Illiterates – ‘Makeout Mountain’   Leave a comment

Raucous garage punk band Illiterates, from LA and Atlanta, have just released their debut EP, ‘Makeout Mountain’. A Matt McCalvin production (Gringo Star, Zoners, St Pe), via Baby Robot Records, ‘MM’ is a 12 track broad ranging album, covering everything from sparkly sentimental ballads, to furious R&R, enhanced by vocalist Steve Albertson’s dramatic vocals. Its themes are inspired by pertinent socio-political, quasi-religious and deeply personal issues affecting the band.

A particularly poignant track, ‘Owl Commander’, is a tribute to the memory of Megan Galbraith, Chicago band 8 Inch Betsy member and lifelong friend of Steve’s. The associated video was directed by filmmaker and New York Times photographer Raymond McCrea Jones.

Illiterates create their music intuitively, at full tilt, in a personal setting and are influenced by a diverse collection of bands and artists, including Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs and Slayer. A band with a refreshingly honest and forthright approach to band relations and the process by which their music is born, Illiterates came up with a set’s worth of lively tracks, within 3 rehearsals. Unusually, much of the album was completed on a rowdy weekend break on a North Georgia Alpaca farm.

White Privilege – Instant impact! A raw punk sound intro’s, with a brief spoken word section, before the rhythmic melody kicks in. A freshness and sincerity pervades this short, but powerful, message driven track. Sex Pistols fans, eat your heart out.

Ramones City – Cool, smoothly delivered riff intro, basic, but it’s enough and it’s got a good groove. A fun, evocative and straightforward track.

Owl Commander – Plucky riff intro, slight sense of Girlschool meets The Pretenders. Confident delivery, tight and upbeat, its skill is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Easy to visualise on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, though).

Makeout Mountain – Good bass line opens, breaking into an easy  R&R sound, bringing imaginative visuals with it. Liking the velvet warmth of those riffs. Chaos and order, at once, with a side serving of fairground backdrops. Pleasant listen.

Svengali B – Immediately bass heavy intro, runaway pace and easy riffs. Additional light keys, percussion and well-placed feedback. Even a slight trance/techno echo, combined with 90’s punk/indie/brit rock vocals, surprisingly workable. Imagine Elastica, Placebo and vague psychedelia, thrown together and you’re there.

Mayonnaise Elbow – Hard-hitting, yet light intro, straight in there, with no hesitation and no holds barred. Decent accessible pace, flowing well and again, it mixes old school and modern sounds. It just flies on its own. Dizzying, yet fun and uplifting.

Elementals – Drums introing now, with a few intentional and well fitting feedback squalls and squeaks. There’s clear enthusiasm in the vocals, casually, yet ably performed, with an effortless feel. Spoken sections, verging on sci-fi-esque. It does begin to tail off and lose its focus a tad, towards the end, but generally, it’s a lively sound.

My Enemy – Significant time delay, before it opens, but the racy, melody heavy pace is worth waiting for. Accompanied by a background of vague chaos on the streets, working well and adding that something. Ending on the sound of glass smashing/possible windchimes clanging together, for all we know, but it does the job.

Horton Heats A Who – No, I don’t get that title either, but hey ho. Very brief spoken intro, opening onto rapid-fire drumming, old school riffing, along the lines of surf music and high on melody. The higher pitch connects well with the surf sound and it’s a short lived, but beefed up affair.

Blood Bath And Beyonce – Smashing the intro riff out and this is more Blondie-esque, vocally. Even shorter and more of a basic rhythm and tempo, but it’s just got a very human, grassroots, down-to-earth sense about it.

Uncle Junior – Getting right into it, with another chaotic frenetic paced rhythm. Lyrically, it may appear disturbingly incongruent, with the relentlessly upbeat mood of the melody, in places, but the timbre and timing slots right into the unpredictable chaos of the subject material. Over in a flash of energy.

Xmas Carols In The Psych Ward – Again, it gets straight into the vibe, with effortlessly capable riffs. Slight variation in riffage, when the drums come in, to bridge the early sections. Seems that slightly more thought and time permeates these riffs and the lyrics become a bit more accessible, before adopting a hysterical edge, at the close.

Overall – Well one thing that can be said about ‘Makeout Mountain’ is that it lives up to its hype. It is unarguably, all the things it’s claimed to be. Eclectically thematic and diverse, exploring serious matters, in a light-hearted, earthy way. Lively and energetic, accessible and yet, thought-provoking. An ultimate mishmash of punky attitude, with social conscience and real humanity.

6/10 ******

For fans of The Sex Pistols, PIL, Placebo, The Pretenders, Elastica, Blondie, The Ramones.

Posted September 20, 2018 by jennytate in Uncategorized

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