Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review #229: Grrrl Friend - Happening Now (2011)


Year: 2011
Punk Rock/Psychedelic Rock
Gnar Tapes
Length: 39 Minutes
My Rating:

I first got into Grrrl Friend almost exactly a year and a half ago... I couldn't believe what I heard, it was a band that fucking had it, and they were new, and they were young, and talented! Later on in the next year, the formally released their first album (Isolation, Chronic Masturbation & Daydreams), but it just contained songs from the already-released E.P.'s that they had recorded in the last several years. Since the early days of Grrrl Friend, the band's lineup has changed almost completely after undergoing several changes in 2008 - 2010... the band has found a steady line-up of Duffy (of course), Lilian Void (bass guitarist), Tom Henkel (drums), and Sierra Stinson (other guitar). The band is now signed to Gnar Tapes, a record label that releases cassette tapes of rock bands in the Portland scene... however, this record can be heard and downloaded for as cheap as free on the Grrrl Friend web page. Anhueaise...

The album itself is quite different from the last one... style-wise this one's all over the place... there are many songs that flirt with the whole dream-pop sound that has become very popular in the hipster scene (or "garde-core", as Duffy prefers to call it)... there are some zanier, more no-wave type songs and even a few fast thrasher songs... the production is a bit less raw than the previous recordings... this album is laden with echoes and layering of tracks and guitars which muffle the other instruments in their presence. Most of the songs are pretty new, some of them never performed live before (?), but there are three re-recorded old Grrrl Friend tunes as well. Anyways, it's time to talke a listen, so why don't we, huh? HUH??!!

1. Happening Now
It's not like any Grrrl Friend you've heard before... like a sunbeam through a window comes the buzzing guitar melody and the more blunted but strong rhythm guitar chunks wallowing about... the chorus is catchy and pleasant. Awesome lead guitar work! Duffy's voice is kinda obscured by the rest of the instruments and sounds more like a ghost faintly beckoning you from another world than a screamer... Lilian (the new obligatory co-vocalist) sings a few lines here. The heavy usage of melody culminates and it really gets good. Smoke weed.

2. How Allah Stole Christmas
Not sure who's singing here... is it Duffy or Sierra? His voice sounds a bit different here if it's Duffy. It's pretty upbeat and noisy, with hard-edge steel-cold sounds bouncing and jagging around the echoey walls of the studio which said band had molested. Reminds me of the some of the songs off of "Confusion is Sex" by Sonic Youth. It's wild, it sounds like the band is using ray-guns as instruments! I imagine an inebriated ray-gun battle taking place in the middle of a laundromat being confused for the inside of a space ship.

3. doppelganger 12-Step
Another pop song. It has loud punk guitars but a feel-good melody and guitar riff and it's a nice happy song and stuff. The section before the chorus is a bit angry-sounding but then things change again once the chorus happens... really enjoying the backing vox from Lilian! If not for the warm nature of the song this would easily sound like a huge barrage of skull-crushing noise. 2/3 through the song, Duffy says, "DO THE DOPPELGANGER 12-STEP"... the song speeds up and segues into a very fast part!

4. Dirtgasm
This is actually a remake of one of the first songs the band ever wrote called "Come Clean", but it's been slightly changed. Duffy says that this version is the way that he intended it to sound like. More of a downer than the previous songs, though. The intro of the song, with the high-pitched hums of whateverthehellitis making the melody of the song, with the guitar riff playing... it's one of the most beautiful things I've heard in a song in awhile. Soon enough, the bass and drums join in and the first verse is sung. This version of the song has way more reverberation and feels more laid-back while the original recording of the song sounded more like a straight punk song. Kind of a droopy, collected but still somber song. There's more lead guitar trickery here, though... the song ends with a repeated bassline and the instruments slowly dropping out of the mix until the bass is all that's left and then it's over.

5. Black Jesus Christ
This one reminds me of Flipper a little... Flipper if it had Gene Ween on vocals, that is! The drum beat is pretty sweet in the verse parts... the guitar work lays all to waste. By the way, I just jacked off a few minutes ago. Just thought I would share that. Okay. I like food. I'm eating this "Milano Melts" right now, and they're REALLY FUCKING DELICIOUS. You can always count on Pepperidge Farm, motherfuckers!

6. Hydroxyzine
This one starts off sounding like a heavy metal number... however, that it is not. The wisping voices lead the way through this confused voyage into the chaos... not as chaotic as BJC or HASC (the songs Black Judas Chimney and How Alice Stucco ChaFUCKYOU), but still discordant none the less. It's also the longest song on the album, 'cuz it's near six minutes long. Side A ends after this song. Now time for Side B!

7. By a Thread
Another re-recording of an early song. The original version was just acoustic guitars and singing, but this version is complete with a beat and all that jazz. The first version of the song sounded like they were singing it to you alone in a room but in this one it sounds like they're shouting it out into the mountains... causing an avalanche and killing some indigenous people... GOOD FUCKING GOING, GUYS! This one reminds me of "Kimberly" by Patti Smith a little... just a little bit, my brother. My SOUL BROTHA. LET'S GO HAVE A PICNIC NOW, IN A LITTLE MAZE WITH ALL OF THE CREEPY MONSTERS FROM KEN'S LABYRINTH... THAT GAME RULES.

8. Pet Frownz
Ever had a PET than FROWNZ? It's not so good... it's usually the sign that they're about to go feral and rip off your face so your head looks like a giant wad of puss. The guitar is loud and fucked-sounding... Duffy's out there screamin' like a wild man, man... man. The chorus part is fast, which RULES. YAY FOR THIS MUSIC! In the chorus you can hear a sludgy guitar riff pulling the rest of the fucktardery about the MAGICAL ROLLERCOASTER OF SOUND. Most aggresive song of the record. Chuck enjoys thees.

9. Bestiality BBQ
Another old song... the original version of this song can be heard on the band's first L.P. It has mutated from a hillbilly sounding song to a fast punker type worthy of a circle pit. In the middle there's a weird reverse-toilet-flushed sounding guitar solo. Drumming sounds nice here. The lyrics are a satire violent rednecks who use guns too much.

10. I Explode
Another fast song. I don't know who's singing on this one, but the guitar riff is really good... I can't understand the lyrics well but I think it's supposed to be about a relationship or a breakup or something. This one reminds me a lot of the band Youth Brigade. One of the best of the album.

11. All White People Look The Same (To Me)
An instrumental. Features a funky hard-rockin' little guitar melody that is sure to get people dancing... oh yeah, I forgot, dancing isn't "cool" anymore, so you have to get them pretty fucked up first before the real fun begins! What do they know about partying... or anything else?? But it's pretty good. Not the best, but good. The lead guitar can get pretty interesting in some parts.

12. Not Happening Now
Okay, so like, it was happening NOW... and NOW it's NOT happening NOW now. But this one's kind of a distorted folk type song... at least in the beginning until the drums start up and make it seem more rock-ish. I like this one a lot... relaxing to listen to... even if you've got no one and you've got nothing (like DUFFY IN THIS SONG), you can still have nothing to say... about...



But all puppets aside, this album seems to show the band in a more comfortable place than they were in their early years. And as cool as it is, I'm going to have to admit that I am really going to miss their early sound and their old dingy production values... "The Rag" (counting the unreleased songs) is still my favorite thing the band has ever done. However, when a band changes you can either stop listening or embrace the change, and I embrace the change on this part... cool to see a band grow and shit. They actually had one old song that reminds me of this album and that's "Candy Love & Pixie Dust", which is one of my favorite songs from the Rag. So hey, it's a diverse album that doesn't just stick with one style, Grrrl Friend play several different kinds of songs, so does that mean there's something for everybody here? NO! It just means there's something for about 3% of the population, and that's just being generous, because at least 50% of the planet has SHITE TASTE IN MUSIC, SO FUCK YOU. I do love Blatz, though, just though I'd say that, y'know...


(the tape comes out in July.)

Top 3 Favorites:
1. I Explode
2. Dirtgasm

3. Not Happening Now

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