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.
Another month, another pop culture appropriation of the rich post-punk, goth and new wave counterculture is dragged from the shadows and into the living rooms of normies. I kid, I kid. However, it is true that on Sunday, The Simpsons episode “Panic On The Streets of Springfield’ guest-starring Benedict Cumberbatch, aired on Fox and introduced a Morrissey-esque character that writer Tim Long said might also possess “a dash of Robert Smith from The Cure, Ian Curtis from Joy Division and a bunch of other people.” Although I’ve not yet seen it (as you are reading this in the future and I’m writing it on Sunday afternoon), the character sounds both a bit douchey (ie Morrisey) and a dash delightful (Robert Smith). Fingers crossed that the “other people” Long is referencing includes demonstrates the theatrical flair of Richard Butler and the sardonic wit of Mark E. Smith. If we’re blessed with a few more decades of the Simpsons, perhaps the artists below will realize their shot at a barroom set at Moe’s Tavern or end up blaring in Otto Mann’s headphones.
On June 4, Los Angeles-based band Bizou will release their debut full-length album Tragic Lover. The album follows up the band’s acclaimed EP stilllifeburning which was released last year. Bizou features current and former members of Light FM, The Smashing Pumpkins, Wax Idols and Glaare. Combining propulsive darkwave rhythms, shifting synth scales, haunting vocals and a wall of shivering shoegaze guitars, Bizou craft a sound entirely their own. Formed in 2017, Bizou have shared stages with Drab Majesty, Ötzi, Hunny, and many others — spinning their gossamer web of dark and bright sonic waves around goth and pop fans alike.
Ashes is the electrifying solo debut album from Douglas, the new solo experimental, shoegaze/electronica project from Amy Douglas White, a veteran LA-based singer, songwriter and musician who is previously best known for contributing background vocals on M83’s seminal album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and performing alongside Mariqueen Maandig Reznor in West Indian Girl. To mark its release, Douglas shared a compelling short film set to the album track “Alter Ego”. Among the most cinematic tracks on Ashes, “Alter Ego” burrows deep into the unspoken emotions evoked by the instrumental, depicting a poignant vignette in a boy’s adolescent life. In the short film, starring Daniel Hoffman, a boy ventures out from his troubled household one evening and stumbles upon his older brother’s secret sexuality, evoking the song’s theme of hidden identity. Shot on 35mm film by acclaimed filmmaker Jac Cron who creates films centered around human connection, particularly within the LGBTQIA+ community, she was struck by the song’s cinematic resonance and inspired to create the video that tells a fictional (but all-too-real) story about how identity, acceptance, societal pressure and vulnerability affect members of their community. As the only video, it’s a powerful final statement from the album.
Drab Majesty have brought a new dispatch for 2021: a reissue of their first two transmissions — their debut release, Unarian Dances as well as the Dais Records label debut, Unknown to the I. These milestone cassettes were released in 2012 and 2015 respectively, along with inclusion on the 2015 CD compilation Completely Careless, but were never committed to vinyl.
On their sophomore effort, Still Life (mt.st.mtn), Los Angeles’ Massage manage to take a quantum leap forward in songwriting, production, and depth, all without seeming to try. These 12 deft songs are full of late-summer sunlight and deep shadows, pained grins and shared jokes, shy declarations of love and quietly nursed heartbreak. Still Life resurrects a brief, romantic moment in the late-’80s, right after post-punk and immediately before alt-rock, when it seemed like any scrappy indie band might stumble across a hit. The kind of music Massage makes—sunny, bittersweet, tender—is less a proper genre than a minor zip code nested within guitar pop. Take a little “There She Goes” by the La’s, some “If You Need Someone” by the Field Mice; the honey-drizzled guitars from The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love,” a Jesus & Mary Chain backbeat, and you’re almost all the way there. Indie pop, jangle pop, power pop—whatever you call it, pushing too hard scares the spirit right out of this sweet, diffident music, and Massage have a touch so light the songs seem to form spontaneously. [disclosure: Massage is a client of Sweet Cheetah Publicity]
Conceived on the outskirts of Berlin, Germany, in a rural home that retains the peaceful feeling of old Germany, and further developed in multiple German studios, songwriter and composer Nikolas Schreck completed his latest work, O, A Weird Flower. Presented to the world on the Spring Equinox, which for many signals the cycle of growth and rebirth seen in the season change, provides an appropriate metaphor for Schreck’s body of work. It is constantly evolving with little regard to staking a permanent claim in any particular genre. Making that case is his evolution from Radio Werewolf, to work with Kingdom of Heaven, Skull Kulture, as well as his musical collaborations with Sir Christopher Lee, John Murphy, Death in June, and others. One constant however, Schreck’s eclecticism and distinctive voice offers vivid and colorful characters, stories, and narratives that bridge the gap between sophisticated high art, pop music and playful, albeit sometimes macabre, musical theater. [disclosure: Nikolas Schreck is a client of Sweet Cheetah Publicity]
New Zealand’s Swallow the Rat (featuring ex-My Education guitarist Brian Purington) and New York’s Clone (ex-Dead Leaf Echo, Squad Car) shared a stage in Queens, NYC on perhaps the last day before the city shut down in 2020. A mutual appreciation society was formed over drinks later that night. Swallow the Rat were in town to play the New Colossus Festival, while Clone were playing what was to be the first date of their debut tour of the East Coast. There were plans to share the stage again in New Orleans and in Austin at SXSW. A global pandemic put an end to this, but the bands kept talking. Both had recently recorded EPs, and so a plan was hatched: a split 12″ with songs from both bands. Four tunes apiece, about the irony of memory recall, the loss of friends by their own hand, frustrations of gender role psyche and the fear of looking back. Dissonant delayed guitars and martial drums abound, despite the oceans and continents separating the groups. Swallow The Rat / Clone split LP will be available on LP and download on May 21 via Headbump Records.
Quiet Panic has signed Los Angeles’ acclaimed Tennis System, who is set to release their forthcoming LP, Autophobia, in late Summer 2021. Written and recorded entirely during the pandemic, Autophobia is Tennis System’s first new full-length since 2019’s Lovesick and marks a thrilling new chapter and a logical shift in sound for the project, led by guitarist/vocalist Matty Taylor. Simply, it is nothing short of a wildly catchy and moving album and Tennis System’s most personal offering. It is minimalist and vocals-driven, the unlikely bedroom project of a feral live musician – music to memorialize a lost year. At Chadwick Johnson of Hundreth and Pure Violet’s prompting, Taylor veered from the scuzzy guitars and pummeling drums he’s known for, instead weaving synth and drum machines with live drums and guitar – and even the hum of a swarm of bees – to form a tapestry of textured soundscapes unlike anything he’d created before.