Hozac’s Autumnal Motherload
by Kevin J. Elliott

Hozac is no slouch. Reading here you’ll know doubt realize that fact. It’s as if the mailbox is a fountain of wonder every few months when the latest shipment shows up. This, my friends, is hands down the best batch of records the Chicago label has released in 2009. It’s also the most diverse, and I haven’t even touched upon that Wizzard Sleeve LP yet.

The Girls at Dawn, “Never Enough” b/w “Every Night”
Not to be the boy crying wolf, but if I told you there’s another gender-specific named trio of females from Brooklyn who play clattered and tattered dream-pop, would you believe me? Now imagine said trio is some fantasy hybrid of the Millionaires, the Vivian Girls, and a truckstop compilation of Phil Spector–produced girl-group pin-ups. Of course you’d have to name them the Girls at Dawn.

Before we get too carried away, there are some distinct qualities that separate both “Never Enough” and “Every Night” from their shoegazing and fuzz-drenched equivalents. These are two songs built around three of the simplest chords in the playbook, and the Girls’ riffing on those primitive notes is both delicately sparse and cutely roughshod when it needs to be. In execution, they recognize balance, favoring creation of the spontaneous rather than dexterity, and that shows a lot of promise for what it’s worth. The fact that they subscribe 100% to the “Be My Baby” model is more refreshing than revolting. Add the jet-engine reverb, the Leslie speaker, the precious interplay of their “da-da-das” with the shambling tambourine—you’d be cold-hearted not to ask for more from this trio.

Sharp Ends, “Northern Front” b/w “Ghosts of Chance”
Sharp Ends’ debut single is making it difficult to get any work done around the house. I just want to air guitar in front of the turntable every time I play “Northern Front.” First impressions suggest that by living as far north as Calgary, Canada, word that we’re firmly into a post-Interpol universe hasn’t travelled fast enough. All the earmarks of a pseudo-renaissance of brooding, Manchurian-esque post-punk are adhered to the Sharp Ends machine, but “Northern Front” shows a softer side of the darkness. The dissonant punk jumble is present; there are plenty of angles; and the bass rages in a blunt brutality. Through it all, though, the band whittles away at some fairly aggressive hooks and effervescent guitar melodies. They possess the black and white veneer of perhaps the Wipers or Gang of Four, but underneath the chilly stiffness exists a pop catharsis. “Ghosts of Chance,” while not as catchy as the A-side, manages to crest magnificently to a finale of quotidian stress unwound. Even with a ton of research to do in calculating those December lists, I’m smitten to a point of prematurely claiming that Sharp Ends might have made the single of the year.

Plastic Crimewave Sound, “Shockwave Rider” b/w “Bad Politics”
Steve Krakow, better known as the creator of everyone’s favorite psych-freak zine, the Galactic Zoo Dossier, often takes his Plastic Crimewave Sound on an endless voyage into the outer limits via the piledriving chug ’n’ doom of bands long-forgotten and oft-overlooked (like Hawkwind and Chrome). It’s usually quite an adventure, one that sprawls over double-albums, jams with Acid Mother’s Temple, and searches for the eternal riff. Here, in the single format, he’s required to cut it to a little less of a trip and more of a quick knife hit of pungent hashish. “Shockwave Rider” sounds plucked straight from the catalog of any number of proto-metal heroes immortalized in his deck of guitar god trading cards. The groove is eerily familiar, and for that PCS could very well play cover band for numerous entries in the acid archives—primarily anything Japanese, German, or living in the basement of its mother’s house. Still, cramming all of those elements into a four-minute scorcher is a testament to Krakow’s skill as a guitarist. Throughout the grizzled and gnarled histrionics, his playing never lets up from the launch to the crash and burn.

“Bad Politics,” the B-side here, is a Dead C cover. Of course, Dead C covers are few and far between, so when they appear they should be rewarded despite the effort. Just showing up is enough. Void of the soiled shroud that adds that obscurant layer to Dead C recordings, PCS turns the song into a pub-rock biker anthem that is recognizable in lyric alone. I can do without a repeat, but the concept is cool.