This month around VICE junction, the heavy and weird stuff ruled, and the normal crap and rap music drooled. There are exceptions, of course; A$AP Ferg’s 'Trap Lord' is great; meanwhile, the faster we eradicate Norma Jean from the face of the Earth...
A$AP Ferg used to be a fashion student. Then he dropped out of shirt-and-pants school to become a rap man who sounds like a gigantic, adorable bear. It’s usually a bad idea to sound like you’d rather be rummaging around garbage or eating seals or getting your hairy fist stuck in a honey pot, but A$AP Ferg is hilarious and these beats rock harder than a grizzly slashing through your camper top to tear your throat out.
Hall of Fame
Big Sean is a testament to a key strategy in hip-hop: if you only have one fan, make sure it’s the right fan. In Sean’s case, it’s Kanye. Dude is like third in Kanye’s stable after Pusha and Yeezus himself. To call that a talent drop-off is like calling the Grand Canyon a giant squat toilet. Yeah, “Guap” is crack, but I guess what I’m saying is Big Sean could actually die in a car wreck and I wouldn’t really care unless he wrote me into his will, and even then I would struggle.
Age Against the Machine
I like when Cee Lo tries to shock people with his music for the sake of shocking people. I had to listen to “Fuck You” a few times before I actually believed he was saying “Fuck you” in the chorus, and on this record, there’s actually a song called “White Power,” in which he chants “White power!” over and over again. This is going to start something, be it a mild sensation or a race war.
MAYBACH MUSIC GROUP
Self Made Vol. 3
The weird thing about all the Maybach albums is they ping-pong between tracks that sound like they should be played on pleasure yachts only and rap versions of Andreas Baader firebombing a Frankfurt department store. Rick Ross and co. are full of contradictions. Like Wale: everything about him is intolerable, and yet he’s all over this record. If someone burned us a version of this without all the Wale verses, we’d turn our frowns upside-down. Until then, it’s off to the vomitorium with this one.
Since your hard drive is already busting with illegally downloaded movies, illegally downloaded software, illegally downloaded video games, whatever results from searching “sloppy” on xHamster, and selfies, it’d be irresponsible for me to recommend you waste two minutes of your life stealing this. There are swirly distant atmospherics and a trumpet every now and then, so I guess it’s mellow indie rock that’s likable enough, but it’s not worth disk space that’d be put to far better use with a pirated copy of Leisure Suit Larry 4: The Missing Floppies. Oh, and another thing I’ve always wanted to say in print: Secretly Canadian secretly stinks. Except for early Scout Niblett, of course—Emma, we met backstage at the Knitting Factory once. Let’s tango.
WORST COVER OF THE MONTH
Come along with Washed Out on his five-album plan to transform his body into all four members of Coldplay with limbs that only know Peter Gabriel covers! It’s a brave venture, and I’m sure surgically quartering himself (Chris Martin is the left leg, obviously) will be painful and involve lots of rehabilitation. But at least we get to watch the operation happen in real time while ignoring this new record, which shifts from wobbly cassette hiss (which wasn’t even mildly interesting in 2008, no matter what they tell you) to utterly neutered smeary pap that would befit a hedge-fund manager’s Citi Bike ride to one of the three California Pizza Kitchens near his work to pick up a Barbeque Chicken Flatbread Chancho or whatever the fuck pieces of garbage are eating these days.
No Better Time Than Now
This album is a how-to for creating the oppressively mediocre beat music that everyone wanted to make three months ago. Just go down the checklist: Rain sounds? Yup. Kalimba? You got it. Jazzy keyboard notes? Jingling key noises? Congratulations, you just recorded the test mode on a Casio keyboard circa 1987. I saw this guy play once, and he bangs on real, live drums during the show. This seemed like a fun idea until I noticed “Stevie” vibing next to me with dreads and a fanny pack. Once I realized the number of glow sticks in the building, I threw a smoke bomb, screamed, “Jackpot!,” and hightailed it outta there.
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
Lombardi—Thanks for sending me the QOTSA vinyl! I’m on first listen and super into it. Ben (music editor), meet our old-school legend of a friend Chris Lombardi, founder of Matador Records. Can we give the album some love in the pages of the mag, and online (if we haven’t already)? Also, let’s figure out something rad on the video tip with Josh Homme, maybe do a super serious “Charlie Rose”-style interview where we all wear suits, but then he just tells us crazy stories about taking drugs in the desert.
SUROOSH ALVI VIA EMAIL
WORST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Razor & Ties
Back in my desperate college days, I used to snort amphetamines and sleep with a girl who just loved Norma Jean. I remember her well because she was cool with having sex in front of her roommate, and she had a big Tony Montana-style scar on her face from a car accident that she’d try to hide (unsuccessfully) with makeup. The first night we hooked up, she made me sleep on the couch because her “real boyfriend” was coming over early in the morning and she didn’t want him to get the wrong idea. To this day, anytime someone mentions the band Norma Jean, I can picture the gobs of sweat that used to collect around her scar when she was about to come. It’s a memory I’ve been trying to erase for years. So this sad face is more for me than the band.
I like thrashy, splatter-oriented deathgrind as much as the next guy, but I’m partial to bands like Blue Holocaust or early Regurgitate who at least had the sense of purpose to pitch-shift their vocals and degrade their recordings to the point where entire records sound like a flailing high-pressure vomit hose spraying inside a BDSM dungeon… forever. Exhumed came close on that one split with Hemdale, but by now they’re basically the Steely Dan of gore, the singer doesn’t sound like Butterball anymore, and you can probably fine-tune your sound system to this polished garbage.
HIS ELECTRO BLUE VOICE
By the time you hit 19, you are painfully aware that pimps in Borneo are shaving orangutans and forcing them into prostitution with humans. (All because of VICE. You're welcome.) Today's world is such a distended, bloody scrotum that bleak heroin punk doesn't have the effect it once did, and instead confirms our collective understanding that humans aren't worth our weight in itch mites. But imagine the sort of impact Ruthless Sperm would have on your co-worker's four-year-old if you forced it on him after his mommy-mandated dance lesson? It would be like that part in Shadow of a Doubt where Joseph Cotten corners teenage Teresa Wright and menacingly whispers, "Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you rup off the fronts of houses, you'd find swine?"
Imps of Perversion
This makes me want to scream and grunt and swing my arms around really fast until they make contact with people’s mouths and eyes. Mosh on, motherfuckers.
PUBES IN YOUR ZIPPER
BEST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
You know those people who sometimes point a roman candle into a crowd, or turn to you and murmur things like “I’ve seen how it all ends” with freaky assertiveness and bug eyes? Destruction Unit is fronted by one of those guys, and it makes me want to eat the pills he just handed me and drag myself through the Arizona desert to see whatever holy shit he found out there. This trip could have a few possible outcomes: we’d either have a threesome with Jodorowsky’s armless midget, end up in that acid sequence from Beavis and Butthead Do America, or lay down the theoretical groundwork for a record like this. Whatever happens, you should slam this thing into your mouth immediately. It tastes soooo good.
Blackest Ever Black
Remember that scene in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the Foot Clan hideout? Where everyone’s skating and there’s a dude running around saying things like, “Anything you wanna do, do it.” And then the new inductee kid is all, “Got any cigarettes?” and the guy holds up two cartons and is all, “Regular... or menthol? ” Raspberry Bulbs literally met and formed there. You can see the bassist in that scene—he’s the one with the mohawk. They bonded over their shared hate for MC Hammer, and have been pounding out punky parent repellent ever since.
Late for Nothing
The first year I ever went to Warped Tour, they handed my friends and me free condoms. Because we were 15 and hadn’t kissed any girls yet, the only thing we could think to do with them was open them up, each take a turn spitting into them, tie them off, leave them on the ground, and run away before we could giggle like a bunch of dummies if/when someone actually found them. This record is the metalcore soundtrack to that experience, and I resent it because it makes me look even more pathetic than I actually was.
Loud City Song
In a world where Miley Cyrus is taking time in a music video to spell out twerk in SpaghettiOs, no one should be surprised that folk music gets a bad rap. Where’s the bass drop? Why isn’t my ass shaking? Goddamnit, what is this shit? It is not making me turnt, lurnt, skurnt, or hurnt. But when a charming, competent songwriter like Julia Holter delivers a lovely record like Loud City Song, it’s a reminder that the problems of one ex-Disney princess coming to terms with her perfect, perfect body doesn’t amount to a bag of high-grade, heroin-free molly in this crazy world.
Unvarnished genius is exactly that: free from gloss and the mores of its time, and rarely appreciated upon its release. But I thought the LA dream-pop scene would have fully absorbed the influence of Sonic the Hedgehog’s Sky Chase EP a lot sooner. Did you know that he and Miles “Tails” Prower recorded the entire thing on top of the Tornado, an unequal-span biplane, as it flew seven miles above Westside Island? It really gives the whole thing that spectral Masato Nakamura sound, and more than 20 years later, those same tones are finally pulsing through the wheatgrass bars and dog salons of the City of Angels. It’s our birthright, and we deserve it, because the level before that one is way too hard.
This record came at a really good time for me, which is to say I was cooking Rice-A-Roni while bumping the Mallrats soundtrack. As I ran a food train on my fanus (face anus) with the San Francisco Treat, I perused the press release, which dropped some smarty-pants nuggets like “light-dappled,” “lingering magic,” and even “alien landscapes.” I thought to myself, Sure, I can definitely hear that. Sophisticated people with good taste, I envy your dedication to grown-ass-woman music like this. I too am a grown-ass woman, and I actually like this a lot. That being said, it did trigger my extreme guilt for having zero interest in ever doing yoga. Especially Bikram.
No Age manufactured 10,000 LPs and CDs of An Object themselves, by hand. That’s pretty appropriate, because their music sounds like it’s stitched together in a muggy basement by a bunch of kids who were told by their parents that they should shower more often. All of that is to say that An Object is one hell of an album. Biting. Grimy. Sweaty. This machine might destroy indie rock by eating it from the inside out and placing Justin Vernon’s head on a stick.
Seems like this would be a good record to put on for your lady friend after a night out at “the club.” The lyrics are super honest—maybe Dent May’s most honest thus far—with dramatic string parts and a jammy little piano. Not to mercilessly assault a dead horse, but this is way, way better than that ukulele thing he did a while back, which brings up an important point: Are there still dudes who bring home ladies from “the club” and throw down jams on their ukes for sex? Not like that’s ever happened to me—I’m sorry, I’m just not the type of girl who’ll top it off (and then pop it off) after a 3 AM acoustic trot out of “Just Like Heaven.” Basically, what I’m trying to say, is that this record just made the whole mating process a bit less painful.
Did you know they used to make violin strings out of sheep innards? The strings were called catgut. Making them was a big to-do that involved cutting out and cleaning the intestinal tubes full of animal poop, and then stretching them out on big frames. It’s kind of like chitterlings, except instead of it helping your asshole make music, catgut helps your instrument make music. The reason I bring this up is that when I listened to this record, it put a smile on my face to imagine Sarah using catgut on her violin. Any sheep should be proud to be mercilessly disemboweled for the cause of bringing forth a record so pleasing to my ears.
WILBERT L. COOPER
Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
Did you know Franz Ferdinand’s fourth album was a dub version of their third album? Did you know they even had four albums? Unbeknownst to those of us who aren’t teenagers from Glasgow, the Franzes have apparently been engaged in some soul-searching over the past decade. Aside from being an annoying throw to Buddhism, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action is an angsty account of the band’s struggle with (you guessed it) mediocrity. There are a few tolerable songs, but the rest are obnoxious, and there’s a track called “Treason! Animals.” Pass, and then pass some gas.
To the Happy Few
Chuck a tremolo bar into the 21st century and it’s bound to ricochet off more than one pack of pasty, underfed My Bloody Valentine nerds. Most of those kids are aloofly strumming Jazzmasters through so much delay that nothing comes out until the drummer’s limped off to grad school. You’ll find fewer bands replicating Medicine’s signature buzz: the drugged-up, androgynous tones of a murder of stoned miniature hunchbacks playing in a broken kitchen appliance. Thankfully, you don’t need anyone else; this here band hasn’t aged a day in 20 years.
BLACK JOE LEWIS
Seriously, I’m done with the Black Keys. I assume it’s their persistence in our horrible culture that’s responsible for Black Joe Lewis. Guitar riffs that hold your hand like a schoolteacher through a children’s science museum, the occasional horn part that makes you want to tip an invisible fedora to the sky, and inscrutably feedback-caked hooting and hollering. You’ve already heard and forgotten every song on this album. A return to the transmutable fountainhead of sanity that only a sonically and lyrically nauseating album can effect.
BEST COVER OF THE MONTH
Visions of the Country
I can’t feel too bad for artists who pop their clogs before their time. Everybody dies sometime, and this way you get that cool “fly in amber” effect and are considered perfect forever, even if you abused your pets or children—look at John Lennon! Robbie Basho didn’t abuse anyone, but there’s something about the way he died (fatal stroke caused by torn artery due to an experimental “intentional whiplash” treatment encouraged by his chiropractor) that makes my eyes get all sweaty and makes the medical profession look just how Tom Cruise imagines it. The next time you get a crick in your neck, it might be smarter to throw on a shawl-collar cardigan, hike to the top of a verdant hillock, and throw this reissue of perfect Hindu-inspired, guitar-focused, late-70s new age on your portable record player before you die of a stroke. Dude can also whistle, which is a talent frequently abused but rarely perfected.
GENEVIEVE MAY DOBBINS
ZOLA JESUS WITH JG THIRLWELL & MIVOS QUARTET
Listen, I think it’s cool that this is a record of tracks reworked by the dude from Foetus. And I’m totally floored by Nika’s talent. But I’m pretty sure the “version” she’s talking about is just a poppy disco version of the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, and I can’t stop picturing that DP scene at the end with the old perv yelling, “Ass to ass! Ass to ass!”