MRR #450 • November 2020

Abortti 13 Abortti 13mg CD

A decade-plus back in the game after a fifteen-year stint with no releases, Finland’s ABORTTI 13 keeps delivering the goods. Cold, driving mid-paced hardcore punk with an ’80s Polish crunch on the the guitars, and a Finnish-language DISCHARGE cover to cap things off. Just one track kisses the two-minute mark…apparently there’s a certain amount of wisdom that comes with extensive experience.

Algara Una Cosa Más Sin Sentido Alguno Usada Para Hacer Rico Al Mismo de Siempre cassette

Barcelona’s leftist post-punks ALGARA expand their sound and personnel on this cassette. The band re-recorded their debut EP for the front half, using a full band to augment their initial cold, drum machine-based sound. The flip side consists of four cuts from their upcoming full-length. The material that hits hardest here is the first four tracks, which completely rebuilds the original songs from the ground up into something resembling the original WARSAW EP set to a vibrant garagey bop. Tight polyrhythmic drums lay the bedrock for moon-roving bass lines and piercing saturated guitar, all while leaving ample space for the protest crier vocals. This is a revolution you can dance to, which is often the only kind worth fighting. The second half of the tape splits the difference between this updated approach and the group’s original more stark and synthetic sound. The duality works, but the traditional rock instrumentation is more fun. This is overtly political, anti-establishment punk you can bounce to—but politics ain’t always fun and games! The cassette is sold out via the label (update—now back in stock), but you can buy digital and as of this writing the band has physical copies to buy directly.

Alien Nosejob Once Again the Present Becomes the Past LP

The HC45 single was one of the best hardcore records I’ve heard in recent times and Mr. Nosejob brings those quick, nimble riffs to full-length form. The description for Once Again notes that it began as a concept record referencing both WWII bombings and comedian Norm Macdonald. It sounds like if MODERN WARFARE or the MOB (NYC) had Mike D. of the BEASTIE BOYS on vocals and were emulating DISCHARGE singles. Or if DEVO had been a metal band. Or if the MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB wrote a hardcore record. It’s wacky and has nice subtleties and moments that’ll make your ears and eyes pop. The guitar solo in “Pointed Shears” reminds me of the guitar in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme song (which now that I listen back on that theme song sounds like it could’ve been a scrapped tune from Military Affairs Neurotic if it was a bit slower). This record will draw a line in the sand for many hardcore fans, probably multiple lines, once again illuminating the dreaded egg v. chain dichotomy.

All Beat Up Quarantape 2020 cassette

San Diego’s ALL BEAT UP were fine tuned and ready for tour when COVID shutdowns shit all over their planned excursion, so they did the punk thing and went to their practice space and bashed a set out to an audience of microphones. Fierce and heavy apocalypse hardcore, as powerful when they slowly pummel as they are when they unleash—only critique I can make is that I usually wish the fast parts lasted longer, but there always seems to be another one around the corner, which lessens the sting somewhat. Erratic start/stop vs. fast/slow sonic assembly nods to ’90s SF bands like BLESSING THE HOGS, or CUTTHROATS 9 with an extra dose of speed, but it’s clear when they put their foot in it that ALL BEAT UP are harnessing pure D-beat hardcore fury. We do what we can—and we can do a lot. Maximum volume and wear a fucking mask.

Appaloosa No Hope for the Kids EP

Full transparency here, my buddy Ben McIsaac plays drums for this band. But I was assigned this review, not solicited. This means I have carte blanche to trash it, but I couldn’t possibly find anything bad to say about it. The first track is called “No Hope for the Kids,” which immediately makes me think of the Danish post-punk band from the mid-2000s who came up with acts like MASSHYSTERI and GORILLA ANGREB. However, they sound nothing like those bands. Instead we get this sugary-sweet power pop with beautiful melodies. Having two guitars really takes them to the next level. They’ve got these rad riffs with weird time signatures, all the while the rhythm guitar holds the harmonies just underneath rich and breathy vocals. They remind me a lot of another Seattle band called GAZEBOS. Their songs are soft and sweet, but pack a helluva punch.

Arson Savage Butchery cassette

This is thrash in the VOID tradition, with an edge to the guitar that never strays quite into a metal territory but is still more than fast enough to really nail this fucker home. The vocals are snarled through with a tinge of reverb and just a hint of restraint (barring, of course, the few moments where this thing really kicks into gear). This is hardcore from Leeds, UK by characters you’ve heard from before (PERSPEX FLESH comes to mind) who got the Static Shock treatment, though this is a demo that sounds more like it could’ve come out on 625 Thrashcore sometime during the 2000s—highly recommended.

Asbestos Double Bind demo cassette

Another motherfucking Denver banger. Unpretentious freak stomp hardcore with the perfect blown-out recording, and songs that get straight to the point in a minute or less. Music for eternal raging in concrete basements. This had better not stay a solo project.

Attaktix Contra Order cassette

Absolutely massive release from Lithuania!! Everything you love about ’00s Swedish kång with gratuitous doses of blast brutality and an ear for churning sludge. ATTAKTIX have harnessed all of this and created a fucking monster—unabashed devastation from the Baltics, hell yeah.

偏執症者 (Paranoid) Out Raising Hell Outtakes LP

This is a mini-LP of outtakes from PARANOID’s latest full-length Out Raising Hell. Regrettably, I have not picked up that album yet, but this is very appetizing, recording/production-wise. Diminutive chords (thinking VISIONS also from Sweden) and death metal infernal riffing conjure VENOM, REPULSION, and POSSESSED, also reminding me of contemporaries BASTARD PRIEST and ELEGY. I first got into PARANOID when I reviewed their Cover of the Month cassette some years ago, and was completely stoked on their choices, raging from death metal and classic metal, to crust and mangel D-beat hardcore. PARANOID’s execution plays confidently within the thrash metal/D-beat spectrum, and they make it sound easy. All the gruesome hardcore punk disdain with giblets of old school death metal. This latest LP is clearly headbänger-for-känger.

偏執症者 (Paranoid) Out Raising Hell LP

Sweden’s reigning D-takt kings are back with a monster (and a 12″ of outtakes as a companion release, because they are geniuses). The erratic fukkd up mania of 2015’s Satyagraha are all but gone, and a blackened mötorkång behemoth has risen in its place. Track after track of blistering, raw VENOM-meets-Kill ’Em All reimagined by veterans weaned on ANTI-CIMEX and ENTOMBED. I confess that the mid-tempo bangers like “光の館 (Hikari no Yakata)” are an adjustment for me, but this is a record to be listened to front-to-back (and repeatedly), and when “墓場の目 (Hakaba no Me)” comes lumbering, and then raging, in to close out the first side, I am hooked. I expected this record to be good—it’s better.

ÖPNV ÖPNV cassette

Primitive bass/drum/keys proto-darkwave that sounds (and is) undeniably German. Everything here is cold; even the forceful tracks like “Trabantenstadt,” with its sharp, barked vocals, sound drunk and trepidatious. Throw a Cosey-caliber damaged trumpet into “Rasthof” to top off an excellent offering that demands more listens and deeper exploration.

Ötzi Storm LP

After countless tours and several EPs, Oakland’s femmes fatales ÖTZI bring a little less joy to the world with Storm, their new full-length. They make a genre that sometimes tends toward repetition into something new and exciting: a fresh take on melancholic dark post-punk with dual vocals, chorused guitars, steady beats, bass lines that would make a young Robert Smith blush, and even saxophones and violins make an appearance. This album will give them a well-deserved spot in the modern post-punk scene. A band to keep an eye on.

Babies in the Bardo Babies in the Bardo cassette

The hype sheet references 4AD, CABARET VOLTAIRE, Factory Records, SAVAGE REPUBLIC, and you’re damn right I’m paying attention. Decade (plus) old solo recordings the bassist from EARLY DAY MINERS (it’s cool, I had never heard of them either) unearthed and packaged for eager consumption by a new generation of gloom-obsessed, dreary-faced goth revivalists. BABIES IN THE BARDO are (were?) seizing a time, and they are making it theirs in the process. Minimal synths remain chaotic while ominous bass and loops dominate thirteen cuts driven by painfully deliberate (and casually absent) primitive drums. It’s good, y’all…it’s really good—maybe we all should dust off the recordings in our closets, just in case.

Bad Moves Untenable LP

I fucking love BAD MOVES. Their last record blew me away and I was so eager to hear this new one that I pre-ordered that mess and have spun it several times before MRR assigned it for me to review. Let me just mention that the LP comes with a BAD MOVES crossword puzzle and it was an absolute delight to solve that while listening to this record. Their songs are poppy, and catchy as hell. Between the rhythm guitar riffs, sick leads, and three-part vocal harmonies, there’s so much melody packed into each track. And they’re political as hell to boot! Their song “Working For Free” lays out the horrors of capitalism, wage inequality, and class war all in just over three minutes. But then there’s their single “Party With the Kids Who Wanna Party With You” that starts slowly and sets the foundation for this awesome build-up in the bridge, before it explodes into an all-out dance party. It’s emblematic of the song itself, too—spend some introspective time to figure out who you are, find the community you want to be a part of, and then never let them go. BAD MOVES are like a close friend from that idyllic community who not only highlight the social justice work that needs to be done, but make you feel seen, heard, and loved while they do it right alongside you. Plus, on the surface alone, their songs are all so bubbly and beautiful that I find myself entranced and smiling every time I put them on. I hope they never stop making new music.

Barry Rolfe Look the Business / Molly Molly 7″

Tough-as-yer-like hobnail boot glam rock stomper from Baz on the A side here; I have a real fondness for this type of proto-punk bovver boy throwaway rubbish from this era, all pomp and bluster and latent menace. A paean to being a top dresser from a time when any kicking you’d receive on the terraces was likely to be administered by someone with a feather cut and bellbottoms. Scuzzy, mean and very silly. The B-side is a slightly different tempo, a slinky and saucy number replete with slide guitar, to suit the lyrical content; the joys of getting your leg over.

Beltalowda Unheard Language CD

A transatlantic pandemic project, BELTALOWDA consists of one chap from Bloomington, IN and one in London, UK. The music has that inorganic quality that can often occur when musicians perform their parts at a (social) distance; the somewhat flat, metronomic drum machine sounds contribute to that sensation. That aside, the songs themselves are direct and to the point, lent urgency by the lyrics, which read as instant reactions to current events as they are happening, relayed with a matter-of-fact blankness. The slashing guitars and staccato rhythms mostly suggest MISSION OF BURMA or at times WIRE, although on “One of the Hundred” BELTALOWDA are channeling no one more than FUGAZI. Putting their money where their mouths are, the duo will donate a portion of the proceeds from the EP to social justice causes such as The Bail Project and The Indian Law Resource Center.

Bewitchin’ Pool Bait n Switch cassette

Carbondale, IL seems to be home to some very odd ducks swimming here in the BEWITCHIN’ POOL. From the looks of their previous output, this band seems to have set the bar incredibly low, with a release entitled Tales From the Dolla Bin. This tape is pretty difficult to pigeonhole into a single sub-genre. It’s a bit all over the map, in a very cool way. There’s ’90s alt-rock-inspired stuff, pop that feels reminiscent of the KING KHAN AND BBQ SHOW, tongue-in-cheek cowpunk, a horn section in a song that otherwise sounds like DEAD MOON?! This is wild and I am definitely intrigued to hear more. The slower, more meandering songs lose my attention a bit and make this release feel longer than it actually is, but those upbeat, driving numbers really make it worthwhile.

Big Mess Big Mess Play Bestial Pop 12″

BIG MESS is actually one big, relentless, overwhelming wall of hooks…non-stop, uptempo power pop/pop-punk with contagious riffs and choruses with their own choruses. Six songs of intense desperation made for packed, sweaty, beer-soaked, arms-in-the-air shoutalong fests. This group is due a place on the shelf next to pop-punk’s catchiest tunesmiths, like JAY REATARD, the SPITS, MARKED MEN, SCREECHING WEASEL, etc. etc. Great!

Blinding Glow U.X.O. cassette

Wildly powerful debut from San Diego’s BLINDING GLOW. They make their point in four short D-beat-tinged bursts—furious hardcore wound up supertight with piercing femme vocals, drums pounding underneath a wash of distorted cymbals, and a recording that blows everything out even before it reaches your ears. They get straight to business with the no-bullshit “Apologist,” and then before you know it….it’s over.

Bloody Hell The Consultation EP

Eerie and unnerving warble from Australia. Art-punk, certainly, but without firmly planted feet, allowing for these cool and unexpected shifts that enrich each tune. Their use of keys/synths informs the uneasiness permeating the release, but it’s when pop creeps through the cracks, particularly in “Sex Dot Com,” that I am fully on board. Oddly enough, it’s all got me thinkin’ ’bout off-center shite like YEAH YEAH NOH and the ilk. Bloody good, this BLOODY HELL.

Bootlicker How to Love Life EP

BOOTLICKER’s latest output. Reminiscent of early G.B.H. and DISCHARGE singles, the production nails that certain UK82 texture down well with some extra punch. Also has some aspects of contemporary DIY hardcore punk that reminds a bit of Boston bands from few years back such as BLOODKROW BUTCHER or SAVAGEHEADS. Carries the catchiness and drive that G.B.H. had but also has this stomping USHC that Midwest hardcore delivered. Has this continual punch that seems addicting to your ears. A+

Bullshit Detectör Bullshit cassette EP

A total lack of any frills, bells or whistles from these Texan Oi! types on this three track EP. Stripped back to the literal bare essentials, and then some more, BULLSHIT DETECTÖR takes an incredibly minimalist approach to their songwriting, clearly seeing anything more than three chords and shouting as petit bourgeois decadence; a viewpoint to which I have some sympathy. Larynx-lacerating vocals put me in mind of that CRIMINAL tape from a couple of years ago, and at fewer than seven minutes in length it doesn’t stick about long enough to get tiresome. That said though, if anyone can prove that any of the three songs included on this EP are different from each other in any demonstrable way, they’ve earned my respect and a firm handshake from yours truly because I certainly can’t tell the difference between any of them.

Cage Kicker Cage Kicker cassette

Relentless hardcore punk from Berlin, Germany. This is everything a punk demo should be. It’s fast, it’s pissed, it’s catchy, it’s short which leaves you wanting more. I want more! Oh, so much more! CAGE KICKER seems to hate many of the same things I hate; cops, organized religion, money, prison. What’s not to love about this demo? Pardon me, I have to flip this over and listen to it again being that CAGE KICKER might be my new favorite band.

CCR Headcleaner Street Riffs LP

Based chiefly off their previous album Tear Down the Wall (the one with the photo of a nude hippy smashing a flaming guitar into a vast stack of amplifiers), I had San Fran’s CCR HEADCLEANER loosely pegged as one of those post-COMETS ON FIRE kinda bands who brought hardcore aggression to their classic rock fandom. This holds from time to time on Street Riffs (“Half a Tooth,” the bits of “Office Buildings” that sound like BL’AST), but pound-for-pound there’s more triumphalist stoner rawk, CRAZY HORSE shimmery noodling, and even a little LUNGFISH mysticism. It’s fun as hell and contains multiple moments that’ll have you in a pie-eyed grin, assuming you can get on board with all the stuff I just mentioned, but it does feel like CCR HEADCLEANER are in a transitory period between noisy freek-rock and actual structured songwriting—without having mastered the second of those things.

Charlie Continental & Heaty Beat We’re Getting Fixed (The Grawlix Saves the World) 7″ flexi

Holy shit, thanks to Snappy Little Numbers, it seems it’s flexi-disc month here at MRR. This one has the original version of the song and a remix featuring a rap break (HEATY BEAT) in the middle. This one definitely fits into the category of snappy little number. Mid-tempo and catchy as all hell, if you’ve got a pulse, you’ll find yourself bouncing your head and/or tapping your toes to this one. I’m a fan. Limited to 100 copies if you want the flexi.

Cheap Clone New Paltz / Walk to Canada cassette

Two-song cassingle put out to coincide with the band playing their final show. Both songs are super catchy, jangly ’90s-inspired pop, and sure to get stuck in your head for a while. Admittedly, it kinda feels like I’m watching the end credits of an episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, tho.

Chino Best of Firsts CD

Fuck, this is really good. This young trio manages to channel the best of mid-to-late-’70s British punk (think mid-tempo, largely “clean” guitars). Poppy, anthemic, and unafraid to wander off into various musical directions, this reminds me of the best of the likes of the UK SUBS, 999, the VIBRATORS, and even SLAUGHTER  (i.e. the second SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS LP, where they abbreviated their name accordingly) on the more rock ballad efforts. I guess the FLAMIN’ GROOVIES and the REPLACEMENTS would be the Yank comparisons. Yup, it’s that poised, composed, and fucking dead-on.

Clevers Clevers LP

The singer of this band has a vibrato to their voice much like Marissa from SCREAMING FEMALES, though in a much higher register. Musically they really nail that despondent, anxiety-ridden post-punk sound. In the first track they loop into a repetition of the haunting lyrics “time’s wastin’” for what feels like a full minute. Man, the guitar on the second track “Insight” sounds so fucking cool. Something about this band just feels so grown-up. They’ve got a harmonium, three-part vocal harmonies, and so much distortion. I hear a lot of TERRIBLE FEELINGS here, too. This band is incredibly smart, mature, and talented. Hope to hear a lot more from them.

Come Holy Spirit Undiscovered Land LP

If I recall correctly, my review of COME HOLY SPIRIT’s 2018 LP, Asters and Disasters, leaned heavily on references to the EX/DOG FACED HERMANS axis, no doubt helped along by the guest appearance of longtime EX singer G.W. SOK. Undiscovered Land retains the loose, rhythmic, experimental feel, but (with a couple of exceptions) feels heavier, more muscular, and (understandably) angrier. There’s an dramatic intensity in the interplay between the three musicians, the way the music builds and drops, threading the needle from one part to the next; the lyrics are poetic and directly confronting current events at the same time. This is punk with few of the trappings, independent of fashion. It’s not something you can put on and then go and wash the dishes or something – it demands (and is worthy of) your full attention.

Coriky Coriky LP

These eleven songs are an obvious extension of the EVENS. That’s not to say that Joe Lally on bass doesn’t add anything to the Amy Farina/Ian MacKaye duo—he does—but the overall feel of the record is dictated more by the songwriting style that Farina and MacKaye developed in the EVENS. It still has that moody, rolling, slow head-nodding music that sits in opposition to the strong vocal delivery. On the other hand, Coriky has more depth, greater dynamic shifts, and a little more grit. The bassline on “Inauguration Day” will give folks a brief FUGAZI flashback, and some of the songs, like “Shedileebop,” get a little louder, a little chunkier, a little more blown-out, but it’s nowhere near the “FUGAZI-light” that the internet has been throwing around. A solid record from front to back.

Cold Hell / Corrosion Exposure split EP

Here’s a gnarly hardcore ripper out of Finland that will leave you ice cold. You know it’s going to be a good one when you think the record player is on the wrong speed, but nope, the band just sounds like that. That’s what happened when I put on the COLD HELL side and was instantly assaulted by squealing feedback and way too fast blast beats. This is straight up power-fucking-violence done in the West Coast style. Raw and raging! With no blast beats and more mosh-centric breakdowns, CORROSION has more of a East Coast hardcore style but they are just as raw and vicious in their execution, just like all the bands the West Coast powerviolence bands loved. Kind of like a sub-genre stylistic exploration. So, if you like INFEST and the bands that influenced them, then check this one out.

Cry Out More Echoes of a Question Never Answered… Why? 12”

An anarcho-punk solo project from Montreal/Halifax with obvious nods to CRASS’s Penis Envy that remarkably manages not to sound like a retread. The reverb leaves an eerie vibe rather than simply compensating for lack of substance, the synth creeps in but doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the drum machine is teased with cowbell and noisemakers. During a pandemic that could spawn scores of dreary solo projects, this sounds so deliberate and vital, and uneasy—think The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks by FLUX OF PINK INDIANS. These four songs go in and out of a lot of sonic directions but hold together like a true, no-bullshit statement. The horrible news overshadowing this righteously indignant EP is that its sole creator, Rosie Davis, passed away this past summer before it could come out. Memorable, original, and fitting of these grotesque times; if this were to be a first salvo, it’s impossible not to wonder where this project was going to go. Great to see La Vida Es Un Mus give this the vinyl treatment and that proceeds go to Rosie’s family. What can you say? Cop this. RIP.

Culture Shock Forever + Ever (+ Ever) EP

Apparently one of the rarest Canadian punk 45s ever. This is the sound of people figuring out that they can do punk—plaintive almost sorta Jonathan Richman vocals over sludgy attempts at BUZZCOCKS guitar. A mod punk vision that feels very of its era. Lyrics are all desperate paens to a girl who just won’t succumb. If you are into Good Vibrations outta Ireland this will definitely appeal, feels more rudimentary than, say… RUDI but a similar sensibility! Worth checkin out.

Deadlow Listen Up! EP

Massachusetts NWOBHM-tinged battle Oi! Sort of like a more restrained SHIPWRECKED with some later SLAPSHOT and early DEF LEPPARD thrown in. It works on faster numbers like the opener “Spinning Wheels” but some of this plods on into mediocrity. Still overall not the worst thing you’ll listen to today, hopefully. Rock on mates!

Dear Darkness Let’s Go! EP

Look, straight up, I’m really not into this. It’s definitely for someone, but I am not it. The gritty dirge of the guitar is pretty cool and adds a lot to their grunge sound. The guitar tone reminds me a lot of L7. But the droney, screechy vocals are totally annoying and sound way off key. Sometimes that works for me. Not here though.

Desolat Shareholder of Shit 10″

The first two songs on side B are called “You Fucks in Suits” and “Still Fuck You Suit-Man.” That, along with the album title, lets you know that this band out of Vienna, Austria isn’t fucking with any bourgeoisie. What they are doing is long-winded crust dirges that, while incorporating some sick riffs, don’t really ever go anywhere. They kind of ride the same groove for the whole album with no real explosive freakouts or heart-sinking sludge breakdowns, just a consistent simmering rage. This isn’t bad, but it’s not very exciting either.

Devil’s Den Barbed New Religion LP

Ferocious outta-the-gate hardcore from Kansas City. Definite Japanese ZOUO-like influences, as well as contemporaries like GAG, S.H.I.T., and CONCEALED BLADE. Trippy, slowed-down soundbites in between songs. Works well on songs like “Obsession and Disorder,” “D.O.T.M.,” and “God Off,” and it’s mastered really fucking loud. Never been much of a fan of the echoey reverbed vocal style, but hey, that’s just me. See you in the virtual pit.

Dictator Ship Your Favorites CD

From the really unfortunate band name and the label where this Swedish band resides, I was expecting yet another HELLACOPTERS/GLUECIFER worshiping band of posers. The kind with the fringe suede vests and iron crosses tattooed on their respective cocks. Instead I was maybe sorta kinda pleasantly surprised to find that in lieu of the usual STOOGES and MOTÖRHEAD worship, these Swedes choose to take their cues from the likes of FREE and classic-era UFO. With a singer capable of doing the Paul Rogers or Phil Mogg thing and a band that can play those licks, they are punk only in the fact that the longest song barely cracks five minutes. Imagine that great ’70s hard rock record you hide behind your “Dis” band collection. Instead of long, sprawling jams with flute and tabla solos, every song is condensed to an easily digested format barely clocking in at 20 minutes total. Favorite tracks are “In the Heat of the Night,” “Just For Fun” and “Eat the Poor.” A lot of this is cliche and self-indulgent but still, it’s nice to hear some “rock” in MRR.

Die Schiefe Bahn Atmungsaktiv demo cassette

Minimal, restrained post-punk from Berlin untangling the threads left behind by the usual Neue Deutsche Welle suspects (XMAL DEUTSCHLAND, MALARIA!, et al.); clearly the reverse side of the same coin as the solid AUS LP that came out earlier this year, and not just because I could tell at first listen that there had to be some shared personnel between the two groups—I’ve only done the lightest of research, but I’m fairly certain of it. Those distinct, dispassionately intoned vocals auf Deutsch were a giveaway, although DIE SCHIEFE BAHN de-emphasize the dry-ice synth that heightens AUS’ mesh-and-lace otherworldliness, sticking to cyclic basslines, no-frills drumming, and quick cuts of scalpel-edged guitar in a display of almost No Wave-ish brutalism. “Auf die schiefe Bahn” basically means “to go off the rails,” but this demo is totally buttoned-up—six songs all under two minutes each, every note and beat placed with calculated precision, not a second wasted.

Disfear Soul Scars LP reissue

This is a mammoth reissue from Havoc Records. This is the A Brutal Sight of War era line-up of DISFEAR abominating a ruthless Scan-D-beat echoing riff onslaught. DISFEAR hits the tempo spot-on with a repetitive hexing of hardcore bestial anti-warpunk. The drums cut the air like the propellers of a war chopper, the guitar buzzes like a blowtorch, the bass crushes all in its path. Soul Scars is harsh attack from beginning to end. I think you know what to expect; but DISFEAR always hits the target and decimates it by the time the LP is through. Like DISCLOSE pound like a torrential rain, DISFEAR thunders and explodes. Even the mid-tempo tracks are as fast as many imitators play entire sets. DISFEAR has the timing and simplicity for the style that is perfect. The vocals are a charred furnace. Being a band since the late ’80s, there are many dimensions to their classic style. Even their name is straight to the point! They remain kings in the D-beat arena. I saw them once at CBs in 2006 with Tompa on vocals, and hearing this reissue takes me back to that pulverizing set. Defenders of the D-beat until the end! Definitely worth your attention.

Dispo Rauchen Macht Heroinabhängig cassette

After a killer trash-punk opener, DISPO switches gears and drops a track that comes off like Cows and Beer-era KREUZEN bashing out modern garage punk. It’s a great combination of sub-genre influences—hardcore, darker ’80s Deutsch punk, wild garage hooks, and snotty ’70s NYC art are all represented in a release that doesn’t sound like it owes anything to anyone.

Drill Sergeant The Cosmic Leash cassette

Philly hardcore brutality with a raw, cavernous production. The pedal-augmented guitar tone unleashes some truly horrifying feedback screams. Stylistically, you could call it powerviolence, but it’s more bashy than chuggy—somewhere in between HERESY, INFEST, and YDI. Lyrically a bit tortured, written in the first person and with rich, damning vocabulary. A shock to the system.

Drug Victim Mongrel EP

DRUG VICTIM is a straight edge band from Plymouth in England. If I lived in Plymouth I’d probably be straight edge as well, if only as an excuse to avoid its pubs full of off-duty army meatheads. Mongrel, their second release, crams seven songs onto one side of a 7″, balancing lyrics roughly equally between the politicised (factory farming on “Bolt Cutter”; religion, or some iteration of it, on “Dynamite Money”) and the negative/introspective. You can guess from the artwork this isn’t gonna be your corny youthcrew type sXe: I reckon DRUG VICTIM would prefer to think of themselves more on a COKE BUST or VACCINE kinda tip, with thick sludgy sections breaking up the powerviolence tempos. Of the four labels co-releasing it, two are from the UK, one from the US and one from Spain, should that info aid your purchase.

Eddie Criss Group Undertaker LP reissue

Originally released in 1980 on “King of Punk” DAVID PEEL’s Orange Records, the sole album from NYC songsmith Eddie Criss’s namesake group serves up a hot, greasy slice of forgotten rock history. More down-and-dirty, glam-tinged rock ’n’ roll than proper punk, the tunes on this reissued LP have been blessed with the distinct guitar work of the MC5’s Wayne Kramer! Kramer’s fiery lead licks are all over this thing, and tunes like the opening “Lady In Waiting” and “Witches Hour” are bona-fide blazers that will surely command the attention of any ’70s sleaze-rock hound. Production is properly thin and crispy, cracking to reveal pools of subtle psychedelia as demonstrated on “Sequences.” Undertaker is definitely a product of its era, and wasn’t exactly breaking any new ground. “Just No Use,” for instance, is pretty much “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with a different tempo and lyrics. There’s weak spots like the ham-fisted CHUCK BERRY impression on “Let Me Rock ’n’ Roll,” and at least one song that would cause Eddie to be promptly canceled were it to hit the mainstream today (“Schoolgirlz”), but those are overshadowed by the raw street soul that laces the majority of this once-buried slab. I’m glad they dug it up.

Eye Witness Demo 2019 cassette

EYE WITNESS from Salem/Boston, MA released a limited quantity of tapes in late 2019 with poor circulation but what they lack in promotional skills they make up for in perfectly brutish hardcore punk. The recording is blown out and sounds like a tape that’s been dubbed well over a hundred times but even still the guitar, drums and vocals stick out over the rumbling bass. It’s worth hearing between the perfectly timed accentuating shouts that sound like a caveman pondering life and the nods to POISON IDEA, MISFITS, and RAW POWER. What you’d expect from a band with a members-of list longer than this review.

Eyes and Flys Everyday Life / Wait for the Sun 7″

A record of two halves, each as enjoyable as it is different. “Everyday Life” is a blown-out, mid-paced garage schlock downer, while the flip is a quirky, scratchy acoustic guitar-driven dirge with tweaked-out vocals and an earworm melody. Could be a one-off, could be your next DIY bedroom SWELL MAPS/BUTTHOLES/NO TREND heroes?

Gallows Birds Quaranteenage Kicks CD

The title of the CD will forever tie this one to 2020 [let’s hope! –Ed.]. One song in and I’m thinking of the QUEERS with even more BEACH BOYS influence. On the off-chance that means nothing to you, think pop punk with a heavy side of surf. If the QUEERS wrote songs mostly about girls, GALLOWS BIRDS also write songs about the beach and cars/scooters. It’s catchy and for sure well done.

Get Dead Dancing With the Curse CD

This is really fucking good. After a rather throw-away hip hop opening, this disc really hits the ground running. Full bloody tilt. They meld that NorCal melodic punk sound with some ska-steady moments (minus the horns of course), and a healthy dose of raw-throat pop. At its height (and there are mostly highs here), it’s eerily reminiscent of the FALCON and STAR FUCKING HIPSTERS…neither of which are NorCal bands, I readily concede, but I can’t really think of much greater praise.

Ghetto Blasters Point Blank EP

I wonder if it’s OK to use the term “ghetto blaster” these days. Never really thought of that until now, but who cares when you’re hearing some high-powered rock ’n’ punk from the gateway to the South, Chattanooga, TN. HEARTBREAKERS, DEAD BOYS, and a lot of ELECTRIC FRANKENSTEIN are heard in this reviewer’s head, and…holy shit…this features motherfucking Buddha on guitar. Yes, that Buddha from CHICKENHEAD, LOS CANADIANS, STUN GUNS, and a zillion other bands fame. Justin Savage has the perfect razorblade squeal for this kind of rock, and you get two excellent mid-tempo grinders that are followed by my favorite, the short fast shock of “Let It Rock.” Middle-aged dudes rock! Nap time.

Gimmick Quarantine cassette

Chunky hardcore out of the the Pacific Northwest. A little slower and less trebly than their regional cohorts ELECTRIC CHAIR and SUCK LORDS, but also a little less straightforward. The vocals are the standout here, provided by the aptly named Gag (expect lots of punk retching), and they add a nice layer of punk slop to the mix. The overall effect reminds me of BLACK PANTIES or other egg-adjacent hardcore. This stuff works best when they either slow things to a crawl and really let the negativity breathe, as they do on “Pickled Heart,” or when they really go for it and let the bile fly like on “Boi Shit.” Seven-song cassette—same program both sides—limited to 100 copies (and looks like Sorry State still has a few). A solid debut, and I’m certainly interested in hearing more from these guys!

Gomme Absent Healing 12″

Goth rockers from France with the requisite chorus pedal and the reverb. At first I was put off because 1) a lot of bands over the past decade have been going at this sound, and 2) the production struck me as a bit polished. But first impressions are misleading, because GOMME thankfully mixes it up with personality and outright intensity that bring to mind the more noisy and meandering parts of early MAGIK MARKERS while rejecting the verse-chorus-verse convention of foundational goth punks like SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES. Their vocals shift languages; between English, French, and German; between singer, and attack; spoken, sung in tune, sung out of tune, overlapping, and in once instance, erupting in sick laughter. They use and abuse synths to good, noisy effect. In under 20 minutes, Absent Healing is good for when you want something slightly out of the norm, but not something so harsh or noisy to break your train of thought. It’s enough to make a trip to the post office the right amount of creepy.

Haircut Cake EP

HAIRCUT had an EXIT ORDER affinity when they first popped up, but they’ve fully come into their own here on their third 7″. The drummer’s got fills, the vocals come across like distorted pleas, and there are a few riffs that are catchy enough for me to remember. Both “Prayer for a Little Girl” and “Take It” offer what I want to hear in a hardcore song, with changes of pace that flip the slam/skank switch in my mind. Nothing boundary breaking or genre defining, but still a fine specimen of modern hardcore punk with no major discernible rip-offs.

Hard Action Yours Truly / Walk Away 7″

Hard, moustachioed, denim jacket with enamel pins all-dude action, to give these Finns their full title. Their Hot Wired Beat LP was some pretty solid garage-rock-that-emphasised-the-rock stuff, but on the basis of this latest two-song job I feel HARD ACTION is a proverbial singles band—that, or these songs are just better. “Yours Truly” has its introductory protopunk chug usurped by a struttin’ THIN LIZZY-esque riff and wistful, vaguely heartland rock-y vox; “Walk Away” increases the tempo a shade, reserving its rawk leanings for the chorus. SHEER MAG’s first album and TV CRIME’s first singles are decent contemporary markers for this pair of fist-pumpers.

Heavy Discipline Heavy Discipline LP

There was a period in my life when I though the best part of hardcore was when the mid-tempo, two-step-ish bridge parts exploded and, aside from the bursted tension, everything slowed down, opening more space to rampage. HEAVY DISCIPLINE uses such parts frequently, sometimes the extent is even switched to the detriment of the rapid riffs. Along with the cruising tempo comes a bit of hymnic, sort of power pop-ish aggression masked with rude yelling that seals the record since it works too well and draws all attention from anything that is beyond the gimmicks. So fucking what? Instead of my let’s-revise-hardcore failed attempts as reviews, HEAVY DISCIPLINE is probably already proud of this body of work that tastefully matches the most stomping riffs of DYS with the sheer catchy aggression of LAST RIGHTS, while it still could refer on the violent melodies of Oi! and keep the whole thing together. It’s current hardcore that avoids well both the bro-vibes and the stashed-under-your-bed serial killer materials too, focusing only on heavy riffing and stomping. It’s a fire record if you are into the Painkiller catalogue.

Hekátē Μέρες Οργής / Days of Wrath LP

Synth-punk with a deathly pallor from Athens, a take-no-shit attitude nevertheless prevails in what appears to be HEKÁTĒ’s debut release. Ping-ponging between Greek and English for their lyrics, an organ sounds like it’s set to overheat on “Καλοκαίρι 2018,” while “Soapbox” is—in sentiment more than music—as dead-on as first-wave Riot Grrrl’s finest (“You get in my way and fuck up my day / You push me aside then ask me to smile / Ugh!”). A bumpin’ goth-punk bassline and psych-flecked keyboard swirl backs up Lydia’s reverbed-up vox on “Cul-De-Sac,” which along with “Ψυχαναγκασμός” comes off like ES trying out a WARSAW / STRANGLERS gene-splice, unlikely an occurrence as that might in reality be. “Αθήνα,” which closes the album, is billed as a collection of field recordings from Athens, and encompasses some sort of (possibly) tavern-bound balladry, smashing glass, thunder (or are those bombs?) and police sirens. Pretty skilfully assembled, actually, and doesn’t jar with an otherwise rocking set of post-punk.

Humant Blod Flykten Från Verkligheten EP

Pedigrees don’t make bands, but they’ll sure as hell make you pay attention, and when Poffen (TOTALITÄR, MAKABERT FYND, DISSEKERAD, etc.) and Mattis (MAKABERT FYND, DISSEKERAD, etc.) hooked up with a trio of Americans from QUESTION, SAD BOYS, MERCENARY, POX, ZERO, CONDOMINIUM, SUBVERSIVE RITE (and others), people fucking paid attention. We all assumed it was going to be good, but HUMANT BLOD is better. Complete and total rage from start to finish—relentless, fist-banging kång. I feel like if anything, the students here might have inspired the masters, and the result is an absolutely classic piece of wax. The internet has already melted over Flykten Från Verkligheten, so I might be preaching to the choir, but holy shit, this is a great record. Choice cut, “Ingen Kontroll,” if only for the solo.

Icarus Phoenix Icarus Phoenix cassette

Adult evening listening here, a brilliant and advanced collection of shoegazing indie folk. Carefully orchestrated composition and instrumentation, crooning vocals with a wispy-haired hip country twang, Icarus Phoenix is absolutely a professional and visionary release. Your punk friends will fucking hate you for liking it.

Indonesian Junk A Life of Crimes CD

This is a collection of singles and rarities from this Wisconsin band. These guys have been cranking out the JOHNNY THUNDERS style of punk rock’n’roll for a while now. Thirteen tracks here, including covers of KISS, the JONESES, and SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS. Although I haven’t followed INDONESIAN JUNK closely over the years, they do this genre justice. I like these types of collections for the music when you haven’t found every piece of vinyl by a band.

Jad Wstręt EP

After a few consistently solid releases, Warsaw’s JAD self-releases a concise 7″ of heavy hardcore. Ugly chromatic riffs tied in with the beefy drum production make this sound way tougher than some of the musically ancestral references like ABBADON, ARMIA, or hardcore-era SIEKIERA. Most of this short platter is circle pit speed, except for a few moshy sections that don’t drag on too long. Nothing in particular makes this stand out but it’s still great angry hardcore.

Joukkohauta Valloita Ja Tuhoa EP

Side A is a scorching non-stop frenzy of breathless vocals and swarm-like guitar with the morphine-drop speed of DESTRUKTIONS. Drums barrage through similar to VIIMEINEN KOLONNA with the overall density of RAJOITUS. However, JOUKKOHAUTA is one of the even heavier Finnish hardcore bands I’ve heard, mixing in slight echo in the production similar to contemporaries KOHTI TUHOA. Writhing between charges under hissing and seething vocal madness. Side B lets up on the intense speed for a moment but continues to wash over everything with aural turmoil. I’m just gonna say it, the Finnish language as presented through punk always sounds fucking nasty to me! This play is extremely intense on all levels. Course, menacing vocals, tight-fisted punching riffs, subtly dark changes played on the higher side—a register that is hard to hit, sounding bleak without folding the hardcore down-tuned into crust. Bound to be a classic Finnish release, and one of the best of the year. This EP rules!

Jung The Real Thing EP

JUNG was a spontaneous Brussels-based trio featuring former and future members of a whole tangled web of cult Belgian punk and post-punk groups—CHAINSAW, DIGITAL DANCE, MARINE, ISOLATION WARD, the list goes on. While DIGITAL DANCE was on hiatus during the summer of 1981 due to half of the band fulfilling their compulsory military service, the remaining two members recruited a friend to play bass, quickly threw themselves in playing together daily, and ended up with three songs recorded during a one-day session. Those tracks were supposed to be released on vinyl later that year, which never ultimately happened due to “successive misfortunes” (although ten copies of the record apparently did make it out somehow?!), so this EP marks the first proper documentation of JUNG™s extremely short lifespan. “The Real Thing” locks into an insistent, bass-anchored mutant funk rhythm like early A CERTAIN RATIO minus the horns or GANG OF FOUR minus the overt Marxism, while “Sinking Tanker” (originally a DIGITAL DANCE track) skews more toward the scratchy post-punk/spiky pop hybrid practiced by JOSEF K and any number of here-then-gone Messthetics-aligned projects. The B-side even ends with a quick, off-kilter cover of the theme song to the ‘60s British spy TV program The Avengers, if the band™s Anglophilic interests weren™t already apparent. Yet another obscure, one-off gem from an early ™80s global DIY micro-movement with no shortage of them!

Kasshuve Grisablod EP

This recent release from Swedish outfit KASSHUVE proves that all you need to make great music is pure aggression. In an age of ever-constant overproduced and glamorous pop songs, this EP stands out as an anomaly of fucked up noise. The vocals are delivered in a constant guttural scream. Piercingly overdriven guitars, thick bass, and pummeling drums. Its lo-fi recording aesthetic adds to the overall noisiness and fuzz. The EP is rough and raw around the edges in all the best ways. The band wears their influences on their sleeves, but still creates something hard-hitting and fresh.

Katastrophe Tod In Gewahrsam cassette

Who doesn’t love simple, straightforward punk performed confidently and convincingly? “Tod In Gewahrsam” and “432€” are fast, intense pogo-able blasts of three-chord hardcore. “In Vielfalt Vereint” is a depressive drone with a metallic reverb vocal effect, but somehow conveys the same aggression as the rest of the tracks. Like when you play something on 33 when it’s meant to be on 45 and it actually works! KATASTROPHE gets everything right in just a few minutes of rage, and will particularly appeal to fans of catchy, hardcore-infused ’80s Deutschpunk. My understanding of German is limited but it doesn’t take a genius to notice the anti-cop theme, and all proceeds of the cassette sales go to the following organizations supporting victims of racist police violence: /

Knowso Specialtronics Green Vision LP

Solid stuff from Cleveland punkers with some obvious DEVO in their DNA but also hinting at what it would sound like if NOMEANSNO were fronted by Steve Albini. They’re locked into a sound that is angular, makes a clear separation between guitar and bass, and keeps steady with deadpan double-tracked vocals evoking enough dread and despair that there’s no need for hooks. “Digital God” is the standout commentary on toxic contemporary life with lines like “I’m sending out letter bombs / It’s my first time.” At times they deserve the Johnny Ramone prize for sustained downpicking, other times the songs break down into more noodly-doodley rhythms but never approaching prog in their excess. Overall consistent, direct, and not particularly full of surprises once it gets going, but in all its pissed-off tension, totally works.

Korrosive Hiroshima flexi

Sizzling hardcore from Oakland densely churning with Finnish inflection. Vocals trill and cinder over gloomy mid-tempo tribal percussion. Guitar wanes and dives like a bomb raid alarm, with bass pulling the message through with poetic meter. A lengthy piano outro reminds of ANTI-SECT’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Get this limited edition flexi, a single track called “Anti,” which encapsulates the mood of the year quite provocatively, however stating all due respect to the victims of Hiroshima—an incomparable devastation, this year marking its 75th anniversary. What have we learned?

Korrosive Observations From the West LP

Bay Area Finnish hardcore enthusiasts KORROSIVE deliver a potent blow of a debut album with Observations From the West. They’ve been busy with demos, live tapes, two 7″ EPs and a split 7″ with APPENDIX, and all this rotation made them perfect at what we all love so much: Pure KAAOS, MELLAKKA, BASTARDS worship with a bit of UK82 here and there. And yes, songs about war. What could go wrong?

Ex-White / LASSIE split cassette

LASSIE starts things out with three cuts, which remind me of early DEVO in many ways; they’ve got an electronic element, they’re catchy, and they’re a tad bit odd. I also like all three tracks quite a bit. Make no mistake about it, this is punk rock. EX WHITE follows things up with four cuts of their own. Faster paced and without the same level of electronics, they’ve got a similar sound in the sense that it’s a tad bit odd and it’s extremely catchy. This is definitely worth looking for, but the Bandcamp page indicates that it’s sold out.

Löckheed Conflict Delirium EP

Hard-hitters LÖCKHEED from Santa Barbara return, after the brilliantly savage 4 Track Demo released last year, with Conflict Delirium. Kängpunk-worship reminiscent of early DISFEAR, DISCHANGE, or DISCARD, complete with a production that would make Kawakami proud. This EP will stand on the top 2020 lists of many Dis-beat maniacs. Sometimes you just need the simpler things in life: just plain DISCHARGE-styled hardcore.

Lucifer Star Machine The Devil’s Breath CD

To paraphrase the ol’ cliche, you can’t judge a CD by its cover—front, in this case presumably of old Nick himself (I guess) breathing, nor back, with the band all wearing cutoff jean jackets to better show their full-sleeve and neck tattoos. Not sure what I was expecting at all. But it wasn’t this. The MACHINE displays an accomplished array of driving pop-rock, rock, punk, and some fantastic guitar solos. I deliberately avoided metal, or even metallic. Cranked-up rock’n’roll, for sure, à la SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS, plus the power pop/rock of a PAT BENATAR and THIN LIZZY. Definitely way more STRAW DOGS than SPEEDEALER, and majestic rock à la TURBONEGRO. Even the acoustic closer sounded pretty good. The singer has a fine set of pipes on him, and the guitar players know how to solo, with never a “squeal” or even a false harmonic. Just goes to show, I guess.

Lucy and the Rats Dark Clouds / Get Down 7″

This is a quartet out of London that makes lovely, garage-y pop songs. On this record there are only two, but they both clock in at over three minutes and are chock-full of melody and powerful leads. I would call both of them mid-tempo pop ballads that are easy to sway along to while we’re all cooped up in our homes. The production is pretty slick, which is nice because it really spotlights Lucy’s crisp and gorgeous vocals. The first song especially reminds me quite a bit of MUNCIE GIRLS, though both tracks are multi-layered, and uniquely their own. If you’re looking for something chill to ease your mind in isolation, this ought to be near the top of your list.

Max Nordile Building a Better Void LP

21st century renaissance man MAX NORDILE continues his assault on logic with another solo joint that defies expectations and rewards those predisposed to the counter-intuitive. You may know him from art-punk units like PREENING and UZI RASH, but when left to his own devices, Max gets into a heap of trouble and makes an intriguing mess—a “Public Pile” according to one track. Opener “Deep Face” sounds like ALASTAIR GALBRAITH having a bad day, while other cuts suggest CAROLINER playing it straight. “Diligent Pores” is an extended meditation that steeps coffee shop clatter and submerged guitar noise in a broken teacup. By the end of the album, the microphone is in the waffle iron and your head is in the radiator and everything is in its proper place.

Maximum Joy Station M.X.J.Y. LP reissue

1982’s Station M.X.J.Y., one of the definitive statements in the lexicon of dubbed-out ’80s post-punk and the sole LP from Bristol’s MAXIMUM JOY, was reissued earlier this year because reality is truly cyclical (as is subcultural influence). A collaboration between an ex-POP GROUP guitarist, some former members of GLAXO BABIES, and teenage vocalist Janine Rainforth, MAXIMUM JOY lifted from many of the same primary sources as the other projects on their collective CVs, as well as their Y Records labelmates like the SLITS and PIGBAG—serrated post-punk, wobbly dub reggae, elastic funk, experimental jazz, etc. Janine’s ecstatic vocals, the fiery blasts of horns, and some scrabbling polyrhythms made their debut single (and arguably, best-known song) “Stretch” an all-time mutant disco banger, but given the long-playing format of Station M.X.J.Y., the band seized the opportunity to really dig into some simmering and often largely instrumental grooves. “Do It Today” and “Searching for a Feeling” hit closest to the frenetic punk-funk energy of “Stretch,” leaving the LP’s more drawn-out, slow-burning tracks like “Mouse an’ Me” or “Let It Take You There” to soundtrack the morning after the dancefloor. If you’ve enjoyed the contemporary update of this particular sound by bands like the WORLD and NAKED ROOMMATE and haven’t fully worked your way backward yet, now is the time!

Militarie Gun My Life Is Over EP

Snotty, melodic hardcore with a Dischord lean tackles the JESUS LIZARD. It’s mid-tempo, it’s chunky, but it’s catchy and it’s probably just barely on this side of the line between punk and heavy rock. Strangely, the most interesting song, the final track, is the lightest one here. It’s melodic and head-nodding with a Revolution Summer feel, but with harsh, screamed vocals. Four solid songs, not a stinker in the bunch.

Mindforce Swingin’ Swords, Choppin’ Lords 12″

Seven minutes of heaven for fans of heavy bouncing hardcore that facilitates swinging fists and (hopefully) a variant of beautiful mosh styles. The thrashy guitars squeal then fade, acting as a precursor to pig-pile-inducing shouts, all of which allow me to imagine the claps and boastful “Wooooh”s elicited from hardcore fest attendees. Between the stomp and crawl of “Fratello” and the quick oddly abridged song structures, MINDFORCE’s formula takes equally from heavy metal, thrash and early ’90s NYHC synthesized into their own quick, twisting, simplified bursts. It works for them and I now understand the hype but I would like to see some ideas explored further. This 12″ leaves me wondering two things: how many members of MINDFORCE are Italian American and how can we reverse market forces so that 7″s are once again the cheapest means of putting out records?

Mitraille Hoopschroot EP

High-powered, blistering power pop out of Antwerp, Belgium. Their songs are incredibly charged and fuzzed-out with sharp guitar leads. Track three, “Paranoia,” has these fantastic high notes being shot out of one guitar, while the other chugs along in a lo-fi, grungy rhythm. Then they slow things way down with “Nothing To Do” which has a tempo at about half the velocity of the first three songs, though the vocals are just consistent screaming which more than makes up for the lack of speed. “Mors In Olla” breaks pattern yet again, but this time as an instrumental that includes dueling trumpets, minimal percussion, and sparse guitar with a layer of distortion and feedback over top. I could see these guys fitting in perfectly with fans of MARKED MEN, FYP, and DRAKULAS. Loved every second of it.

Morwan Зола-Земля (Zola-Zemlya) LP

MORWAN is the solo project of Kiev-based artist Alex Ashtaui. My worry prior to listening to this was that it was gonna be more ’80s Eastern Bloc post-punk cosplay, à la MOLCHAT DOMA (whom I like, but don’t need more of!). This is resoundingly not that! Tonally, it’s not dissimilar—it’s definitely on the gothier end of the punk spectrum, and I can see TikTok teens co-opting snippets to soundtrack their #sovietvibes videos. But the sound here is much more organic and relies on post-punk as a foundation to build atop rather than a sound to emulate. Vocals are multi-tracked chants that echo as though recorded in some imposing brutalist atrium. The guitar and bass lines remind me of the surf/psych instrumentals coming out of Pakistan in the late ’60s (like the MODS or the PANTHERS), and the drum patterns are intricate to the point of sounding programmed (in that respect, it even reminds me of AMON TOBIN’s 2005 album Chaos Theory). All of these elements are extremely rhythmic yet are woven together to create a sound that’s overtly melodic and much warmer than you’d think given its “Eastern European Post-Punk” label. But maybe most strikingly, this album makes me want to move—not necessarily dance—just…move. Really, it’s hard to overstate how original this record sounds and just how impressive it is. Absolutely fantastic!

Much Band Literally Too Pleasurable cassette

Outsider pop from upstate New York. Doses of innocent twee, quirky proto/post-punk blurts, Nuggets-era pop, freeform experimental and some weird indie-by-way-of-yacht-rock bits (“Cut The Cake”) that I simply don’t understand. When I think of those bits as interludes between the freak stuff, MUCH BAND is a much better band. Somewhat curious that this cassette is on the Zazen imprint—a newer label who popped onto my radar for their noisecore and harsh electronic releases…it’s good to keep your fans guessing.

Muck and the Mires Take Me Back to Planet Earth CD

Six songs of by-the-numbers power pop with all the requisite bells and whistles: organ flourishes, handclaps, and ’60s guitar jangle. That said, this is lushly produced, and MUCK and co. have been around for long enough to know their way around a catchy hook, so if this is your kind of thing, you probably can’t go too wrong here. Plus, just to prove they are not completely stuck in a bygone era, this album closes with the up-to-the-minute ode to getting dumped the modern way, “Zoom Breakup”!

Mutant Strain Mutant Strain LP

An (im?)proper long-player from Charlotte, NC’s Mutant Strain, this album was recorded live, three songs at a time, with no breaks in between. That’s gangster. Loaded with twists, turns, and plenty of catchy hardcore pummeling, the music of MUTANT STRAIN is infused with the fiendish spirit of DAWN OF HUMANS at times and the winding intrigue of the COLTRANES at others, with a healthy dollop of anarcho influence spread throughout (the elaborate sleeve and multiple inserts included with the record are done in the style of Crass Records as well.) The theatrical female vocals here get downright demonic, providing a nice contrast to the grinds and grooves of their hook-laden, bass-heavy backdrop. This is intricate work, from the cover art and packaging, to the concept of the recording and track arrangement, and right on to the dense and poignant songwriting itself. A hell of a debut.

Nabat 1981 Laida Bologna Demo LP

This is the real stuff. At a time when a significant strain of European Oi! is milquetoast panto shite made by scruffy chancers in trainers, it’s nice to be reminded of what made it so exhilarating. This recently-rediscovered demo from 1981 represents some of the earliest recordings of the legendary Italian band and it’s truly great. It’s NABAT at their rawest, route one, kick-you-in-the-bollocks punk. Short, sharp and to the point like a jab to the kidneys; it’s the scuzzy and antisocial Oi! we all have come to love, all while they are seemingly having a complete laugh with their mates while doing so. A belter.

Nag Red Panda cassette

Three-song self-released cassette from Atlanta, GA. For those of you not yet familiar with NAG, they have already released a slew of releases, including a single on Total Punk Records. Choppy, spastic hardcore punk that also mixes in mid-tempo garage aspects, and does it damn well. These three songs are awesome and it seems that since this tape was released, there is a new LP out now as well. Gonna be getting my hands on that ASAP.

Night Lunch Wall of Love LP

On their debut album, Montreal new wave quartet NIGHT LUNCH serves up something closer to a midnight snack. It’s all too slight—the keyboards, the vocals, the guitar, the cover art. I’m hungry, so angry and NIGHT LUNCH could probably use a second helping of something spicier (MEDIUM MEDIUM-hot salsa?). Wall of Love is finger food when a burrito as big as your head is needed. Sorry, you don’t like these food metaphors? Sorry, I don’t like this record.

No One Knows Who Did This No One Knows Who Did This cassette

A novelty recording featuring a seven-year-old vocalist is not exactly the thing that gets me fired up, but for every rule, there’s an exception. The tracks are smart, sharp, garage punk ditties, and our featured singer is full of fire and vinegar on tracks like and “B.U.T.T.T.S.” and “Shocker Docker Ocker”—and if I wasn’t already onboard, my old ass can full identify with “I Gotta Pee.” Novelty? Perhaps. But punks who like to have fun might want to dig on this one.

Nope Nope 10″

NOPE are from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The impression of listening to the first couple of tracks was about DISORDER/CHAOS UK vibes but this also somehow has a F.Y.P. or Recess Records feel. Less punch or aggression, more garage punky, and sloppy, catchy (somewhat), and most importantly, fun. Artwork consists of pictures of a dump and with song titles like “We’ve Tried Nothing And We’re All Out Of Ideas” it sounds like trash in the most appropriate way possible.

Normil Hawaiians In the Stone / Where Is Living? 7″

Originally a weird, scratchy crypto-anarcho collective on the hippier fringes of early ’80s UK post-punk, NORMIL HAWAIIANS’ return was preceded by Upset The Rhythm reissuing most of their back catalogue. Tentative gig action followed, and now there’s a two-song single of brand new fodder recorded somewhere very remote in Scotland. “In the Stone” grows from an alarmingly cruddy electric guitar intro to a wobbly suite of garage/psych organ, tom-heavy drums and spoken word. “Where Is Living?” on the flip again has a poetic bent, bewailing environmental destruction and “self-made prisons” over soft keyboards and, god love their earnestness, birdsong. Not sure how many copies of this exist, but about six weeks ago I did a serious double-take upon seeing a massive poster (like, “next one down from billboard”-sized) advertising it in the city centre where I live. Guessing the cost of such things is through the floor at the moment, so why not.

Norms Háború És Fű 12”

I mean, as soon as the cowbell drops, you know this is going to take some work. You know you’re going to have to put the time in to make it work. And the guitar that follows is straight off of Nine Patriotic Hymns… which is when you really need to start paying attention. On their second proper 12″, Budapest veterans NORMS push out eight tracks of thinking person’s hardcore. Sure, they are fast and extremely chaotic, but check the single-note speed picking on “Lassú Emberek.” Pay attention to the frantic vocal delivery (aside from the earlier guitar reference, the only other comparison I will lean on is that the vocals remind me of Ernesto from LIFES HALT), and the damage they inject into the chaos of tracks like “Háború És Fü” demands extensive examination. The underbelly here is manic, post-’90s USHC, but by digging for the influences of their influences while maintaining their identity as a new century hardcore band, NORMS manifest as something completely different than from either past or present. The record is great, and I like that it demands careful attention before it will let you let loose. And that cowbell…..? Oh, it comes back.

Obnox Savage Raygun 2xLP

A wildly schizophrenic album for a tremendously fucked up year. My mind has been working overtime since the beginning of 2020 and it seems that LAMONT THOMAS’s brain has been, too. Fortunately, he got some of those thoughts down on vinyl. The sounds OBNOX presents on this double LP take a while to digest. So take your time with it. Try listening at different times of day and in different settings. Use headphones or blast it out of a crappy boombox. There are psychedelically mellow guitars, whispered vocals, receptive drum machine beats, chaotic noise and funky bass parts. The record does not stop giving. For me the simple one-two-three shot of “Heaven,” “Misery” and “Return Fire” just about sums up my 2020 (lack of) thought process.

Outtacontroller Sure Thing LP

I’ve always been a fan of Alien Snatch Records. They consistently put out not just stuff that I like, but quality stuff. This one is no exception. I suppose I’d call this power pop, but it’s more than that. It’s catchy for sure, but it’s also got a fair amount of distortion that gives it some meat. I also find that vocals (and harmonies) give it a certain texture that elevates it above just being another decent power pop record. As I finish up listening to it, I’m struck that it’s a good record the first time through, but it’s also a certainty for me that it’ll just get better and better as I listen to it again. This is worth looking for.

Overcharge Metal Punx LP

On their third full-length, these Italian D-beaters do just enough to keep things fresh. While they’ve drilled down on the typical MOTÖRHEAD-worship style of many other bullet-belted punks—in case the -CHARGE suffix didn’t clue you in—they do it competently with a few tweaks to the formula to keep things interesting. This band doesn’t require close analysis, though. It is the kind of music you throw on your leather and swig several tall cans for. Turn off that thinky bit in your skull and just go all in, because it’s fun as hell even if it earns few points for originality. Tracks like “Lords of Hysteria” even resemble the later crusty period of DARKTHRONE, which is always a good thing. This trio is going to keep doing what they’re doing and you can bang thy head or not, but you’ll have a better party if thou doth.

Asthenia / Overo split EP

Two emo bands doing two songs apiece, both attempting to mix ’90s dynamic songwriting with more modern spastic emo. ASTHENIA starts off their side with what might be the best song on this record. It’s a short rocker that musically sounds similar to BRAID’s earlier, less dynamic stuff but with vocals that are more gruff and less sung. It’s unfortunate that the overly frantic screamed vocals at the end of the song feel so contrived. Their second song starts off soft and kind of pretty, tricking you into thinking it’s going to sound like CURRENT and then there it is again, that affected ‘00s screamo sound. OVERO starts things out with some twinkly Midwest emo that breaks into a heavier chug with hints of hardcore but remains melodic throughout. Two vocalists, the pleading, higher-pitched, sung vocal being far more compelling than the screamed one. This makes the second half of the song really grow on you with its long build and the sung vocal being the star. Their second track feels like a throwaway—47 seconds of uninspired hardcore broken up by a short little delicate guitar noodle.

Pawns Monuments of Faith EP

Modern deathrock firmly rooted in anarcho-punk. The flangers are spot on, the SPECTRES-esque barks are on point, the lyrics are bleak, and everything is perfect. But “Broken” is a fucking anthem. Open-chord guitar stutters through “You cannot fix what can’t be broken / With open arms you’ll take me there,” into a chorus that’s nothing more than an anguished howl. Dismiss PAWNS as a(nother) goth rehash at your own peril—these are the folks doing it right.

People Person People Person demo cassette

Falling somewhere between Revolution Summer, hardcore, and melodic indie rock, PEOPLE PERSON is a bit of an enigma. Five toe-tapping songs with intelligently written lyrics, complete with song descriptions for each in the liner notes. These borderline-intellectuals have a lot to say, and they say it well. Packaging looks great, which is unsurprising with what I have seen come out of the Extinction Burst label.

Pilau Nowhere to Hide EP

On their first release, DC’s PILAU takes notes from the massive hardcore and modern crust of the ’00s, but aim their needle more towards DESPISE YOU than DISCHARGE. PILAU churns and blasts their way through eight colossally heavy (and pissed) numbers. Grinding when they need to and completely comfortable settling into a casual light speed obliteration, though I think it’s the slow parts that truly put my stomach in knots. Folks from ASSHOLE PARADE and MAGRUDERGRIND, if you’re keeping track…you should be.

Pleasure Leftists The EPs of PL cassette

PLEASURE LEFTISTS here grace listeners with a remastered re-release of their first two 12″ EPs, originally released in 2011 and 2013. Their earlier releases, including the original vinyl EPs and a tape with nine of the same tracks released by Feral Kid Records in 2013, aren’t exactly accessible (although the nine tracks on Feral Kid tape are available online) so this is a great chance for completists to perfect their collection, for fans in general to finally get those original tracks that were left of the Feral Kid tape, and for everyone to hear a noticeably better production quality. These early recordings show the band’s progression from their origins taking cues from SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES and referencing RUDIMENTARY PENI toward a more tempered post-punk sound with dreamy tangents bordering on shoegaze. Continuous threads of instrumental precision and dramatic vocal performance tie the band’s sound together throughout their releases spanning eight years. The remastering adds a velvety feel to the generous applications of reverb on these two earliest recordings, which showcase the depth of singer Haley’s raw vocal power.

Primal Brain It’s All a Game cassette

Oklahoma City does it again. Furious, damaged hardcore punk made by freaks (made for freaks). Check the hiccup in the chorus of the eponymous opening track and feel yourself get swallowed by all those damn guitars. Aside from “Real Bad Dream” where PRIMAL BRAIN just fucking unleash, these kids are taking the craft out of early ’00s punk proficiency and cramming it into the 2015 maggot stomp mold…the result is fucking glorious.

Prism Wrong Side demo cassette

Feeling as stuck as we do in 2020, and we won’t be forever, I really had to let go of the abrasive hardcore punk rails with this tape, and allow myself to be transported in time. PRISM is heavy and bright, post-shoegazing late-grunge-era rock in a world embracing a self-fog, pre-terror, feel-good energy, but still lost and sad. They play from the heart of punk with the glassy stare of DINOSAUR JR, the CHEATAHS, UNWOUND, and some of the more diminutive tones of SONIC YOUTH. The vocals howl beautifully with a variety of melancholy harmonies and optimistic androgyny. The dial on guitar and bass are down-tuned and the drums tumble like GUIDED BY VOICES meets SEBADOH and the WIPERS.  In the mid-’90s, I would pick up a CD based solely on the cover art—take for example STARFLYER 59 in its silver ominous sheen that ended up delivering an obscure, gloomy indie rock gift. Well, PRISM is doing the same—their logo rules, and the cyan case and red cassette would have sold me, too. The more I listen to this tape, the more I become addicted to its vibrance. Four tracks of lo-fi, noise-pop no wave joy.

Protagonists 1983-1985 LP

This is the kind of punk artifact crate digger dreams are made of—a beautifully packaged reissue of previously unheard and nigh unfindable material from this Naperville-based group of adolescent power poppers with an edge. At the height of Chicago hardcore, these kids were making smartass melodic tunes that hit more like NAKED RAYGUN produced by the FEELIES. The songwriting is confident, with advanced structures and tight playing that a lot of veteran acts never fully achieve. There’s also some naïve charm, largely thanks to the keyboard that often hangs clumsily in the mix but still adds something special. On the standout “Another Monday,” PROTAGONISTS sounds like they could have had a home amongst K Records’ roster of discomforting emotional acts—an accidental precursor to ’90s bedroom pop-rock. So many releases like this get lost to time, but thankfully now a wider audience can listen to the quiet triumph of four teens who made the time to put what they had to say on tape. After all, it’s not always about how many people are listening, but the quality of what they listen to.

Pus Anaquila demo

Hardcore punk caked in black metal tone from Lima, Peru. They kick off at searing speed but switch directions with each track. The simple pogo attack of “Eres Una Pose” comes across as traditional and straightforward but PUS seeks to be anything but. Their blood-curdling vocals, technical ability, variance of styles, blackened sound, and overall recording quality makes it hard for me to place a stylistic comparison. PUS does a good job of building tension and can write some catchy riffs, but they haven’t fully mastered their songwriting craft and fail to deliver a fatal blow. The songs got a lot going on, though, and show promise.

Cross Class / Rad split LP

Last will and testament of two great Sacramento hardcore heavies sharing the same drummer. CROSS CLASS is the better of the two for me, with their NEGATIVE APPROACH meets GEHENNA bordering on but never quite going full-on grind. These are unreleased tracks from 2017, the year they called it quits. Brutal, unrelenting, and quite enjoyable. RAD plays their brand of tongue-in-cheek, high energy thrashcore with nods to D.R.I. and HERESY. Definitely a fun band to watch live, and these unreleased tracks from 2016 do a good job of capturing that speed and intensity with humor and wit, such as on songs like “Hold Your Own Jacket” and “Next Band.” The Bandcamp download includes two awesome bonus covers of Sack-a-tomatoes greats REBEL TRUTH. All proceeds go to The Movement For Black Lives organization, so you have no excuse not to get off your ass and click the purchase button on your chosen electronic device.

Rash Hivemind LP

Echoing chamber-cold crusty hardcore with mammoth sound from windy, good olde Chicago. I haven’t heard such pile-driving fire-fast changes that border on pit-core and thrashing crust since RITUAL CONTROL. That band ruled, and so does this. Venomous vocals, slightly cyberpunk-effected guitar and drum tones, hypnotic artistic passages that suddenly pull you down into a blender breakdown. Bass elbows in for some peaks and valleys, showcasing a reverberating lid on all this chaos. This album is thoroughly impressive. The songs are easily embraced thrash hardcore, such as early CORROSION OF CONFORMITY with the abominable precision of MIND ERASER or COLD SWEAT. The cover art is disturbing and awesome, like low-res DISCLOSE skull, GISM confrontational, awesome. Really digging RASH. All-in-all an absolute face-grind of embittered, ruptured punk.

Rat-Nip Comfortable Chair EP

Everyone and their fuckin’ cousins got a TOTALITÄR rip-off band but some of ’em might not be doing too well due to COVID-related complications, so RAT-NIP is here to provide your dose of mean and catchy hardcore. The palm-muted breakdown and guitar solo of “Ay Mijo” hits like a hot iron to the back of the head and will keep me warm for the impending winter. The B-side may not enthrall me as much as the A, and a live video I’m watching of them suggests the singer may only be half alive, but I think this will hold me over for a while.

Rebel Truce The Lost Tapes EP

I really shouldn’t be, but I am still surprised that there are still really cool unreleased punk songs to be discovered in 2020. There seems to be so many labels trying so hard to uncover this stuff, then out of the blue comes REBEL TRUCE. The New Zealand band released only one song, “The Man Inside,” included on the Class of 81 compilation LP. The song is included here along with four others, one from the same recording session and the other three from their second recording session with a new bass player and drummer. The music is amateurish, charming, lo-fi punk music. It is really catchy. Singer Adolf Soeteman has a great voice and a charismatic style. The record insert tells the band’s story, with the photos of the red cassette with yellow handwritten sleeve containing the songs and some newspaper clippings including a story of the band playing for some shoppers and the local music promoter trying to sneak away unnoticed. It is limited to 250 copies so do not miss out. I feel so lucky to have one. REBEL TRUCE did their first reunion on Halloween 2020 to celebrate the release of this record. I would have liked to have been there.

Richard Rose Radiation Breeze LP

After putting out an incredible four tracks of oozing rock ’n’ roll last year, RICHARD ROSE is back with its debut full-length. Songwriter and guitarist Thomas Tripplet (under the pseudonym Thomas Rose) is joined by a band of heavy players, including Chris Shaw (EX-CULT, GØGGS) and Orville Neeley (OBN IIIs, BAD SPORTS). Given the body of work between those two, expectations were set high—and this might be each of their finest work to date. Radiation Breeze is mean, focused and couched in a suffocating murky atmosphere. The rhythm section stays in a motorized groove, leaving plenty of room for Tripplet’s snarling guitars and Shaw’s punk-perfected vocals. The band even goes full Funhouse in their nods to the STOOGES with extraplanar saxophone stabs throughout. All this comes to a head in the two-part title track which gives the group ample opportunity to stretch their legs through the course of a sprawling end-of-world jam that slams headlong into a wall in the bruising closing minutes. You almost want to commission RICHARD ROSE to go back in time and score an early Michael Mann film because these tunes are tough like neon through smoke.

Sabre Complications EP

What starts out as stompy and melodic hardcore gives way to a number of ARTICLES OF FAITH-isms creeping in as the record progresses, especially when considering the vocals, guitar tone, and specific riffs in combination with each other, all of which culminate on “Sim Eyes,” which sounds like a reworking of “Everyday” in particular. Check this out, and hope they come to your town in 2022.

Schrankaffe 87-93 LP

SCHRANKAFFE (which translates to “Cupboard Monkey”!) was an arty punk band out of Hamburg, Germany. If you are unfamiliar with them (as I was), you might assume from the album title (as I did) that they operated in the late ’80s/early ‘90s and this is a collection of their total output from this period. But no! They existed for just three gigs back in 2008, and this is a collection of their total output from that time, initially issued as a CD-R in 2009 and reissued here on vinyl. The title’s significance still escapes me, but the music doesn’t sound unlike it was made in that era. The tunes are mainly mid-fi affairs that skew post-hardcore, but the punker tracks are the most interesting. The guitarist plays feedback-y lead throughout, like he’s assembling songs from variations on the first 30 seconds of BLACK FLAG’s “My War” or “Can’t Decide,” while singer, Itty auf Ex, adds upbeat talk/shout vocals overtop. The drummer will often pitch in vocals for a call-and-response verse or a gang chorus, generally to good effect. I don’t know that I’ll be dipping back into this one, but I found my time with it quite charming. Worth a listen.

Septic Yanks Septic Yanks cassette

Stupid back-to-basics hardcore punk that was probably made by children. You’ve heard this crud before but if you’re like me, SEPTIC YANKS (what a name—you’ve gotta love it) project images in your mind of a kid tangled in a microphone cord doing a nice back/forth strut before rolling around on the grimiest basement floor and getting tube lights smashed on their back. The opening of this cassette has me singing COMBAT ZONE’s “Untamed mind, mad at the streets, anti-social mentality” which is a good rip-off even if it’s not a rip-off and I’m being presumptuous. Stand out track is the closer titled “School to Prison” which they can barely seem to grasp. Forgettable in the long run but let’s breathe every breath and enjoy all that life has to offer us.

Shitload Mowerviolence cassette

Pandemic-born solo noisecore from New Orleans. Emphasis on the noise. Oppressive, distorted and violent. Someone sowed seeds of powerviolence and then got locked in their bedroom…shit got pollinated by stench and filth and noise. Choice cut: “Just Shut Up snd Wear Your Fucking Mask.”

Shower With Goats This Is Not a Reflection… CD reissue

So far as I can tell, this is a remastered (and remixed?) rerelease of the original 2009 album, when SHOWER WITH GOATS reformed, following their glory days of the late ’90s. Regardless, ’tis a slab of power pop/pop-punk that brings to mind the poppier moments of ALL, early BLINK-182, the snot of SCREECHING WEASEL and even the likes of BIG DRILL CAR. Plus the almost obligatory ’80s medley as the last track. If any of the aforementioned float your boat, this will positively power it along.

Sin Futuro Distort Reno cassette

Blistering, blown-out, nasty hardcore punk from Reno, NV. Ten songs and a nasty version of “Terrorize” by GANG GREEN. Popping back and forth from near-warp speeds to the perfect circle pit tempo, SIN FUTURO knows what they’re doing and how to get an aging weirdo like myself pumped up even just from listening to a cassette in their living room.

Sissyfit Make ’Em Pay + Lilith EP cassette

SISSYFIT is pissed for all the right reasons! Tough hardcore songs with strong emphasis lyrically on scene politics, mental health, killing fascists, and issues related to being a woman in this horrid sexist world we live in. This is super tough; the breakdowns are absolutely pummeling and have me barely holding back from opening up a pit of one in my living room. This cassette compiles what I believe to be the band’s only two releases. Make ’Em Pay seems to have come out in 2018 and is a bit more memorable and straightforward than the at-times-metal-infused Lilith which came out this year. Even so, this works wonderfully as a single cassette release and I am officially a fan.

Slevy Volumen 2 LP

There was a time in my life when I thought surf punk was for suckers. I heard one single and thought “what, are the BEACH BOYS smoking PCP now?” I’ve got to say, though, this LP has really changed my view on the genre. The album isn’t strictly surf punk, but about half of the songs here sound like they came straight out of Repo Man. The other half of the sound is deeply influenced by early European New Wave and punk bands. Think DECIMA VICTIMA or CAMERA SILENS. Instrumentally, the LP is pretty stripped back. Drums, bass, some overdriven or chorus-laden guitars, and a bit of synth occasionally. The vocals are delivered in a real grating growl that sometimes comes off as sweet in a TOM WAITS kind of way. I can’t tell you that this is an album that’s going to stay on repeat, but it’s pretty damn good, and worth a listen.

Slutet Bortom Vansinnets Grepp LP

There’s some fucked up black metal project with the same name that I’ve low-key been meaning to check out, so it was a surprise when I got hit by some of the cleanest sounding Swedish D-beat I’ve heard (at least in recent years). SLUTET is members of WARCOLLAPSE and EXPLOATÖR doing the stadium crust thing. It’s fine; catchy, excruciatingly clean-sounding. Call me old fashioned here, but fuck me up good and proper and leave me miserable and filthy any day. I don’t think my TOTALITÄR records are going to go far from my turntable any time soon.

Spike Pit Maniac of Torment LP

I didn’t really get the full appreciation for Clevo punk and hardcore before moving to PGH. It’s like equal parts brutal, primitive, moronic, and brilliant, sorta like lunch meat core. My foggy brain seems to remember just missing seeing this band before lockdown hit and, crap, did I lose out. Eloquent song titles such as “Life Is Piss,” “Asshole,” “Bitch Stealer,” “Laundry,” and “Cool”  are met by free-flowing lyrical soliloquies such as “25 but I feel like 9 / Pissing the bed makes me feel fine” (from “Wetted Da Bed”). Musically, despite the obvious comparisons to contemporaries like WET BRAIN and the INMATES, they remind me of a more metallic ANGRY SAMOANS, sort of like Metal Mike fronting DR. KNOW. It’s beautifully packaged as well, complete with a lyric sheet(!) and poster of the excellent HAWKWIND-meets-Jack Kirby artwork. Makes a great Christmas gift for your weird cousin or exiled relative that nobody talks about. What more could you want.

Straw Man Army Age of Exile LP

This is it. Saying “a proper LP” doesn’t do it service. Inventive and varied, Age of Exile flows with ecstatic energy from loud and distorted to subtle, sinister, anxious, and even charming. Very fresh sounding, it has a tendency to harken back to old anarcho-punk while also exploring more jamming, worldly aspects, all coalescing into a sinisterly dark and beautiful 30 minutes of spine-shivering punk. It’s admittedly a lot to take in between subject matter and the quality of the tunes. Lyrically, it sets you on the floor in reflection with direct and chilling anti-imperialist narration on historical and ecological subject matter. The amount of disturbingly poetic one-liners is fucking insane. There’s an accompanying video for “The Silver Bridge” which is jarring and visually stunning that I highly suggest viewing. The whole album is well-thought-out, well-researched, extremely well-versed, and a hell of a lot more earnest and sincere than most every band pumping out anti-cop and anti-Trump tunes (all of which are valid, this just smokes the rest). It’s like a dirty old ELF pamphlet from the ’90s coming to life in musical form. Poignant and necessary, a truly great record in my opinion. (Edit: I sent this to my brother and he said it sounded like PARQUET COURTS, but I don’t know what that means.)

Territories Short Seller 5″

This thing is playable on a record player but manufactured on a CD press. (Yeah, I checked Discogs to see how it’s classified, and “CD Record” is the actual format.) While the novelty may hold interest, TERRITORIES do not—one toothless tune only, complete with a few vague ’77 nods that are delivered a bit too slick for my tastes. I cannot pinpoint the appeal here, but this exists, and I’ve reckoned with it for you. You’re welcome?

The Animal Steel Smooth Jazz Chords 7″ flexi

It’s not often you see a one-sided flexi disc come along. This is an interesting one. It’s sort of hardcore, sort of emo and has that disjointed rhythm section thing going on. The vocals remind me in an odd way of PEGBOY, but the sound is “heavy” and more FUGAZI. This stuff can be very hit or miss with me and honestly, I’m still trying to figure out if this one was hit or miss. Let’s give it another roll. Clocking in at over five minutes, you’re almost bound to lose my attention. Still, I’m on the fence, though I will admit to leaning towards hit, rather than miss. It looks like the physical release was limited to 100.

The Celetoids Optic Nerve cassette

Optic Nerve is nine minutes of classic hardcore punk in the style of DEAD KENNEDYS and some old school UK anarcho-punk with a twist of cybersecurity conspiracies in a real paranoid schizophrenic way—but god damn I think this group of paranoid schizophrenics is on to something. This ain’t anything boundary-pushing. I’ve heard this brand of punk a thousand times, but we’ve all been stuck inside way too long and this cassette is cathartic as hell. Conceptually, Optic Nerve takes on big topics like the dystopian nature of our modern digital age and altered consciousness. There’s something for everyone here. Fast-paced caustic hardcore for the angry punks, and just enough conspiracy theories for the men in tin foil hats. Give it a listen, you won’t regret it.

The Generics Cost Cutter EP

Previously released without a picture sleeve, Feel It Records has reissued this ultra-rare nugget with some enticing art and two previously unreleased tracks. I was previously unaware of this. The story goes: in 1983, three fresh-faced skater kids from Cross Lanes, West Virginia get introduced to some classic punk, get some instruments, play some parties and school events, record seven tracks in a studio, release two of them on a single limited to 200 copies, and then break up. The overall vibe of these tracks is somewhat limp, but the adolescent charm saves it as a historical document. That said, none of this material is going to be featured on my next mixtape or played on my non-existent DJ night. Still worth the top-quality release treatment for posterity’s sake.

The Lavender Flu Tomorrow Cleaners LP

Fuzzy Oregon freaks the LAVENDER FLU celebrate their state’s decriminalization of recreational drugs with their third album in a mere year’s time. D.A.R.E. to bend an ear to the FLU’s warped sensibilities as they curve rainbows in mid-air and turn falling raindrops into flying butterflies. Tomorrow Cleaners finds the LAVENDER FLU back on the Meds label and exploring the same ’shroom-strewn forest that spawned their double-shot debut, Heavy Air. The owls are not what they seem as they lead you to a secret swimming hole where the humidity verges on the psychedelic. These sounds are melting along with you and perhaps even melting inside of you. “Boca Ciega” cops a welcome WEST COAST POP ART EXPERIMENTAL BAND vibe, while “Romelas” is lovely and groovy and lets low-key axemaster Chris Gunn carve out some space with his stun guitar. These are the songs that JULIAN COPE was singing to himself when he was hanging out under that tortoise shell. Naked and afraid and happy as a loon. Ore-gone or orgone? Unlike the recent Barbarian Dust, Tomorrow Cleaners is no killer rock slab, but still chock full of intriguing paths less traveled.

The Neptunas Mermaid A-Go-Go CD

I’m not sure why I dig this sort of shit, but I really do. They start off with a nice surf instrumental that has hints of spaghetti western sprinkled about. It’s got a casual tempo and just kind of puts you at ease. For the second track, they come out with a number that makes me think of the French pop of the ’60s, like FRANCE GALL. Maybe it’s the female vocals. Or maybe because some of the lyrics are actually in French. In the end, it’s a mixture of instrumentals and songs that feature vocals. All are done extremely well and, as I said earlier, it all comes with a certain calming element. Simple, straightforward, enjoyable.

The Nettelles Do You Believe In… LP

The NETTELLES are a fun, garage-punky ’60s-style (mostly) girl group. Catchy, rollicking songs with surfy guitars and stomping drumbeat. It would be easy and lazy to compare them to THEE HEADCOATEES, but they definitely have that sound. It’s lo-fi and sassy. Sadly, singer, co-founder, guitarist, and songwriter Clare Scrivener passed away from cancer in August 2020. A loss for fans of great garage music, but at least we have this debut LP.

The Pigs Youthanasia LP

First-wave UK punk outfit the PIGS left us just one artifact in their brief existence, the venerable Youthanasia EP. Little did we know there were seven more songs from the same 1977 recording session lurking about in obscurity ever since! This excellent collection includes those plus the four tracks originally released on the EP as well for a total of eleven twangy and bangy OG punk thrashers. With infectious tunes covering classic punk topics like anarchy, racism, and nuclear war way before they became cliché, these scrappy Bristol lads unwittingly created a blueprint that would soon become well-worn. This is ’77 punk at its raucous, ramshackle finest. Essential.

The Prefects Going Through the Motions LP

Much like the MEKONS and ALTERNATIVE TV, the PREFECTS were a English band operating at punk’s ground zero in ’77, but who had already started to push themselves beyond the narrow confines of the genre before the “post-” prefix fully caught on. The band imploded before they could release any records, with the final PREFECTS line-up reimagining themselves as the highly FALL-like (and still active!) NIGHTINGALES at the dawn of the ’80s—Going Through the Motions marks the first time that the PREFECTS have been fully documented on vinyl, following a posthumous Rough Trade single in 1980 with two tracks pulled from a Peel Session, and a few different CD anthologies of live and radio recordings that popped up in the early 2000s. “Escort Girls” and “Faults” have a slash-and-burn urgency similar to early WIRE (another band that quickly outgrew ’77 orthodoxy), and the anthemic “Things in General” easily stacks up against the best of first wave punk-with-pop-smarts groups like the BUZZCOCKS and the SUBWAY SECT.  But then there’s the barbed wire guitar and martial rhythms of the ten-minute “Bristol Road Leads to Dachau” (a dark, harrowing account of a pub bombing), the piano-accented, VELVET UNDERGROUND-inspired pitch black drone of the LP’s title track, or the skronky horns and deadpan vocals in “Total Luck,” all of which would have been perfectly in step with the UK post-punk boom that was just around the corner when the PREFECTS called it a day. Somehow simultaneously a product of and ahead of their time? An ace comp.

The Slackers Nobody’s Listening / Sleep Outside 12″

Two tracks recorded live, and presented in a rather stylish picture disc. The SLACKERS have been doing the reggae/ska/rocksteady thang for a couple of decades and counting now. I didn’t even know they were still going, to be honest, but these tracks are dripping with horns and keyboards, and bear more than a passing resemblance to the more soulful efforts of the REDSKINS and the more laid-back SPECIALS numbers. Spot-on lyrical sentiments, too; makes me reckon that these are pretty recent efforts.

The Thingz Just in Time LP

This is one part dollar store Halloween, one part baseball organ music, and all parts tongue-in-cheek jaunty tunes. Their songs have a hip-shaking bounce to them, matched with fuzzy guitars and that silly organ! I wouldn’t call it watered-down CRAMPS, but like maybe CRAMPS for kids. It’s got an immaturity to it that’s just a lot of fun; case in point: “Wake Up With Claws.” And thankfully it’s not a song about the stupid alcoholic seltzer. All these songs were put together in the quarantine that we are still in, yet nothing sounds rushed. It’s a quality recording of upbeat, light-hearted tracks with a wee bit of spookiness to them. And the theramin on “Be A Rat” fucking rules! That’s one song where the keys don’t feel surprising to me. “Lunar Love” is going for that ’50s rock’n’roll sound and it sounds so cheery. It’s obvious these guys are having a super fun time on this record and I think it’s contagious. I’m having a hard time being in a bummer mood listening to this.

The Yohannans Punk’s Not Dead CD-R

A self-produced electropunk effort (though that’s how they describe themselves—it’s basic electro-pop). I guess the punk part comes from the sarcastic fuck you lyrics, railing against the corporatisation of punk, the major labels, and all the other bad stuff that MRR and its founder and leading light, after whom the band is named, railed against. More sloppy DEPECHE MODE than SUICIDE—though the first time I saw DEPECHE MODE lip-syncing (and knob-syncing, presumably) on the British chart show Top of the Pops, “playing” their first hit “I Just Can’t Get Enough,” Vince Clarke was wearing a CRASS t-shirt. Now that’s punk.

Toadskin Toadskin cassette

There’s a hint of late-’80s Dutch East India college alt, raw outsider pre-grunge and/or post-punk, and there’s a nice gruff Picciotto tail clinging onto the end of many of the verses. You could just say that Milwaukee’s TOADSKIN is rehashing a past sound, but it rings true—perhaps in part because the sounds are from an entirely different past.

The Down-Fi / Toeheads split 7″

This little platter is Issue #2 in the Good Times Rock ’n’ Roll Club Split Single Series. Whew, that’s quite a mouthful and might just have you questioning what decade you’ve landed in. Have no fear, it’s still that same cursed year, but don’t tell these bands cuz all they wanna do is rock and/or roll til the sun comes up. The DOWN-FI is notable for featuring a true underground rock legend in the irrepressible Craig Bell. Craig has been in ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS, the MIRRORS, SAUCERS and, most recently, X__X. If you figured that kind of resume would clue you in to the quality rock sounds contained on their side, well, goddamn maybe it’s time to take up fortune-telling. “You Won’t Like It” skips the art damage for straightforward bash ’n’ pop and was even recorded in “glorious mono” for extra salt-of-the-earth cred. Every town should have a band this good to drink their worries away to. TOEHEADS are from Detroit and you can certainly hear that in the attitude on display for “Jane Doe #59.” But it’s actually the PAGANS that this song most closely resembles. A sub-par PAGANS, but hey maybe it took 58 tries to nail “Her Name Was Jane.” The leopard print inner sleeve is a nice touch.

Totally Cracked Bala Boi Bíblia EP

This single sounds like a live show—not like a recording of a live show, but like an actual show taking place in your apartment. Guitar dominates the mix, a high end buzzsaw cutting through everything like…well, like a damn buzzsaw. The hardcore is fast (real fast) and never lets up over the course of ten tracks…in ten minutes. Perhaps a one-off project, TOTALLY CRACKED apparently cranked this thing out in an evening about 50 miles outside of São Paulo. The result is hot and raw, and I certainly hope they do it again someday.

True Sons of Thunder It Was Then That I Was Carrying You LP

The TRUE SONS OF THUNDER 7″ that Goodbye Boozy put out a couplathree months back was a stoater, and this follow-up album (which reprises the single’s first and best song, “Shake Rag,” and the briefer, goofier “Toob Sock”) keeps the pecker flying high. I say “follow-up” like this release schedule was the product of a laser-targeted promotional drive, but given these Memphis fellows took the best part of a decade to throw this together, we’re probably lucky we got one TSOT rekkid let alone two. This is an excitingly cloudy tonic of post-ELECTRIC EELS/FLIPPER/BUTTHOLES party sludge with a paw or two dipped in the honey jar of Southern rawk and the freakier fringe of ’90s garage punk. Plenty of five-minute-plus cuts here, and not much hyper tempo, but unquestioned reserves of energy – and they’re a crack unit, too, swerving all over the road on the likes of “Get A Hold To It” but always sounding on each other’s wavelength.

Twisted Nerve Séance (Archive vol. 1) LP

Scottish deathrock gem Séance finally sees a much-sought-after reissue, and crate-digging post-punks rejoice. After the great 1982 Peel Session Caught in Session EP, they went for a more Fire Dances-era KILLING JOKE sound that does not disappoint. Some of you might know them from the Killed By Deathrock comp, some you might not know them at all, but it is worth your time.

Urban Void In Denial demo cassette

Stomping, aggressive hardcore that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Straightforward, heavy but not too metallic. The only thing I could ask for would be for it to come across more unhinged. It’s one thing to be pissed off, it’s another to menace. I have trouble figuring out how this came about; it’s billed as a “transatlantic retort,” whatever that means. Who cares? The drums sound killer and the riffs are simple but obnoxious enough to make me wanna kick through my drywall, and I suppose in 2020 that’s what counts.

V/A This Is Copenhagen: A Punk Rock Manifesto 2009-2019 LP

It seems odd to me having such a lavish scene retrospective for only the last ten years. It also seems crazy when the essays included within speak of bands like GORILLA ANGREB and NO HOPE FOR THE KIDS as those classic bands of yore. This is, of course, my age showing and what a beautifully packaged labor of love this record is. Clear vinyl and a top-notch book included with gorgeous photography and well-written essays from notable scene participants make this a must have for punk enthusiasts. The essays speak of a widely diverse scene and this record does a fair job in its portrait of such. Besides NIGHT FEVER, I can’t say I’m very familiar with the artists on this comp but it’s very diverse from the beautiful darkwave of MOTH to the slam and dance of MOTORSAV. From the ADVERTS-style melodic ‘77 punk of BIG MESS to the lush feminine synth-punk of KOLD FRONT, you get a nice mental photograph of a diverse and welcoming scene. My personal favorites are the freight train to the face core of NIGHT FEVER, the ENO-esque robotic jams of CHAINSAW EATERS, the URINALS-style art-punk of EVEN DWARVES, the D-beat thrash of DEATH TOKEN, ’80s Brazil raw punk of JUNTA, and the refreshing post-punk of MELTING WALKMEN. You can just feel the sticky-floored, smoked-filled rooms ripe with the sour stench of old Dutch lager. I say dive on in.

V/A Pandemic Sampler CD

I have to say, I’m feeling quite energized by the state of (presumably) “political” punk these days. This is a compilation in honor of Switzerland’s ggs31 squat/concert venue, going strong now for 22 years! Given that for obvious COVID reasons there’s no live music currently, the collective that runs the squat decided to bring the music back out to the kids (and adults too, I reckon). Fifteen bands have donated a track each, half of them Swiss, with a couple of German, Belgium, Croatia, Mexico and the Czech Republic also providing a band/track a piece. The styles range from hip hop to traditional Mexican folk (no guessing which combo provided the latter). Fortunately, most of it remains within the remit of MRR, and is all the better for it. My personal faves are the late-’70s-sounding power pop of 100 MAD and the MIKE STAINDER BAND (both Swiss), Germany’s ALTER EGON! who turn in a superb song that would have taken pride of place on CRASS’s “Penis Envy” and the glorious melodic punk of the Czech ROSA PARKS. The overall quality of songwriting throughout is exceptional. Well worth tracking this down, in anticipation of visiting the squat, ah, next year!

V/A Be Gay, Do Crime!: A Girlsville Benefit Compilation for Prism Health cassette

Girlsville hits it out of the park with this one. A benefit for Prism Health, which is such an important cause. A little about them from their website (find out more at “Prism Health offers a safe, affirming, and non-judgmental space where all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community can obtain the compassionate and culturally effective health care they need and deserve.” A+. Now onto the music. This comp is absolutely killer and features such heavy hitters as GEN POP, STIFF LOVE, and even a new track by OSEES (the newly renamed/revived OH SEES), as well as sixteen more tracks. It’s impossible to pick a favorite track off of this as it hits a lot of different bases. I was most surprised by how driving and gritty the OSEES song on here is, though; haven’t heard that band sounding this nasty in a while and I absolutely love it. Listen to this comp, make a donation to Prism Health if you can, and perhaps most importantly do what the label says: be gay, do crime!

V/A Tape Dad cassette

Tape Dad is a cassette label from Fayetteville, Arkansas, and this is their first compilation release, with plans of doing a new one to be released every year on Father’s Day. Very clever, Cassette Daddy! “It’s a crazy hodgepodge of different genres, styles, cities of origin, and friends” (per the label’s Bandcamp discussing the compilation), and I couldn’t agree more. With twenty tracks, I could go on about this forever, but rather than that I am going to focus on the handful of standout tracks from the punk/punk-adjacent realm that readers of MRR may care about, ignoring the jammy/college rock/singer-songwriter/indie/art stuff and leaving that for another place to review. PONO A.M. kicks off the comp with a killer driving track of garage-infused insanity not unlike THEE OH SEES. MUSCLEGOOSE has a weird, spastic, cow-punk kind of feel to them. BIG GRUMP, whose cassette I also just reviewed, is some cool, nasty noise rock. The PHLEGMS play a cool mixture of driving garage rock and post-punk. There’s a lot of cool stuff on this comp, and a lot that is very much not for me. Give it a listen and decide for yourself!

V/A A Tribute to Really Red Teaching You the Fear…Again 2xLP

It’s a double LP of bands covering REALLY RED songs! But you already figured that out from the clunky title. Boy oh boy…let’s get some stats out of the way: 39 bands, three versions of “Teaching You the Fear,” two versions of “Pig Boy,” and a big-ass poster with a square for each band credit. It must have taken hours to enter this release into Discogs. Big names like DICKS, VERBAL ABUSE (twice!), the BELLRAYS, MYDOLLS, SUGAR SHACK, HICKOIDS, MUDHONEY, the HATES, 50 MILLION, JESUS CHRIST SUPERFLY, and beloved Randy Biscuit Turner’s last band the TEXAS BISCUIT BOMBS all contribute. REALLY RED is fucking classic on all accounts and many of the versions here are fine, some even interesting, but it’s a bit much. They’re certainly a band worth honoring in some way but I don’t see the point of a 39-song 2xLP released by CIA Records (the same label that released the REALLY RED records forty years ago), unless it’s a benefit or something? Nope, doesn’t seem to be. I could see curious fans wanting to check out some tracks via streaming (you can also buy a weird T-shirt), and maybe the most compulsive vinyl-hoarders lining up to purchase, but this is not nearly as essential listening as an actual REALLY RED record.

Varoitus Helvetin Hardcore LP

Blistering Swedish mangel. AGONI/SVART SNÖ-caliber riffs and a brilliantly awkward lurching pace that is only accentuated by speed…and there’s a lot of speed. Four bangers each from 2017 and 2019 sessions—the former decidedly more raw and desperate, while the recent session has a fierce metallic delivery. There is absolutely nothing fancy about this offering, and my ears like the punishment just fine.

Vertical Slit Live at Brown’s LP

An archival live recording that is almost weird to review because if you’re already in the cult of the elusive Jim Shepard, you’ll likely be picking this up regardless. But as someone merely Shepard-curious, this recording doesn’t do justice to the real oddball home-recorded stuff. What Live at Browns brings to the table is Shepard’s band doing a set—a total statement, not just the compiled tunes previously available on past releases. Which is cool, but for me, it’s those more intimate, sketchy, and loopy recordings that sound like they are decomposing before your ears that sound so ahead of their time. For example, on “Fair Exchange” from Slit and Pre-Slit, a compilation of ’70s VERTICAL SLIT recordings, the music reminds me of early, cassette-recorded DANIEL JOHNSTON, if not in style, in fidelity and outsider eeriness. Live at Browns’ “Fair Exchange,” here as “Fair Exchange/Maid in Heaven,” comes off a bit more like straightforward rock with its guitar licks and more conventional vocal attack. Most inspired is the recording of “Smudge” which improves on the previous version from And Beyond, taking on a SABBATH-tinged stoner metal vibe. There is only so much material out there, and if you missed it (and pretty much all of us missed it), here’s a chance to catch it in its full glory—especially if you’re a completist.

Vintage Crop Serve to Serve Again LP

This is cool, and really sounds Orstralian, that sorta post-COUNTRY TEASERS-meets-post-punk/“UK DIY with a sense of humor” world that has been the Australian underground for the past ten or so years. The thing that sorta holds me back from fully throwing my frenzied love and adoration is this feels so cheerful and good, and the world doesn’t. It’s sorta not got the vigor and venom needed for my mind, at least. I would rather throw on a FIRE ENGINES 45 or the aforementioned COUNTRY TEASERS or even PATOIS COUNSELORS for a modern/wild take on such things. This feels contained and like a student’s essay on their summer rather than something necessary in the face of endless plagues and fascisms. Of course everyone wants a good time, even in the face of death and horror, but this is not really that either?! It’s not bad! At all! In any way! It just isn’t what I want.

Warsaw Pakt Needle Time LP+7″ / Lorraine/Dogfight 7″

Recorded live and straight to the lathe on Saturday, November 26th of 1977, WARSAW PAKT’s explosive Needle Time LP was on record store shelves by 7:00 AM the next morning. This legendary stunt serves a fitting metaphor for the fast and furious London group’s short and potent career. Active only from 1977-78, WARSAW PAKT was fronted by the uber-charismatic Jimmy Coull, and included some grizzled ’60s psych veterans and an ex-MOTÖRHEAD drummer amongst their ranks. This resulted in some truly unique, sophisticated, and rockin’ pub-punk that’s been largely unheard in the decades since. Due to its unique origin story, Needle Time really captures the power of the short-lived band’s live performances in the UK alongside the CLASH and the DAMNED, but really this would have been a great record under any circumstances. Packed with sharp, catchy, and high-energy songs from top to bottom, Needle Time showcases the band’s prowess for speedy, loose, and edgy rock while punk was still in diapers. There’s not a bad tune in the bunch. Lucky for us, the geniuses at Munster Records have given Needle Time an awesome reissue treatment, threw in a bonus 7″ with it, and even put out two previously unreleased studio tracks on yet another 7″ single (“Lorraine / Dogfight”)! As if that weren’t enough, further enlightenment can be found on the ROCKETS 7” from last year which reveals the PAKT’s pub rock roots. It’s all top o’ the stack material.

Z-Cars This Is Z-Cars 7″

Z-CARS (pronounced “zed-cars” and named after what appears to be a UK take on the show Dragnet) is a power pop band that operated out of Melbourne in the late ’70s/early ’80s. This Is Z-Cars, their sole 7″, was issued in 1980 by Au Go Go and is reissued here by Meanbean Records. Truth be told, I’m not above a wimpy power pop tune, and I’m obsessed enough with Australian music that it doesn’t take much to sell me on any record from Down Under. So, it’s really surprising that this one just isn’t doing it for me. These tracks, both originals, sound like lackluster covers of some of the less memorable cuts from Nuggets II. The production is too clean to provide any punk edge, the not-quite-BEATLES-esque harmonies aren’t quite off-kilter enough to be interesting, and the tunes aren’t really catchy at all. Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking this. The liner notes—written by the singer—mention that the band “weren’t the best or most memorable band going.” I even watched an interview with the drummer where he, when presented with this reissue, noted that he’d completely forgotten about the band!

Zephr Don’t Worry About It LP

Here’s a full fourteen song’s worth of JAWBREAKER-informed, emotional pop punk. It lands very directly in the early ’00s, No Idea Records school of pop punk. Think about NORTH LINCOLN, BRIDGE AND TUNNEL, etc. but not quite as slick sounding. Melodic guitar riffs drive the mid-to-uptempo songs that are complimented by a mix of sung vocals and “I should really clear my throat” yelling. It’s not poorly done, but it lacks the hooks or that special songwriting that you need to make a record stand out in this genre.

Zipper Dreamer’s Gate cassette

ZIPPER includes a couple of members from recent Australian deathrock/goth candelabra-carriers NYLEX and RULE OF THIRDS, and some of the stark SIOUXSIE-isms of those projects have definitely been carried over here, but Dreamer’s Gate pairs its strict rhythms and needlepoint guitars with a more dreamy ’80s pop shimmer; a new wave mirage in soft-focus pastels refracted in the distance of a monochromatic post-punk desert. Vocalist Haruka gives ZIPPER much of that spark, alternating between Japanese and English in animated shrieks and shouts (like the ones playfully pushing against the moody, straight-out-of-the-BUNNYMEN bass line of “High War”) or gossamer sighs (the early/mid-’80s 4AD-referencing context of “Flower”), often in the same song (“Ice”). Keen debut, especially in a typically staid subgenre that has little interest in coloring outside of the lines.

Zurich Cloud Motors Do More Than Deconstruct-o cassette

This is my first exposure to a band with an almost overwhelming amount of output, having what I gather to be at least seven cassettes out. ZURICH CLOUD MOTORS ranges from catchy indie pop to bordering-on-indecipherable noise rock, hitting everything in between as well, which is quite the array. There are even moments when I hear early MEAT PUPPETS-inspired stuff coming through. A real wild ride. By all means, if you check this out, which you certainly should, give it more than just one song cause as soon as you think you know what ZCM is all about, they seem to switch things up on you.

Zyfilis Alla Ska Ha… LP

Following their split release with MURO and debut 7″ record, Alla Ska Ha… sounds really fresh, ranging from catchy D-beat and bouncy pogo parts. The guitar work is somewhat atypical, like TOXIC REASONS played through a TOTALITÄR filter, and the punk high-energy really comes through in the vocals as Johanna really makes you feel like you are being yelled at directly. ZYFILIS delivers a fun record that will leave no fists unpumped.