New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Tag: garage rock

Punk-Soul Legend Jon Spencer Bursts Out of Lockdown With a Funny New Album

If Jon Spencer never made another record, his place in New York rock history would be secure. The genius of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was that they were able to carve out a distinctive niche in the gutter blues scene here by adding a more colorful, focused soul and garage rock-influenced sound. Where, say, the Chrome Cranks pursued an unhinged, doomed junkie fixation, JSBX played party music. And (along with their more lyrically inclined colleagues White Hassle) they beat the White Stripes to the bassless shtick by several years.

Fast forward to 2022: Spencer has a new band, the HITmakers, and a new album Spencer Gets It Lit streaming at Bandcamp. This isn’t the first time Spencer has worked without a guitar sparring partner: his foil on the record is keyboardist Sam Coomes. M. Sord plays drums; former Sonic Youth Bob Bert is credited with “trash.” His bangable metallic objects punch through the surface from time to time, but the effect is more organic than industrial. All of this you can dance to.

They open the record with Junk Man, a fuzztone Stooges take on roller-rink soul. Then they pull back on the fuzz and ramp up the catchy 60s psych-pop riffs in Get It Right Now.

There are a grand total of fifteen tracks on this album: Spencer does not cheat his fans. Among them, there’s a skeletal, hypnotic one-chord stomp punctuated by a couple of creepy surf interludes. Spencer cleverly pokes the TV Eye riff out over clouds of buzzy synth. He mashes up Roky Erikson clang with a 90s loopiness, then does the same a little later on with late 70s Rockpile twang and woozy new wave.

Sometimes he harmonizes his riffs with the keys, sometimes he lets the synth weave around: he’s never played more minimalistically than he does here. He often throws in some surreal, sometimes sinister spoken word that draws a straight line back to Iggy through the Eels’ Mark E. Beyond sheer craftsmanship, this isn’t particularly serious music, but there are lots of good jokes if you listen closely.

Singles for the Last Week of March

Gonna keep the playlist short and sweet today. Some funny stuff, some dark stuff: same old. Click on artist names for their webpages, click on titles for audio or video.

Since June of 2020, Media Bear has put out a barrage of protest songs set to tunes from across the ages, starting with spoofs of 80s pop and moving forward. All of them, and the videos as well, are pretty hilarious. The most obvious and maybe most ridiculously funny one is Because I Complied. Just so you get the joke, the chorus is “Because I complied, because I complied, because I complied.”

Here’s a snarky new 90-second Peggy Hall comedy clip: she considers what your doctor would have said to you in, say, 2019, if you walked in and asked them to test you for something twice a week.

Disturbed’s dirgey art-rock cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence has a killer video by Sage Hana. The song itself isn’t quite is good as the Move’s version but it still packs a punch.

To 10 (as in turn it up to 10) by guitarist Sylvia Rose Novak is catchy powerpop with an early 90s angularity. You wouldn’t think it works but it does – and no autotune on the vocals either

Love’s Sudden Death, by Darkher is a gritty melange of doom metal, Renaissance fair folk and 90s trip-hop, in a dark Portishead vein

Let’s end this on a fun, high energy note with New Stamp (that’s Australian slang – you figure it out), by Andy Golledge. It’s a mashup of Legendary Shack Shakers hillbilly noir and Oasis. Thanks to Micky C. – always on top of what’s happening down under – for the heads-up on this one.

A Welcome, Venomous Reissue From Psychedelic Cult Heroines Death Valley Girls

As you might expect at a point in history where careers have been put on ice and the arts in general are making slow return, there’s been an uptick in reissue albums. One especially welcome one is Death Valley Girls’ 2014 release Street Venom, now out on vinyl and streaming at Bandcamp.

The record has aged well, no surprise considering the group’s purist influences. The opening number, No Reason, sets the stage, a characteristic mashup of the 13th Floor Elevators and Link Wray, frontwoman Bonnie Bloomgarden doing a more powerful take on what Go-Go Belinda Carlisle was up to in 1981.

Guitarist Larry Schemel stomps off his fuzzbox, hits his wah, then does an eerie approximation of Ron Asheton in the second number, Sanitarium Blues – how’s that for a title for 2021, huh?

The group put a garage-psych spin on a famous Elvis Costello riff in Arrow, bassist Rachel Orosco a low-key presence over former Hole drummer Patty Schemel’s loping shuffle.

Julee Cruise rides a slow sundown Ventures tide – imagine that – in Get Home. Shadow is a real gem, a feast of scorching reverb and wah riffage. The band go back to a steady, hypnotic Elevators sway with Gettin’ Hard, then build even more of a pitchblende, mesmeric roar in Paradise Blues, with a long Stoogoid acid guitar outro.

They follow Run Run Rocky, the most straight-up garage rock tune here with the album’s two most Velvets-inspired numbers, Red Glare and then Girlfriend, Bloomgarden nicking a well-known Modern Lovers riff in the latter. The buzzsaw closer is Electric High, Schemel appropriating a well-loved James Williamson riff.

A Swiss Mess From Garage-Punk Legends the Monsters

In case you might be thinking that the people of Switzerland are all down with Klaus Schwab’s sinister “glate leeset,” Swiss legends the Monsters have a new vinyl record, You’re Class, I’m Trash, streaming at Spotify. The first song on it is titled Gimme Germs. That’s about all there is to the lyrics. Yeah, punk rock is all about confrontation. Take that, WEF Nazis!

The rest of the album is up to the level of the feral, primitive garage-rock stomp the band have made a name for themselves with around the world since 1986. Another song here that needed to be written is track eight, Electrobike Asshole. For the record, this blog’s owner got hit by one of those this past summer – in the middle of a crosswalk, walking with the light, no less. Happily, that incident ended with the blog owner getting up, cursing and bruised…while Electrobike Asshole was left with bent handlebars and a busted throttle.

The track before that is Yellow Snow Drink, an ersatz country tune. It’s weirder and a lot shorter than the Frank Zappa song on the same subject.

“Smell my tongue, it’s brown,” frontman/guitarist Beat-Man hollers on the album’s second track.

The third cut, Carpool Lane starts out as a fuzztone stalker theme, goes through a strutting series of Nuggets riffs, decays to a noise jam and has a good joke at the end.

As the band seem to see it, death is a Crampsy stroll, spun through a flange: in addition to bassist Janosh and drummer Swan Lee, the band includes live engineer Pumi on “knobs.”

A lot of the songs here remind of King Khan in his punkest moments. In Devil Baby, they prove they can be just as primitive with a piano as with guitars: that’s where the Hasil Adkins influence comes through strongest. Horror film composer Mario Batkovic guests on creepy quasi-baroque electric piano on a second version of Death.

This album is not for people who take themselves very seriously, or expect virtuoso chops, but it sure is fun.

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.