Yet another month of randoms and relatively unknowns. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but it’s starting to feel that, besides some still raging singles clubs, the golden age of singles is starting to wane. That’s certainly not a bad thing. I’ve been more holed up with full-lengths this mild winter than short blasts of ingenuity. This month, though, they again come from all over the globe. And yes, yet another Aussie ticket to punch. But that’s certainly not a bad thing. Keep ’em coming. Instead of SXSW this year, I’m opting to hit the bins in search of the elusive Elevators’ Frontline LP. If you send one of those my way, you’re sure to get a glowing review.
Taco Leg, Printed Gold EP (Richie)
The unfortunately named Taco Leg is a trio from Perth, Australia. Yes, we are hyper-aware that we use endless amounts of ink on the wave from Down Under, but humor us for a spell. These guys come from the other side of that giant continent and truly don’t have much in common with the Negative Guest List cognoscenti from the east. Taco Leg is skeletally minimal by comparison—dry, sparse, brittle, despondent even, as if they’ve been quarantined on their coastline with a battery-powered turntable and a slew of random post-punk seven-inchers abandoned by the last leaving indentured servants from the Kingdom. Such narrow parameters should make for narrow music, and it does. “Painted Gold” only flits with a few notes, some stand-up primitive percussion, and a singer whose only tone is black and grey mono. I’d imagine them sitting in somewhere between Desperate Bicycles (minus the hooks) and Wire (minus the energy) as a staid opener of pale-skinned, buggy-eyed misfits looking for a fix, when in essence their fix is repetition, the same progression (or regression) pounded like a metronome until the bare punk becomes trance-like. No harsh on this (love) buzz. It’s the lichens forming on the rubble of a post-Bleach underworld of grunge undertakers. “Were’s” is more of the same and somewhat forgettable in tandem with “Painted Gold.” The flip is perhaps where the Pac-Nor similarities start to show. Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In” is covered there, a band and song that has special primitive vibrations in the evolution of both Kurt Cobain and Mark Arm. Taco Leg is just skimpy and snarled enough to compete with the bone dust of that generation.
Love Handles, Handled EP (West Palm Beotch)
Researching the debut 7-inch from Florida’s Love Handles shouldn’t have happened in the midst of giving Handled a first spin. Beforehand, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was it a relic of the ’90s sub-indie boom, when miniature psychedelic pop bands crammed six songs onto a 12-minute single while designing bad cut-and-paste covers to convey the aura of the band’s slapdash whimsy? Did something from some Marshmallow Coast offshoot makes it into the new pile? Half of me was kind of hoping for such. Turns out, after a few seconds of “Phony Folk Singer,” I was still convinced this came from a simpler time. There were echoes of voices and well-arranged organs dealing in a warped tape delay. My other half knew the deal. This was past the millennium, with a guy in his bedroom managing some pretty spot-on Ariel Pink madness. I came to find out Love Handles is another branch of the crazies in the Cop City/Chill Pillar crew. Must be the water, the heat or the accelerated decay in that state that breeds a slime-covered combo of teen-punk and lysergic overtones. “Gold Chain” alone attempts to be the Beach Boys stripped of all color, slanted towards an altar of the Electric Bunnies. I dare say that band is the forefather to a lot of this kaleidoscopic muck. If only most of the kids blazing around in this type of haze knew how to cram it like their forefathers did in the ’90s. It’s essential because it might end up being that envious document that precedes and predominates every little hyped recording that comes after this.
Bazooka, “Jupiter” b/w “Back to You” (Dusty Medical)
Of course one of the tics of this column is to commonly over-generalize bands based on geography. Just did it above with Florida. Still, if there’s one thing that you can glean from a record in your mailbox sent from oven-mitted Wisconsin, it’s that it will never be filled with frills. It will rarely be all that weird and woolly (as opposed to, say, what usually arrives from Minnesota). Instead, records like Bazooka are packed with a purity and tradition that can only come from Wisconsin. The Dusty Medical label is known for this purity. Another example, Goodnight Loving is chock-full of the same riboflavin found in Bazooka. I’d swear, if it weren’t for the Ramones, an entire generation might have made rebel music this emasculating. Especially on the B-side, “Back to You,” Bazooka sounds as polished and posed as greaser extras in The Outsiders. It’s pure, but still fun, and I suppose that’s all that matters. Bazooka probably has a great reputation as a pub band, without much of a pub mentality. Even if it is facade, a tad Replacements when it counts, and more shuggie-boogie than most care to tolerate, it’s well-written and likely to form a pretty hep crowd in its wake.