June Singles Round-Up
by Kevin J. Elliott

I’m happy to announce that in the last few weeks the hits (at least in the local/regional sense) have yet to abate. I’d much rather sit here and haw about happenings in my own backyard and the outlying circles, then try to interpret what’s coming from Australia for the nth time. Not to say I don’t love the neverending waves pounding in from Down Under, it’s just a welcome surprise to be wholeheartedly loyal to the madcaps playing in my neighborhood. So, this month, another round of singles from near, not far, and another excuse to claim Ohio as highest concentration of home-recording weirdoes the world has even known.

Nervosas, “Junky” b/w “Anxious Tendencies” and “Incinerator” (Meth Mouth)
“In the city of shame, we’re all junkies,” is the refrain from “Junky,” which will be most people’s first encounter with Columbus’ newest punk phenomenon, Nervosas. It’s a rallying cry of sorts, as no one in this town is making energetic rock of this ilk, and those who are making music might fall into the cannibalistic shell the Nervosas are screaming about here. Speaking of screaming, this trio of songs, gone before they’re here, reminds me a lot of the Bay Area lightning that arrived at the turn of the ’80s. Bands like Screamers, Avengers, and the Dead Kennedys are what truly inspire this single. The fact that bassist and guitarist have matching Wipers tattoos also shouldn’t be a surprise. Surely a portrait of Fred Cole will be their next encounter with ink, with Dead Moon’s nocturnal drive billowing underneath it all. Then again, Jeffrey Kleinman’s bark becomes so affected with urgency he begins to channel Pink Flag–era Wire. But beyond that, they settle into their own, especially on “Anxious Tendencies,” which veers towards a more dramatic pop flare. Add in the vocal stabs and sci-fi guitar buzz of Kleinman’s boo, Mickey Marie, and the unfuckwithable popcorn vitriol of veteran drummer Nick Schuld and you have quite a formidable unit. The passion and wit that sneaks into the two B-sides is what to look forward to; the A-side is just for ecstatic pleasure. It’s as if they’ve entered the Columbus landscape at year zero.

Jason Frederick, “Ohio” b/w Love Story in Blood Red, “Build You Up” (EAU)
Who knows if Nervosa’s “city of shame” is a direct reference to Columbus or just a paean to any faceless and ragged music scene? What I do know in this installment is that Jason Frederick’s brilliant “Ohio” is a very specific ode to the waffling weirdness that grows in the Buckeye State. Every other moon a new single materializes from this former Ohio eccentric. The man must have boxes of tape milling in the same raucous pop arena, but I’m certain the Kinks-a-go-go of “Ohio” is the absolute pinnacle of Frederick’s songwriting, complete with sampled applause, lo-fi stubble and a quote or two about farming. If, as Frederick states, “Ohio is dying,” I can’t see it in this song. It’s a tune so seamless I almost didn’t bother to see what was on the flip. But when the grooves wore thin, I was pleasantly surprised by what was found. Credited to Love Story in Blood Red, “Build You Up” is a hi-fi companion to “Ohio,” created by a full-band and nostalgia for simpler times in indie rock. It swings, sashays, and shimmers as good as any offering from, say, The Shins or Spoon. Here’s hoping someone with the right mind might give Frederick all the time and money the man needs to piece together what would likely be an instant classic of a full-length album. A man can dream.

Dan Melchior, Yachts EP (Hozac)
While not exactly from Ohio, Dan Melchior is an honorary statesman and his link to the burbling, churlish underground set forth by the guys in the Harrisburg Players and heroes like the Cheater Slicks and Ron House is very tangible in the music he has made of late. Take “Yachts,” for instance. It’s a deafening slog of a song, inching closer to the listener in each lumbering bassline, when a thick molasses forms and you’re stuck succumbing to Melchior’s Syd Barrett–esque yarn. Something like “Yachts” is akin to later works by Nudge Squidfish and Tommy Jay, only cut with Melchior’s sharp, mirth-making voice. He would have been the Puck of the crew were he old enough to hang out in the Players’ barn during the acid days.

The B-side here is indicative of the same flailing tentacle treatment those Columbus hermits splay atop their four-track recorders. If anything, “Barry Mundane Has Plans” is a mini-concept and an exercise in Melchior’s unending prankster spirit. It could serve as a loner-folk escape, only it gets washed in a number of garish accoutrements—a sputtering synth gasping for breath, occasional bouts with reverb—which give it depth and humor. Even better is the parody of “it” bands gone past their prime in “Stig and the Queefs.” With Melchior’s extended time in the trenches, he’s likely seen a number of hot flames go cold. Luckily, as long as he’s fiddling in his laboratory, his isn’t likely to extinguish anytime soon.