Author: Matthew Barlow

The Men — Hated: 2008-2011

The Menated: 2008-2011 Sacred Bones The Men used to be one of my favourite bands.  I discovered them just in time for the release of their 2012 album, Open Your Heart.  It was this brilliant mixture of hard core, country, noise, and just a metric shit tonne of guitars and screaming.  I think I once listened to this album all the way through for an entire weekend.  But, it turns out that Open Your Heart was a turning point for The Men, as they shifted away from their noise rock background towards a more accessible sound that sounded kind of generic to me by 2014’s Tomorrow’s Hits.  To be fair, their last two albums, 2016’s Devil Music and this year’s Drift return them to  more familiar, amped up guitar music.  I will say this about them, they’re an incredibly diverse band.  And to say they used to be one of my favourite bands is not really to diss them.  Our tastes change and evolve, and their interests as musicians have done the same.  Fair play. Hated is a compilation of tracks recorded between their formation in 2008 and 2011, by which time they had released two albums, Immaculada (2010) and Leave Home (2011).  And in listening to Hated, I am reminded by how vital and loud The Men were.  They are punk.  They are surf.  They are noise.  They are rock.  There’s even the hint of countrified rock that broke out on Open Your...

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Makaya McCraven — Universal Beings

Makaya McCraven Universal Beings International Anthem Makaya McCraven is a fascinating dude.  Born in Paris, raised in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, and now based in Chicago, he has immersed himself in music. He had no choice.  His dad was an avant-garde jazz drummer, his mother the member of a politically dangerous Hungarian folk band.  In Western Mass, he participated with his dad in sessions with the likes of Yusuf Lateef and Archie Shepp.  By the time he enrolled at UMass-Amherst, he was already making enough money as a musician to support himself and he dropped out.  He eventually...

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Fucked Up — Dose Your Dreams

Fucked Up Dose Your Dreams Merge Fucked Up have a problem.  That problem is simple, their distinctive sound comes from Damian Abraham’s voice.  Abraham has dominated Fucked Up from the getgo in 2001, the founder and leader of the band and the primary driving creative force behind the band.  After 2014’s Glass Boys, though, Abraham hinted that he was ready to walk away, at least in part.  And so we get Dose Your Dreams. The bulk of this album was written by guitarist Mike Haliechuk and drummer Jonah Falco.  Abraham was only called in later to provide some vocals and the result, horror horror, he only appears on something like 70% of the tracks. Fucked Up have always been referred to as a ‘hard core’ band. Please. The only thing hard core about them was The Voice. You take that away, and they’re just another rock band. And Dose Your Dreams seems like the album where Fucked Up tried to find out what they sounded like without the Big Fella on vocals. And then panicked and called him up when they realized they sounded like another rock band. It’s not that Fucked Up sans Abraham are awful. Far from it. They’re actually quite good. It’s just that they’re generic in that nothing stands out about them. Or they sound like Dinosaur, Jr., at least on ‘Came Down Wrong,’ upon which J. Mascis...

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Calvin Johnson — A Wonderful Beast

Calvin Johnson A Wonderful Beast K Records Calvin Johnson is the central component to the music scene in Olympia, WA.  Long before Seattle was the boomtown of grunge, and long after that star faded, Olympia has been home to a vibrant, diverse indie scene.  And Johnson, who began K Records away back in 1982, has been at the centre.  His band, The Beat Happening, were one of the foundational and central bands to the Pacific Northwest.  Their 1989 album, Black Candy, was an essential part of my high school soundtrack, even if most of my friends didn’t get it (Hey, I played football after all).  Johnson’s atonal, droning baritone is like the rain of the region, comfortable and warm for me. So A Wonderful Beast  The album is dominated by Johnson’s voice, one of the most singular voices in modern rock music.  The album was produced by the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, but that in and of itself isn’t all that exciting. Carney is kinda everywhere these days, but he is a pretty damn good producer.  He also played most of the instruments.  But back to Johnson’s voice; it just takes over the music, no matter way, as on the classic Beat Happening track, ‘Red Head Walking.’ A Wonderful Beast is Johnson’s first solo album in 13 years and a stunning comeback.  This is also, really, the first album Johnson has been...

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Cypress Hill — Elephants on Acid

Cypress Hill Elephants on Acid BMG For many of my generation, Cypress Hill formed a key component of the soundtrack of our youth.  For me, the first time I heard their ‘How I Could Just Kill a Man,’ I was hooked.  And floored.  They sounded like nothing else.  DJ Muggs created this paranoid, hallucinogenic world with his beats, which looped and swirled, but with a thumping back beat.  Rappers B-Real and Sen Dog offered brutal, heavy, and uncompromising views of the world, though delivered very differently.  B-Real, the main rapper, adopted a nasal voice, based on Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys.  Sen Dog, though he didn’t appear on every track, was harder.  His voice deeper, threatening almost.  The Hill was also the first massive Latinx hop hop act.  And over the course of their first two albums, their eponymous début (1990) and the masterful Black Sunday (1992), they were dominant.  They were trippy, they were vicious, they were uncompromising and unforgiving.  And the beats were supreme. For reasons that remain lost to history, Muggs gave up the producers’ chair with III: Temples of Boom, sharing duties with RZA.  Sen Dog was also out of the group temporarily.  And this began The Hill’s journey into the wilderness.  Over the late 90s and 2000s, they became increasingly difficult to follow, their lyrics became a parody of their early 90s selves.  And Muggs seemed flat...

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