The dude behind the counter at a local used-book store finds out you’re a music writer for the area alt-weekly and says, “Man, I am promoting a couple of shows at Rain Dogs, and I’d love for you to cover them,” and you, being the hallowed and respected music writer with elite, unfathomable taste, nod and humor him and say, “Yeah, dude, I’d be happy to take a look at it” (Standard Blowoff Line #372), and give him your email address expecting to get some bullshit press release on the latest cheeswhiz emo or indie-pop trio, only to have to turn him down because he sent you a press release on the latest cheese-whiz emo or indie-pop trio.
This run-on sentence fragment was brought to you by a writer who has spent the past 25-plus years fielding such press releases, and it has, indeed, felt like one, long run-on sentence fragment. But once in a great while, one of these bedroom promoters brings in a band or two that are worth checking out. We can be grateful that the dude who collared me at the bookstore was good-natured, reliable promoter Josh Dunn, and the shows he was hawking are happening at my favorite Riverside hole-in-the-wall.
First we have the most unusual Mope Grooves, performing on Friday, Feb. 26. This Portland quartet is serious DIY. Hand-drawn cassette covers; craggy, nearly out-of-tune three-chord Kinks-like rock; nearly obscene, low-budget videos; earthy, punch-you-in-the-crotch lyrics. It’s hard not to like this weirdness, especially if you’re into low-fi indie weirdness.
The band’s sort-of theme song, released on 2013’s Lamebrain EP, is a goofy, Weenesque suburban lament, the video for which features a masturbating half-man, half-Cookie-Monster-type-thing. It’s basically a three-chord slop fest, but damn if it isn’t completely enjoyable. You’ll
be singing along with the two-word chorus: “Mope Grooves.”
That could be said for most of Mope Grooves’ tunes. The new EP, 300 Million Lizards Can’t be Wrong, comprises five similar songs. No more than three or four chords per, and all sloppy, low-fi goofiness. My faves are “Hey! Lizard Child,” a Ramones-y throbber with a catchy-as-hell chorus, and “Joy,” with its picked bass line, washy guitars and reverse-delay vocals creating a decidedly ’90s vibe. Still low-budge, but oddly alt-rocky, too. There’s even an (ironic?) hammer-on guitar solo, à la Eddie Van Halen.
Don’t worry. The song lasts all of one minute, 40 seconds.
Next up is Wet Brain, appearing on Friday, March 25. Fans of early Sleater-Kinney (before Carrie Brownstein became a household name) and Bikini Kill (before Kathleen Hanna went all Le Tigre on our asses) will dig the hell out of this Baltimore punk quartet. This is minor-key raging feminist grrrl punk with an ear for the offensive, and it’s an uncompromising blend.
Take a sampling of lyrics in “Waitress.” “I’ll tip you 25 cents more if you’ll give my dick a rub” and “Squish those tits together girl, and show me what you’re all about.” Though waiting tables isn’t strictly a woman’s job (anymore), females invariably bear the brunt of the abuse while delivering your victuals. Wet Brain uses the restaurant as a battlefield, and their relentless assault plays out in line after line of caustic taunts. Find the words repellant? Try having a crusty geezer’s hand up your skirt while tossing slop for a pittance for a boss who identifies you in board meetings as “nonessential human capital.” That is repellant.
Wet Brain’s new record, Not Sorry (wetwetbrain.bandcamp.com) is more of the same. “Wife Life” is straight-up Bikini Kill, gangster punk that dives into an odd-time metal midsection. “Plan B” is a similar punky pro-choice manifesto, a fist in the flabby, white jowls of the radical Right. This one also mixes in odd-time riffs, not unlike more progressive late-era Black Flag tunes. “Scum” is a revenge number, all seething jealousy and more “Peter Gunn” punk riffs. “Back Hand” is an anti-domestic abuse screamer. This stuff is not for the faint of heart. It’s angry, dark, violent and purposeful – a sect of punk I thought had closed for business some time ago.
Thank the punk gods Wet Brain’s keeping the doors open.