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Singled Out: "Love Bomb" by Phranque

“Love Bomb” is a title utilized by musical artists ranging from N*E*R*D to Nick Cave (with Grinderman) from British-reality-show-girl-group Girls Aloud to Korean-reality-show-girl-group Fromis_9 which isn’t really that surprising because the phrase itself lends itself to a wide range of interpretations whether it’s used to say something like “I’m gonna bomb you with my love bomb, baby” which sounds like a Zep-era Robert Plant lyric if there were a few more baby’s added at the end, but then it could also be used in a song about bombing with an attempted romantic connection, or about how obsessive love can be a destructive force, or about how amorous feelings can fall from the sky seemingly without warning.

Or (stick with me here!) a “love bomb” could refer to how love has been weaponized by the capitalist-imperialist elite to subjugate and indoctrinate "the sheeple" who are compelled to pair off into nuclear family units (kinda like nuclear bomb fallout shelters!) thus helping to mitigate the threat of a collective uprising against the ruling class while also acting as the driving force behind capitalist structures of exploitation and continuous economic expansion (because if you’re truly in love you’re gonna rush out and buy that new washer-dryer set on sale at Best Buy!) but hey it’s just a theory.

But it’s a theory I feel like Phranque may be on board with (not to be confused with lesbian folk singer Phranc!) on his/her/their/its newest single called (wait for it…) “Love Bomb” which contains lyrics like “the greatest love ever known / re-wire the brain and forfeit the soul” and “turn the toxic swan song upside down / carve your favorite amputee / blast away the world we see / liquid metal heart / from your love bomb” and look I didn’t say all the lyrics make perfect sense but you get the gist of what Phranque’s maybe trying to say.

Lest you miss the subtleties in the lyrics, the music of “Love Bomb” gets across a similar subtext of capitalistic false consciousness with its shiny musical surfaces (the propulsive garage-rock riffage) acting as a sweet candy-coating for the darker stuff underneath like the spooky-sounding organ (perfect for Halloween!) and the doomy chord progression (the bridge section in particular!) not to mention the lyrics.

So just imagine if ZZ Top had suddenly gone goth in the ‘80s right in the middle of their MTV-friendly Eliminator phase and you’re in the ballpark at least. But even more than ZZ Top the band “Love Bomb” reminds me of most of all is Blue Öyster Cult because if you took out “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” from that one scene in the original Halloween (1978) where it’s playing on the car radio as Jamie Lee Curtis and that other chick are driving around and smoking weed before the latter gets turned into chopped liver by Michael Myers and replaced it with the Phranque song under discussion I think it’d work pretty well.

And come to think of it some of their other songs remind me a bit of Blue Öyster Cult too because much like Long Island’s finest AOR rockers—BÖC are best known to the youth of today as an SNL punchline but back in the day they were cool enough to hang with Patti Smith—Phranque are not afraid to inject dark vibes and synthy textures into their sturdy rock tunes (check out “Mick & Keith Forever” off his/their last full-length 13 (La Cosa Nostra), or “Sea Winds” off Butcher the Scapegoat and peep those Blue Öystery vocal harmonies while you’re at it—nor afraid to inject some serious weirdness into the mix because Phranque’s albums are full of trippy instrumental interludes and other left-field touches. And hey maybe someday they’ll cover BÖC’s ”Joan Crawford” (1981) because that’s some crazy-ass shiz too but let’s just hope Phranque never becomes the butt of any cowbell-related future memes (stick to the maracas fellas!) featuring Christopher Walken. (Jason Lee)





Cuddle Riot "Welcome to The Party"

Garage Riot group Cuddle Riot recently released their sophomore EP "Welcome to The Party". This is the work of Sam Haas (Drums), James Page (Guitar), Arturo Mar (Vox), and Charlie Cychs (Bass).

The EP's lead single is called "Rah Rah Rah" and is accompanied by the video below.

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Single premiere: Nihiloceros preps for imminent self-destruction with "Dirty Homes"

It’s one thing to know that the end will come one day (easy enough to ignore) but it’s another to know when that day will come (not so easy to ignore). The new single put out today by Brooklyn-based three-piece Nihiloceros (“Dirty Homes”) is based around the latter condition which Dr. Nessa Coyle, co-editor of The Nature of Suffering and The Oxford Textbook of Palliative Care Nursing, both of which make for excellent beach reads, has termed the “existential slap” i.e. the very moment where a soon-to-arrive demise is realized and internalized alongside the attendant trauma likely to follow a time-stamped death sentence.

Despite being something best-avoided in real life, the “existential slap” is a popular plot device in the movies like in all those ticking-clock-countdown-to-a-life-or-death-deadline type films, even if many of them cop out and allow the hero to live at the last minute. Existential slap movies also tap into our curiosity of how we’d react if we learned we’ve got only one year or maybe just 24 hours left to live, just like Ethan Hawke in that movie from a few years ago called (*ahem*) 24 Hours To Live. But my personal fave in this genre is Miracle Mile, an obscure 1988 film that’s grown a cult following over the years due to what Black Mirror sicko-satirist Charlie Brooker once labelled “the biggest lurch of tone” of any movie ever.  

Basically (warning: skip this paragraph if you hate tangents and/or spoilers) the movie starts off as a quirky “meet cute” rom-com that’s just about as Totally ‘80s as they come. And then it ends with our nerdy-adorable couple slowly sinking into the La Brea Tar Pits in a crashed helicopter as nuclear bombs rain down on Los Angeles (a surprisingly tender scene believe it or not). But most of the movie revolves around the existential bitchslap that arrives about 30 minutes in when Anthony Edwards first finds out (before anyone else) that nuclear armageddon is on its way in about an hour or so, and all the batshit crazy shit that transpires as a result.

But hey we’re here to talk about music, right? (thanks for the reminder!) While not on the same level as movies there are at least a few well-known albums (concept albums, natch) that deal with this very same theme—notable examples being Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction, the Del/Dan/Kid underground hip hop classic Deltron 3030, and of course David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars which opens with the conceit of being down to “five years left to cry in” before the end.

But a “concept EP” that takes the existential slap as its central conceit, well this is breaking new ground. And Nihiloceros have done just that with Self Destroy (released digitally on 9/17 and then physically on 10/1 from Totally Real Records) perhaps the world’s first “existential slap EP” (make that “ESEP”) and there’s no bisexual rock aliens falling to Earth to spread moorage daydreams before the inevitable rock ’n’ roll suicide in the Nihiloceros's rendition. Instead, we have a six-song self-described meditation on “the imminent evolutionary unraveling of the human condition and the absurdity of the end of the world” which obviously should make for good beach listening.

And guess what “Dirty Homes” is the lead-off track on the EP so we got a sneak preview now of how it all begins. Eschewing any “meet cute” gambits, the song instead charges into your earholes with a needle drop straight into a rush of Superchunky distorted intertwining bass and guitar and propulsive beating of skins (Chris Gilroy on the skins as well as production/engineering/mixing duties, whereas Siberian transplant German Sent handles current live drumming duties, got it?) and an eerie high-register melody. Meanwhile, right off the bat the narrator faces “youth erod[ing]” and “ages torn down” and the impending demise of humanity (difficult to imagine, no?) and just like Anthony Edwards in the phone booth scene above, humanity’s first reaction is flat out denial. When we talked the other day guitarist/lyricist Mike Borchardt called the song a “fairy tale vs. reality” type fableand that seems about right because the cognitive dissonance is palpable in both the lyrics and music.

Contrasting the titular “dirty homes” with pristine “white cathedrals” it seems humanity may have miscalculated in not taking better care of the places where we actually live (the dirty homes in question) instead tending to ritual spaces where we imagine our ideal selves as looked after by a beneficent god (this could be any type of “god” or "gods" take your pick). As further described in the lyrics through snatches of arresting imagery, we’ve travelled to the point of no return on “the yellow bricks [that] lead to Rome” and well now I’m picturing Dorothy hooking up with Caligula and bringing the whole gang along to a gladiator match (you know the Cowardly Lion is freaking the fuck out) followed by an imperial orgy (every tried to have sex with a scarecrow?) which all ends in chaos of course. 

Likewise on the musical side of the things the song swings between extremes—the bouyant melodies of the verses masking apocalyptical imagery of locked jaws and rusted suns and “cities built on your cries” that is until the song gets stuck in its own groove with our narrator repeating “YOU! YOU! YOU! YOU!” in the chorus in an echo of the egotism and individualism and freedom-to-be-stupid-but-fully-satiated-at-all-times-at-all-costs that got us into this end times mess in the first place. Then later there’s a breakdown section (talk about literal!) and finally an outro that opens with a nice crunchy ’n’ catchy guitar solo that soon unravels into swelling sonic murk and doomsday countdown-clock rhythms before glitching out and ending on a bass and guitar single-note that hisses and crackles like a burnt out element. 

And if this all sounds a little on the dismal side it’s not so much really because much like Miracle Mile the songs on Self Destroy are the musical equivalent of action set pieces, adrenalized and strangly exhilarated by impending doom (thought don’t get me wrong “the shit goes down”) and plus the band creates such a powerful slab-of-sound that you’ll likely be mesmerized anyway—at times I still can’t tell which parts are bass or guitar, nevermind theremin or effects-laden Rhodes piano—which could be down in part to bassist/co-vocalist Alex Hoffman designing a custom line of pedals for the record (!) that’ll be available to the buying public at some point (plus an entire line of tie-in hot sauces, I shit you not) so check out “Dirty Homes” for now and then clean up your pig-sty why don'tcha and then get ready to blast off when Self Destroy drops because, well, it’s gonna be “a thrill ride into oblivion” (potential pull quote!) and you may as well sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds as it goes down. (Jason Lee)





The Nuclears sail off into the Seasides

Warning: This blog entry is rated ‘R’ for rockist content and for frank discussion of cock rockery

The Nuclears make rock ’n’ roll about rock ’n’ roll and god bless ‘em for it. Led by the brothers Dudolevitch, Mike D and Brian D share vocal and electric guitar duties and are ably assisted by Bobby Sproles (bass) and Kevin Blatchford (drums) who function as the control rods to this long-running Brooklyn-based musical nuclear reactor with additional assistance from vocalist/tambournist Briana Layon who acts as the band’s steam generator with her Tina-Turner-meets-Valerie-Brown-meets-Julie-Brown-rapped-in-the-body-of-a-white-girl-soulful-belting-and-on-stage-shimmying-and-tambourine-shaking. 

Earlier this year the band released what is said to be their final studio album Seasides (Rum Bar Records) and last week they played a farewell-to-Manhattan show at Mercury Lounge that burned with a white hot molten intensity (check out the Deli’s Instagram account for a clip from the show in question alongside the super fun self-described "Maximum Oi'N'B" opening act 45 Adapters who shared sensible advice like "don't trust anyone who doesn't dance") and in case you missed that one their very very last NYC show will happen at TV Eye in Brooklyn-adjacent Ridgewood, Queens on 9/18—the giant centerfold portrait of Iggy Pop in the front room couldn't be more appropriate for this stacked bill alongside The Fleshtones (!), Televisionaries, and Spud Cannon—and really you’d be crazy to miss it. Over their decade-plus existence The Nuclears’ sound has been compared to everyone from Chuck Berry to the Stones, the Ramones to the Dolls, the Kinks to Kiss, Deep Purple to Black Sabbath and the list goes on—not to mention their own self-stated musical influences such as The Who, MC5, Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult, Radio Birdman, Turbonegro, and the Hellacopters. In other words, they don’t just rock. They rawk.

And speaking of “rock about rock” (sorry, make that “rawk about rawk!”) The Nuclears are/were essentially a living breathing rock ’n’ roll Hall of Fame traveling circus with intertwining stands of ‘50s rock und roll, ‘60s garage, ‘70s punk, ‘80s metal, and ‘90s grunge and the result is one hell of a lot more fun than staring at Mick Jagger’s slacks behind a glass case in Cleveland, Ohio (not to deny that “Cleveland rocks”) while still putting across their own singularly opened-hearted let’s-get-the-party-started vibe especially live. Speaking of which it’s a shame The Nuclears never recorded a live album because the band’s insane level of shreditude and kinetic livewire energy in the flesh can’t entirely be captured in the studio kind of like a vampire trying to comb his hair in a mirror.

But hey don’t let it discourage you from giving Seasides a spin because for one thing it contains a couple honest-to-Abe “rock about rock” songs that truly rawk (both feature Briana on lead vox) right smack in the middle of the album. First there’s “Mystery Slinger” about meeting a guitar slinger “down at the crossroads” (could it be…Satan?!?) who “possessed a magic in his fingers” (not to be confused with the Magic Fingers™ at your finer hourly rate motels) and Bonnie Raitt oughta cover this song on her next record because there’s some insanely groovy blooze clues to be detected here; and then next comes the equally self-referential “Bow To The Queen” (“I’m the best this world has ever seen…burn it down with gasoline”) with some serious-as-a-sheer-heart-attack heavy metal wailing both vocally and in the Dudolevitch's truly juicy Judas Priesty twin leads. 

All of which raises the question: Should the Nuclears be classified as roots rockers; or is it more accurate to call them meta-rock postmodernists? Which raises the answer: Who cares?!? Because Seasides should convince any remaining skeptics not to “knock the rock” with songs that measure up majestically next to classics by Queen and Zep and Joan Jett (and of course “The Tap!”) when it comes to rock songs about rock that also happen to rawk. ROCK! And not to worry they don’t forget to throw in some sex (“Make the First Move,” “Small Talk”) and drugs (“Siamese Connection”) for the masses with that lastly mentioned song adding some social commentary into the mix with lyrics about the CIA importing narcotics into the USA (“it’s not a crime / if you’re on the right side”) but don’t worry this isn’t a message album unless that message is "let's rock!" 

Speaking of postmodernism, the next song is called “I Just Wanna Have Nothin’ To Do” which is a title the Ramones somehow never came up with and they make doing nothing sounds pretty fun (especially when they wanna do nothing with you) but peel back the onion and it’s a straight-up deconstructive text about wanting to want nothing, desiring to be free of desire, because desire is akin to being stuck on a “hamster wheel…going nowhere slow” and I’m starting to wonder if these boys and their side chick are Buddhists or maybe they’re just students of Schopenhauer. This impression is only solidified in the next song on the album “Doin’ the Same Thing Twice” which further explores the futility of striving with lines like “one day you’ll find / you’re just a cog in the machine / trying to turn into a bigger cog / well that’s the American Dream.” And once a band’s arrives at this stark realization well how can they not break up so yeah it’s all starting to make sense now.

The Nuclears fittingly bow out with two truly head-banging-devil-horn-displaying-fist-pumpers. The first of which being “Slash Run” which opens with the lines “There’s a place that speaks right to my soul / the best parts of rock ’n’ roll / a drug (drunk?) house full of degenerates like me / and I never wanna leave” and admittedly I may be misinterpreting a word or two in there but misinterpretations can be revealing and then the song segues into a cover of KISS’s “Strutter” and it's hard to misinterpret a couplet like "everybody says she's lookin' good / and the lady knows it's understood" so of course she struts her stuff and I mean wouldn't you. And then finally comes “Flat and Nasty” where The Nuclears look back to a pre-Internet-porn era when rock ’n’ roll jollies could only be had by non-Paul-Stanley-types through such primitive rites as heading to your local ShopRite to buy a pack of smokes then going back to your bedroom and shuttering the blinds and, well, “the only way I could get my release / was all the flat girls on the TV screen.” 





So lest you accuse these New Yawk "rock about rock" meta-rock-masters of being masturbatory musically or otherwise, well guess what, they just beat you to it (!) by writing a terminal song that’s literally about “beating it” but which also speaks directly to this particular band's artistry. Because in typical Nuclears fashion they make the love of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll sound like the most wholesome thing you could ever aspire to—especially, again, at their tent revival style live shows—a Hellfire Holy Trinity suffused with a nostalgic cathode glow that's as "All American" as that well known perv Norman Rockwell eating a slice of warm apple pie and then using the rest of the soft yielding pastry to pleasure his love gun American Pie style. (Jason Lee)

Photo by Kem Ettienne (@primo34)

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Vagabond Dogs "One Way"

The duo of Carter Schenke (guitar and vocals) and Steve (drums) known as Vagabond Dogs recently released their debut EP, "One Way".

This is Lo-Fi garage rock with strong underlying melodic core.

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