By Tom Reardon, June 2020 Issue.
The quarantine. The search. The silence amidst the noise. Welcome to summer in Phoenix, friends, and welcome to the strangest time of our lives all official like. Thank the giant space pasta god or whoever you worship for music. Love it or hate it, it makes you feel. Feel these with me, if you will.
JJCnV — Stays Up Late EP
Hailing from the lower east side of planet Chandler, an often sleepy suburb of metropolitan Phoenix, the skronk (see: choppy, angular guitar melding with deft bass lines and frequent horn blasts over a propulsive drumbeat) worshipping suburban demigods known as JJCnV have blessed us with another noisy, hook-filled gem. I may be biased here, because I generally think the kids in JJCnV are pretty darn brilliant, but this new seven song offering, Stays Up Late, is crafty, kooky, and fucking good. “The Balloon Mistook For A Man” might be my new favorite opening song title, maybe ever, and the song itself does not disappoint. I love that JJCnV is not afraid to mix up the sounds, adding bits of tastefully “come fuck me hard” horn work, heavy effects-laden low end, and the layered vocals on “Seed Saw” are cosmic. Before the good Lord and heaven above, people, I shout to you to pick this record up like right now. If we’re ever allowed to congregate again, put seeing a JJCnV show on the top of your wish list for good, clean, fun. All killer and no filler here. Viva Stays Up Late for local Phoenix record of the year. On a scale of social distance, I say this record is worth cozying up to without a mask (but please, wear your masks, and live to rock another day).
X — ALPHABETLAND
The first new X record since dinosaurs roamed the earth, or at least it seems that way, is good. A snarkier reviewer might say it was also “nice” and a downright mean reviewer would say that it doesn’t live up to their late 70s and early 80s material, but for those who have been hoping for a solid record from some legends like X are probably happy as heck. It is a good record. Not a classic or something that is going to open new doors for anyone, but it’s good. John Doe (bass) and Exene Cervenka are in fine voice and Billy Zoom (guitar) and DJ Bonebrake (drums) are rockin’ as usual. It’s hard to pick one standout track, though, and that is kind of disappointing although “Cyrano deBerger’s Back” is pretty damn fine and funky and makes me wanna go skinny dipping. There are moments on some songs (“Water & Wine” and “I Gotta Fever”) that are reminiscent of classic X tracks, and even a weird (maybe unintentional) nod to The Stooges on “Strange Life,” but I would be lying if I said that anything on the record makes me hope that the next time they come to town they will play anything in particular off of ALPHABETLAND live. On a scale of social distance, I would say it’s okay to have beers on the porch with this record but stay a safe distance away and you’ll be fine. If you’re an X fan, you’ll definitely enjoy this record and if you’re new to the band, you might just want to dive in a little deeper and grab a copy of their seminal work, Los Angeles.
The Chats — High Risk Behaviour
Sign me up for whatever chemicals the kids are getting off on in Australia these days because this record kicks all kinds of ass. Imagine if the Ramones would have had a foul-mouthed version of Robyn Hitchcock (Soft Boys/Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians) on vocals and you have The Chats. High energy stuff from Down Under that picks up where 2017’s Get This In Ya (If you haven’t heard “Smoko” go listen now!) left off and is probably even better. This is a party record, friends, and full of short, fun, memorable punk rock songs. “Identity Theft” has a brilliant guitar lead, for example, that when you listen to it closely shows that these young Australian dudes have the chops to go along with an incredibly deft sense of humor. Lyrically, The Chats are capable of creating catchy, singalong choruses while dropping bits of social commentary that will make you smile and frown at the same time. Listen to “Keep The Grubs Out” or “Stinker” and try not to laugh, but there is also a deeper meaning as well about the struggle to fit in when people tell you that you don’t belong. On a scale of social distancing, prepare to dance and just remember to shower as soon as you get home, because you might forget to stay six feet away.