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Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock

Ten Years On: The Drums’ Prodigal Son, Portamento

Portamento’s album cover. Courtesy of Pitchfork

Saying that something is life changing is dramatic. However, in the case of indie-rock band The Drums, I can make this statement with absolute certainty. They shaped my music taste, influenced my songwriting, and provided the soundtrack to some of my best memories. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2010, is one of the best albums of that decade, in my humble opinion. The production, the songwriting, and all the subtle flourishes and embellishments present within those twelve songs is unbelievable, especially for a debut album. There are few other releases like it.

In 2011, the band released their second album, titled Portamento. In an Instagram post celebrating the album’s tenth anniversary, band leader Jonny Pierce mentioned how the album was considered to be a flop, a victim of the “sophomore slump.” He is not wrong in saying that. Compared to the debut album, the reviews for Portamento were noticeably lukewarm. According to Metacritic, the average score for the album was a 64. YouTube music critic TheNeedleDrop gave the album a 5/10 after praising the debut album. Fans were confused by the album, and I will not hesitate to say that I was as well. After spending so many listens absorbing the shimmering guitars, beachy harmonies, and lovesick lyrics of the first album, I did not know what to make of Portamento, and as a result, I shoved it aside.

Portamento differs from the debut album almost immediately with the song “Book of Revelation.” The production is less shiny, and the tone of the song is more sullen than even the darkest moments of the debut. Jonny is also singing in a much higher register than he did before. On the debut, his singing was safe and fit the music like a glove, whereas on this album, he is pushing the envelope. Considering how flamboyant Jonny’s live presence is, this change makes sense. It also shows that he is not afraid to take risks to get his point across. 

As the album continues, it throws more curveballs at the listener. “What You Were” and “Money” feature a much higher emphasis on synthesizers than on previous releases, with various keyboard stabs poking through the thin fabric of guitars. The latter also features some interesting vocalizations that will surprise many fans of the debut album. The dive into synths hits its peak on the song “Searching For Heaven,” which is all synthesizer and saves for some haunting vocals. 

However, ten years on, it is safe to say that Portamento has aged remarkably well, turning many of its skeptics into supporters, including me. I love many of the songs on this album. The emotion is more potent, more urgent than on the debut album. While that album dealt with love in a way that was melancholy but also tinged with sunshine. It was broken hearted but still had its composure. Portamento, meanwhile, does not hold back any punches, with its lyrics lacking the poetics of the first album but packing more of a punch, such as on the song “If He Likes It Let Him Do It.” The songs feel brutally honest, and the listener can feel whatever Jonny is feeling without any doubts. 

The music is also far more dour, but not to the detriment of the listening experience. The aforementioned “Money” was the first single off the album, and it is one of the catchiest songs The Drums have ever released. Despite its breakneck pace, each instrument is tight to the groove. The lyrics are a bit more tongue in cheek, with the chorus “I want to buy you something / But I don’t have any money” being wryly humorous and relatable.

At the end of the day, I will always adore the debut album, and it is to this day my favorite Drums release. However, I owe Portamento an apology. It is a stripped down, emotionally turbulent album, and an experience completely separate from the debut album. Once you separate Portamento from The Drums, it shines in its own light, where it belongs.

The Drums Circa 2011. From left: Connor Hanwick, Jacob Graham, Jonny Pierce

Categories
Jazz/Blues Punk/Rock

Looking Back: More News From Nowhere – Nick Cave’s Homeric Ballad to his Many Muses

Nick Cave is a literary magpie, and even in appearance he reflects that of the spry ominous bird – all pale and dressed in black. His lyricism shows more than an understanding of the written word, but a playfulness that allows him to creatively bend the rules of telling a story. To me, no song in his archive reflects this better than ‘More News From Nowhere’ (from the legendary 2008 album ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’) which blurs the line between melody and epic poetry. 

Nick Cave takes Homer’s Odyssey and plucks out the pieces of its imagery that sparkle most for him, most notably ‘I saw Miss Polly singing with some girls, I cried – struck me to the mast’. With the character of Miss Polly as PJ Harvey and her biography by James R. Blandford being titled ‘Siren Rising’, this is perhaps the easiest lyric to decipher. The Sirens in the Odyssey being one of the more famous parts of the tale, where Odysseus commands his men to tie him to the mast of their ship and to stuff their ears with wax, in order to avoid temptation and avert a deadly fate. To read further into this metaphor would be complete speculation, but we can safely say from all evidence that the connection between Cave and Harvey still retains a lot of power and poetry to this day. 

We are told that the character of ‘Betty X’ has hair ‘like the wine-dark sea on which sailors come home’. ‘Wine-dark sea’ is an epithet used by Homer, ‘οἶνοψ πόντος’ / ‘oînops póntos’, with the literal translation meaning ‘wine-face sea’. It is used twelve times in the Odyssey, and a further five in the Iliad. This use of colour within both Homer and Cave’s writing is definitely more romantic than accurate, however, historian PG Maxwell-Stuart argued that the use of ‘wine’ could attest more to temperament than shade. In the case of Nick Cave, the journey in this song is in part about his battles with sobriety. With Homer’s use of this epithet being for when the seas were black, tempestuous, and unpredictable – we can see how this reflects in the behaviours that are known to come with addiction. The role of who ‘Betty X’ may remain unclear, but another lyric – ‘so much wind blew through her words, I went rolling down the hall’, reflects the ruler Aeolus, gifting Odysseus a westerly wind to guide him home. This reference to the return home, as well as the wine-dark sea hair being a vessel for return, leads me to believe that Betty X is in fact the raven-haired Susie Cave. She is the symbol of home for him, she is the destination after the odyssey, and he sings of her light and how her light is all her own. 

In almost every stanza, we are introduced to a new female figure who adds a different element to Nick Cave’s narrative – the only one unnamed being ‘a black girl with no clothes on’. He sings of her dancing, calls her his ‘Nubian princess’, and unveils that he ‘spent the next seven years between her legs pining for my wife’. My attempt to unpick a real-life identity for this figure, such as with Miss Polly or Betty X, was fruitless. However, my research leads me to believe that she represents something other than a person. Seven years is how long Odysseus spent on Ogygia, the island of Calypso the nymph daughter of Atlas. Throughout those seven years, Calypso seduces Odysseus, even going so far as to offer him immortality in exchange for his hand in marriage. Odysseus rejects this offer, longing for his home and wife, Penelope, but only manages to escape the island when the

Gods intervene. Modern Greek tradition likens Ogygia to be an island nearabouts Greece itself, but the geographer and traveller Strabo argued that the placement of the island is more likely to be in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, placing it below the equator. Perhaps this is why Nick Cave chose for Calypso to be represented by a black woman, since this placement of the island would dictate a dark skin tone for its inhabitants, as well as for Calypso herself. Even with describing her as Nubian, we can read in translations of the text that Homer describes Calypso as weaving upon a loom with a shuttle made from gold, and the very root of the word ‘Nubia’ translates to ‘the land of gold’ in Ancient Egyptian. Why wasn’t Cave’s Calypso granted the humanity of a name? Maybe she is a personification of heroin due to the intoxicating words he attributes to her, and leaving her unnamed reflects the dehumanisation that can be left in its wake; perhaps she is the embodiment of the revelry some can have in the wallows of depression, the sick comfort you can find in the sadness. 

‘More News from Nowhere’ references the idea of the journey, the long and arduous adventure that comes hand in hand with being alive. The song is long, slow, and repetitive. With the chorus comes the slow echoing chant of ‘More News from Nowhere’, reminiscent of a Greek chorus or sailors singing as they row upon the oars of old ships. In recitals of epic poems in Ancient Greece, music would be used to emphasise parts of the story, as well as recurring lamentations. The tune hardly veers from its path, the vocals barely stray from a specific pattern, the steady beat is a simplistic foil to the complex nature of the lyrics. The melody only shifts as Cave sings ‘and it’s getting strange in here, and it gets stranger every year’ / ‘don’t it make you feel alone, don’t it make you want to get right back home’, punctuating the absurdities and emphasising a yearning for stability before returning to the compelling monotony. Jim Sclavunos is on the drums, the anchored heartbeat akin to waves smacking against a bow, with Martyn P. Casey on bass providing a solid foundation for that triumphant earworm of a riff, played by Warren Ellis plucking upon a viola. Nick Cave himself veers away from Homer for the final verse, existentially expressing the futilities of living with ‘everything you do today, tomorrow is obsolete’, before committing one final chant of the song title ‘More News From Nowhere’, taken from the 1890 utopian socialist novel by William Morris – yet another example of Cave as that literary magpie, creating a collage with his words. In spite of it’s existentialist ending, it is a song seemingly designed to keep you moving, to get you from one place to the next. I listen to it as I walk the streets of London, as I look out of train windows, or as my plane takes off into the sky. ‘More News from Nowhere’ is a song made of pure momentum, despairing at the godlike forces beyond our control but still nonetheless pushing forward.

Categories
Creators Monthly Punk/Rock Reviews

Don’t Die in the Waiting Room of the Future

Tim Mohr’s Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution and the Fall of the Berlin Wall is an essential history that reveals punk’s wrath and how it contributed to the downfall of the East German dictatorship.

Throughout history, reigns of terror crushed hopes, ideas, behaviours; we’ve seen it all – intimidation and manipulation, violence. We’ve seen walls. Tall, made of concrete and strengthened with steel, with a strip of land guarded by merciless apostles of havoc by whose hands hundreds died. You would think nothing can break through it, but soundwaves don’t stop at borders. Soundwaves travel.

Mohr’s book is a compelling account of untold stories that starts with a handful of Berlin youths who heard the Sex Pistols on a military radio broadcast. Unlike British punks, who were living in a society that couldn’t guarantee them a bright economic future, East Berlin punks fought the battle of Too much future – the dictatorship had everything planned for them. Punk was a cathartic discovery, where chopped-up hair and clothes, loud singing and buzz saw guitars turned into a revolutionary philosophy of resistance.

Tim Mohr was able to closely observe this uniquely Eastern phenomenon when he moved to Berlin in the early 90s. Oblivious to the reality of the post-Wall city, he started exploring the nightlife scene, the clubs, the squats. He worked as a DJ for 6 years, a time during which he befriended many of the East German punks who were interrogated by the Stasi and imprisoned by the GDR – and ultimately helped build a fascinating, progressive DIY world.

East Berlin punks on Lenin Platz, Friedrichshain, ca. 1982

Mohr spent ten years researching Stasi files, tracking down and interviewing the punks whose stories were indispensable – teenagers who were spied on by families and friends, fired from jobs, beaten up and imprisoned, but not just because of their clothes or the lyrics they sang. It was more than that. Punk rock was a weapon against the tyranny that smashed protestors and militarized the police. It was a tough fight that had its manifesto disseminated in churches, safe havens offered to the teens by compassionate deacons. Not even jail could stop these kids. They got out, put their leather jackets back on and boy, did that hell break loose.

Burning Down the Haus is a fiery, dramatic history about the grit and spirit of a bunch of young punks who played a fundamental part in bringing down the Berlin Wall. Intensely researched, riveting and satisfying, it is a great book that passes on the legacy of grassroots oppression fighters. Maybe the lesson here is what they used to spray on walls: Don’t die in the waiting room of the future.

Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall is available in Rough Trade physical stores and online at World of Books.

Categories
Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Reviews Why We Love

Why We Love: Kitner

Kitner. From left: Conor, James, Will, Brianne

The local music scene is an ever changing landscape no matter where you come from. When I started making music with my band Friday Life back in 2017, there were around five bands that comprised the music scene, maybe a few more. However, four years on, Friday Life is the only band left standing, and that’s remarkable even to me. Local bands breaking up happens for a multitude of reasons: people begin going to college, members move out of state, scandals radically shift the prospects bands once had, the list goes on. It is as common as it is unfortunate.

For awhile, Boston based band Kitner seemed to be another local band come and gone. Forming in 2015, the band started as a five piece featuring Conor Maier (guitar, vocals), Brianne Costa (keys, vocals), James Christopher (guitar), Christine Atturio (bass), and Will Buiel (drums). They quickly recorded an EP of home demos, followed shortly by the release of a self-titled EP in September of that year. 

The EP gained momentum, with many people downloading it on bandcamp. The band played a few shows in Massachusetts over the next year as well. They even teased a return to the studio. However, due to their commitments to other bands as well as some member changes, the band vanished. For over four years, Kitner seemed to be just a memory, with the self titled EP being all that remained.

However, in 2019, Kitner quietly returned to the studio. Now a four piece consisting of Conor, Brianne, James, and Will, the band recorded their debut album, titled Shake The Spins. Announcing their return in April of 2021, Kitner set to work promoting their new album, set to be released in October through Relief Map Records. The hype was immediate, not just because the long absence had allowed their previous EP to garner a larger following, but because the music involved sounded incredible.

The first single from the album, Beth Israel, was premiered on July 29th by The Alternative. Starting with some mellow but present acoustic guitar, the muted vocals soon enter, giving the song a primitive feel, like a bedroom demo recorded on tape. It is warm, and it builds anticipation for when the wave comes crashing down. 

Sure enough, the wave hits a little over a minute in. Roaring, anthemic guitars meet steady, powerful drums that hit you like a train. The hushed vocals are replaced by rough, raw shouting from Conor that brings to mind an alternate universe where Jim James of My Morning Jacket fronted an emo band. Brianne’s light voice perfectly compliments Conor’s vocals, adding a dimension to the music that fits in your ears just right.

The wall of sound soon breaks in the final act of the song, with the acoustic guitar and softer vocals returning, accompanied by the solemn wail of a feedbacking guitar. The interplay of Conor and Brianne’s voices is clearer here as the two sing different lines, creating a tapestry of words and sounds. The drums begin building up again before sending the song off with bluster accompanied by some retro sounding keyboards.

Kitner’s return can only be described as triumphant, and that’s after just one single. If the rest of the album sounds like this, then Shake The Spins might easily be the album of the year. 

Kitner. From left: Brianne, Will, James, Conor. Photo by Brittany Rose Queen

Bandcamp: https://kitner.bandcamp.com/album/shake-the-spins

Spotify:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kitner.ma/

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock Reviews

notes from the trenches

After a month of an environmental microbiology summer course at uni, and two months of unloading produce trucks at farmer’s markets, I return to you a changed girl. This means I’m absolutely exhausted, so tanned my dermatologist is frightened, and I’ve cut my own bangs again. The good thing is I’m still 20 and according to everyone I know who’s over 40, completely exhausted, broke, and sporting a questionable hairstyle is just how I’m supposed to be at this particular age, so at least I’m living up to someone’s expectations. 

Speaking of expectations, the Berlin-based chanteuse Anika’s sophomore album Change recently appeared on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart, an exciting development in the trajectory of a very worthy artist’s career. Limited edition, cherry-red vinyls of the album are available on Bandcamp, and tickets for her upcoming fall tour are available via a link in the recent interview Totally Wired conducted with her.

2021 is the 10th anniversary of Trashmouth Records, and as Charlie Steen of Shame says: “Trashmouth fear no fever, no nausea or fatigue, no symptom can scare them; they are the antidote.” In light of that statement, I think we should place all our trust and possibly also all of our money into Trashmouth, as an antidote is exactly what we need right now, in so many ways.

Before I was exposed to the sonic wonderland created by the Trashmouth tribe, I foolishly thought all modern music could either shuffled into the category of Taylor Swift or Avenged Sevenfold, and therefore I didn’t listen to much, as when given the choice between songs about sad cheerleaders or necrophilia, I’d rather hear the sound of silence. And then along came Madonnatron and Warmduscher on Iggy Pop’s BBC 6 radio show, and I was hooked, enchanted, a devoted convert.

Trashmouth’s latest release is a single that will feature on their anniversary compilation album, a remix of Weston Decker’s “Lazy.” Weston Decker is an American artist based in Boulder, Colorado; in his Spotify bio, he purports to have been conceived in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I consider DFW to be the first circle of hell in my own private model of the inferno, so I tip my hat to anyone who has been summoned into being somewhere in its chaotic grey arteries, and managed not be plagued by demons, etc. “Lazy,” is a tasty little indie pop number with an infectious rhythm, and the Trashmouth remix of the song has sharpened it–brought out its cheekbones, as it were—the driving electronic beats making a good thing even better.

Also on the Trashmouth release radar is a remix of Madonnatron’s “Venus and Rahu,” out today on all platforms. According to their Spotify bio, Madonnatron formed by “arising unabashed from the mists of the Thames.” In 2019 the band released Musica Alla Puttanesca, a much-lauded musical experience (the album cover of which depicts the laser-eyed gaze of the Madonna setting the world aflame, a theme which falls perfectly in step with Madonnatron’s usual agenda of the more darkly delicious art forms) on the Trashmouth label.

The Spanish rock supergroup Hinds recently collaborated with the German musician Kid Simius on a driving, upbeat, club track entitled “We Like to Party,” out now on Jirafa records. It’s the ideal track to make summer last a little longer, to stretch out those last lingering days of warmth and relative freedom. Hinds like to party; I remember watching them give a full-throttle rock n’ roll performance in an abandoned church at 2 a.m. one hot summer night a few years ago, and being duly impressed with their IPA consumption, as well as their musical prowess. 

This, then, is my final “notes from the trenches,” as I think everyone has swallowed quite enough of my opinions over this long, hot, pandemic summer. In the words of Groucho Marx, “Art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew ‘em they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now… you tell me what you know.” It’s someone else’s turn to give you their opinions on life, music, the universe, and everything. If you need me, I’ll be in the bar. All you have to do is whistle. 

Categories
New Wave Punk/Rock Why We Love

ANIKA: the Totally Wired Interview

The artist currently known as Anika is no stranger to the feelings of separation and isolation that we’ve all struggled with over the past 18 months. Born in Surrey, and currently based in Berlin, she sees herself as “…a foreigner in both lands, belonging to neither…” Anika is a musician, a poet, a political journalist, and a DJ, and she’s spent the majority of the pandemic busily weaving the threads of her multiple artistic practices into the creation of Change, her first album in 11 years.

Her debut album, Anika, released in 2010, was produced and co-written by Geoffrey Barrow and his band, Beak. Anika’s choice to include a cover of Yoko Ono’s “Yang Yang,” (a prescient song that explores the mindset of a sleazy politician and his scurrilous dealings) on her debut garnered attention as the sign of a precocious talent with encyclopedic musical knowledge and a keen-eyed perspective influenced by her training as a political journalist—think The Velvet Underground and Nico meets Yaeji, meets Nilufer Yanya.

Change is an album full of both hope and warnings (Anika wrote “Never Coming Back,” after reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a wake-up call to the devasting effects of humankind on the natural world,) but on the title track, Anika’s trademark, icily cool Nico-esque drone takes on a certain tenderness, assuring her listeners that, “…I think we have it all inside…I think we can change…”

Change has already been named by Rough Trade as one of the best albums of 2021. Stereogum, Uncut, and Mojo have earnestly sung its praises. Anika is soon to embark on touring efforts, playing across Germany, France, and finally reaching the U.K., which will be her first trip to her homeland in two years.

TWM: It’s been 11 years since the release of ‘Anika.’ How has your approach to creating music changed and evolved since then? 

Anika: Quite a lot of time has passed. I have done a lot of collabs and learnt with each one, the most significant of which was Exploded View; that one really taught me how to be in a band, how to talk to each other, how to compromise, be compassionate, be honest and respectful. 

The first album was recorded without the intention of purpose or ever releasing it. This one was written very much with purpose, though the songs seemed to write themselves. That’s the thing about the texts, I don’t like to sit and write about specific topics. I bring diaries, books and notes to the demo recording session and then the music takes hold and I flick through the notes and the right ones float out; the music acts like a key to unlock all the stuff that is on my mind, but I hadn’t quite registered. 

I recorded it in stages. I’d make drum loops the day before and layer some chord progressions on top and go in armed with these. I’d loop the drum, play it in the back, then try the chords on different instruments, change it up, push against it. Last would be the lyrics. With ‘Freedom,’ and ‘Finger Pies,’ I did those at home, during some crazy night sessions, playing layers over each other. 

As for the lyrics being a freestyle gateway to the unconscious, it was very much like that with ‘No One’s There,’ from the first album (2010’s Anika.) Also, all the Exploded View records were recorded like this. 

This time around, I also wrote the music, which is a big difference from the first album because Beak were fully responsible for that. I also really wanted to co-produce this time and that was important. Once I was done with the rough track ideas, I did speak briefly to Geoff (Barrow) about whether I should take them over to Bristol to record there but with corona, this…was off the cards and to be honest, I am happy the way it turned out because it pushed me to do even more myself and learn more that way. Geoff is also cool like that; he likes to give space for growth and doesn’t try to hog projects. Probably because he is so busy and in demand! 

TWM: What was the process of creating and recording an album during a pandemic like? 

Anika: Yes, that was weird. It was very intense. Specifically, because my home situation was very intense and I was going through quite a lot of personal stuff at the time, on top of corona and the apocalyptic news events. I had to trust somehow and keep going, without overthinking what or why i was doing this. There were less people involved, that also made it more intense.


TWM: ‘Change,’ is an extraordinarily hopeful song, especially in the face of an increasing deluge of frightening news and events…I find it incredibly moving for these reasons, and I think it’s a very important song for people to hear and to fully absorb. What inspired you to write it?

Anika: I was reading all this stuff in the news about people doing bad things. I was also seeing people close to me do bad things. People do bad things. Sometimes it’s just for a time, it may be due to circumstance, their history, we can never really know what leads to it. Especially in this climate of distorted news and news bubbles, people are led into traps and false perceptions of reality. I think it’s important to stick together in these times and see these bad decisions and actions as transient and that most people have the capacity to change.


TWM: You posted on Instagram that you kept, “Covid19 Diaries.” Did anything you wrote in them end up on the new album, in the form of lyrics or otherwise?

Anika: I think ‘Sand Witches,’ actually came from this, or parts of it. Also ‘Change,’ had parts and for sure ‘Never Coming Back.’ All of them were a little from it. It was really important to keep these diaries because it kept my mind active and interactive with events and things going on. The instinct is to shut off, [to] numb. I wanted to embrace the thoughts I thought I should be scared of. 

TWM: How has your background as a political journalist influenced your artistic career? 

Anika: The way I consume information, books, news and process has a lot to do with my education in this field. English was actually my worst subject at school. My spelling was/is terrible and sometimes I would feel like words were road blocks to my expression, blocking me into corners, as opposed to rivers. Luckily, studying journalism helped break down this fear and also helped my ability to process information better. Before I mostly studied math, so my brain was wired a little differently. 


TWM: What music did you listen to most during lockdown?

Anika: I listened a lot to the John Peel sessions. There are so many good ones and his lovely nature seemed to coax out these very personal and unique performances from many great artists…Bowie, PJ Harvey, Basement 5, Archers of Loaf, Flock of Seagulls, A Certain Ratio, A Guy Called Gerald, etc. The curation is very special. It was also the nearest I got to live shows. They are raw, yet very well recorded. Great stuff.

TWM: Which dates of your upcoming tour are you most looking forward to?

Anika: I love playing at Bad Bonn Festival, it’s so much fun! Also, France is a great place to play. The venues are so friendly, and the crowds are very cool. I’m nervous and excited about the UK, too. I have never really toured there, and I haven’t been (home) in about two years now! That will be strange. I’m very excited to play with the new all-girl lineup, they are killa.

You can find Anika on Instagram @annika.henderson. Her new album, “Change,” is available for purchase on Bandcamp. https://anika.bandcamp.com/album/change Tickets for her upcoming tour are available at: https://anika-music.com/tour-dates

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock

Indie Idols: Crywank

The 1980s were a wild time, to say the least. Teenagers were rebelling – as per usual – and creating their own kind of lifestyle, diverting the general expectations of growing up and maturing that had dominated previous decades. Fashion was outrageous, attitudes were eccentric and controversial, and all of this was reflected in the music. Punk emerged from the underground and, in a symbiotic relationship with the youth, the face of music was forever scarred for the better. Bands like Sex Pistols and the Ramones exploded onto the scene expressing anarchy and distrust in the establishment, loudly displaying their political agenda and providing a voice for like-minded young people. Throughout the decade, punk influenced countless subgenres and subcultures, encouraging political freedom and rebirth of the most riotous kind, while also merging with others to create completely unexpected, but lyrically brilliant, hybrid genres.

This month’s Indie Idol embodies the spirit of punk while exhibiting its versatility within other genres by displaying elements of anti-folk – a musical movement established in the 1980’s to “mock the perceived seriousness” of the decade’s popular music, serving as a protest through clever lyricism. Crywank, a band spontaneously conceived by Jay Clayton in Manchester in 2009 upon receiving their first guitar, expresses a more personal kind of anarchy, announcing displeasure with mundane realism we have all probably felt from time to time, as well as dealing with more serious issues like mental health. I Am Shit from the band’s 2013 Tomorrow is Nearly Yesterday and Everyday is Stupid album, for instance, serves as a criticism of one’s self, overthinking everything you have said or done, and being stuck in a loop of self-doubt and inadequacy. The lyrics are hard-hitting and emotional, with a characteristic DIY-nature that adds to the charm and meaning of the song.

Arguably, Crywank takes a more comedic stance in some of their productions, helping to lighten the typically downbeat mood of their work while fitting to the anti-folk genre, still providing that dramatic social commentary the band and sub-punk genres are known for. Songs like An Academics Lament on Barbie, which comments on the irony surrounding the suggestion that Barbie is a feminist icon for young girls, having had over a hundred different jobs, many in typically male industries, while also being subject to strict and traditional female beauty standards that fail to represent the vast majority of women. Or Tin Foil Hat Crew at the Student House, which discusses constantly being monitored by companies online and other politics while also featuring the highly intellectual lyric, “Slap my thigh call me messy sweaty petty silly sausage,” from the duo’s 2017 Egg on Face. Foot in Mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling. album, for example. Both of these songs also demonstrate Crywank’s musical diversity by embracing a sound vaguely similar to that of Parklife by Blur, with more melodic speech rather than general singing, while still harking back to their punk-inspired roots – which are especially evident in the final few lyrics of Tin Foil Hat…, “Don’t Be Evil, Ooglie-booglie-googlie-booglie.”

(Check out Story of the Lizard and the Sock for another dark comedy-esque song)

The group’s most recent and final album, Fist Me ‘Til Your Hand Comes out My Mouth, a name that most definitely reflects the outrageous and uncensored nature of the 1980’s punk movement, features an eight-part story about friendship and its effects on the band. And, as the title I Love You but I’ve Chosen Me… suggests, the importance of loving oneself before attempting to love someone else. The album is, overall, fairly different from Crywank’s previous seven albums due to a larger focus on instrumentalism, such as in The Best, poetry, similar to Jamie T’s use of Sir John Betjeman’s The Cockney Amorist poem in his debut single Sheila, and a more upbeat sound – the existentialist lyrics are still going strong, though. 

The band seems to have steered clear of music videos in the traditional sense, preferring to upload live versions or random rehearsal sessions onto their Youtube channel. However, the few music videos that have been created for their most recent album all exude a sense of incomplete chaoticism that perfectly reflects the sentiment of their whole musical catalogue. The videos tend to be stylised in a low budget arts-and-crafts-type manner using watercolour (Egg and Spoon) and torn paper (Ego is a Phoenix) to depict the narrative while making the meanings of the songs feel more tangible to the audience and, once again, hinting at the homemade elements of punk style. Album art for the band is definitely something to behold, ranging from a simple photo of a shelf adorned with wooden cat sculptures to a fluorescent drawing of a two-headed monster with the iconic World War II “Kilroy was Here” doodle looming above. However, I feel as if the variation in album art reflects the large range of topics and emotions discussed and felt through the band’s work and does show progression in the bands freedom of expression over time.

Unfortunately for all who love them, Crywank’s musical career is coming to a voluntary end after their next North American tour, which has been postponed to 2022. However, their music and merchandise will continue to be available on dogknightsproductions.com until it is all sold out. In the meantime, check out Memento Mori and Hikikomori, my two favourites by the band. 

Categories
Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Reviews Why We Love

Why We Love: Cabin Boy

I remember my friend John “Guppy” Guptill first mentioning the idea of Cabin Boy to me last July. What immediately stood out to me about the band was that each member was from a different area of the world. He then played me a demo they were working on, and I was even more intrigued.

In recent years, I personally feel that the emo/math rock genre has become somewhat tired. While there are many bands who pull off the style well, there are several more that don’t do anything new with the sound, leading to some aspects of the genre becoming tired tropes. That’s why when there is a band that not only improves upon the sound, but also makes it their own, it immediately stands out. 

A few months after this initial reveal of the band, Cabin Boy began building up hype incredibly quickly, and they hadn’t even released music yet. The buzz was largely due to the kinetic chemistry displayed by the band’s members: the aforementioned Guppy, a bass player from Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Josh Cartwright, the vocalist and guitarist of the band who hails from Liverpool, England; and Dan Goellner, drummer extraordinaire from Berkeley, California. Meeting through an online music community, the three bonded over shared musical tastes and began sending music to one another to build songs individually—a perfect setup during the pandemic.

Recruiting producer Max Mayman, who Guppy has described as “the secret fourth member of the band” and who Dan met at a concert in California, the band debuted their highly anticipated first single, “Falcon Brunch.” Released on February 14th, 2021, the song was a smash hit and received raving reviews from fans; it is truly a gem. Featuring bright, jangly guitars reminiscent of 90’s power pop, the song kicks into gear once Dan’s confident, upbeat drumming and Guppy’s melodic bass lines come into play. Josh’s voice is interesting as well; it sounds effortless and carefree, while also carrying an emotional weight that feels natural. The song bounces along, and even during the instrumental break in the middle, which features some gnarly finger-tapping, it remains unpretentious and fun.

The single proved that Cabin Boy could take their lively personalities and instrumental talents and turn them into something great, despite thousands of miles being between them. They did this so well that a few months later, they signed to notable emo label Flea Collar Tapes on May 16th. Shortly after this big news, they also released a music video for Falcon Brunch. A visually stunning affair, the video utilizes green screens in an incredible way, courtesy of Dan. Each member’s charm and charisma are on full display throughout the video, and it is a joy to watch.

The wave that Cabin Boy were riding grew in June when they released their follow-up single, “Tokin’ Tree,” on the 19th of that month. The song starts with jagged acoustic guitar chords and passionate vocals from Josh. After a little under a minute of this, the electric guitar, bass, and drums burst onto the scene ferociously. The song features a far more distorted, darker sound, but the punk ethos of Falcon Brunch is still there in the undertow. Dan’s drumming is crazy on this track, highlighting how great of a drummer he really is. Overall, the song shows a remarkable maturity in the band’s sound, and it’s only their second song. 

Cabin Boy hit a new high when renowned music critic Anthony Fantano reviewed the song and praised it. This, combined with their record deal, indicates a remarkably bright future for Josh, Guppy, and Dan. Despite the distance between them, they have proven that great bands can conquer all odds to make amazing music. Their unique energy and uplifting personas are sure to continue to win over music fans far and wide, and hopefully someday, we will get to see them come together and perform.

From left: Guppy, Dan, and Josh

Support Cabin Boy on Bandcamp!

Categories
Punk/Rock

Why We Love: COLLARS

For the uninitiated, COLLARS is an exciting new indie duo composed of Dan (vocals) and Kane (guitar and drums) based in rural Cambridgeshire. Their debut EP, Everything Present 1, was released yesterday on Laundry Rooms, a label run by the band.

The EP features six tracks, all of which were written, recorded and produced by the band in their home studio. The record kicks off with ‘Over You,’ (which the band have described as “…a punk-addled indie offering about relationships, denial and reawakening…”) and closes with ‘I Do,’ ( “…a reluctant love song.”)

Showcasing meticulous production, whip-sharp songwriting and slick instrumentation, Everything Present 1 is a debut that delivers the goods whilst promising greater glories to come. It’s no wonder that BBC Introducing in the Channel Islands recently named ‘Hey Lizzie, Lay It On Me,’ as Track of the Week. 

On behalf of Totally Wired, I recently spoke with Dan, the duo’s vocalist and lyricist, chatting about everything from singing your own truth to the glories of Sheffield’s thriving music scene. 

TWM: How did you two meet and decide to strike out into a musical career?

Dan: Kane used to drum in one of my friend’s bands, so we met that way. Then when Kane was trying to do his own project, he was looking for a singer and asked me if I’d ever thought about singing. I’d never sung before and was terrified by the prospect, but also excited. So I gave it a go singing some songs he’d written, but I’m a journalist too, so I wanted to have a stab at writing my own stuff and I quickly realised that singing my own words was much better – felt more truthful – than singing somebody else’s. 

TWM: How would you describe your signature sound?

Dan: That’s a tricky one. I suppose it’s classic indie band with a DIY punk ethos. ‘Punk or death!’ is our band motto.

TWM: Who are your chief musical and artistic inspirations?

Dan: I absolutely adore Arctic Monkeys and Damon Albarn. A lot of my writing is influenced by Damon and Alex Turner. I often think: ‘Would Damon or Alex be happy with this line, or would they keep working on it until they landed on something more clever?’ The answer is more often than not ‘keep trying’! As for Kane, I know he’s heavily influenced by the likes of Jack White, Travis Barker and gritty old blues artists. Kane’s always thinking outside the box and trying to work out how we can make the biggest sound possible with just the two of us. 

TWM: How has your songwriting evolved since you’ve begun working together?

Dan: We tried a stint where Kane would write some music and I’d then write the lyrics and vocal melody to go with it, but it didn’t feel natural. I would often get little melodies in my head, so I started writing the vocal melody and lyrics and then taking it to Kane almost fully formed. He would then write the music to go with it. Suddenly everything seemed to fall into place. Sometimes we sit down and write together and sometimes Kane will have a little riff he’ll bring to me, but more often than not I write the melody and words first and that works for us. 

TWM: What was the process of recording your first EP like? 

Dan: Knackering! At least it is when you have to do everything yourself. Kane did all the instrumentation, producing, mixing, recording, etc… So more knackering for him. I just turned up and sang when he needed me. Although we wrote it all together of course. 

TWM: Which upcoming gigs are you most looking forward to?

Dan: The EP launch! I’m also really excited about playing Sheffield (Tramlines Fringe, 25 July), because I love the Monkeys obvs, but also Pulp and Richard Hawley and Slow Club. It’s got such an incredible music scene. But yeah, our EP launch at the Blue Moon in Cambridge on Saturday 31 July is one we’ve been planning and gearing up to for months now. It’ll be the culmination of so much hard work and we’re so excited. Hopefully – fingers crossed, touch wood, spit on a black cat or whatever else brings you good luck – we’ll be free from social distancing by then and will be able to celebrate properly. It’s free entry too, so everyone should come down. Let’s have a right old party!

Everything Present 1 is available on all digital platforms, and special 10’’ vinyls. You can purchase tickets to see Collars in action live at: https://www.collarstheband.com/live. You can also find them on Instagram @collarstheband

Categories
Punk/Rock

GUESS WHO’S BACK – Amyl and The Sniffers

GUIDED BY ANGELS is the brand new single from the now legendary Melbourne Punk-Your-Pants-Off-Rockers, Amyl and The Sniffers.

The bands new ‘old-school rock’n’roll’ album COMFORT TO ME is out on September 10th. Pre-order and BE READY.