I should’ve heard about New Orleans’ noise-pop duo Caddywhompus before I did. On their debut EP, Caddywhompus – which consists of guitarist Chris Rehm and Drummer Sean Hart – show themselves to be more talented and have more interesting ideas than not-bad-at-all bands like Titus Andronicus and Vivian Girls that are part of the current noise-pop revival. Instead of merely aping the JAMC and throwing walls of distortion over Phil Spector-style pop songs, Rehm and Hart compose manic, schizophrenic melody mash-ups; if Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping was a tribute to Kevin Shields instead of Prince, it might sound something like Caddywhompus.
Of course, the closest relative in sound to Caddywhompus is L.A.’s No Age. Like that band, Caddywhompus also show an affinity for thin, multitracked vocals and tripped out guitar pedals. Rehm and Hart seem to take No Age’s minimal-members, maximum rockage template and use it as a launching pad for their own distinct vision. All the song’s on the Caddywhompus EP – “This Is Where We Blaze The Nugz” and “Fun Times At Whiskey Bay” in particular – are made up of various fractured hook-filled segments that the band welds into a perfect pop entity.
For example, in “This Is Where We Blaze The Nugz”, the song starts off with swirling guitar-ambience before the duo launch into a driving rock rhythm that breaks down into a raunchy guitar melody. It then changes gears and goes into an “Eruption” style noodle before cutting out to make way for a series of “oh oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh”s (not unlike the “ba ba ba ba um ba”s at the end of Of Montreal’s “Nonpareil of Flavour”) to take over. Finally it arrives at a kind of chorus which leads the song out. Despite the complexity of the songs, the track holds together perfectly and is consistently melodic. Done wrong (as some would argue the formula was on Skeletal Lamping) these songs would be a mess. Done right, as it is on the EP, it’s a wonder to behold.
Not only do the songs have a harder rock edge at times, but like most great noise-pop and shoegazer, there’s also a lush romance to Caddywhompus’ sound and their lyrics. At the end of “Fun Times At Whiskey Bar”, for example, Rehm (assuming he does the vocals, it could be Hart) sings, “and I feel safe with you/ and you with me.”
The last two songs, “Absinthesizer” and “Untitled #7408”, are less fractured (and impressive) than the tracks that preceded them but still crackle with energy and inspired melodies. Though the EP closes less enthusiastically than it opens, this is a minor detail and hardly takes away from the band’s accomplishment. Forward thinking and weird, while at the same time completely accessible, Caddywhompus have too much going for them to remain unappreciated for long.
You can download the EP free off the band’s website.
If there’s one band that most exemplifies Oscar Wilde’s claim that, “Talent borrows – genius steals,” it’s this week’s band of the week…
THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN!!!
Basically, the Scottish-born Reid brothers wondered what would happen if The Velvet Underground (with John Cale still a member) rewrote Phil Spector songs on a bad hair day, and thus ironically “pioneered” one of the most copied sounds in the history of rock. Over twenty years have passed since the JAMC’s debut album came out and their signature sound still sounds as drop-dead cool as ever. To this day, bands like Crystal Stilts, The Raveonettes and Vivian Girls are making kick ass music copying these copycats.
In 1985, the Reid brothers unleashed Psychocandy upon the world and, despite – nay – because of their lifeless performance, drugged out neo-Warholian image and ear shattering distortion, became bonafide rock stars. The soundscape of rock was radically changed, leading the way for pedal-loving bands like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins to waltz right in and further determine the course indie rock would take for the next decade-plus.
The band followed Psychocandy with the only slightly less noisy Darklands, which, though not as groundbreaking as Psychocandy, still contained a wealth of great songs, particularly “April Skies”. The band’s next album, Automatic, basically continued in the vein of Darklands. Both featured a strong use of shitty 80’s drum machines.
Three more albums followed, none of which satisfied fans waiting for an album to equal Psychocandy, and the JAMC called it quits in 1999. Supposedly 14 years of drugs, sex and distortion were enough for the Reid brothers, though they’ve recently reunited and played some festival dates.
Even if the brothers never make another album, two dudes turning up the distortion and playing pretty little pop songs have had more of an influence on late 20th-early 21st century rock than countless others with more talent and imagination. Now that’s a bloody fucking immaculate conception.
To purchase Psychocandy off Amazon.ca click here.
The Memories Attack
The Memories Attack 2
It wouldn’t be hard to at first mistake Halifax/Fredericton duo The Memories Attack as just another band hopping on the “so hot right now” noise-pop wagon; lately the damn thing’s getting overcrowded, carting around the likes of No Age, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and everyone else who owns a distortion pedal and a four-track. Actually, the two members of The Memories Attack happen to be Chris Thompson (of Eric’s Trip) and Ron Bates of (Orange Glass) – they’ve been making old school, lo-fi noise-pop since the mid-90’s. That’s right: these guys got more cred than any of those new JAMC-wannabe’s.
On The Memories Attack 2, Thompson and Bates continues to make music the way they always have: quick, catchy, noisy. The band keeps the number of chords in each song minimal (one or two is fine, three’s ok) and alternate between melodic – though at times somewhat ominous – indie-pop and harder, grungy aggression. The near power-pop of “Peaks & Valleys” falls into the former; the Sabbath sludge of “Beautiful Sound” and “The Raft” fall into the later. Meanwhile, “Go!!” and “The Pattern” are pure dark-sunglasses Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth hipness.
Thompson and Bates haven’t done much to translate the formula they’ve been working with for over a decade into one fit for 2009. There’s some woozy synthesizer use on “Go!!” and “The Bark” (which also has some interesting electronic percussion during an ambient prelude) but that’s about it.
Because noise-pop is making a big-comeback (or has it already made its comeback and is it now on its way out?) nothing on The Memories Attack 2 sounds dated. Like much of what Thompson and Bates have done, it’s modest in ambition and enjoyable while it lasts, without making too much of a lasting impression. There’s little chance the memory of this album will be one that nags anyone too much, but while it’s playing, it’s a welcome assault.
To purchase The Memories Attack 2 visit: http://www.noyesrecords.com/shop.php
For a band that had to combine to “super” and “fantastic” into one word to arrive at their name, The Superfantastics – singer/guitarist Matthew Macdonald and drummer Stephanie d’Entremont* – are incredibly modest. Way too modest for a band that has toured Canada with an indie-rock stalwart like Julie Doiron and opened for Joel Plaskett, both of whom have been nominated for Canada’s prestigious Polaris Prize. Hearing either member of the duo talk about their rise to semi-fame is almost infuriating, as both make it seem like it could not have been simpler.
“So we played a lot of local shows, then we started playing regional shows like Charlottetown, Fredericton, Cape Breton. And then from there I guess we recorded a demo EP. And then from there we started work on a full-length album. And so right around the time our full-length album came out we just booked our own tour across Eastern Canada… did some dates with Laura Barrett and then we flew out to Calgary and did all of Western Canada opening for Julie Doiron,” says MacDonald with an oh-just-another-day-in-the-life nonchalance.
So how did all the superfantasticness begin?
The band was born when MacDonald met d’Entremont one day while playing Frisbee on the Halifax Commons near Quinpool Road.
“She mentioned that she wanted to learn how to play drums and I said, “Ok Steph, I’ll teach you how to play drums.”
MacDonald began teaching d’Entremont simple beats in a rehearsal space on Cunard Street called The Rocker. MacDonald would then write songs that incorporated the beats he was teaching d’Entremont, providing d’Entremont music to play along with at lessons.
“I figured the best way to teach her to play drums would be if she was playing along to somebody.”
At some point the lessons turned into rehearsals.
“I guess it was like, “Hey, these are pretty cool songs.” It was kind of fun. Also, we just liked the sound and simplicity of it being just the two of us.”
The band’s minimalist dude-on-guitar, chick-on-drums set-up obviously first brings to mind The White Stripes, but unlike the tri-colored garage-blues-punk-pop twosome, The Superfantastics’ sound is influenced by the classic pop of bands like The Hollies and The Zombies, as well as local modern indie bands like Dog Day and Calm Down It’s Monday.
After developing their live skills at Reflections playing “Rockin’ For Dollars” open-mic nights, The Superfantastics started gigging around Halifax, the East Coast, and opening up for local bands all the while recording their debut album, Pop-Up Book. The band released the album in March 2007, around the time they went on their first tour which Wintersleep member and d’Entremont’s then-roommate Tim D’eon, helped them book.
“It was cool because it was our first time really sort of getting out of the Maritimes and playing in places like Quebec and Ontario. Some of those were really good. We had a couple good shows in like Toronto and some of the shows were maybe not-so-great but it was a lot of fun. It was a great experience.”
One of the stops the band has played on tour is an inn that MacDonald and d’Entremont are pretty sure is haunted.
“There’s this beautiful little village – town I guess – that has this inn called “The Black Sheep Inn” and it’s really old. The main level is like a restaurant, venue kind of bar – maybe not a restaurant anymore. Anyway, we played there a couple times and then they just let you sleep in one of the rooms upstarts. At the end of the night they’re like, “Ok, you can have a bedroom up here, [on] any of these three floors,” and they’re showing [us] all these hallways and it looks like (Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film) The Shining.
‘Joel Plaskett was there and he said, (deep voice) “Yeah, I stayed here once; it’s really creepy. There’s supposedly a ghost that plays mandolin at night.” And there was this woman who works there and I was like, “can you tell me – are there any ghosts here,” and she was like, “oh yeah, the ghosts kind of leave pennies around.” So we hear all these weird ghost stories but pretty much we didn’t really see anything.
‘On the second show we played there we had to leave. I woke up at like three in the morning and Matt and I were both really awake and we were both so scared because we were alone in this big [place] and also you hear sounds – probably just the building – but it’s kind of creepy so we were like, “let’s go.”” says d’Entremont.
Last year the band put out the Choose Your Destination EP and did a cross-Canada tour playing dates with Laura Barrett with Julie Doiron.
“Touring with Julie was aaaaaawesome. It was so much fun. If we went out West on our own we would have been playing empty bars but because we were opening for them we were playing to like packed houses every night,” says d’Entremont.
D’Entremont, who is also a videographer for the CBC, regularly posted entries from a video diary of the tour on YouTube, for which the band won The Coast’s “Best Local Appearance On YouTube 2008” award. p>
D’Entremont also plays a part in creating most of the band’s music videos, for which the band has received significant acclaim. Their video for “Tonight Tonight” (directed by Mike Holmes) even managed to nab The Coast’s “Best Local Music Video 2007” award.
“We worked with Mike Holmes, who did the album art for our album Pop-Up Book and our Choose Your Destination EP, did all these animations films for it and it was just stop-motion on top. It was based on this segment from Sesame Street from the 1980’s called “Teeny Little Super Guy” and that was really cool because [Stephanie] edited it all,” says MacDonald.
Next up on The Superfantastics’ agenda is playing the East Coast Music Awards on February 27th, rocking the King’s ward room on March 2nd, opening up for The Weakerthans and The Constantines on March 20th at The Palace, and working on a full-length follow-up to Pop-Up Book.
“With Pop-Up Book, our first album, and our EP last year, Choose Your Destination, it was just sort of like a rushed process where we just did all the recording over like a week, but this time I’m excited because we’re kind of giving things a little more time. A little more time to mull things over,” says MacDonald.
“It’s probably gonna be a lot, maybe more of a rock album? A couple of the songs are maybe heavier than stuff we’ve done before. I’ve started using a baritone guitar so it’s given kind of a lower feel to the songs.”
Like most of what this band does, it will very likely be superfantastic.
(Check out www.halifaxrock.blogspot.com for exclusively Halifax-focused entries)