An Albatross - The An Albatross Family Album (Eyeball Records, 2008)
This album was not meant to be listened to in my apartment. It was meant to be heard during an Aztec ritual sacrifice, or in the middle of the Mojave desert with both band and you stoned off your collective ass, or at the very least in a small club, with Eddie B. Gieda III screaming 'til his neck veins pop and horns 'n electronics swirling overhead and a farfisa-drenched circus-stomp rhythm section bashing away recklessly like a ferris wheel breaking off its axis and rolling down the Santa Monica pier.
A full 14 extra musicians labored over The An Albatross Family Album in addition to the core Wilkes-Barre, PA quintet, and it sure sounds like it. Not like An Albatross trade in linear songs to begin with, but there's nary a five-second segment that isn't smeared in track upon track of sundry musical detritus -- woodwinds and strings bubble over into snatches of klezmer/calypso/whatever, marimbas plunk underneath punked-up swing jazz.
Mr. Bungle-style epilepsy is only one part of what's going on here. There's honest-to-goodness extremity lurking underneath the psychedelic goo, as filtered through the carnival punk of one of my ol' high school favorites, The Blue Meanies. Also: the album apparently takes up the story of a tribe of desert-dwelling pilgrims that bring the blueprints for peace and harmony back from space. Who cares what's happening lyrically? This is hippie music even without the story. The An Albatross Family Album is the sound of every style of music fucking every other musical style simultaneously. Free love manifested in sound!
Heavy Heavy Low Low - Turtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock (New Weathermen/Ferret, 2008)
Metal ain't for dancing. Hardcore, on the other hand, has proven pretty adaptable to the dictates of the wiggly bottom; while by no means the first band to merge the two, the Blood Brothers made something vital by mating hardcore aggression with pogo-friendly post-punk. More immune to indie rock cred but almost as likely to break into a happy backbeat is the redundantly named Heavy Heavy Low Low, straight outta San Jose.
"Murder on the dancefloor" is about right; these dudes rip out yer piercings and safety pins and hair extensions, glue 'em on to their discordant punk for decorative purposes and grind away. Changes of direction come fast and frequent; Dillinger Escape Plan runs collide into devastating breakdowns (I'm still un-burying myself from the one at the end of "How Many Dad's Must Eat Themselves") and noisy pervert-disco. But no matter how weird Turtle Nipple gets, HHLL channels its unchecked ADHD tendencies through hyper-checked aggressive tendencies. Riffs are wiry and muscular, the guitar tone shears flesh on contact, and every performance is dialed to "rage." Especially vocalist/guitarist Dan Rankin -- might wanna stay away from the spittle forming around that dude's mouth. You can catch rabies another day.
Voetsek - Infernal Command (Selfmadegod, 2008)
Everything about Infernal Command screams '86 thrash, from the thunderous "Raining Blood"-style tom beats that open the album to the midrange-heavy mix to the pastel undead (drawn by Municipal Waste/Fueled by Fire artist Andrei Bouzikov) that adorn the cover. But passing off San Francisco's Voetsek (whose name means "fuck off!" in Afrikaans) as yet another thrash revival band would be a heinous mistake. If Vio-Lence and early Metallica are the bread and butter of Infernal Command, power violence gods Capitalist Casualties and Spazz are the meat and condiments.
Voetsek amp up their thrash songs to ludicrous speeds, often rivaling Jon Chang's Hayaino Daisuki project for sheer velocity. No less impressive technically are the epileptic fits of "Sorry Don't Mean Shit" and "Rethinking the Paradigm," both cluster bombs of time signature and tempo changes that slide in and explode far too fast to wrap your head around. The absurdist energy is bolstered by cheeky scene humor in "W.W.L.D. (What Would Lemmy Do?)" and "Blueprint For the Perfect Circle Pit" ("Keep your knees up high / And forearms a swinging / Shoulders hunched over"). True to their forbears though, silliness is but one weapon in Voetsek's arsenal. They hurl their lightspeed attacks against coppers ("Bully With a Badge") and the war machine ("5 Years in Iraq"), even performing an eerie thrash version of the immortal anti-lynching song "Strange Fruit," first made famous by Billie Holiday.
Pissed-off, positive, excited, talented, caffeinated, political, asinine and totally serious, Voetsek has it all ways on Infernal Command, and gets it all right. Also of note: 2/5 of Voetsek is female, including vocal splatterizer Ami Lawless. Not that boobs have any effect, positive or negative, on the quality of Infernal Command. It's just another indication that Voetsek's breaking a lot of different molds here.