REVIEW: Nonnie and The Onnies – I’m in Love With A Rent Boy EP (1985)

Nonnie and The Onnies is far from a household name. The group’s singular 12″ release isn’t much more than a relic of an industry in an era, but perhaps we can find new respect for such an album.

I’m in Love With A Rent Boy‘s sound is what’s to be expected from an American pop group only 2 years after the release of Madonna’s self-titled debut, albeit lacking Madonna’s synthetic-disco sound for something straddling the Bangles.

The mix is delightfully punchy, the album’s cover art amusing, and its absurdity somewhat intriguing. Rent Boy may be brief, but that only makes it more consumable.

Titular a-side opening track Rent Boy comes with all the trappings of new wave overindulgence and electronic trend following, much to the anguish of any current listener. The absurdity of I’m in Love With A Rent Boy may be the only thing not somewhat forgettable about this track, unfortunately.

Under all of Rent Boy’s commercial cheese is an extravaganza of American generica. Flavorless, plugged in, and devoid of self-reflective or interpersonal emotion. An overproduced musical jingle reminiscent of over-the-top TV ads.

A swing and a miss perhaps, as following track My Hearts in Bondage (Dance Mix) is so satisfyingly engaging. Hearts inches towards EBM with pounding drum machine rhythms driving under dark synth pads. Choppy self-sampling punches up the song’s pop vocal delivery. Its lyrics may not be particularly inspired, but Nonnie’s performance sells me on the emotions at play.

A shame, really, that a track so good would be hidden behind a pop single so bad. Hearts in Bondage may have been overlooked by a loving audience due to the EP’s titular track, but perhaps our current state of retromania will help unearth previously overlooked gems.

Rent Boy‘s A-side closes out with the instrumental …And The Car Was Stolen. It explores a further industrial element over it’s 42 second runtime before disappearing into the void. Far from a substantial song, Car Was Stolen functions as the perfect cinematic mood-setter for a would-be album of Hearts in Bondage.

The album’s b-side should at least be mentioned as a formality; a radio edit of Hearts in Bondage with an instrumental remix of Rent Boy to close out the EP. Unforgivably 80s in an unlovable way.

There is good work to be found on Rent Boy, if only the right crowd were to find it.

L to R: Gary Pozner, Nonnie Thompson, Ariel Powers.

If you’re curious what Nonnie Thompson has been up to since, this article from 2006 will have to suffice. Ariel Powers wracked up some more credits to her name throughout the 90s, and is still playing to this day. Gary Pozner, last I heard, is playing music around the south-west US.

For fans of: Madonna, Bananarama, Ministry (With Sympathy-era)

Like Nonnie and The Onnies? Give these a listen: Nocera, Front 242, Glass Candy

REVIEW: XL Fits – Hands + Knees (2017)

A live video of Hands + Knees live at Blockhouse in Bloomington Indiana 11/16/2018

It all happened on one fateful night.

Another rainy Tuesday; some band from Japan was coming and playing a show at the record shop/bar I worked at. I knew nothing about them except their name: XL Fits.

The band showed up, loaded in and played to a room of 7 people including the staff. It was a half-hour of madness and confusion. What the hell was I watching? What the hell was I hearing? Loud, crashing chaos; The few attendees stood still, beer in hand, watching these 3 guys grind, wail, rock and thrash about.

As quickly as it started, the band finished and the attendees left. One of the members and I gestured a conversation the best we could to negotiate his beer order (a singular PBR) and I tried to express how great their set had been.

I quickly bought up all their merch, then XL Fits packed up and left with barely a word spoken between us. The shop owner left and I closed up. I walked to my car, avoiding the broken glass and drunk tourists, thinking about all the people who had missed out on such a life changing show.

Cut to now; sitting down to write. XL Fits are a band so specifically weird that it was daunting to even take notes while listening to Hands + Knees. It truly is a 7″ single. There is no b-side, not even a runout groove.

A 3-piece avant garde punk rock group, XL Fits could be best described as 1 part Sex Pistols, 1 part Oxbow, and about 3 parts DNA. Rarely does it seem any two notes play at the same time. The drumming on Hands + Knees plays out like a hyper-specified algorithm, while Morricone-esque bass thumps out the same refrain. Vocals wail, groan and moan their way over a guitar that is ever shifting between wailing digital noise and clean, drawn out strums.

Each and every part is played with the confidence that things will line-up at the right moments, something that most of us listeners take for granted. And really, that’s all it needs. Far too tight and far too good to be reminiscent of The Shaggs, Hands + Knees plays as if by a three-headed being, able to regroup with precision timing.

XL Fits’ work remains mostly unknown and underappreciated by western audiences. Hands + Knees, as amazing and strange as it is, can’t convey the reassurance that there could be something new out there on the musical landscape in our age of retromania and artistic stagnation. A spiritual experience lost in translation, if I’ve ever seen one.

The XL Fits show story has appeared twice on Resident Sound prior to this article, once in a review of Cal Folger Day and the other on + Brief Thoughts.

For fans of: DNA, Oxbow, Flipper

Like XL Fits? Give these a listen: Oxbow, DNA, Crack Cloud,

REVIEW: HellBillys – Evil 7″ (1995)

Evil is the final 7” single by the original American psychobilly band HellBillys. Fronted by vocalist Barrie Evans, the band consists of Greg Langston (drums), Rick Tanner (bass), and Dan Watson (guitar, formerly of progressive thrash metal band Hexx).

A-side titular track Evil is an exhibition of rock’n’roll aggression packed full of chugging palm-muted guitar. Always on the verge of rupturing forth, Evil growls along before Dan Waton’s expressive guitar work cries out in an explosive solo.

Vocalist ‘Hell’ Barrie Evans snarls, drools and seethes his way through a violent (yet reserved) performance. The “squeakin’, squakin’, [and] squealin’” Barrie’s vocal delivery, while at times indecipherable, is delivered with a nuance rarely seen in psychobilly.

The Evil 7” is mixed in a manner atypical to rockabilly revivalist tent genres. Unlike the compressed records of their contemporaries, Evil’s heavy low-end brings so much warmth as to justify calling it a weed mix.

In an interview conducted by Jessica Thiringer for Razorcake issue #31 (2006), Barrie Evans (going under his childhood nickname Scary) speaks about his time living in Japan and how it inspired the creation of The Hellbillys;

“When I was living in Tokyo, I had just left Christ on Parade and I was kind of sick of rockabilly. A friend invited me to a rockabilly show and I was blown away by how everybody looked. It was the same sort of vibe you get now (2006), but much earlier. Everyone’s dressed in vintage everything. I met the guy from the Falcons and went to see his band a week later. It was fast and heavy and had a cool look. I knew what I wanted to do.”

B-side opener Captain Scarlet is a reworking of Barry Gray’s theme for Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons; a 1960s UK children’s show exploring themes of morality dualism, social-integration, and nuclear devastation through the lens of interplanetary war. Did I mention that it was made for children? And used puppets?

HellBillys’ punched up take on Captain Scarlet features Barrie Evans’s vocals taking over the predecessor’s horn and vibraphone melody. Paired alongside themes of blatant evil, Captain Scarlet invokes the disturbing nature of a truly indestructible being.

Evil closes fittingly with Murder; a somewhat typical psychobilly romp of bass/snare syncopation and whammy’d western guitar chords topped with lyrical themes of internalized voices and, well, murder. It’s a great track, while not particularly inventive, predates the rigidity of today’s psychobilly scene.

In the same interview with Jessica Thiringer, Barrie unknowingly utters a forewarning of psychobilly’s inevitable stagnation.

“There wasn’t a template to follow. I think the regimentation of rockabilly has a lot to do with Continental Restyling (French magazine)— not that it’s bad, but it sucked the originality out of it. It’s however you interpret rockabilly. Psycho has a lot of room to grow. Let’s hope psycho doesn’t get regimented. I’ve always had a huge pomp. People put so much emphasis into looking correct, but back in the punk days you’d put together some kind of non sequitur outfit. Rockabilly used to be the same way. During the ‘80s, Macy’s (department store) even had a line of clothes called ‘‘80s Rocker,’ inspired by the Stray Cats.”

‘Stealing’ from one’s predecessors is completely natural, dare I say should be encouraged. Nothing is completely new under the sun. But it’s about that time of year when we need revisit an oft-repeated T. S. Eliot’s quote;

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it came.”

Or, to quote the back of the record jacket:

“THE HELLBILLYS ARE INDESTRUCTIBLE. YOU ARE NOT. DO NOT TRY TO EMULATE THEM.”

Hellbillys – Evil 7″ (1995) front cover featuring antagonist Captain Black from Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, looking like a middle-aged Lee Ving (FEAR).
“THE HELLBILLYS ARE INDESTRUCTIBLE. YOU ARE NOT. DO NOT TRY TO EMULATE THEM.”

For fans of: The Misfits, Nekromantix, Koffin Kats

Like Hellbillys? Give these a listen: Alien Blood Transfusion, Demented Are Go!, The Monarchs

The Gruen Effect + Brief Thoughts on Retail Relationships

What is the relationship between a commercial space and the consumer? The American pastime of wondering late night department stores; an ongoing surreal relationship between a commercial entity’s physical manifestation and the passive consumer, a cultural element encapsulated in the vaporwave school of art.

In a recent review of Maroon 5’s Jordi, music critic Jensen Ooi shares disdain towards commercial radio’s proclivity for any band once deemed successful. “You’ll get to listen to it when you’re forced to listen to it when it comes on in any public space…”

It’s true, in a way. The best of errands usually have an underlying lack of forced exposure. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe that something as flawless as top 40 radio and commercially branded playlists would fall to the subjectivity of music like the Roman Empire to the Barbarians (/s), but it’s true.

Bombarded by the unsocial of social media at nearly all times, further forced exposure brings us all a step closer towards going postal.

What happens when the lure of commercial pleasantries becomes a red-card in the ‘company to consumer’ relationship? It’s a dynamic based entirely in underlying desires and manipulation, albeit manipulation we’ve come to accept as a function of life. A commercial entity depends on luring in consumers to a passive state of comfort and excitability over products (think ‘homeyness,’ music, food courts, etc.). But a lasso of amenities can quickly become a noose of aggravation.

So how do we design the sonic landscape of commercial entities in a mutually beneficial way? Companies have sunk more money into this than I could ever imagine (though, perhaps not including the consumers’ benefits).

Twenty Thousand Hertz, an audio podcast about audio, explores these topics in their episode “Muzak,” written and produced by Carolyn McCulley.


You can listen to the episode here:


Make sure to check out Jensen Ooi’s work over at Turntable Thoughts, a blog with “a Malaysian-focus on music worldwide.”

REVIEW: The Monarchs – Heads Up EP (1995)

Released on Estrus Records in 1995, the Heads Up EP by The Monarchs is a rudimentary garage rock romp. The Ann Arbor, Michigan 4-piece consisted of Sarah McCabe, Tommy Oliver, Greg Hughes, and Andrew Claydon.

Hit That B*&¢# takes up the entirety of Heads Up EP‘s a-side. It’s not entirely certain why a band like this would lightly obscure a word both obvious and repetitively used within the song. Perhaps it’s part of a band’s kitsch, conflicting morals, or someone’s mom. Tinged with only a slight degree of internalized misogyny, Hit That B*&¢# is the #girlboss take on a long lineage of toxic-relationship jealousy songs.

Were they being serious? Probably not. Revivalist genres naturally repeat the tropes of their predecessors, even when those tropes only existed due to societal ills. Perhaps there was a degree of subversion to the song, lost to the record’s somewhat blownout recording. Regardless, Was it maybe a little stupid? Yes. Then again, everything in the 90s was a little stupid. We move on and move forward.

Instrumental titular track Heads Up takes pole position on the album’s b-side, despite the sleeve’s listing. The most ‘true’ to the original wave of garage rock, Heads Up ditches Sarah McCabe’s shouted-out vocals for organ. The general inoffensiveness of Heads Up still manages to keep up with the punk-influenced tracks on either side of it. With secret agent surf riffs and classic garage rock structuring, Heads Up (both song and album) thrashes in a way that only garage punk can.

While not as rewarding as Alien Blood Transfusion, this garage rock exploit still manages to capture the feeling of John Waters and b-movie film nights with friends. Even when embracing a ‘low-risk/low reward’ artistic approach, The Monarchs put together 3-tracks of punch-y garage rock fun.

The Monarchs may hit too hard for garage rock purists, but the kids don’t care.

For fans of: The Mummies, Bikini Kill, Link Wray

Like The Monarchs? Give these a listen: The Spits, Psycotic Pineapple, Shitkid

REVIEW: Mari Amachi – Whispering Green Leaves b/w Wishing Upon The Sea 7” (1973)

There is nothing too ground breaking or distinct about this 7”. Mari Amachi was considered “Sony’s Snow White” in Japan, as well as the start of Japanese idol culture in the 1970s/80s. Maybe from an outsider (both in time and place) this translates to a lack of appreciation for what would make this record in particular stand out.

Taking up the record’s a-side, a cinematic quality pervades Whispering Green Leaves. Instrumentation plods along, complimented by exciting flurries of strings. Whispering Green Leaves’s cinematic qualities are best exemplified by lush Mancini-esque string arrangements which thrust the composition into amplified emotions.

Nearly a decade prior to electro pop, this record manages to escape the fetishism of retromania’s preferred sonic tropes. Maybe this allows the listener to hear the record as objectively as possible. Even then, it’s impossible to eradicate personal tastes (however manipulated they may be).

B-side track Wishing Upon The Sea (海にたくした願い) is made-for-TV (70s TV, that is). I mean that as a good thing, somehow. Relying on my outsider’s ignorance, Wishing Upon The Sea’s 1970s trappings weren’t the antagonizing cheese of my childhood.

Backed by Sony’s impressive session musicians of the time, Mari Amachi’s singing is particularly beautiful here. Each piece of instrumentation compliments each other in hopeful melancholy. It’s not quite a powerhouse of emotional display, but still delivers a mildly entertaining listen.

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Perhaps it is as it appears to be, a mildly enjoyable but somewhat forgettable pop record of yesteryear. Whispering Green Leaves may not be heavily sought after in this day and age, but if you can get your hands on it, Wishing Upon The Sea is a delightfully pleasant b-side worth the occasional spin at home.

For fans of: Doris, Alice Dona, Stelvio Cipriani

Like Mari Amachi? Give these a listen: Giuliano Sorgini, Clothilde, Armando Trovajoli

REVIEW: Alien Blood Transfusion – Alien Blood Transfusion 7″ (1998)

The side project of Massachusetts hardcore outfit Out Cold, Alien Blood Transfusion was the slightly scaled back, “Ramones-meets-GBH” garage punk outlet for members Mark Sheehan (guitar, vocals) and John Evicci (drums). Joined by Kevin Stevenson (bass) of The Shods, this 3-piece released The Many Faces of Ilsa 5” prior to this 1998 self-titled masterpiece of sci-fi garage punk obscurity.

Alien Blood Transfusion 7″ kicks off with a sample that can only be described as B-movie; a sort of mental picture painted before hitting the road with The Misadventures of Candy Mint. The instrumental punk rock romp is perhaps the slowest of the 4 songs on the album, but gets the ball rolling with Evicci’s stand-out drumming. Sheehan’s tightened vocals join up on following track Hot Red Negative and remain present throughout the rest of the album’s 6 minute 30 second run time.

The album’s B-side starts off at flying speeds with song Abducted before transitioning into Insect, its descending riffs reminiscent of Coffin Break’s grunge-styled punk records. Evicci and Stevenson’s simultaneously bouncing and pummeling rhythm section create the perfect backdrop for the garage rock guitar work of Sheehan.

Distanced from the worn-out ‘classics’ of yesteryear’s fringe culture, Alien Blood Transfusion’s sci-fi lyrical and visual aesthetics made for a refreshing take on b-horror in punk. In its obscurity, the album fit right alongside nights of pinball, skateboarding, and upstaging friends with the worst of trash and horror cinema (thank you, John Waters).

Learning the art of culturally curating one’s life may now be tinged by the ghosts of hipsters past, but finding Alien Blood Transfusion was the penultimate reward for wading through endless amounts of cheap 7” records every day after school. So the next time you’re looking through cheap records, ask yourself, ‘does this look cool?’ You may strike it rich (figuratively speaking).

“ABT play Mosrite-resembling guitars exclusively”

Alien Blood Transfusion 7" record cover art 1998 mark sheehan kevin stevenson john evicci dracut massachusetts
alien blood transfusion 7" record back cover art mark sheehan kevin stevenson john evicci

For fans of: Misfits, New Bomb Turks, Man or Astro-Man?

Like Alien Blood Transfusion? Give these a listen: The Hellbillys, Hellacopters, Marginal Man

REVIEW: Snuff – Long Ball to No-One (1996)

Long Ball to No One is an EP of outtakes from the 1996 album Demmamussabebonk by UK melodic punk legends Snuff. This EP consists of 3 songs; the anthemic opening Caught in Session, the passionate and rowdy Walk, and down’n’out closer Dow Dow Boof Boof.

The whole EP clocks under 7 minutes, but there’s not a dull moment on it. Snuff’s use of horns and organ beat out the ’So-Cal’ hokeyness of their Fat Wreck Chords label mates by amplifying the Burt Bacharach elements of their compositions. Drummer/singer Duncan Redmonds’ practically signature use of swing notes give Snuff a unique soul that is critical to what makes a Snuff record a Snuff record.

I could go on about Snuff forever, but much like this EP I’ll keep it brief. Give Long Ball to No One a listen, and then give all their records a listen. Even at their worst, it’s worth your time.

For fans of: Buzzcocks, Youth Brigade, Madness

Like Snuff? Give these a listen: Marginal Man, Drinking Boys & Girls Choir, Guns ‘N’ Wankers

REVIEW: The Popular People’s Front – Klepto-Currency (2020)

Described in their Bandcamp bio as “a cut-n-paste endeavour chewing up the last 50 years of outsider club music,” Popular People’s Front are a UK DJ collective consisting of Bill Brewster, Leo Elstob and Christ Duckenfield.

Klepto-Currency is the avant disco beat tape you didn’t know you needed. The Popular People’s Front bring electronic dance music back to the days of Cold Cut and Bentley Rhythm Ace’s ambitious use of sampling.

This 5 song album lays on jam after jam, always lively enough to keep the party going while never stopping to question ‘should we be grooving this hard?’ Each track is packed to the brim with funk from its percussive layering to its thumping bass lines. Things stay just surreal enough to not quite sound like a live band, yet the album’s warmth and the organic nature to it’s structuring feel completely at home in a DJ set with Sly & The Family Stone and Trouble Funk.

Closing track Yard Werk breaks this faux live band feel with the digital sonic palette of Kraftwerk and Bentley Rhythm Ace. This electro send off of Klepto-Currency seems appropriate for an album so weird yet sonically consistent as to almost undermine it’s surrealist tendencies, just in case we get too comfortable with the preceding 20 minutes of tape.

Throw this on your wishlist, your playlist, your headphones or your PA. It’s time to get grooving.

For fans of: Dee-Lite, Cold Cut, Bentley Rhythm Ace

Like The Popular People’s Front? Give these a listen: Kinky, Strange U, Grassy Knoll

REVIEW: Arigarnon Friend’s – Muscle Memories (2021)

Arigarnon Friend’s pop sensibilities and mid-west emo stylings lend themselves to the emotional intensity expelled on each track. Delicate angular guitar sweeps and bubbling sappy melodies sit atop grumbling bass and agile musicianship. Every moment of this album is well utilized to push the emotions behind each song further and further. Arigarnon Friend’s Muscles Memories is the emotions of a good hard cry processed and packaged into a well-used 25 minutes 47 seconds.

Opening tracks Timing and ACCEL come bursting through the speakers; each instrument played with such passion as to feel as if the band could reach out and touch the listener. Use of minor chord eeriness and group backing vocals on track Wallow help expand Arigarnon Friend’s sound while keeping the more straight forward songs on the album still feeling fresh.

There aren’t any drastic stylistic changes on Muscle Memories. It’s mostly pop-punk and mid-western emo, but Arigarnon Friends treat the individual creation of each song with the artistic intent and tailoring needed to keep songs from becoming stale. By doing so, the album as a whole stays interesting and feeling emotionally sincere.

Closing track FRIENDS delivers sparse verses contrasted by wall of sound choruses. Its vocal melody delivering a distinct feeling somewhere near melancholy before the whole song burns up under the accelerating pace of a misty reverb guitar solo.

And as quickly as it burst through the speakers, it went.

For fans of: Hot Hot Heat, Frankie Cosmos, The Fastbacks

Like Arigarnon Friend’s? Give these a listen: Hazy Sour Cherry, Knola, Full of Fancy

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