New Music | Friday Roll Out: Sheer Mag, Ministry, The Narcotix, Myles Bullen, SAVAK, Pissed Jeans

It’s been four years since New York’s Savak has released the new album Flavors Of Paradise (Peculiar Works), which again has the band maneuvering through situated post-punk methodology like its previous Rotting Teeth In The Horse’s Mouth. The band throws you for a loop though with “Up With The Sun,” and while it may not jangle, it pieces some of those elements together within the songwriting. But then we get that thick grooving bass opening “Let The Sunlight In” and we get the familiarity back. The rhythm is steadfast as guitar notes swirl all around. It’s that dominating bottom end that can be heard again with “Two Lamps” as the band builds around it to create a masterful song filled with melodic guitars, and spoken/sung vocals, with an energy around the song building until its eventual end. And then again, the jangly rock aspects resurface as “What Is It Worth” opens but it’s not as direct as you might think as Savak creates a pop song out if it, straight forward and to the point. But it’s “Will Get Fooled Again” that I keep going back to with its repetitive rhythm that strays from being repetitious, instead, hypnotic. The output Savak continually releases always allows us in discovering something new.

It’s the return of The Narcotix, the outfit that delivers sensuality and soulfulness in its music through beautiful landscapes of sound, rich with texture. Yes, this is what the band shares with its new album Dying, filled with 9 songs of sugary sweetness. It all doesn’t always move the way you expect, as layered vocals drip across grooving percussion, and rhythm altogether on “The Lamb.” Things shift on “The Lovers,” with prevalent guitars and keyboards caressing voices wrapped across the song itself. But it’s the sweetness of moments in “The Mystic” as it leads us through a kaleidoscope of sound, with unexpected vocal harmonies sweeping all around. There is nothing more beautiful right now than this!


For some reason, things are swirling around my head like, “art is subjective.” I always remind myself though, that not all music is art, which isn’t a popular opinion, but it is my own. Mind you, this has nothing to do with the latest release by Myles Bullen, the youthful musician/emcee who sometimes creates soft and supple arrangements that sound like nothing else. His 2022 release, Mourning Travels, didn’t receive nearly the amount of accolades it was deserving of. Present was the ukelele & acoustic guitar which seemed to share more in common with a Sufjan than an Open Mike. The delicate youthfulness of the album is still remarkably performed and allows listeners to hear what he sees, and see what he hears. I digress.

It isn’t fair to say Bullen is simply just an emcee although he’s able to rip a mic with the ease of many those he surrounds himself with. The new timetokill (Fake Four, Inc.) takes a different approach than his last release as we find him associated with a myriad of producers but also with an array of guest appearances as if he needs them. Pfft. Don’t get my cynicism confused for an outward diss, just noting that Bullen doesn’t need much to create a song and timetokill is filled with a plethora of tools to play with which makes the album more than just an interesting listen. We see/hear Bullen playing with multiple identities while still remaining Myles Bullen throughout. It’s easy to skip around the album but I keep finding myself riding the current “heartonfire<3” (Prod. Torbjörn ) with keyboard swirls around Bullen’s melodic vocal delivery. He flows right on the beat without missing a step as the gooey bassline seems to bring it all together. Is that all? Well, while we wish the entire album could be made up of this track, there’s more. Things get darker and brooking on “Stephen King & Moxie” which features Ceschi as the two rhyme over a throbbing beat but of course, there’s room for extremes on both ends of the spectrum, as with the Moodie Black produced “Maple Syrup.” Bullen takes what MB does and makes it his own. Here we find out Myles Bullen is a chameleon of sorts, with the ability to survive in whatever musical sphere he enters. Distortion surrounds his voice but he’s undeterred by it as guitars rage through. This while back on the other end, Bullen offers words of encouragement on “ice cream,” rallying around his own self-doubt, suicidal thoughts, almost overdosing but overcoming it all. His words are juxtaposed over a joyful musical backdrop.  He shares tracks with others as well, like Chris Conde on “Cherry Blossom Trees” which bounces around merrily, Myka 9 on “not a metaphor” which explores wording in a way that’s sometimes indescribable, and also “kintsugi,” featuring Portland, Maine emcee Alunarlanding whose vocal dexterity is a perfect match alongside Bullen’s. Now I’ve been looking for another version of “godornot (live acoustic version),” which he performs here along with solely his ukelele, a remarkably beautiful track and it’s his words that are most poignant with just a simple line, “If the sun was out shining someone would try to sell you shade/I think you’re beautiful beyond believe don’t let them sell you shame.”

Myles Bullen is a musician who can flip into Myles the emcee at the drop of a hat and while I’ve never said it before, I truly do believe he is the future of music, unafraid to be himself, comfortable in his own skin. While his lyricism may be self-deprecating at times, it doesn’t control or define who he is. timetokill, is a fascinating album sharing all aspects of who he is.


There are questions that needs to be answered and of course, there are no clever quips here but you have to ask when thinking of Birdman, when is it prevalent for someone to say, “Put some respect on my name.” The decades pass us by and musical façades fade away, only leaving us with something that was supposed to always be there. Probably one of the longest-running musical mysteries is Ministry, the band that’s synonymous with its creator, Al Jourgensen. I’ve followed the group from its early days to the height of its career, as well as the myriad amalgamations of side projects that were quite entertaining (Revolting Cocks, Lard, Pailhead) but the point of the matter, when you think about Ministry, put some respect on the name.

Ministry returns with its sixteenth studio album Hopiumforthemasses (Nuclear Blast) and I’ve forgotten why I’ve lost touch with the band. Whatever the reason, it seems it’s still important for society to have Jourgensen around, now probably more than ever. Through his music, he still shares his disdain for the political machine, extremist ideology, and this country’s descent into fascist theocracy. It seems these are the things he’s been saying for the past 30 years. If you want to talk about control, Ministry addresses it with big dick energy on “B.D.E,” where it’s all about control. It’s the far right he sings about, and he doesn’t stray from it. The band finds its groove as walls of guitar overrun the track with Jourgensen’s distorted vocals around it. This is just the beginning. With “Goddamn White Trash,” the rhythm speeds things up with frantic guitars squealing away but of course, there’s an underlying message here as the uneducated are indoctrinated, following ridiculous policies, coerced through blind patriotism. That’s a scary thought but prevalent. Through the thickness of “Aryan Embarrassment,” you hear a voice that’s recognizable and it comes as no surprise to find former DK frontman Jello Biafra here on lead vocals. Axis, Nazis, Aryans; they’re all something we can get behind in unity to get rid of. Things don’t always move at a frantic pace and the bluesy opening of “It’s Not Pretty” is testament to that and quite beautiful. That’s just the first couple of minutes though because dynamics shift, and the band gets wildly energetic! Wars are going on around us and it’s going to get worse. But this isn’t the only time things move at a different pace, “Cult Of Suffering,” featuring Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hütz, stirs sensually as they sing about our favorite tyrant. You can decide on who’s your favorite. This smells like a single out of the gate.

Where do we go from here? Well, it might be time to revisit some releases I may have missed because Hopiumforthemasses doesn’t shatter my faith in Ministry, instead doing the opposite as I head back to the altar Jourgensen built.


Do you go in with high expectations every time you’re presented with something new? Eh, sometimes. This is the kind of conversation I’ll have with myself but honestly, there are moments when no expectations are required. Surprise me. Let us all know if you’re going to give us something fresh or regurgitated, and of course, we’ll all decide if it’s worth it. Understand, opinions truly are like assholes, everyone has one so you don’t have to take mine or anyone else’s, just listen for yourself. I guess this is the point you can stop reading and listen but if you’d like, keep reading.

This leads to Pissed Jeans, that Allentown, PA band that’s on its sixth full-length release Half Divorced (Sub Pop). Musically, yeah, the band is a fucking powerhouse intent on bludgeoning us all with a wide array of sonic explorations that may surpass its own lineage of hardcore punk or even post-hardcore band. There’s more to take from them than just that. Mind you, the band remains considerably noisy AF but the chaos is controlled, the levels are extended past 11, and while the organized cacophony is filled with melody, the band’s humor isn’t lost on us. As the band gets older, a sense of avoidance is prevalent especially when listening to “Everywhere Is Bad” as vocalist Matt Korvette lists out the problems with everywhere around the world that’s suggested “cause everywhere is bad.” Possibly the band’s funniest and most accessible track on the release. That’s not to say Pissed Jeans is lacking in anything else throughout the release because, from track to track, the band is unyielding. The opening “Killing All The Wrong People” is visceral and seems to be a sign of the times. Life reflecting art or art reflecting life, either way, the band carefully manipulates its instruments with precision and directness. There’s no fucking around. The sludgy “Helicopter Parents” slows things down a bit and obviously, we see the band members maturing as they put everyday life to record. Marriage, parenting, and divorce. Is this the soundtrack for the 30 and 40-somethings? The song rips with ferocity though as the band maneuvers through the muck & mire of life. The band holds tightly to it recognizable influences with fast-paced rhythms like on “Cling To A Poisoned Dream” and even “Seatbelt Alam Silencer.” The band doesn’t forget where it comes from, but it expands on its already existing sound. The closing “Moving On” addresses the changes in life through how a relationship may begin to its eventual end through divorce. One can wallow in what once was or decide to literally “move on.” Embellishing with catchy riffs, the band chooses to step forward. You have to love that.

Well, it always seems we get a clear-cut answer when it comes to Pissed Jeans, and with Half Divorced the band gives us what we need in spades. Aggression, reality, sometimes a comical outlook, and an all-around good fucking time.


Let’s do the time warp again. Let’s face it, we all find ourselves taking trips down memory lane and sometimes we’re treated with something that allows for that nostalgia to help lost memories surface again. I for one welcome it. Sheer Mag is a different kind of beast altogether and the band’s last album, A Distant Call, delivered loads of 70s power pop tapered with psych edges, enough to trip balls around its rocking enthusiasm. With the band, there’s no sticking your toes in the water. Either you’re all in or all out.

Fronting the band is Christina Halladay, with her higher-pitched delivery which offers a unique quality to the band, and with the group’s new long-player, Playing Favorites (Third Man Records) things here aren’t much different. Sheer Mag isn’t playing though, and the band’s single “Moonstruck,” while it may have some bubblegum sensibilities, it’s a definitive rocker that obviously blows the roof off with its enthusiastic pop performance. The song is catchy and is an obvious go-to off the album. But it isn’t everything that the band is about. Rounded by guitarist/keyboardist Matt Palmer, lead guitarist Kyle Seely, and bassist Hart Seely, the band punches through infectious numbers that are rocking pop jams, beginning with the group’s title track. It sets the mood and pace of the album with jangly guitars and a steady melodic rhythm allowing Halladay to play with words, phrasing, and melody with her voice. The band provides unexpected backing harmonies that are unexpected but more than welcome. It’s hard to get past such a captivating song, but it’s followed by the crunch of “Eat It And Beat It” that would have both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley rolling in their graves, wishing they wrote it. Oh wait, they’re not dead yet. But this is where the stars align and we hear where the greatness of the band is. It’s perfect. The way the band contorts its instruments to pull out sounds that you may not have heard before is pretty remarkable. The guitars across “Golden Hour” may hark back to forgotten days but remain refreshing and vital in this day and age. We get an assortment of harmonies in the background as Halladay sets a path with her signature vocal delivery. Then there are the dual guitars that open “When You Get Back,” offset with harmonies that find solace alongside those of Halladay’s. The band weaves together a tapestry of sound that’s stunning.

As Playing Favorites closes, everything becomes clearer and I can probably point out the amalgamation of influences that helped create Sheer Mag, although I’m not making it easy for anyone else to figure out. One thing is certain though, the band is a force to be reckoned with and it’s new album should cement the group’s own legacy going forward. This isn’t the last we’ve heard from Sheer Mag, from the looks of things, this is only the beginning.