So yeah, I finally got a real live grown-up job, and I've been using all that extra income to buy records like nobody's business! I'm a 31 year old male that doesn't have a mortgage or kids to worry about, so why the fuck not? I spent most of the last decade being poor as fuck and downloading what passed for hip, current music with regularity, so I've been making up for lost time with gusto. Why not pass it on to you faithful readers?! So here's a new feature on Random Old Records, where I spin all the new records I've bought incessantly and review them all fancy like so you can decide what's worth spending your hard-earned post-recession cash on! I hope you dug the last podcast, because the next one will be out in a week, and it features a ton of new sizzling tracks from the likes of High Tension Wires, Colleen Green, Reading Rainbow, Two Tears, Bare Wires, and Shapes Have Fangs that you can sink your teeth into. As always, thanks for reading and listening, and stay tuned for more hot jams and words to keep you going in this most promising year of 2011!
Gentlemen Jesse & His Men - You've Got The Wrong Man 7"
Gentleman Jesse Smith's debut LP from 2008 was like manna from heaven to real rock n' roll fans who spent the last decade listening to people pimping bozos like Of Montreal as the future of music. I mean, all those neat synthesized, computerized prog-rock moves were cute and all, but what's so wrong with four dudes in a room pounding out instantly catchy hooks on good old-fashioned guitars?! Gentleman Jesse & His Men was like a perfect thirteen track punky power-pop symphony for all the folks like me who are still bummed out about what happened to the Exploding Hearts damn near a decade ago. It was so good that this humble blogger was terrified that the dude had already shot his wad and retired to the land of Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello to wallow in complacency, but without the steady checks earned by coasting on the reputation of being a once angry, tough, and vital singer-songwriter. How the fuck do you follow-up a perfect debut album with that kinda economical weight on your shoulders? Well, in Jesse's case, he's just didn't give a fuck and kept on doin' what he's doin'. I am overjoyed to report that the well is not only not dry, but it is overflowing! He's still infatuated and confused by girls, life, and everything Stiff Records put out in the late '70s, and still backed by razor-sharp rhythms and harmonies. The two tantalizing tracks on this single dig a little deeper into that well, and slip a heaping dose of '60s worship into the mix. A-side "You've Got The Wrong Man" throws up pounding surf rock drums and post-British Invasion Buddy Holly "oh-oh-oh-oh" tricks and sounds like a bunch of leather-jacketed ruffians crashing a beach party.The B-side "Stubborn Ghost" introduces a bunch of Byrds-style jangle riffs and it's infinitely more exciting than some emotional abuse off of Armed Forces or Look Sharp. Remember folks, rock n' roll is supposed to be fun! It's a bunch of emotionally pandering horseshit aimed squarely for your funparts. Really, it's like deep-fried fish sticks and energy drinks for the soul. People get so hung up on being important and current and shit, but no one ever really sits at home on a Friday night and listens to a 45 repeatedly like I just did. It makes me turn loops in my stomach and dance around the room. Really man, just keep on doin' what you're doin'. There's decks and cheeseburgers and bubblegum pop records being played way too loud in the future. This new album had better have a "California Love" on it, goddammit!
Jeffrey Novak - 4 Song Solo EP
(Trouble In Mind, 2011)
This whole one man band thing has gotten out of hand, folks. It's gotten to the point where really good songwriters have forsaken the ugly, schulumpy dudes lugging around basses and drums and reinvented themselves as used carpet salesmen cutting out the middleman. Every time I hear of one man bands, I instantly think of dudes like Todd Rundgren and Emitt Rhodes, sweating over a giant studio and a big-ass mixing board, layering tape over tape, punching the clock, and getting super weird and stupid at 5 AM when the janitor is gently tapping his wrist watch and suggesting that those long-haired weirdos should just pack it in and call it a night already! Jeffrey Novak is cut from the same cloth and knocks out his sing-song semi-songs with casual David Bowie and T. Rex moves like it ain't no thing. Those overly precious basement poppers named Ethan and Dustin don't get it, but this guy does. Most of the time those fellas puke up songs that hover between the peaks of mountains called inconsequential, banal, and stupid, but this 33 RPM 7" is on a whole 'nother level. Jeffrey Novak has spent the last couple years fronting the bratty garage punk band Cheap Time, and has apparently been writing songs like these in his downtime. The whole thing sounds like 50+ years of underground rock n' roll run through the wringer and spit back up in lazy, easily digestible chunks. This guy gets IT, suckas. "The World Of Peter Brown" is like the overly fancy tracks from the Rubble comps rendered in HD, all base and immediate instead of fussed-over and impenetrable. His nasally, put-on British accented voice and killer falsetto carries everything, crystal clear and direct instead of the murky, distorted haze you hear on Cheap Time records. After hearing tons of whiny, shouty, and just plain bad garage rock singers, it's nice to hear a dude that can carry a tune with gusto. And holy shit, "Remember All The Expectations" sounds like a vintage Pavement cut from 1997 boiled down to a thin stew of Steven Malkmus mannerisms and slacker vocal tics. Slap some vintage keyboard sounds on it, subtract the Grateful Dead guitar interplay, and it's a dead ringer. Malkmus even says "dying does not meet my expectations," so it's not much of a stretch to suggest that Mr. Novak was listening to Brighten The Corners back in the day. I swung my fiery sword and vented my spleen at the lord, so what's left?! All I know is that I'm gonna go back and listen to Novak's solo debut After The Ball again religiously and try to tap into that same well of inspiration.
Women In Prison - Strange Waves 7"
I've noticed an alarming trend recently of dudes in beards turning up in punk rock bands. What the fuck is up with that?! This is something that wouldn't have flown in 1977, that's for sure. What's that line? "No Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, or beards in 1977"? Could you imagine Joe Strummer singing about London burning while sporting a big ol' hippie beard? Nah, dawg. I guess the trend started in the late '90s with Hot Water Music, but that shit was essentially arty, gruff Bruce Springsteen-style jazz with double-time beats and heart-on-sleeve emotionalism that cried out for a bunch of facial hair to scream authenticity. But here we are in 2011 with this debut single from Women In Prison, and smack-dab in the center of the cover is a beardy dude in a beanie that would look more at home stomping around a stage in khaki shorts with Drowning Pool or some shit. Unfortunate grooming choices aside, the three tracks on this 7" are a howling throwback to the late 80s when bands like Halo Of Flies and Mudhoney walked the earth, inhabiting a slightly uncomfortable place where post-hardcore punk was about to turn into grunge. I'm talking about that weird twilight world where punk bands didn't want to play hardcore, but weren't willing to admit they were closet classic rock fans yet. So instead they took their cues from Sonic Youth and Big Black and got really noisy and weird to compensate. Everything on this EP is coated in a healthy dose of sludge, the bass is deep, LOUD, and skull-rattling, and the feedback is low and groin-throttling instead of ear-piercingly obnoxious. "Births Of Rot" in particular sounds like a prime outtake from Superfuzz Bigmuff, with snarly shouting reverb vocals, grinding, screeching noise guitars, and drums that do their damndest to punch a hole through your speaker cones. The opening track "Strange Waves" is more of a straight-up punk rock banger, and the flipside "Circles & Circles" sounds like it should have been released on Touch & Go in 1988. These Austin dudes get punk points for having names like Booger, Dr. Fill, John Bondage, and Tim Pimple, but too bad about that beard though, man. Joey Ramone would be spinning in his grave, for real.