Reviews

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Send two copies of vinyl (one for our archive, one for the reviewer) or one copy of CD-only or cassette-only releases to PO Box 3852, Oakland, CA 94609 USA. We will review everything that falls within our area of coverage: punk, garage, hardcore, etc.—no major labels or labels exclusively distributed by major-owned distributors. Releases without vocals or drums will not be considered. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from! No reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. All records reviewed are added to our archive, the largest collection of punk records in the world.

(Wait — I thought you stopped doing a monthly magazine! Zinesplanation here.)

Mutilated Tongue Fuel the Flame LP

Three fifths of Oakland’s LOOK BACK AND LAUGH reconfigure for a new three-piece. Brian from TALK IS POISON is on guitar and vocals here, and there are similar, sturdy ’80s hardcore song structures to TALK IS POISON, but with the more frantic overdrive and quick pace of LOOK BACK AND LAUGH, with rapid-fire drumming and his vocals stretching and slurring to more of an AGNOSTIC FRONT end. These veterans easily deliver ten boss songs of unrelenting speed and power. Terse lyrics of struggle and resistance lambaste oppression and bleak modern realities. A full-sounding recording courtesy of Atomic Garden, sick basslines, crushing breakdowns—this is a blaster that demands maximum volume!!!! Though most of the artwork here is really of a basic hardcore template, I do have misgivings about the cover art. The same photo of the dead Salvadorian woman with her face burned off with acid was originally used by MDC in their Multi-Death Corporations 7″ for horrific effect: a protest to the then-in-progress Reagan-backed right wing Contra assault on the people of El Salvador against the elected socialist Sandinista government. MDC used pages of a fold-out 7″ sleeve to underline their opposition to Reagan’s illegal war in Central America, and the two absolutely brutal centerpiece photos of corpses still are incredibly raw and disturbing, meant to hammer their point home. But here, without the direct political impetus, it seems like an overstep. MUTILATED TONGUE is currently one of the Bay Area’s most unrelenting live bands, both in terms of their intense shows and prolific gigging, and each time I’ve seen them they’ve jumped in intensity and power. I’m certain their next outing will take all the greatness here, and dial in the presentation for something even more sharp and focused. Excellent debut!

The See Saw Get a Chance! EP

Cool debut from this new Japanese punk/pop act, boasting some connection to NYLON. Three tunes total, but the title track is the obvious kicker and punkest of the lot, delivered in a sweet/slashing style that recalls STAIRS or RAYDIOS. A sound and school of punks near and dear to my heart.

Dayglo Abortions Wake Up, It’s Time to Die EP

I couldn’t help buying Feed Us A Fetus as a teenager, which perhaps still has my favorite cover art on a punk record to this day. DAYGLO ABORTIONS has to be one of the most gloriously obnoxious—both in sound and aesthetic—bands from the annals of Canadian punk. Considering that the only material that really stuck with me are the first two 12″s, this unreleased session from 1982 is like a godsend. Cruder versions of classics like “Bedtime Story,” “Proud to Be a Canadian,” “Ronald McRaygun,” and the debut of previously too-shocking “I Am Whiter Than Hitler” (“but I ain’t no fucking nazi!”). And, fuck me, it’s already sold out! Do I have any fans out there that wanna help me out? Anyhow, as you may expect, Supreme Echo packed this thing in a stellar package with nice things to read and look at, like an amazing interview with their psycho vocalist.

Current Affairs Object & Subject LP

Radio-ready post-punk from Scotland. At CURRENT AFFAIRS’ center is this big-’80s black ice sound, one that’s almost entirely referential—a dark dance between obvious influences like SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES and JOY DIVISION—but still totally stirring. I’m sometimes left wondering where they really are amidst all this well-schooled swiping, but if “Breeding Feeling” is any indication, they’re cued up at the fuckin’ bank, trying to cash their royalty checks. Not the only hit to be heard here, either. A very impressive outing.

Fatal Brutal Kontaktschuld EP

Debut vinyl release from this German band. Showcasing a cutting guitar tone, the intro to “Kintaktschuld” cops the riff from SEX VID’s “Footsteps” before kicking into an urgent and pummeling HC assault. Six short tracks that make their point and don’t overstay their welcome. Every element comes together nicely here: songwriting, recording quality, even the cover art (dino skeletons?) has an off-the-wall appeal. My inner sleeve here is numbered 255 so this one might be limited. Good stuff.

Freak Genes III LP

Third dispatch from this synth-punk duo, part of the PROTO IDIOT and HIPSHAKES camp, always worth a look-see. FREAK GENES hit some kinda sweet-spot between “lite” pop and punk churn, recalling JAY REATARD’s synth-centered flirtations in both songwriting and sound. Not a lot of deviation tune-to-tune though, making this merely a fun exercise rather than a must-hear album.

BOOJI BOYS Tube Reducer LP

You’re probably familiar with this Canadian act via their prior efforts, having made a significant amount of racket across a few LPs in just a short amount of time. Part of me is on board with their homespun, hiss-fi takes on MARKED MEN-style buzz-pop, but then I grow a bit weary of the one-dimensional onslaught of it all. There are plenty of people content to listen to shit like this exclusively, but I just ain’t one of ’em. Loyalists have at, I guess.

Agnostic Front First Warning LP

The earliest A.F. tracks don’t even sound like music to my ears. Everything—the riffs, the ultra-primitive drumming, the fuzzed-out string bend in the intro to “Final War”—is far enough removed from traditional rock’n’roll that I almost wonder whether these guys listened to anything besides the sounds of breaking garbage trucks and subway trains before they hit the studio. I mean, if Realities of War is a truncheon to the face, United Blood is like someone ripped the streetlight at 7th and A out of the f’n sidewalk and dropped it on your skull. If that’s your idea of a good time, consider this compilation, subtitled “The ‘United Blood’ Era Recordings, New York City, 1983.” All material was previously released on Grand Theft Audio’s Raw Unleashed CD a while back, and this LP shares many tracks with the superior No One Rules collection on Radio Raheem, technically getting away with the “several songs on vinyl for the very first time” sales point by including an alternate mix of the EP tracks. Anyway, it looks cool and features five different versions of “United Blood” on a single disc.

Black Heino Pfaffenbrot / Schüsse Von Links und Rechts 7″

This is the first volume in a series of singles recorded on a Tascam 4-track. BLACK HEINO cranks out plenty of volume from the limited but versatile machine: The garage punk romp of “Pfaffenbrot” leaps out of the grooves and grabs you by the throat. The flip is a German-language cover of MAGAZINE’s “Shot By Both Sides” sung from the point of view of an internet troll. Overall, a worthwhile if not essential exercise, and anyway, the single appears to be already sold out.

The Tea Set Back in Time for Tea CD

Time for tea! What we have here is a collection of singles and EPs by the TEA SET between ’78 and ’81, along with a couple of extra tracks tacked on. Often overlooked in the punk/post-punk pantheon (perhaps because they never released an album, although they did appear on a Messthetics comp), these art students specialized in DIY clatter with a dramatic flourish; channeling post-BUDGIE prog-punk on “On Them,” and making the everyday seem esoteric on the disco funk of “Tri X Pan.” While it’s great to have all these fantastic singles in one place, I would love to see them presented in a more elaborate package in keeping with the fantastic artwork that accompanied the original singles; The slim booklet that comes in the digipak CD doesn’t do them justice.

Negativ Projections LP

NEGATIV of Oslo plays metallic punk along the lines of POSSESSED and SEPTIC DEATH meets the SCREAMERS or RUDIMENTARY PENI. This extremely catchy LP is part BLAZING EYE redeye punk and dark riffing, and part double-kicking TOXIC HOLOCAUST metal. Pit-churning maniacal anthems from start to finish—this would have probably made my top ten if I had heard it when it was released in April. Densely and clearly produced. You will drool and squeal, bobbing your cavernous cranium along to this slab of lunacy. NEGATIV sounds finitely death punk and infinitely grim thrash simultaneously, all while powering through with unique bizarre measure. Can I go see them with ZYANOSE, PARANOID, SEX DWARF in early 2020!? Damn, fire gig!

Skull Cult New Mutilator EP

Brief bursts of hyperkinetic mongoloid synth punk here. A caffeine buzz blend of DEVO, URANIUM CLUB, and SERVOTRON. Includes a cover of TALKING HEADS’ “Psycho Killer” that unfortunately fails to sound anywhere near as creepy as the original.

Flag of Democracy FODWorld LP

Just to be clear, we are talking about a band who the DEAD MILKMEN referenced on their first damn record…which came out in 1983. We’re talking about 37 years of essentially constant activity. I reviewed the No School No Core full-length last year and it was great, so I dropped the needle on FODWorld with high hopes. I was not let down. Fast, loose hardcore punk with a little more snot and melody that reaches back to their ’80s catalog. Nothing but respect from these ears, and I look forward to the next one.

Negative Space Cruelty LP

Dark, bass-driven, noisy punk marked by a particularly bleak outlook. The seven songs here deal with themes of isolation, envy, guilt, anger, and death, and their effect on the mind and body; a sprechgesang report delivered forcefully and hoarsely over the sparse, minimal pulse of staccato guitar, punctuated in places by solid-state complaint. There is little room for light or hope to shine through. The band name could hardly be more apt: the group occupies a space adjacent to contemporary negative punks like STRUCTURE and DIÄT, or ancestral guides like CRISIS or WARSAW. “Eternal Rotation” distils the themes to their essence: “How long before your body is crushed by the column / To be taken by vehicle / To be taken by attack / To be taken by terminal illness.” Buy your ticket, kids, and sing along.

The Wilful Boys Life Lessons LP

The WILFUL BOYS are a Brooklyn band fronted by an Australian. Their sound has a backwoods, deep-voiced, thundering sound. The music is heavy and plodding with a twinge of poppiness. The vocals are earnest and metronomic. The tunes thrash and shred and get a bit too noodle-y before going back to straightforward rock’n’roll. All that seemingly messiness sounds kind of nice with the lights turned down and your head on the floor.

BKS DIY TNT EP

Hi-energy fastcore with (occasional) melodic bits masked by sheer speed (It’s a proven and effective technique, and I support its implementation). A solid Cappo yeeoowll creeps in at times, just as they’re about to unleash, and they do a nice job of dropping catchy breakdown and intro riffs into the mix to keep things interesting. Eleven tracks here, and not a shred of bullshit to be found (the CRO-MAGS cover is completely unnecessary, but it’s still not bad).

Poison Boys Poppin’ Eyes and Flashing Feet 7″

A two-song 45 from these Chicago boys. Straight out of the STOOGES and JOHNNY THUNDERS school of rock’n’roll. This came out a year back, and they’ve since put out a full-length. Back in the day, they would have fit right in with that CBGB’s sound. Good stuff.

Nukkehammer A Distant Hissing In Your Ear EP

It’s been an eternity since I’ve heard from these Ohio mongrels, and they haven’t gotten any nicer. Biting critiques masked as sarcasm, all delivered with a relentless noise punk fury. Guitars tortured more than distorted, drums like a hellish thunder, and multiple vocals that spend more time in conflict than in harmony. This is the leather clad raw pønk that dominated the blogosphere airwaves and basements ten years ago, but NUKKEHAMMER still offer their wares with isolated originality and a learned intensity. And I still love this shit.

Corner Boys Waiting for 2020 LP

This sounds so 1979 indie punk, where punk was really pop. PROTEX, POINTED STICKS, and even first-LP UNDERTONES comparisons are dead on. This is this Vancouver band’s debut LP, and it’s pretty damn solid. The raw production really makes a difference. Great LP!

Droids Blood Be Free LP

They want it to sound like a troupe of aliens giving some hard-driving garage punks a lap dance, and that’s pretty much where they landed. This thing has a frustration that almost conjures Revolution Summer (take “Half Sacrifice” as an example), and a driving force that dominates even the less chaotic songs. And speaking of those supposedly mellower moments, “Rotary Phone” is one of the slower tracks on Be Free, and it is an absolute stunner—a simply incredible track. Keyboards are subtle, intensity is constant, and even the moments that venture into indie territory are still just odd enough to keep them outside of any predetermined box. Closest modern comparison I get is DASHER, who were also in your face and in themselves at the same time. DROIDS BLOOD are worth way more listens, and I imagine I’m going to develop other opinions long after these words are public. For now, I’ll say that this is great; drop me a line in a few weeks and I’ll tell you the rest.

Jumpstarted Plowhards Round One CD

This band is Todd Congelliers of FYP and TOYS THAT KILL fame, and on bass is Mike Watt. Yes, that Mike Watt, along with multiple drummers. Eight spastic and twisted tunes that are under-produced and dissonant. This is very college rock circa 1990. I like it.

Crimson Ghostbusters Crimson Ghostbusters LP

Remember funny college dorm rock bands? These local vets crank it out punk style. Songs that walk that fine line between cover and mash up. Lots of MISFITS bits here mixed with BUGGLES, SLAYER, CHEAP TRICK, THIN LIZZY, TOM PETTY, and others. A good time that’s not for grumpy people.

Iena La Morte Chiama LP

This one completely caught me by surprise and knocked my Docs off. Some unspectacular cover art and an inner sleeve photo of some Italians with too much hair gave no warning for the hardcore boot-to-the-face Oi! onslaught to come. I don’t know if these Florence blokes are familiar with RIXE, but I’ve no doubt they’re well aware of the buzzsaw guitar assault of early NABAT, both of which are well-represented here. I believe the band name means “Hyena,” and the album title translates to “Death Calls,” which is totally fitting as this little slab wails and wails til you’re left calling for your madre, with not a loser track in the bunch. Slay your neighbor appropriately.

The Crawlers Planned Obsolescence 12″

This unknown-to-me PDX band existed in the first half of the 2000s for all too brief a moment. These tracks from 2010 have only seen the light of day on a not-so-seen CD comp previously. This band comes barrelling out the gate with fire and ferocity and an obvious worship at the church of Pig Champion and Slayer Hippy. That’s maybe a copout from where this band hails from but you could also compare them to GOVERNMENT WARNING, BLOOD PRESSURE, or most directly DIRECT CONTROL for the power trio factor. Don’t miss out on this super limited blast from the past.

The Brankas Safes LP

Snap the compass, throw the charts overboard, delete MapQuest™: There are no maps that can help you where THE BRANKAS journey will take you. Pulsating, grinding, hornets’ nest Adderall-core™ with no respect for conventions of song structure. There’s a lot to unpack here, but if you are a fan of FAT DAY, the BOREDOMS, et al, I’d encourage you to check in.

AninoKo Ugat LP

I’m just going to say that ANINOKO is the most important band in the Bay Area. Their shows are events: families, kids, activists, punks…their community is represented and their community is present at their shows, and that community is open, welcoming, and supportive. Their hardcore is full intensity, and they somehow managed to cram that energy into these tiny vinyl grooves so effectively that I get chills when I hear Jesse’s bass start “Buhay At Lupa” just like I do when they play live. A band made up of Filipino immigrants, singing in Tagalog and confronting issues that directly impact their community and the Filipino diaspora. They just do it a little faster than most activists. ANINOKO doesn’t just fill up space with their hardcore, they open up space for themselves and everyone around them to grow. These people are real, this music is real, and this music is fucking important.

Attic Ted Kafka Dreaming LP

More weird, wacky fun from this Texas band. It’s psychedelic carnival music. Sounding like Gibby Haynes singing along to the merry-go-round. It could easily get annoying if it wasn’t so amusing.

Extroverts You Gotta Lose EP

It probably wasn’t easy being the first punk band in any city, but I bet it would be even weirder to be the first one in Regina, Saskatchewan. The EXTROVERTS hold that title; the eight songs on this 7″ were recorded in 1979. Like all early punk groups, the EXTROVERTS’ music is catchy and poppy with rough edges and attitude. The recordings are lo-fi, but there is something there. Song titles like “Nobody Knows Nothing” and “Brain Damage” nicely sum up the angst involved. Comes with a booklet containing the band’s story, photos, and fliers. Cool stuff.

Team Dresch Personal Best LP

Let’s rewind back to the mid-’90s, when yours truly was an uncertain queer punk teen living in the dismal suburbs and listening to TEAM DRESCH’s Personal Best every single day. I scrawled the lyrics from “Fake Fight” on my bedroom wall, much to my parent’s confusion. (“I cry out in the darkness forever to be free / And I cry out so my loneliness won’t get the best of me…”) I air-guitared and headbanged around my bedroom blasting “Freewheel” and “Screwing Yer Courage” over and over again. I wore my Candy-Ass Records “she eats it up” logo T-shirt to high school feeling like I was sharing an inside joke with freaks across the universe. Team Dresch made those difficult times feel less lonely and unbearable. The first person I ever worked up the nerve to come out to was Donna Dresch, in the form of a halting letter mailed to her label Chainsaw Records. I sent it off not expecting a response, but Donna responded with a hopeful letter telling me to keep fighting and to stay free. But all of this, as important as it was to me personally, would’ve been fleeting without the music. If you don’t know it already, I’ll just say it: TEAM DRESCH’s 1995 debut album Personal Best is a stone-cold fucking masterpiece. Every one of these ten songs utterly and totally rocks. I still listen to this record on repeat while air-guitaring and headbanging around my bedroom. There were other bands associated with riot grrrl and queercore that got (and continue to get) more notice, but TEAM DRESCH honestly blows them all away. Personal Best is one of the truly great rock albums of all time, and this gorgeous and excellent-sounding reissue does it the justice it deserves. All hail TEAM DRESCH: “They tested their limits / And broke all the rules!”

Team Dresch Captain My Captain LP

Damn, reviewing these TEAM DRESCH LP reissues—what an honor and what a responsibility! What can I say to adequately convey what these albums have meant to me and to so many queers, dykes, punks, and freaks for the last 25 years? This band saved my life and continues to save my life; they were the best band in the world when this album came out in 1996, and the best band I saw live in 2019. Captain My Captain, their sophomore album, features a different drummer—Marcéo Martinez left the band after Personal Best and Melissa York joined—and has a more introspective vibe than its predecessor, with several songs about dealing with depression and anxiety. Still, the musical formula is the same: heavy, rocking, and emotional queer punk anthems with monstrous guitar parts and transcendent dual vocals from the band’s singers Jody Bleyle and Kaia Wilson. The sublime opening track “Uncle Phranc” taught me what it means to claim a queer chosen family and features the best advice anyone could ever give a young dyke: don’t fuck with straight girls, don’t take pills, and don’t let anyone emotionally blackmail you into doubting who you are. 23 years after its initial release, the songs on this album still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What more can I say other than thank you TEAM DRESCH.