Reviews

MRR #447 • August 2020

100 Flowers Drawing Fire LP

When the URINALS wanted to expand their horizons beyond ramshackle, one-chord punk and simultaneously got fed up with hardcore’s increasing dominance in the LA scene, they changed their name to 100 FLOWERS and put out a handful of angular, art-minded post-punk records in the early ‘80s. This new reissue combines the five tracks from the band’s Drawing Fire 12” from 1984 with 1982’s Presence of Mind EP and a couple of compilation contributions, all packaged in a beautiful Independent Project Press letterpress sleeve just as the original 12” had been. There was definitely a certain econo approach in common with what they had done as the URINALS, but as 100 FLOWERS, the band’s songs took on a tightly-wound tension and structural complexity that was worlds away from the chaotic bash of “Ack Ack Ack Ack” and much more in step with what MISSION OF BURMA were doing around the same time (the combination of sharp, stabbing guitar and desperate vocals in “Bunkers” has Vs. written all over it), or how WIRE had similarly evolved by their second and third LPs. The thinking person’s punk music! A must-buy if the works of Happy Squid Records aren’t already fully represented in your collection.

A Hanging Food for Rats cassette

Full-length album originally released by the band in 2009 on CD and now available on cassette. A HANGING is a crossover thrash band from New Orleans. Musically, there are a few songs that kick in and shred pretty damn hard. Unfortunately, almost every one has a slow, almost scrams-esque breakdown within it. That, combined with the very forced growling type of vocal delivery, puts me off considerably.

AOL Gold Plus cassette

Issued on tape by the German label ETT last month, Gold Plus is a new version of the release announced at the beginning of this year. If my computer could be a band, definitely it would be like AOL—machine voice, great cool riffs, systemic drums. This Floridan band knows how to hack into the cybernet world, seven nice and short tracks easy to repeat all over again and again. Bring punk to beyond modern life, DEVO-core in your new and best way.

Atomic Energy Commission Post Fax Nation 12″

What am I listening to? FLIPPER reincarnated the right way? My War through a Midwestern art/punk filter? I seriously don’t know, but the caterwaul of “Waldorf Hysteria” and the erratic madness of “Garbage, Garbage USA” keep me asking why? Asking what? What if 1983 MDC tried to do a Confusion Is Sex act for a Halloween gig? Seriously punks, ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION is creating a sound for whatever this reality is. Maybe not the sound…but definitely a sound. Because this reality is definitely not right in the head.

Aus II LP

Icy, synth-saturated German post-punk in the tradition of MALARIA! or XMAL DEUTSCHLAND—expect severe rhythms driven by cavernous bass and tom-heavy drumming with only the most minimal presence of cymbals, coolly distant vocals that maintain a palpable edge of drama, and sparse, needling guitar applied with exacting precision. The level of restraint exercised in the more slowly snaking tracks on II (“Bilderflut” and “1000 Umdrehungen” in particular) is genuinely haunting and unnerving in a way that legions of chorus-pedal-dependent modern dark-punk groups have aspired to but never fully achieved, with AUS stripping their sound to such an elemental framework that the subtraction of anything else would cause the songs to just crumble into dust. Top notch!

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.

Bad Cop/Bad Cop The Ride CD

Besides having the best band name in punk, this LA-based four-piece has some of the top harmonizers in the genre. I don’t know if it’s shitty societal conditioning or what, but I find myself having some resistance to new BC/BC records. Part of it might be that whole bullshit holdover from JAWBREAKER that if a DIY band gets successful, we’re no longer allowed to like them. And yes, I realize I’m addressing this on a platform for which is notoriously anti-major label. BC/BC continue to release on Fat, when I’m sure they could easily garner attention from those “indie” majors. It’s like I’m trepidatiously enjoying their music as if they’re going to pull the wool over my eyes and sign to something with a major parent company because they’re such great songwriters. However, once I get past that stupid fear, I really, really love the music they make. This record is more of what we’ve come to expect from BC/BC: catchy-as-fuck punk with empowering lyrics. Their songs are often calls to action like in “Certain Kind of Monster” wherein they cover immigration and the horrors of ICE keeping people in cages. In that track, they push the fact that no one is illegal, nor should they be pushed out of their homes. So many of the tracks see Stacey Dee taking over lead vocals which I love because her voice walks a razor’s edge between pure guttural grit and saccharine sweet harmony. She’s also often backed up by Jenny Cotterill’s powerhouse pipes. In the song “Pursuit of Liberty,” I’m almost certain that Linh Le is taking the helm on that one (I don’t have liner notes to reference). Every song is an inspirational earworm, convincing me that the world is worth existing in and that each one of us (the royal punk “us”) has the capacity to be anything we want. Through all of these depression-crushing tracks, they spell it all out in “Community,” and fuck do I miss that element of this subculture right now! I love everything about this record. It’s a major contender for album of the year for me.

Barcelona Residuos del Ultrasonido EP

Might be my emergency exit from burning out—anyway—I consider hardcore as a form of art. Even if it defines itself as noise not music, still it is a sonic expression of emotions and thoughts. A reaction to complex processes thundering in each of us. Hardcore is best when unadjusted, each layer of the music freely and indivisually explodes from the players but when added together becoming a bit more than several syncronised performances. Historically the cacophony of hardcore was written on the account of untrained musicians, who employed enthusiasm instead of education, although we must not forget how confusing the world is even when you seem to be able to function in its array of bullshit. It is much more hostile when you are young and reckless to start a punk band, where these kids were matching their songs to their experiences. Art could help to conserve these feelings reflecting on terror of surreal reality. BARCELONA had an artsy edge from the beginning, especially with their cover art, but with Residuos del Ultrasonido the suspicion shifted to hard facts: while they are a pure primitive force of destructive and radical hardcore, they are not only attacking year end top ten lists but the borders of hardcore. It is strange how internationally appreciated they are, yet almost no one is ripping off their sound. While it is not an insoluble formula, it is a continuation of beloved pioneers of radical hardcore and it carries the signature soundmarks of BARCELONA. The bass is a loud pulp, punching the space of the music with its extension despite with its power; the drums remind us to the visceral driver in mankind to beat the shit out of bang-able objects to create rhythms that match with our inner tempo; the vocals are towering over the music, setting a direction with raspy, ferocious screams which later go as far as imitating dog barks; finally the guitars are tying many knots with the strings when not blasting head-deforming riffs. It is a short 7”, but packed with so many layers it instantly becomes a classic. There is some discussion over the cover art, which even if improvised at last minute or meticulously planned, works as a great, funny fuck you. I love how it recalls the infamous What The… cover. It also reflects on that art is not necessary some academic, always high-brow happening, but it could be dumb and funny, yet meaningful; it could be anything. Probably a lot of people would be distracted by the cover if this would be BARCELONA’s debut EP, but if this was only the beginning it would be a fair price to pay. Amazing record.

Biznaga Gran Pantalla LP

This record starts off with a warm guitar hum that’s almost ethereal. Then the vocals come in softly with some reverb while the drums build quickly in the distance. It feels like I’m being transported to a far-off land of mystery and fantasy, and that’s just the song “Ventanas Emergentes” (“Pop-Up Windows”). The next track comes in hard with their singer’s gruff, powerful shouts that carry a strong melody. I can’t get over how fantastic the guitar layering is, though I think they only have one guitar player. As a whole, their songs are post-punk inspired, fuzzy, angry, and sung completely in Spanish as they are from Madrid. My Spanish isn’t strong enough to translate it all, but from the album title (Big Screen) and song titles like “2K20” and “Error 404,” it’s not hard to sort out that this record is about technology. From the tone of the songs and what I’ve been able to find online in interviews, Gran Pantalla covers the dystopian cyber-hellscape of today with so many people transfixed by their phones/tablets/smart TVs/etc. BIZNAGA’s music is dripping with passion and drive. I love the treatment of cymbals in their recording—just these far off splashes that still pound and shimmer over the guitar and bass. Songs are fast and so fucking energetic. Bands like this reaffirm my love for reviewing records because had MRR not assigned this one to me, I might have never been introduced to their beauty and power.

Blotchouts Lenora Guards the Egg cassette

Angular, dissonant, blip-bloops of no wave weirdness. Really fun, weird, artsy kookiness. BLOTCHOUTS from Mobile, Alabama bring us twelve songs on this newest release of theirs including a truly bizarre cover of JOHNNY THUNDERS “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.” Much of this tape is too weird and long for me, but in the moments they lock into some driving grooves it is super cool. The band seems to have a ton of other releases so if this kinda thing is for you, you’ve got a lot of new tunes to check out.

Bootlicker Live in the Swamp cassette

For those of you unfortunate enough to not be familiar with BOOTLICKER yet, do yourself a favor and check out their slew of EPs already out in the world. Rip-roaring, relentless Canadian hardcore punk. This cassette is a live show recorded during the band’s last US tour. The recording is top notch and the band is clearly in the midst of their tour tightness. Some of the angriest and best hardcore punk going these days. This live recording sounds better than most band’s studio records. Pro-dubbed tapes with attention to detail on the artwork put this over the top. It even includes a cool looking obi strip on the outside of the tape shell. According to Neon Taste Records there is supposed to be two inserts within the tape but my review copy did not come with those.

Born Shit Stirrers Lester LP

I wanted to hate this at first. “This is just another ‘we can just do offensive grindcore and no one can tell we have no passion’ record,” I said to myself. I was wrong about the passion and the genre. This collection of UK expats in Japan make some super fun, super concise punk jams. They’re the kind of immature and snotty that can only come with many years of experience perfecting immaturity and snottiness. Offensive for offensiveness’s sake is typically a pretty boring choice, and heavily featuring samples from American Beauty and featuring Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham on the cover seems to be just negatively provocative more than entertaining. However, there is enough going on here to shine through the less desirable choices made by the band. There is some legitimate instrumental and lyrical talent on display here, so taking a couple minutes to sample a few of their songs would not be wasted time. The first five tracks will barely cost you three minutes. “Smash Your Smartphone” rings like a classic X song, “The Worm” is a punk rock joy, and “Kurosaki” is a ska-tinged 90 seconds of movie dialogue before going straight into anarcho-punk aggression for another 30.

Blood Bags / Brain Bagz split LP

How do you suppose two such bodypart and fluid “bag” bands from opposite sides of the world came to know each other and share a slab of vinyl? A random internet search? A blind “Hey, I think you’d dig my other ‘bag’ friend” sorta thing? Dunno, but lucky for us, this SLC and Auckland match came to fruition and even a US tour at some point. New Zealand’s BLOOD BAGS (they use the S bags moniker?) play a much less druggy and less noisy CHROME CRANKS and SCIENTISTS meets KYUSS swagger flavored dirge. It’s damn decent and “Quivering Violence” is pretty rageworthy. That’s all fine and nice but let’s talk about SLC’s BRAIN BAGZ (thats with a Z, folks). Totally unoriginal CRAMPS and MAD DADDYS worship but they’re young, they pound, they stomp and they love love love what they do. I have zero real clue but it’s a total delinquent-like feeling and that fuzz is just lovely and the lysergic beeps and squawks are all timed just right. “Look a Bit Sick,” “Dracula Sam,” “Haunted”…so tired right? But no! This shit kills and not a limp tune in the pack. Worthy much very of your time! (Not a typo.) Primitive.

Celebrators Wipeout! / Ex-Explorer 7″

The New Weird L.A. freak flag flies on this debut single from CELEBRATORS, which also serves as the first release from the new label spun off from local DIY space and recording studio House of Tomothy. A-side “Wipeout!” tangles with the sort of repetitive, mutant-rockabilly rhythm that the FALL were enamored with on their early records, augmented by the rapidly ticking pulse of a drum machine and various layered electronic blurts that ultimately tip things more toward a contemporary post-DEVO-core reality. On the flip, “Ex-Explorer” starts off similarly in a bass-centered flail with vaguely PERE UBU-ish yelped vocals, before quickly settling into a drawn-out and knotted instrumental outro that gave me some serious and wholly unexpected flashbacks to the mid-to-late ’90s Chicago/Louisville math-rock axis. Limited to 165 copies, housed in a stylishly risographed sleeve, how much art can you take?

Cool Jerks England LP

After a couple of (excellent) cassette releases, the first full-length from COOL JERKS does not disappoint. The record is rigid, and as if someone went through and starched up some wild retro dark punk revivalists and made them feel like Warsaw in 1982. Lots of clean monotonous single-note guitars, Peter Hook (pre-1981) bass lines and wet, barked vocals ripped from the throats of your favorite sharply dressed anarcho punks. The hooks are here, and in great supply—the closer “Tigers and Birds” is a would-be (will-be?) hit worthy of TOTAL CONTROL comparisons, but the band’s vibe overall is decidedly darker and it suits them brilliantly. Stellar release, and I can’t imagine that this Leeds, England outfit doesn’t have even more up their collective sleeve.

Dark Thoughts Do You Dream / It’s Too Late 7”

Fuck yeah DARK THOUGHTS. Maybe this isn’t the best thing to admit, but when a band has a fucking stupid name like DIARRHEA PLANET (great band tho), I tend to avoid checking them out. But on the flip side, when they have a really cool name like DARK THOUGHTS, I wanna check them out right away. So these dudes have been making me tap my Converse and wiggle in my tight black jeans since shortly after their first LP. This new single has the best song they’ve possibly ever written as the A-side. “Do You Dream” is a minute and 18 seconds of pop-punk bliss. It’s oh so easy to write off a band when you see the word RAMONES-core associated with them and it totally feels fucking lazy to even put that in a description if I’m honest. Though I’ll be goddamned if these guys didn’t exclusively listen to the Fast Four and MEAN JEANS before writing their own songs. It’s a perfect mix and I recommend buying all their records like yesterday.

Death Cow Pioneer cassette

Seven tracks of indie/alt-rock from Lincoln, Nebraska. DEATH COW is very catchy and the songs are full of pretty, harmonized vocals, ripping guitar leads, and repetitive mid-tempo distorted riffs. I’ve seen them referred to as a garage band and a “weirdo punk” band but I don’t hear any of that at all. It feels like poppy ’90s alt-rock revival stuff to me.

Death Gasp Death Gasp cassette

Crusty hardcore punk from Pittsburgh, PA. Six track demo of driving, metal-infused, nasty crust punk. The dubbing of the tape makes it sound super lo-fi, but I also checked out the songs on their Bandcamp and the recording is much more clear than I was initially led to believe.

Death Gasp Stranglehold EP

From the industrial wasteland of Pittsburgh cinders forth a rusty, warped sound of bastardly punk. Vocals are delivered like early DOOM, with a bellow-filled lung of oration. The entire production is burning filth and fills my earholes with grit and noise. Drums have a hard kick and tumble over all the crunchy delights. In some parts INTEGRITY hardcore rolls through, in others, ’90s European crust. Very much digging the surprising riff changes and driving fire of rhythm inside this EP. Side A does not wait up and excites with mid-tempo churning HC punk. Side 2 opens with a classic crust eulogy called “Poisoned Well” that quickly picks up into a D-beating wallop. Lastly, the title track, again with classic squat-style crust that erupts shortly after with galloping verse and throbbing bridges. Four great tracks in total from this three-piece that each have their own merit and personality (the songs, not the members, though they are very gelled on this recording). Come to think of it, this EP fucking rules. Hard and dark as fuck. I only wish I was reading some lyrics because I get the impression they are profound. Totally recommended while you circle-pace around your home this summer wondering WTF is going on. *Sharply inhales*

Denim Ski Mask Justice EP

Wallop! This demo from a duo of Austrian recalcitrants ticks a lot of boxes for me—namely, it’s short, sharp and almost entirely lacks any fucking about whatsoever. Raw enough to cause salmonella, this is hard-as-nails Oi! stripped back to its component parts. Full of menace and the threat of aggro kicking off at any point, barely concealed within three songs that say all they need to in fewer than two minutes. Listen to this! You have been warned.

Destruct Echoes of Life LP

Hailing from Richmond, VA, DESTRUCT sounds like an unfuckable great mix of BASTARD, DEATH SIDE, JUDGEMENT, and FRAMTID. Imagine the aforementioned bands, blend and mold it back together, trim all the fat, and that’s Echoes of Life. DESTRUCT makes the international hardcore enthusiast dream a reality: if BASTARD was a currently active band, still in their prime and releasing another great record in 2020. DESTRUCT accompolishes something DEATHREAT tried to accomplish 20 years ago with Consider It War, but perhaps an even better articulated version of the ’90s Japanese hardcore approach. Sounds like something that was recorded at Our House in Tokyo in the mid-’90s but was actually mastered at Enormous Door by Jack Control of WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, who is way too familiar with that type of production and nails it beyond perfection. This is no-frills, straight up devestating dark hardcore punk without having any gimmicks, macho-ness, or cosplay-ness, which is something many of us are looking for in the current punk scene that seems to have its head stuck up its ass or is way too concerned about what the next leading hip trend will be. One might criticize how much they can just listen to BASTARD instead, but this perhaps is a great example of learning something from the past and creating something even better with it. Highly recommended.

Die Atlantikschwimmer Kassetto Fix LP

Vinyl reissue of the 1983 demo cassette from the relatively unheralded Neue Deutsch Welle trio DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER, who recorded an LP the following year for the Zickzack label (responsible for backing releases from German noisemakers ranging from EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN to ABWÄRTS to XMAL DEUTSCHLAND in the ’80s) before ultimately disbanding. That LP was essentially a Bavarian take on the bleak, monochromatic post-JOY DIVISION post-punk approach that was having a mid-’80s heyday among UK groups like the CHAMELEONS and the SOUND, and while that direction isn’t completely lost on the demo, there’s also a spiky, agitprop danceability that points to an affinity for GANG OF FOUR and any number of early Rough Trade singles, especially in dryly shouted vocals and snap-tight rhythms of “Warten” and “Abendvorstellung.” Even the more characteristically gloomy new wave moments here are given a spark from roughed-up demo presentation, which honestly elevates Kassetto Fix above the band’s solid subsequent full-length. Yet another choice Static Age-guided dig through Euro post-punk history, get in on it.

DN0 Inflation Now! cassette

As if Max Nordile (VIOLENCE CREEPS, PREENING, in addition to his solo efforts) didn’t make enough of racket on his own, he’s joined forces with folks from YOGURT BRAIN, TRASHIES, UZI RASH and a host of others to create….well, more racket. Mania captured as improvisation—free jazz as garage punk “drumming,” a mess of guitar dischordances and a bass that mumbles more than drives. It’s the confident unsuredness, the comfort in being (and creating) the uncomfortable that makes DN0 work. Captured live in October of last year, before the shroud was removed and we were all exposed, Inflation Now! could either serve as premonition of, escape from, experience of, or soundtrack to the current madness. I mean…if this is what punks do now then I guess I’m fine with the new normal.

Ecostrike A Truth We Still Believe LP

Let’s get something out of the way, I’m fucking straight edge. Now that that’s over with, let me say that with a name like ECOSTRIKE I was expecting some heavy eco-terrorism vibes or some sort of stance beyond PETA commercial veganism and they massively fail in this department. Thus, the name immediately elicits a jerk-off hand motion. Second, I believe a lyricist whose largest issue in life is that a couple of their friends stopped hanging out with them in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant is what the kids now call privileged. I suppose you can view the lyrical dedication to the monotonous subjects of broken promises and pain from ending friendships as well as togetherness and the act of still being here as being virtuous, sincere, and maybe even pure. Sure, but these themes are undoubtedly codified and any adult writing these lyrics should be examined by a child psychologist. It’s my opinion that ECOSTRIKE needs to either surround themselves with better people or maybe, just possibly, their being straight edge is ruining their personal relationships as ECOSTRIKE imposes barriers between themselves and once friends who have stabbed ECOSTRIKE in the back by seeking “validation” for their “treasonous hearts” (that’s prose meaning not being straight edge). There’s a couple mentions of brotherhood as well which is a shame. It’s as if these guys learned nothing from the bow-core revolution of 2016. As for the music, you’ve probably heard it before. Stringy Youth Crew riffs with chugging palm mutes, JUDGE-like breakdowns, pick slides, deep evocative screams followed by whiny pleas, massive buildups, gang vocals and super clean production. You’ll like this record if you’ve only been listening to Firestorm in your walkman CD player for the past 27 years. Yes, this review is cynical because this music sucks. And that’s fine, Triple B Records already sold out of the album and are waiting on the second press to come in. Nothing I say matters because, despite my pessimism, the market for this music exists and I doubt serious readers of MRR (if there are any at this point) are lanyard carrying ECOSTRIKE fans. This is hardcore music for people who didn’t experience HAVE HEART, for a new generation of hardcore kids in the military, for people with no real life problems aside from their friends experimenting with gravity bongs, and for people who think being straight edge is the only signifier and personality trait that makes them unique and can connect them with others. From personal experience I can say that straight edge can be a great thing, a life saver in many cases but god damn if it doesn’t completely blind some people and make them intolerable shitheads. If “A Truth We Still Believe” is what makes you feel whole, then great, but I just hope you can have personality traits aside from black Xs on your hands (if that even is one).

Eight Rounds Rapid Love Your Work LP

EIGHT ROUNDS RAPID is a four-piece from Essex whose guitarist Simon Johnson is the son of the great Wilko Johnson, who held the equivalent position in DR. FEELGOOD’s original/classic lineup. I would usually feel a bit bad about going straight for this sort of trivia at the beginning of a review, but Wilko had Simon and his pals support him on tour twice, so they can’t really object to anyone else leaning on the family connections. As it goes, Love Your Work—the third 8RR album—is a pub-belligerent punk blues affair whose DNA has a fair bit of FEELGOODs in more than a literal sense, and the guitar sound is possibly the best thing about it. That reads like faint praise, I know, but it’s a dead nice tone. David Alexander’s sarky-talky vocals, a heads-down approach to rhythms and occasional breaks from the norm (“Retro Band” eschews the rock for a wobbly and vaguely experimental gripe at, possibly, hipsters which seems to be going for a SLEAFORD MODS thing and doesn’t really work) make this album feel a bit like a BBC 6 Music listeners’ version of HEAVY METAL (as in the Berlin band). That also reads like faint praise, and I suppose is in this case.

Fatal Figures X Minus One LP

Each time I listen to this record, I like it more. The vocals seem to be flying at 100 MPH backed by sped-up, slightly rockabilly-ish, noisy-as-hell garage punk. These days of staying at home and doing nothing don’t really require this type of angst, but I’ll take it anyway. That random, out of place, high-pitched note of feedback half way through “You Hardly Ever Crawl” makes me smile each time it catches me off guard. The inclusion of an UNWOUND cover and a BEGUILED cover poses an interesting insight into the band’s philosophy, and I approve.

Filth Garden Live Filth cassette

This is a wild ride. Cassette comes with no artwork whatsoever, case wrapped in duct tape, with the words FILTH GARDEN written in black sharpie across the front. I had to cut the case open to pry the cassette out from inside, revealing a black cassette with a duct tape label reading the same thing. This appears to be a live set as it is one continuous song with no breaks other than feedback which all ends with cheers and applause. Musically we’ve got drums and bass, the bass occasionally kicking on some kooky effects pedals. The tempo ranges alternating from heavy doom sounding stuff to upbeat driving riffs. It sounds very full considering it is only two instruments and a vocalist, who sounds eerily like Cronos from VENOM.

Frente Norte Luchar y Ganar LP

A ripping slice of wax from this Toledo, Ohio punk/Oi! hybrid band. Not unlike fellow Midwesterners FUERZA BRUTA, who also know how to tear it up with chants and sing-alongs in Spanish, FRENTE NORTE adds a little extra jolt of positivity into the equation and even treds into pop on songs like “En La Esquina” without getting wimpy. There’s separate lyric sheets in Spanish and in English for the not so linguistically proficient such as myself which is very appreciated. Ranging from primitive NABAT-style gruff ragers like “Punk Sistema Alternativo” to AUSENCIA-like catchy fist raisers like “Atomico” to all-out feel good orchestrated COCK SPARRER anthems like “La Patrulla” there’s not really a dud here and it’s a good sell on a future trip to Toledo for this punker. Salud!

Fyrkantsandning Andas i en Påse CD EP

Taking shit-fi to astonishing new heights, Sweden’s FYRKANTSANDNING offers three utterly unlistenable adaptations of hardcore classics from RAPT, DOOM, and SHITLICKERS, and one original criticizing Salman Rushdie’s sexual behavior. I think that the Rushdie track is the only one with drums or vocals, and perhaps only the RAPT and SHITLICKERS tracks have bass, but honestly it’s pretty hard to tell and I’m sure that’s the point. You have likely never heard “Warsystem” sound as fucked up (read: indecipherable) as it does here, and that is most certainly an endorsement.

Geld Beyond the Floor LP

’Twas the prehistoric epoch of 2018 when GELD’s Perfect Texture LP kicked my ass through the top of my head via its solid gold meld of Scando-Japano HC abandon and psychedelic guitar excursions. Beyond the Floor dials down the psych tropes—little on this twelve-tracker zongs out quite like, say, “Parasitic Fucker” off the debut; maybe the gothy scrawling on “Forces at Work” approaches that level—but is every bit as deranged and dangerous. Written and recorded on “pills, meth, booze, weed [and] DMT,” so says the sales spiel: if this is the case, this Melbourne foursome are the opposite of sloppy drunks, cabbaged stoners or too-gone tweakers, rather a destructive forward line dosed on black market medicine by a shadowy team doctor. That is to say: fully sick in-the-red guitar tone, basslines that are sinister but groovy in the same way, say, Kira’s were in BLACK FLAG, foaming provoked-animal vox from Al Smith, maybe some bestial black metal influence in there but it’s such a barrage yer just guessing really… plus the lyric “Pubs open in my mind” and, if you were quick enough (which you weren’t, should you be reading this as a buyers’ guide), a really neat Jack Chick-parody comic packaged with the browny-gold vinyl. GELD are god’s-honest dons.

Gesture II cassette

Berlin quartet GESTURE’s first tape, from eighteen months or so ago, was a more-than-nice example of contemporary death rock, slinky and zippy in equal measure. Its successor, again a six-song affair, ups the mean tempo and borders hardcore stylistically, “Wants In Cells” leaning into this in particular. Opening number “Retreat” has those military-drill stern anarcho drums but an untethered, lurching feel; “Breeding Ground” peaces out before the one-minute mark but fees like it could have developed. Eva Sanglante remains a finely frosty frontperson and, while it appears that GESTURE are now an ex-band (we hardly knew ye!), her latest project MERGING sounds pretty swish on the basis of one comp tape song, if you like gloomy punked-up EBM at least.

Ghouli Nothing cassette

Dark and angry hardcore from Richmond, VA. This is a really nice mix of different types of punk. I hear some early TSOL in there, some RUDIMENTARY PENI, even some HOLIER THAN THOU which makes for a cool amalgamation of early punk and death rock stuff, but they’ve clearly got the chops to blister through some faster songs as well.

GoGoGo Go Golden cassette

From the home of much delightfully weird-ass punk, Bloomington, IN, comes this aged punker duo. It’s just bass and drums and like other fave two pieces—MENTAL PYGMIES, C AVERAGE and QUEEN COBRA (well technically they had a drum machine)—the sound is upfront and raw. Lend some CIRCLE JERKS-esque hardcore hooks to some DESCENDENTS pop sensibilities and add a positive message or two to the mix and you got a damn good Tuesday night. Beautifully packaged tape. “O.A.D.” is brilliant.

Gritos Gritos cassette

New band from San Diego, CA. The writeup that was included with the demo refer to them as being a raw punk band, and while there are certainly aspects of that style peppered throughout this tape, it comes across to me as a more straightforward hardcore unk band with peppered in metal riffs, but in a good way, ya know? Four songs, lyrics sung in Spanish.

Hayley and the Crushers Jacaranda / Angelyne 7″

This is sunshine in audio form. There’s only two tracks on this release, but they are destined to cheer up even the shittiest malaise of pandemic life. They describe themselves as “One part punk-pop, one part sunny surf, all poolside glitter trash,” and now having listened to them, this makes total sense. Songs are glitzy, ’80s synth inspired, with lots of bubblegum and a hint of power pop. Hayley has a strong singing voice and it’s like each word that comes out is surrounded by little hearts and beach balls. The only downside to this release is that I wish I could actually be blasting it outside with friends in the sun. Maybe if we all wear masks…

Head to Wall Demo 2019 cassette

Super chuggy, youth-crew-esque hardcore. Three songs that truly sound like they came from a different decade. You know the sound; singy melodic vocals with barked gang backups, driving main riffs, chugging tuff breakdowns. As I write this I’m discovering that there is an unlisted fourth song on the demo, a cover of “Under Fire” by 411. Not hiding where their inspiration comes from one bit with this choice of cover.

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.

Hotmom Stupid Vegan Band cassette

This is exactly what I want in a punk demo! Every song a nasty punk hit played fast and spastically on the verge of falling apart. This demo somehow embodies that feeling you get when first delving deeper into the world of punk, going from entry-level bands to the real deal. That feeling of excitement mixed with a tiny amount of fear. HOTMOM has me thirsty for more. Thankfully searching around on the internet I was able to find that they’ve got a slew of other demos out. Phew!

Indonesian Junk Spiderbites LP

So funny, the other day in the car a RED PLANET song came up on my mix. I thought, “Jezus, these guys really remind me of CHEAP TRICK.” And now? INDONESIAN JUNK sort of reminds me of RED PLANET. That said, in addition to RED PLANET, there’s also some BOOMTOWN RATS. Definitely throw in at least a little bit of an arena rock sound and we might be there. I will say that, overall, I find just a tad bit too much extracurricular guitar work. Sometimes, it’s awesome. Other times, not so much. That said, I do feel like there is some underlying authenticity.

Kürøishi Sound the Alarm LP

This LP was released in 2019 by KÜRØISHI (Japanese name translates to “Black Death”) from Oulu, Finland. At first glance, with Akihito Sugimoto’s artwork, people will assume it’s something along the lines of ’80s/’90s-era Japanese hardcore worship like SELFISH, but KÜRØISHI has an early-’00s melodic crust approach along the lines of WOLFPACK/WOLFBRIGADE and TRAGEDY. Quite often dismissed but perhaps this sound was pioneered by Absolut Country of Sweden-era ANTI-CIMEX in 1990, later progressing to WOLFPACK/WOLFBRIGADE or HIS HERO IS GONE touring Japan in the ’90s and getting influenced by bands like JUDGEMENT with some melodic harmonic elements—yielding a “Japanese HC influenced” style a.k.a. TRAGEDY. In reality, the sounds are influenced by not only the aforementioned bands but also Sweden’s and Norway’s extreme metal scenes from the mid- ’90s… So, with many people already having knowledge and a sense of what Japanese hardcore sounds like, this might not cater to punks with a preference for that approach, but those who’ve seen the “Japanese hardcore” references thrown around at crust shows in 2002 will definitely be able to identify. It’s easy to talk trash on a release for how inaccurately it represents the ’90s Japanese hardcore approach, but it’s also something that we might need more in this age of easy replication and overload of resources. Sound the Alarm sounds like it’s an honest output from what they grew up with but still having an appreciation of something they truly love. They’re from Scandnavia and the influences of that region’s hardcore and metal makes more sense than sounding like they’re from Tokyo in the late ’80s. The record also contains this great sense of imagination (perhaps it can be taken as a misinterpretation?) whether intentionally or not, creating something unique with wide possibilities. Guest appearances by members of PARANOID, VIVISEKTO, SYSTEMATIC DEATH, THINK AGAIN and others.

LD-50 Lethal Dose Hardcore EP

It took a few listens of this 7” for me to find any substance. The title Lethal Dose Hardcore is ill fitting and presumptuous. The cover art seemed to suggest blandness, indifference, and a possible attempt at a formulaic and repetitive vision that the music doesn’t align with. The first two tracks remind me of ARTIFICIAL PEACE and the third, “Gaping Hole,” is their best with a simplicity that stands out. The B-side seems to be an attempt at raw, bashing, käng-style hardcore with the closer decelerating to a punchy pace that stands apart. It’s not awful but it ain’t loud enough and it ain’t raw enough. The band needs to focus and find their sound in the midst of their mixed inspirations. The plus side is that donations from the download of this 7” on Symphony of Destruction Bandcamp go to international causes.

LMI Excess Subconscious LP

LMI, or LAZY MIDDLE-CLASS INTELLECTUALS (from the BAD RELIGION lyric), play spiraling spats of obtuse post-hardcore. There is a constant discord between the three members that through repetition slowly overwhelms. I really want the bass to be brought up a few levels, like molasses coating this jagged pill. Most vocals are screamed monotone with minimal guttural death metal vocals sprinkled in. This occurs mostly on “Ghost Teeth” where the low-end growl takes the mic. The drums are along for the ride and carry this unique presentation through like a cosmic tour guide. LMI is sort of SWING KIDS, HOT SNAKES, CAVE IN. The playing style is so tense, I prefer the tracks that loosen up and groove a bit, such as on “Concrete Illusions” and “Tomorrow Midnight,” because LMI still lays it on harsh. I’m not going to soothsay land this review down on any runway, because LMI didn’t do that for me. Sort of leave it hanging and awkward, but in a bewildered and good way. These LAZY MIDDLE-CLASS INTELLECTUALS might just be way above my head.

M Section Pastrami Salami LP

The “silly guy hardcore with schizophrenic musical styles and influences” is a genre much ignored and not one I have been presented with for quite some time. Having once been in such a band, I can understand (to a point) while also being thoroughly perplexed by the all-over-the-place-ness met with showboating musicianship as a chosen mission. Elements of jazz, country, metal, prog and of course punk are the backdrop for adult contemporary masterpieces with titles ranging from “Where’s the Beef” to the epic “Lobster Dog” whisked along by precision drumbeats, noodling guitar stroking and pop-punk whoa whoa whoas. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh sorry, pardon my nod. The reference points for me would be FAITH NO MORE, MR. BUNGLE and SUM41 so Santa Rosa’s burning. Give it a whirl.

Mal Thursday Mal Thursday’s Greatest Hits That Missed CD-R

Part two of my series of MAL THURSDAY release reviews. This CD-R from 2018 is a collection of THURSDAY’s bands the MALARIANS (his 1980s band), MAL THURSDAY AND THE CHEETAHS (his 1990s band), the MAL THURSDAY QUINTET (his 2010s band) and plain old MAL solo (origin somewhere in between). Beside being a singer, THURSDAY has also run a record label Chunk Records, booked shows and DJed on various radio stations and websites. THURSDAY’s vocal style is macho braggadocio. The music leans toward the harder rock side of the garage rock revival. It works together when the songs are faster and higher energy. Some of the slower ballads seem to be reaching too much and “What’s Up Pussycat?” was not an appropriate cover choice. When the songs do click, like on “Get Outta Dallas!” and “A Taste of Five,” it can be some stomping rock’n’roll fun.

Meat Whiplash Here It Comes / Don’t Slip Up 7″ reissue

Super deluxe reissue of one of the greatest Scottish post-punk singles of all time that isn’t the first 7” by the FIRE ENGINES (from whom MEAT WHIPLASH swiped their name)! Originally released on Creation in 1985, the band’s one and only record reflected an almost exact sonic intersection of the dual ruling scenes of Scotland’s ‘80s underground, with the more scratchy and angular faction on one side, and wall-of-sound melodic noise-pop on the other. “Here it Comes” kicks up a cloud of feedback squeal and pinned-in-the-red distortion not entirely dissimilar to the controlled chaos of the JESUS AND MARY CHAIN’s “Upside Down” from just a year earlier, although MEAT WHIPLASH trade the Reid brothers’ shimmering ’60s-inspired pop tendencies (however buried) for something far more panicked and desperate. Equally obscured by fuzz but far less abrasive, the flipside “Don’t Slip Up” brings things in line with the shambolic sound of young Scotland centered around C86 bands like the SHOP ASSISTANTS, whose singer actually wound up joining MEAT WHIPLASH when they changed their name to MOTORCYCLE BOY in the late ’80s. Completely essential purchase if you don’t already own a well-loved original copy of this one!

Might Might CD

This unassuming CD, stark black with chalk-like lettering, MIGHT lead you to believe this band was going to sound subtle. The wispy spoken word intro, “Introduce Yourself,” MIGHT even creep you out a bit. Femme witching vocals slither in and you MIGHT even be a bit scared. I used to love the morose steaming feminist carnival-like recordings of SOW (partner of PIG) back in the ’90s. And this reminds me of the laissez-faire of SOW a little bit. A tribal and metal DIAMANDA GALÁS of sorts with the more CHELSEA WOLFE acoustic eeriness. There is also a CONCRETE BLONDE kind of twang to it. I’m in all sorts of places with this, Southern stoner doom (thinking BRUME, TOTEM/JEX THOTH), black metal, gothic neo-folk. MIGHT is unassuming and escapist. For only two folks from Hanover, Germany, they’ve put together a very interesting project that MIGHT just deserve a few more instrumental layers to crawl into.

Mikey Erg Bon Voyage EP

MIKEY ERG, formerly of the ERGS, has written a love letter to the 7” format with Bon Voyage. With three new songs acting as a sampler of his capabilities and a cover of the BEATLES’ “Mother Nature’s Son” to fill out the B-side, Mr. Erg will garner clapping and wooting from the rabid fanbase of his past band, and may even pull in some newbies through his infectious enthusiasm. The A-side is pop-punk designed for a festival setting, meant to lure in beer-holding, newly balding 30-something dudes who don’t fit their T-shirt the way they used to. The B-side then sonically explodes with speed and excitement with “Colleen” before moving into the sneering-while-smiling tune of the previously mentioned cover. This 7” is a fantastic proof of concept document for those that somehow missed the last nearly two decades of Mikey’s career, and it will be a quick and healthy dose for those that have been craving more.

Mir Express Pass Auf Mein Schatz / Tu Menti 7″

Instantly addictive hard-driving analog synth from Berlin. The label calls it “industrial boogie” and I’m pretty much helpless here because that nails their minimal dance aggression. The synths are dirty and dark, the clanging of early CABARET VOLTAIRE reinvented as dancefloor smashers, it’s a near perfect adaption of the sound—clearly drawing from (and emulating) the past but still sounding urgent and…present. Can’t gush enough about this one, except to say that two songs is not enough, and that the ridiculously limited “4 Track Mind” singles series from Tomatenplatten (this is Vol.02) are going to be the death of me. Superb.

Miscalculations The Perfect Candidate LP

This London group is sometimes art-gothy, sometimes pop-punky, but always energetic. It often has a similar energy as the A.K.A.S (ARE EVERYWHERE!), especially in the electro/keyboard-like noises focus, or the less ska-ey end of the SUICIDE MACHINES. “The Blurred Line Between Art and Crime” is a great track to dip your toe into. It’s a danceable good time that feels unstoppable as it plugs along with juggernaut strength. “Brutalist Parade” almost feels like it’s about to bring you to an industrial show in a secret warehouse somewhere right before ending the album on one final and abrupt shout. This is a hip wigglin’ electro punk album for those that can’t help but dance when given even the slightest inspiration to do so.

MSPaint MSPaint cassette

Maybe this is aiming for some Wax Trax!-style industrial damage, but the singer should straight up be in a COLD WORLD tribute band. It also kind of reminds me of this early ’90s British rave crew called the SHAMAN. Hazy political aphorisms rapped over some mild keyboard jams. It’s hard to take stock of the music because the vocals just make everything sound like open mic night with some LIMP BIZKIT fans tearing it up.

Mt. Vengeance Machines LP/CD

So often in these annals you can sum up a review in one short blurt. Indeed, take a look at the first few dozen issues and you’ll see reviews of stone classics that are two sentences long. Tops. So is the point of a Maximum Rocknroll review in 2020 to simply tell you what “it” sounds like and whether or not the reviewer thinks “it” is good……? Good question—and I clearly don’t know the answer or I would already be done here. Theoretically, it would go like this: “Philadelphia’s MT. VENGEANCE plays catchy indie rock that successfully conjures ghosts of late ’80s college radio alt.” Bass player was in ELECTRIC LOVE MUFFIN, which might mean something to a clique of nerds and/or middle aged people from Philadelphia (I fall into one of those two categories). Machines doesn’t sound like it’s emulating another era, it sounds like it was plucked out of one—and that’s a sincere compliment. “Noisy guitars, good left-field jerks in tempo and timing, a tension in the vocals that accentuates melody instead of eschewing it” would be the second sentence. “Super good record from a trio who know exactly what they are were doing,” that would be my closing salvo….theoretically.

Natural Man Band Living in a Chemical World with the Natural Man Band LP

If New Wave Theater was revived for our current day and age and filmed somewhere in the heartland, Kansas City’s NATURAL MAN would easily be regular guests—day-glo punk with blaring sax, dual vocals (sometimes intersecting, sometimes harmonized, often shouted), low-budget synth, and boundless energy to get all of the kids decked out in asymmetrical sunglasses and loud geometric prints to completely bounce off the walls. There’s echoes of Ohio’s favorite spud sons in the cracked mechanical rhythms of “Working Nights” and “Chemical World,” but rather than relying too heavily on the anxiety-ridden DEVO-isms of a lot of their Midwestern ovular-punk peers, NATURAL MAN generally throws things back to a freewheeling and utterly unselfconscious art-schooled dance frenzy that exists somewhere between BLACK RANDY and the B-52’S. Do you want (the new) new wave or do you want the truth?

New Fries Is the Idea of Us LP

The spirit of 99 Records lives on in NEW FRIES, a minimalist neo-No Wave trio from Toronto who, in true ESG/LIQUID LIQUID fashion, aren’t afraid to work a single repetitive, hypnosis-inducing rhythm for as long as they deem necessary. Is the Idea of Us consists of six “proper” songs, and seven brief interstitial instrumentals all uniformly titled “Genre”— the latter suggest anything from static to sirens passing outside the window of a late-night bus to the muffled sound of a band practicing as heard from a few rooms over, while the more structured tracks balance on an ice-thin foundation of slowly pulsating bass throb, blasts of sampler noise, high-tension guitar scrabble, drums stripped to the most austere beats possible, and impassive vocal incantations reverberating through the negative space left between those elements. The very SNEAKS-like “Ploce” is carried almost entirely by a few endlessly-cycled bass notes and some punctuated, electronically-treated percussive hits, and the modern mutant disco anti-jam “Bangs” speeds and slows at unpredictable intervals like a dubbed copy of the ROSA YEMEN 12” played on a faulty tape deck. Dance music for the heat death of the universe!

Nightfeeder Rotten Demo cassette

Heavy crust punk from Seattle. They’ve definitely done their homework with this band. The songs all sound like you’ve heard them before, which either means that they wrote some catchy riffs or that their songwriting is damn good at aping the bands that have inspired them. I definitely hear some AUS ROTTEN-type hooks coming through with a few of them. Eight tracks in total, ending with covers of MISSBRUKARNA and the VICTIMS (Australia). The covers might be my favorite part as they not only do the songs justice, but it also seems to force the band to break out of the pretty standard crust sound of their originals. They play the different genres of punk surprisingly well.

Noi!se Price We Pay 7″

This is truly a document of how humans ate the earth. A one-song 7” by a oi!-inflected pop punk band from Seattle. Save the planet and think of all the wasted resources! Just because you can doesn’t mean you should! How many fans of this band are gonna play this thing more than once?! I assume the song is also on the LP or whatever? I don’t know. Maybe they aren’t pop punk?! It’s generic festival band music, package-tour-ready sounds for people that crave marketing gimmicks.

Noi!se Lost 12″

I can’t say I’ve been a fan of this Seattle Oi!/modern rock hybrid band in the past and I’m not much of a supporter of Pirate’s Press’s one-song UV-printed picture 12” format. Seems really wasteful and I don’t get the point. This release finds the band continuing in the slicker, bigger sound vein than earlier releases so it’s not really making me a convert, but their lyrics are well written and their musicianship and songcrafting are undoubtedly talented, veering this release into almost radio-friendly territory. I could see some fans of later DROPKICK MURPHYS or even the USED taking a liking to this one. Not for me.

Off the Clock For You 12″

Another release from the fertile and verdant Vic City Skins mob, and with members who’ve done time with big hitters such as NO HEART and LAST CRUSADE among its ranks, there’s little surprise that OFF THE CLOCK deliver some classic hard-as-nails Oi! with hardcore influences that packs a steel toe cap kick to the knackers. Vocals are as rough as a badger’s arse, but just about stay on the right side of tolerability, and the riffs are as no-nonsense as they come. Music to have a pint spilled on you to.

Offside Reidars Offside Reidars LP

Back-to-basics, hard-hitting punk rock ’n’ roll. Even though the music is totally different, the vocals are the clear focal point in the same way that the first SENSUURI (or BAD RELIGION?) records are vocals/melody first, and riffs second. Then the riffs sink in and these Laplanders (that’s way up north-north) take a step forward… also, all of the songs are about hockey.

Peace Talks A Lasting Peace EP

PEACE TALKS’ debut EP is full-on breakneck hardcore from start to finish, with a vocal delivery nearly as urgent as CONFLICT. PEACE TALKS doesn’t sound like any particular band, scene, or era, though I hear a healthy dose of TOTALITÄR in their sound. “Dancing for the Flame” is by far the standout track, though no tracks are bad, and this is the first punk record I can recall seeing that combines “Fuck 12” sloganeering with more tried-and-true nuclear bomb art. I mean, it’s all part of the same problem, right?

Pig Sweat Pig Sweat LP

Imagine Berkeley’s CRIMINALS with metallic leads and an aggressive snarl replacing Jesse’s terminally adolescent sneer. Energy level cranked to ten at all times, this Swiss hardcore punk outfit delivers consistent power with lines like “Will never find peace with the way this world turns / Will never shut up, not till the day it burns” sinking in… riffs sinking in deeper.

The Prof. Fuzz 63 Owls LP

Peppy, organ-led garage rock with a monotonic singer. The high-pitched organ sounds and the low-register vocals match perfectly giving PROF. FUZZ 63 a more unique sound than the average 21st century garage band. The drumbeats and guitar riffs are simple and add just enough foundation. The RAMONES update “Sheena Is a Soccer Mom” is a bit too corny, but the two (!) FLIPPER covers are pretty cool.

Quaker Wedding In Transit LP

The Jilted Lover 7” was the perfect teaser to this full-length presentation of mature angst. The assumption of JAWBREAKER love and comparison to the GASLIGHT ANTHEM are still deserved throughout this expansion to ten songs. The working class, music veteran vibe with members from all over who have lived all over is on full display here. The intro to the album on “Sinking Ship” is strong, loud, and desperate. It’s the aura of cheap beer soaked into rotting floorboards at the local dive that then continues throughout the whole album. The line, “I’ve become a Midwest lyric / Even though six months I moved away,” from “Aching” is a particularly throat straining and somber scream. While the vocalist has guts that he is ready to show you by throwing them up right onto the floor, the drums and guitars are very proud to stand right beside him, soaked in Scotch and equally in need of a good time after considering the weight of the world outside of the venue. This trio is a force to be reckoned with and is sure to someday make its way across the country and rattle the foundations of every saloon, local, and pub they come across.

Régimen de Terror Inherente del Poder EP

The first few DISCHARGE EPs seem to be the entire corpus of influences for RÉGIMEN DE TERROR. This could be dangerous—D-beat done poorly is almost always stale and limiting—but RÉGIMEN DE TERROR combines a sincere, explicitly anarchist approach and barebones production into a solid, enjoyable record. There’s nothing groundbreaking lyrically or musically here, but if you’re a sucker for OTAN or REALIDAD like I am, you’ll likely find this record charming and invigorating.

Regime Bury Them Now cassette

Blistering D-beat from Moscow, Russia. This tape rips and is pretty timeless. Nails this style dead on. Sure, it’s cliché to compare a D-beat band to DISCHARGE, but there you have it. Five songs will leave you wanting more.

Rocky and the Sweden City Baby Attacked by Buds LP

Latest release from ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN from Tokyo—Japanese hardcore scene veterans that have been around for quite some time with ex-members of BASTARD, SYSTEMATIC DEATH, and VIVISICK. With song titles like “Green Riot,” “Mary-Go-Round,” and “Weed Weed Weed,” ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN really show their  appreciation for weed. It’s still not quite legal in Japan but glad to see they’ve yet to get in trouble for constant dedication to the ganja for the past 20 years. ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN also impresses us with how fast and aggressive they sound despite consuming such a mellow substance. 420 hardcore bands with a similar approach include REAL REGGAE, another counterpart from Japan that sung about smoking weed. From the title of this record, you might imagine something in the stoner rock realm (along with some G.B.H. reference) but turns out to be a great Japanese hardcore punk record. In terms of sketchiness, their chosen expression is reminiscent of older MRR articles about how it was illegal to be a punk band in certain countries. Most people typically would want to play in a jam band or stoner rock but these guys remind us to not judge anything by its cover. This shows us a new possibility of smoking weed where not only you can play slow and groovy but you can also play aggressively and fast. City Baby Attacked by Buds sounds more like they’re on speed or methamphetamine than smoking weed—basically the DEATH SIDE style Japanese approach with epic, dramatic riffage and NWOBHM-influenced guitar leads. ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN continue to fight for their freedom of smoking weed not only by “burning spirits” approach but by “burning buds” with the same spirit. Great colorful artwork done by Masato Okano of NYC.

Sass Chew Toy LP

SASS are a four-piece from Minneapolis that self identify as “Midwest grunge pop.” I’m already sold on that description alone. The lead-off track “Nice Things” has this syncopated vocal melody in the chorus that sounds like a mermaid singing from the sea floor, though in the bridge of this same song, the singer really reminds me of Tonia from the LIPPIES. I think it’s a really nice mix of style and sound. In the song “Role Model,” the singer belts out these lines that really caught my attention: “Filling myself with empty calories / What even is an empty calorie / I can’t be myself / Around anyone else / There’s a list of things I can’t do / ’Cus I’m a shitty role model.” It’s a rad and disaffected song about how society expects a person to operate. Then in “Gut Feeling,” I hear a mix of the GITS and the BREEDERS, especially with that bass heavy intro. I’m fucking loving this.

Siglo XX Siglo XX LP

A vinyl reissue of SIGLO XX’s 1981 demo tape originally came out a decade ago; that pressing is long out of print so a new edition should please budget-minded post-punkers. JOY DIVISION is the primary influence here, though while SIGLO XX replicates the prominent baselines, skeletal guitar work and overall depressive ambience of Unknown Pleasures, the claustrophobic intensity of Factory’s finest is absent. (OK, it’s rather unfair to hold up a four-track demo recording to probably the greatest post-punk band of all time; SIGLO XX’s proper vinyl releases during this era were more more fully-formed.) Worth investigating for completists, but don’t hold off for too long as this repress is limited to 500 copies.

Sniffany and the Nits The Greatest Nits EP

If fucked up bashed out guitar snot gets your brains blown out, if you run out the grooves in yr HONEY BANE ’n’ GOOD THROB 45s, if you seek lyrics that are savage class ’n’ gender disintegrations for pogo punks, then this is for you. It almost sounds like a weird combo of NO TREND and something on Crass Records in places?! I mean this is CRASS worship with a hardcore ferocity, so I think by now even reading my puny words you know whether you wannit or not… Do a runner!

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.

Spados Fast One on the Masses cassette

Lo-fi treble-heavy power pop from Philadelphia. Sickeningly catchy while still coming across gruff enough that I have no doubts that the punkers can dig it. I giggled a little bit at the hand-written note within the cassette stating “This cassette tape contains *LO-FI* garage rock.” Not mincing words, not pulling any punches, calling a SPADOS a SPADOS. The only label info contained anywhere on the cassette or online merely states CHUB-001. Your guess is as good as mine.

Spam Risk Spam Risk cassette

Chicago, IL brings us SPAM RISK, a weird/poppy post-punk band featuring noodly guitar work and vocals bordering on novelty-song style both in their delivery and the subject matter. A couple of the songs on here are super driving and catchy as hell. “Google Bookchin” is the real stand-out track on this seven-song debut cassette. Definitely interested in hearing more of this kooky stuff.

Starving Wolves True Fire LP

It’s a shame that STARVING WOLVES seemed to take a bit of a back seat when the singer took over the microphone for CASUALTIES a couple of years back—thankfully this full-length should help put them back behind the wheel. We’re talking top-tier anthemic metallic punk; you can’t deny the hooks, the leads scream Sweden-by-way-of-Portland, and there are a few all-out rippers like “Get Bit” to satisfy folks who get turned off by a sing-along chorus. Certainly these are sounds that are most associated with the club scene/s, and True Fire makes a clear effort to open the door for starter punks…but in doing so they’ve made a record with the kind of energy that old fuckers might be craving.

Stray Bullet Din of Shit EP

An assembly of esteemed UK hardcore hardy perennials here in the form of STRAY BULLET, including but not limited to Crawford Mackay (CLOCKED OUT), Fergus Daffy (NO PULSE) and Brian Suddaby from umpteen bands of which RAT CAGE and HEAVY SENTENCE are the most recent, I guess. They’ve all found themselves in Sheffield with an urge to kick out careening, consistently brisk hardcore, bordering garage punk for the longest, closing number “Consider It Worn.” Sounds like some ’90s bargain bin relic to me, and that’s meant in a good way—bands like OUT COLD or NINE SHOCKS TERROR that are adored by small coteries of heads but whose releases can still be scored relatively cheaply. Chug-into-a-brickwall rhythm parts square up against high-pitched, almost-indulgent guitar solos and Mackay sounds as ready to blow his top as was the case during CLOCKED OUT’s existence.

Street Weapon Quick to Die EP

Though the label copy namechecks CONFRONT and ALTERCATION, STREET WEAPON reminds me more of the heavier end of the mid-’00s USHC revival, when a band could still cite BLACK FLAG as an influence without sounding naive or hackneyed. That’s not to say they sound like BLACK FLAG—they sound distinctly modern but with a strong classic NYHC influence—but the simplicity of the presentation hearkens back to an earlier era, where everyone wore flannel and jean jackets and put every weapon they could possibly think of on their record art. These guys are quite young, and I’m not totally sold on this record, but when quarantine is over in 2029, some kid in Virginia Beach in construction gloves will probably get a black eye in a STREET WEAPON pit, which certainly counts for something.

Klazo / Susans Weekend in The Rust Belt cassette

This is a split live cassette from two garage-punk bands from London, ON. It has live tracks recorded in Detroit, Cleveland, and Rochester while the bands were on a weekend tour together. Oddly enough I was personally in attendance at the Rochester gig. Small punk world. This is a fun idea, the tapes look great, and it sounds pretty cool considering it was recorded on a Tascam at three different venues, but I think I would rather just listen to studio recordings by each band, personally. If you are currently unfamiliar with the bands, KLAZO is a nasty two-piece fucked-up garage-punk duo with an LP out on It’s Trash Records. SUSANS would also fit within the garage-punk world, but are a little more straightforward thank KLAZO. I don’t know that they have any studio releases to date, but after revisiting this live set of theirs I am certain that I would like to hear one.

Sweeping Promises Hunger for a Way Out LP

SWEEPING PROMISES is the latest project from Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug, who have been behind an ever-growing list of groups responsible for some of the best music to come out of Boston over the past few years (in particular, last year’s cassette collection from their coldwave outfit DEE-PARTS demands your attention). Hunger for a Way Out was recorded using a single microphone in a vacant concrete lab just before mass isolation became our collective reality, and the band’s stark, direct approach perfectly reflects both of the physical setting in which their debut LP took shape, as well as the greater social context in which it would be later received. One of my favorite PYLON songs is an ultra-lo-fi, pre-Gyrate practice space demo called “Functionality,” and SWEEPING PROMISES have extended the raw material of that one track into an entire full-length record: shocks of bare-wire guitar, rhythms guided by infinite-loop bass lines, and the deadly-serious repetition of lyrical demands (check that “Pick your jaw up off the ground / Take your seat” line in “Out Again”). Part of what made the school of ’78-’82 so inspiring was the idea of working within and embracing limitations (whether inherent or self-imposed) to create something interesting, and those lessons have definitely been applied in the overall minimalism-in-mono aesthetic of Hunger for a Way Out, but Lira’s powerful, expressive vocals ultimately push things to a place that transcends any typical off-kilter and untrained DIY art-punk reference points—her voice is so effortlessly perfect that any of these songs could have been massive pop hits if they’d been presented in a slightly different form. Album of the fucking year, y’all.

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”?

The Inhuman We Will Build / Cheap Novocain 7”

The INHUMAN was the short-lived one-man project of a Tucson, Arizona weirdo named Joel Schenkenberg, who recorded a demo of completely warped art-punk in his bedroom circa 1983. That tape essentially vanished into the black hole of history before two tracks were rescued for this single in late 2019 by Lumpy Records, leading haven for the 21st century iteration of American oddball DIY. Schenkenberg’s vocals are all sneering outsider paranoia, buried in a claustrophobic, sub-lo-fi mix of blown-out guitar, rudimentary synth presets, and drum machine drone circling the same orbit as COUNT VERTIGO, the electro side of 39 CLOCKS, the first couple of CABARET VOLTAIRE singles, and the more left-field early ’80s Subterranean Records groups. “We Will Build” is almost conventionally post-punk with its scribbly guitar solo and anxiously repetitive oscillating pulse, while “Cheap Novocain” slows to a doomed, dystopian crawl perfectly suited to a rasped incantation like “Anaesthetize your brain to pain / Drinking cheap novocain.” Total degeneration by way of the desert!

The Persecuted Terrorist USA EP

These Austin punks know how to ruck it up UK82 style, making a mess of it for the squares and keeping their hair charged proper at evening’s end. Nice ’90s-style polico/street/drunk punk style graphics and an attitude right up there with early TOTAL CHAOS. Their singer has one of the best pirate growls as evident on mid-tempo numbers like “So Many Lies,” but they also have a nice SHAM sense of melody such as in the title cut. Numbers like “The Prisoner” would be welcome in any VARUKERS set, and the lyrics, while nothing new, are manic yet cerebral and well-written. I could see these folks on stage with the ELECTED OFFICIALS as well as in an ’80s London squat. A well-thought-out and packaged release.

Mal Thursday / Neal Ford & the Fanatics / The Tree Every Night a New Surprise / No Good Woman 7″

I am 100% perplexed by the existence of this record. A current garage rock singer MAL THURSDAY inserts his vocals on two ’60s recordings—one unreleased and one released. Why? I am guessing because someone found the tape of this unfinished 1966 version of “Every Night a New Surprise” by the songwriter Steve Ames’s band NEAL FORD & THE FANATICS (you might know the song from the MOVING SIDEWALKS’ version on the B-side of their “Need Me” 7”) and wanted to finish it. Ego, convincing or whatever got MAL THURSDAY to sign up for the job. The recorders and mixers do a decent job blending the vocals in with the music, but as expected something is a bit off. THURSDAY has a tough-guy-type voice that doesn’t meld that smoothly with these ’60s musical sounds. Yes, that’s a picture of THURSDAY from 1966 photoshopped into the band photo on the cover. For the B-side “No Good Woman,” the original 1967 vocals are removed and replaced with THURSDAY’s. Since I know this song too well, the vocals don’t sound right. Again, I’ll ask: Why? Why not simply record the songs with your own band? This is titled Karage Vol. 1 so we have more of these to look forward to?

The Usurpers Future Wars LP

This SLC band comes at you hard and fast with a socially conscious UK82 style and strong DIY spirit. They’re so DIY that you are provided with a full album download complete with make-your-own CD and tape covers free of charge on their website. Musically, it’s a cross between latter-day EXPLOITED and something that would be at home on the Pogo Attack comp of yore. The singer has an off-time shouty/talky voice that reminds me of the singer of the PIST crossed with El Duce. There’s a lot of material here with lots of unfortunately ever-relevant anti-cop lyrical content provided. Pick it up.

The Variations Fight Back! LP

Detour has unearthed a pretty obscure one here—the VARIATIONS were a London-area mod revival act circa 1980/81 undocumented on record until now. The first side showcases five studio tracks (sessions for a never-realized single) while the flip is comprised of bootleg-quality material from an Islington pub gig, including covers of WILSON PICKETT and “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.” Drawing threads from punk, pop, and R&B, the VARIATIONS had an amateurish but endearing sound. No lost classics here but “Social Climbers” and the title track in particular are charming tunes that hint at what the band could have done if they’d had the chance to develop. Following their split, vocalist Mick Winslow went onto front the SCENE, who managed to cut a trio of singles in the early/mid-’80s.

The Velvet Underground Loaded (Alternate Album) LP

This month’s VELVETS bootleg/cash-in: A vinyl pressing of tracks from Rhino’s “Fully Loaded” reissue of the band’s final proper album. It’s a true “alternate” in the sense that it’s a track-by-track replication of Loaded made up of demos, early versions, and a couple “alternate mixes” (plus a bonus outtake of “I’m Sticking With You” because, why not?). Aside from simply having heard the hits too many times, my main complaint with Loaded is that it’s just a bit too neat and shiny, for a VU record anyway… so this LP is a pleasant surprise. The trio of “Head Held High” to “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” to “I Found a Reason” that opens side B is especially warm and intimate, performed with a relaxed looseness that draws me in despite knowing those songs back to front. Allegedly limited to 300 copies, but I doubt it…

The Walking Korpses All Safe and Dead LP

Proving that modern-day Berlin isn’t just a bolthole destination for ketamine-hoofing 27-year-old ravers, the current incarnation of that city’s WALKING KORPSES kicks out glowering goth sludge with a lineup predominantly assembled from what we still call expats but are, I suppose, more properly known as immigrants. Some interesting characters too, including two fellas from SPK splinter group LAST DOMINION LOST; two of post-punk rippers DIÄT (one of whom also released this LP on his label); and singer Jason Honea, who took over vocal duties for SOCIAL UNREST in the mid-’80s and has done the same for WALKING KORPSES after a journey that’s taken him a long way from East Bay skatecore. All Safe and Dead rocks for sure, often relatively conventionally, yet always with a but—awkward, lumbering and clashing, even when a joint like “Autumn Light” bears heavy hallmarks of big coat UK post-punk. Honea’s yelp is closer to BIRTHDAY PARTY-era Nick Cave, with the strep throat of UNSANE’s Charlie Spencer lurking in the mix. Shades/shards of LAUGHING HYENAS, later CLOCKCLEANER and offensively underrated Scottish group VOM can be detected in these seven songs, with a transcendent expansiveness at times (notably final song “Healthy Teeth”) which you could call psychedelic, if psych was less about staring blissfully at the sun than screaming into fog while holding a broken wine bottle.

Thievery Thievery cassette

Lo-fi hardcore from Victorville, CA. From the little insert included I have gathered that this was a short-lived project from 2005 that wrote four songs and recorded live onto a four-track, released it as a demo, and played one singular show. This is a reissue of that same demo. It’s pretty cool, sufficiently pissed. The quality of the recording makes it a bit difficult to discern exactly what they sounded like. The mind fills in those garbled gaps, tho. Musically it falls somewhere between powerviolence, fastcore, and some tough-guy beatdown stuff.

Tommy and the Commies Hurtin’ 4 Certain EP

They did it again! After the excellent Here Come LP in 2018, they come back now in 2020, once more with an amazing power pop, punk explosion. This power trio from Sudbury, Ontario gives us brilliant and cool classic punk, just like BUZZCOCKS but also something like the #1S. I can’t stop listening since they released this EP! A sad fact that it only lasts four songs; waiting anxiously for the next records.

Tommy Bahama Boys Garage Inc. II cassette

Based on the artwork, the name, and the little BEACH BOYS sample at the beginning of this tape, I assumed I was in for some instrumental surf or fun pop music or something. Boy was I wrong. This tape is a truly confusing experience combining harsh noise with lo-fi novelty electronic driving drum machine punk. Call me crazy, but there’s a couple cool, nasty synth-punk songs buried in here if you take the time to dig them up. They seem to have dubbed themselves “seapunk” and “yacht punk.” I don’t expect either of those terms to really make it off the docks, but if tapes like this keep floating to the surface I will certainly keep checking them out.

Totally Fucking Gay Swallow Sperm CD

Once again, I don’t know how how to describe TFG. Pro-fucking, pro-gay, anti-normal electro drum-machine nonsense. You can’t not mention SOCKEYE as a potential sonic influence, and you can’t not mention the number of times that dicks and ass and seminal fluids are addressed. At length. Extensive Mike Diana artwork creates a diversion from the monotony of big dick monologues, just as on 2018’s Gag On Penis disc, but you keep coming back to lines like “cock cock cock cock cock cock, suck it suck it suck it, dick dick dick dick dick dick, swallow sperm swallow sperm” on the embarrassingly addictive title track…it’s a bedroom electro freak show clashing with sixth grade dick humor. You don’t know if it’s a joke—and even if you do know it’s a joke, you don’t know who is the butt end. So look at the cartoon dicks and butts and boobs and sing along with: “The president keeps his mouth shut / That’s OK I can give him a pass / We both know that behind closed doors / He loves big dick and man ass.” The disc is packaged brilliantly with six EP-sized risograph prints and a foldout of all of the artwork, which is (along with the videos) integral to the entire presentation. If nothing else, TOTALLY FUCKING GAY is, and continues to be, a thing.

Tralala Das Mädchen Mit Den Roten Haaren / Pubertät Vergeht 7”

The Bachelor Archives series has been doing a bang-up job of documenting and preserving all sorts of lost gems from Austria and Switzerland’s punk past (GLUEAMS! SCHUND!), and the latest installment is a reissue of the 1982 7” from obscure Viennese punky new wave one-single wonders TRALALA. The B-side “Pubertät Vergeht” absolutely dominates this one, and it sounds so much like early ’80s Austrian femme-punk cult heroes PLASTIX that I had to do some serious research to figure out if there was some personnel overlap between that band and TRALALA (there isn’t)—the loopy vocals that sound like Su Tissue in German, the choppy and off-kilter rhythms, it’s all there… which makes for a very sharp stylistic U-turn when it comes to “Das Mädchen Mit Den Roten Haaren,” with its upstroke guitar and clipped ska beat, male gang vocals on the chorus, and even a bassoon (?!). An odd pairing for sure, but worth it for that B-side regardless.

Utopian Demo cassette

You might find it hard to get a handle on UTOPIAN, even while their debut demo is getting its hooks into you. That’s partly because they remain mysterious, to anyone cursed with distance at least: they have a location (LA) and first names, but no clear web presence and a moniker that thumbs its nose at yer search engine’s surveillance. Moreover, these six songs pinball between goth, post-punk, hardcore, and noise rock without the result making you feel like the band ought to pick a damn side. Vocalist Sesamie introduces “Circle A” with some portentous spoken word but is swiftly revealed as a fiery yowling force, one which places songs like “Spiritual Vision,” the Spanish-language “Tierra Ajena,” and the pogo-fabulous “U.B.P.” in the orbit of COLD MEAT. Really hope UTOPIAN is built to last.

مراة بركان (Mara’a Borkan) War / Revenge cassette

Two new tracks to follow up their previous tape, proving its quality was not novelty, more so MARA’A BORKAN is capable to write tense hardcore tracks even in a more organized headspace. Since these tracks are not restless, although angry and energetic, but it’s not a hot-headed mess. They have grown to be confident and deliberate. In exchange they introduce almost kraut-rockish repetitive hooks that pair well with the bouncy riffs and the still foreign melody of the vocals. They are great at keeping beats exciting, playing with emphasis and mixing hardcore with a bit of Arabic rhythms. While it is not at all challenging to enjoy them, the band expands the horizon of hardcore. The guitar sound has been refined, the sharp distortion is gone, in its place is a coiled, spooky patchwork of awesome riffs. They were great as a demo band, presenting fundamental angst, translating their environment to radical hardcore and they are great as a matured band too, who has nothing to prove. Instead, us listeners have to demonstrate that we appreciate unique bands from strange places. Tunis is a frequented resort for Europeans, one that is many miles away from the reality that explodes from MARA’A BORKAN’s music. I trust them and enjoy their tapes better than I would appreciate to be a dumb white tourist.

V/A Damaged by Dez EP

Six track compilation of Dez-era BLACK FLAG covers. MANIACAL DEVICE’s “Six Pack” is solid but unremarkable. JESSE BLANKENSHIP BAND turning “Jealous Again” into a country-western twanger is…well, it’s fine as a concept. “Rise Above” gets a modern metal treatment from Puerto Rico’s VIEJA ESTRIPE. “Gimme Gimme Gimme” turns into a schlock rockabilly lounge turd when MUMMULA gets their hands on it. Someone has to do “Damaged I,” and PURE HEEL basically regurgitate it as it was, which is fine because it’s a pretty regurgitatable song. BETTY MACHETE AND THE ANGRY COUGARS breath life into “American Waste,” easily the best rendition on the comp. I still kinda can’t believe this is happening though.

Virvon Varvon Mind Cancer cassette

Brand new release on the Portland, OR based Girlsville Records label. VIRVON VARVON is the new project featuring members of the English trashy garage rock powerhouse BLACK TIME. This band is a bit hard to peg down, but has hooks galore! The songs are all over the place but don’t stray too far from the overarching garage punk umbrella. Catchy, driving, nasty, lo-fi garage punk/rock’n’roll garbage. Those adjectives do anything for you? If so this is very much worth a listen.

Zone Infinie Dégats EP

Saint-Étienne-based rock urbain outfit ZONE INFINIE is back with a new EP of soaring melodic streetpunk. Like their contemporaries SYNDROME 81 and LITOVSK, their post-punk flourishes temper the gruffness one normally associates with the scruffy bastards in streetpunk, and these nuances only help to add some light and shade to the proceedings. It’s a pleasantly mixed bag, especially for a genre that can lend itself to one-notedness too, with cacophonous drums and spartan guitarlines accompanying the more recognisably streetpunky vocals too. Worth a go.

חרדה (Jarada) מעגל שנאה (Ma’agal Sina’a) 12″

Following their first album in 2018, JARADA comes back with this one-sided 12″ with eight hardcore punk, raw, chaotic, aggressive gem songs. This Tel Aviv band makes us feel the struggle to live in hostile territory, and brings us a cultural and political debate in their lyrics, both in Hebrew or English. If you like bands like EXIT ORDER and ARMS RACE, you should definitely listen to them.