[All hail Metz. Also, all hail this Metz tee shirt, which is appropriate to wear absolutely nowhere.]
OK, I gotta get this one done quick - the stamps have let me out of my cage just long enough for me to stretch my legs and get a drink of water. Let's do this.
THE BEST (AND WORST) ALBUMS OF 2015, pt. II
The King Khan and BBQ Show - Bad News Boys-- Reunion album for these garage-soul bad boy lifers. For all of their public bickering and onstage meltdowns, the fact that remains that the much of the best music *both* has made throughout their prolific careers has been in the company of one another. Grade: B-
Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire-- Ya had to laugh when purists fretted about Lightning Bolt's decision to finally record an album in a proper recording studio. What did people expect, a fucking No Doubt record?! Fortunately, the material on Fantasy Empire fits in nicely with much of Lightning Bolt's previous output, with the benefit of a little added clarity and dynamics. (Not to mention what's likely the best song of the year.) Grade: B
Liturgy - The Ark Work -- This is either one of the worst albums I've ever heard, or another chapter in what just might be the greatest troll in history. (Either way, trust me, you don't want to listen to it.) The ever-irascible Triple H has incorporated all manner of cheap, shitty-sounding keyboard effects here, while somehow transforming Greg Fox' once-mighty drum sound into something that makes the production on St. Anger sound like a job well done. Grade: F
Lower Dens - Escape From Evil -- It's a little disappointing that as the proper follow-up to their their deep, dark, thrilling breakthrough album (2012's Nootropics), Lower Dens has settled for more conventional songwriting and occasionally aimless, bland melodies. But this one is growing on me. Grade: B-
Metz - II -- True, Metz does only one thing, but they do that one thing better than any other band does ANYTHING. Just a devastatingly awesome sonic assault, and the likely Album of the Year. Grade: A
Mike Pace and the Child Actors - Best Boy -- Pleasant, wistful power pop from the former Oxford Collapse main man. Nothing on here manages to approximate the infectious awesomeness of Oxford Collapse's landmark (well, at least in my mind) Remember the Night Parties album, but it's still a decent listen. Grade: C+
My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall -- This is the type of Dad Rock you listen to if you really want your kids to think you're a total pussy. Grade: F
Palma Violets - Danger in the Club -- The Palmas' debut, 180, was a surprise success on the back of countless, uh, "repurposed" '70s UK post-punk riffs. Now that these blokes have actually gotten around to writing their own riffs, the results are predictable. Grade: D
Pelican - The Cliff -- The title track (and centerpiece) of this EP includes vocals, an anomaly in Pelican's nearly entirely instrumental / post-metal catalog. Amazing, then, that the lyrics (written from the point of view of a creepy, desperate man, seemingly on the precipice of committing a violent act against the unwilling object of his affections) hits the nail on the head so perfectly. Grade: B
A Place to Bury Strangers - Transfixiation -- Amazingly, probably their noisiest, most feedback-scarred release ever, and it's a good look for them. Best APTBS album overall since 2009's Exploding Head. Grade: B-
Ok, that's it for now. Will try to wrap this up next week, or not. Memphis tomorrow!
Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse -- I have a feeling that at some point, the switch is gonna be flipped and I'm going to go all goo-goo ga-ga over this dude like everyone else; not gonna lie, it'll probably happen. But until then, I dunno, Reatard is just so much better that it's not funny.
A Place to Bury Strangers - Worship -- The vocals should be way lower in the mix, but you can't blame the lackluster songwriting (which has been on a steep downhill downhill trajectory since their first few releases) on the unflattering production.
Only good song: "Alone."
Rush - Clockwork Angels -- This is Rush's first album that they've employed legit progressive song structures on since, what? Moving Pictures? Regardless of the renewed emphasis (after 32 years?) on tricky time signatures, this album unfortunately continues in the same vein as every original studio album they've put out in the new millennium: it's pretty much hookless. Steampunk meh.
I've got 10+ months to catch up on here (and about 90 2012 albums I've heard thus far this year), so let's get right into this. I will be reviewing this year's albums in the order that I heard them so we begin with four albums from much earlier in the year:
Guided by Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory -- WELCOME BACK UNCLE BOB!!! Of course, it's not like Robert Pollard actually 'went' anywhere after retiring the Guided by Voices moniker on New Year's Eve '04 / '05, it's just that his always-prodigious output became... less inspired? I will go out on a limb and say that each and every single solo Robert Pollard record released between 2007 and the present day has been absolute fucking garbage. There, I said it. What's more, Boston Spaceships, the proper 'band' that he fronted during this same period, put out a number of great songs, but overall their catalog is spotty at best.
So, Pollard fans - and fans of great Rock and Roll in general - can rejoice now that the GbV flag is once again flying high, to the tune of the 3 full albums they've released in 2012. Although this material doesn't quite match up to Bob's stellar mid '90s run of Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, Under the Bushes Under the Stars and Mag Earwhig, it's still better than 99.9 percent of the garbage that everyone else puts out these days.
Best songs - "Old Bones," "The Head," "Spiderfighter," "The Unsinkable Fats Domino," "Waves," "Hang Mr. Kite."
Chairlift - Something -- Unlike their very entertaining debut, 2008's Does You Inspire You, this one lacks any real standout singles. All is not lost, though; Something is still a solid run-through of indie synth pop tropes new and old.
Best Song: "Guilty as Charged."
The Big Sleep - Nature Experiments -- 90s-ish riffy alterna rock. Moody but still fun.
Best songs: "Ghosts in Bodies," "Valentine."
A Place to Bury Strangers - Onwards to the Wall EP -- A bit of a regression from their previous work - the songs just aren't as immediate and catchy. But, to be sure, this EP is nowhere near as disappointing as the polished turd of an album they dropped later in the year. [Spoiler alert!]
Had a weird week, with an unexpected late night occurring Wednesday following some beer drinking and dominoes. Followed that up with the free Superchunk / Versus show at South Street Seaport on Friday and was hoping to have a decent-size crew assembled for the Siren Festival on Saturday, which frustratingly didn't happen... some folks had (legitimate) prior commitments while others decided to just flat out fucking blow me off. So, long story short, as it turned out my only company at the festival would be my own peen in my hand. Meh.
Got to Coney Island about quarter to five and walked around, getting the lay of the land (not going to harp on this too much, but going to festivals alone is a straight BEATING any way ya slice it), walking past the Stillwell Stage where Future of the Left was performing. Didn't stick around for much of their set, but I liked what I heard... kind of mathy and alty and shouty. Walked up onto the boardwalk and back around before settling on a large lemonade and some BBQ Pork with pad Thai, which I wolfed down while waiting for A Place to Bury Strangers to take the stage. 5:30 sharp, they ripped into their first song, one of the newer ones not found on their self-titled record from '07. I stuck around for the first few songs before heading over to the W 10th Ave stage to catch The Raveonettes' set.
Wormed all the way up to the front, hoping to hear some of the new songs the Raves have been working on for their new album, which didn't happen... a few songs in Sune mentioned that since the new album was just recently completed they didn't have enough time to practice the new ones. Minor bummer, but whatevs, live Raves is always rad, no? Not exactly. This turned out to be one of the least enjoyable sets I've ever seen by them, hindered by Sune's guitar being practically inaudible as well as some real jackass hecklers behind me. Or maybe the Raves are just vampires and they wilt in the light (first time I've ever seen them outdoors, and a friend of mine who saw them at a Euro festival in the day last summer said the same thing). Never mind. Decent, but not up to their usual awesomeness. Here's the set list:
Hallucinations Dead Sound Let's Rave On Here Comes Mary Young and Beautiful Attack of the Ghostriders My Tornado Expelled From Love Black/White Love in a Trashcan Red Tan Lust Blush Aly, Walk With Me Twilight
By this point, my back was pretty trashed and, I'm not gonna lie, I wasn't looking forward to Built to Spill's headlining set in the least. I'd seen them once before in '06 atWarsaw on their tour for You in Reverse, and walked the fuck out because it was so boring. At the show my pal Sluggo commented that "Built to Spill is the ultimate cock-tease band because they get so close to rocking out but they never do." After the Warsaw show I had to agree.
Anyway, by this point I had the choice to head back home possibly in order to see another show elsewhere (La Otracina at Union Pool or Oxford Collapse's final show EVER among them) or stick around for the BTS set. I came to the conclusion that the hour-plus trainride would only further my embittritude, so after futilely chewing on a $2 shish kebab made of an undeterminable meaty substance, I walked back to the W 10th St. stage. Weaseled my way up as far as was comfortable and parked myself. Awesomely, the first song I caught was probably my favorite BTS song, "Strange," which led into a cool jam. Mood improving!! As the set went on, it became pretty obvious that BTS is, in fact, totally fucking awesome, a notion I wish I'd realized years ago. Seriously, riffs galore, sick solos and plenty of sweet jamming. Highlights for me during the 90 minute set were "Virginia Reel Around the Fountain" and a tripped-out version of "Conventional Wisdom," although to be perfectly frank I'm not familiar with anwhere near the entire BTS catalog. There was a ton of great shit I'd never heard before which I'll have to make myself familiar with tout de suite.
OK, laundry time. A quick scan of Oh My Rockness reveals few interesting shows until the amazing Harvey Milk/Torche double-bill at MHOW next Sunday, which is going to be frickin' unreal. Jalepzzz.
I took a spin through Tuddd Archives the other day and found that this was to be the fifth time I've seen A Place to Bury Strangers live, which is only fitting now that I think about it. When you're talking Brooklyn bands, off the top of my head only Cheeseburger, Goes Cube and Austerity Program are as enjoyable in the live setting. I dug APtBS' debut album but it's live that these bastards really make their mark. More on that later.
Left the apartment and headed towards Music Hall of Williamsburg at about 8:30; got inside 20 minutes later expecting a 9 PM set time for the openers, and let me tell you, NOBODY was there. Seriously, less than 20 people downstairs, literally nobody upstairs, and the Mezzanine was closed off. I sat down in the empty stage room ready to burn through some cell phone Tetris, only to be asked not to sit where I was by security. Really? There's nobody in the fucking room and I have to get hassled about not sitting on the steps? Man, I hate this venue, and the people who run it!
(Interestingly enough, I spoke with a couple guys tonight who said that security gave them shit about taking pictures of the show with their phones. Ridiculous, no? It's no wonder that every time I bring up Music Hall of Williamsburg in conversation with other Brooklynites people bitch about what a miserable collection of shitbags the security guys are, so it's not just me whining about this nonsense.)
With nobody in the house, openers Arttanker Convoy took the stage at about 9:20. I probably would have liked their set a lot more if I hadn't seen so much superior avant gardeish shit lately. Seriously, along with Lou Reed with John Zorn and Monotonix last week, I've also since been to the uber spacy/dissonant Jazzmaster 50th Anniversary show at Knitting Factory and a Todd P joint featuring Lightning Bolt and Growing over the past couple of weeks. So yeah, for someone who usually uses truly noisy shit as little more than a palette cleanser, said palette was spic and span, bitch. To paraphrase Robert Plant, I was in the mood for a melody.
Up next was Brooklyn's Amazing Baby, and the kids seemed to really like them. Seriously, I counted no less than fifteen separate people hopping to the front of the stage to snap pictures... having never heard of them I was surprised that they had such a significant buzz. (I'd like to think I keep up on such things.) Amazing Baby were okay, and although there's certainly nothing wrong with wearing one's influences on one's sleeve, if you're going to be totally derivative, you'd better have some pretty great songs. For the record, it wasn't until the final jam that they really managed to rock the fuck out. Of all the groundbreaking garage bands to compare them to sonically, I'd have to say there's a definite MC5 influence there with maybe a bit more widdly widdly on lead guitar. Were they posing and preening a bit? Sure, but they did look like they were legitimately having fun. I tells ya, these kids could be huge, I tells ya.
Sian Alice Group were up next. I caught them with Pelican and Priestbird a little while back, and I remembered enjoying them, but not as much as I did this time around: a kind of post rock thing going on, with definite pop flourishes, krauty moments, and flat-out perfect vocals. The instrumentals, while usually subdued, carried their share of the weight, as well. At various times during the set I was reminded of Godspeed's masterpiece Lift Your Skinny Fists..., several Mogwai songs, Under Byen's "Mission," and even some stuff from the new Portishead long-player. I'm'a buy - and listen to - their new album post haste!
A Place to Bury Strangers wound up not starting their set before 12:30 or so, by which point I had wriggled my way to the front of the stage. (On my way up I shook APtBS frontman Oliver Ackerman's hand and wished him a good set.) Fortunately, the place wasn't totally empty anymore, with probably 100+ or so in attendance. While the evening's first three bands had averaged in excess of six members onstage apiece, A Place to Bury Strangers are a power trio. Or a quartet if you count the impressive array of homemade effects pedals as the true fourth member of the group. Seriously, the frickin' bassist alone has like eight pedals!
Self-billed as "NYC's loudest band," these guys throw MBV, Jesus and Mary Chain and Sonic Youth in a blender, topping that off with krautrock-style drumming and rock-solid bass playing. Add in striking visuals (projected on a sheet behind the band), strobe lights, occasional equipment destruction, and enough feedback to rumble your innards. They opened with the unreleased "Gimme Acid," going into "Don't Think Lover" and "To Fix the Gash in Your Head" and "I Know I'll See You" (all from their self-titled first album) along with a couple of other newer jams before Ackerman began precariously swinging his guitar around his upper body, eventually spiking it to the stage and ripping the strings off. During this, bassist Jono managed to lock into a perfect feedback drone which led into arguably the Strangers' best song and perennial set closer, "Ocean." Awesome.
Fuckin' shit, it's getting late and I have to be up at 7. I'll be at Mogwai on Thursday. (I think it's Thursday. I'll be there regardless.)