Sunday January 5, 2020

Two Words One Finger

It feels like I've been waiting months to finally hear something from Conditions Apply, and the Montreal group doesn't disappoint on their first three-song demo. The quartet features former members of the now-inactive Mental Fix, a group who once billed themselves as something akin to the greatest East Bay punk band that just happens to hail from la métropole. Conditions Apply sounds a tad harder-edged than their predecessor, trading some of that Gilman Street snot for classic hardcore aggression. Along with Mental Fix, branches on the Conditions Apply family tree include Ballast, Whiskey Trench, ...And The Saga Continues, and All The Answers.

"Who's the Victim," "Small Print," and "Two Words One Finger" are all streaming now at Bandcamp. Welcome to 2020.

Listen: Conditions Apply - 2019/2020 Demo @ Bandcamp

Halifax low-fi punks Booji Boys recently released a pair of remixes, each offering a new take on the title track from their 2019 LP Tube Reducer. Denoted as the "Cody Mix" and the "Lounge Mix," one DJ Nikrem (who otherwise pretty much doesn't exist on the Internet) is credited with both takes. The "Lounge Mix" is pretty languid, by Booji standards or otherwise, and recasts the song in a sinister swampy murk. You can snag both tracks at Bandcamp now.

Booji Boys are currently working on their fourth LP, and also have a song slated for inclusion on the upcoming Sewercide Records 7" of East Coast Canadian punk and hardcore. I fully expect Booji guitarist Cody Googoo, and quite likely other members of the collective, to be all over the record. Misanthropic Minds, his duo with Alienation's Dave Brown, previewed their contribution to it a few weeks back.

Listen: Booji Boys - Tube Remixes @ Bandcamp

Booji Boys are among the slate of bands now confirmed for the fourth edition of Ottawa's punk/crust/hardcore gathering Sitting On The Outside. This year's festival stretches from June 4 to June 7 at venues around the capital. The Boys will be joined at SOTO by their fellow Haligonian noisemakers Fragment. Recent local confirmations include Ottawa's Ciggie & The Darts, Magic Mommy, Moratorium, Spirit Cry, Azidoazide Azide, Demoxyde, Deja Vu, Reflex, and Sarin Gas. From Montreal, the event will see sets from CPU Rave, Faze, Rivalled Envy, The World Health Organization, and Blemish. Raze is the Big Smoke's only current representative, with the American bands Pearl, Slump, and Spell Runner all crossing the border for the fest as well.

Look for further expansion of the SOTO lineup in the coming weeks. Between this and the last year's inaugural Side By Side Weekend, the sting of losing the beloved Ottawa Explosion is feeling a little distant.

With that all said, drop everything and go listen to the glorious "Out for a Rip" by Montreal's W.H.O. It's the relatively new group's first track to follow their recent demo. Sometimes the only thing that makes sense in the world is one minute and eleven seconds of crass and sneering punk nonsense.

Listen: The World Health Organization - "Out For a Rip" @ Bandcamp

Speaking of Fragment, the Halifax D-beat hardcore group has a new EP on the way via Sewercide Records titled Serial Mass Destruction. The label commented:

"It's been cool watching these guys rip it up and grow as a band from the beginning and even though I loved their 12" from 2017, these new tracks are by far my favourite thing I've heard from them yet. Blown out and raw punk that checks all the boxes for Scandinavian and Japanese influences as well as a tip of the cap to late 80's uk stuff like Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower and Concrete Sox. A one time pressing of 300 copies, get stoked."

The group features members of several Halifax hardcore and crust punk groups, including Lifechain, Contagium, and Concrete Asylum. The band will take part in that aforementioned East Coast 7" as well. You can preview Serial Mass Destruction by streaming the song "Suffer."

Listen: Fragment - "Suffer" @ Bandcamp

Dartmouth folk-rock/shoegaze group Diamondtown has two new songs online, kicking off 2020 with "Lost" and "Free." This is the band's first material since their recent EP The Voice, and a prelude to some "bug stuff coming" later this year.

Diamondtown an extension of Husband & Knife, a duo featuring KC Spidle of the beloved Halifax indie-rock group Dog Day and Evan Cardwell. Along with that pair, the group features Chris Thompson of Moonsocket and the legendary Eric's Trip along with Kate O'Neill.

Listen: Diamontown - Lost/Free @ Bandcamp

Just before the holidays, Toronto's weird and wonderful Merc & The Montclairs released a full length titled Be A Galvo (a title that comes from the Wild Man Fischer song "Do The Salvo"). The reference to Fischer, an infamous street busker, outsider music phenomenon, and Frank Zappa discovery, is one of the project's several Zappa callbacks. The seven-song set kicks off with a cover of "What's The Ugliest Part of your Body," a Zappa-penned tune the 1968's Mothers Of Invention album We're Only in It for the Money.

Merc & Montclairs features vocals, guitar, and saxophone from Eli Speigel, guitar from Rachel Bellone, Cale Weir on bass, Jason Shory on drums, and Tago Mago on guitar, mandolin, and keyboard. Rob McLay produced, recorded, and mixed the set.

In a Facebook post, Eli mused:

"We're still waiting on other streaming platforms but apparently the Frank Zappa Family Trust isn't done with us yet. Releasing music in the vortex that is the latter half of December is either really smart or really dumb, I'm not sure which. This is material that the whole family can enjoy during the holiday season, but it's also good to listen to on your headphones in your childhood bedroom in an effort to escape your over-bearing families. Anyway, thank you all. I promise we made this as earnestly as possible."

Given the influences, it should come as no surprise that this album goes all over the place. It's absolutely worth a spin through the whole thing.

Listen: Merc & The Montclairs - Be A Galvo @ Bandcamp

Toronto's Tough Age recently recorded their fourth album at Montreal's Bottle Garden Studio, once again working with producer Peter Woodford, as they did on 2017's Shame. While the band hasn't confirmed details on that record yet (other than the fact that they keep alluding to ELP's 1971's epic Tarkus), they did share one new non-album track to ring in the new year. You can hear the song "Waiting Here" online now, a song that guitarist/vocalist Jarrett Samson claims to have "fucked up" once he got it back home from the studio. You can hear the low-fi tune, mastered by Jay Arner, now at Bandcamp.

Samson recently shook his digital fist at the British superstars Coldplay for naming their recent album Everyday Life. At one point, that was the intended title of this upcoming Tough Age LP. It was also a song title on Shame, but that doesn't seem to count as dibs, at least to Chris Martin. Expect the next Tough Age effort, whatever it's called, to arrive on Mint Records sometime later this year.

Tough Age, in their Toronto incarnation, features Samson and bassist/vocalist Penny Clark with drummer Jesse Locke.

Listen: Tough Age - "Waiting Here" @ Bandcamp

Vancouver's lié can't slow down. The dark punk trio is back at it again this February with their fourth full length. The eight-song You Want It Real arrives on the 28th, also from Mint Records.

The announcement came alongside "Digging in the Desert," a tightly wound post-punk single coupled with a truly bizarre video. The band once again worked with Vancouver director Justin Gradin on the visuals, with the song exploring, in the words of the band's Brittany West, "hedonistic feelings and being eaten alive by the hardships of love playing out in a fever dream in my mind." Gradin previously directed lié's "Weaponized" clip, along with memorable recent videos from Jo Passed and Autogramm.

lié worked with the prolific punk producer Jesse Gander on the new LP, which follows his recent studio work with their Mint labelmates Woolworm and Necking. The three-piece features guitarist/vocalist Ashlee Luk, bassist/vocalist Brittany West, and drummer Kati J. Outside of lié, Luk and West respectively perform in the techno/rave projects Minimal Violence and Sigsaly. lié last released Hounds in 2018.

Watch: lié - "Digging In The Desert" @ YouTube

Faith Healer, the Edmonton duo featuring Jessica Jalbert and Renny Wilson, rang in 2020 with a new single named for the year. "2020" arrived in two forms, an original mix (clocking in a very appropriate 2 minutes and 20 seconds) and an extended version that tacks another two minutes to the runtime. Unlike the accomplished pop-rock of 2017's Mint Records full-length Try ;-), this new tune finds the band trading in sly, dancefloor-ready funk. Whether this marks is a new direction or just a one-off lark remains to be seen. It's super cool, nonetheless.

Listen: Faith Healer - "2020 Extended Mix" @ SoundCloud

Toronto writer Graham Isador recently featured the Indigenous hardcore band Indian Giver in a profile for Vice. In it, the author interviews the collective's masked frontman, touching on the group's goals, politics, and the issue of Indigenous representation within the heavy music genres. In particular, the anonymous artist comments:

"There is a huge shift within music, looking at the Polaris Prize and all the different representation happening in popular music. People are paying attention to Indigenous artists. They're even going out of their way to highlight Indigenous artists. And that's great. But it's not the kind of music that I listen to. It's not the type of stuff we like."

The piece both touches on the band's association with the streetwear brand Born In The North and notably shares their defiant pushback against any notion that Indigenous music need be "historical and nice." Some choice, fiery quotes come out of this conversation, and you can read them all over at Vice.

Listen: Indian Giver - "Seventh Fire" @ Bandcamp

Over the holidays, Ottawa garage-punk trio Warp Lines launched a new video for the song "Nothing is Working Out," a track from the band's recent LP Human Fresh. In a premiere at New Noise the group commented:

"We've always been inspired in some way with the idea of failure as an inevitability. So, why not make a video depicting failure as an awkward, menacing figure in a silly, $30 deer mask?"

Warp Lines features the entirety of the now-defunct bass-and-drum duo Big Dick, pairing long-time collaborators Johnny O (guitar) and Dave Secretary (drums) with bassist Kurt Rafuse (formerly of The Yips). The trio's capital punk family tree includes Million Dollar Marxists, the Steve Adamk Band, Van Johnson, Uranium Comeback, and The New Calling, among others.

Human Fresh arrived last fall from Portland's Dirt Cult Records.

Watch: Warp Lines - "Nothing is Working Out" @ YouTube

High octane Fredericton trio Hard Charger has a new video online for "Thrown Out To The Dogs." It's the latest single from the gruff punk/metal combo's recent LP Vol.4: Take The Guff and Suffer. Speaking to Decibel Magazine, bassist/vocalist Shawn Smith commented:

" [the song] places the band in the midst of a post-apocalyptic struggle over the most valuable resources in the world – beer and weed. Our old broken down tour van was rotting in our garage and we had to get rid of it – so we sacrificed it for a music video. A lot of talented people came together to help us create this video, and to demolish our van. We can't thank them all enough."

Fans of Motorhead and Zeke should take note of this one. Take The Guff and Suffer arrived last May from D7I, Doomsday Machine, Wasted Time, and Emergency Records.

Watch: Hard Charger - "Thrown Out To The Dogs" @ YouTube

Montreal stoner metal quintet UUBBUURRUU recently shared the first single from their upcoming self-titled debut for Mothland. You can stream "Stone Men" below. It'll appear on the group's fast-approaching LP when it drops on January 17.

UUBBUURRUU was formed in 2014 by singer/guitarist Joey Napoleon (El Napoleon) and drummer Maxime Hébert (Les Breastfeeders, Ponctuation, The High Dials). The duo built out the band the addition of producer/guitarist Samuel Gemme (Elephant Stone, Anemone), guitarist Sean Cary-Barnard (Melted Faces, Light Bulb Alley, Palmetto), and bassist Vick Trigger (Les Marinellis, Blue Cheese, Jimmy Target & The Triggers). This new record is following up their 2017 EP Swamp Ritual.

UUBBUURRUU will launch the new record on January 30 with a show as part of the Montreal Taverne Tour, sharing the stage at Le Ministère with Paul Jacobs and NOBRO.

Listen: UUBBUURRUU - "Stone Men" @ Bandcamp

Kiwi Jr.'s gearing up for the worldwide release of their 2019 full-length Football Money this month on Persona Non Grata Records. To help promote that effort, the Toronto-via-Charlottetown jangle-pop act shared a new video for "Gimme More." Speaking to Exclaim, the band commented on the clip:

"It was shot mostly at our favourite bar in Toronto — Black Dice Cafe. It's a rockabilly bar and though Kiwi Jr is very unhip to that scene, we tried to pay it justice by wearing leather jackets. We've had probably every band meeting we've ever had at that bar, and the owner Hidecki was nice enough to let us shoot there as long as we didn't break anything (which we did during load in before we even started shooting)."

Sean Foreman directed the new video, which follows the band's recent clip showcasing their single "Salary Man." The 10-song Football Money arrived in Canada this past March from Mint Records. Kiwi Jr. features vocalist Jeremy Gaudet, Alvvays guitarist Brian Murphy, bassist Mike Walker, and drummer Brohan Moore. Aaron Goldstein (Daniel Romano, Bry Webb) engineered the record, with Holy Fuck's Graham Walsh mixing.

Watch: Kiwi Jr. - "Gimme More" @ YouTube

Podcasts

Puff Digital's cannabis-themed talk show Into The Weeds recently posted the second half of their two-part interview Toronto punk legend Al Nolan. Nolan fronted the raucous 90s punk act The Almighty Trigger Happy. Into The Weeds is hosted by Ben Rispin (Saint Alvia/Rules), medical cannabis educator Bubba Nicholson, and Efrem Shulz of the US punk band Death By Stereo. A chat with Canadian singer and actor Will Bowes follows in the next episode.

Subscribe: Into The Weeds @ iTunes

The latest episode of Vish Khanna's Kreative Kontrol features a chat with Toronto multi-instrumentalist Matthew "Doc" Dunn, bandleader of Toronto psych-jazz collective The Cosmic Range and as a top-billed performing artist in his own right. Dunn's been prolific as of late, most recently putting out the accomplished solo effort Upper Canada Blues in 2019.

Subscribe: Kreative Kontrol on iTunes

Best of 2019

I almost didn't write a year-end list for 2019. It wasn't the year's fault. The year was fine. I've just internalized all sorts of nitpicky problems with the format, and I'd like to think that this newsletter alone serves as a pretty decent reflection of what music I want people to hear. That said, after I completed editing a dozen or so lists for the Punknews.org volunteers, it occurred to me that I've written one of these every year in an unbroken streak since 2001. As I'm nothing if not a sucker for sunk cost fallacy, stopping now just didn't feel right.

My stubbornly all-Canadian list of my favourite EPs and LPs of 2019 includes the likes of Liquid Assets, PRIORS, Good Grief, Sore Points, BBQT, Vanity Phase, Sauna, Barnacle, Deliluh, Bedwetters Anonymous, Wild Side, Necking, Misha Bower, FET.NAT, PUP, Nüshu, Gal Gracen, Ian Daniel Kehoe, Protruders, WHOOP-Szo, Woolworm, Ice Cream, André Ethier, The New Pornographers, Young Guv, Shotgun Jimmie, Ancient Shapes, WLMRT, Booji Boys, and B.A. Johnston.

Oh, and speaking of WLMRT, one of Canada's most exciting contemporary punk acts, they're done. They're done, and I'm sad. I'm sad, but also profoundly fortunate that I had the opportunity to get to know the individuals in the band over the past few years. At Exclaim you'll find a few quotes from bassist Kat McGouran and vocalist Shelby Wilson discussing their decision. WLMRT called it quits this past weekend in Toronto, with their performance at the magazine's Class of 2020 showcase serving as their final gig.

Listen: WLMRT - WLMRT Forever @ Bandcamp

Under The Circumstances

On December 31, Some Party released Under The Circumstances, the first in a planned series of cassette compilations showcasing new and rare sounds from the bands covered here every week. The first edition features some amazing tracks from Montreal's New Vogue, Toronto's Tough Age, Edmonton's Wares, and Windsor-based bands Psychic Void and Partner. Discogs even tells me that the tape includes a few sneaky appearances from Steven Lambke and Deathsticks, but I have no idea where they got that information.

If you want to help support the newsletter (at least spiritually - this project is deep in the red, folks), you can snag one of these beauties for six real Canadian dollars online here, or learn more at someparty.ca.

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