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 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 1982 has grown to become the largest collection of punk records in the world.

The Barbies Introducing The Barbies 12″

Oooo I like this! Charming post-BLONDIE power pop girl sounds with a serving of Bomp! This was supposed to come out in 1980 or so, but only a test press ever emerged, so here it is, some shiny new wave pop punk just in time for the end of the world… Rikk Agnew’s liner notes are a li’l confusing but I think this is a Fullerton-based brother/sister band, both vocalists have killer voices in a JOSIE COTTON/TONI BASIL/DEBBIE manner, and the farfisa and guitar sound are super sick. “Boys Will Be Boys” was properly released on a compilation but I think the songs that demonstrate their love of BLONDIE are my faves over the more SoCal waver ones…. Totally worth picking up! No filler, all killer…

  • Reviewer Layla Gibbon
  • Label Puke n Vomit
  • Issue MRR #443 • April 2020

Biting Tongues Live It LP reissue

1981’s Live It was this Manchester post-punk band’s second album, originally released on cassette only due to financial constraints by the BUZZCOCKS’ New Hormones imprint. These dense, tightly wound tracks are marked by prominent basslines—like GANG OF FOUR, stripped of any pop sensibilities—keening saxophone, and an abrasive, art-tinged assault reminiscent of the POP GROUP. Punk in sensibility but drawing from a wider palette of influences, Live It is dark and claustrophobic music; when it lets loose, it channels ALBERT AYLER more than, say, the PISTOLS. This first-time vinyl reissue features liner notes from guitarist Graham Massey (later to make it big with 808 STATE etc.) and a handful of bonus tracks.

Bona Rays Poser / Getaway Blues 7″

The backstory to this record is amazing: a teenager named Chas was singing to herself while tearing down a poster in a UK tube station in 1978 when a passerby spotted her and suggested that she try out as the vocalist for his friend Tony’s new project. That band quickly became BONA RAYS, who went into a studio to record a single after just a few weeks of rehearsals, but when they weren’t able to find a label to put it out, the acetate wound up sitting in a box in Chas’s house for the next four decades. During a move in 2018, Chas takes a box of records to sell to Flashback Records in London, who discover the abandoned acetate inside, start playing it in the store, and ask her about the mystery recording, a serendipitous connection that ultimately leads to the shop’s in-house label giving the single its first proper vinyl release. The A-side “Poser” is a jumpy delight, adding buzzing new wave synth to some classically hyper-charged three-chord punk, while the lyrics deliver a pointed scene critique (not entirely unlike the TELEVISION PERSONALITIES’ “Part Time Punks”) directed toward a privileged art school girl performatively wearing “Rock Against Racism on her lapel”—Chas was a woman of West Indian descent fronting a band in a predominately white ’70s UK punk scene, and the rescue of these lost recordings is playing a significant role in finally giving her some much-overdue recognition for her role as an early Black punk heroine. The glossy synth-wave by way of punky reggae number “Getaway Blues” on the B-side doesn’t quite live up to the firecracker impact of “Poser,” but that still leaves one solid belter that would fit in perfectly between BLONDIE and X-RAY SPEX at your next ’77-’82-themed DJ night.

Carnivorous Bells The Upturned Stone LP

Kudos for the self-invented label Cave Prog. Although CARNIVOROUS BELLS is not a BUTTHOLE SURFERS cover band but a new group of known names from CULT RITUAL/SALVATION circles. Bands who peaked a decade ago and the bits and pieces of hardcore-foreign influnces are testifying that in the past few years these guys might went further in their playlists than MECHT MENSCH and UNITED MUTATION. There is a lot of guitar playing that is experimental and moody enough to evoke some meaner Flying Nun bands while the rhythm section is swinging between jazz and Amphetamine Reptile/Touch & Go noise-rock broken beats. Poured down with hardcore tension while kept in a less distorted, raw-by-loudness enviorment. Occasionally they forget to remain within a song and rather start to jam, and it’s interesting how the influences are laid parallel, never really emulsifying with each other but somehow all adding up to an interesting clamor of adventurous hardcore. Should I go back and check the late-era of SST or October File? I get that CARNIVOROUS BELLS likes hardcore the idea as much as they do enjoy strange sounds from different scenes and they are very confident and successful to blend these alien worlds together. It creates an interesting album. Is it for everyone? Hell no, that would be like recommending Antonioni to a devoted fan of the Die Hard series, and if you do not get what the fuck I am talking about then just leave this record alone. 

  • Reviewer Viktor Vargyai
  • Label Human Headstone Presents
  • Issue MRR #443 • April 2020

Conducta Errátika Represión demo

This release is among the very few best new music. I stopped being optimistic about wonderful-demo bands but dealing with the present, this tape is the essence of great radikal hardcore. It is falling apart between the battle of enthusiasm and pace, therefore it’s as urgent as it grabs and drags you; anger-based total chaotic music from Chile that recalls manics like WRETCHED and ANTI-DOGMATIKSS or the bands and their collective sonic mind fuck of La Ciudad Podrida Vol. I comp or ephemeral group VIXENS. CONDUCTA ERRÁTIKA is unique because they recall and not replay the aforementioned names. Either they understand or relive equivalent frustrating conditions that they are able to translate to music in a similar approach but indistinguishable style. Therefore their music becomes free of the burden of the history of hardcore since it does not have to fit into any templates. The music is raw and careless, raging in each track, its purpose is to create noise that here equals reprisal. The quality of the recording coats each number well, and tells about the circumstances of the band. Everything here integrates into one swirling thunder that aimlessly rumbles. This tape embodies CONDUCTA ERRÁTIKA via all possible features. This is the noise of their lives and I am happy they share it with us. Highly recommended.

Crudez Jungle Jeopardy EP

CRUDEZ looks and plays punk like you imagine the enemies of Robo Cop would prefer. Nasty, Riot City Records soundmark sonic jet guitars, as a pipe of fuzz, laid on a solid but simplified beat. Although the combination between the music and vocals reminds me a lot of classic Swiss bands: the KICK, GLUEAMS sort of distant emotions as the singer exists in her own world, far from the language she sings on, far from the dirty, jiggly guitar sound an inbred mix of MANISCH DEPRESIV and CHAOTIC DISCHORD. It blends great with the additional variety of pogo melody and street blitzkrieg-vibes. The songs do not differ from each other, therefore nine of them in a row is a bit stifling although each song could be 7” material. Let them be your daily dose of international punk!

Fuck It… I Quit! The War Ritual LP

Vicious mad blasts of retro-crust hardcore fueled with defiance and rage. Recalling the sounds of REACT, CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, LOGICAL NONSENSE, AUS-ROTTEN, BOILING MAN, focused on themes of veganism, animal liberation, and a strict stance against the capitalist corporate masculine hypocritical system. Several shared furious vocal duties nail-gun through each track, which clock in under a couple minutes each on average, a brief harsh slap of reality like DROPDEAD. A few songs explore into the three- or four-minute range, thinking of ANTISCHISM, PROVOKED, ZERO HOUR but for the most part, on this 22-track LP laced with several unsettling interludes, the band delivers their message concisely. FUCK IT… I QUIT! is the sound and constitution of the inherent punk culture fight and the uncensored non-metaphoric, straight-to-the-point voice we need again.

  • Reviewer Jason Ryan
  • Label Atomic Action / Refuse
  • Issue MRR #443 • April 2020

Grey C.E.L.L. Grey C.E.L.L. LP

This record smokes. The former members thing is really going to help out here because it does totally sound like folks from CITIZENS ARREST, NEMA and HELL NO play in this band. Straight, up-tempo hardcore filled in with heavy breakdowns (well, it’s all pretty heavy) and a slight nod toward the metal side of things without ever really getting there. What differentiates this from those folks’ old bands is that it has a brightness in the guitar sound (and recording in general) that really makes it pop. Not saying it makes it better than that old stuff, it just makes it feel fresh. Did I say that this record smokes?

  • Reviewer Pete Avery
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #443 • April 2020

Groinoids Lost LP

This record was quite a surprise for me. Most of us know the GROINOIDS from their tracks on Boston Not LA and Unsafe at Any Speed. Those tracks and the later released Radiobeat Sessions feature some fast, demented hardcore with snotty/wacky vocals and sarcastic lyrics. One formed the impression of a goofy group of misfits who were into playing fast and not too seriously. This opinion was reinforced by contrasting them to the tight, heavy and powerful mesage-driven hardcore bands like SSD, DYS and JERRY’S KIDS. This Lost LP is in a completely different style than I envisioned. The riffs are heavy and sludgy. They swing from an evil heaviness you might expect from a band like CAVITY or BUZZOV•EN to a more rockin’ form of heavy like, say, HIGH ON FIRE or FU MANCHU. But—and this is a big but—the vocals are still the whiney, juvenile, sarcastic snarl of the early hardcore days. It’s almost as if they are asking us not to take this new heavy direction seriously just as they seemed to with their hardcore material. Some practical joker decided it would be uproarious to place a locking groove at the beginning of record so you actually drop the needle about an inch in from the edge rather than on the outer edge of the slab. I would say if you are into heavy post-hardcore stuff this record might be a real missing link for you. For hardcore fans I think it is more of historical and academic interest.

  • Reviewer Felix Havoc
  • Label Limited Appeal / Necrotone
  • Issue MRR #443 • April 2020

Modern Love Ensomhet Vet EP

Let’s break this up. The first tracks on each side are both real cool, mid-tempo, jangle punk head-nodders. It feels like early CURE songs played through a modern Australia indie/punk filter. It’s bouncy, sing-along stuff (if you know Norsk) that maintains just enough of a punk edge. The other two tracks are more typical up-tempo, melodic punk with a heavily drenched guitar sound and little bits of hardcore that almost cut through. Still catchy and all but a little generic.

  • Reviewer Pete Avery
  • Label Refuse
  • Issue MRR #443 • April 2020

Out Cold Living Is Killing Me LP

OUT COLD was labeled underrated throughout their whole career—it made them enter the category of your favorite band’s favorite band. Although right now I cannot really name particular bands they have influenced. How Living Is Killing Me sounds has become unique in today’s hardcore as it is raw in a different sense than what the meaning of raw has transformed into. OUT COLD reaches for the purest, unfiltered form, just turning on and up the amp and adding a little distortion, not making it thin, sharp, clean; behind which probably is a thought that this is going to be enough to sound harsh and hard. It’s a brave and wild idea even if a significant part of this LP was recorded at least ten years ago, before Mark Sheehan, their vocalist/guitar player, tragically passed away. How trends circle, this record feels alien today, as if it travelled through time. Although it does not make it ridiculous or even clumsily nostalgic but a lonely beast, something OUT COLD was called in their whole career. It reminds me of those classic USHC bands that are gateway drugs to this culture, but unlike being influenced by predecessors OUT COLD has worked themselves into this established sound that now feels as their own. The tempos are divided between straight-ahead fast and mid-tempo with tension which tracks wander away to rock-ish territories. As an achievement it is wonderful this record has been released. It is the final chapter of OUT COLD but isn’t it silly to always expect that at the end something amazing will happen? It adds to their story but as in life there are peaks and lows and mostly that sedating middles, still it worth to make it through and release everything we can because what is the worst that can happen? Even if you fail at least you fucking tried.

Spraut Det Smutsiga Livet EP

Wish I could judge a record by its first 30 seconds. Then I would be head over heels with SPRAUT since the chaotic, psychedelic start is so good, it would be great to have a record as its extension. I had to collect myself from the shocking moment when they turned it into D-beat and never really came back to experimental-core. Few minutes later I was no longer disappointed—despite the classic gestures of the genre are all here, SPARUT dug backwards to DISCHARGE’s rare moments when their beat turned into rock and roll and you rather care about moving your limbs than ventilating over the Falklands war. Which does not make SPARUT a rock and roll band but the width of their sound is not as expanded as most bands at their playground and this introduces a great contrast between the frightening/threatening atmosphere and the bouncy rhythm of the music. The focused vocals are unique, as it rises over the music and rages on the edge of hysteria. As a matured version of the singer of HUL. Another great thing is the vibration, the way the whole music moves along the record. Overall a solid EP that draws a lot from early European hardcore but self-concious enough to cherry pick the finest parts of it as a modern interpretation.  

Unarm The Voice from Forced Silence EP

UNARM is not a newcomer to the crasher game, this release is the 7” version of a promo tape made for their Scandinavian tour in 2018. Took several listens to cut through the usual gimmicks of the style—the wall-of-noise sound, a pace so fast its density makes the rhythm billow, how overwhelming the whole production is. Which are great features when you would like to listen to modern crasher crust/D-beat/high energy hardcore played in boots, but without much else these easily do blur many bands into one featureless bunch. Then what is special in UNARM? They do not drench their whole sound in the noise-not-music aesthetics; instead they occasionally introduce a good amount of melody and their pedals are not only here to blur the guitar sound but to elevate it. I love how the bass sounds in the third song when it switches from being this huge physical thing that, along with the drums, rolls over everything to a groovy psych element. The chaos of the last song is great, almost makes the whole record a warm up for that. If you pay enough attention, there are pieces of a puzzle scattered all over the record that make it a bit more than a great exercise of an already solid artifact. I would like it to be more radical but fuck me, UNARM does whatever they want, and if you are up for exploring entertaining tricks within a sonic warfare, this record can be your field of experiment.

Vivienne Styg Rose of Texas 12″

Effortlessly cool and deadpan art-punk done Lone Star-style, like a box full of PRESSLER-MORGAN singles and Keats Rides A Harley comps turned up in some dusty Houston shop and VIVIENNE STYG has made it their mission to bring a contemporary interpretation of those twin inspirations to the masses. If there had been a band like this (or if someone had been willing to start one with me) when I was living in Houston, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t have moved away fifteen years ago, no joke. Tinny/twangy guitar, ramshackle galloping drums, and dry, conversational vocals with a palpable sneering edge, all held together with some abstract junkshop electronic textures between songs in a tried and true DIY hometaper fashion; a total scratchy nuevo-Messthetics dream. The lyrics are also brilliantly biting, largely centered from the perspective of whip-smart women putting ineffective men in their place and taking control of their own agency in a dull patriarchal capitalist reality—opting out of consumer culture, getting businessmen to pay your rent, one-night stands of leather-clad romance. The first vinyl edition of this came out in February and was limited to 100 copies that sold out almost immediately, but there’s a second pressing forthcoming and y’all would seriously be remiss to not jump on it when it’s available again.

V/A Diamond Distance & Liquid Fury: Sonny Vincent Primitive 1969-76 LP

Sometimes when punx who exclusively listen to punk rock accidentally encounter music from somewhere else and it does not suck, in their confusion the review and redistribution of the modified definition of punk rock starts to tame their minds. This explains when some tried to convince the world that a certain type of fast, electronic music is the new punk, or free jazz is punk. Occasionally it gets real chaotic and hardcore is called folk music. Side note: right now it’s 2020 and even if you have the words punk and hardcore tattooed on your body it is fine to own parts of the Acutel series or microdose yourself at some contemporary classical music event and tell your fellow radical rockers: you had a great Tuesday evening at this gallery where the performance took place. You basically can do whatever the fuck you want and within this freedom I state: this record is not punk at all. Which does not mean it is bad, because it is decent music that my dad would appreciate, too—but don’t worry, he does not possess a leather vest, nor wears a man bun, instead he was jamming me MC5 and ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO when I was around eight years old. This record sends me into that period when playing rock and roll was a radical act, tap water contained LSD, hippies started cults and robbed banks, and wars were either proxy or cold. Although it is a compilation of bands (FURY, DISTANCE, LIQUID DIAMONDS, TESTORS) which all had SONNY VINCENT, the proper curation made the record consistent yet varied enough not to ever become boring. Sound-wise the tracks are on the edge of psychedelic rock but no real chaotic mumbo-jumbo, rather large, extended solos. Everything is sweaty-face-in-trance-desperation tight, mostly mid tempo and big riffs accompany male sorrow. The atmosphere of the record is dirty, tired, coming down from a trip and looking either for epiphany while staring into the rising sun or for scavenging for an early breakfast before fainting onto a dirty mattress. It is closer to ROKY ERICKSON than to STOOGES, definitely not glam at all and also distant from the proto-punk art rock of the VELVET UNDERGROUND. In case you are done with the one-finger solos used on two-thirds of your hardcore songs, here is a whole catalog to lift ideas from, or in case you like to consume weed and get lost in classic sounding but still rocking albums or to be a rock dad with obscure knowledge, this can be your pick. It’s a fun listen.

BOB BOB LP

BOB was an absolutely flipped-out art-punk quartet in early ’80s San Francisco who put out two singles and an LP on NOVAK’s Dumb Records imprint before falling apart, and this new anthology collects that entire recorded output with the addition of a really great fold-out insert with archival photos and an interview with the band. The first BOB 7” from 1980 (“The Things That You Do” / “Thomas Edison”) remains a total US DIY classic, two raucous rushes of shrieking, call-and-response male/female vocals and Morse code rhythms—think fellow Bay Area freaks PINK SECTION, or even really early B-52’S—pushed to an even weirder extreme given that an urgently bashed vibraphone was the instrument at the front and center of both songs. BOB’s subsequent records lost some of that frenetic edge and leaned more into an oddball new wave direction that, thanks to the still-present vibraphone, could almost be described as mutant lounge (the less wound-up counterpart to No Wave’s mutant disco explorations?). In my original memories from picking up 1983’s Backward LP, none of the songs left quite as strong of an impression as that first single, but revisiting them in the context of this compilation, I honestly have a renewed appreciation for a lot of it—”Bird Lanes” or “(My Pal) Joe” aren’t really too far removed from Hardcore-era DEVO or mid-to-late-period SUBURBAN LAWNS. Mandatory listening for enthusiasts of the most off-kilter sounds to come out of the 1980s punk underground.

Charger Watch Your Back 12″

This one-sided, one-track picture disc comes with a flexi disc of the same track. OK, it’s not actually a picture disc, Pirate’s Press emphasizes that this is a UV digitally-printed record that sounds better than a conventional picture disc. But realistically, people are not gonna buy this to play in on a turntable. You can download the track for a buck, if you want to listen to it. The front of the record has the band’s logo with transparent red glowing eyes, and the back has a full-color fisheye photo of the band playing at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland. They look genuinely stoked. The band is made up of RANCID’s Matt Freeman, guitarist Andrew McGee, and drummer Jason Willer of ALARIC, CROSS STITCHED EYES, and several classic punk reunion bands. The track sounds like MOTÖRHEAD and Matt Freeman’s unique vocals evoke RANCID’s first self-titled album. People who want this, you know who you are!

Chiller Dread Creeps In EP

These kids get more fierce with each release. Fast, nasty hardcore punk from Pittsburgh, CHILLER kills it with the breakdowns, drop the leads in where they belong, front everything with ’80s Midwest HC vocal intensity, and they barely pass the 60-second mark in the process. “Whistler” is my choice cut with its disjointed riff and disorienting beat, but there are no bad choices here.

Daszu Zone of Swans/Lucid Astral • 1/2 Dativa 2xLP

Archival reissue of forgotten post-punk from the early 1980s. Disc one, recorded as a bass-drums-synth trio based in Wisconsin and originally released as a cassette in 1981, seems to be divided into more abrasive “Severance” tracks and pop-oriented “Enticement” cuts; the former captures a bit of the tension personified by better-documented NYC no wave or UK post-punk acts, while the latter fades into “quirky” new wave blandness. Interestingly, disc two, recorded a few years later after the vocalist relocated to Australia and (as far as I can tell) never properly released, moves further into minimal synth soundscapes, offering a restrained, yet somehow more intense sonic experience. Overall this leans toward pretentious arty indulgence but despite its imperfections is worth investigating.

  • Reviewer Chris Hubbard
  • Label Lion Productions
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Dregs Watch Out EP

Brutal, fast, straight-edge hardcore from Vienna, Austria. DREGS’ debut vinyl release is totally fucking unstoppable. Singer Julie’s scathing and unrelenting vocals are backed up by the most pounding of hardcore breakdowns, occasional noodly guitar solos, and mysterious noise compositions at the beginning and end of the record. This is thrashy, intense and brilliant.

Fitness Womxn New Age Record LP

Acerbic but pleasure-filled art punk from NC. Nervous frenetic spasms of sound, got that 99 Records feeling in spades! An investigation into the post-Leeds post-punk sound with significant early-’80s NYC LES dancier side of no wave additions. Really great, almost pop songs but fucked up in a good sorta end times, imagine early ’80s Athens new wave art school mannerisms. If you are into FRENCH VANILLA, BUSH TETRAS, ’n other wilder art school sounds expounded upon in Erika Elizabeth’s MRR columns this will indeed suit yr needs!

  • Reviewer Layla Gibbon
  • Label Sorry State
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Iconoclast Domination or Destruction LP

It’s about time this was reissued on vinyl, and I’m thrilled Sealed Records did such an excellent job. Alongside California brethren like CRUCIFIX, DIATRIBE, or (to a lesser degree) BATTALION OF SAINTS, California’s ICONOCLAST was one of the first DISCHARGE-style bands in the US, and their 1983 demo tape on side A is one of the finest (until now) cassette-only ’80s hardcore recordings. Like the aforementioned, ICONOCLAST upped the intensity level of the UK-born style—their driving, garagey demo tracks are the perfect amalgamation of VARUKERS-esque bludgeon and POISON IDEA-style USHC fury. Side B collects their other recordings: a pair of seriously ripping live tracks from compilations plus their 1985 EP originally released on Flipside Records. That disc featured a mix of styles—a muddy rehash of a couple older HC songs plus a pair of more “matured” peace-punk cuts. I remembered the EP as being a disappointing about-face, though its inclusion here is appreciated now as simply a different expression from a group of idealistic young punks. Complete with an extensive booklet, this compilation is mandatory listening.

Invisible Eyes Searching for Crows CD-R

Horror punk with a vocal-heavy production and rather over-the-top bedroom mania guitar solos on some tracks (“Sufi the Dead” specifically). Subtle surf vibes on a few tracks, but the two sounds go hand in hand, and in a good way.

M.A.Z.E. M.A.Z.E. 12″

Sparse and wiry sounds from Japan that are completely liberatory and free in their simplicity, like a modern-day continuation of the coloring-outside-the-lines approach of countless girl-centered punk geniuses from KLEENEX to the NIXE to NEO BOYS—trebly minimalist guitar, rubbery bass lines, perfectly stripped-down drumming, and ecstatically joyous vocals. “Join the LCD” zig-zags into some more angular, choppy start/stop rhythms without losing its playfulness and melody, and “She Left This Town” even reminds me of bands like CHIN CHIN that existed in that transitional period between early ‘80s UK DIY and the dawn of C86, drawing equally from spiky post-punk and shambling, jangly pop. Short and sweet (six songs in under twelve minutes); highly recommended if this one escaped your radar when it appeared last year!

Nations on Fire Death of the Pro-Lifer LP reissue

NATIONS ON FIRE was an important part of the European SXE scene—the Belgian part of which emerged around the Vort’n Vis squat—and was more radical politically than maybe what you think of when you think of “Edge People” now, who seem mostly engaged with clothing choices and high kicks, an aesthetic 1988 reenactment activity. This record was made in response to a moment when bands/kids that came out of that VEGAN REICH hardline goofus reality were making anti-choice “pro-life” records and zines and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. Such a bleak time! I saw this band play sometime in the early ’90s, but didn’t really remember what they sounded like, just that they were smart/engaging (I think I got some zines from them?!). Musically this reminds me of pre-emo ENDPOINT—the lyrics are radical, feminist, left-wing, also very straightforward and earnest in that way every SXE band can’t seem to help. It’s a time capsule from the early ’90s, the artwork/layout reminds me of zines from back then (Kill the Robot/Simba/Positron, etc. etc.) even the way the drums sound is really distinctive to this time?! This is a glossy reissue as is typical with Refuse Records, has extra live tracks from the same era of the band the LP was recorded, and I think if you saw this band/are nostalgic for this era of hardcore it’s worth checking out…

Nervous Assistant Bitter Pills LP

Imagine a collision of ’80s SoCal and ’80s Berlin, not quite one or the other enough to not stay on the bridge. The hooks are there, but so is the stark darkness that creeps through even the upbeat numbers. NERVOUS ASSISTANT keeps it fast and keeps to the shit-hot guitar-based hooks instead of leaning on tonnage or production—not to say that Bitter Pills doesn’t sound great, because it does, but the focus remains on the songs. Makes me even more bummed that I walked into Eli’s as they were wrapping the last song of their set a couple of years back…

Nine Circles The Early Days 2xLP

NINE CIRCLES formed in the early ’80s after all the men in a broken-up band formed new bands with their girlfriends to compete for a radio station competition. NINE CIRCLES won, and listening to this you can see why. Awkward, dark, damaged monotone art wave synth oscillations that sort of hover in the space between paranoia and irony and dreams… Lidia has a cool voice and this has an ominous, doomed feeling, that decay-of-the-cities style of the era encapsulated in sound. NINE CIRCLES became a minimal synth cult long after they broke up, and this reissue has a ton of never-properly-released stuff. I think if you are into synth-tinged damage from an underground/DIY punk perspective this would very much work for you…

  • Reviewer Layla Gibbon
  • Label OnderStroom
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Red Star Ranny Pacierz Towarzysza: Live 1985-1986 LP

It still blows my mind how many artifacts remain to be re-discovered from the Communist-era Soviet Bloc countries. Two live sets here from RED STAR (who I had never heard of before this release), screaming Polish hardcore punk with melodic undertones that draw equally (if accidentally) from Minneapolis and London, but the meat here is pure fury. “Bohater” is SIEKIERA-level hardcore power, and the quirky bits of other tracks owe to ŚMIERĆ KILINCZNA. Give “This Is Poland” a proper studio recording and its anthemic simplicity would easily resonate for 35 more years, and I continue to thank Warsaw Pact Records for making these recordings available.

Slutavverkning Arbetets Sorgemusik Del III EP

Freak times call for freak music, and Stockholm’s SLUTAVVERKNING delivers exactly that. What if essential Swedish catchy punks like MASSHYSTERI were really just band geeks who loved ZAPPA? And saxophones? Because this shit is hopelessly addictive, crazy catchy, and the bizarrodust is sprinkled over every aspect of the mix. “Kollegor” encapsulates the whole approach—wild, driving ScandiPowerPunk verse right into a sax-driven art punk/hard bop chorus, with a TRAGIC MULATTO-worthy crescendo to finish. The record comes with a handful of inserts and a mini poster, personal touches that remind me of the things that used to make me excited about punk…and still do. Get wild, young punks; get real, real wild.

Spectres Provincial Wake / Northern Towns 7″

With the first track’s jangly and grippingly catchy intro, it’s hard to believe this record was recorded just a couple years ago and not in the ’80s. The cover artwork looks like a faithful re-enactment of an ’80s pop album, foreshadowing a change in direction from the band’s earlier darkwave releases. The second track does tend back toward the dark side of new wave, with influences like the SMITHS or the JESUS AND MARY CHAIN. Both tracks are worthy of being played on repeat while you wait for SPECTRES’ new full-length.

Vlack Wake Up / Worm 7″

Strangely infectious and undeniably powerful platter on my turntable right now. Massive guitar-driven stomps with a hardcore bent—I’m thinking early ’00s not-quite-commercial not-quite-kickboxing-bro-core, maybe even a touch of emo. “Worm” is the dark brooder, while “Wake Up” hits hard and keeps hitting. For scope of appeal, VLACK lands somewhere between MODERN LIFE IS WAR and UNSANE, and carves out their own sound  and approach in the process. Criminally small pressing of just over 111 because…the internet.

Vueltas Ocho Espadas cassette

Portland’s VUELTAS has five tracks of crystal-clear, brooding deathrock. The riffs are creative and original, and the Spanish-language vocals are unsettling and spine-chilling, which is a pretty amazing feat in this genre where creepiness is replicated so prolifically that it’s easy for bands to just blur into the mist. Current or former members of POISON IDEA, ATRIARCH, and CLITERATI. Definitely something to check out for any punks of the darkwave or deathrock persuasion.

Asocial Föralltid Underground LP

Holy shit this is a beast. Sweden’s ASOCIAL left a criminally limited discography in their wake when they disbanded in the mid ’80s, but their return a few years back with Död Åt Kapitalismen was a welcome kick in the ass…this one, however, is light-speed kång. Föralltid Underground is so damn fast, and the riffs are just deadly in their simplicity and execution—this is literally a perfect record. Only two tracks top the two-minute mark, Berggren’s vocals are fueled by a fire akin to early DISFEAR, and the transition from primal ’80s ScanD-beat fury to 21st century power has only made the guitars more deadly. The drums in the title track alone are worth the price of admission—a veritable clinic on hooks and raw power joining forces…much like the entire LP. Raise your collective fist.

Brain Tourniquet Shot Dead EP

Both “Fate” and “It Takes Three…” nail INFEST’s sludgy, almost prog rock style to a T. The riff on “Shot Dead” and bits of “Paranoia” remind me of NO TOLERANCE, the little breaks in “Not Alive” are very INFEST-like, and the breakdown in “Animal Instinct” has a looseness that isn’t unflattering but seems uncommon for this genre. “No Solution” comes across as if the lyrics don’t fully fit, like the song could’ve used more work and was maybe rushed. I thought I’d be bored with it but the first four tracks on side A had me coming back for repeated listens. It’s fucking powerviolence, OK?

The Cowboy Wi-Fi on the Prairie 12″

The simplicity of it all makes this hard to describe. Elements of HOMOSTUPIDS are apparent but this sounds even less blown out than the previous COWBOY release. Wi-Fi reminds me a lot of Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts in that it’s so simple and so catchy but there’s just little janky things that make it sort of odd, unconventional and seemingly unattractive. Imagine one those trippy SST Records “members of” groups but instead it’s What Makes a Man Start Fires-era MINUTEMEN combining with Metal Circus-era HÜSKER DÜ. That’s a bad description but you’ve got nothing but time now so you should just listen to it. Art by John Morton as well. An all-around great release.

Deletär Violence 12″

An even sharper blast of ten TOTALITÄR-inspired D-beatings than this St. Etienne band’s great debut 7” EP. There’s enough flourish, stops ’n’ starts and innovation around the margins of the straight ahead that the sturdy pummel of DEATHREAT might also be a point of reference, but by the last track of side A they’re dropping an epic guitar intro reminiscent of JUDGEMENT, so a lot of things mix outside of the template of grade-A Svensk-style käng stomping this band has down. Compared to the 7″, there’s less room noise  and more focus in the recording to simmer up the strength of the actual songs—great to-the-point hardcore bursts with vocal chords stretching into depths of RIPCORD-ish growl, barking in French. There’s no translation (or sadly, even TOTALITÄR-esque explanations in English) but a quick scan through translation seems pretty basic resistance and struggle. The artwork, while cool, also checks that box of definably punk without a definably direct statement. A remarkably solid, blazing record at 45 RPM with memorable riffs and pointed impact! Killer!

Deuter Róbrege ’84 LP

A couple of us were debating and mostly agreeing that many reissues don’t need to be pressed to vinyl in this day and age, with the decrease in demand for physical media and the climate crisis begging us to question whether we should be producing more things. Deciding whether an old live or rare cassette recording is deserving of a vinyl reissue is subjective, of course. This 1984 live recording greatly suffers about a fifth of the time (as noted in the liner notes) but DEUTER’s energetic and aggressive punk style does translate well in this setting. It’s like DEZERTER with a sax! What balances this release is the slick presentation including history, great layout, lyrics in Polish and English, and a three-panel panoramic poster. I think it’s worth the effort, especially considering how much harder it was for independent bands in Eastern Europe to release records. This is not the definitive DEUTER release for global punk fans, but a well executed document of ’80s punk in Poland.

End Result The Seven Year Locust Returns LP reissue

I first heard about END RESULT maybe about ten years ago when that documentary about Chicago punk of the early ’80s came out. They were easily the most exciting band in the movie, a multi-racial falling apart teenage fuck you to regimental rules-based hardcore with shades of FLIPPER and NO TREND, but made with their own ingredients. In case you want to read someone else’s contextualization of the group, here’s Albini: “END RESULT was truly a band apart… Alan tuned his guitar like a cello… END RESULT had no drummer to keep the beat, because (in Alan’s immortal words) ‘we think our audience can count.’” I immediately took it upon myself to find some recordings, and picked up their LP, Ward, which was not quite reflective of the footage from the movie that was so intoxicating to me. Chicago people kept talking about these mythical tapes from that earlier era that were going to come out, but despite my mania and constant badgering, reader—it never happened! Until now! Here they are! The 1982 tapes I have been hunkering for since 2008! A no wave band at a hardcore show isn’t shocking in 2020, but imagining a legion of Reagan Youth gazing and trying to understand the strange wonders of this mutant sound in between one-two-fuck-you bands is a quiet pleasure! I might be misremembering this, but END RESULT considered themselves a HC band, not a no wave band. What is hardcore, or no wave? And how can we change it so it makes sense at the end of the world? END RESULT has the answers and the questions; this record is a destructive/constructive demonstration of what is possible when you have an idea and are baffled by genre exercises…

  • Reviewer Layla Gibbon
  • Label Alona's Dream
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Fur Coats Dystopia Sherbit LP

Art punk stuff from Texas via Chicago. This combo is fronted by an ex-NO EMPATHY member from the 80’s Chicago scene. Kind of spastic without getting too out there. A mix of a Mike Watt band, PERE UBU, and ARCHERS OF LOAF. I’m digging this release from Johann’s Face Records who had a pretty good run in the ’90s.

  • Reviewer Ray Lujan
  • Label Johann's Face
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Government Flu House Arrest EP

Warsaw’s GOVERNMENT FLU has been around long enough to still have a page limping on Myspace (!), and  a lengthy catalog of solid, straight-ahead, early-’80s US-influenced hardcore. This five-song EP (their ninth!) spins like one of the best early No Way Records releases (DIRECT CONTROL, GOVERNMENT WARNING, etc.) where there’s no bullshit, no metal or art trappings, just concise, direct hardcore that maybe trawls the FANG/“end-of-the-LP-side” ’80s punk sludge here and there to bookend the speeding attack. Energetic jolts of fast hardcore more precisely played than ’80s bands in a more defined recording, the No Way comparison is apt, and the EP’s artistic design, with a big fold-out poster/lyrics sheet harkens to that great spirit and style of  HC revival of the mid-’00s, but urgency and intensity overrides any retro nostalgia. Lyrics are shouted in English, confronting decisions of how to live life, self-definition, expectation and rules. Great EP, limited to 500 copies.

Id Twoja Twarz LP

As soon as the music began I immediately thought of the first POST REGIMENT album, a record I’ve listened to maybe more than any other throughout my life, or at least in the top five. Turns out that the two recordings were done at the same studio with the same engineer within a year of each other, so I’d like to take a moment to appreciate and commend my damaged but accurate and still-functioning ears. ID fits right in between exemplary Polish bands POST REGIMENT and ARMIA, really sharing the spirit and rhythmic prowess of both bands, but perhaps more stripped down. This record doesn’t immediately grip me the way the bands I compared it to did, but Polish punks surely know better than me, a Texas-born poser who loves old Polish punk and hardcore. This was previously released on cassette only back in 1993, so now we can all enjoy it on the same superior format as its aforementioned contemporaries.

Insecurity Willpower EP

INSECURITY from France plays totally fine and serviceable aggressive youth crew, nothing to write home about but not terrible. They’re named after one of the best TURNING POINT songs and the influence is evident, but if you have even a passing interest in youth crew, you already have a record that sounds exactly like this. If someone is holding a gun to your head and demanding that you buy a Refuse Records release, I’d definitely recommend this over most. Wouldn’t that be a weird situation in which to find yourself?

J. Graves Marathon LP

On my first pass through, I didn’t love or hate this. Jessa Graves sings in this style that’s, like, quiet-loud. She sort of whispers into a rise and shout and then lets it trail off at the end of each line. Even in some words her vocal volume wavers between a tipsy friend trying to tell you a secret and a sober one telling you it’s time to fucking go! But also she has this piercing sweetness and clarity to her voice with tons of power behind it. She also plays guitar in this band and I have to say, that opening riff on the B-side (bass as well) is real good. I’m pretty drawn to the song “Leap Year.” It’s more than the lyrics “Did you forget that all along / That I was just your ghost?” that make this song feel super haunted. And Graves is certainly a proficient writer. All these songs are quite wordy, but nothing feels extra or out of place. Engineered and mixed by Stan Wright of ARCTIC FLOWERS, which is pretty rad. To be candid, these songs didn’t grab me at first blush, but two or three spins through they’re starting to get stuck in my head. The cover art for this is an X-ray of her chest cavity and it came with a handwritten note saying she’s just getting started. I love this energy and what I’m hearing from this group.

  • Reviewer Kayla Greet
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Июльские Дни (July Days) Китеж cassette

Present-day reinterpretations of ’80s dark wave/synth rarely sound as perfect as Июльские Дни. Synths are heavy and omnipresent but never overbearing, vocal delivery is stark and cold, demanding and earning attention, while guitar melodies ripped from Top of the Pops soar the band to new heights. Everything is held together with a rock-solid rhythm section, creating a feel that’s suited to the darkest corner of the dancefloor as to an ’80s movie montage. They are reaching confidently for a sound…and they succeed.

Locked Inside Your Thoughts. Your Own. EP

Haircut youth crew that, while energetic, tight, and probably great live under exactly the right circumstances, has absolutely nothing to offer on record. The songwriting isn’t quite as cliché and predictable as the embarrassing lyrics and artwork might have one think, but the songs aren’t memorable either. And I know I’m writing this about a straightedge band, but if you are a middle-aged adult in the year 2020 with a Christian-teenager-level understanding of addiction and substance (ab)use, as demonstrated in the title track’s cartoon sloganeering, you desperately need to expand your worldview.

  • Reviewer Dan Goetz
  • Label Not Like You
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Mustang Mind Wandering LP

Not as crushing as I’d hoped it to be. With six tracks it’s definitely got variety but it’s about two-thirds Burning Spirits-styled metallic rocking and about one-third hardcore. The hardcore tracks follow DISCHARGE-like song progressions while the songwriting is still fairly creative. The sound quality is dirty enough to feel true menace and power, which thankfully is not lost in too slick of a production. It’s pretty entertaining and warrants multiple listens but I’d imagine the live show is more enthralling.

  • Reviewer Paolo Bon Tempo
  • Label Break the Records / F.O.A.D.
  • Issue MRR #429 • February 2019

Nabat Potere Nelle Strade LP reissue

NABAT is true Bolognese. Their music is thick and meaty while still glistening into a uniformed consistency. It’s hearty and warm and like most other things it’s been bastardized and ruined by Americans. If you’re not familiar with NABAT they’ve got a hefty Oi sound all their own with a mix of speedy UK82-inspired tunes and uniformed mid-tempo stuff, big woah-oh choruses and very gruff vocals. This isn’t a full reissue of all the band’s material, just their studio recordings, as some compilation songs, along with “Kill Police” and “Nichilist Nabat” which appeared on the split tape with RIP OFF, are missing. The roughness of the recordings becomes glaringly obvious moving from the smoothness of the Laida Bologna 7” to the RIP OFF split tape recordings. Puke N Vomit tried but this reissue comes across like Sunday Sauce (half-assed and lackadaisical but ultimately pleasing to the many who buy a new pair of boots instead of performing upkeep on their flagship store Docs Martens). It’s not the highest quality but if you want to hear NABAT then this will cover you.

Negative Runners Negative Runners LP

This French band has an early LEATHERFACE feel. Although not nearly on that level, this is some decent gruffy vocals punk with lyrics in English. Maybe a little RANCID in the mix, too. An eight-song release of melodic guitar punk.

  • Reviewer Ray Lujan
  • Label Kick Rock / Bad Health
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

No Sugar Rock’n’Roll Isn’t Boring, It’s You LP

The first thing I did after putting this record on was to turn it up. The second thing I did was turn it waaay up. This band rips. Reminds me an awful lot of NO WEATHER TALKS. Maybe because both have female singers and are from Germany? Could be that there’s just something about the German accent singing in English, which I am so grateful for because I also love what their songs are about. Right out the gate they’re denouncing sexual harassment in the song “Time’s Up.” There’s a line in that song that goes “A piece of cake? / Well I can’t bake / Give me a new recipe for equality,” and I just fucking love it. All these songs are full of high-energy, wailing vocals and jangly guitar. The lyrics for their song “Pizza Girl” is just as cheesy as you might imagine, but god damn is it catchy and dancey. Even though the track “Friends Like These” starts out with a kinda standard blues riff that tends to bore me, by the first chorus I am all in. This band rules. I’m bummed that this is the first I’ve heard of them, especially since I could have seen them at the past two Fests in Gainesville, but I’m glad I’m on board now! Oh, and it’s mastered by Dave Williams at Eight Floors Above. That guy is a great indicator for whether an album is gonna be good. This whole record rips.

Ooloi From the Dust, A New World Emerged, Barren and Awaiting Our Sorrows digital LP

Experimental and/or improvisational free jazz (?) steeped in punk ethos and sonics. A vast expanse of sound, feedback and electronics shrouding erratic drums while guitar and wind trade compete for melodies. The middle of “Jonah” approaches PAINKILLER-level heaviness and ominousity before departing on another leg of their journey through sound—a journey that ends with a raucous, almost six-minute stomp titled “Funeral Rite.” That track (and the release) descends more than it ends, a surprisingly gentle landing that reminds you just how far off the ground OOLOI took you.