Mirrored Lips - “были у меня длинные волосы, но разве они принесли мне счастье” (2017)

I admitted don’t get a ton of emails about Life in the Vinyl Lane, though when I do I’m often surprised by who they’re from.  Sometimes it’s from a member of a long since disbanded band who found a post I did on their one and only album.  Other times I get notes from bands about their new releases, and these mostly come from the US and Iceland.  But the other day I got one from Sasha, member of the Russian female punk band Mirrored Lips, and even a quick 30 second preview of one of their tracks told me that this was going to be something interesting and special.

были у меня длинные волосы, но разве они принесли мне счастье appears to translate roughly into something about long hair and happiness, and based on a photo of the band with their short hair I’m guessing there’s some kind of irony at play here.  I found a couple of interviews with Mirrored Lips online, including one from Maximumrocknroll in which they describe their sound:  “One girl took a car and crashed the drums, the other plugged in her guitar and fell off a cliff into the sea, the third one came afterwards and deeply sighed.”  Originally a free/avant jazz project they morphed into something more punk rock, if not always musically then definitely in terms of their overall attitude and aesthetic - in some ways their sound is reminiscent of the more experimental work that broke out of the European punk scene starting in the late 1970s.

The jazz influence is immediately evident from the start of the first song, “как наступит весна”, a sonic trip up river to find Colonel Kurtz and the banality of horror that unfolds as the river flows slowly past and the desolate carnage floats by.  There’s a mildly discordant flow to the music which follows its own course, refusing to be constrained by any sense of structure.  That’s followed by “S&V” as things move into a more traditional punk zone with a vocal cadence that reminds me of Purrkur Pillnikk.  The “S” and “V” stand for “sex” and “violence”, the two English words in the song which are repeated as a chorus, sharp stabs out from the low end of the music, hitting you like punctuations with their deliberateness.  It feels politicized in every way possible, and that’s not a bad thing.

The Mirrored Lips aren’t afraid to push experimental towards its outer limits.  “из меня раздался голос” is a seemingly random collection of softly played instruments, electronic buzzing, and various overlapping recordings of people talking.  Certainly my lack of Russian language skills limits my ability to understand the specifics (the title translates to “A Voice Came From Me”), though in a way it also makes it more sonically interesting as a composition.  Is “free-punk” a genre we need to start talking about?  It very well might be, because “experimental” seems too generic.

With seven tracks and a run time of about 22 minutes, были у меня длинные волосы, но разве они принесли мне счастье is the perfect dose of Mirrored Lips, enough to get into their overall feel while not burning out your ears.  “S&V” is my favorite cut, but it’s also the most traditionally punk song on the album which probably explains my attraction to it.  But don’t take my word for it - go listen to it for yourself HERE, and maybe spend a buck on a digital download if it strikes your fancy.

Fascia / Decanter - “Fascia / Decanter” (2017)

I was very excited by the announcement earlier this year that our friends at FALK were putting out a split release of the artists Fascia and Decanter on vinyl.  It’s the second split release Decanter has done with the label, the other being the a tape put out with AAIIEENN called Vertices / Travel, so I had at least an idea of what I was in for.

Fascia hit me in the back of the skull with brass knuckles of horror soundtrack beats on “Nakd”.  These are the sounds where building tension has started to give way to “oh, the murderer is just about to strike” in the B-movie slashers many of us grew up with.  Deep, resonating, angular and sharp, it’s death by a thousand small cuts in your mind.  “Turist” is more geared for the dance floor, a deep groover that uses a white-hot high pitched pulse beat over the top of the rich low end, adding and removing sonic components discretely - no big release here, just the low, weighty undulation of waves in the open ocean.

Decanter keeps it deep with “Chordates” and the pulsing beat you’d expect to hear while dancing in an impossibly dark basement at two in the afternoon on a cloudless burner of a summer day, textures of deep purple velvet with hints of burning hot orange on the fringes. (♠)  “RFE2” is a bit more trippy and less beat focused with the high end sounds hitting the bottom like drops of water, and “Thagomizer” completes the three-song transition from groovy to experimental, buzzing around on the border with industrial.

Only 50 of these suckers were made, so if you want one you better go make it happen HERE at the FALK Bandcamp site.

(♠)  This seemed to make sense when I wrote it… seems a bit weird after seeing it again, but there it is.

The Elements - “Honest Enough” (1985)

This is another record that came to me from my buddy Steve’s collection and one I bought simply because it was Seattle related.  Green Monkey Records was putting out local artists  back before Sub Pop was officially a label, starting with the Local Product comp tape in 1983 and just recently announcing their 100th release.  I wrote about one of their vinyl comps a while back, and I don’t often come across the label’s early stuff.

I don’t have a lot of info about The Elements, though I do apparently have bassist Scott Keeney’s old phone number since it’s written on the back of the jacket.  Their style is that sort of transitional indie/college rock, the stuff that would later become the dreaded “Alternative”.  The foundation is rock ‘n’ roll, with elements of punk and jangle pop.  It’s like The Replacements meets Radio Birdman meets Beat Happening meets Violent Femmes.  It all comes together flawlessly on “Rappasplat”, a perfect blending of styles capped off by quirky vocals.  The Elements’ influences appear to be wide ranging and they blend genres effortlessly throughout Honest Enough, like the 1960s psych and folk rock influenced “Somewhere In Time”, a song that still manages to retain a modern aesthetic while staying within the band’s overall vibe.  And their country inspired tribute to their favorite shoes, “Loafers”, is pure ridiculous fun.

There’s so much great music out there, bands that just never got that one break.  And I’m going to keep looking for them, one record at a time.

Long live The Elements!

“Melodica Melodies” Compilation (1981)

Augustus Pablo made me a fan of that most ridiculous of instruments, the melodica, that strange combination of a woodwind instrument and a kazoo and a piano necktie.  It’s absurd, but when you play some reggae riddims with it… magic happens.  So when I saw this 1981 collection of melodica reggae tunes the other day I had to buy it, both because it was all melodica all the time and frankly because it’s a vintage reggae record; not sure about the music scene where you live, but up here in Seattle most 1980s and earlier reggae comes to you via reissues.

I decided to play Melodica Melodies tonight because at 7PM my living room feels like Jamaica.  After a crazy wet and cold winter that even had Seattle natives complaining about the rain, we’ve been in a warm dry spell and right now it’s 81 degrees in my living room and more than a bit humid.  If it gets any hotter the vinyl will warp.

The songs on this comp are a combination of dub tunes and straight reggae… though even the reggae jams are more musical than vocal.  It’s everything you’d expect it to be, and that’s exactly what I need on a hot night with a cool drink.  Melodica Melodies is a smooth chill trip, and well worth checking out.

Blondie (1976-80)

If you’re anything like me, there are lots and lots of records you flip past at the used record store and think to yourself, “yeah, I’d totally buy a copy of that if I could just find a nice one for a reasonable price”.  This is, of course, an ego-saving way of saying “I’m a cheap bastard, one who isn’t willing to part with ten bucks for a clean copy of a seminal album because the jacket has a bit of wear”.  And of course if I find that pristine copy, I’ll think to myself “no way I’d pay $25 for this when I can find copies way cheaper”.  But if it’s something intriguing that I’ve never heard of, I’ll probably drop that $25 happily.  I suspect (and hope) I’m not the only person neurotic like this.

The above is part of the reason I’ve never gotten into the Blondie catalog.  They were sort of past their prime by time I started getting into music, so I only know their the hits.  But the other day while trying to help my buddy Steve pare down his stuff in advance of his upcoming move I stumbled upon his old Blondie records.  These were his personal records, not stuff he’d bought at the Goodwill or a garage sale to possibly flip later.  And they were immaculate.  And that is how I came to find myself with copies of Blondie (1976), Parallel Lines (1978), and AutoAmerican (1980).

Blondie (1976)

Blondie is a big surprise to my ears.  It’s almost a doo-wop album.  “In the Flesh” sounds like a prom dance song from 1962.  “Look Good In Blue” has a hint of synthesizers that foreshadows the band’s later move toward new wave, though the song itself is basic rock ‘n’ roll.  “Rip Her to Shreds” brings more attitude although still with a retro flair, this time with an organ that reminds me of The Doors or some of the 60s psych bands, but there’s definitely more feeling here than on the A side tracks.  “Kung Fu Girl” and “The Attack of the Giant Ants” may be the best inklings as to the future direction of Blondie.  All in all I’ll take the B side over the A - it’s less retro and old-timey, more sneering and experimental.

Parallel Lines (1978)

While I didn’t know any of the songs on Blondie, by the time we get to Parallel Lines things feel pretty comfortable - “Hanging On the Telephone”, “One Way Or Another”, and “Heart of Glass” are all classics, though ironically it’s the least commonly heard of the three (“Hanging On the Telephone”) that is by far the best.  “Heart of Glass” made it to #1 on the Billboard singles chart while “One Way Or Another” just cracked into the Top 25, the singles propelling the album into the Top 10 where it peaked at #6.

There’s still some of the old Blondie on Parallel Lines.  “Picture This” is reminiscent of the A side tracks from Blondie, a lite poppy doo-wop number with some updated guitar work.  But overall this is a more experienced and confident version of Blondie, one not afraid to mix things up stylistically and take some chances.

AutoAmerican (1980)

From the opening of AutoAmerican you can tell this is going to be something different.  It kicks off with the almost classical instrumental “Europa”, with its bizarre vocals only coming in at the very end.  But they Blondie also give us the old-timey “Here’s Looking At You”, a song that makes me think Dick Tracy is about to come into the room and say “Yeah, see, we’re gonna all need to cut a rug to this, see?”

AutoAmerican spawned two #1 mega hits (though the album itself only made it to #7), a pair of songs that almost couldn’t be more different from one another.  The calypso-infused “The Tide Is High” and what some people consider to be the first rap song to make it to the top of the charts (or more precisely the first song featuring a rap…), the completely strange “Rapture”.  This is an album by a band that has had so much success that they can basically do whatever they hell they want… so they do.

 

It was interesting spending an entire afternoon listening to three Blondie albums, given how much of this material was new to me.  You can definitely hear the bands development over time as they branch out and become more confident in their vision.