Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Epitaph Records
10 song Vinyl LP

"Nothing has changed..." That's a line from the first cut on Freedom, and it couldn't be further from the truth. A lot has changed since 1997, the year that Refused unleashed their last and now-infamous hardcore album, The Shape of Punk to Come. How does one live up to a legendary myth almost 20 years in the making? Honestly, you just can't. It's not possible, nor should a band be expected to do so.

That being said, Refused doesn't try to relive their mountaintop experience. They wisely realize the futility and instead focus on making a killer record without looking back. Where Shape was a wild and reckless venture that flailed away in youthful angst, Freedom is streamlined with laser-like precision and destruction. It's a surgical strike instead of a carpet bombing, and the band has never sounded more determined and powerful. 

To put it bluntly, it's one hell of a rock record by a maturing rock band. Refused may not be breaking new ground, but they are making everyone aware that they weren't a flash-in-the-pan or a fluke. Some things just improve with age, and this band is one of them.

MISH MASH Mandate: Liberation Frequency
Refused Website 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Paul Weller
Saturns Pattern
9 song LP

With a career that spans four decades, it would be easy and understandable for Paul Weller to simply phone in an album at this stage. After all, most musicians of his caliber and status are comfortable in their skin and not eager to stretch boundaries. Thankfully, Weller is not one of those artists.

Even though Saturns Pattern isn't quite as on the edge as 2012's Sonik Kicks, it shows that Weller is more than willing to continue to push the limits of his creativity and deliver songs that keep things interesting. True fans should be used to this by now, as Weller has never exactly adhered to the status quo. (I have a feeling that a fan who can't appreciate this new effort is still stewing about The Jam splitting up 30 years ago.)

The songs are tight and polished, with Weller keeping everything reined into a neat power pop package. He briefly visits a variety of genres along the way, but he never gives himself over to one distinct direction. It's a fuzzy and fleeting feeling, but it's a pleasing one. That being said, one can't help but wonder if this album could reach higher heights if he concentrated his musical diffusion into a more focused and powerful punch. This musical meandering is creatively satisfying, but it never quite reaches the level of one of his classics, such as Wild Wood or Stanley Road

At the same time, I don't think he needs to make either one of those albums again. Nor does he need to feed us a rehash of The Jam or The Style Council. Weller always seems to have something up his sleeve, and this album is no exception. I'm thankful he likes to keep us on the edge of our seat.

MISH MASH Mandate: Changingman
Paul Weller Website

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Nettwerk Records
11 song LP

Guster is back, and everything old is new again. The group's familiar, somewhat dreamy pop songs haven't really changed very much, and that's actually all for the better. I say that because their pop-centered songwriting still sounds surprisingly fresh and inviting, without feeling like a rehash or a simple revisit of their late-90's/early-00's heyday. They sound like they are having fun, and it shows. 

The promise of a new extensive tour means it will be easy to catch them out on the road this year - and they have always put on a great show. Catch them if you can!

MISH MASH Mandate: Freshly Made Pop  

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Graveface Records
8 song vinyl LP

Whirr immediately overwhelms you with a wall of sound, and doesn't let up with the sonic overload until they are quite through with you. It's a shoegazer's dream, reminiscent of classic groups like My Bloody Valentine and Swans. While they definitely owe acknowledgement to their noisy forefathers, Whirr maintains a uniqueness of their own. It's a sound that somehow defines them, even though it's fuzzy in overall aural definition. Turn it on, turn it up, and ride the wave.

MISH MASH Mandate: Shoe Hazy
Whirr @ Graveface Records

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Remember The Radio
Sharper Moon Rabbit
9 Song Vinyl LP

This is a sweet gem of a rock record, now in its second limited pressing on black vinyl for the mere pittance of $5. It's a post-punk explosion that has the edginess of Fugazi combined with the melodic meandering of R.E.M. The guitars grind into a massive wall of sound, where the emphasis is less about riffs and more about creating a palate of sonic waves that overwhelm the listener. 

I wouldn't say these guys have truly broken any new ground here, but they sure as hell sound like they're having a great time doing it - and that's what counts. And, I hear a new LP is on the way, as well.

MISH MASH Mandate: Mars Needs Guitars
Remember The Radio at BandCamp    

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Big Ups
Eighteen Hours of Static
Dead Labour Records
11 Song Vinyl LP and Cassette

Listening to the Big Ups takes me back to the early days of Refused, before they became the first screamo kings of the punk rock underworld. There's a lot of swagger going on here, and the attitude is what takes it to the next level. Anybody can be a snotty little punk, but the Big Ups embrace it with desire and dedication. The result is an album that ignites into a punk-guitar-fueled fire that is a force to be reckoned with. I can only imagine what these guys sound like in a live setting, and it gives me goosebumps.

MISH MASH Mandate: The Shape Of Punk That Came
Big Ups at BandCamp 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ty Segall
Drag City
17 Song Vinyl LP

If you believe the hype, this record is supposed to the the Second Coming (if not Third or Fourth) of rock-n-roll. Well, honestly, it's hard not to believe it, because it's pretty damn good. Ty Segall has ventured through the wilderness of fuzzy lo-fi in a smattering of various bands and collaborations to end up on the other side as a masterful pop rock composer.

No mistake - the fuzz is still there, the loud rawk noodling is still there, the wall of sound is still there. But there's also an unmistakable and pure pop sensibility that is shining through in all its glory. Segall has obviously been honing his skills, and it is paying off. This is by far his most solid and approachable record for the masses. 

The only downside is that it sprawls across four sides. Like most double albums, it suffers a little from being a little too much of a good thing. If the album could be trimmed down by half, it could probably be a little more powerful. But that's just the nit-picking complaint of a hack reviewer. Get this record, and get it now.

MISH MASH Mandate: Fuzz Face
Ty Segall at Drag City Records