Tag Archives: Post-Punk

Album of the Day: Mermaidens, “Perfect Body”

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, may be most well-known internationally for producing the musical comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, and for housing Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop. Lily West, Gussie Larkin, and Abe Hollingsworth, known collectively as the post-punk band Mermaidens, call Wellington home, too, and their determination, work ethic, and colorful vintage clothes have helped them to stand out amid the city’s vibrant culture. They owe a lot to the city and its greenery, which inspired their debut album Undergrowth. On their new album, Perfect Body, they turned their attention to the sun and how its warmth washes over one’s skin and creates positive energy. Larkin says while writing the album, she and West had been “thinking and talking about pleasure and pressure” and “the contrast of being in a blissful state, but with an underlying anxiety or uncertainty being present, too.”

The album captures this duality on the title track, which opens with the line “Your perfect body won’t save you now,” and again on second track “Sunstone,” when they sing “Don’t let me overwhelm you.” The band declares an admiration for Sleater-Kinney and Warpaint, and that influence can be heard on “Mind Slow” and “Give It Up,” where the guitars have a more fluid pop-inflected flavor, and fold nicely around the vocals. “Sunstone” and “Satsuma” are both a little grittier, and are driven by pummeling bass rhythms that give the lyrics a more sinister quality. On “Satsuma” they sing, “You were sweet like satsuma, when I peeled you off and split you in two,” before repeating the line “Don’t live in bad dreams, think about the good things.” Both songs highlight the band’s willingness to bring depth and dissonance into their music.

Perfect Body is also a significant release for the iconic Flying Nun label. In 2017, after a run of excellent albums from The Courtneys, Fazerdaze, and now Mermaidens, the label seems to have finally found its groove. While the label’s roster lacked female artists in the past, women are now dictating the way forward.

—Nick Fulton

Album of the Day: Guerilla Toss, “GT ULTRA”

For a band that started with naked shows and shuddering noise freak-outs on songs like “Be the Breeder” or “Gay Disco,” Guerilla Toss have gone a lot further than those volatile antics suggested. On their new album GT ULTRA, the band keeps this experimental spirit alive—but this is music to get people dancing.

GT ULTRA’s jumble of ambient, funk, and post-punk isn’t exactly what anyone would call “poppy,” though, or “accessible,” which implies it’s somehow unchallenging. “Crystal Run” opens up with vocalist Kassie Carlson warbling “Change the frequencyyyyy” over murky synths and buzzing background chatter that makes good on GT ULTRA’s blotter acid cover art, hurtling headlong into a weird trip.

Still, the songs on GT ULTRA are bright and catchy, and Guerilla Toss’ fringe styles here are fueled by a genuine desire for exploration rather than cheap shock value. “Can I Get the Real Stuff” gives us the purest hooks of the sort they teased on their previous LP release, Eraser Stargazer. “TV Do Tell” is a neon-hued punk song in the tradition of X-Ray Spex, complete with tongue-in-cheek lyrics about media consumption. On past albums, Carlson’s lyrics were buried in the mix, but here they’re pushed up to the front: “Personal persona, can I get the real stuff / Swimming in the makeup”; “My eyes were on the screen of my own interests,” and lead single “The String Game” and the hectic “Dose Rate” pack in enough spoken word sections, scorched-Earth guitars, and sci-fi synth histrionics for plenty of repeat listens. Let others have their predictable poolside days and starry nights; this is the soundtrack to a strange sun-baked summer full of unhinged adventure.

—Mo Wilson

Six Gloomy Gems From the Dark Punk Revival

Arctic Flowers

Arctic Flowers.

In 2013, during an interview with Danny Gallegos, singer of gloomy Chicago punk group Cemetery, I asked him how he’d categorize his band. I wondered if he thought the term “dark punk” was appropriate. It was a term that was coming into currency at the time, as a way to describe a new community of former hardcore bands who were playing music closer in style to deathrock and post-punk. “I hate the term ‘dark punk,'” Gallegos responded, “because to me that’s redundant. Punk should already be dark. There’s always been a message behind punk that is very bleak and dark in nature.”

But the “dark punk” designation stuck, and not just for Cemetery. It’s jockeyed with other genre tags—goth-punk, deathrock revival, the tongue-in-cheek “G-beat“—to identify a style of darkwave-, post-punk- and anarcho-influenced punk that’s grown out of the hardcore scene since the late aughts, and which gained intensity around 2010-2012. It still continues today. The revival’s early years saw important releases by acts like Lost Tribe, Belgrado, Spectres, Arctic Flowers, Bellicose Minds, and Bluecross.

During the latter part of the last decade, many groups operating in the underground DIY hardcore punk scene found themselves moving away from political D-beat and thrash, and started to explore slower tempos, different effects pedals (the Almighty Flanger, for instance), and moodier or more introspective themes. “You can only play a D-beat so many times,” Brian Gustavson of Spectres said in an interview with Austin deathrock site No Doves Fly Here in 2012. “For me, it was rediscovering ’80s U.K. peace punk that made it seem all right to be into post-punk, new wave, and ‘harder punk’ simultaneously.”

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Advanced Art’s Futurist Legacy

Advanced Art

The mustahuuli, the synkkis. Literally translating to “black lip” and “gloomers” in Finnish, these were words used to describe the yet-to-be-named movement that followed punk in the 1970s. A subculture gripped by the dramatics of melancholy, it was a rendezvous with darkness that eventually came to be known as goth.

Up until 1988, “goth” was a word that didn’t exist for Pasi “Jana” Janhunen, the vocalist of Advanced Art: “Jyrki [Witch, of the band Two Witches] was being interviewed for local radio and all of a sudden every other word he used was ‘goth’ or ‘gothic’,” says Janhunen. “What the fuck was he talking about? Nothing changed, and he still liked the same bands. I liked those bands, too—Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, stuff like that. But all of a sudden it was labeled.”

Janhunen grew up in Finland in the mid ’80s, a time when the country felt the shadow of the Soviet Union, whose borders were just a short distance from his hometown of Tampere. “It was a precarious time, because we had the Soviet Union just around the corner and we were never sure what they were doing. Politically, we were West, but we didn’t want to provoke the sleeping bear, so to speak,” he says. The desire to remain on the right side of the Iron Curtain emanated through all of Finland even after the Russian troops retreated.

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Suicide’s Martin Rev on Making Music Out of History

Martin Rev

Photo by Divine Enfant.

It’s not easy to summarize the vast musical history of 69-year-old groundbreaker Martin Rev, but his new album Demolition 9 does a pretty good job. Across 34 tracks—most of them less than two minutes long—Rev skates through jazz, classical, doo-wop, R&B, punk, industrial, and the many uncategorizable styles he coined as founding member of pioneering post-punk duo Suicide.

Demolition 9 feels like a concept album—perhaps a score to a musical about Rev’s life—but, for him, there was no concept beyond making new music. “I was just following my ear, which is what I do in everything I work on,” he says, speaking over the phone from his home in New York City. “It’s all about playing around. I’m like a kid playing with toys, assembling his own little arrangement out of stuff that doesn’t make any sense to anyone else but him.”

That playfulness is clear on Demolition 9. Rev will jump from a swelling symphonic piece to a swinging pop ditty, then cut to a jarring blast of noise or a pounding storm of electronics. There are serious moods throughout the record, but there’s also lots of fun to be had. Take “Tuba,” a bouncy piece that could soundtrack a Bugs Bunny cartoon. “The sounds of certain instruments—horns, tubas, bassoon—always have an angelic or innocent humor for me,” admits Rev.

The many modes of Demolition 9 reflect Rev’s lifelong devotion to music. Born in New York in 1947, Rev first fell in love with the doo-wop and R&B songs he heard kids his age playing and singing in the streets. In his teen years he turned to jazz, watching legends like Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane in Manhattan nightclubs, and taking piano lessons from bebop innovator Lennie Tristano.

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