May 1st, 2020

Cumgirl8 – Cumgirl8 (muddguts records)

So we’re in week 317 of quarantine, and if you’re anything like me, your ambition is starting to wane a bit.  Maybe the living room is getting cluttered, or the sink is full of dishes.  Maybe you haven’t showered in a day… or two… or whatever, we don’t judge here.

The point is, things are a bit messy right now.  And cumgirl8’s self-titled cumgirl8 EP is the perfect embodiment of that messy, filthy, dirty side that is coming (cumming?) out in all of us.

cumgirl8 is fronted by Veronika Vilim, who made the familiar jump from model to punk band frontwoman.  The vocals are rough, but in the way that they should be: with such messy guitars and drums behind, a classically-trained singer would sound out-of-place.

It was difficult for me to get into most tracks, as they tend to skew toward a ridiculous level of disjointedness.  “Blue Planet” (a song about planetary colonization?) and “Waffles” (a song about breakfast foods?) aren’t bad, but neither one hits my wheelhouse – and the rest dive too far into insanity without providing a rope to pull out if it.  Definitely check it out if it’s your thing, though.

FFO: Surfbort, Death Valley Girls

Boston Manor – GLUE (Pure Noise Records)

Wow. Search for this record and hit play. Immediately you are hit with a wave of solid energy, bursting forth from a speaker that simply cannot contain it. 

This British quintet is ostensibly a “punk” outfit. But to limit them to a label would be doing a disservice. Calling them punk would detract from the melodic hardcore elements, the explosive electronic industrial components, the emo undertones, and the occasional track segment that would fit into any late ‘90s rock mix. 

The first 2 songs on the record are an unfiltered eruption of angst and fury reminiscent of Atari Teenage Riot or The Bronx, cranked until the audio is peaking and blistered. But those are followed up by tunes that emote with the passion of (a much louder) Sense Field or Duncan Sheik. The hybridized electronic-influenced hard rock throughout GLUE would make Trent Reznor and Mike Patton proud. 

The fractal, slightly broken audio quality of the production is a potent tool to keep the listener on edge. Sawblade guitars and ever-changing vocals create a sort of vertigo that keeps you guessing. It’s jarring, but in the same way that a good thriller flick will engage every fiber of your being. They exchange effortlessly between open-hearted sweetness and outright rage, and the music is in lock-step with the vocals to create a truly elemental experience. This is a whirlwind, and I mean that in the absolute best possible sense. 

FFO: My Chemical Romance and  Skeleton Key and Queens of the Stone Age, but all rolled into one. 

Chicano Batman – Invisible People (ATO Records)

Chicano Batman’s lead vocalist, Bardo Martinez, has a voice that you will swear that you’ve heard before.  Maybe he’s that guy from that one band?  You know, the one that sings the song that goes “da-da-daaaaa, duh-duh-da-da-deeeeee”?  Yeah, that guy!

I can assure you that Bardo Martinez is probably not that guy.  What he is, however, is extremely talented and entertaining – to the point where I wished for more from him and the other members in the band.

The album Invisible People is funky, soulful, and full of enjoyable instruments, with solid vocals to match.  It’s fine.  Good, even!  But I immediately got the sense that the group was restrained – nay, constrained – from achieving their true potential.  There always seemed to be something, just out of frame, holding the album back.  Lyrically, vocally, instrumentally… I wanted a bit more throughout.  That may seem like an insult, but it’s the reverse: it’s a declaration of how talented I can tell this group really is.  Chicano Batman inadvertently set the bar high, and they unfortunately didn’t make it over – but the end result is delightful nonetheless.

For proof of what Chicano Batman is capable of, look no further than their previous release, the 2017 album Freedom Is Free.  From that album, the tracks “Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)”, “La Jura” and “Run” give you an idea of what Invisible People could be.  The title track and “The Prophet” are the best of the bunch on Invisible People, but neither one is a true sock-knocker.

You better believe I’ll be giving Chicano Batman another try when they have another release.  I’ll be trawling through their older works for more gems in the meantime.

FFO: Tame Impala, Mild High Club

JoJo – good to know (Clover Records)

Consider that JoJo, born Joanna Noëlle Levesque, turns 30 in December – and then feel bad if you are an old like me. Despite having been in the public eye for what seems like forever, she’s still in her 20s.  It’s rare to see someone start so young, experience so much success so quickly, and still be relevant many years later.  It’s even more rare to see it happen without the House of Mouse as a springboard.

(Fun fact: JoJo was actually offered a part on Hannah Montana after her first album, the eponymous JoJo, but she turned it down.)

good to know is a sign that JoJo knows the formula, as well as how that formula has changed over time.  Her voice is decidedly more mature, more nuanced and layered, as is wont to happen when you drop your first album over 15 years ago.  But she’s a veteran in the game too, and she knows well enough that she doesn’t have to do all things to be successful here.  This is an R&B album through and through, but she doesn’t need to have the huge vocal crescendos.  She also doesn’t need to have a ton of featured artists, with the track “Comeback” (Tory Lanez and 30 Roc) being the only one with anyone else on it.

JoJo lets her hair down lyrically as well.  She comes off as fierce, brash, profane, and wholly unapologetic – as a 29-year-old should!  The words come off as real and sincere, without the angst and melodrama that can very easily pervade tracks of this nature.  Her delivery varies pleasingly throughout, from a traditional singing voice (“Man”, “Pedialyte”) to a quicker, near-rap melodic delivery (“Gold”, “Comeback”).  None of that detracts from the smoothness inherent in her voice at any time, though, and that makes all of her different styles work.

This is a solid, if unambitious, release, but one that won’t disappoint.  good to know is the perfect album to file away for a gloomy day to just chill to… or vibe to… or whatever those crazy 20-somethings are doing these days.

FFO: Lauren Jauregui, Dinah Jane

Devil Doll – Lover & A Fighter (Colleen Duffy)

In the realm of gothic-style country-jazz-punk, you have so many options to choose from. You’ve got…wait, I can do this…

Ok, there’s no one like this. Imagine a grease-punk pin-up crooning about heartbreak, finding sexy salvation, and tales of personal apocalypse. Imagine Shirley Manson belting out a Joan Jett tune with Patsy Cline and The Necromantix

The term ‘genre-bending’ doesn’t do Lover & A Fighter justice. The album is front-woman Colleen Duffy returning to the stage after a laundry-list of debilitating medical conditions. I can’t do the story the credit it deserves, but luckily, Colleen has done that already. You can read the whole thing here: Her words are sometimes hard to digest, but worth the read. 

The songs on this album tell a number of stories, but all deal in hope, a primary focus of her own tale. The only track that seems seriously out of place is a cover of Skynyrd’s classic, “Simple Man”. I’d rather hear her sing it than anyone else, but it feels weird alongside the rest of the songs. Her version of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” is much more at home, complete with trumpet solo. The most honest moments on the record are the clear front-runners, though. “Save Me A Seat” puts a spotlight on personal revelation in a way that’s easy to identify with and “Ballad of the Rearview Mirror”, performed with fellow junkyard outlaw Charlie Overbey, is a strong argument for moving on from whatever history is haunting you. 

I’ve never been a huge fan of much psychobilly, but I might be a convert. 

FFO: Imelda May, The Horrorpops

Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes (OVO/Republic)

Drake is Drake. Whether we like it or not. You pretty much know exactly what you’re getting into when you start up one of his records. 

Actually, I will slightly rescind that statement. The first 2 tracks on this mixtape have the Degrassi alum RAPPING. I know, right? He took a break from his lazy, auto-tuned, Canadian quasi-mumbling to show us what he’s actually capable of. 

It’s ok. Not great. But it shows that he is occasionally willing to give an effort. 

Then on track 3, he reverts to everything that we are already familiar with. It’s hard to be mad at a dude finding a formula that works. I mean, “Toosie Slide” is now his 3 tune to debut at #1 on the Hot 100, despite the fact that I have already forgotten it and every track on this collection has the same. damn. beat. 

What I’m getting at is this: go ahead and listen if you were gonna anyhow. If you weren’t, don’t feel obligated.

Man Man – Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between (Sub Pop)

There are not enough intoxicants in existence for this record to make sense. It’s a Tim Burton fever-dream filtered through Mark Lanegan’s absinthe-riddled colon, boiled down into a psychotropic ink used to pen Urge Overkill’s version of Sgt. Pepper

I really want to tell you what any of the songs are “about”, but that would imply that I could figure that out. One song “feels like a 2×4 trying to escape the floor” (“Future Peg”), while another describes a “priest from the sticks” finding and fellating Satan (“The Prettiest Song in the World”). It’s enough to give Dr. Demento a coronary. And just to add a sort of “how’s your father” touch…2 tracks featuring Rebecca Black

The messed up part of it is that the album is completely, absurdly and terrifyingly alluring. The music is a circus sideshow of groovy saxophone parts, pizzicato guitar pieces, the caress of a piano and the husky voice of a lovable lunatic. Maybe I’m a sucker for theatre of the absurd, but I can’t seem to peel myself away from this. Apparently Man Man is right and “It’s all a game of Heaven and Hell and I am just a rubbernecker”. 

FFO: Ritual Space Travel Agency, The Unicorns, They Might Be Giants, Ben Folds (on MDMA)

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