TV Ghost, “The Fiend” b/w “Prodome”
Black Lips, “Disconnection” b/w “99 Victs”

by Kevin J. Elliott

May. We’re back. We’ll start with the most gripping of the month, which has consistently come from Columbus Discount Records. Even if this installment comes from Lafayette, Indiana, via TV Ghost, it is definitely borne with a chunk of Columbus sidewalk grafted on its innards. With Tom Shannon (of the Cheater Slicks) on production and Will Foster (of the Guinea Worms) engineering, it was likely a triptych afternoon of cheap beer and collector scum talk—and some heavy jam. An In the Red vet guiding an In the Red rookie, which makes perfect sense, because once TV Ghost release their ITR debut, they’ll likely be as esoteric a band as the label has (similar shades of Slicks’ trajectory) and won’t be fully digested until a decade from now. Which is why it took a while to warm to “The Fiend” and “Prodome.” Both were almost punishingly cold until you decide to bury deep enough to the core of them.

Maybe it’s the complexity of “The Fiend,” or not, as everything that’s made them burn in the spirit of spontaneity sounds firmly intact: the spastic guitars, heaving organ, and car-crash rhythm continue to sway/topple over in cocaine-Jenga paranoia. “The Fiend” is progression, perhaps the reason it’s a head-scratcher. There’s welcomed thought in how the trash unfolds. If that’s the case, then the B-side is the opposite. “Prodrome” is a gurgling dirge butting in on a shifty melodic din, where the germ of youth boils the blood. Kinda letting it all pour slowly, there’s an abundant aggression and catharsis, the type of apathy clad of men double their age. That’s not deducing that older heroes of theirs (see Cheater Slicks, Guinea Worms) aren’t still challenging the fray,or are any less futile when it comes to scuzz-punk dementia, it’s just stunning to see a band as green as TV Ghost possess this kind of demonic vigor.

I’m not sure if it’s old age, or stretching themselves thin, or the completely jaded grins Black Lips put forth on their Sub Pop special delivery. But instead of becoming disconnected I’m disappointed here. And directly after praising their recent decent into swampy, sweaty, red beans and hip-blues on 200 Million Thousand, no less. This could be phoned in and that’s somewhat understood, “Disconnection” is about the telephone line being cut, lovers removed, complete with chiming ringtones and shouted nonsense. It’s simple, short and non-threatening, much unlike the Lips of yore. But I suppose beginning to ask them to whip out the tongues, dicks, and blood again would be cheapening what they’ve begun to accomplish in their more lucid moments. “99 Victs” ups the velocity and ragged glory of their past with distorted garage riffs and beer bottle percussion. It fares better than the stunted “Disconnection,” but even this semi-punk rager fails to leave a mark, even though the chorus can become mindlessly catchy. I’m afraid that more often than not in this subscription series (and with the exception of Tyvek and Blues Control), the bands Sub Pop enlisted to fill their supplemental roster, had little time to conjure up something unique to a 7-inch and instead are tossing off slop. Not the symbol of quality I was expecting.