ANALOG ADVENTURES: Loud Quiet Loud

I get a lot of random records, tapes, and books in the mail, because publicists forget that outlets for which I used to work aren’t around anymore, or someone finds the address hidden on my website, or… whatever. This is a way to keep them from piling up uselessly in the corner of the office.

As Robert H. Cataliotii’s liners for Jorge Ben’s Africa Brasil make a point of noting, “The funky groove crafted by Brown, Sly, Mayfield, Wonder, Hayes, The Meters, and Fela, along with this new black consciousness, are deeply interwoven into Ben’s samba on Africa Brasil.” The liner notes are superb at fitting the musician in with both his contemporaries in America and Brazil — he worked with Gilberto Gil, and there’s no small amount of tropicalia’s psychedelia mixed in with the funky samba — as well as part of a musical continuum.

I’ll have to take Cataliotii’s word for all this, however, because there are no lyrics included. For real — print the Portuguese lyrics with English translations, y’all. Otherwise, I’m dancing to the rhythms and that’s it, and maybe appreciating Ben’s vocal delivery.

The heavyweight glossy jacket looks amazing, and the liners are impressive, essay-wise, even if they’re lacking in terms of everything else: the reproduction of the art on the rear cover nearly renders the players’ names illegible, so throwing them on a page on the liner notes, instead of another big block quote might’ve been a better use of space.

That yellow vinyl sounds pretty swell, through. I’ve played it a dozen times since it showed up last month, and I have yet to hear anything beyond a minuscule crackle. There’s also this art print that Vinyl Me, Please throws in with most releases, but it’s just something I have to keep track of. There’s yet to be one which really knocked my socks off.

In a complete 180 from funky sambas from Brazil comes hardcore from the cornfields of Kansas. Iron Guts Kelly’s new 7-inch is four songs on sunflower yellow vinyl, all of which were taken from the band’s new compact disc on Violent Pacification. It’s a little muddy, but that works with the IGK sound, which is pretty much straight up old school hardcore with just a hint of crossover – I hear you, guitar solo on “Midian.”

That track, by the way, is the fucking jam of the 7-inch: it’s heavy, thudding stuff that hits hard, although it’s nearly matched by the hot rod rock ‘n’ roll of “The Chamber.” That track manages to be both a brutal rocker, as well as a song-long discussion of “Who ripped it?” A song that’s menacing and about farts. Ha! Doody.

“Goodfellas” sums up the struggle of the band the last couple years, wherein personal and health issues looked to possibly end the long-running quartet, so it’s great to see that “Time Marches On.”

Fun fact: the band and label missed the fact that the 7-inch sleeves omitted their guitarist, Josh, so his name and the plea, “Fired! Please come back!” was added in silver Sharpie on the back cover. If you snag the CD, there are five more songs, which includes a cover of the Police’s “Next to You.”

Even heavier is the new cassette from A Deer A Horse, Everything Rots That Is Rotten. Sludgy doom that leans more toward the blues end of things is always something which will grab my attention. This hits so hard, it was vibrating knick-knack and tchotchkes off the top of my speakers. That’s rumbly shit, kids.

A Deer A Horse is Black Sabbath meets Concrete Blonde and I cannot express enough how much I love this tape. I also cannot express how much the typography on the J-card drives me up the fucking wall. It’s so, so tiny. I’m still trying to dig out a magnifying glass to read it, but thanks Internet for letting me find out who’s in the band. Mysterious is cool, but as I pointed out with the Jorge Ben album, illegible sucks.

The cover art, though, with all those burnt matches, is just too cool. It’d make a swell t-shirt. Throw the album title from the spine on the back, and there’s some dope tie-in merch, right there.

Update after I wrote this: they do have shirts!

Still, Everything Rots That Is Rotten has been getting a lot of play at the house. It inspires equal amounts of air guitar and air drumming, a surefire sign of rock ‘n’ roll excellence if there ever was one. The yellow shell cassette has the same program on both sides, so the 15 minutes can roll over and over, even though EP closer, “Double Wide,” is so perfect, it’s hard to follow that huge piece of big sky rumble.

Still loud, but definitely more on the pop side of things, is the Craft Recordings reissue of Much the Same’s 2066 Nitro Records album, Survive. Was there something in the water of Chicago in the mid-’00s? Much the Same and Rise Against came out of the same scene to craft heavier, angrier, sadder skate punk. It’s like the pop punk scene’s obsession with girls and dick jokes had worn thin, but the desire to play mile-a-minute songs hadn’t.

Also, what’s wrong with a guitar solo? Think Pennywise, but with the poppy edge of Millencolin. It’s allllllmooooost emo, but it’s a little too fast and crunchy. Granted, it’s very much of a specific place and time, and that would be 2005-2006, and not much past or before. I appreciate the crisis of maturity that pops up lyrically, such as “Gut Shot” and its lyrics of “How is the cocaine?”, which seems super specific. It’s speedy, excellent, and very suited to making an ass of yourself finger pointing and singing along.

Survive gets a little samey after a while, but Much the Same adds in stuff like the guitar breakdown and slow drum ending to “Take What’s Yours” to offer a nice change of pace.

The band recently reformed, releasing the new album, Everything Is Fine, last month, so I assume that’s why this album was pressed to vinyl for the first time, as opposed to other Nitro Records releases like, maybe, the Aquabats’ Charge (for an example of something I’d pay absurd amounts of money for).

Jillian Rae’s LP, I Can’t Be the One You Want Me To Be, is instantly visually striking. The pen-and-watercolor artwork on the jacket had me thinking this was going to be more a singer-songwriter thing than it ended up being. While there certainly are aspects of that, there’s synth on the majority of the first side of Rae’s Kickstarter-funded LP, along with the copious amounts of strings and organ, resulting in an album much bigger than I expected.

It’s a theater-ready set of songs, alternately big and poppy or quiet and introspective. The bigger songs, such as the two which kick off the LP – “Temptation” and “White Walls” – are my immediate and enduring favorites on the album, although a ripping guitar solo by Eric Martin on “Shades of Grey” does manage to enliven that cut, which seems to be a theme in this month’s rundown. “Follow Me” is excellently reminiscent of the Postal Service, and I want more, please. Bleeps, bloops, and weirdness works so much better than the majority of the rather more traditional songs on the record.

I do wish that, much like Jaco’s album we covered in the last installment of Analog Adventures, the tracklisting on the back cover had been broken up to reflect sides. However, given the flipping gorgeous printed inner sleeve, I’ll allow it. The LP sounds as good as the packaging looks, too. Rae’s vocals are clean and clear, and those guitars come through with a velvet purr.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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