Singles Club Catch-Up
by Kevin J. Elliott

It’s not an act of laziness or forgetfulness or lack of organization that has delayed our continued coverage of both the Columbus Discount and Sub Pop singles club chronicles, it’s just been hard to coordinate an apt time to talk about them. No blame should be placed on CDR, as they’ve been as punctual as you should expect a label to be with each monthly addition, but Sub Pop has no sense of time, no schedule to count on. So here we are.

If you’re a fan of the scuzz and skewered Midwestern crud-punk of Columbus Discount, then there’s been little complaint with each installment, especially these last two. We’ll start with March and the Guinea Worms’ addition, “I Know Where Will Foster Lives” b/w “C.H.U.D. The A-side is the clear winner here, not in that Will Foster has succumbed to his ego. It’s not about ego with this guy. It’s more how he’s now past embracing his role as Central Ohio’s definitive Mark E. Smith figure. The song (as is the whole of the Worms catalog) is based in that Fall theory of repetition, with a garish horn skronk accenting the rubber razor-blade guitars. I’ve been listening to Extricate quite a bit recently, and if I had to place Foster at this moment, he’s probably been doing the same. Foster, like M.E.S., is rambling in similar anti-ego quotidian screed, only it’s the dialect of High Street. I’m sure lines like, “I know how small his penis is,” sounds as incoherent to British listeners as Smith’s lines translate for us. “C.H.U.D.” is even more self-deprecating, a downer cave-punk stomp with phallic intent. Like the A-side, “C.H.U.D.” is repeated till it’s deconstructed to base elements, even spelling the title out right before losing the marbles. And in the same fashion as the A-side ends in a relentless psycho-blare, the B-side quickly coagulates in uncomfortable angles to finish off this aural hand-job.

Mike Rep, on the other hand, gives us a gift a tad older and slightly more traditional. Opposed to the Guinea Worms, Rep has had plenty of years to boil his mythos into questionable yarns/factoids over the years, and “Donovan’s Brain” is no exception. Part radio drama and part road-tested psych jangle, the songs tells the tale of Rep being flown in to resurrect the career of aging flower-child Donovan before being butchered by Rick Rubin (see Sutras). Legend has it that these tapes exist and the end results were too out to ever be released (CDR should hire a lawyer now). Sure the wiring’s loose, but it’s cut the juice on the filter, allowing translucent fuzz to seep between channels. Though this was recorded in 1997, there’s a timelessness to it that, in a perfect world, would even predate the early Nuggets groups. Lovingly molested by Tommy Jay, this collaboration somewhat cements Rep as a national treasure (or at least an everlasting hero of greater Appalachia) and in my old age/no age, I certainly prefer Rep’s Frankenstein version of Donovan to the original artifact. As a bonus, the single ends with Rep’s “Ballad of Jim Croce,” a simple folk jib that parodies “Leroy Brown” and rhymes the dead singer’s last name with “dead as a roach.” It’s the harmless, chuckles like this one that links Rep to another national treasure of Southern Ohio, WLW’s Gary Burbank. In many ways, Rep’s done for independent music what that guy’s done for A.M. radio.

As stated previously, Sub Pop haven’t been the most prompt label running a singles club this year—one month it arrives in the first few days of the month, the next it arrives days before the month is over. Luckily they made up for it by finally giving us the one we all paid for in the first place, namely Tyvek. We’ve shown nothing but love for this Detroit quintet in the pages of The Agit Reader, and even though this tiny extension of their work is over before you can blink, we aren’t about to stop the orgy of praise anytime soon. New Tyvek songs have been few and far between the past 12 months, so it’s a joy to hear “Duck Blinds” blast through with the full-band fervor of the live show. The format is still one of nervous energy in the brambles, at-the-hop melody in the DNA, and geek-love cracks in the vocals. But the action that’s been found in employing that extra guitar gives “Duck Blinds” girth that trumps grit and brittle bones. With Damon on board, I’m getting scared to hear just how fleshed-out that Siltbreeze album will be. “Pamphlets” is a true B-side, likely cut from the new LP. That said, it’s nice to see this band search for the opposite end of the pop-punk tunnel. I would liken it to Flipper, as it’s a blistering pile of dogged riffs going for ugly, the only difference being Tyvek know when enough is enough and end this one before it’s too late.

Perhaps it’s our current climate in Ohio (cold and rainy) that attracts me more to the previously mentioned singles and definitely not April’s Arthur and Yu installment. The Seattle duo aren’t doing much new here, and with a title like “Don’t Piss Into the Fire” there’s little reason to think they care about breaking any ground, just content hiking worn trails. This campfire folk would be sufficient for mid-Summer peace pipes deep within nature. You can almost see the stars expand above you. It’s light-hearted fare that sticks close to the Hazlewood/Sinatra or Jim James sophisticate country hush, complete with limp-wrist tambourine. I’ll definitely try to spin this again when the junebugs fly, but for now I’m underwhelmed.