Bad Religion bring chaos, Trupa Trupa arrive arrive, Chris Cohen gets hairy, Beat Circus know Bo and more in today’s Roundup. I burned through yet another pair of expensive earbuds today. Can somebody please invite a Bluetooth receiver for my brain already?
1 It’s been said that bad times inspire great music — especially in the punk scene. I don’t know about that. But I do suspect that rabble-rousing L.A. icons Bad Religion had no trouble finding topics to tackle on their much-anticipated and badly needed 17th studio album Age of Unreason. Look no further than the title of first single Chaos From Within. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Chaos From Within uses the band’s iconic, fast, and melodic sound to examine the current border wall controversy with the lyrics, “Threat is urgent, existential / with patience wearing thin / but the danger’s elemental / it’s chaos from within.” As co-songwriter and lead singer Greg Graffin says, “Throughout history, walls have been used to keep the barbarians out, but it seems to me the truly barbaric aspect of a civilization is the chaos that comes from within.” Welcome to the resistance:
2 Get ready for the Polish Invasion. Earlier this year, Sub Pop Records signed risk-taking synth-pop outfit Perfect Son. Now they’ve doubled down by taking on eccentric psyche-pop outfit Trupa Trupa. And judging by the dark syncopation and ominous hypontism of their first song and video Dream About, they’ve hit the jackpot again. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “The band have delivered an official video for Dream About, a new song that features a honeyed falsetto that totters over a menacing bassline, and the frisson between them so hypnotic it renders the title phrase as an existential mantra, a lifeline.” Take a trip:
3 We’ve all been there: You wake up in the middle of the night. You go out into the backyard with your acoustic guitar. You see a strange guy hiding among the trees. And then hair starts to grow out of your guitar. What? That hasn’t happened to you? Well, apparently it’s happened to California singer-songwriter Chris Cohen. And that ain’t the half of it, judging by his kooky new black-and-white video for the fittingly sweet folk-pop number Sweet William. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Sweet William, also the name of a traditional English ballad and a flowering plant, was written and recorded by Cohen with lyrics penned by Luke Csehak (The Lentils), highlighting the collaborative nature of the new album. Csehak also directed the video which was inspired by the 1941 Lon Chaney Jr. film, The Wolfman.” Ah-oooooh:
4 There’s American music. There’s gothic music. And there’s weird music. Put them all together and you have Weird American Gothic, the self-proclaimed style of Boston-based band Beat Circus, led by singer-songwriter Brian Carpenter. Now set them to a serpentine Bo Diddley groove, fuel them with a dark melody and top them with a haunting exotic vocal line, and you’ve got These Wicked Things, the title cut from their upcoming fourth album and first release in a decade. And if you set it all in the desert, you’ve got the new video for the song. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “The record bridges a number of disparate genres including experimental music, cowpunk, post-punk, Mexican folk music, mariachi music, and Italian giallo soundtracks. The cover and booklet include a 18-page graphic novelette by renowned Croatian artist Danijel Zezelj, best known for his live paintings, multimedia, and collaborations with DC Comics/Vertigo.” Wicked indeed:
5 It seems kind of fitting that Sleep In’s new video for their single Splitting Clouds begins with an alarm clock going off in the morning. Thankfully, the rest of New Jersey crew’s surging, melodic emo-punk track doesn’t just hang around punching the snooze button — it heads out into the great wide open. Presumably in search of the band’s upcoming album The Stars On Your Ceiling, due next month. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “This song is about taking time, traveling, & seeing other things than your normal everyday surroundings. More specifically a trip I took with my best friend about 10 years ago that really opened my eyes to what else is out there.” Wakey-wakey:
6 My wife and I are thinking of listing our individual pet peeves to save time — for instance, next time she sees a woman in the market leave her purse unattended in her shopping cart, she can just say, “I saw a No. 4 today.” My No. 1 is bands who send me 850-word press releases (or worse, waste their money on publicists who send me 850-word press releases) THAT DON’T SAY WHERE THEY’RE FROM. It makes me hate them right away. Even when they have a song as enjoyable as Stealing Sheep’s infectiously poppy Show Love — or a video as colourful and fun as this accompanying clip. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Created by Korean animator Gyuri Cloe Lee, the video is a stop-motion treat for the eyes, featuring overly-saturated colour schemes and a stream of consciousness animation style, depicting modern life chaos, bombardment from self-improvement ads, and the excitement of cheap thrills from instant gratification.” BTW: They’re from Liverpool. Was that so freakin’ hard?
7 Last time I talked to Steve Earle was on the day of his late mentor Guy Clark’s memorial in 2016. Not surprisingly, Earle spent some time reminiscing about his pal: “He was wise. He and Townes (Van Zandt) were pretty much opposites. Guy was pretty much nuts and bolts. Townes just told me to go read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee — and to put the cap on the bottle in case somebody kicks it over. And trust me, Guy believed all those things too. But he also showed me a bunch of things. He didn’t expect me to do them that way; he just thought it would be helpful if I saw how he did it, and he was willing to show me. I had a really old-fashioned, Old World apprenticeship. Not everybody gets that anymore. I was lucky.” Now, we’re the lucky ones — a decade after he paid tribute to Van Zandt on Townes, Earle does the same for Clark with his upcoming album Guy. He already shared the gritty roots-rocker Dublin Blues and taken us on a loose, lazy and lovely cruise down Clark’s L.A. Freeway. Here’s the third preview: The heart-tugging folk nostalgia of Clark’s classic The Randall Knife, an ode from a son to his father. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Guy wasn’t really a hard record to make,” Earle says. “We did it fast, five or six days with almost no overdubbing. I wanted it to sound live…When you’ve got a catalog like Guy’s and you’re only doing sixteen tracks, you know each one is going to be strong.” He should know:
8 It’s a busy week for Buck Meek. The Big Thief guitarist just released his intimate, suitably luminous new single Halo Light and announced a series of solo dates with Jeff Tweedy. Now, his day-job band has announced their upcoming third album U.F.O.F. (the extra F stands for Friend) and offered up the ethereal, gently soaring and lightly insistent folk-pop title cut as a preview and first single. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “U.F.O.F. is a dream in the dark. Characters and scenery interact outside of time. Names of mystery women appear, then disappear. Cruelties flash. Pronouns meld. There is a darkness here, but it’s not one to be feared. “Making friends with the unknown… All my songs are about this,” says Adrianne Lenker; “If the nature of life is change and impermanence, I’d rather be uncomfortably awake in that truth than lost in denial.” They come in peace:
9 Some bands are content to dive down one thematic rabbit hole at a time. Not Swedish doom merchants Cities on Mars. First, of course, their very name conjures up images of alien civilization. Then there’s the title of their upcoming album The Horologist — which is the technical term for a watchmaker (and yeah, I had to look it up; so what?). Finally, their latest single Hydrahead clearly refers to one segment of the mythological three-noggined dragon-beast — or the extreme metal label of the same name. Either way, it’s a brain-squisher — much like the thundering power and bellowed vocals of the song itself. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Combining heavy doom riffs, ambient soundscapes and haunting vocals, there’s an unmistakable sci-fi narrative that flows through their music, helping them to push boundaries and channel their unique firebrand of heavy progressive rock.”
10 It’s good to leave your comfort zone. Just look at C Duncan. For his upcoming third album Health, the Scottish multi-instrumentalist left his bedroom studio to collaborate for the first time with other producers, engineers and musicians. After sharing the funky Impossible last month, he returns with another sneak peek: The sombre, lushly hushed piano-pop of the title cut, which chronicles a different sort of departure. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “The track is about the end of a previous relationship. It was intense but I couldn’t hold onto it, and we started to drift apart. This had a huge impact on both our mental health and the only way to remedy this was to go our separate ways. It was an extremely painful breakup as up until then we shared everything, but one that was necessary to get us both back on track.” To your health: