I hope Lavar Burton broke some heads to get two-piece Reading Rainbow to change their name to Bleeding Rainbow. I hope Geordie LaForge and his milky white eyes was so pissed at the power-pop-punk noodling of this snappy little group, that he barged in to his manager’s double-wide and declared that if he could do anything before his career took a final nose dive that it would be to make Reading Rainbow change their name … to Bleeding Rainbow. And that the repercussions of this demand were so great upon Reading Rainbow, so violent and teeth-gritting, that their only reprieve from Kunta Kinte’s wrath was to add two new members to the band, and drift down a far dreamier path. Where one might think that Bleeding Rainbow was the moniker of a smarmy mouthed punk band, or that you might think that Reading Rainbow was indulging their base needs to just wear leather jackets and sneer, the newly named and newly added Bleeding Rainbow are more moody alterna-rock than anything else. It isn’t a bad change, they’re still catchy and kind of cute, but it seems odd that in the wake of Lavar Burton’s psychic beating, that they’d go in a more listenable direction. Maybe it was meant to be all along, and maybe all of these violent L. Burton fantasies are something I should talk to my counselor about.
Bleeding Rainbow’s Yeah Right is out now on Kanine.
You’d think with their skull covered album, that Psychic Ills would be making more sinister, dark music. Maybe the ’10s have taken back the skull as something beyond just a looming symbol of death, decay and abject terror, because from what I’ve heard, this second album from Psychic Ills is a pleasantly psychedelic bit of rock ‘n’ roll. “One More Time” is so cruised out and laid back, the weed smoke and good energy can almost be seen wafting off of it in to the pink-tinged sky. This is psych at its most relaxed. lackadaisical even – the harsh edges worn down, the song feeling like the waking moments between dream and reality, that snatch of song that just barely climbs out of the dream world, holding on to your mind as you lay curled beneath a pile of blankets.
Psychic Ills new album One Track Mind is out February 19th on Sacred Bones.
You can’t, if you grew up in the wonder years of The Wonder Years, help but think that Cocktails’ newest track “Hey Winnie” might be about Danica McKeller’s iconic portrayal of bland-faced Winnie Cooper. And though, I can’t find any actual evidence that Cocktails have some long term endearment for Kevin Arnold’s lifelong paramour, the song seems to fit in to the glowing, nostalgic ambience The Wonder Years extended out over a generation of youth. I’m not a fan of some of the saccharine 80s cribbing that the early ’10s have brought us, but Cocktails does sweet and sugary just right – tempering the tooth-rotting rush with just a pinch of grime. Winnie Cooper, wherever you might be, I certainly hope that this one’s for you.
Andy Human, solo project of Lenz lead-man Andy Jordan, feels as if it could be appropriate in a sequin covered leotard, a shiny onesie that prism-explodes laserbeams of light as the first spotlight hits it. Not to say that this is disco, or that is this late 70s dance music, oh no, this is punk rock (80s? late 70s) but dressed up with pulsing back beats and a touch of leg shaking. But don’t get Andy Human and company wrong, there’s punk rock that lives in the center of this Rolo, gritty, dirt-covered, leather jacket wearing punk rock that stabs its way out with sharp, short solos, and a heightened sense of distorted angst. Andy Human might choose to wear a glam suit with glowing piping and horn-rimmed, rhinestoned glasses (he doesn’t) but that’s just to get your ass shaking, your hands moving. The real center of this punk rock Tootsie Pop is rock ‘n’ roll in the most rotten way.
It’s the beginning of the year (it still is I swear) and I’m still sifting through the many, many Best of Lists that populated the web over the last two to three months. It’s not say that I’m not actively searching for new music, but to be honest, the pickings feel slim, and someone(s) else already did some nice, deep, digging in to the music I missed last year. Hellshovel (to which I expect white face paint and pigeon eating) is a product of my skimming the good work and good intentions of other websites. Hellshovel is psych rock stripped down to a few bare essentials. The haze of psychedelia encroaches at the side, but this is a small group of musicians just dragging out the bare bones and going to town. It isn’t big or bloated with twenty minute noodle sessions, this is beats, guitar and the spindly whine of vocals. It’s refreshing is what it is.
Hellshovel’s album Hated By The Sun is out on Slovenly now.
Wet Illustrated new single “Scorpio Wings” has all the typical recipes for the old garage rock (are we still as critics allowed to call things “garage rock” in 2013?) – fuzzy guitar, adenoidal vocals, a boom-bap cavalcade of tightly strung snare. Maybe it’s a new year, and the overwhelming weight of fuzzed out San Francisco rock ‘n’ fucking roll feels a little less oppressive, but more so Wet Illustrated is just better at this than everyone else. They manage to take the tired tropes and warp and distort and layer them in to a concoction that maintains the rote tropes of garage (for those to still clinging) but presents them in a way to dispel the lingering bloat of a genre exploded. Pretty much, this shit is good.
Wet Illustrated’s Scorpio Wings 7″ is out now on Infinity Cat.
Colleen Green is a magician, I swear to God, a magician with a bag of tricks that she bought at thrift store. The magic rings that you pull apart are all rusted; the rabbit is a dusty skeleton; the card set she bought is missing two fives and some diamonds. Yet she gets out there, with a drum machine and some fuzz and her two-note register, and twirls her hands and blinks and all of sudden, presto, a brilliant song. “Time In The World” is just that song, a few ticks of a metronomic drum beat, a wave of good-time haze, and that monochrome voice barely surfacing above it all and somehow you have a whopper of a song. A song that tugs at the heart strings a bit, a song that you could put in an empty-street ending of a big film, a song that belies every expectation. Just like Colleen Green does every goddamn time. Magic I say, magic.
Colleen Green’s new album Sock It To Me is out March 19th on Hardly Art.
The Men might have put out the best pure rock ‘n’ roll album of 2012. Open Your Heart is the kind of big riff, hard-charging, smart rock that we don’t get to see very much anymore and to be honest, I was surprised that it came out of The Men’s camp. Past albums from the group seemed steeped in a more scorched-Earth sort of post-punk, music that you’d play in your house when all the guests had gone home. Open Your Heart seemed to be a step towards a more palatable sound, the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that would start mosh pits in big venues, but could be analyzed and broken apart and still hold water. Thus, it’s exciting to see what’s next for the band, what direction they move towards as their star continues to burn brighter. “Electric”, off the upcoming Sacred Bones release New Moon seems to be a nice middle ground between the old and the new, a blast of discordant guitar that slowly bleeds in to a enjoyable wrecking ball of a song.
The Bad Lovers, a trio of Austin rockers, could’ve been sucked through as seething time-space wormhole in to the modern day. Though the band looks like your more standard, hipster long-hairs, the sound they craft exists somewhere in The Beatles world pre-Revolver. Short, sharp bursts of twang brush nicely with the McCartney like vocals of the lead singer, all wrapped in to a particularly vintage feeling sound. Perhaps The Bad Lovers aren’t torch bearers for overflowing originality, but this is a choice cut none the less. The type of melodic proto-punk that gets the skirts spinning and arms flailing.
The Bad Lovers album Actin’ Strange is out now on Burger Records.
Aquarium Drunkard, as I’ve said before and I’ll say again, is a bastion of great music. Their end-of-year list is as comprehensive and interesting as any I’ve dug through. They somehow manage to cultivate a special little world that plays towards record collectors and fans of new music. On any given day you can meander over to the site and find a nugget of music that will either fill in a gap from some long gone era, or expand your mind in a new and delightful way.
Clover, one of the many The Band contemporaries that I never knew about and will now spend hours obsessing over, is just one of these nuggets of discovery. Twangy and heartfelt like the band, but imbued with a vocal touch of Arlo Guthrie, this is an album you would’ve glossed right over on a search through a thrift store bargain bin. And that’s sad. Very, very sad.