Sunday September 9, 2018

We're Dying, Dudes

Last week brought word that after eight years the Ottawa Explosion music festival was coming to an end. A statement from the event's organizers on Facebook read in part:

"We are incredibly happy with everything we’ve been able to accomplish with this event. We’ve been able to have tons of amazing local bands play with a bunch of great bands from all over the world to an incredibly supportive audience. We are all busy with our work and projects and it came to time to focus on those and whatever else the future holds."

I'm feeling a little unmoored by this news. Everything I’ve been attempting with Some Party is the direct result of me, dissatisfied with my status quo at Punknews.org, pouring over the lineups of past Explosions and facing up to how little I actually knew about what was going on in Canadian music. The Ottawa Explosion lineups were a window on a thriving underground that, in my rut, I was embarrassingly out of touch with.

I was only able to attend a few years, but even that brief exposure helped validate my decision to undertake this project. The community that rallied around OXW seemed to span the country, with bands drawn in from Vancouver to Halifax and everywhere in between. Despite the distances separating them, you could see and feel that most of the performers were old friends, united by some ill-defined punk rock thread, a shared experience of being small and DIY and slugging it out on this side of the border as best they could. I still don't feel like I've scratched the surface of that scene, but that thread is something I've latched onto, and this festival made that connection. However I end up interacting with the arts in the foreseeable future, and whatever Some Party ultimately grows into, it'll have OXW’s fingerprints all over it.

Listen: Strange Attractor - "It's Always Halloween (Downtown)" @ Bandcamp

I was fortunate enough to see the Booji Boys play two gloriously out of control sets in a single day at Ottawa Explosion a couple of years ago. The Halifax punk band's finally detailed their upcoming EP Unknown Pleathers. The 7" record is coming out in the fall on Sewercide Records, a one-time pressing limited to 300 copies. The band wrote these songs over the past winter, with bassist Adam LeDrew recording and mixing the set.

The 5-song Unknown Pleathers follows up the Booji Boys' two 2017 full-lengths (the second of which, Weekend Rocker, was released last Christmas on Drunken Sailor) as well as the Sweet Boy EP that Cruel Noise put out last year. The new EP follows the template the band's established: distortion washed, blisteringly fast punk rock songs with barely audible vocals that are somehow inexplicably hooky despite all that (or perhaps because of it). Booji Boys features vocalist Alex Mitchell, guitarists Cody Googoo and Steve Earle, bassist Adam LeDrew, and drummer Justin Crowe.

Listen: Booji Boys - Unknown Pleathers @ Bandcamp

Let's try and unravel the mystery that is Jellicoe & Woodbury. The UK label Quality Control HQ will release a 7" from the punishing Toronto hardcore act on September 17. The label lauds the record thusly:

"These back to back belters reference the style of hardcore punk that calls out in bloody protest, harkening Insane Youth’s ‘Not Give a Damn’ and Anti-Cimex’s ‘Scandinavian Jawbreaker’. The dogs snarl without mercy or respite offering soaring solos, a bleak outlook, a big bass tone and pummelling drums. Over exhilarating guitar density and hoarse bark, Jellicoe and Woodbury chase, dismantle, and advocate obliteration of mankind."

Nice. Sounds good! The release also comes with some vicious cover art by the Japanese hardcore punk artist Sugi. A few astute voices on Twitter, however, are pretty sure this is actually Fucked Up (or members thereof), making it another hidden tangent branching from the band's upcoming Dose Your Dreams LP (like the Raise Your Voice Joyce compilation I discussed a few weeks ago). The album's credits lend a lot of weight to that theory. The Jellicoe & Woodbury EP was recorded and mixed by Alex Gamble, who also recorded material for Dose. Furthermore, you'll see an orchestration credit for one "Davi D'Eli Ade," and that should be the most telling sign. David Eliade is the frequent protagonist of Fucked Up's narratives and is often credited in various creative or managerial roles on the band's records.

Listen: Jellicoe & Woodbury - "Fear" / "Doubt" @ Bandcamp

Toronto three-piece punk melodic-hardcore act School Damage has announced their sophomore full length, titled Hello, Cruel World. It's set to follow up 2016's Battered Lives. The band commented that they've been hands-on with every aspect of the record, recording, mixing, and mastering the 12-song set themselves. The album is due out this fall on Rad Girlfriend Records in the States, I Buy Records in Europe, and Brain Candy Records at home. You can check out the song "We're Dying, Dudes" now.

Listen: School Damage - "We're Dying, Dudes" @ Bandcamp

So last week I wrote about the new single from London punk group Single Mothers, musing about whether it was a one-off or the first salvo of a new record. A few hours after hitting send I had an answer. Last week the band surprised everyone with the immediate release of a new full-length, titled Through a Wall. The 14-song set may be the band's heaviest, too.

Frontman Drew Thomson commented:

"On Through A Wall I tried to blend my sense of dark humour with the reality of what I see when I look around me. In a way it made the songs sad and funny and hopefully interesting – but not super ‘jokey’. While so much dark shit is happening every day and in this era, I understand the influx of positivity in music and how that is important. Whenever I try to write a positive song though, it almost always sounds fake and contrived. Sometimes you gotta face what’s happening and just laugh at it, or at least roll your eyes until it’s over. That’s about as close to ‘positive’ as I get."

"This was definitely the hardest album I’ve ever written lyrically, but also the quickest. It’s the first Single Mothers record I’ve made since getting sober and not having booze as a crutch to lean on for inspiration. I feel like I’ve hit a turning point in my life, so it’s a lot more of a personal album."

Single Mothers has seen many players come and go over the past few years, with Thomson as the only constant. For this record, he worked closely with Ian Romano (Attack In Black, Career Suicide) producing. A "rotating cast" of musicians play on the studio recordings (I'm not sure who yet, although Romano has said he both drums and plays some guitar on the record).

Through A Wall follows the band's 2017 LP Our Pleasure and Thomson's recent EP Stay as the Drew Thomson Foundation. The new record is out now on Dine Alone here and Big Scary Monsters in the UK. A video for the songs "Dog Parks" and "Switch Off," directed by Vanessa Heins and Stef Delmedico, were shared last week when the album dropped.

Watch: Single Mothers - "Dog Parks" / "Switch Off" @ YouTube

Pleasence Records recently shared a video for the song "Out Too Far," from Lethbridge, Alberta garage rock act J Blissette. The band, fronted by Jackson Tiefenbach, recently released the Until I Go Blind cassette on the Toronto label. The video features clips of the quartet playing amidst a collage of vintage footage from Vegas and Hawaii, really driving home the group's "tropical-glam" aesthetic.

Watch: J Blissette - "Out Too Far" @ YouTube

Hamilton, Ontario's three-piece garage-punk act Flesh Rag has announced a new LP titled Inside Your Mind. Look for it this October on Schizophrenic and Loose Lips Records. There's no new music to share yet, but the band has confirmed some supporting tour dates alongside groups like PRIORS, Vanity Phase, Brain Itch, and DBoy. You can find the details over at Instagram.

Flesh Rag features members of Hamilton's TV Freaks and Welland's Rocket Reducers.

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Look: New Flesh Rag album announcement @ Instagram

While we're in Hamilton, let's check in with Billy Moon. The band continues to trickle out media in the lead-up to the release of Punk Songs on September 14. This past week they released a Shawn Kosmo directed video for the song "Living Room," premiering it with alongside an introspective essay published on Talk House. In the piece Moon comments on his youth in Elora, Ontario:

"I write this thinking about how in so many ways, I still had it easy growing up as a straight-white-cis-dude in a small town. There are countless things that I never had to deal with, but a sense of belonging wasn’t always easy to find. For a town of its size, Elora has a very supportive arts community, and is now home to a fairly respectable music festival (Riverfest.) I still carry a torch for all the metal bands that I listened to in high school. They touched on all the things that made me want to make music—it makes a community, it’s defiant, it’s cathartic, and, above all else, it’s loud."

In addition, last week Toronto radio station Indie 88 also premiered the song "Animal." Punk Songs is set for release on September 14 via Missed Connection Records and Old Flame. Dave Minehan, the touring guitarist for the Replacements, recorded the brunt of the album, which also features with production by Asher Gould (Beliefs), and mastering by Phil Bova (Bahamas, Zeus).

Watch: Billy Moon - "Living Room" @ Youtube

Toronto four-piece Dilly Dally has released a third new track previewing their upcoming record Heaven. You can check out a video for "Doom" below. It's one of the nine songs to slated to appear on the band's sophomore LP.

Dilly Dally recorded the new album in Los Angeles with producer Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Beck). It arrives September 14 on Dine Alone Records in Canada and Partisan Records in the States.

Watch: Dilly Dally - "Doom" @ YouTube

Toronto punk/blues group catl continues to share music previewing their upcoming record Bide My Time Until I Die. The "Deep Blues"-styled duo of guitarist Jamie Fleming and drummer Sarah Kirkpatrick recently shared the song "I'm On" at Popdust. The upcoming record, the pair's fifth, arrives on September 21 from French label Beast Records.

Listen: catl. - "I'm On" @ Popdust

Slow-burning Ottawa low-fi act Empty Nesters, the experimental solo project of musician Eric Liao, recently shared a second set of older demo recordings. Bag of Suck (Vol. 2) follows a collection Liao released back in March. You can stream it now on Bandcamp. Empty Nesters' last proper release was the EP Jaded, from February of this year.

Listen: Empty Nesters - Bag of Suck (Vol. 2) @ Bandcamp

St. Catharines psych-rock group Fourth Way have released their debut full-length Croak. The quartet crafted the often shoegaze-y set with producer Davis Maxwell at Virgil Public Studios. You can stream the new record now at Bandcamp.

Listen: Fourth Way - Croak @ Bandcamp

Black Forest

We're not too far off now from Beau's Oktoberfest. I've been profiling some of the bands playing the punk-oriented Black Forest Stage for the past month. The music festival and fundraiser is will take place on September 21 and 22 in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, raising money to support the Ottawa skate community's youth charity For Pivots Sake. Here are two more Black Forest acts to check out.

Give Up is another band that, like Audio Visceral, hails from the brewery's home base of Vankleek Hill. Of the many Ottawa or Montreal-area groups that features Beau's employees, Give Up might be the only who's entire roster works in the brewery. The grungy rock band features Mike Simpkin on drums, Tim Davis on bass, Marc Doucette on guitar, and vocalist Eddy Earwigg. Doucette also plays in the Montreal metal band Barn Burner. Give Up released a 3-song EP titled You're Dreaming in May of this year.

Listen: Give Up - You're Dreaming @ Bandcamp

You'll find another Beau's staffer amongst the roster of Montreal ska band K-Man & The 45s. The 5-piece marries classic 2-tone influences from bands like the Specials and the Beat with some classic surf rock licks. The band last released a self-titled full-length on Stomp Records in 2016. Look for them near the top of the Friday night Black Forest lineup, directly leading into Cancer Bats' headlining set. There's a tonal shift for you.

Listen: K-Man & the 45s @ Bandcamp

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