It’s New to Elliot: as suggested by Jill Carmoney

I first met Jill around 2008 when our friends started putting on shows at a local house/venue called the Haunted Basement. Jill was still in high school and was playing bass for Just Do It — a hardcore band that played fun stuff that young people could climb on each other and sing along to. But Jill wasn’t long for that band and left after a few months. This bummed me out because in the local scene at that time, there were almost no other women in bands, especially not in loud rockin’ bands. These days, there are way more women playing music in Des Moines, and I think Jill should be proud to have been at least a small reason for that sea change.

When Jill asked if she could give me some records for this, I realized that I didn’t quite know what type of music Jill prefers. She keeps that stuff a little guarded, at least on social media. The following records are a good indicator of someone who knows their stuff. Jill did this right.

Alice Cooper — Killer

Not only was Alice Cooper right on when he informed us that it’s pronounced “Mil-ee-wau-kay,” he also was right on back in ’71 when his band put out this record. I think I’ve never delved into much Alice Cooper because their music has been remembered as secondary to their stage show. But I get it now. For the last two years I have done karaoke to “School’s Out” at the 7th grade talent show on the last day of school, so I understand the power of that band’s actual music, and I really, truly understand it now that I’ve heard Killer. This is probably one of the best records I’ve listened to in the six months that I’ve been doing this thing. It melds all the elements of cool early 70’s rock’n’roll: the oncoming movement of heavy metal, the stomp & strut of glam and the slight hint of power pop. They have great riffs in every song, almost to the point where I wonder if they were an early influence on Iron Maiden’s dark, nimble riffing style. And all throughout, Alice himself is perfect. He is funny and smart — “Dead Babies” has a shocking title, but it’s supposed to be an anti-child abuse song. They just really sound like they know what they’re doing here. I bet they were so good live around this time. Awesome stuff.

My Opinion: 8/10

Slowdive — Souvlaki

I took my baby Maggie up to Ames today, and on the way there we listened to this entire Slowdive record. Maggie slept the whole time. I felt the same. AND THAT’S MY REVIEW EVERYBODY, GOODNIGHT

Fine, I’ll elaborate. If you’ve read many of these reviews, you’ll know that me and shoegaze don’t get along. I find it boring and aggravating — why does everything have to be so swishy and swirly? Stop making your music swirly, you shoegaze bands! Slowdive does a good bit of swirliness, and they’ve got some ear-piercing keyboards going on, courtesy of questionable genius Brian Eno. The vocals are predictably buried 900 miles in the background, and the 90’s production does it no favors. So maybe it was due to Maggie being such a good girl back there that I was in a forgiving mood, but I got on this record’s wavelength more than I thought I would. A few songs get away from those shoegaze pitfalls and present some pretty little melodies, and in a record with sonic quicksand trapping me everywhere I walk, I was grateful for something grabbable. I still wouldn’t jam this again, but I sure do like it better than My Bloody friggin Valentine.

My Opinion: 5/10

NERV — Life?

A note to all you out there who might be interested in giving me records to listen to: if you know of one that’s under eight minutes, this free time-starved dad/teacher will take it. It’s even better when that record comes from a band featuring a good friend of mine, the inimitable Joe Milik, along with Iowa City mainstays Brendan Wells and Brad and Cole Highnam. I don’t think NERV is still playing anymore, and I unfortunately was a total tool and never saw them live. I need to stop being such a tool and go to more shows. I’m sure baby Maggie will be cool with seeing more hardcore bands — she’s got those baby headphones now, so it’s all good. Anyway, this EP is a whirlwind of hardcore punk played at breakneck speed, with lots of half-time parts for maximum moshing and two-stepping. Brad has some great unhinged guitar solos, Joe drums like a controlled tornado and Brendan screams with believable grit. A good eight-minute dip in the hot tub of crazy hardcore is always good for the soul.

My Opinion: 7/10

Chrome — Half Machine Lip Moves

Big thanks to Jill for teaching me about a little slice of rock history of which I was ignorant. Chrome came from San Francisco in the mid-70’s with a goal to innovate and annoy. They drew from influences like The Stooges and The Zombies by making lo-fi rock’n’roll with a crash and a bang. But the reason why they’re cited as one of the creators of industrial rock is the permeating feedback, tape loops and grinding noise that resonated with like-minded weirdos. I like some of this stuff, especially when it’s got a snapping drum beat and buzzing riffs. But even in those songs, and especially in the crazier songs, Half Machine Lip Moves sounds like someone recorded it, put the tapes in a basement and then let the basement flood and warp the recordings. What results is an acid trip of a record that never lets you settle in and get comfortable. At no point was I upset at this experimentation like I have been with other bands, but I definitely lost interest in the midst of directionless noise jams. I’d recommend most people to check this out, but mostly for curiosity and as a study of that neat part of history when certain creative types thought punk wasn’t confrontational enough.

My Opinion: 5/10

Big Zit — demo

Another seven-minute record. Jill, you rule! Big Zit’s demo tape is essentially a very short EP, and it’s the type of thing that can only be consumed over a short period of time. Any more would be too much. This is oddball hardcore punk played very fast, recorded very roughly and owing a metric ton of debt to HR of Bad Brains. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to sound so much like HR — strangled, shrieking and manic beyond measure. Judging from the artwork and the yelled messages between songs (“YEEEAH, BIG ZIT, PLAYAAAA”), these guys are stoner goofballs who messed around and did something valuable for a change. It looks like they might already be done as a band, which sounds about right for stoners. You just can’t trust ‘em, people.

My Opinion: 6/10