Tyvek is back! It's been three horrific years since Tyvek's last release, the 2016 long player Origin of What, and while there are a lot of things ahead of "no new Tyvek" on the official list of Shittiest Things About The Last Three Years, it still sucked for everyone. But want to know what doesn't suck? That's right, this single!
I shall not mince words, "I've Not Thought Once" and "We're Back" are two of the best songs Tyvek has manufactured. You got the scent of early 80s UK DIY and a whole lotta Buzzcocks-fueled power pop endorphins (especially on "We're Back"). Tyvek's hooks tend to be of the delayed release variety for me; it takes several plays before a song gets stuck in my head. Not immediately, but intensely gratifying, and I've grown to love them for it. Not the case here. It feels like Kevin Boyer plunged a syringe through each ear, injecting each side directly into my brain.
The two tracks are glued together by an instrumental two-parter "30th" and "34th/Market" which ends side A and opens side B. It could easily feel like filler, but it's actually really good too, pleasant midtempo jammin' with a touch of Trompe le Monde twang at the end of "34th/Market". But it's the two aforementioned songs that are the star attractions, whether it's the contagious guitar melody of "Thought" or the caffeinated slash and boogie of "We're Back", I'm pleased as rum punch when the needle's in the groove. I just wish I had a lyric sheet so I could make out Boyer's message to the incel community on "We're Back".
So when's the LP?
It warms the cockles of my heart that Tempe, AZ's Gilgongo Records is still chugging along better than ever (15 years folks! That's like four decades in 2000s experimental DIY label years). Gilgongo has received its fair share of praise from AuxOut over the years, and judging by the three LPs the label is rolling out next month, there's plenty more on the horizon.
On his debut LP, Ad for Nails, John Collins McCormick emulsifies solo percussion and a bit of musique concrète and that's a cocktail I'd happily intake intravenously 24/7 if I could.
The piece for which the album is named takes up the entirety of side A. Dropping the needle immediately emits a roar of red hot, thunderous drums (though fidelity cools later on). The notes say the piece contains sounds recorded around the Midwest so there's editing going on but it's hard to tell to what extent. At times it seems like McCormick might have some kind of mechanical assistance (a la Eli Keszler) rather than overdubs? Definitely a sheets of sound scenario. The jump cut to the second portion is a favorite moment shifting from a free percussion-as-noise tape feel to a more spacious recording with two pieces of metal infinitely grinding around and around (definitely some Aaron Zarzutzki vibes, which the world could use plenty more of). A few subtle oscillator tones materialize signaling the advent of something. And sure enough, that something arrives in the form McCormick taking up sticks again and working the kit in a much jazzier fashion this go round. There's a few computery glitches woven here and there. There might even be some didgeridoo and bagpipe in here?? More likely to be more oscillator or bowed something or other, but at this point who the fuck can say? Ah, then comes the palate cleanser of distant seagulls and cooing crickets. Out of the fog of near silence comes McCormick once more with a nice little percussive coda. Total banger, and not like every other free percussion weirdo out there either.
The second side, "How to Consider it Done", is the "weirder" one, leaning a bit more to the concrète side of things, which is just dandy with me. Besides, Johnny was probably exhausted from the workout he got on the first side. There are snatches of people speaking and industrial machinery mixed in among rattling percussion. McCormick moves away from drums toward quieter, close-mic'd hand-manipulated percussion which I always find thrilling. The smaller the gesture, the more tactile the texture, the greater your pleasure. We get more birdsong, some sonar blips at one point, various split second musical samples. In one particularly indelible moment we witness the sounds of an electronic can opener in the midst of a mental breakdown. The piece is more free flowing and less structured than the first side—surprisingly restful too. According to the notes, elements of this performance were recorded live for radio at Northwestern University so that may have something to do with it. Some people like sitting on a beach and listening to the waves in order to relax, but I'll take sitting on my couch and listening to McCormick any day.
The insert for Ad for Nails matter-of-factly states: "For best results this record should be played." I'd have to agree! I inadvertently tested the limits of this premise as during the first spin I had left the turntable set to 45rpm. I'm happy to report that it passed. Those "20+ minute" sides flew by! It sounds good at the designated 33rpm as well, so any way you play it you'll be satisfied. Hell, I bet it'd sound great if you played it backwards too, if you're into that sort of thing.
Still don't know what a "gilgongo" is but after 15 wonderful years, I'm still enjoying the mystery.
Shame on me for not writing about this earlier, as this cassette was probably my favorite 2018 full length if I took a proper accounting, which I almost never do. I foolishly thought if I waited long enough I'd magically offer up a truly profound bit of prose befitting this excellent tape. But it hasn't happened so you're stuck with this.
Bill Whitten previously lead a pair of bands (St. Johnny and Grand Mal) who I had never come across (though they're sure as hell on my radar now) so I really had no expectation of what Burn My Letters would sound like, much less any idea of who Bill Whitten was. Many thanks to Boston-area institution I Heart Noise for introducing me.
I'd spill thousands of words if I dug into every great song on Burn My Letters, and I'm already struggling with my resolution to keep things shorter, so I'm gonna focus on the album's top two tracks. I Heart Noise cleverly picked these two irresistible numbers to float out digitally before the release and I was hooked. I don't spend much time listening to music on digital devices, so the fact that I became so addicted to a pair of songs I had no choice but to listen to on computer or phone is a marvel. "Burn My Letters" and "In My Borsalino, Pointing a Revolver" are hands down two of the best songs of the decade, pure ear candy. The rest of the album is fantastic too, there are plenty more good songs, but these are the central pillars holding up the temple.
The title track kicks off the tape, fueled by the interplay of piano, organ and guitar lines and a doggedly simple drum beat as Whitten waxes poetic about "hair the color of tarnished cutlery." The framework of the song is simple, but Whitten has a gift of building little melodies on top of one another, conjuring up an endlessly listenable number with ease. "Borsalino" is similar but imbued with a tougher rock & roll stomp. After a spacey intro, the guitars are switched on and Whitten starts tossing out the names of poets, revolutionaries, French new wave directors and other people you'd want to hang out with. (I suspect "borsalino" may be a nod to Alain Delon as well.) Anchored by an unassuming but supremely catchy guitar riff, the track's strut is unbeatable and Whitten could have stretched it to "Sister Ray" length and I'd still be on my knees begging for more. I don't often comment on "coolness" in these pages but the tune is impossibly cool. A savvy director is gonna come along one day and license this track, and then take all the credit when it transforms a run-of-the-mill scene into some thing magnificently memorable.
You have to reach back a bit to find suitable comparisons (masters of melancholy like Elliott Smith, eels and Sparklehorse) with some production tactics you'd find on a Creeper Lagoon record but Whitten has his own flavor. My favorite Whitten mode leans into his unhurried swagger, delivering lines like "it was your emptiness that appealed to me" in a husky, haggard drawl that sometimes sounds half-asleep in the best way possible. Burn My Letters never exceeds mid-tempo at any point yet it features some of the most invigorating and propulsive tracks in recent memory. Whitten also proves himself just as adept at the delicate ballad throughout the tape especially the concluding duo of the imposing "Every Man for Himself" and lovely "100 Days".
Burn My Letters feels out of time, like I've unearthed a gem from 25 years ago that's patiently watched the hands of the clock confident that due adulation will be arriving eventually. There's a warmth to Burn My Letters that seems harder and harder to find these days. In fact, given I Heart Noise's reissue project of underserved 90s act, Turkish Delight, I thought maybe Burn My Letters is a reissue as well—it just sounds so classic. But it's not, it's the year 2019 and we are still blessed with people who can write some goddamn enduring songs. Pinch me, I must be dreaming.
Some months ago a mysterious tape showed up in my mailbox from the UK. It had this cool drawing of a mermaid-chicken-man creature, and quite obviously, I had no clue what it would sound like. This type of sensation has happened more than a few times over the years, and, let me tell you, I don't always end up a winner. But sometimes I get lucky and this is one of those times.
Jacken Elswyth takes the first side and showcases several sides of the banjo. "Improvisation for Bowed Banjo and Shruti"is a great little piece merging Indian and Appalachian worlds making for some kind of banjo raga thing. Elswyth's take on Fahey's take on the traditional hymn "In Christ There is No East or West" is quite scenic. "The Banks of the Green Willow" is a lovely little change up as Elswyth sings a traditional tune as he walks through the woods, with a chorus of birds singing and leaves crackling underfoot. So much texture and a handsome vocal performance. Love it! The woodland sounds segue perfectly into "Improvisation for Banjo and Brushes" which features a rustling backing track of brushes rubbed across the banjo's membrane while Elswyth lets it fly over top. The piece features my favorite instance of Elswyth's playing, there's a touch of Bill Orcutt to it, simultaneously brutish and lyrical with the scrape of the backing track amping up the tension. A+
The brief "Improvisation for banjo and delay (25.1)" is the only piece I don't connect with as much. I can't find fault with it but I tend to prefer acoustic stringed instruments sans electric effects. I like my whiskey neat and my banjo dry. Just rubs the right way, I don't know why. (That's fuckin' poetry if I do say so myself.)
As charming as Elswyth's side is, it was Quinie's side that really bowled me over. Hailing from Glasgow, Quinie arrives with a bag of folk songs under her arm. I'm not sure if these are traditionals or what, but Quinie's take on them is undoubtedly her own. Occasionally a capella (or usually near to it), her side is bold and self-assured.
The gorgeous "Whas at the Windy" is nothing but Quinie's voice and a touch of reverb but for most tracks she devises subtle accompaniment for her voice. The opener "Red Yoyo" perfectly encapsulates her approach, judiciously employing chimes, rattle and whistle to create a sparse backing track. She nails it. I'm not even sure what I'm hearing on "Jean" maybe heavy accordion tones and some kind of insistent kazoo(?) On "Link and Scone" Quinie sings over nothing but the clatter of echoing percussion. Each track seems to have a different arrangement but they all fit together seamlessly.
The most memorable of Quinie's vocal performances comes on "Cock Sparra" (or "Cock Sparrer" to all you punks) as waves of reedy organ lap at her feet. There's a wondrous instrumental post-script that concludes the song, once again proving she's as skilled a composer as she is a performer. The breathtaking final track "Blue Boat" doubles the length of the next longest track and it's tremendous to have an extended track to get lost in. The accompaniment is among the most sparse on the tape—the song's nearly a capella but it returns at the ideal moment. After Quinie's voice fades, foggy bass saxophone (or at least that's what it sounds like to these hears) mourns in the darkness for a few moments more and that's it.
I'm really doing a poor job of describing this and that's the beauty of it. There are so few elements, that there isn't so much to describe in a quantitative sense. It's Quinie's magnetic and incomparable performance that produces such personal magic. Something you have to experience for yourself because these words certainly won't translate it properly. But, trust me, it's great.
Quinie reminds me of Laurie Anderson if she disappeared into the hills of Scotland for a few decades and re-emerged fully intoxicated by the Scots folk tradition. I love Laurie Anderson and I don't throw her name around willy nilly so that should give you some idea of how taken I am with Quinie's work. Such power in both her voice and compositional prowess. Her vision here is fully realized and utterly perfect. I am blessed that her music appeared in my mailbox.
Two distinct sides that perfectly complement each other. Very hard quality to find in a split. I could listen to this tape all day. Recommended!
How did I make it to 30 years of age before someone told me about Melbourne, Australia's Venom P. Stinger?! I'm pissed at the world because of it. I don't have a strong case, however, because our Chicagoan chums at Drag City reissued all of the output from the "classic" line-up (before singer Dugald MacKenzie bowed out) back in 2013. I was literally living in Chicago when this happened! Obviously, I was pretty jacked up on Portillo's and Pequod's and didn't exactly have my wits about me. But let's not dwell on the good times, because Dugald MacKenzie surely isn't on "Walking About", the finest two and a half minutes the Stinger squad ever laid down.
If you already know V.P. Stinger, you've probably stopped reading by now ("I've listened to this thousands of times, mate, I don't need you to tell me about it. Get over yourself!") but if you don't, their biggest claim to fame these days is that Mick
Is paranoid punk a codified subgenre yet? If so, "Walking About" is the flagship anthem. The opening salvo "They got my car/They got my house/They got the keys to my door/I can't get ooooout!" is probably felt as deeply in 2019 as it was in 1988. MacKenzie exhales the lyrics with such desperation that you're instantly looking over your shoulder, rifling through drawers for anti-anxiety medication even though you were having a great fucking day just a minute ago.
The B side "26 Milligrams" is really great too and probably deserving of its own A side. I struggle with the guilt of not flipping the record often enough. "Walking About" being so good is no excuse to neglect "26 Milligrams". Self-flagellation seems like the appropriate action here but I'll substitute telling you about it instead. Coming on like a pissed off "Shot by Both Sides", "26mg" is one of the more "classic punk" sounding Stinger tracks, sounding like The Clash if they were a bunch of fucked up miscreants instead of a successful rock group. Dugald doesn't hit the same lows he does on "Walking About" (thankfully) but there's no lollipops or sunshine to be found either. Backed by a frenetic two-chord stomp, MacKenzie drops tortured stanzas like "So learn no more to cry/All our ways they change/From a gland, into the core/I think it's slowly eating me away". It'd choke you up if you weren't too busy moshing in your living room.
I might've survived three decades without Venom P. Stinger but I'm not gonna let my kid suffer the same fate. She's gonna be the coolest girl in school when she's rocking a homemade Stinger tee on her first day of preschool.
Short tapes are like manna from heaven. Relatively few artists have earned the right to make an album lasting over 40 minutes, so next time you're thinking about dropping your second c-90 in a calendar year (you know who you are) think a little bit longer about it. Thankfully, this is not a complaint I have to lodge with the curiously titled and unpronounceable "?" Letter, which clocks in gracefully under 20 minutes. メトロノリ Metoronori is an artist hailing from Japan (although the label Cudighi records is local with a delicious looking logo in tow) and this is my first experience with her music.
I was immediately taken with "?" Letter because the first two tracks don't have proper drum tracks and I love it! It's a brave move and pays off in spades. "Blue Sheer" features shards of vocals and synth gently tumbling through space in a frenetic but pleasing manner. メトロノリ Metoronori instantly creates a little pop world of her own. "まだ" is mellower owing much to a lovely synth phrase. Quite a beautiful piece, somewhere between contemporary electronic pop and neo-classical composition.
So the first two tracks really knocked me out, and the rest of tracks are good too but メトロノリ Metoronori introduces traditional beats and, unfortunately, it causes the rest of the tape to sound just a tad more conventional by comparison. Not a deal breaker by any means, just that I think the tape would have gone to another level if the initial (beat-less) aesthetic she established had carried though its duration. Abstraction really works for her.
"Course 辷る" reminds me a bit of Enon's electronic moments, though pushed far more outré while "鬼の目" features catchy filtered synth swells. The last track "空で、動かないで" nearly returns to the same initial aesthetic as the drum track makes only a brief appearance and it sounds great, giving the wonderful little song room to move and breathe.
It's abundantly clear that メトロノリ Metoronori is more than capable of making great techno-pop, but on a few tracks she shows she can make something even greater and it's my selfish wish that she pushes herself further in that direction. メトロノリ Metoronori's compositions are inherently rhythmically sophisticated so the beats feel superfluous and perhaps slightly cramp her fascinating pop structures. Still, beats or no beats, "?" Letter's vibe remains in tact, one that is soothing but entirely present, never hiding behind a haze to achieve its remarkable dreamlike effect.
If you are a person who (a) really digs electronic drum tracks or (b) isn't as finicky as yours truly (good for you!) then you'll probably find no fault whatsoever and think it's a perfect way to spend 20 minutes. Its brevity makes a delicious little morsel that you'll want to flip time and time again.
Ricky Papiercuts has traveled a long way since that noisebomb River of Shit 7" with Chinese Restaurants (and an assist from Barack Obama). Now he's making tunes that my dad might even dig. I've got the first Papiercuts LP A Sudden Shift but I missed his second and there definitely must have been a sudden shift (nailed it) because Twisting the Night eschews the Beefheartian skronk and punk edginess present on his debut. (Although on "The Riddle", Papiercuts does briefly paraphrase Scott Walker's "Farmer in the City" when he deeply bellows "Today I am a citizen" signaling he hasn't left the avant-garde completely.) This refinement/softening (you pick) isn't a bad thing in the least as I quite like the four songs that Dick has come up with here.
The sound on Twisting the Night is akin to 80s-era Bowie or less synth-y Tears for Fears (who Papiercuts did cover on A Sudden Shift), with a bit of U2 and full pop-mode Psychedelic Furs swirling around in there too (particularly on the rockin' epic "Starless Summer Night".) The EP is chock full of great horn arrangements, driving guitar lines and twinkling keys with Papiercuts's confident baritone leading the way.
Timing is everything and the first track "A Place to Stay" lands a sentimental bulls eye at this exact point in my life. I think I still would have appreciated it ten years ago, but I certainly appreciate it more now. Papiercuts expertly and honestly weaves a portrait of the anxieties that marriage and a child can bring but also the love, comfort and reassurance that comes part and parcel. A trade-off you never regret. (A bunch of smiling kids adorn the inner sleeve leaving no question that Papiercuts is aiming squarely for the middle-aged softy demographic.) Propelled by a galloping bassline, synth-string swells, and soaring sax and trombone lines, you really feel like "yeah! I can figure this life stuff out too!" Thanks for the encouragement Richard!
The closer, pseudo-title track "World and Not-World (Twisting the Night)", is all chorus. Built upon a little sequenced synth line, Papiercuts keeps building and building on the same melody, folding in more instruments until it ends abruptly on a quiet ping. It's hard to pick a standout track because they're all so evenly matched. The sentimental pick is "A Place to Stay" for me but an argument could be made that "World" may be the record's most succinct and catchiest composition.
Nerd note: this 12" EP was cut at 33rpm with the same four songs (same versions too) appearing on both sides. Still not sure why. Maybe it's to help out the parents out there? If your kid gets her sticky fingers on side A, just flip the record and it's no worse for wear. The CEO of Ever/Never has publicly professed his love of the 45rpm 12" (seemingly the perfect format for this very recording) so Mr. Papiercuts must have some serious weight to throw around behind the scenes to implement such an eccentric format choice.
Despite several records on SST and New Alliance, California's Slovenly have remained under the radar in the decades since their dissolution. Not all that surprising considering they don't share a whole lot in common with Greg Ginn nor Mike Watt, sonically speaking anyway. They were an offshoot of Saccharine Trust yet didn't really retain any of those characteristics either. Nevertheless, Slovenly were an excellent, eccentric band that everyone should hear and I've chosen to write about this EP because in spite of its wretched artwork, it's short, it's really good and (unlike the rest of the Slovenly discography) you can track it down for dirt cheap if you keep an eye out (one of my best dollars spent!).
The thing about Slovenly is that they tend to be wordy, too wordy for some. I often wonder if that Lifter Puller/Hold Steady guy happened across a Slovenly record many moons ago and thought "I bet if I dumbed this down and threw in a couple Springsteen riffs, I could make a killing off the shtick." Comparing a band I don't like to a band I really like doesn't seem like the best foot to start on but somehow I ended up here anyway. Slovenly isn't The Hold Steady though.
This 7" finds Slovenly trying out a few different styles that complement one another over the course of four tracks. The small-size platter also forces the band to be more economical so the tracks steer away from the more languid approach of some of their LP work. "Seeking Equilibrium" begins with an odd quasi-island rock vibe, but whatever supposed relaxation there was quickly wears off and the lyrical anxieties set in. Struggling through the fog of melancholia and wrestling with his "supposed sanity", Steve Anderson opines "I'm thankful for my days off". Me too, man, me too. The track volleys between soothing violin with shimmering keyboard and in-the-red shredfest. It's one of those instances where the lyrical theme is aurally translated (and successfully!) as the instrumentation embodies a muddled mess of emotional states. Kinda mindboggling that the track works but it absolutely does. One of my favorite songs of theirs.
"Obviousness" embraces the angst head on with fuzzy strained vocals, though it also sounds like every stringed instrument is being played with a slide making for an oddly smooth contrast to the voice. The drums also sound like they've been treated somehow, like the snare is being run through a delay or something. Again, quite bizarre, yet satisfying
"Welcome Home" stands out in the Slovenly discography. There is a female vocalist (Trish Scearce) singing along with Anderson and even taking the lead for a bit. It's the only track where this occurs (at least on the Slovenly records I have) and feels quite good. It's a jaunty tune with a jangling earworm riff and wonderful, stuttering violin melody. Guest violinist Sam Goldman makes a damn good case that he should have been a full-time member as his contributions are among my favorite aspects of the record. Even with a lyric mentioning infanticide, the track sounds downright pleasant.
"Sixth Fingerless" is an abstract instrumental with fragments of voices and guest trumpet courtesy of Phil Smoot. It's a restful way to end the action-packed EP.
All in all, it's 10 minutes well spent, and who knows maybe you'll find yourself to be as fond of Slovenly as I am.
Blaxxx - Blaxxx [12XU]
Manateees - Croc N My Pocket [12XU]
Like everyone else who likes music, I've enjoyed 12XU's makeover this decade. Formerly in the business of exporting Spoon offshore, they've since been hustlin' various flavors of a baseball bat to the face (The Unholy Two, Burnt Skull), a really good Gotobeds record, reissuing Stick Men with Ray Guns (the Lord's work) and a host of other records that I haven't heard yet but probably kick ass. I'm sticking with this trio of 12" EPs today.
Exhaustion dropped one of the finest Australian exports of the decade, their debut LP Future Eaters on Aarght!, so now I have a standing order to grab any record emblazoned with some arrangement of a bold uppercase E, X, H, A, U, S, T, I, O, and N. (They stick out like a sore thumb when rifling through the bins so bang up job by Exhaustion's in-house marketing team.) Phased Out struck me as a bit of a curiosity. Two tracks on side A and two remixes on side B. Um, okay... I'll take remixes over an etching or some other non-audio decoration though. And to be honest, I really wanted to know what the hell a remixed Exhaustion song would sound like.
Exhaustion build on the trance-punk vibes of their debut, but where everything moved pretty slowly there, Phased Out ramps up the tempo. The title track features some EXCELLENT drumming, militant dance floor pummeling. A barrage of toms, serious thwack-thwack-thwack from the snare and thump-thump-thump from the kick. I'm not often one to zero in on drums during rock tracks, but drummer Per Byström can't be ignored here. The drumming fucking rules on "Colleague" as well but it's supported by some killer industrial feedback grind calling to mind Sightings and Angels in America. Totally relentless rhythms. This is my kind of headbanger's ball.
The trio (though a fourth member, Mark Barrage, is credited with "FX" on this release) has an uncanny way of conjuring a blurry sound, that somehow feels forceful and overt—never getting lost or looking directionless in the process. Not entirely unlike the Spacemen 3 ethos, but delivering a very different product. Exhaustion don't sound druggy though, and what's so great about the band is there isn't any easy shorthand adjective to describe them. Their sound isn't radically different but it's absolutely their own. If I'm picking an adjective, I'll just go with captivating.
Now that I've had my ass thoroughly kicked, how about those remixes... not too bad actually. They're definitely odd, and perhaps obviously the tracks aren't a seamless translation to the club but I have a good time with them on the turntable. Aussie punk royalty Mikey Young opts for the traditional synth-throb remix genre, throwing in a stepping synth-bass line. Not taking any chances but it's a tried and true method I can't fault. And you're taking a chance by remixing an Exhaustion track in the first place. I'm a sucker for disco, so when he starts laying on the synth-string counter melodies, I'm all in! I actually find myself pulling out the record just to hear this track which surprises me more than anyone. Seemingly borrowing the drum track from "Love to Love You Baby" the "Colleague" remix by Rites Wild has more of a dark late 90s techno vibe to my ears. Doesn't get me on the dance floor like Young's remix but it would be nice mood music in a splattery Refn flick.
So with Blaxxx and Manateees, it's clear 12XU has a fetish for band names spelled with three letters in row. I shudder to think what Exhaustion had to give up at the negotiating table to avoid rechristening themselves Exxxhaustion before signing on the dotted line.
Leading off with the eponymous killer "Blaxxx" is a bangin' move because it immediately gets you in a savage mood. It's got my favorite groove on the record and there's some wailing sax buried down deep and a combustible solo on the breakdown. I don't know Bim's stuff too well (outside of Puffy Areolas) but Obnox is an obvious reference point, or a less psychotic Puffys (if you can even fathom such a thing). "Cut 'Em Down" is the easy choice for a single, with the shout-along chorus and mirrored riff. A well-placed "woo!" doesn't hurt either. I haven't heard all 300 Obnox LPs Bim has dropped this decade so forgive me if I'm off base, but this is the most Obnox-y jam on the record.
On the flip side "Let Me Hold Your Hand" features a spoken intro from Bim making it clear that Blaxxx is the real music and in turn they should be getting all the money. An amusing beginning but the track is the obligatory dirge, a thick as molasses fuzz trudge. The final Blaxxx track (of all time?) "Get a Hold on Your Life" is a genuine firestarter that will keep you blastin' even after you lift the needle. It literally sounds like the tape is a degree or two below its flash point, and the trio is about immolate themselves in a legendary rock & roll death by basement inferno. This one rivals the title track.
The record flies by leaving lots of room for future plays, a perfectly designed 45rpm 12".
The initial impression the EP makes isn't quite what I expected. There's a surprising bit of jangle on "Buoyant Life" matched with pissed off vocals (which fit the MO I presumed). "Under the Gun" is speedier but there's still a weird amount of proper minor chords in use here. The production is notable because it's not quite lo-fi but has a thin sound (1 vox track, 1 guitar track, 1 bass track, 1 drum track—no overdubs) reminding me of late 70s and 80s indie records where the song had nothing to hide behind. "Stellar" adds Manateees to the long list of punk bands singing about aliens and/or outer space (The Twinkeyz, The Zoomers, Outer Spacist, Tyvek and, uh, Blink 182). It's a solid addition.
Things get weirder on the second side. "River of Death" is all evil vibes holding a strange prog/metal fixation (replete with a half-time bridge and dramatic chord changes) with bad news lyrics about heavy topics like "chemical waste". The main dude really gets shrieking at one point and you know he ain't fucking around. Best track of the record for sure. "On the Run" is up there too, really locking into a fast punk rave-up with multiple jaw harp solos and a sick whistling breakdown. Wacky as shit and totally catchy. Feeds my earlier observation that they only have four tracks to work with and the vox were sacrificed to make room for the jaw harp and whistling. Can't say they made the wrong decision. "Witch" is no Sonics cover but it is the most KBD-style track, going harder and faster than everything that preceded it with a pretty sweet octave line. Oh yeah, then it turns into an extended metal-tinged breakdown with Bathory-esque yelping.
Crazy record and I feel like I don't quite grasp exactly what Manateees are all about, which makes me think I do probably grasp exactly what they're all about.