any review that sucks

Jesu/Sun Kil Moon – Jesu/Sun Kil Moon


junkheadv1tmbJesu/Sun Kil Moon – Jesu/Sun Kil Moon

Collaborations are a big deal among the washed up underground rock star crowd. This one features the two main guys from the Red House Painters and Godflesh, albeit with their two post-’90s bands that nobody really cares about.

It’s the typical post-metal/shoe-gaze din, with bloated down-tuned guitars grinding away like the apocalypse happened yesterday and you didn’t even hear about it. Near the middle of the album, there’s a few crappy electronic tracks in a row and all of them are pretty boring. The whole thing struggles to be vaguely ambient with repetitious ten minute romps through the same synth lines, but mostly it comes off as boring and too structured.

The vocals aren’t much better, a shame considering that the Red House Painter guy never shuts the fuck up. He mumbles through spoken word observations on life, touching on various topics including women, life on the road, women, existence, women, and women. I’m guessing Red House Painter guy’s had sex with ten women his whole life and wrote each of the album’s ten stream-of-consciousness gabs about one of them. There’s a lot of nickel-and-dime romantic irony stuck deep in the ’90s, but at least it’s honest.

And that’s the one cool thing about Jesu/Sun Kil Moon: nobody’s lying here. Just two old washed-up indie-rock guys having a few brews and banging out an album. You can even figure out the middle-aged hipster conversations that went on during the production.

“Dude, check out this cool six second loop I made in FL Studios.” “Whoa! Man, loop that for eight minutes and call it quits, I have to stop off at Trader Joe’s and get some Organic Baby Spinach.” “Alright dude. Hey, have you tried their Cookie Butter? That’s my shit right there.”

“Man, I keep thinking about how me and my girlfriend circa 1988 listened to Candy Apple Grey by Husker Du all the time.” “DUUUUUDE, PUT THAT IN THE LYRICS!!!”

“Dude, it’s so hard to come up with good guitar parts when all I can think about is how I still need to grind my own coffee, wash my Miniature Schnauzer with some Purple Urchin soap, and ride my Amsterdam-style bike all about town.” “Whoa, what’d you say man? Sorry, I was spinning my own yarn to make this totally rad fleece. I can’t even imagine not using all natural fibers.”


Micro-Reviewery 4: Lethargic Euphoria, Napalm Ted, etc.


Still even more stuff from the past few weeks that deserves no more than a brief paragraph.


Lethargic Euphoria – Standstill

Black-gaze is a genre so formative that you never really know what to expect from band to band. Lethargic Euphoria has an instrumental style like Ghost Bath for a good while, but the last twenty minutes is like ’90s emo without the whiny vocalists. As a result, I now understand that the only reason I didn’t like ’90s emo was the whiny vocalists.



Remember That You Will Die – Remember That You Will Die

Remembering that these guys will die brings me some solace. Vaguely experimental in nature, all four of these tracks are hampered by their repetitive structure: silly part that recalls another genre, black metal boredom, back to silly part. In order, the sandwiching sections are Depeche Mode gothic, crappy electronica, and Slint-style math rock times two. You’ll barely be able to get past the second track’s intro.



Napalm Ted – Into the Black Ooze EP

Grindish blast from Finland, the high points are definitely the punkiest parts, which all die near the four minute mark of this twelve minute short play. After that, there’s way too much death metal in the mix, featuring a lot of that awful dun-dun-CHUG dun-dun-CHUG riff.



Porreria – Noise Carnage EP

Weird noisecore album. First couple tracks are inaudible digital garble with a couple shrieks, breaking into a much more conventional grind noise sound. Rather than laying into power chords, the guitarist does a lot of high-pitched noodling with some dexterous finger randomness. When mixed with the ultra tinny cymbal sound and the vocalists shrill BLAH-BLAH-BLAHs, this can get pretty grating, but at least it’s something I haven’t heard. Pretty unique for such a worn-out genre.






ayholev1tmbRicky Warwick – When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues) and Hearts On Trees

Ricky Warwick is busy. He is apparently always recording and touring with multiple bands, including Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders. Him and and Sam Robinson’s new double album is split into band rock and roll and intimate acoustic feels.

The first LP starts off real good with classic anthemic Irish rock. The title track sounds boring at first but keeps going in the same direction until the listener becomes interested. Shove enough nostalgia down someone’s ear canal and they’ll miss Hank Williams, too. “That’s Where the Story Ends,” is a good cowboy rock with some decent spring reverb on the vocals and trumpets on the hooks. However, things take a turn with “The Son of the Wind,” which attempts to take to add a hard edge. Immediately after is track nine, which is okay simply because it has dual guitar hooks and an okay song structure. “Yesteryear” takes it back to basic rock and roll and is a semi-autobiographical piece about how life is what you make it. Sans the speed bumps on track 8 and 9, this LP is great old-fogey high energy rock and roll. Have I mentioned this is rock and roll enough?

The second LP has mostly singer-songwriter material. Ricky pours his heart out, per the usual, over four chords. He maintains a decent variety of sounds, as he should being as old and skilled as he is. It’s refreshing that each song has different material to it. The title track and the tracks after are, sonically, faster and more entertaining than the first three.

Of the bonus tracks, “The Whiskey Song,” low energy Irish pub rock, is the only mildly entertaining one on the first LP, and “Love Owes” and ” I Can See My Life (From Here)” have some cool lyrical imagery. The other bonus tracks are boring and difficult to focus on. I blame the melodies.

Warwick keeps things rockin’ and real on this Northern Irish release. You can get the double CD from Amazon for less than the MP3’s.

SOTO – Divak


junkheadv1tmbSOTO – Divak

I was really, really excited about this album. Jeff Scott Soto should be a class act, having lent his talents to Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Shenker, Axel Rudi Pell, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. After decades of rockin’, why hasn’t he been elevated to legend status?

Divak is a woefully pathetic answer to my question. Based on his pedigree, you’d figure this would be an epic, pompous slice of melodic rock. All the trimmings should be there, tuneful guitars, high-pitched vocals, the works.

Instead, SOTO sounds like Nickelback. Jeff Scott Soto puts on his best Chad Kroeger impersonation and lets it rip. I’ve never listened to Nickelback outside of whatever they play at Meijer when you’re looking for adult diapers, so I put my investigative journalist hat on to see if SOTO really was Canadian rock clonery.

I picked a random sample of Nickelback’s popular albums: Silver Side Up, All The Right Reasons, and Here and Now. All of them are pretty indebted to ’80s hard rock, but they’re way, way too polished. The hooks are never that good, a little too informed by grunge for comfort. They’re all calculated for mass radio support and lack any sort of soul as a result.

So yeah, that’s Divak.




ayholev1tmbBirdy – Beautiful Lies

Loose rhymes about longing, basic back beat with overbearing floor tom, super short verse fragments lasting half a breath, late 2000’s shoegaze ripoff delayed reverb, and Florence and the Machine ripoff singing. Putting all of these together seems like a bad idea, but it works out great for Birdy on a no-surprise, highly anticipated, among the hip community, third studio album, Beautiful Lies, by the girl with the long name. Bongaerde is associated with huge success and it’s no secret why: she knows what the people want. But she also wants to write good music.

One might not personally be into this kind of music, which is a combination of Mumford and Sons and Adele, and one might also say this sounds like the garbage that’s all over the radio, and one would be right by me on both accounts. However, this album is actually good because it is listenable and still meets the qualifications for radio airplay, most of it anyway. It’s unpacking time.

The album starts out in a positive direction with a very eastern sounding intro, but then contrived back beats take over but not in a way that would make one want to shut it off. One will also take note that the lyrical content is strong and positive in a millennial fashion. One might wonder if Birdy would support Bernie for president?

After the intro, the songwriter comes out in full force and writes some good ol’ fashioned, uh, songs. You know, the kind people write, not machines. “Lost it all” is arpeggiated soft piano with some cool not too forced singing on top and the lyrics pick up the pace on “Silhouette,” a piece about some deep symbolic relationship between her darkest and unknown dreams and the hard plastic shell surrounding all of us that hides our secret life inside it, inside the shell called skin.

There are blips of rave and electronic atmosphere, but the majority of the album sounds like real instruments, which one might listen to and say, “What are these unfiltered and unadulterated sounds? They sound real.” One can hope her voice is real as well.

Given the majority of the lyrical content is about striving and pushing through heartbreak and typical things that radio listeners let others think about for them, “Unbroken” has some great insight about time being an unavoidable obstacle but also a guide in life.

The title track is the shortest track, but has some of the best melodies and songwriting. Probably the best track and the last track.

Deluxe tracks are a snore worth avoiding.

Did I mention Birdy is freakin 19? No. Because it’s downright unbelievable. If I was back in high school, I would gladly rip down my Brittany Spears poster and replace it with a Birdy. If you can stomach music that doesn’t feature blistering guitar riffs, thumping double bass, and screaming heroin-inspired old man vocals, this Beautiful Lies is well worth a listen.

Brünndl – Brünndl


junkheadv1tmbBrünndl – Brünndl

In the world of metal, a little sense of melody goes a long way. All the NWOBHM bands understood this, and that’s what made them such an enduring influence on metal across the world. Nothing beats a memorable riff, an afterthought vocal line, and a driving beat.

Few other genres can really nail this combination, which makes Brünndl so bizarre. The album was simply labeled pagan black metal, which made me assume it was going to be the standard tremolo-guitar blast beat orgasm. While black metal is easily the strongest influence on their debut, there’s a lot more going on under the hood.

Out of the blue, the songs will effortlessly shift into standard rock beats. The vocalist randomly starts doing one of those folky wails, and the guitars start playing discernible riffs. You’ll start tapping your toe, and then you’ll start moving your head. Then, out of nowhere, you’ll realize you’re on full-out gonzo metalhead mode, spitting blood from your mouth and air-guitaring this shit until the walls cave in. And finally, when the riff’s about to grow tired and return you to reality, the whole switches up again and you get all hyped to slaughter some more goats and rub them all over your effigies of Vlad Tepes.

The only real way to understand is to do a thorough analysis, so take “Magaan”. It starts with black metal, twists into a folk-metal crawl, returns to black metal, turns into a sea-shanty, and ends up as melodic barroom death metal complete with a shrieked oi ending every verse.

It’s all over the place, but none of the seams show. They don’t bat an eye, like they’re veterans who’ve churned this stuff out for decades. I think Brünndl’s rockin’ attack will have a longer shelf life than the blackgaze and post-black atmosphere trends. While eventually artsy-fartsy dudes with face paint always go out of style, dudes with face paint who rock the fuck out will live forever.


Micro-Reviewery 3: Ceifador, After the Burial, Blood Ceremony, etc.


Even more stuff from the past few weeks that deserves no more than a brief paragraph.


Ceifador – Heavy Metal 666

A lot of people forget that Brazil is one of the biggest d-beat countries in the history of punk. Even their thrash just ends up sounding like Discharge: fast, repetitive, and totally awesome. You’d assume these guys are punks who think putting Heavy Metal and 666 in their album title will give them instant international appeal, but they draw heavily from Bathory and Venom in terms of gutter slime sound. That’s a good thing.



After the Burial – Dig Deep

This band sucks. Half the time they sound like In Flames and half the time they sound like Meshuggah. They don’t even bother meshing the sounds, it’s just one or the other. I’d say you’re better off making a mixtape of your favorite In Flames and Mesuggah songs, but they suck, too.



Blood Ceremony – Lord of Misrule

Listening to new music has quickly put stoner rock into my no-no category. There’s so much crappy drugged-out hippie shit coming out, it’s getting difficult to really follow along. I swear to God, if I discover another band with a name like Acid Yeti, I’m going to puke all over their souls, causing their souls to get grossed out and vomit some of their own ecto-spew, causing all sorts of spectral anomalies. If you think that description’s trippy-cool, then you really ought to Blood Ceremony. It’s like a metal version of Jefferson Starship’s or HP Lovecraft’s good songs with lots and lots of flutes. Crisp and clean metal for the sober psych fan, even if most tracks overstay their welcome.



Mordbrand – Hymns Of The Rotten

How can people stand this shit? Vanilla death metal’s just bad, and Mordbrand’s “best-of” does nothing to change my wise and objective opinion. At least they don’t use blast beats.



Fillwithlight – ???

I was looking really hard for a lo-fi folk album in the spirit of The Mountain Goats or some other crappy band. Two decades after the height of said awful genre, I was figuring it got better. Instead, we have this nameless, faceless album that tries to break itself up into four pieces using German words for different seasons and act all great about it’s non-existent concept. Why are the titles German? So half the audience will just look at your song titles and drool and pick their nose and not give a shit? What does it matter when all the tracks sound the same? Herbst isn’t more balls out rockin’ than Sommer or anything, and when a lo-fi album is twenty-seven minutes and feels three epochs long, it’s just a poser piece of trash devoid of any creativity. This guy better watch out, because the hackneyed garbage police are going to come to his door some day, drag him into the street, beat him senseless with a mallet, and shoot him like the dog he is with one of those enormous cartoon rocket launchers.

Be sure to check out the album here.




ayholev1tmbThe 1975 -I like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It

The 1975 are a popular “rock” band from Cheshire that play electropop. Their newest album, previously named and henceforth referred to by the acronym ILIWYSFYASBYSUOI, charted number one in both UK and US last month.

The majority of the album sounds early 90’s late 80’s in that layering. Although the band uses a lot of sweet effects on their guitars, the majority of the identifiable sounds are synth sounds. The majority of the beats are soul and R&B inspired. Thick and rolled-up vocals from a myriad of guest singers cover the furniture. Each side appears to be themed.

Side A features pop, funk, and dancy rhythms. Side B is very introspective. Side C is about “love” and “somebody,” at least that seems to be the two most used words. The final side starts off with a slammin smooth jazz saxophone solo and then has three mega depressing songs about life being screwed up.

Side A’s coolest part is the wobbly synth melody which occurs in “A Change of Heart.” This track feels like it sounds the way the band wanted it, a little artistic and fun. The downside is track 2 and 3 sound like the same song different chorus. Even the words are similar enough for it to feel like verse 2 and 3, which would not be an issue if the music was substantially different.

Side B starts with a gospel inspired tune, “If I Believe You,” in which Healy regrets believing some bologna Dogma (pronounced phonetically) that has scarred him. For the record, a free gift is no strings attached. Only a liar sells freedom at a price. This track features a flugelhorn.

“Lost My Head,” is a shoegaze song with four lines repeated for 5 minutes, making it an instant favorite.

Side C is back to the dance music. “Loving Someone,” embodies the theme and features very modern synth sounds over cool chord progressions. Musically it is one of the most sound tracks, lyrically it is a little annoying due to gimmicky cliche’s that I both respect and despise. The title track is a six and a half minute techno song.

The final side has that cool sax solo and three songs that make Europe sound terrifying. The final track, “She lays down,” sounds like it was recorded on a hand-held and is just guitar and voice.

As for bonus tracks, the Target deluxe edition features digital download codes for “How to Draw,” a soundscape with the strongest lyrics of all, and a demo of “A Change of Heart,” less cloudy and more dynamic. The dynamics of electropop albums are often little to non-existent, and that is another thing that the band might want to think about for the next album.

All in all, it is difficult to hate ILIWYSFYASBYSUOI. There is a lot of thought out content and the 1975 know exactly what their fans want. The instrumentation is redundant at times but never boring, though it feels like a concept album got put in a blender. I appreciate lyricists that are able to be real and still keep it artistic and Healy and the gang push the envelope a little bit in both of those areas.

Boris with Merzbow – Gensho


junkheadv1tmbBoris with Merzbow – Gensho

Japanese freaks Boris have reinvented their sound one too many times. My girlfriend and I saw them during their Heavy Rocks 2011 tour, and they played all their awesome stoner rock classics. The band was hyped, the crowd was hyped, and it was worth every dollar I spent to get the tickets. All eighteen of them. Elated after the experience, I nabbed two discs that had just come out. One was straight J-pop, and the other really wonky shoegaze. Boris makes great drone, doom, stoner, and noise boom, but not garbage disposal pop. I swore off the band, never to return. Until now.

Honestly, this collaboration is probably the worst time to come back. Merzbow is easily the most boring high-profile noise artist ever. Crappy laptop bzzzzzt is the name of the game, and that’s about an hour of this release. Merzbow’s portion is meant to be played in tandem with the Boris part, but you could mix anything else and it would be way more entertaining. Boris with Fleetwood Mac. Boris with N*Sync. Boris with Englebert Humperdink.

Fuck Merzbow.

Boris’s side is pretty meaty. Most of the tracks are new versions of older songs, played loud, slow, and almost exclusively with soaring guitars. It’s another shoegaze assault, but the lack of a rhythm section and light noise touches keep everything anti-pop enough to hold interest.

Still, a lot of tracks still totally blow. “Resonance” contains two minutes of pure digital silence, something the Melvins did better twenty plus years ago, while “Vomitself” sneaks in a bunch of Merzbow laptop bzzzzzt. The best track ends up being the My Bloody Valentine cover.

So yeah, fuck Boris too.

A very high D+

Lords of the Black – II


junkheadv1tmbLords of the Black – II

A lot of stuff on Frontiers Records wants to sound like Ronnie James Dio and doesn’t, especially since his death in 2010. In particular, Jørn Lande is constantly labelled “The New Dio” by fans and critics despite never really sounding like him at all. Even all of Dio’s original solo bandmates got their geriatric asses up long enough to form Last in Line, releasing a lame album last month. It all comes off as bogus. Frontiers might think these artists are all paying homage, but really they’re a gratuitous attempt to capitalize on the absence of a metal luminary.

Lords of the Black is not one of those bands. They’re a pitch perfect replication of Dio, with mammoth riffs, catchy choruses, and a perfect balance of fast and mid-tempo sections. Singer Ronnie Romero is probably the best Ronnie James rip-off in the business. A cover of the Dio-sung Rainbow classic “Lady of the Lake” was probably added to the album for comparison’s sake: the world’s greatest vocal forensic scientists could spend decades trying to uncover how Romero managed to steal Dio’s vocal cords and implant them into his own throat.

One’s the illusion of mimicry wears off, the tracks start blending together and many tracks go on far past the six minute mark. Unlike Dio, Lords of the Black has no idea how to make an awesomely absurd metal ballad, forcing them to all-out rock for the full hour run-time. It wears thin quickly, but in short one or two track spurts, they keep the blood pumping and your devil horns growing.