Reviews

Ruth Schwartz

V/A Garage Music for Psych Heads Vol. 1 Cassette

Where did they find these recordings? This tape contains lots of long-lost original psychedelic bands, including the BAD SEEDS, the CHOCOLATE WATCHBAND, STILL ROVEN, the LOST TRIBE, and a bunch more. Anyone interested in obscure psychedelic punk from the ’60s should look for this.

Crass Who Dunnit? 7"

This is more of a novelty record than a punk record per se. The song gets to the core of British life, both thematically and structurally, since it’s in the form of a rousing pub sing-along, but it’s also about looking at ourselves as being responsible for the officials we elect, not just pointing the finger at them later. CRASS may be serious, but here they display their anger in a humorous format. Americans may find it a bit inaccessible, but if you know that “#10” is the residence of the Prime Minister and the “Birds” is akin to Jello, you should get the point and have a laugh besides.

Instant Agony No Sign of Life / Taste of Power 7"

This is the third INSTANT AGONY single, and they’re slowly degenerating into mediocrity. I like the lyrics and the general approach, but I find the specifics very ordinary. Generic English punk.

17 Pygmies Hatikva 12"

This group is akin to other Independent Projects bands, in that they’re rhythmic, stylized, moody, and very hard to pin down. Side two is a little too sweet for my taste, but side one has a great rendition of “Lawrence of Arabia.” Wonderful soundtrack music.

Yard Trauma Reptile House Cassette

YARD TRAUMA is a very versatile band, in that they deliver slices of industrial, psychedelic, and garage punk material. Aside from a few live tracks, the recording is very good (like most Iconoclast tapes). These guys are not ordinary!

Armed Citizens Make Sense EP

One side of this is thrash, the other is a bit slower, but all of the songs have good qualities. “We Want the Money,” the title cut, and “On My Own” are especially strong. This EP isn’t any great production, yet there’s definitely something about it that stands out.

Black Market Baby Senseless Offerings LP

This is sort of a mixed bag. Some of the songs here exhibit the worst elements of heavy metal, whereas other cuts (“Fight for Your Life,” the title track, and “World at War”) are clear-cut, well-designed punk jams like those of YOUTH BRIGADE and TOXIC REASONS. Most of it is pretty good.

Hose Mobo 12"

Except for one great thrasher, HOSE still ply that unmistakable FLIPPER sound. It’s slow and grinding, with lost of feedback and silliness. The sleeve packaging is novel, and the record itself is hand-etched. A good release.

Beton Combo Sound Ltd EP

A lot different than their post-punky LP. This 7″ features quite decent English-sounding punk with some great hooks and an engaging style. They also do a couple of thrashers.

Boskops Sol 12 LP

An extremely likable thrash album from Germany that’s well-produced, powerful, and full of great hooks. At times, the wall-of-guitar sound reminds me of DISCHARGE or CHAOS UK. There are some slow songs, but most of them really rip.

D.I. Richard Hung Himself 12"

D.I. have well-executed, concise songs with interesting but not necessarily innovative arrangements. There are a lot of obvious influences here—FLIPPER, ADOLESCENTS, CIRCLE JERKS, MISFITS—but the witty lyrics and good production make it plenty entertaining.

V/A Waterkant Hits LP

Here are ten new hardcore bands from West Germany, without a sleeper in the bunch. Most of the bands thrash—E-605, RAZZIA, MASSAKER, SS ULTRABRUTAL, and HH MILCH are all great; OXENSCHWANZ is totally weird, and the others go off in a variety of directions. Well worth the time and money.

The Varukers Die for Your Government / All Systems Fail 7"

The B-side is the star track here. It has the powerful, thrashed-out VARUKERS we’ve come to expect. They slowed it down on “Die,” which is somewhat disappointing, but it’s still tuneful and well produced. Watch for an upcoming album.

Sleeping Dogs Beware EP

Hats off to the first American band on the Crass label, formerly known as ARSENAL. Both the music and the record cover are important here. The former is offbeat and original, with lots of effects and superior lyrics; the latter is a well-researched expose of American imperialism with poignant essays. This isn’t hardcore, it’s the hardest-core. A must.

Channel 3 I’ll Take My Chances / How Come? 7"

The long-awaited follow-up to their album, and it’s a good one—fast, catchy LA punk with great production. CH3 are still carrying on the tradition that put LA on the map.

Government Issue Boycott Stabb 12"

At last! This EP is classic DC-style punk, with strong production and strong material. The arrangements are original, with both fast and slow parts and lots of effects, but no power is lost. These guys had fun in the studio, and although they came out a different band, they came out with a great record. Play loud.

Antisocial Official Hooligan EP

A well-done UK Oi 7″, the third from this band. It’s musically good, great production-wise, but lyrically confused, to say the least. There are good anti-police and anti-government songs, but the pro-violence “Battle-Scarred Skinheads” put a chill down my spine. For those who don’t care.

Erazerhead Werewolf / Rock and Roll Zombie 7"

This one is heads up for ERAZERHEAD. When they’re hot, they’re hot. “Zombie” uses the same riff as the RAMONES’ “Rock and Roll High School,” which makes it great fun.

Atila International Sandwich LP

This is a concept album in which each song is a take-off on an ethnic musical style. All are artfully executed, and they vary in speed, energy, wildness, effects, etc. I find this LP extremely inventive, original, provocative, and listenable. Four stars to LA’s ATILA the hairdresser.

Omega Tribe Angry Songs EP

I love OMEGA TRIBE. It’s fast with that masterful Penny Rimbaud production, but this band also has a pop element. For example, the great “Profiteer” is the epitome of catchiness, with handclaps artfully added; and “Another Bloody Day” is a ballad that includes piano, but it retains power. The lyrics are predictably unrelenting, so don’t miss this one.

V/A A Country Fit for Heroes Volume 2 12"

Like those from the first installment, the bands here haven’t released any other vinyl yet. And true to the No Future label, this is a mix of punk and Oi bands. Some of them are mediocre, but CADAVEROUS CLAN and IMPACT make this record worth the £2.50.

Riot/Clone Destroy the Myth of Musical Destruction EP

Although their first EP was good, this new release shows progress. Two of the songs here are SUBHUMANS-type thrashers; the others are slow and steady. Sensitive lyrics and lots of commentary on the sleeve make this a must.

V/A Punk Dead—Nah Mate, The Smell Is Jus Summink In Yer Underpants Innit LP

Start by reading Featherby’s tirade on the back cover, a great intro full of optimism about the achievements of punk. Then move on to the great music. The MAU MAUS appear with one new track, and ANTI-SYSTEM and XTRACT both debut some powerful songs. The rest of this varied LP contains material by the XPOZEZ, MANIA, and the SEPTIC PSYCHOS, some of which is fiercely melodic, some which is quiet and calculated, and some which is thrashed-out. All in all, it’s a pretty intelligent compilation.

Artificial Peace / Exiled Split EP

An admirable new release out of DC, with ten tracks, two bands on one 7″ EP. The EXILED have improved a lot since their recent tape. They do both thrashers and slow, grinding numbers with interesting effects that show versatility and imagination. They sound young but have potential—“Artificial Friend” is great. What ARTIFICIAL PEACE lack in production values, they make up for with some good lyrics and classic thrash in between the slower bridges and haunting background vocals. Hats off to “Think For Yourself.”

Alternative In Nomine Patri EP

Nowadays, one opens a single on the Crass label with a little skepticism. Does the classic sleeve conceal another ANDY T? Well, you don’t have to worry about ALTERNATIVE, because they rip. The title cut is an excellent show song that may not appeal to the unrelenting hardcore type. The others are dynamite and should be played over and over, as loudly as possible. Great record.

Anthrax They’ve Got It All Wrong EP

I’m not sure if the Small Wonder label is here to stay, but it’s real good to see this new record. ANTHRAX definitely has that CRASS-family sound, with its orchestrated highs and lows. This EP is musically and lyrically powerful, so watch for another soon on the Crass label.

Flux of Pink Indians Strive to Survive Causing the Least Suffering Possible LP

I have a hard time finding fault with this album. Once again, if you don’t like your punk political, steer clear, because FLUX is dynamite. The whole LP is a marvelously orchestrated opera of poetic condemnations of our nuclear world that builds up to a climactic musical explosion. The production is superb, and a booklet is included. My copy’s grooves are already worn down.

Harnröhrer Manchmal Habe Ich’s Satt EP

Somewhere in between CHAOS-Z and DAILY TERROR we got HARNRÖHRER. They are a German garage band with heavy guitar sound similar to that of early U.K. punk. The production may not be great and the songs are rather monotone, but they are charming. Is this the real German underground?

Sluts Bäh! LP

More value for your Deutschmark. This band is similar to many other German groups, but also has some standard Britpunk elements. Most of the songs are mid- to slow tempo numbers with good strong hooks. Take it for its musical value, because this record comes with an incomplete lyric sheet.

V/A You Can’t Argue With Sucksess LP

Another LA compilation with a lot of unrecorded bands and a few who’ve already released vinyl (like NO CRISIS, MAD SOCIETY, and the CONSERVATIVES). The first efforts by F-TROOP, RED BERET, the CREWD, SECRET HATE, NUCLEAR BABY FOOD, and New York’s EVEN WORSE are good. Most of them play unique thrash, and a number of the songs are quite memorable. The production is also decent, even on the live tracks. A fine effort off of the LA mainstream.

V/A Valley Fever Cassette

This compilation from Tucson is an admirable effort. The tape features good production and wide variety of bands. There are punk bands like CONFLICT, who have a strong thrash attack, and the URBAN GUERRILLAS, who have a garage tinge like the CHURCH POLICE—grinding, profound, and original. The defunct SELDOMS do a JAD FAIR imitation, GREEN ON RED have a live track that’s not as good as the stuff on their 12”, and the PHANTOM LIMBS have a track that sounds like Jello Biafra playing with the PANTHER BURNS. There are other pop, electronic, and psychedelic cuts that have a certain spark. Something for everybody, and a chronicle of Arizona’s musical history in one package. Let’s have some more, Lee.

Crash / Crux Fight For Your Life / Keep On Running 12"

One record with a separate band on each side. In the No Future world, this is an appropriate move, because one side is punk, the other Oi. CRASH is the punk band, and they’re similar to many of the bands on that label—anthemic songs à la BLITZ. CRUX are more like the EXPLOITED or the 4-SKINS, only sorta low-key. “I’ll Die with My Boots On” is the epitome of Oi topics, but “Streets at Night” is the better song. Nothing exceptional here.

Peter and the Test Tube Babies Pissed and Proud LP

Well, they’ve finally put an album out. The sound quality is so good that you’d never know it was live except for the crowd noise and interaction between the band and audience. These guys produce powerful Oi music, but their themes are questionable, as with most such groups. They have all sorts of songs about “birds”—the English equivalent of “chicks”—and not being able to get off. Then we have the familiar ode to fighting, getting beat up, and the wimps that won’t fight in “Moped Lads.” Socially relevant themes in “Keep England Untidy” tell us to litter, and “Shitstirrer” is where they explain that when things are bad they will make them worse. Their song “Elvis Is Dead” is a classic, though, and “Maniac” is a great pun. But who knows at this point if they’re serious? Fun band to listen to but not to contemplate. They are thugs and proud of it.

The Straps The Straps LP

I’ve always wondered if these guys were punks. They’ve put out two singles, both great in their own right, but you couldn’t quite classify the music as punk. Now here’s their LP, and both the sleeve pictures and the lyrics demonstrate that they are indeed punks. Some of the tracks are good and punked-out; others are ripping garage numbers that sound sort of German. The singer has a very distinctive voice, and the band reminds me of UK DECAY or the ABWÄRTS in that they have a post-punk tinge. All in all, a fine band and a decent LP.

Subhumans The Day the Country Died LP

After three great singles, the SUBHUMANS have released an album that is equally great. They are part of the CRASS family, so if you don’t like your opinions strong, too bad. This LP has non-stop power, thanks to the absence of breaks between songs, and it has some great anthems like “Minority” and “Black and White.” Their themes are always handled skillfully, the music shifts from thrash to more typical English punk, and the sleeve is a lovely gatefold job which has the lyrics printed inside over a backdrop covered with “think.” No question about it, this one’s a must.

Kosmonautentraum Liebsmühn EP

If you’re lucky enough to find this 7″, grab it. First, you get the greatest funk bass line waaaaay out front; then the trashy tin-can drums come in; then a whiny, sloppy guitar and screaming vocals. If this is what they played in discos, I’d go. Play it often, and play it loud.

Crass How Does It Feel? EP

Coming so close on the heels of their Christ – The Album, it’s almost too much to digest. The title song is a catchy headbanging attack on the jingoistic British attitude towards the Falklands/Malvinas crisis. It has created a hoopla in the English press, who amazingly have supported CRASS against Parliament’s cries of “treason.” The flip features Eve and will please fans of Penis Envy. CRASS may be accused of preachiness, but their unrelenting critiques are having an impact.

GBH City Baby Attacked by Rats LP

You have to get beyond the tacky cover on this LP. It looks like an Oi or EXPLOITED album, but GBH play one ripping headbanger after another. They even utilize blues riffs in thrashers like “Bellend Bop.” Most of the lyrics are about war, poverty, and madness, but there’s one song about getting drunk and fucking a “slut.” Needless to say, that makes me wonder about these guys.

The Seize Everybody Dies EP

It’s been a long time since their first single and the SEIZE haven’t come out of the garage yet. In the great tradition of slam, crash, and slobber, this EP has a nasty edge and should be played at high volume. Four great ditties are included, but “In For Me” is the standout track.

Whoom-Elements Of Love / Men in Politics 7"

This female trio from Austin plays melodic, harmonic music. But underneath that soft exterior are fine poets who say the obvious but not so obvious. “Men in Politics” is a gem.

Black Humor Love God, Love One Another LP

These guys are some sort of SF studio concoction, and they are lunatics. They swing from music for nightmares to rhythmic jungle rock. Recommended for the flexible. Check out their individually designed sleeves and enclosed worms!

Hüsker Dü In a Free Land EP

This band is one of the hottest, most awesome bands to ever walk onto a stage. They are not to be missed. Their first single was weak, and their LP was hard to make out, but this new single comes closest to capturing their raw, grating, high-speed velocity. Great!