ROCK ‘N’ ROLL IMPOTENCE involves re-workings of formerly scrapped material, the current roster of a typical QUICK PISS setlist, and brand new material that has been played maybe once or twice—if at all. In short, it’s a career-spanning album by a band that hasn’t had much of a career. For ROCK 'N' ROLL IMPOTENCE, producer Patrick Tape Fleming (The Poison Control Center) and engineer Matt Sepanic (Slipknot) contributed a bubblegum pop sheen to the barrage of controlled chaos that is QUICK PISS. From the manically-delivered monologue of the eponymous lead track to the anthemic satire of "666 UPSIDE DOWN CRUCIFIX," ROCK 'N' ROLL IMPOTENCE may prove confusing for punk idealists and pure-pop lovers. But QUICK PISS does not discriminate between the two. Everyone deserves a break, an escape, an opportunity to get their shit fucked. ROCK 'N' ROLL IMPOTENCE is an incendiary care package for the fed up and fucked up.
This ain't Kraftwerk's mainframe. Karen Meat & the Players are led by Arin Eaton, a Nashville transplant who used to work for Music City's Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp and previously recorded wistful folk-pop under the alias Elizabeth Arynn. As Karen Meat, she's blunter and more conversational, uncloaking a barstool drawl for no-nonsense observations that suggest a landlocked American cousin to ascendant Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett. Karen Meat & the Computer, the project's first full-fledged release —titled that way because Eaton originally planned to make the record solo on her computer — is a set of strategically off-kilter pop that celebrates both negative-body-image-and-all imperfection and the Des Moines scene Eaton now calls home. First single "If I Were Yours" updates girl-group longing with swirling Omnichord tones from local mainstay Brad Turk, who takes the lead on darkly humorous sing-along "Your Blood" and spacey Midwestern lament "Brad's Last Waltz." Fellow DSM regulars Phil Young and Jory Brown also contribute, and the tone of collaborative nonchalance is set by the opening, reverb-drenched cover of Iowa indie-rock hero Patrick Tape Fleming's self-deprecating ode "The Prettiest Song." Noise-scrawled, bass-propelled anthem "Pizza & Beer" contains the tape's most representative Eaton lyric: "You want me to be the girl of your dreams/ But I'd rather barf all the shit I snarfed down earlier." Eaton has hung around music long enough to suspect the reality could be both.
The name Pure Gut existed before the band. "It was a combination of gaining a gut from boozing and a cleansing of the gut from vomiting," frontman and Vaudeville Mews concert booker Ladd Askland recalls. What the four-piece of Askland, guitarist Patrick Tape Fleming (Poison Control Center/Gloom Balloon), bassist Joe Horn (Easy Fruit) and drummer Derek Lambert (Derek Lambert and the Prairie Fires) pulled off as casually as a lark also carries with it a potentially surprising amount of heart. Askland slurs and shouts over a bleary noise-rock racket, but as with similar post-hardcore ranters such as Pissed Jeans or Single Mothers, his words aren't to be ignored. On piledriving opener "Free," Askland explodes at the person he sees in the mirror: "You aren't me/ But you should be/ But you will be." Between jagged start-stop rhythms on "Bad Brain Thing," he blurts, "It's not my fault, but I'm not blaming you." And yet Pure Gut's self-titled debut isn't all decibel-drowned catharsis: With "Shark Drinking Whiskey," Askland's screams become shrieks of laugh-out-loud warning (we're going to need a bigger boat, there's a shark drinking whiskey). And Fleming's psych-pop showmanship ensures even the most chugging of riffs still have an eager-to-please melodic flair. In fact, far from directionless, loping centerpiece "Where Are We Going" is an instantly endearing slacker confessional that could open for Pavement. Naturally, the seven-song set ends with a barrage of curses toward the listener on the 45-second middle finger salute "Fuck You." Pure Gut played what was billed as their final show in early 2015 — less than three years after forming, and only five months after this tape. Pure Gut will still hit you right in yours.
There's something rotten in Des Moines. No, really. This scrappy rock'n'roll quartet's self-titled debut is proof. The Seed of Something innocently gathers up the detritus of '90s indie rock, '60s garage rock, and '70s punk and shapes it into a beautifully tragic bricolage that mostly speaks to an underlying discontent -- about police, school, dreams, people who don't like the Talking Heads... everything except music. "I'm drowning," the band's two-man songwriting team brays on "Soundwaves," the dizzily chugging opener, "and there's no place I'd rather be." As with Be Your Own Pet, Iceage, or, hell, even Odd Future, it's the kind of group where their relative youth -- none was older than 18 when this was recorded -- matters only because the music has an energy no geezer can replicate.
Supergroups are lame, indie supergroups are lamer, and local indie supergroups ought to be the lamest of all. That might be why these members of some of the heartland's finest indie-rock bands (the Poison Control Center, Wolves in the Attic, the Autumn Project, the Keepers of the Carpet, and more) can't even seem to book a gig without loudly proclaiming it's their last. And yet Mantis Pincers' rough 'n' ready self-titled debut, with its rangy vacation-abroad reflections, cheeky rock'n'roll reunion fantasies, and delicious space-rock blast-offs -- also, two bisques and one casserole -- is super just the same.
"How can we survive when all we do is fuck and fight?" In the annals of songs named after the bands that played them, Wolves in the Attic's entry has an utterly unassailable chorus. It's also a good indication of what to expect from their sharply melodic, bitterly fist-pumping 2008 debut album, a preemptive classic of the recent '90s revival (Yuck, Japandroids, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart) -- and, thus, perfectly suited to the acute retromania of the cassette format. With towering noise-rock anthems, lacerating punk-pop barrages, and flatlands-dazed psych-folk balladry, Electronic Hearts shows it's no wonder this Iowa four-piece has shared bills with the Faint, HEALTH, and that other young band with a song named after themselves, Titus Andronicus.