Not a goddamn thing! (Beside a few vowels…) But why does everything have to have something to do with everything else? Can we not just enjoy something on its own merits? Does EVERYTHING need a pithy title and the come-hither leer of SEO keywords? I humbly submit to you that IT DOES NOT.
That being said, this will be a rather brief post (comparatively). While there are larger projects in the works (like listening to an entire internet’s worth of netlabel output), I’d still like to take a moment now and then to aim you in the direction of stuff I’m listening to when I’m not up to my ears in netlabel .rars and suggestions to check out even more netlabels, etc. until the list of “THINGS TO DO” has become sentient and walks around drumming its fingers impatiently on the desk and tapping its foot in a look-we’re-all-just-waiting-on-you way.
To the STUFF!
For anyone who ever felt dismayed, irritated, blood in their ears, or just plain “left out” by Dinosaur Jr’s permaflux wall-of-sound guitar attack can now rejoice/chill/medicate/be part of the “in-crowd.” With this enticing (and self-explanatory) album, Dinosaur J (Mascis) has gone toward mellower ground, recasting his tracks as charming synthrock. Oddly, his distinctive voice, which seemed would never work outside the confines of roaring guitar distortion, fits in perfectly with the new backdrop.
Feel the Pain has always been one of my favorites (because I’m such a populist) and this version doesn’t do a thing to detract from that status. Close your eyes and it almost sounds like Mascis is readying himself for a cover of New Order’s Temptation. (Which would be cool.)
As for Raisans, this version is catchier than sexually-transmitted-bubonic-plague. If you don’t find yourself humming this Jan Hammer-esque track over the next few days, then you’ve probably got something wrong with you on a fundamental level, and should probably have that checked via a blood test. (Can’t hurt. SAFETY FIRST.)
I’ve been listening to this EP again. I first came across it nearly two years ago while tag-surfing at Bandcamp. Filed under “witch house” (which was the style at the time…), SPIDER▲WEBS Dusk House EP sounded only very lightly (wrong term, probably) like witch house and more like someone using a sampler for ostensibly evil purposes but undercut constantly by their knack for producing solid, enjoyable tunes. Sure, it’s dark and all, but it’s got a bit of unexpected buoyancy to it considering the tags below the album.
Here’s what I wrote about the above track back then:
According to the band info, Do the Psycho was assembled from samples of “daft punk, house music and old movie trailers.” Hey, whatever drowns out all the screaming. (Nearly.) It’s an eerie fairground of a tune, slightly off-kilter, like a calliope in denial. It fiercely projects lurching “cheerfulness” in an attempt to ignore the unpleasantness just offscreen.
Kids, have fun on the midway! Play some games! Ride some rides! And try not to wonder why there seem to be fewer and fewer of you milling about. It’s just an illusion. A trick of the lights. And most definitely not some unspeakable horror lurking somewhere in the darkened outskirts.
This one takes sort of New Romantic angle, which is completely wrong, if I’m reading the notes right. Inspired by The Knife’s Silent Shout and sampling the Cocteau Twins, and yeah, I can hear The Knife twisting away in there, jabbing listeners with the pointy end of its synth, but I can also hear something akin to The Human League building to a concise and cutting critique of Western civilization, only we’ve arrived to early and we’re still in the slow building intro.
One more. Samples New Order and tweets away on ye old rave whistle now and again without becoming either a.) an actual rave track or b.) tedious and/or precious. Still hides in the shadows. Still wears a bit of a helpless grin. Good good shit.
Here’s another band I ran into a couple of years back and I had pretty much figured they had grown too weird for this world and had decided the hell with music and gone on to do other things — normal things — like become postal service workers or mechanics or teach 9th grade history or whatever. But holy shit(!), they are back!
Their first album (Available here [right-click to Save As…]), from which Eating Babies is taken, was a blown-out psychotic masterpiece crafted from unholy amounts of static and ultra-distortion. Beyond lo-fi. Beyond no-fi. And beneath all the aural rubble, memorable melodies still lived, occasionally clawing their way to the surface, like in the memorably-named track above.
Their new album, titled spectacularly Gothdammit, has been out for a few months now, and would have gone completely unnoticed if it weren’t for a good friend of mine who always has his ear to the ground (among other places). And it’s a good one. The EP is a bit more accessible than their early work, but still retains the wrecked speaker sound design of their debut, along with the impeccable tunesmithery which anchors the tracks and keeps them from just devolving into noise BECAUSE.
This new track is the best Joy Division track released in years, which is not a back-handed compliment. There are worse things to be compared to and JD had a way with traversing the fine line between accessible and antagonistic and the Grave Babies have that tightrope walk nailed the fuck down.
The sound frays at the edges, but just as the intro has you nearly convinced that Fuck Off is some sort of ragged tone poem, the drums kick in and it’s 1977 all over again and the skinheads are throwing bottles at the stage and the sky is always grey and the mood is always black and the night is always ours.