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Tag: new wave

$10 for Percocet in Queens

There’s a strange and interesting rock and rock-adjacent triplebill coming up on Dec 1 at Bar Freda in Ridgewood, where the segues are kind of weird, but the acts on the bill are flying under the radar and are definitely worth checking out for a $10 cover. At 8 PM, there’s First Crush, with their fetching guy/girl harmonies and newschool front-porch folk vibe. At 9 the very eclectic, sometimes noisy, sometimes icily 80s-influenced Percocet follow on the bill, with minimalist shoegazers To the Wedding headlining.

Percocet are the most intriguing act of the evening, and infinitely more lively than their name implies. Their debut album – streaming at Bandcamp – is slyly titled Enjoy. An eerie, ugly, pool of sound introduces the first song, A Body, then guitarist Digo Best shifts between cyclotron swirl and lingering jangle.

The drums hit a somber Atrocity Exhibition tumble groove in the second song, I’m Leaving: it’s like the slow version of Joy Division’s Transmission with a woman out front and denser, more distorted guitars. Track three, Coded (as in, dead?) is a beefier take on watery, opaquely drifting Cocteau Twins sonics, right down to frontwoman/bassist Jennica Best’s disembodied vocals.

The final cut is October, a lilting clave tune with hypnotically circling, lingering chorus-box guitar. These guys (and woman) have a good sense of humor and deserve to be better known.


In Memoriam: Keith Levene

Keith Levene, one of the most distinctively brilliant guitarists of the punk era, died a week ago in his native England, as reported in Mark Crispin Miller’s weekly necrology. He was 65. Levene had battled cancer for the past two years; it is unknown if the lethal Covid injection hastened his demise.

A founding member of the Clash and then Public Image Ltd, Levene’s sound encompassed an otherworldly, icy menace. Arguably no other rock guitarist has used overtones to such a powerful effect as Levene did, playing though a chilly wash of reverb. Reviewing Levene’s 2012 album Yin & Yang, which reunited him with ex-PiL bassist Jah Wobble, this blog characterized him as “The rare guitar god who relies more on space than speed, minute timbral shifts more than rapidfire riffage. And yet, his sonic assault remains one of the most brutal in any style of music.”

Levene is widely credited with pioneering the nails-down-the-blackboard skronk popularized by Gang of Four and the innumerable “no wave” bands of the late 70s and early 80s. However, he is better remembered for his lingering, harmonically bristling attack, playing jagged broken chords against a resonanting open string as well as utilizing unorthodox voicings to draw on the guitar’s overtone system.

Levene was an original member of legendary/obscure punk pioneers the Flowers of Romance, with Sid Vicious on drums. As the original rhythm guitarist in the Clash, he recruited Joe Strummer to be the group’s frontman but left before they recorded. Only one of his songs, What’s My Name, appears on the Clash’s first record..

Moving on to PiL, Levene began to define his chilly chorus-box sound on the group’s far slicker, powerpop-inspired debut album, First Issue. Their second album, originally titled Metal Box, was where Levene crystallized the style for which he is best remembered. His approach turned more spare and skeletal on the group’s third studio release, The Flowers of Romance. Levene left the band in 1983 after a reputed rift with frontman John Lydon over song credits and rumors of heavy drug use.

Before his two albums with Jah Wobble, Levene’s creative output had been erratic; he also worked with members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Condolences to all those who knew this individualistic and paradigm-shifting artist.

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.

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.

A Solid Bargain Basement Rock Twinbill on the Lower East Tomorrow Night

Watching this city struggling to emerge from two years of a fascist lockdown and restrictions that devastated the arts and drove a substantial percentage of the population out of town has been eye-opening, to say the least. But there have been some positive developments lately. For one, we’re seeing a slow emergence of bands who were clearly good enough to be playing any dive in town in 2019, and weren’t – but they are now. Fault of venues who placed social media presence ahead of quality, most likely. Two of those bands – the eclectically catchy, occasionally 80s-tinged Sugar Pond and Stonesy jamband Hometown Unknown will be at the Delancey tomorrow night, Oct 8 at 7 PM; cover is $10.

It’s not an ideal segue, but both groups are worth checking out. Sugar Pond’s latest album, It Came From Sugar Pond, is up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. The first track, Missing the Point is an interesting take on a gritty late 90s Versus sound with a little 80s goth and a classic disco bassline from Andrew Megos. Frontman Nick Bernstein and his bandmate Jackson Cadenhead share guitar and drums duty on the record.

Track two, Mountain is a swirlier dreampop take on Tears for Fears. Artichoke is part catchy early 80s powerpop strut and part mid-80s Cure: “White room with a two-inch display, nothing there but nothing done today,” Bernstein reveals.

Die Wheel is a cheeky, very successful take on mid-60s Bacharach bossa pop with twinkling psychedelic touches. The last song is Let Me Squeem (Please Allow), a goofy folk-pop number.

The four guys in Hometown Unknown are first-class musicians. They love to jam; they love to emulate both the Stones and the Grateful Dead. They open their debut album – streaming at their music page – with a Stonesy rocker and then a beefed-up psychedelic funk tune with a sizzling guitar solo. Lester’s Lament, the third track, is a solid, tuneful take on Sticky Fingers-era Stones: it’s a bet the band play it tighter onstage than in this skittish home-studio recording.

Heavy Dreamer wouldn’t be out of place in the Blackberry Smoke tunebook, with a long jam at the end. The final song is a go-go soul shuffle.

The band also have a decent collection of Dead covers available as a free download. Here they’re shooting for what seems to be a peak-era mid-80s Dead vibe, as you can tell from the choice of songs. There’s a low-key, soul-tinged Althea, a Stones-ified Alabama Getaway, a thoughtfully vintage soul-style reinvention of Eyes of the World and a haphazard attempt at doing Going Down the Road Feeling Bad as a honkytonk tune.

The Juliett Class Bring Their Dark Roar to Bushwick Next Week

When’s the last there was a great, loud rock triplebill in New York that wasn’t all metal bands? One of the best lineups of the year is happening this Oct 6 at Our Wicked Lady with three groups that mix up psychedelic punk and new wave-era sounds. The centerpiece of the bill is the Electric Mess, New York’s answer to Radio Birdman. Movie Movie, who include members of that band as well as Twin Guns axeman Andrea Sicco open the night at 8. Darkly catchy, purposeful all-female power trio the Juliett Class headline at 10. The club seems oblivious to #cashalways and for the moment is onboard with the goofy online ticketing fad, which means that the cool kids with cash will most likely have to fork over $14 at the door. It’s hard to imagine a door person fumbling around with nickels and dimes in the dark.

The Juliett Class’ debut album is just out and up at Bandcamp. The first song, Shut Off is like an early version of Joy Division doing Transmission, but with a woman out front – right down to frontwoman Niabi Aquena’s wounded, angst-fueled vocals over Joan Sullivan’s incisive bass. Drummer Heather Wagner adds some theremin textures for extra swirl

They slow down for Highway Girl, a burning, swaying tune where Aquena multitracks her vocals for a haunting counterpoint. Ohio is an original, not the Neil Young protest song, the trio picking up from a slow simmer to a stomp. They wind up the album with Next Week, their Dead Souls: “I am trying to make it through next week,” is Aquena’s mantra. Simple, effective, dark and catchy and one of the best short albums of the year.

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.

Memes and Singles of the Week For July 23

It’s been a crazy week. but the Great Awakening seems to be pushing the Great Reset off the cliff. Today’s playlist starts with some snarky visuals, then about 25 minutes worth of tunes and a shocking but cruelly funny bit of news. As always, click on artist or author names for their webpages, click on titles for audio and visuals – and make sure you use Brave or another browser with an ad blocker because some of the songs are at youtube.

Sometimes a video is worth a thousand words. This is so sweet. All the Dutch kids on their four-wheelers showing solidarity with the farmers protesting the World Economic Forum’s sick Agenda 2030! Thanks to the irreplaceable Tessa Lena for passing this along

Mathew Aldred shares the funniest social media gaffe of the week:

If masks worked, they would have been banned, just like hydroxichloroquine” via author Amy Sukwan.

Artist Anne Gibbonsmeme of the week is the Philanthropath of the Year Awards, inspired by Margaret Anna Alice’s must-read Substack. Let’s get the word “philanthropath” into the global urban dictionary!

Fran Leader, who for years has been tip of the spear among British activists sounding the alarm about the dangers of EMF exposure, has a great meme dump today: check out the “authoritarian virus” and the Matrix joke.

Now for some tunes! Satirist and documentarian Sage Hana has a characteristically spot-on video for a live, late-career version of Blondie’s One Way Or Another. Pay careful attention to the final frame

Jessie Kilguss wrote her janglerock anthem Great White Shark for a prison songwriting class….that she was teaching. The gist of this bittersweet gem is that maybe sharks aren’t so scary after all. Yikes!

Nina Diaz‘s Silly Situation turns mid-80s Cure inside out with a world-weary Marianne Faithfull angst.

Let’s take a dive into the deep end of the noir soul pool with a good segue from Lizzie No‘s Sweeter Than Strychnine into All Back, by Ali McGuirk

Lukas Lion‘s The Great Puppet Show, a creepy circus-rock hip-hop protest song, has gotten a lot of traction lately:

If we can make Hollywood movies, you think we can’t manipulate what the latest news is?
We’re the kings of illusion, we choose what the truth is.

Imagine a woman singing Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road and you get Kasey Waldon‘s Simple As Love

Let’s end this on a (very darkly) comedic note with the irreplaceable Dr. Pam Popper‘s commentary on the damning new memoir by the “scarf lady.” The founder of Make Americans Free Again unpacks the criminal Fauci’s co-conspirator Deborah Birx’s memoir in five minutes, letting her dig her own grave in admitting that she was the main proponent of the asymptomatic spread madness, and the testing madness of the early days of the plandemic. Birx even brags about how she subverted any attempt by the White House to return to normal. As Birx confesses, “They never managed to catch the subterfuge.” Start the video at about the two minute mark.

Brilliant Bassist Yula Beeri Brings Her Upbeat New Duo Project to Long Island City

Yula Beeri played bass in wildly influential circus rock band World Inferno. That group met a tragic demise with the death of their frontman Jack Terricloth, murdered by the Covid shot just over a year ago. However, Beeri has always stayed busy with other groups, from the sizzling, slinky Israeli-tinged Nanuchka, to a rotating cast of characters she calls Yula & the Extended Family. Her latest project is Y&I with drummer Isaac Gardner. Their debut album Holy Vol. 1 is streaming at Spotify. They’re playing outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City on July 16 at 5 PM.

It was a lot of fun watching the two working up this material over the course of a series of shows at LIC Bar at the top of the street in the months before the 2020 lockdown. There aren’t many bassist-fronted bands, let alone singers who can play Beeri’s serpentine, melodic lines at the same time. Throughout her shows there, she’d sometimes play along to a loop pedal, sometimes adding layers live and building a song on top of them while Gardner played low-key funk, and shuffles, and dancefloor beats behind her.

The new album is a lot more lighthearted and techy than Beeri’s harder-rocking earlier work. The first track, Cub sets the stage with its tricky tempo, woozy processed layers of vocals and flurrying drums. The duo follow with Slip & Slide, a cheery, aptly slithery trip-hop tune with dub echoes, some icy raga guitar licks and a lickety-split ska outro

Gate (as in “finish gate”) has playfully syncopated layers of vocals over a muted, galloping beat where Beeri’s guitar and bass tracks pick up with her signature chromatic edge. The duo go back to trip-hop with a more minimalist, loopy, skronky Goldfrapp/Garbage edge in the next track, Wire.

Beeri hits her chilly vintage chorus pedal for an icy strobe in the album’s title track, Gardner rattling the traps vintage one-drop style at the end of a phrase. The last song is This House, Beeri’s disembodied sci-fi vocal multitracks and a sly hip-hop interlude over Gardner’s loose-limbed swing beat. There’s plenty of room in the parking lot in Queens to dance to this.