As a tremendous fan of The Clash, I don’t believe in the genre labeled “postpunk.”  It cuts through my denial that Joe Strummer is actually dead.  Instead, I prefer the term “modern punk,” which seems to fit your Franz Ferdinands and Yeah Yeah Yeahs as easily as it does the two band’s I’m writing about today.

First, Vulture Whale.  I get so much music mailed to me that I almost never have to buy any and, even if I did, I’d never have time to listen to it.  But when I read that Wes McDonald had a new project, I knew I had to go get it.  Fortunately for me, it’s on iTunes.

I’m familiar with McDonald from his solo album, “1:50 in the Furnace,” which remains one of the best albums ever submitted to this blog for review.  It was basically The Replacements with a little more of a country flavor, much like Big Mountain or Birdmonster’s first album.  Genius-level Americana, it was.

With Vulture Whale, McDonald basically took his band and became a member, taking his name (“Wes McDonald and the . . .”) off the moniker and revamping the collective as Vulture Whale.  Apparently, they had a self-titled debut back in ’07, but I completely missed it.  So I’m coming on board with their second record, which finds their sound still close to Westerberg, now lying somewhere between Iggy Pop and Kings of Leon.  There’s more noise here (the joyful deconstructive destruction of “The Waves”) than McDonald’s solo work, and more punky snarls in the vocals.  There’s still the faint odor of Bob Dylan in McDonald’s uniquely ragged vocal swagger, the guitar work is nice and gritty, and the drumming is freakin’ fantastic.  “Head Turner,” about an older woman who “looks as good as she did in the ‘80s”, is a standout track, one that’s equally perfect for jukebox drinking, barroom dancing, or driving with the windows down
and the speedometer in the danger zone.  A fabulously fun, well-written record.

Sugar (YSI)

Video for sugar:

Ultimate Power Duo, the second band on the menu today is far punkier and much less familiar.

I’m writing about both bands together, though, because both have an Iggy Pop feel in the vocals: Both McDonald and The Riz (who I believe is the frontman for Saskatoon’s Ultimate Power Duo) have voices that sound slightly uncomfortable.  Rather than blend with the music, their vocals stand out in opposition to it.  This works well for Ultimate Power Duo, who seem to be trying to channel Black Flag and every other band on The Repo Man soundtrack, with retro punk (sample lyrics include a shouted “God hates fags!” chant and the line, “I’ll savor the experience of killing your kids”), anger and irreverence.  They call themselves “the masters and perveyours of Demolition Rock,” and I guess that’s as good a name as any for their sound.  It’s hard to love “New Normal,” their second full-length album, because it seems to dare you to get close and then spit in your eye.  I’m offering you the single, Jack The Space/Time Continuum Ripper, and the strangest cut on the record, “Doot,” as samples.  The former because it’s pretty much what they’re about, the latter because it shows how they can stretch into Scary Monsters territory.  A fascinating album.

Jack The Space/Time Continuum Ripper


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