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Secret Smoker

Terminal Architecture

Protagonist Music

These songs were recorded more than two years ago, but feel at least a decade older than that. A strong scent of pre-millennial emo is tough to miss, though it never overwhelms sturdy songwriting. Leaning toward the gruffer, more unhinged end of things, it nods toward Shotmaker, Hoover, or even Faraquet along the way. In essence, it’s a long way from DC to Baton Rouge, but Secret Smoker straddle the distance with ease.

Fleeting and vivid delivery lends itself to specific jolts which sound like nothing else on the record. They add depth, without being a distraction or feeling like some flourish. A palm muted bridge in “Tides That Bind” channels Deep Elm-era Planes Mistaken For Stars perfectly, but for just a moment. Riffs in the loose, but forceful “Sight In Sound” and “Part-time Retail” carry Jazz June’s nonchalant noodling while the vocals harness Garden Variety’s grit.

Despite all these specific reference points, none really hold up for more than a song or two. Terminal Architecture manages to weave multiple branches of emo-as-it-once-was, without meandering or giving in to crass nostalgia. Taken together, the ten songs pack substance, well beyond any already-nit-picked revival. Being part of such a thing implies doing some old thing a slightly new way. Secret Smoker manage to turn it upside-down, finding a way to do their own thing in an old way.


“Part-Time Retail”
from: Terminal Architecture, Protagonist Music

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– S. ANDERSON

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Indian

From All Purity

Relapse Records

I’m assuming that from the start, heavy metal lent itself to wild hyperbole. In context, the stable of heavy metal adjectives tend to be a bit much. Out of context they’re supposedly-descriptive gibberish at best. The sub-genre-descriptors race should have reached bottom some time ago, but it keeps digging ever-deeper. Groupings of four or five suburban teenagers will have you know they’re apparently “churning out the grimiest, blackened horror doom-grind ever heard in [enter suburb here]…” But, strength and prevalence doesn’t mean cliches are never true. Case in point: From All Purity. There’s a specific flavor of brute force to Indian’s records, difficult to describe without a string of precious, violent and silly metaljectives. Now up to ramming speed four records in, they bring a forceful approach that would wilt any era of standard music descriptors.

Indian’s songwriting is still riff-based, but also conceptual, even abstract sometimes. The formula seems common enough, missing any left-field surprises or obvious gimmicks. But there’s something blunt and forceful about everything, often slow but not always. “The Impetus Bleeds” features classic late-90s metalcore hiss and snarl, at a doom-friendly pace. Like a more deliberate take on Bloodlet or Disembodied, with deceptive depth and metalcore urgency, even at almost seven minutes long. “Rhetoric of No” takes a similar set of sounds, but with a relentless tempo and vocal line. The result comes off somehow like a colder, more deliberate and conceptual version of Tragedy.

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From All Purity shies away from most of what’s overdone in modern “huge heavy metal production.” Seamlessly and confidently integrating spastic electronics, especially in the throbbing noise track “Clarify,” complete with left field NIN feedback-masquerading-as-percussion. Finding a happy medium between “menacing” and just plain tinny is difficult, but it’s the fundamental driver of Indian’s sound. Which, not coincidentally, is at an absolute peak for every last second of their fourth LP.

I’ve made it this far, but it’s tough to go much further without including a few dreaded metaljectives. Indian’s sound is less about dark and grimy, leaning more toward a patient, terrifying dread. A disorienting haze of general foreboding is the force driving Indian’s songs. There’s plenty of darkness to what they do, but not in some cartoony or repetitive way. Most metal bands can’t hope for much more than startling their audience. Maybe catching you off-guard, screaming in your face to momentarily shake you out of your routine. But Indian is much deeper, and heavy metal, with all its trends and over-the-top descriptors, is very much better for it.


“The Impetus Bleeds”
from: From All Purity, Relapse Records

 

– S. ANDERSON

Dead Mechanical OK Night

March 5, 2014

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Dead Mechanical

OK Night

Toxic Pop Records

Even if Dead Mechanical weren’t from Baltimore, The Thumbs would have probably still come to mind pretty quickly. Both bands use the classic Bay Area power trio template, with a thick layer of Crimpshrine or early Jawbreaker’s inviting snarl. Dead Mechanical’s approach is often more nuanced, using established modes but leaving out much of the repetition. More than a strict 90s time capsule, OK Night’s ten songs do hold tight to pop-punk’s brighter corners from 15-20 years ago.

If you’re like me–an unfortunate adult still harboring strong feelings the golden era of pop-punk–it probably peaked for you the moment things first seemed over-sweetened. Like old men and fashion, you have the option of settling deep into that gold era until you die, unconcerned with modern opinions about maroon polyester. Rather than blame Sum 41 and give it up when you’re 23, plenty of bands press on, curating something new from their own golden eras. With pop-punk, that perceived sweet (but not too sweet) spot between grit and hooks is the white whale. Dead Mechanical’s particular rendition lands within a few years of my own high-water point, so I’m predisposed to a soft spot for it. But OK Night is a worthwhile punk rock record in 2014, despite my attempts to apply some equation to my own sadly-specific nostalgia.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anything associated with youth culture that’s even close to ‘timeless.’ But this particular era of 90s melodic punk rock is still alive, including a handful of newer standouts like Sundials, Joyce Manor, or Tenement overlapping with Dead Mechanical. All of them walk a defined, but not a self-limiting line, updating–not fetishizing–the most satisfying morsels from post-Ramones nostalgic punk rock.


“Into A Wall”
from: OK Night, Toxic Pop Records

 

– S. ANDERSON

Just The Tip stickers

February 26, 2014

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I’ve spent at least a decade making fun of bands with a history that includes more promo photos than well-attended shows… (or these days) more marketing strategies than records available for purchase. So it’s only fitting that JTT fire up the merch wagon before there’s even been much posted on the site. If you can’t beat them join them, right? But it’s just a small batch of stickers, and if this website were a band, we’d have at least most of a demo completed at this point. Thus, it’s high time to fire up the street team and take this world by storm.

That said, if you’d like a handful of these, email your mailing address to: stuart [at] just-the-tip.org and you’ll be attempting to explain that logo to strangers in no time!

Radioactivity Self-Titled

February 17, 2014

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Radioactivity

Self-Titled

Dirtnap Records

The notion of ‘artisan’ this or that has fully joined the long list of concepts fully transformed into cynical marketing buzzwords. The idea is as potent as it’s ever been, and Radioactivity embody it on their debut LP. It’s a take on melodic rock with few frills, but detailed construction of non-exotic pieces. The result is memorable despite the short recipe, thanks to pure ingredients and sturdy construction.

The basic structure of their songs and the rhythm section both feel like a streamlined version of middle-era Ramones. But, foundational to any Ramones LP, the songs–no matter how much you love or hate them–start to run together at some point. Radioactivity have side-stepped this almost completely. Without a ton of on-paper variety they’ve put together 13 mostly brief tracks which usually stand out, but always stand up on their own.

Along with The Masked Men (who Radioactivity share 66% of their members with), their debut also has strong hints of Scared of Chaka, early Stones, or The Clash all in equal measure. There’s also a less deliberate, still serious pop saturation to almost all of the LP’s 30 minutes. There are immediate, peak-pop-rock hooks, which made me wonder if this is what REM sounded like to people that got really into REM at some point.

Either way, Radioactivity is a weighty, broad record which never leaves a well-defined neighborhood, and doesn’t need to. Dodging even a hint of the unholy trinity of sass, irony and needless repetition, which has felled decades worth of bands taking a similar road. Along with a patient, carefully-crafted approach, it leaves plenty of energy to focus on the songs themselves. Which, without any obvious exceptions–save for maybe the oddball closer “Trusted You”–fucking rip.


“When I’m Gone”
from: Radioactivity, Dirtnap Records

 

– S. ANDERSON