Now I’m a flexible fellow, but when it comes to rock & roll, I still give more credence to a band if it can equal its recorded hutzpah in the live setting and vice versa. That becomes evermore problematic in an era where a “band” on record is often one dude and his iPad.
Seth Sutton, who during 3am basement recording sessions or 1am stage sweatings is otherwise known as Useless Eaters, has already released three albums and numerous singles, which were gathered last year on the excellent Cheap Talk: The Singles. So given the oft-limp live renditions of said one-man bands, it was refreshing to catch two (of three) recent gigs in NYC from the manic plower-trio version of Useless Eaters that Sutton assembled for the road, a combo he suggested would be recording the next Useless Eaters records. They were a killer crew indeed, driven particularly mad via the amazing, unwavering quick-bash drummer. It’ll be interesting to see how Sutton’s sounds evolve within this set-up.
None of which takes away from the frazzled post-punk explosions on his releases so far, of which C’est Bon! is about the best yet. Jumping bean guitar stuttering crosses swords with jagged, fast one-chord riffs, while Sutton’s coiled yalp eggs it all on. Sounding that much more cohesive in its deep Devo and Dexatrim overdosing, Sutton slips in slippery structures that (probably unwittingly) recall the mini-epoch of mid-80s late night college radio rock. Cracklingly catchy stuff like “Drop the Bomb” “Siting at Your Table,” and “Year 11” ride like a rusty Mongoose BMX through the backyard of the crazy lady next door.
In all the trashed-up, Wire-clenching tuneage, Sutton retains a fine sashay to ensure all the post-punking isn’t too nerdy. And he even slows and lows things down a wee bit here and there (“Certain Doom”). If there’s a drawback in the Useless Eaters’s oeuvre so far, it’s the sometimes slap-dash songwriting that is inevitable with the kind of voracious creativity of a cat like Sutton. Some songs fade out pointlessly, and even within the 25-plus minutes of the album, there’s a filler tune or two. But overall, Sutton stands as one of the strongest sick-fit ur-punk pushers out there.
Originally put out a couple years ago on cassette, Colleen Green’s debut has been spruced up and given a proper vinyl release, but it still bears all the charming hallmarks of its home-recorded origins. Armed with little more than a guitar, a drum machine and her voice, Green has created eight tracks that proudly follow in the tradition of song over sound.
As one might expect from the title, Green’s got a thing for the Descendents and the album leads off with a beguiling cover of their “Good Good Things.” Green has slowed the song down and paired it back to just a slightly fuzzy riff, turning the song tender in the process. Elsewhere, things aren’t quite so barebones, but generally speaking, Green’s MO is to take punk’s essential bits, namely a good riff, pair them to a drum machine beat, and create fetching pop distillations. And while “I Wanna Be Degraded” may revel in Ramones-like simplicity, on songs like “I Will Follow Him,” where Green melds a few guitar lines with dual vocal tracks and stretches out to the five-minute mark, she proves that the approach doesn’t necessitate meager results. If anything, Milo Goes to Compton reveals Green innate ability to make so much out of so little.
In some ways, it seems like Corrosion of Conformity has always existed. Even if you never listened to the band, the COC logo has been too omnipresent over the last three decades for you not to have seen it. And as one of the first bands to meld hardcore and metal, they held a heavy presence in many circles, including skateboard culture. Appropriately, the band never settled into one groove. Looking over their modest catalog, you find nearly the entire history of modern metal. To match the many sound variations, there’s been a variety of different line-ups, with only guitarist Woody Weatherman being the one consistent element. So it’s not that surprising that the band’s latest record has a reconfigured line-up. What is surprising is that the 2012 version of COC is the reunited line-up from 1985’s classic Animosity, which means drummer Reed Mullin has rejoined Weatherman and bassist and vocalist Mike Dean for the self-titled release.
It seems appropriate that the reformed trio has decided to go the self-titled route for their eighth album. While they are minus vocalist and rhythm guitarist Pepper Keenan, Corrosion of Conformity serves as an overview of their entire career without being a nostalgia trip. COC sounds energized and hungry, while being lyrically and musically focused in a way that’s almost frightening. They cover an exhaustive amount of styles in a short period of time. Face-twisting stoner rock, swampy doom riffs, a touch of hardcore, a blast of thrash—COC pulls nearly every trick out of their bag. It’s not forced or overworked; this is simply the band doing what they do best, which apparently is a little bit of everything. The other thing that can’t be overlooked is that it just sounds like great classic metal. Corrosion of Conformity is a high mark in a career with no signs of stopping.
Dorian S. Ham
One might be forgiven for thinking that Trust is the project of the goth outcaste featured on the cover of the band’s full-length debut, TRST. (You’ll no doubt be seeing this one on Pitchfork’s list of the worst covers of 2012.) But while the record certainly revels in the dark, Trust is the project of the markedly less repulsive duo of Robert Alfons and Maya Postepski (also of Austra).
Following as it does on last year’s potent electro meshings—the evocative “Candy Walls” and the even better voltaic buzz of “Bulbform”—one would expect TRST to mix gloomy aesthetics with mechanized stimulants in a similarly successful fashion. But perhaps that ghoul on the cover was meant to be an omen. While both of the singles appear on the record, Trust has a hard time achieving the same results elsewhere. The album starts off promising enough, with the duo striking a sinister cadence on “Shoom” that’s offset with a fluctuating mix of trickling synths. Unfortunately, Alfons and Postepski are just as likely to indulge their sweet tooth for techno, and on cuts like “Dressed for Space” and “Gloryhole,” they eschew atmosphere for dancefloor-ready pyrotechnics, and the result is less than stellar. With the record rounded out by what is essentially filler (“Heaven,” “Sulk”), more than anything, TRST is chillingly disappointing.
Were folk legend Woody Guthrie to be resurrected from the dead to accept some kind of lifetime Grammy award (like he was given posthumously in 2000), there would no doubt be a tidal wave of tweeters wondering aloud who he is. But while Guthrie’s legacy is surely lost on the ignorant masses, as an inspiration to, most notably, Bob Dylan and countless others, his influence has been inextricably woven into the fabric of rock & roll and thus popular music.
It is no surprise then that Guthrie’s work has remained a well to which many have returned—directly for a select few—time and time again. He reportedly wrote a wealth of material that was never set to music or recorded due to his declining health, but thankfully his daughter Nora has solicited artists to delve into her father’s archives and do what they will with the material. The first fruits of these efforts were the two Mermaid Avenue albums recorded by Billy Bragg and Wilco at the turn of the 20th century.
In recent years, Nora invited Jay Farrar (who, as you may know, was once bandmates with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy in Uncle Tupelo) and his collaborator in Gob Iron, former Varnaline frontman Anders Parker, to tour the archive. They recorded some material, which My Morning Jacket’s Jim James (a.k.a. Yim Yames) heard on his own visit to the archive. With Farrar and James’ mutual friend Will Johnson (of Centro-matic and South San Gabriel) brought on board, the impressive group was completed. Where the Mermaid Avenue albums focused on material Guthrie wrote while living at Coney Island, the lyrics for New Multitudes were largely written when Guthrie moved to California after being diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease.
As one might expect from the group’s pedigree, the results live up to their author’s legacy, while also showcasing each individual’s talents. In short, each musician does what he does best: Farrar’s “Hoping Machine” is finger-picked and rustic; Parker’s “Old L.A.” is a crimson blend of Youngian rock and honeyed pop; James’ “My Revolutionary Mind” is pure Appalachian soul; and Johnson’s “VD City” is as gritty as his gravelly rasp. But it’s also impossible not to hear the melding of this band of voices on songs like highlight “Chorine.” New Multitudes may not raise Guthrie’s profile with the general public, but those smart enough to seek it out are richly rewarded.