By Tom Reardon, September 2019 Issue.
One of the great things about reviewing music is getting the records sent to you, especially when they are as killer as some of this month’s collection. I don’t know about how many of you spent your summer, but this one has seemed particularly long and hot and frustrating, so having the opportunity to dive into some summer jams from the following bands was both welcome and necessary.
Cherubs — Immaculada High
Austin, Texas is home to many odd and wonderful bands. Among them is Cherubs, who after a fairly lengthy hiatus between records one and two and then three and four, have blessed fans of noisy, fuzzy psych punk with a killer new entry to their excellent discography. From opening song “Turista” to the eleventh and final track, “Nobodies” there is no let up on Immaculada High (Relapse).
Singer/guitarist Kevin Whitley has one of those voices, higher than you would expect for such a heavy band, that gets under your skin and roots around for your panic buttons. Cherubs want you to have fun with Immaculada High, but they don’t want you to get too comfortable. This ain’t no yacht rock, friends. This is the soundtrack to tubing the Salt River high on a mix of clean amphetamines and LSD wearing a blindfold and a speedo made of duct tape. Bassist Owen McMahon and drummer Brett Prager keep things moving right along as the three-piece band of Texans push the fuzzy drone (but poppy, too, in the weirdest and best way) to exemplary heights. Buy this record now, people, and buy a copy for your friends. You won’t regret it. Note — Cherubs play Tucson on October 2 at Club Congress.
Gauche — A People’s History Of Gauche
For a band that considers themselves an “anti-capitalist, anti-racist, feminist jam band,” Washington, D.C.’s Gauche plays super accessible and very danceable funky math punk. On A People’s History Of Gauche (Merge), there is a lot going on. Featuring members of Priests and Downtown Boys, Gauche reminds me a bit of a much more musically polished X-Ray Spex, as well as making me yearn for a second record by L.A.’s Sex Stains, but unfortunately that band has broken up so luckily we have Gauche (who recently played the Valley Bar in Phoenix). Opening song, “Flash,” is brilliant. There are bits of B-52s in Gauche’s approach as well, especially on “Flash” with some surf-y guitar and head-bobbing bass lines that perfectly supplement the group vocal attack. The band has curated a pretty awesome collection of songs here that consistently deliver thoughtful lyrics such as “I’m running out of options here and I’m tired of being empty-handed” from “Running,” which tackles the idea of modern existentialism while maintaining a groove Jah Wobble would be proud of. If you like skronk-y guitar and saxophone, layered vocals, and attitude, Gauche’s A People’s History Of Gauche is the record of the summer.
Shannon Lay — August
What is it about records that feature a lot of acoustic guitar that makes them seem introspective? Shannon Lay’s August (SubPop) is definitely a departure from her work with Feels, which is stellar, but Lay’s new record is the perfect soundtrack for an overcast day (not that we get many in Phoenix) or a lonely teenage boy or girl looking for something sweet and smart to ease a troubled soul. Imagine if early Simon & Garfunkel had just been one gal with some beautiful red hair and a really lovely voice and you have August. “Seen it all before but play it again. Maybe there will be something new,” sings Lay wistfully on “Shuffling Stoned,” which is just her and her acoustic guitar. Simple, elegant, beautiful … the fourth track on August sets a perfect tone, balancing hopefulness and melancholy and it all works because of Lay’s talented voice and fingers. If you have seen or heard Feels, you know Lay has all the chops, but her work on her solo record really cements Lay as someone to watch in the coming decades. Maybe it is too soon to anoint her as the closest thing to an indie rock Joni Mitchell, but time will tell if this is the beginning of something amazing or just a really strong and wonderful record. “Wild” is a dirge to be reckoned with and highly recommended for your next mixtape or playlist, especially if you want to impress a certain someone with your great musical taste.