Reviews

MRR #452 • January 2021

Aborted Tortoise Scale Model Subsistence Vendor EP

Frenetic, lo-fi rock’n’roll punk from Perth, Australia that sounds like a redux of the early 2000s—only this time around, the superficial brattiness has been replaced with something a bit more existential. Pulling a page from THEE HEADCOATS’ book, the crazed singing and super precise rock’n’roll riffs combine to deliver a contained mess that is wildly high energy without boiling over completely. The whole production sounds like it is about to burst at the seams, possibly owing to it being recorded and mixed on a four-track. You can try to imitate the effect of pushing a four-track tape recording to its mechanical limits, but there really is something special and (dare I say) nostalgic about the sound of the real thing. Recommended!

Activistas A is for Activistas CD

A nine-track effort (a mini-LP?) of what sounds like a British cabaret band, almost. Or sort of a “Knees Up Mother Brown” musical hall variety act. Male and female vocals, drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards. It’s all rather amateurish sounding, which is a little off-putting to these ears, though suddenly, the last three tracks (starting with a version of WOODY GUTHRIE’s “This Land Is Your Land” with BILLY BRAGG lyrical embellishments) really kick it up a gear, and sound rather more polished and hence eminently presentable! Perhaps with the addition of some more keyboards, it all falls into place? Lyrically, they seem to hit all the right spots (and targets) from Emma Goldman to Boris Johnson.

Adolescents Russian Spider Dump CD

A covers album, basically of songs that Tony (singer and original) really liked back in the day, and still likes now. Most of ’em are from the West Coast (including Canada’s SUBHUMANS, of course!) and from the late ’70s/’80s. Pretty much all the songs sound great, with modern production and playing. Though not sure the world really needs yet another iteration of “Fuck You” or the DILS’ “Class War,” but then again, mebbe there can’t be enough of either sentiment. I think the DICKIES’ “Just Say Yes” was improved immeasurably by this iteration, and it’s great to hear TOXIC REASONS again. HUMPERS, GERMS, F-WORD, REDD KROSS, SIMPLETONES, the MIDDLE CLASS, the DRAGONS and the FLYBOYS also get a good doing, too.

Alien Nosejob Suddenly Everything is Twice as Loud LP

For the uninitiated, ALIEN NOSEJOB is the anything-goes solo project of Jake Robertson (AUSMUTEANTS, HIEROPHANTS, SMARTS). So far he’s put out records covering KBD punk, indie pop, straightforward hardcore, new wave, and disco. While previous releases have been more genre-focused (like the excellent USHC workout HC45 EP), this LP takes a more whimsical route through a handful of similar sounds. We’ve got some straight up RAMONES-core (“Television Sets,” “Black Sheep”), earnest indie pop (“Weight Of The World,” “Blending In”), and even some Horrendous New Wave-y new wave (“Spin Cycle”). Not every track is great, but when you take as many shots as this dude, you’re bound to chuck up a brick or two every now and then. Even still, this LP highlights what a gifted songwriter, musician, and producer Jake is. I’m stoked to see what direction he takes the project in next!

All Hits Men and Their Work LP

A year-end top tenner for this reviewer, Portland’s ALL HITS’ debut, Men and Their Work, has been in heavy rotation in these parts since the summer. They’re everything I like to see in a power trio. With intricate interplay between guitar and bass, eight stripped-down but killer tunes about all of the enduring bullshit of our age: white supremacy, abusers in the scene, and police as natural class traitors. There’s not a lumbering moment here and not a dud to be found. I remember Mike Watt once said it was a political thing in the MINUTEMEN how the bass, drums, and guitar were distinct and equal in their mix and songwriting, and I imagine a similar ethic at work here. Every component gets to shine, in a sense, putting their politics into their song structure—that’s what I’m going to infer, anyway. Great shout-along moments, sung moments, and inventive instrumental bits to keep things interesting. Sonic comparisons to MIKA MIKO are not far off—but with deft and agile basslines. From the tape glitch freakout of “Intro” to the anthemic rager “World is a Fuck” with the extended breakdown, this is a superb debut. 

Alpha Hopper Alpha Hex Index LP

I’m too stupid and narrow-minded to be writing this review. ALPHA HOPPER is for self-assured smart punks who like the experience of walking down a long hallway of practice spaces and hearing a fucked up amalgamation of shrieks, needling guitars, brief moments of respite, breakdowns, and bashing drums—a.k.a. hardcore people who’ve never listened to the NEGATIVE APPROACH 7″. It’s more jagged and technical than a group from rusty old Buffalo would have you believe. Responsibly haphazard mathcore for people who could barely pass geometry, with schoolgirl bully vocals on top. Alpha Hex Index is for those who survived the ’90s, people who want more from modern hardcore or who want their No Wave to have crunch.

Bathouse Bathouse LP

Debut record from Sweden’s BATHOUSE, featuring ten noise rock pounders, drenched in feedback and fuzz. The tracks blast with tinny guitars, blown-out distorted bass, and that familiar AmRep-inspired crunch. The shouted vocals and fairly traditional rock structures place this in pleasant company with MCLUSKY and PART CHIMP. Through the filth and slime, there are some melodic vocal lines and major key chord progressions that have one dirty shoe in garage rock (maybe even grunge) territory. “Hell” sounds like a lost NIRVANA In Utero B-side with a downtempo refrain of “I bore you / You know I adore you,” while “Ghostly Figurine” has some “la la la la’s” in the mix. These anthems of frustration aren’t breaking any new ground, but they are definitely worth a listen on your way to that job you hate.

Beyond Description Calm Loving Life / Live in Germany CD

There was a time when you just had to see the name BEYOND DESCRIPTION and you knew that uncompromising Japanese crust was in your near future. And you were pumped. These recordings are more than 20 years old at this point…and I’m (still) pumped. Tokyo’s BEYOND DESCRIPTION delivers brutally fast political HC/crust, and time has done nothing to make 1997’s Calm Loving Life session sound any less intense. The three cuts from the Live in Germany 5” however….holy shit, these dudes are absolutely insane live. Just pure speed and relentless hardcore, two things I could use a bit more of in my life.

Big Laugh Manic Revision EP

I reviewed this record for Undergrounz Zine the first day it came out ’cause I thought it was too much. I think I must’ve listened to it twenty or so times in a row. It’s kind of a cyclic album; the instrumental fade-out in the last song, “Fazed,” works as a transition to the epic drums that open the EP in “Imposter.” The whole vibe of this reeks of the ABUSED, from the artwork, which pays tribute to the Loud and Clear aesthetic, to the sound. Or, better, the ABUSED meets This is Boston Not L.A., because BIG LAUGH merges heavier passages with more fluid ones, but always without losing strength and presence. I said it before, I’ll say it again, their strength is how they managed to combine that overfall of dizzy, hectic guitar riffs and omnipresent drum work, hard as nails, that sweeps everything else with the power of a cascade. BIG LAUGH is the best example that Milwaukee hardcore is alive and kicking.

Big Rig Expansive Heart EP reissue

1-2-3-4 Go! has reissued this overlooked gem. BIG RIG was a short-lived project whose members went on to play in SCREW 32, the NERVE AGENTS, and DANCE HALL CRASHERS, and featured Jesse Michaels of OPERATION IVY on vocals. This four-song offering is decidedly more punk (whatever that means) than Michaels’ previous band; in fact, there’s nary an inkling of ska heard here. My only complaint about this record is that I wish there were more songs! This is a perfect document of a moment in time, and I’m glad it’s been reissued so that more people have a chance to hear a perfect record.

Blame It On Whitman Everything is Fine.. CD

This wanders around the emo genre. Some songs are slow and jangly, teetering on indie rock. Other songs are uptempo guitar-heavy and almost have a HOT WATER MUSIC feel without the gruff vocals. Vocals are off-key at times but we’ll call that personality. This has its moments but some tighter arrangements would do some good here.

Blaze Still Nothing Ever Change LP+CD

An all-around great compilation of highly ferocious, emotive, and danceable Japanese hardcore from the early ’90s. I found the vocals and repetitive structure to be annoying at first, but if “Skill!,” “Why,” and “But Nothing Ever Change” don’t immediately hit your pleasure receptors, then you should give up on hardcore. The glossy record contains a booklet with extraordinary colored mohawks and crusty street punk looks, but the real substance lies within the CD collection containing all studio material plus seven extra demo tracks. I’ve never heard anyone play drums like this and the mastering is perfect, allowing everything to come through crystal clear. I would say the LP and CD combo is the way to go on this one. An essential reissue considering you’re getting all the bands’ output for only like 1/5th the price of the original 7″.

Body Double Milk Fed LP

I had to mull over this one to get it and avoid jumping to easy conclusions. Ex-MANSION helmer Candace Lazarou has built ten warped and weary pop songs that evoke familiar notes of ’90s indie rock with industrial flourishes, pulsing guitars, and even momentary shoegaze walls of noise. It sounds like I’m describing a vintage wine or something, but the production on this is so dense and the lyrics so cryptic that it almost asks to be picked apart piece by piece. Like a problem you keep turning over in your head and can’t fully resolve. At its best it reminds me a bit of NICO’s Camera Obscura album where she sang “Show me the way to warning / Warning for the morning light / I will stab it with a knife / The blinding sun / The heartbeat for the time to come.” Lazarou flips this foreboding blade and light imagery with her own “I was born in a violet light / Sniffin’ sand off a paper knife / I was born with a gun in my face / I was born in outer space.” Am I overthinking this comparison? Maybe. But some people want music that’s awkward to access, that you puzzle over. That’s BODY DOUBLE.

Bondage 2010–2019 cassette

BONDAGE is a solo noise garage project from Peru, and this tape collects about a decade’s worth of demo releases. The first track starts out with a drum machine and distorted bass groove that gives off “Cough / Cool” vibes with spoken-sung vocals. Then comes the haunted house keyboards. Yikes. The rest of the tape more or less follows this pattern: fast drum beat, repetitive bass lines, reverbed guitar with tons of flange, and spoken or screamed vocals. To be fair, there is enough decent feedback damage to call this noise or maybe industrial, but I never really feel the menace that I expect from those genres. There is a SUICIDE cover, which I can hear as a major inspiration (I’ll stick with the original, though). There is some CHRISTIAN DEATH energy here as well. I don’t know about the lyrical content, as the singing is in Spanish, but the cover art and accompanying zine feature cut-and-paste artwork of wild animals, explicit gay imagery, and blood. Many of these tracks stretch past the four-minute mark, which tests my patience for what seems like a well-intentioned bedroom project. Maybe check it out if you are into deathrock or industrial, but it’s a pass for me.

Boofin Tylenol Symptoms of Life cassette

I’m not sure what makes a truly good-sounding hardcore punk release. Sometimes people try too hard to ape their influences (sometimes that’s fine and good) and sometimes people fight too hard for modernity and originality, becoming unrecognizable from the original form (also fine, I guess). I feel comfortable saying that BOOFIN TYLENOL is a decent representation of good current hardcore punk. The influences are apparent (TAR BABIES and SST Records) without being overly paraded. Simple yet forward-thinking, all-around great playing, fast and aggressive, surprisingly melodic and refusing to be pigeonholed.

Buck Biloxi and the Fucks Put You in the Gulag EP

It takes a special talent to write super catchy pissed-off songs. This EP contains three. Minimalist trashy garage punk with biting lyrics that cause you to sing along while also looking over your shoulder. The topics are mindless consumerism and herd mentality. “I Would Rather Die” uses the riff from “Nervous Breakdown” for a humorous anti-technology tune. The title track reminds you “Money is your shitty God.” Great stuff as usual from BUCK BILOXI AND THE FUCKS.

C-Krit C-Krit cassette

Debut tape from new band, likely from Olympia (not that anyone involved lifts a finger in the service of biographical info) and delivering some of the wrongest-sounding hardcore I’ve heard in a while. Six songs, one an incongruous SCREAMING SNEAKERS cover and (most of) the others an absurd blizzard of teen-tantrum vocals, transistor-radio guitar tone, and drums that sound like someone trying to invent the blastbeat. They’ve called one song “The Kids Will Have Their Say Pt.II,” but come off like they’re trying to pay homage to “How Much Art Can You Take?” on the wilful sub-FLIPPER joint “Army Of Cru.” There’s another curveball at the end with “My Eyes Melt,” baked-sounding dub/synth-pop with no punk to be heard—but C-KRIT, whoever they are, makes the transition work. High recommendation for shit-fi stans!

Cólera Pela Paz Em Todo Mundo LP reissue

Legends CÓLERA started in 1979 and are one of the most iconic punk bands to come out of a post-dictatorial Brazil. They were one the first Brazilian punk bands to tour Europe and sold 85,000 copies of their second album Pela Paz Em Todo Mundo when it was first released through Ataque Frontal Records, making it the second best-selling independent punk record in Brazil, only being outdone by GAROTOS PODRES’ Mais Podres do que Nunca. This is class struggle turned into the sound of punk rock: the lyrics are sharp as a razor and work so well because they are sung in Portuguese, which makes them stand out with very notable themes for their time and their place like ecology, pacifism, and anti-militarism. This is a great introductory record if you want to get into the scene that spawned the greats like OLHO SECO, RATOS DE PORÃO, and MERCENARIAS. “Paz é algo pelo que se luta!

The Vibrators / Chris Spedding Mars Casino LP

I want to be kind about this record; I am genuinely glad that the gentlemen of first-wave English punk band the VIBRATORS are still at it, and happy enough that they have drafted lifelong comrade, erstwhile PISTOLS producer, “Motor Biker” and Womble CHRIS SPEDDING in for the session. The songs are written and performed well enough, by people who clearly know what they are doing; In his advancing years(!), KNOX is starting to sound a lot like NICK LOWE on his recent solo outings. However, I am not sure I can recommend this to MRR’s readership—there’s an almost total lack of urgency, immediacy, or energy. This album will be a useful stocking filler for punk dads who are bummed about missing Rebellion Festival because of lockdown, but after one or two plays it will likely be shelved in favor of one of the band’s essential early singles.

City of Industry False Flowers LP

I confess that I don’t think I spent enough time with this record to really try to capture it with words—but in my defense, I think that False Flowers will keep maturing in its own grooves for many, many listens to come, a sonic fermentation process. It’s easy for bands who are all over the place to sound…well, all over the place. Disjointed. Lacking cohesion. But CITY OF INDUSTRY flows with purpose between monstrously powerful modern hardcore to emotionally introspective to blastbeats to an acoustic piece that closes things like a damn WEAKERTHANS track before exploding into fifteen seconds of raging crust—and it feels natural. This is a record realized; there’s no “why the fuck are they doing that?” but there is plenty of “holy shit, they are doing that!” and it all works. They could have settled for just melting faces, and they would have melted faces. They could have chosen to make their listeners cry, and we would have cried. They could have written a record where all of the kids would have clenched their fists and shouted along to every word while they listened, and we would have clenched and shouted. Instead, they did all of that, and they did a lot more. So I’m just going to leave this here, to be continued.

Cold Callers Dressed to Die LP

I hate to judge a record by its jacket, but the antiseptic early-2000s radio rock vibe of this full length’s cover betrays the contents therein. There is nothing outright terrible about these twelve well-packaged tracks, but overall it lacks depth. The production is thin, for a start, with guitars that don’t so much crunch as gently chew and vocals that sound like they’re put through a digital telephone filter. The songwriting itself is power-pop-by-numbers—a genre that when done well can be transcendent, but so often it feels like an oversaturated market. It’s hard to say which facet of COLD CALLERS’ sound needs the biggest touch-up. If it were recorded nastier, maybe it could bang with the best of them. If the songwriting were really top-notch, maybe the squeaky-clean contemporary rock production wouldn’t matter. As it stands, this album just floats in purgatory—it’s not good enough for heaven or egregious enough for hell.

Daydream Mystic Operative LP

Blink and you’ll miss this blur of controlled chaos from Portland’s DAYDREAM. There’s a lot going on, but the hyper-propulsive drums, DEVO-lved guitar stabs, and urgent vocals clatter together in an explosive concoction of progressive punk noise. Thick-necked, spiraling bass riffage and off-kilter weirdness remind me of (a less brooding) DEAD AND GONE, or an anarcho-BOREDOMS. Get your ’90s fix without succumbing to nostalgia. Great stuff.

Death Cult Spiritual Conundrum cassette

The latest tape from San Antonio’s DEATH CULT delivers four cuts of menacing, metal-tinged punk with dark themes, thrashy guitars, and exasperated vocals. Interesting production makes every song stand out in its own unique way and these guys aren’t afraid to get a little weird with the effects. On the final track, “Flesh Prison,” the band flexes their eccentricity as we get some unabashed ACCUSED influence paired with a melodic chorus before the whole thing just collapses into an echo chamber of screams and feverish laughter. Good times.

Desastyr Danting Megazus CD

Twenty-seven tracks of one-man Casio D-beat. I keep listening, but I don’t know what to say…it’s unlistenable, and that’s the point. Noise is, in fact, not music…but at what point does nonsense become art? DESASTYR is like SOCKEYE deconstructing BEYOND DESCRIPTION. I’m gonna send this to Ear of Corn fanzine and see what Food Fortunata thinks (and if that means anything to you then you’ll likely be scrambling for a copy of this CD).

Diaz Brothers Diaz Brothers CD

Back in the mid/late ’80s in the UK, American bands started to make it over in large numbers. Both the records, but also the bands themselves. And hence a whole new crop of bands started to form, influenced by such touchstones as GOVERNMENT ISSUE’s “You,” the last couple of DAG NASTY records, HÜSKER DÜ, MOVING TARGETS’ “Burning In Water,” SCREAM, and suchlike. Thusly, melodic hardcore was born in those fair Isles. One of the earliest and most fervent exponents of this new genre was a band called HDQ, whose main claim to fame was that they were formed by soon-to-be guitar god Dickie Hammond, who went on to basically rewrite melodic hardcore as the co-guitarist and co-songwriter of LEATHERFACE. When Dickie died far too young (he basically, and tragically, drank himself to death) several years ago, HDQ reformed with a new guitarist, and a new name. This is their debut. Unfortunately to these ears, like the earlier incarnation (and completely unlike LEATHERFACE), it returns to a rather meandering (albeit lushly pleasant) iteration of melodic hardcore that sounds great if that style is your thang, but doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. No great tunes, or driving choruses, and utterly devoid of that anthemic quality that GOVERNMENT ISSUE and DAG NASTY and HÜSKER DÜ (and LEATHERFACE!) brought to the material. So, ah, there you have it, really.

Die Letzten Ecken Die Letzten Ecken 12″

Stark, minimal electro-punk from present-day Berlin, where the calendar might as well read 1981 judging from the recent crop of Neue Deutsche Welle-inspired projects coming out of the city’s Allee Der Kosmonauten DIY collective (see also: AUS and DIE SCHIEFE BAHN). The six tracks on this debut 12″ are translated though little more than buzzing synth, clattering percussion (electronic and not), and dryly-intoned vocals, with DIE LETZTEN ECKEN’s restrained and mechanically-driven rhythmic pulse fitting right into a long line of German/Swiss synth-wave going back to the late ’70s and early ’80s—GRAUZONE, D.A.F., MITTAGEISEN, XMAL DEUTSCHLAND, the list goes on. With their stern, driving beats and harsh synth throb, “Vakuum” and “Die Zahlen” are perfect steel-cold dance club bangers for the crowd that barely passed the Voight-Kampff test, while “I C H” and “Zauberworte” spiral into a warmer but still otherworldly hypnotic drone; the new kosmische musik for our modern tech-addled hellworld.

Besthöven / Disjawn split EP

Playing with peak Scandi D-beat dynamic here, and reminding almost of the latest PARANOID LP or later AVSKUM, BESTHÖVEN still retains that FINAL BOMBS jangling, metallic, riff-ripping classic Finnish ’82 style, but with authentic Brazilian attitude. It feels a bit strange saying that, but there is a fire to these few tracks in a classic D-beat formula that brings a warmth to the style. Don’t get me wrong, there is steel-charged grit to Fofäo Discrust’s music as well, but his vocals are fuego/fogo. The DISJAWN recording is far more havoc-ridden, smashing across both crash cymbals, D-beating to death from Philly. I mention that because there is an East Coast hardcore tone of voice here in the meter of the lyrics and the irreverent chords, compared to the earnest presentation on Side A. Both sides stylistically complement one another while bringing a similar message from each hemisphere: Fuck war. Fuck the military. Where is [this] (either) country? Where is a peaceful life?

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.

Dropdead Arms Race / Give It Up 7″ flexi

This flexi features the legendary DROPDEAD covering a song each from BGK and POISON IDEA. It is a benefit for United We Dream, a youth-led community group fighting for justice for immigrants in the US. DROPDEAD is probably the most furious and raging band to ever shred. There may be faster and heavier, but something about DROPDEAD just brings the intensity to another level. Almost 30 years as a band and they can still bring it. If you’ve never heard them before, get this one and any of their other releases because they all rip, and if you already know, might as well support the cause!

Dropdead Discography Vol. 2 1995–2013 LP

Active since 1991, DROPDEAD seems to be one of the most hard-working and militant bands in punk, raising the flag for the DIY ethos and living by what they preach. Having borrowed their name from the most important proto-grindcore demo ever (from the mighty SIEGE), they sound just like a freight train of hardcore aggression running over every politician, fascist, sexist, and animal abuser in their way. This is the second installment of their discography compilations and has 42 tracks that span through the years 1995 to 2013. It includes a remixed Hostile EP, the Arms Race EP, and the splits with TOTALITÄR (the standout tracks in my opinion), UNHOLY GRAVE, LOOK BACK AND LAUGH, CONVERGE, SYSTEMATIC DEATH, RUIDOSA INMUNDICIA, and BRAINOIL, as well as other compilation tracks. A must-have for fans of unhinged fast hardcore.

Drunk Mums Adderall / Headshrinker 7”

What do they put in the kids food in Australia that makes them all grow up to be such lovely angular punks? This is a killer single full of good clean fun, delivered with the kind of booksmart smarm that’s practically omnipresent these days in Melbourne. The flip side “Headshrinker” ups the stakes with a little more fury without losing any of the charm. This is locked-in snotty rock‘n’roll just the way we like it.

DZTN 1980 Don’t Give Up cassette

Isolation hardcore continues, this time with the fourth release (that I know of) from Portland’s DZTN 1980. Cold, howling anarcho-tinged freak sounds with song structures that can (perhaps) only be signed off on by bands with no dissenting members (or no other members at all), bands that typically exist in one person’s mind. Distinct Blinko tendencies set to a steady, driving drum (machine), Don’t Give Up seems gone in an instant, and leaves me wondering if I’ve been through something. When the act’s sole member reflects on the past year by sneering “Does it have to be this way? / Does it have to be a struggle? / We wanna believe in something / Why not each other?” on the final track, I feel like someone just pulled out the splinter, so maybe I have.

Eat That Dirty Roach! cassette

Over many years I’ve come to realize that I do not give a shit about a ten-minute guitar solo. Seriously, if you ever find yourself on a stage slappin’ that ol’ six-string for longer than it takes to get through airport security, it might be time to become a banker or something. EAT, on the other hand, has no time for noodly guitar solos; in fact, I don’t think they’ve ever written a song that’s longer than two minutes. This batch of songs are short flashes of unrestrained noise and aggressively poetic lyrics. The band pulls off a really interesting mix of genres here. It’s partly pure No Wave and another part straight hardcore. Think the CONTORTIONS or TEENAGE JESUS AND THE JERKS if they were twice as fast and twice as loud. The drums are chaotic, the guitars are angular,  and the saxophone wails in the background. Honestly, I really hope this is where the Philadelphia punk scene is heading, because this cassette is experimenting with punk, noise, and No Wave in a really unique way.

Erik Nervous and the Beta Blockers Erik Nervous and the Beta Blockers LP

ERIK NERVOUS returns with a collection of twelve garage punk bashers, now backed with a full band, the UK’s BETA BLOCKERS. Simple and dumb in the very best way, these tracks buzz along with a mix of classic garage punk and post-punk that reminds me of the SAINTS, SUBURBAN LAWNS, and maybe fellow Indiana weirdos CCTV. Despite very catchy songs, this is still a scrappy punk record with sung/shouted vocals that bring to mind JAY REATARD or maybe the MUMMIES with clearer production. I was already digging this when “Blasted Heath” surprised me with a squiggly synth underneath the rockin’ that takes ERIK and Co. into DEVO territory. Then the next track, “Want To Not Wanna, completely brings the mutant freak funk party that rivals the stupid joy of “Jocko Homo.” If you have any dorkiness in your heart, you will be bouncing in your seat. The rest of the record follows with a huge emphasis on fun, something I can definitely use more of in my life.

Condemned / Ernia Strike to Kill split LP

Somewhere in this batch of reviews I think I say that a dose of catchy, uplifting punk might be just what I need…this record definitively disproved that assertion, because this record is what I fucking need. CONDEMNED blasts straight out of 2004 with hard-charging crust fury, continuing a proud and storied legacy of bands from Connecticut like REACT, TORRINGTON, and DIALLO. On the flipside, Basque Country’s ERNIA matches the intensity and drops in fearsome blasts seemingly at will. Brilliant early ’00s European squat crust sounds hyped up on relentless fastcore and grind—I find myself exhaling after every song without even realizing that I was holding my breath. Lyrics presented in Basque, English, French, and Spanish, everything about this one hit the fucking spot.

Escuela Grind Indoctrination LP

Escuela” (at least via my shithouse translation methods) means “school,” so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what I got was seventeen tracks of punishingly heavy grind-violence that achieves what should probably be the goal for people seeking to write a grind LP, making something that careens by with all the gusto of a 7”. The riffs in this remind me of more modern grind, admittedly, but the sheer aggression on display and abrupt time signature switches and that utterly relentless blasting make this a band I’d love to see fucking destroy a basement show. If the labels on the back of this LP didn’t make it a blind buy for you then take this recommendation to heart and blow out your eardrums.

Eva Ras Kada Odlaziš cassette

This is an exceptionally harsh collection of sounds from Serbia’s EVA RAS. Emo-violence (still) gets thrown around a lot as a subgenre descriptor, but this tape is unquestionably violent in the way that early Scandi-BM was just unmusically and seemingly unnecessarily harsh. Chaotic screamo with no bass and sub-60 second bursts of complete fucking chaos—you have to look back to MOHINDER to find anything approximating this kind of desperate brutality. Apparently there are only twelve physical copies (?!?!), so best hit the link below…

Eyes and Flys New Way to Get It EP

Are you wistful for, like, 2009? You know, the halcyon days when lo-fi garage pop and shitgaze ruled the (Myspace) airwaves, “Be My Baby” drum beats were de rigueur, your local Sparks and Four Loko-littered basement might host a bill of PSYCHEDELIC HORSESHIT and the BARBARAS, and your favorite band’s latest release could be put out by a hip economy car company? If so, have I got a release for you! To be fair, EYES AND FLYS, a recording project out of Buffalo, is a little more BLACK TIME (good!) than WAVVES (bad!), and it’s not like they’re singing about pizza parties or fake dance crazes. Really, it’s a solid take on this kind of sound. But it’s a sound that nevertheless reminds me of a feel-good time that doesn’t quite match the world’s current tenor. It makes it tough for me to enjoy. But that’s more on me than it is these tunes, which I suspect would have appealed to pre-doomer me. So, give it a listen!

Family Fodder Savoir Faire: The Best Of (Director’s Cut) LP

FAMILY FODDER pretty much existed in their own separate orbit of the late ’70s/early ’80s UK underground—too genuinely strange and experimental to fit in as a straight new wave act, too much disposable-pop bounciness to be embraced by the era’s more serious/dogmatic post-punk factions (Rough Trade apparently rejected them twice). They operated as a CRASS-like quasi-hippie musical collective, but their mish-mash of spacious dub nods, avant-garde tape manipulations, warped psychedelia, and skewed outsider pop sounded more like a meeting of the minds between THIS HEAT and the FLYING LIZARDS (both of whom were FAMILY FODDER collaborators at various points), by way of HOMOSEXUALS/AMOS AND SARA-style anarchic UK DIY. “Best of” collections can often be a bit of a cop-out, but for a band this all-over-the-map, Savoir Faire serves a practical purpose, bringing edited highlights from their early years (1979 to 1982—they’re still actively releasing music!) into focus when the unabridged discography might seem like too many different reflections in one broken mirror. A sampling from this LP-length crash course: sing-song femme vocals and blasts of funhouse organ on the bizarro new wave smash hits “Savoir Faire” and “Debbie Harry,” coldwave minimalism on “Der Leiermann,” the surreal and RESIDENTS-esque electro-damaged “Playing Golf (With My Flesh Crawling),” coolly French-accented chants and Afrobeat-inspired rhythms in “Cerf Volant,” the piano-spiked, early ENO-descended art-glam of “Cold Wars.” It’s all worthy of a much deeper and more thorough dive, but this is a pretty spot-on entry point for the uninitiated.

Final Dose Laid to Unrest demo cassette

Yet another one-person project, this time from the ’rona-ravaged depths of London. Knuckle-dragging hardcore punk nihilism tinted by bedroom black metal listening, FINAL DOSE creates an attack that is instantly recognizable and searing…there are only four blasts (for now), but perhaps with the new strain of the virus we can all look forward to more.

French Werewolves Earsores and Eye-Aches CD-R

As normality seems determined to remain hopelessly out of reach for the forseeable future, leave it to the folks from Wheelchair Full of Old Men to remind us that the entire fucking world is stupid. “Electric Urine Experimentation,” Mommy, Am I Alive?” “Greasy Possum,” and “Flying Donkey Couch” barely scratch the surface of the brilliance hidden in this little slipcase. Complete nonsense spat out over incompetent sounds coaxed out of noncompliant instruments of dubious character. Earsores and Eye-Aches offers 35 minutes of emotionally immature brilliance, a shitstain on music itself, a beacon of hope. “Got a coyote paw in a box, just for good luck and shit / Squid and Neptune, dogs and Jupiter, gazing up at the Moon / Libraries and their newspapers, all of it is gone soon.”

Froggy & The Ringes Soft “G” EP

Who said garage is dead? FROGGY & THE RINGES are here to prove them wrong. Their style is like an uncut gem. You hear repetitive rock’n’roll riffs played to exhaustion, topped with sharpened guitar solos and a voice closer to street punk/Oi! than garage. Something like if they would’ve been listening a lot to the early HIVES records and then tried to play similarly while high on speed. In brief, a predominance of mid-tempos, dirty sound, an aggressive vocal style, and unhinged, humorous lyrics, that make Soft “G” a good and different record. For sure deserves a listen.

Gargara Versus Jesus EP

The first thing you’ll notice about this EP is that the cover art is terrifyingly beautiful. It’s the type of image that will keep you up at night, but one you can also appreciate. I also think that’s a pretty apt description for the music on here. This is just some no-frills, zero-fucks-given, noisy hardcore punk coming from Skopje, Macedonia. There are four wild, caustic, and to-the-point tracks here, but none of them let up. The standout track is surely “Jesus Was a Bigfoot.” Really, there’s not much more to say. If you’re wanting some wacky aggressive hardcore then it doesn’t get much better than this.

Garuda Immemorial LP

A little background: bands like BREAD AND WATER and GARUDA (who shared two members) were paramount for budding suburban anarchist punk kids like myself in the Dallas area circa the late ’90s-early ’00s. Their live presence was distinctly formidable, and everyone agreed they were one of DFW’s finest acts, regardless of musical taste. My focus split between the singer Brian, headbanging from the waist up (upper-torso banging?) even while singing, the entire set, and the mesmerizing drum patterns. Every song had an awesome heavy melodic dual-guitar breakdown part that would coax a collective headbang from everyone in the room whether they realized it or not, like some kind of cult lulled into hypnosis. On to this recording: nine tracks, three or four that I recognize were in rotation of their live set back in the day, all newly recorded. The punchy and heavy production suits them perfectly! And would you believe that nearly twenty years later I’m listening to this and still anticipating certain drum fills and guitar riffs because I remember the songs so clearly, and fucking goddamn it’s giving me the same dopamine hit! And to top it all off they close with a rendition of BREAD AND WATER’s “Nakedness As Insult?” with Amie doing guest vocals, successfully bringing the fucking house down, and by “house down” I mean tears of nostalgic joy to my eyes. I’m going to call GARUDA hardcore with death metal elements, and I’m allowed to pretend to know a little about metal because I listen to IRON MAIDEN. Marvelous drum dynamics, without any of that double-kick nonsense, punctuate every transition with precision. Brian’s guttural isn’t actually too far off from his speaking voice, and he is apparently unconcerned about keeping time, which throws chaos into the overall tightness of the band. The guitars are borderline acrobatic but not too flashy, ultimately responsible for the hooks that get stuck in your head. These elements give GARUDA an authenticity that endures all these years later. If you are into no-pose fast and heavy shit, or caught them on tour in the US/Mexico back then, you should be more than pleased with this record. Additionally, someone should start a petition to put their 2002 CD-only Cold Wired Sentiment on a 12” (I still wear the t-shirt, faded and sleeveless of course!).

Gen Pop PPM66 LP

The first full-length from Olympia’s GEN POP, who have been regularly shape-shifting through stylistic coordinates (rapid-fire smart-kid hardcore, angular post-punk jitters, off-kilter weirdo pop, often in the span of one song to another) across a string of cassettes and EPs over the last few years, and that ripped-up bricolage approach is still very much in place on PPM66. Opening track “Bell Book Candle” takes up a decidedly neo-Messthetics mantle with monotone faux-Brit vocals and some seriously primitive and trebly SWELL MAPS damage, “Hanging Drum” and “My Apartment” both split the difference between BUZZCOCKS-style barbed wire hooks and WIRE’d econo art-punk urgency, the sub-minute “Personal Fantasy” tumbles and (Darby) crashes into vintage L.A. punk territory…and that’s just the first half (more or less) of the LP. A little something for everyone, truly—GEN POP is for the people.

Good Missionaries Fire From Heaven LP reissue

Mark Perry broke up ALTERNATIVE TV and formed the GOOD MISSIONARIES soon after out of a conscious desire to distance himself from concepts of “punk” that had grown more and more rigid and predictable over the course of just a few short years, and the experimental art-destruction approach of his new group exemplified the whole “rip it up and start again” ethos perhaps the most literally of any UK outfit from the post-punk era. Fire From Heaven was recorded live while the GOOD MISSIONARIES were touring with the POP GROUP in 1979 (and not long before Perry abandoned this project, too)—both bands shared a common interest in the liberatory sounds of dub, free jazz, and improv, but while the POP GROUP synthesized those influences into a fiery, serrated punk-funk, the GOOD MISSIONARIES’ tended toward abstract and fractured shambolic sprawls (including a number of completely exploded takes on ALTERNATIVE TV songs) that were almost completely outside the orbit of even the most “post”-adjoined punk: a defiant jumble of antagonistic shout-sung vocals, collapsed beats, and kitchen-sink interjections of everything from warbling organ to blasts of sax and clarinet to chimes and melodica. Mark Stewart guests on the mic for an abbreviated and completely skronked-out reimagining of the POP GROUP’s “Thief of Fire,” and it’s only further down the rabbit hole from there; true freak sounds that out-mess most Messthetics acts.

GRP.TXT GRP.TXT cassette

Stripped-down, arty but unpretentious post-leaning-punk from Albuquerque, New Mexico—I would imagine that GRP.TXT definitely fills a void for house show dance party weirdness in a city whose scene hasn’t reached the total oversaturation of waved-out oddball DIY projects faced by, say, the Northwest Indianas of the world. All three members of the band rotate between instruments (bass, drums—fuck a guitar), with plenty of blank space left within their skeletal grooves to be filled by dual talk-shouted vocals, honking sax, and budget synth squiggles. The combo of doubled-up yelps over a repetitive, bouncy rhythm in “Estate Sale” nails a non-robotic-NUMBERS vibe, but what’s up with those growling pseudo-hardcore vocal breakdowns?! Talk about left field! They pop up again midway through “Money,” which starts with a spoken monologue addressing the conflicts between “fiscal responsibility” and the lower pleasures afforded by consumerism, then gives way to a bass-centered throb that could otherwise pass as a more ramshackle/less raucous take on GAUCHE’s angular anthems against late-stage capitalism. Ditch those goofy-tough vocals and I can get on board.

Harry Pussy Superstar EP

Fifteen micro-songs from a rando 1993 session by these Miami noise rock ultras, unreleased until now though HARRY PUSSY headz ought to know “Youth Problem”’ as the opening track on their debut album from that same year. The vibe on Superstar is not wildly dissimilar, which is to say it’s wild—total primordial beast blues guitar from Bill Orcutt, Adris Hoyos’ collapsing drums, red-faced fits passing for vox from both, and apparently a teenage accordionist, which, uh, if you say so. There’s no Mark Feehan on this one, yet it feels like HARRY PUSSY’s closest throwback to mid-’80s FL funnypunk (BROKEN TALENT, etc.) he and Orcutt crawled from. Essential for “Robert Ranks Reed (Alphabetically),” whose complete lyrics are the titles of six LOU REED albums and the grades awarded them by Robert Christgau. Vinyl looks to be long gone/at collector prices now, however.

Hot Gum Hot Gum cassette

It sounds like the group had fun making this cassette, and this translates to a fun listen. (Note, it isn’t always the case that fun for the musicians results in fun for the listener.) However, HOT GUM sounds like a bunch of friends playing to see what they come up with. On the surface the result is in the current vogue, if occasionally cacophonous: jangled guitars and disco beats clash with staccato saxophone and spoken/sung vocals and you’re not sure where they’re going, then out of the chaos comes a fleeting gem of a chord progression, the right rhythm, the perfect sax squall, and all of a sudden everything makes sense. The lo-fi quality of the recording adds to the effect. Like listening to some of the live tracks from the CLEAN, you almost feel you’ve stumbled on something amazing that happened by accident, and someone happened to hit record at just the right time.

Huraña Brujas, Cholas E Inventadas EP

Iron Lung Records seems to have all fingers on the pulse of modern punk, as they manage to consistently release new and exciting bands. HURAÑA is one of those bands that manages to sound fresh but never lets their influences and love for the genre be overshadowed by production. The guitars scream in a weird and unsettling mixture of the CRAMPS and early DEAD KENNEDYS but with a hardcore punk rhythmic section pummeling in the background, while the echoing voice howls at a distance the ills of being dysphoric in Chiapas, Mexico. Includes a cover of “Me Gusta Ser Una Zorra” by the legendary Spanish punks VULPESS, which in turn is a scandalous take on “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

I Am the Fly Axolotl EP

Debut EP from this two-piece German synth-punk band named after the classic WIRE track. Hiding their identities behind fly masks, this duo produces chilly post-punk with dirty bass, buzzing organ, and a vintage drum machine. Sounding like a familiar blend of old and new, I hear WIRE (obviously), SUICIDE, GRAUZONE, and maybe some COLD CAVE. These three songs sound full with layered keys and melodic, dispassionate singing. The clear production and upfront vocal delivery put an emphasis on the keyboard and bass interplay, where the minor chord progressions create tension and a feeling of unease. This would fit nicely on a post-punk or darkwave mixtape. Worth checking out!

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.

Irreal 2020 EP

Barcelona has been a growing staple for European punk and IRREAL is the perfect example of the Spanish strength, featuring members of BARCELONA, UNA BESTIA INCONTROLABLE, and NUEVA FUERZA just to name a few. These calloused musicians quickly continue where DESTINO FINAL (whose members were in) left off but angrier and faster. Five tracks of defiant hardcore that owes as much to Finnish hardcore as it does to DISCHARGE, and by no means do they forget their Spanish punk classics. You get the feeling that the more bands write in their own language the angrier it feels, and this is the perfect example of the anti-establishment sentiment. Without a doubt one of the best EPs that saw the light of day during the COVID-era “new normalcy.” Muerte al sistema!

Isotope Isotope LP

It’s Christmas again. A perfect time to spin dark, obscure music. Exactly the kind of sound ISOTOPE delivers on their self-titled debut LP. Eight songs of raw, apocalyptic D-beat in the vein of Japanese hardcore legends BASTARD. But, instead of straightforward and short compositions, they wander the realms of metal and crust, daring to go one step beyond. I personally prefer the faster, frenetic parts, but everything is played and assembled well enough, so it works just fine as a whole. Isotope is a pretty good record that will make fans of the genre vibrate with its aggressive palm mutes, sharp, metallic guitar licks, repetitive and solid riffs, and solvent lyrics. Give it a go.

Kajsajuntti Rawpunk Forever cassette

The title of this demo says everything that you need to expect from this one-man mangel machine: noisy, raw punk worshipping SHITLICKERS and DISCLOSE alike. The man behind KAJSAJUNTTI also drills eardrums in DISPOSE as a singer/guitarist and as one might expect, the modus operandi on this one is not so different from his other ventures. This one is for all the “noise not music” maniacs that just want some primitive straightforward D-beat.

Kaleidoscope Decolonization EP

This EP is the follow-up to KALEIDOSCOPE’s last release, the After the Futures LP, and it proves to be an even bigger middle finger to power. The band confronts colonization, greed, and imperialism in an angry punk kind of way, especially on the track “Decolonization” with the line “It’s decolonization or mass extinction.” Much of the album is reminiscent of ’80s L.A. punk. Think X or the GERMS, but the group occasionally gets a little more angular and noisy, which almost reminds me of ARAB ON RADAR. There’s also some more laid-back moments on the EP like the track “Girmitiya,” which pulls off a strangely hypnotic or psychedelic style of punk similar to CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE. I highly recommend giving this a listen and I’m looking forward to hearing more from these guys.

Kidnapped Collected Works 2017–2019 LP

I don’t know an awful lot about the New England region of the United States, but from what I can gather from this record, it’s fucked. Miserable and bleak. I say this with all the speculation a punk way down on the other side of the planet can; my interpretation of KIDNAPPED’s home state is made purely based on this record. What a fuckin’ ride it is. Furious, pummelling HC, more so in the vein of bands that tackled that slightly stranger side of 2010’s powerviolence (holy shit, remember WATER TORTURE and ROBOCOP?). I say slightly stranger, but there’s no element of pretension here, just a hell of a lot of anger and speed, followed by some truly crippling breakdowns. There’s a bleakness to this kind of HC that I really fucking like, it eschews poeticisms and goes straight for the throat. Despite appearing to be a compilation, this thing whips by like an LP, highly recommended. (PS: The DOOM riff cutting into that pinging snare on “Shit Tier Kinda Guy” is the chef’s kiss on this record.)

Kobra Confusione LP

KOBRA brings us some no-bullshit Oi!-tinged hardcore with a fresh and gritty feel. On this striking debut 12″ from the Milan four-piece, some of the songs have this cool production where the “meat” of the music is blown-out and in the red, while other components like vocals and saxophone are dubbed in more cleanly (like on “Confusione”). And then on other tracks, everything seems to be turned up to batshit-loud in one big clamor (“Stella Morta,” for example). The lyrics are in Italian and the songs are generally about resisting authority, staying sharp, and thinking for yourself in a world enslaved by consumerism, which somehow comes across even without using Google translate. It’s a fucking good record.

Kyle Carpenter Every Third Word cassette

Stripped-down four-track pop/folk from Austin, Texas. It’s like SHOP ASSISTANTS deconstructed, or maybe the mellow cut on a college rock record that never quite kicks in and lulls you into liking it. CARPENTER occasionally wanders too close to commercial coffee shop sounds, but those moments are (mostly) tempered by cuts like “Blatant Windows” that push the boundaries of lo-fi DIY pop…actually, that track and “Leech” are pretty much the only real burners, but there’s enough weirdness here to keep me interested (at least by keeping me guessing).

L’Appel Du Vide Demo 2020 cassette

I don’t know if “deathrock” is strictly a genre, or just a feeling, but this tape definitely has a deathrock feeling. Dissonant guitar chords build tension and resonate with the listener’s internal sense of impending doom, while everything else is brooding and dark. The guitar player’s style of fast, continuous staccato picking is like DICK DALE transmuted into a sinister underworld creature. Slow, deliberate vocals In German complement the vibe. Released in February 2020 with a note stating “burn after listening” and images of a virus, the tape artwork is disturbingly prescient.

Lamps People With Faces LP

First off, I love the title of this album. Of course, a good title doesn’t mean anything if the music doesn’t back it up. This does. Tense music with screechy vocals. It’s distorted and echo-y leaving me in a state of agitation. Ideal sounds for the end of 2020.

Landowner Consultant LP

People, I am here to tell you how much LANDOWNER absolutely fucking rules. They play tightly-coiled rock music that is in constant motion while appearing to remain perfectly still. It’s a neat trick, this hummingbird punk trip, but these guys got songs too—LANDOWNER nags you with their flitting, arid smart aleck takes. Imagine NOMEANSNO stripped of their exaggerated bluster (to be sure, a large part of that unit’s charm) or the MINUTEMEN time-warped into the 21st century. “Victim Of Redlining” corkscrews into your head with a relentless bass riff, a D. Boon guitar lick, and lyrics spat out like the speaker has been sitting stewing in anticipation of five minutes of facetime. “Swiss Pavilion” dissects city planning with wit and brevity, addressing public spaces, parking concerns and the narrator’s desire to achieve urban nirvana. In the context of punk, LANDOWNER’s music is understated yet contains an undeniable ferocity. Despite its lack of a “sick riff,” “Being Told You’re Wrong” is closer in spirit to MINOR THREAT than a thousand generic straightedge bands. LANDOWNER utilizes clean tones, repetition, and interlocking guitar/bass lines to build spaces that are there to serve a purpose, more tool than structure. On album highlight “This Could Mean Something,” singer/mastermind Dan Shaw is “Talking to the wall / ’Til it starts talking back” as the band veers into US MAPLE territory. “Confrontation” adds synth and shares sympathies with PATOIS COUNSELORS, while “Mystery Solved” sketches an existential story of an IT worker over seven tense minutes. But don’t get it twisted—Consultant is occupied with churning, propulsive music. Hardcore is inverted. Pointillist-brutalism is engaged. Patterns are melodies and whispers are screams. This album leaves invisible bruises like pillowcases filled with bars of soap. A bright spot during these last dark months, no doubt.

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.

Lebenden Toten Synaptic Noise Dissociation LP

The mighty Iron Lung Records has bestowed a gift upon us with this release, a live set from Portland’s LEBENDEN TOTEN, recorded during a tenth anniversary event for the label. Twenty-five minutes of absolute raging hardcore with blur-fast D-beats, constant sheets of swirling feedback, and shredded vocals pummeling the listener (and that lucky live audience) into submission. At first, it was a little overwhelming—noise chaos to the point of breaking apart—until I realized how tight the band is. What seems disorienting takes on an almost psych feel the more you listen to it and hear the layers of noise coming together. I hear some slight CONFUSE influence here and there, but this is its own manic beast. Standout tracks for me are “Inferno,” “Static #1,” and “Vampires,” but they are honestly all standouts. I can’t imagine not listening to this as a whole album, anyway. The artwork is cool too (looks like a ’70s Italian horror/sci-fi mashup), and it comes with a die-cut Halloween decoration. Get this, crank it, and blow your speakers out— it will be worth it.

Lethal Means Zero Sum Game LP

LETHAL MEANS force their hands to mechanically tweak a naturally simplistic Scandinavian hardcore approach with decent ability. In other words, they squiggle around the frets to ring out a few extra notes and adjust the verse-chorus structure a bit (see the aptly titled “Ad Nauseam”). The subtle technicality of the opener “Break Free” gave hope that LETHAL MEANS would offer something intriguing, but overall there were maybe three attention-grabbing moments here. I’ve never listened to stadium crust ‘cause the good lord didn’t plan that in my life’s trajectory, but LETHAL MEANS’ catchy riffs, endlessly pounding drums, smooth production, and more technical playing inevitably creates an “epic” sound that I assume is indeed stadium crust. “Break Free,” “Serve No Man,” and the closer “Life Cannot Be Owned,” which feels inspired by but lacks the swing and ease of DEATH SIDE’s “Crossfire,” could’ve served as an acceptable 7”. Low points are an instrumental track featuring video game-like sound effects of decommissioned military planes and album art featuring the Grim Reaper stroking a phallic atomic cloud, which seems appropriate for presumably older punk men doing their take on music written by children 40 years ago.

Life Ossification of Coral LP

Tokyo crust veterans LIFE’s latest LP Ossification of Coral combines the influences of ’80s Swedish hardcore, English and Scottish metallic crust, perhaps some influences from their peers over the years; yet still makes it their own. With the implementation of slower, groovier parts à la UK crust bands (AXEGRINDER or DEVIATED INSTINCT), the tracks have more variation than in the past, but they still continue to deliver the raging fast SEDITION/SCATHA-like approach for which they were known. Lyrics consist of anti-military sentiments that not only point out the issues that we face, but also manifest anthems in solidarity and support of the victims of oppression in this society. Includes a cover of ’90s Tokyo scene peers ABRAHAM CROSS’s “Same As War” and artwork done by Nozaki of COLLAPSE SOCIETY/STAGNATION. This release is a great representation of how the ’90s generation of the Tokyo crust scene is relevant in the current generation; still absolutely raging as hard as it did even after a few decades of existence. Highly recommended.

Liquid Assets Offshore Accounts cassette

Now we’re talking. A Canadian band of weird hardcore punk à la SCHOOL JERKS or BRUTAL KNIGHTS, releasing a cassette on a Malaysian label? Honestly, it checks all my boxes. The strongest part of LIQUID ASSETS is their sound. A vintage, rare garage sound, backed by simple yet effective riffs and a crabbed, unintelligible mumble instead of vocals. The kind of deranged music you freaks would dig, as if it came out of the cell of a psychiatric hospital. The songs are really short and straight to the point (just two of them last more than two minutes). Half of the time you feel like you’re in the basement of a bunch of suburban misfits, improvising over old GERMS records, smoking pot and getting drunk while recording everything you play. In short, this is a great record, really witty to hear, and I suppose, even funnier to have recorded it.

LSG Salvation/Solution demo cassette

The demo art depicts a cartoon punk who is being walked like a dog, or it could be a leashed child that traded the leash for a chain. They look content and mindless, like their name should be something stupid like “Bloopy the Punk.” Musically, it’s nothing original, but it’s a bit more rambunctious than Bloopy would have you believe, with only two tracks getting over the one-minute mark. Sparse vocals backed by bare-bones ’80s Midwest thrashing that could fit seamlessly onto a compilation like The Master Tape Vol. 2. A surprising ripper.

Lumpen Desesperación EP

LUMPEN is the spirit of the South American punk dissidence. With an UK82 backbone to their sound, product of much time spent listening to CHAOS UK or CRIMINAL JUSTICE, they create a similar approach to what fellow countrymen PRIMER REGIMEN do: a pure anthemic, unrestful Latin punk sound. Three Colombians and a Canadian relocated to Barcelona, with help from Lexton from UNA BESTIA INCONTROLABLE, LUMPEN managed to impress with this great debut, five tracks of pure “desesperación” of growing up in a violent corrupt country. Just look at the amazing cover by bass player Mateo Correal and you will get a taste of what is inside. “Tribus a la calle.”

M:40 Arvsynd LP

I do not know if the band name M:40 is in reference to a weapon or what, but M:40 of Sweden is weaponized with dooming folksy acoustic landscapes that remind me of ACURSED, GUTS PIE EARSHOT, and some tinges of blackened metal. My favorite thing about Arvsynd is the way all the musical levels are blended together. There is not much breathing room here, but it is not overwhelmingly aggressive either. It’s like a dense Scandinavian fog of heavy turmoil. This is the kind of hardcore that can usually get exhausting to me, but M:40 breaks it up with casual D-beat such as UNCURBED, sinister metal riffs such as NIHILIST, and fuzzed-out duo vocals. Favorite track: “Viskningar I Mörkret.” Melodic crustcore with finesse.

Mandible Klaw Mankind Grind LP

These guys hail from way up in Calgary, Canada and to be honest, with the winters they get up there I’d expect something more genuinely aggressive-sounding to come outta the place, but MANDIBLE KLAW don’t deliver us that. Instead, we get thirteen tracks of ultra-clean crossover thrash in the usual party tradition, complete with a nod to the Home Improvement theme song. It reminds me of a million other bands from a period not so long ago in the mid-2000s; its speed never quite reaches a level to be impressive, and the pissed-off vocals just sound inauthentic. Call me cynical all you want, but this sounds like a record that I’ve already heard a thousand times before—and after a year with more than enough to be fucking livid with, I’m after something actually pissed-off.

Möwer Grand Punk EP

Fist-banging metalpunk from Pittsburgh—fans of INEPSY, SKITKIDS and the like need to get in line for MÖWER fucking pronto. I know they are several releases into their career but Grand Punk feels like a band realized, and they sound like a machine…and few things sound better to me right now than being half in the bag in a sweaty-ass basement listening to “Burn It Down” burning so hard it makes my ears bleed. Also, I just used the word “career” in a review.

Meltcitizen Life’s a Joke, Then You Croak cassette

From out of El Paso, Texas. I am enjoying that the band sounds like a bunch of disparate instruments that don’t quite go together, but manages to make it work. I picture a few friends getting together to play music with whatever instrument they had closest at the time. The guitars blast fuzzily and noisily, but then a tinkling organ pops in for a while. The drummer is getting out every frustration possible. Everybody is playing at full speed. The vocals don’t quite go with the music either. They are stylistically closer to those of a ’70s prog rock band. They float on top of the cacophony, but are just weird enough not to be as annoying as that would seem. To quote the song “Exhumed 2 Soon,” “It’s a sense of joy and impending doom.” Yee-ha!

Meltcitizen Dullard cassette

Surfy, poppy, lots of reverb. Lots. Better than most bands of this persuasion, but for some reason, listening to this feels like listening to demos for the next GREEN DAY record or something Billie Joe-related. Did I mention the reverb?

Melting Walkmen Pelikan cassette

This was a nice surprise. I first heard Copenhagen’s MELTING WALKMEN from their track on the very enjoyable This is Copenhagen comp. They also seem to have a wealth of older material to check out via the idiot box (internet). The title track “Pelikan” is more of the excellent post-synth-punk hoo-ha à la NEW ORDER or maybe XMAL DEUTSCHLAND as heard on the aforementioned compilation. They are extremely Euro, and I mean that in the most endearing of ways. This tape is eye-opening to me in the fact that it reveals a punker and more rocking side of the band than one could maybe hear by checking out their back catalog. In fact, the second track starts off with a riff so familiar as being “Alcohol” by GANG GREEN that I was instantly thrashing from muscle memory. It’s not a straight rip-off though, but a pretty swell original tune which, along with the other two, makes this a worthy purchase to listen to on future rail adventures in Scandiland. Skol!

Mentira Nada Es Sagrado LP

This is the debut LP from Kansas City hardcore band MENTIRA. The record bleeds chaos. It’s an overtly nihilistic and punishing listen. A real pummeling wall of noise that doesn’t let up for a minute of it’s half hour runtime. Reminds me of COACHWHIPS as far as the lo-fi recording. The vocals are delivered entirely in Spanish in a real demented and spacy howl. The best thing about this LP, though, is that it’s totally infectious and a record that’s gonna get stuck on repeat for me. This is one of those records that I have to say don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Give it a listen, then give it another.

Military Shadow Blood for Freedom LP

Total metalpunk maniacs from Japan bring on their GISM herritage and write a modern piece of metallic hardcore, the Japanese way. After their debut Metal Punk Ironfist, these terrorists stepped up their game with Blood For Freedom for more incendiary riffage that just shows that they wear their metal and punk influences right on their sleeves. Fans of fellow countrymen PARASITE will be more than happy to bump this record on their next binge-drinking night out. And what an amazing band lineup: Infernal Pyromaniac, Goblin Acid Strike, Branded Rebel, Lusty Pervert, and Hellbrain Venomizer. You can’t go wrong with a lineup like that!

Motorsav Sange Fra Sygdon LP

Opening with an impassioned rush of melodic Scandinavian punk riffs, MOTORSAV delivers a familiar sound with a sprinkle of synth lead on top to spice things up. The record progresses into darkwave territory that maintains a driving punk tempo while taking on a dreamy, ethereal tone, and then explodes back into blasting hardcore. All the songs are good, but the mood is a little all over the place. The melodic tracks have surprising twists and turns, with super-tight performance and dreaminess in the production quality. The synth adds depth, and makes the sound stand out within this genre. Definitely recommended for fans of dark, melodic punk like GORILLA ANGREB, MASSHYSTERI, or Portland’s the OBSERVERS.

Moving Targets Humbucker LP

“It’s not disappointing” may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but in an era where many aging, or aged, rockers are attempting to get the band back together without understanding that their musical sensibilities and energy have changed dramatically, Ken Chambers doesn’t seem to have changed at all. While 2019’s comeback record Wires sounded very much like Brave Noise, this one is a little more poppy, very much in the Fall/Take This Ride realm. In fact, it’s so similar that you might wonder what the point is, like why did AC/DC put out so many records? (Answer: because people kept buying them.) If none of this makes sense to you, MOVING TARGETS, along with folks like DOUGHBOYS, BIG DRILL CAR, and PEGBOY, were one of direct ancestors of the melodic pop punk that gained widespread fame in the mid-1990s. It’s melodic and catchy but still driving and probably closer to ’80s hardcore than it is to the BUZZCOCKS. Should you start your MOVING TARGETS journey here? Probably not. But if you can’t get enough, have at it.

Mystic Inane Natural Beauty EP

MYSTIC INANE give us a posthumous collection of four songs that were recorded prior to them disbanding a few years ago. If you are late to this group of New Orleans weirdos, they sound like RUDIMENTARY PENI meets SACCHARINE TRUST in a dumpster. Their essential EP’s of M/I collection is always in rotation around these parts. This EP fits in perfectly with their three previous 7” releases of off-kilter outsider hardcore. The basement spy riffs are here, as are the deranged, always slightly off-beat vocals that make this band so recognizable and endearing. “Death of Disco Spiv” starts off slowly with a beginner’s level guitar line that is met about 30 seconds later with full-band hardcore stomp. “My Life as a Fish” reminds me of their previous trash anthem “I Believe in UFOs” with a similar vocal delivery in the chorus of “I’m a fish, and I want sleep” (at least, I think that’s what he says). “Mystic Ignorance” is as good an introduction to the band as it gets, and we even get a brief guitar solo! Generous! “Peckerwood Nero” has such a catchy repeated vocal line and bouncy bass melody that it could be a new wave hit in a freakier universe. The final track fades out and then slowly comes back in, creating a fitting parting gift from a great punk band. My expectations were exceeded, and I was bummed when it ended.

New Berlin Magnet LP

The new offering from Texas’ NEW BERLIN has this intense, black-and-white collage cover art that does not quite fit the music it contains. I’m not normally a stickler for consistency, but I don’t find these tunes fit as seamlessly as the songs on the Basic Function LP that I thought worked well in a stripped-down, BUCK BILOXI AND THE FUCKS kind of way. The Magnet LP tries out different sonic approaches from song to song and they don’t always jive together so well. You get fuzzed-out power chords but then jangly guitars and power pop licks, distorted vocals then earnest clear vocals, natural sounding drums then antiseptic fake drums—you get the idea. You don’t know which NEW BERLIN is going to show from track to track. You can’t deny the quality of some of these hooks and witty lyrical turns, but it left me with an uneven and unfinished feeling. That said, I really dug the DYLAN cover.

Nightmare Give Notice of Nightmare LP reissue

Burning Spirits hardcore is a movement of top-notch Japanese bands that play an energetic and uplifting form of heavy metal and punk hardcore hybrid. Give Notice of Nightmare, originally released 1990 on the legendary Selfish Records (SYSTEMATIC DEATH and LIP CREAM), is Burning Spirits hardcore at its finest, with an incessant tempo, NWOBHM-like leads, amazing songwriting, and a self-empowering attitude. NIGHTMARE is right there at the top of the game with BASTARD or DEATH SIDE and is still going strong to this day, being one of the few classic Japanese bands that did not break up along with GAUZE and WARHEAD. The album comes with the original artwork, a 350 gram cover, and has English translations for the Japanese lyrics. If looking for a fix of Japan you will definitely give notice of NIGHTMARE.

Nisses Nötter Det Är Krig LP

2020 saw among many great classic punk reissues the vinyl reissue of mean mangel machine NISSES NÖTTER’s jaw-breaking 1983 self-released Knäckta Nötter demo tape (and it sure feels like a demo tape, in a good way). These then-pre-teens from Gothenburg delivered a crushing, sloppy, and “angry at everything” lesson on how to do proper Swedish hardcore. If you are unfamiliar with this classic band, just keep in mind that their age span was eleven-to-twelve years old and yet they managed to play surprisingly fast and write great angry raw songs. The reissued vinyl version includes the complete history of the band and an insert. Cop this one when you need to let off some steam.

No Negative The Darkening Hour 12″

One of the illest psychedelic punk purveyors out there has some detritus left over from when they recorded their most recent album, 2019’s The Last Offices, and some more from a while before that, and they think we should hear it. Call me a mooning fanboy, but I happen to agree! That being said, I can see why the two A-side numbers got shelved, because they don’t really jibe with the finished item’s vibe. “Perverbial Grave” [sic…I guess?] is barrelling, stumbling blooze sludge I could imagine having come from the same ’80s Aussie scene as, say, VENOM P. STINGER; “Upside Down World” is even more impeccably hamfisted, kinda CHAIN GANG-via-FUGS talky rabble rousing. From a 2015 session, meanwhile, “Raw Deal” is a reverby and vaguely mournful instrumental which precedes “Mon Obsession Personelle”: a French-language quasi-cover of “Louie Louie” with vox handled by Bernardino Femminielli, who seems to be a weirdo pop dude of some kind from Montreal.

No Right Senescence CD

Metallic hardcore that uses a lot of technical guitar work, for lack of a better term. The first song starts out with some kind of guitar thing that sounds a lot like a drill. That shit is annoying and almost kinda ruins this from the jump. Luckily it’s not super prevalent in the rest of the songs. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, just your standard fare for this type of band. The bad? Aside from the weird guitar thing on the first song, the last song has one of those parts where there’s a sing-song-y dude that was all the rage like fifteen or so years ago. To me, that ruins a perfectly good hardcore band more often than not. The good? The vocals. While they may be pissed-sounding, the singer isn’t trying to sound to cookie-cutter metal/hardcore tough. Solid outing here, enough to have me interested in hearing more.

Nutrition No EP

The chair featured on the cover of this Vancouver band’s record is the kind you typically see in welfare offices, police stations, and low-rent business waiting areas. The off-putting nature of this visual fits the existential displeasure that is the springboard for NUTRITION’s agitated grown-up punk. The band’s sound is pretty appetizing, delivering a dense and jangly sort of post-hardcore with a spirited vocal performance and even a whiff of HANK WOOD influence. As promised, there’s some sustenance here, but this aggressively pessimistic platter of short songs is a hearty snack at best.

Ond Tro Syv Sange EP

OND TRO (“evil belief”) is a punky hardcore band out of Copenhagen, who run through seven tracks (Syv Sange is literally “seven songs”) in around ten minutes on this EP. Now, I don’t know whether to blame this on my lack of Danish hardcore points of reference or a first impression that I just couldn’t shake, but this sounds a lot like a ’90s Victory Records band playing MARKED MEN songs. There are a lot of open hi-hat counts into tracks, and the production is overall pretty STRIFE-y. But listen to “Gra Skyer” and tell me it doesn’t sound exactly like a MARKED MEN track until the vocalist comes in to bark lyrics like a late-era Raybeez. Anyway, silly comparison aside, I had a good time with this.

Ostseetraum Ostseetraum cassette

Gloriously minimal German synth-driven new wave. Stark, cold and mature, OSTSEETRAUM conjures sounds of homemade tapes recorded and duplicated in dark apartments to be distributed by hand in early ’80s Berlin, and they make those sounds feel relevant and unattainable. Stripped NDW bands like STRATIS clashing with Voice of America-era CABARET VOLTAIRE, sonic robotics delivered with a calculated and intentional calm. Nine cuts here, a stellar debut.

Outsiders These Streets LP

On the one hand, OUTSIDERS are Orange County street punk with gruff crew backing vox and every song’s an anthem and we’re all gonna stick together and stuff except when you’re wrong and then you better look out and watch your mouth. On the other hand, it’s kinda RANCID-lite and there’s a song talking about giving “all the meat you can fucken eat” to a girl who is “out on the prowl like a dog in heat” (the author can “tell by the way she’s looking at me” that she wants it, too). Just five tattooed bros who look like they should be old enough to know better. Hard pass.

Panic Bodies Lost Weekend demo cassette

If nothing else, 2020 is surely going to be the year of the solo recording projects. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to shows, so I’m also not complaining. PANIC BODIES are snappy garage punk, little hints of classic punk melody (remember how OBSERVERS dropped the hooks in but still sounded punk as shit? Yeah…like that), super bright and guitar-driven power punk. Choice cut “After Hours” starts to veer into hard and steady dark punk territory, which I fully endorse. Sounds timeless…because, well, I suppose many of us have the time these days.

Paracetamøl Behave LP

Blatantly brilliant LP from The Netherlands, I just keep listening and then I remember that I’m supposed to write about it. Which is hard, because PARACETAMØL hits a lot of nerves but are doing their thing. There’s a garage tinge, but Behave is well produced and sonically advanced, full bodied and accessible punk that you can easily see appealing to a wider “audience.” Like, draw a line between DREAMDECAY and the BLIND SHAKE…and walk that line very very carefully until you fall.

Penance Hall Covered in Shit / Take Me to the Bar Fight 7″

PENANCE HALL is a lo-fi downer/synth-punk duo made up of Robert Watson Craig III (a.k.a. BUCK BILOXI or GIORGIO MURDERER) and Michael He-Man (TRAMPOLINE TEAM). And each dude seems to get a side on this 7″. The BUCK side, “Covered in Shit,” sounds like GIORGIO MURDERER doing a chopped and screwed remix of a SPITS track. If you’re not a big fan of Mr. MURDERER’s work, this track likely isn’t going to do it for you, as it’s just a slight tweak to his usual formula (which I happen to love). But you have to give this Michael He-man side a spin! “Take Me to the Bar Fight” is a catchy little number that gives off seedier and more pessimistic vibes than a song about literally being covered in shit. Just absolutely stellar work!

Perspex Torch EP

“Straight to the point” is what you feel as soon as you press play on this record by Sydney’s angriest PERSPEX. Weird and twisted hardcore that taps into the deranged worlds of US hardcore legends WHITE PIGS and NO TREND alike, but managing to sound refreshing throughout. Their selling point is immediacy and a not over-intellectualizing approach to hardcore that should be a given in any punk sub-genre, but unfortunately many bands have lost touch with its roots. These five tracks will quench your thirst for no-bullshit angry hardcore.

Pitbul Demo 2020 cassette

These demo recordings offer an exciting look at a new mixtape from American rapper PITBULL! The “Dale” attitude is there but he cranks up the BPM and energy expressing some frustration that I think we can all relate to after such a hard (insert number of years you’ve been alive) years. PITBULL does stray a bit from his Reggaeton roots but finds inspiration in the likes of INFEST and YDI. Club music typically doesn’t make me want to beat the shit out of someone but this is a real vibe! Can’t wait for the PITBULL/Youth Attack collaborative sunglasses and skinhead cap. Personally, I’d prefer human growling over actual dog noises, thanks. Kill yourself to it!

Incinerated / PLF split EP

Here’s a double-stacked, transcontinental, gurgling grindcore attack featuring an UNHOLY GRAVE cover…you see where this is going.  Out of Texas, PLF delivers some vicious guttural grind mayhem with some seriously frantic death metal vibes. Like BOLT THROWER gone mince. Australia’s INCINERATED sounds like a tidal wave of toxic waste and human gore slamming right over you, followed by a stampede of diseased hogs trampling your tangled remains to dust. This is vomitus grind destruction at its best!

Pretty Voices American Curls CD

While these guys are clearly talented musicians, this record isn’t knocking my socks off. Musically, it’s a sort of mix-up of power pop and garage rock. I don’t know why, but I’m reminded of CHEAP TRICK. It’s all just a little too overdone for me. Within songs, the cadence changes and they employ that stop/start thing that can drive me crazy. The vocals seem affected, like Mark Smith of the FALL. Too much lead guitar. They can’t help it if they’re from Florida.

Prized Pig PPEP EP

PRIZED PIG is a noise rock band out of Los Angeles, whose commitment to old school recording techniques and a DIY ethos is admirable. This whole EP was recorded, mixed, and mastered using analogue tape. They also designed and printed their own sleeves. Good stuff! And you can hear this same dedication in the performance—these guys are going for it! I can see this working really well live. Unfortunately, the tunes themselves are a little ho-hum. The opening track, “Mistake,” is maybe the best—the vocalist does a passable CRAZY SPIRIT impression over a sped-up, dumbed-down CHUCK BERRY groove with breaks for noise noodling. “Toothless Tom” sounds like a deconstructed dance-punk song. And “Race Car” sounds more like PRIMUS than I would guess they were aiming for (although, who knows—with that song title, it might be on purpose). I really like these guys’ moxie! I just wish I liked the songs more.

Public Acid Condemnation EP

This one’s gonna be on a lot of fukkn year-end lists, and for good reason. You think that Condemnation is shaping up real nice when the trudge of “Nuclear Child” really settles in, and you think that they just dropped a ruthlessly dark and heavy beast. And then the music stops, and that buzzsaw kicks in and they are just fucking gone…you won’t know what even happened until “Flag Fetish” fades out and your ears are ringing and you’re wondering what the fuck kind of guitar solo you just heard. Rarely has the descriptor “urgent” felt more applicable, even (especially) as these freaks gear down for determined BATHORY-tinged stomps like “Electric Plague.” It’s a record that is wholly demanding from start to finish. And the demand is punishment. If you only have 90 seconds available to listen to hardcore punk music, I recommend the title track.

Puro Odio Demo 2018 10”

Dim memories of peeping this one back in the year of its original cassette release, giving it the thumbs up inside my brain and then not pursuing PURO ODIO in any serious way: a fool’s gambit, because this demo nailed the blackened Oi! sound as well as anyone in recent years. Reissued by Oakland metal label Sentient Ruin (Basque skinheads Mendeku also put it on vinyl earlier in 2020), these six songs are fixated on death and hell—both, in the case of “Darby Crash”—roll at a sinister pace, often cranking up the briskness but always coming off like they’ve got an extra gear to really hammer ya, and are recorded impeccably, cold and buzzing but with every instrument ringing through. Crucial shit if SEXDROME, HOAX, early RASPBERRY BULBS, and earlier CELTIC FROST turn your head when appearing next to each other like so. There was a PURO ODIO 7” in 2019 too, but I could stand to hear plenty more from these two Spaniards.

Purple-X Purple-X LP

I’ve had my eye on Oslo’s PURPLE-X since their excellent 2017 demo tape. This is their third release, a pretty short and diverse 12”. A minute-and-a-half intro sets a tone that’s both snappy and haunting. The three other songs on the A-side are jagged punk with cavernous reverb and other decidedly dark elements, but the aggressive drumming and abrasive vocal style steer this away from genre trappings. After a super chill interlude fades out and back in on the flipside they launch into a few faster thrashing tracks, which I have to admit is where I like PURPLE-X best. The vocal style unexpectedly reminds me of Blaine Cook of the FARTZ/ACCÜSED fame! The last song is sung in Norwegian and has a more classic feel, with a sing-along chorus and everything. The drumming throughout this whole record is particularly masterful, and the guitar tone sounds like it could be poised for both/either a dark post-punk band or surf! It all works and the track sequence was chosen for maximum impact. The layout is old-school collage style and has a cool three-panel fold-out lyric sheet.

Radar Mess cassette

Four doses of classic and excellent melodic punk from NYC’s RADAR. Draw a line between SOVIETTES, BUZZCOCKS, and THIS IS MY FIST…you’ll find the seeds of these sounds sown along the way. While I think that the brutality of this year manifested in the form of brutal sounds is what I want, it’s entirely possible that RADAR is exactly what I needed tonight.

Red Red Krovvy Managing LP

Having been around for a decade at this point, it’s quite a feat that Australia’s RED RED KROVVY has managed to remain so supremely agitated—they’re still pinning the needle into their color of choice and exorcising everyday demons like every good punk band should. Managing is their most consistent and satisfying collection of songs yet. There is a desperate, burned-out quality to RRK’s attack, but they cram enough down-turned hooks into each two-minute screed that the songs don’t end up an indefinite blur. “Before You Die” kicks off the album with a cathartic stare-down of existential dread and assures the listener that they will indeed leave a good-looking corpse. Singer Ash Wyatt (also of the excellent UBIK) possesses a memorable snarl and she uses it to great effect on cuts like “Company Job,” “Real Estate,” and “Despise The Rich.” Those titles give you an idea of where RED RED KROVVY’s head is at regarding the free market and its acolytes. Musically, there is a certain kinship with the dark side of SoCal beach punk. It’s tuneful but not poppy, fast but not ripping, and stripped of needless embellishment for the most part. Managing is a refreshing reminder that punk doesn’t need bells or whistles, just plenty of old fashioned spit and spite.

The Freakees / Research Reactor Corp. split EP

Goodbye Boozy seems to be cranking out these split 7”s lately. While I’m not generally a fan of the format, I think they could have done worse with this pairing. The A-side is two quick tracks from Sydney-based torch bearers of the NWI sound, RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. And they are just excellent. RCC takes the CONEHEADS’ herky-jerk formula, adds some cartoonishness and menace, and leans a little more into that warbly direct-to-VHS-sounding production. I love it. The FREAKEES, out of L.A., give us two tracks of blown-out, bass-heavy garage punk that skews a bit more punk than garage. It reminds me of the band SCRAPER. Though, instead of deadpan, talk-shout vocals, you get an ear-splitting screech that’s reverbed to hell. I think these are pretty great tracks, but I found the vocals a tad much at times. But FREAKEES gotta freak, I guess!

Rolex Hip Intellect EP

This release is ten furious cuts of ’80s futurist punk. While the band seems happy to harken back to the “glory days” of their hometown LA—mostly evident in their highly-mobile bass lines and howling vocals—they incorporate odd melodic and rhythmic turns that break with tradition and keep the ear abuzz in new ways on every track. The guitar stands out in particular, sounding like D. Boon doing divebombs; it’s some of my favorite axe work I’ve heard all year. The entire package fits perfectly with lyrical themes of apocalypse, climate crisis and everything else you’d want from California hardcore. This band is weirder and wilder than most—definitely deserving of your attention.

Rosetta Stone Cryptology CD

With a minimum of internet sleuthing, I discovered that ROSETTA STONE is a British “Gothic rock band” that would appear to have formed in the late ’80s. Which explains why they sound like a very deft marriage (of convenience) of SISTERS OF MERCY and JOY DIVISION. Bass-driven dark music, with Ian Curtis vocal stylings and spare synth and guitar. This is a new album, and is a return to their sounds of yore. No idea what they were doing in between, but if you have either of the aforementioned in your record collection, this’ll go down real easy.

Rubble Parts Per Million EP

If any record crossing my turntable in the last year has made me feel extra sad that we can’t be in a room dancing together for the foreseeable future, it’s this one. RUBBLE incorporates the unstoppable enthusiasm for punk that Portland bands seem to be able to perennially channel. They pull from the most fun, bouncy parts of street punk and Oi!, and smash them together with eerie, melodic vocals, reminiscent of LOST CHERREES. This release is more melodic and has a little more nuance than the band’s earlier records. It’s challenging to make songs that are thoughtful and fun, but still have a punk edge, and RUBBLE has definitely done it. Definitely something to check out!

Sad Eyed Beatniks Places of Interest cassette

Dreamy DIY ’60s pop reimagined through an ’80s post-punk/indie lens. The influences are blatant, and they bleed out of the tape, which is part of SAD EYED BEATNIKS’ charm. Places of Interest is just as much Saturday afternoon record shop in-store as it is face paint and bubbles in the park filmed with a grainy 16mm thrift store camera. Guitars are supremely damaged and off, but they stay in the background while K Linn  (yeah, another one-person project) pushes things awkwardly forward with ramshackle drums and innocently-off vocals. A release that listens like a soundtrack to a short film that you desperately want to exist is a good release…I can see the shots that accompany the songs, because they’re already in my mind.

Science Man Science Man II LP+flexi

I thought I’d listened to SCIENCE MAN before. But I think I was conflating NATURAL MAN BAND and some of the more overtly sci-fi denizens of the egg-punk world, like POWERPLANT or RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. To be honest, that impression isn’t too far off. While SCIENCE MAN (one-man project of John Toohill from RADIATION RISKS and other Buffalo bands) may be more indebted to the NEW BOMB TURKS and less to DEVO than any of those bands, he’s still employing the services of a drum machine to make some “out there” music. This is pretty much lightning-fast garage punk laid atop an incessant, driving industrial track with some metal and prog flourishes thrown in (as I’m writing this out, I’m realizing that’s quite the odd set of genre bedfellows, but it works). Although there are nine separate tracks (the physical release also includes a flexi with an additional track), II functions more as a continuous 20-minute mix—once it gets going, it never lets up. This is all really impressive stuff, but I want to highlight this vocal performance. It’s like Greg Cartwright turned up to eleven. Definitely worth checking out.

Screaming Fist Templanza EP

This is how you do it. People from TORSÖ, VAASKA, and NEGATIVE STANDARDS (among others) doing rough D-beat with raw sound and political lyrics in Spanish. It’s a perfect combo: manic drums that don’t follow the same beat for more than twenty seconds, loops of skilled riffs punching your head over and over, and a voice that glues everything together. The strong personality of the vocal style supports the whole composition, with an attitude of “we’re gonna eat you alive” that has won me over. The dusty treatment of the guitars fits perfectly too, creating an aura of old and cheap punk, a harsh texture that’s really charming. Nothing new here, but there’s no need, SCREAMING FIST delivers catchy and rash hardcore punk just fine.

Sex With a Terrorist S.W.A.T. demo cassette

There is a rule in films that say you have to trap the viewer in the first thirty seconds of footage. I don’t think S.W.A.T. are filmmakers, but they know for sure how to apply that principle. The opening riff immerses you in a crumpled sound, a crossover between LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS, VOID, and SCHOOL JERKS. This is weird punk, receiving direct influences from the Californian hardcore punk tradition and turning it into a fresh sound. Something fast, with breakneck riffs, but with enough space to experiment and improvise. Especially on “Screenshot Hardcore,” the last song of the demo and the longest, with strong vibes of the last OILY BOYS record. This is an album that requires several listens for one to capture its true essence. A great first impression. I’m looking forward to more releases.

Aluminum Knot Eye / Shithole split EP

Hell yeah, punks! Who the fukk says old people can’t out-weird the kids? Not Wisconsin, that’s for damn sure. SHITHOLE drops complete sonic damage on their two songs; the borderline unlistenable “Last Nerve” will take you back to late ’70s no rules madness with that one piercing, relentless four-note guitar lead, then launches into a pure No Wave freakout called “Sanctuary.” I am all in! Milwaukee’s ALUMINUM KNOT EYE makes it clear on “Homicidal Lubricant” that the two decades (and then some) they have spent in the trenches (er…bars?) have done nothing to mellow their freakout psych-punk. Ruthless sonic damage masquerading as digestible noise punk—takes your ears back to when the ’80s hardcore punks made the switch to writing songs and took the effort to spell out their nihilism plain and simple…in some ways it was scarier. This 2019 split is one of the best records I’ve heard in 2020, I feel like I need a break after one listen—to that I say “Another beer, please.”

Shrinkwrap Killers Parents + FBI = Cahoots LP

OK, now we’re talking. I went into this LP pretty skeptical because Parents + FBI = Cahoots kind of sounds like it could be some bullshit written by TWISTED SISTER, but that is definitely not the case. This is some dark synthwave in the vein of the SPITS, but really running wild lyrically. Just take a look at some of the track titles here. We’ve got “Just Shoot Me When You’re Ready” and “Dialogue Between a Vampire & Bloodless Aliens,” among others. The LP can be a little one-note in that almost every song has the same beat, but I still fully endorse giving this a listen.

Spectres Nostalgia LP

The unironically-titled new LP from SPECTRES exists in a world where the ’80s rule, with sonic nods to the CURE or MY BLOODY VALENTINE (sans distorted guitar), and it’s executed so flawlessly that it’s almost a problem. This backward-looking record, complete with authentically retro cover art, suffers from overly lush production. It’s just a bit too shimmering, too sparkling to the point you get an impression early on that nothing unexpected is going to happen (and then nothing does). I’m not saying that old-school-sounding synthwave isn’t up for grabs, I just prefer more urgency. Like when a band like HEKÀTĒ does it, the genre sounds vital to what they’re trying to express (and their songs are in Greek, no less). SPECTRES sound more like they’re building atmosphere while not particularly adding something novel to it, and it’s an all-too-familiar atmosphere. If this record were a piece of furniture, it would be an immaculate glass coffee table. There’s no doubt they can play, but I like to see a bit more grit and dirt with my post-punk. I guess we’re nostalgic for different things.

Staffers In the Pigeon Hole cassette

STAFFERS play lo-fi poppy rock. The rhythms are quirky and sound like they are off-balance. The contemplative lyrics are enthusiastically spoke-sung. It’s part outsider rock, part straightforward indie rock. It’s odd, yet familiar.

Star Party Demo 2020 cassette

STAR PARTY is a GEN POP offshoot that throws down a glittering gauntlet on this teaser tape. Drenched in sheets of glorious early Creation Records fuzz, “No Excuse” hits hardcore velocity while singer Carrie Brennan is perfectly dialed in on the reverb. But it’s “Veil of Gauze” that really impresses. “Gauze” is so good that it can hold its own with the excellent version of the SHOP ASSISTANTS’ “Something To Do” that precedes it. And just when you think you know the score, STAR PARTY covers a BOB DYLAN-penned early CHER tune (“All I Really Wanna Do”) and conjures fond memories of the AISLERS SET. When’s the single?

Substitute Eat Your Enemys cassette

SUBSTITUTE dives headfirst into a grunge waste-wonder-land, channeling Kurt Cobain’s forced, raspy singing style and jangly, anguished minor chord progressions. SUBSTITUTE synthesizes that legacy with updated elements of extended, melodic guitar leads and driving, aggressive punk drumming (but to prevent any confusion, the band emphasizes on their Bandcamp page that they do not play pop punk). This is likely a welcome addition for fans of the grunge classics that influenced this project, but the references may be too heavy-handed for some or an outright turn-off for people who aren’t drawn to that particular limb of the punk family tree.

Sunshine Satellite Sunshine Satellite cassette

Right off the bat I notice a punk/new wave blend that, when combined with the sort of stilted female vocals, reminds me of the EPOXIES. High praise. It’s got a catchiness that brings elements of SUZY Y LOS QUATTRO. While the vocals have a pretty quality, they’re a bit at odds with the pace, which can be a bit frenetic at times. I like the combo. This looks like a first effort and I like it, but I see room to grow. Snappy Little Numbers does it again.

Swan Wash The Upstairs Museum cassette

A trio from Bloomington, IN with a controlled, focused deathrock approach. Two punk-length tracks with picked guitar lines and urgent WIRE-esque vocal approach, followed by a colder, lengthier conclusion that moves from the third to the first person. Icy soundscapes compliment the static urban decay musings, lending more to this experience than what’s just on the surface. Would fit well among the early 4AD roster rather than with reverb or distortion-drenched crust-gone-goth thing that feels pretty overdone at this point.

Sweet Reaper Sidekick LP

I’ve always loved art that seems to peel back the mask of an otherwise serene and happy environment. Ventura’s SWEET REAPER exists in the tradition of beach punk like AGENT ORANGE, ADOLESCENTS, RIKK AGNEW, etc. On the surface, Ventura could seem like a shiny, happy surfer’s paradise, but this album simmers with the sun-bleached angst beneath the boardwalk. Musically, we’re coming out of the gate strong: lead-off track “Reapers Back” is the best song the MARKED MEN never wrote. The MARKED MEN comparison is a bit of a red herring though, as the rest of the album bears less of a resemblance to Denton’s finest. Still catchy as hell, but with a cynical detachment to the vocals and an abrasive jangle to the guitars that at times harkens back to the ADVERTS. Ten short songs packed with melody, hooks, and energy. No chaff.

Teenage Halloween Teenage Halloween LP

This record is hard for me to write about. On the surface it sounds like a bunch of “folk punks” traded in train-hopping and alcoholism for the ability to write hella catchy “pop” songs, although I understand that’s a pretty shitty analogy and I feel it’s a disservice to a band that has written a great fucking record. I will say this…in a perfect world, where the radio actually played real music still, TEENAGE HALLOWEEN would be fucking huge! I could listen to this record everyday and find something new I like about it every time.

The Adicts The Sound of Music LP reissue

The clown princes of clockwork punx are back…in reissue form! For the longest time, I actively avoided engaging with any of these droogy bands for the simple reason that the fans got on my tits to an almost cosmic degree—crystalised by one legendarily punishing pisshead at a COCK SPARRER show in Leeds, replete with plastic bowler hat and jockstrap. I, quite naturally, assumed it was annoying joke music for dickheads. Was I wrong in that assumption? To a certain extent, yes. While there is space for some joke music on The Sound of Music with a paean to Chinese takeaways, it’s an enjoyable camp romp through the poppier side of UK82, like the BLOOD and PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES had a scrap in a circus tent.

The Adicts Smart Alex LP reissue

Another ADICTS reissue from Puke n Vomit, this time their 1985 LP Smart Alex. This LP marks a bit of a turning point for Monkey and the lads, as they began to sand off some of the rougher edges and incorporate more new wave elements. Unfortunately, along with those rougher edges, they lost a lot of their charm, and this album feels a bit pointless and anaemic rather than anthemic. A lot of plodding MOR nonsense makes up the filler on this album which really drags in parts. Not a particularly stand-out record by any stretch, and I would suggest broadly for completists only.

The Astronauts It’s Got a Garden LP

If you’re like me and somehow missed it, the ASTRONAUTS are a “semi-legendary” UK band that loosely resonates with a variety of genres including anarcho-punk, psych-rock, progressive rock, and folk punk. They launched in 1977, just eight years after Apollo 11’s moon landing. In 1981, they released their first LP, Peter Pan in the Suburbs on All the Madmen Records—sharing the roster with FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN and the MOB. With witty, irreverent lyrics and a sound swinging from tripped-out psych-rock to impassioned political ballads to folky campfire sing-alongs, they wound their way into the hearts of hippies and punks alike while touring around the UK with ZOUNDS. Their original recordings were overlooked for years before becoming massively collectible in the era of Discogs. The band’s early EPs and first two LPs were re-released on vinyl by La Vida Es Un Mus Records a few years ago, making them available beyond the realm of serious record collectors. While they may have slowed down for a few years in the ’90s, the ASTRONAUTS never stopped making records. Scattered among various formats and labels, they continued to grow and transform. So this November 2019 release is hardly a reunion. It’s Got a Garden stands out in the way it fully takes advantage of modern recording capabilities. There is enough of a consistent aesthetic throughout the band’s discography that it feels like a peek into a parallel universe where the early UK anarcho-punk bands recorded with what, at the time, would have been major label recording studio equipment. The richness of the song “Garden” reimagines DAVID BOWIE-style futurism minus the rockstar vanity, before meandering into a chorus of theatrical singing backed by thin violin accompaniment. There’s something greater here than a more velvety recording, though. While some bands stick around trying to relive their glory days, the ASTRONAUTS’ true glory days are ahead of them. In the process of tirelessly crafting album after album, they’ve perfected rather than rehashed their sound. This new release is just as fresh and exciting as anything they’ve created.

The Binges Bunny / Be You For Halloween 7”

Fuck, this blows. Total aged Silverlake hipsters from like fifteen years ago playing mega-annoying alterna/horror rock. I could totally see suffering through crap like this at someplace like The Echo or Silverlake Lounge and, surprise! That’s where their Facebook page says I can go to soak up this masterwork. The opening track is an ode to a “bad bunny” (!?) with the extra whiny chorus of “bunny cut his ears off” again and again; I’m sure this a metaphor for society’s evils or some garbage that’s way over this guy’s head. Right. Well, that’s the good one. “Be You For Halloween” is an unlistenable modern rock garbage pit about identity theft with a horror twist. The singer kinda sounds like an uninteresting Mike Patton and the guitar on the first track has a nice tone—that’s about all that’s nice that I can say. Kill me. Give me COVID now.

The By-Products Praying Mantüs LP

Thirteen bursts of snappy punk from Southern California. I’ve tossed around ways to describe the BY-PRODUCTS, but ultimately I think they sound like adult punk. That’s not a knock (far from it), it means that they seem to have harnessed a generation of influences and used them to frame their approach instead of using them as a template. The start of “Self Diagnostic” sounds like BIG BOYS, “God Phone” hits me like some solid ’90s DIY punk, “Earthquake” is a straight Orange County hardcore ripper, “Aftershock” comes off as a dose of RADIOACTIVITY-caliber sharp brilliance…I could go on, but the more I listen the more things I hear. And I don’t want to bore you. The BY-PRODUCTS are avoiding all of the trappings and don’t seem suited for any of the molds—this is a hearty endorsement.

The Cool Greenhouse Alexa! / End of the World 7″

I went into this release skeptical. Actually, aside from their debut, a record I ordered on a whim because I thought Market Square Records was cool, I’ve been skeptical of every COOL GREENHOUSE release. I liked that first 7″, but I’d assumed this was a novelty project. The minimal, talk-sung songs with bookish lyrics were fun, and the detuned guitars with crap Casio accompaniment made for an interesting sound. None of that seemed sustainable, though. But with each release, Tom Greenhouse has done just enough with the project—including fleshing it out into a full band for the last LP (which was great!)—to keep the schtick from growing tiresome. Still, I had my doubts about sitting through clever ruminations on “Alexa” and a retread of the B-side from that first 7″. And, look—this sounds exactly like I had imagined going in…but it’s great. “Alexa” is maybe a bit too clever, but it’s probably as close to “catchy” as this band will get. But this B-side! I didn’t think something as simple as adding real drums could change the DNA of a song, but the full-band version of “End of the World” is such an upgrade over the original that I’m now declaring it the official version.

The Courettes Want You! Like a Cigarette / Night Time (The Boy of Mine) 7”

I’ve always loved that the Scandinavians have a real appreciation for music history. The music they put out rarely exists in a vacuum. Female-fronted garage rock’n’roll, this one has a real feel for the girl vocal bands of the early ’60s. It’s got the harmonies, the handclaps, the melancholic vocals and lyrics. And while the focus is on the vocals, it’s not at the expense of the finger-snapping garage fuzz that carries it all. I find the production nicely balanced; it’s nicely done, but not overdone. They knew what they were trying to achieve and they achieved it.

The Cowboys Lovers in Marble cassette

The COWBOYS LP on Lumpy was a damn fine slab of weirdo garage punk. I friggin’ love that thing. I dug their further adventures but lost track of the band a few years back. Well, thankfully for us, the COWBOYS are still out there, still plugging away, still consistently putting out quality music. In fact, they released an LP in 2020, so this tape can be seen as riding sidecar. But make no mistake, these aren’t scraps. I’m pleased to report that the COWBOYS still got “it.” They’ve settled into what is perhaps their final form as advanced students of moody ’60s psych-pop. The sound honors the era, but still comes off as contemporary. There’s elements of the KINKS (“Lovers In Marble”) and early BEE GEES (“The Bell Rings Less”), while the best song here, “Saintlike Said,” recalls the brooding PRETTY THINGS. Nice job, ‘boys.

The Culprits The Culprits LP

Killer Portland punk from the early 2000s, unearthed and given the treatment in a criminally limited run of 100 pieces of splatter wax. Wildly catchy and raw hi-energy—think KRUPTED PEASANT FARMERZ and TOXIC REASONS, that kind of catchy energy, hooks that pierce skin. As a staunch advocate for documentation, I’m glad nuggets like this are given the attention they deserve—and I have a hunch that 2020 ears might give the CULPRITS more accolades than they received in that downtuned black-clad crust oasis fifteen years ago, because fast snappy punk never goes out of style.

The Deadbeat Club Vital Earnings cassette

The folks at Digital Hotdogs are freaks, let’s just get that straight right away. You never know what you’re going to get, which is why I always enjoy reaching into their folds to see what kind of sweaty goods come out. And just when I brace myself for some erratic drug-addled mania, I get the DEADBEAT CLUB, who play it straight and just kill the hordes of ethereal pop hacks on Vital Earnings. The whole tape seems like it just materialized from the mist still lingering from 1989, blatant and brilliant VALENTINE, TWINS, OCEAN BLUE lifts and a positively dreamy vibe on cuts like “Lucy Should Start a Band” and “Raceless Case.” They branch out here and there, veering towards more minimal sounds comprised of the same base elements…just a few cautious steps removed. And this is why I keep looking towards this damn label—because I like to be surprised and I like to be forced out of my comfort zone, even if I’m just being pushed into the arms of comforts past. Excellent recording across the board.

The Electric Chairs So Many Ways 12″ reissue

After Jayne County left first-wave punks the ELECTRIC CHAIRS to go solo, half of the band opted to keep the name and released a new single as a pared-down trio in 1979, taking a complete 180 degree turn from the CHAIRS’ early campy, glam-damaged origins—bassist and vocalist Val Haller later would later go on to the FLYING LIZARDS (whose David Cunningham produced this incarnation of the ELECTRIC CHAIRS), and that group’s cut-up avant new wave/art-punk aesthetic almost certainly functioned as a revised point of departure. The A-side of this 12” reissue includes both of the tracks from that 7”, “So Many Ways” and “J’Attends Les Marines,” the latter being a deconstructed and slightly dubbed-out take on “Waiting for the Marines” from the the final County-led ELECTRIC CHAIRS LP Things Your Mother Never Told You (with vocals redone en français, naturally). It’s really all about “So Many Ways,” though—a total melting mutant disco groove of clattering, kinetic percussion, fractured electronic textures, and processed deadpan vocals like the FLYING LIZARDS reinvented as a 99 Records band. Weirdo classic! The two modern remixes of “So Many Ways” added on the B-side are pretty unremarkable (one “edit” that doesn’t radically alter the original, and one much more abstract “rework” that stretches the original to double its length while removing all of its elastic energy in the process), but no one really buys reissues of pricey late ’70s/early ’80s post-punk obscurities for the remixes, y’know?

The Fuzztones NYC CD

This CD is the FUZZTONES’ tribute to their hometown of New York City. They do covers of RAMONES, the CRAMPS, DEAD BOYS, HEARTBREAKERS, the FUGS, PATTI SMITH, among others in a mellow garage rock style. They have changed some song’s lyrics. “Microdot” instead of “Chinese Rocks”? “53rd & 3rd” sounds extra creepy done in this slowed down in the “Crimson and Clover” melody. They even cover FRANK SINATRA’s “New York, New York” as the album opener. This is for fans only.

The Geros Freak Out / Dr. Hoo Hoo 7”

The GEROS from Osaka have an uncanny knack for channeling the pure mischievous spirit of early punk from the ’70s and ’80s. This talent, embellished by the mastering of GEZA X, results in an orgy of raw and snappy punk on the band’s third 7”. This single oozes KBD juice and memories of the MAD, and both songs have an addictive quality that’ll keep you flipping the Japanese wax ‘til it’s well-worn. Enhance your existence with this and the other two excellent GEROS records at your earliest convenience.

The Monsters I’m a Stranger to Me / Carpool Lane 7”

These MONSTERS are a Swiss trash-garage combo that started kicking rocks way back in the ’80s and are fronted by the honorable Rev. Lightning Beat Man. Beat Man runs Voodoo Rhythm Records, so the dude is not a stranger to loud-ass dirt rock, but I was still surprised by the grit that’s caked over these new recordings. The A-side is a hi-energy rave-up that shows a generation of Burger-fed youth how it’s done. Gnarly. “Carpool Lane” slows down just a hair so that herk-jerk verses can alternate with heavy bursts of fuzz as an analog synth zaps the aliens lurking on the side of the road. A cassette version slathers on a host of extra tracks.

The Scissor Girls The Scissor Girls LP

Vinyl reissue of the seven-song 1992 demo tape from Chicago’s art school No Wave revivalists the SCISSOR GIRLS, who channeled the warped dadaism of the RED CRAYOLA circa Soldier-Talk and early ’80s CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, the controlled chaos of the MARS/DNA side of No New York, and the most antagonistic and damaged strains of ’78-’82 US/UK DIY post-punk, all in an early-to-mid-’90s underground landscape where that particular combination of reference points wasn’t exactly in vogue. By the time they split up in 1996, they’d started to stretch into the sort of meltdown noise territory that would later be the calling card of ’00s-era Load Records (who actually put out a SCISSOR GIRLS 10″ as one of their earliest releases), but these recordings document the band at their most concise, with every song just a fit of raw slash and scrape that combusts before hitting the three-minute mark. You can clearly spot the breadcrumbs they laid down here for others to follow after them—the wiry, stop-start “Insanitary Sanctuary” is an almost dead-on harbinger of contemporary Chicago post-punks NEGATIVE SCANNER (especially in bassist Azita’s defiantly sneering vocals), the scrambled-yet-danceable rhythms of tracks like “Riveted” and “Omens” will be instantly recognizable to anyone even passingly familiar with ERASE ERRATA, etc. Total visionaries!

The Spits VI LP

After a lengthy wait, the streets again run red with a fresh spill from Kalamazoo’s finest. In this eagerly anticipated episode of the SPITS, the band cranks out a few new classics whilst retaining their classic VHS Horror-esque groove, complete with 8-bit keys and sci-fi vocals. As soon as the opener “Up All Night” kicks into its unholy buzz, you know it’s on. Most of the songs tread in familiar SPITS territory, but some of my favorite tracks here are the ones where they break the mold a little bit like “Creep” and “They.” This thing is sold out all over with a second press coming soon, and rumor has it that the guys are launching a new fan club in 2021. Stay tuned for more spine-tingling adventures.

The Templars Clockwork Orange Horror Show 12″ reissue

Viddy this me droogies, everyone’s favourite ecclesiastical skinhead rockers are back with another reissue of their 1995 EP. This particular release waltzes along the well-ploughed furrow of fascination with A Clockwork Orange, and it’s all you’ve come to expect from a TEMPLARS release, really: flanger turned up to the max, sandpaper-gruff vocals, and short but sweet tunes about being a naughty boy and having a ruck. Two covers of MAJOR ACCIDENT and ANGELIC UPSTARTS give an indication as to the influences. Worth a go if you don’t already own a copy.

The Touch Heads Try to Get Some Sleep cassette

The physical manifestation of these three tunes is now more than a full year old, but I feel like I’m going to be carrying this creation well into the next decade. The TOUCH HEADS sound like they are playing elements of a lost (and brilliant) garage hardcore recording, picking and choosing the best bits and looping them—remixing and deconstructing the music in real time. If you can imagine listening to part of a punk band….but like, just the good part. Clean guitars, complete emphasis on repetition, take the WIPERS, BIG BOYS, and DICKS school of punk and filter it through the Dance of Death 45 and take out the bits you don’t like. Stark, blunt, confident music for an uncertain future.

TI-83 Newsflash demo cassette

A Denver four-piece who take a decidedly No Wave-inspired approach for a band named after a calculator. My favorite moments are when the synth and the guitar seem to be fighting for the same space in the mix, making both sound warped and atonal, like the tape was left in the rain and shoved back into the deck. The tempos are abrupt, the bass is chunky, the songs are short. Plus, there are funny samples. It reminds me of a lot of things (COACHWHIPS? The SICK LIPSTICK?), but not enough of one single thing to make a decent direct comparison. Let’s just say if you like your synth-punk with a touch of garage, but not too angry, this is in your wheelhouse.

TJ Cabot & Thee Artificial Rejects TJ Cabot & Thee Artificial Rejects LP

This record really ticks off the boxes—eleven tracks, none of them over two-and-a-half minutes long, and reportedly recorded on one cheap microphone (but sounds better than most studio efforts). It has taffy-sweet hooks, but still sounds tough. Basically everything you want from nihilistic garage punk that’s still palatable enough to put on at a dinner party (depending on how cool your friends are). Hits a great STOOGES-like peak with the “Gimme Danger”-echoing highlight “It Ain’t Fun (In the City of the Whiplash).” The whole album slips in, slaps your face and dips out before you can ask for another. Raucous, gritty, and near-perfect.

Total Wolf Total Wolf LP

Do you enjoy fun? How about thrash? Yeah? Then chances are you would totally dig TOTAL WOLF. Listening to this, the one thing that keeps popping in and out of my brain is “What if MUNICIPAL WASTE wrote Apocalypse Dudes or GUTTERMOUTH played thrash?” Total fucking party record. It makes me wanna slam some shitty beers and circle pit around a bonfire and I don’t even drink anymore.

Total Wolf Nobody Loves You LP

Canadian hardcore along the ways of SICK OF IT ALL and AGNOSTIC FRONT. Not as iconic as those bands, but these guys do crank out the negative vibe in short blasts. I can see this band going over well on one of those multi-band hardcore shows.

Trashdog Sittin On My Head cassette

Take a deep breath, kids, this one is a true fucker. Sittin On My Head sounds like five bands sitting on my damn head at the same time. Snappy high-speed garage punk, jangly college alt, sample-laden freak sounds, and T. REX worship all mashed up like a drug cocktail for my earholes.

Truth Cult Off Fire LP

First thing that springs to mind here is SWIZ without, ya know, actually sounding like SWIZ. This is very heavily D.C.-influenced, which makes a lot of sense as the band hails from Baltimore, MD. They also recorded this with J. Robbins, adding to the Dischord-ian aesthetic. Vocally, I’m catching FUEL vibes, too. Everything about this record is striking all the right chords with me.

Twisted Nerve Never Say Goodbye (Archive Vol. 2) LP

This collection features proper deathrock goodness from Scotland with shades of KILLING JOKE on tunes like “Geronimo,” but almost veers into SUBHUMANS territory on “Vertigo.” The drumming is tight and everything sounds so rushed and urgent that even the little tape dropouts add to its authenticity. Only “Magik of Trance” lags a bit under the spell of bad ’80s rock convention, otherwise this is pretty tight. Are the vocals a little flat on the track that gives this collection its name? Yes. Is that a problem? Not in this case. Sometimes passion wins over perfection. Having gotten to the age where I gravitate toward the reissues and archival recordings as much as the new releases, records like this are part of why.

Unclaimed Diamonds The First Five Slabs cassette

Philly’s UNCLAIMED DIAMONDS self-describe as “Confusion is Sex-era SONIC YOUTH playing ‘Running With the Devil’” (I’m assuming the full-band version and not the isolated David Lee Roth vocals one), but their debut tape honestly gives me much more of a ’90s vibe, like if the Deal twins had been hanging out with SONIC YOUTH and Kathleen Hanna in the “Bull in the Heather” music video. Jagged, dissonant rhythms that still follow a fairly linear punk path and shouted vocals delivered with an eye-rolling, over-it sarcastic sneer (both of those elements somewhat recalling of those early PRIESTS cassettes from when they were still a raw, basement-dwelling post-punk band), plus occasional BREEDERS-ish weird melodic guitar hooks that smooth out some of the sharper edges, especially on the comparatively pop-leaning “Story Slab” and “Sick Slab.”  Limited to 65 copies, get those slabs while they’re fresh.

Undermine Lost Funerals LP

UNDERMINE comes fast and filthy out of the gate—garage punk with a guitar straight out of early ’80s South American raw punk recordings (I’m sure this is an accident, but damn if it didn’t get my attention)…but that was just the first track and there are thirteen more to go. Then there’s this acoustic and/or mellow grunge bit, and then “Lost Funerals” drops in with some JAWBREAKER-esque emotive ’90s sounds…still with that guitar sound…and there’s more acoustic shit, I think there’s a violin and my brain seriously hurts listening to this. I haven’t even flipped the record yet, but I will. And I do. And it’s the same, but more. I don’t even know what’s happening. I want to think that every reference is an accident, but there’s just too much. I guess it’s a retro grunge record that goes all over the place, recorded in a vacuum with no filter. For sure there are a couple of spots that are good, but damn this one is tough.

V/A GTRRC II LP

This is a little more interesting than your average covers comp, of which most are complete sewage fodder. G.T.R.R.C. is a band made up of members of GEE TEE and RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION, both from Sydney, Australia, who love to get together and cover their favorite molden oldies. I believe I got that right but excuse me if I’m mistaken. Also included are many of their international friends, some known and some not so much. The covers stick mostly to ’70s punk, ’80s pop/new wave, and classic and modern garage. The most faithful ones are competent and dull as shit. As with most of these labors of love, the ones that shine a light through the muck are the weirdest and are covers in name only. Favorites here are the two THIN LIZZY covers by SICK THOUGHTS and SPODEE BOY, SNOOPER doing ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down,” ERIK NERVOUS’ gut-busting cover of “Raining Blood,” the always great SCHIZOS covering the PERSUADERS’ “Heart Of Chrome,” and BELLY JELLY tearing up the SWINGIN’ MEDALLIONS’ “Double Shot Of My Baby’s Love.” Honestly, it all makes a pretty great party record for gathering with friends or enjoying alone in soul-crushing isolation while enjoying one’s favorite beverage. Drink up. End of days.

V/A Four Stars (****) LP reissue

For all of the indisputable awfulness of 2020, it did provide some minor end-of-year redemption in the form of a reissue of 1980’s Four Stars (****) comp, originally pressed in a criminally small edition of 250 copies and long one of the most sought-after/prohibitively expensive records in the entire canon of NZ DIY. The whole Flying Nun/Dunedin axis has obviously become pretty synonymous with the ’80s Kiwi underground, but this collection centers on four bands from the era’s less-heralded Terrace Scene in Wellington: LIFE IN THE FRIDGE EXISTS, WALLSOCKETS, NAKED SPOTS DANCE, and BEAT RHYTHM FASHION, with the former two groups only ever appearing on record here. The four NAKED SPOTS DANCE tracks are absolutely primo art-punk, easily on par with anything in the FALL/AU PAIRS continuum of similarly-oriented UK outfits—that caustic, needling guitar and those matter-of-fact femme vocals cutting into the sparse, measured rhythm of “Secrets”? Fucking perfection. LIFE IN THE FRIDGE EXISTS applied a flipped-out performance art angle to deliriously falling-apart punk, and of their three cuts, “Have You Checked the Children?” stands out as an unassailable Kiwi By Death all-timer. From BEAT RHYTHM FASHION, there’s two fairly standard, no-frills post-’77-style melodic bashers (“None in the Universe” and “Not Necessary”), and last but not least, WALLSOCKETS contribute four slightly shambolic, anarcho-adjacent songs very much in the spirit of an Antipodean FATAL MICROBES, from the almost dub-damaged “Snerl” (which could be their own “Violence Grows”) to the wound-up anti-cop anthem “Blue Meanie.” A mandatory purchase, no hyperbole—this new pressing is limited to the same number of copies as the original and it might be 40 more years before another run comes around; hesitation is not an option.

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.

Verräter Verräter cassette

This cassette is completely drenched in reverb and dripping with attitude. The band is coming in with a sightly newer sounding version of hardcore, really in the vein of ALIEN NOSEJOB or UBIK. It’s slightly more spacy, but more frenetic and free with itself. If you’re not into that sound just wait until they whip out the synthesizer because that’s when things really get good. Tracks like “Narrow Minded” are just damn filthy with the distorted synth. If you do give this a listen you’re in for a ride to say the least, but I think it’s worth it.

Violent Christians New Blood for a Dead City EP

Following last year’s amazing sold-out-before-it-existed No Speed No Punk tape, Austin’s VIOLENT CHRISTIANS make the long-lasting commitment to wax thanks again to Roachleg Records. They continue with their classic yet modern take on ’80s US hardcore via JERRY’S KIDS, NEOS, DIE KREUZEN, and a bit more of the almost but never totally falling apart rhythms of VOID on this release. You can almost hear Jeff Bale’s whiny voice saying “totally thrashing stuff,” as this would be right at home on the old KPFA show. Kicks ass throughout, and can’t wait to see them live if that’s ever a thing again. Now get away from me. You’re way too close.

Nulla Osta / Warfare split LP

Fist-banging, mid-paced rock’n’roll-tinged punk from Italy’s WARFARE—nice forceful gravel to the vocals, and the leads are appropriately (never overly) anthemic. On the flip, Croatia’s NULLA OSTA are gruffer, rougher, heavier, and drop killer bass runs when they pick up the pace on tracks like ”Jebeš Sve Od Reda.” Listening to both bands, I feel like it’s 1997 and I’m in a Southern European squat at 3:00 AM…I’m wasted, so is everyone else, there are four more bands left to play, and I don’t have a ride back to the sleeping spot anyway. It’s that kind of “fuck it,” and that’s a good kind of “fuck it.”

Warm Red Decades of Breakfast LP

Clangy post-punk burl from an Atlanta band who did a 45 on Chunklet a while back but had evaded me until now; WARM RED’s members don’t seem to be burdened with ex-band bona fides, either, excepting the guitarist who seems like he’s down to play pretty much anything. This, meanwhile, starts off sounding like a mid-period JESUS LIZARD offcut before shifting to a slightly more straightforward groove, bass riffs often lighting the way forward and minor recourse to punk-funk in the percussion, as well as nicely androgynous vocals from Tony Gary. You wouldn’t call Decades of Breakfast polished, exactly, but I feel like WARM RED have within them whatever it was that nudged bands like PARQUET COURTS and OUGHT up a grade of popularity, and might not be mortified at the idea of people enjoying their music.

Werewolf Jones Premium LP

We always hear that Detroit bands incorporate the sounds of their surroundings into their music. If that is true, WEREWOLF JONES must be living next to a construction site where a piledriver is operating 24-7. The vocals react to that nuisance by spitting the lyrics at it. The music is repetitive and dirgelike. It gets you in a mood.

White Stains White Stains demo cassette

WHITE STAINS is one of the best things 2020 brought along. Their new LP is simply sick, and this was a great preview. I didn’t pay too much attention when it came out, but after getting hooked to the LP, I came back to it. These three songs sound as if no time had passed since the early ’80s. I think there’s a strong vibe of BLACK FLAG’s “TV Party” or “Six Pack,” especially in the last track, “Quarantine.” That’s the general spirit, punk in its purest form, unpretentious and raw, just old-fashioned hardcore punk, like a basement version of ADOLESCENTS or CIRCLE JERKS. Cannot dig this more.

White Stains Make Me Sick LP

I don’t really know where to begin. I expected great things from this band, but Make Me Sick has knocked me out. Why? Because it is the perfect punk record. It sounds like a street fight, lost beforehand, between a gang of scrawny and stoned punks against the local jocks. Like one of those weeks when everything goes berserk, life beats you down, and you just need to vent your bad blood, go out, roll up the lapels of your jacket and look hateful at your neighbors from above your sunglasses. Look hateful at old women dragging their purses across the sidewalk; at the children who play in the park; at the families who are out for a walk and look like the people in those disgusting car commercials. It sounds like a society reject, drinking cheap booze straight out of a brown bag in the snowed parking lot of a lonely gas station in the middle of a boring and dead suburban neighborhood. It sounds simultaneously urgent and carefree, loose, like a threat veiled with indifference, as if you were trying to look unworried, but something is devouring you alive. The guitars wobble back and forth, like in an eternal question/answer dynamic. They sound like razors being sharpened, like a whistle loaded with intention, of bile and poison. It reeks of alleyways, basements, train stations, liquor store back rooms, squats. It sounds as if ’77 punk met Midwest ’80s hardcore punk. Provocative but decisive. A maelstrom of noise and drum rolls. Albeit they pretend to look as amateurs, you can see years of experience behind each song. I can imagine the singer, hanging from the microphone, falling and rolling over the stage, spitting at the public. The guitarists, concentrated, immersed in their own world, intercalating those barrages of distortion, as if they were passing a ball from side to side, deliriously, sickly, as if the riffs were a hot globe that burned their hands. At times, the songs contract, concentrating all its strength in palm mutes and dry blows, just to suddenly explode soon after, provoking sonic avalanches. At the second listening, I already knew it would end up being one of my favourite 2020 records. For true punks.

Youth Deprivation Behind the Lids LP

YOUTH DEPRIVATION is the new venture of Groningen’s hardcore punk aficionados that used to rock out in KOMPLEX, SYSTEM BASTARD, HUMAN CORROSION, and DEVOID, and they do a great job living up to their old bands’ reputations. Dealing with one’s mental health has been a recurring theme in many punk bands, and the genre itself can act as a therapy to fight off some personal demons and deal with trauma. This is exactly what goes on in this record, an escape valve that goes off when the pressure is too great to handle. RUDIMENTARY PENI are an obvious influence to spot in this one, and the later era of BLACK FLAG. A bleak piece of punk hardcore that is a reality slap.

Youth Regiment Youth Regiment cassette

Geed myself up to wax posi about how the Stucco label (of which Impotent Fetus is a spin-off) is currently doing a killer job of chronicling all these new raw Olympia HC bands on tapes with badly photocopied inlays. Then I noticed that YOUTH REGIMENT, who would otherwise be a glowing example of the form, recorded these four songs in late 2017 and are presumably long done by now, with two (both?) members carrying on in ELECTRIC CHAIR. Youth Regiment is still a worthy document if you dig the Pacific NW scene or geeky mid-paced-and-above hardcore in general. They (and the people who buffed this recording, notably Will Killingsworth on mastering) get that cruddy bass sound and slightly too springy toms just perfect; the bursts of speed kinda remind me of ADRENALIN O.D. and a guitar part or two could grace a LIQUIDS record. In summary, glad this got dug up.

Zyanose Total End of Existence LP

What can I say to start, I love ZYANOSE and what a perfect title for a record. I was fortunate to see them in SF, Oakland, and Brooklyn, and they decimated each time. I’ve actually been listening to the Crossing EP a lot lately too, so this assignment comes at an opportune gloomy early-year time, when I need ZYANOSE again. Total End of Existence comes to us from December 2019 but I regrettably have not picked up a release since their Putrid Sick Society LP. This is thirteen tracks of rhythmic, frothing, grotesque, beautiful, furious stenchcore. As a comparison to previous ZYANOSE releases, it is more contained and stylized, dare I say catchy. ZYANOSE to me has always played with an optimistic blend of losing one’s mind, a search for oneself without a care in the world, and complete sonic turmoil. Tracks are short, stabbing, jolting, and unique to one another. Rhythms change up, all hell breaks loose, until you are scooped up again by some brilliant sections and earthly-transcending talons of artistic freedom. My favorite track is the longest, “Silence II,” which is anything but, followed by an amalgamation of ideas that all stir in the soup of crushing noise. Pretty much every track is as a hook flies by your nose and just slices you on the bridge without fully tugging out a nostril. Totally crasher-crust I want to understand, fully immerse into, but is far beyond my comprehension and constantly leaves me behind. I mean, there is a song literally called “Gggggg.” Toward the end, in “I.N.R.D.D.,” ZYANOSE takes on their final form. Totally destroying and lovely oceans of grinding amps in my ears. Total freedom. Seriously, the last four tracks might be the greatest achievement on here. This album feels like a transformation from beginning to end. ZYANOSE is that good and remains so on this latest album.