It’s 2018 and I’m looking for some musical salvation. I’m not mincing words here because no fucks are usually given but, so much Hip-Hop that’s released today is without a doubt: WACK. There’s no further description that’s needed because it is what it is. But I’m not going to simply focus on the dumbing down of the genre because let’s face it, indie rock is on life support as well. I’m saying it right here, right now: everyone needs to up their game when it comes to creativity and musical prowess. That’s not to say anyone needs to attend Berkeley and gain fluency with every single note known to mankind but really, let it flow to ride the wave of something exciting. Throughout the years I’ve met a number of musicians, artists and the like, and the ones that have stuck around are the ones that refuse to confine themselves into a box. Recently I’ve received so many albums of cut ‘n paste songs, paint-by-number songs, that only mimicked what came before them. STOP IT. I don’t want to hear it, and I’m sure listeners don’t want to hear it either. But on the flipside of that same coin you do have artists that just can’t seem to let it go. Some have promise, and fans are excited at the idea of new music before it all comes crashing down and the music is just a ghost of former song structures pieced together. True friends is what some need to tell them to just let it go. I don’t need to mention those acts of 40 year old men expecting 20 year old fans to rabidly grab their music. But like I mentioned earlier, you have those that show everyone how to do it right.
I didn’t think I’d ever be mentioning Hot Snakes again, but the band has resurfaced and come out of seclusion with its new Jericho Sirens (Sub Pop.) The San Diego band was formed by Drive Like Jehu guitarists Jon Reis – also of Rocket From The Crypt – and Rick Froberg after the band seemed to run its course. Drive Like Jehu would reform in 2015 and tour but the reunion tour would end in August of 2016. With Hot Snakes, they released three albums from 2000 – 2004 before wrapping things up with their slithering creation. Fans would always The one thing the group knew how to do is turn the levels up to 11 and create track after blistering track so after 14 years you have to wonder what the band would be able to accomplish after all the downtown. Well, we don’t have to guess anymore because this new album is relentless. From the opening riffs on “I Need A Doctor,” you get a sense of dread, as the band sends you reeling down a flight of stairs with its pummeling rhythms and cacophonic dueling guitars. All the while, Froberg’s maniacal vocals give you the sense that you’re the one needing medical attention after this. The band plays with dissonance on “Candid Cameras” with it’s 1-2 punch while “Why Don’t It Sink In?” has Reis fronting this frenetic track that sounds like it’s simply set on destruct! From start to finish here the band obliterates everything in its path which hardcore and hard core fans will appreciate. And then, everything seems to fall right into place. “Six Wave Hold-Down” is what I was probably looking for with the odd melody the band gets from the combination of musical instruments attaching themselves to Froberg’s blood-soaked throat, pushing his vocals as gobs of blood are spat. Midway through the album the band seemingly slows the pace down, just a bit, on its title track, adding additional wind instruments, possibly to shake things up because with this band, you never know what you’re going to get. From this point on, you’re in a frantic psychosis of sound with “Death Camp Fantasy,” then leading to “Having Another?” or one of my favorites, “Death Doula.” The track begins with repetitive guitar lines before exploding into an oblivious wonder of rhythms and noise. Of the album, Reis himself said, “It sounds like panic and chaos” which couldn’t be truer. With Jericho Sirens, forget everything you thought you knew about what rock was supposed to sound like because Hot Snakes have re-written the rules.
One thing about a number of bands is, there’s never a moment when one disappoints so going into listening to Yo La Tengo’s new album I was pretty sure that after a career that spans 14 albums, their 15th release wouldn’t show any semblance of senility. The band has always had a penchant for balancing both beautiful soft pop songs with loud noisy, feedback drenched, guttural dissonance, and now on There’s A Riot Going On (Matador) it seems they’ve ditched the urge for the loud and have remained with the quieter side of their song structures. That’s not to say they’ve relinquished the noise because you’ll here the cacophony, but it’s so subtle here. I think I’m getting ahead of myself though. The album opens with a glorious “You Are Here,” an instrumental track that as lovely as anything can get; an ethereal ocean breeze with water softly cresting upon the sand. “She May, She Might” is a beautiful composition with an underlying wave of dissonance beneath it as Ira Kaplan sings softly over it. I think on “For You Too” is possibly where the band gets its noisiest with James McNew’s distorted bassline but the jangly guitars juxtaposed over it nullifies it all and brings that glorious sound to the forefront. But it isn’t as if the band doesn’t continue to explore new things because on the semi-instrumental “Above The Sound” you get a rhythm, with loose jangled bells floating over it. It’s hypnotic and strange, but it works. They’ll even include nods to Brazilian sounds and do-wop with “Esportes Casual” and “Forever” respectively, which gives everyone an idea the band continues to explore different realms of music. You simply can’t dismiss the expansive sonic palette Yo La Tengo shows on There’s A Riot Going On.
Now I knew close to nothing about Los Nastys, a band that calls Madrid home, but on the basis of one single I thought maybe they’d be an interesting listen to. Together since 2012, the band is fronted by guitarists Luis and Fran Basilio and simply put, they deliver some psychedelic garage punk. You can’t mistake the band’s lo-fi aesthetic in a hi-fi world, but it suits the band perfectly. The band just released its third album Música Para El Amor Y La Guerra (Nacional Records), which translates to “Music For Love And War.” Like math, music is universal, so it doesn’t matter that the band sings in Spanish because everyone should be able to dig this. The band fills a space that groups like Davila 666 have left wide open, completely taking over a with their brand of dirty garage rock en Español. The band has some standout cuts like “Venenosa de Serpiente” with an explosive sound that’s catchy AF, and lyricism that’s direct & to the point. When they sing, “No quiero puta/No quiero dinero/Solo quiero princesa que me llama torero!” It ain’t difficult to guess it’s a different kind of love song with sharp edge or, um, venom. The rhythm never let’s you down because again, it’s addictive. But here on this album there’s a lot going on with these songs about love in varying degrees. The band never sticks to one rhythm, opting to change paces from song to song. “Tu? Me Haces” slows things down a bit but never relinquishing the aesthetic or vibe. And the even slower “Los Autos Locos” the humor isn’t lost with a cock-blocking story midway through it that Luis recounts. But it’s the sound, the morose delivery that’s attractive here. One can only hope that more people discover the band with its catchy deliver on songs like “Quiero Ser Otro” or the rhythmic dynamics of “Malditos Al Nacer.” There’s just no way in hell anyone could hate this band because they’re just that good.