Reviews

Golnar Nikpour

Endless Column Endless Column LP

Recorded in 2015 and released last year, ENDLESS COLUMN’s debut LP is a warm, surf-tinged 12-string-guitar-laden modern punk pop classic. Featuring a who’s who of aughts-era punks, this Chicago-based band has moody songcraft in common with the members’ former groups (namely, the OBSERVERS and DAYLIGHT ROBBERY) without explicitly sounding like those earlier projects. There’s still the tinge of WIPERS influence here, alongside some surprisingly BYRDS-influenced guitarwork. And then there are parts of this album that almost sound more like a janglier SST-era SCREAMING TREES?! It’s hard to pinpoint influences beyond gesturing to the broader pantheon of song-driven American indie and garage punk, but regardless this is a terrific album that rewards repeat listening.

Gang 90 & Absurdettes Demo 1982 EP

Over the course of several years, Brazil’s Nada Nada Discos has established itself as among the best record labels in the world. NND has been particularly instrumental in lovingly reissuing some truly necessary Brazilian punk and hardcore gems. This new GANG 90 & ABSURDETTES 7”—featuring three long lost demo tracks from 1982—is another Brazilian reissue, although GANG 90 is more accurately described as pure ‘80s new wave. For those who are unfamiliar with the group, GANG 90 released several singles and albums in Brazil throughout the ’80s, but this recording represents some of their earliest (and roughest) recordings. Musically, this 7” baaaaaaarely qualifies for review in a punk fanzine—I have a feeling Tim Yo would’ve axed this one in the day—but the charming lo-fi recording, spunky bedroom pop vibes, and early BOW WOW WOW energy has me convinced. For me, “Convite Ao Prazer” is the mixtape-worthy hit here, as some of the KID CREOLE influence across the record occasionally loses me. As always with NND, this record comes with gorgeous packaging featuring amazing archival photos. Not for the punk purists, but a must-listen for the wavers who still resent the rigid uniformity that hardcore imposed on arty DIY scenes the world over in the early ’80s.

The Apostles / Anathema Fight Back split 12″

This lovingly assembled release is as much a record reissue as it is a work of brilliant punk scholarship. The LP comes with a joint issue of two of the best music fanzines of the last decade (Negative Insight and Defiant Pose), featuring copious documentation and writing on the lost and unreleased anarcho punk releases of the 1980s. This split 12”, featuring London’s the APOSTLES and New Malden’s ANATHEMA, is among the most famous of those lost, unrecorded, or unreleased records. Originally slated to be released on Fight Back, a sublabel of CONFLICT frontman Colin Jerwood’s Mortarhate, this record stalled out at the test press stage. This left ANATHEMA without any vinyl releases over the course of their short lifetime and robbed the world of some great material by classic punk weirdos the APOSTLES. For those who love the anger, urgency, and underrated melodicism of 1980s UK anarcho punk as much as I do (that is, who love it enough to want more than just CRASS and CONFLICT records), this 12” is a really welcome addition to the collection. Not only is the music cool (particularly the APOSTLES material), but the zine really is quite lovely and informative. Recommended!

Psycho Sin You Axed For It EP reissue

OK, what on earth can I say about this record? I will start with the basics: PSYCHO SIN was (and now again is) a hardcore-slash-thrash-slash-noise-slash-undefinable-weirdness band from New Jersey who, from 1985-1990, self-released a couple of records and a huge slew of cassette tapes. You Axed For It is their lone 7” EP from their original era before they reformed in the mid-2010s, and is either a masterpiece of raw DIY punk experimentation or an unlistenable mess of nonsense ranting, depending on your view. In mine, it is maybe both at the same time? I mean this as a compliment?! Of course, I should probably make it clear that I love this record—back when I used to write columns for Maximum, I titled my column after this wild, irreverent, and vicious EP. Each track is a raw assault of anger and frustration, some as raw thrash songs and others taking more experimental forms. The “song” “Everything’s Fucked Up” may well be the most straightforwardly perfect denunciation of governments and the nation-state ever recorded. I admit this record won’t be for everybody, but if you haven’t heard PSYCHO SIN you owe it to yourself to find out if you’re one of us.

Desperfecto Quanta Gerra EP

Quanta Gerra is the first vinyl release by DESPERFECTO, an utterly raging hardcore band from Chile who formed in 2013 and plays DIY punk the way it’s meant to be played: crude, angry, incredibly catchy, anti-everything, and raw as hell. The packaging is top-notch, with a lovely silk-screened pocket sleeve and photo insert, and the band’s message excoriating the exploitation and oppression of South America is on point. Needless to say, I love this record!

Sacred Paws Run Around the Sun LP

Scotland’s SACRED PAWS has been one of my favorite bands in the world since releasing their debut 12” in 2015, and their 2016 LP Strike a Match is, in my humble estimate, among the very best records of the last decade. All this adds up to 2019’s Run Around the Sun being much-anticipated in my household, and I am happy to announce that it doesn’t disappoint. The SACRED PAWS formula remains firmly in place on this sophomore album: danceable post-punky pop music with joyful African highlife-inspired guitar parts and terrific vocal melodies and countermelodies. This album has a few surprises (horn parts!), and is a bit quieter than its predecessor, but is overall another masterful entry into both the SACRED PAWS and the Rachel Aggs (also of SHOPPING and TRASH KIT fame) discography.

The Vertigos This Is Decontrol EP

From the look and name of this record, I expected to hear something generic in the Motörcharge family from this Japanese band, but was pleasantly surprised to hear manic and trashy garage punk with more in common with the KIDS or TEENGENERATE than any dime-a-dozen post-millennial DISCHARGE worship. The song “This Is Decontrol” is catchy as hell and sounds more like an argument against DISCHARGE than a tribute—as if these women are saying “listen up punks, that’s not decontrol, this is decontrol.” More important than any genre distinctions, though, is how much the riffs on this record stand out from the current pack of in-one-ear-out-the-other punk—the songs on this (red vinyl) 7” are extremely memorable! Highly recommended!

Polo Pepo y Sociedad Corrupta San Felipe Es Punk / Es Delito Ser Punk 7″

By some standards, Polo Pepo’s two-song 1988 7” is little more than a historical oddity. It barely made an impression on the global punk and hardcore scenes on its release, and its crude mid-tempo songs don’t fit in particularly well with the vicious political thrash of most Mexican hardcore of its era. Yet to me, this record—not to mention this loving reissue—is a minor miracle. The A-side track, “San Felipe Es Punk” is a truly magical (and utterly raw) ode to the modest and evidently punk as fuck Mexican neighborhood that Polo Pepo called home. It’s a rudimentary song with a simple message but it’s one I’ve listened to hundreds of times (and put on almost as many mix tapes) since I first heard it. It’s hard to find a more honest tribute to underground culture or to punk rock anywhere. There might be those who listen to this and just don’t get it, but to me this record captures the essence of what I love about DIY punk.

Midnite Snaxxx Music Inside LP

On the one hand, reviewing the third full-length album from the Bay Area’s MIDNITE SNAXXX should be quick work. I could just tell you that this is simply the very best punk record of 2019 and leave it at that. And honestly, that could be enough. But I am a devoted MIDNITE SNAXXX disciple, and I need to tell you so much more. I need to tell you that Music Inside is a picture-perfect mix of snotty and sweet. I need to tell you that no one sings about cyborgs or gentrification more memorably than the SNAXXX’ dynamic frontperson Dulcinea Gonzalez. That this band alone proves that punk is somehow not yet dead. That I make coffee in the morning listening to this record, that I blast it while walking down the streets of my crumbling city, that I hum the songs to myself when I’m falling asleep at night, and then wake up and do it all over again. If you want just one song to convince you, it’s the monster title track, which will fit snugly on your next mixtape (or S*****y playlist) next to anything from the RAMONES to the BRAT to the LOST SOUNDS and back again. If you’re not yet a convert, give it a listen or three, and join the rest of us true believers.

Team Dresch Personal Best LP

Let’s rewind back to the mid-’90s, when yours truly was an uncertain queer punk teen living in the dismal suburbs and listening to TEAM DRESCH’s Personal Best every single day. I scrawled the lyrics from “Fake Fight” on my bedroom wall, much to my parent’s confusion. (“I cry out in the darkness forever to be free / And I cry out so my loneliness won’t get the best of me…”) I air-guitared and headbanged around my bedroom blasting “Freewheel” and “Screwing Yer Courage” over and over again. I wore my Candy-Ass Records “she eats it up” logo T-shirt to high school feeling like I was sharing an inside joke with freaks across the universe. Team Dresch made those difficult times feel less lonely and unbearable. The first person I ever worked up the nerve to come out to was Donna Dresch, in the form of a halting letter mailed to her label Chainsaw Records. I sent it off not expecting a response, but Donna responded with a hopeful letter telling me to keep fighting and to stay free. But all of this, as important as it was to me personally, would’ve been fleeting without the music. If you don’t know it already, I’ll just say it: TEAM DRESCH’s 1995 debut album Personal Best is a stone-cold fucking masterpiece. Every one of these ten songs utterly and totally rocks. I still listen to this record on repeat while air-guitaring and headbanging around my bedroom. There were other bands associated with riot grrrl and queercore that got (and continue to get) more notice, but TEAM DRESCH honestly blows them all away. Personal Best is one of the truly great rock albums of all time, and this gorgeous and excellent-sounding reissue does it the justice it deserves. All hail TEAM DRESCH: “They tested their limits / And broke all the rules!”

Team Dresch Captain My Captain LP

Damn, reviewing these TEAM DRESCH LP reissues—what an honor and what a responsibility! What can I say to adequately convey what these albums have meant to me and to so many queers, dykes, punks, and freaks for the last 25 years? This band saved my life and continues to save my life; they were the best band in the world when this album came out in 1996, and the best band I saw live in 2019. Captain My Captain, their sophomore album, features a different drummer—Marcéo Martinez left the band after Personal Best and Melissa York joined—and has a more introspective vibe than its predecessor, with several songs about dealing with depression and anxiety. Still, the musical formula is the same: heavy, rocking, and emotional queer punk anthems with monstrous guitar parts and transcendent dual vocals from the band’s singers Jody Bleyle and Kaia Wilson. The sublime opening track “Uncle Phranc” taught me what it means to claim a queer chosen family and features the best advice anyone could ever give a young dyke: don’t fuck with straight girls, don’t take pills, and don’t let anyone emotionally blackmail you into doubting who you are. 23 years after its initial release, the songs on this album still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What more can I say other than thank you TEAM DRESCH.

Frites Modern Veel, Vet Goor En Duur LP reissue

There is a pantheon of classic European hardcore that most stalwart fans of international punk and hardcore all know and love. Although some of these folks may know the name FRITES MODERN—if from nowhere else then from their track on Maximum Rocknroll’s classic Welcome to 1984 comp—I have the feeling that too few punks have ever really given this brilliant Dutch band their proper due. Veel, Vet, Goor En Duur is their first album, and it’s an absolute classic for anyone who likes their hardcore equal measures of fast, urgent, tuneful, and melodic. I suspect that they got less love in their own day (and beyond) because they were more whimsical than countrymates BGK, they sang in Dutch rather than English, and they seemingly didn’t tour as relentlessly as some of their peers. Regardless, this LP — reissued for the first time by the label that released the album in 1984 — deserves to be put on a pedestal among the classics of ’80s Euro hardcore. Veel, Vet, Goor En Duur is just a picture perfect punky hardcore album, equal parts pogo and slamdance worthy. A classic!

Rappresaglia Danza de Guerra EP reissue

RAPPRESAGLIA—“retribution” in Italian—was among the early-to-mid-’80s wave of furious hardcore bands from Milan. Their first recorded tracks, some of which were immortalized on compilations like the incredible Bad Country Tapes (BCT) Italian HC collection Music on Fire and the classic Skins E Punks = TNT 7″, are among greatest examples of raw and unhinged Italian hardcore. For years, I have played their early anthem “Attack” as the perfect representation of all that is truly special about Italian hardcore; I still put that song on mixes, and throw it on the turntable whenever I need something to pick up my mood. (Italy’s Agipunk Records released all of the excellent early RAPPRESAGLIA tracks on a collection called 1982/1983 in 2006, with the aforementioned “Attack” as the first song. I highly recommend that collection to aficionados of early Euro thrash both novice and diehard alike.) The EP I am here to review—the Danza di Guerra 7″—was recorded and self-released a couple of years later, and has now been reissued for the first time (with original art) by Germany’s No Plan records. Although Danza di Guerra was the first proper RAPPRESAGLIA release, it finds the band having already moved on from their rough and tumble early sound towards something slower, more melodic, and more muscular. No one is maniacally screaming on this EP, and the guitar sound owes more than a small debt to British post-punk, or at least British post punk as channeled through Telecommunication-era BLITZ. There are even vocal harmonies on these four songs! In other words, this is a pretty different band than that from RAPPRESAGLIA version 1.0. Still, this is a delightful record with four catchy singalong anthems, and is certainly worth tracking down if you’re a fan of the melodic side of European punk.

The Comes No Side 12″ reissue

It is utterly bonkers that this is the first official vinyl reissue of this all-time great Japanese hardcore punk ripper. Originally released in 1983 on Dogma Records—a City Rockers sublabel for hardcore that also released the first GISM 12″ among other Japanese classics—the COMES are breathtakingly ferocious. Their vocalist Chitose is truly one of the most savage ever recorded; she wails and screams over eleven unhinged and thrashing tracks, providing a blueprint and impossible-to-reach-bar for every one of us who has ever tried to match that intensity in her wake. Clocking in at just over sixteen minutes, this 12″ is perfectly lean and to the point. There aren’t many works of art in any genre this complete in their vision, and there aren’t many hardcore records this perfect from any era. This reissue is a loving one, featuring a heavy paste-on sleeve and a replica of the original insert. Mandatory for anyone even tangentially interested in international hardcore punk.

The Rats In a Desperate Red LP reissue

The decades-long DIY rock ‘n’ roll love story of Fred and Toody Cole is by now well worn. I’d be surprised if most readers of Maximum Rocknroll don’t have at least a cursory knowledge of DEAD MOON, Fred and Toody’s most widely-known and long-running band. But before DEAD MOON and PIERCED ARROWS, Fred and Toody were part of Portland punk’s first wave in the form of a band called the RATS. (For those not in the know, Fred’s roots go way back into the ’60s, but that’s a story for another day and another reissue.)  In a Desperate Red is the third (and to my mind best) RATS LP, bringing together the rawness and desperation of early punk with the wistful lo-fi tunefulness of Fred and Toody at their best. The Coles had a knack for bringing real human emotion into simple and urgent rock ’n’ roll songs, and In a Desperate Red features that tendency at its finest. Incredible songs about feeling antisocial (“Leave Me Alone”) sit side-by-side with songs about finding solace with a long-time love (“It’s Still You”) and songs about the drudgery of working life (“Working Class”). This long-awaited reissue spares no expense; the gorgeous 40-page booklet is a real treat for long-time fans, and the vinyl sounds fantastic. Completely mandatory.

Raw Power 1983 Demo LP

RAW POWER is a life-changing band. Years ago, when I first got into international hardcore, the early output of these Italian maniacs represented a gateway to a new sound and a new way of thinking for me.  Their first LP Screams from the Gutter is a stone-cold classic of unhinged screaming and bonkers guitar work, but the recording that truly blew my young mind was their demo from 1983. Often referred to as the Brown Studio demo, this rough and tumble recording largely circulated on cassette tape in punk’s international network of friends until the dawn of the internet age. Somehow, despite being one of the very best examples of furious Italian hardcore ever recorded and despite every random third-rate band from the ‘80s getting deluxe reissue treatment in recent years, the ’83 demo had to wait until 2019 for its vinyl debut. The packaging for this reissue is modest, with nary an overpriced gatefold or a nostalgia-filled booklet in sight. But the music, with its tornado of guitars, screaming-like-someone-is-chasing-me vocals, and fucking punk cowbell is as urgent and necessary as ever. RAW POWER was the epitome of Italian hardcore, and unlike some of their dour international peers in Scandinavia or Latin America, they brought a measure of goofy fun to their wild hardcore sound. A furious party indeed.