Reviews

Nick Odorizzi

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.