Each year maybe 100,000 albums are released. I didn’t look that shit up, but I think I’m pretty close… or I could be way, way off — doesn’t matter. This week three albums were released that I’ve been looking forward to: The Orwells – Terrible Human Beings; Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now; and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana. I have little doubt I will enjoy all three albums but I’m always a little wary of the first listen of any music that I’ve got preconceptions about. It’s so much easier to stumble across a song and within a few minutes I know that I like it, if it feels right then I know it’s good; but when I have bias for a band somehow I can’t trust my own reaction. So when the latest albums from both The Orwells and Pissed Jeans showed up in my mailbox the other day, I let them sit on the shelf for a while before dropping the needle. King Gizzard is still in transit across the Pacific. Of course all the albums are available to stream online but I like to build up to the experience, probably not helpful for my own distrust of my own opinion.
The Orwells Terrible Human Beings
I listened to “They Put a Body in the Bayou” by The Orwells when it was released late last year and liked it immediately. When I put the album on and heard that song first I immediately thought ‘it can only go downhill from here,’ but while no other song on Side A struck me quite the same the album is definitely not a let down. “Fly” and “Black Francis” are really good songs and the rest of the first side doesn’t disappoint. I don’t know if “Black Francis” is in any way referencing the Pixies frontman but it’s hard to deny that the midwestern group (Elmhurst, IL) are strongly influenced by a lot of the pioneers of post-punk, alternative mid-to-late-’80s college radio rock. Side B starts out real good with “Hippie Soldier” and the two following tracks feel like a combo conceptual duo: “Heavy Head” and “Body Reprise.” The rest of the side drags a little until the 7 minute finale “Double Feature.” The songs are energetic and there’s a lot to like about Terrible Human Beings.
Pissed Jeans Why Love Now
Pissed Jeans’ Why Love Now is great. It starts strong and heavy with “Waiting on My Horrible Warning,” but the next two songs are the highlight of the album. “The Bar is Low” sets the bar real high. It warms up with grinding vocals and guitar set to an overbearing bass line and pounding rhythm. Then “Ignorecam” feels uniquely Pissed Jeans-like. Inevitably I compare most music to the songs of my youth, the bands that I grew up with in the mid 80’s to early 90’s. The Melvins, The Jesus Lizard and Big Black attached themselves to my DNA and anything that resonates with that sound reaches something primordial within me. Pissed Jeans keeps that spirit alive with heaviness, grittiness and intensity all the way through emphasized by the cryptic lyrics and dissonant imagery within the songs. Three songs near the end of the album tell the story of what it means to be a “Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst,” question if you’ve ever been an ATM, and narrate what it means to be a container of “Activia” sitting in the fridge waiting to be eaten. There’s a surprise spoken word bit in the middle of the album that’s worth a couple smiles and a chuckle. These guys are writing songs about a world filled with stuff, and people, and people with stuff. All these people and all this stuff only makes sense with a soundtrack and Pissed Jeans has contributed a worthy addition to that soundtrack.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Flying Microtonal Banana
I haven’t received my copy of Aussie psych band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s Flying Microtonal Banana, but I succumbed to my curiosity the other day while driving home from my daughter’s birthday party at the local roller skating rink. I tried asking the DJ at the rink to play some King Gizzard but he just nodded vigorously and gave me the thumbs up. The promotional material for the album reads:
Flying Microtonal Banana is King Gizzard’s first-ever experience in microtonal tuning, which features intervals smaller than a semitone and not found in customary Western tuning octaves. “Earlier this year we started experimenting with a custom microtonal guitar our friend Zak made for (lead singer and guitar player) Stu Mackenzie,” drummer Eric Moore explained. “The guitar was modified to play in 24-TET tuning and could only be played with other microtonal instruments. We ended up giving everyone a budget of $200 to buy instruments and turn them microtonal.”
I’m not going to even pretend to know what that means (you can see the guitars in the video below), and having listened to just the first three songs on the album, I still couldn’t tell you what the hell he’s talking about. But the songs are groovy as fuck. There’s a vibrational aspect to the tones that blends well with the bells, chimes and organ harmonics present in the song “Melting.” Even at a very low volume “Open Water” seemed to vibrate anything not nailed, glued or duct-taped down. I’m really looking forward to listening to the rest of the album.
King Gizzard has promised 5 albums in 2017, and The Black Angels and Pond both have releases coming up soon so I guess we’re off to a good start.