REVIEWS

BIG CLOWN
LIVE'R THEN DETH​?​!​!
(SELF-RELEASE)

This live tape sports two sides of scrappy rock‘n’roll played on a serious sugar rush. Big Clown don’t take themselves too seriously, offering a welcome break from the overly serious pissing contest that has come to be called punk rock. Big Clown fearlessly pieces together recordings from multiple different shows for a sometimes disorienting result. For instance, the B-side opens with a jarring collage of stage banter hecticly spliced together. Thankfully, this tape is equally as fun as it is chaotic. Listeners can’t see the band’s singer Lucy strutting her stuff in full clown makeup, but she still leaves a strong impact by egging on crowds and barking out absurd lyrics. During “Frogman” she commands the audience to hop on all fours, eventually going so far as to single out one attendee (“Hop, hop, I’m so fucking serious, hop, you specifically, hop! Hop!”). In addition to their solid originals, the band includes fun covers of Hoobastank’s “The Reason” and AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” Some of these tracks were recorded during the band’s show outside of the Black & Gold Wash & Fold back in 2021, but the rest are sourced from shows in their native Tennessee. There’s plenty of humorous stage banter spliced in throughout both sides, ensuring that this listen is an entertaining one. —William Archambeault

DIPLÖCRATS
SOMETHING SOMEWHERE SOMETIMES
(SELF-RELEASE)

Local punk rock band Diplöcrats pack a punch across the nine energetic tracks that make up Something Somewhere Sometimes. Opener “Piss Pour” combines chant-heavy vocals and driving guitar for a sound that feels like a clear throwback to skateboard soundtracks of yesteryear. While lyrics occasionally offer some critiques on society (“American Dream”), the album leans more heavily on the type of pop-punk that is primarily defined by a mixture of lighthearted themes and self-reflective moments. “Troo-Dough” is a bizarre love letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while “One of the Bundies” references both the fictional family from Married… with Children and serial killer Ted Bundy. In contrast, “No Love Lost” reaffirms that it is OK to sometimes let friendships drift apart. Something Somewhere Sometimes follows up the group’s 2018 debut album Life Under Lizard-People Rule with a little help from some longtime friends who have not drifted apart after years in the local punk scene. BAD OPERATION and PEARS guitarist Brian Pretus recorded, mixed, and mastered the album, while BAD OP’s Daniel “D-Ray” Ray adds trombone to “American Dream” and “Pharma Solution.” Throughout it all, Diplöcrats and their friends clearly find joy in reaffirming their love for punk rock. —William Archambeault

FATHER RON AND FRIENDS
FOREVER THE SEASONS
(LOUISIANA RED HOT)

Father Ron Clingenpeel is a retired Episcopal priest, known in the New Orleans music scene for his folk show on WWOZ and his folk/Americana band Father Ron and Friends, with whom he has toured the globe. Traditional American folk music is meant to be music of the people, and among Father Ron and Friends’ influences are the art and lives of musicians such as Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and The Seekers, artists who used their music to platform radical leftist politics and causes. According to the press release for his latest album, Forever The Seasons, one of Father Ron’s motivations for touring as a musician is “evangelizing for folk’s powers of peace and healing.” Forever The Seasons is a showcase in local musicianship, featuring the talents of not only Father Ron but also Robert Eustis (guitar), David Schwartz (keyboards), Barbara Smith-Davis (vocals), and Max Valentino (bass), with contributions from Jack Craft (cello), Gina Forsyth (fiddle), Debbie Davis (backing vocals), and Cole Williams (backing vocals). The band is tight, producing music that, though not deviating too far from traditional folk, still sounds fresh and exciting—a testament to the band’s talent and energy as well as the fact that this is a New Orleans band whose tradition includes Cajun and zydeco influences. Standout tracks include the rockabilly “Blues #42,” New Orleans classicSt. James Infirmary,”Bayou Goula Ball,” and the original, whimsical “Damned Roaches.” Forever The Seasons is a reminder of the importance of preserving our musical traditions, and a confirmation that they still resonate across the decades. Father Ron and Friends will be performing at Madame Vic’s on Wednesday, April 3. Mary Beth Campbell

KIM GORDON
THE COLLECTIVE
(MATADOR)

Over the four decades of her career, Kim Gordon’s music and visual art—as both a collaborator and as a solo artist—has often delved into examining aspects of mainstream culture through an experimental lens. In recent years, she has been interested in the relationship we have with technology, specifically smartphones: Her 2023 exhibit at the 303 Gallery in New York presented a series of 13 abstract paintings meant to explore and question what it means to have this technology constantly at our fingertips. The Collective, her second solo album, is named after one of these paintings (itself inspired by Jennifer Egan’s 2022 novel The Candy House), with stream of consciousness lyrics delivered against a cacophony of trap beats and industrial guitar work meant to emulate our technology-drenched brains. As with her 2019 solo debut No Home Record, The Collective was produced by Justin Raisen—known for his work with Lil Yachty, Yves Tumor, Charli XCX, and Sky Ferreira—and is heavily indebted to alt-pop and hip-hop. Gordon leans further into her absurdist poet persona, flitting between mundane thoughts, emotional outbursts, and partially-formed musings on bigger ideas. No one idea is visited for too long, mimicking the mind of someone who is overstimulated but, ultimately, lonely and unfocused—a commentary perhaps on where we now find ourselves in this world we’ve created. An exception is the sinister “I’m A Man,” perhaps the most topic-focused track on the album which explores Gordon’s long-time fascination with the performance of masculinity (“I’m supposed to save you / But you got a job / You got a degree / And I’m just a fucking slob”). The Collective is ambitious and provocative, something that is becoming disturbingly rare as algorithms continue to take over how we consume and think about music. These songs challenge the listener to be a little uncomfortable and to think in new ways—the hallmark of good art, and a testament to Gordon’s continued powers as an artist, which, remarkably, only seem to grow over time. —Mary Beth Campbell

HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF
THE PAST IS STILL ALIVE
(NONESUCH)

On their ninth full-length studio album, Hurray for the Riff Raff and lead singer Alynda Segarra return, in a most personal way, to their roots. Local fans have probably long known Alynda to be part of a community of travelers and artists, but for many HFTRR listeners, these deeply personal songs (complete with some highly scene-specific lyrics) will paint a new and richer picture of their experiences. Segarra’s father passed away just before this album was recorded, and the fingerprints of that loss are all over these songs, which weave in and out of time and memory, creating a truly expansive landscape. Opener “Alibi” belies intensely dark lyrics with bright and airy instrumentation. The opening line of “You don’t have to die if you don’t wanna die” tells the listener from the jump what this album will be about: grief, loss, and grappling to hold on to the past (and people) while simultaneously knowing it’s all slipping through your fingers. Musically, the band is in top form, masterfully navigating the balance between restraint and emotion. Guest spots from the likes of Conor Oberst and Meg Duffy add to the tapestry without distracting from the message. At its heart, this is an album for outsiders, for the queer kids and the weird kids living life on the fringes. Despite their success, it’s clear that Segarra still feels a deep and abiding kinship with the kids they hopped trains and hid in bushes with. In standout track “Hourglass” they croon: “Nobody here really knows me / They just wanna tell me stories / About the friends that they met in college / And how famous people are their parents / I always feel like a dirty kid / I used to eat out of the garbage / I know I should probably get over it / But somehow it feels I’m still in it.” Ultimately, we are all a result of the lives we have led, and Segarra’s past comes alive for the listener in this tonally rich and poetically rewarding offering.
—Erin Hall

THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN
GLASGOW EYES
(FUZZ CLUB)

Glasgow Eyes is the second new album from Scottish alt-rockers and noise pop/shoegaze pioneers The Jesus and Mary Chain since founding members and brothers Jim and William Reid resurrected the project in 2007. It is always fascinating to witness the evolution of a band’s music over the decades, particularly when they are in their second act. Ironically, the incorporation of retro synths on this album has given a fresh spin to their music, which has always been known for being more guitar-forward. Though the songs on Glasgow Eyes certainly do not shy away from musings on melancholy and past regrets (“Chemical Animal,” “Second of June”)—they are a Scottish band, after all—they are more introspective than tortured, as one would hope a band and its members would be after nearly 40 years. Lead single “jamcod,” which was first released in November 2023, is arguably the most reminiscent of their earlier music and the most autobiographical song on the album (“Breaking up and then falling down and my heart beats much too slow / Best notify the other brother, there’s no place to go”). There are many references to other bands as well, as though the Reid brothers are reflecting on their place in the rock canon: “The Eagles and the Beatles,” which borrows the guitar riff from the Joan Jett hit “I Love Rock ‘N Roll,” and the Velvet Underground-influenced “Hey Lou Reid,” the title a cheeky reference to Lou Reed’s influence on the Reid brothers. Glasgow Eyes may not break new ground, but The Jesus and Mary Chain have managed to maintain relevance by looking back at their past. —Mary Beth Campbell

ELIZABETH JOAN KELLY
LF17 / EDINBURGH
(MORTALITY TABLES)

Elizabeth Joan Kelly is a New Orleans-based electronic composer, also known for her work as one half of the self-described “swamp-rock-meets-space-opera-and-folk” duo Orca, Attack!. In her solo work, Kelly creates lush and dreamy musical worlds that exist at that magical crossroads between darkwave, industrial, synth pop, ambient, and classical music, weaving in so-called “found sounds” and old-school MIDI to add an extra, otherworldly layer to her compositions. Her latest release, LF17 / Edinburgh, is part of U.K.-based label Mortality Tables LIFEFILES project, in which artists are presented with a series of field recordings to transform into original music. Kelly was given recordings made in Edinburgh, Scotland in August 2021 which, according to her website, she “undoubtedly imbued with [her] own recent trip to Scotland in 2023,” blending and mixing them into wholly new creations. The three electro ambient tracks, each named after a location in Edinburgh where the original field recordings were made (“Calton Hill,” “Princes Street Gardens,” “Calton Road Cobblestones”), are soothing and otherworldly, occasionally employing synthesizers to flirt with more unsettling undertones. The end result only hints at the original recordings, Kelly’s production leaving the faintest memory of the actual time and place, like stepping into a dream reality. —Mary Beth Campbell

MANNEQUIN PUSSY
I GOT HEAVEN
(EPITAPH)

I Got Heaven, the latest release from Philadelphia quartet Mannequin Pussy, does not waste time with pretense. Within the first few seconds of the titular opening track, the band sets the stage for an album that unabashedly embraces vulnerability, messy emotions, and horniness (“And what if we stopped spinning? / And what if we’re just flat? / And what if Jesus himself ate my fucking snatch?”). Though a punk band at its roots, Mannequin Pussy have allowed their music to evolve on this album, experimenting with different genres and slicker production. “I Don’t Know You” is melodic, synth-tinged folk pop, while “Nothing Like,” with its disco drum beat, and the guitar-forward “Sometimes” are reminiscent of songs you’d hear on an alt-rock radio station in the 1990s. In a roundabout way, this has made them a better punk band, even if their sound now shifts more toward the pop end of the spectrum. In addition to the abandon with which they lay bare their emotions on these songs, they sound more confident and free on the album’s more purely punk and hardcore tracks (“OK? OK! OK? OK!,” “Of Her,” “Aching”). This has led to comparisons to Hole’s Live Through This, and indeed the argument can be made that Mannequin Pussy are heralds of a revival of pop music that is glorious in its contradictions and emotions, music that might be carefully produced but is still authentic and messy, music that is made to be shared, not merely consumed. —Mary Beth Campbell

OH DANG
S/T
(FULL-TILT)

The press release for local alt-country group Oh Dang’s self-titled debut suggests the album’s somber mood may come as a surprise “despite their upbeat band name.” For my part, I always heard it as more of the “Oh Dang” that might accompany a stubbed toe, a missed bus, or a crush leaving the party with one’s rival. With this understanding, the mood lives up to expectations—in a good way! The album starts with spooky, arpeggiated “Sink or Swim” and remains downtempo for the first three tracks. “Crushed Red Pepper” and “Idiot Kids” bring a jauntier vibe, but above a capricious beat the lyrics remain wistful (“All that’s left / Was something I could never have / …I’m a fool for you,” states the former). The 10-track, 39-minute album winds down with the particularly emotive “Everybody’s Nobody,” which begs to be heard on a rainy Appalachian porch. The beautifully compatible vocals of Harper Browman and Tyler Ryan call to mind Shovels & Rope, with the earnest folksiness and storytelling of Iron & Wine, John Prine, and Brandi Carlile in the mix as well. Ryan also plays guitar, and Eric Anduha on “everything else” (per their Bandcamp) rounds out this three-piece. Oh Dang launches their spring tour through seven Southern states on March 29, rounding it out with a hometown show at Anna’s on April 28. —Angela Calonder

_THESMOOTHCAT AND WINO WILLY
READY, SET
(SINKING CITY)

Ready, Set feels like an inevitable joining of creative forces. The similarly curious palettes of New Orleans-based rapper _thesmoothcat and producer Wino Willy, who has previously worked with the likes of Mach-Hommy and Tha God Fahim, make for an incredibly fruitful and exciting partnership. Both musicians hold firm roots in the boom-bap tradition, and both sport an ear for the eclectic and experimental. On “OFFTOP,” Wino Willy weaves a crunchy, off-kilter beat that seamlessly supports _thesmoothcat’s characteristically vibrant lyrics and slouchy cadence. Later, the pair continues to experiment with “SAY MY NAME,” a rare blend of aesthetics that results in something that could only be called jazz-trap—exactly the kind of novel territory in which these two thrive. And, as usual, _thesmoothcat brings along some of his favorite Louisiana rap comrades, with featured verses from Wakai and Juu rounding out the album’s lyrical roster. Though fairly brief, Ready, Set will certainly reward repeat listens, with such rich layering in its instrumentals and such a thoughtful pen behind its lyrics. —Zane Piontek

VARIOUS ARTISTS
THIS IS NEW TONE
(BAD TIME)

THIS IS NEW TONE documents the live power of the new generation of ska punk bands that have kept fans of the subgenre skanking over recent years. This compilation draws upon performances that occurred during a 2023 tour orchestrated by Bad Time Records, which included a stop at Tipitina’s as part of Community Records’ annual Block Party. New Orleans bands BAD OPERATION and Joystick contribute to the fun with high energy performances that prove these local groups are a vital part of the modern wave of ska. While ska punk is far too often written off as silly, juvenile dance music, many of the bands featured on this comp use it as a means to address serious issues. On “Boys Will Be Girls,” We Are The Union singer Reade Wolcott, a trans woman, offers words of empowerment to those who live their lives as they wish in the face of transphobes. On Decolonize Yr Mind,” JER launches a far-reaching critique on society, tackling everything from gentrification to Palestine. Even when subjects get serious, the groups keep the sold out shows’ dancefloors moving with infectious grooves. The vinyl edition of this compilation sports some bonus tracks that feature fun, spontaneous team-ups between bands, ending on a massive tribute to the subgenre’s heroes Operation Ivy. —William Archambeault

CURTIS SCHREIER
SWAMP ALPS: POST CARBON COLLAPSE / FUTURE VISIONS
(YES WE CANNIBAL)

In Swamp Alps, visionary designer, printmaker, and provocateur Curtis Schreier creates alternative strategies for well-being and critiques of capitalist obsession through his performance, design, and importantly—radical imagination. A member of defunct art-architecture collective Ant Farm, Schreier’s past projects include 1975’s Media Burn, where he drove a souped-up 1959 Cadillac through a fiery wall of old TVs, inflatable environments, and utopian building design inspired by architectural visionaries like Buckminster Fuller. Schreier’s architectural rendering for Three Frequency Geodesic Dome “built at 30’ diameter and weight of 300 pounds” for the Exploratorium Dome Toystore, 1970-71, appeared in his recent exhibition Swamp Alps: Post Carbon Collapse / Future Visions, curated by designer, artist, and curator Liz Flyntz at Yes We Cannibal in Baton Rouge. Schreier’s archival architectural designs accompany Swamp Alps, a project addressing climate crisis and housing scarcity in this exhibition, showcasing how Schreier’s imaginative pursuit of sustainability persists. An audacious utopia unfolds in 3D gourd-like models of cardboard and tulle populated by tiny plastic people, a vision that re-casts discarded frames of oil rigs into high-rise multi-level housing for the swamps of Louisiana. Conceived for soaring elevations, these tall buildings would create a “cooling” environment at top, hence the alpine reference. The earth tone and organic form of the cardboard models recall mud dauber wasp nests, adding an unexpected layer of naturalism. Here, the apparatus of offshore oil drilling is repurposed as home, and the extractive is transformed to the holistic. —Veronica Cross

TODD CIRILLO
DISPOSABLE DARLINGS
(ROADSIDE PRESS)

The covers of this collection depict a trio of inflatable women, first blown up, then deflated, at a timeless French Quarter dive bar. It’s an appropriate image for Todd Cirillo, a New Orleans  streetlife poet in the tradition of Maple Leaf Bar favorite son Everette Maddox, onetime Quarter rat Charles Bukowski, and singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon). Like theirs, Cirillo’s verse quickly reveals a tender heart enveloped in a devil-may-care exterior, along with sufficient sardonic wit to let readers laugh with (rather than at) a grown man growing maudlin. Cultural references—lyrics by musicians from Radiohead to Waylon Jennings, a tribute to beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and a glimpse of a beautiful woman in an AC/DC tee—flesh out scenes of life in a city “where even at 1:24 a.m. / you will find / live music, open bars, / laughter.” The collection evokes the jukeboxes lined with familiar classics, uncharted B-sides, and unexpected remixes that are so familiar to Cirillo’s poetic persona. Disposable Darlings will find a place on the shelves of the likely substantial number of readers who immediately recognize Harry’s Corner from the cover and can also list each of the bookstores within walking distance of that bar. —Steven Melendez

VIRGINIA HANUSIK
INTO THE QUIET AND THE LIGHT: WATER, LIFE, AND LAND LOSS IN SOUTH LOUISIANA:
(COLUMBIA BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE AND THE CITY)

In Into the Quiet and the Light, photographer Virginia Hanusik presents a series of Southern Louisiana landscapes, accompanied by a diverse collection of texts from climate change-focused experts and activists. Hanusik’s photographs quietly remind us of the precarious nature of our land and infrastructure, as well as the exploitative industries that continue to imperil the region. We see, in rich black-and-white, considered views of familiar sights. Old refinery equipment abandoned to the Gulf, chemical fumes billowing into clouds, and wild birds returning after a hurricane become a play of shapes and tones, framed within peaceful waters and sky. What’s striking about Hanusik’s photos, as well the accompanying text, is that they make an urgent case for climate change action while reminding us that taking time to contemplate beauty matters, too. For anyone who feels paralyzed with fear about climate change in the Gulf Coast (especially after watching the national news), Into the Light is a much-needed reprieve and source of hope, an impassioned yet gentle plea to remember that it’s never too late to look with a critical lens upon narratives pushed by industry. While we may feel helpless, we must not become numb. —Paula Ibieta

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