Tuesday, August 5, 2008

June '08 Singles

Here's a batch of solid singles I wrote about back in early July but didn't get around to posting up here until now. Seems like it has slowed a bit on the singles front, so I'll catch up with the late-Summer releases in a few weeks.

I begin with two new singles from the die Stasi label, currently presiding in—of all places—Findlay, Ohio. This is the label that unleashed TV Ghost onto the unsuspecting world, and they do the same with Madison, Wisconsin's Zola Jesus. A one-girl juggernaut, and card carrier in the newly-christened Crimson Wave movement consisting of Midwestern, female-dominated bands of "difficulty," Zola Jesus showcases her strong pipes, albeit with heavy effects, atop clanging piano lines and chunky beats. I thought about writing this off as "trying too hard," but these songs are beginning to stick, especially the dramatic "Dog" and its tape-loop backing. The other die Stasi, "Coma" by Portland's Leper Print, is an instant hit. I've regrettably missed the boat on all previous Leper material and now must scramble for it all, as this is furiously minimal, lo-fi bedroom punk of the highest order. "Dead Flowers" isn't a Urinals cover, but it might as well be, as it shares that band's punctual primitiveness to a tee. There's plenty of Dave E. worship as well. Urinals and Electric Eels as prime influences? I think I'm in love. Both singles come in nice, hand-screened sleeves and are on quality wax.

It is always exciting to check and see whom Skulltones pick for their next release, as they always come up with winners, and Naked on the Vague are no exception. NOTV borrow from any number of great first-wave British post-punk moments, but not always the most obvious ones. "Poltergeist Palm" digs a grave directly next to Flowers of Romance-era PiL, while "Empty Tongues" mellows Throbbing Gristle's noise into a palpable lullaby. An odd single, but an excellent one, and another example of how great the Australian underground is today.

I've yet to be totally blown away by the Little Claw train, that is until I played this new one, the Why/Why Not EP (Physical Sewer). "World of Tired" is one of the best songs of the year; a sub-primal bass leads as guitars screech across the chalkboard and singer Kilynn sings about the world ending. She has a voice all her own and is finally finding the proper songs to display it. "Look Down the Drain" is as spaced as anything this decade, Heath's Kilynn's guitar scratching out Carl Sagan's eyes in the process. I am floored. Maybe it is time to revisit the LPs.

Cleveland's Homostupids always seem to lasso in just the right amount of energy, feedback and weirdness, enough so to be my favorite band from Northeast Ohio in a while. They never try and hit you over the head with anything (at least not while you're looking), put on a stellar live show and have now made five great records. "Cat Music" (Fashionable Idiots) begins with a feral cat's meow segueing into a bizarre mid-tempo jam about a trip to the circus. Then there's a song where they go apeshit. The flip isn't as apeshit, more of a Big Black rant but only two lines long. It ends with some horns from a Batman cartoon. Great single.

Last but not least are the much-hyped Vivian Girls and their second single in as many months. I loved "Wild Eyes" and absolutely adore their eponymous LP, but was a little bummed when I learned there would be some overlap in songs with the "Tell the World" single on Woodsist. Alas, what you get here are three demo versions of songs from the long-player, and these stripped-down takes warrant repeated listens. With the wall-of-sound removed from the VG's oeuvre you get more of a focus on the trio's unique vocal harmonies (think Shangri-Las meet c86) and, most-importantly, the quality of writing. These girls write some mean ones, and if you're a fan of this group you'll want every version you can get.


Anonymous said...

hello doug-

don't mean to niggle, but i (kilynn) play guitar on look down the drain. if you could change that would be much appreciated. i wouldn't care usually, but i like the carl sagan comment!

thank you,

Doug said...

Sorry, don't ask why I assumed Heath did the guitars. Probably because I haven't seen LC live.

Nice job!