There’s always something unimaginably comforting about heading home for Thanksgiving (or for that matter heading home on any number of select weekends throughout the year). But the gluttony and relaxation that persists on this particular holiday can not be overlooked. As soon as I turn right off of I-75 and roll past the Waffle House and "hillbilly rifle outlet," I feel like I’ve entered a virtual safe zone, a hermetically sealed environment filled with naps by the fire and limitless liquor – all with none of the annoyances and stress inducers of “real” life. I could honestly do it every weekend if allowed. For me, it’s my wind-back. It’s not getting older or lazier or becoming less of a patron of the arts. It’s the opposite – naturally removing the over-stimulation of bustling “city” life from my horizon line. So arriving at Peters and High (Elliott Manor) for this year’s turkey trough was met with hesitation, as we’d be hosting four lads from New Zealand known as Axemen. I wasn’t as much worried about their settling into to a quintessential suburban ritual, as I was anxious how my parents might react to having America’s collector scum wet-dream tour (add one drummer from TNV to the mix) make a two-day stop in Troy. I shouldn’t have had any reservations. Patti and Jeff should get a medal for their hosting abilities. I never knew how liberal my parents actually are (now only if they’d align that mentality with their politics) until I saw them nurturing a gluten free meal for ol’ Dragan. But I digress. If you’re looking for tragic tales of drunken tirades and streaking through the town square or foul-mouthed kiwis looting the curio cabinet and tagging the doilies with pen knives – you aren’t going to find it here. Axemen are gentlemen. And though they may not be used to our ultra-consumer, warm and fuzzy, football coma shenanigans, they fit right in as adopted Elliotts.

If so anti-climatic, then why the post? Well, it was the well of anomaly that occurred at Troy, Ohio’s pre-eminent 18-35 yr. old hangout, The Brewery, the night before, which prompted this rant. Beyond simply wanting to tie one on in downtown Troy, beyond meeting up with an absent Justin Smith, beyond even the slightest want of nostalgic conversation with past peers whom I have nothing to converse, was a triple bill of Miami County’s finest “music.” Even then, the event of the week at the bar “everyone” goes to was pretty much split between dated booty music (first floor) and townie hard-lucks (second floor) and hardly a soul in the room with the stage, and the real instruments, and the performers. Still, it was a oddly intriguing trio of bands, going from karaoke rural gangsta’ rap to two-man Ween influenced mayhem, to standard issue thrash-emo-speed metal sludge.

Low Budget was first, featuring some kid who used to play basketball with my bro at the Lincoln Center back in the early ‘90s, replete with two hype men. They wore t-shirts emblazoned with Low Budget (were those made at the Troy Sports Center?) and hats reading the same. I thought the name was clever and their rhymes mighty inventive for what seemed like freestyle over the Ipod. In fact it reminded me most of another swang "low" duo from Cali, Low Profile, who went on to become W.C. and the Maad Circlen (a personal favorite). It did get tiresome, overwrought, and something I was happy stopped before it was too late. While I encourage all hip-hop troupes trying to make it in small town America (Teenage Soldiers R.I.P.), I would have liked to have seen them add some regional flavor to their oeuvre. I don’t know exactly what that would entail. In Columbus it’s a working-man, blue-collar, everyone’s invited atmosphere – so would this be sub-Columbus, or even sub-Springfield? I bet the gangsters thrive in Piqua. Explore there. Where’s Shane Darner when you need him?

Next up was the biggest surprise of the night. Electric Banana hail from Dayton, but seem to play most of their gigs at various submarine houses around Troy. Like the Weens, Chromeos, and Party Dreams that have come before them – most of what they do is borne of goofing and can only elicit good times, no heavy-handed criticism here. I’m sure if I were privy to the inane lyrics (I’m sure I heard “pussy” mentioned more than thrice) I wouldn’t have been as thrilled, and if they weren’t serving up PBR tallboys (just like home) I probably wouldn’t be expounding about their simple genius – but both factors were in place and the antics of Jimmy Spade, the mohawk-clad frontman of the two, made for a stellar evening. It was rudimentary funk worship and novel hip-hop in a stoner metal package, but they played it to perfection, knew how to work the “crowd” and had catchy melodies to off-set any whiff of scatology. I want them to come to Columbus, soon.

The last band of the evening could be wrapped up in one song. Through an Ocean of Plagues do what they do well, do it tight, and do it frenetic…..but I wasn’t in any kind of mood after the insanity of Electric Banana. I mean, c’mon, how you can take a band like this seriously? From their one sheet:

The phrase “Through an Ocean of Plagues” metaphorically describes the route humanity takes on its journey to self-destruction. Civilization evolves by consuming and destroying, usurping its power through the contamination and eventual erasure of its competitors. Rather than coexisting, Nature is enslaved, dissolved, and forgotten. Such is the legacy of future generations, once humankind has siphoned the last of the Earth’s resources. Without a target for destruction, we turn our sights to our own demise.

This rural Ohio quintet addresses these issues, translating the impending onslaught of disease, war, and social deconstruction into a medium by which they may express their opinions. The music is brutal, though it still retains a melodious quality meant to remind the listener that social harmony is lost but not forgotten. The live performance of the music parallels its subject matter, brutally portraying the bands frustration and outrage.

I did overhear the lead singer at 3 AM telling his friend he was headed home to “get fucked and fucked,” which I can only assume means he was continuing his quest for drugs and sex. So that was entertaining. But with all of this music, the highlight of the evening? --- HUGH KELLY, smartest man on earth.

But this was all about Axemen, right? Goodness. They played the Friday after the gorging in Columbus. I’m a bit out of words to go on and describe them, but it’s likely they showed a few “shitgaze” (sic) signifiers throughout their entire set of crust blues and the purest of kiwi protest/prank garage rock – but it all had the guise of a professional band playing like it was the last show of the tour. This is how you do it. Release the Three Virgins already. I don’t have it yet. Four of the most delightful men I’ve ever had the chance to meet.
Here’s hoping it gets this hopping over Christmas.


Home Blitz Laboratory Test

Another lab test. This time with Home Blitz's Out of Phase. This one's simple. I was stunned by it back when I reviewed it on the Agit-Reader and now I can't stop listening to it -- and kind of ashamed I couldn't squeeze onto our year-end list in time. Richie Records is doing it up on vinyl soon, so I would wait it out until then. And the above video is the most recent I could find on the band, so please, if you go see him play, record it.


The Electric Bunnies and the New Universe

We should probably take the title, Through the Magical Door, literally. In one glorious debut concept record, Miami's Electric Bunnies have laid waste to a decade of Black Lips backwash and defined an entirely new era of infected nuggets garage punk. I raved about it -- Primitive Futures style -- last week and it's become something of a staple since I got myself a copy on vinyl. Then you find out they constructed a board game on the gate-fold and went and made this video. This band deserves your attention.


Brainiac Live Archive

I've written exhaustively about Brainiac. They shaped who I am in many ways. I still don't think music has caught up to what they were doing in the '90s, in Dayton, and eventually all over the world. Many bands have tried and most of them have failed. I always like to think about what would have happened if Brainiac survived past Y2K. Hypothetical I know.

The Braniac Live Archive is one man's project to keep it all alive and kicking. So far he's done an amazing job posting shows/set lists/videos -- all Brainiac, all the time. This is stuff you should be paying for.


Dear Eillie Goulding , Please Be Kate Bush

Someone in my Facebook universe stated that yesterday was a "Kate Bush kind of day." And though I couldn't quite put my finger on what made that quote correct, it was. A nice, semi-gray afternoon, that would be perfect for "running up that hill," splitting time between primal screams and earth-bound coos, circumventing English castles and graveyards. My usual indie-rock Nostradamus said a few years ago that the future would be made up of imitators of Beat Happening and Kate Bush -- I think by now I was half-right. While here, I've always been a champion of the globe-hopping, genre-toppling urbanized neon of artists in Diplo's stable (see former posts), I'm also a big supporter of the more Euro-centric, dance-club, electro-divas that have been sprouting up at a surprisingly fast clip (La Roux, Little Boots, Annie). Though many of those artist's singles were solid gold, full-length albums by them have had diminishing returns. Perhaps because they aren't sticking close enough to the Kate Bush mold. None of them seem as wildly eclectic as the woman who wrote a song called "Wuthering Heights" and turned it into a smash.

Ellie Goulding, probably best known these days (at least in the states) for remixing a Passion Pit (sic!) song -- this new singles, "Under the Sheets" is the perfect combination of that weird streak adopted from Bush and the blinking neon circuit sophistication want from those electro-pixies. Dig deeper and you'll see that Ellie is quite an accomplished musician, not just a cuddly prop in front of a phalanx of synthesizers. The first thing I had heard from her was mostly acoustic, her delicate voice the only thing fluctuating throughout. It's worth it to seek out "Guns and Horses" and "Starry Eyed." Amazing songs. High Hopes. Pop Park. Giving Lykke Li a formidable opponent.


Fela the Musical?

I'm not exactly sure about the first time I heard Fela Kuti, but it was life-changing. There are few titans in music and he is one of them. After that initial contact I pretty much drowned myself in Kuti's life work and scoured for every scrap of information on his career and his politics. I even started working on a screenplay about him -- hashed out on a long inebriated walk back to downtown Austin from the Peacock. Someone beat me to the punch. His story on the screen should be epic. As for this recently opened Broadway show? I'm not sure. I'm not a big Broadway fan, so I hope it doesn't dilute his legacy, and especially his jams.

Still, the reviews coming in for this are nothing short of revelatory. So I suppose this is the closest I'll ever come to a wild night at the Shrine. Can't wait to see this.


The Scrotum Poles Re-Discovered

I don't know much about the Scrotum Poles. I'm pretty sure I heard one of their songs on a Messthetics comp. some time ago? Did I? Well, seeing them compared to the Television Personalities and the Desperate Bicycles sparked my interest beyond belief. And since the DB aren't close to re-issuing the gold them mined way back when, the Scrotum Poles are quick to oblige. The above video is pretty much all you need to see to get the drift. I do know you can now find all of their recorded material on this recently released Dulc-i-tone compilation. Thanks to my brother for spotting this.


High On That Sleigh Bells Hype

See. Here's where hype gets completely out of control. I actually feel a bit bad for Sleigh Bells, as they're about to get eaten and spit out by the blog-machine. (I'm entirely to blame) but it's kinda hard to ignore the ephemeral rush of their demo. And that's the point. This is a demo. I remember back at the dawn of the internet, when a group called the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sent their self-produced demo my way, and I tucked it aside as a personal treasure. It wasn't exactly something I sang the praises of immediately, but it was infectious and trashy enough to keep it like a secret. I've been getting the same feeling from this overly fresh and tragically hip duo from (where else?) BKLYN. They stormed CMJ, have been mentioned on all the sites "fit to print," and currently rule my playlists (at least "Crown on the Ground" does)-- but they likely don't even have a dozen songs to play at a live show. And by the looks of their recent appearances, that live show is little more than hellish guitar riffs, a few off-key chants, and loads of sequenced background music blared through the speakers. Pretty, pretty, flimsy after a song or two. Still, it's hard to resist the candy.


Late Nights with Maxi Priest

With the seasonal closure of the Poolside clubhouse, it's time to move on to Late Night -- the imagined soundtrack of a 2 A.M. rendezvous in the penthouse jacuzzi. This might pertain to smooth jazz or adult contemporary deemed too "fatherly" for the hipster contingent, but I assure you, there are some gems Late Night. Just give me a minute to find them.

Recently I was fortunate enough to find Maxi Priest's "Close to You" 12" for a mere $.50. A bargain for the dub mix alone. Maxi started his career as the "king of lover's rock" -- and lover's rock is to reggae as smooth jazz is to jazz. Basically it's reggae completely stripped of sunshine and replaced with moonlight, gentler rhythms, and endless proclamations of midnight booty calls. Maxi has taken the lover's rock one step further, stripping it of any remnant of reggae and injecting it with a soaring and catchy chorus -- a little infectious rap and this thing's a number one hit (no lie). This was a ubiquitous single in the summer of 1990, a period in music when any fringe genre could be compartmentalized into a pop song. Keep in mind this was a year when Glen Medeiros, Wilson Phillips, Tommy Page and Nelson all had number one hits. So in comparison, "Close to You" was golden in it's purity. For some reason I can't relate this to any scorching sunlight, only suburban darkness and island breezes. I'm sure I had this on a mixtape en route to Clearwater Beach.


Witness the Wisdom of Bangs

Between the time a friend of mine shot me a link to this wonderful video and today, Bangs has already become an internet/pop culture sensation. By far the best Sudanese import since....??? There could be question as to if this is elaborate put-on in a world of intense irony and quick gimmick or as genuine as they come -- a earnest artist emulating the bling and machismo of American pop-hop. I'm sticking with the later. "Take U To Da Movies" is not all that extreme when it comes to jokesters mocking rap, and for that I'd have to say Bangs means all of this from the bottom of his heart.


The Lindsay do Syrup Bag

The Lindsay’s micro-psychedelic masterpiece, Dragged Out, was quickly regarded as one of the finest homegrown records Columbus had heard in a long stretch of time. The stars seemed to start aligning for the fairly unassuming quartet – they had a stunning debut, a searing live show, and a label that appeared to be doing things right. I don’t know all the facts as to why Man Up dissolved, but it did, and with that, slowly it felt the Lindsay were crumbling molecule by molecule. Nothing happened. The logical next step was to get the rights to Dragged Out (as it will likely be reissued years from now as a one-off classic – damn, someone needs to press it on vinyl immediately, but I’ve been screaming that from the beginning) and tour, record, tour, record, release delectable sophomore album to critical acclaim and crowds across the country. Nothing happened. Sure, the band would play the occasional live show, and the songs from Dragged Out stood the test of time, survived on the stage past expiration, which is indicative of the group’s dedication to playing and the quality of their hooks. But truly, nothing was happening. They were the one band in town that didn’t seem to hew close to the burgeoning lo-fi movement who were actually worth venturing out to see (but also wholly embraced by the TNV/PHS/CDR/BOBO mafia). So it was almost depressing, at least extremely frustrating, to see it all squandered away.

Nearly three years later we get an explanation in the form of Syrup Bag. In that time the Lindsay have, for better or for worse, become a staple in the bars – no real progress when it comes to topping the tunes on Dragged Out, but raging in synchronicity and genuine energy. When I first heard about the Syrup Bag release show, I was already underwhelmed, thinking maybe it was a joke as the band is known to have an acerbic wit about them. But in seeing them on stage for the first time in months and subsequently going straight home to hear the seven songs that make up Syrup Bag – I realized they have been growing. Not exactly sure if they’re growing in revolt of their recent stasis, or if the growth is borne of anger and indifference – but this was certainly not expected.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Syrup Bag sounds as if it’s come from directly off the stage. Gone are all the effects and extra layers that glazed Dragged Out – intricacies that lent the songs an aura befitting the album cover’s paisley wonder illustration. But that’s fine when a scorcher like “Change My Oil” and “Thurston Moore Sez” piles on the guitar squalor till there’s little room to breath. The similarities to Sonic Youth continue unabated and unashamed. Just check out that last title, they’ve got a god and they’re going to use him – more like abuse him. I actually think what the Lindsay crib from Sonic Youth they put to great use. The lead “It’s Not Easy” is just as ferocious as anything on Daydream Nation, cut with the melodic sensibilities SY has found in recent years. I’m just imagining guitarists John Olexovitch and Tom Schmidt as a Moore/Renaldo destructo unit twenty years younger, with plenty more fire in their souls and hooks in their head. I may be in the minority here, but I never thought SY had that many hooks – intriguing atonal intangibles and hipster ooze sure, but hooks? No.

Look, this isn’t a competition, but right now I can’t hum you one song from this year’s Eternal LP. The seven songs from Syrup Bag? Won’t leave. I suppose it’s that the Lindsay add everything to their angular thrash that I’d wished Thurston Moore would add. Plus the Lindsay have that worn-in, homegrown, humility to them. That’s especially with bassist Gretchen Tepper bobbing, weaving, and shouting through all the boyz noise. She’s somewhat the Flavor Flav joy to Olexovitch’s Chuck D glum – and packed within the words are tales about why this all took so damn long. Local meta-indie rock about the little band that could, then couldn’t get it up. Too bad the life cycle of a band is so short. The Lindsay have only been around for a little over three years and I was already prepared to write their eulogy. Thanks for changing my mind…..kids.

By the way…..you can fetch the entire Syrup Bag digitally, right here.