If you live in Austin then you already know there’s too much damn music to keep track of. And sometimes you just want to sift through it in bite-sized chunks. We totally understand. Allow us to introduce you to The Latest Toughs, five tracks from five bands to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.
Ghetto Ghouls- “Plants”
Last week, Monofonus Press (one of our favorite Austin labels) put out a Minutemen-tributing/DIY culture baiting comp called We Jam By Condos that serves as a pretty great sampler of what’s currently en vogue in the more punk, post-punk and darkwave-affiliated scenes in Austin, but Monofonus’ best move was probably leading it off with the crackerjack Ghetto Ghouls track “Plants.” The song announces itself with a decidedly Wire-like guitar riff, the instrument stripped down to pure rhythmic intensity and glass cutting treble, the drums a perpetual motion machine of old punk rhythm and new style. Ian Rundell is the man behind that beat, but he’s also the one that recorded this single and a slew of other stuff on the comp, and a lot of the effectiveness of it is due to his work. That guitar’s so sharp and that beat’s so snappy your brain doesn’t even know what to do when the lost radio transmission vocals come in.
Haris Q- “Soul Food (Ft. Tank Washington)”
Explore Bandcamp rap tags long enough and you get familiar with this trend of putting cities instead of sounds. Snotty punk bands go ga ga for shit tags like “pizza wave” or “fart sounds” but backpackers lay claim to places they’ve never once resided in, like Minnesota or Oakland or Houston and carve out a whole other world of depth and intent as a result, punk samples vs. oddities vs. chopped and screwed. That dude Haris Q is on some next level shit, though, branding his new mini-mix of LNS features not with other Texas towns or locations smart emcees may consider relocating to but with Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh. The EP might be called H+ and thus have that H-town tip, but the sounds are straight exotic, 808 kicks flip flopping with jungle rhythms in the Bengal tiger sense. There’s an alien sound cranked out in H+’s small scattering of tracks but Haris gets it right in the first try with Tank Washington’s “Soul Food,” making a case that Tank is LNS’ Ghostface Killah, a rugged, adaptable emcee who plays well with others but is best when he’s left to rip a beat to shreds on his own. If this is only a tease, I shudder to think what Haris and crew have on the horizon.
Attack Formation- “Pearl Snaps”
“Pearl Snaps” might be more than a decade old, but you wouldn’t know that by listening to it. Now defunct(?) post-hardcore outfit Attack Formation were tearing shit up in Austin back at the turn of the century, and now their stuff has started to get uploaded to the Insect Records Bandcamp page, where it fits right in with the post-hardcore revival that’s happening. As far as missing links go, Attack Formation form a bridge between other Texans At the Drive-In and the more electronic friendly sounds crafted in the Midwest by Girls Against Boys and Brainiac and other Touch and Go faves. “Pearl Snaps” is far more straightforward, though, other than a hip hop soundbite fake out at the start; this is tuneful, rugged hardcore, muscly guitars breaking through speakers to amplify fist pumping sloganeering lyrics you can’t make out, anyway. Don’t miss out on the group’s weirder shit, though. Peep the Sonic Youth-inspired “I’m Buried Alive” in particular.
Uncle Jesus- “Dead Man”
On the newer punk end, Uncle Jesus is a curiously named new spin off project by the boys from Super Thief and the now sorely missed White Bronco. At the moment they’ve only got a few hastily recorded demos under their belt, but I caught them over the weekend at a house party and as great as “Dead Man” is, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the band’s pummeling live sound. A clever combination of Super Thief’s brawny sonic attack and White Bronco’s tuneful oddity, Uncle Jesus’s DNA is easily traced but they are undoubtedly their own unique thing. Steve Winstead’s constantly mutating vocal delivery gets a lot of the credit for that, as he turns in a performance that is unpredictable and primal, as much a series of grunts and disturbingly delivered “yeahhhhhs” as anything lyrical. Maybe Uncle Jesus will go out in a blaze of glory, or maybe it’s the next evolutionary step up for this micro-scene of ’90s guitar punk fanatics.
Domineko- “Samantha (Produced by Curbside Jones)”
Some days you just want a laid back, casual hip hop track about “catching booty like a cancer,” you know? As luck would have it, that’s exactly what Austin producer Curbside Jones and Kansas City emcee Domineko have provided with “Samantha,” a little ditty devoted to a woman with a flair for disrupting plans. Curb’s “Samantha” beat is especially slinky and transformative, but Domineko is more than capable of following suit, shifting from the early Wale tones of the track’s start to the more classic G-funk feel it morphs into. The vocals sound like they were done via a cheap computer mic, but honestly that only adds to the effect, like Domineko is leaving his verses on a voice mail, knowing full well no one checks that shit anymore.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover