never sure how much people know about music and if I say "This sounds like ____" whether or not that makes sense to them because my influences growing up and yours might be very different.   Artists I hold in such high regard might have never been heard by you before.

When I heard "Curse of Cushing" I knew that Cushing is a band which can fit into that "alternative" or "modern" rock genre in the sense that if this was the early 1990's this sound would fit in so perfectly.    It's those big, drowning guitars that sometimes sludge through the songs and other times just start and stop and take us into this place that's so dark, so heavy.   Between Nirvana and Campground Effect, Marcy Playground and Helmet, Cushing just has that sound from that specific era but it would have stood out as exceptional back then so right now, in 2018, it stands out even more as "Wow, why haven't I heard this before?"

In some ways, yes, it does feel like Cushing is a band that existed in a different time and these songs are being presented now as re-releases of forgotten about Sub Pop records from a time when "Bleach" might have overshadowed them but looking back now you kind of wish you had been listening to this more back then.   But I'm sure it is from the present and not past because it many ways it feels like this could only be forged by someone experiencing the last twenty years of rock music as well as all that came before it.  To only have the knowledge of rock music up until the 1990's might not have been able to create such an album as this.

But then there is the problem.   If this is modern, which it is, what modern bands does it sound like?  Where are the modern influences?   There is some Local H in here, but that would be their older stuff ("Here Comes The Zoo" era I'd say).   There are some hints of Queens of the Stone Age but I'm not sure how "modern" that is nowadays either.    But is it my fault the radio no longer plays rock music?  Is it the fault of Cushing?  It's just kind of crazy for me to think that back in 1993 the radio stations would've been all over this and now they're more concerned with... Well, I'd rather not listen to the radio, let's just say that.

Which, in reality, is sad because a lot of bands I listened to growing up I did so because they were on the radio.   When I was growing up, there was no Spotify, SoundClound, Bandcamp, etc. and a lot of times in order to hear new bands you'd get soundtracks or compilations (which were CDs) which bands on them and go "Oh, I know this band, but I don't know this one", so you'd hear bands you didn't know that way and it'd help bring them exposure, but man, it was so difficult to hear new bands back then compared with now so I just hope everyone can appreciate how easy it is for you to hear these songs right now and take advantage of that because this is not "a good album for the 1990's" or "a good album for right now" it's just an all around kick-ass album.

Record Review:
Sick Balloons
"Drive-thru Towns & Flyover States"
(Bleeding Gold Records)

$10 //
Edition of 250 // //

When I first listened to this EP by Sick Balloons I thought it was a digital only release for some reason.   I listened to it many times, even sometimes while out walking with earbuds in, and I decided that the best way to review it would be a good old fashioned Song-By-Song-Review.    And then I kind of forgot about it and never got around to doing the SBSR, but now, since the 7" is here, let's do it!

<1> "Dial Away"  --- This starts with clanky guitars after the sound of plugging into the amp.   "There's no giant in the sky" and right away we're into the not believing in God idea.    In many ways, this reminds me of Samiam which is something I haven't really been able to compare another band with since, well, I first heard them so I'm definitely excited about that.   I'm also secretly exicted about playing this 7" at the wrong speed, which is mostly on me, I know I know.

<2> "I Started A Fire (That I Couldn't Put Out)" --- This is likely the single on the EP.   It reminds me of Blue October and just has this alternative rock feel mixed with something new.   It feels like the guitar is coming through one of those little amps you can clip to your belt and yes I am on the second song and have said "amp" twice already (Now three times for reference)    The title of the song comes out with the singing but only at the end so it's not the chorus in the sense that it isn't revisited during the song it just kind of closes it out but, I mean, how many times have we all started fires that we couldn't put out, right?

<3> "Picnic On War" --- Guitars bring this song to life and then the drums come in as well.   There is a Foo Fighters sound to this song, but on their older stuff, maybe even only their first album.    Should there be another rock reference I can make in here?  Probably.    It's punk like Shades Apart in the way that I'd imagine them playing shows together but it's all around just a good old rock and roll song still.

<4> "I'm Still Here" --- Distorted, more like garage punk here.   It's like Dynamite Hack mixed with the Priests and probably a number of other current bands which can be found mostly in California and on certain labels which release cassettes.   Let's just say Nobunny and you take it from there.   As it sings the title one last time it fades out and I can't help but feel it's a reference to Mudhoney somehow too, no?

There are a number of ways one could interpret the name Sick Balloons.   On one hand, you could think of someone as launching balloons in a terrorist attack way and when they popped poisonous gas was released to infect people and perhaps try and kill off the entire human race or at least a chunk of it.   But I like to think of it in a way that when you are out and see a balloon, deflated and sad, stuck in a tree, those balloons are sick and need help.   Funny how nothing else seems to have that same abandonment as a "Happy Graduation" balloon that got away and then crashed two towns over.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cassette Review //
"Collection II"

$3.50 CAD // //

Listening to a cassette quite as long as "Collection II" can make it difficult to describe.   The length of this has it where I don't feel you can pinhole it down to one statement like "Oh, this is rock that sounds like..." or whatever.   There is enough going on throughout these songs that even I am willing to admit that there might be parts I leave out.  In that sense, I feel the only way you could truly cover all of your bases is to listen to this cassette for yourself.

In a broad sense, the music of i.o is guitar based.   There generally tend to be other instruments with the guitars, which can include bass and drums.   One of the first sounds I really hear when this cassette kicks off is this hardcore thrash sound, like Ed Gein or something from Black Market Activities, that sort of early '00's music.    There is singing after that which can feel more melodic and just less destructive but for the most part this is instrumental.

The rock music is dictated, primarily, by what the guitars do.   Sometimes this is post rock.   Sometimes it can be skramz or math rock.   Something along the lines of Pinback at times and yet also channeling I Kill Giants at other times.    It is difficult to place this with the comparison of another specific band when it is instrumental and yet somehow when there are vocals it seems to be even more difficult.    One of the main things you should know about this is that it is guitar heavy in the sense that whatever else is going that seems to be where the focus is most-- the guitar.

I like to cook.   I understand why recipes say what they say, but sometimes it still bothers me when the directions tell me to boil water, put the food in, simmer, then bring it back to a boil for five to seven minutes.   Why not just put the food in from the start and skip that whole simmering downtime?  I know, I know, it has to do with the cooking and if you skipped the simmering if might still cook but just not as well.   These songs feel like that to me in some ways-- the explosions (the boiling), the calm (the simmering) and then building back up to it again.

The first time I listened to this cassette I was doing laundry.   I went into this corner near the dryers because that way people wouldn't constantly be trying to walk by me and bothering me.   But when I went to the corner I had this distinct smell of cigarette smoke in my nose.   I thought I didn't want to have my now clean clothes smelling like this, so I moved away to other dryers.    About twenty minutes later, this old, white trash woman comes in with a seemingly older and even dirtier man to load their clothes into dryers.

It was the damnedest thing because I smelled smoke again, looked over and she had a lit cigarette hanging out of her mouth.  I feel like it's illegal to smoke inside places like that, but even so, why would you want your clean clothes to smell like cigarette smoke?  I watched as she literally dropped ashses into her cart, on her wet and supposedly clean clothes, then picked them up and put them into the dryer.   What's the point of even cleaning them if that's how you're going to do it?

The worst part of my story is that the old man who works at the laundromat came over at least twice to help with the dryers and he said/did nothing about her smoking inside of his place of work.   I wanted to say something to the woman, or to the guy who worked there, but if he knew and didn't care what would it accomplish?  It'd only keep me there longer and the longer I was there the longer my clothes were going to start to wreak of cigarette smoke.   So I threw my clothes in my bag and high-tailed it out of there. 

I wonder now, looking back at that first listen and that whole scenario, was it this music playing, was it this soundtrack that helped to fuel my rage?   If I was listening to something else, could I have said more calmly and politely that the laundromat should be a non-smoking environment?  I'm not sure.   But this music does have that way about it where it just builds until you feel like it's going to boil over and I feel like that helped my mood, to feel as if I'm going to explode.

Though I feel the focus on here should be the guitars because that's what stands out the most, the fact is that there are simply other instruments played just as well, so I wanted to give that nod to the drumming as well.    In some ways, I feel like this can break down into an almost free jazz type of feel but if you're a fan of any sort of guitar-based music, really, then this should be the perfect soundtrack for you to hopefully not have a near public meltdown like me but something close I hope.

Cassette Review //
Three-Armed Men
"Friends Til Death"
(Crass Lips Records) //

Three-Armed Men have a sound which can be easily summed up by saying that it sounds like a cross between Primus and Mudhoney.   However, as we all know when it comes to music, it is rarely that simple.    This is wild like The Doors, but it also seems to be punk at the core of it all.   Sometimes the vocals come through with singing and other times they're more spoken word but there is this clanky mix of rock n roll guitars, drums, bass and even sometimes keys behind them.

Weirdo rock and sloppy punk (but in a good way) can bring out some of the trippy elements of these songs which can make me feel like I'm in space or at least amongst the aliens somehow.    At the start, it also feels like the vocals are a lot louder than everything else, but after the first couple of songs that changes and all of the elements seem to level out.    On Side B there are also more of the spoken word type of songs than the singing ones, which have this feel between that Nada Surf song where he reads about how to be popular, Suicidal Tendencies and the content itself can feel like a Mitch Hedberg joke.

From "Tomorrow I'll steal another car from someone" to "These eyes have seen the horror of the truth", the lyrics really aren't afraid to discuss any subject.   "Zoo Fashion" discusses what type of clothes are appropriate to wear to a zoo and I'm not sure there is a good answer for that but I'm always afraid I'm going to wear something bright like red and have some animal get angry and come charging at me.    It's odd, too, because "Zoo Fashion" opens up Side B and yet it's the last song on this Bandcamp link, so, I'm not going to bother trying to make sense of song order and just rock it out.

There is this slight hint of twee but not in an acoustic way, more in a rock n roll jangle way and as usual this reminds me of something that I should be able to put my finger on easily but I cannot which is how I find the best music sounds.   On some level, I want these spoken word vocals to accompanied by notes and then when we hit the chorus it kicks into faster chords and screaming- which is a pattern I've heard bands use before-  But Three-Armed Men don't really play by the rules of any other band or anyone in general, they really just set their own bar.

Cassette Review //
The Electric Nature
"The Place of Dead Roads"

$7 //
Edition of 50 // //
🎧 //

We begin with a quiet droning, an ambient sort of feel with minimal electronics mixed in.    There is this ringing where inside the vacuum of space it feels as if it could turn into a western somehow.    It feels hollow, yet it builds, grows.     The whirrs ring through the distortion now in waves.   It has a visceral feel to it.    Guitar notes now begin to make their way through and this is dark, like something from "The Crow".    In the background it sounds as if there are shaking chains but it could be percussion-- either way, I like to think of it as having something to do with the dead and their want to be unleashed upon the living.   The rhythm grows and if you listened to this one at the airport I bet it would feel like a plane taking off.

The ringing comes through now in an angelic way.   It sorts of trills but also just feels like the airplane would've taken off but not stopped and kept going all the way up to heaven (Though I suppose there is something to be said for the clouds)    This takes on a strong FNL feel now, as notes come through one at a time and reverberate.    At various points it feels as if singing could begin at any moment, but it just continues this up and down feel, like the slow breathing of an accordion.    As we ultimately come to an end of Side A, it feels as if we have simply drifted off into space, a star which has burned too brightly and now has burned out.

A loud, ringing distortion ushers us into the flip side.   We could still just as easily be in space as we could have on Side A.    Guitar notes come through now and this takes on an ambient sense.    Sharpness cuts like a knife.    The whirrs grow within the distortion and this has a sound to it which is minimal but could be on the brink of something much larger.  It just feels like we're listening to that squealing of the tires, the steering wheel spinning out of control and all we're waiting on is that crash.   Cymbals come in as it sounds as if engines are revving up.   This descends into madness, the strings sounding as if things are breaking now and it just has this general sense of chaos.

It feels as if we are playing with a saw now but the mechanics of it all feel like we're inside a giant clock- like Big Ben- and all of those gears and parts are just turning and clanking to form these sounds.    Of course, in that scenario the clock itself is likely not running on time but rather speeding up at random times to make everything around it feel less real.   We drop down further into this steady feeling of something like a vacuum- something which generates that sort of buzzing/humming- and there are screeches of sharpness mixed with this as well.

There is a back and forth now, it feels almost like a sawing and that makes me think like we're drifting out of control, as if we had control once, in our spaceship but now we are just unable to determine where we are going.   Someone wooed.    Was this performed live?  Sometimes I'm not sure it matters because great music is great regardless.   The best way to experience this cassette is to find something you can do aimlessly.  I imagine a balloon being let go, floating up into the clouds and such but for the most part even though it can go side to side, balloons just continue upwards.   You need to find a way to be able to float up and back down, then back up again.   Like a car on an icy road without brakes but totally don't try that.