Reviews

Willis Schenk

Girlfriends and Boyfriends Fallacy of Fairness LP

A very polished new wave style-revival (new-new wave?) from Vancouver, Canada. Definitely some heavy English influence, with guitar riffs that don’t stop, dreamy synths, and melodramatic vocals. Some of it errs on the cheesy side, like in “Colour Shining Bright,” which sounds synth-attack-y in the way DEAD OR ALIVE does. If you like this, and want to harken back to that English influence, check out the SAD LOVERS & GIANTS record I reviewed recently. Anyway, Fallacy of Fairness is an all-around fun and sappy album.

Nature Boys IV LP

Kansas City’s havoc-seeking NATURE BOYS come firing on all cylinders on their fourth LP to date. Fast, rambling Midwestern grit, buzzy guitar riffs—never slowing down—this trio is pure punk rock’n’roll. Suzanne and Evan hardly stop yelling at each other as Danny keeps everything tight, against all odds. They’re rowdy and infectious, like some DEAD BOYS and DEAD MOON hybrid, and it’s banger after banger.  Turn up and thrash out.

Bleakness A World To Rebuild 12”

A downbeat set of six from Lyon, France’s BLEAKNESS. At times sounding straight post-punk, then goth, and then almost new wave, particularly on the two synth-heavy “remixes” of songs that came off their debut LP Functionally Extinct. Within that range, and what I think gives theme to the whole piece, is Nico’s heavy, coarse vocals. Ultimately, the two-tone album cover and their name say it all.

Guns’n’Gänseblümchen Perspectives LP

Big, rich sound from a drum/guitar duo based in Germany and France. The vocals really shine through here, dueling from female to male, from tenderness to grit on both sides, evoking that peace-punk hope and despair all at once. Perspectives is the sophomore album from this true DIY, no-profit outfit—that’s right, free download on their Bandcamp page, so get it in ya!

Sad Lovers & Giants Lost in a Sea Full of Sighs LP

In the realm of dark and dreamy UK post-punk, Lost in a Sea Full of Sighs collects SAD LOVERS & GIANTS’ early work, recorded from 1981–1982. Filled with plenty of bass and synth leads, sax sections, and guitar flourishes, I’ve got a soft spot for this kind of thing. The lyrics are sometimes sappy, like “And when I see you / I fall helplessly in love” from “When I See You” (which could be a CURE song), to the heady lyrical “Lately I find I’ve been walking on tightropes / That stretch through my mind in the spaces I don’t know” in “The Tightrope Touch.” Love songs? Existential crisis? Yes please, and all at once. Lots of music to look back on here, and they’re still at it with the Mission Creep album in 2018 and shows up until the pandemic shutdown. Let’s hope they keep it up!

Instigators 1993 Demo N Live LP

Giants of UK anarcho-punk in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and we get to hear a re-release of their last push in the studio and on stage before disbanding after a ’93 European tour. Side A contains the six-song demo with some really catchy tunes—“Never in a Million” almost feels like a BAD BRAINS track, but ya know, not quite as fast; it’s an anthem to the disenchanted and is my favorite of the demo. Side B, a live excerpt from the Huddersfield gig, starts, as Side A does, with “Suckerpunch,” and then delves into older songs, sung entirely with a vocal echo. The echo remains for the rest of the side, so when Tez speaks between songs you hear everything twice, which must have been a little maddening in the crowd, but does well to invoke chaos through the speaker. With so many changes in labels and members (and subsequently styles) over their career, the INSTIGATORS have a history and discography worth the dive down the rabbit hole, and this album is a great display of that career and ultimate progression.

Girls in Synthesis Shift in State 12”

As a follow-up to their debut LP Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future, this mini-album is another GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS release of which the hardcopy is already sold out! Sticking true to super-limited pressings, this UK DIY band delivers with lots of ambient noise and grit—they’re pissed, and you better not get in the way, as in their closer track, “Don’t try!”

Co-Ed Co-Ed cassette

Los Angeles-based CO-ED puts out their debut EP on the Philly cassette label Sludge People. The vocals are a little poppy, with fun pitch-bends at the end of lines, on top of driving, low-end guitars. Only one of the six tracks pushes past the two-and-half-minute mark, and just barely, so that it’s over before you know it. Two months after this release they put out a single as a taster for their upcoming LP, but according to an update on Sludge People, CO-ED has disbanded. I don’t know if there’s any chance the LP will be released, but one can hope. Hold it close if you were one of the lucky 100 people to grab this tape!

Alarm / Barren? / Douche Froide / Litovsk split 12″

Super gritty four-banger split from some newish, downbeat French punks. ALARM has dueling guitars and a great drum and bass bridge; BARREN? sings a bleak poem entitled “Illusion” (“You can wave goodbye to your hopes and dreams”); DOUCHE FROIDE is bass-forward with angelic vocals; LITOVSK is big, glassy guitar riffs and a jangling bass. I like that all of these songs are in the four-to-five minute range, as it gives you more to chew over. Though not all on these labels, each band’s got a previous record or two worth checking out.

Cured Pink Current Climate CD

Upon the first listen, and a quick look at their Bandcamp page, I thought this was some NYC hipster shit (New York label), but upon investigation and eventually hearing it in their vocals, they are from Brisbane, for what it’s worth. There’s lots of different instrumentation throughout: horns, synths, samples, and otherwise led by bass and drums giving it a dub vibe. This isn’t really my bag, but if you’re looking to feel obscure, it may make some nice background music. If this is your thing, they’ve been making music for a decade, and this release comes in front of the lead’s new band, WITNESS K.

Diensthund Horizont Aus Draht cassette

The album title translates to “Horizon Made of Wire,” and is mirrored in the wiry, stripped-down guitar licks and lo-fi feel. With its synth lines and frequent rests, this reminds me of the early DEVO demos on Hardcore Devo: Volume One, only heavier. There’s lots of negative space, and a general zaniness throughout this disturbing six-song Deutschpunk carnival ride, and I feel a little crazier on the other side of it…wait, what’s happening?

Laxisme Premiere Sortie cassette

Fast, fun, and loaded with energy, LAXISME delivers a five-song cassette that is a little poppy, a little hardcore, and completely infectious. With bluesy howls to round out the choruses, I am already singing along to the French and German that I don’t know, wishing I were pushing through their crowd. Phantom seems to have their ear pressed firmly to the Berlin underground, and I hope they keep listening. More, please!

Ponys Auf Pump Wirt Schon Wieder LP

Big surf rock guitars, synth leads, kazoos, riot grrrl power, and…was that a recorder? I don’t know what’s going on here—but I like it. “Kleine Maus” is maybe my favorite pick of the album, as it builds with fast guitar chops and big bass to a sing-along chorus with falsetto backing. Wirt Schon Wieder is the second full-length album from Berlin based PONYS AUF PUMP, and another gem brought to us by Phantom.

Spitboy Body of Work 1990​-​1995: All the Songs 2xLP

Body of Work brings together SPITBOY’s full discography on this double-LP release. This historic all-female group faced a lot of adversity in their day, standing up to sexist and racist fans by writing a litany of songs on feminism, blaring it out, and demanding change. In the totality of their work, we hear a snotty, crusty, and unrelenting anarcho-punk sound that pairs perfectly with their subject matter, as in “Baby boy, precious baby boy / The world wants you / I am what’s left over” from “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” I also really like “Fences,” originally off their ’95 split with LOS CRUDOS. The bass line rambles throughout, as the song weaves from heavy guitars to pinch harmonics and quieter melodies, while they rage against the commercial punk scene. This is a great piece for the collection, and all the proceeds go to the National Women’s Law Center!

Chain Cult We’re Not Alone / Always a Mess 7″

Athens, Greece-based CHAIN CULT gives us a take on the pandemic through their post-punk lens with lines like “We always know / We’re not alone,” and “Now I pretend to be normal / When life used to be normal.” For a threesome, the sound is full in body, and Dino’s picked-apart guitar lines are maybe the most notable aspect of “We’re Not Alone” and “Always A Mess,” running parallel with many of Jason’s sung melodies and punchy bass lines. The production lends itself to a very clean and polished sound—no crust here—but it’s dark, driving, and leaves you in that gray space between defeat and hope. Take a listen and see where you land.

Hysterese Hysterese LP

Marking a decade since their first release, HYSTERESE hits us with their fourth self-titled album (an homage to ZEPPELIN by going self-titled and using the Hindenburg disaster photo on their second album? I just don’t know). But I digress; we’re here to talk about this 2021 release wherein Helen Runge takes us by force with the elegant power of her vocals. Of course they implement their signature use of rounds, which is what first struck me about this band—Runge’s floating melodies countered with screaming lines over a sort of glammed-up post-punk soundscape, best heard here on “Lock & Key.” Another fine piece of German engineering, and I hope they keep at it.