Tabs Out | Straight Crimes – Jams, With Microphone. 2017

Straight Crimes – Jams, With Microphone. 2017
8.28.17 by Jill Lloyd Flanagan


I’ve known Erin Allen since my old band toured the West Coast in the early 200o’s and ended up with a CD of his band Child Pornography, which included passport sized photos of all the band members and one of Anne Frank (the original, not the YouTube star). In High Castle, Sisterfucker, Work and countless others, he’s relentlessly played distressed sounding noise rock with a strong garage punk streak. He also is an accomplished painter and makes a lot of zines which feature his irreverent doodles, black humor and phrases clipped at random from pop culture.

Straight Crimes is Allen’s new duo with bassist Chani Hawthorne. The “Jams, With Microphone. 2017” tape starts out with a kind of bass and guitar slow motion slide up the neck of Allen as Hawthorne plays a descending stoner rock riff. When we have been sufficiently lulled by this, the 1, 2 of a drum machine’s exacting rhythm kicks in. The rhythmic pulsations chop the gnarled guitar feedback into a delirious texture. With the groove set by Hawthorne’s blues-inflected bass, the guitar drone begins to sound poppy. It’s a welcome surprise that this is the perfect vehicle for Allen’s voice. It’s the voice of an angel fallen from grace, while in some of his bands, it was unnaturally high and could have the thinness of a falsetto. But here, he’s found his perfect pitch and sounds like a 70’s rocker sinking into a swamp of feedback.

The guitar and electronics playing of Allen also has gotten to a masterful level of anti-technique. The feedback and electronic squall are painterly but in the way of the post-color-field painters of the 1970’s who applied gobs paint on the end of a 2 by 4 and dragged them across the canvas. A good example would be “Earth Mover” which has a nice interplay of bass and guitar before a wave of hissing static rushes in with a staccato beat as Allen intones “how could u? How could u?”

A great improvisation feels dictated by an outer/inner force. Thanks to the great musical chemistry between Allen and Hawthorne, the playing here has a strong intentionality to it. For me, a flaw in the cassette would have to be that the tracks are not as balanced between them as I would have liked. Here, Straight Crimes caves into the classic rock tradition of keeping the bass barely into audibility. Anyways it’s good to be kept off balance, something Erin Allen takes a sick pleasure in reminding us.

“Jams, With Microphone. 2017” was released in an edition of 100 copies by Fine Concepts. Grab a copy here.

Facebook Twitter Tumblr
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.