Cosmonauts, Burning Palms, Freaks of Nature, Spray Paint; The Flycatcher; Monday, Aug. 18

Upon the conclusion of Spray Paint's earth-rattling performance, I immediately headed to the restroom and actually vomited. This Austin trio is recommended for fans of Big Black, Gang of Four, The Fall, Metal Machine Music, scraping, thudding, clanging, psychosis, screeching, industrial plants, scrap yards and death. Obviously, physical calamities are a welcome and natural reaction to a terrific band that kind of sounds like a robot lurching after being struck by an electrical fire.

Phoenix's garage rock battalion seems to feel more tense than the Tucson variety. Exhibit A: Freaks of Nature frontman Daniel Shircliff was in all of his agitated, nasal glory, backed by a disintegrating fuzz guitar, while the band played speedy rave ups with occasional discordant harmonica from Shircliff. What Freaks of Nature lacked in originality was made up in spades by a completely accurate recreation of the dark underbelly of original garage rock—soulless punks externalizing self-hatred as they take the roll out of rock and roll and pound away in a nihilistic frenzy.

Burning Palms began with a translucent new song that fully explored the atmospherics in Thomas Sloane's phased, echoing catacombs of guitar. Moving away from their early garage and subsequent psych leanings, the band emphasizing two elements: The percussive role of the rhythm section and Simone Stopford's guitar, and the unholy three-way wail of vocalists Stopford and Julia DecOncini, and Sloane's oceanic feedback. The several unrecorded songs the group performed were even more elusive and mysterious than previous material. Burning Palms doesn't really fit in a category anymore. They don't play music; they play sound.

Perversely, for an act closely associated with Southern California garage and psychedelia, Cosmonauts, especially in its long-form, hypnotic and monolithic set opener, resembled the overlooked late '80s Madchester dance-rock scene, which was inspired more by psychedelic drugs and fashion than music. Which meant that the most enduring ideas of the era—vaguely eastern sounding motifs, repetitive and groovy beats—were highlighted while eschewing the excess. In other words, the Velvet Underground and the Byrds stayed at the druggy, baggy dance party but Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Dead were sent home and told to never come back. Cosmonauts shimmered and shimmied along a rock solid beat and over-modulated guitars, reaching outrageously high peaks of droning pop.

More by Joshua Levine


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