WT RADIO is back, fuckers!!! Not dead yet. Today we’ve got a highly international mix – opening with the classic fake punk of Ramon Pipin’s ODEURS, then moving to the frozen north with Swedish (best) punk from BfT and MORALENS VAKTARE. Great American garage tunes – quickies from Cheap Time and Unnatural Helpers, as well as a cut from recent favorites VINCAS. Also on there are trips to England with DOWNLINERS SECT and POLAND, with a closing track from Brygada Kryzys(one of the best punk LPs ever ever ever). Listen in wonder!
EndAnd are a Brooklyn 3-piece playing music that lands on the brawnier side of pop. The press info tells me they do ‘Noise Rock/Punk/Power Pop’ that’s ‘disarmingly human’…welp, I’ll give ’em ‘power pop’. I wouldn’t say it sounds like the PIXIES – it’s not willfully dissonant in the way Black Frank & Co. could be, and definitely not as weird. Nor would I say it sounds like GUIDED BY VOICES – though the basement-rock-aspiring-to-arena-glory tone may be there, it’s too put-together, too polished. They definitely don’t sound, as the one-sheet would like me to believe – like the Melvins or Nirvana – who the hell writes these things?
Anyway, the release is split into two halves: “Adventures of HiFi in Space,” which are studio recordings, and “Adventures of LoFi in Space,” a collection of DIY recordings. HiFi comes first, and is comprised of 5 songs. At times, like on “Commando,” the guitar work is interesting, and it’s undeniable that the musicianship on this album is better than the average rock release at this point. Despite its billing as ‘uncompromising’, the album seems very middling. It refuses to move too far in any direction at all, which basically makes it ‘the average rock release.’ It’s tuneful, but not to the point of instantly memorable hooks. It’s muscular, but not to the point of exciting you, or tiring you. It’s noisy, but carefully hemmed in to retain the pop edge – certainly not enough to go up against even a band like Wavves. It’s a very careful balancing act, but by covering all bases at once, it fails to make an impression on any one of those bases.
Fortunately, LoFi fares a little better. Things are more interesting than HiFi almost immediately. The first seconds of “Dawl” introduce a smear of guitar before introducing a track which could legitimately be read as GBV. “Legend” is an acoustic number which follows an ‘unplugged’ type formula, but makes interesting use of tape loops, or hiss, or something, i dunno – point is, the weird bed of sound they lay down is cool. “Sweet” is a short pop track with some nice guitar lines, and “When and There” is a strummer which is fine enough, I guess, but it definitely goes on too long. On the whole, the LoFi half is significantly more redeemable than the HiFi half, but I wish this band would take more risks – the entire endeavor feels a little too safe for me. Given that they were billed as “Noise Rock” and compared to, of all people, Jay Reatard, I was hoping for a little more firepower. Pitchfork will probably like it.
LISTEN/NAME YOUR PRICE: EndAnd Bandcamp
This record comes to us courtesy of the man himself, formerly of the BARE WIRES and the Zygoteens. It’s made of 5 tracks of catchy, jangly powerpop. It’s all really reminiscent of our previous favorites IMPO & THE TENTS – but with the punk end of things dialed down ever so slightly. Things kick off with “Groovy Intuitions,” which feature the big guitars and tinny, punchy drums I love ever so much. Mr. Widener keeps things moving right along with the title track, which is no less catchy, but certainly more efficient, at only about a minute-thirty. Overall, it reminds me of GENTLEMAN JESSE, but a little more exciting, a little more active, and certainly a little more fun.
If Side-A housed the hooky pop-nuggets, Side-B holds the more brittle, jagged numbers. “Enemy Dreams” keeps up with the same pacing, but is more aggressive, more on-edge – ditto for “Slime Walker.” These tunes aren’t quite as memorable as the other side’s, but there are great moments – the yelp and keyboard on “Slime Walker” are fucking awesome. “Groovy Intuitions” may be my favorite here, but they’d all be equally amazing in a live setting. Realistically – no track here is ‘weak’; there’s good ones and better ones. As a whole, this EP offers a lot of things that I really love in music – tunefulness, energy, and economy – Widener doesn’t waste a second of runtime, and this record won’t waste yours.
LISTEN: “Enemy Dreams” on Soundcloud
BUY: Fuzz City Records
Memory Motel are a Reno, NV group, and judging by the name and the test-pattern aesthetic of the cover, you’d think they were a chillwave thing. Fortunately, they’re not – they play a hazy psychedelic pop spiked with electronic elements. This short little 7″ contains only two songs, the first of which is “Wasted Days,” which features spacey keyboards and gentle, chiming guitars. It’s all held together by a pretty cool drum loop – it’s reminiscent of BOARDS OF CANADA, but maybe with the DEERHUNTER guy singing…but imagine that guy didn’t suck so badly. It’s pleasant to listen to, and builds nicely to an actual riff without devolving into a smear of instruments, and without coming off like a gimmick. It’s a pretty solid track.
The B-side is called “Lost Souls”, which doesn’t quite work as well. The guitar part the beginning is built on is really nice, but the keyboards are relied upon too much – it feels about twice as long as it actually is. It feels very, very heavily influenced by Radiohead’s “Exit Music For A Film,” but there’s not quite enough going on here to keep my interest, though the whistling is nice. This band does a good job of mixing electronic elements with non-electronic elements, and knows how to create a lush soundscape, for sure, but with time, the songwriting is sure to get stronger.
Giving Up are made of three musicians who are sad about stuff, but want to be happy – the liner notes inform me that this album is about “being bummed on the social climate and current state of affairs but also being hopefull and positive about it changing, and not just like general worldly peace but also local and intra’peace too.” Oof – high aspirations for any record, let alone a nine-song slab of standard indie-rock/pop along the lines of BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE. They’re sad, but it sounds like the only weapon they’ve got against it is sheer, blind optimism and ‘no-bad-vibes’ mentalities. Admittedly, it’s a little saccharine – not my cup of tea to begin with, but I’m not one to shoot something down out of hand. I guess, as a bitter jaded cynic, I admire the heart-on-sleeve idealism a little, and I’d bet all the members are really, really, really nice people…but I just can’t get into this record.
“Peace Sign/Frown Face” features songs based on guitar and drum, but led by male/female dual vocals, which is probably the biggest obstacle here for me. The female vox are nice enough, but the male have a way of really getting on my nerves – strained, bleating, off-key – I don’t expect a Freddie Mercury performance from everyone, but when the vocals are this up-front and central to an album (almost to the point of shutting out the music), it gets trying. That being said, there are some melodies here, even if they’re presented in a slightly wonky way. Giving Up are one of those bands that tend to write lyrics in complete and grammatically correct sentences, which makes for good lyrics, but for some strange melodies that meander and drift all over the scale – there’s memorable lines here in the lyrics, but good luck humming them in the shower. Tracks like “Blue/Green/Grey” and “Glue, Green Glitter” manage to strike a balance between the wordy lyrics and walkabout melodies, and it’s almost a little catchy. The lyrics alternately work and fail, with equal spectacularity. For every clever line, a song like “Ghosts” is quickly derailed by a spiel about 9/11 being an inside job, and the assassination of the Chilean president in 1973…where’d that come from?
The music has a ramshackle, adorably sloppy sound, but the album itself is gorgeous – sky blue vinyl, a huge hand-painted poster with a nice message from the band – one of the best packaging jobs I’ve seen in a while. I’m sure that a lot of people would really dig this record – I’m just not one of them.
LISTEN/BUY: Sophomore Lounge Records