New Order – The Perfect Kiss

New Order is one of the few bands I’ve loved since childhood and continue to do so well into my adult years. The band’s nervy, dystopian take on synth pop was almost a template for my nascent tastes, mixing deep bass grooves, crystalline synthesizer tones, frantic guitar work, and abstract lyrics about love, loss, society, and other fun nonsense.

In my humble opinion, 1985’s Low-Life was the pinnacle of this style, mixing hard dancefloor impulses with sweeping romanticism to unbelievable perfection. The lead single, The Perfect Kiss, came with an appropriately deadpan video directed by Jonathan Demme. Behold:

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Joy Division’s understated masterpiece “Atmosphere”

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Don’t walk away

This is one of my favorite songs ever. It hits so hard, every single time. It’s Atmosphere by Joy Division. The song isn’t on either album from the monumental but short-lived band, so you might have missed it.

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Viet Cong – “Continental Shelf” [music video]

Here’s that new Viet Cong music video, as promised. The song is Continental Shelf, first single from the band’s self-titled debut, releasing January 20th.

I should mention now that it’s super NSFW. But only for a few seconds. Watch it!

The imagery here seems to be a disjointed puzzle, an intriguing mess. It feels like the trailer for an art house film aping George Meliés at times, with a hint of Jodorowski. Fans of Holy Mountain or El Topo might know what I mean. That looks like a lot of links; whatever, they’re all awesome video clips.

The song itself is easily the catchiest tune on the brief album, with intelligible vocals and a clean hook. While not entirely representative of the band as a whole, it should still grab your ears tightly.

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Here’s a screenshot I took from the video. Fire mustache?

As I mentioned yesterday, this album is one of the most exciting rock releases I’ve heard in a long time. Modern rock has been boring me for years now, so it takes something truly special to ignite my enthusiasm.

Check the Viet Cong bandcamp page for links to purchase this fiery debut album in every format, including cassette, LP, CD, and digital. You can find it on Amazon of course but it’s better to buy right from the label. I did.

Viet Cong’s explosive debut album [plus my favorite song streaming]

Somehow, Viet Cong flew under my radar for the entirety of 2014. It’s my fault, really. Several friends let me know that half the members were from the short lived but brilliant Canadian band Women, and several more friends simply stated that they made balls out noisy punk-stained rock. The kind that’s darkly beautiful and complex in an unassuming way. The kind that I love.

They were right.

Hear for yourself; here’s the moment I realized that this is perfect.

This song exemplifies what I love about Viet Cong’s sound. It’s a three part suite in miniature, shaped at a glance like some post apocalyptic cousin of The Beatles’ Happiness Is A Warm Gun. We enter with a softly grinding drone and muted drum machine tumbling down stairs. The song bursts wide open with harmonized vocals and a sharply panning metallic guitar strum, while an insistent drum throb swells in the background. Finally, iridescent guitar tones rocket toward the sky. I don’t know if I’m hearing a weirdly tuned synthesizer or effects-laden guitar work; it doesn’t matter. The song absolutely explodes into a rave-up ending that had me grinning from ear to ear, determined to buy this album the moment it’s released.

The weird thing is, I was finally sold on giving these guys a try with a friend’s comparison to This Heat. The legendary experimental band from England released only a pair of bewilderingly fresh albums and disappeared at the turn of the 80s, leaving an indelible legacy that’s rarely touched, much less spiritually evoked. If you’re at all familiar with that band, give this your rapt attention. Right now. See also: fans of The Stooges, Public Image, Ltd., Bauhaus, and probably The Velvet Underground. What these bands have in common is a tough, motor-driven veneer with a knotty, heart-on-sleeve artfulness at center. Mining deeper into this territory, Viet Cong marries ragged noise and unapologetic beauty.

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Check the Viet Cong bandcamp page for another free tune, plus links to purchase the debut album in every format. One listen, and you’ll want to repeat these 37 blistering minutes as often as possible. Keep an eye on this page for the album’s first single and music video.

23 Skidoo – Seven Songs

23 Skidoo were born skirting the fringes of post punk, industrial, funk and dub, a nearly peerless realm infrequently visited by A Certain Ratio, Throbbing Gristle, and This Heat.  Twisting these genre elements through a strangely appealing recombination act was just the beginning of what the band means; it’s a coldly academic observation neglecting the warmly aggressive, primal energy bursting through the sonic capillaries of every piece they wrought.  Honestly, the only act I could consider a true musical neighbor are the willfully radical legends The Pop Group.  This is a remarkably good thing.

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First of all, Seven Songs is 8 tracks long.  That’s the first clue about the contents of this enigmatic, quintessential release – like The Pop Group, their modus operandi was grounded in subverting expectations and twisting them into something altogether surprising, thrilling, and a little bit scary.  The limitless ingenuity spread across these 32 minutes constantly pulls the rug out from under the listener, encouraging fleet feet and an open mind.  Unexpectedness, in this case, means welcome change and otherworldly juxtapositions, with the comfort of a trail guide who – despite a melange of insanity – knows exactly where he’s taking us.

Articulated noise pulls straight into a gutteral dub beat and tribal percussion stabs while the band cuts in and out with all manner of wordless vocal bursts and sheets of guitar noise on first cut Kundalini, laying the foundation for a record every bit as catchy as it is obtuse.  Next off we’re treated to a skittering drum kit and funkadelic guitar, touchstones of Sly & Robbie infused dub, and one of the most ‘conventional’ moments of the album before dropping through the trumpet accented drone abyss of Mary’s Operation, leading directly into the asterix of a track 4, Lock Groove, which is aptly titled as anything here.  This is also the reason the album is appropriately named – 30 seconds of oscillations do not make a song, thus “7” is indeed correct.  But I digress.

Picking up the scattered shards and welding them into a lumbering prehistorical Transformer, New Testament proceeds to stride right into the path of album highlight IY.  Kicking off with energetic, get-up-and-dance (or kick ass) percussion and a swaggering muted horn, it’s equally ready-made for epileptic dance fits and barnstorming runs over decaying industrial districts.  Building through a propulsive rhythm motorcade to a fevered crescendo, the track sweats out all the clap-happy energy – leaving the album in a whirlpool of dread and ennui.  Amping up the atmosphere beyond smoke-machine-and-lights-out darkness, Porno Base nearly defines the word cavernous and sets the stage for quirky closer Quiet Pillage.  All cricket-squeak guiro and steel drum swarm, the track gradually shifts toward a subdued ambient pulse and wood flute accents before dissipating entirely, like waking from a disturbing, curiously addictive dream.

Like I said, this exists on its own terms, and anyone half interested should get to know them.

[pick this up at boomkat or amazon – the 2008 reissue sweetens the deal with bonus tracks and a welcome remaster ]