Welcome back. There isn’t anything new this week, as far as news. It’s the same regurgitated stories of the disenfranchised with militarized federal officers in their communities, unemployment’s staggering numbers, increased amount of Covid cases in the west and southwest, so it seems to be business as usual. Every week I seem to question the same thing: Where do we go from here? I’m willing to listen if anyone has a plan.
The music this week has been kept to a minimum, and not by any fault of my own. I haven’t received much. The Lawrence Arms, a staple of punk with releases dating back to 2003, just dropped its latest offering Skeleton Coast (Epitaph). While I once enjoyed this band in the past, this one here reminds me of Georges St. Pierre back in 2007 when he told Matt Hughes, “I am not impressed with your performance.” In 2020, the music just seems derivative. Punk anthems for those that aren’t listening anymore. That’s not to say the songs are bad, but again, just derivative.
It’s been three years since Thee Oh Sees’ – now just Oh Sees – John Dwyer released Bunker Funk, under the Damaged Bug moniker he’s recorded under. On that album was where he completely obliterated our conception of what we all believe music should sound like. While the music was based around repetition, things get a little different now. The new Bug On Yonkers (Castle Face) finds Damaged Bug exploring things in a much different way.
Dwyer was inspired by experimental psych-folk rock artist Michael Yonkers, who is pictured on the album cover. Now while I can see the correlation, he takes Damaged Bug to another level altogether. Storming through each track, Damaged Bug drenches songs in gooey thickness, much like on “Sold America” with its rich and deep bottom end that has percussive bombast that would make P.E. proud. The melody around the instruments intertwine around Dwyer’s vocals and this could easily be one of the greatest songs ever written. Sonically, it’s powerful and melodically it entices the sense all the while filling your appetite for noise and rhythm. But I’m getting ahead of myself here simply because it’s probably my favorite track off the album.
The album opens with “Goodby Sunball,” an ode to a morning sunrise and setting moon. Or vice versa, you decide. At just a minute and a half it’s a sweet number with vocals and effected keyboards that eventually make way for the sonic excursion that is “I Tried.” This fuckfest never lets up, drawing on explosive keyboards & drums, with filtered sounds all around and Dwyer leading the way. “Microminiature Love” shifts the vibe altogether, playing more with repetitive rhythm without becoming repetitious. The slight guitar work sporadically added throughout it adds a dash of spiciness. And as quickly as it begins, it vanishes just as fast.
“The Thunder Speaks” begins where “Sold America” leaves off and flagrantly utilizes walls of guitar throughout, while “Sunflowers” shifts direction altogether with a sweet backdrop of horns, a variety of percussion, all wrapped around backing harmonies and Brigid Dawson’s sugary vocal delivery.
Now while I may give kudos to Dwyer here, this release has a number of artists involved and they pretty much outdo themselves here on Bug On Yonkers. The experimentation is never self-gratuitous and is always purposeful. Damaged Bug cloaks the songs on the album in melody both obvious and even when it’s not so evident. Stick around for the album in its entirety. The closing “In My Heart” is fucking brilliant and easy to fall in love with.