Spring brings a fresh batch local EPs
Never Better—Down the Well
Frontwoman Minnie Mental says her band plays “heavy mellow” music, and that’s a pretty apt description of Down the Well’s debut EP, Never Better. These five songs lean toward hard rock, but stay mostly midtempo and basically amount to easy listening by today’s standards of low-end heaviness. Intentionally or not, Never Better—recorded at Energy Plant Arts—sounds lo-fi, which doesn’t suit the album’s pretty chord arpeggiations and glam-rock guitar solos. You want to hear crispness, but you get a wall of muddy midrange instead. The record has its moments, however. The closing track, “Blur,” begins with a beautiful soundscape of swelling and receding guitar and Mental’s soaring vocals. But, again, it could use a little more of the sonic oomph Mental and her husband/drummer, JP Bergmann, employed in recordings of their previous band, Furlough Fridays.
EP-release party April 22, 9 p.m., at Maltese Bar & Tap Room.—Howard Hardee
Kurr-Jar Classics—Tri-Lateral Dirts Commission
Paradise-born Tri-Lateral Dirts Commission is post-everything—a blast-beating three-headed monster that pushes past thrash and hardcore and whatever other chaotic dynamics it picks up. What makes the group so exciting/dangerous is the trio’s scary wild energy, and while the levels have been pulled back a bit (maybe too much?) here as compared to its red-lining predecessor (2015’s Kurmudgeon Ghetto), the new Kurr-Jar Classics is still plenty spastic. It’s insane how many twists and turns each brief song takes (all six tracks together clock in at less than 7 minutes). My current favorites are the schizophrenic “I Wunnah Talk to Sampson” and the closing ode to the red dirt of home that detunes into a sludgy dirge before shouting its title to end the song: “New Dirts Swing!”—Jason Cassidy
Next in Line—Sex Hogs II
On the heels of its full-length debut, Part One, Chico’s Sex Hogs II finds familiar muses in the recesses of the garage-rock canon. The new three-song EP, Next in Line, begins in salute to perhaps the greatest of all garage bands with a cover of The Kinks’ “Who’ll Be the Next in Line.” Beefing up the duo’s typical guitar-drum tandem with Ian “Bass Hogg” Miller and Stephen “Banjo Hogg” Pride, Guitar Hogg and Drum Hogg (Johnny Meehan and Nate Daly, respectively) channel the swing of Ray Davies’ neo-psychedelia deftly. “What Am I Feeling” vacillates between psycho-punk anarchy and an emotive existentialist crisis set to rollicking rock ’n’ roll. The EP’s finale, “Hey Nate!,” similarly writhes in the wormy nether regions of dirty rock, with Meehan’s vocals recalling a pensive Brooks Nielsen.—Ryan J. Prado
I Need Space!—The Vesuvians
Chico’s most otherworldly rockers prove on I Need Space! that they have their heads in the stars. Three of the five tracks on The Vesuvians’ second release are concerned with matters of the universe, with the most obvious, and most impressive, example being “Rocket Ship,” on which vocalist/guitarist Ska-T sings, “Step inside my rocket ship and I’ll take you for a ride/To the Milky Way and all the planets across the astral glide.” It’s a tone monster with Ska-T’s fiery leads playing off his growling vocals as guitarist/vocalist Bob Howard’s shimmering guitar chords and an insistent rhythm section (Alex Kokkinakis and drummer Steve Bragg) keep pushing forward. And as the lead-off track, it sets the tone for a muscular all-hands-on-deck bar band sound (reminiscent of The Smithereens) that permeates an impressively recorded/mixed EP (by engineer Josh Garcia). It’s a fantastic recording showcasing all of The Vesuvians’ garage-, psychedelic-, art-rock powers in bright, full bloom.
Release date: May 5, with EP-release party the same night, 9 p.m., at Maltese Bar & Tap Room.—Jason Cassidy