[17 April 2009]
picture taken from soundcoremusic.com
Now that we’ve nearly settled into a post-record label era, a time when big labels are losing money and the only bands big enough to sell large quantities of albums and concert tickets are bands from the past, it makes sense that sensibilities have returned to lo-fi. It made sense in the ‘80s too, when there was the rebellion against the over-produced, super-slick synth sounds, but when grunge took off it kind of trivialized lo-fi’s relevance as a counter-cultural sound.
So, now that it’s easy for a kid in his bedroom to make something sound like the newest Kanye record, it seems like it’s really taking a stand to make your band/recording sound shitty, and the almost counter culture focuses its interest in lo-fi once more. It’s hard to define what is counter culture or indie at this point (I’m sure someone’s already written something about this and given it much more thought than me), when certain online music sites are the source for a certain sort of music fan and bands that would’ve been far too difficult years ago now appeal to every other college kid, this also confuses the genre.
From The Germs to Young Marble Giants to The Wipers to The Clean to Beat Happening to Guided By Voices, it seemed all of those bands were doing the lo-fi sound either because it was necessity, the only affordable way to make an album, or as a pointed comment against the overproduction of music in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Just as punk rebelled with short songs and a DIY ethic against the bombast of ‘70s dinosaur rock bands with 11 minute keyboard jams, lo-fi rebelled against what punk became after its commodification led to shiny new wave.
Now, however, it’s more of a pointed comment against technology, or a looking back, or even the effort put into music as at this point it’s much more difficult to record music in analog rather than digitally. And maybe it just sounds good.
With the preamble aside, I’d like to draw attention to some new lo-fi punk bands, (nu-lo-fi, nullify, nulofi, tru-lo-fi, nu-lo-philes) and not to make a point about what each band is trying to do, they all seem genuinely interested in making music, but more of a highlighting of some of the more exciting and shitty-sounding music coming out of North America.
There are all of the bands that you probably know already that are doing it lo-fi. On a more popular side, the punk/indie crossover, The Thermals’ first album was an amazing example where the shittiness of the recording was used to amazing effect.
Japanther‘s earlier stuff was in the same vein but more of a lo-fi pop punk two piece.
Japanther have not really been mentioned when talking about Wavves or the poppier side of No Age – but there really are some similarities and whether it’s intentional or not, Wavves comes off sounding like a more thought-out version of Japanther’s better tracks on Dump the Body In Ricki Lake. Other current stand outs aside from the the whole The Smell scene (Abe Vigoda, Mika Miko, etc), many of whom you’re probably already familiar with: Vivian Girls, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit, Cause Co-motion! and on, and on.
More interesting at this point are the many lo-fi bands that have been spurned on or influenced by the new wave of lo-fi. Most of the bands just mentioned regularly get written up on the Pitchfork monster, and they get written up favorably as well, so orchestral pop like Arcade Fire is being supplanted by lo-fi in the realm of major indie. Wavves strikes me as the first new lo-fi rip-off. Not that it’s not a good album, there’s just something uninspired about it, as if he’s taken all of the best aspects of other new lo-fi bands and packaged it into pop.
Most interesting for me is not the rehash ‘80s indie or ‘90s college, though they’re good and the changes made can make it sound great and contemporary, but the lo-fi weird punk movement has infinitely more appeal.
Taken From Goner Records
The band that sticks out most for me is Tyvek or Tijvek if you wanna get into the new name. “Frustration Rock” is probably the best lo-fi punk song I’ve heard in the past decade, not an exaggeration.
When the Tijvek full length drops on Siltbreeze this year, it’ll cement the better aspects of lo-fi punk sometime soon, it’s hard to get information on it. FAST Metabolism on What’s Yr Rupture was amazing, and as a band who has not released a bad song yet, the album is heavily anticipated.
Another band that is doing something similar (infectious, raw, shitty sounding lo-fi punk) is Young Governor, guitarist of Fucked Up. Having just bought the Virginia Creeper 7” at a Fucked Up show, it has been getting an incredible amount of play by everyone I know.
Another new and good lo-fi you probably won’t read about in other places are: the Wicked Awesomes! who are an outstanding group of young men from Edmonton, AB, playing trebled out, reverb-drenched, garage space surf punk. New full length coming out soon on Psychic Handshake Records who also released the excellent Red Mass EP.