A friend of my nephew came to visit from Germany and brought along two gifts for me. Knowing my eclectic taste in music and my constant search for something new, he brought along two CD’s that I instantly found in heavy rotation on my iPod. One of the bands hail from Russia (with no USA release date in sight for their debut), Manicure charges forward with English language post-punk revival. The other band caught me by surprise and hails from West Virginia, One Hundred Hurricanes. I instantly wanted to smack myself for missing this release earlier in the year. Both releases have been out for a while, but I think they merit a few words here.
So the Manicure’s eponymous album (1 March 2009) confirms that Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Cure have influenced as far east as Moscow. Even if the influence is indirect, by later bands (which I doubt), any fan of the post-punk era will find this album irresistible. Like My Bloody Valentine, there is gender equality in the band: Ania Butuzova (drums), Polina Butuzova (guitars, bass, vocals), Zhora Kushnarenko (bass), and Zhenia Novikov (vocals, guitar, synthesizers). Truer to form than White Lies or the Editors, there is an eerie feeling in being able to convert an antiquated sound into something that is fresh and relevant – eerier still because Brits are not doing it.
Opening with “I Don’t,” a song that is more punk in nature than anything else, the band sports out some crafty guitar playing and minimal production. As you think the album is going to be this trashy, punky album, with a bit of surfer rock, “While Parents Sleep (Children Come Home)” creeps in, like a Bauhaus song sneaking into a DJ set. Sexy, bordering on new wave, the band starts a venture into a darker sound at this point. If my ears do not deceive me, “I Wanna Be Free” uses that six-string bass as a guitar, in much the same way The Cure and New Order have become notorious for using. The punk edge is not lost on the album after the first song, as “Magic Is Shit” is the perfect hybrid of punk and new wave. “The One” is a beautiful epic, with compressed guitars, repetitious music for emotional effect, and a long, slow exodus. The closing song, “About the Something,” has that Blondie’s “Atomic” quality in the guitar playing and drums, with the vocals arranged much like “Rock Lobster.” You can imagine the power of this song leading to a mosh pit live.
Russia, not really thought of as a musical powerhouse in Western Europe or North America, is quite often ignored in the music world. Other than Sergey Lazarev, with a cover of “Shattered Dreams,” which I am not ashamed to say that I liked, many Russian musicians do not seem to shine in the Anglo-American world of music. But this is a band you need to support and not allow to fall into obscurity. Go to their MySpace and support the band, cause some stir, try to get the label to formerly release in North America, even if only in digital form. This is a band that deserves some recognition, and hopefully in the post-punk revival, obsessive world, they will start to float towards the top.
1. I Don’t
2. While Parents Sleep (Children Come Home)
3. Another Girl
4. Atomic Summer
5. I Wanna Be Free
6. The Sun
7. Magic Is Shit
8. Hate, Love, Shame
9. I’ve Been Waiting
10. Can’t Say Yes, Can’t Say No
11. The One
12. About the Something
Keep up with the band on their homepage (Russian and English options) and MySpace.
Here are their videos for “Atomic Summer” and “I Wanna Be Free” from their Vimeo Channel.
One Hundred Hurricanes: “60 Years Under the Stars”
Releasing their debut “60 Years Under the Stars” (20 January 2009), One Hundred Hurricanes produces a sophisticated, energetic indie rock sound that may remind you of the Stokes; but to give credit where it is due, this is more entrancing. The album is one of the most fluidic of the year, but for all the fluidity the soundscape is never predictable. Furthermore, as one of my friends (my favorite Aussie, Belladona) and I have spoken about over and over, there are just some singers who seem to have more conviction and can sell those lyrics better than others. Michael Withrow (vocals, guitars, piano) is one of those vocalists. He may not have the range that other vocalists have, but what he has is the ability to compel and entrance you to listen on.
The album opens with “Duke Hat,” a very Brit sounding indie-rock-pop number that is contrasted immediately by “Be That Way” – darker, more urgent. The titular track, about half way through the album, is one of the faster paced songs, with some of the most amazing drum playing out there this year (courtesy of Nick Kirk). Leaving the compulsory ballet-esque song for the close, “When the Pictures Fade” features Withrow singing while playing the piano. During the first minute of the song it is the only accompaniment to the vocals, but slowly the other instruments lurch in, gaining more and more dominance in the soundscape. On an emotional level, they definitely leave the most powerful for last.
The most impressive thing about this debut is the fifteen-song, one-hour length. It is obvious, though, that this is a band that pays closer attention to their live performance than the recording. I say this because the songs are not heavily produced, very straightforward, giving you a clear picture of what you will get live. And though I am not going to make a big deal of the fade-outs (what can I say, I like my songs to end, not to fade into nothing), what is really most refreshing about the band is that they are just a band. There is no grand posturing, no attempting to be more indie or trendier than another band. There is no attempt to make a great musical statement or invent lyrics that are outside of their experiences (they do state on MySpace that one of their influences in “life”). When you think about it, some of the greatest albums ever recorded were just naturally thrown together by the artists – it gives the album an organic feeling that so many albums lack. “60 Years Under the Stars” is one such album, and if you happened to miss it as I did, go back and listen… quickly.
1. Duke Hat
2. Be That Way
5. Space for Myself
6. Back on Your Own
7. May (Or April)
8. 60 Years Under the Stars
9. Pass the Torch
10. One More Try
11. Walking Away
14. Talk to Me
15. When the Pictures Fade
Keep up with One Hundred Hurricanes at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.