August 27, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Grooms with Hooray For Earth | ICA, Boston | 22 Aug.

[PHOTOS: Quinn Banford, special to Clicky Clicky] In a perfect world, Brooklyn-based dream-pop concern Grooms would be a band on a massive upswing. We hate to classify them as "underrated," as we wish continued success for them and every other act we ramble on about on the Clicky Clicky-sphere, but the Azerrad-approved touring threesome's colossal 2013 LP Infinity Caller failed to breech the overground despite critical acclaim and even a nod from Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis. New York synth-rockers Hooray For Earth had the band join them on tour for close to a month this summer, including a penultimate stop in Boston Friday night for the similarly penultimate evening of the Institute for Contemporary Arts' current Wavelengths series, which has also featured, among others, the legendary Dean Wareham and notable electronic artist André Obin.

When we last checked in on Grooms in October, they were headlining a tour supporting the aforementioned Infinity Caller. At the ICA Friday the act revisited a few tunes from the collection, including a particularly vital take on "Lion Name," but focused primarily on delivering new tunes from an as-yet-unreleased new record that has been teased in various social media posts. These newer tunes retain and build upon the things we've come to love most about Grooms: the precise, almost prose-like lyrics of fronter Travis Johnson, inventive and atmospheric guitar interplay and a steady rhythmic approach, which taken together plays at times like a smart, modern take on the sound proffered by Kitchens Of Distinction decades ago. Tunes we know and love, like the Infinity Caller highlight "Very Very Librarian," mixed well with Grooms' newer compositions and made for a more than satisfying opening set. Purchase Infinity Caller from Western Digital right here; two tracks from the record are embedded below.

Hooray For Earth's headlining set affirmed the quartet's status as a big-time and pop-friendly indie rock band. While sound problems hampered momentum early on, the band found its footing in plenty of time to deliver a strong performance, and even had a cool visual display going on the ICA's roof. Tracks from the act's recently released Racy, which minimizes the dancier outliers of its debut in favor of a more guitar-charged attack, rang out into the summer night and elicited the strongest reactions from the crowd. Racy was issued by Dovecote Records July 29, and it can be purchased right here; stream the bouncy single "Keys" via the Soundcloud embed below. The show, held out of doors at the ICA, was an all-around delight, and we can only hope the ICA brings Wavlengths back in 2015. -- Dillon Riley

Grooms: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Previous Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was | Grooms with Young Adults, Chandeliers, Vegans | Great Scott | 9 Oct.
Young Adults, Grooms, Ovlov and Soccer Mom | Great Scott, Boston | 11 July

August 26, 2014

Premiere: Big Mess' Pummeling You Are My Sunshine

Big Mess -- You Are My Sunshine

We are pleased to premiere for you today the majestic and gritty debut full length from Lowell, Mass. and Boston-based trio Big Mess. You Are My Sunshine touts six monolithic instrumentals. And while there are no vocals on the three-year-old threesome's set, that does not mean its music is not lyrical. Indeed, the imaginative shifts from spare to saturated give You Are My Sunshine something like a narrative flow. We've seen the descriptors "doom" and "metal" tagged to the music of Big Mess, but the trio's writing is at once too melodic and too graceful to really fit those adjectives well. Sure, aesthetically certain elements of those styles are present here -- in Olivia Close's gut-rumbling bass and more generally the flattening weight of the act's favored mid-tempo battery -- but the more melodic passages of songs like "Headbone" and the playful (but poky) bounce to the curiously titled "Pounding Piss Touch" give the proceedings a pleasantly slack overtone, as well. The trio may be at its most thrilling as it pursues its most minimal tendencies: the final half of closer "New World Order Blues" works a totally sick, Shellac-esque groove with a single note repeated before returning through a tight feedback portal to an earlier motif.

You Are My Sunshine was recorded in July 2013 at Dead Air Space with Will Killingsworth, whose name we mention again here because we continue to encounter it in the credits of great records. This particular record will be released by Midnight Werewolf Sept. 16 in a limited edition of 300 multicolored 12" vinyl records; the set is also available as a digital download, and both the visceral and the virtual versions can be pre-ordered right now via the Midnight Werewolf Bandcamp wigwam right here. The threesome also intends to sell a self-released cassette version. Big Mess embarks on an ambitious month-long U.S. tour beginning Sept. 2, and all dates are listed below. At press time some of those dates lack a venue name, but we expect if you ask a punk in any of those various locales it won't take you long to ascertain the 20 of the show in your town. With all that said, we invite you to get your Tuesday off to an earth-shaking start by hitting the embed below and taking your first listen to You Are My Sunshine. Fans take note: despite the Sept. 16 release date, Midnight Werewolf tells us that Big Mess will have copies of the LP with them from the very beginning of the tour (WHAT UP ALBANY), so start saving those nickels.

Big Mess: Bandcamp | Facebook | Tumblaahhhhh

08.29 -- Boston, MA -- O'Brien's Pub
09.02 -- Albany, NY -- The Shred Shack
09.03 -- Mansfield, OH -- Relax, It's Just Coffee
09.04 -- Athens, OH -- The Smiling Skull
09.05 -- Bloomington, IN -- The Cream
09.06 -- Chicago, IL -- Bric A Brac Records
09.07 -- Kansas
09.08 -- TBA
09.09 -- Salt Lake City, UT
09.10 -- Boise, ID -- Bouquet
09.11 -- Portland, OR -- Foggy Notion
09.12 -- Eugene, OR
09.13 -- Northern CA
09.14 -- Stockton, CA -- The Bus Stop
09.15 -- Oakland, CA
09.16 -- San Francisco, CA -- Neck of the Woods
09.17 -- Santa Barbara, CA -- Biko's Garage
09.18 -- Santa Barbara, CA -- 5. 4. 3. 2. FUN
09.19 -- Anaheim, CA -- The Doll Hut
09.20 -- Los Angeles, CA -- House Show
09.21 -- Phoenix, AZ -- The Trunk Space
09.22 -- Santa Fe, NM
09.23 -- Austin, TX -- The Lost Well
09.24 -- New Orleans, LA
09.25 -- Murfreesboro, TN -- Rack City
09.26 -- Asheville NC -- The Mothlight
09.27 -- NC
09.28 -- Richmond, VA
09.29 -- Silver Springs, MD -- Joe's Record Paradise
09.30 -- Philadelphia, PA
10.01 -- Purchase, NY -- SUNY Purchase
10.02 -- Portsmouth, NH -- Red Door

August 22, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: The Dirty Nil with Greys, Sneeze, Blessed State | O'Brien's Pub | 20 Aug.

The Dirty Nil, Aug. 20, O'Brien's Pub, Boston, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: The Dirty Nil by Dillon Riley] Nothing like a good redemption story, yeah? Wednesday night's Canadian-guitar-slinger-heavy lineup at O'Brien's in Allston Rock City featured Ontario garage rockers The Dirty Nil, who were in town with tourmates/province-mates Greys. Not that either act in particular need redemption, but after a burger-flavored disaster in February, The Dirty Nil surely must have been grateful to finally bring the rock to Boston. We can report that the rock in question was brought, and most steadfastly. The good guys win!

Just this week The Dirty Nil unleashed a two-sided, 7" piece of media via Fat Wreck Chords, and the platter offers a tidy summation of the trio's quick-hit sound. Layers of thick, fuzzy chords and chunky bass lines surround frenetic, short-burst drum fills, while fronter Luke Bentham's unpolished vocals erratically swell into full-throated screams. The Nil deployed both new tunes Wednesday, with A-side "Cinnamon" even eliciting a bit of a sing-a-long among the crowd during its infectious chorus. Elsewhere, the band blasted through some hardcore-influenced and newer (at least to these ears) tunes, as well as few numbers from its scattered short-form oeuvre. The song that struck hardest was "Wrestle You To Hüsker Dü," whose in-the-pocket groove afforded Mr. Bentham the opportunity to let loose with some rock-star stage heroics. Bonus points go to bass player Dave Nardi and his impassioned anti-Tasty Burger rant and related "Fuck Tasty Burger" chant. Not that we wish the burger vendor any ill will, but we do like to see rabble being roused now and then. We've embedded both "Cinnamon" and its flip "Guided By Vices" below, and fans can purchase the 7" or MP3s of same from Fat Wreck Chords right here.

Carpark Records signees Greys closed out the show with its own brand of hyperkinetic post-hardcore fury. Playing tunes mostly from its recently released and blistering debut LP If Anything, the quartet did an immaculate job of replicating the tumescent, near-claustrophobic sound of the record on O'Brien's relatively small stage. Greys wasted no time getting to the should-be-hits, jumping from the buzz-sawing "Use Your Delusion" straight into its fireball LP-opener "Guy Picciotto" and then "Pretty Grim" without missing a beat. Other tunes from the record meshed nicely led up to a well-timed and well-received cover of Mission Of Burma's colossal rocker "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate," making for a thrilling end to an excellent night of music. Carpark issued If Anything in June, and would be quite pleased to sell you a copy in one or more of a variety of formats that can be considered right here.

Local superfuzz maestros Sneeze batted second slinging tunes off its powerful sophomore LP Wilt as well as a handful of yet-to-be recorded tunes slated for a forthcoming release which the trio claimed would be in the public sphere in "a year or two." The more we listen, the better Wilt sounds, and the same can be said for each live show we catch from the trio; buy Wilt from Glory Kid right here. Rising Western Mass. punx Blessed State -- which features at least one former member of erstwhile progressive beard-core foursome They And Their Children -- opened the night with tunes taken from its well-received debut full-length Head Space, which can be purchased here. -- Dillon Riley

August 19, 2014

Today's Hotness: The Hush Now, Brunch

The Hush Now -- Sparkle Drive (detail)

>> Boston dream-pop institution The Hush Now disclosed late last week that it will self-release its long-awaited fourth full-length, Sparkle Drive, next month. The act, now operating as a quartet, has issued to the wilds of the Internet an appropriately sparkling preview track, the mid-tempo strummer "Arthur Come On, Really You Can't Be Serious." The tune gives lead guitarist Adam Quane a turn at the microphone; long-time fans will remember Mr. Quane's vocal debut with The Hush Now was on the jaunty bouncer "Cameraphone," which graced the band's terrific third LP Memos, which we reviewed here in 2011. "Arthur Come On, Really You Can't Be Serious" carries Quane's characteristic quavering vocal and is anchored by rich bass tones and layer upon melodic layer of the band's big guitars. As strong as "Arthur" is, it isn't even the best Quane-sung tune on Sparkle Drive; the album opens with the darker, more ethereal composition "Panda" --which touts a spectacular, glistening outro in its final minute -- which we think will connect strongly with fans when the album is released Sept. 23. The Hush Now has been quiet, but not entirely quiet, in the three years since the release of Memos. Among other things, readers will recall founder Noel Kelly picked up his guitar to write a response to the Boston Marathon bombings, and more recently he memorably covered Neil Young's "Motion Pictures" to promote a show over the summer. Information about a proper Sparkle Drive release show has not yet been revealed, but you can watch the band's Facebook outpost for further bulletins. In the meantime, stream "Arthur Come On, Really You Can't Be Serious" via the Soundcloud embed below.

>> The Internerds went all aflutter a couple weeks back with the news that Krill's dearly departed drummer Luke Pyenson had joined a band in London, that the band was good, and that the quartet had a pretty great song in the fuzzy gem "Sea Toad." All of the above is, in fact, true. But by the time Brunch -- that's the name of the band -- dropped its self-titled debut EP last week, much of the Internerds had already moved on. Which is too bad, because it turns out *all* of the noise-pop upstarts' EP is terrific. "Sea Toad" is a fine calling card, yes, flexing scritchy riffage under a high and lonesome lead guitar and fronter Sean Brook's pliable and evocative baritone. However, the best tune of the short stack is its anthemic centerpiece "Tidal Wav." The tune touts an oversized and yearning vocal hook in the chorus, with verses that remind this reviewer of the patient plod of The Velvet Underground's "Lady Godiva's Operation," while the huge chorus echoes the more contemporary outsidery crunch of Dark Blue or even the shadowy London act Black Seas. The succeeding number "Cordial I" slows the tempo and thins out the sonic picture for quiet verses that set up the aggressive choogle of the tune's final 90 seconds. Surprisingly, Brunch plans to come to the U.S. in late September/early October (according to the act's Bandcamp page) to play some shows, and we're very hopeful we'll see the band right here in Boston playing with Krill, because, you know, that seems like a really obvious thing for them to do, and because we like rock and roll music. You should spend time with the Brunch EP, it's time very well spent, and if you pony up the £3 asking price for either the download or handmade CD, you'll be helping in an albeit small way to get the band across the pond for the aforementioned U.S. shows. Stream the entire EP via the embed below, and then click through to purchase.

August 14, 2014

White Laces Sign To Happenin, Trance Due Oct. 7

White Laces -- Trance (detail)

Richmond space-pop heroes White Laces revealed at long last today that it has signed to Alabama-based and Frenchkiss-affiliated Happenin Records to release its hotly anticipated sophomore set Trance. The record is slated to hit racks Oct. 7. The foursome recorded the 11-song collection last winter in Philadelphia with Jeff Zeigler, and we feel comfortable telling you it is a big step forward for the band. Working with Mr. Zeigler, White Laces has refined and intensified its singular, atmospheric sound, and as a result the album presents the band at its most sleek, sexy and dangerous. As we said here in April in regard to the early Trance taster "Skate Or Die," "[t]he sounds are bigger, fronter Landis Wine's vocals more desperate, and one can literally hear the band expanding on its sonic proposition, becoming bigger and bolder." Trance will be released on 12" vinyl, CD and cassette, and we have heard that some portion of the LP edition will be pressed to hot pink media, which means you'd best have your black light in working order for the zoned-out album listening sessions that will likely occupy a substantial portion of your time this fall. Presently, there is no way to pre-order Trance, but we expect if you keep an eye on the label's digital storefront your attention will eventually be rewarded. White Laces first LP Moves was issued by Speakertree two years ago, which we reviewed right here, and the band has released a steady stream of EPs and singles and cassettes since forming in 2010 (the majority of which you can read about in the vast Clicky Clicky Archives). White Laces plays Baby's All Right in Brooklyn tomorrow night and has a few additional confirmed dates -- including a spot at next month's hotly tipped Hopscotch Festival -- that we have listed below for your review. Stream the aforementioned "Skate Or Die" via the embed below.

08.15 -- Baby's All Right -- Brooklyn, NY
08.24 -- John's Hopkins University -- Baltimore, MD
08.27 -- Strange Matter -- Richmond, VA
09.04 -- Hopscotch Music Festival -- Raleigh, NC

August 13, 2014

YouTube Rodeo: Johnny Foreigner's Endlessly Haunted "Stop Talking About Ghosts"

We said it on Twitter, and we'll say it again: this is seriously one of the best music videos we've ever seen. And, yeah, sure, of course we're going to say that about a Johnny Foreigner video, but truly, this is head and shoulders above anything else we can think of off the top of our heads. The clip for "Stop Talking About Ghosts," a song that was previously issued as a digital single in March with a ridiculous awesome cover of The Wannadies' "Hit" as a b-side, is a slowburner that piles on the drama for three introductory minutes and perfectly translates the theme of the song into a visual story. It helps that directors Matt Diegan & Francis Newall of Moral Hangover get a hair-raising performance from Jeremy Irons-doppelganger Elliot Chidwick and can edit like motherfuckers. Fans may have a vague memory of that name, Moral Hangover -- turns out they are the same lot that produced the video for the radio edit of "You vs. Everything," the titanic single from Johnny Foreigner's devastating third LP, which we wrote about here in 2011. So anyway, watch the video for "Stop Talking About Ghosts," embedded above. It is tremendous.

In other super-important Johnny Foreigner news that hadn't broken before we published our most recent piece about them last week, the band's new U.S. label Lame-O has announced it will issue in American its amazing 2014 LP You Can Do Better. You may recall we reviewed the record here in the spring. Lame-O's domestic release is available immediately in a limited edition of 500 pressed to either red or clear vinyl, and you can buy it right here, and that is a thing you should do, assuming you did not already buy the Alcopop! version earlier this year. Johnny Foreigner is presently looking ahead to a strand of live dates in South Africa in late October, which can be hungrily gazed upon right here. And that, for now, is the news.

August 12, 2014

Review: Hoax Hunters | Comfort & Safety

Richmond threesome Hoax Hunters with its debut long-player has created an expansive, divergent set of punk-worshipping monoliths, each tune shaping an American post-hardcore lineage into formalized and nostalgic architectural shapes. The electrifying new set, Comfort & Safety, firmly establishes the trio as a noisy, squalling force, one that is both more informed and more nubile [HEY NOW -- Ed.] than many of its peers.

Hoax Hunters has been a fixture slowly rising up from the RVA scene for several years; it released a split single with Richmond dream-pop luminaries The Snowy Owls in early 2013. Long before the creation of the band, fronter and guitarist P.J. Sykes built a reputation as a go-to music photographer, relentlessly and selflessly documenting the local indie rock scene, and having work featured in Spin Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post and elsewhere. Mr. Sykes has also contributed photographs to a slew of highly regarded albums from Clicky Clicky faves including legends Superchunk and Versus. Unsurprisingly, Sykes' connected-ness within the mid-Atlantic music scene is the source of one of Comfort & Safety's strongest, defining traits: his love for currently overlooked post-hardcore standard-bearers from the mid-to-late-'80s Dischord stable -- groups like Rites of Spring, Gray Matter, Three and early Fugazi -- is reflected in his songwriting. These aforementioned bands moved punk into broader, more melodic, "mathy," and noisy territory, and to this reviewer their contributions at times seem overshadowed by trendier names and louder personalities. Hoax Hunters, however, honors these deeper and deeply important roots of the American underground, and casts their sounds and ideals within a modern framework, much like contemporary beloved and buzzed smashers Metz and Hausu.

Hoax Hunters' connection to The Snowy Owls is also illuminating. While far from a shoegazer outfit, Sykes and co. interestingly mix the vocals quite low, a move that emphasizes the shifting lead and rhythm patterns, which come courtesy of The Snowy Owls' drummer James O'Neill. Mr. O'Neill's drums bash loudly, and his great tom work is heavily foregrounded on Hoax Hunters' buzz-sawing rocker "Volume" and its tense thriller "Riskless Business." Clever studio trickery throughout injects interesting depth and dimension to Comfort & Safety and varies from song to song. Single "Breathe" utilizes swirling flange and panning in its opening moments to tasteful effect, and Sykes' various vocal filters here and elsewhere supply a subtly grit to the proceedings. Like many classic albums, these production methods give Hoax Hunters' debut a kineticism that accretes across the record toward album highlight and de facto closer "Erase." The standout track -- which apparently features "homemade electric dulcitar" from a guest player -- combines an experimental sound-collage introduction, a quick-burning hardcore song, and an extended, searing coda (which talks the listener down from the intensity of the previous numbers) to create what is perhaps Hoax Hunters most compelling composition to date. The chorus' dynamic, shout-along chant channels both the rage and joy that these guys bring to their music. "You. Can. Not. Erase," Sykes proclaims -- the final declaration that the hard work and values of those within a scene will live on, again and again.

Comfort & Safety was released last week on vinyl and as a digital download (sorry, no CDs, retro futurists!). Raleigh's Negative Fun is selling the LP (the very first to be offered by the label), and it is for sale right here. Richmond-based Cherub Records is handling the digital download sales, and if that is more to your taste, this is where you want to be. Stream the entire set via the Bandcamp embed below. -- Edward Charlton

Hoax Hunters: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds