REVIEWS


BOY HARSHER
CAREFUL
(NUDE CLUB)

Boy Harsher’s second full length delivers a set of airtight, propulsive goth dance tracks. The ‘80s are written across this album in large capital letters; but rather than cloying nostalgia for its own sake, the influences of Information Society, Pet Shop Boys, or even John Carpenter’s effectively minimal horror scores suggest the evolution of vocalist Jae Matthews and producer Gus Miller’s songwriting. Tracks like “Face The Fire,” “Fate,” and “LA” are big, cinematic, and––for the first time––rely more on big hooks than a pounding four on the floor instrumental. Fifth track “Come Closer” proves the duo can still turn a dance floor inside out as Jae’s breathless intonations ricochet atop an arpeggiated Roland bass line. The back half of the record delivers three more romantically dark synth tunes with “The Look You Gave (Jerry),” “Tears,” and “Lost,” centering on themes of familial loss, fear of betrayal, and abandonment. On Careful, Boy Harsher is more slickly stylized than ever, yet still free of pretension. —Andrew Cirac

EX VICUS
POWERSHIFTER
(SELF-RELEASE)

Someone in this band was whining on Facebook about how ANTIGRAVITY “flat-out refused” to review this release; and boy do we hate to disappoint, so here goes. For some reason, this band went all the way to The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado to turn out a three song EP that sounds—at best—like warmed over AVAIL. Why they couldn’t record these whopping nine minutes of music in New Orleans for far cheaper and with a lot less effort escapes this reviewer. I suppose since The Blasting Room is owned and operated by the Descendents’ Bill Stevenson, Ex Vicus thought maybe they could grab some magic in that studio, but all they really got was name dropping rights that—surprise—can’t really save this boring-as-fuck EP. If you like your cock rock rudely shoved into pop punk, with all the tropes and cliches included—guitar wankery, paint-by-number breakdowns, anthemy-but-unintelligible vocals—this might be for you. There you go, fellas. Don’t say we never did anything for ya. —Dan Fox

HARLEM
OH BOY
(FEMALE FANTASY)

On their first release in nine years, Harlem ditch the scrappy garage rock that made them indie darlings in the late 2000s for a moody classic rock sound that may alienate some longtime fans. The charming attitude and energy that characterized the band’s early work is mostly absent in this somber set, although the album is not entirely humorless: Oh Boy contains so many classic rock references it’s as if songwriters Michael Coomers and Curtis O’Mara are sharing an inside joke. That’s not to say the band is hiding these references; after all, naming a song “Blonde on Blonde” is not exactly subtle. Rather, Harlem is clearly having fun ripping off their heroes and aping classic rock’n’roll tropes at every turn. Take “Elegant and Sophisticated,” which lifts the ba-ba-bas right out of The Velvet Underground’s “I Found a Reason;” or “Swervin,” which is all but a note-for-note recreation of T. Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer.” Sadly, Oh Boy is neither as consistent nor as strong as 2010’s Hippies, but the excellent closing track “Queen of Mosquitos” proves Harlem is still capable of greatness. —Nick Pope

HOT 8 BRASS BAND
TAKE COVER
(TRU THOUGHTS)

Many people on social media expressed surprise when Hot 8 Brass Band announced their version of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” late last year. What is a New Orleans brass band doing covering 1980s English mope rockers? But for Hot 8, turning sorrow into sunshine is nothing new. In the past, they’ve dedicated upbeat tunes to deceased members. Although it may seem like an odd choice to some, the band does an impeccable job turning it into something all their own. Similar to the way that Ian Curtis transformed his raw emotions into the original anthemic dance floor number, Hot 8 re-imagines the Joy Division cut as a celebratory number with booming horns and powerful percussion. Take Cover, a collection of five new cover tunes, continues the group’s history of adapting the works of others with a New Orleans flavor (past releases have featured their take on everything from Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” to “Ghost Town” by The Specials). In addition to the Joy Division tune, Take Cover features groove-heavy selections from Michael Jackson to George Benson. Their rendition of The Jacksons’ “Shake Your Body (Down the the Ground)”––also a Rebirth Brass Band staple––serves as a reminder that New Orleans has a long tradition of adapting outside music to make people move. Almost a decade and a half after their first album, Hot 8 continues adopting new tunes into their songbook and turning them into something distinctly their own. —William Archambeault

LITE
BLIZZARD
(TOPSHELF)

Lite is one of Japan’s sharpest bands. Over the past 15 years, the instrumental math rock group has honed a distinct style that they continue to expand upon. On this 7”, they showcase two dramatically different sides of their sound. The A side, “Blizzard,” is highly atmospheric. It feels more like looking at an abstract painting of a snowy landscape than listening to a song. Its textural guitar delays transform into quick flashes of snow clanking against the window in a storm. Another layer of echoing guitars serve as a chilling breeze. Their use of sampled speech brings to mind “The Locust” by their former Topshelf labelmates and local favorites Donovan Wolfington (RIP). On the B side, “Zone,” the band launches a direct assault, sharply contrasting the spaciousness previously established. The song is a sprint, with a runtime of less than two minutes. Its sharp morse code-esque guitar motif gives it a heavy sense of urgency. The tune’s groove weaves in and out around the electrifying central theme, leaping into dynamic breaks that sometimes bring to mind Frank Zappa’s fearless musical acrobatics. As with past releases, Blizzard is a testament to Lite’s ability to transform virtuosic musicianship into something grand. —William Archambeault

PROUD/FATHER
SYMBOLIC EXCHANGE AND EMPTINESS
(ORB TAPES)

Sebastian Figueroa (Proud/Father) makes ambient music that goes far beyond mood creation. His work is deeply personal and political, though largely wordless. Symbolic Exchanges and Emptiness, put out in January via Pennsylvania label Orb Tapes, is Figueroa’s first physical release since last February. The first half comprises three contemplative tracks about “memory, isolation, depression, and vague emotional responses,” according to the letter Figueroa sent me along with the tape. Track 1, “フェーディングメモリ” (Japanese for “Fading Memory”), is a subdued, fuzzy ode to the forgotten. It is followed by “Semillas de Manzanas” (Spanish for “Appleseeds”), a short piece that shares the first track’s aura of longing and loss. “Through you, I am made complete. Through you, I am real.” is one long, pulsing tone that swells and fades with overtones and static, closing out Side A on a hopeful note. Side B consists of a single track, a meaty, 16-minute opus entitled “Al alejarme de casa recuerdos débiles se apagan,” which roughly translates as: “As I move away from home, weak memories fade.” For Figueroa, it is “a study in the history of Puerto Rican independence movements and the fading boricua identity post-[Hurricane] Maria.” It features a chorus of competing vocal samples, rendered inaudible through looping and overdubs. Though much more chaotic than Side A, it connects thematically with the melancholy of memories lost forever into the droning abyss. Raphael Helfand

SWERVEDRIVER
FUTURE RUINS
(DANGERBIRD)

Future Ruins is the follow up to Swervedriver’s 2015 release I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, their comeback release after a 17 year drought. Released on Dangerbird Records, the British band instinctively takes advantage of an American audience yearning for the ‘90s. Much like IWBTLY, Future Ruins continues the evolution of the band’s iconic and influential shoegaze sound, showcasing ten tracks of fuzzed-out mellow nostalgia that established listeners will soak up. “Mary Winter” and “The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air,” two singles released late last year, feed the band’s driving melodic archetypes, courtesy of Jimmy Hartridge’s bright and obscure lead guitar riffs and Adam Franklin’s rapsy euphonious voice, seemingly frozen in time. This more refined version of the band ditches some of the more fast-paced jams of their 1993 release, Mezcal Head and opts instead for slower songs that groove among layers of heavy guitars. The biggest asset of Future Ruins, as well as other veteran rebounds, is how good the recordings sound. The access to a dense canvas allows for a more complete display of Swervedriver’s sound. The band utilizes this wide net with songs that are stylistically atypical like “Future Ruins” and “Everyone Is Going Somewhere & No-One’s Going Anywhere,” which may confuse newer listeners, but will entice die-hards. Robert Landry

THRUSH
CUSP
(SELF-RELEASED)

Thrush is a local underground supergroup that never got the recognition it deserved. The five members have worked with PEARS, Space Cadaver, I’m Fine, Goura, and Fauns—just to name a handful. On this first (and possibly last) release, Thrush mixes doomy, gloomy, slow-rolling metal with luscious post-rock overtones. This beefy EP sports five songs and three interludes. The full songs are absolute wreckers, heavy as hell, and Michael Karayane’s deep guttural screams elevate them to another level of intensity. On the interludes, Thrush starkly contrasts this by diving into the deep end of their post-rock leanings. Formed in 2016, Thrush was active for less than a year when bassist Alex Talbot moved to Philadelphia. While there have been talks of continuing the band since then, nothing has materialized aside from this release. Recorded just days before Talbot moved in 2017, Cusp is a time capsule that captures something that otherwise might’ve been lost to history. —William Archambeault

偏執症者 (PARANOID)
HEAVY MENTAL FUCK-UP!
(THE SIGN / KONTON CRASHER)

偏執症者, better known as Paranoid, is a band you feel in your very core, a bludgeoning wall of sound. On Heavy Mental Fuck-Up!, the Swedish group continues to fuse d-beat’s intensity and extreme metal’s sinister darkness. Opener “Jikeidan” combines a pummeling beat with screaming dual harmony guitar leads. Musically, the band’s rampage borrows heavily from Japanese d-beat ragers like Disclose and Kriegshög. The raw vocals bring to mind 1980s extreme metal groups like Venom and fellow Swedes, Celtic Frost. While the marriage of these styles isn’t anything new, Paranoid does an excellent job of carrying on this tradition while also sculpting their own identity. This album is far less chaotic than their immensely noisy debut Satyagraha, which won over many fans through sheer sensory overload. Three years later, after releasing a plentiful array of smaller releases, the group has refined their assault to make a more conventional yet still devastating record. Many of the tracks—such as “Jikangire” and “Daigyakusatsu”—feel like a tidal wave crashing down, laying waste to all in its path. Paranoid may be more refined than ever, but their music hasn’t gotten any less intense. —William Archambeault

JOHN CARREYROU
BAD BLOOD: SECRETS AND LIES IN A SILICON VALLEY STARTUP
(ALFRED A. KNOPF)

Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout who founded the blood testing company Theranos, was heralded in the tech press as the second coming of Steve Jobs. Holmes said her company’s equipment could quickly scan for numerous medical conditions based on a simple finger prick, saving patients the time and unpleasantries of a traditional blood draw. But, as Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou explains, the Theranos devices never actually worked. That meant patients got wrong results, sometimes with serious consequences. Carreyrou is modest about his previous writing’s role in exposing what prosecutors now call fraud at Theranos. He describes how high-end FOMO and groupthink enabled Theranos, which repeatedly failed to produce even a working demonstration of its finger-prick technology, wooed reporters and suckered high-profile board members usually associated with wisdom and restraint—James Mattis, Henry Kissinger, and Bush v. Gore litigator David Boies all served as directors. Retailers like Walgreens and Safeway eagerly pursued deals with the company, with executives terrified Holmes would take her purportedly revolutionary blood tests to rival in-store clinics. Bad Blood is an entertaining reminder that the rich and powerful are just as vulnerable as anyone to what, in hindsight, looks like a cartoonish scam. —Steven Melendez

AARON TURNER
BUTTHOLE SURFERS: WHAT DOES REGRET MEAN?
(MELODIC VIRTUE)

The Butthole Surfers’ story has finally been documented in a fashion that matches their bizarre craft. Although at least one book about the Texas freak rockers already exists, Regret avoids repeating past texts by focusing heavily on imagery. Instead of filling the book with dense paragraphs, Aaron Turner tells the band’s story through a combination of photography, show fliers, press clippings, and other visuals. The collision of these elements is a deep dive into the strange aesthetic that has defined the group for almost four decades. Turner accents the visual content with excerpts of accomplished musicians explaining their fascinating and often scarring experiences with the group. Recalling the intense strobe lights and grotesque gorey video backdrop of his first Butthole Surfers show, Melvins drummer Dale Crover claims, “They were the only band I ever saw that made me physically ill.” Listening to the band’s discography while flipping through pages is a must for maximum impact. Thankfully, the book includes a flexi disc with an unreleased track from the 1980s to get readers started in the right direction. —William Archambeault

MARY CLARA HUTCHISON
HOUSE/HOLD
(ANTENNA GALLERY)

What is an artist doing when they make an image of something, particularly when the thing itself is nearby, nicely framed for everyone to look at? This is a question that does not lie at the heart of House/Hold, but in its periphery, looming in the spaces between destruction and creation. In this show, Hutchinson has taken apart several pieces of furniture and reconstructed their parts into carefully positioned new forms. Strands of yellow thread hang web-like between a precarious construct of metal chairs, the delicacy of the material reflected in the drawers full of hair found elsewhere. Small assemblages mounted on one wall pair the same hair and thread with chunks of couch stuffing in vaginal little vignettes. There are parallels to be drawn here between the body and object, but small paintings––made to scale––of the couch stuffing sculptures, add a dimension of disconnection to this intimate show. Our bodies are reflected back to us in the soft, hairy furniture forms, and they are in turn reflected in these faithful little painted depictions. A mirror hangs in the center of the gallery, reflecting the body of each of us into the world of this sparse, clever show. —Harriet Burbeck