Black Lizard Ready 2nd LP

blackAt this point in the history, albeit a short one, I’m not really sure what to expect from Black Lizard.  The band changes directions, though they’ve always flirted with a darkened tint that’s really kept me enraptured.  Listening to their latest single from the forthcoming Solarize, it sounds as if they’ve taken the old formula of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, or even JAMC, and made it entirely their own.  That’s what I love about the group: no matter what they do, they own it, giving it their all for the betterment of our experience.  Check out a video for the new single HERE. The LP will be released by Soliti this Spring.

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New Track from BNLX

Man, you’ve got to thank your lucky stars if you live in New York.  On May 20th and 21st, BNLX, will be playing several shows to celebrate the release of EP #5.  We tossed out a track a bit ago, but the more these guys write together, the stronger their sound gets.  The lead single from the new EP, “Burn the Boats” reminds me of early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, when that band was blowing out amps and burying us with feedback.  You can hear that feedback squall swirl around BNLX on this track, and the steady delivery of female/male vocals has this hypnotic yet driving influence that’s just perfect for any sort of rampage.  The more they write, the happier we are.  You can grab your copy of the new EP from Susstones.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/BNLXBurntheBoats.mp3]

Download: BNLX – Burn the Boats [MP3]

New Music from Bass Drum of Death

Not really sure how I feel about the name of this group from Mississippi, but I’m definitely positive that I’m feeling their raucous tunes.  Bass Drum of Death will be releasing their album GB City through Inflated Records on February 22nd. Listening to the album’s single, it recalls a more energetic Black Rebel Motorcycle Club back in the early days, bringing plenty of pounding rhythmic grooves wrapped inside of an edgy wall of noise.  This appears to be the year when slinging the rock kicks back into gear full time, and Bass Drum of Death is just going to bring it twice as loud.  Check it out, you know you wanna.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Bass_Drum_of_Death_-_Heart_Attack_Kid.mp3]

Download: Bass Drum of Death – Heart Attack Kid [MP3]

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat The Devil’s Tattoo

Rating: ★★★★☆

Over the last two decades, San Francisco’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has found itself in the midst of an ever changing identity crisis. Well, maybe crisis isn’t the right word; uncertainty fits better. After several years of back and forth infighting between original drummer Nick Jago and guitarists Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been, it seems the strings have at long last been cut; for now at least. Joined now by the Raveonettes’ drummer Leah Shapiro, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club releases their sixth studio album, Beat the Devil’s Tattoo, their first since their 2008 instrumental record The Effects of 333 and 2007’s Baby 81. This is also the first release from the band’s own label Abstract Dragon. The emergence is a return the sound the band enjoyed during the early years with pound-it-out style rock and roll with a healthy mix of folk gospel induced melodies thrown in, akin to 2004’s Howl.

After the first listen of the opening and title track, ‘Beat the Devil’s Tattoo’, it’s the first time I’ve been excited for a BRMC album since Howl. That album carried mixed reviews and from a purely economic standpoint, was a disappointment. However, it marked a turning point in the band and produced some of the best songwriting thus far. That is, until now. The first track is just the tip of the ice-berg followed by the one-two knock out blows of ‘Conscience Killer’ and ‘Bad Blood’ Here, Hayes and Been are relentless in the attempt to regain their momentum. The former, a powerful pounding, psych-rock trip reminiscent of the Stroke’s at their height of popularity, the latter which relies more on the group’s distinctive vocals.

‘War machine’ explodes from the outset exhibiting a White Stripes-esque guitar riff with the kind of authority that makes groupies swoon. This is one track I am looking forward to hearing live next week during SXSW. This power fades into ‘Sweet Feeling’ displaying the group’s versatility drawing from their big bag of influences. This soft emotional side doesn’t last long before the ironically titled ‘Evol’ smacks the listener across the head with traditional BRMC drawl and slow building instrumentation we have become use to over their two-decade career. This release is an ‘evolution’ of the sounds produced throughout their 6 album releases and combines the best of all of them.

We get our first good examination of the addition of Shapiro with her raging, pulse pounding rhythms on ‘River Styx’. It’s at first obvious that she was a good choice to fill the void left by Jago and brings the stability of which Hayes and Been have been searching all along. The hypnotic brogue of Aya, building to a strong raucous ballad and the impressive 10-minute jam session of ‘Half State’ close out the record with a strong note. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has been waiting their entire careers to construct an album like Beat the Devil’s Tattoo and it’s no surprise that based on where they’ve come from, they have many more to come. I am certainly back on the bandwagon.

Catch their SXSW showcase March 19th at 11:00 at La Zona Rosa and they are also playing the free Filter Day Party the same day at 4:20 pm in the Cedar Street Courtyard. 

Viva Voce – Rose City

roses Rating: ★★★☆☆

Portland, Oregon duo Viva Voce spent the past few years building, creating new things.  First, they created their own backyard studio, perfect for the husband/wife combo to record new tracks.  They continued the building process by adding two permanent members to their line-up, solidifying the group for the recording of an entirely new album.  That new album is titled Rose City, and it demonstrates a band experimenting with their proven recipe for tunes, as the band travel to sonic regions not explored in the past.

Once the album opens with the lead track “Devotion” it becomes rather clear that this isn’t the same group you came across back in the day.  Distortion billows from the guitar this round, and the percussion has this permanent beating echo that seems ominously powerful.  For the first time, Kevin Robinson sounds like someone other than himself, as his voice comes across like a man covering Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  It’s fitting to the music, which explains the change in delivery, as the sound has clearly changed.

“Die a Little” seems a tad bit like what you would expect from this band. It’s rather catchy, and the bobbing bass lines that go throughout keep you tapping your foot at the base of your chair.  Also, vocal duties are split between Kevin and Anita Robinson, so it approaches the aesthetics of the male/female vocal a bit more. Even so, there exists a boundary of sound and feedback the band has yet to explore.

Once you come across a song like “Midnight Sun” you can imagine what the songwriting process was like; the band seems to be painting sounds upon a blank canvas, filling empty space with various elements so that the album sounds full, yet not repetitive in the least bit, allowing for the empty space to resonate with a sound all its own.  But, you can juxtapose that with “Good as Gold,” which seems to take a line or two from the Pixies closet of bass lines, not that anyone could get upset by that.  This song takes on a more traditional Viva Voce feel since it doesn’t seem to have as much of the sonic exploration even though some of the guitar parts have a new sharpness to them.  Just make sure you save yourself for “Flora,” a song that comes at the butt of the album.  There is something spectacular about this song that just yanks at your emotions.  It’s one of the moments that really makes this album worth listening to for repeated listens.

There are some misguided moments here and there throughout this album, which one owes to the band’s desire to explore new sonic elements.  You have to respect that, and you have to hope that the promise that clearly exists on this album will only be pushed further with future recordings, as this album clearly has great moments worthy of your ears.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/09-flora-1.mp3]

Download: Viva Voce – Flora [MP3]

Love is All – A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night

Rating: ★★★★☆

Last time round, this Swedish outfit brought us cleverly crafted pop tunes that wrapped themselves tidily inside walls of noise and shaky vocals from front-woman Josephine Olausson; this time around, we pretty much get the same thing, but in an appealing manner.

A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night starts off with “New Beginnings,” and that fresh starts is filled with horn blasts and driving guitar lines.  It’s a rapid kick-start to the listener; it’s a call to arms of sorts.  Midway through the song, the trading of male/female vocals is done up to perfection, creating delicious moments of joy.

One of the most impressive things about Love is All is that the band is still able to incorporate the usage of hors in a way that compliments the songs.  Each song is filled in with this delicate tough, which allows for the swirling of listeners to evolve a little more sporadically.  It’s one of the things that this band does to near perfection.

Along the way the band puts two of the better tracks next to each other, strengthening the middle of the album.  “Sea Sick” seems to be an escapist song, as the protagonist in the song wants escape the mundane, screaming “I’m bored to death, I’m bored of this shit.”  It’s juxtaposed to one of the best songs of the year, “Wishing Well.”  The playfulness expressed in the lyrics, and the aesthetic quality of the song create instantaneous joy.  Not to mention, this definitely has to be one of those songs that makes the audience bounce as they scream along to the chorus in unison with the band.

Suddenly, you get a slow-burner, as “When Giants Fall” comes across the stereo.  The band leaves plenty of room for feedback and dense group harmonies that echo in the background of the song.  Something about this song has a haunting quality to it, sort of like a gospel version of early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Then “Rumours” brings the pace right back for you.  Swing those hips kids.  Slow it down; now right back to it.

Possible detractors do exist in this album, like the fact that you still can’t tell exactly how much you would enjoy Josephine’s voice in a live setting.  Or, some of the atmospheric elements added for textural purposes, such as the male spoken vocals in the background of “19 Floors” get a bit grating.  Other than that, you’ll find that this album is every bit as exciting as the first one, some of it exceeding it’s forbearer.