Reviews

Mitch Cardwell

The Cowboy Wi-Fi on the Prairie LP

Sophomore album from these former HOMOSTUPIDS folks. I have wavered on this lot’s prior efforts but am firmly on-board here. Wi-Fi On The Prairie seems a hell of a lot more focused, which is not to say there is a lack of flailing—their (very) specific attack is just executed perfectly. Can you be blind wasted and still completely “lock in”? Every cut here points to the affirmative: all-guitar steamrolling punk, seriously powerful sounds with occasional off-rail absurdities. A tough one to shake as well, repeating spins required. One that will probably rear its head come annual best-of time, assuming any of us live that long.

The Archaeas Rock n Roll / Replica 7″

This Kentucky gang knocks it outta the park on the first pitch. ARCHAEAS’ sound centers on skull-streamlining—full forward-motion guitar riffs, rhythms jabbing outta the garage but careening too wildly to be saddled with that tag. Feels freer, younger, druggier and more genuine than much of what ya hear as of late. A cool and true two-prong hit here—A-side’s the good-time, B’s the head-crack—jammed with enough spirit to make the shittiest over-it puker smile through the chunks.  Cannot wait to hear more.

Bedwetters Anonymous Have U Experienced Discomfort EP

Recent demo cream pressed to vinyl for posterity. Claims of WEIRDOS inspiration seem warranted here, as this is a fairly hi-fi take on that classic rumble-and-burst sound. Vox alternate between maniac-froth and nonsensical annoyance, but they somehow always find a way to fit. Five tunes total and worth a look-see.

Neutrals Rent/Your House EP

I will get straight to it: NEUTRALS nail it here! The centerpiece tunes are all crisp guitar shocks, thematically serving as a “State of the Bay” address (though equally applicable for any urban locale), detailing the frustrations of paying impossible rents while being utterly surrounded by brutal, punishing assholes. “N.O. 1982” shows more mod-punk influence than any tune I’ve heard from them thus far (sayin’ somethin’), even as it rallies against retro-centric ideals. Also…an EXPLOITED cover? Bold move, but totally victorious! NEUTRALS cram more thought and passion into this short-form set than most peers could hope for in an album. Proceeds from sales donated to both Border Angels and The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, which quite obviously rules as well.  Very highly recommended.

V/A We Were Living in Cincinnati LP

Ohio’s punk pedigree simply cannot be fucked with, yet Cincinnati never gets nearly as much lauding as most of the state’s other major burgs. HoZac (with help from an esteemed CHROME CRANKS member) aims to change all that with this collection, assembling a wide swath of pretty killer punk to get our scholarly heads a-scratchin’. Lotsa seldom-heard stuff here—a even split between stray single Killed By Death style excavating and wholly unreleased nuggz. BEEF’s “Nosedive,” a rescued live recording from ’78, finds the obnoxo-teen singer mimicking some air-show sounds…What’s not to fuckin’ love? There are some recognizable names as well: the CUSTOMS, the ED DAVIS BAND and even TEDDY AND THE FRAT GIRLS, whose inclusion here strikes me as a tad dubious, but if a technicality allows the now-generation to hear “Clubnite” again, I’m all for it! The great and hyper-detailed liners really convey a whole lotta punk love for this city and scene as well. As if all this were not enough, there is a download component that serves up an additional fifteen tunes—more punk Cin-sanity than anyone would ever need! Top to bottom, an ace collection and document of under-reported punk racket.

El Aviador Dro Nuclear, Sí EP

40th anniversary reissue of this seminal Spanish synth-punk EP, available again for the first time this century. Closest relative in sound and spirit would be SOLID SPACE, though AVIADOR DRO are a bit brighter and more playful, even with nuclear concerns and a looming Godzilla attack as lyrical woes. Really into this, especially during this crisp and desperate time of year. Recommended for bleepers and dorks.

Sweet Knives I Don’t Wanna Die 2×7″

Very much in my wheelhouse, this ‘un: a double-dose of SWEET KNIVES (Rich and Alicja—LOST SOUNDS brain-trust, thrusting anew) housed in a gatefold satchel adorned with TIMMY VULGAR art-stuffs. Do we even need to fuckin’ play it? It’s a guaranteed stunner. The title track is an extraordinary earworm, a bit friendlier than their former savagery, but epic and unshakeable in that familiar Black Wave way. The accompanying tunes all follow suit, with “Some People” being far and away the most ominous of the lot. Nice slice times two!

Celebrity Handshake Eat the Bandages 12″

The aural taunts from Maine’s CELEB H-SHAKE continue long past logic on this, their 74th release this week. Is it better than prior efforts? Well, it’s newer and bigger. But mostly… Of course, ’cause it’s dog food suicide music, perfect in every way, and I crave it endlessly. I wanna melt it down and eat it from a bowl. All of you thudding, knuckle-drag fucks really wanna get confrontational and shitty? Lick this taint and absorb some real nightmarish genius. Limited to 100 copies? Straight up fucked.

CR Dicks Dick Moves LP

Sophomore entry from this Cedar Rapids unit (get it?), notable in my mind for featuring Andy from the HORRORS, a long-time bash maestro fave. Dick Moves sorta leaps out beyond expectations, defying garage in favor of sleaze-fire hootenanny, noisy with suitably busted hip-hop influences throbbing throughout. Hearty stuff, the kind of a stick-to-your-ribs exploder tailored for the after-hours set.

Soft Shoulder Aerosol Can Stand EP

The connecting concept across both originals here are repurposed shards from the FALL and the HOMOSEXUALS, each serving as springboards for the fast/easy/cheap immediacy on display. Hard to argue with knock-’em-dead shit like that, though it’s merely the seed, not the whole plant, from which SOFT SHOULDER sprouts nicely. All told, it serves their mad scientist tendencies quite well. Have a go, you’ll live longer.

The See Saw Get a Chance! EP

Cool debut from this new Japanese punk/pop act, boasting some connection to NYLON. Three tunes total, but the title track is the obvious kicker and punkest of the lot, delivered in a sweet/slashing style that recalls STAIRS or RAYDIOS. A sound and school of punks near and dear to my heart.

Very Paranoia Make Me / Out of Touch 7″

VERY PARANOIA’s debut finds them mining the proto-punk nether regions of Rockfield-era FLAMIN’ GROOVIES, any ol’ MICK FARREN droppings you can wrangle, capably lighting up the dynamite on all fronts. Both tunes roar out in a hard rock mode, but the informed punker spirit is the main take-away here. Quite a cool sound they’re tapping on this debut.

Neon Neon LP

Let’s not waste any time: NEON’s debut long-player is a seismic all-punk ruler of the highest caliber. From performance to production to art design, you’d be hard pressed to find a record released this year with better concept execution—“Ugly Girl Music”—a hyper-provocative program outlined via a direct (not primitive!) hardcore punk approach. The guitar is this kaleidoscopic and unpredictable beast, complete with a circular riff style that’s fully chaotic, mischievous and powerful. The rasp-spat vocals are just so tough and playful, espousing accusations and solutions with a brilliant, busting-loose fervor. In total, the album is a cool obliterator of boredom and personal/political frustration, exploding imposed methods of control through true inspiration and extremely loud action. That’s punk.

BOOJI BOYS Tube Reducer LP

You’re probably familiar with this Canadian act via their prior efforts, having made a significant amount of racket across a few LPs in just a short amount of time. Part of me is on board with their homespun, hiss-fi takes on MARKED MEN-style buzz-pop, but then I grow a bit weary of the one-dimensional onslaught of it all. There are plenty of people content to listen to shit like this exclusively, but I just ain’t one of ’em. Loyalists have at, I guess.

Current Affairs Object & Subject LP

Radio-ready post-punk from Scotland. At CURRENT AFFAIRS’ center is this big-’80s black ice sound, one that’s almost entirely referential—a dark dance between obvious influences like SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES and JOY DIVISION—but still totally stirring. I’m sometimes left wondering where they really are amidst all this well-schooled swiping, but if “Breeding Feeling” is any indication, they’re cued up at the fuckin’ bank, trying to cash their royalty checks. Not the only hit to be heard here, either. A very impressive outing.

Freak Genes III LP

Third dispatch from this synth-punk duo, part of the PROTO IDIOT and HIPSHAKES camp, always worth a look-see. FREAK GENES hit some kinda sweet-spot between “lite” pop and punk churn, recalling JAY REATARD’s synth-centered flirtations in both songwriting and sound. Not a lot of deviation tune-to-tune though, making this merely a fun exercise rather than a must-hear album.

Bullmoose Hot Garbage CD

Sports bar hard rock / safe metal with occasional pop aspirations. Not punk in the slightest. Been a long while since I dipped my toes in this sickly pond, but the stench here jogs my memory enough to cringe. Capably performed with pro-production slickness, but sadly imparting zero edge and negative soul. Hard pass.

Overrides Brain As a Fist CD

Anthemic, leather-clad punk from Southern California, half beach / half gutter varietals represented. The songs are uniformly catchy with a vague hard stance, recalling shite like BELTONES or other pop-tinged semi-toughies. “Offended By Everything” seems pretty indicative of 2019’s lyrical laziness: complaining about other people complaining. Surely there’s something more interesting to tie your creepers in a knot about…

Thigh Master Now For Example LP

Excellent guitar pop from this Australian band, doubling-up and over their cool debut from a few years back. Having seen them perform a smattering of these tunes a few times on their recent US sojourn, I can definitively note that the various isms relative to that lauded Flying Nun sound — the one they’re most often saddled with — all just chime a wee bit harder in their hands. There’s this real-deal buzz underneath their tunes that makes itself known at well-planned intervals, never allowing things to get too terribly saccharine or to move too far away from their core — relatable, acerbic DIY pop scrappiness, big as some of the hits may be. Assuming you’re on board with the wares of now-time compatriots like PRIMO or TERRY, all aboard here…I find this lot maybe most impressive of the pack.

Hand & Leg Lust In Peace LP

Long-player #2 for this Greek duo. Within seconds, it’s clear that Lust In Peace avoids any lazy two-piece trappings, and that something a lot more ominous is afoot here. Rhythms generally thud, vocals chastise, and strings are mangled while an uneasy static grows and grows. There’s no comfort in the groove they build, but still so much to hear—experimental, fearful, and extreme as their sound may be. There is nothing “garage” about this either, just pure cacophonous, uneasy listening that prompts repeat plays. A very impressive record, and one that anyone prone to neg-vibe explorations should seek out.

Chubby and the Gang All Along the Uxbridge Road / Mockba 7″

Supremely adept sounds from some CROWN COURT affiliates. The gist of this is a bit on the classic rechanneling side, complete with design that cops Chiswick Records, an indicator of this lot’s passions if ever there was one. Think DISGUISE from the ancient era, or something like QUANGO from more modern times. Speedy UK punk—timeless stuff—cropped, catchy and very tough. All aboard.

The Cool Greenhouse Crap Cardboard Pet 10″

Expert antagonism courtesy of this standout UK act. Prior compact offerings were fine/dandy, but the patient stretching of the material here (no song shorter than five minutes, one approaching ten) really showcase the motivations of these CGs: repetition in the spirit of The FALL, with the same sort of roundabout accusatory bitterness to boot. The COOL GREENHOUSE move beyond purely referential tribute though, taking these cues further than comfort permits, especially via the synthetic hypnosis of “Crap Art,” which is maybe the most brilliant tune of this year. Limited to a scant 200 copies, all of which include an actual crap cardboard pet. A must-have release from every angle—highest recommendation.

Disco Junk Underage Punk EP

Pitch-perfect teen punk delinquency from Australia. Well, one of the AUSMUTEANTS guys helps, but the kids largely have the say here. Bratty bullshit is eschewed for real-deal antisocial, hateful angst and DISCO JUNK’s the better for it. Four tunes in all, each a slasher spat out by some past-it young puke that knows that he already “gets it.” Can’t wait ’til they go post-punk.

The Frantic Five I Need You Mine / The Very First Day 7″

Faithful, fuzzy, Farfisa-focused ’60s garage from this long-running Greek outfit. Both tunes are mid-tempo shakers, not terribly remarkable, but hitting all the necessary marks in order to qualify as a legit aping of Ugly Things styles. It’s obviously no match against the original ’60s sources or the ’80s/’90s budget rebranding. It’s just sorta “there,” maybe even by design. Yawning in my Beatle boots.

Dan Melchior Group Ruins 2xLP

The latest in Mr. Melchior’s always-classy, always-moving-forward musical journey. Ruins finds him joined by folks from BLOODY SHOW, cool killers in their own right, so there’s a noticeable upswing in energy on this outing. A few tracks where Dan handles all instrumentation are sprinkled throughout as well, offering momentary deviations that manage to build interest across all four sides. I’m gravitating to the aggressive and hypnotic “Hey Ya” as the standout, but there’s not a duff moment on this entire collection. If it’s been a stretch since you’ve checked in on Melchior’s works, this serves as a great reintroduction. We’re so lucky to have this guy around. Hop to.

Possible Humans Everybody Split LP

Debut offering from this Melbourne lot. Everybody Split collects a few varied takes on pop/rock, not terribly far removed from now-sounds like THIGH MASTER or SALAD BOYS, but more indebted to moody practitioners from decades past—something more along the lines of the BATS, the FEELIES or even (ahem) US “college rock” from the ’80s & ’90s. The guitars somehow always seem to merge chime and crunch, which I’m comfy tagging as this gang’s bread/butter (not a bad thing!). Next to nothing resembling a two-fingers punk sound here, but as DIY pop music, it ably scratches the itch.

The Scientists Not For Sale: Live 1978/79 2xLP

The recent SCIENTISTS reissue blitz has been a bit crazed, but it’s hard to complain about seeing so many records by these all-time greats in the bins again. As advertised in the title, this release captures the savage young iteration of the SCIENTISTS via a couple choice live recordings. The sound is uniformly great—no hiss-fi gunk-covered cassette rehash here, just top-tier documentation, more than I ever expected to hear outta this early incarnation of the band. The originals (“Last Night,” “Frantic Romantic,” “Shadows Of The Night,” and on and on) are all present and performed with formative fervor, while the many cover selections (most notably those by FLAMIN’ GROOVIES, the obvious touchstone for them at this early stage) all help paint a hot-pink portrait of the pre-swamp version of the band. Very well done release to boot: gatefold sleeve, extensive liners, colored wax. Recommended for completists and the curious alike.

Vulturas Vulturas LP

The VULTURAS count a couple PUSHERS and MANIC HISPANIC folks in their ranks, so the sound here is pure OC punk: pogo rhythms, guitar crunch, and vocals that alternate between creeper sneering and full-on wail. A drunk/drugged fuck-all attitude is poured over the entire affair, which is largely formulaic but executed with enough oomph to at least prompt interest. Not a repeat offender, but plenty suitable for devout followers of the genre.

Celebrity Handshake Religion On The Outside / (Float) Don’t Take Care 7″

One could simply rubberneck and tag CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE as some kinda broken blues exercise, but the glorious noise and madness that they place on all sides is the real frosting here. Both tunes begin with recognizable budget blooze groove, but lumber toward this caterwaul collapse that just levels me. Tears of joy, I tell you. Fucked in every direction, though when the keys spring up, my spirit soars. Hell, each tune is damn near five minutes apiece, and that’s too short—make this goddamned contortive boogaloo endless! Start here for instant conversion, as this is surely one of the finest 45s of the year.

Cereal Killer The Beginning & End of Cereal Killer LP

Eruptive ’tweener stylings from this Australian gang, affiliates of the WET BLANKETS and AUSMUTEANTS charm academies. If this is truly the beginning and end, CEREAL KILLER should feel accomplished and proud, as their take on hardcore—tuneful, mildly freaky—is endearing and fun. Seems “lite” in mood, but 100% serious in delivery, as all the performances are damn impressive. “Being Cool” has a perfect NWOBHM-inspired riff, something that carries over to “Should Punks Be Allies.” Along with the smarmy electronic swipes they sprinkle in, these injected deviations make this something you wanna listen to as well as thrash around to. Fast fun for fuckfaces.

The Mentally Ill Gacy’s Place (Starbeat Session) LP

Does the phrase “total Killed By Death destruction” mean anything to you? “Gacy’s Place,” the defining ’79 anthem from Illinois’ MENTALLY ILL, ranks among the most disgusting and drool-inducing jams of the genre—a life-ruining classic for sure. This 12″ includes that fabled debut 45 and the other cuts from the same session, all wretched, painfully scuzzy punk. Alternative Tentacles unearthed this crapola at the turn of the century, but Almost Ready has thankfully trimmed all the fat from the rancid USDA KBD beef here, resulting in a frightening slab of fuck sure to poison the mind of any listener. Hard to beat.

Flashlights Shadows and Lights LP

Secret Mission continues to make vinyl wrongs right by issuing the 2016 debut by Tokyo’s FLASHLIGHTS on LP. Originally released on CD only by Fifi (TEENGENERATE and FIRESTARTER) on his Stay Free imprint, this album has been a dark horse favorite of mine for a couple years now. Though boasting members of ROCK-A-CHERRY and the impossibly fantastic KNOCKS, FLASHLIGHTS’ approach is quite obviously centered on ’80s guitar pop, most akin to bands RAZORCUTS, the FLATMATES or even the FEELIES. I’ve opened up a lot more to this stuff in recent years, so I’m very much on board here. As is customary with so many Japanese acts, there’s a tastefulness to their entire operation that captuers part of the spark and spirit of their influences in a genuine way. Great.

Detroit 442 We Stand Defiant LP

Two guesses as to where this lot is from. We Stand Defiant comes with the perfunctory middle finger ethos (and cover art) and there really isn’t much there beyond that. Big guitar punk indebted to DEAD BOYS and the ilk: less brain cells, more bruised knuckles. Pure lash-out stuff, very ugly and tough, but not even a tiny bit memorable.

Degenerated Downfall of Humanity / I Hate It 7″

Self-described psychobilly from Germany, 2019. Tough sell for me, gotta tell ya. DEGENERATED sound bloated and needlessly theatrical even by the standards of the genre they grease up to… It’s like they’re reducing rock’n’roll to the carnal core, but getting it terribly wrong with each strip-down attempt. A big miss.

Telekrimen Culto a Lo Imbécil LP

Kitchen-sink punk noise from Mexico City. TELEKRIMEN are about as “garage punk” as a band like early LOST SOUNDS were, which is a wonderful thing: dark and bloody punk with a recognizable ’60s garage foundation, but damaged enough that it mutates into something more interesting. The less-compelling moments (barely-beyond-trad surf and R&B swipes) are basically just workouts designed for live gyration rather than at-home pondering, so sweat appears to be of more concern that brains here. Fitting as they probably kick ass live.

Good Missionaries Pylons LP

A puzzling and primo UKDIY excavation tracked during the golden era, but now seeing proper release all these decades later. Whisper-celebrated and/or faintly chided for their own scattered offerings, GOOD MISSIONARIES are mostly thought of as a footnote to the more well-known ALTERNATIVE TV, the band from which they sprang. This outdoes any of previously available GOOD MISSIONARIES product, I says. Liners nail it: “the impatience and aggression of punk, but the wandering curiosity of experimental music.” Dubby meander, brat barking, horny skronking, punk that leaves dents. Nerd shit, but quite right to these ears.

Constant Mongrel Experts in Skin / Shnuki 7″

Cunning, expert-level post-punk, bite-sized for your fearful pleasure. “Experts in Skin” ranks just as high as any hit from their recent show-stopper LP, purposeful punk concluding with a layered sax battle. The flip is poppier but prompts sly smiling rather than “lite” thoughts. Still makes me nervous, but you can dance to it. So good that it must be a joke.

Wild Billy Childish and CTMF Brave Protector LP

Devised and released to coincide with CTMF’s recent shows in Oakland, Brave Protector serves as semi-souvenir from that weekend-long happening, which I saw and thoroughly loved. The album is a recently-recorded re-up of many BILLY CHILDISH favorites, spanning several of his prior bands, all performed with enough immediacy to prompt spit-take. I’m a lifelong fan, having long ago committed many of these songs to memory with almost sickening devotion, and I still think this performance and collection is urgent and fuckin’ ace. A personal sweat affair too: hand-stamped, artist-assembled, probably long gone by the time anyone reads this review. There will surely be more to come, and it’ll be better than just about everything else.

Data Drums Asyndeta LP

DATA DRUMS finds Memphis’ Chuck Vicious operating outside of OSCARS, but without a step lost. I’ve always appreciated the DIY/punk that he’s released over the years, with the nowadays DATA DRUMS sounding more together and driven than I was expecting. No complaints here. Shades of early WIPERS may be the most obvious touchstone, but the tunes are uniformly cool, off-kilter, and uneasy in a compelling way.

Nots 3 LP

Third (duh) album from Memphis’ NOTS, now a trio (duh again). NOTS’ unique take on punk—wild psych tinges and tight post-punk rhythms, always driving in inventive directions—is one of my faves in recent memory, and 3 finds the band operating at their most economic. The songs are more exacting and, coupled with a recording / production that peels back much of the shadow and effect from prior releases, their finest batch to date (see “Rational Actor” and “Woman Alone” especially!). These slight adjustments in attack and presentation all come together to propel a more natural sound, albeit one still permeated with drum pound, synth bleating, and guitar workout. I’m also really struck by Natalie’s vocals here as well: she has never sounded better or punker on record. While I’ve been on board with their prior releases, I flat-out fuckin’ love this one. Highest recommendation.

Protruders Poison Future LP

A loose and odd duckling from Montreal. PROTRUDERS try their hand at all manner of agitated sounds: A pumpin’ take on trad’ rock’n’roll that’s instinctively punk and off in the right sorta way. Their attitudinal reference points seem to (mostly) sprout from the world of Cle’ proto-punk, with “Wrong Way Sign” (the six plus minute centerpiece) recalling so much MIRRORS or ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS magic that I’m liable to cite that alone as worth the price of admission. After repeated listens (yes, it prompts them), I dig the longer, room-to-roam moments over the more direct numbers, but even the chopped and speedy “Stabilizer” crumbles coolly. Quality beef here, folks, ’specially for the zonked hairballs out there.

The Smog In The Wasteland / Dusty World 7″

Second single from the SMOG: a burning bright light from Japan’s now-time punk scene. Their prior single checked all my obsessive boxes: ace design, an absurdly limited pressing, and excellent songs, each traipsing across both spirited DIY and razorblade punk in a way that made it difficult to pigeonhole. This second single follows in line but in much more confident fashion. There’s this dark, forward-falling sound in the SMOG that recalls heavies from Tokyo Rockers, but then “Dusty World” appears and their sound brightens toward near-danceable post-punk. The shift is not jarring at all, just serves as an indication of adaptability and proof that they’ve got plenty to play with. Another drool-worthy offering. Seek this out!

Ramoms Problem Child EP

RAMOMS are the mom-punk RAMONES. Wincing yet? “Gritty Is A Punk” replaces Judy with the Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot. Oooooph. “Boogie Not Snot” is not a reworked “Carbona Not Glue,” but instead a cutesy gross-out on “Blitzkrieg Bop.” A faithful phone-in of “Rockaway Beach” rounds things out. Pure cringe-inducing novelty.

E.T. Explore Me Shine CD

Cinematic and psychedelic rock from the Netherlands, complete with a ’60s garage tilt. Shine sounds like a true catch-all for this lot, as they freely try their hand at straight organ fuzz, campy go-go schlock, “vintage future” sci-fi traipsing, and general turkeyisms. As is so often the case with this thang, it’s got all the makings of wonderful night out at the garrrrage gig, but it’s not the sort of record you’ll throw on at home for a casual cruise.

The Foamers? / Last Sons Of Krypton split LP

A two-fer of malted Wisconsin gunk. There are bolstered chops across LAST SONS OF KRYPTON’s unexpected resurrection, both mental and musical, which is pleasantly surprising. They haven’t gone prog or anything, as this is still heavily indebted to Back From Samoa and similar sounds / spirit. Everyone grows up though, even LAST SONS OF KRYPTON! The FOAMERS? (nifty intentional punctuation) are shit-fi two-guy trash, barely together, but optimum for a basement rager. Tunes skip between jokers and rockers, all primitive but barely memorable. Neither side prompts repeat spins, but this could prove to be a winner with the locals-only crowd.

Uranium Club The Cosmo Cleaners LP

Longform dispatch #3 from Sunbelt’s favorite sons (suns?). As if their set-to-stun prior outings didn’t paint a bright enough picture, The Cosmo Cleaners immerses the listener in THE MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB BAND’s parallel universe: one bent on absurdist parables that serve to skewer concepts of society and self, achieved largely through mischievous plays on mega-corporation aesthetics and language, ultimately positioning creation and destruction as one in the same. Too heady? Well, the band’s conceptual dedication and admirable attention to detail is outdone only by their completely fucking ridiculous rocking / rolling—a forever-building, breathless, whip-crack punky attack that really does inspire legit awe (especially live). Every song is an epic, burners and excursions alike. Fans will find a considerably more patient and less scrappy collection of songs and performances here, but as a total work, The Cosmo Cleaners may be the most fully-realized outing from the band to date. “How does one remain breathing without going mad?

Celebrity Handshake No Magic Show Tonight CD

Could this lot really be related to my beloved JUMPIN’ BEANS AND WILLIE??? ’Tis true, but of an altogether different bewildering bash. CELEB HANDSIES wallop mightily from the jump: noize noise noize and barking weirdness that would do the Bulb and Blackjack imprints proud. Four really rough gems in total, each “centered” by the maddening-yet-spirited blur of their attack (drums, guitar scree, unhinged keys, bleeding and blown “production”). I was not prepared for this…Goddamn. Now I must obsess over their every move.

Redd Kross Teen Babes From Monsanto LP reissue

What timing: I just returned from seeing RED CRO$S do Born Innocent live, and am still trying to collect myself. What a band—rabid obsessives that dreamed themselves into becoming one of Los Angeles’ all-time finest. That life-altering love of rock’n’roll is the very blood pumping through Teen Babes From Monsanto, their all-covers sophomore album from 1984, reissued now with revamped pin-up teen-dream cover art to boot. As the McDonald brothers cruise through STOOGES, KISS, and ROLLING STONES tunes (to name a handful), they reimagine the material via punk fandom and pure love, eschewing the nihilism & violence so often associated with the time and place for a tongue-in-cheek, glitter-rained rock-star dreamworld. It’s easy to get caught up, and that’s the goddamn point. One to reach for when all the shit’s got you down.

Kristen Resning Tillbaka Till Wittenberg EP

Swedish prim-punk! Tillbaka Till Wittenberg enshrines fine trash without falling prey to misguided blues attempts, making this already a winner by Euro g-word punk standards. Six crunchy barbs, nary a dud in sight, including some vague swipe at JACK AND THE RIPPERS. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every Levande Begravd release I’ve encountered, this being no exception. Ace crap for your bombed brain.

Priors Call for You EP

Montreal buzz’n’scuzz. The title track recalls the streamlined charge of the POINTS: totally breakneck, modern and impressive. The tunes on the flip twitch a bit more, particularly “Swelter,” which may be the crown jewel of the affair. No subtlety to be seen, just pure drive. A nice jaunt for the chemically-enhanced in our readership.

The Premonitions Give Back What You Take / Sun Goes Down 7″

Those gosh darn ’60s, lemme tell ya! The PREMONITIONS kick a fair amount of rear end on this lil’ jukebox jewel: the A-side’s a total workout, obviously indebted to PRETTY THINGS or CHANTS R&B, while the flip’s a fuzzier, mod-leaning hipshaker with prominent organ grindin’. Really head & shoulders above the overt retro-raunch that’s hit MRR in recent months, so good on ’em for not sucking the dog. Worth a lookie-loo for all you daddy-o-diddley dude-a-bopper turkey dorks!

Freak Ritual Death EP

Stark raving madness from subterranean Los Angeles, circa 2015. Ya see, Ritual Death was FREAK’s lone offering, these sounds heretofore available only via a handful o’ scattered demo tapes. Vague Absolutes, in their infinite and drool-prompting wisdom, pressed 107 copies (!) to 7″ wax, which is at least 393 too few if ya ask me. FREAK’s fury and filth—gutter-level blood-drip ugliness—is so expertly communicated, so literate, that you’ll think you’re dreamin’. Thug vocals, bashing rhythm, slither riffing, real grime, too punk. As with the wondrous (and FREAK-related) INDEX demo that Vague Absolutes excavated a few years ago, here’s a bright fuckin’ light on a band that’s far too sick to ignore. So fucking good! Probably a goner by the time you see this, but know that it exists and know that it fucking destroys.

The Blankz Getting Over You / Barfly 7″

I feel like a BLANKZ single comes in every month. Prolific! “Getting Over You” is really slick pop punk of the Fat Wreck variety. The new wave keys seem to be the only deviation from the force-fed processed punk here. “Barfly” is more of the same, though fares a lil’ better, and actually reminds me of HEAD if they were going the tuff-guy route. Still, it’s too artificially sweet for me to choke down.

The Because Get Out Through the Back Door LP

At every turn on this LP, the BECAUSE channels the same humid yet sensitive roaring that I equate with noteworthy vintage acts via (ahem) No Idea Records and the ilk. Their devotion to the form is quite studied: there’s this barreling sound, anthem-focused, tension-and-release style. Trouble is, there’s no teeth, no deviance, barely anything punk beyond their mid-tempo charge. Underwhelming.

The Reaction East End Rockers EP

First-gen punk from up Canada way, reissued in scholarly style. Though I’ve held the particular volume of Smash the State that included the REACTION for eons now, the presence of SIGGY MAGIC simply lifted the thunder out from under this lot for my ear-holes. Not the case today though—this sounds pretty primo, collecting their most coveted track “The Kid’s Arrived,” along with a few cassette-only movers/ shakers. Not a lot of fat to trim either: proficient punking that’s oddly comparable to the NORMALS, if forced to cite a domestic KBD heavy. Includes hyper-detailed booklet for all us nerds to wipe our brows with after pogo-ing. Good stuff!

Lost Sounds Memphis Is Dead LP

Remastered reissue of LOST SOUNDS’ game-changer debut album from 2001. It’s pretty hard to overstate the impact they had on my taste— they just blew my brain apart. Having already thoroughly flipped for the REATARDS, LOST SOUNDS took that completely raw, blood-dripping punk sound and augmented it with synths to craft something far darker and often more dangerous than the teenage tantrum punk that was expected. This was entirely more musical, moodier, strange, and a lot more deviant. At this early stage, they had yet to submerge themselves in their march toward Black Wave, and you can still detect (gasp!) garage roots in their attack. See especially “Inside My Head” and their great reworking of the LOLLIPOP SHOPPE’s “You Must Be a Witch” for the proof. And it simply must be stated: the presence and power of ALICJA TROUT here can’t be ignored. Her songs here are totally revelatory—take a listen to “Memphis 99” or “Satan Bought Me,” and bow down—truly one of the most dynamic and underrated ladies in all of punk. LOST SOUNDS didn’t make many false moves in their lifespan, but the beginning is a mighty fine place to start. If you haven’t heard this already, what the fuck could you possibly be waiting for?

Andy Human and the Reptoids Psychic Sidekick LP

A long time comin’ for the REPTOIDS’ round two. Psychic Sidekick serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that Andy Human & Co. remain one of the top tier outfits around these days, presenting a bent variant that’s more critical, absurdist, and exciting than most of the contemporary class. Theirs is an out-of-time sound, recalling hyper-specific influences (why oh why do I continually think about the punkest moments from the OFFS or ALIEN CITY when hearing this band?) but arranged with a personality and perspective that’s unique and just plain interesting. So many killers. “You Like Your Job” is a huge wind-up, poking a safety pin in illusions via a sick guitar schmearing, “Thrust of History” is gutter glam from Galaxy Z, “Fissures” and “Echo Pedal” both take a bird’s eye outsider view while still buzzing mightily, on and on, and no duff cuts. As much as I’ve enjoyed the singles they’ve slotted in between their albums to date, the long-form release is where the REPTOIDS truly excel—I’ll be spinning this endlessly for the foreseeable future. A vital act from the here and now, so do yourself a favor and take their trip.

Football / White Savage Split LP

A double dose of ol’ Jimmy Hollywood, noted heavy from classic bands like the TYRADES and BASEBALL FURIES, most recently of GALLERY NIGHT. WHITE SAVAGE and FOOTBALL both land somewhere in the middle of all this, though the quality of each is uniformly quite high. While the bands have their own distinctions— FOOTBALL prefers direct thud, WHITE SAVAGE is more spastic and exploratory—there’s this simplistic and hard-charging drive that runs through all of Hollywood’s material: a primal and powerful use of punk energy that’s always been highly impressive to these ears. It can be heard throughout this split (which functions far better than it has any real right to!): artful and manic in equal measure, always careening, always inspiring. Great stuff.

The Flytraps Kitten With a Whip / Nice Boys 7″

A hard rock/punk hybrid from Southern CA, complete with punky porno sleeve. “Kitten With A Whip” sorta recalls LOUDMOUTHS in terms of theme and yowl, though there’s a studio schmaltz that doesn’t sit quite right with me. Ditto for their flipside take on the ROSE TATTOO classic. A total time warp sort of affair…It’s as if Junk Records has risen from the dead or something.

The Hunches Same New Thing LP

Well, here’s another wrong made right: part three in Almost Ready’s vault plundering of the late and oh-so-great HUNCHES. Same New Thing dusts off a recording session that predates their infamous debut—serving as a demo then, but offering a really cool glimpse into their (pretty stunning) process now, seventeen years (!) later. Anyone familiar with their debut album will recall the noise that coats each tune, but Same New Thing casts so many of those heart-wrenching moments as leaner and sometimes meaner than the more widely-heard versions. Formative takes on tunes like “Lisa Told Me” and “Explosion” really drive home just how smartly and furiously the HUNCHES crafted their songs. Tunes as fuckin’ great as those would sound good underwater, yes, but they’re magic here all the same. Related, there are serious kicks to be heard with their collective fandom shining through here: copious Cle-punk and Dee-Troit channeling, broken blues and glass-smash punky damage, firing all at once. No fuckin’ wonder I was so smitten with them. Still am, it seems. One of the few true 21st century killers. Highly recommended!

Ryan Dino Chapter One: The Final Chapter LP

Mr. Dinosaur is actually Mr. Bell: Atlanta wunderkind and contributor of brawn and brains to notable rulers such as PREDATOR and GG KING, to name but a few. “Chapter One: The Final Chapter” finds Ryan out front, collecting material from various sessions over the past few years, and completed with shifting line-ups. It’s a uniformly kick-ass assemblage of material that’s wonderfully varied: merging the expected expert-level punk with nods to DIY pop, tongue-in- cheek metal, dark hardcore, and atmospheric weirdness. It’s epic from every angle, and a very deep-dive into the murky recesses of an extraordinarily capable punk brainiac—often funny, sometimes grim or damaged, always world class. It demands repeated listening and prompts a fair amount of obsession from the jump. Get lost.

The Rusty Robots Sweethearts, Kisses, Bloody Knives EP

Punkabilly ahhhh-go-go from fuckin’ Leipzig, OK? Three tunes total, though I can hardly tell the difference between ‘em. Total hairspray overdrive skull’n’bones schlock here, no new or embarrassing ground broken, so no real harm done. What does morning-after smoked fish and stout barf sound like? Probably this.

Qlowski Pure as Fear EP

Stylish and busy post-punk from Italy. There’s an opposition in QLOWSKI’s tunes: the keys and melodies are pure dancefloor new wave, but the beat and mood is far darker. I realize this is sorta thee bread & butter post-punk tactic, but it feels extra unnerving in this instance. The best moments recall BLACK SUNDAY, the worst I’ve already forgotten.

The Outta Sorts Caligula EP

Local garage punk of the swing-swang-swingin’ variety. Real piss- in-yer-icetray stuff: foolish boppin’, elder juvenile delinquency. The title track attempts to link Trump and Caligula via their penchant for grope violations and it only gets brainier from there (just kidding, it doesn’t!). “I fucked a devil and I made her cum!” Ahem, well, OK, cool?