If you don’t know of Frau, they are an underground punk outfit from Brighton, UK. Their style is short and powerful blasts of punk rock devastation.
Ash Tray, the vocalist, sounds like an ashtray. She sounds like someone trying to spit out an ashtray. She sings the word ‘orca!’ (a kind of killer whale) repeatedly along with the phrase “I belong in the deep….I belong in the deep”. She is inside the killer whale’s head!
An infectious riff, a crash cymbal-heavy chorus, a throbbing bassline, and a demented performer exorcising deep-sea-level demons. Clocking at two minutes, it is the longest track this band has recorded so far. I guess they have a lot on their mind. The B-side to an already b-side sounding A-side. Can you get more underground, than underground? Apparently yeah, if you “belong in the deep”.
Françoise Cactus, pre-Stereo-Total, doing the American rock n roll thing in the late 80’s. But instead of macho bravado, or country blues authenticity, there’s a uniquely French whimsy. A sort of anti-rock star thing, à la bob Dylan, but also a chanteuse, innocent yé-yé girl, always poking fun at something.
Lyrics are all about American crime series, an extension of the inherent fetishizing of all things USA (music, tv series, etc.). A sort of musical Nouvelle Vague. Always deeply conceptual, music and thematics make one. Self-reflexive, but without the self-consciousness. Truly free, in the spirit of American Sixties Garage Rock but with the added objectivity of being a foreigner. Sort of similar to what the Japanese do when they adopt US tropes, except here it’s French, and aggressive.
This was chosen as the first single for “We Are Nots”. Why? Because it is the inauguration of their new official sound. The experimental punk rocknroll of “Fix” mutated to a dissonant post-punk no-wave.
I hear Gza of “Liquid Swords”. I hear the cavernous vox of British post-punk on the top layer, but the tempo is fast and serious. And it is also wild and fierce. It evokes an angry swagger, which is that KBD feeling. Yet, the lyrics are abstract, in fact quite literary, but not comprehensible on first listen.
The song is thus designed to be played repeatedly. And in its own structure are infectious loops.
I am surprised that they are not German. Unless…
Cinematic music. It evokes the paranoid nature of some American cities.
And isn’t that the crux of the Memphis sound? Isn’t their repeated statement of “We Are Nots and We are from Memphis” a reminder of the importance of locality in music? It was essential they gather there, in Memphis, the birthplace of the truest American form of music with the most revolutionary potential, a music of the people, their feelings, demands, and of their oppressed condition, the blues.
I cannot think of a better place than Memphis to come together and express the truth about our current times, politically, economically, and psychologically.
The creation of workers/consumers lives. Complicit governments. No social alternatives. This is what capital-based societies are all becoming. But not me and you. We are not, right? We are not becoming–what they want. So if there is more than one of us then…we… are… nots.
Here’s another Nots track that will not be on their debut album “We Are Nots”. It was recorded with the second line-up, without the additional synthesizer. However, recent live performances have the synthesizer added in which is cool and gives a zappy timeless/future vibe to the punky rock n roll flavor.
Second Nots single ever, pre-synth days. First time I heard it, I called it “jazzy punk noise”. It has an awesome bridge where the cymbals get all jazzy and the bass goes all fast. An interview on New Orleans radio with lead singer Natalie Hoffman called the track “straight up rock n roll”.
One of the better tracks most representative of their condensed genius. Lyrics are shouted girl-gang style in what we are accustomed to from early nineties trash surf, but the instrumental is all mashed up like futuristic post-punk lo-fi.
Lyrics are intriguing, very pop-like, uplifting, and philosophical.
“It’s about you / It’s about what you can do / It’s about me / and it’s about ‘what we see'”
So I found out there is a tape version of the new Nots album. I will have to get it along with at least five copies of the vinyl which I will distribute to my friends.
“We Are Nots” is probably the most important album of the year. For me, but also for music in general.
An underground totally politicized American band, making a weird kind of undergound punk jazz. The basslines are pure Art Blakey aggressive ballroom dancing type of horn jazz riffs. In an interview they mentioned Sun Ra as an influence. They are incredibly listenable and addictive. Vocals demand repeated listens to decipher. And they say some pretty wild shit…
I hear talk of Reptilian, or alien presence on Earth–the drummer revealed in an interview recently that she believes in UFO stories. Political conspiracy shit, apocalyptic warnings, there is definitely an urgency in the telling. The synth elevates it to cinematic sci-fi. But the guitar solos are structural psych improvisations, with tonality specially.
I am thinking Public Enemy for some reason. Perhaps they sound so relevant they can be representative of a youth movement spreading among intelligent youth. A kind of universal artistic creative ethos. Part punk, part pysch, part lo-fi, part essay. It spans numerous aesthetic levels.
There is probably a race amongst elite magazine critics to define their sound. The copy that comes with the pre-order release is pretty spot-on (written by a John Hoppe, store manager at Goner Records). Half of this band also works at Goner Records. So I see a pretty deep background story building that could be excavated in years to come when it’s time to pass down the genesis of a new genre.
I have already referred to the wealth of internet releases of undergroud 60s, 70s, 80s, European, and American undergound rock, post-punk, synth-pop, releases, along with proto-punk, and all the other popular musical subcultures of that era. Independent single releases of the day. Numerous blogs curating such music, mixing and matching genres. It seems to me that Nots spawns from a similar pool.
You hear something from 1979, that sounds like it time-travelled to 1998 or 2001, then came back to record. And it is a completely underground punk sound with a not-so-hidden blues, r&b, and soul groove. But really American (yet it was made in Belgium, Scotland, Holland, or Australia). This American soul groove thing keeps coming up for me but I feel I might be wrong, I will leave it in to be considered.
Then again, they are from Memphis, Tennessee, also the name of an ancient Egyptian city. They name-checked Androids of Mu (1981, UK proto-punk band)in an interview. Doug Easley recorded the album. A Southern state in a post-racial, post-Katrina, America, no wonder this is incredibly meaningful, and yet complex, and unclassifiable.
Destined to resurface in 20 years mislabeled as underground Australian post-punk. This bass-heavy and hiss-heavy punk fugue packs repetitious punches to the gut and face like some kind of street fighting arcade combo!
Underneath it all is Nots’s creation story: essentially a punk DIY aesthetic taken from early 80’s girl punk groups (Slits, X Ray Specs)and other various unnamed underground punk, post-punk, psychedelic, and rock, 7″ singles that have seen an online revival through various blogs and podcasts.
Remove the superfluous and you have Nots. A sound that is so UK, so New York, and in its darkest corners, so mesmerizing that it is unclassifiable.