As 2009 comes to a close, The House List’s writers and photographers (and editor) take a look back at the year that was. Check back tomorrow for our year-end photo gallery.
My Top Five 7″ Tour Singles
I’ve always loved that for the price of a drink, bands sometimes go the extra distance for their tour and press 7″ vinyl that you really can’t get anywhere else but at the merch table.
1. Times New Viking/Axemen, Tour Single
I love Times New Viking’s no-fi melodic messiness, and they save the great experimental stuff for their B-sides. I got this at their Mercury Lounge show. That it was a split with New Zealand legends the Axemen was even better. Only later did I find out each band covered the other’s songs and they hand-colored every copy! It’s that combination of paying homage to this influential band and introducing people through their reinterpretations that makes this an easy No. 1.
3. Black Dice, “Chocolate Cherry” Tour Single
Black Dice have just a handful of singles from quite a few years ago, so when I saw them at The Bowery Ballroom, I was just looking out of habit. But this unlabeled single ended up being from Catsup Plate, which put out the insane Animal Collective LP box set this year. Both unreleased tracks were a departure—almost funk and with recognizable vocal samples! Truly weird.
4. Make a Mess Records, “Brilliant Colors” Single
I went to see Nodzzz and Wavves at the Underground Lounge on the Upper West Side. I managed to talk to Eric Butterworth from Nodzzz, who had just pressed a single on his label, Make a Mess Records. This ended up being one of my favorites of the year. Simple, stripped-down female-fronted No Wave punk pop.
5. The Balkans, “C++” Tour Single
I caught the Balkans at a new space in Brooklyn called Little Field. Woody Shortridge had pressed a single-sided 7″ at home, and I had to see it for myself. He pours them in his apartment and you get a really crazy-looking handmade single with the lowest of low-fi sound. And it helps that the track is great too. —Jason Dean, writer
In what’s likely to be remembered as one of the best Dallas shows of ’09, Los Angeles’ Health and Ohio’s Times New Viking will share a bill in town before heading off to Austin for Fun Fun Fun Fest. And, for each of these acts, 2009 has already been a good year. For Times New Viking, 2009 has seen the band release its second post-Stiltbreeze Records album on Matador. Health, meanwhile, released Get Color as a follow-up to the band’s brilliant 2007 self-titled debut. And since both bands’ records have garnered enough positive reviews that they seem destined to pop up on many a best-albums-of-the-year list, it’s fitting that the show would also feature a local act of the same caliber.
To help open the show, show promoter Parade of Flesh has booked Denton‘s Teenage Cool Kids, which has just returned to the region after a three-month international tour in support of Foreign Lands—the band’s best work to date and a clear front-runner for best local release of 2009.
All three acts are known for their unforgettable, kinetic live shows, so the bill’s already an explosive powder keg of a night even without adding Kiwi-pop/punk act Axemen.
Times New Viking – The Lounge on Elm St – Dallas 06 Nov 2009
Great night of live music at the Lounge on Elm Street in Dallas. Parade of Flesh presented Health, Times New Viking, The Axemen, and Teenage Cool Kids. Times New Viking was kind enough to do a post show photo session.
…Then two days later I made it out to The Lounge on Elm, which is becoming one of the better local venues for good punk/garage/psych underground happenings, all three genres The Axemen embody every aspect of without even trying. They’re just naturally weird. I was shocked to find that they and Times New Viking had piggybacked onto Health’s bill at The Lounge. Auckland’s Axemen are living legends and a first wave Flying Nun band to boot. Lead guitarist Bob also has an amazing indie pop type band named Shaft that you probably ought to hear sometime if you like your 3Ds and Clean records. The Axemen are an altogether more skewed and scuzzier garage art punk slop concoction closer in line with earlier PereUbu, Public Image Limited and New Zealand’s own Scorched Earth Policy, though you could say that The Axemen have an even more absurdist wit than all of the above. Just wrap your ears around the Siltbreeze reissued Scary: Part III 2Lp to try and figure it all out. It’s ugly. It’s beautiful. It just might make you piss your pants. Live these old goats kick out a raucous punk snarl that had me thinking Stooges one second, Beefheart and Wire simultaneously the next. Absolutely pummeling stuff that sounds right at home in the state of The 13th Floor Elevators and Red Crayola. Times New Viking tore it up as well with what amounts to probably the best gig I’ve seen by them to date…
“Nutsack” was written in Los Angeles by Dragan Stojanovic & Bob Brannigan October 2009, inspired by Ice Cube rapping about his nutsack and busting a nut
blasting out of our KIA sound system on the LA freeways, oh and seeing squirrels in the parks all over USA, and the fact we lived out of nutsacks from Wholefoods for 5 weeks on our 7,000 mile tour.
Kawowski videoed the event and pounded the skins while McCabe added his two-bit guitar part, as WFMU’s Brian Turner, Jason Sigal and Alex Yockey provided the lads with a fantastic opportunity to record a snapshot of a typical set from their recent US tour while they were in New York in November 2009. An inspiration to lovers everywhere.
There’s always something unimaginably comforting about heading home for Thanksgiving (or for that matter heading home on any number of select weekends throughout the year). But the gluttony and relaxation that persists on this particular holiday can not be overlooked.
As soon as I turn right off of I-75 and roll past the Waffle House and “hillbilly rifle outlet,” I feel like I’ve entered a virtual safe zone, a hermetically sealed environment filled with naps by the fire and limitless liquor – all with none of the annoyances and stress inducers of “real” life. I could honestly do it every weekend if allowed. For me, it’s my wind-back. It’s not getting older or lazier or becoming less of a patron of the arts. It’s the opposite – naturally removing the over-stimulation of bustling “city” life from my horizon line. So arriving at Peters and High (Elliott Manor) for this year’s turkey trough was met with hesitation, as we’d be hosting four lads from New Zealand known as Axemen.
I wasn’t as much worried about their settling into to a quintessential suburban ritual, as I was anxious how my parents might react to having America’s collector scum wet-dream tour (add one drummer from TNV to the mix) make a two-day stop in Troy.
I shouldn’t have had any reservations. Patti and Jeff should get a medal for their hosting abilities. I never knew how liberal my parents actually are (now only if they’d align that mentality with their politics) until I saw them nurturing a gluten free meal for ol’ Dragan. But I digress.
If you’re looking for tragic tales of drunken tirades and streaking through the town square or foul-mouthed kiwis looting the curio cabinet and tagging the doilies with pen knives – you aren’t going to find it here. Axemen are gentlemen. And though they may not be used to our ultra-consumer, warm and fuzzy, football coma shenanigans, they fit right in as adopted Elliotts.
If so anti-climatic, then why the post? Well, it was the well of anomaly that occurred at Troy, Ohio’s pre-eminent 18-35 yr. old hangout, The Brewery, the night before, which prompted this rant. Beyond simply wanting to tie one on in downtown Troy, beyond meeting up with an absent Justin Smith, beyond even the slightest want of nostalgic conversation with past peers whom I have nothing to converse, was a triple bill of Miami County’s finest “music.” Even then, the event of the week at the bar “everyone” goes to was pretty much split between dated booty music (first floor) and townie hard-lucks (second floor) and hardly a soul in the room with the stage, and the real instruments, and the performers. Still, it was a oddly intriguing trio of bands, going from karaoke rural gangsta’ rap to two-man Ween influenced mayhem, to standard issue thrash-emo-speed metal sludge.
Low Budget was first, featuring some kid who used to play basketball with my bro at the Lincoln Center back in the early ‘90s, replete with two hype men. They wore t-shirts emblazoned with Low Budget (were those made at the Troy Sports Center?) and hats reading the same. I thought the name was clever and their rhymes mighty inventive for what seemed like freestyle over the Ipod. In fact it reminded me most of another swang “low” duo from Cali, Low Profile, who went on to become W.C. and the Maad Circlen (a personal favorite). It did get tiresome, overwrought, and something I was happy stopped before it was too late. While I encourage all hip-hop troupes trying to make it in small town America (Teenage Soldiers R.I.P.), I would have liked to have seen them add some regional flavor to their oeuvre. I don’t know exactly what that would entail. In Columbus it’s a working-man, blue-collar, everyone’s invited atmosphere – so would this be sub-Columbus, or even sub-Springfield? I bet the gangsters thrive in Piqua. Explore there. Where’s Shane Darner when you need him?
Next up was the biggest surprise of the night. Electric Banana hail from Dayton, but seem to play most of their gigs at various submarine houses around Troy. Like the Weens, Chromeos, and Party Dreams that have come before them – most of what they do is borne of goofing and can only elicit good times, no heavy-handed criticism here. I’m sure if I were privy to the inane lyrics (I’m sure I heard “pussy” mentioned more than thrice) I wouldn’t have been as thrilled, and if they weren’t serving up PBR tallboys (just like home) I probably wouldn’t be expounding about their simple genius – but both factors were in place and the antics of Jimmy Spade, the mohawk-clad frontman of the two, made for a stellar evening. It was rudimentary funk worship and novel hip-hop in a stoner metal package, but they played it to perfection, knew how to work the “crowd” and had catchy melodies to off-set any whiff of scatology. I want them to come to Columbus, soon.
The last band of the evening could be wrapped up in one song. Through an Ocean of Plagues do what they do well, do it tight, and do it frenetic…..but I wasn’t in any kind of mood after the insanity of Electric Banana. I mean, c’mon, how you can take a band like this seriously? From their one sheet:
The phrase “Through an Ocean of Plagues” metaphorically describes the route humanity takes on its journey to self-destruction. Civilization evolves by consuming and destroying, usurping its power through the contamination and eventual erasure of its competitors. Rather than coexisting, Nature is enslaved, dissolved, and forgotten. Such is the legacy of future generations, once humankind has siphoned the last of the Earth’s resources. Without a target for destruction, we turn our sights to our own demise.
This rural Ohio quintet addresses these issues, translating the impending onslaught of disease, war, and social deconstruction into a medium by which they may express their opinions. The music is brutal, though it still retains a melodious quality meant to remind the listener that social harmony is lost but not forgotten. The live performance of the music parallels its subject matter, brutally portraying the bands frustration and outrage.
I did overhear the lead singer at 3 AM telling his friend he was headed home to “get fucked and fucked,” which I can only assume means he was continuing his quest for drugs and sex. So that was entertaining. But with all of this music, the highlight of the evening? — HUGH KELLY, smartest man on earth.
But this was all about Axemen, right? Goodness. They played the Friday after the gorging in Columbus.
I’m a bit out of words to go on and describe them, but it’s likely they showed a few “shitgaze” (sic) signifiers throughout their entire set of crust blues and the purest of kiwi protest/prank garage rock – but it all had the guise of a professional band playing like it was the last show of the tour.
This is how you do it. Release the Three Virgins already. I don’t have it yet. Three [3??? – LSM] of the most delightful men I’ve ever had the chance to meet.
Here’s hoping it gets this hopping over Christmas.
Title: Scary! Part III
Long known underground stars from New Zealand, The Axemen are now gaining some well-deserved notoriety here in the States thanks to one of our finest labels, Siltbreeze. Tom Lax has again exhibited sterling musical sense in [repressing – sic.] – re-pressing “Scary! Part III” and “Big Cheap Motel.”
And while it’s not an easy task trying to pin down their sound, especially considering the variety of their entire discography (much less the territorial span of music on this release), I’ll give it a shot.
On my first listening, I immediately drew a comparison to Royal Trux, but that was basically drawn from the majority of vocals on the record, featuring some of the coolest, junked-out vox either before or after the Trux hit the scene.
From the get-go, the song “Heart Bullet” features some insanely fucked up vocals and word play. Unlike a lot of New Zealand music, the vocals are uncharacteristically mixed up and not buried in the instrumentation. It kind of paradoxically makes the voice seem like another instrument—I’m at a loss finding (other than Herrema) anyone to compare the vocals to while maintaining any real dignity. Suffice it to say that they’re easily in the upper echelon of all rock vox, and it’s continued across both wunnerfuly screwed tracks on the double LP set.
Though the music is varied, you never get the feeling that the album was thrown together as pieces. As incoherent and absurd as it is, the record has a marvelous cohesion, at times overtly a downer, such as the track “10 Miles (as the crow flies)” and other points like the near-sinister, hardcore influenced “Join the R.A.F.”
It’s near-put impossible to fix these fellers into any genre, and that’s a damn good thing. Not only that, it’s a fucking difficult thing to pull off convincingly, yet the Axemen do so with, well what’s the write word, grace? How about ‘instinct?’ That seems more apropos. It’s an instinct which speaks more to an overall aesthetic than does it any attempt to play this or that style of music.
This one of the strangest records ever sludged to wax, and it’s caused that compulsive collector in my to try and track down any and all of their recordings, which, from what I’ve read, is going to be a formidable task. This is no surprise since they formed around 1981 and have recorded pretty consistently since, and even through the broad spectrum of music the venerable Flying Nun label have pressed over the years, The Axemen stand totally on their own. Flying Nun wasn’t their only label over the years—there have been several, but as an American touchstone, it’s appropriate to mention them as one of the better-known imprints to bring up.
All I can tell you is that, even on this one double LP, influences include American hardcore and DIY, Beefheart (though nothing obvious springs to mind at the outset), a sort of Zappaesque sense of humor, bizarre synth music, employ of loops and on and on.
The Axemen are their own entity. The only downside to this is that it took so long for an American pressing to go down. I’ve heard that they’ve met with largely great critical press on their recent tour of the U.S. One can only hope that it continues and that we see them again very soon.
So the Axemen finally make it to the United States to tour, and one of the local weeklies lists them as “Axeman.”
Nobody who’s in a position to know has influence enough to care. Tom Lax coulda bought a very decent used car with the ca$hola he’s sunken into this beyond-insane reissue program for New Zealand’s most divisive band – even so far as to have dug up two never-heard-‘em cassettes for the introductory offers, guaranteed to chase away even seasoned listeners.
Lifting up out of the muck that was Big Cheap Motel, this four-sider thankfully doesn’t give way to clarity, though some would claim it’d give birth to Blankdoggin’, as few of the ‘90s lo-fi oligarchy would have touched a synth or a sampler, let alone subjected them to the levels of abuse that Stevie McCabe offers up all over here.
Approximately 150 people will hear a serious Dirty Faces connection to the flotsam here; more will liken it to Royal Trux in their scum/disassociative phase, and that’s fine.
Here was – and is – a band that is continually in protest mode, against common sense if not a social or political cause … fuck, one of their auxiliary members drove his ride into the glass doors of the Kiwi tax office, and from all accounts, he’s free to walk on American soil as I write this. Does anyone in New Zealand want to swap places with me?
I’ve heard too many good things and am ready to throw away my life in the USA. This 1989 release is nothing but endless ur-jammin’ on some rudimentary melody, jive talkin’ monologue, screechin’ and sneerin’, occasionally stumbling onto a higher truth and really just content to slag off anyone that comes near it.
You don’t have to like it, or even respect it, because it was made to chase you and everybody else away. I respect that Lax puts out a pop record the likes of the Mantles or Eat Skull, but isn’t afraid to keep truckin’ in the weirdness like this charcoal nug. Still waiting on Three Virgins, and more eloquent thoughts from Wood Beez. (http://www.siltbreeze.com)
The other night I was told, that since I have never left the country I know nothing about what constitutes good taste. I was also told that I was a loser for listening to Pavement. With that being said, I went to Baltimore on Saturday to see a band, who clearly must be shitty, and hung out with a bunch of other losers.
The first two bands, Mr Moccasin and Slow Jerks, are both local products. I only heard two songs from Mr Moccasin, but between that and what I heard on their Myspace, they sounded alright. People, who were there and had seen this band before, said that the group sounded better than they had in the past. I had tried listening to Slow Jerks earlier in the day, but my internet research skills failed me and I found nothing. It’s entirely possible that this was by design, though. Seeing these dudes live, I got the impression that perhaps they wanted to do everything DIY and gradually work their way up. If that’s the case, then props are in order.
The Axemen are from New Zealand, and apparently they formed back in 1981 as a means of protesting the fact that some South African rugby team was playing matches in New Zealand which violated an agreement of some sort. They were pretty tight live, and it wasn’t until the end of the set that I realized that my head had been bobbing the entire time.
This may have been a nervous reaction because early on in the set it occurred to me that the girl from Times New Viking was standing next to me. All the members of the band were in my general vicinity, in fact, and as a result I drank accordingly.
What struck me the most about The Axemen was how they came across as a band with the best of intentions.
It all just seemed so honest. They brought the one dude [Adam Elliot] from Times New Viking up on stage to do a song at one point, and that was pretty rad.
Towards the end, the guitarist took his shirt off and wiped the brow of the lead singer. The best of intentions. The whole set was a good time, and the forty people in attendance all seemed to dig it.
Times New Viking are quite possibly the loudest band that I listen to, and I went to this show to see how loud it could get. It was quite loud, and this was accentuated by the fact that the Talking Head is about the size of a hallway and the only difference between the club and an actual hallway is the fact that the Talking Head has a bathroom.
I had done some preliminary research about what TNV was like live, but all I found was that they get loud and that the drummer talks too much. Looking back, the drummer didn’t say a whole lot once the set got underway so maybe the internets was wrong about that.
TNV might be better live than they are on record.
They are a band of sounds, and that’s awesome on it’s own, but in concert the melodies are much more apparent. I do have to admit that I don’t own the latest record, and it’s entirely possible that they were just playing songs off of it and it’s also quite possible that the new disc is slightly more hi-fi than previous albums. I know for a fact that didn’t play all new songs because I recognized several and also because at one point they said, “Now, we’re going to play some old songs.”
Everyone was into it. There was more moving around at this show then at anything else I’ve seen all year, for the most part.
There was this one girl, and she seemed really tapped into the whole thing. She swayed and spun her way through every song. I think she had her eyes closed, but it didn’t really matter because the way she was dancing it was like an act of surrender. It was like what Nietzsche had described. She was on the edge of the proverbial cliff, but instead of being frightened or concerned, she was reveling in the chaos.
Loving every minute of it, and dancing like it would never stop. It’s how I generally feel on the inside, but since I’m such an uncouth deadbeat unfit for the public, it’s better for me to just keep my head down and try not to piss anyone off.