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.

Famous Mammals Famous Mammals cassette

Three-fifths of the WORLD (to say nothing of the dozens of other projects they’ve had a hand in, but let’s start there) regrouped last year as FAMOUS MAMMALS, shifting their post-punk allegiance from rhythmic, sax’d-out ESSENTIAL LOGIC stylings to something closer to the shambolic UK DIY aesthetic trafficked by the HOMOSEXUALS-aligned It’s War Boys label, with instrumental credits for their debut cassette that read like a junk shop inventory list (or components of a Joseph Beuys installation, take your pick)—viola, Belgian siren, vacuum, radio, whistles, chord organ, Fluxus chairs. A clattering Rhythm Master provides that patently early ’80s chintzy analog drone, the murky psychedelia of “The Plum Overcoat” suggests that the TELEVISION PERSONALITIES really did know where SYD BARRETT lived and paid him a house call, there’s a dryly faux-Brit accented “Ode to Nikki” (I’m assuming Mr. SUDDEN; I’ve never been so sure of something being a SWELL MAPS homage in all my life), and the ode in all but title “The Observer and the Object” positions itself as a lost bedroom-spawned successor to “Dresden Style” or “Let’s Build a Car,” if there were any lingering questions as to where FAMOUS MAMMALS stand on the issue of the Godfrey brothers—I’m staunchly “pro,” by the way.

Inyeccion Marginada cassette

Maybe you know them from their rather excellent demo released by the vital Discos Enfermos from Barcelona earlier this year. Maybe you don’t. If that is the case, I can tell you this: INYECCIÓN is a band with members from Chile and Argentina, with a sound that merges perfectly noisy and raw Latin American punk with a little of the classic UK82 style. Maybe it’s because I’m Mexican, but I feel a lot of the bubbly energy and celebratory discomfort of the early ’90s Mexican scene in these two songs. “Inyección” is an awesome street punk anthem about the despair generated by the lack of opportunities our countries offer to the youth. It has bile, it has vigor, it has hatred. It’s beautiful. “Peleas Callejeras” starts with a clean riff and devolves into a pure mayhem-inducing ritual. Love the way the male and female vocals interact in both tracks, so vicious.

Mourning Noise Mourning Noise CD

At long last, these Lodi, New Jersey legends get a proper retrospective release. You may have heard some of this previously on the Grand Theft Audio CD from long, long ago, and I guess there was a fan-released cassette comp at one point as well. This band’s claim to fame, at least in modern terms, is that they were the project of a young Steve Zing, drummer for SAMHAIN and current bassist for DANZIG. There’s even liner notes from the pint-sized master of darkness himself. As you might guess from these previous facts, there is a certain resemblance to the MISFITS in songwriting and lyrical content. Bobby Steele even lends some guitar tracks here. They are no clones, though, which you’ll see on some tracks from their hard-to-find 1982 classic EP included here, showing them going towards a darker sound that Glenn Danzig would later explore in SAMHAIN. Then there’s the goofy sing-along horror shlock of “Monster Madness” which seems to be a crowd favorite, appearing four times in different forms here. You get great-sounding demos, an unreleased LP, and a great WFMU set from 1982. There’s surf, punk, hardcore, metal, and of course MISFITS(!) influences throughout. What more could you want? Buy it and go grave-robbing in your local boneyard.

The Neos Three Teens Hellbent on Speed LP

Goddamn! This LP collects EPs, live stuff, and outtakes from this blazingly fast Canadian thrash hardcore act. Amidst the chaos and unchecked speed can be found little bits of goofiness which make the band’s catalogue much more appealing, and inspired bands like SPAZZ later on.

Pipyu Pipyu LP+7” reissue

Bitter Lake unearths some flat-out fucking awesome Japanese punk from an ultra-rare 1985 cassette and augments it with a couple unreleased cuts. Although they were far too late for the trend, PIPYU would have slotted nicely on the classic Tokyo Rockers comp alongside bands like MIRRORS and S-KEN. Considering the era in which these songs were recorded, it’s interesting to hear PIPYU sounding more in line with the slashing art-punk of FRICTION than the monolithic Motörcharge sound that was sweeping the island nation. Then again, the pile-driving “その花は笑わない” proves PIPYU had more than enough gas in their tank (or stunk). Tracks like “Let Me Kill” and “Noise” are manic thrill-rides with straight-into-the-board guitars sitting shotgun alongside the muscular rhythm section. Are you wondering if the singer sounds like he needs a mental health check and a rubber room? Have no doubt, this man owns at least one Artaud book. Even the ode to romance, “I Love Her,” knows that love is pain. But then how to explain “気狂いピエロ,” the original tape’s final cut? Here we have a moody seven-minute track dominated by bass and synth lines straight off of some classic UK DIY platter that just got remixed for a smartphone commercial. Music really is the international language!

Positronix Bad House cassette

POSITRONIX are from Philly and seem to be part of a network-of-friends/member-sharing kinda scene with ZORN and ALIEN BIRTH, although I live thousands of miles away and if I put in the internet detective work necessary to certify who’s been in what, it would basically feel like stalking after a while. Bad House, their second tape, doesn’t sound much like either of those bands, regardless. Its six songs are full of power chords (albeit with moments of weird atonal soloing, as in “Positivist,” that totally works nevertheless) afforded thicc production and containing DNA from dark post-punk, loud axe-hero indie à la DINOSAUR JR or SUGAR, maybe 2k10s riot grrrl inheritors like SKATING POLLY? It’s somehow both punkier and more rock-fan accessible than I’m making it sound, and I can envisage it landing well with a lot of different musical subcultures.

Rubber Room Chemical Imbalance EP

Sydney/Melbourne recording project from Kel Mason (GEE TEE) and Adam Ritchie (DRUNK MUMS, RED RED KROVVY)—Adam’s providing vocals, Kel’s providing the instrumentation. Apparently the duo formed back in 2017, looking to pay homage to the SCREAMERS. And—look—it’s pretty impossible to make a SCREAMERS record (in fact, the SCREAMERS couldn’t even pull it off). So, let’s just take that to mean that these fellas wanna make some synth punk. Which they accomplish! Nary a guitar is to be heard throughout the four tracks that make up this EP (at least as far as I can tell). And it’s good! Reminds me of the killer CONTROL TEST record that came out a few years back, or if  LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS were more cartoonishly sinister and squeezed in a SPITS-y chorus from time to time. Apparently this release has existed in one form or another since late 2019, but Cuerdas Fuera is doing god’s work here by pressing it to vinyl for the first time. If you can still find a copy, grab one!

Six Cents Welcome to the Wonderful World of Poisonous Non-consumables, Flying Drops, Sudden Stops and Blood Coated Cops! The Original Recordings LP

1995/96 recordings from Sacramento’s SIX CENTS—snotty, era-appropriate punk that sounds like a band from Sacramento circa 1995/96 (that’s a compliment). Shades of SCHLONG/YOUR MOTHER and LIZARDS for a nicely packaged release in memory of guitarist Pete Mannino, who passed away just after the recording was complete.

Sycophant Innate Control cassette

Arizona thrash punkers SYCOPHANT play like a very smooth hypnotic alien attack. Reminds of DISCHARGE meets later DRI and SACRED REICH. Repetitive, impassioned lyrics are spat forth with haste and then pulled back with hesitation, which creates for an interesting dynamic! Like SYCOPHANT knows about some seriously evil scientific conspiracy and is not sure if we can handle the information. I’m really digging these super metaled-out DISCHARGE rhythms drenched in ’80s thrash effect and groove. This is very tight, and I love the weird science retro- technologic-overkill cover art. For weirdos, freaks, and fans of D-beat and thrash. Shit, the more this goes on, I’m pulled in the direction of ANTI CIMEX, INEPSY, Repo Man, and Night of the Comet…relentless punk, bizarre and rips hard!

V/A Unearth’d: Underground Deathrock, Post-Punk, and Darkwave LP

This is surely a collection of 1988 goth club classics, right? These are certainly some the CULT and GENE LOVES JEZEBEL B-sides that have been forgotten to history? Nope! This is some new shit and it’s just that good! While leaning heavily on Athens, GA and North Carolina, this compilation throws in a few acts from various other states, Europe, and Canada as well. It’s like when Suicide Girls released that classic goth comp in 2005 and everyone suddenly thought they were an expert on the genre, except this is bands that are up-and-coming and actually need the attention. SOLEMN SHAPES provide “Concealed” to the mix, and its industrial drumbeat acts counter intuitively to the slow, anxiety-inducing build of whispers and chants that end up going a little wild on you.  If Bologna, Italy’s HORROR VACUI’s “Lost,” probably the strongest jam in the mix, doesn’t make you flail your limbs and lose control in a darkened room, then you have a soul. Deathrock is alive, no, dead and well, and this compilation proves it.

Big Bopper Introducing Big Bopper cassette

Solid nerd punk from Texas for fans of ERIK NERVOUS and URANIUM CLUB. Bookended by a chiptune opening and closing, the rest of the tape is trebly garage punk with fairly technical drums and guitar lines and sarcastic spoken/sung vocals. The constant start/stop rhythms and busy fretwork show some prowess that is welcome and give the band a slight noise rock feel on songs like the mathy “Generation of Plagues” and sardonic “Rat Race.” Where BIG BOPPER shines the most is when they pour on the sugar with catchy gems like “Boys Club” and “Partners in Slime.” The latter is a lo-fi power pop hit with a mutant PAVEMENT guitar line and bright major chord progressions. I love it. The tape is worth checking out for that golden nugget alone, but the rest is good, too. I look forward to hearing more.

Brick Head Thick as Bricks cassette

Another COVID recording project, this time featuring the songwriting of DEAF WISH’s Sarah Hardiman and drumming of Carolyn Hawkins (CHOOK RACE, PARSNIP, SCHOOL DAMAGE). On Thicks as Bricks you get nine tracks of loose, laid-back garage/proto-punk. The recording is warm and inviting, giving the whole cassette a bit of an intimate, live feel. You get the suggestion of loud music without ever getting the sense that it is loud (imagine the VELVET UNDERGROUND recording White Light/White Heat while trying not to wake the neighbors). It ends up giving off a bit of a late-aughts vibe, back when bedroom garage and one-ish-person bands were all over the place. Throughout these tracks, I hear stuff like the MARKED MEN or the KING KHAN & BBQ SHOW (and of course the artists who would have influenced them). But I also hear less cool stuff. The one comparison that I couldn’t shake was pre-Grand Theft Auto V BASS DRUM OF DEATH (which—hey—is the period of their work that I would revisit, were I to ever revisit any). Anyway, this cassette is mainly cool, so give it a listen.

Contingent Police Control EP reissue

A welcome reissue of this Belgian punk EP from 1980. CONTINGENT comes across like Brussels’ answer to the DAMNED, the CLASH, and RADIO BIRDMAN. Tightly-wound, angsty punk rock’n’roll with blank generation vocals spit out in angry, accented French.

Disease Death is Inevitable LP

Total eardrum massacre! This Macedonian trio worships the hell out of DISCLOSE and does one of the more consistent tributes to the whole “noise not music” page of punk. The sound is obvious on this one as they leave the formula unchanged, so think DISCLOSE and all the DIS bands and you can get the point. Sometimes you just want to hear this kind of noise and zone out of reality for a bit. Also, they have an impressive back catalogue of 23 releases in just nine years of existence. D-beat raw punk at its finest!

Doctrina Alimentar Su Final LP

Mid-tempo punk out of Seville, Spain that tensely keeps the right amount of lyrical and musical attitude through the eight quick tracks. This could have been something the JAM recorded in the short time between their first two albums, if only Paul Weller sang in Spanish.

Don’t Touch My Stuff No One Likes Me CD

This one’s really puzzling and hard to say anything nice about. I’ll try to be constructive and not destructive. Really stupid band name, horrible artwork, songs with titles like “Cumma Back to Me”?! I would classify this as bedroom grunge. It’s like NIRVANA’s Bleach album if one 40-year-old guy living with his mom recorded it in one of those basement rooms where you end up living when you’re 40 and living with your mom. Hey, I’m no saint and I’ve been there too, but I never chose to subject people to stuff like this or waste valuable resources on making a CD that’s going to end up in a landfill. The music’s bad, the singing is monotone, and the lyrics aren’t even dumb in any redeemable form. Is this constructive? How ’bout save the planet and stop making music, please!

Exil Warning LP

With a front cover that looks like it was ripped straight out of a 1987 Thrasher magazine and a sound to match, EXIL drops in with an old school thrash punk assault on their debut LP. This Swedish shredder is full speed ahead and sounds something like what DRI might have evolved into had they not decided to pioneer the crossover movement. Though to be fair, there are tinges of crossover to these songs and some classic SoCal punk influence as well, which all fits the bill. Pairs well with headphones, a board, and a bad attitude.

Fight Your Fear Zanim Upadnę LP

Anthemic hardcore punk from Polish expats living in Ireland. Layers of guitar leads and melodies temper the stark vocal delivery and create a sonic environment akin to an anarcho-punk PROPAGANDHI. As always, Pasażer is over-the-top with the packaging, and gives an over-the-top recording the presentation it deserves

Hazard Profile Slime EP

Snotty hardcore from the UK that immediately reminded me of CHAOS UK and the more contemporary PI$$ER, and as it turns out they share members with both, as well as FUK, the WANKYS, and a slew of others. HAZARD PROFILE plays jangly, wanking blasts, kind of like a looser HARD TO SWALLOW meets SUICIDAL SUPERMARKET TROLLEYS with the maniacal energy of PLEASANT VALLEY CHILDREN. The attitude and grimacing is over the top, and this is a great pint-drinking, loud night kind of EP. Five tracks of boot-stomping, slightly crossover slam punk with blasts and palpable negativity. My favorite track being “Rubble & Bones” (“Nothing fucking matters / Nothing fucking matters / We”ll soon be…”), which starts out with a moment of THIN LIZZY-like intro soloing and immediately dominates into a nihilistic beating. HAZARD PROFILE is ugly, cold, and prickly on the ears; I imagine a live set to be significantly more embittered.

Dale Jenkins Undesirable Element LP

Damn, 1985 keeps coming up in my reviewer rearview, and here’s yet another perspective on that mid-decade nadir. The first of three privately-issued LPs that Jenkins released in the ’80s, Undesirable Element is a true stew of the delicious, the tangy, and the questionable. JENKINS belongs to a lineage of oddball American originals that includes MICHEAL YONKERS, GEORGE BRIGMAN, KENNETH HIGNEY, and WICKED WITCH. Got Kinda Lost takes the LP’s original seven tracks and adds three more (the CD has a whopping nineteen cuts in total) to give you a well-rounded view of JENKINS’ eccentric muse. Recording everything himself, JENKINS utilized early drum machines and rack effects in interesting ways, although his basic style is still singer-songwriter at its essence. “Blind Faith” opens the album in snarling punk mode, echoing shut-in rockers like J.T. IV and JOHN BERENZY GROUP with its FX-drenched guitar leads and quietly panicked vocals. “Article Two (The Handgun Song)” is a subtly devastating examination of one of the USA’s biggest, stupidest, and most intractable problems, still so sadly relevant that the takes write themselves. Every lyric in this jaunty number is like a tweet aimed at your dumbest social media followers—”You pay your dues to the NRA / Armed with false statistics / They tell you what to say.” I can just see some red-hatted, Oakley-shaded numbskull getting worked up and trying to cancel Mr. JENKINS ex post facto. Some songs, like “Depression” and “Love And War,” dip dangerously into schmaltz, as if MICHEAL YONKERS nixed the righteous fuzz and Yippie indignation, but “Non-Surgical Lobotomy” rivals J.T. IV with its anti-social studio apartment rock. “Paranoid Song” and “Destitute” bring more of that bad acid/good times dichotomy like only a few damaged souls have been able to—think JIM SHEPARD or the aforementioned KENNETH HIGNEY. “Another Day” veers back towards the schmaltz but cuts it with some SKIP SPENCE let-it-all-hang-out vibes and ends things with a glimmer of hope. Who cares what year it came into being—Undesirable Element is an out-of-time gem ripe for rediscovery.

Mainframe Employee / RIP 7″

Pretend for a minute you’re a mad scientist and you’ve got some crazy-ass experiment on the boil that involves weapons-grade plutonium, a fist full of Adderall, and—I don’t know—a Margaritaville brand “frozen concoction maker.” You’re working late, so you’ve got some lively tunes cranked to keep you from nodding off—a mix of LIQUIDS, C.C.T.V., and DEE DEE RAMONE. But—oh no—something goes wrong while you’re flipping a record! You turn around to see your now out-of-control experiment advancing across the room and watch as it engulfs a lab table, upon which sits a VHS copy of Rollerball that you had dubbed over with old episodes of Voltron and Beakman’s World. But as the smoke clears and dust settles, you notice the cassette…is…moving. It’s…it’s alive. A miracle! Realizing what a blessing this is, you do the only logical thing—make it form a band…a band that ends up becoming RESEARCH REACTOR CORP…OK, now take that same story and swap out the VHS with a thumb drive full of Snorks episodes. You’d likely end up with MAINFRAME! Anyway, MAINFRAME is an early-COVID email project between Sean Albert (SKULL CULT, BELLY JELLY) and the two RESEARCH REACTOR CORP. lads, Bill and Ishka (also from SATANIC TOGAS, SET-TOP BOX, etc.). It’s still fucked and fast like RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., but it’s brighter, sillier, and maybe even kind of pop. It’s almost certain to annoy the grumpier denizens of the punk world but be a fun time for everyone else. Single-sided 7″ too, so you don’t have to worry about your experiments going awry while flipping the record.

Microbes Peace & Love cassette

Sounding much like the early DESCENDENTS with a little bit of the GERMS spilled on ’em, MICROBES open up this six-song cassette with a title track that could almost pass as a FAT EP outtake. A lot of the resemblance has to do with the singer, but as the tape progresses the songs veer into youth crew-y (“Bad Vibes”) and even hardcore thrash (“Faces”) territories that Milo and co. never aspired to. To confuse things even further, the artwork and lyrical content is very much in line with the Crass Records style of yore. I bet you these guys make a hell of a chili, too.

The Pink Noise Economy of Love LP

Album number eight from Montréal’s long-running art-punk sleaze merchants the PINK NOISE, squarely positioned in the most recent stretch of a timeline that extends through the RED KRAYOLA’s late ’70s Rough Trade cusp, ’80s major label-era PERE UBU (in my head, this LP is what Cloudland could have sounded like if it hadn’t been so blatantly mersh), and the FALL’s discovery of club beats in the early ’90s. Woozy UBU’d synths collide with cut-up Madchester rhythms, while Mark Sauner draws his vocals out in a half-speed Mark E. Smith cadence, pulling Economy of Love‘s nine tracks through a series of seedy and dimly-lit musical back alleys. Top marks go to “Opportunist,” which cruises down the glitter Autobahn with a glammed-up motorik pulse, the layering of some Andy Gill-worthy serrated guitar on top of rattling percussion and swells of acid-psych keyboard on “Wall of Ice,” and “Out of Step,” the grimy benzos-not-coke early ’00s dance punk banger that never was (but should have been).

Porvenir Oscuro Asquerosa Humanidad LP

The future is certainly dark, as foretold by the band’s name. After a demo and 7″, worldwide hardcore maniax were thirsty for some more noise from NYC-based powerhouse PORVENIR OSCURO. Featuring members of such diverse bands as POBREZA MENTAL, PAWNS, and VAXINE, Asquerosa Humanidad proves to be a raw mixture of the very best of Latin punk with hints of UK82 via CHAOS UK. Everything from the beautiful cover to the thirteen pogo-drenched tracks reeks of disdain and restlessness. The cherry on top of this crusty cake is the vocal delivery by Colombian-born singer Sara. A punk gem released at the right time; as Colombia burns, the voices of disdain rise!

Round Eye Culture Shock Treatment LP

Shanghai’s favorite expats set the bar high with 2017’s Monster Vision, but Culture Shock Treatment is a next-level masterpiece. An astounding collection of songs and sounds (and hooks) that defies categorization while drawing liberally from classic punk—and then contorting the shit out of all of it. Slogs like “8000 Years” rely on moody sax and keys to drive the songs over one gloriously repetitive riff, while “Catatonic (I’m Not a Communist)” is a searing (and screaming) punk burner that rolls into the death march of “An Opportunity of a Lifetime,” both highlighting the band’s take on living in China as (Western) outsiders. The hooks on this record will pull in fans of SOVIETTES and/or RADIOACTIVITY, but the songs are simply advanced and so totally far-out. Who doesn’t want their BUZZCOCKS tempered with DOA and BEEFHEART? Dummies, that’s who.

Skeleton Glove Skeleton Glove LP

I wanted to like this German blackened hardcore punk band. I’m down with the sinister feeling of shrieked/howled vocals over reverbed punk, and the artwork is cool. A skeleton hand hammering a nail into a bleeding Earth is perfect visual mayhem. And while I get the feeling they were going for a BONE AWL or FUNERAL CHIC or even DEVIL MASTER vibe with these short songs, they miss the mark. They run together a bit, mostly fast with pretty basic punk chord changes and the wraith vocals on top. I never quite feel the menacing black metal attack enough with the music, and definitely not with the lyrics. If your band puts on the blackened armor, I want to hear about some demons or violence or end-times prophesying. Not “Gimme Chocolate,” which starts out, “Gimme all your chocolate, 1, 2, 3, 4!” Lyrics and songs like this (and “Gimme All Your Money” and “Booze Ghoul”) make the whole thing feel like a joke or gimmick, more spooky than evil. Without the grimness this music calls for, it’s a pass for me.

Slander Tongue Slander Tongue LP

Slovenly remains the standard bearer for rock’n’roll that’s vital and unstuck from time. SLANDER TONGUE brings a megaton of swagger from Germany in a debut that’s beyond self-assured. You know that rare balance a band strikes where not a note feels out of place but is backed by enough grit that it never feels sterile? That’s the magic trick of these eleven cuts—unrelenting, big bad windmill-strummed guitar anthems that make you want to saw the roof off your car and go for an endless drive. There’s so much that can go wrong in this genre, and a lot of rock imitators sound too scrubbed up or washed out, but those common pitfalls are avoided with smart decisions made on the page and in the sound booth. Songs like “Shattered Girl” really showcase the goods—an anchored rhythm in the drums and bass that ride clean throughout wiry riffing that goes all over without losing the plot. Throw in some backup harmony and you’ve got a potent brew to keep coming back to.

Spirito Di Lupo 4 Songs cassette

The Milan DIY punk scene seems especially strong at the moment, and although I don’t know all the bands who supply personnel for SPIRITO DI LUPO (who are also partly Bolognese), I will rep KOBRA to anyone who cares to listen. Iron Lung clearly agrees, as they put the KOBRA LP out, and have given a North American home to this related band’s debut tape, released in Italy a few months prior. Revelling in its glorious shit-fi recording, it’s got proto-anarcho bin lid drumming, dual glowering dude/irate woman vox, a sort of Euro-Oi! tempo and something approaching a big rock moment in the riff power of the final song, “Canzone Della Foresta.” GERMS meets DIRT via NABAT, and as unhinged as such a meeting would have presumably been in reality.

Tarzna Konkos Hadid Arroganza EP

OK, you’ve seen The Maltese Falcon…but have you heard Maltese punk? The ferocious noise of TARZNA is actually closer to no wave and they take no prisoners on their EP—this is truly some unhinged shit. We used to call this “scree,” and fuck me sideways if you can retain your sense of self or even your balance after this barrage of instrument abuse. Guitar and synthesizer fight a battle to the death while the singer free-associates primal scream therapy at anyone within earshot. TARZNA is kind of like MANISCH DEPRESSIV minus the punk riffs. Well, “U Joseph? U Joseph!” is kinda catchy, all 41 seconds of it. Templar your expectations just a tad, and ye shall be rewarded.

V.D.I. Idem cassette

Fast hardcore punk from Argentina. V.D.I has a very memorable quality to their songs, as if I have heard a number of them before but can’t quite pinpoint where. Most of the songs on this nine-song cassette are ripped through in the faster realm of mid-tempo speeds, tight stops and starts really accenting and keeping your attention. The only song that really breaks the mold that they’ve set is “Pogo Reliyon,” which is slower, catchier, and more sing-songy. I would have sworn it was a LOS EXPULSADOS cover were it not for the drastic speed-up ending of the song.

Wristwatch Wristwatch LP

WRISTWATCH asks the question, “What if the SPITS went for more of a synthy dance party vibe?” This is punk rock that turned down the RAMONES and added a lot more DEVO. This is what ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE would sound like much angrier and looking for a fight. This synth-garage duo is charmingly grating and forcibly danceable. You will fail to keep your hips still while jamming to this one. Coming from Madison, Wisconsin, they bring the music like only the Midwest can. If we can get this duo on tour with DEVON KAY & THE SOLUTIONS, KITTEN FOREVER, and DIRECT HIT!, it will be the greatest lineup the greater Milwaukee/Chicago area has spit up in a long time. This is the first release from WRISTWATCH, but if the two members can sit still without going back to their multiple other bands or just creating a few more, this project can have some long and interesting legs. Start with the track “Screwed,” and see if you can stop listening. You won’t. Blast it loud and preferably while standing up with nothing fragile nearby. Better yet, find a show and throw your show dollars at them so they keep it up.

Adrenochrome The Knife 7” flexi

ADRENOCHROME is a dark punk supergroup of sorts straight out of Oakland, with members of bands like CRUZ DE NAVAJAS, ZOTZ, KURRÄKA, ÖTZI, and FALSE FIGURE. The Knife is released as a 7”, a story of reflection on the trauma and abuse experienced by women in the world, through fantasies of revenge and violence and self-empowerment. Musically, it is thrilling and addictive, the bass and drums building a solid and muscular base where the riffs work in a really expressive way, and the vocals, full of tribulation and agitation, deliver the message in a direct and brutal way. They also have a great EP, The Buzz or Howl Sessions from 2018, highly recommended.

Bad Example Bad Music LP

Punks on YouTube always know what’s up, especially when it comes to buzzing, damaged hardcore, and that’s how I first heard BAD EXAMPLE. They have that sound that seems to always ignite comment sections across the web lately. There’s cave-like production, amplifying the ferociousness of the playing with waves of cacophony, plus you have those vocals that sound like you’re live in the warehouse—a whipping screech that cuts like wind following a machete swipe. It’s of a style, one that is especially popular right now, but damn if it isn’t done well. Nine tracks in under fifteen minutes, sounding like a hailstorm in a tin can and played like they mean it—BAD EXAMPLE shines alongside their contemporaries in hardcore and keeps the genre dismal and alive.

Chaos Day Doult / Get Out of My Pocket 7”

This is a nice little piece of history. CHAOS was one of Austria’s first punk bands and this is their half of a long-ago split with Swiss band the SICK. I’m not much of an Austrian punk connoisseur, but CHAOS was closely tied with the Swiss punk scene of the day. You can hear the resemblances to Swiss peers like the NASAL BOYS or TNT. “Day Doult ” is definitely more of the razor rager here in snootiness and speed, but “Get Out of My Pocket” is the catchy Euro gutter trash-pop number that’ll be glued to your brain. There’s really touching liner notes from a young relative of one of the band members who seeks out his kin, Slaughter, in the ’90s and gets a lesson in punk. It’s a nice slice of ’77 Euro punk and if you’re itchin’ for a new reissue, this could be the one.

DMT .D.M.T cassette

Six songs of blistering raw punk/D-beat mixed with elements of powerviolence-inspired hardcore. It’s heavy, it’s nasty, it’s over in a flash! Thankfully the cassette is double A-side, so the listener can flip and repeat to their heart’s content. A killer debut release from the lovely state of Maine. Everything looks and sounds spot-on with this tape. To quote the liner notes: “DMT is meant to provide a calming and meditative state, play loud for best results.” Well, I followed the instructions but my results seem to be varying from that which is described—hmm, maybe I did something wrong, better flip it over and try again…

Double Fisted 1979 CD

This Phoenix three-piece plays metallic, noodly, slightly prog old-guy punk. With song titles like “Hookers & Blow” and “Drunk All the Time” you might get an idea of what to expect, but it’s not all as offensive or unintelligent as you might think. The vocals are mostly done in a deadpan El Duce style, but the lyrics are well-thought-out, even if not at all my thing. The band can play and they seem to be having a swell time melding styles and jamming. I abhor “jamming,” but maybe a couple microbrews and a doobie will make you like this just fine?

False Church Prosperity Gospel EP

This one’s some burly crossover thrashing out of DC. More specifically, Falls Church is a real place near DC, and that’s apparently where they’re from. Now that’s funny! Anyway…this band has a real problem with the church’s shady financial privileges and wants to mosh it the fuck out with you! If you’re down, you get five songs of straightforward, circle-pit-friendly, heavy-duty hardcore with double bass drum, and a BAD BRAINS cover thrown in for good measure.

Hwanza 멘솔 EP

Stirring up a respectably chaotic din, HWANZA’s demo brings us rabid barking vocals over harsh and winding thrash melodies. The six tracks on this EP are punchy, direct, and prone to become a bit unhinged at any moment. Is this South Korea’s answer to Austin’s GLUE? If so, it’s a pretty good one. Favorite track: “F.Y.C.T.”

Ismatic Guru Ismatic Guru cassette

Fidgety, repetitive math-punk meeting at the intersection of DEVO and BEEFHEART. Deadpan slice-of-life vocals remind me of URANIUM CLUB. Often this type of music is technically well- played but lacking in terms of focus or songwriting clarity. ISMATIC GURU’s six songs here layer clever guitar interplay and kinetic rhythms with defined structure and a trajectory that actually brings the listener along, while still getting in and out in under two minutes. Great stuff.

Just Ice Sleep EP

JUST ICE plays extremely tight rhythmic grooving hardcore from outer space and Quebec, somewhere between LIFE OF AGONY in harmony, MÖRKHIMMEL in heavy darkness, NECRO (the rapper) and INTEGRITY in vocal grit, and VISION OF DISORDER in hooks and fury. But the cool thing about JUST ICE is that they make it sound so easy. It is very well-produced and grabs you on every track. Backing vocals meld everything together with the winded yet bellowing and strained lead vocals. Breakdowns galore run through, but it never gets boring, with lots of tempo changing and hardcore riffage. Listening to JUST ICE is kind of like watching a gnarly fearless street skater who is just nailing everything. Looks like this is limited to only 100 copies (for the second press!) and at the time of writing this, only fourteen remain. From 2019, and I hope this review moves a few, because it’s damned good grooving hardcore with a shit-ton of heart and a frigid hard stance.

Landowner Impressive Almanac LP

One of my faves from last year, LANDOWNER’s Consultant was a true masterclass in smart-aleck punk as performed by young men who had ingested entirely too much coffee. For this re-release, Born Yesterday takes LANDOWNER’s debut cassette and commits it to the permanent record. If you dig LANDOWNER’s other two albums, you will be in familiar territory. Here, LANDOWNER is represented by principal architect Dan Shaw. He not only writes all the songs; on Impressive Almanac, he’s playing everything, including programming the drum machine. Shaw mines MINUTEMEN precision and RUDIMENTARY PENI mania to craft expert punk nervosa. Maybe it’s that drum machine that enables this initial batch of Shaw’s songs to seem even more frantic, sometimes coming off like the FEELIES trying out distortion-free powerviolence. It’s always been a bold move in the punk world to forgo the fuzz, but with LANDOWNER it pays off in dividends. This is head music for speed thinkers. The songs are always tense and driving, but the focus shifts to the greater whole, even as it’s constructed with tiny moments of meticulous concentration. Shaw often sounds like he is urgently whispering to you, and it makes you conscious of how much time you spend getting yelled at by singers (and teachers and bosses and cops). But it’s not all swift kicks and snarky lyrics, as there’s plenty of forceful yet twinkling tracks like “Shimmering Neck” and “Ancestral Home.” “Places to Put Cars” positions itself as the first in several key LANDOWNER songs about parking. Straight up—Shaw is currently one of the best songwriters in punk and this welcome reissue reveals that that has been the case for a while now. 

Luz De Gas Luz De Gas cassette

Great Chilean punk with piercing female vocals and a no-frills approach that sounds like it was recorded live in a spacious empty room. From the instrumental intro to each of the songs, the fairly simple, straightforward arrangements find their groove quickly and stick with it, jamming while the vocalist Muriel delivers high-pitched, high-intensity messages about empowerment, consent, sexual harassment, and fighting the ever-present threat of the male gaze. From the mysterious artwork to the urgent, personal lyrics (thanks to an online translator since I don’t know Spanish), this is a killer demo definitely worth checking out.

The Manikins Bad Times LP

Mostly due to their tour de force album Crocodiles, this Swedish band stood out from their peers in the mid-2000s stripped-down power-garage-pop period—thinking bands like TRANZMITORS, the SHOCKS, and the HEX DISPENSERS who were reinterpreting the BUZZCOCKS for a post-Bush world. Crocodiles came out in 2008 and I thought the band had hung it up. Over a decade later they are back with a batch of new songs, but had the supporting tour sidelined by the pandemic. The album lacks the production earnestness of Crocodiles, but despite cleaning it up, there is an angsty darkness throughout the album captured best in the tracks “It’s Not Gonna Be OK” and “Worse Than I”. The songwriting and change-ups have allowed the band to expand their sound and even style a bit. The standout track is the mid-tempo “Make a Run for It”. An excellent album that manages not to rehash or revisit a long-gone time but moves forward in a newly defined way.

Mini Skirt Casino LP

It took a few listens for this record to click. On the first couple of spins I heard a competent take on the same type of thing EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING has been doing for years. That comparison is as lazy as it is fair—they’re both Australian (MINI SKIRT hails from Byron Bay), they play the same type of post-punk-tinged garage punk, they can ride a groove beyond the four-minute mark, and they’re led by an energetic, plain-spoken yobbo vocalist. What I missed initially, though, was just how important that vocalist is to this record. I suck at paying attention to lyrics, generally only noticing them when they are awful. But try as I might, it’s impossible to ignore them when presented this baldly. So, after a few play-throughs I started to notice their sincerity (refreshing when compared to the glut of egg-punk zaniness and post-punk remove that populates the modern punk landscape) and their atypical subject matter…at least for a band whose sound bares this much resemblance to pub rock. They deal with political nuance and the difficulties of getting older in a world that’s seemingly going to hell and run primarily by idiots, and the vocalist is able to wrench way more emotion out of these lyrics than you would expect given that he’s basically talk-shouting. It’s really an incredible performance, and I found myself genuinely moved at points. Anyway, somewhere around my fourth or fifth listen this record turned from solid to essential. Please give it a go!

The Nightingales Pigs on Purpose 2xLP reissue

Call of the Void follows up their 2019 PREFECTS vinyl anthology with this deluxe reissue of the 1982 debut LP from the NIGHTINGALES, who were essentially a revamped PREFECTS with a more expansive creative outlook. Pigs on Purpose landed in somewhat of a UK post-punk liminal state, right in between the scratchy eccentricity of the late ’70s/early ’80s SWELL MAPS/FALL axis and the disjointed, abrasive side of the C86 scene that was a few years around the corner (think BIG FLAME and all those Ron Johnson bands), after which the NIGHTINGALES would spend the rest of the ’80s charting a MEKONS-esque path away from wiry art-punk and toward an unironic embrace of country and western music—maybe that’s why Pigs on Purpose is rarely mentioned in the same breath as … In “Jane From Occupied Europe” or Hex Enduction Hour or any number of similar and now-canonized LPs from the same general time and place, but whatever the reason, it’s unfortunate. SUBWAY SECT/ALTERNATIVE TV-style first wave punk gets bent into new jumbled shapes on “Blood for Dirt” and “One Mistake,” vocalist Robert Lloyd comes off like a well-adjusted version of Mark E. Smith narrating over the sparse but frenetic FALL-like rhythms of “Start From Scratch” and “The Hedonists Sigh,” and “Blisters” and “The Crunch” work up a hyper-strum jangle that all but anticipates the WEDDING PRESENT; it’s like a crash course in the UK underground’s trajectory throughout the Thatcher years. And even better, the original LP is appended this time around by a second disc’s worth of demos and tracks from the group’s early singles on Rough Trade and Cherry Red, which would be worth the price of admission on their own—double your pleasure!

Optic Nerve In a Fast Car Waving Goodbye cassette

Sydney hardcore band that’s been kicking around for the past few years issues their second release, a four-track cassette put out by Urge Records, the Sydney/Los Angeles label who have a track record for putting out cool shit. The Bandcamp copy on this release mentions JFA and MINUTEMEN as comparisons. I’ll give them the former, particularly in the vocals, but the latter is a bit of a stretch. Yes, the guitar is very trebly, but these guys aren’t really pushing the boundaries of hardcore in the same way D. Boon and company were, nor are they aping their sound in any noticeable way. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! In fact, these tracks are pretty solid, and the guitar tone certainly adds an interesting dimension. But rather than the punk/funk I associate with MINUTEMEN, I’m hearing more of a ’60s influence. A couple of these tracks even have a bit of a LINK WRAY/”Ghost Riders in the Sky” vibe. It’s an odd pairing but an interesting take on a familiar sound.

Potemkin Sludge Vol. 1 cassette

Unimaginably disgusting stoner sludge from Sweden. Imagine BONGZILLA writing “short” songs, but with a subtle Jourgensen tinge to the vocals. When the guitar breaks into the fast intro for “Meds” I start to clench up, because that’s exactly what I want to happen after a three-minute pulverization. Very dirty, very raw, extremely heavy.

QWOM Q demo cassette

Super raw demo from this Indiana hardcore band. This sounds like a lo-fi boombox recording of a band playing in a closet. Everything is blown-out and extremely loud, with the drums and vocals slightly overshadowing everything else in the mix. I actually checked my headphones to make sure they were plugged in all the way. This reminds me of those shows where a band is just ripping so fast and loud that your clothes shake and the walls drip with humidity because of the concentrated energy. These four songs offer about two minutes of frenzied, early BLACK FLAG-inspired hardcore, and sometimes that’s all you need. I would go and see them for sure.

Schizma Ostatnia Odsłona LP

Especially in the early 1990s, Polish punk and hardcore existed on cassettes. There are countless worthy releases that came and went on tape, often fading away as the bands (or fans) moved on. SCHIZMA stuck around until well into the 2000s, but 1992’s Ostatnia Odsłona might be the best example of their brand of crossover thrash. The focus here is the guitars—properly damaged and red-lined, with primitive flange tempering the lightning fast chugs while vocals project full force from the chest. This under-the-radar Eastern European hardcore deserves far more than a casual nod from so-called “historians” from the West; SCHIZMA was making music that adhered to no rules but their own. Members came from late ’80s band KAMPANIA KARNA (who recently had their essential first tape put to vinyl) and later went on to IN SPITE OF (among many others), but this is about the SCHIZMA LP. Polish punks likely (hopefully) already know the drill, the rest of us are just catching up.