So many singles have come through the door this month, it’s impossible to keep up. I took the totalitarian approach to reviews in September, whittled the pile down, and subsequently am writing about my top three. Each of these is special in their own unique way, and each represents a point on the map you’re likely not to travel to any time soon. What that says about the state of Primitive Futures? I’m not entirely sure. Keep ’em coming and I promise you’re in the queue. That is, unless you get booted from the turntable in the first 30 seconds. These kept spinning.
Puffy Areolas, Gentleman’s Grip EP (Hozac)
Though I’ve always pledged my allegiance to Cleveland’s Puffy Areolas as a live juggernaut, I’ve often found their recordings a hit or miss propositions. It’s as if they are futilely unable to capture that unhinged spirit in the grooves of a record, as well as properly advertise the manic mojo that makes the band so good in the first place. I blame that on constant change, constant reinvention, which is never a bad thing. The ability to finally settle on something permanent and discordantly unique to the punk-skronk community is what leads the Gentlemen’s Grip EP to feel like a defining statement. With Lamont “Bim” Thomas securing the drum seat with a particularly zestful menace and the double-edged guitar flailing ratcheted up to a full-blown smokescreen above it all, the title track finds a perfect balance between the band’s hardcore vigor and their often unmanageable psychedelic leanings. It’s as if “Rise Above” was dug an early grave and resurrected in some Hawkwindian space ritual. As with B-side, “Psychomania,” “Gentleman’s Grip,” tones down the Iggy to go for more GG and buries those vocals underneath a caterwaul of endless boogie. The punches and knots still remain, but something magical has unleashed their inner wanderlust and has set them on a cosmic course across the rust-belt. Maybe they have allowed more hallucinogens into their drug diet? “By the Hand,” the closing instrumental, is only 90 or so seconds, but really tells the tale here. It completely abandons any trace of the Puffys’ past and treads an almost refined groove of jazzbo metal, like Comets on Fire stuck with an IV of euphoric misery and lake sludge.
Hungry Gayze, Roadkill EP (Florida’s Dying)
For every missing chromosome which might attract you to the puerile sounds of Cuyahoga County, nowhere seems inhabited by mutant punk bands more than the swamps of south Florida. Florida’s Dying has flown the flag for every miscreant glue-wave hopeful who might call the Confederacy home, and much like the Puffys, the label’s output is either dodgy or cathartically empowering given one’s mood. The debut from Orlando’s Hungry Gaze makes no apologies for you to judge them as either. Rich Evans, owner of the label and the record store at the epicenter of this plague, has a sick mind, but justifies his actions by calling what the Hungry Gaze do “post-adolescent delinquency.” Like many of the circles Hungry Gaze frequent, the childlike scuzz-punk pop visions of Jay Reatard looms large, even today. This is especially true on “Roadkill” and “Pins and Needles,” where the lines between the Reatards and the Lost Sounds become crooked and eventually erased with power riffs mucking in organ drone. The same goes for the lines between the Ramones and the Runaways. Evans and cohorts Shawn, Alice and Ben really do sound as if they’re in a gnarly bender of prolonged adolescence, and there’s certainly no reason for them to grow up if the results return like Halloween candy packed with razorblades. The only fault here is the cheeky B-side “8th Grade Haircut,” which truly does appear ripped from better members of this slow, sticky Southern revolution. That though is a pithy slight towards a wholly satisfying debut. Let’s call it growing pains.
Mad Nanna, “I’ve Been Talking” (Albert’s Basement/Little Big Chief)
If there’s a winner in this month’s trio of singles, it comes from Victoria, Australia, and the peculiar case of Mad Nanna. Before finally getting a hold this worldly gem thanks to a domestic repress via Little Big Chief Records, I was treated to an entire tape of the mysterious Mad Nanna. It was pure “press record on the four-track” living room abstraction, but within that amateurish veneer there was some quiet genius middling about. This single is boiled down to a digestible moment among their likely long hours of taped sessions, but the quartet remains just freaky enough to make the experience simultaneously disorienting and increasingly endearing. “I’ve Been Talking” doesn’t even remotely resemble the current ring of Down Under bummer-punk. It has the lazy, haze-induced drawl that defines most of those bands, but there is simply no lineage or time-stamp or photographic evidence that could place them among that dope-sick wreckage. These guys have their heads about them, even if it sounds like they are zombie in-patients banging around on third-hand equipment. I’m reminded more of Jandek and Shrimper cassettes or the absolute germs of New Zealand’s underground (back in the day). You know, the “we don’t know our instruments, but we know how to use them” methodology. “I Made Blood Better,” the B-side, recoils even further into lo-fidelity (the A-side is a live epiphany apparently), coming up in the end like what might happen should the Shadow Ring decide that mocking Westing-era Pavement was a good career choice for them. This can only get better and better.