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Punk





Pretty Sick stay sick on "Come Down"

On their sophomore long-playing record, Come Down, Pretty Sick push the needle even further into the red than before when it comes to being both pretty and being sick and then they take that needle and stab you in the f***ing heart with it (another way of pushing it into the red) but in a way that’s not lethal like you’d expect but just the opposite so that after the music’s over you feel something like Uma Thurman must‘ve felt with a hypodermic needle sticking out of her chest after ODing and feeling gobsmacked by what just happened but also equally grateful for being brought back to life by a rush of adrenaline injected straight to the heart.

So yeah, they stay sick.

Last year’s Deep Divine opened with a short instrumental called “Comedown", a state of being embodied by dirgy bass and grinding guitar and slow pounding drums. But the comedown cleared pretty quickly on that record with something approaching a state of ecstatic release over the next six tracks, though still with plenty of rough edges and the occasional dreamy reverie. But this new one takes those rough edges and reveries and puts them at the center of things.

On Come Down’s centerpiece songs (e.g., the advance singles “Bet My Blood” and “Devil In Me”) Pretty Sick bassist/vocalist/songwriter and master of sickitude Sabrina Fuentes and her musical co-conspirators go into full on shred mode including the shredding of vocal chords and of bougie standards of decency and decorum which of course have always been applied most harshly to women. But other track are shred-averse leaning into ambience and minimalism, or full on "bedroom pop" on the album closer. In a way it's like a movie sequel where they take what people liked about the original and push those qualities to new extremes in every direction ("into the red") to the point of incoherence at times. But the approach works better here than it did in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

The album opens with a song called “Dumb”—a track that predates even Deep Divine and acts as a bridge between that record and this one. It's also a throwback in that it sounds like a long lost outtake or forgotten b-side from Bossanova, but sung by Kim Deal who was mostly absent from that album on vocals, in that it’s a hook-laden mid-tempo rocker but with a very non-Pixieish music video to match that should maybe come with a disclaimer warning “prudes beware but sickos welcome.”

Next up is “Bet My Blood” which gives the listener a feel for where things are headed with its grunged out, Big Muffy guitars and raw riot grrrly vocals, all in service of a catchy and well-constructed song that is until it implodes, crashing in on itself with a quickening pulse and babbling spirit-possessed glossolalia and growingly unhinged musical backing to match before ending with the sound of a feral creature's panting. And if that’s not enough to get your goat there’s a music video featuring some quite possibly un-board-certified nurses including Ms. Fuentes wielding a hypodermic needle (see paragraph one) with a glint in her eye and administering fatal care to a few pretty young patients.

On track three (“She”) the album takes another turn with a stealthy, stalking rhythm section and shuddering guitar melodies over which Sabrina takes on yet another new vocal persona that's by turns breathy and bleating and then finally primal screaming and pushing the audio into the red again, before settling back down into a reverb-laden refrain of “Shee-eeee la-la-la-la-la-la-la” as if words alone no longer do justice to how she feels about the titular femme fatale. And by this point I'm starting to think Miss Pretty Sick may be angling for a career in voice acting à la Mercedes McCambridge after it's all said and done.



And here we reach the exact midpoint of the record, a song called “Self Control” as in "(I Ain’t Got No)", where the overarching theme gets laid bare as it's been hinted at elsewhere in lyrics lamenting/celebrating said lack of control—“punish myself for years after / but I can’t help myself"—a theme that works its way into the music itself, repeatedly teetering on the edge of order and chaos with the latter engulfing the former more than once on the album. 

The next couple songs begin the descent down the other side of the mountain—i.e., the comedown of Come Down if you will or even if you won't—with “Pillbug” floating by on slow waves of woozy harmonics for a full four minutes before ending with a vow to “curl right up and roll over for you." And then comes “Bare” which fittingly is a stark, tender love song with Sabrina singing in unison with her bass and in harmony with herself and it's not unlike some of the more minimalist post-Last Splash stuff the Breeders have recorded (sorry for double-dipping on Kim Deal but I can't help myself either). And then on to the penultimate track “Devil in Me” where there's a return to stable destabilized alt-rock territory. But this time it feels any control issues may have abated somewhat, or a state of acceptance achieved at least. Because “the Devil in me likes the Devil in you” sounds like a healthy way to cope and a good line for couples therapy. And even when the song spins off its axis it feels like more of a climax than a comedown.

And at last we get “Physical" a song that strays into panda-eyed dream pop territory with synthy strings and intense ominous whooshing custom made to appear in Twin Peaks Season 4 (one hopes) and yes I’ll accept that music consultancy position, Mr. Lynch. Except that the Julee Cruise/Chromatics vibes are mixed with some NYC grit (and some London grit since it's Pretty Sick's current base of operation) and probably only a born-and-bred city kid could be so seen-it-all jaded to write lines like “now that the party's done / [...] now that thе glamour's past / and everyone's come down / I know I won’t be remembered well” before turning 20. But it's also like a city kid to declare “I know I will never let myself down" which somehow I doubt many Pretty Sick fans will feel let down either by a record that, comedown or not, is such a shot in the arm. (Jason Lee)





VIDEO: “Holy Roller” Finds DEATHCHANT Doing Very Bad Things

image courtesy artist's bandcamp page

L.A.-based heavy metal / stoner rock quartet DEATHCHANT have released their sophomore album, Waste, on label Riding Easy Records, and you can watch the music video for track “Holy Roller” below.

The first thing to remark on is how the album was recorded: in a rented cabin up in secluded Big Bear, CA. According to T.J. Lemieux, singer and guitarist, “we packed a big-ass van and set up in the living room and kitchen, tracked it live, with overdubs after.” Despite the humble setup, the album has both a professional clarity and a hard-hitting brutality, especially on the vinyl version, which the author of this review was able to enjoy at maximum volume at a recent evening at Permanent Records Roadhouse in Cypress Park.

Track “Holy Roller” opens with cutting, rusty distorted slices of rhythm guitar at battle with dissonant feedback howls to arrive at your ears first, before both are shoved out of the way by a pummeling bass/drum combo. Soon, the vocals enter, sounding like a platoon of demented monks yelling unholy, apocalyptic incantations from inside a cave. Meanwhile, start-stop doubled guitar lines bring the chaos to a temporary halt, before cranking back up to break-neck speed, until the half-time bridge that offers somewhat of a breather before the song transforms into an ultra-sludgy, Hawkwind-style chug. It’s part sludge metal, part grunge, part Thin Lizzy in its dual lead guitar lines, but at all points it’s compelling. Which is all the more impressive when you discover that most of the band’s music is improvised (!).

Finally, extra points to the band for connecting all the tracks on Waste together with droning, abstract interludes, giving the whole thing a sense of oneness and cohesion. DEATHCHANT work hard to create a complete atmosphere and populate it with heavy riffs, hypnotic grooves, and dark sludge. Where they’ll take us next is anyone’s guess, but one can be sure it’ll be somewhere worth heading. Gabe Hernandez





VIDEO: on “See It,” The Bots Take The City By Skateboard

Rock band The Bots (led by songwriter Mikaiah Lei) have released a video for “See It,” the first single from their new album in seven years, 2 Seater, due for release on Big Indie Records September 8th.

The track begins with a hard-hitting beat, electronic squiggles, and a guitar riff reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers, quickly heating up into a punk-like anthem perfect for soundtracking your latest headphone-focused skateboard spree through your local urban ruin.

The visually dynamic music video, meanwhile, portrays a day in the life of the band members as they engage in the skater lifestyle on the streets on Downtown Los Angeles, pulling off tricks and prowling the urban sprawl, and generally getting up to no good. It’s a near-perfect complement to a catchy, aggressive track that makes one eager to get outdoors after over a year of quarantine. Gabe Hernandez





VIDEO: With “Super 8,” DE’WAYNE’s Charisma Steals The Show

L.A.-based via Houston artist DE’WAYNE releases their debut album STAINS today, June 18th, via Hopeless Records and you can view a video right now for their latest single “Super 8.”

The track itself combines emo, synthpop, and rock sounds in a tight, meticulously produced package. DE’WAYNE’s vocal jumps right out of the gate from the top, accompanied by insistent rock fuzz bass and drums. Throughout, DE’WAYNE’s energetic vocal yelps are punctuated with Suicide-style delays that send their vocal into infinity. With lines like “I wanna film a porno on a Super 8” the lyrics are straightforward and not insightful by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re not really the focus here. They’re throwaway, a vehicle for the excellent production, hooks, and DE’WAYNE’s vocal performance. One gets the feeling that with the right song DE’WAYNE will be a household name.

Meanwhile, the video (directed by Joe Mischo) alternates between scenes of DE’WAYNE and a “friend” getting into various stereotypically “porno” role-playing antics and more performance-oriented footage of DE’WAYNE and their drummer among a curtain of chains and hooks. One shows the more deadpan comedic side of the artist, while the other adds a mild bit of sexual edge, although DE’WAYNE never strays into even PG-13 territory. It’s clear in his energy and confidence in performance that there’s a lot of promise here in DE’WAYNE. One hopes that their future material will show a maturity in songwriting that rivals their considerable pop idol-to-be talents. Gabe Hernandez

 





Dirty Fences reveal pyramid scheme on recent singles

There are bands out there that are willing to form a human pyramid for the sake of their art and others that aren’t. For one example of the former take Radiohead for instance—no human pyramids happening there there. And they’ve even got a song called “Pyramid Song” but even with the help of Weird Al and Adele they couldn’t make it happen or couldn’t produce photographic evidence of it anyway.

Dirty Fences are clearly a band who are staunchly pro pyramid and they’ve got the esprit de corp and the overall musical moxie to pull it off convincingly too, with a sound falling in the Venn Diagram sweet spot between Bay City Rollers, Misfits, and Motörhead with some junk-shop glam a la Sweet and Slade thrown into the mix as well to sweeten the pot.

The band’s latest singles is called “Pony On” and it’s a power-popping toe tapper that could easily be a long forgotten ‘90s sitcom theme song and also you could do the pony to it pretty easily if you can do the pony. Plus it’s got a catchy b-side about a “Heartache Parade” where “high is fine and I can’t complain.lhAnd then there’s the single they put out earlier this year where both sides (“Pepper Ann / “One In Ten”) lean into the Misfits side of things, while their late 2020 single “Garbage Man”/“Sometimes Sunshine” is even more on the punkier side of things but still super melodic and if you need more musical examples they also put out a retrospective comp recently called Hand Pickled Melodies. Seriously these guys could be full time jingle writers if they didn’t already have too much integrity to go in such a crassly commercial direction.

But if you’re one of these people who subscribes to the theory that bands are best judged by how well they can pull off a Public Access TV live gig then check out the video above to make a fully informed verdict. (Jason Lee)

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