words by Sam Houghton
From the high-decibel wails of Tim Cuff’s vocal chords, it sounds as if at one point in his life he had wandered the mean streets of Russia, drinking heavily and composing theatrical numbers in his head. But somewhere along the line the locals failed to appreciate his sounds, so his muse turned towards sad themes and cheap drink with a joking front.
Back in Brooklyn on the stage front and behind his keyboard, Cuff’s persona seems like the village clown, tanked on booze, tattooed with mocking smiles and howling in his erratic but trained voice. Live and recorded, the music he composes as Timatim Fitfit, his five-piece band, his muse transcends into a sort of goofy Russian opera. The band has a traditional folk vibe with soft drums and the main leads coming from Cuff’s piano and a very Fiddler on the Roof fiddle. But underneath this goofy front is a genuine sadness, like Cuff understands the life of the vagabonding bard, a sort of sensitive village drunkard in some late Irish Novel. The genuineness gives the band a dynamic that sets them apart from a mere Cake cover band and into one with form and a solid point. The best songs Timatim Fitfit has to offer are “All The World of Carbon” and “No How.” It is important to mention that in the background of “All The World of Carbon” there is a backing vocal that brings the music to an almost trendy new level. It has strong traces of Fleet Foxes and is delightful to the ears.
words by Michael Scott
Total Slacker is a band with a nineties garage-rock feel and heavy doses of psychedelic madness running thick through its veins. They are a band freshly picked by a small label out London called Marshall Tellar Records as their sounds have been revolutionizing our heady new punk here in Brooklyn. Some highbrows would call it Shitgaze (New Yorker Magazine) – their lo-fi sound is like an insanely laid back Link Wray, with weird, floating vocals. They consist of Emily Oppenheimer on bass and vocals, Tucker Rountree on guitar and vocals and Alicia Silverstone on drums. With spaced out, sometimes filtered vocals, expansive yet raw guitar playing and commanding drums, every song of theirs is insanely repeatable.
One of their greatest songs right now is “Psychic Mesa.” It starts off completely jarring and almost a little terrifying and then opens up into this beautiful whirling dervish of a song. I wish I could find the lyrics online because they sound amazing but are suspiciously absent and lost in the psychedelic goodness. Another great they have online would have to be “Crystal Necklace,” a howling romp with the same sort of jerky, arresting guitar playing that got me interested in these guys’ sound to begin with. And the lyrics are rather tantalizing, really dreamed out and simplistic, downright hilarious at times yet almost screamed out in the chorus to the point where you can’t help but get caught up in them. Apparently the single, released last year, reached #36 on the Pitchfork 2010 reader’s poll.
Catch Total Slacker on April 20 (yeah, that’s right, 4/20) playing with DOM at the Bowery Ballroom. Should be a night to remember/forget.
By: Kyle Donley
This alt-country collective has been kicking around since the mid-2000s but their sound is pure ‘90s nostalgia. Eclectic enough to cover a variety of country subgenres (ranging from roots rock to finger-picked folk to the dirty guitar dirges of cowpunk), the Waylons fixate on alt-country’s all-too-familiar topics of lost love and other loner antics yet frame them within the grandiose scope of a spaghetti-western epic.
With their most recent release, Out of Love (2010- self-released), these dusty troubadours aren’t afraid to sound both pretty and frantic, whether it’s the slowburning pedal-steel of American Music Club/Buffalo Tom-esque “Lying in the Sun” or the wild guitar drive of “Disappear Me” (a dead ringer for the Old ‘97s in their prime). While occasionally veering into the pitfalls of adult-contemporary pop (which was the same dreaded fate of several ‘90s alt-country stalwarts looking for a crossover radio hit), the Waylons add enough quirky flourishes to their tunes to avoid sounding like a Toad the Wet Sprocket cover band. The avoidance of weepy string sections certainly helps their cause.
The Waylons pack enough punch to please both the fickle indie rocker and folks who still listen to FM radio. No small feat indeed. So on your break at Tower Records, pop this in your walkman and think about asking out that girl who works at TCBY.
By: Ross Edwards
Presocratics drip with aloofness in their haunting, scattered opuses to noise and whispered melodies. Their music could safely fall in the ambient category, although they are clearly suckers for a sad melody, as on the garage-fi, lush version of "Moon River," which even with drums manages to stay very rhythmically ambiguous. Their arrangement is over the top, swelling to such an enormous size it threatens to drown the shy vocals, but after a while the sound truly makes more sense of some of their noisier tracks.
"State's Evidence" is one of these noisy ones, presenting whirling, bubbling themes, introducing the old upright piano, and surrounded by aggressive non-tones. The long "Red Democracy" sounds like the score to a silent horror film, or maybe it was composed under the influence of the weirdest David Lynch. This is music not to be listened to when walking home late at night, because it threatens to creepily overwhelm you.
Some tracks lighten up however, like the static-infused "if they come in the morning," which obscures dramatic beauty with random sounds. The song is tragic and self-effacing, and at times is so noisily annoying it seems Presocratics are daring you to listen to it. Presocratics make music that sounds like something profound has just happened, and they are sculpting the ethereal aftermath like a rumbling storm in the distance.
By: Joseph VanBuren
Somewhere along the way, in the history of heavy music, metal gave birth to hardcore. In the 90s, the distinction between the two was obvious (especially to New Yorkers), and fans of one style often didn’t care much for the other. More recently, hardcore was reunited with its mother metal, and the words have become interchangeable to describe the music of bands since that show influences from both sides. Maximum Penalty is a prime example of this amalgam, and of how it doesn’t always work. They seem to cling onto two dated sounds, forcefully combining them in an uninspiring display of trying too hard to be hard. The riffs are sometimes badass, and the band has tight chemistry, but the material is largely lackluster. Every song on Maximum Penalty’s 2009 release, Life & Times, sounds like an 80s metal band and a 90s hardcore band joined forces and laid down a track in about five minutes. If Anthrax and Agnostic Front took the time to creatively blend their styles, the result could have been really impressive. Apparently strapped for time, they instead puked out the first thing they could and left the tracks with the engineers to professionally mix and master the songs, hoping to cover up a lack of attention with great production quality. To be fair, the members of Maximum Penalty do have talent, and the band has drawn a decent fan base by staying true to the old values of heavy music. It’s just a shame that going the lazy route hasn’t generated more commercial success for them. In the same light, it’s also a shame that an underground band with such longevity has never become more ambitious and creative.