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.

AOL Gold Plus cassette

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

Die Atlantikschwimmer Kassetto Fix LP

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

Barcelona Residuos del Ultrasonido EP

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

Blotchouts Lenora Guards the Egg cassette

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

Denim Ski Mask Justice EP

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

Geld Beyond the Floor LP

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

Ghouli Nothing cassette

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

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

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

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

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

Nightfeeder Rotten Demo cassette

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

Noi!se Price We Pay 7″

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

Regime Bury Them Now cassette

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

Régimen de Terror Inherente del Poder EP

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

Siglo XX Siglo XX LP

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

Sniffany and the Nits The Greatest Nits EP

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

Stray Bullet Din of Shit EP

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

Thievery Thievery cassette

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

The Variations Fight Back! LP

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

A Hanging Food for Rats cassette

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

Atomic Energy Commission Post Fax Nation 12″

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

Aus II LP

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

Bad Cop/Bad Cop The Ride CD

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

Bootlicker Live in the Swamp cassette

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

Celebrators Wipeout! / Ex-Explorer 7″

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

Death Cow Pioneer cassette

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

DN0 Inflation Now! cassette

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

Filth Garden Live Filth cassette

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

Frente Norte Luchar y Ganar LP

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

GoGoGo Go Golden cassette

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

Gritos Gritos cassette

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

Hayley and the Crushers Jacaranda / Angelyne 7″

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

Head to Wall Demo 2019 cassette

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

Indonesian Junk Spiderbites LP

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

Klazo / Susans Weekend in The Rust Belt cassette

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

Starving Wolves True Fire LP

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

Totally Fucking Gay Swallow Sperm CD

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

Virvon Varvon Mind Cancer cassette

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

V/A Damaged by Dez EP

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

Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters Hammered LP

Mr. Briggs and his HEATERS specialize in a familiar blend of lager-drenched Antipodean rock’n’roll in the lineage of the SAINTS. Nine lamentations of dead-end desperation and the search for temporary release set to wave after wave of layered, chiming guitar, punctuated by semi-buried keyboard and horns. I bet their raw, muscular riffage goes down real well in the sweaty function room of a suburban bowls club.

Dinged Up Mucho Dolor LP

This record was released digitally in 2016, but thanks to the swell folks at Snappy Little Numbers in Denver, it’s gotten a proper release on vinyl now. The sound is not exactly homogeneous and that makes it difficult to pin down. But I’ll be goddamned if “Don’t Torture Me” isn’t the power pop banger of the summer. That track is just under four minutes and it’s a dancey romp the whole way through. Something that is worth mentioning is Joe Rankin (the person behind DINGED UP) recorded every single sound on the record themself. I’ll say that the vocals seem a little bit distant in the recording, but I think it works really well. Especially when they’re layered with woo-ooos and background vocals like in the song “Noose.” And Joe Rankin has such an interesting singing voice that helps DINGED UP stand out from the crowd. Many of the tracks are fast-paced, high-energy jams, though “Dial Tone” slows everything way down in the middle of the record and shows off their mellow side. I love all the guitar parts—many of them are sharp and piercing while carrying a nice melody, and the instruments are mixed really well. I’d recommend giving this one a spin if you’re looking for something different but in a very good way.

The Elected Officials Death for Sale LP

Austin, Texas’s the ELECTED OFFICIALS are punk as fuck. I may not totally be into what they’re doing always musically but there’s zero doubt that this band works and plays crazy hard and is completely for real. They’re also down with all the right causes and put up their hard earned cash to prove it. As we quietly (or not so quietly) sit here mid-apocalypse, it’s ever more important to pick a side and the OFFICIALS have and they’re putting in the work globally to fight the escalating war on shit. Slap this plastic disc on and be greeted by pounding charge-yer-hawk punker splendor that would be comfortable sharing a beer with the likes of VICE SQUAD, NO THANKS, the RESTARTS or even the Austin/SF kings of politico punk MDC, who I see they’ve done a bit of work with. Their singer Sophie Ruckus (how punk is that?!) has a powerdriver of a voice that’s a cross between Wendy O, Cliff Hanger, and Kurt Brecht. The lyrics are printed much too small on this CD for my old eyes but they come through loud and clear, educating the listener on a surprisingly wide range of causes and topics. Favorites are “Battle Inside,” “Derrumbando Las Fronteras” and “Kill and Cure.” So pick this one up even if it’s just to support the good fight and remember to kill a cop or a Republican along the way.

Endless Column Endless Column LP

Recorded in 2015 and released last year, ENDLESS COLUMN’s debut LP is a warm, surf-tinged 12-string-guitar-laden modern punk pop classic. Featuring a who’s who of aughts-era punks, this Chicago-based band has moody songcraft in common with the members’ former groups (namely, the OBSERVERS and DAYLIGHT ROBBERY) without explicitly sounding like those earlier projects. There’s still the tinge of WIPERS influence here, alongside some surprisingly BYRDS-influenced guitarwork. And then there are parts of this album that almost sound more like a janglier SST-era SCREAMING TREES?! It’s hard to pinpoint influences beyond gesturing to the broader pantheon of song-driven American indie and garage punk, but regardless this is a terrific album that rewards repeat listening.

Gang 90 & Absurdettes Demo 1982 EP

Over the course of several years, Brazil’s Nada Nada Discos has established itself as among the best record labels in the world. NND has been particularly instrumental in lovingly reissuing some truly necessary Brazilian punk and hardcore gems. This new GANG 90 & ABSURDETTES 7”—featuring three long lost demo tracks from 1982—is another Brazilian reissue, although GANG 90 is more accurately described as pure ‘80s new wave. For those who are unfamiliar with the group, GANG 90 released several singles and albums in Brazil throughout the ’80s, but this recording represents some of their earliest (and roughest) recordings. Musically, this 7” baaaaaaarely qualifies for review in a punk fanzine—I have a feeling Tim Yo would’ve axed this one in the day—but the charming lo-fi recording, spunky bedroom pop vibes, and early BOW WOW WOW energy has me convinced. For me, “Convite Ao Prazer” is the mixtape-worthy hit here, as some of the KID CREOLE influence across the record occasionally loses me. As always with NND, this record comes with gorgeous packaging featuring amazing archival photos. Not for the punk purists, but a must-listen for the wavers who still resent the rigid uniformity that hardcore imposed on arty DIY scenes the world over in the early ’80s.

Hellmaistroz En el Cielo Está el Infierno LP

I hope you’re ready to go fucking nuts, because this one is some solid-as-fuck crusty hardcore out of Monterrey, Mexico that will have you solo-circle-pitting your bedroom ’till you puke. This is that straight-ahead, heavy-hitting D-beat pummeling that few can deny.  It’s as they say: all killer, no filler. Lyrics are in Spanish, and from my limited understanding of the language I gathered that they think that Nazis and politicians are shit. Features a cover of “Stepping Stone,” the MINOR THREAT version, but they made it about beer …I think. For those that hate to rock: stay well clear. Everyone else, keep an eye out for this one.

Lost Cat Don’t Need a Man EP

LOST CAT are a 21st century version of a 1960s girl group. They are sweet and sassy and they throw in the occasional bad word. They can still be tough even when their heart is broken. The music is catchy and rockin’. There’s a syrupy ballad called “Fuck You.” Amusingly, the song’s title does not even appear in the lyrics. Fun stuff.

Mass Arrest Power LP

The Tunes: No bullshit. East Coast hardcore and D-beat punk crashing headlong into the early FUCKED UP 45s. I’m talking “Police” production tweaks on Swedish hardcore, and Oakland’s MASS ARREST do it all with style. It’s an addictive record full of hooks, and those hooks are on fucking fire. “Liberation” is clearly the cut, with the organ dropping in just as you drop the needle on the B-side and hear Boo Boo yell “I’m living for liberation / I’m living with my fist in the sky,”  but don’t dismiss the record for the single. There’s a joy in the very songs on Power that is hard to describe, and perhaps it’s the intensity and the determination that makes that joy hit so much harder—like the fucking DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS bridge in “Black Identity Extremist” and the ’80s alt/pop melodies that permeate tracks like “New Town Drag” even through its distinctively tough hardcore chorus. The Band: You’re going to hear people talk about this time in our society for literal (as opposed to punk) generations. And of course the messages of Black Liberation on this record resonate particularly in this moment…but the determination is timeless, even if this particular record is a document of a time. Read the words, but don’t stop thinking when you put the record back on the shelf.

OKI MOKI Working Class Pop LP

OKI MOKI are a duo from San Sebastián, in the Basque Country of Spain. Their debut LP contains ten tracks of absolutely soaring bedroom pop, awash with layered melodies and jangle-pop hooks galore. Their sound is so melodic it borders on relentless: Take the knack for pop hooks of a JAY REATARD or Jeff Burke from MARKED MEN, sand smooth any rough edges, soak the whole thing overnight in molasses, and top with sugar sprinkles. It’s almost as if the songs are all chorus, all the time. Over the course of the album, there’s not much in the way of variety (especially with my ignorance of the language) so by the tenth song it’s sounding a little repetitive, but it’s a good sound, so why mess with it?

Partition Prodigal Gun LP

What we’ve got here is a three piece grungey as fuck band from Minneapolis. They pack a punch with their gritty, distorted guitar and screeching vocals. The songs are lo-fi and almost sludgey, but they also wail with some well timed solos. Reminds me a lot of MUDHONEY and bands of that ilk. PARTITION’s stuff sounds dingey, tough, and disinterested. Like something your cooler older sister might be into. They pull it off well.

Permanent Collection Nothing Good Is Normal LP

Technological advances have made “solo studio projects” a thing of relative ease, taking the one-person band far, far from the traditional realm of one-person bands. Obviously there’s the purity of vision aspect, and on records like Nothing Good Is Normal I swear that you can hear it without even knowing the source—but there’s also something to be said for the process of trading ideas and approaches and influences that sets the group experience apart from a “recording project.” How does that relate to Oakland’s PERMANENT COLLECTION, started as a side-solo project of YOUNG PRISMS’ Jason Hendardy in the early ’10s and then evolved into a full band before deconstructing back into a solo project for Nothing Good Is Normal? Well, it helps and it hurts. The streamlined melodic punk by way of hard driving high energy grunge is killer, like the best early Sub Pop tracks all fuzzed out and with no boring rock bits—it’s great, like Yerself Is Steam, but on speed (that’s a MERCURY REV record from like 1990ish—it’s really good). The vocals, however, are ever-present and serve as a distraction more often than not—overly treated and laid over the entire mix like a blanket that suffocates more than it comforts. I’m being overly critical, perhaps, because the songs and the approach are familiar and everything is very well executed. Ultimately, if the ’rona-reality is that we are going to have a lot more “solo studio projects” in our music listening lives, then I could settle into this pretty nicely.

The Real McKenzies Beer and Loathing CD

I have to confess, having grown up in Scotland, I always hated the bagpipes. Firstly, no fucker (including on one of the tracks on this new CD—their eleventh full-length in an almost 30-year run to date) can get the drone quite in tune. Secondly, like fife and drums, the bagpipes are basically used to play martial music, which is a load of bollocks an’ all. Despite that, however, I’ve always had a soft spot for the REAL MCKENZIES. They play anthemic melodic, driving punk, well, with bagpipes! At their best, they sound like the glory days of NO USE FOR A NAME and GOOD RIDDANCE, with the bagpipes largely just being part of the instrumentation. There is the occasional tired old “traditional” song, instrumentals with embarassing names like “A Widow’s Watch” and “The Seafarers Return,” and lyrically, a nod to the usual sad nationalistic/militaristic bullshit. How come it’s all about fighting for the King (i.e. being a tool of empire) or Bonnie Prince Charlie (the weirdo German prince who couldn’t speak English, let alone Gaelic, who briefly fancied himself in the interminable internecine wars of the ruling classes). Whatever happened to singing real rebel songs, about James Connolly, and Hardie & Baird. Anyways, I digress. There are a couple of folk-rock power ballads on here, which don’t do much for me, but the real gem contained herein is a dead-ringer for early BIG COUNTRY. Some of you may remember the glory of BIG COUNTRY (who came out of Scottish punk band the SKIDS in the early ’80s) and who perfected the twin guitar attack to, well, sound like bagpipes, to fantastic melodic effect. Well, the REAL MCKENZIES manage to do just that..with twin guitars and bagpipes. Fair enough.