First, a special announcement: please find link attached to my best of year to date list on Amazon:
Record of the Week
Japandroids – Post-Nothing
Some records come with a feeling of not wanting to leave until each fuzzy drop of reverb has finished, of being late for work thanks to sitting in the car until every last track has come to a close, of missing the last bus home, just for an extra 30 seconds of encore. Vancouver’s Japandroids have that appeal and more. Their lo-fi punk cum garage-rock yells about getting out of your hometown, drinking, getting girls (or not), simply being in a band, being young and getting older. Consequently, it is dumb, the vocals are daft and repetitive, but it is also essential. It leaves you breathless, spent and utterly content. It is the sound of simple done sickeningly well. It is Fugazi with more hooks and a sense of melody, it’s No Age with tunes, it’s a better quality Wavves if he stopped messing about with glitchtronica. The opening trinity of tracks are faultless. ‘Wet Hair’ is particularly pleasing in a call-to-arms-for-the-disenfranchised kind of way, full of youthful dreams and fantasies, dreams, which have a realistic, but darker edge, on equal highlight ‘Young Hearts Spark Fire’. We used to dream, now we worry about dying, they sing in harmony. Even the album title is indicative of their f*ck-it-and-have-some-fun attitude; it turns their sound into a self-proclaimed year-zero for music and comes therefore with a degree of seminality. Time will only tell if that promise is seen through, but for now the sun is rising fast over these Japandroids.
Lissy Trullie – Self-Taught Learner
‘More Revision Required’
That a shrug-worthy cover of Hot Chip’s ‘Ready For The Floor’ is the highlight of this EP speaks volumes, and shows that being well connected does not compensate for having little talent. Ms Trullie warbles huskily over 5 generic and uneventful indie-ish pop-punk numbers, which are catchy and summery, but insubstantial. On ‘She Said’, and elsewhere, she comes close to a sub-Strokes sound, but that is still being kind. The affectation for all things Casablancas does not stop there; see the young woman’s behind on the front cover. Frankly, others’ Joy Division and Television comparisons are insulting. ‘Forget About It’ sounds like recent Razorlight material, and that should ultimately tell you if this one’s for you. Ms Trullie whiffs either of vanity project or evil A&R cash and what that has taught me to learn is to walk away quickly.
Mika Miko – We Be Xuxa
‘Breathless & Brainless’
Breathless and brainless in an irreverent sense, Mika Miko are nevertheless effective. All eleven tracks are done in 22 minutes, which at least provides easy maths. They borrow club-mates No Age’s fuzzy lo-to-no-fi sound and smash it into various punks. ‘Turkey Sandwich’ starts as the Buzzcocks and then devolves into vocal gibberish, later reprised on the album closer remixed into a seeming punk cover of Beck’s Gamma Ray. ‘I Got A Lot’ is classic surf-punk, and the unstoppable jerk of ‘Sex Jazz’ is near angular punk-funk. Not as world-beat as Abe Vigoda nor as oiksome as the Mae Shi, Mika Miko are like Jay Reatard but without his Supergrass-level of hooks. Others’ comparisons with Slits and the Wipers seem justified. All that is missing is one killer tune to separate them from the pack.
Deerhunter – Rainwater Cassette Exchange
‘Also Available On Cassette’
Brandon Cox is spoiling us with his prolificacy. First there was last year’s Atlas Sound work, then the excellent Microcastle, and now this short, but very satisfactory stopgap EP. Rainwater Cassette Exchange is another 15 minutes of blissed out indie pop-rock that also takes in generous doses of dreamy psychedelia and Black Lip’s brand of garage-rock (see standout track, ‘Famous Last Words’). ‘Game Of Diamonds’ is equally beguiling and brings Grandaddy to mind in its lush harmonies. Newcomers would still be best placed starting with Microcastle, but this is more than one for the completist, despite being offered on cassette format by certain vendors. I fear Rainwater Cassette Exchange may no longer be with us due to modern format preference, but would nevertheless have been unlikely to have seen any exchanges of this solid EP.
Kasms – Spayed
Kasms like to be categorised under a genre they invented and named ‘shriekback’. Trouble is, shriekback sounds a lot like gothic pop-punk with elements of no-wave and art-rock. To spay is to remove the ovaries of an animal, and this beast is lacking in parts, but certainly not in balls. No matter the classification, ‘Male Bonding’ is catchy and bruising and the Siouxsie-esque shriek is suitably banshee-like in places. ‘Bone You’ and ‘Trenchfoot’ are equally addictive, and their heavy drumming is liberally affecting. Doffing of pointy-witch cap towards a certain Mr Smith is also due throughout. Some lesser numbers (see the title track), as can be expected on a debut, dilute the listen but only from pitch black to black. At their best, and in the best possible way, Kasms are sometimes like early Yeah Yeah Yeahs covering the Cramps at their most rocking, just without the sustainability to hit those highs throughout.
Dead Confederate – Wrecking Ball
From the opening guitar work of ‘Heavy Petting’, to the Bleach-like vocal strains of ‘The News Underneath’, Wrecking Ball is an homage to grunge, and in particular Cobain. This is perhaps not original, but it is entertaining. In places, there are flourishes of alt-rock and even hints at heavy alt-country that include a nod to stadium-sized Kings of Leon material where the grunge is toned down. Wrecking Ball often resembles a much heavier Manchester Orchestra and their southern-friend country-grunge.
‘The Rat’ is the unquestionable highlight, as it was on last year’s worthy EP. Moments of melody show range, and the titular album closer comes off with the pomp of certain Cooper Temple Clause prog-pop rockers.
Full marks for the assonatic band name, commendably beardy image and for taking and making pastiche their own, Wrecking Ball is not quite as devastating as its title suggests, but it is ballsy, and is so with aplomb.
A Hawk & A Hacksaw – Déliverance
‘Squeals Of Delight’
New Mexico goes world, just as affiliate Zach Condon’s precious Beirut did. He did Mexican death march, café accordion and Balkan grind; they achieve a polka party showcase with their euphoric Hungarian folk. Full marks for authenticity, drafting in a rag-tag bunch of East European players and the effect is often startling. ‘The Man Who Sold His Beard’ is a confusion of instruments, influences and direction until an accordion restores order. The sad strings of ‘Raggle Taggle’ are otherwise forgettable until a drastic tempo change brings some polka square-dance to the mix. ‘I Am Not A Gambling Man’ houses a vocal that recalls that of Beirut, and witnesses a successful blending of his iconic brass.
Easily as impressive as Alaska in Winter’s work, or that of Devotchka, this latest A Hawk & A Hacksaw release is irrepressibly optimistic, but perhaps less impressive in context. Take it to Budapest, impress it with your knowledge of cathedrals, sit it down in the main square and it will all make perfect sense, but in doing so it may lose its other-worldly sparkle.
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