Juicebumps

Heads on Sticks 2020

What can one say about this year that isn’t stating the blindin’ obvious and centred in every end-of-year appraisal across every blog and publication out there? The COVID pandemic has dominated all spheres of life in such a profound way that even the cast-iron doctrines of unbridled capitalism screeched to a halt, the free-market fanatics themselves enforcing half the nation’s workforce to pause their labour extraction. After years of Brexit bludgeoning and its resulting social division, the Coronavirus was an oddly unifying experience, cutting through the dichotomies of Leavers and Remainers and inadvertently ushering a feeling of collective experience and responsibility, a shared duty to each other long felt dormant after decades of Thatcherite atomisation. Everyone’s lives have been struck with deep uncertainty, many stung by the painful losses of loved ones and near-unanimous despair at the political ineptitude causing further chaos.

Spending months in your own company, or trapped in problematic living environments, demonstrated just how vital a lifeline music is. The arts, long been neglected in the austerity wasteland and held with contempt from a grey and joyless, right-wing faction who abhor the empathy and imagination it fosters, was suddenly held up as the indispensable joy it always was, the deep, human need for creative expression and escapism breaking through the hollow priorities of a society dictated by unbridled capital. The sudden absence of live music and events wrought some urgent perspective on the preciousness of our creative spaces and independent venues, and did make one ask the question: had we taken it all for granted?

Late-stage capitalism rarely affords the time to stop and think, and the lockdown, so alien to our daily routines and established orthodoxies, unleashed a major space for deep contemplation. The cultural reckoning against racial injustice spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement inspiring direct action against authority on a scale unseen since the civil rights era, but to be vigilant against clumsily wading into ineffectual social media campaigns that solve nothing (Heads on Sticks was guilty of this). The grim stats on streaming revenues for artists in light of the Spotify Wrapped rush have raised much-needed awareness as to how we can responsibly consume music that the artists we love spent time and money on, and to keep an eye on the venues who missed out on Arts funding and staying afloat on Crowdfunders. The systemic failure that enabled Trump his ascendency, and an emboldened Far-Right in the U.K., cannot be considered put to bed now that Biden is the president-elect, to quote Ocasio-Cortez, “you’re not going back to brunch”.

When artists have been the soundtrack to such a tumultuous year, the relationship one has with their work takes on an even deeper significance. The songs collated are the hopelessly personal, utterly subjective. Not some hierarchal ‘best-of’ or exclusive document of heavy rotation, but simply the 25 tracks which rattled around The Head’s static ridden box. I hope you enjoy as much I did!

Here’s to a fortunate 2021, and thanks for the music!

Tom (a fan)

Check the Heads on Sticks 2020 list here!

Spit ‘n’ Static! 1020 Radio #17

“Rats mutated from the acid rain, feel that radiation going into my brain!”

6̷9̷4̷1̷0̷ ̷6̷9̷4̷1̷0̷ ̷0̷3̷9̷3̷2̷ ̷0̷3̷9̷3̷2̷ ̷4̷2̷1̷7̷5̷ ̷4̷2̷1̷7̷5̷ ̷7̷2̷9̷6̷4̷ ̷7̷2̷9̷6̷4̷ ̷7̷9̷3̷8̷3̷ ̷7̷9̷3̷8̷3̷ ̷3̷2̷6̷4̷4̷ ̷3̷2̷6̷4̷4̷ ̷4̷1̷9̷6̷8̷ ̷4̷1̷9̷6̷8̷ ̷8̷1̷6̷0̷0̷ ̷8̷1̷6̷0̷0̷ ̷2̷7̷6̷4̷5̷ ̷2̷7̷6̷4̷5̷ ̷0̷1̷6̷6̷8̷ ̷0̷1̷6̷6̷8̷… 1020 Radio picked up some shortwave intelligence today, the Spit ‘n’ Static! signal beaming the usual synthpunk sludge with queasy interference from the mysterious numbers at 4625 kHz! E̷͈͗̊̆̔̈̔̀̌͠n̸̘̥̠̠͔̑́̓d̶̟̥͖͈̆̓̄̿̍̅́͘ ̸̯͙̖̞̳͕͚̂̀̀̒̃͑̈́ŏ̴̧̢̡̠͔̠͖f̵̢̢͖̜̬̘̞̽̓̓͜ ̴̳͈̥̑̀ẗ̴̛͈̮̙́́͒̃̑̕r̴̨̩̺͖̆̍͗̓̇́͝ä̸̛̛̙́̈́̋̒͌n̸̨̨̛̛̛͍̥̓́̍̇͠͝s̸̡̻͙̩̭͚̦͖̋̏̋̂̀̅̅̃̕m̵͙̜̿̄ǐ̶͕͗͜s̴̟̺̦̮̀̄͊̔̕s̷̨͕̿̓̑̈́̃̾̊̓i̸̡̛̗̺̲͒͘͝ȏ̸̧̡̰͉̖̪̯̞̋͋͒̈́͐͐͝ņ̷͍̲͇̳͍͒́̎̂̀͋̈́ͅ

TV nightmares by Haydiroket

Juicebumps ‘Hello Pinky!’

Before the millennials came of age, nostalgia looked like film. The brief moments of colour in Scorsese’s black and white opus Raging Bull depict La Motta’s facade of cosy domesticity in intimate 16mm, the very grain of each frame in the celluloid reel prodding the wistful sentimentality of prior generations. For kids of the 90s, warm reminiscence is a rather noisy media buzz of worn VHS’s, queasy DV digital grit and crowded Geocities World Wide Web clamour. Could the video horrorshow of The Memory Hole have ever gained traction outside the distorted humour and inexplicable acerbity of the 2010s?

Irreverent and idiosyncratic penchants for the crude aesthetics of tawdry infomercials and ‘edutainment’ dross ooze all over San Francisco spank rockers Juicebumps. Audio clips of slasher turkey Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, dated internet demonstrations and the like saturate debut album Hello Pinky!, a record that feels perpetually tuning itself between differing stations. Recruiting Spencer Owings for synth duties, Juicebumps advance from the jerky garage rock of prior EP Jelly and delve deeper into their eccentric art-punk playfulness.

The sticky yolk of eggpunk secretes all over their self-described ‘spookwave’ yet avoids the genres characteristic lo-fi style in favour of a bright and confident production, each riff and beat striding with satisfying clarity. This skewed radiance is deftly exemplified on the catchy as hell ‘Hairy World’, a feverish indie number with echoes of Devo, frontman Parker Richard exploring the pungent world for a ‘hairy friend’ while jumping between frantic gusto and angular, nasal whine. Second track but first proper song ‘Wet Leather’ infuses their brash virtuosity with a steady dose of motorik beat that paces alongside offbeat keys and explosive guitar attacks and smattered with garbled audiotape effects, parading their dexterous handling of keen musicianship and avant-garde proclivities.

The expanded palette of sounds yielded by producer Spencer Hartling’s studio expertise shine on the warped synthpop of ‘c0mput3r_p30pl3’, a disorienting stew of fizzy drum machines and atonal guitar scoring the themes of societies hopeless tie to technology expertly, the line “people work, computers think” bristling with particular pertinence. Subtle rockabilly twangs on the contorted ‘Wet Boi’, while the arrangement and tempo of ‘Trash Crimes’ point to ELO at their pomp. Album closer ‘Asphalt Kiss’ is all groove, a nimble swagger of strutting bass wading through a marsh of muggy synths and preset sounding percussion, the gurgling electronics finally enveloping as you sink completely in its analogue murk.

Imbued with the best of their San Fran art-punk predecessors, Juicebumps delivers an urgent debut that takes intriguing mixtures of disparate styles and unexpected detours in composition, demanding constant attention throughout its 36 minutes. Hello Pinky! firmly places the band as one of the most exciting acts in California right now.