By Tim Murr
The debut album by Mortals from Brooklyn, NY is a black/thrash/sludge metal-enthusiast’s dream. Cursed To See The Future hits hard and never relents across six tracks, clocking in at around 50 minutes. With brutal, pummeling rhythms, throat-shredding vocals, and unimpeachable guitar and bass work, Cursed sets a high bar for a debut.
I don’t think it should be necessary in 2014 to make a big deal about Mortals being an all female power trio that rightly earns comparisons to High On Fire and Darkthrone, but there you go. These three women—Caryn Havlik (drums), Lesley Wolf (bass/vocals), and Elizabeth Cline (guitar)—create rhythmically exciting metal that stands shoulder to shoulder with any of their contemporaries. Track 5, “Series Of Decay,” backs up that assessment nicely.
After buying this album, it’s been pretty much all I’ve listened to, and before that I’d been listening to their Death Ritual EP and Night Terror Demo. I like Mortals quite a bit and highly recommend Cursed To See The Future. It’ll be exciting to watch this band continue to evolve; they’ll certainly be one of Relapse Records MVPs. If you can catch them on tour make sure you buy them each a quadruple espresso!
An Honest Liar is a documentary about James “The Amazing” Randi (self-described liar, cheat, and charlatan) directed by Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein. I was surprised by how many people to whom I mentioned this film had not heard of “The Amazing Randi.” Perhaps he’s one of those people locked away somewhere in the brain along with Tang™ and some random fact that you can’t quite access but know you know while playing Trivial Pursuit™. After all, helping Alice Cooper with a little stage decapitation and appearing on Happy Days in cahoots with The Fonz are among his lesser-known activities.
The vampire movie renaissance, of which Let Me In was the high point and Priest may have been the low point, appeared to be drawing to a close. Then in late 2013, Director Jim Jarmusch (Coffee and Cigarettes) came out with Only Lovers Left Alive. This moody, atmospheric, bohemian tale pleased both critics and fans alike, especially the built-in fanbases of its leads, Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. However, underneath the dark rock-guitar score, the musings about art, and the familiar vampire lore, there’s something more going on. Only Lovers Left Alive is, at its heart, a movie about marriage.
Found footage films are getting more eyerolls every year, it seems. I’m a huge fan of this subgenre but I will be the first to admit there are some films out there that are not that great. Also, the ones that are not that great are the more popular ones for some reason and that I just don’t get.
“Cause fancy disguises deceive no one
Recently I’ve realized that I’d prefer to watch a movie that doesn’t arrive at any sort of definite conclusion. I’d rather sit during the credits wondering what exactly it was I saw and trying desperately to figure it out for the next few days, and if it takes me that long to decide if I actually liked the movie or not, even better. The same goes for music. Hearing so many of the same types of bands over and over again, from disposable, EDM-influenced Top 40 pop to the kind of beardy and/or tremulous music found in commercials for Apple products, it’s become increasingly difficult to find something that has genuine staying power.
And that’s where Lower comes in. Rarely does a band subvert, confound, and exceed expectations as much as this. I can honestly say that I’ve never heard anything like Lower. For the last few weeks, I’ve vacillated between whether I loved or hated them. Such an extreme reaction can only signify one thing: Lower is doing something genuinely unorthodox and you need to hear them for yourselves to figure out upon which part of the spectrum you reside.
Billy Joe Shaver is quite a character. His songs have become classics (“I’m Just An Old Chunk Of Coal,” “Ain’t No God In Mexico”); he was the spiritual advisor to Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman (who is himself a character); he’s acted in The Apostle; and he even sings the theme for Adult Swim’s The Squidbillies. He’s kicked against the country music establishment, recording what is regarded as the first “outlaw” country album, and he shows no signs of giving up his prickliness just yet.
While Fannibals will know about Brian Reitzell because of his spectacular and spooky music for NBC’s Hannibal, he’s so much more than that. Besides serving as the music supervisor on several Sofia Coppola films (Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette), scoring film and television (30 Days of Night, Peacock, Red Riding Hood, Friday Night Lights, Boss), and video games (Watch Dogs), Reitzell also recorded and performed with both Redd Kross and Air and was a member of terrific one-off projects like TV Eyes and Logan’s Sanctuary.
The genesis for this album was literally just Brian Reitzell messing around in the studio, exploring ideas for his soundtrack work. Even though Auto Music was about a decade in the making, it doesn’t sound either too studied or haphazardly slapped together. It’s subtle yet self-assured, even on the more bombastic tracks. Despite what you might think about instrumental albums, it’s anything but boring. Inspired by films and filmmakers themselves, it creates a perhaps unsurprising visual world.
At first blush, you might think Dub Thompson is punking you. The tracks on their debut, 9 Songs (which has eight songs, by the way), sound a lot like demos. These aren’t songs with actual verses and choruses. These are songs made up of tonally conflicting sections that rub up against each other, variations on a theme of impetuous, mischievous energy. The guitars have a jittery bravado and the drums and bass are turned up so that you feel them in your guts. Dub Thompson seem like they’re taking the piss but the music is seriously fantastic.
If you’re like me, the first thing you think when you hear the name “Kenny Rogers” is “that guy sure does bring the funk.” Perhaps, though, you don’t, and honestly, I didn’t either until I heard his track (with The First Edition) “Tulsa Turnaround” on Country Funk II, 1967-1974. “Tulsa Turnaround” is a swoony slow ride about an “Omaha honey” who learned the Tulsa Turnaround from someone called “Funkybutt,” I believe. I never did learn exactly what the Tulsa Turnaround is, but I did glean this nugget of information from the song: “If a man’s gonna eat fried chicken/he’s gonna get greasy.” It’s a pretty damned amazing song, and would be great on a soundtrack for a movie where there are car chases and someone is called “Rooster.”
The Muffs have released Whoop Dee Doo, their first album in a decade, and for one musical moment all is right with the world. Long time friends and bandmates Kim Shattuck (guitars, vocals, organ), Roy McDonald (drums, percussion), and Ronnie Barnett (bass, vocals) bring excellent musicianship and songwriting as well as a spirit of fun every time, so it’s no surprise that Whoop Dee Doo follows suit. Six albums into their career, what band hasn’t released a clunker or put a bit of filler on a couple of albums? The Muffs, that’s who. The Muffs move in, kick your ass, and move out in under four minutes.