Captured Tracks Summer Batch
by Kevin J. Elliott

For the benefit of Captured Tracks, I’ll spare the details of why we’re just now getting ’round to featuring their highly anticipated second batch of records. Highly anticipated because, until this snafu occurred, the little label from Brooklyn that could, was batting a perfect three for three—introducing us to the (now signed to Sub Pop?!) lovely and mysterious Dum Dum Girls, giving us a summer primer in the form of the Beets jangle-pop debut, and serving as a reservoir for loose Blank Dogs puzzle pieces. Now they’ve spread their wings even farther, becoming the benefactors of up-and-comers from all corners of North America (and hopefully beyond). Check it. It’s not all gravy, and for that you might want these chaps to slow it down on the presses, but I’ve got plenty of quality spins in already and sit contents/ecstatic for the second half of the summer and what the (hopefully immediate) future holds for Captured Tracks.

Little Girls, “Youth Tunes” b/w “Venom”
First on the playlist is Toronto’s Little Girls, proof that the transmissions made in Brooklyn have started making contact outside of the borough. As far as I can tell, if there’s a unifying aesthetic to the Captured Tracks family, it’s scratchy, hissy, popping and sputtered, but forever underwater. “Youth Tunes,” with the exception of the signature Strokes-esque guitar bouncing along the surface, is lathered with echo. So much so, the reverb almost pads the vocals inversely, and I was convinced I had the record at the wrong speed. The label’s boss-man certainly has some pull in Little Girls’ sonic operations, as they successfully balance the brooding anchored bassline with those poppy vittles. It’s the vocals here that maintain the record’s wavy, nervous disposition. Though submerged, you tend to side with the sharper dream-like melodies that shine through. I’m imaging the days when Clinic were actually breathtaking and Joy Division begat New Order in shadow and fog. I intend on paying attention here, as this is the best of the latest crop.

Roman Soldiers, “Warmer” b/w “Yuppie Fires”
Yet another incestuous collaboration pairing Blank Dogs’ Mike Sniper with Gary War—and by that, one should know the results, no? Imagine if you will the Blank Dogs’ sub-fi being sideswiped by War’s scattershot freak-flag. At first it was off-putting, wavering from the speakers and trying hard to disorient. The second or third time something clicked. This was exactly as advertised, but increasingly became stranger, as if they were on a mission to erect their own Ariel Pink memorial on the East Coast. In their quest, they certainly succeed, deleting Pink’s paisley, puke-beach frame and replacing it with coils and metallic innards. I’m sure, at least on “Yuppie Fires,” they’re giving thanks to some intentionally obscure cold-wave band, but it is worth digging for if it in this murky soak of paranoid psychedelia.

Blank Dogs, “Slow Room” b/w “Anywhere”
Perhaps this was the record, eternally cursed, that caused the clog ’n’ wait the label put consumers through. “Slow Room” was formally known as “In Here,” a fabled relic from the West Coast, which may or may not exist. I swear I saw a copy whilst drunk one night, but can’t be for sure. Regardless, it was hard to see the importance as the glut of Blank Dogs material readily available easily negates a singular 7-inch that might just be some toss-off, handshake deal. The giant leap forward found on the Under and Under LP might just be predicated by “Slow Room,” which in itself makes this song a vital link in the timeline we’ll someday look back over. This is Sniper reaching for the stars with eyes wide open. It could possibly even be more pop than anything he’s done this side of the Mayfair Set, sintered with hyper-melodic guitars and iced in sugared synth sparkles. The guy’s been meddling with OMD’s Dazzle Ships and/or some early Human League records late at night, slightly buzzed, remembering to level the recordings with his usual pall, but admitting he’s got soft spots. “Anywhere” is even cheekier than the A-side, with goblin voices underneath and an odd cadence leading it. Nice to see his progressing heading towards some light; I was beginning to call the hotline for him.

Der TPK, “Arc de Triomphe” b/w “Knut Hamsun” and “Corpse on an Empty Stage”
This is yet another doomed slab that was rescued by Captured Tracks from down in the ground. I love that this was saved and unleashed. Der TPK has truly opened up since that discovery was made on their recent Games for Slaves LP. I still have no idea about their whereabouts, who they are, or what direction they are barking in German, but the Spector by-way-of Hannett bunker brushfire that crackles and glows is almost endearing—something I could never say when they seemed to be vamping Misfits bootlegs. “Arc de Triomphe” is not going to warm hearts with its throbbing goth- industrialist disco, instead, with lids heavy and spring in step a bit of pogo could be in order. The double gloom B-side contains a duo of gems, though having to sparkle through years of soot and intermittent showers of acid rain.

Kid Romance, “Fuck Punx” b/w “I Use Electricity”
Not every batch can be fully tits. There’s always a dud to bear the brunt, and Kid Romance are the runts. Seeing “shitgaze” used unsparingly among blogs these days either makes me smile ear to ear or cower into the nearest corner. The word is an adjective, soon to be pejorative if applied to one too many. Likely these youth were influenced more by the recent past than the distant. In “Fuck Punx,” there’s a spat of the TNV/Eat Skull/Psych Horseshit triumvirate in their delivery and gracelessness, but not enough to stand at attention. Were you to package this as some lost Messthetics brawl of Manchurian 12 year-olds, 20 years removed from today, there might be something (novelty?). But as it stands, the kids should know a little better than this, especially with technology at their fingertips. Even worse is “I Use Electricity.” Though their attempts at forced fickle fidelities and sonic hiccups are a surprise, the song barely takes off, and when it does I hope the Black Lips are getting the residuals for this one.

The Beets, “Don’t Fit in My Head” b/w “It’s Okay to Lose”
The Beets are quickly becoming Agit darlings with infinite spins of their long-winded debut album. Keeping in that tradition, this little treat is the perfect companion. Not exactly sure if this is hi-fi for them or if the A-side is just a tad more buoyant? Their sneering and sing-alongs bode well with the Slay Tracks-era Pavement guitar sketches. On the B-side, it’s as if Malkmus was hep with slow-motion Texas psych, the Modern Lovers and the Troggs. I hear all these things, but I also hear the distinctive collection of voices that make these tunes buzz.

German Measles, Demos Sorry cassette
These guys make the Beets look sophisticated. Coming from the same casual party-punk soiree inhabited by caUSE co-Motion and Nodzzz, the German Measles are nerd-chic amateurs who know their way around a Dead Milkman/Beat Happening/King Kong menage, but act the auteur when it comes to presenting a cassette of anti-pretentious high comedy in the guise of goofballs who could pass as the members of Y&T in the “Summertime Girls” video. I’m getting smitten for this varietal of Monkees-esque, anyone-can-start-a-band irony. Songs like “Moscoe Street,” about their favorite coin-accepting dive bar, and “Japanese Beetles,” sung in the narrative of rose-killing insects, have the makings of anthems but instead bop in and out with as much craft as they likely apply to their laundry. This has definitely been done before, and will likely keep going past their eventual expiration, as this is ephemera, not life-lasting music. And it’s also likely if you asked them they could care less about getting out of Bruar Falls, let alone Brooklyn. Either or, I adore them. Captured Tracks take note: there’s a Columbus band (Tree of Snakes) who were doing this shtick years ago.