Quarterly Review: Monkey3, Asthma Castle, The Giraffes, Bask, Faerie Ring, Desert Sands, Cavalcade, Restless Spirit, Children of the Sün, Void King

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Call two friends and tell them to tell two friends to tell two friends, because the Quarterly Review has returned. This time around, it’s 50 records front to back for Fall 2019 and there are some big names and some smaller names and a whole lot of in between which is just how I like it. Between today and Friday, each day 10 album reviews will be posted in a single batch like this one, and although by Wednesday this always means I’m totally out of my mind, it’s always, always, always worth it to be able to write about so much cool stuff. So sit tight, because there’s a lot to get through and, as ever, time’s at a premium.

Thanks in advance for keeping up, and I hope you find something you dig.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Monkey3, Sphere

monkey3 sphere

It’s a full-on Keanu Reeves “whoa” when opening track “Spirals” kicks in on Monkey3‘s sixth album, Sphere (released by Napalm), and that’s by no means the last one on the cinematic six-tracker. The long-running Swiss mostly-instrumentalists have been consistently, persistently underappreciated throughout their career, but whether it’s the aural scope of guitar and keys in “Axis” or the swaps between intensity and sprawl in 14-minute closer “Ellipsis,” their latest work is consuming in its sense of triumph. Even the four-minute “Ida,” which seems at first like it’s barely going to be more than an interlude, finds a thread of majestic cosmic groove and rides it for the duration, while the proggy immersion of “Prism” and the harder drive of “Mass” — not to mention that shredding solo — make the middle of the record anything but a post-hypnosis dip. I won’t pretend to know if Sphere is the record that finally gets the Lausanne four-piece the respect they’ve already well deserved, but if it was, one could only say it was for good reason. Blends of heft, progressive craft, and breadth are rarely so resonant.

Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records website

 

Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore

Asthma Castle Mount Crushmore

When you call your record Mount Crushmore, you need to bring it, and much to their credit, Baltimorean sludge-rocking five-piece Asthma Castle do precisely that on their debut full-length. Issued through Hellmistress Records, the 37-minute/six-track outing is a wordplay-laced pummeler that shows as much persona in its riffing and massive groove as it does in titles like “The Incline of Western Civilization” and “The Book of Duderonomy.” Trades between early-Mastodonic twists and lumbering sludge crash add a frenetic and unpredictable feel to pieces like the title-track, while “Methlehem” trades its plod for dual-guitar antics punctuated by metallic double-kick, all the while the vocals trade back and forth between growls, shouts, cleaner shouts, the odd scream, etc., because basically if you can keep up with it, Asthma Castle wouldn’t be doing their job. One shudders to think of the amount of Natty Bo consumed during its making, but Mount Crushmore is a wild and cacophonous enough time to live up to the outright righteousness of its title. If I graded reviews, it would get a “Fuckin’ A+,” with emphasis on “fuckin’ a.”

Asthma Castle on Thee Facebooks

Hellmistress Records website

 

The Giraffes, Flower of the Cosmos

the giraffes flower of the cosmos

Some day the world will wake up and realize the rock and roll powerhouse it had in Brooklyn’s The Giraffes, but by then it’ll be too late. The apocalypse will have happened long ago, and it’ll be Burgess Meredith putting on a vinyl of Flower of the Cosmos in the New York Library as “FAKS” echoes out through the stacks of now-meaningless tomes and the dust of nuclear winter falls like snow outside the windows. The band’s tumultuous history is mirrored in the energy of their output, and yet to hear the melody and gentle fuzz at the outset of “Golden Door,” there’s something soothing about their work as well that, admittedly, “Raising Kids in the End Times” is gleeful in undercutting. Cute as well they pair that one with “Dorito Dreams” on this, their seventh record in a 20-plus-year run, which has now seen them find their footing, lose it, find it again, and in this record and songs like the masterfully frenetic “Fill up Glass” and the air-tight-tense “Like Hate” and “Romance,” weave a document every bit worthy of Mr. Meredith’s attention as he mourns for the potential of this godforsaken wasteland. Oh, what we’ll leave behind. Such pretty ruins.

The Giraffes website

The Giraffes on Bandcamp

 

Bask, III

bask iii

In the fine tradition of heavy rock as grown-up punk, North Carolina’s Bask bring progressive edge and rolling-Appalachian atmospherics to the underlying energy of III, their aptly-titled and Season of Mist-issued third album. Their foot is in any number of styles, from Baroness-style noodling to a hard twang that shows up throughout and features prominently on the penultimate “Noble Daughters II – The Bow,” but the great triumph of III, and really the reason it works at all, is because the band find cohesion in this swath of influences. They’re a band who obviously put thought into what they do, making it all the more appropriate to think of them as prog, but as “Three White Feet” and “New Dominion” show at the outset, they don’t serve any aesthetic master so much as the song itself. Closing with banjo and harmonies and a build of crash cymbal on “Maiden Mother Crone” nails the point home in a not-understated way, but at no point does III come across as hyper-theatrical so as to undercut the value of what Bask are doing. It’s a more patient album than it at first seems, but given time to breathe, III indeed comes to life.

Bask on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist on Bandcamp

 

Faerie Ring, The Clearing

fairie ring the clearing

Listening to the weighty rollout of opening cut “Bite the Ash” on Faerie Ring‘s debut album, The Clearing (on King Volume Records), one is reminded of the energy that once-upon-a-time came out of Houston’s Venomous Maximus. There’s a similar feeling of dark energy surging through the riffs and echoing vocals, but the Evansville, Indiana, four-piece wind up on a different trip. Their take is more distinctly Sabbathian on “Lost Wind” and even the swinging “Heavy Trip” lives up to its stated purpose ahead of the chugging largesse of finisher “Heaven’s End.” They find brash ground on “The Ring” and the slower march of “Somnium,” but there’s metal beneath the lumbering and it comes out on “Miracle” in a way that the drums late in “Lost Wind” seem to hint toward on subsequent listens. It’s a mix of riff-led elements that should be readily familiar to many listeners, but the sheer size and clarity of presentation Faerie Ring make throughout The Clearing makes me think they’ll look to distinguish themselves going forward, and so their first record holds all the more potential for that.

Faerie Ring on Thee Facebooks

King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Desert Sands, The Ascent EP

Desert Sands The Ascent

Begun as the solo-project of London-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mark Walker and presently a trio including Louis Kinder and Jonathan Walker as well, Desert Sands make their recorded debut through A Records with the three-song/half-hour The Ascent EP, a work of psychedelic existentialism that conveys its cosmic questioning even before the lyrics start, with an opening riff and rhythmic lurch to “Are You There” that seems to throw its central query into a void that either will or won’t answer. Does it? The hell should I know, but The Ascent proves duly transcendent in its pulsations as “Head Towards the Light” and 11:45 closer “Yahweh” — yeah, I guess we get there — bring drifting, languid enlightenment to these spiritual musings. The finale is, of course, a jam in excelsis and if drop-acid-find-god is the narrative we’re working with, then Desert Sands are off to a hell of a start as a project. Regardless of how one might ultimately come down (and it is, by my estimation at least, a comedown) on the question of human spirituality, there’s no denying the power and ethereal force of the kind of creativity on display in The Ascent. One will wait impatiently to see what comes next.

Desert Sands on Thee Facebooks

A Recordings on Thee Facebooks

 

Cavalcade, Sonic Euthanasia

Cavalcade Sonic Euthanasia

Say what you want about New Orleans or North Carolina or wherever the hell else, Midwestern sludge is another level of filth. To wit, the Carcass-style vocals that slice through the raw, dense riffing on “Aspirate on Aspirations” feel like the very embodiment of modern disillusion, and there’s some flourish of melodic guitar pluck there, but that only seems to give the ensuing crunch more impact, and likewise the far-back char of “Freezing in Fire” as it relates to the subsequent “Dead Idles,” as Cavalcade refute the trappings of genre in tempo while still seeming to burrow a hole for themselves in the skull of the converted. “Noose Tie” and “We Dig Our Own Graves” tell the story, but while the recording itself is barebones, Cavalcade aren’t now and never really have been so simple as to be a one-trick band. For more than a decade, they’ve provided a multifaceted and trickily complex downer extremity, and Sonic Euthanasia does this as well, bringing their sound to new places and new levels of abrasion along its punishing way. Easy listening? Shit. You see that eye on the cover? That’s the lizard people staring back at you. Have fun with that.

Cavalcade on Thee Facebooks

Cavalcade on Bandcamp

 

Restless Spirit, Lord of the New Depression

restless spirit lord of the new depression

Long Island chug-rockers Restless Spirit would seem to have been developing the material for their self-released debut album, Lord of the New Depression, over the last couple years on a series of short releases, but the songs still sound fresh and electrified in their vitality. If this was 1992 or ’93, they’d be signed already to RoadRacer Records and put on tour with Life of Agony, whose River Runs Red would seem to be a key influence in the vocals of the nine-track/39-minute offering, but even on their own, the metal-tinged five-piece seem to do just fine. Their tracks are atmospheric and aggressive and kind, and sincere in their roll, capturing the spirit of a band like Down with somewhat drawn-back chestbeating, “Dominion” aside. They seem to be challenging themselves to push outside those confines though in “Deep Fathom Hours,” the longest track at 7:35 with more complexity in the melody of the vocals and guitar, and that suits them remarkably well as they dig into this doomly take on LOA and Type O Negative and others from the early ’90s NYC underground — they seem to pass on Biohazard, which is fine — made legendary with the passage of time. As a gentleman of a certain age, I find it exceptionally easy to get on board.

Restless Spirit on Thee Facebooks

Restless Spirit on Bandcamp

 

Children of the Sün, Flowers

Children of the Sun Flowers

An eight-piece outfit based in Arvika, Sweden, which is far enough west to be closer to Oslo than Stockholm, Children of the Sün blend the classic heavy rock stylizations of MaidaVale, first-LP Blues Pills and others with a decidedly folkish bent. Including an intro, their The Sign Records debut album, Flowers, is eight track and 34 minutes interweaving organ and guitar, upbeat vibes and bluesier melodies, taking cues from choral-style vocals on “Emmy” in such a way as to remind of Church of the Cosmic Skull, though the aesthetic here is more hippie than cult. The singing on “Sunschild” soars in that fashion as well, epitomizing the lush melody found across Flowers as the keys, guitar, bass and drums work to match in energy and presence. For a highlight, I’d pick the more subdued title-track, which still has its sense of movement thanks to percussion deep in the mix but comes arguably closest to the flower-child folk Children of the Sün seem to be claiming for their own, though the subsequent closing duo of “Like a Sound” and “Beyond the Sun” aren’t far off either. They’re onto something. One hopes they continue to explore in such sünshiny fashion.

Children of the Sün on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Void King, Barren Dominion

void king barren dominion

Having made their debut with 2016’s There is Nothing (discussed here), Indianapolis downtrodden heavy rock four-piece Void King come back for a second go with Barren Dominion (on Off the Record Label), a title of similar theme that finds them doom riffing through massive tonality on “Burnt at Both Ends,” asking what if Soundgarden played atmospheric doom rock on “Crippled Chameleon” — uh, it would be awesome? yup — and opening each side with its longest track (double immediate points) in a clearly intended vinyl structure hell bent on immersing the listener as much as possible in the lumber and weight the band emit. Frontman Jason Kindred adds extra burl to his already-plenty-dudely approach on “Crippled Chameleon” and closer “The Longest Winter,” the latter with some harmonies to mirror those of opener “A Lucid Omega,” and the band around him — bassist Chris Carroll, drummer Derek Felix and guitarist Tommy Miller — seem to have no trouble whatsoever in keeping up, there or anywhere else on the eight-song/46-minute outing. Topped with striking cover art from Diogo SoaresBarren Dominion is deceptively nuanced and full-sounding. Not at all empty.

Void King on Thee Facebooks

Off the Record Label BigCartel store

 

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The Giraffes to Release Flower of the Cosmos Aug. 2

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the giraffes (Photo by Ebru Yildiz)

Down at the bottom of this post, where the streaming stuff goes, there’s streaming stuff. You’ll find The Giraffes‘ 2008 full-length, Prime Motivator, and the song “Product Placement Song” from their 2015 EP, Usury (review here). They’re down there, but I’m not going to put either one on to listen to while I write this, as I otherwise might do under normal circumstances. Because The Giraffes aren’t normal circumstances. They’re the kind of circumstances where I might put a track on and be completely unable to function for the rest of the day because they’re so goddamned catchy. I’ll tell you to go ahead and listen though, because frankly your productivity isn’t my concern. So yeah, dig in.

Maybe you know it and maybe you don’t, but a new album from The Giraffes is the best news of your day.

It comes from the PR wire:

the giraffes flower of the cosmos

THE CHAOS AND MENACE OF BROOKLYN BAND THE GIRAFFES LIVE PERFORMANCES HAS BEEN CAPTURED ON THEIR NEW STUDIO ALBUM: FLOWER OF THE COSMOS OUT AUGUST 2, 2019 ON SILVER SLEEVE RECORDS

record release show 8/3/19 at Union Pool with Beechwood, Chest High Fires

Brooklyn cult band The Giraffes are best known for their chaos and menace filled live shows and their cult following. The band will release their new studio album titled, Flower of the Cosmos, on Silver Sleeve Records (Caroline Distribution; formats include vinyl LP and digital) on August 2, 2019.

Flower of the Cosmos is a heavy, yet agile record filled with fun songs about sad realities that never gets bogged down but instead rips in ways no other band has been able to manage.

“Recording this album was the single most rewarding and challenging experience I’ve ever had in the studio,” guitarist Damien Price explains. “Conceived as love songs and played with an unbridled ferocity in reaction to the perpetual state of crisis America has placed itself in for the last three years.”

The record was produced and engineered by The Giraffes, Tony Maimone, and Francisco Botero, at Studio G (Tom Waits, The Black Keys, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, Unsane) in Brooklyn during the summer of 2018. Maimone’s production credits include: Frank Black, Pere Ubu, Mike Watt, John Langford, Golem, and Ani DiFranco among others. Grammy award nominee Botero’s engineering credits include Highly Suspect, Adriana Lucia and more.

The album title, Flower of the Cosmos, the band explains “is a bitter acknowledgment that the modern world in all of its absurdity, vanity, sham, exploitation, and cruelty stands as the culmination of a 4 billion year uninterrupted chain of life on earth. We are the fruit of all that has come to pass before us, the pinnacle of creation, the acme of reality.”

Tracklisting:
1. “Can’t Do This In Your Head”
2. “Like Hate”
3. “Faks”
4. “Golden Door”
5. “Fill Up Glass”
6. “Bubble Scum”
7. “Raising Kids In The End Of Times”
8. “Dorito Dreams”
9. “Crude Wave”
10. “Romance”

The Giraffes is:
Aaron Lazar on vocals and guitar
Damien Paris on guitar
Andrew Totolos on drums, percussion, accordion
Hannah Moorhead on bass

Live in concert:
Saturday, August 3rd, 2019
at Union Pool
484 Union Ave Brooklyn NY 11211
Doors: 7pm
Ticket Price: $15
The Giraffes, Beechwood, Chest High Fires

https://www.thegiraffes.com
https://www.facebook.com/TheGiraffes
https://instagram.com/thegiraffesofficial
https://thegiraffes.bandcamp.com/
https://soundcloud.com/the-giraffes
http://giraffesofficial.tumblr.com
https://soundcloud.com/silversleeverecords

The Giraffes, Prime Motivator (2008)

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Lord Mountain, The Giraffes, Saint Vitus, Långfinger, Soggy

Posted in Radio on January 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

It’s been a long time. Long enough that I’m not even going to link back to the last time I did a round of Radio Adds. Life happens, and with the Quarterly Review, I guess my focus went elsewhere. Well, I just did a Quarterly Review, and that actually kind of inspired this, since I found there was yet more records that wanted covering even after that over-full round of 60 that closed out 2016 and opened 2017. So here we are.

There are, in fact, more than 50 albums being added to The Obelisk Radio playlist today. I can’t promise I’ll do Radio Adds weekly like I once did, or monthly, or again in 2017, or ever, but the opportunity presented itself and it seemed only right to take advantage. This stuff all came out last year, so it’s all readily available, and audio samples are included, because, you know, music and such.

Let’s dig in:

Lord Mountain, Lord Mountain

lord-mountain-lord-mountain

Of all the styles under the vast umbrella of “heavy,” traditional doom is among the hardest to execute – especially, I’d think, for new bands. You need a balance of atmosphere and lack of pretense, a classic vibe, riffs, and groove. On the surface, you’re playing to the past, but if you put out something that just sounds like Sabbath and bring nothing of yourself to it, you’re sunk. Santa Rosa, California’s Lord Mountain – vocalist/guitarist Jesse Swanson, guitarist Sean Serrano, bassist Dave Reed and drummer Pat Moore – would seem to have it figured out on their self-titled debut EP. Released by King Volume Records on limited tape, it brings forth four tracks in 21 minutes that are no less comfortable playing to the downer riffing of Candlemass – opener “Fenrir” – than to the epic chanting of Viking-era Bathory – “Under the Mountain” – and that find distinction for themselves in nodding to one side or the other as they make their way across the bass-y Sabbathism of “Dying World” and into the concluding solo-topped gallop of “Tomb of the Eagle” (more Dio-era there, but effectively translated tonally). As an initial offering, its presence is more stately than raw, and part of that is aesthetic, so I still think Lord Mountain will have growth to undertake, but their EP shows marked potential and brings a fresh personality to doom’s rigid traditionalism, and there’s nothing more one could reasonably ask of it. A CD would probably be too much to ask, but it’s hard to believe no one’s snagged it for a 10” release yet.

Lord Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Lord Mountain on Bandcamp

King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

The Giraffes, Usury

the giraffes usury

Behold the winding, self-directed narrative of underrated, underutilized and underappreciated New York heavy rockers The Giraffes, who issued Usury via Silver Sleeve Records in Jan. 2016, on the cusp of their 20th anniversary and with it welcomed back frontman Aaron Lazar (also a one-time contributor to The Book of Knots, speaking of underrated) to the fold alongside guitarist Damien Paris, drummer Andrew Totolos and bassist Josh Taggart. Comprised of just six songs with a 28-minute runtime, it nonetheless holds to a full-album sentiment, with songs like the tense “Washing Machine” working in a vein not dissimilar to their righteous 2008 offering, Prime Motivator (review here), while the preceding “Facebook Rant” and “Product Placement Song” bask in a social commentary that one can only hope the ensuing decades make dated and the subsequent “White Jacket” has a melancholy danceability that one might’ve related around the time of The Giraffes’ 2005 self-titled debut related to System of a Down, but now just sounds like an enrichment of their approach overall. Usury gets off to a slow start (not a complaint, given the groove) with “Blood Will Run,” which seems to shake off its dust initially before commencing its real push and chug circa the halfway point, but by the time they get down to eight-minute finale “How it Happened to Me,” the sudden conclusion of the jam leaves one to wonder where they went and when they’ll be back, which presumably is the whole idea. Behold a band who did it before it was cool, should’ve been huge, and still kept going. The story is more complicated than that, but there are few tales more admirable.

The Giraffes on Thee Facebooks

The Giraffes website

 

Saint Vitus, Live Vol. 2

saint-vitus-live-vol-2

The first Saint Vitus live album – Live – surfaced in 1990 via Hellhound Records and captured the band in Germany in 1989. Its 2005 reissue on Southern Lord played a large role in introducing the pivotal doomers to a new generation of fans. Live Vol. 2 follows some 26 years later via Season of Mist and likewise documents a crucial era in the four-piece’s existence, having been recorded in 2013 in Luxembourg following the release of their 2012 album, Lillie: F-65 (review here), with the lineup of vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, guitarist Dave Chandler, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez. It’s a 59-minute set, all told – one suspects some of Chandler’s stage rants between songs were shortened or removed – and among the most striking impressions it makes is how seamlessly Lillie: F-65 cuts “Let Them Fall,” “The Bleeding Ground” and “The Waste of Time” fit in alongside classics like the speedy “War is Our Destiny” and “Look Behind You” or the more grueling “Patra (Petra)” and galloping “White Stallions.” Of course, the anthemic “Born too Late” closes out, with Chandler’s wash of feedback and all-low-end tone at the start the ultimate hallmark of what Saint Vitus have always been – a middle finger to square culture unlike any other. This era of the band may be over, with original vocalist Scott Reagers stepping back into the frontman role, but as one continues to hope for another studio album, Live Vol. 2 proves more than a stopgap and takes an active role in adding to the band’s legendary catalog.

Saint Vitus on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Långfinger, Crossyears

langfinger-crossyears

After two successful full-lengths in 2010’s Skygrounds and 2012’s Slow Rivers, next-gen Swedish heavy rockers Långfinger join forces with Small Stone Records for their 10-song/46-minute third album, the crisply-executed Crossyears. Like their countrymen labelmates in Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, the Gothenburg three-piece bring modern edge and production to what a few years ago might’ve been purely retro ‘70s boogie rock, as tracks like “Fox Confessor,” “Say Jupiter,” the more languid “Atlas” and “Caesar’s Blues” bask in a showcase of tight, natural performance with a clean production style that still highlights same, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Victor Crusner, guitarist/backing vocalist Kalle Lilja and drummer/backing vocalist Jesper Pihl proving the maturity of their songwriting while still delivering the push of “Silver Blaze” and closer “Window in the Sky” with a sense of energy behind them. Their approach so solidified, Långfinger don’t seem to leave much to chance in their sound, but Crossyears engages heavy rock tradition effectively while bridging a gap of decades across its run, and that, frankly, seems like enough for any one record to take on.

Långfinger on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

 

Soggy, Soggy

soggy soggy

Soggy’s self-titled LP, released in this edition by Outer Battery Records (see also Arctic, Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket), is a reissue of a 2008 collection of tracks from a span of years that find the blown-out French punkers paying direct homage to The Stooges with a cover of the seminal “I Wanna be Your Dog,” immediately drawing a line to what seems to have been the band’s most prominent influence. Some 35-plus years after they were initially put to tape, Soggy’s tracks continue to feel dangerous and raw in their frenetic proto-punkery, and that would seem to be exactly what the Soggy LP is looking to convey, digging into the vast trove of lost artifacts in heavy and punk rock and finding a treasure ripe for hindsight appreciation. As much as it just makes me want to put on the self-titled Stooges record or Fun House, I can’t argue with the success of Soggy’s Soggy or not admire its mission, even if some of its blows land harder than others.

Soggy on Bandcamp

Outer Battery Records on Thee Facebooks

 

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Live Review: Droids Attack in Brooklyn, 07.13.12

Posted in Reviews on July 16th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I’d been feeling pretty good about what the prospects for the evening of Friday the 13th of July held. Basically, they held a Droids Attack show, and I remembered from the last time the Madison, Wisconsin, rockers came through Brooklyn that they were right on the proverbial money. I had to work the next morning, but Friday night after a long week, I was ready to enjoy myself and let loose at the Saint Vitus Bar at a show that I knew would be laid back and not at all trying in the way Brooklyn gigs sometimes are these days. If Droids Attack are anything, they’re unpretentious.

Unbeknownst to me, it was a four-band bill. All prior indicators were for three — The Giraffes, who I assumed would play last and who did, Droids Attack and Cinema Cinema — but a fourth was added which meant that I was early when I arrived at about 9PM. No one would be going on for some time, and the prospect of work the next day meant I probably wouldn’t be staying the whole show. I’d been looking forward to seeing The Giraffes, who may or may not have had vocalist Aaron Lazar with them, but so it goes. And so I went. To the bar. First at the Saint Vitus Bar itself, and then, in an attempt to find someplace with the Yankee game on, down the street a block or two to a punkier kind of dive/local joint. They had the Mets. I had the feeling it was as close as I was going to get.

My spirit undiminished, I drank down a quick two dirty-line Brooklyn Lagers before heading back over to the Saint Vitus Bar in time to watch the first act go on before Cinema Cinema. It seemed to be a one-man show. A guy sat in a rocking chair and sang soulfully from underneath a throw blanket — something I might support theoretically, but there comes a time where you have to stop and realize, “I just paid money to watch this,” and walk out of the room to get another drink. Back out front I went, and by the time I dared venture through the curtain that separates the bar from the back room where bands play, the duo Cinema Cinema were well into their set of bombastic post-punk.

They mentioned twice in the couple songs I saw them play that they were about to go on tour (apparently for not the first time) with Greg Ginn — which is fair; I’m pretty sure if Greg Ginn asked me to do a couple shows I’d get a face tattoo that advertised same — and they covered “School” by Nirvana. I guess after 20 years, that stuff is probably fair game nowadays. Fine. They had their shit together and were tight, and despite their not really being my thing, they got their point across. Great drums, which are almost always welcome to my ringing ears.

A goodly portion of my fourth beer was dumped down my front before Droids Attack went on by their drummer, Tony Brungraber — obviously an accident — but even that wasn’t enough to quell my excitement at seeing the band again. The trio set up quickly after Cinema Cinema finish. Brungraber and guitarist/vocalist Brad Van had introduced me to bassist Dennis Ponozzo by saying he was, “the man,” so I looked forward to hearing him as they got started, and neither he nor either of the other two disappointed. Droids Attack were precisely as I remembered them from their prior East Coast run: good times.

Something else about them: Droids Attack come by their heavy rock as honestly as any band I’ve ever heard. Watching them play and listening to their set, you could see their punk-type roots had grown up, and they made no bones about who they were, what they wanted to sound like or from where they took influence. It was as refreshing as I’d hoped it would be, and Van tore into a few choice solos as Ponozzo and Brungraber made complex rhythms seem easy. Think prog boogie.

Their set was comprised almost entirely of new material, but for the finale, which was the title-track from 2010’s Must Destroy — pretty sure that’s what it was — and Ponozzo kept mostly to the riff on his bass, picking along in time to Van and not really veering too much this way or that for fills or changes. Brungraber executed a varied range of fills in response to the often surprising turns in Van‘s rhythm lines and reinforced the idea that though you can usually have a decent idea of where the band are headed musically, the avenue they take to get there is filled with all kinds of unexpected nuances and detours. It made the newer material I’d never heard before that much more exciting to witness live for the first time.

When they were done, I looked at my watch and it read 11:59PM. For a self-imposed midnight split time, I surmised my evening was over, said a couple quick goodbyes and split out of the Saint Vitus Bar, walking through the bar which had filled up considerably since the last time I’d been out to it — The Giraffes bringing out a hometown crowd, I guessed. Not for me this time. I’ve been doing catchy-song penance ever since with their excellent Dave Catching-produced 2008 outing, Prime Motivator, but back through the Queens Midtown Tunnel, across Manhattan and out to Jersey I went, spitting fury and flavorless chewing gum onto the highway, still feeling like I’d had the quality evening I’d hoped for.

Extra pics after the jump.

Read more »

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New The Giraffes Album Out This Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 23rd, 2011 by JJ Koczan

As far as people who dig The Giraffes go, I’m a pretty sucky fan. I was about two years late to the party on the Brooklyn rockers Dave Catching-produced meisterwerk, Prime Motivator, and I didn’t make it out earlier this year when singer Aaron Lazar played his last show with the band, before bowing out (gracefully, I assume) due to health reasons.

Nonetheless, it’s with nerdy aplomb that I post the following new album news off the PR wire:

Soldiering forth in the wake of the departure of singer Aaron Lazar, The Giraffes announce the release of their latest full-length album The Giraffes Ruled, their second release on Madison, WI-based record label Crustacean Records.

Simply put, The Giraffes Ruled is the band’s epic, their most audacious disc to date.  Dating back to 2008, Ruled was conceived as a grand metaphor for something once mighty slowly dying – be it a country, a love or even a band – suffocating under the weight of lies (“The Bed”), avarice (“The Borders”), broken promises (“The Counter”) and unmet expectations (“The City”).  Fans of the band’s shout-along choruses and brutal rhythms, Lazar’s gravelly croon and razor-sharp wit, and Damien Paris‘ six-string pyrotechnics will find this to be their greatest, most coherent work. Newcomers will have the perfect (and ample) introduction to the band in all their volatile glory.

The Giraffes Ruled was produced by Joel Hamilton, and recorded and mixed at his Brooklyn studios the Bunker and the famous Studio G.

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Buried Treasure Finds its Motivation

Posted in Buried Treasure on August 23rd, 2010 by JJ Koczan

One month ago today (total coincidence), I posted a review of the new Giraffes live album, Show, on Crustacean Records. In case you’re too lazy to click that link, the gist of it was, “Hot damn, I really need to hear the last Giraffes studio album.” Well now I have, and I was right. I did need to hear this record.

Prime Motivator has more in common with Queens of the Stone Age‘s Songs for the Deaf than the color red and production from Dave Catching at Rancho de la Luna in California. The Brooklyn-based Giraffes (and I’ll say again I don’t know what the hell they’re doing in Brooklyn) affect a similar kind of playfulness in their songs. Thinking of a track like “Allergic to Magnets” or the more stoner-ized “Honest Men,” the band is notably tight, but there’s a looseness, an off-the-cuff feel to the songs that just can’t be faked. Vocalist Aaron Lazar‘s croon doesn’t hurt either, either for the comparison or in general.

The absolute highlight, though, is “Medicaid Benefit Appliqué,” track six of the total 13. At just under seven minutes, it’s the longest song on Prime Motivator, but man, if you’ve ever enjoyed the chorus of any song ever, you need to hear this track. It’s immaculate. It slows the pace of the record just when it needs it, has verses that seem to be built around Andrew Totolos crash cymbal, and adds some rock crunch at precisely the right time. If sat down and mapped out the entirety of Prime Motivator and tried to recreate the feel of the song, you wouldn’t be able to do it. This shit needs to just happen. Gorgeous.

But again, get this band out of Brooklyn. Their unabashed affection for what they do runs directly in contrast to the hipper-than-thou indie/irono cock rock that seems to seep from that borough, and their willingness to be heavy, catchy (beyond belief) and still pop-oriented and accessible makes them a better fit for an anything goes town like Chicago or even the muck of Los Angeles, which I’ve no doubt that if they were given the proper opportunity, The Giraffes would be able to rise above. Prime Motivator isn’t even necessarily stoner, it’s just a killer rock record that listening to now, I regret the nearly two full years I haven’t had with it. No time like this time to make up for lost time.

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The Giraffes Put on a Hell of a Show

Posted in Reviews on July 23rd, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Like a lot of people, I first encountered Brooklyn rockers The Giraffes when they released their self-titled album in 2005 on Razor & Tie. To be honest, I didn’t think much of them at the time. Straightforward rock that was decent, good enough songwriting. I kept the album but never really went back to it, never kept up with the band. Out of the blue, half a decade later, the live album Show, released by Wisconsin’s Crustacean Records (celebrating their 15th year), drops on my doorstep and I’m wondering what the hell I’ve let slip my grasp all this time. Not only did Dave Catching – he wasn’t saying goodnight at the end of Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf, he was just saying — produce their last album, 2008’s Prime Motivator, with Joel Hamilton mixing, but more importantly, the songs on show are fucking killer, professional grade rock with attitude to spare. I feel a bit the fool.

The CD/DVD Show, with one disc adorably labeled “Earhole” and one labeled “Eyehole,” compiles 12 songs recorded at Union Pool in Brooklyn last year, playing tracks off the aforementioned Prime Motivator, the self-titled and beyond, igniting a raucous melee the likes of which few bands could. They kill, and as I listen/watch (let’s be honest, mostly listen), I can only wonder what Brooklyn does with this band. I mean, they’re actually rocking, and they’re actually good. In a borough whose music scene is populated by shitbird 20-year-old hipsters playing jagged math rock like they invented it, a band like The Giraffes must stand out like the most kickass herpes ever. On Show, the songwriting is tight, the performances are tight, the band is taking names and there’s no sense of self-conscious irony, no smugness to it. I watched the DVD and their pants aren’t even that tight! Hey guys, you might want to consider moving.

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