In the same mode of horrifying temperament that Louis Ferdinand Celine writes with, I must say, Sapphic culminates their latest knackering Post Punk track “Nocturno Del Hueco” in the same salivating quandary. If you don’t know who Celine is, that’s rather unfortunate, maybe question existence while reading “Journey to the End of The Night” or not, what have you. But, at the same time, to broaden their spectrum, imagine Sapphic an opaque and duplicitous enlightening that Echo and The Bunnymen, similarly, pursued. Questioning tangibility, a being rather, but aren’t we all. The guitar resembles bleak perception and a somber, simplistic conundrum of retaliation which is acting upon nothing. By that which is nothing, one acts oblivious and that is what Nicholas Alcock seems to be projecting in a moody serenade of a thoughtful, raspy, haunting, philosophically deviating tonal melody. This is then overlapped with a very forthcoming chorus that asserts itself in the foreground, closely resembling Peter Hooke’s iconic Bass lick in “Dreams Never End“. James Allen’s drums clash tightly with the dissonant melody, as well as projecting the same livid frustration and curiosity of why this person has returned, why these events have reemerged. “I see you, you are near. I see you, you are clear.” A thousand blind horses stampeding all at once, and though they run somewhere they will never see where they are running to, or what they will run into.
Naomi Punk’s sound is intriguing. It cuts short, in so many more ways than one. Aggressive tracks often feel collared and yanked every time it edges to the point of tempoed rage. You find yourself wanting to go full on into that volcanic landscape, only to find Naomi Punk trudging along at their own Frankensteinish pace when you expected them to be alongside you. It moves so slowly, in fact, that one wishes for a push towards doom metal instead, so as to stretch those yards of pollutive muck into a good pudding—but they settle on a grunge-level of fuzz and dour-ness instead. They’re a curious trio, accustomed to these sort of comments before, and accustomed to saying “Nah, it’s fast enough for our purposes.” Television Man is much of what I hope grunge will be, should it resurface.
Criticisms of their self-recorded 2012 debut The Feeling were leveled at the oppressive pacing bordering on pure monotony and a melody delivered at a molasses pace. What they attempted (successfully) with their sophomore album is laudable for its elegant tenacity: Naomi Punk stripped all minutiae of joy, stayed the course in terms of the pacing, but injected everything with a crackling new energy—and like a reanimated corpse, the formula of The Feeling shuddered to life and became Television Man.
The riffs are more interesting this time around, blending drudging strums with mercurial arpeggios, and changing rhythms even more jarringly than before. The extended pieces now become that much more ingestible; I certainly found myself trancing out to certain sections, like the beginning of “Eon of Pain.” It was sonic sunbathing. The quality of recording has left the garage, yet all that newfound cleanliness reveals is more grime, more inhospitability, and clarity, instilled with a hypnotic power that couldn’t come through on their debut because of the profoundly lo-fi aesthetic. Again, I have to applaud them for being able to say to their detractors “No thanks—our way will work itself out.”
Naomi Punk delivers vocals like a choir’s monotonous chant, and the consistency of it act as your sonic anchor. I imagine it’s a bit like hearing sailors belt out their own funeral dirge in the midst of an unpredictable storm they know will end their life; and all around that baseline sound, the riffs come rolling and pummeling, so ruthlessly in place, a military march to a demonically lopsided beat that feels designed to taunt intentionally. Certain phrases linger on for the sake of its own psychotic logic, daring you to break eye contact with its intensity. Against this, the human element is so small as to induce claustrophobia.
Not that I’m saying Television Man isn’t a worthwhile listen because it’s so restrained—tracks like “Eleven Inches” are absolutely explosive, a simmering and cindering first half with the hack-and-slash of a latter portion giving way to a gaudy end of times. Having an insane kinetic quality that reminds me of the drumming on Hendrix’s “Machine Gun,” delivered in spurts to mimic gunfire salvos.
Other highlights include: “Linoleum Trust #19,” in which the pace lends itself a story of a sun-allergenic trying to escape the light. “Song Factory,” punches on through the air at a garage-punk pace and seems several times faster than it really is.
The vocabulary of the album is decidedly industrial and synthetic this time around, with track titles like “Song Factory,” “Plastic World No. 6,” and “Linoleum Tryst #16”; and the filler tracks “Plastic World” and “California Truth” mess with the theme by clever contrast. These respite pieces take a melody found in another track but are presented in the skin of infomercial background music, complete with electronic drumbeats and synth leads/pads most commonly found in 80s closing credits. Along with their brother-tracks, they represent the two extremes of the uniform rural/industrial. One is overly commercial and palatable. Palatable for all and so relatable to none; the other is too personal for comfort, as though trapped in a mind that reminds itself of Mad Max movies and spewing with rage. I wouldn’t even call it filler at this point, since it performs an admirable role—providing contrast to a purposefully limited palette.
In my music library, I’ve filed Television Man away under ‘alienating space-out’. It occupies a nook below the freneticism of noise rock but, above ambient krautrock. It’s not a space I frequent, but when I do, Naomi Punk will satisfy a need that few artists can.
Viet Cong: Cassette EP- Canadian-based Viet Cong seem to enjoy the implied ambiguity of their chosen titles- despite their (potentially controversial) name they are not a collection of Vietnamese Communists, and Viet Cong’s newest EP Cassette is available in digital MP3 format as well as vinyl, despite having originally released the EP as a tour-only cassette. Names aside, Cassette is a 7-track collection of garage pop; a quaint sampling of the musical potential Viet Cong has to offer. The band consists of former Women members Matt Flegel (vocals and bass), Mike Wallace (drums) in addition to guitarists Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen.
The first track and single off Cassette is ‘Throw It Away’, a fuzzed-out garage pop track that has the overtones of a clown carnival jingle sent through a post-punk ferris wheel. Its a catchy jam that is sure to spread (pun intended). ‘Unconscious Melody’, the second track, conjures an feeling of the pure angst of a voracious youth just beginning to figure out the intricacies of guitar – the naiveté executed in such a way it is merely an act, Viet Cong knows how to make great songs and they do it well.
‘Oxygen Feed’ is a fusion of the rough sounds of garage rock and the dreamy, idyllic tunes of the beach in summertime. ‘Static Wall’ sits in the catalytic seat on the EP, directly in the middle, in the crux between the beginning and end of the music. ‘Static Wall’ stands up to the pressure well, and carries through with a background acoustic guitar, some spacey synth effects and room to spare for echoed vocals from Matt Flegel.
‘Structureless Design’ is a Joy Division-She Wants Revenge sound alike, heavy on the bass and deep monotone lyrics that haunt over the instrumentals like a ghost through the mansion. The synths bring out the dark wave 80′s vibe subtly present throughout the track and at times the whole of Cassette itself.
Track six, ‘Dark Entries’ is a rough and tumble punk track invoking the rebellious sounds of the Circle Jerks. Matt Flegel’s vocals stand up to the fast aggressive pace of the drums and guitar in the tracks, a perfect complement to the sound, as his voice flows between the notes.
Cassette closes out with ‘Select Your Drone’, which slows down the pace dramatically, coming out of the rage of ‘Dark Entries’ prior. ‘Select Your Drone’ is a track to slowly separate the listener from the grip of the EP, its a slow release from a wild accumulation of garage pop, post-punk glory.
With Cassette, Viet Cong proves their ultimate potential for a future album (or many!). The band is playing throughout North America this summer, surely to be an amazing show!…7.7/10
Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal- Brooklyn-based four-piece Parquet Courts will release their latest album, cleverly entitled Sunbathing Animal, on June 3. This their third full-length endeavor follows 2012 release Light Up Gold, best described as an underappreciated compilation of gritty stoner jams. With Sunbathing Animals, Parquet Courts display innovation incorporated to the sounds of their first album. Is this a sign of musical maturity? That is yet to be determined. I give to you now Sunbathing Animals: a thirteen-track trip through the mind of lead guitar and vocalist, Andrew Savage.
The first track, ‘Bodies,’ begins with a riff that belongs in a Pinback song, quickly covered by melodic shouts of “Bodies made up of slugs and guts.” The song serves as a brief introduction to Parquet Courts’ sound – a little rough, a little dirty and (perhaps most importantly of all) a little humor. If you listen to Parquet Courts with the intent of taking their every word and musical experiment seriously you’re doing it wrong.‘Black and White’, track two, is featured twice on the album, it reappears in an alternative 7-inch Version as the album’s conclusion. The song itself quickly devolves into a noisy mess of feedback frequently throughout which makes listening to it difficult.
‘Dear Ramona’ is one of the standout tracks of the album. The song is a ballad to Ramona, an emotionally unattainable woman. The lyrics are intriguing, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the whole song. ‘What Color Is Blood’ is a solid garage band-rock track. ‘Vienna II’ is the first song on the album to break away from the grunge rock sound of Parquet Courts, a brief track that evokes sounds similar to The Velvet Underground. Parquet Courts have developed from their Light Up Gold days, both instrumentally and lyrically and the experimentation and maturity is evident when listening to Sunbathing Animals.
‘She’s Rollin’, track seven, begins with a heavy bass giving way to a simple guitar riff. The track is indicative of Parquet Courts style – a gritty quintessentially “new york” rock song which disintegrates into the haphazard playing of instruments, massive amounts of feedback, and specifically in ‘She’s Rollin’ a drawn out harmonica solo. This cacophonous style can be dangerous, in that it has the potential to become irritating very quickly if you’re not careful.
The title track, ‘Sunbathing Animal’, is a punk rock tour de force that evokes a Dead Kennedys atmosphere. Another one of the strongest songs on the album. Immediately following ‘Sunbathing Animal’ is ‘Up All Night’, an instrumental interlude that leads into track ten, ‘Instant Disassembly’. ‘Instant Disassembly’ is hands-down my personal favorite track off the album; heavy on the influence of Lou Reed and it refrains from that raucous instrumentation present in so many of the tracks on the album.
‘Ducking & Dodging’ is track eleven, highly reminiscent of The White Stripes circa Elephant. ‘Raw Milk’, carries a sound similar to that of ‘Instant Disassembly’, with monotone vocals and slower paced, drawn out instrumentals.
The album concludes with ‘Into the Garden’ (which is followed by the 7-inch version of ‘Black and White’). ‘Into the Garden’ consists of two minutes of a spaced out introduction, the sound of spaceships from old horror films accompanied by a simple guitar riff. About a minute before the song ends, the vocals kick in, with only a piano and guitar in the background. “Let me slip into my/Insomniac shoes” sings Savage. The alternative 7-inch version of ‘Black and White’ I find preferable to the originally listed second track, primarily because it does not possess the senseless feedback and random instrumentation that the original version does.
Sunbathing Animal is Parquet Courts’ testament to the music of their hometown, New York City. The album has its high and low points, and in some ways its flaws compliment its strengths so greatly that they need not be fixed. The album as a whole is typical to the sound of the band, so to all the Parquet Courts fans, here’s the album for you! …7/10
Future Death: Special Victim - Austin-based punk/noise quartet Future Death is set to release their forthcoming album on May 27 via Bloodmoss Records. A short 10-track album, the sound Future Death brings is noisy, upbeat and fast-paced but somehow still remains constructed. Better known as a genre of controlled and organized chaos, Future Death claims to have based all their musical decisions based on impulse and spontaneity. Listening to the record, there is not a doubt this is true, and although they are impulsive, the decisions are definitely rehearsed. Just having wrapped up playing at South by Southwest in March, the band is ready to release their album in hopes of tour dates soon to follow.
Special Victim is stripped down and raw with just the right amount of angst. ‘Basements,’ the first single off of Special Victim will make you want to thrash, will make you want to get up from wherever you are sitting and run around, maybe even make you want to smash things. This track is a heart-pumping single, even though it is second on the tracklist to ‘Junkhammer.’ ‘JunkHammer’ is a six minute rager of pure expulsion. Raw, raggedy, rough and edgy, ‘Junkhammer’ is dark. Angie Kang on vocals leaves nothing out and holds nothing back. Her soprano screams are feminine, but still remain strong. She is hard and creates a punk persona and attitude, while still keeping the tracks soft and fun. Tracks like ‘Speedweed’ and ‘Transparent’ are half the length of ‘Junkhammer’ but still remain just as spritely and explosive.
‘Roman Devices’ is filled with sporadic drumming that can at first cause an uncomfortable feeling or anxiety from not knowing what is going to happen next, and then somehow band members Bill Kenny, Alton Jenkins and Jeremy Humpries, along with Kang, tie it all together. This track is harmonious noise, and it sails right into ‘Dream’, and two minute woozy drum break.
Toward the final tracks of the album, Kang proves that metal music can have a passionate side on ‘Post-Everything’, and ‘Killer’ is a kind of out-of-this-world drum interlude, fast-paced, thrashy and alien.
The last track, ‘Cornered’, is a drowned-out, scratchy track with the hum of Angie’s vocals in the background, completely somber as compared to the earlier tracks. ‘Cornered’ is an experience. It may be less exciting than the rest of the album, but the uncluttered, unbothered hum of the track reminds the listener of the “controlled” part of the chaos that Future Death produces.
The quartet are punk with pop sensibilities. Special Victim is exploding with so much energy, it is no wonder these musicians cannot be ignored – and they shouldn’t be. That Future Deaths recorded this album in what used to be a funeral home seemed at first pretty odd, but it seems way less out of character after listening to the album. These musicians are interesting and exciting to listen to. I would definitely not let a thrashy and raw persona scare you away from the real fun in listening to Future Death…8.0/10