The whole idea of what makes “real punk” can be a corrosive one, since too-broad definitions can alienate hardcore fans and too-narrow ones can shut really good punk artists out of the genre. Regardless of definition, though, it seems fairly safe to claim Riverboat Gamblers as definitively part of the genre. Rollicking guitars, distorted vocals, and uptempo drums certainly fit the bill, and these qualities are on full display on their cover of the Dicks’ “Hate the Police”. It’s packed to the gills with furor and vigor, and it’s always good to hear this kind of raw stage presence on display.
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Of the dozens of factions of rock consumers and producers who spearhead movements based around what rock should and shouldn’t be, one of the most prominent claims that rock should be, above all else, primal. The Wans fit squarely into this movement as their brand of rock aims straight for the groin, rollicking and raunchy. It’s a sound that draws from the riffs of Led Zeppelin, Alice in Chains, and Queens of the Stone Age and it’s a sound that is covered in grime and dust, looming large. Subscribing to the Spinal Tap philosophy of “turn it up to 11”, their new EP Run Baby Run pumps wall after wall of sound out of disintegrating amps; it’s the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that made the parents nervous 40 years ago.
Laser Background’s brand of psychedelic rock is one which looks firmly backwards in a good way. More Merry Brand of Pranksters than Tame Impala, more mid-period Beatles than current-day Foxygen, it’s immersive in a weirdly analog way. The winding, labyrinthine structure of his songs is immaculately reflected in the video for “Slip n Slide”, whose variegated palate captures a layer of dust shared by the music therein. Shakily filmed and colorfully edited, its fuzziness is an excellent complement to the song it accompanies.
Nathan Bell’s music comes from a place of exhaustion. His mellow, world-weary folk music chronicles the endless grind of all shades of the working person in America, from mine workers to middle managers. Bell writes from personal experience: his musical career bookends a 15-year hiatus in the ‘90s and ‘00s, during which he worked as both a manual laborer and a phone company manager. He’s been involved in both blue-collar and white-collar life, and understands that both lifestyles are uniquely draining. His new album I Don’t Do This For Love, I Do This For Love examines the different stripes of dead-end Americana over guitar and mandolin.
Brooklyn’s Elenna Canlas and Peter Matson are a bedroom production team working under the Big Everything moniker. Their music springs from the fertile wellspring of New York club culture and incorporates soul, funk, and hip-hop into the electronic mix and the end result is the Big Everything Mixtape. This is their first release and it’s mainly new material surrounded by a few classics from Janet Jackson, Nate Dogg, and Genesis. Meanwhile, Big Everything has brought some exciting guests into the project, including Bajah (Sierra Leone rapper) and female rappers Awkwafina and Tierra Whack. It’s all a great bit of fun loaded with summery grooves.