Razorcake Podcast #83: With Todd Taylor

Nov 27, 2009

Razorcake Podcast #83: With Todd Taylor

I guess it is a little bit of magic. I set up a fanzine with an old friend in 2001. We got a post office box. The first year, we walked down to the post office a couple times a week with backpacks. We called the backpacks the “sacks of future opportunity” or something along those lines (and less scrotal). The best days were when there weren’t any bills in the PO box, but flat, square, cardboard boxes. Vinyl records for review.

Part of our “social contract” with musicians as zine folks is to review as many of the appropriate records as possible. We spin them. We let others know what the record sounds like and if we think it sucks or not.

It sounds so simple: record reviewing and people who have written less than one hundred reviews are usually the most full of advice about “fairness” and “giving everything a full listen.” But it can go horribly wrong in so many ways—from densely populated questionable subgenres to people thinking that I’m gonna click a url and spend some brain power on pondering their music when they can’t even meet me half way and put something physical in the mail.

But when this whole tarnationed thing works, it’s fireworks in a glass jar. Sparks and shards and something dangerous that won’t quite kill you. Here are sixteen songs that upped my quality of life the last couple of months. All but two, I wrote reviews for, and they’re below the track listing.

-Todd Taylor

Gateway District, “Bad Ideas” (It’s Alive)
Marvelous Darlings, “I Want My Brand” (Taken By Surprise)
Tenement, “Summer Street” (608 Kisses)
Something Fierce, “I Can’t Tell” (Dirtnap)
Kalashnikov, “Sonja Contro la Grande Distribuzine” (SP)
Shitty Limits, “Your Limits Are My Limits” (Sorry State/Wallride)
Hidden Spots, “Everybody Get Together” (Starcleaner)
Government Warning, “Enough Is Enough” (Grave Mistake/No Way)
The Legendary San Diego Chargers, “Two Harbors Part Deux” (It’s Alive)
Pine Hill Haints, “Never Cry,” (K)
The North Trolls, “Cheap Drugs” (No Breaks)
Gestapo Khazi, “Open House” (Self-released)
Young Governor, “English Tim” (Static Shock)
Spits, “Life of Crime” (Thrift Store / Recess)
Riverboat Gamblers, “Don’t Jinx” (Volcom)
Grabass Charlestons, “Dale” (No Idea)

GATEWAY DISTRICT, THE: Some Days You Get the Thunder: LP
Most times, it’s best not to rush into a relationship. Folks who have a habit of falling instantly in love also tend to end those relationships just as abruptly. Feelings can get broken like bones. Words can be sharpened like knives, slashing both memory and skin. I took some hand holding time with The Gateway District, some share-some-beers, let’s-go-swimming time, some crank the record high to softer headphone time to see if we really did share the same interests; liked each other’s world views and company. Was it a short-time crush or something more lasting? There are many pitfalls in record reviewing. Here are two. One of them is premature ovations. The second is approaching a record that takes time to reveal itself on repeated listenings in the short amount of time available for a timely review. The irony is that these are the records, in the long run, I’ll listen to the most. Some Days You Get the Thunder is an expansive, fun, poetic, daring, personal, and DIY dance-friendly LP with fiddle in two songs. The crib notes is progressing, celebratory, strong-willed Minneapolis punk pop by ex-and-current Soviettes, Rivethead, Banner Pilot, Dear Landlord, and a farrier, so you have the basic legend to the map. Thankfully, all members continue to explore, discover, and mix experience with wonder. –Todd (It’s Alive, itsalive.com)

MARVELOUS DARLINGS: “Shoot the Piano Player” b/w “I Want My Brand”: 7”
Denim, glitter, platforms, and leather of the mind. That’s what the Marvelous Darlings sound like. Oh, plus strutting, pouting, and ‘tude. Ask any first-gen L.A. punk rocker what they were listening to pre-’77, and they were all about Cooper, Bowie, Sweet, T.Rex. It’s about power, taste, and shit from a different cosmos. The Marvelous Darlings—masterminded by Ben Cook—bleed figurative chest hair, sequins, male lip gloss, and gun powder. I’m thinking, considering all their output, that they’re standing toe-to-toe with The Lee Harvey Oswald Band: powerpop with glitterglam, wham-bam ma’am tendencies done right. –Todd (Taken By Surprise, takenbysurprise.net)

TENEMENT: “Ice Pick” b/w “Summer Street”: 7”
It’s not Tenement’s fault that I’ve been listening to a ton of Hüsker Dü lately, and I don’t want this to come off as a lazy, “Oh, they’re from the Midwest, are a trio, play catchy, multi-moded punk rock, really do rock, but with some flair and artistry, so which one am I gonna pick: ‘Mats or Dü?” type of thing. In much the same way that songs off of Zen Arcade work, the listener can totally zone out from and be totally involved in a song at the same time. There’s an incessant, implied buzz and a careful harvest of notes all the way through, from a full-on assault, to the quieter times, to when the instruments go for interesting walks. Side A’s the more direct blast pop track. Side B’s the exploration without the wank. This shit’s wide open. Go Neenah, WI. –Todd (608 Kisses)

SOMETHING FIERCE: There Are No Answers: LP
Spores. Fungus. Mold. All flourish in shit, hidden wetness, and darkness. Some’ll kill you outright. Some, it takes years to get into your lungs, and, even then, the malady may be hard to diagnose. You’re taking a shower one day, and unexpectedly die when a lung collapses. So when Something Fierce shine their power pop halogens into the dark, slick, icky madness below, their songs don’t sound like bubblegum. They sound like bubblegum and jammed circular saws, lengths of too-short rope, and spats of far-thrown blood. If Roky Erickson, Fred Cole of The Lollipop Shoppe, and an excellent new century punk pop band got together, I imagine it’d sound something akin to Something Fierce. And that’s something I’ve been looking forward to hearing for years without realizing it. Highly recommended. –Todd (Dirtnap)

Here are three things that are rarely mixed together with any sort of success: Enya, playful and artful circuses (like Cirque de soleil; largely due to what sounds like a pipe organ), and international hardcore. Kalashnikov, thankfully, also avoids the obvious short fallings of pretentiousness, preciousness, predictability, and being pedantic, instead delivering moving, bouncy, gritty, eerie, fun, and utterly unique music. This CD is a collection of this Italian collective’s five previous works from 2000 to the present, and it’s a joint release between a Japanese label and distributor. Great stuff. –Todd (SP)

SHITTY LIMITS, THE: Beware the Limits: LP
Beyond the monkey-fisted initial impact of a completely focused punk band getting down to the business of not fucking around, the U.K.’s Shitty Limits affect the little-understood glandular and deep brain systems. Pituitary punk rock? Endocrine rock’n’roll? Insect instinct? There’s an amazing amount of post-shorn sheep of notes, a chopping down to the inner rings of trees, and an ammunition-like reassembly in Beware the Limits, all ready for the right crack, plunge, or push for the shaped explosions to burst into deep places in your body for maximum affect. Imagine Minuteman-like bursts, swapping funkiness for Wire taughtness. Motivated and spot on. –Todd (Sorry State)

Hidden Spots: So fuckin’ posi that they make 7 Seconds sound like Earth Crisis. Lyrically, their two songs are like love letters to friends and family. It’s without guile. It’s straight-forward: “I want more birthday parties and weddings / ‘cause I’m tired of funerals.” With bear-voice-sounding Eric Nelson as the throat, Buddha on guitar, and a rhythm section that sounds like a train rumblin’ down the tracks, these Chattanoogans are adding to their already impressive recorded catalog of humility, celebrations, and friendship. Black Rainbow: I’m not saying that an opera house of punk is even a good idea, but, if there ever was one and it didn’t suck, I’d elect Ivy Jeanne to sing there first. Her voice is wonderfully full, desperate, tuneful, and compassionate all at the same time; something we don’t come across all that often in these circles. New millennium EastBay punk with pop sensibilities, played with hard-to-deny conviction. –Todd (Starcleaner)

There’s nothing wrong with formulas. Science, when expanding armed with before-discovered numbers, often goes beyond empiricism into artistry. So, when I say that Government Warning is perfecting upon an equation that many thought ultimately and definitively solved in the early ‘80s, it’s the opposite of a dig. The raw ore they’re purifying is as potent as it’s ever been: fresh-from-the-musical womb hardcore swagger played as an unboring blur, mixed with paranoid anxiety, and steeled with conviction. “Solos” are imbedded inside of the songs instead of tacked on the end like donkey tails. The thirty-seven-year-old me likes this as much as the fourteen-year-old me would have. The proof’s in the pudding and the pudding’s fuckin’ tasty. –Todd (Grave Mistake / No Way)

Both bands: Lyrically, a constantly revolving door of happiness to sadness, resolute conviction to desperation, exultation to exhaustion. Is partying still partying? “Is this fun still fun anymore?” It’s the musical equivalent to not-quite-right-tasting but well-within-your-price-bracket wine. Keep on drinking it and wash hate down, burp up some love, and try your best to not to piss your pants. Sunnyside: Musically, think along the lines of Dan Padilla, Tiltwheel—kindest devils you’ll ever meet, or badly bruised angels? The Legendary San Diego Chargers: Fronted by Jesse Thorson of Pretty Boy Thorson and the Fallen Angels would like to express the following sentiment to the West Coast: just because a show is free, whenever a touring band plays, pass the fuckin’ hat. Good wishes do not fill up gas tanks, and it’s an insult to play a full house show, then walk away more broke than when you walked in. Music is our church. Pay your respects, dumbnuts. –Todd (It’s Alive)

With always-accelerating technology comes a sadness. It’s not a “kids these days don’t know shit” lament. It’s a true sadness that a mode of listening to music is largely considered a niche mentality, an outmoded way of enjoyment in an accelerated society. It’s a grey day, I open up the windows, feel the chilled air, put on a Haints record, let it wash over me, and let it soak in. It fills the air, fills the room. I get a cup of coffee, put my feet up, watch branches sway. I’m not shuffling through the songs. I’m not skipping tracks. I’m not looking at lighted bars representing the pulse of sound. I’m not itching for what’s next, but what’s developing in front of me. Try to push back some of the ache. Try to clear out a little bit of my brain. I’m listening to an album; trusting the talented Haints to take me on a journey. I’m on their time. I’m in their vehicle of conveyance and I don’t want to parse it down to milliseconds or favorites. I want the full thirty or forty minutes, the sequence, the sound broken only when the record’s flipped over. The Haints are a traditional band: wash tub bass, banjo, mandolin, washboard, saw, play-while-standing drums. They mix originals, covers, and traditionals, removing sentimentality and replacing it with respect and DIY energy. Here’s the thing; I listened to this record on CD several times and it sounded like tin foil around leftovers. The vinyl record sounds like food grilling on a barbecue. –Todd (K)

Wrister: This type of stuff rarely comes out of my mouth, but, as with everything I’ve heard of Atlanta’s Wrister (demos, Razorcake Director Toby Tober’s car, etc.), I wish it was recorded better because I think that a fuller recording would reveal a greater power that I can almost hear getting mashed around. (Like blenders in lucite boxes, a sound comes through, but not the roar.). It’s catchy anthem DIY punk, parts Hot Water Music, parts ADD/C, parts GC5, and I wish I didn’t have to squint to hear the intricacies. The North Trolls: Two bands don’t make a movement, but the North Trolls would be a perfect match-up with Thee Makeout Party. DIY punks deconstructing and reinventing the Beach Boys: fun, sour, bouncy, dark pop that’s comfortable with sleeping on strangers’ floors and drinking half-drunk beers first thing upon waking up. –Todd (No Breaks)

Gestapo Khazi: Dangerhouse-style fingerprints aplenty, and the fingerprints are distinct, not blurry. Explanation: Obscurely referenced, tightly grasped musical details are incorporated onto long-and-widely loved musical icons; think Weirdos mixed with Chuck Berry or The Weasels mixed with The Ventures. This duality even follows with their name. The Gestapo were the king assholes of the Third Reich, as many know, but Khazi, is derived from a 19th Century Cockney word that translates into toilet, which the internet barely knows. Well played, gentlemen. Ebonics: Driving budget garage rock with dirty socks condomed over all the microphones. It suffers from the clarity of the band on the other side, but still retains some Mummies-like charm. –Todd (Self-released?)

YOUNG GOVERNOR: “English Tim” b/w “In the Heart of a Harem”: 7”
Young Governor, undeniably, has a knack for rough-but-buttery pop; it’s got a crackling wrapper and a sweet, satisfying center; well worth taking the time to savor. Part of me wants a wee bit higher production so when the screams come, they don’t sound so tattered-speakers, but the other part of me wonders if the charm is from everything not being “perfect” and just letting it roll. With a trio of backup singers, the hit’s “English Tim.” –Todd (Static Shock)

Listening to the Spits is riding with the Spits. Riding with The Spits is like being inside a beat-up late ‘70s Nova where both the driver and navigator are both barely lucid enough to not sideswipe a church, always arrive at their target destination a little frayed, but are capable of delivering of a collection of sharp razors. (This time, a great album of ten songs.) Somehow, through simple, well-worn denim jacket aesthetics—Ramones, paranoia, punk-as-a-gang, smelly armpit, no-tech fidelity that’s absolutely clear—are able to simultaneously create both the exact same album as the previous three, yet be able to expand on them like mold growing on the inside of a record sleeve that gets into your ears every time the vinyl’s pulled out, plopped down, and spun around. (Here’s my theory: the Spits have one album. They’re still making it. This is the fourth installment of a larger work. Thus, the same name for each album so far.) My hand’s raised. I’m a Spits fan. –Todd (Thrift Store / Recess)