Tag Archives: Punk

Album of the Day: So Stressed, “Please Let Me Know”

One of the larger tensions that exists between artists and critics is the latter’s insistence on taking the work of the former to be strict autobiography, but the pain that courses through the third album from Sacramento’s So Stressed feels too immediate and too visceral to be a work of fiction. Its 10 songs seem to document a grueling breakup, but what makes the record so rattling is that all of the resulting agony is focused inward. Where 2015’s The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art was stacked with bruising hardcore, Please Let Me Know is both paradoxically more measured and more tortured. Opener “Fur Sale” sails out on a sleek sheet of melodic guitars, and frontman Morgan Fox isn’t screaming but singing. But about two minutes in, the turbulence hits: “Nothing compares to you,” Fox sings, “But I still compare everything to you.” From there it’s a quick dive into dissonance; the guitars turn pitch black and Morgan doubles over howling.

The rest of the record volleys between those two poles, post-hardcore melodicism trading off with proper-hardcore panic attacks. “Majestic Face” manages both at once, eerie vocal harmonies gliding across heart-attack double-bass drumming. In “Old Hiss,” Fox runs into his old flame in public, which sends him into a spiral of despair: “We’ll grow old together,” he wails as the band pitches and rolls behind him, “Right up until I wake up.” Even when the band stretches out musically, the results are shot through with unease. The sparse “Peach,” is built on a skeletal strum and lit up with squiggles of synthesizer that sound like an MRI machine melting down. And while the band’s ventures into melodicism demonstrate impressive breadth, it’s the full-throated ragers that land the hardest. The panicked “Subsequent Rips” opens with Fox declaring “I write myself a heartfelt love letter/ and read it into the mirror,” against chaotic corkscrews of guitar; both elements are operating in their own time signature: Fox plows forward regardless of meter; the band hammers away chaotically, like they’re falling down a flight of stairs. Please Let Me Know trepans down into the center of heartbreak and records all of the mayhem it finds there. It may not be autobiography, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real.

J. Edward Keyes

SXSWatch: Wild Wing are Punks Who Love Memes as Much as They Love History

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Wild Wing, SXSW 2017. All photos by Daniel Cavazos.

If you’re looking for a hearty, vulgar laugh, look no further than Los Angeles punks Wild Wing. They’re the goofiest guitar band in the City of Angels, with a deep love of memes, doctored photos, and flipping the bird. Here are but a few of the hilarious highlights: a “The Wild Wing Tour starter pack” (the bare essentials include a pair of crutches with boots on the end, a can of Red Bull, an order of McDonalds’ french fries, a hospital discharge form for a head injury, and an image of a doctor standing next to a pudgy dog with the caption “When they remove your balls because you kept fucking your owner’s wife”); a crude stick-figure Calvin-style drawing impudent to the current US president; there’s even a photo of the group standing with a slightly befuddled Guy Fieri.

But there’s much more to Wild Wing than memetic trolling and guitar-driven tomfoolery. They’re less a rock band than a pack of rock n’ roll non-fiction authors, dead-set on fighting the establishment through carefully-controlled chaos, lengthy history studies (and, of course, jokes).

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Album of the Day: Aquarian Blood, “Last Nite in Paradise”

Last Night in Paradise, from Memphis maniacs Aquarian Blood, plays like two different, distinct records that have been smashed together. One of them is full of freaked-out, bug-eyed punk rock—like Devo on a sugar high—and the other is a collection of sun-warped folk, country, and religious music (!). Some of this sonic whipsawing is a result of the DNA: it’s a combination of the group’s early tape-only recordings and newer, more aggressive work. Taken together on Paradise, they function as an accidental mirror of our present age, one characterized by uneasiness, uncertainty and moments of full-on, body-wracking panic.

It’s that last emotion that comes through clearest on Paradise. Album opener “Heaven is In My Head” operates at 600 miles per hour, Laurel Horrell’s rubberband voice stretched taut over guitars that pummel like light artillery fire. Though slower, “Won’t Forget to Die,” which follows, is no less freaked out. Playing like a kind of LSD-doused minimalist country song, “Die” opens with a dead-eyed Horrell declaring, “First you feel its breath/ then you feel its sting/ and when it’s finally over/ you won’t feel a thing.” The song rides the same descending four-note slide guitar line over and over as a violins groans like the broken front door of a haunted house in the background. From there, the album more or less follows the old Hollywood dictum of “One for them, one for me”—one blistering, crowd-pleasing rave-up followed by an excursion into open-ended psychedelia. The lo-fi stomper “Thing” is followed by the chilling “Blood Chant,” a weirdo cultish singalong in which the group sings their own name Hare Krishna-like over rattling tambourines and loose acoustic strumming.

On Paradise, both halves of a disheveled whole work perfectly; the adrenalized charge that comes from the synth-punk rave-up “Cold Foreign Advisor” is no less satisfying than the psychotic children’s-song see-saw of “Parasite Inside.” They even work wonders when they’re playing it relatively straight: “I’m Lit” has the dirt-under-the-nails grit and leather-pants swagger of early Stooges, but is lit up by a pinwheeling keyboard line. Ultimately, the group’s stylistic grab-bag is a perfect reflection of the album’s unspoken—but deeply felt—theme: if the doomsday clock is accelerating its race to zero, you may as well try to do as many things as you can before the bell tolls.

J. Edward Keyes

Big Ups: HIRS’ Queer Thrash Fury is Taking Over America

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When JP, founding member of the queer thrash band HIRS, gets to the copy shop, the person helping her doesn’t blink an eye at the graphic insert for the band’s forthcoming Trans Girl Take Over tour tape—which happens to be a cartoonish act of violence. They’re similarly unfazed by the silvery glitter-colored HATE MALE button fronts JP has printed, nor do they raise an eyebrow when she asks for “the hottest pink” paper they have. After all, this is Philadelphia, and while the political atmosphere here has its own peculiarities, the overall atmosphere is decidedly tolerant.


On the upcoming Trans Girl Take Over tour, which takes the band to cities like Minot, North Dakota and Bozeman, Montana, the audiences may not be quite as sympathetic—which is exactly what JP wanted. “I love playing places that don’t get as many shows as all these cities on the East Coast,” she says.

“I’m really excited to meet the people [in those areas] who have been booking weirder shows for stranger people—or even just booking shows for marginalized people, period,” she continues, before adding, “and also intimidate the assholes I know are going to be there.” She’s not kidding about that last point; at the start of every HIRS set, JP asks the marginalized people in the audience to come to the front and tells the cis white men who tend to dominate punk and metal shows to, “fall the fuck back.” While this is usually met with little resistance at the shows the band plays in Philadelphia, it’s hard to tell what might happen on tour.

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Qui: The Simpatico Punk Duo

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Qui—the weirdo punk duo from L.A., comprised of Matt Cronk (guitar, vocals) and Paul Christensen (drums, vocals)—are still on tour. They’ve got two months in Europe, including more than a dozen shows in Italy and a number of dates in Slovenia, Austria and Slovakia before crossing back over to Germany and finally ending in France. Cronk and Christensen started the group back in 2000, expanded it to a three-piece with David Yow from The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid for a few years, retired it in 2008, and then resurrected it in 2012. Since then, they’ve released one LP, nine 7”s—including splits with Mike Watt and Dale Crover, amongst others—and most recently a 10” on Dutch label Geertruida. And there’s more coming soon.

This was the band’s first trip to Europe … since last spring. Clearly, they are used to this. Cronk talked to us about what Qui has been up to, the pros and cons of the duo, being an American band on tour in the age of Trump, and what we can expect from them in the future. Spoilers: more releases, and certainly more time spent on the road.

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