Posts Tagged ‘90s’

Prank Monkey Records – 11th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The story goes that London four-piece Muscle Vest reportedly ‘formed in 2018 over a mutual appreciation for ugly rock music’, and that’s what they serve up on their debut EP – a sweaty, guitar-driven dirty rock workout that’s brimming with churning riffs, grease and grime. They come out all guns blazing and firing wildly in all directions with the manic racket of ‘Creepy Crawlie’, a juddering, angular rager that melts the best of 90s noise into a mangled metal nugget in the vein of later acts like Blacklisters and Hawk Eyes, and it very much sets the fast and furious tone for the rest of the EP: ‘Stray’ bears fair comparison to Blacklisters’ ‘Shirts’, with a throbbing riff blasting out against a low-slung bassline. If Shellac and Big Black are in the mix, so are The Jesus Lizard and early Pulled Apart by Horses.

Muscle Vest pack in a boatload of adrenaline and bring ALL the noise: it’s fucking ugly and monstrously brutal, and those are its positive points. It ain’t polished or pretty, and if you’re on the market for something gnarly, look no further.

‘We’ll all be dead / we’ll all be dead one day’ vocalist Dave Rogers howls nihilistically into a tempest of abrasive guitar noise that churns and grinds on ‘A Slow Death’. He’s right, of course: the question is whether we will die a quiet, peaceful death, or a horrible, painful one, shrieking in agony for the duration of those final hours. This is very much the soundtrack to the latter, and it’s almost enough to make death sound appealing. Because, well, better to go out screaming than to flicker out. The last track, ‘Blissbucket’ is a minute and three-quarters of blazing napalm, taking its cues from hardcore punk and tossing in all the jarring, jolting guitars that scratch and scrape at all angles across the relentlessly churning rhythm section. It’s fast and furious and brings the EP to a blistering close and then some. It positively burns with an intense fury, and it’s beautifully brutal. Gets my vote, and then some.

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26th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Yes! Yes! Yes! This single cut from London four-piece Ravenfangs is appropriately titled. Clocking in at two and a half minutes, it’s an explosion of fizzy, grungy, overdriven guitars powered by angst and frustration, Recapturing the spirit of Nirvana and blending it with a certain punk sensibility, it’s lack of polish is a significant part of the appeal.

This is the best of DIY, and this is what happens when people have had enough. They don’t hang about, they don’t wait for opportunities or offers – they get on and make their own and do it all themselves. It was the emergence of punk that saw bands first shun the conventional industry-centred models, and the age of home recording and the Internet has finally rendered the production and release of music an egalitarian, open proposition.

The beauty is that truly anyone can pick up a guitar – hell, you don’t even need that, just a laptop or a phone these days – and offload all that emotion, everything that you need to vent, and put it out there.

Starting off with a thick, buzzing bassline played with a gut-punching urgency, ‘Rage’ crashes in full throttle with everything else all going hell-for-leather all at once. It’s unpretentious, unpolished, and exciting because it’s real, a sneering blast of righteous alt-rock, and packs a proper punch with no pretence, no pissing about. Raw, rough, ready, this is where it’s at.

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Human Worth – 26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

From the first twisted, dingy powerchords that herald the arrival of Fraught in Waves with the punishing – and appropriately-titled ‘Breakage’ – it’s abundantly clear that Gaffa Bandana’s debut album is going to be an absolute fucking beast. The rest of the album only verifies this as fact: Fraught in Waves is indeed an absolute fucking beast. It may only contain six tracks and have a total running time of half an hour, but the sheer intensity is ear-bleeding, eye-popping, and gut-tearing. Yes, this is a truly physical experience, one that’s exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure.

Gaffa Bandana is Gill Dread (Bruxa Maria) and Jennie Howell (So3ek, Sleeping Creatures, Gorse, Dooman Empire), and Fraught in Waves was first released as a digital-only effort back in September of last year.

While they’re pitched as a punk duo, the pair’s noise is a full-throttle hybrid of hardcore and sludgy noise, the guitars coming on like Fudge Tunnel covering Tad. The clattering drums also call to mind the heavy noise scene of the 90s: if obscure namechecks like Oil Seed Rape and other band on the Jackass label spark a light of recognition, then we’re speaking the same language. And the vocals are just terrifying: deranged, demonic, they’re at a pitch that’s rare in the fields of either punk, metal, or doom – it’s a cracked, guttural howl, bordering on a shrieking agony.

The contrasts are a major factor in its impact: the riffs are stop / start, and for all the density, there’s a lot of space where metallic clanging chords simply hang in the air before everything piles back in, hard, and deliberate.

There are hints of The Jesus Lizard about the churning ruckus of ‘Charm Offensive’ with its choppy guitar buzz and the hollering vocals low in the mix – but if you’re looking for more contemporary touchstones, Blacklisters and (early) Hawk Eyes are fair comparisons: jolting, metallic, uncomfortable and unforgiving, everything lurches one way and then the other, from stuttering stalls to incendiary riffage that absolutely burns, there is absolutely no room to breathe, not an inch to unwind in. This shit it tense, the kind of tension you feel in your chest and your stomach, and the seven-minute behemoth that stands as the album’s centrepiece, ‘Paralysis of Will’ is all the anguish, all the torture.

Every track feels more tempestuous than the last. ‘Evil Whispers’ has its moments of stuttering Shellac-like mathy judders as it stammeringly halts and resumes, but ultimately, it’s the relentless, balls-out, stomach-churning riffing that defines the sound. There isn’t a clean note to be found in this furious mess of noise. It’s rare for an album to grab you by the throat quite so brutally, and to maintain its choking grip without a moment’s respite, but Fraught in Waves is full-throttle from beginning to end. It is harsh, it is relentless, and at times borders on the psychotic. It’s pure catharsis, and it’s perfect.

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Christopher Nosnibor

A collective of international origins spanning Belgium, Italy, and New Zealand, All Runs Red’s debut is a stylistic hybrid, too, beginning with a drifting picked intro that’s a bit prog, a bit post-rock. It’s one of those tracks that makes a series of rapid transitions and leaves you feeling a shade dazed, but also confused and confounded, as you sit, stunned, just three minutes or so later, wondering how you got from A to B.

Initially, it packs a simmering tension, but one infused with a certain slickness, even a light funk groove before hinting at something else. I’m on the fence here, then between loving and loathing, because that smoothness reminds me of insipid cack like Maroon 5, but then there’s something building beneath the surface… and then the chorus breaks and it’s got ‘stadium’ written all over it – or at least arena. It’s sonically immense, and big on emotion, too, then there are howling backing vocals and a huge guitar workout breaks forth and then…it fades out? What? How? Who would do this, and why? I feel a little short-changed, and like I should perhaps complain – but what good would that do?

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 16th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While the 90s was awash with obscure bands cranking out gnarly, guitar-driven noise, the last decade or so (alright, I mean two decades, because I’m old and still can’t get my head around the fact that 1990 was 30 years ago and that Nevermind is 30 years old next year) has seen such music emerge only in pockets, with the likes of Leeds’ Blacklisters being prime exponents and one of the few to reach a wider audience – and it’s Blacklisters who probably stand as US noisemongers TRVSS’ closest contemporaries.

TRVSS are very much in the early 90s vein: I’m not just talking Am Rep and Touch and Go, but way further beneath the radar. Listening to the grainy, gritty grind of New Distances, I’m transported back, way back, and while I’m hearing The Jesus Lizard, I’m equally hearing Zoopsia, Headcleaner, Oil Seed Rape. Not familiar? To be clear here: I’m not promoting obscurest elitism here, but trying to give a flavour of just how choc-full of rabid guitar bands the underground scene was at a certain point in time – a time when bands like Terminal Cheesecake and Tar would receive coverage in the national music press, back when there was a national music press. They were exciting times, and that’s not the rose-tinting of a 45-year old reflecting on his youth: things were changing, and fast, and there was something in the air, and in your local record shop, in pub gig venues, and even on the radio

New Distances is a nasty mess of guitars driven by low-slung lurching basslines and drums that thud away in the background, half-buried in the welter of noise. Things are still changing at pace, of course, but mostly venues are closing, and there are no solid channels by which to access new and emerging talent. Where are the equivalents of The Tube, Snub:TV, The Word now? The Old Grey Whistle Test wasn’t even entirely the domain of proggy old farts, and now, we don’t even have Jools fucking Holland. There’s no M on MTV, and 4Music is a misnomer as well, but I digress.

TRVSS would probably never have made TV even back then, but it’s almost certain that John Peel, Melody Maker, and NME would have found a bit of room for some exposure for their raging, demented brand of no-wave / noise mania, and New Distances has no shortage of meat to give it appeal to a niche but substantial audience.

‘Stigma’ encapsulates the album’s rabid grunged-up noise-rock vibe, coming on like both side of the Nirvana / Jesus Lizard split ‘Oh The Guilt’ / ‘Puss’ simultaneously with it jarring guitar riffage and raw-throated vocal roar. ‘The Ventriloquist Always has the Last Laugh’ pitches skewed guitars galore, crash-landing in the space between The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, and the criminally underrated and proportionally obscure Milk.

It’s likely that TRVSS will remain forever obscure, although not on account of lack of appeal or lack of ability: sure, their stuff is dark, driving and ultimately extremely niche but all of this is ok: against the backdrop of blanket mass-media and sameness, such deliberately obscure an anti-mainstream music is essential and invigorating: lap it up while you can.

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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret: I fucking love cheese. To the extent that it’s the single foodstuff that prevents me from being vegan, and to the extent that if I had to live on any one type of food, it would be cheese. Forget pudding, gimme the cheeseboard. In fact, scrap starters and mains, just give me all the cheese. My 4-tier wedding cake consisted of a wheel each of Brie, Stilton, Cornish Yarg, and a truckle of mature cheddar. So I kinda feel that Chronic Johnny’s debut single is a song that should appeal, regardless of actual content.

Harrogate may not be an obvious place to spawn a ‘wild noiserock trio’ like Chronic Johnny, but on reflection, it makes sense: it’s a lovely, leafy, middle-class market town close to York. What could possibly spur a bunch of guys to make angular, guitar-driven racket, the sound of anger and frustration in a setting like this? Well, precisely a setting like this. There’s always something to rebel against, always a reason to feel disenfranchised. And always a reason to make noise.

And Chronic Johnny make a cracking noise of a decidedly 90s alternative vintage, all spiky, overdriven guitars that jerk and jolt, and peppered with a substantial dash of rockabilly / surf spice, not least of all in the manic, yelping vocals. It’s such a frenetic, hybridized racket that comparisons are pretty pointless; it’s more that this furiously dirty din, driven by a growling, busy bassline, draws together the essence of a period in time, and drags it, squalling and brawling into the present. It’s gnarly, and it kicks ass.

3rd March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

No Scary Bears Facebook page sees the band lay out their aim as ‘simple, alternative guitar music inspired by the bands they love and you used to find on MTV before the arse fell out of commercial music’. With a handful of demos streaming on-line and receiving airplay on BBC Introducing, they’ve been building momentum ahead of this, their debut single release.

Born out of a new permutation of hard rock act We Could be Astronauts, No Scary Bears present a more grunge orientated sound: the guitars are chunky and nicely up in the mix. But while every other band drawing on the class of ’92 for inspiration seems to want to be Nirvana but poppier, with strong melodies and more nuanced approach to dynamics, No Scary Bears more call to mind Soundgarden and Bivouac with ‘Mail’ and accompanying track ‘Dial In / Dial Out’.

For people of a certain age (mine of thereabouts), it’s hard not to feel a pang of nostalgia for music of a certain vintage, and No Scary Bears capture that feel extremely well. The fact the release contains three tracks harks back to the old 12” and CD single formats – and the fact there is a limited CD release (rather than a voguish cassette editions) is another detail of note, and in all, it’s a very promising start.

 

No Scary Bears