Monday, February 25, 2008

J.P. Herrmann's Hieroglyphics, My Kind of Language

Once again I return with apologies. I swear, I have four or five posts in the making and haven't had the focus to finish them up. I've been buying loads of vinyl lately, so it's not like I don't have anything to discuss. Guess I've hit a (hopefully) temporary wall.
In the meantime I'd like to share with you one of the best things I've heard all year, a little CDR handed to me by an old friend named J.P. Herrmann. Now I could go on about Mr. Herrmann and his wonderful family and the times we've shared, as I've known him for well over ten years now, but I'll try and stick to the music. Herrmann was the former bassist for the departed 84 Nash, whom he formed with my older brother Kevin and Mr. Andy Hampel (where's your solo album, bud?) back in the mid-90's. Their story is also one for another time, and hopefully I'll get to a big 84 Nash retrospective in the coming months.
Back to Herrmann, now a family man, but never one to stop recreating the sounds in his head. He never sang much in the Nash, maybe some backup vocals if we pushed a mic in front of him, sometimes if a little impromptu Fleetwood Mac cover came about, but I honestly had never heard J.P. belt it out until I played back his CDR, Hieroglyphics. Wow. The man knows his way around a melody, and his vocal style is pretty darn original. He's got a little bit of the old Nash style in him, which itself stems very much from an old Daytonian heritage if you catch my drift, but there's also something very angular about it, reminiscent of Lars from the Intelligence possibly. Maybe a little Will Foster/Guinea Worms influence?
Herrmann not only sings but bangs out everything else here, drums, throbbing bass (his most comfortable instrument), guitars all over the place. There's an excitable Post-punk vibe to "Monopoly's Approved" and its circular guitar attack, and then whack, next up is the robot clatter of "Waving My Arms". So great. I'm hearing a little Lindsay Buckingham circa Go Insane too. Every tune is killer, especially the irresistibly catchy "Car Conversation" - a tune you'll have to smack out of yer head with a good blackout drunk or whatever it takes - and introspective instrumental closer "Labyrinthitus".
What's really great is that Hieroglyphics has already been making waves, as DJ Rick, of Art for Spastics/KDVS (you've been listening, right?) has declared himself a fan! That's about the highest compliment a band can receive these days. And guess what? J.P. has given me the OK to share this brief slice of genius with you. So click HERE and listen to it all. I know you're going to love it. Play play play. UPDATE: Time's up, please contact J.P. for a hard copy and he'll be glad to send you one. And check his page regularly for more songs.


1. Halt Your Retreat
2. Monopoly's Approved
3. Waving My Arms
4. Frozen Cabin
5. Car Conversation
6. Hieroglyphics
7. Catch the Mouse
8. Dead Water Dead Light
9. Labyrinthitis

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Busy Signals Are Really Really Good

I know I'm more than a few months late to this party but man has this record been hitting all the right Pure Pop buttons as of late. Chicago's The Busy Signals, not to be confused with the (boring) indie pop Busy Signals from the early aughts, have followed up a string of well-received singles with a near-perfect eponymous LP on the Dirtnap label. Fans of Dirtnap's most famous product, Guitar Romantic, will find plenty to love here, as well as anyone into bassist Jeremy Thompson's ex-band, the Carbonas (Columbus people may also remember guitarist Kevin from his stint with the Feelers, as he played guitar while Alecks stayed home on their Euro tour last Summer).
These guys nail down the opposite end of the mid-70's powerpop spectrum than did the Exploding Hearts though, playing 100% up-tempo, airtight punk with nary a bit of the trash they rolled around in. They're the pills and cocktails to the Hearts' cheap beer and glue. I'm reluctant to use the F word because singer Ana McGorty possesses such an androgynous voice, one without a ton of range but with enough melodic prowess and loose confidence to drop any dude's jaw; think Hynde with a two-pack-a-day habit. It's doesn't make them female-fronted or girlpunk the least bit, just a great punk band who happen to have a female singer.
There's 26 minutes or so of note-perfect playing here, but the songwriting is really what makes this record such a classic. Just when it seems every punker has gone weird-punk or shit-pop, the Busy Signals bring a batch of straight pop tunes that rivals the wonderful Radio Heartbeat reissues or, dare I say, Singles Going Steady. I sometimes wonder what this would sound like with a little more dirt under the fingernails; perhaps they could have left a little more to the imagination. Other times I imagine how freaking huge they could be - like, Green Day big, man - if they took and even cleaner route. But in the end I usually conclude that the production and playing are just right. Fantastic record.