Austin, TX's Impalers will spear your ears.
Ever since being aurally bombarded by the Impalers a few years ago at Austin's annual "Chaos in Tejas" festival, I've been waiting for the universe to deliver an Impalers album. After a demo in 2010, an EP in 2011 and a split 7-inch more recently, that day has finally come.
And what a day: This record is a barbaric 10-song smasher determined to have its way with your little earholes. The Impalers are masters at mixing the feral d-beat of Anti-Cimex with the dirty, gloomy heaviness of Entombed and the evil sleaze of Venom. The result is a huge, ferocious sound that doesn’t allow you to sit back and enjoy the record without putting on some lead boots to trudge
through a stinking marsh first. 540 and Todo Destruido have done a nice job with the packaging as well: This record comes in a unique die-cut sleeve featuring the grotesque art of Guillem “El Muro,” who is also known for his work for the raw Spanish hardcore bands Destino Final and Invasión.
This is a time when so many “extreme” styles of music are basically stuck in a holding pat-
tern, trying to mimic a certain golden era down to the minutest details. But somewhere in this backward gaze, we’re missing something. Is rock’n’roll supposed to be about re-creating that perfect Darkthrone album, trying to recapture the dangerous feeling of some long-ago Black Flag show, or regurgitating that same quarter of a Sabbath riff for the 10,000th time through expensive amps?
Back in the early ’80s, NYC’s Death Comet Crew helped invent the future. It’s hard to imagine the industrial-strength hip-hop of El-P, much less Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad, without the blueprint provided by Death Comet. On Ghost, the Crew pick up where they left off, fusing 808 beats, radio detritus, turntable scratching, and sampling that favors grit and texture over Pro Tools perfection. The album’s cinematic sweep encompasses sci-fi spy soundtracks, immersive set pieces and dystopian club bangers. Don’t call it retro-futuristic; this is music for the present. Erick Bradshaw
The nuances of discordant art rock often go unappreciated. But on their sophomore album Godhead, Sandrider harness the genre to conjure a most glorious noise. Bass-heavy and velvety, rounded out by sludgy riffs and fuzzed-out, screaming vocals, Godhead evokes the jam session
that Jesus Lizard might’ve had with the Melvins while tripping out on their mutual love of Breather Resist. Balancing out their thunderous and tempered compositions are legit open-highway anthems that elevate Godhead into something ultimately and utterly satisfying. Zena Tsarfin
No! Rock’n’roll should be about smashing shit, getting ugly, and slobbering all over yourself while you create the greatest riff of your life by accident. Impalers takes a step outside today’s stale conventions and just goes for it. Don’t look here if you’re happy With the Same-Old, Same-Old. Dennis Behrendts
This LA underground dude’s “rock and roll sci-fi novella” is the first part of a trilogy about warring gangs on opposite sides of “the educational drug trade.” Songs like “Puffy Cheek Town” and the greasyquiff slo-rocker “Born to Lose”—dementedly crafted meltdowns of ’70s gloss-pop, proggy rock and punky teenbeat, smeared with vintage synth kitsch and skewed in a digital-editing frenzy—reveal a black-humored “rock” music in name only; the twinkling medieval lines of interludes like “Sound Was the Castle” are lovely, akin to the Residents playing Pet Sounds. John Payne
File Scoundrels in Paradise under “smugglers’ blues.” The author’s adventures begin at the age of 12, when his brother uses him and a younger sibling as camouflage while driving a load across the Mexican border. His adolescence is spent watching his scamming family use filmmaking, family vacations and famous relations as various means to disguise their loads. Stevenson always finds himself on the losing end of deals with his kin, his partners, his lovers and even the Feds in this confessional narrative that reads like a sad country song of the counterculture. Rebekah Harris
Trumpet king Louis Armstrong began to smoke marijuana—or “gage,” as they called it back then—in 1928. He would smoke it, write enigmatic songs about it, and sing these cryptoteahead compositions to black and white audiences all his life. Thomas Brothers traces that love story in a jazzy book that depicts the trumpeter as a superb artist who helped give birth to modernism in nightclubs from New Orleans to New York. The author’s discography provides a nifty guide to Armstrong’s mind-expanding melodies and catchy lyrics inspired by pot. Jonah Raskin