On Thursday, October 29th, CS Luxem of Lawrence, Kansas traveled to our McCain studios for a Classroom Series event. This performance was broadcasted live over the air on 91.9 FM as well as on television for the first time ever on the KSDB campus channel, Channel 25. Normally, CS Luxem is a solo project put together by Lawrence native, Christopher Luxem. Chris has toured the country and Europe and played with an eclectic variety of musicians. Currently CS Luxem is a “supergroup” of Lawrence musicians, including Chris Luxem, Taryn Miller of the band Your Friend, and Mark Rockwell and James Thomblison of Arc Flash and Psychic Heat. These artist are all associated with Whatever Forever Tapes, one of Lawrence’s most influential record labels. Together they create a sound that is a unique blend of psych-rock and folk music that varies sonically from song to song. For more information on CS Luxem, visit their Facebook and Bandcamp pages. To keep up to date with events going on at KSDB, sign up for our newsletter or visit our events page.
“We will take the best parts of ourselves and make them gold,” is a quote from “Make Them Gold” by Chvrches; and that is exactly what they did with their new album, Every Open Eye. This Scotland-based electronic/pop group created something that many other bands will soon be trying to emulate: a hypnotic, smooth, and catchy sound that is able to blend an almost disco-like quality with today’s pop music. But great music is to be expected from a band that has opened for bands like Passion Pit and Two Door Cinema Club, and played in numerous festivals including Cochella and T in the Park.
This album is noticeably less angsty than their first full album, The Bones of What You Believe, but the quality of Every Open Eye equals or even surpasses its predecessor. It starts out very upbeat, the electronic background seems heavily influenced by the Eurythmics, and lead singer Lauren Mayberry keeps a light and sometimes urgent tone to her voice. This brings attention to the vocals but doesn’t detract from the instrumental. The first few tracks on the album are very light-hearted and easy to dance to. The tone shifts halfway through the album, with the song “High Enough To Carry You Over”, which is the only song on the album completely sung by Martin Doherty, who does the synthesizers and samplers for the band. This song sounds like an 80s glam pop love song, with the lyrics “And I never would’ve given you up/If you only hadn’t given me up” repeated multiple times. It stands out from all the other songs on the album and is a great way to catch the listeners attention and prepare them for what comes next. The second half of the album is noticeably slower, which is different since most albums usually build in intensity, ending very loud and upbeat. The final song, “Bow Down”, really reflects the bands meaning; “No time to bow down, no time to kill, no justifying, staying down in silence”. Chvrches is continuing to establish themselves as a band, and they are demanding to be heard.
Every Open Eye makes me pose the question, what direction is pop music going next? With vocals that can rival many female pop singers, and a seemingly effortless blending of aspects in 80s music with today’s electronic and dance music, Chvrches is doing a great job experimenting with different types of music and bringing their sound to a wider audience. This Scottish band is quickly garnering a lot of attention, and they are definitely a group to look out for as they continue to expand the electronic/pop genre.
“False happiness is on the rise/ See the victims piled high!” These are the first words from “Why Does It Shake?” Protomartyr’s lead single off their latest release, The Agent Intellect, a perfect excerpt from the diabolical diary of Protomartyr’s discography. As a band highlighted for being one of Detroit’s most promising artists, Protomartyr has released three bruising records in the last four years, each more dark, urgent, and disturbing than the last. The story of Joey Casey is fascinating in and of itself. The frontman for this post-punk rock quartet is a decade older than the rest of his bandmates, at the ripe old age of 35. His age is worth noting, as most people in their mid 30s have long given up their bubble gum daydreams of starting a rock band, but not Casey. He needed an outlet, and Protomartyr would be that release for him.
Protomartyr has always had a way of telling a story on their albums. Their songs often depict fables in first or even third person perspectives of twisted tales, drawing tenebrous metaphors to real life, especially American suburbia. Of course, they are not the only ones to use suburban living as a vehicle to describe some of the darker sides of American society, but Protomartyr doesn’t pull any punches. They’ve never been known as a band to put things lightly. On The Agent Intellect, Protomartyr makes it very clear from the beginning that they have a pressing and purposefully despairing message. The first character introduced is the Devil himself, on “The Devil In His Youth.” It’s quite possibly the most disturbing and unsettling song on the record, which if you knew Protomartyr, you would understand why it is the leadoff track on this album. Casey’s drawn out wails are spit out with despairing urgency, “I’ll corrupt them ‘til they think the way I do!” and “You’ll hurt the way I do!” It is through these jolting, up-and-down lyrics that Casey pummels the listener into feeling what he feels and seeing what he sees. Post-punk has often been an outlet for musicians like Casey to bring out some pretty despairing things, but it is the way Casey and Protomartyr articulate themselves that stands out. His words are one thing, but the way he speaks and shouts more than sings them on songs like “Pontiac 87” draw listeners much as a storyteller draws young children to the fire for a scary story. Only the story in “Pontiac 87” is about real life anecdotes of despondency and abandonment. The Pope (John Paul II) had spoken in Pontiac, Michigan in 1987 and Casey recalls this momentous occasion with a perspective that probably wasn’t the common disposition of those who witnessed the event. Not surprisingly, Casey speaks to the negativity under the immaculateness of the circumstance. “That fall from grace knocked me on my knees/ Don’t tell anyone, it’s what I wanted,” Casey howls repetitively, then finishes with “There’s no use being sad about it/ What’s the point of crying about it?” The turning point in this tour de force is “Ellen,” the crown jewel of the record and quite possibly in all of Protomartyr’s discography. Love songs are not easily done well, as cliche acts of infatuation are commonplace in art, but Protomartyr surprises us all with this statuesque composition. It’s a heartfelt message from Casey’s father to his mother, Ellen. “I will wait for Ellen/ I’ll pass the time.” Casey had lost his father earlier to a heart attack and later his mother to the agony of Alzheimer’s while he was still working on The Agent Intellect. “Ellen” is a testament to his parents’ undying love as much as it is to the development of Protomartyr’s musicianship. On the final throes of Intellect, the story behind the namesake of the band, St. Stephen, is explored. “They can stone me ‘til I fall asleep/ The Feast of Stephen/ Yeah!” As the first recognized martyr of Christianity, St. Stephen is known as the “Protomartyr” and there are references to his day of commemoration, the Feast of St. Stephen (December 26th), throughout the record.
The Agent Intellect is huge in nature. It’s an album impossible to digest in one sitting, and an album to be respected for that reason. Protomartyr has made monumental steps in their musicianship, giving them an impressive magnetism over those who choose to listen to their records. Intellect flows from track to track with an ease and fluidity reminiscent of chapters turning by in a book. Yes, the songs seem to meld together as one which may sound like a criticism, but on this record and in the way it is executed, it is more of an achievement. There is something to be said for an album as whole and as dense as Intellect, especially coming from a band whose discography is still small. If the product from this fledgling post-punk group can be so much improved over three albums in four years, one can only hope for a bright future from this dismaying band. Despite the disparity in the message, Detroit has something to be proud of in Protomartyr.
If you were anything like the KSDB Staff when you were in high school, you had high hopes of playing rock music and hanging out with your friends. Wichita’s Kill Vargas is doing just that. The punk rock trio from the 316 may be young, but they are making noise with their raucous breed of brash punk rock that calls back sounds of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and even more. On October 3rd, they visited the Little Apple for another installment of the Classroom Series. Afterwards, they played a killer show at Aggie Central Station.