Bastards of Fate at Jersey Beat

The Bastards of Fate could be the finest examples of indie rock anti-heroes alive today-their brand of music is so deliciously bizarre and wondrously off-putting that one is unable to turn away but it is not due to some type of desperate attention seeking exaggeration, but the irrepressible intelligence on display. Shattering the conventional paradigm of song structure is a goal of many bands, but it usually defines power electronics, grind, or other more abrasive genres. Roanoke’s Bastards of Fate are as mysterious and confounding as the disappearance of their hometown’s initial settlers; Doug Cheatwood sings, croons, rages, and emotes feelings one did not even know were human throughout ten twisted anthems that should be what indie rock sounds like, but is far too daring for most bands to attempt. By no means will this ever reach commercial success, hence the limited knowledge of the band’s debut record, but for those who appreciate distorted visions spun through delightfully dissonant chaos, Vampires is a scintillating listen. Gentle piano gives way to squalls of guitar noise, shrieking explosions of anti-melody cuddles up to warm harmonies, and waves of noise hold hands with pristine serenity as a perpetual darkness permeates each effort. The opening “Winter of Our Discontent” leads the listener down a path of harrowing intrigue as the song grows increasingly unbalanced and intimidating, setting the stage for a deranged carnival of musical genius. The closing “Optometrist” features barreling rolls of thunderous noise, while “Go No Further” rivals anything constructed by Beefheart or Zappa in their most inexplicable moments. “One True Love “ is a swirling mass of heartfelt emotion, constantly teetering on the verge of unraveling, hovering effortlessly between the worlds of campy fun and deeply unsettling depravity. Occasionally, bands emerge whose place in music cannot be readily defined or explained, and their contribution to society may be ignored but all but a select few, but for those who are fortunate enough to embrace The Bastards of Fate, their lives are enriched and their minds are opened. I am lucky to call myself a fan of this band.


Trust Fund/Joanna Gruesome at Stereogum

When we posted Joanna Gruesome’s great “Jerome (Liar),” we noted it was to be included on an upcoming split with Bristol indie-rockers Trust Fund. Now here’s one of Trust Fund’s contributions to the split, “Reading The Wrappers.” The track blooms from a charming low-key guitar and vocals piece into a chiming, charging, full-fledged rock song without losing its pleasantly dreamy personality.

The Trust Fund/Joanna Gruesome split is out 9/21 in the UK on Reeks Of Effort (pre-order here) and 9/22 in the US on HHBTM (pre-order here).


Joe Jack Talcum at Big Takeover

After an enthusiastic reception to his first volume of home recordings,1984-1990 (HHBTM, 2011), Dead Milkmen guitarist, Joe Jack Talcum, graciously presents his humble sequel.

Assembled from self-released cassette tapes, sometimes featuring friends,Home Recordings 1993-1999 showcases Talcum’s talent as a songwriter and lo-fi 4-track producer. It’s an intimate affair, ranging in moods and tones. While the humorous element of The Dead Milkmen is certainly evident, there is also darkness, solitude and reflection, sometimes all within the same song, as on the jangling “Sense of Humor” and “Go,” an astounding psychedelic funeral dirge. Even “The Sun Shines out of My Asshole” proves to be more Dead Boys/Rocket From The Tombs “Sonic Reducer” catharsis than glib crudity, while the instrumental, “Sweet and Sour,” offers some astounding new wave prog and “Another Time” proves to be a pretty folk song with a synthesizer solo. These songs are heartfelt, honest and pure, the thoughts of a grown up punk kid from Pennsylvania.

Anyone expecting The Dead Milkmen’s snotty, satirical punk should pull out their old albums. This is Joe Jack Talcum’s moment in all his tape hiss-y, introverted glory, as fans surely already know.


Close Lobsters at Agit Reader

Click through for video.


Close Lobsters at Beat Surrender

First new recordings since 1989, and defintely worth waiting for, from C86 band Close Lobsters , the single Kunstwerk in Spacetime is out now on Shelflife and as a download with addition mixes at eMusic too.



Luxembourg Signal at POP! Stereo

The Luxembourg Special while being a new band on paper really aren’t and features members that have been playing for years if not decades under other guises. From Aberdeen to Fonda to Trembling Blue Stars and who knows what in between the members of Luxembourg Special have spent some time in the indie pop trenches and learned a thing or two about writing a great pop song. As if to prove that point that’s where Luxembourg Special’s debut single comes into play. 

Distant Drive is a gorgeous two song slice of indie pop pie that tastes like a bit of Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Hong Kong Garden,” blissed out on Robin Guthrie and then mixed with The Heartthrobs early output. Confused? Don’t be, the single is dreamy, lush, and ethereal. Guitars swirl, synths wash over you and vocals sigh gently into your ears all the while implanting hooks into your brain that hypnotize you into pop submission. The whole thing is warm and fuzzy and ridiculously good and with Luxembourg Special’s pedigree how could it not be? This is dream pop re-born and while I love all the bands that the Luxembourg Special have been in, something just grabs me about them this time around that gives me goosebumps. These guys are great and for a debut single, they’ve just about knocked it out of the ballpark.


Close Lobsters at porky prime cuts

MEANWHILE, A BRIEF mention for a Close Lobsters single (as Porky tends not to bother with singles), the two-trackKunstwerk In Spacetime EP (Shelflife records), on glorious 70-gram maroon vinyl.

It’s the Scottish indie bands first release in a quarter of a century, and arrived at Porky Towers, rather curiously, a couple of days after I rediscovered their two classic late-80s albums, Foxheads Stalk This Land and Headache Rhetoric.

Now Time and New York City In Space are both classic Lobsters, pop sensibilities mingling with the post-punk influences they were exposed to in the pre-C86 days; it’s the sound of Postcard Records meets The Fall.


Hobbes Fanclub at Gold Flake Paint

It’s true. Psychocandy never moved me. Maybe I’m too young.

But what I do appreciate, and what I imagine others recall fondly, too, is how much swathes of space were cut in the mid- to late-eighties. From the lingering burn of Galaxie 500 and Red House Painters, to the magenta haze shrouds of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, to the astral heartache of Spaceman 3, some gathering of souls were freezing their own moments in time. Probably wasn’t a conscious gathering of any sort – and how could it be – but nevertheless those eternities coalesced into an ethereal plane drifting away from the jangly C86 lot.

Some twenty years on, lines mingle. On Up At Lagrange, the Bradford-based The Hobbes Fanclub strike some balance between skipping and floating, between basking on rooftops and sharing mixtapes in basements. Like the lovely cover art suggests, the vocals resonate with the reverb of the cosmos – but the songs, with their bright pop structures and romantic scenarios, are grounded firmly on this planet, in the here and now.

Shortly after I received my copy of this album, I found an earlier version of “Your Doubting Heart”, a storming single with very maroon undertones, from the 2012 Indietracks compilation. Even then, the Hobbes ached from their bleeding hearts – but the LP cut, CHIRST. Some genius lifted the bare bones from the single and added flesh, muscle, and mind. Once it raced, and now it soars.

The same lush treatment permeates the entire album – and in some cases, such as the double-punch upbeat between ‘The Boy From Outer Space‘ and ‘I Knew You’d Understand‘, you do pine for some shadowy contrast. But ‘Run Into The Sea‘ blends that timeless (i.e -> from the Beach Boys to the JAMC to the House of Love) pop mentality with a beefy bass urgency; ‘Stay Gold‘ weds a glittering jangle with massive stomping cascades of longing,

But, to reach the fiery nebulas on the sleeve, one must plunge into the very soul of the album, its eternal moments. ‘How Could You Leave Me Like This‘ – well, the title speaks for itself, don’t it? Ay, sometimes they betray you, titles, but this one can’t lie –the abandoned lover, the one left in the rain after the show, the one too shy to invite you over but always came when you called, always listened and never demanded anything carnal. (How could you, you bastard/bitch?) In the same vein, two tracks down, shimmers the aching and equally devastating ‘Why Should You Tell The Truth‘ (again, titles), with just radiant female vocals beaming through from above. It’s THAT riff, though. THAT riff.

Together, these two glorious slices of crystallized woe more than make up for the slightly less stellar areas of Up at Lagrange – including, much to my disappointment, the title track, which in spite of its tousled glow, doesn’t quite resonate with the same distinctive force. Oh, but the closer cinches everything fabulously – like all good Cure finales, the intro builds into nearly the halfway mark, so that when the vocals finally descend, the crimson swell breaks into a commanding waterfall.

Now, yes – like the JAMC, the Hobbes embrace feedback, but it’s tinny feedback that trails off the songs like loose strings from a t-shirt. Mind, given the melancholic nature of the Fanclub, pushing the noise to the red would bully out the wondrous shades of blue – but those spare feedback intros do cast this illusion of noise. And deception doesn’t suit such aching beauty, if you ask me. Also, in spite of the soaring highs, the Hobbes’ pallet is quite limited, which does sadden me. (Compare to the Church or the aforementioned House of Love to hear what alien hues can be woven into dreamers’ visions.)

However, despite its shortcomings, Up At Lagrange still casts a potent spell. Don’t resist it – lean back and dream the day away.


Close Lobsters at Beethobear

Click through for a review of Kunstwerk in Spacetime from Beethobear in Taiwan.


Hobbes Fanclub at The Answer is in the Beat

I’m hoping these folks mean they’re fans of Calvin’s stuffed tiger buddy, but I’m guessing they mean the philosopher. Which means this band probably agrees that life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. This album isn’t as dreary as you’d expect, though. More than anything, it recalls late ’80s/early ’90s British indie, the days after C86 but before Britpop. I’m thinking Stone Roses, and bands that were around a little before them. Also, New Zealand indie-pop bands like The Chills and The Clean, of course. Jangly, reverby, earnest/yearning, wide-eyed but still kind of drowsy, kind of anthemic. Could’ve been released on Slumberland any year since that label began. Most uptempo tracks: “Your Doubting Heart”, “I Knew You’d Understand”, “Outside Myself”, “Why Should You Tell The Truth?”. Slowest: “How Could You Leave Me Like This?”, “Sometimes”. “Stay Gold” has a bit of a surfy twang to it, but in an indie-pop context.