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Airspace takes you "All The Way Up"

On this the day when our nation celebrates its proud history of annual mattress sales and of drunkenly blowing off one’s own digits while setting off small incendiary devices purchased in Pennsylvania, music is a crucial aspect of any such celebration. And not just any music, but music befitting a nation known for its above ground swimming pools, Natty Light, and Freedom Rock CD compilations.

Airspace are a band hailing from the Billy Joel-beknighted town of Allentown, Pennsylvania who make just such music. And let there be no doubt this is intended as a compliment because no one wants or needs to hear Animal Collective at the backyard barbecue cookout even if that otherwise quite worthy band happen to have a song called “Fireworks” (sample lyric: “A sacred night where we'll watch the fireworks / the frightened babies poo”).

Quoting directly from their Bandcamp bio: “Airspace always aims to leave their listeners feeling strong, alive, and inspired” and thank goodness there’s still indie bands out there willing to perform this service and who aren’t embarrassed to admit it. And on their recently-released full-length All The Way Up, Airspace pull off this ambitious goal with style and panache. Plus the barbecue gang will welcome this album being played off the iPod’s portable speakers cuz it kind of like Green Album era Weezer being welcomed back with open arms after the post-Pinkerton years in the desert ready to just have fun again but long before they would reach a point of resorting to recording Toto covers just because the Millennials love the memes (no disrespect intended to either Millennials, Toto, or Rivers Cuomo).

But I digress. Airspace are the focus here and to these ears their music evokes the Everyman working-class rock of one Bruce Springsteen and the Everyman suburban party rock of one Mr. John Bon Jovi in equal measures and don’t worry Everywomen are invited to the party too just ask Courtney Cox and Heather Locklear who are already here having a great time. And yes while this description is a bit New Jersey centric the state is of course a neighbor and close cousin to Pennsylvania.

And speaking of the latter let’s give the Quaker State it’s due too as an ancestral home of feel good, quintessentially American music ranging from Bill Haley and his Comets (authors of the first rock ‘n’ roll crossover pop hit “Rock Around The Clock”) to the many greats of Philly Soul and the whole Gamble & Huff/Sigma Sound Studios catalogue of classic R&B, soul, and disco hits without which this country’s young 70s-era young Americans would have ended up trying to dance to the Carpenters “Superstar” which is a great song but not exactly an obvious floor filler.



But I digress, again. All The Way Up opens in boisterous form with a quick strummed guitar and a solid backbeat before breaking into a hummable lead guitar line that'll get you waving your sparklers in the air to the point that you'll probably not even notice that the lyrics open with a bummer sentiment ("The sun is out, but I don't care / it only hurts my eyes") before going on to describe a lost love and the obsessive longing that follows. But Airspace are one of those bands good are writing songs that sound like heroic, even patriotic, aspirational anthems but whose lyrics feature an assortment of seekers, schemers, and dreamers just looking for some kind of break--a better life, a better place to live, a better love life, etc.--much like a certain previously mentioned Boss Man. The very next song "Monaco" is another good example where the narrator longs for a fantasy getaway on the French Riviera ("In Monaco it's not so cold / limitations never hold") or for another example check out "Making It Out" ("And it's days like this that make me miss / the years of hell in the South / 'cause God at least I had the hope / of one day making it out") or really most of the other songs on the album (but don't worry there's a few more lyrically optimistic songs on the album too cuz you gotta mix it up some).

Because really, when you think about it, what's more American than being all upbeat and brash and very nearly arrogant on the surface (the music) but underneath it all being very nearly crippled by self-doubt, disappointment, and longing (the lyrics). So there. I got you sorted musically for the 4th and proud to be an American to boot but without having to listen to that godawful Lee Greenwood song. Now please drink responsibly and try not to blow any fingers off! (Jason Lee)

 





Alt Rock

Time: 
20:00
Band name: 
Bees Deluxe
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
facebook.com/beesdeluxe
Venue name: 
Jamey's House of Mus
Band email: 
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Alt Pop

Time: 
18:00
Band name: 
Space Kamp
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.facebook.com/spacekamp420/
Venue name: 
Levitt Pavilion Ste
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Mannequin Pussy seek perfection on new Perfect EP

Much like Jamie Lee Curtis ‘s fitness instructor and John Travolta’s investigative journalist in the movie Perfect from 1985, pm the EP recently released by Mannequin Pussy also called Perfect (Epitaph Records) the Philly-based band likewise walk a fine line between outrageous provocation and romantic distress and Lycra-sheathed sensuality and moral confrontation and it'll likely hit you just as hard as Ms. Curtis's pelvic thrust routine hits in the movie whatever your thoughts on Travolta’s form-fitting shorts and his overall spotty ‘80s filmography (excepting Blow Out, the Philadelphia-set Brian De Palma classic) culminating with those talking baby movies and don’t even get me started on Battlefield Earth because that's its own ball of wax.

Fortunately, in stark contrast to the big-budget bloat of Mr. Travolta’s L. Ron Hubbard Scientology-flogging space-opera dud, Mannequin Pussy’s Perfect is a far tighter affair. Which is also great news for anyone too lazy to digest their three existing full-length records since the EP successfully distills their most outstanding qualities down to an economical 13 minutes (almost 14 minutes!) with a running order that follows the age old pentatartite structure of extended play records:

Track 1) Melodic power-pop/alt-rock banger alternating between lighter waving and head banging parts; track 2) ferocious punk rock rave-up with verbal dressing down of the enables of oppressive social forces; track 3) melodic power-pop/alt-rock banger alternating between lighter waving and head banging parts; track 4) ferocious punk rock rave-up with verbal dressing down of the enablers of oppressive social forces; and track 5) the unexpectedly wistful, ethereal ballad closing number expressing undying devotion so believably and sweetly that even Karen O may be a little jealous

To give one example of impactful brevity you can check out the title track above where the band maintain a face-melting musical escape velocity for a full two minutes as do the Real Punk Rock Housewives of Philadelphia who star in the accompanying music video. Brevity doesn't equal boredom obviously.

And speaking of which if your band is called Mannequin Pussy you better not be boring or ever lose your sense of humor or provocation and the band hasn’t done any of these things by a long shot. It's just that they've taken the prude-provoking attitude of early songs like "Clit Eastwood" and "Pissdrinker" and "Meat Slave 2" and filtered it through a hard won sense of maturity and cumulative life experience so that that now a line like “spit on my tits / tell me I’m perfect” registers with a newfound impact placed in the larger context of the insecurity and masochism encouraged by societal beauty standards and social media and high school class reunions. (Jason Lee)





Writhing Squares have a Chart For The Solution

Imagine if Electric Mayhem sax man Floyd Pepper and bandmate/electric bassist Zoot took a break from Jim Henson's house band and got a hold of some vintage drum machines and synths and an array of effects pedals and then fed their heads full of James Chance and the Contortions, Steve and Andy Mackay (no relation), the Sun Ra Arkestra, Kraftwerk, Lemmy-era Hawkwind, and The Comet Is Coming when it comes to their contemporaries, and then moved to South Philly to add more layers of grit and vigor to their sound and you’d probably end up with something like Writhing Squares and something like their third and latest LP Chart For The Solution.

In reality, Writhing Squares is comprised of Kevin Nickles and Daniel Provenzano who in addition to their respective sax and bass duties both play synths and contribute vocals, with Daniel pulling extra duty on percussion and programming, and Kevin filling in some flute and oboe parts. Chart For The Solution came out a couple months ago and it's been in my rotation ever since so I can vouch for the album's durability and its high quotient of electric mayhem.



The first track is called “Rogue Moon” and it picks up in a way from where the last track of their previous album left off, namely “A Whole New Jupiter” which took up the last 19 minutes of 2019’s Out of the Ether--a heavy psych rewrite of A Love Supreme transformed into triple time and with rhapsodic skronk saxophone played over overdriven bass it all comes off something like a No Wave Coltrane. 

Likewise, “Rogue Moon” rides a loping riff into the psychedelic sunset except here the foundation is a burbling analog synth arpeggiation with NEU!ish interlocking rhythms that shift the downbeat around in your head and then right in the middle the song turns itself inside out and stays that way for the rest of its eleven-minute duration--a dreamy coda that's like the soft underbelly to the first half's gleaming steel exterior.

Aside from any overlaps, Chart For The Solution stakes out new terrain for the Squares with a newly cinematic production on some of the tracks and ever more adventurous playing and arrangements. But it never veers too far from their lo-fi ethos roots either--whether in the swirling sonic vortex of “Geisterwaltz” or the post-punky surf rock party of “Ganymede” or the back masked ambient interlude of “A Chorus of Electrons” or the Stooge-worthy rave-up of “NFU.” It all culminates in the 18-minute headtrip “The Pillars” which begins by sounding like a UFO landing and then turns into a bleep-bloopy coldwave number with Alan Vega verbal outbursts before taking a turn in the final part with the duo seemingly inhabited by the ghost of Lou Reed trying to get out of another record contract.

In the end it all speaks to the band's enigmatic name, a name suggesting the cohabitation of opposite forces, such as rigid geometric “squares” that can somehow kinesthetically “writhe” because on one side you’re got regimentation and repetition and on the other side looseness and grooviness.  It's a dynamic heard in the Writhing Squares' conjoining of trance-like repetition and wild sonic freeness, punk and prog in equal measure, maxed-out minimalistic music for the select masses. (Jason Lee)

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