Although I didn’t hear it until early this year, Des Demonas’ debut was one of the best albums of 2017. The DC band touched a variety of personal and political raw nerves via Jacky Cougar’s incisive lyrics, yet they also rocked hard, with deceptively simple tunes inspired by, and equal to, the best of ’60s garage rock and ’70s punk. If nothing else, they gave the world “The South Will Never Rise Again”, an anti-racist anthem whose chorus should be sung daily throughout the world. Less than a year later they’re back with a brand new two-song 7-inch, which thankfully delivers more of the same thrills. “Bay Of Pigs” is a two-chord steamroller of a song. The music and lyrics both feel a little underdeveloped, but there’s an immediacy in the performances that totally sells it. B-side, “Skrews”, is garage punk nirvana, with Cougar hoping for a future that doesn’t make you “feel like crying” over a charged up beat that’s as much Nuggets as it is Sex Pistols. If these two songs are any indication of where Des Demonas are headed next, we are in for a real thrill.
Let’s cut to the chase – this album is insanely good. Imagine if you will, a trio of bongs that somehow became sentient beings and formed a psychedelic rock band. And suppose that this bong-band’s singer sometimes fed their vocals through some kind of high-pitched effect (which may just be a sped up tape) that gave it a unique, and often startling, sound. Well, that band might come up with something that sounds like Looking Forward To Being Attacked. Cretin Stompers has its pedigree in recent-ish garage groups – Billy Hayes played with Jay Reatard, Alex Gatez in Wavves, and they’ve got a dude going by the name of BigMuff who played in BigMuffRadio and The Delay. The album does deliver some punky numbers, like “Adult Child” and “Cretin Ate My Neighbor”, but they’re so noise-damaged that even the Butthole Surfers would have to tip their cap in deference. Beneath all the lunacy (which extends out from the music into the trippy/goofy record sleeve art) lies a serious knack for writing earworms. “Eye Of The Storm” and “Watch Sally Run” could even pass for Super Furry Animals tunes – and the way the latter segues into the bizzaro funk of “Dream Blood” is just one great weedy moment on an album of many. Super-obscuro covers of The Styrenes (“Drano In Yr. Veins”) and “Sweet Obsession” by Dave Brock of Hawkwind just add to the disturbed fun.
How much did I like this album? Well, I’m reviewing it now, even though it came out in 2014. Why? Because, maybe if more people hear it, they’ll make another. Oh, and the cover art is by Memphis photographer William Eggleston – on of his photos is the cover of Big Star’s Radio City – which is just icing on the cake.
The Sueves are a Chicago three-piece serving up tough as nails rock and roll that sets up shop right on the border of garage rock and punk. R.I.P. Clearance Event – the band’s second full-length album for local tastemakers Hozac Records – has the raw materials for success. The album is overflowing with attitude and energy, and singer Joe Schorgl’s voice never sounds less than ornery. However, the recording isn’t that great. Lyrics are consistently hard to discern, and their palette of sounds is too similar from song to song. The album’s best moments are all on Side 2 – “Never Been To The Beach” is a tightly wound anti-tribute to sun and surf, “Green White” is electrifying and “Slammer” is aptly titled. There’s even a hint of blues on “What They Did”, giving the album some much needed variety. While The Sueves aren’t likely to be hailed as rocks next saviours any time soon – and I have no idea how to pronounce their name correctly (is it Swaves? Sweves?) – there’s something interesting here for fans of Ty Segall, Brimstone Howl, Jay Reatard…etc. to latch on to.
Everything about Ruby Karinto’s debut album seems designed to simultaneously confuse and stimulate. Even their name is puzzling – nobody in the band is named Ruby Karinto, nor are any hints given to what it means. The four members of Ruby Karinto are only listed by their first names, so we barely even know who they are! Their sound is hard to pin down too. There are reference points like ESG, Yamasuki, and maybe some of the weirder stuff Grand Royal put out in mid-’90s, but this is a unique spin on all of those inspirations. Ruby Karinto have no guitar player, instead the band is built on bedrock of bass and drums keeping a thumping backbeat, while all manner of swirling synth and electronics sounds swoop in and out of the picture and singer “Ai” chants, sings, and talks on top of it all. Oh, and did I mention that half of the songs on the album are in Japanese? Side two offers a few clues on the origins of Ruby Karinto’s sound, though you’d have to be a black-belt music geek to pick up on them. Specifically, there’s an excellent cover of “Always Now” by Section 25 and a song called “No Manchester” that does in fact resemble the caustic sound of the No New York compilation, gone Manchester post-punk. As challenging as Ruby Karinto’s music may sound on paper, it’s actually easy to digest and infectiously danceable too, proving that you can stimulate minds and asses at the same time.
Listening to this single, you’d swear Velveteen Rabbit were some forgotten British Junkshop Glam band, yet they’re a newly minted outfit from New York City, previously known as The Jeanies. Pretty much every circa-’73 glam touchstone is accounted for: fey vocals, boot-stomping beats, guitar moves copped from Bolan, Thunders and Ronson….and that’s just the A-side! Flip your 45 over and “I Wanna Be Your Woman” gives you more of the same, this time with a little gender-fluid sexuality thrown in to boot (Velveteen Rabbit are men). As with the best of the original glam scene, beneath the lipstick and glitter lies a rock and roll heart and keen pop sensibility. A two-song single feels like the right format for Velveteen Rabbit’s kind of cheap thrills (a term which, in Junkshop Glam parlance, is actually a compliment), but I’d also be curious to see if they can sustain the fun over the course of an album. Mostly, I just want to hear more music from them.
F.U.K. (that stands for Fucked Up Kids) were a brief blip, barely registered on Michigan’s punk radar, playing just one show at an Ann Arbor club called The Cube on Halloween 1977, and leaving behind these two songs as perhaps the only proof they ever existed. The band’s lineup shared some members with local faves Destroy All Monsters, as well as ultimately contributing two members (Roger Miller and Martin Swope) to Mission Of Burma a few years later after they moved to Boston. The titular A-side, belted out by Sue Rynski, overcomes the cheap recording quality with sheer ferocity, and an assist from Miller’s wild guitar, which marries Ron Asheton’s psychedelic tone to James Williamson’s razor-sharp technique. Miller sings the B-side, “I Got A Head”, and it sounds like a practice run for what Mission of Burma would end up sounding like a few years later, though the presence of a kazoo adds an Ubu-esque element of absurd experimentation. Both songs smoke and prove that there’s still plenty of unmined gold within the margins of punk’s early years.
I found The Lovely Eggs’ music charming when I first heard their early recordings a little over a decade back. Married couple Holly Ross (guitar/vocals) and David Blackwell (drums) landed on a winning formula of ramshackle punk rock, made unique by Ross’ snarky lyrics and unapologetically British accent. Compared to her, Liam Gallagher sounds like a Texas hillbilly. What I liked most was that, their songs were rudimentary, yet still somehow sounded like they were teetering on the edge of falling apart – like one missed drum beat could just grind the whole thing to a screeching halt at any given moment.
Fast forward to 2018, and The Lovely Eggs, now something of a cult success in England, are back with their self-released fifth full-length album, This is Eggland. Ross and Blackwell are still very much themselves on this album – there’s cheeky songs with titles like “Dickhead” and “Would You Fuck” (though, in Ross’ hands a more accurate title may have been “Would You Fook”), and they still run zero risk of being confused with The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Outside of those constants, The Lovely Eggs beefed up their sound considerably for this release. First, they have Dave Fridmann producing, which is a major coup for the band. After all he’s produced major albums from indie institutions like Spoon, The Flaming Lips, and Low, though I’ll always remember him most fondly as a member of Mercury Rev. Fridmann really goes to town here, adding all kinds of reverb, tape loops and stereo panning effects to fill in the empty spaces previously found between the guitar and drums. The instruments themselves sound like they’ve been souped up too – giving every song an anthemic quality that practically sounds genetically engineered for European festival circuit crowds. The new sheen sounds amazing on each of This Is Eggland’s eleven songs. I especially like “Wiggy Giggy”, which is basically The Lovely Eggs’ “Ca Plane Por Moi”, and the aforementioned “Dickhead”, which segues between Cramps-y garage stomp and ’90s Buzz Bin-era alternative rock at breakneck speed. The problem is that, over the course of 40 minutes the album’s unrelenting pumped up sound is a bit fatiguing on the ears. Picture listening to a brickwalled chorus of “Gigantic” by The Pixies for 2/3 of an hour and that’s pretty much how you feel after spending time in Eggland. Nevertheless, these are wildly fun songs for serious times, and totally worth seeking out.