REVIEW: Ogikubo Station – “We Can Pretend Like”

The best thing about punk rock music is that the artists you love get older with you. And the artists who maybe grew up before you are going to be there when you finally catch up. Ogikubo Station is a mix of two different periods in my life coming together. Mike Park represents the stuff that got me into the music to begin with. All those Asian Man Records bands that were so vital to me getting into underground music as a teenager. Maura Weaver is that punk rock I listened to in my mid/late-20s when I was still fucking up a lot, but finally getting around to being an adult. Ogikubo Station, as a whole, feels like I finally caught up.

All things being what they are, We Can Pretend Like is an amazingly solid indie rock record that still has punk rock in it’s blood. I know it’s a weirdly specific phrase, but the singer/songwriter side of the band really shines through. The songs, though simple, have a lot of heart behind them. They are enjoyable, even if the subject matter is a bit heavy. If I had to spotlight some specific songs, I would definitely have to talk about “Drowning At The Watering Hole” and “Strong As You.” The former because it’s just a really great song. Honestly, there is a really sad song hiding behind the new wave synth line and the poppy guitars. You’ve got a tale of loneliness, dependency, and co-dependency. The latter stands out to me for more personal reasons. Hearing a song about a parent dying snuck the hell up on me at the laundromat. That is such a specific feeling. It’s one that you forget is still raw, even after time has passed. Other standouts are “I’ve Been Thinking Of St. Louis” and “The Prettiest One.” Both have a kind of twang to them. It really adds a dimension to the whole record.

I kind of question the need to write up this record. All the big sites already covered it back in August. I’m two months behind as usual. I just really like it. But, of course I do. My love of Asian Man Records has been well documented here. Bias aside, I think this is a record that has something for everyone. If you like indie rock, you’ll like it. If you like punk rock, you’ll like it. If you like Mike Park and Maura Weaver in their previous projects, you’ll like it. Just give it a listen if you haven’t already.

Ogikubo Station
Asian Man Records
Bandcamp
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REVIEW: sewingneedle – “user error”

There is something to be said about a band who knows exactly how to communicate a feeling. On User Error, sewingneedle use the language of indie rock, post-punk, and post-hardcore to say a whole lot. It’s easy to get lost in the musical side of the presentation. The dissonance brings to mind the more mathy side of alternative rock. The rhythm section has a good amount of post-hardcore bombast. But, ultimately, there is a story underneath it all.

I always feel like Midwestern bands are bitter. Sometimes it’s just subtext, other times it’s just text. I might be reading my own Midwest bitterness into it sometimes, but I always hear it. On parts of User Error, I definitely feel a lot of it coming from sewingneedle. And I’m pretty sure it isn’t just my own bias.

For example, look at “Feel Good Music.”

Hire an agent, get some press
This week’s internet success
We are dangerous, salty, soused
Another quarter in the punk machine

You should have seen the beaming investors, flanked by adoring spouses
Wring dry who you can on your way to the middle.

Another example is the title track, “User Error.”

Bombing at the open mic to none
Sweating under hot Par Cans looking for the prompter
“Who’d you say inspires you?”
“The river Ganges, have you been?”

The record has a tone of dissatisfaction and indictment. There is a Control era Pedro The Lion type feel to it, musically and vocally. But with a 2018 vibe. Like, “Whirlybird” has a line about forgotten people’s eulogy being summarized as “less than, forward slash, number three. Sent from my iPhone.”

I know I’m doing a shit job putting this record over. I’m making it sound dire and not fun to listen to. That isn’t the case. The record is full of hooks. It’s got solid lyrics throughout. Basically, it’s a really engaging listen front to back. This should be right near the top of your list if you’re into mathy, post- type music. Also, y’know, I’ll always ride for a band from Illnois.

sewingneedle
Aerial Ballet Records
Already Dead Tapes & Records
Bandcamp
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REVIEW: Ond Cirkel – “Svavelvinter / Vilda Syrener”

Hailing from Gothenburg, Ond Cirkel play a great mix of traditional post-punk and shoegaze. Their latest 7″ is a perfect example of the moody, reverb drenched sound those genres are known for. The emotion of the songs are evident immediately. The lyrics may be in Swedish, but you can catch the vibe almost immediately. You can hear loss and want. The two songs definitely live in different spaces though. “Svavelvinter” has a lighter sound to it. It is more led by the bass than the guitar. “Vilda Syrener” has a heavier sound. The guitars are more forceful. The vocals fall back in the mix a bit more too. The 7″ is great at mixing heavy and loud with delicate and atmospheric.

Ond Cirkel is a four piece band, but the sound is much bigger than that. Riikka Yrttiaho’s voice, even when it was further back in the mix, really sells these songs. She really takes command and is able to work the vocals as a complimetary sound to Marcus Lilja’s guitar. Those two elements work so well together. The rhythm section of Zacharias Tienhaara on drums and Isabell Kirstinä on bass also absolutely shine. I know that reviews of punk music tend to focus on vocals and guitar, but I want to make a special mention of the bassline on “Svavelvinter.” It absolutely makes that song. Having the bass drive a song isn’t uncommon in the genre, but it always stands out to me.

All in all, Ond Cirkel have really made a great record here. I know there may be a language barrier for some people, but don’t let that stop you. Make sure you check it out. And, if two songs aren’t enough for you, give their tape a listen too.

Ond Cirkel
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Black Adidas – “Black Adidas”

The mid-90s were a turning point in punk rock. The genre, having finally hit the mainstream again, had a couple paths to go down. One path was super slick and radio friendly. Another was to get your hair and jacket spiked up. The last path was to try and get the music back to the garage roots. I think that last path was the most compelling. You can slap as much pop sheen on it as you want, but the most interesting rock ‘n roll is based on deconstruction. It’s heart and soul. Black Adidas plays a bit outside the yard in some places, but still feels like one of those bands.

Black Adidas is the current project of Courtney Ranshaw, formerly of The Lower Echelon. He’s got a specific aesthetic on his full length. He gets to the fucking point without a bunch of needless preening and posing. The record starts with a song called “Free Shit,” and it just fucking goes from there. “Old Fashioned Rock ‘N Roll” is what Chuck Berry’s “Rock And Roll Music” would sound like if it had a healthy layer of garage fuzz laid on top of it. “Cocaine Eyes” has some A+ crooning that feels like a throwback to the Velvet Underground. I think “Play What We Know” is the most interesting song on the record though. Remember how I said Black Adidas plays outside the yard? This is the song I’m talking about. The verses are New Orleans jazz that fucking runs headfirst into a punk rock chorus. It’s a great combination.

End of the day, punk rock has been marketed and codified to death. People think of a specific thing when you say it. I feel like this record plays like a love letter to the genre, but the pre-code version. When the vocals were haphazard, when the distortion was strong, and when lo-fi and garage influence wasn’t just a lazy marketing gimmick to make major label bands seem dangerous. Whatever that means.

Black Adidas
Bandcamp
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REVIEW: Krimewatch – “Krimewatch”

I’ve talked a lot of shit about hardcore over the years. The version of hardcore that was around when I was younger had a lot of metal and Christianity in it. Not really my thing. That old school (or whatever) kind of stuff was still right up my alley though. That said, let’s talk about Krimewatch.

Krimewatch hasn’t been releasing stuff for very long. An EP, a demo, and a full length. Their sound is reminiscent of what hardcore sounded like before the metal dudes in jerseys took over the scene. It’s the kind of hardcore that is still punk. The songs are brief and aggressive. It’s that classic piss and vinegar type stuff.

The run time for these 9 songs is about 12 minutes. The band fucking goes. Emma Hendry, Sean Joyce, and Shayne Benz play tight, aggressive punk rock in a style that has not been the style in a minute. They don’t lean to heavily on standard genre tropes. There’s no mosh part, there’s no unnecessary solos and fills. There is just bass, guitar, and drums working together as a unit. They sound so tightly wound that you feel like it could explode at any time. The speed and simplicity are a strength. Put Rhylli Ogiura’s vocals on top of everything and you’ve got a winner. In English or Japanese, she’s taking control of the sound and your attention.

There’s a lot to like about this record at the end of the day. The only complaint I can see anyone having is that, like a lot of other stuff in this genre, there can be some running together of songs. But, y’know, I’m not sure that is going to be a dealbreaker to the people who get down to this kind of thing.

Krimewatch
Bandcamp
Lockin’ Out Records
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