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.
While January in dreary Dayton, Ohio, couldn’t be a more perfect time and place for it, I’m finding it a bit challenging to immerse myself in the shadowy sounds of goth and post-punk this month. As I watch much of the world breathing a collective sigh of relief due to transformative changes in the U.S. political landscape, I am, for the first time in many months, seeing the light at the end of a five-year long tunnel. Repression and abuse of power doesn’t disappear overnight, and perhaps won’t ever fully be eradicated, but for now I’m willing to briefly celebrate the possibility of something better.
Did our punk forebearers ever feel hopeful? Did they celebrate the end of the Cold War, the Reagan/Bush years, the Berlin Wall falling? I’m sure they did. Did they similarly ask, “Is there still a reason for transcendent and antagonistic music when the world’s pendulum appears to be swinging a more desirable direction?” As far as punk history is concerned, whatever the direction of societal inertia, there has long remained a bright burning torch of individualism and innovation in artistic circles. And thank goodness, 2021 appears to offer no exception.
Dark Backward have devoted a portion of their COVID time to recording a handful of covers in the studio of their keyboardist Fred Vahldiek. In addition to tackling Faith No More and Dementia Precox, in late 2020 they were joined by special guest Tina Cuti for a cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Cities In Dust.” While the song remains reverent to the original, guitarists Eric Purtle and Jeff Brelsford deliver the raved up riffs with a bit more bite.
The Fall’s Marc Riley recently stumbled upon the link to a recording of the band’s performance at St. Helens Technical College in 1981. Upon listening, he recognized the recording as one of the most pristine ever captured and sent it to John Dwyer of Osees and Castleface Records for his personal enjoyment. Within the space of a week, the four surviving members of the band had granted Dwyer permission to release it. Watch for the recording to emerge via a vinyl-exclusive LP on February 19.
The debut LP by Oakland, California’s Fawning, a band that includes Cheyenne from Night School on vocals, sees release digitally on February 12. Fans of Slowdive, The Cure and peak-era 4AD bands should definitely take note as their lilting and dreamy approach is sure to delight. Our recommendation is to pre-order the limited, ultra-clear with smoke vinyl edition of Illusions of Control.
Serj Tankian & Tom Morello – “Natural’s Not in It” from The Problem of Leisure, A Celebration of Andy Gill and Gang of Four
This May sees the release of The Problem of Leisure: A Celebration of Andy Gill and Gang of Four, a double album of tracks written by Andy Gill and Gang of Four, all newly reinterpreted and recorded by artists whose own unique contributions to music were enriched by listening to Gang of Four. The album features songs from across Gang of Four’s 40-plus year career, each individually chosen by the artists who covered them. The first track, “Natural’s Not in It” to emerged is unsurprisingly performed by Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine and Serj Tankian, two artists whose own incendiary and confrontational approaches nod to Gill’s guitar anti-hero tendencies. The album is available to pre-order now in a variety of double vinyl and two CD formats from all usual retail outlets worldwide, with the most deluxe vinyl format, Dogluxe, only available from the Gang of Four website, gangoffour.uk/store.
Mensa Deathsquad – Cyclist
A heady package of nudge nudges and intellectual ruminations, trademarks of Brandon Phillip’s past as a smartpunk upstart in such seminal bands as The Gadjits and Architects, Mensa Deathsquad’s forthcoming Cyclist carries both a powerful music punch, a cultural rummaging through pop culture (including a nod to The Lost Boys), and a run through his ever-evolving dance-floor nihilism and neon nostalgia. Cyclist is out February 23.
Phantom Wave – Wilds
Phantom Wave, a band who is dangerously armed with an appropriate chain of fuzz, reverb and delay creates dynamic songs that clearly draw inspiration from the indie rock, shoegaze and dream pop scenes. They recently recorded their first LP, titled Wilds, which they’ll self-release on March 19. The effort establishes Phantom Wave as one to watch when they return to gigging in New York City post-pandemic.
From the frozen realm of Siberia, Russian Ploho carry the banner of wistful new wave melancholia into a new era. Drawing inspiration from the aesthetic and sounds of the late Soviet era of the 1980s, Ploho have released new single “Танцы в темноте” (translated to English as “Dancing in the Dark),” from their upcoming new album, Phantom Feelings. Phantom Feelings sees a February 5 release via Artoffact Records, home to Bootblacks, ACTORS, Kælan Mikla, and more of today’s most vital post-punk bands from around the world.
Nicole Marxen – Tether EP
Nicole Marxen is a Dallas-based musician and visual artist who is also known as one of the shiny dark innovators behind acclaimed avant-garde pop band Midnight Opera, who received praise for their “unpredictable songwriting; waterfalls of catharsis; gorgeous, haunting melodies” as well as their live performances, a meld of opulent set design, choreography, and costumes, earning the band the title of “Best Group Act” from The Dallas Observer in 2018. Marxen makes her solo debut with the captivating Tether EP, a meditation on the grieving process resulting from the sudden passing of her mother. Soaring from screeching highs to icy subterranean depths, Marxen creates a sonic landscape in which she is unafraid to own her pain. Recorded at John Congleton’s studio, Elmwood, with Alex Bhore (formerly of This Will Destroy You), the unresolved grief takes shape as a relatable, albeit devastating open wound.