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Catchy, Quirky High Plains Rockers Make a Long-Overdue Live Recording

We All Have Hooks For Hands are a South Dakota institution. The Sioux Falls band have two albums and a single up at their Bandcamp page. Their most recent release is the Mosquito ep, from 2019, which has both slow and fast, catchy, post-Velvets style tunesmithing (think Jesus & Mary Chain at the midpoint of their usual foggy gloom) along with a scruffy retro soul tune in the same vein as the Get Up or the Brooklyn What.

The group have a sense of humor – they called their 2018 album Bat Out of Hell II. That one’s closer to Supergrass or Babyshambles’ roughhewn newschool garage rock, with quirky allusions to the Cure at their mid 80s poppiest. plus one number that harkens back to the group’s earlier Manchester influences. Some of the songs get an extra jolt of adrenaline, or atmospherics, when keyboardist Dave Lethcoe switches to trumpet.

For fans in the area, they have an especially interesting gig coming up. They’re recording a live webcast on Sept 25 at 4 PM at the White Walls Sessions studio, on the lower level of the Last Stop CD Shop, 2121 E. 10th St. in Sioux Falls; cover is $5. Customers can enter through the Last Stop shop entrance. Since this is a live recording, audience members need to be on time and pay attention to the “on air” light, which signals when it’s time to be quiet so the band can get a good recording.

In keeping with this week’s ongoing project here, if New York venues are weaponized against those of us who won’t get on the fast track to slavery with the Mayor’s blockchain-based spyware, that means it’s time to look elsewhere. And where better to look than a free state like South Dakota? Who knew that starting in 2020, South Dakota would be kicking New York’s ass in terms of support for the arts, and the people who support them?

Ferocious Dreampop and Metal From Imha Tarikat

Imha Tarikat play a venomously, envelopingly melodic, reverb-drenched blend of black metal, punk and dark dreampop. Frontman/guitarist Kerem Yilmaz bellows in German; he doesn’t go for the pigsnorting cliches so many other bands fall into. If immersive, full-throttle minor-key guitar is your thing, this is your jam. The group’s new album Sternenberster is streaming at Bandcamp.

The first track is titled Ende, appropriately enough. It sets the stage for the rest of the record: a wall of guitars, machete tremolo-picking, machinegunning rhythms and a dreampop influence that reflects the gritty, assaultive swirl of My Bloody Valentine instead of the icy delicacy of Lush.

The stampede, the punch of the bass and the tremolo-picking get even faster in Sturm der Erlösung. By saying they slow things down a little for the punk anthem Kreuzpunkt der Schicksale says a lot about how hard this crew usually hit – and they take it doublespeed at the end.

Wailing up and down on the guitar strings relentlessly – Yilmaz must melt a lot of picks – they segue into Brand am Firmament, a vortex of dreampop and black metal with a southwestern gothic theme buried in the mix. The New Order outro is a trip.

They shift between MVB maelstrom and pretty straight-ahead punk in Klimax Downpour, with a rare, wailing guitar solo. The wall of tremolo-picking gets denser and more hypnotic in Aufstieg, built around a catchy ascending riff. They go back to thrash-punk stomp and torrential atmosphere in the album’s title track and close the record with a brisk, arpeggio-fueled classical piano theme.

First-Wave Punk Era Legends Wire Put Out Yet Another Timely Album

Imagine if the Clash were still going strong, still making smart, relevant records.

What if Ian Curtis had gone off his prescription for barbituates, quit drinking, got his epilepsy under control, and Joy Division were still together?

One of those two bands’ contemporaries, Wire, are still together, and even arguably better than when they were beginning to define what would come to be known as postpunk and new wave. By quirk of fate, they were also one of the last bands scheduled to play Brooklyn before the lockdown. Sadly, it doesn’t look likely that we’ll get amother American tour out of Wire this year, but they have a typically strong new album,10:20, a collection of first-class outtakes and new material  streaming at Spotify.

Their previous release, Mind Hive, was their most dystopic yet. This one is more allusive. As the album title implies, the lyrics are all about foreshadowing and the clock winding down, although the music is generally more upbeat. They open with the steady, hypnotic Boiling Boy, glistening with the group’s icy chorus-box guitars: “Lock up your house,” is the mantra as the chords change suddenly from major to minor. Bassist Graham Lewis’ subtly shifting lines pack a psychedelic wallop.

The big stadium guitar hooks that introduce the second cut, German Shepherds, seem to be a red herring (this band’s deadpan sense of humor is legendary). Likewise, the lyrics’ seemingly mundane imagery masks a grim scenario. The next track, He Knows has a slow dreampop sway and a very cool major-on-minor trick.

Underwater Experience has a lickety-split, practically hardcore punk drive: it could be an outtake from the Pink Flag sessions redone with digital production values. The Art of Persistence has eerie early 80s Cure jangle blended in with the album’s catchiest and yet most counterituitive changes – it involves a murder mystery and ends cold. Small Black Reptile also brings to mind the Cure, but in blithe mid-decade pop mode – which is almost certainly sarcastic.

Pulsing loops echo behind a seemingly easygoing post-Velvets sway in Wolf Collides. The album’s final cut is Over Their’s, marching toward the precipice and ending with a drone – or is that a flatline? Some hall-of-famers refuse to quit – and in Wire’s case, that’s a good thing.

Heaven’s Gate Bring Dreampop Back with a Roar

Brooklyn band Heaven’s Gate put an energetic, anthemic spin on vintage dreampop, sort of a teens update on the Throwing Muses. Frontwoman Jess Paps’ angst-ridden wail is often half-buried in the mix and doesn’t move around much: that’s left to Michael Sheffield and Jack Wolf’s guitars, the rhythm section of bassist Alex Cvetovich and drummer Patrick Stankard holding down a rhythmic drive that’s propulsive but just as hypnotic. Their album Transmuting is streaming all the way through at their Albumstreams page. If the rain-drenched sound of guitars through a thousand chorus pedals entices you, you’ll love this album.

On one hand, this band absolutely nail the watery sonics that defined the 4AD era; on the other, the guitars roar as much as they ring and echo. Like so much of dreampop, the opening track has the bass carrying the melody line underneath the icy, resonant swirl. Drone builds from a catchy two-chord postpunk vamp to more enveloping sonics. Fight sets ringing open chords over uneasy syncopation, while Clean hints at New Order without lapsing into cliches

Lex Vision has both the bounciness and noisiness of middle-period Lush. I’m Forgetting turns the formula upside down: swirling verse, dancing chorus. Screams builds from a catchy, growling vintage-era Sonic Youth verse to more echoey and fleshed-out atmospherics over a skittish beat. In a minute forty-eight seconds, Iron Black manages to be both the best and most straightforward song on the album, with its biting minor-key changes over a scorching, distorted backdrop. Always adds echoes of the Cure and also surf music to the banks of watery murk;  the album winds up with the unexpectedly anthemic Sun City and its leaping, catchy vocals.

Wickedly Catchy Britrock Anthems from the Reflections

If you love catchy singalong riffs and choruses – or if you like the idea of Coldplay, but the actual thing puts you to sleep – Los Angeles band the Reflections are for you. They have a knack for big, anthemic, incredibly catchy retro British sounds. The songs on their album Limerence typically kick off with a hook and then take it in an unexpected direction: their signature sound is lush arrangements with simple, uncluttered, hard-hitting tunesmithing, often working a basic two-chord vamp spiced with all kinds of neat touches from guitar and atmospheric keyboards. The vocals are pleasantly nonchalant: think Richard Ashcroft without the affectations (ok, that’s an oxymoron, but give it a try). Lyrics are usually pretty much beside the point. The whole thing is streaming at their Bandcamp page; these guys would have been all over the radio back in the 90s.

The hypnotically vamping opening track, Disconnected is a dead ringer for one of the darker tracks on New Order’s Movement, with more dynamic vocals and digital production values. Summer Days goes steadily marching with staccato organ and acoustic guitar and builds to sweeping mid-90s Britrock a la the Verve. Daydreamer rises through a thicket of echo from a moodily resonant minor-key guitar loop to hypnotic, dreampop-flavored atmospherics with distant echoes of Pink Floyd. All Along and Looking Back each look back to the 90s for more of the lush, Verve-inflected minor-key anthemicness.

Ruthless, a portrait of a femme fatale, is darkly delicious, with soaring bass and an icepick guitar chorus that nails the song’s theme. In Another Life colors an 80s pop tune with echoey, wickedly catchy reverb guitar riffage. Until You’re Near, with its slide guitar and insistent piano embedded in nebulously Floydian sonics, is the slowest and most hypnotic track here. The final track, In Your Head, makes dreampop out of snarling 60s noir psychedelia. Who is the audience for this? Anybody who likes tunes that are catchy but not stupid.

Nashville’s Western Medication: Catchy Postpunk and Dreampop

Western Medication’s new 7″ ep, Painted World, leaves the impression that they’re a British band, right down to the declamatory, half-shouted vocals half-buried in the echoey wall-of-sound guitars. But the band is actually from Nashville. Frontman Justin Landis joins forces here with Adam Moult and Kevin Kilpatrick from noise-punks Bad Cop and Alycia Wahn of Useless Eaters for an original mix of old ideas. They’ve got the snide quirkiness and menacing post Syd Barrett chord changes of early Wire, and also the ringing walls of guitar that defined dreampop bands like My Bloody Valentine and Lush.

The first track, 50 Foot Dive sounds like Wire through the prism of mid-90s Blur, its catchy early 80s vibe fleshed out with plusher sonics, bassline rising over a briskly strolling beat. Track two, Big City sets G-L-O-R-I-A riffage to a hardcore beat and multitracks it into the stratosphere. If Roky Erickson was still alive he’d be into this.

The title track, the album’s longest and most hypnotic song, has the feel of New Order’s Ceremony done as a mashup of Clinic and MBV. It’s bookended by a couple of miniatures, the first with a languid, distantly apprehensive guitar line over a murky drone, the second a funky surf/garage groove with more of those shouted vox. It’s out now on the band’s own Jeffrey Drag Records.

Eraas Brings Back the 80s – In a Good Way

All right everybody, into your fishnets! Get out that black eyeliner, NOW! Eraas’ new self-titled album is stylized to the nth degree, as if 1987 never ended. The guitars ring with a low, morose, watery tone, straight through an oldschool Boss chorus pedal, awash in thick, foggy banks of synthesized strings over a tensely pounding beat punctuated by trebly minimalist bass. If you missed the days when the Sisters of Mercy were headlining at Radio City Music Hall – or if you were there and wish you still were – this is for you.

Long, hypnotic, drony vamps build slowly to catchy choruses, a blend of Clan of Xymox anthemicness and stygian, trancey sonics that occasionally echo Mogwai’s more low-key excursions. The New Order influence lurks ominously in the background everywhere here, but it’s the dark, early, Movement-era New Order, not the synthpop band they turned into shortly thereafter. The album opens appropriately with a murky drone that eventually rises to muffled drums on the offbeat – a recurrent motif, along with the bass playing simple, rhythmic octaves. Desolate keys and then an echoey choir of heavily processed vocals enter and then fade back to the opening riff: it’s a tintype for everything else here.

The third track, At Heart, channels early New Order with galloping, punchy bass, swirling keys, a dead-girl choir and a gamelanesque, gong-like loop on the horizon that eventually takes centerstage. Ghost, with its dub-influenced arrangement and synthy guitars, offers the closest thing to a narrative here, a call for a seance “down the stairs from a broken home while torches line the walls.” Skinning goes from stark and minimal with brooding piano to lushly orchestrated and then back again, while Briar Path is totally Sisters of Mercy as it moves from unexpectedly funky to a macabre clog dance of sorts. The band goes for a more percussive take on Bela Lugosi’s Dead with the next track, Crosscut, then shifts to more straight-up goth-pop with Fang. The album ends on a perfectly funereal note with a couple of dirges: Crescent, a slow processional, and Trinity, following a long, sinister walk down the guitar scale to its logical conclusion. There were a million bands like this out there 25 years ago; most of them have stood the test of time well. Give Eraas extra props for staying true to the style without being kitschy or stupid. They’re at the Cameo Gallery on 11/10 at around 10.

Wave Sleep Wave Puts a New Spin on an Old Sound

If it’s absolutely necessary to pin a label on what Wave Sleep Wave does, you could call it dreampop. Reduced to its essentials, it’s a shimmering, glistening, swirling, jangly, misty vortex of guitar textures over steady drums. Frontman/guitarist Jerry Adler is a one-man orchestra, slowly and methodically building a web of textures, sometimes hypnotic, often symphonically ornate, like a late 80s British version of Jon Brion. Influence-wise, there are a million bands out there who ape the catchy, simple, major-key mid-80s sound that New Order and the Cure made so popular; here, Adler reverts back to a deeper, murkier 80s sound that also offers a nod to Wire and the Cocteau Twins. He first made a mark about ten years ago leading the Blam, the catchy but edgy indie pop band that should have been as popular as the Shins but wasn’t; a little later, he took a powerfully lyrical detour into Dylanesque acoustic rock with his Flugente project. What’s most impressive about this album is that it appears to be just guitars and drums, with no bass, yet the sonics have a gyroscopic balance. Drummer Yuval Lion – Adler’s cohort in the Blam – keeps things moving along tersely and briskly, for the most part. Fans of the dreampop canon from the Cocteau Twins, to Lush, to My Bloody Valentine, to more obscure bands like Downy Mildew, are going to love this record.

It’s best appreciated as an uninterrupted whole, considering that most of the tracks segue into each other. The opening cut, Rats starts out with edgy, percussive guitar accents against a wave of drone, then leaps into a swirling chorus, then back, with a characteristically juicy yet minimalist guitar solo midway through. Interestingly, while Adler is just as adept a wordsmith as a tunesmith, lyrics take a back seat to the guitars here. “We don’t know what’s wrong, we just know what’s right,” he intones, deadpan, on the second track, Laws, methodically crescendoing with echoes of Bauhaus and Pink Floyd as the guitar orchestra grows, and grows, and grows. Images of violence and discontent recur throughout the songs: it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that this is a parable.

The hit single here is Hey…What, with its echoey guitar hook and dancefloor beat: “The pot is boiling with unbearable heat/The crowd turns violent and gets ready to blow/They’re tired of dancing with the devil they know,” Adler announces ominously as the song builds to a Railway Children-style chorus-box interlude with a seemingly endless wash of attractive, jazzy chords. Zip It artfully embellishes a catchy two-chord riff to a bell-like chorus and then echoey, choppy waves punctuated by buzzsaw lead lines, while Like Filings to Magnets is the most minimalist track here, juxtaposing a gentle, skeletal lead against a quietly oscillating drone. They evoke the artsy side of 17 Pygmies with the slowly swaying 1001 and then a sort of blend of Gang of Four and Cocteau Twins with Standard Fare, an apprehensive, allusive, nightmarish scenario. The album closes with Tongues, setting bloody imagery over a dark, offcenter backdrop that sounds like it might be playing at halfspeed, and then the anthemic How Low, which builds tension before finally resolving with a mighty “clang” on the chorus. As far as trippy, tuneful unease goes, albums don’t get much better than this. Wave Sleep Wave plays the album release show for this one at Bowery Electric on April 17 at 8 PM.