Deconstructive Criticism: Naughty and Nice Edition

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_36_Image_0001
Published  December 2014

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_36_Image_0001I thought most of these reviews would be a lot harsher than they ended up. But in fact, most of them are pretty nice as far as I’m concerned. So if you’re offended by anything  I wrote, if you’re just another one of those flaccid-kneed, soft-hearted, fragile ego, sensitive types who can’t absorb even a bit of criticism without falling apart (Oh my god why would he write this viciously, malicious, oh-so-evil, comment about my sweet, gentle-baby, spawned-from-the-core-of-my-soul art!?!), crying to everyone who’ll listen to you and writing snarky comebacks in online forums you know I don’t even bother reading—if you’re one of those sad, mushy-faced weaklings instead of a hard-skinned, swinging dick like me, then whatever. “Sorry.”


 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_36_Image_0002GLISH
S/T
(TEXAS IS FUNNY)
“Shoegaze” and “dreampop” get thrown around way too often when folks describe this band. While there  are definitely a few amazingly downer, sad rockers on this record, there’s still way too much of the upbeat Cardigans- esque alternative to use terms forged in the smoldering furnaces of Cocteau  Twins and their ilk. That being said, those standout songs on here are all the ethereal, mid-tempo, delay-drenched epics. Though it could stand a bit of artfully layered and mixed feedback, the first song “Pretty Car” is just crushing; if the entire LP had songs more like that, Glish could easily be one of the best bands in the city. I’m not exactly sure what the holdup is on the physical release for this. It’s out digitally and on cassette. Hopefully, the vinyl will make its way out of the ethers because this is easily the best release this band has done (despite somewhat lazily rehashing a song off their Come Down EP and their track off the split 7” with Vetter Kids). I also heard they might’ve broken up, but I hope that’s not true.

 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_36_Image_0003CADDYWHOMPUS
FEATHERING A NEST
(COMMUNITY)
When these guys first started playing around town, I thought they sounded like a mix between Lightning Bolt and Braid. In the years since then,  they haven’t completely ditched the noisey experimentation, but they have downplayed it a good bit, cutting loose in focused bursts, as opposed to their  former toddler meltdown hyperactive explosions. Compared to the early works, this new record sounds a lot less Providence and a lot more Sunny Day Real Estate, Modest Mouse, and—dare I say it—Paul Simon. AG Art Director Kevin Barrios recently called them the new Community band (as in the old, ex-Supaflies, pre-Black Belt Band). And that’s a fair comparison, though Caddywhompus tends way more towards the jangly noise and flirts with electric folk while not really digging into the catchy popness that  was Community’s greatest strength. This record plays like some kind of demented Brian-Wilson-gone-indie- college-weenie opus. It’s no wonder  we’ve blown through about ten million copies of this at the new record shop— this LP sounds like the new anthem for every Loyola music industries major living down in the Bywater. Even so, this is certainly a good record.  And the artwork and simple layout is spectacular—way better than most of the Community Records releases.

 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_36_Image_0004WOOZY/EX-BREATHERS/GNARWHAL/OVLOV
FOUR WAY  SPLIT
(COMMUNITY)
Is this a split or a compilation? Four  bands? Oh Emm Gee. I know, I know, “We’re all friends and we wanted to do a record together.” Blah blah blah! Seems silly to me, especially since Woozy has been around for a few years and probably has enough songs to fill out their own LP or two. I’ve never been super into the mathy, off-kilter, indie stuff like this. It was bad enough when it had some frail, pasty, dweeb screeching underneath the same soundtrack and dingalings called it “hardcore” with a straight face. The indie version of this subgenre has always seemed straight up boring, if not mind-numbingly annoying. But Woozy can stand out in the crowded Loyola corridors of post-Caddywhompus, off-time beats  and guitar twiddling simply because  Kara Stafford’s vocals rule so effing hard. I think if she was more at the forefront, and the songs were geared more towards the vaguely weirdo, folk-pop of the second track, “The Other  Half Lives,” this band would really be something to reckon with. I’d probably  get bored if all of their songs were as short as that, but the other track just has way too many parts to hold an old man’s attention. It could’ve been three  or four songs! Artwork on the LP is nice but also very Community Records in the vein of a zillion mid-90s emo pop bands who had a friend who liked to tinker with Photoshop. You know, lots of layers and colors and random shapes. Still a lot better than most Community releases, so keep it up, Greg. A couple of the other bands are pals of mine, but they’re not from New Orleans, so tough titties.

 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_36_Image_0005DONOVAN WOLFINGTON
SCARY STORIES YOU TELL IN THE DARK
(TOP SHELF)
I see why folks love this band: they take all of the catchy, anthemic elements of those ‘90s upbeat emo pop bands like The Anniversary or Saves the Day and make it a little more saccharine but also a little punker—just a little easier to swallow with enough edge to keep the songs on repeat a few times. The layout even looks like a Promise Ring record or something: fairly simple, lightly- colored photos, with some basic text. Not too bad, but they blew it with the UPC printed on the jacket, too much useless text, and an almost completely wasted inside of the folder. Aside from some general flakiness IRL, these turkeys are just a few aesthetic nudges short of being totally on point.

 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_36_Image_0006PEARS
S/T
(SELF-RELEASE)
Imagine if The Ghostwood was a lot less into the handful of obscure pop punk bands that Jonathan West used to like and hewed a lot more to a Fat Wreck Chords/Epitaph sound. Not to say that this is completely terrible. Zach Quinn is easily one of the best and most prolific songwriters in New Orleans, and has been putting most folks to shame since before he was in high school. But this record sounds like something the punks at the Faubourg Center would’ve loved back when Deborah Toscano was doing Devil Dolls shows there. The sound immediately conjures images of the 40-bearing, chain-walleted, mohawked, gutter punk with his arms wrapped around a hard-  nippled, equally mohawked, big-lipped gutter punk babe (as caricatured by the legendary Little Stevie Whatstyle). I know so much of this is tongue-in- cheek, and if anyone can appreciate that, it’s this guy. But I just wish they’d take it a few steps further and really beat people over the head with the grimier-than-thou pop punk stuff. Lyrically and aesthetically, they could really kick it up a few notches and start pissing off all the right people.

 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_37_Image_0001((PRESSURES))/ROLADEX
SPLIT 7”
(DISKO OBSCURA)
Disko Obscura is easily the best label in town, and this release attests to Joey Buttons’ singular vision. His focus and ability to cull and curate  some wonderful and imaginative music seriously makes me green with envy. Joey has mentioned opening up a record shop downtown, and I really hope he does. Great taste, great musician, great label. His newest release is a split 7” between Seattle’s Roladex and New Orleans-based ((Pressures)). Roladex sounds like a synth-pop version of Stephin Merritt’s Gothic Archies. ((Pressures)) bangs out another upbeat, wall-of-snyth, space odyssey. Two tracks from the distant future. The record is great. Just wish it was longer, so there was more of it. Can’t wait for the next two EPs Disko Obscura has on deck.

 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_37_Image_0002MYSTIC INANE
DEEP CREEP
(NEGATIVE JAZZ)
Candice Metrailer—one of the hardest working punks in New Orleans—finally, FINALLY! gets a solid vinyl release for one of her wonderfully lo-fi, freak- a-leek bands made up of sweet, sweet weirdos. I swear to you, dear reader, if she ends up moving to Chicago, we’ll never let her live it down. Never, never, never. Why now, when she’s finally got a project putting out great records, getting attention from some solid national labels, and going out on regular tours. Why? WHY? Packaging on this is spot on ( just like the cassette tape if you missed that, dummy). Could probably stand to be a buck or two cheaper, but other than that, no complaints. “I want them to touch my skin. I want to drink fucking bleach.” This rules.

 

MEA CULPA
MIAMI CROSS & S/T 7”
(SELF-RELEASE)
Neither of these singles have liner notes, and it sounds like Prettyboy Dylan is singing in another language, so I have no idea what these EPs are about. But both of them have a wonderfully dated sound, like some obscure Italian greaser skinhead punk band you’ve never heard of but might discover on WTUL or randomly hear at Domino Sound from one of the True Punks In The Know. The artwork on here is fabulous: total high contrast, collaged images with off-registered, multi- colored silk screening. This is DIY Punk High Art and Design. I just wish I could get these turds to sell us a few copies for the shop.

 

BITCHFACE
S/T CASSETTE
(SELF-RELEASE)
The fact that this band was so short- lived is another tragedy for the New Orleans punk scene that most dingdongs out there won’t even know about. While the lo-fi recording on this tape is somewhat in keeping with the frenzied nature of the band, I shudder to think what a full LP would sound  like with just a little more meat to it, a slightly crisper recording with a few more layers. The last couple of shows from Bitchface brought me back to the early Rollins-era Black Flag material— harsh, creepy, visceral. April was such a great front-person! And, obviously, no band could go wrong by including the only real punk in New Orleans, Rachel Speck. Artwork on this is perfect.  Rachel nailed it.

 

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LOVEY DOVIES
TAUNTING THE COSMOS CD-R
(SELF-RELEASE)
This is easily the best thing that James Hayes has written. I don’t know if the newest restructuring and inclusion of Kevin Comarda has brought things  into a clearer focus or what, but this recording is perfect. If you know James, you can still hear some undertones of Elliott Smith worship, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. I loved the full band version of “Betrayed” from Shive, but the version on here is brutal-as-fuck. Lovey Dovies finally made it through their bleak period of washed- up alternative band bar drivel. This sounds like hitting rock bottom and then picking up a guitar and writing  some of the most beautiful, end-it-all music I’ve heard since the last two Pygmy Lush LPs. Put out a full record  like this ASAP please!

 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_37_Image_0005NATIVE AMERICA
GROWN UP WRONG
(INFLATED)
Before I trash this record, let me just clearly state that Native America can do no wrong in my eyes after they got me into that Shins concert at Tulane. Great guys. I really love them. That being said, I see now why they were on that  show. This is total Shins worship minus  the hard-to-match dark James Mercer  lyrics and incredible production and pop sensibilities and halfway decent  aesthetic. Artwork on this record is pretty blah and there’s no insert. Songs are super sweet, just like the guys in the band, but lack that dark oomph that makes similar bands so much better. I mean, this isn’t bad by any stretch. It’s just so much like The Shins that it’s hard not to compare and see this as falling a little short. But I would LOVE to see these guys do a Shins cover set at one of the Community Printshop benefits. That would be pretty sick, and I would go apeshit nuts in the moshpit. That’s a promise.

 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_37_Image_0003HEAT DUST
DEMO ‘14 CASSETTE
(SELF-RELEASE)
A handful of demo tracks off the LP they’ve been working on for the last year, this sucker threw me for a loop the first time I heard it. The vaguely death  rock, post punk elements weren’t really surprising, knowing these turkeys, but the vocals just sounded insane to me after coming off their 10” on constant rotation at my house. Sometimes they sound like a 45 playing on 33! But after seeing them play all the new songs a few times, I get it more, and I’m starting to really get into it. Admittedly, it’s not as easily approachable as the grungier songs from the 10”, but it’s still up to par. This sounds less like Milk Music and more like something you’d hear on Sacred Bones or Dais. The tape also has a tight-ass Devo cover. These dudes still know what’s up. Can’t wait for the LP.

 

FAIREST
S/T CASSETTE
(SELF-RELEASE)
This band used to be called Prayer, which is also kind of a terrible name, but nowhere near as bad as “Fairest.” The music on here isn’t too bad, but the drums sound awful (the recording, not the playing). This could be pretty awesome if they did a record with someone like James Whitten and got a really layered, well-mixed, produced sound. Or they could take it the other  way and go way lo-fi and grainy, and that could probably sound pretty good if it was done right. Either way, they need to drop the pretense of being a “heavy” second rate True Widow and just work on adding about a hundred more layers of guitars and delay, really channeling the morose, goth sound  they have creeping in. I could even see adding a lot of electronic elements à la newer The Body records. This could also stand a nice, subdued layer of feedback over almost everything (but who couldn’t, amirite?). Not sure what the lyrics are, but the song titles are pretty bland-to-dumb. Stuff like this needs standing-on-the-ledge simplicity or bringing-a-gun-to-work melodrama.

 

antigravity_vol12_issue2_Page_37_Image_0006BARGHEST
THE VIRTUOUS PURGE LP
(GILEAD MEDIA)
These poor guys just can’t catch a break with record artwork. Even being BFFs with a Lorde of High Design and Fell Iconography, they still err on the side of terribly generic metal imagery. While this one is nowhere near as mind-numbingly atrocious as their  split with False, the artwork on this record is still sadly very bad. That being said, I love that they’re finally getting over their infatuation with death metal  and back to what they do best: ugly black metal. Lots of great lo-fi blasting, tremolo picking, haunting melodies, artfully mixed with some grosser death metalish parts. I just wish the vocals were a little more buried in the mix with a ton more reverb. But overall, this is a great record from a band not to be overlooked.

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