Featured Record Reviews Issue #95 with Mikey Erg, Culture Shock, Deadbeats, M.O.T.O., Night Birds, and Tender Defender

Feb 13, 2017

MIKEY ERG: Tentative Decisions: CD
Call me clueless, but I had no idea that Mikey Erg was releasing solo records now. A lot of solo records from people who previously fronted bands have fallen flat for me (see, e.g., Ben Weasel), while relatively few have found a permanent place in my collection (see, e.g., Bob Mould). As such, my expectations weren’t set terribly high. Mr. Erg’s record, however, exceeded my expectations and then some (and maybe because others have lowered them, but that aside…). Had I been told that this was a new Ergs! record, my only thought would be, they’ve matured well. It’s not a small amount of maturation, as was seen between DorkRock and Upstairs, but we aren’t talking going from Stink to Don’t Tell a Soul, either. Rather, it’s more mature insofar as it has better instrumentation (and a wider assortment instruments, to boot) and better idea execution (which may be a result of the former). Definitely a really good solo record. Now Mikey Erg has me hoping he continues down the Mould Path (even if it means some not so great forays into the world of electronic dance), and brings the world another Copper Blue. –Vincent (Don Giovanni)

BOSS EYE: Plays Cottage Vortex: LP
Ride on the wave of uncertainty. Chaotically constructed, but meticulously crafted, this Big Black-esque noise rock monstrosity hits all the right notes and a few wrong ones at the right time. Massive shifts in content and tone happen without batting an eye. Aesthetically, the record cover gives you a perfect picture of what you’re in store for: seemingly random, but angular, sections cut out by hand. The music feels like it’s missing something, but in the way of addition by subtracting. It lacks melodies and standard music construction techniques in a way that allows the crazy ideas to breathe and expand. Good stuff. –Bryan Static (Twistworthy, twistworthy.com)

BRAVER: Torpor: LP
I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to get a record from a band you’ve never listened to and then instantly love it. Torpor opens up with antics that make me think of Dillinger Four as they switch from goofing about to a strong and raucous guitar riff. It’s the vocals that grab me. Somehow they’re a mix of Josh Caterer (Smoking Popes) and Dan Lord (Pain), with the cadence of Emily Whitehurst (Tsunami Bomb). The singing carries over the obvious measure breaks and time signature changes in a way that’s not jarring at all. They undulate along with the jagged melodic guitar until it’s time to run off on their own. Braver’s rhythm section pummels—especially the drums. They’re really making a stark dichotomy between the beautiful crooning and the heavy fills. At the beginning of “Little Girl Soldier” there’s this gorgeous refrain that the guitar does just a few times throughout the song and it’s intoxicating. Where I think this record falls short is in the samples and non musical bits that they sprinkle throughout. It only happens three times, but I feel that it detracts from Torpor’s beauty. “Les Enfants Terribles” is the slow burn of the record and it is just as intelligent, emotional, and pretty as the fast songs. I played this three times in a row and I may just flip it over once more. “Swim through debris / Drown, rinse, repeat.” –Kayla Greet (Do What?)

Chron Turbine’s label describes them aptly as dark destruct-o-pop, and II is filled with eight tracks that will keep any fan of weird shit entertained. This tape is seriously weird and I mean that in the most respectful, complimentary way. It’s cool in this post-something kind of way where I hear death rock and really polished Interpol-y stuff and even funky Devo vibes coming through, but also obvious hardcore and noise elements. There are really spacey moments like “Love and Infection” that’s got heavy goth T. Rex feels and some octave things going on; “Hipster Amnesia” gives some serious Rites Of Spring vibes; then weird, angular linear shit shows up in a bunch of other tracks just as soon as you think you figured their formula out. II has a healthy mix of heaviness and grit throughout and it never stops moving. Limited to one hundred, the physical tape has this super hardcore aesthetic with a silk screened cover and sticker in there. A pretty great way to spend five dollars, in my opinion. –Candace Hansen (Peterwalkee, peterwalkeerecords.bandcamp.com/album/chron-turbine-ll)

CROSS STITCH: Until I Find You: CS
I forget where I heard it, and I’m not going to get the quote right, but somebody smart said that when you’re going to make something, look for the void—look for the thing that doesn’t exist that you want to exist, and make that thing. Cross Stitch seem to have hit on the idea of creating an all-female Sebadoh, which is the thing we all needed without knowing we needed it. They’re also one of the best contemporary American post-punk bands, which is no small feat. I think they may have broken up, which is a loss we’re only beginning to deal with. We still have this tape, and specifically “Blue Blue.” –Matt Werts (Peterwalkee, peterwalkeerecords.com / Bitch Face, bitchfacerecords.storenvy.com)

CULTURE SHOCK: Attention Span: CD
I’m not interested in bands reforming, cashing in, and realizing their youth slipped away so they try to claw it back by rehashing their old shit. Dick Lucas from the Subhumans, Citizen Fish, and Culture Shock does not fit into that category. He has been relentlessly playing and touring in bands since the late ‘70s on a one hundred percent DIY level. Culture Shock hit me at the absolute zenith of my youth. Their second LP came out when I was sixteen and is part of many memories of life, love, and punk that it’s impossible for me to be objective. Culture Shock came on the back of the waning anarcho punk movement after the Subhumans split, blending anarcho punk with ska and reggae. At a time when the punks moved from squats into buses and free festivals, dreadlocks, Stonehenge, and living life outside of society. At sixteen years old, this rejection of society made more sense to me than the fighting the system attitude of bands like Conflict. Culture Shock played free festivals and pushed the ideals of self-sufficiency and community. Listening to the newly reformed Culture Shock, I’m taken right back to the mid-’80s, I cannot believe how this new record sounds like it was recorded just after their last LP even though it was some twenty-five years ago. Fantastic anarcho punk (with some ska to keep it bouncing) with positive lyrics about an alternative to this shit we do on the day to day. I’m a cynical fuck, but this record (as good as any of their others) made me smile—and, for a second—believe we can make a change. –Tim Brooks (Alternative Tentacles, alternativetentacles.com)

DEADBEATS: 666-1313: 2 x LP
First things first. Yes, this is a new double-album from that Deadbeats, one of Los Angeles’s first, hardest, and flat-out weirdest punk bands. Sporadically active over the decades, they’ve been seen in recent years blowing other bands off local stages with shows that look like they were the result of some sorta collaboration between Freud, De Sade, and Herschell Gordon Lewis—chomped brains, femme fatale nurses, leather masks, blow-up dolls, and a laundry list of delightful debauchery. The twenty songs here are much along the lines of their “classic” material: dissonant noise mongering providing the base, with heavy doses of swing, free jazz, complex rhythmic changes, and maybe even a bit of Kurt Weill thrown in for good measure, meted out by an ensemble that’s more orchestra than traditional “band.” Like their legendary live performances, the tunes are sure to challenge the sensibilities of the average punter who’s looking for exactly the same formulaic sonic and lyrical bullshit they get from every other band, but those willing to dive in will find much here that rocks with the kind of crucial chaotic abandon that attracted so many to this “punk” thing so long ago. Good? Shit, I’d go so far as to say this is one of the best albums outta Los Angeles’s underground in years. –Jimmy Alvarado (Deep Six Albatross, [email protected])

This could be the great Canadian redemption story that we all pass down to our grandchildren on cold winter nights. Extroverts were one of (if not the) first punk rock bands in Regina, Saskatchewan back in 1979. Within the course of a few years, they would eke out a 7”, play some shows, and disappear into the prairie snowdrifts of time (and into the dreams of very specific types of record collectors). Fast forward some thirty-seven years later. The guys are still around Regina and decide to get together to open for the ever-retiring DOA. They have a blast and decide to start jamming regularly. Singer Brent Caron discovers a lyric book from the old days that they never got around to using. The boys write songs around those vintage words, and here we are. If the story alone isn’t amazing enough, the resulting album kicks all kinds of ass! It’s snotty punk rock of the highest order. These guys somehow influenced the likes of The Briefs and Duane Peters without even existing for more than a nanosecond! I suggest you track them down and witness firsthand as these old punks take their rightful place along with the rest of our maple-stained punk legends. –Ty Stranglehold (Self-released, theextroverts.com)

FOX FACE: Teen Wiccan: 7”
As the four teenagers exit the city bus, the driver calls after them, “You girls watch out for those weirdos.” Their ostensible leader—Nancy Downs, clad in all black—turns and lowers her red sunglasses. “We are the weirdos, mister,” she replies, holding the driver’s gaze with a serpentine smile as the doors close. This moment from the 1996 film, The Craft, reverberated through an entire generation of outcasts, reaffirming for them the connection between feminine power and witchcraft. Milwaukee quartet, Fox Face, exist in a similar realm: a musical coven who call the four corners of garage, punk, goth, and riot grrrl to conjure a creepy and brooding, yet youthful and defiant sound. With two EPs already under their cloaks, the band once again invoke the spirit of angst and power chords on their three-song single, Teen Wiccan. Side A opens with the title track—a merry binding of shouted incantations and crashing cymbals—followed by the faster, groovier “Boogie Man,” which intersperses night-surf guitars with harbinger warnings of “Never go to sleep! Never count sheep!” Side B summons the foreboding, chuggy “Tar,” a thoroughly entrancing goth-garage assault. The cult-y artwork enshrouding the single further strengthens Fox Face’s dark frequency, as if an occult hand had designed it specifically to beckon fellow witchy weirdos to their circle. The single’s download code is tacked to the back of an original fox-centric rendering of the Tarot “Moon,” a sly nod to the dualities of vision and illusion, genius and madness, and guidance and trickery. Nancy Downs would be proud… –Kelley O’Death (Chop Haus, foxface.bandcamp.com)

LSDOGS: Creeps: 7” single
LSDogs is a super group made up of people from Sick Thoughts, Black Abba, Vatican Dagger, and Buck Biloxi And The Fucks) cranking out the kind of punk that I absolutely love: dirty-as-hell guitar sound, and a shitty, bratty attitude in living color. No fancy virtuoso shenanigans; this is just about getting down and wrecking shit left and right. “Creeps” is a moderately quick tune that moves at a constant pace, and it’s a killer. But it’s “Yr Done” that really cooks. Mid tempo swagger and burn; the sonic equivalent of driving your thumb into someone’s temple. Unpleasant for them, but fun for you. This so f’n great I had to put aside my free jazz and prog records for an evening and listen to just this record over and over. I wants more! I wants more! –Matt Average (Total Punk, floridasdyingrecords.com)

LUNACY: Resurgence of Compulsion: CS
This is the music our android successors will make in memory of us centuries after they have served us into extinction. Dark, synthy, ambient music, industrial in a way that suggests an actual dilapidated factory on the outskirts of a former metropolis. The occasional vocal melody, if you can call it that, creeps in under the clanking and droning every so often. Cool aesthetic, but what do people actually do while they listen to ambient music? Probably slowly replace their own body parts with cyborg technology and wait for the singularity, that’s my guess based on this. The B-side is the A-side but reversed because of course it is. –Indiana Laub (Time Castle, timecastle.bandcamp.com)

M.O.T.O.: Ampeg Stud!: LP
Another vinyl reissue of a classic M.O.T.O. cassette, this one from 1995. The band—such as it is—gets a bit of a fuller sound—such as it is—on this recording, following a drummer shakeup—such as it is—whereby “Mattelicus Synsonicus” is replaced with “Dee Dee Five” (aka a Yamaha DD5 drum machine). The oddness of hearing these tremendous if off-the-wall songs—think Dee Dee Ramone meets Dr. Frank in a really fuzzy basement—just sort of lying around on obscure homemade cassettes, presumably (but not necessarily) for want of fuller execution is enough to cause even the most hardened cynic to ponder the fate, romance, and general mojo of the starving artist, booze-doomed poet, and minstrels of that ilk. Sure, there are songs about gagging and songs about choking, but what about “Meet Me at the Flagpole?” (“Meet me at the flagpole, run right up the hill. Somewhere someone waits for you, if you don’t, someone will.”) What if that song is supposed to save the world one day, and you never heard it? These are the types of things that giver sober men pause. BEST SONG: “Meet Me at the Flagpole” or “Benighted We Stand.” BEST SONG TITLE: Same. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: This is the only record of which I can think which features a cover photo taken at Chicago’s infamous Fireside Bowl, which is odd. ­–Rev. Nørb (Rerun, rerunrecordsstl.com)

M.O.T.O.: Motoerectus: LP
M.O.T.O. have released so much top-notch no-budget tuneage over the last thirty-five years that they make Wesley Willis look like Duke Nukem by comparison. I don’t think nature really intended for there to be a middle ground between Guided By Voices and Sloppy Seconds, but, by damn, this dude went and invented one anyway. Crunchy, catchy, off-the-wall shit—if there’s ever a wax museum dedicated to pointless genius, Paul Caporino is a first-ballot inductee. Anyway. This album is a reissue of a 1987 cassette, and, as is usually the case with M.O.T.O., every song is either a neo-classic or a momentarily arresting curiosity, as the case may be—sort of like a DQ Blizzard made with sex and pus and killing instead of Reese’s Pieces®. The main drawback to this album is that the percussion is provided by a Mattel® Synsonics™ drum machine—one of the first drum machines on the market that was kinda affordable to the average schmoe (the fact that it was manufactured by toymaker Mattel® should tell you all you need to know about how it sounds—if not, just imagine an autistic android child snapping a balloon with a rubber band for a half hour)—ergo, the record comes off more like a songwriting demo than something by which to get aurally absorbed. Let’s face it, if the Standells would have recorded “Man, Woman and Child” fifty years ago, we’d all own about twenty cover versions of it. Then again, this way you have fewer versions to buy. BEST SONG: “Man, Woman and Child.” BEST SONG TITLE: “One Good Dose of Nyquil.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Yes, I owned a Mattel Synsonics drum machine in the ‘80s. ­–Rev. Nørb (Rerun, rerunrecordsstl.com)

MEET YOUR DEATH: Self-titled: LP
This is a blues band, and this is a blues record. This is not a “blues festival” band. You will not see these mofos down at the waterfront on a sunny day while you sip on a nine-dollar IPA and the Croc-wearing guy in front of you hoists his toddler on his back and blocks your view. This is crazed, menacing, straight-up bananas stuff, with a pedigree here that includes stints in bands such as the Gories, Jack O’Fire, the Oblivians. This shit is soulful, inherently damaged, dirty as hell. Searing guitar lines, dark graveyard stomps, wailing harmonica. It’s seriously so good. I’m the furthest thing from a blues aficionado but I can tell when a band’s going for the throat, and holy god these guys are not fucking around. You take your kid to a blues festival that Meet Your Death’s playing, the little jerk’s gonna walk out of there with devil horns and a stick knife in his pocket. Unrelenting, utterly convincing, highly recommended. –Keith Rosson (12XU)

NIGHT BIRDS: Who Killed Mike Hunchback?: 7”
The first time I saw Night Birds play was at Beerland in Austin, Texas. I had the self-titled 7” and was really excited to see them live. The guitarist walked on stage with scraggly, dark hair in his face. Curiously, he was wearing two foam knee braces and carried a chair to the stage. I deduced that he must have wrecked his knees somehow and had to sit to play. The band counted in and, before I knew what was happening, he was standing on the chair, then launched himself into the crowd and to the concrete floor on his knees, all the while playing insane surf guitar leads. The entire band kicked my ass all over that sweatbox and I was instantly a fan for life. Later on, we hauled ass over the Mohawk to catch their next set. The guitarist jumped again. This time it was about ten feet out and about five feet down to the concrete. On his knees, and he still didn’t miss a note. This was my introduction to Mike Hunchback. Mike left the band not long after their first LP came out, and his large shoes were filled perfectly by PJ Russo, but this latest instalment in Fat’s demo series is all about Mike. Raw versions of early songs with Mike handling vocals on a couple of them, which kind of come off with a Cough/Cool and She vibe (and perhaps inspired the Misfits tribute cover art?). This single is a welcome addition to my once again complete Night Birds catalog. –Ty Stranglehold (Fat)

PRE NUP: Self-titled: 7”
Maybe if I were a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, I’d dig on this 7” harder. Loose, off-key, and twee as can be, Pre Nup whisks the listener away to a land where everything is made of gumdrops and bubblegum, and grammar Nazis rule. Kind of like when Vampire Weekend asked to no one in particular, “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” Pre Nup takes pride in their superior grasp of the English language. “Wrong Your” kicks off the self-titled EP with “Air Quotes” on deck, the latter of which features such memorable wisdom nuggets as “Communicate in code / I only talk in air quotes,” “Irony is cheating,” and “Swappin’ words with wordplay.” I wish that Pre Nup would either put their money where their mouth is and write the next great piece of American literature, or take some singing lessons and buy a metronome. –Simone Carter (Debt Offensive, debtoffensiverecs.bigcartel.com / Kingfisher Bluez, kingfisherbluez.com)

PROFESSOR HUGH G. RECKSHUN: “The Natives” b/w “Cannibal Stew”: 7”
In 2016, the world got two big-screen adaptations of Rudyard Kipling novels. Just three years ago, Eli Roth revived and updated the “brown cannibals eat white interlopers in the jungle” subgenre of exploitation cinema that was popular in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. From Timothy Dalton’s brooding colonial explorer on Penny Dreadful to the upcoming remake of Jumanji, there are already so many “woe the ‘White Man’s Burden’” and “watch the jungle terrorize innocent white children” stories to go around. If fiction isn’t cutting it, one can even turn to the pseudoscientific racist rhetoric of the alt-right movement. “But it’s just not enough,” you might say, adjusting the small, porcelain phrenology head on your desk. “I need more stories about how natives are small-brained savages with silly customs, dumb-dumb languages, and a lusty hunger for white flesh!” You thoughtfully finger your framed photo of the Hottentot Venus, and continue, “What’s more, I need those stories to be set to music! Grating fucking music! Music that sounds like a crusty folk punk drank too much Old Crow and magically Pleasantvilled themselves back to the cultural and musical landscape of 1950s America, equipped with little more than a ukulele, a maraca, and a sound effect library full of monkey noises.” Do not fret, intrepid flouter of the evil Thought Police! Professor Hugh G. Reckshun is here with a new single to satiate all of your “I’m not racist! Come on, it’s just a joke!” desires. –Kelley O’Death (Greasy, [email protected], greasy.storenvy.com)

TENDER DEFENDER: Self-titled: 12” EP
There’s really just something about Mattie Canino’s voice in conjunction over that oh so distinct guitar sound. It’s followed them from Latterman to Shorebirds to RVIVR and most recently here with fellow stalwarts, making up Tender Defender. I can’t ever really explain it, but the melodies and rhythms that lie just underneath those near blown-out squeals—they sound kind. Maybe it’s the feeling of old friends visiting: anticipation, love, hope, calm, gravity. They all mix together in this gorgeous, uncomfortable, butterflies-in-your-stomach kind of anxiety. Phil Douglas is no slouch in the singing department either; I just have spent more time listening to Canino. This record is everything you’ve come to expect from these music makers. Lyrics that are thrown against the same brick walls we bang our heads against just to survive every day. Bass notes that come in warm and rapid bursts. Drums that know just when to take it easy and slow it down before exploding into another heartfelt dance party. And there’s a Bent Outta Shape cover mixed in there, too. Good stuff all around. –Kayla Greet (Dead Broke)

Are you more likely to… Get some rest than go to a show? Spend your time off with your family than go on tour? Fill the recycling bin with cat food tins than beer cans? Then you’re probably a Pop-Punk Parent®, and this Totally Slow LP is definitely for you. Their first LP was a Frisbee-full of perfectly snotty and fast punk, and these North Carolina vets have beefed it up a bunch on Bleed Out. The production’s bigger—with concrete-cutting guitars and tree-toppling drums—setting the stage for more focused songwriting, which triangulates with Hüsker Dü and Toys That Kill. It’s powerful, pedal to the metal pop with a surprisingly mature bent. The lyrics nail the, “Welp, this is me… Oh, fuck. What am I doing?” feeling that has so far characterized my late thirties. Let this record sub in for that third cup of coffee next time you wake up at dawn for no good reason. It’ll treat you way better. –Chris Terry (Self Aware, selfawarerecords.com)

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