Bonus Summer Singles Round-Up
by Ron Wadlinger

Perhaps predictably, 2011 has been a busy year for rock’s underbelly, with smaller labels across the U.S. continuing to put out new vinyl at a steady clip that keeps the pressing plants backed up. Wall Street be damned, indeed. And so it is that, even though we’ve just unleashed the August Singles Round-Up, there still remain records dying to be heard. Here’s four more noteworthy recent releases that we couldn’t let slip through the cracks.

Dow Jones and the Industrials, Dow Jones and the Industrials EP (Family Vineyard)
The first of the bunch is a reissue. Dow Jones and the Industrials were an early Midwestern punk band that sprang from West Lafayette, Indiana in the late ’70s. Recorded and originally released in 1981, the quartet’s rare three-song EP has become something of a collector’s treasure over the years. It’s good to see a 30th anniversary repress that will allow the band’s new wave–influenced take on punk to be enjoyed by the common man.

The record opens and closes with a vibe reminiscent of early Devo on “Let’s Go Steady” and “Indeterminism,” which makes sense when you realize that these guys were essentially contemporaries of Devo sprung from a similar late-70s Midwest punk wasteland. Dow Jones and the Industrials rely less upon the keyboard on these songs, choosing instead to highlight dark, disjointed guitar riffs. In between is “Can’t Stand the Midwest,” the kind of classic anthem that seemed to only come from this wave of punk bands: a snotty, fuzzy and too-brief lampoon of a babe who, while stuck in the flyover states, thinks she ought to be on one of the coasts. Essentially, it’s a song with balls and a good hook. This record hits hard, and it’s a must-have for fans of this era of punk.

The Rebel and The Bomber Jackets, Split (Kill Shaman)
Oakland’s Kill Shaman label has been on a pretty good (and long) run, most recently releasing the latest killer LPs from France’s Cheveu and The Feeling of Love. The label’s got a history of releasing quality 7-inh records as well, though, and this split continues that tradition. Here we have what amounts to two side projects, both of which sound like electronic home endeavors. The Rebel is the brainchild of Country Teasers’ main man Ben Wallers, while the Bomber Jackets feature members of the Pheromoans, Wetdog and the Human Race.

The Rebel dishes up two songs purported to be based on a dance called the “Boston Toto Rush.” “SLC BTR” is an instrumental number featuring layered synths. There’s a good amount of depth to the track as it passes through light, snappy phases and brooding, bottom-heavy breakdowns. “BTR Photo” sticks to a bouncing, almost droney groove and adds some spoken word vocals on top. The Bomber Jackets counter with two songs of their own on the flip. “Strange Sensation” sounds like a sort of tranquilized lo-fi trance Syd Barrett outtake. “Routemaster” ends the record on a brighter note, with shimmering synths and lyrics that offer a stark, but perhaps hopeful, take on the information age. This split 7-inch is limited to 100 copies, but don’t let the small pressing size fool you into thinking that this is sub-standard stuff.

Two Tears, “Eat People” (Kind Turkey)
Kind Turkey Records is a relatively new Wisconsin-based label that’s been focusing on putting out cassettes and singles. The first in a pair of recent 7-inch releases from the label comes from Two Tears, a band headed by Kerry Davis (formerly of the Red Aunts and the Screws). “Eat People” is a steady rocker based around a decent guitar riff. The second song on the A-side, “Heisse Hexe” (it translates to “hot witch”), is stronger, adding in a tough vocal melody that suits Davis’ voice well and a rumbling coda that gives a nice dynamic to the track. B-side “Senso Unico” (don’t ask me what it translates to) slows things down for a kind of barebones diatribe. There’s a lot of garage rock bands toiling away and putting out records like these nowadays, and while this one maybe doesn’t do a lot to distinguish Two Tears from the pack, there’s enough on here to warrant a listen or two.

Trent Fox & the Tenants, Mess Around EP (Kind Turkey)
Our second Kind Turkey entry comes from Trent Fox & The Tenants. This five-song EP—the Milwaukee band’s debut—comes in a tattered sleeve reminiscent of an old west outlaw poster, but the songs on here recall the rock of the ’50s and ’60s. “Mess Around” is a great take on the Kinks, a sizzling and dynamic rocker with a killer chorus that propels the song over the top. “Outta My Mind” reaches back a little further for a bubblegum feel, complete with sugary hooks amidst fuzzy production values. Initially, “Joke” sounds like more of the same, but the band throws in some Stones riffage to keep things fresh. On the B-side, “Old Lady” and “Sounds Fine To Me” are two solid garage-pop songs. If you’re looking for a straighter take on Nobunny’s brand of rock, this might be your ticket.