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Listen Up, Nerds: The Week of March 8, 2024

Listen Up, Nerds: The Week of March 8, 2024

Welcome back to your favorite newsletter, Listen Up, Nerds. Thanks for all of the recent subs. Not sure where you came from but I’m glad to have you here.

Housekeeping is light this week, but it must be done: My friends in Replica City put out their EP Gift Of Knives this week. It’s “post-hardcore” in the way that Hot Snakes and Jawbox are “post-hardcore” and it sounds like those bands along with Protomartyr. I really enjoyed it and I would’ve enjoyed it if they weren’t my friends, but I’m lucky and I get to say they’re my pals.

Onto the recs:

Mannequin Pussy - I Got Heaven

I liked the new Mannequin Pussy record quite a bit. I love the big single off the record, “Nothing Like.” It’s one of my favorite songs of the young year. The launch of the video for that song was bogged down in a tiny bit of controversy online because the band chose to use an AI filter over the top of a real video they shot, which is a weird move in my estimation. If I shot a music video, I don’t think I’d want an AI filter put over the top. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me unless I was trying to make people mad about it. Maybe the subversion misses me. 

This band likes to rile people up in order to get attention on the internet but I wonder how someone outside of the music writer bubble looks at this band. Specifically leading up to the drop of the record, the band weakly defended their use of AI before calling the haters nerds who need to touch grass in so many words. They said they’ll be on tour while you’re mad online. They also once railed against censorship of their band’s name and how they don’t appear in algorithms because of it, which is a valid point to argue about. I find it detestable that there’s a sudden grand censorship of the world and its language across all media platforms because to say that someone “killed themselves” might introduce the idea of suicide to someone who never considered it before. It’s ridiculous in ways that Orwell couldn’t even imagine in 1984, its Newspeak already an exaggeration of this concept. 

The band’s true gripe seems to be that they aren’t in the algorithm. It’s never that many other bands could suffer that same fate, and it’s certainly not that the censorship is ridiculous and outrageous. It’s always that Mannequin Pussy will suffer because of this. It’s not standing up for the Fucked Ups or Pissed Jeans or Pure Shits of the world. It’s not a problem that the world has become a prude’s paradise of words like “unalive” and “SA” being used to avoid the wrath of a bot that isn’t paying attention to context, using the internet and social media apps to put a veil over the cruelty of reality. That’s not the point of Mannequin Pussy’s complaint. Their point is that it’s mean to them specifically. This is a band whose aim seems to be stardom but is unwilling to play the game that true stars play. They’re unwilling to sacrifice themselves and sand off the rough edges that hold them back. To some, this is punk rock. To me, it’s annoying. If you care about winning the game so much, why do you get mad at the rules?

There are always loud people who aren’t mad about injustices until they get caught in the crosshairs and they’re always the most annoying guy in the room. They cannot find it in themselves to see how any of this is bad for anyone else until it happens to them. They learn slowly, if they learn at all, and say “Why is no one talking about this?” when the world at large talks about it daily. Does this even matter to the people who read this newsletter who aren’t on Twitter constantly? I’m unsure. Regardless, the band’s new album made it to the front page of my Apple Music recs on the day it was released.

Great record, though. Fantastic stuff. I’m not sure why there’s a full Turnstile EP (I love Turnstile but the shift is jarring) in the middle of it, but outside of that? A great rock record whose “I love you so much I need to see a doctor about it” lyrics are a great match for the creeping manic vibe of the music. 

RIYL: Bully, Turnstile, the pig on the cover

Pissed Jeans - Half Divorced

I don’t remember much of the past two Pissed Jeans records but maybe I’ll check them out based on how much I liked this record. It’s definitely not the sound of a band who’s grown up. Matt Korvette has gone from the class clown to a much more reasonable person, almost in an opposite turn from recent episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Whereas Larry David’s eventual turn from “Aggressively Reasonable” to “Just Another Asshole” serves the narrative that even though he’s the main character, he’s not special, the new Pissed Jeans record shows that it’s not easy to grow up but sometimes you grow up without even trying. You become the old guy by aging alone. Things have just gotten so ridiculous in the world that a song about how stupid it sounds to be sapiosexual almost comes off like a dud of a target. I like the song, it’s just goofy. Songs like “Cling To A Poisoned Dream” and “Stolen Catalytic Converter” still give the seasoned PJs listener the sludge and attitude found on the earlier albums. “Everywhere Is Bad” is a Yo Gabba Gabba!-fied version of Fear’s “I Love Living In The City” and I say that with the highest praise. Say what you might about Pissed Jeans’ newer, less-abrasive targeting of the mundane, but they’re still the life of the party. 

RIYL: It’s Pissed Jeans, man. C’mon. You’ve heard this band before. It sounds like a poppier Jesus Lizard.

DOLLHOUSE - I Hate You Don’t Leave Me

This is a pretty special EP, in my opinion. It’s much poppier than similar punk bands in NYC right now so it’s got that going for it, but it’s also just as unhinged and scary. I really love the menacing feel of the lyrics here. The vocalist’s delivery gives a desperation to it all that’s palpable. Approaching the subject of dysmorphia and body envy is really underdone and it’s rarely done as well as it is here. I'm a big fan of this one. It’s nowhere near as macho and threatening as the records I usually post from NYC and it’s special because of that. It fits alongside music like I Did It All For You by Murderer and the old Crazy Spirit records. Real-ass New York City Freak Show Punk Rock Music. 

RIYL: Murderer, Crazy Spirit, the old video game Condemned: Criminal Origins

Pure Shit - Reality Check

Pure Shit is a mostly-instrumental noise-jazz band from LA. They’ve been compared to Bastard Noise and powerviolence bands but that’s mostly due to the bass tone, if I had to guess. The music isn’t anywhere as impenetrable as this might sound. It’s bass and alto sax but it’s also the combination of nasty riffs and creeping paranoia, contact mics on sheet metal and the screech of the sax cutting through the mess of it all. It sounds like an industrial accident waiting to happen. It’s a mundane video with a LiveLeak watermark in the corner. You wait and wait but nothing too scary ever happens. Welcome to Reality Check. Apart from all of that, is this the scariest album art of all time? Is this not a terrifying sight? It matches the music perfectly.

RIYL: Bastard Noise, Wolf Eyes, getting stared at

Old Record Of The Week: Nothing - Guilty Of Everything

Guilty of Everything is 10 and I still listen to it more than almost every other album 

March 4, 2014 wasn’t a very nice day in Indianapolis, from what I remember. Gloomy. A high of 28ºF, according to what I can find online. I remember sitting in my car on my lunch break and streaming Guilty Of Everything on my phone to listen for the first time. Shitty weather, shitty job, shitty hour-long commute to and from work, shitty lunch, probably a 20 pc McNuggets and a large Diet Coke. $6.29 spent to get away from my job and sit in my car. The cheapest lunch in the area, but the only one I could afford.

I couldn’t exactly sink into the seats in my car, the gray faux leather was tightly stretched over bolstering to lock the driver in but give them the feel of luxury while doing it. The heaters in the seats burnt through the upholstery in two spots. This was not the most comfortable car in the world, but I did really love that VW. I sat in it almost every day on my lunch break. My coworkers at the electronics store were not talkative. It was easier to sit in the car and tweet and text while listening to music.

I didn’t feel like Guilty of Everything changed me on that lunch break. I just remember thinking, “Damn, this is good.” But not much else. I probably texted and tweeted through it like so many records of the time. I would slowly come back to it almost every day of that job. Over and over, listening in my car. There were other records but they didn’t capture the feeling of dead-end nihilism that GoE does.

So much shoegaze is love songs. It’s pretty. GoE was not. It was written and performed by heavily-tattooed guys who looked like they just woke up and walked on stage. Their live shows were intense, if the iconic photo of Nicky throwing his guitar off stage wasn’t a hint. That photo was on the shirt of every third punk you saw that summer. That or the Mickey Mouse shooting dope. The music on Nothing’s record is almost of the criminal element. Shoegaze, the act of staring at your feet to make sure you’re hitting your pedals correctly, can look like a shy boy averting his crush’s stare. It can also look like a heroin addict in a full 90º nod on the street.

Over the past 10 years, I’m not sure I’ve listened to another album more. I’m sure the last.fm stats don’t reflect that, but I know what’s true to me. 10 years ago, I didn’t feel like my life changed, but over time, I can point to this record as something that very much informed my taste in music. When I hear the notes at the beginning of “Hymn To The Pillory,” I can still feel that leather and the seat warmers from that car even as I sit at my desk. I don’t look at that time fondly, but I do remember how it felt to hear Guilty of Everything the first time, and that’s a moment I’ll never forget.

See you next week!