Album Review: HANNAHBAND – Quitting Will Improve Your Health

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If you’re going to come out of Retirement, it better be for a damn good reason. But hey, I reckon giving your album a title like Quitting Will Improve Your Health will suffice. After reading that title, I rolled around for a decent twenty seconds before my smoker’s cough came through and sent me into a fit of weezing. Is that ironic? Ah, who gives a shit, let’s get onto this album!

There’s a significant step up in the recording quality of Quitting… as compared to HANNAHBAND’s previous albums. Each song sounds a bit more rounded, and the tape hiss that swarmed around their previous releases is less apparent, maybe even completely absent. At first, it’s kind of weird – that radioactive glow gelled so well with their songs! But then, you get warmed up to the high-fi step up, as the songs on Quitting… push through with extra force and spit than ever before.

Opener “Burn It Down” is a perfect example; the vocal push and shove between Nathan Martin’s guttural diatribe against Marnie Vaughn’s soaring chants of “Burn It Down” makes for anthemic listening. Second that motion with the likes of “Bath Arms”, “Grave Semantics” and “29er”- short, sharp and direct tracks that draw equally from Shellac as they do Break Even. The songs wrestle on a bed of throat-burning screams, arse-clenching guitar, and stomping drums that threaten to split open your skull. Each snare is one step closer to a permanent migraine, which is really the only way a drum kit should be played.

Although HANNAHBAND have evolved from their smaller mom + pop operations of before, and transformed into something even more brutal and thrilling, it doesn’t mean they’ve completely left their emotionally raw roots behind. Simply put, they’ve brought those intimate moments to the forefront and then shredded them to pieces through the most exhilarating and howling music that they’ve prepared yet. It makes Quitting… a tight and succinct record, with plenty of punch and drive to see you through multiple listens within the same sitting.

Quitting Will Improve Your Health is out now via Blackwire Records and their own Bandcamp (name your price download) Also, if you haven’t seen ’em live yet, do it. Actually, it’s kinda hard to believe that anyone in Sydney still hasn’t seem HANNAHBAND play before, because they’re essentially the Blackwire Records house band. Anyway, if you’re on of these miracle people that hasn’t had their mind blown yet, HANNAHBAND will be launching Quitting… on the 4th of June. Support comes from Nervous Habit, Canine and Snape, AND the whole evening doubles as a sixth birthday party for the world’s greatest venue!

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A Comprehensive List of Everything I’ve Forgotten To Write About in the Last Three Months. Pt. 1 Punk/Post-Punk/Experimental

 

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After a three month mild mental breakdown, during which I decided that writing about music was the devil’s work, I’ve come back to furiously type hyperbolic phrases that make no sense. Lucky you. Anyway, there’s been a heap of music that I missed while I was busy having a sook:

Punk/Post-Punk/Experimental

Tyrannamen – Self-Titled

Seriously, watching this band was the reason I decided I wanted to write about bands again. Seeing them play, going home, buying and then smashing the record to within an inch of its vinyl life, I felt compelled to tell other people.  It’s hard to listen to this album and not want to reach out to whoever’s nearest, sit them down, and regale them with this unflinching rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece. If there’s one band you should listen to from this list, make it these guys.

 

Twinrova – Elitist

A brooding goth sneer from Sydney, makes you want to sit in the rain and spit on people as they hurry by, knowing that they’ll never notice because of drizzle

Dry Finish – String Me Along

Dry Finish sat at the top of the pile as far as new punk bands in Sydney. Listening to them is a lot like how I imagine what it would be like to be strapped down to a surgical table in the basement of a scientist who scored his medical degree through the deep web and repeated viewings of A Clockwork Orange. Suck shit if you missed them before their guitarist moved overseas, these guys were the best.

California Girls – Desire

Melancholy drum-machine and drone combo from Canberra. If you’re in a wrist-slitting mood, chuck this on.

Sex Tourists – Birthday Party

The highlight from their three song debut EP, and possibly one of the saddest tracks I’ve ever listened to. That opening line never fails to reduce me to a sobbing pile of shit. These guys would probably be Roland S. Howard’s favourite band if he was still kicking.

Black Cab – Uniforms

Ambitious, thrusting electronica with a post-punk sheen, the latest from Black Cab propels itself on a stirring rhythm that almost makes you feel something close to hope. Turn off the alarm, turn off the phone, close the blinds, and sink into thiiiiiiiis.

Spike Fuck – GUTS

I feel the same way about this song as I did when I heard “Shivers”, “Wide Open Road” and “Dream Baby Dream” for the first time. It’s a quiet epic that plunges into the heart cavity and claws your insides into the kind of mess the cops find at a crime scene and sends the first responder into the trauma ward.

Wives – Devoted to You

Brutally underrated Canberra band with a post-punk record that stabs and stabs and stabs and stabs and stabs and stabs. The chanting vocals, the whirring jabs of guitar, the toe-curling melodies, it’s the whole fuckin’ package.

Publique – Wax/Suffer

Total Control and A Place to Bury Strangers clash on a surging tidal wave of feedback and blood-curdling screams.

School Damage – Lift Off

In an alternate, much cooler reality, this is the theme song to The X-Files.

Nite Fields – Voyeur

Paranoid and tense newness from one of Brisbane’s best. Three and a half minutes of subterranean, pitch black post-punk, occasionally slashed with fiery shouts and sharp guitar.

Miles Brown – Seance Fiction

I was halfway through a mammoth album review of this record when I lost my mind and decided that writing was a huge waste of time, and the review never came out. I should’ve finished it though, so maybe others could have maybe found out about it if they accidentally clicked on this site. Seance Fiction is incredibly complex, and infinitely worth jumping into. It’s dark, dense and murky; once you dive in, you can’t leave.

Muscle Memory – Altar Boy / Underground

This thing burns, like wrapping your hand around the wrong end of a soldering iron.

HANNAHBAND –  29ER

Great earnest emo with a punk slant that reminds me of what it was like to be 15 and think everything in the world was running against you. Sweats like a teenager who’s stuck on a family holiday and hasn’t had a cigarette in four days.

Ace Romeo – Hyperdrive

Should’ve done this ages ago, but this album rules, yeah? It’s pretty much a lost John Carpenter soundtrack, back when he was making badass movies with Kurt Russell.

Clever – Your Eyesore’s Sweet

Punk rock done in the style of a George A. Romero movie. It’s a chainsaw shoved down your throat sort of thing.

Bad Lifers – Shelf Life

Like the Tyrannamen album, this was recorded ages ago, and has only been released recently, if you count November of last year as recent. Anyway, this album is to scuzzy punk what I am to laziness.

Whitney Houston’s Crypt – Hatofold Boyfriend

Fuck me.

 

Punk Album Reviews: HANNAHBAND + Bare Grillz + Schotel van de Dag + Mock Duck + X Is Y

Anyone who’s visited this site knows that punk rock holds a very dear, very special place in my heart. I’m pretty sure I listen to Black Flag at least once a day. It’s a really great way to wind down, honestly! Anyway, although the following bands aren’t going to be the next Black Flag, at least they’re all better than Green Day, post-Dookie era.

 

HANNAHBAND-Honey, I’m A Bad Singer

Honestly, I feel really bad that I haven’t put this review up earlier. This album is one of the best punk rock items to be bred into the consciousness of Sydney existence since I found out that Jonathan Boulet had a pretty great decent hardcore band (they’re called Snakeface, if you gave a shit). Anyway, this is the more brutal, slimy project that was formed in the remnants of the amazing Sweet Teeth. Although there’s nothing as intensely memorable as ‘I LIKE GIRLS, GIRLS WITH DADDY ISSUES’ on the debut HANNAHBAND record, the album does provide a more serious, focused project that works on an infinitely more measured and constantly enjoyable level than Sweet Teeth releases. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Sweet Teeth, but its easier to tell that Nathan and Marnie are putting a lot more concentration and effort into this release, and it pays off in spades.

Whether or not that’s an actual phrase or not, ‘Honey, I’m A Bad Singer’ never loses its self-deprecating edge or snarling tone for even a second. With the explosive songs and growling hurt, it rings like Australian/Chinese punks Pairs if they were recorded by Steve Albini. The hoarse screams recall a time when emo wasn’t a frowned upon genre, and if Dischord was in its glory days, there is no doubt in my mind that HANNAHBAND would be at the top of the roster. Its too hard to pick a single standout song, but gun to my head, the slow-burning ‘Seven Day Quarrel Cycle’, which grinds like the best Fucked Up song never written, would be the frontrunner. ‘Long Distance Running’, which barrels forward like a strung-out Squirrel Bait crawling out of a toilet bowl and beginning a hunt of vengeance on the wankers that killed punk rock, is also an absolute shiner on an album of shiners. Overall, a fucking brilliant work of art, from start to fucking finish. I fucking ADORE this album.

 

Bare Grillz-Friends

Thank the Dethklok gods that Bare Grillz are back in action. I always thought that they had broken up, until I was pleasantly surprised by their furious display of screaming punk fury at Sound Summit. Now, after that hell of a performance, Bare Grillz rejected the status quo again by going and releasing this stellar record entitled ‘Friends’. More nihilistic than a Nietzsche convention, and more engaging than a personal performance from Nation of Ulysses. Why does Bare Grillz sound so good? Well, they sound like no one else, I actually find it hard to give a comparison. I’d liked to say that they’re a little Fugazi, but there’s not enough strong-willed anger and determination to change society. Same goes with a comparison to At the Drive-In. Instead, Bare Grillz are so purely Newcastle, with a sound that is so completely their own, and it could only have risen from being in such an isolated, close-knit environment. Whatever makes Bare Grillz tick, it allows them to spin between a million different ideas and musical styles, one minute floating on a tropical cloud, the next bashing our brains into oblivion, and a second later there’s only far away, lost vocals, math rock drums and a trembling bass. The amount of things Bare Grillz can balance on their plate, especially considering their status as a mild punk three-piece, they’re more like a Hydra of assorted punk tunes than any sort of traditional band. And that is a very, very good thing. Thank fuck Bare Grillz are back.

FUN FACT: Bare Grillz once did a split EP with Sweet Teeth, the aforementioned band that disbanded and led to the creation of HANNAHBAND. Shooting star, the more you know.

 

Schotel van de Dag-Vinger in de Pap

The press release for the Dutch band Schotel van de Dag was described as being Fugazi on crack, however listening to them, I was pleasantly surprised, or more aptly, fucking stoked, to hear an amalgamation of a bunch of my favourite hard punk anarchist punk bands. If Refused got together with the guys from Anti-Flag, and they were then locked in a room that played Pantera non-stop, then you’d have Schotel van de Dag. This band puts the brutal back in punk music, and they aren’t doing it half-heartedly. They throw themselves into every song like its a life or death situation, creating a maelstrom of sound that needs to be listened to. The thick, glistening slobs of bass that linger over the purely mental drums-its just a testament to oblivion via punk music.

Although the whole album is hard to find fault with, at least in my humble opinion, the opener of ‘Seventy Songs’ (possibly an allusion to Fugazi’s mind-shattering debut?) is the standout on the album. This is a song that should make Red Fang and Kvelertak quake in their boots, because there’s obviously another hard-working, hard-hitting punk/stoner/metal hybrid band that are all to ready to light the dynamite that will explode your expectations all over your living room. Reckless and endangered, Schotel van de Dag are the rare kind of band that makes you want to do something with your life, or at the very least, trade your testicles for tickets to their next show.

 

Mock Duck-Inner Infinities EP

And, now we’re over to Tokyo, Japan. I’ve said it before, the only really great bands I know from Japan are Guitar Wolf, The 5678’s and Boris, although I adore all these bands thoroughly. However, Mock Duck easily joins those ranks. If you’re any sort of fan of Kyuss, then you’d do fucking well to get on the free download offered of the ‘Inner Infitinies’ EP. This thing manages to be punk through the sheer fury of itself, but there’s also that slimy fuzz that coats it and brings it into stoner territory as well.

All six tracks (especially the weirdly-titled but intensely orgasmic ‘For A Few Minutes The World Smelled Like Pears’) on here kick tremendous amounts of ass. I mean that sincerely, in the way that Dozer kicks so much ass. The sludge is sped up like a 33 record was stuck onto 78. It blisters the mind and moults everything in its path. Basically, what I’m trying to say here, is that Mock Duck will blow your mind into a million fucking chunks in the space eighteen minutes. If you like your punk dripping wet in blazing gore and riff with solos, Mock Duck is brilliance incarnate.

 

X Is Y-Summer and Winter Warfare (Re-Issue)

And this one is from Shanghai. Fuck this article has been all over the fucking globe. Although not strictly punk, X Is Y adopt a math-rock attitude on their music, and they do a pretty badass job of it. If I’ve learnt anything from people older and wiser than me, its that punk rock doesn’t have to be brutal to be amazing. I actually had to lose the shit about don’t plagiarise from people and any semblance of social normalcy to make way for that brain nugget.

Anyway, X Is Y is like Tool, if all the bullshit got stripped away. You know, all that shit that Maynard James Keenan always blathers on about, like hookers with penises and prison sex. Without all that in the way, and the heaviness shaved back a bit, what you get is a complex and interesting view into music. I feel like I’m sitting in a classroom, and being taught how to read sheet music, only instead of being bored the fuck to death, the class is being taught by Steve Albini.

In summary, ‘Summer and Winter Warfare’ doesn’t have any spectacular moments, but that’s okay, because neither does any This Town Needs Guns or Polvo albums. Instead, you’ve simply got to let X Is Y spin its music all over your mind, like some sort of Shellac-meets-Underground Lovers spider creating a web. Overall, it’s hard to be disappointed in an album that is shifting so much, but always maintaining a direction of awesomeness.