Tag Archives: Garage

Hidden Gems: Shh…Diam!, “Eat Your Local Fruits”

hidden gems feb

In 2018, Malaysian citizens ousted their government’s UMNO-led coalition, which held power for over six decades and clawed away at human rights. The Pakatan Harapan alliance replaced the former coalition and promised to improve the country’s damning human rights record. Continue reading

Big Ups: John Dwyer and Matt Jones Pick Their Favorite Castle Face Releases

Bronze

Bronze

Castle Face Records, the California DIY label co-owned by Oh Sees mastermind John Dwyer, Male Gaze frontman Matt Jones, and their friend Brian Lee Hughes, is most commonly associated with the last decade’s wave of psychedelic garage rock. They released the first Ty Segall album, cosigned King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard right before they broke out, dropped a seminal White Fence record, and have released nearly every Oh Sees (sometimes self-referred to as Thee Oh Sees, The Oh Sees, or OCS) album since the label formed in 2006.

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The Best New U.K. Garage On Bandcamp

Roska

Roska

It started on a Sunday, early 1992; droves of party people were rolling out of the freshly-established London clubbing institution Ministry Of Sound at 9am, eager to find a dancefloor that would keep their wide-eyed vibe alive. Many of them found it next door in an innocuous pub called The Elephant & Castle at an event called Happy Days. Others found it a mile down the road in similarly classically British boozer The Frog & Nightgown for a party called Mum’s The Word. Most of them would meet up later that night at Spreadlove at Gass Club or, a year or two later, cult genre incubator The Arches. Continue reading

Eight Dutch Garage and Rock Acts to Watch

Eerie Wanda

Eerie Wanda by Ben Rider.

In an otherwise straight-laced society, the Netherlands’ commitment to garage and underground rock runs deep. First came Vera, an underground club in Groningen established in the 1950s, which over the years hosted The White Stripes, Sonic Youth, and Nirvana—all three played their first shows in the country at the venue. Vera’s current-day spiritual heir is the non-profit WORM, which offers non-mainstream bands a performance venue in Rotterdam, as well as studio spaces, an art gallery and, for the truly ambitious, internships. The city’s other scene stalwart Subroutine Records is often referenced as a label that many new acts aspire to work with. Fuzz/rock outfit Rats on Rafts caught the attention of Franz Ferdinand, and Horst-based quintet Afterpartees has already taken their scrappy pop on several extensive tours. Not bad for a country where practicality and conforming is regularly touted as a desirable trait. Continue reading

Area Pirata Records Keeps the Tuscan Punk Flame

Steeplejack

Steeplejack

The city of Pisa, perhaps exclusively infamous for its leaning tower, also has an incredibly vibrant and important underground rock scene, starting with two of the finest bands to emerge from the city: Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, from the late 1970s, and Useless Boys, from the early 1980s. Before them, things were a little less unique.

In the 1960s, Italian rock music was fairly derivative of the American and British scenes. This resulted in a whole genre’s worth of bands that sounded somewhere between Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors, few of them particularly memorable or exciting. This interest in garage and psych-rock, though, was instrumental in the musical evolution that began in the late 1970s with the emergence of punk, new wave, and heavy metal. Garage and mod-revival bands from the ’60s are still very popular in Italy, especially in Tuscany, the seat of the Granducato Hardcore scene (GDHC).

Useless Boys were the first in the country to fuse Italian garage and psych with nascent upstart punk. They were around for just two years of countless gigs, releasing a demo in 1981. Their Dream’s Dust Factory tape, initially released in 1983, and since bootlegged all across Italy and beyond, has a sound that’s rooted in the freakout psych-garage of bands like 13th Floor Elevators or The Sonics but is still very much punk.

Even though they had a less straightforward approach than their GDHC peers, Useless Boys still ended up playing many, many shows with various punk and hardcore bands from the region. Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers (CCM), oftentimes described as the “Italian Black Flag”—though that term unfairly paints the band as some sort of copycat when they were truly creating something original—were loud, abrasive, super fast, and angry, both in the tone of the music and in their incredibly bleak political lyrics.

The CCM discography, aptly titled The Furious Era 1979-1987, was finally released recently—three decades after the band broke up—by Pisa label Area Pirata Records. It includes tracks off their first two 7-inches, a 12-inch split with I Refuse It! from Florence—an incredible band in their own right that mixed the vicious weirdness of Flipper with the jazzy post-hardcore of Saccharine Trust—and the Into the Void LP, recorded in Indiana while the band was on a cross-country tour of the United States in 1986. That album was produced by Paul Mahern of legendary punk band Zero Boys, who also sang backup on the song “Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry.”

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Benjamin Booker Serves As His Own “Witness”

Benjamin-Booker-by-Neil-Krug-600

Photo by Neil Krug.

Benjamin Booker’s latest record, Witness, boldly explodes the garage-blues paradigm of his previous work. In an essay announcing the record, he detailed the dual inspirations for this radical shift: the work of civil rights activist and writer James Baldwin, and a trip to Mexico City. Booker visited the latter, in an attempt to escape the structures of American society. The former could almost be seen as a catalyst for that trip. Booker’s experiences during his Mexico City jaunt, and the conclusions he’s reached on Witness, feel like an echo of a letter Baldwin wrote to his literary agent in 1979: “I am saying that a journey is called that because you cannot know what you will discover on the journey, what you will do with what you find, or what you find will do to you.”

What Booker found, and what he shares on his new record, is anger, understanding, clarity—maybe even purpose. Many have heard the titular lead single as a call to action against police brutality and systemic violence against and subjugation of black bodies in America. And while these readings are accurate (“Now everybody that’s brown can get the fuck on the ground,” Booker spits before Mavis Staples sings, “Am I gonna be a witness?”), Booker recoils at the suggestion that this is a “political” record.

Instead, Booker’s gaze was turned inward, and Witness is a reflection of that; it’s an exploration of his role in America, a dissection of his own agency. In the end, Booker’s self-examination prompted action, and a dedication to “bearing witness to the truth,” be that an indictment of racist law enforcement, or an indictment of our own unspoken complicity in those systems. With Witness, he pleads that we have those conversations with ourselves. In 1963, on Dr. Kenneth Clark’s WGBH program, Baldwin pled the same: “There are days… when you wonder what your role is in this country, and what your future is in it. How precisely are you going to reconcile yourself to your situation here?”

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Eight Bands Helping to Make San José, Costa Rica an Indie Music Paradise

Los Waldners

Los Waldners

Costa Rica is known for its biodiversity and eco-tourism, making the Central American nation a great place to visit no matter what your interests. But if you get the chance to hang out in San José, you might want to consider taking the time to check out a concert. The city’s indie scene has become home to an outsized amount of musical diversity.

Thriving in the shadow of both green hills and an active volcano, Costa Rica’s busy capital of San José is cosmopolitan but, with a population of less than 350,000 in the city proper, relatively small. The city has fostered the kind of close-knit but musically heterogeneous scene that can flourish in a just-big-enough town. Indie music within its confines and surrounding principalities doesn’t have one single sound; bands range from enigmatic bedroom electropop to loud-as-hell post-rock. Still, there’s a cohesive scene, one with plenty of variety, inventiveness, and raw energy.

The short music documentary In San José offers a snapshot of the city’s music scene via interviews and live footage. But, much like this list, it’s just an introduction to a music community that’s quickly expanding. And if this Tico indie starter pack leaves you wanting more, take a dive straight into the DIY deep end in the volumes of audiovisual fanzine Súper Legítimo.

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Sub Pop Imprint Hardly Art Celebrates 10 Years as a Tastemaker All Its Own

Hardly Art

Sometime over tea at a donut shop in downtown Seattle, it occurs to Sarah Moody, general manager of Sub Pop Records’ imprint Hardly Art, that her label officially celebrated a milestone just days before.

“Just last week was our technical 10-year anniversary of the announcement of the label,” she says, taking a moment to reflect. “That was on March 9th, 2007.” To celebrate, the label is releasing a compilation of “bedroom recordings, demos, rarities, unreleased, and widely ignored material.”

Moody has been with Hardly Art since the beginning and Sub Pop before that. At 22, she was handpicked by Sub Pop CEO Megan Jasper, co-founder Jonathan Poneman, and Head of A&R Tony Kiewel to lead the nascent imprint.

At the time, Sub Pop was going on 20 and entering a stage of growth few indie labels survive long enough to see. The label quip, “Going out of business since 1988,” didn’t hold up. Sub Pop was thriving, having folded in successful comedy acts like Eugene Mirman, Flight of the Conchords, and Patton Oswalt into its ranks, along with crossover bands like Fleet Foxes and Iron & Wine.

The label had more ideas than it had resources to execute them. “One of the dangers of being successful and growing larger as a record label is that you can become victim to your own inertia,” Kiewel says. “You get bigger, it gets harder to change directions or to stop going in whatever direction you’re already aimed.”

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