By all accounts, you’d imagine we’re likely handing over the “Singles Club of the Year” trophy to Columbus Discount Records for their remarkable streak of mangled weirdo-punk platters spanning the Columbus city limits and beyond. The fact is those basement-dwelling ’verts from CDR don’t have much time for trophies or stopping to catch their breath, as they’re well into season two of their ever-expanding subscription series. That leaves us with Hozac, not by default mind you, but for the sheer number of bands introduced that I am now scoping on a daily basis. And, as evidenced in the following review, they’ve just finished up their first 12 months of singles mayhem, ending, of course, with the biggest bang of all: two exclusive records from the club’s most anticipated participants.
Teeth, “A Is for Asshole” b/w “B Is for Buck Knife”
Really, no underground label’s singles club is complete without a project that centers on the ubiquitous Mike Sniper (he of Blank Dogs, Roman Soldiers, and the Mayfair Set), and if you’re familiar with any of those outfits, you’re sure to find Teeth a bit redundant. Seriously, how many faux–Joy Division dark ascensions can you flanger into infinity and then call it a brand new song? That’s how Teeth might sound on the surface, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Spider (native Michigander and member of the Spits) is the star of the duo here; Sniper’s submerged pall is merely the backbone. I’ll assume that it’s Spider who adds the extra layers of oddity and isolation to the Blank Dogs modus operandi, demolishing the stock riffs in “B Is for Buck Knife” with coyote calls, buzzsaw, phones off the hook, and loner road-warrior sci-fi imagery. Imagine Ween (yes, Ween) grabbing a hold of the current lo-fi master tapes and giving them a proper dousing in the hash room. Imagine The Pod being the genesis of this entire basement weirdo movement. “A Is for Asshole” backs that theory, groveling out even less serious words than Deaner and Geaner, sung in ogre black-hole echoes. Warped and baked, it’s a novelty undermining any self-importance this underground may appear to exude. I love when these guys get together and, instead, revel in self-deprecation, just for the fun of it. The single starts and ends in disaster, but it’s a pleasant kind of chaos. Please, we now require a 21-song full-length giving us “C” to “Z.”
Box Elders, “Tiny Sioux” b/w “Plenty of Room at the Bottom”
If there’s a band currently working today that is sure not to ever give their aesthetic any sort of wiggle room, it’s the tried and true traditionalists of Omaha trio Box Elders. The fence is 10 feet tall and you’re either on the love or hate side of this backyard. I reside nestled in the amorously manicured lawn of the Elders wheelhouse, but I’m certainly not about to invite over any other cave-pop imitators, ’cause this little single is dangerously close to everything they’ve done before, if not a tad more polished and preciously aware of how easily they might rub the wrong way. “Tiny Sioux” is sock-hop candy, a puckish vamp on “Peggy Sue” (get it?), full of simple, fading chords, like a sepia-toned postcard from their hometown circa 1957. Mindless and numbingly wonderful stuff. The B-side, “Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” is truly that, a B-side, complete with some of the hokier prose I’ve heard in some time (“Gotta build yourself up, before you take a fall. Gotta climb to the top, you’re gonna lose it all”) about the inspirational benefit of dusting the dirt off one’s shoulder. It’s songs like these that tend to irritate me. The Box Elders can write these sub-three-minute ditties sleepwalking in their loin clothes, so it’s a shame they passed this off as something worthy of flipping over. I fondly remember the singer detailing to me how he was going to construct a bong out of a roadside steer skull the band found on tour. Now I wish that stoner ingenuity translated into their music.