New Music | Friday Roll Out: The C.I.A., Guided By Voices, The 1984 Draft, Beauty Pill

Is it January already? I assume it is because people ask why I haven’t written anything here since 2022 went into a tailspin. I’m really hoping and praying the new year leaves everything that’s unwanted right behind me because repeating the same cycles over and over again is as useless as a deadbeat dad. So far, things are looking up and everything is moving on course but we all know we have to make adjustments for those monkey wrenches that somehow make their way in. There are no illusions of perfection or grandeur, instead, opting to roll with the punches life throws. We can all use that.

There are many questions to be had regarding Blue Period (Ernest Jenning Record Co.) the complete works of Beauty Pill, that all but forgotten band out of Washington, D.C. Why is this important? Is it important? Well, it might be a matter of taste, which we can all be sure Beauty Pill never fit the aesthetic of what a Dischord Records band should sound like. Technically the brainchild of Chad Clark (Smart Went Crazy) with the assist of a rotating cast of musicians. Blue Period in essence is comprised of the Dischord era releases, The Unsustainable Lifestyle LP and You Are Right To Be Afraid EP, as well as a healthy dose of outtakes and demos. Upon the music’s release, it garnered unfavorable reviews and while unfairly judged by clueless scribes, it’s clear they weren’t ready for the full rich sound Clark documented for the world. Clark was obviously on some next level shit, taking a new route that was meant to tickle the senses.

It’s obvious from Unsustainable’s opening “Goodnight For Real,” there was a different approach taken, with warmth and breathy lushness. But peppering the release with songs like “Won’t You Be Mine,” would make it difficult to understand for a sect of listeners that refuse to remain openminded to find piano and strings arrangements gorgeously appealing. But those were far and few and we’re still hit by rockers like “Such Large Portions!” and “The Mule And The Plane.” Everyone should indulge in Blue Period as well as other materials released. Beauty Pill is simply remarkable.

Now, is there anything about Guided By Voices that we don’t already know? The prolific Robert Pollard, songwriter, frontman, and former school teacher has literally written hundreds, if not thousands of songs throughout the years. Every year GBV releases anywhere from 3-5 albums and at some point, things have to go in the wrong direction which will no doubt begin the ultimate demise of Pollard and Guided By Voices. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened, and nor does it seem to be in the cards for the man who pieces together chords in a variety of ways with every new song.

The band has just released La La Land, its 38th album and still present are the melodies and expansive guitar interplay that may owe much to the 70s rock kingdom but the music’s relevance is undeniable Pollard orchestrates the outfit with ease and t does helps to have had the same players since 2016. The GBV unit gels together fluidly. Guided By Voices is the epitome of what we need from Rock, and Pollard writes the songs we can rock to, sway to, and dance to.

THE C.I.A. – S/T

If you don’t hate the C.I.A. and all that it stands for, dafuq is wrong with you? It’s the government agency I’m referring to there, not The C.I.A. the band formed by multi-instrumentalist rocker Ty Segall, his wife Denée Segall, and Freedom band cohort Emmett Kelly. The band just released its self-titled debut (In The Red Records) and there seems to be a lot going on within the context of this 12-song release.

The band runs the gamut of playing within subgenres, from enthusiastic electro-punk to slightly skewed garage rock on acid. Can we simply call it punk? Of course, we can but where would the fun be in that? It’s the sometimes mechanical rhythms of Ty Segall that clearly give off those connotations. Given, the sturdy bass rumblings help with that but it varies. This is where the lazy & cheap comparisons may find their way into it all. There’s a ruckus going on here, and it’s at the start, mid, and ending. By “ruckus,” please refer to the “Introduction,” “Surgery Channel Pt. II,” as well as “Construct.” Noisy art submerged mostly in dissonance & feedback, but most may want to skip and move forward because it really is an acquired taste. “Better” moves at a frenetic pace; think Berlin’s “The Metro” on speed. That’s just the rhythm, the gooey bass leaves little room for guitar movement which is almost swallowed whole by the rhythm section until the very end. But it’s “Inhale Exhale” that I’m more in tune with. If there was a Jane instead of a Jon in the Blues Explosion, it might sound something like this! The melody around the song is repetitive but thankfully not repetitious. They milk it for all its worth and you’ll want to hear it again and again.

The Sexy “Impersonator,” is silky smooth as Denée Segall is the key factor for that, although that bass rhythm might be a factor as well. It’s bare-bones but damn if it ain’t all that and a bag o’ chips mang. The bounce of “Surgery Channel Pt. I” gets infiltrated by experimentation before the return of its bounce. It works though. You can’t go wrong with the punk rumblings of “You Can Be Here,” a quick two-minute foray with quick-rhythm patterns and breezy melody. But you can’t beat “Over” with its fiery bassline that leads the way here. The repetitive rhythm lurks right beneath it but it’s fine because your body won’t be able to stop swaying to it.

Where does this leave us? Well, for one thing, this album is tighter than a muskrat’s ass. The band members shoot and score all on point. Everything is hit perfectly with direct aim at every possible moment. We should all support this C.I.A.

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It’s been five years since The 1984 Draft’s debut full-length release Make Good Choices, which was without a doubt an astounding release that offered up a well of emotion juxtaposed with dueling guitars over swelling rhythms. It was one album that marked 2018 as a great year for music. The album still holds power and strength half a decade later and now the band has followed up with its sophomore release Best Friends Forever (Poptek). The group had set the bar pretty high for itself with its debut and this time around, The 1984 Draft seems to shift its perspectives.

It seems for the group’s new album, the band has eschewed its ambivalence and melancholic timbres that permeated through its first release for a much more direct, stormy, head-on approach. Don’t misunderstand though, as far as The 1984 Draft is concerned, everything is done purposeful and there’s a reason for everything The band opens the album with the straight attack of “Erryday,” as the guitar attacks set the mood, as vocalist Joe Anderl shares working-stiff lyricism, stuck in a repetitive cycle but the glass is never empty. But it’s the optimism here where he offers “And we know, the sun will rise tomorrow” where we find hope for better days. The song is followed by “Big Star,” thematically continuing where the last one did but here, it’s warm and inviting and the melody the group latches onto is perfectly laced with Anderl’s words. The dream sometimes suffers when reality hits but there’s balance. Additional backing vocals added by Susie Ulhrey (Pohgoh) are embedded within the chorus, allowing for a shift in vocal interplay.

There’s an every-day, every-man approach the band takes here and we feel it within the non-invasive “Bells.” Through its straightforward delivery, who would dare to even sing about leaving church on Sunday and making a run for Taco Bell? No one. Who makes it work? The 1984 Draft. For Anderl, he reminisces and while there’s a lot more to the song I can’t ignore his Underoos childhood reference, something kids today will never understand. The track never shifts in direction and it’s all the better for it. But while this garage band may not fit many standards of what a band should be or look like, it’s not averse to delivering larger-than-life rock anthems. Sort of anyway. The intro for “Hold Steady” is something you can get fucking hyped about. Guitarists Anderl & Eli Alban get help on lead guitar here by Benchmarks’ Todd Farrell, Jr. and it’s dope AF, drenching over bassist Chip Heck & drummer Justin Satinover’s rhythm. The band deals with mortality here but it’s not all doom & gloom because there are records to look forward to, kids’ graduations to go to, and as Anderl offers, “At least we’re still holding steady.”

It’s refreshing to hear someone singing about what’s right, and the band handles it on “Toledo Strong,” dealing with the imbalance through politics, race, misogyny, and basic hatred. It’s the band’s call to arms and it’s pretty powerful. The group does rage with its instruments though with faster punk inspirations. The band is running on “Empty” but filled with caffeine, while “Rhino” is as powerful as the beast itself. Then there’s its “Two Cow Barrage,” an ode to the group’s friends, Two Cow Garage.

The 1984 Draft gives listeners a much more detailed look/listen to its diversity with Best Friends Forever. If you’ve come to know the group, the album won’t disappoint. If you’re new to the outfit’s music, you’ll also leave with a newfound respect for the band and all that it does here.

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