punk rock

ALBUM REVIEW: WHITE LUNG’S PARADISE
May 9, 2016 1:23 pm

The strength of Mish Barber-Way’s voice has been the catalyst to White Lung’s stylistic growth. Her howls made for prime Punk anthems on their 2010 release, It’s The Evil and then contorted that essence into creating some incredibly catchy and effective melodies on Deep Fantasy in 2014. They’ve been able to keep their dynamic energy throughout this progression with great aplomb. Deep Fantasy stayed true to the heaviness of their Punk roots as they branched out to a more sound structure in songwriting.

On Paradise, White Lung proves that they aren’t done expanding sonically, releasing their most eclectic effort that still fits right in at some underground club that uses a specific hair dye color as its password. ‘Below’ blends their harsh drums and Way’s commanding pipes with breezy guitar plucking that provides a gentler foundation than usual.

“Below” could have been a disaster that went committed too much to a less abrasive tone and wound up sounding like an indistinguishable indie band from the early ‘00s. Way’s singing, as well as her ever improving songwriting, made it work. It’s one of the stronger songs on the album because of it. Unfortunately, a good chunk of songs on Paradise are inevitably failed due to of how they mishandle Way’s voice.

Whatever vocal tuning they put on Way for Paradise really puts a number on how effective her usually impactful imprint can be. Too often does it come off like an Avenged Sevenfold or +44 ripoff. It sounds schlocky. The first time listening to “Hungry,” I legitimately thought it was “When Your Heart Stops Beating.”

The problem with Paradise isn’t a matter of selling out or going pop, a banal criticism that Way herself discredited in an interview with Annie Clark recently. There are plenty of great moments from their previous work that had an accessible sound, but by making such a bold modification on Way’s vocals, they killed the potential to build that success. On tracks like “Dead Weight” and “Demented,” the pace is so breakneck that it doesn’t matter as much, but then there’s a track like “Narcoleptic” that’s just too artificial and it doesn’t make for a great listen.

This is a really unfortunate aspect to this album because other than this, the incredible progress both lyrically and musically can’t be ignored. Way’s macabre sensibilities as a writer continue to become more refined, as perfectly shown on “Kiss Me When I Bleed,” and guitarist Kenneth William flaunts his guitar skills more than ever throughout.

Paradise could have easily been White Lung’s best work to date, but falls short due to them dulling the sharpest weapon in their arsenal for some reason. It doesn’t make sense! The high points are oftentimes hindered by this throughout the album and lead to quite a few missed opportunities. It’s a counterintuitive mess that lead to the album being a true missed opportunity.

PARQUET COURTS: KEEPING PUNK ALIVE
April 29, 2016 10:49 am

In regards to Parquet Courts jittery, scratchy, and bombastic 2012 debut record Light Up Gold, Tim Hodgin wrote:

” [It] is a conscious effort to draw from the rich culture of the city – the bands like Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, and the Velvet Underground that are not from New York, but of it. A panoramic landscape of dilapidated corner-stores and crowded apartments is superimposed over bare-bones Americana, leaving little room for romance or sentiment. It’s punk, it’s American, it’s New York… it’s the color of something you were looking for.

Punk isn’t a new musical phenomenon, but it’s certainly proved to be an enduring movement. The Ramones’ self-titled album was released this upcoming weekend, forty years ago, which some would say was responsible for launching the punk movement into the mainstream; to say the least, times have changed. We have cell phones, the internet, Chipotle, and I’m sure a few other technological advances I’m not thinking of. And yet, a band hasn’t emerged since that’s cooler than The Ramones: if The Strokes were a distant second, Parquet Courts may be inching in quickly. Another thing to note here–or perhaps you might call it a bias: all of these bands are from New York. What’s up with that? **

Parquet Courts has released four albums up to this point. Their first release, American Specialties, was more or less a quick introduction in DIY punk fashion: a mixed bag of four-track recordings exclusively released on cassette tape.  Although it’s possible to find these tracks elsewhere now, the original cassette is something of a collector’s item, with roughly only 100 copies in existence, with it’s odd Chinese-American food inspired cover art, also designed by guitarist-singer Andrew Savage.

Courts breakthrough into the indie world came in 2012 with the aforementioned Light Up Gold, which received near-universal acclaim from the music press. The album showcased the bands raw energy and Andrew Savages poignant viewpoints on the dismantling American times we live in. On “Borrowed Time“, he sings:

“Was feeling nostalgic for the days when / My thoughts dripped on to my head from the ceiling / I remember the feeling of the muse less existence / Of the drunk, bored and listless \ Endless waiting for something that I knew wasn’t coming.”

As a fellow snake person, I could instantly relate to his feeling. “Stone and Starving” captured a similar situation: a young, starving artist, debating between roasted peanuts and Swedish fish. Parquet Courts followed suit with Sunbathing Animals, a project that landed the band a proper position on the US charts. Tracks like “Black and White” and “Ducking and Dodging” provided further insights, building on the same punk sound.

If you enjoyed their previous albums, their most recent Human Performance is a rewarding shift in gears.  They teased the record with groovy mural art. The albums focal point again is Adam Savages lyrics: discussing the anxiety of living in a city in uncertain times. However, They’re showing a divergence in style: an acute progression from their original street guitar rock content to a diverse range of sounds, instruments. Human Performance is a post-punk record.  If Light Up Gold was Wire’s Pink Flag, Human Performance is Wire’s Chair’s Missing.

Perhaps because of the atonal guitar noise, or the cynical nature of Andrew Savage’s lyrical content, Parquet Courts draws many comparisons to Pavement, a band that also showcased a raw DIY energy through the progression of their albums in the 90s.  However, not everyone appears to be so fond of this comparison. I tend to hear more of the early punk influences. They have the minimalism of The Velvet Underground. They have an all-around uncanny resemblance to Modern Lovers. In reality though, no one sounds just like Parquet Courts. They own their coolness all to themselves.

If you’re an avid Parquet Courts fan, now is the time to catch them on stage. They’re currently on tour and will be hitting most major American cities this Spring/Summer. They’re also touring with B Boys, who just released their debut EP No Worry No Mind, and will even do one show with Priests, for whom I got to see perform live at Philly’s Underground Arts and wrote about here.

** To clarify, AtypicalSounds is based in New York, but I’m from North Carolina, and write from Philly.  I’ve been to New York a handful of times, and it more or less feels like a giant theme park for rich people, but what can I say? New York has awesome music. And that’s all that matters.

PROTOMARTYR BRING MOTOR CITY POST-PUNK CHOPS TO UNDERGROUND ARTS
February 17, 2016 11:00 am

Last Friday, February 12th, Detroit post-punk outfit Protomartyr performed at Philly’s Underground Arts in support of their critically acclaimed record The Agent Intellect, their second release via Hardly Art.  It was a frosty evening, but the intensifying snowfall did little to deter a boisterous crowd from cramming into the dimly lit venue.

First on the evening’s bill was Taiwan Housing Project, a local Philly noise rock band that pays homage to ‘No Wave’ provocateurs before them such as  Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. The band features both screeching saxophone bursts reminiscent of James Chance noise experiments as well as lead singer Kilynn Lunsford’s devastating howl, who also strikes an uncanny resemblance to a young Lydia Lunch.   Their sound is an excruciating blanket of atonality and dissonance. Their debut Taiwan Bulding Project 7″ EP is available via M’Lady Records.

Taiwan_Building_Project

Next in line, hailing from D.C., was Priests, a four-piece “Real Life Non Internet Band” that combine psychobilly antics of The Cramps with a relentless tension and grit of punk. The formation of a mosh pit almost immediately commenced upon Priests taking the stage. Cans of beer began to fly overhead.  Audience members, perhaps uninitiated to the more visceral edge of live punk performance, showed visible distress and disorientation. It was chaotic, experiential, it was, “real life non internet.” Their debut EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power is available via Sister Polygon Records.

Priests

Protomartyr closed the evening’s festivities with their smart and gloomy brand garage rock. Songs like “I Forgive You” kept the crowds on their feet with the off-kilter post-punk grooves of Greg Ahee’s impeccable angular guitar hooks and Alex Leonard’s precise drum execution. Front-man Joe Casey was in signature dapper attire as he shared disparaging tales of a crumbling Motor City necropolis in his somber baritone. The performance was an immaculate reproduction of their record, rewarding avid listeners with a near-complete track list of The Agent Intellect, along with a selection of other select tunes from previous output.

Protomartyr_Guitar

THE UNABASHED WEIRDNESS OF WHITE MYSTERY
October 27, 2015 2:30 pm

What separates a good punk band from a bad one? How does a two-person band succeed? Where did they get all that hair?

These are the questions that come to mind when checking out the Chicago punk rock duo White Mystery. Singer/guitarist Miss Alex White and her brother/drummer Francis Scott Key White produce a wailing thrash of Velvet Underground meets AC/DC. Lyrically, their songs range from the one-word “No!” to the 306 word paragraph that is “Dubble Dragon.” Scan your eyes over their lyrics page and watch as phrases like “Rotting pigs swing,” “Severe pain, excruciate, carve out my insides,” and “Ragnarok Earth Inferno burn to death from my mighty dynamite blast” jump out at you.

Punk music was born out of a desire to express and relate. One of punk’s early defining traits was its simple, brutal honesty (The Ramones songs are mostly about having crushes on girls and riding around in cars). Another early defining trait of punk was that it was not nearly so important to be good at your instrument. Both of these things could be applied to White Mystery. The attitude is certainly there, but so is the sloppiness. In a genre that celebrates raw emotion and power over technical artistry this can be OK, and at times for White Mystery, it is. How much of the time depends on how committed you are to what they are doing.

What they are doing has to do with their concept. Not all acts have a concept, but when they do, it can help fill out areas of their music that would be lacking otherwise (see Lady GaGa). This is especially important in instrumental duos. When there are only two people, a greater percentage of band responsibility falls on each members’ head. A concept can help alleviate whitemysterysome of this stress, an idea bearing the burden for the band. Look at The White Stripes. Jack White is a future member of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. He shreds, sings like a mofo, and adds a dense cloud of mystery to whatever room he’s in. But Meg White is not on his level. When it comes down to it, she’s just not that good at drums. But the White Stripes are still arguably the most important rock duo ever. This is because of Jack White’s concept. As he discusses in the documentary “Under Great White Northern Lights,” White sought to place himself within a creative boundary. By operating under the pre-established notions of Rock ‘n Roll, backed only by basic drum parts, White set musical limits on what the band would sound like. This forced him to be more creative within these boundaries, and to come up with absolutely face-melting songs. Meg White doesn’t hold Jack back, because he is not moving in that direction.

White Mystery absolutely has a concept. Their lyrics are consistently thematic, and their image is complete. If there’s anyone that doesn’t believe that, just watch the trailer for their feature length film, “That Was Awesome.” But duos don’t need a concept to survive. Look at Death From Above 1979 or Shovels and Rope. These bands are good musicians making good music. Sometimes if a musician is good enough, they can even carry a not so good one (I’m lookin’ at you The Black Keys). When this doesn’t hold true, a question must be asked; does the validity of their concept outweigh the musical failings? The answer for White Mystery is yes, but not by a lot, and certainly not for everyone. Some will love it, those drawn to noise rock and raw punk. The feminine power and unabashed weirdness will immediately pull in others. But some will not be able to get past the simplistic musical structures and performances.

In an interview with SheShredsMag.com, Francis explained (surprisingly soft-spokenly) their band’s goal; “We’re trying to reach nirvana, and the best way that we know how is to do what we love, and hopefully inspire others to do so as well.” This draws attention to the best and most valid aspect of White Mystery—their attitude. Alex and Francis have put themselves into the musical world in such a thoroughly bizarre way that it’s hard not to respect them. Their strange look and sound are initially jarring, but then deeply endearing. They will not be ashamed of what they are, and that is a beautiful thing.

4KNOTS MAY GIVE GOVERNOR’S BALL A RUN FOR ITS MONEY
July 14, 2015 2:55 pm

Delicious food, beautiful views and awesome music made this past weekend’s 4Knots Festival the perfect NYC summer day. The lineup was very rock n’ roll-centric featuring the heavy-hitting Heaters and Screaming Females, classic indie rock 5 piece Twin Peaks and punk-rock Surfbort. London band Happyness joined from across the pond to mellow things out and were complimented nicely by Heaven, Mikal Cronin, and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. Super Furry Animals headlined delivering their own brand of eclectic, new age, pop weirdness.

surfbort

While 4Knots were pretty stationary in the “rock band” genre, there was still something for everyone. Starting off the day were the tough as nails punk act, Surfbort. Sporting classic riot grrrl attire (necklaces with severed doll heads, etc) Surtbort is inspired by, if not directly referencing, Kathleen Hanna in the Bikini Kill era. As a huge aficionado of this genre and movement, I was impressed by the authenticity and truthfulness of Surfbort’s set. Their “girls to the front” attitude and their dynamic live performance made them a highlight of the day regardless of their status as the opening act.

surfbort at 4knotsmarissa paternoster

Another stand-alone performance was delivered by Screaming Females. Marissa Paternoster blew the crowd away with her wild guitar solos and unreal vocal prowess. Although the Screaming Females are very guitar rock who call on some outdated influences, they feature pop-based melodic lines to keep the audience captivated in what could’ve become an overwhelming sea of guitar lines.

Twin Peaks was the uncontested crowd favorite. Those dance moves were so wild that their mic stands fell off the stage twice (once directly on top of me). The Twin Peaks dudes were inspiring, forcing even the security guards to dance along. Twin Peaks music fluctuates between the day dreams of melancholy schoolboys and the rants of raucous, power-chord pumping rock and rollers, but after their set on Saturday, anyone can see they are moving in the direction of the latter. I’m definitely looking forward to what this band will get up to in the coming months.

twin peaks 4knots

4knots festival

4knots festival

4knots brooklyn

4Knots brought together some incredible talent this weekend and really has the making of a NYC summer staple. Hopefully next year’s fest will expand even further, perhaps covering a wider musical range. Either way, the future is looking bright for this event!

Written by Alessandra Licul 

Motel Pools Just Perfected “Grunk”
June 18, 2015 2:27 pm

Grunk: Grunge, Indie, Punk, Rock. It’s a thing, and so are Motel Pools, who just released their first self titled EP on June 2nd. The album, stemming from the brainpower of California native Chiara Angelicola (also known from Bird Call), was produced with the help of TV on the Radio’s own Kyp Malone, and the influences do not fall unseen. The eclectic mix ranges from the Human Cannonball cover (originally sung by grunge band Butthole Surfer), to the synthesized pop-punk melodies of “Lemme Walk Your Dog”. Each their own tune, they still fall under the direct characterization of Motel Pools’ take on “Grunk”.

Having a chance to speak with Motel Pools’ own, Chiara Angelicola, it was fascinating to catch some of the band’s favorite parts of the release. Angelicola explains the great experience of working with dear friend Kyp Malone throughout the production process; she quotes his “humble and imaginative” character as a huge support in the creation. It also helped that the members of Motel Pools have an excellent friendship, branching back to their meeting in Brooklyn back in 2009. The production process itself remains one of Angelicola’s favorite parts of her artist life. She explains that “the nature and creativity of the process and the steps before any production even happens” is the most enjoyable and rewarding part of the experience in creating any new record or EP. She looks forward to spending the summer busy working on new material (and so do we).

Taking a look at the tracks themselves, the majority are driven by the head banging drums, rock inspired guitar chords and muddled punk vocals. The talent shines through with the complexity and differentiation of each track leaving us wanting more. Angelicola fills us in on her favorite track, “Lemme Walk Your Dog” featuring vocals from Ryan of Man Man. She tells us, “The structure of the song itself is what I’m most used to, but I can take this less seriously than with other projects and add the more playful feel.” Other stand out songs from the EP are Monster Girlfriend and Human Cannonball, both embracing the grunge punk qualities we love most. And if it were 1995, we would find each and every track featured in the most epic punk rock film of the 90’s, Empire Records.

Check out this new EP, and get ready for their west coast tour this summer with NY native band, Vows. And in character of Motel Pools themselves, happy listening weirdos.

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: HONDURAS
May 31, 2015 6:41 pm

If you’ve been to see a hard rock show in the last month, Honduras has probably opened it. The Brooklyn based quartet has recently opened for Metz, Fidlar, Sunflower Bean, Twin Peaks and Blurr. Honduras seems to be playing a new show before you can even sign on to Twitter and hear about it. Perfectly blending surf and indie rock with punk, vocalist Pat Philips calls on the ghosts of little anarchists such as The Ramones or The Sex Pistols.

In textbook punk rock fashion, the Brooklyn based band (by ways of Missouri), doesn’t have much of a musical background other than just playing guitar “because there was one around my friends’ house and I fell in love” says guitarist Tyson Moore.

Pat and Tyson have been writing songs together for ten years. “Maybe it was weird collaborating when we first started out but I don’t remember, we always agree,” Tyson jokes. They have some unexpected influences considering the spirited anarchism in their music, citing Tom Petty and Wilco. Pat even went through a hip-hop, free style rap phase in adolescence. Clearly being in NYC has distinctively shaped their current sound. “I didn’t go through a true punk rock phase until I lived here” Pat says, “that’s when I got into Lou Reed, the history of CBGB and all that shit.”

“I think Pat is really good at pushing personality through in his vocals, which makes it unique and easy to get into” Tyson remarks. “A lot of bands get stale to me because of their vocals”. When writing together “Pat will usually come to me with a basic idea, and we’ll sit in my room and make a shitty ProTools demo with fake drums just to shape it and get a better idea what it sounds like” Tyson says. “When we first started out, chillwave and MGMT were really big, so we have been holding on for a return to guitar and bass music.”

Their track “Ace” is the perfect anthem for this comeback. The song could almost pass for a high-strung surf rock tune until you hear “destroy” shouted over and over again, with angst, to really drive the point home. The song, while wearing a mask of screaming bravado, is really just about personal weakness and feeling vulnerable with someone. “You’re my ace….destroy destroy destroy.” Many of the songs on the band’s album, Morality Cuts, express the same heartfelt, personal sentiments and are expressed through shouting vocals and the drone of an electric guitar. Honduras harnesses the universal quality of punk music that has been lost. Everyone has their demons, but we all have the same urge to dance, shove and scream when one of these songs play. Pat says that he uses his songwriting to work through things in his life, which is the opportunity Honduras affords the listener. The songs on Morality Cuts bare personal feelings with repression ecstatically escaping through every strum of the electric guitar.

When Atypical Sounds saw their show at Baby’s Alright last month, the band performed their new single Paralyzed. The track holds a trademark that has that raw, in your face attitude and serves as a promising preview to their upcoming album, entitled “Rituals” which we can look out for this July.

Photo credit: Brock Fetch 

Written by Alessandra Licul