Reviews

For review and radio play consideration:

Send two copies of vinyl (one for our archive, one for the reviewer) or one copy of CD-only or cassette-only releases to MRR, PO Box 3852, Oakland, CA 94609, USA. Maximum Rocknroll wants to review everything that comes out in the world of underground punk rock, hardcore, garage, post-punk, thrash, etc.—no major labels or labels exclusively distributed by major-owned distributors, no releases outside our area of musical coverage, no reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from! All vinyl records received are added to our archive, which since 1977 has grown to become the largest collection of punk records in the world.

Auxiliö Mi Piel cassette

The moment the riff in “Mi Piel” starts playing, you know you’re gonna be bulldozed by the raw power of it. This is an extremely pissed-at-the-world work of art. Four songs, four punches straight to your face. AUXILIÖ works the line between D-beat, thrash, and pure hardcore mayhem, and they do so by way of some great songwriting: violent riffs, driving bass lines, pummeling drums, and some truly great guttural vocals. Thematically, the band lashes out against the usual sources of oppression: religion, misogyny, the trappings of a decaying capitalist world, only with a unique point of view, switching between Spanish and English. “Religión Hipócrita” is great trash with some vicious riffing,  “Ciclo Vicioso” has some cool ’90s Mexican hardcore vibes, and “Death Trophy” is an instant moshpit-inducer classic. AUXILIÖ is a hardcore band from L.A. They’ve been doing their noisy thing since 2016 and have played in Perú (they’ve got a split with PODRIDO on Unsainted Records, if you want to check it out). You can get this furious EP as a CD or cassette. Do hurry ‘cause they’re running out.

Black Iron Prison / Gas Chamber Public Humiliation II LP

Public Humiliation II is a collaborative performance from Buffalo, New York experimental HC grind unit GAS CHAMBER, and BLACK IRON PRISON, a two-piece from Toronto, Ontario who sit even further up the experimental ladder than GAS CHAMBER, providing more drums and vocals as it rattles on and well the fuck off the platform of HC that is so crudely erected amongst this psychedelic rubble. This record is a live collaboration, recorded at Iron Lung Records’ 10th anniversary show, which would also mark GAS CHAMBER’s last performance, set to wax as an insane jam; at times reminiscent of early HC acts that attempted to breach the boundaries between psychedelia and hardcore, sitting somewhere between GASP and the MEAT PUPPETS. A truly monumental effort, highly recommended.

Bleakness Functionally Extinct LP

The bleak piano intro sets the stage for darkness to come. Uneasy melodies and a sense of melancholy play the leading role on Functionally Extinct, while steady and catchy hardcore punk serves as a backdrop for this post-punk outfit. BLEAKNESS couldn’t have chosen a better band name. This a great modern French post-punk record sure to brighten (or darken) your days.

CaveXrage I Believe in CaveXrage cassette

Raw and energetic, bare-bones, treble-heavy snot punk. Cut from the mold of ’10 NWI starlets and ‘70s working class punk…then they injected the mold with SXE hardcore. With lyrics like “We got boys and we got girls / Pittin’ hard and pittin’ fast / CAVEXRAGE feel the blast” and “If you don’t know who your friends are / You better find out who your friends are / Who’s true? Who betrays you?” (not to mention “Twisted in My Head” in its glorious entirety). You want to say this is ‘core delivered tongue-in-cheek, but…

The Cowboy Swimming With the Fishies EP

Cleveland noise punk band featuring members of HOMOSTUPIDS, PLEASURE LEFTISTS, FOLDED SHIRT, and more. This three-song EP was a stop-gap release between their 2017 debut on Fashionable Idiots and their 2020 LP on Feel It. The two tracks on the A-side run by quickly and sound like FLIPPER meets WATERY LOVE, while the B-side sounds more like an avant-garde take on post-hardcore. I think this stuff works better in album form. Still, this EP is solid. If you’ve liked any of their other stuff, you’ll like this. If you haven’t checked out any of their other stuff, this might be a good place to start—it’s pretty representative of their sound.

De Brassers Alternative News LP

DE BRASSERS came out of the first wave of Belgian punk and proceeded to release a couple classic records in the early ’80s. I’m not sure if they ever broke up, but regardless, they re-emerged in the 21st century and continued down the path of intense, bass-heavy post-punk like a couple decades hadn’t slipped by. Alternative News is a live album captured in 2019, but don’t let that put you off. Not only is this set well-recorded, the band is in top form. There aren’t (m)any current post-punk bands that can match the expert execution of DE BRASSERS. You know you are in capable hands when the towering bass riff of “En Toen Was Er Niets Meer” (from their debut EP) comes lumbering into sight and then they back it up with “Eruit” into “Sick In Your Mind.” DE BRASSERS’ take on post-punk is really its own form of deathrock, stripped of all the usual trappings (blues/metal/etc.) and instead just brutally cold and efficient. One modern band that treads similar ground is Italy’s underappreciated HIS ELECTRO BLUE VOICE. For good measure, DE BRASSERS even cover WIRE and ALTERNATIVE TV on this worthy live album.

Deformation Deformation LP

DEFORMATION plays on fire, with machine gun ripper drum fills and the slight swagger of HUMAN WASTE. This is straightforward echoing D-beat with the effects of some recent Finnish hardcore outfits and the stern delivery of later AVSKUM, and there are also some mid-tempo moments that recall metallic ’80s hardcore. DEFORMATION is from Denmark and this three-piece is tearing it down like when I first heard GLORIOUS? It clobbers, it annihilates, it changes up, this could be from any time between ’85 and today. Furthermore, this cover art is amazing. A skull barfing bombs and within the recess of its head is the ever-fuming industrial engine of pollution and greed. The three members of DEFORMATION play tight as DISCLOSE with the vibe of UNCURBED at twice the speed. 300% D-beat metal punk up the world zoo. I went from concluding early this was just okay to realizing it absolutely smolders.

El Sancho Our Part in the Darkness CD

A trio of punk veterans end up on Hawaii’s Big Island, help carve out a wee scene there, and produce this debut eight-track effort. All self-recorded, mixed, mastered, and released. It’s speedy, poppy basic punk, à la DESCENDENTS and CRIMPSHINE, with lots of politics (and some zombies) in the lyrical mix. Catchy and infectious for sure.

The Fall Live at St. Helens Technical College, 1981 LP+7″

Even as an unabashed FALL obsessive, I’ve had significantly tempered expectations and legitimate hesitancy when it comes to some of the more recent additions to the band’s already sprawling discography—have y’all seen the cover art for that Bingo Masters at the Witch Trials live LP that came out a few years ago? But fret not, because this live album (yes, yet another one) is actually golden; an impressively sharp soundboard recording of the group in full Slates-era glory, with one world-beating classic after another preserved in the amber of audio tape. “Prole Art Threat” is absolutely withering here, with that raw, unyielding paranoid rhythm in complete service to Mark’s rapid-fire rantings, to say nothing of the blazing run through “Rowche Rumble” that barely clings to the rails, or the off-kilter rockabilly-from-hell delirium of “Fit and Working Again,” or the extra-frantic bashing given to “City Hobgoblins”…just a completely unreal set from the band to end all bands, at a point in time that was arguably their creative peak (although they honestly had a few of those). And the design work is even non-embarrassing, you can truly have it all!

Headcheese Headcheese LP

British Columbia combo containing BOOTLICKER alumni rattle out twelve songs in twelve minutes and rarely if ever drop the tempo for this, their first vinyl outing. HEADCHEESE has a pretty big streak of garage punk in their hardcore, though, twin guitars both sounding scrawny and tinny (in a cool way). Reminds me of the SPITS here and there, early BLACK FLAG in certain respects, ANGRY SAMOANS for the insouciance… BLOODY HAMMER from late-’00s Texas had a really similar vibe for their short existence, I’d say. Lyrics, sang and I think written by Lewis Podlubny, lean heavily on the loser-punk burnout anthems but throw in some anti-police sentiment (I like the framing of this one: that’s cool your officer dad is nice to you, but he’s still a cop) and a sardonic love letter to Google Home.

HHH Solidhardcore LP

HHH or Harina de Huesos Humanos (which translates to “flour of human bones”) was a Spanish hardcore outfit formed in 1985 that was of significant importance in the ’80s Spanish punk scene. The trio was heavily influenced by Scandinavian punk in their early work and sidetracked into thrashcore-oriented territory in their later days, leading up to their demise in 1993. Ten songs of nonconforming, solid hardcore (think SHITLICKERS or RATTUS) at its most primitive form, with two unreleased tracks “Paz” and “Psicosis” and a faithful reproduction of the original artwork. If you like primitive punk, this is a no-brainer!

Inyeccion Ejecutar demo cassette

This band is from Chile and Argentina, this is their first release, and beyond that I have no context in which to place INYECCION—apart from these ten songs amounting to the most perfectly realised shit-fi pogo-punk I’ve heard in a minute. The drummer has got that oompah beat down so pat it’ll make your heart sing; there are two vocalists, though it’s Cromi (also of FARMACO from Buenos Aires—hey, there’s some context) who indubitably rules the roost with her irate squawk. Guitar and bass merge into a singular conglomerate of amp fuzz, save for about 30 seconds of unlikely jangly guitar during “Atentar Dinamatar,” the last song on the tape. This rules and I want another INYECCION release already.

Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters Live Comp 2019–2020 cassette

My second live cassette review in two months. I guess people are missing that live music experience. I know I am. JACKSON REID BRIGGS & THE HEATERS are on my list of bands I want to see once this shit is over. They are high-energy, anthemic garage rock. The kind that gets you up to the front of the stage. Three songs each from two different shows—Last Chance Rock and Roll Bar, January 2020, and The Old Bar, February 2019. The songs are from their last two albums, which if you don’t already have you should pick up, too.

Kerosene Kream Look Mom EP

Quirky new wave from Stockholm for the now-times. They’ve got a quirky vibe, not in an arty or weirdo way but fun, like if GORILLA ANGREB was really the B-52’S. All four songs are upbeat and have strong pop hooks, elevated by multiple charismatic vocalists and a layer of electronics that liven up the whole production. It’s okay and even healthy to have a little fun every once in a while, so if you’re brooding as much as I am these days look no further than KEROSENE KREAM if you need a little pick-me-up.

Los Saicos El Mercenario / Un Poquito de Pena 7”

Oh, LOS SAICOS, great representatives of Peruvian sonic teenage terrorism. This pair of songs came after “Demolición” and “Entierro de los Gatos” and all those great classics that led them to be retroactively read as the originators of punk rock. We’ve almost got a new band here, as there’s only two original members left, Erwin Flores and César “Papi” Castrillón, who recorded these songs together with other musicians for a local Peruvian label in the distant year of 1969. The Spanish label Munster Records is in charge of the reissue and it has everything we came to love about the Los Saicos sound. “El Mercenario” is a mind-blowing tale of a mercenary, who embarks to Africa in order to commit atrocities as a soldier for hire only to realize the futility and damage he caused, leading him to commit suicide; the story is narrated by a voice somewhere between a ballad singer and a young amphetamine user with euphoric screams marking “1, 2, 3, 4” as a kind of cool vocal hook, plus guitars with dark surfer vibes. On the other side, “Un Poquito de Pena” is a love ballad with intense singing, arpeggiated and extremely melodic guitar riffs, a true gem that could’ve been included in one of those Back From The Grave comps. Great single that deserves to be on par with the rest of LOS SAICOS’ work.

Mikey Erg Mikey Erg LP

I spent some part of quarantine listening to MIKEY ERG’s 2019 solo album Wax Built Castles, which was a collection of reflective acoustic ruminations reminiscent of Devon Williams’ post-OSKER output. That album fit the mood and the volume of the time. Last year he turned it up with a four-song EP titled Bon Voyage, which was a warm up to this full-length release. Ten blistering punk pop punk songs in 26 minutes, drawing emotively and literally from ’80s indie rock and ’90s punk. The album opens with a mid-tempo rocker “Can’t Be Too Careless” and then shifts into a cover of PEARL JAM’s “Spin The Black Circle.” “Rubin Hall,” “Hey Marissa,” and “Rumblestrip” touch on topics of college life, relationships, and tour with early-aughts ferocity. The version of GREEN DAY’s “Going to Pasalacqua” is the best cover since the ERGS! gave proper treatment to the GIN BLOSSOMS song “Hey Jealousy.” The final two tracks, “Good Mic” and “Give Up,” slow down and blow out as great album closers. MIKEY ERG has been in plethora of bands, currently drumming for the pivotal WORRIERS, and in the past DIRT BIKE ANNIE, STAR FUCKING HIPSTERS, DOPAMINES, and of course the ERGS!, but it’s his voluminous and diverse solo work that continually surprises and satisfies. Factoid: The album cover art pastiches the CLASH’s debut album in the same way their London Calling album mirrors ELVIS PRESLEY’s debut album.

Mister Espejismo EP

A debut 7” release from Milwaukee-based band MISTER that brings a special level of madness to Midwest punk. Their songs are short, sweet, and downright filthy. From the opening track until the end, this EP drips with youthful expression, teenage angst, and unkept rage. For all of its youthful energy it still demands a second listen, which will undoubtedly be even better than the first. The vocals spit distorted lines of seemingly existential dread while the instrumentation is frenetic and loose. Fans of bands like MURO and GAG might find comfort a familiar style of hardcore on this release. Much deserved praise to the band for an excellent EP.

Max Nordile Vying for the Dime cassette

Another month, another offering from Oakland improvisationalist MAX NORDILE. A true sonic outsider, NORDILE mixes (seemingly) random multi-instrumental experimentation with field recordings and found sounds, creating movements and moments rather than “writing” anything resembling “songs” in any traditional sense. Of the eight pieces that make up Vying For The Dime, “101” and “E EE Exit” probably exemplify this Dadaist approach to music the best, but (as with many of NORDILE’s releases) they are best experienced as parts of a whole. While I often teeter on the knife edge of hyperbole, there is a genuine greatness in the simplicity, in the honesty, and the evolution is ongoing. As always, I recommend.

The Normal Ambition 1982–1985 cassette

More rescued dispatches from the margins of ’80s Kiwi post-punk: the NORMAL AMBITION was an Auckland-based quartet who released two cassettes on cult NZ label Industrial Tapes (run by Paul Luker of the great PHANTOM FORTH), now both compiled here in their entirety along with a pair of unreleased demos from 1982. The five tracks from 1983’s Watch It There could have been the product of an Oceanic outpost of Postcard Records—sneaky, dark pop given snap from taut GANG OF FOUR-ish bass lines, more conceptually aligned with JOSEF K and ORANGE JUICE than any kind of Flying Nun jangle—while the eight-song The Unanimous Notorious cassette from 1984 stalks some vaguely CHAMELEONS/SOUND-type shadows but in a much more lo-fi context, with drama-tinged vocals, foreboding keyboard flourishes, and starker, drawn-out rhythms; the two demo tracks (the urgent, acute-angle tension of “Seclusion” and new wave gloom of “Under the Blanket”) might actually top most of the material from those proper releases. The NORMAL AMBITION won’t be displacing, say, NOCTURNAL PROJECTIONS or the GORDONS from the top of New Zealand’s post-punk food chain anytime soon, but if your interests fall along that particular continuum, this collection should still be an interesting dig into a relatively underexplored corner.

Pillsbury Hardcore Ghosts of Straight Edge Past LP

PHC. PILLSBURY HARDCORE. What would eventually become the criminally underrated PISSED HAPPY CHILDREN, one of the earlier projects of Eric Wood, who would eventually champion the freak-bass noise monster, PV-coining, amp-eating nightmare that would charm beardos coast-to-coast and allow thick-rimmed glasses and satchel-clutchers a place to shit on and call their own within HC. Before MAN IS THE BASTARD, before PISSED HAPPY CHILDREN, is PILLSBURY HARDCORE. PILLSBURY HARDCORE comes across as a slightly more juvenile PISSED HAPPY CHILDREN, less serious (though all humour would take a far darker turn with MAN IS THE BASTARD) and with a far snottier atmosphere than the contemporary straightedge acts of the time. I guess it has to be said that the bass in this is what sets it apart. What would be absolutely stock standard, if not a little goofy hardcore becomes something far stranger, putting PILLSBURY HARDCORE up there with bands like NEOS and LÄRM as one of those odd ’80s HC bands that were stuck between eras, pushing the boundaries for speed and absurdity.

Prison Affair Demo II EP

If you want to put some wacky, wild, “blink and you’ll miss it”-style nerd-punk in your ear holes, PRISON AFFAIR is probably what you’ve been craving. With vocals echoing back and forth between the shrieking and megaphone-assisted to deep and menacing reverberations, there seems to be a chaotic balance in place here but just barely. Technically, you’re told that you’re listening to four sub-two-minute tracks, but the experience is more of a singular six-minute-plus manic dream. It’s as positive as it is sweaty and uncomfortable. It’s impossible to recommend a single track when they’re all tied together like a perfect knot and the whole experience is so yummy and easy to digest. If you’re sad that you never got to see DEVO live, get in on this Barcelona-based experience and fill that need.

Self-Immolation Music Demo 2020 cassette

Can you imagine a ’90s college dream pop band ingesting a heavy diet of PHARAOH OVERLORD? You get the white line fever 3 am highway monotony treated with a time-damaged MERCURY REV tinged with later KYLESA and it’s like you’re gazing at your shoes but through a thick-ass drug-induced fog. As a(nother) new generation of kids and bands and kids in bands draw influence from the music of my young adulthood, I look forward to bands like SELF-IMMOLATION MUSIC who are using discarded markers to guide them on their own path. Absolutely recommended.

Silicone Prairie My Life on the Silicone Prairie LP

Keeping the Midwestern punk freak flag flying high, Kansas CIty’s SILICONE PRAIRIE arrives with a dense, hooky, high-speed genre-hopping LP mixing elements of the FEELIES, DEVO, synth pop, folk, and even glam rock. This is the work of Ian Teeple from WARM BODIES and NATURAL MAN BAND, but unlike those outfits, SILICONE PRAIRIE takes a bit more work to untangle and get into. The songs are dizzying helium bursts of energy, taking wild turns combining familiar but irreconcilable (or so I thought) genres. It’s kind of an amazing act of dexterity. It made my head hurt at first, but so did PERE UBU the first time I heard The Modern Dance. It truly is one of those records that grows on you and reveals itself after a bunch of listens. I can’t quite figure out what is and isn’t satire here, but it is nothing if not inspired. “Silicone Prairie”—the song, not the band—is hook city, but could also pass for a phased-out- sounding theme to a ’70s sitcom. The song ejects before the two-minute mark and gives way to a folky number that smacks of 4-track lo-fidelity. Then there’s my favorite, “Song for Patrick Cowley,” a tribute to the electronic music pioneer that lacks the ironic detachment of the rest of the record. “Come Away” ends the whole affair on some worn-down cassette bedroom pop. A daring and oddball collection of music. I approve.

Speed Week Hey Hey It’s Speed Week 12″

SPEED WEEK is a newish band out of Melbourne who play pretty straightforward punky pub rock. Unlike their yobbo contemporaries the CHATS or AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS, who fall somewhere between a little winky and total caricatures, SPEED WEEK just seems like some lads who wanna get together up the pub and bang out some chunes. And they do on this mini LP—solid ones! What stood out most on this release were the lyrics. They’re as plain-spoken as you’d expect given the genre, but they’re also surprisingly earnest. One of the best tracks, “Equine Dream”, is an anti-Melbourne Cup tune (for Americans, think of the Kentucky Derby crossed with a frat party…or maybe just the Preakness). It’s written from the point of view of a racehorse who’s resenting his life of being drugged-up and trotted out to amuse dolled-up drunks. That may sound a bit silly on paper, but when the hook hit—“I’d rather be wild and living free in my equine dream!”—I genuinely found myself yearning for that exact same thing. Definitely not something I anticipated from some mulleted Aussies!

Suck Lords Songs the Lords Taught Us flexi EP

Adding their own unique recipe of menace and mania to classic HC styles, SUCK LORDS from Portland are real men of the cloth as far as I’m concerned. Their sound draws comparisons to early POISON IDEA as well as some of the nastiest Japanese hardcore bands of the 1980s without being redundant. The five songs on this flexi come in so fast and ferocious sometimes that it feels like the beat is almost tripping over itself. They’re also able to impressively switch from this insane tempo to a more relaxed and rockin’ pace on a dime. This is sacrilegious and psychedelic old-school action on overdrive, and I support it.

The Tenderfeet Black Winds / Hold Back the Sunrise 7”

This is Volume Two in the “Moody Garage” series. That’s an understatement. Two cover songs that tell harrowing tales of broken hearts. The music is mellow and beautiful, but the lyrics are extra dark. The chorus to “Black Winds” includes “Oh lord, let me die.” “Hold Back the Sunrise” includes the line “Don’t let it shine for me.” If you enjoy pretty garage rock with extra downer lyrics, this record is for you. It’s definitely for me.

Twin Guns Black Moon in Woodstock Live cassette

Another live cassette on Primitive Screwhead, the Big Neck Records live cassette subsidiary label. TWIN GUNS play some sort of amalgamation of rockabilly, garage-y rock’n’roll, and psychedelia, with a bit of surf influences peppered in there, too. This live tape is somewhat amusing due to the few people that keep talking obnoxiously close to wherever the mic was set up, so you get occasional snippets of conversation coming through louder than the band. A fun new tape label that has me intrigued as to what will be cranked out on it next.

V/A Matado Por La Muerte Vol. 3 LP

I remember quite well the first time I listened to Matado Por La Muerte Vol. 1. I think it was 2008. It just felt like being hit in the face by a brick and just laughing about it while you bleed. It became an instant classic. This is the third volume (the second was released in 2015), with 21 exclusive tracks from eighteen Spanish-speaking bands. As always, the comp is full of gems and styles, all sharing the same iconoclast spirit. Here are some of the songs I enjoyed the best: CAMPAMENTO RUMANO’s PEGAMOIDES-meets-REZILLOS sound, the lo-fi fun of FINALE, the fury of Mexico’s CREMALLERAS, Peru’s MORBO’s street knowledge, Spanish SATÉLITE’s gothic notes on modern life, and the anthemic “España Me Pertenece” from TENDIDO CERO. This a really good introduction to current Spanish-speaking punk, hardcore, and post-punk if you’re interested in getting into it.

V/A The Dog That Wouldn’t Die CD

A fascinating look into the worldwide punk underground circa 1986, this compilation was originally released as a 90-minute tape that came with a 32-page zine. Now, a resurgent C.I.A. Records has slapped this sucker onto a CD so that you, dear reader, can relive the glory days of MRR-classifieds-sourced comps. While most of the artists involved come from C.I.A.’s native Texas, there is a wide-range of sounds and ideas spread across The Dog That Wouldn’t Die. Hardcore punk, trashy rock’n’roll, and raw, lo-tech sample collages all find a place on this canvas. As for “big names,” not sure that these qualify but someone out there will thrill to hearing PAIN TEENS, MYDOLLS, THREE DAY STUBBLE, CULTURCIDE (who contribute the epic “Atomic Bomb”), and even FRED LANE. ANDERSON COUNCIL gives us the mellowest SEX PISTOLS cover ever with their acoustic “Apathy In The USA.” PARTY OWLS live up to their name with the lunkheaded punk of “Check Your Dick For Spots,” while PROBLEMIST takes a noisy deep dive into “Reagan’s Colon.” SOLID WASTE DIVISION throws down a cool sax-laden grinder that is followed by NAKED AMERICA’s spazztastic “Corporate Society.” Other highlights include MEAT & GLASS going off like HARRY PUSSY, POISON GAS RESEARCH unnerving feedback manipulations, and EKU’s bedroom rock concoction. The Dog That Wouldn’t Die is a time capsule that deserves a second look.

Altar of Eden Chimeras cassette

ALTAR OF EDEN brings six tracks of faux-nihilist, gothy post-punk with a headache-inducing drum machine pounding loudly. “Matrix of Chaos” is good fodder for a darkly-lit dance party in a renovated basement. Step two feet to the right, then two feet to the left, and bang your head in time with your feet hitting the ground, repeat ad nauseam. You got it! Think ’80s deathrock that wants to be a little more hardcore, and you’re getting there. The real star of the album is the bassist keeping everything fluid, dance-y, and together next to the throbbing robot beat. If you’re a DJ at a local goth night, you know the kind with a dress code and $20 cover, this can be a fun new addition if your playlist is getting a little stale.

Astute Palate Astute Palate LP

Wah-wah pedal, blues licks played backwards, and the ’60s vibe had me worried until it all resolved into some serious VELVET UNDERGROUND leanings that I could appreciate. Between the upfront guitars, long running times, and meditative repetition, you can almost see the Warhol projections on top of them when you listen. Not exactly breaking the mould but good tunes to have in the background when you’re doing stuff. I dig it. It should appeal to fans of SIC ALPS or YUZO IWATA.

Big Hog / The Resource Network split EP

Indianapolis punks BIG HOG and the RESOURCE NETWORK team up for a noisy split worth your time. BIG HOG starts their side with math-y guitar lines and a bouncing bass sound with LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS-style vocals on top. They would have been at home on Load Records with short capsules of frenzied hardcore skronk, giving me some ARAB ON RADAR vibes with the dial turned more to hardcore than noise rock. There is quite a bit of guitar/bass interplay going on under the snotty hollering with an occasional laser gun noise blast that gives these songs an unpredictable and good weird quality. The RESOURCE NETWORK’S side is not quite as frantic, but it’s definitely interesting, too. These three tunes blend elements of hardcore and new wave with anti-consumerist lyrics that sound like spoken poetry in the verses. “Artificial Flavors” sounds like URANIUM CLUB with the spoken vocals over busy, tinny guitar lines and clean bass. The final track has more of a traditional American hardcore sound like mid-era HÜSKER DÜ with busy bass and guitar work and an anthemic refrain. Check this split out for two cool bands doing their thing confidently.

Blockade Untitled War EP

Can you hear the sound of an enormous door slamming in the depths of Australia? It’s probably BLOCKADE. Entrenched and ready for D-beat war, these fine gentlemen bring on the most intense DIS-worship ammunition they could get their hands on. Noise-drenched guitars that will shatter your ears, vocals that sound like they were recorded two lots over, and of course…D-beat. Also, a cover of the theme of Assault on Precinct 13. Your ears will be ringing after this one.

Burning Image The Final Conflict / Burning Image, Burning 7″ reissue

Bakersfield’s BURNING IMAGE was one of the original bands from the California deathrock scene and this is the official reissue of their classic single from 1984. The 7” has “The Final Conflict” and “Burning Image, Burning,” two songs produced by Chaz Ramirez, producer of SOCIAL DISTORTION’s Mommy’s Little Monster. Enough context. Side A starts all sinister and dark. “The Final Conflict” has an awesome guitar tone. I really enjoy the way the almost angular riff sets the unsettling space for the chorus, then those Spaghetti Western-style solos, and how it ends in almost full chaos. Amazing. Side B’s “Burning Image, Burning” riffing is pure Rikk Agnew beauty, both melodic and dissonant, always interesting and full of harmonics. The band really knows how to build tension and release within the song while making it catchy as hell.

Caligulas Mamma Dansa På Min Grav EP

This is a weird one but interesting at least. This Stockholm band plays nice bouncy, energetic punk with electronic overtones and is extremely Euro. There’s music here to dance and/or pogo to, often reminding me of early LEATHER NUN. There’s a side of beef on the cover. I don’t really get it but who cares. Skål!

The Cheap Cassettes See Her in Action! CD

When I first put the needle to the record, I wasn’t sure about this one. It seemed like it was a little too much indie rock and not quite enough punk or pop. But you’ve got to keep an open mind, man. Relax. It doesn’t take real long to kick into some serious power pop. There are a number of bands that have remained close to the punk/underground scene while enjoying some commercial success. I could see these guys fitting into that category. It’s bits and pieces of rock’n’roll, punk, power pop, college rock, and even Americana delivered with an irresistible catchiness. It might not be cool enough for some folks, but it strikes me as genuine and that carries some weight. (And of course, it’s a CD, not a “record.”)

Collision Immortels / La Vie S’Échappe 7″

I hate for punk to get too squeaky clean, especially when it claims to be echoing the sleaziest era of the genre (late ’70s). This single definitely falls in that category, with all the rough edges sanded down for ease of consumption. Most of the fault lies in the production, which dampens the bite of the guitars that really would have put this over the edge. That said, the songwriting is pretty spot-on, hitting a sweet spot between an old school UK sound and an overall harmony-enriched power pop vibe. I just wish it hit harder because as it stands, it falls just short of something potent. Another quibble, and definitely one that comes from personal bias—the B-side “La Vie S’Échappe” ends with a fade out. Please, all punks take note: write an ending to your song. Nothing packs less punch than a song just trickling away. Slam one last E chord or something and call it a night, it’s really not a big deal.

Disappearances III cassette

This cassette got me immediately into a frenzy. Just the kind of harsh and vicious noise that’s so needed in times like these. This is the third release by Philadelphia’s DISAPPEARANCES, ten songs full of short, intense, and brutal spurts of vile. The powerviolence influence is there, but I would say that it’s just the template for more angular and dissonant leanings (think of ’90s bands like BORN AGAINST and RORSCHACH), with just the right amount of breakdowns to keep things dynamic and interesting. Lyrics can certainly be bleak, but that’s just how the world really is. They really know how to weave the personal and the private within the structural and systemic. There’s humor in there too, a self-deprecating and black one. “Blue” is my favorite of the bunch, it has a really cathartic feel to it. Would love to hear this in a live setting.

Discovery Earth to Fucker EP

DISCOVERY does not mince words, as evidenced by the eloquence of this ripping EP’s opening track “Pig Shit.” These guys from the Bay Area go hard, playing tough, driving, and straightforward hardcore with plenty of tasty nuance. They take their cue from early US bands as well as classic Japanese hardcore without aping styles, and this 7” is jam-packed with tight and heavy tunes to reflect on, revel in, and rage to.

Dropdead Dropdead 1998 LP reissue

The essential second full-length remixed and remastered for a 2020 reissue. A little less blasting than the “early” stuff, this record knocked all of us on our asses when it came out. This 1998 offering was more in line with destroyed, amped-up Swedish crust…and then they dropped tracks like “Part Two” that are just ferocity embodied. It was different, it was more…and it still is. DROPDDEAD’s approach and uncompromising politics shouldn’t need to be covered in these (digital) pages, but suffice to say that their knife edge has not dulled in their 30 year existence…and I don’t expect that to change. Remastering, regurgitating, and reissuing records that are readily available might seem like an unnecessary ploy in this modern era, but fuck these songs have never sounded this heavy, this fast, or this relevant. Still essential.

 

Endless Swarm / Fuck on the Beach split EP

Somehow, even after all these years, FUCK ON THE BEACH still brings an unprecedented level of speed and ferocity to their side of this split; it blows my mind how fast and manic they sound 22 years after the release of Power Violence Forever, shit like this gives me hope as a punk slipping slowly into my thirties. ENDLESS SWARM had me tapping along as well, if not further in the INFEST direction of things; good to see this Glasgow unit still kicking.

False Negative A Brief Respite From Civility demo cassette

Thirteen songs of fast, nasty, unapologetic early ’80s hardcore aping all within a mere eleven minutes. As much as the band’s logo looks remarkably similar to that of NEGATIVE FX, the vocalist at times sounds almost exactly like Choke, so you’ve got a rough idea of what you’re in for with this tape. Driving songs with shouted vocals, barked gang vocals on many choruses, and catchy breakdowns. This is nasty Midwest hardcore at its finest, regardless of what decade it came out.

Farmaco Descolonizar EP

Latino punk might not be the most technical, the most virtuoso, or the most groundbreaking, but it surely is the angriest of all the punk scenes. Hailing from Buenos Aires, FARMACO is no exception to this rule! And anger you can expect! The first half of this EP (“Descolonizar” and “Mundo Inmundo”) sounds like primitive Japanese Hardcore like LSD, and the second half (“Alquitrán” and “Sulfato”) reeks of DEATH SIDE. Do I need to keep on writing? Go get this!

GG King Remain Intact LP

Have you ever gone into a hippie-ish coffee shop and gotten one of those homemade calorie-dense, no-bake energy bars? They’re full of seeds and nuts and dates and shit and are held together with peanut butter or maybe chocolate. All of the ingredients are unadulterated and easily identifiable but mixed in such a way that you get a taste of every element in each bite, and they combine to make a distinct treat that’s both nutritious and delicious. GG KING albums are kind of like that with their genre influences, and this latest LP, their third, is no exception. Throughout, you can hear KIDS-esque Euro punk, power pop, garage punk, horrorcore, deathrock, metal—but it’s never presented as simply as “Here’s our take on CHRISTIAN DEATH.” All those ingredients appear wholly present and unaltered, but they’re mixed into something rich and distinctly GG KING. This LP maybe feels more mature than their previous efforts—not in a “they’ve finally figured out their sound” kind of way, but more that the record’s tone—sonically and lyrically—feels a bit more grown up…or maybe I’m just being influenced by the fold-out photo of the band and their families on the insert. I was really bummed when Rich from Total Punk announced that he was throwing out his stamp pads and no longer putting out 7”s. But if he continues with this shit-hot streak of LPs, maybe it’s for the best.

Hayley and the Crushers Fun Sized CD

Latest six-track effort from this power-pop-punk California surf trio. The opening track pretty much lifts the style and pacing of “I Wanna Be Sedated” and layers the trademark HAYLEY bubblegum sass vocals on top, and the disc closes with a surfy cover of “Suzie is a Headbanger,” which pretty much sums up the band. The four tracks in between are pretty damn good, too.

Horrendous 3D The Gov. and Corps. Are Using Psycho-Electronic Weaponry to Manipulate You & Me EP

Artwork for this looks like some random release on Bluurg Tapes, which is pretty much a red herring, or maybe one of your meta-referential EXITHIPPIES joints, which is getting warmer. HORRENDOUS 3D is a Portland band on a LEBENDEN TOTEN member’s label and they sound every bit as up for popping eardrums with pure tone filth on their debut 7”. That being said, the guitarist conjures up some interesting noise textures and blaze-past solos, as opposed to just cranking the dentist’s drill; the bass is textbook ’80s noisecore and chunky as anything; and the vocals could be imported into a grind band or AUTOPSY-type sludgy death outfit without sounding out of position.

I.G. Isolationsgemeinschaft cassette

For the last few years, the German underground scene has been spitting out one killer combo after another. These groups range from hardcore units finding new wrinkles in their chosen style to genre-defying post-punk projects that utilize new ways to incorporate electronics into a rock format. I.G. is a duo attempting to update Germany’s early ’80s Neue Deutsche Welle scene for today’s hyperspeed reality. This initial offering’s title (and presumably the band’s name) translates to English as “Isolation Community,” so you know they’ve got the quarantine blues something fierce. The music errs more towards OMD’s mersh aspirations than DAF’s razor-sharp electronic come-ons. This kind of understated new wave pomp (a contradiction in terms) needs really strong songs to pierce my veil of indifference. The aggressive “Gelande” comes close but is still betrayed by keyboard lines that sound straight out of a Sega Genesis game. “Schockstarre” is grimy and foreboding and probably my favorite track here.

Kyosanto Communist LP

Straight from Hiroshima, KYOSANTO has been lurking in the hardcore shadows for three decades. Thanks to Bitter Lake, this gem of Japanese hardcore punk sees the light of day. Finally! This is a compilation of two demo cassettes from 1984, the Communist cassette and うじむし cassette. Brace yourself for high-energy and highly political hardcore punk akin the STALIN or TYPHUS. For Japanese hardcore aficionados only!

Los Saicos ¡Demolición! / Lonely Star 7”

Many record and band reviews (mine mostly) spend space name-dropping other bands and styles that a reviewee sounds like and borrows from. It’s a kind of connect the musical dots. Because let’s face it, we’re all influenced in some way by what we’ve heard before. But there are those trailblazers and avant-gardes who every now and then create something strikingly new from the same twelve notes we’re all shuffling around, using nothing but their own instincts. LOS SAICOS were operating out of Lima, Peru from 1964–66 with limited access to outside music or the happenings in England or the United States at the time. Their proto-punk sound with sharp guitar riffs and screaming vocals pre-dates the STOOGES, SEX PISTOLS, and RAMONES by a decade, though the band remained in obscurity, almost as an in-the-know secret among garage punkers. The early-aughts saw a brief reunion, along with numerous articles and a few documentaries that brought them back into current consciousness. BLACK LIPS and many many other similarly-styled bands cite them as a major influence. This 7” is a reissue of two of their early singles, a great musical artifact that couldn’t care less if punk was born in London or NYC.