Thursday, July 31, 2014

Phratry Records Reviews: Gazer and Shanks!

At first you will think you got a split LP when you look at Fake Bulbs/Phone Commercial by Cincinnati Ohio’s GAZER but its not. The record, marked as a 12”, is a 45-rpm record hence, the 12” thing but trust me, it plays good at 33 1/3rpm too/… Fake Bulbs/Phone Commercial is a collection of two separate EP’s. Fake Bulbs, an unreleased work and on side B you got Phone Commercial which I interpret as the bands older recorded material due to it being previously released by the band in digital format and its availability as short run of CD-Rs. Whereas both EPs are great Fake Bulb shines brightly and gets the needle a bit more. Like a combination of early Bob Bart Early-Sonic(Youth), Jesus Lizard, Footwork or No Babies and also bringing to mind the energy and spastic notions of Swear Jar which is interestingly enough, also on Phratry. Is Gazer the band-of-tomorrow? I hope so. In the press release, it mentions Gazer being connected to the local bands White Walls, Weakness and other and that is something that should be noted… Those bands have definitely made their mark just as Gazer is destined to make theirs. Imagine the surprise to me when, silly enough due to their name, I expected some easier listening introspective shoegaze jams! Ha! Good job Gazer. This record is a must-have.

Friday August 1st catch the 12" release show Gazer with The Frankl Project and Knife The Symphony at Mayday (21+FREE)

Big secret coming up… You know what I do the first time I get a record like SHANKS Surfing the Lexicon? I ignore all press releases and even packaging and go strait for the music. I don’t even look at what side the record is going on… Getting the music in my ears is priority number one. Release artwork and whatever else is secondary… to later be ingested while you listen. The thing is, I couldn’t ignore as much of Shanks as it seemed to jump out at me from regular Internet surfing. Apparently, this band has been around for years! Surfing is their eighth full-length! This record could be an alternate universe Wussy mixed with Queens of The Stone Age. Shanks songs are sensible, catchy and sing-a-long… Surfing The Lexicon is one of those albums that just play nicely and fits into your day without effort. Eight albums deep in their career now, I’m just still amazed how, after all of my music buying and listening, taking up whole sections of where I live, I’m still being turned onto great bands like this… Plus, they have a thing for tentacles! The album art is smashingly awesome and eerie at the same time. Despite how it seems, the ‘Thwart Submarine’ design was done without knowledge of this Surfing The Lexicon cover art! Now that’s syzygy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thwart Has War In It...!

In 2011, when choosing a name for this blog, I maybe put too much thinking into it. I had a short-list that was waddled down from a much larger list that soon became a choice between DEPARTMENT ONE-- Which was a subtle reference to flipping the bird-- or THWART...! -- A word that I fell in love with because everytime I ran it past someone in conversation I'd say "Hey, I'm thinking about starting a blog called 'Thwart' what do you think of the name?" then most people would respond "What'd you say? 'Fart'?" And that became the deciding factor between the two possibilities.

To say the least, the definition of what 'Thwart' meant, or one of the things it meant, was enough... 'Opposition'... As I looked deeper past the whole 'Fart' thing, the word Thwart itself was co distinct of other words that I felt I also wanted the blog to represent. Besides just punk-rock, I seen art, war and wart popping out at me too! I added the ellipses and punctuation mark at the end of the name as an encompassing surprise statement... A literary bang that gas grown to become an encompassing statement for the blog itself and evens substitute for the name.

One of the things many people don't know is my strange fascination with military history and strategy since a young youth playing with plastic army men and GI Joe action figures. Despite things that have become to be part of Thwart, I feel 'war' is the one subject that I really haven't covered. 

Let me clairify that war is a terrible thing. I didn't think that there was truly ample reason to involve US soldiers into Gulf War One or Two, in 1991 I was part of a small handful of students at Fairfield High School that opposed the war that manifested it's fervor in a school-wide walk-out to the front of the school for about 30 minutes of chanting "USA!" In repetative and rhythmic patterns and waving flags in support of a war that really didn't make sense on many levels but was easy on the TV eye.

When Gulf War 2 rolled around I opposed that. Speaking from a strategic stand-point, Saddam Hussein made no-sense. The US and it's Coallition of The Willing aimed to end Saddams reign (this tine for real) which it did... The weapons of mass destruction were 'never found' despite well-documented reports of their use on northern Iraqs Kurdish population. There was speculation that these weapons were relocated at the last minute to Syria but I think that with the US bearing down AGAIN on him, Saddam would have used every weapon he had chemical or otherwise to wreck terror on his aggressors including throwing every SCUD missile he had toward Israel to start a wider war.

Also, fighting another two-front war, the US invasion of Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and Osama Bin-Ladens Al-Quida I felt was a total farce. I began to feel that I was living an Orwellian existance with all the talk of networking cave-dwellers who was led by a fictional leader that would swiftly be captured and then buried at sea (allegedly). I can't honestly say Obama Bin Zladen was even a real person... The whole 'feel' of the post 9/11 world is more like the first chapters of a Tom Clancy book and/or a video game.

The destabilization of the Arab countries and the Spring Revolutions were a direct result of US meddling... Libya, Eqypt, Syria... Good job turning the region into a sectarian nightmare. The 'Keep them busy fighting each other and not us' mentality isn't going to last forever. Eventually, one way or another, one side will win the war... The US practice of dumping problems on the next generation has nearly came to its climax.

So now, the current and seemingly without a fastly satisfied flare-up of Gaza and Israel adds nothing positive to the mix. I've seen countless facebook friends choose a side to this conflict that really epitomizes the same principles of the previously mentioned Orwellian atmosphere I feel a part of. Things just feel off. Things are wrong. Some of the leftist allies I thought surrounded me aren't looking too much like allies anymore. They have beyond intolerant and accusatory attitudes about my views as I continue tolerance to theirs despite sounding more and more anti-semetic everyday. More times than I wish in recent days, Ive had to start messages and communications on social media off with 'Are you sure you really want me to answer that? I don't think you will like my answer' when asking why I support Israel.

Yet no one stops there. They ask, I tell, and it all boils down to a decision for some of them to censor themselves with the truths that they see. I can't say that I blame them. It's hard looking at people I admire publically and privately pic a side that's not mine but I do! I tolerate their views despite them not tolerating mine. Throwing statistics and catchphrases at me foes little to help. I'm finding myself seemingly on the un-popular side that I'm more comfortable with than originally thought. I'm use to opposing and etching out my own spot, my views and my own place... I do this by default now. Thwart has truly become my place that, at a moments light touch of a fingertip, can be (or not be) here or there to anyone

This... This has turned into something that I didn't expect out of nowhere. I originally wanted this to be a short, sweet and precise post of One mornings research reading about Nazi Germanys V-Weapons program against the only other country in history that's had to endure unguided suprise rocket bombardments. This original piece began with this paragraph that now serves as an ending:

Considering wide-spread criticisms concerning Israels stance on the defense of their land... What acts as advocates for Gazas Hamas would say is that In 1944-45, despite over 9,000 deaths*, over 23,000 casualties* and 20,000+ houses (per day at campaigns height) being destroyed*, the United Kingdom and it's Allies were not only wrong, but 'kind-of dicks' too for fighting back and invading captured territory against the National-Socialist Germans and the Axis powers during World War II. I find the juxtaposition of attitude toward the current situation in the middle-east unsettling. I stand in opposition to the repetative terror-attacks against Israel... Like it or delete it, it shouldn't hurt to read it. I stand with Israel.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Islands In The Piss-Stream

Drunk. Again.No big surprise... After-all, it was part of the bands pay. FREE BEER meant I was up to bat and I swung at every pitch. As with many bars, this bar too got ramped up as the night progressed... Louder (despite the bands playing), "friendlier" or debaucherous (You choose, at a gay bar on a Saturday nightnamed DETOUR in Lexington,Kentucky I guess so), smellier and finally dangerous. As it would turn out,allegedly, the gruff-voiced bar tender would come under scrutiny, eventually, for the poisoning and DEATH, of her immediate family. Yeah,free beer. Drink up. Sometimes you never realize how dangerous things or places are. That's what Johnny Cash meant when he sang about walking the line. That razor thin line between something good and healthy to something not, Even now, years later, the irony of the situation bites at me and I will admit, it makes me laugh because I never thought of myself as tough, or as a daredevil or a survivor, but by the most narrow definitions of the terms, my ego places me there... In the middle. Drunk. Again. Surviving
That's where this treatise should end. It sounds good that way, but I never really got to what I originally wanted to say and I'm not really sure about how to link that first part with this part even though I like to pretend I'm a raw word mercenary. For some reason, on this unseasonably cool July evening, just after a unsespected and unplanned but also invigorating nap, I woke up remembering this place, this night. I don't remember the exact reasoning Juice by Jerry and I were in the bathroom crossing piss-streams into a rental-grade commode but that hole in the wall, about waist-high to my right... I'm thinking now that the hole was nothing other than a good ol'fashioned glory-hole... It only took a decade coupled with a good nap whose length would push the borders and definitions of what a nap is verses the slumber of full-sleep, to realize such a beautiful mess that place and time was.

Read a Poem about this same night from READ THEN DESTROY

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Do What You Are Told (Listen to the Radio)

Saturday. Admittingly, not my favorite day of the week (Thursday) but it's ok. So-so... I get a tip (just the tip) that an independent sponsor-based community radio channel, 88.3 WAIF-FM (Cincinnati,Ohio) is having a guest host this week and next-week for Ken Katkins TRASH FLOW RADIO. 

Focusing on the more obscure hyphenated-genres that we all have cone to love and de-temper. The chances are you will hear more things you like than things you hate and who knows, maybe even a squeeky chair in the background too! This past week 'Listener Andy' (or Andy Slob to you older fans) takes the reigns and steps into the realm of radio for at least a couple weeks and holds true to the shows format and who knows? Maybe playing a bit more local Cincinnati stuff like the highly sought after Dream 286 7" in the process?

Activating the way-back machine, I first met Andy as bassist for the Slobs in 1990 during Mark Schaffers Sunday Night Live program in an older, noisier-era for WAIF... I been waiting for a moment like this to unleash that fun-fact... So, do Cincinnati a solid and tune-in to Trash Flow Radio to hear Andy "Thirsty" Slob play you music that you will mostly be into but as always,no guarantees... Just like "real" radio.

WAIF (listen to episodes)
Trash Flow Radio:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Don't Bite Your Strangetunge


No one deserves accolades more than perhaps Strangetunge. Bringing decades, real decades, of musical ability to the forefront, they have recently released their third full-length CD titled Tunge In Cheek following-up How About Some Strangetunge? (2011) and 2008s On The Edge that was originally released under the band name Talken Tungs. I asked Strangetungs front man, David M. Fischer to answer a few questions and thankfully, he obliged.

Tung In Cheek is for listeners that don’t mind turning on the local classic rock station every now and then/ Strangetung takes it to a newer level, especially with Tunge In Cheek… Imagine front men Van Morrison and Dave Thomas (Pere Ubu) with more of the ‘new’ pub rock styling of classic and contemporary rock backing them up. As maybe a lost Rocket to The Tombs release  is maybe the best jumping-off point that I can start with.

One of the greatest wonders I have since my introduction of Strangetunge into my music rotation is why isn’t these guys playing more local shows? As a musical community I feel as if this band could work nicely into almost any show of any greater scale. You can learn from bands like BPA, Mudlarks, Wolverton Bros. and Strangetunge. This band deserves your ears, respect and attention. Thanks

Questions by Shawn Abnoxious 
Answers by David M. Fischer

David inform the desperate readers of THWART who you and Strangetunge are.

We are rock band that plays original songs with a wide range or influences.

That sounds pretty 'company break-room safe'... Can Thwart get the unabridged answer? Line-up, band history... Ect

Oh sure, we pretty much play what we like, write what we like, do what we like.  We started back in the late 80's playing a few parties and gigs and recording on this small 4-track recorder.  The band included me, Chris Basham, Jack Bryd and this short, cool drummer named Little Jimmy.  We played together for three or four years and then went on and started living regular workaday lives.  We got back together about 12 yrs ago, ferociously recording music with the advent of DAWs.  We had the same members except Little Jimmy and added and subtracted over time Tony Mann on drums, Don Stephens and the late Robby Elkins.  Tim Crawford, also with Haymarket Riot plays drums now with Alan Thornbury on guitar. We have released three CDs since 2009, On the Edge, How 'bout Some Strangetunge? And Tunge In Cheek to international indifference which is exactly what we were going for.  We have a received some notice and do have a small but going fan base.  We just wrapped an EP that include the last bass parts recorded by Robby Elkins.  We wrote a song for him too which the EP is named after, "Rest Easy, Brother".  It's different than most of our work which is, of course, what we go for sometimes.  Also, I have a solo EP coming out in about a month, followed by a full CD a couple of months after.

How is it continuing after Robby's passing? How different does it feel?

It's really weird.  It kinda took the drive out of us.  We wanted to do this EP for him and we want to continue but it's hard to get your bearings after this kind of tragedy.  I think its like losing one of your limbs, you're depressed, you try to do things the way you used to but it's not the same.  You have to find a new way.  That's where we're at.

So this last effort was a sort of a 'clearing'?

I guess you can say that. We have some other songs we have worked on but there isn't really a clear direction at this time.

Being without 'direction' seems scary on different levels. Does it scare you?

There is always a little fear of the unknown.  I don't want to see things fall apart after all we have invested.  I don't think it will but it will be different. We just don't know how right now.

Getting scarier and scarier. Where, mostly, would you say Strangetunge plays?

The last show Strangetunge played was in January of this year at Southgate House.  It was our Winter Rock'n'Roll Party.  Mike Grimm, the drummer from The Tempers filled in on bass.  We haven't discussed playing another show.  There will probably be one in early fall.  I will be playing a couple of times before then in some pick up bands.

Wow. It sounds like Strangetunge is coming to an end? Is it?

A couple of the fellas don't want to play out much anymore and the other three are itching to play.  You may see some variation of Strangetunge out there with some of the members.  Bride of Strangetunge or something like that.  Will it end?  Who knows what tomorrow brings.

What do you think of the current Cincinnati scene?

Well, I think there are a lot of exciting things going on.  Lots of great bands and some of the nicest people you could know.  Then, there are a few; I said a few, that are just indifferent to fellow musicians.  They are on their own trip but you have that everywhere.  I am wary of festivals that are built on the backs of musicians with their submission monies only to be slowly eased out of festivals so that bigger national acts can come to town.  Wouldn't it be nice if a big music festival could start somewhere and always and forever be 100% local music.  As for local music I have found that 80% of the music I buy are local bands.  I love a lot of them.  There are hundreds of absolutely fascinating and talented local musicians.  It is a world unto itself.

Has Strangetunge stark belief in highlighting original music helped or hurt you in the long run? I'm sure Strangetunge could do well playing covers at some bar right?

Well, there a lot of local bands that play original with only a couple of covers here and there.  Yes, if we were a covers only band we would probably make more money playing parties and shit but we were never about that.  Since, the time we started it was about our songs.  The band was the vehicle for our songs to be heard.  I think we would be more successful if we had continued as a band through the 1990s but rather than starting families and working for larger companies sucking at the corporate breast.  Our demographic is older and just doesn't go out to see shows like they used to.  We have had some younger people come out and see us and they usually like us and dance some.  One time we did a cover of Georgia Satellites "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" and this young couple thought it was a great original song of ours.

I'm part of that old contingent you mentioned... So what's your version of success? This is one of my favorite questions to ask.
In a musical sense it's to play our music, have people come to the shows and have people come up after a show or even later and say I love that song.  That's happened with songs Crazy Mavis On Speed, Hot Like Alice and Boogie Queen (Disco Fail) and maybe a couple others.  That it is always a kick and makes you feel successful as a band or artist.

What do you want people to know about your newest release?

That it is probably the most personal Strangetunge release to date.  It deals with the loss of a friend and bandmate and gives three songs that he had recently performed on, one of those he created the initial music for and he is playing the instrument he loved the most.  It's ironic that the song was entitled "Walking Dead" but life is full of ironies, isn't it?

Yes, it is... Life, essentially, is one hard fucker after another. We think we win, but really, we lose. It's not how well you surf the waves when they're high, but how you handle it when it's low, when shit is bad and tugging on every thread of your existence. Any last words for those who read this?

Yeah, Support Local Music.

Strangetunge RIYL: Classic Rock, Mudlarks, Buffalo Killers
Tunge In Cheek MFJD: “All The Happy People”

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

OLD CITY: Story with Sound

In anticipation of a new bonafide long-player, OLD CITY (OC) sent a slew of releases that above all, tells a story. A success story.
Lets do things in order shall we? Firstly there's Three EP’s Alas, A Lass, Hot Horse and Freezerburn which collect shorter efforts of Old City with much beard-nodding to those earlier times, just as the one-guy project was becoming more than than just the one-man solo himself, Sammy Mckee. Dave Cupp was working more and more into the frey making OC a duo and soon enough, a three-piece including a sorts of on/off rotating bass player that has included Robyn Roth (Knife The Sympony) and Gabriel Molnar (Sometimes) proving that if you close your eyes and wander around, there's a good chance you would stumble across a band before you would step in a urban sidewalk pile of dog shit.

Three Ep's is a repertoire disc that tells the tale of Old City from a duo side-project and chronicles their rise and inevitable evolution to becoming full-functioning three-piece unit, telling their story with sound... Three EP’s contains twelve tracks (plus a rocking bonus hidden track) including my personal favorite OC tracks, “Romantic Comedy Trandsends Genre” and “Simple Solution” (two versions) plus an expertly done Velvet Underground cover of “Ill Be Your Mirror” that not only is good, but maybe preferable to the original Nico was on*
Three EP’s sets up the scene nicely and tells the first part of their story with sound. Their transistion from what was, to what is. Lo' there is yet another step in the transformation… Walk with me…
Part two of what is Old Citys journey is a verily special release… A live CD featuring their set recorded live by a OC reserve/bassist Gabriel Molnar at MOTR PUB (or just plain MOTR to you insiders.) MOTR is one of Cincinnatis most priemeir venues to pop up due to Cincinnatis thriving underground music community. On this December evening (19th) in 2013, OC play nine energetic tracks that compare nicely to their other performances that I've seen. This live CD is a great ‘for fans’ release… Old City only benefit from the stale beer and questionably violent atmosphere** that exist in greater and lesser amounts of The Queen Shitty from time to time. There's no doubt, OC played a great show and captured it that evening. The performance was packed full of energy, atmosphere and bite. Many of the songs from the set  aren’t included on Three EPs which shows not only a grand progression of their sound, but development too.
I've personally recognized a (somewhat disturbing) trend for the underground music scene I first noticed in 2001... In Spring (May) and Fall (August) there's band that mysteriously stop and start. This phenomenon, I declare, is centered around University of Cincinnatis school schedule… So with this OC activity hitting in the middle 'nether-zone' and getting things together for an LP, I'm  nervous.... The amount of [my] bands that understand the 'harmless' amounts of show-fuckery I can share, is growing smaller. I don’t wanna scratch more off my list.

Old City's vinyl offering reminds me (again) of post-hardcore era Dischord stuff like Soulside or Jawbox. You would expect to see local label Phratry Records behind this one but that just isn't so. This album was self-released by the band....

Exhibiting great amounts of the big Dinosaur Jr. sound imbedded, there's also bit of a shoe-gaze element to this release but at the same time, OC dispense that with a harder offering. On one track, reserve bassist Robyn Roth welcomly steps up to the mic bringing forth a latter era of a Sonic Youth feeling . The album, as a whole, plays extremely well and, in fact, is so expertly produced that it may serve a new template for future bands coming and going. 

Sammy (Guitar/Vox) reflects about this release as compared to their others saying "It is definitely the best recordings we have done to date... Hopefully we can continue improving with each release." Dave Cupp (Drums) delivers maybe one of the most encouraging thing anyone could say about a band they are personally part of "It is definitely the best recordings we have done to date though. Hopefully, we can continue improving with each release."

My uneasiness and worry has slacked a bit...

Old City step things up on this new LP and plow forward destroying space on an exra dimensional axis, the twist and turns of this album are greatly wonderous… The cryptic lyrics, by themselves, could serve as ample enertainment in a book-like form.Yes, it's that good. That witnessed bite from the live CD is evident in this recording and I cant stop thinking that if Roger Waters was a kid from the suburbs and had just maybe a couple more fiends, he would have formed a band like Old City… 

Assurances from the band include a sale price of their LP to float around $15 
RIYL: Dinosaur and Thunder, Dinosaur Jr., Phratry Records,

* I'm not a fan of the Nico.
** MOTR was once a white-hat dank spot called CHAMPS (or sonething as stupid) where Jenny Fever of The Hypochondriacs punched a rather drunk patron in the face as asked by a deranged college graduate that was looking for a fight.
***Im reading E-versions of comic books again so Im drunk on speculation.