Singles September ‘08
by Kevin J. Elliott

This Friday round-up is essential, so much to choose from (just in September alone), it was hard to pick only four. I’m always eager to see caUSE co-MOTION do next, because it seems they’ve been kicking up the clang-filled, disjointed rec-pop long before the C86 tape was en vogue again. What they do is rickety and reverb-drenched—I’ve always thought an album of their optimistic shambles might wear a bit on the treble sensors. With only a handful of 7-inches in three years, they’ve been more surprising than stasis. That bodes well for their first long-player, a collection of these various releases on Slumberland (feeding on re-birth). But first the final third, led with “I Lie Awake,” contains no less teenage spit than early tracks like “Baby Don’t Do It,” but they’ve evolved into a taut, subway-sonic version of Josef K with more weed, and coffee instead of speed. B-side “Cry for Attention” is a skeleton adorned in streamers and plinko notes, indelibly twee and gazey minus the fashion and puffs of smoke.

Wounded Lion, however, deal in smoke and bubblegum, handclaps and glam-sweat swagger. The sweet-tooth of “Carol Cloud” is almost unbefitting of S-S, but they’re known to have a few goofy birds up their sleeve, and this has both the grime of a back alley and the bright chrome of the malt shop. Extremely likable goofballs indeed, the same way I used to love the Lynnfield Pioneers. The organ and expedience of the flip “Pony People” may suck the fumes of a Nuggets/Mysterians tailwind, but it’s equally balanced on a modern unconscious sway and perfectly conscious pop groove.

Moving towards that same shiny spectrum is Portland-by-way-of-Michigan’s Little Claw on “Race to the Bottom,” the second 7-inch this year from the Siltcult. Finally seeing them live provides a light into what they do on record: a white-light type of shamanism. Live, they deal in heavy fuzz, repetition, brooding-percussion; here they’re not as laborious, striking with mainline venom, primitive clatter and three-chord chant, all the knives and pans in the kitchen employed to summon the Quinne tapes as blasted through tinker-toy speakers. It’s near-pop immediacy kind of falls in line with the guy, Jared Philips of TNV, who recorded it. Maybe that’s a hope, a one-off, ‘cause the flipside “Feeding You” is like looking at the negative of what was just played, dropped down the well, while the riffs start clinging to the wet shale and fingernails start shredding. I’m intrigued in this band in both capacities, both settings.

And the best 7-inches, like the spook ‘n’ revolve of Little Claw, constantly stir the imagination wildly. That may be why Zola Jesus keeps me guessing. I can’t tell if she’s the crimson counter to Blank Dogs’ shrouded zoomer-synth-wave or something entirely grotesque unto herself. In the mirror, I can’t help but see the ghosts of a tortured Tori Amos with black vomit all over her piano keys. “Souer Sewer” sounds like a coven damning those fairy-tale melodies into a warp of noise, blunt beat and haunted garbage heaps. Angels vs. Demons perhaps? “Odessa” is even creepier, as she sings “Don’t wake the baby,” over and over while an apocalyptic Suicide throb screeches from behind. Like the U.S. Girls’ chilly claustrophobics only matched with a motley array of smarmy psychedelics. It’s something so distinct, it’s hard to love or hate. A full-length (also coming on Sacred Bones) will surely clear that up.