Mad Static

A music blog by John Ambrosio

Crazy Pills, Big Ups, PUP, and Hunters at Brooklyn Night Bazaar, April 12, 2014.

A collection of my favorite photos I’ve taken over the last few months.

Screaming Females-Live at the Hideout

Originally posted over at Jersey Beat, check it out: http://www.jerseybeat.com/screamales-live.html

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When I first heard the Screaming Females were making a live album, I was understandably excited. Guitarist and singer Marissa Paternoster is a force of nature at shows and, despite her slight frame, has a dominating stage presence. What’s more, drummer Jarrett Dougherty and bassist “King” Mike are one of the tightest rhythm sections in rock ‘n’ roll, and when these three come together, it’s like Voltron—but with even more face melting.

Luckily, their new album, Live at the Hideout, does a great job of taking all their raw energy and ferocity and focusing it into one amazing hour of perfectly captured punk rock. The album starts with the opening riff of “Leave It All Up To Me”, which gently floats by on a palpable sense of anticipation until, all of a sudden, the distortion comes in—and the show really begins. 

Right out of the gate, the Screaming Females absolutely demolish the opening tracks, “Leave It All Up To Me”, “Foul Mouth”, and “Buried in the Nude”, all of which stand out as some of the best songs on the album. When played live, these songs are heavier, faster, and even more satisfying than their studio-recorded counterparts and serve as proof that the Screaming Females shred live. 

The band chugs through song after song until they really hit their stride during “Lights Out”, which feels exactly like a live song should; groovy, a bit sloppy, edging itself just over the beat, and full of interesting improvisation. After the huge ending to that song, the band finally takes a collective breath and Paternoster shyly mutters, “We’re Screaming Females from New Brunswick New Jersey, thanks for coming to the show,” before reassuming her vibrato and distortion fueled stage persona and sinking her teeth into “Sheep”.

If nothing else, Live at the Hideout proves that the Screaming Females are masters at tinkering with their songs; after more than 800 shows, they know what works and what doesn’t, and are able to change tempos, volume, and intensity on a dime and in unison. While there are a number of songs off their most recent full-length, Ugly, it’s the older tunes—the ones that they’ve had the most opportunity to polish—that really shine.

Songs like “Boyfriend”, “Starve the Beat”, and “Foul Mouth” are a full two or three minutes longer than the studio versions, which is time the band fills with piercing solos, intense build-ups, and enough feedback to break a Slayer-style wall of Marshall stacks. More than just tacking on new things, the recordings on Live at the Hideout give many early songs a much-appreciated face-lift.

One of the more disappointing things about early Screaming Females albums like Baby Teeth and What If Someone Is Watching Their T.V.? is the lo-fi nature of the production. Not to knock lo-fi, but some bands, especially those with chops as impressive as Screaming Females, really just sound better when you can actually hear them playing. Live at the Hideout, thanks in no small part to the engineering of Steve Albini, gives these early songs new life and energy, allowing them to groove, swing, and hit as hard as they ought to.

By the end of the show, the band definitely starts to lose its edge, making the ending, “Boyfriend”, a little underwhelming. That being said, the Screaming Females at their worst is still better than most bands at their best and, while it definitely isn’t the best track on the album, it’s still pretty intense.

My biggest gripe, however, is that Live at the Hideout definitely feels like it’s missing a few songs; crowd favorite “Bell” totally deserves an update and would’ve been a great addition, as would “Rotten Apple” and the jam-worthy “Doom 84”. That being said, the setlist does a great job balancing old and new, and gives a fairly complete overview of the Screaming Females’ already impressive catalogue.

Well produced, well planned, and well performed, Live at the Hideout is definitely one of the best live albums in recent memory, and may even have earned a spot (at least in my collection) amongst classic albums like Live Rust.Ultimately, what makes the album—and the Screaming Females themselves—so impressive is that if this were the only thing they ever produced, they’d still be one of the best bands out there.

Cloud Nothings-Here and Nowhere Else

Ohio punk trio Cloud Nothings’ latest, “Here and Nowhere Else,” is probably one of the most frustrating albums you will hear this year — both because of its angry, punk-rock aesthetic and its lost potential.

Much in the tradition of their Midwestern post-punk forefathers Husker Dü and the Replacements, Cloud Nothings shoot off like a rocket on the opening track “Now Hear In,” and they spend most of the album demolishing one blistering punk-rock anthem after another.

As an example of the band’s musicianship, the album is pretty impressive. Dylan Baldi’s cigarette-choked vocals sound great, the thump of TJ Duke’s bass makes for a nice, rich low end and Jayson Gerycz’s frantic drumming is better than it has ever been — some of the best in today’s indie scene.

Yet while the contributions of each member are substantial, “Here and Nowhere Else” fails to become more than the sum of these parts.

The biggest problem with this album is that it sacrifices riffs, dynamics and just about everything else for raw speed. Instead of maintaining the layered, jangly guitar sound and interesting drum fills that make songs like “Fall In” so catchy, the songs on “Here and Nowhere Else” are stripped down to the bare essentials — a progression of power chords, simple bass lines, drum beats and shout-along choruses.

While this formula may work for other bands, Cloud Nothings have already proven that they can do so much more, which makes this album feel like a step backwards from 2012’s “Attack on Memory.”

That being said, “Here and Nowhere Else” has its moments.

The fantastic single “I’m Not Part of Me,” with its lightning-fast hooks and tension-building bridges, is possibly the most infectious song Baldi has ever written. More than that, it firmly establishes the central theme of the album, which is derived from Baldi’s post-breakup experience of learning to cope with the here and now.

Other songs, like the seven-minute punk epic “Pattern Walks,” bring together all of the elements that make Cloud Nothings’ sound so appealing — razor-edged guitar tone, fuzzed-out bass, spacey interludes and frantic drumming, all played with the aggression and treble turned up as high as they can go.

However, many of these satisfying songs are bookended by what feels like filler, and these moments detract from the album as a whole.

Ultimately, the album is not the group’s best effort. The album’s weak moments prevent it from being the great work it could have been. “Here and Nowhere Else” proves that while aggression and speed are essential elements of punk rock, they are not the only elements that go into making a great record.

666priests666:

dongiovannirecords:

Listen to Right Wing, from the new Priests album, Bodies and Control and Money and Power. The record is out June 3rd and will be available for pre-order soon so keep checking back.

Blast this tune at your place of work or leisure today, all day

WOAH~~~!!!! #DIFFERENTSOUNDZTHANB4 (But seriously, check out this fantastic track from DC punks Priests and then buy their album when it comes out)

Band honors 40 years of punk

Let is also be known that the Washington Square News does not enjoy wordplay (read the Jersey Beat version if’n you’re interested in good joke humor). 

So So Glos live at Judson Memorial Church. March 22, 2014. 

Perfect Pussy-Say Yes to Love

Note: A version of this review will be published in the Washington Square News at some point in the next week, but I figured I’d post what I wrote here as well. 

Perfect Pussy is not in the business of pandering to their audience. Since releasing their I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling demo, the Syracuse noise-punks have earned a reputation as one of the most exciting and critically successful punk bands in recent memory. However, despite their newfound notoriety, Perfect Pussy’s proper debut, Say Yes to Love, doesn’t change much about their sound.

From the beginning of the album, front woman Meredith Graves is constantly competing with the rest of the band to have her voice heard, as she shouts over a furious blast of hardcore-punk tinged noise. This struggle functions as a perfect metaphor for the feelings of alienation and powerlessness that Graves has attributed to her history with violence and abusive relationships. In the end, the only lyrics that manage to burst through the layer of feedback are the most tortured, frustrated, and angry ones—“I eat stress and I shit blood”, “I have a history of surrender”, and “You don’t know shit about me”, among others on the opening track “Driver”.

Graves yells these righteous, angry lines like protest chants through a heavily distorted microphone above the cacophonous roar of the band. As the five-piece burns through song after song, these chants hit you like waves, punctuated by noisy distortion and feedback-driven effects. Unlike most noise-rock albums however, it’s the few moments of clarity in Say Yes to Love that really stand out and make the dense, often-obscure lyrics seem that much weightier.

This dynamic hits its high point during the searing “Interference Fits”, when, in a moment of deafening silence, Graves asks, “since when do we say yes to love?” before concluding “it comes in and takes what it wants” as she launches into competing, overdubbed tirades. This minute-long shouting match between Graves and herself underscores the conflicted feelings associated with “saying yes to love”, especially for someone who has so many reasons to be skeptical of affection. 

With few exceptions—notably the trancey, synth-driven “VII”—the songs tend to melt into each other, and the only clear separation between one fit of noise and the next is the occasional period of silence or dissonant distortion.  However, the songs slowly open up, as lyrics—or even just the intention behind lyrics—become clearer, painting a more vivid picture with each listen.

While Say Yes to Love is far from a feel-good album, it’s hard to come away from it without feeling strangely uplifted. Even during its darkest moments, it feels as if Graves is saying, “I’ve been through all of this, but I’m still here and I still have the ability to love.” While it’s not clear if this is ultimately helpful or hurtful, it’s difficult to think of it—and the album itself—as anything but a hard-fought victory.