In this week’s Freak Scene, Jamie Johns discusses the first great releases of 2010 from Puerto Rico Flowers, Death Domain and Native Cats. She also disses John Mayer. Check her writeup after the jump.
New year, new Freak Scene! I am not quite sure what to make of 2010 thus far. One of the first things that happened to me was that I got food poisoning at a Red Lobster in Tom's River, NJ and then yakked all over the front of the restaurant, much to the dismay of an elderly couple. I was not expecting that to be my most memorable 2010 experience thus far, so I don't really know what the rest of this year will hold. I was also not expecting to find three excellent releases so early into 2010. All three are on the minimalist side, perfect for this time of year.
Puerto Rico Flowers - 4
Clockcleaner's Babylon Rules is one of my favorite records...ever. Sure, the lyrics were kind of hokey. How many times can you make a crack about a girl not letting you cum inside her? And how many goofy guys actually believed that whole jokey shock-jock misogyny the group spewed? However, there was something, perhaps the jams or the knowledge that there was a sense of humor underneath, that transcended it all. So imagine my surprise to hear Clockcleaner singer/guitarist John Sharkey III's new project, Puerto Rico Flowers. There are definitely no lyrics about cum and daddy issues on this one. It's all very serious and very dramatic and very moody, and it is all very good. Even with the nearly insurmountable obstacle of that John Mayer quote on the back, UGH [ed. note: The FADER does not endorse any hatred of John Mayer, as The FADER loves John Mayer], I still think this is a most excellent record. On first listen, I was struck by the...emotional gravitas (is this right?) of the whole thing. Maybe it's the cold weather. Most shocking of all, Mr. Sharkey is straight up crooning on this record. The speed is always somewhere in the middle but it highlights the vocals so it helps. Song two, "Let's Make Friends" is the best track and with lyrics about crawling on kitchen floors and possibly love/lust (?), it will demand an almost compulsive number of listens and scarily enough, sing alongs. Drums, bass, synth, vocal. That's all you need. I am still not quite sure if I am ready for a Clockcleaner member to have a deep and profound emotional effect on me in the year 2010, but I love this record. We all change guys. Grip from Fan Death HERE.
The Native Cats - Catspaw / Lemon Juice 7-inch
Two bare-bones songs by Australian duo The Native Cats. The rumbling bass and sparse arrangements immediately give off a post-punk vibe, duh. Those Young Marble Giants comparisons are somewhat dead on. The record isn't filled wall to wall with sound and it doesn't need to be; the minimal bass, drum machine and vocal combination are plenty effective and the group uses silence to its advantage. While Young Marble Giants had more of an eerie and/or fragile aura, The Native Cats use silence to emphasize the sound and power of their other elements. The lyrics are sharp, wry and dry if you will. After so many records with lyrics about being bored or lyrics meant to shock (see above), it is really refreshing to hear a band play with words. Things like, All the trouble, you know it's only here for us, trust the system, push the button just once. Even better considering the whispers that singer, Peter Escott, is autistic. Can someone confirm this? It doesn't matter, just curious. Either way, I recommend looking up a photo of the two guys, it will blow your mind. Like many great 7-inches before it, the B-side, "Lemon Juice," is a wee bit superior to the A-side, "Catspaw." Both songs are total gems though, it's just that the pitter-patter rhythm and troublemaker lyrics of "Lemon Juice" hit the spot a little more. Grip from White Denim HERE.
Death Domain - Ethidium Bromide / Programmed Death 7-inch
The minimal electronics/cold wave/Wierd world has been talked about quite a bit in Freak Scene. Adam Stroupe's Death Domain adds a purely inhuman touch to the oeuvre. Here's another example of the charms of this world. The dead pan, affected British accent vocals, the analog synths, the dance not dance music - it's all here. The lyrics are about cells and biology, things most people are not particularly good at in school. They are also about death too, whoa. Examples include "Red is your color, you kill like no other." There's no emotion on this record and that's the point, I think? It definitely adds to the whole vibe of the 7-inch. Two super quick, icy cold songs, both meant to make you wonder whether or not you should be dancing to these inhuman chants and rhythms but finally deciding, after a few drinks, that it's time to let your personal anguish out and just dance. Maybe you'll put your arms in the air too, who knows. Stroupe avoids overwhelming layers of synth upon synth, allowing him to focus on speed and bleakness, perhaps two of the most crucial traits of the cold wave world. If comparisons are necessary, then it's easy to see that these two Death Domain songs are more aggressive than the melodrama of Xeno & Oaklander, more contained than the kooky mania of Led Er Est, and more isolated than the anguished Cold Cave. And Stroupe would probably shudder at all of those comparisons. Absolute Body Control (and Death Domain covered ABC with Cult of Youth too) and Cabaret Voltaire and all that stuff also come to mind, if we need to re-establish "cred" here. Grip it from Dark Entries HERE.
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