Shellac at The Bottom Lounge 06/27/09

I'm on Pony Express Time. This show was on June 27. And no, I've never heard of "margins" or "text wrap." That's crazy talk, I tell ya.

Shellac played two shows that weekend: A 21+ show on Saturday evening and an all-ages show at 11 AM on Sunday. I know this is a terrible thing to say and I'm forgetting my roots and blah blah blah, but I hate all-ages shows. So, I was quite thankful to catch the show on Saturday night.

The Bottom Lounge is a curious place. Located directly below CTA tracks, the joint was separted into two sections: Bar/Restaurant and concert space. Every five minutes or so, a train roared by. I kept thinking about the movie "Seven." I resisted the urge to yell "WHAT'S IN THE BOX!!" to my friend.

I'm sure he would he made the connection, but everyone else would have thought I was crazy.

Anyhow, they had a huge beer selection, there was a lot of space to move around, and I'm sure the jukebox selection was awesome. The chicken sandwich sucked.

On a side note, small show flyers advertised that they had VIP tickets for every show and sure enough nestled in back left side of the performance was an elevated box. If this was a Local H show, I'd take no notice. However, seeing people standing in a VIP box for Shellac was mildly amusing in an insular indie rock sort of way. I can't wait for the Fugazi reunion show that will never happen.

Sound: Excellent, with an even mix of all the instruments.

Three Second Kiss and Bear Claw opened. TSK was great while Bear Claw simply sufficed.

With the place packed and the heat and humidity on the rise, Shellac hit the stage. After some tweaking and tuning, Todd Trainer held a drumstick in the air like a torch for a few moments and they were off. Lurching right into "Ghosts," it looked remarkably similar to the following footage.

They followed it up with the blistering "Copper." Five years ago, when Shellac played Collinsville, IL the wags at the VFW Hall more or less cut Shellac off during "Copper," so it was nice to hear it on the front end of the set.

After those two, the order was a blur. Here are the songs I know they played. There was some new stuff tossed in there as well. And I may be missing a song from Excellent Italian Greyhound. This is not even close to being in the correct order.

My Black Ass
This was a very pleasant surprise. Was not expecting anything off Action Park.


I love this song. One of Shellac's best. The visuals were of performance started off a lot like this.


While this probably isn't largely the case with an 21+ crowd, I still wonder how many people at their shows recognize the source of the introduction that Albini and Weston do every time they play this song. Be it Geneva, Chicago or Toronto, this is how it goes. Makes me smile everytime. Hoser.

Prayer to God

I read online a blog where a guy took offense with the end of the song when Albini altered the lyrics, telling the baby Jesus to get off his lazy ass and doing something for once. In polite company, he would have a beef. However, polite company this is not. This is a Shellac show. This is a band Steve Albini is in. Go look up the band name of his post-Big Black project. Understand that this is a song about someone wishing for God to kill his ex-girlfriend and her new fella. I do not understand how someone would get huffy over what Albini sang, but raise no objections to the song as it's pressed to vinyl.

Squirrel Song


Watch Song

End of Radio

When I was went to the University of Kansas, I DJ'd at the student run station. June of 44's "Sharks and Sailors" was my designated "bathroom break/grab some food from Burrito King" song. Since I doubt they will ever play Didn't We Deserve A Look At You The Way You Really Are ever again, this has taken over as Shellac's pit stop song. I like this song, but knowing that you got ten minutes going for you is nice.

Steady As She Goes

Grand Finale

As the boys played out an extended version of INSERT NAME OF SONG THAT I DID NOT WRITE DOWN BUT SHOULD HAVE, drummer Todd Trainer commenced tearing down his drum kit. He was quickly joined by Weston and Albini in a "improvised" percussion finale. Went a lot like this footage from the Primavera Festival.


It would not be a Shellac show without a couple of timeouts for Bob to take questions from the audience. Highlights included: Bob admitting that he pees in the shower and Albini tossing out a Michael Jackson joke. Q: What's the difference between Michael Jackson and Michael Jackson jokes? A: The jokes are getting old. These sessions would have gone by without significance until someone asked why Albini had a red bandana in his back pocket. The question opened the door for Albini to unleash some of his unlimited crassness. In the simplest terms, Albini explained that his red hanky indicated that he liked to engage in an activity that the Christian Missionaries would frown upon. See Track 6 on Rich Man's Eight Track Tape and it will be perfectly clear. In the meantime, examine this photo of said bandana for clues.

Photograph taken by Ian Merritt from See more of his work at:


After watching him selling merch after the show, I am convinced that Bob Weston is without a doubt one of the nicest guys on the planet. Maybe some of the kids who bought shirts or posters didn't think it was a big deal that he took the time to shake the hand of every person who bought something. It wasn't contrived or fake. It was an exercise of genuine appreciation. You do not get that from the vast majority of bands, let alone one of the most important bands on the planet. Great freaking guy.

The Tango Saloon: The Tango Saloon (Ipecac)

The Tango Saloon’s style can be found in its name: dusty-sounding tango, for sure. There are no unexpected spazz-outs, no screaming out of left field; just tango. To be completely honest, tango isn’t a style that does a lot for me, but I would be completely ignorant to lay down descriptions of this disc that were negative. The Tango Saloon leaves one with a feeling of embarrassment. Spoke the brain: “Don’t you realize that this band is good? You must be a complete dumbass for not liking this.” There is just something about labels like Ipecac and John Zorn’s Tzadik Records where nearly everything the label releases all possess a certain level of wisdom higher than any musical fish hack will ever have. Of course, this isn’t always the case. However, outside of their rock releases, their catalogs contain an enormous amount of records that have a literal foreign flavor to them. The Tango Saloon is quite foreign, so in this case, I have to defer to the band and take its honor and word as actual fact. Is this a cop-out? Probably. Will this record appeal to a large amount of people? It all depends on one simple question: Do you tango? | David Lichius

RIYL: Tzadik Records, Ipecac Recordings

Cougars: Pillow Talk (Go Kart Records)

Written by David Lichius

There is something to be said for listening to the nonsensical rants of a crazy person. Whether it’s taking in the hilarious outbursts of your local campus lunatic or the completely logical viewpoints of Ann Coulter, people just tend to perk up and pay attention when a nut job starts yapping. On the other hand, when someone is pontificating on any given subject and making points that you totally agree on, there is a higher tendency for you to tune that person out.

Take that logic and apply it to music. Unless a band really strikes a chord with you, the chances of you taking time to actually listen attentively to what the vocalist is singing is rather slim. However, when some wailing banshee shrieks and flails around the stage, the interest goes up. We want to know just what in the hell just came out of her mouth. Call it the “David Yow Effect” (Yow being the maniacal frontman for the Jesus Lizard). Yow’s vocal style came straight out of the Nick Cave Birthday Party–era school of vocal training. Yow couldn’t sing to save his life; his lyrics were drunken, nonsensical gibberish. They were also frequently hilarious.

Say hello to Matthew Irie, vocalist for the Chicago octet Cougars. Currently eight people strong, the Cougars put forth sounds that are an amalgamation of Shellac, the aforementioned Jesus Lizard, and Rocket From the Crypt. While Irie doesn’t reach the levels of Yow’s onstage pseudo-psychosis, his vocals come damn near close. With a stage presence that resembles that of a vaudeville confidence man, Irie is always smiling, standing in front with a mile-wide grin and a hand extended, inviting you to step right into the world of the Cougars.

Opening with “Toxic Fox Syndrome,” the Cougars break in with an off-kilter, mid-tempo barrage while Irie unloads the with a vocal salvo of: “I can’t see shit from here/let’s have a/let’s have another drink.” As posted on their page, the Cougars are “a rock band making rock music.” A more accurate description would be “a rock band making drunken rock music,” for it is this drunken, manic energy that drives Pillow Talk throughout.

However, Pillow Talk would not reach this level of infection if not for the horn section of Jeff Vidmont and Mark Beening. Their contribution to this record is the spoon that stirs Pillow Talk all together. To not get sucked in by this CD could be telltale evidence of a serious case of the buzzkills. Cougars are a band to be devoured whole, a band that will infuse your soul with the best reason to get a band tattoo since Rocket From the Crypt. Without an ounce of second thought, the Cougars’ second LP is one the best rock records of this or any year.

RIYL: Blue Meanies, Rocket From the Crypt, The Jesus Lizard

Peelander-Z | 03.21.06 | Creepy Crawl, St. Louis

Peelander-Z | 03.21.06 | Creepy Crawl, St. Louis

Written by David Lichius

“No one should leave!”

“Just stay for a couple songs!”

It wasn’t a successful strategy; the place cleared out. Those who remained had already staked their position up again the stage. They had sat through five other bands and were primed for some Peelander-Z.

It was a scenario that I can only liken to attending a midnight screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, with absolutely no clue as to what the film was about or what interactive rituals were about to unfold. Granted, I knew the basics of P-Z—their style of music and that they wore costumes—but I didn’t know just how elaborate and interactive that their live show was.

So it went like this: Peelander-Z takes the stage dressed up as professional wrestlers. They are Peelander-Red (Bass), Peelander-Yellow (Guitar), and Peelander-Blue (Drums.) As the set began, it was quickly evident that this was not just a show, but a fully interactive experience. In between songs, signs were held up displaying the next song’s title, or some random message—including “NUTS MANIA,” “STEAK,” “TOY MANIA,” “MUCUS,” and “Y.Y.Y”—to which the screaming crowd would respond to in kind. It was sensory overload time.

Ten minutes in, a Creepy employee sees me feverishly scribbling in my notebook. He waves his hand, tells me to close it and just enjoy the show. It is perfect timing, as I am seconds away from doing just that. There is too much activity going on and I was getting lost. Welcome to the world of Peelander-Z.

A few minutes later, Yellow—who screamed so much that he could easily find work as a Japanese game show host—jumps off stage, lowers his head and makes a charge right at me. Instinctively, I sidestep him and he mimics running into the couple behind me. Afterward, I wondered if that was part of the show—and if I screwed it up by not delivering a clothesline or a choreographed elbow to the head.

The show continues on as usual—or as usual as can be expected—until PZ put down a handful of bowling pins. People quickly lift the all-ages fence to give Yellow a clear path. Starting at the front of the club, Yellow runs toward the stage and slides into the bowling pins. At this point, things descend into chaos as Peelander-Blue jumps from the stage and hits Yellow on the head with a padded folding chair. When PZ eventually makes it back to the stage, they pull three audience members up with them and hand over their instruments mid-song. Various tambourines and other noisemakers are then passed around to those up front. Obviously, at this point, any semblance of a melody is nonexistent. However, it doesn’t matter as Blue holds up a sign displaying “Don’t Think. Just Feel.” It is a fitting conclusion for the evening.

Peelander-Z is without a doubt the best gimmick/joke band that I have seen in years. Now if you will excuse me, I need to read up on the Peelander-Z Rules of Engagement for the next time they come through town.

Thunderbirds Are Now!, Rahim, The Octopus Project | 03.21.06 | Creepy Crawl, St. Louis

Written by David Lichius

Bluntly speaking, the Creepy Crawl was fucking cold. Attendees were wearing winter coats and stocking caps just to keep warm. In a way, this was appropriate. After endless summer evenings standing amid the heat and the humidity in this same room, experiencing the exact opposite seemed rather fitting. The circle was complete. The innards of the Creepy Crawl had now experienced both ends of the thermometer.

Playing first, TU laid out catchy and endearing pop that had those gathered near the stage clapping in unison. Reminiscent of the Dismemberment Plan and Mates of State, TU were thoroughly enjoyable. On the completely opposite side of the road, Micahveil was a noisy bunch that combined elements of post-punk, space rock, and a smidge of emo. Playing their set with tons of frantic energy—along with a boatload of feedback, blips, beeps, and intense keyboards—they were mighty impressive.

Fronted by keyboardist Yvonne Lambert, the Octopus Project played a wildly entertaining set of new wave-y instrumentals. While Lambert held court up front with an array of sound manipulators—mainly a theremin that allowed Lambert to raise and lower the pitch of a squeal—bassist Josh Lambert and guitarist Brandon Durham bounded back and forth, frequently swapping instruments. On a night where quality was a surplus, the Octopus Project was a very remarkable outfit.

In support of their debut LP Ideal Lives—gladly sold at the merch table two weeks ahead of its street date—Rahim were the enigma of the evening. While the rest of the bands on the bill were fairly straightforward and conventional, Rahim’s brand of rock was out of the mold. Resembling French Toast and a little bit of El Guapo, Rahim’s set was inspired, well played, and lively to be sure.

Thunderbirds Are Now! is very comparable to Les Savy Fav; just ask them and they’ll totally admit it. They may lack a front person who strips on stage piecemeal, but they certainly shared LSF’s lively stage presence, marching their way through “Eat This City,” “This World Is Made of Paper,” “Harpoons of Love,” “From: Skulls,” and others, including a new tune on which Rahim joined them on stage. In a moment of rock hilarity, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Allen took time to jokingly insult Micahveils’ band name only to immediately turn the insult around, calling Thunderbirds Are Now! “the worst band name ever.” Ah, there is nothing like self-effacing humor to further endear yourself to a crowd. However, by that time, they didn’t need it. TAN! was a blast.

Doug Stanhope | 05.06.06

Written by David Lichius

“I look forward to not knowing what to expect,” Stanhope said.

May 6, 8 p.m. | all ages
Tickets: $10 | Call: 618-274-6720
On a damp, yet pleasant Thursday night in Kansas City, Doug Stanhope is standing inside a rock club that has flyers for an upcoming Low concert posted on the walls. Fifty plastic chairs are lined in rows up front for those who purchased advanced tickets. On this particular evening, Stanhope is sharing the stage with fellow comics Blo-Chi and Travis Lipski, as well as the sex punk sounds of the Pornhuskers. The Record Bar, suffice to say, is not your usual comedy venue. In the past, you’d most likely find the 39-year-old comedian a mile or two down Westport Road at Stanford & Sons Comedy Club. It is a club that Stanhope has played on several occasions. It’s also a place you can bet that he’ll never set foot in again.

“You come here [Record Bar], there’s probably a bunch of people at the bar that would be sitting in that bar regardless if it was no entertainment, if it was Monday Night Football, if it’s karaoke; they’re regular people. No one is walking around telling you to fucking shut up, you can’t talk to the comics and that whole comedy club feel,” Stanhope said, “When you play this gig, you don’t need a two-drink minimum.”

While Stanhope stated that there are still comedy clubs that he will go back to, he feels that bars have more adrenaline and chaos in them and, therefore, are more enjoyable

“A town like Kansas City where I have a small fan base, if I play Stanford and Sons and do six shows there, my fan base will be spread out sparsely throughout six shows and intermingled with bachelorette parties and fucking douchebags who think that they won 20 free tickets for their birthday party. So there will be people there to see me and there will be a fucking slew of people who, if Larry the Cable Guy came in with a pan flute, he could lead them off a pier,” Stanhope laughed.

Stanhope’s small fan base in Kansas City—or any town, for that matter—has not come from a lack of effort. A touring comedian for over 15 years, Stanhope’s most visible exposure was hosting the ill-fated The Man Show—which Stanhope openly admits absolutely sucked. However, his most recent place in the spotlight was his participation in the comedy The Aristocrats. When he was initially approached about the project, Stanhope had zero interest. It wasn’t until co-director Paul Provenza showed him 45 minutes of rough footage that he jumped on board. In his segment, Stanhope is telling his own rendition of The Aristocrats joke to an infant. As funny as that segment was, Stanhope wanted to alter the scene a bit.

“I wanted to tell it to a kid who old enough to understand it, like a nine-year-old,” Stanhope chuckled. “That would have really pushed it fucking over the top and just pan on this fucking sunken, sallow face. That would have been hilarious.”

Suffice to say, Stanhope’s act is beyond over the edge. A fearless and wickedly insightful truth teller, many people finger Stanhope as a comedian in the vein of the deceased Bill Hicks. However, to try and describe his act is nearly impossible. To hand over a transcript to virgin ears would not do his material justice. It’s in his delivery and self-effacing honesty that the brilliance of Stanhope comes through. While the list of topics that he has touched on over the years—smoking, drugs, pornography, drinking, abortion—have been used by numerous of other comics, Stanhope has taken these topics in directions and to such extreme levels that, on some occasions, clubs have posted signs warning audiences that Stanhope’s brand of comedy won’t fly with those with gentile sensibilities. Or, as Stanhope once said, “My act is like animal porn. It’s not for everyone.”

On this night, there are no such disclaimers at the door. Following the opening acts, Stanhope takes the stage and begins by stating that he’s more interested in seeing the Pornhuskers then doing his set. One might think that for a show that featured the Pornhuskers—two young ladies dancing provocatively with pasties covering their chests—that the audience would be fairly desensitized. However, as evidenced by one young woman sitting in the third row, this would not be the case. Her gasps of, “Oh my God,” were heard throughout the venue as Stanhope ran through his set. The observation that garnished the most audible reaction touched on a Dawn dish soap ad that, to Stanhope’s disgust, used the cleaning of an oil-drenched duck to sell their soap. Stanhope followed by drawing a direct comparison between that and using Elizabeth Smart to sell feminine hygiene products.

After his set, Stanhope stays up front with his digital camera, capturing the opening moments of the Pornhuskers. It isn’t long until Stanhope is swept away by well wishers who start feeding him shots of Jager and whatever booze they can think of.

While the Record Bar proved to be a friendly and hospitable venue, Stanhope also books on his itinerary some towns that have a higher potential of being the exactly the opposite. This is something that he welcomes.

“I look forward to not knowing what to expect,” Stanhope said. “The Improv is the most ironically named fucking comedy club chain; you know nothing out of the ordinary is going to happen. Maybe a waitress will spill a tray of drinks. Generally, you’re gonna see a guy who knows exactly what he’s gonna say verbatim, word for word; there’s gonna be a guy who’ll do 15 minutes who probably sucks and then a guy who’s kinda mediocre do 25 minutes, and then the guy you supposedly came to see is going go through his fucking script and then you will leave.”

Fifteen days later, Stanhope is back in Missouri and is going to get a full dose of the unexpected. For on this occasion, he is not in a major metropolitan city nor is he is a college town. No, on Good Friday 2006, Stanhope is in the tiny enclave of Cedar Hill, Mo. Thirty-odd miles southwest of St. Louis, the show is sold out. However, the crowd is filled with locals, not with many people who are familiar with his act. Inside the local advertisement weekly The Green Apple, an ad teases the show: “Straight from The Man Show: Comedian DOUG STANHOPE, 1 Show Only, 10pm, April 14th! Closed Easter!”

Inside the converted dining room, the place is packed with people sitting around circular tables set up so close to each other, you could easily step from table to table with little effort.

After opener Andy Andrist, it is now plainly evident that the crowd is here to see the guy they know only from the The Man Show. Contrary to his show in Kansas City where he tried out mostly new material, Stanhope—with a few exceptions—hilariously improvises his through his “contractual obligation” of 60 minutes. In the opening minutes of his set, Stanhope subtly ridicules the town he is standing in.

““If you’re wondering what the fuck I’m doing in Cedar Hill, so am I,” Stanhope said with a snicker. “I’ve never done a gig where I’ve had more people warn me not to do this gig. ‘Are you suicidal? I’ve been to that town. What the fuck are you doing?’”

Stanhope quickly turns to the subject of his motel room—18 miles away in Fenton.

“I’ve never played a town that doesn’t have a motel,” Stanhope states. “The next community hall thing where you get together and fight about burning flags or teaching evolution in school, why don’t someone bring up, ‘How about a motel?’”

Stanhope continued with his improv.

“Can you pin point the exact moment when all your Cedar Hill dreams fell to shit? Sometime around senior year in the back seat of your Ford Tempo? You looked at your girl and said”—and here he switched to his best redneck accent—“‘Baby, as soon as we graduate, we’re getting the fuck out of this nowhere town. We’re gonna go to Key West, Florida. I’m learning how to play the acoustic 12-string. I’m gonna play country music right on the boulevard for tips. Oh? You can carve coconuts into scrim-saw monkey heads and sell them at a flea market. We don’t need money, baby. We have love and each other. Our whole future is wide open. Why don’t we fuck one time without a rubber just to celebrate? Oh, what could possibly go wrong?’”

As the minutes go by, Stanhope tauntingly turns up the knob of the vulgarity of his material. With about five minutes left in his set, the room has emptied considerably and a woman—whose voice sounds ravaged from years of smoking—starts yelling at her party that they’re leaving.

Stanhope stopped and responded, “No. No. No. No. No. Take your time. Take your time. I’m gonna keep talking about stinky pussy.” As her party exits the room, Stanhope smiles and taunts her with a singsong chant of, “Stinky pussy on Good Friday.”

After the show, Stanhope is selling his CDs on top of pool table covered with a wooden plank. A man walks up, whispers into his ear, whereupon Stanhope turns and follows the man out the door.

As for his show on May 6 at Pop’s, Stanhope is looking forward to his return to the bar that never closes—as well as the surrounding ambiance.

“I love it. It’s like Porky’s. It’s just so fantastic when you compare it to going to the Funny Bone—and I’m not trashing the Funny Bone, but for what I do it fits.” Stanhope smiled. “I belong in a fucking dirty tavern.”

(no subject)

American Distress | American Distress (Tent City)
Written by David Lichius

"If you like your punk fast mean and with a chip on its shoulder, American Distress’s debut LP will be right up your alley."

Cranking up the punk in the tradition of D.O.A. and Rancid, American Distress’ message and sound is not subtle. With Mike PSF pulling the vocal duties, A.D. stomps through 12 tracks—plus a toss-off bonus track—with their boots high and their elbows swinging. A.D.’s lyrics step on typical punk themes from life on the streets, greed, and plain-and-simple anger. Suffice to say, if you like your punk fast mean and with a chip on its shoulder, American Distress’s debut LP will be right up your alley. So the next time these guys pull through town, if you are going to stand up front, make sure you bring your baseball helmet with the double earflaps.

Gist | Diesel City (Red Stapler)

Gist | Diesel City (Red Stapler)
Written by David Lichius

"The difference between these varied stylizations is not so dissimilar to create a distraction, yet it showcases Gist’s diversity and ability to create songs that are not redundant. Several times during Diesel City, the hooks and melodies shift, thus creating a feel that a new track has kicked on. Of course, this isn’t the case; it’s just Gist shifting gears."

Based out of Washington, D.C., Gist—while giving a nod to Fugazi—is not a band that is content in mining the gems of the city’s past. Stating influences that vary from the Police and the Kinks to Sonic Youth and Superchunk, Diesel City on first listen could easily be confused as a compilation record, but for Nayan Bhula’s vocals. Throughout, the styles and tempos shift frequently. The difference between these varied stylizations is not so dissimilar to create a distraction, yet it showcases Gist’s diversity and ability to create songs that are not redundant. Several times during Diesel City, the hooks and melodies shift, thus creating a feel that a new track has kicked on. Of course, this isn’t the case; it’s just Gist shifting gears.
Opening the record, “Eclipse” is a fast, hooky slab of post-punk that is catchy and memorable. It’s evident from the start that Bhula is rather remarkable vocalist. His frequent falsetto infuses an added measure of soul to Diesel City. While “Miscellaneous” and “Fugue” carry on the pace of “Eclipse,” Gist slows things down for the rather radio-friendly—sans the wall of feedback—“Things Will Work Out” and “360°.”

Gist approaches each track with a rather deliberate pace. This really plays in the band’s favor on the majority of the 60-minute record. However, in the case of the nine-minute “On the Road,” it really is a misstep. The shambling track really never finds a consistent groove and by the time it concludes, it has more than overstayed its welcome. Rebounding rather swiftly, the record finds its centerpiece in the excellent “In My Eyes.” Not to be confused as a Minor Threat cover, the song is rather easygoing and catchy. Yet, courtesy of some fine guitar work, “In My Eyes” stays firmly entrenched in the rock territory.

The high-quality ditties continue to roll for the duration. Rounding out this first-rate record are “Teen Agers,” “Kilowatts,” and “A Lull in the Conversation,” as well as the rather out of place title track Veering way over the center line, Gist plays into a world of folky twang. The shortest track on the record—weighing in at a breath over three minutes—it’s a lighthearted and enjoyable way to end this disc.

Sybris | Sybris (Flameshovel)

Sybris | Sybris (Flameshovel)
Written by David Lichius

"The band’s self-titled debut is a rather low-key rock record, with a feel that is heavy at points yet dreamy and spacey at the same time."

The vocals of Sybris frontwoman Angela Mullenhour so resemble those of Edie Brickell, it’s uncanny. The band’s self-titled debut is a rather low-key rock record, with a feel that is heavy at points yet dreamy and spacey at the same time. Many times, the songs commence with the guitars and bass buried in the mix, leaving Mullenhour out front, only to build to a loud and fuzzed-out crescendo. This technique proves rather effective as evidenced by “A Gentlemen, an Automobile,” “You’re Only Confident in Your Insecurities,” “Breathe Like You’re Dancing,” and “The Clowns Were Hilarious.” In addition, Sybris also has its share of gate breakers as they kick off with the decibels up on “Hobo Detail Shop” and the Pixies-esque “Neon.” Sybris is a rather nifty record; space rock fans take note: You and Sybris may make a fabulous couple

Just a Fire | Spanish Time (Sickroom)

Written by Dave Lichius
Thursday, 30 March 2006

"With Spanish Fire, Just a Fire has made a mighty leap forward in every aspect. This record could have come out earlier, but in a twist of good fate, it didn’t."

To escape a musical legacy can be a rather difficult task. Once you’ve played in Band A, B, and C, fans are not likely to take an immediate candle to Band D if you go in a totally different direction. Thus was quandary Fred Erskine faced with the formation of Just a Fire. In his earlier days, Erskine played bass for the seminal post-punk/math rock outfits Hoover, the Crownhate Ruin, and June of 44. Just a Fire does not resemble those groups in the slightest. Faced with fan expectations because of his past, Erskine—plus guitarist Chris Daly (ex–Sweep the Leg Johnny), and drummer Scott Adamson—faced a rather difficult task. Unfortunately, those quality standards were not met. Mincing no words, Just a Fire’s 2003 debut LP Light Up stunk on ice. To make things worse, JAF’s rather sub-par live show didn’t help matters, either. At that point, Just a Fire was left for dead, at least in my book.

With Spanish Fire, Just a Fire has made a mighty leap forward in every aspect. This record could have come out earlier, but in a twist of good fate, it didn’t. After the core of the material on this record had been written, JAF simply could not find the time to put their new tunes to tape. This meticulous approach soon turned out to be the best thing the band could have done. As time passed, the songs were improved and some of the original batch was tossed out completely. After adding some new songs, JAF headed to the studio.

Mixed and recorded by J. Robbins, Spanish Time shows that their debut LP was an aberration, a sophomore slump that forgot that it was a freshman. With “Sidebet” leading the disc out of the stable, the songs on Spanish Time are faster, harder, and much more livelier than those of their debut. Some of the credit can be directed to the always rock solid work of Robbins, but the lion share goes to Erskine and Co.

Throughout Spanish Fire, the most evident aspect of JAF is Erskine’s uncanny vocal resemblance to Sting. Musically, JAF has slight resemblances to Jawbox and the Constantines. Yet, for the large part, they throw their own take on post-punk and it’s a mighty good one. The guitar/bass interplay between Daly and Erskine is outstanding, and Adamson’s drumming isn’t too shabby, either. Standout tracks include “Spider Cop,” “My Baby Is Your Baby Too,” “Runaway,” and “Goat Dinner.” It is only in the slower number “The Sun Is a Magnet” that Spanish Time finds a snoozer.

So as it turns out, not only is Just a Fire alive, they are back and in tiptop form. Spanish Time is clear evidence of that. As for those aforementioned expectations, forget that Erskine was ever in June of 44. He and the rest of JAF have delivered the goods this time around.