Times New Viking’s tour of America’s legendary indie-rock labels continues with their first release for Merge after a few albums on Matador and then Siltbreeze. By 2015, they’ll be on SST, and by late 2015, they’ll be suing Greg Ginn. But right now, in 2011, they’ve done the inevitable and tidied up just a bit. The overwhelming fuzz and full-blown levels of past TNV joints have given way to a slightly more presentable sound. The fidelity’s still low — this ain’t no Mutt Lange production — but Dancer Equired doesn’t scrape out your eardrums when you listen to it on headphones. The album feels less urgent and reckless, but you may also find it easier to focus on the songs, which are a vital part of the record-making process that Times New Viking have excelled at. The always-present kiwi-pop influence — these folks obviously love the Clean — is more blatant with the band’s new-found noise reduction. The continuous hitmaking of Present the Paisley Reich might be gone forever, but Dancer Equired offers up enough catchy pop jams to warrant a listen.

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/119662-times-new-viking-dancer-equired/#ixzz1QJKL7L7k

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Let’s Wrestle are another pack of young British guitar owners, and although they haven’t crafted much of an identity outside of being amiable wiseasses, that’s all you need if your songs are catchy enough. This kind of noisy, overdriven, guitar-heavy pop music is hardly confined to any era, but if Nursing Home came out in ’92 or ’93 — during that brief window when major labels let their guards down and signed legitimately good bands in a desperate search for the next Nirvana — they would’ve gotten at least as much radio play as Eugenius or Teenage Fanclub. Lyrically, Nursing Home combines the intelligent snark of Art Brut and the teenage fixation of “Blue Album”–era Weezer with songs about playing computer games in the suburbs and hanging out with friends. The production from Steve Albini ensures that it’s not too slick or processed. These short, humble pop songs amble along like the Wedding Present if David Gedge had a wrist injury that cut his inhuman strumming speed in half.

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/122647-lets-wrestle-nursing-home/#ixzz1QJLBZxzV

It’s weird to write about a guy who operates this close to the classic singer-songwriter template and not even consider the lyrics. The acoustic-strumming, banjo-picking Kurt Vile chooses fine words, and he certainly puts them in a specific order, but none of them have much to do with why his music works. Much of Smoke Ring for My Halo sounds like early Simon & Garfunkel with a concussion, but Vile’s blurry psychedelic folk rock is more interested in atmosphere than in messages or wordplay. It’s not quite ambient music for lo-fi vets, but neither does it try to penetrate Vile’s trademark haze. His fourth LP in as many years offers up 11 more sluggish drones that are as transfixing as they are indistinct, and perfect for anybody who digs new-fangled folksy biz but can’t handle beard ‘n’ banjo clown shows like the Mumford bros. Vile’s voice, a high whine somewhere between Lou Reed and J Mascis (his current touring partner), just adds to the smoky backdrop. He’s mastered the tuneful shrug, the song that sounds unfinished and tossed off but sticks fast to your brain and keeps revealing a depth you hadn’t noticed.

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Hey, it’s another Robert Pollard record. Today must be a day. We can’t even joke about how prolific this guy is because we’ve heard ’em all a million billion times already. This is the second album under the Lifeguards moniker from the former Guided by Voices frontman – another prick for the weary ears of the Pollard faithful. Lifeguards reunite Pollard with Doug Gillard, the former Death of Samantha guitarist who was Pollard’s main foil during GbV’s second half, and with whom Pollard made the excellent Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department album way back in pre-post-racial America. It’s been 12 years and dozens of records, but that’s still Pollard’s best non-GbV album. Waving at the Astronauts, by contrast, shares the problems that have plagued much of his recent work. There are legit hooks and pleasant melodies here, but nothing that will monopolize your mind. Those moments are surrounded by dull, perfunctory riffing tinged with a hint of Pollard’s proggier inclinations. A couple of gems here will pop up on your obsessive friend’s next Pollard mix (probably “They Called Him So Much” and “Sexless Auto”). The rest won’t make an impression.

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Faust are like the anti-Who: only the rhythm section remains. Not all the other members have passed, but drummer Werner Diermaier and bassist Jean-Hervé Péron are the only founders who play on their latest effort. Maybe it’s unfair to judge this release against records made by a full complement of German hippies 40 years ago, but even with the past set aside, it’s a bummer. It lacks the playfulness of the early Faust records, where the band’s experiments with jazz, folk, and raunchy rock and roll were coated with acceptable degrees of avant-garde theatricality. Here, Diermaier, Péron, and their partners James Johnston (from Gallon Drunk and the Bad Seeds) and artist Geraldine Swayne stick to listless noise-rock improvisations. Opener “Tell the Bitch To Go Home” is telling – a five-note bass-and-organ pattern thuds along forthrightly as guitar noise gradually expands and collapses on the edges. Like the album, it’s neither minimal nor maximal enough, settling for an indeterminate middle ground that doesn’t quite satisfy. “Dampfauslass 2” builds up a fine jam that ends too early. Swayne’s vampy vocals would sink “Lost the Signal” if it weren’t already an aimless slog. The second track, “Herbststimmung,” might be the best; this soothing feedback blur could easily have fit on 71 Minutes of Faust. In the end, Something Dirty is a minor footnote to a legendary discography.

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“The United States is probably my favorite country,” says Brian Kelly, the singer for Irish indie-pop band So Cow. It’s nice to know somebody in the world still loves us.

“The people here are generally generous and warm, too, though maybe we just get lucky with who we meet,” Kelly continues. “Also, American audiences aren’t afraid to make a front row happen, as opposed to the wallflower tendencies of audiences at home.”

Kelly must indeed love America, because So Cow are over here pretty much all the time. They’ve been touring almost constantly since February, when Chicago-based label Tic-Tac-Totally released their second album, Meaningless Friendly, and next Thursday’s show at the Paradise marks their third trip to Boston this year. That’s not too impressive for a band from New York or Philadelphia, but Ireland’s still part of an entirely different continent, no matter how many shamrock tattoos you see in Boston.

Constant touring has led to a steady increase in the band’s profile. In 2010 alone, they’ve graduated — in Boston rock-club terms — from O’Brien’s Pub to Great Scott to the ‘Dise. That’s due in part to So Cow’s touring with big-ticket bands like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and the Thermals, the latter of whom they’ll share the stage with this time around. But Kelly’s not sure how he feels about these higher-profile shows. “There are bigger crowds, but I’m still trying to figure out whether this is a good thing for us. I guess it is. More people. The ceilings are higher in bigger venues, and that’s a little offputting for reasons I can’t articulate yet.”

It’s hard not to like So Cow. They make catchy, frantic pop that’s tight but ragged, and noisy when necessary without obscuring the two or three hooks embedded in every song. The band’s nervous energy is offset by Kelly’s humor and understated charm. They sound like a less precious Nodzzz, a more relaxed Nerves, or Boyracer with less feedback and no 8-bit asides. Map out a Venn diagram of various musical subcultures and So Cow would comfortably hug the punks, the twee kids, the surly garage dudes, and the indie-rock nerds.

Even when he’s not on the road, Kelly devotes most of his time to So Cow. “When I’m not touring, I’m pretty much writing all the time.” And when he’s not writing, Kelly also keeps busy recording covers, just for the hell of it. He’s done songs by the Go-Betweens and Del Shannon, among many others, and hopes to finish off another batch after the band’s current spate of shows (which includes the Homegrown II fest at the Temple in Jamaica Plain October 17) ends in December. “I want to cover Kim Jung Mi’s album Now in its entirety. Though it’s a lot of Korean to memorize in one go.”

After that, So Cow plan on a brief but well-deserved break. “We’ve had a pretty full on 2010. Batteries need to be recharged, if not entirely replaced.” Kelly adds that they’ll also be releasing a new album and a few singles and touring North America and the European Union countries in 2011. What’s more, one of those planned 2011 singles is slated to drop on Somerville-based Ride the Snake Records. Maybe it’s not really the United States Kelly loves — maybe it’s just Boston.

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It sounds like the set-up to a bad joke. When Man Forever take the stage at Great Scott in Allston this weekend, the band will run five or six drummers deep. Instead of changing lightbulbs or debating the finer points of Neil Peart, they’ll unleash a dense flurry of tangled rhythms and percussive noise. Expect the drumming analogue to Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestras, or Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.

The project is the manifestation of one man’s obsession with rhythm and physical exhaustion. John Colpitts, also known as Kid Millions and regarded as one of the most talented and exciting drummers of the day, has kept the frantic pulse of psych-rock juggernauts Oneida since their inception while also leading drum sections at the Boredoms’ Boadrum events. He’s a serious scholar of the skins, and about as indefatigable as man gets. He formed Man Forever after watching the New York classical band Fireworks Ensemble run through Metal Machine Music.

“It brought together a few separate strands in my mind,” he says. “The program notes described how Lou Reed tuned his guitars in fifths and manipulated tape speeds — which got me thinking about a conversation I’d had with [Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer] Brian Chase about intonation and drum tuning. During the concert, I knew I wanted to try applying all these ideas to a solo album.”

Colpitts had a standing offer to release a solo album though vinyl boutique label St Ives. A week after the show, he recorded Man Forever’s debut, with help from Chase and bassist Richard Hoffman of Brooklyn psych trio Sightings. Colpitts layered multiple tracks of improvised drum fills and patterns, each track precisely tuned to different variations of B and F-sharp, with Hoffman’s bass rumbling in the background. The result sounds like a pick-up team of free-jazz drummers jamming in the middle of an avalanche.

But re-creating Man Forever live isn’t easy. “We tune each drum to a specific pitch,” Colpitts explains, “which is a huge time commitment. To keep our sanity, we limit the drummers and drums. No fewer than five, no more than seven, unless drummers can tune their own drums to pitches. Then the sky’s the limit.”

Colpitts has recruited an impressive crew for Man Forever’s live performances. In addition to Chase, the deep roster has included Shahin Motia of the Ex-Models, Allison Busch of Awesome Color, Andrew Barker of the Gold Sparkle Band, and Greg Fox of Teeth Mountain. Together they put in total effort with zero practice, filling the “performance space with colliding tones,” as Colpitts puts it. “There’s no preparation for Man Forever. This isn’t something I want to rehearse. It’s not about doing it in a practice space. The audience is a big part of it. It’s about performance and being in a new space, tuning, and presenting this thing to people.”

That “thing” is a feat of strength and will for the performers. Man Forever are an endurance test, an Iditarod for drummers that produces a stimulating outburst of noise and improvised music.

“It’s all mental,” is how Colpitts describes it. It’s not about flashy fills or pro chops — it’s about “bumping up against your physical limits, and in a way that helps to dictate the piece. You’re supposed to play as hard as possible, reach down into yourself and find out what your limits are, and what preoccupies you. What can survive that kind of performance as coherent thoughts. But you have to survive it as well, and pace yourself somehow. It’s a balance. Man Forever is like sprinting for 40 minutes.”

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