Friday, September 30, 2016

FIRST IMPRESSION: The Mission - Another Fall From Grace

Wayne Hussey’s reconstituted The Mission (finally dropping the “U.K.” from their stateside moniker) have decided to celebrate 30 years as a band by releasing an album – “Another Fall From Grace” – that finds them reconnecting with their past. Produced by Tim Palmer, the man behind the boards for the band’s classic debut “God’s Own Medicine” and commercial breakthrough “Carved In Sand”, the album sits somewhere between return to form and retread.  Hussey has publicly stated that the album should sound like it was released in 1985 (a bridge of sorts from the Sisters of Mercy’s “First, And Last, And Always” – in which Hussey played a pivotal role – and the Mission’s own debut), and sonically Palmer does a fantastic job of creating a lush, gothic backdrop.  The drums boom, the bass is prominently throbbing and Hussey’s 12-string guitar (somewhat diminished on recent albums) chimes throughout.  It all SOUNDS like a Mission record, but there is an immediacy to the songs that is lacking. 

2013’s superb “The Brightest Light” showed Hussey moving past some of the trappings of the “classic” Mission sound and sounding somehow older but also more feral.  His voice - always a beautiful, pleading instrument - sounded like it was about to fall apart, reaching for notes that were always just out of reach.  He sounded desperate, rather than dramatic.  Here, the whole thing feels dialed back and a bit safe.  That’s not to say it’s a failure – “Tyranny of Secrets” is a driving winner and few do epic melodrama as beautifully as the band do on album closer “Phantom Pain”.  I just wish that the drama sounded more grounded and vital.  As a Mission statement for a band that’s survived for 30 years, however, it’s certainly more than good enough.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Portland's finest purveyors of psych-pop are back with their finest aural confection yet, the titular track from the recently-released "Slow It Goes" 7'.  Chris Slusarenko and Joen Moen have delivered what might be their catchiest tune yet, a 4-minute slice of pop perfection that is big on the jangle AND the crunch!  So, as the weather finally begins to feel like fall, celebrate one last blast of summer by playing this LOUD...

FIRST IMPRESSION: The Micronotz - 40 Fingers

The Midwest has spawned more than its fair share of melodic, thrilling punk music – the Minneapolis scene itself of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s can lay claim to no less than three seminal acts – but many scenes were under-documented and bands that could or should have been huge (or at the very least, influential) simply struggled along for a couple years before giving up the dream and taking on day jobs.  The Micronotz, spawned out of Lawrence, Kansas, were one of those bands.  Initially starting as a punchy, angular act that highlighted original vocalist Dean Lubensky’s nervy yelp, the band developed into a melodic punk powerhouse over the course of four full-length lps.  With the addition of new singer Jay Hauptli’s burly bellow, the band pushed into sonic territory similar to Husker Du or Chicago’s Naked Raygun.  Their second album with Hauptli at the mic, 1986’s “40 Fingers”, is a great distillation of mid-20s ennui and romantic frustration.  “Black and White” could be a long-lost Doughboys track and their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” brings to mind Overwhelming Colorfast’s version of Simon’s “For Emily” (Hauptli’s voice bears more than passing resemblance to OC’s great Bob Reed).  The absolutely pummeling title track sounds like it could go desperately off the rails at any moment and it’s breathtaking. 

Sadly, the Micronotz wouldn’t make it out of 1986 intact, splintering just weeks after the album hit shelves.  It’s too bad, because “40 Fingers” is easily their finest work and showed a band that had finally figured out how to harness its strengths.  Luckily, Bar/None has reissued all five Micronotz albums as part of its 30th anniversary celebration, so hopefully they will get some of the belated recognition that they richly deserve.