Tag Archives: groovemine

Video: Tokyo Police Club – “Argentina (Parts I, II, III)”

Tokyo Police Club
Tokyo Police Club

Tokyo Police Club holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons. They are one of those bands that I was lucky to get into on the ground floor. I was guided toward their debut EP and was hooked right away, remaining so since then. It was noticeable though how long it seemed to take them to actually turn out a proper full length album. The “A Lesson in Crime” EP was released in 2006, followed by a two year gap before the release of “Elephant Shell.” That’s a ridiculously long time to wait while sitting on a successful and exciting EP that a lot of people were talking about. Risky move to say the least. Thankfully the album was solid, if a little on the short side.

The other reason that Tokyo Police Club is close to me is that their 2nd full length, “Champ,” was the first album review that I ever did for the now defunct portal site Groovemine.com. I refuse to read it again because I can’t imagine how terrible it probably is. I’d like to think that my writing has improved greatly since that first overwrought review. But considering that, and the opportunity that the site gave me to start writing seriously on a blog, maybe without Tokyo Police Club there would be no quartertonality.com.

I’ve recently been thinking about when the hell (if ever) this band was going to finally put out some more music, though they hinted at the recording process earlier in 2013 on their tumblr with a few Vines, and it looks like the wait is almost over. “Argentina (Parts I, II, III)” was uploaded to the band’s youtube at the beginning of December. Looks like they are getting a jump on 2014.

Though the video doesn’t feature the band, at least visually, their music is pretty recognizable at this point. Their punchy, energetic pop is catchy as hell, just like always. No huge stylistic shifts are evident in this new track, unless you consider epic length to be a stylistic change. At nearly 9 minutes this is Tokyo Police Club at their most sprawling, which is (again) a pretty daring move for a band that relies heavily on pop hooks and high energy anthems. The band really is breaking the mold that they created for themselves.

As far as I can tell there aren’t really any clear boundaries between the three parts, the song just continues to grow and develop through well orchestrated changes and nicely shaped, continuous structure. Guitar breaks trading with buzzing synths and floating melodies carry the song through its many twists and turns that ultimately bring us back home.

Check out the video for “Argentina (Parts I, II, III)” below.

The band has a few scattered dates posted on their site, but I would suggest checking back periodically, because there have got to be many more coming.

Album review: Terry Malts – "Killing Time"

Taking the garage punk aesthetic to unexpected places and mixing it with an early rock and roll sensibility for melodic pop hooks, Terry Malts succeeds in making fun, catchy noise with the occasional biting social commentary. It’s all apropos of punk rock.

The first thing that immediately struck me is how much the singer’s voice sounds like that of Joey Ramone’s, and I should apologize because once you start to hear it that way it will be impossible to hear it any other way. The comparison was something that my mind would not let go. Uncomplicated songs with straightforward structures are not something that the Ramones invented, but Terry Malts takes the form and sound — as an archetype — and runs with it. The songs on “Killing Time” not only have more lyrical depth, combined with variety in the tempo and rhythm department, but are also given room to breathe. The band allows each track to develop in its own way by either cutting back and building up the dynamic again or with the addition of a squealing, messy guitar solo. Perhaps a better idea of their sound would be to place it in terms of the noisy garage punk bands Male Bonding or Dum Dum Girls.

Terry Malts buzzes with a guitar tone that seems to have been taken directly from Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade and it’s that haze from which the entire album takes its tone – bass heavy, and at times overridden with feedback and echoed vocals. The buzzed out “Not Far From It” is a perfect example of this sound. With “I’m Neurotic,” the droning, repetitive and spacious grinding guitar riff pervades, though the simple, pared down lyrics are more the focus on this track. Repeated statements of “I’m neurotic, that’s what she says, I won’t let it go to my head. Maybe she’s right” not only works to highlight the fact that he is, in fact, neurotic, but therefore that “she” is right. Efforts specifically directed towards preventing it from going to his head are only doing the opposite. The music reflects the neurosis that commandeers all attention and focus.

“Nauseous” picks up the pace significantly. It’s far more catchy with a quick tempo, and perhaps even borders on “sing-along” inspiring with the hook “na-na-na-na-nauseous”. This is all combined with an ability for capturing the aura of early hard-core punk like Black Flag, mixed with a bit of the early rock and roll-influenced fun. Those two characteristics seem, on the surface, to be diametrically opposed, and I can’t think of how they could be working together — but according to Terry Malts they can, and do on this track. By placing the lighthearted melody of the vocals against support from heavy, bass-driven, guitar noise that is thrashing about in the background they manage to make work something that would seem like an option in the first place.

Terry Malts - "Killing Time"
Terry Malts - "Killing Time"

A doo-wop, early rock and roll sound also pervades “No Good For You”. If you could imagine the guitars being a little cleaner, and putting the vocals up front more, then I think this song would easily find a place for itself on the Top 40 back in the late 1950s. Not to beat the Ramones references into the ground, but it seems like this is what they were trying to conjure from themselves when they worked with Phil Spector. Instead, they more or less ended up turning out the same music that they had been all along, which is certainly not a bad thing.

Some of the lyrics on “Killing Time” push the boundaries with plainspoken, forthright social commentaries. The track “Not a Christian” is at once a slam to Christianity with lyrics such as “A prayer is empty air and no one’s listening” and a statement of personal beliefs with “There is life and there is death, I live my life, I do my best”. It’s over almost as fast as it began with no room left for ruminations or arguments.  Similarly, in the biting social commentary category, is “Mall Dreams”, a diatribe against modern consumerist culture. When the line “Who are you when all you do is consume?” is sung the conviction of the statement isn’t made any less contemptuous by the bouncing rhythm and uptempo character of the song. It happens to be a happy track on the surface but the lyrics beg for deeper inspection.

“No Big Deal” lyrically lands more on the personal side of things, sarcastically trying to cope with a break up. “No big deal, that was just my heart you ripped out” – sings a sullen voice that seems to be accepting of his fate while still managing to put his full pain on display. The squeal of uncontrollable feedback also permeates this track, the guitarist seemingly unable to hold it back, and unwilling to turn it down.

Squarely in-line with punk ethos is “Can’t Tell No One”, a straightforward rocker with rapid fire vocals. “People try to tell me what they think is right for me….but I won’t listen to them, won’t take their advice, I really wouldn’t have it any other fuckin’ way” is the most punk-rock line on the album. The rigid, uncompromising raising of the middle finger directly into the face of everyone within shouting distance serves as a very nice contrast to a lot of the other songs on “Killing Time” that are more obviously making use of the old school rock and roll influence.

The album really is about balancing those two extremes: the birth of rock with the noise and attitude of various strands of punk — from the garages, basements and dingy clubs across the country.

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/03-Where-Is-The-Weekend.mp3|titles=Where Is The Weekend] [audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/10-No-Good-For-You.mp3|titles=No Good For You]

Favorites albums of 2011

(Originally posted on Tympanogram.com on December 22, 2011)

It’s hard to tell whether this was a really great year for music or if I was just paying attention more than last year. That sums up my feelings at the end of every year. I don’t want to do too much of an introduction because I have quite a bit to say. I’m not putting these releases in any particular order, they are just my favorites. Some I listened to more than others, but putting them in order just seems too subjective and a pointless waste of time.

Chad VanGaalen – “Diaper Island”

Chad Vangaalen - "Diaper Island"
Chad Vangaalen - "Diaper Island"

Listening to this album filled the void left by Women not releasing anything this year. This was my gateway into listening to more of VanGaalen’s stuff and it remains my favorite album of his. With it’s haunting and warm sound, psychedelic imagery and noisy guitars Diaper Island hit all the right  notes. Standout tracks “Peace on the Rise,” “Heavy Stones” and “Do Not Fear” would be a good fit on any year end mix. (review here.)

 

Fucked Up  – “David Comes to Life”

Fucked Up - "David Comes to Life"
Fucked Up - "David Comes to Life"

Simply put, this is one epic album. It may seems like a chore to listen to this nearly 78 minute hardcore opera about love and loss, but when it comes down to it the album still relies on catchy hooks, pure unbridled emotion and more guitars than have ever appeared on any album ever. The complexity of the arrangements may be overshadowed by the brash vocals but take another 10 or 20 listens and you’ll undoubtedly start to appreciate how truly brilliant this album is from it’s structure and lyrics right on down to the execution. This continues Fucked Up in their clear evolution of a hardcore band that is always searching for new ways to expand the medium.

Radiohead – “The King of Limbs”

Radiohead - "The King of Limbs"
Radiohead - "The King of Limbs"

Radiohead will never be able to catch a break ever again. They are caught in the terrible, yet still enviable, position of people expecting great innovations from album to album and then fans and critics regularly misunderstanding their music and heaping faint praise onto them. Make no mistake The King of Limbs is a fantastic album. Sure, it is short, and there isn’t much in the way of guitar on it, and it’s really percussion heavy. It’s still a Radiohead album though and in my mind they are nearly at the level where they can do nothing wrong. There are definite gems on here and it should not be simply cast aside. (review)

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/07-Give-Up-The-Ghost.mp3|titles=Give Up The Ghost]

tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l”

tUnE-yArDs - "w h o k i l l"
tUnE-yArDs - "w h o k i l l"

Probably the most divisive album of the year. I have yet to come across anyone that could say, “Yeah I heard the tune-yards album, it was ok”. The reactions were always hard to one side. If I recall correctly even those of us in the Tympanogram camp were at odds over how we felt about it. My take on it is that it’s a wholly new sound that is interesting rhythmically to a very high degree, orchestrationally it also makes great use of everything available but never tries to go too far, or do too much. This album manages to do all of those things while continuing to keep it interesting and different from song to song covering a variety of moods. (review)

Wild Flag – “Wild Flag”

Wild Flag - "Wild Flag"
Wild Flag - "Wild Flag"

This is a straight up rock record. I had been looking forward to its release ever since Carrie Brownstein left NPR to pursue music in a touring band once again. They manage to easily sidestep any of the normal pitfalls of a debut album because all of the members of Wild Flag are seasoned pros. Each track is exciting and energetic and simply rocks. They captured the energy of a live show and released it simultaneously as they toured across the country garnering acclaim for their exciting, energetic show. (review)

Colin Stetson – “New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges”

Colin Stetson - "New History Warfare Vol 2: Judges"
Colin Stetson - "New History Warfare Vol 2: Judges"

This album is the only thing I have listened to that has left me absolutely speechless and astounded upon its conclusion. It’s flashy, arty and walks that line between art-music and jazz. It’s another album that stands in a category of its own, which is exactly the kind of thing that I’m attracted to. What’s even more amazing is that it’s almost all solo saxophone music, except for one track that Stetson performs on French Horn. On the surface it is not exactly the kind of thing that I would be drawn to, and maybe it’s not the kind of thing that you’d be drawn to either. To you I would say this is definitely worth a listen or ten. It’s damn near revolutionary and will leave you spellbound. (review)

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/12-The-righteous-wrath-of-an-honorable-man.mp3|titles=The righteous wrath of an honorable man] [audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/07-Home.mp3|titles=Home] [audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/05-From-no-part-of-me-could-I-summon-a-voice.mp3|titles=From no part of me could I summon a voice]

 

Starfucker – “Reptilians”

Starfucker - "Reptilians"
Starfucker - "Reptilians"

Catchy as hell, synth-laden, danceable pop tunes about life and death, though mostly about death. This was definitely an album that I had cast aside earlier in the year, but when I came back to it I found that I was surely missing out. There’s something satisfying about a thick, buzzing synth sound.

Tim Hecker – “Ravedeath 1972”

Tim Hecker - "Ravedeath 1972"
Tim Hecker - "Ravedeath 1972"

I definitely don’t fashion myself an expert on ambient music, but there is just something so moving about this album the way that it uses masses of sound to create an atmosphere that is ethereal and familiar all at once. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what I love about this album. Maybe it’s the fact that I keep coming back to it, that it keeps forcing me to come back to it. It’s just so damned intriguing.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – “Mirror Traffic”

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - "Mirror Traffic"
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - "Mirror Traffic"

The Pavement nepotism is obvious. I became absolutely obsessed with Pavement when I finally started paying attention to their albums around 2006. Come to find out I was wasting all sorts of time missing Pavement because Malkmus has been putting out fantastic albums since right after Pavement’s last album came out in 1999. “Mirror Traffic” is full of songs with interesting harmonies, sudden shifts, catchy melodies and Malkmus’ literate and sometimes cryptic lyrics.

The Two Koreas – “Science Island”

The Two Koreas - "Science Island"
The Two Koreas - "Science Island"

I know that hardly anyone is going to agree with me on this album. I also know that not too many people have heard this album and that is a shame. That is also partially the reason why I am making it a point to mention it on my year end list. The music is sloppy to a certain degree, totally embodying a garage rock aesthetic. Every track is a barn-burner sung with a sneer with plenty of jangly, noisy guitars adding to the overall experience. If you listen to anything on this list, or are inspired to listen to anything new I would suggest most highly this album. (review)

Album review: Priestbird – "Beachcombers"

Priestbird is the new moniker of former instrumental indie-prog outfit Tarantula A.D. It seems that tensions within the band came to a breaking point such that they didn’t feel they would be able to continue making music together. They split and went their separate ways, only to ultimately end up creating music together again.

It seems as though they can’t avoid their creative tendencies and perhaps the time away allowed each of them to re-evaluate the music that they wanted to make. This change of gears seems to be exactly what each of the trio wanted; reconvening to see if anything would click. The result, “Beachcombers”, shows that things did, in fact, click. The album is thoughtful and, on the surface, laid back. Looking deeper one will discover that Priestbird have not completely let go of their prog leanings. Much less pronounced, for sure, but  they most certainly have far from completely disappeared.

Priestbirds musicianship stands at the forefront throughout the album, such as with the complex and tight vocal harmonies that appear on the Souther front porch vibe of “Gone”, with its touch of bouncy acoustic fingerstyle technique. Interesting harmonic shifts exist throughout the album for those that are paying close enough attention. There are some subtle metric shifts as well. But Priestbird is more heart than head, eschewing the truly prog tendency to prove to the audience how much tricky stuff they can squeeze into a song. (see: Tool).

The tracks on “Beachcombers” still only run in the 3 to 4 minute range and focus more on gentle melodies and lilting vocals with a very laid back groove. There aren’t any songs that seem to be trying too hard to do something that the music doesn’t want to do. Songs, in my opinion, when done right have a way of naturally evolving into what they need to become. Prog sometimes pushes back against this idea a little bit too much and that tension can take a lot away form a song.

Priestbird - "Beachcombers"
Priestbird - "Beachcombers"

“Who Will Lead Us” is definitely a stand out track, with a defining sound. Its lush chorus of “Who will lead us from here?” brings to mind the sound and production values of maybe Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” or some of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s earlier, slightly less pretentious (and portentous) material. The little guitar break that appears just before each chorus is perfectly placed. I can imagine it as easily having a million places to go. Instead Priestbird practices restraint and only later develops this seemingly little aberration into a bridge section, bringing it back to the chorus. They never go too far astray.

The string arrangements I’m sure will have some reviewers using the word “orchestrated” to describe the tunes, but I think that the words “lush” and “expansive” are much more apt. These descriptors also do not come with any additional classical music concert hall connotations. Priestbird uses the strings so well as part of the ensemble. It never seems like they are just “something extra” that needs to be used. They really become a part of the songs and help to lift everything to a higher level during the blissful choruses.

“All That’s Lost” delves into Bossa Nova territory adding another layer to their sound that is already difficult to pin down. I really can’t think of another band that is able to use world music influences as seamlessly intertwined with their own psychedelic sound as Priestbird has in this track.

Album closer “Yellow Noon” sums up the ideas of “Beachcombers” pretty well; a delicate and subtly complex verse is plucked out on the guitar with gentle vocals followed by an expansive chorus that revels in more dense atmospherics. Some lead guitar work comes to the fore, but just as they have showcased their tasteful restraint elsewhere on the album, it never gets too invasive.

This seems to be a great new beginning for a band that already has the experience of being a touring band. They are using their more cerebral creative side not as the basis for their songs but instead holding it at arms length and casting sidelong glances at their former musical direction while letting their hearts lead them, not their head.

///

The album is available for download from Priestbird’s site, here. Name your own price.

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/06-Who-Will-Lead-Us.mp3|titles=Priestbird – “Who Will Lead Us”]

 

Album review: Psychedelic Horseshit – "Laced"

For those of you out there that feel like White Fence’s release “Is Growing Faith” was a little too “mainstream” and accessible, you’ll be happy to know that Psychedelic Horseshit’s latest release, “Laced” is neither of those things.

Psychedelic Horseshit is a DIY recording project that has created an album so loose and gritty sounding that it is barely held together to the end. The vocal delivery is drawled in a lazy monotone with barely an attempt at creating a melody. In place of the vocal melody there are off kilter rhythmic accents that carry the listener from line to line. After repeated listens, which is highly suggested, one will begin to pick out the more lucid, memorable bits and songs that really seem to “click” in a way.

The album opens up with sounds emerging from a trippy haze, like the sound effects that an educational video might use to characterize an acid trip while warning against it.  It seems to be welcoming us to the trip as it were. The album captures the raw idea of the songs presented, and seems to celebrate the idea of spontaneity and instant composition.

“French Coutryside” is full of ideas that are layered one on top of the other while “I Hate the Beach” and “Revolution Wavers” features extended synth breaks that close out the tracks. Now that the listener has been invited to go on this trip with the band they need to allow themselves to be taken away in the trance that is created by layer upon layer of scratchy synth lines and loose drumming.

The title track seems to be the best attempt at a “catchy pop tune”, though I use that term in the loosest possible sense. The electronic sounds hold the song together despite the ancillary drum machine beat. Everything else sways in and out of the beat. “Automatic Writing” is the thinnest and simplest track on “Laced”. It borders upon straight up ambient music with lush synth tones casting down simple, long waves of sound that are occasionally permeated with an ultra-high pitched sound that could have been right out of a 1980’s sci-fi flick.

Psychedelic Horseshit - "Laced:
Psychedelic Horseshit - "Laced:

Bongo rhythms permeate nearly every track, adding an extra layer of stoned college bro drum-circle atmosphere to the tracks. Out of tune guitar accompanies several tracks, furthering the feeling of an impromptu jam session that becomes the common thread tying all of the songs together.

Tracks like “Laced” and “Another Side” are among the more accessible on the album, the latter of which does its best Bob Dylan with a wild harmonica interlude and simple 2 chord structure. “Making Out” is the most emotionally moving of the tracks thanks to an ascending vocal line that challenges the singer’s range. Spastic bongo work accompanies the track for the duration.

The vocal delivery, and really the entire ethos that seems to be behind this album can be explained by comparing it to early Beck. Remember when Beck was a “Loser”, back in his freak folk, California stoner/surfer/beach bum slacker days? The delivery here is very similar to that. It’s sort of off the cuff, without a care, but the singer’s actual voice is more comparable to Conor Oberst or Patrick Stickles.

Psychedelic Horseshit’s “Laced” captures that moment of spontaneity  in an improv session where a band is just getting together to bounce ideas off of each other. Those improvisatory, experimental tunes are balanced against worked out songs like the title track. One gets the idea after listening that Psychedelic Horseshit isn’t too concerned with being commercially successful. They seem to be more focused on producing lo-fi, home recorded jams that capture the realm that lies somewhere between improv, forethought and total collapse.

The album is out now worldwide. You can purchase your copy HERE.

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/07-Another-Side.mp3|titles=Psychedeclic Horseshit – Another Side]

Album review: Colourmusic – "My ______ is Pink"

Go ahead: admit the first thing that popped into your head when you read the title. Yeah, that’s what I thought, sicko. Well that’s not how this reviewer read it at all. I read it as “My blank is Pink” because I am classy and sophisticated and a terrific liar.

Perhaps the provocative title, or non-provocative title as the case may be, serves as the point of entry for the album. Upon reading the title the listener is probably lead to expect something confrontational, something that challenges and pushes the envelope a bit. This album certainly does all of those things to a certain degree. An apt comparison in sound and approach can be drawn from Sleigh Bells to Colourmusic, though stating it that simply is selling Colourmusic quite short.

Sleigh Bells stormed onto the scene with a recognizable “meters in the red” and completely overblown, overdriven sound that, to me, tries a little too hard to get noticed and can be filed away as “gimmicky”. Colourmusic tones it down a bit while still maintaining a powerful and edgy sound that is more organic, yet still charged up. It comes off sounding a lot more realistic and believable. The band doesn’t have an overbearing synthetic sound. Live drums pound behind shredding, layered buzzsaw guitars.

Those guitars are more likely to churn out riffs that sound like they were ripped straight out of the Black Sabbath playbook, while the vocals tend to sound a bit more ethereal and akin to Animal Collective. Take for example the vocals in the chorus of “We Shall Wish (Use Your Adult Voice)”. There are moments there that conjure the same sound-world from which Animal Collective operates with lush multi-layering and plenty of breathy reverb. Colourmusic’s songs go beyond exploring one particular sound. The songs have instrumental appeal in addition to those explorations, meaning that they sound like a band playing instruments, rather than creating music that relies heavily upon the manipulation of other sounds. Instead, Colourmusic seems to be interested in having the listener focus on the layers of sound that one instrument or even one note can produce.

Colourmusic - My___-is-Pink
Colourmusic - "My___ is Pink"

The opening of “You For Leaving” states simply the staccato attack of one chord on a piano that is sustained, allowing the listener to hear all of the overtones intermingling and growing into a mass of sound right before the song opens up to a full chorus and pipe organ. It’s an approach that is akin to the work of spectral analysts that compose music where every idea for a composition is literally derived from information that is found in one small fragment of a sound. Colourmusic is adept at extrapolating ideas from sounds but their scientific attention to detail doesn’t diminish their ability to write a dancey, fun song like “Dolphins & Unicorns”.

That song, like “The Little Death (In Five Parts)”, moves between opposing textures starting with a danceable rhythm and moving to more ambient territory. The beginning of “The Little Death (In Five Parts)” though is more like a false start that anticipates a pummeling, raunchy guitar line that is thick and densely distorted, covering plenty of rhythmic ground before the vocals actually begin in a cloud of arrhythmic echoes. The track continues to spend 6 minutes tearing through material that moves from driving guitar work, into a slow dirge  of fuzzed out metal before decaying into spacious minimalist territory.

Serving as a counter to all the abrasive guitars are the passionate vocals that appear on tracks like “Feels Good to Wear” and “We Shall Wish” where a sense of longing and pain can be gleaned. The usual ambient effects of the voice in the latter track are placed on the instruments temporarily which is a welcome flipping of the texture. The instrumental breaks cast that song into an arena rock light where the track just opens up , pushing and pulling against the wall of sound that is barely contained by the band.

The band is agile enough to handle jumping between styles and textures even within the same song. They can move from loud and powerful to quiet, spacious and delicate and make it make sense. The construction of their songs is tight enough and logicalto the point where these changes don’t seem jarring.

Rounding out the end of the album is the track “Whitby Harbour”, which is simply the sound of waves lapping up on the shore. Perhaps this serves as a point of respite from a fairly intense album, or perhaps this is moving more in the direction of finding the music within sounds. A bit of spectral analysis of nature.

This album, “My ____ is Pink”, is nearly unclassifiable. It sounds loud and psychedelic in spots, but direct and danceable in most others. Somewhere between  electronic and rock with songs that have intricately crafted dynamic shapes and tight, well thought out structures.

It’s due out May 10th in the U.S. and you can order it here: http://colourmusic.spinshop.com/

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/14_Track_14.mp3|titles=Colourmusic – “Yes!”] [audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/12_Track_12.mp3|titles=Colourmusic – “Mono”] [audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/05_Track_05.mp3|titles=Colourmusic – “You For Leaving”]

Album review: The Two Koreas – "Science Island"

Sometimes a straight forward rock album is exactly what the doctor ordered. Noisy, sloppy, balls to the wall rock has the power to erase any traces of trend-mongering buzzbands that exist only to grab a quick piece of the action. The Two Koreas don’t seem to be interested in any of the current trends and instead are slicing right through the middle of it all with pure rock verve. Literate lyrics shouted atop a noisy, energetic garage rock band.

Every song is forthright in its earnestness, and pushes forward with such aggression that the honesty and effort shines right through. The singing is delivered in a speech-like, declamatory style that slips in and out of the beat similar to Eddie Argos of Art Brut’s style, but with the rock attitude of Sammy James Jr. from The Mooney Suzuki.  The lyrics are all shouted, and yearn to be shouted along to. It sounds as though they are writing anthem after anthem. Continuing with the comparisons I could say that they are like a noisier, more garage rock oriented Tokyo Police Club that is rough around the edges, or like Surfer Blood in their fondness of catchy hooks. I can even hear strains of Wire’s post-punk throughout. The point being: The Two Koreas aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel, and that’s fine because this is rock music done well with all the energy and catchiness one could ever possibly desire.

The Two Koreas - "Science Island"

There is nothing hidden in these songs, it’s all out there in the open. The band is able to continually build up the energy, sustaining the tension for as long as possible until reaching a near breaking point. The entire album is chock full of jangling, noisy guitars and ill fitting melodies with shaky vocals. I don’t mean that in a negative light at all. The guitar matches the vocals in its ability to slip far behind the beat, giving a general feeling of looseness throughout. Much of “Science Island” is sinister in its sound.The echoey vocals make it sound like a one man gang vocal. It is dark and serious; defiant with the sound of an angry mob riotously marching through the streets, growing in numbers as they do.
The band is at their strongest on the tracks “Haunted Beach” and “Karl Johans Gate” where the music steadily builds, unchanging except for increasing dynamics with verses and choruses blending into each other over top. “Diamond Geezer” is a standout track with a lead line that cuts through the bass and drum backbeat, sounding similar in tone to East Bay Ray of The Dead Kennedys. The track also matches the sort of sinister, yet upbeat sound that was characteristic of so many Dead Kennedys tunes.

The lyrics are plentiful and fast paced. It’s nearly impossible to catch them all as they come flying at you. The lyrics seem to do one of two things: either speak down to someone or provide the listener with some sort of fortune cookie type advice. Take for example, the song “Withering Heights”, which is a great example of their ability to start with high energy yet continuously build past it. It sports the lyric,“You take the wrong advice, you pay the highest price.” That has got to be one of the best lines on the album, shouted through the dissipating reverb of the guitars after they abruptly stop only briefly enough for this to be spoken. After that the energy picks up exactly where it left off. “Disco Slave Song” is another noisy one chord romp with a shout-along hook and organ solo in the breakdown.

The Two Koreas’ “Science Island” is a welcome return of jangly, loud garage rock. Sometimes music that is formed from the simplest, most honest of ideas is the best music.