Record of the Week: QLOAQA LETAL Nunca, Siempre LP

26 08 2014


Recorded in 1983 in Valladolid, Spain, mastered 30 years later right here in California, and released shortly after by the Mallorca-based Metadona Records, this legendary punk tape has finally been properly dignified in the vinyl format. Like their contemporaries in Spain, you can tell their sound resulted from simultaneously digesting both first wave punk and proto-hardcore, recalling a bit of CICATRIZ and KANGRENA, but also the gloomy side of PARALISIS PERMANENTE. However, while exuding darkness, QLOAQA LETAL is not campy, just genuinely creepy and candidly cynical abouttheir social reality: “Life spits on me, luck deceives me, glory avoids me, death grabs me.” While becoming a classic of the Punk Ibérico repository, they definitely developed their own sound here and it’s amazing! The bass pulsing percussively over a crudely fuzzy guitar tone, Rouky’s warm and gritty vocals, as well as the intriguing electronic sound of the manual drum kit are all elements that make this stand out in their time period. Furthermore, they often infused their live shows with elements of theatrical plays. The package includes an insert with lyrics and photo clippings from the period showing their wonderful freak aesthetic, and prompting me to shudderthinking about what it must have been like walking around conservative Valladolid in the early ’80s looking like that. Possibly attributable to LA BANDA TRAPERA DEL RIO, the word cloaca (sewer) and its associated imagery became a Spanish punk signifier, which one could interpret as a message reminding the new pseudo-democratic regime obsessed with cleaning its own image that the shit still has to go somewhere. Awesome record and a cool artifact. (Metadona Records)

—Lena Tahmassian

MRR is putting together an especial Punk Ibérico issue to come out in January 2015. If you have anything to contribute, please send it to mrr {at} maximumrocknroll(.)com. Thanx, punx!

August 26th, 2014 by MRR

“Too smart for their own sake”:

22 08 2014


By George Lastman

How smart is too smart? How funny is too funny? For Actual Water, the answers to these questions are not mutually exclusive. To them, being Toronto’s resident “musically inclined intellectuals” (their words, not mine) goes hand in hand with being jokers of the scene. It seems natural to Actual Water that their lyrics, hefty in theme and resplendent in undergrad-informed verbosity, ride simple, guitar-driven tracks that simply rock. Still, there remains a sort of roundabout danger and uniqueness to the boys, as they prefer to do things like conduct interviews in very un-rock situations, e.g., in a public library.

Anthony Nemet, 24, enters the room in a brown blazer and well-fitting jeans. Sitting gracefully in the largest chair in the building, he crosses his legs and squints at a copy of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay. A 19th century text exploring phenomena as wide-ranging as economic bubbles and alchemy, the text is both sensational and academic at once, almost as useful as it is thrilling and accessible. Watching the lead singer and Rickenbacker-swinger of one of Toronto’s most inscrutable rock bands read such a heavy tome could be disorienting, but Nemet is quick to clear up any questions about what he’s into what he’s into.

“This is a key text when trying to understand the psychosis people feel when confronted by rock ‘n’ roll,” Anthony says, looking down his nose at me. “Let’s be honest, what is a rock show if not an expression of mass hysteria?” He pauses, laughs, and looks over at Gary Pooni, 24, his friend and partner in songcraft. Clutching a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Pooni concurs with a nod, a smile and shrug of the shoulders, his body language suggesting that Nemet go on. The room goes silent as the two return to their books.


It’s not easy to interview Actual Water. They often go off on tangents, talk over each other and speak in big words that rarely, if ever, make much sense. Pooni seems especially eager to confound anyone within earshot with his verbal dexterity. As drummer, percussionist and lyricist of the group, Pooni clearly wishes to loom large among other “intelligent drummers who write songs” like Neil Peart and Traffic’s Jim Capaldi. Speaking in measured sentences punctuated by rapid-fire invective as well as frequent use of alliteration and free-associative metaphor, Pooni speaks as if he is constantly trying to remind you of how smart he is. Rather than reading as a symptom of insecurity, it seems to be more of a giant joke that is always on the verge of going over my head. Still, when he needs to make a point, he does so with brevity.

“Look, the point is to make a record that makes you think and doesn’t stink.” He says as he leans forward, looking me dead in the eye and taking on a conspiratorial air. “All these other bands, most of them anyway, all they’re interested in is having a good time, shooting the shit and leaving the heavy intellectual work to the next guy. The next guy, of course, is a chimp who doesn’t want to do anything but play asinine riffs through a Big Muff.” His face goes grim for a moment before a smile cracks and he glances over at Nemet who also can’t help but laugh. Right as I feel like I’m starting to get the joke, however, Pooni flips the script. “I mince garlic,” he says, “not words. I hate to say it, but rock bands nowadays are just getting dumber”.

At times, Actual Water’s façade breaks down and you see them for what they are: two kids from Toronto who love making controversial statements about the politics of rock almost as much as they love the music itself. Their songs, acting as an outlet for this aggression against bands (no specific names mentioned) that they deride as being “chimps, chumps, chicken and not fit to chauffer an Actual Water roadie to Coachella”, often read as rock ‘n’ roll think pieces, both in form and content. They’re also fond of using terms like “entry-level” to place groups in a hierarchical structure that places Actual Water at the top, as if they have been appointed (or anointed) CEOs of modern guitar music. The end result of this barrage of invective is that the band appears holier-than-thou and narcissistic. Still, when you see them crack up, you begin to wonder if they actually believe any of what they’re saying.

Name-calling and bullshit politics aside, the group’s latest album, Call 4 Fun, is exactly what its name implies. “It’s a fun record. It’s like the best alcohol rock party you’ve ever been to at Foucault’s mansion,” says Nemet as he leans back, closing his book and placing a gold bookmark between its worn pages. “The idea of ‘calling for fun’ is putting the onus on both the listener and the band. You better know what numbers to dial.” Indeed, the title track is a thrilling stab at joyous guitar pop that isn’t far removed from early 2000s garage rock. Later in the record, on the beautifully dark dirge of “Waldo Jackson,” a reference is made to the titular character “falling out of his tree onto a stack of old NMEs”. When asked to connect the dots, Pooni and Nemet smile. Relishing the opportunity to talk about two of his favourite things at once, Pooni explains that Waldo Jackson is a “tired, whiney old indie guy who lives in the ‘90s and can’t get it up long enough to stop thinking about guitar tones and start having a good time.” Fair play.

There they are: rock politics. They creep up once again, as they often do with Actual Water, but almost always with humour. True to their status as jokers who love a good conceptual gag, the difficult inside jokes keep coming. They accumulate in front of me, piled high like paperwork in a language I don’t understand and can’t make any sense of. As it becomes more and more difficult to tell when they’re taking me for a ride, their music becomes more and more revealing. Still, when they really need to make a point, they make sure you know they’re serious. Actual Water’s mission is inject excitement into rock by any means necessary, even if that means doing decidedly un-rock things, like reading Gladwell in a library on a weekend. They want nothing more than to bring a pulse back to a genre that’s been lagging since Julian Casablancas started singing falsetto.

Of course, when I make this Strokes reference to the group, they go serious. Nemet insists that his falsetto is “the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear.” Pooni adds that listeners “cannot yet afford to hear him sing in his nightingale register.” I try to read their body language to see if they’re joking and feel as if I’m floating aimlessly in the middle of a Chomsky text without an intellectual paddle. They’ve done it to me again, and they’ll do it to you as soon as you play Call 4 Fun. I’ve gotten used to it, and I don’t regret it. Neither will you, trust me.

August 22nd, 2014 by MRR

Record of the Week: CONTORTURE/AHNA split EP

19 08 2014


Handle with care, this is fuggin’ deadly. Göteborg’s CONTORTURE goes straight for the jugular with their raging feminist käng, expertly toeing the raw/melodic line that has come to define Swedish crust in the last decade. Lyrics revisit familiar themes of autonomy, rape culture, and watching those around you age out of punk, but with a personalistic approach, and the lead vocals remind me of Kate from SCHIFOSI in all the best ways. On the flip, leading Canadian powerviolence freex AHNA lays out two more doses of their noisey blackened filth, sounding yet again like they’ve managed to record in one of the lesser pits of hell. This is actually a lot less blast-centric than their older material, with crusty rhythms offsetting the murky metalloid gloom, and the opening sludge of “Living in Fear” channels the headbanging glory of BOLT THROWER to perfection. Already a serious contender for my favorite split of 2014, this is nothing short of mandatory for all you metalpunx.
(Active Rebellion / Into the Abyss / Neanderthal Stench / What Is Making Us Sick)

—Will Blomquist

August 19th, 2014 by MRR

Record of the Week: S.H.I.T. Generation Shit EP

12 08 2014


Originally intended to be together on a LP, this is the second of two EPs S.H.I.T. has released in 2014, and boy, is it a scorcher. Furiously driven as much as it is restrained, this manic hardcore outfit sucks you into their realm of downstrums, metronomic drums and shrill squeals as they spew their branded way of making punk in your face. Two guitars with the fastest picking imaginable, making sure you hear the full extent of each riff, filling out the sound perfectly. The drums pierce through the high frequencies of the guitars and vocals, keeping hard time better than you ever thought possible. As with the first EP, the sleeve is a full-size poster with artwork by the very underrated Jaybo. Get this, own this. (Lengua Armada)

— Kat Smith

August 12th, 2014 by MRR

Record of the Week: TAULARD Les Abords du Lycée LP

1 08 2014


After my recent fascination with ’80s French Oi! and coldwave, here comes something equally interesting, one to add to my list of grande musique de France: keyboard-, drum- and bass-driven synthpunk right out of current day Grenoble! I love everything about this release: the mixed bag of influences (punk, post-punk, electro, hip hop, Renaissance music!) the subtle cinematic orchestration, the layout of the inner sleeve and silk screened Miró-esque cover. The almost church organ-like keyboard tunes steal the show, sounding like they’re coming from some busted up old ’60s synth, wafting and weaving through the tight, minimal yet animated drumming (kick, floor tom, snare and hi-hat), the soulful rhythms of the bass (that fullness of jazz, that spike of punk, that slight funk edge) and the attitude-filled vocals (with that poeticism that the French language inherently possesses). The backing vocal harmonies leave a ’60s psych garage aftertaste, but the keyboard and vocals really manage to set a multitude of tones and moods to real-life settings (suffocation, depression, drunken mirth, traveling, crushes, loss, sexual mistakes). There is a sense of humour (even mockery) to the performance, and the A-side almost sounds as if a bunch of punks got together in a brick basement (upon Roman ruins for all I know) to write a soundtrack to the urban comedy/drama they call life. Don’t let that playful attitude fool you though; the darker B-side ends the show on a morose tone, where disappointment and disillusion abound; a bad trip confession set to music. Bitter yet sweet, magical yet haunted, vintage yet moderne. Fucking brilliant! Get it!

Listen/download here

August 1st, 2014 by Lydiya