Reviews

Erick Bradshaw

Hated Pressure / Stereotyped 7″ reissue / 4 Song EP reissue

It’s an immutable fact of life that even second-tier, second-wave SoCal hardcore punk is better than your stereotypical hardcore punk from any era and region you care to choose or pick out of a hat. These two self-released seven inches came out in 1982 and Meat House is doing us all a favor by re-spawning them for our current, no-so-different bleak times. “Pressure” segues from desperate beach-punk to a hesher-worthy breakdown and then surfs away on an anthemic chant—let’s see you do that in just over two minutes! “Stereotyped” is so good, it’s almost a cliche. Is this just a happy accident? Fuck no, these dudes meant this shit, and the sentiment still applies. Society is square and everyone should get fucked. The audio quality of the EP is a little compromised but the tunes are strong and you get double the pleasure. “Victim of Lies” is a classic Reagan-era sneer at Amerika and it hits like 7 SECONDS covering TOXIC REASONS, while “Enemy” sounds like it could have come off the first TSOL 12”. Totally killer.

The Lipschitz Chevron LP

It’s the year 2000 and I’m at my friend’s place and he walks up to his TV set-up and pushes a tape into the VCR. Clad in sunglasses and a rain jacket, Peter Ivers appears on the screen and in short order SUBURBAN LAWNS plays “Janitor” and I have a new crush. A couple decades fly by and now all songs are rags. Of course, I was twenty years too late to the party myself, but after forty years, it seems the world has finally caught up. Even though the LAWNS revival has been in full swing for several years now, I’m still charmed by a lot of the artists drinking from its sprinkler. This preamble is not to sell the LIPSCHITZ short—they are an excellent band that can stand perfectly well on their own. Hell, I don’t think there’s a duff cut on Chevron, and that’s fourteen chances to slip in a stinker with nary a false step. “Cobalt Car” is like if PLAGAL GRIND tried its hand at egg-punk, while “Yuggie” does the same neat trick to the CLEAN. “So What” has a jerky riff that screams “DEVO!” but if you’re complaining, then you’ve lost the plot. “Laclion” is like CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN without a recording budget but still hauling a trailer full of good ideas. There’s no question that songs like “Cutlet,” “Gross Finance,” and “Computer Sun” are drawing on the SUBURBAN LAWNS template, and it’s a great thing to see and hear and I would gladly trade a thousand mosh-friendly hardcore bands for a few score of these types of groups. Boom, boom, boom, boom.

Corker A Bell That Seems To Mourn cassette

Future Shock seems to have its fingers set square on the pulse of the Cincinnati scene. A throbbing Cinci scene? ‘Tis true—there has been a spate of excellent bands rising from the silt of the Ohio River basin, and CORKER is yet another winner dredged up and slapped onto tape. With a hat-tip to PERE UBU, the four songs here nod northward towards Columbus, recalling recent (NECROPOLIS) and current (DANA) practitioners of one of the Buckeye State’s signature musical exports—avant-garage. There’s a shade more UK post-punk being aired out on this EP than most Midwestern bands of this ilk, but CORKER manages to turn damp into dank.

Soursob Soursob LP

Scottish trio SOURSOB plunks down snarly and gnarly punk gunk on its debut LP. Most of these eight songs are mid-tempo movers, buzzing with fuzz guitars and exuding displeasure with the world as-is. SOURSOB’s screeds about modern life recall GOOD THROB’s stick-in-the-eye punk POV. “Shoegaze” sports a down n’ dirty groove and LOL lyrics, while “Berlin” eviscerates the sheltered, moneyed culture tourists that seem ubiquitous in certain parts of the world. SOURSOB is further proof that bile never goes out of style.

V/A End of the Corridor: A Compilation of Belgian Cold Wave and Post-Punk 78-84 LP

There’s always room in this house for another compilation highlighting one of post-punk’s most overlooked scenes. End Of The Corridor is a journey through some of the best that Belgium had to offer in the late ’70s and early ’80s. You’ve got some of the more recognizable names (DE BRASSERS, CULTURAL DECAY, SIGLO XX) mixing it up with lesser-known but crucial outfits like STRUGGLER, SUSPECTS, and PROTECTION PLUS. Belgian post-punk tends towards monolithic, bass-heavy grooves that bask in a sort of fatalistic charm. In other words, these are life-affirming odes for the downtrodden. As most of these tracks are unreleased, this is an excellent collection for both the neophyte and those already familiar with the skills of the old Flemish masters.

Kina Se Ho Vinto Se Ho Perso LP reissue

Refreshingly, I don’t know a damn thing about this Italian hardcore band that started in the mid-’80s. This was their fourth LP, and it’s an interesting example of the time period. KINA’s sound sources its inspiration from Washington DC’s world-famous post-hardcore scene; bands like DAG NASTY, SWIZ, and SOULSIDE. The band can still rock pretty hard, but they tend towards melodic guitar lines that complement the earnest vocals. Recalling the HATED, KINA is not afraid of acoustic guitar and other “un-punk” elements. A track like “Cosa Farete” is closer to morose college rock than, say, INDIGESTI, but you can imagine them playing a show together at some thatched-roof squat on an abandoned farm outside of Turin. Interestingly, KINA’s mix of these influences prefigures a band that would become massive on an underground level less than a decade later—AVAIL. There’s a similar anthemic quality that is pretty damn hard to pull off convincingly, but KINA manages.

Baby Tyler Drumb Masheens LP

I suppose it’s fitting that this project is on the FDH record label, as BABY TYLER betrays a serious JAY REATARD fixation. Hell, a track like “In the Trunk” sounds like a sequel to “Hammer I Miss You,” but most of Drumb Masheens leans into the gnarlier aspects of solo JAY stuff like TERROR VISIONS. Although fairly slavish in its imitation, there’s good stuff here—these are songs not stylistic cul-de-sacs. “Gimme Gimme” has a cutting KBD-ness amidst the JAY-ness, while “Nothing” opens up just enough to break free of its aesthetic confines. Keep an eye on this kid.

The Soul Patrol Mara / Take Back the Night 7″ reissue

If all we can be assured of in life is death and taxes, we can at least add one more certainty to that depressing list—obscure, unheard bands from the late ’70s waiting to be unearthed for the pleasure of a new generation of fuck-ups and malcontents (that’s you and me!). Unappreciated Louisiana punks the SOUL PATROL private-pressed this single in 1979 and it remained rare as hen’s teeth until Feel It decided to let the rest of us in on its secret. Pre-dating fellow bayou-based punks like the SHITDOGS, the SOUL PATROL kicked out a decent racket back in their day. SOUL PATROL hit a sweet spot between bunk-acid hard rock and carburetor-dung garage punk. “Mara” is a slurry rocker that sounds like a soundtrack to inhaling dirt-weed and lusting after the cashier at the local burger joint. “Take Back the Night” appropriates an anti-violence proto-hashtag and blends it with some greasy-ass guitar to lay down some total KBD destruction that is guaranteed to improve whatever punk mixtape you’re currently working on.

Fashion Pimps & the Glamazons Jazz 4 Johnny LP

Twisted, expertly-played art-punk wotzit courtesy of known quantities from the long-lived Cle freak scene. The list of current/former bands of those involved would be quite lengthy but let’s note DONKEY BUGS, CLOUD NOTHINGS, and RAZAK SOLAR SYSTEM. The vocals have an undeniable SPRAY PAINT waver, but the music is slippery, wriggling like an angry eel. Dipping a handful of toes in synth punk while lunging towards noise rock spazzery, FASHION PIMPS are like KITCHEN & THE PLASTIC SPOONS moonlighting on the Subterranean Records roster.

Lysol Soup For My Family LP

LYSOL has been unleashing its freak vibe for awhile now, but it’s been a couple years since we last heard the gutter-dancing slop the band traffics in. Soup For My Family comes off like the U-MEN squeezed through a Crypt Records strainer. While foregrounding turbo-charged garage-punk (“C-4,” “Can’t Win”), the quartet finds enough cracks in the sidewalk to maintain their cool and swing like a rock band should. LYSOL is the kind of band that can turn a basement hardcore show into a whiskey-soaked bacchanal. While still outputting tons of wattage, LYSOL sounds kinda raggedy, but in a good way—like all those hangovers were worth it. I can’t imagine the members of MUDHONEY wouldn’t listen to “Glasgow Smile” and break into shit-eating grins. Or you, for that matter.

The Abstracts h.E.l.P. EP

First-issue of a 1980 session as performed by a band that came from the same place as some git named Billy Shakespeare. Ol’ Shakie put out a cracking debut and went on to take over the Globe (and then burned it down!), but what about these ABSTRACTS and how did they fare in the studio some forty-plus years ago? Not too shabby, it turns out. “Contrast” rides the same lorry as the NIGHTINGALES, the one that traffics in arch post-punk rock’n’roll. A total Messthetics masher, “Disco Beat” nails its sideways groove like one of the more straightforward HOMOSEXUALS cuts. “Make Up Girl” is no taming of the shrew, but things get a little more tempestuous on “In the Papers.” I’ll stop there as some leggings-sporting tosser mumbled “Brevity is the soul of wit” as he stumbled by—Marlowe, you have some nerve!

Chrome Scaropy CD

As society continues to suck on a tailpipe, you’ve gotta ask yourself: does CHROME age like fine wine? Accompanied by a cast of characters that includes the bassist from CHROME’s early ’80s firebomb heyday, Helios Creed keeps the flame, if not quite burning bright, at least lit. “H Of Spades,” with its tractor-beam guitar set to maximum gravitational pull, seems teleported in from one of his late ’80s AmRep albums. But the majority of Scaropy (oof) is tired goth rock with industrial overtones, like some kinda bargain bin ALIEN SEX FIEND (who already take up plenty of shelf space in the discount aisle). Much of this album sounds like backing tracks for a stripper scene in a straight-to-video dystopian thriller. “An Open Letter” has a decent edge even if its chorus is “I won’t / Take your shit.” As the end approaches, CHROME finally delves into the sounds that first distinguished the group all those years ago. “They’re Coming To Get You” takes an android shuffle and slathers it with the kind of warped voices that is practically a trademark, while “Kilauea” sinks even deeper into paranoid murk. Not a bad batch after all, but far from a triumph.

Euromilliard Droit Dans Mes Bottes / Aux Aguets 7”

Second single from this Parisian group that features members of CHEVEU and VOLT, two of the finest electro-punk bands of the modern era. EUROMILLIARD cuts back on the ‘tronics for more rock power and it pays off handsomely. I hate to indulge in cultural stereotypes, but it’s curious how these Frenchmen can make such stomping tunes also seem somehow, I dunno, elegant? “Droit Dans Mes Bottes” welds a SLADE-like drive to chanted gang vocals that sound both inviting and celebratory and also vaguely threatening. Le paradoxe! “Aux Aguets” starts with a dirty bass lick and shifts into a chorus that could’ve come from a LES OLIVENSTEINS classic. A killer two-sider crafted by seasoned vets.

Hallelujah! Wanna Dance LP

I wish more dance punk from the early 2000s sounded like the throbbing racket HALLELUJAH! produces on this invigorating slice of anti-social electric sleaze. They are not asking if you want to dance, they are telling you that they want to dance, and the difference is crucial. “Champagne” is a crash course in collision, flying off the rails with no intention of hanging on. This is followed by a wacky version of a certain STOOGES classic that is short and weird enough to prevent you from giving the stereo the gasface, but the party really gets started with “Minipony.” HALLELUJAH! doesn’t skimp on the bass-in-your-face and that’s critical to elevating this kind of sassy punk damage (the distorted vocals giving many “fucks” helps too). After seven straight burners, the band slows things down to great effect on the vicious “Alter Ego”—somewhere, SIX FINGER SATELLITE is smiling.  

Pipyu Pipyu LP+7” reissue

Bitter Lake unearths some flat-out fucking awesome Japanese punk from an ultra-rare 1985 cassette and augments it with a couple unreleased cuts. Although they were far too late for the trend, PIPYU would have slotted nicely on the classic Tokyo Rockers comp alongside bands like MIRRORS and S-KEN. Considering the era in which these songs were recorded, it’s interesting to hear PIPYU sounding more in line with the slashing art-punk of FRICTION than the monolithic Motörcharge sound that was sweeping the island nation. Then again, the pile-driving “その花は笑わない” proves PIPYU had more than enough gas in their tank (or stunk). Tracks like “Let Me Kill” and “Noise” are manic thrill-rides with straight-into-the-board guitars sitting shotgun alongside the muscular rhythm section. Are you wondering if the singer sounds like he needs a mental health check and a rubber room? Have no doubt, this man owns at least one Artaud book. Even the ode to romance, “I Love Her,” knows that love is pain. But then how to explain “気狂いピエロ,” the original tape’s final cut? Here we have a moody seven-minute track dominated by bass and synth lines straight off of some classic UK DIY platter that just got remixed for a smartphone commercial. Music really is the international language!

Dale Jenkins Undesirable Element LP

Damn, 1985 keeps coming up in my reviewer rearview, and here’s yet another perspective on that mid-decade nadir. The first of three privately-issued LPs that Jenkins released in the ’80s, Undesirable Element is a true stew of the delicious, the tangy, and the questionable. JENKINS belongs to a lineage of oddball American originals that includes MICHEAL YONKERS, GEORGE BRIGMAN, KENNETH HIGNEY, and WICKED WITCH. Got Kinda Lost takes the LP’s original seven tracks and adds three more (the CD has a whopping nineteen cuts in total) to give you a well-rounded view of JENKINS’ eccentric muse. Recording everything himself, JENKINS utilized early drum machines and rack effects in interesting ways, although his basic style is still singer-songwriter at its essence. “Blind Faith” opens the album in snarling punk mode, echoing shut-in rockers like J.T. IV and JOHN BERENZY GROUP with its FX-drenched guitar leads and quietly panicked vocals. “Article Two (The Handgun Song)” is a subtly devastating examination of one of the USA’s biggest, stupidest, and most intractable problems, still so sadly relevant that the takes write themselves. Every lyric in this jaunty number is like a tweet aimed at your dumbest social media followers—”You pay your dues to the NRA / Armed with false statistics / They tell you what to say.” I can just see some red-hatted, Oakley-shaded numbskull getting worked up and trying to cancel Mr. JENKINS ex post facto. Some songs, like “Depression” and “Love And War,” dip dangerously into schmaltz, as if MICHEAL YONKERS nixed the righteous fuzz and Yippie indignation, but “Non-Surgical Lobotomy” rivals J.T. IV with its anti-social studio apartment rock. “Paranoid Song” and “Destitute” bring more of that bad acid/good times dichotomy like only a few damaged souls have been able to—think JIM SHEPARD or the aforementioned KENNETH HIGNEY. “Another Day” veers back towards the schmaltz but cuts it with some SKIP SPENCE let-it-all-hang-out vibes and ends things with a glimmer of hope. Who cares what year it came into being—Undesirable Element is an out-of-time gem ripe for rediscovery.

Tarzna Konkos Hadid Arroganza EP

OK, you’ve seen The Maltese Falcon…but have you heard Maltese punk? The ferocious noise of TARZNA is actually closer to no wave and they take no prisoners on their EP—this is truly some unhinged shit. We used to call this “scree,” and fuck me sideways if you can retain your sense of self or even your balance after this barrage of instrument abuse. Guitar and synthesizer fight a battle to the death while the singer free-associates primal scream therapy at anyone within earshot. TARZNA is kind of like MANISCH DEPRESSIV minus the punk riffs. Well, “U Joseph? U Joseph!” is kinda catchy, all 41 seconds of it. Templar your expectations just a tad, and ye shall be rewarded.

Landowner Impressive Almanac LP

One of my faves from last year, LANDOWNER’s Consultant was a true masterclass in smart-aleck punk as performed by young men who had ingested entirely too much coffee. For this re-release, Born Yesterday takes LANDOWNER’s debut cassette and commits it to the permanent record. If you dig LANDOWNER’s other two albums, you will be in familiar territory. Here, LANDOWNER is represented by principal architect Dan Shaw. He not only writes all the songs; on Impressive Almanac, he’s playing everything, including programming the drum machine. Shaw mines MINUTEMEN precision and RUDIMENTARY PENI mania to craft expert punk nervosa. Maybe it’s that drum machine that enables this initial batch of Shaw’s songs to seem even more frantic, sometimes coming off like the FEELIES trying out distortion-free powerviolence. It’s always been a bold move in the punk world to forgo the fuzz, but with LANDOWNER it pays off in dividends. This is head music for speed thinkers. The songs are always tense and driving, but the focus shifts to the greater whole, even as it’s constructed with tiny moments of meticulous concentration. Shaw often sounds like he is urgently whispering to you, and it makes you conscious of how much time you spend getting yelled at by singers (and teachers and bosses and cops). But it’s not all swift kicks and snarky lyrics, as there’s plenty of forceful yet twinkling tracks like “Shimmering Neck” and “Ancestral Home.” “Places to Put Cars” positions itself as the first in several key LANDOWNER songs about parking. Straight up—Shaw is currently one of the best songwriters in punk and this welcome reissue reveals that that has been the case for a while now. 

LASSIE The Golden Age Of… cassette

Collecting their killer tapes from the last couple years, LASSIE pulls me back from the brink…of the well. The one I was thinking of drowning myself in cuz there’s no mo’ fun punk bands that also aren’t just plain embarrassing and (forgive me) cringe. MEAN JEANS? Are you fucking kidding me? LASSIE kinda sounds like if LOST SOUNDS were more into the B-52’S than GARY NUMAN. Super-snotty and non-cloyingly goofy, LASSIE is a rare beast indeed. There’s not a bummer track here, but “Phonecalls on My Deathbed” is a hit if I ever heard one; where’s Dick Clark or Rick Dees or CDs….yeah. Hey, this is why I don’t write silly but endearing spazz-wave songs. LASSIE does, they’re really good at it. “Tiger in My Tank” sounds like the fucking RONDELLES! I bet they turn a boring bar into a total fucking blast. “QT Enhancer” is a pogo party in a can. If you like C.C.T.V. or LUMPY or DEVO, I don’t see why you wouldn’t like this. I feel like if this band was from California, they’d be big, or at least “opening for the SPITS” big. So, not that big. But they should be. They’re great.

Nog Watt Fear EP reissue

It’s not the make-up of NOG WATT that causes one to wonder, it’s the year! How did an undeniable, inarguable hardcore classic punch so hard above its weight …..in 1985?! Strange but true, and six songs at that, a proper EP a.k.a. “the hardcore LP.” There’s so much good punk contained within the opening cut “Going On,” it would take a lifetime to diagram. Holland was home for NOG WATT, yet there’s plenty of SoCal in their shadow-y DNA, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. These aren’t just blitzkriegs of speed, although NOG WATT jumps into that zone effortlessly and with a fistful of panache. This band has plenty of great riffs and enough swing to appeal to the full cross-section of the punk pyramid. “Hunted” and “Fear” are anthems of disaffection and dread, as the singer stares down your barrel and dares you to pull the trigger. Prime mover “Big Warning, Big Mistake” would open up the pit in a nursing home. The fucking bass runs! NOG WATT is never not aiming for your neck.

The Uptights It Is for Them That the Lights Twinkle LP

The UPTIGHTS are a Norwegian quartet with a mono fixation. Recorded over a sequence of years straight to cassette, you can’t accuse these garage rockers of being shiny or polished. By that description, you might expect in-the-red lo-fi puke punk, but the UPTIGHTS have a little something grander in mind. Unfortunately, the recording doesn’t help matters. Normally, I’m all about cramming as much sound as you can manage into that little box and letting the compression work its magic. But the cave setting doesn’t bring out the best in these songs; check, for instance, the over-modulated vocals of “Days.” The music is languid, almost a slowcore strum, but the mic distortion just craps all over it. Is it an aesthetic choice? Does it matter? After ambling through a few sedate instrumentals, those all-mid-range vocals come back with a vengeance and actually bring to mind an entire subgenre of badly-recorded emo from the 1990s. It’s an aesthetic pile-up and there ain’t a stretcher in sight. There’s genuine feeling here, and a couple good songs, but, ironically, the UPTIGHTS need to quit loosening the screws and get in the ring.

Clibbus Horsesatelite LP

This CLIBBUS album has knocked me off-course during my inter-dimensional travels and I have crashed-landed onto an alternate Earth where the marquee bands are PRIMUS, ALICE DONUT, and VICTIMS FAMILY (on this planet, early WEEN is like NICK DRAKE). It makes a lot of sense that this power trio hails from Rochester, New York. Rochester has a notoriously eccentric punk scene, full of skateboarding weirdos whose parents huffed a lot of Kodak fumes and birthed strange progeny who enjoy flouting genre restrictions and get off on letting their freak flag fly fucking high. After a manic opening instrumental, CLIBBUS gets down to bizness on “Exploding Child,” complete with half-rapped singing as the MEAT PUPPETS jam in the background, and don’t forget to pause for the BEATLES-esque soaring vocal part, and you know this sucker ain’t gonna end without some ironic whistling to bring it all back home. This is prog made by the kids in high school who were so into their own trip that they seemed to vanish into a hole that was probably actually a portal to another universe. You know the type: they invent funny-to-them names like “Beefus D’Aurelio” and “Lettuce Head” and they’re suspiciously good at their instruments. It’s exhausting, but in a bad way, like climbing too many stairs when the elevator is broken, not the good way, like screwing in your roommate’s bed when they’re out of town. I like weird shit made by smart idiots, but still I can’t fully endorse these goof-offs. Yet, I can see an impressionable ne’er-do-well witnessing these guys shred a basement show and get the itch to quit hiding the freak flag under their straight clothes and to that I say, “huzzah!” You absolutely should not cut that brief DOORS piss-take six minutes into that one song, and yes, the public does indeed have a bottomless appetite for wacky, pitch-shifted vocals. They might be from Rochester 2021, but to me CLIBBUS will always come from 1989 San Francisco and right now they’re pumping quarters into a payphone on Mission trying to get on a NOMEANSNO bill. Maybe Jello will be into it?

Mononegatives Apparatus Division LP

Smashing debut LP by this London, Ontario group. Twelve songs in just under a half hour—I like those numbers, those numbers bode well. And these are actual songs—Apparatus Division is modern punk done right. MONONEGATIVES posit a pretty straightforward equation: take ADVERTS-by-way-of-JAY REATARD, add a hint of CHROME, cut with some jacked-up A FRAMES, and you’re about halfway there. “Living in the Age” into “Neighbots” is as good a back-to-back as I’ve heard this year. “Trauma” is like hardcore punk TUBEWAY ARMY, but don’t assume it’s all android energy bouncing around, as MONONEGATIVES has got real rock’n’roll swagger behind the motherboard. After establishing a mid-tempo groove, “Circuits in View” erupts into a suitably swinging rave-up that hits like the speediest parts of ’77. “Career Attitude” is all pent-up energy but finds the space for a couple killer hooks, while “Today’s Adult” cracks a dozen egg-punk shells in the time it takes to lace up your boots. Apparatus Division has got a perfect balance between rock grit and synthetic pulse.

Cheap Meat Let’s Eat! cassette

All-killer/no-filler four-song debut from this quartet. Each two-minute track is a pile-up of great, knotty riffs and pummeling yet nimble rhythms. Top this winning formula with spiky, sardonic vocals that address both serious and frivolous subjects with a refreshingly jaundiced eye and you’ve got an EP better than most of the utter worthlessness committed to wax these days. CHEAP MEAT: less filling, tastes fucking great.

Eyes and Flys Anxiety Tools / God’s Management 7″

Seeing as this is their fourth 7” in just over twelve months, EYES AND FLYS have certainly kept busy during the past year. And while I respect their work ethic, these guys’ music hasn’t quite hit the target for yours truly. EYES AND FLYS walk a strange borderland between partly-sunny near-goth and overcast garage-strum (a place called Buffalo, actually). Forsaking the punkier direction of the preceding singles, there’s an implied darkness and gloominess to these tunes, but it never settles into something truly compelling. The songcraft is definitely there, as you’ve got acoustic guitars and extra percussion jingles and jangles, but it remains on the other side of the river, just waving at me and there’s no thought of attempting a crossing. The B-side is some sort of heartland rock instrumental that wouldn’t be out of place on anything from a TOM PETTY record to a ’90s indie-emo platter on Caulfield Records. On the insert, in addition to the nice old-school touch of a phone number for contact, there is the inscription: “Getting by two songs at a time.” It’s a nice sentiment, but I think it’s time to make an album where this material might congeal into something worthy of its ambition.

Kaputt Movement Now / Another War Talk 7”

This Scottish sextet put out a pretty decent LP a few years back and this new single condenses all the good things about that album into an easily-digested, bite-sized nugget. KAPUTT composes manic music that has a sense of purpose. “Movement Now” is like SUBURBAN LAWNS sporting a CRASS sleeveless to the beach and now all the surfers wanna burn down the system. As counterpoints move in tandem—girl-guy vocals dodge guitar-sax licks—there’s more than a hint of ESSENTIAL LOGIC to “Another War Talk.” This release bodes well for future KAPUTT.

Special Interest Trust No Wave: The 2016 Demos LP

As we went to press, news off the wire is that New Orleans’ post-wave glam terrorists SPECIAL INTEREST have hooked up with storied post-punk purveyors Rough Trade to release the highly-rated group’s next full-length! Sorry, just testing out my music-weekly muscles. In anticipation, Disciples’ waxing of SPECIAL INTEREST’s first recordings arrives at the perfect time. Mainly, what these demos show is that SPECIAL INTEREST had it down from the jump—their sound was immediately striking and they have only managed to further hone it into something both freakier and more accessible. But you are not getting mere dregs and toss-offs here, these five-year old recordings more than hold their own. I kinda wish I could’ve seen SPECIAL INTEREST strafe an early 2000s electroclash party on Driggs Ave (Williamsburg, NY, USA), but it’s somehow far more satisfying to imagine them in an abandoned warehouse on the edge of a hidden New Orleans ward, camping coolers of Four Loko sweating as hard as the congregation of disparate strangers made instant friends by righteous noise bondage. These demos could have landed SPECIAL INTEREST anywhere: Wax Trax! in 1985, Industrial in 1979, Troubleman in 2003, Rough Trade in 1981 or 2021.

The Cybermen Cybernetic Surgery EP reissue

I always thought the CYBERMEN’s “You’re To Blame” was a charming enough second-tier second-wave punker perfect for filling out an all mod cons mix (pro tip: slot it next to EXPLODING HEARTS), but what I did not know was that their four-song debut is an even more satisfying slab of earworm. Cheers to Breakout for rescuing this not-cheap circa ’78 record for the rest of us. “Cybernetic Surgery” is way up on that neuromancer tip and has a great balance between fast rocker and weird robot energy. “Where’s New Wave” also crests early but often, another tricky balance struck between wrong-sided garage and mean-muggin’ mod. “Hanging Around” manages to be sullen and threatening and even finds time to phase in and out of existence. Just when you thought these jerks were irredeemable, “I Can’t Help” proves that it was all just an act and these punks have sleeves made of bleeding hearts. A bounty of riches, this single. No band named after Dr. Who’s lamest adversaries has any right to be this killer.

Die Atlantikschwimmer Die Atlantikschwimmer 12” reissue

After their waxing of DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER’s debut cassette, Static Age reissues the German group’s self-titled follow-up. Originally coming out in 1985 on the legendary Zickzack label, this Atlantic swimmer is even more streamlined than its predecessor. The water this combo wades in resists being roiled, hanging out instead in the placid end of the pool. You’ll find no lack of ponderous bass tones and thudding drum machines, occasionally spiced with pre-modern instruments like accordion. There is an intriguing frozen quality to DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER’s impeccably produced songs; they flirt with pop structures but ultimately remain at a distance from mainstream aesthetics. Call it “Factory on the Rhine.” “Komm Mit Mir” repurposes a song from the debut and imparts the feeling of drifting along a canal as centuries-old buildings loom in the background. There is something undeniably romantic and—forgive this ugly American—European about DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER; yet, the album doesn’t quite satisfy whatever foolish notions this listener harbors about a lost weekend in a far-off city. All deserted streets and darting shadows, the whispered, seductive menace of “Film Mit Überlänge” is closer to my idea of a good time in an unfamiliar locale. Keep the carriage ride, gimme the foot chase.

Schiach 2 LP

Over the last five years, there’s been no shortage of TOTAL CONTROL-type bands on the international scene. I’m here to tell you that SCHIACH is one of the finer such units. Maybe that’s because their influences stretch all the way back to the original German post-punk scene and they utilize drum machines as effectively as they use guitars. In accordance with the genre, 2 is packed full of paranoia. All manner of clanking sounds ricochet around the agitated vocals, often sounding like a parody of industrial-influenced club music; a lo-tech MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, perhaps. But instead of sending up Christianity and hard rock, SCHIACH seems to be mocking modern surveillance culture, and that’s something this reviewer can get behind.

The Eurosuite Hot Off Depress LP

Hot Off Depress is a smorgasbord of unnerving but rocking noise punk with clear antecedents in CHINESE STARS and, closer to home for these Brits, USA NAILS. We’re talking dentist-drill guitars, sarcastic vox, pounding rhythms and the rare ability not to overstay their welcome. The EUROSUITE even manages to employ electronics in an organic manner, often standing in for what would normally be a guitar feeding back. The desperate, sleazy synth-pop of “Stimulate” shows that the EUROSUITE ain’t just miscreants with tinnitus, and “Line/Void” ends the album with a lonesome piano playing in the next room while a man narrates an absence to himself. Cracking debut, lads.

Opus Good Procedures / The Atrocity 7” reissue

I must admit: I’ve always been a little perplexed as to how this single came to be such a rarefied bonzer. Released in 1979 in a micro-edition of 200 copies (deepest of ironies that, considering it’s about the standard run these days), OPUS has spent the 21st century skyrocketing in value (Discogs clocks a $3,500 sale with no pic sleeve). OPUS was an L.A.-area band that played a few gigs and managed to squeeze out this two-sider before vanishing in a cloud of dust. As they continue to mine for rare gold, Meat House has been on a tear lately, so it’s quite a feat that they managed to secure such a “holy grail” for re-release and reappraisal. So how da tunes, you ask? Well, they’re fucking perplexing—“Good Procedures” is a head-scratcher of an A-side. It straight-up sounds like a demo of a mid-tempo rock song that sits somewhere between snoozeville AOR and the least-exciting almost-post-punk cut you can name off the top of your head (so proto-indie rock basically). It is truly so underwhelming that someone out there should be demanding a $3,495 refund based on this side alone. But then you flip it over and “The Atrocity” comes ripping through the speakers and the current price tag almost starts to make sense (but not really, I mean c’mon, what the fuck). “The Atrocity” features gnarly guitar strangling at near-hardcore tempos and even has a hook, so there ya go—an actual punk rock song. At least this version comes with a guaranteed cover. For less than a twenty dolla holla, you too, can own an overrated slice of punk rock history.

Evil I Official Bootleg LP

As far as archival punk labels are concerned, Chicago-based Alona’s Dream is near the top of the pile. Whether repackaging criminally-neglected albums or digging up shoulda-been classics, Alona’s Dream excels at presentation as well as content. This time, they rescue a 1983 cassette demo by a hardcore band that hailed from the Chicago suburb of Lombard. While distributed locally and garnering a few favorable reviews in national zines, EVIL I finally gets their due with this raging slab of wax. Holy hell, this fucker smokes! As the band tears apart everything in sight, the singer unloads her frustrations like she’s unleashing a hail of arrows from the top of the tower. EVIL I engages in whiplash time changes while never sacrificing the brutality or extending the songs with gratuitous parts. “So What?” (“if I die”) crams a catchy chorus into a little over a minute, but it’s “Trend” that is the out-and-out classic cut here. I can’t thing of a single early ’80s hardcore compilation that wouldn’t be improved by this total burner that spotlights a killer wah-wah solo amidst its breathtaking pace. The guitar playing matches the singer for pure vicious spite and the rhythm section is dextrous and punishing. Is “Bored of Education” a perfect hardcore punk song? Fuck yes it is. And of course it features more of that deliciously nasty wah-wah. Truth be told, the second half of this demo is an absolutely classic 7” that was never realized…until now.

The Mirrors The Lost 3rd Album LP

If you ask me, Greg Ashley is a goddamn genius. This motherfucker has written, engineered, played on, pissed on, passed out on, or thought about a theremin line for, well, name it—I’ll figure out how it connects to our boy Greg. Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-all, Ashley will make it better, one way or the other. Despite all this, his pre-GRIS GRIS group, the MIRRORS, still gets short shrift. Both of their early 2000s albums are classics, so you bet I was psyched to hear this lost puppy. And it doesn’t disappoint. While not quite scaling the heights as those millennium-era killers, The Lost 3rd Album is more than worth it for fans. Laying just slightly off the garage rock bombast of that earlier work, the nine cuts here are an obvious precedent for the GRIS GRIS and their seductive, hypnotic sway. Songs like “Patient Flowers Electric” and “Blush Sunshine” are the real Paisley Underground. But you’ve still got full-throated blare like “Gracie’s Pink Pussy Cat” and “Paranoia Blues,” so maybe rip some holes in your thrift store polyester. No one can channel the VELVETS, Roky, Townes VZ, and DREAM SYNDICATE like the Gash. This is dirty psychedelia for drugged-up romantic poets.

Spike in Vain Disease is Relative LP reissue / Death Drives a Cadillac LP

The tale of SPIKE IN VAIN is a story at least as old as tract housing—the American suburban development with dead-end streets that sealed off sites of impending blight. Formed in Cleveland, SPIKE IN VAIN kicked back against the familiar cul-de-sac of a life spent toiling in a factory, a life satisfied with being another faceless member of the grist mill that churns endlessly. They came howling from the suburbs, rampaging on ankle-high stages in fishnets and trenchcoats. It’s uncanny how many of these mutant hardcore bands were like modern-day sin-eaters—mad monks drunk on words and possessed with divine disillusionment. SPIKE IN VAIN and their ilk were future seekers, death-taunters, and they ran themselves ragged, sometimes straight into an early grave. NO TREND might come to mind when pondering this type of off-the-beaten-path hardcore, but SPIKE IN VAIN were even more feral, less calculated in their punk scene mockery, more likely to be found passed out by the railroad tracks. Despite switching off between instruments and vocals, SPIKE IN VAIN never lost focus or intensity. Even though hardcore was still chugging away, the music on these two albums can be seen as “post-hardcore,” in the sense that they were illuminating possible escape routes out of the fallow thrash fields that surrounded them. Disease Is Relative was released in 1984 and lit the torch so bright that it almost burned down all of Cuyahoga County (finishing off the job the river started fifteen years earlier). On all of their material, even the simpler punk songs, SPIKE IN VAIN sound much older than their teen ages suggest. Hell, SPIKE IN VAIN seems to have hit retirement age right after puberty, like coal miners—crawling around in the darkness—aging decades within months. The best moments come when SPIKE’s ambition and ideas take them far beyond hardcore’s borders—which is fitting as Disease is Relative was recorded in a little house in the middle of the woods on the distant outskirts of Cleveland proper. But Cleveland haunts this album like an angry ghost. “A Means to An End” is Dance With Me-era TSOL getting dragged face-first through a scrap metal yard on West 65th, right past Lorain Ave (one of the saddest streets in America). “God On Drugs” is an absurdist classic, an existential cry of despair that also doubles as a stupid, etched-into-a-desk joke that any misanthropic kid can appreciate. “No Name” has more in common with CIRCLE X’s doomsaying no wave than some rote hardcore angst. A haunted house take on BIG BOYS’ party funk, “E.K.G.” comes complete with a spastic bass solo. “Children Of The Subway” is as nihilistic and pugilistic as any hardcore coming from either coast; count yourself lucky if you make it to your stop after blasting this one on the earbuds. With its relentlessly shifting sections, “Disorder” keeps you off-kilter like prime SACCHARINE TRUST. Years before noise rock became codified, SPIKE IN VAIN was manipulating feedback like Foley artists, setting you up for shocks and scares and keeping your ears on a constant state of alert. Disease is Relative is a stone-cold classic and finally back in print, so that’s a reason to keep drawing breath for us miserable types. 

The unreleased follow-up, Death Drives a Cadillac, was recorded a year later and brings in Official Cleveland Treasure—Scott Pickering—on drums. At this point, SPIKE IN VAIN was distinctly not hardcore, instead approaching an early version of grunge and (singer/guitarist/Scat Recs guy) Robert Griffin’s later PRISONSHAKE. The band’s gutter literary aspirations were coming to the fore and they sought the darkness with renewed vigor. In the mid-’80s, cowpunk was trending in the underground, but SPIKE IN VAIN cast a pall over any sort of yeehaw-ing by coming across like urban cowboys from midnight city, armed with switchblades and baseball bats, not fancy spurs and a cowardly six-shooter. The other half of SPIKE IN VAIN’s creative axis was the Marec brothers, and their wayward energy helps power these tracks beyond genre exercise. “Rattlesnake’s Wedding” betrays a heavy GUN CLUB influence, while “Dogsled in Heaven” has plenty of slide guitar and even some tastefully applied Jew’s harp. “Escape From The Zoo” nails this new hybrid—a kind of roots-rock hardcore punk that doesn’t waste a good hook. “Party In The Ground” sounds like the REPLACEMENTS having a hootenanny in the cemetery, while “Gospel Motel” strains hard against its criminal-spiritual duality. While not as immediately visceral as their debut, Death Drives a Cadillac shows that SPIKE IN VAIN still had plenty of gas left in the tank.

Grauzone Grauzone 2xLP

Even squares dig “Eisbär” these days, but that shouldn’t prevent anyone from digging as deeply as possible into this pioneering Swiss group’s oeuvre. Here, across the span of two LPs, all of GRAUZONE’s work is collected for dilettante and connoisseur alike. Encompassing their sole LP and numerous EPs, I don’t think there’s a bum cut amongst these nineteen tracks. (There’s also a box set version that adds a complete 1980 live set and the requisite thick booklet.) The territory that GRAUZONE covers is vast: hallucinatory scene-setting (“FILM 2”), cave-wave (“Maikäfer Flieg”), proto-indie rock (“Marmelade Und Himbeereis”), radio-ready pop (“Der Weg Zu Zweit”), romantic crooning (“Ich Lieb Sie”), NDW bangers (“Moskau”), piano-laced desperation (“Ein Tanz Mit Dem Tod”), U2-like triumph (“Ich Und Du”), noise-pierced post-punk (“Raum”). The listener is in capable hands as GRAUZONE performs all of these modes quite well. The result of this eclectic approach is to display that, despite their brief existence and relative isolation, GRAUZONE was a force to be reckoned with, and made music that stands the test of time.

Xerobot Xerobot LP

This discography collection is a goddamn public service. Presented within: 37 tightly-packed spasms as songs; 37 claustrophobic angular conniptions in miniature; a sonic Xerox of an EKG traced in crayon by an epileptic genius. And yet, despite all that blather, this is the sound of a band climbing up the stairs, not falling down them. XEROBOT is so methodical it’s as if AD(H)D itself was made flesh, formed a punk band, and then practiced incessantly with BLACK FLAG-like dedication. And all of this happened in the 1990s in the state of Wisconsin. It’s like a fairytale told by the janitor at your high school who is actually a mad scientist during his off-hours. This is maniacal and borderline insane music made by very smart young men who had problems, fetishes, and phobias that they couldn’t adequately express—except within these minute-long explosions of precise motion that walk the razor’s edge between innocent, demented fun and downright psychotic behavior. I find this music exhilarating, exhausting and absolutely hilarious. Included for your edutainment is an informative booklet-cum-oral history (alas, a zine) that puts it all in perspective for you. Take some time to peer through this cracked periscope. Crucial release.

Dyatlov Wound Man / Barren Lands 7”

I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback by the full-throated, noise-soaked roar that leapt off this single. No slow builders, these Dutch. “Wound Man” never lets up, and is all the better for it. On “Barren Lands,” there is a jaunty organ off-setting the ferocious deathrock, but these guys are about as friendly as a hitman on his day off. To quote the promo blurb: “DYATLOV doesn’t care about rock‘n’roll or anything it stands for. DYATLOV doesn’t care about themselves. And most importantly: DYATLOV doesn’t care about you.” A-fucking-men.

Artistic Decline Four Song EP reissue

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for bands like ARTISTIC DECLINE. They emerged onto a crowded Southern California field and were too quirky to fit snugly into one of the many micro-scenes that dotted the punk landscape. Moody and tuneful and snide, ARTISTIC DECLINE surfed the same waves as SIMPLETONES, GEARS, and SECRET HATE. “Andy Warhol” is my pick hit, but out of the four songs here, the only semi-duff cut is the closing “Private Shack,” where the slower tempo doesn’t do them any favors. Still, a minor classic reborn, and here’s hoping their Random Violence LP gets the same treatment sooner than later.

Celebrity Handshake Bottom Of Your Bucket LP

I swear, for the last couple years, this Portland, Maine trio has had a record reviewed every other month here at MRR. I keep on seeing the name and I keep on not listening to the music. Now, dear reader, I’m strapped into the chair like Alex in that one movie about clocks and oranges and my ears are being forced open with an intricate series of chains and hooks. And I’m here to tell you a secret: This shit sucks. For some reason, I thought these guys were on a HARRY PUSSY tip, which would have at least resulted in a distracting blur. Does CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE think that they’re the second coming of ART PHAG? Listen, once was enough, you wangheads. This is half generic garage punk and half lame-ass improv with bad—like really fucking bad—singing. There’s all sorts of constipated growlers this guy reminds me of but I already listened to the goddamn record, so I ain’t gonna waste any more time conjuring up a couple “sounds like”s. It sounds like shit!

Crack Cloud Pain Olympics LP

After a few years of small-scale but intense anticipation, CRACK CLOUD’s debut LP landed with somewhat of a thud last year. Was the muted reception due to the coronavirus and its accompanying shutdown? To some extent, no doubt. Even though they seem to have spurned the US so far (a move I grudgingly respect tbh), the Vancouver-based collective appear to be a galvanizing live band, at least according to the ‘toob. Not to mention their great/weird videos and of course the LP collection of their first couple EPs is some real (triple) fire (emojis). Despite CRACK CLOUD’s attention to detail on these meticulously constructed tracks, Pain Olympics is, at times, curiously underwhelming. But, due to the aforementioned virus, further listening has provided plenty of reward. “Post-Truth (Birth of a Nation)” opens with an authoritative take on CRACK CLOUD’s established style but takes a couple left turns into operatic territory. It’s sorta impressive but also kinda gratuitous. Hey, take a swing, I always say. Just try to make contact. But it’s an effective opener. “Bastard Basket” drills into downcast post-punk, while “Favour Your Fortune” is some kinda grime foray that, despite its boastful brevity, fails to land a punch. At first, “The Next Fix” resembles CRACK CLOUD’s electrifying early work but when the vocoded vocals come in, the song flirts with radio cheese and then a group chorus turns into the ARCADE FIRE and I try to comfort myself that it’s a Canadian thing (j/k, luv you loonies). An almost perfect DEVO imitation, “Ouster Stew” also harks back to their beginnings, and reveals how stale the recent batch of egg-punk has been. “Tunnel Vision” combines everything into the total package: it rocks, it’s danceable, it sounds great, it’s got those vocals with the weird cadence, hell it’s even got something resembling a guitar solo. “Angel Dust (Eternal Peace)” ends it all and confirms what you’ve always suspected: CRACK CLOUD are the dance-punk version of GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR. While not the world-beating collection some might have hoped for, Pain Olympics demonstrates that CRACK CLOUD is a force to be reckoned with, and you ignore them….at your own peril!

Exek Biased Advice LP reissue

Originally released in 2016, Biased Advice is EXEK’s debut full-length and still stands tall next to their subsequent triumphs. There’s no getting around the fact that EXEK’s biggest initial inspiration was PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, and “A Hedonist” is about as close to a perfect homage to said group as you could desire. It’s a testament to how good EXEK is that any and all comparisons to Lydon and Co. are swiftly rendered stale and reductive. “Replicate” is a masterpiece of seasick dub menace—an iceberg in this instance would come as a relief. A deep dive into a bottomless trench, “Baby Giant Squid” encompasses the entirety of side two and never loses its hypnotic sway or compromises the undercurrent of turbulence that roils throughout. On this epic cut, EXEK surfaces as sui generis. Kudos to Castle Face for reissuing this essential slab.

Ornament Und Verbrechen Tapetopia 001: Rotmaul Tape LP

The first of Play Loud!’s excavations of Germany’s cassette culture, Rotmaul Tape is one side from ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN’s debut release from 1988. That’s a bit too far down the autobahn of my preferred era of this fertile underground scene. ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN operates from a goth-drenched vantage point, but most of the music manages to rise above the faux-dramatic vocalizing. Still, as early sampler tech collides with snatches of noisy guitar, ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN, more often than not, ends up sounding like DEPECHE MODE minus the dance beats. “Surety” has mournful late-JOY DIVISION synth (s)weep and even whips out a harmonica for some extra WTF-ness. “Jesus” is simultaneously elegiac and discombobulating, which is a welcome set of conflicting reactions. The best use for a track like the vaguely SUICIDE-ish “Sally” is soundtracking a period-specific romance that occurs during the final thaw of the Cold War. The atmosphere of decadent banality is highlighted by KENNY G sax licks and elevator-worthy piano trills. Fortunately, “The Death By Heroin Of Sid Vicious” is the punkest cut here and sounds closest to the unclassifiable basement ooze that distinguished the early German tape scene.

De Brassers Alternative News LP

DE BRASSERS came out of the first wave of Belgian punk and proceeded to release a couple classic records in the early ’80s. I’m not sure if they ever broke up, but regardless, they re-emerged in the 21st century and continued down the path of intense, bass-heavy post-punk like a couple decades hadn’t slipped by. Alternative News is a live album captured in 2019, but don’t let that put you off. Not only is this set well-recorded, the band is in top form. There aren’t (m)any current post-punk bands that can match the expert execution of DE BRASSERS. You know you are in capable hands when the towering bass riff of “En Toen Was Er Niets Meer” (from their debut EP) comes lumbering into sight and then they back it up with “Eruit” into “Sick In Your Mind.” DE BRASSERS’ take on post-punk is really its own form of deathrock, stripped of all the usual trappings (blues/metal/etc.) and instead just brutally cold and efficient. One modern band that treads similar ground is Italy’s underappreciated HIS ELECTRO BLUE VOICE. For good measure, DE BRASSERS even cover WIRE and ALTERNATIVE TV on this worthy live album.

V/A The Dog That Wouldn’t Die CD

A fascinating look into the worldwide punk underground circa 1986, this compilation was originally released as a 90-minute tape that came with a 32-page zine. Now, a resurgent C.I.A. Records has slapped this sucker onto a CD so that you, dear reader, can relive the glory days of MRR-classifieds-sourced comps. While most of the artists involved come from C.I.A.’s native Texas, there is a wide-range of sounds and ideas spread across The Dog That Wouldn’t Die. Hardcore punk, trashy rock’n’roll, and raw, lo-tech sample collages all find a place on this canvas. As for “big names,” not sure that these qualify but someone out there will thrill to hearing PAIN TEENS, MYDOLLS, THREE DAY STUBBLE, CULTURCIDE (who contribute the epic “Atomic Bomb”), and even FRED LANE. ANDERSON COUNCIL gives us the mellowest SEX PISTOLS cover ever with their acoustic “Apathy In The USA.” PARTY OWLS live up to their name with the lunkheaded punk of “Check Your Dick For Spots,” while PROBLEMIST takes a noisy deep dive into “Reagan’s Colon.” SOLID WASTE DIVISION throws down a cool sax-laden grinder that is followed by NAKED AMERICA’s spazztastic “Corporate Society.” Other highlights include MEAT & GLASS going off like HARRY PUSSY, POISON GAS RESEARCH unnerving feedback manipulations, and EKU’s bedroom rock concoction. The Dog That Wouldn’t Die is a time capsule that deserves a second look.

I.G. Isolationsgemeinschaft cassette

For the last few years, the German underground scene has been spitting out one killer combo after another. These groups range from hardcore units finding new wrinkles in their chosen style to genre-defying post-punk projects that utilize new ways to incorporate electronics into a rock format. I.G. is a duo attempting to update Germany’s early ’80s Neue Deutsche Welle scene for today’s hyperspeed reality. This initial offering’s title (and presumably the band’s name) translates to English as “Isolation Community,” so you know they’ve got the quarantine blues something fierce. The music errs more towards OMD’s mersh aspirations than DAF’s razor-sharp electronic come-ons. This kind of understated new wave pomp (a contradiction in terms) needs really strong songs to pierce my veil of indifference. The aggressive “Gelande” comes close but is still betrayed by keyboard lines that sound straight out of a Sega Genesis game. “Schockstarre” is grimy and foreboding and probably my favorite track here.

Klick & Aus Tapetopia 003: AIDS Delikat LP

The ’80s tried its hardest to kill rock’n’roll. In 1984, KLICK & AUS didn’t give a fuck about rock’n’roll per se, but still they managed to tap into its eternal well-spring of possibility and indulge in reckless, ramshackle sounds. KLICK & AUS stitched their music together while adjacent to quarantine (West Berlin gazing at East) and that patchwork existence influences their output. This is human music, as modern as a car phone and thirty times more useful. At times, KLICK & AUS recalls similar collectives such as HANS-A-PLAST (“Halt Mich Fest”), LUCRATE MILK (“Gebt Mir Schnaps”), TUXEDOMOON (“Slow Virus”), and FAUST (“Das Schicksal Der Lymphozyten”). Unfortunately, due to format constraints, the entirety of the original hour-long cassette is relegated to the web, but the material that shows up on this LP is more than enough to kickstart your own scene where the rules get chucked out the nearest window (and of course that is recorded for future use).

Soft Shoulder Copy Machine Fall Down 7”

Gilgongo Records mainman James Fella is an industrious sort. His label is constantly releasing interesting, occasionally great, art-damaged records by an array of projects. His own group, SOFT SHOULDER, is the best of these, and for the last year, they have been on a tear, including two excellent LPs. This 7” is the third single in the last twelve months, and it continues their streak. Both sides were stitched together from remotely-recorded parts, pandemic-style. “Copy Machine” features the band’s current line-up for a quick primer of their fractured aesthetic, while “Fall Down” brings in past members and associates for free jazz-like deconstruction. New LP coming soon!

Ike Yard Night After Night 12” / Ike Yard LP reissues

Nearly forty years after the fact, and IKE YARD still sounds like the future. Both of these records function as aural documents of New York City and its varying levels of reality. IKE YARD belongs to the shadows, and it’s here, tucked away from the light, that the brilliance of this music shines forth. The creative use of analog synth alone qualifies these reissues as objects of interest. That the band can meld murky industrial rhythms, unnerving bits of sonic detritus, and scraps of junk guitar so perfectly is a testament to their vision. The bass slithers like an underground pipeline, linking up with the sunken floor disco beats. With his intimate declarations and observations, Stuart Argabright (also of the incredible DEATH COMET CREW) is a tour guide talking you through a field trip to the parts of the city that you try to ignore. This music has such a vivid sense of scene, style, and space. The description “cinematic” truly applies here. VANGELIS can take a hike, IKE YARD should have scored Blade Runner.

Toads Toads LP

TOADS are a bona fide Bay Area all-star punk band with the resume to back it up. From ICKY BOYFRIENDS to the hallowed (now hollow) halls of MRR itself, TOADS has a lofty rep to live up to. Fortunately, for all of us, TOADS deliver. Only a couple cuts even break the two-minute mark, and then just barely. You’re supposed to chill out as you age, but TOADS are as rambunctious as a pack of teenagers jacked up on Mountain Dew, spicy Takis, and cigs lifted from Mom’s purse. But this crew also has a hard-won panache that makes their city punk appealing to dwellers of all sorts. In just over sixty seconds, “Not An Artist” is the kind of infectious kiss-off that makes punk the best of all rock’n’roll styles. If you need further evidence, I direct you to “Another Year” and “Bad Cop” for proof. Case sealed, conviction assured.

The Insults The Insults LP

All INSULTS records should come prepackaged with a snot-rag. You will rue the day you cut the sleeves off your shirt after taking a couple spins around the block with the INSULTS. Apparently these are their final recordings from 1980 (a.k.a. the beginning of the end of the American empire). While nothing here supplants the immortal “Population Zero,” you couldn’t ask for a better guide to being a no-count during the late ’70s. “I Hate…” is like a punk 101 course that can be completed in under two minutes. But then the charming “Are You Lonely?”—a sweet/sour tug-of-war like a proto-REPLACEMENTS—proves that these dicks have hearts. “Romilar Romeo” could be a SIMPLETONES outtake. “Trans Am” lampoons the red-blooded patriots that swarmed all over conservative suburban California, soon to be running the country (into the ground). Punk has always been the canary in the coal mine, only with better riffs.

Skunks Mad Song / Persian Radio 7”

I confess to being a tad perplexed at this 7”. Australia’s SKUNKS released a four-song 7” EP in 1982 called Scratch ‘N’ Sniff. I imagine the opening song, “Dance With The Fuhrer,” raised a few eyebrows in their native Adelaide. Did the average punter grok the sarcasm of its stiff-armed salute outro? At first, I thought maybe the reason that only half the original songs appeared on this small-run reissue was that the band wanted to avoid any appearance of aligning—justified or not—with such reprehensible ideas. But then I saw that there was a faithful four-song repro released in Australia concurrently with this particular edition. Preserved On Plastic is based in South Korea, so perhaps there is a licensing issue at work? Regardless, on this version, we skip the two-step with Hitler plus a re-christened Xmas tune (“Violent Night”). What remains is “Mad Song” and “Persian Radio,” both of which slot nicely with contemporaries like JUST URBAIN and THOUGHT CRIMINALS.

Blóm Flower Violence 12″

On Flower Violence, BLÓM is dead set on destruction. A non-binary three-piece that calls the UK home, BLÓM hearkens back to the glory days of Load Records—ditching the guitar while reveling in squalls of bass-borne noise, maniacally-played drums, and desperate vocals. Frankly, it’s a great look. Each of the five songs here are seeded with little barbs of pleasure and pain. “Meat” finds space for a mosh break even as it stays on the move, cycling through one compelling part after another. “God” is all sick breakdowns and gnarly riffs, culminating in a stylish heretic nailing a manifesto to the church doors. An epic meditation on Crime And Punishment, “Ubermensch” starts out like one of the MELVINS’ death marches to the forbidden zone before finally erupting into a LIGHTNING BOLT-style frenzy. “Be Kind” brings it all back home as Geezer Butler nods on approvingly. BLÓM can’t be bothered with gently placing a carnation in your rifle barrel, they want to knock the gun out of your fucking hands.

Lié You Want It Real LP

LIÉ is a brutally efficient band. You Want It Real is the Vancouver trio’s fourth LP and they betray no sign of easing up on the intensity, much less letting sleeping dogs rest. The songs here fester like a wound, like an injury that serves as a reminder of a greater pain. “You Got It” lunges at you with murder in its eyes, then switches up suddenly and flirts with a sense of triumph, until its back to the lashing you so richly deserve. “Fantasy Of Destructive Force” wreaks the kind of see-sawing, poetic havoc that made UNWOUND so memorable. By this point, LIÉ have developed their own language consisting of the usual noise rock signifiers but used to form words we don’t have definitions for yet.

Dan Melchior Band Outside In LP

Dan Melchior’s vast discography boasts an enviable hit-to-miss ratio, even when compared to catalog hogs like John Dwyer or the late Jay Reatard. It might seem odd to place Melchior in such company, but they are closer contemporaries than initially meets the eye. Regardless, Melchior continues to release several LPs worth of material a year and most of it—whether home-recorded experimental blues stitch-ups or full band get-down engagements—is uniformly excellent. Outside In is perched somewhere between acid-fried garage boogie and a sort of modern choogle that pulls from all sorts of far-flung sources. Both the title cut and “Chinese Wine” have a Zamrock vibe; desert guitar moves join with sheltering sky FX as they zip across the panning spectrum. “Brownsville” and “Courtesy Flush” gild garage lilies with ENO-esque sound treatments. “Pheasant Plucker” is not only a fun tongue-twister to roll around your mouth, but also a rocker that kicks up dust like the BROKE REVUE, Melchior’s perpetually underrated old outfit. Outside In came out a ways back, but it’s luster ain’t faded none.

Silicon Heartbeat Earth Static cassette

Beaming in from Kalamazoo, Michigan, SILICON HEARTBEAT (not to be confused with SILICON PRAIRIE) trades in gloomy, fuzz-soaked synth-punk. Suck the fun out of the SPITS or slip a sedative to LOST SOUNDS and you’d have something close to this EP. SILICON HEARTBEAT is competent enough, but the relentless monotone that defines each song can be a hard wave to ride, even on what is essentially a 7” (are there really only eighteen copies of this tape?). I’m guessing that this is a solo project and, thus, it rates on a sliding scale, but still, there’s little heat here. The digital download of Earth Static closes out with a perfectly fine ANGRY SAMOANS cover that is the aural equivalent of a flatline.

Collate Medicine / Genesis Fatigue 7”

Blame COVID for why there’s not a new COLLATE LP primed and ready to sit on your turntable. Still, the Portland trio does us a solid with a short but effective single. “Medicine” is begging to get a sweaty DIY dive packed with awkward weirdos grooving in something close to tandem. COLLATE doesn’t shirk on the ass-shaking aspect of post-punk nor do they let up on the jagged guitar or the eternally cool call-and-response vocals. This shit smokes, call the FIRE ENGINES! “Genesis Fatigue” is even rowdier and could have landed on any number of killer art-punk comps from 1981 and held its own in such hallowed company. Furthermore, as with all Domestic Departure output, this single looks fab.

The Smog Set in Stone / Lost My Mind 7”

People be loving the SMOG! This is the Japanese group’s third single and they’ve built a modest buzz based on their sharp, tuneful punk rockin’. “Set in Stone” threw me for a sec as it opens like GIRLS AT OUR BEST’s “Getting Nowhere Fast,” but then settles into a flavor profile that is closer to the JAM stirring a spoonful more garage into their mod stew. “Lost My Mind” gets slightly more angular and approximates what BLOC PARTY would sound like if they had any punk demos.

Fugitive Bubble Fugitive Bubble cassette

As 2020 pulled up stakes, FUGITIVE BUBBLE shoved this butterfly knife of speed-racket jerk anthems into its ribcage with zero remorse. It’s getting harder and harder to sort out this type of punk—the kind that is impossible to nail down with regards to its immediate antecedents. Sure, there’s some C.C.T.V. in the DNA, but with a heaping portion of KBD to make sure all six songs leave a mark. Check the boxes—jackhammer drums, rusty razor guitar spray, somersaulting rhythms, and super-sarcastic vocals that sound so cool you almost hope that they’re making fun of you. This debut tape is, no doubt, Cool Fucking Punk, which is good for you, cuz you are a Fucking Cool Punk. Whew.

Red Red Krovvy Managing LP

Having been around for a decade at this point, it’s quite a feat that Australia’s RED RED KROVVY has managed to remain so supremely agitated—they’re still pinning the needle into their color of choice and exorcising everyday demons like every good punk band should. Managing is their most consistent and satisfying collection of songs yet. There is a desperate, burned-out quality to RRK’s attack, but they cram enough down-turned hooks into each two-minute screed that the songs don’t end up an indefinite blur. “Before You Die” kicks off the album with a cathartic stare-down of existential dread and assures the listener that they will indeed leave a good-looking corpse. Singer Ash Wyatt (also of the excellent UBIK) possesses a memorable snarl and she uses it to great effect on cuts like “Company Job,” “Real Estate,” and “Despise The Rich.” Those titles give you an idea of where RED RED KROVVY’s head is at regarding the free market and its acolytes. Musically, there is a certain kinship with the dark side of SoCal beach punk. It’s tuneful but not poppy, fast but not ripping, and stripped of needless embellishment for the most part. Managing is a refreshing reminder that punk doesn’t need bells or whistles, just plenty of old fashioned spit and spite.

The Cowboys Lovers in Marble cassette

The COWBOYS LP on Lumpy was a damn fine slab of weirdo garage punk. I friggin’ love that thing. I dug their further adventures but lost track of the band a few years back. Well, thankfully for us, the COWBOYS are still out there, still plugging away, still consistently putting out quality music. In fact, they released an LP in 2020, so this tape can be seen as riding sidecar. But make no mistake, these aren’t scraps. I’m pleased to report that the COWBOYS still got “it.” They’ve settled into what is perhaps their final form as advanced students of moody ’60s psych-pop. The sound honors the era, but still comes off as contemporary. There’s elements of the KINKS (“Lovers In Marble”) and early BEE GEES (“The Bell Rings Less”), while the best song here, “Saintlike Said,” recalls the brooding PRETTY THINGS. Nice job, ‘boys.

The Monsters I’m a Stranger to Me / Carpool Lane 7”

These MONSTERS are a Swiss trash-garage combo that started kicking rocks way back in the ’80s and are fronted by the honorable Rev. Lightning Beat Man. Beat Man runs Voodoo Rhythm Records, so the dude is not a stranger to loud-ass dirt rock, but I was still surprised by the grit that’s caked over these new recordings. The A-side is a hi-energy rave-up that shows a generation of Burger-fed youth how it’s done. Gnarly. “Carpool Lane” slows down just a hair so that herk-jerk verses can alternate with heavy bursts of fuzz as an analog synth zaps the aliens lurking on the side of the road. A cassette version slathers on a host of extra tracks.

Landowner Consultant LP

People, I am here to tell you how much LANDOWNER absolutely fucking rules. They play tightly-coiled rock music that is in constant motion while appearing to remain perfectly still. It’s a neat trick, this hummingbird punk trip, but these guys got songs too—LANDOWNER nags you with their flitting, arid smart aleck takes. Imagine NOMEANSNO stripped of their exaggerated bluster (to be sure, a large part of that unit’s charm) or the MINUTEMEN time-warped into the 21st century. “Victim Of Redlining” corkscrews into your head with a relentless bass riff, a D. Boon guitar lick, and lyrics spat out like the speaker has been sitting stewing in anticipation of five minutes of facetime. “Swiss Pavilion” dissects city planning with wit and brevity, addressing public spaces, parking concerns and the narrator’s desire to achieve urban nirvana. In the context of punk, LANDOWNER’s music is understated yet contains an undeniable ferocity. Despite its lack of a “sick riff,” “Being Told You’re Wrong” is closer in spirit to MINOR THREAT than a thousand generic straightedge bands. LANDOWNER utilizes clean tones, repetition, and interlocking guitar/bass lines to build spaces that are there to serve a purpose, more tool than structure. On album highlight “This Could Mean Something,” singer/mastermind Dan Shaw is “Talking to the wall / ’Til it starts talking back” as the band veers into US MAPLE territory. “Confrontation” adds synth and shares sympathies with PATOIS COUNSELORS, while “Mystery Solved” sketches an existential story of an IT worker over seven tense minutes. But don’t get it twisted—Consultant is occupied with churning, propulsive music. Hardcore is inverted. Pointillist-brutalism is engaged. Patterns are melodies and whispers are screams. This album leaves invisible bruises like pillowcases filled with bars of soap. A bright spot during these last dark months, no doubt.

Star Party Demo 2020 cassette

STAR PARTY is a GEN POP offshoot that throws down a glittering gauntlet on this teaser tape. Drenched in sheets of glorious early Creation Records fuzz, “No Excuse” hits hardcore velocity while singer Carrie Brennan is perfectly dialed in on the reverb. But it’s “Veil of Gauze” that really impresses. “Gauze” is so good that it can hold its own with the excellent version of the SHOP ASSISTANTS’ “Something To Do” that precedes it. And just when you think you know the score, STAR PARTY covers a BOB DYLAN-penned early CHER tune (“All I Really Wanna Do”) and conjures fond memories of the AISLERS SET. When’s the single?

Lewsberg In This House LP

The righteous, relentless chug of third-album-era VELVET UNDERGROUND has provided a valuable blueprint for enterprising buttoned-up rockers for decades. Based in Rotterdam, LEWSBERG found themselves trekking to this well so many times that they set up living quarters and now bathe in its replenishing waters every morning. On In This House, their second full-length, LEWSBERG dives deep, and if you’re partial to the charms of the MODERN LOVERS, GALAXIE 500 and BETTIE SERVEERT, then you will find much to like here. The album is evenly split between head-down rockers and songs that are reminiscent of a quietly devastating conversation over late afternoon tea. While they hit the marks of the former, LEWSBERG falls just short of nailing the mood of the latter. “The Door” is the kind of intimate yet foreboding studio apartment psych that YO LA TENGO mastered long ago, but LEWSBERG doesn’t quite have the damage to pull it off. The song contains echoes of HUMAN SWITCHBOARD’s “Refrigerator Door,” but falls short of that classic’s dramatic, gawky outpouring of romanticism. We could use a little more of that awkward, doomed, drunk poetry in today’s rock scene. But LEWSBERG aren’t trying to set the world on fire, they’re just trying to make it to the coffee shop and get things started. “Cold of Light Day” is the hit, projecting a casually cool, streetwalking confidence that sheds the leather jackets for corduroy and peacoats. With its wire-y guitars, “Through The Garden” satisfies on this front, but I can’t help hoping for an extradimensional “I Heard Her Call My Name”-esque feedback squeal to tear through the time-space continuum; alas, no such luck here. I wanted the “Interlude” to stretch its wings a bit more. I caught a brief glimpse of SPACEMEN 3 waiting outside the practice space door and I was hoping they’d come in and jam. The album ends with such a lackluster last minute that it seems like an inverted punchline. Your mileage may vary.

Sudden Impact Freaked Out EP

Guided by the expert punk archivists at Supreme Echo, SUDDEN IMPACT upgrades a semi-legendary demo to a fully formed EP. Before leaning into something closer to “trad” skate-thrash, SUDDEN IMPACT were making pits erupt in Toronto and the proof is evident on a blazing 1984 recording. Delivering ten cuts in thirteen minutes, this remastered EP is practically the platonic ideal of a hardcore punk 7″. Things back then were truly fast and furious, so much so that who even has time to come up with song titles? (“New Song” could use a little more work but still packs a punch.) “Freaked Out” sports enough bent corners that it could fit comfortably on an early Killed By Death volume (see KRAUT). True to form, the theme song (“Sudden Impact”) completely shreds and features the always-welcome sound of breaking glass to ensure that you’re paying attention. And then they wrap things up by covering TED NUGENT, because of course. NUGENT sucks, but AMBOY DUKES rule, and as far as hardcore covers of hard rock nuggets go, it ain’t half-bad.

The Lavender Flu Tomorrow Cleaners LP

Fuzzy Oregon freaks the LAVENDER FLU celebrate their state’s decriminalization of recreational drugs with their third album in a mere year’s time. D.A.R.E. to bend an ear to the FLU’s warped sensibilities as they curve rainbows in mid-air and turn falling raindrops into flying butterflies. Tomorrow Cleaners finds the LAVENDER FLU back on the Meds label and exploring the same ’shroom-strewn forest that spawned their double-shot debut, Heavy Air. The owls are not what they seem as they lead you to a secret swimming hole where the humidity verges on the psychedelic. These sounds are melting along with you and perhaps even melting inside of you. “Boca Ciega” cops a welcome WEST COAST POP ART EXPERIMENTAL BAND vibe, while “Romelas” is lovely and groovy and lets low-key axemaster Chris Gunn carve out some space with his stun guitar. These are the songs that JULIAN COPE was singing to himself when he was hanging out under that tortoise shell. Naked and afraid and happy as a loon. Ore-gone or orgone? Unlike the recent Barbarian Dust, Tomorrow Cleaners is no killer rock slab, but still chock full of intriguing paths less traveled.

Night Lunch Wall of Love LP

On their debut album, Montreal new wave quartet NIGHT LUNCH serves up something closer to a midnight snack. It’s all too slight—the keyboards, the vocals, the guitar, the cover art. I’m hungry, so angry and NIGHT LUNCH could probably use a second helping of something spicier (MEDIUM MEDIUM-hot salsa?). Wall of Love is finger food when a burrito as big as your head is needed. Sorry, you don’t like these food metaphors? Sorry, I don’t like this record.

The Down-Fi / Toeheads split 7″

This little platter is Issue #2 in the Good Times Rock ’n’ Roll Club Split Single Series. Whew, that’s quite a mouthful and might just have you questioning what decade you’ve landed in. Have no fear, it’s still that same cursed year, but don’t tell these bands cuz all they wanna do is rock and/or roll til the sun comes up. The DOWN-FI is notable for featuring a true underground rock legend in the irrepressible Craig Bell. Craig has been in ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS, the MIRRORS, SAUCERS and, most recently, X__X. If you figured that kind of resume would clue you in to the quality rock sounds contained on their side, well, goddamn maybe it’s time to take up fortune-telling. “You Won’t Like It” skips the art damage for straightforward bash ’n’ pop and was even recorded in “glorious mono” for extra salt-of-the-earth cred. Every town should have a band this good to drink their worries away to. TOEHEADS are from Detroit and you can certainly hear that in the attitude on display for “Jane Doe #59.” But it’s actually the PAGANS that this song most closely resembles. A sub-par PAGANS, but hey maybe it took 58 tries to nail “Her Name Was Jane.” The leopard print inner sleeve is a nice touch.

Max Nordile Building a Better Void LP

21st century renaissance man MAX NORDILE continues his assault on logic with another solo joint that defies expectations and rewards those predisposed to the counter-intuitive. You may know him from art-punk units like PREENING and UZI RASH, but when left to his own devices, Max gets into a heap of trouble and makes an intriguing mess—a “Public Pile” according to one track. Opener “Deep Face” sounds like ALASTAIR GALBRAITH having a bad day, while other cuts suggest CAROLINER playing it straight. “Diligent Pores” is an extended meditation that steeps coffee shop clatter and submerged guitar noise in a broken teacup. By the end of the album, the microphone is in the waffle iron and your head is in the radiator and everything is in its proper place.