MRR #437 • October 2019

.Gram. / …Is Dodelijk Ballern EP

The first recording since 2015 by Germany’s …IS DODELIJK! (“…Is Deadly”) features four new tracks of grimy hardcore that wallow in the proto-HC primitivism of simplistic fast punk songs with brutal shouted vocals. Sung in German and English, thoughtful lyrics decry the rise of racism, musing on the unyielding influence of time and challenge of life, and dehumanization of refugees and the homeless. Slowing slightly from previous recordings, these tracks have more control and direct impact, loose a with a stripped-down feel reminiscent of a less codified era of hardcore, as well as the current wave of blunt, Oi!-inspired anthems. On the flip, Munich’s .GRAM.’s four tracks have a considerably more 1990s feel, in a classic mix of plunging sludge bookending throttling, blast beat and tempo-driven thrash with a few mechanically searing guitar parts. Also sung in German, the lyrics fixate on personal frustration via scathing throaty screams. With their delivery sharpened from previous releases, these four songs are concise enough not wear out their welcome in reliance on snare and shout for impact. Good split EP!

Chronic Submission Sick of Reality LP

Hmm, I believe this is the third archival release of an ’80s Toronto-area hardcore band that I’ve reviewed this year. Not complaining. While their second cassette Empty Heads, Poison Darts (also reissued by Schizophrenic) captured the CHRON SUBS in tighter, proto-crossover form, its predecessor Sick of Reality is pure early-’80s HC—25 blasts crammed into a 45 RPM 12″. High intensity, very high trebly recording; a mainly thrash-speed attack with abbreviated Ginn-esque guitar leads offset by a few mid-tempo tracks to provide a chance to catch your breath. But really…one look at the grainy B&W photo of a pissed-looking teenage skin will probably give you a decent idea of what this sounds like, and whether or not you’ll like it or not.

Civic Selling Sucking Blackmail Bribes / Velvet Casino 7″

Another postulating sore of putrid punk’n’roll from the ever-reliable Florida outlet Total Punk. On this one, Aussies CIVIC put the pedal through the floor of a rusted Holden GTS and burn rubber down Footscray back roads to the sounds of an in-the-red fourth generation tape of hyper-kinetic, blistering meathead garage. Blown-out guitar solos that barely hold it together, shredded vocal chords, caveman-on-ice drumming, what’s not to love?

Dead Already On a Hook LP

This Australian band’s fourteen-song debut LP is chock full of good, simmering punk edging on hardcore, but is completely killed by basically monotone, yelped vocals which work within this same repetitive delivery. Song to song, it doesn’t matter the lyrics, the lead vocals largely find a pattern within a song: working low to ending on a high sharp note, and repeating it regardless of the lyrical content within the same continued vocal range across the entire record. Lyrics are punk’s greatest strength: being able to hear what someone is singing about, being able to understand why they are yelling, relate to it, and sing along is all power, and it’s power that people seem to largely have set aside for either lack of lyrics they actually believe in or to make the music sound more brutal by having the vocals be unrecognizably gnarly. Here the band seems to actually have relatable, relevant lyrics delivered in a stream of consciousness about climate change, Silicon Valley cyber-snooping, and fighting fascism, but the vocals aren’t gnarly. They’re shrilly, barked repetitively, nulling any impact over this long of a recording. Backing vocals break it up a little, and the music is solid crunchy punkers with bullish leads and sturdy drumming, but the vocals are pretty much a dealbreaker. The cover is a spiral line drawing of decapitated chicken heads, with the back cover of a decapitated chicken getting a drop of liquid dropped inside from an eyedropper.

Domain Retreat EP

This band pays tribute to late-’80s, early-’90s straight edge. The most obvious comparison is TURNING POINT, but I also get SIDE BY SIDE and RAW DEAL vibes. It’s even got that lo-fi recording style that makes it seem like something from that era. If you’re a diehard fan of that chapter in hardcore history, or even the resurgence of that style that’s come about over the past five-ish years, this record is worth the cop. Top tracks for me are “Feeding the Fire” and “Favor.”

Eat My Fear Taking Back Space EP

Self-described as queer feminist straight-edge hardcore from Berlin, EAT MY FEAR is definitely a band the world has been waiting for. The songs are packed with angry and impassioned political lyrics, plenty of group vocals, and probably more breakdowns than the fast parts were designed to withstand. Without diminishing the depth of the emotion or gravity of the subject matter, these songs sound fun as hell. This reminds me of the fury and creativity of late-’90s political hardcore bands like HARUM SCARUM and ANTI PRODUCT. With six tracks clocking in at about eight minutes, this EP left me wishing there was more, and looking forward to what’s next.

Ex-Cess Osiguranje Životne Večnosti LP

In many cases context is everything, and frankly the circumstances around this project fascinate me more than the music. Belgrade’s EX-CESS was reaching their artistic peak right about the time Yugoslavia was shattered by war. This album was recorded in 1991, but soon after three of the four members left the country while the recording was released on cassette by Ill In the Head Records. Despite Serbian culture being banned in Croatia, the release was distributed there and successfully sold hundreds of copies in the underground music scene. Musically it’s a metallic punk style that doesn’t hold up too well, mainly due to the thin and chuggy guitars. I’d like to think the lyrical content expands the context but my Serbo-Croatian is non-existent. It’s clear that this session is important and a testament to the magic and endurance of international punk, and I hope that this quality reissue will make it into the hands of those who are interested in that.

Exithippies Stoned / Stoned Again 7″

Bizarro ’80s electronic dance music on the A-side (à la YELLO or AARON CARL). Blown out noise-not-music song-free shit-fi crasher crust on the flip. If you pay attention, then you should expect nothing less from Tokyo’s EXITHIPPIES. And if you are uninitiated…..? Well, then why not start here? At least you get both ends of the spectrum and you’ll never be surprised by another release from these maniacs again. It’s over as soon as it starts, and it’s pretty damn brilliant—boundaries of what we can music need to pushed, and these fukkrs just keep pushing.

Frites Modern Veel, Vet Goor En Duur LP reissue

There is a pantheon of classic European hardcore that most stalwart fans of international punk and hardcore all know and love. Although some of these folks may know the name FRITES MODERN—if from nowhere else then from their track on Maximum Rocknroll’s classic Welcome to 1984 comp—I have the feeling that too few punks have ever really given this brilliant Dutch band their proper due. Veel, Vet, Goor En Duur is their first album, and it’s an absolute classic for anyone who likes their hardcore equal measures of fast, urgent, tuneful, and melodic. I suspect that they got less love in their own day (and beyond) because they were more whimsical than countrymates BGK, they sang in Dutch rather than English, and they seemingly didn’t tour as relentlessly as some of their peers. Regardless, this LP — reissued for the first time by the label that released the album in 1984 — deserves to be put on a pedestal among the classics of ’80s Euro hardcore. Veel, Vet, Goor En Duur is just a picture perfect punky hardcore album, equal parts pogo and slamdance worthy. A classic!

Future Terror Plague EP

Atrocious, galloping, guttural D-beat from Virginia that hisses with WARCOLLAPSE-type angst and echoing screams. A sheer blast of classic ’90s Scandi-style punk that sounds like a sonic battlefield. Totally brutal, buoyantly produced, thick and dirgy, and bound together with samples that take me back to the ’90s filth-core onslaught. Wild paces of that classic SARCASM, Phonophobia, ASPECT OF WAR sound, with time-signature changeups that leave a lump in your throat. So fucking ripping. This is an addicting release.

Grey Walls Honest Self-Deception EP

Gloomy, trudging hardcore from Germany with vocal akin to DYSTOPIA and DISRUPT. Proto-hardcore riffs summon a couple horseman of the apocalypse with an appreciation for MORSER and RORSHACH. Low-tuned strings buzz underneath abysmal tracks that end sporadically. Side two is an aquatic carnival of SWING KIDS-type punk, reminding me of the gothic side of INSTINCT OF SURVIVAL which is quickly torn apart by power-crust screams of torment. An avant-garde artistic approach to an easily categorized, abrasive, misanthropic corner of hardcore. I can’t ignore the intrigue. The skeletal artwork is beautiful: black-and-white pencil-and-wash drawings similar to KÄTHE KOLLWITZ, with handwritten lyrics in German and English. You’re not giving me a lot a space here, but I appreciate you, GREY WALLS.

Hammered Hulls Written Words EP

So let’s just for a minute try to ignore the “former members of…” thing going on here. It’s pretty straightforward, basic, early-’80s style, mid- to up-tempo hardcore punk. What makes this record better than other? Hooks. They’re all over the place. Guitar hooks, bass hooks, whatever you want. Since our minute is up, the reason most people will buy this record is maybe the least interesting part. Not that Alec MacKaye’s vocals have lost anything, the other pieces are just real solid (they also have wildly long lists of amazing bands that they have played in). It’s real catchy, no-nonsense punk. If you are one of the many silent folks who prefer the FAITH side, you have to get this. Even if you don’t, check it out.

Higgins and the Magic of the Marketplace Dream Consumer Dream! LP

A solid mid-paced rodgering delivered by a Mr. Andy Higgins of LITTERBUG. On putting needle to groove, your ears will detect a certain level of LEATHERFACE worship, which is by far the overarching impression here, but HIGGINS does indulge here and there in bursts of sonic experimentation. Still, combining catchy riffs, heavy Stubbs/Hammond guitar interplay, and guttural, whisky-on-the-gravel vocals (as also employed by the likes of STRAWMAN and FOUR LETTER WORD) are the stock-in-trade. The lyrics appear to combine references to punk nostalgia, British popular culture, and the lower tiers of English professional football. For your middle-aged British LEATHERFACE fanatic reviewer, this was a very enjoyable listen.

In Dire Fucking Straits January’s Kids LP

What do you say about a record that reminds you of Sarah Kirsch and KING MISSILE and some commercial version of SHOTWELL-by-way-of-WEAKERTHANS? Yeah, I don’t know either, to be honest, but by the time I was finished trying to figure it out I realized I had listened to the whole damn first side twice….and I was kinda liking the weird sporadic tambourine. IDFS is truly endearing in their shameless honestly, and that honesty wins out even when I admit that I don’t exactly need the tracks in my life. Anthemic and sweet and tongue in cheek, but never shite or trite—let this one sink in and you’ll be rewarded.

Judy and the Jerks Friendships Formed in the Pit LP

I went to see this band knowing nothing about them beyond their incredible name, lost my mind and bought every single tape. Now they have a perfect EP (on Thrilling Living) and this LP, which is a compilation of songs from the cassettes, so even if your walkman doesn’t work anymore, you can listen to their sick SIN 34-style attack from the comfort of your home! An indescribably charismatic singer that is like circa 1981 Keith Morris meets Debbie Harry! For real! I usually find reproduction music to be a dull and tiresome endeavor because for the most part it is! Hardcore has gotten tired and boring, a perfect simulation of something real made by modern archivists; but why would you listen to an imitation when you can just listen to something from when the sound was invented/perfected?! Like who is choosing a modern simulacrum band over the original sound?? You know we are at the end of the world and punks do not give a fuck about wasting resources on reissuing a 1985 demo of a 10th rate band on vinyl with a crappy live set on the other side… So in the face of all of that noise and disdain comes a band with total spit-in-your-face fuck you joy, a band that takes sounds from that first Decline of Western Civilization movie and edits out the stuff they don’t need and makes something cool and charismatic and explosive. It’s called personality, folks! Most repro-HC bands are wax works! These punks are from Hattiesburg, Mississippi and are making an incendiary sound that, yes, is adjacent to the first RED CROSS record, but it’s full of wild pleasure and ideas and kicks! And yes the B-side of this LP is full of cover versions (from FLOORPUNCH to DIE KREUZEN to the GO-GO’S!) but this record is a good time, it’s losing your mind at 3AM at a rest stop with your best friends, surreal jokes you’ve forgotten the origin of, and the reality of walking while female in a small town…

Korkkivika Idylli On Rikki LP

KORKKIVIKA translates to “cork taint,” when the cork of bottled wine spoils the flavor. This Finnish band’s ten-song follow-up to last year’s debut EP ages a bit more unspoiled, with classic Finnish melodic punk somewhere between the loose ramble of LAMA and the retro rejuvenation of the BRIEFS, with the angular vocals pricking melody-driven punk and the occasional boot-storming punker anthem. Miikka Järvinen, the drummer of WASTED and vocalist of PAX AMERICANA, sings here. While the music is not as guitar-layered as WASTED or hardcore-leaning as PAX AMERICANA, it sits firmly in its ’77 lean, and is probably an easy template for grabbing a bottle and a couple friends for a drunken singalong if Finnish flows naturally. Lack of fluency might require a bit more reach (our copy omitted the enclosed lyric sheet), with the lyrics and song titles almost entirely in Finnish. The album title roughly translating to “idyll is broken” over a cover photo of an idyllic lake, matched with raw melodic guitar riffs, charging drumming, and warty shouts—at least I get the gist. Solid!

La URSS Nuevo Testamento LP

Upbeat, high-energy, dark punk that is clean and polished yet still creepy and full of angst. Alongside the requisite reverb and chorus effects, there are some anthemic sing-along choruses and refreshingly unexpected elements like a beautiful synth interlude and the occasional noodly, melodic bass riff. This record draws from a lot of different influences—MASSHYSTERI to the BUZZCOCKS to WIRE—and is likely to appeal to fans of any of them. Amid super slick production quality, sophisticated songwriting, and precise instrumental performances, the vocals still sound kind of unprofessional in the best way possible—like this is definitely still a punk band. It’s all the good things that a band should learn how to do by the time they’re putting out a third full-length record, without losing authenticity, getting stuck, or getting too pro. Can’t stop listening to some of these tracks!

Lvger You Wanna Rvn? 12″

New York’s LVGER’s six-song debut 12” takes a step back to the mid-’80s/early-’90s nexus where punk, metal, and rock hadn’t really formalized off, and clear, song-driven rock’n’roll tracks punched with the heavy riffage of metal and the blunt crudity of punk. There are whiffs of MOTÖRHEAD’s swagger, but the songs largely have the measured musical restraint of AT WAR or early DANZIG with their methodical soloing or traces of the bands Oi! roots (this band includes members of the TEMPLARSs and 45 ADAPTERS), with paced choruses and gruffly sung-shouted vocals. Well-played, solidly recorded, proficient, and sturdy, this holds up to repeat listens, and is catchy enough to stick with you, but also recalls that earlier, interesting time of music where direction was uncertainly murky, and could kick harder in heaviness, melody, and/or overdrive to leave a deeper footprint. The LP cover is a diagram of a Luger pistol, there is no lyric sheet, and song titles include “Evil Eye,” “Dumb Love,”and “Drop the Ace.” Limited to 280 copies—a great listen leaves you ready for the next.

Material Leather LP

Where most bands’ debuts are more of a collection of songs, Leather is a taut, cohesive album, featuring clear ideas delivered with intent. Propulsive, melodic punk serves as the kindling to fuel the sharp, personal-yet-political lyrics. Sonically, there are elements of Revolution Summer desperation mixed with a certain GUN CLUB swagger. The whole sound retains its own distinct personality by the perfectly employed, insistent yet unobtrusive electric piano. There’s no reason this band couldn’t cross over to a wider audience. Without naming names, I can think of a few current bands getting the type of attention that MATERIAL greatly deserves. I encourage you to seek out this album.

Meatwound Culero LP

Metal hardcore fusion with entrancing passages. Life-gripping and grimacing; MEATWOUND plays pulverizing hardcore channeling MIND ERASER, HIS HERO IS GONE, INTEGRITY, COLD SWEAT, HOLY MOUNTAIN even DEAD MEADOW and PALLBEARER at times. This music is simultaneously downtrodden and chaotically aggressive, including spaceship-contacting cathedral-spelunking synth moments. This is very impressive proto-psych power thrash with occult undertones in a burning, spirited pulse with nature. Make no mistake, there are plenty of churning breakdowns within these sonic labyrinths. Thick green vinyl, an extensive booklet with illustrations for each song, a huge poster of the nine-eyed Baphometic/goat cover art by Vincent Locke, stickers, and other eldritch goodies. Total madness, calling itself MEATWOUND. Get this and zone the fuck out in their cosmic cacophony. This is some next level shit that I feel lucky to hear.

Minima Minima LP

For those always anticipating more great Barcelona acts: welcome MINIMA, featuring the singer from BARCELONA, Guillem from DESTINO FINAL/UNA BESTIA INCONTROLLABLE, and folks from UK’s NO and Malmö’s SNOR. Credentials aside, MINIMA’s basic two-riff approach to punk, accentuated by a teeth/fist-clenching vocal scowl, should appeal to any discerning punk. Throughout thirteen tracks there’s somehow so much variety in the way of hooks in the songwriting, despite such a basic approach. It’s all in the execution. Some crazy combination of urgency, rage and coolness. Recommended pickup for fans of unpretentious, non-flashy punk and hardcore, and record covers featuring crotches.

No-Heads Pressure Cracks LP

Big beefy guys playing big beefy hardcore guitars. That’s what I picture when I think of Richmond, VA for some reason, and this record does not disappoint the visions in my delusional mind. These are hardcore folks playing Oi! and not doing a bad job mixing left wing politics with a smoother but almost RIXE-like rock sound. I do enjoy the faster ragers over the attempts at traditional street rock. For example, side one closes with a fine shitdozer of a tune, “No Future.” With lyrics like “They take your benefits away / Because the scum don’t want to pay / You can’t leave, you need a check / Life’s got ahold of you by the neck” any self-respecting punk or skin today can relate to this. Why would any skin vote for Trump anyway? Oh yeah…Nazis!? A gem of an album cover featuring droog-in-a-tunnel artwork à la MAJOR ACCIDENT or MAD PARADE completes the package and you get a nice little slab that any 86 MENTALITY or NO TIME fan would enjoy. Cheers.

Ona Snop Geezer LP

Tight and taut, delivered at neck-breaking speed, and detonated with a great recording that front and centers the drums without expense to the rest of the music. Leeds’ ONA SNOP’s debut LP follows several split EPs with a blistering eighteen tracks of chaotically controlled thrash. A blender on pulse of INTENSE DEGREE-styled quick spurts of rabid hardcore, SPAZZ-esque vocal trade offs, stop-start with brute grind style pummeling, and quick rockin’ to weird passages bending on sharp turns before hammering back within seconds into more unrelenting throttle. Songs are short, sharp, but shock with their complexity, played expertly to navigate their quick and oddball turns. Maybe it’s a lack of cross-cultural literacy, maybe it’s a lack of cross-generational literacy, but the LP cover has a cartoonish full-color collage of pastel drawings of celebrities’ heads: Amy Winehouse, Mr. T, Geezer Butler, Sporty Spice…and then a lot of people who I have no fucking clue who they are or why they are important. Dr. Who? Someone from EAST ENDERS? The guy at their local pub? Rudy Guiliani? No clue, no reference. Maybe that inanity is the point, and since PLUTOCRACY and later SPAZZ (or, I guess even before, with SNFU or the STUPIDS), it’s not out of line to have the artwork and lyrics be weird cultural mash-ups and pop culture piss-takes, but this eyesore makes me actually miss the days when the artwork and vision for this kind of music was just raw black ’n’ white brutality of decapitated heads and bifurcated dicks. Sgt. Pepper’s influence aside, that onus for more brute visuals might be out of place for a band that sings stream-of-consciousness musings about BLACK SABBATH disintegrating into zombies, their love of mustard, watching football, hating CDs, and other kookiness. Luckily, the music here is so completely raging that it rises above any visual and lyrical misgivings, and this thick platter is a refreshing blast of fastcore mayhem. Speed freaks take note.

Parsnip When the Tree Bears Fruit LP

When I heard this band for the first time I almost got evangelical! Their first EP is a perfect meetup of the PANDORAS and MELODY DOG that I had no idea was possible, a true and total dream… Cool Australian mod girls making sounds that seem like something K would have put out in 1985 or 1993! This LP is definitely more towards that dreamy MELODY DOG meets raucous SWELL MAPS style though, so if you want the feeling of the first PANDORAS 45 played from memory from another room go straight to “Rip It Off.” What a song! So yes, this is twee. if you don’t have a dubbed copy of DOLLY MIXTURE Demonstration Tapes, you might not be able to swing to a full-length of this sound. To my ears, it’s true utopian possibility though; scrappy and playful like those Messthetics comps and Rupert Preaching at a Picnic. A record that creates its own world.

Perfect Buzz In Your Face / My Apologies 7″

Two brief-but-memorable stabs of hooky pop punk from this Portland power trio. “In Your Face” is a snappy, propulsive jammer in the vein of MARKED MEN/THE SPITS, while the flip is a rollicking barroom singalong about what sounds like a potentially serious injury. Great stuff.

Rappresaglia Danza de Guerra EP reissue

RAPPRESAGLIA—“retribution” in Italian—was among the early-to-mid-’80s wave of furious hardcore bands from Milan. Their first recorded tracks, some of which were immortalized on compilations like the incredible Bad Country Tapes (BCT) Italian HC collection Music on Fire and the classic Skins E Punks = TNT 7″, are among greatest examples of raw and unhinged Italian hardcore. For years, I have played their early anthem “Attack” as the perfect representation of all that is truly special about Italian hardcore; I still put that song on mixes, and throw it on the turntable whenever I need something to pick up my mood. (Italy’s Agipunk Records released all of the excellent early RAPPRESAGLIA tracks on a collection called 1982/1983 in 2006, with the aforementioned “Attack” as the first song. I highly recommend that collection to aficionados of early Euro thrash both novice and diehard alike.) The EP I am here to review—the Danza di Guerra 7″—was recorded and self-released a couple of years later, and has now been reissued for the first time (with original art) by Germany’s No Plan records. Although Danza di Guerra was the first proper RAPPRESAGLIA release, it finds the band having already moved on from their rough and tumble early sound towards something slower, more melodic, and more muscular. No one is maniacally screaming on this EP, and the guitar sound owes more than a small debt to British post-punk, or at least British post punk as channeled through Telecommunication-era BLITZ. There are even vocal harmonies on these four songs! In other words, this is a pretty different band than that from RAPPRESAGLIA version 1.0. Still, this is a delightful record with four catchy singalong anthems, and is certainly worth tracking down if you’re a fan of the melodic side of European punk.

Regres Tu I Teraz EP

How is there so much potential for moshing on such a tiny record? REGRES brings six songs of melodic hardcore à la SWIZ meets breakdown-loving early-’90s straight edge. It’s fast, guitars move between octaves and power chord chugging, vocals are yelled and generously backed up by more yelling. On the production end, it’s a little louder and cleaner than its predecessors but still maintains some dynamics. Solid.

Rules …Was It Six or Five Shots? EP

Taking their debut EP title from Dirty Harry’s legendary “Do ya feel lucky, punk?” speech, Zagreb’s RULES offers up six tracks of appropriately misanthropic, beefy mid-tempo hardcore in a post-Feel the Darkness vein. Shades of heavy hitters like CAUSTIC CHRIST and LONG KNIFE appear throughout, especially in the world-weary, angry vocals and the hard work the bassist does driving the band. There are some interesting melodic guitar flourishes along the way, with “Empty Minds, Talking Mouths” having a particularly interesting, nearly jazzy finish, emphasized but the drummer’s backbeat swing. The super generic, indie rock-style packaging does this record no favors in a crowded marketplace but this is worth tracking down if you dig the aforementioned bands for sure.

Short Order Neighborhood Creeps EP

Short fastcore songs, very close to LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS, but with some BLACK FLAG-type flare splashed in. The lyrics are generally goofy, about partying and making fun of normies. Prime example: the song “Coffee Table” is ten seconds long and the lyrics are “wheresyourcoasterfriendshipover.” The record sort of follows the fastcore/powerviolence tradition of making fun of itself, proving a nice little comic relief to typically depressing lyrics. The whole thing kind of feels like a meme.

Snuff There’s a Lot of It About CD

You probably don’t expect me to be a SNUFF fan, though I’m a very selective one. I haven’t actually checked in on them since ​Tweet Tweet My Lovely​ back in 1998. I hear a lot of those very distinct SNUFF sounds here. Plenty of pop, some organ-driven ballads, and even still a hint of their hardcore influences on a couple tracks. It’s like tradition. Does anyone else think of Duncan Edmonds as the Phil Collins of punk? Just think about it… I don’t predict that this album is gonna produce new SNUFF fans among MRR’s readership, and I also don’t find any of the tracks jumping out as instant classics, but it’s consistent and enjoyable.

Sow Threat Hate & Love LP

SOW THREAT are not a mystery to be puzzled over, they do one thing and they do it better than pretty much any other band on the planet. That one thing? Paying vicious, unrelenting, grinding tribute to the great SORE THROAT. Between the high/low dual vocals, the blown-out, red-lined instrumental attack, the songwriting that switches from dirge to blur in a trice, and the punk-rooted drumming performed at near grindcore speed; this captures everything that made SORE THROAT great. I can’t vouch for their sense of humor, since the lyrics are almost entirely in Japanese, but the adorable cover art certainly indicates that the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Previous releases have been bloody good, but this is the greatest so far by a comfortable margin. Best band in the style since the early DEATH DUST EXTRACTOR material, which is damn hard to stand up to. Extra credit for the excellent intro that features a killer and chaotic remix courtesy of EXIT HIPPIES. Tokyo Sound System lives!

State Drugs Takings & Leavings LP

This is a compilation of previous recordings/releases from this Colorado band. It reminds of later HÜSKER DÜ with EVAN DANDO-like vocals; a little ARMCHAIR MARTIAN-sounding at times as well. This is decent, but surely not on the level of the aforementioned bands. Still, I like this melodic, somewhat crowded genre, and this band isn’t bad at it.

Stay Clean Jolene Live at the Dog Bolton 22/2/14 EP

This apparently no-longer-together UK band has some nice, early LEATHERFACE worship going on here. This four-song 7″ EP is an excerpt from a live recording, the rest of which is available digitally, but not on vinyl or CD as far as I can tell. Anyways, this is pretty cool in the modern melodic hardcore vein that had some great UK bands in the ’90s.

The Beekeepers Song Demos cassette

How do you describe something that’s just simply “dreamy”? I mean, can I just say that a band that plays upbeat and innocent sounding punk drenched in UK88 keyboards is “dreamy” and leave it at that? I’m talking the LA’S and/or HOUSEMARTINS meets Nuggets level swoon over here, and I am borderline in love with the BEEKEEPERS. Bonus points for covering “Frantic Romantic” (the SCIENTISTS), but these kids didn’t need any help winning my heart.

The Comes No Side 12″ reissue

It is utterly bonkers that this is the first official vinyl reissue of this all-time great Japanese hardcore punk ripper. Originally released in 1983 on Dogma Records—a City Rockers sublabel for hardcore that also released the first GISM 12″ among other Japanese classics—the COMES are breathtakingly ferocious. Their vocalist Chitose is truly one of the most savage ever recorded; she wails and screams over eleven unhinged and thrashing tracks, providing a blueprint and impossible-to-reach-bar for every one of us who has ever tried to match that intensity in her wake. Clocking in at just over sixteen minutes, this 12″ is perfectly lean and to the point. There aren’t many works of art in any genre this complete in their vision, and there aren’t many hardcore records this perfect from any era. This reissue is a loving one, featuring a heavy paste-on sleeve and a replica of the original insert. Mandatory for anyone even tangentially interested in international hardcore punk.

The Fog Reconsider EP

Euro straight edge on a seriously sinister bent, this seven-song slab (plus an intro) from Germany’s the FOG treats you about as nicely as a bag of bricks swinging around knee level in the pit. Thick, throaty vocals and a painfully mid-paced attack that seems steadfastly opposed to unleashing…which means that I basically spend the entire fucking record on edge. Waiting. Tense. In other words, the FOG cranks out traditional meaty hardcore without owing anything to anyone. This is what we like to call “success.”

The Patients I Am Your Muse LP

This SoCal band has a weird indie feel at times, à la a post-MINUTEMEN Mike Watt band. There’s also a ROLLINS BAND vibe at times as well. I can’t say this is a genre I’m big on, but if you like art/jazz/punk-type indie rock, check these guys out.

The Royal Hounds NYC God Bless The Royal Hounds LP

One of my not-so-favorite musical genres is Oi!-pop… Popoye? Don’t know, but call it what you like, when you start mixing the QUEERS with the 4-SKINS, I’m headed to the door. COCK SPARRER can pull it off, but it took them a long time to grow on me with every song sounding like a drunken Christmas carol sung by a muppet. The ROYAL HOUNDS NYC do not sound like any of the aforementioned bands. To give them credit, they do a nice job of mixing Oi! with Too Tough to Die-era RAMONES or even the DICTATORS, which comes to an apex with the song “I Just Wanna Live This Way”—really the highlight for me here. The singer has a nice, gruff vocal range in a class with Carl from the TEMPLARS, Lemmy and Handsome Dick. The super flanged-out guitar (maybe a nod to the TEMPLARS) endlessly soloing gets grating after a while and I am left dreading the possibility of any more Popoye records heading my way.

The Throwups Male, Pale ‘n Stale LP

It’s like hard-hitting grown-up garage punk, but kinda without the hard. That just means that the THROWUPS toss the contrived “heavy” vibe that a lot of alcohol-soaked dirty-guitar-driven rock’n’roll bands rely on, and they substitute killer tracks and an earnest intensity that makes them feel more…real. On the way from MENSCLUB to FUEL, there’s a bridge between discordant powerful punk rock and filthy ass bars…the THROWUPS are playing their hearts out on that span. Plus the “Tuba Practice” track just makes believe that these are my kind of people.

Tied Down Don’t Care EP

Ex-members of VOORHEES, BREAK IT UP and MY RULES doing what they damn well do best: bringing old school USHC worship to the punters over in the UK! There are some pretty great Boston/Detroit-styled straightforward thrashers here but my heart’s with the gang chorus and breakdown-laden NYHC-style stuff like “Aim to Please” and “Divide and Conquer” (the latter featuring an absolute monster of a circle-pit part, goddamn!). Hardcore for the hardcore faithful, expertly performed by a gang of lifers. Shoutout to the absolutely killer production courtesy of Rockinhorse studio, this is a fucking great sounding record!

Laxity / Torpur Split LP

Discordant and truly damaged sounds from LAXITY. Primitive, fukkd, minimal jerky shit, bordering on art/post-punk at times and leaning towards shit-fi Midwest basement hardcore at others…their side is a truly original sounding piece of madness and I find myself hesitant to flip—because what if the other side is a stinker?! Instead, TORPUR is more damaged, more fukkd, more aggressive. Not more awesome, mind you, because these two bands are carefully presented in compliment, not competition, but the intensity level ramps up notably here, and nuance is replaced with distorted stomps and terrifying demented vocals. Both bands are from Poland (and all of these tracks have appeared on tapes that I now desperately need) and successfully tweak—and, in the process, fully own—North America’s take on squirmy mysterious punk. Literally the only negative thing I can say is that this 12″ is limited to 100 copies.

V/A Warsaw’s Burning Volume 2 EP

In celebration of Refuse Records’ 150th release, they’ve compiled another nice-looking eight-band compilation of current Warsaw hardcore bands. The majority of the material is throttling and precise hardcore, namely from HEATSEEKER, NEGATIVE VIBES, JAD, and GOVERNMENT FLU. MORUS has a slightly more classic Euro crust vibe, BRAINEÄTER brings some powerviolence, and the GLAMOUR and CAST IN IRON (doing a DEZERTER cover) tracks come off more aggressive punk, minus the ’core. The 7″ is packaged in a beautiful booklet with attractive cover art, a nice reflection from Robert Refuse, and each band gets a page. High quality all around, and congrats to Refuse for prolific endurance throughout the years!

Wall Breaker Democracy Dies LP

It’s hard to go wrong opening an LP with a sick instrumental. WALL BREAKER’s debut LP delivers a dozen tightly wound, politically charged HC blasts, pulling a range of ’80s influences into a contemporary sound without trying to mimic a particular style or era. The slower, heavier riffs here are particularly effective, burned into my brain after just a couple spins. Excellent.

Wall Breaker Wall Breaker EP

Straight out the gate, you know what you’re in for here, from the band name to the WASTED YOUTH/VERBAL ABUSE/YOUNG WASTENERS-style logo with a big ugly straight edge X smack in the middle. This is meat and potatoes (or lentil loaf and kale for the vegans) dumb and basic East Coast hardcore with heavy guitar breakdowns galore and an almost going into high pitched Springa style wailing vocalist. A wicked hard-pounding rhythm section completes the picture, featuring veteran members of COKE BUST and CHAINSAW TO THE FACE, so you know they’ve been around the hard city block before. They’re not exactly breaking any new ground with originality but, hey, the new Coke is back and it still sucks. For fans of SSD and CONCEALED BLADE. More sprouts on my veggie burger please.

Waste Last One Standing EP

This is one of the best XVX records I’ve heard since SEVEN GENERATIONS’ To See The End which came out in 2008. It’s tough as hell, reminiscent of Satisfaction-era HATEBREED and Underdogs-era TERROR with moshy riff after moshy riff and hard-hitting vocals. The lyrics are what I really like about this record; they’re a step beyond those of 2000’s XVX bands, taking on more specific, relevant issues. “Not Your Fight” calls out the savior complexes of men in the hardcore scene: “Self proclaimed rulers / Will fall by our hand / sStep back and listen for once / And realize this isn’t your fight.” The song “True Colors” is about “PC guys” who act “high and mighty” but are actually pieces of shit: “Saw through your fake ass right from the fucking start / Never bought your lies so it came as no surprise.”

Wet Specimens Haunted Flesh EP

This might as well be the official Halloween punk EP of 2019: it’s got these hella CHRISTIAN DEATH-y guitar licks, slasher-film lyrics, witchy artwork and the reverb is laid on so heavy it might as well be a ghost on the mic. It’s kind of got an evil, noisy ’80’s Japanese hardcore sound, similar to the SEXUAL. More contemporary bands ODIO (RIP), early DEVIL MASTER and TARANTULA also come to mind. Every song on the record slaps; the first track, “In Secretion Room,” is my favorite.