Melkbelly is a noisy post-punk band that turns standard rock songs into a mess of lo-fi experimentalism. I’ve had a passing interest in them for a while now, but they never really clicked for me until I heard Miranda Winters’ solo record back in 2018. It put a lot of the songwriting into perspective. There are some great melodic songs buried in the noise, sludge, and experimentation.
Pith, as a record, is the deconstruction as final product. You have so many moments where you think this record is going to go in an expected direction, but then it just turns left. The album opens this way. “THC” is a straight forward, melodic song that devolves into extended noise. “Sickeningly Teeth” just keeps changing tempos to the point that it’s an uncomfortable, jittery listen. “Kissing Under Some Bats” is a three minute song that turns into the guitar repeating a single chord for damn near the rest of the seven and a half minute run-time. All while the background just layers and layers until it is a wall of noise. But, even at its most out there, the songs remain coherently songs. To keep this review Chicago centered, this is what I think U.S. Maple would have sounded like if they gave a fuck about theory.
It’s a very real possibility that someone from Chicago will read this and label me a suburban asshole who is missing the point. And, to be honest, they’d probably be right. All I know is that I love this record. It’s not an easy one to define, but it’s definitely worth a listen. Especially if you have an ear for melodic music that is covered in noise.
Wax Nine Records
Some of my favorite version of punk and hardcore come from places where punk and hardcore aren’t huge. A lot of great stuff has come out of the Midwest and the South, and we don’t really give it the attention it deserves. DayWaster seems like one of those bands. My knowledge of Paducah, KY is limited to driving through it on my way to Tennessee, but I can’t imagine there being a lot of youth counterculture there.
DayWaster is a hardcore band for assholes like me who generally don’t like the genre. It’s a hardcore band made up of people who are probably too talented for the genre. Every song, even the simplest sounding ones, have some shit going on in the background that you might miss if you focus on the overall package. “DW” opens the album with an intense Dead Kennedys vibe. “Stuff The Leg” has this start/stop riff going throughout that adds a stuttering tension to the song. It’s these little things that sell the record for me. You’re expecting some by the books 4/4 bullshit, but you get these little leads and shifts that add a lot of nuance and dimension. I know that sounds like faint praise, but I don’t mean it in a condescending way. In a genre where the norm is “angry dude yelling over simple chords,” this kind of stuff stands out.
So, I mean, I don’t know. I’m definitely not the target demographic for this record. I only have a passing interest in the genre. I don’t come from a small town scene. But, despite all that, this record worked for me.
You will see a lot of SST Records references when people talk about Bauwaves. I hate starting with that kind of reference, but it is very apt. From a musical and production standpoint, there is more than a little Hüsker Dü and Dinosaur Jr influence to this band. Most of the songs on u r everything would definitely fit on a playlist of stuff from Flip Your Wig or You’re Living All Over Me. Maybe throw some Lemonheads in there too. If that sounds appealing to you, go listen to the record. It can really be that simple. But, as always, I need to make everything a whole thing.
One of the greatest parts of early alternative rock was the way bands were willing to take chances. More specifically, that they allowed themselves to be vulnerable in a way that punk didn’t necessarily allow up to that point. Punk was still young, and in the throes of the nascent hardcore scene. The genre still had an angry, nihilistic edge to it. Alternative rock came out of that, but made some changes. Sonically, the music was still punk. Lyrically, it was something a bit different. The lyrics were more personal. The bands were able to express other emotions. It’s that tradition that Bauwaves is part of.
u r everything isn’t a fun record. It’s not a happy record. In fact, it is a profoundly sad record. These songs are Lew Houston telling you exactly what he was going through in detail. It’s a record about depression. It’s a record about angst. It a record about knowing that you are fucking up your life, but you just can’t seem to stop. That is what makes the record so goddamn engaging. You are listening to someone using music as a way to deal with trauma. It is a record of catharsis. You can hear this all over the record, but I think “Years Later” and “It Ain’t Real” are the strongest.
On their debut, Bauwaves make a 30 year old style sound fresh and vibrant. This style of alternative rock has largely fallen out of fashion, but it’s nice to see some people still care. Bauwaves are students of the genre, and they have added a great piece to the overall canon.
I (relatively) recently was talking about Long Knives. When discussing them, I mentioned how much I liked Kris Moya’s songwriting. As luck would have it, I have more of their music to talk about. I should have talked about this back in May, but I’m the worst reviewer. Anyway. Strangers is Moya’s solo project. Being responsible for all the instruments and vocals, save for some of the backing vocals, Good Enough is a record that speaks directly to their influences. I feel like that is both appealing and intimidating for any musician. Your project will sink or swim based on your vision and voice. The proverbial buck stops with you. Luckily, this record swims.
One of my favorite things about this record is that it taps into a different part of the greater punk genre than Long Knives does. That band was firmly on the emo side of the fence, this project is definitely more on the indie rock side of things. Good Enough would sound right at home on a label like Salinas or Don Giovanni. This is the kind of music that will always appeal to me. To be honest, if you like that kind of stuff, I don’t know how you couldn’t find something to like on this record. You want a hooky pop influenced song? “Strangers” and “30 Day Free Trial” are there for you. An energetic, uptempo jam? “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” has got you covered. Shit, “If The Apocalypse Comes, Beep Me” closes the record in a way that does both.
My favorite kind of song is an undercover sad one. I think Good Enough is a record that speaks to that. Even an upbeat sounding song can have a bit of bummer introspection. “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” speaks to that. It’s got a triumphant sound to it, but lyrics like “When my body no longer feels unworthy of taking up space // When my brain is no longer filled with shame” speak to the struggle that has being overcome. See also: “If I’m busy then that’s why I’m still around // I keep myself busy, but it brings me down // I’m out of control when I’m alone” in the record closer. To me, that’s that kind of thing that makes the record worth listening to. Anyone can make an indie punk song. Actually using the genre to say something is when songs become great.
Strangers is a project that just appeals to me in almost every way. By any metric I have available, I would say this record has been super slept on. I hate RIYL statements, but this record would certainly appeal to fans of stuff like All Dogs or Swearin’. Ok?
I have a bias. I want to say it right off the top. I grew up near Chicago, and I’ve been a Cubs fan for a long time. As such, it’s in my nature to talk shit on Milwaukee. It can’t be helped. But, hey, we’re not talking baseball. We’re talking music. To that point, this split record is fucking great. Sin Bad and Bad Wigs are both phenomenal bands who know how to write the hell out of a song. The split is a four and four gimmick, and it’s a great example on how goddamn hooky punk rock can be.
Sin Bad have the first half. Four songs in about 11 minutes. They definitely fall more towards the poppy side of the punk rock genre. Maybe Swearin’ by way of Dirt Bike Annie? I don’t know. Either way, the dual vocals of Audrey Pennings and Ben Woyak don’t mess around. The first inclination would be to call this pop punk, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Is it poppy? Absolutely. Is it punk? Yep. But I don’t think this band is too concerned about playing within that genre’s yard. Power pop, garage, it’s all here.
Bad Wig play have the second half. Their sound is much more rooted in garage rock. While these songs have a bit more grit to them, they sound positively shiny compared to the band’s 2015 EP (contrast this version of “Machinehead” to the one on there). The instrumentation is fantastic. Ryan McCrary’s guitar fucking kills. Their songs have a kind of retro sound. This band kind of made me think of the Gaza Strippers for whatever reason. I mean, I don’t know. There is a good helping of 90s garage punk in these songs is what I’m saying, I guess.
All in all, this is a great record. If one band does’t click with you, the other probably will. Both are great examples of what they do. Also, totally unrelated to sound, but I’ll always fuck with a record that can also be an answer on Jeopardy.
Kitschy Spirit Records
Bandcamp / Buy It
It’s been a almost four years since Long Knives released their excellent debut EP, This Is Your Life. It showcased a promising band, and was one of my favorite records of 2015. It’s been a long wait to get a full length, but it finally happened. Long Knives initially stood out to me because they sounded different. A lot of the emo bands at the time kind of felt like Kinsella retreads. Long Knives didn’t. Not to me anyway. And now, years later, a lot has changed. The “emo revival” hype has long since tapered off. It’s now kind of do or die when it comes to the genre. Either you go for it, break up, or changed sounds to better ride the wave of gets the most hype. I’m glad to say that Long Knives falls in the first category.
The Subject is a record that really shows Kris Moya’s growth as a songwriter. They are able to tackle complex matters in way that, while emotionally heavy, is also engaging and inviting. Personal songwriting is always difficult to judge because, I mean, there is no benchmark to measure against. You are listening to someone express their experience. These songs. while speaking to an entirely different experience than I have, still resonate. It ultimately comes down to feeling. Kris Moya, via the band’s Bandcamp page, addressed the records as such:
“The whole process of writing and recording Long Knives’ first full length ‘The Subject’ took about 4 years to finish. It was a lot of work. It emotionally and mentally drained me. There were times I wanted to scratch the whole thing because I wasn’t happy with it, but I’m really glad I stuck it out because we are proud of the songs. During the writing process, I made myself vulnerable because I wanted to raise awareness about mental illness, gender dysphoria, homophobia, white privilege, abuse, and consent. I know that these things can be triggering to others and it certainly is for me as well, but I want my voice to be heard so thank you to those that actually listen to this album. It truly means a lot.”
To the musical end, The Subject Is certainly still inline with bands like The Anniversary or The Get Up Kids. Especially with keyboard. That is a bit reductive though, I suppose. Songs like “Normal” and “Golden Lady” definitely skew toward that kind of hook heavy pop stuff. On the other end, “Temporary” is crunchy as fuck. “Home” and “Anticipate” are on the more ballad-y side of things. There is a lot to offer, and this band absolutely nails it.
Overo is a band that I was stoked about the minute I heard they existed. The band is made up of Lindsay and Mercy from Football, etc., Brendan from Perfect Future, and John from Rose Ette. I’m not going to bore you with a lot of introduction and bullshit. Suffice to say, that is a goddamn line up.
The release here is a two song demo/single. The two songs featured are solid post-hardcore, but they also embraces the emo and punk connections. Both have a strong quiet/loud dynamic, but in notably different ways. “Cold Concrete” nails that dynamic with the vocals. “Shattered” with the music. Lindsay Minton and Brendan Stephens have very different vocal styles, but they work really well together. “Cold Concrete” has the former’s singing delivery going head on into the latter’s more yelling/screaming delivery. “Shattered” features more vocal interplay, with both singing at the same time.
I really enjoy how the song play with the post-hardcore style in different ways. “Cold Concrete” has a punk aggression to it. It’s a short song that drives to it’s conclusion. There isn’t a lot of posturing, but there are great riffs. “Shattered” is more jagged and angular. It starts with a minute of delicate guitar work before it crescendos into a mathy kind of jam. The guitar lead is fantastic and the shift at the midway point is a thing of beauty.
The long and short of this is simple. You’ve got a band with a killer lineup making two of the strongest genre songs I’ve heard in a minute. If there was a release more in my wheelhouse, I sure haven’t found it yet. Here’s hoping we get more stuff from this band.
Bandcamp / Buy It