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Kim Phuc finally records a full-length

1 Dec

Obviously this is really damn important if I logged in after nearly four months to mention it. My favorite Pittsburgh punks (best riffs, best lyrics, best energy at a show) just put this out:

Copsucker LP on Bandcamp

The new recording of “Prostitute” sounds much more formidable (it’s the only song other than “Black Triangle” and “Wormwood Star” that I’d heard before). Get down with these jams.



6 May

I felt the need the other day to “e-hassle” or rather, chastise someone on the internet for talking shit on Hunx. Then I remembered when Hunx was talking shit on Smith Westerns, for pretty much no reason. Bands do enough shit talking themselves, so why should I care? It’s like when people get mad at others for bringing down their favorite sports team. To be honest, though, I got more annoyed by this person using the term “hipster” in their insult. What is this, 2001? Seriously? At least get creative. But, then again, if people weren’t senselessly calling each other names, we wouldn’t have the modern-day treasure which is Hipster Runoff.


Check out my hipster ride. It was too cold for my Schwinn, so I decided to rev this baby up!

If you follow a pop culture trend, or support some sort of independent music scene, or like bands outside of the mainstream, or buy records from the “cool” part of town, or–god forbid–just ain’t down with The Man…hey, chances are that you have some “hipster” in you. Do you like Reggie Watts? You’re a hipster. Hipsters are just rife with satirical talents. Many hipsters watch Conan, The Daily Show, Cartoon Network, ad nauseum. Many hipsters like well-fitted jeans. Sometimes hipsters wear sunglasses reminiscent of 50s styles. No, Jared. I can’t buy those Ray Bans (that I love so much) because I might be construed as a hipster. Tracy, I realize those are Brooks Brothers frames, but the hipster next door wears a style similar to these and I just cannot be confused as one of his kind. If you don’t want to be mistaken for a hipster, might as well never wear scarves, plaid, well fitting jeans, Vans, beanies, and a whole host of other things.

In any case, the person in question plays in a pretty great-sounding band. Although, I can’t get over how Snyder sounds eerily like Caleb Followill or Jon Fratelli (although neither of them seem to do as good of a falsetto). Actually, I’m pretty sure he sounds like some other dude (see: “I know I wasn’t there/but I want to take you back” in Ride Coach), but I don’t listen to music as often as I used to. Thus, my references are hazy. I used to be able to match guitar riffs up even if they were in a different pitch. Fun ability for someone with very little musical talent, but potentially embarrassing for the songwriters caught in the act. Now I just blog.

Ok time for some tunes:

Just kidding:

1,2,3 – Riding Coach & Work

Blues Explosion at Diesel

9 Aug

review written by Dan Allen
all photos by Alex Giron

The Blues Explosion casually walked onto the stage of Pittsburgh, PA’s Club Diesel on Thursday, July 15th, and immediately started into a fine set of songs, proving to a new generation of fans–who danced and shook side-by-side next to long-time enthusiasts–that one of the best live bands of the 20th century is more than capable of holding the same title well into the 21st. Jon Spencer, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins tore through tunes from every era of the group, effortlessly mixing well-known anthems (“She Said”, “Wail”, “Bellbottoms”) in between their sadly-lesser-known-but-just-as-essential tunes (“High Gear”, “R.L. Got Soul”, “Hell”). As always, some well-chosen covers (Chain Gang’s “Son Of Sam” and Dub Narcotic Sound System’s “Fuck Shit Up”) rounded out the show.

While some attendees mentioned that the house sound at the beginning of the Blues Explosion set was lacking, everything seemed mighty-fine to my ears…then again, I was standing next to a stack of speakers throughout their performance. Technical difficulties with Spencer’s theremin were fixed prior to the end of the evening; the resulting wall of eerie sound filled the room and brought the event to an appropriately ear-blistering conclusion. With recent re-issues of their previously out-of-print material now currently available through fine labels such as In The Red Records and Major Domo, I’m looking forward to seeing the Blues Explosion laying down their distinctive version of distorted rock action on a stage in the very near future.

Icon Gallery sadly had to start playing soon after doors opened, so only a small portion of the crowd were lucky enough to hear songs from their upcoming debut LP on Dear Skull Records. Many bands have tried to mix together influences from punk rock and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but no group has blended those scenes together as successfully, nor with songs as catchy as the ones Icon Gallery creates. Expensive Shit, a new project from Paul Quattrone (drummer of the Modey Lemon and !!! ) and Eric Yeschke (of Raw Blow and Dreadnots) were in the middle of the bill. Their gripping instrumentals, a combination of sampling and live drumming, bridged the rousing sounds of Icon Gallery and the Blues Explosion.

Barbara, track by track

6 Aug

So if you weren’t aware, We Are Scientists will be playing two of my favorite American cities soon with Bad Veins.

Aug. 12th
Record Bar
10 PM, $12, 18+

Aug. 15th
(w/ locals Satin Gum!)
10 PM, $13, 21+

1. Rules Don’t Stop

It’s their first single off the album, and there’s a reason why–the quick tempo, swift guitar picking, funky bass and vocal verses don’t play games when it comes to telling the listener what the deal is. Apparently Rules Don’t Stop We Are Scientists, and that is the extent of what we are told, until we reach the bridge. There, Keith intimates that the rules are meant to put a leash on unacceptable behavior, and he wants none of that. In fact, he tells the listener that breaking the rules isn’t a mistake because it makes us “so damn happy.” Really? If this song is meant to be an anthem, why do the lyrics make me feel so naïve when I sing them (which I inevitably do because the instrumentation is pretty catchy)? And the answer is not, “Because this song is not meant to be an anthem.”

2. I Don’t Bite

Every time I hear this song I feel like Keith might say “It’s pretty clear we’ll get along, it’s pretty clear we’ll get it ON!!!!” but instead he states that he “don’t bite.” My mind is not in the gutter; the clever syntax and rhythm of the line plays me for a fool, as if I should keep singing, and then there’s my freudian slip. Also, notice in the beginning that great finger slide action going on, reminiscent of Under the Sea recordings. Andy’s toms sound very nice during the chorus as well. Unfortunately, Chris’s bass isn’t written as perky as it usually sounds.

3. Nice Guys

I think this song made a good second single, because–even though We Are Scientists might not admit it–Nice Guys panders to fans of their older work by foraging back into pop punk. The song could easily join the ranks of Bomb Inside the Bomb, Secret Handshake, and Easy Kill. Chris’s bassline and Keith’s guitar also combine for a great harmony in the intro, outro, and during the chorus, while Andy beats the shit out of his kit. Keith’s lick during the bridge sounds sweet and continues the urgency of how much the band really “want it more.”

4. Jack & Ginger

If there’s one track off of Barbara that could get on a time machine and tell With Love & Squalor what is up, it’s this song. With the exception of the beeping and “strings” synth layered in the background, in addition to the guitar tone during the chorus, the composition really takes me back–especially when it hits that twelve seconds of frenetic dance-rock goodness towards the end of the song. Jack & Ginger also acts as their ultimate bar romance song to date, though Worth the Wait is a strong contender; this song is a little less depressing than Worth the Wait, however, so I give it the laurels.

5. Pittsburgh

The war-like drums and heavy bass set an intimidating mood for this song, but then Keith sings about sneaky flirting and that ruins it for me. What a “rupture in etiquette,” a real boner kill. I don’t like this song, but everyone else does so I’m not going to write about it. Before I go, though, I’ll slight it some more–the guitar parts are boring. The vocal melodies are too redundant. Also, the way the lyrics are arranged makes me think that the “one thing” is sex, and then I’m all “Oh cool. A shallow song that’s entitled ‘Pittsburgh.’ How disenchanting.” One positive observation I shall admit–this song would probably sound gorgeous if played acoustic, with just a piano.

6. Ambition

This track builds on We Are Scientists’ conceptual songwriting skills by imparting the slight feelings of discomfort and angularity referenced in Keith’s lyrics onto the listener, partially through skewing the pitch of the guitar during the second verse. Chris’s bass takes a sludgy route and his basslines during the bridge have personality. The vocal melody for the chorus disappoints me, once again. The syncopation from the verse just goes there to die.

7. Break It Up

This song reminds me of a continual obsession with video games by acting as the perfect soundtrack for cruising the world map with a naval battalion; it also rewrites themes from This Scene Is Dead by questioning partying if it’s not a means for “[being] up all night.” Bouncy basslines, solid drumming, and little “oohs” spruce up bummer lyrics into the most chipper sounding ditty. The fleeting bass during the chorus doesn’t hurt either.

8. Foreign Kicks

Shares WAS-world with earlier slow rock ballads like “Textbook” and “Spoken For,” but the guitar tone and bobbing bass have a sort of beachside feel to them. Yet, where “Spoken For” changes up the rhythm dramatically and “Textbook” profits from diverse drumming as well as a soulful chorus, “Foreign Kicks” remains as an unassuming creature and doesn’t stand out as much as it could when you take into consideration the talents of the band. I dislike the way the guitar twinkles during the verses and it really pains me to say this, but the vocal harmonies from “The Method” were better. The buildup to the last refrain of the chorus underwhelms me, and then the song ebbs away.

9. You Should Learn

My first thought when I hear this song is, “Why does the guitar have to play the same notes as the vocals during the chorus?” And then during the bridge, Keith plays the same boring riff from where he sings “learn” over and over again, even though I feel like transitional elements should be throwing something new out there. Chris’s bass and Andy’s drumming carry the whole song. With that being said, I still really like it.

10. Central AC

There’s really only one song on Barbara that succeeds at incorporating a great vocal harmony. Coincidentally enough, Central AC also displays the best of Andy Burrows’s drumming ability. Contrary to what Christopher Walken thinks, the triumph results from the three musicians’ concentrated effort at sharing the one hundred and eighty two second limelight, not from the occasional tap of cowbell. The pop-driven chorus, the vocal tempo change (“Hey, let’s take it easy for a night…”), and sweet shredding bring the house down. Hot. Damn.

Before you leave, check out this great live show review: Also, do not take my sourpuss review as an excuse to not see the show. As Abby proves in the link above, We Are Scientists are still a force to be reckoned with.

Blues Explosion hits Pittsburgh

14 Jul

Blues Explosion
w/ Expensive Shit & Icon Gallery
Thursday, July 15th
7 PM, 21+

The artists more commonly known as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion will be playing Diesel this Thursday, as a part of a few tour dates that also hit Pitchfork and Michigan–after which they will be doing some fall dates in California. Although Jon Spencer has not released an album with Blues Explosion in six years, fans still shiver in anxious excitement to see the band’s hybrid style of rock n roll blues; many of the favorable live reviews stem from Spencer’s eagerness to interact with the crowd and his wild, borderline raucous, charisma. Seeing as the band possesses a diverse range of sounds embedded in their instrumentation and an extensive discography, even those who became disappointed with the band’s output after Now I Got Worry will hopefully find their dismay jolted out of them at the show.

photo by Brian Velenchenko

Being previously unfamiliar with the band’s work, the first album I started out with was Orange (after checking out Groovy Hate Fuck by Pussy Galore) and I felt pretty annoyed at myself for brushing off the band after only having heard “Talk About the Blues.” Even from the first track, you get the feeling that Spencer can pretty much sell anything he sings due to the band’s musical chops, his own vocal prowess, and their penchant for having a damn good time. Even though the last track has a cheesy “we’re playing las vegas” ostentatious feel to it, there’s enough of a genuine 70s rock vibe in order for the band to pull it off.

I think that my main gripe with Damage isn’t that the songs are bad, but the popularity for swaggering southern cock rock has grown so much that it is hard to pick out the band’s redeeming qualities from everything else that’s floating around. Despite this, “Crunchy” and “Fed Up and Low Down” still stand out–the former for its poppy goodness and the latter for its retreat into funky powered territory that is intermittently changed up with a careening punk chorus.

Spencer’s more current work in Heavy Trash highlights his musical knowledge in a way that Damage did not; not only is he able to delve into more genres with Matt Verta-Ray–country, blues, rockabilly–the removal of the Blues Explosion brand allows him to write more faceted lyrics as well. The band’s latest record, Midnight Summer Serenade, consolidates production quality, songwriting, and album progression in a manner that’s very addictive. It’s like The King Khan & BBQ Show’s wet dream.

JSBX sampler:

and also: Bedevilment from Heavy Trash’s Midnight Summer Serenade (2009),
Dead Meat from Pussy Galore’s Groovy Hate Fuck (Feel Good About Your Body) LP (1987)

Mariage Blanc talk about records

4 Jul

Here’s a cool little interview done last month from The Vinyl District with Pittsburgh musicians Mariage Blanc, where the fellas talk about the beauty and grace of listening to vinyl records:

TVD’s Four Way | Mariage Blanc

Persian movie screenings in Pittsburgh

19 Jun

After observing the media cloud around Kubideh Kitchen and reflecting on some of my emotions from last summer, I’d like to take a moment to comment on something I enjoyed while I was living in Pittsburgh. The Persian Panthers, which is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh (whose mascot is the panthers, hence the name. This is not a reference to the Black Panthers) have movie nights that take place in Scaife Hall at Carnegie Mellon University. They also screen them during the summers, and this coming Thursday–June 24th–they will be showing Low Heights (2002). I’m not going to disregard the possibility that watching this movie might be really confusing for people who have limited knowledge about Iran’s history as a nation and no knowledge of farsi, but I implore anyone who is curious about Iranian culture to go check this out. Many of the people who partake in these events are great resources themselves and are kind enough to answer basic questions that you may have.

For more info: pso @ andrew dot cmu dot edu
info @ persianpanthers dot org

For more seasoned questioners, the Hunt Library at Carnegie Mellon has many up to date books and publications that outline and analyse the Islamic Republic. Some of the older books at the Hillman Library on the University of Pittsburgh campus are worth browsing, in that they can help explain current foreign policy outlooks of the countries involved in the region. Also, titles can be misleading so if you do decide to run a boolean search, make sure to at least give all the books a glance.

Next time when you are chewing on your kabob sandwich and the arteries in your jaw starting rushing blood to your brain while you feel the surge of spearmint enticing your olfactory senses, you’ll be ahead of the game!