BLM | 2020-05-31

 

Consider making a financial donation to the following organisations:

NAACP Legal Defense Fund: naacpldf.org

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Black Voters Matter Fund: blackvotersmatterfund.org

Know Your Rights Camp: knowyourrightscamp.com

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): FAKE NAMES – FAKE NAMES | 2020-05-21

Fortuity, spontaneity, and intuition might not be your conventional attributes used to portray the causational origin behind a significant new supergroup, let alone in nowadays’ hypernormalized times—yet as far as recent Epitaph Records-signees Fake Names are concerned, those might just be the utmost apt ones. The American-Swedish quartet is composed of gargantuan Washington D.C. punk rock mainstays Brian Baker (of Minor Threat and Bad Religion fame) and Michael Hampton (S.O.A., Embrace, One Last Wish), who linked up in 2016 initially simply to jam and mess around with one another, without any thought furthering anything more than that. However, after they swiftly realised that their songwriting process and output yield was appearing to be flowing way more smoothly than expected, they landed on the temptation of putting an actual outfit together. So that’s how they figured they’d call up radical Johnny Temple from Girls Against Boys and Soulside, whom they knew from elementary school, and by their own admission seamlessly fit right in with their passion for what the bassist refers to as “loud, angry, visceral music”. One practice and writing session led to another, and by the end of the year the new formed punk Mount Rushmore enlisted iconic Refused frontman Dennis Lyxzén on rage-fuelled vocal duties, thanks to a serendipitous run-in at the same year’s Riot Fest edition in Chicago.

After a socially-distanced record crafting gestation lasting several years, before social-distancing became trendy and en vogue, the foursome saw fit to drop their self-titled debut LP Fake Names on 8th May—their alias doubling as a nod to both 1987 American crime comedy picture Raising Arizona and the relentless proliferation of false news items and statements, equal courtesy of both FAANG and Donald Trump. Allegedly recorded analogue and directly to tape in New York, and enjoying a little help from their friends Geoff Sanoff (A Perfect Circle, Jawbox) on production and Matt Schulz on drums and percussions performances, Fake Names is a straight-as-an-arrow, concise, and cohesive collection of ten meat-and-potatoes numbers clocking in just shy of half an hour. The album and ancillary band announcement were previewed with the insurrectionary blistering sing-along anthem “Brick“, unveiled to the whole wide world at the end of March in the heat of a full C-19 pandemic mode. The galloping and unnerved stunner barely reaches two minutes of runtime, yet manages to pack in it voracious lyrical content (“Took down the names of everyone in my little red book / Here comes revenge for everything that you ever took / Shots heard all around the world yeah you’re gonna bleed / Ever seen the face of revolution? It looks like me“), fiery distorted guitar play, and an exhilaratingly catchy refrain.

This project’s lead single acquires an even heightened sense of purpose when taken in context with the full track listing, sequenced as it is at number four between album highlight “Being Them“—a superior slice of garage rock-meets-power pop where Lyxzén proves just how he hasn’t skipped a beat when it comes to penning infectious hooks since his early Refused days—and the pensive, reflective tormented croonerisms of “Darkest Days” (“Here we storm into the darkest times / Stole our souls then they drained our minds / An epidemic of stupidity / Let us here left us all to bleed“). Other distilled examples of tracks furthering the self-proclaimed and actively sought-after objective of producing and recording straight to tape, without the help of guitar pedals or any manipulated sound effects (Fake Names go as far as making sure every song on the LP is credited as having “No synthesizers”), are groovy and visceral album opener “All For Sale” as well as its correlated ostracised hymn for the disenfranchised “Heavy Feather“, belonging at number six to the crop of songs on the shorter end of the runtime spectrum.

While both Baker and Hampton provide luscious and compelling backing vocal harmonies to Lyxzén’s biting and soar laments pretty much throughout this whole thing—incidentally lending that poppier flair that so strongly trademarked their previous pivotal scene bands in spite of their abrasive hardcore wrapping—two understated standouts portraying such functional texturing are both “Driver” at number two on the tracklist and the badass “Weight“. The latter so wonderfully underlines the overbearing six-strings chemistry between the two punk legends. In fact, the undeniable magic spellbound by Baker and Hampton and their instrumental dialectic in the studio had the group very aware they were in the midst of witnessing something nothing short of historical—sitting on the decades of influential dues paid by the two guitarists in the American hardcore punk scene. So bassist Temple on this fellow bandmates’ collaboration: “It’s two lead guitar players who really know how to work together, with such an incredibly fluid meshing of their individual styles, and there’s never a moment where they’re competing over who’s playing the catchiest riff. I’ve never seen a hint of anything like that before”.

For better or worse, Fake Names’ conscious decision to refrain from any audio-enhancing techniques employment in delivering their no-frills true blue punk rock directness and pathos does show through in multiple occasions on the full length, at times rendering the overall mix a tad too thin and bare bone for its own good. This can be experienced on the nonetheless adult alternative radio-friendly penultimate cut “This Is Nothing“, doubtlessly one of the lulls on this thing alongside formulaic frenetic LP closer “Lost Cause“, showcasing some of Lyxzén’s most uninspired and underwhelming pen game in recent memory: “Some kind / Some kind of violence / Something sacred something pure / Some kind / Some kind of wonder / Everything we’ve waited for / Hold on / Gotta hold on to this lost cause“. At the same time, it’s not like this back-to-basics sonic mantra is anything new for punk rock, and while the broader heavier music canon struggles to desperately try to re-invent itself via foreign electronic sounds and aimless genre crossovers amidst a wrenching existential crisis that displaced it afar from influential mainstream conversations, to much of critics’ dismay, Fake Names rely on elevating the inherent importance of each tape-tracked instrument, demanding listeners to pay a little bit closer attention to the final master. Not a bad trick for someone conveying not-so-disguised leftist prophecies and anti-capitalist sermons set to enthralling distortion.

It’s exactly this matter-of-factly demeanour and the singular way this music carries itself throughout its 28 minutes that make Lyxzén and co stand out, not only when compared to the overboard and exaggerated fringes of alternative music acts hopelessly engaging in loudness wars today, but also when placed shoulder-to-shoulder with their insular punk rock genre contemporaries. To this end, the Swedish frontman is not shy in highlighting the complete absence of spin doctoring that has driven the band since their inception in 2016: “A lot of times with bands there’s an agenda, and people often have very different ideas on what you need to do to succeed. But with this band there’s no agenda at all: it’s a project completely driven by lust for the music, and the simple fact that we just truly love playing together”. Raging against late stage-capitalism and diminishing returns has never sounded so catchy.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

FAKE NAMES

FAKE NAMES

2020, Epitaph

http://epitaph.com/artists/fake-names

87732_FakeNames.jpg.925x925_q90

A PRELIMINARY INTRODUCTION TO: BRIGITTE LAVERNE | 2020-04-26

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

BRIGITTE LAVERNE

DISCO CHINA

2019, Brigitte Laverne

https://www.instagram.com/brigittelaverne/

Disco China_BL

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): THE STROKES – THE NEW ABNORMAL | 2020-04-11

It’s Easter where I am so thank God for The Strokes. Thank God for The Strokes and their inexplicable ability to turn trivial guitar riffs I could myself come up with within a few minutes of impromptu jamming into transcendental modern rock classics, assuming a whole form way, way bigger than the mere sum of its parts. After having ventured into a fiercely written iteration of my unfiltered thoughts over their comeback single “At the Door” earlier this year—nota bene in a pre-C-word world—the writing was all over Jean-Michel Basquiat’s wall as far as reprising said cliffhanger with a full-fledged critical appraisal of the New York City Cops-band’s sixth studio album The New Abnormal is concerned—nota bene prophetically titled during a pre-C-word world. You can’t imagine the dash of existential relief that rushed through yours truly’s spine when the garage rock fivesome, alongside pretty much the rest of the global live entertainment industry, decided to cancel and/or postpone everything but their Good Friday slated street date for their first album in more than half a decade (under the influence).

Issued through a joint venture between frontman’s Julian Casablancas’ very own Cult Records label and major Sony Music’s gnarly RCA imprint; fully executive produced by DAW-heavyweight and Malibu radical chic extraordinaire Rick Rubin; overkilled by saturated hype and dead-on-arrival obstructionist skepticism by those who alighted at their sophomore Room on Fire career station—this album was not meant to experience a smooth and lean landing by design. Speaking of which, one cannot but grin and rejoice over the inordinate amounts of raised eyebrows and posh hand gusting that must have occurred among high-brow fine arts cultural milieus in their ivory towers upon realisation that a mainstream popular band managed to successfully license an iconic 1981 Basquiat canvas to serve as their cheapened digital album front cover. This fact alone would warrant a full unpacking dissection of wasted gentrified atelier simpaticos from Los Angeles to Tokyo and everywhere in between, but especially Paris.

Aside from the aforementioned hallucinating epic beaut “At the Door“, the USA East Coast indie boyz saw fit to preview their ominously titled studio full length via two more standalone singles. On 18th February, one week after their lead cut was unleashed, the group unveiled the ingeniously jolly and retro gated reverb-sounding “Bad Decisions” (attached to a larger-than-life music video), a supremely tongue-in-cheek and exaggeratedly self-aware 80s festive sing-a-long borrowing a switched-on interpolation of the supremely tongue-in-cheek and exaggeratedly self-aware 80s festive sing-a-long “Dancing With Myself” by English rock n roll crooner Billy Idol, by doing so awarding the latter handy songwriting credits as well as important claims on future mechanical and performing royalties stemming from the song’s playback. From there nearly another uneventful month had to pass before The Strokes dropped a final juicy and fun album taster with the squeaky and faux-futuristic hymn “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus“, albeit it ending up being the lukewarm lull of the trio of singles, with its superfluous meta-narrative coupled with what comes off as insincere indifference working slightly in its disfavour.

Notwithstanding the regular run-of-the-mill album roll out comprised of the above promo singles, with the band likely bound to surrender to its inevitable execution upon repeated RCA and brand sponsoring nudges, Julian, Albert, Fab, Nick, and Nik chose to pull out all the stops and celebrate The New Abnormal’s landing by throwing a self-described pirate radio show on YouTube. Named 5guys talking about things they know nothing about, at the time of writing the podcast sees its peak on episode two already, as the clique hilariously and dorkily sits through their own album listening party made up of only deep cuts over Zoom conference video calling. Just what we all wanted and needed from the biggest guitar band of the millennium. Deliberate or not, the decision to skip the premiere three songs “people already know” actually bears a wealth of merits in and of itself, for as with most records, their true lasting inherent value is really only found emerging by way of those sets of songs making up the structural yet paramount underbelly of any extended work of art. You ask Basquiat.

The swaggerish and airtightly sanitised album opener “The Adults Are Talking” might go toe to toe with 2006 First Impressions of Earth’s YOLO as their strongest and most showstopping intro tune since their trailblazing debut LP, elevated as it is by some of Julian’s sharpest and most defiant sets of lyrics to date (“They will blame us, crucify and shame us / We can’t help it if we are a problem / We are tryin’ hard to get your attention / I’m climbin’ up your wall“), and complete with a refreshing recording-fading into organic live Shangri-La studio bantering, wonderfully liaising with the following smooth downtempo slice and Angles-relative “Selfless” at number two on the nine-joint tracklist. A similar “keep it rolling, all-systems-go on air” live session feel permeates both the last ten seconds of the above mentioned “Bad Decisions” as well as big anthemic curtain puller “Ode to the Mets“, where Julian’s baritone crooning straying from his vocal flow and demanding “Drums, please, Fab” at 1:40 legit sounds just like history in the making. Apropos the latter discordant and angst-filled stunner, one can’t but notice a pretty uncanny melodic reminiscence between the song’s outro vocal and guitar licks and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)“—could it be that it flowing under the crediting radar might have anything to do with the share of royalties demanded by the Lennon & Ono estates?

Sequenced at number seven and eight on the tracklist respectively, both “Why Are Sundays So Depressing“—highlighted by its underwater and suffocated-gated guitar and vocal choruses interwoven by strident and scorching six-string passages throughout—and “Not The Same Anymore“—this being the best example of the band’s inexplicable ability to turn trivial guitar riffs I could myself come up with within a few minutes of impromptu jamming into transcendental modern rock classics—make for absolutely decent and regular Strokes jams, however it’s the six-minute aphrodisiac elixir “Eternal Summer” splitting the album in two that will have people talk in spades for ever. Not necessarily a standout in terms of runtime per se, considering that as much as more than half the songs on The New Abnormal pass the five-minute mark (!), this is arguably going to be the diamond in the rough that folks will look back to as distilling the unequivocal ultimate Strokes sound. Easily amongst the best tunes the group has ever written at its core, the track makes smart and creative use of a host of quintessential Strokes trademarks in order to elevate the final mix to a spine-chilling, mind-numbing washed out haze of pure spiritual alignment and bliss. This joint’s production is exactly why Rick Rubin is the highest paid producer in popular rock music.

Take the ostensibly innocuous ad-lib “This, and I never let it happen / Hey, yeah, oh / Hey, yeah, oh” grindingly cutting through the sea of layered electric guitars and synths just ten seconds into the song: it’s classic Strokes. Another case in point, consider Julian’s biting, blistering, and dreamy falsetto during the song’s verses and pre-choruses: it’s classic Strokes. Zero in on the menacing and distorted vocal shouts in its mystical refrain, “I can’t believe it / This is the eleventh hour / Psychedelic / Life is such a funny journey / Hercules, your silence is no longer needed / It’s just like make-believe“: it’s classic Strokes. Bask in the galloping and subaltern melodic hook of its subsequent post-chorus, “They got the remedy / But they won’t let it happen / Yeah, they got the remedy / But they won’t let it happen“: it’s classic Strokes. Relinquish your moral compass to the hypnotic, hammering, and distorted first half of the tune’s outro, before reaching unmediated enlightenment thanks to the solar chopped and screwed telephone fading at the tail end of six minutes that flow by in a way that’s hard to explain: it’s classic Strokes. The New Abnormal: it’s classic Strokes.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

THE STROKES

THE NEW ABNORMAL

2020, RCA Records

https://www.thestrokes.com

strokes-new abnormal

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 12.34.19

A PRELIMINARY INTRODUCTION TO: BOB MOULD | 2020-03-15

Since every March is APIT season, I figured this is as good a time as any to shine additional ethereal light on Bob Mould. Not that the 59-year-old guitarist and singer/songwriter would ever need it, but recent haphazard revisiting of his immensely prolific catalogue—spanning two major influential rock outfits and thirteen LPs worth of solo work—made it abundantly clear and poignant that the gentleman stands as one of alternative rock’s most paramount, characteristic, and genre-defining frontmen in the last forty years. I understand how filing this piece under the Preliminary Introduction To rubric might sound like an abhorrent affront to many a punk rock brothers and sisters. I hear you all and I agree—Bob needs no delirious preliminary introduction. Yet again, it’s March after all and this the ideal excuse to indulge ourselves one more time in this amply revered author’s relatable melodic distortion of harshness…

Ask any self-respecting ex-scene kid who came up in the punk, underground, hardcore, or alternative artistic milieus in the 80s what Hüsker Dü meant to them and their peers and you’ll be graced with passionate tell-alls aplenty. The Malone, NY-native fronted punk rock outfit—completed by iconic drummer/singer Grant Hart and bassist Greg Norton—almost singlehandedly steered the cultural and critique agenda of alternative music’s heavier spectrum during the better part of the legendary decade, together with a few other core projects such as The Replacements, Minutemen, and Sonic Youth. With seminal and trailblazing concept albums such as the off-the-wall Zen Arcade (1984), as well as the quick succession of near-perfect gnarly full-length catchy ankle-biters New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig (both 1985), and Candy Apple Grey (1986), the St Paul, MN-band thunderously rose to the mount Rushmore of indie underground punk within the span of twelve months (despite ending up signing with prestigious major Warner Bros for the latter record).

Their songs had the intelligent melodic tapestry of The Beatles, but were performed with the intensity, sound, and ferocity of The Ramones. The following year’s Warehouse: Songs and Stories turned out to be the trio’s final studio album and de facto fulfilment of their fat major label deal contract, with Hüsker Dü dissolving in the wake of the tour in its support, allegedly due to creative differences between Bob and Grant Hart, exacerbated by the drummer’s drug use at the time. Bob certainly didn’t rest on his laurels though, and within the span of a year from the band’s break-up saw fit to put out his first, highly-anticipated solo album in 1989, coming in the shape of the almost wholly reverb-folk acoustic affair Workbook. His return to slightly heavier soundscapes on his foreboding sophomore solo project Black Sheets of Rain provided another assertive statement of post-Hüsker intent, before foraying into bona fide early 90s alternative rock canon with his cult and critically-acclaimed band Sugar.

Sugar—sculpted by Mould alongside bassist David Barbe (ex-Mercyland) and drummer Malcolm Travis (ex-Human Sexual Response)—turned out to be a relatively short-lived stint for Bob and co, albeit one of tremendous cultural resonance at the time. The band’s calculated turn towards more melodic fringes of punk, and especially its life-defining debut LP Copper Blue (1992), went on to attract both commercial and high-brow success amidst glowing reviews, most notably snapping the number one spot in the same year’s Best Albums list by at the time reputable music publication NME. Two more hollowly stark studio projects in swift timely succession (Beaster and File Under: Easy Listening) sealed Sugar’s brief yet terrific ascension spell, toothlessly completed by a handful of compilations and live recordings thrown out over the years following the trio’s disbandment.

It’s not until 1996 that Bob decides to reprise his solo project stick—notwithstanding the erratic vanity exercise of releasing bundled halves of his first two solo records as part of a Virgin-issued compilation titled Poison Years banking on Sugar’s acclaim in 1994—as he returned to the scene with his third eponymous outing, effectively re-launching his musical trajectory as a one-man show. A number of dime a dozen and partially uninspired studio LPs followed between then and 2008’s regal District Line, a robust 10-track exercise in his unique trademark sombre and sticky punk rock authorship. Distortion-drenched, capo-steered, gain-optimised Fender Stratocaster-generated sound waves had long been his superior discerned unique selling point as a popular punk rock songwriter, but nowhere are these better distilled than in his output during the 2010s. While I don’t mean to go over his 2009 preciously delicate and fragile Life and Times too thanklessly—one that incidentally provided the contextual building blocks for his heart-on-sleeve 2011 memoir See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melodythe work of art released over the past ten years might be his best.

By his own admission, the 2010s saw Bob go through a whirlwind of private and public emotions, ranging from the perishing of both his parents to the socio-cultural shock of relocating his whole entire life away from utterly hip and radical chic San Francisco to the even more utterly hip and radical chic Berlin, Germany. His first record under his new deal with imperial indie label Merge Records, the outstanding Silver Age in 2012, signalled a fortified return to raw honesty and compositional poignancy, unsurprisingly so, considering the motions the New York state native was going through at the time. Truly and honestly, pick any Bob Mould record past this point and you’ll be furnished with exceptional performances, impeccable delivery, quality ideas, and watertight no-frills punk rock truth. Guaranteed. 2014’s Beauty and Ruin might just be his best—it’s hard to describe what kind of music it conduits, collectively surrendering to the fact that one can’t quite understand what happens in those songs transporting to transcendental states—although both Patch the Sky (2016) and last year’s Sunshine Rock surely give it a run for its money.

All in all, in all his artistic forms and expressions, Bob Mould stands to represent a trustworthy, prolific, and timeless underground rock minstrel who approaches his craft with scientific-like devotion and method. It will come to no surprise to most that the infamous and sublime north star that keeps on guiding him like a lighthouse when led astray is the goal to perfect the quintessential pop song. Case in point, he always sequences his stickiest track, his calling card, the one with the most powerful hook and airplay rotation potential, at number three on his tracklists. This is true for Hüsker, Sugar, and his solo material. Go back to his discog and check that for yourselves. After all though, Bob Mould remains a relatable, fallible, pedestrian, and regular gay man. By happenstance, he somehow ended up being a very important one, too.

Below listed are Bob Mould’s selected works from 1982 to 2019:

Hüsker Dü

Studio albums
Everything Falls Apart (1983)
Zen Arcade (1984)
New Day Rising (1985)
Flip Your Wig (1985)
Candy Apple Grey (1986)
Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987)

Live Recordings
Land Speed Record (1982)
The Living End (1994)

Studio EPs
Metal Circus (1983)
Extra Circus (2017)


Sugar

Studio albums
Copper Blue (1992)
Beaster (EP) (1993)
File Under: Easy Listening (1994)


Bob Mould

Studio albums
Workbook (1989)
Black Sheets of Rain (1990)
Bob Mould (sometimes referred to as Hubcap) (1996)
The Last Dog and Pony Show (1998)
Modulate (2002)
Body of Songs (2005)
District Line (2008)
Life and Times (2009)
Silver Age (2012)
Beauty & Ruin (2014)
Patch the Sky (2016)
Sunshine Rock (2019)

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

Bob Mould_Portrait

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): THE STROKES – AT THE DOOR | 2020-02-12

I’m a simple man of simple pleasures like that—I see the biggest guitar band of the 2000s drop a new single slash announce a new album and I click. NYC garage rock stalwarts The Strokes just came out of the woodwork to gargantuously announce their sixth full length studio album The New Abnormal, out on RCA/Cult Records 10th April, peppering its earnest brand new lead single “At the Door” on top of it. While we’re speaking of RCA—allow me to ride off a swift digression over here, encouraging all of us to humbly collect our thoughts around what a tremendous work the Sony-owned label is currently doing when it comes to bolstering the alternative music scene within the broader mainstream pantheon. Just take a look around and think about it. For one, the American imprint can’t seem to get one project wrong—anything with their fingerprints on it spurs quality and taste from pillar to post. Plus, it ended up picking up nearly half of this site’s 2019 AOTY spots just a couple months ago, repping projects as disparate on the genre spectrum as abstract hip-hop and emo rock. Not that this alone would imply universal appeal or anything like that, but ya know—it’s ya boy’s opinion here.

Tying it back to the Julian Casablancas-fronted rock outfit—do jump onboard with me with frivolous excitement over the above mentioned announcement, esteemed readers. Let me put it this way: The New Abnormal is The Strokes’ first LP in seven years, following 2013’s sparkly, glitchy, and dense yet polarising hodgepodge Comedown Machine. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though; as of right now, according to its Apple Music pre-ordering landing page, the new record sports a mere nine original cuts, with no indication of total runtime to speak of. Naturally, not all songs will clock in at over five minutes, just like the album’s brilliant lead single does, hence let’s just say we’ll have slim chances of it beefing up its playback experience to a decent industry standard of three quarters of an hour. What I’m alluding to is that we might be in for a less-is-more, slim pickings-type of affair over here, ladies and gentlemen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would die for the album to ultimately end up sporting “At the Door” as its shortest, radio-friendly edit, with every other track being longer than six minutes. However, that’s simply not going to happen.

Apropos not getting stuff wrong, The New Abnormal isn’t technically the group’s first batch of new music in seven years, as the quintet did come through with the somewhat lukewarm and gelid Future Past Present EP, back in 2016. Unfortunately though, said outing didn’t so much turn fans’ heads left and right, leaving a somber bittersweet taste in their mouth, speeding into the audience’s consciousness just as fast as it anonymously left it. Furthermore, in the band’s defence, it’s not like its members didn’t keep busy during the previous decade’s latter half. Frontman Julian architected his experimental lo-fi indie rock side project The Voidz and went on to release to major studio outings in the shape of 2014’s Tyranny and 2018’s Virtue, while rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr followed in on similar creative footsteps by reprising his mid-naughties solo act and putting out two LPs titled Momentary Masters and Francis Trouble in 2015 and 2018, respectively. Similarly, remaining band members Nick Valensi (lead guitar), Nikolai Fraiture (bass), and Fab Moretti (drums) all kept quite preoccupied throughout the same span of time, albeit as part of less flashy and flamboyant projects.

Eventually, this all led to The Strokes becoming USA Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ marquee backing band in 2020, as the God-like garage rockers found themselves doing the honours and headlining the senator’s New Hampshire concert rally on Monday 10th February. It’s during the same gala evening that the band first unveiled their highly anticipated comeback single via its laser-abundant, cosmonautically futuristic, sci-fi attached music video. The track sees the group embark on a beefy, synth-heavy syncopated motif, initially blistered by intermittent and piercingly clear cut croons by Julian, vocalising a profoundly self-suffocating yet somehow carefree existential stream-of-consciousness: “I can’t escape it / I’m never gonna make it out of this in time / I guess that’s just fine / I’m not there quite yet / My thoughts, such a mess / Like a little boy / What you runnin’ for?”. Erupting into a radically gratifying and gorgeous melodic release around the one-minute mark, the frontman’s vocals quickly begin to get enveloped by surgically strummed guitars as well as celestial layers of synths. A stern second verse then picks up where the first one left off, both sonically and lyrically:

Bang at the door / Anyone home? / It’s just what they do / Right in front of you / Like a cannonball / Slammin’ through your wall / In their face, I saw / What they’re fightin’ for / I can’t escape it / I’m never gonna make it to the end, I guess

Fab Moretti must’ve been left behind smoking in album producer Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La’s parking lot for most of this track’s recording sessions, as it’s not until past the second refrain that we get even the slightest hint of a drum beat. Awkwardly stumbling in around three minutes, an understated and subdued electronic kick introduces the song’s bridge, during which Julian grants himself a tad more creative freedom, ranging just lightly off the hitherto beaten path. The song’s fast-lived drumming track rapidly disappears again, as a cacophonously textured host of synthesizers steals the scene for a minute-long grim non-lyrical intermezzo, paving the way for a panning, fluctuating, sombre, and darkly bright solmizated outro. Leaving us all salivating for more.

Now, if it weren’t clear enough at this point, this is no Is This It or Room On Fire-era Strokes. Far from it. The lights are dimmed by red bulbs, the candles are flickering, and leather jackets have been swapped with space suits-like onesies and cologne-soaked shaved beards. Yet somehow, for the first time in over a decade, a similar reminiscing sense of trailblazing excitement for what blend of cultural implication a new Strokes album will carry is no longer to be denied.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

THE STROKES

AT THE DOOR

2020, RCA Records

https://www.thestrokes.com

the-strokes-at-the-door-e1581432223801

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): PRESSURE CRACKS – THIS IS CALLED SURVIVAL | 2020-01-12

Those of you who are regulars at this particular Interweb’s establishment—and I’m assuming that’s none of you reading right now—should not be stoked to gargantuan surprise when confronted to witness the non-vulgar display of near-adoring infatuation for Inglewood, CA-native singer/songwriter Jason Aalon Butler on the part of this outlet’s editorial line. Said requited love has been widely fed and documented over the years and spread under the sun, as evidently exhibited by this, this, and this coverage piece (among other ones). Thusly, the writing was quite literally pretty much on the wall, when one of Mr Butler’s more obscure and understated musical side-projects—SoCal hardcore punk outfit Pressure Cracks—saw fit to drop their sophomore EP This Is Called Survival to little fanfare on 10th January, following up their cold-blooded and uncompromising inaugural self-titled statement from last year (don’t judge the book by its cover—there’s an Easter egg in there). A relatively newly assembled bona fide hardcore punk quintet, composed of a group of old OGs from the breeding 90s Cali scene, the band’s line-up is completed by guitarists Dan Bieranowski and Kevin Fifield, bassist Ryan Doria, and Bill Galvin on drums.

Right out of the fieriest gate, this 4-track, twelve minutes and change thunderous sonic tempest leaves no stone unturned. Not one to shy away from uncomfortable and insurrectionary socio-political sermons, Jason doesn’t waste one second and mightily doubles down on his activist line with the foreboding inaugural cut “Like Father Like None“, following in on the relentlessly sowed fruitful seeds of his socially-conscious credo in past and present projects, such as letlive.FEVER 333, as well as his community-based artists collective 333 Wreckords Crew. The EP’s opener kicks off with a meaty and manic distorted wall of sound, enveloping a handful spoken word lines menacingly outed by Jason, spanning a few harrowing metrics surrounding systemic institutionalised incarceration in the USA and its doctored inherent downward spirals as they pertain to recidivist citizens. Soon enough, this gets taken over by the catapulting of the lead singer’s vocal cords into emptying out every inch of oxygen in his chest as he slaughters the following ominous lines: “I’d rather hurt myself  / I’d rather burn in hell I’d rather bid this world farewell / Before I die up in a cell / If I’m my father’s son must I pay for what he’s done? / A statistical rerun; I knew this day would come“.

This Is Called Survival’s curtain opener carries on as unforgiving as they come for its whole running time, eloquently sound-bedding anecdotal denunciations of prison-system racism all the while an incendiary machinery of shredding brutality cradles another moment highlighting a few soundbite-d analytics reinforcing the injustices decried. It is towards the last sung stanza that Jason superbly ties it all back together, virtually stretching out thematic implications of generational carriage from pillar to post when it comes to tampering such a forlorn system, by resorting to salvation through one’s offspring. No time to recover from “Like Father Like None”‘s pitiless earth-shattering is offered to any unsuspecting listener, as the project’s lead single “Ready for You” begins to whirl-wind its brutal spine-chilling energy in spades. Re-activating some of the same self-questioning existentialism as a person of color having to funnel their life in a similar rotten and prejudiced societal texture by way of assonant merciless guitar work—assisted by stone cold drumming from Bill Galvin—the track proudly stands as this body of work’s poisonous cardinal centrepiece, best illustrated by the outro’s hauntingly chilling vocal strides, annihilating the verse “I want / All I want is you / I need / All I need is you / I got / All I got is you / I’m not / I’m not ready for you“.

Manufactured and distributed by newly minted Southern California DYI label War Against Records, this collection of ragers bites forward with the blast beats-filled punk thunderstorm of “Shhh“, a song that makes one feel like jumping head-first into a tight, rusty, and propelled meat grinder only to come out empowered and better-equipped—albeit bleeding out to death—the other way. This is perhaps best exemplified by one of the track’s pinnacle verses: “Cuz we are more than the sum of your fucking parts“. There is so much in the way of sheer sound density and texture on this thing that its come-and-go explosive sound-wave momentum has one longing for so much more every single time its two and a half-playback time suddenly wears out. Privy to the self-sustaining urge of those born and raised in disaffected and underprivileged social milieus subjugated by a survival of the fittest mentality from cradle to grave, Mr Butler is trialled by fire on the mic as he makes sure to publicise his resentment and discontent as loud and manically as he can in the face of the societal powers that be—from the police apparatus to the wider government: “After the fall is when we learned to stand up / We took our shot when the gun was jammed up / Another martyr, another me / Another problem that they covered up nice and neat“.

Before one knows it, the EP’s closer “Big T Youth” rushes through and picks up the beating to death of one’s earlobes right where the merciless “Shhh” left off. By throwing yet another cascading sonic tantrum in the shape of discordant angular gained guitars and hammering sets of percussions, this song slaps cold as hell, quite literally. Case in point, the lead singer’s eerie and threatening closing verse, heightened by a blazing shouting choir screaming out its final iterations: “Heaven is suitable / But hell on earth is beautiful“. Unsurprisingly, the solace and rejoice that comes with the acceptance of one’s place on this mean old planet—however painful and distressed it might have to be endured—triumphs by a landslide across the underground violence of all four cuts on this thing. Not one moment is wasted, nor is any superfluous, for these compositions are packed up with lyrical substance, animalistic delivery, and emotional urgency. Southern Californian meat and potatoes hardcore punk can proudly add another string to its enduring bow. This time it’s done thanks to a formation in which usual insatiable do-it-all mastermind Jason Aalon Butler relinquishes control by his own admission and allows for the quintet’s instrumental/rhythm section to architect the nuts and bolts of this sound of discontent, while he simply resorts to what he’s actually best at: fanning its flames by shrieking truths at the top of his lungs.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

PRESSURE CRACKS

THIS IS CALLED SURVIVAL

2020, War Against Records

https://www.pressurecracks.com

PressureCracks_Survival

ORANGE | 2020-01-01

   A hand to touch
   A fit, to mask or shake just what
   It is January or not
Time splinters off in a drool well
It rains or it stops raining
A sink clogs or it stops draining
The mask falls off
   A new bouquet swells
   A sneeze lets loose
In the house the animals stir
The print on the couch dwells
It lets go of its color
And the light fades
   What color is that?
   What moment is that?
   What figure is drawn?
   On what eyes?
   A child yawns
   A seat on the bus is closed
This light, This year, This hour
It multiplies itself by the word
It goes soup on the bowl
And the bowl draws near
Its color revealed
   A kind sleep
   A hellish dream
   On my skin that sun goes orange
   And I burn myself
   And my eyes cave in
This horror of time clicks my heels
It laughs that laugh of cruel poses
Our dreams are not our collective
But submission is easier
When we pretend this together
   A fantasy a clock
   A hand designs hour not hands
   A minute exposes cracks
   A time forgets us
   A stop
   My eyes hurt
   It is too much
   Orange

© This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Words by Ryan Adams.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

RyanAdams_Orange

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2019 | 2019-12-18

KA_AB KEVIN ABSTRACT – ARIZONA BABY (RCA RECORDS)

Buy it here. Read the ARM review here.

tyler-the-creator-igor-1250x1200 TYLER, THE CREATOR – IGOR (COLUMBIA RECORDS)

Buy it here. Read the ARM review here.

BruceSpringsteen_WS BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – WESTERN STARS (COLUMBIA RECORDS)

Buy it here. Read the ARM review here.

Freddie-Gibbs-and-Madlib-Bandana-1561475407-640x640 FREDDIE GIBBS & MADLIB – BANDANA (RCA RECORDS)

Buy it here.

BH_Ginger BROCKHAMPTON – GINGER (RCA RECORDS)

Buy it here. Read the ARM review here.

SamFender_HypersonicMissiles SAM FENDER – HYPERSONIC MISSILES (POLYDOR RECORDS)

Buy it here.

Sandy Alex G_House (SANDY) ALEX G – HOUSE OF SUGAR (DOMINO RECORDING CO)

Buy it here. Read the ARM review here.

blink-182_NINE BLINK-182 – NINE (COLUMBIA RECORDS)

Buy it here.

third-eye-blind-screamer THIRD EYE BLIND – SCREAMER (MEGA COLLIDER RECORDS)

Buy it here. Read the ARM review here.

JEW_Surviving JIMMY EAT WORLD – SURVIVING (RCA RECORDS)

Buy it here. Read the ARM review here.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time. And happy holidays this time around.

AV