Lungfish – Indivisible

Lungfish
Indivisible
Dischord

Confession time. I wasn’t always a Lungfish fan. The story goes as such, a friend of mine was selling CD’s she wasn’t into and part of that stack included Indivisible by Lungfish. I asked if I could take it home and listen to it and if I was into it, she said I could have it for a few bucks. I went home, dropped the disc into my player and sat back confused at the weird “art” music that was being made. I managed to listen to all of it, annoyed at the number of instrumentals and backwards interludes and decided that it wasn’t for me. I returned the disc, none to politely, remarking that this “art rock bullshit” was what was wrong with music in the mid to late 90’s.

The only thing that was wrong was my filter. I saw Lungfish open up for Fugazi a few years later and was still off put but curious. Sometime after the release of Artificial Horizon was I turned in to Lungfish. I became obsessive. I desperately searched the bins of the used record stores I went to in search of their albums.

I don’t remember the chronology of when I re-discovered Indivisible. It was not one of the albums referred to me (most people seem to think Sound in Time is their masterpiece in my experience) by the many people I obsessively talked to about this band. But at one point I did stumble upon this album and remembered the dark, depressive, artless cover. It sat in my hands like a cold stone, shifting my comfort. I would have to confront this album, my past judgements against what I had built. I was afraid everything would come unwound and my new devotion would be for not.

Chronology is also a problem with these reissues. On the one hand, some of my favorites have already hit the shelves in my home. But its hard to go back and contextualize these superior presentations with the CD’s I have from the past. And as Indivisible can easily be seen as a the mid-point in the Lungfish output, it’s difficult to feel honestly without referencing other records (something I have tried to avoid since Dischord began this project).

As it stands, Indivisible is my personal favorite Lungfish album, it’s weirdness intact even amongst a most esoteric band. The album is cold and seemingly lifeless. It has musical tones not unlike Joy Division, but it’s also when Dan Higgs starts losing grasp with the reality the rest of us know. Yet it’s not the space and time re-con mission that Artificial Horizons would be or the mind origami give in Unanimous Hour. Instead, Indivisible was kind of subdued.

This album always was subtle, a collection of Lungfish ballads, if ever Lungfish were to write a ballad (they did, a few times actually, they are quite beautiful). But there was almost something old world about this album. Though it hits at all the points a Lungfish album should, it sounded and felt like it was made in another time. There was nothing contemporary about Indivisible. It doesn’t sound like anything anyone was doing at the time.

It remains, to my ears one of the most repetitious albums to date. Filled with lots soundscapes (“e=fu” and “William Fuld” named after the Baltimore native who launched the Oujia board into a household name) these atmospheric breaks make the other tracks stand out more. Anchored by “Tick Tock” and song reminiscent of Joy Division’s “Digital”, where in the concept of time leaves us and we are left frustrated, Lungfish created something wholly new and different. But fuck if that song also doesn’t have a groove, the verse and chorus only separated by Mitch Feldstein’s change in the beat. But rather than follow this up with something powerful and rocking Lungfish fall into another odd instrumental jam “Cut To Fit The Mouth”, where a layer of toy Casio piano sits harshly over a quite little jam. The album is quite frantic, manic-depressive maybe, like Wish by The Cure, but in Lungfish’s unique pallet.

Of all there albums, Indivisible is probably the Baltimore quartet’s most inconsistent. Never finding that groove and layered with way out sound escapades, Indivisible is not an easy listen, despite a band that is pulling back. Here we find Lungfish experimenting. After establishing their own sound, Indivisible finds the band stepping back and playing around. Much of what they would produce would weaves its way quietly into their songs later on. The white noise, the piano plunks, the use of space in different ways. Indivisible took context and twisted it, making it a turning point in an unpredictable career.

Lungfish – Talking Songs For Walking

Lungfish
Talking Songs For Walking
Dischord Records

Sitting down this morning, no coffee, cobwebs in my eyes, a pit in my stomach and too much already on my mind, listening to Lungfish’s second album, Talking Songs For Walking, I am truly hearing it for the first time. This was back when Lungfish was raw and still sort of resembled a basic band. In fact as “Kissing” rings out as I write this, I see just how pedestrian of a band Lungfish was in their infancy. Yes, the beginnings of their own style were emerging, but it was still soaked so thoroughly in that DC energy, reminiscent of the mighty Rites of Spring, the gritty Ignition and the pummeling of early Fugazi. The repetition or hypnosis doesn’t feel so pronounced here in their infancy (though it’s certainly there).

What is great about these reissues of all these Lungfish albums is that we get to reconsider them. During their height I was a Compact Disc addict. I rarely bought vinyl and it hasn’t been until recently that I have succumbed to the mp3 hoarding nature prevalent among us nerds and assholes. My interaction with Talking Songs for Walking was on CD and thus also included their debut Necklace of Heads in one, very long package. The distinction between the two were not always easy to find. But now as Dischord remasters these great albums, I am compelled to take the time and sit here with Talking Songs for Walking.

A true rock record, the spit and sour of punk rock rests firmly in the veins of this band. John Chriest, the original bassist is most pronounced here, driving the songs into sonic fury where soon the band would step back into a more hypnotic groove. But here, the band is typical in giving just ten songs, but they shave a good ten minutes off the running time. It is only now I realize how economical Talking Songs for Walking was. Confined and compressed by speed, the band delivers a true rock record, made in their own recipe.

As Lungfish is presented here with more urgency, the same riff patterns from our man Asa Osbourne that normally sooth and calm the beast suddenly become more feet shuffling and fist pounding. Here, Lungfish is more of a war cry then a meditative om. It isn’t until we reach the lovely “Put Your Hand In My Hand” that the band slows down to the laid back groove they would become known for. And yet somehow, Asa lets the main riff rule space, somehow showing a complex dynamic. This song also has one of the most dynamic bridges that Lungfish has ever written. In fact, all over  this album moments of great change can be found, making this a rather unique entry into the known Lungfish canon.

We also get a young Dan Higgs, more poetic with his words, not quite embracing the bombastic military bark he would become known for. At this point he was more beat poet than psychic head trip, telling odd ball stories. I am immersed for the first time in the song “Descender”, delivered in a slacker cool that Higgs seemed to embody but never project later on. The weirdness is there, but the crazy hadn’t quite emerged. It’s an interesting contrast, a band known for being relatively laid back (in theory, not always in practice) and a front man being “out there”, Talking Songs For Walking gives us a rather subdued Higgs. Of course, what the remaster does is give us a better presentation of some of the accompanying vocal work, hinting at the bark and yell we would later find.

Unfortunately, the remaster process isn’t all kind. The deficiencies in the recording, obviously caught in the trends of the day unfortunately resonate more. The bass is muted and the drums sound far too treated, an insult to Chriest and drummer Mitch Feldstein, but unfortunately this was par for the course back then. More labor intensive and possibly even unattainable, a treatment of the original masters, stripping down the added effects and giving the bass it’s proper due might make for a powerful re-imagining. This is the first time a remaster does very little to bring forward the nuances and instead shows the deficiencies more.

To this guy though, that doesn’t matter. I am happy to have a second look at my favorite band once again (this was also remastered in conjunction with Indivisible, this writers favorite Lungfish album which we will write about very soon) especially the earlier part of the catalog I have not spent as much time with. It’s nice to find a Lungfish that was once interested in kicking faces in with some foot stomping rock instead of tearing them off with hypnotic, esoteric leanings. As Dischord continues this project, and hopefully unleashes more from the vaults like A.C.R 1999, us fans and devoted “dum dums” can find more nuance. For me, it reminds me to listen to music. To pay more attention and consume less. I can assure you for weeks, maybe months I will be entrenched in Lungfish.

Quick Music Reviews

This is a list of stuff I am listening to at present. I am going to jump around a lot here. Short or long or whatever. Like the back of a punk magazine. You know, you should read one.

Bad Banana – Crushfield  – Self Released (FREE). I downloaded this ages ago and just listened to it now, tonight. It’s one of them Crutchfield sisters projects you’ve read about in the NY Times and shit cuz being a hipster treasure now makes you news worthy (not a diss on them or their music, but I bet a lot of dick heads are already talking about what sell outs they are). Anyway, the production on this demo sounds pretty low fi, and if you like that stuff, then you’ll love the syrupy pop-crunch punk with almost 90’s indie sound. For me it worked better for Waxahatchee, the low fi production made it intimate. Here it sounds like something they’ve already grown out of and forgotten.

Propagandhi – Failed States Epitaph Records. I want to love this album like I love the last three albums by Canada’s greatest export (next to toothless hockey players) but I am having a hard time with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the Prop, so it hits all the points you’d expect. But that’s kind of the problem, it started out with a soft little intro and got all melodic and explosive just like I thought it would. It’s a predictable listen which is not what one expects from these angry anarchists from the north. I love the licks, the riffs, the vocals and the lyrics, but it sounds like the corresponding b-sides to Supporting Caste rather than a fresh effort. I’m trying to find its voice, but I’ll never give up on this band.

Big Eyes Back From The Moon 7″. Grave Mistake Records. There is a comic in Razorcake #69 by Liz Prince who writes the most crush-worthy comics ever. She loves pop punk. She wrote this comic about seeing Big Eyes in NYC. I hate NYC, but I checked out this single and I love it. It’s got that fresh but familiar energy of The Ergs. All the best parts about pop punk and indie rock that makes bands awesome. I also checked out there LP from 2011 (Hard Life) but I like this a bit better. The two songs on this 7″ have a great bit of energy and are just a bit crisper. But you should get into this band if you like to bounce around your living area in your underwear listening to music singing into a hair brush or at yr cats.

White Lung Sorry Deranged. This album smokes. I love this band. This is what music is supposed to be. Energetic, frightening, desperate. White Lung takes you to the edge. I don’t know if I want to kill or cry when I listen to this album. I feel alone, wandering the streets with no purpose, desperate for anything, hand on my pocket knife. No rules. No Cell Phone. Nowhere to go. A lot of bands get recognition outside of punk that is often unwarranted. There are bands that people who have listened and dedicated themselves to the genre know are just temporal and luke warm. White Lung sounds like nothing else and deserve to break the genre ghetto of appreciation. Devastating times call for damaged music. This is what I will be listening to when they finally start that war that ends us all. It’s coming. Here is your soundtrack to die to.

Kamikabe Abberation of Man Unique Leader. This is pure fucking awesome Death Metal and I love it. Working on a metal show I’ve gotten into death metal again and have been revisiting lots of Obituary. This band sounds nothing like them, but reminds me of what it is I first loved about Obituary (who isn’t just one of my favorite metal bands, but one of my favorite bands and Allen West is one of my favorite guitar players). Anyway, Kamikabe kicks it in the face. The kids would probably call this technical death metal. It has some great elements that remind me of Dying Fetus, Cattle Decapitation and Pig Destroyer. But make no mistake, this Pittsburgh five piece is their own band. It’s hard to stand out and be distinguishable in a genre of music that has so many rules and where being tech is so important, but Kamikabe stand out from the crowd.

Aesop Rock Skelathon Rhyme Sayers. It’s an Aesop Rock record, alright. You can’t really say this guy sounds like anything. I don’t even know if it’s hip hop. The musical language that Aesop Rock speaks is his own. And this truly is his album. Almost all the beats, lyrics and sounds are his. Aside from a few vocals from a few other people, he did it all. And it’s a sad sounding album. The Ian Curtis of rap. The Joy Division of hip-hop music. I worry about Ian Bavitz, then he puts out a record and goes on tour.

Swearin’ S/T Salinas Records (FREE). This is a first listen review. Literally listening to it for the first time. It did not come with a download code when I bought the record so I had to find this on the internet, which I was able to over at http://www.ifyoumakeit.com for donation/free. There is a lot of hype about this record and it’s not unfounded. It reminds me off some Discount, Superchunk, The Promise Ring, and a lot of pop-rock indie music that I don’t listen to that much anymore. It’s got that same feel as early Lemuria singles before they went all weird. Swearin’ might be a braver bet, making music that is catchy and accessible. It can be hard to wade in waters already tread and try to find new, interesting stones, but Swearin’ here seems to have confidence in what they are doing. Great work on the warbling vocals too. Someone earns a gold star on mixing for this one. Best aspect of the production that is otherwise straight forward.

Stop Breathing S/T No Idea Records. CHUGGAGHUGGAGHUGGAGHUGGAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Are you looking to have your mind blown or are you looking to pedal your ten speed bike as fast as you can down your street like you did when you were ten? IF you want the later, this skate rock inspired, three chord SOCAL punk rock will make you wish for those endless summer days when you didn’t care about anything but 50-50 Stalls on the curb and building the worst launch ramps in history. Nothing fancy, just the essentials. Dated but still timeless. Get those rat bones out kid, yr gonna need the big wheels to grind those curbs.

Post-Teens The Heat No Idea Records. Post Teens has the guitar player from Asshole Parade/Dead Friends +more so I thought this was gonna be heavy, but it’s more like the sloppy, low-fi, pop punk for drunk old dudes that my man Todd Taylor is all into. Oh yeah a dude from Shitstorm/Torche is in this band too. But like they all switch up on instruments and shit. It’s just punk rock music. Six songs, six minutes, it’s a good quick fix. I still wish it was a grind record, but I get the point.

Low Culture S/T Dirt Culture Records (FREE). Ex-member of Shang-A-Lang from Las Cruces New Mexico where they have a place where bands come through and tour instead of Albuquerque because Duke City is a weird town with a weird scene. Jangly guitars, catchy little ditties with a bit of space in there to build some excitement. Gets a little late 90’s pop-emo (the break down in “I Didn’t Know”) for a moment. Bryan Adams would be proud. Or maybe Ryan Adams would be cuz I think these dudes would just be like fuck it. It’s kinda all over the place, kinda like the Ergs because they had a lot of influences. I think they are still exploring all the sounds they are capable of. There’s enough here to make me check them out in the future.

Dan Padilla Sports Fans Dirt Culture Records (FREE). Dan Padilla (the band, not the man) has once again put out an album you can get free. Which makes two in a row. Davey from Tiltwheel/Too Many Daves plays in this band. This album, not quite as exciting as As the Ox Plows. It’s a little too Tim Version without the grit and grime. I liked the hints of sounds and influences of the last album. But I’m just kind of luke warm to this one.

Heathers  Kingdom Aunthill Records. I’m pretty sure that Heathers are the biggest thing in Ireland now and it’s well worth it. Kingdom finds the Macnamara sisters reaching way far out from their humble debut Here Not There. Luckily for me (or them?) I am a huge pop diva fan, because they get in some territory I did not expect, but I love. The bare sound of  an acoustic guitar and vocals are all but gone here. Instead they go all out, relying on a heavy dose of piano and dance beats to make their music now. But the root of what makes Heathers a band that I love is the vocals of Ellie and Louise. The melodies and harmonies are beautiful and striking. So when the duo makes this obvious move to go bigger, they don’t really sacrifice what makes them great, empowering lyrics, solid songs at the core and great singing. I mean masterful singing. This album has been on constantly in my home over the last week and probably will be for quite some time. It’s proof that pop music can be big and grand and sound slick and still be good, if you know how to write a damn song. Ellie and Louise do. I can’t wait to see them rise to heights as great as their talent.

XX Coexist Young Turks. I haven’t been lucid enough before going to bed to really listen to this album the way I want to. But what I have heard so far, I love. I shouldn’t love this. It’s too pretty, weird, soft and subtle for a man in his mid thirties who still thinks BEING LOUD AS FUCK is a good idea. Other reviews that I have read call this record even more minimal than their self titled debut, but I don’t find it that way at all. I think there is a subtle quality to the production that is amazing. It also helps that this trio fell in love with Sade, whose work I am both familiar with and a fan of. The influence shines through on some of their “bigger” songs (“Swept Away” and “Reunion”). This album also has a shit load more space in which the band finds a grove. The debut, while beautiful often felt restricted. For all its empty space, Coexist sounds like a big record. I need to spend more time with this, I feel like it’s getting lost in my collection and I’m pretty sure I love it as much as the first album, just like everyone else.

Tooth Soup Casting off Curses Plan-It-X (only $.66). Chris Clavin is back with a new punk band, but it sounds more like a collective effort then many of his previous works. He’s letting the influence of the other members into his music, songs and lyrics and it’s refreshing. He does what he always does best with the boy/girl vocals of hope, optimism, angst and disappointment wrapped up in a cutting but pleasant bit of pop punk. Tooth Soup probably won’t be your instant favorite, and it wouldn’t be the album I would use to introduce Chris’s work to others with. But it shows maturity in sonic range and will grow on you quickly. The other thing I like is that each member gets a track to share their individuality. All the members have other projects and each gets to display their singularity. It’s a great way to show how it all comes together, how each members sensibility and perspective comes together through insight, communication and compromise to make a whole. That’s pretty damn daring.

Verse Bitter Clarity,Uncommon Grace Bridge 9. I’m not really sure how I feel about this band. I must like them because I keep finding my way to this album. I haven’t looked at a lyric sheet yet, but it feels like that awesome La Dispute record that came out last year that I am in love with (Wildlife, get it here for $8 you won’t regret it if you like stories and came of age in the 90’s). But it feels like this dude has something to say, I just wish I would take the time to figure it out. It’s definitely an album that’s all connected and shit. The songs don’t stand on their own, but become something as a whole piece. There is something distinct and exact about this album that I can’t quite put my finger on. Lots of guitar solos too, which seems weird yet weirdly works here.

Gaza No Absolutes in Human Suffering Blackmarket Activities. From Salt Lake City, Utah, I was really stretched (and still am) how a band could call themselves Gaza. I haven’t done my research yet, but a few people assured me this wasn’t a bunch of straight edge mormon dip shits playing at hardcore and considering my tastes for metal and grindcore I would probably dig this. It’s not the most slaughtering music I have ever heard and it gets a bit metalcore at times (which is a BAD THING) but when they decide to be brutal and awesome and dig the grind, it’s something my ears and angry heart are attracted to. The verdict is still out (two songs reach over six minutes, which even at pummeling speeds seems excessive to me) because I just can’t blindly trust a bunch of privileged white boys who call themselves Gaza. That’s some heavy geo-political implications they are making there. Takes balls. Lets see if they have the ovaries to back that shit up.