REVIEW: Skull Practitioners – “ST1” (Tape)

ST1Skull Practitioners are a band that really show how pointless the genre splintering of music is. You could call them post-punk, psychedelic, garage rock, or straight up punk rock. Any designation you give them would work, but it wouldn’t be a fair representation of what’s going on. Their self titled cassette is very hard to classify. And, to a point, it feels like the classification would cheapen it.

Musically, this is a band who plays hard. There is a lot of muscle behind the guitar. The drums are fantastic. But, honestly, that might be the most cohesive thing on ST1. With the band having the influences they do, it makes the tape a touch disjointed. It fluctuates from arty noise to more traditional guitar rock. There might even be some New York no wave in there too? There is a lot going on.

The sheer amount of things happening is pretty clearly the point. Skull Practitioners seem to be taking a kitchen sink approach. They are throwing every influence in, and seeing what works. The good thing is that all the songs work. Maybe not as a single piece of music, but definitely as individual songs. But, still, a song like “Nelson D” doesn’t seem to belong on the same thing as “Another Sicko.” It doesn’t matter much though. ST1 is brooding, it’s distorted, and it’s just has a lot of bite to it. It’s definitely worth a listen. Even if it’s only to hear a band jump from a more garage rock sound to an almost James Chance type sound.

Skull Practitioners is a band made up of music veterans. Jason Victor, Alex Baker, and Ken Levine are definitely more than the sum of their parts. Nothing on here was done by accident, and nothing on here isn’t meant to be here. It’s a challenging listen, for sure. But, that said, I Skull Practitioners is a project that continues for more releases. I’d love to see what else they can do.

Skull Practioners
BandCamp / Buy It

REVIEW: Belgrade – "Belgrade"

Belgrade has produced a great LP here. Taking cues from various genres, they have melded together a really satisfying full length. This is an almost picture perfect indie rock. While it plays a little like one of those throwback type records that were popular a few years ago, it never sounds shitty and dated. The sincerity is there.

Going with the retro-y indie pop, all the hallmarks are there. It never gets too dense, so it avoids becoming shoegaze. There is still a lot of fuzz effects. It also fluctuates over to a more spacey type of production. The echo and reverb are turned up. The guitars get pretty fucking shimmery at points.
A lazy point of comparison would be Pershing era Someone Still  Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Specifically on the the third song, “Truth Serum.” It reminds me a little of “Modern Mystery.” However, this manages to walk that line without crossing over. There is enough going on here to avoid it getting too kitschy. It’s got a vintage sound, by way of 1990’s alternative/indie. The record feels similar to those old post-punk records that Flood used to produce back in the day. It’s clean, but not sterile. The songs feature extended instrumental breaks, usually in regards to an into or outro. It stays consistently midtempo and restrained. The vocals are spot on. The harmonies are great. The backing vocals are strong, but never overwhelming.

Overall, this is a solid record. It has an appeal for all shades of indie rock and alternative fans. Given the line up of this band, that is really no surprise. There are former/current members of various Philly and Jersey bands. With the experience comes the ability to make tightly crafted songs with pop hooks and appeal. Check it out.

REVIEW: Classics Of Love – "Classics Of Love"

Holy shit. This record was not at all what I expected it. And this is even after seeing the band live. I mean, there isn’t much difference between the first Classics Of Love EP and any Common Rider record. Save for the lack of ska, they were pretty similar. This is why this LP is such a shock to the system. Jesse Michaels (backed by The Hard Girls) put out a full length that sounds like Operation Ivy filtered through DC hardcore. While it never quite gets to be so overbearingly throwback hardcore, it definitely has the influence.

We have a full length full of political, pissed off punk rock. Jesse’s voice sounds more like it did in the old Op Ivy songs than it did while he was doing Common Rider. We do get some ska/punk songs in “Castle In The Sky” and “Bandstand,” but they are really the exception.  While there are some melodic moments, the best songs are the straight up hardcore songs. Nine of these 13 songs clock in under two minutes. “Dissolve” being a blistering 1:10.
This record is fantastic. The production fits it perfectly. It is gritty and rough, just like Jesse’s voice. There is just one issue I have with it. It is with the sequencing. “Moving Pictures” sits smack in the middle of the record. It is the slowest and longest song. It saps the momentum. The song before it and after it are fucking quick numbers (1:31 and 1:16 respectively). But, that is a minor issue. Pick this up. It is a classic.