Reviews

Tim Janchar

Suspectre Suspectre LP

A solid debut release from this post-punk trio from Bremen, Germany. Dark but with the right amount of pop and lyrical insight to keep it interesting and varied. A modern-sounding MAGAZINE, but like if Howard Devoto kept more of his BUZZCOCKS influences in there, and he could have foreseen the Berlin Wall falling.

Doctrina Alimentar Su Final LP

Mid-tempo punk out of Seville, Spain that tensely keeps the right amount of lyrical and musical attitude through the eight quick tracks. This could have been something the JAM recorded in the short time between their first two albums, if only Paul Weller sang in Spanish.

The Manikins Bad Times LP

Mostly due to their tour de force album Crocodiles, this Swedish band stood out from their peers in the mid-2000s stripped-down power-garage-pop period—thinking bands like TRANZMITORS, the SHOCKS, and the HEX DISPENSERS who were reinterpreting the BUZZCOCKS for a post-Bush world. Crocodiles came out in 2008 and I thought the band had hung it up. Over a decade later they are back with a batch of new songs, but had the supporting tour sidelined by the pandemic. The album lacks the production earnestness of Crocodiles, but despite cleaning it up, there is an angsty darkness throughout the album captured best in the tracks “It’s Not Gonna Be OK” and “Worse Than I”. The songwriting and change-ups have allowed the band to expand their sound and even style a bit. The standout track is the mid-tempo “Make a Run for It”. An excellent album that manages not to rehash or revisit a long-gone time but moves forward in a newly defined way.

Blowins 2015–2020 CD

This discography covers two LPs and an EP from a band who relocated from Poland to Ireland. Fast, angular guitars with darkly-focused lyrics sung in Polish. A great introduction to the band, plays like a sped-up and then stripped-down version of Pink Flag-era WIRE.

Personal Style On Fyre / Block the Hate 7″

Two solid anthemic rock tracks out of this Buffalo, NY trio. Self- and socially reflective while still insightful and angry. Playing like a ’90s version of STIFF LITTLE FINGERS with some synth and current culture angst thrown in.

Bad Kiss III EP

Four lo-fi punk tracks that sound like they were recorded in a bedroom in one day with a single mic. Basically, it’s awesome, inspiringly authentic, and true energy in all the right ways. It got me more stoked on music and life than all the other ultra-produced too cool for school stuff that’s posing around today.

The Ar-Kaics Live in the Shit LP

This is a live recording captured from a February 2020 show in their hometown of Richmond, VA, right before live music shut down. The frantic intensity of the performance comes out and smacks you with a quick pace as each song rushes in right after the next in a perfect garage punk cadence. It’s a tight, quick set and all the slightly off notes and tuning only add to the authentic energy of it. There’s a good mix of old and newer songs with an excellent unreleased new track, “Outsider.” An excellent addition to their growing catalogue.

Neighborhood Brats Confines of Life LP

Their first album since Claw Marks (one of the best albums in 2018) came out finds the band only getting more diverse in sound and higher in impact and energy. George Rager’s guitar and Jenny Angelillo’s voice are a brutal one-two punch through twelve tracks that will get a pit circling while covering topics of capitalism and housing, misogyny and sexism, commercialism and labeling. I’ve heard they are an insanely intense live show and I’m hoping they get to play some venues stateside soon.

Christmas Bride Dark Romance of a Midnight Wanderer cassette

Davey Hart is this one-man band from Chicago, writing epic songs that don’t so much fit in any predefined genre as much as they make their own. The base seems to be a pop punk homage to ’90s Nitro/EpiFat bands with some theatrics à la QUEEN or SPARKS, and a touch of new wave, hair metal, and WEIRD AL. He makes this all fit without any sense of irony and with an earnestness that repudiates the humor.

The Beltones Cheap Trinkets LP reissue

I was in Portland during West Coast travels in 2001, the year this album was first released on TKO Records. I ended up at the infamous Satyricon club, a decadent ruckus glory shithole that showcased some of the best punk, grunge, and garage bands of the ’90s and early ’00s. The BELTONES happened to be playing that night, and though a lot of the details are hazy, I remember them striking a strong, memorable chord and leaving an impression in me as being no-nonsense, honest punks. Listening to this reissue confirmed those opaque memories. Bill McFadden’s vocals don’t so much have a range, but rather fluctuate between a gruff growl to a loud shout to accentuate and emphasize. Like a sped-up STIFF LITTLE FINGERS with the politics being more personal, the BELTONES had their own sound, mixing street punk with flavors of Jamaican music, soul, and Oi!, that more than held its own in the punk landscape of the time. With their catalogue being difficult-to-impossible to find on digital platforms and the original vinyl mostly out-of-print, having their capstone album back on vinyl is both a welcoming reminisce and positive optimism of being able to crank these tunes again.

Dicks Hate the Police EP reissue

This EP is 40 years old and its relevance couldn’t be more important or timely. This is the second reissue, the first being in 2012. During its production and pressing, George Floyd was murdered, focusing a hyper-lens on the ongoing abuse and savagery carried out by the nation’s police forces. The record came out last summer amidst the despot führer’s election year antics and the protests in our nation’s streets. “Hate the Police” has been covered many times, each one failing to reach the impact and authenticity of Gary Floyd’s vocal delivery or the perfectly imperfect raw, cavernous recording of the original band. The lyrics and delivery of the song are so much more than a simple “punks vs. police” dichotomy. The hate and sadistic oppression that encompasses a personal sphere mirrors that of our society on a systemic level. I’m not a pessimist, but when Gary Floyd growls “You can’t find justice, it’ll find you,” I know this song will still be relevant and necessary 40 years from now.

Nancy Nancy Goes Country LP

This is the European version of the same album that was released in the US by Fullerton juggernaut Neck Chop Records. The opening track and album title are a satirical tease, suggesting that these pop-slop-punk veterans turned in their Chuck Taylors and Fenders for cowboy boots and steel guitars. Given this band’s hilarious character acting in their videos, I half believed it. I was expecting something like CLOROX GIRLS’ Justin Maurer’s recent forays into country and western music or the SUPERSUCKERS’ Must’ve Been High album, but the country joke ends after the first track. Which is fine, because the rest of the album is packed with their tight, witty two-piece power punk songs. I’ve been a fan since their 2013 debut, and they just keep getting better.

Witness Marker Witness Marker LP

Like growing up listening to hardcore and then moving to D.C. and discovering Dischord Records. Feels of RITES OF SPRING and an insightful, angsty DAG NASTY. Tempos varied well through songs, they’re able to slow it down and still bring a heavy attack often in the same track. A solid debut from Chris Werner and Bruce Ewell formerly of NO ONE’S HERO.

Quit It! Let It Burn EP

Four tracks of socio-political anthemic punk with some well-placed street and Irish elements. A pandemic-midst project from the Calgary-based RIVER JACKS that hopefully will keep going. Sounds as if Jack Dalrymple of ONE MAN ARMY fronted AMERICAN STEEL. Those were both pretty good bands.

Gemstones Novel of Nothing EP

Sludgy pop hooks mastered up so lo-fi the drums just fuzz and blend into one long thunderous white sound. There’s early JAWBREAKER-esque vocals where you can only make out every third or fourth word, but you can figure out that they’re talking about something like what you wanted to hear. Four songs on black vinyl with a hand stamped center label and xeroxed sleeve in a poly bag—a little authentic DIY hope in an otherwise overproduced landscape.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat Goblin Alert LP

Before the third wave of the great commodification, punk was always a safe haven for weirdos. Experimental and eclectic to the point of being true only to self. A place equally for anger, angst, and creativity. Thinking DEVO, TALKING HEADS, SPARKS. Following in that mind line come QUINTRON AND MISS PUSSYCAT. More theater kids, less leather. This full-length is filled with snotty, swampy anthems that are humorously political, socially scathing, and most certainly would fill a dance floor live. Disco beats, circus organs, homemade instruments, dueling majorette vocals, plus a talk box master. It’s like if John Waters managed the early B-52’S.

V/A Sweet Time RNR Comp 2xLP

This compilation double-LP was put together by Nashville-based Sweet Time Records after their annual Sweet By Sweet Time Festival was cancelled last year due to COVID. Label boss Ryan Sweeney complied 26 tracks on vinyl including local Nashville bands like SCHIZOS, MODERN CONVENIENCE, and SNOOPER, with outside standout tracks from PERSONALITY CULT, MIDNITE SNAXXX, ZOIDS, SICK BAGS, FRESH GRAVES, a great garage rocker from Johnny Otis Dávila of the defunct San Juan band DÁVILA 666, plus a ton more. It’s like an anthology for the syntho-weirdo-punko-garage scene. Also, all proceeds are going to support the venues that lost money from the festival cancellation.

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.