WNnG – Musings from the desk of chaz.

Put a little local in yer step.
August 27, 2008, 6:45 pm
Filed under: New Music

Two new local releases just walked themselves through the door today!

Monsonia – Growler CD (self release)

It’s funny, no more than an hour after Grayson was mentioning the new album to me, did it walk right through the door. Monsonia is now a full sounding, exciting three piece. This is not to say that they were not an exciting two piece, ’cause they were, this is just exactly what I’ve been wanting to hear out of a local band for a little bit. The band is Carter Browning, Nick Peterson and Andy Willard. Nick recorded it back in June ’07 at Track & Field Studio (his studio) and the result was mastered by the lovely John Crouch. The cover art is a reproduction of an amazing etching by 19th century artist, Gustave Dore.

The music is thick and guttural with rhythmic and repetitive (though piercing) guitar. A hypnotic, melodic rhythm is set and the band mates variate away from the base at times exploring a bit more territory as the others hold the ship steady. Each returns at their given time, just as the music starts to soar and build. The cover art is actually extremely fitting for what it holds. The album is dark, gloomy and spacious, yet there are many swells built, dashed and broken within each movement.

If you’re into local greats – Maple Stave, Hazerai or Auxes, this album is for you. It’s great to see more bands like this start to really spin heads in the area. Another easy comparison to make for Monsonia is gonna have to be Fugazi and a handful of those other seminal Dishcord / DC bands.

I really like this band and these guys. Definitely worth picking up. They played in the shop back in the glory days of errrr…ah, two years ago (with Maple Stave and Manamid), so they’ll always hold a sweet spot here.

Stratocruiser – Egg Shells CD (New Atlas Digital)

Two local albums in one day and both self-released at that! That’s a truly gratifying and exciting thing to see!!

Stratocruiser offer up a different side of our beloved local music. Coming more from the influence of 80s college rock and powerpop, they retain that jangly guitar pop the area was known for a handful of years back. It’s good to hear the sound keeping its head above the water. The songs are a bit more psychedelic at times than the traditional Comboland sound, but they’re still keeping that good fail-safe backbone.

The production is slick, but not too slick. You gotta keep a good amount of grit in the recording if you want to pull off this sound. Who wants to hear powerpop that’s too powerpop, right? Sure, I could use a little more crunch and distortion in the guitar lines, but that’s just ’cause that’s the type of day I’m having. All in all, the sounds are where they need to be when they need to be there. I know that sounds silly to say, but there’s a fine line between powerpop and cheesy. It’s hard to straddle the line and not fall off to the wrong side.

Recently I discovered the Neighborhoods and the Woods through one of those lovely blog sites and fell in love with them. Twenty years after the fact. Oops. This sound reminds me a lot of listening to those albums over the last few weeks. Solid college rock powerpop. Incidentally, the Woods were actually a local band – they were one of Terry Anderson’s many bands and they were awesome! Perhaps there’s something to that? Dunno. Even Mitch Easter hopped on board to help out on a little bit of the production duties. Interesting. Perhaps this album came out twenty years too late? Dunno. But in the natural music-repeats-itself cycle, this could be more than perfectly (and brilliantly) timed.


A Winner!!
August 26, 2008, 6:33 pm
Filed under: New Music

In the Red Records is and will always be one of my dearest and most favorite labels. They’re the ones responsible for starting me on a garage binge a handful of years back of which I have never quite managed to fall off the wagon (Feast of Snakes – s/t 12″). Anything they put out, I’m there salivating and waiting to pick it up on the day it’s released unto us hounds.

Well, then I guess about a year or so ago, I hit a bump and stopped collecting In the Red releases. I think I even missed ordering a couple for the shop. Sacrilege, I know. I apologize. However, today something was released that has restored whatever faith I might have lost in this label. I didn’t really have any reason for this behavior, I think I had just gotten cranky, it wasn’t that they weren’t putting out good releases. Sometimes I just get mad at garage in general. Love / hate, you know the drill.

Davila 666 – self titled CD (In the Red)

Wow. Before you read this, just know that you will have to eventually pick this up, so set aside that $12.82 (yup, that’s after tax! Don’t say I never did math for ya.) from your pocket right now and prepare yourself to fill that cold void you’ve been feeling from the garage rock world recently. Well, until the next great garage release of the year comes out. Even then though, I’m pretty sure this is still gonna beat it and see more plays in my stereo. So pick that beer outta the fridge and prepare to have your soul patched back up.

The album starts with a howl and a Stooges riff. The production is warm, fuzzy and ancient sounding. Whoever did the work got the right sound for the album as it’s got that perfect lo-fi fire within it, making it sound as if it’s been in the can since the late 60s or 70s. The guitar lines are the lazy, the tambourine offers up a loose backbone to the clubbed drumming and the lyrics are slurred, distant and crackled. The best thing about it – I have no clue what the actual subject matter is but you can feel it deep in your gut. These guys are Brazilian PUERTO RICAN and stick to their native language, even down to the song titles. It’s great. Too often things are translated or reworked for other (American) audiences and you lose a lot of the original flare. With this it feels like actually getting in a raw tape or import CD from some band we wouldn’t have otherwise stumbled across. It’s got an air of mystery to it.

If you’ve even remotely been digging the Black Lips, The King Khan & BBQ Show or the Deadly Snakes in the last few years, this here is exactly what you need. It’s sneery, playful, driving and reckless. Loose, bouncy and fun. Chaotic, messy and a bit sloppy. All in all, it’s just a good record. Think about how much you’ve been looking for a modern day Stooges and how much you love the party-in-a-band aspect of the ‘Lips.

Thanks for pointing this out Marco!

Pink Flag & the Homewreckers
August 20, 2008, 4:34 pm
Filed under: Durham, New Music

So my friend Betsy just came in and got me pretty psyched on some recent going-ons here in Durham. For a while now there’s been a good undercurrent wrenching through our streets and practice spaces, despite the strange lack of a sustainable real-live venue. Sure, there’s BCHQ, but that’s only up and running a night or two a week and unfortunately can’t house the surplus of bands roaming the streets. Hopefully this is an issue that will get resolved sooner rather than later, but it brings up an interesting point. Where, then, are all these bands coming together and multiplying around town here??

That’s the exciting part. Just when you’ve started getting comfortable with thinking you know all the local bands, things seem to creep out around you. With the lack of venues, bands have been plugging away, refining their music in basements and DIY spaces. They’ve been taking it over to the Cave in Chapel Hill, tightening their chops, where those of us tethered to Durham forget to check the bar schedules. If only we had something like the Cave around town, man. Right under our noses, there’s still this buzz happening and it’s nothing short of anxiously exciting. Maybe that’s why Durham doesn’t seem to have a bar rock scene? There’s no real bar venues that encourage that type of behavior. It’s all do-it-yourself and basement induced.

Anyway. I finally got around to checking out Betsy’s new band – Pink Flag – on the innernette and I was pleasantly surprised. I think this might just be one of my favorite vehicles so far for her songwriting. Yes, the name is lifted from our favorite Wire album and that just makes it that much more enticing. Rather than being strictly jittery punk like the name would imply, it’s got a powerpop mainline running through it. They’ve got that late-70s, do-whatcha-want punk sound, but it’s really cornering itself into the sugary pop side of post punk that bands like the Shivvers and Nikki & the Corvettes were kicking around. As far as newer stuff goes, I’d maybe book them on the same show as someone like Kill Rock Stars’ Mika Miko.

She also mentioned one of her new favorite local bands. The Homewreckers. So it looks like they just moved from Rocky Mount to our neck of the woods and it’s great to have ’em kicking around out here! From Betsy’s explanation I got excited and went to check them out. Sadly they just have one song up on their myspace page, so I couldn’t hear more, but that’s fine there. I don’t trust myspace music anyway, bands are usually 100% better than their page might give away. She explained them as something like a Portland band circa 1991…which means Kill Rock Stars, pre-riot grrrl era stuff. It kinda implies – brash, bratty, lo-fi, DIY fun punk. Not a lot of emphasis on instrument skills, just ability to play out how you feel. Music straight from the gut. And that’s what it looks like we’re gonna get. I’m pretty psyched to see ’em play.

The Toadies?
August 19, 2008, 4:55 pm
Filed under: New Music

Umm…So I doubt if many people noticed today, but a Toadies album just slipped into the new release pile. Rubberneck is easily one of my favorite and most listened to albums of the ’90s. It was a powerful, angry, punchy record that came out just in time for our generation of post-Nirvana ripped-clothes, dirtied-hair high schoolers (and our girlfriends) to fully latch onto and embrace as our new record to get us through the day. It was the record played full blast, windows down to and from school, at home and on the weekends spent driving around with nothing to do. For me it even made a bit of a comeback during the summer of 2004 as the pre-bar (and post-bar for that matter) cranker with my roommates. We were trying really hard not to grow up. But shhhhh.

But onto the new album – No Deliverance. Let me just say this right now, whatever bad reviews have been written or are about to be written saying something about “an old band trying to reclaim old glory” or something blah blah blah along those lines, don’t believe it. It’s not true. They probably haven’t really listened to the record and already had the first witty line of the review worked out when they saw it in the review bin. Honestly, I’m writing this after only hearing the first track. And it did it. All the guts, all the grit, all the growl, it’s all there. It’s the album we’ve been waiting for from them for, what, ten years now? More? It sounds like it could have come out of the same recording sessions as Rubberneck even. Ancient throw aways from a period we think back to fondly with ten or more years put between us. The songwriting is still on point, sung with howls and hooks and the music is as fresh as it was in Texas in the early 90s.

The thick, slimy guitars are still churning, overpowering every other instrument on the record and the singer still has the same southern, clench-jawed drawl. Charming. You can hear them sort of trying to revisit their hits in places, definitely trying to give the full album the same appeal (loud song, semi-creepy-slow song, etc.), but overall, it’s a brand new record. I’m not gonna place it into the pile of dudes trying to recapture something they once had ten years ago, we’ve seen enough of those and this doesn’t deserve the same treatment. The band sputtered out well before they could accomplish all the records they were supposed to make. This is just the next in line. Could be one year later, could be thirteen. Who’s still counting the years after high school anyway?

Maybe I’m just writing this while too excited, but shit, I’ve been waiting for this album.

For those of you trying to remember why the name sounds so familiar – they’re the ones that wrote “Possum Kingdom” and “Tyler” among others.

Don’t go and visit the record label’s page just yet. It’s a little depressing with all their boasted promotions with F.Y.E. and Best Buy, so give it couple weeks and then do your research. Hell, I understand the point of those promotions and selling your releases, but do those places really care about the band that they’re selling? Are they gonna be the ones to say – “yeah, this is new and good, check it out” – chances are they’re not even allowed to play it in the store. It’s still confuses me.

But you know, whatever.

This Past Weekend.
August 14, 2008, 2:47 pm
Filed under: This Past Weekend

Or a couple ago.

A few weekends ago our friends – Bek, Kym and Heather – put on a benefit at BCHQ. This started off just a couple months before as a small, ramshackle idea that had been passed around and was met with a little bit of interest. By the time Heather was done curating it and throwing her promotional skills behind it, it had turned into a full-fledged, all out, day-long event. Somehow it pulled together in the month leading up to it and exploded into an amazing finish on Saturday, August 2nd.

For some reason the city of Durham tends to frown down on people posting flyers around the city, with this in mind, I’m amazed at the turnout and the buzz that was created for this event all through underground avenues and word of mouth. A little piece of Durham that never ceases to amaze me. There seems to be this buzz that runs down the sidewalk in whispers about stuff happening tucked away in houses or art spaces.

Anyway. What started out as an idea to promote and raise awareness and funds for a documentary project turned into a day which gave a glimpse into how great our little area is. It was a celebration of local musicians, artists and friends just as much as it was a celebration of awareness and things to come.

This was the line-up from headliners to openers: John Darnielle (of Mountain Goats – solo and acoustic), Megafaun, Mount Moriah, DJ Mel York, Embarrassing Fruits, Beloved Binge, Shayne O’Neill (of Future Kings of Nowhere – solo and acoustic), Des Ark, Allelai, Shawn Luby, Timothy Thomas Cleary, Arty Lovelight & His Pickled Piano and a vegan brunch cooked by Chef Shirle.

Unfortunately, due to work, I missed the bulk of the day’s fun, but I was able to swing out in time for the last three acts. Which were amazing. If only I had been able to be there the whole day!


“The Eye Opener”: A Celebration of Trans-Continental Awareness.
A couple of BCHQ’s board members are working across continents on a project working with trans-gender awareness. Specifically with the Hijra communities of India. I believe there’s a photo book in the works at the moment. Pretty exciting! Stay tuned for more on that….

Wikipedia / BBC
(on the Hijra community)

Some highlights:

John Darnielle (with some great praise about Durham!!):


That’s the first song of the set leading into the second. It’s a good representation of the full, bipolar swing of their shows. With their haunting blend of psychedelic campfire folk, they slowly draw the listener in, get ya to the edge of your seat and then swoop in blindsiding the audience with a shout-along-stomp-along-sweat-along beat. Feedback and noise drifts in and out weaving across their Appalachian folk melodies and twist the music into a modern psychedelic soundscape. Check here for another song.

Mount Moriah:

Achingly beautiful country rock. Heather McEntire fronts a ridiculous amount of bands in the area (see also Un Deux Trois and Bellafea), each as another outlet for and exposing a different side of her songwriting. She is joined in this outfit with Jenks Miller (Horseback, In the Year of the Pig, Un Deux Trois, Hem of His Garment, etc) and Brad from Megafaun as well as some other musicians I recognized but could not place. Definitely give it a listen!! Amazing melodies.

Upcoming Shows.
August 9, 2008, 6:13 pm
Filed under: Shows

Hey guys! Got two great shows coming up this week, so we hope to see some of you all out!!

[Sunday, August 10th, 2008]
@ BCHQ (723 N. Mangum, Durham). 8pm. 5 bucks.
All ages, No alcohol.

Great melodic DIY indie punk outta St. Augustine, Florida. If you’re missing that positive energy punk outta the early 90s DC area, this is your chance to get another dose. They play Rites of Spring influenced indie punk. They played the space of few months back and floored us. Rich, the singer/guitarist, runs the label the released the Des Ark LP among other fine albums.

Fun, Florida punk with members of Tubers and Environmental Youth Crunch. I just got the CD into the shop and all the songs are about lizards! Just good ol’ feel good summer punk! Gotta love the humor of those laidback, jean short-wearin’ FLA kids.

This will be some form of the Midtown Dickens. It’s definitely Kym and Catherine with Mike on…washboard?? Bird calls?? Probably pretty acoustic hootenanny based. Rumors of some other special guests on board too.

[Thursday, August 14th, 2008.]
@ BCHQ (723 N. Mangum, Durham). 8pm. 6 bucks.
All ages. No Alcohol.

In the middle of a national tour playing Local 506 size venues, Titus very graciously decides to swing through BCHQ in our little town for the night. Recently tossed into a media stir after being named in Pitchforks ‘Best New Music’ section, the boys are kickin’ up dirt and bringing a rawk ruckus into every little town they touch. They’ve played Ringside (Future Kings’ CD release) and they’ve played Dain’s Place and they keep coming back for more. Come out and see what all the hoopla is about!! It’s definitely deserved and it’s one of those rare cases that I am in complete agreement with the hipzine.

With a full length coming out on In the Red in the fall and a handful of 7″s behind them, the Vivian Girls are also creating a bit of stir in the modern music world. They’re an all woman force to be reckoned with and create a punk, indie and shoegaze blend of greatness. Each time they release something it seems to sell out before I can listen to it or even track down a copy for myself!

Noisey, psychedelic country garage superstars outta Chapel Hill. They’ve got a full length out on Birdman Records and are in the process of getting more stuff out there. Always a blisterin’ set with lots of guitar and shout alongs.

C’mon, you already know and love these Durham natives. Come out and see ’em again. And if you have yet to see them, well, I’d suggest you best get up and get out here. Psychedelic campfire music, that’s what we’ll call it. They blend psychy Appalachian folk with melodic drone, feedback and pedal-magic. Definitely a must see!!

Also surprisingly heralded by Pitchfork Music (8.3!!). Poppy garage with great post punk tendencies outta Brooklyn. Think late 70s, early 80s UK post punk. The type of stuff that the Messthetics label compiles. Angular, fun and catchy.

New Blog Addition.
August 8, 2008, 1:27 pm
Filed under: Found Treasures

Just added another blog in the sidebar there to the left last week.


A great blog remembering past power pop bands. They run through the last 4 decades, so everyone’s bound to find something they love. Me, I love it all. I stumbled across it looking for some information on the Neighborhoods and boy did I find it. Plus some older local bands. Find some time to kill and check it out.

Definitely check out the two compilations that were recently released on the blog. “Raiders of the Lost Hook.” There are currently two volumes up dedicated to slinging at us some of the best, lost hooky gems. I think the criteria for the comps is that the band released one great single, album or EP and then disappeared back into obscurity never able to recreate it. The best kind.