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.

Appaloosa No Hope for the Kids EP

Full transparency here, my buddy Ben McIsaac plays drums for this band. But I was assigned this review, not solicited. This means I have carte blanche to trash it, but I couldn’t possibly find anything bad to say about it. The first track is called “No Hope for the Kids,” which immediately makes me think of the Danish post-punk band from the mid-2000s who came up with acts like MASSHYSTERI and GORILLA ANGREB. However, they sound nothing like those bands. Instead we get this sugary-sweet power pop with beautiful melodies. Having two guitars really takes them to the next level. They’ve got these rad riffs with weird time signatures, all the while the rhythm guitar holds the harmonies just underneath rich and breathy vocals. They remind me a lot of another Seattle band called GAZEBOS. Their songs are soft and sweet, but pack a helluva punch.

Attaktix Contra Order cassette

Absolutely massive release from Lithuania!! Everything you love about ’00s Swedish kång with gratuitous doses of blast brutality and an ear for churning sludge. ATTAKTIX have harnessed all of this and created a fucking monster—unabashed devastation from the Baltics, hell yeah.

The Celetoids Optic Nerve cassette

Optic Nerve is nine minutes of classic hardcore punk in the style of DEAD KENNEDYS and some old school UK anarcho-punk with a twist of cybersecurity conspiracies in a real paranoid schizophrenic way—but god damn I think this group of paranoid schizophrenics is on to something. This ain’t anything boundary-pushing. I’ve heard this brand of punk a thousand times, but we’ve all been stuck inside way too long and this cassette is cathartic as hell. Conceptually, Optic Nerve takes on big topics like the dystopian nature of our modern digital age and altered consciousness. There’s something for everyone here. Fast-paced caustic hardcore for the angry punks, and just enough conspiracy theories for the men in tin foil hats. Give it a listen, you won’t regret it.

Cheap Clone New Paltz / Walk to Canada cassette

Two-song cassingle put out to coincide with the band playing their final show. Both songs are super catchy, jangly ’90s-inspired pop, and sure to get stuck in your head for a while. Admittedly, it kinda feels like I’m watching the end credits of an episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, tho.

Cold Hell / Corrosion Exposure split EP

Here’s a gnarly hardcore ripper out of Finland that will leave you ice cold. You know it’s going to be a good one when you think the record player is on the wrong speed, but nope, the band just sounds like that. That’s what happened when I put on the COLD HELL side and was instantly assaulted by squealing feedback and way too fast blast beats. This is straight up power-fucking-violence done in the West Coast style. Raw and raging! With no blast beats and more mosh-centric breakdowns, CORROSION has more of a East Coast hardcore style but they are just as raw and vicious in their execution, just like all the bands the West Coast powerviolence bands loved. Kind of like a sub-genre stylistic exploration. So, if you like INFEST and the bands that influenced them, then check this one out.


Eddie Criss Group Undertaker LP reissue

Originally released in 1980 on “King of Punk” DAVID PEEL’s Orange Records, the sole album from NYC songsmith Eddie Criss’s namesake group serves up a hot, greasy slice of forgotten rock history. More down-and-dirty, glam-tinged rock ’n’ roll than proper punk, the tunes on this reissued LP have been blessed with the distinct guitar work of the MC5’s Wayne Kramer! Kramer’s fiery lead licks are all over this thing, and tunes like the opening “Lady In Waiting” and “Witches Hour” are bona-fide blazers that will surely command the attention of any ’70s sleaze-rock hound. Production is properly thin and crispy, cracking to reveal pools of subtle psychedelia as demonstrated on “Sequences.” Undertaker is definitely a product of its era, and wasn’t exactly breaking any new ground. “Just No Use,” for instance, is pretty much “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with a different tempo and lyrics. There’s weak spots like the ham-fisted CHUCK BERRY impression on “Let Me Rock ’n’ Roll,” and at least one song that would cause Eddie to be promptly canceled were it to hit the mainstream today (“Schoolgirlz”), but those are overshadowed by the raw street soul that laces the majority of this once-buried slab. I’m glad they dug it up.

Cross Class / Rad split LP

Last will and testament of two great Sacramento hardcore heavies sharing the same drummer. CROSS CLASS is the better of the two for me, with their NEGATIVE APPROACH meets GEHENNA bordering on but never quite going full-on grind. These are unreleased tracks from 2017, the year they called it quits. Brutal, unrelenting, and quite enjoyable. RAD plays their brand of tongue-in-cheek, high energy thrashcore with nods to D.R.I. and HERESY. Definitely a fun band to watch live, and these unreleased tracks from 2016 do a good job of capturing that speed and intensity with humor and wit, such as on songs like “Hold Your Own Jacket” and “Next Band.” The Bandcamp download includes two awesome bonus covers of Sack-a-tomatoes greats REBEL TRUTH. All proceeds go to The Movement For Black Lives organization, so you have no excuse not to get off your ass and click the purchase button on your chosen electronic device.


Eye Witness Demo 2019 cassette

EYE WITNESS from Salem/Boston, MA released a limited quantity of tapes in late 2019 with poor circulation but what they lack in promotional skills they make up for in perfectly brutish hardcore punk. The recording is blown out and sounds like a tape that’s been dubbed well over a hundred times but even still the guitar, drums and vocals stick out over the rumbling bass. It’s worth hearing between the perfectly timed accentuating shouts that sound like a caveman pondering life and the nods to POISON IDEA, MISFITS, and RAW POWER. What you’d expect from a band with a members-of list longer than this review.

Gimmick Quarantine cassette

Chunky hardcore out of the the Pacific Northwest. A little slower and less trebly than their regional cohorts ELECTRIC CHAIR and SUCK LORDS, but also a little less straightforward. The vocals are the standout here, provided by the aptly named Gag (expect lots of punk retching), and they add a nice layer of punk slop to the mix. The overall effect reminds me of BLACK PANTIES or other egg-adjacent hardcore. This stuff works best when they either slow things to a crawl and really let the negativity breathe, as they do on “Pickled Heart,” or when they really go for it and let the bile fly like on “Boi Shit.” Seven-song cassette—same program both sides—limited to 100 copies (and looks like Sorry State still has a few). A solid debut, and I’m certainly interested in hearing more from these guys!

Gomme Absent Healing 12″

Goth rockers from France with the requisite chorus pedal and the reverb. At first I was put off because 1) a lot of bands over the past decade have been going at this sound, and 2) the production struck me as a bit polished. But first impressions are misleading, because GOMME thankfully mixes it up with personality and outright intensity that bring to mind the more noisy and meandering parts of early MAGIK MARKERS while rejecting the verse-chorus-verse convention of foundational goth punks like SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES. Their vocals shift languages; between English, French, and German; between singer, and attack; spoken, sung in tune, sung out of tune, overlapping, and in once instance, erupting in sick laughter. They use and abuse synths to good, noisy effect. In under 20 minutes, Absent Healing is good for when you want something slightly out of the norm, but not something so harsh or noisy to break your train of thought. It’s enough to make a trip to the post office the right amount of creepy.

Joukkohauta Valloita Ja Tuhoa EP

Side A is a scorching non-stop frenzy of breathless vocals and swarm-like guitar with the morphine-drop speed of DESTRUKTIONS. Drums barrage through similar to VIIMEINEN KOLONNA with the overall density of RAJOITUS. However, JOUKKOHAUTA is one of the even heavier Finnish hardcore bands I’ve heard, mixing in slight echo in the production similar to contemporaries KOHTI TUHOA. Writhing between charges under hissing and seething vocal madness. Side B lets up on the intense speed for a moment but continues to wash over everything with aural turmoil. I’m just gonna say it, the Finnish language as presented through punk always sounds fucking nasty to me! This play is extremely intense on all levels. Course, menacing vocals, tight-fisted punching riffs, subtly dark changes played on the higher side—a register that is hard to hit, sounding bleak without folding the hardcore down-tuned into crust. Bound to be a classic Finnish release, and one of the best of the year. This EP rules!

The Lavender Flu Tomorrow Cleaners LP

Fuzzy Oregon freaks the LAVENDER FLU celebrate their state’s decriminalization of recreational drugs with their third album in a mere year’s time. D.A.R.E. to bend an ear to the FLU’s warped sensibilities as they curve rainbows in mid-air and turn falling raindrops into flying butterflies. Tomorrow Cleaners finds the LAVENDER FLU back on the Meds label and exploring the same ’shroom-strewn forest that spawned their double-shot debut, Heavy Air. The owls are not what they seem as they lead you to a secret swimming hole where the humidity verges on the psychedelic. These sounds are melting along with you and perhaps even melting inside of you. “Boca Ciega” cops a welcome WEST COAST POP ART EXPERIMENTAL BAND vibe, while “Romelas” is lovely and groovy and lets low-key axemaster Chris Gunn carve out some space with his stun guitar. These are the songs that JULIAN COPE was singing to himself when he was hanging out under that tortoise shell. Naked and afraid and happy as a loon. Ore-gone or orgone? Unlike the recent Barbarian Dust, Tomorrow Cleaners is no killer rock slab, but still chock full of intriguing paths less traveled.

Löckheed Conflict Delirium EP

Hard-hitters LÖCKHEED from Santa Barbara return, after the brilliantly savage 4 Track Demo released last year, with Conflict Delirium. Kängpunk-worship reminiscent of early DISFEAR, DISCHANGE, or DISCARD, complete with a production that would make Kawakami proud. This EP will stand on the top 2020 lists of many Dis-beat maniacs. Sometimes you just need the simpler things in life: just plain DISCHARGE-styled hardcore.

Maximum Joy Station M.X.J.Y. LP reissue

1982’s Station M.X.J.Y., one of the definitive statements in the lexicon of dubbed-out ’80s post-punk and the sole LP from Bristol’s MAXIMUM JOY, was reissued earlier this year because reality is truly cyclical (as is subcultural influence). A collaboration between an ex-POP GROUP guitarist, some former members of GLAXO BABIES, and teenage vocalist Janine Rainforth, MAXIMUM JOY lifted from many of the same primary sources as the other projects on their collective CVs, as well as their Y Records labelmates like the SLITS and PIGBAG—serrated post-punk, wobbly dub reggae, elastic funk, experimental jazz, etc. Janine’s ecstatic vocals, the fiery blasts of horns, and some scrabbling polyrhythms made their debut single (and arguably, best-known song) “Stretch” an all-time mutant disco banger, but given the long-playing format of Station M.X.J.Y., the band seized the opportunity to really dig into some simmering and often largely instrumental grooves. “Do It Today” and “Searching for a Feeling” hit closest to the frenetic punk-funk energy of “Stretch,” leaving the LP’s more drawn-out, slow-burning tracks like “Mouse an’ Me” or “Let It Take You There” to soundtrack the morning after the dancefloor. If you’ve enjoyed the contemporary update of this particular sound by bands like the WORLD and NAKED ROOMMATE and haven’t fully worked your way backward yet, now is the time!

Militarie Gun My Life Is Over EP

Snotty, melodic hardcore with a Dischord lean tackles the JESUS LIZARD. It’s mid-tempo, it’s chunky, but it’s catchy and it’s probably just barely on this side of the line between punk and heavy rock. Strangely, the most interesting song, the final track, is the lightest one here. It’s melodic and head-nodding with a Revolution Summer feel, but with harsh, screamed vocals. Four solid songs, not a stinker in the bunch.

Nag Red Panda cassette

Three-song self-released cassette from Atlanta, GA. For those of you not yet familiar with NAG, they have already released a slew of releases, including a single on Total Punk Records. Choppy, spastic hardcore punk that also mixes in mid-tempo garage aspects, and does it damn well. These three songs are awesome and it seems that since this tape was released, there is a new LP out now as well. Gonna be getting my hands on that ASAP.

The Nettelles Do You Believe In… LP

The NETTELLES are a fun, garage-punky ’60s-style (mostly) girl group. Catchy, rollicking songs with surfy guitars and stomping drumbeat. It would be easy and lazy to compare them to THEE HEADCOATEES, but they definitely have that sound. It’s lo-fi and sassy. Sadly, singer, co-founder, guitarist, and songwriter Clare Scrivener passed away from cancer in August 2020. A loss for fans of great garage music, but at least we have this debut LP.

Night Lunch Wall of Love LP

On their debut album, Montreal new wave quartet NIGHT LUNCH serves up something closer to a midnight snack. It’s all too slight—the keyboards, the vocals, the guitar, the cover art. I’m hungry, so angry and NIGHT LUNCH could probably use a second helping of something spicier (MEDIUM MEDIUM-hot salsa?). Wall of Love is finger food when a burrito as big as your head is needed. Sorry, you don’t like these food metaphors? Sorry, I don’t like this record.

No One Knows Who Did This No One Knows Who Did This cassette

A novelty recording featuring a seven-year-old vocalist is not exactly the thing that gets me fired up, but for every rule, there’s an exception. The tracks are smart, sharp, garage punk ditties, and our featured singer is full of fire and vinegar on tracks like and “B.U.T.T.T.S.” and “Shocker Docker Ocker”—and if I wasn’t already onboard, my old ass can full identify with “I Gotta Pee.” Novelty? Perhaps. But punks who like to have fun might want to dig on this one.

ÖPNV ÖPNV cassette

Primitive bass/drum/keys proto-darkwave that sounds (and is) undeniably German. Everything here is cold; even the forceful tracks like “Trabantenstadt,” with its sharp, barked vocals, sound drunk and trepidatious. Throw a Cosey-caliber damaged trumpet into “Rasthof” to top off an excellent offering that demands more listens and deeper exploration.

Overcharge Metal Punx LP

On their third full-length, these Italian D-beaters do just enough to keep things fresh. While they’ve drilled down on the typical MOTÖRHEAD-worship style of many other bullet-belted punks—in case the -CHARGE suffix didn’t clue you in—they do it competently with a few tweaks to the formula to keep things interesting. This band doesn’t require close analysis, though. It is the kind of music you throw on your leather and swig several tall cans for. Turn off that thinky bit in your skull and just go all in, because it’s fun as hell even if it earns few points for originality. Tracks like “Lords of Hysteria” even resemble the later crusty period of DARKTHRONE, which is always a good thing. This trio is going to keep doing what they’re doing and you can bang thy head or not, but you’ll have a better party if thou doth.

The Pigs Youthanasia LP

First-wave UK punk outfit the PIGS left us just one artifact in their brief existence, the venerable Youthanasia EP. Little did we know there were seven more songs from the same 1977 recording session lurking about in obscurity ever since! This excellent collection includes those plus the four tracks originally released on the EP as well for a total of eleven twangy and bangy OG punk thrashers. With infectious tunes covering classic punk topics like anarchy, racism, and nuclear war way before they became cliché, these scrappy Bristol lads unwittingly created a blueprint that would soon become well-worn. This is ’77 punk at its raucous, ramshackle finest. Essential.

The Prefects Going Through the Motions LP

Much like the MEKONS and ALTERNATIVE TV, the PREFECTS were a English band operating at punk’s ground zero in ’77, but who had already started to push themselves beyond the narrow confines of the genre before the “post-” prefix fully caught on. The band imploded before they could release any records, with the final PREFECTS line-up reimagining themselves as the highly FALL-like (and still active!) NIGHTINGALES at the dawn of the ’80s—Going Through the Motions marks the first time that the PREFECTS have been fully documented on vinyl, following a posthumous Rough Trade single in 1980 with two tracks pulled from a Peel Session, and a few different CD anthologies of live and radio recordings that popped up in the early 2000s. “Escort Girls” and “Faults” have a slash-and-burn urgency similar to early WIRE (another band that quickly outgrew ’77 orthodoxy), and the anthemic “Things in General” easily stacks up against the best of first wave punk-with-pop-smarts groups like the BUZZCOCKS and the SUBWAY SECT.  But then there’s the barbed wire guitar and martial rhythms of the ten-minute “Bristol Road Leads to Dachau” (a dark, harrowing account of a pub bombing), the piano-accented, VELVET UNDERGROUND-inspired pitch black drone of the LP’s title track, or the skronky horns and deadpan vocals in “Total Luck,” all of which would have been perfectly in step with the UK post-punk boom that was just around the corner when the PREFECTS called it a day. Somehow simultaneously a product of and ahead of their time? An ace comp.

Primal Brain It’s All a Game cassette

Oklahoma City does it again. Furious, damaged hardcore punk made by freaks (made for freaks). Check the hiccup in the chorus of the eponymous opening track and feel yourself get swallowed by all those damn guitars. Aside from “Real Bad Dream” where PRIMAL BRAIN just fucking unleash, these kids are taking the craft out of early ’00s punk proficiency and cramming it into the 2015 maggot stomp mold…the result is fucking glorious.

Sin Futuro Distort Reno cassette

Blistering, blown-out, nasty hardcore punk from Reno, NV. Ten songs and a nasty version of “Terrorize” by GANG GREEN. Popping back and forth from near-warp speeds to the perfect circle pit tempo, SIN FUTURO knows what they’re doing and how to get an aging weirdo like myself pumped up even just from listening to a cassette in their living room.

Slevy Volumen 2 LP

There was a time in my life when I thought surf punk was for suckers. I heard one single and thought “what, are the BEACH BOYS smoking PCP now?” I’ve got to say, though, this LP has really changed my view on the genre. The album isn’t strictly surf punk, but about half of the songs here sound like they came straight out of Repo Man. The other half of the sound is deeply influenced by early European New Wave and punk bands. Think DECIMA VICTIMA or CAMERA SILENS. Instrumentally, the LP is pretty stripped back. Drums, bass, some overdriven or chorus-laden guitars, and a bit of synth occasionally. The vocals are delivered in a real grating growl that sometimes comes off as sweet in a TOM WAITS kind of way. I can’t tell you that this is an album that’s going to stay on repeat, but it’s pretty damn good, and worth a listen.

Slutet Bortom Vansinnets Grepp LP

There’s some fucked up black metal project with the same name that I’ve low-key been meaning to check out, so it was a surprise when I got hit by some of the cleanest sounding Swedish D-beat I’ve heard (at least in recent years). SLUTET is members of WARCOLLAPSE and EXPLOATÖR doing the stadium crust thing. It’s fine; catchy, excruciatingly clean-sounding. Call me old fashioned here, but fuck me up good and proper and leave me miserable and filthy any day. I don’t think my TOTALITÄR records are going to go far from my turntable any time soon.

Spike Pit Maniac of Torment LP

I didn’t really get the full appreciation for Clevo punk and hardcore before moving to PGH. It’s like equal parts brutal, primitive, moronic, and brilliant, sorta like lunch meat core. My foggy brain seems to remember just missing seeing this band before lockdown hit and, crap, did I lose out. Eloquent song titles such as “Life Is Piss,” “Asshole,” “Bitch Stealer,” “Laundry,” and “Cool”  are met by free-flowing lyrical soliloquies such as “25 but I feel like 9 / Pissing the bed makes me feel fine” (from “Wetted Da Bed”). Musically, despite the obvious comparisons to contemporaries like WET BRAIN and the INMATES, they remind me of a more metallic ANGRY SAMOANS, sort of like Metal Mike fronting DR. KNOW. It’s beautifully packaged as well, complete with a lyric sheet(!) and poster of the excellent HAWKWIND-meets-Jack Kirby artwork. Makes a great Christmas gift for your weird cousin or exiled relative that nobody talks about. What more could you want.

Vertical Slit Live at Brown’s LP

An archival live recording that is almost weird to review because if you’re already in the cult of the elusive Jim Shepard, you’ll likely be picking this up regardless. But as someone merely Shepard-curious, this recording doesn’t do justice to the real oddball home-recorded stuff. What Live at Browns brings to the table is Shepard’s band doing a set—a total statement, not just the compiled tunes previously available on past releases. Which is cool, but for me, it’s those more intimate, sketchy, and loopy recordings that sound like they are decomposing before your ears that sound so ahead of their time. For example, on “Fair Exchange” from Slit and Pre-Slit, a compilation of ’70s VERTICAL SLIT recordings, the music reminds me of early, cassette-recorded DANIEL JOHNSTON, if not in style, in fidelity and outsider eeriness. Live at Browns’ “Fair Exchange,” here as “Fair Exchange/Maid in Heaven,” comes off a bit more like straightforward rock with its guitar licks and more conventional vocal attack. Most inspired is the recording of “Smudge” which improves on the previous version from And Beyond, taking on a SABBATH-tinged stoner metal vibe. There is only so much material out there, and if you missed it (and pretty much all of us missed it), here’s a chance to catch it in its full glory—especially if you’re a completist.

Algara Una Cosa Más Sin Sentido Alguno Usada Para Hacer Rico Al Mismo de Siempre cassette

Barcelona’s leftist post-punks ALGARA expand their sound and personnel on this cassette. The band re-recorded their debut EP for the front half, using a full band to augment their initial cold, drum machine-based sound. The flip side consists of four cuts from their upcoming full-length. The material that hits hardest here is the first four tracks, which completely rebuilds the original songs from the ground up into something resembling the original WARSAW EP set to a vibrant garagey bop. Tight polyrhythmic drums lay the bedrock for moon-roving bass lines and piercing saturated guitar, all while leaving ample space for the protest crier vocals. This is a revolution you can dance to, which is often the only kind worth fighting. The second half of the tape splits the difference between this updated approach and the group’s original more stark and synthetic sound. The duality works, but the traditional rock instrumentation is more fun. This is overtly political, anti-establishment punk you can bounce to—but politics ain’t always fun and games! The cassette is sold out via the label (update—now back in stock), but you can buy digital and as of this writing the band has physical copies to buy directly.

All Beat Up Quarantape 2020 cassette

San Diego’s ALL BEAT UP were fine tuned and ready for tour when COVID shutdowns shit all over their planned excursion, so they did the punk thing and went to their practice space and bashed a set out to an audience of microphones. Fierce and heavy apocalypse hardcore, as powerful when they slowly pummel as they are when they unleash—only critique I can make is that I usually wish the fast parts lasted longer, but there always seems to be another one around the corner, which lessens the sting somewhat. Erratic start/stop vs. fast/slow sonic assembly nods to ’90s SF bands like BLESSING THE HOGS, or CUTTHROATS 9 with an extra dose of speed, but it’s clear when they put their foot in it that ALL BEAT UP are harnessing pure D-beat hardcore fury. We do what we can—and we can do a lot. Maximum volume and wear a fucking mask.

Arson Savage Butchery cassette

This is thrash in the VOID tradition, with an edge to the guitar that never strays quite into a metal territory but is still more than fast enough to really nail this fucker home. The vocals are snarled through with a tinge of reverb and just a hint of restraint (barring, of course, the few moments where this thing really kicks into gear). This is hardcore from Leeds, UK by characters you’ve heard from before (PERSPEX FLESH comes to mind) who got the Static Shock treatment, though this is a demo that sounds more like it could’ve come out on 625 Thrashcore sometime during the 2000s—highly recommended.

Big Mess Big Mess Play Bestial Pop 12″

BIG MESS is actually one big, relentless, overwhelming wall of hooks…non-stop, uptempo power pop/pop-punk with contagious riffs and choruses with their own choruses. Six songs of intense desperation made for packed, sweaty, beer-soaked, arms-in-the-air shoutalong fests. This group is due a place on the shelf next to pop-punk’s catchiest tunesmiths, like JAY REATARD, the SPITS, MARKED MEN, SCREECHING WEASEL, etc. etc. Great!

Chino Best of Firsts CD

Fuck, this is really good. This young trio manages to channel the best of mid-to-late-’70s British punk (think mid-tempo, largely “clean” guitars). Poppy, anthemic, and unafraid to wander off into various musical directions, this reminds me of the best of the likes of the UK SUBS, 999, the VIBRATORS, and even SLAUGHTER  (i.e. the second SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS LP, where they abbreviated their name accordingly) on the more rock ballad efforts. I guess the FLAMIN’ GROOVIES and the REPLACEMENTS would be the Yank comparisons. Yup, it’s that poised, composed, and fucking dead-on.

Cry Out More Echoes of a Question Never Answered… Why? 12”

An anarcho-punk solo project from Montreal/Halifax with obvious nods to CRASS’s Penis Envy that remarkably manages not to sound like a retread. The reverb leaves an eerie vibe rather than simply compensating for lack of substance, the synth creeps in but doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the drum machine is teased with cowbell and noisemakers. During a pandemic that could spawn scores of dreary solo projects, this sounds so deliberate and vital, and uneasy—think The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks by FLUX OF PINK INDIANS. These four songs go in and out of a lot of sonic directions but hold together like a true, no-bullshit statement. The horrible news overshadowing this righteously indignant EP is that its sole creator, Rosie Davis, passed away this past summer before it could come out. Memorable, original, and fitting of these grotesque times; if this were to be a first salvo, it’s impossible not to wonder where this project was going to go. Great to see La Vida Es Un Mus give this the vinyl treatment and that proceeds go to Rosie’s family. What can you say? Cop this. RIP.

Disfear Soul Scars LP reissue

This is a mammoth reissue from Havoc Records. This is the A Brutal Sight of War era line-up of DISFEAR abominating a ruthless Scan-D-beat echoing riff onslaught. DISFEAR hits the tempo spot-on with a repetitive hexing of hardcore bestial anti-warpunk. The drums cut the air like the propellers of a war chopper, the guitar buzzes like a blowtorch, the bass crushes all in its path. Soul Scars is harsh attack from beginning to end. I think you know what to expect; but DISFEAR always hits the target and decimates it by the time the LP is through. Like DISCLOSE pound like a torrential rain, DISFEAR thunders and explodes. Even the mid-tempo tracks are as fast as many imitators play entire sets. DISFEAR has the timing and simplicity for the style that is perfect. The vocals are a charred furnace. Being a band since the late ’80s, there are many dimensions to their classic style. Even their name is straight to the point! They remain kings in the D-beat arena. I saw them once at CBs in 2006 with Tompa on vocals, and hearing this reissue takes me back to that pulverizing set. Defenders of the D-beat until the end! Definitely worth your attention.

Dispo Rauchen Macht Heroinabhängig cassette

After a killer trash-punk opener, DISPO switches gears and drops a track that comes off like Cows and Beer-era KREUZEN bashing out modern garage punk. It’s a great combination of sub-genre influences—hardcore, darker ’80s Deutsch punk, wild garage hooks, and snotty ’70s NYC art are all represented in a release that doesn’t sound like it owes anything to anyone.

The Down-Fi / Toeheads split 7″

This little platter is Issue #2 in the Good Times Rock ’n’ Roll Club Split Single Series. Whew, that’s quite a mouthful and might just have you questioning what decade you’ve landed in. Have no fear, it’s still that same cursed year, but don’t tell these bands cuz all they wanna do is rock and/or roll til the sun comes up. The DOWN-FI is notable for featuring a true underground rock legend in the irrepressible Craig Bell. Craig has been in ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS, the MIRRORS, SAUCERS and, most recently, X__X. If you figured that kind of resume would clue you in to the quality rock sounds contained on their side, well, goddamn maybe it’s time to take up fortune-telling. “You Won’t Like It” skips the art damage for straightforward bash ’n’ pop and was even recorded in “glorious mono” for extra salt-of-the-earth cred. Every town should have a band this good to drink their worries away to. TOEHEADS are from Detroit and you can certainly hear that in the attitude on display for “Jane Doe #59.” But it’s actually the PAGANS that this song most closely resembles. A sub-par PAGANS, but hey maybe it took 58 tries to nail “Her Name Was Jane.” The leopard print inner sleeve is a nice touch.

Eyes and Flys Everyday Life / Wait for the Sun 7″

A record of two halves, each as enjoyable as it is different. “Everyday Life” is a blown-out, mid-paced garage schlock downer, while the flip is a quirky, scratchy acoustic guitar-driven dirge with tweaked-out vocals and an earworm melody. Could be a one-off, could be your next DIY bedroom SWELL MAPS/BUTTHOLES/NO TREND heroes?

Haircut Cake EP

HAIRCUT had an EXIT ORDER affinity when they first popped up, but they’ve fully come into their own here on their third 7″. The drummer’s got fills, the vocals come across like distorted pleas, and there are a few riffs that are catchy enough for me to remember. Both “Prayer for a Little Girl” and “Take It” offer what I want to hear in a hardcore song, with changes of pace that flip the slam/skank switch in my mind. Nothing boundary breaking or genre defining, but still a fine specimen of modern hardcore punk with no major discernible rip-offs.

Heavy Discipline Heavy Discipline LP

There was a period in my life when I though the best part of hardcore was when the mid-tempo, two-step-ish bridge parts exploded and, aside from the bursted tension, everything slowed down, opening more space to rampage. HEAVY DISCIPLINE uses such parts frequently, sometimes the extent is even switched to the detriment of the rapid riffs. Along with the cruising tempo comes a bit of hymnic, sort of power pop-ish aggression masked with rude yelling that seals the record since it works too well and draws all attention from anything that is beyond the gimmicks. So fucking what? Instead of my let’s-revise-hardcore failed attempts as reviews, HEAVY DISCIPLINE is probably already proud of this body of work that tastefully matches the most stomping riffs of DYS with the sheer catchy aggression of LAST RIGHTS, while it still could refer on the violent melodies of Oi! and keep the whole thing together. It’s current hardcore that avoids well both the bro-vibes and the stashed-under-your-bed serial killer materials too, focusing only on heavy riffing and stomping. It’s a fire record if you are into the Painkiller catalogue.

Hekátē Μέρες Οργής / Days of Wrath LP

Synth-punk with a deathly pallor from Athens, a take-no-shit attitude nevertheless prevails in what appears to be HEKÁTĒ’s debut release. Ping-ponging between Greek and English for their lyrics, an organ sounds like it’s set to overheat on “Καλοκαίρι 2018,” while “Soapbox” is—in sentiment more than music—as dead-on as first-wave Riot Grrrl’s finest (“You get in my way and fuck up my day / You push me aside then ask me to smile / Ugh!”). A bumpin’ goth-punk bassline and psych-flecked keyboard swirl backs up Lydia’s reverbed-up vox on “Cul-De-Sac,” which along with “Ψυχαναγκασμός” comes off like ES trying out a WARSAW / STRANGLERS gene-splice, unlikely an occurrence as that might in reality be. “Αθήνα,” which closes the album, is billed as a collection of field recordings from Athens, and encompasses some sort of (possibly) tavern-bound balladry, smashing glass, thunder (or are those bombs?) and police sirens. Pretty skilfully assembled, actually, and doesn’t jar with an otherwise rocking set of post-punk.

Jung The Real Thing EP

JUNG was a spontaneous Brussels-based trio featuring former and future members of a whole tangled web of cult Belgian punk and post-punk groups—CHAINSAW, DIGITAL DANCE, MARINE, ISOLATION WARD, the list goes on. While DIGITAL DANCE was on hiatus during the summer of 1981 due to half of the band fulfilling their compulsory military service, the remaining two members recruited a friend to play bass, quickly threw themselves in playing together daily, and ended up with three songs recorded during a one-day session. Those tracks were supposed to be released on vinyl later that year, which never ultimately happened due to “successive misfortunes” (although ten copies of the record apparently did make it out somehow?!), so this EP marks the first proper documentation of JUNG’s extremely short lifespan. “The Real Thing” locks into an insistent, bass-anchored mutant funk rhythm like early A CERTAIN RATIO minus the horns or GANG OF FOUR minus the overt Marxism, while “Sinking Tanker” (originally a DIGITAL DANCE track) skews more toward the scratchy post-punk/spiky pop hybrid practiced by JOSEF K and any number of here-then-gone Messthetics-aligned projects. The B-side even ends with a quick, off-kilter cover of the theme song to the ‘60s British spy TV program The Avengers, if the band’s Anglophilic interests weren’t already apparent. Yet another obscure, one-off gem from an early ’80s global DIY micro-movement with no shortage of them!

Mitraille Hoopschroot EP

High-powered, blistering power pop out of Antwerp, Belgium. Their songs are incredibly charged and fuzzed-out with sharp guitar leads. Track three, “Paranoia,” has these fantastic high notes being shot out of one guitar, while the other chugs along in a lo-fi, grungy rhythm. Then they slow things way down with “Nothing To Do” which has a tempo at about half the velocity of the first three songs, though the vocals are just consistent screaming which more than makes up for the lack of speed. “Mors In Olla” breaks pattern yet again, but this time as an instrumental that includes dueling trumpets, minimal percussion, and sparse guitar with a layer of distortion and feedback over top. I could see these guys fitting in perfectly with fans of MARKED MEN, FYP, and DRAKULAS. Loved every second of it.

Morwan Зола-Земля (Zola-Zemlya) LP

MORWAN is the solo project of Kiev-based artist Alex Ashtaui. My worry prior to listening to this was that it was gonna be more ’80s Eastern Bloc post-punk cosplay, à la MOLCHAT DOMA (whom I like, but don’t need more of!). This is resoundingly not that! Tonally, it’s not dissimilar—it’s definitely on the gothier end of the punk spectrum, and I can see TikTok teens co-opting snippets to soundtrack their #sovietvibes videos. But the sound here is much more organic and relies on post-punk as a foundation to build atop rather than a sound to emulate. Vocals are multi-tracked chants that echo as though recorded in some imposing brutalist atrium. The guitar and bass lines remind me of the surf/psych instrumentals coming out of Pakistan in the late ’60s (like the MODS or the PANTHERS), and the drum patterns are intricate to the point of sounding programmed (in that respect, it even reminds me of AMON TOBIN’s 2005 album Chaos Theory). All of these elements are extremely rhythmic yet are woven together to create a sound that’s overtly melodic and much warmer than you’d think given its “Eastern European Post-Punk” label. But maybe most strikingly, this album makes me want to move—not necessarily dance—just…move. Really, it’s hard to overstate how original this record sounds and just how impressive it is. Absolutely fantastic!

Muck and the Mires Take Me Back to Planet Earth CD

Six songs of by-the-numbers power pop with all the requisite bells and whistles: organ flourishes, handclaps, and ’60s guitar jangle. That said, this is lushly produced, and MUCK and co. have been around for long enough to know their way around a catchy hook, so if this is your kind of thing, you probably can’t go too wrong here. Plus, just to prove they are not completely stuck in a bygone era, this album closes with the up-to-the-minute ode to getting dumped the modern way, “Zoom Breakup”!

Mutant Strain Mutant Strain LP

An (im?)proper long-player from Charlotte, NC’s Mutant Strain, this album was recorded live, three songs at a time, with no breaks in between. That’s gangster. Loaded with twists, turns, and plenty of catchy hardcore pummeling, the music of MUTANT STRAIN is infused with the fiendish spirit of DAWN OF HUMANS at times and the winding intrigue of the COLTRANES at others, with a healthy dollop of anarcho influence spread throughout (the elaborate sleeve and multiple inserts included with the record are done in the style of Crass Records as well.) The theatrical female vocals here get downright demonic, providing a nice contrast to the grinds and grooves of their hook-laden, bass-heavy backdrop. This is intricate work, from the cover art and packaging, to the concept of the recording and track arrangement, and right on to the dense and poignant songwriting itself. A hell of a debut.

Max Nordile Building a Better Void LP

21st century renaissance man MAX NORDILE continues his assault on logic with another solo joint that defies expectations and rewards those predisposed to the counter-intuitive. You may know him from art-punk units like PREENING and UZI RASH, but when left to his own devices, Max gets into a heap of trouble and makes an intriguing mess—a “Public Pile” according to one track. Opener “Deep Face” sounds like ALASTAIR GALBRAITH having a bad day, while other cuts suggest CAROLINER playing it straight. “Diligent Pores” is an extended meditation that steeps coffee shop clatter and submerged guitar noise in a broken teacup. By the end of the album, the microphone is in the waffle iron and your head is in the radiator and everything is in its proper place.

Ötzi Storm LP

After countless tours and several EPs, Oakland’s femmes fatales ÖTZI bring a little less joy to the world with Storm, their new full-length. They make a genre that sometimes tends toward repetition into something new and exciting: a fresh take on melancholic dark post-punk with dual vocals, chorused guitars, steady beats, bass lines that would make a young Robert Smith blush, and even saxophones and violins make an appearance. This album will give them a well-deserved spot in the modern post-punk scene. A band to keep an eye on.