Reviews

Biff Bifaro

V.D.I. Idem cassette

Fast hardcore punk from Argentina. V.D.I has a very memorable quality to their songs, as if I have heard a number of them before but can’t quite pinpoint where. Most of the songs on this nine-song cassette are ripped through in the faster realm of mid-tempo speeds, tight stops and starts really accenting and keeping your attention. The only song that really breaks the mold that they’ve set is “Pogo Reliyon,” which is slower, catchier, and more sing-songy. I would have sworn it was a LOS EXPULSADOS cover were it not for the drastic speed-up ending of the song.

DMT .D.M.T cassette

Six songs of blistering raw punk/D-beat mixed with elements of powerviolence-inspired hardcore. It’s heavy, it’s nasty, it’s over in a flash! Thankfully the cassette is double A-side, so the listener can flip and repeat to their heart’s content. A killer debut release from the lovely state of Maine. Everything looks and sounds spot-on with this tape. To quote the liner notes: “DMT is meant to provide a calming and meditative state, play loud for best results.” Well, I followed the instructions but my results seem to be varying from that which is described—hmm, maybe I did something wrong, better flip it over and try again…

Franky Shampoo The Lost Tapes cassette

I’m not sure who this FRANKY is, but he seems to have a bit of an issue with time. Between the physical release and the small amount of info that can be found on the internet, I am being told that this batch of songs was written in the early ’80s, released in 1990, copyrighted 2006, and released now after being discovered after an unknown period of time. What’s more important is that I couldn’t possibly care less where the goof ends and reality begins because these songs are timeless enough that I could be convinced that there is truth to any combination of those wild claims. Mr. SHAMPOO and his backing band, who the internet tells me is called the CITY CREATURES (tho, I strongly suspect it may just be our sudsy new friend all on his lonesome), seem to be from Chemnitz, Germany. FRANKY plays a lovely mix of many different styles of punk. There’s some ’77-type stuff in there, some mid-tempo post-punk catchiness, some synth punk elements peppered in, it’s all done extremely well and nothing sounds out of place. I am greatly hoping there are more tapes to be discovered by this enigmatic individual. I’m feeling all frothy and lathered up, and these mere seven songs have set the bar incredibly high. What’s this? A secret track? An unlisted eighth song, full-MIDI version of “Ace of Spades”! FRANKY, you mad man! Wherever you are, come back to us, you’ve got a hit on your hands with this tape!

Meal Jimmy cassette

An absolutely delightful release from Helsinki, Finland. The debut release by MEAL is a six-song cassette of incredibly timeless post-punk which leans a bit into the art-punk/indie rock realm on a few of the tracks. I’m not exactly sure how it’s possible to feel overwhelmingly nostalgic about a recording the very first time you listen to it, but these songs seem to have that ability. I am not gonna sit here and say that it feels like listening to WIRE for the first time or anything like that, but maybe like a small little minute fraction of what that feeling was like.

Atomic Energy Commission AECPWMCTEP cassette

A mixture of drone-y soundscapes with minimal lyrics/samples/field recordings, harsh noise freak-out stuff, and electronically-driven dark post-punk/goth songs. Very artsy and atmospheric. The little write-up by the band on their Bandcamp implies that the songs were all written for and about the pandemic, during which this album was recorded. The B-side of the tape, not available online, is the exact same recording but in reverse. A funny concept, but pretty difficult to get very far into it unless you happen to be a super-fan of this style.

Community Gun Target Practice cassette

Absolutely relentless, blistering hardcore punk. Short and sweet four-song demo clocking in at just over four minutes. Completely crushing. This is unquestionably my kind of hardcore. Sounds a bit like LIFE’S BLOOD to me, and how can that possibly be bad? A lot of attention to detail went into making this tape look super cool, too; maroon print on sparkly silver paper, white cassette shells, and a really cool embossed effect having the band name raised off the cassette itself, like how a label maker would look but without the label. My only gripe was that the copy I was sent was dubbed unbelievably poorly. The A-side was unlistenable and warbly, and the B-side was depressingly quiet. Had to re-dub my copy off of the label’s Bandcamp. Hopefully it was a fluke and the rest of the mere 50 copies of this stomper sent out into the world sound better.

Demonios Chuecos Vol. 1–2 cassette

Started as a way to stave off the insanity during COVID lockdowns, DEMONIOS CHEUCOS is a one-man band from Mexico City, Mexico. I am absolutely blown away by this, and by the humble writings of Carlos about the entire process (found on the Bandcamp page). He goes in depth describing each of the songs, as well as the process of learning bass, drums, and how to record in order to make this project a reality. Catchy, ripping hardcore punk, start to finish. Most full bands would be lucky to end up with a finished product this good.

Highway Stacy Highway Staci cassette

Tyler from OCCULT DETECTIVE CLUB relocated from Fort Worth, TX to Chicago, IL and started a solo project under the pseudonym of HIGHWAY STACY. A bit of a mixed bag of genres on this tape. Mid-tempo post-punk/art-punk that occasionally has electronic EDM drum sounds and almost youth crew-style vocals on a couple of the songs. Confused? Don’t be, it works. The tape ends with a strange minimalist take on the classic ADOLESCENTS track “Losing Battle.” Apparently, this one-man band is looking to branch out and do a full band with these songs. Live in the Chicago area? Head over to the link below, check out the songs, and hit up Tyler.

Clusterfux The 7”s cassette

Compilation cassette compiling all recorded CLUSTERFUX tracks from 2004–2007. Two recording sessions that became sides of three split 7”s with some leftover tracks all included here. CLUSTERFUX seem mostly like a thrashcore band, but some of the unexpected genres I hear when I listen to this makes it feel as if the band is somewhat living up to their name. There’s some crossover metal riffs, some rip-roaring thrash metal solos, vocals going back and forth from sounding akin to DRI to sounding like they’re recorded for a crust punk band, and even sounding oddly screamo-inspired at times. Unexpectedly, I think some of the songs on the “You” side of this cassette rip harder than everything contained on the “Fuck” side, which is surprising since that side is all the tracks that didn’t make the cut on the band’s vinyl releases. A few of those songs sound more straightforward crossover thrash, which seems to suit the band the strongest.

Mesh Mesh cassette

Everything about this cassette is absolutely spot-on! A wonderful-sounding, self-recorded five-song tape from Philadelphia, PA. Super catchy, memorable, driving post-punk with just enough artiness peppered in to allow the band the ability to make the tape and sleeve look super cool. If I’m not mistaken, this seems to be a band born out of the smoldering ashes of underrated Philly powerhouse MINT, of whom I was an unbelievably big fan. Gotta have more! These five songs will only hold me over for so long!

Brain Peel / Double Suede Banana Split cassette

This cassette features two songs by BRAIN PEEL, two songs by DOUBLE SUEDE, and one song by BRAIN AND DOUBLE which is, as you may have assumed, a combination of both bands, who hail from Philadelphia, PA. DOUBLE SUEDE have something of a modern pop-psych/OH SEES kind of feel to them which comes off really catchy and driving and fun. BRAIN PEEL is more of a mid-tempo garage punk kind of band. The collaborative track is a fun little meandering instrumental number. Cool concept, fun mix of styles between the two bands. My only gripe is that it ends too quickly.

Cococoma The Money Will Roll Right In cassette

New release on powerhouse label Primitive Screwhead. For those of you not yet familiar, this is the brand new, all-live tape label run by garage rock dynamo Big Neck Records. Chicago, IL-based COCOCOMA has always been a cool, intriguing band to me, who seemed to walk the tightrope between catchy garage rock and spastic, nasty punk weirdness. On this live cassette recording the band really ramps up the psychedelic/pop aspects of their sound. So many killer, catchy songs on this tape and the sound quality is great. One doesn’t always know what kind of can of worms they’re opening with live releases, but thus far Primitive Screwhead has been doing a fantastic job with releasing cassettes that truly capture what it’s like seeing a band live.

Endless Bore / Numbskull split cassette

Split cassette of two current Australian bands. ENDLESS BORE from Melbourne plays heavy powerviolence-inspired hardcore with repetitive heady breakdowns. I have reviewed one of this band’s previous cassettes and these songs feel much more involved than the prior release, with a more prominent emphasis on brutality. NUMBSKULL from Sydney meshes well on this split, but they bring a more fastcore approach to the extreme music on this cassette. Unbelievably short songs played at blistering speeds. “Mozart and Beethoven can suck a wet fart / This is hardcore punk, not the fine arts.” Respect, NUMBSKULL, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Spirit of Revolt Brick demo cassette

Debut release from this Northern Colorado band. SPIRIT OF REVOLT hits the streets running with six songs of politically-driven punk rock. Mid-tempo drums, driving repetitive riffs, shouted anarchist/anti-capitalist lyrics, ‘“Oi!s” peppered in for good measure, what’s not to like?

Data Unknown Data Unknown cassette

As you might guess, not a lot of information is available for a band called DATA UNKNOWN. This is some pretty wild stuff, tho. Indianapolis, IN-based lo-fi drum machine-driven weirdo punk/new wave/noise/synth kookiness, and it all somehow works really well together. Ten tracks, all sounding wildly different from one another. Not sure if the band is suggesting that they’ve “got it made in the shade like Ra,” the benevolent Egyptian god of the son, or “Like Ra,” the corrupt, powerful Goa’uld bent on destruction and world domination from the other side of the Stargate, but either way I am all in to take that journey and find out which.

Plexi Heart Blips cassette

Without question my favorite tape I was sent this month for review. Wow. PLEXI is relentless hardcore punk. Fast and pissed, heavy pit-worthy breakdowns, raspy/strained vocals that sound instantly familiar without feeling like they’re ripping something off. The intensity and forceful delivery of the vocals very much remind me of how Barb used to sing in I OBJECT. Eleven songs of unapologetically ripping hardcore punk. With no contact info and seemingly no internet presence, I am not sure how to suggest you track down a copy of this, but do yourself a favor and try.

V/A The Comp Vol. 1 cassette

One of my favorite things, when an unknown label does a compilation/mixtape showcasing what their label is all about. Wet Cassettes seem to have about twenty releases under their belt, and this comp has twenty tracks. To describe it the way they intended: “The Comp Vol. 1 features twenty previously unreleased songs from twenty Wet Cassettes artists of the past, present, future, and well, some that were just formed for this compilation.” This New Jersey-based label seems to dabble in a number of different genres, going from synth-punk to black metal to harsh noise to straight up grindcore. Personally, my favorite on the cassette is the Denmark synth-punk duo OK SATÁN whose cassette I also reviewed this month, or ARACHNID SALAD with their lo-fi cyberpunk track. There is a little too much emphasis on the pots’n’pans music for my personal taste (lo-fi grindcore, noise stuff, etc.), but all in all, this is a very cool introduction to a label I was previously unaware of.

The Letter K Garage Magic cassette

Absolutely beautifully done packaging on this cassette of lo-fi pop music. Two-color screen print on both sides of the J-card as well as the tape labels themselves. Stylistically, this mashes a bunch of different aspects of pop music together. You get some modern indie-infused pop punk, some Plan-It-X “kid of summer” style pop punk, some dreamy bedroom pop, and other elements I can’t entirely place. It’s a very nice little tape if you are into the catchier realm of things.

OK Satán OK Satán cassette

Second cassette from Copenhagen, Denmark-based, two-piece drum machine-driven punk outfit OK SATÁN. Short, nasty, no-frills, no-bullshit songs. It seems everything was recorded on a 4-track in their practice space, but it’s not as lo-fi as one might expect from that description. Everything is perfectly discernible, and were it less dirty I think something would be lost with songs like this. “Stay on Drugs” is an absolute smash! Now to try and track down this band’s other releases…

Crack / Siberian Ass Torture split cassette

Split cassette of two current Japanese bands. SIBERIAN ASS TORTURE plays nasty mid-tempo noise punk. Their shorter songs are pretty cool, but the longer drone-y instrumentals lose my attention a bit. CRACK plays mostly very slow, repetitive, instrumental drone music but adds in noise elements with indecipherable screaming on top. All the songs on this split were recorded live. Not much information on this release or on either band seems to exist on the internet, and attempting to search for them just provided some very strange results, as you can potentially imagine.

Oof Is This Really Happening? cassette

Walking the tightrope between post-punk and No Wave, OOF from Brooklyn, NY does a really cool job of keeping some of their mid-tempo songs feeling really driving. While some of this project is a bit too much on the artsy side of things than I would standardly like, some of it resonates really well with me. The skronking saxophone and occasional somber violin come off very tasteful and not overbearing at all. The dual vocals each sound kooky in their own respect, both are capable of being very pretty yet also bizarre at the same time.

Albert DeMuth / Thot Audit split cassette

A split cassette with some of the most gorgeous packaging I have ever seen on a cassette release. We’ve got a four-color screen-printed O-card (with a single print on the inside of it even though it is glued shut), a two-color screen-printed insert, two-color screen-printed labels on each side of the cassette, and it all comes in a two-color screen-printed (inside and out) folding chipboard slipcase. It looks absolutely amazing and I very much applaud the amount of work that went into this. Now onto the music. It took me a few listens to fully understand what was going on with this tape. The two projects featured here both had members of the NY-based band COTTAGING. ALBERT DEMUTH is a solo musician who plays slow and meandering minimalist music with lackadaisical poetic lyrics delivered in a lazy LOU REED kind of way. THOT AUDIT, on the other hand, plays more driving, artsy, indie-based rock music with some mathy, all-over-the-place kinda riffs jangling away throughout their side of the tape. Some cool post-punk/gothy moments shine through at times. All in all, a very cool-looking and sounding release once I spent the time to get past my initial confusion.

V/A Asiztyt: Korrupted Beggar cassette

Another installment of a four-way split cassette on a 30-minute tape from Philippines-based label Prevail Records. The release self-identifies as “Cyber D-beat Crust Rumble,” and who am I to argue with that description? This time up we have DYSTOPIATE, who are a real nasty, crusty, black metal type of band. DESASTYR, who was also on the previous one of these comps I had heard, with more of their noise/No Wave weirdness. DISGARCHE, who are the most straightforward band on the comp, playing nasty crust punk. And finally, TERMINATOR1, who seems to be based in Hungary and is real nasty, lo-fi, sloppy crust punk. Same as the last volume, a tape run of 35 copies with little to no internet presence. If this is up your alley, act quickly!

Boiled Tongue / Shitload split cassette

Lo-fi noisecore solo project split cassette. SHITLOAD from New Orleans I have reviewed releases from before, and this is more of the same. Drum machine sounding like a machine gun, fast riffs over top. It’s a bit hard to differentiate from song to song since they’re all essentially in the same formula. Speaking of songs being difficult to differentiate from one another, BOILED TONGUE from Gulfport, Mississippi lists their tracks on this release as just “(Untitled 1-17).” If lo-fi grindcore, powerviolence, or other forms of aggressive music are your bag, then this would presumably be up your alley. Both projects mix elements from all different forms of brutality into a single package.

Sonny Vincent and the Bad Reactions Live at WCSB Cleveland cassette

Sonny Vincent, best known for his work in seminal NYC ’70s punk band TESTORS, and his backing band from 2012 the BAD REACTIONS performing live on a Cleveland based radio station. Starting things off with my favorite TESTORS song, this tape is relentless with similar style sleazy, driving rock riffs the whole way through! Aside from a three-song 7”, this is the only documentation of this project and it is absolutely worth a listen. Honestly, pretty inspiring stuff hearing aging rockers not losing their grit. If you dig TESTORS (and if you don’t maybe you should give them another shot), then you are definitely going to dig this.

Twin Guns Black Moon in Woodstock Live cassette

Another live cassette on Primitive Screwhead, the Big Neck Records live cassette subsidiary label. TWIN GUNS play some sort of amalgamation of rockabilly, garage-y rock’n’roll, and psychedelia, with a bit of surf influences peppered in there, too. This live tape is somewhat amusing due to the few people that keep talking obnoxiously close to wherever the mic was set up, so you get occasional snippets of conversation coming through louder than the band. A fun new tape label that has me intrigued as to what will be cranked out on it next.

False Negative A Brief Respite From Civility demo cassette

Thirteen songs of fast, nasty, unapologetic early ’80s hardcore aping all within a mere eleven minutes. As much as the band’s logo looks remarkably similar to that of NEGATIVE FX, the vocalist at times sounds almost exactly like Choke, so you’ve got a rough idea of what you’re in for with this tape. Driving songs with shouted vocals, barked gang vocals on many choruses, and catchy breakdowns. This is nasty Midwest hardcore at its finest, regardless of what decade it came out.

Musclegoose Yah Mo B There, God? It’s Me, Michael McDonald cassette

Musically, this almost rips at times, but the whole release is so overly chock-full of puns, plays on words, paragraph-long song titles, ’90s movie and music references, and goofy lifted riff parodies that it’s hard to look at just the music. I imagine this is a band of really fun people to be around who have wonderful senses of humor, and if you’re in on the goof this is probably side-splittingly hilarious. I, however, just find the novelty aspect of it a bit confusing, off-putting, and distracting.

ÖPNV ÖPNV cassette

Five songs of plodding, synth-heavy punk from Germany. Mid-tempo and dirgy, this falls somewhere in my mind between post-punk and slower peace punk stuff like POISON GIRLS. I really dig it. The strange occasional synthesizer blip-bloops are really cool and kind of push this over the top for me. Between the stuff here on Phantom Records and the handful of things I’ve gotten to review on Billo Records, it seems Germany has a wide array of killer stuff going on currently and I am thirsty for more.

The Throwawaze Punkstars cassette

It has been a few years since I have heard new bands playing street punk songs like this. Five songs of driving, beer-soaked, pogo-crazed nastiness from Oklahoma City. With choruses of “I’m unemplOi!Oi!Oi!ed / I’m unemplOi!Oi!Oi!ed / I’m unemplOi!Oi!Oi!ed / Fuck you!,” I imagine that the avid MRR reader can hear this song in their head right now without ever listening to the THROWAWAZE. Big fan of the band’s glamour shot in the insert being in front of a row of pinball machines.

Practitioner Demonstration I cassette

This tape looks incredible, which had me a little nervous since oftentimes punk’s eye for aesthetics is questionable. When I first started listening I was concerned we might be getting into artsy/scrams territory, but PRACTITIONER pleasantly surprised me by turning out to be a raging, noisy hardcore punk act that breaks into nasty dirges as often as it revs up to D-beat. From Nashville, TN, these self-proclaimed anti-fascist punks officially have my attention.

Ask Severed Self cassette

Four songs of metal-infused, mathy-riffed, post-hardcore from Michigan. It’s not bad as far as that style goes and the band’s politics are seemingly dead-on. If you’re into CONVERGE this is probably very much up your alley.

D. Sablu Taken by Static cassette

New Orleans, LA is home to David Sabludowski, who fired up a Yamaha MT400 multitrack cassette recorder and cranked out a wild eleven-song demo under the condensed moniker of D. SABLU. Taken By Static has a bit of everything going on in it so I’m having somewhat of a difficult time saying exactly what it sounds like. There are some faster electronic/new wave tunes on it that are super cool, a couple really blown-out and nasty revved up garage punk songs, some slow, meandering pretty things, oh, and a song or two that could debatably be passed off as lost OH SEES demo tracks. A wild ride I will be buckling in for again and again.

Porok Demo 2020 cassette

Ten songs of fast, driving hardcore punk from Finland. POROK is fast, pissed, and keeps their songs from all sounding too similar with well done guitar leads popping in sporadically. While clearly being very influenced by classic Finnish hardcore, my major gripe with this release is how clean and slick the recording sounds. If this was recorded and mixed a bit nastier, I think this would sound a lot more like the bands that have inspired them, and be more of an entertaining listen.

Bullet Proof Backpack Total Lockdown cassette

Youthful hardcore from Newport, RI. So many aspects of this feel instantly familiar even upon a first listen. The songs feel as though I’ve heard them many times before. I’m not sure if that means they’re particularly good, or just really well re-written punk songs. Six originals and a NEGATIVE APPROACH cover.

Necro Heads Necro Demo cassette

Lo-fi, nasty, knuckle-dragging, booger-eating hardcore punk. NECRO HEADS from Pittsburgh, PA sound like they kind of don’t take any prisoners. Six songs blistered through in just over five minutes, which is collectively shorter than the seventh and final dirge of a song on the demo. This is some nasty, no-bullshit, gross hardcore and I want more.

Shaka S is for Shaka cassette

Grimy hardcore punk from Oklahoma City. This is the second demo released by SHAKA. Stripped-down, gross punk devoid of any memorable choruses or catchy riffs. This is just nasty. My hopes are that none of the aforementioned descriptions are coming off as negatives because I mean them all as nothing but positives. I imagine the standard crowd reaction for SHAKA is just shaking with rage or twitching uncontrollably, and I hope to one day be among those ranks and see this for myself.

Anxiety Spree Anxiety Spree cassette

While this appears to be a COVID project, I am very much hoping that ANXIETY SPREE from New York City/Chicago will be much more than just that. Musically, this lands somewhere between pop punk, Revolution Summer, and non-pretentious indie rock (if such a thing exists). The recording consists of only two members, both of whom I have seen play in countless bands for the last decade or so. Pleasantly surprised to see that they’re doing a new project together, but not surprised in the slightest that it is as solid as it is.

Pariiah Swallowed by Fog cassette

Slow, sludgy metal from NJ played by a cast whose list of previous worthwhile bands is a mile long; DEVOID OF FAITH, DAS OATH, and KILL YOUR IDOLS to name a few. This six-song demo is incredibly powerful. Though it rarely revs up even as fast as mid-tempo, you can feel anxiety and desperation building as these heavy songs continue to plod along. Highly recommended even if “sludgy” and “metal” sound like off-putting terminology in music you like.

Coffer Uneasy Street cassette

Nasty, lo-fi, grimy garage rock from Detroit, MI. Three songs which have a feel to them as if they were written, somewhat learned, and then immediately hastily recorded, which I admittedly dig. With a run of only 25 copies, this wildly blown-out recording would likely disappear into obscurity were it not for the label documenting it digitally. Painters Tapes, self-proclaiming to be “Detroit’s Worst Cassette Label” (though I think they’ve got some competition with Juicy Crack Cassettes) seems to have a ton of other releases, which I will be digging through shortly.

Pope Joan Happy + Relaxed cassette

Full-length album of alt-rock, indie rock, and modern pop-punk. It’s not that POPE JOAN isn’t a good band, or the songs are bad or anything, they just seem maybe a little too happy and a little too relaxed to really make a lasting impact. Even pop-punk bands need a little bit of grit to them, don’t they? Anyways, it’s poppy, it’s catchy, and there’s an Uncle Buck sample on it.

V/A Nitalect: Abandoned Meaning cassette

A four-way split cassette on a 30-minute tape. DESASTYR really lives up to their name playing some strange combination of noise/jam/punk/No Wave/free jazz/something or other. It’s kind of like hanging out at Guitar Center, to be honest. I do love the photo of Weng Weng on their portion of the insert, however. DOWN//OUT is more discernible, playing post-apocalyptic crust-infused metallic punk. BOZGOR keeps it the most straightforward of the bands on this comp, delivering fast D-beat. DREKAVATZ closes out the tape with a mixture of cheesy metal riffs and mid-tempo black metal, revving up a little faster from time to time. It’s actually the most enjoyable of the tape and I couldn’t help but bop around to it a bit. All in all, an incredibly bizarre four-way split. I can find no information about this online, but with the tape being a run of only 35 tapes, once all four bands had their copies and review copies were mailed out I can’t imagine the label would have had many to sell.

Big Grump The Complete Recordings cassette

BIG GRUMP is a noise rock band from Memphis, TN that I have to assume is now no longer together based on the feeling of finality this tape has. The Complete Recordings is exactly what it sounds like, the complete recorded discography of the band. Mixing equal parts heaviness and mathy riffs, BIG GRUMP is able to keep my attention through the entirety of the cassette without ever crossing the threshold into being too artsy. If they are in fact broken up, what a bummer. If not, I look forward to more releases from them.

Memory Leak Graduate Into Nothing cassette

Ambient indie/shoegaze from Tijuana, Mexico. Five long, pretty, meandering songs, two of them clocking in at over six minutes. As the tape began, I thought it was going to be all instrumental soundscape stuff, which had my interest and was pretty intriguing, but it only lasted the introduction to the first song. The packaging of this really caught my eye and it was the first tape I popped on when receiving my box of demos to review. A double-cassette case which looks like a miniature DVD case, fold-out lyric sheet, and a live photograph of the band. The packaging really is lovely.

V/A Achtung ADK cassette

Thirteen tracks of synth-heavy weirdo punk from Berlin, Germany. If I’m understanding things correctly, all the songs were recorded specifically for this sampler. This is incredible and all over the map within genres that I thoroughly enjoy. There’s fast punk stuff, raging hardcore, No Wave weirdness, and post-punk dirges, with synth being present on a majority of the tracks. After a few listens, I think my favorite tracks are by DIE BONZEN, GESTURE, and NIGHTMARE. I can’t wait to do my research and find out if any of those bands have more to offer as their tracks are super good.

Become A Live Exercise cassette

Recorded live on KCSB radio on 10-25-2012. Hailing from Santa Barbara, CA, BECOME has the throwback Revolution Summer sound down perfectly. These songs are beautifully crafted, instantly familiar, and super well done, and all of this comes across even being performed live on a radio show. Personally, I probably would have cut out all of the horribly awkward banter with the radio host from the tape release of this, but to each their own. I see that the only other thing the band did was a demo tape on German label Take It Back Records, and I will be attempting to track one of those down now.

The Harness 1st Demo cassette

Two-piece, lo-fi hardcore punk/queercore from Serbia. I was shocked to see that a drummer is listed as a member of the band. Considering how nasty the recording is, I had assumed it was a distorted drum machine. This is a wild ride. Four songs of incredibly pissed-off hardcore punk with song topics like calling for all the queer punks to come out and be proud, and being upset about not being able to masturbate in your room without getting in trouble. I think this is beautiful and I am honored to have one of the mere 25 copies that exist of this masterpiece.

The Speed Humps Consumption cassette

Four originals and two DWARVES covers comprise this most recent release by the SPEED HUMPS from Ontario, Canada. The originals are all in the faster realm of mid-tempo as far as hardcore punk goes. This band appears to have three different vocalists, with both guitarists and the bassist sharing the duties. The vocalist that does a majority of the songs has barked discernibly yet choppy style, not unlike UNIFORM CHOICE. The second takes the lead on the incredibly confusing song “Dick Dungeon” (is it really about accidentally seeing some dude’s business in the bathroom of a bar?), and has a lower, growlier, Matt Freeman kind of gurgle to his voice. My favorite sounding of the three vocalists is the member who sings the two DWARVES cover songs. I can hear her chiming in singing backups in the originals, but she sounds super cool as the lead vocalist.

Cage Kicker Cage Kicker cassette

Relentless hardcore punk from Berlin, Germany. This is everything a punk demo should be. It’s fast, it’s pissed, it’s catchy, it’s short which leaves you wanting more. I want more! Oh, so much more! CAGE KICKER seems to hate many of the same things I hate; cops, organized religion, money, prison. What’s not to love about this demo? Pardon me, I have to flip this over and listen to it again being that CAGE KICKER might be my new favorite band.

People Person People Person demo cassette

Falling somewhere between Revolution Summer, hardcore, and melodic indie rock, PEOPLE PERSON is a bit of an enigma. Five toe-tapping songs with intelligently written lyrics, complete with song descriptions for each in the liner notes. These borderline-intellectuals have a lot to say, and they say it well. Packaging looks great, which is unsurprising with what I have seen come out of the Extinction Burst label.

V/A Tape Dad cassette

Tape Dad is a cassette label from Fayetteville, Arkansas, and this is their first compilation release, with plans of doing a new one to be released every year on Father’s Day. Very clever, Cassette Daddy! “It’s a crazy hodgepodge of different genres, styles, cities of origin, and friends” (per the label’s Bandcamp discussing the compilation), and I couldn’t agree more. With twenty tracks, I could go on about this forever, but rather than that I am going to focus on the handful of standout tracks from the punk/punk-adjacent realm that readers of MRR may care about, ignoring the jammy/college rock/singer-songwriter/indie/art stuff and leaving that for another place to review. PONO A.M. kicks off the comp with a killer driving track of garage-infused insanity not unlike THEE OH SEES. MUSCLEGOOSE has a weird, spastic, cow-punk kind of feel to them. BIG GRUMP, whose cassette I also just reviewed, is some cool, nasty noise rock. The PHLEGMS play a cool mixture of driving garage rock and post-punk. There’s a lot of cool stuff on this comp, and a lot that is very much not for me. Give it a listen and decide for yourself!

Cheap Clone New Paltz / Walk to Canada cassette

Two-song cassingle put out to coincide with the band playing their final show. Both songs are super catchy, jangly ’90s-inspired pop, and sure to get stuck in your head for a while. Admittedly, it kinda feels like I’m watching the end credits of an episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, tho.

Nag Red Panda cassette

Three-song self-released cassette from Atlanta, GA. For those of you not yet familiar with NAG, they have already released a slew of releases, including a single on Total Punk Records. Choppy, spastic hardcore punk that also mixes in mid-tempo garage aspects, and does it damn well. These three songs are awesome and it seems that since this tape was released, there is a new LP out now as well. Gonna be getting my hands on that ASAP.

Sin Futuro Distort Reno cassette

Blistering, blown-out, nasty hardcore punk from Reno, NV. Ten songs and a nasty version of “Terrorize” by GANG GREEN. Popping back and forth from near-warp speeds to the perfect circle pit tempo, SIN FUTURO knows what they’re doing and how to get an aging weirdo like myself pumped up even just from listening to a cassette in their living room.

Sissyfit Make ’Em Pay + Lilith EP cassette

SISSYFIT is pissed for all the right reasons! Tough hardcore songs with strong emphasis lyrically on scene politics, mental health, killing fascists, and issues related to being a woman in this horrid sexist world we live in. This is super tough; the breakdowns are absolutely pummeling and have me barely holding back from opening up a pit of one in my living room. This cassette compiles what I believe to be the band’s only two releases. Make ’Em Pay seems to have come out in 2018 and is a bit more memorable and straightforward than the at-times-metal-infused Lilith which came out this year. Even so, this works wonderfully as a single cassette release and I am officially a fan.

V/A Be Gay, Do Crime!: A Girlsville Benefit Compilation for Prism Health cassette

Girlsville hits it out of the park with this one. A benefit for Prism Health, which is such an important cause. A little about them from their website (find out more at prismhealth.org): “Prism Health offers a safe, affirming, and non-judgmental space where all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community can obtain the compassionate and culturally effective health care they need and deserve.” A+. Now onto the music. This comp is absolutely killer and features such heavy hitters as GEN POP, STIFF LOVE, and even a new track by OSEES (the newly renamed/revived OH SEES), as well as sixteen more tracks. It’s impossible to pick a favorite track off of this as it hits a lot of different bases. I was most surprised by how driving and gritty the OSEES song on here is, though; haven’t heard that band sounding this nasty in a while and I absolutely love it. Listen to this comp, make a donation to Prism Health if you can, and perhaps most importantly do what the label says: be gay, do crime!

Bewitchin’ Pool Bait n Switch cassette

Carbondale, IL seems to be home to some very odd ducks swimming here in the BEWITCHIN’ POOL. From the looks of their previous output, this band seems to have set the bar incredibly low, with a release entitled Tales From the Dolla Bin. This tape is pretty difficult to pigeonhole into a single sub-genre. It’s a bit all over the map, in a very cool way. There’s ’90s alt-rock-inspired stuff, pop that feels reminiscent of the KING KHAN AND BBQ SHOW, tongue-in-cheek cowpunk, a horn section in a song that otherwise sounds like DEAD MOON?! This is wild and I am definitely intrigued to hear more. The slower, more meandering songs lose my attention a bit and make this release feel longer than it actually is, but those upbeat, driving numbers really make it worthwhile.

Zurich Cloud Motors Do More Than Deconstruct-o cassette

This is my first exposure to a band with an almost overwhelming amount of output, having what I gather to be at least seven cassettes out. ZURICH CLOUD MOTORS ranges from catchy indie pop to bordering-on-indecipherable noise rock, hitting everything in between as well, which is quite the array. There are even moments when I hear early MEAT PUPPETS-inspired stuff coming through. A real wild ride. By all means, if you check this out, which you certainly should, give it more than just one song cause as soon as you think you know what ZCM is all about, they seem to switch things up on you.

The Beat Index Volume One: Juvenilia cassette

Madison, WI-based pandemic solo project. Poppy rock’n’roll hooks mixed with electronic synth-pop/synthwave/new wave. There are some real dreamy, pretty songs on this. I honestly don’t know how much appeal this will have to punkers/freakers, and I know I’m no expert in the electro/synthwave world, but I think my man Bobby from No Coast Records might have a real hit on his hands here with the BEAT INDEX. The pop sensibility on this cassette is remarkable and undeniable.

The Yearners 2020 EP cassette

Three-song cassette on Dirt Cult Records. Very much what you would expect from the label—incredibly catchy indie-leaning pop punk, exactly what I thought I was getting. Only three songs? What a tease! It seems the band members live far apart from one another, but hopefully they get together again soon and crank out more songs ’cause this is really poppy and fun and I’ve already listened to it three times in a row.

DZTN 1980 War of Good Intentions cassette

A really interesting solo post-punk/synthwave type of project. It seems the creator of this project is really leaning into music as a way of coping with the global pandemic we are currently living in, already cranking out four different releases in 2020. This is an eight-song cassette, very heavy on the synth, all songs seeming to have a strong post-apocalyptic feel to them, and the subject matter seeming very much drawn on the times we are living in.

Invalid Do Not Resuscitate cassette

If anyone ever tries to give you the argument that hardcore sucks now or that it ended in the year blah-blah-blah, tell that fool to shut up and make them listen to this tape. My god, this is absolute perfection. This is what hardcore should be. It should come as no surprise that this rips so hard when you look at the all-star lineup of Pittsburgh, PA lifelong punkers involved in this project. If you like hardcore punk and are interested in what dudes from EEL, BLOOD PRESSURE, AUS-ROTTEN, CAUSTIC CHRIST, and about a billion other bands are doing in the modern day, stop what you’re doing and listen to the almighty INVALID!

Shitload The COVID Sessions cassette

New Orleans noizecore project. SHITLOAD takes elements from all different kinds of extreme music and kinda mixes them all in together. The mid-tempo grimy riffs are pretty catchy, and I find myself wanting more of that. Tracks that stay in that realm like “Hang On” are super cool and I dig a lot. However, whenever it kicks into grindcore speed, the “drums” just sound like a non-stop machine gun. Twenty-one tracks of that is a lot to digest in one sitting, but tons of respect for how busy this dude’s been to crank out this much stuff all post-COVID.

Endless Bore Treatment Resistant cassette

Second album from Melbourne, Australia-based ENDLESS BORE. Fifteen tracks of stripped-down, by-the-numbers hardcore with tough breakdowns and vocal stylings you’d more likely expect to hear in a crust or D-beat band than a straightforward tough hardcore outfit. That of course isn’t to say that they aren’t fitting for one another.

The Maxines Burn It Down cassette

Posthumous release from this former K Records fuzzed-out garage-pop duo. On this release, the MAXINES deliver twelve songs of simple, wonderfully catchy mid-tempo garage rock. I have really been enjoying all the stuff on the Girlsville label that I’ve been sent lately and hope they continue to crank out such releases.

Silicon Heartbeat Silicon Heartbeat cassette

Debut cassette keeping the style of Kalamazoo, MI alive. SILICON HEARTBEAT sounds so much like the SPITS at times, it’s kinda crazy. Fuzzed-out, nasty mid-tempo punk with wild synth sounds peppered in. This tape is comprised of a mere four short songs, doing exactly what a good demo should: leaving the listener wanting more. I want more! Thankfully the attached note suggests they have plans to do another tape or record this fall. Consider one already sold!

Closedown Fucking Spent cassette EP

Nasty, gritty, sloppy hardcore punk from San Diego. Gruff vocals barked over mostly driving mid-tempo (with occasional fast spurts) hardcore punk. Very cool. Very angry. Four songs, short and sweet, same program on the A and B sides of the cassette.

Curbsitter I’m a Soy Boy cassette

Wow. Milwaukee, WI really has a hit on their hands here with CURBSITTER. Five-song cassette that reminds me a lot of super early NOFX. I’m not going to go on a ramble about how that’s a good thing, but I’m talking that early Mystic Records stuff that’s nasty, and many of the songs are too gross to make a lot of musical sense. Yeah, that stuff. This is great. If this band is a fraction as entertaining live as this tape is, they have just moved to the top of my must-see list. With songs about humanity coming to an end, disgust of social media, and spending your last 30 seconds alive masturbating, what’s not to love?

Reaches The Land Is Kind cassette

Solo project from Brooklyn, NY. It’s impressive how all-over-the-map this is, being that all the music and production is done by one person. Stylistically, every song is a bit different so it’s a little hard to pin down. The different songs span into areas of new age, new wave, synth-wave, synth-pop, dance pop, and there’s even a song on acoustic guitar that sounds kind of like solo SYD BARRETT stuff, you know, without the gallons of psychedelics. A lot of this is definitely out of my wheelhouse, but it’s very well done, and the aforementioned pseudo-psychedelic acoustic song, “Psychiatrist With A Sample Bin,” is actually pretty good.

Bashford Happathy cassette

Ten-song cassette from Madison, WI, recorded, mixed, mastered and released by immortal turkey Bobby Hussy. Grunge/alt-rock revival with some real nasty, sleazy riffs, doing it the best that this style can possibly be done. BASHFORD sounds a lot like Bleach-era NIRVANA to me, like you could probably slip a couple of these tunes within that record and play it for someone who has never heard it before and I doubt they would stand out that obviously. I am personally not the biggest alt-rock revival kinda guy, but if early teenage me had heard this, it would have certainly gotten a lot of plays.

Half/Cross Terminal cassette

Fourteen-track full-length demo of powerviolence-inspired hardcore. Metallic leads and scramz-esque interludes help make it more than just full-on PV worship. It’s fast when it’s fast, it’s heavy and plodding when it’s slow. My main gripe is that the tapes are dubbed so quietly that even cranked on my stereo, it’s still very quiet and buried under the tape hiss. Listening on their Bandcamp is much clearer.

Max Nordile Gym Places

A very strange artsy/noise project. Sounds to me like a mixture of field recordings and intentionally badly played instruments. Unlike the previous release by MAX NORDILE that I reviewed, some of the “songs” on this release have vocals on them, delivered in a lazy, kooky, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART style of spoken-word singing.

Max Nordile Let Them Fail cassette

I don’t really know what this is. Noise? Free jazz? The unintelligible sounds a novice band makes before starting their set? An art project? Someone learning to play a bunch of different instruments? Hanging out at Guitar Center? As far as I can tell, there are five “songs” on this cassette, each as confusing as the last. Repetitive squeaks and squawks played for a while before abruptly ending. Favorite track: ________, which is my way of saying that there is no track listing within the cassette or available online.

Spados Fast One on the Masses cassette

Lo-fi treble-heavy power pop from Philadelphia. Sickeningly catchy while still coming across gruff enough that I have no doubts that the punkers can dig it. I giggled a little bit at the hand-written note within the cassette stating “This cassette tape contains *LO-FI* garage rock.” Not mincing words, not pulling any punches, calling a SPADOS a SPADOS. The only label info contained anywhere on the cassette or online merely states CHUB-001. Your guess is as good as mine.

Tommy Bahama Boys Garage Inc. II cassette

Based on the artwork, the name, and the little BEACH BOYS sample at the beginning of this tape, I assumed I was in for some instrumental surf or fun pop music or something. Boy was I wrong. This tape is a truly confusing experience combining harsh noise with lo-fi novelty electronic driving drum machine punk. Call me crazy, but there’s a couple cool, nasty synth-punk songs buried in here if you take the time to dig them up. They seem to have dubbed themselves “seapunk” and “yacht punk.” I don’t expect either of those terms to really make it off the docks, but if tapes like this keep floating to the surface I will certainly keep checking them out.

Death Gasp Death Gasp cassette

Crusty hardcore punk from Pittsburgh, PA. Six track demo of driving, metal-infused, nasty crust punk. The dubbing of the tape makes it sound super lo-fi, but I also checked out the songs on their Bandcamp and the recording is much more clear than I was initially led to believe.

Hotmom Stupid Vegan Band cassette

This is exactly what I want in a punk demo! Every song a nasty punk hit played fast and spastically on the verge of falling apart. This demo somehow embodies that feeling you get when first delving deeper into the world of punk, going from entry-level bands to the real deal. That feeling of excitement mixed with a tiny amount of fear. HOTMOM has me thirsty for more. Thankfully searching around on the internet I was able to find that they’ve got a slew of other demos out. Phew!

Spam Risk Spam Risk cassette

Chicago, IL brings us SPAM RISK, a weird/poppy post-punk band featuring noodly guitar work and vocals bordering on novelty-song style both in their delivery and the subject matter. A couple of the songs on here are super driving and catchy as hell. “Google Bookchin” is the real stand-out track on this seven-song debut cassette. Definitely interested in hearing more of this kooky stuff.

Blotchouts Lenora Guards the Egg cassette

Angular, dissonant, blip-bloops of no wave weirdness. Really fun, weird, artsy kookiness. BLOTCHOUTS from Mobile, Alabama bring us twelve songs on this newest release of theirs including a truly bizarre cover of JOHNNY THUNDERS “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.” Much of this tape is too weird and long for me, but in the moments they lock into some driving grooves it is super cool. The band seems to have a ton of other releases so if this kinda thing is for you, you’ve got a lot of new tunes to check out.

Ghouli Nothing cassette

Dark and angry hardcore from Richmond, VA. This is a really nice mix of different types of punk. I hear some early TSOL in there, some RUDIMENTARY PENI, even some HOLIER THAN THOU which makes for a cool amalgamation of early punk and death rock stuff, but they’ve clearly got the chops to blister through some faster songs as well.

Nightfeeder Rotten Demo cassette

Heavy crust punk from Seattle. They’ve definitely done their homework with this band. The songs all sound like you’ve heard them before, which either means that they wrote some catchy riffs or that their songwriting is damn good at aping the bands that have inspired them. I definitely hear some AUS ROTTEN-type hooks coming through with a few of them. Eight tracks in total, ending with covers of MISSBRUKARNA and the VICTIMS (Australia). The covers might be my favorite part as they not only do the songs justice, but it also seems to force the band to break out of the pretty standard crust sound of their originals. They play the different genres of punk surprisingly well.

Regime Bury Them Now cassette

Blistering D-beat from Moscow, Russia. This tape rips and is pretty timeless. Nails this style dead on. Sure, it’s cliché to compare a D-beat band to DISCHARGE, but there you have it. Five songs will leave you wanting more.

Thievery Thievery cassette

Lo-fi hardcore from Victorville, CA. From the little insert included I have gathered that this was a short-lived project from 2005 that wrote four songs and recorded live onto a four-track, released it as a demo, and played one singular show. This is a reissue of that same demo. It’s pretty cool, sufficiently pissed. The quality of the recording makes it a bit difficult to discern exactly what they sounded like. The mind fills in those garbled gaps, tho. Musically it falls somewhere between powerviolence, fastcore, and some tough-guy beatdown stuff.

A Hanging Food for Rats cassette

Full-length album originally released by the band in 2009 on CD and now available on cassette. A HANGING is a crossover thrash band from New Orleans. Musically, there are a few songs that kick in and shred pretty damn hard. Unfortunately, almost every one has a slow, almost scrams-esque breakdown within it. That, combined with the very forced growling type of vocal delivery, puts me off considerably.

Bootlicker Live in the Swamp cassette

For those of you unfortunate enough to not be familiar with BOOTLICKER yet, do yourself a favor and check out their slew of EPs already out in the world. Rip-roaring, relentless Canadian hardcore punk. This cassette is a live show recorded during the band’s last US tour. The recording is top notch and the band is clearly in the midst of their tour tightness. Some of the angriest and best hardcore punk going these days. This live recording sounds better than most band’s studio records. Pro-dubbed tapes with attention to detail on the artwork put this over the top. It even includes a cool looking obi strip on the outside of the tape shell. According to Neon Taste Records there is supposed to be two inserts within the tape but my review copy did not come with those.

Death Cow Pioneer cassette

Seven tracks of indie/alt-rock from Lincoln, Nebraska. DEATH COW is very catchy and the songs are full of pretty, harmonized vocals, ripping guitar leads, and repetitive mid-tempo distorted riffs. I’ve seen them referred to as a garage band and a “weirdo punk” band but I don’t hear any of that at all. It feels like poppy ’90s alt-rock revival stuff to me.

Filth Garden Live Filth cassette

This is a wild ride. Cassette comes with no artwork whatsoever, case wrapped in duct tape, with the words FILTH GARDEN written in black sharpie across the front. I had to cut the case open to pry the cassette out from inside, revealing a black cassette with a duct tape label reading the same thing. This appears to be a live set as it is one continuous song with no breaks other than feedback which all ends with cheers and applause. Musically we’ve got drums and bass, the bass occasionally kicking on some kooky effects pedals. The tempo ranges alternating from heavy doom sounding stuff to upbeat driving riffs. It sounds very full considering it is only two instruments and a vocalist, who sounds eerily like Cronos from VENOM.

Gritos Gritos cassette

New band from San Diego, CA. The writeup that was included with the demo refer to them as being a raw punk band, and while there are certainly aspects of that style peppered throughout this tape, it comes across to me as a more straightforward hardcore unk band with peppered in metal riffs, but in a good way, ya know? Four songs, lyrics sung in Spanish.

Head to Wall Demo 2019 cassette

Super chuggy, youth-crew-esque hardcore. Three songs that truly sound like they came from a different decade. You know the sound; singy melodic vocals with barked gang backups, driving main riffs, chugging tuff breakdowns. As I write this I’m discovering that there is an unlisted fourth song on the demo, a cover of “Under Fire” by 411. Not hiding where their inspiration comes from one bit with this choice of cover.

Klazo / Susans Weekend in The Rust Belt cassette

This is a split live cassette from two garage-punk bands from London, ON. It has live tracks recorded in Detroit, Cleveland, and Rochester while the bands were on a weekend tour together. Oddly enough I was personally in attendance at the Rochester gig. Small punk world. This is a fun idea, the tapes look great, and it sounds pretty cool considering it was recorded on a Tascam at three different venues, but I think I would rather just listen to studio recordings by each band, personally. If you are currently unfamiliar with the bands, KLAZO is a nasty two-piece fucked-up garage-punk duo with an LP out on It’s Trash Records. SUSANS would also fit within the garage-punk world, but are a little more straightforward thank KLAZO. I don’t know that they have any studio releases to date, but after revisiting this live set of theirs I am certain that I would like to hear one.

Virvon Varvon Mind Cancer cassette

Brand new release on the Portland, OR based Girlsville Records label. VIRVON VARVON is the new project featuring members of the English trashy garage rock powerhouse BLACK TIME. This band is a bit hard to peg down, but has hooks galore! The songs are all over the place but don’t stray too far from the overarching garage punk umbrella. Catchy, driving, nasty, lo-fi garage punk/rock’n’roll garbage. Those adjectives do anything for you? If so this is very much worth a listen.

Enemy Distrust cassette

Ooh baby, this is tough. Heavy hardcore riffs and tough-as-nails breakdowns. ENEMY doesn’t come off particularly like tough guys, though. Do I feel that way because of the polite hand-written note which accompanied the cassette? Perhaps it’s because of the band name and song titles written in pink paint marker directly onto the cassette shell in lieu of any sort of artwork? Either way, I dig the effort. I can’t find any info about the band, but I hope to because this is hard enough to get us aging punkers out of mosh retirement.

Pink Guitars We Are Made of the Sun cassette

Ripping fast hardcore punk from Buffalo, NY. I know that PINK GUITARS originally began as a solo project, and being from Buffalo myself I saw an early line-up of his live band play once. I’m not sure if this cassette is still just the one guy or if it’s now a full band, as there are no credits found within, but whatever the case I hope the responsible party(s) keep doing whatever they did here because this tape is awesome! Five songs of blistering, ’80s inspired hardcore punk. “Always Searching” seriously kills! The riffs are tight and catchy, the drums are fast, the one guitar solo is unexpected and well played. The vocals sound a little monotone at times, but that’s also what makes it sound a little bit like UNIFORM CHOICE, so chalk that one up wherever it fits for you. The program is repeated on the B-side of the tape, but it is played backwards. I kept listening waiting for the hidden messages in PINK GUITARS songs to become clear to me, but nothing ever presented itself. What’s surprising about this is that some of the riffs are actually pretty damn cool when played backwards, too. Well, I’ll be damned. Along with all the releases on the dude from PINK GUITARS’ tape label, only 25 copies of this tape exist, so scope it online as it’s likely sold out.

V/A My Head Is Like A Radio Set: A Girlsville Compilation cassette

This is essentially a sampler cassette featuring a number of artists who have releases on Girlsville Records, based in Portland, OR. As per the label “…all new, novel, unreleased & unearthed tunes from our favorite bands.”. Stylistically the tape ranges from bubblegum-pop to garage rock to synth-pop—it’s all over the map but the bands all work together really well. This is super cool and fun as a way to expose oneself to a ton of new bands all at once and see what a label is all about. I love when labels do this kinda thing. The tape features a ton of bands: the MARDI KINGS, the PRISSTEENS, FREAK GENES, GERM HOUSE, SEABLITE, the DARLING BUDS, UK GOLD, COLLATE, DIE GROUP, UV-TV, BECKY & THE POLITICIANS, SPLIT FRICTION, COACHWHIPS, THEE THEE’S, and OUIJA BOYS. If any of these bands are on your radar, or you just feel like scoping out a bunch of new bands, give this tape a shot.

Affect Profit Victim cassette

Noisy D-beat raw punk from Sweden. Five songs of frantic, chaotic, crusty punk with vocals barked over top and a constant squeal making me think my tinnitus was acting up. I was equally as shocked to read in the insert that this was actually recorded at a studio, not on a boombox, as I was to read that the band has only two members, the vocalist also playing the drums. I’m not sure if this is just a recording project or if they play live, but the songs are pretty cool and I would certainly like to see two people pull this off live.

Ex-White Disco cassette

Nasty, weird, driving, gross, shit-eating punk from Germany. Musically this rips. The catchy clean guitar licks really get stuck in your head, and some of the songs are awesome, specifically “It’s Me, The Shit” and “Hooray Henry.” On some of the songs, the barked vocals are a bit overly affected which makes them come off teetering on the brink of being novelty songs, which, depending on how that statement rubs you, can be viewed as a positive thing. The lyrics that I can decipher are just dumb enough to make me scratch my head wondering why the hell I didn’t think of them. “I want to piss in your face, I want to beat you with my bat.”

Nervous Aggression Demo 2020 cassette

Thrash-metal riffs mixed in with melodic punk, sludgy emotional parts, incredibly loud sound clips, and occasionally rapped lyrics. The main riff in “School Shooter” sounds a lot like that one really cool HOLIER THAN THOU song, but the rest of the song unfortunately does not. The last thing I ever want to do is misinterpret people, but I will say that if you’re going to have a song entitled “Slut Shame” where the only easily decipherable word in the song is “whore” yelled twice, you may want to consider including lyrics with your demo in order to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions.

Period Bomb / Rosé Perez Born in a Bag split cassette

This was my first exposure to ROSÉ PEREZ, and I don’t think I fully understand it. It sounds as if the YEASTIE GIRLZ wrote a musical in an attempt to make close-minded masculine dudes uncomfortable. I have, however, previously been exposed to the performance art piece known as PERIOD BOMB more than a few times. While I do respect the never-say-die attitude they have to constantly tour despite losing members, making more merch from the road, etc., I just wish more time and effort went into finishing the product before it was exported. This is essentially just noise parading as a band. The drums and bass occasionally have a comprehensive groove they lock into and repeat, but the guitar is just used as a noise-maker, which was particularly evident the one time I saw them play where rather than using a guitar pick the singer/guitarist played her instrument with a corncob. I am sure this has appeal in the art-noise-punk circle I am not familiar with, but the constant question of “how much art can you take?” regularly echoes in my head, and the answer for me is “not this much.”

Teenage Cenobite Live cassette

Driving, nasty synth-punk. Richmond, VA has got something special here. Six songs recorded live and sounding better than a majority of demos I usually hear. TEENAGE CENOBITE originally began as a solo project, but after releasing their first cassette has become a full-on live band that, from the sound of this tape, are an unrelenting powerhouse. Not surprising that this is as good as it is having been released by Feel It Records, one of the most consistent labels these days.

Warm Swords War on Words Vol. 1 cassette

At first I didn’t realize that I was given both volumes of WARM SWORDS’ War on Words cassettes to review, and I listened to the second volume first. Whoops. This first installment seems to be more straightforward and is my preferred of the two cassettes. Minimalist, synth-heavy garage-y post-punk that meanders around a bit in an artsy direction, especially on the tape’s instrumental tracks. The first batch of songs are super driving and really do it for me. Those are where this project shines. The instrumentals lose my interest and the more pop-heavy songs don’t seem to be as memorable. There are lots of very cool aspects to this band, but two full length cassettes is a bit much to digest as an introduction to them.

Warm Swords War on Words Vol. 2 cassette

Try as I might, I cannot figure out where this band is actually from. It’s either New Zealand, Belgium, France, or Germany. Strange, minimalist, garage-y post-punk that leans a bit on the artsy side of things without being entirely off-putting, though it does teeter on the edge there a few times throughout the course of this tape. Despite the vocals being delivered somewhat lazily, the songs as a whole come across rather powerful and driving. It’s an interesting combination and I’m pretty into it. All the songs are recorded and mixed by the band, too, which is always an impressive thing. I was a little nervous that going into Volume 2 would be similar to seeing the movie sequel before the original and I would be lost, but all that has happened is I am all the more intrigued to visit the first volume.

Deadream Deadream cassette

Fast hardcore punk. Five short songs, each clocking in well under a minute in length, most of which still finding the time to have a tough breakdown. Picture something mixed between LEFT FOR DEAD-type spastic riffs and tough CHAIN OF STRENGTH breakdowns.

The Dumpies Jim Thorpe cassette

The most recent release by a band whose offerings seem to all be cassette releases named for various professional athletes. Here we have Jim Thorpe, Native American Olympic gold medalist. The DUMPIES may not be as versatile musically as Jim Thorpe was athletically, but they are not all that far off. Running through six songs in under six minutes, they touch all the bases and dabble a little bit in a number of sub-genres without it feeling forced. Mid-tempo garage, plodding punk, lo-fi pop, catchy pop-punk. The DUMPIES break up their pentathlon of original songs by tossing in a RED KROSS cover, and they totally nail it. Consider this reviewer’s eyes peeled for these elusive other athlete-themed cassettes.

Eva Ras Meni Nije Svejedno . . . It’s Not Whatever cassette

EVA RAS is a solo screamo project from Belgrade, Serbia. Musically they would fit in very well with the likes of ORCHID or PG.99, etc. It is spastic, chaotic, and unsettling, so I think it very much achieves the goal of the genre. The band uses the term “emoviolence” to describe their sound, and I admittedly had to look that one up. I’m not sure when screamo started being referred to as skramz, and when bands sounding like that adopted the term emoviolence, but as far as I can tell it’s all pretty similar. This is apparently the first half of a double EP, the second half forthcoming, and the cassette is limited to 12 copies.

M80 Apathy cassette

Holy hell, this rips! Oakland, CA’s M80 plays super driving and catchy hardcore punk of an incredibly timeless nature. It would be difficult to pinpoint a timeframe that this came out if I just heard it playing somewhere. The five-song cassette instantly feels familiar, like I’ve been listening to it for years, without sounding like any one specific band. This might be as close to perfection as a demo can get, in my book. Not satiated with listening to the tape three times in a row, I did a little searching and found a live set of theirs on the internet and it’s totally worth a watch.

Armchair Martian Demo cassette

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

Julien Papèn Theelevator cassette

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

Macrodose First Dose cassette

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

Misery Guts Oxford ‘Ardcore cassette

D-beat-infused hardcore from Oxford, UK. Nothing groundbreaking here, but certainly not phoning it in. Songs are tight, vocals are pissed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vocalist credited for “confrontation” before. Definitely makes me more intrigued to see this band play live.

Nerd Processor A Dumb Fool, Loudly cassette

Two-piece bedroom pop outfit from Boston, MA. Mostly pretty non-offensive pop tunes, a few songs are certainly better than others, with “Alice” being my favorite of the bunch. There are some pretty fun little melodies in the woodwinds, added by one member. I would have much preferred a shorter release of just the standout tracks though, as 40-plus minutes on a single release is a bit much as a first introduction to a band.

Putzfrau Demo 2019 cassette

This is wonderful! Relentless fast hardcore punk that is still somehow memorable and catchy without being even the slightest big “poppy.” PUTZFRAU blisters through eight tracks with only one song surpassing the one-minute mark. Portland, OR has a real winner on their hands here. It’s clear to me that these are some seasoned vets, the guitarist having been in the criminally underrated MONGOLOID and ORGANIZED SPORTS, and I’m told the bassist was in NASA SPACE UNIVERSE and UNIX. I am unfamiliar with the previous works of the singer and drummer, but I highly doubt this is their first band, and would love to know what else they have done. A+

Singing Lungs Mutter cassette

’90s pop punk/indie pop worship from Grand Rapids, Michigan, featuring someone from CHEAP GIRLS. A few of the songs are definitely catchy, and you’ll probably be really into them if you’re nostalgic about LEMONHEADS/DINOSAUR JR and stuff like that. This release is a pro-dubbed cassette, but the sound of it is absolutely awful. Warbly and unintentionally distorted, which doesn’t work well for a band trying to write catchy songs and a singer actually singing. I had to turn it off and listen to the band’s Bandcamp.

Warsh Burning Urge cassette EP

Prince Edward Island, Canada brings you the second cassette release by WARSH. This is incredible! Sophia’s barked, overly reverberated vocals are relentless, which is unsurprising given the subject matter. This band is pissed for all the right reasons. WARSH mostly plods along noisily within the mid-tempo range, but cranks it into overdrive on a few of the songs on this tape. It reminds me of a more raw, unhinged version of CONDOMINIUM. I semi-recently was on my first extended tour of northeastern Canada and we took a ferry up to Prince Edward Island. It was fun and all, but we certainly didn’t play with bands like WARSH. Oh, how I wish we had, though.

An Invitation You Can’t Love Me cassette

A two-song cassingle. AN INVITATION appears to be a one-man-band from Richmond, VA who was in that band SATAN’S SATYRS. This is some truly sleazy, nasty, heavy-metal infused rock’n’roll. Vocally it kinda sounds like VENOM to me, while musically it ranges from sludgy and plodding to riff-heavy and driving. Pretty cool, but I think I need to go take a shower now.

Crüx Decussäta Class Dismissed cassette

I’ll be honest with ya, I put this cassette aside while doing my reviews for the month fully expecting it to be the real stinker of the bunch. To my surprise, CRÜX DECUSSÄTA proves the old adage “don’t judge a demo by its cringe-worthy artwork” to be true. Three songs of rip-roaring speed metal, with the final one being a weird hybrid of “Highway Star” by DEEP PURPLE and “Victims of the Vampire” by SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS. I enjoyed the first two songs, both complete with their SLAYER-style high-pitched-scream dive-bombing before dissipation, but was incredibly skeptical of how they would pull off the third’s mashup. To my surprise, it is actually pretty well done and super entertaining, wisely switching away from “Highway Star” before the extended solo and morphing into “Victims of the Vampire,” taking that to the end and focusing on that song’s much more attainable solo.

La Milagrosa La Milagrosa cassette

Puerto Rican punkers living in Brooklyn deliver a debut cassette with seven songs of lo-fi punk rock crammed on a short cassette. Six head-bopping originals and a cover of a song by fellow PR band ACTITUD SUBVERSIVA, which I recognized from their split with TROPIEZO, whom I was a big fan of but regrettably never got to see. This is a real nice change from the overhyped “punk” bands that Brooklyn tends to shit out, and it comes across incredibly sincere and not contrived in the slightest. It seems they only made 50 of these cassettes, so get one quick.

Max Nordile Primordial Gaffe cassette

This cassette looks amazing. Super slick pro-dubbed silver cassettes, three-panel foldout J-card cover with black print on shimmery silver paper stock. I am learning a lot this month about the dangers of focusing on the aesthetics of demos. The only positive things I have to say about this release have to do with its good looks. I have absolutely no idea what I just listened to. Weird squawks and smacks and bleep-bloops with whiny vocals and/or jazz horns delivered over top of it. It’s some form of avant-garde experimental art project stuff that I guess I just don’t get. The tape is long too, there’s eleven “songs” on it, and they’re not particularly short. I standardly make it a point not to write reviews during the first listen of a demo, but I don’t think I will be able to make it the full way through this tape a second time.

Silk Leash Troublesome Thoughts cassette

Artsy noise punk from Maryland. Four songs that kinda sound like if PG.99 or ORCHID got rid of the noodly guitar parts and had a more aggressive singer. The band’s Bandcamp informed me that the release is actually called Troublesome Thoughts, as it’s not listed anywhere on the cassette.

Stupid Fascist Citizens Divided demo cassette

STUPID FASCIST are from Green Bay, WI, and are a self-proclaimed “leftist political hardcore band…made up primarily of old school ’80s punks with an impressive back catalog.” I couldn’t find any info on what bands the members used to be in, but regardless it is awesome hearing older punks still fuming with aggression and channeling it into a fast hardcore punk band. Three songs on this demo, which I think are collectively over in about the same amount of time as the cobbled-together “propaganda reel” that starts the tape. The attached note informs me that the band is finishing up work on a debut LP. My interest is piqued. Bring it on!

Zurich by the Japanese Decoration Food Cassette

This is a strange one, for sure. ZURICH BY THE JAPANESE jumps from bedroom-pop to ambient-drone to experimental-noise to singer-songwriter folk to shoegaze to all kinds of other weird obscure sub-genres that I’m not sure I fully understand, all on one lo-fi cassette. It’s not particularly surprising that they’re able to cover such a wide range, considering there are 24 songs on this demo. It’s all pretty confusing, and some of the songs even completely change genre unexpectedly right in the middle of themselves, making it difficult to follow along to try to point out which, if any, of the songs are standout tracks. Perhaps it’s my small brain at fault, but it all comes off as way more of an art project than a band, and I think I need a nap after navigating my way through the entirety of this release.

The Beekeepers Song Demos 2 Cassette

Eleven tracks of well-crafted, mid-tempo, jangly pop from the mastermind of SPACE WOLVES. Having been an unbelievably big fan of that band, this is right up my alley. Super catchy songs, lovely clean guitar licks, beautifully belted crooner-esque vocals, all done while keeping it cool and lo-fi, nothing overproduced. Presumably, most times “pop” is used as a descriptive term here at MRR, it is referencing pop-punk or power pop, but neither of those terms feel particularly fitting for the BEEKEEPERS. This feels more like ’60s-inspired pop/rock’n’roll recorded with a DIY punk mentality. You’ll be bopping your head, you may even shed a tear, but don’t let that stop you from giving this a listen, it’s an A+. I’m going to stoke the fire in my wood stove and play it again from the top.

Dialer Tour Tape 2019 Cassette

Took me a minute to wrap my head around what’s going on here. This is Philadelphia, PA-based drum-machine-driven synth-punk which also has an occasional saxophone. Some of the songs are pretty cool—faster and nastier than I expected, particularly the newer songs on the A-side of the tape. This is where DIALER really shines. The slower tracks feel too long and lose my attention, particularly the repetitive ones with spoken-word political sound clips in lieu of vocals, which close out each side of the tape. Side A is listed as having four new demo tracks but there’s definitely more on it which goes on for a while, and side B is DIALER’s side of a split 12″ with CHRONIC ANXIETY. Interesting to see a band in the current age having a strong, outspoken, anti-war/anti-authority political agenda, and props to that considering it feels like many bands nowadays are stuck singing about goo and slime, but a lot of it does come off sounding a little contrived and cringy.

Ephs No Riots Cassette

This is certainly a lo-fi recording, which is not necessarily a slam when it comes to this style of punk. The J-card does warn you that it was “recorded at home,” after all. Mid-tempo, kinda catchy, minimal punk rock sounding like it was recorded on a crummy old boombox. There’s a bit of a post-punk feel to it at times with the jangly guitar meandering around repetitive bass lines. EPHS covers “Teenager” by the RATS which is a pretty cool tune to choose for a cover, and the tape has some kinda drum machine type thing on at least one of the songs—like I said, it’s pretty lo-fi. It seems this cassette is an edition of merely twenty, so snag it while you can if you’re into lo-fi catchy home recordings.

Hawk Baby Hawk Baby Demo Cassette

Six songs of mid-tempo punk. Plodding, heavy-sounding riffs with noisy leads spattered atop. I was going to make a comparison of the vocalist sounding like Larry from the DARVOCETS/WET BRAIN, but the more I’m looking into this, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is actually him. The label is from Cleveland, after all, and I can’t picture another city in the world that would be churning out this kind of punk. A few of the songs sound a bit like the same rewritten song, making the tape blend together slightly, but it’s a pretty damn good song, so why deviate from a formula that works? I listen to music every day at my house, and the low end on this recording is so heavy that it rumbled my speakers, shifting a glass overhead light cover that was balanced on the speaker for the past year or so, sending it crashing to the ground mere feet from where I was standing. It seems even listening to HAWK BABY is potentially dangerous, and this recording has truly captured the essence of Cleveland.

Pest! Pest! Demo Cassette

Hardcore punk from Brooklyn, NY. Each of the five songs go between blisteringly fast to the slowest of punk dirges. While having such a formula makes the songs a bit predictable, the passion shows with a band like PEST. It is on the slower parts, however, that the cool guitar work really shines through. There are some unexpectedly catchy licks hidden in these angry songs. The vocals on this demo are especially pissed, and I was not surprised to find that the vocalist is Katie from South Carolina’s now defunct GLITTORIS, who were an incredibly powerful live band. This tape was dubbed pretty poorly, but listening to the digital tracks, the recording itself sounds great. I expect and truly hope to see more from this band.

Riita Absolute Santa Rosa Cassette

A note attached to this cassette informs me that RIITA has changed their name to LÖCKHEED since the release of this demo. RIITA/LÖCKHEED is a heavy crust punk band in the vein of early TRAGEDY records. The songs aren’t bad, and they’re probably cool to see play live. This, however, is a style that has been done to death over the last few decades, and there isn’t anything particularly standout about this recording. Part of that could be due to the tape itself having a significant warble to it, making it slightly difficult to differentiate everything going on, and messing with the listener’s equilibrium. Crank it up and pass the Dramamine.

Sonomax Sonomax Demo Cassette

I’m hesitant to even refer to this as a demo, considering how professional it is. Very polished recording, pro-dubbed cassettes, shrink wrap; an overall very nice looking and sounding complete package. SONOMAX play catchy indie pop with maybe a hint of post-punk churned in, and hail from Brooklyn, NY. It’s very poppy, but oddly not particularly catchy.

Thee Irma & Louise Kill List Cassette

As a lover of surf music, this tape was a pleasant surprise. THEE IRMA & LOUISE from Bern, Switzerland have apparently been a band since 2002, and have a whole slew of vinyl releases under their belt, which I will certainly be looking into now that I have been exposed to their newest release. Kill List appears to be the band’s first cassette release, and is ten tracks of surf-infused punk—or should I say punk-infused surf? The songs range in tempo from slow and creepy to fast punk, and one of the few vocal numbers actually sounds oddly similar to “El Dorado” by AGENT ORANGE. Guitar tones are pretty distorted, and there is a lot of spooky organ peppered in, leading me to assume they’re more inspired by punk bands doing instrumentals, such as “Surf Bat” by 45 GRAVE rather than by ’60s surf music. While not my favorite take on surf, they do the style very well, and some of the tunes are incredibly catchy. What’s more: they keep most of the tracks instrumental, the way this reviewer feels surf music should be. Once you go vocal, you lose me a little bit. Having only two vocal numbers on this ten-song cassette, I like those odds. What really confuses me about this tape is all ten songs listed are on the A-side of the tape, while the B-side is roughly ten minutes of feedback and stick clicks as if a song is about to start, but never actually does, followed by a strange instrumental industrial song. Unnecessary. The A-side will be rewound and played many times over.

The Touch Heads Nostalgia Is Poison Cassette

This band rules! On a recent tour I drove, they were one of the locals that played the Boston gig, and were one of the best bands I saw on that trip. The TOUCH HEADS have got it all: short songs that are catchy and memorable, nasty riffs, killer guitar work, and booming drums. A truly awesome modern hardcore punk band. This demo does exactly what a demo should do, in my opinion: leave you wanting more. Clocking in at just over five minutes with the program repeating on both sides of the cassette, I find myself letting it flip and listening to it over and over again. Here’s hoping this isn’t the only thing we hear from TOUCH HEADS. I want more!