Art Brut – Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

Cape Flattery

New Art Brut! The first one since 2011’s “Brilliant! Tragic!,” and “Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!” feels like the product of a band that has been reinvigorated. Extreme energy on this album from the very first track, “Hooray!,” which sounds like Los Campesinos filtered through the Art Brut aesthetic (I’d never before considered the relationship between the two bands, but both Eddie Argos and Gareth David have a similar lyrical sensibility). The whole album has that background vibe of enjoyable collaborative creation: like everyone involved in the record reveled in the act of making music together. And there are some stone-cold classics on this album that could sit next to other Art Brut all-timers: “She Kissed Me (And It Felt Like a Hit)” inverts The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” to compare new love to the power of a ‘song of the summer’ pop song, with Argos closing out the track with a group chant of “Number one/all summer long!”. “Veronica Falls” is a beautiful, slightly gentler Art Brut song, about not cheating on one’s girlfriend, that sounds like a late 90s Britpop tune (something about the guitars make me think of a “Bends”-era Radiohead B-side). And the title track is one of Art Brut’s best in a long time, a distillation of their whole vision set to incandescent guitars: “There’s a fire in my soul/I can’t put it out” Argos declares after the group sings “Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s rock out!” Staying out late, partying, meeting new people, an earnest belief in the power of music: these are the things that matter for them. It’s a fun album.

[BUY Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!]

Black Belt Eagle Scout – Just Lie Down

Forest near Cape Flattery, Washington

Black Belt Eagle Scout played in Tacoma, Washington, over the weekend, at an all-ages venue called Real Art Tacoma. Right before Black Belt Eagle Scout went on, a local band (of high schoolers, maybe?) called Cat Puke played and they were legitimately very good; we heard maybe 3 or 4 songs of theirs, all of which were sort of melodic post-punk, catchy/great vibes. Since it was an all-ages venue, the crowd was pretty age diverse, which was great to see and reminded me of how much I used to love going to see shows at the First Unitarian Church in Philly (also an all-ages venue). The audience was feeling Cat Puke, but they were all very psyched to see Black Belt Eagle Scout (scores of teenagers crowded close to the stage when the band started to set up).

The band is Katherine Paul, but for the tour she was playing with a bass player (Gillian Frances) and a drummer (whose name I didn’t catch), both of whom were great, and they played most of the songs from “Mother of My Children” plus one other. It was all incredible. Paul is an insane guitarist and she stretched out the guitar parts of a few songs, like “Soft Stud,” “Indians Never Die,” and especially on “Sam, A Dream,” which was totally wild and kinetic. The recorded versions of the songs on “Mother of My Children” are already thrilling, but it was so invigorating and inspiring to see the band play these with such energy and invention. Go see them on tour if you get the chance.

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Turing Machine – Robotronic

Robot barber artificial intelligence

“Robotronic” is a humongous song, threatening, wild, and furious, but it starts off mostly quiet. The song comes together from disparate pieces, with a long intro that features a two-note guitar pulse, an intermittent second-guitar ping, and Jerry Fuchs’s seemingly random outbursts on the drums. I love songs like this, songs that seem like they’re building themselves from small, discrete components. Two minutes in, a distorted guitar line announces a change of form and Fuchs starts pounding out a more regular rhythm. And in the next minute, another transformation: topology as sound. Turing Machine, and especially on their first album, “A New Machine for Living,” are probably the only band I’ve heard who actually sound like math rock, like the band sat down and wrote their songs less from meandering jams or notation but from legitimate calculus. A lot of that has to do with Fuchs’s drumming, which is inventive and hyperkinetic (the kind of drumming that makes you want to air-drum no matter where you are, the kind of drumming that makes you think you could run forever or tear a phone book in half, etc.). There’s really nothing else like this album out there—18 years old and it still sounds fresh.

[BUY A New Machine for Living]