Friday, September 26, 2008

Young Widows - Old Wounds

Louisville's music scene has always been seen as defining a more sophisticated version of aggression. Bands from the area tend to be associated with "math rock", a sound that groups like Rodan and Slint created in the early '90s. In the current music scene in Louisville applying this generic influence to a heavy base of post-hardcore seems to be the new style. Pusher, Breather Resist, these bands all represent an extremely noisy complex brand of hardcore that in today's climate is strikingly original. In turn the Louisville sound has provided the scene with a national following. Young Widows is perhaps the most esteemed collective in Louisville these days featuring the entire instrumental bulk of Breather Resist with guitarist Evan Patterson taking up vocal duties. Young Widows originally sounded like yet another Jesus Lizard clone on their debut 'Settle Down City', but with 'Old Wounds' they have crafted something between the stolid side of Fugazi and repetitive style of groups like the Melvins and Big Black.

young widows
'Old Wounds' begins with the pulsating bass tone of Nick Theineman. 'Took a Turn' is the opener and definitely one of the highlights with its perfectly composed dynamics. Patterson's guitar tone shows itself half way through the track in pure fabricated noise that shifts in and out of the music creating bursts of industrial sounding melody. 'Old Skin' follows showing the band hasn't lost any of their aggression from the Breather Resist days. Hammer ons and a relentlessly heavy beat from Jeremy McMonigle make the track an excellent transition from the more subdued intro. Speaking of the sound of this record Kurt Ballou and the band took a different approach to recording it as they recorded all of the songs both live and at Godcity Studios. I don't know how much this technique was used in terms of layering the record, but the production on this record is probably the best Ballou has done since 'The Moon is a Dead World'. Every tone on this record is absolutely pristine. 'The Guitar' which is built off simply chord strumming and Patterson's reminiscence on his instrument is accented by brilliant overlaying melodies that sound just as lush and distant as they would on a Ride album.

‘Old Wounds’ is strictly ‘90s influenced it seems. The ideas here are all from the last decade, but something feels different. Young Widows aren’t simply saying silence is a dangerous sound like those before them. ‘Old Wounds’ has crafted something desolate and fractured out of the past. The record sounds completely of this era and with its distant sound yet dark imagery crafts a perfect record for a nation and area that is suffering economic turmoil. In turn it should provide very little shock that the stories on this record seem like an update on Big Black’s ‘Songs About Fucking’ which came out during another Republican spawned economic crisis.

young widows' 'old wounds'
In terms of criticisms there are little. 'Old Wounds' represents a band feeling comfortable in their own skin and stretching out their ambitions. In return they've crafted an excellent sounding and composed post-hardcore record that has clearly been getting a deserved amount of acclaim. Perhaps 'Old Wounds' is not Young Widows' 'Liar', but as they continue to stretch their limbs into areas that aren't Jesus Lizard influenced their sound and persona swell. Suppose that should've been expected though since the band is from Louisville.

Young Widows - 'Old Wounds' (2008)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Hate Myself - 2 Songs

i hate myself's '2 songs'
I Hate Myself was a Gainesville emo band. their claim to fame seems to be the penchant the band had for satire and how they incorporated it into their image. I Hate Myself played subued hardcore that is reminiscint of Saetia in the angst department. this seven inch is less layered than their other releases and instead is very simple both in composition and production evoking a Mineral type feel. Two tracks are on this record. 'Drama in the Emergency Room' is a slow building track that jumps between loud and quiet dynamics before finally collapsing in the final repetition of "doctor". 'Darren's Roof' is a brooding counterpoint to the more strung out 'Drama in the Emergency Room'. distorted verses make up the majority of the track. the guitar playing on this record always seemed to remind me of Modest Mouse in some ways 'Darren's Roof' especially the track feeling like a more menacing 'Dramamine' both in sound and topic.

I Hate Myself - 2 Songs (2000)

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Drones - Custom Made

seven inches represent an "extended play" for artists. in my opinion the seven inch is probably the hardest format to make a great record on because you don't have time to develop a running sound. where on a full album artists are able to throw in some filler between two great songs that isn't a possibility with seven inches. that is why i've decided to examine a seven inch weekly on here supposedly every sunday evening. i doubt this will actually occur as even the first post is being constructed past the "due date.", but who really cares. hopefully this will provide more great music for the few people that indulge my lengthy discussions.

the drones' 'custom made'

the first seven inch i'll be posting will be a recently materialized idea on ATP Records called Custom Made. it is basically a series of seven inches that will call for its roster of bands to put together a four song sampler with new and old material as well as covers. the first band to be involved with the series is a group that goes by the name The Drones. in my opinion, probably the best "rock" band currently active. The Drones hail from Australia where they've mashed a variety of sounds into some kind of cohesive devotion to American blues with a hefty amount of influence from groups like The Birthday Party. Neil Young styled guitar leads are all over their plethora of records, but the differences between 'Gala Mill' their latest and their debut are vast. 'Gala Mill' was a collection of expansive Australia folk lore while 'Here Comes the Lies' was essentially a blues cover album by a group that adores feedback. 'Custom Made' contains examples of all of these sounds opening up with a great remake of 'Cockeyed Lowlife of the Highlands'. Dissonant guitar lines abound the song introduces us to the aggressive side of The Drones with vocalist Gareth Liddiard howling his oddly cockney accent all over the track. Psychedelic guitar fills abound the song explodes into the next track 'I Don't Ever Want to Change' from 'Gala Mill. 'I Don't Ever Want to Change' is basically the hit of this record. It has a pop structure with a relaxed verse that explodes into a raging chorus. Commentary of the lyrics point to Liddiard commenting on a specific type of Australian who seeks peace in nature from their self destructive urban life. The track is a superb addition in terms of segue the noiser side of The Drones into the more composition based side of The Drones. 'I Drink' a cover of Charles Aznavour's 'Je Bois' is a track only The Drones could play. The track stutters in a variety of angular rhythms while Liddiard recounts his past indulgence in liquor. Finally we have the closer of this seven inch set, a ballad in only the way The Drones could do 'Shark Fin Blues'.

the drones' 'shark fin blues'

Every second of 'Shark Fin Blues' has purpose. From the cascading guitar intro to the bridge of las. This track is truly one of The Drones' finest moments and where it truly succeeds is in the lyrics. Liddiard sets the stage of some type of shipwreck with the narrator looking on,

'a harpoon's shaft is short and wide
a grappling hook's is cracked and dry
i said, why don't you get down in the sea
turn the water red like you want to be?

'cause if i cry another tear i'll be turned to dust

no the sharks won't get me they don't feel loss

just keep one eye on the horizon man,
you best not blink
they're coming fin by fin
until the whole boat sinks.'

-the drones - 'shark fin blues'

The Drones - 'Custom Made' (2007)

Monday, September 8, 2008

...Who Calls So Loud - ...Who Calls So Loud

...who calls so loud's self titled
Funeral Diner encapsulated a dense and nostalgic view of hardcore. Their seminal release 'The Underdark' was anchored by its dynamic songwriting as well as a fantastic drum performance by Ex-Portraits of Past member Matt Bajda. When the group broke up guitarist Dave Mello and aforementioned Matt moved on to a new project under the name ...Who Calls So Loud. Their debut definitely makes the fact clear that members of the band were previously involved in Funeral Diner. The record is a combination of thoughtful longing and intense build ups. While there certainly are a lot of similar threads connecting Funeral Diner and ...Who Calls So Loud there are also numerous key differences. First off ...Who Calls So Loud isn't as dense as "The Underdark" the guitars act more as melodic anchors than heavy distorted sound scapes. 'Sleep-like' plays out this idea when it breaks into a serene bridge featuring lush guitar parts with drummer Matt releasing a flurry of impressive fills. The band also seems to take a more introspective look in terms of the lyrics. Funeral Diner's lyrics most of the time came across as very dark and preachy words on the current state of society where ...Who Calls So Loud's don't echo accusation. 'Any Color I Want' encapsulates this idea;

'it's been years since i've stood on your porch.
several memories flash all at once.
i don't even know if you still live here.

attached is everything you've written me.

i've highlighted all the lies.'
...who calls so loud - 'any color i want'

If 'The Underdark' represented what the Half Moon Bay breeds ...Who Calls So Loud is attempting to portray how the members of that community were actually bred. The record as a whole echoes lost sentiments and forgotten peers. The music is desolate and while it is not as basic as a standard hardcore affair it feels human in how it gradually builds itself up just to fall back into a more appropriate section. Highlights of the record include '' which speaks on feelings of life's futility. The cycling guitar portions in the introduction of the track help slowly cascade the song into the rolling repetition of 'there was a presence.' The song has probably the heaviest section of the record when it expands into its conclusion which almost echoes the feel of a breakdown. From that apex of heaviness the record drifts into the slide guitar of 'Assume the Power Focus' which is such a startling shift in feel that it works excellently.

...who calls so loud
Complaints on this record are easy to assume. The band isn't living up to the complexity of their former incarnation, the sound is too typical for a post rock influenced emo group, the lyrical content is trite, etc. While there is some validity in some of these statements listeners should examine ...Who Calls So Loud's debut album for simply what it is; a continued development of the sound Funeral Diner was striving to create and in that regard it succeeds.

...Who Calls So Loud - ...Who Calls So Loud (2008)