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2015-2019 Record Reviews

Reviews by Chris Auman

Tyranny is Tyranny The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Tyranny is Tyranny
The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

The fact that Tyranny is Tyranny took the subtitle of Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism for the name of their latest full-length gives you a pretty good idea where this band comes from politically. Musically, they come from a bleak post-hardcore region of noisy sludge. Geographically, they hail from Madison, WI, which has a fair bit of snowy sludge for a good chunk of the year. I lived in Madison for a stretch recently and was able to catch this band of raging lefties in action a few times. One show was at Mr. Roberts, which Chicagoans should imagine as the Mutiny only with Packers/Brewers garb and signage instead Bears/Cubs.

The album contains only five songs, but they are all either mini-epics or full-on multi-part tunes that push the album past the 40 minute mark. Throaty screaming about the ills of capitalism running unchecked and amuck provides much of the subject matter. The album opens with "Or Does it Explode" a reference to the poem "Harlem" with lyrics inspired by two other Langston Hughes poems, "Lenox Avenue Mural" and "Let America Be America Again". The second track, "She Who Struggles," concerns itself with J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO program. It opens slowly with sparse instrumentation before bursting into rage. The album is not all full-on metal plodding, "Pillar of Cloud Pillar of Fire" features a somber trumpet as it builds and collapses. "Victory Will Defeat You" ends the album over the course of a nearly fifteen minute march.

Being in a band can feel like a long hard slog sometimes and Tyranny is Tyranny delivers a good forceful pounding which post hardcore fans will enjoy regardless of their politics.

The Central Discovery of a Rat

The Central
Discovery of a Rat
[Blue Bedroom]

The Central deliver a new twelve-song album from their home base in Madison, Wisconsin. The general population of the great “Cheese State” apparently bought the Trump line of gaudy merchandise hook, line and sinker, but I won’t hold that against this band or the 77 square miles surrounding its capital city.

The Central, by its own admission, is a progressive grind band and they do grind, but this two-piece outfit is by no means a one-trick-pony. Their latest full-length album, Discovery Of A Rat, contains a full-on assault of extreme noise that is angry and raw to be sure, but there’s also quiet parts and little melodic worms that work their way into their songs and then into your skull. This includes but is not limited to the funky ditty “Palette Cleanser” which is the sonic version of exactly that. Many of the tracks contain as much groove as grind, and more math rock than full on metal mayhem. “Australian Karate Jew” has a 90s indie/math rock sound; “Totem Bowl” actually has a speedy, hyper kinetic pop sound; and “Pop Culture Prostitute”, which features audio snippets of Henry Rollins being a dick, is an especially thrashed out track. As a side note, the album cover is excessively gnarly.

Discovery Of A Rat is cathartic, angry and loud, yet razor sharp. Don’t believe me? Stream it for yourself.

Nathan Xander Blue House

Nathan Xander
Blue House
[Trailer Fire Records]

Nathan Xander returns. Not that he went away, but he is back, nevertheless, with an album full of homesickness and being homeward bound. The Pennsylvania native is based in New York City these days, but he has enjoyed a period of wandering that has seen him living the nomadic life of a troubadour. This is evident on the 12-tracks of Blue House, which was recorded in Upstate New York, in a barn, painted blue, providing at least one meaning behind the album's title.

Xander delivers his goods with simple acoustic arrangements and heartfelt crooning in a strained, world-weary voice. It's an approach that's he employs straight out of the gate on the opener, “Mount Washington,” a slow burner of longing if there ever was one. Like most of the songs on Blue House, it’s got an old school country twang combined with pop sense.

The album continues to deliver with "Over Me, Over You," another slow and sad jam that would be at home on the jukebox next to Patsy Cline. "You're Never Wrong" captures the warm glow of 70s AM radio but washed in reverb and melancholy. "Enoch's Blues" does indeed have a bluesy swing that's hard to resist. "Pennsylvania" is about Xander's home state in which asks to be brought home because he hates his neighbors and he hates his job, but he doesn't hate Pennsylvania yet.

There’s a sense of loss and being forlorn on Blue House, but there is a bit of defiance as well and Xander’s more versed in country than the blues, anyway. Whatever mood the songs reflect, the production remains bright and the pace never drags [Nathan Xander]

Sweet Times Volume 6 Various

Sweet Times Volume 6
Various Artists
[Who Can You Trust?]

Sweet Times Volume 6 is a four-way seven inch split compilation from the German label Who Can You Trust? You can generally trust WCYT? to put out some heavy rock and this sixth volume of their series is no exception. While I missed Sweet Times volume 1 through 5, I would imagine they contained similar efforts from like-minded bands.

Oakland’s Dealer step up to knock out the first song of side A with a heavy slab called “Casino” which sounds like early 90s Sub Pop—maybe a few fingers borrowed from Six Finger Satellite.

Sticking with the state of California, Char-Man, from Ojai, deliver a jangly Ramones-inspired fuck all tune about whatever “Freak Rock” is. Hydromedusa from Adelaide (in the Down Under) bring us a song called (and possibly about) Falco. And to bring it all home, L.A.’s Zig Zags bleed all over a track called "Blood" and a Black Sabbath-sized riff.

The main thrust of this comp., and the bands on it, is heavy unbridled rock with a little metal and punk thrown in for good measure. I think they used to call this grunge, but I could be mistaken.

This seven inch EP is a limited edition run of 500 and features a cover by Jesse California, seemingly inspired by Gilbert Sheldon’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

Abstractithica Max Hall

Max Hall
[Evil Hoodoo]

Abstractithica is a 45 minute collage of field recordings meticulously culled from anywhere and everywhere, around the world, and in the UK in particular.

Hall used a stereo field recorder to grab bits of conversations, street noises and anything else of aural interest to him. It took him a year to put the pieces together and the result is an interesting and mildly hypnotic recording. I found it quite pleasant to listen to whilst concentrating on other things, like writing reviews for example. Smatterings of applause pop up as does traffic noise, even snatches of a Manu Chao song reveal themselves at unexpected times. It’s like taking a walk down the street while blindfolded. A sensory stimulation and a out of body simulation. Public transportation and some circus or carnival music jars you out of the trances. This is a very limited edition run of 250 vinyl LPs that is worth investigating if you are into experimental music, sound collages and the like.

Wooing Daydream Time Machine

Daydream Time Machine EP
[Ba Da Bing]

Rachel Trachtenburg’s latest band, Wooing, is looking to do just that with this three-song seven inch EP from Ba Da Bing. Though still shy of 30 by a few years, Trachtenburg has already had a long career in music. From her childhood days in the family band, The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, and the pop project that followed, Supercute!, she has been a presence on the music scene in New York City since the tender age of nine.

A long affiliation with NYC has rubbed off on Wooing in a good way and it's a good long way from cloylingly cute ukulele and keyboard music. The three songs on the band’s debut incorporate a Sonic Youth-inspired guitar noise assault and makes use of the loud/soft, sweet/noisy formula of 90s bands like Nirvana and the Breeders all. It works well when set against Trachtenburg’s sweet, youthful voice.

“In Color,” a song inspired by the LSD experiments performed on housewives in the 1950s, starts with quiet guitar and hushed vocals that rise in a wave of reverb-soaked guitars and a sliding bass line that helps it builds into a bad trip freakout before resolving itself.

“Tear World” is stressed out, screaming guitars that can only be soothed by Trachtenburg’s crooning pleas, ending with guitars that mimic the language of whales, if I’m not mistaken. On “Two Can Keep A Secret” the vocals match the agitated intensity of the rest of the band before it too resolves into sweetness and light. A solid three-song effort for this brand new trio and a hope that they maintain the effort.

The Lost Art of Empathy Voice of Addiction

The Lost Art of Empathy
Voice of Addiction
[no label]

Voice of Addiction has been around for 14 years. Although there have been lineup changes, Ian Tomele has been the one constant member. Through the Bush years, Obama’s sense of Hope and then the surreal nightmare of Trump, Ian has been touring, recording and booking shows through Wrecking Ball Productions.

Voice of Addiction have played over over 1,200 shows across North America. They have five releases under their studded belts and have been a part of the Chicago punk scene for nearly a decade and a half. The Lost Art of Empathy is their latest full-length is a solid effort that is relentless. V.o.A. is what you would categorize as politically charged and social conscious and deliver that message through musclely punk rock that is at time sing-along anthemic, crunchy distorted guitar. You know the kind that gets the fists pumping and the crowd singing along in beer soaked abandon. from long-established Chicago punk rock band Voice of Addiction. Solid, forceful punk rock for the socially The band was filmed along with other Chicago punk stalwarts you know doubt have seen over the year (88 Fingers Louie, Pegboy, Local H and Naked Raygun). Director Bradley Pontecore filned the live on an stage and off fun for the upcoming Madness Maker Films documentary “Punk Band,” scheduled for a 2018 release.

Brat Curse
[Anyway Records]

Brat Curse (not to be confused with Wisconsin's Bratwurst Curse—not a band, but rather my inability to NOT eat seven brats in one sitting whenever I am in the Dairy State) deliver an album of poppy, punky, rock and roll with their sophomore full-length effort and first for Columbus, Ohio’s Anyway label.

This self-titled LP features 11 catchy tunes, most of which come in at under the three minute mark. The band proves they can drive fast but also switch lanes with relative ease and merge their pop tendencies with punk and indie rock. They are not unlike their Ohio precursors Gaunt in this respect and they reveal a love of 90s underground and alternative groups like Superchunk and Pixies.

The album kicks off with “Sweat Pants Lawyer,” a fast tempo raver that displays that aforementioned raw 90s punk sound and pop sensibility (I would totally hire a sweatpants lawyer, by the way). “It’s On Until it’s Not)” taps into the Weezer vein of big, loud, hooky guitars. “Psycho in the Furnace,” has a nice bit of Pixie’s swing to it. The instrumental “Spring Break Reagan” is a high-powered affair arriving on the heels of “Sobriety Butcher”—a brief interlude which sounds like a folk tune under the influence of the Flaming Lips. “Who Do You Call? brings an angular math rock sound to class and then the punk pop of “Acid Capsule Tina,” the album’s longest track at three minutes and 25 seconds makes it an epic jam by comparison.

The band’s half decade of existence hasn’t seen a terribly high recorded output which is understandable given the number of other bands its individual members are engaged in, which are all probably simultaneously side projects of each other. The byproduct is a solid guitar album with no filler, as it leans heavily on 90s underground rock. The Burse no doubt put on a great live show which you can catch later in the year in a venue near you when the album is released on August 2. The vinyl version will be limited to 200 pressings so don’t whiff on that.

Early Iteration - cover art for Philly based post-hardcore band Grip

Early Iteration
[no label]

When Grip’s debut album, Early Iteration, grabs a hold of your ears, good luck prying off those cold, dead fingers. From the very first seconds of feedback that signal the start of leadoff track, “Entrance,” until the album closes an hour later with “Judgment,” it’s all they way on. That’s not to say the pace never relents. There are brief instrumental interludes scattered about that give a respite from the aural anguish, but it doesn’t last. Even when things do chill out momentarily, the tension never fully abates for the majority of this 9-song album.

Early Iteration is the result of nearly four years of writing and self-recording work. The tracks were recorded in Philadelphia and Chicago between 2016 and 2019. It’s the first release for this Philly band since their 5-song "Wolves/Fawn" EP in 2015, put out a year after the band’s formation. At this point in its tenure, Grip is a duo with Alex handling the guitar and vocals and Dan on the bass with both handling the drum programming.

According to the description on the band’s Bandcamp page for the album, “Early Iteration draws upon a mythic structure to deliver a multifaceted narrative addressing sacrifice, belief, and the evolution of an idea.” The listener will have to take the band’s word for it, as the lyrics are not easy to decipher. They’re delivered with abrasive, throat ravaging vocals. Yes, there will be screaming—not all all uncommon in the post hardcore genre which seems to be defined by aggression and brutality.

The album art, as sparse and bare bones as the music, was created by Alex. Grip also dubs and releases their own music on cassette, which to date has included a few singles and the previously mentioned EP, in addition to this full-length.

Even in the Tremor
Lady Lamb
[Ba Da Bing]

Lady Lamb, aka Aly Spaltro, has come a long way since her days of selling home recordings from the video rental store (remember those?) where she worked in New England. She was still a teenager when she wrote the material for her debut album Ripley Pine, released in 2013. followed by the album After in 2015 and the EP Tender Warrior’s Club in 2016.

Even in the Tremor, Lady Lamb’s first full-length album in four years, is a personal, soulbaring effort for Spaltro who certainly hasn't held back in the past. Even so, according to the artist formerly known as the Beekeeper, this in an introspective album where the material is based entirely on her own life. Over the album’s 11 tracks, Aly reaches deep into the corners of her mind and brings forth those memories into finely crafted songs of the folk, indie rock, and pop.

The album’s lead off track “Little Flaws” brings the strings and with those strings coming stiring emotion. “Deep Love” is one of the more powerful tracks on the album, in which Aly professes her deep love for her girlfriend which was triggered by a small domestic act. “Strange Maneuvers” is an up-tempo tune that has Spaltro declaring “I don’t want to be afraid of myself anymore.”

The most interesting song to me, lyrically anyway, is the track “Young Disciple” which recounts Spaltro’s experiences with her born again parents when she was just five years old. It was then that her mother explained to her that everyone was going to die one day. Pretty heavy. “Emily” has a radio friendly feel like something you might catch on the FM dial in the late 80s. It's another triump for the lady and I hope we don't have to wait for years for the follow up. If we do, however, it will likely be worth it.






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