OK, here we are, it’s now 2017. I’m 40 this year. How the fuck did this even happen?
In an effort to snap myself out of this mortal ennui, let me tell you how my day started. I went for my first swim of 2017. It did not go well. Turns out I’m a bit fat and quite unfit. And I’ve aggravated something in my lower back. So now I’m sat with a fluffy pink hot water bottle against my back feeling quite sorry for myself. In an effort to cheer myself up, I thought I’d take a quick run through of some of the outstanding releases from 2016 that were put out by Juice over at Drunken Sailor Records.
The Cowboys – s/t LP
These guys are from Bloomington, Indiana, and this is their first proper album, coming on the heels of several cassette only releases. The front of this appears to feature a drawing of somebody with a fishing rod stuck up their arse. Not a practical way to catch a fishy for your little dishy, I wouldn’t have thought. They describe themselves thus: “We’re a bunch of sensitive cry-babies who hang out in our rooms too long. We yearn for women who will never love us and we weep for memories that once were. We are totally romantics.”
This LP is a bit of a strangely compelling beast. It’s stripped back to the very bone, but there’s a whole load of variety here. The first listen through I had a couple of weeks back left me feeling a bit perplexed, but massively amused. Admittedly, it gets a bit silly in places, but it’s wicked wicked fun, and it’s the type of silliness that carries an enduring appeal with it.
The range of influences and sounds explored here is pretty fucking broad, to the point at which it becomes difficult to settle on a definitive description. But, I’m game, so I’ll have a stab. Some of the chord progressions remind me a lot of Fucked Up, but they have a whole other range of approaches going on. Some parts remind me of old school hardcore punk groups of yore, such as the Dead Boys, Danzig era Misfits and the Dead Kennedys. Other parts have a distinct 50’s / 60’s garage rock n’roll vibe to them. At times I’m also hearing stuff like the Damned, the Germs, the Dwarves, Night Birds and Rocket From The Crypt amongst others. It’s a properly weird melange of sounds, and oddly sounds like it could have been recorded in 1968 or some shit.
This really does have to be heard to be believed. It’s totally fucking bonkers. I’d go as far as saying it is in fact, genius, in fact! This is the kind of record where you get the excitement of discovering something new each time you hear it. I’ll warn you, it needs more than one initial listen. The second listen should have you hooked if you’ve any nouse.
Tough Tits – Hairless EP
Ayesha, Liz and Hells hail from the general Newcastle / Tyneside area. Tough Tits (as you may have guessed from the previous sentence) are a three piece, and have been around since late 2015. They play what I’d tentatively call nuevo-proto-riot grrrl-indie-sludge. Just for the sake of cramming loads of descriptors and hyphens into a relatively small space. I also think it’s kinda accurate, as it brings to mind what the Yeah Yeah Yeahs would sound like covering Pissed Jeans songs. Throw in a touch of The Melvins, The Gossip and L7, and you get the picture.
This (Hairless EP) was originally done on tape by Frux Tapes, and Drunken Sailor are doing the vinyl version. This record is raucous, dirty, urgent and fun and serious all at the same time. I find myself enjoying the world weariness and frustration evident here. Angry, intelligent and non-egregious feminism peppered with stark commentary on the norms and standards of society.
It’s pretty decent, this. Have a listen on bandcamp
Hakan – II LP
Juice does it again, and brings us another quirky yet, quality release. In this case, it’s a split label release with One Chord Wonder, in the form of the second LP from Hakan. Oddly, Hakan are an Italian band that are apparently obsessed with Turkish popular culture… I’ll let you digest that one for a minute, but I suspect this must explain the vintage cinema influenced record cover. There’s a lot of moustaches going on there.
What we’ve got here is garage power-pop madness in a similar vein to The Marked Men or maybe a less sugary Masked Intruder. The vocals also rather remind me of Blag from the Dwarves for some reason (and in particular it reminds me of a couple of numbers from The Dwarves are Young & Good Looking LP. This is melodic garage style punk rock at its finest, evoking the more Beach Boys influenced end of The Queers spectrum. More catchy than a dose of the clap, this seems like it would be ideal driving music for a carefree and balmy summers evening.
But don’t be mislead. Some of the subject matter (and song titles) here are just mildly bizarre enough to be a little unsettling (and I’m probably wrong with my interpretations), for example Dental Love, which seems to be about being too broke to go to the dentist and being in love with … the dentist. And Dog, which for some reason I’ve decided is about somebody turning into a dog, which is probably the most woefully inaccurate interpretation of anything ever.
Personal highlights from this opus include the aforementioned Dental Love and I Drank Way Too Much Krupnik (fact of the day: Krupnik is honey-based spirit popular in Poland and Lithuania). Accidental Homicide is unadulterated genius.
Generacion Suicida – Sombras LP
Generacion Suicida describe themselves as KBD style punk. If like me, you are a borderline ignoramus (but not a full on one), you’ll know that KBD refers to Killed By Death, which was (maybe still is?) a series of bootleg compilations of punk rarities. But what is KBD style? Well, after a few minutes of research, it refers to any band/song that was on or is either reminiscent of songs featured on the various “Killed By Death” compilations released in the 90’s. These comps mainly featured music originally released between ’77 and ’84. So pretty broad definition then. So I am now officially no wiser than I’ve ever been, and at this point in time, I can’t be arsed to listen through any of the KBD comps (you can find them on Youtube easily enough if you are interested, though).
Still, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I discovered that KBD has its own official breed of dog. Only joking. It actually refers to the Karelian Bear Dog of Finland, which disappointingly enough neither resembles a bear, nor is the size of a bear.
Anyway… I digress. As usual. Generacion Suicida are a Latina band from the mean streets of South Central LA. They are credited with kick-starting a mini-scene in their area of LA, holding chaotic shows in their back garden and garage. Sounds like a real hoot.
Sound wise, to me, this sounds like a nicely crafted melange of power-pop, Ramones-core (I hate that fucking term), a smattering of surf, and all seasoned with Spanish guitar played in a punk rock style. If that makes any sense. The vocals take a multi-vox approach, and the lyrics are in Spanish. Which is pretty galling to me as I can’t understand more than the occasional word. But it’s great stuff, this is.
Forgive this digression, but it’s this fact that highlights my own ignorance, as well as that of many English people of my age or older. I don’t speak a second language, beyond having a less than rudimentary grasp of French (I can count and say ‘the monkey is on the table’ and stuff like that) and an even more rudimentary grasp of German (I can introduce myself and say the castle is round the corner, and count a bit and… that’s about it). Plus, whenever I attempt to speak any language apart from English, I sound like Speedy fucking Gonzales for some reason (which caused some consternation when I visited Japan in 2008). Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that as ignorant English speakers, we are probably missing out on a pretty broad spectrum of awesome music purely on the basis that it’s not in our native language. I mean, I have two German friends that speak better English than I do (shout out to Knolle and Izzy!).
Thankfully, not everything in this life is incumbent on understanding the language. Even though I can’t tell what they are saying, they sure as hell sound like they mean it. The delivery of vocals is bang on, and sound wise fits really well with the generally clean guitars and mid-tempo yet pacey drums. I strongly encourage you readers to have a listen to this record over on bandcamp
If you want to investigate this band further, they got all their shit on their own bandcamp page here
You can catch Generacion Suicida on tour in the UK / Ireland at the between now and the 14th January. For details click here
Spokenest – Gone Gone Gone LP
Bit of background for ya. Spokenest are a two piece combo out of LA. They also released a 12in EP about 3 years back. Since then, they’ve been working on this.
I thought this one started out pretty well with the quick one-two punch of Back and Kind. It’s pretty stripped down to the point that it sounds like a home demo. Not necessarily a bad thing. Although, after several listens through, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t feel like those promising opening tracks set the standard out for the whole album. It all feels a bit too bobby-basic and a bit too sloppy for this guy right here. It’s not as if they have nothing to shout about – they clearly do – there’s a sense of urgency and mild rage about it. It just sounds (to me) like they should have practised ALOT more before recording an album.
The girl’s voice I do like a lot, though. Kind of reminds me a lot of Kathleen Hanna. There are some more tracks on there that I thought were pretty good, such as for example, Wrote and Tell Me. I think I had something particularly helpful to offer by way of criticism, it would be that I feel like they should have released an EP or a mini-album. As currently presented, in the form of this 12 song album, it feels a bit too easy for the moments of borderline genius to get either lost or drowned out. But, give that shiz a listen over on bandcamp and decide for yourselves. Could be I just really don’t get it and you really, really do!
You can hook up the vinyl from Drunken Sailor here. It comes on black / clear starburst wax.