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Razorcake #87

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No Idea Records

Record Reviews

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Totale Nite: CD/LP
Totale Nite is another shorter release from the Tampa, Florida, band Merchandise, with five songs in thirty-three minutes, and none of them come in at over ten minutes, unlike Children of Desire (the band’s last album), whose two best tracks both broke that mark. The first track on this album, “Who Are You,” starts with a harmonica, reminiscent of “Hand in Glove” by The Smiths. Remember how it seemed so wrong for what you thought you knew of the band (harmonicas only work for country music and bluegrass, right?). But like “Hand in Glove,” when you think about it, the harmonica works really well. The second song, “Anxiety’s Door,” has the band back in their 1980s Brit-pop groove, with an infectious beat and Carson Cox’s great Ian Curtis-esque vocals. “I’ll Be Gone” is a more morose piece with electric guitar droning out before the introduction of acoustic guitar and cool synths. The title track is the longest on the album at just over nine minutes. It starts with what seems like a reprise of “I’ll Be Gone” before suddenly stopping and shifting gears into a marching beat, guitar, and saxophone. Perhaps it’s the inability of the saxophone to truly complement the song, but things never seem to jive and it sounds as though the song is always about to fall apart. Closing out the album is “Winter’s Dream,” something that sounds as though it was taken from a Tears For Fears or Depeche Mode album. It’s slow and morose, but like some of the other tracks on Totale Nite, it has this one element (in this case an off-beat progression on the synths) that doesn’t jive with the rest of the production of the track. Merchandise has certainly shown themselves to be a band that doesn’t really care much about conventional styles (they’re a bunch of hardcore punks playing ‘80s-influenced Brit-pop and releasing it on tiny labels when they’ve had offers from some of the bigger indies), so perhaps they said, “Yeah, this saxophone doesn’t quite fit,” or “This synth riff doesn’t make things smooth, but who gives a shit?” However, it’s really unfortunate to hear songs not gel after Children of Desire, which was one of my favorite albums from 2012. I really hope this is just a misstep on their musical path. –Kurt Morris (Night People)

Split: LP
A musically diverse three-way split featuring some of underground music’s most intriguing and hardworking acts. First up is Florida’s Merchandise who, it seems, have been unrelentingly releasing records and touring the country since their inception. “No You and Me” glistens with Jesus And Mary Chain synth melodies while vocalist Carson Cox’s Moz-esque harmonies pull you in like the gravitational pull on the moon and keep you blissfully in place for the duration of their two songs. Destruction Unit from Arizona are new to me in the sense that I’ve seen and / or heard of these cats for some time but never got around to listening to anything by them. Two tracks of thundering, guitar-heavy, mid-paced punk with just a touch of rock’n’roll snarl. 400 Blows’ explosiveness collides with the darkness of the Damned or Sisters Of Mercy. Rhythmic, loud, and above average use of guitar effect pedals solidifies their two entries as winners. Washington’s Milk Music, I must say, seem to redefine themselves with every subsequent release, though I’m not quite sure it’s a good thing. The potential for an energetic and engaging listen on the opening track “Effigy” soon gives way to a listless, endless jam but, thankfully, the second track, “Thrashing in the Unknown,” is a little more like the Dinosaur Jr.-loving Milk Music I’m more familiar with. Their final offering is a cover of Johnny Thunder’s “You Can’t Put Your Arms around a Memory,” and I really hate to admit this but Guns N’ Roses probably did a better job with their version on The Spaghetti Incident? I’m on my second spin of this disc and even though the Milk Music tracks are destined to be not my favorite of theirs, I have to admit that the listening experience as a whole only seems to get better and better. –Juan Espinosa (540)

Endless Beach: CD
Woweee cha-cha-cha, The Mercury Four perfectly replicate the classic surf sounds of the early ‘60s. And they do it so meticulously well, I had the sudden urge to fill my bathtub full of lukewarm water; added a couple of cups of sodium chloride for that salty oceanic effect; cranked the central heat up to a balmy eighty-five degrees while placing a box-fan nearby and setting it on full-speed to create a nicely blended tropical breeze; quickly squirmed outta my battery-heated long-johns and slipped into a pair of brightly colored floral-splattered knee-length shorts; climbed into the tub and stood there with both legs braced and bent at the knees in the classic cowabunga stance while wildly flailing my arms in a hilarious attempt to balance myself on an invisible surfboard beneath my water-shriveled feet. I’m suddenly crestin’ on an imaginary twelve-foot wave that arose outta nowhere and overwhelmed me with such raging full-strength fury, I was forced to bail headfirst into the cold, uninviting tile of the bathroom floor. Yep, so much for pretend-surfin’ in a cramped frigid lavatory in the dead of winter! But the delightfully fun and sunny sounds of The Mercury Four will inspire a person to take such drastic measures for a bit of make-believe sandy-footed frolicking no matter what time of year it is! The hot-doggin’ killer-thriller keyboards, Herman Munster booty-twistin’ guitar fieriness, and roarin’ tidal wave’s crash of bass and drum interaction just can’t be beat. It’s all-at-once jubilant, youthful, and wild, wild, wild! Even the lil’ hula-girl statues on my stereo speakers were furiously shakin’ their backsides silly to this upbeat bundle of tropical thunder! Indeed, it’s a pleasurable spirit-rousing dose of tempestuous sonic paradise. –Roger Moser Jr. (Mercury Four)

Split: 7"
Boy, I think I’m supposed to like this, but it’s just not clicking. Both bands are English and play swelling melodic punk, the likes of North Lincoln, Small Brown Bike, and early period Hot Water Music. Mercury Lounge: add some metallic guitars into the equation, and they remind me of Strung Out and second-tier Fat stuff from the late ‘90s. It seems heartfelt, but sounds too closely tied to a metronome and a click track for me to hear juice bursting when it gets squeezed. The Dauntless Elite: have a great name, have songs with many parts—one with a very long title—and seem very earnest, too, but I’m just getting bored listening to the record. It feels too labored. I’m convinced they’re convinced, but I’m just not interested. Comes in a heavy gauge plastic sleeve. –Todd Taylor (Yo-Yo)

The Blue Eyed Model: CD
Oh, those zany art students! This is a story of our protagonist, Gregor, looking for companionship and the troubles that ensue. This is told through a wonderfully enunciative storyteller and instrumental segments. There is also a beautifully colored comic storybook in the liner notes. This is fantastic. I’m not sure how often I’ll listen to it, but, as a concept and for a listen or two, I’m impressed. –Megan Pants (Lujo)

Bloodlove: CD
So, I read a bio on this band and I’m kind of turned off without actually hearing them. Former members of Lars Frederiksen’s Bastards and Exene Cervenka’s Original Sinners and, if I remember what I read, a member of the Transplants. It doesn’t exactly excite me with my current tastes. But, this band collectively makes music that I actually do like. They play a brand of music that has strong hints of street punk that also has the ambient leaning of death rock. But to add some more descriptions, they also remind me of One Man Army meets more of the melodic Killing Joke stuff. I really like that they are not over-polished like My Chemical Romance, a band with the look but not the sound. This band has the sound but not the look. Looking at the band photos, they could be any generic melodicore band on the Warped Tour. But music is what it’s all about. It’s funny when I’m so ready to dismiss a release before listening: that there are a few bands out of thousands that can make me take notice. –Donofthedead (Hellcat)

And to Become One: Split CD
Sometimes people start bands because they are good and care about the music they’re making. Other times, it appears to be a sweet showcase for them to show off their well-rehearsed scowls and poses in their perfect makeup and hair. But dudes, there’s this thing called the internet that you can do that on. Sure, you might not get as many friend requests, but for people like myself who have to listen to this drivel, please consider it. And the album title offends what little sensibility I have left. –Megan Pants (I Scream)

Self-Titled: CD
It always throws me for a loop that when an obscure but totally kickass band like the Weird Lovemakers has somehow entered the collective subconscious. I’d bet you a pound of gummi worms that the Mercy Killers, who are from New York and just released this disc, have never heard The Weird Lovemakers’ Electric Chump, which was released the better part of a decade ago in Tucson. I doubt that the Mercy Killers’ lead vocalist knows that he sounds almost exactly like Greg Pettix. But the similarities are uncanny. To think that they came to the same musical conclusions as the Lovemakers makes me smile. The Mercy Killers have that close-to-strangulated vocals and play not-too-fancy, but wonderfully effective punk rock that’s long on charm and short on trying to convince you that listening to them is in any way, shape, or form is cool. (It is, but in a way where you’ll reap the rewards of good music and little else. As it should be, in my humble opinion.) The only main difference between the Mercy Killers and the Lovemakers is the weirdness-o-meter is kept in check. There isn’t a ranchero song like “En Busca Dela Superfucie,” but if you put this on and said, “Look what I found. Weird Lovemakers demos!” I’d bet you another bag of gummi worms that you’d fool most people. I’ll be playing this a lot. –Todd Taylor (The Mercy Killers, 15 Grandview Trail, Monroe, NY 10950)

Self-titled: 7” EP
This debut EP by a band comprised of former members of Direct Control, Wasted Time, and Violent Outburst grabs you by the boo-boo right from the beginning and shakes you around like a ragdoll for, oh, a little over twelve minutes before tossing your concussed carcass in a heap. Sinewy, non-meathead hardcore that bashes and thrashes with the best its progenitors ever kicked up.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Beach Impediment)

Snuffed Out: 7” EP
Another corker of an EP here chock full o’ the kind of meaty hardcore that makes you just wanna go off and wreck shit up. Solid, driving, and just plain mean. Fans of Direct Control, Out Cold, and the like would do well to take note.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Beach Impediment)

When I Die, I’m Taking You with Me: CD
Loud guitar pop, sorta what they were trying to label as “power pop” a few years back but sounds more like Foo Fighters not trying too hard. Not stunning, not terrible, just kinda lost in the middle of the crowd.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Squidhat)

I’m Back: CD
A mostly acoustic release here from a longtime SF punk scenester, Housecoat Project members, and the former wife of Flipper’s Bruce Loose. I can’t say it’s my bag of worms, but it’s clear she’s into what she’s doin’, which is more than I can say of about half of the stuff I get for review in any given cycle. –Jimmy Alvarado (Subterranean)

The Cathedral: LP
Though I’m predisposed to like anything rootsy and jangly, Meridian’s banjo- and piano-infused “existential crisis you can sing along to” would have been up my alley even if it wasn’t composed by Signals Midwest’s Max Stern, who possesses the supernatural ability to punch me right in the feels. This filled-out full-length is a follow-up to 2012’s stripped-down Aging Truths LP. Its eight heartrending tracks feature full band instrumentation that includes cello, trumpet, and trombone. Though all of its selections skip along with the same flavor of nostalgic whimsy as the first, the opening, titular track required nearly twenty repeats before I could bear to part with it and listen to the remainder of the record. The charming imperfections of Stern’s trademark vocal melodies and lyrics communicate the earnestness of his passion and force me to reflect on my own lost loves with a teenaged yearning. The Youth Conspiracy-distributed vinyl LP is limited to five hundred. My CD came with a handwritten note from Stern, thanking me for my support and expressing a genuine enthusiasm about eventually touring through my neck of the woods. If this sweet gesture and the depth of emotion on The Cathedral are any indication, Max’s—and his brother and collaborator Jacob’s—barebones live show will be a moving and personal affair that I cannot wait to witness.  –Kelley O’Death (Youth Conspiracy, info@youthconspiracyrecords.com, youthconspiracy.bigcartel.com)

Arson Is for Lovers: CD
This is Hot Topic Rock at its finest, only this time with a female singer. The songs are boring for the most part, however there have been a few really catchy hooks that caught me by surprise that I really enjoyed. This woman’s voice isn’t horrible, but she probably doesn’t have to hold out every word as long as she does. The music comes off as pretty fancy guitar work, but when you listen to it, you notice it is just an excessive amount of arpeggio and string bends. This is what I imagine Paramore to sound like, I guess. One thing I find weird is that on the back of the album it says that this album can be downloaded for free at their website. Doesn’t that kind of make the CD pointless? –Noah W. K. –Guest Contributor (Self-released, www.arsonisforlovers.com)

If I Could Only Fly: CD
The man is a musical maverick, an enigmatic well-traveled larger-than-life legend, a stern and stoic leathery-faced old outlaw who's sturdily rode the hellbent-on-fury buckin' bronco of life into many a dust-stirred silhouetted sunset. His music is country, pure and simple and no-holds-barred. Yep, on this here smorgasbord spread of delectably tasty ditties, old-time country'n'western is heartily served by the musically mercurial master himself, Mr. Merle: whiskey-sippin' country twang that smoothly quenches the debilitative thirst of the forlorn, lost, and forgotten transient nomads aimlessly wandering the vast sprawling expanses of America's endlessly open rural desolation; chugga-chugga cowhide country that colorfully conjures a smalltown backwoods honkytonk setting of sawdust-covered floors, sweet and sticky BBQ beef thickly piled heaven-high on platters of beans, potato salad, and home-baked bread, and nostalgically cradlin' a longneck while swayin' in a boot-shufflin' cheek-to-cheek waltz with your true-love high school sweetheart; cryin'-in-your-beer shitkickin' country that appropriately provides a spirit-stirring soundtrack of robustly brawlin' manliness. The most intimately inspirational moments contained herein: the jaunty and jazzy New Orleans rowdiness of "Honky Tonk Mama" (it'd do ol' Hank Sr. proud... he must surely be smilin' big and prideful-like in the wild blue yonder!), the downhome flavorful strains of an achingly poignant swirling steel-guitar in "Turn to Me," the quavering cowpoke harmonica-blaring solitude of "If I Could Only Fly," the Bob Wills-inspired country-swing swagger of "Bareback," and the ruggedly jubilant giddy-up-and-go folksiness of "Proud to Be Your Old Man." Yeeehaw and yippy-tie-yie-yay! Merle Haggard, the man and his music... endearing, inspiring, and always intriguing... timeless, yet aged to perfection. –Guest Contributor (Anti)

Saludos al Tirano: CD
Kinda weird listen here: Mexican punk rock with shades of spaghetti western music that, for some bizarre reason, reminds me of the Pogues even though they sound nothing like them. Although it was a good listen, I’ve definitely got to get more sleep. –Jimmy Alvarado (Cochebomba)

Saludos al Tirano: CD
Kinda weird listen here: Mexican punk rock with shades of spaghetti western music that, for some bizarre reason, reminds me of the Pogues even though they sound nothing like them. Although it was a good listen, I’ve definitely got to get more sleep. –Jimmy Alvarado (Cochebomba)

Tropsicle: CD
While Tropsicle is a poor choice for a CD title, the music by Mermaids isn’t equally horrendous. Mermaids takes one back to a 1950s or ‘60s sound of garage-y rock with some nice oohs and ahhs wrapping the sound in a delicate yet catchy surf pop. I was reminded of Delta Haymax (anyone remember that Seattle band?) and the Beach Boys, but Mermaids retain enough indie sensibilities to not sound like a bad stereotype of the sound. This isn’t necessarily my cup of tea but it is pleasant enough to listen to and worth your time if you’re dialed into the world of Southern California blissed-out pop music. –Kurt Morris (Pretty Ambitious)

Revenge Served Cold: CD
An all-girl psychobilly band whose success is owed to novelty, not talent. –Jessica Thiringer (www.Merrywidowsmusic.com)

Self-titled: LP
Is it possible to understand and not understand at the same time? Merx is like a canvas that stars off black instead of white. They play highly constructed, aurally articulated, meticulous post punk. It’s dark, experimental, and filled with electronics. The vocalist is melodramatic, singing in a deep register, like Johnnie Jungleguts. My closest contemporary comparison would be as how Wounded Lion takes the Talking Heads and Star Wars references, Merx robes themselves in slow Joy Division and décollages; strips away, lacerates. This isn’t incidental music. I’m just not sure if the hands-on-everything super-self- and music- aware style of this record isn’t eclipsing my enjoyment of it. I’m probably just not the intended audience. Features members of The Pope, Bipolar Bear, and ex-Spits. –Todd Taylor (Permanent)

Child of Thunder: 7" single
The cover art looks sort of punk, sort of new wave. However, the music is seventies rock in the present day. Definite influences from Sabbath, Molly Hatchet, Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad, and Lynard Skynard. The title track is not bad. The guitar solo is decent. Sort of “cosmic.” Yet, the chorus is delivered in a sassy tone which kills the momentum. In order for this style of rock to work it has to be alpha-male driven, not sassy school yard preening. “In Cold Blood” is the better of the two. Not a mind blowing record, but not bad either.  –Matt Average (UFO Dictator, www.ufodictator.com)

I Choose Murder: CD
Ultra-fast drumming? Check. Growly burp vocals? Check. Metal guitar noodling? Check. Song title list that reads like a who’s who of serial killers? Check. It’s official: another grindcore album has hit the shelves. –Jimmy Alvarado (Crimes Against Humanity)

Split: 7"
Mesrine: Long-running Canadian grind that mixes it up with death metal. Guttural vocals mixed with high-yielded screams that reminds me of modern day Napalm Death. It’s brutal and bottom heavy which should satisfy the most fans of this genre. PLF: I choose this side as my favorite. There must be something about the heat in Texas that makes bands aggressive. I love the speed of the band and that the songs are short and to the point. Note to collector nerds: purple swirled vinyl!  –Donofthedead (To Live a Lie)

Split: 7” EP
Mesrine: Fairly stereotypical grind/metal stuff that vacillates between blastbeats and Discharge-inspired tempos. Sakatat: Pretty much along the same lines: full-on sonic spazz-out with considerably less metal in their delivery than their record-mates. –Jimmy Alvarado (To Live A Lie)

Something I Remember: 7”
Great single. I can always depend on HoZac to deliver great, trippy punk rock with their roster of The Functional Blackouts, Wizzard Sleeve, Woven Bones, Blank Dogs, et al. And, sure enough, Mess Folk fit right in, as they tightrope walk the fine line of weird punk, combining meandering drone-y vibes with really tight corners and sharp edges. They have a messy feel, like each member is working out their own take of the song with singing washing over it all, and it really works. Phillip Tarr is the mastermind of the band, starting it as a solo project that has morphed into this group. Mess Folk hails from Sydney, Nova Scotia, appropriately known for toxic waste dumping. Canada breeds some great punk, but Nova Scotia grows a special strain of noise. –Speedway Randy (HoZac)

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