Covers albums can be a lazy stop gap, a contractual obligation filler or – worst of all – a pointless exercise in rehashing tunes with no imagination. When done well, they can be fantastic and make you hear things in a way you never imagined. In the hands of Los Angeles noise rock/shoegaze band Medicine – famous to UK audiences for their contribution to the soundtrack for ‘The Crow’ – 2019’s ‘Scarred For Life’ provides an opportunity to dive into the past and re-imagine various cult tracks, bringing a few of their choices to a whole new audience. Although you might expect a band like Medicine to take the easier route and fuzz up a few old gothic favourites, on this eleven track release, they give their fans lots of surprises. Taking various songs from the 60s and 70s (in addition to a couple of other detours) this is a record that, in their own words, “relieves the glory of the K-Tel architechts”. That doesn’t mean the band are about to cover the likes of ‘Yellow River’, ‘Jeans On’ and a well known Suzi Quatro hit, though. This is Medicine, after all…and their voyage through decades past often favours deeper cuts.
Back in 2016, alternative rock band’s Dearly Beloved’s fourth album ‘Admission’ was their most consistent release to date. The kind of record that really deserved to boost their fan base, it led to a successful UK tour with Tommy Stinson’s Bash & Pop.
Wizard Rifle are a two piece noise rock band from Portland, Oregon. They began thrilling (and terrifying) audiences in 2010. This self titled release from 2019 is their first for Svart Records (home to Witch Mountain, Harvest, Brutus and various bands with Scandinavian sounding names), but despite making the leap from DIY recordings to signing a cult metal oriented label with a keen fan-base, Wizard Rifle haven’t become any more commercial. Their self titled record features just five tracks, but within those lengthy arrangements you’ll find sections of music which seem bolted together and huge slabs of music created from mangled riffs and sludgy sounds. Always with an ear on sculptures more than songs, it’s tiring…but also brilliant. Hearing Wizard Rifle for the first time is like experiencing Buzz Osborne from Melvins jamming with the now defunct That Fucking Tank while disturbed people shout randomly. With every listen after that, something new comes through; new noises, new howls of pain…but you’ll never forget that initial experience. And it is an experience.
Following 2018’s ironically titled ‘Greatest Hits’, “sparkling gloom” band Green Piece’s 2019 EP ‘Whatever’ displays a slacker’s sense of humour contrasted with some some pretty tough power pop chops. One of the best examples of their sound to date, ‘Stacy’s Dad’ openly mocks Fountains of Wayne, at least on the surface – and fans of that band will love these guys – but scratching a little deeper, it’s a track that brings together broader influences.
Before exploring any of the music on this release, let’s get one of the only negatives out of the way first: Plastic is not a very good band name. It’s a nightmare for search engine effectiveness and not especially memorable. Thankfully, Plastic are a great band and their 2019 EP ‘Drink Sensibly’ is an aural tour-de-force that fuses grungy elements with a punky sharpness, resulting in three tracks that sometimes sound like the work of a band fit to burst.