Volume – April 2005

The Futureheads

The Futureheads

Sire

Dueling accapella “ohs” and “ahs” are among the first of the inviting quirks on this album full of jittery rhythms and ADD-laden riffs. It’s immediately apparent they’ve been influenced by Devo, XTC, and Gang Of Four (fittingly, GOF’s Andy Gill produced the album), yet they manage to stake their own claim in the land between American garage rock and English new wave-retro, yet progressive. By now you’re probably saying to yourself, “How noble. That sounds like every other band coming out right now.” Well, their brain-frying pop does resemble their fellow UK countrymen Franz Ferdinand, but this album is worth more than just a listen, and don’t sleep on their Hounds Of Love Kate Bush cover. Put on a skinny belt to match that skinny tie, because this is one of the best new bands out.-Blair Alley

High On Fire

Blessed Black Wings

Relapse Records

I’ve had the pleasure to see High On Fire play every time they’ve rolled through San Diego since the band started in 2000, and they still continue to leave me shell-shocked-ears ringing, mild concussion, and deaf as f-k. If you didn’t know already, Matt Pike (lead guitarist/singer) played guitar for 90s stoner-gods Sleep (rumor has it that there might be a Sleep reunion concert in the mix in ’05!). The band now has a new bass player-Joe Preston (Melvins, Thrones)-and a new producer. Blessed Black Wings was produced and recorded in Chicago by renowned indie producer Steve Albini, making this HOF’s best sounding and most finely produced album. Fans of the sludge, fret not-the sound is still heavy as the God Of Thunder, just this time around things sound a lot cleaner with tighter song structures. Blessed Black Wings is also faster and definitely has more punch than the band’s past two albums. Make no mistake about it-High On Fire is the loudest, heaviest band on Earth.-Aaron Schmidt

Jello Biafra And The Melvins

Never Breathe What You Can’t See

Alternative Tentacles

Many of you reading this will be too young to recall Jello Biafra’s first band, The Dead Kennedys, or the reasons why it was so important to the development of America’s punk community. The tale is perhaps too long, and-given today’s punk-friendly climate-too implausible for most of you to wrap your heads around. Suffice it to say, DK existed at a time when doing what they did (book their own tours, release independent records, and play blazingly fast hardcore-meets-surf punk) was unheard of. More importantly, it was the things that frontman Biafra was willing to say (anything and everything against the status quo, mainstream media, nuclear weapons, the CIA, and the corporatization of the free world) that made the band not just subversive, but seriously seditious.

Cops raided their shows. Christians feared they were luring children to the dark side. Hell, even the Federal Government tried to destroy them, claiming their albums peddled pornography to minors (which was thoroughly dismissed in a lengthy court battle). Back in the day, if you weren’t punk, DK was the enemy. But if you were, they were your guiding light.

Nowadays, Biafra makes an album every few years, often collaborating with like-minded bands. This time, he’s wisely teamed up with those men of good taste and equally far-reaching talents, the Melvins. There’s no reason to delve into a track-by-track rundown here. It is damn awesome. Does it sound like The Dead Kennedys? Yes. But it also sounds like the Melvins-even better!-Arlie Carstens

The Fakies

Coping

Save the Ballard Bowl Records

A real-deal old-school skate-rock band, The Fakies from Seattle, Washington is comprised of Jaks Team skaters who have been skate pals since the late 70s. Skate rock is some of the most honest music around as the skaters/songwriters rarely hold back when expressing themselves passionately about subjects. Whether singing about shoddy skatepark builders on “Purkiss Rose Sucks,” or about the basi on “Seattle Needs More Skateparks” and “Hit’n The Lip,” The Fakies hold it down in the Northwest. With nicknames like Bonehead, Swervo, Fallout, and Micro, you know these guys aren’t faking on this thirteen-song release. They’re locals at the Butter Bowl and the skater-donated Ballard Bowl, which sadly may be bulldozed very soon. Save the Ballard Bowl!-Ray Stevens II

Reeve Oliver

Reeve Oliver

The Militia Group

That most unlikely of locations, San Diego, CA, has again spat out another fine band, poised to potentially sell a boatload of records (à– la Blink-182). Though I have my doubts about the efficacy of the name Reeve Oliver, (it’s supposed to sound like revolver, but not … or something), the band’s debut full-length is none too shabby. Lovingly produced and engineered by frontman Sean O’Donnell, (with mixing assistance from magic-fingered studio svengali/ex-Jehu drummer Mark Trombino), the disk’s eleven tracks offer a decidedly pleasant combination of pop-punk jauntiness, singer-songwriterly navel gazing, and butter-smooth studio wizardry. On radio-ready singles like “Reevenge,” and “Sizzle Digitz,” O’Donnell’s pretty vocal melodies are propelled aloft on the skillful interplay of drummer Brad Davis and the bass antics and backing vocals of legendary ham-slapper O. Bartholomeu (TW Senior Photographer/Fluf mastermind).

To be sure, there’s much to enjoy here. However, I have one criticism (and it’s a big one). Though O’Donnell is clearly a talented singer/guitarist, his rhyme schemes tend to be about as weighty as a bag of vacuum dust (for example, rhyming ‘older … hold her … colder … shoulder … ‘ on the otherwise fantastic “Your Own Private Ice Age.” Yeah, ouch). If he’s going to compete with the likes of The Jealous Sound and Death Cab in the O.C.-approved, indie-pop marketplace, he’d better bone up on them lyrics. Still, these are genuinely good, catchy songs. Particularly, “Yer Motion”-it’s a truly beautiful tune. On the strength of that anthemic gem alone, these boys could be buying Maui beachfront homes in no time.-Arlie Carstens

Comets On Fire

Blue Cathedral

Sub Pop

I’m not much of a fan of stoner rock, or of most “heavy” classic rock, or for that matter just about anything that derives 95 percent of its inspiration from testosterone and coke binges. While I understand and even admire the rabid faith displayed by those bands and their fans, I just don’t care about the music. And for me, that’s all that matters-the music. Where most heavy rock is concerned, the songs tend to rely on Zeppelin-aping beats (that, frankly, would make Bonham deeply ashamed), and to say the riffs are clichà‡ is a gross understatement. Moreover, the lyrics too often fixate on A) fantasies about getting laid and f-kin’ shit up, B) just being “bad ass,” (with sculpted facial hair and rings on every finger), or worst of all, C) UFO’s and scary monsters. Sure, it’s a generalization, but sadly, not an incorrect one. Yawn.

Conversely, I’m a huge fan of music that does the difficult work of melding ferociously loud rock with interesting, non-rock influences like folk, IDM, psychedelic/experimental noise, or even spiritual/devotional music. I’m talking about heavy bands that strive to make art, not just something built for driving like an asshole down Sunset Boulevard. Past pioneers like Rein Sanction, Die Kreuzen, Earth, High Rise, and Sleep come to mind.

Along with Pelican and Mastodon, another excellent heavy band has recently emerged-Comets On Fire. While their Sub Pop debut may not hit the mark every time, it’s nonetheless riveting. These people are clearly into pushing heavy rock forward with intelligence and artistry. Blue Cathedral has loud guitars, spacious production, noise attacks, folk elements, and piano jams in abundance. To say it’s all over the map is high praise. One couldn’t ask for more.-Arlie Carstens

Rondo Brothers

No Time Left On Earth

War Chant Recordings

The Rondo Brothers, Jim Greer and Brandon Arnovick, seem to be having a lot of fun playing music, and it shines through on this album. Relaxing, clean beats flow from song to song. This is Hawai’ian hip-hop. The feeling of being on vacation is amplified by the use of bongos and ukuleles. The scratches seem to mold together the tracks, keeping your head rocking. The track “Walk On Fire” melts haunting vocals with light scratches and ukuleles to create a really cool sound. You may’ve heard of The Rondo Brothers-they’ve been extremely busy with commercials lately, as well as working with Dan The Automator, Handsomeboy Modeling School, Deltron 3030, and one of my all time favorites, Dr. Octagon. This album will fit in nicely with any record collection, so go find it, get it, and relax.-Eric Klier

Secret Machines

Now Here Is Nowhere

Reprise Records

I’ve written three drafts of this review already. In the first one, I wrote that the Secret Machines were like winning the lottery and having two truckloads of money delivered to your house by Natalie Portman wearing one of those Catholic schoolgirl outfits-which, granted, is hot. But the description just doesn’t do this album justice. That doesn’t mean I’m slighting Natalie Portman (even though she’s totally slumming it in those Star Wars movies), it’s just that Now Here Is Nowhere is such an expansive, sensitive, and brutally awesome album that describing it with images of sex and money inevitably falls short. The second and third drafts were equally inept, plus they lacked Natalie Portman, so they’re not really worth mentioning.

The Secret Machines have made this album one that just kind of makes you remember how you felt the first time you heard your favorite song-by which I mean that there’re parts that’ll guarantee you some goose bumps. Other parts are pure head-nodding shoe-gazer bliss. There’s more than a touch of The Wall-era Pink Floyd sorrow and regret. And then there’re the driving, running, half-electronic beat and bass rhythms that just let it all flow over you-all the good times gone bad, all the shitty days that ended up so good you could barely control yourself. Does that make any sense at all?

At the risk of sounding too serious, this album will save the lives of millions. It’ll end hunger, drought, and find a cure for cancer. It’ll bring an end to genocide in Sudan. It’ll improve your posture. It’ll pay your bills for you (or at least it’ll pay my bills for me, thanks to this lucrative career of album reviewing!).-Andreas Trolf

John Frusciante

Inside the Emptiness

Record Collection Music

Inside the Emptiness is the fourth release in John Frusciante’s bimonthly six-album collective. Most bands are lucky if they even release six albums. This album follows The DC EP, which was recorded by Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) in his hometown of Washington D.C. Each album that Frusciante has put out has had its own unique sound, and this one is no exception. Frusciante’s vocals are louder, and in the case of “Emptiness” seem very aggressive, while other songs like “Scratches” are synthesizer driven. “Inside A Break” is the best example of Frusciante’s greatness. While this lo-fi rock-and-roll album might not be his best, the stripped-down sound, as if it was recorded live in the 70s, is refreshing amidst other music these days that seems to be electronically pasted. If you’re a new listener of Frusciante, you may want to start with one of his earlier albums like To Record Water For Ten Day. As for veteran listeners, this one will be refreshing.-Greg Harris

The Libertines

The Libertines

Rough Trade Records

So this CD comes with a special sticker on it featuring a quote by Mick Jones of The Clash that goes something like: “A band like this only comes along once in a generation. Yeah, you had it with The Clash, and now you have it with this album.”

I was paraphrasing, but you get the general idea, right?

So okay, to summarize: The Clash-one of th, Jim Greer and Brandon Arnovick, seem to be having a lot of fun playing music, and it shines through on this album. Relaxing, clean beats flow from song to song. This is Hawai’ian hip-hop. The feeling of being on vacation is amplified by the use of bongos and ukuleles. The scratches seem to mold together the tracks, keeping your head rocking. The track “Walk On Fire” melts haunting vocals with light scratches and ukuleles to create a really cool sound. You may’ve heard of The Rondo Brothers-they’ve been extremely busy with commercials lately, as well as working with Dan The Automator, Handsomeboy Modeling School, Deltron 3030, and one of my all time favorites, Dr. Octagon. This album will fit in nicely with any record collection, so go find it, get it, and relax.-Eric Klier

Secret Machines

Now Here Is Nowhere

Reprise Records

I’ve written three drafts of this review already. In the first one, I wrote that the Secret Machines were like winning the lottery and having two truckloads of money delivered to your house by Natalie Portman wearing one of those Catholic schoolgirl outfits-which, granted, is hot. But the description just doesn’t do this album justice. That doesn’t mean I’m slighting Natalie Portman (even though she’s totally slumming it in those Star Wars movies), it’s just that Now Here Is Nowhere is such an expansive, sensitive, and brutally awesome album that describing it with images of sex and money inevitably falls short. The second and third drafts were equally inept, plus they lacked Natalie Portman, so they’re not really worth mentioning.

The Secret Machines have made this album one that just kind of makes you remember how you felt the first time you heard your favorite song-by which I mean that there’re parts that’ll guarantee you some goose bumps. Other parts are pure head-nodding shoe-gazer bliss. There’s more than a touch of The Wall-era Pink Floyd sorrow and regret. And then there’re the driving, running, half-electronic beat and bass rhythms that just let it all flow over you-all the good times gone bad, all the shitty days that ended up so good you could barely control yourself. Does that make any sense at all?

At the risk of sounding too serious, this album will save the lives of millions. It’ll end hunger, drought, and find a cure for cancer. It’ll bring an end to genocide in Sudan. It’ll improve your posture. It’ll pay your bills for you (or at least it’ll pay my bills for me, thanks to this lucrative career of album reviewing!).-Andreas Trolf

John Frusciante

Inside the Emptiness

Record Collection Music

Inside the Emptiness is the fourth release in John Frusciante’s bimonthly six-album collective. Most bands are lucky if they even release six albums. This album follows The DC EP, which was recorded by Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) in his hometown of Washington D.C. Each album that Frusciante has put out has had its own unique sound, and this one is no exception. Frusciante’s vocals are louder, and in the case of “Emptiness” seem very aggressive, while other songs like “Scratches” are synthesizer driven. “Inside A Break” is the best example of Frusciante’s greatness. While this lo-fi rock-and-roll album might not be his best, the stripped-down sound, as if it was recorded live in the 70s, is refreshing amidst other music these days that seems to be electronically pasted. If you’re a new listener of Frusciante, you may want to start with one of his earlier albums like To Record Water For Ten Day. As for veteran listeners, this one will be refreshing.-Greg Harris

The Libertines

The Libertines

Rough Trade Records

So this CD comes with a special sticker on it featuring a quote by Mick Jones of The Clash that goes something like: “A band like this only comes along once in a generation. Yeah, you had it with The Clash, and now you have it with this album.”

I was paraphrasing, but you get the general idea, right?

So okay, to summarize: The Clash-one of the most influential, seminal, and utterly important bands ever-through Mick Jones are not only endorsing The Libertines, but also are allowing them the use of The Clash’s coattails for easy access to credibility and relevance.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that there’s something to these guys. The Libertines are quite a talented group of lads, and Up The Bracket was a damned fine album. Well, I guess that this new one is pretty good, too. But for Mick Jones to give the band this kind of endorsement, well, whoa, I have to ask myself: Are they that good, that important?

I don’t know. See, with The Clash people knew that they were getting the genuine article. They wrote about the right things at the right time. All I see from The Libertines is photos of them smoking crack in Vice Magazine (seriously). Well, they do have a song on this album called “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which is kinda political, I guess. The title is lifted from the inspirational quotes offered to Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. It meant that the only way the prisoners would get out of the camps without being burned alive or gassed was to literally work themselves to death. And so now, 60 years later, you have a bunch of waifish dudes smoking crack and wearing stylish trousers who’re hoping to be the social conscience of a generation, right?

And then on the back of the CD is a photo of the band walking down the street looking handsome. They even have a black member! Take that, Hitler!

Well, I guess they’re this generation’s The Clash, and they can back it up with some catchy hooks. Then I noticed in the album credits where it says, “produced and mixed by Mick Jones.” Huh? So which is it, Mick Jones-social relevance or just a shrewd bit of advertising and self-promotion? And besides, I’m still waiting for an apology from you for Big Audio Dynamite II. So let’s hear it, Jones. I don’t have all day.-Andreas Trolf

Darediablo

Twenty Paces

Southern Records

The newest group from the NYC music scene is an instrumental trio known as Darediablo. The band’s simplistic formula of organ, drums, and guitar is refreshingly crisp to hear, especially since there’re no moaning lyrics to snuff out the good vibe the raw music gives you. If you were to try and label this, I’d say this was heavy prog-jazz. The music is what you’d get if you mixed Ui or Tortoise with, say, a good dose of some ol’-fashioned speed metal.

Darediablo reminds me of the Southern instrumentalists of sludge, The Mystic Crewe Of Clearlight, which is a good thing because that band is sick, too. The music of Twenty Paces is good drivin’ music ’cause it takes forever to get old, so go get the new album and hit the road.-Aaron Schmidt

Executioner

Hellbound

Softcore Music

This nine-track delight features the Campbell, California hardcore band, Executioner. If you’ve been paying attention, you will realize that Campbell is the home to Lars Fredricksen of Rancid. This is the stuff li’l Lars grew up listening to some twenty years ago. The band had a gritty UK punk sound complete with the spiked hair, leather, studs, bandanas, and skateboards. Executioner recently united for a punk reunion gig in nearby San Jose, playing with Ribsy, Grim Reality, The Boneshavers, The Faction, and Los Olvidados. The crustiest of the crust were there to witness this reunion, and Executioner delivered the goods. This CD rocks after all this time and can be yours if you go to softcoremusic.com/sjpunk.-Ray Stevens II

f the most influential, seminal, and utterly important bands ever-through Mick Jones are not only endorsing The Libertines, but also are allowing them the use of The Clash’s coattails for easy access to credibility and relevance.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that there’s something to these guys. The Libertines are quite a talented group of lads, and Up The Bracket was a damned fine album. Well, I guess that this new one is pretty good, too. But for Miick Jones to give the band this kind of endorsement, well, whoa, I have to ask myself: Are they that good, that important?

I don’t know. See, with The Clash people knew that they were getting the genuine article. They wrote about the right things at the right time. All I see from The Libertines is photos of them smoking crack in Vice Magazine (seriously). Well, they do have a song on this album called “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which is kinda political, I guess. The title is lifted from the inspirational quotes offered to Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. It meant that the only way the prisoners would get out of the camps without being burned alive or gassed was to literally work themselves to death. And so now, 60 years later, you have a bunch of waifish dudes smoking crack and wearing stylish trousers who’re hoping to be the social conscience of a generation, right?

And then on the back of the CD is a photo of the band walking down the street looking handsome. They even have a black member! Take that, Hitler!

Well, I guess they’re this generation’s The Clash, and they can back it up with some catchy hooks. Then I noticed in the album credits where it says, “produced and mixed by Mick Jones.” Huh? So which is it, Mick Jones-social relevance or just a shrewd bit of advertising and self-promotion? And besides, I’m still waiting for an apology from you for Big Audio Dynamite II. So let’s hear it, Jones. I don’t have all day.-Andreas Trolf

Darediablo

Twenty Paces

Southern Records

The newest group from the NYC music scene is an instrumental trio known as Darediablo. The band’s simplistic formula of organ, drums, and guitar is refreshingly crisp to hear, especially since there’re no moaning lyrics to snuff out the good vibe the raw music gives you. If you were to try and label this, I’d say this was heavy prog-jazz. The music is what you’d get if you mixed Ui or Tortoise with, say, a good dose of some ol’-fashioned speed metal.

Darediablo reminds me of the Southern instrumentalists of sludge, The Mystic Crewe Of Clearlight, which is a good thing because that band is sick, too. The music of Twenty Paces is good drivin’ music ’cause it takes forever to get old, so go get the new album and hit the road.-Aaron Schmidt

Executioner

Hellbound

Softcore Music

This nine-track delight features the Campbell, California hardcore band, Executioner. If you’ve been paying attention, you will realize that Campbell is the home to Lars Fredricksen of Rancid. This is the stuff li’l Lars grew up listening to some twenty years ago. The band had a gritty UK punk sound complete with the spiked hair, leather, studs, bandanas, and skateboards. Executioner recently united for a punk reunion gig in nearby San Jose, playing with Ribsy, Grim Reality, The Boneshavers, The Faction, and Los Olvidados. The crustiest of the crust were there to witness this reunion, and Executioner delivered the goods. This CD rocks after all this time and can be yours if you go to softcoremusic.com/sjpunk.-Ray Stevens II