Monday, June 27, 2016

Thank god for Terry

While half the world goes on wondering when the shit is going to hit the fan and we can begin counting the last of our days, it seems as though our friends to the south are perfectly content, churning out new music and not shooting each other and having the fun that the rest of us don't seem to be having. South meaning Australia, and not, say, Venezuela. They're having a terrible time.

Moreover, now that Dan Treacy's ambiguously alive at this point, the world desperately needs another Television Personalities, and Terry appears available and eager to fill the gap. The Melbourne-based, kinda-sorta-supergroup just started putting out releases this spring, with two EPs out last April (both boasting perfect cover art), and a concise LP out July 1. With our political landscape looking primed to shove its way to the right in a matter of time, there's no doubt that we're about to receive a new wave of socially aware music that seeks to start a revolution -- and let's face it, the good lot of politically inclined music tends to be more drum circle than Zounds and Crass these days. So before the musical revolution takes place, it's a breath of premature relief to come across a perky, say-nothing number like "Tippy Toppy Terry" off April's 8 Girls EP, or a nice song about working your way toward death, something for the everyman. It's tiring to always be on and ready with a message, isn't it? We need the wacky, punk-ish band, the one whose lyrics are gibberish, or perhaps tell a story whose truth is hidden by the guise of humor, to tell us that it's okay to exhale and laugh about the absurdity of things. God, I miss you Dan Treacy.

So Terry's got Al Montfort and Zephyr Pavey of Total Control (a favorite 'round these parts), and their guitar and bass work carries over as loyally as a Total Control fan would hope. But they've also got a nice thing going, male/female shared vocal duties with their girlfriends, somehow giving the feel of a band much larger than it is. Terry is a party that's already quite full but has room for one more if you'd like to join in. And sure, they've got the aforementioned humor and nonsensical lyrics, but they also have lines like "What's a war without the poor" and "Back to work again/a shirtfront for the worst cunt" in album opener "Moscow," so this isn't all the stuff of vapid non-stories, really. Bless this band for balancing us out when we need them.

You'd be ridiculous not to buy this record. Purchase here, it's a lovely time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Whatever you feel like playing: 50FOOTWAVE and Bath White

A few weeks ago, Kristin Hersh's 50FOOTWAVE put out a new EP, Bath White.

To throw in a few "I" statements for just a moment -- I've coincidentally spent those last few weeks cuddling up to Hersh's memoir Rat Girl. Admittedly, it had spent more than five years sitting on a shelf; I'd bought it at a reading in 2011 and gotten it signed by Hersh, who made a point of talking to and hugging every single fan in line at Stories in Los Angeles. I'd complimented all the strange songs she'd written and she politely countered the compliment by letting me know that all those strange songs had resulted from playing when she didn't know how to properly play. Then she gave me a hug.

For those who haven't read it, Rat Girl is actually quite a fantastic story that grows more and more personal as it goes on, and is based on an eventful year of journal entries in which Hersh recalls her friendship with actress Betty Hutton, moving from Providence to Boston, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, getting pregnant, and getting Throwing Muses signed with 4AD. She had a rather incredible 1986.

When Hersh writes about her musical process, or the experience of playing with Throwing Muses, she downplays nearly everything about her talent and her work. She calls the teenage version of herself a reluctant performer, comments on the way she stares into the crowd, her inability to sing prettily. Says that Throwing Muses sounds "sorta painful and a little out of control," and "too up our own asses to be marketed nationally." But all of this is what Throwing Muses is and was at their best -- guitars and bass winding around each other, time signature changes, the bizarre dichotomy between Hersh's confrontational voice and Tanya Donelly's sweet coo. The stare, that lack of control, the unwillingness to become marketable.

One of the things that's always set Hersh's songwriting apart is her unconventional melodies. In Rat Girl, she blames this on the double concussion she'd sustained as a teenager, which caused her to hear music that she couldn't get rid of until it was down on paper and had become a song, given life. Some of the snaking guitar and antagonistic drumming patterns that Throwing Muses offered can be heard on 50FOOTWAVE's Bath White, particularly on "St. Christopher" and "Sun Salute," which remind somewhat of Muses songs like "Garoux des Larmes" or "Mercury." 

But 50FOOTWAVE is and has been a more muscular, much tougher project than Hersh's work with Throwing Muses, and the potential downside to this is perhaps that it's easier for the band's work to hit a point at which it sounds dated, as some of Hersh's material from the last decade fits somewhere between early '90s alt-rock and late '90s hard rock. This is true of some of their earlier work, as well as songs like Bath White's title track, and it's hard to say whether it will hold up the way some of Throwing Muses' work did, particularly since we're still in a bit of a '90s revival and anything is possible at present [The EP's producer previously worked with bands like Godsmack and Powerman 5000, who I don't believe are part of this revival.] Maybe the ballsiness stems from 50FOOTWAVE being an L.A. band rather than a Providence- or Boston-based group. We're ballsy here, maybe. 

But it's fantastic to see a Kristin Hersh who has grown into an older version of her younger self, rather than an entirely new musician over the span of thirty years. That she hasn't molded her throaty voice, tamed the music in her head or forced the music to rebel against it, is a relief to those of us who keep hoping for reasons to retain our loyalty.

Purchase the Bath White EP here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Outta Providence: Far Corners EP

Here's a bitty something led by Justin Hubbard of the former Turpentine Brothers, a trio from the last decade called Far Corners, once based in New Mexico and now settled in Rhode Island. This EP by Far Corners is everything one should want in a band when what you want is to be excited and pushed to stand up (not for a cause, just, you know, to literally stand up). It wouldn't be surprising to find that Hubbard found his prime somewhere around ten to twelve years ago; these songs have a foundation in earlier punk, sure, but in a more modern context, they could've been peppier recordings by the A Frames (with whom Far Corners have shared the stage), and they've got some of the speed and all of the energy that the Beautiful New Born Children once had. 

Previous releases by the Far Corners are all along the same lines -- as with many bands like this, the ones that create the fastest, the zippiest, the wackiest stuff, there's little variation. But why fix what isn't broken? This has guts and swagger, and it's nearly perfect. One of the most energizing listens of the year, to date.

Purchase the Far Corners EP here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A summery round-up from around the world.

The Whistling Possum are a jangly guitar pop group out of Jakarta, Indonesia! Will appeal to fans of Orange Juice and are extremely twee. They only have one song out but their members are in other acts like AGGI and Sharesprings. Tiok of the Whistling Possum says they are "trying to bring out the 80s indie Scottish sound but fail to manage it" and "somehow you only get the music with some pretentious asshole lyrics." That'll be Whistling Possum, then.

Next up is a fellow born in Johannesburg, based in London, who makes and remixes this nice little blend of psych/surf rock and trip hop, and has a guitar tone similar to that of Fat White Family's Saul Adamczewski.

Toronto-based Weaves make quirky pop that might appeal to fans of Fell Runner and Juno, and they've got an album out June 17.

Monday, June 6, 2016

It's me, Warik!

There's this young fellow named Malik Lemon who makes music under the moniker Warik, and one can't help but be reminded of the Mario/Wario relationship as he positions himself in the following way:

Warik is Malik Lemon
Malik Lemon is Warik.
Where does one end? and the other begin?

Warik is a Chicago native but his work would fit perfectly into Los Angeles' lo-fi scene, with elements of surf rock, dissonance, and early Ariel Pink-style warping; his voice very nearly resembles that of Polvo's Ash Bowie, sans lisp. He's barely out of his teens, and his lyrics are about subjects like being young and getting dismissed by girls, stories perfectly of their time in the context of his life. On the whole, he's succeeded in making a fabulously fluffy summer album that could only work in the current decade.

Visit his Bandcamp page and purchase Warik's Tape.