Do you ever feel so swamped with things that need to be done that you find yourself scrambling to try and get it out of the way, completed, at the last possible moment? That seems to be my life in a nutshell but I’m not complaining about it, rather, I wish I could find balance between home and work life so that they wouldn’t occasionally intertwine with one another. Seems like so much to ask for…on a daily basis. It keeps my mind moving all the time, which I can only assume is a good thing but when one thing comes up, another takes its place in level of priority. Am I the only one that ever feels this way? Certainly, I can’t be the only one.
One thing that’s remained constant for the past few weeks is Jaguwar, this trio from Dresden, Germany that I discovered on Soundcloud. The site sometimes plays similar material from other artists when you’re listening to something specific, and that’s what happened in this case. I couldn’t get enough of the band. That was almost a year ago. Everything happens for a reason because the band has just released its debut long-player Ringthing (Tapete Records.) From what I’ve heard of the trio in the past, I expected some more of the same, with their walls of distortion, experimentation, and beautiful melodies. What Jaguwar has here with Ringthing does have all that but it’s much more structured with pop sensibilities and dare I say, a nod to MBV.
While the group does owe much to the Shoegaze genre, there hasn’t been another band in quite some time to create a sonic explosion of this magnitude. Listeners will forget that the band is just the trio of bassist Oyèmi Hessou, guitarist Felix “Lemmy” Fischer, and drummer Christoph Krenkel because to beauteous cacophonic sounds they create sounds like a space-aged symphony of guitarists and percussive beats. The band opens with “Lunatic” and from Chris’ opening drumroll you know there’s something special here. Oyèmi’s sweet vocals are wrapped in a wall of sound but are never smothered as she exhales each word. But the group shares vocal duties with Lemmy grabbing hold of that mic on “Skeleton Feet,” with a huge rock sound, ethereal vocal effects, and again, having you take note of Chris’ dynamic drum and percussion work here, doubling up from one channel to the next white the bass rattles and guitar notes and dissonance float throughout. Damn. The band occasionally throws around big rock sounds, not unlike “Slow And Tiny,” with its nostalgic nod to John Hughes films for 2018, and then suddenly the group will turn to sweet jams on “Gone” where you can imagine an aged Molly Ringwald smoking, sitting at a coffee shop reminiscing on her youth.
But “Whales,” is a beast of a different nature. It meanders on with a mid-tempo beat, walls of guitar, effected vocals with a strange cadence, but it works. The ability to combine all these elements works to the band’s benefit, allowing Jaguwar a tag of originality. Then there’s “Away,” where Oyèmi sings over a high-powered beat, jangly guitars, and volleys vocal duties with Lemmy here. It’s one of the band’s more straight-forward tracks and shows the group’s fearlessness in simply putting forth a great melody. It’s always back to business for the band though as Lemmy breathes life into “Week” with his guitar virtuosity, distorted and all. One thing is for sure, on Jaguwar’s full-length debut, they’re no room quarter, pulling out all stops on Ringthing. I’m simply glad the band has lived up the hype I had for them myself with such an astounding album.
Now The PRIDS has been hustling, doing their thing for some time now. For over two decades now, they’ve performed, recorded, and have mastered a style all their own. They didn’t begin releasing anything until 2000, with an E.P.’s worth of work. A handful of singles, E.P.s, and three albums later the band has steadily built a healthy catalog of music. According to the band’s own press, “The Prids’ 22 years have been marked with death, sickness, divorce, and a near-fatal van crash that cut a tour short and left members bloody and broken—but they survive through the friendship and bond of founding members La Fave and guitarist-vocalist David Frederickson.” Maybe these elements continue to influence the music but the group has just released its fourth album, Do I Look Like I’m In Love (This-A-Way Records), and to say it’s moody would be an understatement. It simply depends on which mood one is referring to. The Portland, OR band is classified as a noise-pop band, but I’ve never considered it as such.
There’s a darkness surrounding the new album with occasional flutterings of sunlight creeping in. “Summer Cult” makes you feel…a darkening sense of dread with a semblance of hope. While comparisons are cheap, much like Joy Division created its music, the PRIDS seems to take its lead, they never lose self-identity. But soon after, the band shifts gears with “Elizabeth Ann,” a direct fuzzed-guitar pop attack where the band suits up its armor but let in moments of clarity with underlying keyboard lines. The title track is led off with that singular bassline before the rest of the band eventually catches up to it filling it with walls of guitar but never letting the song reign free from their controlled hands, all the while having both vocalists play off one another. There’s more of the same on “Haunted” and “The Shape,” where I get this brooding feeling and sense of loss. The songs aren’t for the faint of heart, wallowing too much in them as I have will probably, possibly, get you in a different headspace. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as far as the PRIDS is concerned. The ability to move listeners in such a way isn’t an easy task. “English Treasure,” while keeping in line with the same murky feeling, differs. The ethereal background hum is simply gorgeous! And the way-out guitar here? It keeps that same feel. But what is it that you should consider while giving Do I Look Like I’m In Love a spin and a chance? Well, while they let the darkened mood reign, there’s hope throughout it. Take a listen and you might be the better for it.
I think that as soon as Songs Of Praise (Dead Oceans) began playing I was ready to write the band off as “Oh here we go. Another English band that trying to play up the punk ethos.” But I gave it a shot. Again. After my fourth or fifth spin, I think I began to understand what it was the band is trying to do here, and that’s to play up the punk ethos, but with disdain for everything and everyone. Shame is made up of five young Brits who could care less about rock stardom and have a love of The Fall, Bowie, and Iggy Pop, and while their guttural guitar rock sound is far removed from other bands, I can’t help but feel the group has a similarity to bands like The Clash, another outfit that just wanted to rock. The tracks seemingly roll by quickly although most aren’t delving with brevity, it’s just how they move. Shame isn’t about showing everyone the latest fashions or parading around with models. Bollocks. Their disjoined conformity in piecing together great song structures is what the group is about.
Some might find the band’s loud delivery offensive but it’s probable they don’t give two shits about your mom and her friends. “Dust On Trial” is simply loud from beginning to end and gives no reprieve, while “Concrete” is bound to get you moving from side to side, pogoing, not giving a rat’s ass either. But it’s on the self-deprecating “One Rizla” that’s likely to have critics fawning over the band. It’s a powerful punk/pop song with singer Charlie Steen leading the charge singing “My voice ain’t the best you’ve heard / And you can choose to hate my words / But do I give a fuck?” while the band jams away here. BUT, the band is quick to shift gears with “The Lick,” which is both seemingly comedic and self-gratuitous. No fucks are given as the quintet rallies around his words with a sonically charged opus. There’s no holding the band back with “Tasteless,” as the band shows the world the new breed of English Rock which has been a long time coming. The sneer of punk and the calling of great rock and pop is what the band combines on Songs Of Praise, like on “Friction” which isn’t as frantic but just as compelling. Shame is eschewing the idea of rock stardom for the creation of great rock songs on the 10-song album here. Let’s hope the band keeps doing the same year after year because this album is well worth listening to over and over.