VIDEO PREMIERE: Wsabi Fox - Yes Ma'am

Will Shenton

Deep in the sludgy, kaleidoscopic hallucination that is Wsabi Fox's newest video, "Yes Ma'am," we see and hear flashes of somewhat unexpected instruments: a violin, a cello, a saxophone. Though they're mainly used as accents, this eclectic ensemble hints at the wildly creative energy of the artist. Not content to make a straightforward tune, "Yes Ma'am" boils over with ideas through a haze of controlled mania.

The video is composed of a series of half-remembered vignettes—Wsabi Fox dancing or clawing at her painted face, musicians plugging away dutifully at the off-kilter time signature—all layered with colored lights and an ephemeral filter that give them dreamlike qualities. But more than a dream, "Yes Ma'am" feels like hypnosis. Its nearly seven-minute runtime and relentlessly propulsive guitars draw you in, bombarding your senses and drowning out anything beyond the borders of the screen.

"Yes Ma'am" is simultaneously a delightful nightmare and a headbanging assertion of power ("I'm the motherfucking boss," Wsabi Fox declares). It'll worm its way into your head and refuse to let go.

Catch Wsabi Fox's GUSHING EP release show July 18 at C'mon Everybody (Brooklyn) with Charmaine Lee, Mary Knapp, & CP Unit

REVIEW: Arrows of Love - PRODUCT

Will Shenton

It's probably an understatement to say that London five-piece Arrows of Love's latest record, PRODUCT, opens on an ominous note. Embracing its unvarnished title, "Theme Tune To A Japanese B-Movie Horror" features a single, heavily distorted guitar that winds its way through unresolved dissonance before fading slowly into a screeching echo. It's a simple but effective way to set the tone of the album, serving as a sort of airlock between our world and the cacophonous, anarchic one we're about to enter.

Like all great post-punk, grunge, and metal (the three genres from which Arrows of Love most heavily draw), PRODUCT is loud. With the exception of a few tracks that quiet things down for the sake of pacing or building atmosphere, shrieking distortion and propulsive drums comprise the album's backbone. The result is an aesthetic that casts our world in a foreboding pallor, as if malicious forces conspire and lurk around every corner—perhaps most literally on "Signal," as the lyrics describe fighting off a monster with a dwindling supply of bullets.

At times dark and sludgy ("Beast," "Come With Me"), and at others melancholy and introspective ("Desire," "Parts That Make the (W)hole"), PRODUCT maintains an unrepentant catharsis throughout. Even the most downtempo tracks (a decidedly relative classification) build to explosive climaxes, seemingly framing the album's subtitle, Your Soundtrack To The Impending Societal Collapse, as something to be resisted with indignant rage.

It's that refusal to sit back and accept the hand you're dealt that really defines Arrows of Love's attitude. Their blunt, often spoken-word lyrical delivery is approachable and candid, eschewing frills and melodies in favor of visceral urgency. It's easy to imagine the band standing on their table in a pub, delivering half-shouted polemics against the status quo to a room full of fed-up regulars.

One of the standout tracks on PRODUCT, "Beast," embodies this more directly than the rest of the album. Something of a thesis in its own right, the breakdown before the final, frenzied chorus indicts us for our passivity in the face of injustice:

"We've seen the shit that's going on out there / It's fucked! / So be depressed, you've every right to be / It would not be normal if you weren't / But the question is / If it's gonna knock you down / Are you just gonna lie there / Or are you gonna get up and throw some stones?"

After spending the better part of an hour with Arrows of Love, that should be an easy one.

REVIEW: In The Whale - Full Nelson

Raquel Dalarossa

At first glance, In The Whale look like just a couple of guys—one from a tiny town in Colorado, the other from a slightly less tiny town in Texas. But the two-man band have quite literally come a long way from their provincial roots, touring relentlessly with the likes of Jane’s Addiction, Presidents of the United States, Local H, and Slash, and slowly establishing one hell of a passionate fanbase. They’re a hardworking band, no doubt, but on top of that, they’re an electric, red-blooded band making punch-you-in-the-face, high-octane rock, so it’s no wonder so many are paying close attention.

Though they've officially been at it since 2011, their latest release, Full Nelson, is one of only four EPs averaging around four tracks each. Their recorded output, they've said, is largely dictated by the reaction their songs get at live shows, and listening to Full Nelson makes it clear that this process has allowed them to be rather exacting. These tracks make hardcore punk sound effortless—they are tightly written and performed with blistering, searing energy. 

The two religiously-raised boys combine traditional hardcore elements a la Black Flag or Dead Kennedys with the rough-and-tumble swagger of Johnny Cash, while biblically-aware lyrics paint a picture of the quintessential rock 'n' roll sinner. In Full Nelson's opening line, singer Nate Valdez spits out, "Devil's in your radio / He's in my voice and he's control." The degenerate character takes on slightly different forms as the EP plays—in the second track, "Whiskey, Gin & Beer," he's an unapologetic, raging alcoholic, while in “Johnny Two-a-Day” he’s a “small-town kid” who “drinks too much” and “beats his girl.”

Nearly all of the songs are fierce and blazing with little aspects of classic rock and roll incorporated into their fabric, but none flaunt this formula more than mid-EP scorcher “Cavity.” It encroaches on thrash-metal territory with drummer Eric Riley’s breakneck speed, but reminds us of an earthy blues with its “Bad to the Bone”-esque sputter and lyrics like “I long for that sugar kiss.” And in “Cavity”’s ultimate foil and EP outlier, “Mail,” these down-home touches very suddenly take center stage. An acoustic guitar and piano seem to appear out of nowhere, and Nate gently sings “Went out and drank up all my money / Spent it all on the devil’s honey / Lord please change my ways.”

And with that, In The Whale make it very obvious that they won’t necessarily be tied to any one genre. Though they lean decidedly towards hardcore rock, their backgrounds seem to inform and, indeed, fortify their music.