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by David Ensminger

2 Jun 2011


Peter Case is an authentic American folk-rebel with an underside of punk who has never lost true grit. There’s always something shambolic and slightly gruff, as the outtakes assembled for The Case Files (2011) witness, even when he is strumming sweet impassioned melodies.

Sure, many of his generation have a keen ear for the subtleties and wordplay of writing too, like Dave Alvin and Tom Russell, but Case always seems more persistent, more restless, more chuck-it-all and start from scratch. He’s the perennial outcast in the deluge of Americana music, the lone one who dares recast himself.

This tendency may link to his early years jumping up on stages to shellac a room with blues as a teenager in Buffalo, or the direct-action power-pop insurgency of the Nerves, who scrambled across America in 1977 in a dented car to roomfuls of blank stares. Then Case jettisoned the Plimsouls right as FM radio seemed willing to take them into cruise control land of unlikely hits.

by David Ensminger

24 May 2011


Unbeknownst to most people outside the US’ Deep South, Anarchitex have roamed the post-punk musical landscape of Houston, Texas for nearly three decades. Their cantankerous barrage of noise and pithy politics still remain far under the radar of even the in-crowd. Hopefully, their new well-honed record Digital Dark Age on CIA Records will finally crown them alongside other regional veterans like the Hates, Mydolls, Hickoids, and Sons of Hercules as survivors and sonic entrepreneurs, though with a more caustic underbelly than all combined.

Part of their raw genius sprouts from their messy and motley history. At various times, band members have been involved in projects far and wide, including Really Red, who toured America during the salad days of hardcore punk alongside acts like Articles of Faith; the artful, murky, and weird Pain Teens that released records on Trance Syndicate (founded by the drummer of Butthole Surfers); and equally wonky Happy Fingers Institute, a former favorite of the infamous underground zine Flipside.

by David Ensminger

18 May 2011


For three dizzying decades, the Hickoids have been the cream of the crop of Texas musical rowdiness, stirring up cowpunk hootenannies, take-no-prisoners satire, and mutant twang and southern rock ’n roll. In fact, the Hickoids invoke their own genre, since they fit no categories, nor do they feign to fit any trends. They are alone, like cyclones, and this time they seek mayhem right smack dab in the middle of British Invasion standards culled from the Who, Rolling Stones, and Elton John on their new covers album Kicking It With the Twits.

The bluesy, laid-back harmonica hollerin’ of “Pictures of Lily” yanks the Mod hipness of the Who out from underneath Pete Townshend’s shaggy hairdo and injects whiskey-breath swaggers that wallow in stupor and stomp. It’s careening, not calculated, and charged-up as any San Antonio roadhouse could muster. In more up-tempo flair, they tackle “Have You Seen You Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” with organ bliss-outs and slapdash honky-tonk, kickin’ round the Mick Jagger territory with fine form, single-handedly making the dusty Rolling Stones 45 record feel re-animated in their raw hands.

by Benjamin Aspray

12 May 2011


Princeton’s Rotwang is back, following his full-length debut Awful with an only-ten-minutes-shorter EP called Crisis.  It stays the course of its predecessor’s dystopian ambiance, although despite the panicked title, this is actually the more tuneful of the two.  The melodies are just as angular, but bolder, especially on opener “Vertigo”, which might just barely qualify as pop if not for an insistently ear-piercing mid-section synth seizure.

by AJ Ramirez

10 May 2011


This week sees the British DVD release of Upside Down, a documentary tackling the history of seminal UK indie label Creation Records, which was extant from 1983 until 1999.  Primarily dedicated to propagating 1960s-influenced alternative rock of all sorts and permutations, Creation was a collision of rockist traditionalism, hyperbolic bravado, and influential innovation, responsible for bringing the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Oasis, and Super Furry Animals to the world at large.

Of all Creation’s myriad releases, it’s Ride’s 1990 debut Nowhere that I adore the most.  Yes, Oasis’ first two albums are more tuneful, and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is a visionary work by an uncompromising musical auteur, but it’s Nowhere that touches me like no other record in the Creation back catalog. Long held as the second-best band in the shoegaze genre (after My Bloody Valentine) and the second-best band from Oxford, England (after Radiohead), Ride has never really gotten its proper due.  As such, I held hope that the 20th anniversary deluxe reissue of its first album this year (yes, the record actually came out 21 years ago—don’t ask) would go a ways towards drawing attention and accolades to the dreamy melodic charms of the disbanded foursome’s music.

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