Illustration by Ben Lyon

Garbage Can...in which one lucky staffer get to sift through the dregs of the TB head office and see what comes up. Will it be their lunch? Or a hot new band that has slipped through the cracks? Every update, one random TBer will be assigned the task of reviewing as much crap as I can stuff into a box. This month's victim...The Editor. Stay tuned to see who gets ten pounds of crap in a five pound LP mailer next...

When I first had the idea to start the Garbage Can column, it wasn't necessarily as a vehicle to ridicule less-than-desirable promos from bands that didn't make the first (or even second or third) review cut. Although it is certainly easy to use this column for that purpose, I did, perhaps a bit naively, want it to just be a way for every promo TB HQ received could at least get a review of some sort. Obviously, one person would have a very hard time listening to all of the CD releases we get sent, so the plan was to fill a mailer with a dozen or so discs and send it off to a different staffer each issue. That way the work was spread around, and everybody got a chance to maybe take a few cheap shots and perhaps even find a good disc or band in the process (which hasn't really happened yet). So, after putting Icki, Soriano, and Young Steve through the wringer, I decided I should give it a try myself, taking the first ten or discs in the current "Garbage Can" (which is actually a plastic bin sitting next to my desk) and waste a couple hours. And after about two or three records, I realized, it's just hard not to take cheap shots at some of this stuff, no matter how well-intentioned you try to come at it.

Katie the Pest

One of the most bizarre promo packages I've yet received at TB is from a Pasadena band called Katie the Pest. It arrived in an oversize box, shipped Priority Mail for some reason (a rare and completely unecessary thing to do when mailing unsolicited promos) so when grabbing it from the mail I just assumed it was some books I ordered. Upon opening, I was greeted with the picture to the right. A CD nestled in what I have since learned is called raffia, along with a scented candle, a silk flower, a sealed faux-Victorian pillbox full of mints, an 8x10 glossy of what appears to be two naked girls conveniently cropped right at the breast-line, and a one sheet printed on paper that looks like it was intended for use as wedding invitations for some New Age couple. Intriguing, but not in the sense that I wanted to listen to the disc, but in the sense that I wondered why the hell they took the trouble to send this to TB. I felt an obligation to give it a serious listen though, because this promo package was definitely "serious business", as they say in Pittsburgh. Of course I knew the odds said that I was going to be uninterested, to say the least, but I was curious as to what sort of rock Katie the Pest could be bringing that would make them think sending a Bed Bath and Beyond sampler to TB would be wise. So, I discovered that KTP are actually two girls, neither named Katie, who recorded a seven song CD filled with stuff that quite honestly sounds like two girls reading their journals from the year after they graduated college over indie "rock". Except they don't read, they sing. Seven songs worth of them doing their best to elicit breathy multi-layered harmonies, which really becomes ear-splitting after two songs. Combined with the sandalwood scented candle, it made for a nice headache. Not a mean headache, but a nicely perfumed headache, which is infinitely more annoying. Five minute songs about boys you like are no fun. Ever. I give them high points for promo execution, however. Think of how their art-and-crafts approach could be applied to other bands promotional materials! A Human Eye CD tucked in a bed of raw meat. A Brainbombs package that comes with a used tube of lipstick, an old steak knife and a bloody toe harvested from some Stockholm streetwalker. A King Louie CD wrapped in cabbage and with crawfish shells used as packing material. How fun would opening the mail be if everyone took this creative of an approach? Well, it would actually be pretty vile, but it would really keep things interesting. If anyone wants to try the mints from this box, drop me a line. (www.katiethepest.com)

One of the things that really bugs me is when bands have a name that has either a) been used before by a better band or b) references something, intentionally or unintentionally, that they shouldn't be allowed to use. Chicago trio Fast Product should know better than to slander the name of a great and subversive DIY indie record label responsible for the seminal Earcom comps for their suburban upper-middle-class gripe rock. Regardless of the fact that John Roeser was in a "well crafted pop outfit" called Hot Dog City (which is where I'm convinced Headache City got the idea for their name from). This shit is just the type of stuff that results when bands who have nothing meaningful to bitch about (re: actual problems) but feel they need some emotionally "Deep" content in their songs turn to lamenting about, with the stress on the l-a-m-e. How can you listen to "I Don't Remember Law School" and not want to shoot the CD player? About as edgy as a soup spoon. And if you're going to do tricky fold-up CD packaging, do it on some actually sturdy cardboard-like material. Half-assery will get you nowehere. (www.fastproductmusic.com)

Getting things from foreign countries is always cool. Packages posted from Australia really get me interested, as it's the one place that we in the US seem to have no way to crack distro-wise, making Aussie records oh-so painfully hard to come by. A three-band compilation of bands from Perth (what is supposed to be the most isolated city in Oz, and home to the mighty Victims) had me hoping. Three originals and one cover of a classic Perth band from each group. What a disaster. Firstly, I'm not familiar enough with The Bamboos or The Bakery to know what disservice was done to the covers of their songs, but what The M-16s do to "Television Addict" should be enough of a crime that the authorities should be involved. Butcher isn't even the word. They make such a primal and fun song sound so squeaky, rawky, and polished that they could make a video for it and probably slip it into VH1 rotation. Really, listening to it was like watching a kitten get murdered or something. Totally unforgivable. Apparently the best thing Perth has to offer these days are the terribly named Fourstroke, who at their best sound like a third-rate Kyuss, and at their worst sound like a bad Zep cover band (which some people might say are the same thing). Sometimes cities are isolated for a reason. And perhaps a better way to pay tribute to The Victims would be to just listen to their records and put the guitars down...(Out of the Loop Records)

Katie the Pest

TB gets a lot of jack from Scandanavia for some reason. The Nordic lands. While it's cool that we get mail from Finland, the latest disc from Disgrace is very not cool. It's all in the promo sheet. Apparently they started in the late Eighties, setting out to be "one of the hardest metal bands ever"(!), and then throughout the Nineties, apparently realizing they sucked at playing metal, hopped on the Scandi-rawk bandwagon and became an "Action Rock'n'Roll" band. Way to roll with the punches guys. One of their claims to fame is a gig with the Flaming Sideburns, which sums up the disc pretty well. The artwork is of the Clowes-if-he-were-a-mongoloid variety, and makes me think that they are a band of midgets. Which really wouldn't make them all that more interesting were it true. They couldn't even play some hackneyed Dis-core shit and have their name make sense. Sadly, this is one of many sucky Finnish CDs I've received. What's going on over there? Where's the next Tampere SS? The next Eppu Normaali? The next Lama even? Apparently not reading or sending promos to TB if they exist. Damn shame. (www.disgrace.fi)

Sometimes labels are so persistent with their mailings it's hard not to like them, or at least not approach their releases with so much venom. Ever since TB started some three years ago, Heptown Records out of Sweden have been sending us promos. I'm pretty sure they do fairly well over there, as they print separate promo copies for their releases (with the full artwork on a cardboard slipcase, very well done) and send them to us on the regular. I admire their tenacity. It's just, how can you take a rockabilly/country/garage band called The Buckshots who release an album called "Too Hot 2 Handle" at all seriously? Most of the Heptown roster is of the same ilk, although The Buckshots are certainly the cheesiest at first glance. Heptown does run a nice shop: great looking art, well done one-sheets, promo postcards/stickers/handbills included in each. I try to look at the good things about bands like The Untamed; sure, they essentially play modern rockabilly, but they sound just a little bit like The Cramps, don't they? It's a small consolation. Actually, the most palatable thing they've sent me yet is the Screamin' Eric CD "Shake It!", which has Mai from Gorilla Angreb as the cover model, looking really really really good. And the music isn't terrible either, the most non-cornball sounding of anything I've given a spin. I guess I just want to tell them that they should keep up the good work for their fanbase over there and even abroad, but this kind of stuff really doesn't play on this side of the Atlantic. But they can send me all the pictures of Mai they want (and for the record, she did not look this super hot in person. Why? Because punk chicks always look hotter after a run through Photoshop.)(www.heptown.com)

Another big bummer in promo-land is when a disc actually looks like it might be good, but is then revealed to be a total waste of resources. The wolf-in-sheeps-clothing of sorts, the kind of thing that always get you imagining what a band that is actually good could have done with the cash for this release. Take this CD from Brooklyn's Bosola, a nice screened/pressed Shellac-style thing, complete with an Obi strip and cryptic artwork. Looks cool, no? But then the one-sheet goes and ruins it. Phrases included on this one-sheet that should send you running: "NY slow-core legends", "spaz/prog outfit", "musical saw" (yes, the "instrument") and this gem: "the band is intensely interested in jamming." And I'm intensely interested in getting the word "jam" stricken from the lexicon when talking about music unless you're interviewing Paul Weller. Turns out the songs on this EP are spontaneous...jams...that are played once or twice, recorded, and never heard again. "Perishable" songs, they call them. Yeah, that's a great idea. What do they sound like? Serious indie-prog crap that reminds me why I sold my Storm & Stress records so many years ago, and makes me even more embarrassed I ever bought them in the first place. Damon Che would have a hard time sitting through this gunk. I can only imagine how much speed Wharton Tiers had to take in order to stay awake through the recording of this. (www.bosola.org)

On occassion, you get a promo that is both well-done and somewhat charming enough that you give it the chance, even though you know it is nothing you will be remotely interested in. Lake of Falcons sent a nice little package: their debut CD, plus stickers and buttons, and some cool matchbooks with their pretty damned cool looking viking logo on the front and "Set Fire To The Moats" printed on the back. Brilliant. Also, a polite and neatly written note thanking you in advance for any support, which includes not an e-mail address or even a street address, but their phone number. Just in case you want to chat about things. Someone angrier than myself might have taken this as a chance for some prank calling, but it just made me want to call and let them know of some places that should really be sending their stuff too. And that stuff is semi-tough indie rock of the quiet-verse/loud-chorus sort, which could probably get them some play on some college stations and a following of dudes in cardigans who aren't quite gay enough for emo but not man enough for real rock'n'roll yet either. Cool band name (but not as cool as Lake of Dracula), cool logo, cool matches, and if they were a viking metal band, I would have loved them, I'm sure. Who needs a light? (www.lakeoffalcons.com)

In keeping with the falcon theme, Metallic Falcons recently sent one of the stinkiest turds I've ever received. Firstly, zero charm included in the press release. Some examples of the gayety included: record is called "Desert Doughnuts"; record is released on 6/6/06; band members wear stupid looking masks in pictures, as well as a Yankees cap; ironic Dungeons & Dragons reference; band describes their sound as "soft metal". Firstly, there is nothing metal about this band. "Soft Metal"? That's just insulting. Assuming your listeners are stupid is the easiest way to insure suckitude. This shit reeks of aromatherapy candles. I can imagine this playing in some holistic massage house, where hideously stinky granola eating dyke earth mothers rub you down with tea tree oil and do not once ask you if you'd like the ol' happy ending. Pieces of shit like this get me mad. It's one thing to be a young band with little clue sending out promos to anywhere you can think of. It's another thing to release a pinch loaf such as this and expect people to take you seriously. Get fucked Metallic Falcons. (www.voodooeros.com)

I will end with a "I Can't Believe This Really Exists" double shot. Nicotine Records sent in this two-fer of CDs from....wait for it...the Motorcity Losers and The Sperms! What can you really say about this. Is it punk rock? Is it garage? Is it real? Who signed off on this artwork? Really? Oh, wait a minute, wait just a minute. Nicotine Records, PO Box 165...Tortona, Italy! Now it all makes sense! I guess the really funny thing here is that I know of certain local band who somehow got their record released on this label. No, actually, that's not funny at all. But calling your band The Sperms is, no matter what country you're from. Their disc seems to be titled "Wow! What? What?" which is strangely fitting. (www.nicotinerecords.com)

That's it for this time. If anyone really wants any of this stuff, just let us know, we're running out of room. And if anyone out there is foolhardy enough to want to become a full or part time garbage can reviewer, send your resume to the editor. I don't know if I can take this again.

To read past installments of Garbage Can go here.