October 1, 2011

iconAclass - For The Ones

Sometimes it's incredibly hard to write about a record, for numerous reasons. Just one example: what the fuck should I write about Black Flag or Fugazi or Rites of Spring that hasn't been said before? Or what could I write about your band's crappy demo without hurting your baby boy feelings? Writing about iconAclass has been just as hard. I have been a dälek fanboy for years and years, and Will Brooks is my brother from different mothers. But fuck being objective, especially when it comes to music and words.

iconAclass is the new solo effort from one of the dopest and illest contemporary MCs: dälek. So yes, you got it right: the group is called dälek, and the solo project is called iconAclass. I was confused, too. I think it's safe to say that dälek has changed my ways of listening to music - and not only HipHop, any genre basically. I always loved the fact how much they alienated your average HipHop listener. No, wait... I didn't love it. I just thought it was funny. It was just like Slayer being shrugged off by metal dudes for being "too extreme". Now that dälek (the group) is on hiatus, the Oktopus does MRC Riddims and dälek (the MC) does iconAclass.

Both For The Ones (the album) and I Got It (the EP) are masterpieces. And I could stop the review here, because you either get it or you don't. But let me delve in: the beats are simply incredible. No fancy gimmicks, no big ass production, no stolen samples - just solid kick ass beats as the groundwork for some of the most creative wordplay I have heard in HipHop for a long, long time. dälek is fucking angry ("I ain't mad, muthafuka / I'm rabid!") about the state of the world. And very obviously, things are going wrong: "95% of my crew go to stores to cash checks. 99% leave vexed." - but there are some things in life that make it all go good, things that help you through the struggle: "4 out 9 love the New York Mets. 2 my nigga get ill on them Technics decks."

It's a sad thing, but a proven fact: hard times help spawn great music: just remember Reagan era hardcore! "The wealthy done built their pearly gates. Out here evil takes so many shapes. We tend to meet early fates. Trust too many fakes. Idolize those who imitate. Bastardize all who create." For The Ones (and I Got It, too) are records that are on fire with passion and anger, not unlike the rage that Chuck D spat on vinyl with PE. dälek is a poet, no doubt about that. But the true poets have always yelled fire. (And, speaking of poetry and art in general: when was the last time you have heard an MC namedrop Geoffrey Chaucer, Lars von Trier, Pablo Picasso, and the Coen brothers?)

But what really counts at the end of the day is the music. There are crazy bangers on that album, slower jams like "Heat Down" on the EP, dirty Boom Bap jammers, you name it. DJ Motiv adds a few cuts and there, but they are never overdone and just add to the whole flavour. So well, I told you... this might be one the lamest reviews I have ever written. I just can't help it. These two records mean so much to me on a personal level that it's close to impossible to write something that makes sense to anyone who is not in my head. Thank you, Will Brooks! It means the world to me to be a part of this.

"Wack crews out flanked by the Massive. Last thing you say 'bout Deadverse is we passive."


June 12, 2011

Pygmy Lush - Old Friends / Des Ark - Don't Rock The Boat, Sink The Fucker

Cynical minds have been speaking about "trends" and "hypes" in punk rock, about an abundance of quieter and introspective music. I beg to differ. While it's certainly true, that a plaided shirt, a beard, and an acoustic guitar is quite the safe route to take for the past few years, there is an entirely alternate scene-within-a-scene out there, one that does not rely exclusively on songs about booze and heartbreak... at least not all the time.

Admittedly, it's easy and lazy to be throwing these two records in the same bin, just because they are quiet and came out on the same label at the same time, but fuck it. It makes for some good name dropping. Aimée Argote, the lady behind Des Ark had J Mascis produce one of her records, and members of Pygmy Lush used to be in bands such as Pg. 99, City of Caterpillar, and Majority Rule - all cornerstones in my record collection, and still: it doesn't mean anything at all at the end of the day. Just look at the ex-members tag from a different angle: J Mascis was in fucking Deep Wound of all bands. Shelby Cinca did the design for the Pygmy Lush album, and it's a far cry from Frodus.
Dave Grohl was in Scream. Dave Mustaine was in Metallica. Told ya, fucking useless info!

The lowest common denominator for both records is the atmosphere: they both feel haunted. Haunted in the sense of an 8 track recorder on the floor boards of an old abandoned house in the middle of the night, with the sounds of the wind outside as an integral part of the music instead of a mistake. Haunted in the sense of carrying around the burden of sorrow and guilt, of love gone wrong and bad decisions, of lost lovers and lost friends. It's hard to put my finger on it, but beneath all the calm beauty in both records, there is something dark. I am no stranger to this.

Please let me make a statement: Des Ark sounds nothing like Pygmy Lush. These albums are not interchangeable, it's just that they have the same atmosphere - the same kind of atmosphere I can get out of Tom Waits' Closing Time or from The Jesus and Mary Chain's Darklands, to stretch the analogy even further. It's all a gloom of despair and alienation, but alive with pleasure and love and lust. This is the sound of the need to rest, to re-think, reminiscence and adjust, of the need for introspection and the screaming urge for expression at the same time.

99% of aging punks are nostalgic idiots full of shit. Pygmy Lush and Des Ark are the exception to the rule.


Terrible Feelings - Impending Doom 7"

There are some bands with horrible names: Sex Pistols. Dayglo Abortions. Social Distortion. And the list goes on and on and on... but then again, for every single one of these verbal atrocities, there's a band name that just fucking nails it and gives you an idea about the sound: Nuclear Assault. Sick Of It All. Cro-Mags. Enter Terrible Feelings, a punk band from Sweden - the birthplace of melodramatic death metal and cheap ass furniture.

If you ask me (and even if you don't), they couldn't have picked a more apt name... their two songs on these seven inches of vinyl are spooky, angst ridden, sinister, melancholic - and, above all, PRETTY FUCKING CATCHY! There's hints of Agent Orange, Wire, and Redd Kross, and the vocals sound like a mix between Joan Jett (if she was doing power pop) and that woman from Life...But How To Live It? (is she was doing power pop).

I don't have a lot to say about these 6 minutes of power-pop-punk, except one thing: this is punk rock done right. Yes, it's possible. Even in 2011.

You can download the entire record for free (and many other kick ass releases from the boss punx at Sabotage and Taken By Surprise) here - but you should buy it.

March 27, 2011

Vrgns - Manimals / Deep Sleep - Turn Me Off

I had a conversation with somebody recently, and a question popped up: "So what exactly is hardcore?" - And me, Mister Bigmouth Punk Rock Knowitall, I was dumbfounded. "Well, you know... it's kinda hard to explain. It's a subgenre of punk rock. It's loud. I fucking love it." - "But what IS IT?"

How the fuck should I explain hardcore? How do you explain why you love a girl even though she takes all your money, has an ugly personality and goes out with other boys? This pretty much sums my relationship with this bitch called hardcore. I love her and I hate her. But every once in a while, she puts on those clothes that make me feel all horny and then she gives me a 13 minute quickie. She calls herself Deep Sleep then, and recites her badly written poetry that made me fall for her in the first place: "I want to fuck. I want to scream. I want to destroy everything. I want to kill. I want to burn. Won't cry now, cause I never learned. I want to do everything. I want to make my heart explode. I want to do everything. I want it now and again and again and again and again." - I love you, babe. Even though you steal your riffs from other babes.

Enter her prettier twin sister who isn't a Virgin anymore (she also went out with other hardcore boys), but a Vrgn. Miss Vrgn offers a nice threesome, and when when get you right down to it, she offers oozin' aah choruses. I'm all hers.

So, well... THIS is hardcore. This lady uses curse words and screams, she sweats and spits and hates everything, she smiles through broken teeth, but she always keeps her head up high. She's not like those plastic boobed girls in porn movies, she's REAL. And no, I can't explain why I'm still a sucker for hardcore. But I am. Thanks for reminding me once again...


March 19, 2011

Indoctrinate - Down-and-out (Demo 2010)

Shit, I can't even remember the last time when a band sent me their demo... I think it was around 1912 or something. On a shellac. But there's still punk bands, and to my surprise punk bands still make demos... anachronism rules. Big time. Well, at least in my punk world. (Fuck you.)

So let's see past the "packaging" (which is basically just a CD-R in an unprinted paper sleeve, which - to make things worse - looks like Papa Roach...) and let's see past the horrible band name as well... this could be anything. Skapunk maybe. Or metalcore. But let's pop the fucker in and... aha... interesting sample... holy shit! This is good! These kids thrash! Like fast and ugly! Speaking of ugly, the sound quality sucks, like 8 out of 10 on my personal suck-o-meter. But wait a minute... I stand corrected, because I actually like the sound. The sheer ugliness reminds me of one the few records from way back when that actually stood the test time. There's a little bit of D-beat here, some (how original!) Tragedy guitar wanking, death growls, you name it. The vocals are somewhere between Pushead and that Colohan dude you love to hate, the lyrics deal with all the things you'd expect and then some, but this is how it's supposed to be. Let someone else have the whiny bullshit. I am not going apeshit over this band (yet?), but I guess I will see them in a dirty stinking basement soon enough.


February 22, 2011

The Arrivals - Volatile Molotov

This band fucking rules. This album fucking rules. No, really. I am literally kicking my ass for sleeping on their first four (!) records. What the fuck has been wrong with me all these years?

A gentleman from Dillinger Four plays in this band. They are from Chicago and sound sometimes like that one band you have never heard of. No, the other band. But that's too obvious, isn't it? Phew. Fuck you. I knew it. All right, some more coffee, and then let me try to explain...

Any halfway decent rock and roll album needs an opener that kicks in with a bang (check). It needs melodies (check), punches (check), amazingly witty lyrics (check) that could be short stories (check) instead of classic rock blurbs about girls and cars. (Only one man can pull this shit of, and you all know that I am not talking about Mike Ness.) British pop influence (check) is always a plus, awesome vocals (check) can't hurt either.

So it's all there... a great fucking ass kicking rock and roll album with the potential to corrupt the morals of the youth in a fucking positive way, an album that's your best drinking companion, your co-pilot on night drives, awww... fuck it. Just rock and fucking roll, no bullshit. If you buy this record, you're probably going to hell. But you'll go to hell knowing that you made this world a better place and your life less miserable.