TRML’s Sound Selections #48

TRML's Sound Selections #48: Milemarker - Frigid Forms Sell

Milemarker – Frigid Forms Sell

At the turn of the millenium the world was ready for something new. Everything from fashion to fine art to music was changing and looking to the future. Milemarker was no exception to this creative evolution. On their album, Frigid Forms Sell, Milemarker took their previously (fairly straightforward) hardcore sound to a whole new level by adding synthesizers to the mix, creating a unique futuristic punk sound that turned quite a few heads on the underground scene. Songs about the terrors of technology and insect mating are formed with diodes and wires welded to the bones of hardocre punk. The addition of singer/keyboardist Roby adds a haunting quality to many of the numbers as they sway from ethereal to heavy and back again. It’s a juxtaposition that would serve them well over the next few years as they became staples of the underground punk scene.

I’m a longtime fan of Milemarker, especially this period in their career. At the time their sound was nothing like I’d ever heard before and their live shows were highly energetic and something to experience. Unfortunately their output has slowed considerably over the years since and they haven’t released a new album since 2016, but their electro-hardcore punk sound can still be heard today in countless acts, both mainstream and underground. They might not have been the first to plug in a synth in a punk band, but their brand of electro-punk sure left a mark on the scene. 

TRML’s Sound Selections #47

TRML's Sound Selections #47: Girlschool - Screaming Blue Murder

Girlschool – Screaming Blue Murder

Back when metal was largely dominated by oversexed men with an increasing interest in hairspray and makeup use, Girlschool kicked in the doors to the heavy metal boys club and made themselves at home. Their third album, Screaming Blue Murder, is chock-full of thick bass and powerful drums with raw, fiery guitar and vocals/lyrics that are pure attitude. Clocking in at a tidy 31 minutes, Girlschool brings a somewhat punk energy to their brand of metal, keeping the songs tight and powerful with no wasted time on extended solos or overly-long intros. Just pure fist-pumping, floor-stomping heavy metal.

I first heard Girlschool on the split EP they did with Motohead, which was included on one of the re-releases of Ace of Spades. I found them interesting because they were a rarity on the metal scene of that time and helped pave the way for acts like Lita Ford (who would release her solo debut the year after Screaming Blue Murder) and many others. Girlschool is a group of hard-hitting ladies who know how to bring the house down and are a must for any metal fan’s collection.

TRML’s Sound Selections #46

TRML's Sound Selections #46: The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons

The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

With the release of the Dungeons & Dragons movie this week, I thought it might be a great time to highlight The Mountain goats 17th album, In League with Dragons. Inspired by tabletop games like D&D, In League with Dragons incorporates a lot of fantasy references as well as references to playing these types of games, wrapped up in an incredibly lush presentation. Every track is chock full of interesting lyrics and diverse instrumentation that together build a very full-bodied listening experience. John Darnielle’s full-band albums are obviously going to be much bigger sounding than his lo-fi solo efforts, but Dragons is possibly his most sonically dense effort to date. This is accomplished not only by choice use of strings/horns/etc., but even the “simple” songs sound HUGE with some expert use of reverb, giving them something of an ethereal quality. It’s an excellent example of songcraft and production and well worth repeated listens.

With a band as prolific as The Mountain Goats, it’s hard to pick a jumping on point. There are so, so many excellent albums to choose from. But I feel In League with Dragons is one of the most fun albums John and the group have released. This makes sense because of the reference material for the album. Something as fun and social as tabletop gaming requires a joyful and rich listening experience. In League with Dragons more than delivers this and is a great place to start if you’re looking to take a deep-dive into the cavernous collection of Mountain Goats music.  

TRML’s Sound Selections #45

TRML's Sound Selections #45: Death From Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine

Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine

Death From Above 1979’s first full-length album is a masterclass in creating tight noise rock songs with solid melodies and massive riffs. This Canadian power duo (you know I love power duos, right?) hammers out a fat sound with bombastic drums and the best fuzzed-out bass the Great White North has to offer. Right out of the gate the album opener “Turn It Out” grabs your attention and tells you what it’s all about in no uncertain terms. From there you’re taken on a raucous journey that’s fun and slightly horney, making for a wild ride where someone will probably get hurt. 

You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine is an album I’ve listened to countless times. If you wanna rock out, this is the album for you. There’s so much to love here and each time I hear it I find some fresh nuance to enjoy. It’s an incredibly solid album that doesn’t easily wear out the listener, despite it being on the noisier side of the rock spectrum. It’s an album bursting with energy and requires playback at MAXIMUM VOLUME. So pop it on your turntable and if your windows aren’t rattling, IT’S NOT LOUD ENOUGH. 

TRML’s Sound Selections #44

TRML's Sound Selections #44: Kraftwerk - The Man Machine

Kraftwerk – The Man Machine

The world of music has had many innovators. However, it is a select few who can claim they birthed an entire genre. I’m not talking a weird, obscure sub-genre, either. I mean a whole dang pillar of popular music. Kraftwerk is one of those innovators as they effectively created the electronic pop music genre, and in 1978 their album The Man Machine was released as a perfect capsule of what they are about. This album has everything you’d think of when picturing of this iconic German band. All the beeps and boops are there, but now their brand of pop is packaged in a cleaner and tidier, or, more accurately, robotic way. Which is the point. Gone is the beauty of nature seen from the windows of your car or a train. In are automation and industry. Opening with the iconic “The Robots” and closing with the (also iconic) title track, The Man Machine is 36 minutes of (what was at the time) the future pressed onto vinyl.  

Kraftwerk is up there in my list of all-time favorite bands. Their musical experimentation and innovation has certainly left its mark and their sound has indeed crept into my own musical output. I was even lucky enough to see them perform live back in 2004 (I’ll never forget one of the animatronic robots malfunctioned. Even robots can have a bad show!) I see them as an interesting case: One of a band being SO GOOD at what they did they became SO INFLUENTIAL and inspired an army of clones. These clones then all made similar music and eventually evolved to outpace their originators. However, even though there may now be millions of electronic artists out there, the respect and admiration for what Kraftwerk did is incredibly strong. They created the future and everyone knows it. Their work is an important milestone in the history of popular music and a must for any music aficionado’s collection.  

TRML’s Sound Selections #43

TRML's Sound Selections #43: Dinosaur Jr. - Sweep It Into Space

Dinosaur Jr. – Sweep It Into Space

Dinosaur Jr.’s latest album, Sweep It Into Space, is a perfect capsule of the band’s sound over the years. Consisting of their original power-trio lineup, the album’s 12 tracks bring to the table everything you imagine when thinking of this band. Fuzzed out guitars with kickin’ solos, great melodies, and a cohesive-yet-varied sound all mesh together perfectly to show a band that isn’t resting on their laurels and are just as creative and original now as they were 30+ years ago. You have tight, fuzzed out rock numbers next to country jams with a power pop number thrown in for good measure. It’s no wonder this band influenced countless musicians the years.

I have a confession to make… I chose to feature Sweep It Into Space not only because it’s an amazing album (it very much is), but because the cover features my favorite kaiju, Hedorah. I mean, how could I NOT buy this album?! TRML bait aside, Dinosaur Jr. has long been a band that I pop on whenever I need to cleanse my musical palette. Their music is something I can listen to with no strings attached that I know I’ll enjoy simply and thoroughly. Their jangly-yet-fuzzed out guitars and tight melodies delivered by J’s unique voice (or occasionally Lou’s voice) clears away all the musical junk that tends to clutter up my ol’ noggin. It’s a strange-yet-satisfying effect. And while Dinosaur Jr. likely won’t have that same effect on you, I certainly recommend giving them a spin on your turntable as their brand of “ear-bleeding country” is well worth it.    

TRML’s Sound Selections #42

TRML's Sound Selections #42: Stray Cats - Built for Speed

Stray Cats – Built for Speed

If you ask someone on the street to name a rockabilly band, odds are they’ll say “Stray Cats.” That’s because, for better or worse, they became the face of the Rockabilly revival in the early 80s, with the hits “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut” becoming radio staples that frequently grace the airwaves to this day. They knew what they were doing (even so much as moving to England to spearhead the burgeoning revival there) and they were/are VERY GOOD at it. Built For Speed is a solid example of the genre as well as an excellent guitar album. Brian Setzer’s killer play style jangles when he’s doing rhythm and sears when he jumps into one of his blistering solos. All played over a buffet of walking bass lines and boisterous drums. Every song on Built For Speed will have you tapping your toes to the Cat’s swinging sound.

My first experience with Brian Setzer was back in my freshman year in high school when he was practically leading the swing revival (that’s TWO revivals he spearheaded). To be honest, he didn’t do much for me then and it wasn’t until I learned about the Stray Cats that I took notice. Their brand of foot-stompin’ rock and roll opened the door to a whole genre of music I had previously neglected. Now, bands like the Stray Cats, The Phenomonauts, Horror Pops, and the (Sound Selections alum) Flat Duo Jets regularly play on my stereo. It’s a style of music that really gets you going and once that door is open, it’s a fun and interesting deep dive into a seemingly overlooked genre that’s well-worth it when you take the leap.

TRML’s Sound Selections #41

TRML's Sound Selections #41: Mudhoney - Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge

Mudhoney – Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge

In 1991 the Grunge revolution was in full swing and Mudhoney, the band that (as the story goes) coined the term “grunge,” released their second full-length album, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. EGBDF is 42 and a half minutes of pure fuzzed out grunge bliss. It’s well-made but not overproduced, keeping a certain looseness that perfectly captures the energy of the band, which flows freely throughout the entirety of the album. Mark Arm’s vocals crackle as Steve’s guitars bring loads of grit and work in tight tandem with Matt’s slinky bass and Dan’s thunderous drums. Even 32 years later, the energy behind this recording can be felt as if it had just been released and the Grunge movement was still fresh. 

I had known of Mudhoney for a long while, but never really sat down to give them much attention. That was until I stumbled upon their documentary titled “I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney” on streaming. Besides being drawn in by the fantastic music, I really appreciated how down to earth the group is. The documentary makes it clear that even though they pioneered Grunge music, they’re just everyday guys who love to make music. They all have real jobs but they still enjoy creating and playing together. Mudhoney might be the Grandfathers of Grunge, but they’re still going strong (their new album is out in April) and are well worth a spot in your collection.

TRML’s Sound Selections #40

TRML's Sound Selections #40: The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Take It From The Man

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Take It From The Man!

In a spiritual continuation from last week’s Sound Selections entry, The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s 1996 album (well, one of their THREE 1996 albums) Take It From The Man! is another 60’s revival album that has both feet very firmly planted in the old British RnB. Anton and the group wear their influences on their sleeves in these 18 tracks (as well as some interesting exposition in the liner notes) which sound like they were recorded in 1966 instead of 1996. That somewhat lo-fi sound really adds to the character of the songs, as healthy doses of tambourine, jangly guitars, reverb, and analogue clipping really add a warmth to these numbers. It was a highly creative (albeit tumultuous) time for the band, and their talent really shows through on this record.

As much as the frontman of the BJM might dislike this, I first heard of them via the Dandy Warhols and the documentary Dig!. While that movie doesn’t really paint either band in a flattering light, it does do a great job showcasing their music. I was blown away by how Anton was so creatively productive in a time when his life and band were in constant flux and how the rest of the band tried to keep things together as they created a plethora of amazing songs. While the rest of the 90s-era band has gone their separate ways, Anton is still going strong fronting the BJM, having released their 20th album just last week, which is excellent and proves that the BJM is still relevant and well worth a sonic deep-dive into their discography.    

TRML’s Sound Selections #39

TRML's Sound Selections #39 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Howl

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Howl

Howl, BRMC’s third studio album, feels as at home in 1970 as it does today. The Laurel Canyon inspiration is front and center in this collection of 14 folk-leaning tracks that range from campfire acoustic jams to energetic electric numbers straight from the garage. As a trio they bring a bigger sound than one might imagine, incorporating delightful harmonies as well as artful reverb and vintage saturation to create a sound that feels rich even when the track is a simple guitar/harmonica/vocal number. Granted some of the tracks do include a little help from guest musicians, but a little help from some friends is sometimes just what is needed to push a song from “good” to “great,” and the whole of Howl definitely falls towards the latter. 

I remember hearing the single Ain’t No Easy Way back in the day and thinking “Man, that song rocks harder than an acoustic track should!” The BRMC were mining a musical vein that I was just beginning to understand and appreciate, but the folk rock diamonds they were producing were eye-opening and prompted a deeper dive into their catalog as well as their influence’s music. Howl is a late sixties/early seventies revival album that holds its own with the best of them and is a must-hear for anyone who’s a fan of the sound of that golden folk rock era.