Reviews, February 2016


In a city that celebrates pageantry and performance, how do we experience the written word? Cubs the Poet, a constantly clacking fixture and poet for hire on Royal Street, released a chapbook at Msaniart Gallery in a manner melding the collective spectating associated with visual art with typewritten text. Guests to the gallery received the book upon admission, each numbered and stamped with EXHIBIT, before leading readings of poems selected at whim from the work. Subject matter ranged from fleeting romances with Royal Street passersby to “The Biggest Joint of My Life” to the philosophically compact “A Man With No Soul”:

How do you teach a man about soul, when he believes he has not one?

Buy him a pair of mismatched shoes.

More interesting than the book release, however, is the act of public poetry itself, a phenomenon popping up in more hipster-centric cities across the States and elsewhere—though the practice could be criticized as relying more on image than content. On a street teeming with musicians and street performers of every ilk, Cubs sits placidly behind his typewriter and transforms otherwise static text into an act of spontaneous poetry, alchemically manifested from the ephemeral now, in a neighborhood somehow suspended between past and present. The pseudo- novelty of gallery readings aside, the spectacle of public poetry in a society increasingly obsessed with watching represents a hopeful turn for the written word. —Brooke Schueller


Dan Tague is perhaps best known for his dollar bill art, wherein intricately folded bills are contorted to form dissonant, even revolutionary messages regarding the state of the union. In Sedate Maneuvers, we see an aptly titled, self-ordained retrospective of works that maintain the same anti-establishment flavor, slated for a tenderly post-Katrina show at the CAC that never was. In Trophy Gesture Series, Tague mounts gilded figures atop various pedestals in means that first resemble, then subvert, the characters that crown consolation prizes. Stop In The Name Of Love displays a slim trackstar in mid-stride squarely in the crosshairs of a policeman, crouched low, gun extending from outstretched hand. Tague transforms the innocuous hallmarks familiar from our second grade soccer team into a gilded jack-in- the-box on police brutality, inciting the viewer to ponder the rationale behind what society decides to memorialize. Tague asks a similar question through a different conceptual vein in Penny in the Pocket: Emancipation to Apocalypse, wherein one penny from every year between 1863 and 2012 is inlaid on a wooden shelf. This most insignificant (and even cumbersome) currency, common to all United States residents, becomes a marker of time, from the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation through the end of the Mayan calendar (popularly conflated with the apocalypse). The modern era’s paradigm shifts are catalogued through a minute yet enduring token of our value system, emblematic of the dollars and cents that—for better or worse— transcend political, cultural, and social upheaval. Sedate Maneuvers shows Tague cleaning out his closets, which isn’t the most exciting chore, but he unearths some gems in keeping with his overarching credo. —Brooke Schueller


Immigration is at the center of José Torres-Tama’s work, no matter the medium. Photos Retablos: Somos Humanos directly invokes the crisis of immigrant laborers who call the United States home, but face an uncertain future. More specifically, Torres-Tama’s work assumes the mantle of the disenfranchised Latinos who, in the wake of Katrina, poured into New Orleans to rebuild the devastated city. Ten years later, however, their efforts have been summarily dismissed in the wake of federally ordered immigration raids, where it’s not uncommon for community members to disappear, literally overnight. Two projects comprise Photos Retablos: Somos Humanos, the first being salvaged drawers found in post-Katrina detritus repurposed as photographic altars. Images from rallies organized by the Congress of Day Laborers—emotionally charged close-ups of anguished immigrants—are set into the refinished, repainted drawers and overlaid with a red second hand that ticks away in the silent studio, conjuring an odd symphony reminiscent of beating hearts and the urgency of a community in crisis. In the second part of the series, Torres-Tama makes multimedia assemblages of sketches from the rallies, minimally rendered, which are then hung on plywood boards and accompanied by titles done in colorful refrigerator magnets. In “No Human is Illegal,” two men and a child with worried eyes are accompanied by the phrase, NINGUN HUMANO ES ILEGAL. The notion that no human is illegal, conveyed in type that is actual child’s play, transforms a discourse fraught with political complexities into a reminder that however we feel about borders, people are, quite simply, people. —Brooke Schueller



Baroness has had a rough few years since its last album. The band’s tour bus crashed off a viaduct in Bath, England, seriously injuring several members of the band including front-man John Baizley, who suffered a broken arm and leg. Heavy rain complicated the rescue and delayed the recovery of several band members. After that tragedy, Matt Maggione and Allen Bickle, who both suffered back injuries in the crash, left the band. Baizley and others formed their own record label and released the band’s fourth studio album, Purple, in December 2015. Purple is a standard Baroness album, with a little fat of the previous album, Yellow & Green, trimmed off. True to the band’s style, it features Baizley’s album art, influenced by the eponymous color. The music is a complex combination of wailing lead guitars and driving distortion, drums, and bass, arranged in motions and parts, much like orchestral music. This album, and really any Baroness album, should be listened to in its entirety for the relationship between the songs to really show. The first single, “Chlorine and Wine,” acts as a microcosm of the album, a sort of six minute mini- episode. In case all of that sounds too highfalutin, or like a committment, songs like “Desperation Burns” and “Shock Me” deliver break-beat riffs and air-punching choruses in relatively small bursts. Despite new lineups and near-death experiences, the Savannah, Georgia band continues to push the hard rock/metal genre past its claustrophobic walls without forsaking its roots. —Andrew Mullins, III



A girl who I was friends with a long time ago told me a story once about Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (AKA Will Oldham) that I was not able to shake from my mind as I was listening to Pond Scum, just as I have historically thought of the story she told me every time I hear a Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy song, or anytime anyone mentions Will Oldham in any way. The story she told me was brief, and lacking details which I now wish that I had, but it amounts to the fact that out of all the people she had slept with so far, at that time, Will Oldham was hands down the best. And really, doesn’t everyone secretly hope to learn that their favorite musicians excel at “plowing the field?” Pond Scum is a collection of unearthed BBC Peel Sessions and includes a bare bones version of “Death to Everyone” that’s a pleasure to experience. “The Houseboat (O How I Enjoy the Light)” is a great example of the sort of bravely vulnerable slice of life storytelling that Oldham has made his signature. His cover of Prince’s “The Cross” is a special treat, as is previously unreleased track “Beezle.” If you’re in the mood to experience the unusual combo of being melancholy, yet hopeful and also, oddly, a little turned on—there’s no better option than this. —Kelly McClure



Listening to this album for the first time after the still unsettling news that the maker of it has left this earth for something better, can very possibly put the listener at a heavy disadvantage. You can’t help but hear sadness and loss where it maybe wasn’t intended to be heard. Breaths heard in-between songs are breaths that will never be breathed again. Every song is a goodbye. And you know that he knew this before you did. The songs contained here are so full of sparkling life force that you’d never guess the person singing them was about to lose his own. Bowie’s voice, down low and close to your ear on “Girl Loves Me,” is like a voicemail heard too late. A missed opportunity. A love letter read after a relationship has ended. On “Lazarus,” the line “Look up here, I’m in heaven” gets you in the throat. “I Can’t Give Everything Away” has him winding things down with the repeating of those words: “I can’t give everything away. I can’t give everything away.” And he didn’t. He kept that magical something that will forever make him irreplaceable, and gave us this so we’ll never forget. —Kelly McClure



Otherwise best known as the band on the T-shirt that Kurt Cobain was wearing when he killed himself, Half Japanese has been around since the 1970s, making independent noise- rock that has inspired everyone from Daniel Johnston to Neutral Milk Hotel. Starting with 1980’s ½ Gentlemen/Not Beasts, they shrugged off the pleasantries of the post-disco beats of Public Image Limited and the reggae rhythms of The Pop Group to conjure emotional anarchy through senseless clatter. They misunderstood the dissonance that made Frank Zappa’s work with The Mothers Of Invention essential revisionism. But Half Japanese’s newest record Perfect comprehends the strangeness and discord that made art-rock fun in the first place. Not to say that Perfect is on par with The Soft Boys’ Can of Bees or Underwater Moonlight, but maybe they listened to those elegant jangle-rock- on-’roids records while planning their new album. —Joey Laura



I’m growing increasingly tired of the label “super group” being used to describe a band containing members hailing from other current prominent bands. Contrarily, the synthesis of Baton Rouge’s Leopard Print is more of a collision, a Picasso-splattered aural car crash of diverse personalities and influences, too enticing not to notice. Members of such B.R. bands as Barghest, Heavy Sleeper, Cajun Clam, and Boozoo comprise this quartet. However, Leopard Print sounds like absolutely none of those bands, which is quite a feat to pull off. I’ve termed the racket of Leopard Print’s opening statement “insane noise pogo blast.” Seething vocals stay enmeshed in the hiss of the guitar distortion, focused on many precarious sexual encounters (see song titles like “Dirtfucker”), while the drums hammer bursts of uncontainable, raw aggression around a swirling mass of creative bass rumblings. Above all, this tape is fast! Perhaps we’re witnessing the ascension of a possible Louisiana challenger to the soiled throne of American mutant snot punk royalty currently held by those “Lumpy” heads up north and over in Mississippi. —Dan McCoy


The Occultation of Light is a psychedelic journey lit by Moog synths and Hammond keys. RidingEasy Records has been consistently releasing heavy psych rock bands since their inception in 2013. Mondo Drag ’s recent move from Iowa to San Francisco has helped root them deeper into the psych rock element. The core members— John Gamino (vocals/keys), Nolan Girard (guitar/synth), and Jake Sheley (guitar)—have been jamming together for 15 years but this is only their third recording. Nonetheless, this band has been hard at work over the past couple of years: they released their self-titled sophomore album a little over a year ago, a national tour immediately followed, and Mondo Drag has now reemerged from the studio with another album in little over a year. The sound and vibe of the early ‘70s Haight- Ashbury scene are present throughout The Occultation of Light, and the band is tighter and lyrically darker than before. Andrew O’Neil’s bass playing on “Initiation,” combined with Gamino’s keys, creates a jazzy loop similar to “Riders On the Storm” that gives space for the alternating solos of Girard and Sheley. Mondo Drag ’s Hammond organ and Moog synth parts are refreshingly unhindered; I couldn’t name five other bands who use these instruments as well. “In Your Head” is a keys- dominant song, the other instruments forced to play the tempo they build. Iron Butterfly-style organ bounces throughout “Incendiary Procession.” Gamino’s vocals are also more clear and upfront than their previous recordings. Overall, this album is Mondo Drag ’s tightest and best produced to date. Check out The Occultation of Light if you’re a fan of anything from Cream to Corrosion of Conformity. —Nathan Tucker


Nevermen is the latest collaboration by Mike Patton (Faith No More, Tomahawk, Mr. Bungle, etc.), with Adam “Doseone” Drucker and Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio), all of whom are known for their vocal skills and production talent. This self-titled debut is seven years in the making and is the result of creative use of a unique recording space. In 2008, Drucker and Adebimpe found an abandoned warehouse marked for demolition and went in with keyboards, drum machines, and recording equipment. The duo beat on the doors, floors, pipes, and broken furniture in the warehouse, letting it all ring out into the high ceilings. They cut and arranged their sounds and vocals into songs, and sent them to Patton to add vocals and instrumentation. The end product is a very stylish blend of trip-hop, rap, pop, and soul. Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, it’s a fun trip replete with beautiful harmonies, ebbing and flowing with intensity throughout. Fans of Patton’s heavier, crazier experimental and rock albums  may be a little disappointed by this effort, but the upbeat melodies will grow on the listener. Patton’s presence and contributions are evident, and the progressions of tracks like “Non Babylon” feel familiar as a result. “Hate On” and “Fame II: The Wreckoning ” are at times ethereal, with “Hate On” becoming ever-the-more frenetic, and “Fame II” lending a hopeful vibe to the overall theme of the album. The artwork is custom-made by English artist Keith Tyson, who added something extra to 100 limited-edition copies, each of which also includes a unique mix and master, as well as two extra tracks. —Jenn Attaway


New Orleans alcoholic thrash masters Six Pack hit the local scene like a beer tsunami. Their first few shows around town let people know right off the bat that they were not only raised on the right music but can also belt it out like hell fire. The band’s straightforward approach to late ‘80s thrash is both nostalgic and refreshing, and they retain a local sound, possibly influenced by early Exhorder. The trio, featuring two “Satanic Hispanic” brothers originally from Guatemala on the strings and a local butcher block on drums, brought a live intensity to the studio with Drunken Possession. With 8 songs clocking in at just over 24 minutes, it’s the type of album that you immediately play again after first listen (because it goes by so quick and because it just plain rips!) The pace of the album keeps up with the likes of Nuclear Assault and Sadus but vocalist/guitarist Rene Roche avoids the high notes, which adds to the album’s dark tone. The rhythm section provides no mercy with Kevin Roche’s slick bass playing and “Pile Jiver” Sanchez’s ultra-quick skin pounding. Tempos range from speed- metal assault to fist pumping punk-like breakdowns and the guitar solos are tasteful, yet stomach turning. Producer James Whitten knocked it out of the park with a sound that reminisces old school thrash yet keeps things fresh and intense with a rather sharp drum sound. The cover artwork, by local artist Jordan Barlow, paints an accurate picture of what lies within a drunken satanic celebration of all things morbid. If your taste in metal lies along the lines of Possessed and early Sepultura, then this gem certainly has a home in your music collection. —Bill Heintz


ANTIGRAVITY-FEB2016-WEB_Page_31_Image_0005SUN O)))

Ambience will make your ears bleed. That’s how Sun O))), the drone/doom metal band from Seattle understands it. No gratuitous use of delay and loops makes up the plodding, sometimes static, collage of noises on Sun O)))’s records. Nope. Just guitars tuned so low that the strings might fall off, distortion with startling depth, super- sonar feedback, and, of course, the group’s trademark guttural chanting. And honestly, Kannon—their first release since 2009, put out December of 2015—isn’t much different from the other albums. The duo’s compositions build up in a deliberate progression of cosmic dread, with slow, one- sometimes-two-riff jams, excellent for locking yourself in a room and playing a Dungeons & Dragons quest or having a Lovecraftian vision-quest. You do you. —Andrew Mullins, III


It’s about time that a band like Them gets the release they deserve, as opposed to being relegated to Nuggets collection trivia and “deep tracks” obscurity. Van Morrison’s band before his incredible solo career—for both its quality and its longevity—managed to cover a lot of stylistic ground, ranging from psych-rock to blues to R&B flirtation. Them is the kind of group that inspired the White Stripes and Black Keys but didn’t get any credit for sounding exactly the same. This compilation features radio garage- rock staples like “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Gloria,” and “Here Comes the Night,” but the collection is made up of three maxed-out discs, the third of which features live tracks and alternate takes. For people who aren’t familiar with Van Morrison’s rockier side pre- “Brown Eyed Girl” and didn’t know he could wail with the best of them, this is mandatory. The Complete Them (1964-1967) is also essential material for any psych-enthusiast or ’60s-rock completist. —Joey Laura


The creations found on Emily Wells’ latest album are being released on a label she created, the name of which was inspired by a particular line from the poet Wallace Stevens: “Life cannot be based on a thesis, since, by nature, it is based on instinct. The thesis, however, is usually present and living is the struggle between thesis and instinct.” Knowing that, and then spending time with this album, you’re presented with vivid pieces of a very emotional puzzle that flap back and forth, organizing themselves inside of your imagination, like pages of a photo album you’ve tasked yourself with putting together in chronological order. On songs like “Don’t Use Me Up,” “Pack of Nobodies,” and “Fallin in on It” you’re experiencing a creative mind process moments of their life, and process them in stereo. Coming away from this album is like coming away from a full day spent running around town with a close friend who’s going through a lot of stuff and wants you just to be there, and to listen. —Kelly McClure

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