Reviews

Tim Janchar

Monty Vega & the Sittin’ Shivas Closed (No Fun) cassette

RAMONES-influenced rock that has a good bit of depth musically and lyrically. MONTY VEGA’s webpage cites paying musical respect to Joey and they also have a song entitled “Poor Dee Dee.” There’s a bit of GROOVIE GHOULIES here and the keyboards bring in some punk new wave à la the MINDS, which culminates in a great cover of “Goodbye To You” by SCANDAL. The social commentary video “Failed State” is worth checking out and furthers the case that this isn’t just a homage party band. Seems like this is a two-piece quarantine project, but post-COVID they should be back to a full band which gives me something to look forward to.

Josephine & Hershguy Stocky Tunes LP

The first listen I was getting a lot of sonic inputs from early K Records, SPARKS, post-post-art-punk, ROXY MUSIC, neo-No Wave, glam theater rock…almost in a disparate hi-talent show of the kids too cool and too talented for marching band. On second, third, and many more listens it all melds together into the singular voices of Josephine Network and Hershguy, refreshingly hard to put your finger on, but so good. It’s so unique that the album includes its own Stocky Yiddish Dictionary where I learned that “cockamun with a bissel hunnick” means “shit on you with a little honey.”

Planet Y Kniven for Struben 12”

Scrappy hardcore with just a bit of jangle from this Copenhagen band. A quicker and madder X with the spirit of DEAD MOON. The vocals and sharp guitars bring to mind Poly Styrene and the best of X-RAY SPEX or the VICIOUS. The nine tracks blast quick for a strong listen.

Lost Sounds Black Wave 2xLP reissue

Jay Lindsey may well be remembered by some for his solo work as JAY REATARD and his ominously-titled final album Watch Me Fall that came out on Matador shortly before his death in 2010. Or the scrappier punks may lean toward the fatalistic crash-down sounds of his first band the REATARDS that helped solidify the Memphis/Goner Records scene in the late ’90s. On the timeline between these two bands lies LOST SOUNDS. Alicja Trout, Rich Crook, and Jonas Garland joined Lindsey from ’99–’05 and released several dark synth futuristic/apocalyptic punk records that put them between the post-punk and garage scenes of the early aughts. Trout brought in the synth keyboard influence from her old band the CLEARS to craft an evil circus carnival tent revival sound reminiscent of the SCREAMERS, but a lot more pissed-off and skeptical of a post-9/11 world. This double-LP is a reissue of the now out-of-print 2001 album originally on Empty Records and is a great place to start for a newcomer. Side note: Trout, Crook, and Garland are currently playing as SWEET KNIVES, who sound and feel like LOST SOUNDS without Lindsey and are well worth checking out.

Stiff Richards Dig LP

Blistering post-hardcore from the pivotal Melbourne scene that borrows from ’77 punk, street curb rock, and failed rehab. A modern day, faster Aussie take on MCLUSKY or PISSED JEANS but with a touch of humor and the stamina to party harder. There’s double guitars and crazy tight drums/bass that don’t slow down, but it’s Wolfgang Buckley’s scratchy, screaming, near-breaking vocals that make you want to pound your fist or start dancing or just Iggy strut around your quarantine hole wishing you could see them live.

Mikey Erg Mikey Erg LP

I spent some part of quarantine listening to MIKEY ERG’s 2019 solo album Wax Built Castles, which was a collection of reflective acoustic ruminations reminiscent of Devon Williams’ post-OSKER output. That album fit the mood and the volume of the time. Last year he turned it up with a four-song EP titled Bon Voyage, which was a warm up to this full-length release. Ten blistering punk pop punk songs in 26 minutes, drawing emotively and literally from ’80s indie rock and ’90s punk. The album opens with a mid-tempo rocker “Can’t Be Too Careless” and then shifts into a cover of PEARL JAM’s “Spin The Black Circle.” “Rubin Hall,” “Hey Marissa,” and “Rumblestrip” touch on topics of college life, relationships, and tour with early-aughts ferocity. The version of GREEN DAY’s “Going to Pasalacqua” is the best cover since the ERGS! gave proper treatment to the GIN BLOSSOMS song “Hey Jealousy.” The final two tracks, “Good Mic” and “Give Up,” slow down and blow out as great album closers. MIKEY ERG has been in plethora of bands, currently drumming for the pivotal WORRIERS, and in the past DIRT BIKE ANNIE, STAR FUCKING HIPSTERS, DOPAMINES, and of course the ERGS!, but it’s his voluminous and diverse solo work that continually surprises and satisfies. Factoid: The album cover art pastiches the CLASH’s debut album in the same way their London Calling album mirrors ELVIS PRESLEY’s debut album.

Los Saicos ¡Demolición! / Lonely Star 7”

Many record and band reviews (mine mostly) spend space name-dropping other bands and styles that a reviewee sounds like and borrows from. It’s a kind of connect the musical dots. Because let’s face it, we’re all influenced in some way by what we’ve heard before. But there are those trailblazers and avant-gardes who every now and then create something strikingly new from the same twelve notes we’re all shuffling around, using nothing but their own instincts. LOS SAICOS were operating out of Lima, Peru from 1964–66 with limited access to outside music or the happenings in England or the United States at the time. Their proto-punk sound with sharp guitar riffs and screaming vocals pre-dates the STOOGES, SEX PISTOLS, and RAMONES by a decade, though the band remained in obscurity, almost as an in-the-know secret among garage punkers. The early-aughts saw a brief reunion, along with numerous articles and a few documentaries that brought them back into current consciousness. BLACK LIPS and many many other similarly-styled bands cite them as a major influence. This 7” is a reissue of two of their early singles, a great musical artifact that couldn’t care less if punk was born in London or NYC.

Warm Exit Sonny Cynar EP

Four tracks of synth-fueled punk rock pop that harkens the weirdness of early B-52’S with the angular-ness of GANG OF FOUR. It also has that current knowledge and feeling that “everything might fall apart at any moment” that one gets from NO AGE. Hoping they put out a full-length at some point. During my own travels and playing shows, I have often visited Rockerill in Charleroi, Belgium on European tours. Rockerill is that kind of place, not infrequent in Europe, where a huge industrial factory is tuned into a true DIY art/music/cultural center hosting art events and punk shows, and also, as it turns out, a recording studio and record label where this album was made.

Bikini Beach Atoll LP

Stoner-psych-fuzz-death-garage-rock with rotating vocalists that I’m sure would leave that high-pitched tinnitus lingering in your ears for several days when (if?) live shows happen again, and one forgets or has a credence against ear plugs. The ringing would be a subtle reminder that you saw a band sweat, scream, and destroy a set leaving it all on the stage. I used “stoner” as a description because if the band were from Southern California or signed to Castle Face Records, that’s a term that may get dropped around. But the band hails from Weinfelden, Switzerland and is too tightly explosive and punky energetic to really be stoner per se, more like a triple espresso with a heavy pour of kirsch brandy.

Ditches Ditched LP

Smart, tight, fast, power-garage-pop from Stockholm, Sweden. The tight guitars, staccato lyrics, and relentless pace immediately bring to mind the North Texas scene (the Denton Sound, if you will) that spawned the MARKED MEN, RADIOACTIVITY, MIND SPIDERS, POTENTIAL JOHNS, HIGH TENSION WIRES, and any other band that Mark Ryan or Jeff Burke had a hand in and likely ended up on the Dirtnap roster. In regards to the above, DITCHES don’t so much duplicate, but more so translate, creating their own sound and style that lands a bit rougher and more earnest than their Texas counterparts. After giving this a few listens, I checked out the liner notes and found out that Jeff Burke of MARKED MEN/RADIOACTIVITY recorded and mixed the album and also lent some back up vocals as well. Suspicion and legitimacy confirmed.

Mr. Teenage Automatic Love EP

Four really solid tracks of power pop from Melbourne, Australia with equal tinges of NERVES-era Paul Collins mixed with the power-pop-punk that came out of Portland/Seattle/Vancouver in the early aughts. I’m thinking SODA POP KIDS, BRIEFS, TRANZMITORS, and WHITE WIRES-style. If released a generation earlier, one of these tracks would likely end up in a John Hughes movie.

The Archaeas Archaeas LP

A non-stop auditory assault that hits all sensory levels. I think I could taste blood. Violet Archaea storms the three-piece Louisville band through their debut album on Goner Records. The glam garage of THUNDERS, TEENGENERATE swagger, and that Goner-esque sound akin to EX-CULT are here. The liner notes reference the important influence of GUITAR WOLF—particularly the epic movie Wild Zero in which the band battles aliens trying to take over the earth. And it’s here, as the album plays like a soundtrack to guitar sword battles, exploding heads, fake blood, and broken hearts. Trivia: the first album Goner ever released was GUITAR WOLF’s debut, so it’s a fitting base to launch ARCHAEAS.

Accidente Caníbal LP

Tight, melodic, high-energy release from Madrid, Spain, with vocals reminiscent of Agent M from the early TSUNAMI BOMB 7” singles that were released by Checkmate Records in the late ’90s. That label was run by Hunter Burgan who plays bass for AFI, and we can argue if his band sold out well before the Black Sails in the Sunset album, but the tight guitar/bass interplay with thunderous drumming reminds me of those early albums. Recorded in Madrid, the album was mastered by Mass Giorgini (COMMON RIDER, SQUIRTGUN) at his Sonic Iguana Studios in Lafayette, Indiana…..so maybe that’s where all this ’90s/’00s stuff is coming from. Translating the lyrics from Spanish, the songs take a strong rebellious stance, putting the common in the center and fighting back the corporate cannibals. I have a feeling this is the kind of band that will pack out the infamous Wurlitzer Ballroom in Madrid to sweaty spastic crowds after the pandemic is over.

Prisoner Choose Your Delusion cassette

Imagine if you dealt with quarantine by locking yourself in a basement with a Casio keyboard, your guitar, a makeshift drum kit, and a Tascam four-track recorder, and the only thing you had to consume was a bag of Flamin’ Hot Funyuns and a case of Sparks. (But it was the old version of Sparks that had a higher alcohol content AND caffeine, taurine, and all that other chemical crap that the government made them take out.) Then you passed your days by composing a theatrical one-man band concept album that played out like the Rocky Horror Picture Show with JAY REATARD in fishnets playing the role of Frank-N-Furter to the audience in the mirror. That’s pretty much what Brandon Hamilton (PRINCE, DUDE JAMS) did in Austin, TX last year. Amazingly spastic, melodically demented, and pleasantly bizarre in a way that’s reminiscent of the early PHARMACY.

The Ar-Kaics Ar-Kives, Volume One: Singles & Unreleased LP

This is a collection of singles from this Virginia band who’ve been morphing their own take on ’60s-style lo-fi garage for years. You can sense the influence of the lineage, but the music has its own unique sound, without duplicity. Tunes range from defiant anthems (“Can’t Stand This Place”) to sludgy stomps (“Cut Me Down”). The band had COVID cancel US, European, and Japanese tours, but were able to release these early out-of-print singles dating back to 2013 and some demos instead. It’s a great place to start if you’ve never heard their other releases. Not just for fans of the Back From the Grave scene, but for anyone who digs fuzzy, snotty songs with a little attitude. European release by Bachelor. In the US, it’s on Dig! Records from Virginia, which has been putting out vinyl for five years but this release was given the 001 catalog number—apparently that’s been on the back burner waiting for a pandemic.

SBDC The Feeling of Winning LP

Vancouver has a long history of great female punk bands, not the least of which is Lisa Marr’s band CUB. SBDC (Stupid Bitch and the Dumb Cunts, if you need it spelled out) is carrying on that tradition with scrappy riffs, clever lyrics, and bursts of short, amazing songs. I recently found an old split 7” from CUB and Larry Livermore’s band the POTATOMEN that was co-released by Vancouver’s Mint Records and Lookout!—SBDC has the best sounds of Mint and Lookout!, and also the energy of the short-lived Olympia band HEAVENS TO BETSY. For the record, this album could have come out on Mint Records, but instead it’s on the spazier, artier, scruffier, more DIY Kingfisher Bluez.

Honey Joy II LP

Big hooks from dual guitars are matched with the big voice of singer Meg Tinsley on this London band’s second full-length. The album manages to match up socially relevant post-hardcore tracks (“The Contagion,” “The Healer”) with power pop gems (“Queen Ray,” “Saluting Magpies”) and have it all flow together. If there was a Fest this year, I could see HONEY JOY making the trip across the pond. Recorded by Simon Small from the band APOLOGIES, I HAVE NONE, the LP joins a punk lineage of albums mastered by Daniel Husayn at the North London Bomb Factory and it’s released on the up-and-coming indie label Everything Sucks.

The Mark Vodka Group The Mark Vodka Group LP

Halifax, Nova Scotia seems like a weirdly dark, isolated, dangerous spot. Maybe it’s these kind of places that are fertile grounds for spastic punk mayhem. A place where music formulates apart from cultural pseudo-coolness and it’s just meat and bloody guts and acid juice. I’m thinking Mark Mothersbaugh and DEVO from Akron, Ohio, or Mark Winter and the CONEHEADS (or whatever he’s doing) from Northwest Indiana. Add to this the MARK VODKA GROUP, a project from Luke Mumford and some of the other Halifax BOOJI BOYS released by the ever reliable Drunken Sailor out of the UK. Gritty and bitter, but not without humor in a REATARDS-like way.