Descendents

Descendents
Hypercaffium Spazzinate
Epitaph Records

Descendents - album cover

There’s nothing like the news of a new Descendents album to improve a summer in advance –and, with a particularly slow start to the good weather, their short, sweet blasts of melodic punk are exactly what is needed to counteract the strangely unseasonal Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by leaving the house at least three days a week to find South London rain-drenched and storm-swept.

Hypercaffium Spazzinate, of course, would be a cause for celebration regardless of the weather; the band’s first release since 2004 sees them return to Epitaph, the label under which they recorded 1996’s ‘Everything Sucks’. Does this mean we can draw in depth stylistic comparisons between the two albums recorded under Brett Gurewitz’s label whilst at the same time contrasting them with ‘Cool To Be You’, the Fat Wreck album sandwiched between? Does it bollocks. Bill Stevenson has always had a keen eye to which side his punk rock bread is buttered on and Hypercaffium sits comfortably amongst the band’s previous efforts, offering 16 sometimes deceptively sharp blasts of what can be termed ‘pop punk’, but only once you mentally eschew the taint of saccharine awfulness which the late 90s and early 00s bought to that term.

Opener ‘Feel This’ sets the general pace at 1:14 in length, with only half the songs exceeding two minutes and a grand total of three that get past three. I found myself having to stop the album when I needed to go down and get a beer out of the fridge, in case I missed anything vital. That’s what you get with me, quality professionalism. Anyway, ‘Feel This’ drives full speed into ‘Victim Of Me’, the song which pre-hyped the album to the world and while it may not quite reach ‘Milo Goes to College’ speed, it definitely offers Karl Alvarez’s fingers a workout on a breakneck bass line on a tune which will have you skipping the needle back more than once (or moving the mouse and double clicking like the horrible nowadays bastard you are). ‘On Paper’ slows things down and brings into the mix the self-deprecating humour that Milo’s soulful, very slightly snotty, very slightly roughened voice is so perfectly suited to – the sound that so many vocalists took as a template to fall far short of.

From then on in and for 16 songs the band take the sound which they’ve perfected so well and throw in a number of variables, still keeping hold of their core formula like a control variable in one of Milo’s lab tests. ‘No Fat Burger’ harks back to the band’s earliest days musically, as Bill Stevenson’s lyrics bemoan the doctor’s orders which have stopped him scoffing whatever he wants due to health issues covered in the killer 2013 documentary ‘Filmage’. Just remember as you listen to the primal but supremely controlled beat underpinning every track that the man playing it has survived health issues which would kill five other people at once.

Elsewhere, this may not be a change in style from previous releases but that doesn’t mean that the Descendents are ploughing the same furrow in any way. On the contrary. The hooks which made the likes of ‘Bikeage’, ‘Silly Girl’ and ‘When I Get Old’ such instant classics do the same for much of Hypercaffium. Whether it’s the full pelt race of ‘Human Being’ or the mellower, hook laden likes of ‘Shameless Halo’ or ‘Comeback Kid’, the band sound like they don’t even know what the term ‘twelve year album gap’ means. Closer ‘Beyond the Music’ is a potted history of the band, a microcosm of the personal lean of their lyrics which has definitely played a massive part in them becoming such a worldwide phenomenon.

Despite having almost 40 years of history, and a major place in the history of punk music and numerous musical milestones, they are still writing songs of awkward love, caffeine obsessions and flatulence which strike a chord the world over…and long may they continue doing so.

Jono Coote

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

400_paper-mache-webKing Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Paper Mâché Dream Balloon
Heavenly Recordings

King Gizzard & Co. are a band that know no sonic boundaries. Flitting between solid garage rock, kraut-driven wig outs and potent swamp-boogie’s alike on their previous six records, there’s only one theme throughout and that’s to take your mind on a psychedelic trip to remember, every time.

Whatever instruments they find themselves tooled up with, be it warped organ tones or screaming harp riffs, this seven-piece promise to take you on a joyride. And they’ve delivered the goods again with Paper Mâché Dream Balloon. As opening track ‘Sense’ glides in you’re greeted by softly focused clarinet lines and beautiful piano chords, altogether creating something unexpectedly mellow, and far removed from their standard 16-minute psych-out fare, see ‘Head On/Pill’ or the recent Quarters EP, with each of the four clocking in at 10 minutes 10 seconds a piece.

Here you’ll search high and low for a track that barely crosses the four-minute line, there’s only one, ‘The Bitter Boogie’, and it’s a total gem. Albeit curiously un-bitter as it rolls and tumbles past pleasingly familiar swamp-blues territories, with a hefty tip of the hat to their Californian forefathers as they segue into yet more harmonica-honking goodness on ‘N.G.R.I (Bloodstain)’. Is that a sitar noodling away in the background too?

With each of the album’s twelve offerings recorded using nothing but acoustic instruments, this LP is a justification, not that one was ever required, of why King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard repeatedly warrant your ear. Strip away the cooking tube amp distortion and there’s marvellous, accessible song writing to be found, yet remaining forever psychedelic. If you thought the flute was just a fad, you were so wrong.

WAND

Wand_Golem_CoverWand
Golem
In The Red

As the eerie space wind samples that precede Golem greet your ears, there’s a sense of trepidation and tension instilled, but its laced with magic and set to explode. Wand’s opening riffs are as merciless as they come, and take a firm grip on your malleable mind that refuses to let go for thirty five minutes straight.

Tube amps cooking hot and phasers set for the heart of the sun, Wand sound like Sleep on speed. The sheer power and noise behind ‘The Unexplored Map’ is enough to knock you straight through a stone wall, and it’s both terrifying and exciting that this is just the beginning of their nine track assault.

Sure, you could argue that there’s a somewhat saturated scene as of late, with any old Tom, Dick or Harry shouting the odds over a din of feedback and fuzz and calling it “psych”. But Wand are the antidote to these teenage dirt bags, standing alone in their own bold sonic dimension.

Tracks like ‘Reaper Invert’ and ‘Floating Head’ summon the kind of sludge you’d expect to hear oozing like molasses from the double-stacks of King Buzzo, while ‘Melted Rope’ floats up to newfound cosmic territories with delight, seeing frontman Cory Hanson’s vocal warble almost recalling that of Lennon’s, if he’d hooked up with Kevin Parker via some time travel assisted jam.

Wand’s display of fine sonic wares doesn’t stop there, though. ‘Cave In’s misleading riffs morph into a crazed double-time stampede of swirling noise that just cries for the volume knob on your hi-fi to be, not cranked, but yanked clean off in a frenzy of ear-bending glee. Shortly before namesake ‘Planet Golem’ stoops to Sabbath levels of dark doom rock before oscillating into near-speed metal territory.

Long after Golem has peaked, you’re left marvelling at a record that unites both the futuristic and the fantastical. Whether you’re a fan of medieval sludge and doom, or sci-fi synth mystique, Wand show no fear in blending the two together seamlessly.

Golem is out now on In Red Records.

J Mascis

J_Mascis_Tied_To_A_StarJ Mascis
Tied To A Star
Sub Pop

Some were shocked when J Mascis used a synth on the opener to recent Dinosaur Jr album I Bet On Sky. Some were more surprised that the man behind the ear-bleeding band had released a (whisper it) “folky solo album”. Many were amused to see J dressed as a cult leader in the video for lead single ‘Every Morning’ from his second solo album Tied To A Star on Funny Or Die. Those people didn’t know the might of Mascis, but it’s been obvious all along to those who’ve looked close enough.

This album may be solo but it doesn’t lack punch, just like the adventures in synth didn’t turn Dinosaur into Depeche Mode. J’s always been able to craft a great song, ranging from the pop-like ‘Freak Scene’ to emo-ish ‘Out There’, it’s just that where it was once wrapped in a maelstrom of noise, here it’s more exposed, and, (without sounding wet) more beautiful. He’s also always had a sense of humour – think of that great Spike Jonze directed ‘Feel The Pain’ video with its urban golf and J’s plus fours and Pringles. And just look at that white beard which he wears so well. J was made to be a cult leader if ever I saw one.

There’s some real stand out moments on Tied To A Star, including opener ‘Me Again’ (lest we could ever forget) which displays his trademark vocal range which has aged like an oak-smoked whisky, and the aforementioned ‘Every Morning’ featuring Chan “the greatest” Marshall from Cat Power. There’s also the appealing Shangri-la-la-land of ‘Heal The Star’ and the poignant ‘Wide Awake’ – two ends of a phone call between lovers from a more innocent pre-Snapchat era. J Mascis’ star in rock music is assured, but it’s still shining brightly, even with the amp turned down below 5, and I’m still happy to hitch myself to it.

Nick Hutchings

GOAT

GOAT_CommuneGOAT
Commune
Rocket Recordings

Fans of GOAT’s 2012 debut album will know that this band exist in higher sonic realms than to be branded as just ‘psych-rock’. World Music wasn’t your typical Pink Floyd homage, Nuggets era tribute or shrine to Roky Erickson and Commune sees these masked, mystic soothsayers still standing alone in their own sonic territory. Even more mind-bending than the first, GOAT’s sophomore album is a geographical journey. You could even liken this record to a small musical quest.

Fading into ‘Talk To God’, GOAT fuse Hindustani ragas with a vocal line that sounds like a banshee who found melody. Next thing you know they’re caught in a Zulu drumming circle. But just as the final tremolo’d chords of ‘Words’ ring out, ‘To Travel The Path Unknown’ sees GOAT veering far off the beaten track. The shimmering lead lines and rattle snake shakers scale across the desert sands of the Wild West, until ‘Goatslaves’ picks up the bongos and leads the charge deep into the jungle. Layering complex rhythms and percussion, a phased out guitar solo erupts conjuring a pandemonium of parrots to filter into the mix.

Lead single ‘Hide From The Sun’ rockets to a dangerously high sonic altitude, with penultimate track ‘Bondye’ drawing its namesake from ancient monotheistic Voodoo religion, literally translating as “the good god”. If that wasn’t enough to blow your mind, Commune’s closing track ‘Gathering of Ancient Tribes’ will. A whirlwind of an exit, boasting GOAT’s genre and culture-spanning influences. This band turn the world’s most primitive sounds into something utterly cosmic, be sure to catch them live at the Camden Roundhouse on October 3rd.

Commune is due for relase September 22nd via Rocket Recordings.

The Number Ones

The_Number_OnesThe Number Ones
The Number Ones
Static Shock Records / Deranged Records

Ever since the hardest, meanest band ever, Crowd Control, played their last show, the members have been extremely busy. Going on to play in bands such as Strong Boys and Disguise as well as others, the most interesting post-Crowd Control band is definitely The Number Ones, a punk band taking influence from late seventies / early eighties power pop. This LP serves as a collection of all their work up to this point and is vital to anyone with even an iota of interest.

Current fans of the band may be disappointed to find that there are only two new songs, Favourite Game and Heartsmash, however both keep the extremely strong form seen in their previous records. Whilst I understand the disappointment, the demo tracks and ‘I Wish I Was Lonely’ single have been re-recorded and sound all the better for it, while ‘Tell Me Why’ is now one of the strongest songs on the record because of this. The Sharon 7” they released late last year was probably my favourite record of the year so it’s no surprise to say that they are the stand out of the whole LP, ‘Girl’ especially, with the four way harmonies on the final chorus are as brilliant as anything you will hear this year.

Lyrically is where this record really stands above its contemporaries. With ‘Boy’ features the lyrics “That boy crosses my mind a lot, cause he’s more hard than he is soft” and “He’s got six other brothers, they’re expecting and another and then they’ll be happy with their lot”. Lyrics made even more wonderful when sung in their charming Irish lilt, their verse is so brilliantly simple and easy to relate to, I really hope more and more people take note of this band.

The Dublin punk and hardcore scene is something that is very close to my heart. I find myself falling back in love with the scene’s wide range of bands so often, from the grungey, hardcore influenced Nibiru to the Lockin’ Out worshipping Bang Bros, The Number Ones are yet another brilliant and totally different band to what has come before. To have a collection of ten songs on one LP and for it all to be utterly brilliant puts them ahead of any other band attempting this style of music. An album thoroughly recommended to anyone who gets off to The Exploding Hearts, Buzzcocks or even fellow countrymen, The Undertones. Utterly essential.

Tim Lewis

Wax Children

Wax Children
Angst

Wax_Children_Angst

LA five piece Wax Children are primed, ready and willing to take you on a sonic journey with their latest album, Angst. A sonic sculpture carved from the finest psychedelic noise, it lures you in and winds deep down into the alcoves of your subconscious capacity. This record will leave you both addicted and vulnerable to the Wax Children’s shamanic sounds.

‘Aeons pt. 1’ provides a wailing introduction and sets the bar high for this eight-track album. Easing into ‘Wild Gloom’, you’re greeted by a dark ambience that shrouds the loosely strummed chords, sedating you to a dazed and confused state, with Mr Wall’s vocal melody entwining spectacularly with the swelling instrumental fuss, before cascading into acoustic reveries.

Third track ‘Binding The Bends’ harbours a heavily hypnotic hook; upbeat and topped by the creamiest guitar tone you’ve ever heard. The swirling coda builds edge of your seat tension before roping you back into the groove for one final burst of the infectious lead line. This track is arguably the highlight of the entire album and is sure to have you reaching for the replay button as soon as it reaches its dreamy climax.

Mid-way point ‘Rene’s House’ sounds like guitarist Cal Jones’ rifftastic ode to his own playing, with ‘Eyes Of Chongo’ providing part two of this mesmerising episode, Jones’ tones fuse magnificently against the reverb soaked howls spewing from Mr Wall’s mouth.

‘Skin’ slows the pace down a gear to reflect on the past 5 onslaughts of psychedelia before ‘Awkward Strumming’ comes good with its quirky time signatures, creating a palpable tension, mixing melody with madness.

‘Aeons pt. 2’ brings the Wax Children’s epic musical quest to an end, and it really is the cherry on the rich, moist, sumptuous musical cake that this album has turned out to be. Luckily for you, Angst is available to download in its entirety for free, from their bandcamp.

Dave Palmer

Pond

Pond
Hobo Rocket

(Modular)

Pond_HoboRocket_albumPond share two members with Australian psych-masters Tame Impala but don’t for a second think this is some throw-away side-project there to keep the band amused in downtime. Far from it, Hobo Rocket is Pond’s fifth album and it’s a glorious rush of pop, noise psychedelia that out freaks anything Tame Impala have come up with. Opening song ‘Whatever Happened To The Million Head Collide’ sets the stall out for the album very quickly, no easing the listener in gently, it slides out of the starting block shimmering with a squelchy Flaming Lips psych-pop vibe, with a pure shot of Butthole Surfers noise running through its veins. This is modern psychedelic music at its best, breathing in fifty years of experimental sounds into their collective lungs and exhaling them all over 2013.

Pond, however, ignore the mistakes of the past and resist the temptation to become self-indulgent and drab, keeping their brand of psychedelia focused and direct. ‘Xanman’, for example, hits the freak out button hard but remains upbeat and melodic, despite the swirling cacophony of noise the envelopes the song. Next up, ‘O Dharma’ is a floating Spiritualized type ballad that twinkles like the Lips own ‘Waiting For Superman’ had it been penned in 1974 by Roger Waters. Then Pond lurch back into the evil lysergic doom of ‘Aloneaflameaflower’ that crackles with such a mischievous ‘I’m gonna fuck up your trip and freak you out’ grin, you can’t help but love it, before running away feeling a bit paranoid and scared.

This is a good time for psychedelic music. It’s good to see the freak flag still waving high.

James Sherry

Run The Jewels

RUN THE JEWELS
www.foolsgoldrecs.com

run-the-jewels-artEl-P and Killer Mike is such an explosive combination, it’s almost too good to be true. We glimpsed it with El-P’s production skills on Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music but their combined lyrical genius on Run The Jewels cements theirs as one of the most exciting collaborations in hip hop. Full stop. Each has a unique vocal quality and flow, yet they complement each other entirely and the crunching electronic production is so satisfying pumping through your speakers. Run The Jewels also walks the line between clever lyrical nuance, and out and out crass content expertly with some truly immense lines throughout.

Observe –

The company of women with opinions and fat asses
That’s my list of demands

There will be no respect for The Thrones
No master mastered these bones
Your idols all are my rivals
I rival all of your idols
I stand on towers like Eiffel, I rifle down all your idols
Niggas will perish in Paris, niggas is nothing but parrots

I move with the elegance of an African elephant
I presented the evidence eloquent as a president

‘Banana Clipper’ features a guest turn from Big Boi who slots cleverly into this dynamic and a skit-driven turn from Prince Paul adds yet another facet. But really, all you want to hear is Killer Mike and El-P bouncing off each other in glorious rap unity.

Kanye’s album is interesting but this is out and out bangers. Download now. For free.

Winegums

 

Wax Idols

Wax Idols
‘Sound of a Void’
Slumberland Records
FREE DOWNLOAD

Instantly recalling the darker edge of the 80s but with enough intensity to avoid sounding like an unoriginal pastiche ‘Sound of a Void’ is one of the most instantly engaging tracks from Wax Idols forthcoming full-length ‘Discipline & Desire’ and is now available as a free download. Hugely powerful and undeniably sexual, the track reverberates with a passionate longing, emphasised by singer Hether Fortune’s striking monotone. Taking her cue from icons such as Siouxsie Sioux, if ‘Sound of a Void’ is anything to go by, there’s no reason why Fortune won’t be similarly revered.

An outspoken and intelligent musician, who also happens to be a dominatrix when she’s not playing with Wax Idols, Fortune manages to be the focal point of the band without distracting from the talent of the rest of the group. The fact that she is a former member of bands as disparate as ‘Hunx and His Punks’ and ‘Blasted Canyons’ might make you think that her foray into the murky world of goth-inspired post-punk is merely a fad – one listen to ‘Discipline & Desire’ is enough to convince anyone of Fortune’s conviction and passion for her art. Treading a fine line between complete control and a dangerous sense that something may unravel at any moment, Wax Idols sound is abrasive and severe, yet melodic enough to be completely absorbing and alluring.

‘Discipline & Desire’ is released through Slumberland Records (who have previously put out records from buzzy acts like Veronica Falls, Dum Dum Girls and Girls Names) in the UK on June 3rd. Definitely not one to be missed if you like your post-punk dark but never dreary.

Augustus Groove