Chicago’s Speed Babes have released several DIY records since 2015 – two full lengths and a staggering five EPs, to be precise – very much taking the Robert Pollard inspired route of capturing the moment. Sometimes the energy of a performance can be more important than perfection.
Three years on from ‘Snake Oil Superscience’, Brooklyn’s Mad Doctors mean business on their second full length ‘No Waves, Just Sharks’. On this album, the band truly exploit their b-movie and pulp fiction interests, not only in the artwork, but also by enlisting various friends to drop various spoken word passages between the tracks, giving the impression they’ve mined the vaults for unknown media samples. In some ways, this is better than using actual samples, in that the clips are tailor made and – perhaps, rather more importantly in this case – it also saves the band and label time and money on clearance rights. Fans of bands within the King Pizza stable might even recognise a few of the voices as belonging to Laura Gwynn and Riley Zeisig (Sirs&Madams) and the whole of label-mates The Rizzos.
In the run up to the release of this cassette, Bleeders had been steadily building a following on the live circuit on their home turf of Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas. That sort of makes sense since they have a sound that would surely work much better live; on record, their no-frills, no-wave, distorted, zero budget approach is hellishly ugly. So much so, that it makes label mates The Meltaways seem like a manufactured, multi-million dollar, radio groomed pop rock trio by direct comparison. The recording of ‘Gash’ is so raw and unrelentingly grotesque, it borders on being unlistenable. Looking at it another way, it’s so hard going, that’s an achievement in itself.
In the summer of 2016, singer-songwriter Max Shrager released ‘Thoughts of You‘, a solo collection of lo-fi tracks written and recorded over a six year period. As if experiencing M.Ward and Tobin Sprout through an old AM radio, the songs weren’t always the easiest to get into or even the most melodic, but there was something about Shrager’s approach that had a curious appeal.
As one half of duo The Shacks, Shrager continues along a gentle and almost vertiginous path, but given the luxury of a proper recording budget, his musical preferences are warmer and more inviting. Not only that, but having Shannon Wise handle the band’s vocals is a step towards a sound that’s better still. Wise has a presence: it’s not the style of your average singer whom allows a forceful voice to take command of the material in hand, but rather the opposite. By using her tones in a hushed and minimalist fashion, she constantly draws in the listener, in a way that so often accentuates the quirkier aspects of the music.
‘Searchlights’ is Dot Dash‘s fifth album in as many years. It’s hardly surprising the Washington-based garage rockers have been so prolific when you consider that this – their contribution to 2016 – was recorded in just two days. These fifteen songs musically hark back to the days of the UK’s burgeoning post-punk scene and the US’s college rock underground – and for fans of The Jam, The Vapors and middle period Replacements, this album should rattle a few memories and get the adrenaline pumping.