Mazes, Pheromoans, Male Bonding, Pens

Jason Jackowiak

We're reaching 'cross the pond this week for The Singles Collection, digging out some gems from a clutch of bands that you might not have heard of yet, but rest assured, by the end of the year everybody from bloggers to the bloke down the block will be singing their praises; an early warning, if you will, on some serious talent that's still in its relative infancy. In fact, even as we were writing this we received word that one of the artists featured here has signed to Sub Pop, so clearly, there's some big things coming from this lot in the not-so-distant future.

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Kicking things off this week we've got nubile quartet Mazes' “Bowie Knife” b/w “Bethesda” & “Smoker” on the upstart Sex is Disgusting Records. The A-Side is a ramshackle pop wonder that reminds of Pavement's “Range Life” with its slack-jawed guitars and utterly nonchalant vocal harrumph, albeit spiced with a twist of Flying Nun whimsy and just the slightest traces of pithy glam glory. On the flipside, “Bethesda” and “Smoker” come on like Guided by Voices-by-way-of-Television, with the nonsensical sing-song-y charm of the former colliding headlong into the latter's treble-heavy rock grandiosity, only with a singer that can't quite decide if he wants to be Calvin Johnson or Marc Bolan when/if he grows up. Released in a tiny edition of only 250 copies, these were still available direct from the label as of press time, but you folks in the States would do well to contact Permanent Records as they've got the goods at a damn good price.

Next we've got a bit of a companion record to our first selection, the second single from gauzy troupe Pheromoans and their Savoury Days EP on Savoury Days Records. A sister record in that James from Pheromoans owns Sex is Disgusting records which released the Mazes 7″ and they've done some touring together. Now that we've got that all sussed out, on to the 4-songs here, all of which revolve around the day-to-day activities associated with suburban living, and the attendant tattered glory that can come of everyday situations. In fact, opener “Suburban Despot” finds the protagonist trying desperately to find a place for himself within the hum-drum of everyday life, and utilizes a decidedly disheveled cadence and mumbly, talk-talk vocals to convey its blight. Elsewhere, the group spews a salty discharge all over “Tattoo Boom” before sending the whole thing tumbling towards the floor with audacious aplomb and grotty guitars. The two songs on the flip–“Phantom Darwin” and “Late-Night Mad Fest”–wandering around like soapbox preachers with unhealthy Mark E. Smith fetishes and who've peaked on mescalin an hour ago and now reside on a never ending comedown that's got them pitched to be the next big thing to come out of their own garage. Might still be some left at Savoury Days, but I'd act fast if you want a taste of these scallywags.

Dragging us out the door this week we've got an excellent split between new Sub Pop signees Male Bonding give us “Pirate Key” and “Lick Him With Fists” while all-female London art-killers Pens hand over “Hate Your Calendar” and “High in the Cinema”, all on the fantastic Paradise Vendors Inc. imprint. First up, the boys of Male Bonding unleash a pair of hirsute, grunge-y tropicalia stormers on our unsuspecting asses, the impossibly insistent banging-a-trash-can-with-the-guitar rhythm groover “Lick Him With Fists” being the particular standout with these droogs. As good as all that mess is, Pens' “High in the Cinema” is better still, with a chug-a-lug post-punk rhythm, staccato guitar flailing and cheap keyboard fills the whole thing sounds like it's being held together with band-aids and packing tape, flecked with a side of unchecked aggression. Last time we checked these were sold out at the source, but they're still floating around in a handful of distros, so you best get a googling if you want this baby.

So there you have it, a new crop of UK knuckle-dusters/draggers that we believe are going to do some damn fine things with drums, keys strings and electricity in the days and months to come. Keep 'em peeled next week for some more odd mutations and sublime sounds.

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