Noteworthy 2012 releases from the L.A.-based Indie label
By Lance Barresi
o Ho Ho! Happy Holidaze!
As I began compiling my Best of 2012 list this year, I found myself typing three short words in parentheses after album titles far more often than any others — In The Red. This is nothing new as far as my Best Of lists have been concerned. Over the course of the last six years or so, or as long as I’ve been actually taking the time to compile year-end lists like these, I’ve been touting In The Red releases. While I don’t necessarily love every single In The Red release, I can always count on the label to vinylize some of the best records of the year, every single year.
In The Red founder, Larry Hardy, has been at it a long time; since ‘91 to be exact. Some call 1991 “The Year Punk Broke” while others might retrospectively start touting it as “The Year Garage Punk Broke” after considering the labels’ continuing contributions to the genre. I’m not going to dig deep into the label’s storied history here, but the uninitiated will surely find interest in the fact that In The Red has released records by notable artists such as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Sparks, Oblivians, Black Lips, Dirtbombs, Pussy Galore, Boss Hog, King Khan & the BBQ Show, Country Teasers, Cheater Slicks and Jay Reatard in addition to some 200-odd others. And the best part is that within this grouping of “others” I speak of, one might find some of the best underground rock bands this astral plane has to offer.
This year’s crop of ITR-prefixed releases includes LPs by the likes of Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Lamps, Tyvek, UV Race, Timmy’s Organism, Intelligence, Cheap Time, and three (count ‘em three!) Mark Sultan LPs, not to mention singles from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Thee Cormans. All of these records had merit, some were outstanding and got plenty of ink elsewhere, and a few of ‘em will undoubtedly go underappreciated outside of small discerning circles. The new LPs by Lamps, Tyvek, and UV Race were three of my favorites of this Year of the Goat and deserve even more praise than I’m about to dote onto them…
Under The Water Under
Please allow me to quote Brick Tamland from Anchorman and just say: “I Love Lamp(s).” This brutal trio is one of LA’s most neglected musical treasures, both on record and live. Lamps have released three LPs (all on In The Red) and slightly fewer than 10 singles (on various international labels) over the course of their seven-year existence. They’ve changed bassists at least once, covered Drunks With Guns (my heroes!), and absolutely devastated the small crowd every time I’ve seen ‘em live. We adoring Lamps fans waited a long, recessed half-decade for this, their first non-eponymous LP, and we’re stoked to report that the wait was well worth it. Lamps totally fucking destroy on Under The Water Under The Ground. The rhythm section is stupidly simple and insanely effective, Monty Buckles’ vocals are tastefully buried deep in the mix (where they should be), and his guitar screeches and squeals over the top when he’s not chugging along with Jimmy Hole’s hard-driving fuzz bass and Josh Erkman’s caveman pounding. Lamps’ riffs are subtly hooky and musical, but most importantly tough as rebar. Fans of all things gnarly, repetitive, and noisy will not be disappointed by the recording job Mr. Mayyor (Chris Woodhouse) did on this one. Take your time with “Under The Water Under The Ground” and really let it consume you. It’s absolutely One of the best records of 2012.
On Triple Beams-LP
Tyvek hails from the Wild Midwest that is 21st century Detroit and have been around about as long as Lamps, but only recently began working with In The Red. Prior to their terrific 2010 list-topping Nothing Fits LP, Tyvek had worked with legendary labels like Siltbreeze and S-S and have since tentatively released records on larger imprints such as Sub Pop and Third Man. Despite all label associations, Tyvek are truly DIY. They’ve self-funded, assembled, and distributed more tapes and CDRs than I care to recall drunkenly buying at this time and, although the quality of these live and unreleased recording comps has varied, when Tyvek pulls it together for an actual vinyl release, they rarely disappoint with their idiosyncratic brand of DIY post-punk/proto-hardcore. This time around ain’t no differn’t. Actually, its quite differn’t. The tempos on On Triple Beams are a little slower. Kevin Boyer’s vocal delivery is less frantic — no where is this more obvious than on the album opener “Scaling” where he mumbles words quietly, taking the backseat to a driving, repetitive rock groove — but his guitar still rides shotgun. “Early Spring” sounds quite a bit like the Tyvek we’ve come accustomed to, but the drums sound like their being played by a triple-amputee. I guess “Sea Walls” woulda fit in nicely on the debut LP and “Returns” wouldn’t have sounded totally out of place on Nothing Fits, or would it have? It’s hard to say after hearing it in the context of these other nine songs, all playing together so nicely. On Triple Beams also finds Tyvek sounding their most laid-back. I can’t recall a track quite like “Wayne County Roads” from any of their previous records. It’s much more melodic, almost to the point of pub-rockin’ anthemic. Tyvek are usually so frantic; it’s nice to hear ‘em settle down for four minutes and mellow out. “Say Yeah” is a tad more relaxed than Tyvek’s earlier material as well, but one could still pogo to this stuff. As a matter of fact, I’ve found it difficult to keep up with Tyvek’s pace at all their past shows (I am getting older, ya know), but I think I’ll be able to keep up on this tour. I could also sing along a bit (if I wanted to) without feeling like Tommy Boy trying to keep up with “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.” The moral of the story: the fits from Nothing Fits only pop up occasionally, but the more repetitive, psychedelic, post-punk direction suits Tyvek just as well.
As you may recall from a previous article, the Australian underground is booming right now. This down under sonic blast has been resonating for a few years now and UV Race has been there for the majority of it. In 2009, Aarght! Records released UV Race’s debut self-titled, semi-long player. Please put this newspaper down right now and go listen “I Go Blank” immediately if you haven’t already heard it. That song, and the rest of the record, grabbed Larry Hardy’s attention enough to release the band’s second LP “Homo” in 2011, also a year-end favorite of mine. And here we are, nigh the Mayan end times, with yet another terrific UV Race LP in our presumptive possession. (You do buy records, don’t you?) To be fair, UV Race’s sound is heavily derivative. Take a heaping pile of Swell Maps, a healthy dose of the Fall, and mix in bit of the Modern Lovers’ quirkiness and sentimentality, and you have the core ingredients in your bowl. Derivation isn’t inherently bad, otherwise all of UV Race’s influences would be inherently bad for deriving their sound from the Velvets and so on and so forth. UV Race, like Swell Maps, The Fall, and the Modern Lovers excel in blending their influences, adding unique little personal touches (lovely Australian accents) and write plenty of good songs to boot, what more can anyone ask for? This is the first and only time I’ll ever say this: the world needs more Racism. It’s an acid-damaged, post-garage punk affair for lovers.
In The Red releases:
Ty Segall Band, Slaughterhouse, 2×10”
Thee Oh Sees, Putrifiers II, LP
Timmy’s Organism, Raw Sewage Roq, LP
Thee Cormans, Biker Bitch, 7”
You can find all of these and more at: InTheRedRecords.com
If you’re interested, I’ll include my full Best of 2012 in the next issue.
Can’t wait that long? Sign up for my weekly email updates at PermanentRecordsLA.com
See ya next year!
Lance Barresi is the owner of Permanent Records