There’s lots to explore in this edition of BHYH, from painfully hardcore punk to painfully noisy exposition to painfully dancey late-2000s nostalgia. Let’s go!
cLOSET WITCH (COMPLETE DISCOGRAPHY)
If you don’t follow metal, you might not be aware that it’s been having something of a turf war for the past couple of years. In the ’80s, far-left and far-right skinheads squared off for control of the soul of the UK punk scene. Similarly, the black metal scene of the ‘10s is characterized by a struggle between a small segment of avowedly Nazi bands whose overblown influence dominates public perception of the genre, and a growing countermovement of vocally leftist groups seeking to change the conversation.
One of the leading luminaries of this informal movement is Closet Witch, a band from my own backyard of southern Iowa. They’ve been featured in Alternative Press’s “10 Hardcore Bands You Need To Hear Now”, played the Black Flags Over Brooklyn festival in 2019, contributed to the Riffs for Reproductive Justice raising money for abortion rights groups, and I would really recommend seeing their blistering live set, but until that’s an option again, the band’s just put out a new complete discography. Bringing together material from five years of LPs, EPs, singles, and splits with bands like Euth, Haggathorn, Neckbeard Deathcamp, and Racetraitor, this compilation sees Closet Witch weave rapid-fire through a wide variety of styles and moods: from abrasive grind, hardcore and black metal, to muscular alt grooves, to moodier post-hardcore and shoegaze interludes, anchored by the unreal demonic frenzy of vocalist Mollie Piatetsky. Nothing like a good shot of pain, panic, class war, gender trouble, and medical horror to liven up your quarantine. Put this on and go ape. – Tyler Peterson
PSYCHIC GRAVEYARD, A BLUEBIRD VACATION
There’s hardly a guitar on Psychic Graveyard’s latest release, but that’s no reason to scoff at its chops. For A Bluebird Vacation, noise rock mainstays Eric Paul (Arab On Radar, Chinese Stars, Doomsday Student), Paul Vieira (Chinese Stars, Doomsday Student), Charles Ovett (Dallas Thrasher, Joules), and Nathan Joyner (Some Girls, All Leather, Hot Nerds) are back to unleash a powerfully anxious — yet strangely peppy — sophomore album that will leave you feeling like you’ve been off your meds for a few days.
The energy of A Bluebird Vacation is disruptive and distraught, and at the same time, curiously centered. Part of what makes this record unique is the familiarity housed inside the chaos; for instance, throughout the track “People Dislike Me,” there’s a sound obnoxiously reminiscent of a phone ringing that might make you crazy if the song were any longer than its 2:58 run time. It’s jarring, yet, again, familiar, so almost…pleasant? (Please note: this song scared my dog.).
Added to the complexity are janky notes of sexual misgivings (a la Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never” and/or “Warm Leatherette” by The Normals — but, you know, noisy) and animalism (the repetition of the phrase “I’m not in control right now” from “Animal I Can’t Avoid” is quite uneasy). Lyrically neurotic and serious, there’s also a bit of demented humor to this songwriting that kind of says to me “what if Larry David watched the movie Pi too many times?” (“What do I wear to your funeral? When we were together, I never wore clothes,” as it goes in the track “NO.”). Like many of us who have reached a certain age, this record is frenetic and tweaky — but still kind of civilized. Recommended for Gen-Xers who actually stayed cool.
Street date for A Bluebird Vacation is May 22, pre-order your copy now! – elbee
BUMBLEBEEZ, “dR. lOVE”
It is the year 2007: the year of ‘I like turtles’ and “Chocolate Rain’. It was arguably, a simpler time. And while 2007 brought us releases from status quo mainstays like the Foo Fighters and Nine Inch Nails among more banal fare, the year also saw the release of the sample heavy & idiosyncratic “Paper Planes” from M.I.A., which would go on to be a mega hit the world over. But the release to take note of even more is “Dr. Love” from Bumblebeez (Bumblebeez 81). Hailing from New South Wales (that’s in Australia for you non-Aussies), Bumblebeez were a sort of hip hop-tinged garage band. The song highlighted here seemingly distills the band’s sound in one grimey, funky, quirk-laden track. And not for nothing! Some moments of “Dr. Love” are reminiscent of fellow Aussie act The Avalanches, though much more sloppy, as Bumblebeez are wont to do anyway. So press play and be sonically transported back to 2007, and enjoy a song you just might never have heard before. – Andrew Bargeron
The frames, SET LIST
Before the success that was the movie Once, Irish singer Glen Hansard was the frontman for the Frames, one of the best bands nobody in the United States had heard of. I mean, I get the fact that “Falling Slowly” is absolutely gorgeous and a movie musical about falling in love with a scruffy street musician through the magic of song is a way easier sell than “Irish indie pop rockers,” but the sad downside to the success of Once and the musical act which sprung from it, the Swell Season, means the likelihood of us ever seeing the band do a big tour ever again is fairly unlikely.
Anyhow. As readers of this site should be aware, I love bargain bins, clearance racks, closeout tables – any place where the detritus of pop culture is marked down, I am willing to dig through it. In 2004, I was digging through the innumerable compact disc clearance bins at the Lawrence, Kansas, Hastings, looking for weird albums I could flip on eBay, because this was 2004 and you could sell original CD pressings Something Corporate’s Ready…Break or Goldfinger’s Richter for an absurd amount of money on eBay.
While digging, I’d grab CDs from bands I’d never heard of, if they were on labels I knew. One of those CDs was an album called Set List, by the Frames, because it was on the Epitaph indie-rock offshoot, ANTI-. I took it back to my apartment, where it sat in a stack of a dozen other things I meant to listen to at some point.
A week later, I peeled off the shrink wrap, stuck it in the stereo, and got my world changed. I’d no idea that it was a live album, although the title should’ve tipped me off, but was definitely unprepared for the emotional thrust right from the start. The opening chords of “Revelate” rang out, and I was in. Recorded live in Dublin at a venue called Vicar Street in November of 2002, this 73-minute set sees the band running through the best of their catalog at the height of their powers. You can hear the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs, but an also hear pure silence and reverence during songs like “What Happens When the Heart Just Stops.”
On that first listen, I was taken by Hansard’s vocals and the violin of Colm Mac Con Iomaire, but going back, every time I hear new things. The use of interspersing other songs into the band’s own works – especially “Pure Imagination” into the tear-jerking loveliness of “Star Star” – never fails to bring me an exceptional amount of joy.
Set List, despite being a live album, is kind of a headphone record. Due to the loud-quiet aesthetic, if you crank it up to hear the quieter, almost whispered parts, the rocking aspects will blow you clean out of your living room, so in a mildly ironic way, this collection of songs — recorded in front of a packed, enthusiastic crowd — is best appreciated in a solo manner.
I played the hell out of this album for a year, then the band came through Lawrence one very cold October night in 2005. The opener was Josh Ritter, who has a very solid following in our town, going so far as to record a song called “Lawrence, KS” on his 2002 album, Golden Age of Radio. I am not a huge fan, so I asked at the box office when the Frames were going on, and trundled down to the dive bar half a block away to drink buck and a quarter PBRs until they went on.
I showed up in time to catch Ritter’s last song. It was a weeknight, and cold as hell for early October, so the crowd was maybe 200 people. He finished, and easily 2/3 of the crowd left. When the Frames went on, their were perhaps 75 people in the Granada, but it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It was Set List, but live. People singing along? Check. Crying during “Star Star”? Check. Interpolating Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” during “Lay Me Down”? Check.
I didn’t know a single person in that audience, and I don’t think I’ve ever run into any of them in the 15
years since, but I’ve never felt so connected with a group of strangers in my life. It was like we were a secret club, meeting to celebrate this thing we loved an nobody else appreciated, and fuck ’em if they didn’t understand.
Set List still gets regular spins around the house, and it’s still that original $1 clearance CD I found all those years ago. It’s this totem that reminds me that there are surprises to be found everywhere, and sometimes the most unexpected things can become important parts of your life. – Nick Spacek