Reviews

For review and radio play consideration:

Send two copies of vinyl (one for our archive, one for the reviewer) or one copy of CD-only or cassette-only releases to PO Box 3852, Oakland, CA 94609 USA. 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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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…

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?

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!!!

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.

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.

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!

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

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.