Reviews

Ursula Koelling

Cassie Change My Image / Will You 7″ reissue

This is a re-release of a single that was released in the UK in ’82. Apparently CASSIE was heavily influenced by BLONDIE, but to my ear this hits more like a funkier version of the STRIPES. The A-side “Change My Image” pairs bright, power pop guitar riffs and a classic rock’n’roll backbeat with intermittent bursts of saxophone, and what sounds to be a toy piano. The B-side alternates instrumentally between reggae and new wave, with singer Cassie’s throaty, melodic vocals stitching the transitions together seamlessly. If your collection includes X-RAY SPEX and the SELECTOR, this record would not feel out of place.

Appaloosa / BBQT split EP

The APPALOOSA side is a surfy number with conversational vocal delivery and a modern power pop ballad in the style of HAYLEY AND THE CRUSHERS, with some elements of the GO-GO’S as well. I think fans of modern garage rock with a melodic pop sensibility are the target audience here. It may come off as a bit tame for those who prefer the raw, punk-adjacent side of the power pop coin.

Sectarian Bloom Sectarian Bloom cassette

A modern post-punk outfit that draws from well-established influences like BAUHAUS, SISTERS OF MERCY, and JOY DIVISION. Atmospheric guitars that sound like they are echoing through a gothic cathedral, and are accompanied by driving drumbeats and darkly melodic vox. Music for vampires to get down to.

Mary Bell Bellatrix Boadicea LP

Grunge-infused feminist punk by way of Paris, France, with definite notes of BIKINI KILL, SLEATER-KINNEY, and similar bands of the American Northwest riot grrrl scene. It’s tough to paint this group with too broad a brush genre-wise; there are moments on this record that recall late ’70s punk and ’80s new wave, too. Moods range from playful to ferocious to introspective. At a solid fourteen songs, it’s clear this band has a lot to communicate with this record, and I think they succeed in that.

Sensual World Feeling Wild LP

On this, their debut LP, SENSUAL WORLD has created a unique flavor of mid-tempo, doomy post-punk and soulful, melodic vocals à la mid-era GOSSIP or KING WOMAN. It is a sludgy trek through songs loaded with emotional intensity, like someone reading aloud to you from their journal. This is one of those records that creates its own environment in the listener’s mind. If you’re down for the journey, look these folks up.

Cliquey Bitches Scorpio Scorpio 12”

This synth-pop supergroup features Alice Bag, Allison Wolfe, and Seth Bogart, three seasoned musicmakers collaborating to create pared-down, catchy pop anthems that rarely pass the two-minute mark, and will be cycling through your head for days to come. Fans of BRATMOBILE and GRAVY TRAIN!!!! will likely dig CLIQUEY BITCHES—the fingerprints of Seth and Allison are all over this thing, with the genius addition of Alice Bag on keys and backing vox. It’s the soundtrack to a spiked punch dance party, delivering inclusive messages, melodic group vocals, and a snare hit that doesn’t quit.

Moth Blood Mask / Echoes 7”

The latest from Copenhagen’s MOTH. The first song, a sauntering, reverb-soaked number, is reminiscent of the COCTEAU TWINS at their most morose. The second tune picks up the pace, for more of a post-punk/deathrock feel, and starts off with a bass line that would feel at home on a CURE record. Though not overly studied, this group shows a confidence of genre navigation that I imagine is at least partially the result of having been a band for nine-plus years. If you can still stand each other at that point, you can really make some magic.

DONORS Donors cassette

Heavy landscapes of noise interlace with layers of complex rhythm—a sound that makes one think of URANIUM CLUB, PRIESTS, and other modern punk outfits, merging eggy weirdness with the distorted noise of post-punk/early alternative scenes. But DONORS’ song structure doesn’t feel tied to the confines of a specific genre. A fierce individuality comes through in this cassette—a willingness to take chances creatively that makes for an exciting and dynamic listening experience. Hopefully they get to tour this around at some point, I’m sure their live shows are a full-body experience.

Lost Cherrees Blank Pages LP

The LOST CHERREES story has been one full of unexpected turns, from member turnover, to genre evolution, to breaking up during a show in 1986, then reforming during the Napster craze of the early 2000s. It’s always fascinating to me when bands span decades, to try and understand what has kept them going, and fueled the creative fire for so long. In LOST CHERREES’ case, it seems that constant change has been a driving force in the forward momentum of the band. Bassist and founding member Steve Battershill has served as an anchor throughout all its incarnations. Politics are still at the forefront, with lyrics confronting issues like bigotry, animal cruelty, and sexual violence. Don’t expect this to sound like their early stuff, but a worthwhile listen for those who appreciate a more modern take on the genre.

Dumspell Dumspell LP

Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s DUMSPELL presents their unique brand of weirdo slacker punk for our listening pleasure. Well-versed in winding, dissonant guitar melodies and matter-of-fact vocal delivery, comparisons to VATS or NOTS come to mind. This is a no-filler record; every song feels as though it’s been crafted carefully, and explored fully. If this sounds up your alley, it probably is.

The Only Ones Live in Chicago 1979 LP

OK, I’m a big fan of this era of the ONLY ONES. I probably would’ve loved this LP if it was just half an hour of Peter Perrett tuning his guitar, but in all honesty, this is a great live record. The recording quality is clear, and the mix just raw enough that you know it’s live. The band sounds great, hitting all notes and breaks with the cool, poetic irreverence that makes them so special. Released on the brink of the pandemic, the timing of this record couldn’t be better. If live recordings are the closest we can get to the show-going experience, albums like this one are a worthy substitute for the real deal.

Rubella Ballet Radio Sessions 1982–2018 LP

RUBELLA BALLET is a crucial UK anarcho group that came up with bands like POISON GIRLS and CRASS, and was also a major influence on the goth scene. This album incorporates two early ’80s Peel Sessions with a 2018 radio session. The time span of this record made me a bit wary upon first listen (seamlessly spanning three decades is no easy feat). Although I’ll probably always be biased towards the sound of older recording technology, the newer tracks definitely hold their own. I appreciate that the band has stayed true to their hard-hitting roots, while remaining open to the musical evolution that happens over years of playing. The Peel Session tracks capture the raw magic of a band at the height of their influence. The 2018 recording finds them exploring group vocals, and a greater range of instrumental tone/experimentation.

G2G Animated Satisfaction EP

G2G is a DIY band out of Sydney, Australia. In this age of overproduced, over-saturated, and at times overly self-indulgent music, G2G embodies a bare-bones intensity that stands out. With songs that bring to mind various late ’70s/early ’80s female-fronted punk bands, their song structure is simple, and unadorned by instrumental frills. It sounds like three friends having fun and talking about things that are important to them—the recordings feel intimate, as though you’ve stumbled in on a practice. As a whole, this record transmits an energy that is both joyful and fierce, in a way so fitting for this moment in time. I hope there is more to come from this band.

Night Miasma Exhausted EP

This record is a complete escape into a different world—the kind you throw on when life’s too dull and you’re ready to enter into a nostalgic daydream, heavy with reverb and German expressionist lighting. Drums beat sporadic and raw beneath deathrock guitar riffs at times accompanied by an organ straight out of a retro thriller flick. Vocals are darkly deadpan with a sound that resembles 39 CLOCKS meets ’80s-era DAMNED. The songs are complex, original, and overall more than the sum of their musical influences. The result is a record that feels poppy, but obscure—gloomy, yet energizing.

Radical Kitten Silence is Violence LP

Bare-bones bass and drums provide a pummeling backdrop for the gearhead guitarist to venture off into experimental territory. Pairing post-punk and noise with a DIY fervor reminiscent of TANK GIRL, this band’s got a lot to say, both sonically and lyrically. They rail against societal inequities with dissonant walls of guitar interspersed with vocals that are at times melodic, at times a piercing shriek. Many of these songs start with a musical intro that slowly builds into a crescendo, but I have to say my personal faves are the ones that get right down to business. Songs like “Wrong” and “I Don’t Wanna” showcase just how tight the band is, and have a momentum that is undeniable.

Slumb Party Spending Money LP

Bridging the chasm between No New York and XTC on the dole, SLUMB PARTY conjures up a wealth of influences without feeling contrived. Spending Money is simultaneously catchy and complex, bizarro new wave for recovering consumers. The perfect soundtrack for making weird art, or trying out that experimental new dance move. A big recommendation from me, and relatively affordable for an overseas score.

Dick Move Chop! LP

The AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS comparison feels like a somewhat lazy one, but there will no doubt be fanbase crossover. Still, DICK MOVE has plenty that sets them apart. Some songs remind me of a mid-tempo QUAALUDES, with driving, garage punk riffs and dynamic vox. Others deliver an early hardcore sensibility as reflected through a pop lens. Plenty of shouted group vocals and lead guitar interludes are scattered throughout this record. One of the genre tags on their Bandcamp is “party-punk,” and I’m inclined to agree. But there is substance to this party platter; lyrical themes include Indigenous people’s rights, gender politics, and mental health.

Staring Problem Eclipse LP

This is STARING PROBLEM’S fifth release. Serving up DIY proto-goth/shoegaze, complete with jangly chords, chorus-laden guitar hooks, and soft vocals, that sweetly drift just out of reach like a far-off specter. These recordings have a lo-fi fuzziness that gives the effect of overhearing the music from another room. Their CURE cover blends seamlessly with the rest of the album. There is a gloomy kind of warmth to these songs that draws you in. They have created a world all their own here, and it’s a fascinating one to take a trip through.

Litige En Eaux Troubles LP

This is the third release from Lyon, France’s LITIGE. A ten-song escapade, this album is loaded with nostalgic, at times melancholy, melodic punk. Think early FASTBACKS, or the STOPS—driving mid-tempo with winding lead guitar melodies sailing over heavy riffs. Lyrics oscillate from French to English, and themes range from “Nique Tout” (“fuck everything”) to “Remue-méninges” (a method of generating new thoughts and ideas). Yep, that pretty much covers it.

The Tissues Blue Film LP

Backed by a wall of alternately jagged and dreamy post-punk instrumentals, vocals are manic and theatrical in a way that feels almost like an avant-garde spoken word performance. Songs have a no-holds-barred weirdo edge. PRIESTS immediately come to mind, as do LUNACHICKS. Everything about this band feels very intentional, from cover art, to lyrical content, down to the construction/production of each song. This is the kind of record you can listen to over and over and discover something new each time.

V/A Thesaurus, Vol. 5 2xLP

The fifth installment in the Thesaurus series, which presents a cross-section of what was happening in punk/punk-adjacent spheres in France from ’78–’86. Focusing on punk, post-punk, garage, and coldwave, the material ranges from bands like RAVACHOL and ACTEURS who play dark, synth-heavy punk in true Killed By Deathrock fashion, to COCKPIT, who sound like the FEELIES collaborating with the NORMAL, to SURPRISE’s manic No Wave noise with spiky guitars and elephant-like sax interludes. Still others, like STRIDEUR, fall somewhere between JACQUES DUTRONC and the CRAMPS with keyboards. There are 25 songs on this double album, and though there is variety, there are some throughlines. A lot of the songs are pretty synth-heavy. There are loads of strange guitar sounds and other cool noise shit that could be filed under “experimental.” Not much straight up ’77 punk, but that’s not really what the French are known for anyway. Comps like this can be a gamble, but I would recommend this one (if you are able to snag an affordable copy)—it’s a period piece with a lot to say, and a chance to get familiar with some of France’s more obscure artists.

Imperial Leather Leatherman / Spa Country 7”

This is the second release from Melbourne’s IMPERIAL LEATHER—their first was a cover of the classic BONA DISH track “8 AM,” which they nailed. This latest 7” gives us a feel for the band’s songwriting. The A-side has a garage revival/new wave feel to it, surf beat with deadpan vox and a vintage keyboard sound that wails, bringing to mind the DELINQUENTS or GOMME. The B-side has the bones of a cool rockabilly ballad, but feels a bit sparse. Though their simple song structure lends a charming quality, I look forward to seeing how this band evolves musically, I can see them exploring some interesting terrain.

Lazy Rock n’ Roller / Am I Dreaming 7” reissue

This is a rerelease of the 1980 single from Washington, DC’s LAZY. An infusion of bubblegum-chewin’ fun with a razor blade in its boot heel—come for the angelic harmonies, and stay for the ripping guitar solos. With the melodic expertise of bands like the RECORDS and POINTED STICKS, they nail the building blocks of power pop: perfect guitar tone, tight snare fills, double-tracked and catchy-as-hell vocals. LAZY can also be seen to draw from more of a hard rock/glam sensibility. Lurking behind the jangling melodies are some seriously nasty riffs. Side B, “Am I Dreaming,” kicks off with a backward cymbal track, and is reminiscent of SLADE or even EXPLODING HEARTS. Thrilled to see this resurface.

Dogma Dogma LP

This LP marks the first release from Ottawa’s anarcho/peace punks DOGMA. For fans of OMEGA TRIBE, HAGAR THE WOMB and the like, whose influences can be felt throughout. In keeping with the tradition of the genre, lyrical themes focus mainly on political issues/social unrest. DOGMA knows humanity is fucked, and they want to do something about it. It’s heartening to know that bands like this still exist, using music as medium for a greater message.

Deseos Primitivos Deseos Primitivos LP

This is the premiere full-length LP from Oakland’s DESEOS PRIMITIVOS. With all but one clocking under two minutes, these songs don’t overstay their welcome. This record will shake you out of your complacency. Full of pit-worthy bangers, in keeping with early West Coast punk and proto-hardcore styles. Some songs have an almost anthemic quality, inspiring ESKORBUTO comparisons with shared vocal choruses that you can raise a fist to. A moment or two felt like a sped up version of the CURE’s Three Imaginary Boys, but that might just be me. DESEOS PRIMITIVOS play with many different sonic angles, and it’s a joy to hear their sound captured so effectively. A few songs are carried over from previous releases, and benefit from their reimagining here. These recordings feel cleaner and louder, while retaining the raw energy that makes this band what it is. Lyrics tackle  issues like colonization, gentrification, and homelessness. This release is one of the standouts of the year. If this has somehow slipped past your radar, be sure to remedy that.

Personality Cult New Arrows LP

This is North Carolina group PERSONALITY CULT’s second LP. It features past members of MIND SPIDERS, BASS DRUM OF DEATH, and too many others to list in this review. Serving up tunes that bring to mind the garage punk revival of the early 2000s, with an undertone of almost post-punk-like minor key explorations. Some songs move towards more of a garage pop vibe, while others have stronger punk leanings, maybe a DICKIES influence peeking through at times? The moments when they throw out curveballs, like unexpectedly dissonant guitar leads or back-up vocal parts, end up being my favorites.