Tag Archives: postpunk

Austin Psych Fest first day: Disappears killed it

Disappears - awesome performance at Psych Fest 2012. (Cellphone camera couldn't cut the mustard so I nabbed this one off the band's Facebook page.)

Just starting to feel human again after a late night at Psych Fest. As usual, the band I enjoyed most wasn’t the one I expected it to be. Best performance and a definite band to watch, is the Chicago-based band Disappears.

I did enjoy the bands we went to see: Dead Meadow were very good and The Black Angels were great as always, I enjoyed a few other bands as well, both at Emo’s East and the Beauty Ballroom. The thing is, none of that really jumped out at me. It was the kind of fare you expect to hear at a festival devoted to psychedelic music – lots of reverb, lots of Velvet Underground influence.

Disappears stood out from the crowd (kind of an amusing statement now that I think of it). They were very together, every member knowing what the others were doing at all times. Different rhythms, vocals higher in the mix. I got a strong postpunk vibe from them. They made me think of bands like Joy Division, Magazine and The Fall.

Chris, my concert buddy, was so impressed he bought three of their CDs. I would have if I hadn’t been a little strapped after buying a few drinks. We played through a couple of the albums after we got back to Chris’s appartment and their latest – Pre Language – is unquestionably the best. The others were good also, but they had a different sound, reminding me a lot of the Stooges.

Here’s one of their best in my opinion:

BTW, I just found out after a bit of searching that their drummer is Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth.

Disappears will be playing in Dallas tonight and in Memphis, Tenn. tomorrow night. They are also getting ready for a summer tour of Europe. Check out their website for more. Also visit their store. You can get Pre Language for $12. Worth it I would say. And check out their Facebook page.

Bands I look forward to seeing tonight include Pink Mountaintops, Olivia Tremor Control, Telescope and the Black Lips. But who knows? Best show might once again be someone completely off my radar.

Emo’s East

I’ve decided I really like the new Emo’s East location on East Riverside Drive. I will miss the old location on 6th Street. I saw so many great shows there. But this one is big, still homey somehow, and they kept a lot of the art from the old place – like the creepy/weird/trippy painting of the elephant cutting open its third eye and the one of Johnny Cash flipping the bird.


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Filed under live show, music, one to watch, psych

Repeater – best take on gothic postpunk I’ve heard in a long time

Last night I was listening to a Pandora station based on ’80s postpunk band The Chameleons, when suddenly a song jumped out at me: “A Second Home,” by Repeater. I thought, wow, postpunk is my thing. How could I miss an awesome band like this?

I looked them up and found that they are in fact a current band from Long Beach, California, and everything I played by them I absolutely loved. They sound like a combination of Chameleons, Joy Division, Comsat Angels, maybe a bit of early U2. The singer has a bit of a rough voice which is very expressive. Themes tend to be rather dark, even goth. Right in that postpunk sweet spot that I cannot resist.

I have already purchased mp3 downloads from their 2008 album Iron Flowers and their 2011 album We Walk from Safety (which would’ve been a very good candidate for my best of 2011 list if I had found it in time). I have also found some impressive videos for their songs.

This one gives me the willies:

I think they’re doing what Interpol tried to do, but the songcraft seems much stronger. Interpol got old after a while, as I began to sense that they had a vibe and not much else. I think Repeater will be on repeat in my stereo for a long time to come.

Visit their website and check them out on Facebook.

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Filed under neo-postpunk, one to watch, postpunk, video

Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ – has it really been 20 years?

I remember the first time I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” like it was yesterday. I was driving on a little country road with my brother, listening to a rock ‘n’ roll station out of San Antonio and this strange song blasted out of my speakers. I was stunned. I didn’t know whether I loved it or hated it. I couldn’t even say exactly what kind of music it was, couldn’t make out all the words. I just knew it was powerful. And it was the first time in ages I had heard anything like real rebellion in a rock song.

It arrived just in time. I had little or no interest in what the top 40 pop stations were playing and had spent the last 5 years or so getting sick and tired of what passed for heavy metal.

Growing up in rural radio hell, metal and hard rock were about as “alternative” as I could get. I heard new wave in the early ’80s and liked it, but punk rock completely passed me by. There were no stations that played it. I asked a classmate in high school once what punk rock was and he thought Kiss might be a punk band — way off. None of us had a clue.

Hard rock and metal seemed rebellious to me at the time, because the songs flouted the norms of the day and because you had to get in the orbit of San Antonio or Corpus Christi to hear it, or hang out with stoner friends. If the preachers didn’t like AC/DC or Van Halen they had to be cool.

Over the years though, rock ‘n’ roll got more and more mainstream and just didn’t satisfy. All the songs about partying and chicks started to come across as bland and boring, awful ballads began to predominate. At some point it became clear that the main point of rock ‘n’ roll had become, not melody, not attitude, but commerce.

I was always jealous of my mom’s generation. Even when it wasn’t obvious, the music back then had a rebellious streak. Songs protested the Vietnam War and mainstream culture, promoted free love and hinted at drug use and pushed musical boundaries. I used to love digging my uncle’s old albums.

Unbeknownst to me, there was a whole class of exciting music being created, from the ’80s through the ’90s. Punk, hardcore, British and American postpunk, industrial. There were bands that pushed the envelope — The Pixies, Mission of Burma, The Meat Puppets, The Minutemen, Butthole Surfers. The thing is, it was all underground. I never heard any of it until years later.

Nirvana took all that stuff that had been bubbling under the surface and created something that was at once familiar and full of hooks — and subversive as hell. Their music was powerful stuff and somehow it managed to crack the mainstream. It changed the way I listened to music, and it changed the music business. Suddenly bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains ruled the airwaves. It made the ’90s into an exciting time for music.

Nothing good lasts forever, alas. Singer Kurt Cobain fought his demons and lost, killing himself in April 1994. And gradually the grunge music revolution ended. Music became less and less exciting and the bands less creative. It was about commerce once again. It’s a shame Kurt wasn’t able to keep it together. His heroin addiction got the best of him and I don’t think he ever came to terms with his popularity. Trying to do something different and underground and having it suddenly turn huge time and again. Wanting to be a rebel and at the same time be a rock star. That plus the heroin — mostly the heroin — did him in.

It’s a damn shame, but I think if he hadn’t been so tormented, he wouldn’t have made the music he did.

We’ve been waiting a long time for another revolutionary figure of his caliber to turn up in music. There is a lot of awesome music out there, but is any band or musician likely to turn everything on its head the way Nirvana did? Is it even possible with the music industry’s current state? Not sure. I’m definitely open to the possibility. In the meantime I reckon I’ll keep digging around in the underground. That’s what gave us Nirvana in the first place, and where the most interesting art and culture has always been.


Filed under indie, indie rock, music, postpunk, Uncategorized

Robyn Hitchcock: Thanks for twisting my brain into the correct shape!

I saw Robyn Hitchcock for the first time at South By Southwest 2004. Just him and his guitar. No band. At first I thought the frat boys in front of me were going to ruin it. They talked, clinked their beers together, yelled during the songs — you know, basic meathead behavior. But then in between songs, Robyn compared his guitar to a javelina, talked about how the world didn’t exist if you never went outside, talked about the German doppelganger myth: “If you see someone coming toward you who looks just like you, it means you’re about to die, or you just met an identical twin no one told you about — or both.” Really weird and funny. And the meatheads in front of me chuckled, shut the hell up and listened. He totally won them over. Very impressive.

It took a bit longer for me. I was already a big fan by 2004, but when I first heard Robyn’s music in the mid-’90s, I hated it. Several of his songs were included on the mixtapes that eventually turned me onto postpunk music. Before that I was pretty much a hard rock guy, though I was somewhat open to things like blues and classical and was starting to check out world music. But the radio sucked, and I could tell the music on those tapes had substance, so I kept listening.

Robyn’s were my least favorite at the time. First of all, I didn’t like his voice. Second, the lyrics were just too weird and disturbing. Because some of his songs were mixed in with stuff I did like right away — Chameleons, Shriekback, Peter Murphy, etc. — I heard them occasionally and tolerated them. “Leppo & the Jooves” and “Balloon Man” first started to grab my attention, and I would think okay, let’s give this guy a chance, and would pop in a tape my friend made of his favorite Hitchcock tunes–and I was lucky if I made it five or six songs in before I turned it off. I was like, blech, what’s wrong with this guy?

Then for some reason about two or three years later, something just clicked. I think it was “She Doesn’t Exist” that caught my attention. All of a sudden I realized he was absolutely brilliant. My friend’s Hitchcock mixtape seldom left my stereo. I played it over and over. From that point I couldn’t get enough of him. I had to get every CD of his I could find and thanks to SXSW I got to see him perform a couple of times.

If you’re not familiar with Robyn’s music, it can vary a lot in terms of energy and style, but all of it is influenced by the psychedelia of the ’60s. Syd Barrett is obviously a big influence. His early band The Soft Boys influenced REM (that band’s guitarist Peter Buck later joined up with Robyn in The Venus 3). In addition to being a wonderfully idosyncratic songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano, bass, harmonica), Robyn is also a visual artist. Some of his psych art wound up as album covers. Explore his website a bit if you want to get an inkling of his many talents: The Museum of Robyn Hitchcock.

My favorite Hitchcock songs change depending on when you ask me, but my custom mix goes something like this:

“The Crawling”
“Leppo & the Jooves”
“Man with a Woman’s Shadow”
“Into the Arms of Love”
“Where are the Prawns?” (from Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight” – Matador Records release, an extra, I think)
“Chinese Water Python”
“Driving Aloud (Radio Storm)”
“Chinese Bones”
“Old Pervert” (an extra from Underwater Moonlight)
“Wang Dang Pig” (ditto)
“Only the Stones Remain”
“Railway Shoes”
“America” (from Gotta Let This Hen Out)
“When I Was Dead” (from Alive Not Dead live EP – I don’t like the one on Respect quite as much)
“Egyptian Cream” (from Gotta Let this Hen Out)
“Balloon Man”

“Ted Woody & Junior”

“Brenda’s Iron Sledge”

“Let There Be More Darkness”

Not sure if that fits on a standard CD-R…

If you want to dive in and buy some albums, I would start with one of these: I Often Dream of Trains, Birds in Perspex, Storefront Hitchcock, ¬†Gotta Get this Hen Out, or Fegmania. I really can’t recommend against any Hitchcock album, but those are my favorites and I can’t imagine anyone who “gets” him not enjoying them.

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Filed under classic postpunk, indie, indie pop, indie rock, music, postpunk, psych, Uncategorized, video

One to watch – LoveLikeFire keeps postpunk sound alive

San Francisco-based LoveLikeFire has incorporated a lot of different influences into its sound, including shoegazer and all kinds of indie rock, but the most striking to me is postpunk. I can totally hear the spirit of Siouxsie & the Banshees in “William,” featured below. It also has a very impressive anime-style video.

I found several other good videos of the band on YouTube. Check out their MySpace, and their band website.

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Filed under indie, indie rock, one to watch, postpunk, video