Reviews

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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. We will review everything that falls within our area of coverage: punk, garage, hardcore, etc.—no major labels or labels exclusively distributed by major-owned distributors. Releases without vocals or drums will not be considered. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from! No reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. All records reviewed are added to our archive, the largest collection of punk records in the world.

(Wait — I thought you stopped doing a monthly magazine! Zinesplanation here.)

MRR #440 • January 2020

Agnostic Front First Warning LP

The earliest A.F. tracks don’t even sound like music to my ears. Everything—the riffs, the ultra-primitive drumming, the fuzzed-out string bend in the intro to “Final War”—is far enough removed from traditional rock’n’roll that I almost wonder whether these guys listened to anything besides the sounds of breaking garbage trucks and subway trains before they hit the studio. I mean, if Realities of War is a truncheon to the face, United Blood is like someone ripped the streetlight at 7th and A out of the f’n sidewalk and dropped it on your skull. If that’s your idea of a good time, consider this compilation, subtitled “The ‘United Blood’ Era Recordings, New York City, 1983.” All material was previously released on Grand Theft Audio’s Raw Unleashed CD a while back, and this LP shares many tracks with the superior No One Rules collection on Radio Raheem, technically getting away with the “several songs on vinyl for the very first time” sales point by including an alternate mix of the EP tracks. Anyway, it looks cool and features five different versions of “United Blood” on a single disc.

AninoKo Ugat LP

I’m just going to say that ANINOKO is the most important band in the Bay Area. Their shows are events: families, kids, activists, punks…their community is represented and their community is present at their shows, and that community is open, welcoming, and supportive. Their hardcore is full intensity, and they somehow managed to cram that energy into these tiny vinyl grooves so effectively that I get chills when I hear Jesse’s bass start “Buhay At Lupa” just like I do when they play live. A band made up of Filipino immigrants, singing in Tagalog and confronting issues that directly impact their community and the Filipino diaspora. They just do it a little faster than most activists. ANINOKO doesn’t just fill up space with their hardcore, they open up space for themselves and everyone around them to grow. These people are real, this music is real, and this music is fucking important.

Attic Ted Kafka Dreaming LP

More weird, wacky fun from this Texas band. It’s psychedelic carnival music. Sounding like Gibby Haynes singing along to the merry-go-round. It could easily get annoying if it wasn’t so amusing.

BKS DIY TNT EP

Hi-energy fastcore with (occasional) melodic bits masked by sheer speed (It’s a proven and effective technique, and I support its implementation). A solid Cappo yeeoowll creeps in at times, just as they’re about to unleash, and they do a nice job of dropping catchy breakdown and intro riffs into the mix to keep things interesting. Eleven tracks here, and not a shred of bullshit to be found (the CRO-MAGS cover is completely unnecessary, but it’s still not bad).

Black Heino Pfaffenbrot / Schüsse Von Links und Rechts 7″

This is the first volume in a series of singles recorded on a Tascam 4-track. BLACK HEINO cranks out plenty of volume from the limited but versatile machine: The garage punk romp of “Pfaffenbrot” leaps out of the grooves and grabs you by the throat. The flip is a German-language cover of MAGAZINE’s “Shot By Both Sides” sung from the point of view of an internet troll. Overall, a worthwhile if not essential exercise, and anyway, the single appears to be already sold out.

BOOJI BOYS Tube Reducer LP

You’re probably familiar with this Canadian act via their prior efforts, having made a significant amount of racket across a few LPs in just a short amount of time. Part of me is on board with their homespun, hiss-fi takes on MARKED MEN-style buzz-pop, but then I grow a bit weary of the one-dimensional onslaught of it all. There are plenty of people content to listen to shit like this exclusively, but I just ain’t one of ’em. Loyalists have at, I guess.

Carlos Dunga Oltre Quella Linea LP

Metallic thrash from Italy for fans of guitars (me) and bandana moshing (not me). I appreciate the masterful balance of full on speed-picking thrash and tasteful epic guitar flourishes. Sometimes you only get one or the other. Oltre Quella Linea sounds rooted in early ’80s hardcore, the modern production being the thing convincing me that this isn’t some long lost ’80s hardcore band-gone-crossover the second half of the decade. Think UPSET NOISE, EMILS, or NEGAZIONE with bonus MAIDEN-esque leads. I’m not currently seeking out bands like this but enjoyed it nonetheless, and can certainly recommend it to active headbangers and thrash-heads.

Chain Whip 14 Lashes LP

Last year’s factory town hardcore-styled debut EP was a solid starting point, but CHAIN WHIP have outdone themselves on their first LP. You can still hear the sense of, dare I say, pedestrian soulfulness (by hardcore standards, of course) that reminds me of the FIX, the DICKS, and the LEFT via the present, but this time around, the melodic, sing-along-ready songs are matched by faster speeds and more commandeering, rapid-fire vocals. The overall feel is one of being beaten down but undefeated, and finding jubilation in envisioning just how you’re gonna overthrow your overlords. I would imagine this band is best experienced by happening on them live on a rainy Tuesday after a not-terrible-but-not-great day at your dead-end job, and proceeding to spend their entire set up front, jumping up and down against the stage with a massive grin on your face. While these fourteen lashes listen more like a collection of songs than a cohesive album, the songs are more than varied enough to make each of them leave its own mark. Highly recommended.

Corner Boys Waiting for 2020 LP

This sounds so 1979 indie punk, where punk was really pop. PROTEX, POINTED STICKS, and even first-LP UNDERTONES comparisons are dead on. This is this Vancouver band’s debut LP, and it’s pretty damn solid. The raw production really makes a difference. Great LP!

Crimson Ghostbusters Crimson Ghostbusters LP

Remember funny college dorm rock bands? These local vets crank it out punk style. Songs that walk that fine line between cover and mash up. Lots of MISFITS bits here mixed with BUGGLES, SLAYER, CHEAP TRICK, THIN LIZZY, TOM PETTY, and others. A good time that’s not for grumpy people.

Current Affairs Object & Subject LP

Radio-ready post-punk from Scotland. At CURRENT AFFAIRS’ center is this big-’80s black ice sound, one that’s almost entirely referential—a dark dance between obvious influences like SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES and JOY DIVISION—but still totally stirring. I’m sometimes left wondering where they really are amidst all this well-schooled swiping, but if “Breeding Feeling” is any indication, they’re cued up at the fuckin’ bank, trying to cash their royalty checks. Not the only hit to be heard here, either. A very impressive outing.

Dayglo Abortions Wake Up, It’s Time to Die EP

I couldn’t help buying Feed Us A Fetus as a teenager, which perhaps still has my favorite cover art on a punk record to this day. DAYGLO ABORTIONS has to be one of the most gloriously obnoxious—both in sound and aesthetic—bands from the annals of Canadian punk. Considering that the only material that really stuck with me are the first two 12″s, this unreleased session from 1982 is like a godsend. Cruder versions of classics like “Bedtime Story,” “Proud to Be a Canadian,” “Ronald McRaygun,” and the debut of previously too-shocking “I Am Whiter Than Hitler” (“but I ain’t no fucking nazi!”). And, fuck me, it’s already sold out! Do I have any fans out there that wanna help me out? Anyhow, as you may expect, Supreme Echo packed this thing in a stellar package with nice things to read and look at, like an amazing interview with their psycho vocalist.

Dèche Le Luxure En Vain LP

Refreshingly unselfconscious punk songs in the tough but not-totally-not-silly style of bands like FILTH, and vocals that sound like the woman singer in DIRT. The whole thing is in French, but the band is from Cleveland. Fast enough for hardcore and fun enough for punk, this is pretty much a raging circle pit on vinyl. While nobody can argue that punk isn’t repeating itself, this record suggests that it’s getting better and better as it mutates.

Dead in Argentina The City Is Not Alright / I See Red 7″

The A-side starts out with a JAWBREAKER-ish riff but the sort of spacy, sung vocals really takes you off that vibe and into a more post-rock kind of thing. The song is still driving but not blown-out loud or overly distorted. It has more of a dark feel, like it should be soaking in reverb, but it isn’t. Not bad, but doesn’t really grab at anything. The B-side sounds like it’s going to be a Midwest emo tune until it hits real hard and then it sounds like some of those No Idea Records emo bands from the late ’90s: TRUE NORTH, TWELVE HOUR TURN, etc. Screamed/sung vocals, crunchy distorted bass, heavy syncopated drumming. A real solid song.

Dennis The Enthusiast LP

Well, the most obvious first thing to mention is an apt emulation of the gremlin vocal stylings of Darby Crash. This guy does well to add the necessary unsavory element to an otherwise palatable, catchy punk sound. (GI) really may be the best reference point, even though a lot more punk music has come out since 1979. I for one value releases that can stand on their own more than well-studied bands successfully sounding like the classics, but this LP shockingly achieves both. Should I deny or approve?! I am a snobby MRR reviewer after all…but can my ego get in the way of heaping endless praise and recommendations onto the entirety of these eleven tracks? Not today! Limited to 300 copies so better hurry.

Droids Blood Be Free LP

They want it to sound like a troupe of aliens giving some hard-driving garage punks a lap dance, and that’s pretty much where they landed. This thing has a frustration that almost conjures Revolution Summer (take “Half Sacrifice” as an example), and a driving force that dominates even the less chaotic songs. And speaking of those supposedly mellower moments, “Rotary Phone” is one of the slower tracks on Be Free, and it is an absolute stunner—a simply incredible track. Keyboards are subtle, intensity is constant, and even the moments that venture into indie territory are still just odd enough to keep them outside of any predetermined box. Closest modern comparison I get is DASHER, who were also in your face and in themselves at the same time. DROIDS BLOOD are worth way more listens, and I imagine I’m going to develop other opinions long after these words are public. For now, I’ll say that this is great; drop me a line in a few weeks and I’ll tell you the rest.

Early Stages Terrible Business LP

This is quirky slacker pop from Austin that sounds like an Australian band sounding like a New Zealand band sounding like the VELVET UNDERGROUND, if you get what I mean. It’s reminiscent of the STEVENS with bits of the CLEAN and LOU REED. There’s some bouncy stuff, there are some slow head-nodders, but there isn’t necessarily anything that stands out. On the other hand, it’s pretty catchy when listened to as a whole.

Carlos Dunga / Eat You Alive Carlos Dunga vs. Eat You Alive split EP

Absolute ripper in the form of an Italian fastcore split. CARLOS DUNGA inserts weird chuggas, unnecessary but awesome solos (and they open with a straight classic rock guitar solo intro that had me scratching my head before the ’core started) but basically deliver face-melting fastcore of the highest order. EAT YOU ALIVE are more metallic and “pro,” they look more to MUNICIPAL WASTE than to ___, but ultimately both bands just want to rage. And so they both rage. Also, I think this came out a number of years ago…

  • Reviewer Robert Collins
  • Label Autoproduzioni Rurali / Beggar God / Big Sprites / Dickhead / Flipped Up / Gang Green / Ghost Factory / Here And Now / L'é Tütt Folklor / Obdura Distro / Polluted Ideas / Sonos AFDA / Stay

Electric Chair Performative Justice EP

Any worries I had that this EP wasn’t going to match this band’s sprawled-on-the-floor live set were eradicated by the end of the first song. On these five tracks, ELECTRIC CHAIR fuse together the freewheeling yet tough and melodic side of early ’80s Mid/western US hardcore with stripped-down and more abrasive early ’80s European hardcore (D-beat and otherwise), all filtered through the drugged vibes of the BETA BOYS, with whom they share members. Vocals like a drill sergeant who got dosed and enjoyed it. Can’t wait for what’s next.

Exek Some Beautiful Species Left LP

Orstralian post-punk drone trip that feels like a slowed-down THIS HEAT nitemare with occasional FRIPP guitars and dubbed-out sorta POP GROUP incantations. A modern throwback to sounds made in another neocon fascist era, ominous horror is ours forever and here is the soundtrack… It’s bleak, dense, and not comfortable. This is obviously a great record, but I can’t decide if this paranoia sound is what I want right now, though.

Extroverts You Gotta Lose EP

It probably wasn’t easy being the first punk band in any city, but I bet it would be even weirder to be the first one in Regina, Saskatchewan. The EXTROVERTS hold that title; the eight songs on this 7″ were recorded in 1979. Like all early punk groups, the EXTROVERTS’ music is catchy and poppy with rough edges and attitude. The recordings are lo-fi, but there is something there. Song titles like “Nobody Knows Nothing” and “Brain Damage” nicely sum up the angst involved. Comes with a booklet containing the band’s story, photos, and fliers. Cool stuff.

Fatal Brutal Kontaktschuld EP

Debut vinyl release from this German band. Showcasing a cutting guitar tone, the intro to “Kintaktschuld” cops the riff from SEX VID’s “Footsteps” before kicking into an urgent and pummeling HC assault. Six short tracks that make their point and don’t overstay their welcome. Every element comes together nicely here: songwriting, recording quality, even the cover art (dino skeletons?) has an off-the-wall appeal. My inner sleeve here is numbered 255 so this one might be limited. Good stuff.

Fatal State Estado Fatal LP

Combustable political hardcore from Portland. This eight song debut twists between mid-tempo metallic hardcore churn and full-tilt hardcore blasting, throwing back to that ’90s style where there’s less of a set template or direct influence, yet enough musical chops to incorporate different approaches and feel to the songs. Energetically raging, the overall impact might pitch towards a less NAUSEA-bent DESTESTATION mixed with the searing rampage of HEALTH HAZARD. Vocals trade off between scathing lead female vocals and brute male back-ups, with pointed lyrics in English and Spanish about gun violence, landlord evictions, immigrant rights, an apolitical punk scene, and more, while blistering leads and solos drop to punctuate the impact. Explosive both musically and in urgent, current message, backed by a collage of recent protest sign slogans on the back of the lyric sheet, and a tempered line drawing cover of a goddess staring downward at discarded ICE helmets. Killer!!!

Flag of Democracy FODWorld LP

Just to be clear, we are talking about a band who the DEAD MILKMEN referenced on their first damn record…which came out in 1983. We’re talking about 37 years of essentially constant activity. I reviewed the No School No Core full-length last year and it was great, so I dropped the needle on FODWorld with high hopes. I was not let down. Fast, loose hardcore punk with a little more snot and melody that reaches back to their ’80s catalog. Nothing but respect from these ears, and I look forward to the next one.

Foster Care El Abuso LP

Speedy hardcore with a no-hope vibe, and a vocalist whose thick NY accent that reminds me of the MOB (NY) of all things. It’s mostly straightforward, but they throw in some experimental aspects from time to time, along with a noise interlude. The second side is considerably better than the first, so you might want to even listen to that one first.

Freak Genes III LP

Third dispatch from this synth-punk duo, part of the PROTO IDIOT and HIPSHAKES camp, always worth a look-see. FREAK GENES hit some kinda sweet-spot between “lite” pop and punk churn, recalling JAY REATARD’s synth-centered flirtations in both songwriting and sound. Not a lot of deviation tune-to-tune though, making this merely a fun exercise rather than a must-hear album.

Frequencia de Muerte Death Frequency 12″

FDEM are a gang of Portland lifers (with enough pull to get Jerry A. to do backing vocals on a track!) who offer up a lively and interesting hybrid style of hardcore on this huge-sounding, well-produced 12”. With Brad Boatright of FROM ASHES RISE on guitar, you know there will be epic riffs for days, but those driving riffs are joined to the swagger and rock’n’roll of Spanish punk thanks to the tastefully subdued drumming, rocked-out bass riffs, and Spanish language vocals courtesy of TEROKAL’s Eduardo Agostocrates. There are a few moments where the band could stand to pick up a little steam (things seems to trend toward the mid-tempo in general these days), but overall this is a rock-solid release for fans of either style. The cover art is not great, but the blue and black swirled vinyl is very pretty, and mine had a different pattern on each side.

Hard to Swallow Hard to Swallow LP

HARD TO SWALLOW were a very, very ’90s UK hardcore band, born of a scene muddling through the dramatic collapse of the ’80s UK punk boom and a general cultural abandonment of punk sounds and ideals in favor of electronic music and rave culture. This collection of mid-’90s demo, comp, and split EP tracks showcases a band that is disgusted by everything and everyone around them, fueled by rage and a wild experimental spirit. The fact that several members were splitting their time between HTS and IRON MONKEY is readily apparent: there’s a ton of sludge in the sound, and more than a touch of SABBATH-y blues alongside the vicious dual-vocalist hardcore attack. The band’s inclusion of some harsh noise and power electronics demonstrate their musical kinship to peers STALINGRAD, another exemplar of the eclectic, experimental ’90s UKHC scene. This collection won’t appeal to just anyone, but there are many (especially fans of ’90s German metalcore à la SYSTRAL and ACHEBORN) who will be blown away by this reissue. Great sound and sinister packaging included—mine came on a very appropriately off-putting lunchmeat kind of colored vinyl.

Heterofobia Queremos Ver el Mundo Arder LP

You should already know that these Mexican punx got the best band name and you can see the amazing album art, so why not just get it now? The guitar tone on this record is next-level deranged-ness, like someone is twisting the tuning pegs up and down to the beat. A ghastly, atonal blast enveloping a vicious, aggressive punk style. We shall not be brainwashed to think that every band with chorus-y and reverb-y instruments is “goth.” This is darker than goth, angrier than hardcore. Viscerally, authentically unsettling but pogo-worthy at the same time. I knew the LA UVI song was a cover without even recognizing it from memory, and they execute it with style. I take it as a confirmation of their evident classic punk roots underneath the pleasurable nightmare they’ve created. Recommended for true freak punks and those who lack inhibition.

Iena La Morte Chiama LP

This one completely caught me by surprise and knocked my Docs off. Some unspectacular cover art and an inner sleeve photo of some Italians with too much hair gave no warning for the hardcore boot-to-the-face Oi! onslaught to come. I don’t know if these Florence blokes are familiar with RIXE, but I’ve no doubt they’re well aware of the buzzsaw guitar assault of early NABAT, both of which are well-represented here. I believe the band name means “Hyena,” and the album title translates to “Death Calls,” which is totally fitting as this little slab wails and wails til you’re left calling for your madre, with not a loser track in the bunch. Slay your neighbor appropriately.

Jumpstarted Plowhards Round One CD

This band is Todd Congelliers of FYP and TOYS THAT KILL fame, and on bass is Mike Watt. Yes, that Mike Watt, along with multiple drummers. Eight spastic and twisted tunes that are under-produced and dissonant. This is very college rock circa 1990. I like it.

Kontakta Life in a Cage EP

Oh my fucking god I love this!! Total ’90s East Coast political anarcho-crustcore with super sincere animal-rights-themed lyrics, talk/sung vocals, simple riffs, gnarly down-tuned bass and cool breakdowns! I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me the person who dropped this off at the PO Box arrived there in a fucking time machine! Frankly, I’m more surprised to find out they’re from the UK. Think BROKEN, the PIST, BRUTALLY FAMILIAR, REACT (basically and all of Bill Chamberlain’s bands) and you know exactly what’s up. It’s almost depressing how happy it makes me to see a sincerely and straightforward political record in this day and age. Please buy this record and support this band!

Lagwagon Railer CD

Loads of bands that have been around a while (decades at this point—three in the case of LAGWAGON) seem to either be “returning” to their early material/sound, or doing so when they reform. Not sure that LAGWAGON ever officially broke up, but this is their ninth full-length effort in thirty-odd years, and is heralded as a return to the “old” sound. Short, sharp, and punchy. In that distinctive melodic hardcore way, of course. As such, it’s the best thing they’ve done in decades, I reckon. Though there’s now loads of guitar solos in the songs. Never a bad thing to these ears, though it does, at times, make it sound like old LAGWAGON meets early IRON MAIDEN, or even a de-metalicized STRUNG OUT. As if to prove my point, they do a JOURNEY cover, which fits right in.

Lithics Wendy Kraemer 12″

One of the best groups going, LITHICS makes taut yet nervous sounds that would make sense at a 1981 New York loft party or a 2019 Portland basement. This propulsive collection of fragments was initially released on cassette a couple years back, and here it is just in time for the end of the world in 2020, sneaky secret sounds heard from another room, scratchy instructional dream guitars, sorta SU TISSUE delivery over “You Taste Like the Tropics” rhythms. This feels like an invitation to something that isn’t clear yet (rather than a reenactment), at any rate get it or regret it! Limited to 500!

Merger Merger LP

This record is a total mess, though not really in a bad way. It’s like a raucous FUGAZI party record that you would never play at a party. Some of the vocals are a little over the top in their likeness to the aforementioned, and the song “Buzzer #1” has to be a reference. The better of the tracks are super dynamic, soft/loud/soft/loud but without that ’90s thing where you only rely on distortion. It’s at its best when the guitars detune themselves mid-song, playing picked-out melodies that are reminiscent of the MINUTEMEN. Cool record.

Midnite Snaxxx Music Inside LP

On the one hand, reviewing the third full-length album from the Bay Area’s MIDNITE SNAXXX should be quick work. I could just tell you that this is simply the very best punk record of 2019 and leave it at that. And honestly, that could be enough. But I am a devoted MIDNITE SNAXXX disciple, and I need to tell you so much more. I need to tell you that Music Inside is a picture-perfect mix of snotty and sweet. I need to tell you that no one sings about cyborgs or gentrification more memorably than the SNAXXX’ dynamic frontperson Dulcinea Gonzalez. That this band alone proves that punk is somehow not yet dead. That I make coffee in the morning listening to this record, that I blast it while walking down the streets of my crumbling city, that I hum the songs to myself when I’m falling asleep at night, and then wake up and do it all over again. If you want just one song to convince you, it’s the monster title track, which will fit snugly on your next mixtape (or S*****y playlist) next to anything from the RAMONES to the BRAT to the LOST SOUNDS and back again. If you’re not yet a convert, give it a listen or three, and join the rest of us true believers.

The Monkey Power Trio You Can Do Anything the Universe Wants You to Do EP

A band that has gotten together one day a year for 22 years to make a yearly recording. Sort of has a children’s music feeling?! Playful and very goofy. A basement WEEN?! Not what I want, but maybe you do…

Mutilated Tongue Fuel the Flame LP

Three fifths of Oakland’s LOOK BACK AND LAUGH reconfigure for a new three-piece. Brian from TALK IS POISON is on guitar and vocals here, and there are similar, sturdy ’80s hardcore song structures to TALK IS POISON, but with the more frantic overdrive and quick pace of LOOK BACK AND LAUGH, with rapid-fire drumming and his vocals stretching and slurring to more of an AGNOSTIC FRONT end. These veterans easily deliver ten boss songs of unrelenting speed and power. Terse lyrics of struggle and resistance lambaste oppression and bleak modern realities. A full-sounding recording courtesy of Atomic Garden, sick basslines, crushing breakdowns—this is a blaster that demands maximum volume!!!! Though most of the artwork here is really of a basic hardcore template, I do have misgivings about the cover art. The same photo of the dead Salvadorian woman with her face burned off with acid was originally used by MDC in their Multi-Death Corporations 7″ for horrific effect: a protest to the then-in-progress Reagan-backed right wing Contra assault on the people of El Salvador against the elected socialist Sandinista government. MDC used pages of a fold-out 7″ sleeve to underline their opposition to Reagan’s illegal war in Central America, and the two absolutely brutal centerpiece photos of corpses still are incredibly raw and disturbing, meant to hammer their point home. But here, without the direct political impetus, it seems like an overstep. MUTILATED TONGUE is currently one of the Bay Area’s most unrelenting live bands, both in terms of their intense shows and prolific gigging, and each time I’ve seen them they’ve jumped in intensity and power. I’m certain their next outing will take all the greatness here, and dial in the presentation for something even more sharp and focused. Excellent debut!

Negativ Projections LP

NEGATIV of Oslo plays metallic punk along the lines of POSSESSED and SEPTIC DEATH meets the SCREAMERS or RUDIMENTARY PENI. This extremely catchy LP is part BLAZING EYE redeye punk and dark riffing, and part double-kicking TOXIC HOLOCAUST metal. Pit-churning maniacal anthems from start to finish—this would have probably made my top ten if I had heard it when it was released in April. Densely and clearly produced. You will drool and squeal, bobbing your cavernous cranium along to this slab of lunacy. NEGATIV sounds finitely death punk and infinitely grim thrash simultaneously, all while powering through with unique bizarre measure. Can I go see them with ZYANOSE, PARANOID, SEX DWARF in early 2020!? Damn, fire gig!

Negative Space Cruelty LP

Dark, bass-driven, noisy punk marked by a particularly bleak outlook. The seven songs here deal with themes of isolation, envy, guilt, anger, and death, and their effect on the mind and body; a sprechgesang report delivered forcefully and hoarsely over the sparse, minimal pulse of staccato guitar, punctuated in places by solid-state complaint. There is little room for light or hope to shine through. The band name could hardly be more apt: the group occupies a space adjacent to contemporary negative punks like STRUCTURE and DIÄT, or ancestral guides like CRISIS or WARSAW. “Eternal Rotation” distils the themes to their essence: “How long before your body is crushed by the column / To be taken by vehicle / To be taken by attack / To be taken by terminal illness.” Buy your ticket, kids, and sing along.

Neon Neon LP

Let’s not waste any time: NEON’s debut long-player is a seismic all-punk ruler of the highest caliber. From performance to production to art design, you’d be hard pressed to find a record released this year with better concept execution—“Ugly Girl Music”—a hyper-provocative program outlined via a direct (not primitive!) hardcore punk approach. The guitar is this kaleidoscopic and unpredictable beast, complete with a circular riff style that’s fully chaotic, mischievous and powerful. The rasp-spat vocals are just so tough and playful, espousing accusations and solutions with a brilliant, busting-loose fervor. In total, the album is a cool obliterator of boredom and personal/political frustration, exploding imposed methods of control through true inspiration and extremely loud action. That’s punk.

Nukkehammer A Distant Hissing In Your Ear EP

It’s been an eternity since I’ve heard from these Ohio mongrels, and they haven’t gotten any nicer. Biting critiques masked as sarcasm, all delivered with a relentless noise punk fury. Guitars tortured more than distorted, drums like a hellish thunder, and multiple vocals that spend more time in conflict than in harmony. This is the leather clad raw pønk that dominated the blogosphere airwaves and basements ten years ago, but NUKKEHAMMER still offer their wares with isolated originality and a learned intensity. And I still love this shit.

Poison Boys Poppin’ Eyes and Flashing Feet 7″

A two-song 45 from these Chicago boys. Straight out of the STOOGES and JOHNNY THUNDERS school of rock’n’roll. This came out a year back, and they’ve since put out a full-length. Back in the day, they would have fit right in with that CBGB’s sound. Good stuff.

Skull Cult New Mutilator EP

Brief bursts of hyperkinetic mongoloid synth punk here. A caffeine buzz blend of DEVO, URANIUM CLUB, and SERVOTRON. Includes a cover of TALKING HEADS’ “Psycho Killer” that unfortunately fails to sound anywhere near as creepy as the original.

Solarized A Ghost Across Hell From Me LP

Wow!! Super sick Afro-futurist scrappy hardcore punk that reminds me of the MONORCHID or maybe CIRCUS LUPUS?! The guitar sound and those vocals take me straight back to my teenage obsession with CHRIS THOMSON bands! It’s got the wild lo-fi frenzy of the Chris Thomson/Jason Farrell FURY 45, too. Lyrics are cut-up incisive radical utopian/dystopian, like reading sci-fi poetry for insurgent minds. I love getting records like this, sorta nostalgic feeling (yes I was a teenager in the early ’90s, mail-ordering Gravity Records 45s and buying anything Dischord/Kill Rock Stars put out!), but also showing what is possible, how to refract an idea into something it wasn’t before, to make something new and old and wild and now.

Team Dresch Captain My Captain LP

Damn, reviewing these TEAM DRESCH LP reissues—what an honor and what a responsibility! What can I say to adequately convey what these albums have meant to me and to so many queers, dykes, punks, and freaks for the last 25 years? This band saved my life and continues to save my life; they were the best band in the world when this album came out in 1996, and the best band I saw live in 2019. Captain My Captain, their sophomore album, features a different drummer—Marcéo Martinez left the band after Personal Best and Melissa York joined—and has a more introspective vibe than its predecessor, with several songs about dealing with depression and anxiety. Still, the musical formula is the same: heavy, rocking, and emotional queer punk anthems with monstrous guitar parts and transcendent dual vocals from the band’s singers Jody Bleyle and Kaia Wilson. The sublime opening track “Uncle Phranc” taught me what it means to claim a queer chosen family and features the best advice anyone could ever give a young dyke: don’t fuck with straight girls, don’t take pills, and don’t let anyone emotionally blackmail you into doubting who you are. 23 years after its initial release, the songs on this album still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What more can I say other than thank you TEAM DRESCH.

Team Dresch Personal Best LP

Let’s rewind back to the mid-’90s, when yours truly was an uncertain queer punk teen living in the dismal suburbs and listening to TEAM DRESCH’s Personal Best every single day. I scrawled the lyrics from “Fake Fight” on my bedroom wall, much to my parent’s confusion. (“I cry out in the darkness forever to be free / And I cry out so my loneliness won’t get the best of me…”) I air-guitared and headbanged around my bedroom blasting “Freewheel” and “Screwing Yer Courage” over and over again. I wore my Candy-Ass Records “she eats it up” logo T-shirt to high school feeling like I was sharing an inside joke with freaks across the universe. Team Dresch made those difficult times feel less lonely and unbearable. The first person I ever worked up the nerve to come out to was Donna Dresch, in the form of a halting letter mailed to her label Chainsaw Records. I sent it off not expecting a response, but Donna responded with a hopeful letter telling me to keep fighting and to stay free. But all of this, as important as it was to me personally, would’ve been fleeting without the music. If you don’t know it already, I’ll just say it: TEAM DRESCH’s 1995 debut album Personal Best is a stone-cold fucking masterpiece. Every one of these ten songs utterly and totally rocks. I still listen to this record on repeat while air-guitaring and headbanging around my bedroom. There were other bands associated with riot grrrl and queercore that got (and continue to get) more notice, but TEAM DRESCH honestly blows them all away. Personal Best is one of the truly great rock albums of all time, and this gorgeous and excellent-sounding reissue does it the justice it deserves. All hail TEAM DRESCH: “They tested their limits / And broke all the rules!”

The Anemic Boyfriends Fake ID / Bad Girls in Love 7″

A weird reissue of the B-sides from the ANEMIC BOYFRIENDS 45s!? Fake teen punk from Alaska circa 1981! You might know them for the monster anti-creep DIY classique hit “Guys Are Not Proud” (which is not on this), but this collects the more rockarolla faux-FOWLEY glam rockin’ underage teenager rocker songs. Can see why the rawk orientated HoZac would do it this way, but I think I would just rather spend a little more and get the OGs, because the combo of songs are freakier…

The Bad Ideas Happiness CD

This band wears their influences on their sleeve. Or deeply etched within the grooves, or whatever the digital equivalent is. Early ’80s US punk and hardcore. Think DEAD KENNEDYS (minus the hits), while the female vocalist begs comparison with a scrappier AVENGERS (or perhaps BLATZ a decade later). They’re from Kansas City, and damn proud of it. This would appear to be their third full-length.

The Brankas Safes LP

Snap the compass, throw the charts overboard, delete MapQuest™: There are no maps that can help you where THE BRANKAS journey will take you. Pulsating, grinding, hornets’ nest Adderall-core™ with no respect for conventions of song structure. There’s a lot to unpack here, but if you are a fan of FAT DAY, the BOREDOMS, et al, I’d encourage you to check in.

The Cool Greenhouse Landlords / 4Chan

Tetchy bedroom Casio sound with terse vocals fans of the TRONICS or early HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT might want to know more! A percentage of profits goes to the London Renters Union! Entertaining, amusing, radical, what more could you want in the end times?

The Crawlers Planned Obsolescence 12″

This unknown-to-me PDX band existed in the first half of the 2000s for all too brief a moment. These tracks from 2010 have only seen the light of day on a not-so-seen CD comp previously. This band comes barrelling out the gate with fire and ferocity and an obvious worship at the church of Pig Champion and Slayer Hippy. That’s maybe a copout from where this band hails from but you could also compare them to GOVERNMENT WARNING, BLOOD PRESSURE, or most directly DIRECT CONTROL for the power trio factor. Don’t miss out on this super limited blast from the past.

The Mind Edge of the Planet LP

Minimalist, mechanical, lo-fi instruments intermittently accompanied by dreamy, gentle vocals. While some of the tracks veer into noisy electronic territory, others are centered around the vocals and clean guitar leads that bring to mind ’90s singer-songwriter nostalgia. Tempos range from danceable to ballad, mostly settling somewhere in the zone of somber contemplation of a dying world. Since spheres don’t have edges, I’m gonna go ahead and assume this is also some low-key flat earth propaganda.

The See Saw Get a Chance! EP

Cool debut from this new Japanese punk/pop act, boasting some connection to NYLON. Three tunes total, but the title track is the obvious kicker and punkest of the lot, delivered in a sweet/slashing style that recalls STAIRS or RAYDIOS. A sound and school of punks near and dear to my heart.

The Wilful Boys Life Lessons LP

The WILFUL BOYS are a Brooklyn band fronted by an Australian. Their sound has a backwoods, deep-voiced, thundering sound. The music is heavy and plodding with a twinge of poppiness. The vocals are earnest and metronomic. The tunes thrash and shred and get a bit too noodle-y before going back to straightforward rock’n’roll. All that seemingly messiness sounds kind of nice with the lights turned down and your head on the floor.

Very Paranoia Make Me / Out of Touch 7″

VERY PARANOIA’s debut finds them mining the proto-punk nether regions of Rockfield-era FLAMIN’ GROOVIES, any ol’ MICK FARREN droppings you can wrangle, capably lighting up the dynamite on all fronts. Both tunes roar out in a hard rock mode, but the informed punker spirit is the main take-away here. Quite a cool sound they’re tapping on this debut.

Warp Traffic Control LP

I have heard people say if this band were part of the NWI crew they would be a so-called “hype band.” Maybe so, but instead they get to be seemingly the last punks existing somehow in San Francisco’s tech barf landscape of barbaric sharing economy lies ’n’ abandoned value systems. They are also my favorite live band right now, the combo of humans involved in this group makes for a dynamic experience! You think you are in for some art damage, maybe some sorta deconstructed B52’S but then somehow it truly sounds like it coulda come out on SST in 1981 (those fuckin destabilized Ginn guitars!!!! Also worth a look for fans of Pagan Icons!). However, this definitely feels like a product of now: smart acerbic lyrics that seem applicable to lots of end times capitalism scenarios but also could be from a game of Exquisite Corpse, vicious poetics in a most cool manner!!! Coolest group, best sounds, buy or die.

Luna Honey / Wax Lead Wax Lead / Luna Honey split 7″

WAX LEAD opens with an unlikely combination of ethereal true-goth romanticism and sprinklings of bluesy twang. Vocalist Holly Axlerod’s powerful and haunting vocals are front and center, as the track winds through a maze of dramatic interludes to its brief but dancefloor-worthy crescendo. LUNA HONEY offers an extremely slow, deliberate, and poetic invocation of a ruthless curse. Velvety vocals are accompanied by sparse synth beats, distorted bass, and baritone saxophone. The artwork inside the record is beautifully printed on transparent vellum.

Wire Lines Terminal CD

This a pretty short compact disc of six melodic hardcore songs (well, five of them are). It’s similar to the more straightforward AT THE DRIVE IN songs, or something that I imagine Epitaph Records would have been putting out in 1999. Those first five are all slick-sounding, uptempo numbers with sung/yelled vocals, and a bunch of hooks that unfortunately don’t make the songs catchy. The last song is a plodding, goth-y sort of number that might be the most interesting song here.

XDeloreanX / XDuhX Split 12″

Great Scott!! A one-sided 12” of two powerviolence/grind bands from Tuscany’s XDELOREANX and Pisa’s XDUHX. With the X’s bookmarking the band name, XDELORIANX don’t seem to be emphasizing John Delorean’s actual cocaine trafficking charges, but continuing their extended over-the-top tribute to the Back to the Future trilogy. SPAZZ-style short blasts mix curt build-ups and quicker breakdowns with explosions of stop-start hardcore, speeding depth charges of gruff and gnarled vocal tradeoffs about Biff, Professor Emmett Brown, the Twin Pines Mall, Huey Lewis, and other “Pinhead Powerviolence” subjects. Fun, silly, and sharply played, these five tracks are a quick and deft enough jolt for the jokes to wear in and not thin. XDUHX pick up the speed with more of a throttling grindcore bend, with shattering blastbeats and vocal gurgle, punctuated with clearly-shouted Italian samples, oddball musical twists, and quick turns. Seven tracks shifting all over the hardcore spectrum, including defiant classic hardcore, powerviolence dirge and purge, and straight grind, then even tossing in a funk and grind throwdown. A fun “split” with a silk-screened B-side featuring Marty McFly in a punk battle vest with…Vin Diesel? Ray Cappo? Biff? Noise freaks and Michael J. Fox fans move fast: 300 pressed.

  • Reviewer Ken Sanderson
  • Label Death Crush / Drinkin' Beer in Bandana / Ganamala Autoproduzioni / Impeto / MAD Productions / Punti Scena / Ribé / Rockout Fascism / SFA / ¡ZAS! Autoproduzioni