Reality Asylum/Johnny Mile & The Kilometers/Mushmind
Saturday February 3rd, 2018
Planet Retro Records, St. Petersburg, FL
As the world spins further into more horrific insanity, we come to question whether it is not society that is mad, but ourselves. Perhaps it’s just our perspective. So we try to embrace the madness, as this seems like the only remaining rational option when so little else makes sense. The names on this lineup seem like they ought to help in that regard.
Approaching Planet Retro however, I’m not so sure. The first act is Ybor’s Mushmind, and my mind already feels rather mushed. Would I be able to withstand the musical pulverisation of the band chronicled in the infamous Zero Warning “Mushumentary,” depicted breaking into posh Miami hotel swimming pools and fighting over chocolate milk? It turns out that like the uniquely neat walls in our venue tonight (do record shops always intend to overwhelm with posters and junk over every available surface?), Mushmind wish for you to settle into their heaviness without screaming in your fucking face, which is to say that vocalist Chris actually sings. His voice is clean even when it’s hard to hear over the dense, murky stoner punk, and aside from him getting a bit energetic no-one in the five-piece is losing their shit. It’s a good, appropriate, medium level effort, with heavy bass grooves and an overall sound that would go well with any colourful acid rock mushroom artwork. Just in case we get the wrong impression though, Chris concludes their no more than 20-minute set by telling us that he’s off to smoke some weed.
Next we have Johnny Mile & The Kilos, I mean Johnny Mile & The Kilometers. Wasn’t Brexit supposed to remedy these continental crossover confusions? In their defense, JM & TK do harken back to the pre-Brussels pub rock days of yore, making no bullshit fun music from a working class perspective. Or maybe that should be American-style P(u)BRock, with bassist Chris Cardon politely asking for what might be the last “donation based” beer in the place. This would help fuel his funky interludes on the likes of Second Hand Cool, while guitarist-singer Gino Capone stays cool and straightfaced no matter the song. His voice reminds me of Notorious S.A.D.’s Devon Mackinnon, an act I saw at the previous Planet Retro a few years ago (RIP to the band, the old store, my attempt at that review, etc). Amidst internal laughs and unforgivable threats of dragging one another to Chili's and Applebee's are morsels of the militant proletariat. Fire in the Hole is a punked up number about racist cop shootings; As Long As You Want It is a piece of lovey sunshine pop with an intro riff incredibly similar to Baby, I’m An Anarchist!, while another riff elsewhere reminds of Sleep Now in the Fire. As there is no actual Johnny Mile in the band, I expect any day now Johnny Marr will be in touch to offer to take them to the next level of fame, Cribs style. The Kilometers released their second album Working Class Cool in December.
The next band also seem to understand that anarchism and similar disciplines are best spread subtly, without all the dusty old theory getting in the way. The thing that tipped me over the wall of apathy into coming to this brainhumper of a show was the Reality Asylum Cassette Store Day compilation of local artists, given away free in October and containing their great track Intro To Drama (Car Bomb Driver and Chris Barrows Band also featured). Before they begin they intrigue me further with Ricky Seelbach’s bright neon spaghetti Moog wiring and the sight of a veritable bundle of drumsticks. In addition to the band being named after a Crass song and doing the selfless DIY-till-death thing, Lauren Elizabeth’s singing has a high-pitched resemblance to Eve Libertine’s. She’s making prolonged eye contact, getting in people’s personal face space, climbing the furniture, unafraid to switch it up between racy, sobby and screamy. It’s claustrophobic and uncomfortable in an awesome way (he says from semi-safely behind the new releases rack). All the while the rest of Reality Asylum are hammering drums and producing throbbing colourful synths. Sometimes it’s seeing yourself dancing in an 80s throwback club, others the beats are so big it’s not so much darkwave as ravewave. If I may be so bold it might be a synthpunk sound for the times, a soothing balm in the night. As if to apply such a balm, during the last song Lauren dons a pair of black gloves. Penis envy? Yeah maybe not.
On my way home, a few blocks from the store, I come across two posters for the group Patriot Front, AKA white supremacist Blood and Soil-chanting fuckwits. I tear them down. We might all be in the asylum together, but I’m not letting these lunatics do the decorating.