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Record Reviews

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The Calling: 12” 45

Is this a failure on NPR’s music director’s behalf? Why isn’t Def:OH being transmitted on radio waves coast to coast? Here’s my pitch, coconut water totebag patron. Defiance:Ohio are poetic. They don’t swear (on this 12”, for sure) but they question the government (yet don’t come across as libertarian dooshbags who want to hand education over to Wal-Mart and the national parks to Exxon.) The music’s clear and confident. They’re pretty-sounding. No confusing or potentially listener-angering, pledge-drive-ending distortion. There’s a violin played pertly, sometimes harrowingly. Listen carefully once and you’ve pretty much got all the lyrics bagged. High production values. Sparse but lush. Precise botanical line drawings of modern protest songs, akin to the Weakerthans, gardened by Billy Bragg. They’re undeniably catchy and teach new words. (“Prehension” is an interaction of a subject with an event or entity that involves perception but not necessarily cognition. Chew on that for a bit.) Endnote: when I’m drained or sick and don’t want to be blasted by music, Defiance:Ohio are like a nice cup of nice. I don’t say that derisively. Mellow, yet meaningful. They’re uplifting. Serious. No back hand to that compliment.

–Todd Taylor (No Idea)

Metal Mountains:: CD
This is totally not what I was expecting, judging by the band name and album cover. It's actually heavy, downtuned rock that's sometimes up-tempo, like Karp with more melody in the vocals, and sometimes slows down to a more Fu Manchu-type vibe. They do a nice Pentagram cover, too. Nothing too original here, but it ain't bad either. –Guest Contributor (thedefilers.net)

Look at Me Mom I’m Not Dead: 7”
An old Killed By Death band gets back together to make some more racket. The title track is a decent slab of punk rock noise in that KBD style that refuses to die. The B-side, a live version of their “51 Percent,” is pretty damn snappy and not embarrassing in the slightest, which is a relief. –Jimmy Alvarado (Smog Veil)

Self-titled: 7” EP
Very noisy hardcore from New York. The songs, from what I can make out, sound a bit more nuanced than the usual thrash-o-rama, but the lo-fi production values maximize the “noise” at the cost of clarity, which probably goes a long way with those who like their shit to sound like, well, shit, but doesn’t quite do ‘em justice here. Not lookin’ for Loggins & Messina, just something that doesn’t sound like it was recorded on a cheap handheld cassette player. Dig the purty silkscreened cover.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Katorga Works)

Self-titled: CDEP
This sounds like Tampa’s answer to One Word Solution, which is really weird because I don’t know why Tampa would have an answer to One Word Solution. Angry, pissed off punk with a fancy fingered guitarist. This EP was recorded, mastered, duplicated, and is in my hands before the band has even been around for half a year so who knows what’s up with them or what they’ll be up to. –Guest Contributor (degenerateelitefl@yahoo.com)

The Final Chapter: 7” EP

The funny thing about this is that I’d picked this up, kind of forgotten about it, and my friend Joe sent me some of their earlier stuff, which then reminded me that I had yet to listen to this. I’m guessing by the title that this might be their last release, but I’m hoping I’m wrong (or that they may be following the lead of Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter). Hardcore that makes the term seem not as tainted as it has been lately. They are definitely aware of their history: taking some of the best elements of lower Northeast hardcore from the ‘80s, while maintaining a contemporary sound. Definitely hope to hear more from them.

–Megan Pants (Don Giovanni)

Self-titled: 7"
Longstanding weirdo experimental punks the Dehumanizers teamed up with infamous groupie/GTO member Pamela Des Barres for this intentionally irritating, pretentious jumble of a single. Des Barres does rhythmic spoken word over the odd musical rumblings of the Dehumanizers. Both songs are truly bizarre and interesting, but only in that they’re such gleeful train wrecks. I’d much rather read one of Des Barres’ books or check out earlier Dehumanizers records than suffer through this tripe again, but you can’t fault them for trying. What a mess! –Art Ettinger (P.I.G., myspace.com/portnowintertainmentgroup)

Split: 7”
Two French punk bands. It’s oddly reassuring that—barring a shared language, over 5,000 miles of separation between France and L.A., and two different cultures—that punks can artfully gripe about essentially the same things (internet warriors flaming bands but having no real friends and the over-ubiquity of back patches are in the laundry list). Deja Mort is right at my speed. They wrap and warp cataclysm, sinewy keyboard, desperation, ‘80s punk, and misbehaving android background vocals around a French-sounding version of Ass Cobra-era Turbonego. Cool. Tekken: You can almost hear the bullet belts tinkle in the background. It’s world hardcore with a crust center and metal hinges. Thankfully, they’ve got more than one speed, so the drumming doesn’t sound like a direct feed into a metronomic cement mixer. Actually, they kept on making me think of infested rats playing dungeon music at hyper speed while being attacked by vultures made of poop, which is probably exactly what they were shooting for. Liked it. –Todd Taylor (Trahison)

Whattata: CD
One of their guitarist/singers is like twelve years old and the oldest person in this band is about eighteen years old. Pretty much what you’d expect from a band of teenagers who, according to their website, think their band can provide the daily dose of punk for you. The phrases “take a middle finger and shove it up your ass” and “fuck you!” were also uttered on this album, and pseudo-Johnny Rotten vocals were utilized as well. That was all the icing on the cake needed for me to declare this a big fat thumbs down. –Kurt Morris (Finger, www.fingerrecords.com)

Boner: CD
They look like Born Innocent-era Red Cross, they read like Shonen Knife, and they sound like an old punk band covering a new punk band. Dunno if I would recommend ‘em, per se, but they were entertaining. –Jimmy Alvarado (Finger)

3-Dimensions: CD
Deke Dickerson has this sweet, resonating voice that he really knows how to use. This CD showcases his versatility of voice, as well as guitar across rock’n’roll, rockabilly, and hillbilly with about five songs dedicated to each of the three genres. He’s always reminded me a bit of Ricky Nelson, but with a little something more. Dickerson has the voice you could easily swoon over. I’m personally drawn to the rock’n’roll section more than the others, but the other sections follow closely behind. –Megan Pants (Major Label)

Between the Waking and the Dying: LP
Really diggin’ the whole death rock resurgence and this is a prime example why. Taking sonic cues from bands like early Death In June and VoodooChurch, things veer away from the now almost obligatory post-Sisters rock/metal and bass vocal trappings of goth and instead bathe in a female-fronted tribal gloom that recalls the best of L.A.’s dark, dank glory days. Broken Bottles once sang about a time “when gothic chicks were cool,” and Between the Waking and the Dying would’ve easily earned this band a prime spot on their playlist. –Jimmy Alvarado (Chaos Rurale, chaosrurale.com)

Flowers to Blossom: LP
Exceedingly chuffed to see these Canadian gloom-merchants have released another full-length. Following along the same lines as their last,Between the Waking and the Dying, this latest effort maybe tempers the aggressiveness of its predecessor by just a hair, but the band still knows how to lock into a groove and wield those loping post-punk bass and guitar lines with deadly precision. Normally, this sort of fare features heavily in my late-autumn listening, but this has managed to worm its way into a featured position into many a summer’s session. This comes highly recommended, with the suggestion that you start scrambling ‘cause it appears only a little over 330 copies exist.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Chaos Rurale)

Us Vs. Them: CD
Sleater-Kinney wannabees trying desperately to capture the sweet angst of the Corin/Carrie vocal play. And unlike the important relevance of S-K, this just sounds average and dated. –Kat Jetson (Lovitt)

The Fajita Monologues: CD
First thing that came to mind was this band sounds like the Monkees. The melodies are the key and they give me the same feeling I had when I first heard the Redd Kross record Third Eye. Bubblegum pop with multi-layered harmonies and a production that is super clean. Perfect soundtrack to a ‘70s romantic comedy for television. –Donofthedead (Lightning Bug)

The Fajita Monologues: CD
While it would be easy (and unfair) to dismiss these guys as a pop band with more than their share of ‘60s influence, one can hear a cornucopia of different bands and sounds in there, from the early work of the Who and the Byrds to later power pop darlings like the Quick, as well as a twinge of ‘80s paisley underground, and maybe even a little bit of the Dickies thrown into them multi-part harmonies as well. A tough dance it is these days to do this stuff effectively, but they manage to do so quite well. A glance at the songwriting credits indicates these guys (or at least their guitarist/vocalist J.R. Jones) have been slogging it out for at least twenty years, and it shows. Good stuff. –Jimmy Alvarado (Lightning Bug)

Self Decapitation: CD
Rootsy Americana with some punk thunk to give it some heft. Occasionally, it sounds like Leonard Cohen channeling Jelly Roll Morton, which ain’t a bad deal at all. –Jimmy Alvarado (voodoorhythm.com)

…Don’t Laugh: CD
If those of my friends who said, “I really like Delay,” had actually said, “I really think Jello Biafra should front a band that sounds like a lot of the pop punk bands from the late ‘90s/early ought years,” I probably wouldn’t have picked this up. –Megan Pants (Plan-It-X)

…Don’t Laugh: CD
This album has spunk, and it’s pretty possible that these guys are too young to catch the Mary Tyler Moore reference, so I won’t even bother (plus it’s not necessarily true). Aside from the overly dramatic lyrics, this is fun DIY pop punk. In the context of a crowded house show, I’m positive this band would be great, but when it comes to repeat listening, the lyrics and vocals really begin to annoy me. If the thought of a band somewhere between the Pink Razors and Defiance, OH really excites you, then you would probably dig this. –Daryl Gussin (Plan-It-X)

Jumpstart My Heart: CD
As I put this on, I hoped and prayed that their handle was some kind of piss-take on Tom DeLay’s name and that they were gonna be humorous in a cool and subversive way. Nope. Lame, collegy emo pop is the order of the day here. I found, though, that if you have sharp enough scissors to cut into the disc, it makes for a pretty good ninja star. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.midwestrock.org)

Plain Language: Cassette
With two particularly high-pitched singers and poppy punk songs, Delay might not be for everyone. But I don’t buy it. It takes a couple listens for Plain Language to really sink it, but once it does, these songs stay stuck in your head. So much so, that multiple times I’ve had to literally go put something on my stereo because I’ve been singing one of these songs to myself all day. Thoughtful lyrics range from the love of girls, the love of friends, and a general concern about life, and it’s my favorite record of the year. –Guest Contributor (Self-Released, vinyl soon on Salinas)

Plain Language: LP
Imagine a sped-up Weakerthans, with the high prairie Canadian cold being swapped out for a floating-on-air excitement. Perhaps a couple of balloons, for good measure. Fronted by two high-register twin brothers from Ohio, I get quick flashes of the wide-eye wonder of everything from early Redd Kross to Defiance, OH, and… well, it goes back to the Weakerthans. There’s a nice, supple poetic feel to the pretty straight-forward pop punk songs that gives them a gentle, heart-felt aura without them sounding like treacle or being overly slick. Sounds handcrafted and gentle without being precious. I like it. –Todd Taylor (Salinas)

Circle Change: LP
I nearly dismissed this record. Delay’s 2009 LP, Plain Language, features a slew of plucky pop punk gems that are all personal favorites alongside The Max Levine Ensemble’s OK Smartypants. But I was taken aback by Circle Change’s gut-wrenching, mid-tempo tonal shift. The opener, “Explanation,” contemplates personal insecurities (“I need to trust my own guts again instead of getting fucking high”) with some of the heaviest guitar tones the band has ever committed to vinyl. Each subsequent song is methodical, plodding, and painfully honest (“I want to fuck without feeling gutted”) with ‘90s indie and emo influences intermingled. (I’m hearing some definite Superchunk and Silkworm vibes.) Although I initially felt disconnected, I listened again—and again. I decided to re-listen to an early LP, Don’t Laugh, which is scrappy, chorus-driven punk, then Rushing Ceremony for the very first time: That’s when it finally clicked. Like an estranged friend, I foolishly assumed that Delay would be identical to how I remembered them back in 2009. After some catching up, they are both the band I missed as well as a moodier, more introspective group that is equally as memorable, if not superior to their previous sound. They have peeled back the pop punk artifices, leaving something raw and vulnerable. Delay is a friend who has grown up with or without you. Highly recommended. –Sean Arenas (Salinas)

Losing My Mind: CDEP
I’m not sure what to make of this one. There are moments during this five-song EP that remind me of early ‘80s bands like Hoodoo Gurus and The Smithereens. But then there are other moments, when they sound more like later ‘80s hair bands like Poison and Ratt. I think the problem is that the lead guitarist sounds like he wants to be in a pop-metal band, while the rest of the band want to be in a ‘77-era punk band. The songs are mediocre, but if they can clear up this confusion about who they want to sound like, I think they’ll be a lot more enjoyable. –brian (no label)

Self-titled: Cassette
If these cats don’t wear jumpsuits onstage I’m gonna be pissed. Never nostalgia for its own sake, but an updated approach: Deletions’ modus operandi is to meld herky-jerk rhythms and catchy vocal phrasing, which refer to new wave without outright aping it, filtered through sheets of glitch. Usually music which nods to the past like this takes a similar production approach to its predecessor, but here the audio is decidedly lo-fi, adding an unclean edge. Great stuff, especially for fans of Devo and the A-Frames. –Michael T. Fournier (deletions.bandcamp.com)

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