Reviews

For review and radio play consideration:

Send two copies of vinyl (one for our archive, one for the reviewer) or one copy of CD-only or cassette-only releases to PO Box 3852, Oakland, CA 94609 USA. 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 1982 has grown to become the largest collection of punk records in the world.

Dateless Extreme Brewed Crash Cooled cassette

Hard-driving NZ rock with serious and generous (or seriously generous?) Aussie overtones. After a long drive down a dusty road, when you walk into the only bar you can find just as the sun is setting…this is the band playing. This is walking out of solitude and into a wall of beer and humanity. DATELESS are raw, primal….DATELESS sound like rock’n’roll.

Dead Bars Regulars LP

DEAD BARS make pub punk with nostalgia for a time when you could still smoke inside and get a PBR for $1.25. Every song is handcrafted to be sung with a choir of people you only know from inside that bar. “Rain” opens with an exhilarating guitar shriek and provides some of the most enjoyably ugly string work on the record. “I’m a Regular” is probably the best example of the lyrical and vocal strengths available on the album. Finally, “You Never Left” closes the album and hangs around for a long time to once again illustrate just how solid the musicianship, both instrumentally and vocally, was on the ten preceding tracks. This is punk rock and roll that allows itself to be as fun as it is sincere. It’s probably safe to expect this crew to become road dogs and play near you soon and then again four months later.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label A-F / No Reason
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

The Drowns Under Tension LP

Slick, big production Oi! from the Emerald City. I’d heard their Hold Fast single previously and if that got your sta-prest hard then you’ll cream all over this one. Catchy and upbeat to the point of nausea. If you like your street rock in the vein of the OLD FIRM CASUALS with a hint of STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and a little leprechaun dancing thrown in, then it’s almost payday. What are you waiting for?

  • Reviewer Rotten Ron
  • Label Pirates Press
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Dum Dum Boys Let There Be Noise LP reissue

Let There Be Noise is a hard-to-find album of cut and bloody backstreet rock’n’roll from a sleepy town in Australia in ’81. The STOOGES, IGGY and British imports infected the minds of youth. I can see it now; sheep farmers rolling around in smashed beer bottles, cigarettes hanging from their lips, spitting as a new hobby, etc. “True Friend” comes off just like “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and I get heavily reminded of the stupid simplicity of COCKNEY REJECTS and SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS throughout. In the Red does a handsome job with some retrospective writing and improved art. All trendy assholes with DJ nights should buy it and play it so all those violent skinheads on a rampage can bop around and have some fun.

Eerie Family Eerie Family LP

ALEX CUERVO’s “Everybody Disappear” is one of my favorite songs of all time. Since I have listened to it innumerable times, it was odd to hear it starting off this album. Not that it is a surprise since CUERVO is in EERIE FAMILY along with Alyse Mervosh—both also of the HEX DISPENSERS. This version of the song is different from the original, but a great song is great in any incarnation. It’s moody and slow, but unlike the other songs on this LP has an upbeat lyrical tone. The label calls EERIE FAMILY “gloom pop” which sounds just about right. The music brings me back to the late ’80s when the English goth rock bands decided they wanted to be cowboys. It’s keyboards and drums with a sparse, expansive sound. The vocals are lethargic and sullen. Perfect for a rainy, chilly winter day spent brooding in the house. Great record.

Enchanters High Heel Roller Skates / Fire Truck 7″

Side A has a ’70s glammy, high-energy vibe. With a name like “High Heel Roller Skates” I would expect nothing less. I don’t know what a high heel roller skate actually looks like, but I imagine this is what one’s theme song would sound like. The B-side goes for a more ’70s butt rock sound. It is also high-energy and includes a prog-ish extended guitar solo. ENCHANTERS features Classy Craig of the LEATHER UPPERS so the retro style is in full swing. Fun record.

Észlelés Középtempó Radikále EP

Art/noise manifested as hardcore punk. I feel like Budapest’s ÉSZLELÉS are taking modern-day squirmy punk and giving it a KILLDOZER/FUGS makeover…with horns, and with lots of drugs. A swinging good time, to be sure, and these kids are making punk sound very fukkn weird again.

Fatamorgana Terra Alta LP

This upbeat synthesizer dance party from Barcelona features so many artificial handclaps that, at a certain point, I began to find it hard to differentiate between the claps and the snare. It began to drive me mad right before I blacked out from the electronically induced confusion. Upon waking, the echoing, haunted vocals then gave me hallucinations like I was seeing a new planet for the first time. Luckily, the beeps and boops from the keys provided the perfect new planet, sci-fi soundtrack. This is atmospheric and gothy background music. It’s got moments of punk inspiration, but it’s never particularly intrusive. “Until” is particularly pulsing and spooky. “Espacio Profundo” has a fill-the-room, heavier sound.

Gess Suffer Damage LP

I was afraid I would fail trying to tell the history of GESS, but the insert helps me out. They formed in ’83 when they were 15 years old and this record—which is their demo tape—came out a year later. Not until ’86 did members from CONFUSE and SIEG HEIL join. If you are into this sort of history, go get General Speech and More Noize zines and get educated and laugh on my ignorance. Anyway, this release is the first vinyl edition of the demo tape of the band that is pure noise-core madness. Guitars are distorted into one annoying line of noise, and within this chaotic thread of buzz I found all the beauty of the world; the bass is interpretable and dynamic compared to some of their successors where it is just dumb (but great) poking. The beat is constantly pumping although the endless noise, introducing a sort of monotony that prevents you from catching a heart attack. Makes me wonder if it is the beat that is monotonous or the guitar, though I focus on the guitar; the whole band is all over the place and it feels as if it is spinning around in a museum. Synthesizing what’s going on here would result in rudimental punk songs performed with enthusiasm, but the point is that you should synthesize my ass! GESS is great because 15-year-old kids in Japan thought that they would make the noisiest music that sounds as my grandma would imagine hell—the singer does sound like a possessed person—and how they heard DISCHARGE and possibly DISORDER in their head. What’s even better is that decades later whole record labels, festivals, genres, lives are spent on hailing this radically pioneer approach that sadly has become a strict establishment that is rarely renewed despite the liberating idea of the brave approach of creating a unique sound. Beside the Suffer Damage tape on side A, there is a live recording on side B and props to then-current technology that both recording sound the same. A CD is also included with two gigs from the Violent Party Gigs series, but I have no idea where to put that in. The vinyl plays great both on 33 1⁄3 and 45 rpm. The review is based on both paces.

Ghoul Squad Necrodoll LP

You might pass over this one at your neighborhood shoppe by simply judging it for the unspectacular “spooky punk” band name and album cover. You might even slap it on and yawn at the prospect of yet another bunch of MISFITS-worshiping goons. Those in the know, though, (read: nerds) will recognize one vintage ’80s black-clad Cape Cod unit once championed by former shitworker Brian “Pushead” Schroeder on his label comps and personal volume of the Thrasher Skate Rock series. A little digging around Discogs will inform you, the eager consumer, that this album was to be released way back yore before Pushead folded his label and only megabucks test presses existed…until now! That being said, this record is pretty decent and not simply a MISFITS wannabe but also throws post-punk, goth, skate rock and metal into the pot. Equal parts SOCIAL DISTORTION and MOURNING NOISE as well as SAMHAIN and the JONESES. You get “Devilock”-style thrashers like “House of Mirrors,” headbanging anthems like “Cemetary Seniors,” and sing-alongs like the title track that will keep you whoa-whoa-whoaing into the midnight hours. Not worth the megabucks but it’s a good time for sure like bad kids in the cemetery, cheap beer and a little headstone tipping.

  • Reviewer Rotten Ron
  • Label Not Like You
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Hits Sediment Seen cassette

Oakland-based arty post-punk in the early Rough Trade tradition, less angular and jagged than wobbly and fuzzed-out, like a second- or third-generation dubbed tape of RAINCOATS and SWELL MAPS singles left out in the sun for a little too long. The minimal percussion is based around a drum pad with that authentically ’80s UK DIY banging-on-found-objects sound, and the bass has the perfect amount of rubber-band snap, but guitarist Jen Weisburg’s unassuming vocals are the secret weapon here, treated with little more than some slight echo or delay to give an otherworldly edge to the off-kilter pop hooks in songs like “Stand in Your Way” or “Climbing Up”—GRASS WIDOW would be an obvious frame of reference, even without knowing that Weisburg and drummer Brian Tester both collaborated with Lillian Maring for her killer (and similarly-minded) post-GRASS WIDOW project RUBY PINS. Killer tape, and simultaneously retro/futuristic, like sounds that have been beamed from an alternate galaxy years ago and are only now reaching the Earth.

Kids Born Wrong Giallo cassette

Raunchy garage punk giving a nod to slasher flicks on this five-songer released last year. I can’t place the warbly tenor in the vocals, but there’s a rockabilly reference that I couldn’t shake (or identify) throughout my listen. A different tweak on the recording and some serious songwriting chops would start to shine, but I appreciate that KIDS BORN WRONG seem content (or determined) to stick to a horror punk delivery.

  • Reviewer Robert Collins
  • Label What's For Breakfast?
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Nervous SS Future Extinction LP

After a 7″, here’s a full 30 minutes of this “Totalitarian” D-beat band from Macedonia—“Totalitarian” in that it is in the mold of TOTALITÄR, not that it advocates a one-party dictatorship. The point of departure is, of course, TOTALITÄR, but this is no slavish clone. The guitar sound is a bit thicker and more metallic and there’s enough variety of influence here to allow this record to stand on its own. That said, the majority of the tracks are solidly in the realm of TOTALITÄR-style kång. My impression is that the creator of this comes a bit more from a metal background than hardcore punk, as the whole production has a crunch and heft and underlying subtext points more towards metal than, say, UK82 or ’77 punk. And noticeably absent is the kind of punk stomper TOTALITÄR would throw in on their releases. A few tracks have a bit of Motörcrust vibe as well, but all of these factors complement rather than distract from the overall impact. My only critique is the overuse of of SS as a suffix for a hardcore band name.

  • Reviewer Felix Havoc
  • Label D-Takt & Råpunk
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Nylex Plastic for People LP

NYLEX’s 2018 cassette totally lit up the PYLON cortex in my brain, melding the latter’s tightly-wound and danceable tension with some goth-leaning smudged-eyeliner melancholy. Most of the songs from that tape have been reworked for Plastic for People, now polished to a flawless black patent leather sheen alongside a handful of new tracks that further play up the band’s shadowy melodies and early 4AD-level drama. The vocals are powerful and commanding in a way that probably invites more than a few SIOUXSIE comparisons, shifting from subtle whispers to stern narrations over driving, propulsive bass and razor-edged guitar, but with enough nuance to elevate NYLEX above the typical dark-punk-by-numbers approach that makes so many modern BANSHEES disciples seem like tired exercises in ’80s cosplay. That said, for me, the LP’s strongest moments are still when NYLEX really dig into those driving, claustrophobic PYLON-descended rhythms—that trifecta of deadpan lyrical incantations, needling, single-note guitar and repetitive bass/drum patterns in “Fascinate” is pretty tough to beat.

Pig City Terminal Decline LP

Take DYSTOPIA’s misery dirges, mix with some of HIS HERO IS GONE’s pitch-black crust and throw in a bunch of TERRORIZER blasting and you’ll get the idea of what this Arizonian band is trying to tell you—that everything’s fucked and we’re all going to die in a grave that we dug. I don’t know about you but that’s a message I can get behind. If you’re a fan of dark crust from the mid to late ’90s then check this out.

  • Reviewer Mike Battleaxe
  • Label King of the Monsters / To Live A Lie
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Pink Grip Hedera Helix EP

As good as this whole thing is, the mid-paced sinister trudge of “Spithead” is pure gold. Vocal snarls hold the spotlight throughout, while erratic beats challenge your ability to squirm and discordant guitars only increase the tension. Only four cuts here, but there are enough feels to last a couple of full-length platters—demanding and destructive hardcore punk from Scotland. And seriously…“Spithead” is unbelievable.

Piss Test Hookup Holiday EP

Not to be confused with the excellent Portland band, these Gainesvillers play speedy tongue-in-cheek punk in the style of the LUNACHICKS or BUTT TRUMPET. Maybe I’m tripping on that, but from their pics, they definitely know how to play dress-up and put on a show. Songs ranging in topic from indiscriminate sexual liaisons to gentrification to getting hassled by the man. Not overly politically correct but not dumb as nails either. Play it for your kids.

  • Reviewer Rotten Ron
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Pre-Cog in the Bunker Precog’s Dream EP

An internet search of the meaning of “pre-cog” brings up some differing things. Due to the cover art drawings of brains I am going to assume they’re going with the psychic meaning. However, the song titles “Athermic Man,” “On The Run” and the title track don’t give me much of a clue as to what they are predicting. PRE/COG IN THE BUNKER is a two-piece playing rudimentary garage punk. It is all jagged guitar strumming and pounded drums until “On the Run,” the VELVET UNDERGROUND-sounding rave up at the end of side B. The vocals are somewhat sinister in a hard rock-ish way. An interesting juxtaposition that will hopefully become more smoothly integrated in future releases.

Romskip Dagens Ungdom 12″

Pretty interesting garage/psych/rock/punk band from Bergen, Norway. Treading the preverbal tightrope between the sleazy underground and higher aspirations, they fall a little too far in the middle for my taste. A worthwhile listen, though, as they walk through musical territory once covered by the HIVES and the LEATHER NUN with plenty of Euro ’60s pop sensibilities thrown in…but still a little safe for these ears.

  • Reviewer Rotten Ron
  • Label Back to Beat
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Salón Dadá Ensayo 1986 EP

Rehearsal recording from a Peruvian band, playing post-punk that is delinquent, fragile in the best possible meaning. Four songs balancing on the sharp edge of melancholy and beauty, reminisces me of depressed Sunday afternoons that I spent in the piss-like yellow light of the setting sun in rotting post-Soviet buildings. It is that sort of post-punk where the band takes punk towards its establishment; the music starts to wobble and everything gets interesting. SALÓN DADÁ’s energy is between the sharp leads of their exploring guitar and the low-key singing that, due to the recording quality, feels sometime as whispers. The sound is dragged through and it’s hard to decide whether to dance to it or start chain smoking. I wish the sound quality was better, while I appreciate that music makes me wish, so I can relate to their struggle—listening to songs that should have been made into a proper recording so they could be played at dance nights for misfits, and now it only lives in my imagination, therefore it feels personal. I wonder if a rehearsal tape of a Peruvian punk band recorded in ’86 is praised in 2020 then what is not possible? Go start a band!

Set-Top Box TV Guide Test LP

This compilation of this Aussie band’s earlier cassette releases is DEVO-worship with more of a rusted-out electronics flair. While it sometimes comes off like a cuddly version of MINISTRY, it just as often feels like the POLYSICS got into PCP.  The first half of this release will take the listener to a weirdo punk show in a basement space, and the second half leans heavy into a gothy dance party on a sunny day under a dingy overpass. “Terrorvision” is a solid punk jam, despite being long for this album at just over 2 minutes and 30 seconds. “Data Lost…” is the soundtrack to depressed robots taking over your planet and way of life. Wrap your favorite body parts in tin foil, dye your eyebrows blue, and get ready to sweat out chemicals when you listen to this one.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Erste Theke Tonträger
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Sweet Tooth Sugar Rush 2009 EP

This is from the era when everyone discovered powerviolence and completely lost their shit. Sugar Rush is very much of the time but it blows a lot of stuff out of the water with intensity and great musicianship. The focus is power through speed and the obliteration of everything. SWEET TOOTH’s speed was powerviolence-y but avoided the tough-guy attitude and when they slowed down it just allowed for hard-hitting mosh parts. It’s just an Adderall laser focus on destruction and pure fucking stupidity. I wish I got to experience it live. Also includes a hilarious retrospective booklet.

Terra Soror Revenge cassette

This one is reeeaaalll good, y’all. UK femme punk trio with an inimitable but instantly familiarly awkward stomp with roots reaching for sharp anarcho/post punk and early Polish hardcore (seriously, “Shapeshifter” after the intro could be a lost track from the Fala comp). A swarm of downstroke guitars are the focus, even as vocals stab through the mix with sharp, urgent bursts. TERRA SOROR might land in the sonic void between dark DIY rehashes and early-’80s UK independence, but what they are really doing is creating their own space, and I hope they continue to fill that space with more sound, because this is absolutely fantastic.

The Toxenes Double Creature Feature LP

This is the LP version of both TOXENES’ releases: 2019’s Highway X CD and 2017’s Electric Shock cassette. TOXENES are a tough, sassy band of women from Minneapolis, MN. Eighteen songs of surfy garage punk with brazen, melodic vocals. It’s catchy, cool and fun.

Urin Incydent EP

The embodiment of bombast, Berlin’s URIN drops hard and never let up. Blown-out, manipulated, affected, tortured, ferocious, noisy hardcore peaking constantly. The kind of record that makes you gasp when it’s over…because you realize that you’ve been holding your breath.

  • Reviewer Robert Collins
  • Label Erste Theke Tonträger
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Wardogs It’s Time to Fight! LP

I love Italian hardcore and I have never heard of WARDOGS although this is not a review of how big a poser I am. Rather a praise to F.O.A.D. who restored this demo tape from ’83 and added a live recording too, as a tip. No idea how this band could get lost because they play top quality Italian hardcore just as urgent and weltering around as WRETCHED or early RAPPRESAGLIA, although WARDOGS include strange but great intros for some of their songs that remind me of lo-fi, damaged Our Band Could Be Your Life post-hardcore room recordings. The live recording is even crazier, super fast and recalls Finnish hyper-speed bands like SORTO, sparkled with one-finger solos, then they go into a rage that runs between DEEP WOUND/early SEBADOH that is followed by SIEGE-esque proto-grind and their Grim Reaper madness. The band just does not stop and even when the songs seem to be over they keep making nonsense noise. Even if I haven’t heard of WARDOGS before, I love them now. 

X2000 Pensionär EP

X2000 awakes heavy BETONG HYSTERIA vibes on their first 7″, blending spooky and headstrong chorus-drenched riffs with determined minimalist punk beats. It’s either how the record or the band sounds, but the repressed energy and craziness under a sealed surface reminds me of RUDIMENTARY PENI. X2000 guitars are not minimalist repetition but wired through the whole music as a snake traps its prey, almost Paganicons-ish, yet X2000 is a hardcore band that channels a lot of anarcho-punk sounds and sinking world feelings into their sound. Their singer has a great desperate voice, one that sounds like he filters the world through some of the previously mentioned band’s booklets. The world is rotting and X2000 documents it genuinely. The band is from Göteborg singing in Spanish. What else do you want to know? Consume it you idiot!

AI Backing to the Battle 12″

1997 demo recording released onto a one-sided 12”. The sound of hissing tape may have been engineered out, but this maintains that poorly-mixed quality of a hastily made demo. It sounds pretty raw, which is fine considering this is extremely abrasive hardcore. AI is about as straightforward as Japanese HC comes. The furious pace is really what’s on show, much akin to the singer’s previous band BANDIT, although the sound is reminiscent of Discrete Records bands like GAIZI or HUMAN DESPAIR. It’s only four tracks, which makes me question why it didn’t just get released as a 7” or why no one dug up some live material to throw on the B-side. It’s got some of the better Sugi art in the last few years, considering every fuckin’ band with money to throw around started using his stuff, and it contains a booklet with old photos, flyers, and recent shows. Only 200 copies pressed on black, 100 on blue.

Appäratus Absürd 19 LP

Worship mode on full blast, disguised as a Scandinavian ripper. APPÄRATUS hails from Malaysia although the music is homage heavy enough that it could be from anywhere. If anything, this is the central challenge of getting into this record; everything is in its place—mastered to crawl out of the speakers, riffs at a wall breaker pace, mercilessly pounding beats, great production and excellent delivery—yet it is only occasionally more than a plastic definition of raw D-beat mangel. I can see them being hyped to play these songs live, and there is no doubt that they are mad angry at the world (and I highly appreciate the “fuck it, we like this” attitude behind putting two cover songs, D.T.A.L. and D.N.A., on the LP) but I miss the madness. Without madness it’s just exercise. Danger makes punk great but here the only danger is whether they are able to perform what is supposed to be D-beat. Yes, they can play it, but greatness is not supposed to happen, it just does and then carelessly creates something new. In case you are not looking for a reinvention of the genre but rather a new addition to the roster of reliables, then Absürd 19 is a safe pick.

  • Reviewer Viktor Vargyai
  • Label Rawmantic Disasters / Wild Wild East
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Armchair Martian Demo cassette

This is a cool little piece of history. The demo was originally recorded and self-released in 1995, and was reissued this year, coinciding with the band playing some reunion shows. ARMCHAIR MARTIAN from Fort Collins, Colorado had close affiliation with Chad Price, the third singer of ALL, who is credited on this tape as “the Bigfoot” for his weird scream at the very end of the tape, but I think he did also sing on some of the band’s material later on. This tape is really catchy, and while the ’90s are certainly not my favorite of decades for punk, this is undeniably good. It’s kind of like if the poppier later-era ALL stuff tried to sound like GIN BLOSSOMS, but couldn’t help but have a little peppering of HÜSKER DÜ tossed in there, too. If any of those aforementioned references are your thing, this is highly recommended.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label Snappy Little Numbers
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

B’schißn / Ponys Auf Pump Split LP

PONYS AUF PUMP fall in the BÄRCHEN UND DIE MILCHBUBIS style (particularly the vocals!!) with added punker/waver synths, which is to say they write sharp punk hits that seem effortless and snotty and a good time?! Super catchy and pleasurable! B´SCHIßN are more scrappy, not as immediately appealing, more fucked up sounding, def have that eternal Euro art squat punk attack. Both bands complement each other which is all you can ask for from a split! I thought this was cooler than it looks, the art is sorta goofy?!

Bauwaves U R Everything LP

Thoughtful and brooding indie punk that is a bit like an updated and pared-down take on grunge. Introspective lyrics explore feelings of depression, alienation, and grief while the repetition and minimalism of the riffs kind of drill those feelings into your head. There’s a true thread of deep heartbreak and pain, which is likely to resonate with some, but without some kind of redemption, I find it hard to vibe with the untempered sadness.

Bayonet Taste of Piss 1982-1983 LP

Everyone and their mom in Finland at the beginning of the ’80s were in a hardcore band that played the best music. BAYONET is another good example of how obscurity does not always equal mediocracy. On the contrary, they should have been mentioned among KAAOS, SORTO, KANSAN UUTISET, BASTARDS, etc., yet their demo was stuffed in someone’s drawer. Now the Italian label FOAD—who are making crazy reissues—are serving justice to BAYONET, collecting and dusting off their demos, rehearsal tapes, and live recordings. All of it raw stuff within the timespan of a year, documenting young folks forming hardcore with their ideas and going dumb savage on their instruments, using them as channels for their angst to explode. There is no filter between them and their music, it is the way it is because that was inside them. The freedom is bursting from the songs: uncontrolled, unadjusted, unaligned zig-zag riffs, one-finger solos, mindless drum beats, and the ceaseless uptempo of the whole band guarantees a loony bin vibe where the crazier a sonic idea is the better. Hardcore is international and BAYONET is a great addition to its history.

Control Top Covert Contracts LP

What we have here is dance punk rock’n’roll for indie punk spaces jammed into crumbling strip malls. It’s dancy, loud, abrasive, and grooving. The vocalist, Ali Carter, is channeling Kathleen Hanna at her angriest, and there are more than a few times that you’ll pick up some LE TIGRE vibes in the lighter moments. In the louder moments, you’ll just enjoy the rage, like a KITTEN FOREVER with cleaner vocals. Throughout, the guitars are sharp, knifelike, and ready to sonically stab stab stab your ear holes. “Ego Death” is the perfect combination of all of CONTROL TOP’s best traits and should bring you into the fold. “Type A” should make you wiggle dance, even if you don’t want to.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Get Better
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Crimex / Skitklass Disrupt the Order / Snutsvin split EP

SKITKLASS is a Japanese band playing in the ’82 Swedish style. The song structure is from the SHITLICKERS/AVSKUM/ASOCIAL/DISARM era and vibe of Swedish hardcore. But the guitar tone is actually kind of undistorted, more like UK82 or a band like TST. I love it when Japanese bands do these sorts of homages, replete with lyrics in Swedish etc. I think the bondage mask motif is a bit overdone, resurfacing on most of their releases. I didn’t get a lyric sheet, but judging from the song titles it’s rather tongue-in-cheek chaos punk fare about drinking and raising hell. This kind of thing is great fun, if not a super serious work of art. CRIMEX from Olympia play straight forward raw punk their vibe is perhaps a bit less contrived. They are on the faster and more furious end of the raw punk spectrum; I love the searing vocals and that classic ramshackle bass sound. Some solid riffs and cohesive delivery. Would have loved to see this band play a basement show or sweaty warehouse practice space with their friends in attendance, but they’ve since broken up.

  • Reviewer Felix Havoc
  • Label Deleted / Hardcore Hell
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Devious Ones She’s Waiting for Me / The Straggle Is Real 7″

I’ve enjoyed music from these cats before and they continue to deliver the goods. If you like super catchy power pop, this is 100% for you. On the first listen through each song, I just can’t stop bouncing my head. It’s mid-tempo and a little jangly, just like I like it. But it’s really all about the hooks. Go out of your way to find this record.

  • Reviewer Kenny Kaos
  • Label Rust on the Blade
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Dolly Mixture Other Music LP

Last time I was in London (where I am from), there was a showing of the DOLLY MIXTURE documentary, and the movie theater was full of former indie pop girls, aging mods, and other subcultural types of an age to have been shaped by the first wave of British punk. There was an indignant mod who complained during the Q&A about the lack of evidence of their participation in the mod revival, which was the first time I thought about their band in that context. I always just assumed they were cutie pie C86 anorak types, but they actually formed in the ’70s, inspired equally by punk and ’60s girl groups. A total anomaly, they basically sort of invented a genre no one was ready for, and thus were relentlessly mocked by the punks and by more mainstream rock press. They toured with the UNDERTONES and were drenched in gob every night. As the mod revival happened, a space opened up for them, and their first 45 was released by none other than Paul Weller himself, but they clearly were not contained by that genre either, even if they fit in more in terms of the fan reaction. What does all o’ that mean in the face of this collection?! Unreleased DOLLY MIXTURE music?! I lost my mind and ordered this the second it was announced! Well it turns out most of it has been compiled before on CD, but there are a couple unreleased tracks! A different version of “How Come You’re Such a Hit with the Boys, Jane?” (supposedly about Jane from the MODETTES!?) and the beautiful “Same Mistake” which were supposed to be their first 45. The VELVET UNDERGROUND cover is really beautiful/cool, “Femme Fatale” really making the Brill Building roots of that group clear in a most Spector-ish fashion. The MOTT THE HOOPLE cover is also really charming/goofy, sounds almost like a cartoon theme song but in a good way! If you are at all intrigued by three cool teenage girls actualizing their vision of a girl-group punk-adjacent reality in the late ’70s/early ’80s, you need this! It’s a dream!

El Aviador Dro Nuclear, Sí EP

40th anniversary reissue of this seminal Spanish synth-punk EP, available again for the first time this century. Closest relative in sound and spirit would be SOLID SPACE, though AVIADOR DRO are a bit brighter and more playful, even with nuclear concerns and a looming Godzilla attack as lyrical woes. Really into this, especially during this crisp and desperate time of year. Recommended for bleepers and dorks.

Extended Hell Mortal Wound LP

EXTENDED HELL has been with us a few years now—their two 7″s and their live gigs have caused a stir in the realm of the underground. The inspiration comes from bands like INFERNÖH, HERATYS, and of course, the antecedents like ANTI-CIMEX and TOTALITÄR, I also feel like some of the riffs and structure brings to mind Another Religion and One Struggle-era VARUKERS. Heavy riffs and guitar tone give this band an underlying drive that is relentless: a ceaseless pounding like a piledriver repeatedly hammering into the depths. Layered on top of that drive is an overlay of smouldering guitar pyrotechnics that are restrained enough not to be gratuitous, but hot enough to give the hardcore drive some rock sizzle. Lyrically and visually, EXTENDED HELL paints a picture of a bleak world. While a lot of bands follow the D-beat template and use war tropes as stand-ins for a message, it’s clear that more thought went into these lyrics and the artwork. Power and profit untrammeled have resulted in the complete dehumanization of the many for the benefit of the few. Interestingly, songs like “Operational Exhaustion” and “Disintegration” deal with dehumanization of the soldier and oppressor, while “Dissident” and “Mortal Wound” are written from the point of view of the victim of oppression. This brings to mind Camus’ Neither Victims nor Executioners. I have the pleasure of knowing cover artist Joe B, as he’s originally from Minneapolis. He’s done all their artwork, and this one continues the theme of the other pieces. A vision of a technological terror state controlling the city, where humanity is reduced to a ghost-like existence. The bleak, hollow vision of alienation is a stark contrast to the commercialized consumer culture vision of life in New York City. It brings to mind some of the writings of Mike Davis and Naomi Klein, who foresaw a future where the working class lives a segregated and surveilled existence while the elite lives it up in a “Green Zone,” with all the luxuries and amenities. Personally, while I appreciate the cohesive aesthetic of the bleak reality, I wish that EXTENDED HELL would offer us a ray of hope, because the music itself is quite liberating and uplifting. Just as a Goya or Kollwitz painting of an atrocity can still be a beautiful piece of artwork, this picture of gloom and horror also has the power to enlighten us and set us free. The music itself is quite empowering, even if its subject matter is man’s inhumanity to man.

  • Reviewer Felix Havoc
  • Label D-Takt & Råpunk / Media Disease / Rawmantic Disasters
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Future Terror Plague LP

Atrocious guttural D-beat from Virginia that hisses with WARCOLLAPSE angst. Galloping death punk through the entire thing, with vicious echoing crust vocals and screams. A sheer blast of classic ’90s Scandi-style punk that sounds like a sonic battlefield. Totally brutal, buoyantly produced, thick and dirge-y. The samples take me further back to the ’90s filthcore onslaught. Wild paces of that classic SARCASM, Phonophobia, ASPECTS OF WAR sound, with time-signature changeups that leave a lump in your throat. So fucking ripping. This is an addicting release.

  • Reviewer Jason Ryan
  • Label Ryvvolte
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Hayley and the Crushers Vintage Millennial LP

I love pop music. I especially love female-fronted pop music. When it’s got some kick and personality, it’s even better. This one’s got a little surf guitar action going here and there. This is going to be a little too pretty for some of you, but it’s right up my alley. Think of bands like the GO-GO’S, the EPOXIES and the BUSY SIGNALS. Twelve releases by these guys? Wow.

  • Reviewer Kenny Kaos
  • Label Eccentric Pop
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

The Haskels The Haskels LP

A lost album from first-wave Milwaukee punks the HASKELS, originally recorded in 1979 and just now seeing the light of day! The fact that these recordings even survived is something of a minor miracle, as the master tapes apparently had to be baked in a convection oven twice in order to restore their quality to a level sufficient enough for this LP to happen, so some thanks to the powers that be are truly due here. The basic HASKELS sound was a decidedly Midwestern translation of proto-punk grit, glam-tinged snarl, and power-pop hooks, marked by the sort of sardonic sense of humor that was shared by all sorts of Rust Belt weirdos from the era, from the ELECTRIC EELS to DOW JONES AND THE INDUSTRIALS. Guitarist Presley Haskel and bassist Richard LaValliere traded off on songwriting and vocal duties, and the differences between their styles gave the band a really unique dual persona—Presley’s songs are generally the more straightforward ’70s New York/Detroit-influenced rockers with subject matter to match (“Baby Let’s French” is a better NEW YORK DOLLS song than any actual NEW YORK DOLLS song), while Richard’s tend to be more weird and surreal, definitely foreshadowing his post-HASKELS turn (with HASKELS drummer Guy Hoffman) in the skronky art-punk trio the OIL TASTERS in the early ’80s. Yet another classic in the long lineage of warped Midwestern punk; real freaks will recognize.

  • Reviewer Erika Elizabeth
  • Label Splunge Communications
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Heavy Discipline Demo 2019 EP

This demo pressed to vinyl contains five songs in six minutes. It’s straightforward Boston-style hardcore without being as precise as BOSTON STRANGLER or SHIPWRECKED’s The Last Pagans, but it feels like a close relative. The riffs are nods to the FU’s (“Stuck,” “Empty Worship”) and DYS (“You’re Good,” “Moment Won’t Come”), and although the drumming doesn’t have the absolutely spastic cymbal hits of the aforementioned bands, the drumfills still lend a lot to the sound and intensity. The first track has a mosh part that strikes me like STEP FORWARD, and the breakdown on “You’re Good” feels of the same ilk as BOSTON STRANGLER. Makes sense, as both bands pulled from the same deck of influences, but this feels less polished compared to the Primitive and Fire LPs. I’ll bet you could find Primitive for the same price as this 7” now.

Jade Helm Days Gone / I’ll Decide 7″

This melodic and ethereal single skates the edge between punk and indie, with retro UK shoegaze influences like early SLOWDIVE or CHAMELEONS. The melodies are catchy but sophisticated, and the song structures keep the momentum going. The occasional hard edge switches up the dynamic on “Days Gone,” but overall this could have been an ’80s radio hit.

Jivestreet Revival Jivestreet Revival LP

JIVESTREET REVIVAL sounds like some high school metal kids’ first band, or one of those pre-TESTORS Sonny Vincent groups. The record starts with a noise explosion. Everyone is off and not necessarily in the same direction. The singer sounds laid-back, but also bristling with attitude. There’s swagger and endless guitar noodling captured on some lo-fi recording equipment. It’s a bit too much, but also just enough. Only 100 copies. Don’t snooze.

Julien Papèn Theelevator cassette

Everything on this cassette was written and all instruments played by one JULIEN PAPÈN from Lugano, Switzerland, who toes the line somewhere between psychedelia, garage rock, and bedroom pop. The first song is pretty long and drone-y, and I was a bit turned off to it at the beginning, but by the time the tape got to the song “Winter Is Fun” I was ironically very warmed up to it. That is unquestionably the stand-out bopper on this release. There are certainly some very cool aspects here, but some of the songs are just too darn long. Four and a half minutes, five minutes, six minutes. Get right to it, and this project would instantly be better, but I suppose that is one potential drawback of solo projects: no one to help tug on the reigns while working the kinks out of songs.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label We Don't Make It
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Karen Marks Cold Café 12″

KAREN MARKS’s one-and-done 7” from 1981 is a mysterious minimal wave dream, and it’s been a highly sought-after (and very expensive) artifact of the Australian ‘80s underground for quite some time nowthe A-side’s lost love lament “Cold Café” has popped up on a number of compilations in the last few years focused on outsider synth-pop and small-press post-punk obscurities, although the new Cold Café anthology 12” on the Melbourne-based Efficient Space label is the first proper reissue of MARKS’s slim recorded output. In addition to both songs from the original 7”, the expanded EP also includes two recently discovered and otherwise unreleased demo recordings, plus the studio track “You Bring These Things,” previously only available on a scare promo-only compilation LP. “Cold Café” is obviously the centerpiece here, though, hitting a raw, emotional nerve with yearning vocals backed by a sparse rhythm machine pulse and percolating synth, all cloaked in otherworldly space echo like one of JOE MEEK’s off-kilter ‘60s girl-group productions translated into an ‘80s art-wave context. “Won’t Wear It for Long” and “Problem Page” both take things in a slightly less ethereal direction, almost verging on traditional synthed-out new wave, but still indelibly colored by the haunting sense of longing in MARKS’s delivery. An absolutely crucial archival rescue!

La Flingue Structure Vide Ordure / Under the Radar of Love 7″

What I like about the FLINGUE is that it reminds me of all my favourite European punk bands like the KIDS, 999, and so on. The beautiful clean guitars with the tambourine give a more modern touch to an epic punk style from the past. I didn’t know this band until fortunately playing together on a tour in Argentina—it was definitely a surprising gig, and they are insane live.

Macrodose First Dose cassette

Heavy, powerviolence-influenced hardcore from San Francisco. It’s got what you’ve likely come to expect from this genre: the fastest of the fast and the slowest of the slow, with very little in between, changing quickly back and forth between the two acceptable tempos. The standout track for me is “Victim,” which breaks the mold and just rides a mid-tempo nasty riff for the duration of the song. I think the band may have an anti-tech deck stance, which I would like to know more about. I’ve never really understood the tongue-in-cheek stances and goofy songs that often coincide with this style of music. My favorites of this genre have always been just genuinely, unapproachably pissed.

  • Reviewer Biff Bifaro
  • Label self-released
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020

Makewar Get It Together LP

There is no weak link in this tight three-piece punk ensemble. It’s been a cliché since the mid-’90s that all of the bands on Fat have “that Fat sound” and sound alike. It’s not really ever been that true that many or even most of the bands sound that similar, but people like to talk shit. That said, MAKEWAR might be an example of what you’d call “that classic Fat sound,” and people would fully understand what you were saying. This band is a new and improved take on GOOD RIDDANCE or STRUNG OUT, with an additional bilingual flare from Venezuela and Colombia. “Oh Brother” is their sound presented pure and simple on a platter for you. “No Más” is some good clean hardcore. In a rare occurrence, the album finishes stronger than it began with two of the best tracks, “Hands on the Tyrant” and “Get It Together,” closing it out. If the massive leap in quality from their previous (and still awesome) releases is to be believed, this is a band that is going to command everyone’s attention soon.

  • Reviewer Ryan Hertel
  • Label Fat Wreck
  • Issue MRR #442 • March 2020