Biff Bifaro

Bashford Happathy cassette

Ten-song cassette from Madison, WI, recorded, mixed, mastered and released by immortal turkey Bobby Hussy. Grunge/alt-rock revival with some real nasty, sleazy riffs, doing it the best that this style can possibly be done. BASHFORD sounds a lot like Bleach-era NIRVANA to me, like you could probably slip a couple of these tunes within that record and play it for someone who has never heard it before and I doubt they would stand out that obviously. I am personally not the biggest alt-rock revival kinda guy, but if early teenage me had heard this, it would have certainly gotten a lot of plays.

Half/Cross Terminal cassette

Fourteen-track full-length demo of powerviolence-inspired hardcore. Metallic leads and scramz-esque interludes help make it more than just full-on PV worship. It’s fast when it’s fast, it’s heavy and plodding when it’s slow. My main gripe is that the tapes are dubbed so quietly that even cranked on my stereo, it’s still very quiet and buried under the tape hiss. Listening on their Bandcamp is much clearer.

Max Nordile Gym Places

A very strange artsy/noise project. Sounds to me like a mixture of field recordings and intentionally badly played instruments. Unlike the previous release by MAX NORDILE that I reviewed, some of the “songs” on this release have vocals on them, delivered in a lazy, kooky, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART style of spoken-word singing.

Max Nordile Let Them Fail cassette

I don’t really know what this is. Noise? Free jazz? The unintelligible sounds a novice band makes before starting their set? An art project? Someone learning to play a bunch of different instruments? Hanging out at Guitar Center? As far as I can tell, there are five “songs” on this cassette, each as confusing as the last. Repetitive squeaks and squawks played for a while before abruptly ending. Favorite track: ________, which is my way of saying that there is no track listing within the cassette or available online.

Spados Fast One on the Masses cassette

Lo-fi treble-heavy power pop from Philadelphia. Sickeningly catchy while still coming across gruff enough that I have no doubts that the punkers can dig it. I giggled a little bit at the hand-written note within the cassette stating “This cassette tape contains *LO-FI* garage rock.” Not mincing words, not pulling any punches, calling a SPADOS a SPADOS. The only label info contained anywhere on the cassette or online merely states CHUB-001. Your guess is as good as mine.

Tommy Bahama Boys Garage Inc. II cassette

Based on the artwork, the name, and the little BEACH BOYS sample at the beginning of this tape, I assumed I was in for some instrumental surf or fun pop music or something. Boy was I wrong. This tape is a truly confusing experience combining harsh noise with lo-fi novelty electronic driving drum machine punk. Call me crazy, but there’s a couple cool, nasty synth-punk songs buried in here if you take the time to dig them up. They seem to have dubbed themselves “seapunk” and “yacht punk.” I don’t expect either of those terms to really make it off the docks, but if tapes like this keep floating to the surface I will certainly keep checking them out.

Death Gasp Death Gasp cassette

Crusty hardcore punk from Pittsburgh, PA. Six track demo of driving, metal-infused, nasty crust punk. The dubbing of the tape makes it sound super lo-fi, but I also checked out the songs on their Bandcamp and the recording is much more clear than I was initially led to believe.

Hotmom Stupid Vegan Band cassette

This is exactly what I want in a punk demo! Every song a nasty punk hit played fast and spastically on the verge of falling apart. This demo somehow embodies that feeling you get when first delving deeper into the world of punk, going from entry-level bands to the real deal. That feeling of excitement mixed with a tiny amount of fear. HOTMOM has me thirsty for more. Thankfully searching around on the internet I was able to find that they’ve got a slew of other demos out. Phew!

Spam Risk Spam Risk cassette

Chicago, IL brings us SPAM RISK, a weird/poppy post-punk band featuring noodly guitar work and vocals bordering on novelty-song style both in their delivery and the subject matter. A couple of the songs on here are super driving and catchy as hell. “Google Bookchin” is the real stand-out track on this seven-song debut cassette. Definitely interested in hearing more of this kooky stuff.

Blotchouts Lenora Guards the Egg cassette

Angular, dissonant, blip-bloops of no wave weirdness. Really fun, weird, artsy kookiness. BLOTCHOUTS from Mobile, Alabama bring us twelve songs on this newest release of theirs including a truly bizarre cover of JOHNNY THUNDERS “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.” Much of this tape is too weird and long for me, but in the moments they lock into some driving grooves it is super cool. The band seems to have a ton of other releases so if this kinda thing is for you, you’ve got a lot of new tunes to check out.

Ghouli Nothing cassette

Dark and angry hardcore from Richmond, VA. This is a really nice mix of different types of punk. I hear some early TSOL in there, some RUDIMENTARY PENI, even some HOLIER THAN THOU which makes for a cool amalgamation of early punk and death rock stuff, but they’ve clearly got the chops to blister through some faster songs as well.

Nightfeeder Rotten Demo cassette

Heavy crust punk from Seattle. They’ve definitely done their homework with this band. The songs all sound like you’ve heard them before, which either means that they wrote some catchy riffs or that their songwriting is damn good at aping the bands that have inspired them. I definitely hear some AUS ROTTEN-type hooks coming through with a few of them. Eight tracks in total, ending with covers of MISSBRUKARNA and the VICTIMS (Australia). The covers might be my favorite part as they not only do the songs justice, but it also seems to force the band to break out of the pretty standard crust sound of their originals. They play the different genres of punk surprisingly well.

Regime Bury Them Now cassette

Blistering D-beat from Moscow, Russia. This tape rips and is pretty timeless. Nails this style dead on. Sure, it’s cliché to compare a D-beat band to DISCHARGE, but there you have it. Five songs will leave you wanting more.

Thievery Thievery cassette

Lo-fi hardcore from Victorville, CA. From the little insert included I have gathered that this was a short-lived project from 2005 that wrote four songs and recorded live onto a four-track, released it as a demo, and played one singular show. This is a reissue of that same demo. It’s pretty cool, sufficiently pissed. The quality of the recording makes it a bit difficult to discern exactly what they sounded like. The mind fills in those garbled gaps, tho. Musically it falls somewhere between powerviolence, fastcore, and some tough-guy beatdown stuff.

A Hanging Food for Rats cassette

Full-length album originally released by the band in 2009 on CD and now available on cassette. A HANGING is a crossover thrash band from New Orleans. Musically, there are a few songs that kick in and shred pretty damn hard. Unfortunately, almost every one has a slow, almost scrams-esque breakdown within it. That, combined with the very forced growling type of vocal delivery, puts me off considerably.

Bootlicker Live in the Swamp cassette

For those of you unfortunate enough to not be familiar with BOOTLICKER yet, do yourself a favor and check out their slew of EPs already out in the world. Rip-roaring, relentless Canadian hardcore punk. This cassette is a live show recorded during the band’s last US tour. The recording is top notch and the band is clearly in the midst of their tour tightness. Some of the angriest and best hardcore punk going these days. This live recording sounds better than most band’s studio records. Pro-dubbed tapes with attention to detail on the artwork put this over the top. It even includes a cool looking obi strip on the outside of the tape shell. According to Neon Taste Records there is supposed to be two inserts within the tape but my review copy did not come with those.

Death Cow Pioneer cassette

Seven tracks of indie/alt-rock from Lincoln, Nebraska. DEATH COW is very catchy and the songs are full of pretty, harmonized vocals, ripping guitar leads, and repetitive mid-tempo distorted riffs. I’ve seen them referred to as a garage band and a “weirdo punk” band but I don’t hear any of that at all. It feels like poppy ’90s alt-rock revival stuff to me.

Filth Garden Live Filth cassette

This is a wild ride. Cassette comes with no artwork whatsoever, case wrapped in duct tape, with the words FILTH GARDEN written in black sharpie across the front. I had to cut the case open to pry the cassette out from inside, revealing a black cassette with a duct tape label reading the same thing. This appears to be a live set as it is one continuous song with no breaks other than feedback which all ends with cheers and applause. Musically we’ve got drums and bass, the bass occasionally kicking on some kooky effects pedals. The tempo ranges alternating from heavy doom sounding stuff to upbeat driving riffs. It sounds very full considering it is only two instruments and a vocalist, who sounds eerily like Cronos from VENOM.

Gritos Gritos cassette

New band from San Diego, CA. The writeup that was included with the demo refer to them as being a raw punk band, and while there are certainly aspects of that style peppered throughout this tape, it comes across to me as a more straightforward hardcore unk band with peppered in metal riffs, but in a good way, ya know? Four songs, lyrics sung in Spanish.

Head to Wall Demo 2019 cassette

Super chuggy, youth-crew-esque hardcore. Three songs that truly sound like they came from a different decade. You know the sound; singy melodic vocals with barked gang backups, driving main riffs, chugging tuff breakdowns. As I write this I’m discovering that there is an unlisted fourth song on the demo, a cover of “Under Fire” by 411. Not hiding where their inspiration comes from one bit with this choice of cover.

Klazo / Susans Weekend in The Rust Belt cassette

This is a split live cassette from two garage-punk bands from London, ON. It has live tracks recorded in Detroit, Cleveland, and Rochester while the bands were on a weekend tour together. Oddly enough I was personally in attendance at the Rochester gig. Small punk world. This is a fun idea, the tapes look great, and it sounds pretty cool considering it was recorded on a Tascam at three different venues, but I think I would rather just listen to studio recordings by each band, personally. If you are currently unfamiliar with the bands, KLAZO is a nasty two-piece fucked-up garage-punk duo with an LP out on It’s Trash Records. SUSANS would also fit within the garage-punk world, but are a little more straightforward thank KLAZO. I don’t know that they have any studio releases to date, but after revisiting this live set of theirs I am certain that I would like to hear one.

Virvon Varvon Mind Cancer cassette

Brand new release on the Portland, OR based Girlsville Records label. VIRVON VARVON is the new project featuring members of the English trashy garage rock powerhouse BLACK TIME. This band is a bit hard to peg down, but has hooks galore! The songs are all over the place but don’t stray too far from the overarching garage punk umbrella. Catchy, driving, nasty, lo-fi garage punk/rock’n’roll garbage. Those adjectives do anything for you? If so this is very much worth a listen.

Enemy Distrust cassette

Ooh baby, this is tough. Heavy hardcore riffs and tough-as-nails breakdowns. ENEMY doesn’t come off particularly like tough guys, though. Do I feel that way because of the polite hand-written note which accompanied the cassette? Perhaps it’s because of the band name and song titles written in pink paint marker directly onto the cassette shell in lieu of any sort of artwork? Either way, I dig the effort. I can’t find any info about the band, but I hope to because this is hard enough to get us aging punkers out of mosh retirement.

Pink Guitars We Are Made of the Sun cassette

Ripping fast hardcore punk from Buffalo, NY. I know that PINK GUITARS originally began as a solo project, and being from Buffalo myself I saw an early line-up of his live band play once. I’m not sure if this cassette is still just the one guy or if it’s now a full band, as there are no credits found within, but whatever the case I hope the responsible party(s) keep doing whatever they did here because this tape is awesome! Five songs of blistering, ’80s inspired hardcore punk. “Always Searching” seriously kills! The riffs are tight and catchy, the drums are fast, the one guitar solo is unexpected and well played. The vocals sound a little monotone at times, but that’s also what makes it sound a little bit like UNIFORM CHOICE, so chalk that one up wherever it fits for you. The program is repeated on the B-side of the tape, but it is played backwards. I kept listening waiting for the hidden messages in PINK GUITARS songs to become clear to me, but nothing ever presented itself. What’s surprising about this is that some of the riffs are actually pretty damn cool when played backwards, too. Well, I’ll be damned. Along with all the releases on the dude from PINK GUITARS’ tape label, only 25 copies of this tape exist, so scope it online as it’s likely sold out.

V/A My Head Is Like A Radio Set: A Girlsville Compilation cassette

This is essentially a sampler cassette featuring a number of artists who have releases on Girlsville Records, based in Portland, OR. As per the label “…all new, novel, unreleased & unearthed tunes from our favorite bands.”. Stylistically the tape ranges from bubblegum-pop to garage rock to synth-pop—it’s all over the map but the bands all work together really well. This is super cool and fun as a way to expose oneself to a ton of new bands all at once and see what a label is all about. I love when labels do this kinda thing. The tape features a ton of bands: the MARDI KINGS, the PRISSTEENS, FREAK GENES, GERM HOUSE, SEABLITE, the DARLING BUDS, UK GOLD, COLLATE, DIE GROUP, UV-TV, BECKY & THE POLITICIANS, SPLIT FRICTION, COACHWHIPS, THEE THEE’S, and OUIJA BOYS. If any of these bands are on your radar, or you just feel like scoping out a bunch of new bands, give this tape a shot.

Affect Profit Victim cassette

Noisy D-beat raw punk from Sweden. Five songs of frantic, chaotic, crusty punk with vocals barked over top and a constant squeal making me think my tinnitus was acting up. I was equally as shocked to read in the insert that this was actually recorded at a studio, not on a boombox, as I was to read that the band has only two members, the vocalist also playing the drums. I’m not sure if this is just a recording project or if they play live, but the songs are pretty cool and I would certainly like to see two people pull this off live.

Ex-White Disco cassette

Nasty, weird, driving, gross, shit-eating punk from Germany. Musically this rips. The catchy clean guitar licks really get stuck in your head, and some of the songs are awesome, specifically “It’s Me, The Shit” and “Hooray Henry.” On some of the songs, the barked vocals are a bit overly affected which makes them come off teetering on the brink of being novelty songs, which, depending on how that statement rubs you, can be viewed as a positive thing. The lyrics that I can decipher are just dumb enough to make me scratch my head wondering why the hell I didn’t think of them. “I want to piss in your face, I want to beat you with my bat.”

Nervous Aggression Demo 2020 cassette

Thrash-metal riffs mixed in with melodic punk, sludgy emotional parts, incredibly loud sound clips, and occasionally rapped lyrics. The main riff in “School Shooter” sounds a lot like that one really cool HOLIER THAN THOU song, but the rest of the song unfortunately does not. The last thing I ever want to do is misinterpret people, but I will say that if you’re going to have a song entitled “Slut Shame” where the only easily decipherable word in the song is “whore” yelled twice, you may want to consider including lyrics with your demo in order to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions.

Period Bomb / Rosé Perez Born in a Bag split cassette

This was my first exposure to ROSÉ PEREZ, and I don’t think I fully understand it. It sounds as if the YEASTIE GIRLZ wrote a musical in an attempt to make close-minded masculine dudes uncomfortable. I have, however, previously been exposed to the performance art piece known as PERIOD BOMB more than a few times. While I do respect the never-say-die attitude they have to constantly tour despite losing members, making more merch from the road, etc., I just wish more time and effort went into finishing the product before it was exported. This is essentially just noise parading as a band. The drums and bass occasionally have a comprehensive groove they lock into and repeat, but the guitar is just used as a noise-maker, which was particularly evident the one time I saw them play where rather than using a guitar pick the singer/guitarist played her instrument with a corncob. I am sure this has appeal in the art-noise-punk circle I am not familiar with, but the constant question of “how much art can you take?” regularly echoes in my head, and the answer for me is “not this much.”

The Harry Anslingers Zwei Minus cassette

Tongue-in-cheek pop-punk trio from Leipzig, Germany. The songs are super tight and I cracked a smile at least a few times while listening. The very novelty sounding “Jerk Master” is definitely my favorite on the tape.

Teenage Cenobite Live cassette

Driving, nasty synth-punk. Richmond, VA has got something special here. Six songs recorded live and sounding better than a majority of demos I usually hear. TEENAGE CENOBITE originally began as a solo project, but after releasing their first cassette has become a full-on live band that, from the sound of this tape, are an unrelenting powerhouse. Not surprising that this is as good as it is having been released by Feel It Records, one of the most consistent labels these days.

Warm Swords War on Words Vol. 1 cassette

At first I didn’t realize that I was given both volumes of WARM SWORDS’ War on Words cassettes to review, and I listened to the second volume first. Whoops. This first installment seems to be more straightforward and is my preferred of the two cassettes. Minimalist, synth-heavy garage-y post-punk that meanders around a bit in an artsy direction, especially on the tape’s instrumental tracks. The first batch of songs are super driving and really do it for me. Those are where this project shines. The instrumentals lose my interest and the more pop-heavy songs don’t seem to be as memorable. There are lots of very cool aspects to this band, but two full length cassettes is a bit much to digest as an introduction to them.

Warm Swords War on Words Vol. 2 cassette

Try as I might, I cannot figure out where this band is actually from. It’s either New Zealand, Belgium, France, or Germany. Strange, minimalist, garage-y post-punk that leans a bit on the artsy side of things without being entirely off-putting, though it does teeter on the edge there a few times throughout the course of this tape. Despite the vocals being delivered somewhat lazily, the songs as a whole come across rather powerful and driving. It’s an interesting combination and I’m pretty into it. All the songs are recorded and mixed by the band, too, which is always an impressive thing. I was a little nervous that going into Volume 2 would be similar to seeing the movie sequel before the original and I would be lost, but all that has happened is I am all the more intrigued to visit the first volume.

Deadream Deadream cassette

Fast hardcore punk. Five short songs, each clocking in well under a minute in length, most of which still finding the time to have a tough breakdown. Picture something mixed between LEFT FOR DEAD-type spastic riffs and tough CHAIN OF STRENGTH breakdowns.

The Dumpies Jim Thorpe cassette

The most recent release by a band whose offerings seem to all be cassette releases named for various professional athletes. Here we have Jim Thorpe, Native American Olympic gold medalist. The DUMPIES may not be as versatile musically as Jim Thorpe was athletically, but they are not all that far off. Running through six songs in under six minutes, they touch all the bases and dabble a little bit in a number of sub-genres without it feeling forced. Mid-tempo garage, plodding punk, lo-fi pop, catchy pop-punk. The DUMPIES break up their pentathlon of original songs by tossing in a RED KROSS cover, and they totally nail it. Consider this reviewer’s eyes peeled for these elusive other athlete-themed cassettes.

Eva Ras Meni Nije Svejedno . . . It’s Not Whatever cassette

EVA RAS is a solo screamo project from Belgrade, Serbia. Musically they would fit in very well with the likes of ORCHID or PG.99, etc. It is spastic, chaotic, and unsettling, so I think it very much achieves the goal of the genre. The band uses the term “emoviolence” to describe their sound, and I admittedly had to look that one up. I’m not sure when screamo started being referred to as skramz, and when bands sounding like that adopted the term emoviolence, but as far as I can tell it’s all pretty similar. This is apparently the first half of a double EP, the second half forthcoming, and the cassette is limited to 12 copies.

M80 Apathy cassette

Holy hell, this rips! Oakland, CA’s M80 plays super driving and catchy hardcore punk of an incredibly timeless nature. It would be difficult to pinpoint a timeframe that this came out if I just heard it playing somewhere. The five-song cassette instantly feels familiar, like I’ve been listening to it for years, without sounding like any one specific band. This might be as close to perfection as a demo can get, in my book. Not satiated with listening to the tape three times in a row, I did a little searching and found a live set of theirs on the internet and it’s totally worth a watch.

Armchair Martian Demo cassette

This is a cool little piece of history. The demo was originally recorded and self-released in 1995, and was reissued this year, coinciding with the band playing some reunion shows. ARMCHAIR MARTIAN from Fort Collins, Colorado had close affiliation with Chad Price, the third singer of ALL, who is credited on this tape as “the Bigfoot” for his weird scream at the very end of the tape, but I think he did also sing on some of the band’s material later on. This tape is really catchy, and while the ’90s are certainly not my favorite of decades for punk, this is undeniably good. It’s kind of like if the poppier later-era ALL stuff tried to sound like GIN BLOSSOMS, but couldn’t help but have a little peppering of HÜSKER DÜ tossed in there, too. If any of those aforementioned references are your thing, this is highly recommended.

Julien Papèn Theelevator cassette

Everything on this cassette was written and all instruments played by one JULIEN PAPÈN from Lugano, Switzerland, who toes the line somewhere between psychedelia, garage rock, and bedroom pop. The first song is pretty long and drone-y, and I was a bit turned off to it at the beginning, but by the time the tape got to the song “Winter Is Fun” I was ironically very warmed up to it. That is unquestionably the stand-out bopper on this release. There are certainly some very cool aspects here, but some of the songs are just too darn long. Four and a half minutes, five minutes, six minutes. Get right to it, and this project would instantly be better, but I suppose that is one potential drawback of solo projects: no one to help tug on the reigns while working the kinks out of songs.

Macrodose First Dose cassette

Heavy, powerviolence-influenced hardcore from San Francisco. It’s got what you’ve likely come to expect from this genre: the fastest of the fast and the slowest of the slow, with very little in between, changing quickly back and forth between the two acceptable tempos. The standout track for me is “Victim,” which breaks the mold and just rides a mid-tempo nasty riff for the duration of the song. I think the band may have an anti-tech deck stance, which I would like to know more about. I’ve never really understood the tongue-in-cheek stances and goofy songs that often coincide with this style of music. My favorites of this genre have always been just genuinely, unapproachably pissed.

Misery Guts Oxford ‘Ardcore cassette

D-beat-infused hardcore from Oxford, UK. Nothing groundbreaking here, but certainly not phoning it in. Songs are tight, vocals are pissed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vocalist credited for “confrontation” before. Definitely makes me more intrigued to see this band play live.

Nerd Processor A Dumb Fool, Loudly cassette

Two-piece bedroom pop outfit from Boston, MA. Mostly pretty non-offensive pop tunes, a few songs are certainly better than others, with “Alice” being my favorite of the bunch. There are some pretty fun little melodies in the woodwinds, added by one member. I would have much preferred a shorter release of just the standout tracks though, as 40-plus minutes on a single release is a bit much as a first introduction to a band.

Putzfrau Demo 2019 cassette

This is wonderful! Relentless fast hardcore punk that is still somehow memorable and catchy without being even the slightest big “poppy.” PUTZFRAU blisters through eight tracks with only one song surpassing the one-minute mark. Portland, OR has a real winner on their hands here. It’s clear to me that these are some seasoned vets, the guitarist having been in the criminally underrated MONGOLOID and ORGANIZED SPORTS, and I’m told the bassist was in NASA SPACE UNIVERSE and UNIX. I am unfamiliar with the previous works of the singer and drummer, but I highly doubt this is their first band, and would love to know what else they have done. A+

Singing Lungs Mutter cassette

’90s pop punk/indie pop worship from Grand Rapids, Michigan, featuring someone from CHEAP GIRLS. A few of the songs are definitely catchy, and you’ll probably be really into them if you’re nostalgic about LEMONHEADS/DINOSAUR JR and stuff like that. This release is a pro-dubbed cassette, but the sound of it is absolutely awful. Warbly and unintentionally distorted, which doesn’t work well for a band trying to write catchy songs and a singer actually singing. I had to turn it off and listen to the band’s Bandcamp.

Warsh Burning Urge cassette EP

Prince Edward Island, Canada brings you the second cassette release by WARSH. This is incredible! Sophia’s barked, overly reverberated vocals are relentless, which is unsurprising given the subject matter. This band is pissed for all the right reasons. WARSH mostly plods along noisily within the mid-tempo range, but cranks it into overdrive on a few of the songs on this tape. It reminds me of a more raw, unhinged version of CONDOMINIUM. I semi-recently was on my first extended tour of northeastern Canada and we took a ferry up to Prince Edward Island. It was fun and all, but we certainly didn’t play with bands like WARSH. Oh, how I wish we had, though.

An Invitation You Can’t Love Me cassette

A two-song cassingle. AN INVITATION appears to be a one-man-band from Richmond, VA who was in that band SATAN’S SATYRS. This is some truly sleazy, nasty, heavy-metal infused rock’n’roll. Vocally it kinda sounds like VENOM to me, while musically it ranges from sludgy and plodding to riff-heavy and driving. Pretty cool, but I think I need to go take a shower now.

Crüx Decussäta Class Dismissed cassette

I’ll be honest with ya, I put this cassette aside while doing my reviews for the month fully expecting it to be the real stinker of the bunch. To my surprise, CRÜX DECUSSÄTA proves the old adage “don’t judge a demo by its cringe-worthy artwork” to be true. Three songs of rip-roaring speed metal, with the final one being a weird hybrid of “Highway Star” by DEEP PURPLE and “Victims of the Vampire” by SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS. I enjoyed the first two songs, both complete with their SLAYER-style high-pitched-scream dive-bombing before dissipation, but was incredibly skeptical of how they would pull off the third’s mashup. To my surprise, it is actually pretty well done and super entertaining, wisely switching away from “Highway Star” before the extended solo and morphing into “Victims of the Vampire,” taking that to the end and focusing on that song’s much more attainable solo.

La Milagrosa La Milagrosa cassette

Puerto Rican punkers living in Brooklyn deliver a debut cassette with seven songs of lo-fi punk rock crammed on a short cassette. Six head-bopping originals and a cover of a song by fellow PR band ACTITUD SUBVERSIVA, which I recognized from their split with TROPIEZO, whom I was a big fan of but regrettably never got to see. This is a real nice change from the overhyped “punk” bands that Brooklyn tends to shit out, and it comes across incredibly sincere and not contrived in the slightest. It seems they only made 50 of these cassettes, so get one quick.

Max Nordile Primordial Gaffe cassette

This cassette looks amazing. Super slick pro-dubbed silver cassettes, three-panel foldout J-card cover with black print on shimmery silver paper stock. I am learning a lot this month about the dangers of focusing on the aesthetics of demos. The only positive things I have to say about this release have to do with its good looks. I have absolutely no idea what I just listened to. Weird squawks and smacks and bleep-bloops with whiny vocals and/or jazz horns delivered over top of it. It’s some form of avant-garde experimental art project stuff that I guess I just don’t get. The tape is long too, there’s eleven “songs” on it, and they’re not particularly short. I standardly make it a point not to write reviews during the first listen of a demo, but I don’t think I will be able to make it the full way through this tape a second time.

Silk Leash Troublesome Thoughts cassette

Artsy noise punk from Maryland. Four songs that kinda sound like if PG.99 or ORCHID got rid of the noodly guitar parts and had a more aggressive singer. The band’s Bandcamp informed me that the release is actually called Troublesome Thoughts, as it’s not listed anywhere on the cassette.

Stupid Fascist Citizens Divided demo cassette

STUPID FASCIST are from Green Bay, WI, and are a self-proclaimed “leftist political hardcore band…made up primarily of old school ’80s punks with an impressive back catalog.” I couldn’t find any info on what bands the members used to be in, but regardless it is awesome hearing older punks still fuming with aggression and channeling it into a fast hardcore punk band. Three songs on this demo, which I think are collectively over in about the same amount of time as the cobbled-together “propaganda reel” that starts the tape. The attached note informs me that the band is finishing up work on a debut LP. My interest is piqued. Bring it on!

Zurich by the Japanese Decoration Food Cassette

This is a strange one, for sure. ZURICH BY THE JAPANESE jumps from bedroom-pop to ambient-drone to experimental-noise to singer-songwriter folk to shoegaze to all kinds of other weird obscure sub-genres that I’m not sure I fully understand, all on one lo-fi cassette. It’s not particularly surprising that they’re able to cover such a wide range, considering there are 24 songs on this demo. It’s all pretty confusing, and some of the songs even completely change genre unexpectedly right in the middle of themselves, making it difficult to follow along to try to point out which, if any, of the songs are standout tracks. Perhaps it’s my small brain at fault, but it all comes off as way more of an art project than a band, and I think I need a nap after navigating my way through the entirety of this release.

The Beekeepers Song Demos 2 Cassette

Eleven tracks of well-crafted, mid-tempo, jangly pop from the mastermind of SPACE WOLVES. Having been an unbelievably big fan of that band, this is right up my alley. Super catchy songs, lovely clean guitar licks, beautifully belted crooner-esque vocals, all done while keeping it cool and lo-fi, nothing overproduced. Presumably, most times “pop” is used as a descriptive term here at MRR, it is referencing pop-punk or power pop, but neither of those terms feel particularly fitting for the BEEKEEPERS. This feels more like ’60s-inspired pop/rock’n’roll recorded with a DIY punk mentality. You’ll be bopping your head, you may even shed a tear, but don’t let that stop you from giving this a listen, it’s an A+. I’m going to stoke the fire in my wood stove and play it again from the top.

Dialer Tour Tape 2019 Cassette

Took me a minute to wrap my head around what’s going on here. This is Philadelphia, PA-based drum-machine-driven synth-punk which also has an occasional saxophone. Some of the songs are pretty cool—faster and nastier than I expected, particularly the newer songs on the A-side of the tape. This is where DIALER really shines. The slower tracks feel too long and lose my attention, particularly the repetitive ones with spoken-word political sound clips in lieu of vocals, which close out each side of the tape. Side A is listed as having four new demo tracks but there’s definitely more on it which goes on for a while, and side B is DIALER’s side of a split 12″ with CHRONIC ANXIETY. Interesting to see a band in the current age having a strong, outspoken, anti-war/anti-authority political agenda, and props to that considering it feels like many bands nowadays are stuck singing about goo and slime, but a lot of it does come off sounding a little contrived and cringy.

Ephs No Riots Cassette

This is certainly a lo-fi recording, which is not necessarily a slam when it comes to this style of punk. The J-card does warn you that it was “recorded at home,” after all. Mid-tempo, kinda catchy, minimal punk rock sounding like it was recorded on a crummy old boombox. There’s a bit of a post-punk feel to it at times with the jangly guitar meandering around repetitive bass lines. EPHS covers “Teenager” by the RATS which is a pretty cool tune to choose for a cover, and the tape has some kinda drum machine type thing on at least one of the songs—like I said, it’s pretty lo-fi. It seems this cassette is an edition of merely twenty, so snag it while you can if you’re into lo-fi catchy home recordings.

Hawk Baby Hawk Baby Demo Cassette

Six songs of mid-tempo punk. Plodding, heavy-sounding riffs with noisy leads spattered atop. I was going to make a comparison of the vocalist sounding like Larry from the DARVOCETS/WET BRAIN, but the more I’m looking into this, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is actually him. The label is from Cleveland, after all, and I can’t picture another city in the world that would be churning out this kind of punk. A few of the songs sound a bit like the same rewritten song, making the tape blend together slightly, but it’s a pretty damn good song, so why deviate from a formula that works? I listen to music every day at my house, and the low end on this recording is so heavy that it rumbled my speakers, shifting a glass overhead light cover that was balanced on the speaker for the past year or so, sending it crashing to the ground mere feet from where I was standing. It seems even listening to HAWK BABY is potentially dangerous, and this recording has truly captured the essence of Cleveland.

Pest! Pest! Demo Cassette

Hardcore punk from Brooklyn, NY. Each of the five songs go between blisteringly fast to the slowest of punk dirges. While having such a formula makes the songs a bit predictable, the passion shows with a band like PEST. It is on the slower parts, however, that the cool guitar work really shines through. There are some unexpectedly catchy licks hidden in these angry songs. The vocals on this demo are especially pissed, and I was not surprised to find that the vocalist is Katie from South Carolina’s now defunct GLITTORIS, who were an incredibly powerful live band. This tape was dubbed pretty poorly, but listening to the digital tracks, the recording itself sounds great. I expect and truly hope to see more from this band.

Riita Absolute Santa Rosa Cassette

A note attached to this cassette informs me that RIITA has changed their name to LÖCKHEED since the release of this demo. RIITA/LÖCKHEED is a heavy crust punk band in the vein of early TRAGEDY records. The songs aren’t bad, and they’re probably cool to see play live. This, however, is a style that has been done to death over the last few decades, and there isn’t anything particularly standout about this recording. Part of that could be due to the tape itself having a significant warble to it, making it slightly difficult to differentiate everything going on, and messing with the listener’s equilibrium. Crank it up and pass the Dramamine.

Sonomax Sonomax Demo Cassette

I’m hesitant to even refer to this as a demo, considering how professional it is. Very polished recording, pro-dubbed cassettes, shrink wrap; an overall very nice looking and sounding complete package. SONOMAX play catchy indie pop with maybe a hint of post-punk churned in, and hail from Brooklyn, NY. It’s very poppy, but oddly not particularly catchy.

Thee Irma & Louise Kill List Cassette

As a lover of surf music, this tape was a pleasant surprise. THEE IRMA & LOUISE from Bern, Switzerland have apparently been a band since 2002, and have a whole slew of vinyl releases under their belt, which I will certainly be looking into now that I have been exposed to their newest release. Kill List appears to be the band’s first cassette release, and is ten tracks of surf-infused punk—or should I say punk-infused surf? The songs range in tempo from slow and creepy to fast punk, and one of the few vocal numbers actually sounds oddly similar to “El Dorado” by AGENT ORANGE. Guitar tones are pretty distorted, and there is a lot of spooky organ peppered in, leading me to assume they’re more inspired by punk bands doing instrumentals, such as “Surf Bat” by 45 GRAVE rather than by ’60s surf music. While not my favorite take on surf, they do the style very well, and some of the tunes are incredibly catchy. What’s more: they keep most of the tracks instrumental, the way this reviewer feels surf music should be. Once you go vocal, you lose me a little bit. Having only two vocal numbers on this ten-song cassette, I like those odds. What really confuses me about this tape is all ten songs listed are on the A-side of the tape, while the B-side is roughly ten minutes of feedback and stick clicks as if a song is about to start, but never actually does, followed by a strange instrumental industrial song. Unnecessary. The A-side will be rewound and played many times over.

The Touch Heads Nostalgia Is Poison Cassette

This band rules! On a recent tour I drove, they were one of the locals that played the Boston gig, and were one of the best bands I saw on that trip. The TOUCH HEADS have got it all: short songs that are catchy and memorable, nasty riffs, killer guitar work, and booming drums. A truly awesome modern hardcore punk band. This demo does exactly what a demo should do, in my opinion: leave you wanting more. Clocking in at just over five minutes with the program repeating on both sides of the cassette, I find myself letting it flip and listening to it over and over again. Here’s hoping this isn’t the only thing we hear from TOUCH HEADS. I want more!