Music » Music Column

Sharp Darts: Local Release Roundup

Bearable bummer rock, anthemic synth-punk, sweet sneaker hip-hop, and more

by

comment

JUDSON CLAIBORNEBefore Midnight Scholar(self-released)

Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley made some great music, but because such a large chunk of the country's singer-songwriter population sees them as godhead, they're also indirectly responsible for a lot of dour, self-serious bathos—the same way Bob Dylan is indirectly responsible for reams of shitty political lyrics and James Taylor for a generation of sniffling eunuchs. Judson Claiborne, aka Low Skies front man Chris Salveter, deals with some heavy subjects on his new album, which shares its title with a 17th-century Chinese erotic novel—old standbys Love and Loss play leading roles—but the melancholy never gets thick enough to wallow in. He and a crack gang of backing musicians, including bassist Ryan Boyles of the late, great High Hawk, make a point of opening the curtains and cracking a window every so often: breezily twangy, countrified ditties like "Electrify" and "Ring the Bells" offset more bummed-out tracks like the soulful "Bloody Holiday."

PARSLEY FLAKES"Dead Living" b/w "Spittin' Blood"(Hewhocorrupts, Inc.)

The new Parsley Flakes single is going for five bucks on the Hewhocorrupts site, which works out to around a dollar per minute of music. Normally that'd be a terrible ratio—most seven-inches frankly can't justify their price—but for what you're getting here it's a steal, even if you don't score one of the 100 copies pressed on what the label's calling "Ecto-Cooler green" vinyl. "Dead Living" is a two-and-a-half-minute epic, a manic, riot-worthy synth-punk anthem that can make you want to put your fist in the air even if you're listening on headphones at your desk. And the band makes it happen with nothing but boy-girl vocals, tinny drum machine, and overdriven keyboard—it's like the B-52s were kidnapped by crusties.

POISON ARROWSCasual Wave(File 13)

The previous Poison Arrows EP, Straight Into the Drift, was dissonant avant-rock cloaked in a matte-black mood, simultaneously claustrophobic and desolate. The Casual Wave EP isn't exactly a happy-go-lucky record, but the band has lightened up a little. The title track kicks off the disc with what sounds like an attempt at cock rock—the massive bass riff is bolstered by borderline triumphant synths, and front man Justin Sinkovich abandons his usual sullen, half-spoken delivery to spit his words with an almost punk-rock snottiness. Many of the Poison Arrows' earlier songs seemed to require darkness, like the translucent creatures that never leave deep caves, and that precedent makes the in-your-face sass of "The Lure of Lore" outright shocking—a bluesy grind flecked with bits of Led Zep and Girls Against Boys, it basically oozes nasty sex vibes all over the place.

QUE BILLAH WITH THE COOL KIDS"Colors"(myspace.com/quebillah)

The chorus to "Colors" makes a sly reference to Ice-T's 1988 single of the same name, but this track isn't about gangbangers turning LA neighborhoods into killing fields—it's a celebration of the eye-popping sneakers that Que and the Cool Kids allegedly have in their closets. A throwaway topic for sure, but it lets Que Billah indulge his goofy-ass side, which people sometimes forget about on account of the "man with a message" rep he got from working with KRS-One. The lyrics aren't the draw anyway—they could be about voting for McCain or how much kittens suck, but I'd still listen to this song just for the backing track. The sparse but infectious beat alternates between icy chimes and a giddy, hiccuping vocal sample, and like Lil Wayne's "A Milli" it's just begging to be the backdrop for a whole-Internet freestyle free-for-all.

RABID RABBITC Section(Still a Secret)

In certain corners of the metal world, slow drone and minimalism are as popular as they've ever been outside of contemporary classical music, and local four-piece Rabid Rabbit is pushing that aesthetic as far as anyone in town. The band's new "single," CSection—so named because the guitar and both basses are tuned down to C—is a 16-minute instrumental track cut into one side of a vinyl 12-inch. It takes about a minute to fade in after you drop the needle on its outer edge, and for its entire length it sticks to a droning riff that alternates between just two notes—the drums don't even kick in till halfway through. But the band manages to inject this drawn-out sludgefest with some ferocious groove, and the wild-man sax solo from Yakuza front man Bruce Lamont sets it on fire. The record won't be officially released until Halloween, but it's a good idea to try to pick one up at a show right now—the band's only pressing 250 copies.

SUICIDE NOTEEmpty Rooms(Hawthorne Street)

Now that Chicago hardcore has become synonymous with shitty suburban scene-hair bands and Victory Records' war on Ne-Yo, we need more groups like Suicide Note to salvage our city's reputation in the eyes of the punk world. This four-piece keeps its songs taut and unadorned, harking back to a time when anything with overdubs was considered overproduced. It sounds like they decided on an MO by reading old issues of Heartattack—something from the Gravity Records catalog here, a couple Fugazi-isms there—and then rode it straight into 2008. If DIY hardcore hadn't been derailed by its own crossover success, there might be more bands like Suicide Note already—but then again, if it weren't for all those mall punks, Suicide Note would have one less reason to sound so insanely, perfectly pissed.v

Care to comment? Find this column at chicagoreader.com. And for more on music, visit our blogs Crickets and Post No Bills.

sharp darts

Add a comment