CHANNEL 3 – Put ‘Em Up LP

Album: Put 'Em Up LP

Artist: Channel 3

Label: TKO

Release Date: August 18, 2017


The Upshot: Classic politically charged punk, for 2017. Any questions?


It’s been more than 15 years since Channel 3 last put out a full record of new music and time has clearly been good to the band. The group’s sound has evolved immensely since their early ‘80s hardcore days and what they lack in ferocity, they now more than make up for in lyrical prowess and tight muscular riffs.

Though decidedly still a punk band on their latest, Put ‘Em Up –  like on the politically-charged “The God You Deserve” –  elsewhere the band trots out their varied influences, from power pop to straight ahead rock. Though I’m not certain this is necessarily a concept record, written and recorded after last year’s election, the political and social themes are all over this album.

Like many of their contemporaries both here (Bad Religion) and overseas (Stiff Little Fingers, Cock Sparrer), Channel 3 is putting out some of their best stuff in years; Looks like punk really is a veteran’s game. The band is celebrating their reemergence with sets at a number of punk events this fall, including the aptly titled Punks Not Dead and Remember The Punks festivals.

DOWNLOAD: “Water & Time,” “She Never Wanted It This Way” and “The God You Deserve”


OBNOX – Niggative Approach LP

Album: Niggative Approach LP

Artist: Obnox

Label: 12XU

Release Date: June 02, 2017

The Upshot: A Cleveland noize-funk bomb of epic proportions.


From the opening sounds—a treated/processed phone recording of Negative Approach/Laughing Hyenas frontman John Brannon and Obnox frontman Lamont Thomas—to the final salvo of “King Aboriginal” in which Thomas goes full-on early Funkadelic via a lysergic blues lope that gradually grows more monstrous until a sonic cloud of claustrophobia threatens to steer you off the freeway, Niggative Approach is not for the faint-hearted. Thomas, aka Nox, aka Bim Thomas, cut his teeth in Columbus, Ohio, skronk-blooze pioneers the Bassholes (a duo who prefigured the likes of the White Stripes and Black Keys and, according to more than a few observers, essentially rendered those likes superfluous before the fact), and he also served time in the, er, likes of the Puffy Areolas and Compulsive Gamblers, V3, and This Moment In Black History. But it’s been his Obnox persona that’s consistently paid off in recent years in terms of aesthetic grooviness.

Obnox has “done” rock, he’s done garage, he’s even done hip-hop (2014’s Louder Space caught a lot of people who should really know better very much off-guard), but with the hardcore, hardassed, stanky noize-funk bomb that is Niggative Approach—yes, that is indeed a ref. to Brannon’s band—he’s clearly found his (dis)comfort zone. That above Funkadelic reference ain’t random: On tracks like the cinematic noize-gospel that is “Beauty Like the Night,” the echo-drenched, “I’ll Bet You”-esque “Jack Herer” (presumably an ode to the late, so-called “Emperor of Hemp” cannabis activist), the surreal, psychedelic, pounding anthemism (term used loosely) of “You,” and the delightfully titled, though sonically impenetrable, “Afro Muffin,” Thomas pulls out all the stops without regard to genre niceties. One is tempted to call this a 15-song mashup, except that mashups tend to be either homages or parodies, or at the very least deeply steeped in irony. Nobody’s being ironic here. Obnox is here to free your mind. Maybe your ass, too—so he can beat it.

Pressed up sweet wax, jack. Download card included.

DOWNLOAD: “You,” “King Aboriginal,” “Jack Herer”

ROSANNE CASH – King’s Record Shop [30th Anniversary] LP

Album: King’s Record Shop [30th Anniversary] LP

Artist: Rosanne Cash

Label: Legacy

Release Date: July 07, 2017

The Upshot: 180gm reissue of Cash’s fifth album is as much classic today as it was three decades ago.


Since the recent resurgence in vinyl, record labels big and small (but, mostly big) are scrambling to empty their vaults for anything to re-release on wax. The results can be mixed; consider that someone re-released the Space Jam soundtrack on vinyl. But every so often, a gem is found, cleaned up and released back into circulation. The latest jewel from Legacy Recordings is the remarkable fifth album from Roseanne Cash, King’s Record Shop.

Put out on 180-gram vinyl just in time for its 30th anniversary, the album holds up stunningly well. From the steady album opener, “Rosie Strike Back,” with its strong domestic violence message, through quieter moments (“I Don’t Have to Crawl”) up to the two powerful live tracks that cap off this re-release (“Runaway Train” and “Green, Yellow and Red”), the album is just as impressive today as when it first came out. Decades later, a song like the lyrically brilliant and stunningly sung “Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone” is still one of her best (in a career of best songs). She also puts her own spin on John Hiatt’s “The Way We Make a Broken Heart,” a couple of John Stewart tunes and her father’s “Tennessee Flat Top Box” on this record.

Produced by Rodney Crowell, King’s Record Shop helped cement Cash’s reputation as one of Americana/country’s best hopes. At a times when neon pop was weaseling its way into the genre, Cash held steady with the substance over style ethos. The proof can be heard all over this album.

DOWNLOAD: “Rosie Strike Back,” “Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone” and “Runaway Train”



Album: C88

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: June 30, 2017

The Upshot: I was all over this like a cheap suit, and if you were into the C88 bands back in the day, you will be too.


The C86 scene in England was cool—and got all the hype—but I liked a lot more of the C88 bands, and this three CD set covers ‘em all. And I mean all. As it states in the press sheet  “it documents a golden era when tuneful guitar-based bands made records on shoestring budgets often issued on small labels with hand-made artwork, with little hope of mainstream exposure.” Umm….yup, that about sums it up and I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Several of the UK labels of the day (many probably reviled by the British press) are represented here including Sarah Records  (The Orchids, The Sea Urchins, Another Sunny Day, etc.) Creation  The House of Love, Pacific, etc.) 53 and 3rd  (The Vaselines, Groovy Little Numbers , etc.) , The Subway Organization (The Flatmates, The Clouds, Bubblegum Splash, etc.) and plenty more. In addition to all of the (mostly) great bands mentioned above there are plenty more excellent guitar janglers like The Pooh Sticks doing my favorite tune “On Tape” plus Pale Saints doing the dreamier “Colours and Shapes” and Choo Choo Train (Ric and Paul from Velvet Crush) doing the righteous “High,” all of which is one disc one. Moving right over to disc two The House of Love start things off with “The Hill” but, in addition to all of the stuff that I already loved, comes plenty of bands I hadn’t heard (or in some cases hadn’t even heard of ) before like Bob, Cud, The Hearthrobs, The Nivens, The Waltones, etc. Moving right along to disc three  is more great unknown stuff (to me, anyway) like The Church Grims, Annie and the Eroplanes, Holidaymakers, The Raw Herbs, and lots more (and lets not forget pop masters who are in my collections like The Wake, The Fat Tulips, East Village, The Fizzbombs and too many others.

In the 48-page booklet Neil Taylor waxes poetric about each and everyone of of these bands. I have no control over other countries but I can control what happens here in the USA and if I can make it happen where every home in American has a copy then I’ve done my job. I’ve got some work to do (and so do you, listen to C88).

DOWNLOAD:  “On Tape,” “High,” “The Hill,” “Our Summer,” “Anorak City,” “Dying For It,” “Heaven Knows,” “Cubans in the Bluefields”




Album: Incidentals

Artist: Tim Berne's Snakeoil

Label: ECM

Release Date: September 08, 2017

The Upshot: High-powered sax man proves he’s just as wired and iconoclastic as ever.


Alto saxist/composer Tim Berne has always been known for his energy music – few musicians outside of John Zorn are as comfortable with powerhouse improvisation as Berne. But he’s as much author as performer, and Incidentals, his fourth LP with current ensemble Snakeoil, highlights his writing as much as his musicians’ playing.

Not unusually, the first song lays it all out. “Hora Feliz” begins contemplatively, building slowly until Berne weighs in with a surprisingly straightforward melody. But soon enough, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith arrive to knock the tune off-kilter, as the songs shifts to more angular moves, and clarinetist Oscar Noriega rampages through the arrangement like a Tie Fighter with a faulty gyro. The burly “Stingray Shuffle” keeps the arrangements roiling, as does “Incidentals Contact,” in which Smith switches to vibraphone and guitarist Ryan Ferreira adds thick, rumbling textures beneath the horn attacks. But the centerpiece is “Sideshow,” nearly a half hour of Berne, Noriega, Mitchell and Ferreira exploring every nook and cranny of the piece, going from out to in to somewhere in between, translating the love/hate relationship between chaos and order into a musical journey. Closing cut “Prelude One/Sequel Too” slows down the tempo, but Berne’s fiery soloing keeps the tune from ending the album on a calm note.

After as many decades as he’s been active, you’d think Berne might be slowing down in his middle years. But Incidentals is proof that he’s just as wired and iconoclastic as ever.

DOWNLOAD: “Sideshow,” “Incidentals Contact,” “Hora Feliz”

MYTHICAL MOTORS – Running the Shine

Album: Running the Shine

Artist: Mythical Motors

Label: self-released

Release Date: May 26, 2017

The Upshot: With crashing power chords worthy of Pete Townshend, insidious melodies that you’d expect to find on a Clean album, and an offhand energy that’d make Robert Pollard green with energy, there’s nothing mythical going on here: It’s vivid, purposeful, and NOW.


Chattanooga’s not often cited as a hotbed of indie rock, but man, if this outfit is a spearhead, then I’m ready for a hunt.

It’s pop, with power; “fi,” with “lo”; and punk, turned “post.” Think early Merge and Elephant 6 bands, the kind that would charge outta the gate from the get-go then, just as the pit was on the verge of forming, they’d downshift into a Flying Nun tangent for a period prior to revving back up towards a Who/GbV-like cathartic climax. Hold that thought: Mythical Motors freely admits to their Robert Pollard worship in their bio, yet it’s not so much a slavish devotion to style as it is an appreciation of how Guided by Voices so adroitly made a shotgun marriage threesome out of jangly psychedelia, high-nrg indie rock, and convulsive New Wave ‘n’ punk.

Running the Shine, the band’s ninth (!) album, is a direct descendent of those obscure early ‘70s experiments that underground ‘zine-championed groups were conducting against a backdrop of shaggy-assed prog and proto-metal, and to the utter indifference of the general public. It’s a hybrid, for sure, and in the most inspiring sense; if this record had been (self-) released in ’73 or ’74 it would surely be hailed now as a genuine collectors’ item and a latent influence upon the then-emerging Amerindie scene. Give Mythical Motors some love right now, so they don’t have to wait a few decades to get their due.

DOWNLOAD: “Place of Only Midnight,” “The Mind Skipping Pictures,” “June’s Mayhem Machine,” “Broken Indian Toy Tambourine”


Album: Aytche

Artist: Joseph Shabason

Label: Western Vinyl

Release Date: August 25, 2017

The Upshot: Wonderfully infused with the drifting, half-heard, hard-to-pin-down sense-memory quality of music drifting in from other rooms, long ago.


Joseph Shabason has wound his sax around the slinky neo-soul of DIANA and the yacht-rocking-smooth-i-ties of Destroyer’s Kaputt, working the sensual proclivities of his primary instrument on other people’s account. Here in his first solo full-length, he sands down the edges of the jazz-man’s axe, denaturing the sound until it evokes rather than presents itself. Almost all these songs have the drifting, half-heard, hard-to-pin-down sense-memory quality of music drifting in from other rooms, long ago.

Indeed, in opener “Looking Forward to Something Dude,” saxophone sounds have decayed and frayed to the point where they resembled dopplering late night train whistles rather than a big band instrument. They surge and fade amid other elliptical sounds, offhand brushes at cymbals, twittering waves of electronics, a surge of brass that sounds almost like a dance band flourish, but just that, with the melody left out. “Aytche” is brighter and more unreal, following a luminously calm pulse of electronics, with a muted trumpet tracing a thin line of melody over it. “Neil McCauley,” an early single, is named after the title character of the 1995 film Heat; it sports a noire-ish smoke and haze, fusion-y bass rumbling up in an unhurried way, pearl drops of piano, late night saxophone trying out phrases, considering, shrugging, trying another.

Shabason is playing with the idea of decay and loss of memory on Aytche. “Westmeath,” the lone track with sampled vocals makes this more or less explicit. Through serene, unruffled washes of electronic tone, you catch muffled bits of conversation, “My father died…” “My mother…” that hint at something very sad. You catch only bits of it, and that, somehow makes it all the more evocative.

There are a couple of louder, more dissonant cuts, due largely to the input of Nic Bragg who plays guitar in Destroyer. (Several of Shabason’s colleagues from other bands make fine contributions, J.P. Carter from Destroyer on trumpet, Bram Gielen of DIANA on bass.)  Yet though the guitar in both “Smokestack” and “Belching Smoke” is frenzied and sharp, it plays over the same bed of calm, fuzzy serenity (you can hear it when the guitar drops out in “Belching Smoke”); even the anxiety of fast, distorted guitar, it seems, can be seen through the lens of memory, fainter and more emotionally wrought because of the distance.

DOWNLOAD: “Aytche,” “Neil McCauley”

Melvins / The Spotlights 8/15/17, Denver

Dates: August 15, 2017

Location: Gothic Theatre, Denver CO


It’s not reaching to say that Melvins are too powerful for most venues. That was literally the case on Tuesday night at Denver’s Gothic Theater when the lights went out, prompting a two-ish hour delay before sludge metal’s reigning trio could play. But when Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover wordlessly took the stage along with current-and-touring bass player Steven Shane McDonald* (Redd Kross, Off!), they proceeded to use every available volt in the building. At least, that’s how electricity works for the sake of this metaphor.

I was disappointed that The Spotlights set got cut short by the power outage, although their live set wasn’t doing justice to last year’s LP Tidals. Their studio stuff, at least, is not to be missed, and I will absolutely try to catch them the next time they come through the Mile High City. If you like the long build/break with a side of drone style of metal that certain bands are taking up, you’ll really like Tidals, I’m guessing. It’s good and you should buy it.

Melvins’ sixteen song show started with Sacrifice, the Flipper cover from their 1992 Boner Records release Lysol (aka s/t). This is a perfect opener for a Melvins show for a lot of reasons. For starters, with more albums than most bands will ever dream of making, why not start with something from 25 years ago? That’s a treat that most real metal fans that aren’t into arena rock will never get to experience, but Melvins fans were in luck. Also, who starts their show with a cover? Well, if you make the cover so much your own that it’s more distinct than the original, go right ahead. That’s for sure the case here. Finally, clicking in at around the 6-minute mark, it’s one of the shorter songs in the catalog. Other songs fell right in, with a few gems from the first record of their new first-ever-double-album A Walk With Love And Death (the second album is mostly concept/noise, which, honestly, they could have played without reservation as well, though it would have generated a lot of questions).

To their everlasting credit, Melvins do what they want. That includes being nice guys that I would really want to have over for dinner with my family. I like metal, but I just can’t get in to the whole living-in-an-isolated-scandinavian-fjord-and-sacrificing-goats part of it. I mean, it sounds good in theory, but in practice that just makes you a real johnny-stick-in-the-mud. To me, that type of persona makes a big difference in the show. I kind of rocked out and just had fun without having to be more metal than the next guy (which, believe me, the next guy wins). The show Melvins put on was misfit music for true misfits, ones that don’t even fit into the misfit category that the rest of the misfits fit.

Which is all to say that this show was amazing, one of the best shows I’ll see all year, in a large part because Melvins are the absolute real deal. They don’t pretend to be heavier than they are, because they don’t have to. And if you go see them, you don’t either. Just put your earplugs in and enjoy as the bass, drums, and distortion wash over your body and cover you in an evening of wonderful, glorious sludge.

*It should be noted that Shane wore a sleeveless v-neck shag-fur jerkin(?) for the show. I’ve never written about fashion before, but if I were to ever start, it would be there. Bold.


Artist: The New Year

Label: Snow

Release Date: April 28, 2017

The Upshot: A reminder that art serves an entirely different function—and has a more personal raison d’être—than popular music.


It’s been nine years between LPs for The New Year, which in today’s high-velocity music-verse feels more like a century than a decade. But for Snow, the Kadane brothers’ fourth full-length in this incarnation, the long wait suits a type of music that preternaturally rewards patience. (Matt and Bubba Kadane were also the driving creative force in slowcore heroes Bedhead, recently feted here for their excellent Numero Uno box set).

The band’s modus operandi—leisurely tempos braided with twin guitar lines, various subtle keyboard accents and slow-burn crescendos—works brilliantly as an antidote to the ADD electro-pop hustle of today’s quick-turnover music scene.  Yes, the music world The New Year left is 2008 is significantly different than the one they’ve re-emerged into, but they’ve remained true—which is a big part of the draw here.

That’s because no amount of digitization can remove the bugs from human nature. That’s one of the central conceits of Snow and the LP’s catchy centerpiece, “Recent History” (the closest thing you’ll find to a single here). “There’s nothing wrong with the 21st century, that wasn’t wrong with the 20th, too, we’re as at a loss for what to do,” Bubba sings in his speak/sing delivery as the song’s tension builds, “There’s nothing in our recent history that’s new in me and you/so why are we surprised?”

Like many other tracks on Snow, “Recent History” generates considerable heat by its conclusion, a New Year trick that belies the relaxed tempos and the slacker-friendly vocals. Instead of dramatic tempo shifts or sing-along choruses, the songs rely on subtle texture and tempo changes that, in context, wind up carrying far more weight than they would in another setting. The 6-minute title track ratchets up the tension with a simple cymbal ride and increasingly concentrated keyboard fills; the circular guitar riff on “Homebody” tightens almost imperceptibly with each turn.

Much of Snow is about memory—how it distorts as much as it vanishes —and thus song titles like “Amnesia” or “Myths.”  The latter addresses even the band’s recent past in the most New Year way possible. Over a strummed acoustic and slow-build tempo that’s peppered only with keyboards for most of its five-and-a-half-minute run, Bubba acknowledges that the “The best things we’ve done won’t live on/When what we were is gone”—that is, unless “myths are made/As the memories fade/And we loom large in their imagination.”

You could see such sentiments as nihilistic, but I prefer to see them as a call to arms—an un-jaundiced view of human nature refreshes in its own way. Is there a viable market in 2017 for what the New Year’s peddling? No, but then there never has been. (This is what gives the LP’s opening line on “Mayday”—”Mayday, mayday, we’ve left our heyday/searching the coffers for empty offers”—its wonderful ironic bite.) Like the rest of Snow, it’s a reminder that art serves an entirely different function—and has a more personal raison d’être—than popular music.

So if this review is part of the myth-making—happy to be of service.

DOWNLOAD: “Recent History,” “Snow,” “Myths” and “The Beast”

IRON & WINE — Beast Epic

Album: Beast Epic

Artist: Iron & Wine

Label: Sub Pop

Release Date: August 25, 2017

The Upshot: Simplicity and ease win the day on Sam Beam’s first solo release in four decades.


Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam pares things back to essentials for this sixth full-length, his first solo release in four years. A calm permeates eleven uncluttered, unfussed songs, as Beam carries pretty melodies with a quiet voice through warm, casually right arrangements of guitar, stringed instruments, keyboards, bass and drums. It’s a little sleepy, but picturesque and redolent of the basic stuff of human life, sort of like the southern towns that Beam’s lyrics depict (“Every traffic light is red when it tells the truth/The church bell isn’t kidding when it cries for you,” from “Thomas County Law”).

Beam worked with a familiar crew. Longtime keyboard player Rob Burger is on hand again, littering “Song in Stone” with twinkling piano and layering thick ribbons of organ onto “Call It Dreaming.”  Sebastian Steinberg lays in a subtle plunk of bass that you can hear most clearly in staccato, jazz-inflected “Last Night.”  Two Califone vets — percussionist Joe Adamik and utility player Jim Becker (guitar, mandolin, banjo and violin) —lend a certain ghostly roots complexity. And Teddy Rankin Parker is everywhere in the corner of your ear, coaxing rich throbs of bowed emotional resonance from his cello. On paper, that sounds like a lot of players and, perhaps, a certain amount of busy-ness, but in practice the sound is light and bright and simple sounding, a frame rather than a filter for Beam’s songwriting ideas.

Indeed simplicity and ease win the day on Beast Epic, which foreswears interesting sidebars like trance blues wanderings of Shepherd’s Dog or the Latin drama of Beam’s collaborations with Calexico, or even the conversational tensions of recent duets with Jesca Hoop. Instead cuts like “Call It Dreaming” feel focused and well-edited, as if Beam had taken a blue pencil to his wildest ideas and cut out all the diversions. The result is modest and warm and a damn near perfect of expression of his folk-pop core. Don’t look for fireworks here, but rather smaller, quieter revelations that take time to unveil themselves.

DOWNLOAD: “Call It Dreaming”