Music Reviews

COUNTRY TEASERS : “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” CD

(Originally posted on my Agony Shorthand blog, June 2006)

COUNTRY TEASERS : “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” CD……

Every couple years or so our old friends the COUNTRY TEASERS seem to come around with a new one chock full of jaunty skiffles, nasally rants and weirdo keyboard-based dirges, and every couple years the payoff amounts to about a solid B-, give or take a grade.

Oh, I’ve sort of said otherwise in the past, but the march of time & the wisdom of age has helped me to understand why I’m seeing the glass as half empty this time. To read the hyperbole spilled out on these guys every release, you’d think that these discs were something you’d wanna put on time & again, day in and day out all year, because these guys are such a wildly inventive gas. I don’t know about that; I can honestly say that for all my respect for this act, dragging their discs out of storage for repeat play doesn’t happen a whole hell of a lot. Allow me to explain.

First, let’s establish what’s good about this CD and about the Teasers in general. I’ve always liked the total ramshackle construction of their songs & the fuck-all way lead nihilist Ben Wallers slurs out his words. Everything about the band appears to be so inborn & with nary a thought to what folks think that they’re capable of some real naval-gazing bedroom genius at times. Every record has a couple of doozies. When they’re hitting on all six cylinders, a better FALL-inspired Northern European post-punk aggro country band can’t be found. You’ll find that band on this record’s “Points of View” and closing “Please Ban Music/Gegen Alles”, and it’s a real treat.

My concerns lie on two fronts. Ever since a friend gave me a tape of this at-the-time-unrecorded band around 1992 or so, I’ve quickly tired of Wallers’ insistence on punctuating every record with his giggle-giggle-I’m-so-bad “transgressive words” – “Jew”, “coon”, “Hitler”, “blacks”, “queer” etc. Once you get a politically incorrect
titter out of the listener – and believe me, I will always love a smartly-delivered right hook to the word police – what’s left? It appears that entire songs continue to be built around slipping said words into the lyrics, and that’s about as boring as bean curd.

But that’s not as big a deal as the aforementioned staying power of the music. You folks that talk about the Teasers like they’re consistently awesome and are such brave radical musical iconoclasts, are you seriously cranking this up and playing it for your pals? Because a large chunk of it’s dull dull dull, meandering with no direction forward, backward nor home – just made-up-on-the-point garbage (or highly calculated to sound that way, I don’t know).

I read three reviews of this thing already just this past couple weeks that posit that it’s the
goddamn musical second coming. Midheaven Mailorder, flacking for this thing on their web site, ask the very easily answerable question, “Is there another current group operating at such a high level musically or lyrically?”. Wow, probably not, right? The evidence is overwhelming! Seriously, did you guys even listen to this thing?

I repeat myself – The Country Teasers are a solid B- band all the way around, and this thing comes off the shelves for reevaluation again in 2008 at the earliest.

Music Reviews

Growth / Mr. Science / Palberta reviews

Some record reviews I’ve recently written:

GROWTH – Colour, Cut and Clarity 7”EP

An icy dip into Stockholm’s Growth’s sorrow and pity parade, and a righteously good one at that. I’d thought they’d broken up, as things were pretty quiet out Västertorp way since that “Turn/The Flood” single in 2013. This female trio’s transitioning a bit from messy, dark, soul-eating garage blues into a formidable practitioner of soundtrack-like goth eeriness, with a raw keyboard-driven punk edge and some seriously desperate vocals. Only “Amanda”, known previously as “Blind Voice” on an old tape, retains the same whole-cut vibe as the old stuff, but I’m finding myself melting into their new dark sound pretty willingly. Anyone w/ a Joy Division, Come or Little Claw patch on their jean jackets oughta check it out. (Lazy Octopus; lazyoctopusrecords.se)

MR. SCIENCE – 1978-1979 7”EP

The oddball part of “Mr. Science”, a brainiac, synth-obsessed weirdo in a white lab coat, was played in 1978-79 by one Brad Garton, who was soon to be part of Indiana’s Dow Jones & The Industrials. His goofy analog-era bleeping and blurping never made it to vinyl until this five-song archival bit came out as a bonus mail item to go w/ Family Vineyard’s very nice Dow Jones package. I thought the A-Frames ultimately did a better job cramming funny, five-dollar futuristic words into jerky meter & verse than Garton does here, but this is still a pretty solid & altogether brief gallop nonetheless. “The Number Song” is a nearly dub-like, echoed instrumental incantation of a phone number that I’m tempted to call myself (right after I finish rotary-dialing 867-5309). “Mutant Humans” sounds in 2016 like a SNL parody of late-70s Devo worship, but was probably the cat’s meow on the Indiana plains in its time. “Sociobiology” is the set’s robotic standout, and it laid a nice foundation for his later band’s outstanding “Ladies With Appliances”. I’m quite glad I got to hear it now, and your duty now for the future is to try and hear it yourself. (Family Vineyard; family-vineyard.com)

PALBERTA – Hot On The Beach 12”EP and DL

Apparently Palberta are scene dreamboats across small, leafy,
Eastern liberal arts college towns. They’ve got a willing patron in
Feeding Tube, who took this 2015 tape and gave it the vinyl treatment a
year later. I’ve generally liked bits and pieces of everything they’ve
done, especially when those pieces are unpredictably disjointed &
wild sub-1 minute no-wave skronking, like this thing’s excellently bent
“Thumb War” and “Fuck You”. But they’re trying too hard elsewhere to be
those “Ohmygod you guys I’m so weird” girls found tripping &
fluttering on campuses everywhere. “Prolly For The Best”, which chews up
most of the real estate here, is a fairly unlistenable thirteen minutes
of young women giggling over robotic dance music and/or doing that
“spoiled brat” nyanh-nyanh vocal thing that Kathleen Hanna so annoyingly
“perfected” twenty years ago. Pluck the good songs, discard the rest,
and remember why it is you scrape the web for mp3s and not vinyl.
(Feeding Tube; feedingtuberecords.com)