June 2013: I Waited Half a Year For THIS??
45 Grave is a monthly (ed: HAHAHAHA) column dedicated to a physical music medium that is way too fun to go quietly into digital limbo, no matter how eagerly cloud zombies want to fashion the coffin. I deal with the records I review herein as a tactile object, so I’m going to talk about the cover, the color or heft of the vinyl as much as I talk about the music locked deep within those mysterious grooves.
Tropic Of Cancer
I Feel Nothing cs
Originally a 12” on Sleeperhold that sold out in the blink of a tear-stained eye, the fine people at new cassette label Dream pressed a new run, albeit limited to a few hundred copies. (So hurry and buy one!) Tropic of Cancer – the brainchild of Camella Lobo – is one of the front vanguard among a new crop of primo darkwave that includes KVB and Silent Servant and has really snagged this reviewer’s ear. The three songs on I Feel Nothing, encased on a opaque black tape, appropriately, sound like many things I’ve heard before but then nothing that I’ve heard before. The recordings are vague and bleary, a drum machine echoes slowly in the distance, marching on into a distant nothing, minimal waves of guitar and synth are there and then not there, cold siren voices sing deathsongs and hidden laments, and you collapse into a heap.
Strange Neighbors 7”
It’s a classic American success story straight outta The Great Gatsby, but given a strange underground twist. Sensitive young man gigs hard and writes music in nowheresville north Florida, then moves to New York and almost immediately ‘pon arrival releases a 45 on tastemaking darkwave label Wierd – home to the likes of Blacklist, Frank Alpine, and (that trio). And this 7” is a corker too – one side is glacial, delicate postpunk that calls to mind New Order’s debut Ceremony/In a Lonely Place and the flipside is an equally frigid instrumental that thrills like the promise of an empty street on a wintry, full moon night. So much promise.
Wierd Records: http://www.wierdrecords.com
All By Myself cs
Buzzy cassette label Burger Records has partnered up with venerable Cal-punk label Frontier to reissue classic catalog pieces – including albums by Redd Kross, the Adolescents, and Christian Death – in limited edition tape runs. Stop cocking your fucking eyebrow about tapes, this is a great, inexpensive way to get some important sonic documents back in print. Besides Only Theatre Of Pain (o’course), my vote for the best of the batch would be the first solo album by Adolescents/DI/Christian (fucking) Death guitarist Rikk Agnew. Agnew, barely out of his teens and splitting his time between a passel of different outfits cut this album in 1982, and it mixes savvy songwriting sensibility with the sugarfix impatience that informs so much of his best work. Not as much deathrock as one would hope, this is instead a solid slab of high-velocity, pre-hardcore punk, ya punk.
Burger Records: http://www.burgerrecords.org ◼
One Man’s Meat 7”
Tucked wayyyyy in the back of the local punk rock record shoppe’s selection of battered 45s was this little gem, and I happily liberated it. And let me tell you, this song (and Fad Gadget, for that matter) basically prefigured EVERYTHING in underground electronic music that came after. Two slabs of songcraft that are thoroughly sleazy and perverted and yet somehow elegiac at the same time – overloaded staticky synth lines vie for space with with oddities like mannered piano fills, bongos, and Tovey’s spine-chilling vocals. B-side “Sleep” is more stripped down, and basically renders Soft Cell obsolete. This is what Oingo Boingo wanted to be, and failed at miserably. Frank Tovey (RIP) was a hero to all.
Mute Records: http://www.mute.com
No Mas Bodas
When I saw Austin’s No Mas Bodas live a few years back, they were delving into deeply groovy, Slits/ESG-gone-industrial territory – that’s why this recent 7” on Austin’s home for all things black and bleak Haute Magie comes as such a pleasant surprise. The songs inscribed on “Flesh’s” lavender vinyl are much more reflective and elegiac, sometimes bordering on early (VERY EARLY) New Order. There’s so much to love here, be it vocals that recall Liz Frasier and Kate Bush twinned with nerve-ridden synth lines and clockwork beats, suddenly intruded on by a fucking cello (fascinating historical collages), a general sense of future-anxiety pervading every note on the record, AND AND delightful pulp sci-fi inspired artwork.
Haute Magie Records: http://www.hautemagie.com
Filth Kick EP 7”
Filthy, raw, and truly scary, Poison Idea fused hardcore’s velocity with the terrifying self-abnegation of the Germs and the rock lechery of Motorhead into a potent musical brew that made them one of the best hardcore bands ever. To add to the fear factor of the music, there were the optics; this was a bunch of burly, gigantic degenerates leagues away from your typical willowy hardcore “kid.” Their sonic ethos was already fully formed by the time this, their second EP, was released in 1988. Reissued as an edition of 2000 for this year’s Record Store Day, this is a faithful repress of the original, the sleeve, emblazoned with pics of the hulking band, has handwritten lyrics on the inner sleeve. The music is as meaty as it is lightning fast, the mood is bitter and sarcastic as fuck. The cover of the Damned’s “New Rose” almost outdoes the original.
TKO Records: http://www.tkorecords.com ◼