Germany’s two-piece blackened crust band Mantar has announced that they are releasing a mini-covers album focusing on the 1990s, Grungetown Hooligans II, June 26th on LP/Digital via Brutal Panda Records and can be pre-ordered at the link below. Also, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Mazzy Star’s release of their seminal debut album, Mantar have shared a music video for their cover of ‘Ghost Highway’, which you can see below.
For those of a certain age, the news that twenty-five years have passed since the death of Kurt Donald Cobain will scarcely be believable. But it is 25 years and yes, you do now feel old. You probably still feel sad and melancholy. Time has a terrible way of playing tricks with your memory but the passing of Nirvana’s frontman still resonates as if it were yesterday. The past remains, undoubtedly, a foreign country but I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was in laundrette in Bristol, England doing a weekend load of washing (this is what students did then). I was listening to the BBC on my five-year-old Sony radio walkman- remember those?- when the terrible, heart-stopping news came through on that grey, terrible slate grey April day.
Do you remember where you were on September 24th, 1991? That is, if you were even alive, since it was a quarter century ago. I was in class at community college in my home town. As usual I was hanging out on the soccer field, guitar in hand, hanging with my usual band of freaks, geeks, stoners, punks, metalheads, and the like. The buzz around campus was this song ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ that was not only all over MTV, but also becoming an actual hit song on the radio.
For the second year in a row, the US stakes their claim to holding a fest the equivalent of a Desertfest or Roadburn level of excellence in the form of Psycho Las Vegas. Last years’ inaugural Psycho California was a hit by all accounts, and therefore not a surprise that Vegas was the locale of choice for round two. Definitely the town is a bigger draw for the bands themselves and some party minded fans, although a few days is really all your should ever spend there at once.
A wail of feedback, a sludgy, laconic riff, a jarring bass line and Success (Season of Mist) shudders into being in the style of that too-cool-to-give-a-fuck band that ambles on stage and begins the song with each member starting at their own pace and point of choice. KEN Mode, kings of the post-surf/noise rock power-trio kingdom stroll acerbically into their sixth album.
Jesse Matthewson, known for intelligent, confrontation and biting observations, has chosen to measure his delivery this time, and most of his outpourings are part-spoken and spat, rather than roared or thrown from his maw, seemingly intent on imparting off-centre soundbites. “I would like to kill the nicest man in the world” he states at the outset of ‘These Tight Jeans’, where he trades off lines with Jill Clapham in both a catchy and knowingly cool fashion, channelling his inner Jesus Lizard.
The hand of Steve Albini is present all through, as the In Utero (Geffen) producer skuzzes up ‘The Owl’, an astringent swagger with stoner undertones, before a bass crunk and cello mid-section pull the song into a discordant yowl over clashing chords, as KEN Mode play with the notion of traditional song-structure effectively. Sonic Youth would be proud.
Yet all is not rosy in KEN and Barbie’s world. There is a nagging feeling that while Clutch (for whom KEN Mode certainly owe a something to) are naturally and instinctively quirky, for the first time KM things feel a bit forced, as if stating “Handfuls of proverbial shit tossed over and over against that same proverbial wall” (‘Blessed’) is a little close to the mark, and that moving to a more caustic pop sound may be contrived, such as on the overly self-aware and smug ‘A Passive Disaster’. The cap might not fit at the moment, but all it would take is adjusting the clasp at the back. At times, this new KEN Mode just sits a little uncomfortably. But then such doubts are stomped to dust by the rising dynamic of ‘Management Control’ which builds to feedback end, or the exemplary dark, brooding, sprawling ‘Dead Actors’, that recalls The Doors clashing with a more progressive Nirvana.
Mixing a Clutch of stoner, a Tad of grunge and pinch of Mudhoney slovenliness in their Helmet of groove, KEN Mode can consider their transition a Success. Just.