Reviews

Jason Harding

The Geros Weird Dance 12″

Continuing their streak of concocting peculiar tunes with no regard for the current musical climate, Osaka trio the GEROS flex and expand their pure punk energy on this first 12” effort. Released on the Tokyo-based Debauch Mood label, Weird Dance offers a twisted and eclectic bouquet of songs both sharp and satisfying. A powerful and unexpectedly spooky opening number, “Pressure” sees the group’s trademark spunky charm bent into a heavy, creeping, and hollow lament. This hypnotizing and sophisticated track provides us with a jaw-dropping standout right off the bat. And I’m not mad at all that they follow it up with a repeat in “Toxic,” an encore presentation of a great track from their 2015 debut Genocide or Suicide EP on the band’s own Killer Boy label. The evolved GEROS deliver the explosive bratty chugger with a little more swagger and speed this time around. Kicking off the flipside, “Be Bop A Noiz” brings us both the silliest name and toughest riff of the year in its refrain, adding a new entry to the list of the band’s best songs. The jazzy jump of the instrumental interlude “Ikue” ends with some spoken word, the only words of which I can decipher are “punk rock” and its title, which I believe is in reference to Japanese composer and musician Ikue Mori. Finally, the electric R&B-flavored title track “Weird Dance” wraps things up by setting conflicted and violent lyrical content to a snappy beat to get the kids moving and grooving, as well as leaving initiated “Flat Tire Punk” weirdos like myself drooling for more. A few years back I was semi-obsessed with the idea of going to Japan solely for the purpose of seeing these guys, the RAYDIOS, X-DISCOS, XL FITS, and other incredible bands live. The compulsion has long since left, but when the mailman brings me records like this I can start to feel that itch again.

The Dirts The Dirts LP

There ain’t nothing wrong with some dirty and desperate rock’n’roll, but I’m not telling you anything that the DIRTS don’t already know. Playing the type of static-shitty garage knockers that originated with the Teenage Hate-era REATARDS and were probably previously best emulated by Finland’s the ACHTUNGS, these self-deprecating Swedes nail the bluesy budget-rock style, complete with black-and-white Xeroxed aesthetics. Echoey, distorted vocals? Check. Songs about being a loser and hating stuff? Check. Earnest and amateurish guitar mini-solos? Check. Even the brooding “Getting Over You” and the damaged power pop of “Telling Me Lies” are in line with acceptable “look, we’re mixing it up a bit” styles for this type of loud lo-fi music. This is no Teenage Hate, or even Welcome to Hell, but I’m glad it’s here because we gotta keep this shit alive. I like to think Jay would be proud.

Exil Warning LP

With a front cover that looks like it was ripped straight out of a 1987 Thrasher magazine and a sound to match, EXIL drops in with an old school thrash punk assault on their debut LP. This Swedish shredder is full speed ahead and sounds something like what DRI might have evolved into had they not decided to pioneer the crossover movement. Though to be fair, there are tinges of crossover to these songs and some classic SoCal punk influence as well, which all fits the bill. Pairs well with headphones, a board, and a bad attitude.

Microbes Peace & Love cassette

Sounding much like the early DESCENDENTS with a little bit of the GERMS spilled on ’em, MICROBES open up this six-song cassette with a title track that could almost pass as a FAT EP outtake. A lot of the resemblance has to do with the singer, but as the tape progresses the songs veer into youth crew-y (“Bad Vibes”) and even hardcore thrash (“Faces”) territories that Milo and co. never aspired to. To confuse things even further, the artwork and lyrical content is very much in line with the Crass Records style of yore. I bet you these guys make a hell of a chili, too.

Hwanza 멘솔 EP

Stirring up a respectably chaotic din, HWANZA’s demo brings us rabid barking vocals over harsh and winding thrash melodies. The six tracks on this EP are punchy, direct, and prone to become a bit unhinged at any moment. Is this South Korea’s answer to Austin’s GLUE? If so, it’s a pretty good one. Favorite track: “F.Y.C.T.”

Vivisected Numbskulls 4 More Tracks cassette

I’m not sure what genre these devilish dudes from New York City would consider themselves. Death Oi!? Street Macabre? Boasting ghoulish tunes with fuzzy and buzzy guitars, hoarse ghostly vocals, and foreboding hooks galore, these NUMBSKULLS seem to be carving out their own grisly, jagged, and possibly infected path. The music is UK82 at its core, delivered via a decaying VHS tape bootleg of a banned movie. Whatever they call it, this band and the rest of the crew at the Chaotic Uprising Productions label are up to some wild shit, and I’m into it.

Direct Threat Direct Threat cassette

While DIRECT THREAT from Denver adheres pretty strictly to the USHC playbook in terms of songwriting, the distorted demo-quality recording puts a layer of dirt on it all that adds to their “no fucks given” aesthetic. The band’s messy stomp is driven by foreboding hooks and raw-throated vocals. The singer also has a one-man-band side project called REALITY COMPLEX, just in case this tape leaves ya thirsty for more.

Bootlicker Bootlicker LP

Playing hard and bouncy punk with a melting pot of influences, Vancouver’s BOOTLICKER is sharper than ever on this explosive full-length outing. Weaving classic hardcore and D-beat elements into their UK82-style songs, these guys come off as a bit more original that some of the more stringent ’80s-flavored bands that have been springing up as of late. This record from the CHAIN WHIP labelmates is loaded with catchy tunes (“Herd the Sheep”’ will get stuck in yer head) delivered with conviction through obliterated speakers. Taste the rubber, baby.

Assault & Battery The Complete Session, May 1981 LP

One of the earliest documents of the legendary D.C. hardcore scene, The Complete Session, May 1981 is the first ever legit release of ASSAULT & BATTERY’s only studio recording. Featuring members that would go on to play in bands like GOVERNMENT ISSUE, ARTIFICIAL PEACE, and MARGINAL MAN, these guys helped to sculpt the style that would come to define that era. The songs are short and savage, showcasing some primeval examples of the ripping and stomping D.C. sound, and it’s pretty great. This record includes songs that were previously only available via bootleg along with some outtakes and instrumentals that have never been released until now, all transferred from the original 4-track master. It’s “missing link” hardcore from a crucial time, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Tetanus Tetanus cassette

Sonically schizophrenic and riddled with digital fuckery, this tape from TETANUS was created in the wake of a couple other Charlotte bands that succumbed to the lockdown restraints of COVID-19. Bullhorned shouty vocals cover all six noisy tracks, including the sped-up rendition of the MENTALLY ILL’s KBD classic “Gacy’s Place” that closes it out. Chalk it up as one of the more pleasant repercussions of the pandemic.

Impede Digital Hell cassette

IMPEDE from Australia plunks down five slabs of grizzly and haunting punk on this debut cassette EP. The band draws from a diverse pool of influences, and they’re all a bit on the dark side. If the title of opener “Melissa” doesn’t give its source of inspiration away, the high-pitched wail near the end of the song likely will. Shadows of Japanese and Italian hardcore are all over the tracks, and the intro to “The Swarm” goes straight into black metal. Check out the atmospheric evil of “Super Computer” for a taste of how interesting this tape really is.

Morbo ¿A Quién le Echamos la Culpa? LP

Twelve tracks of spirited and garage-y mid-paced punking from these Peruvian veterans. Following in the footsteps of legendary ’60s Peru rockers LOS SAICOS, MORBO has been playing their own unique brand of primal and direct music for over twenty years. The songs here encompass a range of different styles, with a lot of first- and second-wave flavor and some interesting surprises along the way. From the nihilistic dirge of “Poema de un Libro Escolar,” to the Spaghetti Western cowpunk vibes of “El Loco,” and even a weirdo synth track at the end, it’s a fun ride. Whenever I hear the great opening track “Aquí No Hay Nadie,” I can’t help but imagine that it’s being played by a band of angry, Spanish-speaking rat Muppets, but that probably says more about me than it does the record.

Hero Dishonest / Ydinperhe split EP

A double-feature EP starring two of the longest-running punk bands in Finland, this split is filthy with raw expression. HERO DISHONEST has been in the game since 1999, and they’ve changed with the times a bit throughout the years, but on this record they sound freshly pissed-off and unpolished in the best way possible. This violent sound pairs well with images of the band making breakfast, relaxing on the couch, and doing household projects in their video for “Pettynyt” (look it up). Less seasoned but just as potent, YDINPERHE comes in sounding like a pack of Finnish firecrackers. On this eighth outing since the band’s start in 2011, they lay out three dizzying tracks that take you from headbanging to hungover in about four minutes. Impressive, and it’s nice to see the infection is still festering strongly in Northern Europe.

Chainsaw Funny Feast LP

Collecting songs recorded between 1998 and 2002, Funny Feast reissues the (complete?) works of France’s CHAINSAW. Featuring original DOGS frontman Dominique Laboube as well as members of the VERMINES, this record showcases a reunion of sorts of these Rouen punk veterans. With a musical style that sways back and forth between earnest, old school Motor City-style rock’n’roll and a sort of unpolished power pop, CHAINSAW’s soulful, heavy, and garage-y sound was built on nostalgia. Influences of the STOOGES and NEW YORK DOLLS are apparent, and at times the singer reminds me of a French version of 1980s Iggy in his delivery. Once in a while some DEAD BOYS mojo surfaces, like on the lead track from the band’s 2000 EP Godzilla’s Got a New Toy, and they close out the album with a trio of solid RAMONES covers. It’s a love letter to the ’70s delivered through a distinctly ’90s lens, and these fifteen unabashed retro-rockers will surely appeal to proto-punk perverts around the globe.

Innuendo Losing Again demo cassette

Simple, straightforward, and brash, the head-bobbing hardcore on this three-song demo hits the spot. This Wisconsin band’s rockin’ mid-tempo style channels O.G. punk spirit in the vein of early BLACK FLAG and NEGATIVE APPROACH, and it sounds awesomely refreshing right about now. This one even slid onto my Top Ten for 2020 based on its pure potency, and get this—it’s just two guys: a vocalist and an everything-else man making this excellent racket. With any luck this strong little tape is just a teaser for a more comprehensive INNUENDO attack to come.

UNIT What’s It All For? 12”

A single-sided 12” slab from San Antonio’s UNIT, What’s It All For is full of fast and angry punk with an urgent and agile aura. When compared to recent standout acts from the region like GLUE and INSTITUTE, UNIT has a more classic hardcore approach, but the modern Texas mayhem comes through loud and clear in their sound. Catchy hooks and chaotic anxious energy propel these five songs forward seamlessly with little pause in between, and the title track closes out the record with an all-too-relatable sentiment of aggravated existential dread.

Lethal Model Citizen demo cassette

Oof. If you needed a convincer on the virility of the current NYHC scene, this oughta do the trick. LETHAL’s barreling and pointed brand of punk is the kind that fills the air with tangible electricity. If I can feel it in my house, it must be pretty intense live. The music is vicious and urgent, and this guy is screaming his ass off in a way that sounds like it’s going to hurt later. “Model Citizen” is a brutal way to start the show. The last song, “Poison Age,” somehow actually sounds poisonous. These tracks just rip right through you. Let’s hope for another dose of LETHAL soon.

The Cybermen You’re to Blame / It’s You I Want 7” reissue

Another necessary reissue from Italy’s excellent Breakout Records, “You’re To Blame / It’s You I Want” is an encore presentation of late ’70s pop punkers the CYBERMEN’s second record, originally released in 1979. A strong entry in the “UK pub-rock-turned-punk” category, the CYBERMEN were in a pub group called ESAX LUCIUS prior to catching the punk bug, and it shows. Sharp and clean with rockin’ grooves in the vein of the RADIATORS FROM SPACE or the CORTINAS, these boys played that catchy shit with a bit of commercial appeal. This single is presented as a double A-side (right on the sleeve!), but the actual A-side is the winner for me. “You’re To Blame” is a loose and spunky R&B number with a classic four-chord riff and ’50s rock character. “It’s You I Want” sounds a little more like an attempt at radio play and has more of a power pop feel to it (the handclaps are subtle), although there is some good ol’ twangy guitar jamming in there to help drive it along. Anyway, by the time I get to side two, I’m already sold on the record and ready to flip it back again. It’s great.

The In-Fuzzed The In-Fuzzed LP

A real-deal garage banger taking me back to my Rip-Off Records-laden glory days, this self-titled long-player from Berlin’s the IN-FUZZED is not only some of the best garage rock I’ve heard in a while, it’s some of the best I’ve ever heard. With a killer, collage-like spread of great songs that all feel authentic, this is a real anomaly for this particular strain of throwback rock’n’roll. Rather than riding a single fuzzy groove-style all the way to hell, or taking on a campy retro pose like many attempts at garage over the last couple of decades, the IN-FUZZED seem to pop around and play in the best bits of all aspects of the genre. And it sounds like they’re really having a blast doing it, whether they’re freaking out a bit and reminding me of Dutch ’90s legends the STIPJES on “Lost Time Rock N’ Roll,” playing ’60s punk à la the MAKERS on “Like Nitroglycerine,” rolling like the BEACH BOYS comin’ down a dirty chimney on the charming “Xmas Night,” or even dabbling in psychedelia a little bit on “Wall.” Playing very much like a compilation of fresh new garage groups instead of the effort of a single band, this is truly an amazing record. I wasn’t expecting this in 2021, but fuck yes, I’ll take it.

Illiterates Illiterates LP

Imagine if the strong metal influence, basketball jerseys, and corporate co-opt never happened to hardcore in the ’90s. ILLITERATES from Pittsburgh have been hard at work keeping the grand tradition of making good, old-fashioned music-to-not-do-your-homework-to alive. Here we have twelve pure old-school U.S. hardcore blazers in the spirit of bands like JERRY’S KIDS, the F.U.’S, and ILL REPUTE, and it’s a job well done. My favorites on here are probably “LB Scheme,” “Stupid Privilege,” and closer “We’re Coming Out.” Turn your brain off and turn it up.

Repeat Offender Demo ’20 EP

Playing early U.S. hardcore that’s been spiked with a bit of the ol’ Oi! Oi! music, REPEAT OFFENDER terrorizes listeners with treble, distortion, and monstrous vocals on their first outing. Banging out raucous punk in the style of bands like NEGATIVE APPROACH and SSD, this new L.A. group packs equal parts melody and menace into their short and powerful songs. They really kick the shit out of you on a couple of these tracks, but I like this band best when they pull out numbers like the punky “Consequence.” Despite their ominous moniker, this 7” demo shows promise, and I’m not offended at all.

B.S.B. The End is Near EP

These guys from Poland are all riled up, playing thrashing and pounding hardcore with gang vocal choruses and some howling guitar thrown in. There’s nothing here that strikes me as particularly memorable, but it goes down smooth. Easy listening for hard-asses.

Pedigree Connected? 12″

Coming through with a sound akin to EX-CULT on Valium, PEDIGREE has unleashed a monster of an EP upon the unsuspecting public. Beyond its loud and fuzzy post-punk exterior, this is complex music with a real cinematic quality to it. Each song is almost like its own little movie, conjuring up jittery images of frantic electricity webbing bleak dystopian landscapes. These tunes expand and contort in surprising and impressive ways as they unfold, like the awesome little bit of “Miserlou”-esque guitar play on “Blank Page” and the continuous escalation into madness witnessed on closer “The Nomad.” It’s strong stuff. Put this on and see where it takes you.

Gee Tee Atomic EP

We’ve got another winner from Sydney’s leading Gas Station Rock band, GEE TEE. Opening with lo-fi RAMONES-y vibes accented by warbly keys, “Kombat Kitchen” had me nice and cozy from the get-go. “Mutant World” serves up a buzzing garage groove. Laid-back title track “Atomic” sounds like it is wearing sunglasses while the world melts, and “Dudes In The Valley” ends it off by inducing both grins and the urge to start the record over again. Well-played.

The John Buxton Experience Portal to Heck 12″

The JOHN BUXTON EXPERIENCE is a one-man band from Wisconsin, and I bet this is the first time anyone has ever typed that name out in all caps. I kid—this guy has chops and writes some intricate shit in addition to being proficient at both guitars and drums. The vocals here remind me of M.O.T.O. a bit, and the music ranges from straight hardcore (“A Disastrous Introduction”) to rock epics (“Pillar of Salt”), to weirdness like “Goin’ Mad,” which seems to channel both KING DIAMOND and M.O.D. at different points. Despite the eccentricity of the songs, he manages to pull together a rather tight sound. In fact, you might never guess this was all just one guy if I didn’t tell you. Try it on a friend. Or don’t. Either way, something tells me we haven’t heard the last of JOHN BUXTON.

Suck Lords Songs the Lords Taught Us flexi EP

Adding their own unique recipe of menace and mania to classic HC styles, SUCK LORDS from Portland are real men of the cloth as far as I’m concerned. Their sound draws comparisons to early POISON IDEA as well as some of the nastiest Japanese hardcore bands of the 1980s without being redundant. The five songs on this flexi come in so fast and ferocious sometimes that it feels like the beat is almost tripping over itself. They’re also able to impressively switch from this insane tempo to a more relaxed and rockin’ pace on a dime. This is sacrilegious and psychedelic old-school action on overdrive, and I support it.

Discovery Earth to Fucker EP

DISCOVERY does not mince words, as evidenced by the eloquence of this ripping EP’s opening track “Pig Shit.” These guys from the Bay Area go hard, playing tough, driving, and straightforward hardcore with plenty of tasty nuance. They take their cue from early US bands as well as classic Japanese hardcore without aping styles, and this 7” is jam-packed with tight and heavy tunes to reflect on, revel in, and rage to.

Twisted Thing Sacred Cement EP

The ladies in TWISTED THING stir up an enchanting and chaotic buzz on their pounding sophomore EP. Displaying a new level of maturity compared to their excellent debut cassette from 2018, the songs on this 7” are sophisticated and unforgiving. There’s some aspects to the sound that makes the record sound like it could have come out on a label like Sub Pop in the ’90s, but nah, maybe it’s a little too cool for that. They could probably play a great show with TANTRUM and maybe a couple of other bands in the city with similar dark and compelling auras. This is another strong entry in what seems to be a powerful new surge of female energy building in the NYC punk scenes, and I look forward to seeing how this particular plot thickens.

Zhukov EP II cassette

New Zealand fucking rules, doesn’t it? I present to you the latest in a long lineage of NZ punk winners: ZHUKOV. Playing garage-y hardcore tunes with grooving guitars and exasperated growls for vocals, this band gets your head bobbin’ to an authentic and original sound. With a blunt anti-establishment motif that’s illustrated quite vividly on the album art as well as in the songs, these Christchurch lads urge you to “Join the Brick Throwers’ Union Today,” and I’ve already submitted my application.

Pänika Demo 2020 cassette

This short dose of PÄNIKA is flush with a menacing and pounding sound. Blasting sparse riffs with a mocking tone, haunting echoed vocals, and overt political themes, its got all the ingredients for a captivating hardcore experience, even if it only lasts a couple minutes. They kinda remind me of a female-fronted version of Italy’s KOBRA, which is great praise, and I’m thinking this has got to be one of the hottest bands in Wroclaw, Poland.

Reek Minds Rabid EP

“Blistering” is an adjective that comes up frequently when describing hardcore bands, and it’s certainly the first one that comes to mind when considering REEK MINDS’ new EP. Powerviolence fury with croaking and growling vocals propels this record forward at breakneck speeds, with the occasional breakdown providing a little respite from the chaos. If you like ‘em super-fast, nasty, and unforgiving, you’ll likely join the choir of enthusiasts who are saying that this is one of the best records to come out in a while.

The Dogs Teen Slime: Original 1973–1977 Recordings LP

Forgotten ’70s heroes the DOGS from Iowa played raw and primal guitar rock, minus much of the pretension that was so commonly paired with popular music of the era. Instead they opted for unapologetic expression with a beautiful “fuck you” feel. I guess it’s hard to be pretentious when you’re wailing and shrieking like a wounded animal over a decent percentage of the music, and the singer here has no shame in his vocal freak-out game. Riffs are dirty and direct, the themes are of youthful confusion and reflection, and their STOOGES influence is evident as soon as you look at the album’s cover. The songs sometimes take up a shamanic vibe, as in the bluesy “Man Is Not An Animal”, and at other times it sounds like every member of the band is doing whatever the hell they want with surprisingly rockin’ results (see: “Freakin’ on the Street”). In other words, this is proto-punk gold, and this collection features the band’s 1977 double A-side “Rot ‘n’ Roll / Teen Slime” single, as well as five earlier songs dating back as far as 1973. I’ve been listening to this thing for months. The Breakout/Rave Up team-up is on a roll with excellent reissues of this nature, fingers crossed for the PUNKS LP next.

Misanthropic Minds Welcome to the Homeland, Greetings From the Wasteland EP

Holy shit, yes. Like a tornado of rusty razors, Nova Scotia’s MISANTHROPIC MINDS hit the ground ripping on this blazing EP. This particularly nasty strain of hardcore is fresh-sounding and severe, serving up a thorough and agile pummeling. The chainsaw guitar never stops screaming at the end of the first song, entering the second track as a wall of wailing distortion that just keeps riding the back beat. It’s a rad move that had me cracking up the first time I heard it. The relentless thrashing continues, and the brooding title(-ish) track “The Homeland” provides a nice breather before the closing track drags you back into the whirlwind for one more round. This is the kind of record that you blow on a little bit before you take it off the turntable, because you’re scared it might burn your hand.

Purple-X Pre-Tense EP

PURPLE-X delivers a unique brand of hardcore, swaying between manic and melodic with traces of deathrock influence on their debut EP. The singer stands out with snotty vocals that are just the right amount belligerent (due in part I’m sure to her Oslo accent delivering English lyrics), and the band displays the breadth of their capabilities over the course of these four surly songs. Dark, divergent sounds from Norway’s capital.

True Sons of Thunder Age Old Effrontery EP

With a diverse roster of seasoned players from bands like the OBLIVIANS, MANATEEES, RAT TRAPS, and more, TRUE SONS OF THUNDER are a supergroup of divine debauched pedigree, serving up scummy lo-fi indulgence with the weight of heady hardcore. The opening “Shake Rag” is a depraved freight train of STOOGES-style swagger that contains a shout-out to two-thirds of EMERSON, LAKE, AND PALMER. “Plastic Bat Attack” includes a refrain that sounds like the attack itself and provides instructions for creating your very own plastic weapon. “Toob Sock” ends things off somewhat abruptly with an urgent cadence that would not be out of place on a HOMOSTUPIDS record. These guys stir up quite a din, check out their Total Punk LP for further proof.

V/A American Idylls 2xLP

When I was a kid, a good compilation record was like a ticket to another world. In the pre-internet universe, these were often a crucial gateway to discovering new bands, and in this far-away and oft-forgotten dimension, finding a monster double-LP collection like American Idylls would be nothing less than a fucking miracle. Packing 49(!) songs from the cream of the current North Carolina punk crop, the musical styles represented here range from spastic DIY (FITNESS WOMXN), to punishing thrash (PUBLIC ACID), and lots in between, making it a real “something for everyone” affair. It’s mind-blowing that this eclectic variety of great bands exists at once on the planet, let alone all in the NC area. With the party crushers of DRUGCHARGE, the steely post-hardcore of SILICA, the dystopian dirges of NATURAL CAUSES, the strong and snotty rockers from MIND DWELLER, and much more, the majority of this stuff pushes boundaries and challenges categorization, as good music should. Adding to the orgasm, the vinyl package comes with a 32-page booklet documenting the scene. I hope there’s at least a couple young’n’s out there who somehow find this record between TikTok sessions and truly get their shit rocked forever.

Gutter Knife Boots on the Ground LP

Blending the punch and drive of O.G. hardcore in the vein of GOVERNMENT ISSUE with Oi!/UK82 sensibilities echoing bands like COMBAT 84 and the 4-SKINS, GUTTER KNIFE hails from the seaside slums of Brighton, England. These ten tough tracks range from relentless pummeling, to snotty speed attacks, to COCKNEY REJECTS-style “football” rockers, all painted with the perfect gruff and loose vocals to put ‘em right over the top. The band wears their influences on their record sleeve, as every single song title sounds like something you might make up if joking around about “skunk” rock bands of this sort (“Hangman,” “No Justice,” and “Boots on the Ground,” for example). I mean that in the best possible way, as these guys strike all the right chords, giving France’s RIXE some stiff competition for the title of present-day Oi! Champions. Fingers crossed for more of this butter from the GUTTER.

Tantrum Get What You Deserve cassette

NYC’s TANTRUM delivers a steady D-beat pounding on some of this tape, and dark, smoky post-punk on the rest of it. It’s an interesting mix, especially when complemented by the tinny demo quality. The echoed female vocals add a layer of goth/anarcho vibes to these six tracks, working just as well over the thrashy hardcore parts as they do on the slower, more pointed numbers. While these elements may sound a little mismatched, TANTRUM makes it work fairly seamlessly.

Black Button I Want to Be in Control cassette

BLACK BUTTON really caught my attention last year with their short demo tape, so I was pretty psyched when I saw this release pop up. As I had hoped, it’s a hell of a ride. This formidable Richmond act plays intense, jazzy, angular, and cerebral lo-fi hardcore that creates a dense, disturbing, dystopian-like atmosphere to pull the listener in. The music is equal parts groovy and gripping, aided by a desperate, tortured, and venomous vocal performance spitting thought-provoking spoken word on top. Every once in a while everything seems to just fall apart, adding a dimension of No Wave clamor to the sound. I just can’t decide which version of the band’s self-titled “theme song” I prefer—the haunting live arthouse version on the demo or the tightly-wound, homicidal-horn-laced chaos found here. They’re both great, and so are the rest of these unique tunes. I’m pulling out the big B-word on this one—brilliant stuff. Don’t sleep on it.

Power Face Door Slammed Shut EP

Enthusiastic Stockholm Swedes POWER FACE play a turbo-charged kind of metal-punk, reminding me a little bit of SoCal skate bands from the early ’90s. If you strip away the wild, spit-caked vocals, the music is honestly pretty generic melodic punk/hardcore, which they play well. Are these guys signed to Fat Wreck yet, or what?

Cement Shoes A Love Story of Drugs & Rock & Roll & Drugs EP

This fuckin’ band. First they tear the ass out of 2019 with the killer Too LP, and now this Love Story makes the rest of the 7” pile pale in comparison. I thought this Richmond, VA outfit might be done after they parted ways with their previous black-throated singer, but drummer Trevor jumped up to fill the slot with surprisingly great results. Here the SHOES stomp through three songs, each showing a different side of the band’s bizarre spiral of turbo-charged, trippy, and groovy hardcore punk rock. The record clocks in at just under eight minutes, but rumor has it that a carefully-timed bong hit will make it seem more like sixteen. Starts heavy, ends heeavvy. Highly recommended.

Johnny Thunders Live From Zürich 1985 LP

Exhumed and remastered from a tape that had been stored in a private stash box that JOHNNY simply labeled “Thunders Tapes,” Live From Zürich 1985 captures a live Swiss radio session recorded six years before his passing. Thanks to a sharp remastering job, the sound is super-crisp, and THUNDERS’ usual disaffected and snotty charm is on full display throughout. The fourteen songs here are a bit of mixed bag, ranging from highlights like the opening rocker “Blame It On Mom” and the Jerry “Needles” Nolan co-written “Countdown Love,” to obligatory DOLLS and HEARTBREAKERS covers, to duds like the ill-advised dub of “Cool Operator.” Die-hard fans will dig it, and this is the first of a series of these “forgotten” recordings to come, so they can look forward to digging more.

The Geros Freak Out / Dr. Hoo Hoo 7”

The GEROS from Osaka have an uncanny knack for channeling the pure mischievous spirit of early punk from the ’70s and ’80s. This talent, embellished by the mastering of GEZA X, results in an orgy of raw and snappy punk on the band’s third 7”. This single oozes KBD juice and memories of the MAD, and both songs have an addictive quality that’ll keep you flipping the Japanese wax ‘til it’s well-worn. Enhance your existence with this and the other two excellent GEROS records at your earliest convenience.

Nutrition No EP

The chair featured on the cover of this Vancouver band’s record is the kind you typically see in welfare offices, police stations, and low-rent business waiting areas. The off-putting nature of this visual fits the existential displeasure that is the springboard for NUTRITION’s agitated grown-up punk. The band’s sound is pretty appetizing, delivering a dense and jangly sort of post-hardcore with a spirited vocal performance and even a whiff of HANK WOOD influence. As promised, there’s some sustenance here, but this aggressively pessimistic platter of short songs is a hearty snack at best.

The Spits VI LP

After a lengthy wait, the streets again run red with a fresh spill from Kalamazoo’s finest. In this eagerly anticipated episode of the SPITS, the band cranks out a few new classics whilst retaining their classic VHS Horror-esque groove, complete with 8-bit keys and sci-fi vocals. As soon as the opener “Up All Night” kicks into its unholy buzz, you know it’s on. Most of the songs tread in familiar SPITS territory, but some of my favorite tracks here are the ones where they break the mold a little bit like “Creep” and “They.” This thing is sold out all over with a second press coming soon, and rumor has it that the guys are launching a new fan club in 2021. Stay tuned for more spine-tingling adventures.

Death Cult Spiritual Conundrum cassette

The latest tape from San Antonio’s DEATH CULT delivers four cuts of menacing, metal-tinged punk with dark themes, thrashy guitars, and exasperated vocals. Interesting production makes every song stand out in its own unique way and these guys aren’t afraid to get a little weird with the effects. On the final track, “Flesh Prison,” the band flexes their eccentricity as we get some unabashed ACCUSED influence paired with a melodic chorus before the whole thing just collapses into an echo chamber of screams and feverish laughter. Good times.

Kobra Confusione LP

KOBRA brings us some no-bullshit Oi!-tinged hardcore with a fresh and gritty feel. On this striking debut 12″ from the Milan four-piece, some of the songs have this cool production where the “meat” of the music is blown-out and in the red, while other components like vocals and saxophone are dubbed in more cleanly (like on “Confusione”). And then on other tracks, everything seems to be turned up to batshit-loud in one big clamor (“Stella Morta,” for example). The lyrics are in Italian and the songs are generally about resisting authority, staying sharp, and thinking for yourself in a world enslaved by consumerism, which somehow comes across even without using Google translate. It’s a fucking good record.

CTRL Group Blood Sausage cassette

Armed with an awesomely warped buzzsaw guitar attack, Raleigh’s CTRL GROUP serves up a tight set of intense and creative hardcore on this tape. The singer’s got a strong set of pipes on him, which he uses to deliver repetitive lyrics with a maniacal melody à la Serj Tankian. Fun stuff, and I imagine this band is deafening live.

Sabre I Will Live Forever EP

Bay Area punks SABRÈ bring us a concise demo with UK82 energy tempered by looming post-punk/anarcho vibes. Gravelly vocals and dizzying guitar work propel these four short and sharp songs forward, and when it’s over in a flash you’re compelled to play it again. Cool. 

Eddie Criss Group Undertaker LP reissue

Originally released in 1980 on “King of Punk” DAVID PEEL’s Orange Records, the sole album from NYC songsmith Eddie Criss’s namesake group serves up a hot, greasy slice of forgotten rock history. More down-and-dirty, glam-tinged rock ’n’ roll than proper punk, the tunes on this reissued LP have been blessed with the distinct guitar work of the MC5’s Wayne Kramer! Kramer’s fiery lead licks are all over this thing, and tunes like the opening “Lady In Waiting” and “Witches Hour” are bona-fide blazers that will surely command the attention of any ’70s sleaze-rock hound. Production is properly thin and crispy, cracking to reveal pools of subtle psychedelia as demonstrated on “Sequences.” Undertaker is definitely a product of its era, and wasn’t exactly breaking any new ground. “Just No Use,” for instance, is pretty much “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with a different tempo and lyrics. There’s weak spots like the ham-fisted CHUCK BERRY impression on “Let Me Rock ’n’ Roll,” and at least one song that would cause Eddie to be promptly canceled were it to hit the mainstream today (“Schoolgirlz”), but those are overshadowed by the raw street soul that laces the majority of this once-buried slab. I’m glad they dug it up.

The Pigs Youthanasia LP

First-wave UK punk outfit the PIGS left us just one artifact in their brief existence, the venerable Youthanasia EP. Little did we know there were seven more songs from the same 1977 recording session lurking about in obscurity ever since! This excellent collection includes those plus the four tracks originally released on the EP as well for a total of eleven twangy and bangy OG punk thrashers. With infectious tunes covering classic punk topics like anarchy, racism, and nuclear war way before they became cliché, these scrappy Bristol lads unwittingly created a blueprint that would soon become well-worn. This is ’77 punk at its raucous, ramshackle finest. Essential.

Mutant Strain Mutant Strain LP

An (im?)proper long-player from Charlotte, NC’s Mutant Strain, this album was recorded live, three songs at a time, with no breaks in between. That’s gangster. Loaded with twists, turns, and plenty of catchy hardcore pummeling, the music of MUTANT STRAIN is infused with the fiendish spirit of DAWN OF HUMANS at times and the winding intrigue of the COLTRANES at others, with a healthy dollop of anarcho influence spread throughout (the elaborate sleeve and multiple inserts included with the record are done in the style of Crass Records as well.) The theatrical female vocals here get downright demonic, providing a nice contrast to the grinds and grooves of their hook-laden, bass-heavy backdrop. This is intricate work, from the cover art and packaging, to the concept of the recording and track arrangement, and right on to the dense and poignant songwriting itself. A hell of a debut.

Warsaw Pakt Needle Time LP+7″ / Lorraine/Dogfight 7″

Recorded live and straight to the lathe on Saturday, November 26th of 1977, WARSAW PAKT’s explosive Needle Time LP was on record store shelves by 7:00 AM the next morning. This legendary stunt serves a fitting metaphor for the fast and furious London group’s short and potent career. Active only from 1977-78, WARSAW PAKT was fronted by the uber-charismatic Jimmy Coull, and included some grizzled ’60s psych veterans and an ex-MOTÖRHEAD drummer amongst their ranks. This resulted in some truly unique, sophisticated, and rockin’ pub-punk that’s been largely unheard in the decades since. Due to its unique origin story, Needle Time really captures the power of the short-lived band’s live performances in the UK alongside the CLASH and the DAMNED, but really this would have been a great record under any circumstances. Packed with sharp, catchy, and high-energy songs from top to bottom, Needle Time showcases the band’s prowess for speedy, loose, and edgy rock while punk was still in diapers. There’s not a bad tune in the bunch. Lucky for us, the geniuses at Munster Records have given Needle Time an awesome reissue treatment, threw in a bonus 7″ with it, and even put out two previously unreleased studio tracks on yet another 7″ single (“Lorraine / Dogfight”)! As if that weren’t enough, further enlightenment can be found on the ROCKETS 7” from last year which reveals the PAKT’s pub rock roots. It’s all top o’ the stack material.