Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tyranny is Tyranny Let it come from whom it may

This is just my first impressions, so expect a follow up.
OK, USOT are gone. That's ok, because nobody is dead, and so everyone can still make music- just in new permutations. I can tell that Tyranny is Tyranny comes them right down to the title- they say it's a quote from Howard Zinn, but I say it's a quote from pre-revolutionary war Boston, where, when the call for conscription came up, and it was discovered that substitutes were being employed by the wealthy sons of the new "American Aristocracy"- the chant was "Tyranny is tyranny let it come from where it may" meaning, much like Pete Townshend- "Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss"-
I bring all this up for more reason than simply showing off my command of history- although I've got a pretty good handle on history- it's in the Pete Townshend reference- much like a Keith Moon-less Who, the only direction Tyranny is Tyranny could go in is less frantic, less fevered. They still retain the academic chops, not to mention the instrumental prowess of USOT, but song structures are both looser and more streamlined. The time signatures are less intricate, and the tempo less subject to change. They seem to take their cues from Pelican, and other such post-metal peers, and play an abstracted form of sludge metal song structure, but with more atonalism, and more math-rock arrangements. Still, I could see them on the same bill with the aforementioned Pelican, Isis, and derivatives thereof, like Aeges and Palms. But the spine of the songs is still good, old fashioned midwestern skronk- Slint to Killdozer variety. Yes, that's still a good chunk of musical territory- but these guys do cover a pretty varied area- probably the main unified area is that the tempo stays mid-to-slow.  A track like "Down the K Hole" could be a USOT song, slowed down, but immediately afterward, "The Haze of Childhood" is almost a Merzbow-esque workout in near-total feedback noise, meanwhile, "Always Stockholm, Never Lima" cover hard indie rock ground- of an "Alternative Nation" variety ( read Sonic Youth-to-Dinosaur-to-Pixies) with almost Helmet-like vocals.  That's pretty damn varied. The big Hit Single ( from whence they got all the money) { How many people just heard Lee Ving's voice in their head?} "Manufacturing Truth" meanwhile grinds along like Entertainment!-era Gang of Four meets Darker Days Ahead-era Tragedy. Crust Sludge dance No wave, anyone?
So, I still have to process this a bit. It's definitely post-hardcore, and definitely post-metal influenced but I'm not quite sure where it lands with me. I like it, but I'm not quite sure what I expect from it, yet- does that make any sense? I guess I'm trying to say that I'm still listening from a USOT shaded filter, and I think I need to find a unique niche in my mind for this because it really does occupy a space I haven't really filled before.
For the meantime, I say, give it a listen, and see if it doesn't defy your expectations.

Segwei Soul Deep

Utterly fascinating. You know that thing that certain Japanese subcultures do of approaching some subculture, say, Rockbilly/Greaser style, or Gothic Lolita and reify it until it's like a model or diagram of the platonic ideal of that thing? Segwei do that with Discord style proto-Emo, circa 1985-1990.  They sound more like Embrace, Dag Nasty, and Swiz than Red Hare and The Evens do. It's like note-for-note replication of an album discord never released, but really should have, in 1987. I mean, even the production value nails it- big close-miked guitars, and vocals, while the bass sounds tinny, like it was recorded in an isolation booth. The end result sounds both raw and sterile. It also produces a very strange reaction in me- I like it on some kind of visceral level, almost Pavlovian- but then, it feels fake, forced, and off-putting- it's the musical equivalent of the uncanny valley. Very, very odd, and yet fascinating.

War Brides

I am assured that the people of War Brides are good people. This makes sense. The guys who make the most aggressive, violent art often are. So, let's get this out of the way- War Brides play a metallic version of noise rock, like Metz, or Jesus Lizard, only infused with a sludge metal sensibility. I think I said before it's like Tragedy meets Slint. Got that? I could see them on lots of bills, but my favorite "fantasy line up" for them would have Helmet headlining- only the Helmet before Page decided to sing like Ozzy, These guys, USOT, Tragedy, Coliseum and Today is the Day. As it stands, War Brides seem to play in Chicago which is only right, and play with Tyranny is Tyranny, and Maidens- again, only right. Basically, they are clearly part of that illustrious midwestern school of noise, but they really amp up the aggression. That's why I bring up Today is the Day. I don't think I've heard a band that sounds this pissed off since Steve Austin's boys were a big deal.  As a matter of fact, listen to a song like "Horse" or "Mean Drunk" and tell me you don't hear at least a little Today is the Day in there. If you're into extreme Metal because it's "brutal", have I got a band for you... Actually, that thought amuses me- some death metal dude getting the bejesus scared out of him by these guys. If you liked the Homestead/AmRep/Touch and Go era of noisey alt rock, again, have I got a band for you.. Others are comparing them to Shellac. Maybe if you put Steve Albini on gorilla hormones, and made him listen to Liz Phair until he cracked...
For the rest of us, if you ask me, this band is a great example of this thing that's going on right now, where guys are mixing sludge metal with various punk permutations. In this case, again, it's ultra aggressive noise rock. If you can handle it, I think you should handle it. Really good stuff, here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

This is becoming a regular thing with me...

So, my Roku box, coupled with Netflix and Hulu is exposing me to stuff I wouldn't otherwise see. As with all TV, it's hit-or-miss.  To keep it brief- the hits: The Fall, Comedians in Cars getting Coffee, Spoilers  and Moone Boy. The misses: Orange is the New Black, Up to Speed, and From the Basement. The near hits: Continuum and Drunk History.
I could get into the individual merits and demerits of each show, but why bother? What works for me might not work for you. I'll just say that the Fall is a police procedural, Comedians is a chat show, Spoilers is a movie review/variety show, Moone boy, a period sit com, Orange is a dramedy, Up to Speed a travel show, From the Basement a music/performance show, Continuum a Sci-Fi action show and Drunk History a sketch comedy show.
I have another fish to fry, though- see, with all of this stuff, there's a knock against it. Two years ago, a friend cut the Cable TV cord. I was interested, so I asked him about it. He went with Netflix only, and I wouldn't want to do that, but his review, and the compelling reason why he went back to Cable TV was that it was good at getting you to your second choice. For example, you really want to watch WWE Monday Night Raw- he's saying it won't get you there, but it will get you to a good wrestling show. Likewise Maureen Ryan is calling all this sort of thing "B Movie TV"- and the implication in all events is that you'd rather be watching mainstream American TV networks, and you'll settle for this. At the risk of a straw man argument, I'd like to say this isn't true for me.  I'm watching exactly what I want to watch. I saw this because I could be watching brand new broadcast TV, and HBO shows- even without a TV antenna, and cable subscription. Besides Vudu and Amazon, there are plenty of "pirate" sites where I could watch the shows immediately, with little chance of problems. So, no, I'm not watching any kind of consolation prize. There are a few shows I like on regular TV, and I've not stopped watching them. I'm still watching Burn Notice, for example. I'm just not really interested in watching Honey Boo Boo or the Bachelor, or Enlightened, or whatever it is that I'm supposed to be substituting. I cut out Cable because it wasn't offering what I wanted, which was more on-demand programming. I didn't want to have to jump through all the hoops to get to the good stuff- like watching 3 years of Lost, only to find that it copped out, in the end. I could skip to the end, if I were to approach it through Netflix. I would never even get to a great show like The Fall, because I'd have to hunt for it through hour upon hour of crap I don't want on the BBC.  So, maybe others are like me- they don't want to sit through the monologue and musical number- they just want to see Jerry Seinfeld talking with David Letterman. They don't want to wait for three months to get the whole story of a season of Mad Men, so they'll go with Netflix, and watch 40 episodes in a row. Get the idea? What I'm saying is that you can cut cable, or not, that part isn't important. I'm saying that we have ways now of getting you exactly what you want. I happened to cut out cable because it's redundant- but also because it wasn't getting me to this place that I'm at. Now, if I could only get somebody to stream Lucky....

By the Twang you will know them...

There's only one way I can connect Night Birds and True Widow- the use of reverbed twanging guitars.

That's out of the way, then. Yes, I have been listening to new music this week, and the two most exciting releases are True Widow's Circumambulation and Night Birds' Born to Die in Suburbia.

Since I'm literally listening to it as I type, I'll start with True Widow. To imagine their sound, I want you to think about the moody, yet melodic part of say, a Kylesa song. Now, add a massive dose of the Black Angels' styled fuzzed out neo-psyche. Now slow the whole thing down to a latter-day Swans crawl- not quite to an early Swans, or Godflesh pounding, but still, much much slower than pop music. There, you're in the area. Twang up the guitars a bit- think Mazzy star and Cowboy Junkies. Male and Female vocals, but not doing either the cliche of harmonies or of call and response. It's more neutral than that- it's more-or-less, sometimes the Dude sings, sometimes the Chick, and sometimes both do.  Now, I know all that is a lot of musical hairsplitting. Partially, I do it because it's funny to me, and I need to laugh. So, in a more metaphoric, less comparative fashion- True Widow sound like Texas- but not the Southwestern one. The Texarkana one. As a matter of fact, there was a pretty good comic book, long ago, called exactly that- Texarkana, and their music would make a great sound track to that comic book. Since that's a bit obscure, let's go with this- how's about a more Western version of Swamp Thing. Actually, any one of those semi-occult southern gothic comic books from the 1970's would do- Ghost Rider, Swamp Thing, some of the EC comics stuff. Basically, the edge of the Swamp at night time type thing. Something misty, and just on the edge of creepy. They call what they do "Stonegaze"- meaning that it's half way between Stoner Rock, and Shoegaze. There's some merit to that. Think about the creepiest moments of Desert Rock, like Thin White Rope and QOTSA. Now, stretch that out. You end up with something not so different from Slowdive, don't you? So, yes, I get what they mean, but I think the closer approximation is latter-day Swans. Yes, that's high praise. So, listen to them, and decide for yourself.

Then, There's Night Birds.  They're much more Brooklyn, hence much more hipster. But, soundwise, they are Orange County, around 1983. Which is to say- Surf Punk. Very, very surf punk- as in they owe Agent Orange a very lot. If you were to argue that you should just listen to Agent Orange, instead, I wouldn't try to dissuade you. Agent Orange is a better band, in every way. Still, Agent Orange puts out what? A record every decade, now? So, I think it's OK for Night Birds to fill in the gap, but make no mistake, they sound absolutely like Tony Cadena ( Adolescents) fronting Agent Orange. They have the good sense to start off the record with a cover, and an instrumental- just like Agent Orange would do- and even the choice of song is perfectly Agent Orange- a cover of the opening credit theme of "Escape from New York". Then, they give you the title track. No waste, straight to the point. just like Agent Orange. From there, we go to hardcore track after hardcore track- but it never grates on the ear because they learned the lesson well- at this point, doing Hardcore is an exercise in formalism. What's important is not to innovate, but to inhabit those moments that drew you into the desired form, as perfectly as you can. So, they're doing a "greatest hits" version of early to mid 1980's OC hardcore- going heavy on Agent Orange,and  Adolescents, but not forgetting DI, TSOL, China White, and the Vandals. This isn't the post- Bad Religion smoothed out "OC sound" pop punk- this is the Orange Curtain from before that- the stuff that I like. They could have played at the Cuckoo's Nest, Safari Sam's and Fender's ballroom. No way they would have go to Madame Wong's, or the Fleetwood- they're too classy for that. Maybe at the end, they would've played at Raji's - and broken up by 1992. Since I'm describing a world I'm pretty certain you have no clue about, you really should hear Night Birds because it will give you a good window into what made the early 1980's so special in southern California....