Features
Stick the Needle Into My Brain #2
by Mike Riley
Stick the Needle Into My Brain #2
A fresh batch of tunes for a fresh year...

Eddy Current Suppression Ring - s/t - Goner Records
(www.goner-records.com)

If you've got your ear to the ground of international garage punk/rock n roll then you're probably already well aware of this Australian band's seemingly spontaneous explosion into the ears and minds of garage/punk fans world-wide. Their 2nd LP, "Primary Colours", was released, also by Goner Records, to some seriously high acclaim to American audiences in 2008 and for good reason, as it is lo-fi Stooges-meets-the-Saints worship perfected. Here we have a re-issue of their debut LP, which until now had only been released in Australia and has been long out of print. Their story is an interesting one: the singer and guitar player were co-workers at a vinyl pressing plant in Melbourne, along with the guitar player's brother they downed a few too many at the company Christmas party and decided to pick up the instruments lying around and started banging away. They liked what they'd come up with so much they grabbed a boom box, recorded their songs, and decided to call it band. Six years later and they're still going strong, with another album on the way in the near future. This record is a look into their slightly-better-than-primitive beginnings with 11 tracks of simple rock n roll with that spirit that bands like Jet and The Strokes endlessly but unsuccessfully try to emulate. If you're a little unsure about it all, start with "Primary Colours", it's a fantastic album, and then if you find yourself digging it, head to your local record store and pick this debut LP up for a fulfilling look into the band's not-too-distant past.

Failures' Union - In What Way - Paper & Plastick Records
(www.paperandplastick.com)

There's a steadily growing stream of bands these days made up of former loud/fast hardcore punk kids finding inspiration in the college rock of the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s that may have first sparked their interest in music as young teens or that they have since discovered upon reaching out into the vast sea of music that the originators of the music they once held so dear to their hearts began creating after they themselves started looking for something more than the often-times formulaic music they'd been creating. Bands like Tenement, Sleepwall, Lemuria, Cheap Girls, and Sick Sick Birds, among others, have recently been reaching into the wells of bands like Husker Du, Sugar, Gin Blossoms, the Pixies, the Cure, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, and Sub Pop-era Nirvana for refreshing inspiration and creating something far from retro or rehashed. Buffalo's Failure's Union can be found amongst those kindred spirits creating a refreshing take on a that now-classic sound (including guest vocals by Frente's Angie Hart on a couple tunes here). Earnest and honest lyrics and vocals accompany solidly mid-tempo rock songs free of pretentiousness or swagger. There's little flair here but the tunes have pleasant hooks and just enough pep to keep the lulls away. If your Guided By Voices and Pavement records are gathering dust on shelves, but the thought of popping them back in the stereo brings up fond memories, you'll be just as happy tying the Failures' Union's new album to new memories of the 20teens.

Mean Jeans - Are You Serious? - Dirtnap Records
(www.dirtnaprecs.com)

I'm preparing myself for cries of heresy from the purists, but fuck it, Mean Jeans are in prime position to become the 21st century Ramones. There, I said it. If the Ramones were born in 1984, came of age in Portland, fell in love instantly with the Exploding Hearts and the Marked Men, and raged with the beer-fueled punks and coked-out hipsters at the local rock bar, this is what they'd sound like. They take that classic Ramones sound of catchy revved-up rock and roll and rev it up even more while singing about girls, parties, coke, weed, pizza, beer, and rock and roll in the least corny way / most fun way possible, with "whoa-ohs" aplenty. The opener, "Born On a Saturday", sets the tone with an explanation on being born to party. The complete lyrics to "Outta Smokes" sums it all up well:

I just ran outta smokes, with a nose that's fulla cokes
and a belly that's fulla beer, gotta be another cigarette around here
there's gotta be a reason to be livin' 'round here
there's gotta be an extra piece of pizza around here somewhere

"Case Race" is a tune about sharing a case with a pretty girl and doing nothing but sitting at home listening to records. The closer, "Let's Pogo Before U Gogo"...well, the title pretty much says it all. I'm glad I got this record before I finalized my top ten records of 2009 because this one shot up there in record time. I may be straightedge, but I can recognize the fun of a good party album full of booze and drug references. With names like Jeans Wilder, Billy Jeans, and Howie Doodat, how can you go wrong? This one's a keeper for sure.

The Spits - IV - Recess Records
(www.recessrecords.com)

For the past five years or so Seattle's The Spits have remained an enigma to me. Praise upon praise has been heaped upon them by many, but until now, I just couldn't see why. For whatever reason, I just didn't "get it". I do now, and now I can go back and fully appreciate their previous work. The Spits write music for the worlds existing in 70s/80s B- and C-movies. They're all dark, twisted, warped, fuzzed-out, and low-budget in the best possible way. This is no Misfits rip-off though. It's a bit more Ramones / Mummies / Nuggets comps influenced. They're on their own high-school outcast smoking scarce bong-resin / chewing on miscellaneous pills while reading sci-fi and horror comics in the woods trip and having a blast doing it. This is music for the post-apocalyptic dweeb trying to figure out how to build bombs out of nail polish, hair spray, and turpentine. Dig it, but don't scorch your eyebrows off in the process.

Strike Anywhere - Iron Front - Bridge 9 Records
(www.bridge9.com)

Generally speaking, when hardcore/punk bands reach the peaks of popularity and acclaim in the underground through releases on the scene's most popular labels, it's done so through attaining a bit more of an accessible sound. The kids who don't dare to reach much deeper than their local Hot Topic for their musical experiences are stoked as they find these bands a bit more edgy than what modern rock radio is feeding them, but the old original fans can't help but feel a bit betrayed. The song-writing and passion behind it may be as solid as ever, but the over-produced and under-inspired tunes just lack that energy that makes authentic punk rock so vital. It almost never happens that a band can go on to produce new material as rich as their earlier work. Strike Anywhere have accomplished that in spades with their new album. It's as refreshing, inspired, thoughtful, and energetic as anything they've ever done before. Maybe even more so. The songs are as crushing as they are melodic and exhilarating. As a lyricist myself, I continually struggle with finding new ways to tackle old topics, therefore I am extremely impressed and amazed with Thomas's ability to continually breathe new life into social and political criticism through his lyrics. He's truly at the top of his game here. The positivity he evokes is never tainted with naivety. He's been doing this for long enough and truly believes in what he's singing and screaming about. This is about as high-energy and fun, while staying true to punk's socially relevant nature, as a band can get. If you're an old fan who maybe wrote them off as opportunists after "Exit English" and "Dead FM", please do yourself a favor and get re-inspired all over again by going out and picking this up immediately. If you're new to the band and curious, this is as essential a place to start as "Chorus of One" or "Change Is A Sound"' is. Bravo Strike Anywhere.

Tubers - Anachronous - No Idea Records
(www.noidearecords.com)

I'm not too well-versed in my late 90s/early 2000s post-hardcore, but what I'm hearing from Florida's Tubers is a hearty, heaping helping of the sound of the northern Virginia / Lovitt Records scene of that era and bands like Frodus, Sleepytime Trio, and Engine Down, who were all to some extent inspired by Rites of Spring and Fugazi, so there's hints of them in there as well, along with touches of Drive Like Jehu. Angular, arrhythmic, disjointed, at-times cacophonous...all well-fitting descriptions here. It's not the most original take on the sound but Tubers do it well and if any of the aforementioned bands are your cup of tea then you'll certainly find no wrong-doing here.
Posted by: Mike Riley

Features (January 14th, 2010)

Tags: eddy current suppression ring failures' union mean jeans spits strike anywhere tubers goner paper plastick dirtnap bridge 9 no idea punk hardcore garage rock emo indie