The Leather Nun – “Force of Habit” (1987)

leathernunforceofhabitHailing from Sweden (Hail, Sweden!), The Leather Nun were a controversial outfit in their time, though when you listen to them today they seem pretty straight-forward.  Which makes sense when you consider these songs are all over 30 years old, as far away from me today as Elvis and Chuck Berry were when I was a teenager in the 1980s.  <Sigh>.  I’m clearly getting old.

Based on the handful of things I read about The Leather Nun I expected their sound to be “harder”.  But really this isn’t too far from The Cure or even U2 (I’m thinking here specifically of “Pink Houses”).  In fact Holly said that “506” had a “Neil Diamond vibe to it”.  That’s not to say I don’t like it, because in fact I do, and quite a bit, it’s just that “For the Love of Your Eyes” is anything but hard.  I went to YouTube and listen to some clips from the band’s 1984 debut EP Slow Death, and that was much more of what I expected.  It gets a bit edgier on the B side, but Force of Habit doesn’t have the intensity of Slow Death.

The Milkshakes – “Talking ‘Bout… Milkshakes!” (1981 / 2016)

I wasn’t familiar with The Milkshakes (sometimes written as Thee Milkshakes) until I ran across a couple of re-represses the other day.  The band was quite prolific in the 1980s, putting out something like 14 records between 1981 and 1987 plus a few singles and one last album in the early 1990s.  How had I not heard of these guys?

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Their debut was Talking ‘Bout… Milkshakes!, originally released in 1981 and re-released by Damaged Goods in 2016 (Damaged Goods re-pressed a handful of Milkshakes titles in the  2000s).  I saw the band described in another blog as sounding like the Kinks when they were at their edgiest and rawest, and that seems pretty apt.  The base style is 1960s rock/pop/surf, with an unpracticed feel to it, garage rock that sounds like it’s literally in someone’s garage.  Songs like “Bull’s Nose” are surfy psych without being overly either, not an homage as much as a next logical step in the progression of sound.  The anguished “Don’t Love Another” is like a sugary pop song that had a knife stuck into it and twisted to make sure the wound doesn’t easily heal.  The Milkshakes take the source genres, get into a fist fight with them, and record the bloody nose and sore ribs that result.

Often I find garage rock records to be repetitive, like the band only knows one way to play their songs.  But that’s not how I feel about The Milkshakes.  Yes, they have an underlying foundational “sound”, but they take it in a wide range of directions, all of them pretty rad.  I also picked up the Damaged Goods pressing of their 1984 record Nothing Can Stop These Men, and it’s every bit as good.  I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for The Milkshakes during future digs.

Salty Dog – “Every Dog Has It’s Day” (1990)

Sweet little baby, she’s my hotdog bun.

Wait, what?  What??  Did you just describe a woman as your “hotdog bun”?

Come along with me, just about a barrel of fun.

I’m not really sure I want to come along after that hotdog bun comment.

Gonna brush myself, once right across the hair,
Like Old Mother Hubbard, all of my cupboards been bare.

What the hell are you talking about?  Nursery rhymes?  Old Mother Hubbard would have slapped the taste from your mouth if she’d heard that hotdog bun comment.

Come on see, my door’s always open,
Even take a bus if you’re car’s broken,
Come along, come along.

So you want her to come see you, this hotdog bun woman, but if her car is broken you’re not going to give her a ride or anything, not even cab fare.  Just take a bus, baby, and get over here.  Classy.

And so opens Salty Dog’s 1990 debut album Every Dog Has It’s Day, with the song “Come Along”.

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I have a confession.  I loved this song when it came out.  I’m not necessarily proud of that when I go back and read the lyrics, but damn it’s still a catchy jam, one of the last salvos of 80s sleaze rock before it was lit on fire and burned to the ground by grunge a year later.  Call it whatever you want – hair metal, butt rock, glam… it’s what I cut my musical teeth on back in the 80s, and I still have a soft spot for it.  Which is why I finally broke down and bought a copy of Every Dog Has It’s Day a few weeks back.  I’d have bought it on vinyl, but it’s ridiculously expensive – you can find it reasonably priced from European sellers, but the overseas shipping has become pretty outrageous, and the only American seller I could find was asking 40 bucks for it.  No thanks, I’ll just get the CD (2016 remastered on the Rock Candy label) for my trip down memory lane.

Salty Dog flamed out pretty quick – they pretty much disappeared after this album, with drugs being one of the main reasons.  It was almost three decades before they put out another, 2018s Lost Treasure.  The funny thing is that in reading the reviews for Lost Treasure I was surprised by how many bloggers confessed they loved Every Dog Has It’s Day.  For a long time I thought I was the only one, since no one else seemed to remember Salty Dog.

As for me, I know I’ll be rocking this one in the car.

Kontinuum – “No Need to Reason” (2018)

I’m not sure how many times we’ve seen Kontinuum perform live.  Four?  Five?  We saw them at Airwaves a month or so ago and they sounded great, as always.  It’s weird though – I can’t remember ever going out with the specific intent of seeing Kontinuum… it’s more that they happened to be playing on the same card as other bands we wanted to see.  Inevitably we’d see them on the bill as well and say, “oh, and Kontinuum is playing there too, nice”.  And they’re certainly more than good enough to keep us around to wait for them as well.

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The quintet put out three albums, most recently No Need to Reason in 2018, an effort that was also their first on vinyl.  I picked it up during Airwaves because hey, Kontinuum are solid.  And that enjoyment I have for them live carries over onto the recording, albeit it in a somewhat different way.  The tracks on No Need to Reason are more polished than the band’s live sound, lacking a bit of their on-stage punch and taking on a smoother patina (“Warm Blood” probably comes closest to reflecting Kontinuum in concert).  But lest you think that’s a criticism, it’s not.  The sound is just a bit different, that’s all.  The three guitar attack is still here, though, creating a dense curtain of sound serving as the backdrop for what is often melancholy vocals, perhaps nowhere coming together as well as on the title track.

You can check out No Need to Reason on Bandcamp HERE.  On vinyl it’s available in three different colors – black (edition of 350), blue (300), and violet (100).  If my math’s right, that means the vinyl is limited to only 750 copies across all colors, so it’s fairly limited.

Grísalappalísa – “Týnda Rásin” (2019)

After nearly a decade together Grísalappalísa are calling it quits, and they’re going out in style with one final album, Týnda Rásin, the vinyl pressing including a 20-page full-sized color booklet of photos and lyrics.  But despite the prettiness of the packaging, the album itself came from a dark place.  Per the band:

This album is about a frequency that no one tunes into, a channel virtually hidden from our perception and whose broadcasts reach only a deep, dark void. It is an echo chamber, a path you find yourself in in the darker times of life and swallows you, ironically, by your own doing. For us, this channel represents depression, anxiety and isolation, to be at a crossroads with yourself and on the margins of society. It’s about experiencing yourself as a failure, an exposure of yourself and the sudden realisation that you won’t be the rockstar that the 16-year-old you wanted to be.

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I can’t speak to Týnda Rásin’s lyrical message since the vocals are in Icelandic, but the music and the vocal tone support this view.  It’s an album of varying styles, not in that there is a country song followed by something hip hop, but more within the general indie rock space that Grísalappalísa exists in (♠).   Týnda Rásin lacks a sonic cohesiveness.  But that’s not intended as an insult, simply an observation.  You’ve got the punkish “Kvæðaþjófurinn” (my favorite track) followed by a more spoken-word-styled number in “Keyri Heim Á Þorláksmessu”, all of it tied together by and underlying angst, a sense of anomie.  And they do stretch the limits, especially on the experimental, free-jazz-like “Taugaáfall Í Bónus” with its vocal anxiety mirrored by the emotional and unstructured piano.

You can give it a listen for yourself HERE.  I don’t see the vinyl listed on Bandcamp right now, but this came out on the Reykjavik Record Shop imprint, so I’m sure you can contact the shop directly if you want to get your hands on a physical copy.

(♠) OK, with the possible exception of the very country “Undir Sterku Flúorljósi” that is…