Darling Flesh – [self titled]

Even though pretty much all of its most important luminaries are now dead, the textures and themes of the glam era will never disappear from modern music. And because of that we have to endure a ton of unimaginative contemporary copycats trying to plant their respective flags on the genre, maybe seeking to be known as the ones to finally bring about a full-fledged revival.

Darling Flesh is not one of those. They certainly have the talent to do a spitting image replication of the genre. To be a reenactment band, if you will. But their approach is much more idiosyncratic and offbeat. Which more accurately reflects glam’s appeal than a robotic mimicking of its standards. Bowie, Ferry, Eno, (and everyone else in that camp) were all super-weird in their heyday, even compared to other musicians.


Opener “Psychic Tiers” illustrates strangeness this well because it’s not even a glam song. It’s just not. It’s awesomely innovative and sexual, but it’s not exactly glam. There’s no boogie-woogie. There’s no blues. It’s a funky, always slightly-behind-the-beat groove that sounds as if all the musicians involved just guzzled a ton of codeine before they started playing. Obviously a stylistic touch. The whispery, seductive, Bolanesque  vocals are the only thing remotely glammy on this one, but the rest of the album is more anchored to the genre.

If you’re a huge T. Rex fan, you will be blow away by “Ivory Leg,” with its acoustic guitars and bongo. “We’ll be dead before the morning comes,” Austin Canik croons fatalistically.

The highest point of the entire album though is easily “Martian Pumps,” which, like the opener, is not exactly glam. It’s a very modern-sounding composition, but with the crackling and fuzziness of something older. The band puts themselves in the shoes of lonely aliens in a surprisingly catchy ballad. And again, like the opener, the beat is so retarded and inhibited that it feels like the whole world has temporarily shifted into slo-mo. There’s something mildly psychedelic about listening to this one after 3-4 beers. Try it.

Dream local bill? These guys, Mojave Red and Desert of the Real.

Five Word Review: Falsetto-y sleaze rock plus bongos

Maniakal Melodiez Entertainment Presents: Kinetic

Houston rapper EnSane (his friends call him Earl) last night pulled together an impressive local showcase at a rather unassuming location: a Starbucks off of W 34th and highway 290.

But don’t be sad if you weren’t there. You’ll get your opportunity, given that organizers hope to make the event a monthly fixture.


Earl spitting fire (above) | Guero shredding (below)



With full support from the company’s local and district management, an impressive crowd of friends, bloggers and music lovers gathered outside the entrance under a beautiful Texas sunset to watch a medley of hip-hop, rock and of all things flamenco.

The first act on the bill was Earl himself, performing under the alias of EnSane. His flow was flawless, even if the sound was choppy at points. But surely with more of these showcases will come fewer kinks.

Ensane took the bumps along the way in stride, at one point quipping, “That guy’s using auto tune! He sounds better than me!” as the backing vocals chugged along and his crackled and popped. It was a testament to how well prepared and at ease his was up in front of a crowd, despite admitting he had a hint of stage fright.

One of my favorite tracks was like “A Fine Wine,” during which he name-checked a ton of different varietals, including deep cuts like ice wine. The message is overwhelmingly positive and preaches the virtues of patience and grit. Family, namely his child, was another uplifting theme that popped up throughout.

But then he also had some horrorcore moments as well, and some diabolical beats to go with them. One being a rhyme about a cannibal eating brains. Awesomely reminiscent of Geto Boys.

Geuro was up second. They peddled a crunchy brand of mostly instrumental rock that at first seemed to include unexpressed hints of surf. Later it would become very much expressed, as the lead guitarist intermittently dropped surfy, tremolo-picked melodies into the thrashy punk playing. Think Link Wray plus Greg Ginn.

Southern Fried Flamenco closed out the evening, which was by that point dark and balmy– as if for a brief moment we weren’t even in Houston at the end of July. As they sound-checked I heard some country western-style licks with a little flamenco along side. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But what came out was a tightly wrapped duo of flamenco rhythm and lead, which even switched roles occasionally.

The first few songs they played were breathtaking, but I’ll admit that the most memorable parts of their set were the covers (or “tributes” as they had said). One of “Billie Jean” and one of “Simple Man,” both with a tasteful dose of Spanish mystery.

Ruiners – Wasted Years

Noisiness is a great way to obscure a lack of developed thoughts and ideas in music.

Oh, it’s just unrestrained madness and that’s why you don’t find it to be “good” in the conventional sense. You’re just not keeping up with the breakneck speed of the great ideas flopping freely out of my brain like ten pounds of wet spaghetti.

To take noise-rock and distill it though is an advanced artform. Dispense with the meaningless repetition that deadens our appreciation of chaotic soundforms by keeping tracks short. Ruiners does this beautifully on “Wasted Years.”

Nothing cracks the 3:30 mark and because of that, the surging power of the growls and shouts are never wasted. Never cast on the dead ground to languish impotently like Onan’s seed.

The booming vocals of “Dhosti”are excitingly reminiscent of Jaz Coleman’s roars on any number of classic Killing Joke albums. But against a more wiry, less-overdriven guitar, making their presence more stark.

Pain pouring out that sounds like the death song of some magnificently large quarry that took hours to ground.


It’s hard to not hear a little bit of everyone’s favorite Danish wonder-kids in”Kaam,” especially as each shout finishes a little flatter than it started.

It’s a bullet train of anguish and heartbreak, even though it’s hard to tell what the narrative really is. It’s a war whoop that could cause a pit to form in any crowded environment.

Closer “Tunda” is the poppiest track of all, arriving in just the right order to highlight how at the same time composed and cacophonous this band can be. There are no throat-throttling cries in this one; instead they’re replaced with an airy, childlike crooning. Guitar and rhythm vacillates between blistering and blunted.

Five Word Review: Roaring punk for heavy hearts

IVORY ECHO – +ame +his heart

Upon listening all the way through this EP, I realized that I’d encountered one the songs a few months ago under a different project name. I bookmarked it for review, but it always fell through the cracks.

Can’t remember what the original name was, but I’m thrilled that we now have a whole EP full of similarly-crafted, icy cold, alt-pop tracks.

“THE TRUTH HURTS [FARTHER]” was that initial song which hooked me. It made a real an impression on me with its squirming, angst-filled lyrics.


The backbeat sounds a bit like Downward Spiral era NIN, which for many listeners (me included) is a desirable quality. Bass, snare, bass, snare, with a warbling John Carpenter synth oozing away in the background.

The lyrics are simple but powerful, with the chorus making use of a raspy whisper that I’ll admit first reminded me of Linkin Park. Which sounds shitty, but it’s not meant to. It works. It certainly gave me the chills. As did the desolate synth bridge at 1:12, following the first chorus.

This song is the last track though, which is appropriate given its terminal tone. The EP, however, starts off with a song that is much less dark, but still in the realm of the alternate. It still ain’t no party, it ain’t no disco, it ain’t no fooling around.

“HEY HEY HEY” opens with a stripped-down beat that could have been plucked right off the first 15 seconds of In Rainbows. The sing-song lyrics have a simple absurdity to them, but maybe that’s because they don’t conform to any of the big three topics of modern songwriting: love, loss or partying.

Hey, hey, hey, let’s go the place was used to hang out every day
Hey, hey, hey, let’s go to the barber shop where had our hair cut today

The actions described are so plain that it’s almost confusing why they’d be the subject of a song at all. It would be like penning an anthem about making a sandwich or walking to the end of your driveway to pick up the mail.

But these odd lyrics are propped up by a soulful backbeat and chimeric instrumentation reminiscient of Dixieland horns, a harmonica and a slide guitar–all smashed into one. The result is a brighter, but vaguely menacing pop track. Alluring and menacing  at the same time, like an eerie, ancient blues 45 found in some dingy corner of a Half Price Books.

On track two, “MASQUERADE” the band returns to its dirge-y stylings. The song’s most notable feature is its use of a pristinely clean, treble-drenched bass line. It’s creepy-as-hell and hard to turn off.

“IF ONLY THE PAST WAS PRESENT” is a haunting instrumental that would make Goblin blush.

Five Word Review: Freak-pop defying all genres




A Toyota Center experience from hell

Last night, I attended The Cure’s first Houston date in years and the experience was fantastic–with the exception of the first 15 minutes or so.

I showed up on time, but was not in my seat when the band walked on because the event was so absurdly on schedule. This isn’t a bad thing at all actually, but when you go to enough concerts, you learn that punctuality is a rarely practiced virtue.

So I was caught off guard, but thought to myself that the helpful ticket-takers and ushers would be able to guide me to my seat. Negatory.

When I get to the appropriate gate, there was not a soul around. Not a’ one. So I panicked a bit and tried frantically to find my seat without any outside help. Terrible plan.


I got so desperate five minutes into my search that I committed a cardinal sin of concertgoing and interrupted other peoples’ listening experiences–begging them to help me figure out where the hell  my seat was and why there appeared to be no empty spaces.

Beers were sloshed. Strappy gladiator sandals housing fragile feet were stomped. People were pissed. But what am I supposed to do?

Being one-song late shouldn’t mean that ticketholders have to fumble their way through the darkness like some modern-day Oedipus, sans the blood-soaked broaches. That’s shitty service.

I’ve been to Toyota a number of times and for a large venue, they typically do a decent job of running everything smoothly. Not this time. Finally, a wild usher appears! She is extremely helpful, finds my seat, booting out the slimy squatters. I don’t fault her for not being there originally.

It seemed a little understaffed to me. There were approximately 17 ticket gestapo to each guest downstairs at the door, shouting and flailing like off-duty TSA agents, but a tiny fraction of that upstairs helping with seating. Seems like a management-tier problem to me.

Anyway, Smith’s voice was on point and I was sufficiently far away that his ancient appearance wasn’t off-putting. The band was tight and hits were played.

Simon Gallup pranced around, Tarantella-like, as if he’d had one too many Diet Cokes before the show. But his bass playing was truly masterful and things were mixed in a way that his contributions were often front-and-center.

I had giddy schoolgirl moments during “Push” and the classic “100 Years” off my favorite record: “Pornography“.

Madness on Main 2016 – Notes

First of all, MoM was amazing. Fantastic job on the part of everyone involved. I couldn’t have picked a better event to attend after being absent from local music for so long.

The perfect weather and eclectic lineup, coupled with the quirky atmosphere of Main, made for an atmosphere that will be hard for even the event’s own organizers to conjure again.

Unfortunately, I realized last night that I now get weird, agoraphobic feelings at festivals apparently. So this may be the last live thing I attend for a long, long time. But the awesomeness of the night definitely took some of the edge off. (along with a pint or two of Karbach and 8th Wonder)

Since Always
was my first stop. I had never seen them live before despite being a fan. I’m a latecomer, so I never saw their expanded lineup onstage, but the condensed two-piece configuration worked well. Tons of energy and most importantly, the way the backing track was utilized, if you closed your eyes it felt like a full band was present. The booming dream-pop played well with the audience, but sadly, because it was an early slot, not too many were present. But that’s an issue at all festivals, I guess.

The next notable mention is Knights of the Fire Kingdom, which I’ll admit haven’t blown me away with their studio material. Not to say I found it terrible or anything, but back when I first listened, it didn’t move me much for some reason. Live though, their precision and insane tightness as a unit helped me rewrite that first impression of them. And fast. The sound was somewhere in between Fugazi and Foo Fighters to me–loud and fast, but with intense peaks and valleys of emotional exuberance.

Sphynx was the easily the most memorable moment of the night though. I am jealous that Houston cannot call this band one our own. This time, Austin, you live up to the hype. The front two members were clad in tassely leather jackets, somewhere between King and car salesman. Their gossamer jeans were ball-crushingly tight. They were anchored by a somewhat more serious looking red-bearded drummer in back. They looked like an SNL skit, but played like the fucking dickens, tearing through falsetto-filled pop songs in an incredibly arresting manner. Think of a hyper-sexualized Hall and Oates, but the live performances are actually good. The best part? The blistering talkbox solo during a cover of The Outfield’s “Your Love.” Status of the faces in the crowd? Indubitably melted.

Orlando Kennedy – To Wonder As I Wander

Orlando Kennedy has done it again. (His back catalog is worth checking out if you don’t understand precisely what I mean by this)

He’s created a hip-hop experience with no peers at all. Submarine guitar parts; shimmering, ambient soundscapes and a flagrant disregard for genre norms.

I keep waiting for someone to cop his style and his aesthetic, be it on the national stage or locally, but no one has even attempted it. He remains unique.

Unique in his singularly sombre approach to rap, plumbing the depths of emotional and social nadirs that all of us can relate to on at least some level. His style is just another potent refutation of the BHF.


The sadness that Kennedy imparts is not self-pity, but an admission that he has no idea what he’s doing in this big, bad world. He’s actively searching for meaning in a time where many headstrong millenials project a fraudulent knowing and confidence that they’ve already discovered their purpose and place. Kennedy’s just being honest about it.

“flowers for you” is the most heavily-concentrated glimpse into Kennedy’s wandering soul on this release. “Bouquet in my hand. But what does it mean? We lay flowers on graves and hand them on Valentine’s Day.”

Lost in this feeling of youth

Is this even my truth

I’m just feeling confused

I got these flowers for you

This is a young man looking into the abyss of 2016. In a world swirling with endless data, media and distractions, it’s even harder to find your purpose than it was in the past.

The world has become increasingly cold, digital and abstracted, but still, it expects even outsiders like Kennedy to take part in these petty social rituals [author’s note: HOLY HELL can I relate to THAT feeling!]

Instead of feeling at one with the world in the act of social communion (as society says we ought to), he feels even more disconnected and lost.

Besides isolation, one other theme that Kennedy continues to hammer home is his identity as a musical mystic. He is fascinated by astrology, magic and the metaphysical connection between man and the universe.

The outro “body and soul”–which is frustratingly short for being so damn catchy–is a recap of who Orlando is and why he will never fit into the major label vision of hip-hop.

The most succinct possible manifesto of Kennedy’s identity as an artist appears on this last track.

“Free man, I am not a slave, so you know that I never rocked a chain”

Five Word Review: I said a hip-hop hippie