Don’t call it a come back: Ecstatic Peace releases reinvent grunge for a new era

Jesus Stole My Girlfriend single (Art courtesy of Violent Soho)

For music fans growing up in the early ‘90s, a casual spin of the radio dial often ended in one of two outcomes. While many listeners tuned in to hear the last gasp of hair-metal (Winger anyone?) or the latest hit by Michael Jackson (what, too soon?), lucky audiences were treated to an abundance of long hair and flannel from the Pacific Northwest.

This influx of Seattle-based music, more commonly known as grunge, was a watershed moment for alternative radio, responsible not only for introducing the world to an electrifying crop of new bands (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, etc.), but also for managing to wipe America’s collective palate clean after a decade’s worth of auditory abuses (Stryper, Whitesnake, anything by Europe, etc). Now today, with modern music once again seemingly mired in artistic ineptitude, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore seeks to repeat the revolution.

Armed with a pair of releases on his Easthampton-based label Ecstatic Peace Records, Moore hopes to give fans, “the real deal,” whether it’s in the workingman’s rock of Boston’s own Black Helicopter, or the high-powered punk snarl of Australia’s Violent Soho. Though the bands themselves may differ – in sound, origin, and even age – each remains, “their own thing, deep and distinctive.” So, without further ado, let’s get to the music.

Photo courtesy of Black Helicopter

Since first hitting the clubs in 1999, Black Helicopter has released three full-length albums through Ecstatic Peace. The latest, “Don’t Fuck with the Apocalypse,” (with cover work by underground artist Raymond Pettibon) is a grinding slab of down-tuned delight that somehow manages to straddle the line between indie-faves Pavement and sludge-originators the Melvins. Lyrically, lead singer Tim Shea slips seamlessly from tales of nostalgia (“Golden Days”) to historic treatises (“Invasion of Prussia”), and even dons his best Stephen Malkmus impersonation for the jaunty “Record Player.”

While the group’s speed leans more toward a plod instead of a flat-out run, there is no denying the member’s chops. Riff after riff cuts sharply through the air, and the throb of “Boston’s most Albanian rhythm section, Zack Lazar and Matt Nicholas,” pushes each track continuously forward. Such a steady diet of meat and potatoes rock may not be for everyone, but those who risk a second bite will find plenty to fill them up.

See the band perform “Pickle Jar” here:

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, the Australian youth of Violent Soho take the fight to a variety of demons on their self-titled debut. There’s no issue of speed here. Almost every song sprints headlong into a rousing chorus with the assistance of a bevy of power chords and pummeling drums. Lead single, “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” is a fierce, fist-pumping sing-along that comically chronicles the occurrence of losing a loved one to the forces of religion. Elsewhere, the bouncy bass intro of “Here Be Dragons” gives way to Cobain-esque screams before culminating in a call for a full-on teenage riot.

See the video for “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” here:

Indeed, rebellion is a common theme on the album. Repeated mentions of a separate generation and failing systems pop up frequently. Nowhere is this angst more clearly vocalized than in the straightforward line of “fuck you fuck you, / I can’t trust you,” on the track “Muscle Junkie.” Still, even though it is not the most politically correct record you’ll hear this year, there is no better music to scream along to while stuck in traffic. Trust me, give these lads some time and you’ll likely see your source for the anthem of a new age.

For more information on Black Helicopter and Violent Soho, as well as future tour dates, please visit www.myspace.com/blackhelicopter and www.myspace.com/violentsoho. For updates on other Ecstatic Peace artists and releases please visit www.ecstaticpeace.com, or follow the label on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ecstatic-Peace/103991356302633.

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