Reviews

Jason Harding

Gee Tee Atomic EP

We’ve got another winner from Sydney’s leading Gas Station Rock band, GEE TEE. Opening with lo-fi RAMONES-y vibes accented by warbly keys, “Kombat Kitchen” had me nice and cozy from the get-go. “Mutant World” serves up a buzzing garage groove. Laid-back title track “Atomic” sounds like it is wearing sunglasses while the world melts, and “Dudes In The Valley” ends it off by inducing both grins and the urge to start the record over again. Well-played.

The John Buxton Experience Portal to Heck 12″

The JOHN BUXTON EXPERIENCE is a one-man band from Wisconsin, and I bet this is the first time anyone has ever typed that name out in all caps. I kid—this guy has chops and writes some intricate shit in addition to being proficient at both guitars and drums. The vocals here remind me of M.O.T.O. a bit, and the music ranges from straight hardcore (“A Disastrous Introduction”) to rock epics (“Pillar of Salt”), to weirdness like “Goin’ Mad,” which seems to channel both KING DIAMOND and M.O.D. at different points. Despite the eccentricity of the songs, he manages to pull together a rather tight sound. In fact, you might never guess this was all just one guy if I didn’t tell you. Try it on a friend. Or don’t. Either way, something tells me we haven’t heard the last of JOHN BUXTON.

Suck Lords Songs the Lords Taught Us flexi EP

Adding their own unique recipe of menace and mania to classic HC styles, SUCK LORDS from Portland are real men of the cloth as far as I’m concerned. Their sound draws comparisons to early POISON IDEA as well as some of the nastiest Japanese hardcore bands of the 1980s without being redundant. The five songs on this flexi come in so fast and ferocious sometimes that it feels like the beat is almost tripping over itself. They’re also able to impressively switch from this insane tempo to a more relaxed and rockin’ pace on a dime. This is sacrilegious and psychedelic old-school action on overdrive, and I support it.

Discovery Earth to Fucker EP

DISCOVERY does not mince words, as evidenced by the eloquence of this ripping EP’s opening track “Pig Shit.” These guys from the Bay Area go hard, playing tough, driving, and straightforward hardcore with plenty of tasty nuance. They take their cue from early US bands as well as classic Japanese hardcore without aping styles, and this 7” is jam-packed with tight and heavy tunes to reflect on, revel in, and rage to.

Twisted Thing Sacred Cement EP

The ladies in TWISTED THING stir up an enchanting and chaotic buzz on their pounding sophomore EP. Displaying a new level of maturity compared to their excellent debut cassette from 2018, the songs on this 7” are sophisticated and unforgiving. There’s some aspects to the sound that makes the record sound like it could have come out on a label like Sub Pop in the ’90s, but nah, maybe it’s a little too cool for that. They could probably play a great show with TANTRUM and maybe a couple of other bands in the city with similar dark and compelling auras. This is another strong entry in what seems to be a powerful new surge of female energy building in the NYC punk scenes, and I look forward to seeing how this particular plot thickens.

Zhukov EP II cassette

New Zealand fucking rules, doesn’t it? I present to you the latest in a long lineage of NZ punk winners: ZHUKOV. Playing garage-y hardcore tunes with grooving guitars and exasperated growls for vocals, this band gets your head bobbin’ to an authentic and original sound. With a blunt anti-establishment motif that’s illustrated quite vividly on the album art as well as in the songs, these Christchurch lads urge you to “Join the Brick Throwers’ Union Today,” and I’ve already submitted my application.

Pänika Demo 2020 cassette

This short dose of PÄNIKA is flush with a menacing and pounding sound. Blasting sparse riffs with a mocking tone, haunting echoed vocals, and overt political themes, its got all the ingredients for a captivating hardcore experience, even if it only lasts a couple minutes. They kinda remind me of a female-fronted version of Italy’s KOBRA, which is great praise, and I’m thinking this has got to be one of the hottest bands in Wroclaw, Poland.

Reek Minds Rabid EP

“Blistering” is an adjective that comes up frequently when describing hardcore bands, and it’s certainly the first one that comes to mind when considering REEK MINDS’ new EP. Powerviolence fury with croaking and growling vocals propels this record forward at breakneck speeds, with the occasional breakdown providing a little respite from the chaos. If you like ‘em super-fast, nasty, and unforgiving, you’ll likely join the choir of enthusiasts who are saying that this is one of the best records to come out in a while.

The Dogs Teen Slime: Original 1973–1977 Recordings LP

Forgotten ’70s heroes the DOGS from Iowa played raw and primal guitar rock, minus much of the pretension that was so commonly paired with popular music of the era. Instead they opted for unapologetic expression with a beautiful “fuck you” feel. I guess it’s hard to be pretentious when you’re wailing and shrieking like a wounded animal over a decent percentage of the music, and the singer here has no shame in his vocal freak-out game. Riffs are dirty and direct, the themes are of youthful confusion and reflection, and their STOOGES influence is evident as soon as you look at the album’s cover. The songs sometimes take up a shamanic vibe, as in the bluesy “Man Is Not An Animal”, and at other times it sounds like every member of the band is doing whatever the hell they want with surprisingly rockin’ results (see: “Freakin’ on the Street”). In other words, this is proto-punk gold, and this collection features the band’s 1977 double A-side “Rot ‘n’ Roll / Teen Slime” single, as well as five earlier songs dating back as far as 1973. I’ve been listening to this thing for months. The Breakout/Rave Up team-up is on a roll with excellent reissues of this nature, fingers crossed for the PUNKS LP next.

Misanthropic Minds Welcome to the Homeland, Greetings From the Wasteland EP

Holy shit, yes. Like a tornado of rusty razors, Nova Scotia’s MISANTHROPIC MINDS hit the ground ripping on this blazing EP. This particularly nasty strain of hardcore is fresh-sounding and severe, serving up a thorough and agile pummeling. The chainsaw guitar never stops screaming at the end of the first song, entering the second track as a wall of wailing distortion that just keeps riding the back beat. It’s a rad move that had me cracking up the first time I heard it. The relentless thrashing continues, and the brooding title(-ish) track “The Homeland” provides a nice breather before the closing track drags you back into the whirlwind for one more round. This is the kind of record that you blow on a little bit before you take it off the turntable, because you’re scared it might burn your hand.

Purple-X Pre-Tense EP

PURPLE-X delivers a unique brand of hardcore, swaying between manic and melodic with traces of deathrock influence on their debut EP. The singer stands out with snotty vocals that are just the right amount belligerent (due in part I’m sure to her Oslo accent delivering English lyrics), and the band displays the breadth of their capabilities over the course of these four surly songs. Dark, divergent sounds from Norway’s capital.

True Sons of Thunder Age Old Effrontery EP

With a diverse roster of seasoned players from bands like the OBLIVIANS, MANATEEES, RAT TRAPS, and more, TRUE SONS OF THUNDER are a supergroup of divine debauched pedigree, serving up scummy lo-fi indulgence with the weight of heady hardcore. The opening “Shake Rag” is a depraved freight train of STOOGES-style swagger that contains a shout-out to two-thirds of EMERSON, LAKE, AND PALMER. “Plastic Bat Attack” includes a refrain that sounds like the attack itself and provides instructions for creating your very own plastic weapon. “Toob Sock” ends things off somewhat abruptly with an urgent cadence that would not be out of place on a HOMOSTUPIDS record. These guys stir up quite a din, check out their Total Punk LP for further proof.

V/A American Idylls 2xLP

When I was a kid, a good compilation record was like a ticket to another world. In the pre-internet universe, these were often a crucial gateway to discovering new bands, and in this far-away and oft-forgotten dimension, finding a monster double-LP collection like American Idylls would be nothing less than a fucking miracle. Packing 49(!) songs from the cream of the current North Carolina punk crop, the musical styles represented here range from spastic DIY (FITNESS WOMXN), to punishing thrash (PUBLIC ACID), and lots in between, making it a real “something for everyone” affair. It’s mind-blowing that this eclectic variety of great bands exists at once on the planet, let alone all in the NC area. With the party crushers of DRUGCHARGE, the steely post-hardcore of SILICA, the dystopian dirges of NATURAL CAUSES, the strong and snotty rockers from MIND DWELLER, and much more, the majority of this stuff pushes boundaries and challenges categorization, as good music should. Adding to the orgasm, the vinyl package comes with a 32-page booklet documenting the scene. I hope there’s at least a couple young’n’s out there who somehow find this record between TikTok sessions and truly get their shit rocked forever.

Gutter Knife Boots on the Ground LP

Blending the punch and drive of O.G. hardcore in the vein of GOVERNMENT ISSUE with Oi!/UK82 sensibilities echoing bands like COMBAT 84 and the 4-SKINS, GUTTER KNIFE hails from the seaside slums of Brighton, England. These ten tough tracks range from relentless pummeling, to snotty speed attacks, to COCKNEY REJECTS-style “football” rockers, all painted with the perfect gruff and loose vocals to put ‘em right over the top. The band wears their influences on their record sleeve, as every single song title sounds like something you might make up if joking around about “skunk” rock bands of this sort (“Hangman,” “No Justice,” and “Boots on the Ground,” for example). I mean that in the best possible way, as these guys strike all the right chords, giving France’s RIXE some stiff competition for the title of present-day Oi! Champions. Fingers crossed for more of this butter from the GUTTER.

Tantrum Get What You Deserve cassette

NYC’s TANTRUM delivers a steady D-beat pounding on some of this tape, and dark, smoky post-punk on the rest of it. It’s an interesting mix, especially when complemented by the tinny demo quality. The echoed female vocals add a layer of goth/anarcho vibes to these six tracks, working just as well over the thrashy hardcore parts as they do on the slower, more pointed numbers. While these elements may sound a little mismatched, TANTRUM makes it work fairly seamlessly.

Black Button I Want to Be in Control cassette

BLACK BUTTON really caught my attention last year with their short demo tape, so I was pretty psyched when I saw this release pop up. As I had hoped, it’s a hell of a ride. This formidable Richmond act plays intense, jazzy, angular, and cerebral lo-fi hardcore that creates a dense, disturbing, dystopian-like atmosphere to pull the listener in. The music is equal parts groovy and gripping, aided by a desperate, tortured, and venomous vocal performance spitting thought-provoking spoken word on top. Every once in a while everything seems to just fall apart, adding a dimension of No Wave clamor to the sound. I just can’t decide which version of the band’s self-titled “theme song” I prefer—the haunting live arthouse version on the demo or the tightly-wound, homicidal-horn-laced chaos found here. They’re both great, and so are the rest of these unique tunes. I’m pulling out the big B-word on this one—brilliant stuff. Don’t sleep on it.

Power Face Door Slammed Shut EP

Enthusiastic Stockholm Swedes POWER FACE play a turbo-charged kind of metal-punk, reminding me a little bit of SoCal skate bands from the early ’90s. If you strip away the wild, spit-caked vocals, the music is honestly pretty generic melodic punk/hardcore, which they play well. Are these guys signed to Fat Wreck yet, or what?

Cement Shoes A Love Story of Drugs & Rock & Roll & Drugs EP

This fuckin’ band. First they tear the ass out of 2019 with the killer Too LP, and now this Love Story makes the rest of the 7” pile pale in comparison. I thought this Richmond, VA outfit might be done after they parted ways with their previous black-throated singer, but drummer Trevor jumped up to fill the slot with surprisingly great results. Here the SHOES stomp through three songs, each showing a different side of the band’s bizarre spiral of turbo-charged, trippy, and groovy hardcore punk rock. The record clocks in at just under eight minutes, but rumor has it that a carefully-timed bong hit will make it seem more like sixteen. Starts heavy, ends heeavvy. Highly recommended.

Johnny Thunders Live From Zürich 1985 LP

Exhumed and remastered from a tape that had been stored in a private stash box that JOHNNY simply labeled “Thunders Tapes,” Live From Zürich 1985 captures a live Swiss radio session recorded six years before his passing. Thanks to a sharp remastering job, the sound is super-crisp, and THUNDERS’ usual disaffected and snotty charm is on full display throughout. The fourteen songs here are a bit of mixed bag, ranging from highlights like the opening rocker “Blame It On Mom” and the Jerry “Needles” Nolan co-written “Countdown Love,” to obligatory DOLLS and HEARTBREAKERS covers, to duds like the ill-advised dub of “Cool Operator.” Die-hard fans will dig it, and this is the first of a series of these “forgotten” recordings to come, so they can look forward to digging more.

The Geros Freak Out / Dr. Hoo Hoo 7”

The GEROS from Osaka have an uncanny knack for channeling the pure mischievous spirit of early punk from the ’70s and ’80s. This talent, embellished by the mastering of GEZA X, results in an orgy of raw and snappy punk on the band’s third 7”. This single oozes KBD juice and memories of the MAD, and both songs have an addictive quality that’ll keep you flipping the Japanese wax ‘til it’s well-worn. Enhance your existence with this and the other two excellent GEROS records at your earliest convenience.

Nutrition No EP

The chair featured on the cover of this Vancouver band’s record is the kind you typically see in welfare offices, police stations, and low-rent business waiting areas. The off-putting nature of this visual fits the existential displeasure that is the springboard for NUTRITION’s agitated grown-up punk. The band’s sound is pretty appetizing, delivering a dense and jangly sort of post-hardcore with a spirited vocal performance and even a whiff of HANK WOOD influence. As promised, there’s some sustenance here, but this aggressively pessimistic platter of short songs is a hearty snack at best.

The Spits VI LP

After a lengthy wait, the streets again run red with a fresh spill from Kalamazoo’s finest. In this eagerly anticipated episode of the SPITS, the band cranks out a few new classics whilst retaining their classic VHS Horror-esque groove, complete with 8-bit keys and sci-fi vocals. As soon as the opener “Up All Night” kicks into its unholy buzz, you know it’s on. Most of the songs tread in familiar SPITS territory, but some of my favorite tracks here are the ones where they break the mold a little bit like “Creep” and “They.” This thing is sold out all over with a second press coming soon, and rumor has it that the guys are launching a new fan club in 2021. Stay tuned for more spine-tingling adventures.

Death Cult Spiritual Conundrum cassette

The latest tape from San Antonio’s DEATH CULT delivers four cuts of menacing, metal-tinged punk with dark themes, thrashy guitars, and exasperated vocals. Interesting production makes every song stand out in its own unique way and these guys aren’t afraid to get a little weird with the effects. On the final track, “Flesh Prison,” the band flexes their eccentricity as we get some unabashed ACCUSED influence paired with a melodic chorus before the whole thing just collapses into an echo chamber of screams and feverish laughter. Good times.

Kobra Confusione LP

KOBRA brings us some no-bullshit Oi!-tinged hardcore with a fresh and gritty feel. On this striking debut 12″ from the Milan four-piece, some of the songs have this cool production where the “meat” of the music is blown-out and in the red, while other components like vocals and saxophone are dubbed in more cleanly (like on “Confusione”). And then on other tracks, everything seems to be turned up to batshit-loud in one big clamor (“Stella Morta,” for example). The lyrics are in Italian and the songs are generally about resisting authority, staying sharp, and thinking for yourself in a world enslaved by consumerism, which somehow comes across even without using Google translate. It’s a fucking good record.

CTRL Group Blood Sausage cassette

Armed with an awesomely warped buzzsaw guitar attack, Raleigh’s CTRL GROUP serves up a tight set of intense and creative hardcore on this tape. The singer’s got a strong set of pipes on him, which he uses to deliver repetitive lyrics with a maniacal melody à la Serj Tankian. Fun stuff, and I imagine this band is deafening live.

Sabre I Will Live Forever EP

Bay Area punks SABRÈ bring us a concise demo with UK82 energy tempered by looming post-punk/anarcho vibes. Gravelly vocals and dizzying guitar work propel these four short and sharp songs forward, and when it’s over in a flash you’re compelled to play it again. Cool. 

Eddie Criss Group Undertaker LP reissue

Originally released in 1980 on “King of Punk” DAVID PEEL’s Orange Records, the sole album from NYC songsmith Eddie Criss’s namesake group serves up a hot, greasy slice of forgotten rock history. More down-and-dirty, glam-tinged rock ’n’ roll than proper punk, the tunes on this reissued LP have been blessed with the distinct guitar work of the MC5’s Wayne Kramer! Kramer’s fiery lead licks are all over this thing, and tunes like the opening “Lady In Waiting” and “Witches Hour” are bona-fide blazers that will surely command the attention of any ’70s sleaze-rock hound. Production is properly thin and crispy, cracking to reveal pools of subtle psychedelia as demonstrated on “Sequences.” Undertaker is definitely a product of its era, and wasn’t exactly breaking any new ground. “Just No Use,” for instance, is pretty much “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with a different tempo and lyrics. There’s weak spots like the ham-fisted CHUCK BERRY impression on “Let Me Rock ’n’ Roll,” and at least one song that would cause Eddie to be promptly canceled were it to hit the mainstream today (“Schoolgirlz”), but those are overshadowed by the raw street soul that laces the majority of this once-buried slab. I’m glad they dug it up.

The Pigs Youthanasia LP

First-wave UK punk outfit the PIGS left us just one artifact in their brief existence, the venerable Youthanasia EP. Little did we know there were seven more songs from the same 1977 recording session lurking about in obscurity ever since! This excellent collection includes those plus the four tracks originally released on the EP as well for a total of eleven twangy and bangy OG punk thrashers. With infectious tunes covering classic punk topics like anarchy, racism, and nuclear war way before they became cliché, these scrappy Bristol lads unwittingly created a blueprint that would soon become well-worn. This is ’77 punk at its raucous, ramshackle finest. Essential.

Mutant Strain Mutant Strain LP

An (im?)proper long-player from Charlotte, NC’s Mutant Strain, this album was recorded live, three songs at a time, with no breaks in between. That’s gangster. Loaded with twists, turns, and plenty of catchy hardcore pummeling, the music of MUTANT STRAIN is infused with the fiendish spirit of DAWN OF HUMANS at times and the winding intrigue of the COLTRANES at others, with a healthy dollop of anarcho influence spread throughout (the elaborate sleeve and multiple inserts included with the record are done in the style of Crass Records as well.) The theatrical female vocals here get downright demonic, providing a nice contrast to the grinds and grooves of their hook-laden, bass-heavy backdrop. This is intricate work, from the cover art and packaging, to the concept of the recording and track arrangement, and right on to the dense and poignant songwriting itself. A hell of a debut.

Warsaw Pakt Needle Time LP+7″ / Lorraine/Dogfight 7″

Recorded live and straight to the lathe on Saturday, November 26th of 1977, WARSAW PAKT’s explosive Needle Time LP was on record store shelves by 7:00 AM the next morning. This legendary stunt serves a fitting metaphor for the fast and furious London group’s short and potent career. Active only from 1977-78, WARSAW PAKT was fronted by the uber-charismatic Jimmy Coull, and included some grizzled ’60s psych veterans and an ex-MOTÖRHEAD drummer amongst their ranks. This resulted in some truly unique, sophisticated, and rockin’ pub-punk that’s been largely unheard in the decades since. Due to its unique origin story, Needle Time really captures the power of the short-lived band’s live performances in the UK alongside the CLASH and the DAMNED, but really this would have been a great record under any circumstances. Packed with sharp, catchy, and high-energy songs from top to bottom, Needle Time showcases the band’s prowess for speedy, loose, and edgy rock while punk was still in diapers. There’s not a bad tune in the bunch. Lucky for us, the geniuses at Munster Records have given Needle Time an awesome reissue treatment, threw in a bonus 7″ with it, and even put out two previously unreleased studio tracks on yet another 7″ single (“Lorraine / Dogfight”)! As if that weren’t enough, further enlightenment can be found on the ROCKETS 7” from last year which reveals the PAKT’s pub rock roots. It’s all top o’ the stack material.