Midnight Oil: Armistice Day – Live At The Domain, Sydney [Album Review]

Midnight Oil
Armistice Day: Live At The Domain, Sydney
Sony Music [2018]

Fire Note Says: The “Power And the Passion” lives on with this new burning live set from Midnight Oil.

Album Review: One of the best bits of news early in 2017, was that Midnight Oil had reformed, and was planning a global tour, including 13 dates in the U.S. Although, Australia’s Midnight Oil had made a strong impression on alternative music fans in North America in the early 80’s with albums like 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and Red Sails in the Sunset, their commercial breakthrough didn’t come until 1987 and the release of Diesel and Dust, with it’s AOR hit song, “Beds Are Burning.” It’s unusual for a strongly political song to do so well on U.S. charts, even more so one about the abuse of aboriginal land rights in the Australian outback, but the song’s high energy guitars, undeniable beat, and sing-along chorus became a global anthem. The Oil’s led by singer Peter Garrett was often outspoken on other political issues, especially around the environment, and the band went on to further success around the world until coming to an end in 2002, when he decided to run for political office in Australia’s federal government, where he served in several roles including Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. So the announcement that the band would play 77 concerts on The Great Circle World Tour, playing on 6 of earth’s 7 continents was big news.

Thankfully, after 14 dormant years, someone thought that they should film and record one of the tour’s final dates, not just for posterity but also for those of us fans who were unable to get to city they were playing (speaking personally). Armistice Day: Live At The Domain, Sydney, was filmed for release both on DVD and Blu-Ray, and there’s an audio version, a 26 two-CD set (from which this review was written). One thing needs to be said right up front: this does not sound like a band of elder statesmen who once played in a rock & roll band, but took 14 years off to pursue other interests, and just got back together for a nostalgia tour, and to make some extra cash to cover their retirement. No, far from it. Midnight Oil in 2018 sounds just as potent, energetic and relevant as they did when I caught them on tour a couple times in the late 80’s. If anything, drummer Rob Hirst and guitarists Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey are attacking these songs with brutal force for a hometown Sydney crowd, as if to prove the point that this has always been a band that embodied the spirit of one of their best songs, “Power And The Passion.”

And given the long time off, it’s important to point out that this is pretty much the original 5-piece band, with the addition of bass player Bones Hillman, who came on board in 1987, and an additional backing musician, Jack Howard of the band Hunters & Collectors, who added keyboards, trumpet and flugelhorn, and didgeridoo on tour and for this show brought along the H&C horn section for tracks like “Power And The Passion.” That last one is the long, wooden “drone pipe,” a traditional instrument of the Aboriginal people of Australia, comes in handing on songs like “Treaty,” where the Oils are joined by guest vocalist Yirrmal, an indigenous Australian artist.

Recorded on Armistice Day, November 11, 2017, and released a full year later, appropriately opens with the Midnight Oil song of the same name, the global celebration for the end of War to End All Wars, WWI, which is celebrated in the U.S. as Veterans’ Day. All the bands hits are here, as you’d expect, “Beds Are Burning,” “The Dead Heart,” and “Dreamworld” from “Diesel and Dust,” the title track from that album’s follow-up, “Blue Skiy Mine,” and it’s other singles, “Forgotten Years” and “King of the Mountain,” and a few other songs that got airplay outside of their homeland, like “Truganini,” “Redneck Wonderland,” and “Golden Age.”

But, of course, like most bands, Midnight Oil is most-loved and most successful in their native Australia, where fans are far more familiar with their complete 11 studio album catalog, so lots of the songs, lesser known here, got a great response from the hometown crowd, singing along with Garrett on “Power and the Passion,” “King of the Mountain,” “Ships of Freedom” and “U.S. Forces,” which of course is a song protesting U.S. policies, the CIA and “bombs and threats.” In many ways, the social justice themes of Midnight Oil’s music is captured in the lyrics of “Warakurna,” which state that “there is enough for everyone,” and an acknowledgement that the very land that they live on really belongs to the indigenous people who were there before the Europeans arrived, which is true in many places of the colonized world. While there’s no spoken commentary on the audio, no doubt one factor bringing Midnight Oil back at this time in the world’s devolution, is to speak out about concern over climate change, and the growing influence of nationalism, in that sense this band’s music is as timely and important as ever.

But finally, like any other rock band, it’s the music that matters, and Midnight Oil delivers. Much of the time this band rocks, and rocks hard, as heard in the brutal riffage of “Redneck Wonderland,” the torrential bass line of “Stand In Line,” the dominating combination of Hirst’s driving snare beat, and the interwoven guitars of Rotsey and Moginie, but they keep things interesting throughout with artful additions like Garrett’s harmonica on “Blue Sky Mine” and “Truganini,” “Kosciuszko,” which starts off like an acoustic folk song but then is taken over by drums, or the lengthy piano break in “Short Memory.” In 2017, Midnight Oil was as vital as ever, and they’ve announced more tour dates for summer of 2019, evidently that “Power And the Passion” lives on.

Key Tracks: “Beds Are Burning” / “Blue Sky Mine” / “Power And The Passion”

Artists With Similar Fire: U2 / The Tragically Hip / INXS

Midnight Oil Website
Midnight Oil Facebook
Sony Music

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Kal Marks: Universal Care [Album Review]

Kal Marks
Universal Care
Exploding in Sound Records [2018]



fire-note-headphone-approved






Who: Boston’s Kal Marks get the new year started off on the right foot. Universal Care is my first favorite new record of 2018!

Sound: Universal Care finds the band evolving into a distinctive brand of intense and monolithic noise rock. It is still Kal Marks; they have not gone soft, just more varied in their delivery.

TFN Final Take: For their fourth LP, Boston’s Kal Marks rip open 2018 with the scalding “Fuck This Guy.” It is a frightening, propulsive, almost tribal track. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what singer-guitarist Carl Shane is shrieking about, but I hope it is Trump.

Tracks two and three are more similar to the Kal Marks I have grown accustomed to from their past LPs. Noisy and dense rock. “Loosed” has a groovy bass-line fluttering around in it with punctuations of heavy guitar fuzz and ear-scouring vocals.

Track 3, “Springtime in January” sees Kal Marks step up the tempo and break into heavy punk territory. They place a disorienting pause towards the end of the track just to rev everything up for a final 30-second breakneck mosher.

“Grand Mal,” “A Place Amongst All the Angry Hordes” and “Adventure” are a few other highlights on Universal Care. Each track has its own little quirks and hooks that keep you moving through the album with ease.

The quiet clarity and honesty of “Ode” rips into your heart. Same goes for album closer “Today I Walked Down to the Tree, Read a Book…” it starts so soft and unexpected but eventually gives way to a noise-laden finale.

Universal Care is another fantastic album in Kal Marks’ remarkable discography. Highly recommended for listeners who like their rock noisy and dense. Fans of Pile, Baked, Washer, and the rest of Exploding in Sound Records artists should definitely give Universal Care a shot.

Kal Marks Website
Kal Marks Facebook
Exploding In Sound Records

Hovvdy: Cranberry [Album Review]

Hovvdy
Cranberry
Double Double Whammy Records [2018]

ratings3_5







Who: Based in Austin, Texas, Hovvdy (pronounced “howdy”) is the writing and recording project of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor. The duo, both primarily drummers, first met in the fall of 2014 and quickly bonded over a love for quiet music. Cranberry is their sophomore record.

Sound: If you are into current soft intricate warm jangly rock like Ultimate Painting, Pinegrove, (Sandy) Alex G or past favorites such as Low and Yo La Tengo then Hovvdy should be a great new listen for you to check out.

TFN Final Take: Pacing is everything and on Hovvdy’s sophomore record, Cranberry, the Austin duo of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor take you on a soft ride through 12 new tracks over 33 minutes. These disguised pop tunes have a way to get in your head with every well-placed strum of guitar, every stroke of the keys and every soft hit of the skins. This gentle wave is Hovvdy’s success because the record never tires even though the group maintains a very similar mood and execution through the entire album. What I really liked about Cranberry is the subtle bit of haze that Hovvdy places over their layered vocals. They are a little bit lo-fi and a little bit bedroom pop that consistently pulls a catchy tune together. Hovvdy is a band to just put on, relax and let Cranberry take you to another place.



Hovvdy Website
Hovvdy Facebook
Double Double Whammy Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Ruby Boots: Don’t Talk About It [Album Review]

Ruby Boots
Don’t Talk About It
Bloodshot Records [2018]







Fire Note Says: Aussie country rocker with promise debuts States-side for Bloodshot Records.

Album Review: The second album from Ruby Boots roars out of the gate with “It’s So Cruel,” a cow-punk rocker that recalls the energy of Jason & The Scorchers. But before you get your hopes up, producer Beau Bedford (of The Texas Gentlemen), perhaps eager to display the singer/songwriter’s versatility, offers her up in the big doo-wop wall of sound of “Believe In Heaven,” nostalgic for the early days when Phil Spector was producing girl groups as rock & roll was first finding it’s way into the mainstream. “Don’t Talk About It,” the album’s title track, follows. It’s another ballad with orchestration that draws inspiration from that old school retro-sound.

Ruby Boots (real name, Bex Chilcott) comes from Australia via Nashville and had one previous album on an Aussie imprint before this debut on Bloodshot Records, a journey made by Kasey Chambers and others. Following the first three big production numbers, Boots sounds more at home on “Easy Way Out,” with a chord progression borrowed from the Tom Petty songbook, and the country weeper “Don’t Break My Heart Twice.”


The second half of the album sticks closer to country/rock formulas, with “I’ll Make It Through,” co-written and with harmony vocals by Nikki Lane, “Somebody Else” and “Infatuation,” are set up by punchy rhythms, strong vocal hooks, and solid, rocking guitars and minimal twang. Okay Boots has some twang in her voice on “Infatuation.” On these three, and the closing angry, country kick you to the curb slow burner with bluesy guitar and honky-tonk piano/organ that is “Don’t Give a Damn,” Boots sounds a bit like a young Lucinda Williams as the song heats up like a Rolling Stones’ song.

It’s the nearly a capella, almost hymnic “I Am A Woman,” that exhibits Boots’ voice in all it’s unique purity, in a spiritual song that declares her feminine gifts and her internal strength of being, echoing strength alongside vulnerability. On the whole this is a solid, inviting outing, driven by good songs and equally solid performances. Ruby Boots will be one to watch.

Key Tracks: “It’s So Cruel” / “Easy Way Out” / “Infatution”

Artists With Similar Fire: Nikki Lane / Lone Justice / Lydia Loveless



Ruby Boots Website
Ruby Boots Facebook
Bloodshot Records

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers: Forest Full Of Wolves [Album Review]

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers
Forest Full of Wolves
Self-Released [2018]







Fire Note Says: Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world.

Album Review: No one is ever going to call singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee an under-achiever. His latest release, a 10 song full-length effort, Forest Full of Wolves is his 78th album by his own count. Mallonee spent the 1990s fronting the Athens, GA-band Vigilantes of Love, shuffling from one label to the next, driving a van from coast-to-coast playing every alternative rock/Americana friendly venue who would let them. Hometown friend, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) co-produced one of the band’s early more-acoustic albums, the Killing Floor. The band’s 1999 album, released on three different labels of the course of 18 months, Audible Sigh was produced by Nashville’s favorite side-man Buddy Miller, and includes a guest vocal by Emmylou Harris, as well as some of Mallonee’s best loved songs. Paste Magazine has named him one of the 100 greatest living songwriters.

A rough count, say there were 10 songs per release (usually there were more), puts Mallonee’s songwriting output at nearly 8000, and those are the one’s he’s recorded. Now basic logic would suggest that they can’t all be good, and surely not all of them are memorable, but Mallonee’s work, his actual raison d’’etre, has proven especially consistent over the decades, and in the 2010’s he’s delivered a solid album’s worth of tunes each year, with a noticeable uptick in production values starting with 2011’s The Power & The Glory. Last year’s excellent The Rags of Absence was a case in point, with Mallonee especially attentive to his lead guitar parts.

Forest Full of Wolves continues to chronicle the challenges to working class people and even songwriters, as if Mallonee is creating his own musical version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” for what he calls this “new dark age.” “Greed and fear (have) gained the upper hand,” he sings in “Changing of the Guard,” so he’s “grabbed a guitar & a notebook or two… became a phantom with some conjuring ‘neath the moon.”

Musically, Wolves takes the energy of Rags to the next level, with bigger, noiser guitar tones. Mallonee captures a Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the garage vibe throughout, which is likely a lot harder to pull off since Mallonee’s playing all the instruments. Mid-tempo alternative country rock at it’s most earnest and relevant, and against all odds, Mallonee manages to offer a word of hope. “In the New Dark Age” he sings, borrowing the title from a different song that he recording on 2014’s The Winnowing, “the best thing you can do is fall in love.” Of course, “Love Is Always Risky Currency,” but it’s the best chance any of us have of surviving in this “Forest Full of Wolves.”

Like many artists scrambling to make art in the challenging digital marketplace and survive financially Mallonee has struggled to reach out and connect with Americana fans, break ground with new audiences, even though he’s stayed off the road in recent years. As a fan who first heard the singer songwriter live in the early 90’s, and many times over the years, Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world. It’s artists who wear their passion on their sleeves, who keep pouring out their hearts in songs, that make the music that matters. (One reason to order the hard CD copy of this one, is the cover art produced by another singer songwriter, Chris Taylor, from San Antonio, TX.).

Key Tracks: “In the New Dark Age” / “Voodoo Ink” / “Trimmed & Burning”

Artists With Similar Fire: Neil Young / Bob Dylan / John Prine

Bill Mallonee Website
Bill Mallonee Facebook

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Stars: There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light [Album Review]

Stars
There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light
Last Gang Records [2017]

ratings3_5






Who: Veteran indie pop band from Canada.

Sound: Indie pop with a heart and a head.

TFN Final Take: Stars is like a well-worn glove that is comfortable, reliable, but lacking in surprise or unpredictability. There is nothing wrong with that; they are still great at what they do. And what they do is construct a song, engage you, and give you space to reflect on what you’re hearing. My standout track is “Alone,” which has a chorus that stuck with me. The song takes its time to unfold and then slowly recedes into silence. “Real Thing” is another good one that throws an off-speed pitch for a chorus. Per usual, established fans will find a lot to like in the latest album and new fans will hopefully take advantage of Stars’ great catalog.

Stars Website
Stars Facebook
Last Gang Records

– Reviewed by Matthew Heiner

Brian Fallon: Sleepwalkers [Album Review]

Brian Fallon
Sleepwalkers
Island Records [2018]







Fire Note Says: A surprisingly joyful outing, Sleepwalkers makes clear that while Brian Fallon is certainly interested in evolving, it’s not likely that he ever really will.

Album Review: Brian Fallon occupies a singular place in today’s rock and roll landscape.

Like fellow folk-rock travelers Dave Hause and Chuck Ragan, Brian Fallon is the former lead singer of a punk rock outfit with a cult following that survived the band’s heyday, and like any front man who strikes out on their own, he’s trying to find that musical sweet spot between nostalgia and progress; between what’s safe and what’s next.

But unlike his peers, Fallon has long been caught in a swirl of Springsteenian mythology and anticipation of rock and roll greatness; his evolution into the Next Savior of Rock and Roll ™ has been foretold by favorable critics for over a decade now. But after five records with The Gaslight Anthem, one with The Horrible Crowes, a rare EP with Molly and the Zombies and two solo releases, Fallon, now in his late thirties, has made one thing clear to detractors and champions alike: while he’s certainly interested in evolving…it’s not likely that he ever really will.

That hesitation is more apparent than ever on Sleepwalkers. It’s a surprisingly joyful outing, littered with light, jangly, up-tempo tracks, crunchy classic rock guitars and soaring organs, but even as the record emerges as Fallon’s most progressive and experimental to date, it doesn’t stray far from the consistent songwriting structures, blue collar themes and honest poetry that Fallon has dependably delivered for years.

As usual, he wears his influences right on his sleeve, tossing lyrical and thematic shout outs to classics like Etta James, The Beatles and The Clash alongside more contemporary artists like Florence and the Machine, Counting Crows and other familiar Fallon favorites along the way. He summons a vintage Jersey Shore Sound infused with soul, rhythm and blues and doo-wop; the warm organs and plucky, reverb-drenched guitars of “If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven” and “Come Wander With Me” lend those songs an air of mystery and drama, while the percussion dares listeners not to tap their foot to the rhythm. A distinct, gospel and Motown-tinged vibe permeates nearly every track, binding them together to create an intoxicating environment of sound tailored for both somber reflection and shameless dancing; a record comprised of “melancholy songs that somehow [make] us feel a whole lot better,” as Fallon sings on lead single “Forget Me Not.”


On Sleepwalkers, as on each of his records, Fallon rarely strays from writing two types of songs: ones about the stories of struggling everyday people, and ones about the agonies of love and death. “Proof of Life” and “See You on The Other Side” are distinctly members of the latter camp, with “See You on the Other Side” finding the songwriter at his most lyrically vulnerable since The Horrible Crowes’ heart wrenching 2012 release Elsie. “And when we both grow old and there’s nothing left to say / I want you to know that I loved you all my days / and when we close our eyes on this lifetime / I’ll see you on the other side,” Fallon tells his lover, summoning the plain spoken ghost of Leonard Cohen to elicit the most complicated emotions with the simplest selections of words.

“Little Nightmares” is a bit of a fake-out, starting herky-jerky and disjointed before bursting into a thrilling headlong sprint that doesn’t let up until the song reaches its zenith. It’s followed by the title track, a genuinely bizarre brass-lead number that finds Fallon at his wackiest; there are few places fans won’t follow Fallon, but this track will push even his most loyal listeners to their limits as it unfurls like a needlessly beefed up B side from Tom Waits’ Closing Time or The Heart of Saturday Night. “Neptune” would be standard Fallon fare if not for the delightfully hokey bass-drums-and-organ main riff that throws the song out of its predictable rhythm and laces it with an unexpected, creepy fun. Cohen’s subtle lyrical touch again appears in spirit on “Watson,” on which Fallon croons “I worry when I get old I’ll be lonesome / chasing all the umbrellas in London,” lyric-checking The Magnetic Fields and treating listeners visual, evocative Fallon storytelling at its best and its least dramatic – an accomplishment for which this heavily romantic and typically indulgent songwriter deserves great praise.

But while Fallon’s lyrics are more poignant and restrained – and thus to greater effect than usual – Sleepwalkers, like its predecessor Painkillers, is almost unbelievably overproduced. Fallon’s best work is marked by abject vulnerability, honesty and rawness, and Ted Hutt makes many of the same mistakes Butch Walker did on Painkillers by smoothing over most of Fallon’s wonderfully rough edges. That being stated, it’s clear that Hutt’s instincts are a far stronger match for Fallon than Walker’s ever were, and overall, his approach encourages Fallon’s best habits, even if moments of real emotion are blunted in the process. It’s possible that Fallon would be best served in the future by working with a fellow punk traveler like Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace or Blind Melon guitar player Christopher Thorn, whose work on Chuck Ragan’s 2014 release Til Midnight captured all of Ragan’s raw strength and none of his weaknesses.

It’s not likely that Sleepwalkers will convert any new hardcore believers, but there’s more than enough feel-good rock and roll nostalgia, evocative writing and fun, finger-snapping rhythms to earn Fallon’s follow up a spot in any record player. Though Fallon may never end up meeting the soaring expectations adoring fans and favorable critics have thrust upon him, he has produced an incredible body of work in the meantime, and Sleepwalkers’ careful progress and safe genre experimentation lands itself a strong position in that discography.

Key Tracks: “If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven” / “Come Wander With Me” / “See You On The Other Side”

Artists With Similar Fire: Dave Hause / Matthew Ryan / Jason Isbell

Brian Fallon Website
Brian Fallon Facebook
Island Records

– Reviewed by Dylan Gallimore

Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy [Album Review]

Car Seat Headrest
Twin Fantasy
Matador Records [2018]







Fire Note Says: Car Seat Headrest give the original 2011 Twin Fantasy a shot of rock adrenaline.

Album Review: Twin Fantasy is a re-recorded, re-imagined new version of Will Toledo’s 2011 self-released Bandcamp record of the same name. Toledo will for sure take some critical hits for this as many were waiting for the proper follow up to the excellent (and TFN #1 2016 record) Teens of Denial. Sure, I was initially disappointed about this approach as well but when you take a step back and hear the new version of Twin Fantasy you will get it.

Toledo’s 2011 version was recorded at age nineteen on an inexpensive laptop and follows his DIY lo-fi approach. It works and is a solid record but now Car Seat Headrest has taken those ten (already good) songs and given them a mobile fidelity type of range that gives each track an entire new depth and life. The full band approach enables each song to explode like the rock song shoes they were originally meant to fill. According to Toledo, he took eight months of mixing just to get the drums right on this new version so you know that this project is not a throwaway.


What I like on the newly re-imagined Twin Fantasy is how everything is cleaner. Being a big fan of lo-fi groups, that is a hard statement for me to make but this record doesn’t lose any of its innocence from the bigger sound. Where before, I think lo-fi for Bandcamp Car Seat Headrest sometimes meant compressing the vocals, guitar and drums. This soaring difference can be heard right away on the first track “My Boy (Twin Fantasy)” as the layered vocals now swirl around the listener for a different experience. The acoustic guitar on the 1:30 simple song “Stop Smoking (We Love You)” now has a true strum and when Toledo pleads “we don’t want you to die,” the song is able to focus in on the seriousness of his vocals. One noticeable lyric change on the record is on the rocker “Cute Thing” when Toledo now sings “God give me Frank Ocean’s voice and James Brown’s stage presence which replaces the original lyric which was “give me Dan Bejar’s (Destroyer, Wolf Parade) voice and John Entwistle’s (The Who) stage presence.” Appealing more to the masses? New heroes? Who knows but only the dedicated will notice. I also liked here how the track listing remains the same and Twin Fantasy is now a bit longer with some of the expanded arrangements.

Fans that have been there from the beginning might have some issues getting into this new version but if you remember Car Seat Headrest’s Matador debut, Teens of Style (2015), collected and re-recorded old tunes as well. The band’s current and expanded fanbase should completely love this record. The album was already great and now it has been tuned up for the seven-piece band to hit the road. Every track soars higher and wider and should get the maximum volume. What the project may lack in originality it earns back all respect with execution because Twin Fantasy for sure will be one of the bigger guitar records you hear this year.

Key Tracks: “Cute Thing” / “Stop Smoking (We Love You)” / “Sober To Death”

Artists With Similar Fire: Cloud Nothings / Ron Gallo / The Strokes

Car Seat Headrest Website
Car Seat Headrest Facebook
Matador Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Marriage + Cancer: Marriage + Cancer [Album Review]

Marriage + Cancer
Marriage + Cancer
Self Sabotage Records [2018]



fire-note-headphone-approved






Who: Portland’s Marriage + Cancer continue to scald everything in their path with their caustic noise rock!

Sound: Uncompromising and brutal noise rock not unlike Jesus Lizard and In Utero-era Nirvana.

TFN Final Take: It’s been awhile since Marriage + Cancer’s last release, Killjoy. That 7” came out late 2015. Marriage + Cancer has since completed its transition from Robert Komet’s other band, Nucular Aminals to Marriage + Cancer.

That transition was not just a name change; it was a drastic shift from the quirky dour-pop of Aminals to the full on rage that Marriage + Cancer now embrace. Killjoy served as a bridge between the two sounds, but this new self-titled LP shows that Robert has crossed the bridge and now resides in state of perpetual noise-laden disdain and anger.

That is not a bad thing. I happen to be a big fan of brutal noise rock and this album certainly strikes a chord with me. I have heard a few of the tracks as demos over the past few years, even reviewed a few when Robert released them in 2016 as Demonstrations II EP. Four of those tracks made it to the new LP but they sound so much more rich and full.

“Command + Comply,” “God is Tan” and “Flora + Fauna” bask in higher level of production but the album’s best track, “Gound” really shines. Maybe it is because I can faintly hear a touch of Nucular Aminals in its faster tempo and thrashing riffs. If anything, it is the lone track that gives you a bit of a respite from consistently pummeling you will endure while listening to this LP. Kind of wish there was more of it in the album.

Marriage + Cancer deliver a punishing listen. That is what they set out to do and they do it with zeal. I still miss Nucular Aminals and I highly encourage listeners to check out their discography to go along with this new and exciting direction.



Marriage + Cancer Website
Marriage + Cancer Facebook
Self Sabotage Records

– Reviewed by Daniel Taylor

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures Tour 2018 [Concert Review]


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures Tour, Newport Music Hall, Columbus, Ohio – Friday, February 9, 2018

The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, with it’s gloriously long moniker, arrived in middle America in support of their 8th album, Wrong Creatures (see album review HERE) on Friday night, playing the Columbus club closest to the Ohio State campus on High St. to a pretty full house made up of curious college students and a fair number of fans who were back to see the West Coast post-punk alt-rock trio’s return.

Eager to display their newest material they opened their 90 minute concert with 3 from their latest, sandwiching the album’s most obvious and promising single, “Little Thing Gone Wild,” between the disc’s opening tracks, “Spook” and “King of Bones.” Feedback drenched would prove to be an applicable descriptor throughout the set, while guitarist Peter Hayes and bassist Robert Levon Been traded vocals back and forth, often in the same song. The sound suitably spooky from the get go, and Hayes offering a screaming solo in “Bones,” while drummer Leah Shapiro rocked with solid authority throughout.


The pair moved to acoustic guitars for “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo,” an obvious fan favorite, and then Hayes added a reverb soaked harmonica to the mix on the demented Delta blues of “Ain’t No Easy Way.” Then it was back to their primary instruments, with Hayes adding a keyboard loop, and Been a solid bass line for the rocker, “Stop.”

Then they returned to the new one for “Question of Faith,” with the two vocalists switching instruments as well as sides of the stage, Hayes playing bass, and Been on guitar, who incidentally soloed like a bass player (a common malady). They returned to original positions, but not yet to their original sound. “Circus Bazooko,” with it’s “acid trip on a carousel” keyboard riff, proved more in keeping with the rest of the BRMC repertoire live than in the studio version, but I didn’t find it more enjoyable.


With “Berlin,” which dates back to ‘07’s Baby 81 album, the band recovered the set’s previous momentum with one of the strongest riff rockers of their set, and then continued in that direction with “Conscience Killer,” and followed up with “White Palms,” from the band’s 2001 eponymous debut, which they returned to more and more as the set moved toward it’s climax.

At this point, it’s probably necessary to remind you of the “feedback drenched” quality inherent in the loud, noisy processed guitars that came to define the post-punk and shoe-gazing movements that most inspired BRMC from the beginning. Nowhere was this more obvious on than in the dense, yet moving cover of John Lennon’s “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier,” where they ignored the rest of the lyrics and just repeated the refrain, “I don’t wanna be a soldier, Mama, I don’t wanna die.”


The returned to the new one for another of the album’s more promising airplay candidates, “Echo,” which struck a slow haunted groove, and was followed by another from Wrong Creatures, “Carried From the Start,” for which Been added a keyboard part, while Hayes played an extra tom-tom drum, that was set to echo in repeat. Hayes and Shapiro then left the stage, and Been sang an acoustic version of the Pogue (Ewan MacColl) classic, “Dirty Old Town,” after assuring the Columbus audience that he was sincere in saying how great it was to be back and playing new music.

The rest of the band returned for “Shuffle Your Feet,” a Dylanesque song that brought back the harmonica into the mix, and was followed by “Love Burns” and “All Rise,” which grew in musical intensity that was mirrored in the increased use of strong strobe lights facing the audience. It’s not uncommon for these club shows to avoid spotlights, and allow the musicians to get lost in the shadows due to the intense rear-lighting dynamics, but I’ve never seen a band embrace their on stage anonymity with the commitment of BRMC, they cast a bold profile nonetheless, with Been often holding his bass high like he was aiming a rifle and letting it hang low with his strap dangling behind his legs.


I had checked out a couple setlists from previous shows in anticipation of this Newport gig, and the one real surprise was the addition of “Awake,” another from the band’s debut, to the set. Been followed that, with a playful experimental thing, playing some high squealing notes on an echoing loop that he stopped abruptly about a minute in, saying “You’re not ready for that,” and then dove in the strong bold bass line of “Six Barrel Shotgun.” Here the music and the lighting moved toward the set’s climax with growing intensity, and the set closer, “Spread Your Love,” also from that debut album.

The band returned to encore on “Ninth Configuration,” from the latest, and then returning again to their earliest work as a band, closed out the evening with “Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘n’ Roll (Punk Song),” which answered it’s own question, but rocking with reckless abandon, loud, noisy, and yes, drenched in feedback and marked as silhouettes against the onslaught of strobe lights that felt like an obvious attempt to blind us all before we went deaf. Which is to say, like most of the evening’s music, it was a pretty stellar Black Rebel Motorcycle Club show.

-Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

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