Silver Volt can be described as “music I don’t understand made up of sounds I absolutely love.” Lyrically sparse and sonically dense, the math/post-rock duo made up of Alex Woods (guitar) and Scott Balles (drums) spent the dark days of the pandemic really digging into the layers and scoring the complex arrangements of their debut EP.
At times majestically meticulous, while other times raw, gnarly and gross, the band worked in the studio with producer Chris Gilroy, where they really refined their sound, filling the sonic spectrum with live-loops, drum triggers, vocals, and effects pedals. Lead single “Ice Cream Man” probably veers closest to pop sensibility with a dope vocal line and sounds like a rad 8-bit Nintendo short-out just before you beat the boss.
But it’s the pile-driving ripper “Hot Shave” with its berserk overblown guitar riffs catching each and every crack of the drum snare, and the drunken fuzz stagger of “Perky Pat” that really grabbed my ear. Woods and Gilroy share a unique musical language of strange sounds, odd blips, and metallic clinks, and having played together in the equally mathy Reindeer Castle project, this is truly a product of couple of sound masters at work in the elements of their craft. I may not understand it, and definitely can’t count out the time signatures, but this old punk gives it two thumbs and four devil horns up.
Silver Volt is out now and available via Bandcamp and all major streamers.
Upon first bite, the barrage of percussive onslaught devouring itself from both ends of a sweet tooth, experimental noise-prog nerd punk duo, Gorgeous has a brand new record, and it’s sticky and gunky and jagged and perfectly broken. Out now via Sad Cactus Records, it deploys bigger, deeper distorted riffs this go-round, heavier bass elements with a more focused vocal intent than their previous releases. Graveled in its edges, it is visceral and organic in its execution without straying too far from the quirky charms and Helium-meets-Hella mathy swagger they do so well.
After two leading singles, the lumbering and ominous “Raindrop” (see our thoughts here) and “Elbow Stress Rash,” their ode to isolation-fueled anxiety and its physical manifestations, Dana Lipperman (guitar, vocals) and Judd Anderman (drums) have only begun to scratch the surface across the breadth and depths of this work. There’s an ebb and flow, a pulse throughout the album that inherently feels like a live performance. Parts of it are overblown and fuzzed out, while others slick and shiny.
Much of Saspucker is wonderfully dark clouds; an intense storm passing across the beautifully ravaged doom organ, often ZOIA-esque circuit in landscape. It’s chorus in the land of monsters. On “Big Hands,” Lipperman declares “Hold my hand. Lick my fingers” before the tape slowly unwinds and drops into a sub bass universe. This is no longer your kinder gentler Gorgeous, it’s anxious and it’s chaotic. For songs like “Lovebug” and “New Paltz Waltz,” she pits subtle acoustic guitars against hard gated riffs and Anderman’s staggered heartbeat like some sort of ASMR jangle. A rare call to order, on “Keep it Steady,” the pair does just that, allowing the drums and vocals to carve out a brief moment of brewing balance and calm between the phased feedback and confusion.
Not to make a glass onion of things, but while Sapsucker is one of those records that indeed floors you from the get, further listens open new sonic textures as the layers rub and tear and wash against one another. Lyrically confident, it makes no bones in exposing vulnerable anxiety. And while also frenzied and complex—almost contradictory at times—the mood which you bring to your listening heavily shapes and colors the experience. There are spots where you can easily get lost in the fantasy realm to which it belongs, often the door-knocking of the kick drum the only thing tethering you back to the world. It comes full circle as the end is the beginning is the end leaving you fairly confident that Anderman is the sweet and Lipperman is the tooth.
Sapsucker is out now via Sad Cactus Records and available on Bandcamp and all major streamers.
The NYC-based garage rockers Dr. Ex & the Break-Ups released their debut album What the Hex Is Going On? earlier this spring, and the nine songs speed by at a dizzying fever pitch, like cruising through a high-speed cartoon chase. It’s not surprising that the release is named for an episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You (season one, episode six, if you’re curious). The music here shimmies and spins around you with plenty of spooky craziness, wacky humor, and a clear mission of madcap fun. One of the band’s fans, Patrick Marton, described their sound with this question: “What if the Scooby Doo gang was super into garage punk and beat up Question Mark and The Mysterians and stole their instruments?” What if? Clearly, you end up dancing with vampires and werewolves while Dr. Ex and The Break-Ups rock out with the same frantic energy that their cartoon selves apply to solving mysteries
The album kicks off with “Mystery Machine,” an up-tempo track featuring the band’s signature mix of fuzzy guitars, driving bass lines, tight drum fills, and organ-esque freak outs on the keys. A direct homage to the slapstick humor of Scooby Doo is found in the lyrics: “Scooby-Dooby-Dooby / Roll another doobie / Gotta keep it groovy / Gotta keep it moving.” Apparently the crime-fighting dog always has a dime bag on hand so that when things get intense with those ghosts, you can hit a joint and then dance your ass off. Dig it!
The lead single and second track, “Jeepers, It’s the Creeper,” delivers more delirious energy to get you dancing. The song’s video shows the band playing live to a club full of people getting down, intercut with images of the group running through the NYC streets (presumably running away from creepy love). Sometimes the four of them appear with strange bug or alien-like masks, creepy love indeed! The entire sonic whirlwind culminates in a big organ/synth outro which drives the audience wild.
The title track percolates with more pop-focused energy, like a 60s girl group on speed. Once again, the lyrics are describing monster adventures, like what happens when you turn into a werewolf after being cursed by your witchy lover: “Baby, can’t you see I’m turning / My fangs are bloody / My claws are muddy.” The horror unrolls quickly though—at just one minute and fourteen seconds—and then poof, you’re on to the next lively adventure.
The penultimate track, “Hassle in the Castle,” turns the lyrical voice over to a vampire that serves his guests drinks, then gets drunk off their blood. “Well your neck looks so tasty, don’t mind I’ll have a slice / No need to worry, I’ve been vaccinated thrice! / You know I never go outside, it’s really such a hassle / I have all my aperitifs right here inside my castle.” The propulsive rhythms and crazed organ/synth sounds reflect the madness one must feel when getting drunk with Dracula, served up with tight vocal harmonies and a flirty little breakdown section complete with hand claps.
What the Hex Is Going On? finishes off with “No Friend of Mine,” that pushes forward with a repeated ascending hook played on the keys, guitar, and bass simultaneously. Each of the album’s nine songs clock in at under three minutes, and all of them will get you grooving and moving. The band presents their credits with fun aliases: Russ T. Ex (bass & lead vocals), Anky Ex (keys & backup vocals), Johnny Ex (drums & backup vocals), and Justone Ex (guitar), all of whom have played in various NYC bands over the years. There is no doubt that Dr. Ex and the Break-Ups will put on a fantastic live show, and you can catch them at Gold Sounds on Friday June 2 with The Piggies, Donut City, and Momsomnia.
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard a full release from NYC’s Pink Mexico, but like most truly good things, it was worth the wait. We here at Full Time Aesthetic have been following all the noise trailing the band leading up to its release including the music video for the self-unassured “Dungeonhead” (which we premiered on FTA back in April), and follow up singles “Shame” and “Victimhead.”
For those familiar with Pink Mexico over the years, you may notice this is a slightly new direction for the band. Right away in “Hot Air” you can just feel the record opens up way more space in which the sound to exist. Written and performed almost entirely by frontman Robert Preston Collum, there’s a sleepy element here that works wonderfully with their heavy components that are still present, but buried just below the surface. A lot of the record deals with regret and fear, touching upon the absurdities of existence. Collum told New Noise Magazine in their track by track breakdown of the album, “I was in the process of dealing with, or actually finding excuses for some new realities in my life. Progressively ignoring the slow closing jaws of dependency, the fear of failure and the desire to continue on, all of which are overarching themes throughout Mirrorhead.”
My favorite parts here are the less obvious moments. For instance, “Muring Calm” pulls its sound in a little tighter, creating underlying tension against a loaded backdrop of smiles and contentment. “Fuck It I Quit” has such extremely satisfying melody splayed over the relatable feeling of complete and utter despair. Nowhere on Mirrorhead do you find an air of pretense. It’s just straight damn human condition, and that’s what makes this record so damn good. It simply touches upon what it feels like to be a person here on this planet, all wrapped up in a deep fuzzy hug that feels somehow reminiscent of both Smashing Pumpkins and Dandy Warhols but at the same time neither. But it’s that final track “Feeling Normal” where it sounds like the band literally dug out the ground from underneath them and somehow made the sky even go even higher. Mirrorhead feels so much bigger than space it occupies and yet hits like a bullet to your heart in an empty room.
Whether the inspiration is the violence of military states, the hypocrisy of organized religion, or just the wild force of love going always wrong, the Brooklyn-based punk trio Shop Talk heaves and shakes with poetic passion on their debut EP, The Offering (out now on Mon Amie Records). I realize that “poetic” might not be the most common adjective out there to describe punk bands (or even a desired description from the bands themselves sometimes). But Shop Talk’s literary chops— paired with their blistering guitar hooks and their frantic, driving rhythm section—deliver sharp and unapologetic storytelling, where the stakes are often mythic, and the narrator’s heart is almost always hanging out of his ripped open chest, bouncing along on a few tough threads.
The eponymous first song burns creepily bright, like an incantation to a dark power. After a clamor of guitar noise from Jon Garcia, Tristan Griffin’s bass line hypnotizes with slinky zig-zags, and both of them burst into fierce unison vocals: “I’ll set your world alight / with hopes and fears of all the years tonight / creatures of the night / all burning there for you.” Alexander Perelli crashes away on the drums through it all, like a demon afire.
“Black Friar,” the second track, starts out with an insistent bass line, and the guitar rings out under the verse, until the drums really kick in with driving power in the pre-chorus, as the lyrics play with a turn of rhyme that is both playful and disturbing: “and every beatrice is a drip / a bucket of sick / a slip of the lip / draggin’ your brush stroke long.”
“Mirage of Love,” the pre-released single from The Offering, heaves and thrashes, just like the dark waves of the turbulent sea that’s featured in the video for the song. The lyrics run over the roiling ocean imagery, once again putting the band’s talent with words in the foreground: “I’ve searched across the seven seas / i’ve chased each greedy fantasy / la fata she don’t call on me / and she don’t sail for free.” Garcia offered some back story for the track: “The song is loosely based on the legend of La Fata Morgana—a sorceress blamed for luring sailors to their deaths. The narrator knows that the mirage of love ends in catastrophe, but he’s also offended that Morgana hasn’t bothered to seduce him yet. It’s sorta like 53rd and 3rd, really.”
The fourth song and my favorite, “Ramona,” surges with an infectious guitar hook out front in the mix. The moral here seems to be that falling in love with a she-wolf (or a creature of similar ferocity) is a rough road. The lyrics give voice to a desperate guy who will do whatever this lady wants: “I’ll see if you will saw / I’ll abet if you break the law / I’ll see what no one saw / I’ll hear your voice if you come to call.”
The Offering concludes with “Camp Hero,” where the spooky seaside imagery returns, and we learn of sailors being used and abused in the mythic experiment of the USS Eldridge, the song’s inspiration. In 1943, the USS Eldridge sat in the Philadelphia Naval Yard and suddenly glowed with a blue-green light and then disappeared, momentarily showing up in Virginia, and then hours later flickering back to our reality in Philadelphia. The sailors aboard reported various ailments, and the entire affair became known as “The Philadelphia Experiment,” where the US government used its navy as guinea pigs. Although various sources now call the entire thing a hoax, the tale provides fantastic fodder for Garcia’s lyrics: “man make the weather / man make your mind / forward and back again / they’re stressing time / they’re bending time / they’re splitting time.” The trio charges through “Camp Hero” like an electric bolt of twisted energy form clandestine government experiments, and boom! The Offering has run its high octane course in a lean thirteen minutes and change, and you might want to relisten to the fever pitch of the five tracks again. And again. Go ahead. I did.
The world is full of dark creepy forces, and Shop Talk weave the myriad stories found therein into some pretty unique and satisfying punk rock. Long-time Guided By Voices producer Travis Harrison recorded The Offering at his Serious Business Studio in NYC; Harrison and Garcia mixed the EP. Shop Talk will be live at Le Poisson Rouge on June 3 in NYC, supporting Pissed Jeans (w/Carniverous Bells).
According to their bio, Miranda and The Beat formed in true gritty rock and roll fashion: singer Miranda Zipse and drummer Kim Sollecito moved to NYC from small town California, where they shared a bed in an apartment, “giving up all their possessions and sacrificing a tawdry normal existence to lead a true path of illuminated rock n’roll.” They met Dylan Fernandez when he was delivering weed and added him as a Farfisa player; current bassist Alvin Jackson is his little brother, replacing former member Kate Gutwald. Their self titled debut album Miranda and The Beat is imbued with soul, brimming with garage-rock guitar, 60’s psych-tinged organ and funky beats. The overall effect is one of standing in a funhouse, floor tilting underneath and mirrors reflecting back a swirling lava lamp of colors.
The lead track “Sweat” kicks everything off with a slinky, soulful melody that evokes a hot summer night and crowded rooms, and apparently hangover sweats (“all up in my crack.”) The color saturated, out of focus music video pairs perfectly with the song, which sets the tone for the record with Zipse’s frantic guitar and strong voice punctuating the groovy beats.
The follow up single “Concrete” is more of an upbeat, dance-punk number, probably the most head-bopping track to be found here.
The songs on the album have a similar sound but are executed with different moods: “I’m Not Your Baby” and “When Are You Coming Home” slink along with an atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond film, and “Not My Guy” is a waltzy, jangly ballad primed for a slow dance in a near empty club under a twirling mirrorball.
Miranda and The Beat isn’t a long album, clocking in at ten songs with none over four minutes (the shortest, “ODR,” is a 42 second blast of quickly building garage-rock catharsis) and is pretty much the dictionary definition of “all killer, no filler.” The record sounds great too, with mixing and production from Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s easy to follow the line from Miranda and The Beat’s earliest singles like 2018’s “Dont Play Me” to 2020’s “Such A Fool” 7-inch that came out on Third Man, to this full length debut, and see a maturing of their sound and style.