Reviews

Ryan Hertel

Dead Bars Regulars LP

DEAD BARS make pub punk with nostalgia for a time when you could still smoke inside and get a PBR for $1.25. Every song is handcrafted to be sung with a choir of people you only know from inside that bar. “Rain” opens with an exhilarating guitar shriek and provides some of the most enjoyably ugly string work on the record. “I’m a Regular” is probably the best example of the lyrical and vocal strengths available on the album. Finally, “You Never Left” closes the album and hangs around for a long time to once again illustrate just how solid the musicianship, both instrumentally and vocally, was on the ten preceding tracks. This is punk rock and roll that allows itself to be as fun as it is sincere. It’s probably safe to expect this crew to become road dogs and play near you soon and then again four months later.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label A-F / No Reason
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Fatamorgana Terra Alta LP

This upbeat synthesizer dance party from Barcelona features so many artificial handclaps that, at a certain point, I began to find it hard to differentiate between the claps and the snare. It began to drive me mad right before I blacked out from the electronically induced confusion. Upon waking, the echoing, haunted vocals then gave me hallucinations like I was seeing a new planet for the first time. Luckily, the beeps and boops from the keys provided the perfect new planet, sci-fi soundtrack. This is atmospheric and gothy background music. It’s got moments of punk inspiration, but it’s never particularly intrusive. “Until” is particularly pulsing and spooky. “Espacio Profundo” has a fill-the-room, heavier sound.

Set-Top Box TV Guide Test LP

This compilation of this Aussie band’s earlier cassette releases is DEVO-worship with more of a rusted-out electronics flair. While it sometimes comes off like a cuddly version of MINISTRY, it just as often feels like the POLYSICS got into PCP.  The first half of this release will take the listener to a weirdo punk show in a basement space, and the second half leans heavy into a gothy dance party on a sunny day under a dingy overpass. “Terrorvision” is a solid punk jam, despite being long for this album at just over 2 minutes and 30 seconds. “Data Lost…” is the soundtrack to depressed robots taking over your planet and way of life. Wrap your favorite body parts in tin foil, dye your eyebrows blue, and get ready to sweat out chemicals when you listen to this one.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Erste Theke Tonträger
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Control Top Covert Contracts LP

What we have here is dance punk rock’n’roll for indie punk spaces jammed into crumbling strip malls. It’s dancy, loud, abrasive, and grooving. The vocalist, Ali Carter, is channeling Kathleen Hanna at her angriest, and there are more than a few times that you’ll pick up some LE TIGRE vibes in the lighter moments. In the louder moments, you’ll just enjoy the rage, like a KITTEN FOREVER with cleaner vocals. Throughout, the guitars are sharp, knifelike, and ready to sonically stab stab stab your ear holes. “Ego Death” is the perfect combination of all of CONTROL TOP’s best traits and should bring you into the fold. “Type A” should make you wiggle dance, even if you don’t want to.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Get Better
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Makewar Get It Together LP

There is no weak link in this tight three-piece punk ensemble. It’s been a cliché since the mid-’90s that all of the bands on Fat have “that Fat sound” and sound alike. It’s not really ever been that true that many or even most of the bands sound that similar, but people like to talk shit. That said, MAKEWAR might be an example of what you’d call “that classic Fat sound,” and people would fully understand what you were saying. This band is a new and improved take on GOOD RIDDANCE or STRUNG OUT, with an additional bilingual flare from Venezuela and Colombia. “Oh Brother” is their sound presented pure and simple on a platter for you. “No Más” is some good clean hardcore. In a rare occurrence, the album finishes stronger than it began with two of the best tracks, “Hands on the Tyrant” and “Get It Together,” closing it out. If the massive leap in quality from their previous (and still awesome) releases is to be believed, this is a band that is going to command everyone’s attention soon.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Fat Wreck
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Hagar the Womb Hagitate 10″

The women-led duel and gang vocals on every track of this reunion project are the reason to check this out. After breaking up in the late ’80s and reuniting in 2012, this is the most complete and realized new release from HAGAR THE WOMB. Of course there are a lot of similarities here to POISON GIRLS, early CHUMBAWAMBA, and Penis Envy CRASS, but, at the end of the day, Hagitate just feels like a vanity project not unlike the STEVE IGNORANT WITH PARANOID VISIONS albums that have come out over the last few years. The songs are still good and the band is enjoyable, but they will have a hard time living up to the original period of UK anarcho punk they were a part of. The song “Show Off” pretty much explains that they just wanted to get on stage again and have fun, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it does feel like it can water down a legacy. Sometimes it’s nice to see people form new bands and projects instead of going back to the well. This is a very enjoyable release if you love 30- or 40-year-old anarcho punk, but there is certainly nothing mandatory about it.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Grow Your Own
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Screaming Females Singles Too LP

B-sides and rarities compilations are always a mixed bag, and this collection is no different. Some of the early 7″ tracks suffer more than benefit from their lack of recording quality. “Arm Over Arm” and “Zoo of Death” from 2006 certainly hint at what SCREAMING FEMALES would become, but they’re better off as a curiosity than an example. However, “Pretty Okay” from their 2008 split with FULL OF FANCY might be the standout track on the comp and still makes it into their live set not infrequently. The most unique inclusion is a remix of the droney “End of My Bloodline,” with new rapped verses by SAMMUS and MOOR MOTHER. It’s a killer track, despite sticking out like a sore thumb from all of the other lo-fi garage punk tracks. This would likely not be a great introduction to the band for a newcomer, but there is more than enough quality music here to make this a necessity for veteran fans of the band.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Don Giovanni
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Möwer Möwer LP

MÖWER are loud, dirty MOTÖRHEAD worship from Pittsburgh. You can practically smell the live show through this record, and it reeks of cheap beer and day-old cigarette smoke. The grinding guitars and vocalist’s horrifying cackle on “Outlaw Heathens” let you know the kind of thrashy horror show you’re in for just after it’s too late to save yourself. This Japanese version of the band’s debut on Splattered Records is the definitive, must-have edition. For one, they up the artwork 1000% by adding Death riding a motorcycle and proudly declaring themselves “Motor Speed Punks from Hell,” in both Japanese and English. The two added live tracks are also the perfect enticement to grab this as soon as you find it. This is the kind of album you learn to sing along to if you want to develop that perfect “I live above a bar” snarl.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Splattered
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

Potty Mouth SNAFU LP

POTTYMOUTH already had a very strong debut in 2013 with Hell Bent, but this album is such a massive improvement that the wait was fully worth it. The magic and chemistry they display here after taking their time to tour and yell at record labels has paid off in this cohesive magic disc released on bassist Ally Einbinder’s Get Better Records. Each menacing track clings to the next like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. The transition between “Starry Eyes” and “Liar” sees vocalist Abby Weems dive into the deep end from a soothing, gentle crooner to a fully aggressive presence in a matter of seconds. The deliberate care taken into placing each track on this album has created a solid Jenga tower of tough ass punk that will stand tall for a long time.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Get Better
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

Slow Crush Ease (Deluxe Edition) LP

This Belgian (but really from all over) quartet has taken shoegaze and somehow stripped the bullshit out of it. The thick, smothering blanket of guitars and drums stands no chance against the vocalist’s deep, penetrating bellows. She pulls herself out of the quicksand just to show you the glory in the danger. The A-side tracks are killer but were already released a few years ago on the previous edition of this release. The four newly added live tracks are the real reason to pick this up, and they demonstrate the massive growth the band has experienced in just a couple years. It’s like they found SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE and MINERAL and said, “nah, we can do it better.” SLOW CRUSH seems to always be touring the US and Europe, so you should hit them up and grab this.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Holy Roar
  • Issue MRR #441 • February 2020

Talk Wrong Feral Bearings EP

The blank side of this EP holds beautifully silkscreened plants and leaves, and though they’re simple, I love them. They are pretty and delicate, which did not set me up for the music. This is sad dude music in the same vein as the LAWRENCE ARMS or the METHADONES. It’s modern punk rock for sad kids that can still drink a few beers and make it home to sleep in their own filth somewhat responsibly, but just dangerously enough to concern their parents and close friends who have watched them slowly deteriorate. This is lose your voice and forget half the night material. “Pill to Swallow” starts out with the singer shouting “Cigarettes bring out the worst in you,” and it felt like it was directed at me. Stop judging me, sir.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Ersatz Reality
  • Issue MRR #431 • April 2019

Catch As Catch Can Regular Vanilla LP

As soon as this started, Burger Records odors took over all of my senses. I was shocked that this wasn’t a new release from that label just due to the poppy, bubblegum garage vibrations being excreted by my speaker. Then I read that the cassette release will be coming out there, and all made sense in the world. This is four dudes from Germany who love them some garage pop saturated with oooooohs, ahhhhhhs, and jingly-jangly guitars. “Age of Coming” is a good pick if you want to anticipate a live sing-along, and “Pickle-Brine Chicken” is a real danceable jam about the culinary arts. These dudes have not reinvented any wheels, but this record is seeping with love of the genre.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Alien Snatch
  • Issue MRR #431 • April 2019

The Carvels NYC Life Is Not a Waiting Room EP

This is some saxophone-heavy power pop, with forceful vocals projected by rhythm guitarist Lynne Von Pang. “Life is Not a Waiting Room” and “I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy” both offer some party- pop moments that would feel right at home in a live set opening for the RUBINOOS or SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS. As a counterpoint, “Scarcity” felt a little like listening to this band at a prom try to force a slow dance on kids who just want to dance like dum- dums. I would expect they have a fully entertaining stage presence, and know how to show the audience the good times. Based on this three- song sample though, I would expect to skip a few slower tracks on a longer release.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Tarbeach
  • Issue MRR #431 • April 2019