Reviews

Alex Howell

Eugh The Most Brilliant Man Alive EP

This seven-track debut from Melbourne synth project EUGH (which is Vincent Buchanan-Simpson from KITCHEN PEOPLE) gets off to a strong start. “Junk Shop” is a perfect egg-punk/DEVO-core track—it’s tight and jerky in all the right places and weird and loose everywhere else, seemingly taking inspiration from one of the more underappreciated Mark Winter projects, HAIRLONG N FREEKY. Just fantastic stuff! Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. “Galactic Terror” is a harsh electropunk track à la TERROR VISIONS that would be cool were it not for its overly woozy production, which turns the track into a big noisy mess by the end. The rest of the EP either sounds like rote NWI worship or DEVO at their new-waviest fronted by GARY NUMAN at his poppiest. Still, as grating as most of this record is, it’s probably worth picking up for that opening track.

Spllit Spllit Sides LP

Genuine oddball art-punk out of Baton Rouge, LA of all places. This duo, who’ve been making music together since 2019, wowed Feel It into issuing their vinyl debut, so you know it’s gonna be good. And it is! Slotting in somewhere among the contemporary minimal post-punk of the WORLD, the weirder tracks on the Red Snerts compilation, and, like, an all-marimba C.C.T.V. cover band, it’s easily the most “out there” thing Sam has released this year (not an easy feat when you look back on what he’s put out!). I want to say that the easiest comparison to make is to THIS HEAT’s Deceit, but that’s not quite right. This is maybe as experimental as that record, but Spllit Sides is much breezier and just more fun. And as much as I like Deceit and know it’s an absolute classic, I’m almost certain to revisit this LP more often. Anyway, this record has confounded me enough that I’m having trouble weaving these in organically, so I’m just going to list out the rest of the things it reminded me of at times: the German band TRIO, some prog rock band that I couldn’t put my finger on, WEEN (sans their cringy lyrics), the soundtrack to an Atari game. Just buy it already!

Blu Anxxiety Plaay Dead LP

Nuke York mutants crawl out of the sewers…and into the club! First full-length from these dark freestyle practitioners who are unconcerned with how many letters you put in words! Speaking of words, here are some: “Dracula / Nightbreed / Trick or treat / Nightbreed! / Fuck the boys! / Smell my feet”—lyrics from the LP’s opening track “Internet Terrorist,” which Chi Orengo (ANASAZI, CHILDREN WITH DOG FEET) kinda yell-raps (think KANYE on “Black Skinhead”) over a mid-’90s-style industrial/acid techno track. It’s goofy as hell…and I love it! The rest of the LP is more of the goth post-punk/EBM that you’d expect given their 2019 7”. It’s solid, even if it never matches the high of that opener. For whatever reason, despite it not really even being in the same ballpark genre-wise, I can’t help but think this also sounds a little like OINGO BOINGO. Anyway, the other highlight of the record is a straightforward cover of REAL LIFE’s “Send Me an Angel.” Great song!

Rubber Room Chemical Imbalance EP

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

Brick Head Thick as Bricks cassette

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

Mainframe Employee / RIP 7″

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

Mini Skirt Casino LP

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

Optic Nerve In a Fast Car Waving Goodbye cassette

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

Chuzpe Women in Prison / Stealing Russians in Watchia 7″

Bachelor digs up two unreleased 1979 recordings from these Austrian oddballs. CHUZPE, arguably Austria’s first punk band, formed in 1977, initially playing pretty straightforward punk. Over time they would gradually morph into a full-on synth-pop band, but these tracks find them a bit closer to the punk end of that spectrum. “Women in Prison” is a punky new wave number where the synth is wielded like a frat rock organ, giving the song a bit of a B-52’S vibe. “Stealing Russians in Watchia” is more frenetic and post-punky with a circusy synth running throughout, sounding not unlike early WALL OF VOODOO. Probably inessential, but a cool enough record.

Jivestreet Revival My Boys EP

Second release from this Berlin-based act named like a late ’90s swing troupe. This four-song EP finds them channeling a mix of In My Head BLACK FLAG and the plodding grooves of early FLIPPER. When the primary vocalist is at his loosest, it sounds an awful lot like NIRVANA at their noisiest. The most distinct track on the record, “Suck My Watts” (seriously, these folks gotta get better at naming shit!), mixes things up with a female vocalist adding a full-throated early GOSSIP-like performance to the mix. I’m not sure that it works, but it definitely made me pay attention. And that pretty much sums up this release. Each listen left me feeling like maybe these pieces don’t really fit together. Nevertheless, I found myself compelled to go back in to make sure that was still the case. So, something interesting is going on.

Go Lamborghini Go Low 12″

Debut EP from this unfortunately named Berlin post-punk sextet. Apparently, the six tracks that make up Low were totally improvised, with only the vocals being written and added later. It certainly gives the EP a loose, jammy vibe. But the extended grooves the band locks into also serve as a nice reminder of the role funk has always played in post-punk. In fact, this record kind of feels like a survey of post-punk. “Repetition of High” sounds like a mix of early GANG OF FOUR and Remain in Light-era TALKING HEADS, “Truce” is an atmospheric goth-rock number that sounds an awful lot like the CURE, and “I’m Exhausted” has the same type of bass-driven melody you’d find on a JOY DIVISION track. It’s all very easy to listen to (aside from the minute-plus blast of noise that makes up “Cheap”) and really makes you wonder what they’d cook up were they to actually sit down and write some songs. Definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re a fan of the post-punky garage of EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING or the garage-y post-punk of INSTITUTE.

Tee-Vee Repairman Patterns EP

Latest project from Ishka Edmeades, whom you may know from his extensive résumé—he’s played in/as SET-TOP BOX, SATANIC TOGAS, GEE TEE, and RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION, and runs weirdo cassette punk label Warttman Inc. (co-releasers of this EP). But as great as those projects have been, Patterns might be his best release thus far. He’s taking that same NWI-worship you know from all his other projects, but this time he’s using it to construct some power/garage-pop tunes. His songwriting chops have always helped him stand out from the other eggs in the overcrowded DEVO-core basket, but hearing them applied in a slower, poppier setting really lets you appreciate all the disparate influences he’s working with. Throughout the four tracks on this EP, you can hear snatches of HUBBLE BUBBLE, SUPERCHARGER, HUNX AND HIS PUNX, the theme from the Heathcliff cartoon (…I’m only kind of joking), and of course DEVO—all tossed together into some seriously catchy numbers. Jump on it!

V/A Paul Henry’s Benefit Compilation cassette

Twenty-six-song cassette compilation benefiting Paul Henry’s, an art gallery and performance space in Hammond, IN that’s played an important role in nurturing the NWI punk scene. The cassette features tracks from a bunch of NWI bands and some other like-minded weirdos. You can expect plenty of the egg-punk/DEVO-core you’ve come to associate with the area, but there’s also some more straightforward punk, ripping hardcore, shoegaze, power pop, and more. Not all the tracks are great, but all the bands are interesting at the very least, and the variety is nice enough in of itself to make for a compelling listen. The physical cassette, which is housed in a handsome cardboard outer box with artwork from LIQUIDS’ Mat Willams, will only set you back $10. That’s less than 40 cents a track! Definitely worth it, especially when you consider how influential the NWI scene has been to punk in general these past five years or so! Highlights include tracks from LIQUIDS, RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., previously unreleased stuff from C.C.T.V. and BIG ZIT(!), and a song called “Jesus Christ Super Hard” by a band called WATERWORKS. Label says tapes will be available until people stop buying them, so go grab one!

Fugitive Bubble No Outside cassette

Second release from this Olympia band, and second to be issued by the Stucco label’s cassette-only imprint Impotent Fetus. It appears they’ve been whittled down to a three-piece since their debut, with the bassist taking over primary vocal duties, but I think it’s resulted in a net positive for the band. Where their last release sounded like a cartoony take on WARM BODIES (not a bad thing!), the six tracks on this cassette find them tempering some of that egginess with a little post-punk flair and ending up with a more distinct product. The vocals are more restrained and sing-songy, though still pretty monotone, and they’ve been double-tracked and reverbed, calling to mind LITHICS or later NOTS records. The guitar is a little cleaner and drenched in surf levels of reverb, but the band is still playing the same quick, nervy hardcore punk. It’s a familiar collection of sounds, but it feels like a novel assemblage. Cool stuff!

Soft Shoulder Formerly on Fluorescent Paper LP

Latest LP from this Sonoran noise rock recording project, who have apparently been going at it for around fifteen years now. This LP is made up of fourteen tracks, most of which clock in under two minutes, and touches on noisy post-punk, dance-y synth punk, and No Wave. In its best moments it sounds a little like the A FRAMES with a late ’90s JON SPENCER production—in its worst, it sounds like the FAINT. I don’t know if I’ll be dipping back into this one, but the time I spent with it was enjoyable enough.

The Critics The Critics LP

All I knew about this band going in was they were an early ’80s new wave band out of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. And my initial reaction was, “Cool! I love Aussie bands…but you don’t usually see them coming out of Newcastle. Wonder if there was some sort of scene there—better check!” That’s when I came across maybe the most endearing site I’ve ever seen on the internet. And it actually had some good info on this band! Turns out they existed from 1980–1983, and in that stretch they released two singles and recorded this LP. However, the LP was shelved in 1982 for unknown reasons, only to be uncovered in the last couple years and released here for the first time. Quite the story! But what about the record? Well, it’s certainly new wave…but it’s also never not odd (maybe the first track aside). The vocalist sounds like Mark Mothersbaugh doing an impression of Richard Hell, the guitar tone sounds like early IRON MAIDEN, and the vaguely post-punk atmosphere and the lyrical content remind me of the ADVERTS or the WIPERS. On top of all that, some tracks pair TALKING HEADS funk with hair metal solos, and others feature full-on glam histrionics. To get a good sense of its strangeness, give the seven-minute, multi-part epic “Alien” a listen—it’s worth it!

Combat & Ruler The Loco-Motion / Action 7″

Third single from Tokyo band RULER (featuring members of TEENGENERATE, RAYDIOS, FIRESTARTER, etc.). This go-round they’ve recruited vocalist COMBAT, who’s apparently the drummer from the KANNANA SPEED CATS (she gets top billing on the 7”, which makes me think I should know who she is, but…I don’t). The A-side is a cover of the LITTLE EVA classic (written by Goffin/King), and the B-side is an original. It’s my favorite release of theirs thus far. This trashy—but not too trashy—take on “The Loco-Motion” is fantastic, and the original reminds me of what I loved about these folks’ previous projects. Give it a listen!

Gape Attack 2008–2010 LP

Philadelphia’s FDH Records brings us the total recorded output of Seattle lo-fi synth punkers/DIY new wavers GAPE ATTACK in a limited edition pressing of just 100 copies (looks like some are still available on FDH’s Bandcamp page!). While the overarching genre here is synth-driven post-punk, these guys are otherwise a little all over the map. There are a couple of punker tracks that sound like the SPITS (or their side project SPIDER), a handful of gloomy tracks that sound not unlike the Soviet-era darkwave that MOLCHAT DOMA has been peddling lately, and a couple peppier tracks that sound like early JOY DIVISION backed by Speak & Spell-era DEPECHE MODE. Fortunately their commitment to a DIY aesthetic really ties this all together, and this collection ends up sounding like an ode to the killer 1981 comp The Thing From the Crypt. It’s a very cool record. If you only listen to one track, make it the cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” It is great!

Headlice Vol. 1 EP

Debut EP from this Brisbane band fronted by the CHATS frontman Eamon Sandwith, and it’s certainly an interesting one. We’re treated to six quick tracks that, to my ears, call to mind a mix of NYHC, UK street punk, the DICKIES…and a goddamn synthesizer! Look, I by no means hate synths, but this one drowns out what I think would otherwise be some pretty cool tunes. Like, even 30% less synth, and I’m probably 100% on board. Recommended for people who think BAD NOIDS should sound more like the EPOXIES.

Predator Spiral Unfolds LP

After dropping the great GG KING record just a couple of months ago, Total Punk pulls a “While I’ve got you guys…” and ends up with a new LP from the other unsung heroes and elder statesmen of Atlanta’s punk scene, PREDATOR (who share two…maybe three members with GG KING). It’s technically their first LP since 2014’s The Complete Earth, but you’d be forgiven for not recognizing that, seeing as how one of the main creative forces behind the band, Brannon Greene, has also dropped a slew of records with his other projects NAG and GET HIGH BOYS—bands that sound similar enough that I (a true Predhead sicko) would have trouble differentiating were you to randomly play their songs at me. What’s maybe most surprising about this LP is how much it stands apart from previous PREDATOR releases (and other Brannon projects). There’s still plenty of the nihilistic post-punk-tinged hardcore that these guys have been delivering since 2009(!)—and it’s still great—but this is a much more varied affair than what we’ve gotten from them in the past. “Confessional” features an honest-to-god vocal melody, and “Hands Reaching Out” (maybe my favorite track on the album) could even be described as gentle. It’s just great to hear a band that’s been around this long doing whatever they want while clearly staying the same band and having it turn out this good. Also, quite the handsome sleeve on this one!

Collective Hardcore / Disco Junk split EP

What we have here is a double-dose of Melbourne teen go-getter Billiam, a.k.a. Billy Twyford!  You get a couple of tracks from his full band DISCO JUNK on the A-side, and three tracks from his solo recording project COLLECTIVE HARDCORE on the flip. I’ve had trouble deciding which I prefer, which I guess suggests both are pretty good. But I think the COLLECTIVE HARDCORE side takes it by a hair. The weirdo self-aware egg-punk (listen out for a CONEHEADS sample) works a little better than the straightforward, garage-y KBD stuff from DISCO JUNK. Plus, “Panic Attack” really smokes!

The Jacks Make ‘Em Cry LP

Reminder unearths another collection of recordings from a power pop band you’ve likely never heard of. This time we’re treated to the total recorded output of the JACKS, a Tulsa, OK band who only managed to release one record in their lifetime, 1980’s “Just Like Yesterday” 45, which they issued themselves on their own Debonaire imprint. Composed primarily of songwriting duo Mitch Griffin and Walter Kleinecke, a couple of acolytes of fellow Tulsan DWIGHT TWILLEY, the band seemingly spent most of its existence floating around the Midwest and managed to keep some interesting company along the way. In addition to TWILLEY, the band gigged around with the PAGANS while spending a good chunk of time in Cleveland, and they even managed to coax youngsters Bob Mould and Tommy Stinson into the studio to serve as session musicians after relocating to Minneapolis. The songwriting featured on this collection is solid, but it’s hard to say there’s much here that helps them stand apart from their contemporaries (even those represented on Reminder’s roster). Still, if you’re a fan of power pop, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here, and it is presented in a lovely gatefold sleeve with great liner notes. More fantastic work from Reminder!

Psykik Vylence Psykik Vylence EP

ERIK NERVOUS goes hardcore! Or to sacrifice snappiness for the sake of accuracy, Erik Nervous, né Hart, (the person) has a new one-man recording project, PSYKIK VYLENCE, where he plays hardcore. Either way, it’s really good! This EP, initially issued as a cassette by Richter Scale in the UK and now pressed to 7” by Under the Gun, runs for about ten minutes and features Erik absolutely blazing through seven tracks, all of which bear little resemblance to his previous projects. There’s a touch of that herky-jerky, start/stop sound that you just can’t scrub out of these Midwestern kids, but otherwise this is straightforward, angry hardcore punk. He’s even replaced his trademark nerdy yelp with a booming crusty grunt. It’s quite a transformation! Calls to mind a quirkier, punker BREAKDOWN or a tougher, less trebly LAFFING GAS. Get on it!

Die Group / Tenement Rats split 7″

Tokyo label Episode Sounds, who specialize in wrapping some of the gnarliest low-budget punk in some of the most exquisite packaging, are here to bless us with another instance of everyone’s least favorite format—the split 7” (if you prefer these to a 10”, you are insane)! With a total running time that barely cracks three minutes, at least this one is short enough that you could theoretically just stand over your turntable while it plays to make spending merely a minute-and-a-half with each band as painless as possible. Anyway, we’ve got a track apiece from two L.A. punk bands here, and apparently the release was put together for their joint tour of Japan. The DIE GROUP cut is some solid downer punk with a little street swagger sprinkled in and a guitar sound that could cut concrete. The TENEMENT RATS track is fast, loud garage punk from what sounds like one of the rowdier bands in the Dirtnap stable. I get why this exists, and these songs are fine, but it could stand to have at least another track on each side.

Dragnet All Rise for Dragnet LP

I take it this group of Melbournians are naming themselves after the FALL record, as this fourteen-track LP has a vaguely post-punk vibe, and they’re certainly cribbing the vocal stylings of Mark E. Smith. They forgo that band’s ramshackle charm, though, opting instead for the more fashionable, easier to imitate robotic rhythms of URANIUM CLUB or fellow countrymen VINTAGE CROP (now that I think about it, this might even be the same singer from that band). Unfortunately, the most distinguishing aspect of this release is also its most annoying. Throughout the record, the band peppers in these little lo-fi electronic interludes that come off more twee than what I imagine they’re going for. It’s a shame because it really undercuts what would otherwise be a fine, if not particularly original, record. The good news is these folks seem fairly young, so I imagine they’ll get another crack. And tracks like “Wipe it Off” showed enough promise that I’ll be keen to tune back in when they do.

Patti Good Big LP

Debut LP from this Brooklyn-via-Oakland art/dance-punk three-piece. This sounds like what you might get were you to raise a few DEVO-core mutants on What Makes a Man Start Fires-era MINUTEMEN and later PARQUET COURTS. It works best when they sound more like the former, less like the latter, and resist their basest mutant urges to showcase how “weird” they can get. The brand of half-hearted experimentation that they’re trying out here just sounds pretentious and annoying when paired with the otherwise straightforward punk funk or NYC-style dance-punk that they’re playing. Luckily, most of these sixteen tracks are sub-two minutes, so the more irritating songs are at least over pretty quickly. Not for the wacky-averse, but interesting enough to be worth a listen.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring All in Good Time LP

EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING, one of the best and most celebrated Australian bands of the ’00s, popped into the last few weeks of 2019 to drop a new LP with little fanfare, like they hadn’t taken most of the decade off. And while a lot changed in the interim between their last full-length, 2010’s Rush to Relax, All in Good Time finds the band sounding largely the same. With a couple of minor tweaks to their character settings—they’ve bumped up the NEU! slider a few notches and the PAGANS slider down a few (but left the TROGGS slider untouched)—they’ve turned in a gentler, more thoughtful album, one that will likely appeal to the tired ears of the fanbase that is now nine rough-ass years older. There’s nothing on here as manic as “Anxiety,” as explosive as “Sunday’s Coming,” or as revelatory as “Pitch a Tent,” but it’s still a treat to hear such an inimitable band play through a set of solidly crafted songs. They may not have rushed to get here, but this is the most relaxed the band has sounded—it suits them well. Now, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another nine years for the next album!

Nightclub Private Party LP

This Melbourne band featuring members of DEAF WISH, PARSNIP, and BITCH PREFECT has been kicking around for a few years, with a couple of cassettes under their belt. But Private Party, issued digitally in mid-2020 and pressed to vinyl later that year, is their proper debut, and it’s a good one!  NIGHTCLUB takes the ready-for-a-knife-fight attitude and amateur-psych production of the Teenage Shutdown comps and throws that on top of a punky homage to the VELVET UNDERGROUND and the STOOGES. Over the eight tracks on the LP, they conjure up images of empty streets, seedy backrooms, and amphetamine-fueled all-nighters. It’s like the audio equivalent of an early Jim Jarmusch movie, and it’s easy to imagine the distant sax that runs through these tracks being played by John Lurie’s character in Permanent Vacation. Even the seemingly odd choice to feature DUST BROTHERS-esque drum loops and production flourishes every so often adds to the surreal haven’t-slept-in-a-week vibes of the record. A real cool time!

Spodee Boy Rides Again… EP

SPODEE BOY is the solo recording project of Nashville’s Connor Cummins, whom you may know from G.U.N. or as one half of the duo SNOOPER. This is his third or fourth release, and it finds him breaking out of his egg punk shell to emerge as a sidewinding high plains drifter. It’s hard not to hear COUNTRY TEASERS in these four tracks, but it also brings to mind DEMON’S CLAWS or BRIMSTONE HOWL. But where those bands might make a fitting soundtrack for a drunken evening at a rowdy road house, Rides Again… would better suit a midnight shamble through Monument Valley after munching a fistful of Klonopin. You can even imagine the unbelievably tinny guitar naturally reverberating off those picturesque buttes. “Dress the Part” is probably the highlight of the EP, but the whole record is great. Such an unexpected and welcome turn for this project. Stellar stuff!

Bumbo’s Tinto Brass Band Cosmic Butter EP

When I get a review assignment for a release by a band I’m unfamiliar with, I try to go into my  first listen context-free to avoid bringing any bias I may have about members’ past projects.That was not the best approach with these guys. Had I done a little research, I might have been able to brace myself for the wild-ass din that blasted out my headphones as soon as I put on the Cosmic Butter EP. BUMBO’S TINTO BRASS BAND is centered around Detroit-area bass player Brian “Bumbo” Krawczyk, whom you may know from noisy art-punk bands PIRANHAS or DRUID PERFUME. As raw and experimental as those bands were, BUMBO’S TINTO BRASS BAND makes them feel straightforward by comparison. Most of the seven tracks on this EP (one of which is a cover of a RESIDENTS song) sound like at least two songs being played at once—one by a PREENING-like, sax-heavy No Wave band, and one by a smooth, STEREOLAB-y modular synth, avant-pop band. These guys are here to freak squares the fuck out! I appreciate that BUMBO’S TINTO BRASS BAND is out there making palatable yet genuinely experimental music in a time when a lot of other bands are content to rehash shit we’ve already heard. But I’m also like 80% square, so,  while I dug a few songs, getting through the rest felt like a chore.

 

Ray Gun Jonesy cassette

RAY GUN is a trio out of Nashville who are sonically all over the map. This cassette (which I’m hoping is named after the cat in Alien) plays like a mixtape a friend with good taste might make you to let you know how much cool stuff they’re into. The cover’s collage even has the feel of something an artsy friend might whip up, really adding to the personalized mixtape vibe. Opening track “Ghost Machine” sounds like early TV GHOST riding a motorik groove out to a feedback freakout—it’s fantastic! “Black Candy” sees them turning a BEAT HAPPENING track into a HUNCHES-esque loud-quiet-loud garage punk ripper. There’s also an egg-punk track, a track that sounds like it could have been pulled off one of the more experimental mid-’80s SST records, a couple of synthy downer-punk dirges à la GARY WRONG GROUP, and even a straight-up FENNESZ-style ambient track—all extremely well done and tonally consistent. Good shit! Would love to hear an LP of this with some of these influences blended a little more seamlessly.

M.A.Z.E. II LP

It’s been nearly two years since we last heard from the Japanese band M.A.Z.E., and while they are clearly the same quirky post-punk-ish outfit from that last release, this latest LP is a much more manic affair. Their last 12” was composed of sparse tracks built around rubbery bass lines and minimalist chicken scratch rhythm guitar that served as a backdrop for the vocalist’s KLEENEX-ish yelp. While Eriko still brings that same energy here, she takes a bit of a backseat to the guitar, which has become the star of the show. Most songs are built around hot, circus-y licks with a borderline synth sound that might give the LP more of a new wave-y vibe were they not played at such a frenzied pace. Overall, this LP sounds decidedly more punk than anything they’ve put out thus far. The blown-out beginning of “311” could even be mistaken for TEENGENERATE until the vocals kick in and they shift into an odd post-punk rhythm. And that’s kind of the defining trait of this unique LP—a song starts, they seemingly settle into a groove, shift into a weirder variation of that groove, shift again, then start a new song after doing that for a minute and twenty seconds. It’s great!

Cassie The Light Shines On LP

CASSIE was a short-lived Isle of Wight band. Their sole release, 1982’s “Change My Image” single, was about as perfect a new wave pop/bubblegum punk number as a band could write. Were it not for their mismanaged label’s inability to market the record, the single may have become the hit it deserved to be rather than languishing in obscurity. Fortunately, Reminder Records reissued that 45 last year, and now they have dug up the rest of the band’s recorded output for this compilation LP. While there’s nothing here as deliriously catchy as “Change My Image” (maybe aside from an earlier version of the song), the LP is still chock full of should-have-been hits. The fidelity across these fourteen tracks varies from rough studio cuts to even rougher demos, but the overall production is crunchy and immediate, highlighting the band’s energetic performances without getting in the way of the melodies. I imagine this could appeal to both grizzled punks and power pop wimps. Absolutely essential if you’re a fan of NIKKI AND THE CORVETTES, JOSIE COTTON, or early TEENAGE HEAD.

Ill Globo Check the Odds EP

My tolerance for puns is pretty low. So, I let out a bit of groan when I looked up this Melbourne band’s name to find out it’s a play on Il Globo, a publication that’s been providing news to Australia’s Italian community since the late ’50s. I’ll let that slide, though, because everything else about this release is great. ILL GLOBO burns through eight garage-infused hardcore tracks in about ten minutes. The songs are a nice blend of straightforward USHC (like CIRCLE JERKS) and some sunburnt Aussie punk’n’roll (like CIVIC). But the production here really sells it for me. I’m not sure if it’s a pedal or maybe a droning keyboard laid overtop (or both), but the overall effect is that the guitar sounds like a wasp stuck in the blinds. It’s great!

Dadar I’m a Töch EP

I don’t really know what a “dadar” is. Internet searches tell me it’s either a neighborhood in Mumbai or a type of Indonesian omelette. I doubt the band is going for either of those meanings. They’re not unlike an omelette, though—simple, maybe a little cheesy, but filled with enough interesting ingredients to be satisfying. Anyway, DADAR are a synth-driven garage punk band out of the tiny town of Rovereto in Northern Italy. This is their second 7”, and it’s got a couple of sub-two-minute originals on the A-side and a cover of a track by Italian art-punk band FHEDOLTS on the flip. The originals are good enough. “I’m a Töch” sounds like any of those BLACK LIPS copycat bands that popped up in the late ’00s, maybe with a little HANK WOOD thrown in, and “Calendarize” sounds like a reasonable facsimile of AUSMUTEANTS (in a good way). But I really dig this cover—the minimal post-punk synth melody and talk-sung vocals taken from the original sound great fleshed out with this band’s chunky garage punk sound. Definitely worth a listen!

The Cowboy Swimming With the Fishies EP

Cleveland noise punk band featuring members of HOMOSTUPIDS, PLEASURE LEFTISTS, FOLDED SHIRT, and more. This three-song EP was a stop-gap release between their 2017 debut on Fashionable Idiots and their 2020 LP on Feel It. The two tracks on the A-side run by quickly and sound like FLIPPER meets WATERY LOVE, while the B-side sounds more like an avant-garde take on post-hardcore. I think this stuff works better in album form. Still, this EP is solid. If you’ve liked any of their other stuff, you’ll like this. If you haven’t checked out any of their other stuff, this might be a good place to start—it’s pretty representative of their sound.

Speed Week Hey Hey It’s Speed Week 12″

SPEED WEEK is a newish band out of Melbourne who play pretty straightforward punky pub rock. Unlike their yobbo contemporaries the CHATS or AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS, who fall somewhere between a little winky and total caricatures, SPEED WEEK just seems like some lads who wanna get together up the pub and bang out some chunes. And they do on this mini LP—solid ones! What stood out most on this release were the lyrics. They’re as plain-spoken as you’d expect given the genre, but they’re also surprisingly earnest. One of the best tracks, “Equine Dream”, is an anti-Melbourne Cup tune (for Americans, think of the Kentucky Derby crossed with a frat party…or maybe just the Preakness). It’s written from the point of view of a racehorse who’s resenting his life of being drugged-up and trotted out to amuse dolled-up drunks. That may sound a bit silly on paper, but when the hook hit—“I’d rather be wild and living free in my equine dream!”—I genuinely found myself yearning for that exact same thing. Definitely not something I anticipated from some mulleted Aussies!

GG King Remain Intact LP

Have you ever gone into a hippie-ish coffee shop and gotten one of those homemade calorie-dense, no-bake energy bars? They’re full of seeds and nuts and dates and shit and are held together with peanut butter or maybe chocolate. All of the ingredients are unadulterated and easily identifiable but mixed in such a way that you get a taste of every element in each bite, and they combine to make a distinct treat that’s both nutritious and delicious. GG KING albums are kind of like that with their genre influences, and this latest LP, their third, is no exception. Throughout, you can hear KIDS-esque Euro punk, power pop, garage punk, horrorcore, deathrock, metal—but it’s never presented as simply as “Here’s our take on CHRISTIAN DEATH.” All those ingredients appear wholly present and unaltered, but they’re mixed into something rich and distinctly GG KING. This LP maybe feels more mature than their previous efforts—not in a “they’ve finally figured out their sound” kind of way, but more that the record’s tone—sonically and lyrically—feels a bit more grown up…or maybe I’m just being influenced by the fold-out photo of the band and their families on the insert. I was really bummed when Rich from Total Punk announced that he was throwing out his stamp pads and no longer putting out 7”s. But if he continues with this shit-hot streak of LPs, maybe it’s for the best.

Intelligence Un-Psychedelic in Peavey City LP

Back in 2015, I read an MRR  review of Vintage Future (the INTELLIGENCE’s previous LP) where the reviewer lamented the band’s pivot to “blog rock.” At the time, I was hitting the Lars Finberg Kool-Aid pretty hard—not only did he helm one of my favorite active bands in the INTELLIGENCE, but he had been involved in so many other projects that I loved (A FRAMES, DIPERS, PUBERTY, THEE OH SEES)—so I had trouble understanding how someone could dislike anything he’d put out. A lifetime has passed since then, which has allowed me to see this as a fair assessment. I’m probably still higher on that LP than the reviewer, but it’s certainly a much more sedate affair than you would expect given their past trajectory. Unfortunately, this latest album travels even further down the soft rock avenue, and I’m having difficulty finding much to enjoy. It pains me to say this, but the LP sounds like BECK at his sleepiest or some of the lamer FUGAZI records that appeal to folks who go to Burning Man. I’m willing to grant that Lars’s songwriting has matured in ways that I should learn to appreciate, and I wouldn’t want to sentence him to a life of endlessly cranking out iterations of Icky Baby or Males. Still, I need something with more bite than this.

Moth Machine Nation EP

MOTH is a new recording project from Darcy Berry, whom you may know as the drummer from Melbourne acts GONZO or U-BAHN. He’s playing all the instruments on this four-song EP, and the sound basically splits the difference between those two bands, like he’s pulling the tight, DEVO-esque start-stop rhythms from the former and the synthy post-punk atmospherics from the latter. The end result brings to mind a less wacky URANIUM CLUB or meaner AUSMUTEANTS. These songs are all covering very well-trodden ground, but the execution here is pretty flawless and elevates this EP to something worth seeking out (Mikey Young also mixed and mastered this, so of course it sounds great). Standout track is “Jealousy,” which features Veeka Nazarova (from indie pop band KOSMETIKA) providing lyrics and vocals (in Russian!).

Kneeling in Piss Tour de Force LP

Was I prepared to like a band called KNEELING IN PISS? Actually, yes—as far as band names go, this one is cool and good. Was I expecting a band with such a name to sound like this or to blow me away? I was not! KNEELING IN PISS is a Columbus-based project led by songwriter (and apparent novelist)  Alex Mussawir, and despite what their name might suggest, they don’t play black metal-infused hardcore, jokey thrash, or snotty punk. Instead, their debut LP is full of smart, funny, catchy, blown-out, lo-fi pop. The tracks range from goofy gentle numbers (“Feeling Romantic”) to flat-out rockers (“Song About Being Unemployed”) and remind me of any number of excellent bands (STRAPPING FIELDHANDS, COUNTRY TEASERS, DAN MELCHIOR, TYVEK, TALL DWARFS, the SHIFTERS) without ever sounding like a straight-up copy. It’s really an incredible record and easily the best thing I’ve listened to in a while. Get on it!

Satanic Togas X-Ray Vision LP

More NWI-worship from Down Under! This is the first proper LP from this Sydney project after a handful of cassettes and a split 7” with GEE TEE. The group seems to be led by the same dude behind Warttman Inc., a cassette label that’s released stuff from like-minded Australian artists RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION, R.M.F.C., SET-TOP BOX, and the aforementioned GEE TEE. The TOGAS stand out from that crowd (and their NWI forebears) by leaning a little more heavily on some ultra-cheap synths and really letting their garage influence show. This album is full of good tracks, but definitely give “Skinhead” a listen. Not only does it showcase how they’re not just another CONEHEADS clone (it’s got kind of a WRECKLESS ERIC vibe, even), but it’s just so dumb and so great.

Freak Genes Power Station LP

Andrew Anderson (HIPSHAKES, PROTO IDIOT) and Charlie Murphy (RED CORDS), a couple of garage punkers turned synth-poppers, bring us their fourth LP as FREAK GENES and their first for Feel It. Anything that gets Mr. Feel It’s seal of approval warrants your attention, so I went into this with an open mind after (unfairly) writing these dudes off due to a string of bad album covers. I really dig this cover, though—great use of foil stamping! Anyway, the tunes! This is a solid collection of budget electro-pop. It’s punker than YAZ and poppier than FRONT 242. A couple of the tracks can get a little goofy/grating, but if you like well-constructed, catchy tunes and can stomach cheesy synths, there’s plenty to like on this LP.

Sex Cuts Cop Bait cassette

SEX CUTS is a four-piece out of Gothenburg, Sweden who refer to themselves as “anti-genre.” More accurately, though, they play po-faced, political post-hardcore. Cop Bait is their debut cassette…and it gets off to a rough start. Opener “Designer Thoughts” is an anti-“cancel culture” song, with lyrics that read like talking points for an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show. I’m pretty sure this isn’t their intention—they otherwise stick to pretty typical political punk grievances—but the chorus of a song maybe isn’t the right avenue to float a nuanced take on what is quickly becoming a core principle of the Republican platform. Anyway, this soured me on the rest of the cassette, which consists of five more tracks that sound like murky variations of  “Polish” by FUGAZI sans any of the melodic elements.

Finale Vision de Futuro LP

If you check out their Bandcamp page, you’ll see Valencia, Spain four-piece FINALE tagged as DEVO-core or egg punk. While I’m certainly a fan of bands that have borne those labels, it was refreshing to dig into this LP and find neither to be appropriate. This lacks the hallmark herky-jerkiness of DEVO-core and isn’t really wacky enough to qualify as egg-punk (though, to be fair, I think I heard a faint mouth harp on one track—that’s pretty wacky, I guess). There are a couple of tracks on here that flirt with some funk rhythms, but for the most part this LP is full of loose, garage-y KBD punk with some great quacky vocals. It reminds me of BITS OF SHIT with cleaner guitars or, on the slower tracks, EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING. I’m into it!

New Vogue New Vogue cassette

I was not familiar with this band going in, so when I went to their Bandcamp page and noticed the pile of skulls in their banner image and mistakenly saw the cover photo of this cassette as a deformed animal skull, I braced myself for a red-hot dose of crust. Fortunately for you guys, my initial impression turned out to be way off (I can get down with some crust, but I’m definitely not qualified to write about it)! I also see now that this cover image is an oddly cropped, high-contrast, black-and-white photo of a lady…laying on a bear rug(?). Anyway, this is great! NEW VOGUE is a synth-y punk/post-punk band out of Montreal, and this eight-song cassette is their third release. If you’re a fan of TOTAL CONTROL’s punkier cuts, you’ll dig this. “Safe on the Autobahn,” one of the standout tracks, sounds like JAY REATARD covering a DEVO song that was written as a tribute to KRAFTWERK, which is not a far-off comparison for the rest of the cassette. There are some moments where they dip into some odd harmonies that don’t quite fit, or they put a little too much flanger effect on the vocals for my taste. But these are minor quibbles with an overall solid release.

R.M.F.C. Hive Volumes 1 & 2 LP

R.M.F.C. (or Rock Music Fan Club) is the bedroom recording project of New South Wales teen Buz Clatworthy, and this LP compiles his first two cassettes. This fits nicely alongside any of the recent spate of releases from fellow NWI-worshiping Aussies, like SATANIC TOGAS, RESEARCH REACTOR CORP, DISCO JUNK, GEE TEE, etc. What sets R.M.F.C. apart from those other bands is his willingness to slow things down a bit. While there are plenty of the lightning-fast tracks that you’ve probably come to expect from this lot, songs like “Television” and “Mirror” creep by in comparison and really allow you the time to appreciate the odd mix of influences these kids are working with. Maybe it’s just because I feel a little inundated with speedy DEVO-core lately, but I find myself preferring these slower tracks. Regardless, this is an impressive collection of tunes, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this kid comes up with next.

The Snakes The Snakes LP

Anti-Fade is one of a handful of labels that I follow religiously. But every so often I’ll have a crisis of faith and find myself willfully ignoring a release for no reason other than, say, unappealing cover art or a generic band name. The Snakes by the SNAKES was such a release. Fortunately, MRR intervened and I now see the error of my ways. This is quite a delightful LP! The SNAKES are a five-piece outfit from Melbourne, and they play an odd mix of organ-driven garage punk, sleazy proto-punk, and circus-y new wave. It reminds me at times of mid-’80s CURE, the MIGHTY GO-GO PLAYERS, the soundtrack to Liquid Sky, and Richard Hell (particularly the vocalist). I don’t know how much replay value this one has, but it’s definitely worth a listen if you’re down for an interesting time. I’m certainly keen to see what they do next!

Snooper Music for Spies EP

SNOOPER is a Nashville-based duo made up of Connor Cummins (SPODEE BOY) and Blair Tramel. This is their first release, and it’s quite an impressive debut. They cover so much ground over the course of these four tracks that I was genuinely surprised to see that the whole EP’s running time is just seven minutes and twenty seconds. The inevitable comparison here would be to the CONEHEADS, as they certainly crib a lot from the NWI sound. But they infuse it with enough other influences that it feels like a fresh take. I hear fellow Tennesseeans LOST SOUNDS in their explosive choruses and a little bit of the URINALS in their production. The best track on the EP might be the one that bears the least resemblance to Mark Winter and company. “Running” establishes a borderline Krautrock groove with a simple drum beat, a DEVO-esque bassline, and chanted vocals, then it alternately weaves in a fuzzy surf guitar line and a MINUTEMEN-like funk riff. It really is something. An essential release!

Penance Hall Covered in Shit / Take Me to the Bar Fight 7″

PENANCE HALL is a lo-fi downer/synth-punk duo made up of Robert Watson Craig III (a.k.a. BUCK BILOXI or GIORGIO MURDERER) and Michael He-Man (TRAMPOLINE TEAM). And each dude seems to get a side on this 7″. The BUCK side, “Covered in Shit,” sounds like GIORGIO MURDERER doing a chopped and screwed remix of a SPITS track. If you’re not a big fan of Mr. MURDERER’s work, this track likely isn’t going to do it for you, as it’s just a slight tweak to his usual formula (which I happen to love). But you have to give this Michael He-man side a spin! “Take Me to the Bar Fight” is a catchy little number that gives off seedier and more pessimistic vibes than a song about literally being covered in shit. Just absolutely stellar work!

The Freakees / Research Reactor Corp. split EP

Goodbye Boozy seems to be cranking out these split 7”s lately. While I’m not generally a fan of the format, I think they could have done worse with this pairing. The A-side is two quick tracks from Sydney-based torch bearers of the NWI sound, RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. And they are just excellent. RCC takes the CONEHEADS’ herky-jerk formula, adds some cartoonishness and menace, and leans a little more into that warbly direct-to-VHS-sounding production. I love it. The FREAKEES, out of L.A., give us two tracks of blown-out, bass-heavy garage punk that skews a bit more punk than garage. It reminds me of the band SCRAPER. Though, instead of deadpan, talk-shout vocals, you get an ear-splitting screech that’s reverbed to hell. I think these are pretty great tracks, but I found the vocals a tad much at times. But FREAKEES gotta freak, I guess!

Ond Tro Syv Sange EP

OND TRO (“evil belief”) is a punky hardcore band out of Copenhagen, who run through seven tracks (Syv Sange is literally “seven songs”) in around ten minutes on this EP. Now, I don’t know whether to blame this on my lack of Danish hardcore points of reference or a first impression that I just couldn’t shake, but this sounds a lot like a ’90s Victory Records band playing MARKED MEN songs. There are a lot of open hi-hat counts into tracks, and the production is overall pretty STRIFE-y. But listen to “Gra Skyer” and tell me it doesn’t sound exactly like a MARKED MEN track until the vocalist comes in to bark lyrics like a late-era Raybeez. Anyway, silly comparison aside, I had a good time with this.

Alien Nosejob Suddenly Everything is Twice as Loud LP

For the uninitiated, ALIEN NOSEJOB is the anything-goes solo project of Jake Robertson (AUSMUTEANTS, HIEROPHANTS, SMARTS). So far he’s put out records covering KBD punk, indie pop, straightforward hardcore, new wave, and disco. While previous releases have been more genre-focused (like the excellent USHC workout HC45 EP), this LP takes a more whimsical route through a handful of similar sounds. We’ve got some straight up RAMONES-core (“Television Sets,” “Black Sheep”), earnest indie pop (“Weight Of The World,” “Blending In”), and even some Horrendous New Wave-y new wave (“Spin Cycle”). Not every track is great, but when you take as many shots as this dude, you’re bound to chuck up a brick or two every now and then. Even still, this LP highlights what a gifted songwriter, musician, and producer Jake is. I’m stoked to see what direction he takes the project in next!

Eyes and Flys New Way to Get It EP

Are you wistful for, like, 2009? You know, the halcyon days when lo-fi garage pop and shitgaze ruled the (Myspace) airwaves, “Be My Baby” drum beats were de rigueur, your local Sparks and Four Loko-littered basement might host a bill of PSYCHEDELIC HORSESHIT and the BARBARAS, and your favorite band’s latest release could be put out by a hip economy car company? If so, have I got a release for you! To be fair, EYES AND FLYS, a recording project out of Buffalo, is a little more BLACK TIME (good!) than WAVVES (bad!), and it’s not like they’re singing about pizza parties or fake dance crazes. Really, it’s a solid take on this kind of sound. But it’s a sound that nevertheless reminds me of a feel-good time that doesn’t quite match the world’s current tenor. It makes it tough for me to enjoy. But that’s more on me than it is these tunes, which I suspect would have appealed to pre-doomer me. So, give it a listen!

Prized Pig PPEP EP

PRIZED PIG is a noise rock band out of Los Angeles, whose commitment to old school recording techniques and a DIY ethos is admirable. This whole EP was recorded, mixed, and mastered using analogue tape. They also designed and printed their own sleeves. Good stuff! And you can hear this same dedication in the performance—these guys are going for it! I can see this working really well live. Unfortunately, the tunes themselves are a little ho-hum. The opening track, “Mistake,” is maybe the best—the vocalist does a passable CRAZY SPIRIT impression over a sped-up, dumbed-down CHUCK BERRY groove with breaks for noise noodling. “Toothless Tom” sounds like a deconstructed dance-punk song. And “Race Car” sounds more like PRIMUS than I would guess they were aiming for (although, who knows—with that song title, it might be on purpose). I really like these guys’ moxie! I just wish I liked the songs more.

The Cool Greenhouse Alexa! / End of the World 7″

I went into this release skeptical. Actually, aside from their debut, a record I ordered on a whim because I thought Market Square Records was cool, I’ve been skeptical of every COOL GREENHOUSE release. I liked that first 7″, but I’d assumed this was a novelty project. The minimal, talk-sung songs with bookish lyrics were fun, and the detuned guitars with crap Casio accompaniment made for an interesting sound. None of that seemed sustainable, though. But with each release, Tom Greenhouse has done just enough with the project—including fleshing it out into a full band for the last LP (which was great!)—to keep the schtick from growing tiresome. Still, I had my doubts about sitting through clever ruminations on “Alexa” and a retread of the B-side from that first 7″. And, look—this sounds exactly like I had imagined going in…but it’s great. “Alexa” is maybe a bit too clever, but it’s probably as close to “catchy” as this band will get. But this B-side! I didn’t think something as simple as adding real drums could change the DNA of a song, but the full-band version of “End of the World” is such an upgrade over the original that I’m now declaring it the official version.

Science Man Science Man II LP+flexi

I thought I’d listened to SCIENCE MAN before. But I think I was conflating NATURAL MAN BAND and some of the more overtly sci-fi denizens of the egg-punk world, like POWERPLANT or RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. To be honest, that impression isn’t too far off. While SCIENCE MAN (one-man project of John Toohill from RADIATION RISKS and other Buffalo bands) may be more indebted to the NEW BOMB TURKS and less to DEVO than any of those bands, he’s still employing the services of a drum machine to make some “out there” music. This is pretty much lightning-fast garage punk laid atop an incessant, driving industrial track with some metal and prog flourishes thrown in (as I’m writing this out, I’m realizing that’s quite the odd set of genre bedfellows, but it works). Although there are nine separate tracks (the physical release also includes a flexi with an additional track), II functions more as a continuous 20-minute mix—once it gets going, it never lets up. This is all really impressive stuff, but I want to highlight this vocal performance. It’s like Greg Cartwright turned up to eleven. Definitely worth checking out.

Shrinkwrap Killers Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass / Merch Killer 7″

Third entry (of a planned five) in Iron Lung’s mysterious “Systemic Surgery” series. Aside from the limited run (only 200 copies pressed), deluxe packaging (hand-stamped labels, custom die-cut sleeves, risograph prints), and hitherto unheard-of bands (the first two entrants were from CLARKO and HOMELESS CADAVER), I have no idea what ties these releases together. At least Iron Lung was nice enough to let us know who’s behind the outfit this time—Oakland’s Greg Wilkinson (BRAINOIL, DEATHGRAVE, and Earhammer Studios). The title track is straight up SPITS worship that’s maybe a bit heavier on synths. The B-side also really leans on the keys and has more of a gothic pop punk vibe, in the vein of the HEX DISPENSERS. Neither cut is particularly memorable, and this stab at dum-dum lyrics needs more…or maybe less work.  Recommended only for those Systemic Surgery completists out there.

Piss Crystals Spielt Nicht Zum Tanz cassette

Noisy punk out of Budapest. Starts off promising enough. ”Problem” is a ripping (if a tad generic) slice of garage punk with fantastic production—it’s trebly, sharp, immediate, and really fits what I imagine they’re going for (something along the lines of BLACK TIME). But that production is pretty much the only constant running through this cassette. It’s all certainly noise punk in some general sense, but it is as if they’re slathering that sound atop a different subgenre on each track. “Acsarország” is noisy hardcore, “Glasshaus Zwei” is noisy metal, and “Promises (Still) Unkept” is noisy…emo! While that might sound interesting on paper, it never really clicked with me past the opening track. I don’t quite know what element to pin this on, but the whole tape kinda stinks of the late ’90s. I’m fine with that when it brings to mind late ’90s Load Records, but not so much when I get a whiff of AT THE DRIVE IN.

Stirling One Percenter EP

Unearthed 1996 recordings from this short-lived Essex band. Five quick tracks of noisy, dumbed-down punk ’n’ B. Sits somewhere between PUSSY GALORE’s garage-y din and early OBLIVIANS’ cro-magnon punk. Highlights are “R-E-V-E-N-G-E” and “Go Away,” the latter of which even sounds like an Eric O-penned tune. Maybe not an essential release, but certainly a welcome one! Fun fact: one of the guitarists on this release, Sam Knee, compiled the book A Scene In Between and runs the (great!) Instagram account @sceneinbetween, where he catalogs UK fashion and alternative youth culture from the ’80s indie scene.

Gimmick Quarantine cassette

Chunky hardcore out of the the Pacific Northwest. A little slower and less trebly than their regional cohorts ELECTRIC CHAIR and SUCK LORDS, but also a little less straightforward. The vocals are the standout here, provided by the aptly named Gag (expect lots of punk retching), and they add a nice layer of punk slop to the mix. The overall effect reminds me of BLACK PANTIES or other egg-adjacent hardcore. This stuff works best when they either slow things to a crawl and really let the negativity breathe, as they do on “Pickled Heart,” or when they really go for it and let the bile fly like on “Boi Shit.” Seven-song cassette—same program both sides—limited to 100 copies (and looks like Sorry State still has a few). A solid debut, and I’m certainly interested in hearing more from these guys!

Morwan Зола-Земля (Zola-Zemlya) LP

MORWAN is the solo project of Kiev-based artist Alex Ashtaui. My worry prior to listening to this was that it was gonna be more ’80s Eastern Bloc post-punk cosplay, à la MOLCHAT DOMA (whom I like, but don’t need more of!). This is resoundingly not that! Tonally, it’s not dissimilar—it’s definitely on the gothier end of the punk spectrum, and I can see TikTok teens co-opting snippets to soundtrack their #sovietvibes videos. But the sound here is much more organic and relies on post-punk as a foundation to build atop rather than a sound to emulate. Vocals are multi-tracked chants that echo as though recorded in some imposing brutalist atrium. The guitar and bass lines remind me of the surf/psych instrumentals coming out of Pakistan in the late ’60s (like the MODS or the PANTHERS), and the drum patterns are intricate to the point of sounding programmed (in that respect, it even reminds me of AMON TOBIN’s 2005 album Chaos Theory). All of these elements are extremely rhythmic yet are woven together to create a sound that’s overtly melodic and much warmer than you’d think given its “Eastern European Post-Punk” label. But maybe most strikingly, this album makes me want to move—not necessarily dance—just…move. Really, it’s hard to overstate how original this record sounds and just how impressive it is. Absolutely fantastic!

Schrankaffe 87-93 LP

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

Z-Cars This Is Z-Cars 7″

Z-CARS (pronounced “zed-cars” and named after what appears to be a UK take on the show Dragnet) is a power pop band that operated out of Melbourne in the late ’70s/early ’80s. This Is Z-Cars, their sole 7″, was issued in 1980 by Au Go Go and is reissued here by Meanbean Records. Truth be told, I’m not above a wimpy power pop tune, and I’m obsessed enough with Australian music that it doesn’t take much to sell me on any record from Down Under. So, it’s really surprising that this one just isn’t doing it for me. These tracks, both originals, sound like lackluster covers of some of the less memorable cuts from Nuggets II. The production is too clean to provide any punk edge, the not-quite-BEATLES-esque harmonies aren’t quite off-kilter enough to be interesting, and the tunes aren’t really catchy at all. Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking this. The liner notes—written by the singer—mention that the band “weren’t the best or most memorable band going.” I even watched an interview with the drummer where he, when presented with this reissue, noted that he’d completely forgotten about the band!