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.

 

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Catholic Girls

Calgary’s Catholic Girls are dirty, spooky, soulful synth-punk personified

CALGARY — “Being in a band is like being in a marriage,” says Erin Jenkins, guitarist and vocalist in Catholic Girls.

“The first part is all fun and puppy-dog love, eventually you move out of that phase and have to work at keeping the magic alive.”

“The magic” being dirty, spooky, soulful synth-punk with a heavy debt to goth and waves both new and dark. Calgary’s very own Catholic Girls, three quarters of whom are boys, might be too young to remember much of the ‘80s, but they’ve got the decade’s queasy mix of populism and idiosyncrasy down. Since forming two years ago from members of just about every Calgary band that wasn’t Tegan and Sara, they have released two EPs of first rate synth-punk: 2014’s Sheila Joined a Cult, which was heavy on the punk, and the excellent April release Psychic Woman, in which the synths come to the forefront.

 

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Cro Mags

Hardcore crossover trailblazers Cro-Mags still living, breathing and fighting

CALGARY — New York in the ‘70s and ‘80s, pre-Giuliani, pre-The Disney Store opening in Times Square, is easy to mythologize. It’s a city where Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle can wish for a rain to wipe the scum off the streets as easily as it is for Woody Allen to worry in Annie Hall (1977) that “the rest of the country looks down upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers.” The skinhead subculture can be composed of devotees of black ska and reggae, or it can be neo-Nazis. Hardcore bands can be muscle-bound, martial arts practicing, straightedge vegan Hare Krishnas.

The latter adjectives, and probably a few more, apply to John ‘Bloodclot’ Joseph McGowan and the legendary hardcore outfit he fronted. Like the city that spawned them, the Cro-Mags are marked by a overabundance of stuff: over 20 musicians that could be called members, whole albums that the current line-up disavows (2000’s Revenge has nothing to do with the band as it stands), a knife attack, songs written by former members picked up and reworked by current members, dozens of aligned and associated acts. It all devolves into round after round of he-said-he-said stretching back to when those involved were children.

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Review: Davila 666 – Pocos Anos, Muchos Danos

The only thing wrong with this album is its timing. I needed this in June, when it was finally warm enough to be on the veranda at Julio’s with a Bulldog (a Corona immersed in a margarita, if you haven’t had the pleasure.) The Puerto Rican seven-piece is pure sunshine, but the kind of sunshine that helps you to start drinking at noon.

They cite the Stooges as an influence, but Iggy and his boys were defined by an ugliness and darkness that’s absent here. The Stooges plus pop hooks isn’t The Stooges, and that’s OK, because the results here are beautiful. There’s a fuzz over it all that you won’t have heard since early Elephant Six recordings, and there’s a sense of fun that’s palpable. Their cover of Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone” is pure joy. Pure, unrefined joy that’ll have you wanting to learn Spanish so that you can sing along.

It’s a shame that despite support slots with the Black Keys and King Khan BBQ Show, Davila 666 won’t gain the recognition that they deserve outside of their own country. The Anglosphere has proven remarkably resistant to anybody not singing in English (Phoenix had to ditch French before they could break through.) Don’t be one of those people. You’ve made it to the end of a short review of a Spanish-speaking band, and with a quick Internet search, it’d be easy to just look up one of their live shows on YouTube or listen to an album on Spotify. Listen to it with the heat turned all the way up.