Razorcake Podcast #119: With Todd Taylor

Aug 06, 2010

One of the most effective forms of control is isolation. When isolated, people can more easily be instilled with fear, mistrust, and mistruths.

They also buy a lot of stuff they don’t really need but are convinced they can’t bear to live without. This is a cunning trap.

When constantly barraged with products that promise much more than they can ever deliver—happiness, self-confidence, hot sex, inclusion—it’s a challenge for you, a person, not merely a consumer, to tune into more humble, honest modes of communication; even if, in this case, they’re just “dumb punk songs.”

At least these songs aren’t lying to you. At least they’re not trying to sell you anything that they’re not, or attempting to sell you more than anything except music.

Simple pleasures, man.

Daryl and I do our best to dork out and show some of the connection points between all of these bands.

You are not alone.


After the song listing are reviews I wrote for many of the songs played in this podcast.

Statues, “(You Can’t Wash) Dirty Thoughts” (Deranged)
Potential Johns, “Past Due” (Dirtnap)
Mind Spiders, “Ripped” (Dirtnap)
Gypsy, “Grow” (Dirt Cult)
Marked Men, “The Other Side” (540)
That’s Incredible, “Aquanet” (It’s Alive)
The Bayonettes, “Guilty Pleasure” (Deranged)
God Equals Genocide, “Don’t Watch Me Squirm” (Recess Japan / Underground Government)
Shellshag, “1984” (Don Giovanni)
God Damn Doo Wop Band, “Leaving Town” (Traffic Street)
GG King, “Insomnia” (Local Cross)
Rough Kids, “Trudie Gold” (Crapoulet)
Canadian Rifle, “Blank Trade” (Residue)
Dan Padilla, “Speak Up” (Must Yearn / Fast Crowd)
Young Governor, “Cindy’s Gonna Save Me” (Dirtnap)

STATUES: New People Make Me Nervous: 8-song LP
This is a re-issue of the getting-hard-to-find debut LP by Canada’s Statues. It’s firecrackery power pop and I stand by my previous (hugely positive) assessment that they’re the best Dilbert punk band on the planet. But I’d like to augment that with two other reference points. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and The Who’s Quadrophenia: two well-known works that are examinations on class and, ultimately, indictments of greed and avarice perpetuated by that class structure. Piggy gets murdered. Ace Face’s Vespa is ghost ridden into the sea. Right below the surface action is a structure that has been in England for centuries and adopted by Canada. (They do share the same Queen.) It’s the mundane stuff that all slowly adds up to a boil, and the Statues have got its pulse: Standing in lines, separating fences, processing orders, satellites monitoring movements, bosses monitoring mistakes, the inability of technology itself to make human connections, telemarketing prompts during dinner, being forced or coerced to rate your own productivity on a scale of one to ten, and middle management scapegoats. It’s the death by a million little bites of modern middle class life preoccupied by the illusion that the ladder to a more fulfilling life is through making more money. And like both Lord and Quadrophenia, in New People Make Me Nervous there’s this tension, this impending snap; for the storm, for rebellion, for revolution, for the return to a natural state that doesn’t involve corporations in collaboration with the state. And that’s what the Statues sing about, so bouncily that you might miss it if you’re pumping your fist and spilling your beer. And that’s part of what makes The Statues so fuckin’ great. –Todd (Deranged)

POTENTIAL JOHNS: “Can I Really Not Go with You” b/w “Past Due”: 7”
I’ve been a big fan of counting small blessings lately; carrying around things that are precious to me. Most of those precious things can’t be held in my hands. They’re tucked inside. Friendships. Lines from books. Chords from songs. Lyrics. Memories of live shows. These are the inoculations against overwhelming darkness and cynicism. Jeff Burke—the one man behind all of the Potential Johns in the studio, and one quarter of The Marked Men—we’re fortunate to have him on our side of music. It does no one any good to say that he’s a genius, a savior, or a voice of a generation. (Geniuses usually go batshit crazy, saviors get crucified, and voices of a generation have a way of becoming douchebags selling upper class consumables.) But Jeff, undeniably, has a talent of writing and playing songs that are intricate yet simple, punk yet genre-less, personal yet inclusive. Listening to this single spin, and you can almost hear another universe of music opening up. And that’s fuckin’ dazzling. –Todd (Dirtnap)

MIND SPIDERS: 4-song 7” EP
Mark Ryan is probably most well know for being in the Marked Men, and is undoubtedly a large part of that band’s fascinating chemical reaction. He’s also been a long runner in the you-should-check-them-out Tension Wires and was a one-time Riverboat Gamblers guitarist. This collection of four songs showcases a slightly less frenetic Mark, peeling apart songs, letting them spool out, and then drenching them in an almost wet layer of sonics. Sick with hooks and natural-sounding (for some reason, I keep picturing highly polished wood grain), there’s a sheen to these songs (which Mark recorded himself, I believe), but it’s there to highlight and bring out some lustrous, subtle textures that’d be lost if the production was mindlessly scuffed, forced, and agitated “to be more ‘punk’.” Great stuff. –Todd (Dirtnap)

GYPSY: Self-titled: 4-song CDEP
Is there a computer chip installed in my back—like those that keep track of pets—but for a total predisposition for catchy, underdog DIY punk? What the fuck? Gypsy’s a beautiful, unshowered, beat-up mess of a band. Vagabond Ryan Maddox, drummer of the Hidden Spots (also of Queerwulf and True Stereo) found himself in Las Cruces for a month. Instead of getting a honky bullshit job, he settled in with the natives, skated ditches, smoked a lot, and—I’m sure with little prompting—got Chris Mason (Shang-a-Lang) and Joe Ayoub (Marked Men) along for the ride to record at The Trainyard, an all-ages spot. Low-fi, linty, mismatched sock-y, disheveled life of questionable decisions DIY punk that totally hits the mark it was going for. This is the opposite of whatever’s being played over the in-house speakers at GuitarCenter right this second. –Todd (Dirt Cult)

THAT’S INCREDIBLE: Self-titled: 7” EP
I watch a dog show, on average, once a year. There are “best of breed” selections, and then a “best of show.” It’s funny stuff: dressed-up grownups cupping dogs’ balls; over-groomed dogs that have been bred for generations to have the “best” characteristics of that dog’s “dogginess.” It’s like the Warped Tour for canines: lots of hair products, lots of strutting. It’s a world I’m alien to. That’s Incredible is nothing like any of those dogs on those fancy, well-lit stages. I’m so not saying That’s Incredible are mutts. I’m saying that That’s Incredible is the best possible scenario if elements and strains of the Soviettes, Toys That Kill, Dick Army, and Killer Dreamer got together and started bashing away: four songs of loveable, fiercely loyal, dedicated, scrappy, melodic DIY punk. They’re comforting echoes of their previous and still-running bands. It’s sorta expected, but in an impressive way, like catching a Frisbee way above your height over and over again like it’s no big thing, and then bringing it back all slobbery and partially chewed. –Todd (It’s Alive)

BAYONETTES, THE: “Guilty Pleasure” b/w “Outta My Mind”: 7”
Epigraphs on a tombstone are bittersweet. They evoke the best memories of the deceased. They’re also a reminder that they’re dead: “Beloved band. Daughter to one. Sister to many. Servant to none.” The Bayonettes, quite possibly the contemporary Canadian answer to X-Ray Spex, called it quits in 2008. These two overdriven, jumping-for-the-ceiling, scream-until-breathless songs from 2006 are right on track with what made the Bayonettes such a kick. I miss ‘em. In celebration and memoriam, “Guilty Pleasure” will get cranked so their ghosts can continue to dance around my house. –Todd (Deranged)

Razorcake has some unwritten codes (there’s no book), things we think are common sense and DIY-moral. One of them is that if we have a hand in releasing a record, we won’t review it in these pages or on our website. It’s like, no shit, we like the band’s music. Why else would we release it? Well, GEG is one of my favorite bands. They happen to live ten blocks away from Razorcake and fit perfectly into our mission of celebrating local DIY without ignoring national and international punk. We’ve had our hand in releasing four of GEG’s previous 7”s. I couldn’t be happier. I just couldn’t comment on the band before this record without feeling slimy. My grandfather was a huge fan of musicals. He was a tough ex-Navy man then a tough ex-bill collector. He loved musicals. Julie Andrews got top billing. So did Pirates of Penzance. GEG embody that sort of tough sweetness of my grandfather. They’re fully aware of the ugliness that resides in the world, but they chose to surround themselves by a ragtag, engaging beauty that comforts them. They do this without being dogmatic; with an undeniable cheer. Think Bananas, Allergic To Bullshit, and in honor of my grandfather, The Sound of Music. No People: From Tokyo, Japan would fit well in San Pedro, California, especially with Underground Railroad To Candyland. Slithery, stealthy DIY pop gems (lots of keyboards) that are handled expertly, in a no-fuss, non-flashy, let’s-party way. Great pairing. Great split. –Todd (Underground Government, undergroundgovernment.com / Recess Japan, recessjapan.com)

SHELLSHAG: Rumors in Disguise: LP
Shellshag are wonderful. They’re a husband-and-wife duo. Shag stands up when she plays the drums. She has bells strapped on her legs and dances as she drums. Shell plays his guitar directly facing Shag. It’s endearing to see and hear that their music is primarily created for one another. Beyond casual listening, it’s almost impossible to not hear the love they have for one another ringing out from the grooves in the songs. Rumors in Disguise is their most cohesive LP to date—which is astonishing because this album is a collection of songs they’ve been working on for over a decade (only the first song, “1984” was recently written). The sonic stakes in the ground are far-flung and may not sound like they map out a sound musical foundation that will hold considerable weight, but they do. The architectural spaciousness from the best of the Pixies. The playful scampering, pranking, and challenges of Hickey. Feedback laced into pop hooks and the “it’s so simple yet so catchy”-ness of Masters Of The Obvious. Rumors in Disguise sounds a batch of love songs, both to one another, and to the creation of this music itself. DIY punks’ own version of Sonny And Cher (the happy years)? –Todd (Don Giovanni)

I’m a fan. I’m a fan of contemporary, not-the-same bands sharing splits. I’m a fan of said bands covering one another’s songs. Bands are often the biggest fans of other bands. And what better way to show that appreciation than a cover and sharing intimate space on the surface of all holies, the 7”? Vacation Bible School: I’m almost willing to risk a free punch in a dark parking lot without retaliation that at least one of the following is true: one of the guys in the band owns a Rivethead record, one has seriously contemplated a Screeching Weasel tattoo, one has filled in for the Copyrights, or that they’ve hung out shirtless with the Sass Dragons. (All positives in my book.) The God Damn Doo Wop Band: Ladies, not since Grease has cute equaled tough so perfectly. Booted switchblades, crinoline, hand claps, and—what’s it called?—in-tune singing with lots of parts. Where are my pants? Oh, they’ve been charmed right off me again. Damn it. So good. –Todd (Traffic Street)

GG KING: Babbling Voices: 7”EP
Bands can get like families. You’re brothers. You’re related. But you may hate your fuckin’ brothers. I know nothing of the interior dynamic that fueled Atlanta’s Carbonas or what lead to their breakup. All I know is that when the Carbonas called it quits, Gentleman Jesse released a fuckin’ great, neatly-dressed full-length and GG King—drummer then, guitarist now—has released a string of notable 7”s, this being one of them. Musically, it’s cool to retroactively hear how Jesse’s smart pop (think Peter Case not Peter Cetera) locked into GG’s dirty, angular minimalism (think Urinals not Ikea). This is some extremely solid, worn-denim stuff, reminiscent of early Reatards: arrested development, slightly paranoid, screechy and churny, and with an undeniable garden of nutritious hooks right under broken, sandpapery surface. –Todd (Local Cross)

One of the odd wrinkles that develops when reviewing records is separating the layers of knowledge and fandom that someone reading a review may have. It’s tough to satisfy folks who are already intimate with a band’s production, and, at the same time, explain the band sufficiently to someone who’s never heard of the band. Then, you have to explain if the record’s good. With that in mind, if you’ve never heard Canadian Rifle but you like the gruff-voiced “I hate you. Modern society is a plague, but the good news is that I hate myself even more than anything else”-isms of Off With Their Heads mixed with a good dose of walked-on bubblegum scraped off the sidewalk, chances are you’re predisposed to enjoy Canadian Rifle. For those of you who are intimate with the band’s output, what’s not on this record is what I miss: that second guitar that twined like a snake around a pole when Jake talk-sings. When I’m just sitting here, only listening to the record, headphones on, it’s the most apparent. Yet, when I plop, crank, and play—a much more natural listening environment—my fists pump freely along to Jake’s infectious maledictions against modern, cappuccino-chokin’ society. –Todd (Residue, residue-records.com)

Drunken Boat: Blurry-eyed. Ragged-voiced. Dirty-charming. Alcohol-soaked glimmers of hope seen floating above tatters of wreckage. Catchy, frayed-end DIY punk in line with Bent Outta Shape and Ringers. “Shoot and Miss” is a song about the death of a close friend and musician and these two songs are some of the strongest material I’ve heard from Drunken Boat. Dan Padilla: Here’s a bear trap. Members of this band have, undeniably, inspired the launching of boatloads of guff-voiced, sparkling guitar “win by losing” bands, where their charm lies in not taking themselves too seriously but giving everything to the music they play. Here’s how they avoid stepping in the bear trap they set: It’s not a band standing around going “what should we sound like?” But “I need to get this out or I’m gonna go crazy,” and it happens to take this bear trap shape, waiting for you to come poking around the forest unawares to snap its jaws around your foot, to chomp on down, and not let you go without a hell of a fight. –Todd (Must Yearn, [email protected] / Fast Crowd, fastcrowdrecords.com)

YOUNG GOVERNOR: “Cindy’s Gonna Save Me” b/w “Cannabanoids”: 7”
Is Ben Cook the sleeper Canadian reincarnation (of a non-dead) Billy Childish from the early ‘90s? It seems that every two months, there’s new music by him, be it through Marvelous Darlings, Fucked Up, or Young Gov. I haven’t heard any flat spots. He’s got his aesthetic nailed: exploitation of limitations. And that equals effortless, prolific, insanely catchy songs. “Lo-fi, agitated pop” doesn’t quite do it justice. I’d say just-right-fi punk that’s as much about melody as it is shooken agitation. It’s like if mods, rockers, and punks weren’t allowed wear clothes to show how different they were; instead, they had to fight out their differences naked. With solely talent and instruments. The goal? Writing a song that’d have the whole room singing along by the time the stylus hits the taper-off groove in the center of the record. Young Governor wins again. –Todd (Dirtnap)