“Strangelands” / “Poppels Grave” (Dirt)
by Scott Hefflon
Neat! A limited edition 7″ series called Cardboard and Chords came in from Dirt Records and was the most fun-to-open package this month. Like a wide-eyed kid at Christmas, I dug in and squealed “oh” and “ah” at the goodies as they were unwrapped. (Luckily, there were no grandparents taking embarrassing snapshots for the family archives or parents hovering about, faking the orgasm of excitement for you and tallying up the expenses as you tear through your booty like a Tazmanian devil.)
Each 7″ in the series came in honest cardboard with pretty-colored lettering screen-printed on it. The colors coordinated with the clear vinyl on the inside and, lo and behold, there were packs of 100% dirt, more stickers, charmingly sloppy band artwork, and all sorts of cross-promotional stuff that alludes to fact that all these goodies are only about 10% of “what’s going on.” Being a short-cut reviewer (and long-winded too, is there a correlation?), I put on the promo-only cassette, rather than continuously having to get up and flip/change the record. Here’s what I heard:
Big, fuzzy guitars (and more guitars and more guitars) with classic Boston-esque noisy power-pop rhythms. Sometimes up-tempo driving tunes, other times breathy and orchestrated euphoria, ALWAYS with chunks of guitar at every turn. The lyrics are touching and aching and I admit to absolutely melting when Nicola sings “Poppel Grave.” Their latest CD, The Last Unicorn (Half a Cow/Dirt) was recorded in both Boston and Sydney and the diversity shows. They capture the best of noisy guitars, jangly power-pop and sensuous vocals.
Pronounced “spud-ah-fug-ah-huh” for reasons I don’t fully understand. Four teenage girls with cutesy voices, pop sensibility and a guitar rhythm sound so furry it would give you a shock of static electricity if you could touch it. Fave of the three songs is the bouncy, 30 second ditty that’s short and “Sweet.”
A Chicago-based trio that could jam with any Boston pop band any night of the week. Contrast sweet male/female melodies with some background chorus howling. In a decade, nostalgia freaks will buy Guitar Rock from the Noisy ’90s and Motor Home will be on there.
Seeing as how our reviewer “missed” their show at the Middle East with the Flying Nuns and Envelop, I’ll quickly mention the CD, Autoguider (Dirt). They’re a NYC band who derived their name from an aborted Australian space program. Saturnine 60 also means melancholy, which fits with the slow groove and occasionally Morrissey-ish vocals. Mournful acoustic and laid back, noisy guitars are the rule until the last song, “Half-Truths,” which is fun, goofy, and lightens the mood at the last moment.