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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Climax Landers Land at Roboto

May 21st brought the bands Climax Landers and Sweet Baby Jesus to Pittsburgh's Mr. Roboto Project. I had been kind of avoiding Roboto since I had left the board there. I also started to feel like all of the shows there were emo revival or pop-punk, though things had been moving in that direction for some time. Having no interest in those types of bands, I don't go to those shows.

This show seemed different, and it was. I didn't really know what to expect, but I was excited after a few shows in the last few weeks. I felt much more confident because of the summer, having my own place, and because I was seeing my friends more. Last winter was pretty terrible: depression, isolation, work issues, and financial worries left me a mess. My friend Brian Hecht booked this show, and there were a few people playing that I knew as well. It seemed like a good thing to go to on that Sunday.


The first band up was Blød Maud, who I have seen before and know some of the members of. Patrick Coyle is in the cool It It and bought the Secret Paper Moon tape. Ever since I first saw Blød Maud, I have always liked them. They have a classic post-punk sound akin to one of the bands on the Messthetics compilations, like a louder Young Marble Giants. Along with Ouais, Blød Maud is one of these State College transplants that really brightened the music scene a few years ago. Their set tonight was solid as ever. I think there were some new tracks. I have not seen Blød Maud in quite a while, so I'm not sure. Check out their music here.



The titular band here was the second to play. I didn't listen to Climax Landers before the show, so I had no idea what to expect. Climax Landers includes members of the bands Palberta and Old Table. I don't know those bands either. I do know that Climax Landers is the name of the Sega Dreamcast's Time Stalkers in Japan, but I only just found that out.

It turns out that Climax Landers is really cool! I have been listening to Polaris' "Hey Sandy" and watching stuff about The Adventures of Pete and Pete lately. They would have been a perfect fit for early 90s Nickelodeon. Climax Landers is goofy and free, kind of childish. Their songs sounded almost religious at times, but everything was a kind of noisy but quiet indie-rock. The singer was really energetic, coming into the small audience to hit a tambourine. Maybe he is actually Jonathan Richman? Anyway I felt pretty good after this set.



I took a short walk and came back to find Sweet Baby Jesus already playing musick, This band is most of the same members, but the singer is different. Sweet Baby Jesus is a little more funk/soul, a much more positive version of Baltimore's Dope Body. Their sound is similar to Climax Landers, and, similarly, I felt really positive after they played. You can listen to them here.


Finally, In Arthur's Court started to set up. It took a bit. In Arthur's Court has changed a bunch since they played with Secret Paper Moon a few years ago. This setup had five members, including the band Skeletonized. There were chants and weird horse sounds, guitars, horns, and drums. I think it was improvised, almost definitely in some form. The woman doing the chants said that she got into In Arthur's Court through an ad or something, and I think the person doing the sound effects was just brought in this time. It worked out well regardless. In Arthur's Court is sort of like free jazz/dungeon punk. Go check them out!

Everything ended pretty early and on time. Every band was good at this show. It was nice to not have to close up Roboto all alone, damp and cold, and then ride my bike all the way back to Sharpsburg. This was a totally different experience than when I was last here. The show also helped inspired me to start writing this blog again, so I am really glad I went.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Art All Night 2017

Art All Night 2017, the 20th anniversary, was held from 4pm on April 29th to 2pm April 30th. It was at a new space on 36th Street, the former warehouse being torn down for the construction of condos already underway, rising into the Gibsonian future.

I went to this year's Art All Night during the early evening on the 29th, before I felt awkward and left. I came back at around 1am and had a much better time; I don't like being in crowded galleries when I am trying to look at art. I can't get anything from it with a surging crowd around me: it's both distracting and too forceful, discouraging examination and thoughtfulness. I also went back with my grandmother during the early afternoon on the 30th before everything closed. It was a little depressing afterward, with the hazy sweeping that follows a big party, but it was nice to bring my grandmother to something like this.

Art All Night appeals to me because it is a community endeavor. I hear a lot of people complaining about the "bad art", but they miss the entire point. This is a snapshot of life during each year, at least to those aware and interested in the event. It's a folkloric study, delta blues and the Hookman and the rituals of ancient sorcerers. I do think some of the art is hokey, and I wouldn't expect everyone to like everything. I don't think that's the point though either.

Here are some pics:


















I do have two criticisms: the lighting in the warehouse is an ugly, ancient yellow and the bands echo too much throughout the space. I heard talk of making a more specific stage area with soundproofing so as to dampen the latter problem, and I hope they go through with it next year. It is interesting to hear the haunting echos, a ghostly reminder of the people all around us that we do or don't know, but ultimately it can make it hard to enjoy the event with louder rock bands.

I plan on submitting something for Art All Night 2018. Maybe I will see you or something you submitted there next year, and we can connect through the vapor trails of folk art. Maybe people will come for no reason other than to "snoot snoot" around. Let's all pretend to be famous for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New Bands Night

Dear reader, on May 13th, I went to Gooski's to see some new bands; I'm sure you never would have guessed if I hadn't told you. Anyway, two of the three bands had a friend of mine among the members. And, being out of the loop for a second, focusing on work and game collecting and school, it was nice to see the start of something new that still included familiar faces.


The first band of the night was not a band at all; it was a dude playing an acoustic guitar. He called himself Johnny Honest and the Fucking Liars. It's a decent name. I really wish that Mr. Honest had a full band, because these songs were really calling for a backbeat. He didn't really play acoustic, folk songs, not for the most part anyway, these were full on rockers without the rock. The one song that worked well in this format was a downer about the heroin addiction and death of one of his friends. I think that Johnny Honest and the Fucking Liars would be really cool once there are some Fucking Liars to fuck around with. Right now, it's a little too bare, a bedroom practice with no curtains or blinds.



I had been hyped up about the next band, Aloe, and they did not disappoint. My friend Racheal, formerly of the legendary Skinless Boneless, started this band, and I was excited to see what their new songs were like. I couldn't hear the vocals super well, but Aloe is an awesome band! They sound like a better Skinless Boneless! The songs push forward, while still taking time to float around the lunar crater left by Sonic Youth or veer off into angular weirdness. Aloe does cool noise rock without going into metal territory. They reminded me a little bit of the band Multicult. The songs have space, and there is interesting interplay between the two guitars. I really enjoyed the drums, heavy and a little off-center, very post-punkish. The bass is also really solid. Sorry, I'm Dead will be playing with them on June 18th at The Mr. Roboto Project.




Last up was Smoke Wizzard, named after a Squirrel Hill establishment of burnable substances. My friend Ricky is in this band, but unlike with Aloe, I didn't know that going in. Smoke Wizzard is kind of what I expected from looking at the gear and the members of the band, loud and spacey doom/stoner metal. It's the kind of music that resembles the graphics from the side of an Atari arcade cabinet, something like Centipede or Joust, that stoner fantasy world of the 1970s that birthed Ralph Bakshi's Wizards and Gygax's Dungeons & Dragons. I didn't inhale though. It was a little too loud for me, given the small venue that is Gooski's, and Smoke Wizzard played a little too long. They could have cut it down 5 or 10 minutes. The guitar could have used more treble. The drums were a little off-kilter here again, which is somewhat appealing, though the drum parts were a little simple, even for all the sludging around. I really liked Ricky's solid basslines and echo-y vocals, despite some technical issues early on. Just like with Aloe, this was a great first show, and I will await Smoke Wizzard's next show.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Pink Muscles - The Signal review

Back in March, I got a request to do an album review for an upcoming album. This got buried under other work stuff, which can be easy for me to do. Anyway, I found it again, so here we go.


Pink Muscles describes their sound as being influenced by "no wave, hardcore, death metal, thrash metal, noise rock, punk rock and horror movie soundtracks" and "built on layers of effected guitar, pounding rhythms, unconventional song structures and furious screaming to bring the horror to life". The band is the standard guitar/bass/drums, which is fine with me. This album, The Signal, is the bands debut release. It came out at the beginning of this month, and it is a concept album about monsters destroying the Earth and the people on it.


The album cover of The Signal is okay. I like the comic-tone, background image, but the style of the octo-alien in the center, like a pasted paper cutout, is not consistent with that background. This could be fine, though the composition suffers too; it's very busy and the leftmost octo-alien is very "in the way". I like the font for the band's name. Somehow, it seems a little too much like something in a mobile game; it contrasts with the hand-drawn look of the rest. The album title is kind of hard to see, but I like the placement.

The album starts with the very noise rock-y "Resumption". Like the majority of the tracks on the album, this song is like a gross, psychotronic B-movie. It has some cool guitar synth sounds, and some interesting horn sounds at the end. Also the lyrics describe something about "ejaculating in a pool" - yuck!

Next we have "Teenage Rainbows". This track brings more skronk and some cool warbly vocals. It reminds me of another band of space mutants called Moira Scar. I don't know if they are still together.

The third track is titled "Infestopus". It sounds a lot like Melt-Banana - screechy vocals and scratchy guitars. I don't like the vocals on this one, but I do like the melty horny sounds.

"Star Grove" is the fourth track. It's basically hardcore, and I was not a fan. I did like the lyrics "from the other side" and "cast in an alien life". This Misfits-esque track described a sort of alien epic. It was much less complex than the others.

"Man at the End of My Street" is a great title for a horror film. This one is like the Cronenberg version of The Fly. The vocals were too death metal-y, but I did like the lyrics. This one was very sonically interesting, being more musical and complex with a cool bass part. It reminded me of Sonic Youth on something like "Drunken Butterfly". The end and fadeout worked well.

The next track is "Black Market Tampons", which makes me think of buying a strange product and realizing it is something terrible. Again, it is a pretty good horror movie plot, the kind of urban legend that spread around yr neighborhood back in 1995. Anyway, I actually didn't find this song too interesting: it was too simple and the vocals are boring. The guitar does do some cool things, and there are some cool things. On the other hand, I feel like the "male pregnancy as horror" plot is a little transphobic.

Track 7 is "Battery Acid". This is a strong song, and I like it, at least the beginning, which is like a spacecraft making a landing. The later parts are not as good. I don't really like the vocals. If you are understanding the trend, maybe I would like this album better if it was just instrumental? Basically I don't like screamed vocals, and the lyrics are forced to fit into the rhythm too often. If these songs were more poetically told (wow what a pretentious line), I would like them better. "Battery Acid" does have an interesting break. It kind of sounds like a similar artist, Satan's God.

Track 8 is called "Party at Murder Beach", a title that reminds me of a movie I was just thinking of today called Beach Party Massacre. I have never seen that movie, but a friend's relative worked on it. It also lead me to discover the Insect Surfers. Anyway this track starts super strong with a melting, warbling siren and an uneven bass; I wish more of the tracks started this way. The lyrics sound like an alien abduction or "was it the drugs?" It's a definite 60s-70s throwback to surf/beach grindhouse, exploitation films complete with the surf guitar. It is a little too long.

Next is "The Egg Lady", which is another cool name. Another vocalist comes through from the side like weird thoughts or maybe an actual other person, someone you only just noticed when they spoke. This one has better lyrics with more rhymes. It still isn't told particularly well. "There were alien heads" is a weak line; use more action verbs.

Track 10 is "I Wrote This Song with My Father's Guitar". There is a cool guitar part, but I don't like the vocals. The lyrics are funny. This song is short and the perfect length.

"The Master" is track 11. The lyrics get an "ehh" from me. The guitar is decent with some parts that really push forward. The drums are more prominent, and I like how audible the cymbals are. Screechy radio synths tune in at the end.

"Officers of the Universe" is next. The beginning is okay, but the drums are cool. Death metal/monster vocals are cheesy to me, but these really do sound like some angry mutants. I assume they are the titular officers, angry at a subordinate? It's hard for me to make out the words. The end is good.

"Heaven is For Real" is the penultimate track. The guitar downgraded up to a conventional, bedroom hardcore tone; it does improve later in the song, moving down the hall and out to the street. "Heaven is For Real" is very similar to earlier tracks, and the line "there is no God!" is nacho cheese. I like the fuzz at the end.

"Mouth House" is the last track; again it's a good name. There are awesome, ambient sounds at the beginning, cool sounds and more space. I'll take space over layers of sound any day. Vocals clear up to a downpour of still "ehh" lyrics. The plot is sort of like The Evil Dead. When I think about the vocals more though, they make me think of not wanting to go outside, feeling alone but framed in a horror movie plot. This is great! Also I like the horns a lot, and the ghostly, backing vocals add a dreamy, mocking, biting tone to the song. It's too long, though.

Overall, I liked some of the instrumentals, but this album is too brutal and dense for me. I like the songs that reach beyond just the horror movie plots, "Mouth House" and "I Wrote This Song with My Father's Guitar". I don't like these kind of monster vocal tones, though, and the instruments pounding along. When the songs reach their end, their are some great sounds; finally the space opens up for cosmic horrors to descend upon us, for spirits to invade our houses, and for the capturing of strange tones from space. I think I would like Pink Muscles live, and I am interested in seeing what they do in the future. The Signal receives a Neutral.