MRR #454 • March 2021

A Bunch of Jerks The Dead CD

First response I had to this was to be a real fucking ”jerk.” Then I thought, what the hell? They’re probably a good time, like that friend’s band you reluctantly drag yourself to see and end up having a pretty nice evening. There’s most likely some ironic Hawaiian shirts, funny headgear, and a couple of people even bring their kids. Somebody has one too many well bourbons and tells that bad uncle joke over and over. All get to bed in time to make it to work the next day. Sorta wholesome in a weird way. Musically, they remind me of a much less punk WHOOSIE WHAT’S IT’S with some competent musicianship, elements of punk, garage, and surf and a rowdy singer that can belt it out just fine. The title track is the winner and there’s even an ALICE COOPER cover to get your tipsy office pal dancing on the table. Just swell.

Altar of Eden The Grotto Screams 12”

In a world filled with overproduced post-punk, the “punk” aspect of the genre seems to be getting more and more subtle, giving way to indie-inspired tendencies. Enter ALTAR OF EDEN, a lo-fi post-punk band that contradicts this statement with its raw recording, deathrock undertones, gritty drum machine sound, and overall crude atmosphere. More akin to French coldwave bands like LEITMOTIV than to the typical post-punk references, The Grotto Screams is a beautifully ugly piece of dark punk that translates well to the suffocating atmosphere of modern life.

Antifaces Como Moscas LP

ANTIFACES is a three-piece band from Miami. Their language is Spanish and their weapon of choice is direct and sincere melodic hardcore punk. Six years of career, and several demos and LPs later, they have come up with a forceful sound: the angriest and sweatiest of melodic punk from Argentina and Spain with some sinister touches here and there. This is ANTIFACES’ bet: to unleash a storm of noise and create urgent songs dedicated to survivors of the system; men and women who live on the edge, who fight and resist the terror of modern life, violence, and corruption of the soul. Rather than wait to be devoured by the nothingness of it all, these songs demand us to spit, kick back, and dance in a mental pogo of catharsis. As they say, “I don’t want to die in the arms of a policeman.”  It doesn’t matter if it’s Latin America or the First World, there is a system in place that seeks our death, ANTIFACES sings to life. Choose life.

Anxiety Spree A Party for the Garden Rats cassette

Well, this is a real game of two halves, or rather four alternating quarters perhaps? Tracks one and three are delicious slices of off-kilter pop; drum-machine-propelled chiming melody that recalls the MONOCHROME SET or WIRE in their dreamier moments. The other two songs trade a sliver of the previous pop sensibilities for a more experimental, staccato approach; lurching rhythms and Albini-esque guitars tempered by trombone on “Squared Moon” but pushed to full on SHELLAC noise pummeling on the brief but feisty “This Brush.” All in all, a great little EP and well worth your attention. I keep going back to opener “It’s Fine”… a real hit.

Ask Severed Self cassette

Four songs of metal-infused, mathy-riffed, post-hardcore from Michigan. It’s not bad as far as that style goes and the band’s politics are seemingly dead-on. If you’re into CONVERGE this is probably very much up your alley.

Away 4 Song Demo cassette

This is, judging by the liner notes, a project recorded by two friends. Very heavily influenced by the Revolution Summer era of D.C. hardcore, with the lyrics all sung in Spanish. I really enjoyed this and was more than a bit disappointed when the four songs came to an end, as I wish there was a bit more. Perhaps there is more forthcoming but, if this is all that AWAY has to offer, it is a hell of an offering.

ÖPNV ÖPNV cassette

Five songs of plodding, synth-heavy punk from Germany. Mid-tempo and dirgy, this falls somewhere in my mind between post-punk and slower peace punk stuff like POISON GIRLS. I really dig it. The strange occasional synthesizer blip-bloops are really cool and kind of push this over the top for me. Between the stuff here on Phantom Records and the handful of things I’ve gotten to review on Billo Records, it seems Germany has a wide array of killer stuff going on currently and I am thirsty for more.

Beige Banquet Beta cassette

BEIGE BANQUET is the London-based home-recording project of one person named Tom Brierley who returned to the UK recently after a spell living in Melbourne, but even without the benefit of that knowledge, it’s pretty clear that there’s a strong psychic pull between Beta and the contemporary musical output of a certain Australian city. Twelve tracks of motorik, electro-spiked post-punk in the TOTAL CONTROL/CONSTANT MONGREL mold—clean and exacting, rhythm-forward, propelled by cycling Möbius strip bass lines and the steady, ominous click of programmed drums, with quick cuts of needling guitar, a disorienting synth haze, and expressionless vocals narrating all sorts of paranoid internal monologues. It’s the sound of staring into the abyss, but there’s still little moments like the hits of tambourine punctuating the unrelenting mechanical pulse of “Wired/Weird,” or the droning Krautrock keys in “Completely Signified,” that offer some fleeting human warmth as the abyss stares back.

Bennî Diamond Man / Heavy Metals 7”

BENNÎ is Ben McCullough from WIZZARD SLEEVE, NATURAL CHILD, and HEAVY LIDS. He plays the synthesizer in a rollicking tribute to KRAFTWERK. I enjoyed listening to this on repeat while walking the still-empty streets of San Francisco, taking in the post-apocalypticness of the first anniversary of the pandemic. It’s just the right soundtrack. On the cover, BENNÎ is wearing a chainmail hood and black sleeveless shirt, looking like an extra from a Monty Python film. That juxtaposition is just another part of the fun.

Bikini Beach Atoll LP

Stoner-psych-fuzz-death-garage-rock with rotating vocalists that I’m sure would leave that high-pitched tinnitus lingering in your ears for several days when (if?) live shows happen again, and one forgets or has a credence against ear plugs. The ringing would be a subtle reminder that you saw a band sweat, scream, and destroy a set leaving it all on the stage. I used “stoner” as a description because if the band were from Southern California or signed to Castle Face Records, that’s a term that may get dropped around. But the band hails from Weinfelden, Switzerland and is too tightly explosive and punky energetic to really be stoner per se, more like a triple espresso with a heavy pour of kirsch brandy.

The Black Black Careful on Your Way Out LP

This is super catchy, dance-y rock’n’roll. It’s got an ’80s sound without sounding dated. High-energy and bouncy with some politics thrown in for laughs. Standout track is “Fun Police”—“Who made you the fun police?” A good question. Pretty swirled, tan-colored vinyl, too.

Body Maintenance Body Maintenance 12″

Following a demo tape and live tape, Melbourne’s BODY MAINTENANCE is back with these six tracks of excellent sometimes upbeat, sometimes gloomy post-punk in which melody is the true conductor and the “punk” part is really prevalent. This dichotomy of moods is what makes this band stand out. If you vibe with Second Empire Justice-era BLITZ, this record should be on your list.

Bombardement Bombardement LP

Bordeaux’s finest purveyors of chaos BOMBARDEMENT drop a huge-ass atomic bomb in the form of this self-titled LP. This is pure D-beat in a DISCLOSE-meets-MEANWHILE fashion with the classic DIS- formula in place, with nods to The More I See-era in songs like “Warriors Of The Night.” The sound is not too clean, nor too ear-shattering, just the perfect balance of “noise not music.” Eight tracks of pummeling dis-beat with viciously angry vocals, a precise rhythm section, and anthemic guitar leads. Coming hot from above!

Boozewa First Contact cassette

Howling grunge/punk with a healthy serving of grit. I hear similarities to early ’90s mid-paced psych basement punk…before stoner rock was a thing and when the DIY bands who played grunge were still “punk” bands. Clean, powerful vocals contrast the raw four-track production, and readers of these pages who still dig on bands like WEEDEATER and ACID KING will want to look to Coatesville, Pennsylvania for some new sludge.

Bullet Proof Backpack Total Lockdown cassette

Youthful hardcore from Newport, RI. So many aspects of this feel instantly familiar even upon a first listen. The songs feel as though I’ve heard them many times before. I’m not sure if that means they’re particularly good, or just really well re-written punk songs. Six originals and a NEGATIVE APPROACH cover.

Caltrops Do We Have a Future? cassette

Fiery Colorado crust with near-constant vocals in line with Japanese greats and almost too many leads. Two solid D-beat bangers and one stoner/grind ripper, but the breakneck “Bastards Will Pay” steals the show here, noteworthy because it’s the track where they seem to burst out of their comfort zone and really unleash. Recording is appropriately raw, and CALTROPS fall in line with late ’90s US political crust, which is a compliment.

Cesspool We Hide Among You LP

Copenhagen’s new hardcore outfit CESSPOOL sets a very simple goal for the listener: a boot to the face. We Hide Among You is composed of eight tracks of slam-dancing, pit-clearing anthems of mid-paced hardcore in the fashion of WARTHOG or TARANTULA. Their strong suit is the heavy groove they achieve and a strong sense of musicality. Clear your room and feel the stomp of CESSPOOL.

Child’s Pose Eyes to the Right EP

I fell in love with ELASTICA long before I ever had the opportunity to hear WIRE, and the collective works of RED MONKEY and Slampt Records were basically responsible for shifting my attention toward spiky DIY-revolutionary sounds in the late ’90s, so the acerbic, whiplash angular pop destruction of this second CHILD’S POSE EP is basically a direct line to the pleasure centers of my brain. Raw-nerve guitar slashes and needles, stark, see-sawing rhythms give way to total frantic tumbling-down-the-stairs inertia, and Sop’s vocals careen from fierce, spoken word detachment to wild ebullience breaking down and drawing out words into entirely new sound forms, with ”Eyes to the Right” posing the eternal punk question “Do you ever feel like you’ve been cheated?” with a more genuine sense of danger (and simultaneously, anarchic joy) than anything Sir Jonathan Rotten ever snarled. Perfect pogo anthems for complicated modern realities.

Chiller Dread Creeps In EP

Straightforward hardcore punk that strays the line somewhere between MOTÖRHEAD and MELT BANANA. This is definitely a rough mix. The drums often overpower everything else and the vocals can’t be heard a lot of the time, but it’s hardcore so who really cares anyway? It’s all about the aggression and intensity, and there is plenty to be found on this EP.

Con Artist Subservient cassette

There’re eleven tracks on this tape, but if you told me there were half that, I’d believe you. They whip through these in rapid-fire succession with all the grace of car wreck, ultra-fast stop-n-start HC with excellent drumming and some seriously pissed-off vocals. CON ARTIST is from Victoria, BC way up in Canada, featuring at least one member of the grind unit SIX BREW BANTHA; excellent debut and I thoroughly look forward to a slew of splits to come.

Conquest for Death A Maelstrom of Resentment and Remorse LP

Full transparency, I was not that familiar with CONQUEST FOR DEATH’s music, but except by name and band connection proper enough for, and prior to, reviewing this. Those lack of credentials alone had me feeling a bit nervous and a bit queasy, to be honest. Sick from hardcore? And maybe that’s the point and best way to go into this. I also like to use maelstrom a lot in reviews, so I immediately connected with a band I felt I should already know much better. I had only seen a few of the bands associated with CONQUEST FOR DEATH: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?, ARTIMUS PYLE, FUCKFACE, and NO STATIK often when I moved out West, and I bet had they made it over East (and they probably did), holy crap, I must have missed out! Anyway, this beautifully designed LP, their return recording since 2013, kicks off with what I can only describe as if SHOCKING BLUE or BABE RUTH played hardcore and FINAL CONFLICT ripped forth with gruesome guttural crust vocals. The timbre of BRUTAL TRUTH rears back and forth throughout, as does the lost rasp of BLACK FLAG. That being said—an excellent combination on the mic. Weird and wild thrash moments are fused within à la VOIVOD with the all-go abomination of REPULSION, adding grit. The lyrics are deep, existential, somewhat scientific at times(!) and real. “Philosophy, rock climbing, liquor, and weed!” Real words, which I loved, but in all seriousness, the songs cover a lot of topics, through storytelling and reflection. Now let’s talk about this artwork. This gorgeous cover by Alex Nino, a glossy black ink and grey wash warrior, rides a battle elephant, covered in bladed armor, which was used several times throughout history, but my nerdy imagination immediately went to Return of the King. An enormous full-color poster is also included; another elephant battler, on what seems like the body of Mazinger Z, by Glenno Smith. Add a vinyl sticker, and a gatefold panoramic photo (AND a second poster of this gatefold photo is included!) of the band captured in frozen energy, surrounded by a sea of their closest conquesters, a sight sorely missed this day and age. Overall the packaging is top-notch, and the tunes are an adventure in, yes, resentment and remorse, anger and injustice, but they also have a party feel and are kind of a psychedelic journey, and return trip if you will, into modern hardcore while retaining the styles of the past. To sum up, do I have any other CONQUEST FOR DEATH records, no. Am I thrilled to have this magnificent love-FOR DEATH effort, will I put the sticker on my BMX? Fuck yeah, I am. Fucking awesome! 

Cosme D# demo cassette

Four injections of ultra-simple punk from Mexico. A serious MISFITS hair up their ass, thrift store synths polluting the damn joint, and gruff bedroom vocals half singing/half barking…my knuckles are sore and I’m down about 40 brain cells…but I’ll be damned if “G” isn’t a top song.

Cuero Cabezabota 12″

More Basque brutality from the boys from Bilbao. Four tracks of blackened Oi! with bile-curdling vocals, as tough as the leather from which they take their name and hard as Bizkaian iron. Pounding drums and robust industrial riffs are a solid chassis on which to build this twelve minutes of fury. Will make you want to kick down buildings.

Custody II LP

This sounds like a SAMIAM record. Like almost to a T. The only difference is this band is from Finland. So I suppose take that however you’d like. In fact….this is their bio on the internet: “We are a band. We make melodic music that makes us happy. We sound like Sergie Loobkoff having a knife fight with Matt Pryor and Mike Carter in the ’90s!” So it’s totally intentional, I guess. Fortunately I happen to thoroughly enjoy SAMIAM, so that helps.

D. Sablu Taken by Static cassette

New Orleans, LA is home to David Sabludowski, who fired up a Yamaha MT400 multitrack cassette recorder and cranked out a wild eleven-song demo under the condensed moniker of D. SABLU. Taken By Static has a bit of everything going on in it so I’m having somewhat of a difficult time saying exactly what it sounds like. There are some faster electronic/new wave tunes on it that are super cool, a couple really blown-out and nasty revved up garage punk songs, some slow, meandering pretty things, oh, and a song or two that could debatably be passed off as lost OH SEES demo tracks. A wild ride I will be buckling in for again and again.

Death Ridge Boys Boots on the Streets cassette

Portland’s hairy exponents of leftist Oi! return with four new ones and three covers. This may be the best thing I’ve heard from them so far. The songs are catchy as hell, especially the excellent 4 SKINS-inspired, menacing “Let Them Know.” They feel like a more tuneful CRIMINAL DAMAGE that’s less obsessed with BLITZ here. The drums are snare-heavy, up front, and the wailing guitars are nice and buried and shitty-sounding like a proper Oi! mix. “Always Darkest” excelles with pandemic-inspired lyrics like “Can’t go out without wearing a mask / Cuz people are in fear for their lives / You see me on the street / But you’d never guess I’ve been wearing one my whole fucking life!” LOL. The covers (BIG BOYS/7 SECONDS/WIRE) are pretty straightforward and don’t add much to the originals, but are well-thought-out and untraditional while remaining street in spirit. The overused term “banger” could be apt verbiage here, but without a side of mash it falls flat as pavement. See you fucks at the microbrewery!

Death Sentence Death and Pure Destruction EP reissue

Not a life-altering reissue of DEATH SENTENCE’s first and only 7”, which was originally released in 1982. Hailing from the UK, sounding a bit Riot City-ish with straightforward hardcore tracks, tireless drumming, and a lot, lot, lot of chorus vocals. I bought this record because I liked the drums, which remind me a bit of VORKRIEGSPHASE, although the rest of the music is generic. The best feature of the drums is the efforts turning into interesting failures. Other instruments do not show such vulnerability, rather performing well as machines. Dry, didactic angst blasts from the vocals and the accidental distortion on the guitars, which makes them barely identifiable, help to remember the rush through each song. This 7” fits the dictionary definition of hardcore but you have to use your imagination to find anything special about them. Therefore, Death and Pure Destruction is an okay record that’s safe to get and put on, but not something you will keep on your selection.   

DeStructos Blast! cassette

This cassette is the answer to the age-old question, can you combine the sound of the JESUS LIZARD, MELT BANANA, and JOY DIVISION? Well, apparently you can, and it sounds goddamn amazing. The riffs are angular, thick with distortion, and catchy as hell. The vocals spit with attitude and remind me heavily of Siouxsie Sioux or the RAINCOATS. DESTRUCTOS prove here that they are one of the most creative and badass punk bands coming out of Philadelphia, and that means something because I’ve heard a lot of stellar bands from Philly recently. This tape is a melting pot of sounds from across the spectrum of punk and noise, and all of the sounds come together to create something really special and unique. Give it a listen, I promise you won’t regret it.

Ditches Ditched LP

Smart, tight, fast, power-garage-pop from Stockholm, Sweden. The tight guitars, staccato lyrics, and relentless pace immediately bring to mind the North Texas scene (the Denton Sound, if you will) that spawned the MARKED MEN, RADIOACTIVITY, MIND SPIDERS, POTENTIAL JOHNS, HIGH TENSION WIRES, and any other band that Mark Ryan or Jeff Burke had a hand in and likely ended up on the Dirtnap roster. In regards to the above, DITCHES don’t so much duplicate, but more so translate, creating their own sound and style that lands a bit rougher and more earnest than their Texas counterparts. After giving this a few listens, I checked out the liner notes and found out that Jeff Burke of MARKED MEN/RADIOACTIVITY recorded and mixed the album and also lent some back up vocals as well. Suspicion and legitimacy confirmed.

Dollhouse Summer Love demo cassette

NYC’s DOLLHOUSE fucking knocks it out with this excellent demo. First of all, the haunted Blythe doll artwork makes me uneasy and fits the music perfectly. These songs definitely fit under the hardcore umbrella but with darker, post-punk guitar leads that are simple and effective. The first song “Summer Love” starts out with an aggressive 1-2-1-2 stompy beat and two-chord attack pattern but is tempered by a six-note guitar line that turns the fury into creepiness. The rest of the tape follows suit with a level of consistency and continuity that sounds like an established band’s proper LP. The lyrics are frequently introspective and vulnerable and are delivered with the higher-pitched screams of someone on the verge of losing it. These songs cover some seriously dark territory like self-harm, drug abuse, and suicide, but they are written in such a poetic way that doesn’t glamorize or sensationalize them but rather give insight from a voice that sounds like they have seen it firsthand. For example, “The Shadow Baby” has the lines, “You’re dumb if you trust a friend / Dumb if you trust a lover / The whole world is meant to make you live in the shadow of another / If my mother was dead I would have joined her by now.” There are moments like this in every song that give me pause because they sound so emotionally raw and heavy. Definitely check this out for some excellent tense and affecting hardcore with lyrical depth. I look forward to their next release.

Dropdead Dropdead 2020 LP

I’m a DROPDEAD fan, but I’ll admit they’re a band with a far too big catalogue and that I have quite gladly picked and chosen the specific few records and comps I think they excel on. When I sat down to listen to Dropdead 2020, I ended up digging out and relistening to 落とす死 (which is still an absolutely stellar HC record), and I guess that was a mistake. Revealing a band in its adolescence at the cusp of their prime no doubt colours what I imagine crossover fans would call an alright crossover thrash record, if you’re into that sort of thing. Included in a write-up for this record was a statement about how they have (vocally) moved away from the “raw screaming” of previous releases, and with that I guess I’m out. Mind you, there are some catchy tracks on this and some really good drumming, it just doesn’t hold a candle to their earlier records.

DWP DWP cassette

This appears to be a solo project from a member of the group NAIL POLISH. What we have is a pretty neat set of experimental punk intersecting early WIRE, COLIN NEWMAN solo records, and TOTAL CONTROL. Those are all pretty top-shelf references for me to make, so you know this is probably worth checking out. I look forward to hearing more.

Ellen Ripley Body Pact cassette

Sonically advanced, self-described “anarchist space pop” from Sweden. A synth-heavy Krautrock excursion with commanding vocals that listen like activist poetry while driving guitars meander casually though the five tracks on Body Pact. Sometimes you listen to a band and it’s clear they are telling you something, but I hear ELLEN RIPLEY and I’m compelled to listen because I feel like they are saying something…and that’s a different thing altogether. “We are made smaller / Our voices become harder / We cry more than we sing but say nothing more than anything.”

Eskorbuto Los Demenciales Chicos Acelerados 2xLP reissue

One of the most influential bands for the Spanish and Latin American punk community, ESKORBUTO has a special reputation that has only grown with time. After the classics Eskizofrenia and Anti Todo, they released Los Demenciales Chicos Acelerados originally on Discos Suicidas in 1987. This is a band way ahead of their time and that had a huge impact, making this the very first “punk opera” ever about a corrupt politician who finally sees his demise because of his ego. Housed in a controversial gatefold sleeve, this double LP reissue of this classic album contains the original artwork complete with a political satirical work against any kind of dictatorial regime. Still relevant and still resonates with modern days.

Ex-White Stalker cassette

EX WHITE is a garage punk band from Germany. They are steeped in the ’00s style of the genre. Their sound is bratty and gritty. It is messy and trashy, distorted and angsty, but there is also a melodic side.

Final War Gimme Speed demo cassette

An aggressively lo-fi demo cassette. This is what I call a non-stop pummeling of the senses. Musically, it punishes the ear and assaults the mind. It evokes the smell of a sweaty basement, stale cigarettes, and split beer. Really, this tape is the closest I’ve felt to a DIY hardcore show since the pandemic started. It’s so in-your-face that you can’t escape it and that is really fucking cathartic. Like therapy for gutter punks. The band doesn’t pull any punches or take any great experimental leaps with their sound, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s fast, noisy, aggressive, wild, and that’s all we really need right now. 

Fix Welcome EP

Late-night sparking-wire punk from Germany. Lotsa dark, druggy, death-disco kind of shit goin’ on here, some of it compelling, some of it falling awfully flat. The grind and production throughout are indebted to more industrial sounds as opposed to straight punk. Ultimately unmemorable but containing one or tune choice spurts.

Fleur du Louve Sparkwood cassette

This Northwest duo creates rudimentary witchy goth with repetitive programmed drums and melodies carried by single-note guitars, while both members float in the top of the mix with airy, oft-spoken vocals. Their target is in plain sight, and the fact that they land just off the mark in some places only serves to make FLEUR DU LOUVE feel more honest, more real. I’m wondering what a sophomore effort might conjure.

Freak Genes Power Station LP

Andrew Anderson (HIPSHAKES, PROTO IDIOT) and Charlie Murphy (RED CORDS), a couple of garage punkers turned synth-poppers, bring us their fourth LP as FREAK GENES and their first for Feel It. Anything that gets Mr. Feel It’s seal of approval warrants your attention, so I went into this with an open mind after (unfairly) writing these dudes off due to a string of bad album covers. I really dig this cover, though—great use of foil stamping! Anyway, the tunes! This is a solid collection of budget electro-pop. It’s punker than YAZ and poppier than FRONT 242. A couple of the tracks can get a little goofy/grating, but if you like well-constructed, catchy tunes and can stomach cheesy synths, there’s plenty to like on this LP.

G2G Animated Satisfaction EP

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

Gazorpazorp Od Vazduha i Sunca CD

Really nice dose of dark indie from Belgrade, mingling with guitar-heavy late ’80s “college alt” sounds on a foundation of early East European punk and wave. Guitars dominate, but take a casual backseat when horns or vocals (or theremin) come into focus on a release that shows a band more than capable of charming the critics while winning over the hyper-critical (punk) naysayers. Only five songs on their first physical release—advanced, mature, cold, and infectious.

Gimmick Needle Caps EP

The opener “Needle Caps” quickly makes you think that you are listening to something that NO TREND would have made back in the day, but halfway through you get thrown a curveball to the face with pummeling punk hardcore. Once the punk hardcore bubble bursts there is no going back, as you get fed a healthy dose of frantic and snotty hardcore akin to SICK PLEASURE or the GERMS. By no means do they sound like a retro band but rather like a younger version of the aforementioned bands, just check the video for “Numbing” and you will catch my drift. If you are into the chaos of ELECTRIC CHAIR or the anxiety of GAG you will enjoy this angst-ridden piece of disgusting (in a good way) punk.

Glitter Symphony In Green Furs 12″

Six recently unearthed mid-’80s new wave numbers from Southern California’s GLITTER SYMPHONY, who released one exceedingly rare 7” under the name SIZON in 1984 (both tracks included here) before totally falling off the radar. Susan Hyatt’s powerful, crystalline vocals have just enough of a raw edge to tether GLITTER SYMPHONY to the sort of femme-centered, sugary but still tough punk-adjacent new wave and power pop coming out of L.A. at the time (think early GO-GO’S, JOSIE COTTON, and any number of Rodney Bingenheimer’s KROQ staples), with big anthemic choruses and super-slick keyboards upfront in each song betraying some serious mainstream ambitions even as the band dwelled in the underground. “Room of Flowers” could have easily been a mega-hit/future I Love the ’80s shoo-in on par with KIM WILDE’s “Kids in America,” while the stop/start, bass-driven “Imagination” skews in a much punkier direction not too far off the mark from the ALLEY CATS’ post-Dangerhouse offerings. There’s even a glossy cover of JOHNNY THUNDERS’ “I’m a Boy / I’m a Girl” included, a perfect encapsulation of a band caught between leather jackets and legwarmers but pulling it off nonetheless.

Haldol Negation LP

If I had to offer reasons why you should listen to HALDOL instead of a laundry list of other bands who come from DIY punk culture but play super-styled 1980s gothic rock—and I know I don’t actually have to offer those reasons—one would be their apparent dedication to perfecting their take on the archetype. A lot of contemporary acts like this retain a pretty evident hardcore background, or anarcho fandom, but Negation sounds like a straight-up “released on Red Rhino Records circa 1984” goth opus. Aaron Muchanic brings in a KILLING JOKE-ish vibe by battering heck out of his toms on “Triangle” and “Bull’s Blood” (the intros to which sound almost identical to one another); Geoff Smith drops some cute CURE guitars into “Amuse-Bouches” among other songs and adds some big-venue reverb to plump up his vox for the likes of “The Garden.” The necessity of this type of carry-on is for the individual to decide, ultimately, but HALDOL does ’80s goth about as well as anyone you’ll find in the ’20s.

Hävittäjät Lost Tapes Collection cassette

Some Australian punks (ex-members of KIROTTU, KRÖMOSOM, and LEPROSY) singing in Finnish and playing Finnish-styled hardcore? Sign me up for that! Punishingly raw and dirty hardcore with a leaning towards KAAOS and TAMPERE S.S.. Released through Roachleg Records, which has been consistently putting out the rawest punk hardcore out there, with the help of Fuzzed Atrocities. Not much else to say about this one except you’ll feel dirtier after listening to it.

Ike Yard Night After Night 12” / Ike Yard LP reissues

Nearly forty years after the fact, and IKE YARD still sounds like the future. Both of these records function as aural documents of New York City and its varying levels of reality. IKE YARD belongs to the shadows, and it’s here, tucked away from the light, that the brilliance of this music shines forth. The creative use of analog synth alone qualifies these reissues as objects of interest. That the band can meld murky industrial rhythms, unnerving bits of sonic detritus, and scraps of junk guitar so perfectly is a testament to their vision. The bass slithers like an underground pipeline, linking up with the sunken floor disco beats. With his intimate declarations and observations, Stuart Argabright (also of the incredible DEATH COMET CREW) is a tour guide talking you through a field trip to the parts of the city that you try to ignore. This music has such a vivid sense of scene, style, and space. The description “cinematic” truly applies here. VANGELIS can take a hike, IKE YARD should have scored Blade Runner.

Intelligence Un-Psychedelic in Peavey City LP

Back in 2015, I read an MRR  review of Vintage Future (the INTELLIGENCE’s previous LP) where the reviewer lamented the band’s pivot to “blog rock.” At the time, I was hitting the Lars Finberg Kool-Aid pretty hard—not only did he helm one of my favorite active bands in the INTELLIGENCE, but he had been involved in so many other projects that I loved (A FRAMES, DIPERS, PUBERTY, THEE OH SEES)—so I had trouble understanding how someone could dislike anything he’d put out. A lifetime has passed since then, which has allowed me to see this as a fair assessment. I’m probably still higher on that LP than the reviewer, but it’s certainly a much more sedate affair than you would expect given their past trajectory. Unfortunately, this latest album travels even further down the soft rock avenue, and I’m having difficulty finding much to enjoy. It pains me to say this, but the LP sounds like BECK at his sleepiest or some of the lamer FUGAZI records that appeal to folks who go to Burning Man. I’m willing to grant that Lars’s songwriting has matured in ways that I should learn to appreciate, and I wouldn’t want to sentence him to a life of endlessly cranking out iterations of Icky Baby or Males. Still, I need something with more bite than this.

ISS Spikes cassette

A lo-fi punk release dripping with the sneer and attitude to rival CRASS. Yes please! North Carolina’s ISS is back again with a short cassette that is really restoring my faith in humanity at the moment. It’s lines like “You need a face mask on / It not only helps stop the spread of communicable viruses and diseases / But it also helps stop the spread of your ugly fucking mug to the rest of us” that really fill my heart with joy. The post-punk-esque vocal delivery and contorted drum machines give me flashes of SUICIDE, while the angular guitars remind me of UNWOUND. This is a must-listen in my opinion.

Kiss Boom Bah Out of Our Tree / Marilyn A-Go-Go 7”

If you’re a fan of catchy garage rock delivered with a healthy dose of organ, start lining up. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “out of our tree,” but I’m going to start using it with regularity. I find a lot of garage rock walks this fine line of being a little kitschy, but also really well done. I couldn’t tell you this is an exception. Both cuts are excellent, with the B-side instrumental picking up the pace to a point where you’ll find yourself not crazed, but definitely bouncing off the walls in a state of euphoria. Maybe that means just short of crazed. Fucking excellent.

Kiyoaki Iwamoto Sougi​+ 10″

An expanded reissue of KIYOAKI IWAMOTO’s five-song Sougi EP, released in 1983 and probably best known (if it’s known at all) for the inclusion of a ghostly, drum machine-propelled détournement of “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Brittle, austere sounds recorded using only guitar, a cheap rhythm box, voice, and a friend on bass, with some obvious nods to early Factory Records efforts (hello, DURUTTI COLUMN and SECTION 25) but also exploring realms beyond any expected JOY DIVISION mimicry—IWAMOTO was a part of the rich late ’70s/early ’80s post-punk culture in Japan that gave way to experimental, electronically-inclined minimal wave groups like PALE COCOON and C. MEMI, the echoes of which can be heard in the oscillating downer vibrations of “地獄が見えても (Even If You Can See Hell)” and “あまり遠くへ行かないで (Don’t Go Too Far Away),” while “生理 (Period)” shakes off the greyscale gloom in favor of skittish electro art-punk that’s just waiting to be the centerpiece of a Japanese Messthetics-style comp. The “plus” component of this 10” version consists of a lengthier 2020 rework of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” with synths and female vocals spliced in, and an unreleased 1980 track by IWAMOTO’s similarly-minded minimal post-punk duo BIREI, but the EP material is really what should get you smashing that “buy” button.

Klick & Aus Tapetopia 003: AIDS Delikat LP

The ’80s tried its hardest to kill rock’n’roll. In 1984, KLICK & AUS didn’t give a fuck about rock’n’roll per se, but still they managed to tap into its eternal well-spring of possibility and indulge in reckless, ramshackle sounds. KLICK & AUS stitched their music together while adjacent to quarantine (West Berlin gazing at East) and that patchwork existence influences their output. This is human music, as modern as a car phone and thirty times more useful. At times, KLICK & AUS recalls similar collectives such as HANS-A-PLAST (“Halt Mich Fest”), LUCRATE MILK (“Gebt Mir Schnaps”), TUXEDOMOON (“Slow Virus”), and FAUST (“Das Schicksal Der Lymphozyten”). Unfortunately, due to format constraints, the entirety of the original hour-long cassette is relegated to the web, but the material that shows up on this LP is more than enough to kickstart your own scene where the rules get chucked out the nearest window (and of course that is recorded for future use).

Kneeling in Piss Tour de Force LP

Was I prepared to like a band called KNEELING IN PISS? Actually, yes—as far as band names go, this one is cool and good. Was I expecting a band with such a name to sound like this or to blow me away? I was not! KNEELING IN PISS is a Columbus-based project led by songwriter (and apparent novelist)  Alex Mussawir, and despite what their name might suggest, they don’t play black metal-infused hardcore, jokey thrash, or snotty punk. Instead, their debut LP is full of smart, funny, catchy, blown-out, lo-fi pop. The tracks range from goofy gentle numbers (“Feeling Romantic”) to flat-out rockers (“Song About Being Unemployed”) and remind me of any number of excellent bands (STRAPPING FIELDHANDS, COUNTRY TEASERS, DAN MELCHIOR, TYVEK, TALL DWARFS, the SHIFTERS) without ever sounding like a straight-up copy. It’s really an incredible record and easily the best thing I’ve listened to in a while. Get on it!

La Rabbia In the Face of Atrocities LP

This is a good one. Get ready for 24 tracks of raw and in-your-face noise blasts from these London-based anarcho-punks. Formed by members of the GAGGERS, MISCALCULATIONS, and WARREN SCHOENBRIGHT, LA RABBIA (“The Rage”) contains the best bits of England’s punk; as they say in their Bandcamp bio, the classic ’77/’82 sounds. You have it all: hooligan sing-alongs, street punk defiance, classic razor-wired riffs, cool melodic sensibilities, and lyrics decrying the terrible state of the world in both English and Italian. “The Ends Don’t Justify the Means” has some really sick riffs, so vicious, almost atonal. The violent intro of “Professional Arrogance,” well, the whole damn song, gets me immediately into a frenzy. I also really like how they mix Italian and English in the song “In The Face of Atrocities,” they should do that more.  Keep an eye on LA RABBIA, they’re delivering the goods.

Lip Commodity cassette

Solid seven-song release from these Baltimore post-punks. The clean op art cover of some kind of hazy temple building gives a good indication of the tape’s contents. There is a sturdy structure holding up the buzzy energy within. Each track has a fairly traditional rock format with distorted bass, snaky guitar leads, and detached vocals that are shouted but never sound angry. LIP channels the noisier aspects of JOY DIVISION and the non-electronic sounds of TOTAL CONTROL but does so in a way that still sounds distinct enough to set them apart. “Morse Code” starts off with a syncopated bass line that creates a welcome hook under the guitar squall. Final track “Obstacles” is the best song here: a near-perfect post-punk chiller with a catchy melodic guitar line and paranoid lyrics that could bear the Factory Records logo. Worth checking out if disaffected post-punk is your jam.

Litterbug Abstract Melodies Saying Terrible Things LP

Tuneful indie-punk from the UK, with strains of later VISIONS OF CHANGE, DESCENDENTS, or even SENSELESS THINGS. The record avoids the pop punk tag because although the guitar lines provide a lot of melody, the vocals themselves are somewhat deadpan (rather than sung) and the choruses aren’t particularly hooky or catchy. The vocal delivery draws welcome attention to the slice-of-life lyrics, which have a tongue-in-cheek humor not unlike a punk version of HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT. Good stuff.

Lost Packages Lost Packages CD-R

Homemade subterranean synth-punk from Brooklyn, NY. LOST PACKAGES sound as if they’ve mainlined more than a few NERVOUS PATTERNS or DIGITAL LEATHER disques and the expected infection has quite clearly taken hold: same scuzz, same pessimism, different era. They’re not all direct hits—this comes across more as an explorative demo—but there are some sparks that sound promising. Will surely keep an eye out for more.

Mess Intercity 12”

If you like BLITZ (which you fucking well better had like), you’ll like this, simple as, end of. No pissing about, it’s about as perfect a slice of UK82 skiiiiinhead rock’n’roll as you are likely to find. Anthemic, euphoric, and bleach-stained as they come, could have easily booted its way onto a No Future release. One that will be in heavy rotation chez yours truly for the foreseeable future.

Mirror Second EP

Home to an incredibly fertile punk scene, Texas has generated countless crushing and innovative punk bands like WICCANS, VAASKA, IMPALERS or CRIATURAS. MIRROR is the junction of the aforementioned bands in a mash of psychedelic and punk, creating a self-described “cosmic punk.” A vocal delivery less reminiscent of the Oi!-infused WICCANS and more Darby Crash on GLUE, frantic riffs, precise drumming, and a layer of synth psychedelia, make the Second EP another great modern punk release from the hotbed of US punk.

Misanthropic Minds Welcome to the Homeland, Greetings From the Wasteland EP

Holy shit, yes. Like a tornado of rusty razors, Nova Scotia’s MISANTHROPIC MINDS hit the ground ripping on this blazing EP. This particularly nasty strain of hardcore is fresh-sounding and severe, serving up a thorough and agile pummeling. The chainsaw guitar never stops screaming at the end of the first song, entering the second track as a wall of wailing distortion that just keeps riding the back beat. It’s a rad move that had me cracking up the first time I heard it. The relentless thrashing continues, and the brooding title(-ish) track “The Homeland” provides a nice breather before the closing track drags you back into the whirlwind for one more round. This is the kind of record that you blow on a little bit before you take it off the turntable, because you’re scared it might burn your hand.

Moth Machine Nation EP

MOTH is a new recording project from Darcy Berry, whom you may know as the drummer from Melbourne acts GONZO or U-BAHN. He’s playing all the instruments on this four-song EP, and the sound basically splits the difference between those two bands, like he’s pulling the tight, DEVO-esque start-stop rhythms from the former and the synthy post-punk atmospherics from the latter. The end result brings to mind a less wacky URANIUM CLUB or meaner AUSMUTEANTS. These songs are all covering very well-trodden ground, but the execution here is pretty flawless and elevates this EP to something worth seeking out (Mikey Young also mixed and mastered this, so of course it sounds great). Standout track is “Jealousy,” which features Veeka Nazarova (from indie pop band KOSMETIKA) providing lyrics and vocals (in Russian!).

Mr. Teenage Automatic Love EP

Four really solid tracks of power pop from Melbourne, Australia with equal tinges of NERVES-era Paul Collins mixed with the power-pop-punk that came out of Portland/Seattle/Vancouver in the early aughts. I’m thinking SODA POP KIDS, BRIEFS, TRANZMITORS, and WHITE WIRES-style. If released a generation earlier, one of these tracks would likely end up in a John Hughes movie.

Necro Heads Necro Demo cassette

Lo-fi, nasty, knuckle-dragging, booger-eating hardcore punk. NECRO HEADS from Pittsburgh, PA sound like they kind of don’t take any prisoners. Six songs blistered through in just over five minutes, which is collectively shorter than the seventh and final dirge of a song on the demo. This is some nasty, no-bullshit, gross hardcore and I want more.

Night Miasma Exhausted EP

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

Nightshift Zöe LP

Glasgow’s NIGHTSHIFT recorded their debut LP in lockdown with each member of the group independently layering their contributions on top of what was added before them, but the end result as presented on Zöe has a warmth and organic sensibility that seems relatively at odds with that creation process. Spindly, hypnagogic post-punk full of sprawling beats, spectral vocal harmonies, humming keyboards and winding woodwinds, equally suited to zoning out in the tall grass of a pastoral Scottish countryside as they are to soundtracking a late-night art school exhibition opening in some inner city loft. There’s hints of ELECTRELANE (and by transitive properties, STEREOLAB) in the slow-motion drone of “Piece Together,” and the haunting, otherworldly rhythms and overlapping chants of the RAINCOATS circa Odyshape/Moving are summoned in “Outta Place” and “Infinity Winner,” but the knockout here is the ominous and slowly crashing contempo-No Wave of “Make Kin,” with its deadpan spoken vocals, tom-only drums, borderline-skronky clarinet, and dark, staccato bass rumble all taking the shape of a less willfully antagonistic UT—the sound of falling down the rabbit hole of your mind.

Ond Cirkel Svavelvinter / Vilda Syrener 7”

I’m used to reviewing a lot of Swedish punk bands and mostly D-beat-driven kängpunk. I was surprised to hear a band from Gothenburg that slows it down and aims toward post-punk, a really, really dark post-punk. OND CIRKEL combines the best in post-punk, darkwave, and shoegaze to form a “vicious circle” of reverb-drenched obscure raw emotion without ever stepping into the genre’s clichés. The lyrics are in Swedish but one can be steered to feel the reverence in the vocal delivery and let the mind wander. A great 7″ for those dark, cold, gloomy nights.

George Crustanza / Oxygen Destroyer split LP

A “Sein Francisco hardcore, SF skate thrash” split, as per the text on the LP spine. GEORGE CRUSTANZA doesn’t take themselves too seriously as you may be able to tell, but song titles like “Social Disconnect” and “Depression” indicate they are not a joke band. They’re doing a familiar and competent thrash-influenced style hardcore, with the drumming and vocals in the forefront. I picture Calvin and Hobbes pitting with flipped-up-bill ball caps. OXYGEN DESTROYER takes a grungier, destructive punk approach reminding me of BAD POSTURE mixed with BUTT TRUMPET. Both bands dabble in some digital delay on the vocals, but OXYGEN DESTROYER tends to turn the knobs a bit further. These recordings appear to have been previously released on a tape and 7” respectively. I could see the Thrillhouse basement full of stinking-ass kids going off to this pairing, probably a thing that happened prior to March 2020, and perhaps could resume in 2022?

Pänika Demo 2020 cassette

This short dose of PÄNIKA is flush with a menacing and pounding sound. Blasting sparse riffs with a mocking tone, haunting echoed vocals, and overt political themes, its got all the ingredients for a captivating hardcore experience, even if it only lasts a couple minutes. They kinda remind me of a female-fronted version of Italy’s KOBRA, which is great praise, and I’m thinking this has got to be one of the hottest bands in Wroclaw, Poland.

Peace Test Uniform Repression EP

PEACE TEST from Providence, Rhode Island’s newest EP. Stomping, misanthropic non-posicore straightedge hardcore in the vein of IMPACT UNIT, or the STRAIGHT AHEAD side of things that many older powerviolence acts like INFEST or CROSSED OUT had. For fans of the aforementioned bands or HOUNDS OF HATE/CONCEALED BLADE.

Pinocchio My Time Vol. 1 EP

Punk isn’t about competition, it’s about community, but if I had to pick a band that best represents the vibrancy and creativity of the current renaissance of NYC punk, PINOCCHIO would be near the very top of a short list. Simply put, this is one of the most confident debuts in punk in at least a decade. Self-assured, fearsome, and downright odd where it counts—it makes you start to wonder if starving to death in the big city might be worth it just to get a taste of what’s going on over there. Somewhere between new wave and hardcore, with some detours into a dimension we’ve yet to fully explore, PINOCCHIO has already proven they belong in the pantheon of greats, and they only needed eight tracks to do it. Essential listening for yesterday, today, and many tomorrows to come.

Poison Idea Pig’s Last Stand 2xLP

“Ladies and gentlemen! Would you please welcome, for the very last time, ever, the world’s fattest junkies, POISON IDEA!” And so it begins, the last show from the undefeated kings of punk, the mighty POISON IDEA, recorded live at La Luna in Portland, OR on June 6, 1993. A classic setlist of hardcore classics from an essential hardcore band, complete with face-melting covers of G.I.S.M., WIPERS, BAUHAUS, and the RAMONES. Released back in ’96 by Sub Pop as a CD, Pig’s Last Stand now sees its rightful vinyl release with a double-LP in a gatefold jacket with previously unpublished photographs from the show. Each LP includes a poster print of the original show flyer designed by Mike King and a bonus DVD of a four-camera shoot of the “Farewell” gig. The sound is amazing on this one and it shows the unmatched musicianship that made them the kings of punk. Newer bands should take a page or two from this record. R.I.P. Pig Champion.

Polyester Dipsomaniac / Bite Me 7”

Pretty decent shocking pink hard-wave from Sweden that looks and sounds damn fine under a black light. EPOXIES, X-RAY SPEX, the DAMNED, and VAGEENAS are good places to look if you’re needing that feeling of control by comparison. The title track excels and smokes on this platter and being a former “dipso” myself, it gives me that fuzzy feeling inside. “Bite Me” has a much bigger and theatrical sound and is no slouch in itself making this EP flow like luminous paint down the gutter.

Porok Demo 2020 cassette

Ten songs of fast, driving hardcore punk from Finland. POROK is fast, pissed, and keeps their songs from all sounding too similar with well done guitar leads popping in sporadically. While clearly being very influenced by classic Finnish hardcore, my major gripe with this release is how clean and slick the recording sounds. If this was recorded and mixed a bit nastier, I think this would sound a lot more like the bands that have inspired them, and be more of an entertaining listen.

Practitioner Demonstration I cassette

This tape looks incredible, which had me a little nervous since oftentimes punk’s eye for aesthetics is questionable. When I first started listening I was concerned we might be getting into artsy/scrams territory, but PRACTITIONER pleasantly surprised me by turning out to be a raging, noisy hardcore punk act that breaks into nasty dirges as often as it revs up to D-beat. From Nashville, TN, these self-proclaimed anti-fascist punks officially have my attention.

Priors My Punishment on Earth LP

The album art is a kitschy, psychedelic take on classic B-movie horror images. PRIORS from Montreal return with their particular strain of garage punk with a pop sensibility. Mixing freaked-out fuzz, abrasive synth, and vocals that approximate the later output of JAY REATARD. Familiar elements to be sure, but they keep it interesting. The opening tune “Brew Ha Ha” is mostly direct and pummeling but it leaves space for eerie melodic touches. It’s sonically saturated to all hell and sounds like a party. TOM WAITS had a schmaltzy song called “The Piano Has Been Drinking.” PRIORS should have a song called “The Synth Has Been Dosing.”

Prision Postumo Amor, Salud, Y Dinero LP

This one actually had me stoked to pick up a laptop and attempt to type with the rudimentary skills of an ’80s public high school student. Instinctively, I pressed the “buy me” button the minute I knew this was out and so should you, as it’s probably almost gone.  Santa Ana’s rough trade crooners return after two amazing cassettes, with one even being put to vinyl. I feel blessed to have seen them tear it to shit live before leaving Cali and I hope they make it East if the world’s still here. This is the perfect balance between the sing-along tunefulness of their first tape and the harder, faster stomp of their second. I’ve heard the ADICTS and DICKIES being dragged out for old people to grasp onto in reviews, and I see the songs they’re going on about, but I don’t much like those bands and I think they deserve better. I hear a lot of French Oi! like R.A.S. or maybe newbies CONDOR on songs like the opener “La Realidad” or “Castigo.” Not surprising as peers and forerunners like DRAPETOMANIA and AUSENCIA had tread these waters before. Really, though, this is a pure Southern California creation with the PLUGZ, ALLEY CATS, and ZEROS leading the pack of this style of head-bobbing, hard as nails, sun-drenched urban punk. If you’re not singing along to “Isla De Vagabundos,” or crying as you pump your fist to “Cuantos Espantos,” I don’t know, man…not much love is left for you in the world. I mean, “Cazcos Apretados” and Solo Por Hoy” are majestic and fucking epic. Bashers like “Ful Yo” and “Desperdicio” thrash it out right there with other local greats TOZCOS, FUTURA, and MACABRE. So yeah, you get it all. Too early for Album of the Year? No way, man. I’ll carve their placa on your skull. Ha!

Public Interest Between 12”

This gave me wicked déjà vu before I dawned on me that I heard these tracks, in this order, on the rather excellent cassette EP of the same name. Oakland’s PUBLIC INTEREST, a.k.a. the solo project of Chris Natividad from MARBLED EYE, leads with lo-fi synths and electronic drums which serve the jaded and half-sung vocals just right. “Design Flaw” breaks a classic JOY DIVISION-style construction down to basics with a dark and nostalgic arpeggio swirling around it, building a proper mania. And like JOY DIVISION, it employs its cold, cold drum machines in a way that still sounds very much alive and not like a sterile scratch demo. A vinyl-worthy project to be sure; hell, get it on both formats, it’s dud-free.

Purple-X Pre-Tense EP

PURPLE-X delivers a unique brand of hardcore, swaying between manic and melodic with traces of deathrock influence on their debut EP. The singer stands out with snotty vocals that are just the right amount belligerent (due in part I’m sure to her Oslo accent delivering English lyrics), and the band displays the breadth of their capabilities over the course of these four surly songs. Dark, divergent sounds from Norway’s capital.

R.M.F.C. Reader / Faux Freaks 7”

End-times late-teen buzz from New South Wales. Rock Music Fan Club, probably the world’s loneliest fan club, still manages some decent flash on this 45, though. “Reader” and “Faux Freaks” both sorta reek of JAY REATARD influence, a pure and well-executed outgrowth of that style and sound. Neither tune is terribly neg-vibe reliant, but there is certainly a bent tunefulness to both that falls in line with many modern punk herk-jerkers. Jury’s still out on if this one has any real legs, but it certainly scratches the itch for now.

Reality Complex Failure demo cassette

Bitter and vicious vocals abound on this raw, distorted hardcore demo from Denver. REALITY COMPLEX plays with heaps of bash-attack breakdowns and mid-tempo cruelty. Part VIOLENT SOCIETY, part CRO-MAGS, and toward the end, the barf-tastic disgust of DARKSIDE NYC. The blast attack is fast and fueled with aggression. I do not have lyrics handy, but REALITY COMPLEX seems to me not very concerned with self-care or your friendship. This seems like the kind of reality checking Colorado needs more of, or the entire US for that matter. Four original tracks, one VOORHEES cover—this is how you do a solid demo for sure. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but up the clarity of production a bit next go around, and REALITY COMPLEX will be breaking down walls.

Red Devil Ryders Pour Me Another One LP

It’s going to take me some time to digest this one. It’s an interesting sort of combination of late ’60s/’70s blues, folk, glam (a tad), and even what some people might call “hard rock.” (I can’t believe I actually wrote that.) I find the production a bit fuzzed-out, which required some adjustment. As I read this, it’s like I must totally hate it. I don’t. I will say that I think it’s a bit of a stretch that it’s finding itself being reviewed in MRR. I do find I tend to like the zippier numbers just a little better. If you’re at all intrigued by the description, you should make the effort to give it a listen.

Reek Minds Rabid EP

“Blistering” is an adjective that comes up frequently when describing hardcore bands, and it’s certainly the first one that comes to mind when considering REEK MINDS’ new EP. Powerviolence fury with croaking and growling vocals propels this record forward at breakneck speeds, with the occasional breakdown providing a little respite from the chaos. If you like ‘em super-fast, nasty, and unforgiving, you’ll likely join the choir of enthusiasts who are saying that this is one of the best records to come out in a while.

Robotrip Live cassette

Completely off-the-rails Midwest hardcore punk—an eight-minute live set from 2020 on one side and the studio demo (which honestly isn’t much more cohesive) from 2018 on the flip. Remember last decade when Indiana bands like OOZE and BIG ZIT took the world by storm? This is like that, but way more of a mess. Good luck finding a copy.

Antisocial Skills / Rules split LP

Prague’s ANTISOCIAL SKILLS spit out ten tracks of mid-tempo HC that has no right to be as catchy as it is, absolutely reeking of youth, hopelessness, and occasionally series of blasts just to remind you that they can kick into gear when they’re not doing the snotty teen thing. Though a fair bit too melodic for my taste, even someone as misery-guts as myself can acknowledge that this band could easily destroy a house show with this kinda energy, real foot-tapping shit. It’s RULES on the other side of this record, hailing from Zagreb, Croatia, who perplex me. We go from songs that barely scrape the two-minute mark to the five-minute, borderline noise rock of TRANSIENT CARE? The tempo amps up considerably after this, a kind of raw HC crossed with some of the weirder shit on Amphetamine Reptile Records with screeching noise rock coming through with every twist of the guitar in this. It grew and grew on me, especially the harsh, slightly deeper vocals. Highly recommended.

Satanic Togas X-Ray Vision LP

More NWI-worship from Down Under! This is the first proper LP from this Sydney project after a handful of cassettes and a split 7” with GEE TEE. The group seems to be led by the same dude behind Warttman Inc., a cassette label that’s released stuff from like-minded Australian artists RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION, R.M.F.C., SET-TOP BOX, and the aforementioned GEE TEE. The TOGAS stand out from that crowd (and their NWI forebears) by leaning a little more heavily on some ultra-cheap synths and really letting their garage influence show. This album is full of good tracks, but definitely give “Skinhead” a listen. Not only does it showcase how they’re not just another CONEHEADS clone (it’s got kind of a WRECKLESS ERIC vibe, even), but it’s just so dumb and so great.

Scary Hours Margins CD

Singer/songerwriter and all-around multi-instrumentalist  Ryan Struck has travelled from punk and hardcore, to emo and folk, and now back again. With a vengeance. Eight blistering tracks of hardcore, from the melodic to the raging, and most in-between. Songs about capitalism, post-colonialism, and Marx’s theory of alienation, jostle for space with the “emo” end of missing one’s cousins and quitting drinking. And a cover of the BAD BRAINS’ “How Low Can a Punk Get,” which seems, ah, a little misplaced, given Ryan’s commitment to the LGBTQ community referenced in the title track.

Nervous Tick and the Zipper Lips / Science Man The COVID Collaborations: Vol. I cassette

Cool split between Buffalo’s NERVOUS TICK AND THE ZIPPER LIPS and SCIENCE MAN where each band contributes one original song, a cover of the other band, and two collaborative tracks. The groups have a pretty different sound and energy, but this tape works and is a hopeful document that the spirit of artistic collaboration can thrive in this time of isolation. The first three tracks show off SCIENCE MAN’s no-frills/no bullshit rock’n’roll with sleazy vocals and meaty STOOGES instrumentation. “The Mask” is three minutes of slow churn proto-punk with a full-ass guitar solo. The next two from them are a little faster but still have OG hard rock vibes with a throaty menace. Tough! The three NERVOUS TICK songs are forged in jerky new wave rhythms, complete with a drum machine under the trebly guitar work. “Don’t Know Where to Go” has stiff, robotic vocals that sound like GARY NUMAN on punk. This tape is a great idea done well, and I look forward to future volumes (hopefully after COVID).

Sex Cuts Cop Bait cassette

SEX CUTS is a four-piece out of Gothenburg, Sweden who refer to themselves as “anti-genre.” More accurately, though, they play po-faced, political post-hardcore. Cop Bait is their debut cassette…and it gets off to a rough start. Opener “Designer Thoughts” is an anti-“cancel culture” song, with lyrics that read like talking points for an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show. I’m pretty sure this isn’t their intention—they otherwise stick to pretty typical political punk grievances—but the chorus of a song maybe isn’t the right avenue to float a nuanced take on what is quickly becoming a core principle of the Republican platform. Anyway, this soured me on the rest of the cassette, which consists of five more tracks that sound like murky variations of  “Polish” by FUGAZI sans any of the melodic elements.

Shaka S is for Shaka cassette

Grimy hardcore punk from Oklahoma City. This is the second demo released by SHAKA. Stripped-down, gross punk devoid of any memorable choruses or catchy riffs. This is just nasty. My hopes are that none of the aforementioned descriptions are coming off as negatives because I mean them all as nothing but positives. I imagine the standard crowd reaction for SHAKA is just shaking with rage or twitching uncontrollably, and I hope to one day be among those ranks and see this for myself.

Shitload The Marrero Atheist Truck CD-R

This one’s a marathon of solo noise grind diarrhea out of New Orleans. It collects a bunch of SHITLOAD split appearances and live recordings on one CD-R, and it goes on for what feels like hours. All of this sounds pretty much the same, 30 seconds of drum machine blast with unintelligible bass and shouting, followed by a few seconds of feedback and repeat over and over again. They do switch it up for the last couple of tracks with some noise dirges, which are not so bad but it sure took a lot to get there. Highlights are the “Takeshitload Collab Session” and when it’s over. SHITLOAD… it’s not just a clever name.

Skunks Mad Song / Persian Radio 7”

I confess to being a tad perplexed at this 7”. Australia’s SKUNKS released a four-song 7” EP in 1982 called Scratch ‘N’ Sniff. I imagine the opening song, “Dance With The Fuhrer,” raised a few eyebrows in their native Adelaide. Did the average punter grok the sarcasm of its stiff-armed salute outro? At first, I thought maybe the reason that only half the original songs appeared on this small-run reissue was that the band wanted to avoid any appearance of aligning—justified or not—with such reprehensible ideas. But then I saw that there was a faithful four-song repro released in Australia concurrently with this particular edition. Preserved On Plastic is based in South Korea, so perhaps there is a licensing issue at work? Regardless, on this version, we skip the two-step with Hitler plus a re-christened Xmas tune (“Violent Night”). What remains is “Mad Song” and “Persian Radio,” both of which slot nicely with contemporaries like JUST URBAIN and THOUGHT CRIMINALS.

Slant 1집 LP

After a demo and a 7”, Seoul’s SLANT is back with a ten-track LP on Iron Lung Records, a vicious slab of modern HC with its influences firmly rooted in the classics of ’80s American hardcore. While this is a snotty, stomping blast from start to finish, I find it’s the lighter touches on this record, like the squealing, STOOGES-esque guitar solos that tail-end a lot of the choruses, that really do it for me. This is a significantly more polished endeavour than their prior two releases, but I’d argue if anything, they stepped up the aggression for this LP. While this isn’t hardcore that’s reinventing the wheel, it’s a fucking good ride; SLANT is clearly an act that is just itching to get back to touring and playing live, I have no doubt they could tear a venue to shreds.

Soft Shoulder Copy Machine Fall Down 7”

Gilgongo Records mainman James Fella is an industrious sort. His label is constantly releasing interesting, occasionally great, art-damaged records by an array of projects. His own group, SOFT SHOULDER, is the best of these, and for the last year, they have been on a tear, including two excellent LPs. This 7” is the third single in the last twelve months, and it continues their streak. Both sides were stitched together from remotely-recorded parts, pandemic-style. “Copy Machine” features the band’s current line-up for a quick primer of their fractured aesthetic, while “Fall Down” brings in past members and associates for free jazz-like deconstruction. New LP coming soon!

Spiritual Mafia Al Fresco LP

Real Rorschach blot test music, this: I feel like one person could listen to SPIRITUAL MAFIA’s debut album and hear bleak, glazed-eye noise rock drudgery, and someone else could take in the exact same 32 minutes and walk away having experienced transcendent psych/Kraut heat damage. The pointedly mundane, repetitive lyrics thoroughly underscore this too, especially on Al Fresco’s opening and closing cuts, “Lunch” and “Bath Boy”—the latter of which runs past ten minutes, cycles through all manner of delicious dub manoeuvres and treats the act of jumping in the tub as a solipsist’s charter. “Hybrid Animal,” no one-pump chump itself at nearly nine minutes, is kinda HAWKWIND guitar frazzle with BIG BLACK subject matter (reputedly based on the time a friend’s neighbour called round, in the nude, to inform him she was pregnant with her three-legged dog’s offspring) and sounds like someone’s playing pool in the background at one point. “Smiles” and “Poolside” are shorter, thuddier arch-rockers that feel most emblematic of the Melbourne swamp SPIRITUAL MAFIA come from, thinking here of CONSTANT MONGREL and VOICE IMITATOR’s most recent releases. This one was a slowburner but I’m all about it now.

The Archaeas Archaeas LP

A non-stop auditory assault that hits all sensory levels. I think I could taste blood. Violet Archaea storms the three-piece Louisville band through their debut album on Goner Records. The glam garage of THUNDERS, TEENGENERATE swagger, and that Goner-esque sound akin to EX-CULT are here. The liner notes reference the important influence of GUITAR WOLF—particularly the epic movie Wild Zero in which the band battles aliens trying to take over the earth. And it’s here, as the album plays like a soundtrack to guitar sword battles, exploding heads, fake blood, and broken hearts. Trivia: the first album Goner ever released was GUITAR WOLF’s debut, so it’s a fitting base to launch ARCHAEAS.

The Completers End / Parallel Lines 7”

Brazil is well-known for its vibrant colourful culture and is never associated with dark, gloomy music. Well, unless you know the COMPLETERS. This band is really unique in the post-punk scene, making an incredibly unique, uplifting-yet-dark post-punk that uses the CURE as a blueprint with a SMITHS-esque vocal delivery. “End” is a dark, vibrant show of post-punk while “Parallel Lines” is a more atmospheric and ethereal pop-driven song. Overall the COMPLETERS do amazing work in making a refreshing take on a genre that is so distinct and intricate in its own way.

The Dogs Teen Slime: Original 1973–1977 Recordings LP

Forgotten ’70s heroes the DOGS from Iowa played raw and primal guitar rock, minus much of the pretension that was so commonly paired with popular music of the era. Instead they opted for unapologetic expression with a beautiful “fuck you” feel. I guess it’s hard to be pretentious when you’re wailing and shrieking like a wounded animal over a decent percentage of the music, and the singer here has no shame in his vocal freak-out game. Riffs are dirty and direct, the themes are of youthful confusion and reflection, and their STOOGES influence is evident as soon as you look at the album’s cover. The songs sometimes take up a shamanic vibe, as in the bluesy “Man Is Not An Animal”, and at other times it sounds like every member of the band is doing whatever the hell they want with surprisingly rockin’ results (see: “Freakin’ on the Street”). In other words, this is proto-punk gold, and this collection features the band’s 1977 double A-side “Rot ‘n’ Roll / Teen Slime” single, as well as five earlier songs dating back as far as 1973. I’ve been listening to this thing for months. The Breakout/Rave Up team-up is on a roll with excellent reissues of this nature, fingers crossed for the PUNKS LP next.

The Fadeaways Bad Dreams / Don’t Tread on Me 7”

Two fun songs from this Japanese power-poppy garage band. The FADEAWAYS’ sound is steeped in ’60s style. The A-side is a 21st century take on the 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS classic. The B-side is a cover of KIT AND THE OUTLAWS.

The Gorls Fall in Love 1992–93 LP

Before I even took this record out of the sleeve, I noticed a song called “Planet Vator” and thought of one of my favorite songs from the ’90s called “Planet Vator” by the DOBERMANS. I immediately played that track and it was the same song. A quick scan of the liner notes of the DOBERMANS 10” and sure enough, the GORLS’ singer Dawn Johnson wrote the lyrics. Though that seems to be the only connection between the bands. I am immediately intrigued. Fall in Love 1992-93 collects all the recordings by this Seattle band. Eight of the tracks are unreleased. The music is catchy, lo-fi, garage-y rock. Johnson’s vocals are amazing. They are deadpan and easygoing with a wonderful lilt to them. She has such a distinct sound. Her style lifts the songs to a different level. The lyrics are cool, too. I am always in favor of songs about potato chips. Plus there is a great cover of the VICTIMS’ “Television Addict.” I can’t stop playing this record.

The Hammer Party Smashed Hits LP

This sounds like the frustrated pulse of my angry, black pandemic heart. Providence’s the HAMMER PARTY apparently began as a BIG BLACK cover band and boast a pretty extensive pedigree including, but not limited to, SIX FINGER SATELLITE, the BEVIS FROND, and SILVER APPLES. That idiosyncratic resume did not prepare me for how gloriously pissed-off this record sounds. It’s lyrically brutal and literal and the songs grind out elements of UNWOUND, DRIVE LIKE JEHU, and SHOTMAKER, especially in the deep and crunchy bass. Like someone trying to destroy the lowest piano keys. Perhaps post-Kerr NOMEANSNO is the best comparison—especially in the brazen satire of some of the more odd vocal constructions. Songs like “Russian Collusion” may be a little on the nose, but it sounds so darn good. It works. It’s great to see folks who may have been around the block, but nonetheless spit out a record tuned to this time.

The Insults The Insults LP

All INSULTS records should come prepackaged with a snot-rag. You will rue the day you cut the sleeves off your shirt after taking a couple spins around the block with the INSULTS. Apparently these are their final recordings from 1980 (a.k.a. the beginning of the end of the American empire). While nothing here supplants the immortal “Population Zero,” you couldn’t ask for a better guide to being a no-count during the late ’70s. “I Hate…” is like a punk 101 course that can be completed in under two minutes. But then the charming “Are You Lonely?”—a sweet/sour tug-of-war like a proto-REPLACEMENTS—proves that these dicks have hearts. “Romilar Romeo” could be a SIMPLETONES outtake. “Trans Am” lampoons the red-blooded patriots that swarmed all over conservative suburban California, soon to be running the country (into the ground). Punk has always been the canary in the coal mine, only with better riffs.

The Mendozaz Up and at Them CD

Second full-length from this Toronto pop punk trio. They wear the obligatory RAMONES influences on their (record) sleeve, and all have the Mendoza surname. Being somewhat modern in their pop punk tastes, the RAMONES are suitably interpreted through a strict SCREECHING WEASEL snot-covered lens. At their best, this is up there with Anthem for a New Tomorrow, but more often falls squarely into the Boogada Boogada camp.

The Sweatys Stretch demo cassette

Philly poppy punks (not pop punks, mind you) follow up their first demo with another excellent batch of tracks. For a demo, the recording is excellent—with the right amount of grit to amplify the strong songwriting on display. These songs whip back and forth, echoing a classic ’80s Midwest sound with enough contemporary flair to keep things fresh. The band even dips a toe into cowpunk—a genre that’s so often executed poorly—with closer “Hoosegow.” The SWEATYS pull it off, rolling snare and slacker sliding guitar lines and all. Overall a top-notch demo from a band that keeps pumping ’em out.

The Throwawaze Punkstars cassette

It has been a few years since I have heard new bands playing street punk songs like this. Five songs of driving, beer-soaked, pogo-crazed nastiness from Oklahoma City. With choruses of “I’m unemplOi!Oi!Oi!ed / I’m unemplOi!Oi!Oi!ed / I’m unemplOi!Oi!Oi!ed / Fuck you!,” I imagine that the avid MRR reader can hear this song in their head right now without ever listening to the THROWAWAZE. Big fan of the band’s glamour shot in the insert being in front of a row of pinball machines.

The Primate Five / The Traditional Fools split EP reissue

A reissue of a classic West Coast garage rock record. This split 7” will get you nostalgic for mid-2000s garage rock. An ultra-lo-fi mix of surf rock and punk, heavily influenced by predecessors like THEE HEADCOATS, the MUMMIES, and the SONICS. The PRIMATE FIVE bring the punk and the TRADITIONAL FOOLS, featuring a young Ty Segall, bring the surf. It’s scuzzy and fuzzy and noisy and totally fucked-up, all in the best ways possible.

TMA What’s For Dinner? / Beach Party 2000 / Just Desserts Super Deluxe Edition 2xLP+7” reissue

“Who are these guys?” That’s not me talking, but our beloved creator Tim Yo in his 1984 review, and I wholeheartedly agree. Maybe the best 1980s New Jersey hardcore band you’ve never heard of? I’ve been really nose diving into the toxic cesspool of Jersey punk recently, reading the No Slam Dancing No Stage Diving No Spikes book as well as the excellent Hard Times zine anthology but still there’s nary a mention of these goombahs anywhere. TMA stands for Tom Mike Al, the names of the original trio that expanded with a singer and later returned to form on their second platter. Too Many Assholes is the other name chosen, which is just as Jersey as the hilarious photos of these guys. New Jersey always seemed to be the Orange County of the East without the credit, providing solid melodic hardcore with RAMONES sensibilities. The Just Desserts EP and What’s for Dinner? LP are definitely my faves here, with a harder sound almost like a less offensive CHRONIC SICK with the humor and speed of ADRENALIN OD. They cover the Mary Tyler Moore theme; legend has them opening for HÜSKER DÜ who mysteriously adopted the tune at a later date. “Beach Party 2000” has the band maturing(?) and honing their songwriting into an almost BAD RELIGION or SOCIAL DISTORTION polished melodic-ness but still being able to slam it out on songs like “Slack.” If Epitaph Records had been in New Jersey, you punkers might be wearing their backpatches right now, but sadly with no fame or credit, TMA faded into the Jersey wasteland. Luckily we now have this lavish reissue all packaged in a spiffy slipcase on colored vinyl with extra inserts and new Charles Burns-like comic artwork. Truly a labor of love and with it being limited to 100 copies, you better jump on it, chump.

Toads Toads LP

TOADS are a bona fide Bay Area all-star punk band with the resume to back it up. From ICKY BOYFRIENDS to the hallowed (now hollow) halls of MRR itself, TOADS has a lofty rep to live up to. Fortunately, for all of us, TOADS deliver. Only a couple cuts even break the two-minute mark, and then just barely. You’re supposed to chill out as you age, but TOADS are as rambunctious as a pack of teenagers jacked up on Mountain Dew, spicy Takis, and cigs lifted from Mom’s purse. But this crew also has a hard-won panache that makes their city punk appealing to dwellers of all sorts. In just over sixty seconds, “Not An Artist” is the kind of infectious kiss-off that makes punk the best of all rock’n’roll styles. If you need further evidence, I direct you to “Another Year” and “Bad Cop” for proof. Case sealed, conviction assured.

Totalitär Heydays Revisited EP

TOTALITÄR is amongst the most well-known Swedish punk bands, alongside ANTI-CIMEX or WOLFPACK, and has entered the kängpunk hall of fame by now. Masters of fast and frantic hardcore, they broke the punk mold with their uncompromising warp speed, spastic guitar work, and rabid vocal delivery leaving any fastcore band to shame. Heydays Revisited is a piece of Swedish hardcore history with five tracks consisting of three re-recorded tracks (“Multinationella Mördare,” “Kannibalerna,” and “Är Detta Frihet”) and two tracks in their first mix (“De Ouppfostrade Stör” and “Framtidsplaner”). A blast from the past that still shakes the earth to this day.

Trigger Cut Rogo LP

TRIGGER CUT is a German noise rock band that takes several pages from the SHELLAC playbook, but goddamn, they do it well. Steve Albini’s influence is definitely all over this record, from the trebly dissonant guitar to the slightly distorted bass production to the detached shouted/shrieked vocals. So they didn’t invent this particular template, but TRIGGER CUT may have perfected it. Each track comes out pummeling with heart-pounding, head-bobbing hit after hit of noisy, muscular grit. The relentless energy and super-crisp recording is as good as this genre gets and pairs excellently with the classic Touch and Go or AmRep bands of the ’80s and ’90s. This shit is exciting. When vocalist Ralph moves from a half-spoken/half-shouted verse to a voice-cracking shriek like in “Coffin Digger” or “Regular Funk,” the effect is arresting and awesome. “Fireworks” manages to get even heavier with the sturm und drang of a drop-tuned doomy bass riff with explosive full-band response that absolutely rips. The rest of the record never slows or weakens the full-tilt destructive onslaught. Highly recommended!

True Sons of Thunder Age Old Effrontery EP

With a diverse roster of seasoned players from bands like the OBLIVIANS, MANATEEES, RAT TRAPS, and more, TRUE SONS OF THUNDER are a supergroup of divine debauched pedigree, serving up scummy lo-fi indulgence with the weight of heady hardcore. The opening “Shake Rag” is a depraved freight train of STOOGES-style swagger that contains a shout-out to two-thirds of EMERSON, LAKE, AND PALMER. “Plastic Bat Attack” includes a refrain that sounds like the attack itself and provides instructions for creating your very own plastic weapon. “Toob Sock” ends things off somewhat abruptly with an urgent cadence that would not be out of place on a HOMOSTUPIDS record. These guys stir up quite a din, check out their Total Punk LP for further proof.

Ugly Thing Ugly Thing cassette

The Richter Scale label in Oxford has been transatlantically repping the Moreno Valley, CA hardcore scene, or one specific node of it, by running off UK editions of its bands’ extremely short tapes. Being objective here, anyone paying to have a toilet-break-length piece of music cargoed across the world is exhibiting decadence on a par with the last days of Rome. Not totally sure who’s in UGLY THING, but they’ve sprung from the same well as SUNK, REJEX, and PROCESS OF ELIMINATION, all of whom have Richter Scale tapes too, and their demo—four songs in two-and-a-half minutes—is tasty, “take a buzzsaw to a brick wall” HC with cool rabid dog vox and no song titles.

Urin Incydent EP

Gathered around the gutters of Berlin, URIN is an international punk collaboration with members of ROCK, PISS, CUNTROACHES, and G.L.O.S.S. After their 2018 demo, they are back with Incydent, their ripping four-song EP of raw, lo-fi punk that would make SHITLICKERS proud. Heavily delayed vocals sung angrily in Polish, the guitars and bass form a barrage of noise, and the drums are sharp and waste no time messing around. An exciting standout EP from a band that simply has no time for bullshit. Just straight-in-your-face punk!

Used Damaged Asshole Here Comes the Chaos Again CD

Here’s a short, sharp thrasher out of Chiba, Japan that takes grimy ’80s UK glue-core and plays it at neck-snapping speed. Think DISORDER meets bandana thrash and you get the idea. No lyric sheet, but with song titles like “Smash” and “I Don’t Need,” I’m guessing that they do not give a fuck. Cover art features a Rocky Horror Picture Show motif that seems a little out of place, but whatever, that movie’s kind of punk, I guess. No Bandcamp for this one, so dust off that Discman and get ready to shred.

V/A American Idylls 2xLP

When I was a kid, a good compilation record was like a ticket to another world. In the pre-internet universe, these were often a crucial gateway to discovering new bands, and in this far-away and oft-forgotten dimension, finding a monster double-LP collection like American Idylls would be nothing less than a fucking miracle. Packing 49(!) songs from the cream of the current North Carolina punk crop, the musical styles represented here range from spastic DIY (FITNESS WOMXN), to punishing thrash (PUBLIC ACID), and lots in between, making it a real “something for everyone” affair. It’s mind-blowing that this eclectic variety of great bands exists at once on the planet, let alone all in the NC area. With the party crushers of DRUGCHARGE, the steely post-hardcore of SILICA, the dystopian dirges of NATURAL CAUSES, the strong and snotty rockers from MIND DWELLER, and much more, the majority of this stuff pushes boundaries and challenges categorization, as good music should. Adding to the orgasm, the vinyl package comes with a 32-page booklet documenting the scene. I hope there’s at least a couple young’n’s out there who somehow find this record between TikTok sessions and truly get their shit rocked forever.

V/A A Country Fit for Heroes, Volume 2 LP reissue

Another musical dose of twelve-hole Doc Martens shoe leather up the hoop for those of us who never stopped fighting Maggie Thatcher. The follow-up to the much-beloved first volume in the series is actually an improvement, should you dare to believe it. The untouchable CRIMINAL DAMAGE’s “Criminal Crew” is a perfect slice of rowdy bovver, ON PAROLE offers some choppy Hiberian aggro, and Cwmbran legends IMPACT’s “Storm Trooper Tactics” is a taut and frantic polemic against the follies of joining the army. Really does not come highly recommended enough, save up your pocket money for this one.

V/A Cat Cerebrations cassette

Serious statement: I don’t know if you can take it. Eleven bands delivering some of the most distorted, blown-out, freaked-out punk jams in recent memory. I’m talking “jams” as in a bag of weed and your singer is late to practice “jams.” And I’m talking blown-out like everything sounds like it’s breaking down the wall of the studio next door and you can’t even hear yourself think. Cuts from SIBERIAN ASS TORTURE, BASTARD NOIDS, RACCOON COMPLEX CONTAGION, CLANDESTINE BRONTOSAURUS, TLCWATERFALLS, CRUST KAPPA RAMPAGE….jams from NO COMADRE!, DIABLO CON CARNE, OXYGEN DESTROYER, and GEORGE CRUSTANZA that all cram themselves into one shell to morph into smoke and vibrations and volume like PHARAOH OVERLORD and KALMEX having a session. If noise punks could jam, then….well, Cat Cerebrations says they can. Now: can you take it?

V/A Distort Midwest cassette

I love compilations; getting a chance to dive into a whole scene via one tape is fuckin’ joy, allowing someone like me, a thousand miles away from the US, to voyeuristically pry into the underbelly of whatever the fuck is happening in Midwestern HC. This tape covers an absurd amount of ground, at over an hour in length with fifteen bands providing multiple tracks, giving a fair amount of time to newer, lesser-known acts and some that are more firmly established (Detroit’s SHROUD and Missouri’s MENTIRA, for instance). Genre-wise though, a majority of this is hardcore, on the grimier, D-beat side of things. If anything’s going to make you miss rubbing shoulders with filthy, fucked-up crusties at shows, it’s this tape. A shame to have been released in a year where shows were impossible in the Midwest.

V/A Vertigo: Synth Punk Blasts 1978–1984 LP

Well, first things first: compared to the unrelated but similarly-themed Killed by Synth LP that preceded it, this new comp at least succeeds in only including bands that actually used keyboards, so no BIG BOYS, OIL TASTERS, or BOB this time around. In true KBD tradition, the focus here is on the the flipped-out and the fucked-up—in the words of the compiler(s), “no synth pop, no new wave, no experimental music”—and despite (presumably) being named after the SCREAMERS song, Vertigo skips over the usual synth-punk suspects in favor of some deeper and less obvious cuts. Highlights include the Bloodstains-via-Red Snerts snot of “Sophistication” by PLASTIC IDOLS (Houston’s answer to DOW JONES AND THE INDUSTRIALS), organ-smeared mutant new wave with wild femme vocals from Santa Cruz’s SCHEMATIX on “Nothing Special,” the dark, frenetic end-times robo-pulse of “Happy Funeral” by Sweden’s KITCHEN AND THE PLASTIC SPOONS, the jarring juxtaposition of sparse minimal wave and intense, unhinged vocals in German from DER KÜNFTIGE MUSIKANT’s “Es Ist Kalt”… also, totally bold move with the inclusion of “Food Fight” by the VILLAGE PEOPLE (yes, really)—in the post-disco early ’80s, they revamped their image to pass as New Romantics and recorded this one-off, utterly dumb but kind of amazing slice of PLASTIC BERTRAND-esque punksploitation with the former “construction worker” channeling his inner Tomata Du Plenty, now officially enshrined as the first dollar bin KBD bonzer. Not a predictable comp by any means, and that’s very much to its credit.

Video Prick Two Tracks flexi 7”

This is one of those teasers that is completely unfair. It’s almost cruel to be given something so rad with the promise of more to come but want it so badly right then and there. This is powerviolence-tinged hardcore with an almost imperceptible pinch of heavy metal guitar noodling. The two (as of yet unnamed) tracks are compelling all the way through and constantly morphing in a way that never lets you get complacent. The last ten seconds of track one are a true thrill. These two songs also display a massive improvement, especially in the vocals, from the demo that was released a little over a year ago. The upcoming LP will most assuredly be one to not miss.

Virus Pathogens 10”

A record from 2019 with an album cover and title that feel strangely prophetic. Instrumentally, I want to say this record sounds like if FUGAZI took a wild foray into hair metal and then hired the guitarist from LEFTÖVER CRACK. Needless to say, it’s a hard record to pinpoint and I still don’t know where I stand on it. Part of me wants to love it and part of me wants to hate it. Give it a listen, all I can say is it probably won’t bore you.

Warsh EP II cassette

Always love a good church bell gong-like intro, and on a demo? Even better. WARSH plays echoing, lo-fi riffed hardcore with urgency and chaotic warmth. The tempo is reminiscent of DR. KNOW and the delivery reminds me of LIFE CHAIN. Songs lacerate shut around the one-and-a-half to two-minute mark and it seems a bit anxious and hasty, but maybe that works. I wonder what WARSH would come up with if they added a bit more to each song. Breakdowns are momentary, intros as well, but there is something unhinged about it. This self-described “potato punk” band from Prince Edward Island, if I was to guess, is not baked, but I look forward to hearing more toppings.

Shitload / XBrackishX Da Parish X Westbank Unity split cassette

Uncompromising noisecore from two New Orleans powerhouses. XBRACKISHX is truly, and by design, all over the map—samples, interludes, shit-fi grind, Casio pop, hardline vegan black metal guitars driving a one-person drum machine assault. SHITLOAD opens up with a damaged bass blasting “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” while a who’s-who of New Orleans notables rep The West Bank for 68 seconds before the sonic shit-machine blasts through eight doses of noisecore, brutalizing mainstream heavy metal melodies as an interlude between blasts (HALEN, MAIDEN, ‘LICA all get the business). This is the kind of tape where you exhale after each side…and you take a deep careful breath before you hit play.

Young Harts Truth Fades LP

This sounds like something that No Idea would have put out when they were still a label, but not in the “bearded, gruff, drunken, Florida” way. In more of the “kinda street punk, kinda emo, hard to pin down” way. Kinda TED LEO with a sore throat singing for DEAD TO ME with slower breakdowns. I know that sounds like a confusing mess, but it works and I’m for it!

Zero Zeroes Zero Zeroes LP

The ’90s often get overlooked by punk bands looking to mine the past for fresh style references, but while plenty can (and has) been said about the ’70s and ’80s, the pre-Y2K years had tons of acts deserving of revisits and updates. Germany’s ZERO ZEROES know this, and while their sound still feels contemporary (and certainly not retro), they also aren’t afraid to harken back to some of the trademarks of heavy hitters like NEW BOMB TURKS and ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT. Combining high-speed swaggering thumpers with whip-smart riffing, this ends up being one of the most fun punk releases in recent memory. It’s smartly conceived and has a worn-down authenticity to it just to seal the deal. The standout track “7070’s” exemplifies the anthemic songwriting this band utterly nails—with big ringing chords, vocals with conviction, and a tough-as-hell rhythm section. Damn near perfect modern punk.

Zig Zag It Gets Worse EP

ZIG ZAG is South Florida’s answer to the GERMS and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES. A pummeling wall of noise and the ever-present snarl of the front man are the defining features of this EP. The opening track begins with a sample of PINK FLOYD before moving into CAPTAIN BEEFHEART’s “Zig Zag Wanderer,” and I have to say I really dig the intro. Lo-fi, noisy, catchy riffs, and harrowing vocals. This is an EP I can get behind.