Articles

2019 Year-End Top Tens, Part Two

Another round of 2019 picks from the Maximum extended family.

Part one is here. Part three to follow next week…

AL QUINT

Al Quint is a long-time Maximum Rocknroll columnist, as well as the publisher of Suburban Voice fanzine and blog and host of Sonic Overload radio. He lives in Massachusetts. Contact him at subvox82@gmail.com 

ISS – Alles 3rd Gut LP (Sorry State)
ISS are the punk rock masters of found-sound permutations. I’m not sure how much is live instrumentation and how much comes from samples, but it coalesces into something that doesn’t come across as cold experimentation. And there are tunes—sublime melodies popping up on “Workshopping” and “Fake V Flake,” the former sampling Julie Cafritz’s FUCK YOU from PUSSY GALORE’s “Cunt Tease.” The spot-the-sample game is always fun. I smiled when hearing the animal noises from FLUX’s “Neu Smell” and the drumbeat from SS DECONTROL’s “How Much Art” merging for “Aromatherapy.” There are other nods to hardcore, as with “Mac N Me” and “DDYSWHP” and the back cover is taken from the BEASTIE BOYS’ Pollywog Stew. “White Man In Hammer Pants” rides a dubby PiL bass line. ISS’s lyrics are clever and make a strong point without relying on slogans. A common thread is, my god, being an adult can really turn into a suburban soul-sucking existence, can’t it? Save your sanity—play this loud and avoid such misery.

UBIK – Next Phase 12″ (Iron Lung)
Melbourne’s UBIK’s first 12″ is a power-packed statement, from both a musical and lyrical perspective. They’re successful at cross-blending various punk shadings, including goth, anarcho, tuneful US West Coast and even full-on thrash for the closing song “You Make Me Sick.” A sense of urgency and anger comes out in Ash’s vocals as the words cast a critical, angry-as-fuck eye on affairs both at home (“Peter Dutton Is a Terrorist”) and beyond (“John Wayne [Is A Cowboy and On Twitter]”). Their music has a similar urgency.

KOHTI TUHOA – Ihmisen Kasvot LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Ravaging hardcore by this Finnish unit and their third album ups the ante with powerhouse playing and production. A statement against a world that “breeds psychopaths, cold-hearted monsters who will never regret a thing,” according to the English translation of the title track, which translates to “The Face of Man.” And that rage is served up in short, succinct doses. The stomping “Pinnah Alla” has a damaged, head-messing guitar line and that flows seamlessly into the full-blitz attack of “Mulkkujen Maailma.” Doing it the right way, with concise, methodical aggression.

SAP – 2 demo CS (self-released)
SAP is a scrappy, high-energy punk band that mixes different strains together, incorporating post-punk, hardcore, garage and melodic touches into their sound, accompanied by Alex’s hyper, expressive vocals. Well-played; the bass, in particular, is stellar throughout. Some impressive runs on “Carrot and Stick” and providing a solid counterpoint to the stinging guitar on “Short Stick.”

CRISIS MAN – The Myth of Moderation EP (Digital Regress)
Ranty, snotty hardcore punk with Ross Farrar from CEREMONY on vocals… this is real back-to-the-roots stuff for Ross, as CEREMONY moved away (evolved, or devolved?) from the punk ferocity of their masterwork Rohnert Park. Ross punctuates his vocals with painful interjections, like someone’s giving him a hotfoot. Gnashing, slashing guitar lines create a heady, twisted effect that goes straight for the skull.

THE VICTIMS – LP (In The Red)
Yes, a reissue of sorts. This is an archival godsend of early Aussie punk. I’m sure that anyone with even a passing knowledge of KBD fodder has heard this band’s “Television Addict.” Details are scant (no liner notes, even with a gatefold jacket) but, essentially, this is a reissue of a Japanese collection from 2011 called Sleeping Dogs Lie and side one features all of their recordings from ’77–’78, plus an unreleased song, “Perth Is a Culture Shock.” Side two consists of previously-unreleased demos, just about all of ’em rough, fast and scorching. You could almost call many of these songs proto-hardcore  and the demo material sounds akin to UK82 era bands like the PARTISANS but five years early. A poppier side emerges for “I Understand” and there’s a KINKS-ish vibe on “High School Girls.” The tour-de-force is the nearly six-minute cacophonic mania of “Disco Junkies.” Essential shit.

HASH REDACTOR – Drecksound LP (Goner)
Charlotte and Meredith from NOTS join Alec from EX-CULT and one other individual to form this unit. It’s closer to EX-CULT’s loud punk/post-punk mesh. The bouncy “Floral Pattern” and “Lotion Poet Laureate” owe a debt to the FALL, more from a musical point of view than Alec’s vocal cadence, although it’s not completely absent. Some brooding properties are introduced for “In the Tank,” with a bluesy guitar undertow. “Down the Tubes” goes straight for the throat with jabbing basslines and drum patterns and twisted guitar lines. A good balance of aggro and darker properties.

NOTS – 3 LP (Goner)
The “3” has a dual meaning here—it’s NOTS’s third album and their first as a three-piece, with Natalie Hoffman handling all guitar and synthesizer/keyboards, complementing her detached-sounding vocals. Some songs eschew guitar completely, as the synth creates a heady sonic tapestry with beeps, blips, washes sometimes generating a frenzy, as with “Floating Hand.” The bass and drums lock in perfectly, moving things along at a driving pace. Paring down the lineup doesn’t compromise NOTS’s sweeping sound one bit.

NEON – 12″ (Square One Again)
NEON is abrasive. They’re atonal. They have a way of getting under your skin and there’s no way to break loose. It’s an incessant assault of frenetic punk/post-punk/no wave, accompanied by a repetitive word attack that becomes an extra instrument. Not so much lyrics as words phrases and narratives repeated ad-infinitum, drenched with sarcasm and cynicism. Those vocals are wrapped around and run counter to the musical chaos, punctuated by jarring, slashing, sliding guitar lines, busy bass and walloping drums. It’ll leave your head spinning.

SKIZOPHRENIA – Undead Melodies EP (Distort Reality)
SKIZOPHRENIA was one of the more-entertaining bands I saw in 2019 and this 7” gives you a hint of their trigger-finger power. Classic Japanese pillage à la SYSTEMATIC DEATH and these guys can playyyyy….One of my local musical compatriots mentioned that they reminded him of LAUKAUS, too, and I’d concur. They’ve been around for over a decade and these four songs show they’re not letting up one bit.

ALEX SMITH

I am a sci-fi writer, music/arts journalist, collage artist, actor, dj, curator, afrofuturist. I also sing in the bands RAINBOW CRIMES and SOLARIZED who also put out records this year and I think they’re both worthy of this list too! Support Black, queer, POC artists!

THE IRE – demo CS (self-released)
Fun, chaotic BANSHEES-esque post-punk/afropunk with dreamy vocals, wild energy and Black girl magic. The IRE are so good I passed up a PROTOMARTYR show to catch their debut; wasn’t disappointed. Angelic swaths of chorus-pedal mastery offset by frantic beats and desperate, angry lyrics, the IRE is one of the best bands in the punk oeuvre happening right now. Catch them at all costs.

OOLOI – From the Dust, A New World Emerged, Barren and Awaiting Our Sorrows LP (self-released)
Philly’s requisite noise-jazz band, letting the chaos rain down from ORNETTE COLEMAN’s seat in heaven. Quantum spirit skronk for the new world.

SOUL GLO – The Nigga in Me Is Me LP (SRA)
Wildest band in America releases wildest record—noisy, dangerous uncompromising screamy hardcore from radical punks of color, these songs are visceral experiments in catharsis set against the apocalyptic backdrop of modern American landscape.

TRUTH CULT – The Pressure EP (Advanced Perspective)
Was made a true believer at Break Free Fest in Philly after seeing them live! Dizzying, bombastic punk with a delicious, chaotic swing à la SWIZ, MC5 and NATION OF ULYSSES. High-energy truth tellin’ and glorious soothsayin’.

LADRONES – LP (Slovenly)
Don’t know much about this band, but the LP rocks. Propulsive, vampiric punk from Atlanta that feels like a band made up of ’80s TV punks swingin’ chains and hangin’ out.

MOOR MOTHER – Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes LP (Don Giovanni)
Masterful. Genius. Weird. Punk as fuck. MOOR MOTHER’s work continues to expand, push and destroy the limits of punk, electronic music, hip-hop and the spoken word. Caustic, behemoth rhythms collide with sun-drenched, nova-exploding sheets of sound. The Afrofuturism we need right now.

BLACKS’ MYTH – Blacks’ Myth II LP (Atlantic Rhythm)
Surprise record for me in 2019, this is a screeching, air-raid siren of a record. It’s frantic spectral jazz that eludes labels, like LAST EXIT laced with tachyons. I really need more damaged, fractured offerings from both punk and jazz music in 2020; this record will lead that charge.

DISAPPEARANCES – III EP (self-released)
Wall-of-sound screamy hardcore reminiscent of the ’90s glory days of bands like RORSCHACH and the Canadian (URANUS, DRIFT) and German (ACME) groups that worshipped them. Don’t twist it though; this isn’t an homage, this is modern, punk-as-fuck mayhem that manages to find some hope among the ashes.

SENSUAL WORLD – Feeling Wild LP (Stupid Bag)
Great goth-punk from VA, this record lives up to its name. Wild and energetic but not at the expense of excellent songwriting. JOY DIVISION somehow covering the GO-GO’S underwater gets you a sound like SENSUAL WORLD.

KISSIES – S EP (Larry)
I swear, I’m not that big a screamo fan, but when it’s done right, it feels good, especially when it’s done by marginalized people who actually have something to scream about. With the rawness of early ORCHID and the swag of HUGGY BEAR, KISSIES make me wanna dance my trauma away.

ALLAN MCNAUGHTON

Allan McNaughton has reviewed records for MRR since moving to San Francisco from Scotland in 1995. In 2019 his band NEUTRALS released their debut LP, Kebab Disco

It’s been another amazing year for music and another fucked up year for everything else. It usually takes records a while to connect for me. Will I look back on 2019 a in few years and still think these are the best albums that came out that year? So let’s call this a list of records from 2019 that I think are all great in their own way. Several of these I was assigned for review in this very magazine/website. The Etc list is stuff that (like most of my music consumption these days) probably falls outside the MRR area of coverage. You probably know we have had to make some difficult but necessary changes to how Maximum Rocknroll works this past year. It’s taking us some time to figure out exactly how to adapt to our new non-print world in the optimal way. Maybe you’ve got some ideas? Feel free to get in touch if you do. Regardless, we will carry on doing what we do.

Albums:

MICK TROUBLE – ….Here’s the Mick Trouble LP (Emotional Response)

LOW LIFE – Downer Edn LP (Alter / Cool Death / Goner)

THE WORLD – Reddish LP (Lumpy / Microminiature)

HYGIENE – Private Sector LP (Upset the Rhythm)

EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING – All In Good Time LP (Castle Face)

CURRENT AFFAIRS – Object & Subject LP (Tough Love)

NEGATIVE GEARS – LP (Disinfect / Static Shock)

BLUES LAWYER – Something Different LP (Mt. St. Mtn)

STRANGE PASSAGE – Shouldn’t Be Too Long LP (Syncro System)

MATERIAL – Leather LP (self-released)

MIDNITE SNAXXX – Music Inside LP (Slovenly)

CHRONOPHAGE – Prolog for Tomorrow LP (Cleta-Patra)

DOTS – LP (Dirt Cult)

Singles, Comps, Reissues:

CURRENT AFFAIRS – Buckle Up / Worlds In Crisis 45 (dotx3)

SUBURBAN HOMES – E.P. 3 EP (Neck Chop)

CHUBBY & THE GANG – All Along The Uxbridge Road / Mockba 45 (Static Shock)

YUMMY FUR – Piggy Wings LP (Rock Action)

THE TEA SET – Back In Time For Tea LP (Cleopatra)

Etc:

PATIENCE – Dizzy Spells LP (Night School / Winona)

SACRED PAWS – Run Around The Sun LP (Rock Action)

TRASH KIT – Horizon LP (Upset the Rhythm)

SEA BLITE – Grass Stains and Novocaine (Emotional Response)

BUSINESS OF DREAMS – Ripe For Anarchy LP (Knock Yr Socks Off / Slumberland)

FONTAINES D.C. – Dogrel LP (Partisan)

THE CHATS – Get This In Ya!! 12″ (Bargain Bin)

ARTO HIETIKKO

I’m the editor of the long-running Toinen Vaihtoehto zine, and occasionally also the mastermind behind the small DIY punk label called Nunchakupunk. I’m also every year more and more involved with the annual Puntala punk fest. Despite being an old fart and starting my punk career at the era of safety-pins in the late-’70s, my motto is “Punk is happening here and now, so stop living in the past you morons!” 

In the middle of the impending global catastrophe, the rise of fascism and other shit, the amount of great new DIY punk releases in 2019 has been simply amazing. What a year! My “Best of 2019” list actually contains about 60 releases altogether so to make it a top ten has meant hard work, sacrifices, tears and sweat. I had to leave out loads of terrific 12”s like D7Y, NURSE OF WAR – Εις Τόπον Χλοερόν, BAD BREEDING – Exiled, BOMBARDEMENT, GAME – No One Wins, LARMA, DEFORMATION, OHYDA –  Koszmar, OBSESSIÓ, SUBVERSIVE RITE – Songs For The End Times, ENZYME –  Howling Wind, BAD JESUS EXPERIENCE – Kaikki On Hyvin, SUDOR – Causa General, CHAIN CULT – Shallow Grave, AXE RASH, 経血 (KEIKETSU) / EYESCREAM / NO NO NO ‎– Croon a Lullaby, EXTENDED HELL Mortal Wound, etc, and 7”s like LOOSE NUKES – Behind the Screen, SCREAMING FIST – Venganza, MOCK EXECUTION – Reality Attack, RIGOROUS INSTITUTION – Penitent and The Coming of a Terror, POBREZA MENTAL – Ya No Me Pertenezco, OHJUS – Ohjuskaaos, STATE FUNERAL – Built For Destruction, IMPULSO –  Costante Ossessione, RAAMATTU, YLEISET SYYT, IDIOTA CIVILIZZATO – Civiltà Idiota, HARAM – Where Were You on 9/11?, ELECTRIC CHAIR – Performative Justice, SLANT –  Vain Attempt, VAASKA – Inocentes Condenados, etc. All definitely worth checking out if you already haven’t. I also have impatiently waited forward to HOSPITALET 7″ EP, YHTEENOTTO LP and LADRONA 7″ EP to finally come out, just to name a few, and there have been lots of great demos/tapes (ATTEMPT, TZAR BOMBA, THE MOOR, INFRA…) so it very much seems that the flood of great releases will continue next year as well.

KHIIS – Bezoar LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Brilliant, ripping hardcore punk with riffs so catchy I’m humming them while listening. And oh boy how much I have listened to Bezoar! I don’t seem to get enough of it. All killer no filler.

VIDRO – Allt Brinner LP (Kink)
VIDRO doesn’t sound like the other current hardcore punk bands: the guitarist plays with a vaguely psychedelic touch, there’s no distortion, no delayed vocals, and they don’t even try to play as fast as they can, yet they sound very powerful and angry, on their own terms. I love this LP.

KALEIDOSCOPE – After the Futures… LP (Toxic State / La Vida Es Un Mus)
To my ears, KALEIDOSCOPE often sounds like a rougher, louder, and angrier version of the PROLETARIAT. They don’t conform to any current trends, their influences come from noise rock and here and there and who knows where, yet they always sound angry, intimidating, violent, and very punk. On top of that, they have very political lyrics (and a 16-page booklet with lyrics and artwork, something which was common back in the days but very rare nowadays). I have a feeling this LP will stand the test of time.

KOHTI TUHOA – Ihmisen Kasvot LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Top class hardcore punk with a nice variation in songs, from tornado-like intensity to slower yet energetic as hell tracks, making sure I never get bored. Sounds exciting, fresh, and breath-takingly good.

PHYSIQUE – The Evolution of Combat 12″ (Distort Reality)
Beautifully pummeling “disbones crasher” hardcore punk. Sure, they owe a lot to DISCHARGE and DISCLOSE, but also refine the sound, push the original idea forward. A devastating 12″.

JUGGLING JUGULARS – Insurrection LP (Trująca Fala / Break the Silence / Roku)
I have followed JUGGLING JUGULARS since their very beginning in 1989, and they have always been a very important band for me. In 2019 they celebrated their 30th anniversary and released Insurrection, one of their best releases ever, very possibly even their magnum opus. It sounds like no other band but JUGGLING JUGULARS. All their familiar trademarks are present: a perfect blend of hardcore punk, melodic punk, and anarcho-punk, done with a sense of style. To my ears they sound more melodic than ever, yet without losing the punk edge. They have a rare ability to make you simultaneously both feel good and be angry about the injustices in the world. A great album with a healthy amount of uplifting, positive anarcho punk spirit, from one of the longest running and most underrated Finnish punk bands ever. [Sadly their guitarist Tero passed away in November. RIP.]

ANTIMOB – II LP (Εξωτικός Παροξυσμός)
ANTIMOB did it again. I waited forward to this LP so much and wasn’t disappointed. There are ten tracks of consistently delivered, well-structured, powerful hardcore punk, flavored with Japanese hardcore influences. ANTIMOB rocks more than ever. I’m never much into guitar solos, but this time even I have no reason to whine as it’s all put together so seamlessly: the solos, the melodies, the anger, the riffs. Impressive.

CESSPOOL – We Hide Among You 12″ (Adult Crash)
The Copenhagen-based international band delivers eight tracks of hard-hitting hardcore punk oozing power and attitude. They’re possibly a hipster band but I can’t help liking this 12” a lot.

SWORDWIELDER – System Overlord LP (Profane Existence / Scream)
A hammering piece of old school stench crust done extremely well. I very rarely listen to crust nowadays but in this case I gladly make an exception. Especially because whenever I’m in the mood for AMEBIX I can put this one on without having to think about a certain conspiracy theorist/Holocaust denier sympathizer. A huge relief. Ride on, Swordwielder! Bra gjort, killar!

MALCRÍA – El Reino De Lo Falso 12″ (Iron Lung)
Dark, noisy, and forceful hardcore punk with nicely desperate vocals, and occasionally sounding like they were on the verge of chaos. P-U-N-K.

ASHLEY RAMSEY

Ashley Ramsey is the singer of Perth’s COLD MEAT.

HACKER – demo CS (self-released)
Head-splitting hardcore punk from Melbourne by members of UBIK, SOAKIE and INFINITE VOID to name a few. This release is just what I needed this February, coming out of the summer holidays feeling disillusioned and miserable about the state of the world. Every song is a bolt of energy but I reckon “After the Confetti—What?” is the stand out. A reference to Sydney artist Jan McKay’s 1977 poster that critiques conservative ideals of marriage (“no offence meant, I’m sure”). Absolute ripper!

JUDY AND THE JERKS – Music for Donuts EP (Thrilling Living)
Silly, energetic punk from a favorite four-piece of mine from Mississippi. I love the bratty vocals and lyrics about biting and fighting undercut by tuff riffs and fast drums. There’s a lovely variety of sounds and paces throughout the EP, which starts with a mess of experimental clunking and clattering before launching into a pummelling ode to butter. “Cyclops Baby” is a great final track, winding down the EP with a slower, sludgier sound.

UBIK – Next Phase 12″ (Iron Lung)
This 12” offers an exciting development after two great post-punk EPs and split 7”. I’m definitely a fan of the faster paced punkier songs at the end of the record, like “New Disease” and “You Make Me Sick. Ash’s furious vocals stand out over lacerating guitar, meaty bass and bludgeoning hardcore drums. I hope they continue to head in this direction, while continuing to take the piss out of old conservative twits on twitter. 

NYLEX – Plastic for People LP (No Patience)
NYLEX has to be one of the most entertaining bands to watch in Australia at the moment and Perth has been lucky enough to have two visits from them in the last couple of years. There is an amazing cohesive energy between the instruments and frontwoman Celeste is like a lightning rod catching it all and transmitting the electricity to the audience. The album is made up of nine super catchy post-punk songs with accelerating build ups and staggering halts that give you moments to catch your breath. Highly recommended for fans of XMAL DEUTSCHLAND and PYLON.

PARANOIAS – demo CS (self-released)
Cute music made by cute people in Perth, WA. This is the kind of fun punk I’m obsessed with at the moment, in the same ilk as BB EYE, WARM BODIES and JUDY AND THE JERKS. The band offers a surfier, ’60s garage spin on things, Chris and Alex being from bands that have flirted with this style in the past (BIKINI COPS and ABORTED TORTOISE respectively). Hannah’s bratty, high-pitched vocals really sets the band apart from anything I’ve heard before though. EP coming out early next year so keep an eye out!

GENERACION SUICIDA – Australia tour CS (Lost in Fog)
We were lucky enough to be graced with a visit from GENERACION SUICIDA this year and I was amazed at the relentless intensity they maintained throughout their sets. The hyper-active but insanely tight drumming, clean melodic guitars and Spanish dual vocals make these songs a heartfelt and passionate invitation to unite as a community with the common goal of dissent. This limited edition tape features previously unreleased material and B-sides—six absolute bangers all up!

M.A.Z.E. – 12″ (Lumpy)
I was recently introduced to this band via local label/distro Helta Skelta Records. When I first started listening to this EP I was reminded of ’60s band of teenage sisters the SHAGGS, with unnervingly discordant guitars and clumsy drums accentuated by sincere, child-like vocals. They offer a more established pop/new wave sound as the records progresses, with some songs reminding me of early DEERHOOF (another forgotten treasure I was glad to revisit).

EXEK – Some Beautiful Species Left LP (Anti Fade / Digital Regress / SDZ)
Another moving album from Melbourne’s EXEK. It’s hard to find this kind of experimentation in punk nowadays with elements of jazz, industrial and dub combined but I’m very open to recommendations. There’s moments that remind me of JUDY NYLON and sometimes SWELL MAPS. The dub elements and droning vocals create an oppressive, heavy atmosphere that’s hard to snap out of, like trying to wake up after a Valium-aided flight or going out after listening to ROBERT WYATT’s Rock Bottom

URANIUM CLUB – The Cosmo Cleaners: The Higher Calling of Business Provocateurs LP (Fashionable Idiots / Static Shock)
Another cracker album from these Minneapolis punks, who seem to take being silly very seriously. They maintain their DEVO sound but introduce more RICHARD HELL-like proto-punk riffs in songs like Definitely Infrared Radiation Sickness. A smart move on their behalf, as an entire album of silliness can be a bit tedious and even contrived I reckon. The second half of the album is a bizarre mish-mash of styles, including almost eight minutes of spoken word, a few sincere, slower moments of what initially sounds like a love song and then straight back to the jangly guitar/goofy vocals nonsense.

VIVIEN GOLDMAN – Revenge of the She-punks book (University of Texas Press)
If anyone is going to do their PhD on punk it should be Vivien Goldman, singer of New Wave duo CHANTAGE and FLYING LIZARDS. Here she brings us a concise history of the women who pushed boundaries in punk through the categorisation of four themes: identity, money, love and protest. She claims at the start of the book: “[women] are a threat to men because they challenge male supremacy in a citadel that has never been attacked before; they threaten women who perhaps never dared acknowledge that they want to be onstage doing the energizing instead of watching their boyfriends do it, in passive admiration” and unpacks this sentiment  with stories about the RAINCOATS, POLY STYRENE, DELTA 5, CRASS, the BAGS etc. etc. All our favorites are here, this is a must-read!

DANI ALVAREZ

Mi nombre es Daniel Alvarez, tengo 28 años, soy Mexicano y soy maricón. Toco en un par de bandas como Cremalleras, Heterofobia y Máximo Fracaso.

SOGA – Demo 12″ (Iron Lung)
Esta es una de las cosas más excitantes que han sucedido en los últimos años en el punk mexicano, todos los tracks de este LP son pura descarga de ruido y furia. Un disco y una banda imperdibles.

LORETTA – Bleach My Brain CS (self-released)
Este es el primer demo de LORETTA con 6 grandes canciones llenas de voces divertidas y guitarras rockanrolleras, bastante pegajoso y de pronto siento una vibra de twee pop en algunas canciones.

POBREZA MENTAL – Ya No Me Pertenezco EP (Toxic State)
Una loquera hardcore-punk de principio a fin. Letras en español llenas de rabia, de lo mejor que suena en NY estos días y con una alineación de músicos increíbles.

CURRENT AFFAIRS – Object & Subject LP (Tough Love)
Este LP contiene casi todas las canciones que habían editado anteriormente en 7”s, post-punk con toques muy poperos y New Wave. Un sonido que no había topado últimamente, algo más bailable y más dreamy.

NEON – 12″ (Square One Again)
No sé si exista un sonido o una sola palabra para describir lo que estas mujeres hacen, solo sé que este LP es una mezcla de muchas cosas que no me han dejado parar de escucharlo.

PINOCCHIO – My Time Vol. 1 EP (Toxic State)
El EP debut de PINOCCHIO fue una cosa que me sacó de onda en la primera escuchada, pero fue por los motivos correctos. La voz es impactante y la música me parece que tiene una fórmula bien interesante. No creo que tengan un sonido nada común, es lo que hace que te vuele la cabeza.

THE VERTIGOS – Out Of My Head CS (self-released)
Punk, Rock’n’rol, garage, total diversión desde Tokyo, este primer demo me encanta porque me recuerda a varias cosas que me encantan sobre muchas bandas de los ’70s y ’80s.

JUDY AND THE JERKS – Music For Donuts EP (Thrilling Living)
Este es sin duda uno de los mejores discos de punk hardcore que salieron en este 2019, todo está bien en este disco, incluso desde la portada me parece fabulosa creo que fue unos de los que más escuché este año.

OLOR A MUERTE – Execution CS (self-released)
Fue una de mis cosas favoritas en este año, desde la primera escuchada. Canciones cortas, ruidosas, una voz fuerte. Un disco corto, crudo y directo.

ARGUMENT? – Paintings EP (dotx3)
Este disco y esta banda son de mis cosas actuales favoritas, bajo, batería y 2 voces, no se necesita más, es perfecto para bailar y gritar y para jotear, una total inspiración para todas las personas queer dentro del punk.

DULCINEA GONZALEZ

Vox and guitar – Midnite Snaxxx.

THE WORLD – Reddish LP (Lumpy / Microminiature)
Tapping into the wonderful universe of the SLITS, VIVIAN GOLDMAN, and AU PAIRS, Reddish is a total punky reggae party, coming across like this fantastic early-’80s Rough Trade disc that was somehow skipped over the first time around. The WORLD’s artful blend of well-crafted dub-vibe guitar, smartly layered percussion and dual saxophone results in maximum joy. Dance, get high, be free and have fun in the WORLD.

COLLATE – Communication / Selective Memory 7″ (Market Square)
The art-damaged and deconstructed “Communication” is a ringer, akin to contemporaries like LITHICS and SHOPPING, scratching the proverbial punk itch with these pulsing, angular licks and pissed-off poindexter vocals. Mastery of the art of falling apart! The B-side steps up the groove with a schooled awareness of DELTA 5 and BUSH TETRAS, complete with dead-pan vocals and primitive rhythm guitar. So cool.

PSCIENCE – LP (Space Taker)
New Orleans punks from TRAMPOLINE TEAM and BLACK ABBA do punk/new-wave synth styles. Infectious tunes with percolating beats, shared she-humanoid vocals, all dancing on top of this weird computer trash sound with lyrical tendencies leaning in a darker direction. A thoroughly satisfying album that’s both an upper and a downer, my current go-to soundtrack that gives me strength to face this fucked-up world. I simply straight-up love this shit. 

MOPE GROOVES – Desire LP (See My Friends)
DIY Portland art punks walk in the abstract fashion of YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS and RAINCOATS while mixing in the playful melancholy of the Dunedin Sound. I love the refreshing daydreamer nature of this record, built with an artistic landscape of synths, curious percussion and lullaby xylophone. Sublime music for a dark world. Super recommended.

THE RATS – In a Desperate Red LP (Mississippi)
OK, I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say this is just one of the greatest records of all time. Almost like the Pacific Northwest counterpart to X’s iconic Los Angeles. The real deal: raw, cutting, soulful. These are well-crafted songs with pure punk immediacy. So good, it hurts. Kill me.

NOTS – 3 LP (Goner)
Here we find NOTS’ most potent album to date. Energized and concentrated, there is a clarity in this recording that makes it more substantial than previous. Apocalyptic sounds, eerie, strange and danceable, I absolutely love their evolution. 

WARP – Traffic Control LP (Thrilling Living)
WARP rips and twists through our dark dystopia, sounding heroic the whole time. Performance and production are both incredible, hot, fierce and layered. Extra cool and seething lyrics too. Great record!

NEON – 12″ (Square One Again)
Oakland’s NEON feeds off of the perverse pleasure and empowerment that comes from being justifiably pissed off. Racing thoughts, jerking guitar and rhythm fury all blend into a fresh and highly invigorating take on hardcore punk. Kudos!

ISS – Alles 3rd Gut LP (Sorry State)
What a brilliant record! Totally innovative, prodding and playful. ISS takes the culture of recycling to new levels, distorting it into their own creation. “Elevator Shaft” is a standout DJ punk hit! True punk—no future. Highest recommendation!

CURRENT AFFAIRS – Object & Subject LP (Tough Love)
Break out the fishnet arm sleeves! This one flashes back to London circa-1982, dancing at The Bat Cave. CURRENT AFFAIRS seem to root themselves in JOHNNY MARR inspired guitar stylings (complete with period-appropriate effects) and crazy cool, nuanced vox that recall SIOUXSIE SIOUX at her brightest. Post-punk with big hooks and broad appeal.

ERIKA ELIZABETH

Erika Elizabeth plays bass in the band COLLATE, hosts the radio show Futures & Pasts, and was the mind behind column of the same name that used to run in MRR (and might return someday). She lives in Portland, Oregon. 

Ten things from 2019, in alphabetical order:

BLUES LAWYER – Something Different LP (Mt. St. Mtn.)
Bruised heart vignettes delivered in punchy bursts of two minutes or less, economical in approach but with plenty of emotional weight—“grappling with the realities of daily life and romance in a modern world where hyper-connectivity only seems to result in greater alienation from one another,” to quote myself. The unassuming guy/gal harmonies and skewed-pop charm of their debut LP from last year really had me thinking of BLUES LAWYER as a 21st century response to the VASELINES, and the addition of some no-frills drum machine on a handful of the songs on this follow-up only reinforces that parallel. Not a bad thing!

CHRONOPHAGE – Prolog for Tomorrow LP (Cleta-Patra)
A casualty of 2018’s year-end list-making deadline as it quietly turned up at the last possible moment in December, a reminder of the inherent flaw in trying to conduct the final analysis of a year that’s not actually over yet. On the tapes leading up to this LP, CHRONOPHAGE flipped through the textbook of outsider pop inspirations from the past fifty years (the VELVET UNDERGROUND, the whole Flying Nun/Xpressway scene in New Zealand, scratchy ’78–’83 UK DIY, early ’90s lo-fi home recorders, etc.), and while the group is definitely still citing many of those same references this time around, Prolog for Tomorrow operates as a much more cohesive and singular statement of intent. 

COMET GAIN – Fireraisers Forever! LP (Tapete)
COMET GAIN have been at it since the mid-’90s, crafting their own kaleidoscopic cut-up sound that draws equally from shambling C86-style indie pop, the hip-swinging stomp of Motown and Northern soul, raw ’60s garage rock  and swinging mod freakbeat. Fireraisers Forever! exists in a universe where raucous, pinned-in-the-red punky rave-ups like “Werewolf Jacket” and “We’re All Fucking Morons” exist in the same orbit as cracked psychedelia (“The Girl With the Melted Mind and Her Fear of the Open Door,” which sounds like the TELEVISION PERSONALITIES if they’d been raised on Slampt Records instead of Syd Barrett) and jangly, pedal steel-accented odes to members of SWELL MAPS (“The Godfrey Brothers”), and it is top-to-bottom brilliant. Their finest LP since the Réalistes / City Fallen Leaves double knockout from last decade. 

CURRENT AFFAIRS – Buckle Up / Worlds In Crisis 45 (dotx3)
Waved-out post-punk via Glasgow with belted-out vocals from Joan Sweeney that strike a balance between giddy day-glo pop and goth-tinged gloom. Their previous single and cassette leaned more toward a SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES-esque drama, but aside from some prominent chorus-saturated guitar, the big-hair-and-eyeliner vibe that I was picking up here was closer to femme-centered ’80s practioners like (early) WE’VE GOT A FUZZBOX AND WE’RE GOING TO USE IT, if anything—all of that tambourine on “Worlds in Crisis”! Do you want new wave or do you want the truth?

DEE-PARTS – Collected Recordings CS (Disposable America)
Collected Recordings combines two digital-only EPs from late 2018 and early 2019 with a new, previously unreleased third EP, but nothing about it feels pieced together. Vocalist Lira Mondal shifts effortlessly from icy and deadpan spoken incantations to soaring, ethereal melodies straight out of some early 4AD fantasy, while the instrumental framework (driving bass, subdued guitar, computer-programmed drums) is sparse without being simplistic. The basic reference points are some of the ones that you’d likely expect from that description (YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS’ expertly minimalist Colossal Youth album, the darkly danceable NEW ORDER-leaning output of Factory Records, any number of ’80s bands existing at the axis of stark post-punk and gauzy dream pop), without ever falling into the trap of straight historical reenactment. 

NEUTRALS – Kebab Disco LP (Emotional Response)
Punked-up mod-pop for now people, owing as much to the direct, tightly-wound edge of WIRE post-punk as the proto-C86 melancholic jangle of bands like the TELEVISION PERSONALITIES. Allan’s vocals have a world-weary nonchalance as he chronicles the harsh realities facing a one-time youthful idealist transplanted to modern San Francisco, backed by jittery, razor-sharp guitar and propulsive bass that are way too tense for any of the misguided indie pop/twee tags that seem to keep getting slapped on the band. 

NOTS – 3 LP (Goner)
The leanest, most caustic album to date from NOTS, who have been ruling the paranoid post-punk game for the better part of the last decade. Pummeling drums and hypnotic infinite loop bass lines push the songs forward with a frantic urgency, as vocalist Natalie Hoffman alternates between whirring synth and quick slashes of guitar while shouting about some of the darkest and most dystopian aspects of our modern reality (society eroding women’s autonomy, normalization of the surveillance state, notions of spectatorship and gaze as they relate to technology and the construction of identity, etc). 

VITAL IDLES – Break A EP (Upset the Rhythm)
Quite possibly my favorite VITAL IDLES release yet, and I’ve been a shameless fan ever since their first cassette popped up back in 2015. In the spirit of the UK DIY tradition from which they’ve clearly descended, I feel like the 7” format is the ideal means for them to present their spiky and off-kilter, pop-informed art-punk to the world—efficient, compact, contained. An absolute dream for anyone with PASTELS and PETTICOATS singles sitting side-by-side in their record collections. 

THE WORLD – Reddish LP (Lumpy / Microminiature)
Another round of skronked-out perfection from Oakland’s preeminent disciples of the ’78–’82 Rough Trade catalog. Shuddering dub-damaged guitar, hopscotch basslines, fiery sax, drumming motivated toward movement (with a percussive assist from bongos and shakers), and Amber’s coolly detached vocals, all delivered in urgent sub-three minute bursts designed for maximum dancefloor agitation. 

XV – LP (Life Like)
The debut release from Detroit’s XV was pressed in an edition of 100 copies and sold out in about a day, so from a purely supply-and-demand perspective, it seems a little cruel to mention it here, but it’s my best-of list and I’ll include it if I want to. Freewheeling art-punk stripped down to a foundation so skeletal that it sounds like it’s on the verge of completely collapsing at every turn—stream-of-consciousness lyrics about topics ranging from Saran Wrap to crushes on characters from Aladdin all delivered in a deadpan monotone, wobbly Fall-ish bass and tangled No Wave guitar lines, noisy freakouts and spontaneous meltdowns galore. The most out-there American DIY sounds have always seemed to be spawned in the Midwest, and XV are truly upholding that tradition. Absolute freedom through utter deconstruction. 

Shout-out to some reissues of note: GHOSTS OF DANCE – Walking Through Gardens LP (Dark Entries), KIZZA PING – Forst River Man Allt LP (Fördämning Arkiv), KAREN MARKS – Cold Cafe LP (Efficient Space), THE RATS – In A Desperate Red LP (Mississippi Records/Water Wing), SPORTEN ÄR DÖD – LP (Fördämning Arkiv)

KAI BOSWORTH

Kai Bosworth lives in Richmond, VA and very occasionally posts at Stochastic Slide

2019 was as apocalyptic a time as I’ve ever experienced. If punk is to survive (as a social form as much as a style of music), it’ll have to be through proactive forms of solidarity that fight to defend and expand neighborhoods, public spaces, care networks. Here are some of the records that might support such endeavors.

CHRONOPHAGE – Prolog for Tomorrow LP (Cleta-Patra)
You might be tricked into believing that Prolog for Tomorrow was a recently-unearthed and reissued 1981 cassette from a long-lost Brighton or Manchester band covering GUN CLUB songs…if it weren’t for the amazing GAME THEORY-esque “She Paid the Ultimate Price.” (“Released December 28, 2018”—get over it).

M.A.Z.E. – 12″ (Lumpy)
Something like 2019’s version of Y-PANTS by way of Japan, M.A.Z.E. demonstrates the enduring truth that punk’s seeming simplicity belies its pure genius.

TAIWAN HOUSING PROJECT – Sub-Language Trustees LP (ever/never)
I’m convinced that FLIPPER redefined the higher purpose of the saxophone. TAIWAN HOUSING PROJECT pays homage, in a way, though their take features a bit more wind-blown desperation, noodling improvisation, trash cans and…sleigh bells? Perfectly calibrated to play in your nearest junkyard.

RUSH TO RELAX – CS (Look Back and Laugh)
Though perhaps too soon for a proper homage to EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING (see below), this Slovenian lo-fi solo project is chock full of earworms. Perfect walking around music, there’s something hopeful captured in the Balkan beat here. Someone press this and/or translate the Macedonian lyrics, ’cause these google translate song titles don’t seem correct.

UV RACE – Made in China LP (Aarght! / Future Folklore)
Clear demonstration why those other eighteen Australian bands will forever have “members of UV RACE” tacked on as descriptors. It is dumb how perfect this record is. “Inane Brain” captures more of the simultaneous banality and horror of day-to-day existence than any other piece of art. Made in China has only one demerit: the lack of UV RACE’s characteristic song explanations.

THE COWBOYS – The Bottom of a Rotten Flower LP (Feel It)
It feels weird to call this the COWBOYS’ “mature” record given we’re only two years removed from their cover art featuring a naked person giving the finger as a fishing pole emerges from their rear end. But this record goes beyond GIZMOS worship to some other plane of platonic Midwest rock.

THE PORNOGRAPHY GLOWS – 12″ (Violent Pest)
Your temptation would be to point out that the PORNOGRAPHY GLOWS inherits something of the frantic sound of greater “NWI” (which now somehow includes the city of Chicago). Though they share paranoia and anxiety, none of those bands had the guts to ask the deepest questions of our time: “can we be saved or is this it?” Wry assessments of the hollowed-out shell of American empire.

SKIFTANDE ENHETER – Snubblar Genom Drömmar 12″ (Appetite)
One of two releases by this genre-transcending Swedish DIY punk band, Snubblar Genom Drömmar finds SKIFTANDE ENHETER flexing whatever atrophied pop muscles were leftover in 1986 after being ground through post-punk/DIY/hardcore. Something of a COUNTRY TEASERS vibe, perhaps?

THE WORLD – Reddish LP (Lumpy / Microminiature)
So many interesting rhythms slithering through the second 12” from Oakland’s the WORLD. It’s easy to fly under the radar given the space that post-punk affords every individual instrument, but the frenzied drumming and dubby bass lines make the record far exceed the all-too-generic moniker of “post-punk” these days. Very much looking forward to “Kill Your Landlord” becoming a mass movement anthem.

EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING – All In Good Time LP (Castle Face)
Look, I’ve only listened to this one fifteen times in the last three days but it sounds like ECSR, OK?

NEXT UP:

TIGHT KNIT – Too Hot / Want You 45 (Not Unloved)

COLLATE – Communication / Selective Memory 45 (Market Square)

NEON – 12″ (Square One Again)

M.A.Z.E. – Tour Tape CS (self-released)

TERRY – Who’s Terry? EP (Upset! The Rhythm)

ITCHY BUGGER – Double Bugger LP (Low Company) 

HOTLINE TNT – Go Around Me 12″ (self-released)

LOW LIFE – Downer Edn LP (Alter / Cool Death / Goner)

PINOCCHIO – My Time Vol. 1 EP (Toxic State)

SOGA – Demo 12″ (Iron Lung)

MICHAEL DETOFFOLI

Michael from the North Bay has been contributing to MRR since 2015 as the writer of the Band Drama column (write him at banddramamrr@gmail.com!) and as the host of a radio show for MRR Radio. xxLA=>SR=>SF=>PDXxx

STATE FAULTS – Clairvoyant LP (Dog Knights Productions / No Sleep)
This band came roaring the fuck back from a four-year hiatus with three huge US and European tours, and one of the most well put together records I’ve ever heard. The best way I can describe this record is “grown up.” It’s like hearing three clearheaded adults recognize their past experiences and channel what they’ve learned into an even more calculated catatonic expression. Welcome home STATE FAULTS. Thank you for existing.|

GEORGE CRUSTANZA – Summer of George CS (Cat Food Money)
This was the tape of the summer for sure, and in my heart it’ll be the Summer of George year-round. Seriously though, it’s the tape that reminded me to look up every so often and rejoin the world.

FUCKED & BOUND / HAUNTED HORSES – split EP (Void Assault)
Both of these bands hit big strides this year and this collab captures them each perfectly. It’s always really exciting to see a scene produce game-changers that fill out a range of heavy and dark, but do it with such confidence. It makes me happy to see bands inspire and drive each other.

MAL BLUM – Pity Boy LP (Don Giovanni)
The feel-good-feeling-bad banger of the year for sure. Equally heartbreaking and simultaneously uplifting, they hit home and did my heart proud. Really excited to see where they go.

FRIED EGG – Square One 12″ (Feel It)
Every year I always find one band that perfectly carries the torch for straightup bruiser hardcore, and this year was a good one. Congrats, FRIED EGG. Y’all did 2019 proud.

BETTY MACHETE AND THE ANGRY COUGARS – Stay In Your Lane EP (H-Bomb)
It’s a fist-pumper and a shit-facer, and it became my go-to when I needed a kick in the ass this year.

HIDDEN SPOTS – New Me/New You LP (Dead Broke)
I have a soft spot for bands from other parts of the world that are clearly influenced by West Coast punk because it usually sounds like an evolution of my youth. They made me feel like their music is growing up with me which makes growing up feel better. Thanks fellas, this LP is a triumph and y’all should be very proud.

FELCHERS LP (General Speech)
I’m gonna be honest, the FELCHERS demo tape was one of the first that I reviewed at MRR so ima be biased and give them special treatment for anything that they do. Good news, this album fucking slays on its own so I don’t even have to feel guilty.

ROTTEN FOXES – Arrive, Raise Hell, Leave EP (self-released)
It’s the perfect EP to get a party rowdy. Wherever you are, even if you’re by yourself. It’s super refreshing to hear pure hardcore bands that can still do that simply and efficiently.

DANGER INC. – Up & Away CD (self-released)
This band is a huge part of the newest generation that’s writing the next chapter in Gilman’s history. I really love this EP because it captures their songwriting very legibly and shows their inherent strengths for writing a good gutshot ballad. Really exciting times and I can’t wait to see what this band and their generation do in 2020.

SAM RICHARDSON

We’re completely inundated in a sea of unlimited data, in a world that is spinning out of control in nearly every way possible, and this punk shit still keeps it all together for me, somehow. I’ve been running the Feel It label for nearly ten years now, and playing/promoting shows in Richmond, VA for about as long. Here’s what I had on regular rotation in 2019.

KALEIDOSCOPE – After the Futures… LP (Toxic State / La Vida Es Un Mus)
NYC’s KALEIDOSCOPE have come a long way, both in terms of style and formation since their early cassettes caught my ear. What started as more of a freeform, sample-laden studio wonder began to take on a looser, neo-psychedelic form, riding that out for a while then rounding back down to more of a forward-thinking punk approach on their 2017 EP. The one key ingredient retained (perhaps the essence of group, in a way) is a clear and precise sense of originality. After the Futures… took me a bit by surprise. Perhaps the full-length format might have given the band more of a chance to experiment with writing or production, yet they’ve handed in what I can only call a militant, machine-like performance. It’s a little lo-fi to associate with CRASS, but the sociopolitical awareness and tactful writing is certainly akin. The songwriting is aggressive and gimmick-free, certainly the product of a band who live/jam records together/practice multiple times a week. As you’d expect from both KALEIDOSCOPE and Toxic State, the graphics on this album stand high above the rest, including a booklet that puts forth the group’s best lyrics and artwork yet. You’d be hard-pressed to find an entire scene able to spit out an effort this outstanding, let alone a single group.

NOSFERATU – Solution A LP (Media Disease / Todo Destruido / La Vida Es Un Mus)
Absolute steamroller of a hardcore LP. This album needs little context or preface—it’s a sheer force of blistering drumming and first class riffing via classic USHC and early Italian scrap. Vocals are a bit lost in the mix but ultimately don’t take away from the end product. Tough one to beat.

ELECTRIC CHAIR – Performative Justice EP (Iron Lung)
This one gets the nod as best American hardcore EP of the year, no competition. Half of BETA BOYS refired with way more attention to detail. There’s no overarching concept or genre exercise here—ELECTRIC CHAIR has a firm grasp on what made hardcore great and waste no time getting that point across.

CIVIC – Selling, Sucking, Blackmail Bribes / Velvet Casino 45 (Anti Fade / Total Punk)
Completely savage two-guitar damage from Australia’s greatest current rock’n’roll group. The title track comes roaring out of the gate with a propulsive rhythm underneath a wah-washed guitar lead that’s got me thinking Raw Power-era STOOGES. Vocals ain’t too far off from Ig either. Flip side stomps along at an excellent clip benefitting from the raw production that Anti Fade boss Billy Gardner has perfected. One of the best Total Punk 7”s of all time—glad CIVIC snuck in before the label decided to ditch the 7” format.

LOW LIFE – Downer Edn LP (Alter / Cool Death / Goner)
An absolute downer, indeed. These Aussies manage to eschew the whole “G’day mate, how you going?” custom, opting for a bleak and brute heaping of bitterness. The delivery is cold and unpretentious, certainly to the heavier side of whatever post-punk scale yer weighing on. In a world where mediocre, three-album-deal bands like INSTITUTE are celebrated in the same sonic sphere, it’s refreshing when palpable negativity is conveyed on records like Downer Edn.

PLEASURE LEFTISTS – The Gate LP (Feel It)
I’m hard-pressed to think of a record that uses the structure and texture of post-punk in such a powerful and all-encompassing manner as what PLEASURE LEFTISTS have done with The Gate. Their near decade-long stint has been somewhat quiet—never touring heavily, never embracing the tongue-in-cheek sense of humor/attitude that comes with being a Cleveland band (guess Peffer and Kevin had enough of that in 9 SHOCKS). Perhaps that’s what allowed PLEASURE LEFTISTS to spend their time crafting such a well-written piece here. Haley Morris’s vocals are otherworldly and totally unmatched in whatever contempo sub-sub genre of post-punk you can name. Brilliant stuff here, one for the dreamers.

PETER LAUGHNER – 5xLP (Smog Veil)
Hard to think of many rock musicians with the same amount of quality output and onward influence in their short time on earth than PETER LAUGHNER. Despite checking out at age 24, the Cleveland native played a formative role in ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS and PERE UBU, was even recruited by TELEVISION, and was a gifted writer published in Creem and other early rock mags. Smog Veil worked on this box set for the better part of a decade, and boy was it worth the wait! The bulk of this material has never been properly sourced or officially released, showcasing LAUGHNER not only as an excellent electric guitar player and rock lyricist, but also a talented acoustic player indebted to the blues and the folk road paved by Dylan. Also included is a hardcover book containing some of LAUGHNER’s best written pieces…you know, just casual letters to Lou Reed and whatnot. This is by far the best reissue or archival project of 2019, its five discs interchangeably planted to my turntable for nearly a month uninterrupted. An essential document of one of rock music’s unsung heroes in the truest sense.

THE COWBOYS – The Bottom of a Rotten Flower LP (Feel It)
Long-running, landlocked rockers finally hit their stride on this album. The scrappy, lo-fi COWBOYS that Lumpy introduced you to have stepped things up quite a bit since. Keith Harman’s vocals shine high in the mix over a cascade of power pop and garage tunes that seamlessly intertwine. It’s a hard style to nail without coming off as generic or corny, but the COWBOYS succeed where few bands do, delivering sixteen tracks without a single dud.