Monday November 28, 2022

Time to Get Loose

Some Party is a newsletter sharing the latest in independent Canadian rock'n'roll, curated weekly by Adam White. Each edition explores punk, garage, psych, and otherwise uncategorizable indie rock, drawing lines from proto to post and taking some weird diversions along the way.

Conditions Apply: Rage & Ignorance

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This is probably a strange take - but after twenty-plus years on the beat, I'm entitled to it. To my jaded ear, punk succeeds or fails primarily due to balance. I'm not concerned with originality. We can leave that to the indie rockers. We unironically embrace silly terms like "Ramonescore" or "UK82" because if you're doing it right, you can continue to make vital, thrilling music from a forty-year-old playbook. It cuts both ways, though, as those same elements in the wrong combination feel lifeless and tedious. I don't have the recipe, mind you. Nobody does. This perspective's entirely subjective and mired in rock'n'roll sorcery, but it's fucking true. I'll admit that stating "you know it when you hear it" conveniently frees me from the burden of justifying my dumb opinions - but in punk, the truism seems to hold up.

I suspect you could make similar comments regarding well-established styles of jazz or the blues (or baking the perfect apple pie), but I'll stay in my lane.

Montreal's Conditions Apply hit the nail on the head in ways I'm struggling to qualify. They play whip-fast yet never tread so far into hardcore territory that the vocals become unintelligible. That's where balance comes into play: you hear the message, the politics, and the oft-nihilistic humour, all while straddling the line between speed and chaos. Through 14 songs in a brisk 26 minutes, Rage & Ignorance hardly lets up, yet Conditions Apply never loses the plot. This is a band steeped in punk sneer, but always supporting that attitude with solid songwriting and a steadfast aversion to bloat.

On paper, an ode to self-destructive partying like "Time to Get Loose" doesn't reach far from its obvious roots in Black Flag and the Adolescents - but the band delivers with such enthusiastic conviction that they don't need to reinvent the wheel. Those are foundational influences, of course, and likewise the group's penchant for Oi! hooks is hardly unique, but to their ultimate credit, Conditions Apply feels alive. I can't even argue for the fire of youth here - these goons have been at it in various combinations since the early 90s. Punk's often stubbornly more than the sum of its parts, and that's certainly the case on Rage & Ignorance.

Conditions Apply recorded with engineer Ryan Battistuzzi (Yesterday's Ring, Les Mains Sales) at Stuzzio in Montreal, with Will Killingsworth mastering from afar at Dead Air Studios. The band performs as a trio here, with bassist/vocalist Jonah Aspler (of ...And The Saga Continues and All The Answers) joined by ex-Mental Fix members Marie-Eve Turcotte (drums) and Steve Lumpen (guitar/vocals). Rage & Ignorance lands as the group's debut full-length since they first convened in 2019.

Dany Laj and the Looks: "You Should Know" / "I'm So Glad"

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Nomadic power-pop act Dany Laj and the Looks has a new 7" single on the way through I-94 Recordings. The A-side features a new original dubbed "You Should Know," a track that mixes the group's timeless garage rock stylings with a little doo-wop flavour. They pair it with a muscular cover of the 30s-era tune "I'm So Glad" - their contribution to I-94's Detroit Cover Series (of which this record is the 7th entry). The label sheds some light on the band's pick:

"Dany decided to stretch the parameters a bit on the 'Detroit' cover. He chose to do 'I'm So Glad,' originally released by Skip James (who is not from Detroit) in 1931. How we get the Detroit connection is The Scot Richard Case (later shortened to SRC) had a regional hit with it in their hometown of Detroit in 1967. The Looks version is more akin to this one."

The single features Dany and bassist/vocalist Jeanette Dowling backed by Anna Mernieks-Duffield on guitar and vocals and Mike Mernieks-Duffield on drums. The group recorded with Laj engineering at his roaming La La Pop Shoppe studio in Montreal.

The new 7" follows up on The Looks' 2021 LP Ten Easy Pieces, issued through We Are Busy Bodies.

Bratboy: "Victoria"

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Stylish Vancouver punk act Bratboy has a new single in the wild dubbed "Victoria," our latest preview of an upcoming full-length recorded with Jordan Koop way back in December of 2019. The song comes paired with a video that playfully crafts a kitschy 60s-styled spy caper around the audio. Michael Kenyon co-directed the clip with the band. On it, the band commented:

"we wanted the video to be a tribute to our favourite spy b-movies and comedies growing up (i.e., Austin Powers, Charlie's Angels, Scooby Doo, Man From U.N.C.L.E, etc.).

We shot and produced this video completely D.I.Y with help from our friends in the band Dead Soft back on location in Gabriola[Island]. We even met a random guy shucking oysters at the beach and asked him to join us in a chase scene. It's amazing what you can do with a few friends and a drone..."

Look for the band's self-titled LP on April 21, 2023.

The new track follows the impactful "Dream Rope" and "Victoria" in debuting Bratboy's three-piece lineup. Now home to former members of the indie rock group Jo Passed, the group features guitar/vocalist Bella Bébê, bassist/vocalist Megan Magdalena, and drummer Tony Dallas.

Bus People: "Luck"

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Corner Brook's Bus People describe themselves as a lo-fi prom band, not a common genre descriptor by any means, but one that feels right on the money. The duo, comprised of Aley Waterman and Scott Sheppard, recently shared a video for their debut single, "Luck." That synthpop confection's our first preview of the band's forthcoming record Starcade.

Bus People commented on the tune in a press release, stating:

"Our debut single, 'Luck,' was inspired by a nostalgia for being a young teenager in a small town. The conflicts of the time felt so simple when looking back through the lens of adulthood.

There's a calm narrative throughout the verses but we wanted to capture an unhinged energy in the choruses that really reflects a desire to go back to the innocence of youth when that concept becomes an impossibility."

Isolated Earthlings: "Crib" / "21st Century"

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Dayglo Abortions drummer Blind Marc has a new album of comedic punk songs on the way as Isolated Earthlings. The 12-track set arrives on January 1, collecting material written to stave off boredom in the pandemic doldrums of 2020. The record finds Marc on vocals, drums, and bass, with contributions on guitar from the Abortions' Mike Jak, Edmonton scene veterans Mike Caton (Zero Tolerance, The Boozehounds, Broken Nose) and Neil Calliou (here billed collectively as Mac & Chez), and Marc's nephew Nolan Branch. The Sooke, BC-based artist recorded in Edmonton with Real Sickies drummer Rob Lawless engineering. You can hear two songs from the record online now: "21st Century" (at Bandcamp) and "Crib" (as recently premiered through The Punk Site).

The new recordings follow Marc's first solo record, released in 2009 as the Mutated Earthlings. As a member of Canadian punk legends Dayglo Abortions, he issued Hate Speech this past April.

Double Date with Death: "Jouets"

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Montreal psych rockers Double Date with Death recently shared "Jouets," the first single from their forthcoming LP Portraits. The song arrives paired with a stop-motion animated video from director Philippe Beauséjour that cleverly riffs on the familiar trope of toys coming to life. The band explains, en francais:

« La scène prend place un mercredi matin dans la maison familiale située dans un petit village tranquille en campagne. La maison est vide, les parents au travail et ce petit enfant reste tout seul car il n'y a pas école et il n'a pas de gardien pour s'occuper de lui, ni le surveiller. Il en profite alors pour jouer avec tous ses jouets qui deviennent ses compagnons. Il invente tous types de scénarios et se recrée un monde nouveau plus joyeux que la réalité morose qu'il vit au quotidien. Ce rendez-vous qu'il a avec ses amis jouets est un moyen pour lui de s'échapper d'un village qui ne lui ressemble pas et dans lequel il ne se voit ni grandir, ni rester et encore moins s'épanouir. »

DDWD features vocalist/guitarist Vincent Khouni, bassist Julien Simard, drummer Mathieu Guay, and guitarist/synth player Stephen Baird. The band recorded with Guillaume Chiasson at The Treatment Room. Look for Portraits in March of 2023 through La Shoebox.

Book Buddies: "My Sanity"

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Dartmouth indie rockers Book Buddies have a new album ready to drop this Friday. If you can't wait until then, tide yourself over with "My Sanity," the album's slow-burning yet poignant first single.

Book Buddies combine the Nova Scotian rockers Designosaur and the metalcore act Pale Ache - with members also appearing in punk outfits like Outtacontroller and Cluttered. That roster includes vocalist Becca Dalley, bassist Anna Cannings, guitarist Andrew O'Toole, and drummer AJ Boutilier.

Hippie Hourrah: "Lee murs"

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Montreal psych trio Hippie Hourrah recently shared "Le Murs," their first preview of an upcoming full-length due in the spring of 2023.

The track features Cédric Marinelli of Les Marinellis on vocals. Elephant Stone's Miles Dupire-Gagnon joins him on synth and drums, with contributions from Gabriel Lambert on guitar, Christian Sean Trudel on synth and bass, and Samuel Gemme singing backup. The group's following up on their self-titled 2021 LP, released via Simone Records.

Cinder: "Another Beautiful Thing You'll Never Get Back"

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Today the Toronto post-punk duo Cinder shared "Another Beautiful Thing You'll Never Get Back," the first single from their forthcoming full-length Something Strange and Cloudy Across a Crowded Room. The goth-styled track arrives with a decidedly nerve-racking new video crafted by the band's resident visual artist Sam Reilly. Cinder is a duo featuring Reilly with Robyn Bond (who you may have seen live in recent years behind the drum kit for BLANKS).

The group counts themselves as members of the Firebelly artist collective. Their new material follows up on their April-released EP Saucers for Eyes.

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Jean-Philippe Fréchette's eclectic indie outlet Navet Confit recently teamed up for a split EP with Montreal synthpop artist Sheenah Ko. Their set's anchored by the French version of the ethereal "Perfect Stranger" from Ko's summer-released LP Future Is Now. Both artists also offer remixes of the other, with Confit crafting an extended reworking of "parfait étranger" and Ko reimagining "il n'y a jamais eu personne" from Confit's recent album. The EP ends on a mischievous note, with Confit contributing "version chat" of the same song - with his lyrics swapped entirely for mewing cats. Your mileage may vary on that last track, but the others are quite lovely.

Confit issued Bonjour, his ninth major release, in May through Lazy at Work. Before the world fell apart, Fréchette appeared as a member of the Montreal garage-punk act Nüshu. They released the killer full-length Sexe Étranger in 2019.

Down With Space: "Nostalgia Knows Best"

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Montreal's Down With Space recently issued "Nostalgia Knows Best," a propulsive single driven by swirling synths and an infectious rhythmic bounce. The band commented:

"'Nostalgia Knows Best,' is all about change. This past summer, lots went down in our personal little bubble, but sometimes you just need to embrace things when you don't really have control.

If you know us at all, you'll be surprised to learn that this track has no guitars! It's a first for us, but really there's a lot going on and we didn't feel the need to add guitar for the sake of it - this track was synth through and through."

This track features Rob Helsten on vocals and synth, with Steve Dumas on drums and bass. The duo recorded at Delicate/Automatic, a Montreal studio co-owned by Helsten and Matthew Hills.

The Soviet Influence: "Working on Christmas"

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Limehouse radicals The Soviet Influence recently issued a new one-off labour anthem dubbed "Working on Christmas." The song finds singer-songwriter Peter Snow exploring a folk-rock approach, something of a swerve from the band's usual alt-rock attack. The band commented:

"Maybe you're lucky and you've never had to work on a holiday while everyone you knew was out having fun. We wrote a song for the people who are out there keeping our society functioning on days when the rest of us take a break. It's called Working On Christmas and it's an anthem for nurses, fire fighters, cleaners, engineers, bus drivers, and anyone else working on a holiday (except cops)."

The band issued their 8-song album Thieves of Joy on May Day of this year, followed by the biting one-off summer single "Jordan Peterson (Tears of a Clown)."

Equator: Equator

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Fortune Stellar Records recently shared the self-titled full-length from Toronto soul/punk five-piece Equator. The band roars onto the scene with a bombastic 10-song set, anchored by the impassioned howl of Russ Fernandes - best known for the 90s hard rock act Shikasta and the similarly raucous Mercy Now. He's backed here by Jeff MacNeil, Sam Elliott, Lake Sutherland, and Luke Macdonald (members of Garbanzo). You can find the new record in its entirety on your preferred digital service now.

Huron Lines: "Physical Medical"

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Gritty Windsor rockers Huron Lines recently shared the second single from their forthcoming sophomore full-length. You can hear the brooding "Physical Medical" at Bandcamp now. It's our second preview of their new record Found In Floods following the grungy "Blacklight" in September.

The new record finds Huron Lines again working with producer Josh Kaiser (of Psychic Void). Jacob Rye (The Glorious Sons, Michigander) mixed, and Bill Skibbe (Fucked Up, Jack White, The Kills) mastered at Third Man in Detroit. Look for the album in early 2023.

Huron Lines features guitarist/vocalist David Mueller (Full White Drag), guitarist Grainger Harris (The Movement, Silent Movie Type), bassist/vocalist RJ Brando (Silent Movie Type, Grough), and drummer Nick Mitchell (NC17, Ayndrone). The band's first album, Lost at the Border, surfaced in November 2021.

Shitbats: Guanslo

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Last week the Hamilton garage-punk quartet Shitbats shared a curious new collection that revisits material from their 2020 LP Guano. The Guanslo EP remakes six of the band's songs, three as instrumentals and another three as the groovy, surf-funk counterparts to the high-octane originals. The band commented that these new renditions of their songs were "created hopped up on honey slides and heat."

Shitbats recorded the new set live at SecondPrize Studio with Strummer Jasson engineering.

The Brandy Alexanders: "Space Opus"

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Five-piece Windsor psych act The Brandy Alexanders take a shot at the maximalist crown with "Space Opus," the six-minute centrepiece from their new nine-song LP for Gypsy Soul Records. Working with director Lisa Mann, the band composed a lavish sci-fi epic, with an Ontario stone quarry standing in for an alien landscape. The group comments:

"Space Opus is an ethereal experience of rock and roll psychedelia. Heavy moments and sparkling melodies lead you through an intense soundscape of guitars and synths with lyrics embodying tragedy and hope."

The group features brothers Alex and Daniel Dick on vocals and keys, respectively. They're backed here by guitarist Sean Shepherd, bassist Zack Vivier, and drummer Robbie Cervi.

Handheld: "Flip The Scrip"

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Revived Kitchener pop-punk heroes Handheld recently shared a video for "Flip The Scrip," the latest single from the band's summer Thousand Islands Records release A Canadian Tragedy. The band comments:

"It may be getting a little cooler outside these days up here in Canada, so we thought it would be a good idea to bring back some summer vibes, kickflips, pole jumps, craft beer and punk rock. This video for 'Flip The Scrip' is a glimpse of all the fun we've had during our shows this summer."

While the video doesn't touch on the song's lyrical content in any way, it's my duty as a Niagara resident to note that "Flip the Scrip" recounts the infamous local cold case of one Peter (Scrip) Mitchell. Mitchell was a small-time gambler who disappeared in 1959 after a meeting with a known mobster. Since then, they've become colloquially known as the Jimmy Hoffa of Niagara Falls. A skatepunk tribute probably brings us no closer to solving that mystery, but it certainly couldn't hurt.

First assembled in 1998, Handheld put out a half dozen releases in their original incarnation, last issuing a self-titled full-length in 2008. They reformed in 2018.

The Black Halos: "Better Days"

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Last week Vancouver glam-punk survivors The Black Halos issued How The Darkness Doubled, their new LP through Stomp Records and the spiritual sequel to their 2001 breakthrough The Violent Years. The album arrived alongside a video for the celebratory single "Better Days," directed by Michael Crusty. The piece rather appropriately mixes footage of the band's modern lineup with clips from their original run.

This album features the lineup that debuted on 2021's Uncommonwealth EP, featuring vocalist Billy Hopeless reunited with guitarists Rich Jones and Jay Millette - now joined by bassist Josh Kerns (The Age Of Electric) and drummer Danni Action (Midnight Towers). Jones produced the new album alongside Dave Draper (The Wildhearts, The Professionals), with the band recording at various locations in Vancouver, Hamilton, and Brampton, Ontario.

Uncommonwealth arrived in 2021 through Cursed Blessings Records. Notwithstanding a few one-off singles, it served as the band's first collection of new music since 2008's We Are Not Alone.

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