Bear Claw – No Band Can Be this Good

Rich Fessler of Bear Claw hurting his bass as much as it hurts him.

During the chilliest years of the Cold War a secret project was undertaken here in the United States of A. to develop the most obviously superior rock music ever conceived for export to countries whose youths were sustained with with inferior rock knockoffs and black market Finnish socks.  It was hoped that this would so demoralize the youth on the other side of the iron curtain that they would abandon their national heritage in droves for the chance to star as extras in an interminable series of sequels to Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  The project was disbanded suddenly with little explanation, but not before the only two products of this secret cultural war were incubated and brought to term in giant tanks covered in tubes and amplifier cords.  One of those is a man named Logan, better known as the Wolverine.  His vicious spiky hands and hot temper, it is rumored, were the prime mitigating factor in the continuation of the project.  However, if the top brass had taken the time to plug him into a Marshall Stack they would have nocturnal emissions listening to that sustain.  I mean, adamantium just rings out forever.  Then maybe the other legacy of that project, Bear Claw, would be a household name today.  Bear Claw combined the best of both worlds- vicious, crystalline, clear and precise aggression tempered with compositional complexity and tightly controlled tone- and no spikes coming out of the hands.

Bear Claw has a new record.

Released on Tuesday and available as a CD/LP combo or digital download, Chicago’s Bear Claw released their Steve Albini-recorded, Bob Westen-Mastered Refuse this Gift via Sick Room Records.  Have a listen.

Chicago Grammar – Mayor for Life On the Use of the Perpetually Authoritative Case

Angel Eyes/Mayor for Life/Czar at Quenchers 8/21/10

Though, much to my detriment, I did not arrive in time to see Chicago’s Angel Eyes pull the scab off this amazing bill to get the vital essences exposed to air, I did take a face-full of rock from tone-freak virtuosos Mayor for Life, following that with a sail on the seas of metal when Czar took the stage.

I saw bassist Rich Fessler’s other band, the genius, mind-bendingly aggressive Bear Claw, last Saturday, August 14th at the Empty Bottle ahead of the Del Rey, and they absolutely stole that show from the Del Rey’s comeback kids.  Mayor for Life brings the straighforward rock element to Rich’s dark, meticulously husbanded bass arrangements by way of guitarist Todd Rabideau’s punctual strumming and the ambient shimmer he bends from the wires strung across his custom Aluminum-neck guitar.

Saturday’s Mayor for Life show found me standing in the midst of a fully-formed scene untrammeled by the vigorous vanity and commercialism of the over-exposed and twitter-inflated mediocrity maquiladora of a place like New York.  I was in a room full of people who just knew what rock is and weren’t concerned with much else.

Mayor for life exercises the full priveleges of their office- Not since the first time I saw Deerhunter play live over two years ago and I was stunned to a happily stupored drool by the start of the guitar solo on “Nothing Ever Happened” have I had as many smiling “What?  What did they just do?” moments when watching a band perform. 

Here’s to hoping Mayor for Life continue to occupy their office without surcease and the tubes in their amps remain always warm.

Summer Living/Summer Listening

I’ve been marinating in my own musky grown-up smells with the ample help of 90 degree 100% humidity weather all summer as I work on reacquiring my foreign language skills.  My bar slouch is turning into a desk slouch.

That’s where I’ve been.

I have managed to listen to just a very few things since I’ve been out here, but they have been very, very good things, and they’ve mitigated the occasional (and trivial) stresses brought on by the very good problem I have had of having to study a lot this summer.

Wild Nothing – Gemini

The strong wash of good feelings and reverb on this record makes me happy to be alone when I am alone.
Wild Nothing – Gemini

LCD Soundsystem: This is Happening



This record about getting older, disillusionment, and knowing what you want warms my fuckin’ heart.  It’s just as though Brian Eno traveled through time from the ’70s to release a dance album about how much I personally came to loathe New York and the culture you get sucked into while you’re in it.

Kurt Vile

I only recently discovered Kurt Vile for myself thanks to a comrade at whatwearelisteningto and was lucky enough that Philadelphia’s constant hitmaker passed through Bloomington this summer.  His music has the looping atmospherics of a Deerhunter or Crooked Fingers and the wry personal lyrical touch of a Paul Westerberg wrapped up in a psychedelic sandwich.

One of the lucky strokes of coming late to the party a musician like this is throwing is that he has an extensive back catalog to comb through and get familiar with, which I have been doing at my leisure.  He is also in Philly’s The War On Drugs, but his solo material with the Violators is far, far superior.  Here’s his record Childish Prodigy for the streaming.

Matthew Dear: Black City


Matthew Dear has a vocal fetish.  Where James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem applied himself to perfecting Brian Eno’s weird choruses, Dear has taken the idea of layered vocals with weird chords outside the bounds of simple harmony, and he’s put deep effects on all his vox.  Voila.  Signature sound.  This is a very visual record whose sounds almost come across as monochromatic, all bright whites and shadowy blacks with the occasional wash of orange.  Am I even making any sense?  Have a listen and let me know.  Dear’s music has departed from its now barely recognizable minimal house roots, focusing more on strange atmospheres and laborious exploitation of tone, reverb, and the stereo field.