New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Tag: post-punk

Saturday Singles

Former Band of Susans guitarist (and Demolition String Band bassist) Anne Husick has a creepy new single, The Other Side out from the World Wide Vibe folks and streaming at Soundcloud. With its absolutely gorgeous layers of guitars, it’s a noir blues at the core, lit up with Robert Aaron’s organ and drummer Kevin Tooley’s echoey snare beat. She’s playing the release show at Sidewalk on Dec 3, time TBA. If her show at Otto’s a couple of Sundays ago was any indication, you’re in for a night of dark oldschool LES rock treats. Tons of people rip off Lou Reed: Husick uses a 70s version of the post-Velvets sound as a springboard, and dives in from there.

Powerpop maven Mark Breyer has been writing heartbreakingly beautiful songs for a long time, first with cult favorites Skooshny and most recently on his own, under the name Son of Skooshny. His latest one, No Ho – a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist/producer Steve Refling, streaming at Bandcamp – paints a gently devastating portrait of existential angst and understated despair, a couple doomed from the start traipsing their way through a vivid LA milieu. And the title could be as savage for the girl as the narrator’s prospects are bleak.

You want a sultry vocal? Check out Melissa Fogarty’s multilingual delivery on Metropolitan Klezmer‘s Mazel Means Good Luck, based on a 1954 arrangement of a 1947 big band hit. The irrepressible cross-genre Jewish jamband are playing the album release for their new one – this song is the title track – at the legendary Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum on December 15 at 4 (four) PM. Tix are $20/$15 stud/srs.

And check out September Girls‘ Black Oil, ornate postpunk with Middle Eastern flourishes, that’s catchy and disorienting at the same time.

Certain General’s Eye Contact – Their Best Album?

Who would have thought that Certain General would be around in 2013, let alone putting out what might be their best album? That’s not to dimish their early 80s recordings, which earned the first-wave postpunk band fame in Europe and a rabid cult following on their Lower East Side home turf, but they’ve grown immensely in the years that passed. Phil Gammage developed into the  underground guitar genius everybody figured he’d be, frontman and bassist Parker Dulany’s baritone delivery is as nonchalantly ominous as ever and drummer Kevin Tooley drives the surprisingly eclectic mix of songs with beats to match (and also produced the album with oldschool, purist chops). Thirty-three years after Dulany and a then-seventeen-year-old Gammage founded the group, Certain General’s songs still inhabit the gritty, shadowy, post-industrial New York the group cut their teeth in. They’ll be at the Parkside tomorrow, May 30 in the middle of a killer triplebill starting around 8 PM, bookeneded by Jesse Bates’ incessantly amusing garage band Los Dudes and then Certain General’s  long-running labelmates, psychedelic janglepunks Band of Outsiders.

The new album’s title track, Eye Contact, works an 80s art-pop vein, finding the missing link between the Church and late T Rex, with organic production values. The big anthemic hit here is Amen Everyday, with its roaring 4-chord hook and catchy lead guitar line, Tooley driving the thing with plenty of reverb on the snare. Sunshine Army has a bit of a Dolls/Heartbreakers vibe but with more focus and none of the camp, while Live It Down is Lou Reed all the way, Gammage’s off-center, sunbaked solo adding a disconcerting edge.

They stick with the vintage Lou atmosphere for the moody, nocturnal Sign of Love, guest guitarist David Lees’ atmospheric sheets of sound mingling with the organ. Meteorite could be an early 80s Bowie hit, but more down-to-earth, both productionwise and musically, Gammage’s searing multitracks swerving from new wave to funk before the band brings it down. Special Delivery works an ominous reggae groove, followed by The Horse Racee, a bizarrely cosmoplitan, jazz-tinged S&M boudoir ballad. Water Again and Golden Horses – the latter with Julee Cruise providing unexpectedly cheery vocal harmonies – remind a lot of early Echo & the Bunnymen, while Some Day Your War Will End takes a Gang of Four riff and bulks it up with layers of burning guitars. The album winds out with the slowly pulsing, slow-burning Sourpuss, glimmering electric piano mingling with Gammage’s slide guitar lines for extra menace. So few good bands from this era are left: it’s heartwarming to see Certain General still going so strong.

Changing Modes: Hard to Figure Out, Easy to Sing Along to at Spike Hill

Isn’t it a pain to have to choose between two equally tantalizing shows? Saturday night, it was impossible to resist the temptation to sneak away from the Brooklyn What’s album release gig at Public Assembly while the opening acts played, since Changing Modes were on the bill around the corner at Spike Hill. With two keyboardists, guitar, bass and drums, their music is complex yet manages to be extremely catchy. Frontwomen Wendy Griffiths and Grace Pulliam both play synthesizers, and while they aren’t above hamming it up once in awhile with a woozy oscillation or a fat phony horn patch, their sound isn’t cheesy. As much as what they do has a very 80s feel, their sense of that decade’s sounds zeros in toward dark, often menacing new wave rather than cliched radio pop.

To say that this band has an edge is an understatement  Throughout the set, the two women worked an inscrutably alluring, sometimes dangerous vein. Pulliam swayed with just the hint of what might have been a sadistic smile as she fine-tuned her pedalboard for minute orchestral adjustments, while Griffiths pogoed behind her keys, at one point emerging to put her foot up on a monitor and fix a thousand-yard stare on the crowd. But she also has a quirky sense of humor: at one point, she let out a random “whoop” seemingly just for the hell of it, later on putting on a pair of red shades with blinking lights, only to discard them seconds afterward. Meanwhile, Yuzuru Sadashige played nimble basslines for a couple of songs before switching to guitar, at which point a bassist came onstage to team up with their tight drummer Timur Yusef.

Unexpected tempo changes, loud/soft dynamic shifts and unpredictable song structures met their match in singalong choruses, Griffiths and Pulliam trading off verses or individual lines when they weren’t blending their voices for some soaring harmonies. Pulliam sang Down to You, a standout track from the band’s latest album In Flight, with a cold vengefulness, Sashadige cutting loose with a searing bluesiness as he would do all night, Griffiths adding a terse classically-tinged piano solo.  A wickedly catchy, insistent new song, Jeanine (sp?) might have been about a cat, or someone with feline tendencies. The album version of Ghost in the Backseat is a dead ringer for early X, but this time out they slowed it down, making it more gothic than punk, at least until another blazing Sashadige guitar solo.

They followed a burning, ominously riff-driven cover of Jamiroquai’s Deeper Underground with a slow, creepy, watery art-rock anthem, an apprehensive new wave tune with an Afrobeat-flavored guitar intro and then a creepy version of Here, the darkly unpredictable title track from their 2010 album. They closed with what might have been a cover, Griffiths and Pulliam harmonizing energetically over a catchy new wave beat. Although the turnout was good and the crowd was into the show, a band this smart and original deserves more exposure. Somewhere there has to be an indie suspense movie that would be a perfect match for Changing Modes’ eclectic, moody yet upbeat songs.