Traffic Death “Dead End” Album Review + Stream…

TRAFFIC DEATH

Dead End – Vinyl // Digital Download

Sump Pump Records – Released – Dec 10, 2017

Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt

Line Up:
Nate “Fetus” Phillips – Vocals
Andrew Smeltzer – Bass
Brian Greenfield – Drums
Garan Drozd – Guitars

Review:
Traffic Death is certainly an interesting band name. I figured I’d dig into this bad boy while I was stuck in the passenger seat of a large suburban-type vehicle on a long road trip as I tilted my seat back for a nap. Don’t let my nap fool you, this album is heavy as fuck – I just happen to sleep incredibly well with loud abrasive music in my ears. What I can’t sleep through is shit music. It wasn’t long before I nodded off and found myself in a very non-vanilla sex dream about Miley Cyrus that unfortunately ended too soon. Whether Traffic Death’s lullabies inspired my sweet images of leather and chains and Miley, I can’t say.

So now that I’m fully awake I’m giving Dead End a more serious listen. Traffic Death describe themselves as a “high speed, violent crossover 4 piece”. I see no reason to re-invent the wheel here as they’ve nailed their sound in six words though I will elaborate later. Near as I can tell, Dead End is their 3rd exclusive release but they also have a split release with The Lurking Corpses… whoever they are (I’m going to check them out for sure).

Dead End starts out with “Spontaneous Decomposition/Nothing to See Here” which reminds me a lot of M.O.D. and Billy Milano. I hear aggressive, thrashy, unapologetic hardcore with a touch of dark humor. However, it’s not long into this ingeniously titled tune before it steps up a notch, both musically and with the vocals leaving my comparison behind moving to a more Converge-cult sound.

Promo Shot

“Mandatory Sentence” opens with some seriously fun speed metal guitar work from Garan Drozd that I just was not expecting after hearing its predecessor. What comes next, though, caught me completely off guard. Nate Phillips rips a speed metal scream reminiscent of early Tom Araya. The rest of the track goes somewhere else but the change in direction is completely fluid.

I’m not going to track-by-track this album because the rest of it is more of the same. Clever and darkly comedic song titles perhaps over-use the “/” to translate multiple concepts. There’s a merge of, or shift into and out of, several styles. It seems to be random but if you go onto the band’s (hyperlinked) Facebook about page and read their influences and you know even half the bands, it all makes perfect sense.

My biggest complaint about Dead End is the fact that it’s only 24 minutes long. So even in waking, Dead End is a would-be wet dream cut entirely too short.

Additional Links:
https://sumppumprecords.bandcamp.com/album/dead-end

https://www.facebook.com/TrafficDeath/

Trafficdeath.bandcamp.com

 

Band Logo

Zuul “Zuul” Album Review + Tour Schedule + Stream…

ZUUL

Zuul  – Vinyl // CD-R // DD

Sump Pump Records – Release Date: September 8th, 2017

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

Location:
Iowa City, Iowa

Lineup:
JL BOLINGER – GUITAR/VOCALS
IAN KOEHLER – GUITAR
DENNY RICHARDS – BASS
ALEX WATTS – DRUMS

Review:
Was sent this record to review, never heard of the band, had heard of the Tyrannosaurid Theropod Dinosaur that had been found in 2014 in Montana and had only recently been named and described this year, and by looking at the cover art, I gathered the name was probably more akin to the demon and demi-god Zuul the Gatekeeper of Gozer, from the Ghostbusters movie that, coincidentally enough, was a facet in the name of the aforementioned wicked lizard.

 

 

Eight songs making up this 32 minute romp of all things rage/punk/screamo complete with surf-punk kitsch in the guitar lines and an hyper-fuzzed bass line, enough cymbal crash to simulate roaring waves and a sneer-filled growling vocal line to rival even the fiercest on delivery.

ZUUL’s debut on vinyl for the first time, includes poster of the album artwork, lyric poster and an additional live album on the download code (w/vinyl version only).

From opener ‘747’ to ‘Punk Funk’, any pretense is wasted as these are full speed ahead through ‘What If’. ‘Middle Child’ is a slower tempo’d rocker that even the purest would have to appreciate in it’s heavy handed arrangement to keep your head moving. And then there’s ‘I Don’t Drive’ that comes out of the gate with a soft-touched clean guitar that breaks into over distorted squeals at the chorus break where the plush returns to envelop the ardent among before the clean returns to circle again.

‘Jimmy Buffet Killed Iowa City’ has a staggered intro that takes a hold as the winding guitar returns weaving circles around from all directions leading to the demanding vocal line that forces you to listen in a riotous cadence that shifts on a dime and again and again to almost a dizzying proportion that flows perfectly into ‘Greg Hall’ with it’s Spaghetti Western intro before full on shrieking rage comes back through the mic.

Live Band Shot

 

Final track ‘untitled’, may be the one that doesn’t seem to fit until you listen to the lyric that flows with a voice that is almost impossible to believe is the same guy that you have just spent 7 previous songs with. Even the first guitar notes are clean and slightly warbled, showing a completely different side for this band on what I have to assume is a first release from as I could not find anything online besides the album listing and release party info on their labels webpage. This song shows ability typically not associated with a band that is seemingly pissed off all the time to deliver on any level imaginable.

Great outing from the Midwest and shows great promise in MY opinion. I have a feeling that in a live format they could rip your face off or get you pumped up and screaming at the very least. Get the album, play it to no end and share it to any set of ears you can, catch them live if they come anywhere close and keep it LOUD!!


Abrams “Morning” Album Review + Stream + Tour Dates…

ABRAMS

Morning – Limited Vinyl (300) // Digital Download

Sailor Records – June 9, 2017

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

Formed12-28-2013

LocationDenver, Colorado

Band Members:
Taylor Iversen – Bass and Vox,
Zach Amster – Guitar and Vox,
Geoff Cotton – Drums

Previous Releases:
“February ” (2014)
“Lust.Love.Loss.” (2015)

This album is the second full-length offering from this trio and exudes as much rage and vitriol as the first two releases.  Abrams have the added edge of thicker production and a more lavish sound that makes them sound even bigger and more bad-ass than before with their post-hardcore, sub-punk delivery that shows they have indeed been ‘sharpening the sword.’  With their endless touring and ‘shifts at the kit’ with each release that have seemingly only served to make Abrams a tighter/leaner animal that is ready to take hold and conquer the masses. When asked to describe themselves, Abrams posted “So, the guys name-check heroes of post-hardcore like Fugazi and At the Drive-In, and indeed, Abrams’ sound could be perceived as a turbo-boosted, sludged-up incarnation of those bands’ spirits – driving and impassioned, traversing the spectrum of feeling, from mournful to triumphant.” Add to that a maturity that has permeated the ranks and the end result is a record like this one.

 

Band Pic

 

While previous releases have leaned more toward the anger and sneer approach, and there is plenty of that still in place, this time out, there are even more facets revealed that you may not have expected here based on the last couple of outings.  It also shows a growth that is natural in all bands of this caliber, especially with the fine-tuning that Abrams strives for and has certainly accomplished here as tracks like ‘Mourning’ shows off with the clear vocals and a stellar solo section that could light trees on fire as it smolders as the tempo quickens and the rage returns for the final vocals, again showing the utter versatility of this powerhouse, much as staccato-tempo’d ‘Die In Love’ is pure Abrams-attitude, first punishing note to last.

As ’18 Weeks’ is a light, quick-tempo’d romp complete with fuzzed-out bass and echoplex engaged in what is yet another facet of the gem that is in hand, ‘Worlds Away’ and ‘At The End’ have an almost Season To Risk feel as they slam you around with the might pushing out of your speakers.

 

 

‘Rivers’ has a complex structure that is almost Irish-clan sounding in tempo and swagger of the bass line under that power-vocal over it and a guitar line that holds your attention with the precision of a laser-beam, hitting right between your eyes as you can’t help but follow along. ‘Can’t Sleep’ is a perfect follow up with it’s darker tone and delivery that seems to complete what the previous track had just set-up and is the seamless fit. ‘In This mask’ is another staggered beat, slower this time out, but as brutal and strong in each beat and when the bass guitar come in simultaneously under that vocal push, it is doom perfection and even the stoners will nod in agreement with that statement.

Closer and title track ‘Morning’ is the one that stands out for me and is yet another facet of this gleaming stone this record represents for Abrams and is full of the very best from every other song on this record congealed into a song that had my jaw hanging open in shock, surprise and absolute delight that these guys have come this far and to this point in the hear-and-now and can’t wait for them to hit the road, hopefully hitting my area again soon… been a ‘minute’ since…

Buy this record RIGHT AWAY, share it with every single person you come across, see this band LIVE if you get the chance to and keep it LOUD!!

Tour Schedule

Dead Acid People “Mocker Fuzzers” Album Review + Stream…

DEAD ACID PEOPLE 

Mocker Fuzzers – Vinyl // CD // DD

Self Released – Released May 28, 2016

Album Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

Born2014

LOCATIONParis, France

Dead Acid People is a stoner rock band formed in 2014. In February, Guillaume (d) had posted an announcement to recruit musicians and Stéphane (g) responds to the call, and after a conclusive test, proposes to Alain (b), his friend, to join them. The trio works assiduously to consolidate the basis of a blend of rock embodying the sounds from Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, all the while injecting their own flavor into these dynamics, and by the end of the year, the group decides to recruit a singer. Several unsuccessful attempts later, in August 2015, with the arrival of Mathieu (v), the “training” is finally complete.

Pro Band Pic_2

 

Fast Forward to March 2016 and we are presented with 35 minutes of this hybrid-stoner/punk meshing that contains 8 tracks that run the rails from the opening progression of ‘Ashes’ that has a single bass progression for two measures before being joined by the six-string as the drumline fast-fades in and we’re off and running with Guillaume, Stéphane and Alainshowing time spent honing their edge as a unit over the last almost two years and when Mathieu’e voice enters at 40 seconds with the words “Everything can burn, everyone must die, everyone, until the crimson sky” the stage is set for the tale of darkness, full of hooks and distortion and a vocal clarity lacking in a lot of first-time releases any more; no pro-tools sounding anything here.

‘Sell Me To The Dust’ hits harder from the first and the staccato drumline is the perfect cadence for the body of, where ‘Happiness’ comes out with bass solo with the minor cymbal-kiss before the rest of the band join in and then we hear “Looking for some happiness, acting like I’m someone else” in a somber almost-monotone before the power chords jump back out and your head is moving again.

Live Band Shot

‘Blood Red Tide’ is another bass-opened track but is faster and fuller and including  some cowbell that fits right in as “Now we dance together, now we dance forever, me myself and I,  we all die under a blood-red tide” before settling into a medium tempo for the first section. ‘Burn Out’ opens with a staggering guitar-swagger before the thunder returns to pummel everything in it’s wake, especially pounding mid-track, before the spaced out solo takes over before that opening stagger hits again to lead through to the end.

‘Let’s Go’ and Burning Man’ each open with a drumline hitting hard before that defining punch in the face from the rest of the band that allows the eerily clear vocal line to deliver the tale of each that keeps you locked down, drinking each nuance in. Standout track for ME, absolutely has to be closer ‘Weird Jimmy’, a rocker with an edge that simply stated “This is a story of Crazy Jimmy. This is the story of a weirdy man” that slams and jams with the power of time shift and winding guitar notes to satiate the masses including a chugging solo that is short enough to not dull the senses but season to taste.

Well worth your time if you don’t have it already, share it with every set of ears you encounter and support them live if they come near you!!


Broken Ones “Self Titled” EP Review + Stream…

BROKEN ONES

Self Titled 7 Inch – Vinyl // DD

Sump Pump Records – released June 3, 2017

Album Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

Location : Des Moines, Iowa USA

That’s about the extent of any info about this three piece other than they include members of the bands The Jitz, Traffic Death, and The band Rob Ogg, and have several upper Midwest shows running through July 2017. This being the first offering from, and released by Sump Pump Records.  It contains four tracks totaling 6+ minutes of pure punk rage including a ‘sliced and diced to perfection‘ cover of 80’s legend Greg Khin’s track ‘The Breakup Song’ that is ‘instant movement‘ for the entire 1:42 as you scream along with these guys.

Band Pic

 

The other three original tracks are full-on sneer inducing pure punk, each a quick burst of machine gun drum-lines, road-rage spewing and an almost love song to start things off. This is one of those maxi-singles that leaves one question in your mouth… “Where the fuck is the REST??” No real “New ground” broken other than the brilliant reworking of  Khin cover, but it hits hard from beginning to end and will force you to hear it over and over… get it now, shove it down the throats of your closest friends and all of their enemies too, support them live and keep it LOUD!!

 


Demon Head “Thunder on the Fields” Album Review + Stream…

Demon Head

Thunder on the Fields – Vinyl // CD // DD

The Sign Records // Caligari Records – released April 7, 2017

Reviewed by Santiago “Chags” Gutierrez

 

Demon Head was formed in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2012. After releasing a couple of demos and a single, they released a rather impressive debut album, Ride the Wilderness, in 2015. They quickly followed that album up with a split single, sharing the release with their equally impressive country-mates Alucarda. The common factor here is vocalist Ferreira Larsen who provides his drumming talent to Alucarda as well. Upon listening to “Menneskeӕderen”, the first track off Demon Head’s Thunder on the Fields, it was clearly obvious that this release was going to be just as equally impressive, if not more so, than the already absorbing Ride the Wilderness. Their Facebook page says their rhythm section, which consists of Fuglsang (bass) and Jeppe Wittus (drums), swing much like “Bill Ward and Geezer Butler had a loose, jazzy rhythm style that made Sabbath’s songs swing no matter how hard and heavy they got.”

Listening to Thunder on the Fields, and all their previous work for that matter, it’s hard not to agree with that statement. The expressively captivating vocals of Larsen adding to the overall ambiance of their sound. Add to that the seamless guitar work of duo Gjerlufsen and Gjerluff Nielsen, and the record just flows from one track to the other.

 

 

“We are Burning”, “Thunder on the Fields”, and “Older Now” resound with a deliberate prominence found in early proto-doom/diabolic rock, yet with a sensibility all their own. “Hic Svnt Dracones” and “Gallows Omen” are longer, more drawn out tracks with sheer musical sections that transfix the aural senses. “Hic Svnt Dracones” featuring a fantastic, soulful solo. Final track, “Untune the Sky”, showcasing their theatrical, impressive flair.

Demon Head’s version of nefarious proto-doom, is a welcome throwback for the modern age. They have a way of admirably channeling that vibe much like early Witchcraft did. There is a certain charisma to this band, a somewhat soulful swing to their sound, whether it be on harder and heavier tracks like “Menneskeӕderen”, or on slightly more subdued tracks such as the masterful closer that is “Untune the Sky”. There is an underlying mood to this record that you hardly find anywhere else.

Band Pic

 

Worth another listen? I’ll let Demon Head answer that question: “Lose your way, we are burning, we watch the sun rise, still with stars in our eyes, lose your way, we are burning, we watch the sun fall with the fire inside. And I’d do it all again with you.”


Bloodnut “Blues from the Red Sons” Album Review & Stream…

Bloodnut 

Blues from the Red Sons – CD // DD 

Self Released:  September 10, 2016

Reviewed by Aaron “Red Beard” Wall

 

Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand Bloodnut (slang term for redhead) have come to pillage, with heads of fire, and hearts aflame. With bellies and barrels full of rum, buckets and flagons filled with mead, and with axes swinging for flesh with unbridled abandon. A filthy, swilling, sweaty, gang of gingers…Doug McFarlane on bass/vocals, Ty Boniface on drums, and Doug Robertson on guitar have come to party to prepare for Viking war. Legend has it that us gingers have no soul…legend, is all that it is. This band is pure grit, total grime, with a boogieing soul. Nuts and blood…That’s what Bloodnut has.

Band Logo

Opener ‘Agent Orange (In the Eyes of Thine Enemies)’ starts with a dobro slide guitar twang, then boom. Fuzzy, sludge tones hit you square in the kisser. Sounds like the cut up, younger cousin of Eyehategod. Massive repeating riffs meld with a bluesy stoner lead as the song builds up to the crescendo of thickness and whiskey soaked gravel throated vocals. Perfect little primer for whats to come on this slab of heavy.

Next three tracks, ‘Drop Dead Redhead,’ ‘Vitamin D,’ and the awesomely titled, ‘The Amber Reign Remains,’ are punk sludge barn-burners that get the carefree viking party vibe going with rawkus effect. The production is raw and powerful. Fits the aesthetic of the band and the songs to perfection. Energy level is high, beer and shots are flowing. We all know this is the preparation for war and the celebration of planned victory.

‘Witches Mountain’ is a cross breed of Queens of the Stone Age and old school Clutch. Neil Fallon with a mouthful of gravel. Thundering drums and liquor soaked riffage.  A boot stompin’ song of the highest degree.

‘Subtlety in the Street’ is a lumbering, leaning tower that could come down at any second. The fun is coming to an end and the battle plans are being nailed down.

The record takes a much different feel and emotion from ‘Fire Giant’ onward. Shit gets serious. Play time is over. The song starts with one of the many standout riffs of the record and then kicks it into a heavier gear. Very reminiscent of old Scissorfight.  The chorus is gruff yet catchy. ‘Fire Giant’ is an extremely well crafted song…as is the next jam, ‘The Red Face Blues’.

‘The Red Faced Blues’ is a cavalcade of sludged-out stoner with an emphasis on groove. Weaving and twisting with a heavy punk ethos.

This leads us to the main course ‘Blues from the Red Sons. ‘ The masterpiece of a trilogy entitled ‘The Battle of Bannockburn.’ Part one of the battle is titled Valhalla. The track begins with a palm muted riff that pummels as gang vocals shout ‘Valhalla rise, Valhalla we rise’ then the amazing refrain of “You die by an axe to the chest. On Valkyrie Way you’ll be taken to the halls of the slaves.” makes you wanna stand up,  grab your horned helmet and axe and start to visualize the war that is beginning. Redhead united we stand. Redhead united we fight. Redhead united shall destroy. Redhead united will prevail. Part 1-Valhalla is the battle cry.

Part 2 – Send in the Berzerkers. Stirling Castle is in their sights and nothing will stop the spilling of blood. Chomping at the bit the Berzerkers are released and let out the war cry as they form a Schiltron against the cavalry. Clever tactics must be implemented as the Berzerkers are outnumbered 2 to 1. ‘Bite the shield, drench the field, in your blood.” Riff upon riff, thunders of rhythm, and savage screams  push the warriors onward to the objective.

Part 3 – Beneath the Kilt ends this three part journey of medieval massacre. This is the triumph, the pride of a bloody battle. The exhilaration of victory. Bagpipes blaring in celebration.  ‘The Battle of Bannockburn’ is an amazing conclusion to this stellar record.

Bloodnut take you on an journey of another time. A time of brutality and strength. A story of sludge, punk, stoner, and noise. ‘Blues from the Red Sons’ slowly sucks you in with some fun and good time tunes on the first half, then take it up to a serious heartfelt, and extremely powerful level on the second half. From ‘Fire Giant’ to the end of the album, is a helluva gnarly ride. Strap on your kilt, grab your weapon and some bagpipes. All Hail Valhalla! From one Bloodnut to another…fantastic record.  Highly recommended for all heavy music fans.

***10% of All Album Sales to go to Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme***

Orangatang


Dead Ranch “Brumation” Album Review & Stream…

DEAD RANCH

Brumation – Digital Download

Self Released – April 14, 2017

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

Formed – 2011

Hometown – Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada

Band Members – Chad Alsop-Guitar/Vocals,  Andre Cornejo-Guitar/Vocals, Ryley Devine-Drums & Alana Mercer-Bass/Vocals

Previous Releases – “Birds Of Pray” EP (2012) / “Antler Royal” (2013)

Review:   Self described with the tags ‘metal, noise, punk, sludge, hardcore, stoner’, this is the second full-length release from this four piece and has been a while coming. Emerging from what they describe as a place that is “8 hours away from everything, isolated in their winter city” they had already started touring Canada promoting the first release that was garnering play on college stations leading to recording the first full-length in early 2013. Touring steadily, this release signifies their dedication to their craft and commitment to doing what they do best… to be, as they themselves put it, ‘Catchy and Crushing’ all at once.

 

Band Pic

 

Seven tracks totaling 32 minutes, there is little doubt from the first power chord riff of ‘An Awkward Moan’ through to the narration filled ending of ‘Maple Ape’ that this band has paid it’s dues and is ready for more and they come out swinging from the first to the last.

The ripping beginning of ‘Blood Staff’ with all the angst you could possibly imagine to even faster paced ‘Tarred and Feathered’ with that pure fury that had been hinted at on the previous releases and left to shine through on this album. Even as ‘Garrulous’ has a slow fade in that fury-driven pace and raw edge is back in less than 30 seconds into the track and is as unrelenting as any other moment on this disc as ‘False Negative’ shows, brutal as fuck!!

 

 

‘The Skinning’ is equally frenetic in approach and execution and prove that DEAD RANCH are a force to be reckoned with.  ‘Maple Ape’ is the bookend on this album and while filled with as many time shifts and fretboard-flying as the previous tracks, this one stands above the rest with this demonstration of just how musically ‘tight’ they are and let us know this album is well worth the wait we have endured in anticipation. Buy it NOW, share it with EVERY pair of ears you can and support them live if they come anywhere close… and above all else, keep it LOUD!!

Band Logo

 


NARCS “A Thinking Animal” – Album Review & Stream…

NARCS

A Thinking Animal – Vinyl // CD // DD // Merch

Clue Records – July 8th, 2016

Reviewed by Andy “Dinger” Beresky

 

It may come as a surprise to some people given my pedigree, but I’ve got a real soft spot for the guitar driven indie/alternative rock of the 90’s.  My favorite band and biggest influence in high school was The Smashing Pumpkins. When you really think about it, it’s not that surprising at all.  Growing up in Western Mass, some of our most prominent local bands were The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, and Sebadoh.  Also, growing up in a small town with no music scene whatsoever, none of us realized that it wasn’t cool to like both Metallica and R.E.M.  Our musical tastes were allowed to develop organically, outside of the confines of the types of local scenes that often promote purism, elitism, and insularity, a hive mind whose tastes are established by a few strong personalities within the group who have a strong influence over what’s defined as “cool”, and what’s musical taboo.

What I liked about these indie bands were that they were distinctively guitar-centric bands, and they were distinctively rock bands, with an emphasis on distortion, volume, big rhythm sections to back up the guitars, and elements of anger mixed with other various emotions within the songwriting.  Which transitions us right into NARCS, the little Leeds U.K. band that could.  Wow, that was a rather short tangent for me, I may have to drudge up another one later in the review!!  The first sentence of this paragraph accurately describes their sound, though I’d obviously like to get into it a lot more.  I’m not much of a fan of one sentence reviews, although I do believe the review I wrote for Metallica’s new record was right on the money, and distinctively wrapped up everything I had to say on the matter in a single sentence: “Wow, Metallica tries really, really hard….”  I’m just quoting it here for posterity, and to also start my second tangent, which is basically to say that more and more, I’m realizing I don’t want to fall into any kind of formula when I review records.  I used to talk a little about each individual song, because a lot of other reviews do that and it seems impressive.  It also makes the reviews lengthy, and maybe too much so for a society that’s been conditioned to have such short attention spans.  I’m largely going to start avoiding this practice, because it is formulaic, and it’s redundant.  Plenty of other reviewers do it, and I’ve said time and time again that their opinions are just as valid as my own.  Read their reviews.  I’m not taking it totally off the books, as it may make sense at times, just like my Metallica review makes perfect sense for me in the context of that record.

 

Pro Band Shot

 

What I’d like to really get into during this review is a point of contention: I do read other reviews because I’m insatiable curious about the thoughts and opinions of others, and what keeps reoccurring is this tendency to refer to NARCS as a grunge band.  And I don’t really like that, perhaps because for me, grunge pretty much died with the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind.  Seriously, from my perspective that’s the nail in grunge’s coffin.  To me, grunge was the sound of early Soundgarden, Melvins, Green River, Mudhoney, and TAD. These bands initially recorded their records loudly and cheaply, often with Jack Endino, and often releasing them with Sub Pop.  They tended to mix elements of punk and metal in a way that differed vastly from crossover thrash. These records came out in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and yes, I’d include Nirvana’s Bleach as a prime example of an actual grunge record.  Later on, the term became applied to just about ANY band that came out of Seattle in the record industry’s attempt to figure out what in the fuck had actually happened with Nevermind, to replicate that magical yet allusive formula, and most of the aforementioned bands got major label contracts and mainstream-ized their sounds.  Of course, this also led labels to sign just about any band with “alternative”/underground credibility, which led to the term “grunge” also being applied to bands like The Meat Puppets, Cell, The Screaming Trees, and Nudeswirl.  I can accept that, and in this terms, I can also accept that NARCS are a “grunge” band.  They’re loud, swanky, aggressive, quirky, catchy, noisy, and draw from a wide variety of influences.  However, another part of me thinks that it’s really a disservice and a bit lazy to call them a “grunge” band.  They certainly draw influence from almost all of the bands that I’ve listed, and their sound is extremely 90’s centric.  With that being said, I can hear also hear elements of The Jesus Lizard, Unwound, and Fugazi in certain songs, and none of those bands fit very neatly into the grunge category.  There’s also a lot of shoegazing going on in terms of the production and the way that the guitars are layered.  Some of the stereo panning is quite lovely.

The vocals are also quite lovely and subdued at times, though at other times, they’re snarling, over-the-top blasts of bile and vinegar.  For me, they’re one of the high points, and frontman Wilko (not to be confused with the critically acclaimed band that I do not really care for) is to be commended for his performances.  The juxtaposition of his soft, lulling indie adulation and roaring punk sneer is one of the  main things that makes this record sound so vital and so immediate, and his performances always mirror the instrumentation. Wilko should also be commended for the passion of his lyrics, and their political relevancy.  England needs more bands like this right now, hell….we all need more bands like this right now.

Live Band Shot

Despite that no two songs sound all that much alike, there’s a strange coherency to the record, largely in part due to how eerily the guitars, vocals, bass and drums are always clearly on the same page stylistically.  It’s rather magical to listen to.  At 11 songs in 43 minutes, NARCS don’t overstay their welcome, and it’s the perfect length for vinyl.  I feel like the supremacy of the CD in the 90’s often led to albums that were overlong, had filler, weird “hidden” tracks that were ultimately annoying, etc.  You’re not going to find any of that on A Thinking Animal, just another demonstration that these definitely were using their heads when they made this record.  It’s aptly named.  Do yourself a favor and check out the single “Pigs”, which I’m sure is up on YouTube.  It’s a pretty accessible place to start.  If you really want to hear something wild, see if you can find some of the more acetic tracks like “Mile Die” or “Empathy The Dog.”  Everything is on YouTube these days, so you can make up your mind if this is an album that’s worth your continued attentions beyond reading this review.  For me, I’m kind of kicking myself that I didn’t hear this last year when it came out, though they were largely off my radar.  I’m seeing an extremely bright future for these Leeds lads, as long as they can keep thinking like animals.


Album Review – Dr. Boctor’s Medicine Band “Old Bottles, New Medicine”

Dr. Boctor’s Medicine Band

Old Bottles, New Medicine

Psychedelic/Jazz Fusion/Blues/Funk/Garage/Krautrock

Digital (Bandcamp only) Release: January 20, 2017

 

There isn’t anybody out there (myself definitely included) who hasn’t thrown around the words “original” and/or “unique” a little too much or even when we want to make a more dramatic point that doesn’t really apply. If something can be realistically labeled as such, that doesn’t necessarily make it good either (I’m talking to you, Yoko Ono). Fortunately for your ears and mine, ol’ Doc Boctor and his musical “Licensed Practicing Nurses” are both very different and wickedly enjoyable. Now the problem is trying to tell you just how….

 

Painting of Band

 

Last year, it was Odd Couple’s wildly diverse, yet remarkably cohesive “Flugge” (see review HERE) that hit me in a similar fashion, but DBMB somehow pulls even more influences successfully into the mix, albeit in a different style of sound. The main blueprint used is one of garage/psych rock circa 1966 fused with the jazzy, spacey underground from the beginning of that most glorious decade, the 70’s. This means you can hear a wide variety of classic, obscure bands/influences anywhere, at any time. Imagine The Seeds, Electric Prunes, 13th Floor Elevators and the like crash headlong into, then fusing effortlessly with Thirsty Moon, Zappa, Kraan and Skin Alley. Listen a little closer still, and you will find snippets of 50’s, surf and funk as well. Are you thinking all this can’t possibly work? Think again.

So, when all is said and done, you really do have something of a quite special listening experience in “Old, Bottles, New Medicine”. It’s the kind of release that only pops up a few times in a given year and needs to be obtained. The sound, feel and even the private-pressing look to the album’s cover all scream 1971 or ’72 at its most adventurous and eclectic. Get your carcass over to Bandcamp and let Dr. Boctor fill your prescription- NOW!

Words by David “The Lovely” LaMay