Saturday, April 20, 2013

WE DESERVE BETTER, Part 2- Justice

Sonic experimentation means never having to say "Sorry, my music sounds like shit."
Unlike a lot of other music bloggers, I am not constantly on the prowl for the latest and greatest. I don't have internet alerts set up to constantly be feeding me new releases. So that means that a lot of times I miss out on big releases, because I spend most of my attention on indie and small label submissions. What that also means is that one of you bums forgot to tell me that Justice released a new album over a fucking year ago.

Yeah, I know that's not really your fault. And actually, I'm glad nobody told me. If I'd been aware of the album before it's release, I would have been all psyched about it, and then really really disappointed. Crushed, even.

As it stands, feeling slightly sheepish about coming so late to the party, I am only mostly really disappointed.

Justice's debut (cross) was one of the best albums I've ever heard. Point blank. It was inventive, intense, and made me proud to be an Ableton Live user. More than just a dance record, or a pop record, or an exercise in DJ skills, it was bricolage at its best, and completely slammin'. As Rob Beschizza argues in his important xenocritical essay "Mixtape of the Lost Decade," Justice seems to occupy an important niche in a musical and aesthetic otherwhen between the 70s and 80s, taking the best from both.

It seems likely then that any followup to such a great album would be a disappointment- sophomore slump or no. With Audio, Video, Disco, though Justice seems to have just completely gone off the rails. The music itself isn't so bad, and represents a sort of intentional excursion into their prog side. I found myself fondly reminded of Goblin. But that's not the problem. The problem is the production values. They aren't there.

Mind you, (cross) wasn't Gaucho, by any means. It was full of multilayered slap bass samples, tortured synths, and the most egregiously pumping sidechain compression I've ever heard... but it sounds great. There are portions of it that are intentionally harsh- but artistically so. It may be cliche to say so, but even the best recordings I could find of Disco sounded like they were mastered on the mythical Fisher-Price. It's hard to listen to- and it's especially hard to want to listen to again. Part of me wonders if the whole thing isn't a joke. It's not Axe Hero, though, just washed out and feeble.

I still hold out hope, though. Some really excellent covers of songs from Audio, Video, Disco are out there, and that leads me to believe that judging by the music, Justice haven't completely lost their minds, just perhaps indulged their love of audio experimentation a bit too much. Everyone- ahem- cross their fingers that it's just sophomore slump, and please... if you hear about a new Justice album- let me know.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Architects + Heroes "Sampler, Volume 2"

You know I would never steer you wrong. DJ Stephen R- friend of the blog- just had a baby, so let's celebrate by listening to his new epic comp:


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Guest post- "David Bowie: Should He Have Bothered?"

Hey everyone, enjoy this post from guest blogger Brynn Alexander:

When I heard that living music legend David Bowie was coming out of retirement (or whatever it was) to release his first studio album in a decade, I have to admit, my first question was not "when?" but "why?" Yes, I know, he was the bomb back in the day, and talent like that never goes stale and blah blah blah, but... there are lots of iconic musicians that keep plodding on past their prime, doing nothing but making fans wish they'd quit while they were ahead. There's nothing like watching someone who once was great, releasing horrible album after horrible album, trying to make us like them again. It's just so desperate. And when the preview video came out for the single "Where Are We Now?", I wasn't nearly as impressed as all the hardcore fans were in the YouTube comments. Sure, it was a skillfully crafted song, but in the end it was basically just a slightly sad, nostalgic ballad. Yawn. I wasn't looking forward to hearing the rest of the songs. So imagine my delighted surprise when the album, The Next Day, was finally released, and I discovered that for some reason, the worst song in the collection was chosen to be the lead single. The rest of the album is miles better than "Where Are We Now?", and from the first beats of the opening title track, I knew that yes, there was some point to Bowie going back into the studio to make this album. This is more than just the ramblings of an aging glam popper; it's a set of songs worthy of sitting on the same shelf alongside Bowie's best vintage works. He's vibrant, he's energetic, but best of all, he's proven that he's still relevant. This is an album that's not just for the older crowd; I can totally see how a new generation of music lovers (though perhaps not the Bieber-adoring tweens) could easily get drawn into Bowie's spell. In fact, a young friend of mine mentioned The Next Day to me recently, asking if I'd heard it yet. I had no idea she even liked Bowie, and it turns out she didn't - he only ended up on her radar because of this latest release. Bowie has a strong promotional team, and so far they've made all the right moves - keeping the album secret until very late in the game, releasing the first single on YouTube, and so forth. With a bit of creative social media promo, this could turn into the surprise hit of the year. The songs are definitely there, and if you dismissed New Bowie after "Where Are We Now?", I urge you to give him a second chance and try out some of the other songs on the album. You won't be disappointed.


Friday, April 12, 2013

HAXAN live film score at Hollywood Theater 4/14

Inline image 5
Holy shit. You have no idea how psyched I am about this.  The Hollywood is always having awesome events like these- films with live scores, etc. This show is firmly in the mold of what Glass/Kronos did for Dracula: an original music score for an old movie that didn't have one originally. The film in question is HÄXAN, a 1922 Swedish picture based in part on the infamous Malleus Maleficarum. In case you're not up on your 15th century texts, the double-M is a book about witches and how to murder them. Not as titillating as you might think- there's a lot of dry theological musing, but it remains an important snapshot of late-Medieval/Renaissance folk beliefs. And contrary to its reputation among neo-Pagans, the Malleus did not send bajillions of innocent womyn to their deaths- it was denounced by the church as heresy, and even the Inquisition warned against it. Which is kind of like having the Ku Klux Klan tell you you're too racist.

So it sounds like this is going to be an awesome event- with not one but two steampunk-ish bands playing a live score. I'll be there with fellow blogger Lee- expect a review in the near future.

Details from the press release:

On April 14th, the recently revived Organ Grinders series welcomes Boston bands Jaggery and Walter Sickert & The Army Of Broken Toys.

Jaggery’s sound moves from haunting lullabies to intricately-woven, mixed-meter rants to catharsis-inducing, barn-burning mini-epics ~ oftentimes within the same song.  The Boston-based five piece establish themselves in a league of their own with a genre-defying style ~ blending elements of darkwave, jazz, classical, ethereal avant-rock, and chamber art-pop.
Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys are the spinners of a charming, demented fairy tale that gathers new characters all the time. The results have been described as a “Dada-esque circus carnival run amuck,” by Boston Survival Guide. Whether live or in album form, Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys will transport you to a realm where imagination rules, and sound is alive.  You may not sleep tight, but your dreams will be like none you've ever experienced.

In a special one-time performance, the Hollywood Theatre is transformed back to its vaudeville days of bowler bedecked musicians and big screen spectacles. This show also marks the final spring show of The Organ Grinders series.
Organ Grinders: HÄXAN
April 14th - 8pm
Hollywood Theatre - $12
Tickets available at and the Hollywood Theatre box office



Saturday, April 6, 2013

Outer Space Heaters ROCK Slabtown, April 9th.

I've buzzed about the Outer Space Heaters here before, but I definitely wanted to share this gig with you kids. One of the reasons is that if you go the OSH Facebook page, like 'em, and share the gig, they will send you a free copy of their debut EP and a fresh new bonus track.

Get on it!  I'll keep this update short and sweet, but I'm telling you... get yourself to Slabtown on Tuesday night. Outer Space Heaters are playing with King Ghidora and Queen Chief.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

THE BEST ALBUMS YOU'VE NEVER HEARD: Freemasonry "Sparrin' With The Varmint"

I'm hoping to avoid too much of a nostalgia trap by not picking albums for this series that are important to the same time of my life. Or something.  There will be some overlap, of course, but I want to make an effort not to dump my long-ago tastes on you.

I think when most people are asked to name a band from Georgia, they would immediately pick REM, and that would be fine. We all know that there is more to a state- or city or country, even- than just the most tallest poppy. Apparently there was a quite a thriving post-hardcore scene in Atlanta in the early-mid 90s, stretching into BFE and onward by way of North Carolina and thereabouts. I can't help but feel that perhaps this was an outgrowth of the DC stuff of just a couple years earlier- but I am not an expert on that by any means.

What I am an expert on is an album by the most successful band of that scene- Freemasonry. It was the third CD I ever bought, the summer after I graduated high school. (Negatron and Katy Lied were first and second, if you must know) I was browsing a record shop on Hawthorne- name I can't recall- and stumbled on a CD that caught my eye.

Now, I am a sucker for that Cherenkov radiation color scheme, and when I was 17 I thought it was THE BOMB. Looking back, I think the cover is okay but definitely dated. The fonts and the visual pun- it makes it seem less of a real band's album art than something from a CD duplicator's sales brochure. With song titles like "Templar Fighting Monk"(another instant appeal to me) and an engraving of Simon de Montfort in the liner notes, I would guess that the Freemasonry boys might have had a certain old-school aesthetic in mind, but their label probably boned them on that.

Taking it home, of course I was in fact blown away. This is the post-hardcore that with a few more years, a touch of autism, and marginally less weed would become math-rock. I listened to the hell out of that CD that summer, and in fact listened to it so much that in a couple years it had been rendered unplayable.  I despaired of finding it again- this was 1997 or so, and there wasn't much in the way of Amazon or eBay... at least for me. I don't think I even had a computer yet.  But then I had a stroke of luck in a Mexican 99 cent store.. yes, a brand spankin' new copy of Sparrin' With The Varmint.  This second copy became an integral part of my writing soundtrack at the time. It ended up languishing in a CD wallet for a bit, getting taken out every so often when I needed awesome driving music.

For the past year or so I thought I had lost it, and when I did find it recently found it was, yes, scratched all to hell and gone and unplayable. It's easy enough to find on eBay now, despite rumors of the label having destroyed all remaining copies. My guess is that "destroy" is a euphemism for them being sold off to a liquidator, if my 99-cent find is any indication. Luckily for us... the internet exists, and you can freely download the album from a number of sources. Actually, I think you should do that.

What to expect? I've never really been able to describe Freemasonry to people, and more often than not just dig out my CD and play it. I've found some blog posts by afficionados of that Atlanta post-hardcore scene, and a lot of their opinions seem to be somewhat negative- not of the band, but of this specific album. Most claims are that it is too sterile, vocals aren't strong enough, and mixed funny.

I agree with the substance of these opinions but not the conclusion. I had just joined my first real band when this album was released, and we were on the raw sound bandwagon, which I think kept us from really shining. I see a degree of similarity between us and Freemasonry. A number of the fans of the scene maintain that the raw live sound of Freemasonry was the best way to experience them, and that Sparrin' is too long of a time to spend with the band's fury. I do somewhat agree with that- it's hard to maintain your focus on the second half of the album, for whatever reason. But we are in the age of the Feuilleton, and there's a little thing called "shuffle" that takes care of that problem nicely.  The mixing I can forgive.  I like a lot of separation anyway, and as far as the lead singer's vocals- their placement seems just right. This is definitely a stoner's album, and to have the lyrics just on the verge of ambient is just right.

Where does that leave us with this album that you've never heard? It's totally rockin'. A great driving album. Conversation piece. Slice of regional music history. Download it and see for yourself- you won't regret it.

Oh- and one more thing. I'm sure that in my ignorance of the GA scene and the post-hardcore of the 90s, I'm sure I have missed crucial details or misrepresented something. If you know about these things and stumble on this article- feel free to chime in. I'd love to corrected!


Monday, April 1, 2013


Somehow I totally forgot to plug this, and I can't even believe it.  My friend and editor Garrett Cook recently took the helm of a UK literary journal, Imperial Youth Review. I was tapped to face off with co-editor Chris Kelso in a "good reviewer/evil reviewer" series of columns. You can guess by history here at CIMTB which side of the equation I was on.

You can buy the print edition of issue 1 here, and it features my first column "Florence and The Machine Are Objectively Bad." There's lots of other great content too. Here's a sample:

What’s the verdict, then?  I am a proponent of liking what you like, and not being ashamed of it.  Discovering that I was able to enjoy things without irony, without them being a guilty pleasure, is one of the formative experiences in my life as both artist and critic.  So how can that jibe with the vitriol I’ve been slinging so far?  Well, hey... you can listen to Florence and the Machine if you like them.

You’ll just be dead fucking wrong.

Also, check out the Imperial Youth Review blog. In a moment of inspired insanity Garrett has allowed me to embark on a strange musico-literary project, a dark thing that perhaps should not have been, a little thing I like to call "Every Steely Dan Song Ever." I'm going through every Steely Dan song in order and writing microfiction inspired by the tunes. It's fucking weird, if I do say so myself.

Check it out, everybody... you'll love it!