Reviews: Mika Miko and Paper Rad

Mika Miko – “C.Y.S.L.A.B.F.”
(Kill Rock Stars)
Download: Capricorinations (MP3)
Since 1991, Olympia, WA-based label Kill Rock Stars has been a proud promoter of kick-ass feminist punk music. At the time of its founding, the label released some of the most influential recordings of the riot girl movement. That youthful, idealistic spirit is recaptured on “C.Y.S.L.A.B.F.”, the debut full-length by the label’s most recent all-girl signing Mika Miko.
The group, a thrashy five-piece from Los Angeles, have a sound somewhat akin to early eighties hardcore. Given the current climate of trendy, mop-haired emoism, their classic one-two-three-go approach is rather refreshing. Plus, the group eschews the cheerleading, anthemic approach so relentlessly driven home by their now-defunct labelmates Bratmobile and Bikini Kill.
Cranked guitars and propulsive rhythms combine in alternately punky and funky ways. And dynamic dual vocals — one brash, one raspy—add just the right amount of complexity to their slightly simplistic ruckus, as do impressive bass and guitar licks whose melodies complimentarily collide up and down the scale.
The band adds an organ here and there too, as on “Take Hold” and “Capricorination” — perhaps their catchiest songs. But the instrument is too often buried in the mix to make much of a difference overall. Mika Miko have a righteous, raw punk sound that really shines, but it could stand to sparkle more.
“C.Y.S.L.A.B.F.” suffers from a minor case of stiffness and grows stale too soon over the course of the disc’s twenty minutes, yet a number of their songs are simply too infectious to ignore.
Catch Mika Miko with their Kill Rock Stars labelmates Erase Errata and The Gossip when their girl-powered tour van touches down at Irving Plaza in New York City on September 13.
Paper Rad – “Trash Talking”
Paper Rad is a Pittsburgh, PA/Northampton, MA collective that first gained notice for its irregularly published, multi-colored comic-based newspapers. The Paper Rad artists specialized in surrealist sketches and absurdist non-stories and I never missed a chance to grab an issue when I stumbled upon one.
I usually found them at shows providing merch money for their touring musician friends, or sometimes they would show up mysteriously at my local record or bookshop. For a mere dollar I would walk away alternately psyched and hesitant about what I would find when I opened it up.
Paper Rad is likely still involved in print media, but the artist collective has recently morphed into an animation and video group, applying their twisted talents towards the moving image—and the transformation has proved surprising effortless. Their very original, colorful, and slightly disturbing visions and confusing tales still excite.
Perhaps the only difference between their print and video art is the later appropriates popular culture on a grander scale. Its visual references tease your memory bank while its vibrant, clashing colors dilate your pupils. Their video art is also arguably less shocking, but Paper Rad hasn’t gone soft, just pixilated.
“Trash Talking” will subversively extend your capacity for visual stimulation. Don’t sleep on this one.
John Rickman

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