Reviews

Allan McNaughton

Contingent Police Control EP reissue

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

Ismatic Guru Ismatic Guru cassette

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

Slow Mutants Slow Mutants LP

Another album from a group that already broke up, unfortunately. This upstate NY power trio performs deftly-arranged indie rock that at any given moment could bring to mind elements of the BREEDERS, PJ HARVEY, SLEATER-KINNEY, or SAVAGES. Crisp, to-the-point songs with minimal fuss and absolutely no fucking about, and a vocalist with personality. The three members boast a curriculum vitae of accomplished former bands, so it’s no surprise that they know what they’re doing. Add to the equation that this album was recorded by one J. Robbins and the case is closed. Too bad they are no longer around.

Night Battles Year of No Days LP

Bleak yet bombastic goth-inflected post-punk. Occupying a similar post-hardcore musical and rhythmic void as SHUDDER TO THINK but buried under a mire of chorus and reverb, and with vocals that rely far less on falsetto operatics. Listening to Year of No Days I felt myself sinking into a comforting miasma, awash with recollections of INTERPOL, DEAD AND GONE, FRESH KILLS, and other pale white boys in tight-fitting black button-up shirts.

Signal to Trust Albatross Sessions cassette

A cassette release of recordings from way back in the year 2000 from this now-defunct band. Frankly, it’s criminal that these tracks are just getting their first “official” release now. Quirky, dynamic post-punk with stop/start math rock rhythms, brittle D. Boon/BEEFHEART guitar, and earnest vocals. A joyous mashup of all your favorite things from MISSION OF BURMA to SQUIRREL BAIT to SHELLAC to BIG BOYS, SIGNAL TO TRUST is exactly the band you needed 21 years ago and you didn’t even know it. Now you can correct the error.

The Last Words Animal World LP

It’s an old story: UK/Irish expats in Australia form a first-wave punk group, then up sticks to London in search of a career. Despite John Peel airplay and an alternative chart hit single in “Animal World,” success never really came knocking for the LAST WORDS, but they did manage to record an anomaly of an album with an early credit for legendary producer Adrian Sherwood. That album makes up the bulk of the tracks here, bookended by the more urgent, snarling tracks from the early singles. Rough-hewn, catchy (but unremarkable) punk with STIFF LITTLE FINGERS-meets-CLASH melodies gets an experimental tape loop treatment that at least makes it memorable, not least on the ahead-of-its-time closing track, a ferocious, psychedelic dub-punk deconstruction of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s “White Rabbit.” Worth checking out for sure.

Jade Dust 2021 Demo cassette

Cure your lockdown bummer with some Revolution Summer…JADE DUST is from Santa Barbara, but is clearly attempting to channel a strain of emotional sounds born a continent away and over thirty years ago. While heavily indebted to EMBRACE, IGNITION, et al, as well as West Coast proponents like FUEL, the songs have enough cathartic energy and passionate desperation to stand on their own. The demo itself has a rawness that actually enhances the experience: If you’re anything like me, when you heard music like this for the first time, it was likely via a scuzzy home-taped cassette on a busted Walkman.

Waste Man One Day It’ll All Be You LP

Not sure how they keep doing it, but Feel It has done it again; this album by New Orleans’ WASTE MAN achieves the rare feat of managing to be forward-thinking and diverse-sounding, while still being direct and danceable. I hate to use the word “mature” in a Maximum Rocknroll review, but (especially unusual for a debut LP) it kind of fits? Catchy seventies power pop songwriting stylings get a sharp elbow in the ribs from tetchy post-punk jitterings. Arty without being arch, punchy without punching anyone out—maybe if ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS hadn’t branched off to PERE UBU but channelled that weirdness into a Midwestern hardcore band?

Slow Worries Careful Climb LP

Crisp, deftly performed indie rock that leans heavily on ’90s sonic motifs, in the shadows of TEAM DRESCH, SLEATER-KINNEY, LIZ PHAIR, the BREEDERS, or SHUDDER TO THINK. If you told me this was a lost classic from that era, I’d be inclined to believe you. The recording, musicianship, and especially the singing is completely on-point. I admit to being slightly thrown off by how American the band sounds, despite being from Holland; I don’t just mean the singer’s accent (I have lived in Amsterdam and know that many Dutch speak impeccable English), but even lyrical references. If anything, this album is a little more polished than the usual MRR fare, but recommended for fans of the aforementioned groups nonetheless.

Monkey 101 Rusts, Smuts and Heart Rot LP

An album collecting early nineties recordings from this group, who released a single on Siltbreeze in 1990 and are not out of place among their label-mates of the time, like POLVO and GBV. Layers of everything-all-at-once fuzz, heaviness, noise, and reverb, with catchy indie rock tunefulness finding its way through the murk. When I hit play, the first comparison that came to mind was TRUMANS WATER. I stand by that, but with less BEEFHEART quirk and more of a SCIENTISTS/MUDHONEY rock’n’roll sensibility. Honestly, fans of anything I mentioned in this review will find much to appreciate about this record.

CDG Unconditional EP

The initials used to (perhaps still do) stand for CONDITIONER DISCO GROUP, and at one time this was certainly a group effort, but this EP is the solo output of one Jacyn N, also of (not sonically unrelated) labelmates COLLATE and the BEDROOMS. As succinct as you would expect from a seven-inch EP containing five tracks, there is no rationing of ideas within. Immediately, a danceable groove is formed around familiar (but not rote) staccato rhythms and nimble bass lines, embedding scratchy, trebly anti-funk guitar squall. This is the foundation for barked, Anglophone missives, like a dance party at the student union debate. MRR readers with superannuated record collections may find themselves feeling attacked by the track “Audiophiles”—not me though, honest guv.

Pushups Pushups is Pop (1978–80 Archival) LP

PUSHUPS evolved from AURORA PUSHUPS, who themselves were something of a continuation of ZOLAR X. This previously unreleased debut LP takes the new wave sensibilities but sheds the sci-fi weirdness for an unabashed pop direction. The end result is eight tracks of some of the sharpest, catchiest power pop you’re likely to hear. It’s great—song after song is a bona fide shoulda-been hit, but with the two slightly demented tracks from the AURORA PUSHUPS “Angels on Runway One / Victims of Terrorism” single tacked on at the end (with all their art-punk fizz), it’s hard not to think that something was lost along the way…

Litterbug Abstract Melodies Saying Terrible Things LP

Tuneful indie-punk from the UK, with strains of later VISIONS OF CHANGE, DESCENDENTS, or even SENSELESS THINGS. The record avoids the pop punk tag because although the guitar lines provide a lot of melody, the vocals themselves are somewhat deadpan (rather than sung) and the choruses aren’t particularly hooky or catchy. The vocal delivery draws welcome attention to the slice-of-life lyrics, which have a tongue-in-cheek humor not unlike a punk version of HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT. Good stuff.

DWP DWP cassette

This appears to be a solo project from a member of the group NAIL POLISH. What we have is a pretty neat set of experimental punk intersecting early WIRE, COLIN NEWMAN solo records, and TOTAL CONTROL. Those are all pretty top-shelf references for me to make, so you know this is probably worth checking out. I look forward to hearing more.

Anxiety Spree A Party for the Garden Rats cassette

Well, this is a real game of two halves, or rather four alternating quarters perhaps? Tracks one and three are delicious slices of off-kilter pop; drum-machine-propelled chiming melody that recalls the MONOCHROME SET or WIRE in their dreamier moments. The other two songs trade a sliver of the previous pop sensibilities for a more experimental, staccato approach; lurching rhythms and Albini-esque guitars tempered by trombone on “Squared Moon” but pushed to full on SHELLAC noise pummeling on the brief but feisty “This Brush.” All in all, a great little EP and well worth your attention. I keep going back to opener “It’s Fine”… a real hit.

Repetitor Prazan Prostor Među Nama Koji Može I Da Ne Postoji LP

This Serbian trio generates a fair amount of racket for a three-piece. I’ll be honest that I don’t have much of a frame of reference for their heavy-riffing stoner groove; to my ears I hear elements that remind me of FU MANCHU at times, L7 at others. There are two women and one man in the group and they all have a go at singing. My favorite song on here happens to be one where the women take the lead, “Sa Izvora.” It’s also the most “punk” (make of that what you will). The intense riffage gives way to a more plaintive sound on the last couple of songs, one of which in particular, “Danima,” really stands out: it incongruously shares sonic territory with the song “Used To” by WIRE, but adds what sounds like a children’s choir on the chorus. Definitely an avenue ripe for exploration, should REPETITOR feel the urge. Overall a pretty decent record that I ordinarily may not have reached for but have now given several spins.

Public Opinion Pay No Mind cassette

It’s very much a cliché for a reviewer to use terms like “stripped-down,” “no-frills” “back-to-basics,” “catchy punk rock’n’roll” with “hardcore energy,” but in the case of PUBLIC OPINION, these terms very much apply. Deceptively simple chunks of guitar riffage plough ahead at a pace adequate to energetic movement, providing a springboard for strident vocalizing that, in cadence and delivery, falls somewhere between the HIVES and HOT SNAKES.

Armedalite Rifles Art is a Weapon LP

A new album from Pine Bush’s longtime purveyors of discordantly arty punk-pop. While mired in left-field references to funky-jazzy-noisy skronkers, the RIFLES can never escape the pop urge; under the buzzing, chiming guitars, stop-start rhythms, and shambolic shuffling, there’s always a three-chord pop punk melody not too far away—like a parallel universe where CRIMPSHRINE was aware of WHIRLING PIG DERVISH. ARMEDALITE RIFLES records are always personal; their hands-on DIY approach is tangible. But this album carries an extra poignancy as memorial for and eulogy to longtime bassist (and father of singer/guitarist Jimmy) Jay LoRubbio, who passed away in 2018. A fitting tribute.

Hot Gum Hot Gum cassette

It sounds like the group had fun making this cassette, and this translates to a fun listen. (Note, it isn’t always the case that fun for the musicians results in fun for the listener.) However, HOT GUM sounds like a bunch of friends playing to see what they come up with. On the surface the result is in the current vogue, if occasionally cacophonous: jangled guitars and disco beats clash with staccato saxophone and spoken/sung vocals and you’re not sure where they’re going, then out of the chaos comes a fleeting gem of a chord progression, the right rhythm, the perfect sax squall, and all of a sudden everything makes sense. The lo-fi quality of the recording adds to the effect. Like listening to some of the live tracks from the CLEAN, you almost feel you’ve stumbled on something amazing that happened by accident, and someone happened to hit record at just the right time.

Sweet Reaper Sidekick LP

I’ve always loved art that seems to peel back the mask of an otherwise serene and happy environment. Ventura’s SWEET REAPER exists in the tradition of beach punk like AGENT ORANGE, ADOLESCENTS, RIKK AGNEW, etc. On the surface, Ventura could seem like a shiny, happy surfer’s paradise, but this album simmers with the sun-bleached angst beneath the boardwalk. Musically, we’re coming out of the gate strong: lead-off track “Reapers Back” is the best song the MARKED MEN never wrote. The MARKED MEN comparison is a bit of a red herring though, as the rest of the album bears less of a resemblance to Denton’s finest. Still catchy as hell, but with a cynical detachment to the vocals and an abrasive jangle to the guitars that at times harkens back to the ADVERTS. Ten short songs packed with melody, hooks, and energy. No chaff.

Daydream Mystic Operative LP

Blink and you’ll miss this blur of controlled chaos from Portland’s DAYDREAM. There’s a lot going on, but the hyper-propulsive drums, DEVO-lved guitar stabs, and urgent vocals clatter together in an explosive concoction of progressive punk noise. Thick-necked, spiraling bass riffage and off-kilter weirdness remind me of (a less brooding) DEAD AND GONE, or an anarcho-BOREDOMS. Get your ’90s fix without succumbing to nostalgia. Great stuff.

The Vibrators / Chris Spedding Mars Casino LP

I want to be kind about this record; I am genuinely glad that the gentlemen of first-wave English punk band the VIBRATORS are still at it, and happy enough that they have drafted lifelong comrade, erstwhile PISTOLS producer, “Motor Biker” and Womble CHRIS SPEDDING in for the session. The songs are written and performed well enough, by people who clearly know what they are doing; In his advancing years(!), KNOX is starting to sound a lot like NICK LOWE on his recent solo outings. However, I am not sure I can recommend this to MRR’s readership—there’s an almost total lack of urgency, immediacy, or energy. This album will be a useful stocking filler for punk dads who are bummed about missing Rebellion Festival because of lockdown, but after one or two plays it will likely be shelved in favor of one of the band’s essential early singles.

The Toms The 1979 Sessions LP

This album apparently collects the “chaff” from Tommy Marolda’s three-day solo recording session that led to the TOMS’ self-titled album. I must admit I was not familiar with that LP, but it seems to be considered a power pop classic among aficionados. After listening to The 1979 Sessions, I had to immediately go and listen to it, because if these are the rejects, the songs that made the album had to be something else. The fourteen tracks here are a masterclass in jangling ’60s British Invasion guitar pop with an unmistakable BEATLES influence, with forays into spacier PROCOL HARUM or CREAM territory—it’s almost impossible to believe that one person played and recorded a couple of albums’ worth of this stuff in his home studio over a weekend (to make use of studio time vacated by a SMITHEREENS cancellation), but that’s how the legend has it, and if rock’n’roll isn’t about legends, what is it for? It doesn’t even sound home-recorded—it could have been tracked at Abbey Road. Essential stuff for the power pop fan.

V/A Southend Punk Volume 1 CD

Another micro-scene gets the archeological dig treatment. Best-known to most as a place where Londoners go to the seaside, Southend and its Thames Estuary neighbors punch above their weight in rock’n’roll pedigree, as home to influential acts that pre-date this comp (such as DR. FEELGOOD and EDDIE AND THE HOTRODS), so it’s no surprise there was a burgeoning punk scene buzzing along there as early as 1976. For some reason, few of the no-hit wonders collected here made it to larger exposure. MRR readers are most likely to be aware of the SINYX or KRONSTADT UPRISING for their appearance on CRASS’ Bullshit Detector comps, but this album demonstrates that the Southend scene was home to punk bands of every stripe, from the gothic post-punk of AFTERMATH to the NEUROTICS-sounding progressive punk of the PREY. Fun fact, the VICARS here feature the vocal stylings of Alison Moyet, who went on to fame as the singer of YAZOO (sounding here more like Feargal Sharkey.) There’s honestly not a dud on this whole record. A great collection, lovingly compiled.

Big Mess Big Mess Play Bestial Pop 12″

BIG MESS is actually one big, relentless, overwhelming wall of hooks…non-stop, uptempo power pop/pop-punk with contagious riffs and choruses with their own choruses. Six songs of intense desperation made for packed, sweaty, beer-soaked, arms-in-the-air shoutalong fests. This group is due a place on the shelf next to pop-punk’s catchiest tunesmiths, like JAY REATARD, the SPITS, MARKED MEN, SCREECHING WEASEL, etc. etc. Great!

Eyes and Flys Everyday Life / Wait for the Sun 7″

A record of two halves, each as enjoyable as it is different. “Everyday Life” is a blown-out, mid-paced garage schlock downer, while the flip is a quirky, scratchy acoustic guitar-driven dirge with tweaked-out vocals and an earworm melody. Could be a one-off, could be your next DIY bedroom SWELL MAPS/BUTTHOLES/NO TREND heroes?

Muck and the Mires Take Me Back to Planet Earth CD

Six songs of by-the-numbers power pop with all the requisite bells and whistles: organ flourishes, handclaps, and ’60s guitar jangle. That said, this is lushly produced, and MUCK and co. have been around for long enough to know their way around a catchy hook, so if this is your kind of thing, you probably can’t go too wrong here. Plus, just to prove they are not completely stuck in a bygone era, this album closes with the up-to-the-minute ode to getting dumped the modern way, “Zoom Breakup”!

Beltalowda Unheard Language CD

A transatlantic pandemic project, BELTALOWDA consists of one chap from Bloomington, IN and one in London, UK. The music has that inorganic quality that can often occur when musicians perform their parts at a (social) distance; the somewhat flat, metronomic drum machine sounds contribute to that sensation. That aside, the songs themselves are direct and to the point, lent urgency by the lyrics, which read as instant reactions to current events as they are happening, relayed with a matter-of-fact blankness. The slashing guitars and staccato rhythms mostly suggest MISSION OF BURMA or at times WIRE, although on “One of the Hundred” BELTALOWDA are channeling no one more than FUGAZI. Putting their money where their mouths are, the duo will donate a portion of the proceeds from the EP to social justice causes such as The Bail Project and The Indian Law Resource Center.

Come Holy Spirit Undiscovered Land LP

If I recall correctly, my review of COME HOLY SPIRIT’s 2018 LP, Asters and Disasters, leaned heavily on references to the EX/DOG FACED HERMANS axis, no doubt helped along by the guest appearance of longtime EX singer G.W. SOK. Undiscovered Land retains the loose, rhythmic, experimental feel, but (with a couple of exceptions) feels heavier, more muscular, and (understandably) angrier. There’s an dramatic intensity in the interplay between the three musicians, the way the music builds and drops, threading the needle from one part to the next; the lyrics are poetic and directly confronting current events at the same time. This is punk with few of the trappings, independent of fashion. It’s not something you can put on and then go and wash the dishes or something – it demands (and is worthy of) your full attention.

Blowins Poudawaj Ze Zyjesz LP

By blowing into Dublin, embittered Polish punks BLOWINS have substituted one bleak, rain-soaked Catholic state for another. The move to (objectively slightly more progressive) Ireland doesn’t seem to have softened their worldview or tempered their anger. This album has nine songs of dark melodic hardcore, with tinges of deathrock, anarcho, and post-punk. Shades of POLITICAL ASYLUM, the MOB, and LEATHERFACE among others can be detected in the sound. Lyrics are in Polish but the insert includes little explanations in English.  Lovely stuff.

Shitstorm / Sunwyrm split cassette

Two St. Louis bands join forces on this here cassette; four songs from SHITSTORM and three from SUNWYRM. With the exception of SHITSTORM’s opening track (a clipped, concise 110-second buzz-pop gem: riff, hook, chorus, brief solo, repeat the chorus, we’re out!), both groups share a devotion to the psych-punk gods of fuzz and wah wah—driving riffage, freakout sounds, and propulsive rhythms, with the Cyclotron™ cranked to 11 and plugged into Jupiter. Great stuff and short enough to leave you wanting more.

Bam!Bam! Nails LP

This album is getting me right in my early ’90s Riot Grrrl nostalgia feels. Jubilant sunny-day punk that is equal parts vulnerable BRATMOBILE jangle and noisy BIKINI KILL/HOLE swagger. The transition between the muscular sub-metal riffage and more introspective pop numbers is so dramatic that it suggests the members are switching instruments—if so, another ’90s staple brought back to life. Add in the references to My So-Called Life and you’re hitting the trifecta. Lest this review lead you to think BAM!BAM! are nothing more than a throwback to an earlier era, I must say that for all the stylistic borrowing the songs themselves hold their own, and I predict that this LP will compete with the best Olympia has to offer for turntable time. I also sincerely hope to get a chance to see the band play once live music is a reality again.

Gumming Overripe LP

Dark, technical noise rock with aggressive, pissed-off vocals, off-kilter rhythms, and repetitive, spiraling guitar figures. There’s a heavy intensity to the songs that reminds me of DEAD AND GONE, as well as a subtle later BLACK FLAG Greg Ginn edge to the guitar that finally makes good on its threat on the song “Agency.” I have to admit that on first listen, I found the vocals to be slightly grating; as the record progressed and on subsequent listens, I realized that exact grating aspect is integral to the band’s sound and crucial to the delivery.

Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters Hammered LP

Mr. Briggs and his HEATERS specialize in a familiar blend of lager-drenched Antipodean rock’n’roll in the lineage of the SAINTS. Nine lamentations of dead-end desperation and the search for temporary release set to wave after wave of layered, chiming guitar, punctuated by semi-buried keyboard and horns. I bet their raw, muscular riffage goes down real well in the sweaty function room of a suburban bowls club.

OKI MOKI Working Class Pop LP

OKI MOKI are a duo from San Sebastián, in the Basque Country of Spain. Their debut LP contains ten tracks of absolutely soaring bedroom pop, awash with layered melodies and jangle-pop hooks galore. Their sound is so melodic it borders on relentless: Take the knack for pop hooks of a JAY REATARD or Jeff Burke from MARKED MEN, sand smooth any rough edges, soak the whole thing overnight in molasses, and top with sugar sprinkles. It’s almost as if the songs are all chorus, all the time. Over the course of the album, there’s not much in the way of variety (especially with my ignorance of the language) so by the tenth song it’s sounding a little repetitive, but it’s a good sound, so why mess with it?

Lithics Tower of Age LP

If you’re familiar with LITHICS from either of their two previous albums, you’re not in for any surprises: they mine similar fields here more or less; usually less, in that if anything, they have stripped their minimalist approach back even further. There are BEEFHEART-ian moments when it seems like someone shuffled the song sheets and each member is playing to a different score. They do allow themselves one third-album stretch goal on “The Symptom”: an extended five-minute jam with Burroughs cut-up speak-sung lyrics. If punk is three chords and the truth, what can we say with one chord? One note? LITHICS’ punk is one note and a question.

Glen Schenau Jhumble / Jearnest 7”

What a delight. The A-side is unabashed BIG FLAME worship: scattershot rhythms, rubber band bass, and cheese-grater guitar skitter around a freshly waxed KITCHEN’S FLOOR; melodic vocals tiptoe gingerly through the room in search of a tune. Three minutes and forty-seven seconds of beautiful incoherence. The flipside is a little less frenetic—you could almost call it tuneful—but no less brilliant. For devotees of the scratchy, insolent, gruff-witted Ron Jonson era of post-punk; the crowd for whom “C86” is more than a lazy descriptor for wimpy jangle-pop.

UK Gold Epigram No. 2 LP

This is the debut album from Olympia trio UK GOLD. The sound is sparse, clipped, and seems fully intentional. Slightly overdriven guitar works in lockstep with angular, anti-funk drums and bass, all instruments clearly defined and contributing to the argument put forth by the vocals: righteous indignation, complaint, disappointment? There’s a strident confidence to the songs not dissimilar to later-period DC acts such as BLACK EYES, or maybe HOT SNAKES, or even the muscular noise-rock of SHELLAC; at a stretch, HELMET in 4/4 time. Nothing here is disguised by feigned amateurism or low fidelity production—everything is exposed in the glare of their post-punk that rocks.

Eastie Ro!s The Peel Sessions 10″

These cheeky German chappies never actually recorded a Peel session, bless their hearts. But who’s to say that if John Peel was still alive, that he wouldn’t bring them into the studio? Six songs of scrappy, garage-inflected power pop with German vocals. Though clearly indebted to the more tuneful bands of punk’s heyday, EASTIE RO!S have much more in common with more recent Australian practitioners of the style, falling somewhere between the instant classic riffs of ROYAL HEADACHE and the casual, sun-baked EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING approach. Great stuff, I have to say. Peel would approve, I think.

Primitive Teeth Bubble of Me EP

Wow! PRIMITIVE TEETH appears to be staffed by a gaggle of Chicago DIY scene vets, and they clearly know what they’re up to. Out of the gate, the first song sets the tone with propulsive bass and off-kilter drums driving their anthemic, atmospheric post-punk. The band sits somewhere at the intersection of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, SLANT 6, and SAVAGES. There are only four songs on this 7” but it still manages to feel epic; destined for bigger things, methinks.

Powerplant A Spine / Evidence EP

Demento synth noise from the creepy depths of a dank basement. The first song has an art-prog vibe, PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY meets DEVO with a BRYAN FERRY on ’ludes drawl. The remaining tracks are more direct in their delivery: post-punk but skewed and warped like a carnival mirror. The closing track, “Hurtwood,” sounds like the MISFITS channeling MAGAZINE—now that’s magic, folks!

The Cowboys Room of Clons LP

I don’t think I was familiar with this Bloomington band before I put their new record on, despite it being their fifth album or something. I must have listened to it five or six times since; I’m stuck at home with thousands of records and every song on the internet but I find myself coming back to this one over and over, and I discover something new each time. Ostensibly a garage punk act, this ambitious effort by the COWBOYS sees them traverse many songwriting styles, from the terse, staccato science-fiction post-punk of “Wise Guy Algorithm” to the pop-glam BOWIE worship of “Devil Book.” It’s unlikely there’s another record reviewed in these digital pages that spreads itself across so many genres. Part DEVO, part SPARKS; part ENO, part SOFT BOYS: Clever, but not too clever; art pop for the now generation.

Lost System Left Behind LP

Doom and gloom rain-soaked goth punk here, drowned in atmospheric synth and chorus-inflected bass. Blank, disaffected vocals intone over a downward spiral death-disco of chopped and sped-up CURE riffs, the concoction owing much to contemporaries like DIAT or TOTAL CONTROL. “You Won’t Find Me Now” builds into a chaotic maelstrom of psychotic drums and sax blurts that for some reason reminds me of the first ICEAGE album, more in the claustrophobic feelings generated than actual sound. The album closes with the nine-minute long epic title track, which rather than take the group into new sonic dimensions, simply takes the ideas of the previous seven songs and spaces them out, murdering one riff and repeating to infinity. A bleak but not unenjoyable listen for these dark times. 

Cat Scan In Nature LP

This LA band has been kicking around for a few years, and this LP apparently hit the streets last September—glad we’re finally getting around to reviewing it! Luckily, it was worth the wait: CAT SCAN delivers the goods. An unrelenting torrent of hyperkinetic, danceable nerd-punk at the sonic intersection of YUMMY FUR, MINUTEMEN, 100 FLOWERS, and DEVO, a Venn diagram sure to provoke uninhibited perspiration: nimble toes and elbows akimbo, pausing only to push eyeglasses back up the nose and sweep the fringe back. Musicianship is not generally something we put too much stock in here at MRR towers, but it would be remiss to not mention how all the members of this group are pulling their weight here: the rhythm section “locks in” (clichés have their roots in truth) to allow the guitars to trill and squall in a jagged ballet of staccato figures.

Rubber Blanket Our Album LP

Pre-listen interest piqued by the accompanying notes mentioning the involvement of members of the INTELLIGENCE and WOUNDED LION, along with a check of the credits noting TELEVISION PERSONALITIES and CAPTAIN BEEFHEART covers, proved something of a red herring. A pleasant surprise, then, to uncover a twisted collection of distorted synth un-pop. Mechanical rhythms and analog blurts (accompanied by occasional organic instrumentation, including a sax break provided by MIKAL CRONIN) are the foundation for the dejected laments and spoken word passages of an artist’s soul at odds with modern society. (The Casiotone update of the TVPs “Jackanory Stories” is a listenable enough version of an already-fantastic song.) Glitchy and unprocessed, an homage to bedroom tape experiments and the first dabblings of ’70s/’80s synthesizer pioneers, Our Album crackles with surface noise and ideas.

R.E. Seraphin Tiny Shapes cassette

A solo album from the singer of Bay Area/Austin power-poppers TALKIES. Shimmering guitar jangle and sunny ’70s hooks are contrasted by SERAPHIN’s subdued, melancholic vocals, which share the “can’t be bothered” drawl of JESUS AND MARY CHAIN or maybe LOU REED. For all the pop sparkle of the music, the lyrics conjure feelings of loss, betrayal, and pain, especially on tracks like “I’d Rather Be Your Enemy.” On first listen, “Fortuna” caused me to double-take, as it could be a cover of GRANT HART’s “All of my Senses,” but I believe it’s an unintentional lift. And anyway, didn’t HART himself nab “2541” from DREAM SYNDICATE?

The Smarthearts On the Line LP

If you like your power pop as crunchy, sugary and addictive as your favorite childhood cereal, On the Line will have you slurping the milk dregs from the bowl. Timeless riffs choogle along while guitar hooks interplay with effortless precision, as the vocals push ever-so-slightly into the red. The SMARTHEARTS fall somewhere between the retro revivalism of GENTLEMAN JESSE and the classic ’70s FM of early TOM PETTY. If this sounds up your street, you will probably not be disappointed. 

Vanity Rarely If Ever / We’re Friends 7″

Two energetic new jammers from this gang of NY rockers. On these tracks, VANITY have tempered the glammy, foot-stomping hooligan rock’n’roll of their previous efforts with an emphasis on melody and hooks. Leaning into their power pop tendencies, “Rarely If Ever” especially bounces along on ’60s jangle, to the point that MONKEES references kept popping into my head (not a bad thing, in my book). “We’re Friends” is on the tougher side, but this single demonstrates that VANITY has clearly outrun any references to a certain Chiswick group… except I’ve gone and made one, oops.

Obsessions Obssessions II LP

This rips! A kinetic sonic assault of chiming, static-buzz guitar is the vehicle for seven songs of desperate melancholy. Opener “Death” kicks things off like a cross between AGENT ORANGE and GEISHA GIRLS. The album continues with a rain-soaked Pacific Northwest take on dysfunctional OC life; surf-dork beach punks thrashing it out in the garage of a Huntington Beach tract home. On the closing track, “Final Solution,” OBSESSIONS assume their final form, channeling JAY REATARD channeling the ADVERTS on a hissy and warped C60 cassette. Highly recommended. Vinyl limited to 100 copies so move fast.

Personality Cult New Arrows LP

A tidy little pop punk rager from North Carolina’s Ben Carr. It was recorded by Jeff Burke of RADIOACTIVITY and MARKED MEN, which should give you some pointers as to the sound, and the music hums along with a similar propulsion, but there’s something snottier and less romantic about PERSONALITY CULT’s songs. Layer upon layer of immediately memorable hooks and melodies draw on elements of BUZZCOCKS at times, and SCREECHING WEASEL at others. Fans of any of the bands mentioned are advised to have a listen.

Pisse Pisse LP

This Berlin gruppe is all over the map on this album. From minimalist synth punk to straight-ahead angry anarcho-punk; from the extremes of near powerviolence-level thrash (as demonstrated on “Angehem Straff”) to the doo-wop COUNTRY TEASERS/FAT WHITE FAMILY disturbed pop dirge of “Zu Viel Speed.” The amazing thing is, it all works! For all the disparate styles, the album retains a consistently wry yet bleak outlook throughout. It’s rare for cold detachment to possess this much personality.

The Bedrooms Passive Viewing LP

Tautly-wound, propulsive post-punk from Portland. The guitars jangle swirling melodies around and in between a blanket of spiraling NEW ORDER synthesizer. There are obvious nods to the CURE, JOY DIVISION, and particularly the semi-recent UK act SAVAGES, but through a distinctly Northwestern filter. We could spend all day distilling the influences, but let’s get to the point: the songs themselves are charged with a poetic charm divined through the spirited, powerful vocals. They afford the BEDROOMS the one quality that can make a group more than just a group of friends with musical chops and the right record collection: personality. The crime is that there were only 200 copies pressed of this album that deserves to become an instant classic.

Partial Traces Low Definition LP

PARTIAL TRACES are a Minneapolis supergroup of sorts; members of the SOVIETTES, BANNER PILOT, OFF WITH THEIR HEADS, etc., who mostly previously played together in the band GATEWAY DISTRICT. The punk pedigree suggested by such a lineage is certainly present on Low Definition, but you have to listen for it. It’s mostly found in the tight arrangements and lack of extraneous fluff: musically, the album skews predominantly towards the indie rock end of the musical spectrum. Chiming, melodic guitars and washes of synth provide the stirring backdrop to songs rife with the melancholy of a life lived. Maybe it’s the Twin Cities connection, but I’m drawn to compare this band to the REPLACEMENTS. I’d bet money that this is probably the most mature-sounding record reviewed on Maximumrocknroll.com this month; make of that what you will.

Vacancy Last Rites EP

Upbeat, driving melodic punk rock here—tuneful hardcore that in a more innocent time may have been called emo. The guitars churn and glisten like early JAWBREAKER or RITES OF SPRING atop surging bass and drums. The interplay between all three instruments really stands out, while the dark, introspective lyrics are reflected in the vocals, which are laced with a tortured drama that reminds me of Andrea Zollo of AREA 51/DEATH WISH KIDS. Deftly cramming six tasty little numbers on a bright green 45 RPM seven-incher; wonder what VACANCY will get up to next?

Rata Negra La Hija del Sepulturero EP

A tasty little two-song platter of gothic indie pop from your new favorite Spanish trio. The first song comes over like a propulsive combination of the WIPERS and early WE’VE GOT A FUZZBOX AND WE’RE GONNA USE IT; the flip is a sing-along post-punk cover of a catchy early ’80s synth-pop hit from Madrid. The playing on both is concise and sharp—no mess no fuss. Another top-notch addition to the timeless LVEUM roster.

Nameless Creations Upon God’s Call LP

Warsaw, Poland, 2020: Antichrist death rock with a dramatic flair. NAMELESS CREATIONS fall on the noisier, more aggressive, punk side of post-punk: for all the poetic posturing, the shattered-absinthe-bottle guitar delivers riffs and hooks aplenty. Nods and winks to the obvious BIRTHDAY PARTY/45 GRAVE touchstones, but with the directness of the MOB or OMEGA TRIBE and the snotty bravado of youthful ICEAGE thrown in. Great stuff!

Glow Kit Naïve Antlers LP

Do you guys remember the ’90s? Super slick and glossy indie rock from the WEEZER/FANCLUB-esque seam was mined to great effect by TONY MOLINA, but in the case of Denmark’s GLOW KIT (overblown guitars aside) any hint of an edge has been burnished away in the massive production. The best pop is pop almost by accident; the execution of this album smacks of cynical intent.

Gino and the Goons Off the Rails LP

Sweat-stained, malt-liquor-swilling deadbeat ’70s-style punk’n’roll from a gang of sunburnt Florida beach trash with a rusted-out El Camino and a tank running low on cheap gas. Coming on like Tampa’s answer to the DICTATORS, these guys never met a blues riff they couldn’t rehash into a two-chord thug stomp. They redline the tach for most of this ten-song album, but they manage to slow down and get a little romantic on the track “She Can Take It.” Probably worth seeing live—I imagine it’s a high energy good time.

Wild Flowers of America Lost in the Salvation Army LP

Deftly executed power pop here: bubbling, bouncing riffs, buzzy hooks, and catchy sing-along choruses, somewhere between GENTLEMAN JESSE and the TRANZMITORS, with ambitious songwriting that borrows the ’70s bombast of Stiff/Chiswick new wavers. You might expect a band with such a pretty name to lean on the sugary side, but occasionally there’s enough hint of an edge—a flash of muscle or a sneer to the vocals, a shoulder check on the way back from the bar—that lets you know not to try anything too smart around this gang.

The Tea Set Back in Time for Tea CD

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

Black Heino Pfaffenbrot / Schüsse Von Links und Rechts 7″

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

Negative Space Cruelty LP

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

The Brankas Safes LP

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Material Leather LP

Where most bands’ debuts are more of a collection of songs, Leather is a taut, cohesive album, featuring clear ideas delivered with intent. Propulsive, melodic punk serves as the kindling to fuel the sharp, personal-yet-political lyrics. Sonically, there are elements of Revolution Summer desperation mixed with a certain GUN CLUB swagger. The whole sound retains its own distinct personality by the perfectly employed, insistent yet unobtrusive electric piano. There’s no reason this band couldn’t cross over to a wider audience. Without naming names, I can think of a few current bands getting the type of attention that MATERIAL greatly deserves. I encourage you to seek out this album.

Higgins and the Magic of the Marketplace Dream Consumer Dream! LP

A solid mid-paced rodgering delivered by a Mr. Andy Higgins of LITTERBUG. On putting needle to groove, your ears will detect a certain level of LEATHERFACE worship, which is by far the overarching impression here, but HIGGINS does indulge here and there in bursts of sonic experimentation. Still, combining catchy riffs, heavy Stubbs/Hammond guitar interplay, and guttural, whisky-on-the-gravel vocals (as also employed by the likes of STRAWMAN and FOUR LETTER WORD) are the stock-in-trade. The lyrics appear to combine references to punk nostalgia, British popular culture, and the lower tiers of English professional football. For your middle-aged British LEATHERFACE fanatic reviewer, this was a very enjoyable listen.

Perfect Buzz In Your Face / My Apologies 7″

Two brief-but-memorable stabs of hooky pop punk from this Portland power trio. “In Your Face” is a snappy, propulsive jammer in the vein of MARKED MEN/THE SPITS, while the flip is a rollicking barroom singalong about what sounds like a potentially serious injury. Great stuff.

Civic Selling Sucking Blackmail Bribes / Velvet Casino 7″

Another postulating sore of putrid punk’n’roll from the ever-reliable Florida outlet Total Punk. On this one, Aussies CIVIC put the pedal through the floor of a rusted Holden GTS and burn rubber down Footscray back roads to the sounds of an in-the-red fourth generation tape of hyper-kinetic, blistering meathead garage. Blown-out guitar solos that barely hold it together, shredded vocal chords, caveman-on-ice drumming, what’s not to love?

The Nods Overripe LP

It’s a bold move to open your album with a backmasked noise jam. At least HÜSKER DÜ tucked “Dreams Reoccurring” a few songs into Zen Arcade. The NODS hail from Salt Lake City, and their sound is a fuzzed-out blend of psychedelic pop. Imagine some teenagers frying in the desert somewhere with three records between them: the OH SEES, the SPITS, and BUTTHOLE SURFERS. The fact that the album sounds like someone passed out on the reverb button adds to the sense of sweltering burnout. It’s lo-fi for sure, but the energy (and the songs) come through.

Gonzo Do It Better Again LP

Four young-ish tykes from Geelong here with an album recorded in an old stable. Polished shards of pointed rock stab insistently from the speakers over tense, clipped rhythms. There’s a tension here between the physical urge to rock out (at least one of the guitarists here can obviously shred) and the cerebral insistence on minimalist restraint. GONZO are clearly clever, but not too clever; like the older cousins of the CHATS, the ones who went to Uni instead of wasting away on the dole. Math-rock time changes and post-punk sparseness compete for attention with meaty Aussie rock in the tradition of X or COSMIC PSYCHOS or EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING, and it all makes for a great listen. Once again, the land down under is flying the flag for rock music, much as it has for most of the last 30-odd years.

Current Affairs Buckle Up / Worlds In Crisis 7″

Just perfect. Two tracks of reverb-saturated, melancholic pop jangle distilling familiar sounds from SUBURBAN LAWNS, ALTERED IMAGES, and even at times SLANT 6 through a DIY punk filter into this finely crafted (yet charmingly rough around the edges) single. You’ll keep flipping this over and over, trying to decide which song is your favorite, but why choose? I just feel lucky to live in a time when I get to hear things like this.

Kinzie Dead Eyes CD

An interesting proposition here. The songs veer between SUPERCHUNK pop snarl and NOMEANSNO jazz-punk and SHUDDER TO THINK drama. Maybe a more direct comparison would be fIREHOSE? The band members certainly have chops, and are adept in a variety of styles. As an album, the whole thing is polished with a ’90s sheen that renders it listenable and inoffensive, but not immediately arresting.

Hygiene Private Sector LP

London’s finest purveyors of thematic post-punk where all the songs are ripped from the Guardian comments section, or perhaps the “In the Back” section of Private Eye. Brought out of retirement by the specter of Brexit and the likely scenario of Boris über alles, HYGIENE is the group England needs now—specially since they are fronted by a scion of the Commonwealth. Alongside at least three songs dealing with public transport in some way (“Replacement Bus” really captures all the frustrations of, er, having to catch a replacement bus), gammons, free marketers, and pedophile conspirators all come in for ire. For all the spartan rhythms and stark vocal commentary, though, the album connects most directly with the rousing singalong of the future potential folk classic “He Doesn’t Want to Pay His Taxes.” On this one they could be a CHUMBAWAMBA or MEKONS for today. Welcome back chaps.

Invisible Engine Try to Want Less CD-R

Eight songs of melodic, choppy Midwestern popcore with a lot of emphasis on lead guitar. The solid songwriting chops and earnest vocals are making me think of STRAWMAN (maybe it’s an Ohio thing) and in their finest moments (to these ears, particularly the song “Evaporate”) they sound like outtakes of Grant Hart-sung HÜSKER DÜ material. There are places where the guitar leads are a bit overdone—but with some trimming of the fat and a bit more focus on the buzzsaw melodies, INVISIBLE ENGINE could be quite a unit.

Negative Gears Negative Gears 12″

This is the debut vinyl aural blast from Sydney’s NEGATIVE GEARS. Six demented screeds bifurcated by one ’80s synth interlude—the whole thing goes by so quickly, that you can listen to the record on your tea break. There’s a melancholic undercurrent here (a bit WIPERS, a bit ICEAGE) that is tempered by an Aussie snarl not unlike GEARS’ peers like LOW LIFE and TOTAL CONTROL. I’ve listened to it a few times now, and I keep hearing new things to appreciate: a little guitar riff here, a synth line there, the lyrics that smack of disappointment in how life has turned out. The darkness that lurks in the shadows where the sun shines brightest. The beach punks drinking under the pier, the desert rat frying in a trailer.

Private Anarchy Central Planning LP

Sparse, intricate weirdo art pop, sounding more a labor of necessity rather than straightforward love. Spiderweb guitar lines perform an off-kilter dance around loose-limbed, jazzy rhythms. There’s a subdued quality to the whole thing, like if you imagine David Thomas from PERE UBU making demos in his bedroom, but trying really hard not to wake up his roommates. There are eleven songs, and if you often stay up late listening to college radio, you’re sure to hear some of them eventually.

Dan Webb and the Spiders Be Alright LP

Pretty sure this is my first excursion into DAN WEBB AND THE SPIDERS territory, despite it being their fifth full-length. What you get is a polished slab of shiny, catchy indie-rock flavored pop-punk. The songs are perfectly executed—the hooks, choruses, harmonies, and guitar embellishments all hit just the right note. In its best moments, I am reminded of the elements that make the MARKED MEN so great. But something about this is leaving me a little cold; there just doesn’t seem to be much of an edge. I feel like I can visualize the car commercial that these songs could soundtrack.

Toyota Toyota LP

Total mongoloid math punk here. Hyperkinetic jazzcore spurts with deadpan staccato robot vocals. If I time travelled to six months ago and told you that in August 2019 and beyond, the latest thing would sound like a DEVO simulation robot programmed by PRIMUS, you’d tell me “so what, URANIUM CLUB have like five albums already.” Rock with no roll for the age of the electric vehicle hot rod rumble where neon-clad Prius-rockers play chicken for cryptocurrency, not pink slips.

Gitane Demone Quartet Substrata Strip CD

Gitane Demone will be best known to readers of MRR from her time with CHRISTIAN DEATH, but she has had a long career as a vocalist. I was excited to check our this album after seeing that it features Paul Roessler, along with one of my favorite guitarists, Rikk Agnew, but punks hoping to hear some classic Agnew chops may be disappointed by the showtunes goth presented within. Demone’s powerful singing is the focus here: the darkly operatic cabaret songs resonate around occult-sounding themes. For this listener, the album sits way too far outside MRR territory, residing more in the Wiccan steampunk zone.

Knowso Like a Buzz / Physical Freak 7″

The ’90s revival continues. KNOWSO perform robotic, kinetic nerd punk: descendants of DEVO, but with a sound that’s part NOMEANSNO, part SERVOTRON. The two short songs here form a perfectly digestible snippet of pocket-protector punk.

Uliczy Opryszek FC St. Pauli Do Boju EP

As you may have guessed, the title track is an ode to every punk’s favorite German football club. Definitely more on the rollicking tuneful punk side of things than straight up Oi! Even though I can’t understand what they’re singing about (or maybe because?) I have come to a realization that this style of music just sounds really good in Polish.

Bruised Arrow of Disease / Psychic Stain 7″

Hyper-speedy post-punk earbuzz that comes on like the staccato hammering of a Morse code operator after a wrap of sulphate. Two tracks of kinetic pop that will wait for you in the subway underpass to mug you on the way home from the pub. At less than four minutes all told, it’s an all too brief introduction that will leave the listener with a sore jaw and a jones for more.

The Dumpies Zola Budd cassette

This tape has ten tracks of blown-out fuzz pop. Song after song of anthemic melodies, recorded in a shack somewhere in Oregon. The band is from Austin, but may have picked up something in the air from Denton, Texas—there are echoes of MARKED MEN, REDS, etc., although the closest comparison that comes to mind is the THERMALS. Great stuff overall.

The Sketchballs Riverwest CD-R

Six songs of eclectic, melodic indie-punk. Mostly falling within a vaguely REPLACEMENTS territory sound-wise, with tongue-in-cheek, humorous lyrics along the lines of say, YOUR MOTHER, with a distinctly nasal vocal delivery that reminds me a little of PANSY DIVISION. Stylistically, the songs have jangly, poppy interludes interspersed with noisier, more distorted riffs. The longest and best song, “Tito” (at over five minutes), serves as something of an epic and takes the listener on a journey through diverse musical styles such as FIREHOSE and PINK FLOYD.

The Terraplanes All Good for the High Street CD

The TERRAPLANES originally formed out of the ashes of ANIMALS & MEN in 1980. Disbanding after one 1981 single, they reformed in 2017, and this album is the result. A sparse, post-punk mix of new originals, revisited old songs, and favorite garage / rock’n’roll covers of JONATHAN RICHMAN, ELVIS PRESLEY, ED COBB etc. The raw, simplistic recording and dual female (mother / daughter!) vocals lends the whole thing a HEADCOATEES vibe, which is never a bad thing! Great stuff, and a welcome return to the music scene.

Tics Agnostic Funk 12″

Eight tracks of jagged funk-punk from this Cologne group. Quirky, stop-start rhythms plus wandering bass-lines punctuated by hyper-speed funk guitar form the foundation for these terse, varied ruminations on modern society. The songwriting is complex, the playing polished and accomplished—a potent mix of fIREHOSE, TALKING HEADS, and BADGEWEARER. Fantastic stuff.

Quarantine Regressive Thoughts 2xLP

A worthwhile compendium of the complete recorded output of this mid-’90s Glasgow trio, including the Automatic Negative Thoughts LP, Junction 10 EP, and assorted compilation tracks, compiled by longtime stalwart label of the Polish scene Nikt Nic Nie Wie. The band’s music spanned from more direct, driving hardcore type songs, to more melodic, almost JAWBREAKER influenced sounds, but always with passionate, angry vocals, and lyrics that were both critical and hopeful at the same time. Much like ACTIVE MINDS, who I reviewed earlier this issue, the members of QUARANTINE are punk lifers who remain as dedicated to DIY punk and hardcore now as they were then. It’s great to revisit this material that may have been overlooked by some at the time.

Gattopardo Cleo EP

Enigmatic post-punk from São Paulo. “Cleo” could have easily fit on the Rough Trade roster in 1979: jangling, clattering funky post-punk, with a smattering of sax. On the flip, “As Bruxas” takes the listener down a BAUHAUS doom spiral: a darker sound introduced by more chorus on the guitar lends the whole thing a more gothic vibe. A great introduction that left this listener wanting more. There’s an album from 2014 that I will be investigating forthwith.

Active Minds Religion Is Nonsense 10″

How appropriate that ACTIVE MINDS have a review in the final print issue of MRR, as a band that seem to have been flying the flag for DIY punk and hardcore almost as long as the mag has been around (or at least as long as I remember!). This is just the latest in a vast discography of fiercely political hardcore punk in a variety of guises, whether DISCHARGE worship or melodic LEATHERFACE type fare, but always with a message first and foremost. Several of the songs on this record are based loosely around the titular theme of religious hypocrisy and exploitation of children. Did I mention it comes wrapped in a printed ACTIVE MINDS patch?! It really does my heart good to know that these folk are still at it, still active.

Richard Vain Night Jammer LP

Big, full-sounding indie jams here from this Chicago trio that includes an ex-PONY. The first track builds up from a brooding, proggy intro into a fuzzed- out krautrock jam that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Bleeding shards of guitar keen around organ-driven melodies atop a relentless drum boogie. The vocals drip with slacker ennui that falls somewhere between THEE OH SEES and DINOSAUR. The opening track and “Punks Inbred” are the standout tracks for me, but overall this is a strong, cohesive album.

Strange Passage Shouldn’t Be Too Long LP

Lyrical, literate jangle-pop with melodies galore and a ton of personality. STRANGE PASSAGES definitely seem to draw inspiration from ’80s indie sounds, which is no bad thing. The bright production emphasizes the guitar interplay, while the dedication to songcraft shines through. I’m no REM fan, but this makes me think of that band’s more upbeat, less over-wrought material—especially in the vocals. Great stuff.

Mañana Couch Brooklyn Dirt LP

This Brooklyn band plays a rollicking blend of party punk and rock’n’roll. Metallic riffs and playing bolster the sound, which is a combination of early VAN HALEN, NEW YORK DOLLS, and would you believe POISON IDEA? I honestly enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would, based on the terrible cover art and inscrutable name. From the looks of the photos, these are not young guys, and they’ve been around the block. But they know what they’re doing, and have managed to churn out a great ’80s punk / metal LP in 2019.

C’est Dommage Red Lobster, Modesto, CA / The C’mel 7″

An homage of sorts to early ’90s post-emo rock, I think. In places, it reminds me a little of EVERGREEN. The guitars chime pleasingly over a slow-to-mid-paced rhythmic amble. The affected, whiny vocals may be a deal breaker for you on this one—for me, they fall on just the wrong side of annoying.

Keepers Keepers LP

This San Diego trio invite you down into the mire of lurching, sludgy noise punk. The rhythm section keeps things moving along like the drummer on a Viking ship, allowing the guitar to alternate between simplistic fuzzed-out riffs and psychedelic wanderings. The track “Beautiful Things” offers some let-up from the sonic onslaught with an almost post-punk danceability. If you like things heavy, this is worth seeking out.

Glen Schenau Phantom Vibration / Canovee 7″

Helter skelter demented anti-pop here from this Aussie alum of
KITCHEN’S FLOOR and others. Potentially inspired by the more
off-kilter C86 noise perpetuated by the likes of STUMP, BOGSHED, BIG FLAME, DAWSON, and the like; Decidedly non-trad but bursting with ideas and interesting sounds.

Young Skulls Bomb Train Blues / We’re Gone 7″

This guitar-drums-organ trio of heavy-hitters from the likes of CHROME CRANKS and TRANS AM announce themselves with swagger. Two thick-necked, grinding garage rock numbers with the sweaty intensity of a rawer JOHN REIS project.

The Suburban Homes The Suburban Homes EP 3

Originally intended as their second release, and as such a bit on the older side, this EP nevertheless represents one more broadside in the HOMES’s attack on modern punk complacency. Definitely utilizing all the tools in the DESPERATE BICYCLES repair kit (the track “City Life” in particular borrows liberally from “Advice On Arrest”), they still manage to create something that feels now and vital.

Priors New Pleasure LP

Insistent, kinetic fuzzed-out punk pop. Itchy repetitive guitar riffs serve as foil to the just-this-side-of-annoying keyboard melodies that drive the songs. The vocalist’s delivery is snotty yet deadpan, detached yet sneering: little escapes their disdain. PRIORS pound their way through fourteen songs here, most of which come in around the two-minute mark, save for the epic title track, which despite its five-minute-plus is no slow burner.