March 2008

1. THE WAHAS — Mother In Drag

This unreleased track comes from Sydney, Australia’s The Wahas — an onslaught of noise that commands your attention; what, you’re going to try to talk over them? Good luck, if your volume levels are anything like mine. Touted as a garage rock band, these guys hardly sound on this track like an outfit you might think would typically fall under that genre, and it’s because none of their other songs really sound like this one! This is a dirty screamer of a song, no intelligible lyrics except for “Mother in drag, mother in drag”. Fast banging guitars and matted hair — this hard rock/metal/grunge song (a possible tribute to influences like My Bloody Valentine and The Birthday Party?) is a departure from the 5-piece’s usual jangly pop melodies with psychedelic backers. It’s a reminder that this band is a current up-and-comer and not your usual run-of-the-mill vintage band! I like that these young fellas have found their sound right away and are so secure in it already that they feel comfortable straying from it; their relevance is refreshing. Music sources everywhere are calling The Wahas a “new buzz band for 2008” and “one to watch” — up until now, it doesn’t look like this track of theirs has yet been blogged about, and I believe that’s partly because it isn’t featured on the band’s debut album, 2007’s “We Love The Wahas” (now on iTunes). I think as an opener, it perfectly sets the tone for this disc, a sort of tribute of my own to that deafening, mismatchy grungy scene I love so much.

2. AUF DER MAUR — Followed The Waves

Bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur’s journey is a veritable winding, who’s-who road of a story. After playing in joined Hole in 1994, following Kristen Pfaff’s overdose and at the recommendation of good friend Billy Corgan (Tinker used to open for the Pumpkins). She stayed with the band through 1999’s “Celebrity Skin” and then left Hole to tour with The Smashing Pumpkins, following the departure of D’Arcy Wretsky, and also collaborating with artists like Rufus Wainwright and Ric Ocasek. She fronted two other bands prior to the 2004 solo release, “Auf Der Maur”, a Black Sabbath cover band called Hand of Doom, and an outfit called The Chelsea that performed one gig before disbanding. Come “Auf Der Maur”‘s Hole-influenced, progressive-punk release, it was welcomed and lauded by the music community and her many supports in high places, even though this song (the first single), only peaked at #32 on Billboard’s “Hot Modern Rock” tracks list. Fans can expect a new album, “Out of Our Minds” to drop this year sometime, accompanied by a graphic novel and concept film. Click here to go to the website set up to promote this new album, but beware that it’s rather hard to navigate, albeit extremely intriguing.

3. OLD TIME RELIJUN — Mystery Language

Portland’s own Old Time Relijun (founded in Olympia, WA on January 1st, 1995), started as a vehicle so that frontman Arrington De Dionyso could play his original music in a live setting. A band was born. If you’re looking for something different, well, here you go. This tour-heavy band dances twitchily across genres, plucking an upright bass and clanging on trash and creating musical structures out of chaos. Grotesque and jarring, one should probably download a few sample tracks to see if he/she is a fan, before running out and buying the album: this band has met with mixed reviews. They are so unusual and odd that this fact is easily understood! The line-up has changed (once contained The Microphones’ Phil Elvrum) but the sound has remained the same, a horrifyingly beautiful cacaphony with spastic hooks and a taste of the all-American Delta blues, a marriage unmatched but that yet gives away undertones of voodoo and primal urges…and the old days of self-recorded cassettes and swindles. This album, “Witchcraft Rebellion” was a 2001 release on K Records. Their partnership with K, as well as their friendship with founder Calvin Johnson, continues. The band is on tour in Europe through May 10th, and then will be finishing the tour in the U.S. for two weeks after that. Plenty of chances to see what I mean about these bizarre and mutated sounds, and the energy of a cantankerous band that means it when they holler them rebel yells.

4. TAD — Stumblin’ Man

“Being a part of the TAD experience is like waking up in the middle of a train wreck, or like turning over to slap the button on your snooze bar and realizing you have no arms. Look around you; nothing but ashes and molten slag; you’re in the hypercenter of something big. Something that thinks, moves, and destroys.” (XZoom.com) Tad Doyle’s self-titled project , Tad, was the last of the Seattle bands from the late 80s to be picked up by a label. That label, though, was SubPop — and Tad would be one of the first signed to SubPop, not knowing that despite limited commercial success, they would be known as pioneers of grunge rock, the sound immortalized as a part of that era. This track is off of 1991’s “8-Way Santa”, the last SubPop release before the band went to Giant Records and began a series of major-label studio EPs. Controversial and dark, Tad never quite hit the big time in larger circles, despite touring with Nirvana, having a cameo in 1992’s “Singles”, and other such situations that might’ve been the turning point for another project.

Oh, enjoy this:

Fun fact: Were you a “Nirvana kid”? If you’re anything like me, you were, and you know that “Breed” is reportedly about Tad…

5. PLEXI — Lipstick Glue

Says the former Hollywood rock band Plexi (formerly Godseed), and Viper Room favorite, on their MySpace: “About Me: 1 short guy with low self esteem and 2 tall guys with a lot of fucking nerve.” Ha! This band, made up of 1 Norm and 2 Michaels, included this single as a track on their first (self-titled) LP in 1995, when they were still on the Boy’s Life label. Fuzzy and epic, the track opens with “Heineken? Fuck that shit — Pabst Blue Ribbon!”, a Frank Booth quote from the 1986 film “Blue Velvet” and just starts grinding forward…launching into the song with gloom and a sort of resigned ferocity. The band was so tight, they could break down and make a mess of things and then come back together again just as quickly…this song is an earfuck; scattered sleaze and glitter goth; lipstick and tattoos. Makes you want to ride something or someone, or drive something really fast while smoking a cigarette and knowing it’s all almost over.

6. THE FALL — Fiery Jack

By 1977, punk rock had exploded. The Fall is one example of a band that happened next. The English band formed in greater Manchester in 1976. Their repetitive and caustic, near-rockabilly guitar sound became a symbol of post-punk, a strange and tweaky misfit band committing themselves to fulfilling punk rock’s unfinished musical destiny. The charismatic Mark E. Smith is the only consistent member of the band since its formation. Known for the way he extends his lyrics with random syllables (one example, in “Free Range” — “…This is the spring-uh without end-uh…”), the way he attacks with his rhythmic, cryptic lyrics, spits out putdowns, and glides thrillingly through the verbal bile he spews. Smith and his band are trained performers, loving every minute…shocking, teasing. Their music has gradually drifted from a more minimalist, jagged sound to one that is more spooky and industrial, and then more digitized. They are, in that way, timeless chameleons — changing their colors to fit in wherever they are at the time, and keeping their original vision alive.

Fun fact: “Henry Rollins is an avid fan of The Fall, stating of Smith ‘after well over 27 albums the man still keeps spewing forth the highest quality vitriol. I never get tired of this guy. I have pretty much all those records. I like ’em a lot, and I wouldn’t wanna be caught in an elevator with him when it wasn’t working.'”

7. SUPER JUNKY MONKEY — The Mother

“Holy mother of metallic-thrash-funk-meatloaf! Rage Against The Machine meets Steve Vai at a Tokyo rap show.” Also known as “We’re The Mother”, I found this track on a Japanese hardcore compilation. This all-girl band was active from 1991 to 1999, when frontwoman Mutsumi’s body was found outside her apartment building. Whether she fell or jumped was never determined. Many people feel that this band never got the worldwide attention they deserved, despite relative success and a plethora of Japanese releases. This track was previously unreleased prior to this 1998 compilation, but then was included on 2001’s “Songs Are Our Universe”, a 2-disc posthumous greatest hits collection. The band were known for being gutsy and odd, innovators in their particular brand of rock. They wove together a familial nest, writing songs that told the story of their tight progressive unit not quite like any other.

8. THE TWILIGHT SAD — That Summer, At Home, I Had Become The Invisible Boy

I listen to this song over and over. I listen because it’s explosive and muted at once, leaves me waiting for a complete rock fest freakout that never comes. I find I’m still sitting still, thinking hard, long after the song is over and the room fills with silence. I feel like I’ve missed something, so naturally, I start it again. Rinse, repeat. This is their first single (released as a 7″ on FatCat Records), supporting the 2007 release of the Scottish band’s debut album, “Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters”. Folky distortion with bleachy guitars reminds me of The Walkmen, the drumbeat in this song particularly reminds me of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (nope, it’s not the same drumbeat as “Maps”. Yes, I checked. Yes, it’s super-close, but not exact). The heavily-accented, shimmering, run-down shouts of lead singer James Graham are startling and full of angst; a pulsing and claustrophobic ode to disaffected youth. So personal and tragic in its suggestive, yet mysterious, meaning.

Check out their cover art. LOVE.

9. MOHAMMED RAFI — Jaan Pehechaan Ho

Someone once told me that when she thinks of me, hanging out at home, she imagines Thora Birch’s character in Ghost World, rocking out to this footage that appears in the opening scene. Ha! Based on a comic strip of the same name, Ghost World featured a brilliant cast and an incredible soundtrack. The record is full of rarities; old blues tracks and jazz recordings. This song in particular is taken from the 1965 Bollywood musical, Gumnaam, a film billed as ‘India’s first suspense thriller’. The plot, in a nutshell: a handful of people are invited to an island for a free getaway. Their host/hosts never show up. Their plane leaves, stranding them. One by one, they begin dying, under mysterious circumstances. This is the big dance number in the beginning. Mohammed Rafi, the original artist (December 24, 1924 – July 31, 1980), was a big hit in the Indian playback scene. This song is so infectious! So retro! And the dancers have so much energy!! Surf meets James Brown meets James Bond with Hindi vocals on top.

Fun fact: “In an interview, Ghost World creator Daniel Clowes mentioned that he had gotten his original 20th generation copy of the scene from someone who had been housesitting for Peter Holsapple, guitarist-songwriter for the dB’s…and copied it from Peter’s collection.”

10. HOT SNAKES — If Credit’s What Matters, I’ll Take Credit

Rick Froberg and John “Speedo” Reis (Drive Like Jehu/Pitchfork) never created Hot Snakes with the intention for it to take off as it did; was supposed to just be a side project while Froberg took a break from Rocket From The Crypt. When the two San Diegoans collaborated in 1999 to form Hot Snakes, the result was international success and a cult following. This track was the opener to the debut album from these guys, 2000’s “Automatic Midnight”, and jaws everywhere dropped. Despondent Drive Like Jehu fans were immediately enthralled, knowing that this was the bastard child of the disbanded DLJ and feeling so grateful that Hot Snakes was arguably comparable to the hardcore DLJ sound. Though stripped-down, the sound was still primal — it was an instant “new” favorite band for the fans and an instant fan base for the band. Their performances were notorious for being in-your-face and sweaty, the guys many-times-over compared to Black Flag in terms of being so high-energy; a force like a tornado ripping up anything and anyone in its path. The album and the ferocious opener in “If Credit’s What Matters…” left hopeful those listeners who had been listening to previously-disposable music; disillusioned with the state of punk rock and hoping that the days of writhing, rhythmic music like Hot Snakes weren’t over. Highly recommended, a kismet collaboration of two artful musicians with no real choice but to be anything but top-notch.

11. POND — Tree

If you are not yet familiar with this internet radio station: Grunge FM, get familiar. It is chock-full of non-repeating grungy favorites, and is 24/7, as well as free. How can you lose? It is also where I was recently reminded of this song’s existence. The band wrote this in the liner notes from this release, their first double single of “Young Splendor”/”Tree”: “Pond is about sleeping without dreaming. The trip of disappearing every night. Also about dreaming – pieces of tires pistils and stamens, bitten by every participant in the parade, and a retarded man laughing because notices the same color in a dozen different places, never about relationships between things, but about the actual things things themselves, but not cars, cards, business cars, or business cards or business or work. There are the guidelines – order your house first, sleep a lot, don’t wake someone to tell your dream, obey the compassionate and visionary trailer queen, make up stories, tell the truth, let sleeping dogs lie, listen, buy local music, sleep, wonder. Why think the universe is united to the five senses. We’ve developed to detect it. Or nothing in the middle and nothing at either end. Just six years of life for dreaming, six years for eating, and walking under leaf cathedrals, bliss at crush volume, not for rooling balls of pain. Here for a limited time only. Make your offering.” The Portland grunge band was integral to the grunge sound and scene, but were so underrated due to the flurry of activity up in Seattle. Underrated or not, they hammered away at that fuzzy, distorted goodness; toss muddy anthems to their salivating crowds, like bones to snarling dogs. Sub Pop, as soon as the then-new label had some cash in their pockets, plundered Portland’s music scene — filling up on the plethora of amazing bands that the “second Northwest city” had to offer. The elements of shoegaze apparent in this track says a lot, too, about the world of music at the time. The UK’s popular shoegazer genre had peaked around 1991, and when grunge came along, it pushed aside that scene and shoegaze bands were forced to break up or adapt to the new style. Many grunge bands reflect that clash: the guitar effects, the mush-mouth lyrics, that loud drone (you know the one I mean). Pond, with “Tree”, creates a startling, broken anthem of bleak “meh”-ness. A perfect and important contribution to the time and to any cloudy Portland day’s playlist.

12. THUNDERBIRDS ARE NOW! — From: Skulls

http://www.frenchkissrecords.com/bands_thunderbirds_faq.html

The Detroit-based TAN! lives on pop music: “Some Beatles for breakfast, a little Smiths for lunch, and the Pixies for dinner. Sometimes we’ll have a little New Pornographers for a midnight snack.” 2005’s “Justamustache” delivers a bangin’ new wave dance record that’s sassy, herky-jerky and bright. This is music to be listened to in a cramped basement where everyone’s slipping in everyone else’s sweat as the musicians and audience together mingle and mix, ebb and flow, feeding off the energy and throbbing for more. Listen to TAN! and flail about in ecstasy, breathily sing along with frontman Ryan Allen’s punky whine…

13. THE BOO JAYS — Blumouth

Naveed, my friend from back in Boston, had months to get me any information about his now-South Carolina-based The Boo Jays. But alas, despite my nagging, he never came through. So, I’m rather in the dark about what exactly Naveed is trying to express through his surf garage band, but knowing him as a friend helps me understand what he’s driving at. What else is there to say but that Naveed Mir is The Boo Jays? The Boo Jays reflect a playful yet dark side of the multi-talented misanthrope who is Naveed — the long-haired Nirvana kid fascinated with Charles Manson/ATWA, Videodrome and vampires. This is the stoned and highly-caffeinated Naveed that never calls me back, because he hasn’t slept in days striving for perfection with the new EP, “Golf”. Crackling, poor-quality basement recordings say a lot about this man, account for the majority of his time and the passion he has; the consuming obsession with writing music to serve as a mouthpiece. Sounding as if they were recorded in a casket, these songs are slices of one man’s life; evidence. Selfishly, he chooses often to neglect other things and people in his life in favor of withdrawing into himself and his studio work; is committed to his musical hermitry. But his preference to spend this time alone, playing multiple instruments and fucking around with 4 and 8-tracks isn’t so much a bad thing, is of benefit to recipients of the finished product — one might only expect good things from a person who focuses so much of his time and energy in one direction. The result is a cacophonous collage of too many pots boiling, brilliance and cruelty, little bits of trash and string, wounds and curiosities; the lament of an old soul plagued with chronic immaturity, laced with a manically-happy backdrop of vintage-inspired guitar hooks.

Fun fact: check out the MySpace linked above for a KILLER cover of The B-52s’ “Planet Claire”.

Fun fact: The Boo Jays’ “Gretel” also appears on the soundtrack for the Wideshot Studios documentary on this project, “The Mixtress”.

14. FLIPPER — Ha Ha Ha

“The strangest and most strident and controversial band- a band that was brutally loved/hated and worshipped with god-like fervor, personal allegiance and loyalty were Flipper. They were the most arrogant, in your face, non-industry oriented, ‘we don’t give a fuck’ band of them all.” One of the first “slow punk” bands, formed in 1979 in San Francisco, these noisy guys delivered biting lyrics with full audience participation at shows — normally, in the mayhem of a ton of kids on the stage singing backup, the intruments would get whacked out of tune. The grinding dissonance became their signature sound. Atonal and offensive, the band’s goal was to be “to be bad in ways that no band had ever been bad before” — but it turns out that they weren’t bad enough, because they kept getting more and more popular. Off of 1984’s “Blow’N Chunks Live”, the isolating bass line, the squealing guitar, the apathetic voice of lead singer Ricky Williams became a voice for San Francisco’s underground; for angsty youth looking for a reason to act out.

15. SELBY TIGERS — Punch Me In The Face (With Your Lips)

The rock n’ roll darlings of St. Paul, Minnesota. Midwest punk, not big-time manufactured music coming out of NYC or LA — the authenticity is there, making this album (2002’s “The Curse of the Selby Tigers”) indispensable. Three singers, two guys and a girl, end up pumping out a sound not unlike a riot grrl band. Agitated, always moving, each acting out onstage their own ear-splitting fantasies — these are entertainers, who happen to be able to play some mean-ass music. They have the tendency to wax political, but they pull it off by being reasonable and intelligent as much as they are forthright with their opinions. People listen. Combining gritty elements of new wave, neo-punk and garage, the Selby Tigers have carved out a comfortable niche for themselves. Signing with a California label (Hopeless) has brought new life to their career, helping to make them commercially available and known, without sacrificing any of the homegrown values that being from Minnesota no doubt instilled.

16. LOWER CLASS BRATS — Who Do They Save?

These self-proclaimed “Clockwork punk”ers from Austin have worked really hard to get where they are. It’s hard for straight-up punk bands to differentiate their sound from the tons of other punk bands out there. I mean, how many punk bands did I see in random basements in the time I lived in Boston, namely Southie and Allston? What makes this band different, nevermind being so heavily influenced by the Stanley Kubrick film, “A Clockwork Orange”, is that they set out to play their music as an attack. No, they didn’t start a band just to start a band, they were fighting backagainst the influx of emo and college (and, oddly for this mix, grunge) bands. Yep, these guys were anti-grunge and anti-anything but putting on a kick-ass show and snarling at each and every one of us. 13 years ago this band got together. They have toured the globe a few times over, they’ve produced a “fuckload of records”, they show no signs of slowing down. I recommend this album, 2003’s “Clockwork Singles Collection: Real Punk Is An Endangered Species” — it’s a good place to start with LCB. Classic and angry, you can’t miss if you’re a true fan of punk rock and what it stands for.

17. TURBONEGRO — All My Friends Are Dead

Turbonegro is a bombastic, shitstorm of a band hailing from Oslo, Norway. “Swedish broadcasting DJ Lars Allman once described their sound as “Radio Birdman meets Venom in an institution for sexually abused retards” and Danish Moshable magazine remarked back then: “One great big hunk of an album that simply barfs up the best in Scandinavian punk rock – and then slam it into overdrive. So fucking punk that it will tear you a new asshole – and then some!” NME calls them “the greatest band ever to walk the earth”. It’s all really intense — the obvious passion that both audiences and the band alike bring to the table. On this album, 2005’s “Party Animals”, the band pay tribute to their influences. Bands like The Circle Jerks, Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop helped Scandinavia’s most popular band define their signature sound, a mix of hard rock, rock and punk (with pop-metal undertones) called “death punk”. The late-80s band continues to perform today and gain notoriety with younger audiences; fresh meat. Certainly trashy and definitely more than a little glam, this is a band to get excited about! They are so ridiculously over-the-top, with both their look and their sound — unbelievable energy, full makeup and tongue-in-cheek, ever-so-slightly accented lyrics make them a band worth seeing. And, if you can’t see them, at least pick up one of the albums (to start). Don’t be afraid of the term “death metal”. Try it, you’ll probably like it.

Fun fact: “‘All My Friends Are Dead’ borrows the melody line (or singing styles) from The Misfits‘ ‘We Are 138’.”

Fun fact: Bam Margera (pro-skater, and MTV’s “Viva La Bam”) hosted a private party featuring Turbonegro as the entertainment.

PS: Portland, we were expecting Turbonegro to play the Hawthorne Theatre on April 23rd. Alas, along with a handful of other dates — including Coachella — this gig has been cancelled.

18. SHRINK — You Don’t Want Me Anyway

Ok. So, I admit it, perhaps a fuck-up on my part: I have no idea who this band is and I’m not sure why. I usually know at least something before adding a band to a mix, otherwise I have nothing to say when it comes time to blog. But I have no notes on the band that may or may not be called Shrink. I suggest that maybe the band name is wrong because no matter how much I look into it, I can’t seem to find anything, anything at all about the band or the song — not even a lyrics lookup was helpful. I have no other songs by Shrink in the folder, either. Hm. Unknown but kick-ass. Any information, holler. Happy to change this when I know more. In the meantime, blindly love it :)

19. LIARS — The Wrong Coat For You Mt. Heart Attack

This is a band on the move. Three huge relocations (from Los Angeles to New York City to Berlin) plus massive stylistic changes for each album, plus some line-up changes equals the most organized chaos you’ve ever heard. “Drum’s Not Dead” (recorded in 2004, released in 2006) is a concept album, revolving around the fictitious “Drum” and “Mt. Heart Attack” characters, a sort of yin and yang/duality to human nature (one represents stress and self-doubt and the other motivation and creativity, something like that). I say very loosely that there’s a story because there really isn’t any sort of definite articulated flow. They took a wild, non-linear approach to the album, which was created right after the band’s move to Berlin. Asks The Red Alert: “How much of an impact did geography and surroundings have on Drum’s Not Dead? Did relocating to Berlin have an impact, or is the music kind of divorced from the environment?Answers the band: “It’s fairly divorced from the environment. It wasn’t an inspiration of Berlin that created the music behind the record. It was more that Berlin enabled us to spend more time on it; we were able to go and record in a really nice studio, and to live here for really cheap. It helped us more with living, with being comfortable with doing things kind of slow.” “Everyone who gave this record a bad review will eat their words, eventually. This record is genre shattering. Rushing to meet the future. Why are people so afraid of change? How dull would you be if you kept repeating yourself? This record grows and grows…and it expects the listener to as well. ‘Pedestrian’ listeners want things hand fed to them because their attention span is so commercially castrated. I found a refreshing expansion of emotion on this record. Every step of the way LIARS has taken me on their journey of freedom of expression. I love when music makes me rewire my expectations of modern culture. BRAVO LIARS.

20. TRAD GRAS OCH STENAR — Tegenborgsvalsen/The Waltz From Tegenborg

“Trees, Grass and Stones” are prog-rockers from the late 60s/early 70s. The quartet were forefathers of the waves of music to come pouring forth from Sweden ever since. This track, off of the self-titled 1969 EP, is made up of thumping pseudo-rhythms that barely resemble the waltz they claim to be. The recording is horrible, the guys keep plodding along with their parts almost dutifully, it sounds a mess. But as you listen, listen to the skills of each musician. Break it down so you’re listening to each part on its own. Recognize the musicianship that comes along with playing a song like this, the way it’s almost as if they are each playing their own songs on top of one another. It’s amazing. This is pure noise. It’s not pretty sounds. It’s almost if your ears don’t want to like it. But Trad, Gras och Stenar (also known as International Harvester, or just Harvester) are worth the shot you give them, if for nothing else but the exposure to their unique sound. They continue to play today, nearly 40 years since they started, though music has never been/will never be their day job.

21. BEACH HOUSE — Saltwater

From the moment that Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand played together without any other accompaniment, it was clear that they would begin performing as a duo. Through an intuitively close friendship, music flows between them, words are exchanged without anyone having said anything. This makes writing songs a snap, makes perfection within reach. In 2006, Beach House released their debut (on Carpark Records) to critical acclaim. This song, the opener, sets up the listener for what will be a gauzy, fairytale of a dream pop record. The sound is Parisian and melancholy; the constant organ and Legrand’s haunting, romantic vocals make this album shimmer.

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