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.

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.

Protagonists 1983-1985 LP

This is the kind of punk artifact crate digger dreams are made of—a beautifully packaged reissue of previously unheard and nigh unfindable material from this Naperville-based group of adolescent power poppers with an edge. At the height of Chicago hardcore, these kids were making smartass melodic tunes that hit more like NAKED RAYGUN produced by the FEELIES. The songwriting is confident, with advanced structures and tight playing that a lot of veteran acts never fully achieve. There’s also some naïve charm, largely thanks to the keyboard that often hangs clumsily in the mix but still adds something special. On the standout “Another Monday,” PROTAGONISTS sounds like they could have had a home amongst K Records’ roster of discomforting emotional acts—an accidental precursor to ’90s bedroom pop-rock. So many releases like this get lost to time, but thankfully now a wider audience can listen to the quiet triumph of four teens who made the time to put what they had to say on tape. After all, it’s not always about how many people are listening, but the quality of what they listen to.

Pus Anaquila demo

Hardcore punk caked in black metal tone from Lima, Peru. They kick off at searing speed but switch directions with each track. The simple pogo attack of “Eres Una Pose” comes across as traditional and straightforward but PUS seeks to be anything but. Their blood-curdling vocals, technical ability, variance of styles, blackened sound, and overall recording quality makes it hard for me to place a stylistic comparison. PUS does a good job of building tension and can write some catchy riffs, but they haven’t fully mastered their songwriting craft and fail to deliver a fatal blow. The songs got a lot going on, though, and show promise.

Barry Rolfe Look the Business / Molly Molly 7″

Tough-as-yer-like hobnail boot glam rock stomper from Baz on the A side here; I have a real fondness for this type of proto-punk bovver boy throwaway rubbish from this era, all pomp and bluster and latent menace. A paean to being a top dresser from a time when any kicking you’d receive on the terraces was likely to be administered by someone with a feather cut and bellbottoms. Scuzzy, mean and very silly. The B-side is a slightly different tempo, a slinky and saucy number replete with slide guitar, to suit the lyrical content; the joys of getting your leg over.

Schrankaffe 87-93 LP

SCHRANKAFFE (which translates to “Cupboard Monkey”!) was an arty punk band out of Hamburg, Germany. If you are unfamiliar with them (as I was), you might assume from the album title (as I did) that they operated in the late ’80s/early ‘90s and this is a collection of their total output from this period. But no! They existed for just three gigs back in 2008, and this is a collection of their total output from that time, initially issued as a CD-R in 2009 and reissued here on vinyl. The title’s significance still escapes me, but the music doesn’t sound unlike it was made in that era. The tunes are mainly mid-fi affairs that skew post-hardcore, but the punker tracks are the most interesting. The guitarist plays feedback-y lead throughout, like he’s assembling songs from variations on the first 30 seconds of BLACK FLAG’s “My War” or “Can’t Decide,” while singer, Itty auf Ex, adds upbeat talk/shout vocals overtop. The drummer will often pitch in vocals for a call-and-response verse or a gang chorus, generally to good effect. I don’t know that I’ll be dipping back into this one, but I found my time with it quite charming. Worth a listen.

The Slackers Nobody’s Listening / Sleep Outside 12″

Two tracks recorded live, and presented in a rather stylish picture disc. The SLACKERS have been doing the reggae/ska/rocksteady thang for a couple of decades and counting now. I didn’t even know they were still going, to be honest, but these tracks are dripping with horns and keyboards, and bear more than a passing resemblance to the more soulful efforts of the REDSKINS and the more laid-back SPECIALS numbers. Spot-on lyrical sentiments, too; makes me reckon that these are pretty recent efforts.

Totally Cracked Bala Boi Bíblia EP

This single sounds like a live show—not like a recording of a live show, but like an actual show taking place in your apartment. Guitar dominates the mix, a high end buzzsaw cutting through everything like…well, like a damn buzzsaw. The hardcore is fast (real fast) and never lets up over the course of ten tracks…in ten minutes. Perhaps a one-off project, TOTALLY CRACKED apparently cranked this thing out in an evening about 50 miles outside of São Paulo. The result is hot and raw, and I certainly hope they do it again someday.

True Sons of Thunder It Was Then That I Was Carrying You LP

The TRUE SONS OF THUNDER 7″ that Goodbye Boozy put out a couplathree months back was a stoater, and this follow-up album (which reprises the single’s first and best song, “Shake Rag,” and the briefer, goofier “Toob Sock”) keeps the pecker flying high. I say “follow-up” like this release schedule was the product of a laser-targeted promotional drive, but given these Memphis fellows took the best part of a decade to throw this together, we’re probably lucky we got one TSOT rekkid let alone two. This is an excitingly cloudy tonic of post-ELECTRIC EELS/FLIPPER/BUTTHOLES party sludge with a paw or two dipped in the honey jar of Southern rawk and the freakier fringe of ’90s garage punk. Plenty of five-minute-plus cuts here, and not much hyper tempo, but unquestioned reserves of energy – and they’re a crack unit, too, swerving all over the road on the likes of “Get A Hold To It” but always sounding on each other’s wavelength.

Urban Void In Denial demo cassette

Stomping, aggressive hardcore that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Straightforward, heavy but not too metallic. The only thing I could ask for would be for it to come across more unhinged. It’s one thing to be pissed off, it’s another to menace. I have trouble figuring out how this came about; it’s billed as a “transatlantic retort,” whatever that means. Who cares? The drums sound killer and the riffs are simple but obnoxious enough to make me wanna kick through my drywall, and I suppose in 2020 that’s what counts.

Warsaw Pakt Needle Time LP+7″ / Lorraine/Dogfight 7″

Recorded live and straight to the lathe on Saturday, November 26th of 1977, WARSAW PAKT’s explosive Needle Time LP was on record store shelves by 7:00 AM the next morning. This legendary stunt serves a fitting metaphor for the fast and furious London group’s short and potent career. Active only from 1977-78, WARSAW PAKT was fronted by the uber-charismatic Jimmy Coull, and included some grizzled ’60s psych veterans and an ex-MOTÖRHEAD drummer amongst their ranks. This resulted in some truly unique, sophisticated, and rockin’ pub-punk that’s been largely unheard in the decades since. Due to its unique origin story, Needle Time really captures the power of the short-lived band’s live performances in the UK alongside the CLASH and the DAMNED, but really this would have been a great record under any circumstances. Packed with sharp, catchy, and high-energy songs from top to bottom, Needle Time showcases the band’s prowess for speedy, loose, and edgy rock while punk was still in diapers. There’s not a bad tune in the bunch. Lucky for us, the geniuses at Munster Records have given Needle Time an awesome reissue treatment, threw in a bonus 7″ with it, and even put out two previously unreleased studio tracks on yet another 7″ single (“Lorraine / Dogfight”)! As if that weren’t enough, further enlightenment can be found on the ROCKETS 7” from last year which reveals the PAKT’s pub rock roots. It’s all top o’ the stack material.

Zyfilis Alla Ska Ha… LP

Following their split release with MURO and debut 7″ record, Alla Ska Ha… sounds really fresh, ranging from catchy D-beat and bouncy pogo parts. The guitar work is somewhat atypical, like TOXIC REASONS played through a TOTALITÄR filter, and the punk high-energy really comes through in the vocals as Johanna really makes you feel like you are being yelled at directly. ZYFILIS delivers a fun record that will leave no fists unpumped.

Abortti 13 Abortti 13mg CD

A decade-plus back in the game after a fifteen-year stint with no releases, Finland’s ABORTTI 13 keeps delivering the goods. Cold, driving mid-paced hardcore punk with an ’80s Polish crunch on the the guitars, and a Finnish-language DISCHARGE cover to cap things off. Just one track kisses the two-minute mark…apparently there’s a certain amount of wisdom that comes with extensive experience.

Alien Nosejob Once Again the Present Becomes the Past LP

The HC45 single was one of the best hardcore records I’ve heard in recent times and Mr. Nosejob brings those quick, nimble riffs to full-length form. The description for Once Again notes that it began as a concept record referencing both WWII bombings and comedian Norm Macdonald. It sounds like if MODERN WARFARE or the MOB (NYC) had Mike D. of the BEASTIE BOYS on vocals and were emulating DISCHARGE singles. Or if DEVO had been a metal band. Or if the MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB wrote a hardcore record. It’s wacky and has nice subtleties and moments that’ll make your ears and eyes pop. The guitar solo in “Pointed Shears” reminds me of the guitar in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme song (which now that I listen back on that theme song sounds like it could’ve been a scrapped tune from Military Affairs Neurotic if it was a bit slower). This record will draw a line in the sand for many hardcore fans, probably multiple lines, once again illuminating the dreaded egg v. chain dichotomy.

Asbestos Double Bind demo cassette

Another motherfucking Denver banger. Unpretentious freak stomp hardcore with the perfect blown-out recording, and songs that get straight to the point in a minute or less. Music for eternal raging in concrete basements. This had better not stay a solo project.

Babies in the Bardo Babies in the Bardo cassette

The hype sheet references 4AD, CABARET VOLTAIRE, Factory Records, SAVAGE REPUBLIC, and you’re damn right I’m paying attention. Decade (plus) old solo recordings the bassist from EARLY DAY MINERS (it’s cool, I had never heard of them either) unearthed and packaged for eager consumption by a new generation of gloom-obsessed, dreary-faced goth revivalists. BABIES IN THE BARDO are (were?) seizing a time, and they are making it theirs in the process. Minimal synths remain chaotic while ominous bass and loops dominate thirteen cuts driven by painfully deliberate (and casually absent) primitive drums. It’s good, y’all…it’s really good—maybe we all should dust off the recordings in our closets, just in case.

Beltalowda Unheard Language CD

A transatlantic pandemic project, BELTALOWDA consists of one chap from Bloomington, IN and one in London, UK. The music has that inorganic quality that can often occur when musicians perform their parts at a (social) distance; the somewhat flat, metronomic drum machine sounds contribute to that sensation. That aside, the songs themselves are direct and to the point, lent urgency by the lyrics, which read as instant reactions to current events as they are happening, relayed with a matter-of-fact blankness. The slashing guitars and staccato rhythms mostly suggest MISSION OF BURMA or at times WIRE, although on “One of the Hundred” BELTALOWDA are channeling no one more than FUGAZI. Putting their money where their mouths are, the duo will donate a portion of the proceeds from the EP to social justice causes such as The Bail Project and The Indian Law Resource Center.

CCR Headcleaner Street Riffs LP

Based chiefly off their previous album Tear Down the Wall (the one with the photo of a nude hippy smashing a flaming guitar into a vast stack of amplifiers), I had San Fran’s CCR HEADCLEANER loosely pegged as one of those post-COMETS ON FIRE kinda bands who brought hardcore aggression to their classic rock fandom. This holds from time to time on Street Riffs (“Half a Tooth,” the bits of “Office Buildings” that sound like BL’AST), but pound-for-pound there’s more triumphalist stoner rawk, CRAZY HORSE shimmery noodling, and even a little LUNGFISH mysticism. It’s fun as hell and contains multiple moments that’ll have you in a pie-eyed grin, assuming you can get on board with all the stuff I just mentioned, but it does feel like CCR HEADCLEANER are in a transitory period between noisy freek-rock and actual structured songwriting—without having mastered the second of those things.

Charlie Continental & Heaty Beat We’re Getting Fixed (The Grawlix Saves the World) 7″ flexi

Holy shit, thanks to Snappy Little Numbers, it seems it’s flexi-disc month here at MRR. This one has the original version of the song and a remix featuring a rap break (HEATY BEAT) in the middle. This one definitely fits into the category of snappy little number. Mid-tempo and catchy as all hell, if you’ve got a pulse, you’ll find yourself bouncing your head and/or tapping your toes to this one. I’m a fan. Limited to 100 copies if you want the flexi.

Clevers Clevers LP

The singer of this band has a vibrato to their voice much like Marissa from SCREAMING FEMALES, though in a much higher register. Musically they really nail that despondent, anxiety-ridden post-punk sound. In the first track they loop into a repetition of the haunting lyrics “time’s wastin’” for what feels like a full minute. Man, the guitar on the second track “Insight” sounds so fucking cool. Something about this band just feels so grown-up. They’ve got a harmonium, three-part vocal harmonies, and so much distortion. I hear a lot of TERRIBLE FEELINGS here, too. This band is incredibly smart, mature, and talented. Hope to hear a lot more from them.

Come Holy Spirit Undiscovered Land LP

If I recall correctly, my review of COME HOLY SPIRIT’s 2018 LP, Asters and Disasters, leaned heavily on references to the EX/DOG FACED HERMANS axis, no doubt helped along by the guest appearance of longtime EX singer G.W. SOK. Undiscovered Land retains the loose, rhythmic, experimental feel, but (with a couple of exceptions) feels heavier, more muscular, and (understandably) angrier. There’s an dramatic intensity in the interplay between the three musicians, the way the music builds and drops, threading the needle from one part to the next; the lyrics are poetic and directly confronting current events at the same time. This is punk with few of the trappings, independent of fashion. It’s not something you can put on and then go and wash the dishes or something – it demands (and is worthy of) your full attention.

Gallows Birds Quaranteenage Kicks CD

The title of the CD will forever tie this one to 2020 [let’s hope! –Ed.]. One song in and I’m thinking of the QUEERS with even more BEACH BOYS influence. On the off-chance that means nothing to you, think pop punk with a heavy side of surf. If the QUEERS wrote songs mostly about girls, GALLOWS BIRDS also write songs about the beach and cars/scooters. It’s catchy and for sure well done.