Tired Hands Brewing Company Birth Day Party
with Black Moth Super Rainbow, Pissed Jeans & Cloakroom at Union Transfer
UT Newsletter: ticketf.ly/1RqX4bJ
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Black Moth Super Rainbow
If you haven’t panicked lately, you’re either blissfully ignorant or have gone completely clear. For the rest of us attempting to navigate the political, economical, and cultural carnage, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” succinctly captures the statue of psychic dislocation. Or N.W.A.’s “The Panic Zone.” Or Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Panic Blooms, the latest disorienting dystopian masterpiece from the experimental pop arsonists that haunt the black-leaved Pennsylvania woods.
For the last decade, BMSR and frontman TOBACCO have explored the periphery of evil and extreme color, alternating between absurdly bright beauty and the slashed throat sinister. A sound impossible to replicate, as though it burst fully formed from a paisley-painted fire hydrant stationed in hell. They combine the aesthetically gorgeous with the hideously ugly to create a psychedelic uneasiness usually only seen in old oil paintings. What if Goya or Bosch made ravaged vocoder pop? Or a neo-impressionist painter committed himself to creating slow woozy earworms so iridian and vivid you’d think he sliced off an ear in the process.
We know scarcely anything personal about TOBACCO. There’s his government name, Tom Fec. A few photos if you want to Google, most of them in a mask. He’s done enough interviews where he patiently breaks down the creative process and the ideas espoused, but has mostly resisted the soul-snuffing admissions expected from contemporary musicians. In that vein, he’s closer to a Boards of Canada, DOOM, or Aphex Twin—periodically visible but opaque—emotional but unwilling to exploit the self-mythology and cult that cropped up around him.
So maybe this is why Panic Blooms is slightly startling. Never before has TOBACCO been so raw or direct in his lyrics. It’s a fucked up and bleeding account of depression and the shadow side of human frailty, full of gorgeous warped melodies that exist as their own genre, somewhere between late 90s Warp Records, dub, and chopped and screwed codeine drip. It’s not drug music, it’s dragged music, oozing through the muck of the present moment, past mutating the present, demon melodies filtered through the vain search for light.
This is why Pitchfork claimed BMSR mastered the balance between the grotesque and beautiful. Spin hailed their “consistently great records of mind-altering, sugar-coated, vocoder-heavy psychedelic pop.” Stereogum saluted their “excellent haze.”
Encoded in a syrupy fog, TOBACCO’s lines stab with more ferocity than ever before. From the first track, the knives are out and slashing with chimerical violent imagery: mouths bleeding from razor blades stashed in tangerines and the ominous sensation of feeling haunted. There are sunset curses and diseased plants, sunburn fevers and doomsday downgrades, pink apocalyptic suns and sinister omens. It’s reminiscent of the phrase used to describe surrealism: as beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.
Here we are in 2018, inhabiting a tumorous wasteland with singed nerves and synapses fried from scrolling for far too long. This is what the fear sounds like in its most pristine form. The floral bloom and the toxic wilt, the sound of dreams and nightmares reaching détente, a ride through the void, where the fumes offer all the anesthetic you need.
Pissed Jeans have been making a racket for 13 years, and on their fifth album, Why Love Now, the male-fronted quartet is taking aim at the mundane discomforts of modern life—from fetish webcams to office-supply deliveries.
“Rock bands can retreat to the safety of what rock bands usually sing about. So 60 years from now, when no one has a telephone, bands will be writing songs like, ‘I’m waiting for her to call me on my telephone.’ Kids are going to be like, ‘Grandpa, tell me, what was that?’ I’d rather not shy away from talking about the internet or interactions in 2016,” says Pissed Jeans frontman Matt Korvette.
Pissed Jeans’ gutter-scraped amalgamation of sludge, punk, noise, and bracing wit make the band—Korvette, Brad Fry (guitar), Randy Huth (bass) and Sean McGuinness (drums)—a release valve for a world where absurdity seems in a constant battle trying to outdo itself. Why Love Now picks at the bursting seams that are barely holding 21st-century life together. Take the grinding rave-up “The Bar Is Low,” which, according to Korvette, is “about how every guy seems to be revealing themselves as a shithead.
“It seems like every guy is getting outed,” Korvette continues, “across every board of entertainment and politics and music. There’s no guy that isn’t a total creep. You’re like, ‘No, he’s just a dude that hits on drunk girls and has sex with them when they’re asleep.’ Cool, he’s just an average shithead.”
The lyrics on Why Love Now are particularly pointed about gender relations and the minefield they present in 2016. “‘It’s Your Knees’ is about the endless, unrequested, commenting on if you’d fuck a girl. You know what I mean? ‘My great aunt won a cooking contest.’ ‘Oh, that’s pretty hot. I’d hit that,’” says Korvette. “It’s bizarre how guys will willingly share this stuff as if it’s always in their brains, and now it gets to come out because you’re on the internet. There’s a boldness to it now that was not maybe there before. So the premise is like, ‘Yeah, she’s hot, but her knees are weird looking. Not for me, man.’”
On “Love Without Emotion” Korvette channels Nick Cave’s more guttural side while bemoaning his detachment over cavernous guitars. The crushing “Ignorecam” twists the idea of fetish cam shows—”where the woman just ignores you and watches TV or eats macaroni and cheese or talks on the phone”—into a showcase for Korvette’s rancid yelp and his bandmates’ pummeling rock. “I love that idea of guys paying to be ignored,” says Korvette. “It seems so weird.”
As they did on their last album, 2013’s Honeys, Pissed Jeans offer a couple of “fuck that shit type songs” about the working world, with the blistering “Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst” turning unwieldy job titles into sneering punk choruses and “Have You Ever Been Furniture” waving a flag for those whose job descriptions might as well be summed up by “professionally underappreciated.” And the startling “I’m A Man,” which comes at the album’s midpoint, finds author Lindsay Hunter (Ugly Girls) taking center stage, delivering a self-penned monologue of W.B. Mason-inspired erotica—office small talk about pens and coffee given just enough of a twist to expose its filthy underside, with Hunter adopting a grimacing menace that makes its depiction of curdled masculinity even more harrowing.
“Lindsay Hunter is what I would aspire for Pissed Jeans to be—just a real, ugly realness that’s shocking,” says Korvette. “Not in a, ‘I had sex with a corpse on top of a pile…’ nonsense way—actually real, shocking stuff. And she has young kids, like Pissed Jeans do. I feel a bond with her in that regard. We’re in the same camp.”
No Wave legend Lydia Lunch shacked up in Philadelphia to produce “Why Love Now” alongside local metal legend Arthur Rizk (Eternal Champion, Goat Semen). “I knew she wasn’t a traditional producer,” Korvette says of Lunch. “We wanted to mix it up a little bit. I like how she’s so cool and really intimidating. I didn’t know how it was going to work out. She ended up being so fucking awesome and crazy. She was super into it, constantly threatening to bend us over the bathtub. I’m not really sure what that entails, but I know she probably wasn’t joking.
“Arthur Rizk was the technical guru. It was a perfect combination of a technical wizard and a psychic mentor who guided the ship.”
The combination of Lunch’s spiritual guidance and Rizk’s technical prowess supercharged Pissed Jeans, and the bracing Why Love Now documents them at their grimy, grinning best. While its references may be very early-21st-century, its willingness to state its case cements it as an album in line with punk’s tradition of turning norms on their heads and shaking them loose.
“A crucial thing, I think, for being a Pissed Jeans fan is just stemming from what I would take away from punk, which is, ‘Question things and think about things,’” says Korvette. “Don’t just go to the office and get the same coffee. Don’t just wear a leather jacket and get a 40 oz. Just question yourself a little bit if you can.”
When Cloakroom first materialized back in 2012, they did so modestly. A couple songs appeared on a Bandcamp page with a succinct description: “Cloakroom consists of three factory workers from the Region.” As far as biographies go, it’s about as terse as they come. But at the same time, it conveyed everything that they needed to get across, simple facts that speak to greater truths.
These are the facts as we know them now: Cloakroom still consists of three people, vocalist-guitarist Doyle Martin, bassist Robert Markos, and drummer Brian Busch. Though they were once factory workers, they’ve left the factories behind, but their jobs are still blue-collar. Martin splits his time between two different breweries, something Busch moonlights with as well while also managing a rental property. As for Markos, he’s a delivery driver, though he spends time writing for auto racing publications and making documentaries on the subject with his father. And that final part, about the Region, that unique amalgam of cities and towns in Northwest Indiana that’s equal parts industrial and rural? Well, that’s still true, too. Much like the Region is in its own way a part of Chicago, one listen to Cloakroom’s new album, Time Well, shows the area’s distinctive imprint is still just as pronounced.
For Time Well, the band’s Relapse Records debut and second full-length overall, the members of Cloakroom made a work that’s at once grandiose and deeply insular. Following the release of 2015’s Further Out on Run For Cover Records, the band toured alongside the likes of Brand New, Russian Circles, and Nothing. Those tours proved that Cloakroom makes perfect sense opening for instrumental post-metal bands and acts that cut their teeth on the pop-punk circuit, without adhering to either style. Cloakroom occupies a space between worlds, crafting its unique brand of thoughtfully heavy music, something Relapse has long specialized in.
For Time Well, Martin, Markos, and Busch further explored the creative space they share by opting not to record in someone else’s studio, but to start from scratch and build one themselves. Turning their practice space into a laboratory in which they could cook up whatever they desired, Cloakroom allowed themselves to have a hand in every part of the work, from writing, to recording, to drafting and constructing a bunker of their very own. “It was a very long process that involved the actual conceptualization and construction of the space, as well as researching and piecing together the right gear to make the record we wanted,” said Busch. And once the studio completed its transition, it became a workspace that was essential to the creation of Time Well. It sheltered them from the outside world, serving as a location for them to become immersed in the songs, pushing sounds to their farthest limits and then going just a bit farther. “We could work at all hours of the night and pick up where we left off days later,“ said Martin. “We vaulted the ceiling, amassed some gear with a little help from Relapse, and, after laying a rat’s nest of cables through the place, we started to record.”
The culmination of that shared effort is a work that transcends simple genre descriptors. The music coalesces into a thick wall of sound, lumbering forward as one singular piece that never begins to atrophy. Yet simultaneously, it indulges in the band’s softer side, turning those tributes to Jason Molina into Cloakroom’s very own brand of Americana, one that’s equally concerned with the astral plane and our modern world.
It makes sense then that the band would cite everything from Boards of Canada and John Fahey’s autobiography to the works of Stanley Kubrick and acclaimed Russian science fiction director Alexei German as influences on the record.“Time Well touches on a lot of ambiguous, mundane stuff like dreams, travel, and ritual,” said Martin, “But in any of those channels you can soon find yourself delving further into the likes of astral projection, disembodiment, the human condition, the rites of liminality, cosmic doubt, and disillusion.”
The album’s first single “Big World”—which announced their signing to Relapse—is a song Martin describes as delving into that disillusionment, while also exploring “faculties of mental illness.” The Neurosis-like ”Seedless Star” is a rousing post-apocalyptic narrative with Martin simply stating it tackles “the downfall of humanity,” in a way that’s both humanistic and abstract. If you think that’s heavy, “The Sun Won’t Let Us Go” touches on evolution and the growing ignorance of our shared past, while “Concrete Gallery” finds its inspiration in the writings about Hugh Glass—the basis for the film The Revenant—and how, as Martin puts it, “I was just drawn to stories of our relationship with the inhospitable and the wrongs that one commits to maintain an existence in such an environment. It gets a little sci-fi in the end, lyrics are supposed to be open-ended and free to be used as the listener see fit.” For its part, “Hymnal” adapts an American spiritual that dates back to 1899, turning the repeated phrase of “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” into a ruminative piece that’s best taken with a bit of incense.
With Time Well, Cloakroom shows itself untethered from the present moment. It’s a record that’s flanked by contradictory ideas that are always running parallel; Growth begets destruction begets death. It’s an unending cycle, and Time Well is the soundtrack to that unending, awe-inspiring momentum.
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