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Razorcake #92
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Record Reviews

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One Man Army: CD
At first inclination, I thought this was an American version of Hard Skin. Really, really well played oi with really, really hilarious and deeply satirical lyrics. I guess I was part right because Stars & Stripes do play really good music with really hilarious lyrics. It turns out that it’s not so much a joke as it is a side project for Choke from Slapshot though. Here’s a quick run through. The first three songs are about beating the shit out of people. The next one is about realizing your dreams and life are too short to be mean (?!); follow that with a couple telling us to lighten up and “shut the fuck up.” Now we’ve got a soccer song (in North America it is called soccer. People who are from North America have no reason to call it anything else) and an ode to invading Europe. The disc closes with two songs that I can relate to: hockey and getting drunk. The getting drunk one quickly sinks into going out to beat up rival soccer hooligans though so I got lost again. If it turns out that this is a joke band, then kudos to them for pulling it off in such a way that it’s hard to tell. If it’s not, well, I was still entertained. Musically, I’m thinking in the neighborhood of Menace or Sham 69. A fun listen. –ty (I Scream)

Shakedown!: CD
Complete crap. I usually don’t review the dreck Geffen sends me, but when the press kit describes the title track as a “punk rock anthem for our time” and it is anything but, I get pissed. The Start has less edge then most car commercials, and less appeal than a Berlin cover band. Maybe if they work really, really hard and catch a few breaks they’ll land a guest appearance as the house band on a 90210 reunion show and go away forever. –jim (Geffen)

Ciao, Baby: CD
This is the kind of slick pop rock that doesn’t really ever speak to me. At first, all I could think was that it sounded like Madonna or something, but I’ll give them credit for being a bit edgier than that. The songs are well recorded, well structured, energetic, but too perfect for me. Someone once told me that a certain female singer was great because she “sang like she knew she had a vagina.” As technically skilled as lead vocalist Aimee Echo is, I got through this whole disc without once thinking that she had a vagina. –jennifer (Metropolis)

Death Via Satellite: CD EP
I was so ready to write this off, but my interest was raised as soon as I started hearing what was coming out the speakers. Hard-driving, melodic rock mixed with some synth energy, topped off with female vocals that are similar to Gwen Stefani, like No Doubt meeting up with Concrete Blonde and adding some Cure influences to push the envelope and developing a little darker, almost gothic atmosphere in the music. The songs have a hard-driving beat with textures of keyboards that are not campy but add atmosphere. They take the experimental parts of ‘80s new wave but incorporate it with the right mix of modern rock. The vocal harmonies are the hook that catches the fish. Multi-layered and dreamy. A great beginning that hopefully will bear much more fruit down the road. Only thing that bugs me is on the enhanced video. Why have the bass player be portrayed by a female when the bassist listed on this recording is male?  –don (Nitro)

Shakedown!: CD
Complete crap. I usually don’t review the dreck Geffen sends me, but when the press kit describes the title track as a “punk rock anthem for our time” and it is anything but, I get pissed. The Start has less edge then most car commercials, and less appeal than a Berlin cover band. Maybe if they work really, really hard and catch a few breaks they’ll land a guest appearance as the house band on a 90210 reunion show and go away forever. –jim (Geffen)

Self-titled: CD
Boring as hell emo/college pop. –jimmy (M-Theory, PO Box 4357, Santa Clara, CA 95056)

Self-titled: CD
Boring as hell emo/college pop. –jimmy (M-Theory)

Arm Against the Forces: 6”
Grindcore. Brutal. Short. Members of Asshole Parade and Assassinate The Scientist. (Wow, really? When I think of that band, grindcore does not readily come to mind. Like, at all.) We’ve got nine or ten songs of wire-tight “powerviolence” in which a frantic, besotted chipmunk handles vocal duties. Lyrics made up of one or two sentences. “Fuck The Kids” goes, “Globalized market force, transnational holocaust, starving youth, slave driving murders.” Song lasts about as long as it took to read that line. You already know if you’re gonna get it or not. –keith (No Idea)

Horrified Eyes: 7”
Whoa. Run-of-the-mill rockabilly this ain’t. The A-side is musically upbeat and the B-side is more bluesy, but both songs have a swampy Birthday Party kind of feeling to them and a really unique singer. Maybe the most original thing I’ve heard in a while; the only way I can describe this is fucked-up-in-a-good-way, but I’ve been listening to it a lot and I’m glad I own it. –Guest Contributor (GSL)

Live 2-21-2004: CD
I used to love seeing the Starvations play around L.A.. The first few times, I think the happiness was a mixed bag of their actual performance as much as it was to see a large portion of the audience a little surprised at what they had just walked into. More swamp dirge than the typical L.A. showgoer had bargained for, but soon enough, people were showing up for the same reason I was: they were just a great band to see live. I can’t remember which guitar player was my favorite (I know it wasn’t the most recent, but I’m not sure how many lineup changes there were.). It wasn’t what he was playing, but how he played. He seemed to be the least interested in what they were playing on the first song of any set. Then, little by little through each song, he was psyching himself up to the point that he would be dancing and singing to the ceiling by the end of the set. Watching him get that genuinely excited as he passed through the set is what really hooked me on them live. I think, in part that’s because it’s similar to how I respond to a band, or a show. I pace myself (unless I’ve been drinking a lot, then all bets are off); I warm up to the band. As for The Starvations, they’ve finally broken up (I think? It’s been going on for years now) and mostly reemerged as Fortune’s Flesh, who I’ve yet to see. This is a pretty damn good live recording, which I’m not typically a big fan of. I still prefer their recorded stuff over this, but it’s a solid release nonetheless. –megan (www.sycophanticide.tk)

Gravity’s a Bitch: CD
I’ve been waiting for Gravity’s a Bitch’s release for months now. See, not too many albums get me all worked up nowadays, and unless Greg Cartwright appears on a recent release, I typically pass up the new stuff for something stupid like a Little Eva 7”. But not the Starvations! No, no, especially taking into account 2003’s masterpiece, Get Well Soon. ANYWAY, I’d heard some of the new stuff at shows and had a feeling this record’s arrival was going to cure some of my audiophile/record collecting withdrawals. And it totally did! Fuck, Gravity’s a Bitch totally rules! The album’s success lies in the Starvations’ growth as songwriters and musicians; Gabriel Hart comes through again with chord progressions so perfect, I keep listening to individual songs over and over again—it’s like when Allan Freed would play songs to death, only I don’t get payola and have never been sauced on the air. Hart’s slide guitar is fucking ridiculous, too—“Nightshade Sweats” reminds me of some Kid Congo’s work on Las Vegas Story. His formidable, morbid narratives are back too, most notably in the “were going on vacation as soon as Blind Lemon Jefferson’s ghost comes through with the tickets” blast of “Lost at Sea;” Jean-Paul Garnier is quite possibly L.A.’s best bassist not named Tommy Branch. The dude works the fretboard like Rob Ritter did on Miami and has something most bassists don’t have: creativity! Piano/accordion player Vanessa Gonzalez continues to demonstrate how integral her multi-instrumental pallet is to The Starvations’ unique sound. And therein lies the Starvations’ secret: they know how to write idiosyncratic, solid tunes and play their instruments really fucking well. They also sound well-versed in America’s musical history, a lot like the Clash in ’79 and the Gun Club in ’81. If you know those bands, you know how fucking scary that is. And until I drive my roommates’ nuts with repeats of this record, I’ll finally be able to leave my In the Red Records altar unmanned for longer than a day. Goddamn. –ryan (GSL)

Gravity's a Bitch: CD
The Starvations were the first band that I went out of my way to listen to just because I had read about them in Razorcake. I remember reading the interview that they did and thinking that any band that could equate drinking with brushing your teeth was okay in my book. Don’t want to jinx them or anything, but so far, they’ve never let me down and I can’t completely put my finger on why I like them. They’re in a league with bands like the Gun Club and the Pogues: storytelling lyrics, similar instrumentation, and the ability to pull off both dirges and more uptempo songs. But the thing is that they don’t really sound like those bands, they just remind me of them. All three bands have a knack for taking inspiration from traditional roots music, but they never become slaves to convention; they weave in their own paranoia and make the music their own. –Josh (GSL)

One Way to Remind b/w Give Me the Keys: 7"
One of my favorite LA-based bands just keeps on getting better. It’s hard to sound so lush, spare, and desperate at the same time—to be transfixed with the fungus and peeling lead paint of everyday living while still staring up into the atmosphere, hoping there’s something sublime, maybe even conciliatory, in all of the madness. Or maybe it’s just madness. For lack of a better lexicon, the Starvations are roots music how I imagine it to be, not how it usually is—full of purple, hokey Americana aching to be a toothpaste commercial. The Starvations playing seems to come from hearts as fiery as the first swigs of uncapped whiskey, yet as broken as bottom shelf liquor bottles at the end of a rough night. I imagine the band akin to an impossibly well-stocked jukebox that plays only the dead-on, heart to ear to wet eyes tracks. With these two tracks, there’s an accordion front and center, and it’s the furthest thing from a Pogues rip or faux jig. It helps congeal the sound, like the pumping of another organic instrument, as natural as sadness and remorse or the melancholy that comes from fleetly remembering, then forgetting, a good time. The real deal. –todd (GSL)

One Long Night: CDEP
Hey, I love old X. I love the Cramps. I love Link Wray, but, fuck jesus, they didn't make mausoleums to suffocate in. They provided us with unbuilt engines to hop up even more. Three cheers for a band following its own path and investing in their own sound. Beyond the clubhouses and fascades of musical styles such as psychobilly, rockabilly, and voodoobilly, are several bands that are tapping into some true weirdness, getting weird with it, and wiggling out with some sounds of their own, beyond the past. The names, locally at least, are limited. They share a commanality, not by clothes, not even by a genre-locked sound or contrived outrageous behavior, but by vision. Throw Rag. Blazing Haley. The Starvations. Unafraid to add accordion, unafraid to let the ghosts and skeletons of long-forgotten and obscure musical genres to seep into them like a mold, The Starvations are feeling the pulse of exciting, hard-to-find music, and like Frankenstein's monster with lightning kickstarting the sound, I, for one, can't wait to hear what they'll stomp after next. Set the CD player on repeat. You'll be signing high and long to "Grief" and "Last Night I Had a Nightmare We Got Married." Five of their best songs to date, and their last LP, A Blackout to Remember, was fantastic. –todd (Kapow)

Horrified Eyes: 7"
Whoa. Run-of-the-mill rockabilly this ain't. The A-side is musically upbeat and the B-side is more bluesy, but both songs have a swampy Birthday Party kind of feeling to them and a really unique singer. Maybe the most original thing I've heard in a while; the only way I can describe this is fucked-up-in-a-good-way, but I've been listening to it a lot and I'm glad I own it. –Josh (GSL)

Get Well Soon: CD
The Starvations have been able to cinch the dark heart of so many styles of music, to squeeze it, have it languidly bleed down their arms and meander deep under their skin. Stains, that with no amount of scrubbing, will never come out. Equal parts sickness, celebration, and the macabre. The Starvations, immediately upon listening, have so much figured out: chemistry, alchemy, fermentation. The playing is too assured, too other-worldly realized. Possessed. There’s a vision that doesn’t have to stoop to the past in a constant bow of reverence, but to scoop it up by the ladle and have it violently sizzle over the glassy shards of the present. Yes, it’s punk, but, thankfully, in the widest dilation. Touchstones are merely that – starting points: early Gun Club, The Blasters, fiery Nick Cave and I also hear distant echoes of Bauhaus. Not in sound, but in intent, they’re also akin to what Throw Rag’s all about. Then it’s all boiled and shantied up with occasional piano, accordion, harmonica, and congas in a way that makes it seem more stripped down and closer to what I’ve always thought true roots music should sound like. True gothic, (in the original definition of the word) before it was attached to a genre of music – highlighting decay amongst the decadence. –todd (GSL)

A Blackout to Remember: CD
The number of greaser/rocker/maximum rockabilly bands I currently know and like are few: Throw Rag, Blazing Haley, The Masons, and The Cramps are about all I can come up with. Add in The Starvations. It's hard to sound so believably desperate yet pull it all together in a collection of twelve songs without once falling into a cliché pothole of flaming dice, beating off to Mopar, or Betty Page-o-holics. There's an almost painful hollow feeling - and a hollow-body sound - that permeates the whole record, which makes it all the more catchy and distinctive. It's undeniably well played. Standout tracks are "Queen Bee's Lament," (with "swollen livers and eviction eyes") and ("I'm burning down the") "Church of the Doublecross." The entire CD also has an unaffected, eeire American gothic (as in the unexplainable and forlorn like Edgar Allan Poe, not spooky pancake makeup) feel. I look forward to more. An unexpected surprise. –todd (Revenge)

Self-titled: CD
Apparently, this is a one-time side project featuring Patyczak on vocals and the band Starzy Singers from Warsaw. Late ‘70s punk seems to be the main influence on these tunes. Everything is played with controlled chaos and it seems to work well. I wish I could tell you more about how this connects with me emotionally, but all the liner notes seem to be in their native tongue. I’d really appreciate an English lyric section on their bandcamp page so I could follow along.  –koepenick (Nikt Nic Nie Wie)

Mominatrix: 7” EP
Straight-ahead, punchy punk with an obnoxious lyrical bent. The outcomes are given that much more heft, courtesy of a Blasting Room mastering. –jimmy (Sexy Baby)

Mominatrix: 7” EP
There are two great punk bands from Laramie, WY? Okay, they share the same bassist. But here Miguel Chen steps up to the mic and delivers. He seems upset. Two of the songs have “shit” in the title. But I’m here to tell him it’s okay. “You’re a Cop” and the title track really thrash with abandon. I’m not going to tell Miguel to give up his day job, but his moonlighting gig is pretty damn sweet too. –koepenick (Sexy Baby)

Stale Champagne: LP
Four-color gatefold sleeve and dust jacket with clear vinyl. It has the range, rawness, gait, emotionalism, and orchestration of Two Gallants and Avett Brothers, but not quite the lyrics or the power. The instrumentation is sparse and production is just-throw-a-mic-in-the-middle-of-the-living-room, which makes it very difficult to hear at times. There’s a little bit of drone and some oddly timed crescendo and decrescendo. Not a bad effort, but I’d like to hear some matured material that’s a bit more even-keeled. –thiringer (Self-released)

No Escape: CD
There’s eight originals and a Discharge cover here, that is musically alright, but their whole “I ain’t gonna change, gonna be punk ‘til I die” stance just rings hollow. It all comes off as pretty meaningless shouting and defiant posturing, which is only amplified by trite lyrics that seem to avoid addressing any specific current events, of which there are many to bitch about. The result is sure to get the parrot punks pumping their fists in the air, but it really ain’t all that far off from the output of such hard-hitting “punk” groups as A New Found Glory and Good Charlotte, is it? Look, kiddies, the days of “calling myself a punk and having a funny haircut is a potent symbol of rebellion in itself” ended long before Avril started sporting studded belts and posh New York boutiques started hawking Black Flag shirts to the clueless bourgeoisie. If you’re gonna co-opt all the accoutrements of the “political” bands of yore, either take a stance for (or against) specific current events or give your instruments to someone who’ll put them to better use.  –jimmy (Rodent Popsicle)

Fistfuls of Sand: 7”
Members of Get Bent and Laura Stevenson And The Cans splitting the difference between new style: non-twang “Americana” and a band like The Anniversary or Koufax. –frame (Salinas)

Cities We’re Not From: LP
I’m pretty sure this record was already reviewed in Razorcake, or that it was in somebody’s Top 5 or something, which means that it was well-liked. It’s quite possible that sometimes people do Top 5’s of things they don’t like, but if I recall correctly, that was not the case with this State Lottery record. I’m glad about that, because I fear my review will not do the record justice, just because it’s not really my thing. It’s kind of a rock’n’roll-y, folk-y record, and I think it’s well done. It just didn’t turn my crank. I liked the first song on the first side pretty well, and the first song on the second side, and throughout the LP none of the songs dismayed me or anything like that, but one issue I had was with the singer’s voice—at first I didn’t like it at all (too frail sounding), then I thought, “It’s growing on me”, then I decided no, I don’t really care for it…and so on. Overall, it would have been great if it packed more of a punch, because I think they’re a good band and they have a lot of nice lyrics (a favorite being: “We’ve declared endless war armed with the infantile concept of good vs. bad. What is this, kindergarten class?”). I enjoyed when Rachel Parsons lent a hand with the vocals and there were some nice horn and harmonica parts. Additional points for the gorgeous painting on the cover. Fans of Americana style music should give it a listen. –Jennifer Federico (Salinas)

When the Night Comes: LP
When the Night Comes isn’t necessarily a departure for The State Lottery. And I can’t imagine any fans of their previous full-length, Cities We’re Not From, being bummed at how it sounds. It’s not a departure, but there’s a definite shift at work here. Call it a slight “stylistic advancement,” or a “band maturing,” or whatever you want. The point being, it’s entirely effective. While Cities… was rich with a kind of wandering solemnity, When The Night Comes is firmly entrenched in rock and roll and the kind of detail-rich lyricism that dudes like Springsteen and Josh Ritter do so well with. While the band still manages to pen songs that sound like a Detroit winter come to life, this time around it’s filtered through the wire mesh of rock and roll, JD Salinger’s short stories, healthy doses of saxophone and organ, and even a hint here and there of ‘60s pop. I’m surprised they pulled it off, and more surprised that they make it sound so damn effortless. Bobby Colombo’s vocals still fall between Blake Schwarzenbach and Brendan Kelly, but his ability to tell a story has improved massively since the last record. When the Night Comes has its joyous, thundering gems (“Coming Alive” and “East Jordan”) and its heart-stung lamentations (“Little Song” and the album closer, “Spring, 2008, Detroit”). It’s what I wish people thought “indie rock” was when they used that term, and it’s probably one of the best records that came out in 2010. You can get the LP version from Salinas, or a free download of it at ifyoumakeit.com. I’d suggest you do both—the art is beautiful and the lyrics are more than worth reading. This is an awesome band and a terrific LP. –keith (Salinas)

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