Reviews

Matt Badenhop

Swan Wash The Upstairs Museum cassette

A trio from Bloomington, IN with a controlled, focused deathrock approach. Two punk-length tracks with picked guitar lines and urgent WIRE-esque vocal approach, followed by a colder, lengthier conclusion that moves from the third to the first person. Icy soundscapes compliment the static urban decay musings, lending more to this experience than what’s just on the surface. Would fit well among the early 4AD roster rather than with reverb or distortion-drenched crust-gone-goth thing that feels pretty overdone at this point.

Backlash Punk Is Danger EP

Turns out SELFISH is not the only expert purveyor of Japanese hardcore in Finland. While seemingly less prolific and less travelled than their aforementioned mates, BACKLASH certainly deserves the attention of any well-respected fan of the sound. Expect a powerful production, accentuated by massive group vocal barks and appropriate guitar noodling. BASTARD, DEATH SIDE, JUDGEMENT…you know the shit. Pure rampage with just enough hooks to keep me coming back. I both laugh at and agree with the liner notes: “Fuck the system, Fuck You, Punk is Danger!”

Afterboltxebike Agitación Marxista EP

As far as I can tell, these guys are from just outside Monterrey, Mexico, and borrow their name from a KORTATU song, with whom they also share themes of organized labor and class struggle. They play a classic burly Mexican hardcore punk style, like MASSACRE 68 or SEDICION beefed up with a more modern compressed digital production. “A.C.A.B” is a rendition of “Dicks Hate the Police,” updated to condemn ICE and the current loser US president (who will be fucking off soon), and while I’m obviously on board for the message, it sounds pretty bad! That being said, this EP emanates strong antifascist and revolutionary vibes and is absolutely worth raising a fist in solidarity with, and includes lyrical translations from Spanish to French and English.

Rocky and the Sweden City Baby Attacked By Buds LP

I nearly forgot about Tokyo’s premiere punk weed enthusiasts, which isn’t actually that weird considering their last release came out 20 years ago! It may be my jaded attitude to approaching new releases, or my ignorance of the Japanese hardcore world these days but somehow I was not expecting this to slay as hard as it does. Truly impressive, furious and powerful shit that immediately earns a spot on the shelf next to my favorite CRUDE and FORWARD releases. ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN has a unique penchant for incorporating their passion for ganja into both their aesthetic and demands for freedom and liberation. Some might think this is cheesy but I’d argue that their authenticity is undeniable given how long this theme has endured, along with consistent quality of output. For me it’s all about the aural impact and the great songs, jackhammering drums and searing guitar leads that somehow conjure feelings of hope, where there honestly are none these days. This limited US pressing was intended for a 2020 US tour (that obviously didn’t happen) and, like toilet paper and PS5s, was panic-bought and is already going for inflated prices, so enjoy it anyway you can!

Vicio Tu Placer Es Maltratado EP

Eight tracks of thrashed-out hardcore perfection originally released as a demo at the turn of the century, deservedly pressed on 7″ format. From the border town Laredo, TX, situated equidistant between San Antonio and Monterrey, VICIO’s outrage at racist domestic terror, dehumanization, and attention to addiction and abuse is forever relevant. They explore complicated issues, vulnerably conveying frustration with the way their people choose to assimilate to survive and thrive in American society, white people in their community panhandling, and perception of self-worth in an overwhelmingly xenophobic society. Their sound unmistakably compares to some of the most timeless and influential Latinx hardcore bands like CRUDOS and SIN ORDEN, with a distinct rawness that often comes though best on a band’s debut. I long for this kind of unapologetic, inspiring punk that hits so hard, while I acknowledge this level of outrage sadly only comes from real struggle. A total Lengua Armada-styled layout (Martin S. credited in the liner notes) rounds the whole thing out, further making this an essential pickup.

Danziger Hate Us! CD

Satanic Queer Pizza UFO Punk? Not exactly. These northern Polish punks actually deliver a very progressive and anti-authoritarian message through a polished pop-punk style akin to JAWBREAKER or pre-mainstream GREEN DAY. All the lyrics are translated to English and appropriately criticize the abhorrent ultra-conservative Polish government and a placated society. A bit of hopelessness, some humor, but altogether honest and in DIY fashion. Singer/guitarist Tytus does these great rocket-launch jumps, and they covered “Devilock” when I saw them on tour in 2018, both memorable attributes. Not the new hot shit you’re lookin to fly out with your Mastercard for the next punk-tourism festival, but DANZIGER seems to have established themselves as a staple of the Tricity (Gdánsk, Gdynia, Sopot) DIY punk scene.

Snot Puppies T.V. Tantrum EP

Three tracks of great adolescent LA punk, produced and remastered by Geza X and rescued from obscurity by No Matrix Records. SNOT PUPPIES were a short-lived high school band but still managed to share bills with the likes of MIDDLE CLASS, the GERMS, and SCREAMERS. Collector scums already heard “T.V. Tantrum” and “Towel Song” (just called “Towels” here) on Killed By Death #13, and I can confirm that this official 7” release was worthwhile and is essential for those gobbling up everything from the early LA punk scene. All three songs are delightfully bashy, fuck-up punk that fits nicely among the above mentioned bands, like a more inept DEADBEATS. Liner notes include all the memories and flyer scans necessary to make this an obvious pickup.

Katastrophe Tod In Gewahrsam cassette

Who doesn’t love simple, straightforward punk performed confidently and convincingly? “Tod In Gewahrsam” and “432€” are fast, intense pogo-able blasts of three-chord hardcore. “In Vielfalt Vereint” is a depressive drone with a metallic reverb vocal effect, but somehow conveys the same aggression as the rest of the tracks. Like when you play something on 33 when it’s meant to be on 45 and it actually works! KATASTROPHE gets everything right in just a few minutes of rage, and will particularly appeal to fans of catchy, hardcore-infused ’80s Deutschpunk. My understanding of German is limited but it doesn’t take a genius to notice the anti-cop theme, and all proceeds of the cassette sales go to the following organizations supporting victims of racist police violence: www.kop-berlin.de / www.polizei-gewalt.com/death-in-custody

V/A A Tribute to Really Red Teaching You the Fear…Again 2xLP

It’s a double LP of bands covering REALLY RED songs! But you already figured that out from the clunky title. Boy oh boy…let’s get some stats out of the way: 39 bands, three versions of “Teaching You the Fear,” two versions of “Pig Boy,” and a big-ass poster with a square for each band credit. It must have taken hours to enter this release into Discogs. Big names like DICKS, VERBAL ABUSE (twice!), the BELLRAYS, MYDOLLS, SUGAR SHACK, HICKOIDS, MUDHONEY, the HATES, 50 MILLION, JESUS CHRIST SUPERFLY, and beloved Randy Biscuit Turner’s last band the TEXAS BISCUIT BOMBS all contribute. REALLY RED is fucking classic on all accounts and many of the versions here are fine, some even interesting, but it’s a bit much. They’re certainly a band worth honoring in some way but I don’t see the point of a 39-song 2xLP released by CIA Records (the same label that released the REALLY RED records forty years ago), unless it’s a benefit or something? Nope, doesn’t seem to be. I could see curious fans wanting to check out some tracks via streaming (you can also buy a weird T-shirt), and maybe the most compulsive vinyl-hoarders lining up to purchase, but this is not nearly as essential listening as an actual REALLY RED record.

Drill Sergeant The Cosmic Leash cassette

Philly hardcore brutality with a raw, cavernous production. The pedal-augmented guitar tone unleashes some truly horrifying feedback screams. Stylistically, you could call it powerviolence, but it’s more bashy than chuggy—somewhere in between HERESY, INFEST, and YDI. Lyrically a bit tortured, written in the first person and with rich, damning vocabulary. A shock to the system.

The Generics Cost Cutter EP

Previously released without a picture sleeve, Feel It Records has reissued this ultra-rare nugget with some enticing art and two previously unreleased tracks. I was previously unaware of this. The story goes: in 1983, three fresh-faced skater kids from Cross Lanes, West Virginia get introduced to some classic punk, get some instruments, play some parties and school events, record seven tracks in a studio, release two of them on a single limited to 200 copies, and then break up. The overall vibe of these tracks is somewhat limp, but the adolescent charm saves it as a historical document. That said, none of this material is going to be featured on my next mixtape or played on my non-existent DJ night. Still worth the top-quality release treatment for posterity’s sake.

Jad Wstręt EP

After a few consistently solid releases, Warsaw’s JAD self-releases a concise 7″ of heavy hardcore. Ugly chromatic riffs tied in with the beefy drum production make this sound way tougher than some of the musically ancestral references like ABBADON, ARMIA, or hardcore-era SIEKIERA. Most of this short platter is circle pit speed, except for a few moshy sections that don’t drag on too long. Nothing in particular makes this stand out but it’s still great angry hardcore.

Decadent Few Lowlife LP

The timelessly-named DECADENT FEW seem to have existed in whatever remained of the Londan anarcho scene in the  late-’80s to early-’90s. Lowlife compiles an unreleased session from 1988 as well as some compilation and 7” tracks, and is every bit enjoyable as their Irrehuus LP. DECADENT FEW is among the clever bands that can strike a single riff or two for three to four minutes and somehow engage me and put me in a trance at the same time. They chose to include a cover of JOY DIVISION’s “Shadowplay” to further demonstrate this. Segments of sparse guitars create a push-and-pull effect over a steady-going rhythm section. But it would be irresponsible for me to not draw attention to the dramatic and theatrical vocal stylings of Kaya, which is really the most unique characteristic this band had to offer. Think SOUTHERN DEATH CULT but more…witchy? Some may find them a bit over the top, but that’s exactly what has always drawn me to this band. The sleeve looks lovely and the glossy fold-out insert has a couple nice gothy black-and-white band photos and lots of cool flyers, but I’d have liked some lyrics. A must for all of you UK anarcho romantics.

Pink Steel Here We Go Again EP

PINK STEEL is proof of what can happen with a resource-strong support system, i.e. an enthusiastic high school drama department. Looking past the boner joke (I mean, we’re talking about teenage boys), the story told within perfectly explains the unique blend of punk, power pop, and theatrical bliss of this formative Victoria, BC septet. Yes, seven members. Both of their hard-to-find 7”s are included here, six songs resequenced, presumably to best fit all the material onto one fairly long 7”. Highlights are “My Girl’s Radioactive” and “Won’t Come in Your Hand,” mostly because of the lyrics. The piano tinkle is what shifts their upbeat and aggressively adolescent sound into something more profound. If you are relying on online streaming to enjoy Supreme Echo releases you are doing it wrong. The research and care that goes into the interview and liner notes here elevates these recordings, putting things into proper context and making the physical release essential. Your eyes will bulge at the flyer for “The Alandhiscar X-Mas Party” lineup from 1982, featuring PINK STEEL, the NEOS, and NOMEANSNO. I already know my high school years were bullshit, but give me a break, Victoria. Obvious pickup.

Vacum Rädd För Tystnaden / Korstag 2xLP

I only know VACUM from the perspective of being a very casual collector of early Swedish punk. Rather than being the singles collection I expected, this is their 1980 debut LP with a 2018 recording called Korstag packaged into a gatefold double LP. Starting with the first album, VACUM displays an impressively varied sound injected with elements of punk, post-punk, and even some ’70s progressive rock, making for an engaging listen that remains interesting 40 years later. The songwriting is innovative but retains the urgency of early legends like EBBA GRÖN or KSMB. The Korstag session predictably emanates more modern studio magic and a “mature rock” sound, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t get sucked into some great choruses. At its best, there’s a bit of the rhythmic and vocal command of KILLING JOKE in their reformed sound. To be honest, I don’t think I’d pick Korstag up as a record buyer, so packing it in with the reissue of the debut LP is a well-played move. Massproduktion has been releasing records since all the way back to the bonzer-fide MASSMEDIA and PIZZOAR EPs, so you can rest assured the presentation of this collection is top-notch, though it’s worth noting all liner notes are in Swedish. Reportedly only 210 copies, oh dear.

B’ce n Tha Bloody Money Street Dreamz II: The Futher Adventures of Queen B’ce cassette

I ponder all of the arguments about what punk is or isn’t—the unresolvable conflict, always dead before it even starts. It’s maybe a more productive exercise in our formative years, and then when you find yourself to be an aging white guy you realize you might be out of touch and should just shut the fuck up. Now that I’ve alienated two thirds of you, let’s get to what’s really important, and that is that Toledo’s B’CE is back with four new cuts that have me throwing all of those arguments about punk into the “who gives a fuck” bin. “Too Many Times” is unmistakably a hip hop track about B’CE’s experiences being harassed by police, for simply existing. The beat has a very ’80s vibe and the song fucking rips. The fact that the chorus gets stuck in my head for days is not irony. The other three are raucous, raw and loud hardcore punk songs, captured as urgently as possible. One or two mics in the middle of the room style. “What do you know about these police? / What do you know about these streets? / What do you know about these street dreams? / What do you know about dumpster diving?” There is a song called “Punk,” which I can’t even do justice explaining how awesome it is. “This is lit man talking shit / Bloody Money that’s my click / Punks get rich, now punk is in / Punk is out now, punk is in / Punk greatness this is it / Punk greatness we the shit!” I like how all of the songs are strung together with candid quips, like they just let the tape roll so you get the whole experience. So what is punk? Well it should be liberating and subjective and this tape is affirming in so many ways that I’m going to urge you to write the band (2040 Alvin St., Toledo OH 43607) for a copy, and check out the music video for “Street Dreamz/Too Many Times.” You know where to look for that. Thank you B’CE and friends.

Dame Dame LP

Quality introduction for me to this Boston band. Stylistically, it’s eyeliner-ified ’80s new wave, with a layer of synth cutting through a thick, reverbed production that suits them really well. The album is largely punctuated by the frequent lead guitar lines and vocal-forward approach, although sometimes it feels like those two elements are battling for prominence. The opening track threw me for a loop (in a good way!), a lulling layered instrumental intro that releases into an uptempo surprise once the drums kick in. The overall presentation looks great opened up and spread across my coffee table. Striking artwork goes a long way! If you can’t get enough of the dark and dreamy punk, this will fit neatly into your rotation.

Impotentie Leopold II Is Niet Dood Genoeg LP

Pop quiz: can you name Belgium’s biggest genocider? We’re all (hopefully) filling in the gaps of our colonial histories and IMPOTENTIE is here to remind us who was behind the murderous Belgian mercenaries that caused an estimated ten million Congolese deaths in the 19th century. Disclaimer: you should not rely on punk lyrics for historical facts, but I’ll be fucked if punk didn’t at least nudge me down a morally rich path in life, and I don’t even owe any college debt! In this case, IMPOTENTIE is factually correct. Oi! music has seemingly become trendy outside skinhead circles in recent years and I think those comparisons might reduce the potency of this, so I’m gonna lean more into my appreciation for old Vögelspin releases, or how about the Alle 24 Goed! compilation? These two fellows are stationed in Montreal but sing in Dutch. Or Flemish? I’m not qualified to tell the difference. If you like the brutish, bashing punk sound with melodic highlights and a firm anti-colonial message, you couldn’t wrap it up much better than this. It would be the coolest thing to turn in as a project in history class! Also features Belgium’s most famous statue pissing on their most infamous statue—almost too perfect!

Knuste Ruter Festen Er Over LP

In this fast world of sensory overload and 24 hour news cycles, ya gotta love a great band that can endure a decade of existence. It’s been seven years since their last LP, but well worth the wait! I have the softest of spots for Norwegian hardcore punk so I’m embracing my biases here. Kenneth’s guitar intuitions plus the tremendous familiar bark of Hasse should have you pulling out all of your STENGTE DØRER and SO MUCH HATE records and cancelling all of your other commitments for the day. I’m sure the best moments are lost in translation, but lyrically there’s a lot for the listener to interpret and project onto. We don’t always need directives or absolute answers in our punk music, but maybe more humility and reflection. Kind of emo, right? In the authentic kind of way. “Black Pearls” is the only song in English and I couldn’t help but relate it to the solidarity and rage we are pouring into these times of uprising against state/police repression. The cover art isn’t really my vibe aesthetically but, yeah, there are clear messages there to help you understand what they think about it all. And please appreciate the elephant in trousers. I love this shit, such a killer record and a killer band. Børre would be proud.

Hero Dishonest Maailma Palaa Taas LP

Well-travelled Finns drop their eighth album! Stop already! Just kidding, it’s great! Who says only the youth can still make great hardcore? I say that sometimes, but I’m full of shit just like everybody else! I don’t think I’ve ever properly listened to a HERO DISHONEST record before, but that puts me in the perfect position to say this LP stands well on its own. I saw them fifteen-ish years ago and they ripped back then, so it seems they’ve stayed in good shape! This is not that classic Propaganda Records or P. Tuotonto-type Finnish hardcore, but more akin to an early ’80s USHC style shouted in breathless Finnish. Whether a mid-tempo strut or full-tilt thrash, the whole effort is overflowing with exasperation, down to the tug-of-war sleeve art. They think it’s OK to color outside the lines a bit, and I’m inclined to agree. Keeps shit fresh.

Sweet Reaper Closer Still LP

OK, this band got me trying to remember a Swedish pop band I used to listen to, it took me like a damn hour to think of… CAESAR’S PALACE, specifically the album Cherry Kicks. Ventura, CA’s SWEET REAPER presents way more punk in both production and songwriting, but it’s got a similar vocal delivery. A more relatable touchstone could be MARKED MEN, or I even dare to stretch it to HEX DISPENSERS. Don’t get too settled with my predictable Tex-ass comparisons though, because there’s a heap of California beach punk here, as per their proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Each pop vocal hook is sharpened deadly and cast through the cheek of any dumb punk willing to nibble. The drummer does that kick-drum-on-all-four-beats thing, topped with sixteenth-note hi-hats, it’s the ultimate thing to tip a band into danceable territory. A nice surprise! Who else hates the label name “Alien Snatch”?

Żona Zła Dzieła Zabrane LP

Fans of REJESTRACJA, ABADDON, TRAGEDIA and the like: here’s a modern-day answer to your Polish punk classics. Punks from Dublin collect two sessions from 2016 and 2018 on a well-balanced long-player. While the punk flattens out a cityscape with a rolling pin like fucking shortbread on the sleeve art, the band pounds out basic but massive hardcore-tinged punk songs with instantly memorizable choruses. Great cyclical riffs and a distorted vocal style better recall all of our favorite vintage Polish punk better than anything I’ve heard…probably since the ’90s? But don’t worry, it’s not purely throwback, you don’t need any prior record nerdiness to enjoy. You may think two-chord punk will inevitably be tedious, but the art form will often prove you wrong. I mean, on the last track on strona A, the drummer is basically blasting for a minute and a half and it’s so punk that you don’t even notice! And there’s a boobed skeleton pushing a wheelbarrow full of skulls.

Smut First Kiss 12″

I saw SMUT twice here in Oakland: once a completely brilliant hot drunken mess with a faulty distortion pedal and performance-enhancing technical confusion, the other time just a regular, competent show. Same approving audience reaction at both shows. A general “feel-the-darkness as truth” manifests through SMUT, and this 12” is permanent proof. There is self-abuse, there are drugs and sex, admissions and humility, punks’ experiences through punk music, devoid of the boring performative bullshit we scroll through all day every day. First Kiss is reminding me how I may have taken punk for granted pre-plague, but I know I was helplessly engaged at those two shows. And now we enjoy these eight tracks of pummelling hardcore that coulda been among the best examples from the Mutha Records roster in a different era, foul and lean but not sketchy or despicable. Or maybe the unmitigated power of early SS DECONTROL and JERRY’S KIDS. These East Coast comparisons are fine for reference but kind of unfair because this band falls into a trajectory of LA punk that’s been consistently inspiring for ten-plus years. Can’t wait til the citizens of the US value public health enough to return to a reality where we can pit to SMUT again, but in the meantime this 12” rules!

V/A No Banger Left Behind LP

An all-over-the-place compilation of tracks with seemingly no correlation other than the fact that they’re all culled from obscure cassette comps or demo tapes. It opens with a short interview clip with the WORST (Ohio, not New Jersey) and travels between South America and Italy for a few tracks, then on to the UK, Australia, Yugoslavia, West Germany, Scotland, and then back to the Americas. Most of the eighteen selections date between ’84-’91, and a couple as late as 2000. It plays much like a mix tape your cassette-hoarding nerd friend made, heavy on the raw Central/South American hardcore punk and UK anarcho unknowns. I don’t recognize a single band name on here. I did the Discogs investigation on each to confirm the title is half accurate; most of these bands don’t seem to have more than one or two documented comp tracks, nor any info additional info. The term “banger” is subjective, and while most of the material is pretty good I don’t know if I’d describe anything on here as such. The layout looks cool and I do think it’s an interesting project. Collectors may want to take this for a spin, but I’m not adding anything to the want list. Limited to 200.

Krig I Hudik III LP

These guys cranked out a couple EPs nearly ten years ago, likely embraced by fans of raucous Swedish hardcore punk. According to little research KRIG I HUDIK is a cover band of sorts, with members of MISSBRUKARNA, TOTALITÄR, BRAINBOMBS and SWINEHOOD rendering songs from Rolf Revålt’s late’-70s/early-’80s bands. If you worship Swedish punk, TOTALITÄR and MISSBRUKARNA should be on your altar, and with Poffen’s signature vocal style and the drilling guitars KRIG I HUDIK continues to sound like a mix of those two bands. This 12” compiles fluid and expert renderings of songs by MASSGRAV, DAGENS UNGDOM, ROLF & REVOLTÖRERNA, the TURFS, MISSBRUKARNA and a couple uncredited…originals? Who knows, but it’s a great slab of expert-level raw hardcore punk. I like the previous 7”s better but that’s probably just a personal format bias.

V/A Molde Punx Go Marching Out 2xLP

Long-lost-tape-to-deluxe-vinyl reissues are about as common as overpriced novelty flexi-discs these days. My lengthy and committed romance with Norwegian punk and hardcore motivated me to aquire this one and I simply could not have been prepared for how great it is. Many of Norway’s best early punk offerings have been well documented through the Bloodstains series, Anarki & Kaos comp, all of the classic X-Port Plater releases, Tsjernobilly Boogie compilation and countless comp tapes and blogs. This collection of fourteen Molde bands from 1980-83 was allegedly limited to something like 30(!) copies, but despite what you might be thinking that should mean, the quality is fucking significant! You all know BANNLYST and hopefully ANFALL and mayyybe PSYKSIK TERROR, but not other pre-SO MUCH HATE/STENGTE DØRER bands like NEVROSE, STYGGE FØT, FORBUDT UNGDOM or SKABB. It’s really notable how great and varied in sound and approach all of these are. I can’t even pick highlights, there’s something for everyone, all youthful and full of formative punk excitement, though I must point out all members appear to be young men, not a single woman. A satisfying 12×12-inch booklet comes loaded with punk as fuck layouts for each group, complete with cute baby-punk photo layouts (including my guitar hero and absolute legend Børre Lovik) and lyrics, really giving the proper space and document to a thriving early scene from a city less than 300 miles from the Arctic Circle. I’m experiencing immense pleasure in spotting the names of some of my favorite players in bands that were previously unable to be heard! This recommendation certainly comes from a certified nerd but I would urge you to pay the $40+ if you can.

Abraxas Promo cassette

Just two tracks at three minutes of raw furious hardcore from Charlottetown, PEI. “Left Behind” has a head-bobbing D-beat pulse, but I prefer the busy riffing and frantic phrasing on “Enough.” Cymbals clatter high in the mix, which is both a good and bad thing. Fans of such fidelity will say it improves the noise factor, but I’d like more guitar. These Canucks aren’t showing anything new but it’s still promising for a promo.

Infinite Pizza Escape from Pizza Monster Island LP

At first encounter, all visible signs point toward totally embarrassing juvenile pizza thrash. While the latter is accurate, it would be a mistake to write this off as novelty considering such righteous, nerdy, critical and unapologetically feminist and queer perspectives. “Patriarchy Is a Pyramid Scheme,” “Pizza Crust as Fuck Existence,” “Pussy Grabs Back” and “Make America Smoke Razors Again” are just a few examples. “Make America learn some common sense / Make America electrocute Mike Pence / Make America rethink immigration and tear down that fucking fence.” I’m sorry but I’m just…like…fuck yes. I laughed out loud several times reading through the lyrics—er, the “Captain’s Log.” Also included is a map of Pizza Monster Island, which is arguably cooler than a punk photo collage or some chains and skulls and spiked bats. It’s satirical political punk at it’s best, not taking themselves too seriously. Musically mostly hardcore/thrash, with a few interesting devious punk tracks thrown in for variety. I certainly didn’t expect this to be the case but I recommend putting aside whatever hyped punk trash the algorithm is telling you that you need and pick this up instead. It would be a truly radical act.

Wlochaty Zmowa 2xLP

This band has produced a ton of material to sink your teeth into in their 30+ years of existence, but today we’re focused on the reissue of their fifth album which originally came out twenty (!) years ago. Zmowa (“Collusion”) holds a massive amount of music and retains many of the qualities I recall from the couple records I’m most familiar with. Frequent intros and outros elongate many of the tracks, and the additional instrumental interludes stretch it out even further, hence the double-LP format. At the center of each song is usually hard-hitting, fast melodic punk, save for a squat-skankin’ ska breakdown here and there. Their style is very long-winded, passionate European anarcho-punk…I think of them as the CONFLICT (UK) of Poland. I can see that as a turn off for many punks these days, which I totally get. I have a deep appreciation for and connection to this style of contemplative and poetic socio-political punk, despite the fact that I typically crave something more direct. This is the first time Zmowa is on vinyl, with a gatefold jacket and insert slathered with photos and all of the anti-state, animal rights, anti-war lyrics in Polish and English. 

Malos Tiempos Bastardos ¿No Lo Ves? ¡Muerto Estás! CD

Traditional anti-authoritarian, Basque radical punk. A thick, sturdy rhythm section and huge throaty vocal delivery bring to mind R.I.P. That may seem too obvious of a comparison but the spirit and delivery are uncanny, though they tend to stay more on the melodic side. Song titles like “Soy Anarkysta,” “Anti-Fascista” and “Revolucion” are no surprise to listeners of punk from the region. I’m not writing MALOS TIEMPOS BASTARDOS off as a mere tribute band. Their sound is familiar in a feel-good sense, inspiring one to dream of downing a couple kalimotxos and dancing the night away at a Basque squat.

Pogowolves Flaming Soul / On the Mirror 7″

Within the first five seconds of “Flaming Soul” I’m scanning the back of the sleeve expecting an HG Fact or Blood Sucker logo. This top-tier Japanese hardcore influenced-shit is from Malaysia, features serious Chelsea (more PAINTBOX than DEATH SIDE) riffing and one epic romp after another. Can’t recommend it enough for fans of the aforementioned, CRUDE, LIBERATE, JABARA and the like. “On the Mirror” pivots to a swingy and bluesy take on the style. I’m not losing my mind over it but it’s catchy, and one must appreciate the chutzpah of such a composition. POGOWOLVES have definitely won my attention and “Flaming Soul” is certain to become a regular spin in this household. Looking forward to more!

Kalle Hygien Absolute Bomber EP

The A-side sounds like a weird mix of quirky electro punk and CRESS. Drum machine, distorted guitar and some minimal electronic and synth stuff. Cool, upbeat punky songs with a good drive and hook that sticks. Side B slows down, retains some of the same elements, but loses the urgency. The fourth track has no beat to speak of at all. Fans of HEAVY METAL and AUSMUTEANTS or thereabouts should check it out.

Jenny Driver El Rock De La Década 7″ flexi

A fucking cool seven-song EP from Mexico City, claiming inspiration from REVOLUCION X, BIKINI KILL, TERVEET KÄDET, ATOXXXICO and BROWN SUGAR, and to be honest those are fine comparisons! The juxtaposition of thrashing hardcore and pop/melody is magical, and sort of mirrors the nihilistic DIY-punk party aesthetic. “Long live anarchy! Long live anarchy! Fuck Marx! Fuck Marx…” is a bit confusing, but maybe I’m not supposed to be taking it too seriously? The last track “Perreocore” sounds like a mix of lo-fi reggaeton and children doing karaoke. The recording is lo-fi and it’s pressed onto a shitty flexi so it’s thin and scratchy sounding. As a product the photocopied sleeve and lyric sheet have drool-worthy presentation, I just wish it was pressed onto harder plastic because it would sound a lot better and I wouldn’t have to make adjustments to the weight on my tonearm to get it to play properly. But don’t let my flexi-hatred outweigh my recommendation because this rules!

Muro Pacificar LP

Unsurprisingly, an amazing record. It seems like Bogota’s MURO has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue since their last LP from 2017, along with touring/live appearances to crowds of eager hardcore punks worldwide. Every aspect of Pacificar is appealing. Sound, layout, the printing of the sleeve, songwriting and its overall impact. “Fantasia del progresso,” “Clasismo domino…clasismo, estructural,” and “Mundo infesto” are some churuses that should provide lyrical context. I’m not going to do them a disservice by interpreting the meaning of their songs with my shitty understanding of Spanish. MURO sounds more unhinged this time around, like a not-sloppy WRETCHED. They play with different counts and timing in a way that adds intrigue and unique power. The approach is stripped down and direct thrashing punk, but there’s something epic going on. The angst is authentic and infectious. A rare band that lives up to the hype. I hope this virus succeeds at permanently debilitating the entire worldwide right-wing/fascist movements so we can contain it and start punk again and I can see MURO do their thing in the flesh. In the meantime, if you are a punk definitely buy this record.

Нови Цветя (Novy Tsvetya) Cold War Collection LP

I recall Bulgaria’s НОВИ ЦВЕТЯ (New Flowers) being arguably the first punk band in that particular country under Soviet control. Releasing punk music during this time was economically prohibitive, and basically illegal in the eyes of the state. So in that context, this collection being released and distributed in the West in 2020 by an independent US label is a testament to the enduring and undefeatable spirit of punk. The recordings date from 1979 (!) to 1995. Side A seems to be the earliest stuff judging by the lo-fi production, and a sound much more akin to early Yugoslavian punk than famous Western bands. Production quality and fidelity greatly increases on the flipside, but remains raw and is probably the most easily digestible material here for most listeners. Musically the whole collection is great to my ears, it’s just missing the context! This release desperately needs an insert of some info to provide background. I know it’s all on the internet but there’s a disconnect if you don’t have it all in one place. In the late ’80s a few punk/rock/new wave bands managed to release music on the label BG Rock, which was a subsidiary of the state label Balkanton. So curious Western collectors like myself have managed to track down records from bands like РЕВЮ (Review), КOНТРОЛ (Control), НОВИ ГЕНЕРАЦИЯ (New Generation), КЛАС (Class), АТЛАС (Atlas), and some others, but НОВИ ЦВЕТЯ truly remained unable to officially release anything until after the fall of the Soviet Union. There have been other releases since then, but you know where to look for those. In the meantime, this is a really fun introduction for those interested in Bulgarian punk history. Just a shame about the lack of info!

Deuter Róbrege ’84 LP

A couple of us were debating and mostly agreeing that many reissues don’t need to be pressed to vinyl in this day and age, with the decrease in demand for physical media and the climate crisis begging us to question whether we should be producing more things. Deciding whether an old live or rare cassette recording is deserving of a vinyl reissue is subjective, of course. This 1984 live recording greatly suffers about a fifth of the time (as noted in the liner notes) but DEUTER’s energetic and aggressive punk style does translate well in this setting. It’s like DEZERTER with a sax! What balances this release is the slick presentation including history, great layout, lyrics in Polish and English, and a three-panel panoramic poster. I think it’s worth the effort, especially considering how much harder it was for independent bands in Eastern Europe to release records. This is not the definitive DEUTER release for global punk fans, but a well executed document of ’80s punk in Poland.

Id Twoja Twarz LP

As soon as the music began I immediately thought of the first POST REGIMENT album, a record I’ve listened to maybe more than any other throughout my life, or at least in the top five. Turns out that the two recordings were done at the same studio with the same engineer within a year of each other, so I’d like to take a moment to appreciate and commend my damaged but accurate and still-functioning ears. ID fits right in between exemplary Polish bands POST REGIMENT and ARMIA, really sharing the spirit and rhythmic prowess of both bands, but perhaps more stripped down. This record doesn’t immediately grip me the way the bands I compared it to did, but Polish punks surely know better than me, a Texas-born poser who loves old Polish punk and hardcore. This was previously released on cassette only back in 1993, so now we can all enjoy it on the same superior format as its aforementioned contemporaries.

V/A We Are the Flowers in the Red Zone LP

This is an absolute treasure! By 1988, Polish zine/label QQRYQ had created strong bonds with like-minded punks around the Eastern Bloc and compiled a tape with bands from GDR, Hungary and Poland. Stories of dedicated punks in this repressive state and time are always humbling and inspiring, and there are a few great ones in this package. Two booklets are included, one is a reproduction of the first (?) punk zine from the GDR, which had to be printed in Warsaw and then smuggled across the East German border either in a stinky beer-soaked backpack, or sewed into a giant teddy bear—there are two partially conflicting accounts. Either way, the Stasi inserted a spy into the punk community and managed to seize the zines before distribution! Needless to say, it’s ten beautiful typewritten and collaged pages covering DDR and Polish punk. The other booklet is focused more on the original tape of this release, with original layout reprinted nice and big and with added photos and retrospectives on the relevant scenes and projects. And of course there’s the music! The two opening tracks from ANDREA’S AUSLAF (GDR) are noisy, but awesome, but had me wondering if this would be another LP’s worth of hardly listenable live boombox recordings. Not the case! Quality varies but overall is enjoyable lo-fi, raw and passionate punk and hardcore from TRYBUNA BRUDU, DIE TROTTEL, KEIN TALENT + NAMENLOS, DEZERTER, BIZTONSÁGI TANÁCS, WARTBURGS FÜR WALTER, and closing with possibly the most ripping track by Poland’s A.P.S.F. If you are the least bit interested in punk behind the Iron Curtain, or even cool old punk ephemera of any kind, this LP is an absolute must.

Davová Psychóza Emancipácia CD

This is the legendary Slovakian punk band’s sixth album as far as I can tell. 1991’s Antropofóbia is still one of my favorites from the region, and they seem to have retained much of that sound and spirit to this day. Except now it’s more melodic, or…emo? Only sometimes—they strike a reasonable balance between shredding and bringing things down to a more sensitive tone. The lyrics translations (on the very tiny lyrics sheet) reveal a really distinct poetic quality I often find in melodic Eastern Euro bands I like. I don’t think I can sell this to today’s hip punks, but if you like European essentials like JUGGLING JUGULARS, POST REGIMENT, or even LA FRACTION, then you should pay at least some attention to this band. Punks from the region certainly already know to pick this up.

Leper Frail Life 12″

This Umeå group has arrived unannounced with a nine-track hardcore punk rip fest. While LEPER is more vocally burly and more adventurous with composition, they leave a TALK IS POISON-like impact on me. Most tracks remain around or under the minute-and-a-half mark, save for a couple like “ICBM” and “P&D” that take a little extra time to establish a mid-paced hook among what are otherwise mostly fast songs. Sung in English, with plenty of air-punching “oofs” and “aaaaghs,” plus top-notch gritty hardcore production and typewriter/high-contrast photo-style layout. Any longer and they’d be overstaying their welcome, but this is just the right dose. Surely they’ll be doing the Euro-fest circuit immediately.

偏執症者 (Paranoid) Complete Paranoid Discography 2012-2017 2xCD

A fuckload (i.e. 50) of tracks on two CDs, housed in a nice digipak with an info booklet. I’m a little confused about the whole thing, with what sounds like English lyrics but with song titles in Japanese by a Swedish band. I’m guessing it’s an aesthetic choice, but I might just be a poser who doesn’t know shit about fuck. As a discerning fan of some noisy D-beat or Mangel or whatever, I still gave most of it up to collect late ’70s/early ’80s punk 45s! There’s only so much storage space in an affordable Bay Area flat, you know? And that was before PARANOID really came on the scene, so I own zero of their records, which makes me the perfect review candidate. I did not listen from start to finish because I don’t have enough alcohol and painkillers on hand, but skipping around randomly reveals that PARANOID is a capable noisy D-beat band with very effective imagery, and the occasionally referential nod to DISCLOSE or DEATH SIDE or any number of other noisy or Japanese things. My highlights are the MISFITS cover and STREBERS cover that isn’t on here (“2 Skott”), cuz it proves we have influences in common besides bands that start with D. So yeah I’m a bastard, but if you are a completist or need all fifty PARANOID songs ever in one package, then your prayers are answered. Jokes aside, Black Konflik = top quality.

Scarecrow Revenge EP

Swedish D-beat-inspired hardcore from Raleigh, NC? Yes, but SCARECROW carves out a niche of their own. The admirable TOTALITÄR-textured guitar/bass tone is achieved, and there’s a comparable intensity, but I’ll end that comparison there. The rhythmic punctuation and scathing rapid-fire vocal style elevate this EP to top-tier status. Lyrics avow all the damage we’ve inherited and what it looks like to cope with grim realities like children stolen from their loved ones and caged by the state, mental health struggles, the carelessly trashed planet, and the never-ending occupations fueled by American exceptionalism. Goddamn, shit is so fucked, but the rich language used here comes off more authentic and relatable (and frankly more inspirational) than typical “fuck society” tyrades. Long live the eight-song 45 RPM punk 7”. Definitely recommended.

TSOL Ghost Train / Never Go Home 7″

Oof, let’s get this over with. I’m not here to declare that bands shouldn’t be allowed to continue releasing music nearly 40 years after inception, and I’m aware that many loyal fans (presumably over the age of 50) are allowed to remain loyal no matter what. Alas, as a rabid fan of everything T.S.O.L. through 1982 (even Beneath the Shadows), and even JOYKILLER (’90s Epitaph project featuring Jack and Ron), I’m unable to get on board with this 45. I admit I’m momentarily charmed by the vocal melodies on the choruses as they’re very signature Jack Grisham, but these songs remind me of the ones I’d skip on the JOYKILLER albums. The loose rock feel does nothing for me and the sleeve art does not befit TRUE SOUNDS OF LIBERTY. I can’t imagine most contemporary fans of punk music finding this the least bit relevant.

Kohti Tuhoa Ihmisen Kasvot LP

There are a few things you can do to distinguish your band from the sea of hardcore punk releases coming out these days: hooks, strong vocals or instrumentation, production, or delivery. Everything about this LP is so fucking awesome and exudes the spirit of intense classic Finnish hardcore to an uncalculabe degree. Varied pace of attack and degrees of burn make it impossible to choose standout tracks. Flailing drum fills, pick slides, short guitar licks and sweet vocal cues are distributed proficiently for maximum excitement. It’s just all deep cuts, edited tightly together to be taken in all at once. A record for all punk and hardcore fans to live and die for!

Antheads Think Fast EP

I’m repeatedly impressed with Supreme Echo’s ability to keep releasing lost gems of early Canadian punk. I mean, these eight tracks recorded in 1980 are previously unreleased, and members were in ACTIVE DOG and went on to form/join MODERNETTES and POINTED STICKS. It’s simple and urgent garagey punk sung with swagger, with huge guitar licks like an amphetamine-fueled, sped up and stripped down MC5 or FLAMIN GROOVIES. All of the songs sound like they could be covers but as far as I could tell, none are. Includes the obligatory multi-page insert with band story and photos putting things into context, and it’s all well worth your time.

Carlos Dunga Oltre Quella Linea LP

Metallic thrash from Italy for fans of guitars (me) and bandana moshing (not me). I appreciate the masterful balance of full on speed-picking thrash and tasteful epic guitar flourishes. Sometimes you only get one or the other. Oltre Quella Linea sounds rooted in early ’80s hardcore, the modern production being the thing convincing me that this isn’t some long lost ’80s hardcore band-gone-crossover the second half of the decade. Think UPSET NOISE, EMILS, or NEGAZIONE with bonus MAIDEN-esque leads. I’m not currently seeking out bands like this but enjoyed it nonetheless, and can certainly recommend it to active headbangers and thrash-heads.

Dayglo Abortions Wake Up, It’s Time to Die EP

I couldn’t help buying Feed Us A Fetus as a teenager, which perhaps still has my favorite cover art on a punk record to this day. DAYGLO ABORTIONS has to be one of the most gloriously obnoxious—both in sound and aesthetic—bands from the annals of Canadian punk. Considering that the only material that really stuck with me are the first two 12″s, this unreleased session from 1982 is like a godsend. Cruder versions of classics like “Bedtime Story,” “Proud to Be a Canadian,” “Ronald McRaygun,” and the debut of previously too-shocking “I Am Whiter Than Hitler” (“but I ain’t no fucking nazi!”). And, fuck me, it’s already sold out! Do I have any fans out there that wanna help me out? Anyhow, as you may expect, Supreme Echo packed this thing in a stellar package with nice things to read and look at, like an amazing interview with their psycho vocalist.

Dennis The Enthusiast LP

Well, the most obvious first thing to mention is an apt emulation of the gremlin vocal stylings of Darby Crash. This guy does well to add the necessary unsavory element to an otherwise palatable, catchy punk sound. (GI) really may be the best reference point, even though a lot more punk music has come out since 1979. I for one value releases that can stand on their own more than well-studied bands successfully sounding like the classics, but this LP shockingly achieves both. Should I deny or approve?! I am a snobby MRR reviewer after all…but can my ego get in the way of heaping endless praise and recommendations onto the entirety of these eleven tracks? Not today! Limited to 300 copies so better hurry.

Heterofobia Queremos Ver el Mundo Arder LP

You should already know that these Mexican punx got the best band name and you can see the amazing album art, so why not just get it now? The guitar tone on this record is next-level deranged-ness, like someone is twisting the tuning pegs up and down to the beat. A ghastly, atonal blast enveloping a vicious, aggressive punk style. We shall not be brainwashed to think that every band with chorus-y and reverb-y instruments is “goth.” This is darker than goth, angrier than hardcore. Viscerally, authentically unsettling but pogo-worthy at the same time. I knew the LA UVI song was a cover without even recognizing it from memory, and they execute it with style. I take it as a confirmation of their evident classic punk roots underneath the pleasurable nightmare they’ve created. Recommended for true freak punks and those who lack inhibition.

Fatal State Estado Fatal LP

Combustable political hardcore from Portland. This eight song debut twists between mid-tempo metallic hardcore churn and full-tilt hardcore blasting, throwing back to that ’90s style where there’s less of a set template or direct influence, yet enough musical chops to incorporate different approaches and feel to the songs. Energetically raging, the overall impact might pitch towards a less NAUSEA-bent DESTESTATION mixed with the searing rampage of HEALTH HAZARD. Vocals trade off between scathing lead female vocals and brute male back-ups, with pointed lyrics in English and Spanish about gun violence, landlord evictions, immigrant rights, an apolitical punk scene, and more, while blistering leads and solos drop to punctuate the impact. Explosive both musically and in urgent, current message, backed by a collage of recent protest sign slogans on the back of the lyric sheet, and a tempered line drawing cover of a goddess staring downward at discarded ICE helmets. Killer!!!

Besmirchers Hate Your Life LP

These guys don’t even need my help trashing their record. The campiest kind of self-loathing and abuse on display, lyricly and aesthetically. The singer’s face is doused in blood in every photo I can find. Multiple creepy young-girl-in-panties images and song titles like “Inhalant Assailant,” “Dirty Panty Tourniquet,” “Needles in My Feet” and “Pocket Pussy.” The band name is awkward and the tunes aren’t memorable at all. It’s just so dumb and bad in every way.

Golpe De Gracia Cementerio Interior EP

Seems to be a skins ’n’ punks affair, but the snotty lead vocal carries it more toward the punk side, which works better for me. The two definitive Oi! clues are the gang choruses and a couple skinhead guys pictured on the lyric sheet. Overall, more scrappy vibes than tough. Not much else to report about this Madrid band outside of a few likeable guitar and vocal hooks. Could just have easily emerged out of L.A. from Silenzio Statico or Verdugo Discos.

Juggling Jugulars Insurrection CD

Thirteen more aggressively melodic punk songs from a band that’s been at it for thirty years now. A solid, clearly-produced sound with a nice guitar melody here, strong backup vocal there. Direct calls to action against borders, cops, capitalist control, and even old washed up posers! Their dedication to anti-fascist DIY punk cannot be understated. I missed the last couple of releases, so I’m taking this as a friendly reminder that Finland’s JUGGLING JUGULARS remain a reliable inspiration.

Kizza Ping Först River Man Allt LP

Despite the unpromising band name, Linköping’s KIZZA PING recorded some notable punk music during the first couple years of the ’80s. This LP compiles “Männen” and “Lär I Tid” from their lone 45, along with seven more vocal-driven punk tracks with keyboards that add up to a worthwhile album. New Wave influences pushed KIZZA PING into doing something more complex sounding than your basic stripped-down teenage punk, and thankfully there’s still a jagged edge to the production, so let’s call it post-punk! While this label frankly suits them best, I still feel like “post-punk” has become too much of a generic signifier to flop onto KIZZA PING without acknowledging their consistently great songs. I’ll describe it as a cool cross-section between HAGAR THE WOMB and country-mates LIVIN SACRIFICE. I once ate halfway decent pizza in Gothenburg, but I’m not convinced that there can be any true Kings of Pizza that far north of Italy. That being said, this is a great document of old Swedish punk, and I’ve added it to my wantlist.

Soga Demo LP

A trio of “all-star” punks from Mexico City make a seriously satisfying racket. SOGA (“rope” en ingles) shines through short punk-as-fuck guitar solos and rage-inducing rhythmic clatter. Each member contributes to the singing, shouting, and screaming—separately and in unison—solidifying a powerful collaborative outrage. “Fiambre” is my pick for most fucked and ferocious, while “Vil Migala” gets honorable mention for being a sped up and not-crass UFO Dictator. If you’ve been endeared by the likes of CREMALLERAS, TERCER MUNDO, or RIÑA it would be a huge mistake to skip this one. I’m generally skeptical of demos being put to vinyl, but this one was a no-brainer.

Hotet Ny Dag Nya Jävligheter EP

About a decade ago, a little group from Umeå called MASSHYSTERI charmed punks worldwide with their infectious, jangly earworm punk, which became a distinct style destined to be copycatted for years to come. HOTET seems to be shamelessly riding that train, right down to the garage-y production and expertly harmonized vocal craft. It’s the most accurate homage I’ve heard, and the songwriting is top notch, but to be honest I think I’m still taken care of with the two albums MASSHYSTERI left us. However, I know that there’s at least a small part of all of us that needs a band like HOTET to carry the torch, to remind us of this style that all punks unilaterally have a soft spot for, so it’s my job to assure you that there isn’t a single flaw throughout these four tracks.

Kina Nessuno Schema Nella Mia Vita LP reissue

It’s a beautiful thing to get a note from a band member fondly recalling the submission of their demo tape to Tim Yo back in ’84, and then to receive an LP reissue thirty-five years later, and it’s still great! In my experience, KINA hasn’t quite enjoyed the bootleg t-shirt success like their contemporaries WRETCHED or NEGAZIONE, but whenever I revisit this self-recorded debut (or the Irreale Realtà LP), it’s evident that they were an equal force in the pantheon of classic ’80s Italian (or even general European) hardcore. This session is KINA at their most primitive, which unlike WRETCHED is slightly more…musical? Their tendency to break the hardcore template reminds me other interesting-while-still-ripping bands like CONTRAZIONE or STINKY RATS. This is a worthwhile reissue in a time when many, arguably, are not.

Larma Larma LP

If I fell asleep listening to TOTALITÄR (specifically Sin Egen Motståndare, not that that would even happen) and some prankster slipped this 12” on and woke me up, I might not even notice. Okay, that’s not true; I would, but it’s that authentic sounding. Maybe you’ll argue that makes this inauthentic, and maybe you’re not wrong, but achieving such a high level of TOTALITÄR-ness is quite the accomplishment in my book. I spot two SKITKIDS and one INFERNÖH guy, so that explains a lot. It’s like rabid Poffen-esque vocal phrasing, hypnotizing riffs, and urgent D-beating are all just built into the circuitry of these guys’ brains. Furthermore, they know how to augment the template just enough to distinguish themselves from other soundalikes. Eleven perfect and delightfully excitable tracks.

Subhumans Crisis Point LP

One of the few bands from my teenage years that I can still listen to and rely on to affirm and validate my punk forever-ness. I was a little concerned not seeing the Bluurg logo on the rear of the sleeve, but Dick’s distinct handwriting is instantly comforting. So here we have SUBHUMANS’ second studio album since ’87, the last one being ’07s Internal Riot. Much like that one, Crisis Point proves that the band is still relevant in style, intention, and message. I can’t even think of another band that has lasted this long and never sucked or strayed. They certainly have not lost any urgency or creativity with age, nor has Dick lost his wordsmithery or wit. “See the diamond it’s forever disconnected / From the horrors of child labour, so intensive / Mining undermining our perception of expensive / Shiny lies to pacify the apprehensive.” Who wouldn’t want this guy as their poetry professor? They’re still on track with anti-capitalist, anti-xenophobic, and environmentalist calls to action, while not forgetting modern technology’s role in all the apathy and injustices. Never pretentious or preachy, always intelligent and critical. I almost failed to mention the giant SUBHUMANS stencil included in the package. Is anyone actually gonna use this thing? Maybe someone can rearrange the letters into a more pertinent slogan to paint our cities. All I can come up with right now is “Ass Bum.”

Fuerza Bruta All Cops Are Bassheads EP

Wellllll…it’s two dance remixes and a live track by a Chicago punk band. I really liked their last EP of aggressive Oi!-tinged punk, and I don’t hate this, but you know, I‘m not gonna pretend it isn’t novelty. The remixes sort of awaken the pedestrian ’80s New Wave pop appreciation lurking somewhere inside of me. The live recording of “Asocial” is rough and raw but listenable. Kind of dumb, but way better than most of the bad punk records we review.

Snuff There’s a Lot of It About CD

You probably don’t expect me to be a SNUFF fan, though I’m a very selective one. I haven’t actually checked in on them since ​Tweet Tweet My Lovely​ back in 1998. I hear a lot of those very distinct SNUFF sounds here. Plenty of pop, some organ-driven ballads, and even still a hint of their hardcore influences on a couple tracks. It’s like tradition. Does anyone else think of Duncan Edmonds as the Phil Collins of punk? Just think about it… I don’t predict that this album is gonna produce new SNUFF fans among MRR’s readership, and I also don’t find any of the tracks jumping out as instant classics, but it’s consistent and enjoyable.

V/A Warsaw’s Burning Volume 2 EP

In celebration of Refuse Records’ 150th release, they’ve compiled another nice-looking eight-band compilation of current Warsaw hardcore bands. The majority of the material is throttling and precise hardcore, namely from HEATSEEKER, NEGATIVE VIBES, JAD, and GOVERNMENT FLU. MORUS has a slightly more classic Euro crust vibe, BRAINEÄTER brings some powerviolence, and the GLAMOUR and CAST IN IRON (doing a DEZERTER cover) tracks come off more aggressive punk, minus the ’core. The 7″ is packaged in a beautiful booklet with attractive cover art, a nice reflection from Robert Refuse, and each band gets a page. High quality all around, and congrats to Refuse for prolific endurance throughout the years!

Ex-Cess Osiguranje Životne Večnosti LP

In many cases context is everything, and frankly the circumstances around this project fascinate me more than the music. Belgrade’s EX-CESS was reaching their artistic peak right about the time Yugoslavia was shattered by war. This album was recorded in 1991, but soon after three of the four members left the country while the recording was released on cassette by Ill In the Head Records. Despite Serbian culture being banned in Croatia, the release was distributed there and successfully sold hundreds of copies in the underground music scene. Musically it’s a metallic punk style that doesn’t hold up too well, mainly due to the thin and chuggy guitars. I’d like to think the lyrical content expands the context but my Serbo-Croatian is non-existent. It’s clear that this session is important and a testament to the magic and endurance of international punk, and I hope that this quality reissue will make it into the hands of those who are interested in that.

Minima Minima LP

For those always anticipating more great Barcelona acts: welcome MINIMA, featuring the singer from BARCELONA, Guillem from DESTINO FINAL/UNA BESTIA INCONTROLLABLE, and folks from UK’s NO and Malmö’s SNOR. Credentials aside, MINIMA’s basic two-riff approach to punk, accentuated by a teeth/fist-clenching vocal scowl, should appeal to any discerning punk. Throughout thirteen tracks there’s somehow so much variety in the way of hooks in the songwriting, despite such a basic approach. It’s all in the execution. Some crazy combination of urgency, rage and coolness. Recommended pickup for fans of unpretentious, non-flashy punk and hardcore, and record covers featuring crotches.

Glue Traps Future Shocks EP

This Baltimore outfit ensures that twelve-song 45rpm 7” EPs are not a thing of the past! Short, frantic snotty punk songs edited tightly together for maximum money’s worth. Self-deprecating and anti-authoritarian themes alternate, succinctly written, no solos, no breakdowns, no effects—refreshing, isn’t it? Minus 69.420 points for including Joe Biden in the thanks list and noting Mystic Records for “eternal inspiration,” but still up enough points to make it a winner.

Чеtыrе Таракаnа Duty Free Songs LP

ЧЕTЫRЕ ТАРАКАNА (FOUR COCKROACHES) were youngsters from Moscow as far as I can determine, and these tracks have been released on cassette and CD numerous times since 1995. Eleven varied tracks show varied western late ’70s punk influences. Each track has me thinking long and hard about whether it’s a cover of a classic punk song or just a brazen adolescent tribute. “Freedom,” “Home Sweet Home” and “Acid Song” have whimsical piano parts, but most songs are snotty RAMONES/SEX PISTOLS hybrids, which of course sound sick in Russian with a tinny distorted guitar sound.

Rashōmon 病原菌X (Pathogen X) 12″

I certainly love guitar leads and frenzied hardcore, so DC’s RASHŌMON speaks my language. Those of us asking for more since their slick demo tape a couple years back have gotten as good of an answer as we could’ve hoped for. Dual riffs are blissful and radiant, sometimes swerving toward discordant and reminding me of ARTICLES OF FAITH. But this could just as easily been plucked from the Bloodsucker roster, as there is a definitive Japanese hardcore influence, made most obviously apparent by the Japanese vocalist. The warm, dry production highlights the glorious guitar and vocals, but the serious drum mastery deserves to not go unnoticed. Innovative drum fills and transitions are easter eggs scattered all throughout these six tracks. I’m sorry, but I just don’t care about the novel etching on the flipside of the disc, but I can simply ignore that in this case because the record is so damn great!

Idiota Civilizzato Civiltà Idiota EP

The vocalist seems to be channeling INDIGESTI on this latest offering, and I’m therefore charmed. IDIOTA CIVILIZZATO is a Berlin-based band featuring punx from Spain, Australia, and Italy—the Italian vocalist does well to catch the ear of any discenring ’80s Italian hardcore fan. After a demo, EP, and LP, they impressively keep the quality high and awesomely idiotic! Four more excellent tunes for thrashing, accompanied by consistently amateurish cover drawing.

Yleiset Syyt Sininen Hekuma EP

Did you know that despite the increase in both the price of everything and in digital listening, that the 7″ EP is the perfect hardcore punk format? Sometimes I wonder if it’s still true, and then a record like this comes along and reaffirms everything I think I know and live for in a punk record. Six simple and frantic blows in perfect succession, leaning on a tight and confrontational delivery, lacking absolutely nothing. The first track is a nice lesson in drum fills. Limited to 200 copies, so hurry!

Cement Shoes Too LP

Fresh, rocking hardcore tunes from Richmond, VA. Right off the leash they remind my Bay-Area-bubble-living ass how fuckheaded life in the South must be with “Unite the Right in Hell,” which actually sounds akin to Damaged-era BLACK FLAG. “Big men all die / Pig men all die / Alt-right all die / I’ll take your head / I’ll take yo’ hat!” Staccato caveman vocal delivery blurts over varied tempos, boosting the character of what could otherwise be a really good but pedestrian punk record. Bizzare but musical punk with a punchy, thick production and enough hardcore sensibilities to appeal to a wider audience. Totally into it.

Condor Singles 2017-2018 LP

You probably know that this is a RIXE (and ex-YOUTH AVOIDERS) member’s solo project—and it’s pretty apparent on the surface—but this has more of a melodic punk sound than Oi! The dude writes amazing songs that I can imagine pretty much anyone liking, regardless of preference. I must point out that aside from his penchant for writing a hook, the reason we’re all enamored by this is the perfectly balanced production. Raw, gritty, and clear, with a dreamy kick-and-snare thud that you feel as much as you hear. “Chacun Pour Soi” is basically an amped-up FLOCK OF SEAGULLS song and is highly addictive, “Condor” shows hardcore roots, and “Vengeance” is a spot-on cover of a deep cut on the 1984 The Second compilation (I used to put this song on a lot of mix tapes, so this is quite validating to hear). I imagine this record is doing fine without my praise, but for whatever it’s worth, you all should get it. This 12″ compiles two short tapes that are likely very limited.

El Banda Wiatr Sieje Nas LP

Twelve years after their first LP, this highly regarded Polish outfit gives their third album. I imagine much of the magic and poetry is lost in translation, but from what I can tell, the major theme here is a very elaborate and nuanced fuck you to the patriarchy (often addressing fat shaming/body policing). Standard song structures are pretty much completely thrown out, and the arrangement of short and long songs force a pushing and pulling feeling across the album. They really like to drag a riff out to create tension or drama; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a vocal-forward mix, an intentional choice to put the message in the forefront, but that’s not to detract from the abundance and variety of melody coming from the rest of the band. The beginning of the record was a bit of a slog for me to get through: a minute and a half intro that sounds like an actual NOFX gallop into a three minute drumless monologue-style part…pretty emo basically. I do believe though that it’s my own problem for not knowing Polish, and not the band’s problem. The record is full of melody and a viciousness that is unrivaled by most melodic hardcore records I’ve heard—see for example “Wściekłyszpaler,” which was on their previous EP, and has a cool and recommended music video about the huge anti anti-abortion protest in 2016.

Guff Demo 2018 cassette

GUFF aren’t “traditional Norwegian hardcore” per se, though I’m hearing some ANGOR WAT influence in the guitar. What’s not to enjoy about the pure and honest scrappiness, scratchy riffs, and drum gallop? They sound fresh and unpretentious, dishing out relatable hardcore punk that’s not rehashed. Yes, please please send me more releases from fresh new Norwegian punk and hardcore bands!

Die Angst Verschimmelte Blumenwiesen CD

If band names like EA80 or FLIEHENDE STÜRME mean anything to you, you can safely file DIE ANGST in the same category: a very specific style of somber, dramatic German punk music that’s mainly distinguishable by a low-moaning vocal style, deep from the diaphragm, with every line held out for optimal dramatization. Like if Ian Curtis fronted a discordant German rock band. The vocal style is often a deal-breaker for some folks, but I like it. Four solid laments here, for the fifteenth year of their miserable existence, plus short intro / outro tracks. For fans of the aforementioned bands, or all things comparable to KILLING JOKE.

The Outcasts Tell Me the Whole Story 2xLP

This appears to be the first complete and definitive singles / EPs collection from this Belfast group. The ’78–’79 material is classic jagged-edged adolescent punk with a dash of that mandatory pop that’s evident in basically every Irish punk band from the ’70s. Sort of akin to more distinguished and catchy ’70s punk like THE ADVERTS, but far more juvenile. I hadn’t previously ventured into the ’80-’85 material, and turns out they predictably become more refined, with prominent new wave tendencies, but the tunes remain enjoyable, or at least listenable. Song themes don’t stray far from love, adolescent misogyny, street life, or inspiration from whatever the songwriter was reading at the time. “I wrote this song about a girl I was dating. She told me one day she was now a Christian, so this line came to me: ‘you’re a disease babe / your faith’s a disease I don’t wanna catch.’” Each song gets a little blurb or anecdote from the main songwriter Martin Cowan, laid out across a gatefold sleeve with the original sleeve art of each single and EP. The whole thing sounds great, and appears to be about as faithful of a collection as anyone could hope for.

Dirty Junk On Yr Knees cassette

Loose, lurching rhythms and often tuneless and sarcastic vocal tone both result in a jarring listen. I’m getting an overall very ’90s grunge, noisy alt-rock feel from this Minneapolis duo. All five cuts are ugly, tense, and grating music that I cannot say I find appealing. Aside from an occasional vocal hook, I find most of this to be indistinguishable from one moment to the next.

Mercenárias Baú 83-87 LP

More material unearthed from the Brazilian masters of post-punk, courtesy of the splendid Nada Nada Discos. Twenty great quality demo and live tracks, and often even cooler, rawer versions of previously released ones. The live tracks from “Hardcore Rock Night” on side B especially demonstrate the sheer power and genius these women were capable of. Angular beats, massive hooks, enchanting melodies, confrontational harshness—they really could do it all. And the dreamy photo booklet layout reveals just how larger-than-life this band was. Mandatory for both fans and newcomers.

Inkwizycja Stare Fotografie LP

Here’s a reissue (first time on vinyl) of this long-running Polish band’s second album from 2002. Stylistically, it’s loose with discordant jamming elements countering some of the melodies, mostly slow to mid-paced, and a gruff vocal delivery. While I acknowledge the historical significance of the band in the Polish punk scene, this album doesn’t do much to keep my attention. Much of it just sounds like alt-rock.

Fuerza Bruta Somos el Mal EP

A thing I don’t do often: sit down and listen to a modern (or old) Oi! record. The Lord of the Rings-like orchestral instrumental is an appropriate introduction, as there’s an epic dual-guitar approach to all three tracks. Without relying on cheesy Oi! tendencies, FUERZA BRUTA is just pure honest and tough punk sung in Spanish, with huge gang vocals and good hooks. I even perceive a hardcore influence in production and delivery. Good-lookin’ old school styled glue pocket sleeve, too. Get it and get trampled.

Don Gatto Sawdown CD

Ummm…tough guy hardcore mixed with mall punk? Or maybe this is just mall punk now. Heavy guitars and drums with brutal-dude vocals. It’s shocking how it sounds so metallic and tough one moment, and super poppy the next. They must really be trying to make it, with eighteen sponsor logos on the rear cover. Four tracks from this Hungarian band.

Diät Positive Disintegration LP

Four years following the excellent Positive Energy, we are presented with the dense Positive Disintegration. The overall tone here is sullen and tragic, distinctly marked by a subdued, deadpan vocal style and repetitious rotating rhythms. Build-until-release style songwriting, pulsating and throbbing drum sounds, but they’re still a “rock band.” Simple guitar hooks act as choruses, and the vocals appear almost as a support to the strong rhythm section, but it’s important to note the relevant lyrical themes. Relatable, biting criticism and satire of our social circles, ourselves, and the society that we wish we weren’t inherently a part of. Predictably, my favorite is the most uptempo “Foreign Policy,” which has an unmistakable CHAMELEONS vibe, and appears to be a critique of the way their fellow Germans approach Palestinian struggle (cue applause). It’s hard not to think of TOTAL CONTROL, though DIÄT feels a bit more focused (just to be clear, I’m not choosing either one). This album doesn’t smack you in the face like the last, but if you show up, it might sneak up behind and drag you into a dark pit of hellish reality.

V/A Live at Raul’s LP reissue

Despite being a Texan and a Texas punk enthusiast, I never heard Live at Raul’s. I always assumed it was more important to be equipped with the BIG BOYS / DICKS Recorded Live at Raul’s LP (it is). Raul’s was a club in Austin that accidentally became a hub for new wave / punk in the late ’70s through the early ’80s, and these tracks were crisply captured via mobile studio. Five local bands, two tracks each, many of which were unreleased at the time. The EXPLOSIVES, TERMINAL MIND, and the SKUNKS tracks are all edgy rock, the latter two being the punkest. STANDING WAVES are more new wave, while the NEXT is the most confrontational and best, as I expected. With the exception of the NEXT tracks, it all errs on the side of pop rock. This reissue is limited to 500 copies, and has a reproduction of the flyer for the gig, and some decent live band shots. Live records are polarizing but I am happy to report that it’s easy to forget this is live until the applause at the end of the tracks. Essential? No, unless you’re a completist.

Radical Fun Time There Is Only One Race The Human Race EP

I’m not ashamed to admit that I, in fact, did more or less have a fun time on my first encounter with this environmentalist / human-rights-themed band. Through the art and message, they emit a “punx as hippies living in the woods” vibe, which is sort of corroborated by their bio on the internet. Song titles like “What Is the Correct Way to Live? What Is the Best Way of Life?,” “Chemtrails—Aluminum Barium Dust A Synthetic DNA In a Toxic Aerial Spray,” and “What Is the Current Administration Covering Up?” all read like potentially quasi-wingnut headlines from various lefty or conspiracy theorist publications. Their sound is demented and fuzzy and cacophonous and so screamy (in a good way). Go back in time and put ’em on a bill with FLEAS AND LICE, CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, and CHOKING VICTIM, and RADICAL FUN TIME would surely be the spectacle of the night.

Private School Lost in Action 2×7″

Deluxe-as-fuck reissue of a crucial Canadian punk slice. This four- song EP was originally released in ’79 in a hard-to-file large envelope sleeve, and is now available in standard but expansive packaging, including an extra track, a booklet and two-song bonus flexi. The best tracks are still “Money Guns & Power” and the Bloodstains-comped, proto-hardcore “Fuck You,” but the rest of the songs are great too, sax and all! Supreme Echo rules!

Heavy Metal Too Oz 4 I.T. EP

After three LPs of rambunctious and oddball punk jingles, this Berliner/Australian combo gets the lightweight, red-stamped Total Punk sleeve treatment, and it suits them well. “Underground Agent,” “Overtime,” and “Schweinebastard” sound like a nine-year-old having a temper tantrum in the middle of older brother’s band practice. “Gasmask Factory II” uses electronic drums for a truly groove-worthy experience. While I’ve enjoyed their previous shitty-good music, I think this smaller dose works better. Those already acquainted with HEAVY METAL will not likely change their opinion either way.

Dead Morticians Burial At Sea CD

From Milwaukee, WI, the unfortunately-named DEAD MORTICIANS
deliver some kind of nautical-horror themed metal. It’s good for a laugh and some air guitar, and they’re obviously having a blast, so good for them. Best song title: “Inconsequential Cataclysm.”

Combatant Witness to Destruction LP

It’s not everyday you hear a DISCHARGE-influenced band from the northeasternmost state. Aside from the DIS-structures and phrasing, COMBATANT’s tough barraging sound and burly vocals had me reminiscing about getting the first CAUSTIC CHRIST EP in the mail, or maybe a little bit of DEATHREAT? I like the urgency and the impact, but there are really no deep cuts. The lyric sheet is hard as balls to read, but they seem to address typical atrocities like war, drug addiction, war, dehumanization, and war. Same nine tracks on 45 on both sides.

Closet Christ You’re In My World Now EP

Raw and demented thrash by some chap named Brendan. Six short, rapid spurts of venomous hardcore with a home-recording charm, and all the sounds just right. The occasional guitar line is whammy-bar’d, twisted at the end, and wrung out like mutant piss-soaked drawers. Think Oslo’s NEGATIV, but faster and more reckless. Only thing that would make this better is if it was twice as long, since there’s definitely room on the wax.

Arrotzak Lurzoru Hotzetik LP

A beautiful and dreary sounding punk trio from San Sebastián. It’s the rhythmic insistence of the ESTRANGED and grand choruses of LA URSS rolled into one. There’s no shortage of contemporary “dark punk,” and while my tendency is to move on, hearing bands like ARROTZAK keeps my dismissal in check. They write really great songs with depth but that move quickly…you know, like a punk band, not a punk band trying to sound like a goth band. Lyrics are in Spanish and Basque and translated into English, and while full of despair they convey self-reflection and ultimately hope, rather than defeat or other superficial “dark” themes. It’s a really fine release, and I can sense the passion poured into it. I shared a stage with them last spring in Zarautz and they were both a great live band and genuinely friendly and welcoming guys—true punx.

Scheisse Minnelli Waking Up on Mistake Street CD

Fairly prolific German skate punk that at their best recalls later RKL (whom Destiny also released back in the late ’80s), though the production clearly dates this to the modern era. Not quite as show-offy musically as RKL, but there are lots of licks (from all instruments), and, like, the cover art is by Dan Sites who did literally all of the RKL artwork. The lyrics are junior high in quality, but not problematic or anything—just kinda goofy and about skating and shit, and occasionally surface-level political. I have a soft spot for stuff like this (and LOVE RKL) but I would probably enjoy them more live.

Ruin By Design From Ashes to Empowerment CD

DC punk with a definite RITES OF SPRING feeling, albeit more hardcore and with more gang vocals. The title appropriately encomases the vibe lyrically and musically. Lots of exclamations in the lyric sheet, emphasized in all caps. If the songs were longer, the vocals might be too grating, but they keep things on point just enough. I find their sound to be honest, and their lyrics relevant (albeit a little cheesy), which is more than I can say for many current bands I’m introduced to.