As it turns out, the first couple of weeks of this month are rather auspicious in music history: John Paul Jones’ birthday was on the third, Michael Stipe‘s birthday was on the fourth David Bowie‘s […]
Seth Olinsky is a singer/songwriter, guitarist, composer, producer and studio owner best known as the co-founder and lead vocalist of acclaimed, underground, experimental noise folk outfit Akron/Family. He’s also the creative mastermind behind the equally acclaimed solo recording project Cy Dune, a project that has found Olinsky exploring the blues, 50s rock and 60s/70s photo-punk through his unique lens.
Interestingly, Olinsky’s various projects have displayed a post-genre approach in which he collages several different genres simultaneously to create multiple meanings while purposely juxtaposing authentic and pure songwriting sincerity with self aware meta-meaning and pranksterism.
Olinsky’s latest Cy Dune effort Against Face is slated for a March 3, 2022 release through Lightning Studios. Clocking in at a breakneck 18 minutes, the album is a meta-punk blast through 20th Century art school punk forms mashed together.
Against Face‘s second and latest single, album title track “Against Face” is centered around a relentless tom pattern, buzzing power chords, mosh pit friendly hooks and a jab filled rant-like vocal turn from Olinksy that seems indebted to Bob Dylan and The Stooges self-titled album — in particular “No Fun.” Play loud and get out your frustration over our unending shittiness.
“But ultimately, as with much of Cy Dune songs, the new track represents fun with music’s societal forms more than a hardline ideological perspective, and fits mostly in line with the truly committed aspect of the Cy Dune music again and again to Energy Music and its positive impact on humanity,” Olinsky says.
Acclaimed Melbourne-based punk act and JOVM mainstays Amyl and The Sniffers — Amy Taylor (vocals), Gus Romer (bass), Bryce Wilson (drums) and Declan Martens (guitar) — formed back in 2016, and shortly after their formation, they wrote and self-recorded their debut EP Giddy Up. The following year, saw the release of the Big Attractions EP, which was packaged as a double 12 inch EP with Giddy Up released through Homeless Records in Australia and Damaged Goods in the UK.
The band exploded into the international scene with a set at The Great Escape Festival, a series of sold out London area shows and a Stateside tour opening for JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They added to a busy year with a headlining tours across both the UK and US before signing to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Flightless Records for distribution across Australia and New Zealand and Rough Trade for the rest of the world. The year was capped off with a Q Awards nomination for Best New Act and won the $30,000 Levis Prize.
Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Aussie punk quartet took 2019’s SXSW by storm. And then the band promptly released their self-tiled, full-length debut to critical applause globally while further cementing a feral and anarchic take on ’77 era punk. Adding to a breakthrough year, Amyl and the Sniffers won an ARIA Award for Best Rock Album.
Comfort To Me, the Aussie punk quartet’s highly-anticipated Don Luscombe-co-produced sophomore album was released earlier this year through ATO Records. Written during a long year of pandemic quarantining, in which the members of the band lived in the same house, the album’s material sonically draws from a heavier set of references and influences including AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Mötorhead, Wendy O. Williams, Warthog, Power Trip, Coloured Balls and Cosmic Psychos. Taylor’s lyrics and delivery were also inspired by her long live of hip-hop and garage rock.
“All four of us spent most of 2020 enclosed by pandemic authority in a 3-bedroom rental in our home city of Melbourne, Australia. We’re like a family: we love each other and feel nothing at the same time,” Amyl and the Sniffers’ Amy Taylor says in a lengthy statement on the album. “We had just come off two years of touring, being stuck in a van together eight hours a day, and then we’re trapped together for months in this house with sick green walls. It sucked but it was also nice. We spent heaps of time in the backyard listening to music, thrashing around in shorts, eating hot chips. The boys had a hard time being away from the pub and their mates, but it meant we had a lot of time to work on this record. Most of the songs were really intuitive. Main thing, we just wanted it to be us. In the small windows we had in between lockdowns, we went to our rehearsal space, which is a storage locker down the road at National Storage Northcote. We punched all the songs into shape at Nasho and for the first time ever we wrote more songs than we needed. We had the luxury of cutting out the songs that were shit and focusing on the ones we loved.
“We were all better musicians, as well, because that’s what happens when you go on tour for two years, you get really good at playing. We were a better band and we had heaps of songs, so we were just different. The nihilistic, live in the moment, positivity and panel beater rock-meets-shed show punk was still there, but it was better. The whole thing was less spontaneous and more darkly considered. The lyrics I wrote for the album are better too, I think. The amount of time and thought I put into the lyrics for this album is completely different from the EPs, and even the first record. Half of the lyrics were written during the Australian Bushfire season, when we were already wearing masks to protect ourselves from the smoke in the air. And then when the pandemic hit, our options were the same as everyone: go find a day job and work in intense conditions or sit at home and drown in introspection. I fell into the latter category. I had all this energy inside of me and nowhere to put it, because I couldn’t perform, and it had a hectic effect on my brain.
“My brain evolved and warped and my way of thinking about the world completely changed. Having to deal with a lot of authority during 2020 and realising my lack of power made me feel both more self destructive and more self disciplined, more nihilistic and more depressed and more resentful, which ultimately fuelled me with a kind of relentless motivation. I became a temporary monster. I partied more, but I also exercised heaps, read books and ate veggies. I was like an egg going into boiling water when this started, gooey and weak but with a hard surface. I came out even harder. I’m still soft on the inside, but in a different way. All of this time, I was working on the lyrics. I pushed myself heaps and heaps, because there were things that I needed to say. The lyrics draw a lot from rap phrasing, because that’s what I’m into. I just wanted to be a weird bitch and celebrate how weird life and humans are.
“The whole thing is a fight between by my desire to evolve and the fact that somehow I always end up sounding like a dumb cunt. So anyway, that’s where this album comes from. People will use other bands as a sonic reference to make it more digestible and journalists will make it seem more pretentious and considered than it really is, but in the end this album is just us — raw self expression, defiant energy, unapologetic vulnerability. It was written by four self-taught musicians who are all just trying to get by and have a good time.
“If you have to explain what this record is like, I reckon it’s like watching an episode of The Nanny but the setting is an Australian car show and the Nanny cares about social issues and she’s read a couple of books, and Mr Sheffield is drinking beer in the sun. It’s a Mitsubishi Lancer going slightly over the speed limit in a school zone. It’s realising how good it is to wear track pants in bed. It’s having someone who wants to cook you dinner when you’re really shattered. It’s me shadow-boxing on stage, covered in sweat, instead of sitting quietly in the corner.”
In the lead up to the album’s release earlier this year, I managed to write about three of the album’s released singles:
- “Guided by Angels,” a riotous, mosh pit friendly ripper centered around Taylor’s frenetic energy and punchily delivered vocals, buzzing power chords and a pub friendly, shout along with a raised beer in your hand hook. But underneath all of that, “Guided by Angels” is fueled by a defiant and unapologetic vulnerability and a rare, unshakeable faith in possibility and overall goodness; that there actually are good angels right over your shoulder to guide you and sustain you when you need them the most.
- “Security,” a Highway to Hell-era AC/DC-like anthem full of swaggering braggadocio, boozy power chords, thunderous drumming, shout along worthy hooks and Taylor’s feral delivery. Much like its immediate predecessor, the song is fueled by its narrator boldly and unapologetically declaring that they need and are looking for love — right now! “
- “Hertz,” an AC/DC-ike ripper fueled by the frenetic energy of the bored, lonely and trapped within their heads and those desperately desiring something — hell, anything — different than the four walls that they’ve gotten sick of. Interestingly, “Hertz” captures a feeling that I’ve personally struggled with during the pandemic, and I’m sure you have too. And it does so with a urgency and vulnerability that’s devastating.
Since its release last month, Comfort to Me has been a commercial and critical success: The album hit #1 on Billboard‘s Alternative New Albums Chart, #2 on both the Heatseekers and Top New Artist Albums Charts, #4 on the Independent Albums Chart, #7 on the Rock Albums Chart, #9 on the Alternative Albums Chart and it landed on the Top 20 on the Albums Sales Chart. In the UK, the album was named BBC 6 Music‘s Album of the Day, and chartered at #21 on the UK charts. And in the band’s native Australia, the album was named Triple J’s Featured Albums of the Week while charting at #2.
Australia had one of the world’s longest lockdowns — and shortly after their homeland opened up, the acclaimed Aussie punk rock outfit announced their long-awaited return to the States: the tour includes their previously announced, sold out Music Hall of Williamsburg show on December 6, 2021, which sold out in less than a day — and a 15 date North American tour that includes a May 19. 2022 Brooklyn Steel stop.
Last month, the Aussie punk rock outfit recorded a live session at Soundpark Studios in Melbourne, Australia for KEXP. Directed by Mark Bakaitis, recorded by Andrew “Idle” Hehir and mixed by Comfort to Me‘s co-producer Dan Luscombe, the KEXP set features a blistering version of “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” off their self-titled debut — but primarily centered around Comfort to Me tracks. including the aforementioned “Guided by Angels” and “Security.”
Sydney-based outfit act Low Life — initially founding trio Mitch Tolman, Cristian O’Sullivan and Greg Alfaro — exploded into the national and international punk scene with the release of their full-length debut, 2014’s Dogging.
The Aussie punk outfit’s sophomore album 2019’s Downer Edn (read as Downer Edition) was written and recorded over a two year period. The album saw the band expanding from a trio to a quintet with the attention of Oily Boys‘ and Orion‘s Dizzy Daldal (guitar) and Yuta Matsumura (guitar), who actually rejoined the band. The lineup change followed for Tolman to take up vocal duties full-time. But additionally, the album reviewed a decidedly radical change in sonic direction towards a more post-punk and New Wave-inspired sound.
Low Life’s highly-anticipated third album From Squats to Lots: The Agony & XTC of Low Life is slated for a November 5, 2021 release through Goner Records in North America, ALTER in the UK and the European Union and Lulu’s in Australia. The band has a lengthy statement on the album, “Notes on How To Listen To The Agony and XTC of Low Life,” which you can check out below:
NOTES ON HOW TO LISTEN TO The AGONY AND XTC OF LOW LIFE:
1. Some records hit you with an instant impression of timeless brilliance, and Low Life’s Dogging is one of those records, what the wise call “an instant classic”.
2. From Squats to Lots: The Agony and the XTC of Low Life is more like their second album Downer Edn (read Edition), a little more withdrawn, a little more textured. Complex. Rich. Which is to say: you’re going to need some time with it.
3. Some show, some grow. Low Life have done both. This one is a grower. Spend some time with this one. It’s got that nuanced flavour. Don’t guzzle. Sip. Savour.
4. Sip it, and sense the recurring brilliance of Mitch Tolman’s lyrics, exploring the usual territory of gutter life, lad life, punk life, low life. The dirge. Disgust and shame in white Australia. Council housing, bills piled to the neck, substance abuse and rehabilitation, the fallen lads and lasses who stood too close to the flame, loss and loneliness, from squats to lots. Un-Australian gutter symphony.
5. There is a celebration of resilience and that’s a central theme of this record and a time like ours needs a record like Agony & XTC. Low times are coming through, but if you’re low they won’t get to you.
6. Iggy Pop’s Bowie produced studio rock masterpieces The Idiot and Lust For Life are important reference points to the 3rd album sounds of Low Life. Here comes success!
7. The Agony and Ecstasy is a 1985 novel by Irving Stone about the life of Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo. Stone wrote another novel about the single eared painter Vincent Van Gogh called Lust For Life. This synchronicity hit me.
8. Iggy and the Stooges are a pretty safe reference for Low Life (and all good rock music). Iggy and the Stooges are a low life’s Michelangelo, but solo Iggy like Lust for Life is a better reference for this particular incarnation of Low Life, which is to say they are studio rock albums.
9. Bowie later referred to this period of his life as profoundly nihilistic. But Iggy looked at it as the period of his life that saved him from an early grave. This confrontation is Low life lore.
10. Let’s stick to this, because there’s something about this era of Bowie that makes sense with Low Life’s new album, particularly Low. One should never miss the Low in our new album from Low Life. Producer and studio boss Mickey Grossman has the ear for the Low, and he has carved out a little statue of David right here.
11. Mickey’s ears are recording, mixing and producing the best of Sydney, most notably the Oily Boys Cro Memory Grin. A great companion record to this one. Use Agony & XTC AFTER Oily Boys. Not on an empty stomach, and don’t try to operate heavy machinery (bobcat, bulldozer etc).
12. The relationship between Low Life and Sydney hardcore should not be understated, but it also shouldn’t guide how to listen to Agony & XTC. This is not austere, disciplined music.
13. Think, like, if Poison Idea were given the kind of studio time and budget as Happy Mondays. You wouldn’t play it to a teenager. It’s not for children. This is a mature flavour, one for the adults who have had to contend with failure and hardship, medical bills and disappointed family members, betrayed lovers and worrisome growths, police brutality and tooth decay, humiliating bowels and collapsed septums, detoxing and drying out, for those who have seen themselves as corrupted and putrid and unloveable, for those who endure all of this and aren’t willing to lie down and cop it sweet: Low Life are still here and they ain’t going nowhere.
NOTES ON HOW NOT TO LISTEN TO AGONY AND XTC OF LOW LIFE:
1. Don’t think of shoe-gaze. It suggests a safe passage to 90’s reminiscences, a vogue style of our time, but nothing to do with Low Life style. Low Life style is always of its time. The content changes. Agony & XTC shares weight of records like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Slowdive’s Kebab, records that were laboured on after the songs were recorded, songs that were written as they were recorded.
2. We can call these “studio albums” as opposed to albums built in the heat of live performance. Studio albums from the 90’s are called shoe-gaze by some journalist nerds, but we know better than to use words like this.
3. Studio albums are excessive and, at the same time, so empty. Agony & XTC, Loveless, Kebab, Rumours: excessive! And empty. This is not to suggest this is Low Lite, some throwback, soft. A band like Low Life can make an overproduced studio rock album without having to use the word shoe-gaze. So, don’t think studio albums mean anything especially 90’s. Don’t look back.
4. Let’s lose these distasteful labels, like “shoe-gaze”, “rehab rock”, “stab”, “guitar OD overdrive”, “western Sydney wonder”. They can fade out. A low life was once referred to as a vagabond. Who uses this term today? Nobody. Language can murder. Words can die. Kill ‘em all!
Last month, I wrote about Low Life’s From Squats to Lots: The Agony & XTC of Low Life‘s first single, “Agony & XTC,” a Sisters of Mercy and Chain of Flowers-like breakneck ripper. centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched power chords and world weary and heartbroken snarl.
The album’s second and latest single is the brooding “Hammer & The Fist.” Centered around shimmering and pedal-effected guitars, the new single finds the acclaimed Aussie outfit hinting at classic shoegaze, much like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine but while paired with a production that has the overall sound and aesthetic feel mammoth yet claustrophobic and uneasily intimate.
Formed a little over two years ago, the rising New Orleans-based metal outfit Total Hell features an All-Star cast of the city’s metal and punk scenes: Sick Thoughts‘ and Trampoline Team‘s DD Deth, a.k.a. Drew Owen (drums, vocals); Static Static and Heavy Lids‘ John Henry, a.k.a Henry Hell; Persauders‘ and Tirefire’s Jason “Panzer” Craft (guitar); and Trampoline Team’s Micheal He-man, a.k.a Michael Maniac (guitar).
The New Orleans-based metal outfit’s self-titled debut EP is slated for a November 19, 2021 release through Goner Records. The tracks on the EP reportedly sees the band crafting melodic rippers with a floor-to-ceiling hugeness but while doing so in an economical manner. “Recorded on a Tascam 8-track cassette live at home (aka “The Parkway”) by Michael He-Man and the process was a nightmare,” Total Hell’s DD Deth explains. “Original tape crapped out on us back in early 2020 so we had to redo the whole thing.”
The EP’s first single “Clones from Hell” begins with a hellish sounding countdown before roaring out of the gate as a Motörhead-like ripper, centered around scorching, felt-melting riffage, thunderous drumming and howled vocals. Lyrically, the song is perfect for the season: clones from hell have run amok! But seriously though, play this one loud and imagine yourself in a sweaty mosh pit.
JOVM celebrates Sting’s 70 birthday.
Gothenburg-based indie quartet Hux Flux features members with wildly different influences and interests: Philippe (guitar) is a punk rocker; Linda (vocals, synths) loves melodies; Kara (bass, vocals) is a rock ‘n’ roller; and Stefen (drums) is a shoegazer.
Meshing all of those influences together, the Swedish quartet specialize in what they’ve dubbed “trashdance.” “So our personal influencers are a bit different, but as a band I would say that Thee Oh Sees inspire us on the experimental part, Night Beats for the overall sound, and The Coathangers for the versatility and attitude. We take our music very seriously, but as ourselves we are more of the playful types,” the band elaborates in press notes.
Hux Flux’s latest EP Banana Brain was produced, mixed and mastered by Detroit-based producer and musician Jim Diamond, best known for his work as a bassist with The Dirtbombs, and for his production and mastering work with The White Stripes and The Sonics. “We like to experiment with different types of sounds and I guess you can hear it,” the members of Hux Flux say in press notes. “We all have a bit of a different music background, but we’re aiming for some type of ‘punk indie garage that you can dance to.’”
Banana Brain‘s latest single “Date Sweater” is a mosh pit friendly stomper centered around fuzzy, reverb-drenched power chords, thunderous drumming, enormous hooks and woozily delivered vocals. Sonically, the song is a boozier, more frenetic take on The White Stripes. “You know that desperate teenage love? When you’re willing to do whatever it takes to be seen and loved?” The band says in press notes. “This song is about that. We call it ‘Date Sweater.’ A sweet story in a tough, fuzzy and raw soundbite.”
Milan-based punk rock outfit The Gluts — Claudia Cesana (bass/vocals), Bruno Bassi (drums) and Nicolò Campana (vocals, synths) and Marco Campana (guitar) — derive their name from an age-old term often used to denote unsold, surplus goods. For the Milanese quartet, they’ve taken it to symbolically express a surplus of energy, much like the energy that has long driven their own work.
Interestingly, since the band’s formation, the Milanese punks have established and honed an explosive and psychedelic-leaning take on noise and thrash punk with the release of their first three albums, 2014’s Warsaw, 2017’s Estasi and 2019’s Dengue Fever Hypnotic Trip.
The band’s Bob de Wit-produced fourth album Ungrateful Heart is slated for an October 8, 2021 release through Fuzz Club. Reportedly, the album sees the Italian quartet making a decided sonic departure from their previously released work. Ungrateful Heart‘s material is deeply indebted to 70s punk, 80s hardcore and post punk — in particular, Fugazi, Gang of Four, Sex Pistols, Public Image, Ltd. and the Campana brothers’ obsession with Italian and American hardcore punk.
Recorded over a tireless week in which the band and their producer essentially lived and worked side-by-side in the studio around the clock, the Ungrateful Heart sessions were fueled by a forceful intensity and uncompromising fierceness. “Bob’s contribution to this album was essential. He pushed us beyond our limits. It was difficult, we can’t hide it, but it really was worth it,” the members of The Gluts say in press notes.
In the lead up to the album’s release, I’ve managed to write about two album singles:
- “Love Me Do Again,” a slick and uncanny synthesis of Never Mind the Bollocks-era Sex Pistols and Mission of Burma rooted in unadulterated hedonism. Written by the band’s Bruno Bassi while in pandemic-related lockdown, the song was “inspired by the different versions of the myth of Dionysus (the Greek god of wine, pleasure, madness and frenzied ecstasy) and an unexpected excitement caused by imagining how great it would be to be all together again,” the band explains.
- “Mashilla” is a furious and muscular aural assault featuring scorching and angular riffage, thunderous drumming and vocal cord ripping howling. And while indebted to 70s punk and 80s hardcore, the song is centered around an alternating grunge rock-like song structure featuring hypnotic verses and ferocious mosh-pit starting choruses.
Ungrateful Heart’s third and latest single “FYBBD” is a furious, old school hardcore punk ripper reminiscent of Dead Kennedy‘s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” centered around enormous power chords, and an urgently snarled mosh pit friendly mantra. Play loud, jump into a mosh pit and tell some fascists to fuck off. The song features a guest spot from Radio Days’ guitarist Dario Persi.
The Milanese punks describe the song as “a burst of anger towards any form of alt-right thought and praxis, featuring a concealed quote to a very famous Italian Antifa hip hop song.”