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Alt Rock





Alt Rock

Time: 
19:00
Band name: 
Tall Juan
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
facebook.com/TallJuan
Venue name: 
TV Eye
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Airspace takes you "All The Way Up"

On this the day when our nation celebrates its proud history of annual mattress sales and of drunkenly blowing off one’s own digits while setting off small incendiary devices purchased in Pennsylvania, music is a crucial aspect of any such celebration. And not just any music, but music befitting a nation known for its above ground swimming pools, Natty Light, and Freedom Rock CD compilations.

Airspace are a band hailing from the Billy Joel-beknighted town of Allentown, Pennsylvania who make just such music. And let there be no doubt this is intended as a compliment because no one wants or needs to hear Animal Collective at the backyard barbecue cookout even if that otherwise quite worthy band happen to have a song called “Fireworks” (sample lyric: “A sacred night where we'll watch the fireworks / the frightened babies poo”).

Quoting directly from their Bandcamp bio: “Airspace always aims to leave their listeners feeling strong, alive, and inspired” and thank goodness there’s still indie bands out there willing to perform this service and who aren’t embarrassed to admit it. And on their recently-released full-length All The Way Up, Airspace pull off this ambitious goal with style and panache. Plus the barbecue gang will welcome this album being played off the iPod’s portable speakers cuz it kind of like Green Album era Weezer being welcomed back with open arms after the post-Pinkerton years in the desert ready to just have fun again but long before they would reach a point of resorting to recording Toto covers just because the Millennials love the memes (no disrespect intended to either Millennials, Toto, or Rivers Cuomo).

But I digress. Airspace are the focus here and to these ears their music evokes the Everyman working-class rock of one Bruce Springsteen and the Everyman suburban party rock of one Mr. John Bon Jovi in equal measures and don’t worry Everywomen are invited to the party too just ask Courtney Cox and Heather Locklear who are already here having a great time. And yes while this description is a bit New Jersey centric the state is of course a neighbor and close cousin to Pennsylvania.

And speaking of the latter let’s give the Quaker State it’s due too as an ancestral home of feel good, quintessentially American music ranging from Bill Haley and his Comets (authors of the first rock ‘n’ roll crossover pop hit “Rock Around The Clock”) to the many greats of Philly Soul and the whole Gamble & Huff/Sigma Sound Studios catalogue of classic R&B, soul, and disco hits without which this country’s young 70s-era young Americans would have ended up trying to dance to the Carpenters “Superstar” which is a great song but not exactly an obvious floor filler.



But I digress, again. All The Way Up opens in boisterous form with a quick strummed guitar and a solid backbeat before breaking into a hummable lead guitar line that'll get you waving your sparklers in the air to the point that you'll probably not even notice that the lyrics open with a bummer sentiment ("The sun is out, but I don't care / it only hurts my eyes") before going on to describe a lost love and the obsessive longing that follows. But Airspace are one of those bands good are writing songs that sound like heroic, even patriotic, aspirational anthems but whose lyrics feature an assortment of seekers, schemers, and dreamers just looking for some kind of break--a better life, a better place to live, a better love life, etc.--much like a certain previously mentioned Boss Man. The very next song "Monaco" is another good example where the narrator longs for a fantasy getaway on the French Riviera ("In Monaco it's not so cold / limitations never hold") or for another example check out "Making It Out" ("And it's days like this that make me miss / the years of hell in the South / 'cause God at least I had the hope / of one day making it out") or really most of the other songs on the album (but don't worry there's a few more lyrically optimistic songs on the album too cuz you gotta mix it up some).

Because really, when you think about it, what's more American than being all upbeat and brash and very nearly arrogant on the surface (the music) but underneath it all being very nearly crippled by self-doubt, disappointment, and longing (the lyrics). So there. I got you sorted musically for the 4th and proud to be an American to boot but without having to listen to that godawful Lee Greenwood song. Now please drink responsibly and try not to blow any fingers off! (Jason Lee)

 





Pretty Sick stay sick on "Come Down"

On their sophomore long-playing record, Come Down, Pretty Sick push the needle even further into the red than before when it comes to being both pretty and being sick and then they take that needle and stab you in the f***ing heart with it (another way of pushing it into the red) but in a way that’s not lethal like you’d expect but just the opposite so that after the music’s over you feel something like Uma Thurman must‘ve felt with a hypodermic needle sticking out of her chest after ODing and feeling gobsmacked by what just happened but also equally grateful for being brought back to life by a rush of adrenaline injected straight to the heart.

So yeah, they stay sick.

Last year’s Deep Divine opened with a short instrumental called “Comedown", a state of being embodied by dirgy bass and grinding guitar and slow pounding drums. But the comedown cleared pretty quickly on that record with something approaching a state of ecstatic release over the next six tracks, though still with plenty of rough edges and the occasional dreamy reverie. But this new one takes those rough edges and reveries and puts them at the center of things.

On Come Down’s centerpiece songs (e.g., the advance singles “Bet My Blood” and “Devil In Me”) Pretty Sick bassist/vocalist/songwriter and master of sickitude Sabrina Fuentes and her musical co-conspirators go into full on shred mode including the shredding of vocal chords and of bougie standards of decency and decorum which of course have always been applied most harshly to women. But other track are shred-averse leaning into ambience and minimalism, or full on "bedroom pop" on the album closer. In a way it's like a movie sequel where they take what people liked about the original and push those qualities to new extremes in every direction ("into the red") to the point of incoherence at times. But the approach works better here than it did in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

The album opens with a song called “Dumb”—a track that predates even Deep Divine and acts as a bridge between that record and this one. It's also a throwback in that it sounds like a long lost outtake or forgotten b-side from Bossanova, but sung by Kim Deal who was mostly absent from that album on vocals, in that it’s a hook-laden mid-tempo rocker but with a very non-Pixieish music video to match that should maybe come with a disclaimer warning “prudes beware but sickos welcome.”

Next up is “Bet My Blood” which gives the listener a feel for where things are headed with its grunged out, Big Muffy guitars and raw riot grrrly vocals, all in service of a catchy and well-constructed song that is until it implodes, crashing in on itself with a quickening pulse and babbling spirit-possessed glossolalia and growingly unhinged musical backing to match before ending with the sound of a feral creature's panting. And if that’s not enough to get your goat there’s a music video featuring some quite possibly un-board-certified nurses including Ms. Fuentes wielding a hypodermic needle (see paragraph one) with a glint in her eye and administering fatal care to a few pretty young patients.

On track three (“She”) the album takes another turn with a stealthy, stalking rhythm section and shuddering guitar melodies over which Sabrina takes on yet another new vocal persona that's by turns breathy and bleating and then finally primal screaming and pushing the audio into the red again, before settling back down into a reverb-laden refrain of “Shee-eeee la-la-la-la-la-la-la” as if words alone no longer do justice to how she feels about the titular femme fatale. And by this point I'm starting to think Miss Pretty Sick may be angling for a career in voice acting à la Mercedes McCambridge after it's all said and done.



And here we reach the exact midpoint of the record, a song called “Self Control” as in "(I Ain’t Got No)", where the overarching theme gets laid bare as it's been hinted at elsewhere in lyrics lamenting/celebrating said lack of control—“punish myself for years after / but I can’t help myself"—a theme that works its way into the music itself, repeatedly teetering on the edge of order and chaos with the latter engulfing the former more than once on the album. 

The next couple songs begin the descent down the other side of the mountain—i.e., the comedown of Come Down if you will or even if you won't—with “Pillbug” floating by on slow waves of woozy harmonics for a full four minutes before ending with a vow to “curl right up and roll over for you." And then comes “Bare” which fittingly is a stark, tender love song with Sabrina singing in unison with her bass and in harmony with herself and it's not unlike some of the more minimalist post-Last Splash stuff the Breeders have recorded (sorry for double-dipping on Kim Deal but I can't help myself either). And then on to the penultimate track “Devil in Me” where there's a return to stable destabilized alt-rock territory. But this time it feels any control issues may have abated somewhat, or a state of acceptance achieved at least. Because “the Devil in me likes the Devil in you” sounds like a healthy way to cope and a good line for couples therapy. And even when the song spins off its axis it feels like more of a climax than a comedown.

And at last we get “Physical" a song that strays into panda-eyed dream pop territory with synthy strings and intense ominous whooshing custom made to appear in Twin Peaks Season 4 (one hopes) and yes I’ll accept that music consultancy position, Mr. Lynch. Except that the Julee Cruise/Chromatics vibes are mixed with some NYC grit (and some London grit since it's Pretty Sick's current base of operation) and probably only a born-and-bred city kid could be so seen-it-all jaded to write lines like “now that the party's done / [...] now that thе glamour's past / and everyone's come down / I know I won’t be remembered well” before turning 20. But it's also like a city kid to declare “I know I will never let myself down" which somehow I doubt many Pretty Sick fans will feel let down either by a record that, comedown or not, is such a shot in the arm. (Jason Lee)





VIDEO: “Holy Roller” Finds DEATHCHANT Doing Very Bad Things

image courtesy artist's bandcamp page

L.A.-based heavy metal / stoner rock quartet DEATHCHANT have released their sophomore album, Waste, on label Riding Easy Records, and you can watch the music video for track “Holy Roller” below.

The first thing to remark on is how the album was recorded: in a rented cabin up in secluded Big Bear, CA. According to T.J. Lemieux, singer and guitarist, “we packed a big-ass van and set up in the living room and kitchen, tracked it live, with overdubs after.” Despite the humble setup, the album has both a professional clarity and a hard-hitting brutality, especially on the vinyl version, which the author of this review was able to enjoy at maximum volume at a recent evening at Permanent Records Roadhouse in Cypress Park.

Track “Holy Roller” opens with cutting, rusty distorted slices of rhythm guitar at battle with dissonant feedback howls to arrive at your ears first, before both are shoved out of the way by a pummeling bass/drum combo. Soon, the vocals enter, sounding like a platoon of demented monks yelling unholy, apocalyptic incantations from inside a cave. Meanwhile, start-stop doubled guitar lines bring the chaos to a temporary halt, before cranking back up to break-neck speed, until the half-time bridge that offers somewhat of a breather before the song transforms into an ultra-sludgy, Hawkwind-style chug. It’s part sludge metal, part grunge, part Thin Lizzy in its dual lead guitar lines, but at all points it’s compelling. Which is all the more impressive when you discover that most of the band’s music is improvised (!).

Finally, extra points to the band for connecting all the tracks on Waste together with droning, abstract interludes, giving the whole thing a sense of oneness and cohesion. DEATHCHANT work hard to create a complete atmosphere and populate it with heavy riffs, hypnotic grooves, and dark sludge. Where they’ll take us next is anyone’s guess, but one can be sure it’ll be somewhere worth heading. Gabe Hernandez





Supergroup Sighting at Far Out: Bowlice Play The Boleys

 A special evening at the Far Out Lounge presents a unique superband moment and premiere of BOWLICE, featuring members of The Boleys (@smokeaboleys) and Mug Dog (@mugdog_atx). These two bands have previously played together at various venues in town from Far Out to Kick Butt, but this is their first joint performance. Mug Dog’s heaviness and subliminal funk complement the psychedelic playfulness of the Boleys when they come together as BOWLICE. 

On the eve of the solar eclipse, multi-colored lights dance on the ceiling as the evening’s bands play for an intimate crowd of fans, friends, birthday girls, and music lovers who are out on a Tuesday night. As BOWLICE plays Boley’s songs and engages the growing audience with a spirited, crowdsourced game of “Who can scream the loudest?”, the evening is full of shirtless men aplenty and long hair a-flowing. There is a love fest of shooting hearts and gesticulated glee to one another before the superband moves into the Boley’s song, “Fuck You.” 

 

The band’s synergy is palpable when the guitarist of the Boleys and the bassist of Mug Dog straight up rub their instruments together, strings kissing and bending. The sensuality of the music bangs through the PA system. A kind stranger from the crowd helps restore a cymbal gone askew, and then receives the microphone to howl along with Ethan Boley, lead vocalist and guitarist. All members of the superband contribute to an incredibly memorable live performance. 

 

Far Out Lounge has a massive outside seating area covered by a large tent. The thundering bass and drums, and dancing magentas and yellows make the tent feel like a rock music revival. It was a fun, festive show to see musicians be playful with each other as well as feel free to be themselves authentically, as they should! Take this as your sign to go out on a weeknight and participate in the immaculate return of live music. This might have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness BOWLICE but both bands have several upcoming shows you can catch this summer.

 

-- Mel Green


 

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