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.