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.

A Culture of Killing The Feast of Vultures, The Cry of a Dove LP

Italian peace punks A CULTURE OF KILLING do an impeccable job in channeling the British anarcho-punk movement. Nostalgic feelings of listening to the MOB or CRASS run through every song on this record in a well-achieved way. Catchy and well-crafted songs about modern life in this decaying system. Taking the record name from investigative journalist Josy Josef’s dissertation about corruption in India’s democracy “Feast of Vultures,” it is filled to the brim with strong political views.

Ansiedad Cerebral Terapia Cognitivo-Conductual cassette

When it comes to no-frills punk, it’s always best to go the lo-fi way, allowing your chops (or lack thereof) to become an integral part of the message you’re delivering. Malaga’s ANSIEDAD CEREBRAL shares this piece of wisdom and offers nine songs full of sloppy and splendorous p-u-n-k. These guys have already made some racket with other bands (RATAS DE SUMATRA, LIMASSA, and MASS VOLUMEN), so they know how to write a hook or two. They’re actually so good at it, “Punkis de Gimnasio” or “Vive Rápido y Aterriza en el Geriátrico” could be hits in the next Matado Por La Muerte comp of Spanish-speaking punk. Their lyrics are usually extremely ironic, as they say, “designed to offend and undermine morale.” Quite a commendable enterprise in my book. The one that I replay all the time is “Rosalía,” with that raw and almost atonal guitar riff, a sardonic little hymn in honor of the Spanish pop singer. Short, sweet, sweaty, and to the point, get it on cassette for more lo-fi pleasure.

The Blips The Blips CD

A garage rock/pop supergroup of sorts—or so the one sheet claims. A bunch of pop punk singer/songwriters and multi-instrumentalists who have played and toured in a bunch of bands come together to write this debut effort, sharing instruments, and lead and backing vocal duties. It does sound pretty coherent, and definitely mining the vein of the ’60s-era garage Nuggets, and ’70s guitar garage pop à la FLAMIN’ GROOVIES. Definitely more driving pop than fuzz, which is absolutely fine by me.

Boiled Tongue / Shitload split cassette

Lo-fi noisecore solo project split cassette. SHITLOAD from New Orleans I have reviewed releases from before, and this is more of the same. Drum machine sounding like a machine gun, fast riffs over top. It’s a bit hard to differentiate from song to song since they’re all essentially in the same formula. Speaking of songs being difficult to differentiate from one another, BOILED TONGUE from Gulfport, Mississippi lists their tracks on this release as just “(Untitled 1-17).” If lo-fi grindcore, powerviolence, or other forms of aggressive music are your bag, then this would presumably be up your alley. Both projects mix elements from all different forms of brutality into a single package.

CDG Unconditional EP

The initials used to (perhaps still do) stand for CONDITIONER DISCO GROUP, and at one time this was certainly a group effort, but this EP is the solo output of one Jacyn N, also of (not sonically unrelated) labelmates COLLATE and the BEDROOMS. As succinct as you would expect from a seven-inch EP containing five tracks, there is no rationing of ideas within. Immediately, a danceable groove is formed around familiar (but not rote) staccato rhythms and nimble bass lines, embedding scratchy, trebly anti-funk guitar squall. This is the foundation for barked, Anglophone missives, like a dance party at the student union debate. MRR readers with superannuated record collections may find themselves feeling attacked by the track “Audiophiles”—not me though, honest guv.

Codigo Neurotico Totus Tous EP reissue

When a record starts with some Gregorian chants, you know it’s gonna turn out to be something else. Barcelona’s CÓDIGO NEURÓTICO makes exemplary first-wave punk rock: snotty, fun, with buzzsaw guitars, great basslines, and conceited vocals. The overall sound reminds me of Killed by Death bands in style and content, with very tongue-in-cheek lyrics and a healthy dose of adolescent humor, reminiscent of Spanish bands like SINIESTRO TOTAL or M.C.D. “Totus Totus” sounds like a WEIRDOS song played by KAKA DE LUXE, with a chorus that’s a real earworm. “Pega a tu Mama” has the ANGRY SAMOANS’ shock value energy. It’s dumb and it’s fun. “Quema Tanques” is a pure adrenaline rush with lyrics concerning WWII while “Las Malvinas” continues with the rush and war themes with an irresistible sing-along that you will have stuck in your head for weeks. “Cotolengo” is yet another manifestation of their incredible ability to create a gem of beautiful trash. You can get the 7” on red vinyl. Les sugiero que lo hagan.

Crack Cloud Pain Olympics LP

After a few years of small-scale but intense anticipation, CRACK CLOUD’s debut LP landed with somewhat of a thud last year. Was the muted reception due to the coronavirus and its accompanying shutdown? To some extent, no doubt. Even though they seem to have spurned the US so far (a move I grudgingly respect tbh), the Vancouver-based collective appear to be a galvanizing live band, at least according to the ‘toob. Not to mention their great/weird videos and of course the LP collection of their first couple EPs is some real (triple) fire (emojis). Despite CRACK CLOUD’s attention to detail on these meticulously constructed tracks, Pain Olympics is, at times, curiously underwhelming. But, due to the aforementioned virus, further listening has provided plenty of reward. “Post-Truth (Birth of a Nation)” opens with an authoritative take on CRACK CLOUD’s established style but takes a couple left turns into operatic territory. It’s sorta impressive but also kinda gratuitous. Hey, take a swing, I always say. Just try to make contact. But it’s an effective opener. “Bastard Basket” drills into downcast post-punk, while “Favour Your Fortune” is some kinda grime foray that, despite its boastful brevity, fails to land a punch. At first, “The Next Fix” resembles CRACK CLOUD’s electrifying early work but when the vocoded vocals come in, the song flirts with radio cheese and then a group chorus turns into the ARCADE FIRE and I try to comfort myself that it’s a Canadian thing (j/k, luv you loonies). An almost perfect DEVO imitation, “Ouster Stew” also harks back to their beginnings, and reveals how stale the recent batch of egg-punk has been. “Tunnel Vision” combines everything into the total package: it rocks, it’s danceable, it sounds great, it’s got those vocals with the weird cadence, hell it’s even got something resembling a guitar solo. “Angel Dust (Eternal Peace)” ends it all and confirms what you’ve always suspected: CRACK CLOUD are the dance-punk version of GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR. While not the world-beating collection some might have hoped for, Pain Olympics demonstrates that CRACK CLOUD is a force to be reckoned with, and you ignore them….at your own peril!

Dadar I’m a Töch EP

I don’t really know what a “dadar” is. Internet searches tell me it’s either a neighborhood in Mumbai or a type of Indonesian omelette. I doubt the band is going for either of those meanings. They’re not unlike an omelette, though—simple, maybe a little cheesy, but filled with enough interesting ingredients to be satisfying. Anyway, DADAR are a synth-driven garage punk band out of the tiny town of Rovereto in Northern Italy. This is their second 7”, and it’s got a couple of sub-two-minute originals on the A-side and a cover of a track by Italian art-punk band FHEDOLTS on the flip. The originals are good enough. “I’m a Töch” sounds like any of those BLACK LIPS copycat bands that popped up in the late ’00s, maybe with a little HANK WOOD thrown in, and “Calendarize” sounds like a reasonable facsimile of AUSMUTEANTS (in a good way). But I really dig this cover—the minimal post-punk synth melody and talk-sung vocals taken from the original sound great fleshed out with this band’s chunky garage punk sound. Definitely worth a listen!

The Diapers Diaper Full of Love CD

I’ve often used the “dad” term as a derogatory cut-down for the endless aged punker dribble unleashed on me monthly, but it is actually the truth on this one. Self-described as a punk band for kids that wears diapers on their heads and has a baby for a lead singer (no, it’s not the new DWARVES album), they play a cutesy kid/parent-friendly combination of the RAMONES and CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN that’s fairly tolerable. You get songs like “Under My Bed” and “ABC’s and 123’s” to meld along with your favorite Sesame Street jams. I am in no way encouraging procreation, but if you’ve already made such a mistake, you could do a lot worse than picking up this CD. All the money goes to support kids at the border, so skip the organic baby slop for a month and pick this up instead.

Duplo Dor Dor Dor, BB EP

DUPLO is the latest in a recent history of excellent output from São Paulo, Brazil. Some interesting sensibilities mixed up here: “Dance” is an approachable disco punk song with some interesting rhythmic touches, while the closer “Roda Continua” has playful surf touches of the CRAMPS using obsessive repetition to mind-melting effect before building up to an ecstatic meltdown. Paula Rebellato from RAKTA is playing drums and, as they go heavy on the delay pedal, there are some echoes of RAKTA’s more HAWKWIND-influenced days when they still had a guitar in the band. Solid debut.

Exek Biased Advice LP reissue

Originally released in 2016, Biased Advice is EXEK’s debut full-length and still stands tall next to their subsequent triumphs. There’s no getting around the fact that EXEK’s biggest initial inspiration was PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, and “A Hedonist” is about as close to a perfect homage to said group as you could desire. It’s a testament to how good EXEK is that any and all comparisons to Lydon and Co. are swiftly rendered stale and reductive. “Replicate” is a masterpiece of seasick dub menace—an iceberg in this instance would come as a relief. A deep dive into a bottomless trench, “Baby Giant Squid” encompasses the entirety of side two and never loses its hypnotic sway or compromises the undercurrent of turbulence that roils throughout. On this epic cut, EXEK surfaces as sui generis. Kudos to Castle Face for reissuing this essential slab.

Gasp Stardonas EP

Discovering GASP’s Drome Triler of Puzzle Zoo People album back in the day—after the band was done, but a long time ago nevertheless—was a real light in the darkness for me. A band from (or at least adjacent to) the powerviolence scene who deployed all sorts of weird gloopy psychedelic shit and covered STRETCHHEADS! Somehow, they’re back after, it says here, sixteen years with a couple of new items, including this three-song 7”. “Husband is the Lake” is your go-to track if you want more of their chomping LSD grind; the other two are pretty far beyond “rock,” or the regular notion of it, although “Sign of Victor” feels a bit like something FAUST cooked up in a German commune circa 1971, all analog electronics and sludgy backmasking.

Gee Tee Atomic EP

We’ve got another winner from Sydney’s leading Gas Station Rock band, GEE TEE. Opening with lo-fi RAMONES-y vibes accented by warbly keys, “Kombat Kitchen” had me nice and cozy from the get-go. “Mutant World” serves up a buzzing garage groove. Laid-back title track “Atomic” sounds like it is wearing sunglasses while the world melts, and “Dudes In The Valley” ends it off by inducing both grins and the urge to start the record over again. Well-played.

Human Trophy Corpse Dream LP

Throw some middle-shelf gin in a cocktail shaker of post-punk and some aggro goth-rock to get what HUMAN TROPHY is laying down on this album. Illustrator Reuben Sawyer’s latest musical project comes fully formed and ready to overwhelm your senses. This is an immersive experience, and not an inch or second of this record feels out of place. The obvious and trite comparisons are BAUHAUS and JOY DIVISION, but there is a unique flavor here that needs to be experienced. The titular track, “Corpse Dream,” is a flailing rager that really distills down the magic of the whole album. The album closes heavy with “Blood Apex,” leaving you ready to start it all right back up again. With so much else going on, it feels impossible that Sawyer was able to provide his full attention to this project, and yet, it’s far superior to so many other albums from groups that you could tell tried their damnedest. This is some magically perfect shit. This and whatever comes next are not to be missed.

Insect Warfare World Extermination LP reissue

This is it. This is what grindcore is and what it should sound like. No bullshit, no gimmicks, just plain old school grindcore. World Extermination is up there next to Scum, Horrified and World Downfall. This is an album that will be hard to beat and will stay at the podium for best modern grindcore album. You can thank the grind gods for this official reissue that recreates the original release, improving on the original insert art with a heavier jacket and a bigger poster. Get this and let it melt your face off! Ughhhh!

The John Buxton Experience Portal to Heck 12″

The JOHN BUXTON EXPERIENCE is a one-man band from Wisconsin, and I bet this is the first time anyone has ever typed that name out in all caps. I kid—this guy has chops and writes some intricate shit in addition to being proficient at both guitars and drums. The vocals here remind me of M.O.T.O. a bit, and the music ranges from straight hardcore (“A Disastrous Introduction”) to rock epics (“Pillar of Salt”), to weirdness like “Goin’ Mad,” which seems to channel both KING DIAMOND and M.O.D. at different points. Despite the eccentricity of the songs, he manages to pull together a rather tight sound. In fact, you might never guess this was all just one guy if I didn’t tell you. Try it on a friend. Or don’t. Either way, something tells me we haven’t heard the last of JOHN BUXTON.

Lost Sounds Black Wave 2xLP reissue

Jay Lindsey may well be remembered by some for his solo work as JAY REATARD and his ominously-titled final album Watch Me Fall that came out on Matador shortly before his death in 2010. Or the scrappier punks may lean toward the fatalistic crash-down sounds of his first band the REATARDS that helped solidify the Memphis/Goner Records scene in the late ’90s. On the timeline between these two bands lies LOST SOUNDS. Alicja Trout, Rich Crook, and Jonas Garland joined Lindsey from ’99–’05 and released several dark synth futuristic/apocalyptic punk records that put them between the post-punk and garage scenes of the early aughts. Trout brought in the synth keyboard influence from her old band the CLEARS to craft an evil circus carnival tent revival sound reminiscent of the SCREAMERS, but a lot more pissed-off and skeptical of a post-9/11 world. This double-LP is a reissue of the now out-of-print 2001 album originally on Empty Records and is a great place to start for a newcomer. Side note: Trout, Crook, and Garland are currently playing as SWEET KNIVES, who sound and feel like LOST SOUNDS without Lindsey and are well worth checking out.

The Maharajas Don’t Call My Name EP

Wow. Right off the bat, I’m intrigued. This sounds like some serious ’60s surf ballad stuff, like maybe it’s some sort of Nuggets/Back from the Grave-type thing. But the band members’ names (Lilja, Lindberg, Guttormsen, Karlsson) all look very Scandinavian, which makes me think it’s new. (Also, if you believe the “tags”, they’re from Bergen, Norway, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.) The Scandinavians are very talented at creating a sound. It’s like they all have degrees in Rock Music History. Musically, it’s measured, meaning it’s very deliberate, almost purposefully just a tad slower than you might expect, which creates a somberness that permeates the whole record. The B-side, it seems, is two covers. I’m going to wear this one out.

Mononegatives Sure Shock EP

This 7” is really reminiscent of the new wave of LA hardcore bands like MEATBODIES or WAND. Heavy, pummeling riffs draped in a synthed-out wall of noise that just don’t let up at any point for any reason. The band doesn’t pull any punches here, just fast and loud punk. Simple as that. Perfect for headbanging your worries away or pissing off your neighbors.

Ornament Und Verbrechen Tapetopia 001: Rotmaul Tape LP

The first of Play Loud!’s excavations of Germany’s cassette culture, Rotmaul Tape is one side from ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN’s debut release from 1988. That’s a bit too far down the autobahn of my preferred era of this fertile underground scene. ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN operates from a goth-drenched vantage point, but most of the music manages to rise above the faux-dramatic vocalizing. Still, as early sampler tech collides with snatches of noisy guitar, ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN, more often than not, ends up sounding like DEPECHE MODE minus the dance beats. “Surety” has mournful late-JOY DIVISION synth (s)weep and even whips out a harmonica for some extra WTF-ness. “Jesus” is simultaneously elegiac and discombobulating, which is a welcome set of conflicting reactions. The best use for a track like the vaguely SUICIDE-ish “Sally” is soundtracking a period-specific romance that occurs during the final thaw of the Cold War. The atmosphere of decadent banality is highlighted by KENNY G sax licks and elevator-worthy piano trills. Fortunately, “The Death By Heroin Of Sid Vicious” is the punkest cut here and sounds closest to the unclassifiable basement ooze that distinguished the early German tape scene.

Pillars of a Twisted City Pillars of a Twisted City cassette

Mind-fuckery in eleven movements—this Vancouver outfit eschews convention and offers a complete contribution that is best consumed as a sum of parts. Instrumental campfire interludes, low-fidelity dance goth, harsh black metal—I don’t mean to imply that there are elements of each found herein, I mean that “Suffocation Dance” is a brilliantly haunting, primitive, dark synth piece, “Of Furious Death” is 66 seconds of raw and furious blackened thrash, and “Moonlight Cerveza” is the soundtrack a dusty campfire at full moon. The real winners are the tracks that draw a little from each path, though I wonder how many more releases this formula could successfully produce. Here though, it works—the beauty of solo recording projects in the Time ov COVID perhaps, but I’ll take it.

Pressure Pact Scared Off the Streets LP

PRESSURE PACT’s latest is a unrefined slab of Neanderthal primitive hardcore, taking in BOSTON STRANGLER and NEGATIVE FX-style hardcore and a hint of NABAT-style European Oi!, which grabs you by yer throat and refuses to let go. Unrefined, atavistic troglodyte hop for the close-cropped creepy-crawlers of the world. It’s claustrophobic and violent, with drums being beaten as if they owe someone money. If you want complexity, read a book. If you want your head smashed in by some absolutely belting hardcore then give this a go.

Stagger Abuse of Power cassette

The Philadelphia scene is full of talent and STAGGER is just one example of it. This is their first LP, and their first proper release since Thermobaeric Blues EP from 2018 (you should check that one too, it’s got a SUN RA cover!). What do we get here? A very cool cassette with nine songs, volume, distortion, and feedback all the way up to red; it reminds me of the raw energy of Mexican or Colombian hardcore from the ’90s. This is just eighteen or so minutes of pure D-beat mayhem sometimes verging on noise punk. That guitar tone is pure filth. I can’t really understand the lyrics but vocalist Mike’s tone is all you need to really get it. We’re talking about pissed-off commentary on the current state of the American empire. You can also tell Mike has an incredible ability to generate a pit in a split second just with an “uggg!” Their violent cover of “You Tear Me Up” by the BUZZCOCKS is just awesome.

Stiff Richards Dig LP

Blistering post-hardcore from the pivotal Melbourne scene that borrows from ’77 punk, street curb rock, and failed rehab. A modern day, faster Aussie take on MCLUSKY or PISSED JEANS but with a touch of humor and the stamina to party harder. There’s double guitars and crazy tight drums/bass that don’t slow down, but it’s Wolfgang Buckley’s scratchy, screaming, near-breaking vocals that make you want to pound your fist or start dancing or just Iggy strut around your quarantine hole wishing you could see them live.

TVO Alive! EP

Really great mutant swamp rock out of Philly. Post-it punk in theory reminding me of a fucked and angst-ridden SCIENTISTS, FALL, VENOM P. STINGER, SWELL MAPS, or more recently FREAK VIBE. “Watchlist” will eat you for lunch. Bad drugs for bad times. Kick me.

Sonny Vincent and the Bad Reactions Live at WCSB Cleveland cassette

Sonny Vincent, best known for his work in seminal NYC ’70s punk band TESTORS, and his backing band from 2012 the BAD REACTIONS performing live on a Cleveland based radio station. Starting things off with my favorite TESTORS song, this tape is relentless with similar style sleazy, driving rock riffs the whole way through! Aside from a three-song 7”, this is the only documentation of this project and it is absolutely worth a listen. Honestly, pretty inspiring stuff hearing aging rockers not losing their grit. If you dig TESTORS (and if you don’t maybe you should give them another shot), then you are definitely going to dig this.

Vitamin Recordings 1981 LP

Genuinely out there art-punk from early ’80s Boston, one of the most underrated of all localized scenes for such things (go chase that Propeller Product discography!). VITAMIN was started by a fourteen-year old vocalist/guitarist and a barely-older teenage friend, eventually to be joined by a few actual adults—an art school-grad violinist who had spent time in the equally off-kilter GIRLS, and a drummer recently transplanted from San Francisco’s own formidable weirdo underground. Recordings 1981 collects the group’s four-song demo and a slew of live tracks captured that year at two different Boston clubs, and while the roughed-up soundboard material (including several songs that don’t overlap with the demo) is definitely interesting from an archival perspective, it’s still deeply disappointing that VITAMIN never really managed any kind of proper recorded output before they splintered. That historical wrong is made especially apparent in the total shambolic genius of the demo tracks, with nerd-sneer vocals, warbling violin scratch, and tangled rhythms all presented in crystal clear audio, fitting right into a turn-of-the-eighties international constellation of like-minded oddball post-punks spanning from TACTICS in Australia (think of “French Fries” as New England’s response to “Watch My Hands”) to UJ3RK5 in Canada. Beyond cool.

V/A Fear Of Noise: 2020 Compilation cassette

Fear Of Noise was released for (or, instead of) the San Diego gathering of the same name, and it’s a devastating collection of current West Coast DIY hardcore. FUTURA, THERAPY, SCREAMING FIST, ETERAZ, VIOLENCIA, AGONISTA, MEMBRANE, GRITOS…there’s no sense dissecting the comp because literally every fucking track bangs and every one of these bands is on point. But of all of the things I’ve listened to in the last year, of all of the records and tapes I’ve reviewed in the last year, nothing has made me miss live hardcore more than hearing Oakland’s PROVOKE open this comp with “Basura.” Period.

V/A Kaosa Euskal Herrian 2xLP

Taking inspiration from the classique Chaos En France series, this compilation of some of the leading lights in the incredibly healthy Basque Oi! and punk scene is a genuine joy to explore. Sung mostly in Euskara with a few potted exceptions, it’s a truly unique document of a clearly vibrant and overlooked community. Some of the names such as CUERO and REVERTT may be familiar to those of you who, like me, think the sun shines out of the fantastic Mendeku Diskak’s arse, but perhaps the most rewarding part is uncovering some of the lesser-known bands, too. BLESSURE has the speed and sneer of RIXE, whereas TEARS & BEERS can craft an ale-spilling chorus to rival BATTLE RUINS any day of the week. It’s not all boots and braces for any of you long-haired scruffs out there, though; GADAFISTE BROTHERS are pure bubblegum RAMONES-worship power pop as well. Extremely worth your time!

Auxiliö Mi Piel cassette

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

Black Iron Prison / Gas Chamber Public Humiliation II LP

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

Bleakness Functionally Extinct LP

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

CaveXrage I Believe in CaveXrage cassette

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

The Cowboy Swimming With the Fishies EP

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

De Brassers Alternative News LP

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

Deformation Deformation LP

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

El Sancho Our Part in the Darkness CD

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

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

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

Headcheese Headcheese LP

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

HHH Solidhardcore LP

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

Inyeccion Ejecutar demo cassette

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

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

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

Kerosene Kream Look Mom EP

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

Los Saicos El Mercenario / Un Poquito de Pena 7”

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

Mikey Erg Mikey Erg LP

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

Mister Espejismo EP

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

Max Nordile Vying for the Dime cassette

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

The Normal Ambition 1982–1985 cassette

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

Pillsbury Hardcore Ghosts of Straight Edge Past LP

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

Prison Affair Demo II EP

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