Reviews

Chris Hubbard

Daszu Zone of Swans/Lucid Astral • 1/2 Dativa 2xLP

Archival reissue of forgotten post-punk from the early 1980s. Disc one, recorded as a bass-drums-synth trio based in Wisconsin and originally released as a cassette in 1981, seems to be divided into more abrasive “Severance” tracks and pop-oriented “Enticement” cuts; the former captures a bit of the tension personified by better-documented NYC no wave or UK post-punk acts, while the latter fades into “quirky” new wave blandness. Interestingly, disc two, recorded a few years later after the vocalist relocated to Australia and (as far as I can tell) never properly released, moves further into minimal synth soundscapes, offering a restrained, yet somehow more intense sonic experience. Overall this leans toward pretentious arty indulgence but despite its imperfections is worth investigating.

  • Reviewer Chris Hubbard
  • Label Lion Productions
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Iconoclast Domination or Destruction LP

It’s about time this was reissued on vinyl, and I’m thrilled Sealed Records did such an excellent job. Alongside California brethren like CRUCIFIX, DIATRIBE, or (to a lesser degree) BATTALION OF SAINTS, California’s ICONOCLAST was one of the first DISCHARGE-style bands in the US, and their 1983 demo tape on side A is one of the finest (until now) cassette-only ’80s hardcore recordings. Like the aforementioned, ICONOCLAST upped the intensity level of the UK-born style—their driving, garagey demo tracks are the perfect amalgamation of VARUKERS-esque bludgeon and POISON IDEA-style USHC fury. Side B collects their other recordings: a pair of seriously ripping live tracks from compilations plus their 1985 EP originally released on Flipside Records. That disc featured a mix of styles—a muddy rehash of a couple older HC songs plus a pair of more “matured” peace-punk cuts. I remembered the EP as being a disappointing about-face, though its inclusion here is appreciated now as simply a different expression from a group of idealistic young punks. Complete with an extensive booklet, this compilation is mandatory listening.

The Velvet Underground Andy Warhol’s Factory Broadcast – New York City 1966 2xLP

VU is the greatest rock’n’roll band of all time and I cherish even their most unconventional boots like Screen Test or A Symphony of Sound but this is pretty f’n boring. Billed as a pre-first-LP rehearsal broadcast on the radio in NYC, this blatant cash-in presents a fly-on-the-wall snapshot of a shockingly sedated (not in the good way), meandering practice session. Who’d have thought Lou halfheartedly strumming his guitar for the better part of an hour would be so boring? Apparently not me since I bought it without a second thought. Oh well. Partially redeemed by a few live tracks from an actual show on side four.

V/A Killed By Meth #4: Rust Belt Rockers LP

This latest volume of Rust Belt scrap punk offloads fifteen tunes from the likes of the FURR, CLIBBUS, and TRACI AND THE FAUCET OF FUKS. While of course this ain’t an archival collection of lost obscurities, the ugly, trashy or just plain oddball cuts capture the KBD vibe regardless. Overall solid, and the excellent FACILITY MEN and DBOY contributions in particular make this worth checking out.

Lockjaw Demos 1982-1983 12″

Eight tracks pulled from the Grand Theft Audio discography CD released back in 1996. LOCKJAW plagued the Portland punk scene in the early ’80s, releasing two EPs and appearing on the Drinking Is Great comp, though the the burly, plodding hardcore on this one-sided 12” pales in comparison to the likes of POISON IDEA or even FINAL WARNING. Why dig up these mediocre recordings and put them on vinyl now (or to be precise, 2018 when this was released)? Well, aside from the fact that we’re nearing the bottom of the barrel for un-reissued ’80s HC material, I’d imagine this band’s MEATMEN-sans-irony lyrical content appeals to closet alt-right losers who are titillated by Ted Bundy cover art and “button-pushing” tunes like “Crippled Children” and “She’s a Slut.” Yawn.

  • Reviewer Chris Hubbard
  • Label Discos Antitodo
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Ramoms Teacher’s Pet EP

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of parody bands, aside from maybe BETTER BEATLES, so an EP of RAMONES covers by four parents singing lyrics about their kids is not really something I’d choose to spin given my limited amount of time on this earth to enjoy music. That said, Teacher’s Pet has competently performed and recorded versions of three of humanity’s best songs ever, so I will cop to bobbing my head while listening, kinda in the same way that you see middle-aged norms at a grocery store or coffee shop unintentionally dancing when a loosely “funky” tune is playing on the sound system while they’re waiting in line. The RAMOMS probably had fun doing this, so more power to ’em, but how about some deep cuts next time around? “Mommy Says” (“Danny Says”) or “Eat That Vegetable” (“Eat That Rat”) perhaps?

Reagan Youth Where the Hell Are You Now?

Thought process: I know REAGAN YOUTH played shows in recent years without Dave Insurgent, but a new EP? [Flips record over] Oh wait, this was recorded in February 1982? …In Denver?!? So yeah, it’s not that REAGAN YOUTH, it’s the pre-BUM KON band that never properly released anything back in the day. Kind of amazing this exists at all, since the liner notes describe a group without a steady bass player, a set of mostly cover songs, and a lifespan of only a few months. But it’s good! Rudimentary yet lively (and studio-quality) versions of five tunes that later appeared, in revved-up fashion, on BUM KON’s Drunken Sex Sucks EP and/or posthumous LP (co-released by MRR and, in this writer’s completely biased opinion, an under-appreciated artifact). I’m glad to see Donut Crew and GSL rebooted for this worthwhile endeavor.

  • Reviewer Chris Hubbard
  • Label Donut Crew / Gold Standard Laboratories / Robot Enemy
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Fatal Brutal Kontaktschuld EP

Debut vinyl release from this German band. Showcasing a cutting guitar tone, the intro to “Kintaktschuld” cops the riff from SEX VID’s “Footsteps” before kicking into an urgent and pummeling HC assault. Six short tracks that make their point and don’t overstay their welcome. Every element comes together nicely here: songwriting, recording quality, even the cover art (dino skeletons?) has an off-the-wall appeal. My inner sleeve here is numbered 255 so this one might be limited. Good stuff.

  • Reviewer Chris Hubbard
  • Label Churchstreet Studios / Kink
  • Issue MRR #440 • January 2020

Agnostic Front First Warning LP

The earliest A.F. tracks don’t even sound like music to my ears. Everything—the riffs, the ultra-primitive drumming, the fuzzed-out string bend in the intro to “Final War”—is far enough removed from traditional rock’n’roll that I almost wonder whether these guys listened to anything besides the sounds of breaking garbage trucks and subway trains before they hit the studio. I mean, if Realities of War is a truncheon to the face, United Blood is like someone ripped the streetlight at 7th and A out of the f’n sidewalk and dropped it on your skull. If that’s your idea of a good time, consider this compilation, subtitled “The ‘United Blood’ Era Recordings, New York City, 1983.” All material was previously released on Grand Theft Audio’s Raw Unleashed CD a while back, and this LP shares many tracks with the superior No One Rules collection on Radio Raheem, technically getting away with the “several songs on vinyl for the very first time” sales point by including an alternate mix of the EP tracks. Anyway, it looks cool and features five different versions of “United Blood” on a single disc.

David Quinton Overlook Road LP

DAVID QUINTON cut his teeth as the teenaged drummer of late-’70s Toronto band the MODS (recently reissued on vinyl by Ugly Pop) before landing a gig backing STIV BATORS on his underwhelming post-DEAD BOYS work, Disconnected. Having penned that LP’s best song, “Make Up Your Mind,” QUINTON subsequently recorded a superior version for his own solo album, released in 1981 on Canadian indie Bomb Records. The twelve-track Overlook Road compiles unreleased tracks mainly from the early 1980s, including several alternate versions of LP tracks. This is slick power pop (with emphasis on the “pop”), including a couple piano ballads. If you’re a wimp like me who can hang with 20/20 or PEZBAND, it’s worth checking out.

  • Reviewer Chris Hubbard
  • Label Secret Mission
  • Issue MRR #438 • November 2019

Chronic Submission Sick of Reality LP

Hmm, I believe this is the third archival release of an ’80s Toronto-area hardcore band that I’ve reviewed this year. Not complaining. While their second cassette Empty Heads, Poison Darts (also reissued by Schizophrenic) captured the CHRON SUBS in tighter, proto-crossover form, its predecessor Sick of Reality is pure early-’80s HC—25 blasts crammed into a 45 RPM 12″. High intensity, very high trebly recording; a mainly thrash-speed attack with abbreviated Ginn-esque guitar leads offset by a few mid-tempo tracks to provide a chance to catch your breath. But really…one look at the grainy B&W photo of a pissed-looking teenage skin will probably give you a decent idea of what this sounds like, and whether or not you’ll like it or not.

  • Reviewer Chris Hubbard
  • Label Schizophrenic
  • Issue MRR #437 • October 2019

Wall Breaker Democracy Dies LP

It’s hard to go wrong opening an LP with a sick instrumental. WALL BREAKER’s debut LP delivers a dozen tightly wound, politically charged HC blasts, pulling a range of ’80s influences into a contemporary sound without trying to mimic a particular style or era. The slower, heavier riffs here are particularly effective, burned into my brain after just a couple spins. Excellent.

Micro Edge 1983 Demo LP

Cool excavation of youthful Toronto hardcore from the erstwhile Ugly Pop label (who’ve assembled some quality archival works in the last several years). These recordings, supposedly compiled from not one but three early ’80s sessions, have been kicking around the cassette-trading/file-sharing underground for a bit and are now seeing their first proper release. The LP opens with a BL’AST-esque stomper before kicking into thrash-speed intensity. If This Is Boston-era GANG GREEN is your shit, then you need this. There have been some questionable ’80s HC reissues lately (NEGATIVE ELEMENT demos?) but MICRO EDGE delivers the goods quite pleasingly, and at 45 RPM there’s not much room for filler. The sixteen-page “skate mag” booklet includes no lyrics, though to quote the liner notes, the vocalist “had a knack for catchy phrases about cops, greed, parents, skating, and of course…assholes” so you’re probably not missing any heavy political dissertations. One-time pressing of 500 copies and already sold out from the label, so buy now or regret later, eh?

Wipers Live at the Met, December 31, 1982 LP

Previously unreleased WIPERS live soundboard recording from 1982; seventeen songs including two that aren’t on any of their other records? I don’t think I could imagine a better description for an LP. And it delivers. Though recorded on the eve of the sessions for their Over the Edge album, this set draws primarily on classic Is This Real-era cuts (“Dimension 7,” “Potential Suicide,” “Tragedy,” etc.) and obscurities like the fantastic “Something to Prove.” I celebrate the band’s entire catalog, but Live at the Met is the WIPERS at their most straightforward, catchiest, punk-rock best. Absolutely essential. “This is for all you aliens…”

Frites Modern 6 Met 10"

Pretty bold move to open your debut EP with a cover of the Sesame Street theme song, huh? (Though I guess it has the effect of making the rest of your songs seem that much harder in comparison.) You might recognize this Dutch trio from the Welcome to 1984 comp, sandwiched there between the STALIN and UBR. The 6 Met EP was originally released on cassette in 1983; this first-time vinyl press was done for last year’s Record Store Day. There’s a distinct UK82 feel to the driving rhythms, eminently catchy riffs and singalong refrains—think GBH or SKEPTIX—but like the best UK-influenced Euro HC bands, FRITES MODERN ramped up the intensity for some real classic tracks like “Jeugdjournaal” and “Leugenaar.” Nice crisp recording, too. Grab this if you can!

Social Distortion Poshboy’s Little Monsters 12"

This six-song EP collects all the material from the 1981 session that yielded SOCIAL DISTORTION’s first record, the Mainliner single. (Interestingly, that debut was originally planned as a 12″ and made it to the test pressing stage before being downsized due to disagreements over the artwork.) You’ll find formative takes of tracks that were rerecorded for other releases (“Justice for All” renamed “It’s the Law” for 1988’s Prison Bound). In fact, all these early versions have appeared elsewhere themselves, so there’s nothing unreleased here. But it’s nonetheless cool to revisit this stuff — “Playpen” and “Moral Threat” are two of the band’s best early tracks. Worth checking out if you don’t have the Mainliner (Wreckage from the Past) LP already.

Lou Reed Early Lou: Pre-Velvet Underground Recordings 1958-1965 LP

OK, so this LP actually came out several years ago, not long after Lou caught his last train uptown. As the title implies, it collects Reed’s earliest work, and does a pretty comprehensive job at that—the two doo wop-tinged tracks by the JADES date all the way back to the late 1950s. It’s not entirely clear how much (if any) the teenaged Reed is on that recording, but he did at least write one song and co-write the other. Most of the rest of the material is culled from early-to-mid-’60s releases, during which time Lou earned a living writing and performing knock-offs of popular music trends such as rock’n’roll and surf. My favorite here is the PRIMITIVES, an ensemble also featuring John Cale, Tony Conrad, and Walter de Maria. Don’t get too excited, though—their track “The Ostrich” is a nice palate-cleanser on other VELVETS boots, but as the standout here, it’s not quite enough to recommend this LP to anyone outside VU completists. Also featured is a rare Reed solo demo of “Heroin” from 1965.

More Stupid Initials 9 Out of 10 Doctors Recommend More Stupid Initials LP

Who do we have to blame for the mass proliferation of three-initial hardcore bands in the ’80s? SSD? DOA? CCR? MRR? In any event, MSI most likely predates ATI (ANY THREE INITIALS) as the first to satirize the trend. Existing from 1986 until 1990, this band of Toronto-area youths churned out some decent meat ’n’ potatoes hardcore, and 9 Out of 10 Doctors compiles the complete 1986 and 1988 studio sessions from which their two proper EPs were selected. It should be obvious even before listening that MSI laced their musical output with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor. Sure enough, the LP opens with a track called “Generic Straightedge Song,” and features covers of “Sugar Sugar” and a song from a Rankin/Bass animated TV series. However, unlike full-on joke bands like CRUCIAL YOUTH or GRUDGE, MSI were more likely just goofy teenagers. I’d imagine this lovingly assembled archival release, complete with a big booklet, would please fans of reissues by the likes of NEGATIVE ELEMENT or YOUNG REPUBLICANS. If you want something that dials the intensity up a bit higher, check out Schizophrenic’s expanded reissue of the SONS OF ISHMAEL Hayseed Hardcore EP (that band shared a member with MSI and really ripped).