New Music | Friday Roll Out: FVRMN, Rancid, La Luz

Ay, or should I say Oi!? On the heels of the band’s B Sides and C Sides, released a couple of months ago, Rancid returns not with anything new, but with something old. It’s the band’s first release, its self-titled 1992 EP (Hellcat Records). The 5-song release gives us a look at the band’s early beginnings and we can hear the evolution of the group as it (de)volved into the crashing masterfulness that it is today. Two tracks clocking in at almost 3 minutes long while the other three are 2 and under. The band obviously never played it safe and the punk enthusiasm throughout the songs here shows it.


To say an artist expands its own creative flow from one album to another might be an understatement. That might be true even more so when an artist finds itself in a space that shifts members but if there’s just one constant that still has so much more to offer, that moment of displacement may not even matter. As long as the urge to create is matched with an abundance of talent, it makes no difference. The results are something we might find surprising.

Every few years, La Luz releases a new album and today News Of The Universe (Sub Pop) sees the light of day. Guitarist/vocalist Shana Cleveland, the band’s remaining founding member and apparent creative force, along with the band – drummer Audrey Johnson, keyboardist Maryam Qudus, and bassist Lee Johnson – have put in a lot throughout this album which is pretty expansive and borders on low-key psychedelia. And that’s fine considering the sweet sensuality of the band never falters and is always present. La Luz opens with “Reaching Up To The Sun,” solely voices, rich with harmony clocking in at just under one minute. Their voices play an integral part of the band’s sound and is utilized to its most inviting potential. It’s quickly followed by the bouncy “Strange World,” with an infectious groove, spacious melodies, and interesting vocal interplay. Keyboard notes are utilized interestingly closing the track out. The open landscape of “Poppies” is spread out with sparse guitar work as bass, keys, and drums quietly set the mood as harmonies are awash within its chorus. The song slowly builds through this crescendo that never explodes, instead dissipating into a quiet oblivion.

It’s on “Always In Love” where we find Cleveland cutting loose, as the band offers up an assortment of harmonies as her voice shivers and coos, but it’s her guitar here, her solo that’s most memorable that showers the song with stunning slow-handed work, hitting and bending notes where we don’t expect them. But it’s “Close Your Eyes” where we find those semblances of psych rock permeating through, whether it’s by the band’s vocal harmonies, its intriguing keyboard, or the guitars spitting all around. Maybe it’s everything meshed together. Anything is possible. I’m hard-pressed to decipher the brainchild that created this one. Its exploration goes a bit further with “I’ll Go With You” which begins with what sounds like wah-effected guitars which may lead you to believe we’re heading into dry deserty spaces but then morphs into something else, again with washes of vocal harmonies before Qudus’ keys pop throughout it.

La Luz is intriguing to say the least and through the album, the band shows there are no boundaries and it could possibly go much further. News Of The Universe is something so different and expansive. This just might be the band’s most realized work to date.


It’s ok not to feel bad, regardless of what you think you may have missed. Opportunities that slip through our fingers are countless, and some of them we may not even have realized when they’ve happened. It might just be a moment of reflection for us all to pay more attention to what surrounds us. Things like this may not be any fault of your own but others may attempt to place you at fault for not knowing. Fuck those people.

Moving forward, we have the new album by Fever Moon, which has been repurposed as FVRMN. Since 2020, the Tokyo transplant has been releasing music and today shares Back to The Whip (Bifocal Media), its seventh long-player and I’ll give you a few reasons why you should care. Led by the gruff Jay Holmes on guitar, vocals, and piano, the new release has an assortment of musicians, and by the looks of it, the continuously shifting lineup has no bearing on the strength of the music itself. If the roots are strong, everything will fall into place. For FVRMN, Holmes delivers powerfully moody songs, track after track. He’s the definitive force behind the band, and what a way to open things up with the driving title track with Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE) on bass? Yeah, that Mike Watt. But it’s the song, pummeled by drummer Scott Lupton, that’s unrelenting tossing around loads of melody smothered in walls of guitar. There’s a pop artist in here but there’s no relinquishing the punk roots and urgency for being your truest self here. The band never seems to relinquish its power, usually keeping the levels at a comfortable 11 but again, the sheer force of melody can’t be denied. I should note, Watt also plays bass here on the more restrained “Raleigh,” and what could be an era-inspired “Into The Earth.” Which era? Well, we’ll just keep it to ourselves here because Holmes’ brash voice and guitar antics takes it somewhere else altogether.

But Holmes isn’t always growling through songs here. “Diamonds,” with backing vocals by Braid’s Chris Broach, has him softening up his delivery and it fits as their voices occasionally blend into one another and allow the track’s evoking melody to hit the forefront, leaving an infectiousness without end. There’s nothing holding FVRMN back here as we clearly see Holmes & co. have an astute understanding of power, melody, and sonic exploration. Both “Esoteric Lover” and “Decoder Ring” are really good songs that grab hold of your attention as they progress but it’s “Wig” that really gets my attention, and I can only imagine it’s because of Lupton’s drums meshing with Holmes’ guitars. But he also gets rid of the rasp here for something much cleaner. I’m with it. As the band closes with “Grim Finalé,” we get the best of everything FVRMN has to offer here; that powerful drive, pop hooks, overdriven guitars, and Holmes’ gruff delivery. It’s all neatly packaged here creating a beast of a song.

There’s nothing forced about Back To The Whip, which doesn’t cease to amaze even after 30 listens in one sitting (true story) and I just wonder what else could come of FVRMN. The album is good, too damn good to be ignored.