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.
There is a big, huge terrible hole that may never be filled in the post-punk world. Andrew Fletcher of UK synthpop icons Depeche Mode left this world way too soon at the age of 60 earlier this summer. Although I didn’t say anything in June in order to respect the privacy of Fletcher’s family, I would be remiss not to say a few words about a man who literally transformed the way I thought about and digested music from the first time I heard Music For The Masses in seventh grade, until now, as I’m reaching my midlife.
Fletcher, a founding member of Depeche Mode alongside Vince Clark, Dave Gahan, and Martin Gore achieved worldwide acclaim with hits like “People Are People,” “Blashemous Rumors,” “Enjoy The Silence and dozens of other songs. As a result, he and Depeche Mode were deservedly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.
Although I don’t know what this means for the future of the group, I do know that Fletcher is absolutely irreplaceable and will be missed terribly by those blessed by his musical gifts and continue to feel his devastating loss. Fletcher certainly paved a distinct path for post-punk and synth pop and know that his distinct influence can be heard and felt in each of the acts we reference in this month’s roundup.
Automatic – the Los Angeles trio of Izzy Glaudini (synths, lead vocals), Lola Dompé (drums, vocals) and Halle Saxon (bass, vocals) – is back with their second album. On Excess, Automatic synthesizes a new strain of retrofuturist pop. The album rides the imaginary edge where the ‘70s underground met the corporate culture of the ‘80s – or, as the band puts it, “That fleeting moment when what was once cool quickly turned and became mainstream, all for the sake of consumerism.” Fresh off their EU/UK run, performances with Tame Impala, IDLES, Parquet Courts at Primavera Sound, and a special Excess release show at The Regent in LA on August 6, they hit the road this fall with Osees and recently announced performances at Pickathon and Desert Daze.
Sorrow wave duo Bring Her [disclosure: Bring Her is a client of Sweet Cheetah Publicity] return with their second LP, and first album release since 2019. Comfort In The Shame sees release via Knife Hits Records digitally and on cassette on August 19. Based out of Pittsburgh, Bring Her play a distinctive brand of somber darkwave, defined by haunting and magnetic vocals over pounding and obsessive drum machines, penetrating guitar chords and eerie and harrowing synths. Using DIY recording methods coupled with sound shaping, heavy layering and meticulous editing the new album sees the two-piece clawing to new heights, adding to the urgency and crushing weight of their already brooding sound. Elements of industrial peppers these 10 new tracks, and the duo stays in the gloomy and dismal pocket as the self-described “sorrow wave” moniker implies.
Cold Gawd’s Dais Records debut will be out on September 23. The band is the flag under which California-based multi-instrumentalist Matt Wainwright creates stormy, wounded shoegaze music born of open tunings and R&B melodies. Inspired by these sounds, Cold Gawd presents a refined, modernized take on the genre.
God Get Me The Fuck Out Of Here, took shape in the winter of 2020 while Wainwright was working long solo shifts at a coffee shop in Chicago. Fueled by dreams of returning to his hometown of Rancho Cucamonga and reconnecting with old friends from past hardcore bands, Wainright holed up with his coveted pink Jazzmaster, an array of FX pedals, and a laptop, and wrote the entire album in a month. In March of 2021 he made the move, heading back west to the Inland Empire, where he booked sessions with Gabe Largaespada at Open Ocean to track and mix. Despite recording every instrument himself, the results have the lived-in feel of a practiced live band (which Cold Gawd now are, fleshed into a six-piece). Cascading walls of guitar churn, surge, and ripple, framed by sunken rhythms and Wainright’s distant, defeated voice, veiled in violet haze.
Mute released the new record from revered synthpop icons, Erasure, titled Day-Glo (Based on a True Story), on August 12. Day-Glo (Based on a True Story) and their eighteenth studio album, The Neon, show two very unique sides of Erasure. With their core themes of love, understanding, and positively shining through, this release marks the closure of this chapter of The Neon. Vince Clarke began manipulating files for tracks from The Neon, their acclaimed 2020 album release. With no agenda in mind, gradually a hidden landscape in the tracks began to emerge – one that revealed a track within a track, another world within The Neon. Clarke explored this further, progressing some of the techniques he was using until the tracks that make up Day-Glo (Based on a True Story) started to fall into place.
Andy Bell then took these tracks into the studio and, with long-time collaborator Gareth Jones, began work on his parts. Although undoubtedly Erasure, a sense of improvisation permeates the tracks as Bell worked on vocals that built, through collage, into the finished album. This LP is an unexpected collection of 10 brand-new tracks – each created using elements of The Neon universe – that is both familiar and unexpected.
London’s HIGH VIS have exploded onto the DIY scene, earning a devoted following for their intense live shows and immediate lyrics that tackle themes from class politics to the challenges of everyday life. While their passion of hardcore stokes their fire, its post-punk’s textures and moods that line their sonic adventurousness, which suggests the members of High Vis are never going to be confined by any notion of what they should or shouldn’t be playing. Fugazi, Echo and The Bunnymen; Ride and even Flock Of Seagulls are clearly shared reference points as the band worked on this album. Blending sees its release across physical formats and digital platforms on September 9 via Dais Records.
Legendary Athens, Georgia post-punk trio Mercyland announced the upcoming release of their long-overdue final album, We Never Lost a Single Game, arriving via Propeller Sound Recordings on Friday, September 16. Formed in 1985 in Athens, Georgia, by vocalist/bassist David Barbe (later invited by Bob Mould to join Sugar and now an award-winning producer/engineer known for his work with Drive-By Truckers, Superchunk, Gregg Allman, and Deerhunter, to name but a few), Mercyland played a visceral style of post-punk that was both perfectly contemporary and quite ahead of its time. The trio, which also featured guitarist Andrew Donaldson and drummer Joel Suttles, took inspiration from such American underground peers as Hüsker Dü, Dinosaur Jr, and The Replacements while expertly synthesizing those influences into a coruscating, adrenaline-charged sound all its own.
Mercyland broke up in 1991, relegating music recorded for a planned second album to be released on a series of now-rare 7-inch singles and compilations. Three decades later, these remarkable nine songs have been remixed by Barbe and reassembled as We Never Lost a Single Game, providing a crucial historical document of this criminally unknown band.
Portland’s Soft Kill [disclosure: Soft Kill is a client of Sweet Cheetah Publicity] and El Paso’s Lesser Care [disclosure: Lesser Care is a client of Sweet Cheetah Publicity] announced a split release last month via à La Carte Records and released it to streaming. The Soft Kill / Lesser Care split features “Always Running” by Soft Kill and Lesser Care share the dreamy-blast beat filled track Soft Kill’s brilliant A-side “Always Running” was previously only released as a demo version on Not Quite Dracula Music via Cercle Social Records. This studio version of the song shines and encapsulates the sound and tone Soft Kill has achieved and honed over years of releases and relentless touring. “Always Running” comes off the heels of 2020’s Dead Kids, R.I.P City and in advance of 2022’s forth-coming full-length.
After a string of self-released EPs and their 2022’s Underneath, Besides Me debut LP, Lesser care offers a breath of fresh air with a shimmering B-Side “Shiver.” Building upon their refined style, Lesser Care explores the limits of their sound while effortlessly incorporating blast beats showcasing their raw take on dream pop.The bands will be touring together this fall.