Undercover Muslims

I had no idea this project was coming my way. But holy shit I am glad it did. I had asked The Editor to send me some music to write about. She responded by sending me all the information about The Muslims cover song contest and asked me to do in-the-moment reactionary writing to each of the songs submitted.

I need to make it very clear: I think The Muslims are incredible. The first time I listened to them, I was wowed by their originality. With razors edge delivery of sound and radical lyrical content, they make me believe people still like it hard!

Listening to new music makes me happy. Having opportunities to listen to bands I have never heard of playing covers of a band I love is a gift. 

Covers are difficult. When you cover a song, you put yourself and your band in front of a firing squad of armchair critics. I am not in an armchair. I am an old fan of The Muslims looking to be a new fan of new bands. 


Pro-Bitch sent a video that looks like they hiked with their gear into a wilderness cabin, plugged in a worklight and got down to business. I love it.

Their cover of “ISLAMARADO” begins with a confession: “We tried to learn ‘ISLAMARADO,’ but it was hard for us.” Well, I hope pushing through the learning curve was rewarding for Pro-Bitch, because they kill it. 

The original is hard, staccato in your face, a “fuck off I did it” vibe. The Pro-Bitch version is softer in delivery, but with the vocals sitting way up front. It has an edge and an exposure to the lyrics that still convey The Muslims message loudly and clearly, reminding us that we need to listen, we need to act.

COVER: Islamarado by The Muslims from Kethan Fadale on Vimeo.

sister,brother, “ShirkJerk”

sister,brother’s cover brings to mind the feeling of wandering around a campus of storage units, trying to find out where the music is coming from. It’s faint, the vocals distant, lurking. The music, a guitar tuned just enough to be enjoyable and offsetting. The whole mix seems to create a barrier and an invitation. Find us, find the sound, find out what your missing. Around 1:20 into the song, the beats amplify, you’re closer and then…it’s over!  Shit. Play it again.

The Muslims’ version shares similar dynamics, but the difference being the original is upon you like a rabid dog, a punch to the head at the start. No need to look for where the sound is coming from, the strings of the guitar seem like metal cables waiting to be cut and released.

Cover:Shirkjerk by The Muslims by sister,brother

Bruce Stevens, “There Their They’re”

Bruce Stevens adds almost 2 minutes to this song with the addition of a sound byte at the start.  Fantastic addition. The speaking (interview) at the beginning is important and begs to be heard over the sounds in the background that threatens to swallow the words in one bite. I listened to just the beginning several times to catch everything being said.

The Muslims delivery of this, from the first chord, makes me want to start getting my knees high and circling up for a good old hardcore pit on the dance floor. 

Cover: There Their They're by The Muslims by Bruce Stevens

Emily Musolino, “Fuck the Cistem”

WHOAA! I am glad I can see the accompanying video of Emily playing all the parts. Inside a cloud of smoke, she blows this cover up. Emily pushes out a very cool 50’s, soulful vocal delivery, charmingly disarming, for sure. 

The way Emily spits out the lyrics is like sitting with a friend who is pissed off and unloading the truth.

The instrumentation is tight as hell, which I know can be incredibly difficult when playing all the instruments, synching it all up, and maintaining a level of emotion that delivers a wallop.

The Muslims’ original version of this is quite similar as far as instrumentation. Their vocals sit back a little in the mix, rounder, less staccato punch at the end of each line.  

The Royal Burgundy, “Payday”

Imagine Tom Waits letting it all hang out: delivered with gruff voice that sounds like it was honed by a bottle of whiskey and an ashtray full of smokes. Delicious! 

I really enjoy some of the lo-fi sounds. If you know Daniel Johnson’s work you will hear it in The Royal Burgundy cover.

The Royal Burgundy slows this song down. The sludgy, Melvins-like approach enhances the raw honesty of the lyrics. Clarity shines through the ripped vocal chords of the singer.  

The Royal Burgundy deliver a perfectly packaged cover staying true to the emotions while lending a different voice and vibe.

The Muslims’ version of “Payday” has such a true punk delivery that it seems to pay homage to early-to-mid eighties punk. In a way, paying homage is like a cover, hard to do right, risky, with either punishment or reward. The Muslims go for reward.

The Muskids, “Muslims at the Mall”

I am so glad this submission came in. These rockers bring the true feel and flavor of punk to the forefront of my mind. Say hello, hit the strings and keys and go for it.

The Muskids look like and sound like veterans. They bring a bit of the rainbow unicorn vibe. Well done.

The Muslims’ version is a quick build, the wick lit on a stick of dynamite, then, AT THE MALL! 

Both versions make me smile.

I am glad that I do not have to make the decision about this contest. Every person and band involved brought something great to the songs.

Thanks to all the bands that submitted. I enjoyed it all and will be coming to see you play soon. Who knows, we might even play a show together!

Editor’s Note: On December 14th, The Muslims announced the winners of this contest. That information can be found on their website. I wanted to take a moment to say we at Durham Beat were also inspired by this contest. We are grateful for the creative wave it brought to so many local artists, ourselves included. It’s fucking disgusting and we love you. See you at The Pinhook in January.

Featured image is an original Durham Beat photograph by contributor Larry Jones, Jr.

Album Review: XOXOK – “Worthy”

Hit play. Listen. Pause. I need to see a visual of the person singing. What a voice! So, I look up XOXOK and find a video of XOXOK playing in a room with just his guitar.

Hang on… let’s back up. When I hit play, I was stunned by the voice I heard, but there was a voice in my head was saying, “This isn’t what you usually like!” Well, I made that little voice shut up and opened my mind to the music.

What I soon discovered was the enormous amount of talent and passion XOXOK has and puts so effectively into his music. His voice is rich and textured. A blend of modern R&B with a strong and powerful throwback to 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s soul. 

The backing vocals pick up his voice and compliment it rather than drown it out or compete with it.

When the first track, “Nancy” starts, it strikes me as straight up radio pop, then moves, slides and slithers its way into an “in the pocket” grove that builds and climaxes with the guitar solo. 

XOXOK can play the hell out of a guitar. The dynamics are incredible. You think you are being seduced and lulled, and then he hits you with noise, reverb so dripping and eloquent. It is this dynamic that shows his depth of talent.

“Flaws”… I want to hear this song in a film. I would love to see a Tarantino film or a film of that genre take “Flaws” and use it to drive a scene. It is a beautiful song that took me for a trip through the eras of influence XOXOK must explore.

Keenan Jenkins is XOXOK. Let that be known. He may hold a Ph.D from UNC, but his calling is truly vocal master and translator of guitar legends throughout time.

XOXOK plays The Station on May 11 for his album release party. I am sad I will not be there. The Editor will be having all the fun instead. As for me, my eyes and ears have been opened and I can’t wait to see him perform live.

If you can get to The Station this weekend for the show, then do it. You will be glad you did.

Featured Image by Wyatt Kane, courtesy of XOXOK.

Album Review: sister,brother – “Suicide Club”

Welcome to “Future Primitive Punk”! I have heard this music before; I haven’t heard this music before! Holy shit!

Get on a bike, ride the alleys, crash, wipe the blood off your knuckles, repeat. Go out to a show, stay out too late, over caffeinate, it all makes sense.

Opening up the album, “Sorry, Why are we doing this again,” lays down a hellish merry-go-round vibe that starts to drive and draw you in with a catchy dance rhythm. I love it. If only listened to once, one would think this album is a thrown together, haphazard piece of work. When you listen and listen again, you find yourself listening to each section like unfolding chapters that eventually bring you back to a common thread. It happens loud and quick, so pay attention!

Suicide Club by sister,brother


“living in an office
fiddling with an orifice
praying for the greenest lawn
knowing it will be gone by dawn”

Don’t believe that the lyrics, blanketed under distortion, are just screams. The message seems like a straight up FUCK YOU! But there is observation and reflection knitted into the sounds. Mark’s not just making “mouth sounds.” He may want you to think that, but it’s more than that.

Alison and Mark have taken programming machines, screams and instruments back to an organic level. It feels like a band, not a room full of robots.

“It takes a village to know we are fucked!” is a quick sucker punch of a song. Pointing the finger at others? Pointing the finger at the mirror. Hell if I know, but it’s fantastic.

Suicide Club by sister,brother


“But I am really scared
and fucking lonely too
I just don’t know what to do with myself
could someone please tell me what to do”

If you are familiar with Jello Biafra and the works of Dead Kennedys, then you might feel the spirit of “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” …a sense of humor rooted in alarm and a sense of urgency. Open up our eyes, wake up and make some good choices today!

After listening to the songs multiple time and returning to the track, “Why don’t you take a step back Judgy McJudgerton,” it hits me like a rock. Even though I really like what Mark and Alison are doing, I know they are writing works for themselves and the sheer joy of making art. How do I know this? Just read the lyrics below.

Suicide Club by sister,brother


“But I am fine being me so why don’t you shut the fuck up and just leave me be.”A

Featured image is original photograph by The Editor from 1/12/19 sister,brother album release show at Criterion. Full photo series on Instagram.

Album Review: Tan and Sober Gentlemen – “Veracity”

Veracity (n): conformity to facts; accuracy.

Synonyms: truthfulness, truth, accuracy, correctness, faithfulness, fidelity

Tan and Sober Gentlemen (TASG) are true to the Appalachian, Celtic bluegrass music which has so obviously and so deeply influenced their sound. As the album title suggests, true-to-self lives at the heart of their sound. While carrying on a centuries-old tradition, TASG have been able to push beyond what could easily become boring and stale, into a sonic dynamic blend of influences.

“Rabbit” kicks the door open and grabs me and swings me around! Imagine if the Avett Brothers sounded like they recorded after binging on liquor, unfiltered cigarettes, and were hyper from lack of sleep. Sound good? It’s great!

The gritty feeling continues… the group backing vocals keep the folky, Celtic tradition alive, but are delivered with a punk attitude.

If you’re looking for good choices in music to play around the fire as we bury the statues we’ve torn down, then put this record on.

On “Deep Chatham”, railroading drums drive the song from start to end. Tom Waits fans, listen close! The vocals channel Waits with a southern twang supported by a band on overdrive.

TASG is tight as hell. If you dare to play this super niche genre, then you best have your chops. As a drummer and guitarist myself, I am inspired by their musicianship.

Make no mistake; this is not fiddle-die-day generic interpretations of the Celtic sound. This is deeper, next step, rebirth.

I grew up in Boston listening to music like this waking up smelling of cigarettes and stout. This album plays like a story, an amazing evening I want to hear about again and again.

There are so many layers of exceptional playing on this album that I don’t want to single out one member, because all of them bring something incredible to the record. Check out their bios and you will see that there is a deep regional history within the band.

TASG are a unit of sound moving so fast it takes a second to grasp what the hell is going on.

One last item to touch on: How the hell can you possibly think you can get away doing a Pogues cover?! I’ll tell you… because your band kicks ass and pulls it off with accuracy and, more importantly, takes it beyond a cover and makes it your own. Tan and Sober Gentlemen, hats off to you!

Veracity by The Tan and Sober Gentlemen

Featured image is “Veracity” album cover courtesy of Tan and Sober Gentlemen.

Bands & Cans

Words by Stephen Mullaney
Photos by Christine Fantini

Durham is a city that has produced amazing art, theater, and music. The people who make your coffee, fix your computer, serve your beer, and believe it or not, teach your kids are producing some of the best music in the country.

Music has been fueling Durham since forever. Its makers are as diverse as the sounds they create and are a major part of what makes Durham a haven for creators.

There are so many bands in Durham you haven’t heard of, while there are others who have been adopted as hometown heroes only after they have exploded beyond the Bull City.

In the not too distant past, Durham was producer of tobacco products and carcinogens that were inhaled internationally. While for some this may not necessarily be something to be proud of, the tobacco industry did construct many buildings in Durham while employing countless people and keeping those families in homes and eating.

Nowadays it is livers everywhere that we are sending products to… beer, cider, and distilled products are now a major industry and export of our Durham city and North Carolina home. As so many of you are aware, alcohol and music can sometimes make for a beautiful match that will lead you into the deepest corners of hell or the farthest reaches of heaven.

As summer weather pushed us into Fall, and now Fall into Winter, I chose IPA’s to ease the pain. In the spirit of pairing alcohol and beer, here is a look at three bands and three cans that go well together.

Let’s go take a ride! Strap on a helmet, hold on tight and enjoy!

The Band

The Muslims
Whatever you choose to drink while listening to The Muslims, here is what I suggest: Honor the music. Pull out the first can or bottle and spill or smash it on the ground. Maybe knock a lamp over. If this is going to be an outdoor experience, then go sit on the tracks or perhaps gather a few friends and pull down a monument to racism and intolerance!

This band’s talent runs deep… The music, the lyrics, the delivery… So Fucking Good!

The Muslims hit hard, channeling the energies reminiscent of late 80’s punk. Take it to the edge of falling apart only to tighten up and hit again. Pixies? No punches pulled, in your face. The Stooges? You tell me.

A David Barrett-like production is spot on, bringing out the talent without taking away from the live energy.

My plan: stick a can in the water bottle holder of my bike, make my way to a rooftop and celebrate the music.

The Can

“Something so Sincere” by Casita Cerveceria. Double IPA, not a sneak up and get you IPA. You know your shit is getting shook when you crack the can. Amazing flavor, brewed in Farmville by the same people who bring you Duck Rabbit beers. Load up the van with The Muslims, a trunk full of “Something so Sincere”, and storm the white house.

The Band

Cosmic Punk
Happy, bike riding, lay in the grass on a warm Fall day. Take a walk or go for a ride while listening to Cosmic Punk. No matter what is going on in the world, you feel it will all be all right. At times, the music feels like rollercoaster ride, up and down, and then slides seamlessly back to dreamy pop.

I found a live performance of Cosmic Punk that altered my bleary-eyed Sunday.

The Can

Burial “Surf Wax” IPA. The can reads “the human spirit is still alive” and that spirit is what binds the beer and the band. That and the surfy/pop/summer vibe. Burial says each cans label art is a story of the beer.


The Band

The Tan and Sober Gentlemen
It would be easy to dismiss the songs of Tan and Sober Gentlemen as Pogues or Dropkick Murphys-like music. The ability to play this style, “backcountry Celtic”, with a high level of expertise and emotion is hard as hell.

Fast, free, NC Celtic that would be right at home in the streets of Boston. We need a band like this in our state. The music can deliver fun and send a message. Working class music is still alive and well even if many forget the working class is what keeps our everyday running smoothly.

The Can

“Trophy Wife” by Trophy Brewing. This is a crisp, clean, fast drinking IPA that can be enjoyed by the can or by the dozen. I want to see The Tan and Sober Gentlemen share the stage with a mariachi band on the streets of Durham during the Pride Parade. Then I will feel like, for a blink of an eye, all is well in the world.


5:50am pedaling past a glowing building tattooed with corporate lettering “WE WORK”! If only the occupants of that building knew… years ago in a room with yellow stained walls and shoes piled six feet high, people were gathered thinking about anything but work. Mer Shoe! If you remember that space, then you have beautiful cigarette-, booze-, and weed-filtered memories of great times. However, if you don’t remember, then it’s okay—you are still are benefiting from that time.

Back then, bandit musicians and artists taking over spaces, convincing restaurant and bar owners to let their bands play, were slowly shaping a venue-less Durham. Some saw the benefit, while others ended up with punctured walls and broken chairs. Most of those places are gone now, but you still benefit from that era, even if you weren’t there to see it.

The Pinhook was born out of the ashes and dreams of people living in the underground, squeaking by, putting up art, and making noise wherever they could.

The Pinhook… incubator of the underground. I say that because nowadays organizations (corporate Durham) throw around the term “underground” in advertising everything but the underground. Now home to numerous start-ups, business-types often refer to Durham as a hub for innovation, or incubator for these kinds of pseudo-underground businesses.

The people of the Pinhook, having created a space of openness for politics, sexual identities, and the arts, are among the elite cultural shapers and binders of the Bull City.

On any given night, you may see the next “big thing” band or a romp of locals making a ruckus, while bumping into local politicians, culinary kings and queens, the owner of some six-figure start-up, and that punk kid who lives on your block. They are there because they understand the value of The Pinhook culture. Part community center, part theater, and part epicenter of a guerilla movement towards positive change, The Pinhook has forever lived to serve local.

Have you been there? Do you know someone who works there? Are you a member of one of those bands practicing on a Sunday, the floor sticky with beer and smelling of rock? Have you scribbled something on the bathroom wall, added your band sticker to the collage of your forbearers? Were you there for those cloudy nights on the back slab watching the fireworks from the stadium? Have you seen the glow of high-priced entertainment from DPAC while sipping on your PBR in between sets at a punk show?

The Pinhook is a city within the city. They are the ambassadors of the underground, leading sometimes with a whisper and many times with a roar!

Thanks for being there for us. And happy birthday.


Featured photo is the logo of The Pinhook.

Album Review: Al Riggs – “We’re Safe But For How Long”

We’re Safe But for How Long presents itself with the opening track as a folk album with a wounded edge. As the snare fades on this track, I am struck by the depth of simplicity.

November” feel like leaves falling. Repetition of beats and textured sounds has a mesmerizing groove. The vocals lay on top, not afraid to be so out front, not afraid to be heard.

Hell yeah! “How to Make a Proper Fist”–the noise, the noise that hides a clean guitar and frames the the reverb heavy vocals. Harmonies and crunchy sounds with keys/synth creeping in and out, give me more!

At the heart of the album I get the sense that Al Riggs is not afraid. The vocals and lyrics are hung out, wide open. To sing like this, alone, vulnerable above the mix would scare the shit out of a lot of musicians. I have to admit I was unnerved a little at first, however with repeated listens I was drawn to the sound of his voice, its imperfections and warmth.

I want this on vinyl for the next stretch of rainy days.

How I want to listen to this album:
On a cold rainy day, on my front porch, windows open, in order to hear the music playing inside,  with a Ponysaurus Export Stout in hand.

Featured image courtesy of Al Riggs.

Album Review: Flash Car – “Wardrobe”

Wardrobe, the new album from Carrboro band Flash Car, is a true soundtrack to a reckless summer of fun.

The opening song, “Pollen,” plays like a car chase.  Metronoming drum beat, Hammond B-3 sounding keys, and lush vocals weave a rich wall of sound. The line “Come on let’s go” is  an invitation to what awaits on the rest of the album. A perfect pick for the opening track!

Lady, Lady” has a bright, Brit pop feel, harmonies, inflection and all.  

Thanks to the third track “My Mailman” I will never be able to look at my mailman the same way.  “He’s just talking on the phone, cause you know he’s got better things to do”! Great backing vocals and smooth, catchy guitar leads.

The album continues on holding true to a summer vibe. The vocal, guitar, and instrument production pulls everything together, while the songs are crafted in a way that draws you in.

On the surface the album has an ultra-clean sound, but underneath some of the cuts are beautifully crafted and tempered noise.  

Right from the start “Fool” hits with a little 50’s vocals then slides a little beach sound your way.

On my first listen, “Lonely Soul” seemed out of place with the rest of the album. As I listened to the song more, I got it. It’s a little breather before the final track. Maybe if the Flaming Lips had been asked to record a song for the movie “Jackie Brown” this is what they would have done.

This is a solid album through and through. As I sit listening to the opening track again I can’t stop bobbing my head. I wish I had this playing when the police arrived in front of my house during a rowdy 4th of July gathering.

I will be looking to see Flash Car live.

How I want to listen to this album:

I want to be followed while riding my bike by a car blasting the album so I can hear it. I’ll hit Sam’s pick up a 4-pack of Cloud Surfer (Trophy Brewing) head home and start the album over while killing that beer.

Featured picture courtesy of Flash Car. Album art by Evan Crankshaw. See his work HERE.