Committed to tape
Two Chico bands with impressive new cassette releases.
The days of the crappy demo tape are over. Cassettes are back, but not for mere boombox recordings of band rehearsals. With CDs on the decline, young bands are increasingly turning to the modest and relatively inexpensive cassette tape as the legitimate physical product to accompany the online-only digital release of their music. And this week, two Chico bands will be holding cassette-release parties for what are two really good new local “albums.”
Universe Sandwich, Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy
Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy is made up of familiar faces from around the local metal scene—vocalist/guitarist Kirk Williams (Armed for Apocalypse), guitarist/vocalist Matt Shilts (Teeph) and bassist/vocalist Adrian Hammons (Cold Blue Mountain)—plus Shimmies drummer Jack Gingerich. But Universe Sandwich is not a metal album, not entirely at least. There’s plenty of Cookie Monster growling spread throughout, and every song has at least one moment of chugging and/or sludgy riffage, but there also are sounds from many other stylistic influences—rock, prog, classical, emo, alt-rock—at play in what is an impressively well-orchestrated nine-song rock opera.
Recorded at two Chico studios—Origami Lounge (with Scott Barwick) and Cutters Cathedral (with Chris Keene)—the album opens with “The Dogmoose,” and the 8-minute track is a tease for much of what is to come. It starts with the signature exaggerated chug, chug, chug, insistently loping along with Williams growling over the top before surprising and beautiful three-part harmonies chime in for the choruses.
After a quiet break, a pretty guitar falls away into an even sludgier passage that ends in feedback squalls before returning with a gorgeous swinging riff that sandwiches the album, coming back at the end of the final track, “Monkey Prison.” In between, we go through a range of cross-breedings—“Horsecat,” “Goatshark” (a big, melodic alt-rock anthem straight out of the mid-1990s), “Foxelk” (several kinds of metal, gorgeous vocal harmonies, and some complex math)—before a choir of guest vocals sums up on the final track: “And through it all we found our home again/ Then shit thrown on the walls of monkey prison/ In space we’re tall, but time we can’t forgot/ Like all the love that we just keep on makin’.” A very impressive debut.
Dysphoric EP, Icko Sicko
How many words can you say in four seconds? If you’re Icko Sicko singer Danny Canchola, you can fit 36: “Your band meant a lot until you got too cool/ It should be means of expression, not a tool/ You’re fake bottom line doesn’t feel right/ Your hype will die, but for us it’s for life.” Those are the lyrics to Icko Sicko’s five-second-long “Brand” (the first second is reserved for feedback and drum clicks) from the Chico four-piece’s just-released Dysphoric EP (Xerox Records). Of course, it helps that Canchola is urged along at supersonic speed by the rest of his hardcore crew—guitarist Bryan Hannah, drummer Sawyer Goodson and bassist Ian Hillman.
The EP was recorded at The Atomic Garden in Palo Alto, and the sound is perfect punk—huge and loud, dirty guitars, no nonsense. All eight hyper, chaotic songs are short (clocking in at a total of 10:13) and to the point, and as the album’s title suggests, the point is that there is a lot in the world with which to be dissatisfied. But the message on Dysphoric isn’t one of hopelessness, but rather one of self-determination and not being complacent, as Canchola sings on “Fake a Smile”: “You don’t always get to choose who’s around you/ But you do get to choose how you act/ I’m tired of brushing it off/ I can’t fake a smile and laugh.”
It’s pretty much punk as usual—in sound and in message—but that’s the point. That’s what punks do, they rage loudly against the nonsense. And, the best of them spend their time fighting for change as well, and as evidenced on album closer “Ahead,” Icko Sicko is all positive action: “Life is too short to live with regret/ Love the people around you before they forget/ So this is the last time I’m looking back/ and after that—only ahead.”