-->
Music

Anarchitex Destroy Digital Worlds One Byte at a Time

While many of their brethren have receded into the dustbins of history, Anarchitex prove that resilience and fortitude, maintained in the name of rebel art without pause, can keep bands braided together.

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.

While many of their brethren have receded into the dustbins of history, Anarchitex prove that resilience and fortitude, maintained in the name of rebel art without pause, can keep bands braided together. They ooze with productivity when most people go gray and give up. Eying eternal themes like US imperial hegemony, they are the conscience of contemporary punk rock, when Hot Topic and Vans Warped Tours have buried the movement in mass commercial appeal and endless fetish for commodities.

On this outing, they sink their lyrical fangs into the modern information society, with its confusion, failings, and false freedoms. Attacking at sleek angles with cut-throat irony, their emboldened wit is modulated by singer John Reen Davis’s kitchen sink realist poetry meets Dada cut-up style. Such efforts commingle in ravaging wordplay. For instance, “Button on a Lapel” invokes anti-nostalgia (“I’m too old to skateboard / I’m too old to care”) underscored by urban haiku, offered from the perspective of an angst-ridden bus rider surrounded by blue haired women and old men with Vaseline eyes.

In turn, the foreboding dark buzz of “Blank Wall” elicits a resemblance to former noise bands like Unsane, the post-hardcore of Washington, D.C. steeped bands like Monorchid and Circus Lupus, and the rosters of 1980s labels like Rough Trade, including bands such as Feedtime. The song eviscerates religion, martyrdom, war, and a future teeming with “99% of . . . people who do little more than take up space”. Both an ominous warning and acrid creed, it feels toxic in the ear.

“CaCa Convention” rails wholeheartedly against political and economic waywardness. With Midnight Oil-esque watery guitar licks and rhythmic rumbles, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” (sung by multi-instrumentalist and writer Torry Mercer) envisions trampled working-class heroes and ruined Yankee Doodle Dum innocence--the detritus of a collective American fantasy gone sour. Such sweeping visions mirror the sentiments of books written by Howard Zinn and John Dos Passos. Meanwhile, “Big Grey Boat” catalogs the invasions of Grenada, Nicaragua, and Lebanon, like bitter postcards from the dirge and pall of war zones.

In the band’s frame of reference, the tentacles of capitalism and war machinery go unchecked. History becomes a growing, unheeded list of atrocities. Still, despite the rancor and heavy-hitting judgments, the band does sneak in humor. “I Had a Science Fiction Childhood” is as looney and demented as a 1970s Ramones song. Mutants, electrodes, and matinee monster movies poke up in the narrative. Such outings may convey bleak, bastardized bubblegum punk, but the pop culture tour-de-force does feel lighter than most of the album’s anarchic bent.

“We Are More Intelligent” resembles the mid-paced Texas growl of the Big Boys at their early peak (minus the Boys' off-kilter funk) and is chock-full of vehemence, howls, and aggression too. Such sloganeering might spit in the face of good-natured decency, but the band’s vitriol feels in league more or less with Lenny Bruce. They offer mock-violence cradled in language and wit.

Former enfant terrible Johnny Lydon might be a plastic facsimile of his former self, but these pasty men have not suffered such limelight and fate. They do not indulge in a radical rock ’n roll minstrel show, offer a sealed sound of 1982, or forge a sinister looking glass. Sure, they revisit punk worldviews with an untamed vengeance. They might be offbeat and left-wing, like book savvy boys in the newfangled, digitized reality, but their anger is inexhaustibly procreative. They are witnesses when most people are passive peons.

Casual listeners will decry the album as a loose-knit collection of bitter and demented harangues, or as no more than helter skelter explosive punk. Yet, a taut tunefulness does thrive in the landscape of their songs, like poetry stacked up against the mess-heap of the world. They wield their sentiments like a baton, with precision. Watch out for the arc of their swing.

7

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Woodstock each did their stint as a lonely Mexican cowboy, it seems. These and other things you didn't know about A Charlie Brown Christmas.

How Would You Like to Be the Director of Our Christmas Play?

It's really a beautiful little movie and has affected my life in numerous ways. For years, especially when we were poor, we always tried to find the littlest saddest Christmas tree possible. In fact, my son Eli has a Christmas tree set up right now that is just one single branch propped up in a juice bottle. And just a couple weeks ago we were at a wedding, everyone was dancing, and me and my wife Amy and my friend Garth started dancing like the Peanuts characters do in the Christmas special. -- Comic artist James Kochalka.

Bill Melendez answers questions with the sort of vigor that men a third his age invest thousands in herbal supplements to achieve. He punctuates his speech with belly chuckles and comic strip taglines like "Oh, boy!" and "I tell 'ya!" With the reckless abandon that Melendez tosses out words like pleasure, it's clear that 41 years after its premiere, A Charlie Brown Christmas remains one of his favorite topics of conversation. "It changed my life," he states simply, "being involved with this silly little project."

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image