Newly signed to Matador and veterans of Siltbreeze, the Columbus, Ohio-based Times New Viking brought its stripped-down to the raw, garage blast to Boston. Imagine a songbook based on the pure distillation of “Louie, Louie,” boiled down to a sticky black lump, with a dash of strychine via the Sonics, perfect for singing along (or, better, shouting along). Boston’s own Hallelujah the Hills wrapped up a five week tour and were tighter than Glenn Beck’s throbbing forehead vein. The band has improved much since I saw it play, opening for Silver Jews in 2008. The band played a good passel of songs with tons of energy. Opening honors were handled by New Zealand’s the Axemen, making what I believe is their first ever trip to tour the States, despite being founded in 1981. They are not the “Dunedin Sound” type of band, so don’t go expecting jangly pop like the stuff by the Chills. It was a multi-headed beast of garage rock, some ’60s-influenced numbers and even a hardcore tune tossed into the mix.
If in the world of classic New Zealand underground rock the Chills’ earnest pop represents the north pole and the Dead C’s corrosive noise is the south, then the Axemen are the molten center of the earth—their shambling, stylistically promiscuous, and occasionally tuneful postpunk is like a bad case of planetary heartburn.
In band histories they claim they formed for political reasons, but the recorded evidence suggests that they just wanted to get up everyone’s noses. Their apex—or nadir, depending on your point of view—came in 1992, when they appeared on a children’s TV show in drag and plugged a record called Peter Wang Pud.
Siltbreeze has reissued two early Axemen albums this year (a third is still forthcoming), and now guitarist [/vocalist] Little Stevie McCabe and drummer Stu Kawowski [and guitarist/vocalists Bob Brannigan and Dragan Stojanovic] are undertaking their first American tour.
They’ve also got a new split seven-inch with Times New Viking, available only at shows, on which the two bands cover each other’s songs.
Golden Birthday, Thunderbolt Pagoda, and David Diarrhea open. At 6 PM today the Axemen play a free in-store at Permanent Records with Cave side project Bitchin’ Bajas. —Bill Meyer
“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.
Picked this up last night at the TNV show at Mercury Lounge with the Axemen…my friend Pat told me to look out for a tour only single at the merch table, and there it was.
Does a band with the power of Matador behind it have to press a split single, hand color the xerox sleeve and inscribe the inner label for their US tour with the Axemen? HELL NO.
But they did it anyway.
I have to admire this.
Plus they set out to educate an audience to a NZ band that probably deserves more due that I’ve never come across before, I’m always up for that.
Didn’t know anything about the Axemen before they went on other than the brief mentions at Siltblog after their reissue by Tom of a huge part of their back catalog.
I stood there watching thinking, ‘I’m sure these guys are important’ especially to the first few rows. I’ve been reading about their protest albums/accident (crash) into some government office in NZ, they weren’t in it for the money obviously.
I can respect anyone touring 20+ years later etc…but it just wasn’t my thing. The one time they got me was an insane hardcore blast, but honestly they didn’t seem happy about it. Have to dive further into the Siltbreeze catalog.
They cover each other on this thing which I wasn’t expecting at all.
The Axemen track on the single ‘SIcKh & TYRED’ is a great interpretation of the track from the TNV Stay Awake EP. I’m into it when they replicate the back and forth Beth Adam vocals. Sounds good.
They have to feel pretty cool that these guys covered one of their tracks for this. I honestly had no idea until I played it this morning.
Times New Viking on the other side cover ‘Rocks in my Heart’ by the Axemen. Which includes the lyric ‘Sick and Tired’ also I noticed…weird. They make this song fit into their catalog, emphasizing the pop chords and immediacy, all with just a touch their special fuzz. Excellent…can’t believe this really. I am honored guys. It’s too much.
The Daily Choice: Times New Viking – Rocks In My Heart
Times New Viking has shocked me twice. Once, sandwiched between sweaty stages in Austin, Texas, this band I’d never heard of, and whom I couldn’t see as the place was full far past capacity, played what seemed to be ear splitting noise for thirty minutes. Months later, on what could be the least consistent bill of all time, Times New Viking opened for Annuals, and for twenty beautiful minutes, I felt my ears bleed with sonic love. Two times, two times.
And lets call this a third. I don’t know if there’s a newly formed sweet tooth amongst this trio, but “Rocks In My Heart” seems to follow the dirt-covered lollipop sound of their new album. Sure, it seems like it tastes pretty good, but you finding bits of grit, or who knows what, stuck in your pearly whites. A part of me yearns for the sonic assault, but there’s just enough here that I can digest the sugary sweet and keep on smiling.