Revolting Cocks
Sex-O Olylmpic-O
13th Planet

While the industrial force known as Ministry often has pursued subject matter as heavy as its crushing sounds, such as protests of both Bush administrations, Al Jourgenson’s Revolting Cocks has been more tongue-in-cheek, with songs like “Beers, Steers and Queers” and a cover of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” Aside from mainstay Jourgenson, RevCo contributors have included a who’s who of industrial music, including Ministry bandmate Paul Barker, Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre, Front 242’s Richard 23 and Trent Reznor, as well as appearances by Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes, Jello Biafra and Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander. The current incarnation features guitarist Sin Quirin and keyboardist Clayton Worbeck, as well as Josh Bradford handling most of the vocal duties.

With Sex-O Olympic-O, we’re invited once again into the group’s post-apocalyptic, seedy world populated with robotic hookers (“Hookerbot 3000”) and incestuous relations (“Cousins”). The new Revolting Cocks has a more guitar-heavy sound, such as the intro to “Red Parrot,” which ends with a reverberating shout, but more often than not those six-strings battle for space with keys in duels that can become distracting. However, “Abundant Redundancy” and “Lewd Ferrigno” more easily meld the guitar with thumping industrial dance ryhthms. With “I’m Not Gay”—clarified by lyrics “I just pretend I do when I’m drunk”—RevCo is in its full, danceable, oddball glory. While Sex-O Olympic-O isn’t the strongest of RevCo records, it’s a must-have for fans—and for those still trying to get just one more fix of Ministry since their disbandment last year.
Josie Rubio

The Sand Pebbles
A Thousand Wild Flowers
Double Feature

Though relatively unknown in the States, the Sand Pebbles have been toiling in the land down under since the turn of the century. A Thousand Wild Flowers, a compilation culled from the band’s four studio albums, is the first release on Double Feature, a label begun by Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham (who coincidentally was born in not too distant New Zealand), and it’s a fitting partnership, given Wareham’s proclivity for the hazier side of pop. The Aussie five-piece, two of whom met writing soap opera scripts, seem drawn to the point where pop, garage and various strains of psychedelia meet, veering to different sides of that intersection at times, but generally straddling the median. On “Wild Season,” this tack manifests itself as a mutant strain combing GBV and VU DNA, while “A Thousand Flowers” (conceivably the record’s title track), though sporting a “Sister Ray” riff, is more in line with the Soundtrack of Our Lives. It’s this mixing of sweet and acidic that is the Pebbles’ strength, made all the more clear when they detour from it. The record’s only foible, “Red, Orange, Purple, and Blue,” is wrought with too much flower-power, its Eastern-tinged, oscillating guitar tones and flowery language making for a bad trip. The rest of the record, however, never goes off course from its well chosen path.
Stephen Slaybaugh

MP3: “Wild Season”

Gun Outfit
Dim Light

When it came time for Dylan Sharp to name his Olympia trio’s debut album, he gave it a more than appropriate title in Dim Light, knowing full and well his wasn’t music that is particularly illuminating. Nor is it completely obscured in darkness, more beaming through a pinhole or the unwashed window of a basement rec-room. Coming from the indie capital of the universe, Gun Outfit wouldn’t be out of place on a K Records compilation from the mid-90s, with a balance of rickety, minor-chord melody, half-sung femme-coos and Sharp’s mumbling drool. Especially on “The Valley,” the ghosts of Beat Happening become visible in the grey mist. The band’s communal delivery is drenched in that dusty pall but still shows preference for melancholy over depression, indifference over apathy, and a rambling, unkempt, guitar tone over any of their peers’ precious sensibilities.

That splotch of elbow grease lends the shambolic gruff of “Troubles Like Mine,” a link to Homestead-era Dinosaur Jr. and acknowledges the crafty twang of “In the Dark” as a distant cousin to the Meat Puppets early SST work. With songs titled “Cocaine Woman,” with its ragged implosive chorus, and “Work Experience,” full of riffs constantly trying to catch up, there’s a fine line between sincerity and casualness with Gun Outfit. This makes it easy to enjoy the mistakes and indiscernibly quirky lyrics without pretense or high expectations, placing the band—and this uneasily catchy debut—as an underdog for which it’s difficult not to root.
Kevin J. Elliott

Death Sentence: Panda!
Insects Awaken
Upset the Rhythm

Listening to Death Sentence: Panda’s first proper album (the trio has a couple of vinyl-only records under its collective belt), it’s apparent that it wouldn’t be a big stretch for the band to become fully consumed by the chaos it creates. That the San Francisco–based group lets everything it does run to the end of its tether without letting it snap is testament to the strength of their collective vision—however warped it may be. “Controlled chaos” is too easy of an description; what DSP does is more delicate, like a tsunami intricately wrapped in tissue.

From the opening leap of “New China Blazers,” it’s also clear that these Panda ears have dug on Sun Ra as well as pop and punk predecessors. Sax squelches work counterpoint to a booming world-like rhythm and Kim West’s post-tribal chants. “Island of Sexual Violence” works just the opposite way: a flute and xylophone melody is juxtaposed with bass-saturated rumblings in a contrasting melee of light and dark. “Exit Villager” is all freneticism, with some pop undertones, like the end result of a rumble between Bow Wow Wow and Free Kitten. But at the same time Insects Awaken exhibits a certain discontent with any standard form, like someone asked the band what they were rebelling against and they made the record as the sonic equivalent of “What do you got?”
Stephen Slaybaugh

Angus and Julia Stone
A Book Like This

If Damien Rice was too upsetting for you, try A Book Like This. I’m going to stretch the standard RIYL format to breaking: Imagine Sufjan Stevens pairing up with Joanna Newsom (Julia Stone really sounds like her), performing songs written by Andrew Bird and Norah Jones. But don’t get too awfully adventurous; better mix in some David Gray to tone it down.

Angus and Julia, the siblings Stone, are apparently kind of a big deal in Australia, where kids who look like freak-folks might actually be making acoustic adult contemporary. This, their debut album after a string of EPs, is smooth and inoffensive, walking that cutting edge between calming and boring. Passions rise occasionally, most peculiarly on “Hollywood,” where Julia mixes her folky styles with a glockenspiel borrowed from the Velvets’ “Sunday Morning” to tell a fairly harrowing short story from the perspective of a girl angry at false happy endings in the movies: “She never would have made it to shore, the little mermaid. He would have married a whore from a wealthy family, after all he was royalty.” The twist is that the song has a happy ending too, maybe.

Bizarrely, the order of the songs was changed for the U.S. release, and now the album is front-loaded with the most somnambulant tracks. “Here We Go Again,” the tune with the most variations in tone, instrumentation and tempo, is buried at the back of the record. Could that have been the marketing department’s decision? Bad call, this album needs all the variety it can get. Most frustrating about it though, is that their EPs are actually really entertaining. Is the album actually a compilation of leftovers, or is this the true face of the Stones?
Matt Slaybaugh

Aidan Moffat & the Best-Ofs
How to Get to Heaven from Scotland
Chemikal Underground

For years as one half of one of Scotland’s greatest contributions to the world, Arab Strap, Aidan Moffat spent his lyrics recalling varied adventures with sex, romance and drink (not necessarily in that order). It made for enthralling content, and not for the sometimes sordid details; Moffat tapped into an emotional vein that transcended who, what, where or when (or how).

But of course the good times couldn’t last forever. As first noted with the Strap’s Last Romance, our hero went and fell in love and apparently has settled into a relationship. Such a healthy love-life certainly had the potential to be the death knoll for Moffat’s musical career. (Moffat’s former partner, Malcolm Middleton, had just such a worry in his “Break My Heart,” where he surmised that if his girl didn’t dump him, he might as well sell his guitar.) Aidan seems to be alright, though, recording paeans to his love and the less personal under varied guises. Here with the Best-Ofs (a rotating cast that this time around includes former Delgado Alun Woodward), he manages to sound, if not happy, then content while detailing his fidelity on “Big Blonde” or questioning his appeal on the nursery jig of “That’s Just Love.” Musically the record leans a little too heavy on folk traditions and it’s hard not to miss Moffat’s drunken escapades, but it’s good to hear he hasn’t gone soft on us just yet.
Stephen Slaybaugh