New music reviews: Dum Dum Girls, Pinback, It’s Casual, Rites of Spring, Fugazi Edits, Double Aught Spy Car

Dum Dum Girls at Los Globos by Ben Clark (September 27, 2012)

I mentioned that last week’s Dum Dum Girls gigs in L.A. were record release shows, right? And that I purchased the EP after their in-store at Origami, listened to it repeatedly, and then saw them again at Los Globos two nights later? I’ve often debated whether it’s better to hear new songs live or on your record player and now I know. The correct answer is BOTH.

Here’s a rundown on some new and upcoming releases that I’ve been digging. Click the links if you have time and, better yet, see the bands if you can.

Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze
I realize that music isn’t always easy to write. Creativity is a fickle thing and bandmates can be, too. But when a group like the Dum Dums keeps cranking out new music, it’s a win-win situation. They fully catch fire and mutate and capture and grow their sound with every release. Meanwhile, fanatics like me will keep buying the LPs and EPs in between–not to mention rad side projects like Sandra Vu’s SISU–and then line up to hear the new songs live as well as tweaks on old ones. Yes, their music is becoming more dynamic, complex, and psychedelic with every release; the lyrics, darker and more poetic. The Dum Dum Girls’ loving exploration of beautiful sadness is totally exciting to behold and a joy to follow. [Sub Pop]

It’s Casual – The New Los Angeles II
The same way that most bands write love/hate songs about significant others, Eddie Solis sings about Los Angeles. His complicated relationship with his hometown provides plenty of power and inspiration for extra-hard, SST-fueled, metal-tinged, skate punk. There are blistering highs (“TAP Card,” “The Goldline”) and brutal lows (“Sharing Is Not Caring,” “Kids Having Kids” ) but it never is his love for L.A. questioned. The lyrics are as brainy as they are raw, yet the instrumental, “The Gap Is Widening,” may be the most expressive song of all–as tormented as it is sweaty and relentless. This is the song that should be blasted at Chavez Ravine after the Dodgers let a close one slip away. [HERC]

Double Naught Spy Car – Western Violence
Instrumental music about surfing and spying never gets old, and this band carries on the tradition with gusto and chops. It makes sense that the seasoned group of L.A. session aces has backed up local storytelling masters such as James Ellroy and Stan Ridgeway onstage, because they are perfectly suited to mix Chandleresque and Morricone moods and create modern programmic music that is in no way cartoonish or circuslike. The songs are as dark as they are unironic and, yes, they rock. The band also has great taste in art, using an appropriately hyper-detailed-yet-open-ended painting by Giant Robot homie Rob Sato in the packaging. [11 Foot Pole]

Pinback – Information Retrieved
Even after five years off, the much-loved indie rock duo from San Diego shows no rust because the members have been prolific with solo albums (Rob Crow, Zach Smith’s Systems Officer) and other bands (Three Mile Pilot). In fact, they seem to show extra energy and adventurousness now that they’re reunited, with the finger-plucking folk elements of “Glide” and almost R&B-sounding “Sherman.” But it’s their perfectly overlapping and interplaying voices and guitars that provide the fabric that fans know and love. It’s as shimmering and complex and lovely as ever–as brilliant as it has been sorely missed. [Temporary Residence]

Rites of Spring – Six Song Demo
Much as boutique reggae labels dig through old tapes for raw, cool, and unheard versions of timeless songs, Dischord has been doing the same with its expansive catalog of DC punk and the results are just as vital. These six red-hot and ready-to-go cuts will not be new to fans of the pre-Fugazi band, but they do provide new insight into how they developed. The taping effects may be vintage, but the playing is right-on. Sounding more like Squirrel Bait than Scream, their painfully honest and expertly played brand of catchy but tormented post-hardcore is still way ahead of the curve and just as inspiring and potent. [Dischord]

Chris Lawhorn – Fugazi Edits
If you were handed a perfectly ripe piece of fruit, why would you use it in a recipe? Can it be improved? That is the challenge faced by Chris Lawhorn with his collection of sampled and overlapped Fugazi instrumentals. Working with dozens of famously tough grooves and riffs, the straightforward reworkings feel more like Stars on 45 than Wugazi. That’s not to say that the survey isn’t expertly done or an absorbing listen. The coolest songs are the more experimental ones. Who knew that a Gibson SG could sound like a waking Cylon? Amazing, but starving Fugazi fans looking for a fix might supplement this sampler (in every sense of the word) with the Fugazi Live Series as well. [Case/Martingale]

Thanks to Ben Clark for the live Dum Dums pics. Seeya soon at a record store or rock show–or rock show at a record store!