The Washdown hail from Tampa, Floridanot exactly known as a breeding ground for good bands. But this limber punk outfit successfully defies the odds on their debut EP, recently released by reputable indie label Lookout! Records (Green Day, Pretty Girls Make Graves). Unlike the syrupy, My Bloody Valentine-inspired dream pop that seems to be par for the course on the local scene, the Washdown pay tribute to the early post-punk era, specifically Wire. Their frenetic melodies wrap neatly around the shouted refrains of vocalist Ryan Hess, producing a nervous yet energetic take on the patented paradigm.
And much like their heroes, the Washdown doesn’t wear out their welcome, as the band whips through these six songs in under fourteen minutes. Even the song titles “End of Conversation,” “Shot in Mouth”perfectly reflect their raw, spiky flow. The true standout of the bunch is “Calicula,” a succinct punk-pop nugget that bounces around every direction before collapsing from exhaustion. Sure, the band is still lacking a bit in the originality department, but when the songs are played with such die-hard commitment, the source material hardly matters. All in all, it’s a fairly auspicious start, especially for a band from Tampa.
Some of my favorite music harks from dreary Oxford, England. Radiohead is probably their most notable export, but for me, Ride’s Nowhere pioneered the soundscape of inspiring, acute guitars infused with dreamy pop backgrounds. It has been too long since this sound has been advanced, and a renaissance is long overdue. I saw the Scottish fourpiece Ballboy play at the Metro a few weeks back, and instantly warmed to their sound-loud but contained. The first and last tracks of Club Anthemsare stellar, and portray some of the traits defined by Ride. Their last song, “Leave the earth behind you and take a walk in the sunshine” has particularly captured my attention. A room-filling sound, with traditional pop loops, loud guitars, and a soaring background, it makes you want to continually turn up the volume. The rest of the album possesses an interesting mix between ballads, rock, and this Oxford-esque sound. While I personally favor the latter, all the songs are notable for their sharp and sometimes quirky lyrics. This is definitely worth a listen and is a welcome addition to anyone’s collection.
Doug Martsch (of Built to Spill fame) recently toured Chicago promoting his new solo album. One of his supporting acts was Mike Johnson, and Martsch himself played bass for this set. For me, it was the highlight of the concert, and Johnson, while stylistically different, showed himself to be a guitarist of equal charisma to Martsch. Unfortunately, this album does not fully capture Johnson’s intimate voice or his mesmerizing playing style, but it is haunting nonetheless. If you like Richard Hawley’s (lead guitarist of Pulp) recent efforts, this is an album worth tracking down. Mellow, with a soft rambling guitar, it has moments of sheer beauty. Above all else, go out of your way to see this guy live.