The Warmers-s/t

December 17, 2008

360339

The Warmers

s/t (Dischord 1996)

http://www.mediafire.com/?ggm1jeod0km

It may not be the most glamorous album to write about here, but there is something primal and minimal about the Warmers that impels me to revisit it every few months. At first listen, it bears close resemblance to a more ramshackle Fugazi mixed with an even more messy Gang of Four, but there is a lot more going on here than implied by my lazy comparisons. Comprised of Alec Mackaye of Faith/Ignition, Amy Farina of the Evens/Lois and Juan Luis Carrera of the Slowdime label, the Warmers died out way before they should since their s/t debut is such a concise slice of compact riffs, tight drumming and simple, but effective shouts. Yes, these three components have fueled many a punk band, but the Warmers had it down to a science. There isn’t an ounce of fat or a bum note to be found, just the most economical path to getting to the punchline while batting you about the ears in the process. Where Fugazi and even the Gang of Four have worn out there welcome in this biased household, the Warmers’ imperfect masterpieces keep me reaching for this album more often than any other release on Dischord.  It is a damn shame that the band peetered out since there is something hypnotic about their tightly wound usage of repetitive riffs that pointed towards something even greater. Before you look for revelatory moments, remember it is definitely a grower, not a shower.

Sugar Plant

After After Hours (World Domination 1997)

http://www.mediafire.com/?xmh0hxz1znl

Probably the only worthwhile band to record for the otherwise mediocre World Domination label run by Gang of Four bassist Dave Allen. The label suffered the same fate as many other 90s indie rock labels as it put out such forgettable schlock as Low Pop Suicide, Loop Guru, Sky Cries Mary and Perfume Tree. The label is now defunct, so its releases can only be found via ebay or a local used bin. However, Sugar Plant, a Japanese duo of Shinichi Ogawa and Chinatsi Shoyama, didn’t deserve this obscure fate.

If psychedelia could be my nightly lullaby, I would choose After After Hours to be in daily rotation as it may be one of the most soothing albums in my collection. It’s not soothing in the way I usually desire–a long, undulating drone that beats my consciousness into submission, but a gently jangling tune with two honeyed voices singing me off to la-la land. There is nothing here that hasn’t been explored on the Velvet Underground’s third album, Galaxie 500’s On Fire or countless cutesy-poo indie-pop ballads, but Sugar Plant’s take on the genre is slow, sensual and high as a kite. There is even a song which revolves around the idea that a pale. blue light is their friend as they seem to come down from whatever high they’ve pursued. Shoyama’s guitar work is highly underrated in the 90s indie-rock canon and I wonder why more folks never gave them the time of day. They are still around and reforming for a new album and tour this year, so let’s address their tragic anonymity and make them feel a bit more welcome this time around.

Stretchheads

Pish in Your Sleazebag (Blast First 1991)

http://www.divshare.com/download/4720684-9da

I posted their album Five Fingers, Four Thingers, etc. this week, but this release is entirely a horse of a different color. Yes, they still possess the ability to blast beat their way through chaotic punk songs, but the band have embraced a more chaotic path, but one where oddball samples, electronic fuckery, relatively quiet passages and industrial meanderings/tape loops ala Severed Heads enter the fray. Now, this isn’t to say that they have transformed into a bleak, noisy offshoot of Throbbing Gristle or the Kronos Quartet, but they have expanded their musical worldview.

This album makes you wonder why I ever associated them with The Ex and Dog Faced Hermans because Pish in Your Sleazebag alternates between testosterone-fueled anthems that wouldn’t sound out of place on Amphetamine Reptile, jagged Gang of Four fiascos and oddball smooth jazz interludes that sound like bad Ninja Tune outtakes. Overall, it rages non-stop and their vocalist jabbers like madman throughout, but the experimental touches point towards a more interesting future cut short by their dissolution.