THREE ALBUM REVIEWS – Self Defense Family, “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten” Soundtrack, Summer Fiction

Self Defense Family, Heaven Is Earth

Self Defense Family, Heaven Is EarthOne spin into Heaven Is Earth felt like a time machine.

My musical phases come and go. I was working the radio dial two nights a week, exploring punks glowering offshoots. Bands like PIL and The Nation of Ulysses that you don’t easily find on the surface. Bands from the Dischord label, deft at getting under your skin.

Euro/American punk/post-hardcore rockers (formerly known as End of Year) draw heavily on those snide, disaffected tones in their fifth album and second on Death Wish Records. The bright eyed, feral influence of Johnny Lydon (nee Rotten) can be found all over the album’s vocals, from caterwauling on “Everyone Wants A Prize For Feeling” to the harrowing, back of the mix pleas just to be left alone on the bleak opener, “In My Defense Self Me Defend”.

There are a few really sedate moments showcasing depth too. The title track is a ponderous, almost languid jam reeling out at seven minutes. My favorite on Heaven Is Earth the one that will lang on a dozen iTunes play lists from here to eternity is “Basic Skills” a mid-tempo, brooding track filled with somber, dry vocals, howling, with catchy, emotional hooks that really stick into you.

Gritty post-hardcore not your ideal summer music? To hell with that. Check out the band’s site for updates on one of the best albums of the year and what comes next in their hostile takeover.

Soundtrack, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten

a3408923348_10Rock endures, in spite of non-stop obituaries to the contrary, because it’s mysterious appeal is rooted simply.

Recent proliferations of solid international compilations, sourced from Africa and South America serve as clear illustrations of that draw. I don’t really need words. I just need to know what they’re saying.

The soundtrack to Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten is a dynamic collection of halcyon era Cambodian rock. The twenty track album arrives on the heels of a highly-regarded documentary film (directed by John Pirozzi) about pop music traditions in the tiny, southeast Asian nation largely unknown until the height of the Vietnam conflict and after. From a civilization nearly wiped off of the face of the earth by war, enduring poverty, and a genocide that arose in the vacuum comes a satchel full of forgotten gems from 50’s roots rock and 60’s psychedelica that will quite simply move you.

Turns out Phnom Penh was a hotbed. Perhaps not quite London or New York when it comes to sourcing rock movements but a wide range of very familiar forms emerged in that time, from somber sway hipped crooners Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea (here showcasing, “Thevary My Love”) to Drakkar’s drowned out garage fuzz, “Crazy Loving You” to a cover of Carole King’s, “You’ve Got a Friend.” Give a listen. It’s all there. And it’s fabulous. 

The compilation feels like a cross section of the top of the era’s rock charts. If you close your eyes, you can almost picture a vibrant community of young, ambitious Cambodian musicians sitting around listening to a faint AM radio. If some of these descriptions make the collection seem boring or in any way predictable, that should not the point. As with most pop radio hits, there is a satisfying complexity underneath their allure. The album serves as time capsule, and to American audiences, will probably resonate with many Vietnam war era films and fiction.

Want to dust off some long lost roots rock? You can buy Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten here at their site, as well as check out the documentary film.

Summer Fiction, Himalaya

summerfiction_himilaya_coverSummer Fiction is a thing isn’t it? Dog-eared beach books. Long drives. Pick it up and put it down.

Tell your friend about what you’re reading.

Good on Manchester’s Bill Ricchini for channelling that breezy time of year when window staring introverts the world over step boldly out of their basements and bedrooms. The album Himalaya is chock full of bright pop rock gems, piano and harmony heavy. The title track, an end of the night tune, crackles with a dreamy Beach Boys styled rock motif and should wiggle their way into a prominent part of the summer play list.

Even the upbeat songs are evocative of a daydream, from the careless sidewalk browsing on “Perfume Paper” and grittier sexual desires for a “Dirty Blonde” and “Laura Lorraine”. Summer Fiction isn’t quite raw. A delicate edge. There is a lack of a true bedroom feel in their bedroom pop. Don’t worry on that quibble though.

Want to drop this into your iTunes library? Perhaps just read a little more? Check out Summer Fiction’s site for more about Himilaya.