There’s some cheek to Lord Buffalo’s “About” page, a place where they alternately refer to themselves as “leguminous drone-porn,” “forêt noir,” “crappalachian butt rock” and “mud folk.” The throughline for all these being that they’re all vaguely of the earth, loamy and natural, base element-y. In truth, though, those descriptions undersell what Lord Buffalo feels like.
Tohu Wa Bohu, the second album from the Austin, Texas four-piece musically captures a gauzy between-space. Featuring members Daniel Jesse Pruitt (vocals, guitar), Garrett Hellman (guitar, organs), Patrick Patterson (violin) and Yamal Said (percussion), what Lord Buffalo creates are sonic mysteries, the heat shimmers on salt plains, elf circles around the forest trees, blood falls in glaciers…
It’s a supernatural, otherworldly sonic experience that sets the stage for Pruitt’s tales of snakecharm and Old Testament mysticism. In this it’s no accident that Lord Buffalo get cited among the likes of fellow travelers Sixteen Horsepower and Swans.
Edgy, post-apocalyptic blues number “Halle Berry” is probably the “hit” here. With its jagged guitarwork it recalls a Nick Cave spiritual which has been stripped of any notion of fan service. Best though is probably the title track, a chanting, thumping, deliberate sprawl designed specifically to pierce the veil. Whether the listener can actually reach that place is unknowable. But only repeat listens will help the find that out.
I’ve been utterly transfixed by the song “Dim Bulbs,” the last track on Detroit jangle-rockers Deadbeat Beat’s new album How Far. Starting off with a crisis phone call, it quickly shifts to deep out-of-body self-reflections on front lawns, busy roadhouse parking lots and lonely night walks. It’s a cinematic, melancholic gut-punch of an album coda and it’s one that makes everything that comes before it seem much darker around the edges. To be fair, it’s not like the trio of drummer/vocalist Maria Nuccilli and guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Alex Glendening and bassistZak Frieling are entirely subtle about glooming up their power pop. Launching one’s album with a song titled after the occult deity Baphomet isn’t exactly convention for the handclap-rock set. Neither are the bodies being torn apart and cement poured down throats in ghoulish number “The Curve.” To characterize How Far only as a “what if” where Sloan’s Jay Ferguson goes full Saruman is probably an overstatement, though. There are, after all, a number of exemplary pieces of genre-work on How Far. “You Lift Me Up” is an in-the-pocket bedroom dance starter, the do-do-do, do-do-dos feel like a classic anchor for “The Box” and the longing in “I’ll Wait” is a near-timeless sentiment. Taken as a whole it’s enough to make How Far feel something that’s both familiar and intriguingly distinct.
In the endless war against “rock is dead” trendpieces it’s important to secure one’s ammunition wherever one can. Abjects new album Never Give Up is a beautifully nasty weapon to use for the cause. Build around a cutting garage rock base, this international trio — singer/guitarist Noemi from Spain, bassist Yuki from Japan and drummer Alice from Italy — throw down a musical viciousness that’d make the “The” revival bands of the early 00s wilt in fear. Signature song “Fuck Brexit” is as unsubtle in its politics as it is ruthless as a bass-rumbling jam. “The Secret” and “The Storm,” additionally, are the sort of stompers that Little Steven plays on his radio show to ward off death for yet another week. There are some deft stylistic diversions as well. The title track made this reviewer doublecheck to make sure Abjects wasn’t a pumped up version of Lush recording under a different name, “Surf” is an aptly-names San Fran car chase soundtrack waiting to happen, and the dreamscape of “A Long Way To Go” shows there’s a more studied other side to Abjects should they ever want to explore it. In the meantime, we’ll be in the streets hurling bottles for the cause with Never Give Up playing through our headphones.
Dig!, the scene-defining documentary that captures the rise and fall and rise and fall of West Coast psych rockers Brian Jonestown Massacre and their frenemies The Dandy Warhols is now officially 15 years old. Perhaps the best gift that film gave us — besides firsthand insight into the madness and smarm that would eventually cause the two bands to plateau — is a whole generation of paisley-shirted crate diggers who figure a trip with both The Byrds and The Creation as well as Cast and The La’s is exactly the kind of magic carpet ride they want to be on.
Portland, Oregon’s Shadowgraphs certainly do their part to let the sound take us away on latest album Another Time. This kaleidoscopic 11-song collection isn’t so much for individual spots, though the particular melancholy “Sun Is Rising” and “Before The Time” shimmer brightest. No, where Another Time is most successful is in capturing the ever-elusive thing known as “vibe.” There’s a sway and swirl here that’s just as effective if you’re dancing under a forest canopy or beneath a wave of laser lights. Or, in a perfect scenario, both.
The last thing I expected to find when I listened to a new GWAR album in 2017 was… humanity. And yet, here we are. In an age where Insane Clown Posse have become civil rights activists, where Jimmy Kimmel, a person’s whose old show used to do a side-business selling Girls on Trampolines DVDs, is now our nightly voice of the resistance, and where Eminem has become a woke protest singer, GWAR’s enlightenment (of a sort) doesn’t feel so weird.
To be fair, you still have to squint a fair amount to find said humanity from these alien invader/heavy metal cartoon warriors. After all, there’s still lots of in-the-pocket GWAR to be found on The Blood Of Gods. “I’ll Be Your Monster” is like a flip on Alice Cooper shock rock with an actual hint of menace, “Viking Death Machine” is a free wheel burnin’ highway anthem, and the band’s cover of AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” is so obvious it’s stunning they hadn’t thought to do it before now.
But then there’s the anti-overpopulation screed “Swarm,” the let’s-kill-the-president shanty “El Presidente” and the cathartically universal “Fuck This Place.” If sometimes feeling like our need to conquer and explore has irreparably messed up the planet, or worrying that the world is teetering on the brink of destruction because of a mentally damaged world leader aren’t absolutely human concerns then I don’t know what are. Throw in “Phantom Limb,” a fitting tribute to deceased former band leader Oderus Urungus, and these songs are a fair argument for a surprisingly tender GWAR. At least in their way.
Either that, or the world is going to such shit that I’ve started to look to GWAR for morality tales. In which case, fuck this place.