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Alt Rock

UV-TV bring sunshine and static on new album

UV-TV's Always Something opens with “Overcast Forever” which itself opens with two intertwined chiming guitars played in exuberantly Johnny Marr-ish fashion but with a jangly jagged dissonance between them and a quick single-note bass suspension adding more tension right before bassist-guitarist-vocalist Rose Vastola recalls calling up an unidentified “you” on a sunny day and being confronted with shadows and darkness as a result. This unnamed someone “went away so long ago” but maintains a presence that still lingers apparently which may account for the song’s title with its lingering stormcloud that never breaks but never passes over either leading to a state of perpetual grey skies or at least that's my purely speculative reading.

What isn’t speculative is UV-TV’s mastery of taking hints of darkness and discord (with lyrical themes ranging from "the art of doing nothing" to "the inevitability of inconvenience and false hopes") and enveloping them in a sweet candy coating much like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup but made with bittersweet chocolate and extra crunchy JIF peanut butter straight from Iggy Pop’s personal stash (watch out for shards of glass) but with music that’s less Stooges-like and more along the lines The Muffs meets My Bloody Valentine in a dark alley and gets jumped by Joy Formidable—nervy guitar-based pop-rock balancing big pop hooks and big bright production with a simmering post-punk tension propelling the whole thing forward.

It’s a musical blueprint that never really goes out of style especially when it's done well and UV-TV ups the ante by adding dashes of dreampop and shoegaze and modern indie vibes. Like on “Distant Lullaby” which opens with Ian Bernacett’s guitar pedals set to stun with a two-chord swirl of cacophony but ultimately culminating in a stupidly catchy ba-ba-ba-bum-ba-ba-bum-ba-ba-bum singalong refrain which is like going from Sonic Youth to a Saturday Morning Cartoon theme song in one fell swoop, and I didn’t even mention the cowbell heard faintly in the song's bridge as if the band were just daring you to quote that one over-quoted Christopher Walken line.

Or like on “Plume” which starts off with a stark “Be My Baby” beat—or a Jesus and Mary Chain “Just Like Honey” beat if you prefer—like a plume of smoke rising off in the distance, before locking in with bass and strummed guitar and gradually building over several minutes to a swirling wall-of-sound miasma complete with machine gun snare drum fills by Ian Rose (who borrows a name from both his bandmates) before cresting and briefly resorting to its stripped down rhythmic pulse. The ending of “Plume” then leads right into the title track which could just about be mistaken for a Brian Jonestown Massacre number at first what with the tremolo guitar and groovy maraca and driving motorik pulse. But hey I don’t wanna give it all away so just go listen to the nine songs on Always Something if so inclined and savor all the flavors on your own. (Jason Lee)

Alt Rock

Band name: 
The Backfires
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
Venue name: 
18th Ward Brewery
Band email: 

Mannequin Pussy seek perfection on new Perfect EP

Much like Jamie Lee Curtis ‘s fitness instructor and John Travolta’s investigative journalist in the movie Perfect from 1985, pm the EP recently released by Mannequin Pussy also called Perfect (Epitaph Records) the Philly-based band likewise walk a fine line between outrageous provocation and romantic distress and Lycra-sheathed sensuality and moral confrontation and it'll likely hit you just as hard as Ms. Curtis's pelvic thrust routine hits in the movie whatever your thoughts on Travolta’s form-fitting shorts and his overall spotty ‘80s filmography (excepting Blow Out, the Philadelphia-set Brian De Palma classic) culminating with those talking baby movies and don’t even get me started on Battlefield Earth because that's its own ball of wax.

Fortunately, in stark contrast to the big-budget bloat of Mr. Travolta’s L. Ron Hubbard Scientology-flogging space-opera dud, Mannequin Pussy’s Perfect is a far tighter affair. Which is also great news for anyone too lazy to digest their three existing full-length records since the EP successfully distills their most outstanding qualities down to an economical 13 minutes (almost 14 minutes!) with a running order that follows the age old pentatartite structure of extended play records:

Track 1) Melodic power-pop/alt-rock banger alternating between lighter waving and head banging parts; track 2) ferocious punk rock rave-up with verbal dressing down of the enables of oppressive social forces; track 3) melodic power-pop/alt-rock banger alternating between lighter waving and head banging parts; track 4) ferocious punk rock rave-up with verbal dressing down of the enablers of oppressive social forces; and track 5) the unexpectedly wistful, ethereal ballad closing number expressing undying devotion so believably and sweetly that even Karen O may be a little jealous

To give one example of impactful brevity you can check out the title track above where the band maintain a face-melting musical escape velocity for a full two minutes as do the Real Punk Rock Housewives of Philadelphia who star in the accompanying music video. Brevity doesn't equal boredom obviously.

And speaking of which if your band is called Mannequin Pussy you better not be boring or ever lose your sense of humor or provocation and the band hasn’t done any of these things by a long shot. It's just that they've taken the prude-provoking attitude of early songs like "Clit Eastwood" and "Pissdrinker" and "Meat Slave 2" and filtered it through a hard won sense of maturity and cumulative life experience so that that now a line like “spit on my tits / tell me I’m perfect” registers with a newfound impact placed in the larger context of the insecurity and masochism encouraged by societal beauty standards and social media and high school class reunions. (Jason Lee)

Hello Mary "Take Something"

For the Tripartite Challenge on this one (this one being Hello Mary's new single "Take Something") I’m gonna go with shoegaze/dreampop pioneers Lush crossed with a pre-“These Dreams” Heart in psych-folk mode crossed with the fuzzed out garage rock of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. But whatever the mix it’s a heady one that’s why the kids like to call this “head music” it’s a known fact.

Writhing Squares have a Chart For The Solution

Imagine if Electric Mayhem sax man Floyd Pepper and bandmate/electric bassist Zoot took a break from Jim Henson's house band and got a hold of some vintage drum machines and synths and an array of effects pedals and then fed their heads full of James Chance and the Contortions, Steve and Andy Mackay (no relation), the Sun Ra Arkestra, Kraftwerk, Lemmy-era Hawkwind, and The Comet Is Coming when it comes to their contemporaries, and then moved to South Philly to add more layers of grit and vigor to their sound and you’d probably end up with something like Writhing Squares and something like their third and latest LP Chart For The Solution.

In reality, Writhing Squares is comprised of Kevin Nickles and Daniel Provenzano who in addition to their respective sax and bass duties both play synths and contribute vocals, with Daniel pulling extra duty on percussion and programming, and Kevin filling in some flute and oboe parts. Chart For The Solution came out a couple months ago and it's been in my rotation ever since so I can vouch for the album's durability and its high quotient of electric mayhem.

The first track is called “Rogue Moon” and it picks up in a way from where the last track of their previous album left off, namely “A Whole New Jupiter” which took up the last 19 minutes of 2019’s Out of the Ether--a heavy psych rewrite of A Love Supreme transformed into triple time and with rhapsodic skronk saxophone played over overdriven bass it all comes off something like a No Wave Coltrane. 

Likewise, “Rogue Moon” rides a loping riff into the psychedelic sunset except here the foundation is a burbling analog synth arpeggiation with NEU!ish interlocking rhythms that shift the downbeat around in your head and then right in the middle the song turns itself inside out and stays that way for the rest of its eleven-minute duration--a dreamy coda that's like the soft underbelly to the first half's gleaming steel exterior.

Aside from any overlaps, Chart For The Solution stakes out new terrain for the Squares with a newly cinematic production on some of the tracks and ever more adventurous playing and arrangements. But it never veers too far from their lo-fi ethos roots either--whether in the swirling sonic vortex of “Geisterwaltz” or the post-punky surf rock party of “Ganymede” or the back masked ambient interlude of “A Chorus of Electrons” or the Stooge-worthy rave-up of “NFU.” It all culminates in the 18-minute headtrip “The Pillars” which begins by sounding like a UFO landing and then turns into a bleep-bloopy coldwave number with Alan Vega verbal outbursts before taking a turn in the final part with the duo seemingly inhabited by the ghost of Lou Reed trying to get out of another record contract.

In the end it all speaks to the band's enigmatic name, a name suggesting the cohabitation of opposite forces, such as rigid geometric “squares” that can somehow kinesthetically “writhe” because on one side you’re got regimentation and repetition and on the other side looseness and grooviness.  It's a dynamic heard in the Writhing Squares' conjoining of trance-like repetition and wild sonic freeness, punk and prog in equal measure, maxed-out minimalistic music for the select masses. (Jason Lee)


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