Cayman Kings, a French-born rock band, have just released their first LP, Suffering Chelsea Boots, and they didn’t hold back—it’s an energy filled debut. The group takes the traditional garage rock sound and ups the tempo with howling vocals and quick chord progressions.
The band flirts with different tones—from mesmerizing pop riffs to grittier blues fills—forging something new from these staple sounds. Almost every song on the LP ends right under the three-minute mark, but still manages to pack a strong bite. A marked momentum trails through the album, making the whole thing a lively listen from start to finish.
Each track pays its rent, contributing its own finely-nuanced sound to the LP. For example, “Memory Lane” starts with a with a low-octave riff accompanied by a deep drum bellow. The lead vocals enter in a raspy falsetto, providing the perfect contrast to the song’s heavy start. The group effortlessly reaches the chorus, which is a cheeky reminder of how the past is permanent and there’s no way to change it. It’s a quick tune that illustrates garage-rock’s power when properly executed.
“I am amazed at the heaviness I still feel about vinyl and the difference it has on my entire listening experience for either hearing a new record for the first time or hearing a classic record for the thousandth time. Vinyl brings along a hands-on experience, commitment, work, a ritual—things I truly value in life and in making music. That same feeling I felt as a kid, I do today, and I know I will for the rest of my life. There’s a timelessness to vinyl.”
“When I was young, my family would play classic records and I remember how special it felt when they let me be the one to put the needle on the record. It amazed me how it all worked! How the needle made the music play! I would stare at it for hours.
Vinyl was starting to phase out when I was about 7 years old. My father was a huge record collector—he had crates of old classic Beatles records, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, etc. At a garage sale, he sold all of his vinyl for 25 cents a piece thinking that there was going to be no use for it anymore. I remember it so vividly in my mind yet I was too young to appreciate vinyl at that time. That day goes down in history with my family. We always talk about what it would be like if that didn’t happen and wish we could take it back. I can only hope that the tradition of listening to vinyl got passed on to another family.
Ah, the Kinks. Of all the great bands to come out of England in the 1960s, they were by far the most English. Their music hall inclinations and deadpan irony simply didn’t translate, and until they reconstituted themselves as a hard-rocking touring band in the 1970s their only claims to fame here in the U.S.A. were “You Really Got Me” and “Lola.” Ray Davies was simply too smart, and had his tongue too far in his cheek, to win over U.S. fans, although I do remember—because it was, I think, the first 45 rpm record I ever heard—my older brother’s copy of “Apeman.” Nor did it help that the band was refused permits by the American Federation of Musicians to tour the U.S. for 4 years, ostensibly due to over-the-top on-stage band mate on band mate violence.
Of course, the Kinks always had their Kultists, people who lovingly cuddled their copies of 1968’s The Village Green Preservation Society the way you might your dog Blighter. As for the rest of us, we listened to our Beatles and our Stones and The Who, and the rest of England be damned. This was especially true if you were raised, the way I was, in a rural outpost of provincialism, where the Klan once marched through town and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was considered the pinnacle of pop sophistication.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I was a real latecomer to Ray Davies and Company, but have come to love their music, including Muswell Hillbillies. It’s one of the bleakest and funniest albums I know, and it deals with a subject that I hold near and dear to my heart—namely, the failure of everything. Tormented character follows tormented character on this LP, and I can’t get enough of it. Davies sings about paranoia, rampant alcoholism, and the myriad other complications of life, all from a working class perspective. Only Randy Newman could compete with Davies in the hilarious downer department, and while I prefer Newman, Davies more than holds his own.
Jonesing for some Rolling Stones? Perhaps a pinch of Lou Reed? A little three minute, three chord rock ‘n’ roll with no fancy additives? Well, look no further than London’s newest export, Thirsty.
A collaboration between The Quireboys spearhead Guy Bailey, Russian poet Irina D, and an assortment of venerated English rockers, Thirsty came to life early last year after the aforementioned players began an impromptu jam session and bonded over their punk/arthouse sensibilities.
Aping old school rhythm and blues may be all the rage for young indie rockers but this kind of appropriation often ends up as little more than a homage and rarely expands on the tried-and-true format. Gritty, off-the-cuff and beautifully authentic; Thirsty captures the imagery of their native London while throwing a rose towards the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, coloring outside the lines all the while.
If there’s a characteristic trait that runs among those who’ve joined us at Som Records for our filmed feature, Vanessa exemplifies the enthusiasm, genuineness, and appreciation for the flat, black shiny medium that saw over 2,ooo of you queueing in line last weekend at the DC Record Fair.
She’s warm, funny, ready with the anecdotes, and is most importantly a music fan. So, onward—we’re record shopping with Vanessa Carlton at Washington, DC’s Som Records.
Co-founded at the start of the ‘80s by percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah and UK producer Adrian Sherwood, African Head Charge constitutes a particularly successful chapter in the story of On-U Sound. The project’s early work, four albums combining post-punk-derived experimentation with dub and African ingredients, shapes up the latest installment in On-U Sound’s deserved retail retelling. They’re available now on vinyl and digital separately and as a bundle directly from the label.
Gradually returning a vital hunk of ’80s musical history to print, the ongoing string of On-U Sound reissues and compilations provides lovers of way-out dub, edgy post-punk, and specifically recent converts to the achievements of Adrian Sherwood with numerous reasons for celebration. Revealing striking consistency amongst steady growth, the emergence of African Head Charge’s ’81-’85 output deepens the scenario considerably as it illuminates an especially fertile collaboration.
Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah, or Bonjo for short, had studied in the Rasta drumming camp of Jamaican bandleader Count Ossie. After time spent on the UK scene he joined the Sherwood-produced group Creation Rebel and like many of his bandmates ended up in the credits of numerous On-U Sound releases including those by New Age Steppers, Dub Syndicate, Singers and Players, and Mark Stewart. However, African Head Charge stands as Bonjo’s deepest contribution to the label.
Indeed, what essentially started as a joint Sherwood-Bonjo effort (with assistance from Style Scott, Crocodile, Deadly Headley, Crucial Tony, Bruce Smith, Steve Beresford, Mus’come a.k.a. Charlie “Eskimo” Fox, Doctor Pablo, Public Image Limited’s Jah Wobble, Sugarhill Gang/Tackhead member Skip McDonald and others) slowly became an actual band led by the percussionist; the four records reviewed here represent African Head Charge’s collaborative, studio-based period.
When it comes to 1970s faux evil rock bands that didn’t have a bone of true evil in their bodies, Blue Öyster Cult comes in right behind Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath. BÖC flirted shamelessly, tongues planted firmly in cheek, with the iconography of the dark side (they sang about S&M, made references to Martin Bormann and put Nazi jet fighters on their album covers, and let’s not forget the Patti Smith-penned “Career of Evil”) and people bought it until, like the previously mentioned bands, the boys from Long Island took it right over the top, and it became obvious that it was all a big joke and they were about as evil as Debbie Gibson.
But if it was all a shuck—and it was: even the rock critic Richard Meltzer, who wrote some of the band’s songs including “Burnin’ for You,” noted, “This is really hard rock comedy”—it led to some pretty great music, culminating Agents of Fortune, which was so wildly successful Robert Christgau dubbed BÖC “the Fleetwood Mac of heavy metal.”
Formed in 1967 as The Soft White Underbelly, the band subsequently changed its name to Oaxaca, then the Stalk-Forrest Group, then and the Santos Sisters before finally settling on Blue Öyster Cult in 1971. They were the first band to employ an umlaut in its name and came up with the most instantly recognizable band logo this side of Black Flag, and were guided step by step by manager Sandy Pearlman, who got them signed, wrote a lot of the band’s lyrics, helped produce their LPs, gave them their name, etc. As for the band’s members, at the time of Agents of Fortune they included Eric Bloom on lead vocals and “stun guitar,” Albert Bouchard on drums and backing vocals, Joe Bouchard on bass and backing vocals, Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser on lead guitar and vocals, and Allen Lanier on keyboards, rhythm guitar, and backing vocals.
Emerging ambient indie rockers YJY flex noise pop muscle in “Amelia” video.
The New Jersey natives released their debut EP, “Couch Surfin USA.” in mid-2015 to local acclaim and a Top Emerging Artist nod from The Deli. While tracking their sophomore follow-up at Converse Rubber Tracks studio in Brooklyn, the band found time to shoot a video for Couch Surfin’s glorious single, “Amelia.”
Inspired by the work of filmmaker Kenneth Anger, the video features some awesome and gratuitous hipster crotch shots via lead singer Steve Sachs as he lovingly details and buffs a bright orange 1974 Volkswagen Beetle. Groovy.
Matt Kivel has been on the scene for a while in a handful of bands, but the profile of the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and guitarist was effectively boosted by a pair of recent solo efforts documenting a progression from folky individualism toward a more pop and rock-tinged milieu; the experimentation-flecked Janus combines aspects of each and exhibits tangible growth to produce his best album thus far. It’s out on LP February 5 via new label Driftless Recordings.
Before stepping out solo Matt Kivel was in the group Princeton alongside his twin brother Jesse; additionally, he played guitar in the garage pop outfit Gap Dream. His debut Double Exposure, the byproduct of a couple of years of work, arrived in 2013 on cassette through Burger Records and on vinyl courtesy of Olde English Spelling Bee.
Aptly described as folky, Double Exposure has been compared at least once to Nick Drake, though Kivel’s no copyist, his occasional falsetto distinct for starters. A big similarity is purity of conception, the record having emerged without much in the way of expectations and finding a label home only after completion. But it wasn’t entirely like that; the title track was a sleepy-lidded post-shoegaze pop nugget foreshadowing Kivel’s follow-up Days of Being Wild.
Swiping a title from Wong Kar-wai’s classic film from 1990 (this cinephile hypothesis is reinforced by Double Exposure’s final entry “Days of Heaven” sharing a moniker with Terrence Malick’s ’78 masterpiece), Days of Being Wild was issued in 2014 through the Woodsist label and revealed a considerable move into the light.
By its very nature instrumental music is a study in form, and frequently to such an extent that listeners nurturing vocally focused comfort zones can feel left out in the cold. Bert Jansch’s non-vocal debut Avocet is well-poised to overcome this obstacle; a trio effort of welcoming beauty devoted to the glory of British birds, the whole stands amongst the lauded Scottish guitarist’s most fully realized achievements. On February 5, Earth Recordings reissues the album, its vinyl edition featuring lithograph art-prints by UK illustrator Hannah Alice depicting the six birds titling Avocet’s tracks as the compact disc is tucked into a hardback book with 24 pages of notes and artwork.
The making of Bert Jansch’s twelfth LP transpired in February of 1978, a point on the calendar roughly coinciding with the nasty storm of punk rock, and wherever the eye of the squall traveled across the landscape of the UK, it can be safely surmised Avocet was elsewhere. Over time the guitarist would come to be revered by a heaping dog-pile of alternative-indie figures with creative DNA directly traceable to the punk upheaval, but it’s well-established that the late ‘70s proved to be a tough stretch for practitioners of non-clamorous sounds not limited to veterans of the Brit-folk scene.
Of course it’s not all so simple. As related in Colin Harper’s excellent notes for Avocet’s reissue, Jansch’s prior set A Rare Conundrum, released in the UK in ’77 on Charisma, had been well-received by the Brit music press in part because it was viewed as a sort of homecoming affair after two full-lengths cut out California way (those would be ‘74’s L.A. Turnaround and ‘75’s Santa Barbara Honeymoon).
Avocet also soaked up positive coverage in the weeklies, but didn’t appear in the UK until 1979; its initial ’78 pressing came via the Ex-Libris label of Denmark, the enterprise of Jansch’s Danish manager Peter Abrahamsen having additionally brought out A Rare Conundrum (as Poormouth) a year ahead of its emergence in British record shops.