The Latest From Atoms for Peace, Hiawatha and NOFX

Hiawatha: Language Photo courtesy Last Gang Records

Atoms for Peace
Default [Single]
XL Recordings

It just appeared randomly on iTunes. No accolades, no announcements, no press releases, no news updates. It just popped up there. It’s called “Default,” and it’s the first single from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s solo project Atoms for Peace. “Default” is as much of an ethereal, dirge of an enigma as the singer himself, as he begins to toy with weirder and weirder ways to give the finger to the industry.

Atoms for Peace formed in 2009 as a way for Yorke to play his 2006 solo album The Eraser. Yorke recruited Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and prolific princes of percussion Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco as his eclectic Eraser entourage.

The band played a slew of U.S. dates, debuted some new songs as solo sketches–some of which ended up on Radiohead’s 2011 album The King of Limbs —and then went into the studio fresh off of the ecstasy and insanity of touring to lay down some tracks.

This is the result of the constant tinkering, cutting and crimping from Yorke and Godrich as they combined solo electronic ideas with the tribal sensibilities of the live band. It’s a narcotized blanket of bliss and anguish.

The track starts with a rubbery, scratchy analog synth doing jittery and jilted arpeggios before the clamoring, tribal beat clicks into place and the track seethes and floats gently. Everything seems calm and languid for a while before Yorke’s sensual croon creeps in.

“It slipped my mind / in forward time,” he sings in precious falsetto as the beat becomes increasingly hectic and breaks into sawtooth synths and crinkling, twisting percussion by Mauro Refosco as Yorke admits, “I’ve made my bed, I’ll lie in it,” and then the track quickly dissolves back into the ether.

Building off of the dark, haunting melodies and intricately driving beats of The Eraser, it’s less of a sequel and more of an evolution. He’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s a beautiful, logical progression.
Above all else, though, the single is an absolutely maddening tease because the album won’t be out until next year. However, fellow Thom Yorke fiends may find solace in the XL Recordings 12” vinyl for the single that’s set to drop in October. Surely it’ll have an unreleased b-side or two to tide us over, right?

—Nick Laugher

Last Gang Records

Toronto’s Egyptrixx (David Psutka) and Thrush Hermit’s Ian McGettigan are debuting their first collaborative album under the side project moniker of Hiawatha on September 25.

Entitled Language, the full-length is a beautifully textured ensemble of psychedelic dance tracks. The album is characterized by minimalist vocals over slow and spacey reverberations, alternating between clean, sharp poppy dance beats and more insistent, heavier melodies and dirtier sounds. Although replete with elements of cold trance, the record is intercut with sparse but dreamy chanting male voices that create moments of celestial airiness.

Psutka and McGettigan’s vocals never take center stage and don’t deviate much from a minimalist soft chanting but serve to add warmth and softness to an otherwise industrial and clean sound.

“Dogs of War” is a standout with its building intensity and more urgent mood, while “Glass” is more upbeat and features a heavier emphasis on repetitive, rhythmic vocals that complement the smoldering and whirling background synth as well as the irresistible beat. The breathy sighs offered by guest vocalists Ohbijou on “Old Black” lend a near-spiritual tone to the album. For a dreamier, vocals-free trance experience, try the closing track “Permission (Part II).”

If Language is anything to judge by, Psutka and McGettigan have a bright collaborative future. They have offered the world of dance music a fresh album of consistent layers of traditional poppy synth over a more complex and earthy undertone, combining light ethereal elements with a heavy substantiality perfect for the wistful and cold atmosphere of the upcoming months.

-Fiona Schlumberger

Self Entitled
Fat Wreck Chords

NOFX, those endlessly enduring, crowned kings of insane antics and breakneck melodic punk rock return in a haze of oxycodone, cocaine and booze with their strongest album in almost a decade.

Self Entitled is a razor-sharp, spitfire return to form. Back are the rapid-fire double kick beats, searing, swoon-worthy melodies and scathing, cynical lyrics. Gone is the overly glossy production of 2009’s Coaster or the bloated, preachiness of 2007’s Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing.

The album is pure, classic NOFX.

“Ronnie and Mags,” a scathing political prod and jab of ‘80s political figures Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, is straight-ahead, savage punk-rock with lyrics like, “Let’s have a foursome / build a neutron bomb.”

Fat Mike pens an anthem for the BDSM community with the Bad Religion-tinged “Secret Society.” Seemingly a tried and true conspiracy song cliche, when you realize it’s actually a slick metaphor for bondage and sexual exploration, Mike’s cryptic lyrics take on a whole new meaning. “In our secret society / we find freedom through slavery / absolute power and hierarchy”

Tracks like “My Sycophant Others” are painfully honest explorations of Fat Mike’s personal life on a level that’s much more intimate and palatable than Coaster ‘s extremely literal expositions or Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing ‘s overly dogmatic lyrics.
“Yes feeders / accolade breeders / like I need another cheerleader / you’re spineless and morally impotent / you’re my scyophant,” he sings, tired of being hailed as great or inspiring.

Reclaiming a grasp on great melodies that were missing from their last few efforts and returning to a rawer sound like on the gritty ‘80s hardcore-tinged “I Believe in Goddess,” with its grimy, chunky palm-muted riffs and Mike’s smarmy, snarling vocals as he screams, “I don’t believe in people ‘cuz I don’t give a fuck,” and the track explodes.

Self Entitled was recorded in little over two weeks and it shows in the best way. This is the band not thinking too hard, just doing what they do best, and the result is some of their best material in over ten years. Even a self-proclaimed punk cynic like myself can’t deny that NOFX are back, and better than ever.

-Nick Laugher