“It’s always the easiest and least interesting route to have a preconceived notion of what band you want to sound like and then go do that.”
Eli Kasan’s riffing again. And I’m listening close for clues.
“We were terrible early on ‘cause we wanted to sound like too many things, and weren’t sure which suited us best and let our real personalities shine through. Should a band not be a representation of the individuals that are in it?”
Kasan’s band, The Gotobeds, is a punk rock king in Pittsburgh – except it’s no king here and it’s not what you’d traditionally define as punk rock. Or is it? Yes, yes, the band, which formed about a decade ago – before all this America’s Most Livable City nonsense, from the ashes of Burgh-based hardcore purveyors Kim Phuc – packs its catchy, often freakishly earwig-ish indie-rock songs with lots of raging guitars. But, the bands to whom The Gotobeds draw comparisons are more punk in attitude than traditional construction.
Consider this the fresh-faced first entry of the new year in Pittsburgh Single of the Year territory.
The oft-engaging Pachyderm channels The Sea and Cake and the emotional heft of a romantic relationship gone awry on “I’m Not Happy, I’m Just High,” a new two-song EP now available on Bandcamp. It does this, and this is no small feat, with a shimmering, lullaby-ish guitar motif on the title track that’s positively buttery in the most post-pop of senses; it will utterly force you to reconsider the singer-songwriter’s line between lament and regret. (The song, in short, is the stuff that makes Sam Prekop blush.)
The Burgh-based quintet also pulls off the decidedly ironic sugar-sweetness of the title track seemingly so casually (the vocals are delivered, at times, in almost an adenoidal dead-pan), which only heightens the sense of excitement. Definitely worth the price of “name your price.”
The “B-side,” which Pachyderm coins a “bee-side,” features the biting lyrics and quirky pop- and blues-isms of “Songs About The Beach,” lamenting “your people,” the nature of extroverts and, of course, “shitty music” and “shitty beer.” Yes, the lyrics – sometimes forked, sometimes tongue-in-cheek – try to steal the show but my ear kept wandering back to that electric guitar, played seemingly through an old tube-amp, once unassuming and once scene-stealing, and featuring (at different times of course) a little doo-wop funkiness and some scorching, manic guitar solo-age. Impressive!
If this is any indication of what’s coming on the soon-to-be-released Verge LP, which this release most definitely teases, I am in.
Lo-fi fuzz-pop – think The Cure coalescing around the guitars of Les Thugs – is the name of the game on In A Stranger’s Car, the 2017 outing from Pittsburgh’s Barlow that gets the re-release treatment on cassette and streaming formats from Crafted Sounds Monday, 1/22. The new edition features outtakes and promises of things to come.
I don’t need some punk-rock band to hand over the verdict that, yeah, things are pretty bleak. Even if the Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief weren’t trying to run the show – let me just pause on that for a second and enjoy the thought – the world has no shortage of proof that we’re hurtling toward the eye of the apocalypse. Wait, wait, or are we?
Pittsburgh punk quintet Denzell seems to stake its reputations on different claims. On Tour Tape, its recent EP – released, appropriately, for the group’s November East Coast tour – the group makes garage-punk that’s as fun to listen to as it seems fun to play. Tapping into the jangly guitar-enthusiasms of Pavement; the dissonant, two-guitar shards of Sonic Youth at its rocking-est; and even a touch of – let me get obscure for a minute here – Latimer’s proto-grunginess, these guys are out to dictate that you don’t need to wrap your arms around tragedy to cop your bonafides.
Time in all its awkward majesty was the unannounced theme of the evening at Brillobox Thursday night, as a quartet of bands performed songs in Bizarro-world time signatures, warped the edges between stops and starts, or blurted fragments of sound-color into the crowd.
The show started with a solo set from Pittsburgh-based, avant/experimental guitarist Aaron Myers Brooks. During his down time from post-metal band Night Vapor – they can go far in this organization! – Myers-Brooks concocts textured prog fare assembled with prepared drums and electronics, and fronts it with guitar sometimes played through wicked fingers. On display Thursday were an Orthrelm cover and a track from his 2016 EP Thought Party, as well as other selections that went to great lengths to underline the guitar-composer’s dexterity. From his mannerisms, though, which included swaying with deft use of pedals, you’d think he was just taking a stroll down Forbes. Guy makes it look effortless.
Blender analogies are lazy, so let’s find a way around them. While Murder For Girls always has traced its trajectory back to the Riot Grrl bands of the early ’90s, its new record – All The Pretty Stars, which the band will mark with a release show Saturday night – is a little bit more nuanced than that, borrowing from Babes In Toyland and early Hole (and, yes, Grrls like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Calamity Jane) as much as it does alt-rock icon Kim Deal and fellow Pittsburgh punks T-Tops. During the course of the record’s nine tracks, the listener is treated to full-throttled but melodic punk – the choruses of “Pleather” and closer “Rocker Chick Vibe” will dig their hooks deep into your cerebellum – but also songs like “Lucy,” whose verses exude a kind of pop-rock naivete. The record is far from three power chords and a cloud of dust.
Contrary to the imagination of its title, CALYX’s For To, Oh is not a testament to weed-fueled jam-band mythos or, this being Pittsburgh, a smoky-eyed homage to Wiz Khalifa. Instead, it’s a textured, even borderline-mathy, addition to this trio’s growing – and impressive – catalog. And it’s definitely worth the $2 download asking price.