February Singles Round-Up
by Ron Wadlinger

As Febraury draws to a close, it’s time to take a listen to a batch of the singles that have been piling up at Primitive Futures headquarters. There’s a lot to hit on this time around, so let’s go ahead and jump in without further ado.

Campo-Formio, Crackman EP (Dead Mofongo)
First up this month is a 7-inch from Campo-Formio, a trio out of Puerto Rico. Crackman is the latest self-released offering from the band, which has put out a few other discs under their Dead Mofongo imprint. The record is centered around the title track, an ambitious exercise that sees the band going through a number of different incarnations. “Crackman” starts off as a gritty surf-rock jam before it morphs into a speedy and hard-hitting punk assault. Just when you start to think you’ve got a handle on things, the band stops on a dime and jumps into an extended sort of math-rock coda. It’s jarring on first listen, but subsequent spins seem to make more and more sense, and the band gets credit for trying something different. The guys sound more focused and effective on the three songs that round out the flipside. The highlight is the explosive burst that is “Hoy,” but the dark tension of “Paco Pepe” scores some points as well.

Little Queenie, “Blackout” b/w “SS Shipwreck” (Sweet Rot)
The Greg Ashley–recorded debut of Oakland’s Little Queenie is an interesting one. The band’s a rarity in that it’s opted to go completely guitar-less, instead using a line-up of vocals, two basses and drums. The dueling-bass attack works well on “Blackout,” a steady, noisy rocker fueled by dirty, chugging riffage that provides a fitting underbelly for the song’s tale of being driven to oblivion by copious drink. “SS Shipwreck” moves at a slightly more deliberate pace, but it still cooks, striking a tone reminiscent of a mutant Minutemen. These two songs could be the soundtrack to gutter life in 2012. Sweet Rot Records has developed a reputation for finding some gems, and they’ve done it again.

So Cow, GMT EP (Ride the Snake)
Over the past few years, Brian Kelly has had a nice run with his band So Cow, releasing a number of consistently good records. His latest piece of wax is the GMT EP, which comes via Boston’s Ride the Snake Records. “GMT” is a solid pop-rock track with a memorable hook and a slight tinge of melancholy that gives the song an added sense of depth. A similar plan is followed with “One Careful Owner,” the EP’s closing pop ballad. Balance arrives in the form of the more upbeat “The Other Tiger,” a song that almost seems overloaded with pop hooks. “Song For Outer Spacist” is a playful, pop-punk oddity that moves at breakneck speed as Kelly intones lyrics coming from the same esoteric wavelength frequented by the Outer Spacists themselves.

The Lost Domain, “Drunken Sailor” and 3 Toed Sloth, “I Didn’t Know I Loved You (’Til I Saw You Rock ’n’ Roll)” (Negative Guest List)
The last two 7-inches of the month come courtesy of Negative Guest List, the label run by Brendon Annesley, who tragically passed away earlier this month. Each of these records is an archival release featuring tracks recorded by two Australian bands during the ’90s. First is Brisbane’s The Lost Domain, a group already known to NGL devotees by way of the double-LP, Blondes Chew More Gum. Recorded in 1999, these two tracks give off a kind of Captain Beefheart in Oz vibe. “Drunken Sailor” is a re-imagining on the traditional song (“What do you do with a drunken sailor...”) as a cacophony of pulsating guitars, trumpets and saxophones. This is a true ball of noise held together by only the pull of its own gravity, and it’s really something to behold. In contrast, “Pool” sounds like a formless collection of feedback that could dissipate at any moment even as the song’s percussion tries to impose some order. The overall effect is often stunning, and it’s fortunate that we’re able to hear these recordings after they’d been on the proverbial shelf for more than 12 years.

Originating in the early ’90s out of New South Wales, 3 Toed Sloth has experienced a revival of late. Recorded in 1993, their 7-inch is the second of NGL’s “jukebox singles,” a series intended to feature bands performing choice cover songs. (The first jukebox single had Blank Realm doing Alex Chilton’s “Hey! Little Child.”) The band takes on Gary Glitter and Pere Ubu to great effect here. “I Didn’t Know I Loved You (’Til I Saw You Rock ’n’ Roll)” is a precise, but primal run through Glitter’s standard. The flip is a version of “Non Alignment Pact” that finds 3 Toed Sloth stripping away the post-industrial ornamentation of Pere Ubu’s original and distilling the song to its raw punk essence. It’s clear that 3 Toed Sloth put a lot of care into maintaining the basic spirit of these two songs while putting their own spin on them, and this is one of the rare cover records that’s successful. These two records are prime exhibits of the lasting legacy Annesley established in the underground music community before his untimely death.