ORANGE WITH EIGHTY SIXED, THE STARKWEATHERS AND OKEANAS
Friday · Top Cat's
When the boys of Orange met eight years ago, they were literally boys; vocalist Joe Denman and guitarist Mike Valentine met as fifth graders in their Hollywood primary school. Guitarist Jack Berglund entered the picture shortly after with drummer Zak Glosserman joining the next year. After years of figuring out how to play the instruments they were flailing away on at top volume, Orange finally ripened in the California sun that filtered in through the band's garage windows.
If there is a decidedly British tone to Orange's melodic Punk thrashings, don't put it down as mere Johnny Rotten worship; Denman and Berglund are both UK-born and SoCal-reared (Valentine is a Cali product and Glosserman hails from Texas originally), so they bring a genetically elemental Punk skew to their Epitaph/Hellcat debut, Welcome to the World of ... Orange. Given Orange's twin country heritage and the band's L.A. environment, it comes as little surprise that the album is packed to the rafters with snarling Sex Pistols attitude and Green Day riff wrangling, topped off with plenty of Social Distortion swagger and Rancid aggression.
Worked out on paper like a recipe, it might seem slightly derivative, but in execution, Orange stirs the mixture with equal parts respect and balls-out fun, so the influence seems neither contrived nor calculated. The result is full-throttle teenage Punk anthemics. From the Buzzcocky shred of "No Rest For the Weekend" and the Mike Ness-ness of "Cool Mexicans" to the Billie Joe Pistol thump of "Hollywood" and the virulently funny "Forgive and Forget the Past," Orange wears its influences on its garish sleeves and shows a lot of moxie and potential for a band that isn't even old enough to be patrons of most of the clubs that book them as talent. (Brian Baker)
STYLEX WITH EAT SUGAR
Friday · The Gypsy Hut
On May 23, there is a depressing anniversary important to Ohio musical history.
It's not something to celebrate, but it does offer a chance to reflect on a musical entity that had its potential snuffed out in its prime. On that date, exactly 10 years ago, Tim Taylor — the magnetic, wild and impossibly commanding frontman for Dayton's No Wave/Post Punk/Electronica juggernaut Brainiac — died in a horrible car wreck near his Dayton home. Brainiac were Indie music sensations, doing the New Wave Punk thing in the midst of Grungemania. They toured with Beck and on Lollapalooza, were featured in all the glossy rags and had fervent fans that packed their shows all over the world. They were reportedly ready to enter the major label world at the time of Tim's death, which would have likely made their influence felt on a larger scale. But, of course, we'll never know.
Taylor and Brainiac's impact on other musicians isn't totally invisible (the band's John Schmersal carries the torch in Enon, for example). This Friday's show at the Gypsy Hut features two Ohio acts that show clear traces of the ElectroPunk crew's influence — Cincy's Eat Sugar (whose Jim Reynolds was in Chalk, another act profoundly inspired by Taylor and Co.) and Toledo's quirky/jerky Stylex. Like Brainiac, Stylex were ahead of the dancey, Electro/Post Punk and New Wave revival curve. Stylex have been making adrenalized Neo-New Wave since 1999, releasing several albums of guitar/drum-machine/synth merriment and opening for (somewhat) like-minded artists like Enon, Radio 4, Detachment Kit and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
It's amusing to read the press on Stylex's new album, Tight Scrapes; any non-Ohio-based critic seems to express disbelief that something so unique could emanate from our apparently creativity-less state, name checking the bands that came before Stylex, like Devo, Pere Ubu and, yes, Brainiac. But it should never be surprising when a locale isolated from the major music hubs produces music that is original, imaginative and untainted by trends (Omaha anyone?).
Tight Scrapes is Stylex's finest effort to date, a high-wire mish-mash of 8-bit video game-like bleeps, animated, thick bass lines, hyperkinetic drumming and angled guitar thrusts. Along with the liveliness of the music, the wild-eyed vocals bring the human element, which seems to chase the ghosts in the machine around like a high-action game of Pac-Man. The recording isn't "modern" sounding, which makes it that much more effective. Instead of using all the tech tools available today, the band sounds like it is using gear that could have been available in the late '70s/early '80s. It gives the album that much more humanity, as they employ the "chintziness" with great effectiveness throughout — unlike with much Electronica today, you never get the sense that the machinery is running the show. (Mike Breen)
!!! WITH HOLY FUCK
Southgate House · Tuesday
Pronunciation guides notwithstanding, !!! (you can just say, "Chk Chk Chk" and Indie fans will know who you're talking about) puts the Punk in punctuation with a ferocious Dance groove and an affinity for studio experimentation and frenetic live shows. For the record, the band's name is no mere caprice and has a logical root explanation, as it originates from the subtitles to the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, where the clicking language of the Bushmen is represented with an exclamation point. So there.
!!! coalesced in the mid '90s after two separate bands, Black Licorice and the Popesmashers, toured together and decided to merge into a single unit, combining Black Licorice's Disco/Punk rhythms with the Popesmashers' noisy Punk bristle. The new aggregation's self-titled debut was released in 2000 to generally positive reviews; they followed up three years later with the wildly acclaimed single "Me and Guiliani Down by the Schoolyard (A True Story)," a House beat-driven pastiche of swirling, trippy guitars, slinky bass and lyrics derived from "Footloose."
With their Dance Punk groove in full rage, !!! began gaining notice for their unrelenting stage attack, which led to a contract with Touch and Go, who released their sophomore album, Louden Up Now, in 2004. More critical acclaim greeted the band's 2005 single covering the Magnetic Fields' "Take Ecstasy with Me" and Nate Dogg's "Get Up." Tragedy followed triumph months later when !!! drummer Mikel Gius was hit by a car and killed while riding his bike.
In 2006, !!! garnered an invitation from Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante to open the Peppers' 2006 tour of England. They also recorded their third full-length album, Myth Takes. Released back in March, Myth Takes finds !!! experimenting with more purpose and design, and more fully integrating their unhinged stage show into their studio presentation. !!! still operates best in the live setting, where frontman Nic Offer's spastic Mick-Jagger-on-acid gyrations exhorts audiences to release their inhibitions and the band lays down the magnetic/kinetic groove that will keep them on the dance floor until the lights go up. (BB)