Fixin' To Die 6: a punk and trash column
Rather than waste time coming up with a cute intro, let's just dive into the circle pit we call Fixin' To Die. If you've been here before, you'll know the score; if not, just pick things up as we go along.
There's barely any time to catch a breath with the new one from OFF! Wasted Years (Vice Music) does its business and is out the door in under 25 minutes which is, of course, just how we like it. Three albums in, OFF! don't mess with the programme too much ('Death Trip On The Party Train' squeezes a guitar solo into its 73 second running time) so its all about the brief blasts of old school hardcore with Keith Morris (59 years old this year, fact fans) settling a few scores along the way ("What is done, can't be unbroken / Counting off, wasted years"). Completely out of time, of course, and yet, pretty timeless.
Norwich's Goober Patrol did what few Brit punk bands did during the 90s: have a modicum of success Stateside. 1998's The Unbearable Lightness Of Being Drunk was released by Fat Wreck Chords, the go-to label for all things skate/ska-tinged punk during the period. Ironically, it was also their last record for 15 years. This new split with 7 Day Conspiracy sees both bands re-visit those glory days and, to these ears at least, there's something a little anachronistic about this stuff in 2014. There's clearly still a constituency, although it's hard to know how much of an audience is left.
By contrast, it's all about The Menzingers at the moment, with the Pennsylvania four piece really starting to blow up Stateside at least. Rented World (Epitaph), their fourth full-length, delivers more of their straightforward punk 'n roll. It's the kind of thing you might gravitate towards if you think Gaslight Anthem have gone too mainstream and while it ticks many boxes - and has a big heart - there's an underlying generic quality to their take on what is now very well trodden genre. The likes of 'Nothing Feels Good Anymore' will resonate with a particular (younger) audience but there's not a great deal here for anyone with more miles on the clock.
Glasgow's Fuzzkill label go straight for the jugular with their Asian Babes / Future Glue split tape. The former trade in a primitive garage rock that almost falls apart under the weight of its own sloppiness, but is saved by an embedded punk sneer. If they turn up at your door looking to party, just understand they're gonna bring T.R.O.U.B.L.E. with them. On the flip (literally), Future Glue are a bad trip waiting to happen. At just under eight minutes long, 'Out Of Hand' has hints of Roky Erickson and The Stooges, with the result that Sauchiehall Street never felt quite so dangerous. By comparison, labelmates Deathcats are more tuneful on debut All Hail Deathcats. Opener has classic Scottish indie rock written all over it, like Urusei Yatsura play the hits of Teenage Fanclub. While there's more of a shoegazey-feel to numbers like 'Jaguar', as the album progresses, it becomes more of an up-tempo garage rock effort - which is probably less interesting than those initial volleys. Solid enough, but I wonder where their heart really lies?
We talked about Colour Me Wednesday a couple of columns ago, and Durham's Martha inhabit much the same universe. Vegan, straight-edge (it says here) and resolutely indie, there's much to like about their old (middle) school muscular pop. '1997, Passing In The Hallway' is typical - and even mentions GCSEs for extra cred. There's a wistful, nostalgic thread running through numbers like 'Present, Tense' and 'Gin and Listerine' ("He waits outside the offie because he doesn't have ID") that suggests adult disappointments are beginning to encroach, but Martha seem to have enough spunk about them to suggest they'll pull through OK. Don't be surprised if you find yourself scratching their name into your office desk.
Fire Records are currently giving the Wreckless Eric catalogue a bit of a re-vamp. Recently name-dropped by the likes of The Vaccines, it's worth remembering that 'wilderness years' were a genuine experience for artists like Eric who could barely get arrested after their initial, often minor, success (cf. Wilko Johnson). Recorded on a 4-track in his living room way back in 1988, Le Beat Group Electrique is, as the title suggests, a stripped back collection of basic, yet charming, 60s influenced beat 'n ballads that highlight Eric's canny songwriting chops: what is 'Just For You' if it's not the kind of thing Lee Mavers has been trying to put down on tape for the last 20 years? If Jake Bugg needs any tips, he'd do worse than listen to the likes of 'Sarah' ("He wears flannel / He's as sound as a bell").
It's been out a few weeks now, but don't overlook the new Chain and the Gang effort if you like Minimal Rock 'N Roll. Chain ... are the latest project from Ian Svenonius, designed as "a challenge to all the tiresome groups with no content, no heart, no soul, no direction, who parade around like mediocres onstage with an inherited diagram of acceptable behavior. What are they striving towards? A slot at a festival?" A-fuckin'-men, brother. Stripped and ready for action , MRNR simply oozes sidewalk cool. Think Sonic Youth meets Jon Spencer for a bit of lazy shorthand. The clumsy instrumental funk of 'Fairy Dust' is a little tiresome, but this is an engaging effort from a guy who has sometimes put philosophy before phun in the past.
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