PLAYING DETROIT: Prude Boys Unpack Grief and Grievances on New Seven Inch

Hamtramck-based DIY band Prude Boys (Caroline Thornbury, Quentin Thornbury, and Connor Dodson) recently celebrated the release of their new 7-inch record, The Reunion/Daddy. The songs – put out on the band’s own label, Grumble Records – are a preview of a full-length record the band recorded last July. C. Thornbury’s rock solid vocals are the constant between two very different songs: a fuzzy, dream state rumination on loss and a folk-driven reflection on unconscious cycles of hurtful patterns. 

“The Reunion” feels nostalgic, heartbroken and triumphant all at once. Not shying away from the band’s comparison to new wave trailblazers The Pretenders, Thornbury dons a short blue wig and sings alone under a disco ball for the song’s music video. Her solitude in the video reinforces the song’s core ethos – grappling with the loss of a loved one while finding a way to stand on her own two feet. 


“It’s actually about my sister who passed away two years ago,” explains C. Thornbury. “I had this dream that I had to go to her high school reunion for her in her place, so the song sort of stemmed off of there and how, in the grieving process, all the real sadness and realization of loss happens later on when all those little things happen…like I would text her about this article I’m reading or send her a picture of this t-shirt I like.” The song acts as a refreshing catharsis for anyone experiencing loss, whether it’s a loved one who has passed away or one someone who’s just not in your life anymore. 

The band drops the guitar solos and drums for “Daddy,” a staggering song that C. Thornbury originally wrote on acoustic guitar. Her cyclical lyrics and guitar melody reflect the heart of the song, which talks about the Sisyphean task of loving someone that keeps hurting you. “It’s about the wrongs that your family does to you without their knowledge and how you sort of carry that with you,” C. Thornbury explains. “And how you keep trying and trying with people you love even though their behavior towards you isn’t improving and they have no idea what they’re actually doing to you.”

Overall, Prude Boys deliver brutal honesty wrapped in razor-sharp instrumentation and gorgeous melodies in this pair of songs. Look out for more Burger Record releases in the future and listen to The Reunion/Daddy below.

 

 

 

PLAYING DETROIT: GIRL FIGHT Release Fiery Sophomore Album ‘She’s a Killer’

photo by Studio 29 Photos

Detroit feminist punk/noise band GIRL FIGHT released their sophomore record, She’s a Killer, last week – a politically charged twenty-minutes that barks and bites. Ellen Cope and Jacob Bloom fine-tune their brazen two-piece effort with tighter riffs and rhythms and lyrical prowess that breaks down complex topics and makes them digestible. The result is an album that begs for critical conversation as much as it does headbanging.

Back in 2017, Cope – who manages a team of web engineers by day – had never even touched a drum set, let alone taken to the stage with a microphone. “I have no musical background, I had never played an instrument or sung or done anything my entire life,” says Cope. It wasn’t until they saw British punk outfit Slaves live that the duo decided they were going to start a band. “They have a song called ‘Girl Fight,’” explains Bloom. “Right after the show, I went up to Ellen and I said, ‘We’re going to start a band, you’re going to play drums, and it’s going to be called GIRL FIGHT.”

It wasn’t long before Cope had purchased a children’s drum set from Craigslist and set it up on a Home Depot bucket and milk crates. She and Bloom started experimenting by playing covers of The Cramps. “We started writing our own songs and were like, these are actually pretty good,” remembers Bloom. After getting through their first live performance where the sound engineer asked them to leave the stage (they didn’t), they picked up a bi-weekly gig at a comedy show put on by local comedian and music enthusiast, Jason Brent. The group cut their teeth there and started to see their vision come to life.

A year after they started playing music together, they had a record – Fight Back, which Bloom views more as an EP or sample of what was to come. “Fight Back was like, ‘here is who we are and what we do, and She’s a Killer is like, ‘here is us making an album that sounds good.’” Their latest album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Paul Smith of The Strains and definitely shows a more polished version of the band.

While She’s a Killer is a bucket of water to the face sonically, it is just as hard-hitting lyrically, tackling things like race, gender, privilege and economic disparity. A few songs – “She’s a Killer” and “My Own God” – address personal empowerment and feeling strong and confident within, while “Ladder” is a plea for equality. “The song is about breaking down barriers and how we all have to help each other to get there,” says Cope. “You have to redistribute the power.”

Cope addresses her own privilege in “White Girl.” At first, she confronts white women who act as allies to minorities but end up abusing their power or turning a blind eye just the same. “White girl / think you’re so woke girl / your just a joke girl,” Cope shrieks in her cutting and powerful voice. Later, she turns the blame on herself. “I am a white girl / I am the problem / I am the oppressor.” She acknowledges that even having a platform from which to speak is a privilege. “As a white woman, being in front of a band yelling at people about stuff, I feel like it’s important to say, ‘Hey, I’m here yelling and you’re listening to me, but I’m not the only one you should be listening to.’” Both Cope and Bloom are conscious of their privilege and aim to use their platform as a way to encourage equality, power redistribution, and affecting change.

Listen to the full record and see tour dates below:

2/15 @ Bingle Mansion – Lansing, MI (w/ Rent Strike, she/her/hers, No Fun)
2/16 @ Charm School – Chicago, IL (w/ Pledge Drive, Wet Wallet, Sparkletears)
2/23 @ AIR: Artists Image Resource – Pittsburg, PA (w/ Dumplings, Princex, Jorts Season)

ALBUM REVIEW: Meilyr Jones “2013”

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It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of Meilyr Jones, or his former band Race Horses. It doesn’t matter if you think Jones is English, when in fact, he’s a Welshman. It doesn’t even matter if you’re stumped on how exactly to pronounce “Meilyr”-because an authoritative voice tells you within the first 30 seconds of 2013’s opening track “How To Recognise A Work of Art.”

These things cease to matter, not because they are uninteresting, but because it is such a great record that it speaks for itself. It stands on its own two feet.

2013 is many things-a contemporary foray into baroque and renaissance influences, a brilliant pop record, a sonic odyssey with innumerable peaks and valleys. But it is also a love letter to Rome, the breeding ground for many of songs on the album. After the disbandment of Race Horses and the end of a relationship, Jones romantically fled to the ancient city, catalyzed by reading art history texts and Byron’s Don Juan. “I got really taken over by the feeling of adventure and passion in Byron, and some of Shelley’s poetry and Keats as well. And they were all people who went to Rome.” Jones mentioned in a press release.

And so along with everything else, 2013 has yet another incarnation, as a scrapbook of Jones’s time in Rome, and everything he loves in general. “I wanted to make something that felt right to me and expressed my interests, which are classical music and rock ‘n’ roll music, and films, and nature and karaoke, and tacky stuff,” Jones says. “And I wanted to capture that feeling in Rome of high culture and low-brow stuff all mixed together.” For a record so difficult to nail down, it is comforting to know that such a stew of influences went into making it.

It might amaze you, as it did me, that five of the twelve tracks on 2013 were recorded live in all of one day with a 30 plus piece orchestra that Jones assembled himself. Jones told press that he “wanted to record it completely live. The idea was doing it like a Frank Sinatra session.” And that idea certainly comes across in the grand arrangements Jones has served up.

He’s a songwriter with big ideas, delivering lofty compositions of the finest kind. “How To Recognise A Work Of Art” confirms the pop chops Jones has been refining since his days in Race Horses, the sweeping orchestral arrangements bringing a whole new dimension to otherwise infectious hooks.

 

 

“Don Juan” slows the record down to a honeyed melancholy, which is the only place to go after a banger such as “How To Recognise A Work Of Art.” Inspired by the same poem that led him to Italy, “Don Juan” is a nod to the baroque with subtle harpsichord and recorder riffs. The opening notes remind me of the exoticism found in The Stranglers’ “Golden Brown,” a similar genre-bending track. While straying from gimmick, “Don Juan” does render a lush image of open-bloused sirs flung upon velvet divans, drinking not from cups, but goblets.  

One of the most compelling aspects of Jones’s songs is that they behave more like Classical compositions or film scores than traditional pop music. They never end where they began, and traverse twisting paths the whole way through. “Passionate Friend” thumps along like the opening number in a sinister musical, the first words to which are nearly whispered by Jones: “Sometimes I am with the witches//on fire, fast and ruined//sometimes all around, with the honey in me, I quicken.”

“Refugees” is the emotional core of 2013, seemingly the most obvious breakup song. The leading single off the record, it is the first song I heard by Meilyr Jones, and it continues to resonate deeply with me. It is spare enough to exhibit his incredible talent; there are no bells, whistles, or harpsichords, just Jones at the piano with his striking choirboy voice.

 

 

2013 is an album in two acts, bisected on either side of “Rain In Rome,” an instrumental that melds organ with pattering raindrops and violent applause. It is a joyous palette cleanser, as the remainder of the album will volley from straight up rock with “Strange Emotional” to classical dramas such as “Return To Life” and “Olivia,” the latter of which features an operatic choir. There is a lot going on here, but I wouldn’t change it a bit.

I could all too easily write a synopsis of every track on this record, which is something I am rarely compelled to do…but 2013 is that wonderful. There isn’t a mediocre song on it. If you like Kate Bush, Van Morrison, The Zombies, if you like classical, eccentric, baroque, chamber, psychedelic, garage, or just slickly written pop, I recommend, beg, entreat you: give Meilyr Jones a chance. You will never be bored again.

2013 is out now via Moshi Moshi Records.

 

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ARTIST OF THE MONTH: BRONCHO

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Dream-pop, garage-rock, black-punk. In an era where the blogosphere battles to name genres, sometimes it’s nice to simply return to rock ‘n’ roll, which is just what we have for you in the first Artist of the Month profile of the new year. “As cliche as that is, I think that’s what we’re going for. A fun rock and roll band,” said Penny, a newly-minted member of the Oklahoma rock group, who recently joined with her partner Mandy, adding a much appreciated feminine flavor. They do after all, have a sky-rocketing new album titled Just Enough Hip to be Woman. 

BRONCHO performs at Beacon Theatre tonight supporting the one and only Billy Idol. Shortly before they hit the road, Sophie Saint Thomas caught up with Penny as she was getting ready to embark on a six-week tour.

ST: What is your experience with touring?

P: Honestly, I’ve loved it since I started doing it. I went on my first tour as a solo artist with another friend of mine who was also a solo artist at that time. I just love it, I love traveling. I love kind of having everything I need with me girl scout style. I see it as not much different than outdoor survival camping. I just kind of see it as the urban woods.

ST: Is this the first tour you guys as a group have done together?

P: No, Mandy and I just joined the band this last summer. We did our first tour with the guys I believe in August. It was like a five week run. We were basically touring from August to December with a few breaks and then we had December off, and now we’re at it again.

ST: How did you end up joining the band?

P: I’ve known Ryan for a few years now. I grew up in Norman, which is the town that they’re based in. Where they were hanging out and went to school. So I had hosted house shows at my house with them, and I’ve been to a lot of shows, just between musical mutual friends I guess. When I met Mandy we started playing music together. I heard that their old bass player was leaving the band. So I kind of pursued it a little bit, and six to eight months later I talked to Ryan, and he invited both of us to be in the band which is awesome because we live together and we’re partners. She’s kind of the only thing that keeps me from being on the road. So it’s really awesome to be able to bring her with me.

ST: How is it being with all those guys?

P: It’s good. The bands I previously was working with and touring with was much different. Musically, and also socially I played with two girls. And so I was mainly traveling with three girls which was a totally different experience. All three of us were around the 21-24 age so needless to say we were kind of crazy all over the place. I think the energy of this current group is like… I just feel like they’re my brothers. I have always been a tomboy so we just feel really comfortable.

ST: “Class Historian” is really blowing up and getting a lot of attention. How has that experience been?

P: I definitely feel lucky to be with them at this time. I’ve been watching these guys tour kind of parallel to my former musical life, and to be able to be in this band at this moment in time is pretty amazing. I do my best to not take too much credit for any of the actual success that’s going on right now. But it is super exciting. And I’m just  constantly being flattered by people always hearing it on the XM Radio or wherever they’ve heard it. It’s kind of far out; We had a spot in the local paper recently, which was definitely the first time I’ve been called out like: “You’re that girl in that band!” It’s very weird, it’s very new, I’m trying not to get too used to it.

ST: I hope you’re enjoying it!

P: Definitely. I’m just trying to let it in and let it be real.

ST: I’m sure you and Mandy joining has changed the dynamic, can you speak to what you’ve brought to the band?

P: One obvious change is certainly the vocal presence. I think we’re moving to a really awesome place vocally where Mandy and I get to be sort of this more angelic presence over kind of the rougher vocals of the guys. It rounds it out really well. I was definitely worried at first about the former fans…I don’t know, it’s probably just girl insecurity. I never wanted people to be like, “Oh you’re good for a girl.” I think especially as the bass player like their former bass player, I respect him a lot. So the first show I was definitely watching a lot of people like, “You approve right?” I’m less about seeking approval now, and I’m just having a really good time with the guys. I’m no longer feeling like I don’t fit in anymore.

ST: I enjoy the female aspect; I love how it’s all come together. The album title Just Enough Hip to be Woman – were you part of the creation?

P: I honestly was not there but I totally can imagine how it came up, and it was probably the guys and some friends totally joking around and one of them probably said it in one way and another one said it in another way and then it went around in circles because it’s worded so strangely. I thought it was funny when I found out what it was because I didn’t even hear the new record or know the title until he had already asked me to be in the band. So part of me was like “Maybe he knew…” but I don’t think that he did. I think it’s just that perfect.

ST: How would you label your sound? I’ve read the term “garage punk” thrown around a lot on the internet.

P: Anytime we’re asked that at a border crossing, because they always ask “What band are you in?” and then “What kind of music do you play?” We all collectively answer with “rock and roll.” As cliche as that is, I think that’s what we’re going for. A fun rock and roll band. We’re all just having fun and ideally we just want everyone in the audience to be loose and crazy. I think “punk” is a bit of a stretch I think “garage rock and roll” is kind of where it’s at.

ST: Well, rock and roll is a cliche for a reason, it’s great. Are you excited to play with Billy Idol?  

P: Yeah, I’m so stoked.

ST: Well congrats on everything that’s happening, and thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

P: Thank you!

LIVE REVIEW: The Muffs @ Del Monte Speakeasy, Venice CA

The Muffs reunion

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These days, it seems no one is impervious to nineties nostalgia, least of all Burger Records, who release Whoop Dee Doo on July 29th, the first album of new material from grunge-pop aficionados The Muffs in ten years. The three-piece, consisting of lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Kim Shattuck, bassist Ronnie Barnett, and drummer Criss Crass, is scheduled for several West Coast Burger-sponsored bashes, including this past weekend’s Burger Beach Party USA at the Del Monte Speakeasy located in the heart of Venice.

Arriving a bit late for sets from labelmates Audacity, The Tyde, The Aquadolls, and Collen Green, my peers and I descended into the dimly lit bar decorated with twenties style lamps and red leather couches. The crowd consisted of people of all different ages, sporting every style from summertime surf grunge to bohemian fifty-year old mom swag. Once The Muffs took the stage it became clear that they’re touring veterans; you could tell immediately that they have been performing together for years. Perhaps best known for having had their cover of “Kids In America” (originally by Kim Wilde) featured in one of my most favorite movies, Clueless, the band has gone through numerous lineups and released five records via Warner Bros. and Reprise Records, but have always retained a bouncy, feel-good vibe.

Kim had a huge smile on her face the whole show, aggressively singing upbeat surfer rock songs to a crowd of moshing admirers. Their new material, much in the vein of their early catalogue, is comprised of perfect riffs made with power chords we all know and love, hard hitting bass lines, and drum beats that make for some truly inspired head-banging. Though The Muffs’ set was about 45 minutes long, it felt like only fifteen minutes in which both the band and their audience had a blast. Kim’s banter in between songs consisted of making fart jokes and recalling times on past tours where she “made out with a lot of girls.” Their onstage presence perfectly accompanied their clever, humorous, and emotion- driven songs, which made for an incredibly enjoyable and satisfying show. There’s no word yet on whether a national tour will happen, but The Muffs are playing a few more Burger shindigs, listed below. In the meantime, check out lead single from Whoop Dee Doo, “Up And Down Around.”

THE MUFFS // UPCOMING SHOWS:

Sunday, July 6 – Oakland, CA @ Burger Boogaloo (Mosswood Park)

Saturday, July 26 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah

Saturday, Aug. 2 – Santa Ana, CA @ Burger a-Go-Go (The Observatory)

 

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: “The Big Come Up”

Ending your band’s debut album with a 23-minute hidden track is a bold move, but then again, The Black Keys have always been pretty bold in their bluegrass/garage rock. Years before they were selling out tours throughout the country, Akron, Ohio natives Dan Auerbach (guitar/vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums) were jamming in their basement, penning tracks that would soon become their first DIY full-length, The Big Come Up (2002). Auerbach and Carney had sent a demo to several record companies, eventually securing the support of Alive, an indie label in California that didn’t even require the duo to perform for them.

The boys’ DIY roots extend to their sound. The songs on this album are much more raw than the polished versions of the duo’s latest albums, but that lends the early tracks something special and nostalgic. Although it consists of only a few original songs written by the bandmates (who began their friendship in middle school), those original songs exude a unique roughness that is rarely found anymore. They rock their guitars and drums, but they take their time as they make their way through each track.

However, the covers themselves shouldn’t be taken for granted, as they so perfectly convey the band’s style. Their take on The Beatles’ “She Said, She Said” turns the light, airy feel of the original and adds heavier rock, turning up the guitars and thus incorporating another layer of passion to the track. On “Leavin’ Trunk,” Auerbach and Carney flair up the blues standard with their own interpretation.

The part original composition, part cover album didn’t initially gain the pair many followers outside of Ohio, but it did manage to attract the attention of Fat Possum Records, which produced several of their subsequent albums. The garage rock band had something different to offer in the early millennium, and eventually people took notice. Their single, “I’ll Be Your Man,” one of the best from the album, later received much recognition, including use as the theme song for HBO’s “Hung.”

Throughout several albums after The Big Come Up, The Black Keys refined their style and slowly weaned themselves off of covers, to produce fresh music of their own. While they’ve released chart-topping albums since their beginning, their roots of blues rock will always be a part of their sound and image. The Big Come Up not only started it all, but also influenced it all.

Listen to “I’ll be your man”, here, via Youtube:

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