Reviews

Erick Bradshaw

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.