Essential New Music: No Friends Band’s “To All My Friends”

People make records for a lot of reasons, and who are we to judge? Music lovers, that’s who we are, so damn right we’re going to judge. And in our unerring judgment, former Trumans Water drummer and more recent multi-instrumentalist Kevin Cascell made To All My Friends for one of the finest reasons around: He knows best. 

At any rate, Cascell knows what a rock record ought to sound like. It doesn’t have to be hi-fi. These 11 songs were recorded on four-track cassette machines in a series of Portland, Ore., basements over a 10-year period, and they are as clattery and jittery as the Swell Maps on pep pills. The mid-fi bluntness of the sound adds to impact of To All My Friends.

And it doesn’t have to be original through and through. There are moments when the LP tips its hat to the Rolling Stones, the Stooges and early Pere Ubu, whose “Street Waves” gets a fairly faithful treatment in the middle of side two. These serve notice that Cascell knows about the good stuff, and he knows what to do with it. 

But it has to be urgent, and passionate, and memorable—and To All My Friends is all of these things. Cascell and his mostly non-existent combo (guest drummer John Schier plays on a couple tracks, but Cascell handles all the scuffed-up guitars, surly singing and the rest of the exuberant drumming himself) play like they just can’t wait to get off of work and get the week off their chests. Cascell calls out liars, warmakers and unstable tectonic plates with a forcefulness that makes you believe that the act of doing so will somehow make things right.

Cascell also has a great instinct for placing a telling sonic detail—a three-second snippet from some disco song, or a breaking bottle, or a three-guitar pileup that miraculously resolves into a remorselessly churning groove—that’ll make you come back just to make sure that that song was really that good. And each time, you’ll confirm that it was.

Yeah, this is how a record ought to be.

—Bill Meyer