Weird War
Illuminated by the Light
Drag City

The Nation of Ulysses frontman Ian Svenonius tried to create what anarchist writer Hakim Bey described as “a temporary autonomous zone,” where music is neither just sound nor political rant but an all-encompassing, un-commodifiable, ever-changing revolution of everyday life. “We’ll smash the world apart, stick it back together and name it new tonight,” NOU promised. And with cacophonous guitar and fevered proclamations they did transform the rooms they played by creating an air of earnestness and danceable chaos. Svenonius’ subsequent bands—Cupid Car Club and The Make-Up—maintained that elusive and provocative edge with the creation of a band mythos and by introducing a self-dubbed “gospel yeh-yeh” sound that felt both socially subversive and contagiously fun.

This history is inseparable from Svenonius’ current project, Weird War (formerly known as The Scene Creamers), and the band’s fourth album, Illuminated by the Light. More upbeat than previous albums, it dabbles in disco beats, psychedelic riffs and earthy bongo drumming with Svenonius screeching and whimpering in his seductive falsetto. Light is more than just “funk-lite,” but with one minor flaw: the radical gumption of past projects is buried under the production. It’s all easy to ingest and very good, but disappointingly innocuous. (Erika Fredrickson)

Weird War plays the Elk’s Lodge Friday, July 22, at 9 PM. $6 in advance at Ear Candy and $7 at the door.

Blare Bitch Project
Double Distortion Burger
Steel Cage Records

There’s no B.S. with Blare Bitch Project and their first full-length album, Double Distortion Burger—it’s a straight-ahead powerhouse of blaring duel lead guitars, thrashing drums and angry, shattering vocals intended to kick listeners squarely in the jaw. It’s unapologetic rock with equal portions Joan Jett, early Clash and KISS, and a ton of influence from founder Blare N. Bitch’s former band, Betty Blowtorch.

Bitch formed her new outfit in 2002 after Blowtorch’s bizarre breakup—in mid-tour circa 2001, two members of the band jumped ship with no explanation and one of them, Bianca Halstead (aka Butthole), was killed in a car accident weeks later. The lack of resolution from these events showed through on the Blare Bitch Project’s first EP (which included a slow ballad dedicated to Halstead), but Burger shows no remnants of past tragedy.

In fact, parts of the new album seem to move beyond Bitch’s trademark shredding lead guitar to spotlight fellow lead guitarist Punky. Tracks like “Knock Me Out” and “Get It” include much more hook-laden riffs that Bitch attributes to her new bandmate. The two lead players also share vocals and are ably backed by new drummer Chase Manhattan and bassist Johnny Black. Fans of Blowtorch shouldn’t be disappointed. (Skylar Browning)

Blare Bitch Project plays MARS Monday, July 25. Cover TBA.

Larry Hirshberg
Packing for Nowhere

Nowhere is a place where the sound of pounding hooves and jazz drum rolls intersect narrations about moths and Tasty Cakes—a twilight zone populated with a dream-like concoction of familiar images and unfamiliar sounds. At least that’s the nowhere of Larry Hirshberg’s new album Packing for Nowhere, an experimental collage of noise and spoken word.

The collection of studio experiments gathered over the last two years proves that Hirshberg (formerly of the Tom Catmull Combo, among others, and currently of the Trillionaires) has amazing versatility beyond folk and blues-rock compartments. The album reveals streaks of the dark creepiness of a David Lynch film: in “The Pine Hen,” chord progressions fade in and out like a distorted music box while a woman methodically lists types of hens. In “Packing for Norway,” Hirshberg’s neurotic repetition of “Can you tell I’m nervous?” is countered by a tempered hi-hat and the strange sound of rattling seeds. Or is that oil sizzling in a pan? The clarity of (and indulgence in) sound provides a study in perception. It’s an intriguing album with rich textures that provide something—and somewhere—new. (Erika Fredrickson)

Virus Syndicate
The Work Related Illness
Planet Mu

Keeping track of electronic music’s latest subgenres can feel a lot like doing battle with a many-headed mythological beast, minus the possibility of evisceration. Grime, for example, also known as sublow or dubstep, is one of the latest fanged heads to emerge from the hoary hydra of UK dance music. Virus Syndicate, a crew of MCs and producers from Manchester, offer up a slab of cutting-edge grime on their debut album The Work Related Illness. Characterized by off-kilter breakbeats, gritty basslines and chopped samples, this genre really must be heard to be appreciated; it’s so damned dirty and gangsta that American rap sounds utterly limp by comparison.

Virus Syndicate’s four MCs spit rapid, crazily-timed rhymes over producer Mark One’s superb compositions. The style brims with a confidence that one rarely finds on debut albums, and the end result is extremely rewarding. Underground hip-hop heads who demand pedantic dissertations from their favorite acts won’t be into this, but people who like ass-shaking bass and humorous rhymes really ought to check it out. Virus Syndicate is the antidote for commercial rap that we’ve all been waiting for. (Adam Fangsrud)

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