WATCH: Death Valley Girls – ‘Sanitarium Blues’

Death Valley Girls’ new video for ‘Sanitarium Blues’ is taken from the LA band’s soon-to-be re-issued debut album Street Venom and provides the perfect psychedelic back-drop to the dystopian doom-rockers’ take on honest suffering. The track flew onto paper following vocalist Bonnie Bloomgarden’s stay at a professional institution amidst a serious battle with her mental health. The revival of this track as an uplifting and life-affirming reminder that there will be better days could not be better timed.

The release of a new video for this single serves as the perfect throwback to the LA-based group’s most authentic and direct work. The new video, directed by Wiktor Lekston, captures the band’s intention to depict a mental episode as an out-of-body experience through a mixture of surreal and hallucinogenic inspirations. This is produced through a series of repeated fuzzy holographic images created in analog and intensified by the feedback signals. You can’t quite put your finger on what it is you’re looking at – everything from skeletons and non-lifelike faces, through to what appears to be memories merged with dreams, have been compared by Lektston to the “POST-MTV’s clips from the ’80s.” The band’s aim to visually capture an astral projection, without necessarily directly conveying that to the audience, is a huge success.

Scuzzy guitars from Bloomgarden and guitarist Larry Schemel, married with a transcendent use of reverb and delay as the chords ring out throughout the verse, provokes an apocalyptic and lucid-dream state in the mind of the listener. We’re then thrown into a starkly contrasting chorus filled with propelling riffs and a deliberately sinister beat from Patty Schemel on the kit that confines us; it’s claustrophobic, lonely and the perfect sonic portrayal of how isolating a mental illness can truly be. BUT it’s not all gloom from the doom-punk outfit, as there is hope and reassurance in this track’s honesty and also in Bloomgarden’s message ahead of the re-issue:

Life is hard, but you are not meant to suffer… There are lots of places to get help. It just seems hard to find sometimesRealising that you are not meant to suffer (no one is!) and seeking help is so huge. Do it ‘cause you deserve it! A healthy you can change the world! And the world deserves your healthiest you, too.”

Street Venom, the re-issue, is set for release on 30th July and will consist of a deluxe edition of the album available both digitally and on vinyl, courtesy of Suicide Squeeze Records. Pre-order here.

Lauren Roberts

Photo Credit: Mara Breene

Track Of The Day: Soda Blonde – ‘Holy Roses’

Honest, conflicted and entirely recognisable to anyone who has lived through their twenties and paused for a moment of introspection, the latest single ‘Holy Roses’ from rousing Dublin four-piece, Soda Blonde, is the third of its kind to blaze the trail ahead of the band’s hotly anticipated debut album Small Talk. All four of Soda Blonde’s band members hail from the critically acclaimed BBC Sound Of nominees, Little Green Cars, whose debut album Absolute Zero hit the number one spot in Ireland in 2013.

Soda Blonde have thrived in crafting their novel dreamy alt-pop sound during Lockdown through a shared need to make music whilst making peace with their younger selves, amid refreshingly honest transparency. Front-woman, songwriter and mesmerising vocalist Fay O’Rourke has said that the alchemy of the project lies in the “meticulousness and devotion to every detail” prevalent in the writing process from the moment O’Rourke sends the initial sample across to guitarist Adam O’Regan, to the moment the band, who are self-producing every detail, sign off on their own artwork.

It’s this new and authentic process of creating – adding and passing on to the next band member – that has resulted in the solely self-produced single ‘Holy Roses’ which deconstructs the intricacies of religion, science, fate and choice through the band members’ twenty-something lived experiences. The track started in the hands of O’Rourke who, “with feminism on one shoulder and trans-generational catholic guilt on the other”, has admitted to finding the process of de-programming herself as an Irish woman extremely hard. By directly addressing those who “bypassed” her and stood in her way, O’Rourke reflects on this single as one of the most important on the album, closing the door on past experiences of oppression in a moment of reckoning and letting go.

The simple melancholy and raw riffs provided by O’Regan at the start of this track lay down the foundations of a progressive and poignant pop song, with both delicate and masterful melodies to soundtrack your summer nostalgia. So, it’s only fair that the introduction of Donagh Seaver-O’Leary’s understated yet vivacious bass-line takes you on a leap down memory lane as it underlines O’Rourke’s inner-most contradictory conscience. The partnership of synthetic delay and reverb, catchy and warm backing vocals in the pre-chorus, alongside the introduction of an obscure off-beat percussion section from drummer Dylan Lynch, all flow meticulously into one another to personify the shadow of painful past experiences in this perfect pop sensation.

‘Holy Roses’ is all about confronting contradictions, so it is no surprise that the chorus steals the ground from beneath our feet with its luminous and epically uplifting appeal. We are transported into our inner-most selves by O’Rourke’s ethereal and dominating vocal, hitting notes that I haven’t heard in this alt-pop setting since those heard on Rae Morris’ 2015 release Unguarded.

Small Talk is set for release on 9th July via Velveteen Records, ahead of the band’s summer tour featuring a date supporting Sinead O’Connor at Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens – not bad for a band new to the scene. This may be the first you’ve heard of them, but it won’t be the last…

Lauren Roberts

Track Of The Day: The C33s – ‘Benzodiac’

Named “the future” by BBC 6Music’s Chris Hawkins, The C33s are back and leave no listener’s head unturned in their latest surf-rock plea to tackle life’s harsh realities riff-first. It’s been a long roadmap, two lockdowns and one cancelled Christmas since last year’s single ‘Harpurhey Hostility‘ took a political dive into Mancunian society’s most disenfranchised, but The C33s are back with new track ‘Benzodiac’ – the newest addition to their bible of uncompromising home-truths.  

‘Benzodiac’ is the first single and the title track from the 3-piece punk outfit’s new EP and was fuelled by the band’s frustration at the closure of the live gig scene last year. For that reason, it’s production clings as close as possible to the raw live experience, taking the Californian genre to dizzy new heights before slamming you back down to a gritty-garage reality that the band have best described as “concrete surf-rock”. 

The single is explained by the band as “a frank observation of addiction, renewal and rebirth”, but prepare to be anything but sedated as an intoxicatingly slick and progressive guitar riff provided by Cav Green pulls you in, making it the perfect soundtrack for your favourite desert cult-classic film. We are thrown into epic surroundings with urgency as this track builds with Judy Jones storming in raucously on the kit whilst Ste Phillips fuels the anticipation with an exhilarating and palpitating bass line, meeting the perfect use of a tantalising reverb and echo-inducing delay during Cav’s guitar solo.

What’s exciting about this track is Cav’s move to a more spoken-word style vocal like that of The Damned’s 1977 release Damned Damned Damned, while the delivery of lyrics like “the universal will just to become” resemble the more recently fashioned passionate and punchy vocal of Idles’ frontman Joe Talbot. Not to forget Judy’s rousing dual harmonies throughout and her first-class punk yelp that creates the ideal sought after abrupt cliff-hanger ending to this single that paves the way for a future that is The C33s.

The new from The C33s, also entitled Benzodiac, is set for release in August on Rare Vitamin Records, and will available to purchase on 10” vinyl, CD and cassette.

Lauren Roberts

Track Of The Day: Sophomore – ‘Montenegro’

Following last May’s timely single ‘Social-Distancing’, a track which tackled important issues such as the spread of misinformation amidst the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Australian-based alt-rock foursome Sophomore have recently thrown their latest refreshingly punchy single ‘Montenegro’ into the ring. Only the band’s third single, but undoubtedly a release set to solidify their rightful place within Australia’s recently opened and ever-growing gig circuit, ‘Montenegro’ was written in an old olive mill-turned-hostel, nestled deep in the mountains of Montenegro from which this exciting new release takes its name.

Despite the exotic writing location, the track itself is wholly relatable to anyone who has lived through the past year, as it explores the feeling of being lost despite being unable to escape the place that find yourself in. Its repeated, yet captivatingly catchy, lyrics speak about waking with the “best of intentions” only to be stopped in your tracks, despite having “nowhere to go…” It also touches on being far from home – a harsh reality experienced by a countless number of Australians who struggled to get back into the country last year, for which this track could serve as a subtle acknowledgement.

Lead guitarist and vocalist Vanessa oozes a nostalgia for ’90s grunge and simpler times with a new-age Pixies vocal that chimes in alongside a deep and progressive baseline, immediately drawing us into this modest yet thought-provokingly explosive track. Anticipation continues to build as both Vanessa and rhythm guitarist Elly’s moody yet mesmerising harmonies strike out against the resonant attack of the kit, entrancing us with the band’s poignant riff-based resurgence of the post-rock genre.

‘Montenegro’ is accompanied by a video of the band getting lost in the endless corridors of a building that has laid abandoned since the 1920s – the perfect location choice for the song’s inescapable yet blissfully honest narrative. 

Watch the video here:

Find out more about Sophomore on their Facebook page.

Lauren Roberts