Written in retrospective hindsight, as explained in more detail here.
Cococoma “6 ¼ – 125”/”Take My Time” (2006)
Recorded December 2005 in their hometown Chicago, so my release-year guess can’t be too far off. Either way, this speedy, muffled nugget is the sort of revisionist garage punk that genre addicts pretend rocks harder than it does simply because it’s so inept and incoherent, and it’s got a Mad-type drawing on its sleeve to match (quaintly old-timey handlebar-mustached soldier handing a bomb to a baby in a stroller). You know the routine: sounds like a first take, and isn’t necessarily better for it. The A-side’s title is pronounced “six and a quarter, one twenty five,” and what saves it are gang-shout harmonies trying to sound inebriated, and the fact that it’s over before you can get too annoyed; some apparent sax blat doesn’t hurt. “Take My Time” is even less of a tune, with audible but incomprehensible vocals. Over a whole album, the shtick would get oppressive (and when I heard this band’s CD, it did just that), but at single’s length the slop makes for a halfway diverting novelty.
Nikki Corvette ”Love Me”/”What’s On My Mind” (2003)
In Detroit, Nikki is something of a new wave legend, and these are the same sort of hard-popping, glam-riffing, sugar-sweet bubblepunk crush trifles she’s made on and off since the late ‘70s, when her three-girl Corvettes served as a missing link between the Runaways and Go-Gos. “Bonkers boogie from the new wave Betty Boop,” a Detroit News critic raved in 1979. “If Marie Osmond were a juvenile delinquent.” Bomp reissued 16 early Nikki and the Corvettes toons on CD in 2000, and a nifty comeback disc called Back From Detroit came out on Dollar Record Records in 2006. This single, Detroiters will be ashamed to hear, was recorded in Minneapolis and released in Connecticut. But both songs are still innocent come-ons, equipped with super duper hooks just like always — Nothing more, nothing less. And judging from the three photos included, Nikki still looks adorable.
Crack ♥ We Are Rock “Hooker Leg”/”Animal Trap” (2007)
Inside a lovely if claustrophobic 45 sleeve with forest animals paint-by-numbered all over it (the opossum and red fox, oddly, are much bigger than the mountain lion), music from Midwest escapees to San Francisco that somehow serves as a bridge between the fleeting quasi-genres “electroclash” and “digital hardcore” – which is mainly to say distanced voices rapping, sort of, over synthesizer abrasions and insane studio glitches and buzzing sounds. The intended speed is never stated outright, but at 33 RPM, “Hooker Leg,” at least, suggests a noise-rock version of some early ‘80s Rough Trade girl band, like maybe the Au Pairs, with distortion working against the tune at riskier levels than Jesus and Mary Chain ever dared. Cyborg voices eventually discuss the shaking of souls. “Animal Trap” has balloon-rubbing effects out of Pere Ubu’s Dub Housing, and what sounds like an off-key trumpet toward the end, clearing some space and followed by the side’s only comprehensible words – namely, a woman politely telling us “thank you.” Notation on a fawn’s back on that cover picture: “Live In Africa 2002 BC.” Or maybe that’s the record label?
Crimson Sweet Robot Bus Driver (2000)
Bizarrely, I still have four different 7-inches by this turn-of-the-‘00s NYC trio on my shelf, which puts them in the running with Cobra Verde, Shonen Knife, and, uh, Clay Harper (whoever he is) for 45-shelf indie-supremacy. Don’t recall ever loving anything by them, but apparently I liked all of it enough to keep. In my mind, at least, I associate their co-ed art-punk garage sensibility with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Glass Candy, who both emerged a bit later but ultimately got way more attention. This particular four-song translucent-vinyl 45 (first Crimson Sweet music I heard) switches off between relaxed Bangles-jangle and more hoarsely snarling screech. “CTR” mentions schoolyards; “Robot Bus Driver” follows Morse-code guitar with death-metal grumbling; “Bad Riddle” is live-wire hardcore; “I Can Touch You Now” an apparently sincere lust song wherein the wonderfully named Rooster Booster (who also plays guitar) eventually takes her drink and leaves. She’s hard to decipher when she gets full-throat emotional, but that doesn’t always work against her. Her bassist, Konsulate, looks like a young Mick Jagger.
The Dead C “Stealth”/”The Factory” (2000)
Seemingly recorded from deep inside a radiator in Dunedin, New Zealand, “Stealth” recreates Metal Machine Music as part of the Environments series, and its dune-din ebbs and flows with real beauty. Hard to tell if actual instruments are involved; if so, they’re presumably not being used as their builders intended. The music breathes, though. The Dead C are prolific cult heroes in avant-noise circles; Thurston Moore and Byron Coley may well own a zillion releases by the threesome, but for my own purposes, this taste test seems sufficient. “The Factory” feels even more onomatopoeic, way more “industrial” than most music filed under that heading – an assembly line of clanking and revving gears and motors and spindles and power generators, with heat and sparks blasting off of the steel. Or maybe just guitar feedback, who knows. Both sides are instrumental, and as with Crimson Sweet’s disc, the vinyl is a vague sort of grey you can halfway see through.
Death of Fashion “These Days”/”It’s All Ours” (2005)
I have no memories of these guys at all, though MySpace tells me they come from New York. The A-side is built on a ringing Velvet Underground (via Smiths or somebody, probably) guitar drone – prettiness given forward motion. The singer’s voice is flat and basically devoid of character, typical college rock. But he picks up energy as he goes, stumbling into tunefulness and emotion simply by varying volume and intensity. He sounds cheerful, determined; worries he “might not make it through the day,” but you’re confident he will. On the B-side – shorter but tougher to get through – he just stumbles. Guitar enters out of nowhere at the start, almost like Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plane Pour Moi,” but the drummer’s attempt to add more rhythm into the equation comes off clumsy. If you’re gonna kill off fashion, it’s best to replace it with more color than what’s here.
DJ Blaqstarr “Feel It In The Air”/ Busy P “Pedrophilia” (2007)
“I can feel it in the air/I can feel it in the street/I can feel it in my balls/I can feel it in my feet” – or words to that effect. DJ Blaqstarr plays a variation of so-called “Baltimore club music” (sort of a Tourette’s-inflicted distant relative of early Chicago house, Miami bass, and/or Detroit ghetto-tech), with skippity beats under a sample that goes “caw! caw! caw!”; eventually the silly lyrics fall out, so the caws and skippities are all you’ve got left. Busy P, from Paris, makes an even more shapeless brand of hipster-sanctioned dance music – namely, the squelchy, mildly rock-infused techno identified with French label Ed Banger Records, from which Justice also emerged last year. Two electronic themes criss-cross; one fades out while a voice squeaks “Busy P!” Eventually, it slims down to a few isolated bloops. No idea how one would dance to it — seems kinda slow. But I like the Southern Comfort joint venture slogan on the label: “Start and end things right. Drink responsibly.”
Dykehouse “Chain Smoking”/”FYD” (2003)
Michigan’s Ghostly International label specializes in electro, but the A-side’s music is almost a conventional indie guitar-jangle breakup song – guy makes out with girl in backyard, tries to undo her pants, but now he’s chain smokin’ ‘cause his heart’s broken, so he rhymes “frown” with “upside down” and “loud” with “mushroom cloud.” His voice really does have some of that two-packs-a-day gruffness to it, too, and the melody has some of the pop feel of mid ‘80s Hüsker Dü, but more twee and British. “FYD” starts with a higher voice – probably a guy attempting a Princely falsetto – and has more synthesizers, but depicts a situation no less concrete: “At the club last Friday/You’re all done up in black/I knew I had to have you my way/When I saw you arch your back.” So he buys her a drink, drives her home in his Mercedes, takes her up to “Big Daddy’s room,” where he brings out his “Dutch love broom,” whatever that is. (I chuckled at it, I admit.) Then he switches into minstrel-boast mode, updating a trusty old seduction growl from Isaac Hayes or Barry White amid wah-wah effects: “Who’s the motherfuckin’ pimp? My big dick just won’t go limp.” Not as funny as he hopes. Then simulated sex moans – maybe like fellow Ann Arborites Destroy All Monsters years before. There was a minute or two there in the early ‘00s when work from weirdos named Morel and the Horrorist hinted that techno might turn into a new kind of singer-songwriter music; this’d be another example, I guess, but the idea didn’t seem to stick around for very long. Maybe the problem was that the mundane clubland situations depicted seemed too shallow for listeners to care about them? Just a thought.