The gatefold cover, the printed inner sleeve, the download code card and the he creamy yellow of the vinyl are all visually stunning. I feel like this record should have come with a set of game pieces, rules and directions to uncover the mysteries held within the elaborate artwork. I was so distracted with the gatefold that I didn’t look closely at this record and put it on at 33. I was so struck by the opening guitar that I had to sit down. My first thought was that their opening song was a cover of “Mercy Seat” by Ultra Vivid Scene. What a way to start a record, with an obscure cover of one of the best Shoegaze songs ever written and with both bands being from NYC, it made perfect sense. However, as the song played on I realized that it was similar to “Mercy Seat” but the song was their own. No matter, I still liked it. It was around the last song on side A, “Animal” that I started to think that the singer was dragging a bit and there could be two reasons for this: 1. The dude drank a bottle of Robitussin and it’s starting to kick in. or 2. I have this on the wrong speed. Sure enough I looked at the spinning 12 inch record and saw a bright red 45 spinning at 33.
Restarting from the beginning this record now has a completely different feel and it’s catchy as hell. Imagine taking all the great Shoegaze songs and speeding them up to a Buzzcocks velocity and whamo! you’ve got Kissed by an Animal. Now that these songs are at the proper speed and have the hooks hitting in time doesn’t mean that it’s all sunshine and flowers. There is a subtle sorrow and darkness to a few of these tunes, a longing and lamented mistakes vibe, yet playful at the same time, as if to reassure the listener that mistakes are ok and keep making them. There was a label called Plan-it-X Records in the mid-90s (a little research shows that they are still a label…well what do you know … ¯_(ツ)_/¯ ) that filled out their catalogue with bands that parallel the sound of Kissed By An Animal. However, where the difference lies is that, well, let’s say a bunch of Planet X bands found a pot of gold, they would return it to the leprechaun and ask him if he wanted to join them in a meadow to play kickball. I get the feeling that if Kissed By An Animal found that same pot of gold they would ring the doorbell, leave it on the porch of the leprechaun, watch and giggle from the bushes as he realized that all of his lost gold had been peed and farted on. This is another Killer release from Handstand Records and if you mix up the speeds, like I did, you get two records for the price of one! (JD)
Drilling for Blasting – Fingers Are the Best Eyes LP This record knocked my socks off. I’ve been a fan of Doug Ward since, I guess, 1986 when I heard the song “Bella Lugosi’s Not Dead (You Are)” on a mix tape from my cousin. After hearing that, I couldn’t find flaws with anything he’s touched and that includes a collaboration with Ben Weasel, from the band Screeching Weasel. The times I saw 8-Bark left me staggered but let’s get to the band at hand, Drilling for Blasting.
There is a recurrent problem with people who stay in a music community for a long period oftime. A.) Staying relevant. B.) Keeping the same level of torment and fury that you had in your teens and have it be authentic and compelling. Drilling for Blasting manages to do that with a message and delivery that hits with each note and syllable. Doug’s guitar is at times, very direct (what you’ve come to expect from a punk veteran) however, at other times, there is a blues influence that jolts in, adding to the angst and anger of the lyrics. For me, what gives this superiority over peers and the general quagmire of music these days is the drumming of Kammy Lee. Her drumming has me on the edge of my seat. There’s a mountain of weighted tension waiting for things to fall in line but she’s staggering her rhythms, adding punch precisely where it’s needed and not backing down. She lets off the gas enough to let you know she’s in control of this ride. The song “Run Out” has my favorite drummer rock trick of all time and that’s the sound of clicking wood on metal. Then this bass line that’s seems to be from outer space drops in (although they have no bass player, like The Doors). Lyrically it’s encapsulating everything I’m feeling right now in these peculiar times; sarcastic, dumfounded, hollow, unsteady, bored, busy, anger, confused, etc. There are a few more surprises on this but I want you to enjoy your own discovery. I’m floored by this record. Please go buy all the copies. (JD)
Do you remember that husky fella that ran the magazine that made fun of everything? Well as it turns out, he doesn’t just have a speaking voice that seems a higher pitch than you think would come out of a person that displaces that much air in the room but he also does a record label. I recently grabbed 9 of his releases and we are going to go through them right now in 3 parts.
BLACK HELICOPTER – I’ve never heard the band Black Helicopter but I listened to an MP3 of the cover of the good Bullet Lavolta song, “Dead Wrong”. I like that good Bullet Lavolta song so I decided to take a chance on it. When I dropped the needle I was surprised to hear a relatively clean 90s pop song with a female vocal and nearly Ted Leo(ish) when Ted hits those high notes. This Black Helicopter band was great from the start but I began to notice that her phrasing seemed a little off and by the end of the song. I consider that maybe this two song record is actually a 33 instead of a 45. As it turns out, this record is supposed to be on 33 and now I feel like I got 4 songs for the price of 2. Everything is coming up roses. On 33 it has a little bit more of a swing feel like a more upbeat Codeine. There’s some beautiful and haunting guitar work on this. So now I’m curious to flip it over and check out their version of the good Bullet Lavolta song “Dead Wrong”. I love it when a band takes a cover song and truly makes it their own. However, usually there is a little part of the original that you can latch on to but I don’t recognize this song at all. I listen through it a few times to see if maybe I just didn’t remember the lyrics or how that good Bullet Lavolta song goes. As it turns out, I contacted the record label and there was a mistake. This band isn’t even Black Helicopter. This mystery band with Black Helicopter labels in a Black Helicopter sleeve and not being Black Helicopter or the good Bullet Lavolta song, this band has a new fan in me. In defense of the label, they did say that if I wanted to send it back they might be able to dig up a proper Black Helicopter record with the one good Bullet Lavolta song on it. However, I chose to just keep this. I haven’t heard Black Helicopter but because of their name, I’m hoping that they are a bunch of drunk uncles sitting around band practice talking about how the JFK assassination was an inside job. I want to keep that thought with me and maybe never hear them. I’m completely happy with this record and If I get a hankering to hear the good Bullet Lavolta song, I’ll just grab the OG from the shelf. The Real Black Helicopter
A DRUG CALLED TRADITION– Warning Lights b/w Cotton Fever I put this on and it sounds familiar because guess what… this is what had Black Helicopter labels on it. So please see the above Black Helicopter review to read about what this sounds like and how to get more bang for your buck. The not Black Helicopter but still great
A couple of these records were for a birthday party In Athens, GA for the band H2O and their 50th release on Revelation Records or something like that. I get the event details mixed up but what’s important is how they sound.
TAR/ MAN…OR ASTRO-MAN split 7in. Here’s a thing that I messed up on. Back in the 90s, I associated people with music that they liked and I ended up missing out on a bunch of cool stuff. For example, because Jordan was a total fucking jerk and Jordan liked the band Tar, therefore, Tar must be a band that only total fucking jerks liked. I know that the math doesn’t quite work out and because of that, I really missed out on the band Tar. Even though they were on a split with Jawbox, I never listened to the Tar side because, ya know, Jordan is a fucking jerk. So now I have my regrets and I’ve been trying to gobble up Tar records whenever I see them. The Tar song is called “Feel This” and it’s killer! It has all the elements that make bands like Crane and Jawbox terrific while never losing their identity by falling into milquetoast as some of their peers have done. As for Man…Or Astro Man, again I missed out on this band. To be honest, I don’t quite hate myself for it but I do dislike myself a little bit for not giving it a try. To be clear Jordan had nothing to do with why I didn’t give Man…Or Astro Man a shot. I had always assumed that they were a surf guitar band. The first song is a driving crazy garage rocker that is right up my alley and could be on any of the “Bloodstains” or “Killed by Death” comp records. Track two is that surf/polka thing I’d expected but completely listenable. It may have just been that my brain was on the same wavelength for their outer space surf rock. To be honest, who knows? If you get a chance to grab a hold of this record then you totally should. Tar/Man… or Astroman?
HONEY RADAR Bonus Show 7″ Side A … I listened to the first side and was jamming on the amazing upbeat tunes so I flipped the sleeve over because I didn’t remember them having a woman in the band. Guess what…they don’t. I had it on the wrong speed (again). So let’s give this another shot. Ok, there we go, a bit slower with a showgaze/Guided By Voices quality. Several of these songs were recorded live on WFMU In NJ and one song for that Athens, GA party I mentioned . All in all there are 6 really good tunes on here compiling a terrific cross section of some of the band’s best songs, very well done. Honey Radar – Bonus Show
HONEY RADAR – Psychic Cruise 7″ EP This 4 song record was recorded at home, probably in showers, closets, and maybe under a porch, I’m guessing. It’s amazing to hear a live record first and then hear the recorded versions and realize how true these guys are live to the actual sound of the recordings. I really do think that it is a notable feat for a band that is able to come close to the recorded material versus live material. It’s not easy. Some of my favorite bands are great recorded while also are/were a garbage fire live. Musically this reminds me of some of those early Jesus & Mary Chain and Felt records with a nod to a particular band from Dayton OH. This is a great little record with 4 great tunes. Honey Radar – Psychic Cruise
SHARK TOYS – 2 song banger (you get five tunes with the current preorder) This is total old school punk/new wave/art wave, Killed by Death disjointed herky-jerkywonderfulness. There’s so much going on in these two songs from the early 80s SO/CAL Minutemen, 100 Flowers, to a handful of influences from Hell Comes to Your House comps to the rest of the Bemisbrain Records bands. It could fit well on a Messthetics comp CD. I would love to hear a split LP with Shark Toys and the Neutrals. Shark Toys is my favorite record of this batch. Shark Toys – Out of Time 5-song-ep
REVERENDS – Divisadero B/W Still Well7″ single The cover is interesting because it’s either a sunrise (or sunset) with a silhouette of a person that has a booger coming out of their nose. So, I’m not really sure what to expect. “Divisadero”, something about this reminds me of Robin Hitchcock in all the very best possible ways. With clear eloquent vocals, pretty little guitar playing, song about a girl ….how could you go wrong? It’s a mid-tempo dreamy Pop song with lyrics that take you along for a ride. “Still Well”, this one is a bit slower and maybe a little more dreamy than the A-side. It has a quality to it more like, and I know I’ve mentioned this band already, the slower Felt songs. And maybe even a little Velvet Underground injecting itself, due to the music, reminds me of the song “Shiny Boots of Leather”. It doesn’t sound like that but has the feel of that song, it’s certainly haunting like that song. I really dig this and I’m hoping that someone handed the person on the cover a tissue by now. The Reverends aka booger guy
VANGAS – Every Day Is The Same B/W Sandstone 7″ single I was not expecting this! It’s totally heavy and would fit perfectly on a show with the Jesus Lizard, Laughing Hyenas, Crain …etc. The sleeve says that this was recorded it in a cold dark basement. (and it completely sounds it.) It sounds like these guys were locked in a moist stone walled room and are pleading for their lives to get out. I bet you they had dog collars on and we’re chained to a wall and only fed spaghetti from a can. This first cut “Every Day is the Same” is perfect for this pandemic in the way that horror is continually happening all around us but I couldn’t tell you if it was Tuesday or Saturday. “Sandstone” starts with a repetitive guitar and drums that could start a fire with their panic and chaos. Then, as quickly as it started, it breaks into a very droning and hypnotic rhythm. The song is captivating in a way that I don’t hear a lot of these days. As the song continues there is a creeping feeling that grabs you by the back of the brain and then they just start stabbing with a guitar line that hurts me right behind the eyes, quietly singing just a few decibels too soft to be able to make out his mantra of good or evil. This very much reminds me of the Rye Coalition. This is terrific. Vangas = its terrifyingly accurate for how I’m feeling right now
V-GIRL – Recycler EP (4 songs) I like the cover and layout of this record quite a bit. I’ve always been a fan of record art that makes you feel like you’re only seeing part of something much larger and this hits that box dead center. Musically, this has a distinctly DIY 90s sound. I feel like this would have fit well on No Idea Records or maybe early Merge, and has a great Pohgoh feel. The songs themselves are pretty driving, upbeat and straddles the catchiness of 90s pop punk and interesting arrangements of 90s emo. Her vocals, like most 90s DIY records, have fallen into the trap of being mixed a bit low. Every band has a recording like this that were most likely done by a friend of the band with a 4-track in their parent’s basement. I would have loved a lyric sheet to be able to read along because this is one of those records that you’d want to sit down with and read along. Look, I like this a lot but I’m really doing a poor job of selling you on it. It has a very nostalgic feel to it and I’m happy that it’s bubbled to the surface. V-Girl – Recyler EP (JD)