New Music | Friday Roll Out: Demons, 1984 Draft / Todd Farrell Jr., PIFF Penny, Homeless Gospel Choir

Call it whatever you will, I’ve never hedged on my appreciation for Ohio’s The 1984 Draft, that band out of Dayton, Ohio and it seems the band has found some new traction again since the release of its 2018 debut album Makes Good Choices. The band delivers a song split with The Benchmarks’ Todd Farrell, Jr. Both songs here couldn’t be more different from one another but it doesn’t matter if the songs hit on some level, which they do. For “Two Car Barrage,” The 1984 Draft takes a different approach from its last single, 2020’s “Destination Nowhere,” opting for a full-frontal Mould-like attack. But that’s as far as comparisons go. Joe Anderl’s voice never wavers, as dueling guitars and pump-fisting rhythms are unrelenting. Now Farrell’s “Can’t Sit Still” (Poptek Records) is different. There’s a bit more jangle in his power rhythms and it may not take you 20 listens before you hear that underlying acoustic guitar there. The wildest thing about this single is how vulnerable Farrell is here. It’s touching, almost as much as DMX’s “Slippin’,” and I can’t help but think that if Earl Simmons picked up a guitar instead of a mic, he may have written songs like this.  

It’s important to sometimes move backward. When you first hear the raucousness of Swallow (Knife Hits Records), you may feel like you’re surrounded by Demons. In this sense, yes, you are but it’s the band out of Norfolk, VA. The 4-track release is by far one of the harshest things you’ll hear this year, as the opening “Inauguration Day” splits open with walls of guitar raging against the storm of bombast. It’s cathartic, it’s beautiful, it’s imaginative and we should all be in! But I don’t imagine this as January 20th, 2021, but rather January 6th. It’s all the anger already released. “Public Art” could just be that, art. It’s abrasive, it’s cacophonic and completely unnerving. “Nothing At The Bottom” showers us all with that abrasive hardcore with what sounds like a double kick. I’m ok with that because there’s so much more mixed within the fray: feedback, dissonant notes, screams, and an over-indulgent rhythm that’s maniacal. There’s everything to hate about Demons but on the flip side, there’s everything to love, for the most discerning of fans. Only moms that hate loud and grinding music will detest this, everyone else will absolutely adore Swallow. Now go find their back catalog.

There are trappings that surround tracks revolving around weed culture and so it could be, tricky. During the last couple of years, Piff Penny has dropped more than his fair share of EP releases. He returns today with his latest, Sativa (Penny Records), a 6-song grown folk recording revolving around not just Sativa, but that Sweet Diesel, and other flavors. But while the release is named so, it may be its main influence, it isn’t the only one.

Piff opens with the oddly trippy “Weed Sticky,” with a beat that’s hyper-infused with a harpsichord loop? What the hell? While it may creep around peculiarly, its base-level eccentricity can’t be ignored. Sure, it’s unconventional but Piff makes it work, revolving lyricism around that sticky icky storytelling through clouds of smoke. Try it and you’ll be intrigued following the enlightenment. Throughout the title track, we find our hero bugging through an assortment of flavors. And while Piff’s harmonizing may not necessarily qualify as the best, he makes it work. The piano over the bass & drum beat again puts the artist at odds with the beat but it captures the essence of the song altogether.

It’s when Piff steps away from the blunts & lighters that things get interesting. He isn’t a one-trick-pony and the insightful “I’m Not OK,” offers much more as he laments about a lost friend. The horns around the track capture the emotion in Piff’s words, dripping with a melancholic fervor. But it’s “Chef P” that gets descriptive and has your mouth watering for some fresh roti. Piff shares his love of Caribbean food and when he brings up those jerk wings, yes, I’m all in. The closing “You Did It,” is inspirational. We get to feel another side of Piff; family comes first, and he gives himself all the praise for accomplishments made. We should all do the same, and here, he’s deserving of it all.

Sure, Sativa might be a bit misleading, but in the end what Piff delivers are songs that are fully realized, strapped with emotion, and complete honesty.

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At some point, the illicit drugs market will make changes in its product marketing. Certain musical groups can surely find themselves the new poster boys for fledging street pharmaceuticals. How often was the Grateful Dead associated with LSD and half-baked kids with blond dreads? But while that market seemed to dissolve along with the Dead, the field is wide open. This is where we insert colorful albums by fledging rock bands right? Well, of course.

What once began as a folk-punk solo project by Derek Zanetti, The Homeless Gospel Choir had slowly morphed into a full-fledged band to include Matt Miller & Megan Schroer before adding Maura Weaver, and Craig Luckman. Fourth Dimension Intervention is the group’s seventh album and the first to feature all members this go-around.

The band’s loud, overdriven guitar rock oozes with psychedelia, but we shouldn’t refer to the band as psychedelic because there’s much more than that. Are they a pop band? Quite possibly. Under the sonic oblivion of feedbacking guitars, there are honey-dewed melodies. “A Chameleon, Sometimes” for example, there is a catchy chord progression that’s infectious and the emotional zeal of Zanetti’s vocals hit perfectly. What the hell are we getting at here? The song swirls, it shifts around catchy melodies, and is loosely fitted with guitars that rise and fall throughout the song and… is that a banjo closing things out???? Yes, it’s impressive and would make Jeff Pinkus proud. The band’s album is a raucous affair from beginning to end but make no mistake, Choir is deliberate in its actions. The revved-up punk energy of “Never Too Old” is unmistakable and some may even think unrelenting (I would be that someone). The band’s full-frontal attack plays like a revival beaconing at all and anyone. Come as you are but make sure you enter the group’s wondrous world. The song collides right into the seemingly disjointed “RIPOFF” with its bludgeoning rhythm and howled vocals.

In comparison to the group’s 2020 This Land Is Your Landfill, The Homeless Gospel Choir’s new album showcases much more experimentation through its cacophony. It isn’t noise in the standard sense but the outfit embellishes songs throughout much more Fourth Dimension Intervention with an almost crazed precision. “BRAINWASHEDBRAINWASHED” builds and crashes upon itself, a raging sea of sonic bliss. The rhythm accentuates vocals as guitars alone could have brought down the Walls of Jericho. But I think it’s “Leaving Hazelwood” that shifts the album’s vibe a bit as a lone guitar plays along with Zanetti sweetly until just about the 2-minute mark as the band shifts dynamics, exploding with a fervor as the melody holds strongly around his wavering voice.

There’s just something about The Homeless Gospel Choir that will leave listeners thinking, “Yes, it’s time. The band has obviously paid its figurative dues,” and is ready to receive its just rewards. But let’s get back to marketing pharmaceuticals. Maybe it’s time someone thought about acid-drenched Pop Rocks in a variety of flavors. Pack it along with a copy of Fourth Dimension Intervention and BAM(!) the world will make sense again. In all seriousness though, the band is probably sitting on the precipice of becoming one of the greatest bands in the world.

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