Just Step Sideways

Beige Banquet Beta cassette

BEIGE BANQUET is the London-based home-recording project of one person named Tom Brierley who returned to the UK recently after a spell living in Melbourne, but even without the benefit of that knowledge, it’s pretty clear that there’s a strong psychic pull between Beta and the contemporary musical output of a certain Australian city. Twelve tracks of motorik, electro-spiked post-punk in the TOTAL CONTROL/CONSTANT MONGREL mold—clean and exacting, rhythm-forward, propelled by cycling Möbius strip bass lines and the steady, ominous click of programmed drums, with quick cuts of needling guitar, a disorienting synth haze, and expressionless vocals narrating all sorts of paranoid internal monologues. It’s the sound of staring into the abyss, but there’s still little moments like the hits of tambourine punctuating the unrelenting mechanical pulse of “Wired/Weird,” or the droning Krautrock keys in “Completely Signified,” that offer some fleeting human warmth as the abyss stares back.

Beige Banquet Beige Banquet 10″

I grew up vacationing in Myrtle Beach, SC, which is full of Calabash-style seafood buffets. These restaurants offer an endless spread of fried sea creatures, hush puppies, and French fries. Your only non-fried options would be coleslaw that’s 80% mayo by weight or corn on the cob. It’s about as beige a banquet as you could encounter…and probably the metaphorical polar opposite of this band. BEIGE BANQUET is a London-based recording project helmed by Tom Brierley and has maybe been fleshed out to a full band on this four-track 10″, their second release. They play pretty straightforward drum machine post-punk that would fit squarely between contemporaries NAKED ROOMMATE and URANIUM CLUB. Tracks are built atop a motorik foundation with icy guitar lines, rubbery bass, chanted vocals, synthesized hand claps, and spoken-word lyrics layered throughout. Each element on its own seems cold and percussive, but when woven into a polyrhythmic blanket becomes warm, inviting, familiar, and actually not entirely unlike a meal of fried comfort food.

Beige Banquet Live! Live! Live! cassette

UK DIY that was, you guessed it, recorded live! Though, this falls more along the lines of weirdo sounds coming from contemporary Deutsch punks (NUNOFYRBEESWAX and PONYS AUF PUMP come to mind), blending tight transitions with oddball cowbell and clap track interludes over an otherwise post-punk landscape. For a good taste, listen to the driving last track, “Hotel Room.”

Brian Disease Brian Disease cassette

They may have come up with low-effort (but high impact) joke names, but there’s something serious and even a bit sinister to this angular take on lo-fi punk. While these songs definitely have a bop to them, thanks largely to the rhythm section putting in heavy work, there’s a misanthropy that perfectly puts to rest any worry that punks will ever tire of telling folks to “fuck off.” Like life, this tape is nasty, brutish and short. It probably won’t brighten up your day and there’s nothing mindblowing here, but there’s still plenty to like.

Eel Men Live at New River Studios cassette

Short collection of excellent power pop/mod revival from this British band. If you like the JAM or even the KINKS, this tape will be up your alley. Catchy, melodic vocals with clean strummed guitars and basketball basslines, EEL MEN use the classic vocabulary of British rock music but create something fresh and immediately enjoyable. It sounds polished and DIY at the same time, carefully arranged but still drawn from punk around the edges. All four songs are jams (get it?) and I look forward to more. And if this was really recorded live, EEL MEN are a band to check out, because the performance is flawless.

Todd Briefly Demos cassette

It’s interesting to see a resurgence of bands doing humor which takes me back to my campus radio days of hearing KING MISSILE and the DEAD MILKMEN. TODD BRIEFLY, however, sounds nothing like those bands, but more closely resembles the COOL GREENHOUSE in their drum machine format. And it works! References a-plenty familiar to any modern rock weirdo: Fender Jaguars, banal chores, making fun of rich people, and hypochondria. It’s got that jerky DEVO-inflected mix of guitar and synth, and matched with some wit and songwriting skills to back it up.