Pete Avery

Songs for Snakes Airspeed Is Everything EP

Two songs, both of which ride a pretty fine line between catchy melodic punk and an attempt at achieving commercial success back in 1999. It has that straightforward driving but catchy fuzzed out feel of later HÜSKER DÜ or SUGAR (especially in those vocals) mixed with something from JAWBOX’s first major label record (please see guitar riff for the verse on side A). The hooks are there, arrangement is good and the songs just kind of roll along. It is a bit worrisome when the production starts to make it feel too much like the last JAWBREAKER record or THURSDAY, but a couple listens in and the positives shine. Solid songs that sound good back to back.

Milk Bath Milk Bath LP

This is straightforward, up-tempo, super driving punk rock that’s just a little noisy and pretty spastic but still totally catchy. They’ve got that WIPERS or HOT SNAKES down-stroke rock thing going on but with screamed vocals that are pushed real hard. Outside of the couple spacy ambient guitar track, every song on here is a rager. It’s not necessarily hardcore, but it’s not not hardcore. If you’re confused, check it out for yourself because this shit smokes.

Distants ii 12″

This 12″ features one side with five generic, gruff-vocalled pop-punk songs and a second side with a nice-looking screen print. The B-side might be the better one. This sounds like when a band tries to copy a band that tried to copy JAWBREAKER. So sure, easy way to go is to say it sounds like SMALL BROWN BIKE. It’s melodic, it’s kind of bouncy, but it lacks the solid hooks that this kind of music demands.

Whipping Post Cheating the War Game LP

This is pretty solid hardcore that maybe sounds a little more like SWIZ than it does like POISON IDEA (that’s not to say it doesn’t sound like both). Yelled vocals, backed by heavy guitars and some pretty good hooks. The mostly up-tempo tracks are broken up nicely by a couple of slower, trudging songs. That is, until you get to the six-minute piano-intro snoozer toward the end. Altogether, a pretty good record and definitely better than their previous one in terms of songwriting, recording and guitar tone.

Grey C.E.L.L. Grey C.E.L.L. LP

This record smokes. The former members thing is really going to help out here because it does totally sound like folks from CITIZENS ARREST, NEMA and HELL NO play in this band. Straight, up-tempo hardcore filled in with heavy breakdowns (well, it’s all pretty heavy) and a slight nod toward the metal side of things without ever really getting there. What differentiates this from those folks’ old bands is that it has a brightness in the guitar sound (and recording in general) that really makes it pop. Not saying it makes it better than that old stuff, it just makes it feel fresh. Did I say that this record smokes?

Modern Love Ensomhet Vet EP

Let’s break this up. The first tracks on each side are both real cool, mid-tempo, jangle punk head-nodders. It feels like early CURE songs played through a modern Australia indie/punk filter. It’s bouncy, sing-along stuff (if you know Norsk) that maintains just enough of a punk edge. The other two tracks are more typical up-tempo, melodic punk with a heavily drenched guitar sound and little bits of hardcore that almost cut through. Still catchy and all but a little generic.

Facility Men It’s Fun to Disappear LP

Twelve songs of WIPERS-style punk, or you could call it hardcore garage music. It’s mostly up-tempo, with vocals that sound like they are yelling at you in particular, and guitars that lean a little too heavily on classic rock’n’roll riffs (and solos). A couple songs in and it starts to sound a little stale. It’s unfortunate that you have to get halfway through the second side for the record to be broken up by the mid-tempo, not so yell-y “Morning Business” that will have you bobbing your head in no time. More of that please.

Dewityourself Dewityourself LP

It’s an interesting idea. Niels de Wit, who has been playing in bands and putting out records for four decades, picks out fourteen songs that he wrote from over the years, and rerecords them. The songs encompass stuff done by hardcore bands like GEPØPEL as well as alternative pop rock like JOHAN. The thing is that he makes most of them sound like the power pop/punk of his more recent bands. Even some of those hardcore songs are given a catchy, upbeat touch. On its own, it feels a little dated, like a ’90s pop-punk version of ELVIS COSTELLO. It might be more interesting to those familiar with his previous work.

Leopardo Is It An Easy Life? LP

Psychedelic rock from Switzerland in the vein of the VELVET UNDERGROUND. The songs are generally on the upbeat side of things, but not necessarily poppy. They’re a little weird, a little off-kilter, the vocals run toward the TINY TIM side of things. Head noddable, yes but not exactly danceable. The two best songs on here are the ones that don’t really fit. “Happiness” is a slow, sparse, ambient, folkish thing that reminds me of a song by one of the Kilgour brothers. It’s followed by the catchy as hell, “I Wanna Tame You,” a pop gem. I’d listen to those two songs over and over.

Wire Lines Terminal CD

This a pretty short compact disc of six melodic hardcore songs (well, five of them are). It’s similar to the more straightforward AT THE DRIVE IN songs, or something that I imagine Epitaph Records would have been putting out in 1999. Those first five are all slick-sounding, uptempo numbers with sung/yelled vocals, and a bunch of hooks that unfortunately don’t make the songs catchy. The last song is a plodding, goth-y sort of number that might be the most interesting song here.

Dead in Argentina The City Is Not Alright / I See Red 7″

The A-side starts out with a JAWBREAKER-ish riff but the sort of spacy, sung vocals really takes you off that vibe and into a more post-rock kind of thing. The song is still driving but not blown-out loud or overly distorted. It has more of a dark feel, like it should be soaking in reverb, but it isn’t. Not bad, but doesn’t really grab at anything. The B-side sounds like it’s going to be a Midwest emo tune until it hits real hard and then it sounds like some of those No Idea Records emo bands from the late ’90s: TRUE NORTH, TWELVE HOUR TURN, etc. Screamed/sung vocals, crunchy distorted bass, heavy syncopated drumming. A real solid song.

Early Stages Terrible Business LP

This is quirky slacker pop from Austin that sounds like an Australian band sounding like a New Zealand band sounding like the VELVET UNDERGROUND, if you get what I mean. It’s reminiscent of the STEVENS with bits of the CLEAN and LOU REED. There’s some bouncy stuff, there are some slow head-nodders, but there isn’t necessarily anything that stands out. On the other hand, it’s pretty catchy when listened to as a whole.

Merger Merger LP

This record is a total mess, though not really in a bad way. It’s like a raucous FUGAZI party record that you would never play at a party. Some of the vocals are a little over the top in their likeness to the aforementioned, and the song “Buzzer #1” has to be a reference. The better of the tracks are super dynamic, soft/loud/soft/loud but without that ’90s thing where you only rely on distortion. It’s at its best when the guitars detune themselves mid-song, playing picked-out melodies that are reminiscent of the MINUTEMEN. Cool record.

Hammered Hulls Written Words EP

So let’s just for a minute try to ignore the “former members of…” thing going on here. It’s pretty straightforward, basic, early-’80s style, mid- to up-tempo hardcore punk. What makes this record better than other? Hooks. They’re all over the place. Guitar hooks, bass hooks, whatever you want. Since our minute is up, the reason most people will buy this record is maybe the least interesting part. Not that Alec MacKaye’s vocals have lost anything, the other pieces are just real solid (they also have wildly long lists of amazing bands that they have played in). It’s real catchy, no-nonsense punk. If you are one of the many silent folks who prefer the FAITH side, you have to get this. Even if you don’t, check it out.

Regres Tu I Teraz EP

How is there so much potential for moshing on such a tiny record? REGRES brings six songs of melodic hardcore à la SWIZ meets breakdown-loving early-’90s straight edge. It’s fast, guitars move between octaves and power chord chugging, vocals are yelled and generously backed up by more yelling. On the production end, it’s a little louder and cleaner than its predecessors but still maintains some dynamics. Solid.

Broken Things / Changer split EP

BROKEN THINGS plays straight pop punk that feels like the ’90s. Their first song is reminiscent of SICKO. Super poppy, pretty catchy, but maybe not catchy enough. Also, that organ is too much. The second song is a little more JAWBREAKER-ish, but without any of the guts. Also, you brought that organ back at the very end? Why? There is a third song that you get digitally. It’s in the same vein, but maybe better than the other two. CHANGER does two songs as well. I’m pretty sure that this is what SUM 41 sounded like (or still does?), add in some heavy part that I think is what passes for “emo” in modern culture, and there you have a giant turd. I do appreciate that they ask people to be kind to animals.

Terry Who’s Terry? EP

Fans of TERRY won’t be surprised in any way by this EP. Four songs of simple but wildly catchy pop music that is just a little off kilter. At times it can feel a bit monotone, but that also tends to add to the charm. Their sound wouldn’t be out of place in the late ’80s Flying Nun catalog. If you’re listening for the first time, check out the B-side of this record. “Eggs” is an upbeat head nodder, followed by the mellow “Drawn for Days”—a Kilgour brothers-style tune—is the perfect side of a 7″.

Alpha Hopper Aloha Hopper LP

A little too quirky to be hardcore, too heavy to be rock, and probably post-a-lot-of-things, this record might not be groundbreaking, but it’s pretty hard to pin down. Snotty, screamed vocals that sound straight out of the early ’90s sit nicely in the mix with AmRep-style noise rock. It’s busy enough to be interesting, but not so busy that it isn’t catchy.

Indian Summer Cherry Smash 12″

30 years ago, INDIAN SUMMER (of Virginia, not California) recorded a four-song 7” that was never released. In that same year, Maximum Rocknroll said of the band’s tape, “Pretty upbeat melodic punk with a slight pop edge. ‘Why?’, the song which kicks the tape off, is the best tune.” It shall be said again. These four songs (plus a demo track that is a couple seconds long) sound very much in line with a lot of DC stuff from the time. More so the melodic hardcore side of things (and not so much the emo part), with their love for GOVERNMENT ISSUE being especially apparent. It’s a cool document and also worth a listen. “Why?”, the song which kicks the record off, is still the best tune.

Spit-Take Falling Star 12″

This is absurdly poppy pop punk that hints at indie rock. Ranging from slow, melancholic, bummer tunes like the opener and closer to up-beat, melancholic, bummer tunes like “How,” to melancholic, bummer, pop anthems like “Five or Six,” this record covers a small amount of ground. Sung vocals that get pushed every once in a while play with simple guitar melodies on what is a pretty forgettable record.

Giggly Boys Another Close Call 7″

This two song 7″ barely makes it to four minutes in total. The A-side is an uptempo melodic punk number in the vein of MASSHYSTERI, with a reverbed out Mark E. Smith soundalike on vocals. The B-side is a little more garage-y, a little more rock’n’roll, a little catchier, quite a bit shorter, and probably the better of the two. This stuff sounds similar to their previous output, but a little more polished, and I mean that in a good way.

Device Anthology 1997-2000 CD

These thirteen songs encapsulate the entirety of this French hardcore band’s existence: including a demo, two split EPs and a CDEP. A trip through the fliers on the inner sleeve might make for some good insight into their sound: HATEBREED, FLOORPUNCH, BLOOD FOR BLOOD, BLOODLET, FOUR HUNDRED YEARS, and MILEMARKER. Well, those last two make no sense, but whatever. They mostly stick to some real normal sounding tough guy hardcore, with bits and pieces leaning toward an EARTH CRISIS type metal guitar, and little hits at emotional hardcore (“Long Day” has these long emotional parts that are the real winner here). The sound is unfortunately not so great all around, with the demo being a particularly rough listen. It’s also a bit hard to believe that they printed the lyrics, as some of them sound like childish rantings.

The Cult Of Lip Sleep Receiver cassette

It’s dark, heavy, and grungy, but up-tempo. It’s sloppy rock with repetitive bass lines, fuzzy guitars, and reverb-heavy, monotone vocals. It’s like a gothy version of the PIXIES. It all felt a little like a boring wall of sound mess until it got to the last song, and all of a sudden it’s real cool. It’s more dynamic, the guitar strings are getting bent out of tune, but it’s actually real catchy, and despite the repetitive nature of all the band’s songs, this one feel fresh. At the very least, you should check out “Closer.”

Missing Earth Gold, Flour, Salt LP

This starts out with something that pretty much just sounds like a later GRANDADDY song, just not as catchy or witty. The record moves on from that to sound a little more pop punk / indie rock, sort of like WEAKERTHANS with a hint of BUILT TO SPILL. It’s mid-tempo to mellow, with fairly clean guitars and slightly nasal, sung vocals. It’s not mind blowing, but it’s reasonably catchy.

Pree Tone Kiddy CD

This is sort of long-winded, noisy indie rock. The whole thing is pretty fuzzy and spacey, but also very bright due to the guitars and the cymbals being real up front. The monotone vocals are sparse, sitting pretty far in the back, and not doing a whole lot to add to the music. At their best, the band has a ’90s indie rock feel, something like CHAVEZ in its catchy aspects and the interplay of the two prominent guitars. At their worst, the songs feel like they go on forever with unending instrumental parts. This would be really good if edited.

People’s Temple Project / Sleeper Wave Split LP

This split LP features two frantic, emotional hardcore bands. PEOPLE’S TEMPLE PROJECT play stuff in the vein of JOSHUA FIT FOR BATTLE or FUNERAL DINER. Sometimes fast, heavy, and slightly spastic; sometimes slow, heavy, and melodic. Sometimes quiet and introspective. On the whole, it’s not quite as heavy or fast as those late ’90s bands, and it feels like it lacks the hardcore background that those folks had. On the other side, SLEEPER WAVE plays similar stuff, but sometimes leaning more towards that poppy, ALGERNON CADWALLADER, twinkly bro-emo sound, and at other times falling more heavily on the hardcore side of things. They also mix in the quiet meandering parts, but they are far more jazzy. Not groundbreaking, but certainly not bad.

Deodorant Smells Good LP

This starts out on a cool note with some amateurish Joe Meek / The Ventures Play Telstar sort of thing. That all changes pretty quickly when the record cuts straight to an aggressive funk / punk, quirky MINUTEMEN-style of tune. It jumps around a bit after that. There’s a little bit of plodding JFA style stuff. There are some faster three-chord songs that sound like if your first punk band actually knew how to play. What holds it all together is that it all sounds angry and very much like the 1980s (also that it goes back to that intro thing at the end).

Bitemarks Sucia LP

While knowing that BITEMARKS has folks from older Florida bands such as TRUE NORTH and PALATKA might not give you a full picture of this band, it does work as a starting point. It has a similar feel to those ‘90s No Idea post-hardcore bands in that it’s aggressive and punchy but catchy and melodic without sounding cheesy or boring. Where this differs is that it is a little more straightforward, a little more rock, and the vocals are snotty and in your face. It’s like if one of those Chris Thompson bands had guitars that are big and heavy sounding rather than that noodly stuff. Top it off with a full sounding recording, and you have a record that really smokes, even if it is only single sided.