Featured Release Roundup: August 20, 2020
Sweeping Promises: Hunger for a Way Out 12” (Feel It) I’d never heard of Boston’s Sweeping Promises before Feel It Records dropped this, their debut release, but it looks like it’s become something of a sub-underground hit. Its small initial pressing has already sold out, so if you want that all-important first pressing you should grab one of our limited number of copies. It’s easy to see why Sweeping Promises has caught so many peoples’ ears… there’s something special going on here. The band is a capable, post-punk-informed group with a cool, lo-fi sound rooted in all the right parts of the Rough Trade catalog, but it’s Lira Mondal’s charismatic vocals that steal the show. It’ll take a better writer than me to pinpoint what makes her so great, but her star power is undeniable. When I first threw Hunger for a Way Out on my headphones while I went on my morning walk, I remember thinking to myself, “whoa, this band is going places” by the time I was halfway through the first song. Subsequent listens have cemented my feeling that this is a very special record. For fans of neo-post-punk, this is a no-brainer, but it’s more than a genre record. And if you happen to be reading this from the A&R desk of a hip indie label like Merge, Matador, or Domino, please hook my dude Sam at Feel It up with a healthy finder’s fee.
Oily Boys: Cro Memory Grin 12” (Cool Death) Well, this is a weird one. This hardcore band out of Sydney, Australia gives us the progressive, psychedelic take on tough hardcore none of us knew we wanted. Seriously, who would have thought you could smash together the Cro-Mags and Wire so effectively? Oily Boys don’t just slap some “weird” intros and outros on standard hardcore tracks, either. While there are straightforward HC tunes (“Headstone,” for instance, sounds like Feel the Darkness-era Poison Idea covering something from Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing), Oily Boys are at their best and most memorable when they sound like someone took an artsy post-punk band and locked them in a room with nothing but steroids and weights for a year. See the knuckle-scraping “Lizard Scheme” (part “LA Blues,” part “Dub” from the Cro-Mags demo), the unexpectedly melodic “Heat Harmony,” and the closing track, “GTrance,” which answers the question, “What would ‘Malfunction’ sound like if it had appeared on 154?” Cro Memory Grin is one of those records that sound so new I didn’t know what to make of it at first, but I’ve been seduced by its originality.
TI-83: demo cassette (self-released) 7-song synth-punk tape from this band out of Denver. If you’re a big fan of Germany’s Erste There Tonträger Records this is one you should check out… in fact, it would surprise me if there wasn’t already a contract in the mail from ETT to TI-83 because their fuzzy guitars and synths and distorted vocals fit that label’s aesthetic perfectly. The highlight for me is the first track, “Newsflash,” which has a monstrous guitar hook about a minute in that sounds straight out of prime era Devo. The rest of the songs are more in the “fast and jittery” mold with plenty of cool twists and turns to keep your interest. A quality demo for sure.
Gills: Dried Clothes 7” (self-released) Very limited, self-released LP from this band out of Ohio. Gills base their sound on Negative Approach’s oi!-tinged hardcore with rage-o-meter fully in the red, but Dried Clothes isn’t all meat and potatoes. Gills’ location, along with the Nathan Ward artwork, brings to mind the Cruelster / Knowso axis of bands, and whether or not there’s any actual connection there, Gills shares some of those bands’ quirkiness. The lyrics to “Bird Rage” (from what I can make out) have a surrealist bent, there are a few samples, and a bit of unexpected instrumentation occasionally peeks from behind the curtain. Those quirks might turn off purists, but in my book this is still a solid rager. The band only pressed 150 copies and there’s hardly any info about Gills on the internet, though, so it’s up to you whether the mystery is enough to draw you in.
The Cowboy: Feel the Chi Releasing from You 7” flexi (Feel It) The Cowboy brings us a new 3-song EP on a beautiful clear vinyl flexi courtesy of Feel It Records. The Cowboy is one of those bands who found a formula that works and knows enough not to deviate radically from it, so every time they release a new record it’s fascinating to see how they expand upon that foundation. If you haven’t heard the Cowboy, they have a breezy, propulsive sound that fuses the light-footedness of Pink Flag-era Wire with the crunchy and noisy textures of 90s noise rock, topping it off with a big dollop of trademark Ohio weirdness. While their previous LP, Wi-fi on the Prairie, was more stretched out (it was 20 whole minutes long!), these three songs are compact and hooky, each of them delivering a melody, rhythmic quirk, and/or hook to make it special. It’s over before you know it, but since all three tracks are on one side, you don’t even have to flip it over to play it again.
Knowso: Specialtronics Green Vision 12” (Drunken Sailor) After a 12” EP and a 7”—both of which I loved—Cleveland’s Knowso give us their debut album, the bizarrely titled Specialtronics Green Vision. Let me say this straight off the bat: I fucking love this band. They sound like no one else (save their related bands Perverts Again and Cruelster), their music is catchy, energetic, and memorable, and their lyrics have a rare mixture of cynicism, surrealism, and profundity that I could eat with a spoon. It’s a brilliantly conceived thing that hangs together perfectly, and when I listen my body jerks along with their angular, over-caffeinated rhythms while my brain chews on whatever snatches of lyrics I can grab as they fly by. It feels futile to construct an “if you like x, you might like Knowso” is analogy because their music is so singular. Either you get and appreciate what they’re doing or you don’t… there doesn’t seem to be much room for middle ground. You’ve got the internet, though, so give this a listen and figure out which side of the fence you’re on.
Research Reactor Corp: The Collected Findings of 12” (Erste There Tonträger) The Collected Findings of is the debut vinyl from this Sydney group. It looks like they’re affiliated with other Sydney projects like R.M.F.C. and Set-Top Box, both of whom have also released vinyl on Germany’s Erste Theke Tonträger label. Like those bands, Research Reactor Corp’s sound is a perfect fit for ETT. They share DNA with Liquids and Coneheads, as evidenced in their raw production, catchy hooks, and rock-and-roll lead guitar licks, though RRC’s vocal sound is harsher and nastier. While the first half of this record is in that Coneheads / Liquids wheelhouse, the b-side features a more prominent synth, often playing bright melodies that remind me of Ausmuteants. The energy, hooks, and rawness elevate this above also-ran status, so if you’re a fan of this sound, The Collected Findings of is worth checking out.