Mika Miko – We Be XuXa

25 07 2009

Mika MikoWe Be XuXa
2009 – Post Present Media

I guess Mika Miko are old news around here (here being coastal California), but to this recent Canadian transplant, and hopefully to some of you, they’re brand spanking new. This all-girl band from LA formed in 2003 and have put out a string of albums on labels like Kill Rock Stars and Sub Pop, while also releasing a few of their own albums.

The band sounds like a bunch of different things, but the first thing I noticed when I put on this, their most recent release, was that they totally have their shit together. I love female musicians (full disclosure: I am a female musician), but I really hate when girl musicians use the fact that they’re girls as some kind of marketing strategy. The way I see it, if a band’s biggest selling point is that they all have vaginas, the band can’t be very good, and I’m not very interested. I think that kind of thing ghettoizes all of the ladies who practise and sweat and work to be good on their own merits and don’t have to rely on cute outfits or girl-centric marketing. Anyway, Mika Miko can clearly play on the level playing field. They can all play their instruments, and they sing like they mean it. They don’t sound cute or girly; they sound awesome.

The music itself is a mix of punk rock with elements of funk and dance (but just a bit) thrown in. Parts of this album remind me of the Slits, though Mika Miko have a lot more cohesive, catchy-ass songs. Parts of it also remind me a bit of the Gossip, though none of the ladies in Mika Miko have Beth Ditto’s pipes, I think they all have Beth Ditto’s balls, which, combined with the totally good instrumental work, really works and makes for a high-intensity album that makes you wish it went on for longer than the 22 odd minutes (for 12 songs!) that it does.

Even though I didn’t know about these guys until just now (thanks be to the Maximum RockNRoll Top Tens), which means I’ve evidently been missing the boat, I hope that the fact that these guys exist means that we’re going to start seeing more girls in punk and rock ‘n roll and hardcore bands. I know I’ve been sick of Brody Dalle being the face of women in punk for quite a while. I hear these guys are great live, so if you see that they’re coming to your town, be sure to go and check them out, and buy some of their stuff! Hell, order their stuff now, get inspired, and start your own band. Long live Mika Miko!

Also Listened:
Japandroids – Post Nothing
Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual
T Rex – Electric Warrior
Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets
Titus Andronicus – The Airing of Grievances
Jonathan Richman – Jonathan Sings


The Marked Men – Ghosts

23 07 2009

The Marked MenGhosts
2009 – Dirtnap

Image Credit: 203 Publicity

Image Credit: 203 Publicity

First up, I love me some Marked Men. I was turned on to them, embarrassingly enough, by Mitch Clem’s Nothing Nice To Say, which featured their second-latest album, Fix My Brain, in the number-one slot of its Best Albums of 2007 strip. I’m not normally that big on pop-punk or powerpop or whatever it’s called these days, but I did come of age in the mid 90s, which means, I think, that it’s in my DNA. My first show was a pop-punk show (Lagwagon – yeah, yeah; it was Edmonton, Alberta in 1994), and while I was always more into the Dead Kennedys than NOFX, I have had a fondness for The Queers, Mr. T. Experience, early Green Day, The Hi Fives, and a whole bunch of local poppy punky bands. What I mean to say is I don’t consider myself “into” pop punk, but I guess I kind of am. Not that it necessarily matters, since I’m not sure that the Marked Men count as pop punk, but they made me think of that little rant, so there you go.

Anyway, the band’s latest album, Ghosts has the band sounding older than they did before and rougher than they did on Fix My Brain. There aren’t as many insanely catchy hooks, but the driving, uplifting guitar is still there, and I kind of like the move from super hooky to older, messier, (drunker?), and fuzzier. It sounds like these guys have been listening to my husband’s band, actually. They sound muscular and reckless in the best possible way. Where the band’s previous albums are great and poppy and really tuneful, with great vocals and harmonies and good, hooky, catchy song structures, Ghosts is more raw (sorry, I hate that term, but it’s true) and sounds like they worried less about making things sound nice and more about getting their balls up to the wall as much as they possibly could. The whole thing clocks in at 30 minutes for 15 songs, too, so most of the tracks are super simple, super concise, and super compact. Each song sounds like its exploding out of the gate – none of this pussy transition nonsense for these guys!

All in all, I’ve listened to it twice now, and I like it more the second than the third. I’m sure if you watch my last.fm, you’ll see it quickly overtake my current top-listened bands (which are, by the way, inaccurate, but still). I am not the dancing kind, but this album makes me want to dance around my apartment by myself. I wish that there were more bands like this around. So many of the “garage rock” and “pop punk” and “rock ‘n roll” bands out there today have so little heart and guts, it really does hit you like a tonne of bricks when you hear something like this album.

I can only hope these guys make it out to San Francisco soon and play a show or two. Go get this album.

Heather Leather – Princess Leather

22 07 2009

Heather LeatherPrincess Leather
1988/2005 – Self Released (?)

Thanks to Aesop at Cosmic Hearse for facilitating my finding of this band/album. Heather Leather is an all-girl metal band active in the 80s (and now, amazingly – according to their myspace, they’re playing shows in their hometown) in San Antonio, Texas. Princess Leather was recorded in 1988 and released at long last in 2005.

The first thing you notice about Princess Leather is that they need to tune their guitars. I’m not trying to be a dick, but the opening bars of “Princess Leather,” the first song on Princess Leather the album sound like a honky-tonk piano because they have that weird, unintentional reverb thing that happens when something is out of tune. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter because the second thing you notice about the album is that Heather Leather really, really fucking love heavy metal. Yeah, the technical proficiency on this album isn’t all that high, but you’ve really got to admire any bunch of people who love music so much they go out there and make some of it themselves, even if they don’t play like Adrian Smith… and I don’t mean that as some kind of pity point. It’s hard to start a band and play shows and record albums, and it’s harder when you’re reaching for a style that requires playing that’s just a little beyond your grasp. It’s nice to hear something that isn’t ironic or clever in any way (and yeah, not a lot of 80s metal was very ironic or clever, but still), and when singer Sylvia Garza goes in for one of her almost-falsetto Bruce Dickinsonion wails, it kind of makes chills go up my spine.

Anyway, after a rocking (but kind of long, sorry) first track, Princess Leather steps it up a notch for “Angel Lover” and “Let’s Rock,” both moderately fast-paced, guitar-driven 80s-metal-sounding songs about typical 80s-metal themes (namely loving/fucking and rocking) and then cools it down and spices it up (simultaneously – I know!) for “Shy Boy,” which actually reminded me a tiny, tiny bit of Gloria Estefan, even though it doesn’t really sound like her at all. “Now You Return” sounds like a doo-wop 80s song (in a good way), and then the last three tracks kick it back up into metal territory. My favorite is the last song, “Undercover,” which uses the words “child molestor” about 800 times. I didn’t catch what they were talking about, but I’d be all for appointing Heather Leather in charge of meting out justice to pedophiles.

All in all, this record made me smile, which is something that not all that much music does to me anymore. Maybe it means I’m a bandwagon-jumping quasi-hipster asshole who’s just getting her kicks by surfing older and more knowledgeable people’s blogs, but that’s not my intent. It seems like most of the people who are putting out music today who really go all out are electronic musicians who are so acutely aware and calculating about what they’re doing that it doesn’t have any more meaning than a U2 concert. Lady GaGa (or whoever she is) has nothing on Heather Leather, and I wish them all the best in their continuing musical career.

Dinosaur Jr – Farm

7 07 2009

I never really got good at skateboarding. You want to know why? It was because when I was in grade three, shortly after I got my first skateboard, some little Thrasher-reading shit I had a crush on told me that I was too ugly to skateboard. He had based his opinion on the photos he’d seen in his skate magazines, and I never touched a skateboard again.

It’s petty of me, sure, but as a result of that unfortunate nine-year-old’s experience, I’ve had a bit of a grudge against skateboarding, skateboarders, and skate “culture” generally. I’ve dated my share of skaters, but I’ve never gotten very interested in their skate music, their skate videos, or hanging out at the skate park. I don’t regret it, except that apparently, my personal vendetta caused me to completely miss the boat on a few bands I wish I’d gotten into at a younger age. I count Dinosaur Jr among them.

Apparently, Dinosaur Jr started releasing albums in 1985, when I was four years old, so I guess it’s not surprising I didn’t get in on the ground floor. They kept releasing albums fairly steadily until 1997, and then they took a ten-year break, returning in 2007 with the first Dinosaur Jr album I listened to regularly, Beyond. 2009 brings the arrival of Farm and also (at least temporarily) the demise of my music collection (RIP, friend). I will chalk the coincidence up to happy.

Like I said, I missed out on a lot of music growing up, so when it comes to albums like this, I’m not sure if I’m getting it right, but I will say that track five, Your Weather, is fucking great. It’s all echoey with pounding drums, and the guitar line doesn’t sound like a normal guitar line at all. It sounds like an awesome trombone line from Prokofiev. Actually, the whole album is pretty great. Some of the songs remind me almost uncomfortably of Pearl Jam (well, no, of Eddie Vedder – SORRY! I can’t help what triggers my traumatic memories!), but I guess it’s less that Dinosaur Jr sound like Pearl jam and more that Pearl Jam is one of the only bands who I listened to (or was forced to listen to) whose sound makes me feel nostalgic in a similar way, and I guess that’s what this album does.

Farm certainly doesn’t sound outdated, but it also certainly doesn’t sound like it’s from a band that formed in the last five years (or even ten years). Again, my frame of reference is flawed and stunted, but this album sounds like the kind of thing I wish I’d been listening to in junior high school to have supplemented my steady diet of Nirvana and Soundgarden. It’s got more maturity and more heart than either of those bands ever showed, and maybe it’s because it was written and recorded by old guys who have had the time to develop more than Kurt Cobain had in 1993; we’ll never know. The songs have the same sound that I remember hearing sometimes when I’d overhear what the older kids were listening to, but they’ve got a cadence and feel that seems more suited for where old-school Dinosaur Jr fans must be now: drinking a few too many beers and nursing their bad knees and bad backs.

Anyway, I’m rusty at this, so I’m going to quit now, but I recommend Farm if you’re in the mood for good guitar, good songwriting, and a bit of nostalgia.