LOST SYSTEM • Let Behind LP

LOST SYSTEM • Let Behind LP

Neck Chop Records

Lost System

Lost System was born from a band called Black Monuments (3 tapes and a 7″). When their bozo bass player decided to hitchhike to Portland, OR, they picked up with a new bassist and moved forward with a different name and sound. After that I’d thought that dark synth wave died for a while. I think it got too far away from its truer roots and became some junk that, like most things I enjoy, was eventually coopted by fashion and art school students. To be honest, I could be making all of this up. I really don’t know a lot about Dark Wave at all. It’s not disjointed like post-punk, and it doesn’t talk extensively about Dracula and spirits therefore avoids the “Goth” moniker.  

A year ago, No Bails (the band I’m in) played with Lost System and Trampoline Team in a Grand Rapids, MI basement. Having 3 different sounding bands on the same show made for a terrific night. I remember standing next to my pal Justin Farrar and us both entranced by Lost System. I got a bad feeling from their synth guy. He played terrifically and his dark wave keyboard playing was on point dark wavy keyboard playing, but something about him seemed unctuous and made me feel uneasy and annoyed. Maybe he had a mustache and was looking for people to look at his mustache. Also, I could be remembering a totally different person. I could have also just been hoping to see Matt Maier (Black Monuments, Legendary Wings) as the keyboard operator and not ready for a new face. Nevertheless, this new guy brought the glum aural ambience needed to make this a memorable night. 

But it’s not just the keyboards that make this LP work. I’ve always been a fan or Lost System’s drummer, Michael Housman, because of his simple, concussive, driving style. Housman knows how to hold back and precisely when to change into a dynamic that makes me sit a little straighter, and focus a bit. I’ve skipped back through parts of these songs because I had thought I heard the drums do something, but I had to make sure. Guess what. They do something. It’s almost like he’s playing for a single person in the room that’s in on a personal joke. Jesus, it sounds like I have a crush on the guy and I don’t at all. I just like his drumming. While all of this is going on the bass rumbles just beneath the surface almost like watching a storm front slowly move in across Lake Michigan. Adam’s bass playing is instinctively and lead with his heat as the metronome and I don’t mean that in an artistic way. I mean that his steady, pensive, rhythmic addition might be what holds this entire thing together. Oh yeah, this LP might have changed my mind on my third most hated thing behind jazz and modern country, and that would be saxophone. I pretty much hated the saxophone, but it’s used in such a sincere and stylistic way that it complements the songs. When I read that saxophone was on this LP I pictured it ruining things the same way that it’s done for the Cure and countless other good bands songs. Not in this case though. The saxophone added a coat to make this LP more complex and layered. Though, for me, the glue that binds this together is Michael McFarlane’s lyrics and delivery. The lyrics characteristically mirror life in the Middle West in a way that can only compare to the way Joy Division mirrored their working class, cloud covered factory town. To be clear, I’m not comparing them to Joy Division in sound but moreover in authenticity. McFarlane’s lyrics hit to the center of the Rust Belt wherein they pull together a longing, aggravation, concession, despair, hope, introspection, biting humor, and a look at tomorrow. 

In the end, I’m almost never surprised by music but this did make me take notice and really listen to all of the musicians separately and then again altogether. But where most of these bands fall short for me in the way that most LPs have 3 good songs and the rest could have been split up or dumped altogether this holds interest throughout and any one of these songs could have been a single.  My hope is that anyone reading this is in a personal financial place and willing to take a chance on this LP. 

I’ve known Michael for a chunk of years.  We are the kind of friends that always say we should hang out more, but we never do. My good pal Curtis and me went over to Michael’s apartment a couple times and spent the evenings popping jokes and drinking Four Roses booze. I hope that that will happen again sometime but until then I have this record and the text exchange of me asking if the Lost System synthesizer person ever had a mustache. (JD)

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Justin Dratson: JD   Nate Wilson: NW   Matt Average: MA

NEUTRALS • Kebab Disco LP

NEUTRALS • Kebab Disco LP

Emotional Response

Neutrals_2_Jason_Hendardy
Neutrals, not Swiss! Photo by Jason Hendardy

The more I listen to Kebab Disco the more I think it’s a brilliant record, and one that will stand the test of time. The Neutrals (members from Airfix Kits, Terry Malts, Giant Haystacks, Magic Bullets, Razz, and Cocktails) play angular and jangly post punk drawing influences from the usual suspects and deftly manage to not be a knock off fan band. There’s a huge pop element in their sound that elevates them high above the crowd in a genre that can be too po’ faced, and ridiculously dour at times. This pop side emphasizes the herky jerky rhythms, and those herky jerky rhythms emphasize the pop side. I’m in the moment of absorbing these songs as I type up this review. You know how it is. You’re trying to do two things at once, but one is more interesting and appealing than the other. In this instance, it’s the music, and I’m listening while at the same time searching for the combination of words to convince you that this is a record you need run out and get. But songs like “Food Court”, “Swiss”, and “Half Knife” come on and I’m knocked prone because these are great songs, and I prefer to be in the moment listening and wishing it could go on for a couple minutes longer. The rhythm section is the balm to the jagged guitar, but what really stands out for me are the lyrics. Twelve short stories with clever turn of phrase, introspective without being self absorbed, at times nostalgic without being defeated. This album is somewhat of a concept album in the sense that these songs are Allan MacNaughton (vocals, guitar) relaying autobiographical stories about his youth in Scotland to his move to San Francisco on the mid 1990s, reflecting on the changes that come with time and age. The one constant theme is looking for one’s place in the world, whether it’s finding yourself among the structures and codes of youth culture, to the changes a city undergoes to be somewhat unrecognizable in comparison to its more interesting past. There’s an anger and resentment here, but these songs do not descend into the void of despair and defeat. Despite it all there’s this sense of the need to keep on going and carving out one’s niche no matter what else is happening around you.

If I were to keep a list of “the best of 2019” records without a doubt Kebab Disco would make that list, perhaps at the top. Many an evening has been spent listening to this over and over and over, and the songs have run through my minds in the following mornings. You will fully understand when you get this. Go on. (MA)

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Justin Dratson: JD   Nate Wilson: NW   Matt Average: MA

THE WORLD • Reddish mini LP

THE WORLD Reddish 12” mini LP

Lumpy Records

The World Reddish LP

Excellent follow up to their debut LP, First World Record, which rocked me on my heels with their post punk style akin to Family Fodder. The World are a bit of a “super group”, consisting of members from Andy Human and The Reptoids, Beatniks, and Blues Lawyer. They have combined their creative super powers to make one of the best bands going these days. I predict that in twenty years a younger generation will be looking to The World discography for sound inspiration. I also predict that if you skip on getting this today you will live in crippling regret until you right the wrong. Just imagine being out somewhere, say a party with friends, and you hear a song that comes over the stereo, or hi-fi, as the millennials like to say, a song so good that all conversations stop until the song ends, like “Jackson 5” for instance, with it’s shuffling beat and vocals that are otherworldly. You cannot deny the saxophone that takes it next level. You know you’re hearing one of the best songs you’ve heard in a long while. One of your friends in the know (the only kind of friends one should have, really) informs you that its The World, and song is on the second side of their Reddish mini LP, or 12” EP in record collector parlance. Regret hits you like a brick as your mind hurtles back to 2019, and you recall having had the chance to attain this much wanted record for a fair and decent price, but in your youthful foolishness you passed on it and opted to get the latest generic Exploited clone band, the kind of band, that in five years tops, you will forget having ever existed in the first place. “Last Rhodesian” chops it up with a primitive beat that never grows old. The delivery is frantic until it calms towards the end before one last fit. There’s also the to the point “You’re Going Down,” which burrows into your brain, deeper and deeper, until it becomes part of your genetic make up. “Kill Your Landlord” comes on smooth with it’s dub stylings, and the vocals channel Ari Up at times, and just like that, it’s all over.

Be sure to get this record. (MA)

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Justin Dratson: JD   Nate Wilson: NW   Matt Average: MA

PINOCCHIO self-titled 7″ EP

PINOCCHIO – self-titled 7” EP

Toxic State Records

pinocchio cover

I’m turning 50 at the end of this month, and I’m jaded, cynical, and grumpy for the most part, but that’s how life plays out. Despite all that, every now and then I hear or see something that makes me believe that things aren’t all that shitty. Things like this Pinocchio EP. Sure, the cover is pretty bland, and easy to overlook, but get past that and you will be far more than pleasantly surprised. When I listen to this record it makes me think we’re on the cusp of some great era in punk. Maybe we’re in the midst of it already, I don’t know. What I do know for sure is this is one of the fucking best punk records I’ve heard in years, possibly the past couple decades (not like there’s any real stiff competition, but let’s not split hairs in my excitement). Listening to this EP gives me the same rejuvenating rush I felt when I latched on to punk in 1981. A new world rife with possibility, and everything sounded fresh and great. It makes me want to be involved, instead of standing at the back or on the sidelines. I listen to this and wonder what their live shows are like, and I would love to had been there when they were writing and recording these songs. Every song on here is inspired. Pinocchio inhabit a sound somewhere between punk and post-punk, but they’re not nailing their feet to the floor to stay in one place. It’s in doing so that gives them life and keeps them from being a reenactment band. The woman who sings has a great voice, and never delves into histrionics. Her focus aids in the sonic impact with the rest of the band. Imagine the Slits and the Delta 5 without the reggae influence crossed with early American hardcore. “My Time Vol.1” reminds me of the Talking Heads with its walking beat, minimal instrumentation and lyrics. They wrap it up in the second volume on the second side by cranking up the energy before reverting back and turning tables with the close “Your Time.”

The “Light Speed” trilogy brings the faster tempos into the fold and tilt towards mania at times. “Behind You”, which sits in between volumes two and three, floors every single time. The tempo is at a boil, a catchy as hell beat, and the vocals are in fine form. “Trick Plane” is godhead with the tribal percussion, confrontational attitude, and it’s brevity leaving you wanting more. (MA)

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Justin Dratson: JD   Nate Wilson: NW   Matt Average: MA