The Pizzas - Bad Ass Youth

Of all the singles that have passed through my front door this first six months of the year (and there’s a lot of quality releases piled in the basement bar right now), I going to have to suck it up and declare the Pizzas Bad Ass Youth 7” as the incendiary go-to record so far. If you were to tell me this when I took a shot on them, particularly because of the Daggerman Records imprint, I would have laughed out loud, cause with a name like the Pizzas I’m not entirely sold on the notion that this is anything but frivolous slop-punk. Set to 45, you’d only be half-right. I mean, c’mon, look at the cover; it’s got enough tongue-in-cheek signifiers to warrant the claim I’m staring down a novelty band. These guys do play in a bevy of other outfits, making the Pizzas a part-time thang. But I beg this band to please put more time in, imagine how far you’d fly if put all the efforts into one blood-basket. After all, this is purely frivolous but-tight-punk – the guitars busted wide open, the velocity at dangerous levels, the feedback its own instrument. The catch here is catchiness, youth exhalations and pop exhaustion found plentiful in “Hideous Fashion” a b-side anthem that ratchets up the melody when the song reaches its saturation point. Abandon all serious discussion and ah revive the pogo will you? An album of this hyperkinetic brash pop might be too much to ask for.


Whatfor - "I Want a Girl"

And it's girls, or that particular girl "whose only dream is to live and breath" for Michael Sienkowski, that the kooky kid behind Whatfor's maudlin dream-pop is in constant search of. Sooner Late than Never is a cyanide daisy-chain swooning and soaring full of piano led chamber music. They've got quite a scene going on in Madison, WI -- maybe you've read about it here before, but Whatfor is simply the best vintage in their wine cellar. Something tells me this crew's membership has more than one sommelier, as the velvety craft they put into their albums (see Pale Young Gentlemen) hint at aged sophistication.

But they all look young, it's the beards that throw me off, and the hours they put into the mis-en-scene of their album art and band photos suggest the tip of naivety. Not by any stretch does that mean some of the pics included in the package aren't downright beautiful, they just don't mesh well with the fanciful escapades found here. Sienkowski exhibits a remorseful misogyny (notice the juxtaposition) throughout (and especially in this song), without exactly hunting his prey. Instead he's crooning into the blood purple Wisconsin darkness (much like a hetero Rufus Wainwright on the prowl) with a competent band behind him well versed in Kinks, Beatles, and surviving soul-draining winters. He seems satisfied with the echoes. This debut is rife with the raucous but rooted in more sublime territory. In a time when I'm longing for the E6 model of color-rich psych to counter the black and white lo-fi and gutter punk, this will suffice nicely. Please keep me on the mind when the next egg hatches.


What's French for NonPlussed?

If you're a reader, you know I'm not a stranger to the percolating pop sounds of the future -- I've recently been hipped again to Jane Child's "Don't Wanna Fall In Love" (what a great song, remember the nose-to-ear-ring?), and incessantly infatuated by Cut Copy's flawless In Ghost Colours (fucking brilliant btw), but have laid my cards with the genre-hopping world of M.I.A. and Santogold as the path towards religious devotion. It was raining in Paris my first time there, so I'm not to hitched on the whole Ed Banger revolution (save that Justice album) or anything Gallic that morphs the entire Daft Punk template. Uffie can relax. She's not of French decent and I'm positive someone's gonna' make her official debut magentic (a promise?).

Yelle, who the hellknows what that translates into (french majors?), is the Western European entry into the cannon of eclectic dance (no longer ironic dance, nor intelligent dance, or electro-clash). What I'm hearing is a girl at constant odds with the producer. The music could stand on its own -- a deft re-interpretation of hyper-active synth pop, be it New Edition or the aforementioned Jane Child, NU SHOOZ, The Jets. Plenty of retro atari-core, breakdance, street funk (Crystal Castles, Chromeo). Methinks nothing is ironic in this studio, putting everything in the mix, be it the nostalgic vocoded bounce of Zapp or the bubblegum simplicity of Shanice, the 808 stylings of hip-hop's golden age. The results much closer to Xuxa than Arular. And in the present day, such fantastical escapism is warranted (as evidence, her cheeky videos), to the point that it seems vital in any pop artist's resume. That she continues to sing in French is a definite bonus, a turn-on, surrealisms. Not sure if Coachella audiences felt the immediate neon puncture of her music though. Pop Up, her debut is a record that adheres to nonsense more than anything else, the strands of rememberance, where fake horns and skittered beats, and unintelligible non-sequiturs ruled the airwaves. Too bad America is xenophobic (or at least Franco-phobic, due to the current administration). Yelle's never going to fly here.

I recommend "Je Veux Te Voir".


Jay does Adam Ant

Though I'll admit to being detached/ or trying to become attached to the collector scum culture (wuz I coll' sc. before it became a term, prolly not, oh well), I was never aware of the backlash Mr. Reatard has received for going acoustic. Equivalent to Dylan going electric at Royal Albert Hall? Not to parallel the two, but you'd seem to think it in our tiny little universe. Fact is, Jay Reatard, through his series of minor-pressed seven-inchers, is re-establishing himself -- going from Memphis punk ditch digger to international pop sensation (check the whirlwind European tour for proof, as only in Europe do you become established (sic)).

"Painted Shut" is acoustic guitar based, theory now being most of Blood Visions was conceived in this mold (check the Night of Broken Glass EP). I can't say the lyrics are profound, though he does get a pass for rhyming "started" with "retarded" since it's his namesake, but the melodies are rich, flamboyant, the work of someone with an ear for the radio (and wouldn't we all like to hear this on the radio?). It's a song that's definitely over before it's done (a brief minute-forty-nine) and that's the charm, lodging a jangly hook in the head and heading off for a beer. Unfortunately lesser than the two songs on the first chunk.

It's the b-side here, "An Ugly Death," that is the marquee, starting with a keys/solo intro that could either be from Master of Puppets or Kings of the Wild Frontier, as the line between proto-modern-metal and post-glam-pre-new-wave is blurred beyond recognition. Reatard's been doing his homework, hitting the high notes like never before, ringing in a chorus that succeeds all the Josef K, Orange Juice, and XTC comparisons that will likely cock-block this (perfect) second statement. Like him or not, he's cementing a spot in our playlist for years to come.


Oper'azione Nafta's Free Clinic

Though they might not want to admit it, there are “Mody Dick” sized breakbeats underneath the improv sweat and tears and permanent scars splayed out by Oper’azione Nafta. A decade’s worth of discordant antipasto dinosaur riffs. That’s the thing about the Silt Rx, take one this morning and you’ll truly feel it ten years down the road. I’ll be the first to admit in high school I tried it a few times, but Harry Pussy was total fucking garbage and I never caught a buzz. A handful of records kept me faithful (those Fieldhands, that Rep and Pollard guys) though it took a big chunk of my life to grasp the master plan (still don’t think I got it).

About two minutes into this one the horns start to wail (like a hard black thing), trying desperately to squabble over the guitar and drum (a’la XXNOBBQXX) dental dam that continuously vex into oblivion (or at least a version of plagal stasis that links them to Dead C and those inclined to spiral and curdle simultaneously). That’s when I feel a swift kick to my gut (which certainly needs checked) only to turn around to a brick wall, the bruises equal to the diabetes blotch, the mental anguish enough to torment the next half of my existence as long as the record keeps playing en mi casa. This one is a mammoth grower, monolithic "maximalism" to shape middle-age.

“E’” sonically shifts with the gales, a six-legged wind-chime. That rascally brass drunkenly dives into the frame again, but it’s ceremoniously welcome. Indeed context has no context. Venture to the second side and a whole different setting is set. In my mind it’s a garage, where the primed trio set-up shop (surrounded by hills, ocean, sports cars, vino, the dodgy post?) and recorded in a night. The braggadocio brothers make a noise-record in 24 hours, free music completely inspired by the Boredoms (sounds if they’re satirizing the Boredoms). Perhaps the best thing about free music is to not try and explain, simply let it settle, ‘cept this boil never exactly settles. Here is me, in a drunken waltz, flipping it over again. Better let them explain – heady stuff:

“My dear, in this music, in our music flutter the metaphor of combustion. When we listen ourselves playing or (passively) listening our records it’s clear that oper’azione nafta is/has been/will be everything we have listened until today, but compressed and burned. The referential line can draw from the earliest (and not) rock sonorities (and not).The key-influences are sure: hard rock( where we come from philologically) +grunge+ noise rock+ funky+ unfusion + unwave + radicalmetatheatre + unARTrock + electracoustic + unjazz+ freeform..& other whit a strong propencity to MAXIMALISM in the compositiv/impro phase and so in the global sound of the trio. This cheeky tendencity to the caos make us live some anomalous sensations; in the live dimension,in fact, this caos take the listeners (poor and potential ungrateful of our tendencies) to a kind of repudiation, but we,strong believers in us as the only way of expressive rejection, react showing a provocative attitude..and in this circumscribed public open mentality WE ABUSE, SPERMING IN THEIR EARS AND TRY TO HELP THEM TO THE NOT-EASY IMPACT WITH SLIDE PROJECTIONS distracting them by the playing trio. It..s strange for them, but our land public is seriously considered from us (instead of them), in fact express ourselves in a so care-less way in dialect make revalue us their auditive lacks, so we love them because they..re present and take part of the rite. We are sure that oper..azione nafta likes to the good will people and open the doors and the ties created by the sectorial genres that TODAY oppress the musical masses/tides blocking their wings.”

Lots o’ vids of the kookiness here, even an homage to their benefactor(s).


Meth Teeth Remind Me of Youth

Again with the pipeline between Portland and Columbus -- the lot lizards that immigrated must have carried the virus with them, or we just mirror each other in some parallel universe, or bands just keep constantly trying to best the next best record. It’s a West Coastal-Midwestern volley I can get used to.

There’s just something refreshingly regressive about Meth Teeth, stripping everything to its skeletal core only to find there’s still a couple more layers of macerated plastic, tin cans, and fraying rope holding it all together. I’m reminded of ink-stained paper routes, carcasses of factories we’d troll around in, gravel alleyways, drainage tunnels, and forts beneath the overpass that revealed secrets every time we’d dig for junk or break some glass. The silence of the small town always forced tiny songs to creep through my lips, buoyed by primitive beats that could only be forged with sticks and stones.

There’s nothing ornamental or even particularly hip about Meth Teeth’s haunted pop, nothing propping them up but a puff of smoke and some bright tangled notes. “Unemployment Forever” and “To My Good Friend” are the hookiest barbs of the bunch, like the Black Lips infatuated with Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers – but falling further down a deep dark well filled with dusty echo. I’d also dare to say that the Meth Teeth are more grown than that unit, less prone to falling over each other and concerned with some post-punk tactics, antique instrumentation, and above all melody. This is a reminiscing little 7” that sort of breezes by in a lazily spun mix of craggy garage rock and bittersweet acoustics.

An album’s on the way (probably a better way to judge this band would be over the course of a full-length) as is a tour which rolls into the beach just in time for the mid-summer classic.


Catbird Double Feature

PWRFL Power is simply Kazutaka Nomura. He’s a Japanese born, Seattle transplant, who’s a classically trained guitarist and instinctively precious humorist. To pigeonhole this eccentric waif as just another singer/songwriter with a quirky streak would be an injustice. Listening over the intricate playing on his Catbird Records EP one could even suggest that Nomura is a rare talent, balking at chords and picking his way through Django’s gypsy jazz and Fahey’s labyrinthine folk excursions. Match that with a naïveté usually reserved for the Montessori playground, or the junior-high slam-book, perhaps the funny pages read aloud by Luddite yuppies – a paradox of an innocent mind vs. a set of adroit fingers. Sometimes the clash is excruciating -- a muppet movie in horn-rimmed glasses pining with Ben Gibbard – sometimes the lyrics are embarrassingly cringe-worthy, but despite the lack of serious in “Brush Your Teeth” or “Play Some Drums,” his melodies weave and burst from the sparse arrangement. When they click, as on the modern love happenstance of “Alma Song,” you get the feeling Nomura likes to chuckle even when being 100% sincere, his guitar drifting through life collecting the sparkly ephemera from thin air much like his recent memory collects cuddly bits of dialogue and mental pics of people on the bus.

Air Waves is probably the victor of the two releases, if only for the relaxed simplicity of it all, singing to lightning and gems, nature and all that. Led by Nicole Schneit – the EP is a brief moonlit walk through melancholic bramble rock, effortlessly beating with a rapturous heart. Allowing the boy to sing on “Keys,” the disc’s scruffy finale puts them in line with early Sparklehorse. Throughout though they tip-toe around shoegaze and femme-folk like Mazzy Star, but my imagination conjures up memories of Bettie Seveert – a band fragile and sensitive, always searching for the flower even if thorns and brush are in the way. I guess it's desert pop, space pop; no matter where it pops the only thing that matters is the pop. This one’s got plenty of it, in little time.

You can purchase both here for a nominal fee. Always a bargain, and always packaged with care.


>>>Rock. The. Fuck. Out. Bandwagon<<<

The overflow is wearing me out. There’s a quantity of good shit flooding my conscious it’s hard to keep up -- even when the ultimate anti-punk gesture is gnawing at my toenails. The beach is heavy, the “kids” are away, and the summer proves even more daunting.

Andrew Graham and Jen Boyce, a hardcore Young Marble Giants in waiting, hang in the balance between derisory and mirth. In my mind the verdict’s still out on RTFO Bandwagon, the case was made more confusing when I finally heard the New Jack single on Dull Knife out of Houston. The fact that someone outside of the clique might pay for our somewhat rookie bullshit/Balkan campus jam is astounding. But I was pretty high on the RTFO’s first album Flagships, so high I melted over the songs till I saw them live for the first time, then, as Bruce Drennen might quip, “all bets were off.” I’m thinking they spent too much time inside writing songs together with Boone’s Farm than out at the club seeing how other “group sounds” do it, does it. Too many cardinal sins clogging up the stage -- like ball caps, shorts, ‘n tambourines.

With the “New Jack,” they've finally seen the half-life, fluorescent, light-bulb. Their trophy bong sat through hours of dorm-room Sabbath riffs on dummy repeat, and then the resin was extracted out with a rickety, acoustic ruckus. Graham’s the jug band of the hall, tired of some hippie outpost he’s linked to and rebelling into some “hard frolic.” Try not to wince at the dual, cutesy, vocals -- this recording is pure grit and grime, chiseling into the melody with the drill of “immediacy”. Not evil, but close, stoned to the point of answering all their existential riddles with the lyric “I Need a Head Like God.” How’s that for a solution?

Of course now there’s Richie Horseshit flaying along on incidental beats, long-hair Tom Wynn barely on bass (that’s metal hair, not mellow hair), and the aforementioned tambo-stylings of Tony Henley not particularly making a stink like the live show. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with fleshing out the band, it’s just not necessity. Graham and Boyce could rally the troops on a bleak street corner, busking with a kick drum and patchouli-drenched accoutrements at their feet, and still capture the same ramshackle energies as evidenced by their performance with Jerusalem and the Starbaskets a month or so ago. Strip them of a security blanket and the naked, nervous, chasteness enlightens any tune put forth.

This is more than apparent on “I Hate the City,” the doom-folk downer that inhabits the b-side. Here hits of sunshine try to peek through a glaze of organic abjectness only to be shot down by maudlin mood music. As long as the duo tinker and wobble in this closet of intimacy, with as much booty as their arms can handle, their future makes me itchy.