Sunday August 25, 2019

The Surprise Knock

The last few weeks of August are a cruel crawl. On paper, summer may extend well into September, but I don't believe it. It doesn't feel like it. I can't shake the rhythms of high school, no matter how far I lumber into adulthood. The fun may not be over, but I can feel the weight of responsibility creeping up over the horizon. Expectations loom. Sharpen your pencils. Submit to the relentless march to normalcy.

The last day of this particular August brings with it 14 Lashes, the debut full length from Vancouver punks Chain Whip, and it violently rejects that premise. 14 Lashes doesn't just push back against the late-summer doldrums, it thrashes. It careens. It rejects the coming drudgery at a speed that's just fucking irresponsible.

14 Lashes finds Chain Whip dumping the toybox of 80s hardcore to create a glorious mess that couples the speed of California's pioneers with the sneering fight of the UK scene. The band features Josh Nickel of the recently defunct Fashionism on vocals, Joel Butler of Nervous Talk and the Corner Boys on guitar, Brett Thompson of Stress Eating on bass, and Patrick Bertrand of Corner Boys on drums. Nickel and Bertrand respectively run Neon Taste and Hosehead Records, and their efforts championing the sound and style of classic punk rock have been tireless. That love of the genre and its history bleeds through to this band, but there's no nostalgia here. Chain Whip is simply too alive to be discounted as a tribute act.

Last week Some Party ran one of the final previews of 14 Lashes before it hits the streets, the blazing fast "Crawlspace Boyfriend" (all 58 seconds thereof). Here's what Josh had this to say about the track:

"I read a news story about a 14-year-old girl that had her 20 something-year-old boyfriend living in the attic of her parents' house. I figured the only thing creepier was if you had your own stalker living in your attic and had no idea. Is it a real threat? Play the housing crisis out to its logical conclusion, and let's see I guess."

In fact, you can now preview the entire record now at Bandcamp. 14 Lashes arrives digitally on August 31, with the band pressing vinyl themselves through their Chain Whip Records imprint and Sabotage Records handling the European release. In North America, you can snag a copy through the Neon Waste store.

The band will launch 14 Lashes with a release party at Vancouver's SBC Restaurant on Saturday, August 31. Kamloops' Bootlicker (for whom Josh now plays second guitar), Edmonton's Creeping Chill, and the new Chilliwack group Cheat (members of Nic Fit) will join them.

Listen: Chain Whip - "Crawlspace Boyfriend" @ Some Party

Last week also saw the Vancouver-bred indie-pop supergroup The New Pornographers share another song from their upcoming record. "The Surprise Knock" is the second taste we've had of In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights, following the single "Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile" earlier this month. The new 11-song LP will be the band's eighth, following 2017's Whiteout Conditions.

Frontman AC Newman had this to say about the track, which harkens back to some of the band's scrappier early work:

"'The Surprise Knock' had a different feel when we first recorded it—and I wouldn't mind releasing that version at some point. But as I was listening to it, I thought, 'Why don't we play this song like New Pornographers 2005?' Then we just replayed it with that feel. I thought enough time has passed that I feel like I can play songs that sort of sound like a classic a sound and not feel like I'm repeating myself, because it's been so long. That was definitely a part of it: just wanting to... I hate to say 'get back,' but just get more slightly raucous and sounding more like a band."

In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights is due September 27 from Collected Works Records and Concord.

Among their upcoming tour dates, the New Pornographers will be headlining the Friday night main stage of Beau's Oktoberfest. That festival/fundraiser runs September 20 and 21 in the craft brewery's rural hometown of Vankleek Hill, Ontario. Toronto rapper Shad will top that same stage on Saturday evening to close the event. Every year Oktoberfest also features the punk-and-skate oriented Black Forest stage, with The Penske File, Lost Love, The Flying Hellfish, Pale Lips, and Mobina Galore among the 2019 performers. Some Party's a proud sponsor of the Black Forest stage this year.

Listen: The New Pornographers - "The Surprise Knock" @ YouTube

Dine Alone Records have set a November 15 release date for Tragic Future Film Star, the debut full-length from Andrew Woods' askew yacht-rock project Legal Vertigo. Based in Montreal, Woods had been performing similar material in recent years alongside singer/songwriter Basia Bulat under the name Napster Vertigo. One has to assume that whoever holds the trademark to the long-dead file sharing service wasn't entirely hip to that, hence the change. (As a side-note, it's also worth digging into some of the early Napster Vertigo show reviews, as the band's stage antics tell you something about their approach to this material).

Last week Exclaim premiered Legal Vertigo's mock-infomercial video for "At The Brasserie," a track written in tribute to the Montreal venue Brasserie Beaubien. Woods spoke to Exclaim, commenting:

"The Brasserie Beaubien is part of an accidental evolution. It used to be where Hell's Angels, Legionnaires, and neighbourhood locals would go to unwind, scheme, fight, and find love (etc.). Circumstance has mysterious' intentions.' In this case, as in many others (in many other cities) a place that once thrived for some has begun to thrive for others.

In this particular case, the former biker bar has become the hub of a thriving local arts scene with aspiring rock bands, comedians, drag dancers, poets, singer-songwriters, and seemingly anyone who wants to be on a stage (special thanks to Annie, James, & Julian). It is an institution of Montreal where major promoters sometimes put on events and 'successful' acts throw surprise events or try out new material. And let's not forget, of course, the typical weekday show with unmade artists, weirdos and outlaws...

Tragic Future Film Star arrives on November 15. While Woods may have first shown up your radar a few years back as a member of the Charlottetown indie rock group Boxter The Horse. He recently served as co-producer on Radiant Dawn, the recent full-length from Dan Boeckner's Operators.

Watch: Legal Vertigo - "At The Brasserie" @ YouTube

Power-pop/pop-punk act Pretty Matty, the recording project fronted by Toronto's Matty Morand, has a new song online titled "I'm Fine." It's another preview of the band's upcoming self-titled full length, due this September from on cassette from Get Better Records. Morand spoke to Exclaim about the track, commenting:

"'I'm Fine' is "the closest I had ever come to writing a straight-up love song. It's about feeling a strong connection with another person but being unsure if that feeling goes both ways. Being in your head analyzing all of your interactions trying to figure out what exactly is going on."

Pretty Matty are embarking on a U.S. tour this week. Upon their return to home to Toronto, they'll play a record release show at Toronto's Owls Club on September 21. That gig will feature support from Piper Maru, Baby Band, and Tea Room. The current live incarnation of Pretty Matty features PONY's Sam Bielanski on bass, Lucas Horne on drums, and Steve Sloane (Hinindar) on guitar.

Listen: Pretty Matty - "I'm Fine" @ Bandcamp

Montreal garage punks PRIORS have a new video online, showcasing another track from their unrelenting recent Slovenly LP New Pleasure. You can check out the "Provoked" over at YouTube. The band's Alan Hildebrandt directed the clip.

PRIORS are supporting both New Pleasure and their follow-up EP Call For You with a U.S. tour in September. The band's gigging down the east coast as they make the pilgrimage to Memphis' annual garage-rock gathering Goner Fest, then swinging back up through the midwest in early October. You can find the tour dates on Facebook. PRIORS aren't the only Canadian band making that trip to Memphis. They'll be joined at the event by their Sudbury labelmates Tommy and the Commies and the Hamilton proto-punk legends Simply Saucer.

PRIORS features Chance Hutchison, Drew Demers, Seb Godin, Alan Hildebrandt, and Stuart Buckley, current and former members of some equally cool bands like Sonic Avenues, New Vogue, the Steve Adamyk Band, and The Famines.

Watch: PRIORS - "Provoked" @ YouTube

It seems that everyone's travelling aboard over the next few months. You can add Toronto psych-dance trio DOOMSQUAD to the list, as their fall dates will take them into the States and over to Europe. The group announced their latest round of shows along with a remix of their single "General Hum." The Toronto-based electronic musician Emissive is responsible for this reworking.

DOOMSQUAD's currently supporting their May-released Royal Mountain Records / Bella Union LP Let Yourself Be Seen.

Listen: DOOMSQUAD - "General Hum (Emissive HumanEyez'd Re - Vision)" @ SoundCloud

Toronto noise-punk trio METZ recently released a b-sides and rarities collection on Sub Pop Records titled Automat. The LP arrived packaged with a bonus 45 collecting some of the band's covers. The three-track set included reimaginings of the 1998 Sparklehorse song "Pig," 1979's "I'm a Bug" from L.A. punk trio The Urinals, and Gary Numan's '79 Pleasure Principle track "M.E." While the former two covers appeared earlier in 2012 (on a Record Store Day split) and 2014 (on YouTube), METZ' take on the Numan track was previously unreleased. All three songs have now been made widely available on your streaming service of choice. A video for "M.E.," animated by Martin MacPherson, can be seen below.

Matthew Barnhart remastered the songs comprising Automat at the Chicago Mastering Service. METZ' most recent album of new material was the Steve Albini engineered Strange Peace from 2017.

Watch: METZ - "M.E." @ YouTube

Speaking of covers, last week Dundas, Ontario power-trio The Dirty Nil shared the final chapter in their You're Welcome series. Volume four of the set finds the trio tackling Big Star's 1974 single "September Gurls" (entirely fitting for a band that so clearly worships Alex Chilton). It's paired with a thunderous take on "Without You," the Badfinger-penned classic that became massive a massive hit for Harry Neilson in 1972 (and again for Mariah Carey in 1994).

The prior installments of the series featured charged up takes on Van Halen, April Wine, Culture Abuse, The Jesus and Mary Chain, David Bowie, and The Who. Frontman Luke Bentham boasted in the latest press release:

"We can say with complete honesty that we saved the best for last... trimmed down and dimed up!"

The Big Star cover first surfaced on what could best be described as stunt-merch, an ultra-limited 2018 8-track of which 15 were ever made. The Dirty Nil's spent much of the last year on the road supporting Master Volume, their second LP of new material for Dine Alone Records following 2016's Higher Power.

Listen: The Dirty Nil - "September Gurls" @ YouTube

Ottawa-based indie-rock/electronic duo Paragon Cause has a new EP on the way titled Lies Between Us, due September 13. From that set, the group recently released the single "Save Me." It, like much of the band's recent studio work, was produced by Sune Rose Wagner of the long-running Danish rock group The Raveonettes. Vocalist/keyboardist Michelle Opthof commented on the politically-charged track, which the band had set out to write as a punk song:

"It's about people exerting control because they think they're better, that they're superior to someone else. It's two ideas: the religious side of things says you can save them all but at the same time we look at it saying you actually cannot save them all, meaning you cannot save them from themselves. And for myself I grew up in an environment governed by a very strict church, that has its own school system and completely controls everyone's lives, including what they are to think and believe

In our own history the Europeans came here and thought they could control and convert all the indigenous people and how they thought they were so much better. But there's another, deeper layer to the song where I came to the conclusion that you can't save everyone, you can't win every battle, and that for your own peace of mind, to avoid being overwhelmed and despairing, sometimes you have to just admit that you can't save them all."

Paragon Cause features Opthof and guitarist/songwriter Jay Bonaparte. Lies Between Us will be the first in a series of releases leading up to a full-length in 2020.

Watch: Paragon Cause - "Save Me" @ YouTube

Last week the Kitchener/Waterloo-based punk group Father Bodies released a new 5-song EP titled One Step Behind. The set delivers some gruff, melodic-punk in the Lawrence Arms/Samiam/Jawbreaker tradition. As a Punknews vet I reflexively reject the Internet-concocted meme-genre orgcore, but man, it kind of fits here. You can find the full EP streaming at Bandcamp. I'm really into the frantic left-turn the vocals seem to take on the song "Gut Round."

One Step Behind follows the band's 2018 Pink Lemonade-released full-length Just Drunk Enough.

Listen: Father Bodies - One Step Behind @ Bandcamp

Toronto pop-punk quartet Bad Buzz has a new performance video out for their single "If It's Right." It's an anthemic, mid-tempo power-pop track from their debut EP Try Harder. The no-frills clip features the band charging through the song in their jam space.

The 5-song Try Harder was recorded live off the floor at Hamilton's Boxcar Sound with Matt Gauthier producing. It was released last May.

Listen: Bad Buzz - "If It's Right" @ YouTube

Toronto garage-rock/synth-pop quartet Neon Bloom are planning an EP release for early 2020. That set will feature the upbeat single "Lighten Up," which you can check out now in a new clip at YouTube. The band shot the video while on tour in Taiwan, combining live footage with more candid shots from their travels. Bassist Fred Yurichuk commented on the production:

"We were travelling on a shoestring budget, and I brought one of my cameras along. We shot everything: when we were on the train, when we hired a driver, when we were in our backpackers' hostel the camera was rolling all the time. At shows, we would find someone to hold the camera or put it on a tripod. When we got home, we had this whole mountain of footage and just sifted through it and thought it was a great idea."

Neon Bloom features lead vocalist Jen Simpson (of the late-2000s Toronto punk quartet Machetes), Yurichuk (of the experimental Girl + the Machine) on bass and guitar, guitarist/keyboardist Simon Chow, and drummer/keyboardist Chris Romano. The band's upcoming EP will follow-up their 2018 debut First Fever.

Watch: Neon Bloom - "Lighten Up" @ YouTube

Ottawa's Crass-inspired peace-punk four-piece Dogma has a few new songs online, packaging the newly available "Indoctrination" and "A New World" with their prior-released singles as a tidy little self-titled EP. The anarcho band recorded this material in the spring of this year with Kevin Berger at Capital Rehearsal Studios.

Listen: Dogma - Dogma @ Bandcamp

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