BNLX | The Rock Shop | 2.18.2011

I took out my earplugs at one point during BNLX's roaring set, just to hear what it sounded like without them, which I instantly regretted. I knew it was going to be loud — they brought two giant Vox speakers with them, plus a big Fender amp — and could feel vibrations in my chest. But I didn't think it was going to be that loud. Ouch.*

Volume isn't just for punishment, though in the wrong hands it most certainly is. But sometimes you just can't achieve that clarity of sound, that particular strain of feedback, that shriiiiiiinnnnng you get from flicking the strings above the headnut, that tone…without cranking the amp. Ed Ackerman, a 20-year veteran guitar slinger of such Minneapolis bands as 27 Various and Polara, knows what he's doing. BNLX didn't just blow eardrums, they kinda blew minds. 

Despite Ackerson's pedigree, BNLX snuck out last year in a purposefully enigmatic way, releasing an EP every quarter, each one emblazoned with Neu!-esque cover art and press releases that read something like Paul Morley might've written for ZTT! in 1984. No band photos. You could only focus on the music: fuzz-and-drum-machine-fueled psych-kraut-postpunk that's not too far from The Raveonettes or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, spiked a wicked sense of humor, as well as Ackerson and his wife Ashley's complimentary vocals. This kind of music is just better turned all the way up.

So for being just two of them and a laptop, they made quite a racket at the Rock Shop. Normally I'm one to complain about bands using canned backing instead of a real drummer, but vintage drum machine sounds — right out of 1987, be it Jesus & Mary Chain or Age of Chance — are kind of integral to what BNLX are doing. With a stroboscopic lightshow (what, no smoke machines?) you didn't really need anyone else.

With little in the way of stage banter, the Ackersons ripped through a highlights selection of BNLX's "Year One Plan" (those first four EPs) plus a couple new ones from the new EP, which is part of the "First Year One Plan (extension one)." Another thing they do right is know when to get off stage. I wanted one more song, the way it should always be.

Bnlx_ep5 BNLX's merch table was the most affordable I've ever seen. EPs were $3 and t-shirts only $5. They had EP #5 for sale, which doesn't officially come out till next month. It might be their strongest yet. Kicking off with the Zepplinesque bomber "Burn the Boats," it then moves to snarky, snarling "Back in Your Hole," a well-done Smiths homage/parody called "Garbabe Strike" ("It's rubbish") and a seriously kick-ass cover of Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day." The latter you can hear on Wintry Mix Three. And you can check out another here:

MP3: BNLX – Burn the Boats

If this is the first you've heard of BNLX, you can do a quick catch-up as the band has made a six-track sampling of their first four EPs available as a free download from the Susstones website. The first three are all originals; the fourth all covers. Here' are a couple of choice cuts:

MP3: BNLX – Do Without
MP3: BNLXFrogger (Laissez les bon temps rouler)
MP3: BNLX – Blue and Gold
MP3: BNLX – When Doves Cry

You can buy the EPs straight from Susstones or from Emusic or iTunes.

*My ears were pretty much destroyed by early '90s shoegaze and the decade after where I refused to wear earplugs. Tinnitus is no fun, folks. Wear earplugs!

Dean Wareham Plays Galaxie 500 | The Rock Shop | 8.18.2010


"What's with all the shushing?" Dean Wareham asked the crowd at the Rock Shop who were there for the intimate, semi-secret warm-up show of his upcoming tour playing exclusively Galaxie 500 songs. "No one needs to be shushed!"

Galaxie 500 and their three dreamy LPs from the Reagan-Bush years have grown in acclaim over the last 20 years and some people in attendance watched this show with a hushed reverence you might expect for Nick Drake. (Hence the shushing.) Wareham, who was all smiles for this show, doesn't seem to hold his own material in such high regard. To wit: he intro'd "Decomposing Trees," from 1989's On Fire, as "This song is about the time I dropped acid and my toes started talking to me."

As Wareham and Galaxie 500's invaluable rhythm section (Damon Krukowski, Naomi Yang) don't really get along at all anymore, this is close to the real thing as we're gonna get these days. And it comes pretty close. Wareham is a much better guitarist these days and is still in possession of a fine falsetto. (If you ever thought it was fine, that is.) And much credit to drummer Jason Lawrence whose lithe touch came close to replicating Krukowski's style.

And the songs, of course. Today, On Fire and, to a lesser extent 1991's This is Our Music, probably hold up better than 90% of the music made from 1987 – 1991, an era of gated drums, cheesy synths and Sandborn-descended saxophone on everything. (The sax on "Decomposing Trees"  was replaced tonight with melodica courtesy second guitarist Matt Sumrow.) I'm pretty sure they've just gotten better with age. So it was a thrill getting to hear "Strange," "Flowers," "4th of July," "Tugboat" and others again, not to mention essential covers "Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste" (Jonathan Richman) and set-closing "Ceremony" (Joy Division/New Order).

Personally I could've used a few less of the band's many two-chord jams in favor of some of Today's poppier numbers like "Oblivious" and "Parking Lot" but looking at the setlist I'm not sure what I would've pulled in place of them. I guess I just wanted more.

MP3: Galaxie 500 – Tugboat (buy it on vinyl!)

SETLIST: Flowers | Pictures | Temperature Rising | Snowstorm | Decomposing Trees | Strange | Blue Thunder | Summertime | When Will You Come Home | Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste | 4th of July | Tugboat | Ceremony

There's video of "Strange" after the jump.

A few words about The Rock Shop, the new Park Slope/Gowanus venue that's been open a couple weeks now. It's a small room — holds a hundred people at best — probably most comparable to Pianos but with a nicer soundsystem. It's a bit of a bottleneck to get to the actual performance space, but once you're in there it's a really nice — and great sounding — room. And the upstairs deck is pretty killer. A welcome addition to the area.

Wareham does it again tonight at Bowery Ballroom, maybe with a slightly different setlist, plus Crystal Stilts opening. And the show's going on the road too, those dates after the jump.



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