Title: FUZZKILL RECORDS SAMPLER
Label: FUZZKILL RECORDS
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
Confessions of a Fuzz Fiend…
Hearts wanting what hearts want, I sought to make a refuge of warm, fuzzy feelings. I wrapped myself in a blanket of soft furs and piled on layer after layer of plushy bears… but it just wasn’t enough. I needed some serious fuzz that neither blanket nor bear could provide.
Thankfully, there was a great stock of fuzz over at FUZZKILL RECORDS, which I feel should always be written in caps — that is my artistic choice as of right now, independent of whatever they may actually prefer. I virtually trod my way across the web to their domain, a craven fuzz-a-holic looking for a fix. They were happy to supply, dropping this sampler in my lap and ushering me to a pile of ratty, used shammies where I could lay with rotted abandon to pacify my inner demons.
Oh, let me tell you of the ways I found creepy satisfaction!
The sampler began with ‘Solid’ by a group called Deathcats. A ferocious, fuzzy feeling took me as the warm glow of the guitar, the splashing rhythms and spacy, spring reverb-laden vocals lifted me into a world of lo-fi indie rock vibes that wouldn’t have been out of place on an 8-track cadillac cross country road trip with stoned friends, who the hell knows where we’ll end up, but at least we’re not flipping burgers for The Man!
More pure, sonic love on Kill Surrrf’s ‘I Can’t Sleep For Dreaming Of You’, which is truth in sound! It bounces with positive energy that instantly reminds me of some of the fun, home-recorded but well produced vibes of Ariel Pink, or just any beautiful garage surf group. It’s silly, perhaps, but I’ve always loved surf rock, especially like this… it’s a totally great track!
Next up, we’ve got Catholic Action with ‘L.U.V’. The clap groove is retro fun, the whole track feels like rhythmic rock, for when you need a small, hot and cramped basement to feel for a few minutes like an arena!
Lotsa frenetic energy on New Swears’ ‘Midnight Lovers’, a lo-fi blast of drunken beach ball party rock that makes you wanna dance. Aaaahhhhh! So much fun!
Things get even fuzzier by the time we reach ‘Chicken Lollipop (It’s You)’, by Fruit Tones, which is such delectable lo-fi bliss that you can’t help but fall instantly in love with it. It’s one of my faves so far… I wish I had it on a 7″, and could just put it on any time somebody came by, it would instantly change the air to one of amusement and the positive intimation that all kinds of awesome activities could be in store, though we’d probably end up having a couple drinks and talking about life stuff.
A bit more of a slow-jam, it’s Poor Things’ ‘Sugar’, yet another infectious warm tube alt-rock vibe, but with a definite introspective feel, which is where I went for most of the track… just in my head, like “growing up, growing up, growing older”… ah, wait, I don’t wanna think about that! Oh well, let’s do it anyway.
‘DREAMZ’ is by Deathcats, and it’s so good, I love the soaring vocals over the background of noisy fuzz walls! The melodies are perfection, right here is one of my total faves. It’s one of those tracks that you could imagine would sound so warped after years of playing over and over on cassette… that you’d make mixtapes of and give to all your friends and after time it would be re-magnetized onto so many tapes that at the end it would basically be reduced to a ghost of it’s former self, but you’d still love hearing it that way, or maybe it would even feel like you needed to hear it so faded like that to feel like you really heard it, so beloved it had become in that incarnation.
I’m loving ‘I Guess’, by The Bellybuttons… it’s slinky, with a kind of funk twanginess that’s hard to describe. It’s like hard candy you stuck in your mouth while intoxicated, and you didn’t look at the wrapper so while you can say the taste is familiar, you’re like, yeah, I have no idea what this is. But, it’s good. Especially in the context of right now.
Deathcats are back with ‘Danny Dyer’, launching the vocal scream with some heavy fuzz beneath, and growing ferocious like what you imagine a death cat would be, growling and hissing at you!
The Shithawks, which may be another candidate for one of the best band names ever, come in next with ‘She’s Like The Wind (Patrick Swayze)’ and yeah, I love it. How could I not, it’s a fuzzy distorted cover that’s a load of fun!? The sounds they’re getting out of these guitars is fantastic. The bass is like pounded steel, I’m really feeling this one, it’s got buttrock Swayze style! I’m imagining Patrick Swayze, and he’s got a mullet and he’s wearing a jean jacket with a big Shithawk logo on the back, and he’s just… oh, I guess he’s not really doing anything, just looking tough… or maybe I’m thinking of Russell Crowe… sorry, I mean Kurt Russell! I’m always getting Russell Crowe’s name mixed up with Kurt Russell’s when I’m trying to remember who I’m always getting confused for Patrick Swayze.
Then, it’s time for ‘Sister’, by SHARPTOOTH. This one’s another serious, thought-provoking rock sound with really lovely vocals that mix well with the driving energy of the song. I’m reminded of certain shoegaze bands, though the vibe is more like early ’90s alt indie, but with elements that are also just slightly prog in a way, with these really intriguing melodic movements.
Those Deathcats are back on the prowl! This time it’s a track called ‘Melted’. It’s got a funky, subtly contorted groove effect happening that gets body response, and with all their tracks so far I’m loving the way the vocals and guitars seem to be screaming at you in different voices, different rhythms, it’s so good!
Fruit Tones’ ‘Just Feeling Lucky’ is a warm, sunny day in the mix! Really needed it right at this point…
… I love whoever put this sampler compilation together, by the way. I want to believe they put some thought into the tracklist and didn’t just randomize it, because it really feels like somebody invested some time crafting it to be as enjoyable as possible all the way through. I’m detecting it was put together in such a way to give you certain time spans with a certain level of energy and tempo, and then at just the right time you receive a nice breath of fresh air, with tracks that diverge… so the flow isn’t totally disjointed while it stays interesting throughout. It’s really great! Some compilers of things like this would try to put all similar tracks together, which, while aiding cohesion, can often feel depleting, particularly with lengthy compilations… so, whoever you are, if you’re out there, thanks for doing a good job with the track list, I feel like you get it! Anyway, back to the sounds…
… New Swears come on again with ‘Scru Bar’s House’, which instantly makes me smile with this lyrical content and fun, hard rock feels. I’m loving the tambourine inflected, ghostly wailing guitar breakdown section! This is a house party track, for sure. There’s even a chant, you gotta love it.
Next is ‘Liquid Gold’, by… oh, it’s those Deathcats stalking the prairie again, someone fetch the rifle! Just kidding of course, these Deathcats are our friends, plus they keep the population of less musical cats to a minimum. This track’s got nice rolling energy, something to slam around to!
SHARPTOOTH returns, with a really cool track called ‘Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand) (The Shangri-Las)’, and they did a great job with this. Those echos are beautiful, and really pop out in the snap section. The vocals and sounds are fantastic. The track takes you on a journey of sound, and it’s really put together in a great way!
The next thing is by Departure Kids, and it’s titled ‘Nowadays’. I am really enjoying the sound of this one in juxtaposition to the last (thanks again track list person!), returning us to the kind of youthful daze of loud lo-fi garage rock pop, something to fall in love with… or something to fall in love to… or at least make a courageous attempt at sorting out and expressing your feelings to, awkwardly… or, maybe you’re just here for the free beer. Wherever you are in life, this is a pretty good track!
Asian Babes’ ‘Rosalee’ is a fun and quirky rock track that throws in some nice pauses where strange sounds might linger momentarily, and you’re like, hey, they choreographed that pretty well.
‘Unsure Of Myself’ is by Poor Things, and this one’s got some excellent fuzz for sure! I love their use of escalating power pop vocal harmonies above the dirge, it’s really nice! Makes me wanna stand against a wall, shuffling my feet and wearing tacky sweaters. I’d try to talk to you, reader, but I’m too afraid that I’ll suffer a fit of embarrassing sneezes and have to run away, blushing. oO_Oo
The Shithawks circle us while ‘Hang Loose’ plays, creating a destructive atmosphere in which everything must be broken. The noise of the guitars is fierce, like the beak of a shitty hawk, talons covered in feces, swooping in to cause us all manner of infection. It’s definitely a ruckus!!!
New Swears come on afterward, with ‘Satan Loves You’! It’s a fun, bright and jangly indie-pop gem! I love this one, it’s so much fun! It’s all rainbows, sunshine and satan!
Then it’s Pinact’s track ‘Sparky’s Dream (Teenage Fanclub)’, and it’s another cool thing. I’d love to just lay on a couch right now in someone’s parent’s poorly decorated basement playing old Atari games and listening to this coming through a small guitar amp or something. It’s total slacker pop, and perfect.
Future Glue is the next group here, with a track called ‘Out Of Hand’. It’s in slow motion… the toms beat a rhythm together, the guitars seem to slither in the mix, and it begins to gain momentum while the vocalist’s rockabilly drawl lulls us into complacency, then terrorizes us with visions of hell as the space becomes a Wonkadelic portal to another dimension and we suddenly stop and cough up a cloud of smoke and the tempo falls back. Let’s get on this merry-go-round again, just ride until we lose our minds! This second time it’s feeling more intense. We’ve really done it this time, everyone, we’ve broken the universe. Physics lays on the floor, shattered, and the music crawls into itself, a serpent coiled.
Right away, I’m loving the vibe of Secret Motorbikes’ ‘Midnight Volleyball’, which just from the title alone sounds like a lot of fun. The fuzz is bursting at the seams, the rhythms feel acoustic, reverb-heavy, but run nicely at a mechanical pace like a drum machine, and it’s just sonically oozing really, the frequencies smacking into each other enticingly.
‘You’ is a track by… Deathcats, again! They must have 9 lives! Well, this one’s a great track, so far I love how they achieve so much audio pleasure through minimal means. Just fuzzy warm feedback, a steady groove, forceful vocal delivery and these lovely high notes that make you feel like you’re parasailing over the mix. It even makes you feel giddy with lightness! And the lead guitar, caked completely in distortion damage… it’s like that second gust that sends you so far up into the air that you’re exhilarated, feeling what it is to be alive and also feeling, paradoxically or not, kind of worried that you’re gonna fall to your death, or that the trip will end in the jaws of some enormous death cat. Or shark, that’s what I meant! Oops!
After that one we come across a track called ‘Anna (Go To Him) (Arthur Alexander)’, by The Bellybuttons. It’s clean, crisp, with a unique folkrock glow. The chorus on the guitar is really nice, and the vocals have some really nice moments… it’s a very tight construction!
FROTH’s got a track that happens now, titled ‘Happy Together (The Turtles)’ and, ha, wow, it’s a lot of fun hearing this cover right now! It takes this familiar piece and runs in a very eclectic, bouncy way with it, wildly shuffling up the delivery of the vocals, with their intonation and melody.
‘The Shallows’ is another track by Catholic Action, which keeps it simple at first with guitar and vocals. As it picks up, it fills out the mix with a lot of really guitar sounds. It moves to many places, and ends with a beautiful arrangement of guitar and bell that I really loved.
BRUNDLEHORSE’s track ‘Flow’ starts off wonderfully and then quickly gets better! I’m enjoying the harmonies, the fuzz, the pulse of it. It’s a lot more heavy than every other track on the album, which isn’t the aspect of it that makes it stand out so much, but that it’s just got some really nice sound layers. The vocals at points remind me a little of The Deftones, but in consideration of the whole, it’s more like if they’d been a completely different band, shooting for something else entirely. Don’t know if they were an influence at all on this, but it was an impression I received.
And, wouldn’t you believe, it’s those Deathcats crossing our paths again! What do they want from us? We performed the sacrifice as they asked! Perhaps, all they wish is to leave us a doorstep offering of nice, melodic fuzzpop? It sounds like that could be it… this Deathcats track feels more like it’s jumping up and down, echoing off the walls of my inner mind and bouncing with so much excited energy!
The sampler ends with ‘Gradually Worse’, by Cleavers, which definitely has to be the heaviest track on the sampler, or at least the one that seems the most like it with the vocal delivery being like a punk rock shout!
Then, as the fuzz began to wear off, I found myself in an alley… everything around me seemed so smooth, so cold… I’ll think we’ll need to return here often. I gathered up my things and shambled off into the unknown, leaving a link at the bottom of the review for fellow fuzz fiends to follow.
Despite how many tracks are on this, it is definitely time well spent! And, really, it doesn’t even seem like it’s that long because a lot of the songs are short and sweet. 🙂 You should check it out for sure, since a lot of bands are on offer here, many of whom I’m sure would appreciate your fuzzy friendliness and love. If you know anyone else hooked on fuzz, tell them where to find it!