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Neutral Milk Hotel - On Avery Island Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit the oft-overshadowed debut from indie rock icons, a smaller and more intimate look into the mercurial world of Jeff Mangum.
In the mid-’90s, Jeff Mangum moved into a haunted closet in Denver where he had dreams of women in fur coats drinking champagne, yelling at him to get out of their house. During a snowy Colorado winter, the Louisiana-born songwriter and his childhood friend Robert Schneider set about recording what would become Neutral Milk Hotel’s debut album. They worked feverishly, going out to smoke cigarettes when they hit a roadblock, until, in May of 1995, they had a finished record. The North Carolina indie label Merge scooped up the young band and quietly released On Avery Island the following March.

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USA/Mexico - Matamoros Music Album Reviews

USA/Mexico are sludgy, nasty, and unclassifiable, meaning they fit perfectly into Austin's coterie of noise-rock misfits.

Austin’s USA/Mexico aren’t quite sludge or doom or death metal. Instead, they lurch somewhere in between the down-tuned pummel of bands like Buzzov•en and Eyehategod and the ultraviolent spazzes of Burmese or Brainbombs. A trio of Austin experimental rock veterans, they are led by Shit and Shine’s Craig Clouse on guitar and vocals and rounded out with Butthole Surfers drummer King Coffey and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth’s Nate Cross on bass. Their debut Laredo was a bent-out sunstroke of processed vocals and noise-laden riffs, and its followup Matamoros is slower, freakier, and somehow louder.


“Matamoros” rolls out slathered in feedback and erupts into what sounds like rubble coming to life. Clouse has an ear for crushing doom riffs, yet he prefers to take them on long marches to nowhere. “Matamoros” keeps rumbling on, gaining more feedback until it breaks apart. Closer “Anxious Whitey” takes this approach and stretches it over 17 minutes. It might madden some, but there’s a perverse satisfaction to hearing Clouse tease a sick riff only to let it bleed back out into nothingness.

Shit and Shine and Butthole Surfers dressed up experimental music in humor and absurdity, and USA/Mexico subtly maintain that tradition. “Eric Carr T-Shirt” is such a hammering trudge that it’s easy to overlook the fact that it’s named for KISS’s hair metal-era drummer; the result feels as appropriate for fans of this megamix of Paul Stanley’s stage banter as Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain.”

Matamoros also recognizes the city’s fringe noise-rock past and present. Not only do they cover Cherubs’ “Shoofly,” they also get Cherubs’ Kevin Whitley to guest on vocals. Spray Paint’s George Dishner lays on even more hellish guitar onto the title track. Austin still feels like a mid-sized college town in some ways, meaning that if you’re into heavy and/or weird music, you’re bound to see the same folks frequently. “Vaporwave Headache” breaks through with rapid-fire sheets of abrasive guitar static, and it’s as indebted to Total Abuse’s scathing, bitter hardcore as it is Scratch Acid’s ur-noise rock. It has a punk tempo, but like everything else about USA/Mexico, it is too defiantly weird and alien for pigeonholing. That’s how they fit inside Austin’s storied noise rock and experimental music scenes: by refusing to fit exactly in anywhere.



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