Tag Archives: punk
My Thursday at SXSW started at 6:00am at Reagan National Airport. I had a 7am flight to Austin via Charlotte and was set to touch down at 11:30am. I was only going to be in town for a brief stint so something needed to be sacrificed to maximize the excursion into downtown Austin. I dropped off my backpack, acquired my heading, hit the trail and shortly found myself in a river of bodies on 6th street. Music video shoots, food carts, a guy playing a saw with a violin bow, free music in every bar and makeshift venue for blocks–my head imploded.
As I waited to meet up with some friends for lunch at Chupacabra, something caught my ears: feel-good, raucous rock n’ roll and the voice of a less frantic Pelle Almqvist came blaring out of the open windows of a bar behind me. I stepped inside the Aquarium, cracked open a Lone Star (my first since I had left the state almost five years ago) and sat to soak in riffs raised on some sort of twisted amalgamation of punk, classic rock, and garage rock. I had no idea what their name was, but I was hooked. Turns out they were called Fox and the Law.
Frontman/guitarist/vocalist Guy Keltner informed the crowd of their name after a dazzling display of musicianship, which included blistering solos with big, nitty-gritty tone, grooving basslines and tight drumming. If this was the only band I was going to see at SXSW during my stay in Austin, I would have had no problem with that. Check out Fox And The Law’s album Scarlet Fever here.
Thanks to Victoria VanBruinisse for the above photo.
STREAM: Fox And The Law – “Unbelievable”
Upon hearing the first track from Destruction Unit’s Void LP, I wrote this: “(Destruction Unit) sound like they break things. That’s what they fuckin’ sound like. Electronics slamming against the sidewalk, baseball bats breaking glass, knee caps, brains, your mom’s fancy china, your sister’s heart — you name it and they’ll break it.”
Now that I’ve heard the rest of the LP, I’d like to walk back my initial statement: Destruction Unit sound like they break things, then they regret their rage and wish they really hadn’t smashed their smart phones in a fit of rage. Maybe cat videos and pictures of other people’s dinners aren’t the enemy. So, maybe instead of breaking things, they decide to smoke a lot of weed and order two twelve packs of Doritos Locos Tacos, in both original, Nacho Cheese, and new Cool Ranch flavored shells, and try to be a little less careless the next time in the studio.
How else does one explain their abrupt transformation from punk rock wrecking machine, guitars like cudgels and drums like aluminum rods, into one content to aimlessly drone about for seven-and-a-half minutes on a track named “Druglore?” There’s also the eight-and-a-half minute, “Smoke Dreams.” Think Spacemen 3 with less direction, more weed and more locos tacos.
One can think of Go Easy as a punk rock textbook. Not a history book, mind you, but a guide on how to make a bitchin’ punk rock record for the 21st Century. For the Brisbane, Australia band, Blank Realm, are not merely content to revisit underground styles first birthed in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s and recreate Youtube’s greatest punk rock moments of the past 40 years for new ears instead, each chapter they’ve written contains valuable lessons on how to make these time-tested methods your own.
For example, when considering the short-lived, phenomena of digital hardcore pioneered by Atari Teenage Riot in the mid-’90s, one should dial down the electronic harshness by moving the more caustic sounds into the background. No one really listened to Atari Teenage Riot, anyway.
When using the Buzzcocks as a template for a long punk song, the opposite becomes true. Any extra elements you can add over your epic’s six, seven, or eight minutes will be appreciated by the listener. Notice how in “Pendulum Swing,” each instrumental bridge is more intense than the one which precedes it, ultimately producing a gnarly sequence of feedback and sci-fi synths. The lead melody is in there, too, but you have to work to find it amongst all that buzz.
A similar method is employed on lead single, “Cleaning Up My Mess.” At a slower tempo, variations to your track’s repetitive elements become even more critical.
The most important lesson Blank Realm impart, however, is one which should be unspoken for would be punk artists: Be yourself. Whether they’re pulling from no-wave noise and polyrhythmic punk (“The Crackle Pt.1″), or bleak, world-weary post-punk (“Go Easy”), this foursome never loses their identity. Strains of psychedelic rock may have been more evident in their earlier releases, but that doesn’t mean they’ve completely abandoned their past. Their place and their experiences make them who they are today. See the tortured organ solo on “Growing Inside.”
Addendum: The examples outlined above are not meant to be copied note for note. Forget everything Blank Realm have taught you over Go Easy’s eight tracks and go make your own statement. That’s how punk works. That’s how punk continues to survive today.
Colleen Green and her one woman punk band first grabbed the attention of the underground with her 2012 release, Milo Goes to Compton. Green’s from Boston. She’s in Oakland now. Who knows if she’s ever been to Compton, but if you caught the Descendents reference, then you know where she’s been in a figurative sense.
“Heavy Shit,” on the other hand, is a about where she’s going, and, should you pay attention to the lyrics, the answer is a quick anywhere that heavy shit isn’t. It’s a simple, relatable sentiment, yet one that gains complexity once one assembles the rest of the track. First, there’s that gnarly, monotone guitar melody contrasted against Casio drum beats. Then, there’s her whole attitude with that heavy shit. Her vocals are both light and uplifting, suggesting she may not be as helpless as she let’s on. Colleen Green can handle a guitar, a band, and life, just fine, than you. Sock it to Me, the latest by Colleen Green, will be our March 19th on Hardly Art. Photo by Eric Penna
In a recent interview with the Village Voice, the men of the six-piece Brooklyn band, The Men, revealed their adoration Tom Petty. The excitement they expressed over Petty headlining Bonnaroo was akin to the reaction a hipster caricature would have to the announcement of a show by Arcade Fire, Animal Collective, or Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel. This can’t be the same band of scuzz-punk noisenicks who gained acclaim by reimagining decades of underground nasty, can it?
Yes, it can be. Yes, it is, but there’s a catch. One just can’t unlearn years of Husker Du, Nirvana and Sonic Youth. Even during New Moon’s most rustic moments, and the A-side of their new record has its share with “Open the Door,” “Half Angel Half Light,” and “Seeds,” The Men sound more like Tom Petty with The Heartbreakers, as in the classic punk band led by Johnny Thunders, than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the classic rock band with Southern charm.
The instruments of Americana — harmonica, pedal steel, and a casual vocal drawl, often have to share living space in the same gutter as that old guitar screech. That’s the case with “I Saw Her Face,” where the first half is a tear-jerker in the Jeff Tweedy mold and the second half is a thrash. It’s punk for rockers not afraid of getting old and country for those who prefer their country not be recorded by professional, Nashville session musicians.
While New Moon’s mix isn’t lo-fi in the place-a-boombox-in-the-corner-of-a-room way, its thinness compared to heavily produced, modern rock, marks another critical, stylistic choice by The Men. The mix is meant to invoke classic records by The Stooges and the Hearbreakers, and songs like Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” Guitar tracks collapse under the weight of their own feedback and every drum hit could topple a teetering kit duct-taped in place.
“Electric,” is just one cut where The Men use the tools of the studio to deftly navigate the history of both classic rock and cult rock bands. The melody could have made for a favorite on the FM dial, while the energy is ripped from the underground. Similarly, “I See No One,” is a road song in the ’70s tradition, but one whose motor needs a pit stop at every rest stop to refill an oil leak. Steppenwolf would never let their guitars sound so muddled. Husker Du did.
With their transition from a ’90s noise lovers’ favorite band to an all-purpose rock band all but complete, New Moon has The Men primed to leave those dirty, DIY spaces behind for a bigger stage. And once they finally arrive, with their old, leaky Chevy van hitched to the rear of Tom Petty’s million-dollar bus of comfort, they will still be the same men — Not the men of craft beer, top shelf booze and all organic riders; not the men of time outs for costume changes; and, not the men of 20 guitars and 20 guitar techs, but The Men whose honky-tonk culminates with eight minutes of curb stomps and gut punches. That’s your closing track, “Supermoon,” and your assurance these men, no matter where their music takes them in the future, will never forget their noisy roots.