Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hunx & His Punx New Album Review


Too Young To Be In Love

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Of course Hunx and his Punx are going to be pegged as a novelty act--a skinny young leatherino who stuffs beer cans in his crotch, backed up by a probably-lesbian all-girl backing band and playing trashy, semi-parody, ‘60s-style bubblegum ditties. The thing is, they’re only part novelty, and the rest of them is pure bad-ass rock n’ roll garage band. Hunx (nee Seth Bogart) obviously has a true reverence and passion for the style, and Too Young To Be In Love is 30 minutes of ecstatic, excellently crafted tunes driven by power chords, Tex-Mex organs, and the vocal (if anything but sexual) chemistry between Bogart and his snarling Punx. The album’s middle point, the one-two punch of the shuffling “If You’re Not Here” and the fist-pumping “Bad Boy,” left me with the biggest music-induced smile on my face I’ve had since I listened to Washed Out while chilling at a pool in Senegal. This is a fantastic pop album from beginning to end, with agreeable melodies, great two-minute songs, and lyrics anyone can associate with whether gay, straight, or bi. And if the whole queercore thing turns you off, remember Bogart’s only flaunting his gayness as much as that obnoxious bro Elvis used to flaunt his straightness.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Celebrating Our Anniversary with Merrill, Miles, and monsters

* * * * 1/2

Merrill Garbus means bizness. Her one-woman band tUnE-yArDs, based in Oakland, has been building up substantial buzz since the release of her madly experimental BiRd-BrAiNs album in 2009, and her latest single, “Bizness,” is doing even more to drive it to fever pitch. Less experimental than her previous work, but miles ahead of anything she’s done before, “Bizness” is an exhilarating blast of rave-up Afro-soul. Over African drums, oily bass, and a digitally manipulated scat vocal arpeggio, Garbus roars in a voice that’s half Odetta, half Hugh Masekela, and all wild beast. The background is extremely well-crafted, but it seems to devolve into manic wildness as soon as Garbus lets her voice loose. Organized chaos has never felt this good.

“Chocolate Ice Cream & Sixteen Candles”
* * * 1/2

Of course Miles Atkins was going to have his multi-part acoustic opus sooner or later, but nobody really gave it too much thought. “Chocolate Ice Cream & Sixteen Candles” seems to be it, a gently devolving sprawl of seething attacks and yearning for the happier yesterday. It’s also a massive step up from anything he’s recorded before. While his debut EP flirted with emo, this song’s self-analytical wallowing is closer to something we might hear from someone like Doveman (to whom Atkins bears a vocal similarity) than any generic woe-is-me teen songwriter, especially when the song hits the hissing “I hate when” bridge. Then the song devolves into lonely handclaps and sped-up self-duets, sending the listener tumbling into Atkins’ uncertainty.

* * *

Eschewing the twisted folk style of old, this new single by teen quartet The Infractiond finds the band switched-on and electric but keeping the same aesthetic as their early acoustic tunes. The guitar harmony is so sloppy it couldn’t not be deliberate, and the macabre, slightly gothic lyrics are still there in abundance. However, the group sounds a bit like they’re tackling a new task with their new instruments, and they do begin to drift into generic garage-band territory--they sound almost as if they’d be happier doing it the old way.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Handshake single, Morgan Alexandra/Foolish Ways reviews



* * * *


Handshake are one of the only groups capable of winning Bay Area battles of the bands without making douchebag “WHOOO SAN FRANCISCO YEAAHHHH” shout-outs every five minutes, and “Lemon,” the group’s first single sans multi-instrumentalist AJ Campbell, demonstrates why. As slow, sparse, and plodding as it is, its four and a half minutes seem much shorter thanks to its plethora of meandering ideas and unexpected hooks. The song’s microtonal guitar duets and encroaching fuzz clouds recall a less electronic, much less deranged Xiu Xiu, and as is common in that band’s work, these elements are used for emotional effect. The last wave of distorted guitar is particularly emotional, coming on like a wave of muddled thoughts sent to block out a bad memory (or vice versa--a wave of bad memories that block out muddled thoughts). Why does this win battles of the bands? Because while this is deep, emotional music, it’s also satisfying for the listener--not in a cathartic way so much as on the basis of Handshake being an awesome band and this an awesome song. (Oh yeah, and the vocals can cure sterility.)


The Mess - EP

* * *

“I’m at the top of my game,” sings teenage singer-songwriter Morgan Alexandra at the beginning of “In the Streets,” the third song on her five-song debut EP, The Mess. This is a bold statement on a debut, and she certainly seems to show more potential than mind-blowing skill on these songs. Alexandra’s hoarse, age-indeterminate vocals leap joyfully and freely above her rhythmic-folk guitar patterns, and whenever the music begins to seem monotonous (as it often does), she finds a way to grab the listener’s attention again. Even if this isn’t the top of Alexandra’s game, she certainly knows the rules of this game and is skilled at playing it.



* 1/2

Bands like Foolish Ways have to release albums sooner or later--a band can’t make an entire career off performing live with nothing on record or MP3. It’s a shame, because the Martinez club-pop duo is one of those groups whose music really doesn’t transfer very well to record. Without the context of one of the sweaty East Bay clubs they call home, the music is not terribly danceable nor terribly enjoyable. The shrill, processed vocals become extremely grating extremely quickly, and some of the best ideas (the Benassi-on-crack intro “Hey, We’re Foolish Ways”) are over before they can be seen to completion. Of course, “Bow Chicka Wow Wow (You’re Dirty)” is still a free-for-all blast of drunken ecstasy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Random Things: March 3, 2011

  1. SF Rebirth’s third concert, featuring Seize the Sound, Other Daniel, and The SHE’s (our band of 2010), will be held at Woodside International School in the Sunset on March 12 from 2 to 5. Admission is $5, and all proceeds go to the Bina Hill Institute in Guyana, South America. Juniors, no need to worry--the show will begin after S.A.T.s.
  2. The Sullivan Brothers have changed the name of their highly successful Westwood & Willow project to Rin Tin Tiger following their Noise Pop gig with Max Bemis. They have also expanded the group’s lineup to include Rebirth veteran Mr. Andrew on drums. The band members claim they changed their names due to people leaving their gigs enjoying their music but having no memory of the group’s name.
  3. Foolish Ways will be playing a show with rising Bay Area rapper Roach Gigz on March 12 at Red House in Walnut Creek. This means Foolish Ways will probably be smoking a lot more weed now--only time will tell if they turn into Flo Rida.
  4. Adorable Handshake multi-instrumentalist A.J. Campbell has left his group due to an apparent conflict with the other members in terms of plans for the band’s future. Handshake is believed to be working with a temporary replacement.
  5. Hot promotion technique: give your demo to hot emo bands. Ratherbright has attracted the attention and praise of Fall Out Boy, while Miles Atkins of the Secret Show has given copies of his album to Dashboard Confessional, Saves the Day, and Max Bemis of Say Anything. Good--this gives me another excuse to hunt down Brendon Urie.