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Music Reviews

Bob Mould

Bob Mould

Blue Hearts

Merge

Much ink was spilled upon the release of “American Crisis,” the single released off Bob Mould’s upcoming album Blue Hearts. Especially after the song was an angry, nakedly political song comparing Trump’s America to the Reagan ’80s.

While Blue Heartsis not completely a political album (Mould continues to mine his personal life for songs) it opens with a trio of political songs, with the acoustic “Heart on my Sleeve” followed by the ragingly wistful “Next Generation,” namechecking Husker Du’s “Divide and Conquer,” and an explicit ode to the ’80s while wondering what will be left for future generations if current trends continue before the aforementioned “American Crisis.”

Blue Hearts finds Mould energized and can be seen as a companion piece to last year’s more optimistic, upbeat Sunshine Rock, much like Sugar’s harder edged Beaster was a reply to the poppier Copper Blue.

Mould hasn’t forgotten his pop hooks and melody, especially in “Siberian Butterfly,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on Sunshine Rock, or even on a later Sugar album. Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster continue to be a criminally overlooked rhythm section – their years of working with Mould have resulted in an almost telepathic grounding, especially in the faster songs.

There’s melancholy, there’s rage, there’s political and personal sometimes all wrapped up in a single song – it’s almost amazing that Mould continues to produce albums of this quality.

bobmould.com

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Music Reviews

Body Double

Body Double

The Floating Hand

Zum

Body Double, an Oakland quintet have released “The Floating Hand” as a single for their upcoming debut album Milk Fed. If the album is anywhere as interesting as the single, Milk Fed promises to be a post-punk banger, heavily indebted to the Chairs Missing and 154-era Wire.

First thing the listener notices is a heavy bass line propelling the song, recalling the rhythmic groove of late ’70s and early ’80s post-punk bands like the aforementioned Wire and Killing Joke. Vocalist Candace Lazarou’s deadpan delivery coasts over the scratchy guitars, grounding the song and giving it a suitable new wave dispassionate grounding.

Body Double have certainly done their homework and have crafted a brilliant new-wave/post-punk ode to backstabbing fake friends. High hopes for the upcoming full-length.

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Print Reviews

Knock! Knock! Knock! On Wood: My Life in Soul

Knock! Knock! Knock! On Wood: My Life in Soul

by Eddie Floyd with Tony Fletcher

BMG

Eddie Floyd is a survivor. Floyd toured the world, performed for two Presidents and wrote or co-wrote a handful of soul classics as a performer and writer at Stax Records. And there’s a very good chance none of that would have happened had he not been sent to reform school at 13 for three years on trumped-up charges.

Floyd was obsessed with music from an early age, but credits his stint as “the greatest thing that could have happened to me.” After getting out, he had a focus and drive which led him to pursue music as a career in the early R&B scene, leading to his career at Stax Records where he truly thrived. Hell, if “Knock on Wood” was the only song he wrote, he’d have had a full career.

But Floyd persevered and continued writing and touring (especially in Europe), only semi-retiring a few years ago. He seems satisfied with his life and contribution to music, and happy with life in general.

Floyd writes in a relaxed, conversational style, giving the impression of talking with grandpa on the porch. Of course, this grandpa was friends with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and Bill Wyman, among just a handful, so his stories of touring and performing will probably be more entertaining than yours. Favorite line in the book might be “Sweet single. If you’ve never heard it, do yourself the favor.”

Floyd specifically states he will not get into politics and you’re not going to get any scandals here. Floyd seems to get along with just about everyone, even a crazed Wilson Pickett. His friendships and working relationships with Otis Redding, Booker T. Jones, and Isaac Hayes paint a picture of the creative environment that produced so much great music at Stax and although he doesn’t get too technical about songwriting, the section on creating “Knock on Wood” is a fly on the wall portrait of talented musicians sharing and reaching to create a classic song. Incidentally, I’m somewhat obsessed with musician memoirs, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone with a bad word about Otis Redding.

Floyd’s positivity and storytelling abilities make this an entertaining read, and well worth it for fans of soul music.

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Screen Reviews

Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of The Saxon Pub

Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of The Saxon Pub

directed by Jeff Sandmann

MVD video

There’s a conundrum at the middle of our post-industrial cities – cities need vibrant arts communities to make them appealing and desirable, but then once an arts scene takes off, the very things that assisted in their growth (cheap rents, plenty of venues, low cost of living) are jettisoned. That’s one of the aspects explored in Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of the Saxon Pub, a documentary about a legendary Austin, Texas bar in danger of shutting its doors for good due to the rising cost of living in Austin. The Saxon Pub is an Austin institution, and has hosted continuous live bands for decades. The city that birthed the Saxon Pub, however, has undergone a huge change. Owner Joe Ables shows the bar’s current location, inside a massive wall of apartments and soon to be condos.

Saxon’s might look like a barbecue restaurant, but there is a chemistry, a vibe to the place that has attracted bands from all over the country, along with local residencies, some lasting for decades. The local day drinkers have sat there for decades as well, all feeling like family. Family and community are words that come up constantly when discussing both Saxon and the Austin music scene from the late ’60s on. Blessed with a university, low rent, and a low cost of living, Austin was a laid-back magnet for musicians throughout the past 60 years.

As Ables draws up plans for a new Saxon, there are questions and fears – will the new place be able to retain the magic? Will Austin musicians and artists be able to survive the explosive growth of their city or will they have to move on to the next upcoming city? Even with a sympathetic mayor who realizes the value of local arts, can anything be done?

Nothing Stays the Same will appeal to fans of underdog stories, to artists being priced out of their careers, or to music fans who had that one venue you had to go to a few times a week, because you might miss something spectacular if you stayed home.

saxonfilm.com

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Music Reviews

Late Bloomer

Late Bloomer

Tonight’s No Good For Me

6131 Records

Where has this band been hiding? Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, Late Bloomer has released three albums since forming in 2012, with the two songs on this EP originally intended to be part of their last album, Waiting.

For whatever reason, the originals weren’t considered strong enough, so the band released them as an EP. While I’m sure the songs have been reworked or cleaned up, it’s hard to imagine an album where these two songs are not featured prominently.

First song All the Gold’s chorus and heavy, melodic guitar line recalls emo-kings like Husker Du, Superchunk, and Hot Water Music, with a hint of shoegaze production and guaze. The shoegaze influence is more prominent on Soapy Water, which sounds like if Pale Saints were a Fest band. At only three and a half minutes, Soapy Water feels epic and soaring, a neat trick to pull off.

If these two songs are any indication of the losers Late Bloomer has in their catalog, those albums must be pretty strong indeed.

6131records.com

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Music Reviews

The Stooges

The Stooges

Live at Goose Lake, August 8th, 1970

Third Man Records

Ever wish you had a time machine so you could witness legendary music events? Like, you could catch the Beatles honing their sound in Germany, or watch that Sex Pistols gig that inspired generations of bands, or check out the Stax/Volt revue showing Europeans just what soul music was all about. Or you could check out the Goose Lake Festival, a three-day festival billed as Michigan’s Woodstock that featured the Stooges playing their new album Fun House in its entirety. Now that Third Man has released you can save your time machine for more noble pursuits, like killing Hitler or riding a dinosaur. Notable for being the last appearance of original bassist Dave Alexander, Goose Lake shows the Stooges in all their sloppy, explosive glory, even with a few technical missteps. There’s some on-stage tuning, there’s little crowd interaction (at least audibly), but when the band hits, it’s explosive. Alexander was fired soon after this show for getting too high beforehand to play properly, although it’s not super noticeable unless you’re listening for it (which after reading the liner notes, you probably will be). The band as a whole seems to take a while to gel – by the time they get to “1970,” the explosiveness of the studio album seems to finally click, even if it sort of seems to fall apart at the end of the song. Not to say Goose Lake isn’t a great document. Iggy’s opening scream on “TV Eye” channels all the primal energy of the band, and the remastering job clears up the muddy sounding boots that have been circulating for years. “Funhouse” in particular is a showcase for the band, with the rhythm section providing a solid support for Steve Mackay’s sax battling with Ron Asheton’s guitar until it segues into “LA Blues.”

Definitely worth picking up, Goose Lake makes a great addition to the original Stooges albums and when it hits, shows just what all the fuss was about. Plus, it will save wear and tear on your valuable time machine.

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Print Reviews

Long Story Short: Your Favorite Books as Cartoons

Long Story Short: Your Favorite Books as Cartoons

by Mr. Fish and friends

Akashic Books

Think about how much easier high school would have been if instead of writing out a 500 or 1000 word essay on an assigned book, you could just submit a simple cartoon that got straight to the point rather than consulting your thesaurus for synonyms of “really” or “very” to increase your word count. Award-winning cartoonist Mr. Fish (Dwayne Booth) has obviously thought about this and recruited a gang of illustrators and cartoonists to create (mostly) one-panel cartoons that capture the essence of a work of literature in Long Story Short: Your Favorite Books as Cartoons. As Fish says in the intro “Each contribution is an attempt to look past the printed page as if it were sheet music and to find the music = and then to play it.”

Naturally, some are more successful than others, but the artists’ ability to communicate with a picture and just a few words conveys the power and directness of the best cartoons. Opening with Tamara Knoss’ three dollar bill illustration of A Catcher in the Rye representing Holden Caufield as The Original Incel is a great introduction to what you’re going to get in Long Story Short. Some artists go for evocative, like Ron Hill’s The Old Man and the Sea, Mr. Fish’s A Room of One’s Own or Gary Dumm’s Invisible Man. Some works are funny, some are gorgeous and could be book covers, like Clare Kolat’s Animal Farm or Mr. Fish’s Slaughterhouse 5.

Themes and motifs get repeated throughout – lots of doves and …buttholes, for some reason, but all the artists are successful in using their different styles to quickly communicate the work’s overall message. As a primer on some upcoming artists, or a reminder of all that assigned reading, Long Story Short: Your Favorite Books as Cartoons will serve as a reminder of the old saw about a picture being worth a thousand words.

www.akashicbooks.com

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Music Reviews

Coriky

Coriky

Dischord

After a COVID-inflicted delay, the self-titled album from Coriky is finally released. Featuring Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina from the Evens and Joe Lally from Fugazi, Coriky is something of a merging of the two bands, creating harmony-laden post-punk with a haunting edge.

The album’s opener, the catchy “Clean Kill” despite being written months ago, sounds like it could be commenting on current events with the references to “terrible things she’s seen on her screen” and “not enough soap and water.”

The sparse, clean production greatly assists the songs, giving them room to breathe, helping the individual instruments stand out, and displaying the musical intuition between the players, honed from years of playing together.

Lally’s bass gives a grounding to the vocal harmonies with his reggae-inspired bassline on “BQM” or his rumbling, ominous work in “Have a Cup of Tea,” and the interplay with Lally on “Shedileebop” creates a groove for MacKaye to add some walls of guitar tone.

“Woulda Coulda” is a great closer to the album featuring Amy Farina’s yearning vocals, Lally’s lonely bass and MacKaye unleashing some plaintive Bill Frisell-inspired guitar that you want to go on forever.

Neither a Fugazi reunion or a beefier Evens release Coriky displays a mature band working together, displaying a quiet strength. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

www.dischord.com/band/coriky

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Music Reviews

Yonic South

Yonic South

Twix and Dive

La Tempesta

First impressions – man, is this a dumb name. Is the second word pronounced “South” or “Youth?” You open your EP with a cover? Don’t these Australians know you save the cover for last? This doesn’t bode well.

Next impressions – holy crap, this is amazing! “Rock and Roll Star” is drenched in feedback and noise and sounds like it was recorded on a Fisher-Price tape recorder in the next room, recalling Guitar Wolf in their early days of garage-noise. “Tell Me Why” and “On” display elements of New Zealand jangle pop coated with the same blanket of noise and grit. The EP closer “Stevie G, King of Anfield” is a surf-inspired groover with samples and a bit cleaner production.

I would imagine the dumb name would keep many sensible listeners away, but fans of pop covered in walls of glorious noise and fuzz need to overcome that initial impression and embrace Yonic South

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Music Reviews

Virginia Trance

Virginia Trance

Vincent’s Playlist

BYM Records

Does weather affect other people’s listening habits? When the temperature climbs, I’m much more likely to seek out the aural equivalent of comfort food – nothing too complicated, a little poppy or jangly, ideally with a little fuzz or feedback to add a bit of spice to the sweetness. If your tastes are similarly aligned, the just released Virginia Trance album, Vincent’s Playlist will be your newest summer soundtrack.

Bandleader Scott Ryan Davis has assembled a 30 minute collection of songs recalling both the Velvet Underground and the many bands influenced by them – think early Yo La Tengo, the Feelies, Galaxie 500, or the Bats. Not to say the album is a mere nostalgia exercise, the album is adept at making something new out of the jangly pop – case in point, the opener recalls both the Velvets and the 13th Floor Elevators while sounding contemporary.

The magic in Vincent’s Playlist is the songs’ ability to sound familiar yet new, almost like remembering a song you heard in a dream, especially in ballads like “Sway” or the instrumental “Mary Cassatt.” If dreamy, psychedelic tinged pop songs are your summer jams, Vincent’s Playlist will hit your sweet spot.