Reviews

Biff Bifaro

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label Snappy Little Numbers
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label We Don't Make It
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label Richter Scale
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label Sister Cylinder
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label Count Your Lucky Stars
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label High Trash Media
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label What's For Breakfast?
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label Paisley Shirt
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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!

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label Dickbird
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label It's a Jinx
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label Speed Creamer
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

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.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

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!

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020