Zeměžluč – “Systém Kanibal”

I don’t have much info on Zeměžluč, because most of what I can find online is in Czech, and frankly I’m too lazy today to look very hard. This Czech punk trio has been around since the late 1980s and have a fairly long discography as far as punk bands go, with at least nine full length albums and a bunch of singles and EPs to their credit. Systém Kanibal came out in 2003, just before what appears to be some type of hiatus as their next LP didn’t get released until 2011. This was another acquisition from the “going out of business” sale at Easy Street Records, still sitting there in the New Arrivals bin just waiting for me to come along. It was obviously punk, on red vinyl, hand numbered on the reverse (#60 / 500), and at 40% off of $6.99 seemed like a bargain at twice the price, so I scooped it up. Particularly sweet is the insert, which includes the lyrics to all the songs in both Czech and English – kind of a nice touch, since at least now I’ll have an idea of what the hell these guys are singing about.

So what’s the deal? Well, Zeměžluč certainly is punkish, though they almost sound more like speed metal to me. There are 19 tracks packed onto Systém Kanibal, and only two of them clock in at over three minutes… hell, two are under a minute (to be fair, though, they are two different versions of the same song… thankfully there’s a radio edit version here, since I’d hate to think I was listening to obscenities in a foreign language). All the songs are fast, though some are certainly faster than others – so half the songs sound metal, the other half punk. Which is cool.

My favorite track is, ironically, the only one with an English title – “Hippie Punx Blues,” that closes out side A with a wicked fast, funky bassline. Side B continues strong with the opening track “Hura Je To Tady,” which is more a standard fast punk song with more speed bass, and a sign of things to come on an overall impressive B side. Now that I’m keyed into the bass, I see it’s influence throughout the album – solid, fast, funky, and heavy, not just pacing the songs, but giving them some flavor as well. I like it. Vocally it’s pretty standard punk – moderately angry sounding with raw and somewhat suspect backing vocals, but I mean, who cares? It isn’t about sounding pretty or harmonizing. It’s about energy and angst and beer and attitude. And in those areas, it succeeds with flying colors.

Those Bastard Souls – “Twentieth Century Chemical”

I don’t even know where to start with this album, because it doesn’t really sound like anything I can conclusively compare it to. It’s rock, but doesn’t seem to fit in any clear-cut subgenres. Which, frankly, is sometimes a good thing. And I think it might be a very good thing for Those Bastard Souls.

This is one of the albums I bought at Easy Street Records’ going-out-of-business sale a few weeks back, and it was a total shot in the dark. I wasn’t sure if I’d be getting rock, techno, industrial, or maybe even jazz (though I felt confident in ruling out gospel, hip hop, and mariachi). The stuff I found online about Those Bastard Souls makes a point of identifying them as a side project of Dave Shouse from The Grifters, but that really doesn’t help me much since I’m not familiar with them. But that unfamiliarity let me go into my first listen with no real pre-conceived notions.

Twentieth Century Chemical consists of 12 tracks and was released in 1996. It’s my understanding that the songs were recorded in different studios in the US and Europe, so I suspect that the country abbreviations that appear after each song title tie that song back to its recording location (Switzerland, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, US, and UK). I have a hard time pinning down what Those Bastard Souls are about, but that also makes it impossible to ignore them and let their music fade into the background. If I was going to hazard to make a comparison to another contemporary band, the best I can do is Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Holly says she doesn’t hear it, because the vocals are such a distinctive part of BRMC’s sound… but I think it’s there. If you’d like to help us settle this debate, feel free to post a comment. Though if you disagree with me, I might not tell her and instead hope that she doesn’t revisit this post at a later date.

I’m going to need to give Twentieth Century Chemical a few more listens. It may turn out that I think it’s genius; or I may just never quite “get it” (which doesn’t mean that it’s not genius… just that I’m not advanced enough to understand). Probably the most distinctive track in my first time through was “The Train from Terminal Boredom,” and I kind of dug the instrumental that closes the album, “21st Century Chemical,” which sounds an awful lot like a serious movie score, with intermittent slow trumpet blasts that conjure up old Clint Eastwood westerns. If you’re tired of the standard, cookie-cutter rock fare, Twentieth Century Chemical might be worth a listen on a rainy afternoon.

DFX2 – “Emotion” EP

I found the DFX2 Emotion EP while flipping through the vinyl at, of all places, Half Price Books. It was a still-shrinkwrapped cutout, and for $2.99 it seemed worth taking a flyer on it. The band is described as being new wave, but with Rolling Stones influences. I was just hoping it was the cool Rolling Stones, and not the band that brought us Emotional Rescue.

Hailing from San Diego, DFX2 were highly touted as up-and-comers, but 1983s five-song Emotion EP was their second and last EP, and more or less marked the end of their recording career. The videos for “Emotion” and “Maureen” off of Emotion did get into the MTV rotation, but I have to admit that even though I was watching a lot of MTV at that point, these songs didn’t sound familiar when I listened to them today.

I’m not entirely sure I hear the Rolling Stones influence in the music itself, though Douglas Farage’s vocals certainly have that raspy Mick Jagger sound to them, particularly on “Maureen”, the closing track for side A, and both the songs on the flip side, “Down to the Bone” and “Something’s Always Happening.” Stylistically they actually show some diversity, crossing back and forth from straight forward rock ‘n’ roll to new wave to even a hint of southern rock. And of course there’s the ubiquitous 1980s rock saxophone. It’s odd how things like the sax leap into prominence for periods of time in rock, and then disappear again for a while. The same is true of the harmonica. Though thankfully the bagpipes never really caught on, AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If you Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” excluded (amazingly the bagpipe part in the other song that immediately came to mind, Big Country’s “In a Big Country,” was done on a guitar!).

But I digress. Emotion is a decent enough EP, though there’s nothing distinctive here, nothing that separates them from the pack. DFX2 sounds like a serviceable rock band that would be fine as an opener for a more established group, or one suited for playing in bars for a $5 cover. Good, workmanlike rock, but missing that spark to really capture your interest.

Rave Mix

Every January Holly and I host a party for all of our friends, and tonight is, I believe, our 15th Annual Post-Holiday Holiday Party. It’s hard to get together with your friends during the holidays – people are traveling, have family commitments, shopping like crazy, etc, so we figured we’d have our party a month or so after the holiday insanity came to an end, when every has had a chance to wind down and catch their breath. Sometimes our parties have a theme – night at the movies, the 80s, lounge style… you get the drift. And every year we also burn a soundtrack of some of the tunes we played and provide copies to our guests. They’ve become popular enough that every year at least a couple of people who couldn’t make it to the party ask us to send them one of the CDs.

This year we went with a rave theme. Now, neither of us were ever ravers. But we’re not going to let that stop us, and with that in mind we came up with a party CD that’s a bit electronic, a bit dance, a little industrial, and somewhat random. Our friends Tristen, Matt, and Ken provided some suggestions and even sent us some discs, which helped out a lot. So in case you’re interested, the songs that made the cut for this year’s CD are:

“Codename: Rondo” – Ghostland Observatory

“Don’t Push Me” – Ghostigital

“City” – Legend

“Levels” – Avicii

“Hustler” – Simian Mobile Disco

“Time to Get Away” – LCD Soundsystem

“Backpack Rehab” – Bassnectar

“Weirdo” – Iiris

“Jesus is My Personal Trainer” – Depeche Mode vs. Goldfrapp mashup

“Relax” – Keoki

“K2R” – Halleluwah

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put on my “Frankie Say Relax” shirt and find my glow sticks…


Future Villains & Christian Martucci

I probably first met Brent sometime in 1986. He was “that guy” during that period – the one white guy in your school who was way into rap and hip hop. Now, I went to a private school (<- pretentious alert!!!) in Bellevue, Washington… which if you know anything about that area will give you an idea of how racially (un)diverse my school was. But Brent had moved out west after living in Philly and Atlanta, which may has well have meant he lived on the moon as far as we were concerned. By 1987 we were part of an inseparable group of five friends who are still in touch today.

So what does this have to do with Future Villains and Christian Martucci? Well, Brent’s youngest brother Brandon, who was an infant when we were in high school, now fronts a pretty sweet rock ‘n’ roll band down in Los Angeles called Diamond Lane (more on them in a future post), and last night the boys from Diamond Lane invaded Seattle to play a club in Fremont called The Nectar. They brought a couple of bands with them for the trip, and that’s how we came to experience Future Villains and Chirstian Martucci.

We talked to lead singer Dusty Bo from Future Villains before the show, and he was a real down to earth guy. Future Villains are flat out good time hard rock ‘n’ roll. It’s AC/DC grooves with a front man who channels in a bit of Kid Rock when he’s doing really rocking songs. Their self-titled EP Future Villains has five tracks that are exactly what you need to get revved up on a Friday night when you’re pre-funking with your bros, drinking some beers and shots, and getting ready to hit the town. Clay Davies lays down some fancy, classic hard rock guitar licks, and I was really impressed with bassist David Ellis who flat out tore it up, playing that bass like it was a lead guitar. Robin Diaz completes the group behind the kit, pounding the skins hard. Their live show looked and sounded very polished and clean, and they stay pretty tight to their EP sound. This is partying-drinking-lying-tail chasing kind of music, and if I’d still had my long hair I probably would have done some head banging. If you like drinking tallboys, shots, and hard rock, this is for you. And if you don’t, well… that’s your problem.

So what about Christian Martucci? Well, he’s the guitarist/singer fronting a talented three-man combo with Carl Raether on bass and the very, very impressive Zak St. John on drums. Where Future Villains sounded very polished, Martucci’s gang was raw – and not in an unpracticed way, but in a real way that brought a high-energy, edgy, more punk sound to their set. Their four-song EP is tight as hell, clocking in at under 12 minutes with three originals and a Motorhead cover (“Shoot You in the Back”). No fancy solos, nothing gratuitous; it’s hard and dark, and it feels like it could go off the rails at any moment. And you’re compelled to watch and listen. On stage it’s obvious that Martucci is having a good time, and it comes through in his music.

So I went to the Diamond Lane show… and came away with two CDs and a couple of new bands to keep my eyes on. If you’re in the LA area and get a chance to see these guys live, I’d say get your ass off the couch, have a few beers, and check ’em out.