Friday, January 29, 2016

Singles: The Body, The Raveonettes, Pet Sun, The Ocular Audio Experiment, Earthless, Zun

The Body: "Shelter is Illusory" (via Thrill Jockey Records/Bandcamp)

The Raveonettes: "The World is Empty (Without You)" (via Tell All Your Friends PR/YouTube)

Pet Sun: "Mrs. Warp" (via Tell All Your Friends PR/Exclaim/YouTube)

The Ocular Audio Experiment: "Alive" (via Findings of the Other Eye/YouTube)

Earthless: "End to End" (via Tee Pee Records/Noisey/Soundcloud)

Zun: "Burial Sunrise" (via Earsplit PR/Small Stone Records/Bandcamp)

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mike and the Melvins: "Chicken 'n' Dump"

So, this is a long time coming.

Three Men and a Baby is the combined work of the Melvins and godheadSilo's Mike Kunka, billed as Mike and the Melvins.  It was supposed to be released in 1999 and it looks as though this album will finally see the light of day on April 1st, (April Fool's Day coincidentally).  Info regarding the release was provided by Sub Pop.   

You can also check out the single, "Chicken 'n' Dump."  The track premiered at Noisey.

Mike and the Melvins to release the long-awaited Three Men and a Baby on April 1st worldwide through Sub Pop

Listen: “Chicken ‘n’ Dump” via Noisey

On April 1st, 2016, Sub Pop will release
Three Men and a Baby, the long-awaited collaboration between Mike Kunka (godheadSilo, Enemymine) and the Melvins. The 12-song album features the highlights “Chicken ‘n’ Dump” and “Limited Teeth.” Most of Three Men and a Baby was recorded in 1999 at Louder Studios by Tim Green (The Fucking Champs), and it was finished in 2015 at Sound of Sirens by Toshi Kasai.

Noisey had this to say of "Chicken 'n' Dump": "Delivers on the promise of the Kunka/Melvins pairing, fixing Mike's hellacious, chugging low end to Buzz Osborne and the boys' thick racket, banging out a riff as joyous and as it is punishing(see premiere January 26th)."

Three Men and a Baby is now available for preorder through the Sub Pop Mega Mart, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp. LP preorders through will receive the Loser edition, housed in a custom dust sleeve and on white vinyl (while supplies last). There will also be a T-shirt available with all album bundles. 

About Mike and The Melvins:
Three Men and a Baby is the new album by Mike and the Melvins. It was supposed to come out sixteen years ago. 

These are the facts we can be sure of: in 1998, around the time his band godheadSilo went on hiatus, bassist/vocalist Mike Kunka busied himself by tagging along on a tour with his friends the Melvins. Somewhere along the way, Mike and the MelvinsKing Buzzo (guitar/bass/vocals), Dale Crover (drums/vocals), and Kevin Rutmanis (bass/vocals), at the time – decided to make a record together, and gave the project the imaginative moniker Mike and the Melvins. Sub Pop, ever on the hunt for music’s Next Big Thing, enthusiastically agreed to fund and release the super-group’s debut, and recording commenced sometime in 1999.

It’s at this point that things get hazy. Apparently, one or more of the following happened:
  • Some “junior-high level bullshit.”
  • A house was built, a barn was raised, children were born.
  • Typical record-label skullduggery.
  • A scorching case of whooping cough.
  • Surgery. Lots of surgery.
  • Shocking and poorly-timed gear theft.
  • Some other stuff, probably, or maybe not.
Whatever the reasons, the incomplete recording languished on a shelf from 1999 until 2015, when, much to everyone’s surprise, the involved parties reconvened, finished the damn thing, and delivered it post-haste to Sub Pop International Headquarters, where it was promptly scheduled for the coveted April 1st, 2016 release date. What a story, right? 

So, about the record: It’s real good! Mike’s signature bass crunch and vocals are all over it, and the Melvins are in fine form. It has everything from hefty noise-rock churn to a Public Image Ltd. song to cough-syrup blues to deconstructed black metal. Neither Melvins nor godheadSilo fans will be disappointed, nor will detractors of either; to paraphrase Mike, if you don’t like it, it probably wasn’t meant for you (read more at Sub Pop).

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, January 22, 2016

What's (RE)New?: SPAZZ Sweatin' Again...

A couple weeks ago via social media, Tankcrimes Records announced that they would be reissuing Sweatin' To The Oldies and Sweatin' 3: Skatin', Satan & Katon, the long out of print and extensively padded powerviolence compilations from SPAZZ.  The good people at Earsplit PR have come through with the info.  Sweatin' To The Oldies and Sweatin' 3: Skatin', Satan & Katon will be released on March 11th on both digital and CD formats.  There will be no vinyl.  Sorry, kids. 

More info is available below.

SPAZZ: Tankcrimes Records To Reissue Sweatin' To The Oldies + Sweatin' 3: Skatin', Satan & Katon From Iconic Hardcore Punk/Powerviolence Unit This March

The volume assassins at Tankcrimes Records are pleased and honored to reissue Sweatin' To The Oldies and Sweatin' 3: Skatin', Satan & Katon from iconic, now-defunct hardcore punk/power violence trio, SPAZZ, on CD and digitally this Spring.

Originally released on Slap A Ham Records in 1997 and out-of-print for fifteen long years, SPAZZ's
Sweatin' To The Oldies is a must-have ear-bleeder boasting sixty-four tracks compiled from splits released with Charles Bronson, Brutal Truth, Rupture, Floor and more from 1993-1996 as well as SPAZZ's debut EP, tracks from various comps including Better Read Than Dead (1996, Epitaph/AK Press), cover tunes and live cuts from KFJC and 924 Gilman St.

Initially issued on Slap A Ham Records in 2001 and out-of-print for a decade,
Sweatin' 3: Skatin', Satan & Katon offers up sixty-seven SPAZZ tracks compiled from splits with 25 Ta Life, Lack Of Interest, Hirax, Black Army Jacket, Gob and more released from 1995 through 1998 plus the Tastin' Spoon EP and tracks from a host of compilation appearances including Short Music For Short People (1999, Fat Wreck Chords) and the original motion picture soundtrack for Gummo.

Both releases come remastered, or in some cases mastered for the first time ever, by Dan Randall (Ghoul, Impaled, Voetsek, Temple Of Dagon et al) at Mammoth Sound. Additionally, the Tankcrimes editions give
Sweatin' To The Oldies and Sweatin' 3: Skatin', Satan & Katon the digital treatment for the first time ever. Believe it.

 Sweatin' To The Oldies Track Listing:
1. Gary's Free Time (There's Lots Of It) - Intro
2. Crocket
3. One Ghetto To The Next
4. Return Of The Wall Of Death
5. Who Writes Your Rules (Half Off)
6. Mighty Morphin Power Violence
7. Thrice The Heiney
8. Kiss Of The Sasquatch
9. Hot Dog Water Popsicle In The Hand Of Eric Wood
10. Problems In The Homeland
11. I Hate The Kids (S.O.A.)
12. Spudboy
13. Smoking Don's Crack Hole
14. Dirt The Purity
15. Knuckle Scraper
16. Box II (Yates Goes To Africa)
17. Spazz Vs. Mother Nature
18. Nuge On A Stick
19. Donger
20. Gnome Servant
21. DJ Tinkle Fingers' Diplomatic Services
22. Hard Boiled
23. 4 Times A Day
24. All Urban Outfield
25. Lethal
26. Hot Dog Water Popsicle In The Hand Of Eric Woo
27. The Box
28. Droppin' Many Ravers
29. In The Name Of....
30. Might For Right
31. Loach
32. Mad At The World
33. Tripper
34. Uniform
35. Bore
36. Hard Boiled
37. All Urban Outfield
38 Weedeater
39. Bled Dry
40. Closet
41. No Room
42. Ghost Dance
43. Hug Yourself
44. YouGottaMoldIt
45. Lethal
46. Anemonie
47. Gas Pump
48. Enterslavement
49. Hard Boiled - Live
50. Burning Tongue - Live
51. Kiss Of The Sasquatch - Live
52. Hot Dog Water Popsicle In The Hand Of Eric - Live
53. Dan Lifting Banner - Live
54. Gertie
55. Enterslavement
56. Uniform
57. No Thought
58. Pressure
59. Burnt
60. Our Scene (Go!)
61. Force Fed
62. Biter
63. Precision Fastening
64. Lost Cause (Negative Approach)

 Sweatin' 3: Skatin', Satan & Katon Track Listing:
1. Typical Hardcore Song #1
2. A.S.A.L.
3. Angel Crisp
4. Old Youth
5. A Prayer For The Complete And Utter Eradication Of All Generic Pop-Punk
6. Satan's Scrilla
7. Socal Battle Royale
8. Gilman 90210
9. Short Songs (Dead Kennedys)
10. Doomriden'
11. Hey Bob, What's Up (Pillsbury Hardcore)
12. Crop Circles
13 Gas X
14. Jean Claude Bland Dan In A Steel Cage Match With Mean Steve Seagal For The Title Of Crowned King Of Hilfiger Apparel: WWF Style
15. War In The Head (7 Seconds)
16 Elder Mutant Stomp
17. Sanrio Soldier
18. Connie The Mack
19. Plastic Grandma Cackling At The Frozen Lemonade Fishbowl, Baby
20. Bastard Tomb Ride
21. Beattie And The Beat
22. Sir Wax A Lot
23. Billy Pepper's Fist In The Glass Eye Of Jake Phelps
24. Skatin' And Satan Go Hand In Hoof
25. B-Street Butta
26. Town Center
27. Crazy Eddie
28. Bolleri Mosh
29. AHM Solo
30. On Parade (Straight Ahead)
31. Stabbed In The Back (Youth Of Today)
32. Rat Pack (Sick Of It All)
33. Union Made Mayhem
34. Mervyns
35. Finn's Mom Yodeling In The Bathtub
36. Dorsal Finn
37. Huckleberry Finn
38. Finn Pickins
39. Rin Tin Finn
40. And You Thought We Were Kidding
41. Where's Winky_
42. Mega Armageddon Death Part 4 (Electro Hippies)
43. Leather Punx
44. Timothen's Answering Machine
45. You Suffer (Napalm Death)
46. Pray To The Windgod
47. Billy Milano's Head (Sore Throat)
48. Camp Chestnut Part 2 - Project House
49. Untitled (Crab Society North)
50. No Neck Joe
51. Wooden Shoes
52. Your Very Own Comp Song
53. Scalpfarmer (Scalp Of Strength Shaved Till...
54. It's Up To You (Larm)
55. R.T.S.
56. Droppin' Many Ravers
57. Crocket
58. One Ghetto To The Next
59. Climate Test
60. Dan Lifting Banner
61. Redenbacher's Orgy Of Pain, Fear And Pestilence
62. Gummo Love Theme
63. Dan Lifting Banner
64. Caught In The Net
65. 7 Deadly Finns
66. White Glove Test
67. Animal Liberation Now!

Both releases will be available on CD and digitally on March 11th, 2016 with preorder details to be announced in the coming weeks. Stand by.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Shopping For Records: Boris & Merzbow's Gensho

Boris may currently be the most versatile rock/metal band, somehow managing to adapt to multiple musical disciplines in order to either cultivate some new territory for themselves to explore or to assume collaborative/backing band roles seamlessly.  Lately, they've been somewhat of a pop kick, but seem to be retreating from this a bit with a new release working with a familiar partner, Merzbow.  The results of this union, Gensho, is an ambitious 4-LP set being released by Relapse Records on March 18th.  Based on the strength of the lead single, a highly distorted and wildly scrambled drone track called "Huge," I'm looking forward to giving this monster a listen.

You can sample the track "Huge" below and also check out a trailer for the release.

All info comes courtesy of Earsplit PR.

BORIS With MERZBOW Announce Details Of New Collaborative Album Gensho; Premiere Live Video + Trailer 

Renowned Japanese innovators BORIS and MERZBOW have teamed up with Relapse for their new collaborative 2xCD/4xLP Gensho, one of the artists' most daring works to date. Named after the Japanese word for "phenomenon," Gensho is a unique release featuring over one-hundred-and-fifty minutes of new music spread across two CDs and four LPs (available as two separate double LP sets or a deluxe 4xLP edition).

The BORIS songs are percussion-less reinventions of classic tracks from the band's storied catalog, while MERZBOW's tracks are entirely new compositions. The two sets are intended to be played at the same time at varying volumes so that the listener can experience their own "gensho/phenomenon" every time. The artists also commented, "of course you can enjoy both albums as a separate work."

As with every BORIS and MERZBOW collaboration, the only thing to expect is the unexpected, lending the album near-infinite potential for aural discovery and encouraging direct interactivity with the listener rarely found in such unconventional music. An untouchable paroxysm of noisy, droning experimentation!
Gensho is due out worldwide this coming March 18th via Relapse Records.

A live music video of the two artist's performing the song's "Huge" and "Planet Of The Cows" together can be viewed HERE while a trailer of new music can be viewed HERE. Physical preorders are available via Relapse AT THIS LOCATION, and digital preorders can be found at Bandcamp HERE.

Though BORIS and MERZBOW have an extensive history of collaborating with one another, this latest effort was born out of a one-off show in 2014 for Boiler Room TV, when the two acts decided that their set from that day was worthy enough to perform in the context of a proper studio recording. A complete track listing is included below.

Gensho Track Listing:
1. Boris - Farewell (Disc 1)
2. Boris - Huge (Disc 1)
3. Boris - Resonance (Disc 1)
4. Boris - Rainbow (Disc 1)
5. Boris - Sometimes (Disc 1)
6. Boris - Heavy Rain (Disc 1)
7. Boris - Akuma No Uta (Disc 1)
8. Boris - Akirame Flower (Disc 1)
9. Boris - Vomitself (Disc 1)
10. Merzbow - Planet of the Cows (Disc 2)
11. Merzbow - Goloka Pt.1 (Disc 2)
12. Merzbow - Goloka Pt.2 (Disc 2)
13. Merzbow - Prelude to a Broken Arm (Disc 2)


BORIS will also be performing live at Levitation Fest in Austin, Texas this coming April. More info on upcoming live dates coming soon.

4/29 - 5/01/2016 Levitation Fest - Austin, TX


Both BORIS and MERZBOW are well known for numerous collaborative works with a plethora of artists, but have been working together since 1997. They have released three studio albums together (Megatone, Sun Baked Snow Cave and Klatter), two live albums (04092001 and Rock Dream) and one 12" EP (Walrus/Groon). Musically, BORIS helps to shape MERZBOW's wall of noise as a composed musical score with structure, and to make it easier to access the noise master's music while MERZBOW adds an extreme high frequency to BORIS's signature heavier sound.

BORIS is a Japanese experimental metal/rock band. Currently, the band's personnel consists of drummer-vocalist Atsuo, bassist-guitarist-vocalist Takeshi, and guitarist-vocalist Wata. BORIS takes its name from a song on the Melvins' Bullhead, and released its first album, Absolutego, on the group's own label, Fangs Anal Satan, in 1996. Since then, the band has released twenty-three studio albums, including Pink, Heavy Rocks and Akuma No Uta, and a number of EPs, 7" singles, and full-length collaborative recordings, on various record labels around the world.

Masami Akita, better known by his stage name MERZBOW, is a Japanese noise musician. Since 1981, he has released over four-hundred recordings. The name MERZBOW comes from German dada artist Kurt Schwitters' artwork, Merzbau, where Schwitters transformed the interior of his house using found objects. This was chosen to reflect Akita's dada influence and junk art aesthetic. In addition to this, Akita has cited a wide range of musical influences from progressive rock, heavy metal, free jazz, and early electronic music to non-musical influences like Dadaism and surrealism. Since the early 2000s, he has been inspired by animal rights and environmentalism. In 2000, Extreme Records released the fifty-CD box set known as the Merzbox. Akita's work has been the subject of several remix albums and at least one tribute album. This, among other achievements, has helped MERZBOW to be regarded by some as the "most important artist in noise".

Takeshi - vocals, guitar, bass
Wata - vocals, guitar, echo
Atsuo - vocal, percussion, electronics

Masami Akita - electronics

Letters From A Tapehead

Singles: Tiny Knives, Chin of Britain, Naked Lights, Immix Ensemble & Vessel, DIIV

Tiny Knives: "Cowschwitz" (via Earsplit PR/Eolian Empire/New Noise Magazine/Soundcloud)

Chin of Britain: "Last Seen Alive" (via Mutante/Waltz Time Records/Soundcloud)

Naked Lights: "New Carrion" (via Terrorbird Media/Consequence of Sound/Soundcloud)

Immix Ensemble & Vessel: "What Hath God Wrought?" (via Julian T. Schoen/Erased Tapes/Soundcloud)

DIIV: "Is the Is Are" (via Captured Tracks/Soundcloud)

Letters From A Tapehead

Sunday, January 17, 2016

“Parting Gift:” David Bowie's ★

David Bowie
(a.k.a. Blackstar)
Released: 1.8.16

Since Monday, January 11th, I’ve been listening to David Bowie’s Blackstar nonstop, unable to separate it objectively from its context as the artist’s last and final effort.  I hang on every word, distilling phrases clearly meant to convey Bowie’s handling of his mortality, fascinated by his musical choices and his continued interest in extracting modern musical ideas and incorporating them into his design.  This “parting gift,” as longtime collaborator and producer Tony Visconti put it, is a tragic thrill, which makes it difficult to completely appreciate on one level and damn near impossible to criticize on another. 

As many of us have over the past week since Bowie passed away, Sunday, January 10th, a mere two days after turning 69 years of age and releasing Blackstar, I’ve been immersing myself in articles filled with Bowie-related remembrances and dedications, all-day radio broadcasts and special podcast episodes acting in commemoration, both enjoying the opportunity to hear hours’ worth of Bowie’s best music while remaining sad that he’s no longer with us.  And though I’ve tried to stay away from reviews of Blackstar, mostly so I’m not somehow swayed toward a certain conclusion or offered a unique perspective that will unintentionally inform my opinion, I did hear critic Jim DeRogatis comparing Blackstar to John Lennon’s Double Fantasy, opining that a critic’s summation is pointless when it comes to an artist’s last album.  I disagree with his comparison.  Lennon’s Double Fantasy wasn’t written or produced with death in mind as his life was unexpectedly cut short by a deranged fan with a weapon.  I’ll concede that this aspect of the album likely bolstered its reception, (I’ve never really thought Double Fantasy to be “great” per se), but Blackstar’s scenario is different.  Bowie went into the writing and development of Blackstar, save maybe two songs he’d written around the time he was recording 2013’s The Next Day, knowing that this would be his finale, having been diagnosed with cancer, (a secret he’d somehow managed to keep from the public in this age of our voluntary abandonment of privacy). 

Where I do agree with DeRogatis is that circumstances grant Blackstar the quality of being somewhat “untouchable” or beyond critique, (though he had no problem doing so).  First off, for Bowie to have hung on till the album had surfaced and seemingly relinquished control once his goal had been completed, adds something to his legend.  It’s as if even Bowie’s death was by his own design.  Secondly, it might seem shitty to evaluate what is essentially his own written end.  It’s a work nonetheless but, in the case of Bowie, somehow more meaningful.  Did you see the “Lazarus” video while Bowie was still alive?  Did you see it afterward?  Did it somehow mean something else once you did?  Of course it did.  

Since DeRogatis brought up Double Fantasy, I thought about other LASTs that coincided with the deaths of their makers, albums like Joy Division’s Closer, Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York, even Mot├Ârhead’s Bad Magic, and really couldn’t come up with a scenario that mirrored Bowie’s. (Maybe I missed one?  If so, feel free to comment.)  I did, though, lock onto Frank Zappa’s The Yellow Shark, which was released a month before he’d passed away in December of 1993.  And I locked onto this album because of the cover, which is a somber portrait of Zappa, his face relaxed as if to acknowledge his acceptance of the inevitable through this effort meant to celebrate his triumph as an artist.  The album was a live orchestration of Zappa’s work by The Ensemble Modern, (which would also document Zappa’s last public performance), a tribute to the man’s legacy that he was unfortunately too ill to conduct for its duration.  It still stands, though, as his own “parting gift,” an album he was alive to see to its completion as Bowie had been for Blackstar.  There was that two-day window when this album could be absorbed in the context of a living performer. 

I missed that window.  But, I’m going to evaluate Blackstar anyway because it’s too important to ignore.  And, luckily, I don’t have much bad to say. 

It’s worth mentioning that Blackstar is on the level of some of Bowie’s most acclaimed work, especially the more instrumentally progressive and modern aspects of albums like Station to Station and Low.  In its relatively short run time of 41 minutes, Blackstar is vast.  With Bowie’s constant appreciation for new sounds yielding unexpected forms of electronic and rock experimentation, jazz and string arrangements, and hip-hop rhythms, he’d reportedly taken cues from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and the “sound and vision” tactics of Death Grips.  With a group of jazz musicians led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin, Bowie slowly drapes his melodic syllables across the title track, combatting the song’s otherwise heightened tempo.  McCaslin’s saxophone adds a layer of calm to the piece, its percussion frantic and Bowie’s voice infused with something dark, almost pleading.  The second half of the song has a more relaxed stride, its initial restlessness entering into what sounds like resigned understanding.  Bowie sings, Something happened on the day he died/Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside/Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried/(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar).”  It’s been theorized that the album’s title may mean “lesion,” as some forms of cancers tend to look like black stars.  As Bowie lists and then denies his reputation as a “filmstar,” a “popstar,” or a “star star,” he’s ultimately renouncing his accolades, accepting that he’s been beaten by his condition in as meaningful a way as possible. 

All this happens within the first track. 

With “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” its fairly rapid pace and free jazz arrangement offers relief from the heft of the title track, Bowie’s croon sounds fractured, his vocal out of step with the music beneath, as free form and sporadically placed as the touch of random piano keys and the squealing saxophone.  It’s lively next to the bleakness of the title track, but this rhythmic upswing doesn’t last. 

“Lazarus,” the album’s most emotional goodbye, is truly heartbreaking and lush, the isolated and muted howl of Bowie’s Fender almost some faraway death knell.  It’s difficult to hear the instrument any other way.  “Look up here, man, I'm in danger/I've got nothing left to lose,” he sings.  The song’s extended outro says just as much musically. 

One of the more sonically adventurous tracks on Blackstar, “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” I immediately took as a marriage of early Tomahawk (from a purely riff/rhythm standpoint) with some basic Richard D. James embellishments, namely that industrial whine that replaces the track’s signature melody in its absence.  Even that drum motif seems relatable to Aphex Twin, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy supplying the beat, so I wouldn’t consider that comparison too much of a stretch.  Aside from “’Tis a Pity,” “Sue” is the most categorically rock n’ roll track on the album, leaning on chunks of six-string down stroke and blocks of steady synth noise.

With “Girl Loves Me,” Bowie attempts to build a hip-hop-centric hook, a head-knock pace driving Bowie’s expletive prone verses.  For me “Girl Loves Me” is the album’s weakest offering, the one instance when his otherwise welcome and refreshing approach to experimentation didn’t completely payoff.  Even so, I wouldn’t discount the track completely.  Even if it doesn’t quite hold up in correlation with the rest of the LP, its instrumental arrangement is still deep, tonally rich and textured. 

By Blackstar’s remaining tracks, “Dollar Days” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” there’s only warmth.  I’m dying to/Push their backs against the grain/And fool them all again and again/I’m trying to...,” there’s a particularly beautiful bass tone that sounds as Bowie sings this verse, his wish to continue, to thrive, to say it’s all untrue shining through.  By “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” his “parting gift” opens up emotionally with realization or regret as he repeats the title’s phrase, “I can’t give everything… away…,” his last words we’ll ever hear him sing, granted us by his efforts in making sure we would hear them. 

Letters From A Tapehead

P.S. After publishing this review, some more “parting gifts” were brought to my attention:

1). QueenInnuendo (1991)

2). Warren ZevonThe Wind (2003)

3). J DillaDonuts (2006)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

METZ at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia — 1.12.16

So Pitted
First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, 1.12.16

Philadelphia's first snow of the season interestingly coincided with the evening's METZ gig at the First Unitarian Church Tuesday night, some chilling wind and flakes whipping viciously through the handful of cold individuals huddled outside the basement's stairway. Some concertgoers had voluntarily arrived without coats, anticipating the eventual warmth that would ensue once the amps were plugged in and the inevitable movement of the all-ages crowd began emitting heat, so their endurance was certainly put to the test. We filed into the venue once the doors were opened. Everyone found their spots on the floor and began ceremonially cracking open cans of PBR.

The hall went black save for the backlit glow of blue light that cut silhouettes of the members of So Pitted, an abstract punk trio whose direct sonic assaults somehow aligned with their moments of noise-laden oddity. Watching So Pitted, I at times pictured DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh channeling an early demo of Nirvana’s “Endless Nameless.” Other times, there were hints of Pixies' quietLOUDquiet transitions met with the maddening guitar scrubbing of DNA’s Arto Lindsay. While the band seemed to fumble a bit through instrument exchanges, had to patch up a broken guitar string, and also went through the trouble of an unnecessary wardrobe change, they were a lot of fun to watch. So Pitted played an energized set, an almost industrially clean drum sound and some deafening fuzz tone carrying their abrasive guitar phrasing. I’d intended on purchasing some music from the band’s merch table, but they’re unfortunately touring a month or so ahead of the release of their debut, (neo, available through Sub Pop on February 19th). 


Following So Pitted’s punk art was Bully, who were as straight-ahead as rock n’ roll gets. Standing at the microphone, her face obscured by an unruly mess of blonde hair, Bully singer/guitarist Alicia Bognanno has a lot of presence onstage, her voice shrouded in just enough rasp to roughen up the band's otherwise pop lean. While there’s enough melody injected into Bully’s sound to pull them into the dangerous realm of “safe” and/or “accessible” in this era of post-Nirvana appreciation/emulation that we’re all currently experiencing, Bognanno’s approach to songwriting has value beyond Alt-90s pastiche. “This is a really cool church,” she noted between songs, pulling her guitar back in tune as a gentle waft of appreciative laughs were sent her way. Their set was solid.

The band's debut LP, Feels Like, was released mid-June in 2015. 

Before METZ hit the stage, Bognanno, with a charming sense of self-deprecation, admitted that METZ was “better than us.” While I won’t completely agree with that assessment, I do firmly believe that METZ should be held up by every rock band as the live act to either measure up to or beat. If you can’t do either, you should just quit.

When I first saw METZ in 2013, I remember being very offended by a member of that evening's crowd who yelled at METZ vocalist/guitarist Alex Edkins to “Chill out!” The idea that a member of any rock audience would respond negatively to a band that was delivering such a strong performance was insane to me, and I went so far as to attribute this reaction to an overall problem with younger generations who maybe weren’t used to bands pushing themselves to that level. But, that was silly. METZ continues to be an intense live act and the crowd responded to every song appropriately: with lots of movement and enthusiasm. In fact, the crowd was so animated at points that Edkins asked that they not hurt each other.

Although the ceiling fans were on full blast, the air was all decibels and heat. Pulling most of their setlist from the band’s latest release, 2015’s II, METZ were the sonic equivalent of a steamroller, an overwhelming barrage of speed and sound that rattled my frame. And though I’d expected most of what I’d witnessed, as the band hasn’t changed a bit since last time I saw them play, it was still refreshing to be reminded of their dedication to performance. They don’t fuck around.

My personal highlight was seeing them play “Spit You Out,” which is one of my favorite songs from II. The rhythmic bounce of that track, which times perfectly with a relative “drop” section, is absolutely inspired and garnered an impressive response from the audience. Another great moment was their performance of “Eraser,” which is a new single the band released via Three One Gee. (I managed to get a copy at the gig.)

By the end of their set, METZ were understandably beat. People began vacating the stage area and started amassing at the merch tables, rolled tshirts, LPs, and posters leaving the venue as the chilly outside air began to pervade the hall. As always, crushed cans, empty paper bags and small pools of beer littered the floor. With a shirt and 7” under my arm, I welcomed the cold air as I ascended the stairs, happy the snow had stopped.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie (1947-2016)

Realization of some bad news was slow this morning as I scanned through social media, seeing picture upon picture of David Bowie, all his personalities and alter-egos through the years on display, captioned with variations of #RIP.  My ability to comprehend this information finally set in, followed by shock.  And now, like many, I’m sad and confused.  David Bowie, following a very private 18-month bout with cancer, has passed away.  He’d turned 69 on Friday, January 8th, the same day he’d released Blackstar, his latest and final album.  Producer Tony Visconti said the following:

"He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry."

It’s hard to know where to begin. 

David Bowie, to me, stood as an iconoclast to every convention, remarking on the absurdity of creative, musical and societal stagnation by simply being. And though his chameleonic approach to his work, which required the development of characters to his ever-evolving story, could be seen as poseur-ish adaptation by some, the lasting effects of his legacy are impossible to deny.

A couple years ago, the passing of Lou Reed prompted me to ask, "And, what would there be without Lou Reed?”  Now I ask: What would Lou Reed have been without David Bowie?  How about Iggy Pop?  Between the two, would Transformer have existed as it is?  Would The Idiot?  He'd had a significant hand in informing how both albums would sound and how they would eventually be perceived.  As it was, the fallacy of hippie utopia had crumbled under the weight of the movement’s own exhaustion and disillusionment, enabling the cynical record industry to bolster the standout acts of the late 60s into becoming untouchable reps of an abandoned ideal never realized, rock royalty paid to spew hits.  Bowie, Reed, Pop… these guys challenged it all and mapped out a new course for music to travel.  And while Bowie fits well into the 70s-era glam spectrum, this is the guy who produced Iggy & The StoogesRaw Power, an album meant to ruin ears.  You can’t have punk rock without David Bowie, his contributions essential to its evolution and eventual genesis, just as you can’t have the theatrical androgyny he’d embodied, which seemed to permeate the airwaves in the 80s during MTV’s fledgling stretch as an innovative source for new music.  And, speaking of MTV, Bowie was the guy who called the station out for selecting music videos from predominantly white artists.  In as smart a fashion as possible, David Bowie was living critique of the world around him, dismissing the past in favor of a future he’d clearly embraced.  The wisdom he espoused in “Changes” certainly spoke to this: 

"And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through…”

Could any artist have appreciated youth culture more with words like these? This is a backhand to dismissive adults who allow themselves to be permanently left behind to wallow in their own self-important “good ol’ days” as they lecture their progeny without want of actual connection to the world they live in and fight through. These words give reason and purpose to growing generations and they’re as relevant now as they ever were.

Musically, Bowie did it all: rock, funk, disco, krautrock, industrial, and pop to name a few.  Forgetting for a moment his impact as Ziggy Stardust, can we talk about Station To Station?  Or Low?  Both had impacted me immensely when I’d heard them, from low end propulsion to melodic electronics, the worlds both albums conceived were at once sci-fi realizations of “Art Decade(s)” foretelling of better things to be seen, heard and understood. That’s what I got out of them, anyway: I got a sense of something bigger and better, blissful and energized.

And that’s what we’ve lost today.  So, we should celebrate.  Pull the records and drop your needles.  Let’s dance. 

Letters From A Tapehead

P.S. — For those of us in the Philadelphia area, 88.5 WXPN is airing nothing but the music of David Bowie as a tribute to the man and his work.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Singles: A Troop of Echoes, Savages, Seven Sisters of Sleep

A Troop of Echoes: "Small Fires" (via Us-Them Group/Echoes and Dust/YouTube)

Savages: "Adore" (via YouTube)

Seven Sisters of Sleep: "Gutter" (via Earsplit PR/Relapse Records/SPIN/Soundcloud)

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Shopping For Records: Christmas/Birthday edition

What did you get under your tree?  Here's what was under mine:

Transformers: The Movie
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Released: 11.27.15 (Record Store Day - Black Friday)

This is just cool.  For last year's Black Friday iteration of Record Store Day, the soundtrack for Transformers: The Movie was given the reissue treatment for its 30th anniversary.  I felt bad opening this to be honest.  It's a four-panel gatefold, double LP.  The albums are single sided translucent vinyl, both red and purple/red marble albums and appropriately etched on the flip side with Autobot and Decepticon symbols.  And the artwork!  These images don't do it justice.

The Decline of Western Civilization Collection
Directed by Penelope Spheeris
Reissued: 6.30.15

The landmark documentary series, The Decline of Western Civilization, all directed by filmmaker Penelope Spheeris, was reissued this year as a four-disc set.  I felt this collection an essential addition to my music library and was thankfully able to acquire it.  I've only had the opportunity to view the original volume so far.  While the digital transfer from the film's original incarnation isn't completely cleaned up, (which I'm honestly okay with), the sound is terrific and the performances are excellent: X, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, FEAR, Germs... It's the type of thing you watch and realize you were probably born in the wrong era.  

Directed by Paul Marchand & Stephen Kijak
Released: 11.27.15

Produced by Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies, Metallica), JACO is what many probably consider a long overdue tribute to Jaco Pastorius, the inimitable talent and bass virtuoso who worked with the likes of Josef Zawinul and Wayne Shorter (Weather Report), Herbie Hancock and Joni Mitchell.  Looking forward to checking this out.

And then some books:

Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991
Michael Azerrad
Originally Released: 2001

An absolutely essential text, Michael Azerrad's definitive documentation of the independent rock scene in the 80s, Our Band Could Be Your Life is a book I've read but hadn't owned.  And now that I own it, I'm likely to read it again.  


Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll
Peter Guralnick
Released: 11.10.15

Looking forward to tearing into this one.  I've read Peter Guralnick's Last Train to Memphis, which is the first of a two-volume series on the life of Elvis Presley, so a book about Sam Phillips and Sun Records should be quite a read.

R. Crumb: The Complete Record Cover Collection
R. Crumb
Released: 11.7.11

This is just a great art book full of excellent R. Crumb portraiture and his trademark psych-comic art.  It's a great collection.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, January 04, 2016

The Inbox Giveth: Signor Benedick The Moor's Maiden Voyage Suite EP

Signor Benedick The Moor
Maiden Voyage Suite EP
Released: 1.4.16

Signor Benedick The Moor’s 11-plus minute “Maiden Voyage Suite” is a multi-tiered protest song, its topical stanzas and overall tone enhanced heavily by some venturesome instrumentation and production decisions.  As a virtual A-side of a two-track digital EP, Benedick’s efforts are comparable at times to the more creatively aspirational selections of Outkast’s discography, his flow syllabically urgent overtop wiry guitar sounds and zippy synthesizer arpeggiation. 

The rhythmically schizophrenic “12:00AM” features Jonathan Snipes and Daveed Diggs of clipping., the track itself a prog-centric smattering of tonal and compositional liberty.  While the generative mood of the song is dark overall, the changes enable its performers to play a little with their delivery, showcasing well their versatility.  It also doesn’t hurt that they threw in a nice little Curtis Mayfield reference.

You can sample the EP below.  I thought it was worth checking out.  If you'd like to purchase the release it's available via Bandcamp.  The price is yours to name, which is fine so long as you pay something.

Info for this release was provided by Kinsman and Meng PR

Letters From A Tapehead

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