Shark Toys, Florida, Native Cats

Jason Jackowiak

shark toys 7-inch

Truth be told, this update was pretty much ready to roll before we went down to SXSW for some BBQ, booze and barfing, but somehow, we forgot to send it. These writings may have aged like fine wine or perhaps, instead, spoiled like fresh fruits for rotting vegetables. But at any rate, we're back from Austin's bacchanalian festivities to delivery these new tunes to your ear canals. So, y'know, pick a direction and rock in it.

Our first morsel this week is the debut from Australian duo Native Cats, “Catspaw” b/w “Lemon Juice” on the estimable White Denim imprint. These boys trade in a shadowy brand of post-punk that's more thought-provoking than brooding, with knowing nods to underground '80s noiseniks and UK gloom-poppers (think Bevis Frond) alike. A wave of garroting drum machine patter opens A-Side “Catspaw” before the band slowly slink into a stuttering groove, with an insistent bass thrum forging a bedrock for lead singer Peter Escott's enigmatic tales of woebegotten espionage. On the flipside, “Lemon Juice” synthesizes the sound of a cache of noteworthy influences, yet, remarkably, with minimal instrumentation and bone-dry arrangements, the duo manage to rewire the sound so completely that listing them doesn't even make sense. It's interesting to note throughout that there's an almost inept suaveness in Escott's vocal delivery/lyrical bromides; he comes on like a cabaret derelict crooning his way through The Birthday Party songbook, re-fashioning and reshaping them to his own peculiar mold. A small edition on this one (367 copies) but as of press time it remains available direct from the label and many shops and distros of merit.

Next up we've got a pair of twisted psych gems courtesy of New York's Florida, “Haunted House” b/w “Love Inside of You” on the always excellent Shdwply Records. This lot's tape and previous 7″ (also released on SHDWPLY), both garnered plenty of play, so we were chuffed to receive this new platter in the mail. The A-Side is a loping psychedelic ballad draped with mournful strings and just the slightest hint of a twang — as if they're attempting to exercise the ghost of Gram Parsons from that AZ desert — while an incandescent, acidic guitar solo ignites the song for its coda. The flipside begins with a brace of shoegazing guitars (thing Creation Records circa 1993) before letting the sorrow rain down as gangland chanted vocals and spectral basslines act as pall bearers and carry the tune to its eternal resting place. If this sounds like your kind of daymare, pick up a copy direct from the label or at your favorite record hovel.

We end on a high note this week with Californian troupe Shark Toys' 4-song Stayed Up EP on the upstart Felter Skelter Records. Produced by Greg Ashley at The Creamery, there's a rambunctious, ramshackle exuberance in the Toys' brand of pop – it's deceptively simple and comes smeared with bubbling psych undertones and hints of '80s UK synth-wave. Of the four songs here, “Library” may very well be the best in show; a certifiable slacker anthem built upon an insistent strum and eerie keyboard patterns. Elsewhere, second standout “What to Do” is a prime slice of rumbling anti-pop with a deadpan vocal harrumph and sunburst melodies fighting through layers of skittering guitar grit. Probably best to go and git you some at the label's site before they disappear forever into the murky waters from whence they came.

That's it from us this time as picking bits of chicken 'n' waffles out of our gob and trying to quell the ringing in our ears has kept us quite busy. Thanks for tuning in, and we promise to (really, really try) not to be so tardy with the updates from now on.

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