Post-Punk

All posts tagged Post-Punk

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By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

A great perk to following a local music scene is the undoubted authenticity of hungry musicians. At nearly every turn, in every local venue, there are new and unique artists, experimenting with the future or improving on the past. Those who put in the blood, sweat and tears, especially while maintaining a family and a day job, is nothing short of impressive. But it’s the passion that keeps the scene alive.

Such passion can be unlocked in the music of Spy Convention. As one of the Valley’s most intriguing newcomers, Spy Convention consist of two local doctors, Asif Khan and Zafar Sheik, who, by near accident, decided to take their passion for music to the next level.

“We met by chance at a school function for our kids about 3 years ago, and one day Zafar came over with his family,” said Khan. “There was a guitar sitting in the house, he picked it up and started singing. I was totally impressed and shocked! I had no idea he could sing. We only started writing together in January of 2015, and wrote ‘You Are Not Alone.'”

Featuring a refreshing blend of Post-Punk and early Goth/Darkwave, tracks like “Baltimore” and “Gravity” channel The Psychedelic Furs and Echo and The Bunnymen, while “You Are Not Alone” hints at Interpol’s more updated Indie sensibilities.

With their first batch of singles, Khan and Sheik carve out a unique sound that’s both reminiscent of the past yet feels like the present.

“We both have influences that are quite varied. However, we think everybody has a connection with the music they grew up with and, being of a certain age, that 80s sound resonates with us. It’s kind of in our minds so it naturally comes out in the songwriting process,” said Khan.

Khan indicated that both Indie and Alternative music have both played a crucial role in their musical development.

“As fans of music in general, we have a tendency to search out new music, and there’s always lots of great music being made. We’re fans of indie and alternative bands so all those sounds we’ve heard from the 80s to the present is just a part of us,” said Khan.

With the music of Spy Convention relying heavily on atmosphere, covering such music depth as a duo can get tricky. However, Khan said that both him and Sheik have found a rhythm to crafting their sonic structures.

“We do everything ourselves, drums, guitar and bass primarily by me, and vocals synth by Zafar,” Khan explained. ” Zafar writes the music and lyrics as an idea for a song. We get together and start throwing more ideas out, very simple piano lines for example, and it starts to blossom from there. Our approach is to layer instruments together to get a full sound.”

He also indicated that it’s important to be their own worst critic and to keep it honest in order for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.

“Occasionally we will scrap an entire song and start over if need be. This happens rarely but needs to be done if we don’t like it. We also made it a point to criticize without any ego involved. If something is horrible, we say it,” said Khan.

Asif Khan of Spy Convention. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

Zafar Sheik of Spy Convention. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

He added that most importantly, they have to be having true fun in order to keep it worthy of their efforts.

“We started the project first as a diversion with no real expectations. We still really don’t have any expectations. It’s fun, and ZERO pressure. We have kids and lives that demand our attention, so music is purely an escape,” he said.

With the Post Punk Revival of the last decade or so, artists as diverse as Interpol, The Killers and Death From Above 1979, along with relative newcomers like Cloud Nothings, Health and Soft Kill, have in their own unique way, channeled the likes of 80s greats such as The Cure and Joy Division, but have expanded on those ideas to varying levels of success, both artistically and commercially. Spy Convention have focused on, if not perfected, the atmosphere of the era while giving it a new spirit.

Khan said it’s the impact of the song that transcends both genre and era.

“It’s not a style or genre necessarily, but the song itself. If you connect with the song, that’s what really matters,” Khan said. “We both love Interpol and The Killers. We don’t really focus on longevity of bands, but we appreciate the song. The song is what stands the test of time. There have been one-hit wonder bands and everyone latches on to it because it’s a great song. Nothing else, more or less.”

He explained too that what he found in the music that inspires him also had the ability to move him, and that good music lasts because of its ability to do so.

“What is it about that music that connects with people? Maybe it’s the simplicity of the music, like the driving bass line, or a well written vocal line that allows everyone to participate, sing along. Was it the production? It could have been current events. It’s hard to say, but for a song to move millions of people is quite amazing, and powerful,” he said.

Heading into 2017, Spy Convention looks to hit the stage, and is currently in the process of auditioning live members to round out a live lineup.

“We have desires to play live and are currently auditioning musicians,” said Khan. “Ideally, we’d love to play live in 2017; we’ll see what happens. We aren’t looking for much, but all the attention is great. We are grateful people like the songs and we’ll just keep writing as long as we can and have fun doing it.”

A full-length release is in the works for the next year as well.

“Our next phase is to complete an album of 7-10 songs,” said Khan.

Spy Convention have released a slew of singles, some of which have been in regular rotation on The Homegrown Show on 93.3 since August 2016. Those tracks, along with a cover of INXS’ “Don’t Change” and Rush’s “Time Stand Still,” can be streamed exclusively on the band’s official Soundcloud page by clicking here.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

VVVV Cover

Artist: Cvttvnmvvth

Album: VVVV

Release Date: 2/12/16

Rating: 9.5/10

Over the past few years, the Northeast Ohio music scene has seen an explosion of Sludge, Doom and Stoner Rock influenced acts attempting to, and often succeeding to, bring raw, gritty heavy rock back to the forefront. But none have dared further, lower, dirtier, eviler and spacier than Youngstown’s Cvttvnmvvth!

Since the release of their 2013 debut, Tough Snake, Cvttvnmvvth have pummeled ear drums with their unique blend of Doom, Space/Psych, Stoner Metal and Post-Punk, with heavy atmospheres reaching as far in Goth as they do into Black Metal. Now, the power trio of gloom are set to release their next monumental output, a cassette tape titled VVVV.

Over the seven tracks that comprise VVVV, Cvttvnmvvth touch base on all the aforementioned styles, piss all over them, and write their own set of rules. The upbeat “Barf Star” opens the tape, setting the tone with a lo-fi, punk slammer of a track, leading into the heavy licks of “Strangle Game.” Along with a DIY aesthetic, the lo-fi production and heavy reverb, especially on the drums, is almost instantly reminiscent of the hey day of the tape-trading Black Metal scene of early 80s acts like Hellhammer and Bathory.

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“Plug Life” is the first track to really slow things down, right down into the dirt! Featuring some Pentagram-esque riffage, the track emphasizes Cvttvnmvvth’s ability to dig deep, while keeping the song grounded and interesting. “Subwolfer” sounds like a long-lost Black Sabbath demo, complete with drummer Kenny Halbert and bassist Eric Tharp holding down a tight, swinging groove over top some deliciously doom-y riffs and almost bluesy vocals courtesy of singer/guitarist Javier. “World Abattoir” continues this vibe before naturally segueing into the spacey, psychedelic doom the concludes VVVV.

“Sex Feast” nods to Candlemass, perhaps if Candlemass had begun in the early 70s, with a very classic doom riff filled with Space Rock flair. Finally, the album concludes on a definite highlight with “Sky Burial.” The epic eight-plus minute track soars high, really high, serving as a well indicator of how Cvttvnmvvth have developed as songwriters.

VVVV has a very genre-bending overall approach, one which says more in seven tracks than most artists do across three albums. Upon listening to VVVV, there’s no doubt that Cvttvnmvvth are both unafraid to take risks, and enjoy pushing the boundaries of which they have set. VVVV is the perfect answer to Tough Snake, the band have not only grown as songwriters, but have set the bar even higher this time around.

Cvttvnmvvth will hold an official release party for VVVV on Feb. 20 at Cedars West End along with Mississippi Gun Club for support.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vh93CQ7ylo&feature=youtu.be

Bowie

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Just days ago, music lovers and critics alike rejoiced with the release of David Bowie’s highly anticipated new album, Blackstar. But few knew this would be his last great masterpiece.

On Friday, Jan. 8, Bowie turned 69 and simultaneously released an exceedingly ambitious and artistic record, adding to an already colorful catalog. With Blackstar, Bowie channels the surrealistic minimalism if his late 70s works such as Heroes and Low, while giving it a modern darkness. The advanced singles “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” saw Bowie taking on a strange new persona, equally intriguing and mysterious.

Days later on Jan. 10, the news of his death following a lengthy battle with cancer, sent shockwaves across the world. Millions of fans young and old have voiced their love for the recently fallen star. Through his art and dozens of personas, Bowie was larger than life, showcased by his mysterious last days and romantic death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-JqH1M4Ya8

Bowie’s career has undergone its umpteenth renaissance in recent years, beginning with his surprise comeback for 2013’s The Next Day. It was a quieter album, indicating a older yet hungry artist still managing to channel what made him great. Although the album had no smash radio hits, it struck a nerve with a new generation of indie rockers, while long-time die-hards were equally pleased.

With The Next Day, Bowie has proved his unique ability to remain contemporary despite hailing from the golden era of Classic Rock Radio. Since his swearing off touring over a decade ago, the Thin White Duke has rarely made any live appearances. However, his hefty discography and wide spanning influence (Iggy Pop, The Psychedelic Furs, Nine Inch Nails, Placebo and Arcade Fire to name just a very few) have kept him both relevant and respected in nearly all circles. And it comes as no surprise with a career as staggering and intricate such as that of David Bowie’s.

1967-69

The musical journey of David Bowie is one of humble beginnings. His early singles and self-titled album were a collection of mere typical 60’s folk rock and baroque pop, much in the vein of Bob Dylan and early Beatles. Cutesy love tunes made up most of his early repertoire, although writhe with his signature charm. But by 1969, change was in the air. Mankind turned toward the sky as the first human took his first steps on the surface of the Moon. Inspiration struck, and a “Space Oddity” was born. Bowie’s first smash hit single saw the beginnings of many personas, alter egos and overall realities he would come to perfect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYYRH4apXDo

1970-72

By early 1970, the Psychedelic and Art Rock that was dominating the musical landscape was shifting and splintering. Glam Rock had risen as a more pop-friendly yet equally-sophisticated counterpart. With the rise of artists such as T. Rex and Roxy Music, androgyny was all the rage. In the center of this was David Bowie, who had now traded in with folk-y acoustic guitars for thunderous hard rocking electrics, ready to dominate a new era of Rock and Roll. His albums The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory perfectly encompassed his strange new direction. The success of early 70’s radio hits “Life on Mars?” and “The Man Who Sold the World” set the stage for what would change the history of Rock and Roll and popular culture from thereon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Bd3iJSFyE

1972-74

With the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Bowie not only perfected Glam Rock, but the art of the concept album and alter ego as well. The success and continuing influence of that record stands head-to-head with that of any by the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd. The Ziggy Stardust persona was larger than life and otherworldly, yet terrifyingly human and vulnerable; one trait Bowie seemed to carry with him throughout his life. He followed Ziggy up with the equally dynamic Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs, taking his high-concept art to uncharted territory in popular music, all before ditching it completely reinventing himself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaqMwE5NKaM

1975-76

The sounds of Philadelphia Soul Music influenced Bowie so heavily, that by 1975 he had traded in his signature make up for a soulful crooner. Young Americans saw the massive success of “Fame,” a songwriting collaboration with John Lennon, and his first major U.S. hit. He even landed a gig on the up-and-coming national television sensation Soul Train to perform the aforementioned track.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD3etldXtTU

1977-79

The late 70s saw a darker time, both musically and personally for David Bowie. Punk Rock had risen and killed off nearly all of his early 70s contemporaries. Although his music would come to inspire many early punk and New Wave outfits (New York Dolls, Ramones, The Damned, Blondie), it didn’t look as though Bowie had the momentum to keep up with the angst-filled movement. As he retreated to Berlin to kick some substance abuse issues, he teamed up with Roxy Music mastermind Brian Eno for a trilogy of what would become his most complex and dark work. Beginning in ’77 with Low, his new Art Rock sound wasn’t ready to tear up Top 40 radio, but certainly indicated a huge artistic evolution. Artists such as The Talking Heads and Sonic Youth would go on to hail it as extremely influential. Later that year, Heroes, spawning the hit single of the same title, would boast a massive hit featuring the virtuosic guitar talents of none other than Robert Fripp of King Crimson. 1979’s Lodger would conclude this era of experimentation and artistic expansion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgcc5V9Hu3g

1980-82

By 1980, Bowie returned to Top 40 with Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). Propelled by the smash hits “Fashion” and “Ashes To Ashes,” Bowie adopted the sounds of New Wave and Post-Punk; genres that in many ways were pioneered by his previous works. He seemed to fit right at home, connecting with new and older generations of Rock fans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMThz7eQ6K0

1983-93

Bowie tried his hand at pop music for 1983’s Let’s Dance to an astounding outcome. The now former Glam rocker had recruited Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and a young Stevie Ray Vaughn for this magnum opus, yielding favorable results and scoring some of the biggest hits of his entire career with singles like “Let’s Dance” and “Modern Love.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4d7Wp9kKjA

Bowie would continue this sound throughout most of the 80s to mixed results from fans and critics. However, his role as Jareth, the Goblin King, in the children-targeted film The Labyrinth, had yet again propelled him to an iconic status, after becoming a cult favorite among 80’s children and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViftZTfRSt8

1995-98

By the mid 90s, Alternative Rock was the dominant musical force both in Top 40 and underground circles. And at the forefront of mid-90s alt-rock where Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor. Before Cobain’s passing, his iconic cover of “The Man Who Sold the World” as one of his last live performances sparked a renewed interest in Bowie. Reznor, also at the top of his success, wasn’t shy about Bowie’s influence either. By 1995, Bowie had released the industrial-tinged Outside, and hit the road with Nine Inch Nails. Bowie and Reznor went on to collaborate on the soundtrack for the 1996 film, Lost Highway, and on Bowie’s 1997 album, Earthling. Through their collaborations, Bowie yet again found relevance among a new generation of audiences.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPVrFIP0CMs

1999-2004

Always staying three steps ahead, Bowie made history in 1999 with his album Hours…, marking the first album to ever be released exclusively through the internet. His following albums, 2002’s Heathen and 2003’s Reality were both moderate successes, bridging the gap between contemporary fans of Radiohead and Death Cab for Cutie and his classic rock audience. Following a massively successful world tour in 2004, Bowie announced his retirement from touring and focused on small projects. It seemed as though Bowie had all but retired completely with little new music released in later years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8NBpfkpyZw

2013-16

Much to the delight of fans young and old, Bowie announced his return with the critically-acclaimed album, The Next Day, in early 2013. Its highly anticipated follow-up, Blackstar, served as a bittersweet swan song for a man of so many notable accomplishments. Groundbreaking both sonically and visually, Blackstar will undoubtedly live on as a final gasp of inspiration, of what any artist, young or old, hot or not, can accomplish.

https://youtu.be/kszLwBaC4Sw

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Have A Nice Life

Album: The Unnatural World

Release Date: 1/20/14

Rating: 9/10

Every so often, you hear a band or artist that catches your ear in a way unlike any other before it. Connecticut-based noise/doomgaze duo Have A Nice Life have a knack for an effect. For some, it’s not even music in a traditional sense, but just brash noise. Yet for others including the band’s devoted cult following, it’s literally out of this world.

Have A Nice Life first gave the world a heavy dose of noise pollution with their now iconic 2008 debut, Deathconsciousness. Released via Flenser Records, the duo, comprised of multi-instrumentalists Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga, their debut resonated among fans of various underground sub-genres including shoegaze, noise rock and drone. Eventually being dubbed doomgaze, Have A Nice Life’s unique brand of droning ethereal atmospherics and semi-industrial doom-inspired fuzzed-out instrumentation helped spark interest of a shoegaze revival across the underground.

Although Have A Nice Life may not be cut out for the casual listener, their tendency for soaring atmospheric beauty has struck a chord with a growing audience. This is even more prevalent on the duo’s new highly-anticipated LP, The Unnatural World, their first release in four years.

Leading off The Unnatural World is the ethereal “GuggenheimWax Museum,” setting the tone of Have A Nice Life’s sound. From there, the more biting post-punk “Defenstration Song” and “Brutal Society” take effect, leading into heavier and more brooding territory. Hints of Joy Divison can be heard on “Music Will Untune the Sky,” while the band’s Black Metal influences take hold for the welling “Cropsey” and “Unholy Life.” The album concludes with the noise-ridden tracks “Dan and Tim, Reunited By Fate” and “Emptiness Will Eat the Witch.”

The Unnatural World seems to pick up right were their 2010 EP, Time of Land left off. Their signature sound is firmly in place, but trails deeper down the path the band set onto. Standout tracks like “Defenstration Song” and “Dan and Time, Reunited By Fate” really capture the band’s vibe. Heavy but not metal, loud and ethereal but not complete noise rock, Have A Nice Life have carved a unique niche that The Unnatural World is firmly cemented into.

All in all, The Unnatural World is the perfect album for a wintery night spend home alone or a nightly walk through an old electric forest. The atmospheres are aplenty. It also serves as a good introduction to new fans, craving something heavy and abrasive, but beyond your average “heavy” guitar-driven music. For what it is, The Unnatural World is a practically perfect record, urging the listener to go back into the band’s short but sweet catalogue.

No AlternativeBy Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

During the early 90’s, many music fans in both England and America felt at a for loss words for identifying what was coming out of their post-punk and/or underground rock music scenes. That music eventually became known as the Alternative genre. College Rock Radio seemed to gather the remnants of music that American kids liked, but it was not very cohesive scene-wise/sound-wise.

Inevitably, a movement was bound to take place. In England, the Northern movement, “Madchester,” developed due to the Joy Division-influenced aftermath with journalist Tony Wilson at the helm.

Similar mass communication mediums such as radio, TV and magazines started to again coin genre names in America shortly thereafter. What was going to be the new “thing?” During the very fevered formation of this new genre, the compilation album, No Alternative, was released in 1993 with a whole host of acts that before didn’t seem related, yet conceptually, they came together on this album and it made sense. Alternative, in the broadest sense, was born out of various sounds of rock and folk (song-writer) genres and on the whole seemed to encompass more thought-provoking lyrics than what was on the radio at the time; similar to their post-punk and folk-punk predecessors.

The most popular offshoot of the genre became Grunge (especially in Seattle), but Art Rock artists from other parts of the country were at first often overlooked in this more broad Alternative genre due to media and playlist regularity. Artists such as Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and Pavement were on the peripheries in the early 90’s, probably due to their more obvious Classic Rock influences, but eventually they enjoyed a steady fan base growth which was more correlated to the aforementioned Northern English music movements such as the “Madchester” movement and of course the ever repeating Brit Rock revivals.

English music show host, Jools Holland, became more influential in a way of picking up where Tony Wilson left off and connected the dots between the American and English scenes throughout the 90’s and the 00’s, reminding us of what and how the term Alternative really came about. An alternative type of music to what was typically played on top 40 rock radio. This is how and when the term became full circle. And now fans expect such artists to almost transcend the induced sub-genres and be beyond a genre, to be something different yet each having THEIR OWN cohesive sounds. Ironically it is NOT about a scene.

Observe.

As well as the aforementioned artists and Picks of the Week leading to this article I know present some wonderful examples that have been often overlooked after the initial Alternative heyday was over. These artists have also really have gone beyond genre and in a way back to what “Alternative” meant, what rock and roll means and what songwriting is. And many of these are from their founding scene giants were from. (Northern England, Seattle.) Just goes to show.

England:

Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught the Train

The Unbelievable Truth – Solved

America:

Jets to Brazil – Chinatown

Pedro the Lion – Live on KEXP

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The early development of the Shoegaze genre lies somewhere in the post-punk haze of the 80’s. Gothic/Ethereal artists such as Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain began to fuse elements from uncategorized and/or “art” rock acts like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur, Jr. The name itself evolved because artists, namely guitarists, where using a lot of effects on their guitars through the use of various pedals and stomp boxes and they seemed to be “gazing at their shoes” during performances.

Though many of the genre’s predecessors often used a lot of layering or effects in their music via multi-tracking, in live situations they were more sparse. Live performances from Shoegaze artists differed in many instances because they rarely changed the arrangement or the effects, although the layering was done in a more ethereal or blurred out way to begin with on the records, it was a bit easier to cope with live. Moreover, live versions were even more exaggerated because of this. Shoegaze greats Ride and Catherine Wheel are prime examples of this practice.

By the 90’s, a sister sub-genre called Dreampop surfaced with artists such as Slowdive and Lush. Their music featured the noise of Shoegaze, however was a bit more poppy and melodic. Even Brit Rock/Pop bands like The Stone Roses also experimented with many of the budding trademark sounds with their single, “I Wanna Be Adored” in 1991.

However, 1991 was the year that the first significant stride was made in Shoegaze. One of the first acts to be described as both Dreampop and Shoegaze, the influential My Bloody Valentine, combined airy female vocals and guitarist Kevin Shields’ distinctive sonic wall of guitar noise. In fact, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless had a great impact on many guitarists in the 90’s, not just in Shoegaze, but Alternative in its broadest sense. Billy Corgan and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins are notable followers.

The torch was in a way, carried most authentically to British band, Catherine Wheel. Shoegaze became full circle and the trademark sound was “nailed” by them in 1993 with their second record, Chrome. This is arguably the cornerstone record in this genre with its dreamy and catchy melodies sung with Gilmour-esque soothing ethereal vocals and sonically lush (but often still aggressive) guitars and concepts which vary throughout. This record is also one of the most unsung and overlooked recordings of the 90’s in general due to the quick shift in focus to the rise (and fall) of Grunge.

However, not all was forgotten. Catherine Wheel went on throughout the 00’s, inspiring new fans of other genres to not only go back and listen to their old records, but discover My Bloody Valentine’s, Loveless too, and draw from a perhaps small collection of Shoegaze records. Even more so, the quality that spanned Smashing Pumpkins’ range of influences, as well as successful English Alternative/Rock acts such as Radiohead and Pulp, had therefore inspired yet another Brit Rock Revival.

In the Shoegaze lineage, little known but amazing American artists such as Starflyer 59 (often referred to as a Space Rock band) and Hum plugged away through the 90’s. In more recent years, the independent two-piece act, Have a Nice Life, emerged with one of the greatest Shoegaze mixtures ever, especially on their debut album, Deathconsciousness. The presence of Dreampop-y melodic hooks, spacey textures and even darker undertones, hark back to the beginning of this genre’s early Post-Punk/Goth influences. (Refer to some of the artists mentioned in last month’s Gothic Rock article).

In addition to the previous Picks of the Week, which I used introduce this origins of this genre I now include for your enjoyment:

Catherine Wheel – Black Metallic. From recommended album, Ferment. 1993

Starflyer 59 – Hazel Would. from recommended album, Silver. 1994

Hum – Stars. From recommended album, You’d Prefer an Astronaut. 1995

Have a Nice Life – Bloodhail. From recommended album, Deathconsciousness. 2008