REVIEWS


AMERICAN FOOTBALL
LP3
(POLYVINYL)

Mike Kinsella has been highly influential in the recent scene of “emo revival” bands. His past and present acts are a crew of Chicago emo staples spanning more than 20 years, which include Cap’n Jazz, Owls, Owen, and American Football. I’m a sucker for drummers who turn to songwriting, and Kinsella is definitely an unsung hero among the juggernauts. LP3 is the band’s follow-up to the much-anticipated LP2 in 2016. The comeback seemed to fall short for the die-hards who ached for some of the raw qualities the band’s 1999 debut capitalized on, but the new release seems to consider some of that criticism while still offering a few curve balls. “Silhouettes” opens with a scurry of melodic percussion and synthesized tones. These sounds are new to those listeners tethered to the debut, but the band then enters with twirling guitars and a low dissolving bass line, a more familiar state. “Every Wave To Ever Rise” and “Doom In Full Bloom” are healthy compromises between Kinsella’s singer-songwriter moniker, Owen, and the patterned instrumental movements of American Football. Kinsella is considerably more confident singing now and it shows, bringing a comprehensive tonality to the songs. However, this vocal confidence gets in the way of the project’s original idea in “Uncomfortably Numb,” a duet featuring Hayley Williams of the pop-punk band Paramore. The song comes off as an emo Andrew Lloyd Webber number sponsored by Hot Topic. “Mine To Miss” is another sour note that sounds more appropriate for Owen. American Football will never completely return to their late ‘90s sound, and they shouldn’t. Fans should accept that and appreciate the attempts to build on something that was an experiment to begin with. —Robert Landry

BAD MISTERS
WHY NOT HAVE FUN?
(STRANGE DAISY)

Bad Misters’ long-awaited debut is so personal it’s uncomfortable. Labored over since 2012, the record takes an unflinching look at the band’s blotched psyche. “Fingers Crossed,” an ode to Narcissus, encapsulates singer Justin Andre’s haughty anti-charisma. He plays no instrument—a bold move in a three-piece—and carries the air of a smug intellectual. It works because he throws himself fully into the role, and because he’s flanked by an inventive rhythm section. Annabelle Dempster’s affected bass mimics two instruments, both cooperating and competing with James Goodreau’s dynamic drumming. The result is passion boiling behind an aloof veneer. Songs like “Blue Eyes” and “18 to 24” sound influenced by power pop cult favorites Osker. Like Osker, Bad Misters’ snotty self-absorption and cold antagonism will never be everyone’s cup of tea. They don’t offer the sort of simple, inviting hook that snares a general audience until “Claudius,” which doesn’t appear until more than halfway through the album. But the Lafitte natives prove that Louisiana can produce more thoughtful, challenging artists than the smaller-market Los Angeles flunkies who flock here by the train-load. With an impressive album release turnout at Saturn Bar and a James Whitten mix cementing their sound, Bad Misters must be having their moment. —Michael Kunz

BIG BUSINESS
THE BEAST YOU ARE
(JOYFUL NOISE)

Despite their small lineup, Big Business deliver huge riffs on The Beast You Are. After working with larger configurations for much of their career, this is the band’s second consecutive album to feature their original two-piece incarnation. Together, bassist/keyboardist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis make a fuller sound than most bands with a full group. This is the type of pummeling wall of sound that hits hard in the chest. It’s easy to understand why Melvins adopted the duo and made them an integral part of their sound for the better part of a decade. Aided by years of pulling double duty with the two bands, Warren and Willis approach their music with the refined precision of longtime veterans. Willis’ intense drums launch off tunes like “Bright Grey” and “El Pollo,” a reminder that he is every bit as powerful a drummer as former collaborator Dale Crover. Most of the tunes weigh heavy with metal-tinged tones and massive riffage, while noise and psychedelic rock influences propel their sound into something unique. On “Under Everest,” jingling bells and delicate melodies sharply contrast the album’s prominent biting tones. Fifteen years years since their debut, Big Business continue to make their own sound. —William Archambeault

EX HEX
IT’S REAL
(MERGE)

When Ex Hex dropped their first album, Rips, in 2014, it was an instant rock’n’roll masterpiece, an ultra-efficient sprint from start to finish—nary a song above four minutes—thanks to frontwoman and longtime D.C. scene stalwart Mary Timony. Timony’s bold, yet tasteful guitar calisthenics and equally balanced vocals—backed up by a classic, stripped-down bass and drum foundation—make for an easy and obvious comparison to Joan Jett or The Runaways. But Timony put it best herself in an interview with ANTIGRAVITY from that same year: “Some of these songs were written to sound like they could be on Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown in 1982.” Mission accomplished. Complete with a garish neon-splashed cover, It’s Real—the follow-up to Rips five years in the making—continues this dependable formula. It would be near impossible to match the energy of that first breakout album; and indeed It’s Real does come up short in that regard, offering up a more subdued and meandering Timony, who takes her time plowing through some of these tracks, a few of which break the four, even five minute mark. “Tough Enough” feels a little anemic for an opener, though the follow-up, “Rainbow Shiner,” is a mid-tempo stomper that would sound brutish and wanky in rougher hands, but thanks to Timony’s graceful restraint, feels just right. It’s not fair to expect a follow-up to match the intensity of such a seminal album as Rips, but It’s Real is definitely going to take more time to warm up to. With lush production (helped along by producer-designer Jonah Takagi and co-engineering by fellow D.C. scene vets J.Robbins and Ben Green), it won’t be too hard to give this record a few dozen more spins to see if It’s Real can really sink in. —Dan Fox

FUNK ON DA TABLE
LIVE AT TIPITINA’S IN NEW ORLEANS
(COASTLINE)

Funk on Da Table’s lineup boasts some of the most formidable forces in New Orleans funk and beyond. This live album, recorded at Tipitina’s, opens with “Pass It!,” originally done by keyboardist John “Papa” Gros and guitarist June Yamagishi’s former group, Papa Grows Funk. Funk on Da Table strikes with a harder rock edge than PGF, though, thanks to the other half of this four-piece. Bassist Kenken, a visiting Japanese rockstar, is an assaultive player who packs a lot of power into his parts. Drummer Nikki Glaspie, famed for her work with everyone from Beyoncé to Dumpstaphunk, is a powerhouse of precision who is in high demand for good reason. In spite of the album’s title, the biggest highlight is the band’s rousing 19-minute take on the Meters’ “It Ain’t No Use,” a bonus track that was recorded during a Tokyo concert on Mardi Gras Day last year. The musicians function at their maximum capacities, taking the established tune to places no one even dreamed of before. June Yamagishi’s guitar doesn’t just sing on the tune, it screams. Although this release is primarily marketed to the band’s Japanese fans, Funk on Da Table is also selling copies locally. —William Archambeault

VARIOUS ARTISTS
JAZZ FEST: THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FESTIVAL
(SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS)

In honor of Jazz Fest’s 50th year, the Smithsonian Folkways label has compiled 50 different live recordings from the festival’s decades of sets. In light of this year’s Stones-Fleetwood Mac debacle, the box’s focus on Louisiana musicians—instead of big name headliners from out of town—is much welcomed. Long-time attendees will likely argue over notable omissions, but Smithsonian Folkways makes an honorable attempt at compiling most of the essential Jazz Fest names. This box set does a good job covering the spectrum of the festival’s diversity, ranging from Irma Thomas’ touching gospel vocals to Buckwheat Zydeco’s extended party grooves. One particularly powerful moment is John Boutte’s take on “Louisiana 1927,” recorded just months after Katrina. Boutte alters the lyrics to reference the then-recent tragedy and tugs hard on heartstrings with his angelic vocals. Sonny Landreth and the Subdudes also present their own storm-inspired odes. Most of the recordings featured in this box come from the past three decades. However, some notable early recordings are present. Three performances from the 1974 Professor Longhair Fire Benefit, which has been heavily mystified by fans for decades, finally make their debut on the release. Those recordings feature Professor Longhair (backed by Dr. John and members of the Meters), Earl King (backed by Tommy Ridgley and the Untouchables), and the Wild Magnolias (backed by Willie Tee and the Gaturs). In addition to the recordings, this box set features a number of well-written essays, most notably Keith Spera’s insightful history of the festival. Credit information and short bios help listeners navigate New Orleans’ notoriously inbred music scene with ease. Jazz Fest is a celebration of live music, and these recordings reflect that. Over half of the tracks exceed six minutes in length, showcasing musicians engaging in the type of exploration not always welcome in strict studio environments. For instance, the Funky Meters’ “Fire on the Bayou” is over twice the length of the studio original, with members weaving in and out of new melodies. With these five discs, the Smithsonian has captured a lot of what makes Jazz Fest special. —William Archambeault

LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY
RAINFORD
(ON-U SOUND)

Nobody has produced more mind-bending audio manipulations than Lee “Scratch” Perry. The dub reggae pioneer was among the first to treat magnetic tape as its own instrument, and he’s released over 50 albums of increasingly hypnotic and terrifying bass loops. Rainford was completed after two years of sessions with steady collaborator Adrian Sherwood. Sherwood describes this as Perry’s most personal album to-date, comparable to Johnny Cash’s rustic swan-song sessions with Rick Rubin. This assertion is plainly absurd; Rainford sounds like it was recorded in the year 3052 by a marijuana leaf that passed the Turing test. The lead single “African Starship” does feature a dusty harmonica sample, but the surreal whirlwind of “Makumba Rock” and surprisingly hook-driven “House of Angels” better represent the album’s mood. Perry’s trickster spirit offers the same non sequiturs and manic emoting that we’ve come to expect. In “Cricket on the Moon,” it takes all of two minutes for him to collapse into echoey laughter at his own opaque wordplay. Rainford derives its title from Perry’s birth name, a fact divulged in the album’s closer, “Autobiography of the Upsetter.” Paradoxically, this song is cryptic enough to justify Sherwood’s claim of unprecedented intimacy, as Perry encounters Bob Marley, who paraphrases an early hit: “My cup is overflow… I don’t know what to do.” Seconds later, Perry is “drinking chicken blood in a warm glass.”  —Michael Kunz

OTOBOKE BEAVER
ITEKOMA HITS
(DAMNABLY)

Otoboke Beaver’s rambunctious garage punk is frequently chaotic and unpredictable. On “Anata Watashi Ato Yome No Meshi” (“After Making Love to Me, You Eat Your Wife’s Meal”), the Japanese band explodes with slicing guitars and strenuous screams. The band refuses to let up at any point during the two minute tidal wave. Typically, American audiences don’t have much patience for foreign bands that sing in their native tongues. However, Otoboke Beaver’s electrifying SXSW performances this year proved that even when listeners don’t understand the lyrics, they feel these songs. Itekoma Hits features new material alongside the band’s last few years of micro-releases. Attentive listeners will notice a slow evolution towards more sporadic material. On new song “Don’t Light My Fire,” the group thrashes at breakneck speeds. Abruptly, they bring their chaos to a screeching halt. “Go to hell!,” singer Accorinrin quietly chants repetitively over a minimal drumbeat. Then—out of nowhere—the band bursts back into their frantic attack for the song’s three final notes. Their ability to navigate these types of dynamic changes throughout the album with such grace is astonishing. On closing track “Mean,” resurrected from their 2017 Love is Short EP, Otoboke Beaver launch a final 19-second blitzkrieg. —William Archambeault

SALUM ABDALLAH AND CUBAN MARIMBA BAND
NGOMA TANZANIA
(DOMINO SOUND)

Salum Abdallah’s father didn’t want him to be a musician. A devout Muslim and a prominent figure in the business community of Morogoro, Tanzania, the elder Abdallah felt music was a frivolous and devilish practice. When he found his son’s first instrument, a self-crafted three-string guitar, he smashed it. But Salum persisted, listening to everything he could get his hands on—especially the latest 78s imported from Cuba—and turning the café his father owned into a dance club that funded his first serious musical endeavours. He was prolific, recording over 100 sides, mostly for the Mombasa, Kenya-based label Mzuri. He continued to create until a car accident ended his life in 1965. Ngoma Tanzania (out May 10 via Domino Sound) compiles the best songs from Abdallah’s final years. The selections, most of which have never been re-released, showcase multiple facets of his songwriting, from straightforward dance tracks (“Marumba Cha Cha,” “Cuba Cha Cha”) to pained love ballads (“Sadness,” “My Love, I Am Hurt”) to protest music (“Colonialist”). The throughline is the infectious groove that carries every track, regardless of its lyrical content. —Raphael Helfand

THE NOISE COMPLAINTS
MODERN MEDICINE
(SELF-RELEASE)

The Noise Complaints’ latest offering is a tight set of dynamic songs that demonstrate this rowdy duo’s talent for mixing sugary-sweet vocal melodies, sharp lyricism, and bombastic lofi rock’n’roll. Recorded and mixed by singer/guitarist Shane Avrard at his home studio, Modern Medicine has an energy and raucous charm not unlike Japandroid’s first album (but with a better singer doing fewer whoa-oh-ohs). “Turrets on the Wall” proves that the instrumental limitations of being a two-piece don’t prevent the band from effectively locking into a hypnotic jam. “Spellbinder,” released as a single in 2018, features some of Avrard’s most sardonic lyrics, with an equally caustic guitar solo to match. “The Sudden Lack” begins with a drum machine looping under a veil of constant hiss that makes the track sound like a lost bedroom recording. Brad Davis’ drums are layered in during the second verse before slowly dissolving away in the final minute—a creative bit of mixing on Avrard’s part that gives the listener a feeling of drifting into the final, eponymous track. The melancholic “Modern Medicine” patiently builds toward a towering guitar solo, with Avrard’s vocals chiming in the widest stretches of the stereo field before finally giving way to a fuzzy, percussive climax. —Nick Pope

U.S. NERO
WHY DON’T THEY CHERISH THE MOON?
(SELF-RELEASE)

U.S. Nero is the brainchild of sole-permanent member (and ANTIGRAVITY contributor) Michael Kunz—realized with the help of a revolving cast of contributors—who makes spiky art-punk that never settles into a single groove long enough to become complacent or predictable. Rather, Why Don’t They Cherish the Moon? Is replete with neck-jerking halts and starts that feel as confrontational as Kunz’s often politically and socially charged lyrics. Fortunately, he has a voice strong enough to navigate these chaotic compositions, jumping effortlessly from coos to yawps to growls as needed. He even manages to inject some genuine pop hooks into the album’s post-punk and no wave-indebted dischord, as on the paranoid (and all-too-relatable) chorus of “Persecution Fantasies.” Kunz enlisted a large and talented pool of musicians to record the album, some of whom play some pleasantly non-traditional instruments (that is to say, nontraditional for the genre): Amanda Davis’ glockenspiel is a particular delight on album highlight “The Truth the Living Know,” and Jake Dewey’s theremin augments the jittery “Hypebeasts.” Cherish is the rare album that is as engrossing as it is peculiar. —Nick Pope

MAX BOOTH
CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES
(CINESTATE)

Max Booth’s debut for the newly pulled-from-the-grave “Fangoria Presents” imprint, Carnivorous Lunar Activities, is a hilarious story that rolls at 90 MPH and demands you bring it more medium rare steak. Ted and Justin are estranged best friends. As Ted struggles with his ex-wife not answering his barrage of texts, he’s summoned by Justin to come by and bring him some burgers. When Ted enters Justin’s once-nice home, he finds a rundown nightmare, the kind of place a guy who’s recently become a werewolf would hang out in. Justin has a mission for Ted: kill him at midnight with a silver bullet. As Justin explains in gory detail to Ted why he’s a dead rabbit-eating maniac, the story somehow never spirals out of control. Instead, Booth paints the picture of a relationship that’s familiar to anyone who’s had a best friend who is kind of a shithead, but whom they love despite their flaws. From here, Carnivorous Lunar Activities takes off like a moon shot: there are trains, dead hookers, a little kid who delivers dead rabbits, lots of fast food burgers, sketchy criminal behavior, and a lot of cursing. If you’re a fan of the back-and-forth banter from Mallrats, but with a slightly goofy horror bend, Carnivorous Lunar Activities is precisely what you’ve been missing in your life. A lot of writers bungle the horror-comedy genre, but Booth doesn’t miss a beat. The story continues to pay off page after bloody page. —Robert Dean

GREG PUCIATO
SEPARATE THE DAWN
(FEDERAL PRISONER)

Separate the Dawn documents a turbulent period in Greg Puciato’s life. The Dillinger Escape Plan singer wrote most of these poems as his band slowly approached self-destruction. Between September 2016 and December 2017, the band embarked on their final series of tours. As they traveled the globe, they experienced tragedy again and again. A near-death bus crash scarred the European leg. Back in America, where the band was opening for Soundgarden, Puciato had to cope with the suicide of his idol and then-tourmate Chris Cornell. The poems that Puciato wrote during this period show him processing trauma, both new and old. Those familiar with his lyrical content, some of which is included in this collection, won’t be very surprised by this. Throughout the book, he works through an internal dialogue, processing past addictions, relationships with others, and his own mental health. He accents his printed words with eerie black-and-white photography, adding another layer of depth to this particularly transparent collection. Some of the most candid poems starkly contrast the myth of the rockstar lifestyle by exploring the sacrifices artists make in the effort to pursue their creative goals. “Mangle,” placed strategically after a photo of the aforementioned bus crash, details Puciato’s laments of his touring lifestyle, concluding simplistically with the line, “the show was great though.” Separate the Dawn serves as a reminder that hardship doesn’t simply stop when an artist becomes successful. —William Archambeault

GABINO IGLESIAS
COYOTE SONGS
(BROKEN RIVER)

Coyote Songs is a fiction collection from the Hispanic shadows, a magnifying glass trained on marginalized women, people of color, and guys who couldn’t find a way out. The stories can be heartbreaking, violent, beautiful, and graphic, but the knife never dulls. The narrative connects everyone involved, each gutting interaction reading like a story straight from Trumpian headlines. Author Gabino Iglesias tells the stories of people who cross the border, dying for their belief that becoming an American is as precious as a real shot at a meaningful existence. Called the inventor of “Barrio Noir,” Iglesias gives us grieving mothers who lose sons to violence, husbands who’ve met their death at the hands of angry white men, and a culture of darkness that precludes the hope for many that they’ll ever see their families and homelands again once they cross the border. Given the critical praise of Iglesias’ last book, Zero Saints—and now the crushing brilliance of Coyote Songs—it’s only a matter of time before he’s a major figure of the cultural zeitgeist. —Robert Dean

PHILIP KERR
METROPOLIS
(G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS)

For 30 years, Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series has explored the tragedies, daily life, and petty corruption of Nazi Germany and the Cold War through the point of view of the books’ titular fictional detective. A hardboiled investigator in a literary tradition shared with Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe or Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Gunther is a staunch opponent of the Nazis and Soviets. He typically seeks justice for a handful of murder victims in an environment so full of unspeakably unjust killing that it makes his cases seem almost beside the point. Kerr, who died of cancer last year, had the talent to pull it all off tastefully. This novel, his last, is a prequel, focusing on an early Gunther case in the Weimar Republic, when the Berlin police department was already compromised by proto-fascist brutality and anti-Semitism. It’s not the strongest in the series and is a bit overstuffed with cameos from real-world figures like director Fritz Lang and artist Otto Dix, both of whom also created works titled “Metropolis.” Still, the post-World War I era was the natural next stop for a series determined to explore how 20th century Germany (and WWI vet Gunther) lurched from trauma to unspeakable trauma. —Steven Melendez

SOPHIE LUCIDO JOHNSON
HOW TO DO A FEW UNRELATED THINGS
(ANTENNA/PAPER MACHINE)

Sometimes it feels redundant to buy a book of blog posts that can be found for free on the internet. Not so here. If you are a person who stays up late angrily reading the comments and feeling like the world is a garbage place where everything is terrible, perhaps you have, on occasion, found your way to one of those wholesome image macros that assure you that everything is going to be OK, and you have been soothed by this affirmation enough to calm down and go to bed. Sophie Lucido Johnson’s How To Do A Few Unrelated Things is the apotheosis of this feeling; and if you read it in book form, you can skip the first, angry comments part altogether. This book has been released by Antenna in conjunction with an exhibit by the author in Antenna’s Reading Room in which Johnson’s attractive, deliberate drawings are displayed unframed alongside printouts from the blog. It is surprising how enjoyable it is to stand in the gallery and read these, surrounded on all sides by the illustrations. The book itself is a compact paperback that fits nicely in the hand. Johnson has written a “how-to” set of essays that take the reader on a journey through the author’s life. Off-hand, generous, and funny, this book will teach you how to tune a piano;, but more importantly, it might remind you that life is good after all. Harriet Burbeck


F-NO FILM FEST PICKS

The following films will be screening as part of the first annual F-NO Public Health Film Festival, a three day event (May 10 through 12) hosted by Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, WHIV-FM, and the Southern Center for Health Equity. F-NO will feature films and panel discussions that address health and justice disparities throughout the world. For more info, check out f-no.org

FEAR NO GUMBO
KIMBERLY RIVERS-ROBERTS
(SELF-RELEASED)

Kimberly Rivers-Roberts is a documentarian and rapper based in the Lower Ninth Ward. When Katrina hit, she and her husband were forced into the attic of their home, close to the worst breach in the Industrial Canal levee. Rivers-Roberts documented her experience on a camcorder and later used the footage for her Oscar-nominated first film, Trouble the Water, which told the story of the hurricane and its ugly aftermath. She begins her follow-up, Fear No Gumbo, with footage from August 28, 2005, the day before Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. Her neighbors, smiling into the camera, are unaware of the magnitude of the coming day’s events. The rest of the film is set nearly a decade later, in a Ninth Ward still largely neglected despite all the empty promises and media attention it received. Sewage runs into the streets. Houses built by celebrity causes fall apart due to inadequate building materials. A dead body is left rotting in an abandoned lot for days before the police come to remove it. And white people from everywhere but New Orleans capitalize on the stories of the community, while its residents get nothing. Rivers-Roberts’ documentary is a caustic critique of the way the “well-intentioned liberal” class has treated one of the worst disasters in recent American history. —Raphael Helfand

93 DAYS
STEVE GUKAS
(NATIVE FILMWORKS, MICHEL ANGELO PRODUCTION, BOLANLE AUSTEN-PETERS PRODUCTION)

In the summer of 2014, a Liberian American diplomat was hospitalized for malaria during a business trip in Lagos, Nigeria. However, as his symptoms began to worsen despite treatment, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh suspected that this particular patient’s diagnosis may be something more. Based upon actual events, 93 Days is a suspense-filled drama that relates the story of a team of dedicated physicians who gave their all to protect their families and country during a major outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Dr. Adadevoh put her career and life on the line to help contain what could have been a global outbreak of one of the deadliest diseases known to modern man. This film is a noteworthy tribute honoring an unsung hero in global and public health. —Jamilla Webb

OUR BODIES OUR DOCTORS
JAN HAAKEN
(SPECULAR PRODUCTIONS)

What do the Catholic faith, capitalism, and politics have in common? They all dictate the perimeters of abortion care in modern America. Our Bodies Our Doctors takes viewers on an intimate journey into the history and lives of abortion providers. Since the passage of Roe v. Wade in the 1970s, abortion providers have been targets of harassment and violence. Because of the ridicule and isolation they often experience from colleagues in the medical field, many of them find solace and comradery amongst each other. Our Bodies calmly weaves together a series of jarring scenes that would otherwise not be so palatable: a nervous young woman on the exam table crying and holding the hands of the clinic staff prior to the procedure, an elderly protester holding a larger-than-life picture of a terminated fetus, documents justifying a hospital’s right to deny an abortion—even if the continuation of a pregnancy threatens the mother’s life. This film gives a voice to the physicians who center the most important and yet disregarded aspect of abortion care—the women who obtain them and their right to make that choice. —Jamilla Webb