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sold out

Modern Day Urban Barbarians - The Endless Retreat

-waiting for a break
-new elvis
-treading water
-pop culture casualties
-enjoy the rid
-outer space

MDUB: Devin Zor-Ton, Jesse Zor-Ton
Recorded 2/2003

(Indie Workshop 1/16/2004) Coming out of Brooklyn is this duo, consisting of a self proclaimed hatchling of a space pod/egg and the spawn of an experiment with an ox rib. Together Devin Zor-Ton and Jesse Zor-Ton make up Modern Day Urban Barbarians, a sonically assaulting band that resides under a bridge. Another gimmicky band you say? Nay, nay, fine sir, tongue in cheek band….maybe. As you have read, this is a two piece outfit; not your typical guitar and drums variety though, these guys, ahem…aliens or whatever they prefer, like the sound of bass with their drums. Oh, hold on, scratch that; make it “dum drums” and “space bass”. Now that we have that out of the way…. Devin is in charge of vocals and bass….excuse me-space bass, while Jesse plays, ahem, dum drums. When I first started listening to this I swore there was a guitar in there somewhere. The sounds that Devin makes with his bass are high on the neck, heavy with fuzz and distortion thus lending to my misconception. The drums are frantic; speedy rhythms driving in and out of breakdowns and off beat at times, acting as a catalyst to the vocals and bass to complete the rest of the sound. Lyrically these guys are typical New York; there just is something different about the writing of bands from there. Social consciousness served with a hefty dash of criticism is the usual fare, and these guys serve plenty. Songs about 9/11, the influence of media on people today (one of my favorite topics), short attention span and the employment cycle of the service industry are delivered in a staccato form, sounding hectic and off beat matching the music very well. Most of these things people can relate to, making the songs a bit more enjoyable and almost personal. The whole work is recorded in really crappy “Lo-Fi” style which fits well with the bands playing style. At the first listen, I really didn’t like the album, but the more and more I listened, the more I liked it. It seemed like an old embittered punk band, which made it more appealing. The whole album felt like something from the 80’s or even a friend’s or my own garage with dumbed down, simplistic music and smart vocals. So if you’re looking for a bit of variety, give these aliens, or whatever they are, a listen. - Mo Del Costello

(Mundane Sounds) There are a number of initial hints that Modern Day Urban Barbarians' The Endless Retreat is a political punk record. The simple, black and white hand-drawn cover art, depicting what looks like a phalanx of the skeletons of dead punk rockers laying waste to an urban environment, is a rather obvious clue, isn't it? Songs titles like "Slaves," "Pop Culture Casualties," and "Waiting For a Break" all seem to have this clue of failure vs. success, and I'm wondering where they're going to take this. And, of course, there's that band name. On opening the cover, about all I've gathered about this band from the liner notes is that it's a two-piece band, and that they go by the names of Devin and Jesse ZorTon and that they're from New York. Hmm, that might explain something. In fact, it explains a lot. Apparently, there's some sort of theme here--anarchy? A discourse on popular culture and the demise of humanity via a life of luxury? The fact that 9/11 was the beginning of the end/the end of the beginning/the death of New York and democracy? I have no idea, really--I can't make sense of it all. I can't tell if they're a serious political band or if they're a band who are trying really hard to be ironic and funny and serious at the same time, or if they're trying to be a band of shambiotic prophets who are giving electronic warnings to the world via really amateurish playing. (Imagine, if you will, godhedsilo's very first practice, and you'd not be far off the mark.) It could be all of these things, it could be none of these things. I really can't tell you. What I can tell you, though, is that I get the feeling that perhaps the Modern Day Urban Barbarians are better than they allow themselves to be. Though most of the album is a plodding, lo-fi "you are there" kind of recording that is nothing short of terribly muddy, it's not until the final song, "Statement," that everything gels for Modern Day Urban Barbarians. The bad playing and recording and lyrics and everything just merge into this one cohesive, beautiful statement, based upon that one unforgettable nightmare day in September, and a reflection upon life comes out of it all: "We could all live a little more and if you don't want to what are you here for?" they sing, and it's a touching truism that really rings deep and true with me. (In fact, all of their lyrics are GREAT. It's just the music that's not.) Though I somewhat think that they've got a little bit of put-on in their blood ("I could let you in on a little trick/I'm actually smarter than all of this"), I really think there's something to Modern Day Urban Barbarians. They've got some excellent lyrics, even if the music betrays their brilliance, and, as stated before, I wonder if their roughshod amateurism might be a bit of a hoodwink. I can see where they're going with this, and with a little bit of work (aka PRACTICE), they could really have something. Still, despite all of the things that I hear that's wrong with The Endless Retreat, I still cannot write it off as a bad record--there's this inexplicable appeal that I like, and I just have this hunch about them. What it is, I can't say, but there's a feeling of imminent greatness that could be theirs soon. Depending, of course, if they want it. - Joseph Kyle

(Splendid Exine 12/06/2003) This two-piece band from Williamsburg, Brooklyn conforms to many of the stereotypes about music from that scene: they play grating, spasmodic art-punk that borrows heavily and unashamedly from Wire and The Fall, as is especially evident in the vocals, which mimic Mark E. Smith's unmistakable cadences and implacable snarl. Every line sounds like a sarcastic putdown, which suits the disaffection that Modern Day Urban Barbarians's lyrics try to capture in songs such as "Pop Culture Casualties" and "Slaves". From this delivery, it's difficult to tell how the singer actually feels about the lyrical sentiments, which voice the classic complaints of the twentysomething hipster: he's oversaturated with shallow cultural reference points, he's stuck working service industry jobs, and he's frequently prone to lapsing into nostalgia for the good old days when he was five years old and nothing so tiresome as work or thought interfered with his endless consumption. Whether the band's project is to mock such people or whether they simply are such people is what makes listening to them suspenseful and compelling. The ambiguity in how seriously they are taking themselves saves the record from being merely irritating; the fact that these Barbarians might have a sense of humor makes me more comfortable giving myself over to their cacophony (their "sound fury", as they call it), rather than remaining at a remove where it's silly and pretentious. The Modern Day Urban Barbarians don't have guitarists, so Devin Zorton's bass, beefed up with distortion, provides all the melody you'll hear, usually in the form of three- or four-note riffs aping what most bands would play with chords. A bassist's task is always to yoke a song's melody to its rhythm, anchoring its basic structure. He's not free to wander, to test out contrapuntal rhythms or melodic variations. Accordingly, Modern Day Urban Barbarians, with only a bassist and a drummer, are limited by their very makeup in what they can do. By adopting a primitive aesthetic and turning every noise they make into a thud or a pound, they transform this limitation into a strength. The riffs profit from the band's cudgel-bashing approach; they sound so urgent and emphatic that you'll forget you've heard them before in other contexts. To break up the repetition, they carve out swathes of effect-pedal-generated noise and let drummer Jesse Zorton play chaotic impromptu fills that wreak havoc on the established rhythms. As they have a limited options with melody, they employ some creative songwriting strategies, too, using variations in tempo and density while doing away with transitions from part to part. This creates a free-fall effect: you never know when a song is going to suddenly drop off a ledge, and you never know when it's going to land. - Rob Horning

(Punk Information Directory 11/30/2003) I usually don’t pay too much attention to the one-sheets that often supplement the music I receive for review. The short explanation is that I prefer to write my own material rather than look to standard promotional fare do my writing for me. Don’t be naïve: when it comes to reviewing records, convenience trumps objectivity in the eyes of many. So it was with an unflinching eye that I skimmed the Modern Day Urban Barbarians’ one-sheet before getting down to the business of listening, but instead of completely ignoring the text, I found myself entertained. The Modern Day Urban Barbarians (henceforth referred to as “the Barbarians”) are a curious bunch who live up to their “odd men, strange sounds” billing. The nine songs that comprise “The Endless Retreat” may not go a long way towards the Barbarians’ objective to “lay siege to Modern Music as it is seen today,” but their music isn’t easy to peg, and that’s a very good start. Although this drums and bass combo from New York is hardly inaccessible, I wasn’t immediately compelled to say that “they sound like so-and-so” after running through their songs. In fact, I initially mislabled the bass tone on this disc as being the work of a guitar in response to the disc’s first track, “TV.” This song kicks off with a dirgelike riff over clunky rhythms, resembling the drone of an early Black Sabbath record. The instrument’s true identity was revealed when the band shifted gears halfway through the song, and the sound thinned out considerably. Thankfully not all songs on this disc suffer from a lack of bottom end given the bass/drums emphasis. “New Elvis” recalls the bass-driven noise of a band like Cop Shoot Cop, with its fuzzy bass line and danceable backbeat, and is one of the disc’s best songs. Other songs on “The Endless Retreat” come across in a similar fashion, flirting with indie, punk, and noise-like sounds, but paying careful attention to work the room and avoid hanging out exclusively in any one camp. While this is a respectable skill for a band to master, and the quality of the songwriting isn’t bad, this disc didn’t command the attention it should have through 25 or so listening sessions. What is particularly noteworthy about this CD, however, is the lyrical content, which touches on such diverse subjects as post 9/11 reflections, media influence on public perception, working shitty jobs to make ends meet, and searching for a purpose in life. That the Barbarians’ take on these themes and the simple yet effective manner with which the messages are conveyed has little in common with their peers in the art-punk community is refreshing. Essential or not, you might enjoy coming to terms with your inner barbarian using “The Endless Retreat” as a soundtrack. - Mario Solis

(Actionman) Simplified punk rock, or drum n’ bass noise rock? Modern Day Urban Barbarians are the combination of sloppy dirt-poor punk rock and art noise. The two piece features simple bass lines with too many effects, completely all over the place drums (including some drum pads with sci-fi noise effect samples) that don’t seem to ever stop doing solos, and raw amateurish sometimes rhyming, sometimes not, lyrics. They sing the typical line of anti-consumer, anti-reason, anti-western civilization irony that we aren’t yet tired of. Sometimes these lyrics are comic genius. “New Elvis” (track 3) for example, features the lines “this ain’t Memphis / he shot out TVs / we prowl the streets / he ate fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches / we eat hipsters / he had Graceland, a futuristic dream crib / we’re barbarians, baby, and we live under a bridge.” MDUB is from Brooklyn, presumably, D.U.M.B.O. (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) the next stop (after Williamsburg) for starving artists on their Endless Retreat out of The Village. As the gentrification of NYC continues, the barbarians’ food supply is sure to grow. The music of MDUB fits the soundtrack of this drama well, because it doesn’t sound good or attractive at all. It’s gutter punk for the art scene. The message is clear: “if you want aesthetically-pleasing, stay the fuck away from us." - Ben Turk

(Schmat Records) These guys aren't kidding around... they really are some sort of Modern Day Urban Barbarians. The cover of the album features a pencil drawn sketch of a cityscape mixed with a scene right out of Dante's Inferno. The music is has a super trashy NYC sound. You know, a bunch of brutes with guitars and a sloppy ass drummer. Or is that all there is to this story? For behind that facade is actually some interesting, albeit wacky music. The chords and singing on certain songs like "Waiting For A Break" and "Pop Culture Casualties" remind me of early Sonic Youth a bit. This isn't heavy headbanging hate metal at least, which is what I was kind of expecting after reading their press sheet which states that the band explores "harsh sounds to pound their message home". Make no mistake though, this is no indiepop by any stretch of the imagination and non-punkers should head for the happier hills of twee right now. In Ramones-esque fashion, the two members both share the last name "Zor-ton". (Someone please inform me if that some sort of trekkie sci-fi thing or did they make that up?) "New Elvis" and "Treading Water" shuffle through completely lopsided beats and frqeuent guitar and drum freakouts. I also liked the change of pace on the atmospheric song "Outer Space". This guy, Jesse Zor-ton often assaults the drums in assymetrical fashion but he is thankfully blissfully ignorant of the Neil Peart school of drum solos. Thus, if he throws a break, he does not seem to care where the beats land exactly or even which drum piece he hits. Likewise with the completely out of tune Devin Zor-ton, who sing-speaks mostly unintelligible vocals with a bit of a British monotone inflection at times. At other times he's like the annoying guy from the B-52's on "Love Shack". But somehow, these musical failings actually seem to work nicely in the context of songs. You want a nice pithy description? No go. But as near as I can tell this is spastic garage band music made by two maniacal aliens who are temporarily stuck on earth and evidently are making the best of their time here. - BY

(Summer of Hate) M.D.U.B. is a New York duo playing drums and bass/vocals. The chord patterns are the really simple punk stuff that we all know and love, except there's no guitar to play them. At times it reminds me of THE CRUCIFUCKS album from 1984, both in vocal style and song structure. The way the songs sort of fall apart and pick up again and the way the spoken vocals demand attention. With only bass and drums the music is really basic and low-fi sounding. The lyrics are personal reflections on life from what sounds like someone my age (33) and situation (no real career). There are quite a few good one-liners here, and there's an urgency to it, even at it's most laid-back moments. Making unconventional noise-based music is very hard. It usually ends up sounding weird-off-the-rack and pretentious. This doesn't. This is really good, though if you're looking for party music this ain't necessarily it. - Karl Backman

(Indieville 2/8/2004) Armed with bass, drums, and Devin Zor-Ton's suitably barbaric vocals, the Modern Day Urban Barbarians have crafted The Endless Retreat as an attack on unprepared ears. The album is a powerful barrage of aggressive garage-esque energy and noisy, explosive chaos. Its garage rock sound is far from White Stripes / Hives territory, so fear not - MDUB have far more in common with early, primitive rock groups like The Sonics et al than any recent bands. The Endless Retreat's main problem is its lack of melody. It sounds like the band is trying to make their sound somewhat accessible, but it isn't working. This album survives more as a record of pure energy - something you pull out when you want to rock out and spasm, but not something for everyday listening. With that said, The Endless Retreat can be a lot of fun. The best song is undoubtedly the last, "Statement," an eight minute plus scorcher packed with groovy riffs and punk-esque vocals. Think Liars and Lou Reed blended together and served up whipped. By the end of it your brain will be fried, which very well could be the reason it was tagged onto the end of the disc. "TV," the first track, is another good one, in all its punk-powered sonic carnage. And the intergalactic space-punk number "Outer Space" is also quite enjoyable, in all its bizarre experimentation. The Endless Retreat is worth picking up if you're into really energetic, 'different' rock music. BUYER BEWARE: Play this shit loud. - Matt Shimmer

(Bullet Proof Pope Mobile) Caught my attention right away. Modern Day Urban Barbarians have a Cramps/Rolling Stones quality to them with lots of noise bursts in the mix. It's just an interesting sound of beautiful punk noise that I really can't describe. It's really more for a listening experience for people to enjoy. So, with that, I highly recommend it. It grows on you very quickly. - Al Andujar, Jr.

(Nothing To Do) Y'Know, i don't know where to begin. The Modern Day Urban Barbarians (or MDUB, as i like to call them) are a duo (distorted bass/vocals and drums) that plays strange music. It's definitely got a good dose of thrashy punk rock, but it's also noisy (think Shellac/Sonic Youth) and often bouncy. Don't expect to hear this on mainstream radio. Whatever it is, i like it. - Justin Kearbey

(NeuFutur 4/21/04) Beginning “The Endless Retreat” with a straight-forward punk assault, albeit with more harmony than the early punk bands that influenced the track, the Modern Day Urban Barbarians spare no time into getting into fast melodies and ever more chaotic breakdowns. Moving from “T.V.” to “Waiting For A Break”, MDUB show over and over that their music is a direct descendent from the Stooges and the Velvet Underground, being strained through a fine mesh of Can and Wire. With vocals aurally similar to early David Byrne, Devin gives the disc two major things: a smoother polish and a more audible sense of harmony. While each of the songs on “The Endless Retreat” has the same breakneck approach and chaotic nature, the fact is that every track on the disc are different enough so that the experience is never repetitive. The brief forays into a Ramones / Iggy Pop-style of vocal inflection, such as in “Pop Culture Casualties”, are the true gems of the disc – being able to maintain the otherworldly noise of the rest of the disc, MDUB are able to make something that is accessible even to the most fair-weather music listener. Moving up to the walking bass lines of “Slaves”, Devin’s vocals are tempered with this go around to sound more like John from TMBG and Jello from the Dead Kennedys. The thrash-punk of the track breaks the track really breaks the sound out from the somewhat compressed recording of the disc, and for a brief moment, the band sounds as if they are playing in my living room. Pretty much the only thing to mar the perfection that is “The Endless Retreat” is the extremely repetitive distortion of the guitar lines on “Outer Space”, acting more as a grating force than actually furthering the song in any meaningful way. If “The Endless Retreat” was released in 1978 or 1979, the album would have been considered one of the most influential of all time. However, in 2003 (when this album came out), the album is still strong, but will never get the popularity it rightfully deserves. “The Endless Retreat” is a Bacchanalian orgy of noises, incredible speed, and brief flashes of harmony that make the album something more than a clattering collection of random parts. The Modern Day Urban Barbarians are the purveyors of a music that is just as valid and vibrant over twenty years after the first practitioners made their first forays into the genre, and MDUB does it quite well.

(Punk Planet no. 61) this drum-and-bass duo play stripped down, semi-groovy noise rock. They pull this style off best when they mix in a bit of traditonal song structure. "statement", "outer space" and "slave" (with great lyrics that accurately describe the frustration of being stuck in a dead-end job) are worth checking out. - aj

(Creative Eclipse) Die Modern Day Urban Barbarians sind ein minimalistisch – experimentelles Punk Duo aus Brooklyn New York. Ich denke die meisten würden so was "Art Punk" nennen, denn es ist definitiv nicht das, was man allgemein unter Punk verstehen könnte. Die Stimme des Sängers erinnert mich etwas an Ian MacKaye zu Minor Threat Zeiten. Alle Songs haben keine Gitarren, es kommen also alle Melodien vom Bass, was alles irgendwie schräg und dissonant erscheinen lässt. Ich unterstelle aber mal, dass dies defintiv Absicht ist. Wer auf Shellac und Sonic Youth steht – zugreifen, der Rest die Finger weg! Denn dieser abgedrehte Punk Noise ist ganz und gar nicht Mainstream tauglich. Die Produktion klingt sehr 80'er Garage mässig. Das Design ist gelungen und schön aufgemacht, passt definitiv zur Klangwelt der Jungs. Die Modern Day Urban Barbarians sind wirklich ein Klangerlebnis für sich, und man braucht etwas Zeit um sie gut zu finden.

(Godsend) Hailing from Brooklyn, this aptly-named duo brings a sort of dirty trash can/garage punk sound that has an oddly-approachable side to it. Songs like 'Waiting For A Break' champion the working class politic while 'Outer Space' is an interesting ode to a spacy digital delay. The flat, deadpan vocals are a bit off-putting, but musically speaking, MDUB's back-to-basics approach is sort of refreshing. They luckily aren't afraid to throw down some more experimental percussive assaults either, that, in a live setting, would probably kick fierce ass. Here in recorded form, it's kind of a muddy and sloppy mess to my ears. If you joined up a more political early RAMONES with a hint of no-wave noisemaking rock, you might come close to MDUB's unusual and no-frills rock nihilism.

(Ampersand Etcetera 7/2005) Every now and then PE move away from cd-rs in card-sleeves with very impressive front & back labels and moves into jewel cases and screen printed disks, I don¹t know why, but this one such case. MDUB are a punky outfit from NY - the Twin Towers feature in a number of these songs of urban angst. Devin and Jesse Zor-Ton are the guiding lights on drum, bass, bass-played-like-guitar (feedback, riffing, solo), a few effects (like echo, fuzz, distortion) and a sax on one track. Somewhat better produced than lo-fi garage rock, it fits into the genre with one of the Zor-Tons declaiming the lyrics (available in the gatefold) over churning but groovy rock for 9 tracks in 35 minutes. Which means it rocks along nicely, with an appropriately spacey feel in Outer space and then a longer workout in Statement to conclude. Post-millennial apocalyptic punk true to the NY tradition, with broader nods (I was reminded of The Fall at times). - Jeremy Keens

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