May 28, 2015

Bay Area Brief Blasts 2 Featuring: Hard Left-We Are Hard Left, Will Sprott-Vortex Numbers

     Hard Left wants every-damn-one to get hyped for their debut album. I bought that hype. I was super excited to hear music played by former members of Black Tambourine, Boyracer, and Lunchbox. The mass listening public has never heard Mike Schulman, aka Papa Slumber, sing. Hard Left says they're Oi and Mod and the album cover looks like a proper Ken Loach film. What's not to theoretically love here?
     Well, after finally taking We Are Hard Left in, the best I can type is: Mike's voice doesn't disappoint. He sounds like Jason Statham with black lung. It's pretty damn glorious. The worst I can type is: This is a pretty forgettable album. The music's fine; everything is tight and respectable, especially the rhythm section. I personally don't care for (what sounds to be) polished production of a punk rock record. We Are Hard Left sounds as hi-fi as Green Day's output from Nimrod onward.
     Of the fourteen tracks, four are not much more than the band continuously singing "We are Hard Left!" These tracks and vocal exercises are in addition to the myriad of instances in which the very same refrain is repeated during those tracks with actual song structure. I'd forgive one such track, but four, for me, is gratuitous.
     I think I get what they're trying to accomplish here; "We are Hard Left!" is supposed to be a powerful rally cry wherein the "We" is not just the band, but everyone. That's all fine, but in the context of an album, one song alone could establish that. It's not as if listeners will only listen once. Most people will listen multiple times and if even one song contains the "rally cry", the message will be heard as many if not more times than if anyone listened just once to this album and heard it only ten times.
     I'm not trying to teach Hard Left any Hard Lessons. I know plenty of people will love this album mostly for what it represents; A Call To Arms, by Our Elders, no less. It's nothing new but reminders are always a blessing. I only wish they could figure out a way to aurally teach us Hard Left-ers the new secret handshake.

Listen/Buy Here

                                                                                                                             The Verdict: 2 Bedpans

     Will Sprott is (or was) San Jose's own M. Ward. I can't state with any authority whether the sort of music Will produces existed before in San Jose or if anyone else has chosen to follow his sleepy-yet-confident footsteps since he first appeared as the front man for our once-beloved Mumlers. I only know that my dumb ears never heard a San Jose musician before or since Will Sprott.
     His voice may be an amalgamation of many older folksy dudes of whom I'm not familiar, so, to me, he sounds slightly like Matt Ward; except that he rarely goes for the airy effect. His voice is mostly grounded and measured, pronouncing every syllable clearly. The true beauty of Will's vocals is in the pace with which he sings. Leisure is enjoyable to those who've had their fill of rushing and the messy confusion that often follows. Will's pacing is so sure-footed, I trust him to lead me any damn where. I have a feeling he would be content to quietly stand his ground in the face of a tornado. The tornado would respect Will's stubborn stance and be sure to avoid the modest space he's claimed. 'Open Eyeball' pretty much spells it out: "The sky is swarming with eagles and vultures, but we're happy here in the cracks of the culture. Everyone is searching for a place in the sun, but we like it in the shade."
     Since I'd like to become a Will Sprott disciple, I believe him when he sings, "Good times are here again. Broken hearts are on the mend." ('Crooked Melody'). Vortex Numbers is a fine companion for weary ears, and, more importantly, minds. Listeners, take heart that Will has everything in order. Will's refrain, "Everybody has a job. I'm going to do my job." ('Psychic Lady') should set us all at ease. All hail, Will Sprott!
Buy/Listen Here
                                                                                                                             The Verdict: 3 Bedpans

May 3, 2015

Girl Power Brief Blasts Featuring: Weather Weapon-S/T, Mommy Long Legs-Life Rips, Try The Pie-Domestication

     Weather Weapon's debut is a strong, by-the-book, post-punk document. Nothing for me to really pick apart here. I'm glad this album exists in 2015 'cause I'm trying to dig deeper than Sleater Kinney this year. And while Weather Weapon are still very green, they're more than adequate substitution for a solid, yet somewhat predictable veteran band.
     Weather Weapon incorporate a sense of slacker boogie in most of the tunes here. It's not just Wire mimicry. I love a loose, fun band. Plenty of early Sleater Kinney and Pavement can be heard in Weather Weapon. So, yeah, if I knew how to skateboard, I'd throw this joint in my Walkman before dominating some concrete. Much like the conspiracies surrounding the HAARP facility, I hope Weather Weapon find a way to make a ton of disturbance this year.

Buy/Listen Here

                                                                                                                             The Verdict: 3 Bedpans

     Seattle's Mommy Long Legs immediately take their rightful place next to Greensboro's Daddy Issues as "2015's Most Fun Bands" and I don't foresee any others cozy-ing up next to them. Life Rips contains the words "fart", "hurl", and "spew" alongside the occasional "fuck" or "fucking". This, of course, is the essential recipe for fun. To top the word choices, it sounds as if all four members chime-in vocally during choruses. Every tune on Life Rips is a sing-along ripper.
     Fun is an aesthetic Mommy Long Legs have mastered. They chose to use a producer (Martin Selasco) who added many aurally pleasing bits to the mix in the way of keys and tambourine. They also commissioned some gnarly album art from Tim Root. I think I've written before that this mostly down-trodden world needs more fun. Here's hoping this band's legs are able to reach any damn where they please. Damn horoscopes and Greek organizations. As Andrew W.K. would say, "Party is priority No. 1"

Listen/Buy Here

                                                                                                                             The Verdict: 4 Bedpans

     One of the highest compliments I can pay any artist is, "Your (whatever) inspired me to (whatever)." Bean, with her solo effort, Try The Pie, has done just that. Maybe it affected me this way 'cause I happen to know her. I don't know her whole story or whatever, but I can't help but listen to her familiar voice on record, stare at the album cover, those daring eyes (all four), Thomas' shirt, and be inspired. What follows are verses spawned from Domestication.

                                                      Letterless words, the
                                                      Miming of them,
                                                      The scissors and glue used
                                                      To reveal the truth
                                                      Are enough. And I'm
                                                      Thankful to those who
                                                      Try instead of being content
                                                      To standby.

                                                      Our time is shared
                                                      As we touch the stones
                                                      Of Invention and Idiocy.

     I don't know, man. Most art isn't meant to be decoded. Domestication is a personal document. Sure, the themes may be a bit universal, but how many of us know someone who asks about our sleep patterns? And as much as we've traveled, Life still nags. I want to know what keeps Bean (or any kidless person) in San Jose, of all places. I guess the statement that stands out the most to me in this album is "Don't tell me what I lose." off track one, 'Every Week'. She probably has something figured out. She's not dumb enough to stick around here for familiarity's sake. 
     For me, domestication is fine if I don't have to think about it. It shouldn't come natural to anyone. I'm afraid of what staying may mean. I'd like to have an exit strategy, but I lack motivation to manifest the abstract. Santa Clara County has proposed a mandated 30% decrease in water usage. Life nags.

Listen/Buy Here

                                                                                                                             The Verdict: 3 Bedpans