Saturday, November 28, 2015

OUTER EMABSSY "Lights Out" 7inch EP

     Presided over by earthy Fender Rhodes and synths shooting for something celestial along with live drums and no guitars, this Oakland, CA combo tickers with something organic for a space age.
     A slightly chopped and humanoid beat sets the tone for a fuzzy & slightly blanket of an electric piano to wrap and keep things warm while icy bloops and beeps soar around on "Light's Out." It's like that stoned in the afternoon while listening to Steely Dan vibe that Junip or Tame Impala did way too much on their last album. The difference though is that where those bands act all precious and coy, these guys are not hiding it. The occasional prog-leaning rears its head a time or two but they manage to keep it under control by not playing too many notes at once. When the echoy new wave vocals kick in the scene changes from cocaine at the martini party to a rain washed and neon lit street scene from a slightly arty 80s movie.
    Imagine standing outside a really seedy hotel bar. Expecting worn red velvet upholstery and fake Tiffany lamps caked with years of cigarette smoke and dust. Hesitant to walk in in you're find that everything is shiny, silver PVC fabric and flickering fluorescent light. The band starts to play and it sounds like this record's flipside "Outer Orbit." The drinks are just well booze but you feel you may start to float in space. A jazzy space.

Friday, November 27, 2015


     To declare a record "punk rock" leaves a lot of interpretation open. People have different impression and ideas of what punk rock is about. Different reference points and rule books and so on for each and everyone. To pin down the kind of punk rock state of mind Kentucky's Tropical Trash may confound some while others will find it being a gauntlet thrown down for others to crawl outside of some predictable boxes and step up their game.
     Charging right out the gate with a surf drum beat played at speed metal velocity that doesn't let up for the song’s duration, "New Flesh" builds tension up with a hammering one chord down stroke and pummeling, basic bass line foundation for the burly voice singer to bark contemptuous sentiments over. Things hit their boiling point halfway through and it burst into a faceful of searing feedback. The squalls intensify and ooze more puss on the explosively dark next track "DNA Smoke."
     There are moments where the band picks up the direction bands like Fugazi and Shellac for instance took the so called "post-hardcore" movement (before the palm muting weigh lifters, fat bald guys with goatees and Amish as tattoo'd hipsters look started to infect it all with effects pedals and "emotional" screeching about the anger of being raised in a subdivision came about), like jittery and soil shaking "Vertical Gang" and the title track's feeling out aural whiplash, but it's the moments where the songs sound like a fireball ball being shot out of cannon like "Leisure Exposure" and how "Fat Kid's Wig" feels like plowing through a ten car pile up and coming out unscathed that assure the listener that the band has their own ideas how things are to be done. For instance, even if "the kids" started to think something like "Heehaw Collider" would be pit worthy the silent gaps of emptiness that dot the song would have them standing around and whining about it (and looking like the goofs at EDM shows waiting for the always now predictable bass drop) while the two close to ten minute lurching, lumbering and doom laden closers, the Big Black at half speed vibed "Knowing" and the Flipper using Black Sabbath tricks to peel paint tricks on "Pig Sweat" would send them back to get in mom's SUV a minute or so into either song.
     To declare Tropical Trash UFO Rot as a punk rock record that will still sound current 5, 10 or even 20 years down the road may even confounding or preposterous to some but from where it stands now this scribe is going to make the claim. If we as a civilization are even still around in two decades we can discuss it again then.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Smashin Podsistorcast 8: Sideways It's A Sign For Infinity

     I'm not a math wizard. As a matter of fact to get my degree(s) in college math credit is required. I kept putting it off. Took me years to finally get the diploma because, well, let's just say I put it off for a loooong time. I do remember though that an 8 sideways does look like the sign of infinity. Thank you Schoolhouse Rock.
     Turn it up for new things from Video, the Deadbeat Beat, Wireheads, Spray Paint, Tang Soleil, Thee Mighty Domotas , What Tyrants, Rik & the Pigs and Lavender Flu. Keep it cranked for classics from the Cramps. The Patti Smith Group, Joe Clay, The Damned, Tav Falco's Panther Burns, Can and Little Ann. Blast out all the good stuff scattered around in between too.          

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Stone Brewing's Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard

     The first snowfall of the season is happening here in the Great Lakes State as I type this. Seems a good as time as any to make a plate of smokey cheese, pop the top off a bourbon barrel aged brew and sip while watching the white stuff pile up outside my window.
     It's been awhile since I've had an Arrogant Bastard of any sort, There's been so many choices of things coming out of Michigan what seems everyday now some of the older stand-by's get been neglected. When I saw that their bourbon barrel aged version on one of the most unique American Strong Ale's there is in the world though it was time to make some time to hang out again.
     Luminous chestnut in color with chocolate malted colored, pinky finger thick head that takes it own sweet time melting (and not shy about leaving a thick lacing behind in its wake) it takes me back to the time when its parent brew was a major go to for me.
     Giving it a sniff though I am about to get into something that is totally turned up a notch from something that already had great things cranked up. Oak, dark cherries and vanilla scents give off an sensory trigger in the brain of eating ice cream around a fireplace. The bourbon aroma hangs back in the being understated.
     Wheat toast with almond butter is a thing that comes to mind on first sip. Sweet but not sugary with a warm, soothing feeling as it goes down. Cherries and plums bring a tart and earthy flavor to dance around in the middle. They then let the slightly smokey oak and the shy whiskey along with some caramel and cream take a bow in the end. Coffee and roasted malts linger around for a few minutes in the aftertaste.
     This wasn't as bourbon forward as a lot of beers the sort can be but it was also interesting because it took the standard Arrogant Bastard solid flavors down a slightly different path yet kept it from getting lost in some deep woods. A nice diversion while wondering if that blanket of precipitation outside is going to stick and if I gotta break out the shovel sometime later this evening.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The YOLKS "Don't Cry Anymore" 7inch

      Y'know, any time a Yolks record gets put on the turntable a party is gonna start. If the party is already in effect, putting one of their records on turns the party up a north. Even as garage pop soul thrash-abouters these Chicagoland cats are though there is another side to the story. Y'know, like the types of things Smokey Robinson was talking about on "Tears Of A Clown" and "Tracks Of My Tears."
     Unlike the them doing the crying though, the a-side here, "Don't Cry Anymore", asks you to wipe away your own tears. A bit different than usual Yolks fare, the band sounds like their in a bit of a introspective mood. Things are slightly folky here but with a dust riddled Rhythm and Blues bounce that wont have the ears wanting to nob out like it would while listening to some snoozy assed Bon Iver track or something. The slightly stoned harmonies sound as like they were recorded straight into the same mic with little adornment other than room echo. The voices amalgamate in a way that resembles the Everly Brothers after a weed dealer just left their living room.
     After showing that hardly seen "softer" side of  the band they flip the switch of the dimly lit and mellow room mood to get up because it's time to get down mode. Throwing it back to the reckless party vibe that had a feeling being all sweaty and greasy from dancing to the bustling groove and eating fried chicken at the same time that their earliest records had stamped and stained all over them, "I Wanna Be Dumb" rids the room of any Captain Bringdowner's and fills the floor with a party vibe.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Smashin' Podsistorscast: The Lucky No. 7

     They say the number 7 is lucky. Well, I've had a slew of little bad lucks following me around for a few weeks. How did I get through? Blasting music chased them away and now things are seeming to become an even keel.
     Some of the things I cranked up can be heard now. Fresh new platters from Fuzz, the Yolks, Tang Soleil, Helen, Rata Negra, Cold Beat and Timmy's Organism. Stacks of wax from way back such as the Clean, Silver Jews, The B-52s, Opal, the Devil Dogs and Sylvie Vartan. And as usual a bunch of other tasty musical morsels for your ears to snack on placed about too.

Friday, November 6, 2015

OBN IIIs "Worth A Lot Of Money" LP

     The OBN IIIs have always brought the rock. And not just any rock either. It's a bit like the kind of rock that was heard blasting out of high school auto shop in the late 70s/early 80s. It's a bit like the kind of rock that was heard in a small town downtown on a Friday night blasting out of the cars the high schoolers were working on in said auto shop.
     It's a fist in the air, anthemic kind of rock. It's also tends to be more smart assed and clever than just straight up lunkheaded and proud about it than what a lot of people would think when describing the type of rock that it is.  Sure, it's cocky and the attitude is one of folks that don't really care if you think they play to loud and smell like bourbon sweat and cigarette butts.
     While previous records by the band hinted a little bit here and there that they weren't perhaps ashamed of rockin' out to hard rock heroes who's best songs haven't gotten played on classic rock radio in years there was always punk rock goo all over them that was fit for dingy, dank basements and humidity stricken back yard barbeques. Here, with the production of assistance of a cat who has twiddled the knobs for the likes of the ...And You Will Know Us By Our Trail Of Dead, Heartless Bastards, Spoon and Lee Ann Womack (?!?!), Mike McCarthy, some of the murk has been buffed away, exposing a bit more color than expected while still keeping the grit intact.
     The swagger on tracks like the slow burning "What Happened To You", "Let The Music", which sounds like a soundtrack for good ol' fashioned fight where guitars are flashed like switchblades, the way "The Stalker" gallops into a wall of a fire and swerving chug on the night's not over but hangover gonna be hell in the morning on "You Can Never Let Me Down" sound like the ghost of Phil Lynott are in the room. Not just in the way singer Orville Neely channels the tough guy with a tarnished heart of gold delivery but also from the doubled up guitar harmonies that peel off notes and chords like riding through peaks and valleys of Thin Lizzy badassery and the way the rhythm blast holes through any obstacles that are blocking the way for them to meet their destination.
     The rock doesn't stop just there though. "New Money", a checklist on how to blow cash fun and recklessly is like AC/DC discovering a couple new chords after falling into a fountain of youth behind the back of grease covered rib joint joint, the album's opener "New Trash" and the street level boogie on "Standing" and "I'm Done" resemble ZZ Top's Tres Hombres spun at twice the speed and illuminated by exploding flash pots.
     It's a been a common statement for years now that rock is dead. That's usually followed by a "Rock Is Back" declaration. It sounds like the OBN IIIs don't give a damn either way. They just know it feels good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Saugatuck Brewing's 2015 Barrel Aged Neapolitan Milk Stout

     A perfect way to describe Saugatuck's Neapolitan Stout is "fun." Like the ice cream it is styled after, in Saugatuck's regular version of this milk stout you can taste the different layers of flavors as the pass through the lips, across the palate and down the throat. It then finishes in a blend of them all the same way the ice cream does if it melts a little bit in the bowl before it is all finished. Best part though? No ice cream head burn if you sip too fast (I mean, unless you serve all beer at some supercold temperature like when the mountains turn blue on a Coors Light can. You realize that is done is because the colder a beer is, the less flavors come out, right? Yep, basically the big beers have figured out if it's as close as it can to freezing without actually doing so less people will notice how lame their product really is.)
     So, what would make this beer even more fun? Well, barrel aging it of course.
     The color is almost black with a slight ruby hue surrounding it. The head is minimal and fades almost immediately, leaving slight clouds and a rim ring behind. The scent of chocolate and strawberry waft out of the glass and can be smelled even at 5 feet away once the brew starts breathing. A touch of bourbon in the aroma become detectable at that time too.
     First thing on the lips and tongue noticed is that the beer is a bit sweeter than the regular version. The chocolate is the first thing that comes to the forefront. Very rich and, to an extent, resembling "The Original" Bosco syrup in it's sweetness in the front end of it's flavor but there's also a bit of baking chocolate bitters and smoke that linger underneath. The middle brings out some faint notes of oak and roasted malts.There's some vanilla are too but is a bit muted. That seemed odd because it's one of the flavors that usually comes to mind for me when tasting a barrel aged brew. The strawberries come out huge in the finish. Almost o an extent where they're trying to push everything else out of the way.
     I will go record saying that this, like it's non aged partner, is fun to drink but felt the barrel aging didn't really add too much to it either, other than a little darkness to the chocolate, amping up the fruit notes almost a little too much (unless that was something that was done at the brewery this year for this special batch in the first place. I haven't had a regular bottle this year to see if anything about its balance has changed from how it's tasted in the past.) It lacked a bit of the complexities and didn't really seem worth the couple dollars more a bottle price point to me.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Smashin' Podsistorscast: 6...66

     Things have been a bit crazy hectic on the work and transportation front in the Smashin' Transistors world the past month or so. It's kind of distracted me from sitting down and jotting observations & opinions on records and beer that have passed through the ears and lips. I did get a new edition of the podcast together for your digital devices this week though.
     With Halloween right around the corner I did think about doing a spoooky themed show. Problem is though I'm a bit ADD and would've got distracted or bored with doing such a thing halfway through. That and there's plenty of people out there who do such things much better than I could anyway. I just blasted a bunch of tunes instead. Let new things from noisemakers such as Frau, Wand, Spray Paint, Ghastly Spats, Black Time, Cheena, Destruction Unit and the Staches infect the part of your brain that sound goes. Have things of the past from Suicide, Dale Hawkins, The Velvet Underground, Strawberry Window and Honey Bane haunt your speakers. And, course, have other sounds on this go round make their way out of your speakers too.

Friday, October 16, 2015

PHYLUMS "Phylum Phyloid" LP

     People could toss around the alt-county blah blah blah Americana blah blah blah Roots Music blah blah blah a billion times when taking about Wisconsin's Phylums but I still don't think they'd ever be convince them to wear such a thing as a badge. The same thing would happen if you were to drop the garage rock dime on them too.
     Comprised of guys that were in the Goodnight Loving, Holy Shit and Head On Electric, three bands that we're all very different from each other sound and approach wise, the music takes you on trip through the heartland. Yes, there will be rolling hills and probably diary cows and pretty girls but this is more than a Sunday drive to go get breakfast at some place off the beaten path. The ride may end up a little bumpy though as is also the heartland of hangovers, stupid days, working weekends to pay the bills and the many ghosts that haunt the rustbelt.
     Along with Byrds-esque sparkling in a rainstorm guitar jangle running a thread through most of the songs is here is the voice of Andy Kavanaugh. He's always had that knack from sounding wide eyed and cynical at the time same time. Like chasing a honey slide with a slug of with a bottle of middle shelf bourbon, there's a sweet earthiness to it that is equally soothing but has a bite. With the jittery exuberance put forth by the band, Phylums simply straight up music rooted in the vast and varied history of rock-n-roll.
     Starting things off with a amalgamation of the 50s, hyperactivity and brittle fuzz, "Can't Get Through" tells the tale of getting turned away at the Canadian border while trying to cross through at Detroit and then more than touches on the trails and tribulations of being unknown band on tour. Then it lyrically takes turns into a take of the messed up state of things in general. In a lot of bands hands the dour could hang over like dark clouds. The ragged harmonies and an overall "well we can't do much about it, might as well laugh about" delivery here gives the listener the feeling that's more like sitting around having a beer with friends and listening to them getting wound up while telling a story about a day nothing at all went right.
     Traces of surf music wash across along the dirt on the psych speckled love song "Bottle Of Wine", the lonely soul psychedelic noir of "Route 66" and on the solo dropped right between the folk rock standing on a trash punk foundation that's the words of warning (because it is true you can’t let your guard down when you're living on the...) on "Crummy Side Of Town."
     That reverby wetness and concrete crunch also does one of its finest balancing acts on the entire record during the tremulous cadence that stomps directly underneaths the mossy "I Gotta Know." Bubblegummy organ swirl add a syrupy and woozy feeling to morning after a long night out tale of "Cold Coffee" while another story of weighing the option of a night on town, "Go Home", feels celebratory on the thoughts of staying in.
     With no lack of melody packed choruses and hooks abounds that are simple enough to get toddlers singing along (the Bow-Bow-Bow-Bow on the high strung "Time Capsule" for instance) but still appealing to so called grown ups , don't be surprised if you find all the songs on this record worming into your ear. That goes twice if your like a sense of dark humor with a side of down home cooking.