Reviews

Erick Bradshaw

Blóm Flower Violence 12″

On Flower Violence, BLÓM is dead set on destruction. A non-binary three-piece that calls the UK home, BLÓM hearkens back to the glory days of Load Records—ditching the guitar while reveling in squalls of bass-borne noise, maniacally-played drums, and desperate vocals. Frankly, it’s a great look. Each of the five songs here are seeded with little barbs of pleasure and pain. “Meat” finds space for a mosh break even as it stays on the move, cycling through one compelling part after another. “God” is all sick breakdowns and gnarly riffs, culminating in a stylish heretic nailing a manifesto to the church doors. An epic meditation on Crime And Punishment, “Ubermensch” starts out like one of the MELVINS’ death marches to the forbidden zone before finally erupting into a LIGHTNING BOLT-style frenzy. “Be Kind” brings it all back home as Geezer Butler nods on approvingly. BLÓM can’t be bothered with gently placing a carnation in your rifle barrel, they want to knock the gun out of your fucking hands.

Lié You Want It Real LP

LIÉ is a brutally efficient band. You Want It Real is the Vancouver trio’s fourth LP and they betray no sign of easing up on the intensity, much less letting sleeping dogs rest. The songs here fester like a wound, like an injury that serves as a reminder of a greater pain. “You Got It” lunges at you with murder in its eyes, then switches up suddenly and flirts with a sense of triumph, until its back to the lashing you so richly deserve. “Fantasy Of Destructive Force” wreaks the kind of see-sawing, poetic havoc that made UNWOUND so memorable. By this point, LIÉ have developed their own language consisting of the usual noise rock signifiers but used to form words we don’t have definitions for yet.

Dan Melchior Band Outside In LP

Dan Melchior’s vast discography boasts an enviable hit-to-miss ratio, even when compared to catalog hogs like John Dwyer or the late Jay Reatard. It might seem odd to place Melchior in such company, but they are closer contemporaries than initially meets the eye. Regardless, Melchior continues to release several LPs worth of material a year and most of it—whether home-recorded experimental blues stitch-ups or full band get-down engagements—is uniformly excellent. Outside In is perched somewhere between acid-fried garage boogie and a sort of modern choogle that pulls from all sorts of far-flung sources. Both the title cut and “Chinese Wine” have a Zamrock vibe; desert guitar moves join with sheltering sky FX as they zip across the panning spectrum. “Brownsville” and “Courtesy Flush” gild garage lilies with ENO-esque sound treatments. “Pheasant Plucker” is not only a fun tongue-twister to roll around your mouth, but also a rocker that kicks up dust like the BROKE REVUE, Melchior’s perpetually underrated old outfit. Outside In came out a ways back, but it’s luster ain’t faded none.

Silicon Heartbeat Earth Static cassette

Beaming in from Kalamazoo, Michigan, SILICON HEARTBEAT (not to be confused with SILICON PRAIRIE) trades in gloomy, fuzz-soaked synth-punk. Suck the fun out of the SPITS or slip a sedative to LOST SOUNDS and you’d have something close to this EP. SILICON HEARTBEAT is competent enough, but the relentless monotone that defines each song can be a hard wave to ride, even on what is essentially a 7” (are there really only eighteen copies of this tape?). I’m guessing that this is a solo project and, thus, it rates on a sliding scale, but still, there’s little heat here. The digital download of Earth Static closes out with a perfectly fine ANGRY SAMOANS cover that is the aural equivalent of a flatline.

Collate Medicine / Genesis Fatigue 7”

Blame COVID for why there’s not a new COLLATE LP primed and ready to sit on your turntable. Still, the Portland trio does us a solid with a short but effective single. “Medicine” is begging to get a sweaty DIY dive packed with awkward weirdos grooving in something close to tandem. COLLATE doesn’t shirk on the ass-shaking aspect of post-punk nor do they let up on the jagged guitar or the eternally cool call-and-response vocals. This shit smokes, call the FIRE ENGINES! “Genesis Fatigue” is even rowdier and could have landed on any number of killer art-punk comps from 1981 and held its own in such hallowed company. Furthermore, as with all Domestic Departure output, this single looks fab.

The Smog Set in Stone / Lost My Mind 7”

People be loving the SMOG! This is the Japanese group’s third single and they’ve built a modest buzz based on their sharp, tuneful punk rockin’. “Set in Stone” threw me for a sec as it opens like GIRLS AT OUR BEST’s “Getting Nowhere Fast,” but then settles into a flavor profile that is closer to the JAM stirring a spoonful more garage into their mod stew. “Lost My Mind” gets slightly more angular and approximates what BLOC PARTY would sound like if they had any punk demos.

Fugitive Bubble Fugitive Bubble cassette

As 2020 pulled up stakes, FUGITIVE BUBBLE shoved this butterfly knife of speed-racket jerk anthems into its ribcage with zero remorse. It’s getting harder and harder to sort out this type of punk—the kind that is impossible to nail down with regards to its immediate antecedents. Sure, there’s some C.C.T.V. in the DNA, but with a heaping portion of KBD to make sure all six songs leave a mark. Check the boxes—jackhammer drums, rusty razor guitar spray, somersaulting rhythms, and super-sarcastic vocals that sound so cool you almost hope that they’re making fun of you. This debut tape is, no doubt, Cool Fucking Punk, which is good for you, cuz you are a Fucking Cool Punk. Whew.

Red Red Krovvy Managing LP

Having been around for a decade at this point, it’s quite a feat that Australia’s RED RED KROVVY has managed to remain so supremely agitated—they’re still pinning the needle into their color of choice and exorcising everyday demons like every good punk band should. Managing is their most consistent and satisfying collection of songs yet. There is a desperate, burned-out quality to RRK’s attack, but they cram enough down-turned hooks into each two-minute screed that the songs don’t end up an indefinite blur. “Before You Die” kicks off the album with a cathartic stare-down of existential dread and assures the listener that they will indeed leave a good-looking corpse. Singer Ash Wyatt (also of the excellent UBIK) possesses a memorable snarl and she uses it to great effect on cuts like “Company Job,” “Real Estate,” and “Despise The Rich.” Those titles give you an idea of where RED RED KROVVY’s head is at regarding the free market and its acolytes. Musically, there is a certain kinship with the dark side of SoCal beach punk. It’s tuneful but not poppy, fast but not ripping, and stripped of needless embellishment for the most part. Managing is a refreshing reminder that punk doesn’t need bells or whistles, just plenty of old fashioned spit and spite.

The Cowboys Lovers in Marble cassette

The COWBOYS LP on Lumpy was a damn fine slab of weirdo garage punk. I friggin’ love that thing. I dug their further adventures but lost track of the band a few years back. Well, thankfully for us, the COWBOYS are still out there, still plugging away, still consistently putting out quality music. In fact, they released an LP in 2020, so this tape can be seen as riding sidecar. But make no mistake, these aren’t scraps. I’m pleased to report that the COWBOYS still got “it.” They’ve settled into what is perhaps their final form as advanced students of moody ’60s psych-pop. The sound honors the era, but still comes off as contemporary. There’s elements of the KINKS (“Lovers In Marble”) and early BEE GEES (“The Bell Rings Less”), while the best song here, “Saintlike Said,” recalls the brooding PRETTY THINGS. Nice job, ‘boys.

The Monsters I’m a Stranger to Me / Carpool Lane 7”

These MONSTERS are a Swiss trash-garage combo that started kicking rocks way back in the ’80s and are fronted by the honorable Rev. Lightning Beat Man. Beat Man runs Voodoo Rhythm Records, so the dude is not a stranger to loud-ass dirt rock, but I was still surprised by the grit that’s caked over these new recordings. The A-side is a hi-energy rave-up that shows a generation of Burger-fed youth how it’s done. Gnarly. “Carpool Lane” slows down just a hair so that herk-jerk verses can alternate with heavy bursts of fuzz as an analog synth zaps the aliens lurking on the side of the road. A cassette version slathers on a host of extra tracks.

Landowner Consultant LP

People, I am here to tell you how much LANDOWNER absolutely fucking rules. They play tightly-coiled rock music that is in constant motion while appearing to remain perfectly still. It’s a neat trick, this hummingbird punk trip, but these guys got songs too—LANDOWNER nags you with their flitting, arid smart aleck takes. Imagine NOMEANSNO stripped of their exaggerated bluster (to be sure, a large part of that unit’s charm) or the MINUTEMEN time-warped into the 21st century. “Victim Of Redlining” corkscrews into your head with a relentless bass riff, a D. Boon guitar lick, and lyrics spat out like the speaker has been sitting stewing in anticipation of five minutes of facetime. “Swiss Pavilion” dissects city planning with wit and brevity, addressing public spaces, parking concerns and the narrator’s desire to achieve urban nirvana. In the context of punk, LANDOWNER’s music is understated yet contains an undeniable ferocity. Despite its lack of a “sick riff,” “Being Told You’re Wrong” is closer in spirit to MINOR THREAT than a thousand generic straightedge bands. LANDOWNER utilizes clean tones, repetition, and interlocking guitar/bass lines to build spaces that are there to serve a purpose, more tool than structure. On album highlight “This Could Mean Something,” singer/mastermind Dan Shaw is “Talking to the wall / ’Til it starts talking back” as the band veers into US MAPLE territory. “Confrontation” adds synth and shares sympathies with PATOIS COUNSELORS, while “Mystery Solved” sketches an existential story of an IT worker over seven tense minutes. But don’t get it twisted—Consultant is occupied with churning, propulsive music. Hardcore is inverted. Pointillist-brutalism is engaged. Patterns are melodies and whispers are screams. This album leaves invisible bruises like pillowcases filled with bars of soap. A bright spot during these last dark months, no doubt.

Star Party Demo 2020 cassette

STAR PARTY is a GEN POP offshoot that throws down a glittering gauntlet on this teaser tape. Drenched in sheets of glorious early Creation Records fuzz, “No Excuse” hits hardcore velocity while singer Carrie Brennan is perfectly dialed in on the reverb. But it’s “Veil of Gauze” that really impresses. “Gauze” is so good that it can hold its own with the excellent version of the SHOP ASSISTANTS’ “Something To Do” that precedes it. And just when you think you know the score, STAR PARTY covers a BOB DYLAN-penned early CHER tune (“All I Really Wanna Do”) and conjures fond memories of the AISLERS SET. When’s the single?

Lewsberg In This House LP

The righteous, relentless chug of third-album-era VELVET UNDERGROUND has provided a valuable blueprint for enterprising buttoned-up rockers for decades. Based in Rotterdam, LEWSBERG found themselves trekking to this well so many times that they set up living quarters and now bathe in its replenishing waters every morning. On In This House, their second full-length, LEWSBERG dives deep, and if you’re partial to the charms of the MODERN LOVERS, GALAXIE 500 and BETTIE SERVEERT, then you will find much to like here. The album is evenly split between head-down rockers and songs that are reminiscent of a quietly devastating conversation over late afternoon tea. While they hit the marks of the former, LEWSBERG falls just short of nailing the mood of the latter. “The Door” is the kind of intimate yet foreboding studio apartment psych that YO LA TENGO mastered long ago, but LEWSBERG doesn’t quite have the damage to pull it off. The song contains echoes of HUMAN SWITCHBOARD’s “Refrigerator Door,” but falls short of that classic’s dramatic, gawky outpouring of romanticism. We could use a little more of that awkward, doomed, drunk poetry in today’s rock scene. But LEWSBERG aren’t trying to set the world on fire, they’re just trying to make it to the coffee shop and get things started. “Cold of Light Day” is the hit, projecting a casually cool, streetwalking confidence that sheds the leather jackets for corduroy and peacoats. With its wire-y guitars, “Through The Garden” satisfies on this front, but I can’t help hoping for an extradimensional “I Heard Her Call My Name”-esque feedback squeal to tear through the time-space continuum; alas, no such luck here. I wanted the “Interlude” to stretch its wings a bit more. I caught a brief glimpse of SPACEMEN 3 waiting outside the practice space door and I was hoping they’d come in and jam. The album ends with such a lackluster last minute that it seems like an inverted punchline. Your mileage may vary.

Sudden Impact Freaked Out EP

Guided by the expert punk archivists at Supreme Echo, SUDDEN IMPACT upgrades a semi-legendary demo to a fully formed EP. Before leaning into something closer to “trad” skate-thrash, SUDDEN IMPACT were making pits erupt in Toronto and the proof is evident on a blazing 1984 recording. Delivering ten cuts in thirteen minutes, this remastered EP is practically the platonic ideal of a hardcore punk 7″. Things back then were truly fast and furious, so much so that who even has time to come up with song titles? (“New Song” could use a little more work but still packs a punch.) “Freaked Out” sports enough bent corners that it could fit comfortably on an early Killed By Death volume (see KRAUT). True to form, the theme song (“Sudden Impact”) completely shreds and features the always-welcome sound of breaking glass to ensure that you’re paying attention. And then they wrap things up by covering TED NUGENT, because of course. NUGENT sucks, but AMBOY DUKES rule, and as far as hardcore covers of hard rock nuggets go, it ain’t half-bad.

The Lavender Flu Tomorrow Cleaners LP

Fuzzy Oregon freaks the LAVENDER FLU celebrate their state’s decriminalization of recreational drugs with their third album in a mere year’s time. D.A.R.E. to bend an ear to the FLU’s warped sensibilities as they curve rainbows in mid-air and turn falling raindrops into flying butterflies. Tomorrow Cleaners finds the LAVENDER FLU back on the Meds label and exploring the same ’shroom-strewn forest that spawned their double-shot debut, Heavy Air. The owls are not what they seem as they lead you to a secret swimming hole where the humidity verges on the psychedelic. These sounds are melting along with you and perhaps even melting inside of you. “Boca Ciega” cops a welcome WEST COAST POP ART EXPERIMENTAL BAND vibe, while “Romelas” is lovely and groovy and lets low-key axemaster Chris Gunn carve out some space with his stun guitar. These are the songs that JULIAN COPE was singing to himself when he was hanging out under that tortoise shell. Naked and afraid and happy as a loon. Ore-gone or orgone? Unlike the recent Barbarian Dust, Tomorrow Cleaners is no killer rock slab, but still chock full of intriguing paths less traveled.

Night Lunch Wall of Love LP

On their debut album, Montreal new wave quartet NIGHT LUNCH serves up something closer to a midnight snack. It’s all too slight—the keyboards, the vocals, the guitar, the cover art. I’m hungry, so angry and NIGHT LUNCH could probably use a second helping of something spicier (MEDIUM MEDIUM-hot salsa?). Wall of Love is finger food when a burrito as big as your head is needed. Sorry, you don’t like these food metaphors? Sorry, I don’t like this record.

The Down-Fi / Toeheads split 7″

This little platter is Issue #2 in the Good Times Rock ’n’ Roll Club Split Single Series. Whew, that’s quite a mouthful and might just have you questioning what decade you’ve landed in. Have no fear, it’s still that same cursed year, but don’t tell these bands cuz all they wanna do is rock and/or roll til the sun comes up. The DOWN-FI is notable for featuring a true underground rock legend in the irrepressible Craig Bell. Craig has been in ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS, the MIRRORS, SAUCERS and, most recently, X__X. If you figured that kind of resume would clue you in to the quality rock sounds contained on their side, well, goddamn maybe it’s time to take up fortune-telling. “You Won’t Like It” skips the art damage for straightforward bash ’n’ pop and was even recorded in “glorious mono” for extra salt-of-the-earth cred. Every town should have a band this good to drink their worries away to. TOEHEADS are from Detroit and you can certainly hear that in the attitude on display for “Jane Doe #59.” But it’s actually the PAGANS that this song most closely resembles. A sub-par PAGANS, but hey maybe it took 58 tries to nail “Her Name Was Jane.” The leopard print inner sleeve is a nice touch.

Max Nordile Building a Better Void LP

21st century renaissance man MAX NORDILE continues his assault on logic with another solo joint that defies expectations and rewards those predisposed to the counter-intuitive. You may know him from art-punk units like PREENING and UZI RASH, but when left to his own devices, Max gets into a heap of trouble and makes an intriguing mess—a “Public Pile” according to one track. Opener “Deep Face” sounds like ALASTAIR GALBRAITH having a bad day, while other cuts suggest CAROLINER playing it straight. “Diligent Pores” is an extended meditation that steeps coffee shop clatter and submerged guitar noise in a broken teacup. By the end of the album, the microphone is in the waffle iron and your head is in the radiator and everything is in its proper place.