Exxxon Gas cassette
It’s heavy, it’s artsy, it’s grimy, and all of this band’s songs are named after greedy oil corporations. It’s like KLEENEX teamed up with BLAZING EYE to stick it to the man.
It’s heavy, it’s artsy, it’s grimy, and all of this band’s songs are named after greedy oil corporations. It’s like KLEENEX teamed up with BLAZING EYE to stick it to the man.
It’s truly a gift to be able to make antisocial hardcore bile come across like top 40 hits, and Milwaukee’s PEACEMAKER has it. These two songs are unabashedly hateful and also catchy as hell, reminding me of some of Drew from SICK THOUGHTS’ best efforts of the last decade. “Alright folks, that was ‘Need To Know’ by DOJA CAT, and now here’s a real toe-tapper from PEACEMAKER, ‘See You Dead’!”
These Olympia punks (on a Wyoming-based label) have a knack for putting out releases where the artwork depicts the sound perfectly. The maze-dwelling, mace-wielding cretin from their previous cassette has been revealed as but one of many “X”-eyed demons, who have now progressed to menacing the world at large. The fact that they chose to illustrate their kitchen-convenience-invoking moniker sword and sorcery style also cracks me up. Musically, much like the last one, this messy and manic hardcore tape is over before you know what hit you.
This is actually quite good, but the name and packaging are way dumb, so I never would have heard it if not assigned for review. Everything’s a bit warped here, and I’m hearing something like if the FREEZE were art-punks with a splash of modern snot along the lines of LIQUIDS. Two solid songs in a little over two minutes. Mayo is fucking gross, though.
LIVING WORLD is from Pittsburgh, baby, and they don’t care what you think about the majestic hoofed mammal on the cover of their cassette. They just want to hit you with the punk, which in this case is some messy, echoed vocals beamed over a frenzied hardcore thrashing drenched in panache. Unique breakdowns punctuate each distortion-strewn song and there’s a ton of character to these twelve tracks. One of them is a NEGATIVE FX cover, which should give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here. These guys have a knack for song titles too (“G-Bong,” “Crack Mountain,” “Crime Person,” etc.) Go listen to it, already.
It’s An Action Tapes is a new non-profit label out of Michigan with a focus on effecting positive change via good music, and this comp puts them off to a solid start. 100% of the proceeds of this release go to help out local families who are housing kids formerly detained at the US/Mexico border as they try to reunite them with family. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a great tape filled with favorites from the current punk landscape. There’s bangers from MUTANT STRAIN, NYC’s KALEIDOSCOPE, WHITE STAINS, CHRONOPHAGE, and more, as well as special treats like URANIUM CLUB live in Italy and a weird scrapped instrumental demo from Austin’s INSTITUTE. Great stuff, they’ve raised some decent money so far, and it looks like you can still grab one at the link below.
Ugh. Absolutely killer demo from Pittsburgh’s BATTLEFIELDS. This is a straight ripper material, nasty hardcore with blown-out (un)production that approaches the off-putting level of discordance found on the amazing VIOLENT CHRISTIANS 7” from last year (check out the damage on “You Made You”!). These are the kind of riffs that could incite riots, and the grimy delivery wins it the fuckin’ chef’s kiss. On repeat.
This one’s a little older, but while digging around for info on Pittsburgh’s BATTLEFIELDS, I stumbled upon the related and equally awesome SPRÄCKTA’s 2019 demo. And boy, does it slap. Neck-breaking bouncy D-beats give way to old-school hardcore with a menacing mix of US and UK inflections for an effectively harsh and violent punk pounding. A very strong slammer.
Pressing play on the first track, you can appreciate the snappy grime of BROKEN VESSELS for its jerky, jaded surface. Listen a little deeper and you’ll find layers of post-punky aggression that recall the moody mania of the mid-’80s SST roster. The band has evolved, matured, and tightened up since their previous release in 2018, trading their sense of ELECTRIC EELS-esque candor for punchy distortion.
Garage goes to the future. Black Gladiator’s fuzz-covered tribute to “the originator” features a mix of covers and what could better be described as DIDDLEY-based sound experiments. About half of the tracks are pretty straightforward, while songs from acts like ATOMIC SUPLEX and ANDY CALIFORNIA take the primitive stomp to more imaginative places. Highlights include HAUNTED GEORGE’s shamanic interpretation of “Mummy Walk,” an epic two-parter from TRUE SONS OF THUNDER, and, of course, “Down Home Special” from GINO AND THE GOONS. After all, it was GINO who sent me the dime bag of actual dirt from BO DIDDLEY’s grave with their 2018 Rip It Up LP. Anyway, if you like old-timey rock and also techno, this record was made for you.
German label No Plan digs up an interesting relic from the fringes of hardcore history with their reissue of ARTISTIC DECLINE’s lone 1987 LP. This is a sprawling, all-over-the-place record that ranges from artsy post-punk to sharp SoCal hardcore, with noisy bits and goofy KBD-esque numbers mixed in for good measure. The songs are a real mixed bag, and it’s all pretty solid. “One Shot” would go great on a mix tape between the NUBS’ “Job” and “Dad I’m In Jail” by WAS (NOT WAS). They remind me of HC pioneers MIDDLE CLASS on the speedy “Media Lies,” and I might not notice if someone slipped “Hinkley and the Law” in while spinning the first BAD RELIGION LP. You get 29 tracks including some bonus material, all wrapped up in a sleeve with the LP’s original Pettibon artwork.
Very convincing early hardcore vibes from Nashville’s BODY CAM. I’m picking up traces of influence that range from NEGATIVE APPROACH to MDC, and if someone told me this was a “lost” relic of classic ’80s punk, I’d probably go for it. I don’t know if this was intentional, but to me this hits the mark, right down to the artwork. Archetypal angst.
Australia’s TOTAL DEFEAT has some tasty, timeless hardcore on their 7” debut. In keeping with the band’s name, riffs point downward on every song, delivering tough little doses of “just can’t win” punk with a dark and bouncy feel. The band has evolved from the primitive bass-heavy dirges of their 2019 demo and emerged tight and energized. Think POISON IDEA if they were NYHC. Alright, I’ll take it.
Marrying the darling darkness of CHRISTIAN DEATH with creepy, metallic future-shock, New York’s HÜSTLER is on quite a unique trip on this ambitious cassette. The band lays out lengthy bouts of metal noodling over layered, menacing background clatter and robotic drums that create a borderline industrial feel at times. Production here uses seemingly all the knobs, lacing the record with countless effects that add to its chaotic persona. It’s even danceable at points, and somehow would still seem appropriate blaring out of an evil castle.
Here’s a little time capsule action from Sorry State. Formed in North Carolina in the early ’80s, SUBCULTURE is one of those bands that weren’t heard by a wide audience during their run, but those who were familiar with the group get a wide-eyed look when you mention them. I’ve read at least one article on the web where someone calls them “the best punk band in the world” of their era. I don’t know about all that, but they were a cool group and pretty original. They played hardcore, but with more depth and variety in sound than many bands of the time, to the point where it’s difficult to make a wholesale comparison. The music is speedy and thrashy, but with an unusual sense of vulnerability. This cassette captures a boombox recording of a show they played in 1986 in all its glory—there’s an audible crowd, the tape is chewed beyond recognition in spots, and the guitarist tells his girlfriend he loves her several times between songs. Big ups to Debbie. At one point the singer kicks into a lengthy rap in which he name-drops Henry Rollins and calls himself “the magic man.” There are previously unreleased songs in this set, and apparently, even the band was surprised to hear them, as they had no recollection of writing or playing them. All in all, it’s fun stuff. Puke N Vomit did a bang-up job on the reissue of their sole LP I Heard A Scream a couple of years back, and this tape is a nice companion piece to it.
This hooked-up reissue of NYHC pioneers ANTIDOTE’s action-packed 1983 EP includes a bunch of early demo tracks as well as a full live set from CBGBs, making it a rather hearty meal. The original record is great, exemplifying the kind of raw vitality and anthemic energy that New York punks would echo for decades to come. Like all the best hardcore from this era, it sounds pretty fresh even today. Unlike some archival releases, the extra material here is well worth a listen. Recorded at BAD BRAINS producer Jerry Williams’s 171-A Studio, the ’82 demo sessions provide a glimpse at the group’s scrappy beginnings and progression into becoming the furious first-wave thrash unit we know them as. The CBs material is particularly compelling, as it showcases dimensions of their sound from that era that don’t appear to be captured on record anywhere else. Live, the band’s proficient ripping is strewn with sinister instrumental panache that adds some awesome and unexpected depth to their identity (check out that sick rendition of “Deadly Rain”). None of the bonus stuff has ever been released in any sort of official capacity until now, and the LP comes with a 12×12” 16-page booklet with photos, flyers, and liner notes. There’s no denying ANTIDOTE’s rightful place in the hardcore hall of fame, and this record provides more proof than ever before. The reformed band is still at it too, and just played in Philly this month.
A garage-y quartet formed from the ruins of two first-wave Australian punk bands (FILTH and PSYCHO SURGEONS), the LIPSTICK KILLERS played the kind of spunky, glam-tinged rock‘n’roll that was popular among grown-up punks in the late ’70s. This collection takes the sole single released during the band’s active period and gives it the ol’ “as much bonus material as you can handle” treatment. In addition to the 1978 “Hindu Gods of Love”/”Shakedown USA” 45, this double-LP includes studio demos, an additional album-length unreleased demo session, two lengthy live shows, and some bonus PSYCHO SURGEONS songs as well. “Hindu Gods of Love” showcases the band at their best, with a crankin’ guitar that recalls DMZ and a sort of stripped-down jazziness that brings fellow Sydney rockers RADIO BIRDMAN to mind. On the single, this hit tune is pushed through a wall of flashy production that gives it a tint of psychedelia. You can compare it to the demo and live versions of the song that also appear in this set. These guys are really only putting in the tip in terms of punk, as most of their songs read as a “STOOGES-lite” kinda deal and often flirt with a commercial sensibility, though the singer does pepper it up with a good amount of growls and howls that you probably wouldn’t hear much on the radio in that era. The LIPSTICK KILLERS eventually made their way to L.A. and gigged with the likes of the GUN CLUB and the FLESH EATERS before calling it quits in 1981. If you’re clueless and curious about this hazy chapter of Aussie punk history as I was, this sprawling body of work pretty much tells the whole story.
Here we have some mostly instrumental punk chugging from a couple of dads, pressed on a 7”. It opens with speedy skate punk and progressively gets slower, tossing out a few cool riffs along the way. On the last track, they finally decide to start singing and it’s some type of spooky theatrical ’90s rock number. It’s an interesting piece of work, but I liked this record title better when SLOPPY SECONDS used it in 1987.
Croatia’s GUTTERSKULL does grimy, blackened punk powered by raw D-beat banging. On this demo, all fourteen songs have the same beat, most of them are between thirty seconds and one minute long, and they’re all covered with raspy black metal whispers. These songs could be the battle hymns of some bizarre type of evil war witches. Straight sinister depravity. I find the dead drums of the funeral march-style opening to “Final Death Raid” to be a bit addictive, craving them as I sip my morning coffee on the way to work.
If you don’t already have it, here’s another chance at this always-in-style NUBS 7” courtesy of the dependable Munster Records. The escalating nihilism of “Job” remains an especially tasty KBD delicacy. Spot-on punk. On the other side of the record, “Banana” is a song, too.
There’s no lofty concepts or deep poetry to be found here, friends; just a good old-fashioned ass-kicking courtesy of Vancouver’s BLOOD TIES. Raw and direct in terms of sound and substance, these eleven tracks are laid bare for the tribe to devour. This band does a good amount of heavy stomping on this debut EP, but their meaty hardcore is really at its best in the few moments when they kick into full-blown D-beat mode. This collection of songs feels more like an intro to the band rather than a complete body of work, but they manage to work up quite a sweat during this brief session. By the end of the record, the poor fella doesn’t even know where he is.
With a pitch-black take on punishing D-beat in the “horrors of war” vein, NIGHT WAR from New Mexico takes us all the way to hell on this fiery debut tape. Crisp production makes these seven tight and terrifying tracks shine, and overlapping crusty death metal bellows and ghastly black metal shrieks create an awesome atmosphere of horror, putting you right into the “movie” (check out “Exploding Cemeteries” and you’ll get it.) With any luck, we’ll get a sequel soon.
An archival release of Swiss punks SPERMA’s 1979 12” EP, this record features three tracks of charmingly inept first-wave clamor. Slightly out-of-tune, off-beat, and recorded with traditional production values that don’t do the tunes any favors, this is a pretty good example of the kind of homegrown punk that was sprouting up all over the place at the time. These kids might have been listening to the BUZZCOCKS or some SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS, even. They weren’t the greatest at English but appear to have had a firm grasp on the F-word, which is important (see “No More Love”). This one has its charm, but it’s probably best suited for collectors who have to have all the ’70s punk.
A heavy dose of ’70s rock influence went into the recipe of these five neat lo-fi garage numbers from Nova Scotia. HEAVENLY BLUE lets their freak flag fly on the upbeat rock jams on this tape-hiss-laden cassette, and I can picture these guys wearing headbands and shit. Too hippie for MRR? It’s definitely pushing it.
Right from the evil opener “Suckling Pigs,” LEPER’s second release on Germany’s Kink label spills out fresh-sounding, fast, and nasty hardcore. Crisp production gives a biting edge to the fury of explosive tracks like “Turn To Dust,” and there are some surprising little nuances to the band’s sharp and pounding sound, like a subtle ZERO BOYS influence, perhaps? Either way, this thing rips pretty good and rocks a little, too.
From the sound of things, these Texas boys have captured a level-5 storm in a garbage can. On their debut tape, STUNTED YOUTH conjures up a Tasmanian devil-like swirl of chaotic thrashing, complete with surrounding dirt cloud. The songs themselves come from the same spiritual place as some of the coolest bits of O.G. acts like CIRCLE JERKS and BLACK FLAG, but with the added ferocious firepower of a truly insane drummer. The muffled production of the tape gives it all a claustrophobic feel that somehow works, but I’m gonna need an actual record from these guys ASAP.
Detroit’s the STOOLS have a trashy and bugged-out punk sound not unlike New Zealand’s the CAVEMEN, but with a tighter musicianship powering the more traditional garage styles behind it. The A-side tracks “Can’t Feel Good” and “Half Track Mind” clock in at a formidable speed, marrying ’60s-inspired flair with ZEKE-like tempos, which I dig. On the flip side, they go a bit bluesy on “Rockpile,” and then they go groovy, sounding a lot like NYC’s DIRTY FENCES on the closing chant of “Eyeball Crush.” Real rock’n’roll cretins will want to get happily involved with this modern Motor City mutation.
A California project dreamed up during the 2020 lockdown, the WIND-UPS’ debut album presents an interesting brew of styles wrapped in fashionably weathered production and distorted ghostly vocals. The first few tracks have a post-punk/no wave feel, and then it suddenly gives way to some syrupy lo-fi power pop and RAMONES-y rock. At some point it leans back into more artsy territory, before finally ending off the record sounding like the BEACH BOYS on Quaaludes. The songs are brief, yet the album provides a lot to digest, and if you like the MARKED MEN, etc., this is for you.
Translating from Finnish to “Hard Truth,” KOVA TOTUUS gives us some garaged-up hardcore with by-the-book breakdowns and boring vocals on this eight-track tape. It’s totally skippable, my dudes. How’s that for some “hard truth”?
Originally released as half of a split LP with Tel Aviv’s MONDO GECKO back in 2012, this tape shifts the spotlight directly onto Algeria’s DEMOKHRATIA. With a band name that translates from Arabic to “Democrashit,” you get a pretty clear idea of what these guys are about, and political aggression can sometimes be more enjoyable when you don’t understand a single word of it. The pummeling drums and rapid-fire dual vocals give off a sense of urgency that sounds like the band has been holding these nine tracks in for too long and is finally getting them out. If you like this one, you’d probably like the HERO DISHONEST/YDINPERHE split EP that I reviewed a while back as well.
Made in Toronto, the unkempt punk of IMPLODERS saddles classic hardcore styles and sentiments with a modern-day level of jaded disaffection. Mid-paced ripping and stomping is delivered with a casual and sarcastic swagger that makes for a promising debut. Be careful with this one, as it sounds like it may stain your turntable.
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.
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.
Manic and messy, SUPER CHEAP play lo-fi punk covered in egg spatter and pushed through a sound system that should have been hauled off to the junkyard months ago. It’s noisy as fuck LUMPY-core for people with cassette decks and open minds.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Tough and tight, SELF-INFLICT proudly waves the well-worn flag of traditional USHC. From Virginia, these boys channel OG acts like NEGATIVE APPROACH and MINOR THREAT through their muscly punk sound. The ’80s vibes are strong, even down to the colorful cassettes this demo was issued on.
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.
Providing further solution to the “there just aren’t enough OG USHC records” dilemma, THOUGHT CONTROL delivers ’80s-inspired fury in this spirited hardcore assault. And they are pretty vicious. Favorite track: “Sniff Out the Nazi.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Hardcore in a hallway. Phased-out vocals are sung into a microphone covered with a sock over some claustrophobic clatter. Three minutes of fast-paced, frenetic, free-spirited weirdness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.