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.

Cult Mind Connected cassette

The new pandemic joint from San Jose screamers CULT MIND kicks off with a groove that almost makes the listener think they’ve gone and gotten too stoned…then they fukkn unload. Nine cuts of rough-edged North American hardcore punk—think a ramshackle CAUSTIC CHRIST, and that rock’n’roll guitar from the intro makes a few more (welcome) appearances. Decidedly looser than their full length from a couple of years back, and the regression suits them.

Cuntroaches / Guttersnipe split LP

Here, here is your future, all you laptop fuckers. The stock market is overruled by a bunch of messageboard freaks, your job will be slowly taken over by a robot, you live your reality through a palm-sized screen, and yet there is more to come. This CUNTROACHES/GUTTERSNIPE split was first released on tape in 2018 then pressed on vinyl in 2020, although it sounds as if the release date could have been a hundred years further into the future and no one would notice. Not even sure if this is still punk rock, instead paranoid sounds of the sci-fi nightmares, created among bad trips and the threat of a fucked-up future. That future is now. We no longer fear nuclear weapons, which anyway were always just a metaphor for our real threat: chaotic randomness of human behaviour. This record captures this downfall, the mania, power-hunger, and accumulation, then we are force-fed with this neon puke, wired to a chair, eyelids duct-taped to the forehead and watching million flashing images. I try to distance myself from writing about music by throwing images on you, but this record triggers visions. Both bands are connected to our subculture though both are so independent, progressive and full-blast lunatic. After all, it’s aggressive hyperactive music, but is it still hardcore? CUNTROACHES foxtrot on pedalboards without getting too close to crasher crust-ish noisecore. Their groove and beat section is as wild and vital as field recordings of high-tempo tribal trance drumming and a little reminiscent of LEBENDEN TOTEN, not their sound but the mind-grinding experience of their live shows. These two songs are over-the-top in all possible senses, providing an almost live experience, witnessing with full awareness how you are digested by a beast. It’s vicious, twisted, super chaotic, perfectly balancing on the border of naivety and precise artistic view. GUTTERSNIPE has a bigger slice of this split due to their second track extending to ten minutes. The pairing makes sense, rather idea-wise. The xenofeminist crisis energy rock duo from Leeds sounds as if SPK was threated with a gun to play hardcore songs or listened to the complete Actuel catalogue at once at tenfold speed. Then the ten minutes beautiful odyssey hits in and it absorbs me completely. A special record and big up to Anxious Music for putting it on vinyl with this neo-trash cover, different RPM for both sides, and cute/cool insert. If your colleagues ever ask you what sort of music you are into, show them this and they might never ever bother you with anything personal. 

Dan Melchior Band Outside In LP

Dan Melchior’s vast discography boasts an enviable hit-to-miss ratio, even when compared to catalog hogs like John Dwyer or the late Jay Reatard. It might seem odd to place Melchior in such company, but they are closer contemporaries than initially meets the eye. Regardless, Melchior continues to release several LPs worth of material a year and most of it—whether home-recorded experimental blues stitch-ups or full band get-down engagements—is uniformly excellent. Outside In is perched somewhere between acid-fried garage boogie and a sort of modern choogle that pulls from all sorts of far-flung sources. Both the title cut and “Chinese Wine” have a Zamrock vibe; desert guitar moves join with sheltering sky FX as they zip across the panning spectrum. “Brownsville” and “Courtesy Flush” gild garage lilies with ENO-esque sound treatments. “Pheasant Plucker” is not only a fun tongue-twister to roll around your mouth, but also a rocker that kicks up dust like the BROKE REVUE, Melchior’s perpetually underrated old outfit. Outside In came out a ways back, but it’s luster ain’t faded none.

Decide It Yourself Decide It Yourself cassette

Erratic thrash with solid metal breaks and plenty of blasts. Heavy on the high end, but maybe there’s no bass (at all?) and the kick drum disappears when they grind, so it makes me feel all anxious when I listen at volume (which is, after all, the best way to listen). Vocals are throaty and clean, sitting on top of the mix and extra in-your-face. Not a pretty-sounding release in any imaginable way, which is the intent.

 

Earth Crust Displacement / Heavy Nukes split EP

I only heard the EARTH CRUST DISPLACEMENT side of this split, so HEAVY NUKES remain a mystery to me, though their name is leagues better than EARTH CRUST DISPLACEMENT, which I suppose could be some sort of reference to fracking or similarly evil geotechnical industries. Regardless, they present us with two ripping tracks of raw punk and a cover of ’90s German fastcore band MxVxDx (which got me to revisit the Stagnation of Thinking EP, which I highly recommend). EARTH CRUST DISPLACEMENT comes at things from a much heavier direction, with a delivery that reminds me of grimy classics like the SHITLICKERS more than the hardcore thrash of MxVxDx. It’s a short listen, but it’s a blast.

Excrement of War Cathode Ray Coma LP reissue

This was definitely an exciting 1994 reissue to be assigned. It starts off with a ripping, bombarding soloed instrumental, as most crust bands did in the ’90s. Fueled-up punk, raw and powerful, E.N.T./HELLCRUSHER-style intro, right into “Exist Enslaved” (which I believe I’ve heard covered several times before being introduced to this record). So if you like DOOM or STATE OF FEAR with a bit more range between vocalists, this reissue is for a lucky you. Mags has one of the most ferocious, vitriolic, raspiest vocal tones ever. Ripping. The EXCREMENT OF WAR split with DEFORMED CONSCIENCE might be my favorite of their material—this was earlier and looser—but to that point, it’s raw crust and punk as fuck. The UK/US match-up complements each other so well on the split, so if you can get a hand on this, or either for that matter, you will not be disappointed. Essential ’90s European crushing, ripping, hardcore crust. “Encased in their military cocoon; the outside appearances [are just] blips on [a] screen. Enemy tank. Enemy child. Enemy plane. Enemy tree…”

Fastplants Grosso / Super Stoked 7”

This is a nice tribute to recently deceased skater legend Jeff Grosso. The music is fairly competent skate rock and more on the rock’n’roll/garage side of the half pipe. The guitars shred(!) and it’s catchy in more the SCOUNDRELZ or JONESES side of the genre. It’s short and fast like life should be. Pick it up. It’s already too late.

The Fight Endless Noise LP

The FIGHT from Long Island’s latest LP. They combine the No Future Records-style UK82 attack with early NYHC à la SHEER TERROR or a NEGATIVE APPROACH-like approach. Stompy and pogo-y at the same time. Reminds a bit of the recent New Wave of British Hardcore approach in the UK with bands like ARMS RACE, VIOLENT REACTION, and the FLEX. Without trying too hard or being corny, contains honest lyrics about the police, and dependence on social media validation, some things many of us can relate to.

Golpe Promo 2020 cassette

GOLPE is Tadzio Pederzolli from the amazing short-lived project KOMPLOTT, among other Italian punk and hardcore bands. Promo 2020 is his new punishing modern mid-tempo hardcore demo in the vein of WARTHOG, mixed with the great Italian hardcore tradition of IMPACT or NEGAZIONE. All the songs were written and performed by himself, and these three tracks serve as warm up for the La Colpa È Solo Tua LP out through Sorry State Records in 2021. These songs do a good job in leaving you wanting more and I can predict that the full-length will be a rager. Caos, non musica.

Gutter Knife Boots on the Ground LP

Blending the punch and drive of O.G. hardcore in the vein of GOVERNMENT ISSUE with Oi!/UK82 sensibilities echoing bands like COMBAT 84 and the 4-SKINS, GUTTER KNIFE hails from the seaside slums of Brighton, England. These ten tough tracks range from relentless pummeling, to snotty speed attacks, to COCKNEY REJECTS-style “football” rockers, all painted with the perfect gruff and loose vocals to put ‘em right over the top. The band wears their influences on their record sleeve, as every single song title sounds like something you might make up if joking around about “skunk” rock bands of this sort (“Hangman,” “No Justice,” and “Boots on the Ground,” for example). I mean that in the best possible way, as these guys strike all the right chords, giving France’s RIXE some stiff competition for the title of present-day Oi! Champions. Fingers crossed for more of this butter from the GUTTER.

The Haskels Taking the City By Storm LP

Just to be clear, the first four songs on this record are an essential and mandatory dose of Midwestern US punk history. “Taking The City By Storm” is 134 seconds of hyper-speed power punk perfection that every punk should know inside out, and the rest of the single is…well, it’s perfect, too. So do you need an entire LP rounded out by six previously unreleased demo recordings from 1980 and three cuts from a 1981 live set? Simple answer: definitely. The demo cuts show a band settling into their own just a few short months after forming—just one would-be single after another, from the JAM-tinged mellow number “In Between Girls,” to the pub rock stomp “You Got to Be Kidding.” And the three live tracks show a band that was so undeniably huge…more nuanced than the simple burners that dominated their only vinyl release, more advanced than the KBD comps that cemented their status as an important fixture in the world of trailblazing North American punk rock. Maybe they would have become something else had the band survived—tracks from the demo session hint at a band geared to stand alongside the JAM, COSTELLO, etc.—and maybe they would have reformed and rehashed an adult version of their genius had the members survived. But the band didn’t, the members didn’t, and instead we have these songs. And, as stated earlier: they are perfect.

If It Kills You Infinite Hum LP

When I was in high school I loved QUICKSAND’s Slip. I heard one word from this band, and I was immediately transported to that time. As we proceed, IF IT KILLS YOU plays with even more feel-good melancholy, adding pitches of FUGAZI bark, CAVE IN bite, and HOT ROD CIRCUIT companionship. Some of the more descending chords of A MINOR FOREST come through as well, with the post-hardcore nodes of that first WEEZER album. That’s a bit much, but it must be there for a reason, not trying to edit—let’s just say HOT WATER MUSIC, that flows much more casually, with emotional messages and irreverent compositions. IF IT KILLS YOU is not trying to kill you, but they’re not trying to save you, either. You’ll figure it out, as you concentrate on them more and more each song. IF IT KILLS YOU comes to us from Bakersfield. And I feel like it could go either way living in Bakersfield. Stay safe, stay strong, IF IT KILLS YOU. Into it.

Illegal 80 Den Endeløse Ende cassette reissue

Reissue of a demo tape from Denmark’s ILLEGAL 80, originally released in 1983. Emphasis on demonstration, since it is a half-an-hour-long tape with sixteen songs. Throughout, ILLEGAL 80 plays determined, raw and noisy hardcore clean from any tag-able association that has connected to these adjectives ever since. It is the pure form of top-class international hardcore: fast, fresh, youthful, angry, collapsing. It’s on the right speed—a bit faster than they could keep up with, thus the songs crumble under themselves—the singer has a great indifferently aggressive voice, the guitars leak all over the music and cover it with their dense, swirling distortion. They vary in a few slower jams, not to reclaim any attention because this tape never gets boring. I would believe that for these kids, it meant everything to record these songs, and they treat every second as such. Now this tape is available again—get it, study it, draw your conclusions how to be young, smart, ugly, and dangerous.

Kool & the Gang Bangers Year of the Kool EP

This is lo-fi, snotty, and angry punk from Sweden. If you close your eyes and think about the SPITS, you’re probably pretty close. There are two songs about wishing someone dead (“Make You Extinct,” “Wish You Were Dead”), one that’s so blatantly RAMONES-inspired that it leans into it hard enough to come back around the other side and feel totally original (“I’m Not a Pinhead”), and one that’s just good ol’ fashioned shit-talking (“Talking Trash”). This is a two-piece that is loud enough to be four and sounds like they have the swagger to hold the stage as such. I hope to see this duo in a sweaty club or musty garage if they make it over US-ways.

The Lost Jobs Good Boy EP

German garage punk that comes out swinging with instant riffs, drum fills, dueling surf lines, and gruff vocals. Sounds like the HELLACOPTERS with a mix of German and English lyrics and frequent fretboard gymnastics. This EP would have been at home on Kozik’s Man’s Ruin label back in the day. Nothing Earth-shattering here, but it is solid, straight-up rock’n’roll if you are into double denim and motorcycles.

Moor Mother Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes LP

In a time where hip hop has slowly become a game of status, MOOR MOTHER seems to bring back the urgency and unrest of PUBLIC ENEMY, taking back hip hop to its true political roots which are in fact a parallel to punk in ethos. Camae Ayewa is the Philadelphia-based poet that goes by the name MOOR MOTHER. She speaks the poetry of political unrest, a harsh vision of the real world without filters. Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes is experimental hip hop, punk, and noise all mixed up into a sonic black hole as the title suggests, utilizing spoken word as a tool for conscientization, in essence using hip hop as it was intended. This is a unique vision of the world from a unique artist that needs to be experienced in order to get the full picture.

Oh-OK The Complete Reissue LP reissue

Reissue of a reissue of sorts (this originally came out about ten years ago but has been out-of-print ever since), The Complete Reissue collects the stand-alone vinyl output from Athens, Georgia’s minimal post-punk icons OH-OK (which is just two EPs—1982’s Wow Mini Album 7” and 1983’s Furthermore What 12”), adding five mid-’80s live tracks and two otherwise unreleased reunion songs recorded in 2011 to round things out. The first EP is a snapshot of OH-OK at their most stripped-down, a trio of friends armed with a simple toolkit of just drums, bass, and voices to construct their short, highly rhythmic and danceable bursts of art-punk. Lynda Stipe and Linda Hopper’s vocals intertwine in subverted schoolyard chants like a much less kitsched-out version of Kate and Cindy from fellow Athenians the B-52’S, with Lynda’s rubbery and repeating DELTA 5-ish bass lines holding everything together. By the follow-up 12”, future power pop all-star Matthew Sweet had joined in on guitar and the song structures had gotten slightly more complex, with tracks like “Straight” steering the wild energy of their debut into a darker, moodier weird-pop direction without abandoning the group’s off-kilter charm. In both configurations of the band, OH-OK completely embodied sense of playfulness and whimsy that I’m tempted to call “childlike,” but not in the infantilizing/patronizing way that term is often used (especially when describing the creative output of women)—it’s more that their songs exist in their own self-invented world, as art created primarily for the enjoyment of the people making it, unconcerned with following leads that they weren’t setting themselves. Unimpeachable genius sounds from the femme-punk underground.

Oxygen Destroyer November Brain 10”

A wildly limited 10” lathe compiling unreleased cuts and outtakes from OXYGEN DESTROYER, who started the early 2010s in Japan and finished out the decade in San Francisco. The title track is a wildly melodic (almost emotional?) opener that sets false expectations for ten noisy hardcore bursts that follow. OXYGEN DESTROYER would have fit in nicely in the 1990s Bay Area, with tracks like “Slowride” and “School Jacket” landing them somewhere between Mission District fuck-ups and West Bay Koalition sonic violence, and then there are straight raw punk crushers like “Manhunt.” As a swan song, November Brain has it all; from the nine-plus minute raw punk opus “Evolution Of Man” to a slew of sub-60 second blasts of chaos. Sure, there are only 25 physical copies, but I suspect that the intent was to make it clear that OXYGEN DESTROYER existed, and these eleven tracks make that abundantly clear. The punk world needs fewer sonic constraints and more of this.

Preening Dragged Through the Garden 12”

PREENING didn’t invent any of the sounds, or combinations of sounds, you hear on this nine-song EP, but at this point they have fully slapped their own stamp on things, and they were decently distinctive before. The snaky saxophone and juddery bass calls back to early ’80s UK post-punk’s jazzier cats—frequently thinking BLURT, sometimes the POP GROUP—and it’s notable that Max Nordile, on the former listed instrument, plays like an actual jazzer as opposed to a punk who realised the sax’s din-making potential. (Check the slow’n’low “Red Red Lava” for evidence, or for that matter some of Max’s truly wild solo tapes.) His spluttering vox, frequently twinned with the slightly more insouciant tones of bassist Alejandra Alcala, lend a noisier, more abrasive angle to the band, not light years away from TRUMAN’S WATER or someone. Andy Human, PREENING compadre from their weird-punk Bay Area scene and Alejandra’s NAKED ROOMMATE bandmate, pops up at the end of Dragged Through the Garden with a creepy dub remix of “Extortion,” although if there is an original version it appears to be unreleased at present.

Public Opinion Pay No Mind cassette

It’s very much a cliché for a reviewer to use terms like “stripped-down,” “no-frills” “back-to-basics,” “catchy punk rock’n’roll” with “hardcore energy,” but in the case of PUBLIC OPINION, these terms very much apply. Deceptively simple chunks of guitar riffage plough ahead at a pace adequate to energetic movement, providing a springboard for strident vocalizing that, in cadence and delivery, falls somewhere between the HIVES and HOT SNAKES.

Radical Kitten Silence is Violence LP

Bare-bones bass and drums provide a pummeling backdrop for the gearhead guitarist to venture off into experimental territory. Pairing post-punk and noise with a DIY fervor reminiscent of TANK GIRL, this band’s got a lot to say, both sonically and lyrically. They rail against societal inequities with dissonant walls of guitar interspersed with vocals that are at times melodic, at times a piercing shriek. Many of these songs start with a musical intro that slowly builds into a crescendo, but I have to say my personal faves are the ones that get right down to business. Songs like “Wrong” and “I Don’t Wanna” showcase just how tight the band is, and have a momentum that is undeniable.

R.M.F.C. Hive Volumes 1 & 2 LP

R.M.F.C. (or Rock Music Fan Club) is the bedroom recording project of New South Wales teen Buz Clatworthy, and this LP compiles his first two cassettes. This fits nicely alongside any of the recent spate of releases from fellow NWI-worshiping Aussies, like SATANIC TOGAS, RESEARCH REACTOR CORP, DISCO JUNK, GEE TEE, etc. What sets R.M.F.C. apart from those other bands is his willingness to slow things down a bit. While there are plenty of the lightning-fast tracks that you’ve probably come to expect from this lot, songs like “Television” and “Mirror” creep by in comparison and really allow you the time to appreciate the odd mix of influences these kids are working with. Maybe it’s just because I feel a little inundated with speedy DEVO-core lately, but I find myself preferring these slower tracks. Regardless, this is an impressive collection of tunes, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this kid comes up with next.

SBDC The Feeling of Winning LP

Vancouver has a long history of great female punk bands, not the least of which is Lisa Marr’s band CUB. SBDC (Stupid Bitch and the Dumb Cunts, if you need it spelled out) is carrying on that tradition with scrappy riffs, clever lyrics, and bursts of short, amazing songs. I recently found an old split 7” from CUB and Larry Livermore’s band the POTATOMEN that was co-released by Vancouver’s Mint Records and Lookout!—SBDC has the best sounds of Mint and Lookout!, and also the energy of the short-lived Olympia band HEAVENS TO BETSY. For the record, this album could have come out on Mint Records, but instead it’s on the spazier, artier, scruffier, more DIY Kingfisher Bluez.

Silicon Heartbeat Earth Static cassette

Beaming in from Kalamazoo, Michigan, SILICON HEARTBEAT (not to be confused with SILICON PRAIRIE) trades in gloomy, fuzz-soaked synth-punk. Suck the fun out of the SPITS or slip a sedative to LOST SOUNDS and you’d have something close to this EP. SILICON HEARTBEAT is competent enough, but the relentless monotone that defines each song can be a hard wave to ride, even on what is essentially a 7” (are there really only eighteen copies of this tape?). I’m guessing that this is a solo project and, thus, it rates on a sliding scale, but still, there’s little heat here. The digital download of Earth Static closes out with a perfectly fine ANGRY SAMOANS cover that is the aural equivalent of a flatline.

Slugs Long Live the New Flesh cassette

Pretty damn great sleazy, leather-clad GBG garage punk. Maybe a little SPITS-like mainly for the vocals, which could also owe a bit to Wendy O. One could easily see this band on a bill with New Zealand’s the CAVEMEN; it’s nice and dirty, primitive, and would fit nicely on a Killed By Death volume. “Drug Eyes” and the Videodrome-inspired title cut rise to the top of this cesspool of punker joy, and it comes to a close with the wonderfully droning post-punker “V.A.T.” Shower-worthy bliss for shure.

Slumb Party Spending Money LP

Bridging the chasm between No New York and XTC on the dole, SLUMB PARTY conjures up a wealth of influences without feeling contrived. Spending Money is simultaneously catchy and complex, bizarro new wave for recovering consumers. The perfect soundtrack for making weird art, or trying out that experimental new dance move. A big recommendation from me, and relatively affordable for an overseas score.

The Snakes The Snakes LP

Anti-Fade is one of a handful of labels that I follow religiously. But every so often I’ll have a crisis of faith and find myself willfully ignoring a release for no reason other than, say, unappealing cover art or a generic band name. The Snakes by the SNAKES was such a release. Fortunately, MRR intervened and I now see the error of my ways. This is quite a delightful LP! The SNAKES are a five-piece outfit from Melbourne, and they play an odd mix of organ-driven garage punk, sleazy proto-punk, and circus-y new wave. It reminds me at times of mid-’80s CURE, the MIGHTY GO-GO PLAYERS, the soundtrack to Liquid Sky, and Richard Hell (particularly the vocalist). I don’t know how much replay value this one has, but it’s definitely worth a listen if you’re down for an interesting time. I’m certainly keen to see what they do next!

Solvent Demo 2020 cassette

I mean, this shit just sounds like the cover art, really. How many side shots of crudely drawn skulls with daggers through them can one punk suffer? I mean, fuck, despite my whinging, it’s a good demo. The songs are fast as all fuck, faster than your average contemporary (ooh la la) D-beat at least, which is a plus considering the seemingly endless wave of mid-paced bullshit lately. The vocals have a hiss and snarl to them that only comes out occasionally, but when it does, fuck me if it doesn’t rip. This fucker was over before it began and I’m glad for that; I hope this lot stick to 7”s and tapes and don’t succumb to the ultimate in modern punk trappings and resort to an LP—this shit is fast as all fuck and vicious sounding, a quality I think would be lost on a 12”.

Tantrum Get What You Deserve cassette

NYC’s TANTRUM delivers a steady D-beat pounding on some of this tape, and dark, smoky post-punk on the rest of it. It’s an interesting mix, especially when complemented by the tinny demo quality. The echoed female vocals add a layer of goth/anarcho vibes to these six tracks, working just as well over the thrashy hardcore parts as they do on the slower, more pointed numbers. While these elements may sound a little mismatched, TANTRUM makes it work fairly seamlessly.

Termination Termination cassette

Last year when I heard the SERFS’ debut album Sounds of Serfdom, I thought “hell yes, this has got to be a sign that 2020 is going to be a great year,” but oh how I was wrong. This new album from TERMINATION, a Cincinnati-based supergroup with members from the SERFS, MARDOU, and CRIME OF PASSING has got me really worried because it’s so fucking good that it can only mean 2021 is going to be a horrific nightmare. This tape brings all of the wild experimentation of the VELVET UNDERGROUND to the melodic garage rock of KING KHAN. It’s fuzzed-out and noisy and totally brilliant. There’s really nothing more to be said except that this kicks ass and comes highly recommended. If you feel so inclined, cop a tape. All of the profits go to the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Ultra-Violent Crime…For…Revenge EP reissue

Perhaps the definitive UK82 release, a final effort before disbanding and setting off on their merry (separate) ways; this is three tracks of buzzsaw guitar ferocity, larynx-shredding vocals from Ade Bailey, and drums that sound like an air raid. Tight, furious and no pissing about. Get your boots and your bally on, it’s a classic for a reason.

Vex Sanctuary 12” reissue

Unfairly unheard of, this lone EP was originally released in 1984 through Fight Back Records, a sub-label of Mortarhate, run by the good people of CONFLICT. Thirty years later Sacred Bones released Sanctuary (The Complete Discography), which gave them a bit more exposure and gave them some justice in a sense. VEX knew darkness like no other band, combining the anarcho-punk ethos of CRASS or CONFLICT with the apocalyptic tribal beats of early AMEBIX, KILLING JOKE, and UK DECAY. They were short-lived but made a mark in the underground and the reissues gave them the status of a cult classic, influencing several modern post-punk acts. With a new reissue by Bomb-All, be sure to pick up this criminally underrated gem from the UK anarcho-punk scene.

Vis Vires The Fight Goes On LP

Never personally understood the fascination with some skins in pretending to be a Viking warrior (it was shit, lads! You couldn’t even get Wi-Fi or a decent lamb tikka bhuna!), and this record is unlikely to convince me, really. From its opening salvo of audio library sword-clashing, to its tough-guy vocals singing of victory, pride, and storms, it’s a quaintly macho record, more in common with MANOWAR than its Oi! labelling, all IRON MAIDEN wailing guitars and not enough grit. If you liked that BATTLE RUINS record, or think you’re from eighth-century Uppåkra, this may be for you.

V/A …So This is Progress? 003 flexi EP + zine

The zine part of this fine package is a collection of show fliers from all over Ohio, going all the way back to NECROS and DR. KNOW in 1985. There are a bunch of sick ones from the late ’90s/early ’00s that took me back. It’s amazing how many ways you can draw someone’s head exploding. The flexi part is a compilation of solo COVID projects by punks from all across the US. All the best styles are represented, from MOTÖRHEAD scum crust to bong-ripping glam thrash, and all the hardcore grinding violence in-between. In all seriousness, all these tracks shred, and the glossy print, hand-numbered zine is hella clean! Grab one while you can!

Armedalite Rifles Art is a Weapon LP

A new album from Pine Bush’s longtime purveyors of discordantly arty punk-pop. While mired in left-field references to funky-jazzy-noisy skronkers, the RIFLES can never escape the pop urge; under the buzzing, chiming guitars, stop-start rhythms, and shambolic shuffling, there’s always a three-chord pop punk melody not too far away—like a parallel universe where CRIMPSHRINE was aware of WHIRLING PIG DERVISH. ARMEDALITE RIFLES records are always personal; their hands-on DIY approach is tangible. But this album carries an extra poignancy as memorial for and eulogy to longtime bassist (and father of singer/guitarist Jimmy) Jay LoRubbio, who passed away in 2018. A fitting tribute.

Attrix Lost Lenoré / Hard Times 7” reissue

Reissue of a 1978 single (and the lone release) from English punk trio ATTRIX, who were behind the label of the same name that’s probably best known now for the Vaultage series of compilations documenting the late ’70s/early ’80s Brighton scene. There’s a heavy VELVET UNDERGROUND influence on these two tracks, as refracted through the smudged prism of UK DIY—raw rave-ups with plenty of back alley strut, all jangling guitar chug, driving rhythms, and matter-of-fact vocals that make up in confidently cool attitude what they lack in dynamics. The buzzsaw hooks/gang chorus double whammy in “Lost Lenoré” almost crosses over into roughed-up, PROTEX-ed power pop, with “Hard Times” conjuring visions of Transformer-era LOU REED if he’d been backed by the BUZZCOCKS. Two winners, no filler.

Billy & the Bad Peach Demo 2019 cassette

The murky guitar that opens “I Don’t Feel So Good” might make you think you’re in for some regurgitated goth, but that only lasts about fifteen seconds, and these New Jersey mutants offer so much more than that. The opening cut is a squirmy punk done damaged, raw shit just disassembled and tortured to the point where they (almost) sound scary. They do return to those dark undertones (guitar leads in “It’s A Trap,” for example), but the filthy stomp of “Kool” seems to personify the band: “I found out the truth, the truth about you / The truth is you don’t know you.” Only four songs here—all simple and nasty—but fortunately there’s a second tape lurking somewhere back in 2020.

Black Button I Want to Be in Control cassette

BLACK BUTTON really caught my attention last year with their short demo tape, so I was pretty psyched when I saw this release pop up. As I had hoped, it’s a hell of a ride. This formidable Richmond act plays intense, jazzy, angular, and cerebral lo-fi hardcore that creates a dense, disturbing, dystopian-like atmosphere to pull the listener in. The music is equal parts groovy and gripping, aided by a desperate, tortured, and venomous vocal performance spitting thought-provoking spoken word on top. Every once in a while everything seems to just fall apart, adding a dimension of No Wave clamor to the sound. I just can’t decide which version of the band’s self-titled “theme song” I prefer—the haunting live arthouse version on the demo or the tightly-wound, homicidal-horn-laced chaos found here. They’re both great, and so are the rest of these unique tunes. I’m pulling out the big B-word on this one—brilliant stuff. Don’t sleep on it.

Citric Dummies Die Nasty cassette

There needs to be a few CITRIC DUMMIES-type bands around at any given time, otherwise punk might collapse in on itself and lose its intrinsic ability to revel in the theatre of the absurd, or something like that. By “CITRIC DUMMIES-type bands,” I mean ones who write energetic bangers (that aren’t really hardcore or skate punk or garage or KBD-type stuff, although if any of those things are your jam you might like this), with genuinely funny, obnoxious lyrics (that aren’t “anti-PC” or somesuch). BRUTAL KNIGHTS were probably the last band to bat a comparable average on this front to these guys from Minneapolis, and although Die Nasty doesn’t have any lines that have induced actual belly laughter à la “I H8 Birds” or “Where the Fuck Were You?” from previous DUMMIES outings, it’s as ribald as a tape with an opening song called “Your Ex-Girlfriend is Dating a Nazi” oughta be. For some reason you have to download it and/or play the actual tape to hear it mixed properly, and it intentionally sounds like shit if you just stream it, although no doubt some people will prefer that version.

Clear Channel Hell LP

Supremely funky debut LP from this D.C. group of dance-punks. Made up of bass, drums, bongos, and two vocalists, CLEAR CHANNEL combines the best ingredients of funk, post-punk, and new wave into a unique, irresistible mix. “Hello Disko” sounds like Lydia Lunch fronting the B-52’S in the best way, all moaning vocals, bobbing bass, and disco beats. “B.B.I.” is a dubby exploration with soulful singing that reminds me of TV ON THE RADIO in the falsetto parts. “Maria” could be a ’60s R&B classic re-recorded by a punk band. It’s great. Then comes “Hot Fruit,” a funky, kinda dirty jam that deserves a place in the novelty song history books. If you want people to get up and move at your next party, put on “Hot Fruit.” I’m planning a mix tape around it as I write this. The record ends with the title track that turns up the drama with theatrical call-and-response vocals and the same grimy disco vibe from the opening. This is dance music by punks, kind of like DUB NARCOTIC SOUND SYSTEM, in attitude at least. Check it out—the most purely enjoyable record I have heard in a while.

Collate Medicine / Genesis Fatigue 7”

Blame COVID for why there’s not a new COLLATE LP primed and ready to sit on your turntable. Still, the Portland trio does us a solid with a short but effective single. “Medicine” is begging to get a sweaty DIY dive packed with awkward weirdos grooving in something close to tandem. COLLATE doesn’t shirk on the ass-shaking aspect of post-punk nor do they let up on the jagged guitar or the eternally cool call-and-response vocals. This shit smokes, call the FIRE ENGINES! “Genesis Fatigue” is even rowdier and could have landed on any number of killer art-punk comps from 1981 and held its own in such hallowed company. Furthermore, as with all Domestic Departure output, this single looks fab.

Crutches / Kontrasosial Chaos Riders Freedom Fighters split LP

CRUTCHES spit out nine tracks of clean-sounding Swedish D-beat in the vein of all your favourite umlaut-adorned and mispronounced backpatches, but with all the modern advancements of clean recording. It’s fine, I guess. Vocals could sound less shrieked, but I’m old now so what the fuck do I know; it’s just hard for me to get sucked into something so polished-sounding, especially when sonically, they just don’t manage to conjure that atmosphere of danger that I think is absolutely necessary in modern crust. I can hear all the shiny studs in this recording and none of the filth. KONTRASOSIAL gives this the kick that it needs with a slightly more metal approach and stomp that blows the other side outta the water, an unfair pairing really.

Daiei Spray Behind the Wall LP

Melodic hardcore from Japan that’s, at least in part, been heavily influenced by bands like DAG NASTY. The songs are all sung in Japanese, which to me is a plus. I think it sets bands apart when they sing in their native tongue, because while I may not know what they’re saying, it’s authentic and not just another (insert band here) clone. One last thing, I definitely hear the THUMBS in here a bit in some of the delivery and guitars and I’m super into it.

Dick Move Chop! LP

The AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS comparison feels like a somewhat lazy one, but there will no doubt be fanbase crossover. Still, DICK MOVE has plenty that sets them apart. Some songs remind me of a mid-tempo QUAALUDES, with driving, garage punk riffs and dynamic vox. Others deliver an early hardcore sensibility as reflected through a pop lens. Plenty of shouted group vocals and lead guitar interludes are scattered throughout this record. One of the genre tags on their Bandcamp is “party-punk,” and I’m inclined to agree. But there is substance to this party platter; lyrical themes include Indigenous people’s rights, gender politics, and mental health.

The Ex Disturbing Domestic Peace LP+7” / History is What’s Happening LP reissues

The greatest anarcho-punk band of our time (or any time), the EX has consistently transcended a genre that’s often reduced to cliches of stencil fonts and high-contrast black and white war photos—through four decades and counting, they’ve collaborated with avant-garde cellists and Ethiopian jazz saxophonists, and experimented with free improvisation and ethnic folk music, and never once has any of it seemed disingenuous or forced. Their first two LPs, 1980’s Disturbing Domestic Peace and 1982’s History is What’s Happening, recently got the reissue treatment from Superior Viaduct, and within the EX’s sprawling catalog, they’re arguably the group’s most “conventional” and straightforward statements of intent. On their full-length debut, the EX laid down much of the basic furniture that would remain in place as the band regularly rearranged their musical floor plan in subsequent years—G.W. Sok’s intently ranted vocals and sloganeering lyrics, scratchy knife-edged guitar, tumbling, tightly-knotted rhythms. It’s a lean 22 minutes (not counting the bonus four-song live 7”) of smart agitprop punk fitting the Crass Records-modeled anarcho-ideal, but with an off-center volatility pointing to expanded horizons to come. History is What’s Happening bridges Disturbing Domestic Peace’s raw, square-one approach with much more of a sharp, angular post-punk influence, which would continue to color the band’s sound as they moved toward the ’90s—imagine GANG OF FOUR as Dutch squat-dwellers who would have never broached the idea of signing to a major, a central precept illustrated with scathing bluntness on the jagged, Entertainment!-referencing “E.M. Why” (“The gang of four smiles / They think that EMI’s their friend”). The EX allegedly chose their name because it was quick and easy to spray-paint on a wall, and despite the increasingly complex songwriting on the second LP, it’s still an obvious extension of the group’s original motivations, with each track-as-manifesto blazing through at about a minute or two a piece, just long enough to effectively deliver their points, no time for fucking around. Absolutely essential.

Exploatör Avgrundens Brant LP

I’m going to say a few things, outing my lameness, before I even get started on the listening. One, I have heard of this band, and I am familiar with their insane punk pedigree of band members (INSTITUTION, SLUTET, WARCOLLAPSE, KRIGSHOT, TOTALITÄR, NO SECURITY—yes, I’m still going—ÄÄRITILA, DISFEAR, MEANWHILE…etc.!), but I regret to say I don’t know that I’ve heard them yet since their 2017 debut. Sad face. Two, the umlaut and aforementioned resume lets me know I’ll probably be into this. So let’s see. Okay, I absolutely love the raspy vocals that gasp out to the very last breath. This is quite heavy metal-charged Scandi Dis-beat hardcore. There is a unique level of vibration to the classic riffs. That is to say, the traditional Swedish hardcore chords are almost sung from the guitars. Outstanding. Like literally, the guitars are a standout, fucking awesome. This must be Kenko, who I met at a wedding in NY once, and his unassuming kind poise brings total fire through his instrument. Simultaneously catchy and abrasive, this is certainly recommended. Some parts double-time D-beat käng (à la MOB 47), other moments knuckle-dragging stomping breaks, but never for too long. I was just listening to INSTITUTION yesterday and I believe they share the vocalist. Or perhaps the TOTALITÄR vocalist, actually. I could check but let’s leave it at that, the old-fashioned way. Just like EXPLOATÖR plays hardcore punk. I am not sure who’s doing what here, but I am sure I love this.

Gazm Heavy Vibe Music LP

I like Canadian HC, they always seem to put something out that’s just slightly left of the mainstream. What we have here, however, is a slab of Age of Quarrel-era worship that, despite my distaste for worship bands, had me nodding my head along the whole way. There’s that thin line between tracks that have the thick, aggressive stomp of the CRO-MAGS at their angriest, and then tracks that waver between hardcore and that wave of neo-thrash bands that were abundant in record bins all over the world a couple of years back. Is this LP good? Depends, I suppose; I probably would’ve liked it a hell of a lot more if it was a 7”, but what the fuck does that even mean? Maybe if they could lose that kinda goofy, borderline pizza party vibe I get from this shit.

Giuseppe Carabino U Ruševinama 84–86 cassette

GIUSEPPE CARABINO was a hardcore band from Subotica, Yugoslavia. This tape with 31 tracks includes five different releases and live recordings of the seemingly prolific band. Again a great relic of our international subculture, now collected and reissued by Aftermath Tapes. The music is exuberant, and tries to be ultra-fast both with the thundering guitars and airtight drumming, laid on a hyperactive bass. While all the collective anxiety is on the loose, melody appears in a better-blended form than cheap tunes on the top of noise. They tried to write songs but were too impatient to play them in a boring, traditional way. When tension decreases, gloomy sounds surface along with the disgusted vocals. It’s an interesting duality how these kids from far away built their own universe on constantly collapsing songs. They capture the despair and it works, sounding original while it’s dumb since it dares to be dumb. It’s unpolished because it was recorded on impossible devices, yet it was recorded and decades later is still available, proving how some forces are unstoppable. If you like hardcore that is coming from less-known places and sounds different despite similarities in its fundaments, great stuff.

Honey Joy II LP

Big hooks from dual guitars are matched with the big voice of singer Meg Tinsley on this London band’s second full-length. The album manages to match up socially relevant post-hardcore tracks (“The Contagion,” “The Healer”) with power pop gems (“Queen Ray,” “Saluting Magpies”) and have it all flow together. If there was a Fest this year, I could see HONEY JOY making the trip across the pond. Recorded by Simon Small from the band APOLOGIES, I HAVE NONE, the LP joins a punk lineage of albums mastered by Daniel Husayn at the North London Bomb Factory and it’s released on the up-and-coming indie label Everything Sucks.

Inject the Light The Apocalypse is Boring cassette

Well, it sure is fun and somewhat uncomfortable when you get assigned your friends to review. Some might even say it’s funcomfortable. This is Chris Mason, head of Portland’s killer label Dirt Cult, as well as the bands LOW CULTURE and MACHO BOYS, performing five quarantine songs he wrote and recorded in one night. When you have such extensive experience penning awesome songs, I imagine it’s not too hard to crank out tunes about the nightmare year we’ve all been living through. But then he goes and makes them really good on top of it. Recommended listening for when the world we’re trapped in becomes too much to deal with.