New Music | Friday Roll Out: Unsane, Iceage, Gel Roc & DJ JahBluez, Bloods

While I’ve never considered myself a fan of the Danish outfit, I’ve never not liked their music. That’s Iceage we’re discussing here, the quintet with loads of swag that’s distilled through its music. The band’s latest offering, Shake The Feeling: Outtakes & Rarities (2015-2021) (Mexican Summer) isn’t a collection of newly sourced material but rather, previously recorded material compiled together here. Some will argue if it’s an actual album but who cares? It comes across with the energy of the band moving at full throttle, rivaling its contemporaries. Iceage moves through lazy garage rock full of inspiration with its fully developed song structures and it’s hard to not listen to the infectious “Balm Of Gilead” where guitars caterwaul in the full-frontal distance as vocalist Elias Bender passionately directs and steers the band into a beautiful catastrophic oblivion. Guitars are expressive and never overpowering allowing the band enough space to let the groove take hold. The band’s experimental movements here don’t go unnoticed either as “Namouche” chugs through a sonic landscape of drifting guitars & feedback, Latin percussion, and a thick bassline. It’s easy to become particular about “Lockdown Blues,” obviously written during the height of the pandemic, and with its catchy melody and harmonies, yeah, it’s that song that will get stuck in your head. At 12 tracks, , Shake The Feeling: Outtakes & Rarities (2015-2021) is a complete album and a great one at that.

Is it a return? Is it what we all want right now? Who’s actually to say what’s important right now, but after years of toiling in dank, smelly clubs, Unsane returns! Sort of. Guitarist/vocalist Chris Spencer has lit the fuse for another go-around, another version of Unsane to leave crowds dumbfounded. Before getting to new material, Unsane has been re-releasing and re-mastering its catalog of music. Today the band offers up its 1991 self-titled release, you know the one, the only studio release to feature founding member Charlie Ondras, which also has a bloody decapitated male figure on NY subway tracks. The group always received some sort of heat for its ghastly cover art on albums and continues to do so on social media. For this release and its re-mastery, the band has never sounded so thunderous as it does here. Crossing boundaries with both hardcore and metal leanings, the band is unrelenting. Just listen to “Bath” as the dynamics shift early and one can barely make sense of Spencer’s distorted vocal delivery. But you know what? It doesn’t matter because you’re lost in the fury of it all. Don’t believe it? Listen to “Cracked Up” and see if it’s lies and conjecture. Throughout the re-mastered version, the thunderous anger of the music is well worth the rage. Unsane may not be what we all want, but it’s what we all need right now.

Every locale has developed its own style of Hip-Hop, and if you consider California, there are so many subsets and factions that have sprung up around the culture throughout the decades. They may have varied drastically but they’ve also evolved and have coalesced in one way or another. West Coast denizen Gel Roc follows up his 2020 release, Grandeur, with the assist of DJ Jahbluez for the new Poetry Of War (Abolano Records). Here with Jahbluez, it seems the DJ gives Gel a different route to take.

Gel Roc & DJ Jahbluez open with “Don’t Talk!” as Gel Roc moves fiercely in battle rap mode underscored by Jahbluez’ loops and nimble-fingered scratches. They deliver a mix of nostalgia that hits like a hammer to a nail. This sets the tone for the release, as Jahbluez fully layers tracks with mind-numbing affect. “Price To Pay” alone sputters with record scratches, an odd melody, and bizarre cries in the background. Somewhat cacophonic but suits Gel’s needs, wrapping his words about paying his dues through it all. The Gel & Jah release features some hitters here like Visionaires’ Dannu on “Get The F Up,” as the militant aspect of the music makes one stand at attention, and Ceschi on “Here I Am,” propelled by the seemingly frenetic rhythm which may be misleading but gets the point across. They’re both distinct in rhymes, keeping both hands firmly on the wheel, still standing firm. Jah is concise in his track manipulation, playing with noisy melodies, offset by that rhythm.

There isn’t much doubt DJ Jahbluez has a flagrant disregard for following a direct line from point A to point B, instead opting to throw conventionality out the window. With the album’s title track, that’s unyieldingly obvious. Melody wrapped in dissonance and tinny percussion as his scratches are added for effect. Gel Roc definitively kills it here, propping up what’s relevant and leaving everything else to the side. If you’re not relevant, well, you know. This is heady without falling into obscure word tactics; it’s a beast of a song. Moments hit where things are unexpected, and “Edge Of The Edge” which features Awol One & Abstract Rude is one such moment. JahBluez doesn’t always make it easy but here Abstract Rude creates a great vocal melody over the xylophone loop. It’s bizarre and edgy, no pun intended. Not to take away from any other artists featured here, like Quaesar and Monstroe, but when Gel & Jah get crewed up on “Enough Is Enough,” all bets are off. JahBluez creates a beat everyone can get down on! And they do. With a diverse cast of emcees, Megabusive, Alph Tha Alien, Ecid, 2Mex, and Otherwize blend their wordskill to congeal as one unit on one track. It’s bananas.

Poetry Of War is different. Different isn’t always an acceptable challenge but Gel Roc and DJ JahBluez are up to the task of challenging anyone who’s willing to allow any and all new provocations. What do you dare to risk?

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What is “punk”? I often wonder what classifies and defines it because it can be so many different things aside from music. The ethos can exist just about anywhere and in anyone. But here, we’re focused on Bloods, not the opposite of Crips but Bloods by way of Australia. For the past 10 years the band has been up and at ‘em, developing its strengths and sound. Bloods is a punk band at heart and seems to offer more than one side of genre or ethos.

The trio just released its latest offering Together, Baby! (Share It Music), filled with anthemic fight songs, delectable pop explosions, and clawing indie-fervor. Bloods sets it off with “Radical,” the thunderous and singular Spanish language track on the album with repeated lyrics loosely translating “What is radical?/we’re going to change the world/now we have the motive” and “All of my sisters with their hands in the air/when we tire we’ll be going to the streets” is more of a call for unity for the disenfranchised as the song moves fervently with what does sound like horns blaring alongside guitars as harmonies overpower. The band is obviously in control on the album as they put a few chords together for the monster that is “Boss.” Yeah, control is what this one is through and through. Bloods shifts gears on “Thinking Of You Thinking Of Me” with its booming shifts in distortion and pop simplicity but managing to come out on top. The group knows how to piece together a clever melody and fit it with loads of harmonies.

“I Like You” is the surprise here, a duet with Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace who knows a thing or two about writing loud and abrasive but adding in infectious melodies. The song begins innocently enough, building around just a few notes, leaving space for both vocalists to do their thing. This is one of the most captivating songs on the album and Laura Jane’s addition is a magnificent addition to it. You won’t be able to play it only once. Bloods never places all its proverbial eggs in one basket, never taking the easy route. With “Chasing Constellations” we get a taste of Marihuzka Cornelius’ voice as she sings along to mostly an acoustic guitar to find there’s more range here. There’s nothing simple about Bloods and its delivery here, showcasing its diversity. But the band throws a curve ball with “Take Aim,” drifting through a nostalgic 90s Riot Grrrl influence. It’s difficult to get past, it’s a bit jarring but the stops and starts are perfectly situated throughout.

There really is a lot to take in with Together, Baby! but as a whole, it all makes sense together. Separated, in short spurts, it does the same although it really doesn’t matter. Just listen to it from beginning to end and you’ll understand what I mean.

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