Reviews

Nick Odorizzi

Crispy Newspaper Ой Дуораан LP

Cool release from Siberian band CRISPY NEWSPAPER, who write songs in their native Sakha, a Siberian Turkic language. The songs are short blasts of politically-charged righteous anger that are sonically rooted in US hardcore but energetic and passionate enough to stand out on their own. Lyrical themes range from traditional punk fare like trouble with authority and personal freedom to political violence like the Charlie Hebdo killings. Most interesting are the moments of insight into local issues, like the desecration of Sakha land detailed in “Алроса,” and standing up against a rich and disconnected political regime in “Тобурах.” It’s fascinating to hear from members of a culture that is so geographically remote but still experiencing many of the same issues that punks everywhere can relate to. Great release that is highly recommended.

Fashion Change Coward cassette

Nasty collection of raw punk scabs from this Seattle band, recommended for fans of VILE GASH and HOLOGRAM. As soon as you push play, the fast 1-2-1-2 beats start with harsh, almost blackened vocals and blistering, relentless guitar right in your face/ears. “Medicine” slows it way down with a crawling menace of a beat, shrouded in feedback before it speeds up again and ends with a textural sheet metal guitar “solo.” A short intermission comes in the form of “***** *******,” a warbly, non-English language classic thrift store ballad wrapped in Tascam hiss. It’s a mysterious breather before the ripping starts again. Final track “Coward” is a pounding hate crush with lyrics like, “You’re just another coward” and “Detestable—a waste of human life.” Oof, I would hate to be on the receiving end of that one. Misanthropes, check this one out.

Reiz Das Kind wird ein Erfolg LP

Catchy melodic hardcore from this Mannheim, Germany band. Most of these songs have that Fat Wreck/Epitaph sound: bouncing bass, fast punk, and call-and-response vocals (in German). If you like LAGWAGON or WIZO, you’ll probably like this fun and well-produced record. Stand-out track, “Öffentlich und Daheim,” has a great pop punk melody with harmonized vocals. REIZ would fit right in on one of those ’90s skate rock comps and are definitely recommended if sunny, upbeat punk is your jam.

Cold Brats Punk in the Digital Age Extended LP

Solid collection of negative hardcore from this Bucharest, Romania band. This LP is a compilation of tracks recorded over several years, and it shows because the sound and direction change a bit from song to song. What COLD BRATS do well is raw vocals over mid-tempo chugs, like HOAX with occasional sinister organ backing. “Split Saber” and “Republic of Dust” are great spooky bummer blasts. “Hollow Point” works in the same mode with a dissonant guitar figure that empowers the bad vibes into real bad vibes. Where the band loses me a bit are on tracks where they get silly with the vocals. “Life, and Nothing More” has a goofy spoken part with someone describing how a knock at the door interrupted them watching “Finding Nemo.” It’s Mike Muir-demanding-a-Pepsi silly and halts the momentum that the first few tracks build up. A skronky no wave sax wail and the return of screamed vocals in the chorus help it, but barely. “Banana” tries it again with a mostly instrumental, noisy surf-inspired song with the only lyric being the song title. It’s a weird shift in tone for those two tracks and would surely get the skip if this were a CD. Other than those two weirdo outliers, this is a good soundtrack for bad days.

Comunione Comunione cassette

Hazy, wounded punk from this Milanese solo project. These seven tracks work perfectly together as one extended piece and all have a similar sound: empty-room guitar and drums with echoey vocals howling for a better tomorrow. There is a distinct spirituality to the lyrics, a seeking of reassurance. “Fantasma” repeats (according to an online translation of the Italian lyrics) “And the most serene good / And the most serene good / And the most serene good will live again.” Likewise, “Salvati” has a theme of salvation with the lines “Save yourself / From the emotions that annihilate you / From dreams that blind you.” This is clearly a personal work, a missive seeking a more positive future while reckoning with the present. COMUNIONE has a simple sound with shrouded, goth-leaning production, and a profundity that makes this tape a repeat listen.

Hologram No Longer Human LP

This is good. Like, really good. Ferocious, high-speed hardcore with cryptic, reverb-shrouded vocals over hammering drums. The guitars frequently go atonal like on “Humiliation Drills” and “Bite the Smoke,” adding an uneasy tension to the battering-ram punk. “Untitled” provides a brief interlude of bubbling synths wafting from melted VHS tapes before the frenzy starts again. Final track “I See a Pale Light” gives SWANS vibes with a dread-inducing, extended guitar/drum build-up and feedbacked hate vocals. Even more amazing is that this all comes from one person. I like the mystery—I don’t want to know anything else about who it is or how they made this. I just want more.

Alien Nosejob Paint It Clear LP

I reviewed this Australian band’s HC45-2 EP early this year and expected this LP to contain the same kind of manic, freaky garage hardcore. Nope, totally wrong. Paint It Clear sounds like a whole different band, one fed on NEW ORDER and BUGGLES records instead of trashy KBD tapes. Whatever inspired this record, it works—this is a bouncy, fun collection of super catchy pop, complete with crispy drum machine beats, 808 claps, and infectious guitar lines. Paint It Clear is full of charm, with tracks like “Leather Gunn” and “Duplicating Satan” that are pure ’80s Euro-leaning synth-pop. I didn’t think I would be making this reference today, but the loping piano and keyboard ballad, “The Butcher,” sounds like it could have been written by George Harrison with lines like “It is hard to see the sun here / It’s hard to hear the sea here.” If you like power pop or miss the days of acid wash and crunchy bangs, check it out immediately. If you are a rocker with a sweet tooth, give it a listen for something different.

Mutant Strain Epic Punk Shit cassette

Charlotte, North Carolina’s MUTANT STRAIN has returned with a teaser tape to satisfy the slime hordes until their next LP is recorded. If you haven’t heard their self-titled LP released last year on Sorry State, it is an essential slab of high-speed slime-core with frenzied vocals, constant punk’n’roll riffs, and furious octopus-arm drumming. Go get it. They are by far one of the best freaky outsider hardcore bands around, and a fearsome live act. This tape sounds like it was recorded live and captures the intensity of the band’s performances in all their frantic, blown-out glory. The tracks aren’t listed here, but it sounds like a batch of several in a row like how they appear on the LP and when played at shows. It’s about as close to being at one of their gigs as can be. Near the end of the tape is an interesting sound collage with what sounds like looped conversations and drone-y guitar with super harsh vocals on top. It’s disconcerting and menacing in the best way. Whether that is a new direction for the band, I don’t know, but I’m here for it. Epic punk shit, indeed.

Billiam Billiam Cassingles Club 2020 cassette

Goofy synth punk fun from this Melbourne solo project. This tape collects the twelve cassingles BILLIAM released in 2020, which is a pretty impressive run for such a crappy year. Most of the tracks are pretty straightforward mixes of lo-fi synth, garage guitar, and cheapo electronic drums. There is enough personality here to keep things interesting, and the vibe here is laid-back and good-natured with songs called “Flemwad,” “Crocodile Sandwich,” and “I Need a Robot.” They are all about exactly what the titles suggest. BILLIAM fits in nicely with labelmates RESEARCH REACTOR CORP. and GEE TEE, as well as vintage ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE. For egg-punk nonbelievers, this won’t change your mind because I could see it coming across as annoying. But if you are in the right frame of mind for some simple DIY fun that sounds like a guy making novelty songs with a keyboard, BILLIAM is a good time.

Penetrode Penetrode cassette

First full-length release from these Philly hardcore freaks. The more I listen to this, the more I like it. While all rooted in noisy, dark hardcore, the songs are all very distinct from each other and occasionally go from fast punk to slow dirges, like on “Psychic Death.” There are some sonic similarities to bands like GAG and NERVOSAS, but the real stand-out here is vocalist/artist Bootsie. The vocals go from sung to shrieked to spoken and back again, with a distinctive yelp at the end of many lines. They’re great and sound confident, passionate, and exciting. Every song is a banger, but I keep going back to “Ebb & Flow.” It’s got layers of negative bummer punk distortion with a catchy opening riff, time changes, dissonant vocals, and lyrics like (I think), “Pick me up and spit me out.” It’s basically everything I want in a punk song. Check it out—this is a killer tape from a killer band.

Asalto / Atropello! split EP

Split lathe-cut 7” with two sonically different Brazilian hardcore bands. ASALO brings mid-tempo punk with clear production. While not necessarily catchy due to shouted vocals, the melodic major chords and bouncy bass sound like they could be on Fat Records, and I could see ASALTO fitting in on the Warped Tour. ATROPELLO! has the more interesting side to me, with three short blitzes of shrieking, blazing fast hardcore that sounds like a Brazilian 97A. They rip through three songs in about a minute and a half and leave me wanting more. Interesting pairing on this split, although I’m not sure the same listener would be into both bands. As of this writing, there is one remaining copy so snag it if you want it!

Spleen Spleen cassette

Noisy, female-fronted hardcore from Leipzig, Germany that absolutely rips. The tape opens with howling feedback and a nasty noise rock riff and just gets better from there. They are in good company with MUTANT STRAIN and LEBENDEN TOTEN in that the songs are 100% exciting and take unexpected turns at every opportunity. The vocals are a high-pitched staccato holler that fits the music perfectly. Just when the band settles into a creepy crawl plod, like on “Routine,” they do a time change into D-beat mayhem. This is all following a filthy, spidery post-punk guitar line that rules. Similarly, “Flower Basket” abruptly changes gears and speeds like a nervous student driver, always keeping you guessing and hanging on for dear life. I also award it for the only non-corny use of wah pedal in a hardcore song. Every song kills—seven tracks of furious, crazed splendor. If you like noisy, frenetic hardcore, check this out right now.

Normal People Normal People cassette

I don’t see much online about this band (except that several bands have the same name), but this is a solid four-song tape that sounds like the NWI weirdo punk of CONEHEADS and LIQUIDS. These short songs have tinny guitar with frequent guitar hero leads, bouncy bass, busy drums, and sung nerd vocals. I have heard similar bands do similar things, but I like it. Each lo-fi track has enough distinction to separate it from the others, like the snare rolls in “Hatched” and the two-chord chug in “Shaking” that brings to mind the MISFITS’ “Green Hell.” Pretty good first impression from NORMAL PEOPLE.

User Unauthorized Watch Them Fall EP

Five tracks of very serious, very pissed hardcore from this Austin band that sounds like it could have been released in 1984. This is USHC 101-style punk, modeled after the greats like BLACK FLAG (I hear similarities to “Police Story” in “F.O.S.” and “A.P.D.”), MDC, and MINOR THREAT (there is a distinct Ian vocal approach on “Full Speed Ahead”). So, these folks have their hearts in the right place and follow the standard punk protocol: they hate cops, Nazis, racists, the rich, etc. If this classic hardcore sound is your jam, check this out and stop reading this review. Still with me? I love classic USHC, but I have heard this well-intentioned, passionate record a hundred times. There is nothing new going on here, but to purists, maybe that’s okay. I wince a little at some of the lyrics, though. Check out the spoken interlude on “F.O.S.”: “All of you with your shit taste and your shit fake accents / You don’t give a shit about us / You just care that we’re going somewhere now / You just care about making yourself look all quirky and special / but you’re not fucking special / You’re all the fucking same.” Now, there is a time in my life (a long time ago) when that may have spoken to me, but it just comes across as immature and unsophisticated now. God bless them for keeping the traditional hardcore flag flying, but the genre and songwriting have really progressed beyond this.

Slimex Slimex demo cassette

Portland robo-punk for fans of ERIK NERVOUS and RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. “Big Drag” is an absolute winner. It sounds like the SPITS, with classic catchy rock’n’roll melodies layered in keyboards set on the flute setting. I just listened to it three times in a row. “Blood Circus” is more synth-heavy with jerky rhythms that bring to mind our lords and saviors of this type of shit, DEVO. “No Clue” is another solid tune with heavy vocal reverb. No clue pertains to the lyrics too, since they are echoed beyond comprehension, but it doesn’t really matter because it sounds good. “Pressure” breaks off the reverb knob on the vocals, all delivered over manic keys and bass. We’re talking Baby Jessica-down-the-well levels of echo, but it fits well here. Cool band with a great name and killer opening track. Recommended. Also, if you like this brand of lo-fi synth punk, check out Richter Scale’s other releases—they have as many releases as you have buttons on your broken Casiotone.

Don Howland Endgame LP

Punk-blues solo record from this long-standing member of the BASSHOLES. With one foot in the garage and one in a hazy after-hours bar, this collection of lo-fi creepy crawlers builds and maintains an aura of murder ballad dread and Southern gothic menace. “Half Off” brings to mind the MURDER CITY DEVILS with sinister organ casting a spooky shadow over everything. “Party in Hell” evokes the bluesier moments of DEAD MOON with its repeated vocal melody and lived-in atmosphere. “Sleep in Cars” has a snaky guitar lead that slithered out of a swamp to make a guest appearance on this record. “Thank the CIA” is a sing-along anti-authority blast that calls back to vintage fun-not-funny indie jams like “Take the Skinheads Bowling” or “Gimme Indie Rock.” An interesting stand-out is “How Now (Brown Cow),” a Farfisa-led instrumental that sounds like a slow-dance at a hockey rink. Its unhurried melody, repeating structure and heavy organ tone sounds dark, romantic, and classic. If a greasy, smoky blend of punk rock spirit and blues malaise is your jam, Endgame is worth your time.

Vonbrigði Hanagal 2xLP

I’m only four songs into this, and I’m going to file it under essential listening. This collection of Icelandic post-punk and hardcore was recorded in 1982–83 and sounds immediately vital and current. VONBRIGÐI is new to me, and apparently was not very well-known outside of Reykjavík’s punk scene, and that is a shame for the ages. The recording sounds fantastic: warm and full like it was recorded in a studio this week. The drums and bass sound especially great. As for the songs, they teem with post-punk unease and tension but drive with hardcore energy. The band comes across as super confident and tight. What a gem, seriously. The guitars are frequently dissonant and feedback-laden with flanger swirls around arpeggiated structures that predate noisy indie rock and post-hardcore by years. Syncopated beats lock in perfectly with driving bass lines that will make you bob your head and also scratch it because these folks are not a household name. If I’m making comparisons, it sounds like the first few ICEAGE records meshed with End Hits FUGAZI, but that’s not doing this album justice. Just go listen to it now and love it—it’s on Bandcamp. It looks like the double-LP is sold out, but hold out hope for a repress. Highly recommended.

Anno Omega Magia cassette

Space-punk from Milan, Italy that sounds like GEZA X battling ZOLAR X battling 8-bit monsters. I love this tape. According to their bio, these folks are in a long-standing punk collective that also dabbles in dungeon synth, and it shows in how adroitly the electronics are used with the traditional instruments. These anthems are punk-first blasts with synths and theremin accompaniment that sound upbeat, hopeful, and fun. “Centro Sociale” has bouncy-ball bass with a unique echoey male/female vocal approach full of character and trills. “Fascita” is fast punk backed with what sounds like a chiptune symphony that gives the proceedings an epic, grand feeling. It takes us on a side quest for glory and righteousness that just happens to finish up in under two minutes. The spooky B-movie theremin on “La Nazione è Pronta” and the shout-along chorus “Troppi Sbirri” hammer home how distinct each track sounds. The whole package is well-composed and arranged and avoids the eggy nerdiness that a lot of synth punk bands skew toward. And check out the rad underground comix-meets-Commodore 64 cover art. Rules. This is a super limited tape release, so act fast if you want a physical copy.

Krieg Kopf War on Terrorism LP

First vinyl collection from this early ‘80s NYHC group, comprised of re-recorded songs from two cassette releases and a live track. Although this is most recommended to folks who were there at the time, War on Terror offers an interesting time capsule of regional punk full of influences from the era’s luminaries. Most of the songs are straight-ahead hardcore with a fast part, a slow breakdown, and a fast part again. Sonically, they sound similar to Victim in Pain-era AGNOSTIC FRONT, and I definitely hear MINOR THREAT, especially on songs like “Hasty Ambush,” where vocalist Jason Deranged adopts an Ian-style holler. While the template is familiar, the speed, tightness, and punchy bass of the band makes me wonder why they don’t have a higher historical profile. There are some West Coast fingerprints on this album too though, such as the frequent Greg Ginn-esque atonal psych guitar fills, Fresh Fruit snaky spy guitar lines, and a pronounced Jello-affected warble on “Immortal.” Short bursts like “Terrorism,” “Warhead,” “Gun Power,” and the great sing-along chorus of “The Work Song” (the standout from the album for me) are all quality, vintage adrenaline hits. The band stretches out on a few songs, over the three-minute mark with one track, with forays into spoken-word lyrics, funky bass, and guitar solos that, frankly, did not age well. Paranoia about Cold War-era nuclear proliferation in “The Atom Bomb” makes total sense for the time, but the quasi-rap in “Violent Reaction” with the line “I’ve got to break loose on the dance floor” about fighting at shows is tiresome. Check it out if you have a soft spot for classic NYHC.

Precipice Precipice demo cassette

Mixed bag four-song demo from this Nantes, France crew. It definitely has its ups, with tracks like opener “One Customary Behavior in One Particular Situation,” delivering noisy, stompy hardcore with tinny guitars, bouncing bass, and gruff vocals. “Circus” follows this template well and adds dissonant guitar leads that produce some extra grime, like the ones MYSTIC INANE did so well. “In the Depth of Well” lost me a bit because the vocals are buried deep under the bass and guitar. It sounds like it was all recorded live in the same room, which is unfortunate, because the song sounds cool otherwise. Closing track “4” is a low-effort noise jam of someone lazily strumming open guitar strings and some backward vocals. At a little over a minute, it’s not a big deal, but when it comprises a quarter of your demo’s runtime, it becomes a statement. Of what, I’m not sure. The first few songs are enough for me to keep PRECIPICE in mind, though.

Prison Affair / Research Reactor Corp. split EP

Frantic collision of energetic scrambled egg-punk from these two bands. First up is RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., who sound like mad scientists in the middle of an experiment going terribly wrong. I like their garage-punk-meets-oscillator terror sound and their teenage basement songwriting aesthetic. This sounds like a neon poster collection and a stack of fourth generation VHS sci-fi dubs on shag carpet. There is some definite CONEHEADS influence, although the vocals are harsher and howled over the tight, trebly arrangements. And “Human to Raisin” is a great song title. So the first side is a winner. Side Two features Spain’s PRISON AFFAIR, who also rule, but in a totally different way. These three songs are super-melodic jammers that sound like trashy ’50s rock’n’roll sped up with drum machines. Each track has constant guitar leads and catchy melodies for days. “Encerrado Contigo” is a blast of high-volume, nostalgia-inducing pop that sounds like the best parts of being a teenager. It’s so good. These are the kinds of splits I like: two bands who don’t necessarily sound that similar but fit together in spirit. Definitely a fun listen.

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno Deniers of Fuzz Will Be Executed EP

This Dutch drums-and-guitar duo bashes out five garage punk bangers in about five minutes. This is immediately catchy and likeable, proving you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make something great. “Neon Sky” sounds like the SPITS and demands to be played at max volume. “What Do You Feel?” has Johnny Ramone power chords and a JAY REATARD-style chorus breakdown. The title track is an instrumental with surf rock drums that sounds like the soundtrack to something incredible. Every track is stripped-down, no-bullshit rock’n’roll, and it rules. There is a timeless quality to these songs, and each concentrated capsule of punk joy sounds like it could have been written any time during the last 50 years. Highly recommended.

OK Satán Fatal Insomniac cassette

The first thing I noticed about this Danish two-piece was the drums, or lack thereof. It sounds like someone pressed the default percussion button on a Casio keyboard and then played mostly mid-tempo hardcore over it. If they’re taking it seriously, I guess I should too, because this tape pleasantly surprised me. The cheapo drums are accompanied by heavy punk chords and damaged, LUMPY-with-a-sore-throat vocals. There is an occasional tinny solo and some feedback screech that make songs like “People are People” (especially with its sarcastic  spoken vocals) sound like SACCHARINE TRUST-style weirdo HC. Throw in fast ragers like “Stay on Drugs” (“Stay on drugs / And don’t do school”) and “I Don’t Care,” and you have a solid band worth keeping an eye on. Oh, and I like the cover art. Those tigers look cool.

WWW Mundo Virtual cassette

Five short tracks of sci-fi punk/DEVO worship from Argentina. You want egg-punk? Here’s the egg. This has to be the logical extension of the nerdiest music associated with the genre. The first four tracks all open with various forms of technology firing up (phones ringing, dial-up modems, etc.), followed by crunchy synth overload. The vocals are run through some sort of warbly, distorted insect effect and mixed really high so they override everything else. The cumulative listening experience is over-the-top and unpleasant. Forget egg-punk—this is irritant punk. The lyrics are in Spanish, so I’m not sure what they say, but the band’s description describes them as being about the harmful relationship between humans and electronics. Take this tape as an example. The final song, “Placer Artificial,” is much better and sounds like it had more effort involved (and they ditch the vocal effect). There’s some CONEHEADS influence on the vocals and several layers of catchy synth lines. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come for any future WWW releases.

Melt Downer III cassette

Heavy rocking release from this Austrian band that nestles somewhere between post-hardcore and noise rock. Initially sounding like METZ and PISSED JEANS, these eight songs take so many interesting left turns that I never could guess what was coming next. “Gross White” has hardcore riffing with hollered reverbed vocals but quickly jettisons that for shimmering, atonal passages reminiscent of vintage SONIC YOUTH. “Corporate Identity” is built around such a massive doom riff that it sounds like the Earth cracking open to swallow lesser bands. Mike Pike wishes he wrote this; it’s that good. It then shifts through multiple time changes with spoken vocals before bringing the heaviness back. “Earth 2” brings us shout-along, non-melodic hardcore/bummer punk, which leads into “Massive,” a song with an extended polyrhythmic drum exercise and long feedback solo. There is some gnarled start/stop action here that spoke sweet nothings to my inner metalhead. Final track “Kind” is almost twelve minutes of what these folks do best, while the vocalist intones “Get to the point” over and over. Kind of a troll, maybe? Doesn’t matter—it’s worth the noisy punishment. Great release and highly recommended.

Nehann TEC / Ending Song 7″

Japan’s NEHANN delivers a 7” of carefully constructed, goth-leaning post-punk. The first song starts with a bouncing bass line and clean guitar riff out of the JOY DIVISION handbook, followed by a slightly distorted guitar line that interplays with the first. Then, a third guitar enters to join the fun. That is what initially struck me about this release: the amount of effort and technique put into these two tracks is admirable. They both build atmosphere and boast thoughtful production so they sound like they were recorded in a cave, but a nice one with lamps and like a chair to sit in and read postmodern poetry. I also appreciate vocalist Hirotaka’s willingness to really go there with his vocals. He reaches for the high notes in a hair/glam metal fashion that might be off-putting in a record less earnest than this one. Likewise, there is a finger-tapping guitar solo near the end that works well, despite finger-tapping and solos being kind of ridiculous in general. NEHANN pulls it off though, and the song is a jam. “Ending Song” is a dreamy slow dance track with a flanged guitar opening over keyboards that sounds like FAILURE. A repeating catchy guitar riff carries through the entire song, and Hirotaka does his best BOWIE impression (it’s really pretty good, though). It’s a crush-worthy mixtape track for sure.

Big Bopper Introducing Big Bopper cassette

Solid nerd punk from Texas for fans of ERIK NERVOUS and URANIUM CLUB. Bookended by a chiptune opening and closing, the rest of the tape is trebly garage punk with fairly technical drums and guitar lines and sarcastic spoken/sung vocals. The constant start/stop rhythms and busy fretwork show some prowess that is welcome and give the band a slight noise rock feel on songs like the mathy “Generation of Plagues” and sardonic “Rat Race.” Where BIG BOPPER shines the most is when they pour on the sugar with catchy gems like “Boys Club” and “Partners in Slime.” The latter is a lo-fi power pop hit with a mutant PAVEMENT guitar line and bright major chord progressions. I love it. The tape is worth checking out for that golden nugget alone, but the rest is good, too. I look forward to hearing more.

Skeleton Glove Skeleton Glove LP

I wanted to like this German blackened hardcore punk band. I’m down with the sinister feeling of shrieked/howled vocals over reverbed punk, and the artwork is cool. A skeleton hand hammering a nail into a bleeding Earth is perfect visual mayhem. And while I get the feeling they were going for a BONE AWL or FUNERAL CHIC or even DEVIL MASTER vibe with these short songs, they miss the mark. They run together a bit, mostly fast with pretty basic punk chord changes and the wraith vocals on top. I never quite feel the menacing black metal attack enough with the music, and definitely not with the lyrics. If your band puts on the blackened armor, I want to hear about some demons or violence or end-times prophesying. Not “Gimme Chocolate,” which starts out, “Gimme all your chocolate, 1, 2, 3, 4!” Lyrics and songs like this (and “Gimme All Your Money” and “Booze Ghoul”) make the whole thing feel like a joke or gimmick, more spooky than evil. Without the grimness this music calls for, it’s a pass for me.

Luz De Gas Luz De Gas cassette

Great Chilean punk with piercing female vocals and a no-frills approach that sounds like it was recorded live in a spacious empty room. From the instrumental intro to each of the songs, the fairly simple, straightforward arrangements find their groove quickly and stick with it, jamming while the vocalist Muriel delivers high-pitched, high-intensity messages about empowerment, consent, sexual harassment, and fighting the ever-present threat of the male gaze. From the mysterious artwork to the urgent, personal lyrics (thanks to an online translator since I don’t know Spanish), this is a killer demo definitely worth checking out.

QWOM Q demo cassette

Super raw demo from this Indiana hardcore band. This sounds like a lo-fi boombox recording of a band playing in a closet. Everything is blown-out and extremely loud, with the drums and vocals slightly overshadowing everything else in the mix. I actually checked my headphones to make sure they were plugged in all the way. This reminds me of those shows where a band is just ripping so fast and loud that your clothes shake and the walls drip with humidity because of the concentrated energy. These four songs offer about two minutes of frenzied, early BLACK FLAG-inspired hardcore, and sometimes that’s all you need. I would go and see them for sure.

Grout Grout cassette

Four songs and a DEVO cover from this Australian band that sounds like a mix of FRIED EGG and GAG. The songs are mostly mid-tempo, noisy hardcore with gruff shouted vocals and the occasional stompy breakdown. Nothing revolutionary here, but very solid nonetheless. “Caged Pigs” has a 1-2 beat that could get a circle pit going in no time. And who can say no to a heavy, shouted DEVO cover? Not me. Check it out if you’re angry and want to throw your elbows around.

The Neos Fight With Donald EP reissue

Here it is! The first of two official reissues from the legendary Canadian band. Before fastcore or powerviolence were hardcore subgenre touchstones, these three teenagers were playing blisteringly fast punk with lyrics full of social commentary and their own inside jokes. Recorded in 1982–1983, that puts this record right around the first DEEP WOUND demo and before the SIEGE demo. Way early for this kind of lightspeed HC, and it blows my mind that NEOS are not quite the punk household name that they deserve to be. Hopefully this eighteen-song 7” and the recent discography release will change that. Enough history, how does it sound? Fast and raw with the frenzied syllable-per-beat vocal delivery I mistakenly associate with ’90s Slap-a-Ham releases. This EP sounds like it was recorded live, and the energy is palpable. It’s passionate punk, turned up to maximum speed—pure energy bursts of righteous youthful spirit. Essential listening as a historical artifact and as a total face-melting 7”.

Stella Research Committee A Proposed Method for Determining Sanding Fitness LP

File under difficult listening. Imagine the sardonic noise rock of CHERUBS with the wild No Wave of DNA with the destructo synth of THROBBING GRISTLE, all played at the same time. Let’s throw some free jazz drumming in the mix too, just for funsies. Never not interesting, these tracks feature stuttering drum machine patterns with syncopated live drums on top, atonal strumming, and an ever-present synth whine. The tracks occasionally fall all the way apart, like opener “Murdurd,” but in a seemingly intentional way. They could honestly be dropping their instruments over and over, and I wouldn’t know the difference, but that’s not a criticism at all. “Dustkop” surprises by beginning with Krautrock rhythms that move into techno in a way that works but shouldn’t. What could come across as self-indulgent, inaccessible skronk worship is enjoyable in a “what the hell are they doing, now?” kind of way. I thought I was going to hate this, but I respect these folks for fighting the good fight with this brand of anything-goes freakery. If you have open ears for the really weird, check it out. Play it for that friend who is always like “I listen to everything,” and see what they say.

Repo Fam Whipped Cream EP

I liked this mix of sugary indie pop confections wrapped in gauzy distortion from Baltimore’s REPO FAM. “King of Marvin Gardens” sounds like SONIC YOUTH’S “Beauty Lies in the Eye” with its echoing spoken vocals and hazy strumming. If you’re going to nick the style, go for the best, so no hard feelings here. It’s a great song from a perfect influence. “Psycho Bombs” is a short noise-pop gem with simple catchy melodies and warm lo-fi production. “Whipped Cream” has a slightly atonal guitar/vocal interplay that gives a little art school scrappiness to the bedroom pop. “Here We Come” is a simple and effective garage stomper with the words “Here we come / Join the fun.” It sounds spooky and has some howling (from synth or werewolf, I don’t know) in the background. It’s fun in a stripped-down ’60s garage rock-meets-’90s indie way. If you have a sweet tooth for pop that’s rough around the edges, definitely check out REPO FAM.

Dollhouse The First Day of Spring EP

I had the good fortune of reviewing this New York City hardcore band’s self-titled demo a few months back, and this debut 7” picks right up where that excellent release left off. This is a great band. Raw, ripping punk with personal, vulnerable lyrics about mental health and abuse; heavy in both delivery and concept. First track “The Shadow Baby” was on the demo, but this version has rougher vocals and a killer riff that immediately creeps into your brain and nestles in. “This is Heaven” starts with a fast, dense vocal delivery that is spoken at first and then screamed. Like much of DOLLHOUSE’s lyrical content, the words are a candid and unsettling description of self-harm and sexual abuse. The song ends with “I was destined for fame at such a young age / But it was taken away by some pervert / And no one knows what really happened / I can’t remember a thing before eleven / This is heaven.” That is some heavy shit. The writing on this record comes across as someone grappling with trauma rather than just being shocking or exploitative, which cannot be an easy thing to do. Earnestness to this degree without some obfuscation of meaning or the distance of irony is rare and moving. “Die So Pretty” is a raw punk rager that has some references to angels, another repeated symbol on this and the previous release. “The First Day of Spring” is surprising for ending with acoustic guitar strumming with the punk mayhem. Tremendous record if you are okay with the emotional heft. Highly, highly recommended.

Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice Remember the Future? Vol. 1 EP

Solid EP from this group of Melbourne nerds. This four-song EP has two distinct sounds: two songs sound like DEVO-inspired new wave pop hits, and two sound like math-y post-punk jams. It doesn’t seem like they would fit together, but they do. “Super Speedy Zippy Whipper” has buzzing synths, call-and-response vocals, and slightly wacky lyrics that combine into a fun, breezy jammer. Third track “Stitch Up” has a similar energy with keyboard lines and background “la-la-la-las.” The other two songs sound like FUGAZI with David Byrne doing vocals. “Collapse” has some slightly atonal guitar work with a bobbing bass line, while “Temperature Talk” has intertwining guitars dueling skewered arpeggios. Combine these elements with the aforementioned vocal style, and you get an odd mix. Synth-laden egg-punk with minor key noodling seems like a terrible combination, like ketchup and gravy, but it sounds good here. The band has the songwriting and personality to pull it off. They sound like PARQUET COURTS in parts, but they are unique enough to stand on their own. Worth checking out!

THIRDFACE Do It With a Smile cassette

Super harsh, blasting hardcore from Nashville that brings in elements of powerviolence, psych, and a little metal. First track “Local” is a good indicator of things to come, with start/stop rhythms, blastbeats, and mini math-y breakdowns. The raw, shredded vocals are immediately arresting and have to leave the singer looking for a cough drop after shows. “Ally” is a good mix of everything THIRDFACE does well, with fast blasting, creepy-crawl breakdowns with sinister feedback, those awesome filthy vocals, and a noisy outro. It rules. They remind me of DESPISE YOU in parts because of how fucking thick and nasty everything is, but they are not afraid to get weird and stretch out with some spacy psych feedback jams like “Interlude.” Sounding like GASP, these moments are a perfect mix of heavy and experimental. We get some great thrash riffing on “Villains!” and “No Hope” that give glimpses of raw hardcore meets crossover for a few seconds at a time. Great release and highly recommended!

Carthiefschool Carthiefschool CD

Hailing from Sapporo, Japan, CARTHIEFSCHOOL delivers a unique blend of jazz, math rock, and screaming post-hardcore on their debut LP. The band’s three members immediately sound like technically adept musicians on the first track, with syncopated hi-hat rhythms and silky smooth bass lines. Vocalist/guitarist Tomoya alternates between a spoken vocal delivery style and a throat-shredding raw holler, sometimes changing back and forth on a dime. Their approach to music reminds me some of RUINS, in that jazz instrumentation and musical vocabulary is used to explore more traditionally aggressive genres. However, where that band creates cacophonous prog-noise, CARTHIEFSCHOOL mainly adheres to post-hardcore with occasional forays into noodly experimental territory. I prefer when the band goes full-tilt aggro, such as on opening track “蜜柑 (Mikan)” and “油 (Abura).” The shift from jazz fusion to raging hardcore is awesome. My only critique is that these moments are not incredibly plentiful. Many of the tracks stay in the jazz-rock lane, although they are definitely interesting in their own right. There is a playful musicality to many of these songs, like on “House” when the band plays through what is called in classical music circles, “the Tetris theme song.” The musicianship and willingness to experiment is admirable and worth checking out if you like a little jazz with your punk.

Alien Nosejob HC45-2 EP

Australia’s ALIEN NOSEJOB gives us a quick dose of freaky hardcore with this collection of six rippers in eight minutes. Check out the cover art for a visual preview of what’s inside: colorful gore delivered via box-cutter surgery. Egg punks, but real ones. Blood everywhere. Likewise, these short bursts of hardcore frenzy have a lot of moving parts and seem to be on the edge of breaking apart at any second. But they don’t, and that’s the exciting thing. These tracks have a lot of USHC influence like early BLACK FLAG, CIRCLE JERKS, etc., but with added trebly guitar fills and near-constant drum rolls that reveal hidden complexities upon further listening. Listen to this and enjoy a modern take on the classic hardcore blueprint: very fast, snotty, and great.

Portabella Return to the Fountain of Olives cassette

Experimental, psych-tinged indie rock from this Spartanburg, SC duo. This collection contains frequently likeable lo-fi pop songs with whimsical journeys into synth exploration and nonsensical, lysergic lyrics. “The Wrong Way” sounds like a lost GUIDED BY VOICES gem in the best way: a jangly guitar confection with just enough bite in the refrain. Similarly, there are about six more enjoyable indie pop jams on this tape that hit the home-recorded indie sweet spot, even if they sound pretty close to their influences. For instance, the guitar solo on “Nothing Left” might as well be credited to J. Mascis for how close it sounds to DINOSAUR JR. And “Valley of Imploding Cups” sounds a whole lot like Slanted and Enchanted-era PAVEMENT. Now for the rest of the tape, I wrote the same note next to seven songs: “Sebadoh III outtake.” I like SEBADOH, and I like that particular album, but it has its share of shambolic, half-baked audio sketches that would be better left as demos. PORTABELLA seems to love this aspect of SEBADOH so much that half of this album sounds like a tribute to it. The vocals sound like Lou Barlow, the thrown-together, first-take approach to songwriting, the weird, left-field acoustic interludes, the occasional faux-angry moments. What is skippable on Sebadoh III is skippable here. PORTABELLA definitely has talent and ideas to spare. I am interested in seeing what happens when they step away from their record collections.

Stinkhole Mold Encrusted Egg EP

Behold STINKHOLE, the unwanted baby of LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and MYSTIC INANE, left behind in a Berlin dumpster. This is some of the slimiest slime-punk around, with seven tracks of noisy, rudimentary outsider hardcore with a vocal delivery that sounds like a choke/slur/vomit combination. I honestly don’t know if the lyrics are in English or not because the dry heave singing is pretty hard to crack. This EP sounds like it was recorded in the basement of the building next door and is so lo-fi that it seems like the band taped over a random mixtape. Snippets of woozy easy listening and jazz sounds bookend some of these audio scabs. It’s not all just gross-out punk though: I distinctly heard a synth once on “Orange Juice,” and the credits list a trumpet. Final track “Slippin’ on Slug Slime” (let’s pause for a moment and appreciate the poetry of that title) has a cool one-bent-note guitar lead that gives it just the slightest amount of post-punk spice. I loved it. Just make sure to sanitize your hands after playing.

Voice Imitator Plaza LP

Cool release from this group made up of Australian underground luminaries. VOICE IMITATOR has a few modes, but the songs are mostly based around taut WIRE-style post-punk rhythms, with sustained sheets of guitar and feedback like vintage SONIC YOUTH for good measure. There is a frequent high-pitched layer of synth noise that adds to the creeping build-up on tracks like “Chinese Hoax” and “Vilification Brunch.” The vocals on these rocking tracks come across as gruff and reverbed disaffected noise rock diatribes. There are also few unexpected surprises on this record, though. On three songs, the instrumentation is stripped down to slow, distorted electronics with spoken vocals on top, like a dread-inducing poetry reading. These tracks maintain the building tension that the more traditional rock songs have and sound like the quieter moments on a PRURIENT record. The final two tracks are remixes with heavier electronic instrumentation and work just as well as the rock originals. Strong album of serious, mature experimental punk.

 

Chron Turbine Yoga Injury: Discomfort in Seven Movements cassette

Eight jams from stoner and noise rock influences on this release. The tape starts strong with a tightly-wound instrumental song that sounds like a HELMET demo. Two vocalists, one of whom sounds like a mix of David Yow from the JESUS LIZARD and Aaron Beam from RED FANG, and one of whom sounds like bad Jon Spencer karaoke, sing separately on the rest. When the band gets into a propulsive groove, it’s good in the crunchy ’90s rock way. “Dying Elephant” has a catchy, repetitive refrain that got my foot tapping and head bobbing. I was then able to place the sound historically: this sounds like the bands that got swept up in the major label, post-Nevermind feeding frenzy of the early ’90s. Clean vocals, a little distorted chugging but not too heavy, and pop sensibility? Yeah, this sounds as familiar as any other second-tier band on a Geffen label sampler back in the day. A few of these tracks could fit in on modern rock radio, no disrespect intended. Full disrespect, however, to the songs “Hipster Taxidermy Fetish” and “Wet Look.” The vocals are a comical Jon Spencer impression with all the blues affectations that can only be handled by Mr. Spencer himself. I cringed through those two tracks and wondered what kind of band friendship or financial obligation got that guy the job. Other than those two tracks, decent if unremarkable release of what I guess is still called alternative rock.

Electric Chair Social Capital EP

Crucial hardcore in the form of a 7” hand grenade. If you like classic USHC, get this immediately. Six songs of fast, super-pissed punk with lyrics reflecting our current dystopia. Anti-police, anti-scenester, anti-human, anti-fascist diatribes against this modern life. Check out “Life is Hell”: “Birth is violence / Life is hell / You sell your baby on the black market / I hate the way they smell.” Tough! If you have stick-and-poke BLACK FLAG bars or the DEAD KENNEDYS logo, you may want to consider a future patch of skin for a little electric chair. Have you bought this yet?

Big Hog / The Resource Network split EP

Indianapolis punks BIG HOG and the RESOURCE NETWORK team up for a noisy split worth your time. BIG HOG starts their side with math-y guitar lines and a bouncing bass sound with LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS-style vocals on top. They would have been at home on Load Records with short capsules of frenzied hardcore skronk, giving me some ARAB ON RADAR vibes with the dial turned more to hardcore than noise rock. There is quite a bit of guitar/bass interplay going on under the snotty hollering with an occasional laser gun noise blast that gives these songs an unpredictable and good weird quality. The RESOURCE NETWORK’S side is not quite as frantic, but it’s definitely interesting, too. These three tunes blend elements of hardcore and new wave with anti-consumerist lyrics that sound like spoken poetry in the verses. “Artificial Flavors” sounds like URANIUM CLUB with the spoken vocals over busy, tinny guitar lines and clean bass. The final track has more of a traditional American hardcore sound like mid-era HÜSKER DÜ with busy bass and guitar work and an anthemic refrain. Check this split out for two cool bands doing their thing confidently.

Tums Old Perverts and Horse Fuckers cassette

Fun tape from Chicago hardcore weirdos TUMS. These eleven tracks are bookended by what I can only describe as punk vaudeville routines, opening with grandma one-liners over a Casio beat and ending with “Yer Auntie Grizelda,” which sounds like a punk band covering an elementary school sing-along. It’s an odd frame that holds in the unexpected raging hardcore of the rest of the songs. The main tunes are short, lo-fi hardcore basement bangers with an emphasis on fun. These energetic bursts have sung, melodic vocals over the musical aggression that are really catchy (almost sing-songy in parts) despite sounding so raw upon first listen. From what I can tell without lyrics, the content is pretty light on the seriousness scale with songs about girls’ trips, beaches, and drugs (the track “TAQN” stands for “Take a Quaalude Now”). It’s telling that the angriest song centers its rage on a certain video-streaming app (“HBO GO”). Listening to this is like overhearing inside jokes among friends that are frequently pretty funny, even if you don’t fully get the context. I’m here for it—this type of lighthearted hardcore is a welcome break during these dark times.

Nervous Tick and the Zipper Lips / Science Man The COVID Collaborations: Vol. I cassette

Cool split between Buffalo’s NERVOUS TICK AND THE ZIPPER LIPS and SCIENCE MAN where each band contributes one original song, a cover of the other band, and two collaborative tracks. The groups have a pretty different sound and energy, but this tape works and is a hopeful document that the spirit of artistic collaboration can thrive in this time of isolation. The first three tracks show off SCIENCE MAN’s no-frills/no bullshit rock’n’roll with sleazy vocals and meaty STOOGES instrumentation. “The Mask” is three minutes of slow churn proto-punk with a full-ass guitar solo. The next two from them are a little faster but still have OG hard rock vibes with a throaty menace. Tough! The three NERVOUS TICK songs are forged in jerky new wave rhythms, complete with a drum machine under the trebly guitar work. “Don’t Know Where to Go” has stiff, robotic vocals that sound like GARY NUMAN on punk. This tape is a great idea done well, and I look forward to future volumes (hopefully after COVID).

Trigger Cut Rogo LP

TRIGGER CUT is a German noise rock band that takes several pages from the SHELLAC playbook, but goddamn, they do it well. Steve Albini’s influence is definitely all over this record, from the trebly dissonant guitar to the slightly distorted bass production to the detached shouted/shrieked vocals. So they didn’t invent this particular template, but TRIGGER CUT may have perfected it. Each track comes out pummeling with heart-pounding, head-bobbing hit after hit of noisy, muscular grit. The relentless energy and super-crisp recording is as good as this genre gets and pairs excellently with the classic Touch and Go or AmRep bands of the ’80s and ’90s. This shit is exciting. When vocalist Ralph moves from a half-spoken/half-shouted verse to a voice-cracking shriek like in “Coffin Digger” or “Regular Funk,” the effect is arresting and awesome. “Fireworks” manages to get even heavier with the sturm und drang of a drop-tuned doomy bass riff with explosive full-band response that absolutely rips. The rest of the record never slows or weakens the full-tilt destructive onslaught. Highly recommended!

Dollhouse Summer Love demo cassette

NYC’s DOLLHOUSE fucking knocks it out with this excellent demo. First of all, the haunted Blythe doll artwork makes me uneasy and fits the music perfectly. These songs definitely fit under the hardcore umbrella but with darker, post-punk guitar leads that are simple and effective. The first song “Summer Love” starts out with an aggressive 1-2-1-2 stompy beat and two-chord attack pattern but is tempered by a six-note guitar line that turns the fury into creepiness. The rest of the tape follows suit with a level of consistency and continuity that sounds like an established band’s proper LP. The lyrics are frequently introspective and vulnerable and are delivered with the higher-pitched screams of someone on the verge of losing it. These songs cover some seriously dark territory like self-harm, drug abuse, and suicide, but they are written in such a poetic way that doesn’t glamorize or sensationalize them but rather give insight from a voice that sounds like they have seen it firsthand. For example, “The Shadow Baby” has the lines, “You’re dumb if you trust a friend / Dumb if you trust a lover / The whole world is meant to make you live in the shadow of another / If my mother was dead I would have joined her by now.” There are moments like this in every song that give me pause because they sound so emotionally raw and heavy. Definitely check this out for some excellent tense and affecting hardcore with lyrical depth. I look forward to their next release.

Lip Commodity cassette

Solid seven-song release from these Baltimore post-punks. The clean op art cover of some kind of hazy temple building gives a good indication of the tape’s contents. There is a sturdy structure holding up the buzzy energy within. Each track has a fairly traditional rock format with distorted bass, snaky guitar leads, and detached vocals that are shouted but never sound angry. LIP channels the noisier aspects of JOY DIVISION and the non-electronic sounds of TOTAL CONTROL but does so in a way that still sounds distinct enough to set them apart. “Morse Code” starts off with a syncopated bass line that creates a welcome hook under the guitar squall. Final track “Obstacles” is the best song here: a near-perfect post-punk chiller with a catchy melodic guitar line and paranoid lyrics that could bear the Factory Records logo. Worth checking out if disaffected post-punk is your jam.

Education Culture LP

EDUCATION is an Italian band that incorporates elements of post-punk and goth into their hardcore. Culture is eight slabs of reverb-drenched raw vocals with heavy-flange bass and spacy guitar lines. Think maybe RUDIMENTARY PENI and GAG hanging out? The amount of echo on everything makes me think this was recorded in a dungeon or maybe a well. There was definitely a skeleton in the studio. There is a deathrock sound on “Walls” that fits in well with the mysterious vibes overall. All the songs are mid-tempo and tend to run together a bit, but this is  worth checking out if you pair eyeliner with your studs.

Traps Funny Thing EP

Four energetic rock’n’roll songs from this Quebec City band. Channeling classic ’77 riffs with bouncy bass lines lifted from pop punk, TRAPS deliver a completely fine, recognizable sound in a familiar package. I was ready to move on when the last song, “Don’t Do It,” came on and lifted my spirits. Did you have a Lookout! phase in the ’90s? Remember that sweet mix of punchy power chords with heartfelt lyrics (think MTX or WYNONA RIDERS) that would extend roots into your brainpan? “Don’t Do It” brings that feeling back for all of us who have an audio sweet tooth. While listening, I started thinking about high school and skateboards and those little folded paper football things. I thought about hating everyone who wore the shirts of that one pop punk band that got really popular, but going home and listening to them anyway. And I think this would have made a really great one-song single.

Big Chungus Diarrhea Dog cassette

Take a look at the band name and tape title. Does the Bugs Bunny meme-name on a faux-feces-smeared cassette make you smile or roll your eyes? That’s all you need to know to tell whether you will be into this or not. This mutant collective from New Jersey plays rudimentary, snotty synth-punk about crusty underbelly topics like long pees, vomiting sandwiches, spiders—you get the idea. Sounding like a mix between an 8-bit LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE, these six songs are gross slabs of slime punk that are kind of catchy if you are in the mood to receive what they are offering. “Toothpaste” in particular sounds like an intense NES boss battle that repeats “I’m gonna squeeze ya!” over and over. It’s ten minutes of dumb fun, so check it out if you’re a diarrhea dog.

The Lost Jobs Good Boy EP

German garage punk that comes out swinging with instant riffs, drum fills, dueling surf lines, and gruff vocals. Sounds like the HELLACOPTERS with a mix of German and English lyrics and frequent fretboard gymnastics. This EP would have been at home on Kozik’s Man’s Ruin label back in the day. Nothing Earth-shattering here, but it is solid, straight-up rock’n’roll if you are into double denim and motorcycles.

Clear Channel Hell LP

Supremely funky debut LP from this D.C. group of dance-punks. Made up of bass, drums, bongos, and two vocalists, CLEAR CHANNEL combines the best ingredients of funk, post-punk, and new wave into a unique, irresistible mix. “Hello Disko” sounds like Lydia Lunch fronting the B-52’S in the best way, all moaning vocals, bobbing bass, and disco beats. “B.B.I.” is a dubby exploration with soulful singing that reminds me of TV ON THE RADIO in the falsetto parts. “Maria” could be a ’60s R&B classic re-recorded by a punk band. It’s great. Then comes “Hot Fruit,” a funky, kinda dirty jam that deserves a place in the novelty song history books. If you want people to get up and move at your next party, put on “Hot Fruit.” I’m planning a mix tape around it as I write this. The record ends with the title track that turns up the drama with theatrical call-and-response vocals and the same grimy disco vibe from the opening. This is dance music by punks, kind of like DUB NARCOTIC SOUND SYSTEM, in attitude at least. Check it out—the most purely enjoyable record I have heard in a while.

Warm Drag Butch Things / Your Thunder and Your Lightning 7”

Very good single comprised of two cover songs from this L.A. band. WARM DRAG is made up of vocals and two samplers, but the two tracks here sound like lush, full-band affairs despite having only two members. “Butch Things” is a smoky, post-punk crawl that summons Siouxsie Sioux fronting the BAD SEEDS. “Your Thunder and Your Lightning” brings some darkwave texture with a static-tinged bass pulse and classic reverb-drenched psych guitar. This record hits the sweet spot between familiar and fresh. I want to hear more.

USA Nails Character Stop LP

USA NAILS deliver a new LP of noise-rock-inspired bummer punk. They have played with IDLES and METZ, and did a split 7” with TONGUE PARTY. If you like those bands, it’s a pretty safe bet that you will like this, too. The songs are stripped down to muscular distorted bass, dissonant guitar stabs, pounding drums, and shouted working-class sloganeering. “I Don’t Own Anything” starts out with the very relatable line “This is modern life / And it is full of heartache,” and ends with “I experience everything / I don’t own anything.” It’s not as moving as “Merchandise,” but it’s a potent anti-commercialism anthem for our times. The last two tracks caught my attention in how they step a few feet away from the post-hardcore pummeling into post-punk with syncopated drumbeats and disaffected vocals that sound like a slower WIRE or GANG OF FOUR. The recording sounds great: clear and crisply produced. That’s the only negative aspect of this for me—I like a good speaker-ripper and this is a bit clean. Worth checking out.

Bondage 2010–2019 cassette

BONDAGE is a solo noise garage project from Peru, and this tape collects about a decade’s worth of demo releases. The first track starts out with a drum machine and distorted bass groove that gives off “Cough / Cool” vibes with spoken-sung vocals. Then comes the haunted house keyboards. Yikes. The rest of the tape more or less follows this pattern: fast drum beat, repetitive bass lines, reverbed guitar with tons of flange, and spoken or screamed vocals. To be fair, there is enough decent feedback damage to call this noise or maybe industrial, but I never really feel the menace that I expect from those genres. There is a SUICIDE cover, which I can hear as a major inspiration (I’ll stick with the original, though). There is some CHRISTIAN DEATH energy here as well. I don’t know about the lyrical content, as the singing is in Spanish, but the cover art and accompanying zine feature cut-and-paste artwork of wild animals, explicit gay imagery, and blood. Many of these tracks stretch past the four-minute mark, which tests my patience for what seems like a well-intentioned bedroom project. Maybe check it out if you are into deathrock or industrial, but it’s a pass for me.

I Am the Fly Axolotl EP

Debut EP from this two-piece German synth-punk band named after the classic WIRE track. Hiding their identities behind fly masks, this duo produces chilly post-punk with dirty bass, buzzing organ, and a vintage drum machine. Sounding like a familiar blend of old and new, I hear WIRE (obviously), SUICIDE, GRAUZONE, and maybe some COLD CAVE. These three songs sound full with layered keys and melodic, dispassionate singing. The clear production and upfront vocal delivery put an emphasis on the keyboard and bass interplay, where the minor chord progressions create tension and a feeling of unease. This would fit nicely on a post-punk or darkwave mixtape. Worth checking out!

Mystic Inane Natural Beauty EP

MYSTIC INANE give us a posthumous collection of four songs that were recorded prior to them disbanding a few years ago. If you are late to this group of New Orleans weirdos, they sound like RUDIMENTARY PENI meets SACCHARINE TRUST in a dumpster. Their essential EP’s of M/I collection is always in rotation around these parts. This EP fits in perfectly with their three previous 7” releases of off-kilter outsider hardcore. The basement spy riffs are here, as are the deranged, always slightly off-beat vocals that make this band so recognizable and endearing. “Death of Disco Spiv” starts off slowly with a beginner’s level guitar line that is met about 30 seconds later with full-band hardcore stomp. “My Life as a Fish” reminds me of their previous trash anthem “I Believe in UFOs” with a similar vocal delivery in the chorus of “I’m a fish, and I want sleep” (at least, I think that’s what he says). “Mystic Ignorance” is as good an introduction to the band as it gets, and we even get a brief guitar solo! Generous! “Peckerwood Nero” has such a catchy repeated vocal line and bouncy bass melody that it could be a new wave hit in a freakier universe. The final track fades out and then slowly comes back in, creating a fitting parting gift from a great punk band. My expectations were exceeded, and I was bummed when it ended.

Bathouse Bathouse LP

Debut record from Sweden’s BATHOUSE, featuring ten noise rock pounders, drenched in feedback and fuzz. The tracks blast with tinny guitars, blown-out distorted bass, and that familiar AmRep-inspired crunch. The shouted vocals and fairly traditional rock structures place this in pleasant company with MCLUSKY and PART CHIMP. Through the filth and slime, there are some melodic vocal lines and major key chord progressions that have one dirty shoe in garage rock (maybe even grunge) territory. “Hell” sounds like a lost NIRVANA In Utero B-side with a downtempo refrain of “I bore you / You know I adore you,” while “Ghostly Figurine” has some “la la la la’s” in the mix. These anthems of frustration aren’t breaking any new ground, but they are definitely worth a listen on your way to that job you hate.

Lebenden Toten Synaptic Noise Dissociation LP

The mighty Iron Lung Records has bestowed a gift upon us with this release, a live set from Portland’s LEBENDEN TOTEN, recorded during a tenth anniversary event for the label. Twenty-five minutes of absolute raging hardcore with blur-fast D-beats, constant sheets of swirling feedback, and shredded vocals pummeling the listener (and that lucky live audience) into submission. At first, it was a little overwhelming—noise chaos to the point of breaking apart—until I realized how tight the band is. What seems disorienting takes on an almost psych feel the more you listen to it and hear the layers of noise coming together. I hear some slight CONFUSE influence here and there, but this is its own manic beast. Standout tracks for me are “Inferno,” “Static #1,” and “Vampires,” but they are honestly all standouts. I can’t imagine not listening to this as a whole album, anyway. The artwork is cool too (looks like a ’70s Italian horror/sci-fi mashup), and it comes with a die-cut Halloween decoration. Get this, crank it, and blow your speakers out— it will be worth it.

Erik Nervous and the Beta Blockers Erik Nervous and the Beta Blockers LP

ERIK NERVOUS returns with a collection of twelve garage punk bashers, now backed with a full band, the UK’s BETA BLOCKERS. Simple and dumb in the very best way, these tracks buzz along with a mix of classic garage punk and post-punk that reminds me of the SAINTS, SUBURBAN LAWNS, and maybe fellow Indiana weirdos CCTV. Despite very catchy songs, this is still a scrappy punk record with sung/shouted vocals that bring to mind JAY REATARD or maybe the MUMMIES with clearer production. I was already digging this when “Blasted Heath” surprised me with a squiggly synth underneath the rockin’ that takes ERIK and Co. into DEVO territory. Then the next track, “Want To Not Wanna, completely brings the mutant freak funk party that rivals the stupid joy of “Jocko Homo.” If you have any dorkiness in your heart, you will be bouncing in your seat. The rest of the record follows with a huge emphasis on fun, something I can definitely use more of in my life.

Adulkt Life Book of Curses LP

Debut LP from ADULKT LIFE, a new London band featuring Chris Rowley from HUGGY BEAR and several members of MALE BONDING. Book of Curses is a chilly collection of post-punk unease that charts the banal stresses and miseries of modern life, including aging, parenthood, and ennui over mid-tempo distorted bass and icy guitar lines. The vocals are the main draw here; they are sung/spoken with a certain feeling of frustration, exhaustion, and discomfort that expresses our current zeitgeist quite effectively. Sample lyric: “I’m taking hits, taking hits / I don’t know what I’m for / Unless I’m against it.” I feel that. This record will fit in nicely next to your DIÄT and BÖRN records for harbingers of nagging, everyday dread.

Shrinkwrap Killers Feral Rats Have Become Our Only Pets LP

Based on the band name and cover, I was expecting some gross horror punk or maybe crossover thrash, and boy, was I wrong. SHRINKWRAP KILLERS is the solo project of Greg Wilkinson of BRAINOIL playing a bizarro new wave/synth-pop/garage punk mix. Imagine GARY NUMAN, the SPITS, and maybe DICK DALE camping out in a squalid punk squat with only dystopian novels to keep them busy, and you get the idea. With song titles like “Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass,” “Hive Robotics at the Human Zoo,” and the title track, the vibe is definitely jokey, but the grooves are too good to be a joke. There are some real, albeit goofy, earworms here. This record mixes some straight-ahead garage sing-alongs with a few lo-fi woozy synth dirges that wouldn’t sound out of place on a TOBACCO record. Do you have a quarantine anthem? “Shotgunning O’Doul’s and Kicking Dicks,” where the title is a good portion of the song’s lyrics, has you covered. Very weird fun if you are experiencing paranoia, boredom, or enjoy shoving stolen electronics up your ass.