Reviews of downmf's 'Ride The Pine' 7"

a small gem of fuzzed-out pop. The songs and odd touches (like the piano or marimba on "Harder To Fine" and bells on "I Work Alone" bring back memories of Flying Nun goodies like the Alpaca Brothers and Bird Nest Roys, while the guitar and voices hue closer to Amerindie-rock grain. For once, the murky recording quality helps the music; I'm sure most of the idiosyncrasies would get smoothed out with big production.

Michigan State News
Local band down released this debut EP on Lansing's fledgling Bonehead Rex label. The 7" vinyl disc contains four songs, two on a side, and that's about all we need to hear. The EP is extremely "lo-fi," for one thing, resulting in a frustrating listening experience. The drums are barely perceptible, and the vocals, recorded through a cb vox, are completely unintelligible. To their credit, down manages to overcome the production handicaps every now and then, most notably on the enjoyable "harder to fine." Overall, though, the music is derivative of every garage band since the Ramones, and all the songs wallow in a sleepy, mid-tempo rut.

Ben Is Dead
Down is really down, as in depressing and mournful. All four songs on the record are equally dejected, making one want to end it all either by taking the record off or by taking an overdose of barbiturates. Bridging the gap between Sonic Youth and Joy Division, with simple dissonant melodies. Down want to make you as sad as they are. The sleeve says something about cb vocals and that is exactly what they sound like. As if the vocalist was 100 miles away singing into a lonely mike to an uncaring ear.

Sendra's previous incarnation in Snake River has been lauded in these pages, and this new outfit doesn't disappoint. All four songs are top notch, lofi, and very sloppy- but no hindrance to sinking your teeth into it. Only complaint is that the songs tend to run on, but I don't mind when they're this good.

The Capital Times
down majordomo Scott Sendra used to be in Snake River, and down carries on in their grand tradition, with the difference that down kinda sorta has hooks- it sounds like a sludgy, mid tempo wade through guitar hell, but you can also hum along with it, and what's more, you'll actually want to. Listening to Ride The Pine is a bit like having two shots of Cuervo for breakfast- it's not for everyone, but it'll make your whole day a lot more interesting.

D is for down, who slow things down and brighten things up on a four song EP, on the new Bonehead Rex label. They sound a little like a number of my favorite bands without fitting any easy categories. The slow tempo allows the fine melodies to sink in deeper than they otherwise would, even if it seems the RPMs are off by 3 or 4. But all the bells, busy drums, loud, scratchy guitars, pained and sometimes painful vocals, all add up to a splendid stupor of a debut.

Feel Good About Your Body
My brother Scott, ex-Snake River, is head honcho of down. My pal Chip plays bass. He and Scooter (drums) may be in Veronica Lake someday. They recorded this single in the laundry room of my parents pad. Of course, being a journalist, none of this familiarity sways the measured opinion I formulated about this record, It is crap. Crap if you do not own it, that is. Four songs that fit no genre, exploit no cliches, are full of anger, wit, hooks, noise and soul and can actually be quite nice if you can handle lo-fi sound quality and I know you can because the songs and the performance count more than the ability to hear every instrument clearly in the mix or whatever pansy-muso objections one may have to lo-fi (although I wouldn't mind hearing what down could do in a real studio- someone give em some dough and fast). Wow that was a long sentence. All four songs are filled with emotion and imagination. Scott's lyrics are funny and mean. My fave lines are in "I Work Alone", a slow burn of a song that scrapes the fuzz out of my ears with a bridge that takes off like the Concorde- the song is grooving and grinding along when the chords take a major shift, Scott sings some opera sized notes- "I am the tiger in your tank, the Allen Funt in your prank"- over waves of feedback and my heart was ballooning into my brain. Powerful, man. Scooter and Chip make up for what they lack in technique by playing with enthusiasm and power. Which would you rather have? I'm proud to call these fellas pals and be the founding and only member of the Michigan Pop scene with them even thought they don't play Pop purely. It's more their attitude that goes Pop! Spare them some change and see what I'm mumbling about.

Feminist Baseball #11
Nice, solid blue sleeve that recalls Factory Records and music that's "more new wave than noise" (so say the notes) w/ a pleasant sound and sludgy vocals with bass/drum way way in the background.

Reviews of downmf's 'Solid State' 7"

The "What was that?!" award for this month goes to East Lansing, Michigan's hometown heroes down, whose astonishing third single "Don't Dig The New Breed" is a 56-second electrical shock-- it blind sides you with its opening , blurs and sparks to keep you from following where it's going, ends just when you're expecting it to take off, and doesn't make any sense at all until it's all over and you can put together the pieces. "Get out of the way," Scott Sendra sings, while he plays guitar like a shorting connection. The other side's "Solid State" is only four seconds longer; like "New Breed," it starts with a jolt, then builds up to a climax that never comes, so you have to play it again for the payoff. Extra points for the extraordinary packaging, which incorporates an entire circuit board.

Short sweet fucking brilliant songs. Disgusting hatred towards the new music scene. The only lo-fi band that I like. These songs clock in at under two minutes, just as the riff starts to rock they fall apart into destructo balls of flames. There must be some genetic connection from michigan that I'm receiving from these boys. Rock and roll terrorist.

Chick Factor
About as futurist as gary fucking numan, lansing's (lugnuts) down drink from the urinals, say all the right things in accents I can't understand. there's lots of beauty and human emotion, you just need to listen to someone else's record to find it. think of down as the anti-elastica, and if that doesn't get your private parts in an uproar, well, you're just like everyone else I know. this is single #3 from the most site-specific US band since the bastards, and you all know how great their debut album was (or maybe you don't).

Chick Factor
Damn braces, bless relaxes. down slay thy father, refute the grandfather, adjure the jam. they are small, they are not strong, but they are stronger than you. some people wait all their years for something to tell them they'll never get it: shut up, go away. here you go.

Speed Kills
...from the folks who brought you Snake River ... Down "programs " two Devo-esque mini-songs in hazy deference of the patented Bonehead Rex fuzz and static. Rusty circuit board glued to every damn cover to remind you how tech. this is.

Hard Attack
Down are a low-fi indie noise project whose two song 7" barely covers two minutes of music! I don't know what's wrong with me, but I really enjoyed this jaunt into musical minimalism as well as the crazy cover for a truly bizarre piece of vinyl. I can't say I'd pay too much far a 7" that's practically done playing before i can take my hand away from the record player, but it's different, and for me that goes a long way.

Punk Planet
Side A. Don't Dig The New Breed starts. The guitar is scratchy and the bass thumps along like with some great songs but in a minute it is over. Side B. Solid State kicks in and it is over too fast as well (about a minute). This is punk rock. Great songs make you want to actually get off your butt and pick up the needle and listen to it again. This Down single does just that. This is the third single from this band, this time finally with the new rhythm section. Unlike previous dull cover art, this time you get a big electrical board glued to the front. This makes it hard to fit in your 7" box but it's nice to see some thought put into packaging these days. Leaves you wanting more, like it should.

The State News
A two-song single may not seem like enough to get a feel for a band, but when you're dealing with the sporadic output of such an act as down, you have to take what you can get. The "Solid State" 7-inch, adorned with a big chunk of circuit board, is the band's most recent offering. When combined with a viewing of one of down's emotionally charged live performances, the tunes are a glimpse into the future of a local act brimming with potential. You see, down has at least one major edge over most E. Lansing groups: It writes songs. Lead singer/guitarist Scott Sendra keeps things direct and simple. Also, the single's production never manages to bury his vocals, particularly on the goofy B-side "Don't Dig The New Breed." Bassist Brian Widdis and drummer Pat Bills fill out Sendra's spare arrangements nicely. So until down releases a debut LP, the hit-and-run singles and live shows will have to suffice. Whoever said being prolific pays off, anyway?

Down hails from the state shaped like a mitten (Michigan), and it's new single, Solid State, offers two extremely lo-fi pop grooves overflowing with rock guitar. Both "Don't Dig The New Breed" and "Solid State" are brief bits that give little more than an introduction to this band. The best part of this single is it's theme, which is carried onto the packaging-- each single comes with it's own "solid state" circuit board glued to the front, which makes it one hell of a collector's item and a big pain in the butt to file.

Reviews of downmf's "The Toast Of The Town" 7"

Etch #9
The best S.Sendra since the first down 7" was released ten years ago. This carries weight when every single thing the man has put out is worth having if you care about songs. The "new" line-up no longer sounds new, and both sides tug and pummel and uplift. downmf are the only Lansing-area rock band worth listening to.

The State News
No need to clean the needle on your turntable. The static on the latest downmf single is righteously, unabashedly intentional. About halfway through the introvert anthem, "The Toast of the Town," frontman Scott Sendra launches into a solo that might be classified as pretty, if not downright beautiful; then drowns it in equally attractive white noise. "Town" and its b-side, "Valentine," are two of the most immediately memorable tunes in the band's short recording history. Both feature the spare arrangements and warbled vocals Sendra and the band are known for, but there's a maturity and directness to the songs missing on earlier records. "You feel like your cursed/but you're so well versed," Sendra sings on "Town." Furthermore, the insistent rhythm supplied by drummer Pat Bills and bassist Brian Widdis on "Valentine" is the perfect counterpoint to Sendras fragile vocal melody. All in all, the "Town" single serves as yet another gem to tide us over until the impending downmf debut album finally arrives.

Reviews of downmf's 'Will Failure Spoil downmf?' CD

The State News
A few minutes into the debut album by Lansing-area band downmf, frontman Scott Sendra announces, "This is the part where the feeling comes." It's a joke, of course-- the song cuts out right after the line is sung-- but not one without some truth. The trio specializes in balancing the cynical with the heartfelt, and over the course of their nine loud, treble-laden tunes, "Will Failure..." maintains that balance beautifully. Consistent without being repetitious, the songs on the album stick to downmf's basic songwriting formula-- low-tempo punk dirges that are heavy on rhythm and punctuated by Sendra's spare guitar playing and nails-on-a -chalkboard vocals. Anthems like "Royal Crown" and "Pretty Little" may sound uncertain at first, assaulting the ears with some random lyrics and guitar noise By the time the choruses roll around, however, they're playfully, unabashedly and wonderfully catchy. A lot of the credit goes to powerhouse drummer Pat Bills, who manages to fill in the songs' spaces inventively-- no matter how non-existent the tempos may seem. Rounding out the album are appropriate bursts of white noise , plenty of angst and even a downright maniac cover of the Modern Lovers' "I'm Straight." As expected with an independent recording, "Will Failure..." can be rough around the edges at times, and it might take some time to warm up to the band's style. But after a few listens, only the truly cynical couldn't get into downmf.


Man, this is one twisted CD. Lansing's own downmf are putting some pretty sorrowful dirges onto their debut CD on Super 8 records. While I have not had the pleasure to see these guys, I'm pretty blown away by this CD. These guys have taken the same sort of slow punk angle that you wish Fugazi would stick to sometimes. One maddening song after another. These guys put the cool back into alternative rock. Not only is this sound new (to me at least), but musically its pretty innovative. There are some pretty cool sounding instruments here that I can't quite figure out, sounds like an old crappy Casio keyboard. Mixing these interesting sounds with Scott Sendra's heartfelt vocals makes this album the perfect soundtrack for a hangover; punk-like intensity but not loud and fast. The kind of thing you picture yourself sitting on your couch staring at the wall to... The only thing I could compare this to is maybe Bill Ding, but then again maybe not. My absolute favorite track on here is without a doubt "This Is The Age Of Nostalgia." Scott bellows, "This is the age of nostalgia and all the songs sound the same to me." Specifically, though, the last song on the album, "Sinking Ship," brings it all home for me: "I'm on a sinking ship/ I'm on a sinking ship/ and I'm not drunk anymore/ stone cold sober." I can't wait to be messed up and depressed so I can listen to this brilliant album and feel right at home.

Show Reviews 1994-1995

Etch #1
down is a hardworking trio of Mich. rockers that have garnered much less respect than I feel they're due, mostly because they don't play much, which hopefully is beginning to be rectified. The boys were resplendent their Holiday garb (Halloween) and to be honest, it'll be awfully hard for me to picture Sendra w/out a mask on from this day forward. From what I could gather, they weren't thrilled with the set, but to my ears, it was just fine. A very unique sounding band that manages to evoke certain antecedents (probably most notably Joy Division) while managing to avoid aping. Probably their strongest suit is their use of dynamics, which has eluded the grasp of many bands. It helps keep things interesting, and, while they're no Bag of Wire, they deliver the most bang for the buck of any Lansing band right now.

Etch #3
down came out and immediately upheld the fine Lansing tradition of insulting the opening act. This was a really fine set, complete with thrills and chills to delight the entire family. They played hard, which was honestly a pleasant surprise to me, I don't think of them as a physical band. Short, sweet and to the point, down is rapidly beginning to round into an extremely worthwhile band that has fewer and fewer readily apparent antecedents as they go along (in other words, they won't remind you of much you've heard before). Just don't throw things at the animals if you see them live, 'cause Sendra's likely to bite back.

Etch #3
down played a typically fiery set, and continued to push themselves away from the comforts of Basement, USA by playing bills you might not ordinarily expect to see them on (such as this evening). Have to admit I prefer the more up tempo material, but when they mix it up a bit, which they did at this show, the slower stuff hits a little harder. If they continue developing like this, in a year's time there'll be no stopping 'em. Let's hope it happens, because I, for one, think teenage girls across the land need to get to know Sendra's "Pretty Little" head a little more intimately.