Complanceny=Death. I'm sure I didn't originate the phrase but that's what came to mind envisioning this particular blog entry. Causticvox!, the live streaming music show companion to this site, was built around the classic pillars of Alternative Music. The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Wire, Echo & The Bunnymen, Killing Joke, Bauhaus, The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, New Order, Siouxsie & The Banshees etc., are all part of the stream--a very important part! But I promised myself when I started this labor of love, I would not & could not only peddle with those known great entities. I had to expose new fare, otherwise it would be just another nostalgia show. With that in mind, here are a handful of lesser known acts I believe carry the torch for Alternative Music now & in the coming years.
They self-describe as an '80's inspired Indie/New Wave/Post-Punk band which is true judging from their output so far. But to leave it at that, would be woefully underselling a band I believe exemplifies the best of what Alternative Music, regardless of genre leanings, has to offer.
In Isolation captures a couple of things rarely touched upon by many bands considered Alternative today. First, they have uncanny musicianship. That can't be overstated. Separate the vocals from "Tears" and you still have a moving composition with a widescreen cinematic drive. Add the excellent vocals of Ryan Swift who sounds reminiscent of Talk Talk's Mark Hollis, and the synergy is undeniable. There are probably hundreds of bands who match In Isolation when it comes to musical dexterity but that number shrinks exponentially when you add Ryan's vocals to mix & listen to them as a whole. They're worth both your time & money. "Tears" is available as two song single with an excellent Matt Pop Remix via Bandcamp. Equally excellent singles "Berlin" & "Film Noir Scandal" are available via iTunes.
I'm more than willing to admit, I'm not on top of everything. It's impossible. I work 5 days a week, I have a significant other, kids, pets & all the concerns of a middle-aged working man. Therefore, I miss shit! So I missed the self-titled LP by Kindest Cuts which came out nearly two years ago. Luckily, I did find it the middle of last year thanks to a friend on Bandcamp. If you're not familiar with Bandcamp & you love music, find it. Join. Login. Find a like minded music listener or two & have at it. That's where I found Winnipeg, Canada's Kindest Cuts.
I know little about this band/artist. The Facebook page infers that Kindest Cuts is the the undertaking of one man--Patrick Edward. Regardless, I've been assured of additional output which is necessary--dare I say life affirming, because the self titled release from 2013 shows nothing less than brilliance. Self-described as Synthpop & Post-Punk, I believe anyone who lends an ear would add Darkwave as well. Thankfully, it's not the derivative Darkwave so easily found with a quick google search. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. The interesting 'dark' sounding synth/bass/guitar combo that sounds so promising but after an entirely too long intro, you're slapped violently by the voice of someone doing a horrible Andrew Eldritch impersonation or whispy yet whining female vocals piercing enough a gun to the head seems to be the only solution. You get none of that with Kindest Cuts. What you do get is a man/band adept at making great synthetic music from the Synthpop of "Villains" to the hypnotic Darkwave of "Keeping Distance", Kindest Cuts is not a work in progress, but a fully realized entity. Do yourself a favor & get the self titled LP here!
Earworm. It's an odd word but appropriate when it comes to this duo--Death Party At The Beach. The self-titled debut EP from Sacramento, California's Lance & Nathan (no last names provided) is the ultimate earworm, but In a good way. It's not a Carly Rae Jespen tune that rearranges brain matter causing you to lust after underage boys with garden hoses (yes, I saw the video once--still scarred). DPATB is the one earworm you want to keep in your head.
Try to get the infectious "Empty And Marvelous" out of your cranium. You can't & you shouldn't. It's that good. The wiggling guitar, vocals that I can't describe other to say that they're awesomely unique, make DPATB a band to look forward to especially since they're in the process of recording new material. However, the self titled E.P. available now, is more than worth the sprightly price of $4.95 you'll find on iTunes. Better yet, chip in the extra $.05 & buy it from Bandcamp. Why cut Apple 30%? Plus you can get it in a variety of formats for essentially the same price! Death Party At The Beach is one to watch but why not enjoy now.
The best single I heard at the end of 2014 was provided by Detachments. Hands down. "Endgame" is the quintessential nod to several genres in one brilliant stroke. It opens with a pesky singular synth riff that breaks into a New Order-ish bass line both mind blowing but begging for a dancefloor. The strained but catchy chorus completes a work of near perfection. It's the purest form of accessible Darkwave I've heard since Shriekback or Specimen in the mid 1980's. However, I won't relegate Detachments to a pseudo cover band because they're not. Listening to prior releases like 2009's "Circles" or the following year's "Holiday Romance", you see Detachments homage to the past while maintaining a firm footing in the present & future.
Unlike, the three relative upstarts above, Detachments have a relatively long history. The thing missing, in my opinion, is the notoriety they deserve. Hopefully this piece in some way helps to solve that. Fortunately, the U.K. duo ( Bastien Marshal & Ed Casula) have their recorded output available on iTunes & Bandcamp. If you want to dance macabre, Detachments fit the bill.
Tampa Florida's Merchandise is an enigma. They're post-punk one minute, noise band the next & Indie Pop when they set their minds to it like they did on 2014's After The End. They've had plenty of press & accolades over the past few years, so I was a little hesitant about including them here. I listened to their recorded output again & again & I couldn't exclude them, plus they're on fucking 4AD! They have a level of brilliance I believe is sorely lacking recognition. This band could seriously be a game changer. It's rare to find a combination of complete musical acumen combined with a lead vocalist (Carson Cox) who literally gives Morrissey cause for concern. My only gripe--stop burying Carson's vocal in the mix!
If you look at YouTube for the video above, you'll see that there's a bit of dissonance amongst the people who participated in the 'thumbs up or down' vote. It's a testament to the fact that this band has a chameleon like ability to change without diminishing quality. The 'thumbs down' crowd hate the fact Merchandise took a more accessible approach to their last LP. They responded with the (Strange Songs) In The Dark E.P. which is a return to their earlier catalog & probably much appreciated by their 'hardcore' fans. I say to those people, don't pigeonhole Merchandise. They can & hopefully will do whatever suits them in the future. Merchandise is too good to ignore.
I aim to make to this a recurring blog on the site. There are so many bands/artists deserving of this space. Alternative Music is very much alive & healthy, but I had to have a cutoff. I could've included bands like Cygnets, Affairs, Secret Avenue, All Your Sisters, Moon Tapes, Wild Echo, Ski Lodge, The Black Ships, Actors & the list could go on & on. Unfortunately, I only have so much time & space. But I intend to continue to highlight the best in NEW Alternative Music. So even though the bands I mentioned & dozens of others don't appear here in this post, they probably will in the future. If you're a band that fits Causticvox!, be it Punk, Goth, Indie, Industrial, New Wave, Ska, etc., please contact me. If you're an Alternative Music enthusiast with a band/artist you feel is being missed, I definitely want to hear from you!