Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Feedback Comics End-of-2011 (mostly) Portland Records Round-up!

As the year comes to an end, a shitload of bands crap out a ton of dope records, emptying my wallet, and keeping local record stores in business. Thanks for making me broke guys! Like Jesus said, money is the root of all evil.

It Used to Rain LP

This is a concept album set in the near future during the upcoming water crisis. The lyrics are about guarding a water tank with an AK-47, riots, fires, thirst, and literally killing people for a drink. Folksy strumming kicks out the jams sounding like Against Me! or some catchy Avail singalong. However, all the mid tempo palm-muting and political / environmental content recalls bands like Fuel and Fugazi. Lastly, the singer has a nasally voice that sounds like Blink 182 or NOFX. Abolitionist is a trio (my favorite ensemble) and has crystal-clear song structures similar to pop punk trios like Jawbreaker. I'm already playing air guitar on the first listen! The vinyl comes with a CD and a poster. KICKING

No Hay Descanso LP

On the folk tip, the album begins with a countrified alternating bass line. Thankfully, the beautiful reverbed-out guitar work keeps up for a few minutes before breaking into gut-busting crust. I love the art production which is a brown cardboard gatefold screen-printed in two colors on both sides. Screen-printing the lyric sheet is so fucking punk. It's like, "I don't give a shit if you can read this or not but here it is!" Surprisingly, the lyrics are totally legible and translated from Spanish into English, so mad props for that. Alternating male and female vocals, a Central American perspective, and a fusion of musical styles make this a record that is furious, refreshing, and danceable. KICKING

Arctic Flowers
Reveries LP

Mint green vinyl is just awesome! Arctic Flowers continue their ripping trajectory of spiraling, spinning guitar melodies, chugging bass lines, ride cymbals, and driving beats. Quick, desperate tempos show a hardcore punk aesthetic while dark moods, suspenseful arrangements, and powerful singing vocals recall an era when punk barely even had a name. I wish everyone would play guitar like Stan. RIPPING

Blood Beach
The Return of the Curse of the Creature's Ghost LP

This band inevitably gets a house party dancing with bouncy, psychedelic surf-garage pop involving theremin, mandolin, saxophone, and a host of instruments. Short and concise, none of the tunes drawl on for too long and a dizzying array of effects and tempos keeps them distinct and separate, each with it's own mood and attitude. The guitar tones are fuzzy and a low-fi jam aesthetic pervades the recording, but the arrangements have a seasoned pop sensibility reminding me of Weezer, BOOM!, or Big Black Cloud. Punk points alert: silk-screened album cover artwork by singer/guitarist/cartoonist Shane. The lyrics come as a folded-up little zine booklet. Oh, and it's a one-sided record. KICKING

Die on This Island LP

I saw Company play in an earlier formation known as Anchor Down. I decided they were ripping, kicking, and slamming, which translates to, "they sounded like Jawbreaker or Hot Water Music." Company sounds like a bunch of big dudes, with big bellies, who maybe drive trucks, drink whisky, and know how to fire a shotgun. I don't think any of that is bad. In fact, I'd rather be in their company than anywhere else when the shit hits the fan. They can belt out some big booming "whoa-oh-oh"'s while ripping shit up on guitar. KICKING

Hemisphere of Shadows LP

This reminds me of the Bubblepuppy video on where a cartoon puppy blows bubbles out of its butt while riding atop the Mystery Machine hippie bus. Endless riffage drips over an interstellar lattice of outer-space bass. Danava is so shredding they sound EXACTLY like Black Sabbath, fuckin' Nazareth, Pentagram, Thin Lizzy, Diamond Head, and all that sweet 70's vintage metal shit. This record will make you wanna wear a headband, sunglasses, smoke a doob, drive in a hot rod, smash things, and light shit on fire. Going through life without experiencing this record would be like missing out on your best teenage years. SHREDDING

Love Was Born to an Early Death LP

This is kind of like Ian Drury backed by a thrash band, or, as popular lingo would have it, "Death in June meets Discharge." Some of this is way too fast and furious to be considered goth music, but that just what it is: d-beat for goths. With a varied line-up over the years, Deathcharge seems something of a Portland institution. The slow, pensive intro to the last track makes it clear that this is the best track of the album. More gloom, less Doom! HITTING

Elitist LP
Fear in a Handful of Dust LP

This record starts out slow and heavy like stoner metal, but with no real groove. Instead, they play a slowed down death-metal drone filled with bends and false harmonics. I kept switching the record speed from 33 to 45 so it would play at a more upbeat mid tempo groove rather than dinosaur-stuck-in-molasses speed. The vocals and guitar tones are twisted and ugly, and the drums pummel and roll like a herd of bison going over a cliff. The art is just black on a white background and there's no insert or lyric sheet in the record. I have the feeling that Elitist don't care, so it's funny that there's a sticker on the packaging explaining what the album sounds like and that it "includes collectable dropcard with free mp3s." HITTING

Aesthetica LP

While not even from Portland Liturgy is a band with so much buzz, I had to check them out. If Battles and Lightning Bolt teamed up to play a howling black Metal math-rock opera, it would sound like Liturgy. The graphic design on the album artwork reminds me of Man Is The Bastard because of all the super-bold borders. Extensive use of arial fonts seem to spit in the face of pre-existing "black metal" imagery. MIND-MELTING

Into Oblivion LP

"There's a burning in the night / a siren's song to ignite / and it's alright." Ripper is some good time rock'n'roll. Fast beats and blues riffs spell the M-word, which I will try not to mention here, but the singer sounds like a younger Lemmy. Shredding on all three instruments, this trio packs such an energetic punch, you'll need to turn the stereo up all the way to do it justice. The best part is that the songs never slow down; the album plays with such unrelenting speed that you get swept up with it. No power ballads; just straight headbanging 'til dawn. The sleeve is a gatefold covered by the mad skills of heavy metal artist Halseycaust. RIPPING (Duh)

Witch Mountain
South of Salem LP

With rad cover artwork, which is a unholy map of Oregon by Skinner, this slab of wax features six tracks of smoky, stony, crushing, thunderous Blues-driven metal crooned over by the powerful female vocals. The heavy, lumbering groove of these tunes recalls Sleep without the psychedelic San Francisco vibe. Imagine of Sleep were even slower with long pauses between the notes, more massive, stark, and desolate. SMOKING

Releases either unavailable or beyond funding restrictions at time of press:

Bellicose Minds 7"
Bi-Marks LP
Murderess LP
Red Fang LP
Salted City 7"
Trauma LP
Yob - Atma LP

Key (It's all about the SONGS):
SHITTING * (zero-one stars) Shitty: Insulting
HITTING ** (two stars) Okay: No real standout tracks
KICKING *** (three stars) Good: A few good tracks
RIPPING / SHREDDING **** (four stars) Excellent: Multiple standout tracks make this an album worthy of purchase
MIND-MELTING ***** (five stars) What the fuck is this?: Redefines the boundaries of musical categories

Friday, December 16, 2011

Old ass show: Moral Hex, Cat Party, and the Estranged

I've been in grad school so that took over my life for the past few months. Now that the quarter is over, I can catch up on some shows I went to this summer. Talk about backlog!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Twenty show reviews (Rabbits, Witch Mountain, Sloths, Nether Regions, Wizard Rifle, Yob, The Ex, Lightning Bolt, Weekend Nachos, Asta Kask, Undergang, Acephalix, and more) in comics format, 26 zine reviews, six record reviews, and some really nice letters.
Right now this is only available from me for $2:
John Isaacson / Feedback
PO Box 42041
Portland, Oregon 97242

Sloths, Wizard Rifle, Dark Castle, Yob at Branx

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Top Ten PDX LPs of 2010 part 1

In 2010, so many Portland bands put out full-length records on local independent labels that I feel compelled to support by listing a few of them here:

Hovercraft Records

The catchy, crunchy rhythmic opening hook reminds me of Weezer's "Hash Pipe." When the drums come in, they make your head bounce. The vocals are super blown-out and chant along with the beat, almost like a rap song, but he's totally singing like Lil' Pocketknife. It has the lo-fi effect of Japanther singing into a telephone receiver, but the melody of a teenage Biz Markie. I had to go downstairs and listen to my housemate's No Age record to make sure BOOM! doesn’t sound like No Age, because they're from Riverside originally. But aside from being blown-out and fuzzy they don’t sound like No Age at all. No Age is like Sonic Youth, and BOOM! is like… Cypress Hill, on the Judgement Night soundtrack. A recurrent lyrical theme is drugs. Lots of chanting like Mano Chau about "marijuana." Songs like "Pills" and "Jim Morrison" suggest extra-curricular activities. This record has not left my turntable for a week. I just keep flipping it over and over. It's my jam. BOOM! rules.

Guantanamo Baywatch
Postcard from the Tar Pitz
Hovercraft Records

Okay the name of this record is funny to me, because when I grew up in California there was a "surfer gang" called "Tar Pits" from Carpinteria. They even had a gang logo. It was a "T" and a "P" overlapping. Duh. I guess Guantanamo Baywatch is what those dudes wish they could sound like if they formed a band, even though they were all into Pink Floyd and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Guantanamo Baywatch is reverb-drenched Ventures-esque surf rock. If you don't know The Ventures, think Pulp Fiction, or that song "Wipe Out." I guess they've been through a few line-up changes since I last saw them because it looks they lost a guitarist and changed a drummer. By the way, the drums also rule on this record. I mean, the guitars are what you would expect from a surf rock band: Lots of virtuostic note-twiddling and twangly, careening "Wipe Out" melodies. But the drums have these tight-ass fills on the snare that just clean your clock. So if you ever want to have a beach party in your living room, put on the Guantanamo Baywatch. And by party, I mean dance, and by dance I mean sex. Check out these song titles, "Cum Fart Food" "Tits and Twatz" "Whoa Babes!"

The Estranged
The Subliminal Man
Dirtnap Records

Okay, what can I say about the Estranged that hasn't been said already? These are tightly-wound, driving songs about paranoia, paganism, and alienation. If you ever liked those kick-ass 80's goth bands like Skeletal Family or Ghost Dance, you might like The Estranged. No, not those goofy kooky bongo-playing goth bands, but the cool ones that fucking rocked perfect intense driving songs with those dope melodies like The Cure. Speaking of The Cure, you can’t really talk about The Estranged without talking about amazing song-writing. The guitar melodies suck you in to whirling vacuum, a piercing ray of light, like a laser. Then there's a break and a pause with that desperate singing, then BANG! back with that melody. Back and forth a few times. Then the chorus explodes. There are a few dreary mid-tempo numbers on this sophomore disc, but those songs balance out the intensity of the driving, trance-inducing songs.

Autistic Youth
Idle Minds
Dirtnap Records

Yeah! Throw a Molotov cocktail at a cop car! Following in the tradition of Black Flag and Born Against, you can feel the rage of Autistic Youth at a city where people are frequently shot and killed by the police. Isn't that what punk is all about anyway? Confronting uncomfortable issues head on? The delivery is expedited and enforced by melodic bass and plenty of "Whoa-oh-oh-oh"s. Doesn't Bad Religion call those "oozin aahs"? Autistic Youth are no D-beat, pummel-the-snare punx. There is huge element of pop flavor in the catchy melodies. Combine that with East Bay punx Rancid-sounding bass lines, plenty of rage, and choppy pounding hand-clapping rhythms, and you have anthems for skateboarders, graffiti artists, activists, reformers, Mokeywrenchers, system-fuckers, and anyone else who might have that "fight-or-flight" instinct when the cops are around.

Purple Rhinestone Eagle
The Great Return
Stankhouse Records

There's not much to not like about Purple Rhinestone Eagle. I've seen them live a bunch of times and they shred with bombastic drums and elegant-yet-heavy guitar melodies. It's easy to hear a heavy Black Sabbath influence, but it's way more complex than that. If you really know your 70's metal, you might be calling out Pentagram or Witchcraft. And witches they are. From the nature-inspired earthen imagery on the album artwork, to the anti-civilization lyrics, Purple Rhinestone Eagle has a clear message that hearkens back to an age before written language. The laid-back stomping rhythm and crunchy bass melodies turn crushingly heavy on "Burn It Down" calling for a return to nature. Okay, dare, I say it? The wah-wah pedal just came in, and the guitar tone's warm flame and soaring vocals remind me of what I love about Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix is God, but Purple Rhinestone Eagle is the Goddess.