Reviews

MRR #453 • February 2021

A Culture of Killing A Culture of Killing LP

This ain’t how you usually expect anarcho-punk to sound. This band from Italy goes epic: they take the icy guitars, melodic basslines, and baritone from early ’80s post-punk and mix it with anarcho themes and sensibilities. Think of short-haired the CURE, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, the CHURCH, and the MOB, the latter whom they cover (go straight to “Mirror Breaks”) on this LP. I couldn’t find that much information about these guys but it doesn’t matter, this record is full of hits. A CULTURE OF KILLING’s songwriting takes you places. Overall they sound dark but not bleak, dynamic yet really melodic, almost thrilling. “War” and “We Can Never Go Back” are two beautiful gems, a pair of chart hits from an alternative timeline in the ’80s. Perhaps what I’ve said so far might make you think these guys are fixated on the past, but they do have their own style and their lyrics are completely focused on the tribulations of these times. These eight songs were originally released on tape and now as vinyl. I hate to tell ya, though, the record is so good it actually sold out. Hope there’s a new edition we can get our hands on very soon.

Accidente Caníbal LP

Tight, melodic, high-energy release from Madrid, Spain, with vocals reminiscent of Agent M from the early TSUNAMI BOMB 7” singles that were released by Checkmate Records in the late ’90s. That label was run by Hunter Burgan who plays bass for AFI, and we can argue if his band sold out well before the Black Sails in the Sunset album, but the tight guitar/bass interplay with thunderous drumming reminds me of those early albums. Recorded in Madrid, the album was mastered by Mass Giorgini (COMMON RIDER, SQUIRTGUN) at his Sonic Iguana Studios in Lafayette, Indiana…..so maybe that’s where all this ’90s/’00s stuff is coming from. Translating the lyrics from Spanish, the songs take a strong rebellious stance, putting the common in the center and fighting back the corporate cannibals. I have a feeling this is the kind of band that will pack out the infamous Wurlitzer Ballroom in Madrid to sweaty spastic crowds after the pandemic is over.

Algara Enamorados Del Control Total EP

There’s something about the cold, distant, echoing vocals, the primitive, synthetic drums, and catchy guitar lines that combine to make this a striking debut. It doesn’t sound like garden variety post-punk and I’m at a loss to think of a band that sounds like this. Take a song like “Potestad Para Hablar”—these are going to sound like bonkers comparisons but hear me out —it combines the cold, antiseptic distance of FELT with the catchy new wave guitar of the B-52’S and it totally works! Speaking of idiosyncratic combinations, the cover features a mix of militant posturing, an autobiography of Catalan anarcho-syndicalist Juan García Oliver, analog photography equipment, and what looks like a flamenco record. Maybe it’s this mix of the raw and cold with the colorful and alive that makes their particular sound click. Anarcho-punk you can dance to, with a drum machine that sometimes sounds like a taser. These tunes were re-recorded with a live band on a subsequent cassette and I can’t tell which I like better so dig them both.

Alien Boys Night Dangers LP

Imagine, if you will, a world where the BOMBPOPS listened to too much later-era DISCHARGE and hair metal instead of listening to too much BLINK or whatever. Now imagine that they still had Fat Wreck production values. Imagine no more my friends, because ALIEN BOYS have made that fantasy world come to life! Not my particular cup of tea, but after a few listens I don’t wanna throw it like a Frisbee, so that’s something I suppose.

Anxiety Spree Anxiety Spree cassette

While this appears to be a COVID project, I am very much hoping that ANXIETY SPREE from New York City/Chicago will be much more than just that. Musically, this lands somewhere between pop punk, Revolution Summer, and non-pretentious indie rock (if such a thing exists). The recording consists of only two members, both of whom I have seen play in countless bands for the last decade or so. Pleasantly surprised to see that they’re doing a new project together, but not surprised in the slightest that it is as solid as it is.

Armedalite Rifles Art is a Weapon LP

A new album from Pine Bush’s longtime purveyors of discordantly arty punk-pop. While mired in left-field references to funky-jazzy-noisy skronkers, the RIFLES can never escape the pop urge; under the buzzing, chiming guitars, stop-start rhythms, and shambolic shuffling, there’s always a three-chord pop punk melody not too far away—like a parallel universe where CRIMPSHRINE was aware of WHIRLING PIG DERVISH. ARMEDALITE RIFLES records are always personal; their hands-on DIY approach is tangible. But this album carries an extra poignancy as memorial for and eulogy to longtime bassist (and father of singer/guitarist Jimmy) Jay LoRubbio, who passed away in 2018. A fitting tribute.

Attic Salt Get Wise LP

Sugary pop punk. Male and female vocalists who A) both sound pretty similar to one another, and B) both kinda sound a little bit like the singer of SMOKING POPES. Hella catchy. I could see this fitting nicely on a mixtape with the aforementioned POPES, VELOCITY GIRL, and From Here to Infirmary-era ALKALINE TRIO.

Attrix Lost Lenoré / Hard Times 7” reissue

Reissue of a 1978 single (and the lone release) from English punk trio ATTRIX, who were behind the label of the same name that’s probably best known now for the Vaultage series of compilations documenting the late ’70s/early ’80s Brighton scene. There’s a heavy VELVET UNDERGROUND influence on these two tracks, as refracted through the smudged prism of UK DIY—raw rave-ups with plenty of back alley strut, all jangling guitar chug, driving rhythms, and matter-of-fact vocals that make up in confidently cool attitude what they lack in dynamics. The buzzsaw hooks/gang chorus double whammy in “Lost Lenoré” almost crosses over into roughed-up, PROTEX-ed power pop, with “Hard Times” conjuring visions of Transformer-era LOU REED if he’d been backed by the BUZZCOCKS. Two winners, no filler.

Big Chungus Diarrhea Dog cassette

Take a look at the band name and tape title. Does the Bugs Bunny meme-name on a faux-feces-smeared cassette make you smile or roll your eyes? That’s all you need to know to tell whether you will be into this or not. This mutant collective from New Jersey plays rudimentary, snotty synth-punk about crusty underbelly topics like long pees, vomiting sandwiches, spiders—you get the idea. Sounding like a mix between an 8-bit LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE, these six songs are gross slabs of slime punk that are kind of catchy if you are in the mood to receive what they are offering. “Toothpaste” in particular sounds like an intense NES boss battle that repeats “I’m gonna squeeze ya!” over and over. It’s ten minutes of dumb fun, so check it out if you’re a diarrhea dog.

Billy & the Bad Peach Demo 2019 cassette

The murky guitar that opens “I Don’t Feel So Good” might make you think you’re in for some regurgitated goth, but that only lasts about fifteen seconds, and these New Jersey mutants offer so much more than that. The opening cut is a squirmy punk done damaged, raw shit just disassembled and tortured to the point where they (almost) sound scary. They do return to those dark undertones (guitar leads in “It’s A Trap,” for example), but the filthy stomp of “Kool” seems to personify the band: “I found out the truth, the truth about you / The truth is you don’t know you.” Only four songs here—all simple and nasty—but fortunately there’s a second tape lurking somewhere back in 2020.

Bipolar Depression EP

First thing’s first. The title track is the most catchy, sing-along song about depression since BLACK FLAG’s. I also like that they were able to incorporate the phrase “I am a gentleman and a scholar” into the song without sounding goofy. Secondly, I do not like clowns. This cover photo is downright revolting. But in this case, these demented clowns are A-OK with me. BIPOLAR is out of Brooklyn, NY via Tehran, Iran. Their music is a high-energy, synth-led punk. In addition to “Depression,” there is also “Virus,” “Fist Fight,” and appropriately “Sad Clown.” Short bursts of frenetic exuberance. Fun stuff.

Bitpart Eat Your Mess LP

Emo-ish pop punk from France. The whole time listening to this album something was bugging me. I couldn’t figure it out. The feeling got worse as the two singers harmonized. Then I realized what it was. They reminded me of a certain band, but for the life of me I couldn’t place it. Finally it came to me. This band sounds like the ANNIVERSARY minus the keyboards. I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but this just sounds dated. That’s not meant as a slight, it’s good, it just sounds like a certain time and place, that’s all.

Black Button I Want to Be in Control cassette

BLACK BUTTON really caught my attention last year with their short demo tape, so I was pretty psyched when I saw this release pop up. As I had hoped, it’s a hell of a ride. This formidable Richmond act plays intense, jazzy, angular, and cerebral lo-fi hardcore that creates a dense, disturbing, dystopian-like atmosphere to pull the listener in. The music is equal parts groovy and gripping, aided by a desperate, tortured, and venomous vocal performance spitting thought-provoking spoken word on top. Every once in a while everything seems to just fall apart, adding a dimension of No Wave clamor to the sound. I just can’t decide which version of the band’s self-titled “theme song” I prefer—the haunting live arthouse version on the demo or the tightly-wound, homicidal-horn-laced chaos found here. They’re both great, and so are the rest of these unique tunes. I’m pulling out the big B-word on this one—brilliant stuff. Don’t sleep on it.

Blóm Flower Violence 12″

On Flower Violence, BLÓM is dead set on destruction. A non-binary three-piece that calls the UK home, BLÓM hearkens back to the glory days of Load Records—ditching the guitar while reveling in squalls of bass-borne noise, maniacally-played drums, and desperate vocals. Frankly, it’s a great look. Each of the five songs here are seeded with little barbs of pleasure and pain. “Meat” finds space for a mosh break even as it stays on the move, cycling through one compelling part after another. “God” is all sick breakdowns and gnarly riffs, culminating in a stylish heretic nailing a manifesto to the church doors. An epic meditation on Crime And Punishment, “Ubermensch” starts out like one of the MELVINS’ death marches to the forbidden zone before finally erupting into a LIGHTNING BOLT-style frenzy. “Be Kind” brings it all back home as Geezer Butler nods on approvingly. BLÓM can’t be bothered with gently placing a carnation in your rifle barrel, they want to knock the gun out of your fucking hands.

Catalogue High Grey Effective LP

Some nasty art-punk hailing from France. There’s a wild mix of styles on this LP. It partly reminds me of Ty and Denée Segall’s side project the CIA with the heavy bass, toy synthesizers, and drum machines. On the track “100 Times a Day,” they sound a lot more like a math/post-punk band, in the vein of OMNI or SHAME. The track “Shoes” pulls off a quasi-OTOBOKE BEAVER-style of punk. While it’s a little hard to find the sound of the band, I still think there’s something really worthwhile here.

Cement Shoes A Love Story of Drugs & Rock & Roll & Drugs EP

This fuckin’ band. First they tear the ass out of 2019 with the killer Too LP, and now this Love Story makes the rest of the 7” pile pale in comparison. I thought this Richmond, VA outfit might be done after they parted ways with their previous black-throated singer, but drummer Trevor jumped up to fill the slot with surprisingly great results. Here the SHOES stomp through three songs, each showing a different side of the band’s bizarre spiral of turbo-charged, trippy, and groovy hardcore punk rock. The record clocks in at just under eight minutes, but rumor has it that a carefully-timed bong hit will make it seem more like sixteen. Starts heavy, ends heeavvy. Highly recommended.

Citric Dummies Die Nasty cassette

There needs to be a few CITRIC DUMMIES-type bands around at any given time, otherwise punk might collapse in on itself and lose its intrinsic ability to revel in the theatre of the absurd, or something like that. By “CITRIC DUMMIES-type bands,” I mean ones who write energetic bangers (that aren’t really hardcore or skate punk or garage or KBD-type stuff, although if any of those things are your jam you might like this), with genuinely funny, obnoxious lyrics (that aren’t “anti-PC” or somesuch). BRUTAL KNIGHTS were probably the last band to bat a comparable average on this front to these guys from Minneapolis, and although Die Nasty doesn’t have any lines that have induced actual belly laughter à la “I H8 Birds” or “Where the Fuck Were You?” from previous DUMMIES outings, it’s as ribald as a tape with an opening song called “Your Ex-Girlfriend is Dating a Nazi” oughta be. For some reason you have to download it and/or play the actual tape to hear it mixed properly, and it intentionally sounds like shit if you just stream it, although no doubt some people will prefer that version.

Clear Channel Hell LP

Supremely funky debut LP from this D.C. group of dance-punks. Made up of bass, drums, bongos, and two vocalists, CLEAR CHANNEL combines the best ingredients of funk, post-punk, and new wave into a unique, irresistible mix. “Hello Disko” sounds like Lydia Lunch fronting the B-52’S in the best way, all moaning vocals, bobbing bass, and disco beats. “B.B.I.” is a dubby exploration with soulful singing that reminds me of TV ON THE RADIO in the falsetto parts. “Maria” could be a ’60s R&B classic re-recorded by a punk band. It’s great. Then comes “Hot Fruit,” a funky, kinda dirty jam that deserves a place in the novelty song history books. If you want people to get up and move at your next party, put on “Hot Fruit.” I’m planning a mix tape around it as I write this. The record ends with the title track that turns up the drama with theatrical call-and-response vocals and the same grimy disco vibe from the opening. This is dance music by punks, kind of like DUB NARCOTIC SOUND SYSTEM, in attitude at least. Check it out—the most purely enjoyable record I have heard in a while.

Clock of Time Pestilent Planet LP

Simmering, post-punk with steady guitars, Pestilent Planet sounds locked-in from the get-go. Of the past bands that make up their members’ pedigree, VEXX, USELESS EATERS, and DIÄT, this sounds most like the latter. The drums keep a sense of unease by making heavy use of toms, rather than a standard kick-snare punk beat, while the vocals sound like they’re delivering some seriously bad news over an intercom in a retro-dystopian sci-fi nightmare, and on top of that, the sustained, overlapping guitar bits add to the urgency. It sounds sick. The third track, “Companion,” is right on the money and reminds me of what I like best in SIEKIERA or more contemporary post-punkers like CONSTANT MONGREL. If you’re still left jonesing after the sonic perfection that was DIÄT’s Positive Disintegration, this will very much scratch that same itch. They don’t deviate from the format, but they don’t make any mistakes, either. Should you—like me—find yourself masked up in line at a grocery store, nodding to this in your headphones, in a too-hot black parka, queued up three-quarters of the way around the place on the eve of a holiday thinking “this is bleak, this is a bummer”…turn it up and ride out the pestilence.

Coldreams Crazy Night 12″

The COLDREAMS archives are raided yet again—the French group’s 1986 two-song 7” had built a considerable mythology as a sought-after Euro coldwave grail before it was reissued in 2018, and this new 12” includes the five tracks from their even more scarce tape debut from 1985. Compared to the soft-glow, goth-tinged dream pop atmospherics of the single that followed it, Crazy Night slips into the starker recesses of where minimal wave and the early Factory/4AD aesthetic converge, with Géraldine Sala’s melodic, heavily French-accented English vocals countering the band’s icy rhythms with just enough sweetness and light. Much like the WAKE (at least before they went full twee on Sarah Records), COLDREAMS cloaked bleak, post-JOY DIVISION post-punk austerity in comparatively lush and iridescent layers of synth—plenty haunting and melancholy, but never dour, with a driving pop bounce in tracks like “Bulbs and Bubbles” that could even pass the new wave acid test. If that SOLID SPACE reissue from a few years ago caught your ear, here’s some more newly-accessible transmissions from the ‘80s cassette subculture universe to get lost within.

Collate Medicine / Genesis Fatigue 7”

Blame COVID for why there’s not a new COLLATE LP primed and ready to sit on your turntable. Still, the Portland trio does us a solid with a short but effective single. “Medicine” is begging to get a sweaty DIY dive packed with awkward weirdos grooving in something close to tandem. COLLATE doesn’t shirk on the ass-shaking aspect of post-punk nor do they let up on the jagged guitar or the eternally cool call-and-response vocals. This shit smokes, call the FIRE ENGINES! “Genesis Fatigue” is even rowdier and could have landed on any number of killer art-punk comps from 1981 and held its own in such hallowed company. Furthermore, as with all Domestic Departure output, this single looks fab.

Cult Mind Connected cassette

The new pandemic joint from San Jose screamers CULT MIND kicks off with a groove that almost makes the listener think they’ve gone and gotten too stoned…then they fukkn unload. Nine cuts of rough-edged North American hardcore punk—think a ramshackle CAUSTIC CHRIST, and that rock’n’roll guitar from the intro makes a few more (welcome) appearances. Decidedly looser than their full length from a couple of years back, and the regression suits them.

Daiei Spray Behind the Wall LP

Melodic hardcore from Japan that’s, at least in part, been heavily influenced by bands like DAG NASTY. The songs are all sung in Japanese, which to me is a plus. I think it sets bands apart when they sing in their native tongue, because while I may not know what they’re saying, it’s authentic and not just another (insert band here) clone. One last thing, I definitely hear the THUMBS in here a bit in some of the delivery and guitars and I’m super into it.

Dan Melchior Band Outside In LP

Dan Melchior’s vast discography boasts an enviable hit-to-miss ratio, even when compared to catalog hogs like John Dwyer or the late Jay Reatard. It might seem odd to place Melchior in such company, but they are closer contemporaries than initially meets the eye. Regardless, Melchior continues to release several LPs worth of material a year and most of it—whether home-recorded experimental blues stitch-ups or full band get-down engagements—is uniformly excellent. Outside In is perched somewhere between acid-fried garage boogie and a sort of modern choogle that pulls from all sorts of far-flung sources. Both the title cut and “Chinese Wine” have a Zamrock vibe; desert guitar moves join with sheltering sky FX as they zip across the panning spectrum. “Brownsville” and “Courtesy Flush” gild garage lilies with ENO-esque sound treatments. “Pheasant Plucker” is not only a fun tongue-twister to roll around your mouth, but also a rocker that kicks up dust like the BROKE REVUE, Melchior’s perpetually underrated old outfit. Outside In came out a ways back, but it’s luster ain’t faded none.

Decide It Yourself Decide It Yourself cassette

Erratic thrash with solid metal breaks and plenty of blasts. Heavy on the high end, but maybe there’s no bass (at all?) and the kick drum disappears when they grind, so it makes me feel all anxious when I listen at volume (which is, after all, the best way to listen). Vocals are throaty and clean, sitting on top of the mix and extra in-your-face. Not a pretty-sounding release in any imaginable way, which is the intent.

 

Desolat Songs of Love in the Age of Anarchy 12” picture disc

With a mammoth sound, DESOLAT of Vienna plays plodding, clear, and heavenly sludge metal. The sound here is more riff metal than dooming, droning earthquakes. There is a catchy flavor to the chords, such as MELVINS, and comfortingly dismal such as ASUNDER and NIGHTFELL. Some aspects of this record are ice-cold embittered vocals that have a harmonizing crust feel to them, others are warm, dense, and heavy breakdowns. The pace here is everything from dragging epic passages, to blackened riffing, to D-beat measures for a brief moment. I’m honestly not feeling the love songs from DESOLAT, but definitely the passion. “The Bureaucrat,” about midway through, is my favorite track, which goes all over the place as far as extreme music goes. There is a tidal of misery and optimism that moves from pastel clouds to the dark sea with their horizon of proto-metal and Scandinavian/European death metal. DESOLAT defines said Age of Anarchy without chaos, which I believe is the point of anarchy. So I’m feeling the unity here, presented with a palette mixture of BLACK SABBATH magic and SOILENT GREEN abrasion.

Dick Move Chop! LP

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

Dropdead Demos 1991 LP

If you don’t know, DROPDEAD is one of the greatest fast hardcore bands of all time. They are also one of the fastest fast hardcore bands of all time. As the title suggests, the tracks here are culled from demos recorded in 1991—and I swear that “Protest” and “At The Cost Of An Animal” sound more unhinged here than on any of the subsequent vinyl releases, and everything here hits just as hard as it did when I first heard (most of) them on a third-generation cassette 27 years ago, but it all hits even harder today because these songs (and more importantly, these words) are still relevant, they are still urgent, and they are still fucking furious. And then if you’re still standing, the sound and the delivery on the second session are simply unparalleled…this is the band who are still on top of the mountain, and they just released some recordings to remind us all who built it.

Dry Wedding The Long Erode LP

As the modern dissection of ’80s underground goth continues, it should come as no surprise to hear sounds like the ones that fill the grooves of The Long Erode. Portland’s DRY WEDDING sifts through lesser castings to expose gold—remnants of CRIME + THE CITY SOLUTION, FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, and later Wayne Hussey shine through their reincarnated musings while entire experiment is treated to a diet of hallucinatory deprivation. The title track is a disorienting dirge with melting guitars and a rhythm section sinking while the vocalist (formerly of Long Beach outfit SWAMPLAND, which is an indicator to those who recognize the name) moans his way through five minutes of slow motion Western psychedelia. If desert goth psych isn’t a genre….well, maybe it is now.

Education Culture LP

EDUCATION is an Italian band that incorporates elements of post-punk and goth into their hardcore. Culture is eight slabs of reverb-drenched raw vocals with heavy-flange bass and spacy guitar lines. Think maybe RUDIMENTARY PENI and GAG hanging out? The amount of echo on everything makes me think this was recorded in a dungeon or maybe a well. There was definitely a skeleton in the studio. There is a deathrock sound on “Walls” that fits in well with the mysterious vibes overall. All the songs are mid-tempo and tend to run together a bit, but this is  worth checking out if you pair eyeliner with your studs.

Excrement of War Cathode Ray Coma LP reissue

This was definitely an exciting 1994 reissue to be assigned. It starts off with a ripping, bombarding soloed instrumental, as most crust bands did in the ’90s. Fueled-up punk, raw and powerful, E.N.T./HELLCRUSHER-style intro, right into “Exist Enslaved” (which I believe I’ve heard covered several times before being introduced to this record). So if you like DOOM or STATE OF FEAR with a bit more range between vocalists, this reissue is for a lucky you. Mags has one of the most ferocious, vitriolic, raspiest vocal tones ever. Ripping. The EXCREMENT OF WAR split with DEFORMED CONSCIENCE might be my favorite of their material—this was earlier and looser—but to that point, it’s raw crust and punk as fuck. The UK/US match-up complements each other so well on the split, so if you can get a hand on this, or either for that matter, you will not be disappointed. Essential ’90s European crushing, ripping, hardcore crust. “Encased in their military cocoon; the outside appearances [are just] blips on [a] screen. Enemy tank. Enemy child. Enemy plane. Enemy tree…”

Exploatör Avgrundens Brant LP

I’m going to say a few things, outing my lameness, before I even get started on the listening. One, I have heard of this band, and I am familiar with their insane punk pedigree of band members (INSTITUTION, SLUTET, WARCOLLAPSE, KRIGSHOT, TOTALITÄR, NO SECURITY—yes, I’m still going—ÄÄRITILA, DISFEAR, MEANWHILE…etc.!), but I regret to say I don’t know that I’ve heard them yet since their 2017 debut. Sad face. Two, the umlaut and aforementioned resume lets me know I’ll probably be into this. So let’s see. Okay, I absolutely love the raspy vocals that gasp out to the very last breath. This is quite heavy metal-charged Scandi Dis-beat hardcore. There is a unique level of vibration to the classic riffs. That is to say, the traditional Swedish hardcore chords are almost sung from the guitars. Outstanding. Like literally, the guitars are a standout, fucking awesome. This must be Kenko, who I met at a wedding in NY once, and his unassuming kind poise brings total fire through his instrument. Simultaneously catchy and abrasive, this is certainly recommended. Some parts double-time D-beat käng (à la MOB 47), other moments knuckle-dragging stomping breaks, but never for too long. I was just listening to INSTITUTION yesterday and I believe they share the vocalist. Or perhaps the TOTALITÄR vocalist, actually. I could check but let’s leave it at that, the old-fashioned way. Just like EXPLOATÖR plays hardcore punk. I am not sure who’s doing what here, but I am sure I love this.

False Brother Uncanny Valley LP

A supremely dark and gloomy post-punk follow-up to their debut tape. Their sound follows closely to contemporaries like Australia’s TOTAL CONTROL and obvious influences like JOY DIVISION, but there is something uniquely beautiful and poetic about this LP. It’s simultaneously a record to put on with a cup of tea and the soundtrack to your trip to the Gulag. A nightmarish record to start your morning.

Familie Hesselbach Familie Hesselbach LP reissue

A South German private press post-punk curio from 1982 that failed to capitalize on any sort of Neue Deutsche Welle hype at the time of its original release, but the underground reissue industry is thriving in the 21st century and we haven’t run out of petroleum yet so now here we are again. The repeated mentions of FAMILIE HESSELBACH having been “the German TALKING HEADS” strike me as a little strange—there’s some surface-level parallels between the two groups, namely a reliance on rubber-band bass snap to guide anxious, funk-influenced rhythms, although if anything, FAMILIE HESSELBACH seem to have pulled those elements from UK-based primary sources (the taut, scratchy groove-agitation of both GANG OF FOUR and A CERTAIN RATIO would be high on the list). Some skronking horns and inside-out disco beats do point to a certain New York influence, but it’s one drawn from the No Wave universe of bands like the CONTORTIONS that never even remotely included the TALKING HEADS, and the vocals (in both German and Italian) are frequently delivered in an urgent, clipped bark in stark opposition to David Byrne’s buttoned-up poindexter yelp. Most of Familie Hesselbach’s seventeen tracks are around two minutes or less each, just ping-ponging from one idea to another with the sort of econo-minded attention span of the scrappiest DIY outfits, but executed with the necessary tightness and control required to translate to the post-punk dancefloor. Won’t completely burn down the haus, but some flames are still sparked.

Fastplants Grosso / Super Stoked 7”

This is a nice tribute to recently deceased skater legend Jeff Grosso. The music is fairly competent skate rock and more on the rock’n’roll/garage side of the half pipe. The guitars shred(!) and it’s catchy in more the SCOUNDRELZ or JONESES side of the genre. It’s short and fast like life should be. Pick it up. It’s already too late.

Finale Vision de Futuro LP

If you check out their Bandcamp page, you’ll see Valencia, Spain four-piece FINALE tagged as DEVO-core or egg-punk. While I’m certainly a fan of bands that have borne those labels, it was refreshing to dig into this LP and find neither to be appropriate. This lacks the hallmark herky-jerkiness of DEVO-core and isn’t really wacky enough to qualify as egg-punk (though, to be fair, I think I heard a faint mouth harp on one track—that’s pretty wacky, I guess). There are a couple of tracks on here that flirt with some funk rhythms, but for the most part this LP is full of loose, garage-y KBD punk with some great quacky vocals. It reminds me of BITS OF SHIT with cleaner guitars or, on the slower tracks, EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING. I’m into it!

Fugitive Bubble Fugitive Bubble cassette

As 2020 pulled up stakes, FUGITIVE BUBBLE shoved this butterfly knife of speed-racket jerk anthems into its ribcage with zero remorse. It’s getting harder and harder to sort out this type of punk—the kind that is impossible to nail down with regards to its immediate antecedents. Sure, there’s some C.C.T.V. in the DNA, but with a heaping portion of KBD to make sure all six songs leave a mark. Check the boxes—jackhammer drums, rusty razor guitar spray, somersaulting rhythms, and super-sarcastic vocals that sound so cool you almost hope that they’re making fun of you. This debut tape is, no doubt, Cool Fucking Punk, which is good for you, cuz you are a Fucking Cool Punk. Whew.

Carlitos Güey / Fun Time Objects split 7″

This third installment of split singles makes good on the promise of its label’s moniker. FUN TIME OBJECTS kick things off on Side A with a love letter to RAMONES that is successfully charged, danceable rock’n’roll without sounding like a copycat crime. It’s perfect for cutting a living room rug or revving up a basement dive. On the flipside, CARLITOS GÜEY gives a swaggering garage take on glam, echoing T. REX’s more stadium-friendly fare with a confident rhythmic stomp, too-cool vocals (featuring Shannon Shaw on back-up), and some slick guitar licks to cap it all off. The singles are packaged beautifully in hand-printed sleeves, plus you even get an official membership card. Be a real rock’n’roller and join the club!

Gazm Heavy Vibe Music LP

I like Canadian HC, they always seem to put something out that’s just slightly left of the mainstream. What we have here, however, is a slab of Age of Quarrel-era worship that, despite my distaste for worship bands, had me nodding my head along the whole way. There’s that thin line between tracks that have the thick, aggressive stomp of the CRO-MAGS at their angriest, and then tracks that waver between hardcore and that wave of neo-thrash bands that were abundant in record bins all over the world a couple of years back. Is this LP good? Depends, I suppose; I probably would’ve liked it a hell of a lot more if it was a 7”, but what the fuck does that even mean? Maybe if they could lose that kinda goofy, borderline pizza party vibe I get from this shit.

Gentlemen Rogues Do the Resurrection! / Bloody Rudderless (In Ursa Major) 7”

The A-side sounds like dad-rocky pop punk. Mid-tempo, kind of bouncy, pretty restrained, and a chorus that sounds just like GREEN DAY or the INFLUENTS. It’s pretty catchy but also unimaginative. The B-side is a slightly more punky cover of the LEMONHEADS’ “Rudderless” with an instrumental outro tacked on to the end.

Giuseppe Carabino U Ruševinama 84–86 cassette

GIUSEPPE CARABINO was a hardcore band from Subotica, Yugoslavia. This tape with 31 tracks includes five different releases and live recordings of the seemingly prolific band. Again a great relic of our international subculture, now collected and reissued by Aftermath Tapes. The music is exuberant, and tries to be ultra-fast both with the thundering guitars and airtight drumming, laid on a hyperactive bass. While all the collective anxiety is on the loose, melody appears in a better-blended form than cheap tunes on the top of noise. They tried to write songs but were too impatient to play them in a boring, traditional way. When tension decreases, gloomy sounds surface along with the disgusted vocals. It’s an interesting duality how these kids from far away built their own universe on constantly collapsing songs. They capture the despair and it works, sounding original while it’s dumb since it dares to be dumb. It’s unpolished because it was recorded on impossible devices, yet it was recorded and decades later is still available, proving how some forces are unstoppable. If you like hardcore that is coming from less-known places and sounds different despite similarities in its fundaments, great stuff.

Golpe Promo 2020 cassette

GOLPE is Tadzio Pederzolli from the amazing short-lived project KOMPLOTT, among other Italian punk and hardcore bands. Promo 2020 is his new punishing modern mid-tempo hardcore demo in the vein of WARTHOG, mixed with the great Italian hardcore tradition of IMPACT or NEGAZIONE. All the songs were written and performed by himself, and these three tracks serve as warm up for the La Colpa È Solo Tua LP out through Sorry State Records in 2021. These songs do a good job in leaving you wanting more and I can predict that the full-length will be a rager. Caos, non musica.

Good Cop World Piss LP

This album is constantly jumping back and forth through different and sometimes contradictory sounds, sometimes in the same song. Throughout the entire experience, though, some naughty drums are getting beaten, and dirty, dirty guitars are getting strangled. This is high-energy, high aggression music with layers on layers on layers of vocals. “Neighbourhood” is an exemplary track that really shows the band’s range, with an indie dance music feel and angelic vocals giving way to muddy guitars and strained-vocal-chords-style shout-singing. It manages to be menacing and inviting at the same time. “Kickflip” is some skate punk that really makes you feel like it’s going to break into ska at any moment without ever actually doing it. The line “I wish you / Would get swine flu” on “Stay at Home” is maybe my favorite “fuck you” I’ve heard in a song in a while. GOOD COP is a very tight trio that really seems to be having fun while engaging in some good-times mockery of the power structures around them. World Piss shows that you can sound pissed-off any way that you damn please.

Gripe Demo 2020 cassette

GRIPE from Chile plays faster-than-fast, super-short jingling garage punk songs, with anxious hardcore vocals. It’s so rapid, the real challenge would be to fuck up their demo despite using such bulletproof elements. In that sense it’s a harmless recording; what brings any spectacle is the fine blend of harsh vocals and barely distorted guitars, which might make you speculate what if one attribute were adjusted to the other. Songwriting uses smart tricks from amphetamine rock‘n’roll and disintegrated hardcore to color the otherwise urgent but predictable riffing. The recording captures GRIPE’s energy which is always challenging and a huge achievement to have it already on a demo. The whole thing is less than five minutes and it might make you remember them for longer than that.

Gutter Knife Boots on the Ground LP

Blending the punch and drive of O.G. hardcore in the vein of GOVERNMENT ISSUE with Oi!/UK82 sensibilities echoing bands like COMBAT 84 and the 4-SKINS, GUTTER KNIFE hails from the seaside slums of Brighton, England. These ten tough tracks range from relentless pummeling, to snotty speed attacks, to COCKNEY REJECTS-style “football” rockers, all painted with the perfect gruff and loose vocals to put ‘em right over the top. The band wears their influences on their record sleeve, as every single song title sounds like something you might make up if joking around about “skunk” rock bands of this sort (“Hangman,” “No Justice,” and “Boots on the Ground,” for example). I mean that in the best possible way, as these guys strike all the right chords, giving France’s RIXE some stiff competition for the title of present-day Oi! Champions. Fingers crossed for more of this butter from the GUTTER.

Cuntroaches / Guttersnipe split LP

Here, here is your future, all you laptop fuckers. The stock market is overruled by a bunch of messageboard freaks, your job will be slowly taken over by a robot, you live your reality through a palm-sized screen, and yet there is more to come. This CUNTROACHES/GUTTERSNIPE split was first released on tape in 2018 then pressed on vinyl in 2020, although it sounds as if the release date could have been a hundred years further into the future and no one would notice. Not even sure if this is still punk rock, instead paranoid sounds of the sci-fi nightmares, created among bad trips and the threat of a fucked-up future. That future is now. We no longer fear nuclear weapons, which anyway were always just a metaphor for our real threat: chaotic randomness of human behaviour. This record captures this downfall, the mania, power-hunger, and accumulation, then we are force-fed with this neon puke, wired to a chair, eyelids duct-taped to the forehead and watching million flashing images. I try to distance myself from writing about music by throwing images on you, but this record triggers visions. Both bands are connected to our subculture though both are so independent, progressive and full-blast lunatic. After all, it’s aggressive hyperactive music, but is it still hardcore? CUNTROACHES foxtrot on pedalboards without getting too close to crasher crust-ish noisecore. Their groove and beat section is as wild and vital as field recordings of high-tempo tribal trance drumming and a little reminiscent of LEBENDEN TOTEN, not their sound but the mind-grinding experience of their live shows. These two songs are over-the-top in all possible senses, providing an almost live experience, witnessing with full awareness how you are digested by a beast. It’s vicious, twisted, super chaotic, perfectly balancing on the border of naivety and precise artistic view. GUTTERSNIPE has a bigger slice of this split due to their second track extending to ten minutes. The pairing makes sense, rather idea-wise. The xenofeminist crisis energy rock duo from Leeds sounds as if SPK was threated with a gun to play hardcore songs or listened to the complete Actuel catalogue at once at tenfold speed. Then the ten minutes beautiful odyssey hits in and it absorbs me completely. A special record and big up to Anxious Music for putting it on vinyl with this neo-trash cover, different RPM for both sides, and cute/cool insert. If your colleagues ever ask you what sort of music you are into, show them this and they might never ever bother you with anything personal. 

Earth Crust Displacement / Heavy Nukes split EP

I only heard the EARTH CRUST DISPLACEMENT side of this split, so HEAVY NUKES remain a mystery to me, though their name is leagues better than EARTH CRUST DISPLACEMENT, which I suppose could be some sort of reference to fracking or similarly evil geotechnical industries. Regardless, they present us with two ripping tracks of raw punk and a cover of ’90s German fastcore band MxVxDx (which got me to revisit the Stagnation of Thinking EP, which I highly recommend). EARTH CRUST DISPLACEMENT comes at things from a much heavier direction, with a delivery that reminds me of grimy classics like the SHITLICKERS more than the hardcore thrash of MxVxDx. It’s a short listen, but it’s a blast.

Hellish Inferno Ablaze demo cassette

Demo by HELLISH INFERNO from Oakland, CA. Seeing their band name, it looks like it’s a DIATRIBE reference. Sounding more like a modern approach to raw punk/D-beat than another relentless rehash of the ’80s, something that has an influence from bands along the lines of CONDITION, MAUSER, or early PARANOID. Despite its artwork and the reference, it does have slight similarities with the more hardcore side of the genre with ex-local peers like TØRSÖ, yet with appropriate amount of dirge and nastiness to be considered a crust band.

Honey Joy II LP

Big hooks from dual guitars are matched with the big voice of singer Meg Tinsley on this London band’s second full-length. The album manages to match up socially relevant post-hardcore tracks (“The Contagion,” “The Healer”) with power pop gems (“Queen Ray,” “Saluting Magpies”) and have it all flow together. If there was a Fest this year, I could see HONEY JOY making the trip across the pond. Recorded by Simon Small from the band APOLOGIES, I HAVE NONE, the LP joins a punk lineage of albums mastered by Daniel Husayn at the North London Bomb Factory and it’s released on the up-and-coming indie label Everything Sucks.

Horrid Red Radiant Life LP

With their fourth LP, San Francisco’s HORRID RED marks a decade doing something important: sounding different. Mixing melody and shimmering guitar with abrasive vocals, ex-DER TPK helmer Bunker Wolf takes the electro-intimacy of KRAFTWERK’s Computer World and brazenly riffs over it in an unfaltering German-language torrent. On some tracks, like “Pity the Sun,” this can be more awkward than interesting, where the programmed drums draw attention to themselves in a way that doesn’t serve the tune. But on “Omitted Prophets” or the inspired title track “Radiant Life,” it totally clicks for me. A slow-burner that’s not Krautrock, not typical post-punk, and not for everyone, but that’s OK.

Human Gas Super Violence Hardcore 1984–1989 2xLP+CD box set

When a band is named after a KURO song, you can pretty much expect that it is going to be an instant win. Hokkaidō island dwellers HUMAN GAS bring on the finest in raw and noisy ’80s Japanese hardcore not that far off from bands like GAI or CONFUSE. This box set is a true labour of love by the punk devotees at F.O.A.D.: double-LP, CD, DVD, book, and extra case-wrapped box. Seventy-nine tracks that originate from the split 7″ with STALI NISM (1985), Noice and Hardcore first demo (1986), Explosives second demo (1986), tracks from the Street Punk in Obihiro Omnibus tape (1986), Lackluster third demo and extra studio songs (1987), and unreleased studio jam session with members of STALI NISM and MIDDLE CLASS (1987). This is a must have for any classic Japanese hardcore enthusiasts out there still bummed about the GISM reissue on Relapse.

If It Kills You Infinite Hum LP

When I was in high school I loved QUICKSAND’s Slip. I heard one word from this band, and I was immediately transported to that time. As we proceed, IF IT KILLS YOU plays with even more feel-good melancholy, adding pitches of FUGAZI bark, CAVE IN bite, and HOT ROD CIRCUIT companionship. Some of the more descending chords of A MINOR FOREST come through as well, with the post-hardcore nodes of that first WEEZER album. That’s a bit much, but it must be there for a reason, not trying to edit—let’s just say HOT WATER MUSIC, that flows much more casually, with emotional messages and irreverent compositions. IF IT KILLS YOU is not trying to kill you, but they’re not trying to save you, either. You’ll figure it out, as you concentrate on them more and more each song. IF IT KILLS YOU comes to us from Bakersfield. And I feel like it could go either way living in Bakersfield. Stay safe, stay strong, IF IT KILLS YOU. Into it.

Illegal 80 Den Endeløse Ende cassette reissue

Reissue of a demo tape from Denmark’s ILLEGAL 80, originally released in 1983. Emphasis on demonstration, since it is a half-an-hour-long tape with sixteen songs. Throughout, ILLEGAL 80 plays determined, raw and noisy hardcore clean from any tag-able association that has connected to these adjectives ever since. It is the pure form of top-class international hardcore: fast, fresh, youthful, angry, collapsing. It’s on the right speed—a bit faster than they could keep up with, thus the songs crumble under themselves—the singer has a great indifferently aggressive voice, the guitars leak all over the music and cover it with their dense, swirling distortion. They vary in a few slower jams, not to reclaim any attention because this tape never gets boring. I would believe that for these kids, it meant everything to record these songs, and they treat every second as such. Now this tape is available again—get it, study it, draw your conclusions how to be young, smart, ugly, and dangerous.

Initiate Lavender 12″

This is a short record that reeks of Californian HC, from the stomping sing-along choruses to the stranger aspects of this LP, like the wavy dream pop track “Beverly” that bleeds into the marching band riff of “One in the Same”. Short records are the best records and this one whips by too quick for me use the dreaded term “post-hardcore,” but I can definitely see this band getting stranger, and that’s not a bad thing.

Inject the Light The Apocalypse is Boring cassette

Well, it sure is fun and somewhat uncomfortable when you get assigned your friends to review. Some might even say it’s funcomfortable. This is Chris Mason, head of Portland’s killer label Dirt Cult, as well as the bands LOW CULTURE and MACHO BOYS, performing five quarantine songs he wrote and recorded in one night. When you have such extensive experience penning awesome songs, I imagine it’s not too hard to crank out tunes about the nightmare year we’ve all been living through. But then he goes and makes them really good on top of it. Recommended listening for when the world we’re trapped in becomes too much to deal with.

Johnny Thunders Live From Zürich 1985 LP

Exhumed and remastered from a tape that had been stored in a private stash box that JOHNNY simply labeled “Thunders Tapes,” Live From Zürich 1985 captures a live Swiss radio session recorded six years before his passing. Thanks to a sharp remastering job, the sound is super-crisp, and THUNDERS’ usual disaffected and snotty charm is on full display throughout. The fourteen songs here are a bit of mixed bag, ranging from highlights like the opening rocker “Blame It On Mom” and the Jerry “Needles” Nolan co-written “Countdown Love,” to obligatory DOLLS and HEARTBREAKERS covers, to duds like the ill-advised dub of “Cool Operator.” Die-hard fans will dig it, and this is the first of a series of these “forgotten” recordings to come, so they can look forward to digging more.

Junta Død Tid EP

JUNTA has been under the radar for quite some time as they have been putting out demos and EPs consistently through the years, with Død Tid being their eleventh release to date and all of them DIY. And they sure sound DIY and you can take this as a compliment coming from me: it has the pure K-town punk sound to it with a recording to match that makes you feel that you are right there in the middle of the chaos with the band. Nothing is overproduced or feels faked, like a grittier version of the more straightforward POISON IDEA songs. Sung both in Danish and Brazilian Portuguese, you can sense their urgency through each and every of the six songs. The musicianship is great; no wonder they share members with PHRENELITH, PLANET Y, and DEMON HEAD, just to name a few. “Out of fashion, out of step, out of tune…”

Kohti Tuhoa Elä Totuudesta EP

The Finnish band who dropped one of my favorite records in 2019 released this record in 2020 that’s fast becoming my favorite EP of 2021. Finland’s KOHTI TUHOA has progressed with each release, and Elä Totuudesta is no different—vocals have developed a pronounced NAUSEA-meets-POST REGIMENT bark here, driving the songs themselves with force. Even the title track that opens with such a furious downstroke guitar doesn’t really start until the vocals kick in. The Scandi-beat charge is definitely present, even dominating at times, but the leads are classic punk and the vibe is determined and not dark, reflected in the lyrics and delivered by the sound. You’ll never find anyone categorizing this by saying it “sounds like…,” well, anything. A future classic slab to devour in the present—highly recommended.

Kontaminate Blood Hunger demo cassette

The 11 PM logo on a demo is always a good sign, as they have been consistently releasing the best fresh-sounding hardcore bands in the US. This time they released the kick-ass demo of Richmond-based KONTAMINATE, featuring members of NOSEBLEED and JACKAL. The mash of spazzy, almost Scandinavian-sounding TOTALITÄR riffs over a NECROS backbone makes KONTAMINATE an essential modern USHC band to keep an eye on. Five tracks of unrelenting bangers, with the cherry on top in the form of a cover of “Crime for Revenge” by ULTRA-VIOLENT, one of the unsung heroes of UKHC. Time to mosh in your room.

Crutches / Kontrasosial Chaos Riders Freedom Fighters split LP

CRUTCHES spit out nine tracks of clean-sounding Swedish D-beat in the vein of all your favourite umlaut-adorned and mispronounced backpatches, but with all the modern advancements of clean recording. It’s fine, I guess. Vocals could sound less shrieked, but I’m old now so what the fuck do I know; it’s just hard for me to get sucked into something so polished-sounding, especially when sonically, they just don’t manage to conjure that atmosphere of danger that I think is absolutely necessary in modern crust. I can hear all the shiny studs in this recording and none of the filth. KONTRASOSIAL gives this the kick that it needs with a slightly more metal approach and stomp that blows the other side outta the water, an unfair pairing really.

Kool & the Gang Bangers Year of the Kool EP

This is lo-fi, snotty, and angry punk from Sweden. If you close your eyes and think about the SPITS, you’re probably pretty close. There are two songs about wishing someone dead (“Make You Extinct,” “Wish You Were Dead”), one that’s so blatantly RAMONES-inspired that it leans into it hard enough to come back around the other side and feel totally original (“I’m Not a Pinhead”), and one that’s just good ol’ fashioned shit-talking (“Talking Trash”). This is a two-piece that is loud enough to be four and sounds like they have the swagger to hold the stage as such. I hope to see this duo in a sweaty club or musty garage if they make it over US-ways.

Les Conches Velasques Les Conches Velasques LP

This comes ultra-recommended if you fancy hearing some guitar-based underground rock music—stay with me—which ventures past obvious Western comfort zones, incorporating Arabic and African motifs and rhythmic tics into its arrangements without coming off at all tokenistic or white-dreadlocky. LES CONCHES VELASQUES was a solo project at the time of this debut album, released digitally in 2018 and now as an LP with two extra songs; during this interim period Pablo Jiménez, from Zaragoza in Spain, has turned it into a band, one who have a second album due out pretty soon. For now, dig this set of hypnotic trance-punk: sage-voiced (Spanish-language) vox over shuffly Afrobeat percussion, raw buzzy guitar tuned so it sounds like a horn section being played through a transistor radio, lyrics borrowed from early 20th century poet Pedro Salinas or, on one occasion, covering 1960s Ethiopian star singer Asnaqètch Wèrqu. The EX, 75 DOLLAR BILL, and LUNGFISH are the closest comparisons in terms of the “rock band format,” but LES CONCHES VELASQUES (like those groups) works with far wider horizons.

Lié You Want It Real LP

LIÉ is a brutally efficient band. You Want It Real is the Vancouver trio’s fourth LP and they betray no sign of easing up on the intensity, much less letting sleeping dogs rest. The songs here fester like a wound, like an injury that serves as a reminder of a greater pain. “You Got It” lunges at you with murder in its eyes, then switches up suddenly and flirts with a sense of triumph, until its back to the lashing you so richly deserve. “Fantasy Of Destructive Force” wreaks the kind of see-sawing, poetic havoc that made UNWOUND so memorable. By this point, LIÉ have developed their own language consisting of the usual noise rock signifiers but used to form words we don’t have definitions for yet.

Litige En Eaux Troubles LP

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

Loud Night Mindnumbing Pleasure LP

These Richmond, VA-based ripping metalhead punks oil the tank treads for war on their aptly-named new full-length. This is the kind of blunt force D-beat that’s for getting faced with your friends—it’s not a soundtrack for changing the world. It’s a hell of a lot of fun that also hits hard. The playing is the perfect blend of technical execution and loose chaos, and the production has the heft of a battle axe—each track landing like a drunken killing blow. This band plays in a genre that will never change (and never die) and they do it with excellence.

Maraudeur Puissance 4 LP

MARAUDEUR returns with their first new music following their killer 2017 LP, with the group since relocated from Geneva to Leipzig—the new wave of Swiss wave, or Neue Deutsche Welle twice removed (borders are just social constructs). Vocals in alternating German, English, and French, all generally delivered with the detachment of announcements repeated in a subway terminal, backed by BUSH TETRAS/ESG-descended rhythms via clockwork-ticking drums, elliptical bass grooves, and judicious stabs of single-note razor wire guitar, with those carefully plotted sonic angles then warped under a constant buzz and warble of primitive synth. For such a wound-up record, Puissance 4 still manages to feel coolly loose and nonchalant; tracks like “TWYWYS” and “Es Ist Kein Stehlen” juxtapose restless KLEENEX-ish punk energy with an electronically-damaged art school oddball vibe that owes more to the first CRASH COURSE IN SCIENCE single than any sort of mannered, dead serious German post-punk/synth wave tradition. Hot as hell.

Midnite Snaxxx Contact Contamination / Fight Back 7”

When you’ve got this band’s chops, two songs are all you need to make a point. The down-picked chug of the single’s opener pushes uncut adrenaline right out of the gate, and both tracks keep up a blistering momentum throughout. This band has only gotten more fiery and exciting over their decade-plus in existence, and these tracks continue to up the ante. The guitar work is scrappy, furious, and wonderfully weird, and lead vocalist Dulcinea continues to command attention with a presence that’s impossible to ignore. I can’t wait for more.

Milk Bricks EP

One of last year’s best releases, this Japanese band unplugs the distortion pedals for a compelling clean-tone take on contemporary hardcore. Even with the dials turned down, this band is no less ferocious and rips through six tracks in as many minutes. The drums hit a sort of sloppy D-beat, giving major juice to the overall sound. These cuts hit hard and hit different, the two main criteria to look for in the crowded talent pool of modern hardcore. A lot of people have already sung this EP’s praises and none of them are exaggerating.

Moor Mother Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes LP

In a time where hip hop has slowly become a game of status, MOOR MOTHER seems to bring back the urgency and unrest of PUBLIC ENEMY, taking back hip hop to its true political roots which are in fact a parallel to punk in ethos. Camae Ayewa is the Philadelphia-based poet that goes by the name MOOR MOTHER. She speaks the poetry of political unrest, a harsh vision of the real world without filters. Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes is experimental hip hop, punk, and noise all mixed up into a sonic black hole as the title suggests, utilizing spoken word as a tool for conscientization, in essence using hip hop as it was intended. This is a unique vision of the world from a unique artist that needs to be experienced in order to get the full picture.

Mr. and the Mrs. Seaside With Mr. and the Mrs. EP

Minimalist, lo-fi punk with a beach theme and decent dose of angst. The message is mostly unintelligible except the emphatic, “fuck cops!” Waves crash in the background of the instrumental third track, behind a menacingly repetitive surfy guitar riff accented by some female screams suggesting a shark attack or other seaside calamity. This would be a great record to get stoned and zone out to, except that it’s not quite long enough to get lost in—clocking in at just over six minutes. Definitely curious about what these beach-oriented weirdo punks from Kansas will come up with next.

New Vogue New Vogue cassette

I was not familiar with this band going in, so when I went to their Bandcamp page and noticed the pile of skulls in their banner image and mistakenly saw the cover photo of this cassette as a deformed animal skull, I braced myself for a red-hot dose of crust. Fortunately for you guys, my initial impression turned out to be way off (I can get down with some crust, but I’m definitely not qualified to write about it)! I also see now that this cover image is an oddly cropped, high-contrast, black-and-white photo of a lady…laying on a bear rug(?). Anyway, this is great! NEW VOGUE is a synth-y punk/post-punk band out of Montreal, and this eight-song cassette is their third release. If you’re a fan of TOTAL CONTROL’s punkier cuts, you’ll dig this. “Safe on the Autobahn,” one of the standout tracks, sounds like JAY REATARD covering a DEVO song that was written as a tribute to KRAFTWERK, which is not a far-off comparison for the rest of the cassette. There are some moments where they dip into some odd harmonies that don’t quite fit, or they put a little too much flanger effect on the vocals for my taste. But these are minor quibbles with an overall solid release.

Oh-OK The Complete Reissue LP reissue

Reissue of a reissue of sorts (this originally came out about ten years ago but has been out-of-print ever since), The Complete Reissue collects the stand-alone vinyl output from Athens, Georgia’s minimal post-punk icons OH-OK (which is just two EPs—1982’s Wow Mini Album 7” and 1983’s Furthermore What 12”), adding five mid-’80s live tracks and two otherwise unreleased reunion songs recorded in 2011 to round things out. The first EP is a snapshot of OH-OK at their most stripped-down, a trio of friends armed with a simple toolkit of just drums, bass, and voices to construct their short, highly rhythmic and danceable bursts of art-punk. Lynda Stipe and Linda Hopper’s vocals intertwine in subverted schoolyard chants like a much less kitsched-out version of Kate and Cindy from fellow Athenians the B-52’S, with Lynda’s rubbery and repeating DELTA 5-ish bass lines holding everything together. By the follow-up 12”, future power pop all-star Matthew Sweet had joined in on guitar and the song structures had gotten slightly more complex, with tracks like “Straight” steering the wild energy of their debut into a darker, moodier weird-pop direction without abandoning the group’s off-kilter charm. In both configurations of the band, OH-OK completely embodied sense of playfulness and whimsy that I’m tempted to call “childlike,” but not in the infantilizing/patronizing way that term is often used (especially when describing the creative output of women)—it’s more that their songs exist in their own self-invented world, as art created primarily for the enjoyment of the people making it, unconcerned with following leads that they weren’t setting themselves. Unimpeachable genius sounds from the femme-punk underground.

Omega Glory Omega Glory cassette

Oh shit! Hardcore dudes who figured out how to blast out an entire death metal song in less than a minute and it isn’t some bunk-ass chug fest? Now that’s what I’m talking about! This band out of New York City is crushing the old school death metal resurgence happening now and doing it for the punks. It’s all about hardcore attitude and sensibilities, mixed with rapid-fire picking, double bass drum madness, and massive guitar squeals. This is almost like a modern day ASSÜCK, and I do not make that comparison lightly. Listen to this now!

Oxygen Destroyer November Brain 10”

A wildly limited 10” lathe compiling unreleased cuts and outtakes from OXYGEN DESTROYER, who started the early 2010s in Japan and finished out the decade in San Francisco. The title track is a wildly melodic (almost emotional?) opener that sets false expectations for ten noisy hardcore bursts that follow. OXYGEN DESTROYER would have fit in nicely in the 1990s Bay Area, with tracks like “Slowride” and “School Jacket” landing them somewhere between Mission District fuck-ups and West Bay Koalition sonic violence, and then there are straight raw punk crushers like “Manhunt.” As a swan song, November Brain has it all; from the nine-plus minute raw punk opus “Evolution Of Man” to a slew of sub-60 second blasts of chaos. Sure, there are only 25 physical copies, but I suspect that the intent was to make it clear that OXYGEN DESTROYER existed, and these eleven tracks make that abundantly clear. The punk world needs fewer sonic constraints and more of this.

Pariiah Swallowed by Fog cassette

Slow, sludgy metal from NJ played by a cast whose list of previous worthwhile bands is a mile long; DEVOID OF FAITH, DAS OATH, and KILL YOUR IDOLS to name a few. This six-song demo is incredibly powerful. Though it rarely revs up even as fast as mid-tempo, you can feel anxiety and desperation building as these heavy songs continue to plod along. Highly recommended even if “sludgy” and “metal” sound like off-putting terminology in music you like.

Crutch / Pavel Chekov split cassette

This one is a couple of years old at this point, but damn if both bands don’t still hit with maximum force. Six bursts of filthy, old school grind/PV from Dallas veterans PAVEL CHEKOV, backed with Oklahoma’s CRUTCH delivering some of their most powerful (and brutal) lightspeed hardcore punk tracks. Each band approaches the game a little differently, each arriving at a four-way intersection of hardcore, fastcore, powerviolence, and grind…then deciding to roll blindly into each other. There’s still copies of this floating around, I would recommend you not snooze.

Pódium Pódium LP

This is cool. Super bouncy and fierce dayglo-style punk from Valencia, Spain. This was once a one-person show and now it’s a full-on steamroller of fun (that’s a full band to you). My mandatory attempts at comparisons may liken them to the SPITS, EPOXIES, TYRADES, and ALASKA Y LOS PEGAMOIDES. Favorite tunes me like are their theme song “Pódium,” “Magia Negra” (of course), “Psicopata,” and “La Noche.” The whole package is what one needs in their headphones as they ride a motorcycle down the coasts of Spain. If you stare at the cover long enough you see God. What more can you possibly want?

Poïson Ruin Poïson Ruin LP

Crucial vinyl comp of two self-issued tapes, released about-simultaneously with the second (though you’re way late to grab either), by the solo project of Philadelphia’s Mac Kennedy. POÏSON RUIN is however operating as a band henceforth, which is good news as it invites the possibility of dragging this past lockdown-era online hype status and bringing it to the people. A huge, booming sound prevails across these ten songs, riddled with hooks and accessible in its own odd way: you might catch shards of WIPERS, the MOB, INSTITUTE…and then there’s Kennedy’s whole “peace punk in chainmail” vibe. I do think the dungeon synth element is overemphasised in the bulk of chatter about POÏSON RUIN: not saying those parts are irrelevant, or there for show, just that it shouldn’t make or break the deal for anyone. Essentially, we’re talking atmospheric keyboard intros, or interludes, which foreshadow bombastic anarcho-goth stompers with the arena-bound drama of NWOBHM. “Sacrosanct,” from the first cassette, fuses the rock and synth elements to a greater extent; “Paladin’s Wrath,” from the second, has both the most drawn-out section of new age tinkling and the fastest, arguably hardcore tempo once the rock kicks in.

Power Face Door Slammed Shut EP

Enthusiastic Stockholm Swedes POWER FACE play a turbo-charged kind of metal-punk, reminding me a little bit of SoCal skate bands from the early ’90s. If you strip away the wild, spit-caked vocals, the music is honestly pretty generic melodic punk/hardcore, which they play well. Are these guys signed to Fat Wreck yet, or what?

Powerplant People in the Sun LP

UK-based one-man operation POWERPLANT turned a lot of heads in 2019 when his second album People in the Sun was released, and there is a good reason for this. Hard to describe but easy to listen to, this is lo-fi synth-punk in its essence but every tune is a whole new world in itself. “Hey Mr Dogman!” is one hell of an opener, showcasing POWERPLANT’s high-energy garage-punk-meets-SCREAMERS sound, and right next, “Snake Eyes” shifts the game completely in a DEVO-esque weird artsy vibe. There is so much to explore here and every listen will make you piece this puzzle even better. This might be the definition of what egg-punk really is.

Preening Dragged Through the Garden 12”

PREENING didn’t invent any of the sounds, or combinations of sounds, you hear on this nine-song EP, but at this point they have fully slapped their own stamp on things, and they were decently distinctive before. The snaky saxophone and juddery bass calls back to early ’80s UK post-punk’s jazzier cats—frequently thinking BLURT, sometimes the POP GROUP—and it’s notable that Max Nordile, on the former listed instrument, plays like an actual jazzer as opposed to a punk who realised the sax’s din-making potential. (Check the slow’n’low “Red Red Lava” for evidence, or for that matter some of Max’s truly wild solo tapes.) His spluttering vox, frequently twinned with the slightly more insouciant tones of bassist Alejandra Alcala, lend a noisier, more abrasive angle to the band, not light years away from TRUMAN’S WATER or someone. Andy Human, PREENING compadre from their weird-punk Bay Area scene and Alejandra’s NAKED ROOMMATE bandmate, pops up at the end of Dragged Through the Garden with a creepy dub remix of “Extortion,” although if there is an original version it appears to be unreleased at present.

Prisoner Choose Your Delusion cassette

Imagine if you dealt with quarantine by locking yourself in a basement with a Casio keyboard, your guitar, a makeshift drum kit, and a Tascam four-track recorder, and the only thing you had to consume was a bag of Flamin’ Hot Funyuns and a case of Sparks. (But it was the old version of Sparks that had a higher alcohol content AND caffeine, taurine, and all that other chemical crap that the government made them take out.) Then you passed your days by composing a theatrical one-man band concept album that played out like the Rocky Horror Picture Show with JAY REATARD in fishnets playing the role of Frank-N-Furter to the audience in the mirror. That’s pretty much what Brandon Hamilton (PRINCE, DUDE JAMS) did in Austin, TX last year. Amazingly spastic, melodically demented, and pleasantly bizarre in a way that’s reminiscent of the early PHARMACY.

Public Opinion Pay No Mind cassette

It’s very much a cliché for a reviewer to use terms like “stripped-down,” “no-frills” “back-to-basics,” “catchy punk rock’n’roll” with “hardcore energy,” but in the case of PUBLIC OPINION, these terms very much apply. Deceptively simple chunks of guitar riffage plough ahead at a pace adequate to energetic movement, providing a springboard for strident vocalizing that, in cadence and delivery, falls somewhere between the HIVES and HOT SNAKES.

Qlowski Ikea Youth / Grinding Halt 7”

A sonically dense, highly danceable sound that wears many a familiar ’80s influence on its sleeve, but manages to be at least a little unpredictable in the process. “Ikea Youth” starts with a bouncy-then-driving guitar, sports a catchy chorus, but ultimately comes off a bit cluttered as the guitar and synth fight for space in the mix. I thought it might just be a lo-fi thing, but the credits say this was recorded at Abbey Road, so I assume that they just like to layer up their sound. Both vocalists have distinct but complementary voices and the synth-driven darkwave finale was pretty cool. Side Two is a CURE cover, and while I’m not really a CURE guy, I appreciate that QLOWSKI takes some sonic liberties by adding chunky guitars, abrasive noise, and discordant piano. I’m curious to see how they develop, but on this outing, I find splitting the difference between gothy post-punk impulses and more accessible pop does justice to neither.

R.M.F.C. Hive Volumes 1 & 2 LP

R.M.F.C. (or Rock Music Fan Club) is the bedroom recording project of New South Wales teen Buz Clatworthy, and this LP compiles his first two cassettes. This fits nicely alongside any of the recent spate of releases from fellow NWI-worshiping Aussies, like SATANIC TOGAS, RESEARCH REACTOR CORP, DISCO JUNK, GEE TEE, etc. What sets R.M.F.C. apart from those other bands is his willingness to slow things down a bit. While there are plenty of the lightning-fast tracks that you’ve probably come to expect from this lot, songs like “Television” and “Mirror” creep by in comparison and really allow you the time to appreciate the odd mix of influences these kids are working with. Maybe it’s just because I feel a little inundated with speedy DEVO-core lately, but I find myself preferring these slower tracks. Regardless, this is an impressive collection of tunes, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this kid comes up with next.

Radical Kitten Silence is Violence LP

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

Repetitor Prazan Prostor Među Nama Koji Može I Da Ne Postoji LP

This Serbian trio generates a fair amount of racket for a three-piece. I’ll be honest that I don’t have much of a frame of reference for their heavy-riffing stoner groove; to my ears I hear elements that remind me of FU MANCHU at times, L7 at others. There are two women and one man in the group and they all have a go at singing. My favorite song on here happens to be one where the women take the lead, “Sa Izvora.” It’s also the most “punk” (make of that what you will). The intense riffage gives way to a more plaintive sound on the last couple of songs, one of which in particular, “Danima,” really stands out: it incongruously shares sonic territory with the song “Used To” by WIRE, but adds what sounds like a children’s choir on the chorus. Definitely an avenue ripe for exploration, should REPETITOR feel the urge. Overall a pretty decent record that I ordinarily may not have reached for but have now given several spins.

Salvaje Punk Dos Balas demo cassette

Some of the contemporary New York bands come through as a bunch of freaks listening to records and, hyped from the influences, rushing to a rehearsal room to write and record a couple songs, release them, and forget the whole affair as the sun rises in the morning. I dig this tape because I love the same bands SALVAJE PUNK does: ATAQUE DE SONIDO, HERPES, ULSTER, HP.HC. Even the guitars are occasionally reminiscent of the general soundscape of La Ciudad Podrida. All the songs are evil, wild, blasting madness, as hectic as the cover on which a vibrating creator presses one’s brain out. There is a touch of ultra-metal from the speedy riffs, deep-voice barking vocals, and multiple nonsense yet highly entertaining solos. It’s a fun tape, a love letter to a certain scene—it must have been entertaining to write and record it and I enjoy hearing it.

SBDC The Feeling of Winning LP

Vancouver has a long history of great female punk bands, not the least of which is Lisa Marr’s band CUB. SBDC (Stupid Bitch and the Dumb Cunts, if you need it spelled out) is carrying on that tradition with scrappy riffs, clever lyrics, and bursts of short, amazing songs. I recently found an old split 7” from CUB and Larry Livermore’s band the POTATOMEN that was co-released by Vancouver’s Mint Records and Lookout!—SBDC has the best sounds of Mint and Lookout!, and also the energy of the short-lived Olympia band HEAVENS TO BETSY. For the record, this album could have come out on Mint Records, but instead it’s on the spazier, artier, scruffier, more DIY Kingfisher Bluez.

Scab Eater Ultra Vires LP

SCAB EATER of Australia plays diminutive slam-pit hardcore that sounds like a more lo-fi garage-core version of MIND ERASER with the punk ugliness of SADIST, HOAX, and GAG. You know the drill. SCAB EATER, however, has a subtle, more dark tone to them such as DEATH CHURCH. Ultra Vires switches up the tempo several times while remaining a straightforward steam engine of hardcore. Songs clock in at under two minutes yet seem to be filled with deep composition. By the fourth track “It Gets Worse,” I am totally hooked and it gets better from there. Followed by “Flag Bearer” with grabbing double kick pedal, gritty, filthy bass, and a locomotive furnace for a mouthpiece. You will get into this immediately and wish you’d worn a helmet. A.C.A.B. S.C.A.B! EATER. FTW.

Scraps Wrapped Up in This Society LP reissue

After one of the first WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? rehearsals, we were all talking about bands we liked and Max (625, SPAZZ, etc.) noticed that my background knowledge of fast, raw, European hardcore, a subgenre that was key to our stated mission, was deficient. The next time we met, he gave me some study material in the form of the first HEIBEL 12” and this SCRAPS LP….and I studied. SCRAPS were so gloriously unhinged, you got the sense that they decided they were going to play fast before they decided if they could play fast. While they had surely honed their skills and focused their sights by 1990’s Wrapped Up in This Society, the blasts are still completely fucking off the rails while the youth crew moshes (and backing vocals) were in full effect, and it’s what makes this record sound so good. Because it’s kinda all over the place, and it mostly hits just off target, and because they go so hard in spite of it all. Or because of it all. If the anthemic end of “Win Together” were perfectly in tune (or in time) it would just be another hardcore song, but to hear SCRAPS wrap up the first side of this LP, it’s as if you’re ready to join the band before you even flip the wax. Lyrics blast inequality, imperialism, and military oppression, idealism leaping from the pages of the booklet just as it jumps out of the grooves. I have a vague memory of WHN? covering “I Was Blind” in rehearsal…though we may have just ripped it off and not told anyone.  A faithful and overdue (and gorgeous) reissue.

Secretors Antidote for Civilization flexi EP

Primitive, filthy and savage. What else can one say about this debut from New York´s SECRETORS? And what a beast of a debut! The guitars and bass are as harsh as they can be, the bellowing vocals are delay-drenched, and the pounding drums are saturated to the core. Their sound really hits the spot if you are into ’80s Japanese primitive hardcore, evoking the chaos and destruction of SODOM (ADK Omnibus), ZOUO, or GHOUL. With members of WARTHOG, SUBVERSIVE RITE, and URCHIN within their ranks, Antidote for Civilization isn’t for the faint of heart.

Sick Thoughts Poor Boys / Drug Rock 7”

SICK THOUGHTS are one of those bands, or projects or whatever, that people constantly talk about in terms of how prolific they are on the release front, but this two-song 45 is the first thing under this name for nigh on eighteen months. I guess we’ve all had distractions one way or another. Both sides are pretty on-point if you’re already down with the essential Drew Owen ethos, and even if not, they’re pretty insta-likeable uptempo punk rock’n’roll with power-pop-gone-metal guitar solos. It’s not polished or anything, but no kind of lo-fi either, especially compared to Drew’s recent album as DD DETH. Kudos for also being bold enough to have a drawing of a bunch of skeletons playing instruments as the sleeve art, despite not being an ageing psychobilly band.

Silicon Heartbeat Earth Static cassette

Beaming in from Kalamazoo, Michigan, SILICON HEARTBEAT (not to be confused with SILICON PRAIRIE) trades in gloomy, fuzz-soaked synth-punk. Suck the fun out of the SPITS or slip a sedative to LOST SOUNDS and you’d have something close to this EP. SILICON HEARTBEAT is competent enough, but the relentless monotone that defines each song can be a hard wave to ride, even on what is essentially a 7” (are there really only eighteen copies of this tape?). I’m guessing that this is a solo project and, thus, it rates on a sliding scale, but still, there’s little heat here. The digital download of Earth Static closes out with a perfectly fine ANGRY SAMOANS cover that is the aural equivalent of a flatline.

Slugs Human Warmth cassette

Slimy garage shits from Göteborg that strip so many layers that I could be listening to EASY CURE demos as easily as leather-clad THUNDERS outtakes. Mid-paced stompers heavy on single-note guitars…the beauty in simplicity cannot be overstated.

Slugs Long Live the New Flesh cassette

Pretty damn great sleazy, leather-clad GBG garage punk. Maybe a little SPITS-like mainly for the vocals, which could also owe a bit to Wendy O. One could easily see this band on a bill with New Zealand’s the CAVEMEN; it’s nice and dirty, primitive, and would fit nicely on a Killed By Death volume. “Drug Eyes” and the Videodrome-inspired title cut rise to the top of this cesspool of punker joy, and it comes to a close with the wonderfully droning post-punker “V.A.T.” Shower-worthy bliss for shure.

Slumb Party Spending Money LP

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

Snooper Music for Spies EP

SNOOPER is a Nashville-based duo made up of Connor Cummins (SPODEE BOY) and Blair Tramel. This is their first release, and it’s quite an impressive debut. They cover so much ground over the course of these four tracks that I was genuinely surprised to see that the whole EP’s running time is just seven minutes and twenty seconds. The inevitable comparison here would be to the CONEHEADS, as they certainly crib a lot from the NWI sound. But they infuse it with enough other influences that it feels like a fresh take. I hear fellow Tennesseeans LOST SOUNDS in their explosive choruses and a little bit of the URINALS in their production. The best track on the EP might be the one that bears the least resemblance to Mark Winter and company. “Running” establishes a borderline Krautrock groove with a simple drum beat, a DEVO-esque bassline, and chanted vocals, then it alternately weaves in a fuzzy surf guitar line and a MINUTEMEN-like funk riff. It really is something. An essential release!

Solvent Demo 2020 cassette

I mean, this shit just sounds like the cover art, really. How many side shots of crudely drawn skulls with daggers through them can one punk suffer? I mean, fuck, despite my whinging, it’s a good demo. The songs are fast as all fuck, faster than your average contemporary (ooh la la) D-beat at least, which is a plus considering the seemingly endless wave of mid-paced bullshit lately. The vocals have a hiss and snarl to them that only comes out occasionally, but when it does, fuck me if it doesn’t rip. This fucker was over before it began and I’m glad for that; I hope this lot stick to 7”s and tapes and don’t succumb to the ultimate in modern punk trappings and resort to an LP—this shit is fast as all fuck and vicious sounding, a quality I think would be lost on a 12”.

Somerset Thrower Paint My Memory LP

This is one of those bands that has been on my radar for a while now, but for whatever reason I’ve neglected to actually check out until now. Well, after listening to this record a few times now, I feel like an idiot. This is definitely something I should have been getting down with since day one. Heavy ’90s emo/indie rock vibes. Imagine a gruffer, beefier KNAPSACK. This just gets better each time I hear it. I’d put this up against any classic emo record any day. Mark my words, this album is going to be on “Top Albums of All Time” lists for years to come.

Soulside This Ship / Madeleine Said 7”

To call this a SOULSIDE record feels pretty misleading. Sure it’s the same people but it sounds much more like SOUNDGARDEN than any of the band’s releases from back in the ’80s. Not surprisingly, it has more in common with post-SOULSIDE bands. Musically, it is pretty hard rock or grungy, tonally in the GVSB range but it doesn’t flow quite as well as those songs did. The vocals here don’t have that stunted, yelled/sung feel. They fill out the songs a little more, sounding like a deeper aged version of RAIN LIKE THE SOUND OF TRAINS. Even more disappointing, the best song on the digital release, “Survival,” an upbeat, catchy tune that still doesn’t sound like the old version of the band, is not included on the vinyl.

Speed Plans Field of Vision EP

The twelve-song 7” is always welcome because I know the songs will be short, fast, and to-the-point. That’s pretty much what this Pittsburgh act gives us on their fourth offering. Good riffs and angry vocals recall classics like POISON IDEA and NEGATIVE APPROACH, as well as lesser-known Ohio band PLAGUE (shoutout to COVID). The rhythms are creative and dizzying, and while there aren’t any particular standout tracks it goes down nicely in one big gulp. I’m inclined to guess that SPEED PLANS are a particularly excitable live band, as Ron’s previous review of their LP confirms.

Splitting Heads A Short Vision demo cassette

This came out a few months ago. You need it. SPLITTING HEADS sound like they went back to 1981 and then they decided not to come back, and then recorded a demo in 1982 after they kicked everyone’s ass and now it’s 2021 and we’re listening to it just going “ddaaaaaaaaamn.” Fuck y’all, this tape is so ungodly good.

Spy Service Weapon cassette

This is sick. SPY wastes absolutely no time kicking off, a squeal of distortion followed by some seriously fucked-off stomping hardcore. I’m stumbling for comparisons to make but it sounds so fucking furious, with that sweet tinge of delay on the vox that allows for a real fucking snarl to seep through. The stomp that comes through on this tape is so fucking prevalent I can feel my bad knee begin to throb beneath my desk and I’m only two tracks in; hardcore is best when it doesn’t try reinvent the wheel, but rather uses it as a vehicle for genuine aggression and frustration. This is some desperately pissed-off shit from the Bay Area and it shows. I’m a sucker for Bay Area HC, but regardless of your tastes in regional HC, this should easily tick all your boxes.

Shitload / Squelch Chamber split cassette

SHITLOAD does some terrible bass and drum machine noise grind. Now with noise grind, it’s all pretty terrible, but there’s good-terrible and bad-terrible. This one is a bunch of thirty-second songs of the same-ass programmed blastbeat with the same-ass incoherent bass noise and two guys shouting different things at the same time. It’s on the terrible side of terrible. Just as I’m about to completely write off noise grind (again), SQUELCH CHAMBER comes on and my mind completely explodes. This is quite possibly the first noise grind band who are not only not terrible, but actually are fucking sick! Absolutely brutal, total fucking noise madness with an actual drummer and actual song structures, and no funny stuff. Almost sounds like a heavy metal MELT BANANA with the evil turned way up. SQUELCH CHAMBER makes this one a must!

Squire My Mind Goes Round in Circles / Does Stephanie Know? 7” reissue

Wow. This is a total throwback to late ’70s power pop. Think of the FRESHIES. Why does it sound like power pop of the late ’70s? Possibly because it was originally released in 1980. That said, my reference to the FRESHIES should tell you that this is top of the line. Two tracks, both rule.

Staffers In the Pigeon Hole cassette

This band mostly sticks to a post-punk influence that also straddles a line between power pop and indie rock, though they pull it off well. I’ve heard plenty of bands that try to shoehorn a medley of genres into a single record and it ends up being a soundtrack for nightmares. These songs never stray too far from a common root sound which definitely helps. But then “Fuck the Brixton” is folky Americana with a slight country twang in the guitar, so there is a curveball thrown into the mix. For the most part, the songs are mid-tempo with drawn out dual vocals. I’d almost describe it as sleepy, but you’ve also just chugged a cup of coffee. It drones on in a lot of places, though they also do real weird soundscapes full of horns, electric piano, distortion pedals, and whatever instruments inspire anxiety attacks. It’s a strange, yet cool, collection of sounds. I do this a lot, but there are some similarities to the MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB. Somewhere in my brain they became my go-to weirdo tunes comparison. Listen to both.

Staring Problem Eclipse LP

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

Stimulant Sensory Deprivation LP

If you really appreciate powerviolence, you know that you have to get through a ton of INFEST rip-off bands to find a real powerviolence band that keeps it in the tradition of MAN IS THE BASTARD and the Slap-a-Ham alumni. Brooklyn-based STIMULANT is such a band (previously under the name WATER TORTURE, who they also released a split with), with their off-putting brand of crushing, noisy powerviolence evoking a grindier IRON LUNG, focused on start-stop motions and dramatically slow or fast parts, and this is the major upgrade from the WATER TORTURE moniker: the fast parts are faster and the slow parts are slower, always with room for noise and samples. WATER TORTURE was exceptionally good and STIMULANT is a step above, a great soundtrack for the COVID isolation era.

Stud Count Pleasure Center cassette

There’s a lot going on within the walls of these four tracks—a blast of hardcore rage on the first track, a grunge ballad complete with emotive compressed vocals, and a punchy, melodic punk anthem. The fourth track is a cover of the WIPERS’ “Telepathic Love,” steered in a power pop direction with singing along the lines of the EXPLODING HEARTS. The cover really works. It makes me consider how Greg Sage’s unflinchingly earnest delivery defines the WIPERS’ sound just as much as the songwriting itself. Stoked to see STUD COUNT playing around with that and re-imagining such a great song.

Svart Parad Total Svart Parad 2xLP+CD

With just two years of activity, this classic, short-lived Swedish hardcore band needs no introduction if you like your hardcore with extra crust in it. Their influence is undeniable in bands like DOOM or EXTREME NOISE TERROR, and they even got their own tribute album with covers by the kings of D-beat, DISCLOSE. F.O.A.D. has done an amazing job in reissuing these classic bands, and has now released the remastered discography. Includes 80 tracks with extra studio out-takes, compilation tracks, and a bonus Total Live CD. An essential band that helped shape what crust punk would become in terms of intensity. For the Scandi-beat aficionados out there.

Tantrum Get What You Deserve cassette

NYC’s TANTRUM delivers a steady D-beat pounding on some of this tape, and dark, smoky post-punk on the rest of it. It’s an interesting mix, especially when complemented by the tinny demo quality. The echoed female vocals add a layer of goth/anarcho vibes to these six tracks, working just as well over the thrashy hardcore parts as they do on the slower, more pointed numbers. While these elements may sound a little mismatched, TANTRUM makes it work fairly seamlessly.

Tentáculo Cansados de Esperar LP

Straight from Triana and Nice (Spain/France), TENTÁCULO is a punk band that treads a fine line between mid-tempo melodic punk and hard rock, or NWOBHM and post-punk, with the chops and attitude of those great working class heavy metal Spanish bands from the ’80s. Whatever, we don’t need to pinpoint TENTÁCULO down anywhere: these eight songs give no-frills rock’n’roll with existential dread-themed lyrics and hook after hook after hook. “Extrañas Luces” shines with an old-school hard rock riff in contrast with the bleak pessimism in the lyrics and the energetic singalong of the chorus. Have to highlight the guitar work on this record: simple at times, but extremely melodic in a HÜSKER DÜ kind of way. The three last songs on the B-side are some serious bangers: you can imagine yourself singing with your pals in a sweat-drenched embrace at a dark small club or spitting this street poetry into a hot and humid night after a really bad day at work. Beautiful cover and design work. 

Termination Termination cassette

Last year when I heard the SERFS’ debut album Sounds of Serfdom, I thought “hell yes, this has got to be a sign that 2020 is going to be a great year,” but oh how I was wrong. This new album from TERMINATION, a Cincinnati-based supergroup with members from the SERFS, MARDOU, and CRIME OF PASSING has got me really worried because it’s so fucking good that it can only mean 2021 is going to be a horrific nightmare. This tape brings all of the wild experimentation of the VELVET UNDERGROUND to the melodic garage rock of KING KHAN. It’s fuzzed-out and noisy and totally brilliant. There’s really nothing more to be said except that this kicks ass and comes highly recommended. If you feel so inclined, cop a tape. All of the profits go to the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund.

The Ar-Kaics Ar-Kives, Volume One: Singles & Unreleased LP

This is a collection of singles from this Virginia band who’ve been morphing their own take on ’60s-style lo-fi garage for years. You can sense the influence of the lineage, but the music has its own unique sound, without duplicity. Tunes range from defiant anthems (“Can’t Stand This Place”) to sludgy stomps (“Cut Me Down”). The band had COVID cancel US, European, and Japanese tours, but were able to release these early out-of-print singles dating back to 2013 and some demos instead. It’s a great place to start if you’ve never heard their other releases. Not just for fans of the Back From the Grave scene, but for anyone who digs fuzzy, snotty songs with a little attitude. European release by Bachelor. In the US, it’s on Dig! Records from Virginia, which has been putting out vinyl for five years but this release was given the 001 catalog number—apparently that’s been on the back burner waiting for a pandemic.

The Ex Disturbing Domestic Peace LP+7″ / History is What’s Happening LP reissues

The greatest anarcho-punk band of our time (or any time), the EX has consistently transcended a genre that’s often reduced to cliches of stencil fonts and high-contrast black and white war photos—through four decades and counting, they’ve collaborated with avant-garde cellists and Ethiopian jazz saxophonists, and experimented with free improvisation and ethnic folk music, and never once has any of it seemed disingenuous or forced. Their first two LPs, 1980’s Disturbing Domestic Peace and 1982’s History is What’s Happening, recently got the reissue treatment from Superior Viaduct, and within the EX’s sprawling catalog, they’re arguably the group’s most “conventional” and straightforward statements of intent. On their full-length debut, the EX laid down much of the basic furniture that would remain in place as the band regularly rearranged their musical floor plan in subsequent years—G.W. Sok’s intently ranted vocals and sloganeering lyrics, scratchy knife-edged guitar, tumbling, tightly-knotted rhythms. It’s a lean 22 minutes (not counting the bonus four-song live 7”) of smart agitprop punk fitting the Crass Records-modeled anarcho-ideal, but with an off-center volatility pointing to expanded horizons to come. History is What’s Happening bridges Disturbing Domestic Peace’s raw, square-one approach with much more of a sharp, angular post-punk influence, which would continue to color the band’s sound as they moved toward the ’90s—imagine GANG OF FOUR as Dutch squat-dwellers who would have never broached the idea of signing to a major, a central precept illustrated with scathing bluntness on the jagged, Entertainment!-referencing “E.M. Why” (“The gang of four smiles / They think that EMI’s their friend”). The EX allegedly chose their name because it was quick and easy to spray-paint on a wall, and despite the increasingly complex songwriting on the second LP, it’s still an obvious extension of the group’s original motivations, with each track-as-manifesto blazing through at about a minute or two a piece, just long enough to effectively deliver their points, no time for fucking around. Absolutely essential.

The Fight Endless Noise LP

The FIGHT from Long Island’s latest LP. They combine the No Future Records-style UK82 attack with early NYHC à la SHEER TERROR or a NEGATIVE APPROACH-like approach. Stompy and pogo-y at the same time. Reminds a bit of the recent New Wave of British Hardcore approach in the UK with bands like ARMS RACE, VIOLENT REACTION, and the FLEX. Without trying too hard or being corny, contains honest lyrics about the police, and dependence on social media validation, some things many of us can relate to.

The Haskels Taking the City By Storm LP

Just to be clear, the first four songs on this record are an essential and mandatory dose of Midwestern US punk history. “Taking The City By Storm” is 134 seconds of hyper-speed power punk perfection that every punk should know inside out, and the rest of the single is…well, it’s perfect, too. So do you need an entire LP rounded out by six previously unreleased demo recordings from 1980 and three cuts from a 1981 live set? Simple answer: definitely. The demo cuts show a band settling into their own just a few short months after forming—just one would-be single after another, from the JAM-tinged mellow number “In Between Girls,” to the pub rock stomp “You Got to Be Kidding.” And the three live tracks show a band that was so undeniably huge…more nuanced than the simple burners that dominated their only vinyl release, more advanced than the KBD comps that cemented their status as an important fixture in the world of trailblazing North American punk rock. Maybe they would have become something else had the band survived—tracks from the demo session hint at a band geared to stand alongside the JAM, COSTELLO, etc.—and maybe they would have reformed and rehashed an adult version of their genius had the members survived. But the band didn’t, the members didn’t, and instead we have these songs. And, as stated earlier: they are perfect.

The Hussy Live at High Noon Saloon 1/7/17 cassette

I figure the point of releasing a live tape would be to let everyone know what a fun live band you are. In that aspect, the HUSSY succeeded. I’ll be sure to check them out next time they are in town. The HUSSY is having a good time, introducing every song as their last song, demanding the people in the audience get closer to the stage, and shouting out thanks to their friends. The music is primitive and garage-y. I also enjoy that they leave in the silences in addition to the between song banter. It’s just like being there. The downside of a live recording is that it is lo-fi, rough-sounding, and not always pleasant to listen to. You really need to be a fan and in a certain mood to pop on a live recording. Recorded in Austin, TX.

The Lavender Flu Barbarian Dust LP

Prolific Portland Deadheads go into the NU SHOOZ studio and make something truly special. I wonder if these guys are into SIMPLY SAUCER, because to my ears Barbarian Dust has that kind of spaced-out, mantra-like proto-punk sound that I like in Cyborgs Revisited. The warped, string-raking of “Hair Lord” sets a pummeling tone before yielding to the more mid-tempo psych-pop of “Mow the Glass.” The whole record is full of so many good and surprising ideas. Unlike the more deconstructed-sounding (and also excellent) Tomorrow Cleaners, everything here sounds perfectly in place, even the tunes that end abruptly. It’s like it was meant to be even when they’re adding elements that are not typically punk. Is that an EBow on “Keyboard Christ”? It still works! To say nothing of the VENOM cover. I have listened to this so damn many times and the various sonic turns it takes are burned into my brain forever. I think people will still care about this record ten years from now.

The Lost Jobs Good Boy EP

German garage punk that comes out swinging with instant riffs, drum fills, dueling surf lines, and gruff vocals. Sounds like the HELLACOPTERS with a mix of German and English lyrics and frequent fretboard gymnastics. This EP would have been at home on Kozik’s Man’s Ruin label back in the day. Nothing Earth-shattering here, but it is solid, straight-up rock’n’roll if you are into double denim and motorcycles.

The Mark Vodka Group The Mark Vodka Group LP

Halifax, Nova Scotia seems like a weirdly dark, isolated, dangerous spot. Maybe it’s these kind of places that are fertile grounds for spastic punk mayhem. A place where music formulates apart from cultural pseudo-coolness and it’s just meat and bloody guts and acid juice. I’m thinking Mark Mothersbaugh and DEVO from Akron, Ohio, or Mark Winter and the CONEHEADS (or whatever he’s doing) from Northwest Indiana. Add to this the MARK VODKA GROUP, a project from Luke Mumford and some of the other Halifax BOOJI BOYS released by the ever reliable Drunken Sailor out of the UK. Gritty and bitter, but not without humor in a REATARDS-like way.

The Smog Set in Stone / Lost My Mind 7”

People be loving the SMOG! This is the Japanese group’s third single and they’ve built a modest buzz based on their sharp, tuneful punk rockin’. “Set in Stone” threw me for a sec as it opens like GIRLS AT OUR BEST’s “Getting Nowhere Fast,” but then settles into a flavor profile that is closer to the JAM stirring a spoonful more garage into their mod stew. “Lost My Mind” gets slightly more angular and approximates what BLOC PARTY would sound like if they had any punk demos.

The Snakes The Snakes LP

Anti-Fade is one of a handful of labels that I follow religiously. But every so often I’ll have a crisis of faith and find myself willfully ignoring a release for no reason other than, say, unappealing cover art or a generic band name. The Snakes by the SNAKES was such a release. Fortunately, MRR intervened and I now see the error of my ways. This is quite a delightful LP! The SNAKES are a five-piece outfit from Melbourne, and they play an odd mix of organ-driven garage punk, sleazy proto-punk, and circus-y new wave. It reminds me at times of mid-’80s CURE, the MIGHTY GO-GO PLAYERS, the soundtrack to Liquid Sky, and Richard Hell (particularly the vocalist). I don’t know how much replay value this one has, but it’s definitely worth a listen if you’re down for an interesting time. I’m certainly keen to see what they do next!

The Templars Reconquista Volume II LP

Another root around in the catacombs for the TEMPLARS with the second volume of their Reconquista series. Taking in various odds and ends from their storied career to date, including a lot of early stuff that has been out of print for a minute, so definitely one for completists and obsessives. A handful of covers including a relatively played-straight version of a ROLLING STONES number add a bit of light and shade to the proceedings too, but realistically one for the megafans.

The Tissues Blue Film LP

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

These Things Existential Hangover LP

It’s nice to be reminded that punk doesn’t always have to be miserable. Bleakness is great—and usually appropriate for the goings-on of the world—but thank God there are still bands like Ballarat, Australia’s THESE THINGS to offer sweetness in bitter times. There is plenty of melody and hooks on display here, and the band’s sound is reminiscent of gritty late-2000s garage pop acts like CHEAP TIME and BAD SPORTS (especially the latter). This album doesn’t improve on a winning formula, but it’s done well and a pleasure to listen to. If I have a gripe it’s that the lyrics are a bit rote on tracks like “Cigarettes and Booze,” a subject well-enough-covered at this point, but overall it’s still a solid LP.

Traps Funny Thing EP

Four energetic rock’n’roll songs from this Quebec City band. Channeling classic ’77 riffs with bouncy bass lines lifted from pop punk, TRAPS deliver a completely fine, recognizable sound in a familiar package. I was ready to move on when the last song, “Don’t Do It,” came on and lifted my spirits. Did you have a Lookout! phase in the ’90s? Remember that sweet mix of punchy power chords with heartfelt lyrics (think MTX or WYNONA RIDERS) that would extend roots into your brainpan? “Don’t Do It” brings that feeling back for all of us who have an audio sweet tooth. While listening, I started thinking about high school and skateboards and those little folded paper football things. I thought about hating everyone who wore the shirts of that one pop punk band that got really popular, but going home and listening to them anyway. And I think this would have made a really great one-song single.

Tumbas Dolor LP

It’s a shame that this is TUMBAS’ last album. The Bogotá, Colombia band embraces the gloom and doom of deathrock with the intensity of hardcore, and showers it with a sick guitar tone that paints a picture of a world in pain. TUMBAS make you think, make you scream, and most importantly, make you dance your misery away. There’s a sense of urgency in Marcelo and Fausto’s dark guitar riffs that works nicely with the driving pulse towards catharsis of Maria Paula’s bass and Ximena’s unrelenting drumming. On top of that, you have Luisa’s vocals, with the necessary anger and poise to expose the rotten corpse of Latin America’s social reality. These songs get better with each listen but if you make me pick one, “Destinados a Perder” has it all: it’s dark, it’s heavy, and the guitars sound like a swarm of furious bees. The album has a really cool cover and insert. It also includes four extra songs from their demo cassette. 

TV Drugs FFO: Everything Terrible cassette

A nice solid blast of modern American hardcore punk. Guitars have a nice solid blast of catchy ’90s basement punk (“How Far?” and “Livin’ The Dream,” in particular) and there are some good creepy vibes—but it’s kinda funny because it sounds like TV DRUGS are going for the tough chain punk vibe and the fact that they land slightly off that mark is precisely what makes them feel right.

Ultra-Violent Crime…For…Revenge EP reissue

Perhaps the definitive UK82 release, a final effort before disbanding and setting off on their merry (separate) ways; this is three tracks of buzzsaw guitar ferocity, larynx-shredding vocals from Ade Bailey, and drums that sound like an air raid. Tight, furious and no pissing about. Get your boots and your bally on, it’s a classic for a reason.

Urban Carnage Ni̇hai̇ Infi̇lak EP

Even if powerviolence is a deterrent sign for you, listen to Ni̇hai̇ Infi̇lak. It has multiple stop-and-go parts, blastbeats, top-of-the-lungs screams, and tempo changes per-second, but still the heart of this record is raging and hateful hardcore. But in the case of URBAN CARNAGE, they are from Turkey, which is not an easy place to live and such background shines from each song. If you listen to CROSSED OUT even without being on crack and enjoy fucked-up heavy music with a modern sound, check out this Turkish powerhouse. I am just as dubious and picky when it comes powerviolence, but this is good shit. It is not aligned to posers like me, but I have to adapt and get what they play. It is both interesting and expands my perspective. 

USA Nails Character Stop LP

USA NAILS deliver a new LP of noise-rock-inspired bummer punk. They have played with IDLES and METZ, and did a split 7” with TONGUE PARTY. If you like those bands, it’s a pretty safe bet that you will like this, too. The songs are stripped down to muscular distorted bass, dissonant guitar stabs, pounding drums, and shouted working-class sloganeering. “I Don’t Own Anything” starts out with the very relatable line “This is modern life / And it is full of heartache,” and ends with “I experience everything / I don’t own anything.” It’s not as moving as “Merchandise,” but it’s a potent anti-commercialism anthem for our times. The last two tracks caught my attention in how they step a few feet away from the post-hardcore pummeling into post-punk with syncopated drumbeats and disaffected vocals that sound like a slower WIRE or GANG OF FOUR. The recording sounds great: clear and crisply produced. That’s the only negative aspect of this for me—I like a good speaker-ripper and this is a bit clean. Worth checking out.

User Unauthorized Pigs Got Ahold of Me / Puerco Me Atrapó 7″

As a rapidly dying old punk, it will always warm my tepid, inflamed heart hearing a melody chastising the racist frat boys we’re supposed to call cops. What will really jumpstart my aorta faster than a hot defibrillator is an anti-cop ode sung by high school kids! Austin’s USER UNAUTHORIZED returns with a venomous EXPLOITED-meets-BLACK FLAG-style anthem that screams “piggy” enough times to make even Manson smile. You get it in English and again in Spanish on the flipside, which may seem like a burn, but trust me you’ll have this masterwork on repeat for days.

V/A …So This is Progress? 003 flexi EP + zine

The zine part of this fine package is a collection of show fliers from all over Ohio, going all the way back to NECROS and DR. KNOW in 1985. There are a bunch of sick ones from the late ’90s/early ’00s that took me back. It’s amazing how many ways you can draw someone’s head exploding. The flexi part is a compilation of solo COVID projects by punks from all across the US. All the best styles are represented, from MOTÖRHEAD scum crust to bong-ripping glam thrash, and all the hardcore grinding violence in-between. In all seriousness, all these tracks shred, and the glossy print, hand-numbered zine is hella clean! Grab one while you can!

V/A A Country Fit for Heroes LP reissue

Reissue of one of the seminal UK82 compilations; time to dust off the donkey jacket and the “Coal Not Dole” badge. Some of these names will inevitably be known to you, having been scrawled onto school books and pencil cases since time immemorial, but this compilation assembles some of the lesser-celebrated names of the UK scene, too. It’s an uneasy truce between skins, punks, and their scruffier anarcho cousins to dizzying effect. DISTORTION, CRUX, and the VIOLATORS are the stars of the show for this installment; a great document of the time and some real gems uncovered.

Verbal Razors By Thunder and Lightning LP

I find it really hard to take this sort of thing seriously. It just reminds me of shit like MUNICIPAL WASTE, drunken idiots in sleeveless denim, sordidly becoming caricatures of the aging thrashers of yesteryear. It just doesn’t manage to capture the grit and nastiness that the forefathers of the genre (SLAYER, VIO-LENCE, etc.) managed to radiate. It’s a shame in a way, because bands like this are always more than technically proficient, I guess proving again that just being decent at your guitar doesn’t necessarily make a decent thrash record.

Vex Sanctuary 12” reissue

Unfairly unheard of, this lone EP was originally released in 1984 through Fight Back Records, a sub-label of Mortarhate, run by the good people of CONFLICT. Thirty years later Sacred Bones released Sanctuary (The Complete Discography), which gave them a bit more exposure and gave them some justice in a sense. VEX knew darkness like no other band, combining the anarcho-punk ethos of CRASS or CONFLICT with the apocalyptic tribal beats of early AMEBIX, KILLING JOKE, and UK DECAY. They were short-lived but made a mark in the underground and the reissues gave them the status of a cult classic, influencing several modern post-punk acts. With a new reissue by Bomb-All, be sure to pick up this criminally underrated gem from the UK anarcho-punk scene.

Videodrome 2020 cassette

Nasty, nihilistic Middle America hardcore punk. Howling and affected vocals, the way the kids like(d) to do it in the ’10s, and plenty of sonic tweaks in the mix and between songs to remind you that you’re listening to something genuinely damaged. The drums that drag “Meade St.” out of that feedback and into the pit are….well, that little bit seals the fukkn deal. Bare-knuckle hardcore punk. Sold.

Vis Vires The Fight Goes On LP

Never personally understood the fascination with some skins in pretending to be a Viking warrior (it was shit, lads! You couldn’t even get Wi-Fi or a decent lamb tikka bhuna!), and this record is unlikely to convince me, really. From its opening salvo of audio library sword-clashing, to its tough-guy vocals singing of victory, pride, and storms, it’s a quaintly macho record, more in common with MANOWAR than its Oi! labelling, all IRON MAIDEN wailing guitars and not enough grit. If you liked that BATTLE RUINS record, or think you’re from eighth-century Uppåkra, this may be for you.

Warm Drag Butch Things / Your Thunder and Your Lightning 7”

Very good single comprised of two cover songs from this L.A. band. WARM DRAG is made up of vocals and two samplers, but the two tracks here sound like lush, full-band affairs despite having only two members. “Butch Things” is a smoky, post-punk crawl that summons Siouxsie Sioux fronting the BAD SEEDS. “Your Thunder and Your Lightning” brings some darkwave texture with a static-tinged bass pulse and classic reverb-drenched psych guitar. This record hits the sweet spot between familiar and fresh. I want to hear more.

Cartridge / Wet Specimens Dawn of the Ice Age split EP

I already have a soft spot for this split, as my first hardcore band in the mid-’90s was called CARTRIDGE. But let’s get to work. Well, CARTRIDGE of Boston is far superior to what we were. This is clobbering GLORIOUS?-style hardcore with some echo added to the vocals, but played with the sheer intensity of BLOODKROW BUTCHER. Non-stop bombing blast such as HUMANT BLOD—there is literally a “bomb fall” effect sample added that is punctuated with a blast on a break. And there are hardly any breaks here. Shit, this side fucking rules! WET SPECIMENS torrentially rain in on the higher register with equally fast hardcore, though they add some twangier post-punk riffs and spaced out solos and surprising late ’80s thrash metal riffs. But really just as subtle accents. This is much catchier, to the intensity of Side A. Great split, now I want to find one. Jeez, you got the name, and this was totally impressive. Send a damn copy next time.

Wretched of the Earth Collapse // Rebirth LP

Contrasting this optimistic album title, I naively venture to the recording: epic, despairing neo-crust from Portland. To that point, I’m feeling the renaissance of FROM ASHES RISE and TRAGEDY here. The true personality is emulated between various vocals. I’m picking up like three vocalists, but this is perhaps being expressed by two. But even more remarkably, in several languages: English, Spanish, Arabic, African? Indigenous or Polynesian? I’m sorry, I’m not sure the origins of some of these songs and lyrics, but the variety of dialects here is inspiring. Certain spaces of this remind me of REACT and SCUMBRIGADE with, again, that multiple vocal energy. Within the barrage of hardcore crust pummeling, WRETCHED OF THE EARTH have riveted down some ominous melancholy passages as well. After all, this album gets better as it escalates and plateaus and fades out. I bet this band would rule live, if we ever get there again.

Zulu My People…Hold On cassette

This is a follow-up to the first release of Anaiah Lei’s one-man HC assault on hypocrisy and performative justice. Showing no sign of slowing down, a vicious and heavy listen that echoes the more modern PV bands (think mid-to-late 2000s) or grind that sits on the HC end of the spectrum, with tinges of youth crew coming through (especially in those massive breakdowns). A release that is thick with frustration as the opening poem, bluntly explaining the persistent hypocrisy a Black woman faces on a daily basis, sets the tone for this tape; melded together expertly with samples from the classic EDDIE KENDRICKS track of the same name, this reminds me of classics from the early West Bay grind scene, where you were just as likely to hear a sample from an old Black Panthers chant as you were to catch a horror movie snippet. Recommended and definitely one to keep an eye on.

Zygote A Wind of Knives LP reissue

First released in 1991 by MCR UK, and later in 1994 on Epistrophy Records, in 2018 by Monolith Records, and now by Pine Hill Records, A Wind of Knives was born after the dissolution of UK’s dark punk legends and crust pioneers AMEBIX. Founding member Stig Miller, alongside ex-AMEBIX members George Fletcher and Spider and newcomer Tim Crow of SMARTPILS created ZYGOTE. This debut release almost feels like a continuation of the bleak sound that was achieved in their earlier venture expanding on what KILLING JOKE began with, a MOTÖRHEAD-inspired sense of rock’n’roll songwriting, and adding a taste of what can be described as deathrock-oriented post-punk guitar atmosphere. This will please not only crust punk fans that like to wander off to unknown territories, but also post-punks and deathrock goths. A shame that ZYGOTE did not release more material; one can only imagine what they could have achieved on their next step.