New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Tag: eighties rock

Elk City Bring a Starry, Swirling, Spacerock-Flavored New Album to a Williamsburg Gig

It’s hard to believe that Elk City have been playing catchy, anthemic, smartly crafted 80s-inflected rock for over 23 years now. After a hiatus, they reemerged in the late teens with a somewhat more psychedelic pop sound than the grittier, shadowy style they first mined in the late 90s. Their latest album Above the Water is streaming at Bandcamp. They’re playing Union Pool at 8 PM on Nov 18, with jagged-edged, Wire-ish postpunks Savak following on the bill. Cover is $16 if you round it up from the advertised nickel-and-dime cover (like a lot of Brooklyn rock joints, the venue has become infatuated with the online ticketing fad).

The album’s first track, That Someone harks back to the 80s: imagine Gang of Four with a woman out front, a slinkier rhythm section and a little dreampop sheen. The chiming guitars of Chris Robertson and Sean Eden circle each other over Richard Baluyut’s graceful, rising bass and Ray Ketchem’s drums in the second track, Someone’s Party. Imagine Changing Modes covering Vampire Weekend – a stretch, but try it.

Frontwoman Renese LoBue reaches for the top of her register in Apology Song, an increasingly driving minor-key backbeat hit that wouldn’t be out of place on an early 90s album by the Church. The two-guitar attack grows from a deliciously bittersweet Fairports-meets-the-Church jangle to a sun-streaked Eden slide solo in Your Time Doesn’t Exist: it’s the album’s most memorable song.

Likewise, the band build A Family from a pensively strummed acoustic tableau to an eerie psychedelic gleam. Then they put a teens update on shamanic mid-70s Patti Smith with Don’t You Wanna Try. To close the record, they slowly emerge from a Grateful Dead-like cloud to lingering, elegant new wave and finally a snarl in Floating Above the Water.

Advertisement

Three Powerful Women From Heavy Rock Join Forces in a Surprisingly Subtle, Poignant Project

One of the strangest and most distantly haunting albums of the year is the debut album by the Erinyes. Not to be confused with the punkish Berlin trio, this is a new group. Their debut album – streaming at Spotify – is a concept record of songs that look at pain from a distance. You could call this the heavy record the Motels never made.

Three strong, individualistic frontwomen from the world of heavy rock – Justine Daaé, from French death metal-lite band Elyose; Mizuho Lin of Brazilian group Semblant, and Italian band Kalidia‘s Nicoletta Rosellini – blend and contrast their voices in a collection that transcends stadium rock.

The central theme is angst, more or less: a love rivalry is involved, although it’s hardly over-the-top. While all the singers have versatile chops, their voices are distinctive. Daaé brings the fullscale plaintiveness, Lin edges toward grit and Rosellini is the big belter.

The three women join in a brief, icy chorale in the brief opening theme, Life Needs Love, rising to full-blown High Romantic angst. The second track is Drown the Flame. Keyboardist Antonio Agate’s brooding, purposeful suspense film orchestration anchors the music in reality as guitarist Aldo Lonobile goes tapping up into the stratosphere over Andrea Buratto’s methodical bass and Michele Sanna’s drums. Daaé sings what’s basically a catchy early 80s minor-key new wave pop hit in heavy disguise.

Lin, who has a grittier delivery, sings On My Way to Love, a stormy, hauntingly allusive ballad with a momentary operatic break from the women. Rosellini takes over lead vocals in Betrayed, a similarly bittersweet, enigmatic, early 80s-flavored number, Lonobile adding ornate bagpipe-like riffage.

Guitar crunch contrasts with swirly organ and blustery synth as the women blend voices in Death By a Broken Heart, the energy climbing toward fullscale angst but never quite getting there.

Where Do We Go is a gorgeous vintage 70s soul ballad subsumed in the flames of a sunset going down on a churning ocean. The band go back to four-on-the-floor new wave era anthem territory with It’s Time, then the intensity rises again in Someday, the album’s most darkly turbulent number.

They could have left the hip-hop influences out of My Kiss Goodbye and it would have been a lot stronger as a stomping power ballad. The group shift between dissociative, trickily rhythmic verse and big hooky chorus in Paradise and follow with Take Me, an unlikely successful blend of Asbury Park piano rock and moody European stadium bombast.

They close with the album’s most towering, majestic, art-rock oriented cut, You And Me Against the World, which despite all the heroic overtones seems like a pyrrhic victory. May these chthonic deities stick together and put out another record as good as this one.

Whimz Put an Update on Hazy, Catchy, Drifting Late 80s and 90s Sounds

Whimz is the side project of Sunny Faris from Blackwater Holylight and Cam Spies of Night Heron. Spies seems to be a bigger part of the picture than Faris, who typically gravitates toward heavier and darker psychedelic sounds. Both sing and share guitar, bass, keys and drums duties. They file their new short album PM226 – streaming at Bandcamp – under “sludge pop.” It’s actually a surprisingly lighthearted, catchy record.

The first track is AM1, a slow, catchy, hazy dreampop theme set to a 90s trip-hop beat. AM2 is slower, slinkier and more mysterious, a mashup of 80s Clan of Xymox and dark orchestral Portishead.

The album’s centerpiece is the instrumental I Wanna, a warpy take on ethereally catchy Big Thief minimalism fueled by insistent raga guitar riffage. They build a more minimal, gritty take on late 80s Lush and Cocteau Twins in the album’s most epic number, titled PM1. The album has both a full-length and a single version of the closing cut, PM2, a morose but upbeat bedroom pop backbeat number with contrastingly icy textures.

Darkly Energetic, Carnivalesque Rock Narratives From Northern English Band Weimar

Today’s installment in the ongoing October-long Halloween celebration is Dancing on a Volcano, by Manchester, UK band Weimar, streaming at Bandcamp. You could describe them as gothic circus rock with tinges of psychedelic folk and a loose-limbed rhythm section. About time we had some goth music on this page this month, right?

Not quite. This isn’t all that over-the-top, and it’s a lot more energetic. In case you’re looking for sterile museum-piece 80s rehash, this isn’t it. And much as there are innumerable familiar tropes here, these half-sung, half-spoken songs resonate in the here and now. These guys like ’em long: pretty much everything on the record is in the five-to-six-minute category.

You might not expect a goth record to open with a well-loved Sonic Youth riff, but that’s how Soho Rain begins. Frontman Aidan Cross narrates a seedy London street scene over John Armstrong’s loping bass and Anthony ‘Eddy’ Edwards’ drums, guitarists Johann Kloos and Stephen Sarsen taking their mix of chime and resonance up to a killer chorus.

Track two is The Sociopath, a mashup of noir cabaret and flamenco rock, an apt parable for the era of Bill Gates and Rochelle Walensky:

What do you play with?
Imagination
What is it saving?
Your reputation
As you herd the sheep the flock will follow
And they march blindly on like there’s no tomorrow

The band shift between a horror-movie riff and a familiar Jesus & Mary Chain vamp in I Smashed the Looking Glass, up to an ending that recalls the Electric Prunes. Sketchy verse gives way to bounding, catchy chorus in The Hangers-On: Cross’ scowling rap about starfucking and its consequences works on both personal and political levels.

Keening slide guitar mingles within the clang in Arandora Star, a grimly pouncing seafaring ballad. The group reach back to a mosquitoey 60s Velvets jangle ambience on the wings of Armstrong’s trebly, climbing bass riffage in Polished Decay, a snide chronicle of the ravages of gentrification.

The band finally go for a lingering, slowly swaying Bauhans atmosphere in Hunter’s Moon, an allusive deep-state scenario spiced with spare Psychedelic Furs-style sax. Then they hit a tense, uneasily syncopated pulse in Faded Queen of the Night, a metaphorically bristling corporate parable.

The band work a surreal mashup of latin soul, loosely tethered disco and jagged, skeletal quasi-funk in Nights in Spanish Harlem. They take their time elevating the alienation ballad Heaven on High Street East to a fleeting, screaming psychedelic guitar break before the sullen, doomed routine returns. They close the record with The Tatterdemalions, an understatedly sinister Celtic-tinged dance fueled by Kloos’ pump organ chords.

Jace Maxwell Releases the Most Cynically Entertaining Protest Song Album Since March of 2020

This album was written during the fake Covid 19 pandemic. It is a protest against all the abuse I and many others suffered for our choice not to be injected with an experimental drug. The album is a thank you to all those brave people who said NO,” says songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jace Maxwell. Being Australian, he’s especially brave, considering how brutal lockdown restrictions there have been. Here in New York, a court threw down the unelected Governor’s unconstitutional concentration camp regulations. Australia started sending their citizens to concentration camps in 2020.

Maxwell’s eclectic tunesmithing chops match his bravery as he covers a wide range of styles, from 80s gothic rock, to bleakly cinematic soundscapes and metal. And beyond the sheer catchiness of the songs, the album is a cruelly vivid, sometimes savagely funny chronicle of the plandemic. Song after song, Maxwell refuses to comply.

The most amusing number on the record – which Maxwell has generously made available as a name-your-price download at Bandcamp – is Tony Says (Follow the Science), a parody of Faucism set to goofy, squiggly new wave synthpop.

Otherwise, the individual tracks typically focus on a specific aspect of the plandemic, from the initial lockstep reaction to the Wuhan bioweapon, to the fullscale assault on human rights, to the lethal injection rollout. Maxwell peppers his songs with sardonic samples, from Biden’s feeble “pandemic of the unvaccinated” recitation, to Pfizer ingredients and more. There’s as much history here as there are hooks.

Maxwell builds the album’s rainswept overture, The Fall of the Rebel Angels around a spoken-word passage about EcoHealth Alliance conspirator Peter Daszak‘s bizarrely pedantic attempt to cast the famous Brueghel painting as a portent of zoonotic viral spread.

The sarcasm immediately rises to redline over an icy New Order clang in Turning the Lights Down, an offhandedly chilling portrait of tyranny reaching a slow boil.

“Cover your face and check on your neighbor,” Maxwell instructs over a slinky death disco groove in You’ve Got the Fear: the lyrical jokes are too good to spoil.

He evokes a plaintively drifting mid-90s Church spacerock ambience in Please Leave, a distantly harrowing hospital protocol murder tableau. Then he hits his distortion pedal for Run for Your Life (Cytokine Storm), a grittily industrial-tinged faux-authoritarian stomp.

As the slowly swaying indictment What the Hell Andy? unfolds, Maxwell revisits the sad affair where the courageous Dr. Tess Lawrie called bullshit on how the lure of Gates Foundation money derailed a crucial ivermectin research study.

Safe and Effective is a menacing, dystopic motorik instrumental, with a break that speaks to the effectiveness of propaganda, rather than rushjob genetic modifications. The next track, IgG4 is a succinct explanation of the mechanism of “mortal antigenic sin,” as Dr. Paul Alexander calls it. Maxwell goes back to heavier and even more troubling science in Superantigen, a later interlude.

The sarcasm rises to critical mass again in Damage Control, a menacing, strutting mashup of Gang of Four and early 80s XTC. These Are the Days is not a Natalie Merchant cover but a guardedly hopeful, Bowie-esque minor-key wake-up call.

Maxwell shifts back and forth between regretful late 70s Bowie and Rammstein, maybe, in Blame and Lies, a telling and ultimately heartbreaking chronicle of the lethal injection campaign’s mounting toll. The album’s final cut, The Left Has Become the Right is not a political broadside but a bitter reflection on how meaningless party affiliations became when we’re all being deplatformed and depersoned. “Would you please close the Overton Window, I’m getting quite a chill,” Maxwell sneers.

As an indelible musical portrait of a grim time and place, this ranks with the Dead Kennedys’ Frankenchrist and Phil Ochs’ Rehearsals for Retirement. Get this album, if only for the sake of validation. It’s one of the best rock releases of 2022.

Emily Jane White Turns Up the Amps on Her Dark Sound

At the more corporate music venues around the world, it’s often the case where an opening act blows the headliner off the stage. Such is likely to happen tomorrow night, July 29 at 7 PM at the Poisson Rouge, where brooding songwriter Emily Jane White opens for Scandinavian chanteuse Eivor, who plays a distinctively minimalist take on 80s darkwave. $30 adv tix are still available as of today.

White established herself back in the zeros as a major voice in folk noir and is now taking a plunge into gothic rock with her latest album Alluvion, streaming at Bandcamp. Anton Patzner – who also produced – assembles layers of ominous keys over the guitars of “John Courage” (the name is a brand of British beer) and Nick Ott’s drums.

An icily dystopic sequencer pulse anchors the opening track, Show Me the War. With the ringing reverb guitar and distant cumulo-nimbus synth, it has a very 80s feel – and sets the stage for the rest of the album.

Track two, Crepuscule, is far less shadowy than the title would imply, with a late 80s Cure ambience that grows more dense and orchestral. Portentous low piano crashes along with the drums to introduce Heresy – “Their eyes are watching, they drank a cup of poison,” White intones. “You surrender all your hope to be somebody.” A plandemic parable maybe?

“I saw the pain fall around you…I saw murder in the background,” White reveals in Poisoned, a brisk southwestern gothic elegy. She rises to full-blown High Romantic angst, the piano against stormy symphonic synth in Body Against the Gun. She stays with the same template, with more of a distinctive 80s Cure gothic atmosphere in The Hands Above Me, a defiant antiauthoritarian anthem.

“Enduring, scarred, can’t be undone by someone,” White sings with an angst-fueled shiver in Mute Swan, over a techier ambience: this also sounds like a lockdown narrative. The sinister reverb on the guitars comes up a notch over suspense-film piano in Hold Them Alive.

“Morbid reflection, a dying art,” is the chorus tagline in the crescendoing anthem Hollow Hearth – these days, maybe not so much anymore! Although it may well predate the lockdown and be more metaphorical, I Spent the Years Frozen aptly describes the alienation that’s pervaded the world since March of 2020

The album’s final cut is Battle Call, a noir-tinged reflection on the legacy of violence in the aftermath of war. There’s plenty of validation here for anyone who’s suffered in the totalitarian takeover of the past twenty-eight months.

Melissa Gordon Brings Her Catchy Purist Retro Rock Tunesmithing Back to a Familiar Haunt

Back in 2017, this blog picked Melissa & the Mannequins as the best new rock band in New York. With frontwoman Melissa Gordon’s calm, uncluttered vocals and purist retro 80s janglerock tunesmithing, the future looked bright. Since then, the Mannequins seem to have left the store window, but Gordon has soldiered on as a solo performer and bandleader. If catchy tunesmithing and big redemptive choruses are your thing, Gordon’s songs will hit the spot. She’s returning to a familiar haunt, the small room at the Rockwood on April 6 at 8 PM. It’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

From the low-key, plainspoken acoustic sketches on her Soundcloud page, it’s clear she hasn’t been idle since the arts in this city were put on ice by the 2020 totalitarian takeover. But her magnum opus so far is the 2017 Mannequins album Mtns​/​Plane​/​Sky, which is still up at Bandcamp.

Beyond her songwriting, Gordon’s biggest drawing card is her nimble guitar work, flinging one catchy riff or flurry of chordlets into the mix. The album opens with Can’t Let Go, a gorgeous intertwine of chiming guitar textures over a low-key backbeat from drummer Oskar Hagghdal, Gordon and guitarist Steve Flakus hit a wry twin-lead break that they send wafting off in a a flangey fog. Then they take a turn into slinky, retro soul-infused funk with All the Time, eventually rising to a cheery, punchy peak over a sleek organ backdrop.

Bliss is a crunchy powerpop tune with all kinds of clever touches, from bittersweet ELO keys to big Bowie-esque flares.. The band shift from funky verse to shiny, swooshy chorus and back in the the next number, Breathe, then tale a memorably moody detour into Lynchian soul balladry with Intruder

Listen, a brisk, gorgeously angst-fueled 6/8 soul tune bristling with layers and layers of guitar, is the genuine classic here, and a high point of the band’s live show. Slip Away is another real gem, with the album’s catchiest chorus: the recorded version reveals the song’s soul roots. The last track is Night in the Park, the synthiest, new wavey-est tune here.

One beef about this album: Gordon is a fine singer, and the places where her vocals were autotuned instantly date this music to a time when the entertainment-industrial complex was trying to wean people off human artistry and replace it with computers. Historians looking back at the early 21st century will shudder at how successful that meme turned out to be.

The Shining Tongues’ Haunting Debut Album Transcends a Tragic Loss

The Shining Tongues are the surviving members of the Infinite Three, who proved tragically less infinite with the loss of their drummer Paul Middleton in the fall of 2019. Multi-instrumentalists Daniel Knowler and Sam McLaughlin pulled the project together last year, so there are probably multiple levels of grief and angst in their bitingly ornate, often psychedelically tinged art-rock songs. There’s a towering High Romantic sensibility as well as a fluency in dark 80s British sounds on their debut album Milk of God, streaming at Bandcamp.

The opening track, The Idiot Skin begins as Blondie’s One Way or Another with distant Indian inflections; then the band take it into a pouncing, darkly anthemic direction, sparkling with guitars and keys. Botanica in their early years is a good point of comparison.

They shift to slow-burning post-Velvets janglerock for the second track, Buildings. The sense of rage and loss is visceral, and builds to a dirty inferno: it could be New Model Army at their early 90s peak. Behind the shiny brass and keening organ, It Is Fear draws a straight line back to early Wire.

Nourishment is a recurrent metaphor here. Track four, Eating Bread is the album’s lingering, rainswept centerpiece: this time it’s the Smiths in a rare moment of relative calm who come to mind. After that, the band boil up a blend of 13th Floor Elevators and late 60s Laurel Canyon psych-pop in Rice.

They return to angst-fueled acoustic-electric anthem territory in 6/8 time with Natural Slab. The album’s most lavishly orchestral track, Annihilation has a wealth of dark textures: fuzztone repeaterbox guitar, symphonic keys and a lush bed of acoustic guitars.

Swallow Heaven is not a place for dead birds but a desperate, gloomy, gothic folk-tinged anthem. From there the band segue into Humming/Dissolving, a swirling soundscape shedding eerie overtones.

From there, the leap into The Undefiled Absorption of Supreme Bliss, a triumphantly loopy instrumental, is quite a shock. The band wind up the record with Make Us Eat, which comes across as a grim Mitteleuropean take on what Australian spacerock legends the Church were doing in the 80s. Much as 2021 has been the slowest year for rock records since rock music first existed, this is one of the year’s best.

Castle Black Take Their Dark Unpredictability to the Next Level

Castle Black started out as a haphazardly noisy power trio and have grown into more of an art-rock band while never losing their punk edge. Frontwoman Leigh Celent has kept the group going after the 2020 lockdown with a rotating rhythm section, and managed to make a scorchingly eclectic new short album, Get Up Dancer, streaming at Bandcamp. Since this is a pretty dark record – aren’t they all, with this band – it fits the bill for today’s episode in the ongoing, October-long Halloween celebration here.

It’s great to hear these tracks all fleshed out in the studio after seeing the latest version of the trio roar and slink through them at their show in Long Island City a couple of months ago. The first cut – the title track, more or less – is Radio Queen, a sleeker, more trickily rhythmic take on careening early 80s punk, like the Vice Squad classic Last Rockers but way tighter.

Likewise, the metric shifts in Another Grand Delusion, a gorgeously serpentine, angst-fueled anthem awash in Celent’s signature reverb and roar. Her machete guitar riffage, Scott Brown’s tersely ascending bass and the tumbling drums blend to raise the heartbroken angst in Talking About Those Nights to redline.

Knife in My Heart is a revenge fantasy, part ba-bump cabaret, part echoey psychedelia, part searing powerpop, Celent on keys in addition to guitar. An icy high/low guitar/bass contrast gives way to a burning chorus in That Little War: it wouldn’t be out of place in the Thalia Zedek tunebook. Same applies to the last song, Sorry, the album’s most darkly enveloping number. It’s rewarding to see Celent refusing to stay in one place and find dark new avenues to explore. Count this as one of the most intriguing and best rock records of 2021.

Fun with Anthemic 80s Rock on Thought Leaders’ New Album

See if you can pull on your boots under those skinny jeans. Tell your girl to smudge on an extra layer of eyeliner and stick a couple of wine coolers in her Coach bag. We’ll see if the Ford Fiesta still runs after the thrashing we gave it the other night.

For those who weren’t there, those are 80s references. Thought Leaders‘ new album In Wastelands – streaming at Bandcamp – is the great lost soundtrack to the chilly European road movie that Jim Jarmusch never made. This is stylized, legacy music, but done with a surprising balance of period-perfect detail and unhinged energy.

The opening number, Enigma 41 is a mashup of the Cult and early U2, guitarist Andrew Lund throwing in a little Happy Mondays jangle among his spare, lingering chorus-box arpeggios. The chorus-box textures get icier and the chords get more menacingly juicy, in an early Wire vein, in the next song, Come Even.

Bassist Tyler Cox introduces Burning Glass with a growl before Lund slashes his way in, Daniel Ash style, just as he does on the way out: it’s the best and most savage song on the album. The band tighten up over drummer Kirk Snedeker’s 2/4 new wave beat in the next track, Jane Doe’s Estate (presumably a reference to an inheritance, however small: lyrics and vocals don’t really figure into this band’s music).

They make a memorable mashup of the Cult and Wire in the album’s title track and follow with Shallows, Lund turning up the chorus for a deep-freeze John McGeoch-era Siouxsie chill before a big, cinematic, doublespeed stampede out.

Tumbling Joy Division drums and freezer-burn Bauhaus broken chords mingle over the synths in the background in Desire Reserve, There’s a little vintage PiL in Enemy Flies Above; the band wind up the record with the careening Saturday Night Leave.