Hey, have you heard about…Video Age

Words: Andy Hughes
(Photo Credit: Alex-H.Payne)

I came to the realisation the other day that my favourite type of music is synth-tastic 80’s pop. My partner still tells people that Birthday Cake For Breakfast is a “math rock blog“, but the truth is i’m a sucker for feelgood, earworm nostalgia pop – especially modern variations that lean heavy into the wonkiness of it.

Having been obsessed with The Hecks last year and with an ongoing devotion to the pop weirdness produced by Alex Cameron, I was chuffed to come across this from Video Age last night.

The video (directed by Zack Sorros at Fishpot Studios in NOLA) is Tim and Eric realness, capturing our boys taking a break from the 9-5, putting on their tan suits and travelling to – you guessed it – the moon. They also venture to snow covered mountains, the ocean and (of course) Paris, France.

Taken from their third album Pleasure Line, out this August via Winspear, ‘Aerostar’ is super infectious and daft as fuck. I absolutely love it. Give it a watch below and get it firmly implanted in your nut.

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a/s/l: Girls In Synthesis

Remember the days of the old schoolyard? Remember when Myspace was a thing? Remember those time-wasting, laborious quizzes that everyone used to love so much? Birthday Cake For Breakfast is bringing them back! 

Every couple of weeks, an unsuspecting band will be subject to the same old questions about dead bodies, Hitler, crying and crushes.  

This Week: Ahead of releasing their debut album ‘Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future‘, it’s Girls In Synthesis bassist/vocalist John!

Words: Andy Hughes
(Photo Credit: Bea Dewhurst)

a/s/l?
2 men, 1 woman. Various parts of London.

Have you ever seen a dead body?
Nah.

Who is your favourite Simpsons character?
Snake. He’s got a quiff and keeps cigarettes in his sleeve (I don’t smoke).

What T-Shirt are you wearing?
Black Bad Breeding t-shirt.

What did your last text message say?
Yes mate, can’t wait! x (make of that what you will)

What’s the last song you listened to?
‘Where There’s A Will’ by The Pop Group.

How did you meet the people in your band?
Jim; being in another group with him. Nicole; via an ad on Gumtree, of all places.

What’s the first record you bought?
‘Do The Bartman’… how’s that for coincidence?

What was your favourite VHS growing up?
‘Far East and Far Out‘, a video of The Style Council live in Japan.

When was the last time you cried?
Hmmm… probably towards the end of last year. I won’t tell you why…

Have you ever kissed someone & regretted it?
Not at all.

Best Physical Feature?
Eyes perhaps. Dark and moody.

Worst physical feature?
Hands or feet. They’re both tiny.

Reasonably ok/not bad feature that you’re not fussed about?
Either of the above. I can live with small hands or feet. Easier to get shoes.

Do you have any pets?
2 cats, Milski and Sumi. I’m obsessed with them.

Ever picked up any injuries on tour?
Tons… the worst, and constant, injury is losing my voice after one show. Not very helpful on tour.

What did you do for your last birthday?
Nothing. I hate them.

Name something you CANNOT wait for?
Can’t wait to play live again. Know that sounds a bit naff, but fuck it.

Do you have a crush on someone?
My girlfriend.

What’s the shittest experience you’ve had as a musician?
Being booked to play in a literal burrito bar early on… turned up and a mariachi band were playing for the diners. My stereo at home was bigger than the PA, too. That’s the only time we didn’t go through with a show, and we were a bit more careful with bookings after that. Other than that, it’s all been great. Covid-19 is a bit shit too, isn’t it?

If you could go back in time, how far would you go?
To the dawn of time so I could prove that religion is bollocks.

How do you want to die?
Laughing.

What’s your favourite thing about pizza?
That it can taste good even when at its most minimal.

What are you craving right now?
A pizza.

Have you ever been on a horse?
No, they terrify me. I knew a kid that got bitten on the back by one. Also, they’d probably rather we didn’t ride them.

What did you dream about last night?
Can’t remember… I’ve been sleeping far too well recently.

If you could go back in time and kill the baby Hitler, would you?
I’d go back and pay someone else to do it. Couldn’t kill a baby, I’m not a fucking nutcase.

Do you like Chinese food?
Not really… two dishes, perhaps.

Have you ever been on TV?
I have. Have a look for the BBC dramatisation of The Rotters Club. The band that play in it… I’m in that.

Ever meet someone famous?
Many… most of them were cunts.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Taller.

Debut album ‘Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future‘ is due for release on August 28th 2020 via Harbinger Sound! Grab a copy (or two) here!

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Exclusive: Blacklisters are Fantastic Men – Watch their new video for ‘Fantastic Man’

Following the reveal of a new Blacklisters album in the works via the video for ‘Sports Drinks‘ (featuring incredible athletic prowess on show from guitarist Dan Beesley), ‘Fantastic Man‘ – the title track from said album – features footage from way back when showcasing a particularly fantastic bloke with a strong neck, strong back, strong feet and strong internal organs. Forget that thick bloke doing youtube fitness tutorials, real fantastic men bounce up and down doing tiny kicks in their grundies.

Recorded by Lee Smith and Rob Slater at Greenmount Studios, Fantastic Man‘ is out August 28th 2020, physically via our friends Buzzhowl Records in the UK and A Tant Rêver Du Roi in Europe, whilst you can pre-order it digitally direct via their own bandcamp here. As well as pre-ordering the new album, you can also buy ‘Sports Drinks’ for a weak pound (or more) and all proceeds will go to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

But don’t take our word for it on the new album, here’s main shouter Billy Mason Wood providing his own words – plus this photo (i’m sorry about the photo):

“How to be Fantastic Man: Lift weights, shout loudest, always be right. Show muscles. Short sleeves in winter. Short shorts for all seasons. Don’t listen to advice unless it is your own. Never hold doors. This is a weakness. Buy the latest model of every product. Shout at strangers. Drive fast. Regret nothing. Resent the success of others. Have a basement. Hide in basement, cry alone and nightly in basement. Tell children you were watching the football tv goals if they ask about crying. Humiliate your first born until they are fantastic too.”

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Exclusive: Modern Technology reveal second single from forthcoming album ‘Service Provider’

Words: Andy Hughes
(Photo Credit: Jose Caamaño)

Like a regular pair of Mystic Meg’s, London based duo Modern Technology (Chris Clarke and Owen Gildersleeve) wrote and recorded new single ‘Blackwall Approach‘ well before lockdown and the current pandemic were even a possibility, yet its themes of anxiety and unease highlight a position many find themselves in now.

Taken from their forthcoming album ‘Service Provider‘, its corresponding video (produced by Alex Purcell) does wonders for ramping up the intensity and sense of unease produced by the track. The incredibly cinematic piece sends the viewer down a seemingly endless underground tunnel that keeps up the intrigue and foreboding (much like Modern Technology do throughout the thumping four and a half minutes), ultimately overworking the senses with bright light as you push further and further to the end to overcome what you’re going through.

Service Provider‘, their first full length (recorded and mixed by Wayne Adams at Bear Bites Horse Studio), comes out September 4th 2020 through Cruel Nature Records (on limited edition cassette) and Human Worth – A new charitable label raising funds through their shows and releases for those in crisis. 20% of all proceeds from the record go to mental health support charity Black Minds Matter and The Trussell Trust, who provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty.

To coincide with the pre-orders for the limited edition cassette going live (with all profits going to charity!), check out the new video below!

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Album Review: Ballpeen – Pachinko

Newcastle trio Ballpeen sound like they load and unload their gear very effectively and efficiently at gigs: get in, tear the roof off, leave, no pissing about. The band play loud, complicated hardcore, the complexity of which belies the relatively short song times. The longest of the eight songs on ‘Pachinko’ is three minutes and sixteen seconds. Despite the short duration, the music is so energetic and the songs are complex enough that you really go somewhere in these short times. The songs feel longer than they are, in a good way. They’re sonically dense. It’s much more of a racket than just three people have any right to be able to make.

Pachinko’, the band’s second album, is out now on aggro-art tape label Cruel Nature, who have put out some of the most aesthetically uncompromising sounds I know of (I don’t like every single release the label have done, but Cruel Nature is absolutely willing to pursue creative commitments over any kind of commercial prospects and I respect the shit out of that). They’ve also put out some absolutely fantastic tapes by some of the most exciting post-punk and noise rock bands working today. For instance, there are the two Tankengine EPs, the incomparable ‘Sexghost Hellscape” EP by Leeds no-wavers Thank, and London sludge rockers Modern Technology. ‘Pachinko’ joins that list of fantastic music by bands with bold artistic vision.

I’m tempted to call Ballpeen post-hardcore but that tends to make people think of bands with quiet and introspective parts, while Ballpeen are non-stop intensity. If they slow down sometimes it’s because slowing down is a way to crank the song up further in a different way. They sound like all the best, most aggressive parts of Quicksand in the early 90s (I can’t think of many bigger compliments), with an occasional dual vocal. The record has a very live type sound to the recording quality as well, which suits this style of music perfectly.

‘Pachinko’ is an urgent record. It made me want to start a band, to make a zine, to run out in the street and shout. I don’t know what all the lyrics are and on the one hand I desperately need to read them RIGHT NOW because this is one of those ‘when this record is playing there is nothing more important than this record’ kinds of records. On the other hand, I don’t ever need to read the words because the way Ballpeen is shouting them, along with the rest of the noise they’re making, bypasses the verbal areas of my brain and activates the lizard part directly, jolt after jolt of raw energy straight from electrode to neuron. I stayed up too late listening to ‘Pachinko’ twice in a row (that’s a wild night at my age).

The original plan for this review involved telling you about my favourite track but after yet another listen through I realised my favourite Ballpeen song is whatever one is playing right now. Each one has that “oh it’s THIS song! Oh YEAH! This is EXACTLY what I need right now, how did the band KNOW!?” kind of feel. While I can’t pick a favourite song, my favourite parts are when the band converge on a big, swaggering riff. Ballpeen can do all the fancy shit – texture, dissonance, stops and starts – but the throbbing heart of this very fine record is in the three of them all bashing out those bravado-filled riffs together as a unit in a way that moves you viscerally, and literally as well: this is music that makes it very hard to sit still.

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Listening Post – July 2020

That’s June out of the way then? It’s been a mad couple of months and an even stranger year. To help ease matters somewhat and perhaps take your mind off things for an hour, we’ve put together another NEW monthly playlist for your aural pleasure. 20 tunes, old and new – Listen to it here or via that handy little playlist below. Why not give it a like and a share too!

One thing to note before you tuck in. As we’ve seen posted elsewhere, remember: Black lives still matter even if your feed is back to normal. There’s more learning to be done.

Jockstrap – The City
(Wicked City)

I was drawn into this by the artwork and given the name of the band, one wouldn’t be too off the mark to think this would be some hardcore or metal release, right? Way off. Very much a tale of two halves, the song starts on a stop you in your tracks solo vocal performance from Georgia Ellery with just a piano backing, before the eccie kicks in and you’re sent completely off track into harsh, headspinning electronics with warped voices coming from each direction. Maybe you’re on a bad one? We had this on the other morning and my partner had to turn it off, having forgotten about the second half…

Max Bloom – To Be Alone
(Perfume)

When we spoke with Max Bloom about his debut solo album, he talked of ‘Mind Games‘ and post-Beatles solo efforts as listening points and influences. Funnily enough, first listen to ‘Perfume‘ and my thoughts went right to the solo work of John Lennon – opener ‘To Be Alone‘ sounds very Lennon in its grand style and instrumentation.

Public Practice – Compromised
(Gentle Grip)

In all the excitement of COVID-19, I completely forgot cucumber cool NYC outfit Public Practice were releasing their debut album! We were all over ‘Distance is a Mirror‘ at the start of last year, so it was a more than welcome discovery. ‘Compromised‘ is hella catchy and loads of fun, with a rock hard chorus.

Priests – Appropriate
(Nothing Feels Natural)

More on COVID-19 and i’ve been leafing through the record collection a lot as of late (and adding to it at a worrying rate…) ‘Nothing Feels Natural‘ was given another spin and mate, it more than stands up. ‘Appropriate‘ is just as thrilling as the first time I heard it, with a pulverising rhythm and a no-fucks-given vocal performance from vocalist Katie Alice Greer. Solid.

(Photo Credit: Chan Kim)

Caroline – Dark Blue
(Dark Blue)

New Rough Trade signees Caroline are still a bit of a mystery, with ‘Dark Blue‘ out at the start of this year being the first I heard of them with not much movement since (though more is apparently on the way). Starting out as a trio, the London based band – having spent a year and a half playing in private without a name – soon evolved and expanded their numbers before playing their debut show as Caroline in 2018. ‘Dark Blue‘ is an incredibly moving piece of music, citing influences from classical to midwestern emo.

Clarence Carter – Slip Away
(This Is Clarence Carter)

Full disclosure, I first discovered Clarence Carter via the hilarious and incredibly NSFW song ‘Strokin‘ (I suggest you give that a listen, whilst we’re here…) Having worked my way back to find the good stuff, ‘Slip Away‘ is a fantastic 60’s cut, featuring his delectably soulful voice that is enough to tug at the heartstrings.

Steve Lacy – Playground
(Apollo XXI)

Mesmerising, sun-soaked drop of hypnotic goodness from Steve Lacy. I kept seeing Lacy’s name pop up again and again – a Thundercat collab here, a Vampire Weekend collab there – but only recently got onto his solo debut. It’s no surprise to learn he’s Thundercat’s mate and that definitely comes across on ‘Playground‘, a proper funky bop.

POZI – The Nightmare
(176)

More on point unhinged post-punk from LDN trio POZI, with violinist Rosa Brook stealing the show with her infectious ‘ooh-ooh’s. Taken from an EP out this month named after a London bus route. Like it.

Cafe Racer – Zenith
(Shadow Talk)

A new discovery for us from the label that brought us the Stuck debut we talked about last month. On ‘Zenith‘, fellow Chicago bods Cafe Racer remind us of Corridor and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever in that sort of sun-soaked, jangly post-punk that moves at a clip.

XTC – Love At First Sight
(Black Sea)

No word of a lie, i’ve been smashing this album relentlessly over the past few months. Loved putting together a catchy chorus those XTC lads.

Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
(Dose Your Dreams)

As highlighted in our recent interview, Jade Hairpins (Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk of Fucked Up)evolved from an impulse” during the creation of the ‘Dose Your Dreams‘ album. Listening back to the title track, it definitely comes across. Love the video on this one too, Falco and Haliechuk bopping about in various guises.

Gang Of Four – Love Like Anthrax
(Entertainment!)

B-Side to ‘Damaged Goods‘ and closer from their seminal debut album, ‘Love Like Anthrax‘ comes into being following a lengthy stab of screeching and whirring feedback, the late Andy Gill working his guitar chops against that hypnotic bass part.

(Photo Credit: Guy Bolongaro)

Falle Nioke/Ghost Culture – Loneliness
(Youkounkoun)

Mega dance effort from Falle Nioke and Ghost Culture. At times it sounds like the soundtrack to Tekken 2, at others it calls to mind that amazing Goatman album on Rocket Recordings we were so fond of a few years back. Nioke is a singer/percussionist from Guinea Conakry, West Africa, mixing it up with Ghost Culture, whose self titled LP was received very favourably back in 2015.

LA Priest – Rubber Sky
(GENE)

More in the dance stakes here from LA Priest, with ‘Rubber Sky‘ wasting little time moving from hazy, bleary-eyed wonky-pop to arse-shaking funk and anthemic dance, similar in a way to that last Unknown Mortal Orchestra record.

Primo! – Perfect Paper
(Sogni)

From a record put together across various home studios throughout Melbourne, Primo! are relatively new to me, though their numbers include 2/4 of Aussie favourites Terry and you can find them on tastemaker label Upset The Rhythm. That’s a thumbs up from us even before hearing their bright and breezy take on post-punk.

Vintage Crop – Gridlock
(Serve To Serve Again)

More from Australia and Upset The Rhythm now with the introduction of Vintage Crop. Snarling rapid paced post-punk similar to another new discovery this year – our favourites, Aussie post-punk outfit GONZO. As GONZO haven’t had an album out since 2019, this will do for the foreseeable!

Narrow Head – Night Tryst
(12th House Rock)

Alright cool, so maybe Narrow Head have been listening to a lot of early Smashing Pumpkins (hammering ‘Jellybelly‘ again and again), but ‘Night Tryst‘ still makes for an absolute ripper of a throwback. New LP out on Holy Roar later this year!

Widowspeak – Money
(Plum)

Hypnotising stuff from songwriting pair Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas, a.k.a. Widowspeak. Take one look at the duo and you’ll get a flavour for why ‘Money‘, latest single from their forthcoming fifth album, sounds so warm and throwback in its production.

Fenne Lily – Alapathy
(BREACH)

A new discovery following our recent review of the new Phoebe Bridgers record. Fenne Lily’s second album comes out on the same label (Dead Oceans), similar in that moving at a pace vibe expertly executed by Rolling Blackouts/Cafe Racer, completed with that vocal that raises hairs on the back of your neck. Proper catchy.

Lianne La Havas – Bittersweet
(Lianne La Havas)

Having popped back up on our radar via her recently released Radiohead cover (‘Weird Fishes‘), ‘Bittersweet‘ is the first new material in five years from La Havas and the opener from her forthcoming record. A delight to have her back, the single showcases that powerful soulful voice we fell for way back when.

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EP Review: Plastiglomerate/Territorial Gobbing – The Internet Made Me Parkour

Pop music welcomes you, smiles at you, makes you feel at home, and expects little of you. Noise music does the opposite on all counts. This makes pop genres easy to dabble in, while noise tends to ward off casual listeners like myself. As such, I found ‘The Internet Made Me Parkour’, the new release from Plastiglomerate and Territorial Gobbing, a challenging listen. Both Plastigomerate and Territorial Gobbing are typically solo projects, based in Newcastle and Leeds, respectively. TG is Theo Gowans, who also plays in the no wave powerhouse Thank.

There’s a great deal of what sounds like amplified metal on ‘The Internet Made Me Parkour’ – literal metal I mean, like clattering silverware and grinding sounds, and what might be static, genuine noises. There’s also organic sounds, wet mouth sounds and sounds of human jabbering – strange sighs and mutters and lips smacking. I found those sounds the most unpleasant listening on here, they can be genuinely off-putting, like auditory versions of visual artists wearing clothing made of raw meat. There are also snippets of speech and brief samples of music, which appear out of the pandemonium offering a moment of stability to anchor you before breaking apart, dissolving into the bubbling acid bath of the rest of the composition and leaving you all the more alone and exposed. It reminded me of scenes from hell in the edgy comic books I would sneak-read in the 80s and 90s.

My casual dabbling with noise music has come in part from having an abrasive sense of humour and friendships defined by being mean to each other. In the earliest days of Facebook it was possible to post links to youtube videos without previews or to make them look like other things. At the time, friends and I often used to rick-roll each other and unsuspecting strangers with Whitehouse and Merzbow tracks. Maybe it’s because I encountered that music in that setting but it’s easy for me to think of power electronics and related extreme noise music as a kind of cruel joke. (Whitehouse always sounded to me like they genuinely hated their listeners. William Bennett, the main villain behind Whitehouse, has gone on to perform as Cut Hands, music which seems less oriented toward hurting audiences.)

The Internet Made Me Parkour‘ doesn’t strike me as quite as cruel, though it might be better called differently cruel. This doesn’t sound like noise that hates you and is out to get you. It sounds in a way weirder than that. Rather than the predatory aggression of some power electronics, this record sounds more like a private episode that you are overhearing, maybe forcibly (like being a kid while your parents are fighting).

As I listened, I wondered how much the record was a crafted object and how much it might be a document of a kind of intense improvisational play. It does feel playful, that’s part of what sets this apart from the feel of some other noise music, but it’s not a very generous play. It plays like my two year old plays – manic, often incomprehensible, indifferent to others and with a willingness to be violent if the mood strikes. There’s a kind of artist-as-storm-cloud quality to the record, art-making that sits far above and indifferent to perceptions by others, something made for the sheer act of its own making.

Then again, maybe it’s not art at all but anti-art – rather than a making, this might be a complex unmaking, stripping away everything, removing other thoughts from your mind by the unrecognizability and intensity of the noise. In a review, Aural Aggravation referred to listening to this record as like having your cranium scoured, which seems right. That brain-scrubbing is not entirely pleasant – I felt relief during some of the few short pauses on this record – but it might be good for you.

If pop music asks little of listeners, it often offers little to them as well. This record is so demanding that I found myself goaded to listen beyond my usual auditory ruts of post-punk and adjacent guitar music, largely, to try to find other work to help me make sense of it – Stockhausen, Throbbing Gristle, AMM, John Cage. It helped, a little, and I felt like my brain had been given a workout.

This is not a release for the faint of heart, but I do recommend giving it a listen, to see what you think when you’re done. Even if it’s not for you – and I can say, there are very few people I know who will actively like this record – at the very least you will enjoy what you listen to next all the more, a sign of being marked by this record.

Part of what’s captivating to me about music like this is how much work it is for the listener. I like to think that work can be a labour of self-transformation, like running sprints to get faster and stronger. I sometimes think that part of what art does is to use specific objects to teach us specific ways to use our minds and senses, ways that we can learn to deploy to other objects. This record leaves listeners with so little to orient ourselves that perhaps it helps us come out the other side better able to live with disorientation.

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Exclusive: Salisman & His Blessed Eunuchs announce debut album – Listen to new single ‘Who’s the Immigrant Now?’

Two Chicago miscreants – poisoned by black market memory pills – slip into comas to awaken six months later, transplanted to Newcastle, UK. They disappear into the grimy pedal steel underground, hesitant to draw attention to themselves. Their conspirator: a local electrician churning their melodies into surreal fever dreams. Minimal fragments, words, and images emerge from their unconscious half-year. Field recordings harness the desperation of birds. There is no off-ramp or rope.

That’s how Cruel Nature Records label man Steve Strode has gone about pitching ‘Absolution’, the debut album from Salisman & His Blessed Eunuchs. If he’s looking for a side hustle from the label, writing might be his calling! To assist with the reveal, we’re chuffed to announce the forthcoming release of ‘Absolution’ out July 31st on limited-edition cassette and digital download.

Salisman is the work of Paul Foreman and Travis Salisbury, joined here by Joe Daley and Chris Tate (who you might know for his work as SCORE). With influences of shoegaze, dream pop and Americana, the new record is a proper mind transporter – the type that captivates and takes over your thoughts entirely the minute you hit play. Have a taste, via new single ‘Who’s the Immigrant Now?

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Release Rundown (Power Pop Roundup) – Foxhall Stacks, Forest and Family, Mammals and D. Taylor

Words: Nate Holdren
(Photo Credit: Farrah Skeiky)

The other night I was listening to the latest pandemic news and making a list of abrasive noise I wanted to buy on the next Bandcamp sale, while absentmindedly stress-eating corn chips and salsa with cheese melted into it. My stomach started to hurt and I realised I needed to change my diet – of music. So I went on a power-pop binge. The metaphorical sugar is healthier physically and ultimately far more satisfying. And done right, there’s a lot of savoury mixed with the sweet, as we’ll see.

I started out by going back to two old favourites, the two LPs by Japanese power pop geniuses Firestarter. Secret Mission Records reissued them on vinyl in 2018 and they promptly sold out (before I could buy them! damn it!) If you don’t know them, you’re missing out. But what I really want to tell you about here is some recent music, because there’s something about connecting with a musician in the present that matters in a different way. Especially during the pandemic, nostalgia’s a double-edged feeling at best. So let me tell you about some current power-pop favourites.

Foxhall Stacks – ‘The Half Stack EP’

I admit it. I was wrong. Foxhall Stacks put out their debut full length, ‘The Coming Collapse’ in the fall of 2019 and in a review I said something like ‘this is great poppy rock music, but oohs and ahhs in the face of the apocalypse? The reference to the coming collapse must be ironic, right?’ I have come, in the decade of nonstop catastrophe we have lived through in 2020, to see the wisdom of pairing power pop with what sometimes feels like it could be society’s season finale. And now the ‘Stacks are back with four tracks of… uh… ear-snacks? (I am so sorry).

Foxhall Stacks are versatile and experienced musicians, with members from Bad Religion, Jawbox, and Velocity Girl. On their new EP, the band round out their repertoire a little, adding a power ballad, ‘Surround’, and the guilty-pleasure hair-metal instrumental ‘Flanger on the Hi-Hat’. The heart of their sound, however, remains ear-worm hooks. I had an especially hard time stopping myself singing along with the weird line “can’t stop thinking ‘bout those Danish movies!” It’s a great example of the charisma that defines power pop: a band with this kind of heart could sing the latest Twitter privacy update and I’d be captivated.

Behind the charm, though, is real substance, in the form of a dark undercurrent that’s easy to miss on a first listen. The first verse of ‘Danish Movies’ finishes with a line that can be read as funny fluff: “I can’t understand a single thing they say, I read the words and it’s all ok hey hey” but that sets up the second verse to hit all the harder. It ends “keep watching something that I can’t understand, dark hours of silence and a head full of fear, searching for clues that I might overhear.” It’s hard not to take that as a metaphor for staring in horror at the collapse that may have already arrived. It’s a great record. As a bonus, the band will donate proceeds from ‘The Half Stack EP” to a charity in Washington, D.C. where they live, one that serves some of the people most victimised by the collapse.

Mammals – ‘Look Around You’

At the start of 2020, Chicago trio Mammals released their third seven inch, consisting like their prior records of energetic, melodic, hook-driven songs. You might call them a power-pop revival band, hearkening back to the most upbeat of The Jam’s catalogue and, even more so to The Nerves. The guitar is bright and fairly clean, just slightly overdriven, and played with a mix of fast rhythm and melody. The vocals are sung, sweetly, with background harmonies, over a highly caffeinated rhythm section offering bass and drums in the classic Dee Dee Ramone and Bun E. Carlos styles.

The first song on here is a love song, or at least a lust-and-romance song. The second two take a bleaker turn, asking “lie in bed awake, how long can you keep on fooling yourself?” and asserting “everything you hoped for now is gone.” Even with these pessimistic lyrical turns, though, the music has the kind of toe-tapping, head bopping tunefulness that makes it hard not to smile. That’s one of many things that power-pop is good for: it’s easy to be happy in a fun time. Being happy in hard times is practice, it’s work, and music like this helps recognise the weight while simultaneously lightening it.

Forest and Family – ‘Perfectly Smeared/Pretty Attractive’

Forest Cochran is a fixture in the local rock scene in Des Moines, Iowa, playing in multiple indie rock bands and occasional solo sets regularly at bars around town, and once in a while at a record or book store. (I assume most Birthday Cake For Breakfast readers are in the UK, so I assume you’ve never heard of either Des Moines or Iowa. Think of a place within the UK that you think of as no place at all, and picture a mid-sized city there. There you have it. And if you’ve ever lived in a place like that, you’ll also understand how people in those places are fiercely loyal to where they live and the lives and scenes they’ve built there.)

If Cochran lived in New York or L.A., he’d be famous, though probably not any richer, given the state of the music industry. On this two song single he’s performing as a solo artist, but in the Bob Mould style, playing with a backing band as collaborators.

Both songs are wistful numbers about former loves and missed connections, with a mix of sadness and anger – at the other person, at yourself, and at the whole situation of your life (“I’ve got a couple jobs but I don’t think much of those,” Cochran sings). Both songs feature big fuzzy guitar and crashing drums but also a stop-start rhythm, which fits the themes of being caught up replaying the aftermath of relationships you wish had gone better. If you’ve ever been in that headspace, you know the feeling, just when you get some momentum going you’re back at a standstill. On both Cochran is joined by another singer, sometimes as back up vocal and sometimes in a duet. That adds more range to the sounds on offer, but more importantly it brings out the significance of the “And Family” part of his musical moniker.

Cochran sings about his own feelings here but he generalises them – these are our feelings, this is what life is like for, he sings, “some of us.” Having another singer underlines the collective dimension more: “we get so tired,” he sings, and when we do it’s through our chosen family that we keep going.

D. Taylor – ‘Dommy Don’t Mind (Demos 2020)’

D. Taylor has played in bands across eastern and central Canada for about twenty years now, including Ottawa noise punks Total Crush and the Halifax-based power pop quartet Cold Warps. This year, in the face of the pandemic, he’s been writing and releasing home demos. His songs range across power pop and its roots – there’s some shimmering guitar like you’d hear from The Byrds and The Raspberries, some moody psychedelic flourishes, and some sleazy roots rock and roll. There’s also the driving beats and down picked guitars that are the heart of the genre.

Things get a bit weirder sometimes too. There’s some lo-fi noise-pop and moody dissonance that recalls the early Warmduscher records, though with less funk and blues, and some hints of clanking trebly surf-rock. There are some Devo-flourishes as on my favourite track here, ‘Long Car’, which is either nonsense or innuendo or both. And there’s early-hardcore style yelling on the record’s angriest-sounding song, ‘Prize’. All of these elements make a sort of elliptical orbit around power-pop’s genre conventions, departing but only temporarily, coming back to an equal emphasis on rhythm, melody, and hooks. Taylor’s is the strangest and most off kilter of these records, and in some ways the most straightforwardly about pure fun.

Well my friends, strangers, enemies — there you have it. Binge-worthy power-pop for hard times. Eat your feelings, but through your ears. You’ll feel better.

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Release Rundown (UK DOOM METAL SPECIAL) – WREN and OHHMS

Another week, another rundown special. This week we are honouring two of the U.K.’s most hard working and forward thinking alternative metal acts. First up we have have London based quartet Wren, who return with their second full-length album ‘GROUNDSWELLS’, after a solid run of killer singles and EP’s. Then we move to Canterbury for OHHMS, who have wasted no time in laying down their third full-length album ‘Close’. Both of these records are released through two incredible independent labels. We would strongly recommend heading over to their websites and checking some of the awesome vinyl variants and exclusive editions that they have for these killer releases.

Wren – ‘GROUNDSWELLS’
(Gizeh Records)

Evolving into a strong component within the current alt metal scene, Wren are a band that deliver with each new release; always well considered and never compromising in ambition. Their last release was 20 minute track ‘Thrall’, which completely blew my mind in the second half of 2018. So colour me excited when just a few weeks back the excellent Gizeh Records announced the release of a new Wren full length. Recorded in Devon last summer, the band decided to bring the release of ‘GROUNDSWELLS’ forward, which naturally seems very fitting for these uncertain times.

The first thing that struck me with this album is the riffs. Match that with muscular drum work and colossal vocals and you get an absolutely pummelling opening track in the form of ‘Chromed’. ‘Crossed Out Species’ is another moment where the band burst into an earth shattering breakdown and honestly within the first minute I wanted to put my head through a wall. It’s clear that Wren are more raging and charged up than ever. But then what is so great about this album is the incredible dynamics that move across its six movements. The post metal bewilderment of early material is still very present. The brooding melodicism that enthralled me so much on the last release, very much dominates some of the more quieter sections; ‘Murmur’ is an extremely good example of this.

Then just when you think you’ve been through it all, you’re hit with 10 minute centrepiece ‘Subterranean Messiah’, which not only is a really sweet title but also an epic whirlwind of sounds. Featuring ghostly chants from the band Fvnerals and fragile layers of cello from Jo Quail, this is a piece that dips in and out of consciousness from ethereal swirls of uncertainty to impending doom fuzziness. Although Wren prove that they are still an incredibly forward thinking metal act, what draws me in with ‘GROUNDSWELLSis the sturdiness of the performances and compositions. There is so much strength in the playing and in my eyes this is the tightest and most focused Wren have sounded. I have no doubt that this is going to turn crowds into mush when we are ready to hear this in a live setting.

OHHMS – ‘Close’
(Holy Roar)

It has to be said, this lot work hard. Only six years since their first EP and they’re already on their third full length. What drew me to OHHMS was their sense of ambition and eclecticism that made their first two EP’s such an enticing listening experience. Naturally the quintet have only progressed their sound across their full lengths and album number three, ‘Close’, is another unpredictable prog rock thrill ride.

Alive!’ opens the record on a melodic groove of skipping drums and interlocking guitar lines, with an ethereal soundscape weaving its way around it. Then, as if out of nowhere, a big fuck off sludgy riff smashes its way in with bellowing vocals that ascend into a euphoric three part harmony. This is typical OHHMS behaviour but it’s still an extremely exciting start, particularly when we hit a pretty huge chorus that might have one of their catchiest hooks to date. This is a much snappier release. Though you’ve got tracks like ‘Destroyer’ that hit you with 9 minutes of prog metal realness, for the most part the band keep it concise with bite sized chunks of sludgy riffery. The fat has been cut.

But as expected with OHHMS, there are twists to be had. ‘((Flaming Youth))’ and ‘((Strange Ways))’ sit at the first half of the track list and to me are the most striking parts of the album. Acting as a segway to the more chaotic moments, they offer reflection and poise, soaked in ethereal harmony. I think it’s a really welcome contrast to their usual doom rock tomfoolery and ‘((Flaming Youth))’ in particular is a really beautiful meditative piece.

In conclusion, ‘Close’ manages to bridge the gap between OHHMS at their most instant and their more expansive. It’s definitely their most dynamic record, the heavier bits are bigger and bolder but there are other tricks in the box that open different dimensions to their sound. I can see the metal heads really sinking their teeth into this one and I hope we’ll see this hard working band get the bigger buzz they deserve.

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a/s/l: HEADS.

Remember the days of the old schoolyard? Remember when Myspace was a thing? Remember those time-wasting, laborious quizzes that everyone used to love so much? Birthday Cake For Breakfast is bringing them back! 

Every couple of weeks, an unsuspecting band will be subject to the same old questions about dead bodies, Hitler, crying and crushes.  

This Week: Ed Fraser, vocalist, guitarist – and by the sounds of it, basketball player – in noisy outfit HEADS.

Words: Andy Hughes
(Photo Credit: Basti Grim)

a/s/l?
As old as time itself / yes necessary for survival of species / Melbourne.

Have you ever seen a dead body?
Yep.

Who is your favourite Simpsons character?
Moe the bartender. So much depth of character, so little compromise.

What T-Shirt are you wearing?
It’s brown and beautiful with a giant hole in the front where I very recently snagged it real good on a door handle.

What did your last text message say?
Absolutely! See ya at Alv’s joint at 7 big fella

What’s the last song you listened to?
IdlesGrounds’. I really enjoyed it. Video is great too.

How did you meet the people in your band?
Craigslist Berlin, true story.

What’s the first record you bought?
Brian AdamsWaking Up The Neighbours’. I thought he was rebellious haha.

What was your favourite VHS growing up?
Dazzling Dunks & Basketball Bloopers’, quality stuff.

When was the last time you cried?
When I hit this sweet three pointer at the buzzer.

Have you ever kissed someone & regretted it?
No regrets.

Best Physical Feature?
Jumpshot, when it’s on.

Worst physical feature?
Left-handed layup.

Reasonably ok/not bad feature that you’re not fussed about?
Free throws.

Do you have any pets?
Not at the moment. Too much travelling usually.

Ever picked up any injuries on tour?
I fell off stages in both Adelaide and Hobart on the same tour and mangled my wrist up. And in 2018 I toured Europe with a freshly dislocated kneecap. I couldn’t do any cool moves on stage but I also didn’t have to load any gear, so it was great.

What did you do for your last birthday?
Went walking in the bush, mid-corona.

Name something you CANNOT wait for?
Playing shows again.

Do you have a crush on someone?
I got one on you now pal. (Woof! – Ed)

What’s the shittest experience you’ve had as a musician?
Waking up in pitch darkness on a concrete floor, locked inside this warehouse venue in Brussels, mid-winter after a large after-show party with USA Nails. It was cold and confusing.

If you could go back in time, how far would you go?
All over. Lots to see.

How do you want to die?
Gorging myself to death on delicious foods.

What’s your favourite thing about pizza?
Oh everything.

What are you craving right now?
Now a pizza.

Have you ever been on a horse?
I was born on a horse.

What did you dream about last night?
It was something to do with Joe Pesci and Las Vegas but it’s gone now, into the haze.

If you could go back in time and kill the baby Hitler, would you?
No. But I would teach baby Hitler to be nice. Get myself hired as his nanny and then get to work. This really feels like the plot of a tv show, did I steal that?

Do you like Chinese food?
Oh yes.

Have you ever been on TV?
As a teenager I somehow managed to talk my way in and got my first band hired as the house band on a TV show called ‘Raucous’ on a community channel in Melbourne. It was kind of like Wayne’s World but way worse and way more Australian.

Ever meet someone famous?
In recent years at our shows I’ve been lucky to meet a number of musicians I really looked up to when I was young. That has honestly been a real buzz for me.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m pretty content where I’m at right now.

HEADS. new album ‘PUSH’ is out now via Glitterhouse Records! Grab a copy (or two) here! You can also read our review right here!

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Album Review: Pottery – Welcome to Bobby’s Motel

I appreciate that on their debut album – the exquisitely titled ‘Welcome to Bobby’s Motel‘ – Canadian outfit Pottery fucked off any notion of press release hyperbole in the build up, instead choosing to go completely left-field with it altogether. Titular character Bobby, we’re told, could be a pilot, a lumberjack, a stay at home dad or even “a disco dancer that never rips his pants“. He’s you. He’s me.

…in essence, Bobby is Pottery and his motel is wherever they are.

It feels at odds to be releasing an album right now, let alone going through the process of promoting it. True enough, the release date for the album – like many others – was pushed back, originally pencilled in to come out during the early lockdown stages of the pandemic. Who were they to know that circumstances would escalate dramatically in the coming months? Listen to ‘Welcome to Bobby’s Motel‘ however and you’ll soon forget we’re in the midst of a global crisis, for Pottery appear to be living in their own world, a tight knit gang leaning heavily into nostalgic sounds.

2019 saw the band release a mini-LP, ‘No. 1‘, chocka with jangly guitar post-punk, with a few oddball soft-rock numbers chucked in for good measure. Their new album sees them dive deep into influences from way back when, swimming away from the pack but moving forward as they look back.

The record certainly sounds like it was put together in the correct fashion – eleven tracks cooked up with the freshest of ingredients, serving up a taste of something new at every turn, to be consumed in one sitting. Opening on its title track, thundering drums kick off this 120 second introduction as the quintet race through the opening minute, settling the viewer in for the remainder as they slow it down with a bit of bleary eyed, old school psych rock. ‘Hot Like Jungle‘ puts the record to bed around half hour later, the sweetest of romantic bops – with a heart-sweller of a chorus – which could easily be my single of the year. Even though they’re deep on the ‘is this a piss take?’ vibe, with ‘Hot Like Jungle‘ they’ve created such a lovely song (about shagging) that i’ve had many a lump-in-throat moment listening to it.

The nine tracks in the middle? ‘What’s in Fashion?‘ sounds like a modern day nod to The Kinks, but for the most part, listening to ‘Welcome to Bobby’s Motel‘, my mind conjures up visions of bright lights, cheap beer, big concert theatres and a sea of screaming heads sporting haircuts of the time – the 70’s and 80’s. Calling to mind live films like ‘Stop Making Sense‘ on ‘Hot Heater‘ and the Zappa live series ‘You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore‘ on tracks like the hypnotising ‘Bobby’s Forecast‘. Vocalist Austin Boylan has that Zappa and Byrne quality to him, his strong vocal performance leading the charge, breaking off into passionate cries for the drums with a ‘Come on!‘ one minute, having the others back him up on every other line the next.

Texas Drums Pt I & II‘ is heavy on the infectious, with its hilarious gang vocal and blistering percussion, drifting past the three minute mark (with a ready-set-go ding) and into ‘did you slip something in my drink?‘ territory, soon morphing into a monumental wig-out of psych and disco rhythms, with arse-shaking the aim of the game. It’s one of the many highlights found throughout the record, the band showcased best as a unit when vibing off one another and locking in tight.

Welcome to Bobby’s Motel‘ is a really fun record. It’s a trip, a genre-shifting stand out that builds upon their debut and flips the script, making the listener long for rooms full of people and sweat dripping off the ceiling. But why spoil it with hyperbole when the band said it best themselves:

It’s filthy and amazing and you dance, and you love it.

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