Teenage Rage! covers garage rock, punk, and other exciting matters, as a more melodic counterpart to my other column, Unheard. Today I want to hone in on a couple of small labels putting out thrilling miniature editions, namely Denver’s Snappy Little Numbers and St. John’s, Newfoundland’s Anteduvia Records.
Snappy Little Numbers
The aptly-named Snappy Little Numbers label grinds out marbled 45s from local Denver bands, with most editions packaged in slick retro sleeves. Singles are neat-o, as label boss dude Chuck Coffey points out: “There’s something really cool about the immediacy of a great song backed by another ripper.” On that tack, they’ve put out four so far:
Release number one from the label is a scorching split between two tiny Denver acts, Eyes & Ears and Snake Mountain (SLN-101), with each band paying tribute to a different Denver institution. Like any split single worth its weight in tar, this marbled pink treat supplies two songs from bands I’ve never heard before, and may very well never hear from again. Eyes and Ears’ momentary “I Left my Heart at Bar Bar” is an ode to some bar called Bar Bar. It’s a sweltering, punk-charged garage rocker that stomps on with a Hivesy riff before turning a few sharp corners with the guitars and adding in some delightful chanted group vocals. The sound engineer was either inept or genius; we’ll split the difference. On the flipside, Snake Mountain (yes, they’re named after Skeletor’s evil lair in Masters of the Universe) proves to be the more overtly melodic act here on their charging paean to the Mile High City’s Colfax Avenue, “Defend Colfax.” Colfax Ave. was once hailed as the “longest, wickedest street in America” by Playboy Magazine, and is home to the Denver Mint as well as the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society (since renamed the AMC Cancer Research Center). I pulled that from an impressively lengthy Wikipedia entry on the street (the premiere Litmus test for cultural significance in today’s age). But I digress. The track itself is plugged up with thick guitar chords and jigs to a vibrant if chaotic beat, with the band’s snotty singing duo bounding urgently through the thick tuneful walls of sound. It might not be particularly inspired, but in all its enthusiasm, it’s somewhat inspiring.
Record number two is a four-songer from Denver’s 25 Rifles (SLN-102), who channel Hüsker Dü and the more straightforward elements of Mission of Burma on this diminutive EP, which seems to teeter between a forceful melodic impulse and a commitment to high-tension, riff-y punk. It’s a very nineties sensibility, which I dig. The highlight is the wistful yet supercharged pop-punk of “Summer Fades,” a deliciously simple nugget that bends a little under its soggy lyrical matter, an interrogative missive spilling a laundry list of existential quandaries such as “did you know that’s how the world would end?,” “did you see the hydrogen has bled?” and – excerpted no doubt from any number of pockmarked Blogspots – “did you see that all the leaves were dead?” So yeah, the words aren’t particularly revelatory – which really doesn’t set them too far apart from the bulk of vaguely melancholic punky poppy bands I’ve enjoyed – but the songs, and the juicy chord changes contained within, have a funny way of making the lyrics seem less important. Fun fact: despite my qualms about the writing, guitarist Jason Heller is a legit writer and has a novel out through Tor Books – one of the bigwigs in sci-fi publishing.
The Manxx weds Sara Fischer‘s shrill vocals and guitar/keyboard interplay to endearingly meagre production values (i.e. the sound is so in-the-red it sounds like your speakers might have blown out) on their SLN single (SLN-103). The zippy energy and melodic sensibility pin this as something that might have turned up on an early nineties K Records compilation – perhaps most in line with Tiger Trap. On the other hand, Hooper‘s single (SLN-104) is pure boy music. The most well-produced record in Snappy Little Numbers’ small but expanding discography, it supplies punchy pop-punk in a late-nineties vein, calling to mind everyone from Seaweed to the folks on the American Pie soundtrack. But before I attempt the first ever reference to Stifler to ever grace the venerable halls of the Foxy Digitalis archive (oops), I should concede that these folks know their way around a pop song. “The Shallows” is brief but its moment is soaked in melody, the singer channeling his adolescent lovelorn croon adeptly, calling to mind a vaguely mischievous, sun-glazed look that might not match his physical form (if you’ll recall, the band is from Denver). Regardless, it seeps into your memory nicely. B-side “100 Acre Slingshot” is less potent melodically, and sort of reminds me of the bulky yet unburdened guitar pop of Boston’s Six Going on Seven from awhile back.
So four singles are all we’ve seen from SLN so far, but this fits Coffey’s sense of modesty: “When expectations don’t really exist it makes any accomplishment seem huge.” Should be worth keeping tabs on.
On the heavier end of matters comes Anteduvia, who hail from the eastern extreme of my own swanky home country:
They specialize in gloriously decorated vinyl of the hardcore sort, focusing mainly on the local Maritimes scene, though many of their releases push rebelliously against the confines of their genre. As a result, a lot of it is expansive, experimental, and more than a little overwhelming.
Anteduvia’s latest full-length is an impressive, milky-translucent LP from St. John’s, Newfoundland’s avant-hardcore act Veneers, co-released with Noyes Records. Although it isn’t all that long, Similar Stories (ANTE-007) is ambitious and sprawling and rather curious in design. All the vocals are fed through guitar amps, via effects pedals and all, meaning they (a) are completely unintelligible without (and sometimes even with) the lyrics sheet, and (b) take some serious getting used to. Their tinny timbre rubs up curiously against the harrowing walls of post-hardcore guitars as the songs, in all their abandon, make sinuous sharp turns – rolling and stopping and staggering etc etc. These folks don’t venture rewrite the manual with their lyrics (apocalyptic melodrama mostly – keywords “crumbling,” “blood,” “morally bankrupt,” and “spears of apathy”), at least not by my jaded standards, but their expansive songs pack enough surprise, and tremble with enough sheer emotion, that one’s attention is maintained. In all the chaos the melody is sometimes lost, though when they slow things down and go for the long-build, as on the last two tracks of the record, they prove to be able exploiters of the spine-tingling epic. This LP’s younger sibling is a 33 rpm split seven-inch (ANTE-005) between Veneers and Truro, Nova Scotia’s sister maritimer act L/P. Here the band is less ambitious but more melodic, with a rougher, lo-fi production style. Meanwhile, the band plays more urgently, with a manic rhythm section leading the charge – it seems like this is a younger and less indulgent manifestation of the band. The lyrics are still a smidgen on the histrionic side (song titles: “Arrows of Fire and Time,” “Pity, Pity, Too Late!”), but here you can actually make them out, and I dare say they fit in rather nicely within the jagged guitar stabs and rifling rhythms. L/P, meanwhile, has considerably more muscle behind them – their three blistering tracks pile on guitar walls so think they begin to congeal and sludge. “Rags” is a gargantuan sandstorm of metal-cum-hardcore, while “Ageis” almost treads into garage rock territory, thanks to a fiery guitar part. Angry lyrics and big guitars go a long way in this world, buck.
Also c/o of Anteduvia comes Weak Link‘s six-track Drop the Dime EP (ANTE-008), which is squeezed onto a single 45. This is more hard-and-fast, traditional hardcore bolstered by impressive musicianship, with dual guitars effortlessly weaving and colluding. The whipping speed and combined vocals of brief Closer “Stay Down” characterize the record’s formula best (and most impressively) – frustrated, nihilistic lyrics are flung out from the bedlam as guitar riffs jostle away relentlessly. The tempos are maintained at a breathless pace, so when the track takes pause, the band’s aggravated tension is practically palpable. “Endless Bringdown” and “Never Win,” also populated by vague sentiments of disillusionment and oppression, succeed similarly in splintering the listeners’ skulls – my only gripe is that the vocals could occasionally afford to be louder in the mix.
Last, we have an LP from way back in 2011. Swords‘ Miasma (ANTE-004) is a doomy hardcore opus split into two lengthy compositions. Both tracks are exhilarating and fiercely melodic ‘epics’ (a term I resentfully use) whose lyrics appear to tell the story of Cain and Abel, obliquely articulating the absurdity of warfare and the insidious manner in which it is tolerated. The production is airtight, handled by Toronto’s very own version of Steve Albini (sort of), Ian Blurton – the full heft of the thick guitars is recorded with incomprehensible clarity, but threatens to burst at the seams at every turn. Though the bulk of the album rages on at full steam, the band is no stranger to dynamics, with each song tastefully winding into quieter moments amid the bedlam, even veering into the downright – on “Witness” it’s a pretty voice trading lines with the main singer’s deathly bellow. On “Sacrifice” the contemplative moment comes near the end, in a brooding, starlit couple of minutes that splinters into a gargantuan reaffirmation of the Order of the Guitar.
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