New York’s Secret Machines returns with a new 3-song EP release, Day 21. It’s what you might expect from the band; layered instruments, clear lyricism, with a touch of experimentation. The band’s pop sensibilities have always been present and here it clearly rises to the surface with thick basslines, driven by its rhythms. Musically, the band is intense while allowing the tracks a loose and organic flow. The band has also reissued its Dreaming Of Dreaming EP today as well. Originally recorded back in 2008, Secret Machines gives Listeners a look into earlier days.
You might be questioning things, specifically, if anyone needs to hear another direct attack by Ben Weasel and company with quick-paced skater punk deliveries from song to song. But you know, sometimes things are more necessary than one might think. With that said, Screeching Weasel returns with The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel (Rum Bar Records/Striped Records). The questions may come but you may find the answers quite surprising.
While the band has shifted membership in its 30+ year existence, with Ben Weasel always the only constant member since around 2017, the band has been stable since then with Trevor Jackson (guitar), Pierre Marche (drums), Mike Hunchback (guitar), and Zach “Poutine” Brandner (bass). Together, they chug and churn out three and four-chord progressions at rapid-fire speeds. Marche’s pummeling on the opening “Six Ways To Sunday” is nasty, and the rest of the group capitalizes on that. The song moves so quickly, filled with loads of melody over the frantic rhythm, you won’t even notice its only one-minute long! It leads right into the more restrained “Any Minute Now” as cleanly distorted guitars usher in background vocal harmonies allowing its infectiousness to seep in without issue. It just might be your favorite song of the summer.
It doesn’t stop there though; the band is in continuous motion with me strongly written songs. “In The Castle,” a frenetic punk pop love song doesn’t seem to end the way Ben hopes it would and when he sings “I wanna be inside with you” later flipping it to “I wanna be inside of you,” we get an idea of where this is going when he closes with “We’re never going out again.” But you may find yourself partial to the driving force of “Kill The Cure” which sees the band’s skill evolving. Don’t misunderstand though, it’s irrevocably Screeching Weasel but the group’s pop structuring is fantastic. Guitars & rhythm can’t be denied, while the melody around it all is completely enticing. And the band includes piano notes for good measure as it fades out with Ben’s vocals drifting off in the distance.
Screeching Weasel doesn’t take itself too seriously but when it’s time to get to business, the band is ready to cash in. You might be fond of “Hey Diana” a quick-paced number, filled with guitar/drums/keyboards/bass and Ben’s offer to Diana. The group moves seamlessly raising the stakes here and when you hear it, it’s that “fuck yes1” moment.
The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel is what’s known in the music industry as “a really fucking good album” that draws in your attention, keeping you focused on the music. Screeching Weasel proudly flies it skater punk flag continuing to do things both the way they want and with style.
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Storming through these mean streets, one can never be too sure what will be the next thing to truly ‘hit.’ There are a lot of players that were involved in the debut album by North Carolina’s The A’s, but it’s Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Meath who make up the heart of the group. After many years of friendship, the duo has seen fit to deliver its debut Fruit (Psychic Hotline), an album with a number of old-timey harmonizing, filled with subtle guitar interplay, percussion, strings, and piano.
Given, The A’s touch on a formula that’s been handled a number of different ways throughout the decades but their delicate touch from track to track offers tranquility and sweetness. The opening “He Needs Me” capitalizes on that aged sound of tender dual vocal harmonies, with chopping instrumentation while “Swing And Turn Jubilee,” moves in a more folk-oriented direction. Acoustic guitar notes ride along tapping percussion and it seems as if The A’s quickly find its stride. But it isn’t always so, um, appealing. Almost midway through, the duo moves into acapella territory with its yodeling “Why I’m Grieving.” I’m not sure if the inclusion of any instruments could save this one and when they sing, “If you think this song is silly go right ahead and laugh,” it simply opens the door for ridicule. It’s followed by “When The Bloom Is On The Sage,” another track acapella with light percussion making its way in. It’s not bad but maybe you should decide. At this point no one would probably blame you if you turned this off and there’s more yodeling down the road on “Go To Sleep My Darling Baby,” but it’s sweet and not as intrusive.
Fruit is the album you may want to like at first but as it draws its direction away into self-indulgence, it may deter listeners away. Its first two tracks are exquisite, but the album lacks the consistency to keep one’s full attention.