WNnG – Musings from the desk of chaz.

This Past Weekend! (Show one)
September 30, 2008, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Shows

Brought me out of a funk. It’s been too long since I’ve ventured over to the smoke-filled, beer-puddled hole in the walls of Raleigh, NC. Too much time spent with indie rock and new releases and I’ve completely forgotten my love of live, raw, unbridled rawk’n’roll. Saturday rolled around and three bearded, grungey looking dudes in varying states of soberness met up at my place, huddled into an unfitting, bright little yellow bug (new model of course) and shoved off on the 30 minute trek across cities.

We were off to downtown Raleigh moving towards Slim’s where the Whatever Brains were set and ready to play. A little bird had whispered a start time of 11pm into my ear, so that’s what we were shooting for. And surprisingly it worked, we walked in just as the first band, Basalt, from Greensboro, were taking the stage. They were great. A dark, melodic and dreamy wash of guitar and lyrics spread over heavy, though restrained drums. From what I can tell, it’s a solo basement 4-track project fleshed out to a duo that night. Nicky is an engaging songwriter and would easily find a home among ranks of old K Records and Kill Rock Stars releases in a lo-fi, DIY kinda way. They covered a Death in June song! Basalt will actually be playing BCHQ in the upcoming months, so keep an eye out!

Next up was the Invisible Hand from the Charlottesville regions of Virginia. As we were driving out there, my old roommate and I were lamenting over the ellusiveness of that good ol’ indie punk energy. So many things seem straight up punk/hardcore these days or mellow, melody-focused indie rock. Where are the modern Archers and Superchunk?? A question I’ve been wondering aloud a lot lately. Where’s that carefree, raw and loose sound forged from a clash between powerpop, punk and a desire to write more substance into a song?? Well, it’s funny, our question was answered about two hours after our discussion. The Invisible Hand shove through their set fast and loud, but maintain a sense of melody and meticulously thought out song structure. The frontman has a guitar and stance not far off from Mike Ness of Social Distortion, but the music is a more biting, crashed-out sound reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr and well, Superchunk and Archers of Loaf. Exactly what we had been looking for! It was a great set and I’ll definitely be out for the next one. Word has it that they’re quickly becoming tour buddies of Whatever Brains.

Which is actually kind of funny. Because this was Whatever Brains‘ very first show. It was tighter than anyone was expecting. And now, somehow, they’ve already pared themselves off with a buddy band. There was actually another band, Order, that was supposed to play this night as well and that’s the bridge between the two. A little sharing of members action. But anyway, the four man Whatever Brains played and delivered, as promised, a high energy, high volume show of scuzzed out, awkward pop. They’re coming from garage, powerpop and punk backgrounds (Crossed Eyes, Street Sharks, Grass Widow, Strange and Black Castle) and sear noise and anxiety into their ultra-bizarrely-catchy, wall-of-noise songs. Completely skewing and bastardizing the knowledge passed down to us by Phil Spector and company. It was an amazing set.

Here was the first song of their first show. Which also just might be the first song to their first 7″…

This video again and three more right here.


September 27, 2008, 12:56 pm
Filed under: New Music

Kings of Leon just put out one of the best classic rock albums of this year. Shall we deconstruct that statement? Throw tomatoes at me if you’d like, but give it a listen and you tell me. What the hell does it mean when a current band puts out a true, classic rock record? My Morning Jacket is kind of doing the same thing, but they’ve been shooting and missing for their last couple of records. Which is not to say that’s not the point, they’ve put their own modern take on the classic sound…which afterall, is the point, no? Only By the Night is through and through a classic rock record from the ’80s. It’s almost like they froze themselves in that time and intently studied the radio. We all have to get our inspiration from somewhere, right? Same exact production, same structure, same sounds, same drum parts. I’m a bit perplexed, but I can’t stop listening to it. It’s bizarre, but in a way it’s time-capsule brilliant. The sound is a little bit U2 and a little bit Springsteen. ’80s Springsteen. ’80s Genesis too? It’s even a little bit Lion King at times, which sounds as weird to write as I’m sure it does to read. Listen to track 4. Taking all that into consideration, I should not be liking this record.

“…Build the fire and stoke it up?” That’s what he just sang, right now. Even the lyrics have that cheeseball drive to them. I think that’s the exact point though. Not only are the riffs, guitar delays, drum styles and lyrics lifted from the 80s but the dress and haircuts are too! Holy crap! It’s another swindle! The bassist’s hair has total volume! There’s also some members-only jackets involved and even a sports coat or two. I just saw them on SNL this past weekend and then caught them again on Letterman the other night. What can I say, I think I have a crush on the song “Sex on Fire.” I know, the title is terrible! That’s what I’m saying! Plus, it’s a rip off cross between Springsteen’s “On Fire” and James’ “Laid.” Gone are the long hair and good ol’ Southern boy stylings that they used to have. Slick shoes and shiny boots have replaced the ol’ dust-worn boots. I really wanted to dislike this album. But I can’t, they got me. I don’t hate popular music. Contrary to wait you may or may not believe. I’ve been a fan of these guys up to when that last record came out and then i just lost them. Not because of the music, I just moved on. They did used to be a pretty righteous garage gospel band. I do however have a strong dislike for popular 80s music. Dammit. Phil Collins makes me cringe.

What’s happening here is our memory strings are being pulled. This is the soudtrack to my memories driving to and from vacations in our station wagon when I was a kid. It’s my memory of that damn No Jackets Required tape case staring stupidly at me. The only fond memory I have of that album is when someone snuck in a Metallica CD into our middle school music class in that CD jewel case. Phil Collins was looking at me, but the joke was on him.

So what is it about this album? It’s definitely a guilty pleasure, and you sure as hell are gonna catch me listening to it when you walk into the shop over the next couple months. The production is very Eno-esque from the 80s. Sound filling in the background spaces, washing over the holes and propelling the entire song force forward. Every track is familiar. Maybe that’s it. There’s an instant familiarity looming around this album. Maybe they didn’t even realize they were re-recording albums and pieces from their childhood, but I kind of find that a little hard to believe. Most art is cyclical and I guess what we do in creative terms is just a translation of what we know and what we’ve seen along the way. How our brain interprets it and reconstructs it. In their current position, they’re finally at the stage where they can afford the production and sounds that have been in their heads for however long. So what we get now is the manifestation of where they’ve come from. They’re poised to be one of arena rock’s next big things and I think they’re definitely going to rank up there. Cheesy or not. Hopefully, for their sake, they’re the ones writing these songs.

Matador’s Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle.
September 24, 2008, 3:24 pm
Filed under: New Music

I’m sure people have already been writing and posting about this, but I wanted to toss in my two cents anyway. Matador just got a hell of a lot better. In a time when major labels are starting to sway on the verge of crumbling, indie labels are thriving, grinning as the short and sturdy presences they’ve built stand firm. For Matador I don’t know what it was, a new employee, someone coming back to join the ranks, someone poking their head up and paying attention to what’s happening around them or just a re-realization of a passion for new music. First it was their distro that got phenomenally better and then the label itself fell right behind. Their distro started unearthing great new garage and post-punk records and 7″s from smaller DIY labels, I was able to get a lot of stuff that I normally ordered directly from the labels, in one spot. Plus some other stuff I was having trouble tracking down. Maybe they noticed people getting psyched over this stuff, who knows. Matador, Touch & Go and Sub Pop seem to be delving a little bit back into time and picking up on the bands today that have that raw, pure sound to them. There was a time when it was just all twee-ish indie rock, all at once. That was awkward.

Currently we’ve got bands like No Age and Pissed Jeans fronting the ol’ charge for Sub Pop – scuzzy with buried melody, just like old times. Even Blitzen Trapper has a genuine spin to their sound, sure it’s great 90s rehash with a little twang, but they’ve made the sound theirs. That new record is great by the way. Matador brought Times New Viking to the forefront and is now slinging at us 7″s and an upcoming full length by Canadian hardcore artsters – Fucked Up. And no, it’s not just another hype band with a bad word in the title. They’ve been kicking around DIY basements and hardcore labels for years now. Artsy, dark hardcore with cello and beautiful melodies. They’ve stretched the classic minute-or-less punk song into sprawling, Pink Floyd epics. Check ’em out. One of Matador’s brother labels, PPM, is pumping basement heroes, Abe Vigoda into the stream as well. We also saw Load Records, previously known just for the noisy, experimental stuff release an awesome album by Clockcleaner. A throwback to that classic AmRep / Touch & Go sound circa Scratch Acid.

Artists that used to be reserved for the more underground circles are seeing promising waters in the leagues one up from where they used to tread water. Bands that hung around on In the Red, Crypt, Sympathy for the Record Industry, Goner, Deranged, etc are getting drafted up to the bigger indies. It’s great. Sure those are some of my favorite smaller labels, but it’s great to see this stuff really getting out there. Presses are seeing more than 500 copies!

Unless you’re Jay Reatard…and that brings us to Matador’s Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle of 2008.

Six 7″ singles. Released exactly one month apart, each with a lower pressing than the one before it. By none other than Mr. Jay Reatard himself, king of brilliant sleaze and dark jokes. This is what Matador Records unleashed upon the rabid record collecting public…at the exact right time when vinyl sales are up and more kids are scouring for records. Record collecting is in. 7″s are the new mp3 if you’re hip enough. Especially when they’ve got a “limited pressing” label on them. Jay Reatard hit the buzz-ways and is blowing the road up behind him. A self-created and label-aided feeding frenzy was induced and the 7″s were sold out the second they were made available. #5 was immediately up on eBay for 50 bucks! Yup, a 7″ that had literally just come out that week! Brilliant. The buzz current was sent out and then the records were immediately harder to get. Demand shot up while supply shot down. A perfect planned crossing of the two paths. Like crossing the streams in GhostBusters. Dangerous. I was able to get them into the shop somehow, I think because I had ordered so many of #1, but by the time #6 came out, only one showed up on the shop’s door step. So, I pulled rank and bought it for myself. Sorry guys and gals. That’s how I pay myself. In good records. I will not eBay it though, don’t worry.

So that’s where we stand now. I mentioned Fucked Up up above there and now we’re starting to see a similar stir there. When Matador picked them up, they released three 7″ versions of the song Year of the Pig. A sprawling, epic song that came out on a 12″ last year on What’s Your Rupture Records. There was the regular US version, a UK import and a Japanese import. Oh yeah, not only did those 7″s get released by Matador (which for the record, were awesomely priced at $3.98 or $4.98 a pop!), but Matador re-released the 12″ exactly how it came into the shop over a year ago, when I ordered them from What’s Your Rupture. That was also priced well below what I had previously stocked it at. I think the labels were still the same too! Not only that, but we saw a CD version of the EP that contained all the b-sides from the three 7″s they released at the same time. The collector’s market is set. And I’m in. The great thing though about Matador doing this, is that they’re keeping prices at what they should be. They could easily create the frenzy and then charge me an arm and a leg to get the releases in, but they’re not. And that’s a label putting music out for the right reasons. Prepare yourselves!

Just to catch some people up – Jay Reatard has been kicking around the Memphis garage scene for a while now. Reatard’s music is dark and apocalyptic, but obscenely catchy. He’s my age, but he’s accomplished ridiculous amounts already in the music world, he’s truly prolific. Prolific for a garage punk is not that hard though when fidelity makes no difference. This difference though is that his writing is standout.

When I was collecting stuff from his early band – the Reatards – it was stuff that they had recorded in bedrooms on boomboxes. Using boxes and buckets for drums and a guitar plugged straight into the mic input. Lo fi doesn’t even describe it. It was awesome and gratifyingly crunchy. He idolized the Oblivians (also from Memphis) and it showed. He had great teachers. Empty Records was releasing the Reatards stuff. Bad TImes also happened around this time, though a little later. I somehow was fortunate to stumble across this record a little while back in a used bin. Sympathy had put it out and I was buying anything branded with the label’s name at the time. This was a snotty, noisy, trashy supergroup consisting of Eric Oblivian, King Louie and Jay Reatard. Three of the best current garage songwriters. Don’t expect this album to blow your mind though. Do reinforce your speakers before playing. He honed his robot-like apocalyptic doom edge with the band Lost Sounds. Whose members also rank up there in current elite slayers of the garage punk genre (Alicja Trout & Rich Crook). With the Angry Angles he tightened his powerpop chops, even brought a little classic 70s UK vibe into his songwriting.

Why am I giving you a crash course in this guys history? Because it has shaped exactly what he is currently putting out. All these places and bands that he’s come from, he’s learned from them. Even though I’m only touching on the tip of the iceburg of his recorded output, elements from each have created this timeless, seamless dark sound. It’s overproduce and slick, but shit if it doesn’t work. It’s catchy, dark, scary and just plain good. Exactly what people are looking for right now. Comfort in dark places for dark times. Didn’t the Misfits hit it exactly right at exactly the right time too?

Within the month a CD and an LP that compile all the 7″s is getting released. So no matter if you missed ’em or didn’t have the 50 bucks to drop on eBay. In the Red also just released a singles collection from stuff pre-Matador on Goner, In the Red and more. If you never got around to picking up Blood Visions on In the Red as well, do so. Pick up some other stuff from the label while you’re at it. You’ll like it, promise.

The stage is set. Start watching vinyl and 7″s specifically. Matador is cued in to record collecting and providing. It’s dangerous for us now that the bigger labels have caught on. Just when we’re all running out of money to spend….

Wreckless Rigby
September 20, 2008, 1:33 pm
Filed under: New Music

Sorry for taking a bit to post and for that last rushed post. I was hitting town for a little bit and I wanted to get something up before I left. Back to our program!

This coming Tuesday an album that I didn’t even realize I was highly anticipating until last week, is getting released unto the world. As far as I knew Stiff Records (see: Dirty Looks, Pointed Sticks, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Richard Hell, Pogues and countless more) was gone, but had been leaking their catalog back out to the masses over the last couple years through reissues of old, lost albums. Honestly, I haven’t even been paying attention to the label lately. I figured they were kaput and just rehashing the old. Which is absolutely fine with me, I love the label and I’ll take anything I can get by them. The doors were actually closed from 1986-2006. Not open and not releasing. Losing relevance.

My heart skipped a beat when I saw in the new release book the name WRECKLESS ERIC sitting right beside the words STIFF RECORDS. Have the times flipped on their heads and sent us back into a vortex where something relevant and exciting thirty years ago can get entangled in new releases today – again, thirty years later – and cause me to shake with excitement?! Right here, right now? With the onslaught of powerpop releases by the likes of Gentleman Jesse & His Men, Statues, the Black & Whites and the Tranzmitors, we’ve been seeing a return of the heyday of Stiff Records. Perhaps the bell was heard and Stiff picked up the phone? Just as excited as we are to see a return to true, raw, genuine powerpop? I mean for gawd’s sake, we’ve got reunions by Nikki & the Corvettes and Milk & Cookies happening around us!

Speaking of the sweet sounds of the Tranzmitors, guess who’s now on Stiff Records themselves? Holy shit if that ain’t fitting….

Anyway. I’ll step off my rant.

This Tuesday we’re going to see an album on the shelf by Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a duet album. They are their own self-contained band. It’s gonna be a little bit country, but all sneer and rock’n’roll. Wreckless Eric was at the top of his game back in the late 70s. He was one of the original accidental punkers. Sneer to his vocals, snide lyrics and leaving trails of booze vapors behind him in each grimey club and every dark corner. How he made it this far and looks as healthy as he does, I have absolutely no clue. Go out and pick up one of his old albums, you’ll feel like you’re discovering a lost gem. Amy Rigby comes from a cowpunk background and has old ties to the North Carolina scene. Her voice is heartbreaking and strong and her penned songs mix amazingly well with Eric’s. Together they create a forlorn, heartshaking, grit’n’twang rawk’n’roll band.

I had the amazing fortune of catching one of their 18 US dates last night at the Local 506 with about 25 or 30 other lucky people. Wreckless Eric is for some reason one of my songwriting heroes. Like Westerberg, it’s a good blend of trashiness and sincerity. It was an absolutely amazing show. Grin on my face the entire time. I felt like I was seeing a legend and the two of them were passionate and comfortable and interactive with the crowd. They have a great rapport with each other and pass inside jokes back and forth. It’s no secret they’re a married couple on an endless honeymoon. Great show environment, great show.

August 23rd, 2008 – Maple Stave’s EP3 Release.
September 10, 2008, 3:48 pm
Filed under: This Past Weekend

Back with another video edition!
Saturday, August 23rd, Durham’s Maple Stave put together a free EP release show at BCHQ. This is their 3rd release to date, all of which have pretty much been self-released, self-designed and self-printed EPs. They’ve got that DIY bug to ’em. They chose to organize the show and open it up, free of charge to anyone who wanted to come – only passing a hat for Cy. The CDep was handed out to anyone who asked. Evan muttered something along the lines of “we always end up charging our friends too much anyway, so this is our thanks.” That’s a total misquote probably, so technically I should leave off the quotations, but I’m not. This EP has basically become a thanks to anyone who has ever bought one of their CDs, paid to get into a show, bought a t-shirt or just plain listened to them on the radio.

After that first week, when they trickled down to the shop, they came in priced at a measely 5 bucks. And worth every penny of it. The Maple Stave were born musically from an era when the angular mathrock of Touch & Go and Matador bands reigned supreme. You could most definitely line their sound up with the 90s crews of Don Caballero, Dazzling Killmen and US Maple. More specifically, you can hear high respect for Chicago heavyweights Slint. The pieces are predominantly instrumental, but haunting vocals drift in and out through cracks in the stretches between movements.

Chris Williams, one of the guitarists/songwriters is also the creator of 1/3 of the hand-done flyers you see around town (alongside Matt Hart and Ron Liberti). Check out Plastic Flame Press.

Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan opened the night:

Red Collar played second:

Maple Stave closed out the night:

Here it comes.
September 5, 2008, 1:31 pm
Filed under: New Music

Prepare yourselves for the next onslaught of Douchemaster Records releases! It’s coming at us around September 16th if all goes well. Clear some room in the bank account ’cause I’m pretty sure you’re gonna need ’em. Douchemaster is one of my current favorite vinyl slingers and they’re based just down the road outta Atlanta. With Goner Records they’re the current leaders in solid powerpop and garage peddling. Nothing (save for a 7″ here and there) that I have gotten from Douchemaster have I been disappointed with. The release or two that I can recall go back a year or two anyway, so they’re in the clear now.

Recently they brought you the Gentleman Jesse & His Men LP that everyone loved. Best powerpop record of the year. Already mentioned it a few posts ago if you want to read a little blurb on it. That piece of wax is still currently sold out and outta print, but we should see the next pressing soon enough. If you haven’t grabbed it already, do so on the next release.

Anyway, here’s what we’ll be seeing around September 16th (and what Bryan Douchemaster has to say about them):

Perfect Fits – Radio Transmitter 7″ [buy]

Scott Rogers and Co. bring you two more tracks of Memphis style Pop. If you’ve managed to score a copy of the Contaminated single then you know these boys got home run hooks. We like them because they keep their tunes tastefully rough around the edges. File this one under PUBubblegum.

Wax Museums – Wax Museums CD/LP [buy]

Apparently there is absolutely nothing to do in Denton, TX but write songs. We feel privileged to bring you the first full length album from the extraordinarily prolific Wax Museums. You know what to expect at this point and The Wax Museums deliver. Fourteen tracks of killer Educational Punk.

Sweet Faces – Four Song 7″ [buy]

Brian Hermosillo of The Fevers is back with an awesome project he did a while back while farting around Holland. Fever B is probably the most meticulous songwriter we have ever worked with, and this record is a testament to his attention to detail. This is how Pop is done. This sucker is big time bang for your buck too with four songs.

I don’t think I’m familiar with the Perfect Fits, but with any kind of powerpop or garage that’s coming out of Memphis, chances are I’m gonna love it! Contaminated is a phenomenal label run by Alicja Trout of Lost Sounds, Mouse Rocket, etc, etc. fame, so her label is definitely one to trust! Psyched to put this on the player!

The Wax Museums have already put out a 7″ on Douchemaster and one on Fashionable Idiots among others and can be found blazing through towns with their brand of mongoloid garawge. They played the Cave back in January with Cheap Time and cranked it to the 5 of us huddled around the bar without even thinking twice about it. Scuzzy, Wipers-lovin’ dudes with ironic? mustaches and goofy grins. Like they’re just playing one long joke on us and are accidentally creating solid, noisey rawk’n’roll. Really can’t wait for this full length!!

Sweet Faces. This’ll be the first I’ve heard of them, but I know and love me some Fevers. Trashy and jittery rawk held together with a sleazy powerpop backbone. I’ve got a CD of theirs in the the shop on Alien Snatch Records that I’ve worn out over the speakers on a few too many days. Great pop sensibility hidden under a couple layers of booze and lost chances. If you’re looking for a modern day Wreckless Eric, this could be the release. Well, I guess besides the man himself anyway.

Git ready!

In Local News!
September 3, 2008, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Durham

A couple things.

1) Shuffle Magazine.
Pick one up. Right now. It’s an amazing glossy local zine with standout writing. How much is it?? Absolutely FREE. Honestly, it’s everything that I had hoped Performer would be when I had first heard of it. I guess it’s not really fair to compare the two though as Performer is more Georgia based and Shuffle is kicked out right in our own backyard. I believe it’s based out of Charlotte, but covers the Triangle, the Triad and Charlotte as well as a bit more in between. Perfect. All the local stuff that’s close enough to be truly called local and not “regional.” All the stuff to be proud of.

Bryan Reed who used to write for Diversions over at UNC is the main brain behind this venture. Apparently they’re already on the 3rd issue or so!! I totally missed the first couple! The writing is exactly what you’re looking for – they’re writing in the manner that you’d talk up an album to a friend. Straight to the point and without frills or lofty metaphors. There’s no hyping a band either, it’s just take-it-or-leave-it brand of music reporting. The manner that they work the ads into the zine is amazing as well and definitely worth taking notice of. They blend so well into the glossy pages that they’re not eye sores and are more a piece of the magazine as a whole. Check it out! It’s the first time I’ve actually been excited to look at the ads and how they’re displayed. Strange. Advertisers take note, I actually flipped through looking for ads just to see how they got worked into the full picture.

I’ve got a handful at the shop. Grab ’em while they’re around and brace yourself for the next issue!

2) Ultimate Comics on 9th Street!!
Still need more reasons to move to Durham? Everyday that passes, 9th St. becomes more and more exciting and more independent focused. It’s amazing. A couple weeks ago a new comic book shop opened up right between Dain’s Place and Charlie’s on the Markham end of 9th St. Technically, I guess it’s not entirely new, this is the 4th installment of the local chain and I couldn’t be happier with the new location. Just in time to renew my subscription to geeking out over comics! Haven’t done that since I was a kid and my brother would go with me to our local shop in Richmond. With this just up the street now and my known habit for getting addicted to all things collectible, I fear for the couple bucks I squirrel away into my wallet.

I suppose I can easily trade a few beers a week for some comics! I swung in this morning on my way to work after the bus dropped me off (right next to the shop actually) about 20 minutes before worktime. I tried the door and it was locked, I was a little too eager to get in despite it obviously being closed. The lights were out. I lingered looking in through the windows until someone nonchalantly unlocked the door. Guess that was my cue! I am as out of touch with comics as someone would be with music if they had not turned on a single radio or TV nor picked up a magazine in ten years. I was embarrassed and awkward in asking the owner of the shop “what’s new and good?” I was annoyed at myself for having to ask the question, but his mind started spinning as soon as I asked. It was great. Another step in conquering the big question in my own head!

I walked out with the Watchmen graphic novel and a trade copy of Kick-Ass…which was awesome. It’s actually a reprinted “Director’s Cut” copy of the first issue, but I’ll definitely be swinging back in for the issues that are already out and then I’ll be on track for the Wednesday releases for the rest of the series. I was looking for a series to get hooked on and I think I found it.

If I’m right in my analogy, I think the Watchmen graphic novel would translate to the Arcade Fire in music terms. On the front cover, it boasts “One of Time Magazine’s 100 Best Novels.” It’s definitely hit the pop mainstream with big numbers, but respectfully retains its indie aspect and is well regarded it seems. It’s dark and artsy too, deepening the connection. Am I right in this? I have no idea, you tell me, I’m new at it.