Fucking Marathon Review Time – Lets Get To It

Medications
Completely Removed
Dischord Records

So, before I actually start the Medications review, I need to lay the ground work here. I am going to attempt to review a bunch of shit here, all at once. A big blob of reviews. And not just little reviews. Reviews made of many paragraphs. The type of in-depth shit talking, muck raking, random ass bullshit you are so accustomed to you 8-20 viewers of this fantastic web blog. I intend to do this in one sitting, on a Tuesday night. Mostly because I’ve realized I am consuming a lot of music here in my empty house. All my other shit, other projects are all packed in boxes as I wait for somebody, anybody to buy my house. At which point I won’t have any money or time to think about music, let alone, buy, borrow, receive as a gift or steal from the world.

Yea, this Medications band, beloved by many here in DC and totally hyped for about as long as a band can be hyped for in this hyper consumptive music landscape we exist in. The history is Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter were in Faraquet, all hyper technical, kinda loud and a bit too cock sure for my tastes. I mean, the riff master over drive was intense and interesting, but I can’t say I fawned over A View From This Tower. Equally perplexing was when they rechristened themselves Medications that didn’t seem spiritually all that diverse from their former moniker. I don’t pass on much from the Dischord catalog, I am a pretty devoted fan. But Medications just went over my head.

Recently, they reappeared on the map, kind of surprisingly with a new album Completely Removed. Five years in the making, Devin and Chad have created a palatable, if not some what meandering version of past exploits. And while turning down the distortion and approaching the music with a bit more delicacy has done wonders for them, I still feel like they are too well-trained for their own good. The entire A side of the album fails to really saturated itself. The first track, “For WMF” seems to go on and on and on and when break out into these extended jams that, threaded in the middle of a four-minute song is somewhat intolerable. Side B however is a much more concise new exploration. They give you noodle riffs and guitar licks that are a treat and somehow do it with in the structure of a pop songs. There so good that both “Country Air” and “Home is Where We Are” could be radio hits if there was any radio left on the airwaves. And I have to say, I really like it when Molter gets on the mic. I appreciate his vocal approach to this music and brings an extra level that Ocampo doesn’t quite reach on his own. Though, it needs to be pointed out that as an engineer he understands the art of the layered vocal and executes it with precision. The addition of different tones and phrasing, especially on album closer “Tame on the Prowl” give the songs a vocal depth that 99.9% of the bands that make records don’t have. Probably because most bands have singers that don’t know how to sing and don’t care enough about what they are saying to emphasize it against the music. I can’t say I even care to “get” what’s going on lyrically on this album, but I enjoy the shit out of the vocals.

Make no mistake, Completely Removed is a breath of fresh air in a saturated music market. Does it deserve the hype it got, yea, I think so. Ocampo and Molter are musicians through and through. Yea, they know their scales and chords and progressions and all that technical stuff. But they are also keyed in on pop sensibilities and good song making. Do they get a little verbose sometimes, yea, they are guilty of that. Could they use even just a bit more tempered approach, sure. Could they learn something from the great Lungfish who could seemingly take one riff and make an entire emotion out of it, most definitely. Still, Completely Removed is a solid effort and well worth your time.

New Idea Society
Quiet Prism
Self Released

The tiny icon I just stole to add some beautiful visuals to this here web site for the brand new and FREE EP by New Idea Society does not do it justice. Full disclosure, I LOVE MIKE LAW. I mean, seriously, the man is beautiful in every way and can do no wrong. He is also the most under-rated musician operating in the city of Brooklyn, the state of New York and the country of the United States of America. I don’t just say this because I consider the man my friend and get on the guest list at the shows I am blessed enough to see. I say that because he’s fucking brilliant. With Quiet Prism, a teaser EP of material left of their forthcoming album, he shows another layer of this brilliance all stored up inside him.

Backed by a fairly steady line up, Quiet Prism represents the first material created under the New Idea Society namesake that is all in all more collaborative than most of the out put you will find in the back catalog. And though it still retains some of Law’s quirky pop sensibilities, it’s the most layered, lush music he has made to date. Law has always had a fairly dense and succulent  approach to making music. A lover of four track tape machines and a propensity for being prolific, Law has crafted songs. Having said all this, New Idea Society have created new songs that have a lot of room for the sounds to bounce around your personal atmosphere.

I interviewed Mr. Law about a year ago after seeing New Idea Society play a set of new tunes. Instantly I was struck by the structures of these songs. Mike said, to paraphrase, that he was sick of the bulkiness of chords and didn’t put a single guitar chord on this new music. Quiet Prism definitely displays that promise. The set opens with sonic rocker “Autumn You” which is full of delicate riffs backed by solid piano, drums and bass lines. It’s a powerful song that bounces and caresses at the same time. The electronic tinged “Iradell” is next up. It’s like an EL-P track without the bombastic slaps of a hip hop beat. Of course Law sings softly over it, but it caries that same haunting effect. Tucked in the middle of everything is the quirky “They Won’t Find Us”, which lyrically is a familiar to fans of Law’s past work. In fact, the vocal annunciation gives credence to the theory that this was once a pop rocker, originally penned on a an acoustic guitar. I have no proof of that, but it feels familiar.

Rounding out the short but beautiful set are “Magic Key”, heavily drenched in years of listening to The Cure. The song is so deep and resonant, it gives me the fucking chill. Law delivers such a sorrowful vocal it’s almost impossible to believe he got his start in a post-punk trio more akin to Converge than Smith and Co. And while this song is so obvious to me in its influences they do the Cure better that Cure has in a decade. This is followed by “Twilight, Dusk,Night”, an epic combination of all of these songs. I’ve been all Law, Law, Law this review and it’s completely unfair, because above all this music is clearly the culmination of four people. Keyboardist Chris DeAngelis adds such a new dimension to New Idea Society with such haunting chords, it’s hard to imagine this band without him. Bassist Trevor Watson is so solid and sure that he adds a structure to music that could so easily fall apart in to sad-bastard obscurity. The drumming too is delicate and handled with care by Marshall Ryan. He never lets the beat get ahead of the rest of the song. Knowing full well his instrument has the ability to over take such delicate music, he is instead subtle and yet musical at the same time, signs of a great drummer.

Have I hyped this record enough yet? No? What the fuck is wrong with you? Seriously, why are you still reading this stupid bullshit. Go click on the link above and download this shit, FOR FREE. Because that’s just how nice a guy Mike Law is. He gives you music for free. But anyway, it’s dangerous to think that these songs are outtakes of a bigger piece of music, because they are fucking brilliant. I have not given this release nearly enough attention. As I listen to it now, I am totally over taken by how FUCKING AWESOME AND BEAUTIFUL Quiet Prism is. More please, as soon as possible.

The Dead Weather
Sea of Cowards
Third Man Records

I’m surprised as you are that I own this album. I would be remiss to not divulge you my dear reader that I also own The Dead Weather’s debut album Horehound as well. I can honestly say that both The White Stripes and The RAGAFALUTERS or whatever the fuck that terrible band is called left a less than welcoming taste in my precious ear holes. I can’t tell you what it is about the talented Mr. White that rubs me the wrong way. I just don’t find either of his other bands particularly engaging, interesting or, in the case of the RAFLUTEERS, very good. But I like me some Dead Weather.

I chock this up to the fact that it includes the lovely, intense, fiery Allison Mosshart. I have been tangled by her lyrical webs since her days in the much-lauded Discount. I also really enjoy the jury rigged sounds of The Kills. That band is so fucking twisted and fucked up that they’re hard not to love. So maybe, my appreciation for Dead Weather is coated with the fact that Allison Mosshart fronts this band and I can’t get enough of that rock singing.

Nothing on Sea of Cowards really jumps out at me though. It’s a solid record, much less lopsided then Horehound was to be sure. But this song lacks the punch of tracks like “Treat Me Like Your Mother”, “I Cut Like A Buffalo” or “3 Birds” which were cutting and intense. Sea of Cowards mostly just feels like over developed throw away tracks from the original session. It lacks memorability for the most part and is less daring and adventurous. Which seems counterpoint to the whole point of The Dead Weather who recorded two albums in the span of 16 months. And, from what I read, it’s just this kind of anonymous review and deconstruction of White’s work that this album is a direct assault against. But again, I don’t hate it, but not much on this album outside of opening single “Die by the Drop” is really freaking me out the way “Treat Me Like Your Mother” actually made me pay attention to this band.

Whatever though. I’m sounding like more of a hater then I really intended to with this review. After seeing this clip from the film It Might Get Loud, as far as I am concerned Jack White is pretty fucking cool and I don’t doubt that he is both sincere about what he does and cares about it. He toes that line of genius and mad scientist that makes for great art. The Dead Weather is a musical language that doesn’t completely speak to me, and I am okay with that. Theirs is full of enough quirkiness and fucked up sounds to keep me coming back. But I guess I want them to take a little bit more time and just push that shit over the edge into some serious rock and roll violence. Dead Weather is on the verge of scaring the shit out of me, the way the Who’s Live at Leeds does, but I’m still waiting for the extra push.


Black Tusk
Taste the Sin
Relapse Records

This album is why the recording industry can not die. I am a sucker for packaging. This goes farther than music too. Not too far, but, I will consume any beverage in any bottle or can that catches my eye. I once drank a soda that had little pieces of I’m not even sure what in it. I think it was called Orbits and it was fucking terrible, but the orange neon font and chunks of plastic inside caught my eye. Much is the same with Black Tusk’s Taste of Sin. I saw the cover, draped in a John Baizley (Baroness, cover artist for Baroness and Pig Destroyer) drawing and was like, “THAT IS A CD FOR ME”. Of course, on closer inspection I see that the drawing is a naked woman with pig fetuses snout’s covering her nips and she has horns on her neck and is drooling. That shit is kinda fucked up. And that’s pretty much what I think about my first experiences with Black Tusk.

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had this album less than eight hours and only listened to it one and a half times so far. So you’re not gonna get a quality review here. I’m gonna be a little bit unfair and make some lazy generalizations about Black Tusk. Some of them should at least give you some idea what they are about. Some of this shit is simplistic, lazy journalism here. It’s a shitty move, but I am trying to give you a lot of content in one sitting. I should be, not so much excused, but permitted to do what I am about to do. I’ll try to be as fair as I can. Alright? Great.

Black Tusk are from Georgia and part of a lineage that includes the Mighty Mastodon, the Highly Regarded Kylesa, and the Critically Revered Baroness. That’s some serious fucking metal company to be a part of. Relapse’s own environmentally unfriendly cardboard banner included on the CD said that this album was for fans of the latter two as well as San Francisco’s High on Fire and North Carolina Stoner Sludgers Weedeater (who I just haven’t really grasped yet but they have suck a great name. Same goes for RWAKE. I don’t know. I think it’s me and not them). And look, I’m not even going to try to tell you that Relapse is wrong or that Black Tusk has such its own distinct voice that it’s really unfair to categorize them with these other bands. They sound a lot like their brethren from the dirty south. They just do. It’s not a bad thing, really. I love the fuck out of Mastodon, think Kylesa is fucking incredible and was reinvigorated so much by Baroness’s Red Album that I called it my album of the year for 2007. But unlike those bands or albums, Taste the Sin doesn’t blow me away. It rocks. It damn well should too. But I’m not dropping my job as it peels the skin from my face.

Maybe it’s because High on Fire gave me Snakes of the Divine this year which is such a great metal album I can’t even approach it on this blog full of shitty record reviews. I am enjoying sitting here listening to Taste the Sin, the crunchy guitars, the dual vocals, it’s all solid. But I am afraid I am going to forget about this record by the end of the year. And I don’t want to. Because I love me some metal. In fact the song “Twist the Knife” just opened and the opening is so swanky and rocking that I perk up a bit, but then it just kind of fades into something that could use a little bit more. This song shows immense promise and hints at the distinct voice this metal trio posses. Given time, they might fuck my shit up. Though it seems they’ve been around a hot minute, for now, I’m gonna temper my response and see what comes next.

Dan Higgs
Say God
Thrill Jockey

Okay, we are here at the end of this marathon review writing session. I feel like I’ve done pretty good so far. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve given you. Granted, I think I started out stronger and more objective and detailed then I pulled off there in the middle. I tried to give you some crazy information on some records, hopefully persuaded you to check out some new music and not be too much of a music snob jerk asshole with a blog like every other shit head. So of course I saved the most difficult record I wanted to touch upon for last. This is gonna be tough and I don’t really know where to start, so I will start with my first impression.

When I first read that Dan Higgs was releasing a new album called Say God and he was releasing it under his proper name, as opposed to like Daniel (Arcus Incus Ululat) Higgs, Interdimensional Song-Seamstress or Daniel “belteShazzar” Higgs I knew he was actually probably serious and that naming this album was not done tongue in cheek like I believe many might suspect. No matter what you think of Higgs and his amazing Lungfish, there always seemed to be a bit of a wink and nod associated with it all. It’s not that I don’t believe that Higgs is not a serious musician and artist, but weird ass shit always is suspect of a slight bit of camp.

After listening to Say God I am not surprised by the musical and lyrical content of this album. Further, I take this album as a sincere expression of his religious philosophy and practice. Each song is very much hymnal and meditative, not shocking from a guy who was part of one of the most hypnotic bands to ever exist. And while Higgs pulls no real new tricks out of his magic, musical bag, I do feel like this album is an expression of a spiritual side that he has hinted at for much of his musical career.

It’s very difficult not to put this album in context with Lungfish. In fact, I think it’s the first album he’s done that warrants such appropriation in a way. Say God even sits as an indication that Higgs probably had a lot more to do with Lungfish musically then previously assumed. In fact, in comparison with the short and prolific bursts his partner Asa Osbourne gave us with Zomes, I think the later reigned the former in, and the former pushed the later into greater territory. The albums alone are both genius, but they show how good Higgs and Osbourne truly were together.

The other thing is, people have compared Lungfish and Higg’s word play to a religious experience and sacred text. And while I understand the religious like devotion to Lungfish, and am a full participant in that praise, there are people who, quite literally worship them. This fact has been long suspected by me and recently confirmed by a dear friend who works at Dischord, the label who is responsible for the Lungfish catalog seeing the light of day. But, I speculate further, that Say God confuses this religion simply because Higgs for the first time attempts to utilize language that is immersed in familiar religious rhetoric. Which is exactly why I take this as a sincere expression of a belief in a higher, divine being or power or entity. He’s not hiding anything in world play or vocal alliteration. The lyrics and words are expressed in judeo-christian ideas, Jesus Christ being mentioned in name and delivered like sermon on the 10:42 track “Say God”. But the music is more reminiscent of Tibetan Buddhist “music” I’ve heard accompanying prayer. This fusion, found all over the west is not surprising, even from someone as unique and perplexing as Mr. Higgs.

I am not educated enough to assume that this is a fully christian god or gospel that Higgs is attempting to evoke. It could be the skeptical atheist in me who refuses to believe that this figure of intrigue and wonder is guided by these ideologies. But again, I think about Lungfish, the lyrics that were esoteric and mystical and couple that with the knowledge I do have about religion and recognize that these facets are not eschewed from these practices, even if they have been cloaked in millions of believers who don’t have a modicum of understanding into their own religious traditions. So, whatever Say God is, it has not been taken lightly by me. It is a beautiful piece of work, simple and relaxing. And while many of the tracks include breathless, unrelenting notes, that sit underneath Dan Higgs’ haunting drawl, it makes it no less engaging a work. Dan Higgs has always understood simplicity as a delicate art that takes such patience and care to render, that people often confuse it with sophomore efforts. But that’s where such generalizations fall short. Say God will not convert you to a life of religion, traditional or otherwise. It will not reel you in to the church of Lungfish, where minister on high Dan Higgs leads the choir. But if you are a believer and ardent follower, Say God is an important new gospel that you will enjoy in enormity.

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2 thoughts on “Fucking Marathon Review Time – Lets Get To It

  1. I’ve edited this fucking thing like six times. Apparently, by the end of this diatribe I forgot how to make complete fucking sentences. For Fuck Sake. Sorry for the shitty English.

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