Broken Water's album Tempest evokes bees buzzing in a jar on the kitchen table under the melancholy morning light streaming through a dusty window. You wake up hung over, and you and your friends put on sunglasses and go down to the diner to eat buttery home fries and scrambled eggs and sip gallons of muddy coffee. The pounding music from last night's show still hums in your ears. That is to say, Broken Water is what I remember from my youthful 1990s: fuzzy guitars strummed with earthy ease and shimmery minor-key interludes.
The Olympia band clearly comes from the same roots as Unwound and Team Dresch. A droning in "Orange Blossom Stains" sounds like a warning. The vocals drown in their own softness, like the lonely, glittering darkness of The Sundays or Mazzy Star. It's music for a tripped out, Alice-in-Wonderland evening smoking the hookah with the caterpillar. But I don't mean to imply childlike fragility. Broken Water is rockful and warped and heavy, with driving, cacophonic intros. If you like early Nirvana, you'll love the way this album stirs itself into a consuming frenzy that will either make you dance or make you feel like you're caught in that jar, happily drugged by the mesmerizing sound of buzzing. (Erika Fredrickson)
Broken Water plays Total Fest Fri., Aug. 17, at the Badlander/Palace.
Guantanamo Baywatch: Oh Rats!
For a band that started off by getting as drunk as possible during their first year of shows in 2008, Portland's three-piece Guantanamo Baywatch is building a good reputation on tightly-crafted surf music, tinged with enough punk scunge to make it cool for the basement-show set.
Their release, Oh Rats!, available as a 7-inch and at bandcamp (Jonnycat Records), serves as a great introduction to Guantanamo, though the initiated will just crave their full-length record, Chest Crawl.
The title track on Oh Rats! starts with a pensive bass line for a few seconds before the lead guitar noodles into classic '60s reverb, kicking the song into Guantanamo's trademark "California beach party dumped on by Oregon rain" sound. Next, "A Boy to Love" gets heavier with the heartache and more sugary with the pop, though I must admit I can't really understand a damn thing guitarist/vocalist Jason Powell is singing.
The band's records can make for a good soundtrack to lying on the bedroom floor feeling heartbroken yet groovy, but after having the privilege to see them this spring in a packed Portland dive, I can attest Guantanamo Baywatch is nothing but a fierce dance party live. I'm already practicing my shimmies and shakes. (Kate Whittle)
Guantanamo Baywatch plays Total Fest Fri., Aug. 17, at Zoo City Apparel.
Dikes of Holland: Braindead USA
As any fan of ODB will tell you, the music you like best on the stereo does not always make the best show. Choosing which bands you want to see liveif, for example, you find yourself attending some sort of "total" festivalyou should consider that certain types of music are more fun to jump around and yell at than others. Dikes of Holland play a familiar microgenre of rock created almost entirely by the Stooges: garage. They play it well, with an intensity that will shake you around and sore your neck and make your festival highlight list later.
Yes, a majority of the songs on Braindead USA sound like Raw Power. Yes, that is technically uncool, but Dikes of Holland are working on neither the level of technique nor cool. They want to get you in earshot and make a sound that is proven to cause people to have a rad time. Sure, it's a rad time you've had before. You might even have gotten sick of having it at home with the stereo by yourself. But you'll never get sick of having it with other people, jumping around and going "Woo!," so you should go. (Dan Brooks)
Dikes of Holland plays Total Fest Fri., Aug. 17, at Zoo City Apparel.
Big Eyes: Back From the Moon
Kate Eldridge doesn't sound like a wilting flower, but her tough vocals have a vulnerability that make me think she'd be the heroine in a John Hughes film. Her Seattle band, Big Eyes, is catchy power pop punk, but not the manufactured kind. It's rowdy and catchy in a Ramones-esque way. It's the soundtrack to rebellion and also to heartache. On the new 7-inch from Grave Mistakes Records, the trio offers two impetuous tunes that celebrate the angst of living and loving. "Back From the Moon" where Eldridge sings, "Fly back from the moon!/I hope you get here soon" feels like it's in flight, soaring on shiny chords and fist-pumping sentiments. "I Don't Care About Friday Night" starts out as a fast, pouty lovesick anthem, but it's so much fun that by mid-song you don't care about Friday night either. You just want to party with Big Eyes. (Erika Fredrickson)
Big Eyes plays Total Fest Thu., Aug. 16, at Zoo City Apparel.