France’s The No-Talents played pure, old-school garage punk. No frills here. Hit it hard, hit it fast, and on to the next track. The 2014 re-release of their 1996 debut includes 17 tracks, only one of which runs longer than two minutes, and that one is a cheetah-ilke 2:01. The recording is intentionally lo-fi, sounding very much like it was recorded in someone’s basement in one take, but it’s still good enough to be listenable and enjoyable.
About a half dozen of the songs are covers, but most are pretty obscure with the exception of Black Flag’s “Wasted”. However, The No-Talents picked wisely because the overall flow of the record is never broken. It’s super-fast rock ‘n’ roll with an attitude, no sugar added.
First things first. If you are indeed planning on smelling the Pink Street Boys, I recommend you do it before their set. Because they go 100-miles-per-hour on stage and there’s a lot of sweating involved. I don’t think you want to smell them after the fact.
The self-proclaimed “Loudest Band in the World” just put their latest release into the wild, entitled Smells Like Boys. Given the Boys’ style of high-intensity dirty garage rock, as well as their sense of irony, this title conjures up lots of associations in my mind from the obvious ones like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” to more comical ones like the seminal metal album Smell the Glove and Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Here it for the Boy”. After all, the Boys will be boys. But one thing is for certain – I saw people with copies of this thing all over Reykjavik last week, including a lady who boarded the flight back to Seattle wearing a PSB t-shirt and carrying her copy of Smells Like Boys out in front of her like a “Beware of Dog” sign, a warning to those around her that she was not to be fucked with.
Smells Like Boys is raw old school rock ‘n’ roll, all sweaty and filthy and lo-fi. Elements of rockabilly and surf and psych weave in and out like parts of a broken kaleidoscope, one that doesn’t give you the patterns you expect but instead makes you wonder if someone put some acid in your drink. Most songs feature profanity of some type, with copious references to cops, drugs, and fighting strewn about for good measure. It’s like the music of The Stooges taken to it’s natural and obvious conclusion, the musical omega point, reaching the bottom of the bottomless pit with “Alpha Dog”, a song with lyrics I’m not even going to bother sharing with you for fear that the FCC may come knock-knock-knockin’ on my door. And please, don’t take that as a criticism, because it’s not. PSB puts it all on the table. Nothing hidden, no added preservatives. Songs like “Way It Goes” and “Mr. Kill” are near-perfect garage rockers, with catchy and grungy riffs and vocals that imply the singer may have swallowed the microphone, sounding like three-day-old spilled beer smells. Smell the boys indeed.
Meira Suð! is some lo-fi jingle rock out of Iceland, released earlier this year on a limited edition vinyl run of 250 copies. My buddy Ingvar over at Reykjavik’s Lucky Records turned me onto it, and I have to admit it’s catchy. A bit too uptempo to be shoegaze, Suð still manage to capture that intriguing blend of lo-fi while still creating a wall of noise on most of their tracks.
There are a few notable numbers on Meira Suð!. “Í Jafnvægi” starts slow and quiet before picking up the tempo and giving us some unique non-lyrical harmonizing. “Suð” closes out side A with a short instrumental sort of psych track that had me thinking at one point that the side might end with a locked groove, but that turned out not to be the case. The B side gives us a solid rocker in “Stundum” and Singapore Sling-ish psych trip with “Hugarþel”.
You can listen to the entire album for free and/or buy a copy on vinyl at Suð’s Bandcamp page HERE.
The Rapture are among the groups that brought the lo-fi and garage sound to the mainstream at the turn of the millennium. Stylistically I’ve seen this referred to as “post-punk revival” and “garage revival,” though I think that sells them a bit short. After all, garage never really goes away – there are always bands playing that style somewhere; it’s just a matter of whether or not that aesthetic happens to be popular at the time, with garage often serving as an “anti” to whatever musical trend is currently dominant. It’s roots; it’s back-to-basics; it’s a big middle finger to the world.
The Rapture’s 1999 album Mirror doesn’t seem to fit into these revivalists packages, at least not to my ears. Yes, they bring a lo-fi, unpolished feel to their music, and yes it has certain general rock characteristics, but there’s a lot more happening here. “Mirror” has a post-punk / noise / no wave quality to it, along with some very 1960s psych organs and an almost Dead Kennedys-esque vocal style, while the dark “AlieNation” puts a sparse keyboard on top of a slow reggae-ish riddim and tops it of with Ian Curtis-like vocals, so this pair certainly fits the original post-punk mode to some extent. But those are followed by the piano instrumental of “Dusk at Maureen’s” and the straight-up dance beats that drive “In Love with the Underground,” a track that veers off into sort of IDM territory.
Mirror is stylistically a bit all over the place, with the general lo-fi-ness loosely holding it all together. All in all I think they pulled it off, giving us a thoughtful album that certainly captured my attention enough to add them to my mental rolodex so I can keep my eyes open for other releases by the band.
I’d seen a few posts online about a new digital release by Reykjavik’s Knife Fights, so when I got an email from the band about it as well I made a point of checking it out.
I Am Neither A Whole Nor A Half Man is comprised of five tracks and currently is only available digitally, both for free streaming and download purchase (only $6) HERE. The band tags their sound as indie rock and pop punk, and I’d agree with that. The opener “Place Your Bets” reminds me of the more poppy and jangly tunes by Velvet Underground and Violent Femmes – simple, well-structured, and super catchy. When I heard the second track, “Panic Later,” I was struck with a strong sense of recognition… but I don’t own any Knife Fights albums. Could it be a cover? Damn it’s fantastic… where do I know it from? Turns out it was included on last year’s great Icelandic comp CD Iceland Whatever Vol. 1, and I even remarked how much I liked this tune when I reviewed that CD last year. If you never got a copy of Iceland Whatever Vol. 1, they’re still available through the label’s website FOR THREE BUCKS. Dudes and dudettes, it’s a bargain at five times the price, so I don’t know what you’re waiting for. You need this CD.
“Gray Clouds” takes us in a darker direction with its simple percussion and melancholy synthesizer, a song that gives a sense of despair, but also just a hint of hope, as if we’ve bottomed out and things are going to start to get better. “Don’t Be A Man” brings us back to that catchy, poppy place before the closer “Tails” brings it back down a notch, a methodical number that seems about to break lose of it’s bonds at any moment in a fit of Hulk-like rage, but just keeps on moving, slow and steady, winning the race.
I don’t see Knife Fights on the roster for Iceland Airwaves 2016, but I’ll be keeping my eyes open to see if they make an appearance or two off-venue – because if they do, I’m going to be there.