New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: garage rock

Exuberantly Eclectic, Danceable Lo-Fi Rock From Century Egg

Century Egg play disarmingly unpretentious, exuberantly catchy, scruffily amusing, occasionally garagey songs you can dance to. That’s what frontwoman Shane Song wants everybody to do with the first song on the band’s new album Little Piece of Hair, streaming at Bandcamp. That number has buzzy guitar from Robert Drisdelle, a steady bass pulse from Matty Grace and tumbling drums from Meg Yoshida: it all adds up to an eclectically good time.

The rest of the album is much the same: this is party music for smart people with a sense of humor. The second track, I Will Make Up a Method has a kind-of-Motown beat, funny lyrics and a guitar break where Drisdelle gets to cut loose.

Imagine Shonen Knife doing 60s Merseybeat and you get Ring a Bell. The band go for a buzzy late 80s indie sound in the album’s title track: goofy lyric, serious metaphor. Riddle to Place, a surprisingly moody change of pace, has echoes of 60s psychedelia and is over way too soon: the band really had a good thing going here! The final track is Cornered; upbeat early Joy Division with a woman out front singing an allusively grim escape narrative in Chinese.. Crank this when your next party reaches critical mass and everybody will be asking you who this is.

The Latest Dose of Brown Acid: Trippier and More Amusing Than Ever

Over the course of eleven volumes, the Brown Acid compilations have rescued well over a hundred incredibly obscure proto-metal, psychedelic and soul songs from oblivion. Some of the original copies of those records go for thousands of dollars on the collector market, but the better part of this wild archive, from some of the most unlikely places on this continent, never reached beyond a small fan base. The loosely connecting thread here is the stoner factor. To celebrate 4/20 – and the de facto legalization of weed in New York this year – Riding Easy Records are releasing the twelfth “trip” in the series, streaming at Bandcamp. In keeping with a hallowed tradition, every volume is available on vinyl.

Is this the point where the bowl is finally cashed? Are we scraping the bong yet? No, although there are more WTF moments here than usual. Intentionally or not, this is one of the funniest mixes in the series.

Louisville power trio the Waters open the playlist with their 1969 single Mother Samwell: it sounds like the Yardbirds spun through a flange, panning the speakers. The bass player – who would go on to play with Hank Williams Jr. – is excellent, although he totally misses his cue right before the fade. Classic Brown Acid moment.

The Village S.T.O.P., from Hamilton, Ontario nick a famous Beatles playground riff – plus maybe a little Iron Butterfly – for their 1969 wah-wah tune Vibration. Minneapolis band White Lightning hit a chilling lyrical peak in 1930, a Move-inspired protest song whose anti-Vietnam War message resonates more than ever half a century later: “I’m not going to die for your greed!”

Bay Area heavy soul band Shane’s lone 1968 single, a one-chord jam, is a badly recorded mess. Another 1968 rediscovery, Dallas group Ace Song Service’s organ-fueled Persuasion is a more successfully trippy take on the same style. The compilation reaches outside the US in a rare moment for yet another one-chord jam, Belgian band Opus Est’s ridiculously PG-rated faux-risque 1974 single, Bed, which sadly never reached its intended audience of American thirteen-year-olds.

Hawaiian band the Mopptops contribute Our Lives, a funky, catchy, organ-fueled populist anthem. In 1977, at the peak of the CBGB era, Youngstown, Ohio’s Artist were still ripping off Hendrix, as evidenced by the innuendo-fueled Every Lady Does It.

Carthage, Missouri power trio Stagefright distinguish themselves with their tumbling drums (that’s frontman Jim Mills) in Comin’ Home, the compilation’s first foray into the 80s. And this is where the album ought to end: NRBQ’s lame, pseudonymous attempt to parody early 70s heavy psych sounds is as weak as everything else they ever did. Whatever the case, you don’t have to be high to get into this playlist: it sounds perfectly good after a couple of whiskies.

Revisiting a Catchy, Fearless, Kick-Ass Rock Record by the Cleveland Steamers

The Cleveland Steamers’ Best Record Ever – streaming at Spotify– came out a couple of years ago. On one hand, it’s purist, catchy, dynamically shifting guitar rock with metal, garage and psychedelic influences. On the other, it’s incredibly original: nobody blends those styles like this crew. Some of these songs sound straight of 1980-  no doubt since many of the group were around back then – but the band really slay with the unexpected mashups.

The album’s darkest and most adventurous cut, Dream of Me is basically a slow, 6/8 doom metal theme infused with Cullen O’Connor’s creepy tremolo organ and an achingly melismatic Marianne Friend sax break. “Soon to share the cosmos with you,” frontwoman Meredith Rutledge-Borger soberly intones; then she makes a candy bar joke. Monsanto is much the same, from its menacing, flamencoish Nick Summa guitar intro, to drummer Emmett O’Connor’s stalking pulse afterward

Hung Up On You has a swaying garage rock beat and some slinky guitar work behind that keening, swirly organ, while Maple Leaf Girl is more of a straight-up, garagey powerpop number. The long trumpet intro to the vampy Last Love nicks a famous classical theme: “I found love is a good place to hide,” bassist/singer Cheese Borger confides.

The album’s funniest song is My Asshole Cousin, a punk tune: it’s a capsule history of Republican bigotry over the past hundred years. Never Saw You Again has a steady backbeat and a lingering guitar burn, a bitter reminiscence about a really bad choice.

There’s also the punchy powerpop tune, See You Tonight; Shut Up, a screaming, amusing punk song; and Something Bad, which sounds like Blue Oyster Cult taking a very successful stab at new wave.

Girls on Grass’ New Single: Blazing Layers of Guitar and Sharp Lyrics

New York’s best janglerock band, Girls on Grass have a delicious new single streaming at Bandcamp. The A-Side, Who’s Gonna Cry, is the missing link between X’s Motel Room in My Bed and the Yardbirds at their jammiest – in less than three minutes.

“Gonna hurt yourself more if you’re trying not to get hurt, like when you hesitate before you jump,” frontwoman/guitarist Barbara Endes sings in Spill Your Guts, a triumphant coming-out story set to a swaying G-L-O-R-I-A vamp with honking harmonica by Glenn Spivack over Dave Mandl’s bass and Nancy Polstein’s drums. Imagine Van Morrison’s Them with a woman out front…and better guitars.

Another Scorching, Dark Psychedelic Record From the Electric Mess

Over the last few years, the Electric Mess have established themselves as one of the best dark, punk-influenced psychedelic rock bands around. Plans for a release show for their latest and fifth album, The Electric Mess V got knocked off the calendar by the coronavirus scare. But you should hear it – when it’s online – if sizzling fretwork and retro sounds are your thing.

They set the mood immediately with Too Far, frontwoman Esther Crow and lead player Dan Crow’s guitars building a slinky, shadowy 13th Floor Elevators intertwine along with Oweinama Blu’s organ, Derek Davidson’s bass snapping over Alan Camlet’s drums.

Bad Man could be a minor-key midtempo Girls on Grass tune, Dan’s guitar scrambling and searing up to a vicious tremolo-picked peak. Like a lot of these songs, the loping Last Call has bits and pieces of a lot of classic psych influences, in this case the Doors and Plan 9.

Cesspool is a briskly surreal mashup of Chuck Berry and new wave, followed by City Sun, the band working catchy four-chord major/minor Elevators changes punctuated by a couple of searing Dan Crow solos. Then they shift to abrasively riffy Fun House-era Stooges territory for Speed of Light.

In Laserbrain, the group add some lingering haze to the layers of guitar textures along with some tasty vintage McCartney-esque bass from Davidson. Before the World Blows Up – how about that for a good song title right about now? – could be Radio Birdman taking a stab at 60s Vegas noir pop…or the theatrical hit the Doors should have used to open The Soft Parade.

“Take no counsel from your captains of war,” Esther warns in Strange Words, which in a way is the most hypnotic track here. The albums winds up matter-of-factly but somberly with the brooding Laurel Canyon-style After the Money’s Gone, awash in tremoloing funeral organ and spare, jangly guitars. It’s a little premature to think about anything other than survival right now, but if there’s enough reason to put up a best albums of 2020 page here, look for this one on it.

The Schizophonics Bring Their Extended Play Garage Rock Energy to Union Pool Tonight

Bump bump, bump-bump, bump. Hey!

A cynic would say that pretty much sums up what garage rock is all about. But year after year, a new generation of leather-jacketed kids discovers the indomitably energetic retro sounds the Schizophonics revisit on their new album People in the Sky, which is due shortly at their Bandcamp page (there are a handful of singles already up now) They’re playing Union Pool tonight, Oct 30 at 8 PM; cover is $10. You’ll probably want to take the G train home afterward because the L will be down by the time the show’s over.

Either you can’t resist the good energy this stuff gives off, or you find it irredeeemably cliched. If you’re in the former camp, here goes; frantic vocals, buzzy guitars and basic riffs one step removed from the early soul music that the first practitioners of the style – the Pretty Things, Kinks, Blues Magoos, and every one-single wonder from Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets anthologies – could muster up in cheap studios or garages from dirty water Boston to sonic Seattle.

What differentiates the Schizophonics from decades of other bump bump, bump-bump, bump, hey! bands is that guitarist Pat Beers uses distortion and somewhat less ancient amps which give their music more than a tinge of the stoner boogie that eventually morphed out of garage rock by the end of the 60s. And their songs often go on past the two minute thirty second mark. Imagine the Arctic Monkeys if they’d been raised on the Kinks instead of Led Zep.

The album’s opening track is an anomaly in the garage rock genre, an epic, five minute-plus take of pretty much everything you can do with a 1-5-7-1 progression. Steeley Eyed Lady is a fuzztone tune that sounds like the Mooney Suzuki – except with an acoustic guitar grafted on.

Nine Miles has some chromatics, a scampering soul bassline and an unhinged teenage Dave Davies style guitar solo. The title track sounds like the Brian Jonestown Massacre on coke; The One I Want could be Muck & the Mires. Battle Line is vaguely political. Not Gonna Change My Mind wouldn’t be out of place among the MC5’s poppiest songs.

Long Way to Go is the album’s big stomper, while Show Me Your Eyes is the fuzziest – and arguably catchiest, with all that slapback reverb. Like a Mummy is a Sonics shout-out with the album’s best guitar solo. Down and Out is their All of the Day and All of the Night. The album’s final cut is She’s Coming Back, with a series of goofy modulations. If all the retro rock references here resonate with you, you’ll love this crew.

If you’re looking for today’s Halloween installment, take a trip back just over a year ago and revisit Brooklyn’s best young band, Dark Beasts, captured at the peak of their power at a semi-secret show in July of 2018.

Uneasily Echoey Spacerock and Post-Velvets Psychedelia from the Abyssmals

The first thing you notice about the Abyssmals‘ new record The Abyssmals Present Gospels, Hymns and Other Trash – streaming at Bandcamp – is how how much reverb is on it. But it’s not a cheesy slapback effect: it’s more trebly. Just to be clear: the upstate New York five-piece are not a gospel group. Their retro sound oozes through dark garage rock, primitive psychedelia and the occasional dip into the surf. Brian Jonestown Massacre are the obvious reference point; some of the shorter, punchier tracks bring to mind the unhinged R&B of the Pretty Things right around the time they’d discovered LSD.

The first track, Enter…the Abyssmals is a dark surf song; in less than a minute, the downward cascades of tremolo-picking have kicked in and it’s obvious this record is going to some shadowy places. The second cut, Sleepwalker starts out with drummer Nick Nigro’s muted ba-bump Cramps beat, then the envelopingly opiated post-Velvets ambience takes over.

Death Row Messiah is all about cool contrasts: cheap Vox amp jangle versus resonance, the peaks driven not by the guitars of Jarpon Reyes and Bob Forget, but by Boris Cahrenger’s emphatic bass. Muffy Reyes’ organ bleeds with the two guitars into a deep-sky pool in the slowly swaying Mansion of Happenings. Then the band pick up the pace with For All of Time, post-Rubber Soul verse rising to gritty powerpop chorus.

Imagine the Pretty Things taking a stab at go-go music and you get See You Go, with its burbly bass and roller-rink organ. Spare, dissociative acoustic phrases punctuate the gritty, riff-driven spacerock of Nobody Cool. A slinky McCartney-ish bass hook propels the hypnotic No Sleep Til Low Beat, while the droning organ and subtly oscillating guitars of Good Faith bring to mind the Black Angels. The album winds up with its longest track and most obvious Velvets homage, Kiss, Kiss Abyss. In case you’re wondering how this band managed to form in a backwater place like Poughkeepsie, keep in mind that musicians like this would still be flocking to New York and creating a scene if housing was affordable here.

A Lusciously Jangly, Ferociously Relevant Masterpiece From Girls on Grass

Girls on Grass’ latest album Dirty Power – streaming at Bandcamp – has everything you could possibly want from a great rock record: slashing lyrics, soaring vocals, gorgeous harmonies, layers and layers of luscious guitar jangle and clang and roar, and tunesmithing that draws on styles from the 60s through the 80s. It’s fearlessly political, and it might be the best record released so far this year. Frontwoman Barbara Endes is on the shortlist of the best guitarists in all of rock – and she’s a great bassist too. Imagine the Dream Syndicate fronted by a woman, and produced by Eric Ambel (who was actually behind the board when this was made, and it’s one of the best projects he’s ever worked on). Girls on Grass are headlining one of the year’s best triplebills on May 12 at Coney Island Baby at around 9. Catchy, fun guy/girl indie soul band Sunshine Nights open the night at 7, followed by wickedly jangly surf/twang/country instrumentalists the Bakersfield Breakers at around 8. Cover is a ridiculously cheap $8.

The new album opens with Down at the Bottom, the harmonies of Endes and drummer Nancy Polstein rising over a soul-clap beat, spiced with icy twelve-string guitar jangle that’s part 60s Merseybeat, part 80s paisley underground psychedelia. Second guitarist David Weiss adds country-tinged twang as bassist Dave Mandl holds down an insistent groove, Endes reminding that all the best things are in the shadows and in the deepest waters. In status-grubbing real estate bubble-era New York, that subtext screams.

Street Fight is a cynical, sarcastic stomp, Weiss channeling Mick Taylor in simmering post-Chuck Berry mode, up to a slashing chromatic run. Friday Night is an indelibly simmering tableau, capturing the energy and anticipation of meeting a crush at what promises to be a hot show, chilling back by the soundboard, passing around a joint. The ending is an unexpectedly different kind of crush.

Got to Laugh to Keep From Crying, a bittersweet account of betrayal and stalker behavior, is one of the album’s most gorgeous songs, Endes’ clang against Weiss’ country twang. Two Places at Once shifts between amped-up. briskly shuffling Morricone spaghetti western and an eerily surfy Radio Birdman highway theme. Then the band burn through the garage rock riffage of the escape anthem Into the Sun, with a searing, chromatically-fueled guitar solo midway through: it sounds like that’s  Endes, but it might be Weiss too.

“Capitalism ruins everything worth doing,” Endes intones to a guy who’s only in it “For the cash, and the underage ass” in the album’s most overtly political track, Because Capitalism: the rhythm section hits a fast Motown beat as the guitars stab and burn. Endes got the inspiration for the wounded, crescendoing anthem John Doe  from the time the X bassist wrote a carpe diem message in her journal, with a “We gotta stick together” mantra that works on more than one level.

The loping desert rock instrumental Asesino sends a shout-out to an iconic Ventures hit, with hints of vintage Public Image Ltd. at the very end. “I come from superior genes,” the narcissist-in-charge brags over a swaying Flamin’ Groovies drive in Commander in Thief: the faux bombast of the guitars matches Endes’ sardonic lyric. The band wind up the album with Thoughts Are Free, with a slow, richly lingering Dream Syndicate-style intro, then picking up with a brisk country shuffle beat. “Got my money, never mind what’s happening behind the scenes,” Endes sings sarcastically. Look for this on the best albums of 2019 page at the end of the year.

Sharkmuffin Cook Up Their Most Psychedelic Record Yet

All-female Brooklyn trio Sharkmuffin named their band well. They’ve grown up in public, more or less, playing irrepressibly fun, messy, loud music. They started out as a punk band and lately have been embracing garage rock, psychedelia, spacerock and surf sounds. For a band who like to keep their songs short, they pack a lot into them. Their new album Gamma Gardening is streaming at Bandcamp; they’re playing the release show at Alphaville at 11 PM on April 5. Cover is ten bucks. 

Tarra Thiessen’s blasts of distorted guitar punctuate Natalie Kirch’s catchy 60s garage rock bassline as the opening track, Receptionist pounces along, up to a spacy psychedelic chorus. This receptionist turns out to be really mean!

Designer Baby is a two-parter. “I’ve taken all these drugs,” Thiessen intones as the slow, Siouxsie-esque first verse slinks along in a sea of reverb effects, then the band punk it out and take it doublespeed. Serpentina is more labyrinthine than snaky: it could be Castle Black with treblier guitars.

Early Sleater-Kinney aggro meets Brian Jonestown Massacre swirl and early Jesus & Mary Chain guitar shriek in the album’s most epic track, Too Many Knobs. The final cut is Fate; Thiessen pulls out her slide over a ba-bump bassline in tandem with Jordyn Blakely’s drums. It sounds like a scruffier take on what Siouxsie was doing during the brief period when Robert Smith was playing guitar in the band. What’s the chance that you’ll ever hear anything this catchy or fun in Bushwick?

More Brown Acid For Halloween Month

Halloween month this year is turning out to be a long, strange trip around here. In celebration of the creepiness coming up at the end of the month, there’s a sixth compilation in the Brown Acid series of obscure proto-metal and heavy psych treasures, most of them from the 60s and early 70s.

Most of the dozens of bands anthologized in the series never made more than a few singles at best. Many made only one. Some of those 45’s sell for thousands of dollars on the collectors market, but the Brown Acid folks have made them available for people who don’t have hedge funds or trust funds. And they actually pay royalties to the surviving artists. Imagine – buy the vinyl and you’re actually helping support some old weedhead.

The most recent vinyl release Brown Acid: The Sixth Trip – streaming at Bandcamp – is the most R&B, psychedelic soul and funk-influenced volume to date. It kicks off with No Parking, by San Franciso band Gold, which welds frantically scampering Blues Magoos garage rock to amped-up R&B. Like a lot of these singles, it’s mixed in mono, an effect which actually helps hold the convulsive outro together.

Inferno, by Canadian group Heat Exchange, comes across as a more nimble version of Cream, with tasty twin leads from guitar and organ and a shockingly good, biting alto sax solo before the wah-wah kicks in. Lovin’ You, by Travis (not the late 90s British arena-rock band) is a slinky,psychedelic soul groove that could almost pass for very early Hendrix. Enoch Smoky’s It’s Cruel distinguishes itself with one of the tastiest, fattest basslines in the entire series: don’t let the fact that it’s basically a supercharged Brill Building pop tune scare you off.

Backwood Memory’s Give Me Time is a vintage psychedelic soul nugget: it’s too bad the band never connected with a record label that could buy some airplay. One of the funnier titles in the collection, Luvin, Huggin & More, by Flight, sounds like a prototype for Bachman-Turner Overdrive recorded on somebody’s home stereo, guitars pinned in the red. Which comes as no surprise – six years after “releasing” this in 1974, bandleader Victor Blecman had a left-field new wave hit with Space Invaders.

Midnight Horsemen, by Truth & Janey, has a loping, funky beat and a doublespeed bridge that almost falls apart: if REO Speedwagon had started out in the 60s, they might have sounded something like this. My Life, by West Minst’r, is the most generic riff-rock track here, although the befuddled lyrics are really funny.

Purgatory’s Polar Expedition is a hippie blues bounce that could be Brownsville Station covering the Doors. Boston hippie Johnny Barnes’ Steele Rail Blues could be early Thin Lizzy. before the label censors edited out the weed references: it’s the one track here that could have been edited down to two minutes fifty seconds without sacrificing anything. The album winds up on a high point with Chicago rockers Zendik’s wickedly catchy, 13th Floor Elevators-tinged There No Peace. The biting diminished chords and “god is dead” mantra make you wish there was more material from this talented, insightful crew.

Devil’s horns raised to the skies for the tireless playlisters here who’ve dedicated literally thousands of hours to giving this music the audience it’s deserved for decades but never reached until recently.