Phoenix musicians never rest. This is true. Maybe it’s the heat and maybe it’s the great weather in the winter time, but regardless of what it is, we are coming into what may very well be the greatest era of Phoenix recordings. There is seriously so much great music going on right now in town that it would be a shame if this is the only column like this (hint, hint) for the foreseeable future. Here are some recent releases you should know about.
Dirty Water Records USA just put out a new 7-inch by The Darts called Subsonic Dream featuring the A-side of the same name and the B-side known only as “Bullet.” As with anything the band has put out so far, this is a must for any garage/fuzz/psychedelic fan. “Subsonic Dream” is the stronger of two really good tracks here and has some nice tinges of late ’70’s-early ’80s Damned happening.
Singer/guitarist Michelle Balderrama coos, growls, screams, and shows a strong presence while seducing the listener with her gritty vocals. Drummer Rikki Styxx’s killer snare work is really (and nicely) prominent in the mix, and Nicole Laurenne’s totally psychedelic Farfisa organ adds mega flavor. If anything could be improved, in our humble opinion, it was a bit more separation for Christina Nunez’ groovy basslines. The album is available at dirtywaterrecordsusa.com.
It’s Fun to Be a Nothing
Mr. Prolific, drummer Ward Reeder, has recently put out three records with three different bands.
First of all, let’s just put it right out there that Shovel, Phoenix’s premiere fuzzy two-piece powerhouse band, fucking rocks in the live setting. There was considerable hope, at least from this reviewer, that the commanding presence of Dusty Rose (guitar/vocals) and Reeder (one of the three or four best drummers in town) would translate to a recording and … it certainly goddamn does. To be clear, It’s Fun to Be a Nothing (Dirty Water USA Records) is worthy of your music collection, and if you call yourself a fan of local music, and do not have this record already, you are slacking big time. The songs are grungy, garage-y, and played with gusto. If this were the ’90s, Shovel would have fit right in with Amphetamine Reptile (AmRep) Records’ stable of bands (which included Hammerhead, Guzzard, Freedom Fighters, et al). The inevitable L7 comparison is lurking there, but never in a way that anyone not named Donita Sparks would complain about, and even then, Sparks could only lament that this record is better than anything she ever did. It’s Fun to Be a Nothing is available at dirtywaterrecordsusa.com.
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16 Eyes features Reeder on drums as well, and is pure garage rock. Joining Reeder in 16 Eyes is bassist Orin Portnoy and guitarists Frank Labor and Steve Ostrov. Look is the band’s first full-length and is on Area Pirata Records out of Pisa, Italy. Everybody shares in the vocals, which works for the most part, although not everyone seems to be comfortable or confident behind the mic. Look could easily have come out of the ’60s garage rock scene with strong nods toward The Who (especially as Reeder channels Keith Moon on this one repeatedly, and that’s a good thing) and the Kinks. Killer stuff. The album is available at areapirata.com.
Reeder’s other working project, Godspeedball, is pretty new, and like Shovel, could easily fit in with AmRep Records. Guitarist-vocalist Todd Renfrow creates a great vibe with his shout/singing vocal style, and bassist Jesse Strysko locks in nicely with Reeder’s typically pummeling drums. The songs on their self-titled first album are heavy, noisy, and punk rock in all the best ways. Think Flipper all sped up, Unsane slowed down a little, a heavy nod to the Midwestern noise scene, and enough salt to make your eyes water. Check out Godspeedball on bandcamp and at a local venue near you, as they are playing out regularly these days.