Reviews, Interviews & Features
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New Single: “Empty Bed” – Gemini Club

Listen to “Empty Bed,” a song from Gemini Club’s End of Your Life, out in early 2015.

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Album Review: Clean Blood, Regular Acid — Spray Paint

Growing up in suburban South Carolina, I always felt a bit out of place with the status quo. I never really enjoyed team sports, never cared for church, country music, or any of the other trappings of life in the South. Sometime around sixth grade, I discovered skateboarding, and within a year, I popped my punk cherry.

Almost instantly, a whole new world opened up. A seedy, nihilistic underbelly was exposed on the whitewashed, boring, cotillion-attending existence that permeated the ‘burbs. This newfound (to me) sound, which began with the Clash, the Misfits, and the Sex Pistols, had given way to the no-wave brilliance of Sonic Youth, the lo-fi rage and ennui of Sebadoh, and the sardonic, off-kilter college rock of Pavement. Two decades later, and the Austin-based Spray Paint have picked up somewhere in between where Sonic Youth and Bubble and Scrape-era Sebadoh left off. Spray Paint may be from Texas, and their sound may be big, but they are the band that every town had or sorely needed. They could’ve been from Greenville, SC; or Chatham, MA; or even Missoula, Montana. They would still be just as relevant and probably more misunderstood in the best way possible.

Clean Blood, Regular Acid, the trio’s third proper release, kicks things off with “Wet Beer,” which despite its chunky discordance, is a danceable romp. ”Do Less Things,” with its dual vocals and tempo shifting, could’ve been Lou Barlow and Company, circa 1993.

“Rest Versus Rust,” at 2:54, is the second-longest song of the album and could arguably be the best. With its infectious guitar hook and pulsing bass, it makes the angst both sinister and fun. This is the song you are hearing whilst riding around in a ’88 Honda Accord with the cute girl from your Algebra class, smoking a joint while Fugazi blasts from the boom box in the backseat.

“Rednecks Everywhere,” a song I can relate to on many different levels, would not sound out of place being covered by Lee Ranaldo. The rhythm on this track is the last train out of town, and it’s on fire, and it’s going too fast, and there is a bomb onboard, and you’d better hang on. The engineer bailed a long time ago.

“Cory’s Theme,” which at over eight minutes easily comprises much of the album, has elements of surf rock that bring to mind Man, or Astroman? comparisons, but those associations are quickly squashed against the pier by a thunderous backbeat.

Overall, if you grew up feeling alienated from jocks and cheerleaders, Clean Blood, Regular Acid is a nice reminder of why you never got into those sorts of things. If this is your first exploration into a no-wave kind of sound, you are in for a treat, as well. Spray Paint is the indelible mark on the wall, and I hope they stay around for a while.

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New Video: “Paradise Awaits” — ZHU

Watch the video for “Paradise Awaits,” a song from ZHU’s debut EP, The Nightday.

ZHU – Paradise Awaits from ZHU on Vimeo.

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The Best Thing Since The Beatles: Martin Newell

During the summer of 1990, I was one of about forty animation paint and trace artists slaving over hot lightboxes in a dingy corner of Camden, north London. The studio buzzed with the spill from massed Walkman headphones, the chance to listen to music all day being an essential perk of such a tedious occupation.

By this time most of us had given our waking lives to the project for a year and therefore had an insatiable appetite for the one thing which kills time satisfactorily–really great music.

With something like a thousand tapes/CDs between us, it was amazing how little of the right stuff there was; of that year’s releases, for example, I only rated three albums: The La’s chiming debut, KLF’s The White Room, and Bassomatic’s Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Bass.

The previous year, I had finally discovered the unbounded joys of The Smiths and it was my well-known predilection for (Mancunian) melancholia which prompted a workmate, Nigel Haslam, to give me a cassette of The Cleaners from Venus and The Brotherhood of Lizards. It featured two albums Town And Country and Lizardland respectively, but had no track information. Anyway, I was instantly enamoured and, ultimately blown away, by the near-perfect combination of poetry and music which is so hooky that it literally kept me awake at night.

If words could describe music, there would be no point in making or listening to it. Let’s just say that this stuff passed my criteria test for greatness: it has enormous atmosphere and is also exquisite in every musical detail. I pumped Nigel for information and discovered that both bands were built around one bloke–the redoubtable Mr. Martin Newell.

How wonderful and rare it is to be wholeheartedly enthusiastic about something, to be able to recommend without reservation.

Never before had I even thought of contacting an artist, and it was to be two years before I accepted that it was the only decent thing to do in this case–the man is a genius and deserves all the encouragement he can get. So I swallowed my pride and wrote to him in March 1993. Some time afterwards, Newell contacted me with excellent news; he was about to release a new album, produced by Andy Partridge of XTC, called The Greatest Living Englishman and a compilation of older stuff was also in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, I was fortunate enough to meet and work with another idiosyncratic musician/songwriter/producer called Louis Philippe. Having inevitably mentioned my love of Newell’s music to him, it transpired that they both worked on the same record label, Humbug, and so it was that Louis invited me to sit in on the mixing sessions for Newell’s then in-production masterpiece The Off White Album.

Five years after hearing Martin Newell’s songs for the first time, I’m lucky if I get an hour’s uninterrupted listening time per day and easily a quarter of it is spent on his quintessentially English pop.

So Anglophiles, nostalgics, the bored, the blasé, and all other thrillseekers should check out: http://www.martinnewell.co.uk/

But beware, the man is a dynamo of creative production; you may feel overwhelmed by the sheer quality and quantity of his varied output!

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New Single: “Canyon” – The Dead Ships

Listen to “Canyon,” a song from The Dead Ships’ new EP, out early next year.

TOUR

10/10: Los Angeles, CA @ The Satellite (more info/tickets)
10/21: Brooklyn, NY @ The Grand Victory – High Voltage PR CMJ showcase (details TBA)
10/21: Brooklyn, NY @ Coco 66 – Official CMJ showcase, 11pm

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New Single: “Vitamin C” – The Person & The People

Listen to “Vitamin C,” a song from The Person & The People’s What a Drag, out October 26.

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This All Gets a Little More Than Stupid: Weezer’s Comeback

When you say Weezer, I assume you’re talking about The Blue Album/Pinkerton-era Weezer. I do this partly because that’s the Weezer I love and partly because I can’t imagine you wasting breath on any other Weezer. Because every other Weezer amounts to just one more band in the massive heap of bands that were once great and now serve some purpose that totally eludes me.

This isn’t a unique phenomenon; plenty of bands have cranked out a genius album or two and then gone on to matter less to me than my cholesterol score (I’m looking at you, Jimmy Eat World). But it isn’t exactly unavoidable either. Bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Spoon manage to maintain themselves despite substantial artistic and commercial success.

And for whatever reason, The Blue Album/Pinkerton-era Weezer fans have taken it pretty hard. There was even an attempt to raise $10 million dollars to offer the band for their breakup (original story here).

And for whatever reason, Weezer felt it necessary to sell their latest album, Everything Will be Alright in the End, as an apology to fans and a return to their early work.

Which is where this all gets a little more than stupid. Crazy-ass fans try to buy the band’s breakup, and the crazy-ass band offers an apology album. Then, three of the four padded walls in this looney bin praise the album as a welcome return.

But Everything Will be Alright in the End is not a return to The Blue Album and Pinkerton. The good news is that the album does make clear that it is only two, pretty simple things getting in Weezer’s professed way.

One, Weezer needs Matt Sharp. His ad libs are essential to the songs, and whatever intangibles he brought to the band are essential to the sound. Case in point: “El Scorcho”

Two, Weezer needs to get out of the jumblefuck middle. Are they Everyman or are they Rock Opera? True, Rock Opera can play Everyman and Everyman can play Rock Opera, but there’s got to be an overwhelming majority on one side or the other. And to be clear, there’s no “winning” in this decision, beyond the simple ability to exist and move forward. Because Everyman records The Blue Album and Pinkerton got thrown into the opera of criticism that called them juvenile and misogynistic and neurotic. And when the band went for poised pop with later releases, the Everyman of criticism felt ripped off.

But it’s not “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” with Weezer. It’s “god damn, this business is really lame.” And maybe you can only have Matt Sharp and songs with a sound for so long. But surely it can’t be impossible to get them back.

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Single: “1000 Seasons” – The Rentals

Listen to “1000 Seasons,” a song from The RentalsLost in Alphaville. (The album features Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius on vocals, Ryen Slegr of Ozma on guitars, Lauren Chipman of The Section Quartet on strings, and Patrick Carney of The Black Keys on drums.)

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New Single: “Blah Blah Blah” – Girlpool

Listen to “Blah Blah Blah,” a song from Girlpool’s self-titled debut EP, out November 18.

TOUR

10/17 – Philadelphia, PA @ Hazzard Hall

10/18 – Brooklyn, NY @ Death By Audio

10/19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Silent Barn

10/20 – Annandale-on-Hudson, NY @ Bard College

10/23 – Brooklyn, NY @ Death By Audio

10/22 – Brooklyn, NY @ Glasslands Gallery

10/23 – Brooklyn, NY @ Death By Audio

10/24 – Brooklyn, NY @ Silent Barn

10/28 – Purchase, NY @ SUNY Purchase

11/5 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5

11/6 – Westbury, NY @ The Space

11/7 – Northampton, MA @ Calvin Theatre

11/8 – Ithaca, NY @ State Theatre

11/14 – Brighton, UK @ The Hope

11/15 – Glasgow, UK  @ Bar Bloc

11/16 – Sunderland, UK @ Pop Records (Free In-Store)

11/17 – London, UK @ Shacklewell Arms

11/18 – London, UK @ Rough Trade West (Free In-Store)

11/19 – London, UK @ Sebright Arms &

11/23 – Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club

11/24 – Paris, FR @ Cafe Charbon (Free Show)

12/1 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

12/8 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

12/15 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

12/22 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

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New Video: “Helena Bonham Carter” – Liam Finn

Watch the video for “Helena Bonham Carter,” a song from Liam Finn’s The Nihilist.

TOUR

10/14 – Webster Hall – New York City, NY

10/17 – The Fillmore – Silver Spring, MD

10/18 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC

10/19 – Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA

10/21 – Republic New Orleans – New Orleans, LA

10/22 – South Side Music Hall – Dallas, TX

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