Castle Face Records, 2016
Review by Kent Manthie
Here comes another new gem from Castle Face Records: an album called Relaxing Death from San Francisco’s Useless Eaters. This is another in an (so far, at least) unbroken string of great releases from Castle Face, which seems to have a collective great ear for great bands.
Useless Eaters have a sound that sticks out some for its intensity and the catchy hooks and beats which accompany it. When I first listened to it, after I got into it, about four or five songs in, I began to try and figure out what, if anything, this album reminded me of and something eventually made me think of the iconoclastic band that came out of the new wave, punk, etc. era and Suicide really adhered to neither, but rather, the hip, downtown, NYC environment was the perfect cauldron out of which Suicide emerged from.
OK, so, Useless Eaters. Another breakout band from San Francisco, Useless Eaters have just recorded and mixed, engineered, etc. a new album, Relaxing Death. One thing I can read and extrapolate from that is that the music will be pretty good, since Castle Face Records has consistently been releasing good albums by band after band; relatively new bands that sound nothing like their contemporaries in the vomit-covered, corporate music industry, which are, for the most part, flash-in-the-pans, one-hit-wonders, and/or total musical fabrications by any particular commercial label, e.g., The Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, New Kids on the Block, N’Sync and the likes of them. I think too, that, when someone says, in some situation or other, that “jeez, there is nothing that I know of I’ve ever heard on the radio that gives me any kind of hope the state of rock, post-rock, punk, post-punk, new wave, modern rock, or whatever labels you want to put on these many subgenres of rock which seemed to have really splintered into many different subgenres between the late 60s, the 70s and up through the 80s. Then, of course, in the early 90s (circa 1991), a seemingly new subgenre was a heroic position, since it happened to catch on with much of American youth (I’m talking about “alternative” and it’s own subgenre, “Grunge”). After “alternative”, mostly due to the feeding frenzy that came out of the whole “Grunge” thing, due to the popularity of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and then, the whole Nevermind album. That is how it got co-opted by corporate America: merchandising, like shirts, stickers, even things like dolls or now maybe a video game tie-in, showing up on a movie soundtrack now and then, etc -then it became “modern rock” and now “indie” seems to be, at least my favorite, the term to use. What’s so good about “indie” is that it doesn’t box some bands in to a label, even when said label has, within itself, other sub-sub-genres, so, it has a wider usage, but the main idea was that it was put out on a independent label or it could be a DIY release: self-recorded and distribution.
As is almost de rigueur for San Francisco-based bands, Useless Eaters have a great style; an independent spirit which comes across in the experimental-sounds that underlie some fascinating songs like “Motorway”, which is really a boss tune. Besides the industrial-tinged sounds that accompany the typical guitar, bass, and drums, “Motorway” just rocks.
Then, as I was listening further down, and got, uh…I think it was around “Cold Machine” or “Hogs in the Bush”, where, as I was away from my PC for a little while, washing a few dishes and making another little bit of coffee, that, while I was in the kitchen, and I could hear the music perfectly in there, as I was scrubbing out my backup coffee carafe, it suddenly hit me: “The Fall”!! That’s what Relaxing Death sounded like to me. I’ve been a big fan of The Fall for years. I recently acquired a whole bunch of early (earlier) Fall albums: Live at the Witch Trials, Perverted by Language,This Nation’s Saving Grace and Grotesque (After the Gramme) not including all the other Fall albums I already had. But it was when I got the aforementioned list of Fall albums that ranged from 1978 up to 1984 or 85, at the latest, that I became an even bigger fan of The Fall’s, due to the remarkable, relentless, in-your-face attitude and style. I got hooked on sitting and listening to all of Perverted by Language, for instance, all in one setting. So, when it hit me that this album, Relaxing Death, by Useless Eaters reminded me of one of those older Fall albums, I realized, “whoa, this is some good stuff here!”
Looking back, after giving a couple listens, I realize that this a great album all the way through. The last tune, “Goodnight to the Thieves” is especially cool. It’s this choppy, instrumental jam, about 3 and a half minutes long, but it’s just the perfect thing to end the album with.
If you were to ask me “What’s worth checking out, in this day and age of such hollow, vacuous drivel, well, first I’d set them straight and point them in the direction of the indie world, in general, but I’d, especially really closely listening to Relaxing Death, recommend this album as well as Useless Eaters, overall, as a new, or at least contemporary, band. -KM.