Posted on 12 September 2012 by Bowlegs
When we got the heads up from Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier it was along the lines “don’t expect a bunch of Grammy®-baiting sob stories, OK”. OK Greg, we kinda guessed that might be the case. Yet Greg’s words also speak for the Deerhoof mindset – a clear fatigue with the mainstream river of musical shit that flows far too freely around the radio stations, internet and television. And yes the new Deerhoof record is a playful rebellion; it’s also a shake and dance of various rhythmic flavours with a payload of imagination.
The title track opens with a distorted guitar stifled by an intermittent straight jacket, a random beat and of course the sweetly leftfield delivery from vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki. I can hear a few words about breaking up, but if someone’s heart is broken it has clearly been swiftly patched up with slices of wonky pop perfection.
There is a Cuban influence that randomly swings through the set, like in the final seconds of There’s That Grin for instance. Other tracks blip and trip like your game console just got a mind of its own, check Bad Kids To The Front .
Yet the standout moments include the funk-drenched backbeat that is Flower, a track that has Matsuzaki finding a hook and going with it on every refrain that passes by. We Do Parties is a stuttering rock-pop run that feels loose and excited by the band’s constant air of musical freedom. And closer Fete D’Adieu is simultaneously magical, pretty and basically a Deerhoof masterclass.
Deerhoof’s latest ably snuggles up to the long line of invention the three-piece have been creating for the last eighteen years. Who needs a Grammy® when the music clearly speaks for itself.
Posted on 29 May 2012 by Bowlegs
Not ones to dodge accusations of hubristic ambition, Christian Beaulieu of Triclops! and The Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala have joined forces to create an album of acoustic, raga-inspired psychedelia. With the addition of Mike Watt on bass and vocalist Rachel Fannan they are Anywhere, and there’s something very odd and very very good about their debut.
If the title of opener Pyramid Mirrors puts you in mind of Battles you wouldn’t be far wrong. It’s a layered instrumental of acoustic polyrhythms and while not representative of the rest of the album it’s a striking start. But it’s from second track Rosa Rugosa that things start to come together. Twangy western guitars, doomy bass, touches of glockenspiel and simple, stuttery drums underpin Fannan’s beautiful layers of harmonies in a way that’s a lot more coherent and convincing than you’d expect from an experimental collaboration. Dead Golden West, another track featuring Fannan’s vocals, is similarly ethereal and affecting, pushing into Gregorian chant territory in places.
For those that still crack out At The Drive-In for a noise hit, Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s contribution is cause for excitement, and with the title track Anywhere seem to have created the first credible acoustic post-hardcore song. The drums and guitars have a syncopated pulse that’s familiar from ATD-I and The Mars Volta, and while the vocals are fairly restrained and melodic they fit the music in a way that could have fallen flat in less talented hands. As with all seven tracks here, it’s a lengthy-ish workout rather than a snappy punk song, but is focused and never self-indulgent.
So where would this album sit in your record collection? It’s hard to say. It’s not a retro effort but it also doesn’t sound particularly contemporary. Calling it competent wouldn’t be dismissive; they’ve set out to explore acoustic music with the twin influences of open tuned raga and dusty bordertown Americana and made something intriguing and beautiful.
Posted on 20 March 2012 by Bowlegs
Tall Firs previous record, 2009’s Too Old to Die Young, was effortlessly scuffed and awkward – the J Mascis-like whine; the flirtations with alt-rock via a percussive spread and scuzzy guitar sounds. And while it may not have set the world alight, it certainly had something.
Whatever that something was the New York duo have opted not to put it down this time round. Instead they’ve decided to work on fine-tuning and polishing their semi-folk guitar riffs, half-heartedly attempting to throw a melody into the mix while they’re at it.
If you haven’t already fallen by the wayside – or become comatose – then I Couldn’t See It In Your Face is the tipping point. Slide guitars and softly softly plucked strings breathe in and out as the vocals follow. It’s like being rocked to sleep by a particularly dull babysitter.
There is nothing here that even comes close to engaging the listener – believe me, I’ve given it a good go. Yeah they’ve worked on some nicely entwined guitar-play – Axeman is testament to that. In fact, if they release an instrumental version it might make for a nice soundtrack to my Sunday morning.
Whole Thing is Over is probably the finest moment – finally the sparse downer we’ve been on makes a little sense. The tapping rhythm is effective and the whispered harmonies finally find a suitable tune in which to deliver their words. We even get the scuzzy guitars back!
Tall Firs have made a record that will fade into the background long before it plays out – the final track’s title is probably the best way to finish up: Loss for Words.
Posted on 27 January 2011 by Bowlegs
Surely when you get to album number eleven the ideas are wearing thin, the passion is waning and the whole writing a new album thing is just a chore? Not if you are part of the wonky, inventive and tireless group we know as Deerhoof.
In fact Bowlegs is happy to proclaim ‘Deerhoof Vs Evil’ as one of our favourite records the band has created … period. The shapes don’t fit the holes in the world of Deerhoof; we just can’t squeeze any of these songs in our pigeon holes. They keep turning our heads in all sorts of strange directions. Hear singer Satomi Matsuzaki coming to the rescue on ‘Super Duper Rescue Heads’, her voice as much an instrument as the chameleon guitars. The band beat joyfully, for a minute at least, the change of course soon becomes a mass of bends and crashes.
‘Secret Mobilization’ kicks into overdrive, rock style – yet changes appearance with the intro of Matsukzaki’s repeating vocal line, the fuzzy organ and gear- jammed rhythm. Opening an album with a track sung in Catalan, ‘Qui Dorm, Només Somia’ – while playing with stumbling guitars and a prog rock opening – is a band more than comfortable in their inventive skins. The group did in fact leave their San Francisco safety zone to record the album, self-engineering, producing and mixing a set that somehow manages to stay on a melodic track while being completely off-track.
The crazed veterans rein in the mayhem at the right time, juggling a selection of sweet and soft vocals, acoustic passages, guitars that refuse to sit still and a hatful of tempos. Album eleven? This could be album one hundred and eleven – Deerhoof are not keeping count and nor are we. WB
Posted on 11 February 2010 by Bowlegs
For two decades, and then some, Built to Spill have been forging their own brand of
unashamed guitar wig out/garage/proto grunge style splendour. There has been talk that two or three releases in the early 2000s saw them struggling in the self-indulgent wilderness. To Bowlegs this surely equates to one bad day in the office in the world of musical longevity. ‘There Is No Enemy’ sees band founder and protagonist, Doug Martsch, throwing his ideas and spirit into the studio and letting the band pick them up and turn them into a joint vision. If you are new to BTS, this is one hell of a way to discover them.
They are probably responsible for influencing some of your favourite bands. If by chance you havenʼt heard them, then, you deserve to hear them, and no doubt about it, they deserve to be heard by you. ʻAisle 13ʼ kicks things off with aplomb, combining overdriven shuffle with a whimsical J Mascis come Neil Young style vocal. Shimmering, harmony guitars and well executed production nuances come quick and easy on tracks such as ʻNowhere Lullaby’ and ʻPatʼ, while ʻLifeʼs A Dreamʼ is a consummate lesson in epic, slow-burn joy, where a three guitar assault never becomes vulgar or prolonged and ethereal vocals stay just on the right side of la la land.
Lyrically Martsch keeps it vague and thus open to interpretation. The listener almost feels part of the process. Barbed lines will occasionally snag you; ‘Stay out of my nightmares, stay out of my dreams/Youʼre not even welcome in my memories’, is a point in case on the drifting ʻPlanting Seedsʼ, a rambling gem complete with wah wah guitar and lonesome trumpet.
This could be a prelude to another bad day at the office. Who Cares? Not us.
Posted on 25 November 2009 by Bowlegs
Labelled Post Rock by many, Apse’s previous album ‘Spirit’ was filled with dark sombre moments and ambient passages, latest offering, ‘Climb Up,’ opts for new territory. The opener ‘Blown Doors’ is aptly titled, with a driving tribal march breaking early for a beating bass drum, but it’s Bobby Toher’s high pitched voice that signals a move from the band’s beaten track. The filtered effect and circling melody could almost be a dance sample, which may leave Apse fans a little bemused. Next up is ‘3:1’, sat firmly in rock territory, with a heavy ‘Doolittle’ type bass line and big stadium guitars; the singer’s voice is virtually unrecognisable through an array of effects. But it is the chorus that lifts the song from the non-descript. Harmonies and long melancholic notes stream through a dance driven beat; thus becoming one of the more memorable moments. The record is openly intent on engulfing rock, dance grooves, the experimental, and most importantly, using Toher’s voice a lot more than before. If this all sounds optimistic, that’s because it is; although it does fall short on many occasions. ‘Rook’ is fast paced, guitar driven music, ‘Lie’ is Radiohead on a grander scale. (But the acoustic style of ‘In Gold’ is a highlight of the album.) Whilst they may have turned their back on the long atmospheric periods spread throughout ‘Spirit’, their natural talent for the cinematic is still intact and put to effective use on various tracks. Title track ‘Climb up’ is the penultimate effort. Here we find Toher at his vocal best, when not pushed through distortion or other effects, opening a door the band will hopefully open again in the future. This is a beat heavy and broad record, nothing carried out half-heartedly; but it is the slower, less aggressive parts that really stand out; especially when stood next to some of the bigger outings.
Posted on 13 November 2009 by Bowlegs
The Fuck Buttons released their debut ‘Street Horrrsing’ only last year, an experimental album which accommodated mainstream elements, this seemingly lured the less committed listeners to their underground vision.
Bustling amongst the noise were occasional beats, distorted vocals and moments of filmic beauty (hear ‘Sweet Love for Planet Earth) the record was varied in it’s approach.
Now, the new album ‘Tarot Sport’ sees them honing their sounds through a more singular vision; previous single ‘Bright Tomorrow’ could be deemed the template.
There is little time for hesitance; it is, after all, 58 minutes of epic passages, with noise streaming through every opening, the cinematic depth constantly encouraged by the relentless beats.
Opening track ‘Surf Solar’, builds slowly, but once in full flow it doesn’t let up for it’s remaining 8 minutes, like a trance remix of an M83 track; an anthem for the indie fan who can no longer deny their partiality to thumping dance records.
‘Rough Steez’ has the duo’s familiar broken notes of distorted noise; the pitchbending keyboards and shuffling rhythm, which sound so ominous during the opening half, but take on a different feel when entwined amongst later stirring waves of sound.
‘Olympians’ jumps from high pitch beauty to long monotone drones; the continous falling drums never swaying from their fast rigid pattern.
Every track may have similar ingredients, yet they vary in structure, each using their own unique tack to lull you into their wall of sound.‘Phantom Limb’ stands alone with its more uncompromising and aggresive instrumentation, a reminder that this is The Fuck Buttons we are dealing with here.
Maybe the presence of producer Andrew Weatherall has nudged them into a more focused mindset, or maybe they simply wanted to make a multi layered dance record.
Whatever their reasons, this is some of the most engaging music you will hear all year