Wednesday, December 30, 2020


Eyes and Flys - Eyes and Flys [no label]
Eyes and Flys - Coastal Access [no label]
Eyes and Flys - Everyday Life [no label]

A month or two ago I read about a band in Maximum Rock & Roll and ordered some self-released DIY 7”s for three bucks a pop from their Bandcamp. If it weren’t for the involvement of the internet, I’d have thought I stumbled upon a time machine back to 1993. This band in question is Buffalo’s Eyes and Flys and in case you missed that issue of MRR, I’m here to share a few words about ‘em.

Going chronologically, the first single kicks off with the eponymous “Eyes and Flys” which marries a sweet stomper of a riff suitable enough to be any band’s theme song with muffled monotone shouts. The rhythm section is really snappy with a buoyant snare pattern and a walking-but-still-rocking bassline. A lovable moment at the end of the song comes when someone says “Cool.” before the engineer hits stop. Seals the deal for me.

Side A’s shagginess gives way to Side B’s lethargy. Sleepy and sparse with an engaging bassline, “Fall Asleep with the TV on”, is a winner too but in a totally different way. Echoing drum and tambourine hits and acoustic guitar keep things in a relaxed state. The throughline between the two songs (and all of the Eyes and Flys material) is Pat Shanahan’s drawling vocals. I’m reminded a lot of Pink Reason’s Kevin Failure and how his deep speak-sing remained steadfast as the band navigated its various permutations.

On the second single, “Coastal Access” is a breakneck blast of jangle-punk spiritually emanating from a foul-smelling Twin Cities tavern in the mid-80s. Definitely a belligerent looker. On the flip, the “Black Flowers” apple doesn’t fall so far from the “Coastal Access” tree but mixes things up nicely. A driving, chunky bass riff puts wind in its sails until it opens up at the bridge with jangling acoustic guitar. A vaguely eastern and totally sick guitar solo caps it off with aplomb.

The most recent single features a far more yin and yang approach. First off the starting line, “Everyday Life” is a proud descendant of the Flipper/No Trend negative wave with killer tom-heavy drumming, ultimately falling somewhere between early A Frames and Perverts Again. It doesn’t take many listens before you start hearing Shanahan shouting “everyday life” in your head over and over as you’re trying to get work done or do your grocery shopping.

Predictably, my most played side is the oddball, “Wait for the Sun”. It begins and ends with bits of the song slowed down and then slips into a melodic ballad that pairs acoustic and electric guitars sans rhythm section (perhaps a tad Eric’s Trippy in its mellow, homey vibe). Despite the softer arrangement, Shanahan still sings like he’s fronting a hard rocking band which adds to the song's charm. “Wait for the Sun” is simple but hits all the right notes with its chord progression comfortably nestled in the loose, home-recorded feel that I never tire of. All the songs covered here are great in one way or another but this is the special one for my money.

I’ll definitely be keeping my eye (and flys) on these guys. Sounds like they have plenty more singles left in the tank to me.

Home Blitz - Practice 2018 [no label]

For fifteen years, Daniel DiMaggio's Home Blitz project has been one of the best in the game but it’s been five long ones since the world has heard any new Blitz material. While we didn't get a full length, DiMaggio returned this year with a fascinating 12” on Sophomore Lounge and this little self-released number which donates all proceeds to the G.L.I.T.S. and Survived & Punished organizations.

My understanding is that this Practice 2018 tape is one new song (“The Lawn”) that presumably didn’t make the cut on the 12” and then a collection of practice recordings from 2018 (duh.) The practice recordings are split pretty evenly between an eclectic group of covers and renditions of songs from the last Home Blitz LP, 2015’s Foremost + Fair. Foremost + first, “The Lawn” (no relation to The Lavender Flu’s modern classic of the same name) is fucking great! I dig the 12” and can see why “The Lawn” maybe doesn’t fit on it but it’s my favorite of the five new Home Blitz songs ushered in this year. It’s classic Home Blitz material, packing several songs worth of power pop moves into a ramshackle but highly competent glittering prize. It’s a song that doesn’t exactly have a chorus or even that much repetition (the middle section is an extended duel between a wild electric guitar and a toy piano) but it's immediately catchy and replayable anyway. DiMaggio has always had a knack for lodging a line from every song in my brain forever and for “The Lawn” it comes late when DiMaggio coos “I walk on tiptoes when I’m feeling extra confident”. I can’t imagine any Home Blitz fan not falling head over heels for it.

“The Lawn” is the reason the cassette is a must own but the rest of the tape is fun too. The covers—from the likes of 70s power poppers The Orbits and The Scruffs, contemporary pop star Camila Cabello, English folk traditionals and a hidden fragment of “Erica’s Word” by DiMaggio's favorite band Game Theory—give a pretty damn good idea of how Home Blitz became Home Blitz (though why Home Blitz is so good is an alchemy solely of DiMaggio's devising). The Cabello track is particularly interesting because I was unfamiliar with it and, based on the Home Blitz version, I’d of pegged it as an 80s not-quite-power-ballad pop hit I missed. After looking it up on Youtube, it’s definitely not that. Leave it to DiMaggio to isolate the immutable strains of songwriting that run through every generation’s version of pop music, even when they aren't readily apparent.

Particularly interesting to me are the scruffy live-wire versions of four songs from the ornate and polished Foremost + Fair. As good as Foremost is, I’m still partial to the fizzier early Home Blitz sound so getting a peek into a parallel dimension where DiMaggio retained that sound for the LP is a true delight. “Seven Thirty” in particular rocks even harder here and the album version already leaps from the speakers in the first place. 

If you've never heard of Home Blitz, grab the first LP Out of Phase pronto (still in print thanks to Richie Records/Petty Bunco) rather than the cassette. But if you're well-acquainted with DiMaggio's magic, go grab this tape and support worthy causes. I'm sure your accountant can designate it as a tax write-off too. Everybody wins!

Quietus - Volume Five [Ever/Never]

New York City combo Quietus’s fifth album, logically named Volume Five, instantly reminded me of William Carlos Whitman’s cassette Burn My Letters from a couple years ago when “Eau Dormante” first played over the speakers. Both records sound classic and also a bit out of time twenty years into the new millennium. As a man who spends most of his day professionally (and personally) living in the past, nothing is more pleasing than to hear records still being made with this certain 80s/90s je ne sais quois.

Quietus puts its best foot forward with leadoff track “Eau Dormante”. Lurching to life, the band joins in a midtempo stomp while the spirit of Joey Santiago freelances with a hot axe and endless sustain. That right there is enough to get the hairs standing up on the back of my neck and the song hasn’t even really begun. Geoffrey Bankowski’s restrained, breathy vocals add a lot of character to the song (and the whole album really). I get strong Ian McCulloch vibes (minus the accent) from Bankowski's delivery and, at times, some less hip reference points come to mind like Bono and maybe even a bit of Bobby’s little boy Jakob Dylan. Other than a mournful, perfectly adorned trumpet solo near the end, “Eau Dormante” never really changes and the track is all the better for it.

Elsewhere on Volume Five, “Pedagogy” blossoms into a Spacemen 3ish trudge replete with a languid bassline and requisite guitar feedback over its ten minute runtime. At two and a half minutes, “Reflex of Purpose” is by far the shortest and fastest tune on the disc, functioning like the little brother of “Eau Dormante.” It arrives at the perfect time leading into the final two songs, “Baldwin’s Silk Scarves” and “Posthemorrhagic”, two of the longest compositions on the album. 

“Scarves” introduces a new wrinkle with a slinky groove and twin guitar interplay, each chiming off one another. Author James Baldwin is the titular “Baldwin”. I know nothing of his silk scarves nor do I recall hearing a rock song about him before; he’s certainly a worthy subject. Bankowski dreams of a conversation he had with Baldwin where they discuss various subjects such as “drinks”, “France”, “rage” and my favorite: “good sentences.” 

“Posthemorrhagic” is no less verbose but it moves at the pace of a waltzing snail over the course of ten minutes. Around two-thirds of the way through, the tune sheds the rock band segueing quietly into a deconstructed arrangement of piano and brass. It’s unexpected and quite lovely. Bankowski’s somnolent voice reenters singing over his newfound surroundings with the band eventually resuming for the final moments. That whole section, around four minutes in length, is something special. Recommended if you like a soundtrack to your sleepwalking.