Words by Tim Anderl
Tim Anderl is a Dayton, Ohio-based writer whose work has published in Alternative Press, Strength Skateboarding, Ghettoblaster, New Noise Magazine among other alternative weekly newspapers, magazines and online publications/blogs. He’s the former host of the Sound Check Chat podcast and runs a boutique PR firm, Sweet Cheetah Publicity. Growing up in the rich culture of the ’80s lead Tim to a life-long love of music, including post-punk, new wave, darkwave, goth, dream pop.
As I reflect on the last month since our last “Play Date,” one particular event is at the forefront of my thoughts; Joy Division’s Closer celebrates its 40 year anniversary in 2020. The record saw release on July 18, 1980, two months after the suicide of band lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis. I don’t mention this just out of newsworthiness and proximity to the kind of content this column covers, but want to use it as an opportunity to make a few suggestions: 1) Check on your friends frequently and with an open heart and open ears. The experience of travelling on this planet can levy varying degrees of pressure on its human passengers; 2) Tell the people that you love that you love them. “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” but it can also be an extremely powerful, and healing medicine; 3) Even the most beautiful art sometimes springs forth in the midst of some epic tragedy. Watch and listen for those dizzying and beautiful creations and allow them to help you part even the darkest of clouds where you can.
That said, this particular month brought a few dark clouds, perhaps most notably in the passing of Florian Schneider, a founding member of Kratwerk, at age 73. Kraftwerk’s influence on popular music is undeniable, becoming a blueprint for synthpop, EDM, and post-punk alike. The group had a large influence on Bowie’s “Berlin Era” and Bowie later named his instrumental track for “Heroes” after Schneider. Though he left the group in 2008, Schneider was a key member for all of Kraftwerk’s most influential work including 1974’s Autobahn, 1977’s Trans-Europe Express and 1978’s The Man Machine. Rest in peace Florian.
With many storms come the promise of a rainbow, and the musical offerings that have become available this month offer a rich palate of musical hues and colors. Here are a few that I found most vivid…
Permanent Collection, the moniker carried by musician Jason Hendardy since 2010, released a new single, “Point Of No Return” from the forthcoming Nothing Good is Normal, out June 19. The album offers a noise collection of 10, full-fuzzed out, reverb drenched punk songs that nods to an amalgam of influences including My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Wire.
Wire continues their long-standing tradition of industriousness returning just three scant months after the release of Mind Hive with 10:20 via their pinkflag label on June 19. 10:20 is a special, vinyl-only album, and the band have shared “Small Black Reptile” from the forthcoming release. Wire fans are sure to recognize it as a retooled version of a song that appeared on their 1990 album Manscape. This version transforms it into a melodic rock ripper. The rest of the release features songs the band refers to as ‘strays’; pieces that couldn’t be accommodated on regular albums, or those that transformed significantly following their original studio recording.
The Lightheads, a group that performs a virulent strain of melody-heavy post-punk released their catchy new single for “Cold Sheets.” Hailing from the damp streets of Portland, Oregon, “Cold Sheets,” is a bit of a sonic departure from their frenzied past, and offers a great first look at their evolving sound, which nods to loads of ’90s alternative rock favorites.
The Criminal World* (featuring members of Soft Kill), recently announced the release of the We Spilled Blood For The Money LP, which hits the streets on May 29 via Cercle Social Records. The Mini-LP is comprised of five songs, and follows the Pure Vory demo cassette, and subsequent release of “Seeing Double” and “Paper” via 7″ on Farewell Records (London, UK) in 2016. The band released the first single from the record, “Landing Flare,” earlier this month. Drawing heavily from the likes of Curve, Stone Roses and the Swirlies, layers of synth and ethereal vocals haunt the dense soundscapes and find the trio planting a firm, dark flag in the modern West Coast underground.
Athens-based post-punk new wave outfit Vision Video released their debut single, “In My Side,” on May 8. It was recorded and mixed by Tom Ashton (The March Violets, Clan of Xymox) at Sub Von Studios, and mastered by Joel Hatstat at High Jump Studio. Not afraid of the dark, Video Vision pays homage to 1980s new wave and gothic-rock with heavy influence from 2000s emo and disco punk. They synthesize a masterful blend of gothic rock, shoegaze, pop and punk rock. With depth and originality, they aren’t afraid to write a hook, resulting in their own unique flavor of accessible and dancey goth-pop. Their debut album is expected later this year.
Also this month, Los Angeles-via-Australia based duo VOWWS revealed the official video for their latest single “Impulse Control.” The song arrives on the heels of a partially completed world tour during which time VOWWS wrote the menacing, angular DEFCON 1 anthem. The accompanying video, which directed by VOWWS’ Rizz and Jesse Draxler was shot partially in LA’s Little Tokyo just prior to shelter in place and flawlessly captures our current dystopian climate of paranoia, mania, absurdity and occasional gallows humor.
Finally, Chicago duo SNST*, featuring the husband and wife duo of Chris Broach (of Braid, The Firebird Band) and Sonja Rae, continue to roll out singles in anticipation of their forthcoming LP, It’s Hard to Be Loved by You. The album, which hits the streets on May 29 was recorded by Broach and mixed and mastered by Chris Common (Le Butcherettes, Minus The Bear, Omar Rodriquez-Lopez) at Twin Hills Studio in El Paso, Texas. It’s Hard to Be Loved By You, is an amalgam of synth and new wave, indie and post-punk guitar, heart on your sleeve rock, and dark wave and indie dance beats and synth sounds. This record should land on record store and magazine “staff picks” lists and as a recommendation to the odd store/‘zine hang-around looking for some fresh perspective.
*Writer’s Note: The Criminal World and SNST are clients of my publicity firm, Sweet Cheetah Publicity. They were included based solely on the artistic merit of the releases and their proximity to the regular content of Shadow-Plays.