Sunday, March 4, 2012

So, New to me

I'm not just a nostalgia act, I swear!
I'm also listening to some stuff that's new for me. Four bands- Thelema, Nonagon ,Tennis Bafra and Kathy's Clowns.
Thelema is neither original in their name, nor musical intent- but they execute quite nicely. I got Thelema! from Bandcamp, and that's about all I know about them biographically. I thought they were either the Italian goth band, or the Russian metal band, but evidently they're a stoner band from Argentina. Yes, I called them "Stoner' but it's not really true. This stuff is grunge from the metallic end of the spectrum- a lot of Alice in Chains, with some early Soundgarden, and more than a dash of Candlebox. But, on the fast tracks, like my favorite "Dystopia", they have enough swing and propulsion that I'll group 'em in with the harsher Stoner stuff. Good, not fantastic.
I've mentioned before when I've gotten something because it was a promo. It's that time, again. Nonagon sent me a promo email, and I downloaded their People Live Everywhere promo ep. I suspect it's because I'm a big fan of the United Sons of Toil, because I can hear some carryover. But, Nonagon sound a bit more traditional than USOT. Oh, this is still some dissonant skronky stuff, but I'm hearing more traditional structure to the songs, less math. Still, Rusty ( and I really cannot imagine that you haven't), if you haven't heard them, I think you'd like them. Still what does all this insider trading type talk have to do with why I'm writing about them? Here's what, this is another very rare example of a promo item I really like. They've got some heft and swing to the songs, and no matter how non-traditional the chord progression, time signature, or tuning, ultimately, I, as a listener want something that moves me both emotionally as well as mentally. So, much like USOT, I can tell they know what they're doing, and the craft shows. See, back in the day, Punk Rock said 'Anyone can do it", and ever since people have mistaken that for an invitation to disregard songcraft, which isn't what Punk Rock seemed to be about, if you ask me. Punk Rock was pretty much the opposite- it was saying "look, there are methods and ways of creating culture, and none of it is magic, or arcane formula- anyone can learn how to make a song, or design a shirt, or entertain their friends- follow the craft, and you can do it, too". So I'd much prefer to hear a band like Jawbox, Unwound, USOT, Jesus Lizard, or Nonagon who have a solid understanding of the craft behind making music, and then, want to play with the formula than hear some band who never understood the craft, to begin with- though, that can be fun, in limited doses ( See Germs, Flipper, "Fun House" Stooges, etc)- because that's the best chance of actually communicating through music. See, to me, the band should be something more than emphasis for the singer. I think that the music, itself, should communicate thoughts and feelings. That's next to impossible, if the players don't know what they're doing. I have to break it to any moody, artistic teenaged romantics out there- if you want me to see your heartbreaking genius, you're going to have to know how to display it properly. Anyway, so this is meticulously well crafted post-punk with a mathy approach. Yes, that's a good thing. The songs go zoom, thud, strum and smack in a most satisfying way, and the overall sense of angst, and wry humour with just a bit of nervous anxiety is a great formula.

Then, there's Tennis Bafra. Slackers! Seriously, they've been at it how long, and they're now releasing this? I've heard elsewhere that they sound like a more-organized Sonic Youth. I can hear a lot of Sonic Youth, and yes, there's more pop-song structure than Sonic Youth are wont to display, but these guys are just slackers. The songs, even when uptempo on Abulia Jubilee, seem to meander, and they seem to be coasting along on the tunes. I think that's why people hear Pavement and Sonic Youth, and so on, but the difference is this- Sonic Youth was pursuing a pose- these were well-educated Art school dropouts who were doing Rock as a kind of performance art, while Pavement were Ivy League dropouts who were defiantly rejecting the type A lifestyles that they were told to expect. Tennis Bafra seem like Skaters who get off on noise. And you know what? I get off on noise, too. Call this one a guilty pleasure. I dig it, because they do the kind of tough jams that Sonic Youth grew too tired to do, but I have no pretense that it's great Art. It's more or less a tribute to 1990, but I'm good with that, just as entertainment.
Kathy's Clowns win instant points with me for copping their name from You Am I. yes, it's possible they copped the name from elsewhere, but they are related, in some fashion, to the Blue Chairs, who really love the Church, which makes me think they're more familiar with Australian music than the Everly Brothers, or tropical fish. This is another band that I've got next to no biography on- I just saw the name, and the profile on Jamendo, and was impressed by the sound. Some clues seem to indicate they may prior have been known as the Tales, but I can't tell 100%. What I can tell you is they do some great classic power pop- some vocal resemblance to The Cranberries, but mostly is sounds more 1980's- Bangles, Pandoras- that sort of retro mod fascinated stuff.


  1. Of course we know Nonagon. We're fans and friends of theirs. United Sons of Toil have played several shows with them.

  2. Wow! Thanks for the incredibly nice and thoughtful review... (and to Rusty for turning us onto your blog).

  3. Rusty- like I said- I just cannot see how you wouldn't know them- very much up your alley, (or would that be ally/comrade?)
    John- I cannot say that you'll like everything in the blog- I'm pretty idiosyncratic, but if you have a LOT of free time, and read through a bunch, you might find a thing or two you like. On the other hand, I really do like your EP- I've even added "The Swifts" to my workout playlist- the tempo fits perfectly for the rowing machine....