Columns

Welcome to the Fuckin’ Future!

Welcome to the fuckin’ future! No more ink-stained fingers, no more magazines lost in the mail, no more having to wait a month to see your column in print because somebody forgot to run it…you know, the future isn’t that bad if you really think about it. Of course, life isn’t all cyber-rainbows and byte-rflies as yours truly managed to break the fuck out of his ankle at a SHITCOFFINS/THERAPY gig a couple months ago, requiring surgery and a lot of enforced boredom (I fucking had to miss SOW THREAT, which I am still pretty pissed about). It wasn’t a ton of fun kicking my legally-acquired opiate addiction from the painkillers either, but we’re not here to talk about my various miseries, we’re here to talk about the latest (*) in dumb, noizy loud punk!

(* some of this stuff is pretty old, since it took a while for me to write this and MRR to be ready to post it. Est quod est.)

The supernatural shit golem that is currently the Fuhrer of these United States can shit talk Baltimore all he wants—those in the know know that Baltimore is a rad city. Its many assets include a very reasonable cost of living, one of the best aquaria on the East Coast, Celebrated Summer record shop, and it played a huge role in lives and legacies of two of America’s greatest pop culture icons: Edgar Allen Poe and John Waters! On top of all that, the greater Baltimore area is also the home turf of VARIATION, a new band featuring some of the originators of the US noizecore revival. Rising from the ashes of CHAOS DESTROY, much of what made that band great is evident in the two VARIATION demos (One and Two, respectively), primarily the frenetic lead bass and the songwriting that embraces frequent and dramatic shifts in tempo. Some of the song structures are so heavily informed by powerviolence that they could just as easily be slotted in alongside CROSSED OUT on a mixtape as CONFUSE. That being said, the heart and soul of VARIATION are deeply rooted in the Kyushu sound, particularly the more hardcore-oriented bands like GAI, demo-era NO CUT and the VIOLENCE YOUTH FLAK. VARIATION are definitely a darker band than CHAOS DESTROY, with much nastier vocals and more aggressive, hard-hitting drumming. The creepy minimalist approach to the art reinforces that darkness while evoking the shit-fi classics of the ’80s.  Both demos were self-released by the band and are well worth checking out, with the piss-raw rehearsal recording that makes up the b-side of One being a particular highlight for the noize extremists. Those who appreciate a bit more refinement will prefer Two, which has a really excellent recording, still raw but very well-balanced while highlighting the painful-sounding vocals (good luck searching the internet for “Variation One” haha).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Chiba Japan’s U.D.A. (USED DAMAGED ASSHOLE) are mining a similar sound to VARIATION and achieving similarly excellent results. The most impressive thing about their rather plain-looking Demonstration Disc (available from the band or from the UK’s Private Scandal Productions) is the fact that this is a hardcore band that does not indulge in any of the hardcore tricks of the trade aside from speed and distortion. The riffing, the themes, the vocals are all 100% pure punk, just performed at a ridiculous pace and with maximum noize inserted wherever possible. Indignation-era CONFUSE are a touchpoint, with a large dollop of SWANKYS-style brattiness included as well (as evidenced by the title and content of the disc-opening “Black Belt’s Masturbation”). My copy came with a badge that’ll probably raise more questions than it’s worth to wear in public.

Private Scandal also graced the world with the first-ever internationally-distributed release by the long-running off-again, on-again Chiba noizepunk band THE C+C, recently subject to an excellent feature piece in Private Scandal zine. The Demonstration 2 CD features three tracks of glammy, attitude-heavy punk that sit comfortably on an axis between SLADE and SWANKYS. The foundation is built upon ’77 revival punk à la VIBRATE TWO FINGERS and the like, but the sound is touched by both hardcore and psychedelia. “20th Cenzury Boy” is a plain tip-off of that, as is the chaotic falling-apartness of the aptly titled “Unfinish.” This is a sound that will be very familiar to a very small group of people and (hopefully) will be fresh and revelatory to many more. One can only hope that this is a sampling of things to come in the near future and not an isolated release in the band’s very erratic schedule.

Speaking of bands making triumphant returns, Canada’s d-beat monster ABSOLUT has returned, battling through severe adversity to return to gigging and to produce the 2019 Demonstration cassette! ABSOLUT have been evolving throughout their existence, adding thick layers of metal to their later ANTI-CIMEX-inspired core. This new material continues that trend with a thrash attack so intense that it’s more reminiscent of GHOUL (US) than anything with a DIS-prefix. The drumming is excellent, both in execution and recording, heavy on the double kicks without over complicating things, very much recalling the work on ZADKIEL’s pioneering metal punk EP Hell’s Bomber. The bleak vocals (some of the darkest wailing this side of MUNDO MUERTO) and the frequent use of the melodic minor in the riffs are very Absolut Country of Sweden though the thrash quotient intensifies as the record progresses. ABSOLUT obviously is aware that bands like DESTRUCTION and SODOM were just as inspired by DISCHARGE as ’CIMEX were, and the blistering closing track (“Desecrate”) explores that same space to great effect. These four songs blast by so quickly I still can’t quite tell where one ends and the other begins.  The basic-as-dirt layout for the tape recalls the promo cassettes of olden times, when smaller metal labels with big dreams would blanket radio stations and stores with endless same-y looking tapes of upcoming releases. I wonder if it’s an intentional reference?

This is a super late-pass, but since we’re on the subject of brutal bands I gotta at least touch on UNARM’s The Voice From the Forced Silence EP. UNARM have previously struggled to capture their live ferocity on vinyl (the 2010 EP and most of the LP simply do not do the source material justice) but goddamn this thing hits on all cylinders! The meaty recording does every aspect of the band justice while highlighting Nanae’s hoarse, throat-ripping vocals and Nenji’s relentless drum attack (a generation ago this guy would have fit in flawlessly on FRIGORA’s drum stool). The songwriting has a veteran confidence and swagger than recalls Bay Area vets like SHIT COFFINS or NEEDLES, existing within a tradition without explicitly aping any one band or style. There are elements of crust, elements of noize but mostly this is just good old fucking hardcore punk, delivered by a band that has finally perfected every element of their secret formula. Kudos to Adult Crash records for having the good taste and good timing to release this one!

Osaka’s FEROCIOUS X haven’t had any particular troubles with their recordings but their recent jaunt to Australia represented a very rare overseas trip in their storied history. To celebrate, Hardcore Victim paired them with Australia’s own SISTEMA EN DECADENCIA for a limited split EP.  First off, it’s a great looking record with a clear cut’n’paste aesthetic, art drawn from any number of esoteric punk and occult sources. The included tour poster looks fantastic and I’m sure can now be found gracing the walls of many of the finer punk houses down under. FEROCIOUS X kick things off with the vicious “Varld av Skit,” a nasty short shock of Scandi-core that’s of a piece with the recent Den Gra Sannigen cassette (now reissued on EP) material. The second and final track (“Varning till Gelenskap”) is a rare mid-tempo burner from the usually furiously-paced band, with a strong later AVSKUM vibe. Personally, I prefer the faster stuff but it is an unusual and thus interesting change of pace. Split-mates SISTEMA EN DECADENCIA have an extremely chaotic sound, even for this style of crasher-y crust. Indeed, they wouldn’t sound terribly out of place on one of the early noisecore compilations like Nobody Listens Anymore! The excellent recording preserves the band’s raw as fuck sound while sacrificing none of its chaos or power. As always, I’d rather have been there than have the tour record, but as far as those things go this is one of the better ones (to be fair, anything involving FEROCIOUS X is usually superior).

Having no clever segue available at this juncture, let me simply tell you that PISTOL JOKE’s latest is a flexi-disc entitled Frustration Noise and it is a fucking rager. There’s a bit more hardcore intensity to this than their previous recordings, particularly in the aggressive backing vocals, but you’ll never mistake this for DEATH SIDE or anything—PISTOL JOKE is a noizy pogo-punk band through and through. The base is equal parts CHAOTIC DISCHORD, DISORDER (there’s a flagrant “Daily Life” rip that runs through “Noise and Beer”) and the EJECTED, the filter is the early Pogo 77 catalog à la TOM & BOOT BOYS, DISLIKE and SHIT-FACED, with the end result being some artfully sloppy (these guys are much better musicians then they’re usually willing to admit), super-catchy drunk fucking punk. This wobbly little record is housed in a nice sturdy sleeve to help prevent damage, and unlike many of these records actually received a pretty decent pressing, with different cover variations for distribution to Japan and overseas. Highest recommendation for fans of noizepunk, drunk punk and songs called “All Fuck.”

Pogo 77 boss Nori celebrated the milestone of 100 releases on his label with a pair of TOM & BOOT BOYS reissues, the Demo 1995 and Demo 1996 EPs (POGO 100 and 101). Look, at the best of times T&BB aren’t exactly the most technical or innovative of bands and of course the early demos are even simpler than their later, more “polished” works but c’mon, that’s the appeal of these things! Demo 1995 is definitely the more shambolic of the two, highlighted by the one-note guitar solo in “Shut Up and Die” that goes on and on, and the way “We Are Still Punks” just kind of peters out like the band succumbed to drink mid-recording. Demo 1996 is a much more fully-realized model of T&BB, featuring faster, shorter songs that established the template for pretty much everything else the band has done since. The amount of f-words they were able to fit into “Fuck You” puts me to shame, and my swearing game is pretty on-point. These are deeply, unabashedly inessential but for the life of me I can’t imagine a single reason not to want them. In a world that is so constantly bleak and cruel, the cheerful formulas offered by TOM & BOOTS BOYS (beer=good, punk=good, beer+punk=everything) are more essential than ever.

Reissue specialists FOAD Records are on another tear right now, I especially want to highlight the CRAWL NOISE Wall of Noisecore 1987/1989 LP because I’m not sure the ad copy or the online hype really captures just how nutty this record is both in terms of content and context. First of all, this is shit-fi of the absolute highest order, up there with the DECAY and GENOCIDE ASSOCIATION. The short version of the story is that back in 1987, when grindcore was just emerging as a genre, somehow a handful of Swiss dudes in a relatively rural area got together and formed one of the very first noisecore bands in history! This is pioneering stuff, just as if not more chaotic and extreme than their contemporaries 7 MINUTES OF NAUSEA and MERCILESS NOISE. The A-side features the band’s two “studio” demos (the second was recorded in a cowshed on a farm!), ultra raw, blurry whirlwinds of guttural vocals, cement mixer guitars and ridiculously fast drumming (the drummer would be poached by FEAR OF GOD when C.N. wound down). On the reverse, two of the band’s very rare live performances are captured, the first (7/7/87!) liberally scattered with covers of then brand-new NAPALM DEATH tracks, the second (29/2/88) much more focused and intense and devoted almost entirely to original material. This is a rare record where the inclusion of live material is really worthwhile and not just obvious filler. By the way, pay attention to the labels! This is one of those 45/33 LPs and it could be a very confusing experience for a listener who misses that. Fans of this kind of chaotic noisecore will also do well to check out F.O.A.D.’s recent reissues of Greece’s SOUND POLLUTION and the SOUND POLLUTION/7 MINUTES OF NAUSEA collaboration band INDUSTRIAL RESISTANCE for more of the same!

F.O.A.D. also did their Japanese reissue thing, this time tackling the excellent if somewhat scant discography of JANKY. The Dead Society 1983-1987 LP collects the band’s sole stand alone record, 1984’s incredible Low Life flexi disc. This is a real gem, notable for its strong international hardcore influences with a vocal style that wouldn’t be out of place on a contemporary Mexican or South American hardcore record and some riffing that is distinctly Scandinavian in style (along with a pretty blatant AC/DC rip at one point as well). By 1987’s split with MAD CONFLUX (another band whose discography was reissued by F.O.A.D.!) JANKY were very much at the forefront of the emerging and soon-to-be iconic Japanese hardcore sound, fusing metallic guitar solos and leads to aggressively catchy group choruses and epic songwriting, with vocals that are much more in the slurring tough guy style than previously. The live tracks that round out the record, culled from the Dirty Party gig compilation tape, are fairly rough recordings but capture the band at an interesting time, still transitioning between their earlier straight-up hardcore style and the new metallic direction by adding some quite shaky solos and gang choruses to the mix. These tracks are the weakest of the bunch but are still interesting due to context. The packaging is lovely as usual, with beautiful cover art that incorporates the included obi strip and a lovely booklet that reproduces all the art for the included records as well as photos and gig flyers.

Another reissue of relatively little historical importance but of great emotional resonance (at least to yours truly) is War Cloud’s release of LITTLE STAR’s discography, March’n of Little Star. Collecting their ’87 demo, ’89 flexi and one live track, this is a document of a super inconsequential but very fun band of high school buddies in the mold of the poppier and more popular punk bands of the time à la ANARCHY and the BLUE HEARTS, delivered with great enthusiasm and no small amount of talent, especially in the guitar writing/playing and the charismatic yet snotty vocals. This little tape isn’t going to set anyone’s world on fire but it’s a very charming and fun to listen to recording and is definitely something you’re unlikely to stumble across on your own.

To be honest, I’ve got a bunch more stuff to write about but I’m dying to get up on the newly set up and formatted site (plus there’s no monthly schedule as such so I can just send more over whenever I guess) so let’s call it a column for now.  Again, welcome to the future of Maximumrocknroll and thanks for sticking with us!