Showing posts with label post-punk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label post-punk. Show all posts

Saturday, July 13, 2019

video review: 'schlagenheim' by black midi

And here we go, a project that I'm genuinely surprised I liked as much as I did, but am very pleased that I got to cover it. 

Next up... okay, let's handle Ed Sheeran next - stay tuned!

Friday, July 12, 2019

album review: 'schlagenheim' by black midi

So full disclosure, the reason I'm choosing to cover this is exactly what you think it is: it got a ton of acclaim from critics I otherwise trust, and on a slow week, I figured I might as well knock it off my list. That also meant I could be setting myself up for that kind of album that I'm lukewarm on and everyone else loves, but hey, that seems to have been the running theme for most of 2019, so why not keep it up!

Anyway, black midi - English post-punk/noise rock group that seems to play fast and loose with genres, formed in 2015, released a couple of singles, performed at SXSW in 2018, got signed to Rough Trade, and now we have a debut album. Again, this is a project for which I'm going in cold and a little perturbed about what we could get with this: I kept hearing 'no wave' and 'math rock' show up in discussions of the debut with a very distinctly German-sounding name which translates to 'hit home', and I'm not the biggest fan of either genre. And the producer Dan Carey didn't really enthuse me either - I know him most for producing the worst Franz Ferdinand album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, but other than that... again, going in cold here, so let's not waste any more time: what did black midi deliver with Schlagenheim?

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

video review: 'joy as an act of resistance' by idles

Man alive, I'm so damn happy this kicked ass - so much replay value, so damn catchy, genuinely potent! 

But next... okay, Billboard BREAKDOWN first, and then Eminem. Stay tuned!

album review: 'joy as an act of resistance' by idles

When I reviewed Idles last year, I was a very different person - specifically, one who hadn't exactly developed an appreciation for hardcore punk. I had brushed against the genre over the years, but I wouldn't qualify myself as having in-depth knowledge or even a liking for the genre... and thus it was all the more startling how well Idles' debut Brutalism clicked for me, a howling, guttural grind that was also fiercely intelligent and the sort of political polemic that could hit like a ton of bricks. Both it and the song from it '1049 Gotho' wound up on my year-end lists, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't kickstart some deeper curiosity that contributed to putting hardcore punk as an option on Resonators.

Of course, now it's eight months later, and with a much deeper knowledge base around hardcore punk, I was anticipating this record all the more but my expectations were even higher. The fast turnaround time was a bit concerning, and it wasn't like Idles didn't have problems on their debut, and while embracing a spirit of riotous optimism in the face of dark times is an attitude I can get behind, I wasn't sure Idles was the act from which I wanted to hear that message - my favourite cuts from Brutalism had been some of the darkest and angriest, so this was looking to be quite the tonal shift. But hey, it was either this or Eminem, and I wanted to start on a high note, so what did we get out of Joy As An Act Of Resistance?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

resonators 2018 - episode #007 - 'double nickels on the dime' by minutemen (VIDEO)

Have to say, I'm really proud of how this turned out, especially with as much work as I put into it. Definitely take the time to find this record, it's something special!

Monday, July 30, 2018

resonators 2018 - episode #007 - 'double nickels on the dime' by minutemen

So when I started Resonators my general expectation was that I was going in cold - I might recognize a couple singles from punk compilations but beyond that I wasn't really familiar with the records I'd be exploring at length... but there was always going to be one exception, and it's this one.

And to explain why it's an exception, we need to go back to 2015, when I reviewed Return To The Moon by EL VY, a side project from the frontman of the National Matt Berninger that's one of the most criminally underrated and satirical projects of the decade, not to mention one of the best of the year. Throughout that record, Berninger repeatedly made reference to the band we're talking about today, Minutemen, a signee to SST and who started putting out records in the early 80s, alongside Black Flag and with Spot on production. But it rapidly became apparent that for as quick as Minutemen were in cranking out songs, they were significantly more ambitious than most of the hardcore punk acts we've covered here, dabbling with bassy post-punk even earlier and picking up chunks of jazz and experimental rock as they moved forward. Now of course it helped that the band was really good, thanks to D. Boon's jittery guitarwork and wild, guttural vocals, Mike Watt's frenetic basswork, and George Hurley's pretty damn solid drumwork, all of which fed into songs that could be as witty and genuinely funny as they were catchy - this was a group that relied more on raw wit than bellicose presence, making their first two records, both well-deserving of their critical acclaim, really stand out amongst their peers. And yet in 1983, when they heard their labelmates Husker Du were putting out a double album, they went back into the studio to expand their single disk into what some have held up not just as a hardcore classic, but one of the best records of the 1980s - a four disc, eighty minute beast overstuffed with ideas, inside jokes and off-kilter abstraction. And it's this record for which I started exploring back when I covered EL VY... and now I'm back to finish the job. That's right, folks, we're talking about Minutemen's Double Nickels On The Dime, and this is Resonators!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

video review: 'beyondless' by iceage

Well, this was pretty damn great - shame about what's after it on the schedule, though, but might as well get it over with... stay tuned!

album review: 'beyondless' by iceage

I'll freely admit I had no idea what to expect with the newest Iceage project - and a huge part of that is directly linked to what happened with their third record Plowing Into The Field Of Love in 2014. Originally they had put out some post-punk that was explosive and twisted but didn't really have a lot of internal direction or consistency, but that changed in a big way with this record, pulling upon more elaborate arrangements that expanded their sound while still maintaining that nervy, unstable edge and killer melodic grooves. More than ever the comparison was less Bauhaus and more Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and given that the writing had stepped up considerably to match, I was onboard for this sonic progression.

And thus maybe I shouldn't have been that surprised when I heard that Iceage might be slowing things down a bit for this record, expanding their instrumental palette, even recruiting Sky Ferreira to play the P.J. Harvey to Elias Ronnenfelt's Nick Cave. Now granted, any more predictions would be almost certain to fail - I certainly don't think I could have called the progression for other post-punk acts like Ought and Preoccupations this year into more melodic territory, with one not sticking the landing and the other producing one of the best of their career thus far - but that doesn't mean I wasn't curious, given how long it took for us to get this record. So alright, how was Beyondless?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

video review: 'new material' by preoccupations

So, uh, this was really great and I enjoyed the hell out of it more than I thought I would. Easily the best thing these folks have assembled since Women, highly recommended!

And next up, something also very underground but very promising all the same, so stay tuned!

album review: 'new material' by preoccupations

So at least for me it's been difficult to tell exactly where Preoccupations have been going with their music. The transition from the crushing, grinding riffs of Viet Cong to their self-titled record under this name came with a sonic shift towards a more synth-infused, drone-like post-punk that was brighter and didn't quite feel as implacable as their debut, or as wiry at tight as what most of the group was doing with their previous band Women. And yeah, it wasn't a bad shift but it led to tonal choices that didn't always seem to cleanly match their compositions - a potent listen, but misshapen around the edges, and definitely transitional.

But it looked like Preoccupations was going to keep on shifting, with the songwriting turning introspective and the tones reportedly sounding even brighter and more melodic. And I'll admit that I wasn't at all sure how this would turn out - part of losing that impact was why their last record hadn't resonated quite as well, and while there had been some influences reminiscent of The Cure I didn't exactly see Preoccupations making any strides towards pop. But hey, if this was a record looking to hit rock bottom with better tunes than ever before, I'd give it a listen, so what did I find on New Material?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

video review: 'room inside the world' by ought

So yeah, I was expecting this to be better... and the fact that it's not was kind of painful, but eh, it happens.

Next up... hmm, how about some Courtney Patton and then something off my backlog, so stay tuned!

album review: 'room inside the world' by ought

I'm not going to lie, as much as I was looking forward to this release, some of the buzz leading up to it had me, well, more concerned than I wanted to be. 

Because look, I like Ought for their smart, amazingly well-textured and nervy post-punk that especially with their record Sun Coming Down in 2015 saw greater refinement in its melodic grooves and complex transitions. And for as much as Tim Darcy could sound like he was splitting his David Byrne impression with that of Elias Bender Ronnenfelt of Iceage, this sort of artistic but deeply felt indie rock is an easy sell for me. And that's before you consider how well they can translate the anxious tension at their core into the sort of unstable core where you literally cannot predict its shifts. 

But in the rollout for Room Inside The World, I starting hearing buzz that the band had changed labels and this record was embracing more new wave and synths and streamlining things even further - and I was really conflicted on this, mostly as the critical reception seem a little more reticent. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Ought looking to intensify their internal sense of logic and composition within the songs - the improvisation is a nice touch but it can lead to mixed rewards - but there is such a thing as over-polish when you look at a band like Ought where you can lose some of the wild spirit that makes them distinct. And considering the mixed reception to Tim Darcy's solo project a year or so back, I wasn't sure how that would translate onto this project, but what the hell: what did we get on Room Inside The World?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

video review: 'beautiful people will ruin your life' by the wombats

Okay, this was... underwhelming. And kind of really disappointing, but hey, I've got Franz Ferdinand up next, so that should connect, right?

Anyway, Billboard BREAKDOWN will be dropping tomorrow because it's still rendering and I need sleep - stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

album review: 'beautiful people will ruin your life' by the wombats

I said there were a lot of albums coming out in February I was anticipating - and this is next up on the docket.

And this might surprise some people, given that The Wombats don't exactly have a sterling critical reputation. Oh, they won critics over in a big way with their debut A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation with its nervy brand of post-punk and indie rock that seemed a little wilder than many would expect, but they took steps towards conventionality on their next two records, even venturing more into synthpop. But here's the thing: despite thinking their debut is probably still their best work, their 2015 project Glitterbug was remarkably strong, with huge hooks, a ton of energy, and a refreshing amount of maturity in their songwriting and framing - hell, that record and a few songs from it made my year-end lists!

But I will say I was worried about this album - early singles hadn't really stuck with me and let's be honest, the 80s-inspired synthpop that drove Glitterbug is nowhere close to the same preeminence it was three years ago, which likely means the band evolved again... but into what? Part of The Wombats' fundamental appeal was their energy and ability to swerve, but they're a band that have been together a long time and age does creep in - and while The Wombats have always gotten some mixed reviews, this time it looked like slowing down had hurt them even more. In other words, even though I had a lot of high hopes that this would kick ass, I was also setting myself up for possible disappointment - so what did we get?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

video review: 'the underside of power' by algiers

Well, this was awesome... but let's be honest, we all kind of expected that going in, right? Beyond that... yeah, I think maybe one more review before the midyear roundup, and whoo boy, it's a fun one!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

album review: 'the underside of power' by algiers

I remember covering Algiers' self-titled debut two years ago, and I remember the most prominent thought running through my head: since the dawn of post-punk and noise rock in the late 70s, it should not have taken this long to get a record like this. I think part of this was inevitable thanks to the internet and the rampant cross-pollination of genres, but still, it's not like there weren't common throughlines that could have enabled more of this fusion of the noisy grind of post-punk with a raw blend of gospel, soul and blues. Sure, there had been those who brought in more of a gothic or symphonic sound to the scene, but this was different, black Southern gothic in a much different but no less potent tradition, backed by the utterly fearsome vocals and writing of Franklin James Fisher. And it was the sort of fully formed debut that of course landed a spot on multiple of my year lists for songs and albums, but really the potential represented by this band was far more thrilling, and not just because when hip-hop looking to sample gospel finds out this exists, it's going to cause a sea change.

No, what drew more of my attention was knowing that their sophomore project The Underside Of Power was going to necessarily get political, and this should not surprise anybody. Much of their debut painted them as harbingers of doom and a brand of violence that only even perceived between the lines of those not willing to look - and that's before we even get the exceedingly well-framed and frighteningly relevant racial commentary - but given what happened last year... yeah, I had the feeling gloves were coming off. And considering the mountains of critical acclaim this record has received already, I was really excited for this. So what did we find in The Underside of Power?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

video review: 'brutalism' by idles

Yes, I know I'm very much late to the punch with this one, but man, I'm happy I got to it all the same. 

Next up... I honestly have no idea, it'll depend where Patreon scheduling goes. Stay tuned!

album review: 'brutalism' by idles

I did not know what to expect going into this one. Seriously, I know I'm months late covering this album, it took a while to get up my schedule on Patreon, but even with that time to research I had the feeling like I was going in cold. I knew a few critics I respect liked this debut, but beyond that? Not a damn clue what I was getting into, outside of the fact that these guys were from Bristol in the UK and that they made some raw, furious music, dropping their full-length debut this year after a few EPs.

And you know what? I might not cover a lot of righteously angry music, but that doesn't mean I don't have my days where I crank some explosive stuff and go in hard, and I am a post-punk fan. A little less of a hardcore punk fan - a scene I'm still trying to get my handle on and work my way through the backlog of essential records - but that doesn't mean a really potent debut might not grab my attention. So what did Idles deliver with Brutalism?

Friday, September 23, 2016

video review: 'preoccupations' by preoccupations

Well, this was an interesting listen. Not sure it was a great one, but it was interesting - some solid post-punk, generally enjoyable.

Next up, I'm finally tackling that Whiskey Myers record before I get to AlunaGeorge. Then, if my luck holds, I should be close to being back on schedule - stay tuned!

album review: 'preoccupations' by preoccupations

So let's talk about something I don't think I've ever discussed in a review before: band names. A good name helps a band stand out, can occasionally set the tone of the music you're about to experience, can evoke a certain atmosphere and personality. For instance, one of my all time favourite band names is for the anarchist punk band Chumbawamba - it evokes curiosity, it definitely stands out, and it's got a sort of gleeful irreverence that really characterizes the wit and character of the group.

But really, the big story tied to this act is band name controversies, when a certain act calls themselves something - let's say Viet Cong in this case - and discovers that if they want to play the liberal college circuit across the United States, such a name might drive a backlash. Not going to lie, this controversy irritates the hell out of me, and not just because I could point to a slew of bands in punk, post-punk, and metal who have names with far more dark and disturbing connotations - look up what Joy Division means some time, I dare you. And while I could go on how saying 'Viet Cong is offensive' propagates a simplistic and US-centric view of the far more complicated Vietnam War, where there was considerable moral ambiguity on both sides, or how even if it was inappropriate and offensive it completely fit the dark, pummeling tone of the band's music... but it's not like the group made any of those arguments. Instead, the Canadian group shot themselves in the foot repeatedly during interviews by pleading ignorance and all sorts of nonsense, and since they obviously weren't about to do anything more interesting with the name and concept and wanted to continue making money, they eventually just gave in and changed their name to Preoccupations. Not a bad choice - not as punchy as 'Viet Cong', but it did fit the sort of detached bleak melancholy that ran through their compositions, so I won't hold it that much against them. In any case, this allowed them to get away with a second self-titled album with the new name - with a part of me kind of thinks is cheating a bit - but whatever, how is Preoccupations?