Summer is heating up in Indie Basement-land and this week has another great crop of new releases: Viagra Boys' best album yet, Australian sax-and-drums duo Party Dozen, Pavement guitarist Spiral Stairs, former Klaxons' frontman James Righton and UK indie rockers Mush.

Over in Notable Releases, Andrew listens to Katy J Pearson, Laura Veirs and more. In other Basement-related news:Alvvays announced their first album in five years, Moonlandingz's Adrian Flanagan announced his solo debut as Acid Klaus, Soulwax remixed Wet Leg, and Blur drummer Dave Rowntree released his debut solo single.

The Indie Basement corner of the BrooklynVegan shop is well stocked with hand-picked vinyl, books and merch, including new albums by Kevin Morby, Belle & Sebastian, Porridge Radio, Spiritualized, Wet Leg, Dry Cleaning, Yard Act, Mercury Rev, Aldous Harding, and King Hannah, not to mention classics from Pylon, Sparks, Spoon, Stereolab, Broadcast, LIlys, The Cribs, Goldfrapp, Oasis, Echo & The Bunnymen, Slowdive, Roxy Music, The Libertines, and more.

Head below for this week's reviews.

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ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Viagra Boys - Cave World (YEAR 001)
Swedish debauch-o-punks embrace synthesizers and clean themselves up just a bit for their best album yet. Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson is on a track, too.

Cave World presents a decidedly different Viagra Boys than we've heard before. Where their first two albums presented the band as hedonistic, debaucherous punks -- which by all accounts they were -- this is a more nuanced iteration of the band, still raggedly singing about fuck-ups, freaks, conspiracy theorists, sociopath children and other deviants, but musically this is a much more interesting record. Synthesizers, drum machines and sleek studio gear fight for space among the guitars, tattoos and inebriants.

Part of this may be because they made this album twice, or at least once and a half. The band once again worked with producer Pelle Gunnerfeldt (The Hives, The Knife) and DJ Haydn on this one, and they had much of the album done before the pandemic, but reworked it after the tumultuous summer of 2020. "We let it marinate for a while and then re-recorded absolutely everything," frontman Sebastian Murphy says. Everything sounds a little more deliberate and with this added finesse -- which may not be the right word for anything involving Viagra Boys. There are more carefully crafted songs and bigger hooks, but they retained their distinctive grit. Their fingernails are still filth, but sport a fresh manicure. It's a winning combination.

Cave World's hit rate is very high: "Ain't No Thief" hammers out a manic disco beat and relentless, dirty synth bassline that propels them into a lurid, technopunk futureworld; "Baby Criminal" is a disturbing portrait of a kid who microwaves batteries for fun set against wailing sax and relentless high-hat percussion; "Troglodyte" veers into the Devo territory Viagra Boys' live shows have long had; and "Punk Rock Loser" struts along with Murphy tossing off lines like "I warned you baby, that ain’t juice in my cup / It’s promethazine and a little 7UP."

There's also the paranoid and very electronic "Creepy Crawlers," and the scatterbrained synthpop of "The Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis" and "ADD." Cave World also features "Big Boy," a techno-blues collaboration with Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson that feels as inevitable as it does perfect. When Williamson shows up, asking "And all the people in the club go, Don’t you want it?," the track has transformed into a shuffling, baggy anthem. It's fantastic.

As much as I've liked Viagra Boys' other two albums, if you'd told me four years ago that the band who made the silly but fun "Sports" would make an album as front-to-back good as this I might not believe you. These Boys clean up well -- while still leaving a mess.

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Party Dozen - The Real Work (Temporary Residence LTD)
Australian sax-and-drums duo rip it up with a little help from Nick Cave on their hard-hitting, enjoyable fourth album

Australian duo Party Dozen make a lot of noise for just being sax (Kirsty Tickle) and drums (Jonathan Boulet). A lot of varied noise, too. Yes there is the kind of in-your-face skronk you'd expect from a post-punk group like this, but on their fourth album, The Real Work, there are atmospheric tracks, diversions into sultry noir territory, heavy jams that approach doom metal, druggy garage rock, John Zorn Naked City jazz-punk, and motorik dance groovers. It's all of a piece, of course; Party Dozen stay within their solar system, but they're exploring all the planets. You might not even notice that these songs are almost entirely instrumental, with Tickle only occasionally shouting through her horn. The one song that does have regularly mic'd vocals, "Macca the Mutt," features the signature howl of fellow Aussie Nick Cave who takes things into Birthday Party territory. For a band known for their incendiary live shows, The Real Work is a nuanced record that works great in the comfort of your living room but also has you wanting them to tour ASAP. It should also be said The Real Work is not just sax and drums -- Boulet triggers lots of samples with his kit which beefs things up considerably. Here, Party Dozen sound like the work of, if not 12, at least six energized musicians.

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Spiral Stairs - Medley Attack!!! (Amazing Grease)
Pavement cofounder Scott Kannberg leaves the '90s mostly behind on his warm, inviting sixth solo album

Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg's 2019 Spiral Stairs album, We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized, was almost his last. “I did my last shows in London in 2019, and I had this great show and kinda thought to myself, ‘I don’t really want to play again after this. “This is great, this is a good way to end’." But then a burst of creativity hit and he had another album's worth of songs ready to go, perhaps his solo swan song, but the universe kept throwing up roadblocks. He moved back from the Yucatan to California to make it, only to get hit with the pandemic, and then once he did start recording, longtime bassist and friend Matt Harris (also of Oranger) died. The world is now trying to get back to normal and so is Kanneberg, releasing his sixth solo album as the pandemic is still with us and Pavement have finally started their reunion tour.

Medley Attack!!! is a reference to Talking Heads -- it was one of the considered titles for Remain in Light -- and you can hear a little of their influence on this album, especially on "Baron Please --> Medley Attack!!! [blitzkrieg]" which owes more than a little to "Crosseyed and Painless" in its funky danceability. Like on We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized, Scott has left Pavement in the '90s, going instead for a more singer-songrwriter rock album, full of horns, barstool poetry and big choruses. (He still loves the Bunnymen, Roxy and The Fall, though, which shines through occasionally.)  It's the sound of music made by friends who enjoy playing with each other -- even if it's across the country on Zoom -- and the album features Kelley Stoltz, No Age's Randy Randall, the late Matt Harris and Oranger drummer Jim Lindsay. These are warm songs with Kanneberg examining the circuitous path his life has taken in the last 30 years. To make another Talking Heads reference, the album coulda been called "Where? How Did I Get Here?" but Kanneberg realizes that, despite all the terrible hurdles, life can still be beautiful.

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Mush - Down Tools (Memphis Industries)
Third album from Leeds indie rockers mellows out, just a little, in all the right ways

If you were wishing the Spiral Stairs album was more Pavement-y, might I direct your attention to the third album from Leeds group Mush. There's more than a little '90s slacker rock charm to Down Tools in Dan Hyndman's guitars and their easygoing melodies. Not sloppy, just loose, in a pleasing way, with the pandemic / Brexit / apocalyptic fears of 2021's Lines Redacted having dissipated into a more relaxed, manageable sense of unease. There are moments of chugging pop bliss ("Dense Traffic," "Group of Death") and noisy wig-outs / mathy noodling ("Get on Yer Soapbox," the title track) and points in between ( "Karoshi Karaoke" and "Northern Safari"). Dan Hyndman's vocal style has mellowed, too, and gotten less adenoidal, making for a less nervy listen. He can sing!

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James Righton - Jim, I'm Still Here (DEEWEE)
Former Klaxons frontman juggles domesticity and pop dreams with the help of Soulwax and ABBA's Benny Anderson

Every album released since 2021 gets called a pandemic record. It's hard not to listen to things through any other lens, and songs that were maybe written or even recorded before March 2020 take on new meaning. Then there are albums like former Klaxons' frontman James Righton's new album that is almost entirely about life during lockdown. Song titles include "Livestream Superstar," "Pause" (as in "Press 'Pause' on my life") and "Empty Rooms." Stuck at home, like most of us, he would retreat to his basement studio after putting his kids to bed. There he created songs based around a dual life: "Jim would be the deluded rockstar, living out his fantasies from the confines of his garage. James was Dad." (Mind you still a relatively cool dad: he's married to Keira Knightley.) Another one-man-band, Prince, was a big influence here, as was Bowie's Berlin trilogy. (Like Bowie's Low, [and Ty Segall's last album] much of the instrumentation on this album has been put through the fetishized vintage Eventide harmonizers.) Tales of chores and performing to fans via Instagram Live are told via lush, slippery synth-funk. Soulwax, who run the label James is on, mixed the album and give it lots of headroom, while ABBA's Benny Anderson* shows up to play synths on airy ballad "Empty Rooms." It's a far cry from the dayglo sci-fi fantasies of The Klaxons, but domesticity suits him, and Jim, I'm Still Here will sound good in your basement too.

* If you're wondering how Righton scored a member of ABBA for his album, he is the musical director for London's ABBA Voyage concert experience, having been tasked with putting together the live band that plays nightly with the virtual ABBA-tars of Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid. That band includes Little Boots, btw. Crazy, right?

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