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Record Reviews

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Music from Little Pink: CD
Adequate, yet uneventful poppy rock music. –jimmy (www.pillowofwrongness.com)

Demo: CD-R
Pop punk that’s of a more modern style than mid-‘90s rehashes. Overall, it sounded like the self-titled Lifetime record with Unlovables-style vocals. This demo also has a bunch of different stuff, ranging from songs that were recorded in a decent studio to some off a cell phone. I like it. And I haven’t seen for myself, but I hear they actually have pillow fights at their shows. If so, that rules. –joe (Self-released)

Round 1: CD
I declare this album to be pop punk perfection. It’s ten tracks and most of the songs are about a minute (the longest is a minute and twenty-three seconds and the shortest is a robust thirty-three seconds). This band definitely subscribes to the Minutemen’s “jam econo” philosophy. This isn’t blast beat-driven powerviolence either, but fully fleshed out and great pop punk that just doesn’t see the need for stuff like bridges or repeating a chorus if it can get the job done the first time. With the male/female vocals, this is like a distilled concentration of the best moments of bands like Lemuria and Tsunami Bomb. The song “True Story” has one of my favorite lyrics as of late: “And on the first night, we hung out in the park/ it was like reading Huxley for the first time.” Something about the sentiment of that line really sticks with me. Not a second in the roughly ten minute runtime of this album is wasted, as every song has a memorable lyric, or riff, or little melodic moment. –Adrian (Silver Sprocket, avi@springmanrecords.com)

Round 1: CD
This album feels like some young people did it, so I’m sure they’ll still be putting out more records. With that said, The Pillow Fights touch on all the typical run-of-the-mall themes and sing about them like we just walked out of the food court after spotting our crush there: “Don’t think I didn’t see you eye me, because I saw you stumble over, with your head over your shoulder looking back.” Those are the lyrics to their song “Touche Marianne Touche,” which would undoubtedly be clever to me if I were in high school. That’s the problem. All the juvenile lyrics throughout the album don’t translate well on a universal sense, but more in a demographic sense. We’ve all had crushes (and now I feel sixteen again after typing that line) but it’s been a long time since some of us thought of our crushes in the way they’re presented here. Musically, you can compare the singer to Discount but a more out-of-tune hybrid with New Found Glory riffage, and you’d have a succinct surmise of The Pillow Fights. –N.L. Dewart (Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club, silversprocket.net)

Round 1: CD
Pop punk with male/female vocal harmonies that are pretty good at times. It’s a decent record. I liked it. But I’ve heard it before. If you put this in my CD changer with the Beautys, I might not always be able to tell the difference. Grade: B. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Silver Sprocket)

Any City: CD
Sporadic new wave punk—what you’ve come to expect from the Causey Way outfit (some of the members who make up this new band). Elements of mellow electro, new wave, punk and straight-up pop flavor this disc, and in a good way. “Big Fun” (showcasing quality post-punk) and “Master Jack” (pure pop goodness) are the best tracks by far. Songs like “Daisies” and “Babies” sound less like the Causey Way and more like Le Tigre or Ladytron. All in all, this is a great disc for past cult members of the Causey Way and indie/electro post-punk fans. –mrz (Alternative Tentacles)

Any City: CD
The Causey Way (Razorcake #1) cult disbanded. But the musical platelets remained in their blood. In that blood, The Cars splashed through and slithering keyboards hydroplaned. In that blood, early ‘60s pop commingled with sparse, non-sucky indie rock. In that blood, guitars blare and Scott sings in his high-register voice, and sexy, sultry interludes remain. PST are less new wave and more just a band whose approach is akin to latter-day Man… or AstroMan? I’m willing to go the distance—far from the original flight pattern—because there’s always an unexpected reward if you buckle yourself in and take the turbulence. “Angel of Death” balls up every word in this review, lights them on fire, and uses them as a beacon for a safe landing. Recommended listening. –todd (Alternative Tentacles)

self-titled: CD-R demo
Emerging from the robes of The Causey Way (see Razorcake #1 for full interview), with front man and collaborating main co-songwriters, Scott and Tracy, there are traces of the old project transmogrified into something more slinking, sultry, and openly playful. The only thing I don't like is the name of the band. It comes across as way too emo for my tastes (like the name Pilot to Gunner). Yet, don't let that be too distracting. If you like new wave in the vein of Servotron, with music more suitable for slipping your hand under a special someone's underthings, instead of killing humans (Servotron's call to arms), while openly inviting the use of a synthesizer, you can't go wrong. Both Scott (ex-Causey himself) and Tracy have sexy android, almost hypnotic trances of voices and it doesn't hurt things one iota that they cover ground from intergalactic surf, to the state controlling your monkey brain, to what could be readings from children's books with equal grace, hummable vibration, and authority. Excellent, hard-to-categorize but fun-to-listen-to music. –todd (Pilot Scott Tracy)

Wicca Chicka: EP
A most enjoyable single from a most promising band. Tight lyrics, sloppy music - just the right garage punk rock blend. This single is for you if your name is Steve, Mike, Dave, Tom, or Chris (that alone should be about 3,000 guys in our readership.) –nam (Rapid Pulse)

Fuck This Shit, We’re Outta Here: CD
Quirky rock/punk, deftly executed and long on humor. –jimmy (Crustacean)

Plethora: CD
What Polkacide did for polka and the Hickoids did for country music in the ‘80s, San Anto’s Piñata Protest seeks to do for norteño, namely take what is often considered a markedly “uncool” style of music and infuse it with copious amounts of punk energy and attitude. They handily succeed, due in no small part to the fact that keep things eclectic, and they approach what they’re doing with a seriousness in execution without taking themselves too seriously, if that makes any sense—despite polka and cumbia-derived rhythms and accordion solos aplenty, they are at heart a punk band that tempers their social frustrations with lots of humor, and vice versa. What you end up with is a band that ain’t afraid to get a crowd on their feet and dancing while singin’ songs in Spanglish about just how fucked up things in the world often are. Fine work here from a band worthy of much attention. –jimmy (Saustex, saustexmedia.com)

El Valiente: CD
Getting releases like this reminds me of why I love reviewing music in the first place: The opportunity to hear and be blown away by music from unexpected quarters. In that context, Piñata Protest deliver the goods with nine tracks of punk-infused, Texas-style border music. This disc literally drips with the steaming humidity of San Antonio on a sweltering day mixed with the taste of sweat and warm Lone Star. Some tracks are in Spanish while others are in English and the band isn’t afraid to tackle the odd Mexican classic either. Having a cookout on an hot, sunny day with a cooler full of beer? This is your soundtrack. –Garrett Barnwell (Saustex, saustex.com)

El Valiente: CD
Another fine salvo of norteño-slathered punk from these San Antonio malcontents here. Much like their previous release, they fuse serious musicianship with a “fun” tone, aggressive attack with “party” vibe, and blazing guitars and fiery accordion to kick down tunes that will have fans of both Flaco and Flipper scratching their heads as they shake their shimmy. Fans of Polkacide and the Hickoids would do well to take note. –jimmy (Saustex, saustex.com)

Blue Screen Life: CD
Wimpy college pap... er, pop. To the shitcan with thee! –jimmy (Ace Fu)

Information Retrieved: CD/LP
At this point in their career, Pinback has made one thing clear: every album they release sounds pretty similar, but dammit if they aren’t all good. What allows Pinback to get away with this redundancy is that there aren’t any other bands that sound quite like them. The dual harmonies of Rob Crow and Zach Smith complement one another so well, it’s as though they were always meant to go together. The multi-instrumentalism (it seems there’s always something else to listen to in each song­­—strings, keyboards, piano, electronic drums, bass, and various guitars), and the darker nature of the music mixed with the pop sensibilities cause the band to stand out in the indie rock scene. The lyrics continue to remain obscure, albeit catchy. “It shouldn’t be so hard to have a nice day,” the band sings on “Diminished” and soon I’m crooning along, too, but I have no idea what I’m even singing about. And in the course of the ten songs in thirty-eight minutes, this happens frequently. The opening track, “Proceed to Memory,” might be one of the best rock songs I’ve heard this year and while none of the other tracks can top it, “True North” and the closer, “Sediment,” are both strong numbers. The one stinker on Information Retrieved is “Denslow, You Idiot!,” mainly because the keyboard sounds like it was taken from a rejected Wesley Willis song, especially at the beginning of the track. While the nuances of the tone of an album can be rather subjective, Information Retrieved seems to be more melancholic than much of Pinback’s previous work, which sits well with this reviewer. The day this band records a happy pop album is the day I stop listening to them. But based on where they’re at with this latest album, it appears that’s not occurring any time soon. –kurt (Temporary Residence)

Headbanger Gangsta Youth Vol. IV: 7"
Mid-fi, jump and shag, poor punks huffing blues from Italy. Their swagger’s what’s convincing. Hips be a-shakin’. These guys would fit in perfectly in a Budget Rock Showcase, opening for Oblivians (who they cover), Mummies (who they channel), and the Rip Offs (who the dude on their cover looks like). Sprinkle on the dirty-yet-sharp rust flakes of modern banner holders, like Vee Dee and the River City Tanlines, and it’s definitely a strong showing from a band who used to be called the Pin Pals. Limited to 300. –todd (Goodbye Boozy)

Self-titled: Cassette
Tapes don’t sound that good. I use to lug a big boombox and a box full of tapes to my dishwashing job, and let me tell you, I don’t miss it. (I’m not some modern technology guy either—I mostly listen to records. I don’t own an ipod. But seriously, this cassette tape nostalgia that’s seemingly sweeping America (If the things I get for review are any indication) is beyond me.) That being said, this isn’t terrible. It’s at least listenable. There are some decent turns of phrase and the instruments interact well. Just put it out on an LP like the good lord intended, okay? –Ryan Horky (Self-released, pineaway.bandcamp.com)

The Barefoot Feel: Cassette
This tape is really something. It’s really nice, warm-sounding stuff that becomes a bit intangible when you try to put your finger on it. It’s punk in spirit but a little bit too tricky to fit into that box. You could label it post-punk, but that’s just a shitty cop-out term. It’s too cheerful to be called emo although what it reminds me of most is those more upbeat One Last Wish songs. While it’s not quite pop, it is lively and melodic. Each song has a whole lot of lyrics that lack choruses giving the listener a nearly whole narrative. If they had just a bit more information in the songs, they would make great pieces in a personal zine. Instead, you just get some great songs about living life. I could see this band being appreciated by pop punk fans, hardcore kids, punks, and even some indie rockers, yet, it sounds like none of that stuff. I guess it is still possible to make something that sounds completely new. –Craven (Fully Intercoastal)

Jack of Diamonds: 7”EP
It makes absolute sense that DIY punks—the ones born and raised on traditional country—after the initial fast, angry spurt, and facing a world that’s neither improving nor a head that feels right screaming the songs of youth, turn back to their roots. Most punks know abandonment. And, culturally, the world of Hank Williams Sr., Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash, has been left solely as a fallow graveyard in favor for country that sounds like it’s selling toothpaste for Wal Mart. Not only do the Haints capture the ghosts of old greats, they’ve placed those ghosts in their hearts and at your feet. So, even if you don’t know that The Haints screen-print their own records, book their own tours, and help out a bunch of people, this 7” still stands up by itself as a testament: that old shack of traditional country is being candlelit once again by society’s discards who’re playing songs that give me chills. –todd (Arkam)

The Evening Star: Cassette
Here is another banjo-shredding release from folk punk/bluegrass favorites, The Haints. This limited edition cassette with an awesome silk screened cover is comprised of new tracks and rare 7” releases, but don’t stress, the LP version is widely available. Recorded in 2007, the same year as Ghost Dance, this could almost be an extension of those jangly banjo rhythms and numinous ballads. “Black Casket,” their latest single, is also thrown into the mix. While this isn’t anything new from The Haints’ repertoire, it goes to show: if it ain’t broke… Makes me wish I could carry my boom box around like in the ‘80s blasting fiddle tunes. For those who love a good ghost story, here’s something to warm your bones. Recommended. –Kristen K (45RPM, calimucho.net)

Split: 7"
Pine Hill Haints: Punk can be a weird cat. Give the tattoo-sleeved, spiky-haired, leather-jacketed fellow or maiden a couple of years and chances are about even that they’ll turn into a Republican asshole selling insurance and denouncing their youthful indiscretion. The Pine Hill Haints play traditional music with traditional instruments (bucket bass, banjo, mandolin, accordion, guitar) that’s haunted, honest, and eerie. They also just happen to believe, live, and breathe in DIY and not fucking others over. So, what may not sound “punk” to those on the periphery is ten times more genuine a gesture than a receding hairline mohawk interpretation of music. Trainwreck Riders: fans of Ninja Gun, Two-Cow Garage, and Drive-By Truckers take note. Jumpy, pleasant, faded denim, comfortable shirt traditionals played with songwriting savvy and current-day snap. –todd (Let’s Pretend, letspretendrecords.com)

Ghost Dance: CD

Let’s not forget the context. With this recent influx of bands that, when described, “folk” and “punk” come up in the same sentence, the Haints have been hard at work and play for years. It’s this seasoned, large-brush approach that illustrates how big a force the Haints have become musically and how broad-scoped Ghost Dance really is. It’s like walking into your favorite roadside restaurant during a long drive. Generous portions. Diverse, but down home menu. Expertly spiced, simple food. Well-worn linoleum, but sparkling clean. Wonderful, personal service, no forced grins or minimum amounts of flare enforced. Ghost Dance is, thankfully, long. Twenty songs gives them time to set the stage, fill your head, and take you to their home, which is as much a time as a place. It’s a collection of original pieces, a Riverboat Gamblers cover, and traditionals revisited. And then it struck me, something that’s been staring me in the face for some time. The Haints are to the South what the Pogues are to Ireland. Not only do they have a deep respect of what came before—and their musicianship is as impeccable as it is diverse (mandolin, washtub bass, banjos, and bodhran)—but they tap into that originating spirit so much, they can’t help themselves from reshuffling the deck and lighting small fires under themselves so they don’t get asphyxiated by the past. This record’s like watching a fire all night. Crackles and blazes giving away to smoldering and smoking, and the next morning, its memory is still being carried around in your clothes. Fantastic.

–todd (K)

Self-titled: 7”EP
Crystalline conviction: that’s what’s so striking about The Pine Hill Haints. These four songs are full of restraint—almost sounding like a singer/songwriter collection, with vocals and banjo up front most of the time on the A-side—but it’s not dalliance or affectation. When you hear folk songs played so stridently, they’re as simple and straightforward as a rocking chair. No new-fangled, bing-bong, shit-wizardry. Yeah, the songs designs are pretty simple and follow understandable arcs, but that doesn’t take away from the fun and comfort they provide. Plus, true craftsmanship gets further revealed with each simple push, time and time again. Some fires burn slow without a lot of distracting flames, yet are able to heat up large spaces and are good for cooking… The Haints do just that. –todd (Sunburst, www.myspace.com/sunburstlabel)

Alabama Country Ghost Music: 7"
The title says it all. Well, maybe not the ghost part, as they are lacking a saw player on this release, but this is still good, down home country music by people whose definition of country music is not Brooks & Dunn or the Dixie Chicks. Unless you are some crusty gutter punk that only listens to Crass, you'll probably like this. Caveat: The label on the record is blank and you have to look at the engraving in the runout groove to see which is the A-side. Who cares? Send 'em five bucks and tell 'em to keep up the good work. –Josh (Nation of Kids)

Self-titled: LP
With always-accelerating technology comes a sadness. It’s not a “kids these days don’t know shit” lament. It’s a true sadness that a mode of listening to music is largely considered a niche mentality, an outmoded way of enjoyment in an accelerated society. It’s a grey day, I open up the windows, feel the chilled air, put on a Haints record, let it wash over me, and let it soak in. It fills the air, fills the room. I get a cup of coffee, put my feet up, watch branches sway. I’m not shuffling through the songs. I’m not skipping tracks. I’m not looking at lighted bars representing the pulse of sound. I’m not itching for what’s next, but what’s developing in front of me. Try to push back some of the ache. Try to clear out a little bit of my brain. I’m listening to an album; trusting the talented Haints to take me on a journey. I’m on their time. I’m in their vehicle of conveyance and I don’t want to parse it down to milliseconds or favorites. I want the full thirty or forty minutes, the sequence, the sound broken only when the record’s flipped over. The Haints are a traditional band: wash tub bass, banjo, mandolin, washboard, saw, play-while-standing drums. They mix originals, covers, and traditionals, removing sentimentality and replacing it with respect and DIY energy. Here’s the thing; I listened to this record on CD several times and it sounded like tin foil around leftovers. The vinyl record sounds like food grilling on a barbecue. –todd (K)

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