Thursday, July 23, 2015
Bunnygrunt was a band that almost ended before it even began in the hazy fog of mid 90s indie music. However, while they were there and slid into the future, the band left behind five full lengths and countless vinyl singles. Bunnygrunt has arrived again, fashionably late, and kicks out their own ephemeral and enigmatic jams in a reckless trash rock fashion that permeates with a grimy elegance. An interesting move for a band that made a name for itself with a sound that was firmly rooted in indie pop understatement. In the peculiar case of Bunnygrunt, it is the dawning of a new era. If you firmly close the door to the St. Louis band’s eclectic past, the new full length Vol. 4 is their first release.
A slurred speech of Wild Gift era X, Sonic Youth and the Fastbacks relentlessly inebriates its compulsive blur throughout this eight song power-garage blast bender. Vol. 4 is the cracked Rosetta Stone of teenage slacker ingenuity. Making out while blacking out, the desperation you feel when you’re stuck between the ages of 18 and 21. The sound of vandalizing your best friend’s apartment complex while popping ecstasy with the girl next door in an uneasy euphoria. An addictive and unnerving journey with trace evidence of the Rezillos, Vaselines, and Hüsker Dü scattered along the dark path to wherever you want to go. Fade in or fade out but the angst ridden background boom will drown out the silence of people living in silence.
The track “I Quit, Mr. White” is an exceptional standout among this eccentric and euphonious chemical rearrangement of modern music. It has one of those melancholy melodies that rocks and haunts you at the same time. “Open My Eyes” and “Still Chooglin” cruise into overdrive with diabolical verse and chorus combos that crack like a lit match on lighter fluid. “The Book that I Wrote” and “Just Like Old Times” deliver solid hooks and crunchy instrumentation with the outcome being disheveled and instantly memorable. “Frankie is a Killer” is a choice cut among this collection for the sheer fact it sounds exactly like one of those obscure punk tracks from the infamous Killed By Death volumes.
On a final and tastefully stinging note, the band deviously sneaks a post-punk opus on the listener entitled “Chunt Bump”. At a duration of 7 minutes, you would expect some kind of pretentious filler. This track rocks purely and intelligently with harmonious disarrayed chords and tempo changes that actually blend into a beautiful lament of days gone by, insatiable cravings, and the state of being stuck. The composition builds into a Tubeway Army like finale and uses a repetition of eerily pretty notes to burrow its way into the center of your mind. After all, isn’t that what reality is? What exists in the center of our minds? Our memories and our perception define all, whether it really happened or not. The facts don’t matter but this record certainly does. Five stars out of five stars.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
The venomous surf swing of opening track “Groove’s Too Shallow” explodes with Sonics aggressiveness and a crushing vocal that stays soulful but beautifully menacing. “Love Like Crazy” comes next and hits with a classic Shangri-Las bebop that delivers the hooks and sophisticated grind of a musician in her prime. Jessica takes on electric bass duties for this recording after serious time plucking the upright with the legendary Dirt Daubers. In her first solo outing, she never flinches and the beat never gets stale.
One of my favorite cuts is the grindhouse go-go rocker “Lone Wolf”. The slicing punkabilly of Los Straitjackets guitar hero Eddie Angel is on fine display here and all throughout this sacrilicious Friday night high school dance of decadence. Closing tracks “Go Ahead Baby” and “Something’s Goin’ On” provide the perfect roadhouse finale with dirty luster, edgy melody, and a twisted pretty twang. This five song collection is a must-have and restores my faith in real down and dirty rock n roll that never forgets its swamp born evil blues roots. Jessica recently took the time to do an interview with me about her music and life. Check out her hot new video and read the interview below.
Who is Jessica Lee Wilkes and how would you describe yourself to someone unfamiliar with your illustrious background?
Well, I've been touring around the world with my other band, JD Wilkes & The Dirt Daubers, for the past five or six years and I've just recently stepped out on my own with this new EP. I'm writing, playing bass, and singing Rock 'n' Roll music. That's about it!
After playing in the Dirt Daubers for a solid amount of time, is it liberating or intimidating to be doing a solo act?
A little bit of both, but it feels like the right time for me. I don't know that I would have been ready before now. Playing in the Dirt Daubers has been a great education. I got to play on stage with some of my favorite musicians. That only makes you better.
How does the title of your record “Lone Wolf” describe your own attitude?
Aside from the obvious "solo career" thing, I guess you could say it sums me up! It's a bit cliche for an artsy-type to describe herself as an introverted loner, but, in my case, it's true! I was a weird little kid and I mostly kept to myself. It's kind of an anthem for me in that sense. It's difficult to be alone like that as a kid. As an adult, I've not only embraced it, but I'm making a living writing about my experiences. It's kind of redeeming.
When I heard “Groove’s Too Shallow”, it stopped me dead in my tracks with its menacing grind and edgy vocal. What inspired you to go for a more aggressive approach?
Well, cool! It's a fun tune to play! I never really made a conscious decision to take an "aggressive" approach. I just write and play what comes naturally. Maybe that means I have some deep-seated rage issues to deal with? Haha!
When did you first start playing bass, was it your first instrument of choice?
I've been playing bass for a little over two years. I started on the upright. It really was more out of necessity. The Dirt Daubers needed a bass player at the time so I bought an upright, and two weeks later I was playing it on stage. I don't recommend that, but we got through it!
What artists shaped your perspectives and style growing up?
As with most people, I listened to my parents’ record collection growing up. It was mostly classic rock stuff, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, etc. The one that really stood out to me was a John Lee Hooker record my dad had. It stopped me in my tracks and I started seeking out more blues music like Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters. Those were the earliest influences on me.
What is the most intense form of music you listen to and what is the mellowest?
Well, it depends on what you mean by intense. If you mean heavier rock stuff, I dig AC/DC, ZZ Top, which I realize isn't that intense for most people. If by intense you mean in an emotional sense, I'd have to say soul singer, Lee Moses. His music breaks my heart. I consider that a pretty intense experience! As far as mellow goes, lately I've been digging on Steve Allen with Jack Kerouac. That's some pretty mellow stuff, right there!
Having spent so much time on the road, do you prefer life on tour or at home?
I need both in order to stay sane. If I'm home for too long of a stretch, I'll drive both myself and my poor husband crazy! If I'm on the road too long, it just wears me out and I'll start to hate it. It's definitely a balance thing.
Are there any current trends in modern music that bother you?
Well, aside from the overall lack of melody in most of what I hear on popular radio, I really can't stand the overly produced quality, i.e., vocoding and overuse of auto-tuning. I can even forgive that if there's a good, catchy, pop song underneath it all, but it's becoming very rare.
Is this just the beginning of your solo career or is it a one-time project?
It's just the beginning! I'm in it for the long haul.
Do you write all of the music and lyrics, where do most of your ideas come from?
Yes, typically. As far as the writing process goes, most of my ideas come in weird little fragments. I'll get a catchy melody line in my head, and then the lyrics seem to follow. I often wake up in the wee hours of the morning with an idea that I'll record on my phone. Sometimes it's terrible, other times it winds up as a song on the record. I'd say about two thirds of the song writes itself and comes together rather naturally. When it's time to record I'll sit down and start to arrange things, I might add a bridge, etc. It just depends on what the song needs.
If you could have one wish come true this year, what would it be?
Hm...I probably should say something that isn't completely selfish, but no, I wish for a moderate amount of success with this record. Nothing crazy, just enough traction to keep moving forward with this whole "touring musician" thing.
Where can fans find your new record and follow you online?
I'm on all the usual forms of social media:
Facebook as Jessica Lee Wilkes
Friday, June 19, 2015
Wrapped in Plastic wraps its smooth electro legs around you with an impulsive sexual ferocity. Like a mind blowing encounter with a mysterious woman you met a day ago that has to abruptly leave to catch her flight home. She obviously didn't tell you her secret and you're too caught up in the stranglehold-high to even care. Dark erotic melodies and grinding disco-dark waves drag you into a turbulent sea of lust, euphoria, and sultry contemplation on the latest full-length from the band known as BLiNDNESS.
Hesitant sordid fragments of feedback and sonic six string scratches breathe heavy within these mood altering alterations of modern song. Kicking and playfully screaming from start to finish, the seductive and wary vocals of Beth Rettig pull you into the sweet ruptured noise. She hones a twisted tone that combines Sleeper and The Stranglers into a steamy design of volatile unhinged harmony.
The band doesn't relent in its heavy post-punk bashing, keeping the core beat focused on heady rock grooves that pound with a static drenched street intelligence. This collection of instant erotic vertigo will make itself a mainstay on your playlist if you let yourself shoot up the uncut forbidden fruit of its dark wave death swing.
With a delicate influence of Siouxsie Sioux and My Bloody Valentine, Beth Rettig, Emma Quick, and Debbie Smith( Echobelly, Curve ) have created a feverish nine-song sleepwalk into the darkest pleasures of an endless summer night.
"No One Counts"
"Serves Me Right"
(available on Saint Marie Records July 24, 2015)
SAINT MARIE RECORDS
-Kevin McGovern (FEAR/LOATHING)
Friday, June 12, 2015
Disenfranchised, loud, and relevant, this four song mid-decade masterpiece caresses your inner sociopathic child while gently kicking in all of your teeth. An unnerving mixture of Legal Weapon’s Your Weapon and Babes in Toyland’s Fontanelle creates the baseline for the unique punk sounds of this Olympia, Washington anti-rock band. The impeccable guitar playing of Mike Liebman carries the symphonic gutter bang that creates a perfect flow throughout this quick and essential listening experience. Bringing to mind the guitar and rhythmic interplay of Naked Raygun’s cult classic Throb Throb. Crude but sophisticated blue notes slide the sections of each song into an uneasy roar that hastily shows off the band’s uncanny songwriting ability.
The lead track “Black/White” comes booming in with a disheveled anthemic quality. Rock n roll firmly intact with late 70s punk sensibility, angst ridden melody is complemented with subtle pop nuances buried beneath the aggressive art scratched roar. “Sleeping in the Attic” follows soon after with beyond-cool delivery and diabolical catchiness. “Walking in the Rain” captures a mood of desperation and gloom. Starting with a goth-tinged intro, it erupts into an energetic build-up of searing guitar lines and a vocal that runs like mania-induced poetry creating imperfect perfection. The vocal harmonies blindside you with their clever placement. Layers of guitar and sleek soul-hardcore vocalizing elevate this composition to a genre of its own. Ending this addictive listen is the mind blowing “Flattened Scenes”. The rolling and bouncy grooves of this punker than punk track, take a slight rockabilly feel and overtly infuses it with a lethal amount of moody sewer glamour. Cranked to eleven and catchier than Ebola, “Flattened Scenes” will flatten your senses. In fact, Give and Take will give you more than you think you need and you’ll still be spinning in its cyclone of modern punk mastery.
Fear and Loathing in Long Beach
Monday, June 8, 2015
Sometimes people think I repeat the past and its pulverizing mistakes, but that need for fast burning pleasure always supersedes the slow burn of stumbling and wincing through a stagnant culture of “as is”. I enjoy long walks on the beach and romantic sunsets but preferably with benzos and cigarettes so I don’t get bored. I remember when I was eighteen thinking that people were strange and society sucked, I realize two decades later it still holds true. Somewhat a product of the 80s and total product of “Totally 90s”, I present to you my top five of garage/punk rock tunes from the beautifully decadent and very confusing decade of the 1990s. Condemning yourself to too much self-awareness and endless contempt isn’t always such a bad thing.
5. The Problematics – Punk Girl
This track from their debut LP “The Kids All Suck” on Rip Off Records delivers a mesmerizing melody with bone saw guitar chords cranked into the red. Distorted beyond belief and flawless in its execution, this track embodied a roaring spirit, a troublesome one at that. I remember receiving a dubbed cassette copy of this and wailing on bong hits and Ten High whiskey while popping Vivarin to make sure I stayed awake longer than my friends at an apartment party on a Saturday night long ago. Staying awake has its privileges when you have a female partner in crime that digs this song too. This played through the night and I didn’t go to sleep until 11 a.m. the following morning.
4. Furious George – I Gotta Gun
From their debut 7” single on Maximum Rock n Roll Records, I picked this one up at the record store because I liked the zine and figured if they put a record out, it would probably kick serious ass since they had such a reputation for shredding up and coming “punk” bands in their reviews. The shit talking always made for a good read and kept drama high in every punk scene of the country. MRR columnist George Tabb was the leader of this Dee Dee Ramone inspired outfit. After hearing this, I wrote a song with my band called “I Don’t Get Girls” which had very few lyrics thanks to this inspirational blast of crash and burn madness. I thought a double meaning would give me Shakespeare status, it didn’t… Short and minimalistic, “I Gotta Gun” would influence quite a few bands to drop the filler and just deliver the goods in a minute and a half.
3. The Humpers – Plastique Valentine
This legendary 90s outfit still plays to this day and I’ve always considered this to be the band at their prime. Off their second album for Epitaph Records and probably the best thing Epitaph released during that time. This thing shakes and grooves like the bastard child of Little Richard and the Angry Samoans. True grit on display here to deafen your ears like you never had them. I remember the band scene changing at that time. Everyone was changing their choice of substances from beer and weed to more elegant stimulants, clean and white, Rick James style. An implosion was sure to happen but no one cared. The groove was addictive, the girls were prettier, the guys uglier, and an unforgettable hazy shade of summer consumed the garages. Small dreams came true and bigger nightmares came to life.
2. Nashville Pussy – All Fucked Up
I think the album cover art and song title say it all on this one. Their live performance in the beginning was a force to be reckoned with. In the middle of the punk/garage chaos, these guys and gals kept the tangled party of deceit going. Sounding like a southern fried version of the Saints on trucker speed, they helped propel the 90s “girls kissing girls, just because” movement. This was their best track in my opinion. Teeth grinding dirt and a cesspool of heavy rock, it marked the beginning of garage rock turning into hard rock, with no apologies.
1. Fur – X-Offender
This NYC trio led by Holly Ramos provided some of the sexiest and punkiest sounds of that time. Criminally underrated in my book, her vocals purr and the guitars scream. Fast and loose in its delivery, the loose swing blends perfectly with the hyper distorto guitar. A bittersweet wall of sound that crashes through with intoxicated sincerity. Their self-titled debut album is contagious and I recommend finding it if you can. Fur is cool, smoking cigarettes is cool, and leopard print never goes out of style. I used to wake up wrecked, drink two pots of coffee while listening to this album, and then go off to my boring office job. If I did that nowadays, I would probably have five anxiety attacks in a row, but maybe more out of sadness then nervousness. Holly’s melodies always had a way with me.
In closing, this is an abbreviated list of songs that defined an era for me and there are way more bands I would like to include in future updates when the mood hits me. Inspiration comes and goes but meaningful music that hits you in the gut has a way of attaching itself to you for a lifetime. Know what I mean...
FEAR AND LOATHING IN LONG BEACH
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
This release brings back those heavy elements from days gone by and shapes them into an even more jagged narrative. Instrumental and bleak in its contour, the heavy amplification slithers its way between symphonic harmony and pulverizing dissonance. Within the suffocating haze, the guitars and bass melt with Sabbath-like precision. The reckless rhythms puncture and wince, allowing just enough breathing room to keep the rock pulsating. The recorded sounds defy gravity and genre with their noisy rewordings of jazz, punk, reggae, and stoner rock.
Originally formed in 1982, the St. Louis, Missouri based band made its debut on SST records in 1987. Legendary producer Bill Laswell lends his vision to their latest maniacal outing. Laswell's unique engineering allows the recording to slam and worm with a warm, nuanced buzz. The pacing is erratic but deploys epic fragments of linear song structure to connect the violent vibrations. The tracks “Earthmover” and “Wheels of Progress” highlight the diabolical capabilities of these reckless noise mongers. “Fub” and “Strung” sneak in some cool Dub and Freeform Space Rock that enable this collection to flow as a movement, instead of “just a bunch of new tunes” the band threw together. From the horrific indie sophistication of “Twenty Four Hour Dawn” to the breezy poison of closing track “Shutdown”, the compositions flow steadily in all of their freaked-out glory. Post-modern weirdness that stays heady and heavy without forgetting about the listener.
Fear and Loathing in Long Beach
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
A non-comprising cocktail of early synth-punk combined with echoes of Jim Morrison’s final days fuel the mechanical crackle of melody within this collection. Unlike other bands that lose focus in this genre, Terminal A has a precise predilection for vocal harmony and tumultuous prose. The voice of Colin Peterson is a standout in its cool delivery of choice notes combined with impulsive anger. Lee Busch pulverizes the machine-laden atmosphere with over distorted industrial guitar slamming. An undertow of Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk residue provides a fertile killing ground for this two-man insanity machine.
“Oedipus Kiss” and “Tonight We’ll Be Gone” highlight the band’s talent in creating nightmares, ones that you don’t want to wake up from. “Satellite” and “Queen Mab” have an infectious rock that requires return visitations. These two tracks really get under your skin and do the required damage, providing memorable hooks and haunting chord progressions not usually heard in this realm. The EP ends with a live track that captures the cantankerous essence of this unique art damaged duo. Before you to decide to kill yourself this year, give this a listen and decide how many people you want to drag down with you. Happy trails…
FEAR AND LOATHING LB