Some interesting new LPs from Midwest labels and/or bands have been piling up in the cave for the past couple months. Time to catch up a bit, short attention span style!
Direct Hit: Domesplitter
After a series of free, downloadable EPs and a couple 7-inches, the Milwaukee rockers return with their debut full-length. Domesplitter once again proves Direct Hit lives up to its name by being about as fierce as pop-punk gets, but without losing track of the "pop" part of the mix. Fair warning, though: On repeated exposure, the listener may have a hard time not accidentally yelling "fuck you, get pumped" at random times.
The new LP serves as a sort of "best-of" the previously digital-only releases. "All of the songs on Domesplitter were originally released on our old EPs," explains guitarist-singer Nick Woods. "We re-recorded all of them though, because each EP had a different lineup of musicians on it -- I'm the only member of Direct Hit that's on every release. Danny didn't join our band until we recorded DH#2, and then he sat out #3, because we weren't sure whether we were going to be a band for much longer at the time. Robbie didn't join until DH#4. So the majority of the songs on this full length have a totally new rhythm section playing on them. I think it's more accurate to call our EPs "demos" at this point."
Direct Hit will play an release show on Friday, July 29 at the Frequency, a few days before the official release via Brooklyn's Kind of Like Records. For those jonesing for brand new songs from Direct Hit, Woods says never fear: another split 7-inch and split LP featuring new material are planned for fall, as well as writing/recording for the next full-length between tours. (Kind of Like Records, 2011)
The Sugar Stems: Sweet Sounds of ...
Milwaukee's Dusty Medical label just keeps releasing great music, and the debut LP by The Sugar Stems is no exception. The band plays extra-catchy power pop, fronted by the dual attack of singer/guitarists Betsy Borst (The Flips) and Drew Fredrichsen (The Jetty Boys, Leghounds). As with their earlier single, I was late in tracking down a copy of Sweet Sounds since they don't play here enough (hint, hint). It was worth the wait. (Dusty Medical, 2010, with download card; also released via Bachelor in Europe)
Tim Schweiger & the Middle Men: The Big Let Down
Looking for a band that will throw down some straight-up old school Midwestern bar rockin' original music? Get thee to the next tavern Schweiger and company set up shop in. Live, the band will tackle anything from hard rock to power pop to country to straight up punk with just the right mix of precision and slop.
All those facets shine through on The Big Let Down, albeit in a slightly more radio-ready version than is sometimes witnessed live, when the group occasionally expands beyond its basic trio lineup. There's a couple quieter numbers too, as well as an unexpected, Mellencampian cover of Jackson Browne's introspective near-standard "These Days." Guitarist Schweiger and drummer Amos Pitcsh are members of a touring version of the Paul Collins Beat, with which they've been on the west coast this month. As a side note, former Madisonian Nate Palan (a.k.a. Waylan Daniel) plays in the New York version of Collins' band. (Good Land Records, 2011)
Drugs Dragons: The Milorganight EP
The Milwaukee noisemakers return with a worthy six-track follow-up to last year's debut LP, and I still don't know quite what to make of 'em. AC/DC on acid? The catchiest hardcore band ever? A musical horror movie? Clever descriptions don't matter much, I guess. Basically, they sound like Drugs Dragons. It's psych-soaked, guitar-based hard rock -- mostly of a more straightforward nature here than on the previous LP -- with Mr. "Puke Drugs" (a.k.a. visual artist/Get Drunk DJ Luke Chappelle) yelling some disturbing lyrics over the top of them. To paraphrase the old song, I don't know why I love them but I do. (Dusty Medical, 2011, with download card)
The Wax Museums: Eye Times
After a few years on hiatus, the Texas punkers return with a new LP on Chicago's Trouble in Mind. The break was at least partly due to group members involvement with bands such as Bad Sports and Mind Spiders, and the sonic evidence indicates that time was an educational experience. This can be the downfall of punk bands, and it's true that their new songs are not all as gloriously speedumb as before; Eye Times is downright tuneful when it wants to be. But everybody's gotta grow up sometime, at least a little. So while Eye Times may not be as cathartic a listening experience as their debut album, it's still just as good -- and, with tracks like "Quicksand" and "Nothing to Do," occasionally even better. (Trouble in Mind, 2011, with download card)
Meanwhile, there have been a growing number of other notable recent Madison-related vinyl releases, including discs I haven't snagged yet from Those Poor Bastards, Dead Luke, Peaking Lights, Julian Lynch, Zola Jesus, and probably quite a few more I'll find out exist long after they're out of print. As a vinyl fan, it's exciting to see so many locals put out music in the best format! There are other LPs that have been missing here simply because I can't really review them fairly at this point; I've either shared too many bills with the bands, or have actually been in bands with some of their members. I have felt remiss in not mentioning them at all, however, so: Suffice it to say that the new LPs from The Hussy, The Midwest Beat (full disclosure: I do some backup yelling on this one), United Sons of Toil and Sleeping in the Aviary are all highly recommended.