Razorcake Podcast #168: With Todd Taylor

Razorcake Podcast #168: With Todd Taylor

A bee stung me right in the neck at sixteen miles per hour. Got stuck right in my shirt and laid right in. I pulled the stinger out and grimaced. After my eyes stopped watering, a couple ahead of me on the bike path stopped suddenly and hurried up an embankment. Two kids in go karts were racing at a high rate of speed directly at me. I stopped pedaling. They were racing, bumping into one another, laughing. One had a roll cage, cut up the embankment, and flipped over. The kid’s arm was obviously broken, droopy. The smell of spilt gas hit me right around the time of the screams. Dad was behind, pushing his mini-bike up to the accident.
I was of two minds: First, “Fuck you. Get your motorized jerkoffery off the bike path. Not my problem. Take this as a lesson, kid. You’ll be fine in a couple months.”
Second, “Man, I wanna listen to that High Tension Wires again. That shit rules.”

Life priorities. We all have to face them. The most important ones often involve pain and sacrifice. Some have instantaneous consequences. Others take a while to soak in.

-Todd

Pest Band, “Time Bomb in My Life” (HS!BF / Snuffy Smiles)
Steel Tigers Of Death!, “Haunted by a Vision” (Mustardpack)
The Energy, “I’m Not Gonna Lose It On You” (Team Science)

Smogtown, “Subdivision End Product” (Modern Action)

HIGH TENSION WIRES: Welcome New Machine: LP
One of the tenets of post-modernism is the lack of a center. What was on the outside one minute can be in the middle the next. It’s flux, unpredictable movement, interchangeable parts, marbles rolling around in a box. Inside of atoms, we can either know where the electron is or where it’s going. Not both at the same time. Same goes for what comes out of Denton, Texas and DIY punk rock. Put Mike Wiebe (Riverboat Gamblers, Chop Sakis) and Mark Ryan (the Marked Men proton in this example, since he’s doing the recording, guitar, and some songwriting) in the same room. Wha-bam! Filtrate with both the tried and true formulae of Chris Pulliam (Reds [pre-Marked Men]). Glug-glug, flash! Then agitate, accelerate, and excite with Gregory Rutherford (Bad Sports) and Daniel Fried (Wax Museums). Ba-boom! The result is something that Einstein, Picasso, Tim Kerr, and the Oblivians would all agree on. Welcome New Machine is perfect rock’n’roll for outcasts not looking for acceptance, fueled by an unquenchable thirst to keep making more music if others catch on or not. Shityeah. –Todd (Dirtnap)

GATEWAY DISTRICT: Perfect’s Gonna Fail: LP
Throughout this review, just think “Really great punk pop, but so much more.” Coming from America’s Scandinavia, Gateway District are Midwestern poetic. Of being born into failing industrial towns, down to specific streets as familiar as veins on forearms. Compelling, bubbling harmonies and backing vocals. Dark skies. Long winters. A deep appreciation for spring and summer. Constant renewal. What gives Gateway District repeated listens is their yearning, their ontology. They’re concerned and dealing with the nature of being; not just beers, breakups, boohoos, and yahoos! But some deep thinking and placement: “You think you’ve got it all figured out/ that’s when the bottom drops out / looking for perfect’s gonna fail you.” Perfect’s Gonna Fail is an album that sounds like a shared relationship between four musicians. In fact, its strength is in the lattice of overlapping types of relationships the band examines: From memories of high school to the drifting-away of friends by the passage of time or time stolen away by addictions. Records like these make me proud to self-identify as a DIY punk. So smart, rockin’, and meaningful. –Todd (It’s Alive)

DEAD DOG: Don’t Touch Me: LP
This record see-saws between weird/not weird. It’s energetic, and just-this-side-of-spastic. It’s got that fast-coasting, hands-off-handlebars downhill speed of Asheville’s Dead Things; the crunchy, shardy, broken lollipop of punk and pop that Hunchback sucked on; and the ragged and tattered glory of Allergic To Bullshit. It all adds up to a charm sum greater than the parts. Repeated listens verify that there’s some undeniable songcraft underneath. It helps that the production’s not tarted up to be anything except fuckin’ awesome DIY punk songs. –Todd (Let’s Pretend / [email protected])

NEIGHBORHOOD BRATS: 1-sided 12” EP
The whole L.A./S.F., northern/southern California punk rivalry is a fuckin’ farce man, designed by lazy minds and a back-pocket excuse to go beating on someone you don’t know. Point in case: L.A. transplant Jenny Angelillo, formerly of the Orphans, taking up the Penelope Houston/Avengers role while one-year-ex-OC dude George Rager plugs in through guitar riffs reminiscent of Circle Jerks “World Up My Ass.” I’m not sayin’ it’s a SF’s band’s lovefest, but borders are for xenophobic fucktards and I’m looking for world peace… one neighborhood at a time. Looking for no-thinkin’, jerk-you-from-your-seat punk rock? There’ll always be worm-wiggle-on-the-floor room for ‘em in my record collection… –Todd (Modern Action)

CARNIVORES: “German Flower” b/w “Sense of Dread”: 7”
Bombastic, dramatic garage with Teutonic new wave flourishes. Think Lost Sounds plugging in a machine with a lot of mysterious wires into Gary Numan at his most jumpy. Digital dark wave slabbiness with lots to chew on and little to spit out. Nice. –Todd (Dirt Cult)

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND: Knows Your Sins: LP
“Southern California. Weed. FYP. Go!” are the Cliff Notes to URTC. The cloak and dagger of URTC is they’re undeniably a punk band (always a positive in my book), but they’re one of the sunniest, relaxed, fun, and laid back punk bands you’re bound to come across. Both. It’s no, “We grew up punk, but we secretly loved reggae and have outgrown punk” jive. URTC’s not involved in back-turning. It’s more of a sunbathing and a quieter intensity. And there’s a still a lot of smog in the sky. But what can you do? Smoke up. Knows Your Sins isn’t a phoned-in lay-up or an easy sequel to Bird Roughs. If you’re familiar with their debut, this second full-length batch of fudge isn’t a brand new recipe. But they’re expert chefs in the musical kitchen of the mind—keeping things fresh, fun, sounding just-cut and warm from the oven. There are also a couple of straight-up instrumentals (or two word songs “Animals! RUN!!”). Cock-of-the-walk Davie Allen and the Arrows and Link Wray-inspired theme songs so convincing that I swear the songs come packaged with a poncho, a surfable wave, and sombrero for the listener. So if you’re looking for some danceable smile-along-to-it-isms, San Pedro’s URTC’s the ticket. –Todd (Recess)

BIG CRUX: Big Funk: 7”
Give me half an hour and I wouldn’t be anywhere close to telling you how fantastic the Big Boys were. Big Crux hold the Big Boys in the same high esteem. Funk punk is such a double diamond-dangerous slippery slope into a world where people wear Cat in the Hat hats and wiggle glow sticks above their heads. Big Crux have got the chops and the heart to make me fondly remember the Big Boys, much like Giant Haystacks did for the Minutemen. Not a rip. Not a photocopy. An homage, a new take, and songs that stand on their own if you’ve never hear of the Big Boys. Tim Kerr did the fantastic cover art. –Todd (Iron Lung, lifeironlungdeath.blogspot.com, [email protected], [email protected])

HYGIENE: Public Sector: LP
There is no doubt that Hygiene are in full control of their package. Music, artwork, references, matrix message, are all tightly considered. The music is cold, grey-skied, blunt, restrained, artful. Repetitive. Mechanical. Grating and sparse with melodic, wiry guitar work. Public Sector sounds like dark, feet-in-thick-boots dancing music for Orwellian robots. It is very English, busted pipes, and rust-stained concrete. Lyrics largely deal with middle-management bureaucracy in a large organization. Think of fluorescent lights flickering—casting everything in a pale, bloodless light. For years at a time. For those who enjoy the dangerous black ice traversed by the Estranged and Total Control, Hygiene’ll raise your banner and keep you in formation. Talented. –Todd (La Vida Es Un Mus, [email protected])

ALEX CUERVO: 4-song: 7”EP
Singer, guitarist, and one of the main songwriters for the Hex Dispensers does some solo work. While the Hex Dispensers conjure banshees, Alex summons quieter, more conversational ghosts and languid spirits. The songs are reverby. There are trebly effects over his voice and he’s backed by electronic keyboards and/or drum machining. Alex is spooky in a haunted, thoughtful way, not a photocopied comic book rendering of the Danzig playbook. There are no skeleton gloves fingered into in the making of this record or “whoah ohs!” instead of choruses. It’s more like a broken-legs-barely-healed waltz. Smooth and animated and swaying at the same time. –Todd (Trouble In Mind, [email protected])

CREDENTIALS, THE: Goocher: LP
Breathless, dark-bagged eyes insomnia music focused on the smallpox blanket of contemporary popular American culture. Lots-of-fast-words, politically-tinged pop punk. Goocher has the feeling of standing ten feet away from a roaring-by train. At first listen, it was hard to separate the individual cars rushing by. They’re along the line of a smarter, crustier, class-conscious, less “street,” more “dumpster and feminism” Rancid? So sorta like Fifteen? A speeded-up Rivethead—so, like 45 to a 78? Somewhere in that Bermuda triangle of possibilities. What I’m rubbing my head over is how blurry it is, like how so many of the songs don’t breathe. So when the breakdowns and semi-pauses—the semicolons instead of !, !, !’s all the time—like in “Younger Kids” and the intro to “Stealers Keepers” really stood out. Comes with a full-sized newspaper zine lyric sheet and one of the longest thank you lists I’ve seen in a long time. (Bummer to the single person who got marked out.) Thick fuckin’ vinyl. Promising. –Todd (It’s Alive / Dirt Cult / 86’d / Muy Autentico)

DEEP SLEEP: Turn Me Off: 12” EP
Hey, who put All into my hardcore? Deep Sleep. It’s noodly, but the noodles are kept in the bowl of the song (and aren’t at the top of the mix). Deep Sleep’s abrasive, like how sandpaper takes the burrs off, but the result’s a smooth finish that shows off the natural wood grain. Burly, with a purpose, without being unwieldy. Heavy without being “tough.” Deep Sleep are movers who clear out an entire truck in record time without chipping a single dish or dinging a chair leg. There’s something gratifying about listening to a band that’s getting the job done so efficiently and crisply. –Todd (Grave Mistake)

YOUR PEST BAND: Ya-Ya-Ya: LP
Japan’s answer to the Modern Machines, exercising a wee more restraint? Eschewing being a musical kaleidoscope, Your Pest Band opts for the hard-rolling, train-on-tracks playing that builds a shaking, vibrating momentum throughout the album. It’s rough-voiced punk pop that features ultra-proficient and confident playing, keeping the wanking in check most of the time. (Dear world, Led Zeppelin still sucks and so do any Zep covers. Sorry, Japan.) I can hear a whole host of American rockers hidden inside their cabinets and underneath the drum carpet—Mellencamp, Petty, and Springsteen, especially—but they seem to want to update and move forward instead wear their influences on their sleeves and sleep through cover sets in worn-out bars, so it’s endearing and definitely worth checking out. Good stuff. –Todd (HS!BF, hsbfrecords.com / Snuffy Smiles)

STEEL TIGERS OF DEATH!: Precious Moments: CD
Two main vocalists: one Fred Schneider-ish and one Larry Damore-ish. So, somewhere between an all-male B-52’s who cut their teeth on the Descendents and a tongue-in-cheek Pegboy. Depending on your knowledge of the bands mentioned, that’s a pretty fragile ecosystem. Lean too much one way, it’s too much of a dismissible joke. Go the other, it’s like the song will ask you to pick up a shovel and start digging and toiling along (instead of enjoying) the record. Thankfully, STOD! are trapeze artists of sorts (and look great in gold lamé short shorts). Precious Moments contains some of my favorite songs by them. They’ve also addressed a previous complaint: this recording sounds much more alive than previous efforts (and looks great draped in strings of portable, all-weather lights). Good stuff. –Todd (Mustardpack)

SMOGTOWN: Incest & Pestilence: LP
This is a hard place for any band to be. 2000’s Fuhrers of the New Wave stands as one of the best punk records in the past ten or so years. It stands—as an album—as one of the definitive monoliths and testaments to the best of California punk rock. No gaps. No hesitations. It’s a conceptual whole, a united front, and an achievement. If all goes well for a band, with age comes depth. Smogtown’s at their best in their exploration behind the cinderblock walls, the gated communities, the sale and the harmful fiction of OrangeCounty “paradise,” the cul-de-sac of suburbia’s “culture” that’s sold as a type of “freedom.” In reality, it’s where teenage animals are made and caged and where they often attack. Songs like “Subdivision Endproduct” are perfect examples of Smogtown continuing to X-ray and debunk these sacredly-held real estate and high capitalism illusions. In Incest and Pestilence, Smogtown branches out in several directions. In “Waste of Breath,” it’s sunny, pop-pleasure tackling organized religion. “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing” nods to Saccharine Trust-style horn skronking. In “Let’s String up the New Marketeers,” Smogtown addresses the world outside of their geography: “You can wear their shoes and steal their blues / let them clean up the waste.” But not all of the risks paid off for me. What follows isn’t a “You should never change; Bad Religion yourselves forever.” They aren’t even flat-out disappointments, but elements that are preventing me from unequivocal praise of the record as a whole and the ridiculously high and unfair bar I’ve set for the band. 1.) The song “Fuck My Chick in a Skate Ditch.” You can do better. 2.) The way-too-long sound clip about guns. (Sorta interesting the first listen; annoying every other time.) 3.) The last song on side two ends sounding almost like practice outtakes, then goes into an acoustic jam. The album ends with a whimper, not a cage breaking. Leave the acoustic jams for the compilation tracks. Uneven, yet still very worth picking up. –Todd (Modern Action)