Reviews

Heather Blotto

Chain Cult Shallow Grave LP

Athens’ CHAIN CULT wastes no time, opening the first track with a catchy chorus-laden guitar riff that would sound just as much at home on a new-wave record as on a dark melodic punk record. The raspy vocals sound a little like the singer from OXYMORON, which is refreshingly different. Anthemic songwriting and adventurous drumming tie the sound together. Definitely something to check out for fans of Scandinavian melodic punk and melodic dark punk.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label La Vida Es Un Mus
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

Exotica Musique Exotique #03 EP

Blown-out, fuzzed, wall-of-hardcore sound from New York with sinister riffs and punchy, scathing vocals delivered in bursts. Cool sound effects and creepy feedback add some variety, and the pace doesn’t let up. The drumming is creative and unorthodox in a way that really sets the sound apart from everyone else old or new. Lyrics in Spanish and English, with band members from Mexico, Argentina and the US. This is their third 7″ release, and has all the energy of their first record with more attention to songwriting. Another excellent hardcore EP!

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label La Vida Es Un Mus
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

Psychic Void Skeleton Paradise LP

Calling itself “psych-punk,” this record kind of defies genres, pulling from creepy retro-horror, rock’n’roll punk, death rock, and even a little industrial or synthwave. One moment it reminds me of the CRAMPS and seconds later it sounds influenced by RUDIMENTARY PENI. Highlights include a minute-and-a-half intro with a drum machine beat (especially the snare tone) that sounds like NINE INCH NAILS’ “Closer.” The vocalist creates incredible synergy with the layered instrumental tracks when he’s maxing out into a deranged fury like on the track “Alley Dweller.” Could be described as a more slick and less gritty version of BITTER FRUIT, another band that totally defies genres. Definitely recommended.

Real Tears Hay Fever LP

This second full-length release from Sweden’s REAL TEARS delivers thirteen high-energy power pop tracks, with a touch of glam and a gritty edge. They sound like the type of people that might get picked on by bikers while playing at an out-of-the way truck stop bar in the ’70s, but also like the type of people that might pull a crowbar out of their tour van and fight back. Classic rock’n’roll riffs figure heavily into the mix and the unchecked enthusiasm reminds of early MARKED MEN or the CARBONAS. A real feel-good record.

Body Farm Tower of Babel EP

Tripped-out hardcore with the sickest of breakdowns. Between spastic, unstoppable verses, BODY FARM shines brightest in breakdowns that are brutal and catchy with a metal influence. This might be the first time I’ve heard an actual sample of Trump on a punk record, and it’s definitely successful at being completely vomit-worthy. I hate hearing his voice, but have to admit they use it effectively to establish context for a song about the prospect of people being punished for having abortions. The fury and passion of the song are set off against a backdrop of the true-crime nightmare that is American politics. This is totally excellent.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Financial Ruin / So This Is Progress?
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

Dèche Le Luxure En Vain LP

Refreshingly unselfconscious punk songs in the tough but not-totally-not-silly style of bands like FILTH, and vocals that sound like the woman singer in DIRT. The whole thing is in French, but the band is from Cleveland. Fast enough for hardcore and fun enough for punk, this is pretty much a raging circle pit on vinyl. While nobody can argue that punk isn’t repeating itself, this record suggests that it’s getting better and better as it mutates.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Bloodclot / Quality Time / Wax Mage
  • Issue MRR #440 • January 2020

Luna Honey / Wax Lead Wax Lead / Luna Honey split 7″

WAX LEAD opens with an unlikely combination of ethereal true-goth romanticism and sprinklings of bluesy twang. Vocalist Holly Axlerod’s powerful and haunting vocals are front and center, as the track winds through a maze of dramatic interludes to its brief but dancefloor-worthy crescendo. LUNA HONEY offers an extremely slow, deliberate, and poetic invocation of a ruthless curse. Velvety vocals are accompanied by sparse synth beats, distorted bass, and baritone saxophone. The artwork inside the record is beautifully printed on transparent vellum.

The Mind Edge of the Planet LP

Minimalist, mechanical, lo-fi instruments intermittently accompanied by dreamy, gentle vocals. While some of the tracks veer into noisy electronic territory, others are centered around the vocals and clean guitar leads that bring to mind ’90s singer-songwriter nostalgia. Tempos range from danceable to ballad, mostly settling somewhere in the zone of somber contemplation of a dying world. Since spheres don’t have edges, I’m gonna go ahead and assume this is also some low-key flat earth propaganda.

Das Drip Das Drip LP

This full-length release from Raleigh, North Carolina’s DAS DRIP is about as nuts as a record can sound and still be called hardcore, rather than noise or art punk or whatever other label people use to talk about something that sounds like the feeling of getting beaten up, but in a good way. It’s furious and spazzy, blending unlikely elements into a whirlwind of twang, squeal, relentless yelling, and a generous dose of brutally fast drumming. There is something creative and vital here besides just anger. A potent antidote for the monotony of boring, macho hardcore!

UBIK Next Phase LP

Blending snotty ’77 punk, spooky darkwave, and playful anarcho-punk sounds, UBIK delivers a refreshingly fun and inspired take. Dueling minimalist guitar and bass lines combined with overlapping vocals on the track “Peter Dutton is a Terrorist” offer up a catchy but earnest anarcho-punk vibe, while other tracks feature graveyard-ready, reverb-drenched vocals, and yet others offer a more straightforward hardcore attack. Definitely something for everyone here, but their songwriting and originality shine brightest in the anarcho-punk moments.

Nun The Dome LP

Melbourne, Australia’s NUN have been releasing darkwave synth punk records since 2012, predating the current trend by more than a few years. This record shifts gears a bit, with more restraint and slower tempos than earlier releases. Dramatic vocals descend among austere but complex synth instruments. The echoey, velvety vocals sometimes seem to take after SIOUXIE SIOUX, while the synth and drum machine compositions occasionally veer into the odd minimalism of Bolides Over Basra-era MEN’S RECOVERY PROJECT. The band is organized like a conventional punk band, with different members creating the lead synth, bass synth, and drum machine parts, which allows them to create a sound that feels both more vital and more tempered than you might expect from a multi-tracked solo project. Definitely something to check out for anyone into darkwave or synthwave or goth cosplay.

Casual Burn Mean Thing LP

Frantic, intense lo-fi punk from New Orleans with a lot of reverb and a heavy retro vibe. The overall sound is refreshingly original and free. It sounds like it could have come from the ’80s, before punk knew exactly what it was supposed to sound like. A lot of the individuality is owed to singer Monet Mallof’s charismatic, confident, powerful, and freaky vocal style, which is backed by a perfect complement of brooding, driving riffs that are catchy and dissonant and gross all at the same time.

Hotet Död Framtid EP

Fast and melodic Scandinavian punk with everything you could possibly want from this genre: dueling male/female vocals that are impassioned and charmingly a little off-key. The title of the record translates to “Dead Future,” and despite the catchy melodies, the lyrics have a brooding, cynical undertone that perfectly sets of the upbeat sound. Definitely something to check out for fans of the canon of Scandinavian melodic punk bands, or melodic punk in general.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Never Understand
  • Issue MRR #438 • November 2019

Haircut Sensation EP

Four no-bullshit hardcore tracks each clocking in under two minutes. HAIRCUT delivers high-intensity punk with a super clear recording that still somehow sounds completely inseparable from the context of a sweaty basement packed with freaks moshing and running into each other and knocking everything over. Like, one does not exist without the other. The vocals are totally excellent, in a slightly hoarse and screamy way, like a satisfying texture you can almost touch.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Beach Impediment
  • Issue MRR #438 • November 2019

La URSS Nuevo Testamento LP

Upbeat, high-energy, dark punk that is clean and polished yet still creepy and full of angst. Alongside the requisite reverb and chorus effects, there are some anthemic sing-along choruses and refreshingly unexpected elements like a beautiful synth interlude and the occasional noodly, melodic bass riff. This record draws from a lot of different influences—MASSHYSTERI to the BUZZCOCKS to WIRE—and is likely to appeal to fans of any of them. Amid super slick production quality, sophisticated songwriting, and precise instrumental performances, the vocals still sound kind of unprofessional in the best way possible—like this is definitely still a punk band. It’s all the good things that a band should learn how to do by the time they’re putting out a third full-length record, without losing authenticity, getting stuck, or getting too pro. Can’t stop listening to some of these tracks!

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Todo Destruido / Discos MMM
  • Issue MRR #437 • October 2019

Eat My Fear Taking Back Space EP

Self-described as queer feminist straight-edge hardcore from Berlin, EAT MY FEAR is definitely a band the world has been waiting for. The songs are packed with angry and impassioned political lyrics, plenty of group vocals, and probably more breakdowns than the fast parts were designed to withstand. Without diminishing the depth of the emotion or gravity of the subject matter, these songs sound fun as hell. This reminds me of the fury and creativity of late-’90s political hardcore bands like HARUM SCARUM and ANTI PRODUCT. With six tracks clocking in at about eight minutes, this EP left me wishing there was more, and looking forward to what’s next.

Email Trouble Cyberbully Cassette

The combination of driving mid-tempo drum machines, dark, dancey synth leads, and angsty human vocals really resonates with the strange realities of late capitalism and the electronic age. Minneapolis’ self-described “Queer+Trans punx making synth beats” deliver ten tracks that could definitely get a basement full of punks dancing deliriously, peppered with smart political and cultural critique. The minimalist synthesized instrumental compositions allow the vocals and lyrics to be front and center. This tape is totally electronic and totally punk at the same time, which is no easy feat. The tape includes cool artwork and a free, customizable ALIENation membership card.

Mala Vista Mouth Breeder EP

NYC’s MALA VISTA pack five catchy, fast, rock’n’roll songs onto this EP. The songs have a fun, high-energy, ’77 punk style and a heavy retro undertow. But they don’t just take the genre cues and sit back. Punchy chorus riffs, tidal waves of shredding, and lyrics about fucking up fascists set this record apart. Garage punk has a tradition of avoiding politics, but I think this record proves that rocking out is more fun with a common cause.

Argument? Paintings EP

Weird, experimental, and nostalgic peace-punk from Berlin that comes across as completely earnest without taking itself too seriously. Playful basslines climb and descend, channeling the B-52’S as much as CRASS, while the blunt yet passionate lyrics remind me of NAKED AGGRESSION. It has a tough, artsy vibe, and vocalists taking turns, not totally unlike HUGGY BEAR. There’s something refreshing about hearing a band that doesn’t seem at all concerned with fitting in to a current trend, but is just having fun and doing what feels right. Definitely something to check out for anyone into peace punk, or looking to hear something sincere and unusual.

Scrap Brain A Journey Into Madness LP

Raw, vulnerable, and disgusting, SCRAP BRAIN delivers a scourge of slowed-down art hardcore spiced up with a few unusual elements like a remixed pop sample and electronic interlude. While some hardcore bands attempt to break music through extreme precision or brute force, SCRAP BRAIN instead uses their powers to contort notes into unnatural positions, pours on malaise-infused static confusions, and glues it all together with scathingly unapologetic lyrics dissecting the experience of madness. Definitely something not to miss for hardcore fans, art rockers, and weirdo punks alike.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Drunken Sailor / Thrilling Living
  • Issue MRR #436 • September 2019

Obsessions Killing Time / Final Solution 7"

A dreamy, psychedelic take on garage rock, with reverb on the vocals and a heavy tambourine presence. The straightforward minor chord progressions and disaffected, snotty vocals are more emotional and less macho than you might expect from a garage record. While I don’t suspect these guys are actual fascists, it is a bit tone deaf to release a track called “Final Solution” with no lyric sheet.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Resurrection / Static Blooms
  • Issue MRR #436 • September 2019

Cyberplasm The Psychic Hologram LP

This record sounds like a DIY Brain Machine hijacked by anarchist hardcore punks and reprogrammed to rearrange your psyche. The concept of the record is that redemption lies in liberating the body from the mind to achieve freedom from dystopian, fascist control. The artwork includes a poster proclaiming, “YOU ARE THE INFINITE,” and “FREE THE BODY FROM THE MIND.” Brutal, blasting hardocre riffs and vocals appear intermittenetly, drenched in reverb and effects in a cyclone of chaos. This is not a noisy hardcore record. At least half the tracks are totally electronic and edge toward slow, sludgy, angry dance music. It always frustrated me that ATARI TEENAGE RIOT was so almost good. Glad to see this record taking a page from the same book but putting together something truly excellent and completely punk. The irony of the futuristic artwork and theme wrapped around such an archaic object as a vinyl record is not lost on this reviewer.

Pleasure Leftists The Gate LP

In their first release since 2015, PLEASURE LEFTISTS return with ten brooding yet upbeat post-punk tracks. The songs are awash with emotion and interweaving layers of instruments, while singer Haley’s vocals cut through with dramatic melodies. The deathrock sound is still present, with a strong SIOUSXIE AND THE BANSHEES, ’80s-style undertow. What the band gains through restraint and thoughtfulness here leads to a sound that is solid, but a bit less adventurous than their original 2015 full-length, The Woods of Heaven. Recorded by Stan Wright of ARCTIC FLOWERS, it’s beautifully and intentionally produced without sounding over-produced.

Good Shade Way Out LP

This fourth full-length release from Columbus, Ohio’s GOOD SHADE goes between extra fast, melodic power-pop and more tender, meandering ballads. The moments of glory are the simple, understated interludes between overwrought vocal melodies and multi-multi-layered guitar leads. While the band has a full lineup for live shows, all parts of the recording are written, performed, and recorded by one member. It’s an impressive accomplishment, but not likely to appeal to fans of punk.

Primitive Teeth Plastic Cassette

Five tracks of dark but high-energy punk, with songwriting that sounds like it draws some influence from melodic Scaninavian punk, and dramatic vocals a little like X. The unconventional post-punk drumming adds a lot to the sound, and catchy minor chord progressions create tension and anxiety. Includes most of what you’re likely looking for in a dark punk tape, with some cool and spooky special effects right at the end of the final track.

Musclegoose A Hot Dog Made of Us EP

Remember when punk used to be silly and tough and mercilessly antagonistic all at the same time? This weird EP channels the rawness of ’80s punk like CIRCLE JERKS or BORN AGAINST, plus something a little extra artsy. I haven’t heard anything simultaneously this smart and this dumb in a long time. It sounds like fun.

Nadir Collecting Misery LP

Solid jams with anthemic riffs from Queens, New York. There’s far more than meets the ear at first. This record avoids the generic monotony of gruff bro pop punk, and steers more into the direction of being a little more musical, with thoughtful guitar leads and a killer vocal performance. Definitely something for fans of current sad, nuanced, wall-of-sound melodic punk like VACATION to check out.

Antidon’ts We Reap What You Sow CD-R

The band was looking forward to being included in the last print issue of MRR, so our apologies that it looks like they missed that boat. This is some real high-energy, spazzy, angry punk that bounces back and forth between screamy streetpunk and legit ska-punk. The best parts are the fast, crunchy riffs that sound a little like early GRIMPLE. They also mention that they recently recorded a split with MDC.

Bad Year My Escape 7"

This record really makes me realize that the only difference between a lot of the “cheesy” pop-punk that gets compared to NOFX and the “authentic” pop punk that gets compared to CRIMPSHRINE is production value. BAD YEAR’s songs are pretty great, but I kind of can’t get past the squeaky-clean delivery. There are moments where the grittiness sneaks in, but most of it lands closer to SCREECHING WEASEL. Hand-screened, one-sided, four-song picture disc.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Snappy Little Numbers
  • Issue MRR #433 • June 2019

Leastwurst Zeroth Law Cassette

Freaky robot punk about video games, killer zombie dicks, and sentient mustaches. If there is a such a thing as artsy metalcore, this is probably it. Simultaneously silly, fun, and totally terrifying.

Trashley Joyful Angst LP

Electroclash dance punk from Paris that keeps the guitar, bass, and drums high in the mix, and doesn’t stray too far into the electro end of the spectrum. Impassioned group vocals and melodic riffs bring to mind the chaos of early ’00s synth punk. Lyrics in English that sound cool, but don’t totally make sense. Probably pretty incredible to see this band live, if they keep up even half the energy level of this recording.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Emergence / Gurdulu / Mass Prod
  • Issue MRR #432 • May 2019

Pandemix In Condemnation LP

Blending perfect amounts of artsy peace-punk weirdness and brutal aggression, Boston’s PANDEMIX deliver a sound that is all at once angry, transgressive, fun, and exciting. This record reminds me why I love punk: it’s got some real out-of-the-box peace-punk moments, dissonant chord combos, irresistible melodic hooks, dark creepy riffs, and fast hardcore parts. The track “Synthetix” juxtaposes full-blast hardcore riffs with a punchy, CRASS-like mid-tempo interlude, while “Column of Light” is a slow and scathing screed, with just vocals and guitar. Pretty much something for everyone. Seriously, do not miss out on this!

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Boss Tuneage / Dirt Cult
  • Issue MRR #432 • May 2019

Arteries Arteries LP

Portland’s ARTERIES take everything we know about the last 40 years of punk, and distill it down to a concentrated liqueur of all the best elements. Freaky and experimental, they weave otherworldly anthems with haunting group vocals, effervescent synth effects, persistent post- punk basslines, and unexpected turns. It brings to mind the unlikely combination of sounds like the SCREAMERS and LOST CHERREES. Members of Portland’s RED HERRING and RAW NERVES. I am blown away by how great this is.

Molar Straniero 12"

Upbeat post-punk with strong pop undertones, but still aggressive enough to sound unmistakably punk. The songs are melodic and pretty, but also unsettling. These two different tendencies pull in competing directions, creating a natural tension. Just when you think the song has settled into a poppy riff, it gets weird again, throwing in layers of dissonant chords, unexpected accents, and yelling. Their 2016 release includes a cover of a SLANT 6 song, and the influence is still a relevant point of reference on this release. This record has five tracks, definitely looking forward to more.

Abolitionist A New Militance 10"

At first, I kept thinking that I must be missing something here. I don’t want to be making assumptions about the gender identities of the band members. This can’t possibly be an entire eight-song concept record about feminism by a band of four dudes, with lyrics written in the first person from the perspective of a woman (“Hands off our bodies / We’re tired of the gaslighting”). The cover art is an illustration of an army of women: featuring oversexualized, stereotypical representations of women of different ethnicities. Their faces are covered by pink bandanas, and they wave pink flags while marching away from a cityscape emitting clouds of pink smoke. Unsurprisingly, the illustrator is also a man. It’s almost funny, like one of those “unclear on the concept” cartoon panels, how hard this misses the point. To the band: not all liberation movements belong to you. What feminism needs is for men to step back and let women define the struggle, define the goals, speak for themselves, and get to be the protagonist in their own story. You don’t still get to be the cool guy in the band, you don’t still get to tell the story. Support feminism by supporting women, not by exploiting women’s struggle to promote yourself. And besides it not being your story to tell, you are not competent to tell this story from a woman’s perspective. The pink theme is a little baffling (did I mention the vinyl is also light pink?), and the lyrics read like a BuzzFeed listicle of top feminism hashtags. It’s shallow and reductive, with no signs of actual understanding of why these issues resonate so strongly with women’s real lived experience. I commend the effort and intention that went into this, and am glad there are men that want to support feminist struggle. It’s OK to have a long way to go, as long as you’re willing to do the hard work of listening, learning, and growing. Why not write a record drawn from your own experience of how patriarchy has harmed you and people you care about?

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Different Kitchen / 1859 Records
  • Issue MRR #431 • April 2019

WLMRT Lube 2 EP

Fast, intense art punk with synth up front in the mix and maxed- out vocals. Even with the synth, freaky art riffs, and occasional group vocals, there’s nothing tender about this, which is so refreshing. There are some super-catchy grooves worthy of being called “hooks” but they’re buried in the mix in a very cool way that kind of sneaks up on you. Weird, angry, fun, and it seems like you could dance to it, or at least kind of flail around and shake spastically.

Witch Fever Toothless / Daddy Pt. 2

Gritty rock’n’roll vibes that remind me of fatally tough ’90s rockers like BABES IN TOYLAND and L7. High production value and undeniable talent on the part of the vocalist make the sound fall somewhere between the current wave of underground punk witchiness and radio-ready hard rock. The lyrics are explicitly about claiming empowerment, which is pretty excellent whether it’s performed in a basement full of sweaty punks or a rock club full of regular people.

Red Delicious Far From the Tree EP

This is so good! Hardcore with tough and growly female vocals sung in Portuguese, sick riffs, and sludgy breakdowns. There’s something old school about the vibe, with slower parts that almost have the kind of sassy, deliberate delivery of MINOR THREAT. The fast parts are brutal and fun at the same time, a combo that is sadly not as pervasive as one might hope. Listening to this record is the closest thing to being in a circle pit that you can do without actually moving. Every member of this band brings in cool, interesting elements. And they managed to cram eight tracks onto an EP. Don’t miss this!

Dewaere Slot Logic LP

The record kicks off sounding a little like a loungey take on the MISFITS, and then moves into heavy rock with theatrical vocal delivery somewhat in the vein of the STROKES. The entire recording is drenched in a heavy coating of static fuzz and reverb. It’s big and dirty and you probably know if that’s the kind of thing that gets you going.

Années Zéro Nique EP

Heavy hardcore punk with a bit of a creepy deathrock undertow. Growly vocals, accented with reverb, drive the songs with unstoppable energy and there are enough intelligible riffs and dynamic changes to keep things interesting. This record expands on what could easily be a formula for punk songs—short, angry verses over repeating guitar chord progressions—but it is so much more than that. Incorporating the occasional melodic, chorus-drenched guitar lead or unusual rhythm changes brings in a ton of nuance and keeps it sounding exciting and fresh. Definitely recommended. Record comes with cool fold-out poster artwork.

  • Reviewer Heather Blotto
  • Label Destructure / No Glory
  • Issue MRR #430 • March 2019