Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (pt. 10)


PICKS

iceage, New Brigade

Not so much a blast of fresh air as a quick swig of battery acid, four teenaged Danes brilliantly confuse Killing Joke with a pioneering hardcore act, detonating eleven songs plus one interlude in under 25 minutes. Noise and thrash dominate, but sing-song melodies have their place, too. A servile press hails them “saviors” of punk, which they aren’t. But it’s punk rock deferential to post-punk maturity, with energy only youth can provide.

Fucked Up, David Comes To Life

Those lamenting mp3 dominance will rejoice in this four-act “punk opera,” complete with booklet and incomprehensible plot. With a single acoustic interlude disrupting the onward rush of walled guitars, this is uncompromising, even grand. If an entire album’s worth of Damian Abraham’s screamo vocals leave me wanting more female interjections, they do eventually seem a natural affectation rather than unnecessary male aggression.

NEAR PICKS

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks, Mirror Traffic

“Forty with a kid/Living on the grid,” the former SM notes, and a decade out from his Pavement days, it’s becoming clear he’ll forever paint on smaller canvases. Malkmus appears incapable of releasing a lousy record. But in the 90s, a line like “I know what the senator wants/What the senator wants is a blowjob,” would’ve been dropped without preamble amid other non sequiturs. Here it becomes the chorus. A sign of progress, or a retreat to the bland middle? 

Cut Off Your Hands, Hollow

Not an original bone in their dear little frames, unless choosing The Trashcan Sinatras as your inspiration counts, which it probably should. Credit or blame the remoteness of New Zealand for the quaint nature of this guitar-pop record - charming lads echoing any number of quietly wonderful Kiwi bands mining similar inoffensive veins. Coming by their Anglo-Saxon worship naturally, they shimmer, strum, even write some tunes.

BOMBS

The War On Drugs, Slave Ambient

Undeniably impressive, the way this Philly crew manages to blend 70s song structure with paisley-flecked psychedelic contours. But what to make of an outfit once featuring rising star Kurt Vile who took four years off, parted ways with their acolyte, and now return sounding almost exactly like Kurt Vile? Key difference – Vile writes sharper tunes. And their paisley-flecked psychedelic contours could be a whole lot woollier.

The Cave Singers, No Witch

In which the bassist for Pretty Girls Make Graves assembles fellow Seattleites to explore the possibilities of an acoustic-driven format one might kindly dub Campfire Rock. An improvement on two previous efforts, with nods toward electricity welcome indeed. But snot-punk vocals atop bongos ‘n drone has aesthetic limitations. Art defining white male culture as the tribal calls of bearded forest dwellers has even less to teach us.