fail

On the laptop, an isometric view of a one-bedroom flat. Two figures, human in all the ways that mattered, moved between the three rooms, regarding the objects placed for them and exuding thought bubbles.

I got that when it came out,” I said. “It seemed interesting at first, but I never really got in to it though. Is that us?”

Yep. Carrie and Nathan in miniature. I don’t think that we’re exactly right-”

I’m nowhere near that thin, for example.”

Well they’re kind of idealised.”

Mine was. It had perfect posture and wore a button-up shirt. It moved from the kitchen-diner to the bathroom like doing so meant something, anything at all, like it wasn’t on some repeating cycle with a touch of randomisation to keep things interesting until new stimuli appeared. Carrie’s homunculus skittered nervously, upturning cups, taking them to the fold-out table then returning them to the drawer. It wondered aloud about the lack of food in the fridge and asked plaintively to be entertained. Carrie made it have the idea to go to the shops and get a magazine to read.

 

Available in Lighthouse Magazine issue 8, available here

Strange Wilds - Subjective Concepts

Strange Wilds – Subjective Concepts

A seven-letter Sanskrit word beginning with the letter ‘N’ is going to haunt Sub Pop for a long time, colouring listeners’ perceptions of otherwise fine bands like Strange Wilds. A trio from Olympia, Washington, Strange Wilds play dark, faintly menacing and yet still hook-laden post-hardcore, fulfilling their label-mates and predecessor’s (who shall not be named) promise to combine “Black Sabbath with The Knack.”

There are other elements in the mix: Refused’s mix of muscular riffs that drop into verses where the emphasis is squarely on the political message of the vocals, Cloud Nothing’s affected snotty vocals, Hot Snakes/Drive Like Jehu’s restless time-shifting. At its heart though, Subjective Concepts is out to do the same trick as a certain other Washingtonian three-piece: take genres that the mainstream can’t stomach and sweeten them until they’re pop. That’s a worthy goal; it’s why many of us got into alternative music in the first place. Strange Wilds are closer to punk than they are to punk that can be mistaken for pop, and it’s good to see anyone tackle the Pacific Northwest’s thorny, storied musical heritage, even if there was more to it than the one big name. As it stands they’re not a band to get excited about just yet, but the potential is there. Keep an eye on them.

 

Read more at Beatroute

Iron Kingdom – Ride for Glory

Ah, the sounds of clashing blades and pounding hooves at the start of a traditional metal song. Young but startlingly accomplished Canadians Iron Kingdom choose to launch the sixth song on their third album with this genre staple, as sure a sign as singer Chris Osterman’s falsetto that these kids are for real.

Their days as Canada’s Got Talent contestants are behind them, and all true metal fans have sworn upon the replica swords they keep atop David Eddings [or Robert E. Howard or George R. R. Martin or J.R.R Tolkien] filled bookcases that they will speak of it no more. Iron Kingdom also evidence higher production values all round, even on their album cover (the artwork for their 2013 album Curse of the Voodoo Queen was frankly embarrassing for a few reasons). “Ride for Glory” features stories of ancient warriors both European (“Lief Erickson,” “A Call to Arms”) and from further afield (Vietnamese folk-hero Lady Trieu or Japan’s Samurai.)

 

Read more at Beatroute

health - death magic

HEALTH – DEATH MAGIC

DEATH MAGIC by all-caps all-the-time avant-gardists HEALTH begins with the kind of electronic bass sounds that appear in film trailers to show us that a hundred million dollar movie about robots punching each other is very serious business. The remainder of the album is what would happen if new-wave synth-pop was played with the aesthetics of metal: maximum volume, no limit on distortion, drum work more intricate than a Gaudi cathedral.

There are moments on DEATH MAGIC that sound like Duran Duran and moments that sound like Lightning Bolt, coupled with hard trance and atonal noise, sometimes within the same song. Compared to earlier releases they’ve turned down the guitars and turned up the electronica, so that some songs (like mid-album Pet Shop Boys-gone shoegaze track “Dark Enough”) could potentially be played somewhere very fancy, with a lot of chrome, at least for a while. “Life” is positively accessible, anthemic in a very “Pumped Up Kicks” way (you know, the ubiquitous Foster the People song). Compared to the album’s more abrasive moments this chill-out room whimsy feels like a misstep. They’re redeemed by tracks like the nihilistic dancefloor album and lead single “New Coke” (sample lyric: ‘let the guns go off/let the bombs explode/let the lights go dark/life is good.’)

 

Read more at Beatroute

deaf wish - pain

Deaf Wish – Pain

Listening to Pain will make you appreciate how much a front-person anchors a band. Each member of Deaf Wish gets a turn behind the microphone, resulting in an album that sounds at times more like a compilation than a cohesive statement. As compilations go though, this is up there with the first mix-tape your ex gave you.

The band’s sound lies squarely in the nastier side of punk: from The Stooges through to Sonic Youth (the tracks “Sex Witch” and “On” are pure Kim and Thurston respectively), The Birthday Party and The Fall. It’s all very ‘Grown Up:’ no cheap hooks, no easy grab at the listener’s attention. Yes, it’s accomplished and mature, but it can come off as po-faced and self-serious, even a little staid. Everything here works and nothing stands out as an obvious misstep, but without the ugliness and weirdness of the bands that inspired it, Deaf Wish ultimately ends up sounding safe.

 

Read more at Beatroute

Chapman Brothers Hell

Art So Brutal It Had to Burn: The Hellscapes of Jake and Dinos Chapman

There wasn’t a whole lot of good art coming out of the UK in the nineties. The landscape was dominated by the YBAs – the Young British Artists, mostly graduates of the posh Goldsmiths college, all of them very comfortable with self-promotion and massive quantities of cocaine. Some of the art they made was striking, some of it was at bestmemorable, but real capital-A art was thin on the ground – unless it was being made by Jake and Dinos Chapman.

Born in Hastings, the same grimy seaside town as Aleister Crowley, since 1991 the Chapman Brothers have bought and defaced original Francisco Goya prints, they have cast 69-ing sex dolls in bronze, they have fused genitalia to the noses of children’s mannequins, they have exhibited authentic watercolors by one Adolf Hitler of Munich, Bavaria, covered in asinine hippie symbols. They’ve been called provocateurs, accused of having nothing to offer beyond cock-noses and a weird fetish for Ronald McDonald and his friends, and they’ve been labelled ‘anti-enlightenment.’ That is, they’re against the two-hundred year-old intellectual movement that has meant that being burnt as a witch and leeches being used for medicinal purposes isn’t much of a concern any more.

 

Read more at CVLTNATION

napalmpom and public animal

Party starters Napalmpom and Public Animal wax poetic on blood, touring, the MC5 and pizza

CALGARY — Shawn Petsche of Napalmpom on Public Animal: “Oh, it’s the kind of rock and roll I love. There are huge riffs and it’s heavy and (Public Animal guitarist and vocalist) Ian Blurton’s guitar tone is just thick and musical, so it’s not just muddy and distorted. There are trade-off vocals, male and female that make every other rock band a little jealous.”

Ian Blurton of Public Animal on Napalmpom: it’s “HOT SHIT ROCK AND ROLL!”

Blurton has been playing alternative, independent music since the members of Napalmpom were infants. The flagship alternative/genre-melding act Change of Heart kickstarted his musical career in the ‘80s. The bands he has since played in and produced (far more than can be listed here) have influenced contemporary Canadian music in a thousand ways. He currently fronts and plays guitar for Toronto quartet Public Animal, a kind of meta-rock ‘n’ roll, omni-genre act that swirls together stoner-glam guitars, gospel church organs and Sabbathian levels of heaviness.

 

Read more at Beatroute

Twin Shadow

R’n’B outsider Twin Shadow aims for stadium success

CALGARY — There are things you ‘simply don’t do’ when you have unlimited artistic freedom. You don’t put yourself on your album covers because it’s all about the music. You don’t put too much of yourself in the lyrics and you hand-wave away questions about them by saying that they’re “up for interpretation.” You don’t, for the love of God and everything holy, go and work with Urban Outfitters or voice an imaginary DJ in a Grand Theft Auto game. You don’t collaborate with Levi’s Jeans, remix Lady Gaga or license your music to New York Fashion Week runway shows. You don’t contribute the standout track of your new album to a schmaltzy teen romance movie (Paper Towns, starring Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff, is in theatres now). You’re an artist, you’re free to do anything those anonymous Internet commentators and record company committees approve of.

Nobody told Twin Shadow, a.k.a. George Lewis Jr., these unspoken “rules,” or perhaps he doesn’t give a proverbial shit because he is an artist. He slips between the worlds of indie and pop so effortlessly he’s carved out a unique, difficult place for himself in modern music. It feels strange to refer to somebody as clearly on the inside of popular culture as Lewis as an “outsider,” even when his biker jackets and (now abandoned) Morrissey croon ‘n’ quiff scream it, but Lewis is alone. He seems to want it all, commercial success and artistic integrity, either because of an outsize ego (as his critics allege) or because he’s far enough removed to be able to ask “why can’t pop be art? Why can’t art be commercial?”

 

Read more at Beatroute