Archive for January, 2015

Sex Headaches

Sex Headaches

Self-Released, 2015

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Still early in the year, but already we have an album that is a real kick-ass, fiery, raw and raucous album: the self-titled (debut?) from Sex Headaches. When I first gave it a listen, I was going through some emails, etc. but listening at the same time, but my whole attention was given over to it after hearing about 2 full songs’ worth of it: it’s got some great kicks, like the proto-punk gods of the ’70s, such as Iggy & the Stooges, MC5, Willie DeVille, The Germs and, by the time I got to “I Fall”, a nine minute, wigged out masterpiece, I knew there was some Velvet Underground in there as well.

This is a great album made all the more noticeable by the fact that there aren’t many bands around today who have this ballsy, stripped down, sex-drugs-and-rock & roll-style. No heavy-duty studio fashioning, or computer manipulating; just a crunchy, raw juggernaut.

I just can’t say enough about Sex Headaches (or Sex Headaches – that is, the album or the band). The songs have a genuine hipster tone to them, no phony down time here. I think that they would be a fun band to see in concert – a rip-roaring good time and it’d definitely have to be at a dark, cavernous, small-ish, intimate club (say, The Troubadour, in West Hollywood, for reference).

Can’t say that I have a whole lot of biographical information (as yet, anyway) about Sex Headaches, but, what I can tell you is that Angelo (drums), Luke (guitar, vocals) and Sam (guitar), a trio who have a big, big sound (but who plays the bass?) are a solid, groovy, proto-punk (or, since we’re way past ‘proto-punk’, should we call it “neo-proto-punk”?) outfit that really shines, musically. Beyond the loud and jaundiced-eye-view of things, typically of the genre I’m talking about, Sex Headaches also play their instruments with a thundering precision (“and a backbeat, narrow and hard to master…”-J. Morrison).

Songs such as the opener, “Profane Trip” and “We Met” set the scene and then, you get to “I Fall”, which, in its nine minutes, has a really steady but amazing hypnotic core to it; where I felt those Velvet Underground vibes – up to that point I was, no doubt, digging it, but by the time “I Fall” was over, I was even more in love with their sound. Other tunes worth mentioning include, well, all of it, really, all seven tunes, which, after “I Fall” are “Cult Couture”, a short discourse on the disciples of fashion and the cult of celebrity and ‘fitting in’. Then, there’s a nice un-ballad, “To You”, followed by “Split” and “No Release” – and I’m sure all of us can sympathize with a situation like that.

In its short span of 30 minutes, Sex Headaches manages to pack a mean wallop of great tunes that, although they may harken back to some of the great anti-pop of the 70s and early 80s, doesn’t have a “retro” feel to it. It sounds new, fresh and it’s a great treat to hear some bone-chilling rock. I do hope that I’ll be hearing more from these guys really soon. This is a band that is very much needed in the margarine-saccharine times that we live in today. Sex Headaches are real – they don’t polish their sound or their voices up in the studio and then sound completely different on stage, although, I imagine a Sex Headaches concert would be quite an exciting show. Don’t get me wrong, though, I don’t want to sound like some kind of musical “purist”, who thinks that anyone who uses synthesizers or studio manipulations, et cetera are phony or that they wouldn’t sound good in concert. No, there are plenty of times when, depending on the band and the sub-genre they play, the studio is an integral part of what they ‘do’ – when, for them, the studio, itself, becomes almost another instrument. What makes S.H. such a breath of fresh air is that there aren’t really many stripped down, punk bands any longer. In fact, the term “punk”, over the past two decades has been so overused and misused that it’s almost lost any real meaning. Well, with the advent of Sex Headaches and their ilk – and I know that there’s more where that came from – “punk” can finally be rightfully reclaimed by purveyors of the real thing (not “hardcore”, mind you, but a more melodious, vital sound that isn’t just about two minute tunes played fast and loose.

I can’t wait to hear what’s next for Sex Headaches. I’m going to keep this one on my Windows Media Player so I can listen to it more and more. I’m just glad that I was there and got the chance to hear it and write up a review in which I could spread the word and shout it out loud that these guys are something else! If you want to get a copy for yourselves and/or give it a listen-to, visit Bandcamp, specifically, the page at which you can both sample their tunes and download a copy for yourself: https://sexheadaches.bandcamp.com/ . Happy listening! -KM.

Sonny & the Sunsets

Talent Night at the Ashram

Polyvinyl Records, 2015

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

On the new CD from Bay Area-based Sonny & the Sunsets, Sonny Smith has written a gang of new tunes that are in the psychedelic vein.

The new album, Talent Night at the Ashram, mixes together a collage-mosaic jumble that really draws you in, with its eclectic and unique style. With the use of both typical rock instruments: guitar, bass, drums, etc., The Sunsets also add a lot of odd sounds made from exotic, African rhythmic artifices, what sounds like a Mellotron (or a synthesizer effect of one). Other instruments that join in on the album include the always interesting to listen to electric sitar, flutes and a variety of keyboards and synthesizer-programmed sounds as well as those rhythm sticks.

If, while listening to Talent Night… you come away with the feeling that it sounded like a soundtrack to a film or at least had some kind of lysergic, “sound=vision” thing to it, well, that’s because Talent Night at the Ashram was, actually, originally intended to be a film project. The idea, at first, was to make a number of short films, that, when shown all back-to-back, would reveal a whole that was more complete than the sum of its parts. But, as the script writing wore on (even as actors were hired and some shooting began), Sonny realized that the scripts he was writing were really more songs than movie scripts and in short order, the film project was scrapped in favor of making an aural adventure that would be cinematic, at its heart.

Filmwise, if you think of Antonioni, Fellini, especially in the mid-60s period (maybe not as crazy as Satyricon), as well as some of the celluloid adventures of The Beatles, etc. and shorter, psychedelic “home” movies, etc. then you can start to understand what Sonny had in mind.

So, now, with the film-that-turned-into-a-record, you can sit and listen to Talent Night, close your eyes and let your imagination soar while meditating to the lush, picturesque, visceral music and make up your own, private mind-movies.

Once the film idea was scrapped in favor of using what had been created so far into a great new album, Sonny Smith recorded the album at his home, in what’s been described as a “communal” effort, which I suppose could mean that there wasn’t one “big-idea-man” there to “produce”, but that the album was done with input from all concerned, including Shayde Sartin, Garrett Goddard, Kelley Stoltz, Rusty Miller and others.

Among the songs here, one that stands out a lot, as being (as far as I can tell) something probably left over from the writing of the film scripts, is “Happy Carrot Health Food Store”, where, in the middle or so, of this 7 minute tune (one of my favorite tunes, by the way), you hear Sonny talking, almost in the background, about his favorite “scenes” in some unnamed film, which made me think it was about one of these unmade films. “Blot Out the Sun” has a cool beat and a groovy, carefree jam to it. “The Application”, the opening cut, is an interesting little song, sung in a sort of Brian Wilson-esque tone. In the song, Sonny sings about his applying to “be a human being” – the neo-proto-psychedelia which is playing along has a kind of Beach Boys timbre, that aforementioned potpourri of African rhythm devices along with some more modern synthesizers in it.

Over all, I’d say Talent Night at the Ashram is, probably, my favorite album (so far?) by Sonny & the Sunsets. The “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” musical free-chaotic formula is somewhat reminiscent of the earlier days of Kevin Barnes’s magical mystery machine, of Montreal (also on Polyvinyl) – except that Sonny & the Sunsets have that distinct Bay Area/West Coast vibe to it; a little heavier, deeper, but not so much that it’s airy textures are weighed down.

All the tunes, up to the finale, “Secret Plot”, have something about them that I either missed or just didn’t find on previous works. But, with the advent of Talent Night, I have given Sonny & the Sunsets a new chance to bliss me out! And this album surely does just that. To find more information on it and/or to purchase it, go to https://www.polyvinylrecords.com – you’ll find this new one, their previous works as well as all the great stuff that Polyvinyl has to offer. So, for now, enjoy – see you at the movies! -KM.

Beautiful Journey

Posted: January 19, 2015 in New Indie Music

M-Pex & Andre Coelho

Odysseia

Enough Records, 2015

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

As a follow-up to his previous work, Kardinal, a collaboration with DJ Makrox, M-Pex is back.  This time he’s come out with Odysseia, a very beautiful acoustic-guitar-based effort with help from Andre Coelho, with whom M-Pex collaborated here.  Odysseia is actually the name given to a two-part work:  it’s two EPs fused together:  CD-1 is entitled Prologus and like CD-2, is a collaboration with bassist Andre Coelho, who plays double bass.  CD-2 is called Epilogus and, besides bassist Coelho, this one features DJ X-Acto.  http://enoughrecords.scene.org/release/enrmp364 – is the link, if I piqued your interest and you’d like to hear it right away!

M-Pex is a Portuguese songwriter and a great guitarist.  On both Odysseia as well as last year’s Kardinal, he shows a great, fluid mastery of an Eastern-tinged sound on the guitar.  Adding to that fantastical groove is the hip-hop beats and samples that his collaborators add to the work.

Odysseia starts off with a few slow, methodical, but fluid acoustic guitar solo songs, which are almost hypnotic; without any brash effects or pop-style hooks, etc, the music seems to pull one into its dreamworld, a meditation on some sort of Eastern, desert-wandering imagery.

Then, when you get into the album a bit more, it becomes interwoven with textured layers from the help of Andre Coelho, who, like DJ Makrox did on Volukta, complements M-Pex’s emotionally driven, but modest, though aptly played, guitar work.

Odysseia is another album that is perfect for listening all in one setting.  Once you start it up, it’s really quite difficult to find someplace to stop it, if you are just listening to some of it, as if to check it out, give it a sample run, etc.  Something about the atmospheric layers of the guitar just meandering here and there, with the DJ-ing interpolating up and down, and in perfect synch with the tune gives the listener a lot more than first meets the ear.

As with his previous works, one can find Odysseia at https://www.archive.org, where you can download the album for free, thanks to netlabel, Enough Records, which is a great source for artists such as M-Pex, who work and create great music and now have a way to get it out there, for people to hear and to add to their music libraries.

I can give a few good examples of the tracks one will find on Odysseia, but as I wrote, it’s really the whole album that counts, more so than any of its separate parts.  But, just as a brief list of worthy tracks:  “Balada”, “Odysseia”, “Skyhlla”, “Hybris” and “Cyklopes” are great parts of this whole album, which really transcends time and grips you in its soundcycle.

I hope you enjoy this – hope you get a chance to hear it:  just go to http://www.archive.org to find a copy of it, or maybe even do a search on Bandcamp.  -KM.

The Dodos                                                                                       The Dodos - Individ | Album | SENTIREASCOLTARE

Individ

Polyvinyl Records, 2015

Reviewed by Kent Manthie                                                            

Well, hello all you I.R. readers out there – and a Happy New Year to you all!  This particular review, the new album by Bay Area residents, The Dodos and their brand new album, Individ, which is out this month, is going to be the first review written in 2015.  And what a great album to start the year off with – a suberb, genre-defying, exciting, full-throttle lunge.

The previous Dodos album, Carrier, was reviewed here, on Independent Review, back on September 1st, 2013.  Well, Individ is the follow-up to Carrier.  So, just in case you want to either re-familiarize yourself with the band or, if this is your first exposure to them, I’d recommend reading the 9/1/2013 review of Carrier, in which much of their backgrounds and sounds are described (the review for Carrier had the title-heading “Crisp, Clean Shirts”, if that helps in your search through the archives, but just typing in “The Dodos” in the search box, should get you there).

When Carrier was being recorded back in 2013, there were things that shook up the band and forced them to deal with things they couldn’t change and still carry on  – for instance, tragically, their previous guitarist, Chris Weimer, who had joined The Dodos, coming from his previous band, Women, died in 2012, before Carrier was completed (before it was even really started, in fact) which had to have affected the rest of the band.

Anyway, also keep in mind that The Dodos are a product of their environment, the Bay Area, one of the best places on earth and, given the relatively small geographic area of San Francisco, itself as well as all the various styles, philosophies, trends and, really, just the eclectic atmosphere in general, when it comes to arts of all kind: whether it be painting, sculpture, etc (“Fine Arts”), or music, writing – be it poetry or prose, things that existed all around the Mecca that is San Francisco, be it down the Peninsula (basically, San Mateo County), north of the Golden Gate (Marin County and further north into Napa, then Sonoma counties) – those two examples right there have different demographics that would, seemingly, represent a variety of tastes, personalities, etc.  Then, of course, one can’t leave out the important East Bay, which includes Oakland, Berkeley, Pleasanton, Emeryville, etc., I’d say that Berkeley is an important sector of the whole “Bay Area” aesthetic, with the UC Berkeley Campus that, since the early part of the 20th Century, has been the center of some of the most fascinating and important scientific, specifically physics-related output.  So, even though, a lot of people who only know the history of the Berkeley campus through the hard-left, anti-war protests and the “free-speech” movement and Sproul Plaza, etc. are quite lacking in knowledge of the very important, world-changing scientific research that went on there, 20-40 years previous to the upheaval in the 1960s.

OK, so, now I’m going to just focus on The Dodos:  with a band like The Dodos, who have been among this great agglomeration of variety and mishmashes of styles and sounds, music-wise, that have been one of San Francisco’s strengths, in becoming an attraction for the many, many, memorable bands and singers who either were natives of the area or, who, like Janis Joplin and Doug Sahm (with Steve Miller), immigrated from Texas.  The amalgamated soup of diverse musical styles cemented SF as one of the places to go to and/or to be from.  Of course, New York and Los Angeles also had their own, unique forms of style which differentiated outfits like The Doors, The Byrds, Beach Boys, Mamas & The Papas, and, from the East Coast (NYC), The Velvet Underground, who were the antithesis of the whole “flower-power”, “hippie” thing, and were far more nihilistic and, instead of embracing the LSD happening, which was  de rigueur of SF, the Velvets embraced heroin, downers, sadomasochism and, well, the one thing that was similar was the freedom of sexuality which, in the VU’s New York, was taken to the extreme.

So, where do the Dodo’s fit into this?  Well, first of all, it is a long ways away from those heady days of the ’60s.  Times have changed, ideas have melded into others, synergizing new ones, etc. and the newer generations of San Francisco, became, as did much of the rest of the US became cynical and jaded about the naive idealism of all the college kids and the hippies, etc. and then, of course, the 70s came and that brought with it a lot of new ideas, different musical styles that were focusing on what was happening in the times that were happening.   But then you have to go and talk about the late 70s and the burgeoning punk/hardcore scene that sparked up – “punk” was always seen as really, a British thing that was born out of the frustrations of blue-collar kids who hated the glum lives their parents lived and didn’t want any part of it, so they got these bands together and they started, somewhat like the acid-rock stuff of the ’60s, singing anti-establishment songs, etc., but they were a specifically UK phenomenon.  But the “hardcore” scene, which had a big start in the clubs of Los Angeles – bands like Black Flag, Minutemen, DOA, started up an American punk-rock:  one that wasn’t quite related to the UK Punk scene, but one that was faster and more furious, and they’d address some social issues here and there, but the American hardcore scene was also about “breaking shit” and slam-dancing (which is what “moshing” was called, before it became associated with “speed metal”, the retarded, bastard child of hardcore).   Then, in San Francisco, a less “fanatically hard charged” band called The Dead Kennedys, who played a lot of gigs at the (long-time gone) Mabuhay Gardens, in the North Beach section of SF, were getting big club audiences and selling records too.

Well, all of these various points of history go into the history of the Dodos: (read the review of Carrier for a more detailed history of the band) they consolidated various influences from the storied Bay Area – whether it be from the 1960s “Haight-Ashbury” scene (for lack of a better term) or the anti-disco, coked-up punk revues going on – American and British.  You want to talk about the ’80s?  Well, in the mid-80s, that’s when you suddenly had an explosion of radio-friendly, pop-music, like Huey Lewis & The News (who, ironically, had a bass player that was the brother of the late, great John Cippolina, of the hugely popular Quicksilver Messenger Service- the bass-playing brother’s name was Mario Cippolina -if you ever saw one of their videos, he was the one who always wore shades and had a cigarette dangling from his mouth).  So, what to do – after all the fads and crazes had come and gone in the Bay Area – flower-power, hardcore, pop, then, in the 90s, a sort of move towards more independent stuff, when what would come to be known as “Alternative” rock in the aftermath of Nirvana’s big radio hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, there were, indeed, some great bands that weren’t all from the Bay Area, but who, nevertheless played here – bands like The Melvins, Superchunk, Mudhoney, Husker Du (in the 80s, since they imploded and broke up in ’87), etc.)  After the new millennium started, things started shifting a bit.  More harmony was seen in the music arena around the area, the term “Indie Rock” became a household term (at least to those who weren’t suckered into saccharine bubble-gum crap) -but, again, the whole “Indie-Music” thing, which was kind of a backlash against the heavy-handed corporate exploitation of this type of music (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, etc.).  Instead of playing great stuff in clubs, then getting discovered by some asshole A &R guy from SONY Music or Warner Bros. (two of the worst epitomes of corporate pimping), this new generation of indie bands were shunning the major labels and sticking with labels like SST, which was starting to actually falter in this time period, but others like Touch & Go, TAANG!, Merge Records, Polyvinyl Records, Sub Pop and Matador, for the most part, who gave these bands a home, stuck by them and were true to them, true to their word, gave them complete control of their music and next thing you know, there’s a whole underground of bands which are putting out fantastic music, stuff that rises high above anything that any Top40 station is playing; hell, better than ANY commercial radio station was playing.  It got to be so bad, in the radio scene (remember back in the 70s, when you could switch on your radio to an FM signal and find some really hip stations that would play deep cuts from, at that time, new albums -stuff in the early 70s and they were experimental, not so much “ratings-driven” as the AM pop stations were-and somewhere in their, I guess in the 80s, these FM stations started getting bought up by media conglomerates that DID start demanding better ratings and to do so, started dictating what kind of music would be played, etc) now, is only worth listening to if you have a college radio station in your area, like KUSF in SF or KXLU, in L.A.

So, The Dodos, they’ve been around for a time now, they know who they can trust and who they can’t.  Individ is a badass album.  Every song on here has got something shiny and sparkly (gem-like, in other words) on it and it’s so hard to have to pick out a few tunes – but I will, as an example, but, let me just say, that, the whole album is a great follow-up to Carrier and one to be very proud  of.  From the opener, “Precipitation”, to “Bubble”, “Darkness”, “Goodbyes and Endings” as well as the finale, a groovy, jam called “Pattern/Shadow”.  These guys have got their stuff together and I’m just glad to see their name pop up here and there in various indie mags and blogs.  It’s only January of 2015 -the beginning of the year!  But, I’ve got a feeling that Individ is going to show up here, on Independent Review again – at the end of 2015, when I write up my next “Best of 2015” article.

If you are excited about the sound that they deliver and want to get the album or read about it, etc, you can go straight to https://www.polyvinylrecords.com and get some more info on it as well as order it straight from there (you could also go to Amazon.com).

Sorry if I skimped somewhat on what makes The Dodos such a courageous, mellifluous band, but, all you have to do is just trust me on this one; give it a listen and you will be freakin’ amazed at how their sonic sense of atmospherics, the jingly textures and the uncompromising esprit just makes it a singularly great album.  -KM.

Hi there.

This is the second annual “Best of…” year-end, wrap-up, wherein I pick what I felt were, indeed, the best releases of 2014 – at least the best that I’ve heard.  I’m sure I may have missed out on something, by someone: I didn’t get a chance to hear EVERYTHING that was released over the past year.  What this list is reflecting is the various albums which I’ve reviewed here, at Independent Review.

I’m not much into ranking things or countdowns; “top ten” lists, etc.  The following is just a breakdown of the some of the most memorable albums.

And – as I am not “counting down” albums here, whatever lands in the number one spot, isn’t necessarily the all-around “Best Release of the Year”.  I’m just going to go in order from the beginning of the year up through the end.  Also – if you’re curious about a particular album, do a search for it and read the review for it.

Hope you will pick out at least a couple examples here and give them a listen to, if not outright buying a copy.  Many Thanks and a Happy New Year to all!  -KM.

* According to Independent Review

“Best of 2014” (In chronological order)

1.  Owls:  Two

2.  Hew Time (Self-titled)

3.  Xiu Xiu:  Angel Guts: Red Classroom

4.  Electric Bird Noise:  Kind of Black

5.  These Curious Thoughts:  Inventing Dr. Sutherland & His Traveling Hospital

6.  Denial of Service:  Totentanz (Official Bootleg)

7.  Sea Rocket Jasmine: The Window

8.  Lee Negin:  The Cheeze Chronicles:  Volume V

9.  Stagnant Pools:  Geist

10.  Owen:  Other People’s Songs

Well, there you are – that is my list.  And, since this is mostly a chronological list, I thought it was kind of interesting that Owls’ album, Two, turned out to be the first one on the list – because to be honest, I REALLY love that album.  I’ve been listening to Two in the car, at home, and wherever else I am, listening to music.  For more information on Two – you can read the review (if you want to find it fast, then click on “March, 2014” and you’ll get to it almost right away, since that’s when it came out & that’s when I reviewed it).  You can go to https://www.polyvinylrecords.com and, if it’s not up front, do a search for it; Two can also be purchased at Polyvinyl’s website, along with all their other releases: there are CDs for sale as well as the occasional 7″ vinyl, LP vinyl, special edition colored vinyl and you can also just pick up an MP3 version of a particular album -which won’t cost you any shipping, since you are getting it via cyberspace, with no packaging, etc. just the music and a copy of the cover so you can create your own CD cover, if you decide to burn it to a CD-R.  And then, there’s the merchandise:  plenty of T-shirts, hats, stickers, posters, et cetera.  With new titles coming out all the time.

OK, then.  Again, wishing you a Happy New Year! – Here’s hoping that 2015 is going to be as good, if not better, than 2014!  One thing that’s coming out in a couple of months is a new of Montreal album, so look for that one to be reviewed.  Their last full-length was pretty good (Lousy With Sylvanbriar) – so, I have high hopes for this new one too, Aureate Gloom, I think it’s supposed to be a little bit stripped down, a tad rawer.  We’ll see…

-KM

Hello there and Happy New Year to Everyone!

The long-awaited “Best of 2014” article has been pushed back a bit because of computer troubles over here.

I wanted to have it done before the end of 2014.  Alas, it’s already 2015 – Thursday, Jan. 1, as I write this.

So, my 2nd annual “Best Of…” article coming this weekend.  OK?  Hope all you die-hard fans won’t mind waiting a couple more days.

And if you are in one of the bands I cover and your album doesn’t make the list?  Well, please don’t get mad and don’t think I don’t love you too.  I can only fit ‘x’ amount of albums on to a “Best Of…” list – or rather, article, since, I don’t think I’m going to have a “top 10” list, etc. Just a few albums, not in any particular order, necessarily.  I think that just about everyone who got reviewed made the cut in one way or another.  You’ll notice that there’s not room here for crap.  So, I just write reviews of medium – to – fabulous stuff.

All right then, hope you had a groovy New Year’s Eve.  And as they sing… “Auld Lang Syne”.

KM.