By John Hult
Schoolyard Heroes Fantastic Wounds (The Control Group)
Washington state, home of Schoolyard Heroes, is full of the kind of thick, damp forests perfect for shooting B-grade horror films. Fitting, indeed. What we have here are 10 mathy prog-punk tracks reminiscent of the soundtrack to an old-school Nintendo game, eerily reimagined with buzzing, hyper-charged Dick Dale-style guitar riffs and thick, heavy bass lines. To this foundation, add a banshee chanteuse of the macabre (Ryann Donnelly), wailing passionate, frightful narratives about the children of the Hydra, the party habits of serial killers, undressing wounds to lick the sores and several other healthy portions of schlock cinema imagery, and you've got Fantastic Wounds. Fan-bloody-tastic.
The Life and Times Suburban Hymns (DeSoto Records)
This album, the second from Kansas City scenesters The Life And Times, is like the soundtrack to a dream. Not in the clichéd way you're thinking, though. It's a thunderous succession of moog layered over dissonant guitars layered over keys layered over distorted vocals; cacophonous, at once aggressive and understated and shifting like so many art film jump cuts from moody interlude to moody interlude and back to moody again. This doesn't make it dreamlike. "Dreamlike," in this context, means "instantly forgotten."
Slightly Stoopid Closer to the Sun (Skunk Records)
As great as Bradley Nowell was, I'm really starting to hate his guts. Not for anything he did on purpose—it's what he birthed when he died that irritates me. Phonies like Slightly Stoopid have turned SoCal reggae/punk into a Grateful Dead style-marketing machine. Year after year, they steal money Sublime fans could be spending on weed by pimping Nowell's legacy with uninspired, B-grade retreads of his sound. Wanna know a secret, Stoopid? Most of the kids who see your shows listen to Sublime—not your band—on the way home from your show.
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