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Record Reviews

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AL Self-titled: 7"
My favorite part of reviewing 7”s is when you can’t tell if you’re playing something at the wrong speed. This one is at 33, and I thought for sure I had it on 45. Nope, Al Scorch just plays that banjo that fucking fast. Lightning-speed, sloppy folk punk songs about ninjas and liquor made of corn. At least, I think so. The lyrics insert was copied so barely as to be illegible, but I still loved all four tracks. –Sarah Shay (Half Day)

Back in the Sad Hole Again: CD-R
Alabaster Skeleton is Harvest Moon Society’s Nick Zigler performing a nine-track-long solo adventure into the wild, unpredictable world of blunt honesty. While the musical tone of these songs may somewhat vary, the earnest crooning of lost love and lost faith remain constant throughout the CD. The musical change ups are never desperate for a style to cling to; rather they demonstrate Zigler’s talent and versatility. Everything from the Troggs-meets-Sonic Youth whirlwind of guitar on “Ten Little Indians,” to the Postal Service-inspired adaptation of Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farwell,” is consistently high quality and remains interesting. With fast tempo-ed rock tracks placed sporadically within the majority of folk-esque and indie rock, Back in the Sad HoleAgain is a romp of a good time for anyone who appreciates well written songs of overwhelming candor. –Daryl Gussin (Griznar, myspace.com/alabasterskeleton)

Stay Cool, Have a Great Summer: CD
This was a welcome musical relief for me. Twelve songs of crooning from what seems like a bygone era with a take on relationships that doesn’t sound naively antiquated. Everything here is really simple, straightforward, and delightful. Most of the songs are played on acoustic guitar with occasional keyboard or drums. Sometimes, this reminded me of a broken Buddy Holly or Elvis. Other times I felt like I was listening to that friend we all have who plays his songs on his acoustic guitar for you in his bedroom and you wonder why the hell he isn’t playing out because he’s that good. And, sometimes, he sounds like Steven Hawking (“Somethin’ Stupid”). A couple of the songs on here were mediocre and could have stood to be tossed. That’s not to say that they brought the album down, but there were just a few tunes that didn’t do anything for me. This album may not be the most emotionally draining listen from a singer/songwriter (i.e. Elliott Smith), but it’s honest and endearing and I’ll take that any day. –Kurt Morris (www.myspace.com/alabasterskeleton)

Clockworks, Juliet: CD
“Isolation,” the opening track on Clockworks, Juliet, is the rare song that lives up to its title. Synthesizers trickle like raindrops and the forlorn melody plays like a face pressed up against a cold windowpane watching the night. Alan Replica sings on the verge of tears, all cracking chords and congested nasal passages, as the song beckons listeners to continue on with the album. Alan Replica works with slow, plodding beats that increase in speed and intensity as the album progresses. Soon, the strings enter, and it becomes apparent that this is one of the most genuine attempts at producing high-quality synthpop to make it onto album in some time. There is no trace of tongue-in-cheek ‘80s posing, no cries for the rhythmless nation to take to the dance floor and make like dying robots. This is music for people who find romance hidden within Japan and Ultravox records. –Liz O. (Ninth Wave; www.ninthwaverecords.com)

Self-titled: 7” EP
Not by any stretch a new single by the old Welsh band of the same name—the opening tune here sounds like a Brujeria outtake with English lyrics. The rest alternates between the same and down-tuned thrash stuff that dances on the hardcore and metal borderline. –Jimmy Alvarado (Inkblot, no address)

Nov. 7, 2009 Live: LP
A rather nondescript cover, no song titles on the back, looks hand-made. A flyer for an Alarm Clocks show in 2009? Yes, it’s the band from Back from the Grave. Gotta admit I ignored the album Norton Records put out a few years ago but I think I need it now. Normally I disregard live albums (unless I’m a completist about a certain band) but I kept reading raves about this record on the internet. Sounds pretty good, and it should, being engineered by Jim Diamond (of Dirtbombs/Ghetto Recorders fame). According to the liner notes, the idea to record this live set came last minute to Diamond and he missed a few songs while tweaking the console. Sounds almost like it could be a studio album. Both cuts from BFTG (“Yeah,” “No Reason To Complain”) are included. Best song is their wild, wild cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m Alright” although it’s misspelled in the liner notes.
–Sal Lucci (My Mind’s Eye)

The Weak & the Wounded: 12" EP
Heavy and drawn-out modern metal that seems to have influences by bands like Kylesa and From Ashes Rise, but with some late 1990s emo introspection parts in the songs. The vocals are dry in sound and delivery. It’s as though they’re really trying to give the songs more power by screaming their heads off. But despite all the things they do in the songs, from the time changes, movie samples, and all that, the songs don’t have any real grabbing power. They tend to drone on and on, building up this wall of sound, and it goes nowhere that you would want to follow as a listener. –Matt Average (Dwyer, dwyerrrcords.com / Moment Of Collapse, info@momentofcollapse.com)

Split: LP
Very well produced post-rock that has that repetitive, hypnotic thing going for it. I find that my mood greatly affects how I feel about this record and this genre in general. The whole of it reminds me of Explosions In The Sky (a comparison I’m sure both of these bands would scoff at), but with doomy metal parts thrown in. The Co-Pilot side has no vocals and just trudges on for a full ten minutes. It constantly feels like it’s building towards something, but it’s all tension and no release. While I see what they’re going for, I don’t think they do it very well. Some of the riffs build up considerable momentum, but they create a feeling of aggravation in you before just changing to something else instead of resolving the issue presented. If there was a narrative or real structure to it I could see the merit in their sound, but this all sounds like it was made to define itself with the aesthetic rather than accomplish a clear goal. The Alaskan side provides a clearer statement of intent, and the vocals do help steer the listener towards their endpoint, but I still feel like they may have just mic’d all the instruments and hit “record” with no clear idea of where they were going to go. –Ian Wise (Treaty Oak)

Blessphemy (Of the Peace-Beast Feastgiver and the Bear Warp Kumite): CD
Between the unrelenting and relentless shrieking of the mouth man and the restless nomadic hand-toes of the piano man, your ears are in for something akin to the most irritating carnival ever—one featuring stuff like: the Biting Zoo, the Eczema Wheel, Eardrum Tattoos, the Portable Toilet where when a guy hits the round circle outside with a baseball you get dumped in the Turd Soup, everyone there is four years old, and vegan corn dogs. That, or some fucked up version of the “Flash Gordon” soundtrack. They call it the “Revolutionary Politics of Dance” (and a bunch of even more pretentious shit on the PR sheet), but I’m calling it “Spastic Art Rock”. I will say that there’s more actual rock on this one than on the other one I heard, but unfortunately it comes in tiny chunks only every few minutes or so, so no real momentum ever develops. –Cuss Baxter (Ace Fu)

Eat Lightning, Shit Thunder: CD
So an albatross and a locust were sitting somewhere plastic, yelling loony sex words at each other and then flying loopy and fast all over each other, above the plastic thing. I was standing over by the soda machine, and I could barely tell the difference. –Cuss Baxter (Bloodlink)

Split: CD
The Albert Square: When the drums kicked in at first, it reminded me of a band of high school kids trying to sound like Fugazi (which I’m not knockin—I mean it in the sense that it had that youthful energy to it, just without the “How are they even playing that?” thoughts I usually have when listening to Fugazi). Then the vocals came in, and I realized, “Oh, this is clearly Dan Andriano from Alkaline Trio singing”. I mean, “supposedly it’s not”, but I’m convinced they’re lying. I mean, I thought the dude was going to start singing about his sore back. So basically, Albert Square: Young Fugazi, fronted by Dan Andriano. Hard Girls: They reminded me of Hot Water Music a lot, but without vocals of anyone who’s sang for Alkaline Trio at any point. –Joe Evans III (Silver Sprocket, silversprocket.net)

Split: CD
Upon first putting this CD into the stereo, I was struck by how much the Albert Square’s vocalist reminded me of... somebody. I couldn’t place it, and this bothered me. I kept listening, hoping I’d figure it out. I probably paid more attention to this than anything else I was supposed to be reviewing this go-round. It finally dawned on me. In his inflection, his timing, and in a lot of ways, his voice, he’s a dead ringer for Dan Adriano on that Tuesday record. (Maybe without the lisp, which I still swear is contrived.) This isn’t a bad thing; I liked that record. The Albert Square write pretty catchy little songs to accompany their singer’s Adriano-like vocals. They aren’t anything special, but it’s not bad either. Certainly worth a listen. The Hard Girls play gruff-voiced punk that’s all over the map stylistically. It’s not bad either. But it certainly didn’t send me on a weeks-long search to figure out who the vocalist sounded like. –Ryan Horky (Silver Sprocket, www.silversprocket.net)

1999 Demo: 7"EP
WE ARE THE CREW! WE ARE UNITED! WE'VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY! Jesus, I feel like I'm stuck in New York with no way out in sight. Oh, wait. The record ended. That's better. –Jimmy Alvarado (Headline)

Zero Zen: CD
More space rock from these guys. The tracks are considerably shorter and more rockin’ than the last outing I heard from ’em, which means that it’s more readily enjoyable for those of us who don’t like to think too much. I like it lots. –Jimmy Alvarado (Rubric, 12 W. 37th St. 5th Floor, NY, NY 10018)

Self-titled: Cassette
This studied seven-song streetpunk demo from Ottawa has a heavy Ripcordz influence, confirming my suspicion that Canadian streetpunk has its own distinguished set of tropes and traditions. Clean, but not overproduced, this demo is supposedly a precursor to a full-length that is due out in 2015. Clearly fueled by more than alcohol, these guys can play. Sounding like something that would have appeared on the Pogo Attack compilation in the ‘90s, Alcohol Fueled makes me nostalgic for that fun-filled resurgence period of this subgenre. Watch for Alcohol Fueled if you’re into street sounds. This is easily one of the better releases of this type to emerge in ages, and it’s only a demo!  –Art Ettinger (Obnoxio Drunk Punk)

Punk Rock Jihad: CD
They might not all be white or trash, but they sure have the alcoholic thing down pat. This is AWT’s second full length CD, and it was well worth the wait. Searing hardcore punk, with a hint of metal overtones and heavy on the scum humor, these boys fit right in with their Victoria luminaries Dayglo Abortions and Lummox. Musically, this is the best they’ve ever sounded. Period. The thing that really stood out to me was the vocals. Ratboy Roy has got a voice apart from drunken rambling! Who knew? In the end, I can do without the really over-the-top lyrics (is “I Shit My Cunt” really necessary?), but other than that it truly is a great record. –Ty Stranglehold (Crusty)

20 Years of Tanked Up Tunes: CD
Okay, right off the bat, these guys get points for covering Jimmy Liggins’ “Drunk.” A mighty fine tune, that one, as is his equally coverable “I Ain’t Drunk, I’m Just Drinkin’.” Gotta love a band that knows their drinkin’ songs and, based on the selection here, these guys have made a career out of bein’ well versed in the classics. While normally such single-minded attention to one subject, especially when we’re talking a span of two decades, would be the kiss of death for such an endeavor, and things do wear a bit thin the closer one gets to the end, the fact that they are wise enough to pluck covers from a wide variety of styles—not to mention penning a few of their own, including the beloved punk holiday anthem “Santa Claus DWI”— to get the most mileage out of what is essentially a one-trick pony. Although I’m most partial to the earliest stuff here, courtesy of the band’s late ‘80s-early ‘90s lineup(s), all here are delivered with enough joyously sloppy abandon that one can’t help but smile. Definitely one to toss onto the player at the next straight edge club meeting. –Jimmy Alvarado (Steel Cage)

Loved Me Back: 7”
Italian-pressed single from this U.K. act, coming on with a very British sound. Hints of acoustic guitar, piano, and pop hooks make for an interesting style. There are hints of everything, from the Kinks to Scott Walker and all manner of anglophile obsession to be had on this single. I would recommend this for fans of everything from Swell Maps to power pop or britpop. Pretty good stuff; would like to hear more.  –Mike Frame (Rijapov, myspace.com/rijapovrecords)

Nowhere Is the Place for Me: CD
At first I was wary, because this CD’s artwork looked like that of so many hopeful but ultimately dull singer-songwriters of the sort I used to encounter in New Hampshire when I went to college there—y’know, well-meaning and earnest but ultimately disposable, just like the drawings or, worse, photographs of guitars which appear on their album jackets. But! That’s what I get for judging a book (fine, CD) by its cover, because this fine slab from Alec Morrison upends expectations. Sure, it’s primarily acoustic, but this dude’s stuff takes little heed of the form and conventions dipshits like me associate with being a singer-songwriter. His voice, which manages to sound both otherworldly odd and completely grounded, vacillates between raspy and reedy, a fine complement to riffs which are obviously purposeful and skilled technically but operate with inner logic like a puzzle which unlocks after several listens. This music’s hard to pin down, which had me coming back repeatedly for more, which is what a good record’s supposed to do. Fantastic, expectation-defying stuff. Holla!  –Michael T. Fournier (Self-released, morrisonalec.ca)

First Aid: 7”
This is some serious skate thrash! I had to go back and check to see when this was recorded. The sheet says 2005, but I’d swear it was ‘85 judging by the style, content, and recording quality. Five songs of all-out skate rock as it was meant to be. The fast parts are really fast and the breakdowns have a groove. Throw in some tag team vocals and we’ve got ourselves a winner. “To all the kids who still skate for fun!” Indeed! –Ty Stranglehold (Cassette Kill)

…It Never Ends: CD
The packaging that this CD came in is pretty sweet. It’s like a little zine, with the CD put in a plastic sleeve and stapled onto the last page. The drawing on the front is nice, and I would have liked to see more drawings on the other pages. Instead, the other pages had lyrics and then a short explanation of the impetus behind the song. On a couple of the copied pages the words go off the bottom of the page a little, so a bit more attention could have been paid to that, but, overall, it’s a nice little package. The music is kind of folk or anarcho folk or something like that, and, usually, Alex Loeb was on his own, singing and playing guitar. Not that he stinks or anything of the sort, but I preferred it when there were gang vocals and when Sara Mann sang with him. The CD wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t do it for me. This is not my favorite genre of music, so I think it has to be quite compelling or fresh for me to get into it. As it was, I think Mr. Loeb is very sincere and earnest and I get the feeling he really hopes to contribute to making the world a better place, which is excellent. I think his songs will make certain fans of the genre feel excited and touched. For me though, it just didn’t thrill. Favorite song is called “Money Can’t Buy You Clean Drinking Water,” even though, unfortunately, it sure enough can, sometimes. –Jennifer Federico (Raise Your Fist)

If you swear that acoustic singer-songwriter stuff is where music’s most honest, heartrending revelations stem from, this solid but ho-hum four artist project is up your alley. Alex And The Imaginary Friends (which is probably just one guy here) pull off a swell Chris McCaughan impression as they talk about aging and getting grim in the decent “Growing Up Is Giving In.” Valentine’s “A Plea for Something” is the least appealing of the four songs. It’s plagued by grating, whiny off-key notes, even if it does pick up toward the end with the addition of claps and muddled chants. Tanner Willow wishes on a star in “Starlight Starbright.” It’s a childish, unimpressive move that’s compensated for via a decent hook. Closer “This Is The Biggest Thing (Of All Things We Deserve),” as executed by Winter Winds (a.k.a. Eric Doucette), delivers a mature, beautifully assembled little song. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it delivers on the sense of sincerity so important to this sort of music. Production quality definitely varies between tracks: while Winter Winds’ song is warm and full, the Valentine track sounds like it was recorded on a computer setup. As of this writing, you can catch the whole thing at http://the4waysplit.bandcamp.com. –Reyan Ali (Raise Your Fist)

4-song: 7”EP
Singer, guitarist, and one of the main songwriters for the Hex Dispensers does some solo work. While the Hex Dispensers conjure banshees, Alex summons quieter, more conversational ghosts and languid spirits. The songs are reverby. There are trebly effects over his voice and he’s backed by electronic keyboards and/or drum machining. Alex is spooky in a haunted, thoughtful way, not a photocopied comic book rendering of the Danzig playbook. There are no skeleton gloves fingered into in the making of this record or “whoah ohs!” instead of choruses. It’s more like a broken-legs-barely-healed waltz. Smooth and animated and swaying at the same time. –Todd Taylor (Trouble In Mind, troubleinmindrecs@gmail.com)

Hallo Mein Name Ist: 7"
Back when Lux Interior left this Earth, I was upset and my friend Adam consoled me by informing me that at least we still have the Hex Dispensers. I had heard the name, but had no idea that my life was about to change. That band proceeded to take over my being. They instantly shot to the top of my go-to music list. A while later, HD front man Alex Cuervo put out a solo 7” that was also amazingly creepy. Well, here is another solo slab and it’s a nice addition to the catalog. Two off-kilter songs that sound so perfect with that odd feeling that something is amiss in the background. Catchy yet menacing. This man can do no wrong in my books! –Ty Stranglehold (Red Lounge, redloungerecords.com)

Welcome Song: CD
For years now I have had a severe distaste for Gene Defcon, the always-a-child artist of mindlessly strange obscure short songs, usually accented with Casio play sounds. I have destroyed multiple Gene Defcon CDs, spread my message of distaste for Gene Defcon to friends, and forced people to listen to his music just to prove that he is indeed one of the worst artists ever to exist. Quite frankly, Come Party with Me 2000 is the type of thing I hope I never have to listen to again, but God knows I’ll get dragged into it at some point in order to win an argument about the worst album ever. Alexis Gideon reminds me of Gene Defcon if Gene tried to do more rapping and had more of a Ween influence. Upon hearing the Casio-backed track, “Casio Elation,” I seriously wanted to punch my computer monitor. This isn’t as bad as Gene Defcon, but hell if it doesn’t piss me off nearly as much for it’s (amongst other things) a complete waste of so many peoples’ time (including my own) and waste of natural resources to make this garbage. –Kurt Morris (Sickroom)

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