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I See Seaweed by the Drones; or, Daft Who?; or, WHY IN THE FUCK IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THIS ALBUM

May 28, 2013
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This is a rant. I usually apologize for this stuff – and golly, am I a compulsive apologist – but I’m cutting that shit out because there are people in this world who are not listening to the new Drones album. There are record-buying people of comfortable means between the ages of 16 and 55-ish who are not listening to the new Drones album, and you don’t have to apologize when you’re doing God’s work.

“Criminally unappreciated” hardly cuts it. Australia’s the Drones have been making some of the most consistently potent, inventive, and urgent rock music in the last decade, and no one outside of Australia seems to care. As some review blurb that used to be on their Wikipedia page went, their early stuff was like “The Birthday Party beating the hell out of some Neil Young.” The ferocity of their early releases gave way to polarizing dynamics, equal parts unsettlingly subtle and mercilessly pummeling, while still holding true to a kind of broken and ill-tempered folk tradition that feels – and I’m admittedly out of my league here – Australian. Really, though! There’s something foreign and exotic about their interpretation of rock music that makes me hesitant to call it wholly derivative of the American or European rock canons. (Well, don’t people sort of consider Australia part of Europe? I mean, obviously it technically isn’t? I sorta do sometimes because I don’t really know much about much and it sorta makes sense to group em all together in my brain?) Here, listen to “Nail it Down” from 2008’s Havilah, and I swear it’ll make sense.

Okay, so I decided just this paragraph that I no longer care about what levelheaded and respectable music journalism is supposed to look like. I See Seaweed is the first Drones album in five years, which is fine because it’s fucking brilliant. While its predecessor dunked quite a few toes in the pond of folk-pop and hinted at something sort of maybe resembling optimism (while still leaving room for such epithets as “people are a waste of food” and “he does not talk, he does not move, just spends all day looking at porno and playing fucking Halo 2”). So of course I was stoked to find that there isn’t a single sunny moment on this whole new album. Their arrangements have reached impossible levels of bleakness and severity, and the addition of a full-time pianist has given these songs a welcome creaky, gothic gloominess. The Fucking Stunner of an Opener “I See Seaweed” starts with little more than a woozy, understated guitar line as Gareth Liddiard croaks around the approximation of a melody, starting out with stomach-dropping admissions of guilt (“Where she and I walked by the zoo, not knowing we’d do what all plagues do”) before working his way to this century’s misanthropic call to arms, “We’re lockstepping in our billions, lockstepping in our swarm, lockstepping in the certainty that more need to be born.” Goddamn do I want to spraypaint that all over public buildings. At that very moment, a horrifying, monolithic black wave blocks out the sky before burying your insignificant mortal ass as the rest of band unloads their entire high-volume, high-violence weight all at once – unyielding, heavy waves of distortion, beast moans, bile, and scourge. Yes, this is the apocalypse. Yes, as it turns out, the Drones are the ones in control. And yes, as you’ve probably fantasized, it is fucking thrilling. And since these guys are total goddamn pros, they flawlessly bring it back down to the simmer from whence it came and even manage to take an eerie and beautiful 6/8 detour that dissolves into a steam of sonorous feedback and brushed drums before throwing their monstrous weight around one last time. This song is eight-and-a-half minutes long and fuck you if you don’t listen to the whole thing.

Though nothing on the rest of the album is quite this eviscerating, the title track sets the tone for the diverse range of sprawling songs that follow. “They’ll Kill You” slowly blossoms to a grand, transcendent acher over the course of six minutes, working its fractured guitar lines and crooked chord changes into a froth before cutting out for the full-on rager “A Moat You Can Stand In,” which is pretty content to pummel your face for its whole duration. I’ll take this moment to point out that head Drone Liddiard is one of my favorite guitar players ever, and he’s absolutely mastered his craft on this album. His playing is waterlogged, drunk, trying to explain the unexplainable to you in the corner of a bar that’s closing up. Or it’s desperately and violently digging its fangs into veins of melody and making a glorious mess in the process. Motherfucker never lets go of the whammy bar for a second and makes your brains into soups, and you will thank him for it.

Aside from the instantly noticeable presence of a piano player, there are other refreshing new tricks that turn up on I See Seaweed. There’s the high drama orchestration that comes crashing out of nowhere on “Laika.” There’s the delicate, plink-y groove of “How to See Through Fog.” There’s the thick wall of circuit-bent static that erupts as “The Gray Leader” takes an unannounced 60 mph turn straight into a brick wall. But the most curious and welcome direction they take is the 9-minute closer “Why Write a Letter That You’ll Never Send,” a strangely comforting yet knowingly trad piano ballad. Once the song settles in and it becomes apparent that the looping chord progression will function as the scroll on which Liddiard will scrawl out a laundry list of grievances with the human race, you’ll not only be looking forward to the bile that follows, but you’ll also find yourself totally on board with the cheekier indignities. “And who cares for their survival? And who cares about the Yanks? And who cares if they get overrun by Chinese nukes and tanks?” he sasses, allowing himself a brief moment of humor. “And who cares about the holocaust? Man, we didn’t learn nothing there … And who cares about the Vatican? Man, everybody knows. And who’s surprised they went and chose a Nazi for a pope?” The band responds by reaching a satisfying heaviness, triumphantly justifying Liddiard’s maybe real maybe fake frustrations, making the song all the funnier and incredible in the process. This one gets sadly cut up a few times by a perfectly well-meaning chorus, and I not-so-secretly wish this song was just one unending verse of snide cynicism on top of the band’s comically sincere old soul rock. Who knew that would be so perfect and entertaining? The Drones did, apparently.

Let me drop a bomb, you idiots. This isn’t even the Drones’ best album. It’s not even their second best. Those distinctions go to Havilah and 2005’s Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By (which won the Australian Music Prize that year, and no I don’t know the full significance of that but it sure sounds a lot like an Australian Grammy), respectively. These guys are the real damn deal, deities that I unflinchingly place atop the same mantelpiece that holds the likes of Silkworm, The Ex, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Let me help you get started. Here’s a choice song from every one of their releases in chronological order. You’re welcome.

“Cockeyed Lowlife of the Highlands” from Here Come the Lies (2002)

“Sharkfin Blues” from Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By (2005)

“Bird in a Church” from The Miller’s Daughter compilation (2005)

“Jezebel” from Gala Mill (2006)

“The Minotaur” from Havilah (2008)

“I See Seaweed” from I See Seaweed (2013)

-m

Top 10 2K11, a Tummiscratch List

December 7, 2011
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I know it’s been a while, but this is important. I’m bringing this blog out of hibernation for another one of our famed end-of-year lists. Typically these lists are reserved for albums we liked that were released over the course of this year. Unfortunately, I really didn’t care for much of anything that came out this year, other than the Men and Condominium full lengths, but that would make for a pretty sad list. So it looks like I’ll be dedicating a list to the only music I really did enjoy this year, Turquoise Jeep.

Few things are known about this elusive rap collective, whose love for breakfast foods is matched only by their love for blowjobs. Seriously, it’s strange how little is known about a “band” this popular. Many of their videos, and there are many, have near a million views on Youtube (“Lemme Smang It” is approaching 7 million), and yet they have no Wikipedia page. Sure, plenty of Youtube celebrities don’t have Wikipedia entries, but Turquoise Jeep is an actual band that performs live (including a riotous headlining set at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest), has a full-length album for sale on iTunes, and has been covered by MTV News. Their official website reveals nothing about their hometown (listed on their Facebook page as “All Across the Nation”) or any kind of back story. When you call them (which a friend of mine did in an effort to book them) you will be told, “Oh sorry this is Leon from the record label. You want to call their management.” When you call their management, you’ll speak to Leon Imperial, who is just rapper Flynt Flossy using a different name. Their “behind the scenes” videos, which is basically just the crew hanging around a recording studio they’re pretending to use, hint at just how shoddy their actual recording set-up is.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that Turquoise Jeep is more than just a comedy group. They’re methodical and careful about how they present themselves, aided by hilariously fake facial hair and a good dose of method acting. What’s even more commendable is their ability to write seriously incredible pop songs. When lines like, “Go grab my belt, you need a spanking baby” get stuck in your head for upwards of several weeks, you’d probably have a hard time dismissing them as just a comedy group, too. With that said, here are my top ten favorite Turquoise Jeep lyrics and their respective videos. Happy Sexgiving:

10. Whatchyamacallit: “This position I invent is crazy.”
from “Licky Sticky”

9. Flynt Flossy: “We could play a game (Twister!)”
from “Ooh Ahh Sound”

8. Flynt Flossy: “She got a sexy thing
Go touch a sexy thing
She got a sexy friend
Go touch a sexy friend”
from “Did I Mention I Like to Dance?”

7. Flynt Flossy: “She was just a fling
She just suck my thing
She don’t compare to you
You my wifee boo”
from “SHUYAMOUF”

6. Yung Humma: “This is what I like to call ‘smash/bang fusion’
Gotta focus momma, you don’t wanna get a cooch contusion”
from “Lemme Smang It”

5. Young Humma: “When I say ‘fried,’ I’m talking breakfast eggs
But when I say ‘fertilize,’ those the eggs between the legs
She began to blush, I heard her coochie whistle
She was fiending for the heat up out of Humma’s missle”
from “Fried or Fertilized”

4. Yung Humma: “When I look at you baby, I think of breakfast:
Pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and cheese grits
You got warm buns, let me hop in the middle
And I could have it taste somethin’ like a Cheese McGriddle
Yummmm”
from “Sex Syrup” (for whatever reason, this video refuses to be imbeded, so click on the song to play it.)

3. Flynt Flossy: “Guess what nigga,
I ate dat ass
I ate dat ass
I ate dat ass
I ate dat ass”
from “Stretchy Pants”

2. Slick Mahoney: “If you even had a choice, I know who you would choose
It starts with ‘S’ and ends with ‘lick,’ how could you be confused?”
from “Go Grab My Belt”

1. “Why I Gotta Wait??”
Every line in this song is golden. EVERY. LINE.

Suburbia I Keep Giving You Pieces of Myself

August 15, 2011
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As I see it there are two ways to get yourself reviewed positively these days (at least in music and this is discounting having your record label pay Rolling Stone to give it a minimum of three stars): 1. Do something wholly original, or at least “original.”  or 2. Do something that has been done countless times before but do it with as heaping helping of an ineffable quantity of “panache.” And, at the most basic level, what determines which of those two groups a type of music will fall in to is time. Obviously, I guess, but I just want to make the terms within which I will be working clear at the outset. Read more…

In Which I Arrive at the Conclusion that 2011 is the Year of the EP

July 23, 2011
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The other day, incidentally while sitting through the previews for the Sarah Palin documentary (about which I’d like to say a word or two in the very near future), I was ordering in my head a cursory list of the records that have come out this year that I’ve enjoyed the most. During this process I saw a slight pattern that doesn’t usually happen with me, namely, and as the title of this post would suggest, that I have become obsessed with a disproportionate number of EPs. Read more…

Ate a Peach

July 15, 2011

I have become obsessed with Giant Peach in the last two days. There is no accounting for it. I’m not sure if it’s reasonable to say that an EP is my album of the year, especially one that I’ve only been aware of for three days at this point, but I want to. I want to, man.

I think rock critics use the words “subtle” and “grower” more often than not as shorthand for “this is a record that I like quite a lot that I’m not entirely sure I can objectively defend.”

With that in mind, Giant Peach’s EP People Don’t Believe Me is subtle, it’s definitely a grower (and vis a vis the latter, one imagines that though it requires a “growth period” that growth period is actually negligible since this EP can be listened to three times in an hour, and for those of you keeping score at home, four times during the period in which David Comes to Life for instance might be listened to).

On the surface, there seem to be quite a few holes in Giant Peach’s bulwark- pretty derivative of standard 90s indie rock, decent though not earth shattering lyrics, not enough “summery hooks,” and so on. But, on the third of fourth time around, all of that falls away  and it becomes all about the panache. That’s right, Giant Peach might just sound like 90s throwback, but it’s 90s throwback with style and with confidence. I imagine a discussion in which the members of Giant Peach were finalizing their lineup and someone said, “Maybe we should get a bass player.” They probably thought about it for a few minutes until they decided, “Screw it, we don’t need a bass player, we sound full as hell as it is.”

It’d be pretty easy to draw comparisons here to almost any popular indie rock band with prominent guitars from the last 20 or so years- I hear elements of Polvo, Superchunk, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, and Pavement. That said, the most important point here, I think, is Silkworm, but not for the obvious reasons. Giant Peach don’t really sound like Silkworm (or Bottomless Pit), but they’ve got the same angle on guitar rock. It’s an angle that will be unremarkable or merely serviceable to some, but that will induce foaming at the mouth in others, the ones that stick around. They’re noisy but melodic, loose but controlled.

And, like a perfect argument for the brevity of the EP format, every song here is strong. “Get Outta My Room” peaks hard when the singer wails “People don’t believe me/when I said/ I didn’t mean it in a bad way” and nosedives directly into a noisy freakout that strikes the difficult balance between hinged and unhinged. “On the Roof” pulls the old but still insanely satisfying move of clean guitar quiet intro kicked into a way overdriven verse, complete with thoroughly sick drum fills. It also introduces the male singer, who, though not as emotive as the female, finds his place perfectly in the mix. “Big Trouble” is probably the catchiest and best song on the record- it’s got the biggest guitar and vocal and hooks. In addition, it’s the only song on the record where the band feels like they’re leaning forward into the song, instead of laying back. The closer, “Slowin’ Down” is appropriately the slowest and most meandering track on the record, and because it varies the model of mid tempo rockers set by the first two songs and sped up by the third, it fits nicely with miniature arc established within the EP.

Seriously, Giant Peach are the type of band that I frankly wouldn’t blame anyone for hearing once and thinking they had heard all this before. I wouldn’t blame them, but I would pity them. Sure most of us have probably heard this before, but rarely do you hear it done so freaking well.

Lots of Things Don’t Sound Like Cabaret Voltaire

June 27, 2011
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This is not one of them. This is a thing that sounds like Cabaret Voltaire. In a nice way though. I would never complain about something sounding like Cabaret Voltaire because I am of the opinion that not enough things sound like Cabaret Voltaire.

Ekoplekz: Uncanny Riddim from Jade Boyd on Vimeo.

And While I’m Ranting, or, Richard Youngs and the best thing in 2011

June 19, 2011
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So you all know, the best album of 2011 that includes primarily acoustic guitars  is Atlas of Hearts by Richard Youngs. This record is haunting- like something you would hear echoing off the walls of an abandoned church after the world ends. The spray painted warnings on the walls might encourage wanderers to turn back, but the moments of undeniable sweetness and melody in the music you’re hearing make you wonder if maybe you aren’t the only person left and guide you down that dark hall. You are alone, obviously, what you hear down the hall is just a recording set up by some kind (or maybe profoundly cruel) soul before they perished. But Atlas of Hearts is imbued with such proof-of-life-where-none-should-be vigor that you walk to the end of darkened church hallway even though you know there might be zombies ready to rip you limb from limb.

Yes, Atlas of Hearts is the siren song for the apocalypse.