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Issue 176 Recording Reviews

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For almost 29 years [yes, it's been that long] we here at The Trouble With Normal have been interested in hearing the music that you have been making and recording. Feel free to send your vinyl, CDs or tapes ("for sale" only or at least take the effort to make a cover for them. This goes for CD-R's also.) to our cramped but we call it home P.O. Box so we can possibly review it. If your release is only available as a download send us a link and we'll check it out as well (as with CDRs and tapes please make a cover [or the download version equivalent of a cover] for it). It may take us a while to get to them (we do have other obligations in our lives) but we will review them in time and guarantee an honest review Until the next issue, here are some recordings that just might interest you. Boone

KELLY BETZ - Always Had Nothing download album

A lot has been going on this summer so when I found out Kelly was about to drop a new album I was curious but didn't have time to really listen until now. On his latest album Kelly takes a larger than slight left turn musically by offering up some pop music based in electronic sounds rather than his history (both live and recorded) in punk/indie rock and hip hop. Built on an audio bed of Synthesizer/samples, and drum loops the songs here appear to detail the end of a relationship and the grieving process from such with the themes associated with such highlighted (sadness, depression, holding on to hope, etc). It's a sonic ride that seems separate from much of his previous work but somehow is a compliment to the music and themes of those projects which have been diverse over the years. Always Had Nothing verges towards a slightly different sonic playing field but, when all is said and done, carries Kelly Betz' musical vision forward and adds a new flavor to the mix. (BOONE)
(kellybetz.bandcamp.com)

JELLO BIAFRA AND THE GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE - No More Selfies/The Ghost of Vince Lombardi

This single from The Guantanamo School of Medicine came as a surprise due to the weird circumstances of its existence. Recorded as part of the new album two tracks were kept off the vinyl version (but still on the CD and the download/digital version) and released on its own. "No More Selfies" merges a western twangy guitar hook in the verse and lets it build into a driving punk chorus as he examines people seeking selfies and how their need to have it right now can often interfere with the time, privacy, and life of the person one wants a selfie with. "The Ghost of Vince Lombardi" is a blast of hardcore leaning punk attacking the American concept of winning being the only thing and how it's infested itself in our society. Both songs blast out the stereo and demand a reaction with crunchy guitar, powerful arrangements, and acerbic hooks that might take you in a surprising direction. Check this out and make up your own mind. (BOONE)
(Alternative Tentacles Records. P.O. Box 419092. San Francisco, CA 94141. alternativetentacles.com)

CULTURE SHOCK - Mandemic LP

This is one of those albums that seemed to really slide under our radar in this post pandemic age (it came out back in the mid to late winter of this year) so when I finally learned about it I sought out a stream since I still don't know how available it'll be in this country right now. On their new album Culture Shock blasts out a catchy blend of punk, ska, and dub where warm crunchy overdriven guitar collides with dub rhythms, a tasteful sense of reverbs and delays, and the like. Within this sonic brew (recorded when the band could do so in the midst of the ups and downs of the pandemic and its aftermath) comes driving catchy songs that tackle issues such as homelessness, pollution, corporate greed, class division mixing with racism, the need to fight fascism and the like; all thrown down with a rage and power that fits the circumstances under which it was created in the big picture. Hook laden - almost to a fault- the band walks the thin line where punk, ska, and dub have common ground and creates something that doesn't fall into generic ska punk templates. Mandemic is an aural ride through the parts of our society that often get overlooked. Good to see this band fighting the good fight after all these years. (BOONE)
(Bluurg Records. citizenfish.com. cultureshockuk.bandcamp.com)

THE HOMELESS GOSPEL CHOIR - This is a Protest Song LP

This was one of those albums that we learned about out of the blue and decided to give it a chance beforehand. These live recordings done during their 2018 tour finds the Homeless gospel Choir in full folk punk fury as Derek and his acoustic guitar strums passionately as his songs take on things ranging from American exceptionalism (dedicated to Donald Trump who he refers to as a "piece of shit"), musical preferences, seasonal depression, and why you'll never be normal - and why that's a good thing, among other things. Delivered with a blend of anger and humor, these songs capture the intimacy of HGC at the time where the music’s unplugged nature actually makes the songs more powerful in the process. A lot has happened since the tour these songs were recorded at; including HGC becoming a full band, but this album shows the songs at their purest form and lets things stand on their own. The vinyl version is sold out but you can still stream and/or download it so listen and pick it up. (BOONE)
(thehomelessgospelchoir.bandcamp.com)

MORDRED - The Dark Parade LP

This summer has been one where a lot of bad news seems to have dominated (especially related to the pandemic and its aftermath) so when something genuine good peeks through it takes one by surprise; like when I learned Mordred was putting out a new album. On their first album in 27 years this band throws down a collection of serious metal melded by tight and aggressive grooves. Combining wall of saturation guitar riffs with scratching and samples at times, they harness their signature approach with an often simmering medium tempo (by thrash metal standards, at least) as they detail songs that tackle subjects ranging from death and illness to religious extremism to the costs of railroads and western expansion to a night out drinking. The result is a harnessing of the band's roots in funk, rap, and metal and picking up slightly down the road from where they left off. While it may be off-putting to listeners not used to the sonic crossbreeding Mordred's blend of metal, funk, hip hop et al continues to show the trails they helped blaze (and often didn't get the credit they deserved for it) as well as hinting at what might lie ahead in their sonic sphere. Good to see this band back again. (BOONE)
(M-Theory Audio)

PLASTER OF PARIS - Lost Familiar LP

This is a band I learned about online and was curious about so when I learned they were putting out an album I decided to give it a chance. On their debut full-length Plaster of Paris comes out the gate with a simmering style of artsy danceable underground rock that fuses punk, indie, and dance music into a sonic cocktail that often emerges out of left field. Tight grooves laid under acerbic guitar parts erupts in music that can be driving and confrontational yet somehow hook fueled and, yes, even danceable at times. Lyrically the songs explore such topics queer identity and safe spaces, internalized fear, living through both national and global states of emergency as well as tributes to several legendary female artists the band feels needs more props (I agree with that statement). While a case can be made that this draws form the post punk movement of the very late 70s/turn of the 80s, Plaster of Paris uses some of that as a jumping off point to mix with other influences and puts their own spin that fits in that area but isn't totally of that subgenre. One of 2021 best surprises. (BOONE).
(Psychic Hysteria Records. psychichysteria.com. Also available from the band's bandcamp page at: plasterofparis.bandcamp.com)

All content this page 2021, Boone Stigall/The Trouble With Normal