Hell, Yes!
New Singles from Italy
by Stephen Slaybaugh

I don’t have much of an idea for what kind of music goes over in Italy. My only frame of reference comes from putting up a noisy quartet from the country’s nether regions who did a demented take of the Smiths’ “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me.” They were the biggest U.S. Maple fans I have ever met. In fact, they are some of the few people I have ever known to openly profess their love of that idiosyncratic band.

Anyway, it’s cool then to see this little Italian imprint, Hell, Yes!, taking to putting out singles from a diverse array of artists (though none quite as demented as U.S. Maple). In addition to the four singles detailed below, this impresario’s catalog also includes 7-inches from the Fresh & Onlys, Gary War, and the Intellectuals, and has releases on the way from the Dum Dum Girls and Flight. With American distribution through Goner and others, they’re easily obtainable and no one has to worry about conversion rates.

The Mojomatics, “Tears Fall Down” b/w “In the Meanwhile”
From the Hell Yes homebase of Venice, the Mojomatics are a couple of sharp-dressed guys that have been kicking around since 2003, recording a few full-lengths in the process. For all their outward mod-ish appearances, the duo, as further proven on this single, seems built on the Bassholes model, stuffing together cat-in-heat yowling, fevered beats and ragged guitar riffs. Indeed, there’s nothing posh about that formula, but it’s just the thing everyone needs to get under their skin. Nevertheless, the B-side, “In the Meanwhile,” is the more spit-shined of the record’s two tracks, with MojoMatt conjuring a little Dylan in his warble and drummer DavMatic delivering a big caveman beat. The A-side, “Tears Fall Down,” is another story. It is full of ragged glory, with Mr. Matt sounding like the Jeckyll to the flip’s Hyde as the song races off into the abyss.

Crocodiles, “Neon Jesus” b/w “Neon Autobahn”
This 7-inch from San Diego duo Crocodiles is probably the weakest of this bunch, but that probably says more about the strength of the other releases. Still, this one comes underdone, appearing anemic by comparison to the full-fledged distorted roar of the band’s full-length, Summer of Hate. “Neon Jesus” is comprised of just a simple bass throb and mechanized beat, devoid of the shoegaze shimmer for which the band has become known. Yet there’s some primal bop to be found amongst its steely cadence. In other words, it sounds like a well done demo, which is surely the case for “Neon Autobahn,” which is just an instrumental version of the A-side.

Ale Mania, “Robust Universe” b/w “Bayview”
Ale Mania, a San Diego five-piece formed by former members of Sess, is perhaps the most interesting contributors to this installment. Between the two songs, it’s difficult to get a read on these kids, as they meld a small breadth of signifiers into their novel output. The tin-fed din of “Robust Universe” has an austerity circa 1979, but is more emotive than that generation’s cold-war cadence. “Bayview” possesses some of the perpendicular angles and snappy beats of Gang of Four, but is nowhere near as overthought. It’s instead more evocative, with reverb-dripping vocals that give a general feeling of dread and discord. Both sides cross wires in ways unheard of by most then-is-now hucksters, presenting a clear aesthetic that points to the future much more than it looks back.

Vermillion Sands, “Somthing Wrong” b/w “Mother of Earth”
Falling on the heels of their self-titled debut, this twofer finds Italy’s Vermillion Sands making their way through a couple of herky-jerky jaunts. Singer Anna Barattom has a particular howl that’s unlike any other, sort of a modern day Wanda Jackson that’s equal parts barbed wire and baby’s breath. Her cohorts pounce around it while mixing ’60s noir western tones and 21st century ramshackling. On the A-side, “Something Wrong,” it’s a frenetic she-bang, while the B-side, “Mother of Earth,” is made from bent notes and melting facades. Both amount to something that’s immediately familiar and completely foreign to Western ears, a reinterpretation of rock & roll’s most distant cornerstones worthy of further importation.