The SoundDiego Record Club features some of the best new musical releases from around the county. Read on and listen in.
Erik Canzona, released July 29
"The Narrows" finds Erik Canzona, frontman of the Heavy Guilt, taking a definitive step out of that band's shadow with a hefty 13-track album of sprawling atmospherics and dissonant minimalism. Joined on select tracks by San Diego go-to drummer Jake Najor, and Heavy Guilt bandmate Alfred Howard (who contributes his songwriting, percussion and "weird noise" skills), the record finds Canzona eschewing the soul/rock jam band dynamics of his other group for a mostly acoustic affair. However, instead of simply playing quieter Guilt songs, he refreshingly takes an experimental sledgehammer to the oftentimes cringe/snooze-inducing solo singer/songwriter role: Melodic acoustic guitars meet spastic, tick-tack drum machine beats and odd time signatures ("Forced Hand"); synthesizers gurgle over raw, thundering toms and crashing tambourine backbones ("Victorville," "Further From Me"); while abrupt shards of angular electric guitar solos threaten to obliterate whatever speakers you're listening to them through ("No Cure"). Canzona sounds just at home powering through the Iggy Pop "Passenger" strut of "Your Plan" as he is sliding around among velcro synths and distorted microphones that sound like they've swung off the hook unattended for the last 50 years. Mining a certain level of the sickly defeatism that ran through Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief" or Blur's "13" album -- "The Narrows" is synthetically campy, occasionally atonal, and whenever it finds itself drifting into menial coffeehouse territory, sets itself aflame to rebuild. After all, the saying goes: It's better to burn out than to fade away. [Listen/Buy it here]
With all the advances and studio wizardry of our current age, you’d think capturing a band’s live energy on tape wouldn’t prove to be so elusive. Of course, that’s because it's impossible to bottle a band’s enthusiasm, attitude and good, ole fashioned sweat (well, you could bottle the latter but it'd be gross). And there’s something about a rowdy audience giving it back that makes all the difference. For what it’s worth, the new “DeathFrights” split EP, by local surf punk trio the Frights and labelmates (and frequent tour buddies) LA-based garage rock quartet Death Lens, never had a chance. Both of these bands are incendiary live – and even though no record will ever make up for witnessing them in person, this new Postmarks Records release at least gives us a compelling document for reference. It’s not for lack of trying either: Across these eight tracks (where both bands lay down two new songs, cover each other, and join up together on an EP-ending collaboration), we get a sense of why these bands are just so friggin’ killer: The Frights kick off the proceedings with “Kids,” a precious ode to youthful regret (sample lyric: “I hate my mom and dad/You told me you were sad/So we left our homes at last/Now I miss my mom and dad”) that bounces along to Adam Lomnitzer’s surf beat, Richard Dotson’s liquid bass line, and cavernous vocals by guitarist/singer Mikey Carnevale. Considering these guys aren’t old enough to stay inside the Casbah after they’re done playing, it’s pretty hefty material. Death Lens answer back on the Hives-esque “No Colt, No Johnny,” where innocence gives way to angst. Guitarist/singer Bryan Torres belts out lines about getting wasted after waking up in the afternoon while the rest of the band (Johnny Panlillo on guitar, Ruben Hernandez on drums, and “Duke” on bass) carve out a thumping bed of dense fuzz bass and catchy, three-chord garage riffs. Both bands have never lacked tongue-in-cheek humor and here, they save the best for last: “She Makes Me” is Carnevale and Torres’ jangly, acoustic lament about a girl plays them both for suckers. This isn’t a Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney mom-jean pop nugget ala “The Girl Is Mine” – no, this time, the mutual dupe is set to a ‘50s Buddy Holly melody and throat-shredding vocals by both; just in case you forgot that heartbreak’s a bitch. [Listen/Buy it here]
"Radio Time Bomb"
Shake Before Us, releases Aug. 29
"Radio Time Bomb," the sophomore studio full-length from Shake Before Us, lives up to its title right off the bat: Leadoff track "Figure It Out" kicks off the Mod rock quartet's sonic assault with aplomb. Packed with jangly fuzz guitar, playful toy organ, and gang vocals galore, the song plots the course for the rest of the record and presents the blueprint to the Shake Before Us ethos: Play killer tunes, get rowdy, and above all, have a good f---in' time. Lyrically, the group (which consists of guitarist/co-singer Jesse Pryor, keyboardist/co-singer Will Lerner, bassist John Falk and drummer Fonda), ain't exactly Shakespeare -- but if you want perfectly constructed sonnets, you're in the wrong place anyway. At a succinct 33 minutes, the album is good ole fashioned rock & roll fun; in an age of complexity and endless experimentation, sometimes the best recipes call for the fewest (and simplest) ingredients. Musically, there's nothing to really "get" here, and that's exactly how it should be. "You Started It," "Button Up My Black Shirt," and "It's What You Wanted" sound like the Hives got in a three way knife fight with the Sonics and the Animals -- which is entirely unsurprising, considering the band enlisted Rocket From the Crypt's John "Swami" Reis as producer (as they also did for their 2011 debut). If anyone's got a grip on vintage fuzz guitar and driving, ferocious garage rock, it's Reis. One of the best tracks on "Radio Time Bomb" is the singular cover in the bunch: Don Juan Mancha's "Misery" saunters along with bluesy woe; Lerner's impassioned vocals ooze emotional defeat while dense, grungy organ riffs swirl around Pryor's slow-played, feedback-drenched electric guitar solo -- a reminder that even fun-lovin' folks get their hearts broken too. [Buy it here]