Welcome back to the Listen Up, Nerds Newsletter, the newsletter you all know and love.
First things first, I made a zine that showcases NBA players’ tattoos. It’s 36pgs long and it’s full of some of the wildest/best work I could find. It’s a pretty fun read, if I say so myself. The first review I’ve received is that it “Goes hard.” Anyway that zine can be purchased at NBAtattoozine.com
And bc it’s DIY or die like Meaghan Garvey told me this week, I started an independent publishing press called Fear Of Life. Fear Of Life's focus is physical work, but there are digital copies of the work while I figure out international shipping costs/restrictions. My objective isn't to turn a profit, but mostly to make work that has a presence in your home and not just on your hard drive. I’ve already got one distribution title in the pipeline that I’m very stoked about and I’m always looking to do more.
If you want to make something with Fear Of Life, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, what you’re all here for: Let’s talk about new music.
Listen Up, Nerds:
Institute - Ragdoll Dance: It’s been four years since Institute released a record and Ragdoll Dance is the foil to the band’s 2019 album, Readjusting the Locks. Where Readjusting was a frantic punk record that was a product of a world where life felt tangibly worse every single day, reflected in the news and media, Ragdoll Dance sounds like the world ended and your spirit is floating through the aether. It’s a death rock record like Siouxsie or Roz might’ve penned but has a less dramatic flair that only the coolest guys in the room could pull off. It’s like Crass on quaaludes. I’ll have it in rotation for a long time.
Ken Carson - A Great Chaos: If there’s one new youth aesthetic I’ve found myself interested in, it’s “Opium,” which is this Playboi Carti-adjacent (it’s named for his record label) Rick Owens-wearing vibe that a certain kind of rapper is putting out. I’ve long loved Playboi Carti. Die Lit is one of my favorite records of the 2010s and I happen to think Whole Lotta Red was way ahead of its time. Three years later, maybe that time is now after Ken Carson’s record was released to critical acclaim. There’s a lot to love when it comes to A Grand Chaos. Carson isn’t someone I can put in a box. He’s funny, he’s emo, and he’s so good at sinking into the beat to make it his own sound. I wouldn’t mistake a Ken Carson song for anyone else, I don’t think. I have a few qualms when it comes to some of his more derivative punchlines, ripping off A$AP Yams and SahBabii, but I can forgive him when he does a Gucci Mane impression on the second verse of “Singapore,” before the beat gets even more blown out on the next song. The other interesting thing about Ken Carson is that I don’t know a ton about him. I listened to the record a few times and I still don’t know much. I know he’s a fan of doing ecstasy, I know he loves rapping about guns (my google search history very likely has me on a watchlist after this record’s several mentions of inexpensive and illegal gun modifications), and I know he’s young because he refers to a woman as a “MILF, she’s like 30,” which is pretty young! Apart from all of this, the Opium aesthetic I referenced at the beginning is an externalization of the inner turmoil and pain the rappers who adopt it may have. It’s very “Black is what I wear on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside.” Carson’s raps blitz through punchline and drug reference, one after the other for almost three minutes, and then the song will end with a couplet so sorrowful it’d make Hawthorne Heights wake in a cold sweat. It’s almost as if he’s gearing up to rap about this pain for three minutes and he can only show it for two seconds. Where Carti made “Ever since my brother died//I’ve been thinking about homicide” a thesis statement on WLR, Carson forgoes reveling in this pain and tacks it on at the end either as an afterthought or as a brief slip of his veil. Do I find that makes for a compelling listen? Not exactly, but I do find the rest of the music to vary from amusing to thrilling. It’s a good record. Despite what I may have said about derivative punchlines and other borrowed aesthetics, Carson’s thesis on the record is tucked into “Vampire Hour,” where he says “You could have all these riches, we still wouldn’t be the same.” It’s another quick mini-hook at the end of a song but it’s the most important part of the whole piece.
Money - Money: Collected and remastered for a vinyl release, Texas’ Money makes another appearance in the “blown-speaker punk rock” aesthetic I’m slowly cultivating in this blog. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of evil-ass punk rock where I cannot understand the lyrics because they’re less sung and more belched or grunted. Money is another one of these bands whose music sounds like they’re playing in the next room while three guys in denim vests pile into one bathroom stall, their destroyed Doc Martens shuffling side to side in a careful, slow tap dance to not spill the bag. Curse Of Face’s album art really sets the whole thing off with a hooded figure, some creature Lovecraftian or perhaps Death himself, lining up big ol’ gator tails to snort. Is it drugs or the dust of ground bones? Is it one cut with the other? Either way I slice it, Money’s record is worth its weight in gold or white.
Dreamwell - In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You: Remember when I said skramz was back earlier this year? You don’t? You don’t keep track of everything I say and you don’t have an investment in what I get right and get wrong? Weird. Anyway Skramz Is Back and Dreamwell are bringing back the 2010 feeling with a 50 minute post-hardcore statement record. A little pretentious but with the skills to back the smack talk, Dreamwell shows that Rhode Island, and punk rock in general, is a place where freaks win. It’s a bit of a departure from what usually gets into the newsletter but I think there’s some crossover fans here.
Raskol - Testimony: The homie Greg from Big Man Crew hopped on this band’s new EP to do some vocals, so I had to check it out. It’s as chaotic and dirty as the city it comes from, Philadelphia, and it’s a tough-ass punk record that sounds like a barfight fueled by citywides. Ripping solos and stomp sections with heavy riffs galore on this one. Nothing I haven’t heard before but if I liked it in the past, why wouldn’t I like it now? “Abandoned” is very cool, but the closing track, “Sacred,” is the kind of fire-starting headbanger that every band looks to write but very few make it as memorable as Raskol does.
Tits Dick Ass - Fuck LP: Matty from House of Feelings (label [Matty also has a band called House Of Feelings and they just dropped a new single that I love]) sent this my way and thought I’d enjoy it, and what do you know? He’s right! I really dug this record! TDA’s sloppy lo-fi dronepunk stylings are absolutely the kind of DIY punk I look for when I reach for new music. The b-side of the album is a noisy jam called “fuck” and I suppose there’s really nothing more punk rock than that. The band’s ability to channel near-blackout walks home from a subway station is really uncanny here. It’s all a beautiful bipolar mess of punk rock, and I mean that with the highest praise.
Watch It, Nerds:
Killers Of The Flower Moon (Scorcese, 2023): There’s a lot to be said about KOTFM that other people will put more eloquently because they know the history better than I do. The most salient part for me was Scorcese's depiction of a class of lazy white guys who coast through life, using their words and lies to gain and then abuse trust. They kill people and erase cultures only to squander the money on some dumb bet. They have no shame and no identity, no defining characteristics, yet they're full of confidence and entitlement to what wasn't theirs in the first place. The end of the movie was another serious body blow by Scorcese, but that's more of a spoiler than I'm willing to go into for those who haven't seen it.