Reviews

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MRR #438 • November 2019

Bad Weed Bad Weed LP

The tracks on this album zip right by, dropping insistent little riffs, guitar licks, and melodic earworms along the way. Jangly, garage-y power pop that sits (sonically and vocally) in the same territory as FM KNIVES or the first GENTLEMEN JESSE & HIS MEN LP—and if you remember what delicious little rippers those albums were, you’ll want to score yourself some BAD WEED A-S-A-friggin-P, matey.

Brandy & the Butcher Pretty Girls / Mr. Dorite 7"

A couple of tough rock’n’roll tracks from this South Carolina band. This reminds me of that wave of bands in the late ’80s that were hard rock but claimed to be punk influenced. They do a decent job here, but this just doesn’t do much for me. Maybe I’m missing the bar band appeal?

Casual Burn Mean Thing LP

Frantic, intense lo-fi punk from New Orleans with a lot of reverb and a heavy retro vibe. The overall sound is refreshingly original and free. It sounds like it could have come from the ’80s, before punk knew exactly what it was supposed to sound like. A lot of the individuality is owed to singer Monet Mallof’s charismatic, confident, powerful, and freaky vocal style, which is backed by a perfect complement of brooding, driving riffs that are catchy and dissonant and gross all at the same time.

Celebrity Handshake Death In Aisle Twelve LP

Could this be a spoken word LP from my favorite Maine panic rockers? It seems like it. Minimalist instrumental sounds punctuating the vocal storytelling. I lie on the couch with my eyes closed / letting the tales unfold. “I started being harassed by the future.” I’ll decipher the meaning one of these days. Until then I’ll just enjoy the yarns.

Chubby and the Gang All Along the Uxbridge Road / Mockba 7"

Supremely adept sounds from some CROWN COURT affiliates. The gist of this is a bit on the classic rechanneling side, complete with design that cops Chiswick Records, an indicator of this lot’s passions if ever there was one. Think DISGUISE from the ancient era, or something like QUANGO from more modern times. Speedy UK punk—timeless stuff—cropped, catchy and very tough. All aboard.

Curleys Johnny EP

The label describes them as Gainesville cretins, and I think that’s about right. The kind of people who lurk in the dark corners of the club until it is their turn to play, and then disappear back into the shadows when they’re done. Thrashy and messy. PAGANS at 78 RPM with a brattier attitude. Six songs in about as many minutes. There’s no time for messing around. Cool.

Dan Melchior Group Ruins 2xLP

The latest in Mr. Melchior’s always-classy, always-moving-forward musical journey. Ruins finds him joined by folks from BLOODY SHOW, cool killers in their own right, so there’s a noticeable upswing in energy on this outing. A few tracks where Dan handles all instrumentation are sprinkled throughout as well, offering momentary deviations that manage to build interest across all four sides. I’m gravitating to the aggressive and hypnotic “Hey Ya” as the standout, but there’s not a duff moment on this entire collection. If it’s been a stretch since you’ve checked in on Melchior’s works, this serves as a great reintroduction. We’re so lucky to have this guy around. Hop to.

Dana Glowing Auras and Black Money LP

Great album title. If UFOs are real (and I hope they are), I am sure those extraterrestrials would dig DANA’s latest album. The music pulsates in a manic, but subdued way, with swirly synths, otherworldly sounds, bashing guitars, and awesome vocals. Think BUTTHOLE SURFERS at their most rocking. It’s a noisy, skronking good time.

David Quinton Overlook Road LP

DAVID QUINTON cut his teeth as the teenaged drummer of late-’70s Toronto band the MODS (recently reissued on vinyl by Ugly Pop) before landing a gig backing STIV BATORS on his underwhelming post-DEAD BOYS work, Disconnected. Having penned that LP’s best song, “Make Up Your Mind,” QUINTON subsequently recorded a superior version for his own solo album, released in 1981 on Canadian indie Bomb Records. The twelve-track Overlook Road compiles unreleased tracks mainly from the early 1980s, including several alternate versions of LP tracks. This is slick power pop (with emphasis on the “pop”), including a couple piano ballads. If you’re a wimp like me who can hang with 20/20 or PEZBAND, it’s worth checking out.

Death Ridge Boys Fooled Again / Situation 7"

Two years after their debut album, Portland’s best Oi!/punk combo return with a strong new single. The A-side is of course the hit, a mid-tempo burner with a PARTISANS meets COCK SPARRER vibe, a huge catchy chorus, and brilliant lyrics regarding the intersection of fascist appeals and the working class. “Situation” is a blunt look at the climate crisis, with a bit more of a hardcore edge that reminds me quite a bit of the early work of DC’s SUSPECTS (one of the best, if most under the radar, American Oi!/punk bands ever). The material is great, and in these fence-sitting times with authoritarianism on the rise, the politics are even better.

Disco Junk Underage Punk EP

Pitch-perfect teen punk delinquency from Australia. Well, one of the AUSMUTEANTS guys helps, but the kids largely have the say here. Bratty bullshit is eschewed for real-deal antisocial, hateful angst and DISCO JUNK’s the better for it. Four tunes in all, each a slasher spat out by some past-it young puke that knows that he already “gets it.” Can’t wait ’til they go post-punk.

Dominant Force Cosmic Denial 12"

On first glance, the cover art for DOMINANT FORCE’s debut 12” looks like a middle schooler’s naive interpretation of a woman who might exist in an issue of Heavy Metal, posing in front of the Windows pipes screensaver. This is great in theory, but in practice, no viewing of this art is better than the first time. DOMINANT FORCE’s music sounds cool and aggressive at first glance, with clear and incisive vocals borrowing heavily from John Joseph. In fact, the whole record owes a cosmic debt to the CRO-MAGS circa ’86: swiping riffs, leads, and vibes left and right. DOMINANT FORCE does mix it up with a chirpy, dance-y breakdown during “Conspiracy,” and the record’s length is perfect—these songs aren’t too short, but more than the six offerings here would be a bit tiresome. Like the cover art, “Cosmic Denial” is an enjoyable listen, but lacks the depth to keep me coming back. If you’re reading MRR for gym music recommendations, you could do much worse than slapping this and the NEVER ENDING GAME LP on your phone.

Dust Bugs Don’t Belong EP

I was really set to trash this one. Dumb band name and a photo of some dad-looking white men on the back. On further research, they’re some Danish dads playing garage punk—big sigh. Well, fuck, if this isn’t some of the best early MISFITS blown-out guitar dirty punk I’ve heard for at least a day. Don’t Belong is a fucking classic, and worthy of many needle-wearing repeated listens. The rest is pretty damn swell as well. It looks like they have a full LP and another EP that I just might seek out, too. Probably not, but that’s a good solid maybe.

Fuerza Bruta All Cops Are Bassheads EP

Wellllll…it’s two dance remixes and a live track by a Chicago punk band. I really liked their last EP of aggressive Oi!-tinged punk, and I don’t hate this, but you know, I‘m not gonna pretend it isn’t novelty. The remixes sort of awaken the pedestrian ’80s New Wave pop appreciation lurking somewhere inside of me. The live recording of “Asocial” is rough and raw but listenable. Kind of dumb, but way better than most of the bad punk records we review.

Gino and the Goons Rip It Up LP

A reissue of the third and my personal favorite LP by these Florida garage punkers. This album is just so great: a non-stop rocking experience featuring amazing songs, performed perfectly, and delivered with the perfect amount of attitude. Any band, from any decade, undoubtedly wishes this was their album. “Outta Control” may be the best rock song of the 21st century. It’s so damn catchy. If you missed out on this the first time around, there is no longer any excuse not to own this. Fantastic.

Haircut Sensation EP

Four no-bullshit hardcore tracks each clocking in under two minutes. HAIRCUT delivers high-intensity punk with a super clear recording that still somehow sounds completely inseparable from the context of a sweaty basement packed with freaks moshing and running into each other and knocking everything over. Like, one does not exist without the other. The vocals are totally excellent, in a slightly hoarse and screamy way, like a satisfying texture you can almost touch.

Hand & Leg Lust In Peace LP

Long-player #2 for this Greek duo. Within seconds, it’s clear that Lust In Peace avoids any lazy two-piece trappings, and that something a lot more ominous is afoot here. Rhythms generally thud, vocals chastise, and strings are mangled while an uneasy static grows and grows. There’s no comfort in the groove they build, but still so much to hear—experimental, fearful, and extreme as their sound may be. There is nothing “garage” about this either, just pure cacophonous, uneasy listening that prompts repeat plays. A very impressive record, and one that anyone prone to neg-vibe explorations should seek out.

Death Lottery / Hardship Anchors split EP

With this one we get a sampling of California’s HARDSHIP ANCHORS and Florida’s DEATH LOTTERY. HARDSHIP ANCHORS deliver with mid-tempo combination of street punk, pop punk, and New Wave. That’s not a combo you hear every day, but it works for these guys. DEATH LOTTERY are more in the punk/hardcore realm, with lots of moving parts, maybe too many moving parts; this one’s a little tougher. In particular, I’m not a fan of all the extracurricular guitar work. That said, these guys weren’t too far off, and almost had me.

  • Reviewer Kenny Kaos
  • Label Freetime Boyz Entertainment Worldwide Inc.

Hellbent Dead Off the Floor EP

Playing more polished, professional-sounding hardcore and having music videos and shit can be tricky business, as it makes me just want to dismiss a band as wanting to open for TERROR and/or MUNICIPAL WASTE or get a writeup in No Echo or wherever—is “blogcore” a genre (or aspiration) descriptor at this point? That said, I like HELLBENT. They play hardcore that is indeed polished, and half of these songs indeed have music videos, but they’re ultimately saved and then some by an abrasion in the guitar sound, higher-pitched vocals that are adequately heavy, and interesting songs that aren’t monotonous—fueled in large part by the less-conventional drumwork—and admittedly funny lyrics about shit like king penguins. I believe this four-song EP contains all previously-released songs.

Hit the Streets 10"

Super punk garage snot that’s more for the greasy than thee arty! Dual male/female vocals that remind me of a less frantic KRUNCHIES, this is sorta veering more towards ROEHRS-core if that means anything to you!!! I can visualize him at the front of the show pumping his fist to this straightforward meat ’n’ potatoes punker frenzy from Saskatchewan. The hit songs are “Skull Chain” and “Nothing”: both killer jams that stand out and if I was still a disc jockey I would play them on my radio show [come back to radio! -ed]! Psyched they sent two copies.

Hotet Ny Dag Nya Jävligheter EP

About a decade ago, a little group from Umeå called MASSHYSTERI charmed punks worldwide with their infectious, jangly earworm punk, which became a distinct style destined to be copycatted for years to come. HOTET seems to be shamelessly riding that train, right down to the garage-y production and expertly harmonized vocal craft. It’s the most accurate homage I’ve heard, and the songwriting is top notch, but to be honest I think I’m still taken care of with the two albums MASSHYSTERI left us. However, I know that there’s at least a small part of all of us that needs a band like HOTET to carry the torch, to remind us of this style that all punks unilaterally have a soft spot for, so it’s my job to assure you that there isn’t a single flaw throughout these four tracks.

Hotet Död Framtid EP

Fast and melodic Scandinavian punk with everything you could possibly want from this genre: dueling male/female vocals that are impassioned and charmingly a little off-key. The title of the record translates to “Dead Future,” and despite the catchy melodies, the lyrics have a brooding, cynical undertone that perfectly sets of the upbeat sound. Definitely something to check out for fans of the canon of Scandinavian melodic punk bands, or melodic punk in general.

Ξέρα (Ksera) Ξέρα EP

This six-song EP from Thessaloniki, Greece combines noise rock guitar bashing over charging hardcore, with screamed ’n’ scraped vocals and a crunchy drum pounding in a live-bled noisy recording. The total effect is somewhat like if you steered a raw demo of GUZZARD or HAMMERHEAD onto a basic hardcore template, left room for the guitars to be repetitively smashed into a hammering wall of noise, and then had Poffen from TOTALITÄR do the vocals. An interpretive enough style that breaks for a freakout of soloing guitar squiggles or a drum-driven breakdown. There’s no lyrics or even song titles on this record, with the cover looking like either runes or the pattern on a mid-century formica coffee table. Not a bad listen, but either a wilder leap into unfamiliar territory, a far more brutal push, or a latch to some sort of meaning might seal the deal. 200 made.

Jad Strach LP

This ten-song debut 12” from Warsaw’s JAD leans heavy on the mechanical patterns of early Polish hardcore (the distinctive robotic pulsing of ARMIA or even SIEKIERA), but even heavier on the crude, primitive hardcore deconstruction of HOAX, where 1-2 midtempo charge is sustained, then slowed, then sustained for crushing effect, and leads in to even more crushing breakdowns. Basic yet effective repetitive pounding, with meaty “at the door of the haunted hallway” (i.e. slightly distorted) vocals scowling over the top, and a thick yet slightly grated raw guitar sound. This is not as sludgy as HOAX, but a more energetic, incredibly dialed-in, and surprisingly great record. There’s some inventiveness with this formula, but it’s so seamless, with tight musicianship and delivery on a set pattern, though without understanding the lyrics, it does skirt on the border of predictability. The lyrics (all in Polish) come on the accompanying poster, and the artwork is “cvlt”-style line-drawings of people hanging off the band logo, barbed wire, a dissected head, and vultures, all made to look distressed—like it was found on the floor of a copy center in 1981, so who knows. These are killer jams.

Kina Nessuno Schema Nella Mia Vita LP

It’s a beautiful thing to get a note from a band member fondly recalling the submission of their demo tape to Tim Yo back in ’84, and then to receive an LP reissue thirty-five years later, and it’s still great! In my experience, KINA hasn’t quite enjoyed the bootleg t-shirt success like their contemporaries WRETCHED or NEGAZIONE, but whenever I revisit this self-recorded debut (or the Irreale Realtà LP), it’s evident that they were an equal force in the pantheon of classic ’80s Italian (or even general European) hardcore. This session is KINA at their most primitive, which unlike WRETCHED is slightly more…musical? Their tendency to break the hardcore template reminds me other interesting-while-still-ripping bands like CONTRAZIONE or STINKY RATS. This is a worthwhile reissue in a time when many, arguably, are not.

Kina Irreale Realtà LP

Hailing from the far northwestern corner of Italy, Aosta’s KINA formed in 1982 inside the blast radius of the first Italian hardcore wave, but began releasing records close enough to the mid-’80s HÜSKER DÜ/SST/ARTICLES OF FAITH/RITES OF SPRING-styled bending of the confines of strict hardcore rules that the raw energy and unpredictable creativity of Italian hardcore combines with a wide, untamed flange guitar sound and complex musical arrangements that here only hint at the expansive incorporation of influences of folk music and unexpected instrumentation that would later mark their fifteen year career. Irreale Realtà (“Unreal Reality”), this three-piece’s fifteen-song debut LP, was originally self-released in 1985, and hung around a melodic core, but was and is very much a savage hardcore record with pummeling, speedy thrash that sparks and rages like the best moments of early Italian hardcore. Caustic vocals shouted in Italian hurl angry missives towards authority and power, but the lyrics are also inwardly reflective, personal, and thoughtful. This reissue reprints the original Italian inserts, but sadly not the English translations from the original export editions. It also comes in a much thicker (and less ringwear ready!) cover compared to the original, with clearer, slightly larger reproductions of the artwork, and has a more balanced remastering where the music levels out with the vocals and has a bit more depth and clarity. This makes it sound “better” overall, but also a little less sloppy and unhinged, as the extreme vocals less forcefully dominate the recording, but everything balances a bit more. It’s a good place to start if you’ve either never heard the band, or a refreshing enough update that it’s worth a visit even if you already own the original. The last two tracks on each side are live in Berlin in 1984, and shed some of the sheen that the flange guitar gives the studio recording for wild effluence of melody, shouted vocals, and high energy blasting. Though the replacement of Kina’s Blu Bus label’s classic slogan, “self-production and self-management as tools for communication and antagonistic experiences” (an idea that I think KINA tried to live by as much as promote other people to do) by a barcode underlines a reality of late 2010’s punk rock. But an otherwise well-done and great reissue!

Kina Cercando… LP

This is quite the deluxe reissue of a very interesting, sometimes challenging record by one of Italian hardcore’s most long-lived and musically adventurous bands. By the time this, their second album, was recorded in 1986, the band had toured quite a bit through Europe, adding both the emerging crossover sound and the distinctive sounds of continental bands like BGK to their growing sonic palette. The resulting album includes vicious thrash metal, moments of distinctly Greek-sounding post-punk bark, Revolution Summer-style vocal harmonies over proto-emo jangle, and even some good old hardcore punk stuff. More than any other record I’ve heard, this encapsulates the mindset of the Italian hardcore scene going into 1987, a pivotal year that saw many of the key bands either break up or dramatically change their sound. This isn’t just a historical curiosity though, it’s a complicated record that fans of punk’s more historically out there bands (think SNFU) would absolutely adore. The packaging includes complete reproductions of the original sleeve and insert, an extra insert with English translations, and a CD of the album.

Larma LP

If I fell asleep listening to TOTALITÄR (specifically Sin Egen Motståndare, not that that would even happen) and some prankster slipped this 12” on and woke me up, I might not even notice. Okay, that’s not true; I would, but it’s that authentic sounding. Maybe you’ll argue that makes this inauthentic, and maybe you’re not wrong, but achieving such a high level of TOTALITÄR-ness is quite the accomplishment in my book. I spot two SKITKIDS and one INFERNÖH guy, so that explains a lot. It’s like rabid Poffen-esque vocal phrasing, hypnotizing riffs, and urgent D-beating are all just built into the circuitry of these guys’ brains. Furthermore, they know how to augment the template just enough to distinguish themselves from other soundalikes. Eleven perfect and delightfully excitable tracks.

Loose Nukes Behind the Screen EP

Yesss. Fast, raw, snotty hardcore that isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is. I almost never play the ex-members game because it’s largely lazy rockstar bullshit and rarely relevant to the tunes, but people from DIRECT CONTROL, BLOOD PRESSURE, and DARK THOUGHTS are at the helm here, and despite the relatively straightforward sound, you can hear it. Songs about phones, paranoia, punishers, and of course, nukes. Please tour the West Coast.

Mark Sultan Filthy Rat / Heart Attack EP

Two songs of SULTAN’s unique garage rock croon. Poppy, peppy and romantic(ish), this is modern doo-wop with a punk rock tinge. Catchy and fun.

Matt Gimmick Detroit Renaissance ‘79 EP

Reissue of this Detroit band’s 1979 EP. MATT GIMMICK were STOOGES loving ’70s punks, so much so that no one would think twice if you told them this record was actually the STOOGES. MATT GIMMICK even went so far as to record two at-the-time unreleased STOOGES songs they learned from a cassette they made when they saw the STOOGES live. That’s ballsy and funny as hell. Their versions are much better sounding than the ones the STOOGES would eventually release, too.

Mick Trouble Here’s the Mick Trouble LP

The long-awaited follow up to 2017’s mysterious It’s the Mick Trouble EP (alleged to have been a long lost recording by an erstwhile DAN TREACY associate, originally slated for release on the Whaam! label but subsequently lost to history) that was later revealed to be the work of Jed Smith of MY TEENAGE STRIDE. The album picks up where the EP left off, with pitch-perfect TELEVISION PERSONALITIES pastiche. If indie pop scientists forced a bot to listen to nothing but the first TELEVISION PERSONALITIES singles and album for a year and then asked it to produce a song, the borrowed riffs, bedroom production, and cod Britishisms of opener “Bloody Blighty” is likely what would emerge. Luckily for the listener, TROUBLE/Smith expands his stylistic scope on the LP while still exhibiting superior songwriting skills and a knack for capturing the essence of the sounds of an earlier era on tape. Songs veer from mod-ish TIMES/O LEVEL territory into junkshop glam and FELT/DENIM indie pop, each one packed with hooks and wit. I believe Smith played all the instruments on the record, which is no mean feat, but I particularly want to call out the nimble, melodic bass playing, which is the secret weapon here (as well as on the JEANINES LP, which Smith also played on this year). What more can be said – I waited over a year for this album and it did not disappoint.

Mope Grooves Desire LP

Portland seems to have a relentless line on cool art punk damage DIY groups. COLLATE and LITHICS spring to mind, and MOPE GROOVES! This is cool falling apart art fumble that feels urgent and desperate and real, it’s got a transcendent sounds-heard-in-another-room feel that only the best bedroom art has. Makes me think of AMOS & SARA and other HOMOSEXUALS offshoots in a refreshing manner rather than mere reproduction style. It sounds alive and now. Pop music for punk dreamers who want to watch and to be. Freedom sounds.

Mystery Girl Heartbreaker / Salted Slug 7"

For me, this one’s a sort of tale of two sides. The A cut is fine: a nice little power pop number, but it doesn’t grab me. The B-side cut takes it to a new level. Mixing in punk, power pop, glam and rock’n’roll, this one induces head bouncing. The lyrics are also pretty damn funny, and while I’m not sure what it means to be someone’s salted slug, it seems like a real commitment. Worth it just for the B-side, and as I said, the A-side works just fine.

New Skeletal Faces Celestial Disease LP

Just missing Halloween, NEW SKELETAL FACES play gothic post-punk crust, with dissonant sub-aquatic bass lines and discordant contemporary blackened metal riffing. Vocals are grim, sometimes screeching and other times howling, like SHADOW PROJECT meets ZERO HOUR. Songs sound like ROSETTA STONE channeling SATYRICON. Themes are ghoulish cemetery strolling metaphors about the dying planet and a perverse overestimated society. This three-piece make dire cacophonies calling to (or rather, from) the grave. The last songs on each side are my favorite, with IRON MAIDEN, EMPEROR, DEVIATED INSTINCT and CHRISTIAN DEATH flavors peppering them. Recommended for fiends of the dark crafts and infernal tones.

Nun The Dome LP

Melbourne, Australia’s NUN have been releasing darkwave synth punk records since 2012, predating the current trend by more than a few years. This record shifts gears a bit, with more restraint and slower tempos than earlier releases. Dramatic vocals descend among austere but complex synth instruments. The echoey, velvety vocals sometimes seem to take after SIOUXIE SIOUX, while the synth and drum machine compositions occasionally veer into the odd minimalism of Bolides Over Basra-era MEN’S RECOVERY PROJECT. The band is organized like a conventional punk band, with different members creating the lead synth, bass synth, and drum machine parts, which allows them to create a sound that feels both more vital and more tempered than you might expect from a multi-tracked solo project. Definitely something to check out for anyone into darkwave or synthwave or goth cosplay.

Odd Man Out Odd Man Out LP

While “NWHC” as a descriptor has always been more of a collection of largely metallic capitol-H hardcore bands from western Washington than a cohesive genre unto itself, I feel like there’s a musical thread between a number of bands to have come out of this sterile, dreary corner of the US, of which ODD MAN OUT is both a continuing part of and expansion on. BROTHERHOOD is a clear main influence, primarily in terms of vocal delivery, competent changeups that less capable bands might handle like a herky-jerky musical collision, along with guidance on how to expand on both standard youth crew and burlier NYHC templates, and ODD MAN OUT heeds these lessons well, while also applying the hindsight and musical raw material of thirty extra years from which to draw. Plenty of dancefloor-ready mosh abounds—and even the drawn out-seeming breakdowns go somewhere in the end, or you can tell that they’re riding on a riff because it’s fucking good—but there’s also a good deal of lightning-fast blasting that brings everything together well. This LP compiles their 7”, CCHC tape, three covers (the DC YOUTH BRIGADE and Tacoma’s SIDETRACKED), and four new songs, and it’s cool to hear the evolution from the earliest songs to the newest ones. And while we’re on the subject of BROTHERHOOD, RIP Ron Guardipee.

Old City Sunny Days 12"

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this Portland punk trio evidence a definite WIPERS influence, though that influence seems to be filtered through the same modern hardcore lens that bands like MASSHYSTERI and NO HOPE FOR THE KIDS applied. Most of these songs are driven by rock-solid basslines, sub-jangly guitars, and pissed vocals delivering bleak lyrics, with the early TRAGEDY-ish “Sword of Justice” standing out for its decidedly more hardcore approach. Very good modern hardcore punk with significant songwriting range and a distinct personality. This record was originally released on cassette in 2013, and I’m curious to see how the band had progressed in the last six years.

Osmantikos Survival LP

Crusty hardcore from Malaysia, with furious vocals and clean production. Survival features a dozen grandiose compositions that bring to mind TRAGEDY, the HOLY MOUNTAIN, and COP ON FIRE, as tracks ooze toward a more stenchcore sound. Anthemic passages from dual vocals; all-in-all a full sound from this three piece. Side B opens with some surprisingly upbeat riffs amidst slow gloomy hardcore, similar to GUILLOTINE TERROR or MOONSCAPE. A moody intro-as-intermission midway through the LP, then some more Motörcharged rhythms. With several styles of extreme punk going on, OSMANTIKOS have a lot to offer.

  • Reviewer Jason Ryan
  • Label Bullwhip / N.I.C. / Not Enough / Phobia / SPHC / Too Circle

Pölykuu Tultasyöksevä Helvetinkone / Kylpyhuoneessa 7"

Shimmering ’80s New Wave gothic pop. I couldn’t find much information about this, aside from the fact that the band is from Tampere, Finland. If it wasn’t for the autotune effect on the vocals on side A, I would have guessed that this was a reissue of an undiscovered classic. The production is great on both songs; the overall feeling is of a more punk CURE or ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN. The B-side especially has a slightly more post-punk edge, maybe along the lines of Italy’s CCCP. Great stuff, worth seeking out. I understand they also released a cassette in 2017.

Plastic Tones Whirlwind / Mystery Machine 7"

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been hip to Helsinki’s PLASTIC TONES for a while now. They deliver a solid product of female-fronted power pop that is pretty and moody enough that it evokes memories of early Subway Organization artists, like the FLATMATES. CHIN CHIN is another one that comes to mind. I really enjoyed both tracks here. There’s a certain darkness that runs through both.

Pleather Wasting Time / Riot 7"

Another killer group from Hattiesburg, Mississippi! I assume they are somewhat aligned with JUDY AND THE JERKS scene-wise as a result, but their sound is totally their own thing. ’70s meets ’90s lo-fi power pop punk with cool monotone female vocals that remind me of a cross between like JOSIE COTTON and SU TISSUE, and like the kid from UNIT 3 PLUS VENUS in the most insane manner?! So in short, I love this record!!! Disaffected brat style. Is “Riot” about a cat or a girl? Doesn’t matter. Looks cool, sounds cool, it’s throwaway yet an earworm.

Possible Humans Everybody Split LP

Debut offering from this Melbourne lot. Everybody Split collects a few varied takes on pop/rock, not terribly far removed from now-sounds like THIGH MASTER or SALAD BOYS, but more indebted to moody practitioners from decades past—something more along the lines of the BATS, the FEELIES or even (ahem) US “college rock” from the ’80s & ’90s. The guitars somehow always seem to merge chime and crunch, which I’m comfy tagging as this gang’s bread/butter (not a bad thing!). Next to nothing resembling a two-fingers punk sound here, but as DIY pop music, it ably scratches the itch.

Power The Fool / Give It All to Me 7"

Motherfucking POWER is back! I have to admit, I lost track of these Aussie faves after their supreme Road Dog EP. and heard rumors that they’d even broken up?! But fret not, for our heroes haven’t faded to dust, they’ve simply metamorphosed from mullet-headed Lobby Lloyd worshipers into a two-wheeled, leather-clad, NWOBHM loving monster. No poodle heads or spandex here, though. “The Fool” is fucking MOTÖRHEAD. Like if MOTÖRHEAD went on a three-day bender and had to sell a bass drum for speed money. Shredding. “Give it All to Me” is SWEET SAVAGE, FIST, and the first BLITZKRIEG single all rolled together, but hard and street, maybe a little like “Shylock” by BUFFALO. Totally great record that I’ve been spinning nonstop for almost a month now. I should try to sleep, but I can’t wait to see what these mates have in store next.

Protein Alive EP

Middle-of-the-road youth crew from Poland that would be equally at home on the React! roster. Vocals are a couple steps above spoken, and the fast parts trade in a bit of speed for power without upsetting the overall ratio. Riffs are adequate if not mindblowing, while melodic leads offer sentimental moments. The pleasantly rough-around-the-edges recording helps to balance the proverbial equation.

Sleepover Club W​(​ph​)​oopsie! LP

This LP humorously starts off with the statement “I love Geddy Lee and Geddy Lee loves me.” Fortunately, the RUSH worship ends there. The songs are short blasts of musical fun. It’s lo-fi with attitude. Hi-fi with altitude. Bratty and goofy. A great listening experience.

Slump Flashbacks from Black Dust County LP

It’s funny. Since I quit doing drugs some time back, I find myself drawn more and more to dirgy, druggy music, especially of the lysergic variety. While this RVA band is nothing that I would listen to while tripping balls, this is a pretty great record. LSD-fused music rarely hits it right, as one person’s idea of what good acid rock is usually completely different from another’s. While mine is the BUTTHOLE SURFERS, ROKY, the FROGS, Saturday morning cartoons, or the sound of a running toilet, yours may be HAWKWIND or SPACEMEN 3, to which much of this platter definitely pays tribute, with all the endless Moog effects. CAPTAGON did this on their excellent demo tape a few years back but, alas, rocked much harder than these guys. Side two picks up the pace a little, and catches the ears a lot harder, but overall I really dig this record. For fans of the aforementioned bands, and ’90s favorites like the FLUID or CULT. Dare I say groovy. Ughh.

Subhumans Crisis Point LP

One of the few bands from my teenage years that I can still listen to and rely on to affirm and validate my punk forever-ness. I was a little concerned not seeing the Bluurg logo on the rear of the sleeve, but Dick’s distinct handwriting is instantly comforting. So here we have SUBHUMANS’ second studio album since ’87, the last one being ’07s Internal Riot. Much like that one, Crisis Point proves that the band is still relevant in style, intention, and message. I can’t even think of another band that has lasted this long and never sucked or strayed. They certainly have not lost any urgency or creativity with age, nor has Dick lost his wordsmithery or wit. “See the diamond it’s forever disconnected / From the horrors of child labour, so intensive / Mining undermining our perception of expensive / Shiny lies to pacify the apprehensive.” Who wouldn’t want this guy as their poetry professor? They’re still on track with anti-capitalist, anti-xenophobic, and environmentalist calls to action, while not forgetting modern technology’s role in all the apathy and injustices. Never pretentious or preachy, always intelligent and critical. I almost failed to mention the giant SUBHUMANS stencil included in the package. Is anyone actually gonna use this thing? Maybe someone can rearrange the letters into a more pertinent slogan to paint our cities. All I can come up with right now is “Ass Bum.”

The Restarts / Subhumans split 7"

Holy fuck, man, I bet the RESTARTS were listening to a lot of SUBHUMANS when they were young punx just starting up their band in the mid ’90s. Flash forward damn near 25 years and they’re sharing a split together, both bands relative elder statesmen to their peers. Time is a funny thing, innit? Both offer up excellent tracks, with a clever 99% vs the 1% shared theme. The RESTARTS offer up “The One Percent,” a classic ripper in their metallic but anthemic punk style with a gloriously over-the-top guitar solo and super-catchy vocal hook. SUBHUMANS are a bit more subdued on their “99%,” nodding to their anarcho roots, but the poignant chorus is instantly memorable.

Suspect Parts You Know I Can’t Say No EP

There are two bands that come to mind as I listen through this one: LET’S ACTIVE and the YUM YUMS. That’s high praise. This is well done power pop that is catchy as all hell. It’s mid-tempo and extremely well done. The third and final cut—sung in German—even reminds me a bit of DIE TOTENHOSEN. This is worth looking for.

The Cool Greenhouse Crap Cardboard Pet 10"

Expert antagonism courtesy of this standout UK act. Prior compact offerings were fine/dandy, but the patient stretching of the material here (no song shorter than five minutes, one approaching ten) really showcase the motivations of these CGs: repetition in the spirit of The FALL, with the same sort of roundabout accusatory bitterness to boot. The COOL GREENHOUSE move beyond purely referential tribute though, taking these cues further than comfort permits, especially via the synthetic hypnosis of “Crap Art,” which is maybe the most brilliant tune of this year. Limited to a scant 200 copies, all of which include an actual crap cardboard pet. A must-have release from every angle—highest recommendation.

The Cult of Lip Sleep Receiver & Your Feedback 12"

This slab of vinyl combines two earlier releases from this Minneapolis act. Stuttering reverb, hazy but persistent riffage, and warbling feedback form the undercurrent eardrum buzz for dreamy, haunting vocals. A bubbling cauldron of influences gleaned from that epic decade of fuzz, from JESUS AND MARY CHAIN to MY BLOODY VALENTINE to DINOSAUR JR and SONIC YOUTH. Definitely wearing their shoegaze crush on their sleeves but to great effect.

The Darbs LP

Mediocre mid-tempo pop punk that never goes anywhere for me. The vocals sound either blown-out or just incapable of hitting the notes they’re aiming for. I wouldn’t call him a bad singer, but I certainly wouldn’t call him good either. Honestly I’m just really bored by every song on this record. Nothing ever really gets my attention in a positive or negative way; inoffensive is the best way I can think to describe it, which is probably an insult to punk bands everywhere. On “Sitting Around” they straight up lift the opening riff of JAWBREAKER’s “Boxcar,” but it’s not like they, or the reunited East Bay titans, were the first to purpose those notes.

The Dialers LP

These guys started out very strong on the first track. I thought I was gonna get an earful of solid power pop with fast beats and sharp leads, and I was excited. Turns out that’s just one version of what I was getting. The rest of this record never quite hits the same tempo as the first song, though it sticks with the power pop feel throughout. There’s plenty of strong material in here, but for a good portion of the record, I feel like it needs to be mined deeper or pushed a little harder. Some of the songs just feel like a watered down version of the TRANZMITORS, or the VIBRATORS. And the singer reminds me of JOEY CAPE at times. There’s nothing wrong with this music, but I wish they had more of a bite to them.

The Frantic Five I Need You Mine / The Very First Day 7"

Faithful, fuzzy, Farfisa-focused ’60s garage from this long-running Greek outfit. Both tunes are mid-tempo shakers, not terribly remarkable, but hitting all the necessary marks in order to qualify as a legit aping of Ugly Things styles. It’s obviously no match against the original ’60s sources or the ’80s/’90s budget rebranding. It’s just sorta “there,” maybe even by design. Yawning in my Beatle boots.

The Hiveminds LP

From Norway, the HIVEMINDS deliver solid mid-tempo (to uptempo) garage punk that has a DOORS eeriness about it. It’s catchy as all hell and sounds like it’s right out of the Nuggets catalog. Scandinavians are connoisseurs of rock’n’roll music. Hell, maybe they’re connoisseurs of all music. You get that in a lot of their music. This one is garage-y throughout, with some moments of New Wave, but it retains that somberness from start to finish. In addition to the DOORS, think of the GUN CLUB. Nice organ work. Good stuff.

The Hussy Looming CD

This is a fun poppy garage record. It’s got that modern fuzziness backed with bouncing drums, and some manic keyboard sounds occasionally appear. Heather Hussy has a clear, strong, powerful voice that makes you think she could easily replace one of the current Top 40 female singers if she was so inclined. I’d assume that would be a “no,” but I’m saying it anyway. Bobby
Hussy sings with JAY REATARD-type inflections. His voice is softer and more sing-songy, but the style gives a Reatard impression. The vocal duties are traded off on this LP, which keeps the whole thing sounding fresh.

The Last Throes Hammered EP

A New York trio here playing some punk rock’n’roll. It gets a touch hard rock at times without getting self indulgent. Sounds almost AmRep or Sub Pop-ish in sound, back when bands had some chops to show off.

The Reflectors Teenage Hearts / Desert Crusader 7"

This is good. It’s solid, pretty, mid-tempo, catchy power pop. Right up my alley! It reminds me of things like the POINTED STICKS and maybe even GLITZ!. The B-side is just a little cheezy, but I’ve said a lot worse about hundreds of other songs. It’s actually a lot cheezy. “We’re not getting any older / We’re not getting any younger.”

The Scientists Not For Sale: Live 1978/79 2xLP

The recent SCIENTISTS reissue blitz has been a bit crazed, but it’s hard to complain about seeing so many records by these all-time greats in the bins again. As advertised in the title, this release captures the savage young iteration of the SCIENTISTS via a couple choice live recordings. The sound is uniformly great—no hiss-fi gunk-covered cassette rehash here, just top-tier documentation, more than I ever expected to hear outta this early incarnation of the band. The originals (“Last Night,” “Frantic Romantic,” “Shadows Of The Night,” and on and on) are all present and performed with formative fervor, while the many cover selections (most notably those by FLAMIN’ GROOVIES, the obvious touchstone for them at this early stage) all help paint a hot-pink portrait of the pre-swamp version of the band. Very well done release to boot: gatefold sleeve, extensive liners, colored wax. Recommended for completists and the curious alike.

The Voids 12"

This SoCal band has been around since 1999. Hardcore punk with a female singer who sings and doesn’t scream. Music is Brit HC circa 1982. A bit of GBH, which I guess would make this like VICE SQUAD. This also reminds of the CREAMERS with its energy. This is their third 12” in all these years.

Total Massacre The System Works… LP

Somewhere after the release of Rock Against Bush Vol. 2 and American Idiot on Broadway getting nominated for a Tony Award, punk seemed to completely deflate as a political entity. Even as punks expanded their personal politics, outward messages of defiance towards the government and society were often totally dropped in favor of heavy metal-style “cvlt” imagery (just replace Satan and demons with a crude line drawing of a spider crawling out of a skull’s eye socket wrapped in barber wire), and the dressings of hardcore style lost much of the meaning that often gave it much of it’s bite, importance, and impact. Of course, this news never reached these old diehards in Van Nuys. TOTAL MASSACRE’s second album is good ’n’ punchy, tried-and-true old school hardcore punk (a la DEHUMANIZERS or DETONATORS) with gnarled vocals like the more raw ARTISTIC DECLINE tracks, or a less extreme CAPITOL PUNISHMENT, spitting diatribes ripped out of the headlines. Fuck their border wall! If you see a fucking Nazi, you’re gonna knock his fucking block off! Fuck Trump! I’m gonna make damn sure my liver fails before our institutions do!! (a funny line, but one that shows how fucking bizarro world 2019 actually is). The band makes good use of their indignation, but I do at times feel these laundry lists of outrage would benefit from just a bit more over the top irony and the kinds of acidic dark humor that made some of the original 1980s political hardcore bands such fun jaunts. The music bolts straight ahead, with melodic underpinnings anchored by a steady upfront drumbeat, captured in a solid recording, with catchy enough songs to hoist the lyrical musings and maybe inspire a few fist pumps in tandem with the beat. Maybe the lyrics are not ones that will change the world, but punk’s power was always music as meeting point for people who felt the same way, and it’s why the political and personal lyrics are still important, because yeah I feel that way too. I’m an anti-fascist and we’re all anti-fascists too! TOTAL MASSACRE maybe wallow lyrically in the challenges and disappointments that come with age a few too many times here, yeah…maybe we feel all that way too sometimes, but one of punk’s strength is also the empowerment it can bring to both the performer and the listener. This comes in a gatefold sleeve with full lyrics.

Trampoline Team LP

Furious frenzy from New Orleans for those consumed by the TYRADES style. If that’s you, then you should immediately stop what you are doing and start doing this! Cuz you know that tough punk garage savagery with style and rigor can’t be beat! “Didn’t Wanna Come Here Alone” is so sick: sounds like a group the BAGS woulda played with. This is some true punk rock for fuck you types!!! A truly relentless record to lose your mind to. The cover is just as sick as the sounds within, looks sorta like a Man Ray body horror eye illusion but it’s a fly in a Venus fly trap. Repulsive glamor.

Vulturas LP

The VULTURAS count a couple PUSHERS and MANIC HISPANIC folks in their ranks, so the sound here is pure OC punk: pogo rhythms, guitar crunch, and vocals that alternate between creeper sneering and full-on wail. A drunk/drugged fuck-all attitude is poured over the entire affair, which is largely formulaic but executed with enough oomph to at least prompt interest. Not a repeat offender, but plenty suitable for devout followers of the genre.