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6 must-have modern rock releases, April 2022

Modern Rock in Motion column picks Urge Overkill, Sonic Youth, Cloud Cult, Wet Tuna, Hoodoo Gurus and Curse of Lono releases to add to your music collection to in April 2022.

By Peter Lindblad

Mars still needs guitars, and the new wave, pop-rock hooligans of Hoodoo Gurus are willing to oblige, riding a new Chariot of the Gods like it’s a rocket ship. They still have a bounce in their step and lyrical relevancy, while Urge Overkill adds to its seemingly endless collection of killer hooks and mean riffs with Oui, Curse of Lono could soundtrack a remake of “Blue Velvet,” Sonic Youth does some spring cleaning and finds a masterpiece, Cloud Cult offers therapy for COVID-weary refugees, and Wet Tuna lives underwater, making the imaginative Warping All by Yourself into an album of the year candidate. Let’s dive in.



Urge Overkill – Oui (Omnivore Recordings)

Quentin Tarantino made celluloid heroes of Urge Overkill, sliding their sensual cover of “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” into a classic Pulp Fiction scene where it danced seductively with a self-destructive Uma Thurman. The artistry of that moment was inspired, an intoxicating cinematic triumph for Tarantino and the alternative-rock cartel of Nash Kato and King Roeser.

Fashionably decadent playboys in the dour, unwashed ‘90s, when grunge shoveled dirt on everything, Urge Overkill drank to its death from a balcony on high, reveling in strummed pop bliss and loaded, crunching riffs of electrified, hook-filled gluttony in their own personal Mardi Gras. They still do, even if they’ve awoken from a decade-long coma with a warm buzz, stumbling into the light of Oui, their first new album in years, with their giddy, euphoric romp through Wham!’s “Freedom!” – its wonky chorus redeemed by raucous energy and playfulness.

Sobering up fast, looking to seize the day with a sense of adventure and romantic intrigue, Urge Overkill digs squirming earworms out of the rich, gnarly soil of Oui, the farm work conducted while the blustery storms of a snarling “Totem Pole,” the rumbling, tempestuous “Litany” and the stinging “Follow My Shadow” almost destroy the rest of the crops. Some of the best fruit survives, though, as the halting, bittersweet “I Been Ready” churns and yearns irresistibly in glassy glycerol, “A Necessary Evil” rides a strong melody, and the buoyant “A Prisoner’s Dilemma” stabs away with unabashed glee. “Snow” is in the forecast, closing Oui with a brooding, heavy meditation, long after “Forgiven” catches boogie fever. Let’s get it on.

Grade: B+



Sonic Youth – In/Out/In (Three Lobed Recordings)

Less cluttered, now that In/Out/In has been cleared out, the Sonic Youth warehouse is still bulging at the seams. It wasn’t taking up much space, however, as the newest set of archival recordings from the avant-guard agents of No Wave chaos contains only five tracks, but a guide would be helpful in navigating these vast, ever-evolving worlds unto themselves. Take Thurston Moore, Lee Renaldo, Steve Shelley, Kim Gordon or even Jim O’Rourke along if they’re willing.

Just released from storage, where they were filed under the years 2000 to 2010, these diverse pieces – virgin territory for the most part – coalesce into expansive instrumental jams, save for the siren call of Gordon’s dreamy moaning in the hallucinatory, galloping ghost that is “In_Out.” It swims in beautifully hypnotic, watery surrealism, whereas the lazy, summery opener “Basement Contender” sees Moore casually drawing chiming figures attuned perfectly to Renaldo’s graceful sweeps. Their languid, locked-in interplay is enthralling, as is the tension that exists between the calm and tumult of the multi-layered, alien soundscape “Social Static,” with its art-damaged ruins, tunneling drive and oscillating urgency.

You can order Sonic Youth's "In/Out/In" on maroon vinyl as well.

You can order Sonic Youth's "In/Out/In" on maroon vinyl as well.

Sonic Youth seems to go down a thousand different rabbit holes on In/Out/In without getting lost, inviting noise and dissonance into environs often unforgiving and turbulent, but also occasionally tranquil and sedative. The stomping “Machine,” a heady whirlwind of guitar mangling, bruised melody and Shelley’s surging drums, revisits Daydream Nation urban decay, sorting through dizzying, jarring “Teenage Riot” sounds and textures to look for survivors. That’s where ominous, apocalyptic closer “Out_In” runs away to, drugged out and warped, before erecting monstrous walls of tortured, tornadic guitars in a violent electrical storm. Much of the loose, sprawling In/Out/In could be fallout from 2009’s The Eternal or puzzling emissions from the band’s SYR sessions. Either way, it’s a “Kool Thing.”

Grade: A-



Cloud Cult – Metamorphosis (Earthology Records)

The importance of being earnest is not lost on orchestral-folk outsiders Cloud Cult and its visionary leader Craig Minowa. Whether struggling with mental health issues in a time of callous cynicism or clinging to optimism against all hope – both battles waged in the uplifting baroque drama of “The Best Time” – Metamorphosis loves freely, its kind, plain-spoken sincerity and evocative poetry cataloged in the self-help section of the library.

Unabashedly sentimental, yet fully aware of its wounds and weaknesses, Metamorphosis is a heroic undertaking, a heartrending open letter to all of humanity that begs for understanding. It blankets softy spun acoustic guitars in sumptuous string arrangements, occasional accordion wheezing, and bleeds of light brass, holding “Back into My Arms” and a spindly, yet eloquent and moving “What Would You Do” as if they were taking their last breaths. Even more stirring, the loping “One Way Out of a Hole” raises up out of a debilitating depression to a glorious resurrection, its powerful emotions rivaled only by “The Firefly and the Snake,” a dark, soaring epic of defiance and theatrical force.

It's hard to follow such a stunning maelstrom, but “Lady of the Hill,” a buoyant, tear-jerking ballad that builds into a windy, heart-pounding romance, tries its best, as does the affecting “Victor,” which comforts an estranged, dying father in what, oddly enough, sounds like a symphonic, bombastic baptism. Lay your hands on Metamorphosis and let the healing begin, even if it’s all almost too much to bear.

Grade: B+



Wet Tuna – Warping All by Yourself (Three Lobed Recordings)

Senses are forced into working overtime on the trippy Warping All by Yourself, the latest acid test from Wet Tuna. Mostly a solo mission for Matt “MV” Valentine, it’s an organic and immersive dive into liquid psychedelia, head-swimming dub and fluid, languorous funk that doesn’t want to come up for air. Instead, it takes up residence in an octopus’s garden.

Weightless and whimsical, preferring to float in its own ever-blooming, aquamarine wonderland, Warping All by Yourself is all underwater echoes, washed-out, wah-wah guitar effects and intoxicating daydreams melting together, like they do in “So Much Vibe in the World” and “Kinda Feelin’ Good.” Two versions of “Raw Food” bookend this outing, the latter grooving easily to Parliament before sleeping in its cocoon of sound and the former a lapping, somnambulant sleepwalk that ends in a warm ocean.

Wet Tuna is the laid-back, surfing cousin of Animal Collective who jams to Can and Curtis Mayfield, rolling with krautrock’s motorik drive and soulful organ in and out of consciousness in a mesmerizing “Sweet Chump Change” and forming menacing shapes in the gurgling, nightmarish “Ain’t No Turnin’ Back.” Wet Tuna should be on everybody’s listening menu. It’s a transportive sonic experience, an aural spa that requires headphones.

Grade: A



Curse of Lono – People in Cars (Submarine Cat Records)

Hitchhiking is frowned upon these days, but it’s relatively safe thumbing a ride with Curse of Lono’s People in Cars. There’s peyote in the glove compartment to enhance its gently flowing, cinematic Americana, as these cosmic U.K. drifters switch to cruise control. It’s twilight time.

The title comes from Mike Mandel’s 2017 photo book of the same name, the voyeuristic lens of which studied passengers through windows of cars in 1970 waiting for the lights to change at a Los Angeles intersection. Its effect is transitory, everything just passing by on its way to some other destination. Curse of Lono’s latest stays with its passengers, though, its soft, steady percussive migration, wafting pedal steel and the sonorous vocals and aurora borealis guitar of leading man Felix Bechtolsheimer keeping them in their seats.

Literate stories of lost love, ominous desperation, beautifully troubled souls, and tense battles with substance abuse taxi through People in Cars, and they are enthralling. Breakdowns occur in the moving, midnight meditation “Man Down” and the lonely piano ballad “Don’t Take Your Love Away,” but it’s the evocative, atmospheric opener “Let Your Love Rain Down on Me” that invites more visitors, taking them on a smooth, kaleidoscopic journey over rolling terrain. The stars in its vast sky twinkle, like those above the friendly stomps and claps of “Ursula Andress.”

Into the sinister, gothic darkness of “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride” Curse of Lono goes, as if goaded by Sisters of Mercy and Giant Sand into a daring drive down a haunted highway. It’s the most propulsive vehicle onPeople in Cars, as the eddying “Think I’m Alright Now,” the brushed, starry-eyed “Steppin’ Out” and a creepy, insistent, slightly twangy “So Damned Beautiful” – its whispered menace entangled with Tess Park’s lovely vocals – motor away in similar fashion. The Curse hasn’t been lifted, and that’s fortunate.

Grade: A-



Hoodoo Gurus – Chariot of the Gods (Big Time Photographi Record Co./EMI)

Drums pound at the door of the rumbling “World of Pain,” which swings open for bounding bass. A brawl is about to take place, and Hoodoo Gurus ends up getting beaten to a pulp, but from the track’s bare-knuckled energy, it’s clear they mean business. They’re still up for the rodeo of spirited Aussie punk and bright, pulsating power-pop that’s about to occur, coming out of the chute riding bulls of slashing guitars, tight rhythms, and gripping hooks.

And away they go, as Hoodoo Gurus’ rip-roaring 10th album Chariot of the Gods revives the crazed, full-throttle fury of Radio Birdman and The Saints, sticking up for gender fluidity in a wildly infectious and fast “Hang with the Girls,” gnashing its teeth in “Answered Prayers” and shaking the defiant, garage-rock grit out of “Don’t Try to Save My Soul.” Looking to escape its circumstances, a jangly “Get Out of Dodge” excitedly celebrates outsiders, racing pell-mell without a destination in mind, while the uplifting “Carry On” fights off depression and hopelessness.

Catch your breath. A slower “Settle Down” experiences a midlife crisis – detached and disconnected from old friends and loved ones. Hoodoo Gurus leave the colorful and fun Chariot of the Gods with “Got to Get You Out of My Life,” a moody, smoky outlier here that seems possessed by the ghosts of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Hoodoo Gurus is alive and well.

Grade: A- 

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