November Singles Round-Up
by Kevin J. Elliott

Though there have been hiccups in the consistency of the column—something I take great pride in—I’m happy to report that we are back on track. And as a result of those hiccups, the amount of singles I have in back-up have created a log-jam. I’m also happy to report that a bulk of those singles are being released right here in my backyard. This month I highlight one of the first releases from the initially prolific Savage Quality and a revival of sorts from We Want Action. Both call Columbus home. My pick of the month, however, comes directly from Hozac, a label that seems to never take a breath. Keep ’em coming.

Pink Reason, “Ache for You” b/w “Darken Daze” (Savage Quality)
At a recent performance in Columbus, Rodriguez, the cult-folk guitarist who’s experiencing a renaissance as of late, commented that he plays an abundance of covers because he’s “a musician.” Simple and plain sure, but after watching him breathe new life into old favorites, his little quip makes perfect sense. One might ask the same question of Pink Reason’s Kevin Failure. Why is it that he’s so into playing other people’s music? Well, as a musician most every minute of his day, it’s that music of influence that courses through his veins, that challenges him and informs him, and that eventually inspires him to keep moving. It’s also in homage to those before him that share his same roots. “Ache for You” and “Darken Daze,” could be easily mistaken for new Pink Reason songs, as both have sharp, downer punk edges that show up regularly on Shit in the Garden, but are by long forgotten outsiders, the Sleds and Jaguar, respectively, from Failure’s youth in hardscrabble Wisconsin.

As of late (but not exactly indicative to the now) Failure has beefed up Pink Reason with additional members from Psychedelic Horseshit and TV Ghost, giving his current recordings an ambitious sonic heft that hasn’t been heard before. To his credit, this is not by any measure Pink Reason cleaned up and spit-shined. In fact, the increase of guitars and noise make the group even more nebulous. But there is a hunger in this new outfit that fuels the songs in a sort of rambling, road-weary, all-together-now spirit, with Failure still grasping for happiness but less aimless and anti-social. It’s hard to speak of the originals, as they’re hard to track down, but they are songs covered for a very distinct reason. Whether channeling the Wipers, the Velvets, or the bold swagger of the Stones, that sense of power and desperation, teetering on the brink of nihilism, is indicative in most everything Failure puts to tape. This single is from the first batch of releases from Savage Quality, Failure’s homegrown, home-printed, home-distributed label, and with this new venture dropping base in Columbus, Failure has found an anchor of permanence and stability in the city that certainly feeds into the evolving force of his Pink Reason and his endeavors as a whole.

She Bears, We Claimed to Be Statues EP (We Want Action)
One huge positive of living in a scene as (relatively) small-scale as the one in Columbus, Ohio, is that even for newbies it doesn’t take all that long to ascend to a comfortable level, with a comfortable fanbase, and a comfortable network of clubs and supporters who have your back. She Bears, for instance, migrated from the even more insular village of Athens and have already found a niche among those who like their indie-pop overly emotive, exquisitely arranged, and somewhat self-affirming. There’s never been a lack of music of this ilk in this town, and for better or worse, it serves a purpose. There’s really no edge here, but nor is there any pretense or hipster motif that would suggest the She Bears are in it for anything other than the songs. “Tracks in the Snow” is as sweeping as anything Sunny Day Real Estate ever attempted, yet quieted to twee-er parameters. It is hard finding the hook here, and it’s likely not going to trigger any response post-listen, but again, that’s not what they’re about. Here, it’s the moment, the inspiration in real-time, and the attention to detail and to note-to-note perfection that makes their fans all warm and fuzzy. The B-sides, “Sorry, Abby” and “5/4” are more prone to raising fists or chins from staring at the floor. Both tend to amp up the power; delicate little arpeggios sandwiched in the verses and choruses call for one to watch closely and be amazed at the intricacy. The She Bears, however, know dirtying up their immaculacy, like forefathers Superchunk and the Archers of Loaf would do, does wonders for the blandness herein. Should they challenge their pop a bit more, the results might make for some long-lasting anthems.

Bare Mutants, “Without You” b/w “Inside My Head” (Hozac)
Further afield, up north in Chicago, long-time primitive futurist Jared Gummere has just released his debut as Bare Mutants for the always reliable Hozac. You might know Gummere as the main man behind the revered Ponys, who for one reason or another seemingly evaporated sometime in the last couple of years. One will certainly connect the dots, especially in Gummere’s vintage voice, as it’s one made specifically for fuzz-drenched psych of the Nuggets persuasion. With Bare Mutants, which is all from all accounts his solo project, he slows down the slash-and-burn of the Ponys’ white-hot histrionics and makes something much grander. In both “Without You” and “Inside My Head,” Gummere is channeling his inner J. Spaceman, as this single evokes perhaps a more urbane and less augmented Spiritualized. Certainly the Bare Mutants don’t have the disposable income to hire choirs and stringed orchestras, so Gummere makes due with heavy reverb and dilapidated organ drone. The results are illuminating, considering these simple, floor-stomping tunes would be nothing without the wall of noise emanating in the background. It should be interesting to see what happens if he were to spread this space-race across the cosmos of a full-platter. Standard fare, but still highly recommended.