Reviews

MRR #455 • April 2021

A Culture of Killing The Feast of Vultures, The Cry of a Dove LP

Italian peace punks A CULTURE OF KILLING do an impeccable job in channeling the British anarcho-punk movement. Nostalgic feelings of listening to the MOB or CRASS run through every song on this record in a well-achieved way. Catchy and well-crafted songs about modern life in this decaying system. Taking the record name from investigative journalist Josy Josef’s dissertation about corruption in India’s democracy “Feast of Vultures,” it is filled to the brim with strong political views.

Altar of Eden Chimeras cassette

ALTAR OF EDEN brings six tracks of faux-nihilist, gothy post-punk with a headache-inducing drum machine pounding loudly. “Matrix of Chaos” is good fodder for a darkly-lit dance party in a renovated basement. Step two feet to the right, then two feet to the left, and bang your head in time with your feet hitting the ground, repeat ad nauseam. You got it! Think ’80s deathrock that wants to be a little more hardcore, and you’re getting there. The real star of the album is the bassist keeping everything fluid, dance-y, and together next to the throbbing robot beat. If you’re a DJ at a local goth night, you know the kind with a dress code and $20 cover, this can be a fun new addition if your playlist is getting a little stale.

Ansiedad Cerebral Terapia Cognitivo-Conductual cassette

When it comes to no-frills punk, it’s always best to go the lo-fi way, allowing your chops (or lack thereof) to become an integral part of the message you’re delivering. Malaga’s ANSIEDAD CEREBRAL shares this piece of wisdom and offers nine songs full of sloppy and splendorous p-u-n-k. These guys have already made some racket with other bands (RATAS DE SUMATRA, LIMASSA, and MASS VOLUMEN), so they know how to write a hook or two. They’re actually so good at it, “Punkis de Gimnasio” or “Vive Rápido y Aterriza en el Geriátrico” could be hits in the next Matado Por La Muerte comp of Spanish-speaking punk. Their lyrics are usually extremely ironic, as they say, “designed to offend and undermine morale.” Quite a commendable enterprise in my book. The one that I replay all the time is “Rosalía,” with that raw and almost atonal guitar riff, a sardonic little hymn in honor of the Spanish pop singer. Short, sweet, sweaty, and to the point, get it on cassette for more lo-fi pleasure.

Artistic Decline Four Song EP reissue

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for bands like ARTISTIC DECLINE. They emerged onto a crowded Southern California field and were too quirky to fit snugly into one of the many micro-scenes that dotted the punk landscape. Moody and tuneful and snide, ARTISTIC DECLINE surfed the same waves as SIMPLETONES, GEARS, and SECRET HATE. “Andy Warhol” is my pick hit, but out of the four songs here, the only semi-duff cut is the closing “Private Shack,” where the slower tempo doesn’t do them any favors. Still, a minor classic reborn, and here’s hoping their Random Violence LP gets the same treatment sooner than later.

Asocial Aldrig Som Er 12″

ASOCIAL’s history begins in the early ’80s in the Swedish hardcore scene. They pushed the envelope with great EPs of crust and D-beat, and an album, How Could Hardcore Be Any Worse, an absolute beast of noise that had a great and lasting influence on extreme music worldwide. The band has been writing new music since 2017, and this EP finds the band revisiting four of its classics and presenting four new songs. I have to admit I’m not really into bands re-recording their old songs, but in this context, they sound as raw and chaotic as the originals, and the new songs are pure mayhem. The EP starts with “Religion Still Sucks,” one of the best openers I’ve heard so far this year. “Krossa Nazismen,” “Mïlitardiktatur,” and “Samhällets Offer” are all incredibly intense. A must-have.

Astute Palate Astute Palate LP

Wah-wah pedal, blues licks played backwards, and the ’60s vibe had me worried until it all resolved into some serious VELVET UNDERGROUND leanings that I could appreciate. Between the upfront guitars, long running times, and meditative repetition, you can almost see the Warhol projections on top of them when you listen. Not exactly breaking the mould but good tunes to have in the background when you’re doing stuff. I dig it. It should appeal to fans of SIC ALPS or YUZO IWATA.

Auxiliö Mi Piel cassette

The moment the riff in “Mi Piel” starts playing, you know you’re gonna be bulldozed by the raw power of it. This is an extremely pissed-at-the-world work of art. Four songs, four punches straight to your face. AUXILIÖ works the line between D-beat, thrash, and pure hardcore mayhem, and they do so by way of some great songwriting: violent riffs, driving bass lines, pummeling drums, and some truly great guttural vocals. Thematically, the band lashes out against the usual sources of oppression: religion, misogyny, the trappings of a decaying capitalist world, only with a unique point of view, switching between Spanish and English. “Religión Hipócrita” is great trash with some vicious riffing,  “Ciclo Vicioso” has some cool ’90s Mexican hardcore vibes, and “Death Trophy” is an instant moshpit-inducer classic. AUXILIÖ is a hardcore band from L.A. They’ve been doing their noisy thing since 2016 and have played in Perú (they’ve got a split with PODRIDO on Unsainted Records, if you want to check it out). You can get this furious EP as a CD or cassette. Do hurry ‘cause they’re running out.

Bleakness Functionally Extinct LP

The bleak piano intro sets the stage for darkness to come. Uneasy melodies and a sense of melancholy play the leading role on Functionally Extinct, while steady and catchy hardcore punk serves as a backdrop for this post-punk outfit. BLEAKNESS couldn’t have chosen a better band name. This a great modern French post-punk record sure to brighten (or darken) your days.

Blisterpack Empty Spaces cassette

A raw and eclectic set of songs on this EP. The opening track sounds like an homage to the KINKS, while later tracks are reminiscent of early cuts from THEE OH SEES or maybe some Paranoid Time-era MINUTEMEN. Although it may be hard to pinpoint the sound of this record, every song is still a lot of fun. What surprises me most about this EP is that it’s really groovy. Not in a peace-and-love kind of way, but a lot of the tracks are funky as hell in a JAMES CHANCE style. What’s not to like here? Punk ballads, scuzzy garage rock, and No Wave grooves. I’ll take some of that.

Blockade Untitled War EP

Can you hear the sound of an enormous door slamming in the depths of Australia? It’s probably BLOCKADE. Entrenched and ready for D-beat war, these fine gentlemen bring on the most intense DIS-worship ammunition they could get their hands on. Noise-drenched guitars that will shatter your ears, vocals that sound like they were recorded two lots over, and of course…D-beat. Also, a cover of the theme of Assault on Precinct 13. Your ears will be ringing after this one.

Burning Image The Final Conflict / Burning Image, Burning 7″ reissue

Bakersfield’s BURNING IMAGE was one of the original bands from the California deathrock scene and this is the official reissue of their classic single from 1984. The 7” has “The Final Conflict” and “Burning Image, Burning,” two songs produced by Chaz Ramirez, producer of SOCIAL DISTORTION’s Mommy’s Little Monster. Enough context. Side A starts all sinister and dark. “The Final Conflict” has an awesome guitar tone. I really enjoy the way the almost angular riff sets the unsettling space for the chorus, then those Spaghetti Western-style solos, and how it ends in almost full chaos. Amazing. Side B’s “Burning Image, Burning” riffing is pure Rikk Agnew beauty, both melodic and dissonant, always interesting and full of harmonics. The band really knows how to build tension and release within the song while making it catchy as hell.

Caligulas Mamma Dansa På Min Grav EP

This is a weird one but interesting at least. This Stockholm band plays nice bouncy, energetic punk with electronic overtones and is extremely Euro. There’s music here to dance and/or pogo to, often reminding me of early LEATHER NUN. There’s a side of beef on the cover. I don’t really get it but who cares. Skål!

Cassie The Light Shines On LP

CASSIE was a short-lived Isle of Wight band. Their sole release, 1982’s “Change My Image” single, was about as perfect a new wave pop/bubblegum punk number as a band could write. Were it not for their mismanaged label’s inability to market the record, the single may have become the hit it deserved to be rather than languishing in obscurity. Fortunately, Reminder Records reissued that 45 last year, and now they have dug up the rest of the band’s recorded output for this compilation LP. While there’s nothing here as deliriously catchy as “Change My Image” (maybe aside from an earlier version of the song), the LP is still chock full of should-have-been hits. The fidelity across these fourteen tracks varies from rough studio cuts to even rougher demos, but the overall production is crunchy and immediate, highlighting the band’s energetic performances without getting in the way of the melodies. I imagine this could appeal to both grizzled punks and power pop wimps. Absolutely essential if you’re a fan of NIKKI AND THE CORVETTES, JOSIE COTTON, or early TEENAGE HEAD.

CaveXrage I Believe in CaveXrage cassette

Raw and energetic, bare-bones, treble-heavy snot punk. Cut from the mold of ’10 NWI starlets and ‘70s working class punk…then they injected the mold with SXE hardcore. With lyrics like “We got boys and we got girls / Pittin’ hard and pittin’ fast / CAVEXRAGE feel the blast” and “If you don’t know who your friends are / You better find out who your friends are / Who’s true? Who betrays you?” (not to mention “Twisted in My Head” in its glorious entirety). You want to say this is ‘core delivered tongue-in-cheek, but…

CDG Unconditional EP

The initials used to (perhaps still do) stand for CONDITIONER DISCO GROUP, and at one time this was certainly a group effort, but this EP is the solo output of one Jacyn N, also of (not sonically unrelated) labelmates COLLATE and the BEDROOMS. As succinct as you would expect from a seven-inch EP containing five tracks, there is no rationing of ideas within. Immediately, a danceable groove is formed around familiar (but not rote) staccato rhythms and nimble bass lines, embedding scratchy, trebly anti-funk guitar squall. This is the foundation for barked, Anglophone missives, like a dance party at the student union debate. MRR readers with superannuated record collections may find themselves feeling attacked by the track “Audiophiles”—not me though, honest guv.

Celebrity Handshake Bottom Of Your Bucket LP

I swear, for the last couple years, this Portland, Maine trio has had a record reviewed every other month here at MRR. I keep on seeing the name and I keep on not listening to the music. Now, dear reader, I’m strapped into the chair like Alex in that one movie about clocks and oranges and my ears are being forced open with an intricate series of chains and hooks. And I’m here to tell you a secret: This shit sucks. For some reason, I thought these guys were on a HARRY PUSSY tip, which would have at least resulted in a distracting blur. Does CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE think that they’re the second coming of ART PHAG? Listen, once was enough, you wangheads. This is half generic garage punk and half lame-ass improv with bad—like really fucking bad—singing. There’s all sorts of constipated growlers this guy reminds me of but I already listened to the goddamn record, so I ain’t gonna waste any more time conjuring up a couple “sounds like”s. It sounds like shit!

Chron Turbine Yoga Injury: Discomfort in Seven Movements cassette

Eight jams from stoner and noise rock influences on this release. The tape starts strong with a tightly-wound instrumental song that sounds like a HELMET demo. Two vocalists, one of whom sounds like a mix of David Yow from the JESUS LIZARD and Aaron Beam from RED FANG, and one of whom sounds like bad Jon Spencer karaoke, sing separately on the rest. When the band gets into a propulsive groove, it’s good in the crunchy ’90s rock way. “Dying Elephant” has a catchy, repetitive refrain that got my foot tapping and head bobbing. I was then able to place the sound historically: this sounds like the bands that got swept up in the major label, post-Nevermind feeding frenzy of the early ’90s. Clean vocals, a little distorted chugging but not too heavy, and pop sensibility? Yeah, this sounds as familiar as any other second-tier band on a Geffen label sampler back in the day. A few of these tracks could fit in on modern rock radio, no disrespect intended. Full disrespect, however, to the songs “Hipster Taxidermy Fetish” and “Wet Look.” The vocals are a comical Jon Spencer impression with all the blues affectations that can only be handled by Mr. Spencer himself. I cringed through those two tracks and wondered what kind of band friendship or financial obligation got that guy the job. Other than those two tracks, decent if unremarkable release of what I guess is still called alternative rock.

Codigo Neurotico Totus Tous EP reissue

When a record starts with some Gregorian chants, you know it’s gonna turn out to be something else. Barcelona’s CÓDIGO NEURÓTICO makes exemplary first-wave punk rock: snotty, fun, with buzzsaw guitars, great basslines, and conceited vocals. The overall sound reminds me of Killed by Death bands in style and content, with very tongue-in-cheek lyrics and a healthy dose of adolescent humor, reminiscent of Spanish bands like SINIESTRO TOTAL or M.C.D. “Totus Totus” sounds like a WEIRDOS song played by KAKA DE LUXE, with a chorus that’s a real earworm. “Pega a tu Mama” has the ANGRY SAMOANS’ shock value energy. It’s dumb and it’s fun. “Quema Tanques” is a pure adrenaline rush with lyrics concerning WWII while “Las Malvinas” continues with the rush and war themes with an irresistible sing-along that you will have stuck in your head for weeks. “Cotolengo” is yet another manifestation of their incredible ability to create a gem of beautiful trash. You can get the 7” on red vinyl. Les sugiero que lo hagan.

Collision Immortels / La Vie S’Échappe 7″

I hate for punk to get too squeaky clean, especially when it claims to be echoing the sleaziest era of the genre (late ’70s). This single definitely falls in that category, with all the rough edges sanded down for ease of consumption. Most of the fault lies in the production, which dampens the bite of the guitars that really would have put this over the edge. That said, the songwriting is pretty spot-on, hitting a sweet spot between an old school UK sound and an overall harmony-enriched power pop vibe. I just wish it hit harder because as it stands, it falls just short of something potent. Another quibble, and definitely one that comes from personal bias—the B-side “La Vie S’Échappe” ends with a fade out. Please, all punks take note: write an ending to your song. Nothing packs less punch than a song just trickling away. Slam one last E chord or something and call it a night, it’s really not a big deal.

Crack Cloud Pain Olympics LP

After a few years of small-scale but intense anticipation, CRACK CLOUD’s debut LP landed with somewhat of a thud last year. Was the muted reception due to the coronavirus and its accompanying shutdown? To some extent, no doubt. Even though they seem to have spurned the US so far (a move I grudgingly respect tbh), the Vancouver-based collective appear to be a galvanizing live band, at least according to the ‘toob. Not to mention their great/weird videos and of course the LP collection of their first couple EPs is some real (triple) fire (emojis). Despite CRACK CLOUD’s attention to detail on these meticulously constructed tracks, Pain Olympics is, at times, curiously underwhelming. But, due to the aforementioned virus, further listening has provided plenty of reward. “Post-Truth (Birth of a Nation)” opens with an authoritative take on CRACK CLOUD’s established style but takes a couple left turns into operatic territory. It’s sorta impressive but also kinda gratuitous. Hey, take a swing, I always say. Just try to make contact. But it’s an effective opener. “Bastard Basket” drills into downcast post-punk, while “Favour Your Fortune” is some kinda grime foray that, despite its boastful brevity, fails to land a punch. At first, “The Next Fix” resembles CRACK CLOUD’s electrifying early work but when the vocoded vocals come in, the song flirts with radio cheese and then a group chorus turns into the ARCADE FIRE and I try to comfort myself that it’s a Canadian thing (j/k, luv you loonies). An almost perfect DEVO imitation, “Ouster Stew” also harks back to their beginnings, and reveals how stale the recent batch of egg-punk has been. “Tunnel Vision” combines everything into the total package: it rocks, it’s danceable, it sounds great, it’s got those vocals with the weird cadence, hell it’s even got something resembling a guitar solo. “Angel Dust (Eternal Peace)” ends it all and confirms what you’ve always suspected: CRACK CLOUD are the dance-punk version of GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR. While not the world-beating collection some might have hoped for, Pain Olympics demonstrates that CRACK CLOUD is a force to be reckoned with, and you ignore them….at your own peril!

Dadar I’m a Töch EP

I don’t really know what a “dadar” is. Internet searches tell me it’s either a neighborhood in Mumbai or a type of Indonesian omelette. I doubt the band is going for either of those meanings. They’re not unlike an omelette, though—simple, maybe a little cheesy, but filled with enough interesting ingredients to be satisfying. Anyway, DADAR are a synth-driven garage punk band out of the tiny town of Rovereto in Northern Italy. This is their second 7”, and it’s got a couple of sub-two-minute originals on the A-side and a cover of a track by Italian art-punk band FHEDOLTS on the flip. The originals are good enough. “I’m a Töch” sounds like any of those BLACK LIPS copycat bands that popped up in the late ’00s, maybe with a little HANK WOOD thrown in, and “Calendarize” sounds like a reasonable facsimile of AUSMUTEANTS (in a good way). But I really dig this cover—the minimal post-punk synth melody and talk-sung vocals taken from the original sound great fleshed out with this band’s chunky garage punk sound. Definitely worth a listen!

De Brassers Alternative News LP

DE BRASSERS came out of the first wave of Belgian punk and proceeded to release a couple classic records in the early ’80s. I’m not sure if they ever broke up, but regardless, they re-emerged in the 21st century and continued down the path of intense, bass-heavy post-punk like a couple decades hadn’t slipped by. Alternative News is a live album captured in 2019, but don’t let that put you off. Not only is this set well-recorded, the band is in top form. There aren’t (m)any current post-punk bands that can match the expert execution of DE BRASSERS. You know you are in capable hands when the towering bass riff of “En Toen Was Er Niets Meer” (from their debut EP) comes lumbering into sight and then they back it up with “Eruit” into “Sick In Your Mind.” DE BRASSERS’ take on post-punk is really its own form of deathrock, stripped of all the usual trappings (blues/metal/etc.) and instead just brutally cold and efficient. One modern band that treads similar ground is Italy’s underappreciated HIS ELECTRO BLUE VOICE. For good measure, DE BRASSERS even cover WIRE and ALTERNATIVE TV on this worthy live album.

Deformation Deformation LP

DEFORMATION plays on fire, with machine gun ripper drum fills and the slight swagger of HUMAN WASTE. This is straightforward echoing D-beat with the effects of some recent Finnish hardcore outfits and the stern delivery of later AVSKUM, and there are also some mid-tempo moments that recall metallic ’80s hardcore. DEFORMATION is from Denmark and this three-piece is tearing it down like when I first heard GLORIOUS? It clobbers, it annihilates, it changes up, this could be from any time between ’85 and today. Furthermore, this cover art is amazing. A skull barfing bombs and within the recess of its head is the ever-fuming industrial engine of pollution and greed. The three members of DEFORMATION play tight as DISCLOSE with the vibe of UNCURBED at twice the speed. 300% D-beat metal punk up the world zoo. I went from concluding early this was just okay to realizing it absolutely smolders.

Detoxi In Laughter 12″

“Love is the lasting connection we make with others and nothing is as powerful, the laughter shared with one another.” This is the central theme in DETOXI’s new record, aptly titled In Laughter. Featuring members of the amazingly underrated deathrock act CATHOLIC SPIT, the ANCESTORS, and STALAG-13, these Californians craft a mix of UK DECAY and RUDIMENTARY PENI. One of the best modern deathrock bands out there.

Disappearances III cassette

This cassette got me immediately into a frenzy. Just the kind of harsh and vicious noise that’s so needed in times like these. This is the third release by Philadelphia’s DISAPPEARANCES, ten songs full of short, intense, and brutal spurts of vile. The powerviolence influence is there, but I would say that it’s just the template for more angular and dissonant leanings (think of ’90s bands like BORN AGAINST and RORSCHACH), with just the right amount of breakdowns to keep things dynamic and interesting. Lyrics can certainly be bleak, but that’s just how the world really is. They really know how to weave the personal and the private within the structural and systemic. There’s humor in there too, a self-deprecating and black one. “Blue” is my favorite of the bunch, it has a really cathartic feel to it. Would love to hear this in a live setting.

Discovery Earth to Fucker EP

DISCOVERY does not mince words, as evidenced by the eloquence of this ripping EP’s opening track “Pig Shit.” These guys from the Bay Area go hard, playing tough, driving, and straightforward hardcore with plenty of tasty nuance. They take their cue from early US bands as well as classic Japanese hardcore without aping styles, and this 7” is jam-packed with tight and heavy tunes to reflect on, revel in, and rage to.

Dropdead Dropdead 1998 LP reissue

The essential second full-length remixed and remastered for a 2020 reissue. A little less blasting than the “early” stuff, this record knocked all of us on our asses when it came out. This 1998 offering was more in line with destroyed, amped-up Swedish crust…and then they dropped tracks like “Part Two” that are just ferocity embodied. It was different, it was more…and it still is. DROPDDEAD’s approach and uncompromising politics shouldn’t need to be covered in these (digital) pages, but suffice to say that their knife edge has not dulled in their 30 year existence…and I don’t expect that to change. Remastering, regurgitating, and reissuing records that are readily available might seem like an unnecessary ploy in this modern era, but fuck these songs have never sounded this heavy, this fast, or this relevant. Still essential.

 

Duplo Dor Dor Dor, BB EP

DUPLO is the latest in a recent history of excellent output from São Paulo, Brazil. Some interesting sensibilities mixed up here: “Dance” is an approachable disco punk song with some interesting rhythmic touches, while the closer “Roda Continua” has playful surf touches of the CRAMPS using obsessive repetition to mind-melting effect before building up to an ecstatic meltdown. Paula Rebellato from RAKTA is playing drums and, as they go heavy on the delay pedal, there are some echoes of RAKTA’s more HAWKWIND-influenced days when they still had a guitar in the band. Solid debut.

El Sancho Our Part in the Darkness CD

A trio of punk veterans end up on Hawaii’s Big Island, help carve out a wee scene there, and produce this debut eight-track effort. All self-recorded, mixed, mastered, and released. It’s speedy, poppy basic punk, à la DESCENDENTS and CRIMPSHINE, with lots of politics (and some zombies) in the lyrical mix. Catchy and infectious for sure.

Electric Chair Social Capital EP

Crucial hardcore in the form of a 7” hand grenade. If you like classic USHC, get this immediately. Six songs of fast, super-pissed punk with lyrics reflecting our current dystopia. Anti-police, anti-scenester, anti-human, anti-fascist diatribes against this modern life. Check out “Life is Hell”: “Birth is violence / Life is hell / You sell your baby on the black market / I hate the way they smell.” Tough! If you have stick-and-poke BLACK FLAG bars or the DEAD KENNEDYS logo, you may want to consider a future patch of skin for a little electric chair. Have you bought this yet?

Esperanza 1998–2001 LP

I’ve been waiting for this collection for a while now, and still I was speechless when I held it in my hands and dropped the needle. Imagine a band with such a massive impact who never ever released a record during their existence—an existence that spans just eleven songs. That’s it. And yet I feel like ESPERANZA grabbed all of the positive elements about turn of the century DIY hardcore and just refused to let go over the course of those eleven songs—maybe that’s just all they needed, or maybe the flames that burn the brightest just burn out faster. Fierce and uncompromising politics (“21st Reason to Kill [then-California Governor] Pete Wilson” as a prime example…and possibly the single best track on the record) and an energy level that was infectious, these kids just exploded when they played. And you felt it with every pore. Musically, their sound lands somewhere between MINOR THREAT and LIMP WRIST—but more developed and amped up than the former (yeah, I said it) and a couple of years before the latter really got rolling. It’s USHC to be sure, and you’d be hard pressed to find a finer demonstration of the genre…but it’s also more than that. This collection is everything that it should be—the tracks are given the proper sonic attention and the sheer sound alone is worth the price of admission, while the accompanying 20-page booklet follows the band through flyers and stories and images. In hindsight, ESPERANZA is even better and bigger now than they were at the time. Nothing but praise.

Exek Biased Advice LP reissue

Originally released in 2016, Biased Advice is EXEK’s debut full-length and still stands tall next to their subsequent triumphs. There’s no getting around the fact that EXEK’s biggest initial inspiration was PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, and “A Hedonist” is about as close to a perfect homage to said group as you could desire. It’s a testament to how good EXEK is that any and all comparisons to Lydon and Co. are swiftly rendered stale and reductive. “Replicate” is a masterpiece of seasick dub menace—an iceberg in this instance would come as a relief. A deep dive into a bottomless trench, “Baby Giant Squid” encompasses the entirety of side two and never loses its hypnotic sway or compromises the undercurrent of turbulence that roils throughout. On this epic cut, EXEK surfaces as sui generis. Kudos to Castle Face for reissuing this essential slab.

False Negative A Brief Respite From Civility demo cassette

Thirteen songs of fast, nasty, unapologetic early ’80s hardcore aping all within a mere eleven minutes. As much as the band’s logo looks remarkably similar to that of NEGATIVE FX, the vocalist at times sounds almost exactly like Choke, so you’ve got a rough idea of what you’re in for with this tape. Driving songs with shouted vocals, barked gang vocals on many choruses, and catchy breakdowns. This is nasty Midwest hardcore at its finest, regardless of what decade it came out.

Farmaco Descolonizar EP

Latino punk might not be the most technical, the most virtuoso, or the most groundbreaking, but it surely is the angriest of all the punk scenes. Hailing from Buenos Aires, FARMACO is no exception to this rule! And anger you can expect! The first half of this EP (“Descolonizar” and “Mundo Inmundo”) sounds like primitive Japanese Hardcore like LSD, and the second half (“Alquitrán” and “Sulfato”) reeks of DEATH SIDE. Do I need to keep on writing? Go get this!

Endless Swarm / Fuck on the Beach split EP

Somehow, even after all these years, FUCK ON THE BEACH still brings an unprecedented level of speed and ferocity to their side of this split; it blows my mind how fast and manic they sound 22 years after the release of Power Violence Forever, shit like this gives me hope as a punk slipping slowly into my thirties. ENDLESS SWARM had me tapping along as well, if not further in the INFEST direction of things; good to see this Glasgow unit still kicking.

Black Iron Prison / Gas Chamber Public Humiliation II LP

Public Humiliation II is a collaborative performance from Buffalo, New York experimental HC grind unit GAS CHAMBER, and BLACK IRON PRISON, a two-piece from Toronto, Ontario who sit even further up the experimental ladder than GAS CHAMBER, providing more drums and vocals as it rattles on and well the fuck off the platform of HC that is so crudely erected amongst this psychedelic rubble. This record is a live collaboration, recorded at Iron Lung Records’ 10th anniversary show, which would also mark GAS CHAMBER’s last performance, set to wax as an insane jam; at times reminiscent of early HC acts that attempted to breach the boundaries between psychedelia and hardcore, sitting somewhere between GASP and the MEAT PUPPETS. A truly monumental effort, highly recommended.

Gasp Stardonas EP

Discovering GASP’s Drome Triler of Puzzle Zoo People album back in the day—after the band was done, but a long time ago nevertheless—was a real light in the darkness for me. A band from (or at least adjacent to) the powerviolence scene who deployed all sorts of weird gloopy psychedelic shit and covered STRETCHHEADS! Somehow, they’re back after, it says here, sixteen years with a couple of new items, including this three-song 7”. “Husband is the Lake” is your go-to track if you want more of their chomping LSD grind; the other two are pretty far beyond “rock,” or the regular notion of it, although “Sign of Victor” feels a bit like something FAUST cooked up in a German commune circa 1971, all analog electronics and sludgy backmasking.

Gee Tee Atomic EP

We’ve got another winner from Sydney’s leading Gas Station Rock band, GEE TEE. Opening with lo-fi RAMONES-y vibes accented by warbly keys, “Kombat Kitchen” had me nice and cozy from the get-go. “Mutant World” serves up a buzzing garage groove. Laid-back title track “Atomic” sounds like it is wearing sunglasses while the world melts, and “Dudes In The Valley” ends it off by inducing both grins and the urge to start the record over again. Well-played.

GG King Remain Intact LP

Have you ever gone into a hippie-ish coffee shop and gotten one of those homemade calorie-dense, no-bake energy bars? They’re full of seeds and nuts and dates and shit and are held together with peanut butter or maybe chocolate. All of the ingredients are unadulterated and easily identifiable but mixed in such a way that you get a taste of every element in each bite, and they combine to make a distinct treat that’s both nutritious and delicious. GG KING albums are kind of like that with their genre influences, and this latest LP, their third, is no exception. Throughout, you can hear KIDS-esque Euro punk, power pop, garage punk, horrorcore, deathrock, metal—but it’s never presented as simply as “Here’s our take on CHRISTIAN DEATH.” All those ingredients appear wholly present and unaltered, but they’re mixed into something rich and distinctly GG KING. This LP maybe feels more mature than their previous efforts—not in a “they’ve finally figured out their sound” kind of way, but more that the record’s tone—sonically and lyrically—feels a bit more grown up…or maybe I’m just being influenced by the fold-out photo of the band and their families on the insert. I was really bummed when Rich from Total Punk announced that he was throwing out his stamp pads and no longer putting out 7”s. But if he continues with this shit-hot streak of LPs, maybe it’s for the best.

Governess Never Coming Home LP

Jeez. I feel like I’ve reviewed this same band nine zillion times. TURBONEGRO was an interesting band, at least in the Ass Cobra days, because they had crazy record collections for influence, had members who were well-entrenched in the ’80s Norwegian punk scene with some of them being genuinely insane characters, they had the POISON IDEA connection, and they were doing something fairly original and funny after years and years of failure. Now some 30 years later, some Buffalo yahoos think they can slap on some stiff denim and runny eye makeup and think I’m even going to give a shit. GOVERNESS has the obvious DICTATORS and DEAD BOYS influences, and they are really decent musicians. They write some OK versions of glammy guitar punk and and put their pierced tongues firmly in butthole with the customary gay innuendo humor, such as on “Midnight Swordfight.” Fuck, I don’t know. Maybe if I was younger and less jaded I might be more aroused by this, but instead I’m left bored, tired, and limp in my jeans. Zzzzz.

Hayley and the Crushers Fun Sized CD

Latest six-track effort from this power-pop-punk California surf trio. The opening track pretty much lifts the style and pacing of “I Wanna Be Sedated” and layers the trademark HAYLEY bubblegum sass vocals on top, and the disc closes with a surfy cover of “Suzie is a Headbanger,” which pretty much sums up the band. The four tracks in between are pretty damn good, too.

Hüstler Hüstler demo cassette

An excellent, disgusting debut demo from NY deathpunks HÜSTLER through Sorry State Records. Hüstler is a healthy dose of visceral deathrock-infused blackened hardcore punk, where everything is well-balanced and you can tell they channel loads of influences on this one. From the coldness of CHRISTIAN DEATH to the strangeness of GISM and even SLAYER´s early work in the guitar work. Like being sodomized by Satan himself.

Headcheese Headcheese LP

British Columbia combo containing BOOTLICKER alumni rattle out twelve songs in twelve minutes and rarely if ever drop the tempo for this, their first vinyl outing. HEADCHEESE has a pretty big streak of garage punk in their hardcore, though, twin guitars both sounding scrawny and tinny (in a cool way). Reminds me of the SPITS here and there, early BLACK FLAG in certain respects, ANGRY SAMOANS for the insouciance… BLOODY HAMMER from late-’00s Texas had a really similar vibe for their short existence, I’d say. Lyrics, sang and I think written by Lewis Podlubny, lean heavily on the loser-punk burnout anthems but throw in some anti-police sentiment (I like the framing of this one: that’s cool your officer dad is nice to you, but he’s still a cop) and a sardonic love letter to Google Home.

HHH Solidhardcore LP

HHH or Harina de Huesos Humanos (which translates to “flour of human bones”) was a Spanish hardcore outfit formed in 1985 that was of significant importance in the ’80s Spanish punk scene. The trio was heavily influenced by Scandinavian punk in their early work and sidetracked into thrashcore-oriented territory in their later days, leading up to their demise in 1993. Ten songs of nonconforming, solid hardcore (think SHITLICKERS or RATTUS) at its most primitive form, with two unreleased tracks “Paz” and “Psicosis” and a faithful reproduction of the original artwork. If you like primitive punk, this is a no-brainer!

Horrendous 3D The Gov. and Corps. Are Using Psycho-Electronic Weaponry to Manipulate You & Me EP

Artwork for this looks like some random release on Bluurg Tapes, which is pretty much a red herring, or maybe one of your meta-referential EXITHIPPIES joints, which is getting warmer. HORRENDOUS 3D is a Portland band on a LEBENDEN TOTEN member’s label and they sound every bit as up for popping eardrums with pure tone filth on their debut 7”. That being said, the guitarist conjures up some interesting noise textures and blaze-past solos, as opposed to just cranking the dentist’s drill; the bass is textbook ’80s noisecore and chunky as anything; and the vocals could be imported into a grind band or AUTOPSY-type sludgy death outfit without sounding out of position.

Human Trophy Corpse Dream LP

Throw some middle-shelf gin in a cocktail shaker of post-punk and some aggro goth-rock to get what HUMAN TROPHY is laying down on this album. Illustrator Reuben Sawyer’s latest musical project comes fully formed and ready to overwhelm your senses. This is an immersive experience, and not an inch or second of this record feels out of place. The obvious and trite comparisons are BAUHAUS and JOY DIVISION, but there is a unique flavor here that needs to be experienced. The titular track, “Corpse Dream,” is a flailing rager that really distills down the magic of the whole album. The album closes heavy with “Blood Apex,” leaving you ready to start it all right back up again. With so much else going on, it feels impossible that Sawyer was able to provide his full attention to this project, and yet, it’s far superior to so many other albums from groups that you could tell tried their damnedest. This is some magically perfect shit. This and whatever comes next are not to be missed.

I.G. Isolationsgemeinschaft cassette

For the last few years, the German underground scene has been spitting out one killer combo after another. These groups range from hardcore units finding new wrinkles in their chosen style to genre-defying post-punk projects that utilize new ways to incorporate electronics into a rock format. I.G. is a duo attempting to update Germany’s early ’80s Neue Deutsche Welle scene for today’s hyperspeed reality. This initial offering’s title (and presumably the band’s name) translates to English as “Isolation Community,” so you know they’ve got the quarantine blues something fierce. The music errs more towards OMD’s mersh aspirations than DAF’s razor-sharp electronic come-ons. This kind of understated new wave pomp (a contradiction in terms) needs really strong songs to pierce my veil of indifference. The aggressive “Gelande” comes close but is still betrayed by keyboard lines that sound straight out of a Sega Genesis game. “Schockstarre” is grimy and foreboding and probably my favorite track here.

Ill Globo Check the Odds EP

My tolerance for puns is pretty low. So, I let out a bit of groan when I looked up this Melbourne band’s name to find out it’s a play on Il Globo, a publication that’s been providing news to Australia’s Italian community since the late ’50s. I’ll let that slide, though, because everything else about this release is great. ILL GLOBO burns through eight garage-infused hardcore tracks in about ten minutes. The songs are a nice blend of straightforward USHC (like CIRCLE JERKS) and some sunburnt Aussie punk’n’roll (like CIVIC). But the production here really sells it for me. I’m not sure if it’s a pedal or maybe a droning keyboard laid overtop (or both), but the overall effect is that the guitar sounds like a wasp stuck in the blinds. It’s great!

Insect Warfare World Extermination LP reissue

This is it. This is what grindcore is and what it should sound like. No bullshit, no gimmicks, just plain old school grindcore. World Extermination is up there next to Scum, Horrified and World Downfall. This is an album that will be hard to beat and will stay at the podium for best modern grindcore album. You can thank the grind gods for this official reissue that recreates the original release, improving on the original insert art with a heavier jacket and a bigger poster. Get this and let it melt your face off! Ughhhh!

Inyeccion Ejecutar demo cassette

This band is from Chile and Argentina, this is their first release, and beyond that I have no context in which to place INYECCION—apart from these ten songs amounting to the most perfectly realised shit-fi pogo-punk I’ve heard in a minute. The drummer has got that oompah beat down so pat it’ll make your heart sing; there are two vocalists, though it’s Cromi (also of FARMACO from Buenos Aires—hey, there’s some context) who indubitably rules the roost with her irate squawk. Guitar and bass merge into a singular conglomerate of amp fuzz, save for about 30 seconds of unlikely jangly guitar during “Atentar Dinamatar,” the last song on the tape. This rules and I want another INYECCION release already.

Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters Live Comp 2019–2020 cassette

My second live cassette review in two months. I guess people are missing that live music experience. I know I am. JACKSON REID BRIGGS & THE HEATERS are on my list of bands I want to see once this shit is over. They are high-energy, anthemic garage rock. The kind that gets you up to the front of the stage. Three songs each from two different shows—Last Chance Rock and Roll Bar, January 2020, and The Old Bar, February 2019. The songs are from their last two albums, which if you don’t already have you should pick up, too.

Josephine & Hershguy Stocky Tunes LP

The first listen I was getting a lot of sonic inputs from early K Records, SPARKS, post-post-art-punk, ROXY MUSIC, neo-No Wave, glam theater rock…almost in a disparate hi-talent show of the kids too cool and too talented for marching band. On second, third, and many more listens it all melds together into the singular voices of Josephine Network and Hershguy, refreshingly hard to put your finger on, but so good. It’s so unique that the album includes its own Stocky Yiddish Dictionary where I learned that “cockamun with a bissel hunnick” means “shit on you with a little honey.”

Kerosene Kream Look Mom EP

Quirky new wave from Stockholm for the now-times. They’ve got a quirky vibe, not in an arty or weirdo way but fun, like if GORILLA ANGREB was really the B-52’S. All four songs are upbeat and have strong pop hooks, elevated by multiple charismatic vocalists and a layer of electronics that liven up the whole production. It’s okay and even healthy to have a little fun every once in a while, so if you’re brooding as much as I am these days look no further than KEROSENE KREAM if you need a little pick-me-up.

Kyosanto Communist LP

Straight from Hiroshima, KYOSANTO has been lurking in the hardcore shadows for three decades. Thanks to Bitter Lake, this gem of Japanese hardcore punk sees the light of day. Finally! This is a compilation of two demo cassettes from 1984, the Communist cassette and うじむし cassette. Brace yourself for high-energy and highly political hardcore punk akin the STALIN or TYPHUS. For Japanese hardcore aficionados only!

Los Saicos ¡Demolición! / Lonely Star 7”

Many record and band reviews (mine mostly) spend space name-dropping other bands and styles that a reviewee sounds like and borrows from. It’s a kind of connect the musical dots. Because let’s face it, we’re all influenced in some way by what we’ve heard before. But there are those trailblazers and avant-gardes who every now and then create something strikingly new from the same twelve notes we’re all shuffling around, using nothing but their own instincts. LOS SAICOS were operating out of Lima, Peru from 1964–66 with limited access to outside music or the happenings in England or the United States at the time. Their proto-punk sound with sharp guitar riffs and screaming vocals pre-dates the STOOGES, SEX PISTOLS, and RAMONES by a decade, though the band remained in obscurity, almost as an in-the-know secret among garage punkers. The early-aughts saw a brief reunion, along with numerous articles and a few documentaries that brought them back into current consciousness. BLACK LIPS and many many other similarly-styled bands cite them as a major influence. This 7” is a reissue of two of their early singles, a great musical artifact that couldn’t care less if punk was born in London or NYC.

Los Saicos El Mercenario / Un Poquito de Pena 7”

Oh, LOS SAICOS, great representatives of Peruvian sonic teenage terrorism. This pair of songs came after “Demolición” and “Entierro de los Gatos” and all those great classics that led them to be retroactively read as the originators of punk rock. We’ve almost got a new band here, as there’s only two original members left, Erwin Flores and César “Papi” Castrillón, who recorded these songs together with other musicians for a local Peruvian label in the distant year of 1969. The Spanish label Munster Records is in charge of the reissue and it has everything we came to love about the Los Saicos sound. “El Mercenario” is a mind-blowing tale of a mercenary, who embarks to Africa in order to commit atrocities as a soldier for hire only to realize the futility and damage he caused, leading him to commit suicide; the story is narrated by a voice somewhere between a ballad singer and a young amphetamine user with euphoric screams marking “1, 2, 3, 4” as a kind of cool vocal hook, plus guitars with dark surfer vibes. On the other side, “Un Poquito de Pena” is a love ballad with intense singing, arpeggiated and extremely melodic guitar riffs, a true gem that could’ve been included in one of those Back From The Grave comps. Great single that deserves to be on par with the rest of LOS SAICOS’ work.

Lost Sounds Black Wave 2xLP reissue

Jay Lindsey may well be remembered by some for his solo work as JAY REATARD and his ominously-titled final album Watch Me Fall that came out on Matador shortly before his death in 2010. Or the scrappier punks may lean toward the fatalistic crash-down sounds of his first band the REATARDS that helped solidify the Memphis/Goner Records scene in the late ’90s. On the timeline between these two bands lies LOST SOUNDS. Alicja Trout, Rich Crook, and Jonas Garland joined Lindsey from ’99–’05 and released several dark synth futuristic/apocalyptic punk records that put them between the post-punk and garage scenes of the early aughts. Trout brought in the synth keyboard influence from her old band the CLEARS to craft an evil circus carnival tent revival sound reminiscent of the SCREAMERS, but a lot more pissed-off and skeptical of a post-9/11 world. This double-LP is a reissue of the now out-of-print 2001 album originally on Empty Records and is a great place to start for a newcomer. Side note: Trout, Crook, and Garland are currently playing as SWEET KNIVES, who sound and feel like LOST SOUNDS without Lindsey and are well worth checking out.

Mausoleo Absolución LP

MAUSOLEO it’s a post-punk band from Valencia. They call their sound “devotional punk” and certainly there’s a spiritual quest quality to their music: super melodic and dark arpeggiated riffs, deep and throbbing bass lines, and pounding drums. It’s Andrés Sanabria’s voice that gives the band an almost ethereal idiosyncrasy. Sonically, they thrive in the space created by their hometown’s ANTIGUO RÉGIMEN and the legacy of Spanish bands like DÉCIMA VÍCTIMA, or, at least in vocals and lyrics, GOLPES BAJOS. The record is great. “Mausoleo” is a hell of an album opener, somber and beautiful, “Paredón” quickly takes us to a sort of celebration of personal dismay. My favorites: “Sodomizado” with that irresistible SISTERS OF MERCY type of guitar riff and “Dogma,” with a crystalline guitar tone and a fast and interesting riff, like KILLING JOKE without the metal leanings. They also have a pretty cool cover of Valladolid’s punk band QLOACA LETAL. Get the vinyl, the artwork is awesome. You won’t regret it.

Max Nordile Vying for the Dime cassette

Another month, another offering from Oakland improvisationalist MAX NORDILE. A true sonic outsider, NORDILE mixes (seemingly) random multi-instrumental experimentation with field recordings and found sounds, creating movements and moments rather than “writing” anything resembling “songs” in any traditional sense. Of the eight pieces that make up Vying For The Dime, “101” and “E EE Exit” probably exemplify this Dadaist approach to music the best, but (as with many of NORDILE’s releases) they are best experienced as parts of a whole. While I often teeter on the knife edge of hyperbole, there is a genuine greatness in the simplicity, in the honesty, and the evolution is ongoing. As always, I recommend.

Mikey Erg Mikey Erg LP

I spent some part of quarantine listening to MIKEY ERG’s 2019 solo album Wax Built Castles, which was a collection of reflective acoustic ruminations reminiscent of Devon Williams’ post-OSKER output. That album fit the mood and the volume of the time. Last year he turned it up with a four-song EP titled Bon Voyage, which was a warm up to this full-length release. Ten blistering punk pop punk songs in 26 minutes, drawing emotively and literally from ’80s indie rock and ’90s punk. The album opens with a mid-tempo rocker “Can’t Be Too Careless” and then shifts into a cover of PEARL JAM’s “Spin The Black Circle.” “Rubin Hall,” “Hey Marissa,” and “Rumblestrip” touch on topics of college life, relationships, and tour with early-aughts ferocity. The version of GREEN DAY’s “Going to Pasalacqua” is the best cover since the ERGS! gave proper treatment to the GIN BLOSSOMS song “Hey Jealousy.” The final two tracks, “Good Mic” and “Give Up,” slow down and blow out as great album closers. MIKEY ERG has been in plethora of bands, currently drumming for the pivotal WORRIERS, and in the past DIRT BIKE ANNIE, STAR FUCKING HIPSTERS, DOPAMINES, and of course the ERGS!, but it’s his voluminous and diverse solo work that continually surprises and satisfies. Factoid: The album cover art pastiches the CLASH’s debut album in the same way their London Calling album mirrors ELVIS PRESLEY’s debut album.

Mister Espejismo EP

A debut 7” release from Milwaukee-based band MISTER that brings a special level of madness to Midwest punk. Their songs are short, sweet, and downright filthy. From the opening track until the end, this EP drips with youthful expression, teenage angst, and unkept rage. For all of its youthful energy it still demands a second listen, which will undoubtedly be even better than the first. The vocals spit distorted lines of seemingly existential dread while the instrumentation is frenetic and loose. Fans of bands like MURO and GAG might find comfort a familiar style of hardcore on this release. Much deserved praise to the band for an excellent EP.

Monkey 101 Rusts, Smuts and Heart Rot LP

An album collecting early nineties recordings from this group, who released a single on Siltbreeze in 1990 and are not out of place among their label-mates of the time, like POLVO and GBV. Layers of everything-all-at-once fuzz, heaviness, noise, and reverb, with catchy indie rock tunefulness finding its way through the murk. When I hit play, the first comparison that came to mind was TRUMANS WATER. I stand by that, but with less BEEFHEART quirk and more of a SCIENTISTS/MUDHONEY rock’n’roll sensibility. Honestly, fans of anything I mentioned in this review will find much to appreciate about this record.

Mononegatives Sure Shock EP

This 7” is really reminiscent of the new wave of LA hardcore bands like MEATBODIES or WAND. Heavy, pummeling riffs draped in a synthed-out wall of noise that just don’t let up at any point for any reason. The band doesn’t pull any punches here, just fast and loud punk. Simple as that. Perfect for headbanging your worries away or pissing off your neighbors.

Musclegoose Yah Mo B There, God? It’s Me, Michael McDonald cassette

Musically, this almost rips at times, but the whole release is so overly chock-full of puns, plays on words, paragraph-long song titles, ’90s movie and music references, and goofy lifted riff parodies that it’s hard to look at just the music. I imagine this is a band of really fun people to be around who have wonderful senses of humor, and if you’re in on the goof this is probably side-splittingly hilarious. I, however, just find the novelty aspect of it a bit confusing, off-putting, and distracting.

Native Cats Two Creation Myths 7”

I love getting assigned a record I’m already loving. The Tasmanian duo NATIVE CATS return with two tracks, with the first, “War of the Roses,” a hard and steady bass-driven mid-tempo backdrop to Chloe Alison Escott’s confrontational, manifesto-like vocals. I appreciate the gall of bands who print their lyrics directly on the front cover. NATIVE CATS sound hungry and unapologetic. The urgent delivery of lines like “I’ve felt my body happening to people on the street” and “Walk the breadth of human experience, howling, what of this is mine?” sound bracing against the dark and steady music. On the second side, “Sanremo” is sonically consistent but tonally a more melodica-tinged, almost shoegaze-y number that calls to mind BOWIE’s “Warsaw.” But don’t get me wrong, I’m not into shoegaze and I’m not even the biggest BOWIE guy, but I am really really into this. Two songs, both killer. A double-A, as they used to say. Love to see a band that’s been around for a little bit but knocks one out of the park anyway.

No Dope for the Kids No Dope for the Kids cassette

First off, respect to these Alabama kids for ripping off the NO HOPE FOR THE KIDS record so effectively that my lazy ass thought I was popping in a cassette reissue and I was confused when I heard the sounds. And the sounds, you ask…? Sonically, this hits like INTRO5PECT, or maybe ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE stepping into the future and piss-taking region rock. Ideologically, it’s nice to see a band voice anti-establishment and anti-corporate ideals while acknowledging the impossibly connected world and/or society in which most of us exist. Shit is complicated, and NO DOPE FOR THE KIDS doesn’t shy away from it.

Ornament Und Verbrechen Tapetopia 001: Rotmaul Tape LP

The first of Play Loud!’s excavations of Germany’s cassette culture, Rotmaul Tape is one side from ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN’s debut release from 1988. That’s a bit too far down the autobahn of my preferred era of this fertile underground scene. ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN operates from a goth-drenched vantage point, but most of the music manages to rise above the faux-dramatic vocalizing. Still, as early sampler tech collides with snatches of noisy guitar, ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN, more often than not, ends up sounding like DEPECHE MODE minus the dance beats. “Surety” has mournful late-JOY DIVISION synth (s)weep and even whips out a harmonica for some extra WTF-ness. “Jesus” is simultaneously elegiac and discombobulating, which is a welcome set of conflicting reactions. The best use for a track like the vaguely SUICIDE-ish “Sally” is soundtracking a period-specific romance that occurs during the final thaw of the Cold War. The atmosphere of decadent banality is highlighted by KENNY G sax licks and elevator-worthy piano trills. Fortunately, “The Death By Heroin Of Sid Vicious” is the punkest cut here and sounds closest to the unclassifiable basement ooze that distinguished the early German tape scene.

Pedigree Connected? 12″

Coming through with a sound akin to EX-CULT on Valium, PEDIGREE has unleashed a monster of an EP upon the unsuspecting public. Beyond its loud and fuzzy post-punk exterior, this is complex music with a real cinematic quality to it. Each song is almost like its own little movie, conjuring up jittery images of frantic electricity webbing bleak dystopian landscapes. These tunes expand and contort in surprising and impressive ways as they unfold, like the awesome little bit of “Miserlou”-esque guitar play on “Blank Page” and the continuous escalation into madness witnessed on closer “The Nomad.” It’s strong stuff. Put this on and see where it takes you.

Pillars of a Twisted City Pillars of a Twisted City cassette

Mind-fuckery in eleven movements—this Vancouver outfit eschews convention and offers a complete contribution that is best consumed as a sum of parts. Instrumental campfire interludes, low-fidelity dance goth, harsh black metal—I don’t mean to imply that there are elements of each found herein, I mean that “Suffocation Dance” is a brilliantly haunting, primitive, dark synth piece, “Of Furious Death” is 66 seconds of raw and furious blackened thrash, and “Moonlight Cerveza” is the soundtrack a dusty campfire at full moon. The real winners are the tracks that draw a little from each path, though I wonder how many more releases this formula could successfully produce. Here though, it works—the beauty of solo recording projects in the Time ov COVID perhaps, but I’ll take it.

Pillsbury Hardcore Ghosts of Straight Edge Past LP

PHC. PILLSBURY HARDCORE. What would eventually become the criminally underrated PISSED HAPPY CHILDREN, one of the earlier projects of Eric Wood, who would eventually champion the freak-bass noise monster, PV-coining, amp-eating nightmare that would charm beardos coast-to-coast and allow thick-rimmed glasses and satchel-clutchers a place to shit on and call their own within HC. Before MAN IS THE BASTARD, before PISSED HAPPY CHILDREN, is PILLSBURY HARDCORE. PILLSBURY HARDCORE comes across as a slightly more juvenile PISSED HAPPY CHILDREN, less serious (though all humour would take a far darker turn with MAN IS THE BASTARD) and with a far snottier atmosphere than the contemporary straightedge acts of the time. I guess it has to be said that the bass in this is what sets it apart. What would be absolutely stock standard, if not a little goofy hardcore becomes something far stranger, putting PILLSBURY HARDCORE up there with bands like NEOS and LÄRM as one of those odd ’80s HC bands that were stuck between eras, pushing the boundaries for speed and absurdity.

Planet Y Kniven for Struben 12”

Scrappy hardcore with just a bit of jangle from this Copenhagen band. A quicker and madder X with the spirit of DEAD MOON. The vocals and sharp guitars bring to mind Poly Styrene and the best of X-RAY SPEX or the VICIOUS. The nine tracks blast quick for a strong listen.

Plasticheads Nowhere to Run LP

Sometimes it’s refreshing just to be somewhere familiar, and that is proven deftly by these Toronto traditionalists on this ten-track full-length. The tempo is up there, the guitars are dirty, and the snotty energy doesn’t let up from beginning to end. There’s not much to wax philosophical about here, it’s just one of those bands that has the punk fundamentals down and executes again and again. In a genre full of pretenders, it pays to do your homework and these fine folk have done just that.

Pressure Pact Scared Off the Streets LP

PRESSURE PACT’s latest is a unrefined slab of Neanderthal primitive hardcore, taking in BOSTON STRANGLER and NEGATIVE FX-style hardcore and a hint of NABAT-style European Oi!, which grabs you by yer throat and refuses to let go. Unrefined, atavistic troglodyte hop for the close-cropped creepy-crawlers of the world. It’s claustrophobic and violent, with drums being beaten as if they owe someone money. If you want complexity, read a book. If you want your head smashed in by some absolutely belting hardcore then give this a go.

Prison Affair Demo II EP

If you want to put some wacky, wild, “blink and you’ll miss it”-style nerd-punk in your ear holes, PRISON AFFAIR is probably what you’ve been craving. With vocals echoing back and forth between the shrieking and megaphone-assisted to deep and menacing reverberations, there seems to be a chaotic balance in place here but just barely. Technically, you’re told that you’re listening to four sub-two-minute tracks, but the experience is more of a singular six-minute-plus manic dream. It’s as positive as it is sweaty and uncomfortable. It’s impossible to recommend a single track when they’re all tied together like a perfect knot and the whole experience is so yummy and easy to digest. If you’re sad that you never got to see DEVO live, get in on this Barcelona-based experience and fill that need.

Pushups Pushups is Pop (1978–80 Archival) LP

PUSHUPS evolved from AURORA PUSHUPS, who themselves were something of a continuation of ZOLAR X. This previously unreleased debut LP takes the new wave sensibilities but sheds the sci-fi weirdness for an unabashed pop direction. The end result is eight tracks of some of the sharpest, catchiest power pop you’re likely to hear. It’s great—song after song is a bona fide shoulda-been hit, but with the two slightly demented tracks from the AURORA PUSHUPS “Angels on Runway One / Victims of Terrorism” single tacked on at the end (with all their art-punk fizz), it’s hard not to think that something was lost along the way…

Rubella Ballet Radio Sessions 1982–2018 LP

RUBELLA BALLET is a crucial UK anarcho group that came up with bands like POISON GIRLS and CRASS, and was also a major influence on the goth scene. This album incorporates two early ’80s Peel Sessions with a 2018 radio session. The time span of this record made me a bit wary upon first listen (seamlessly spanning three decades is no easy feat). Although I’ll probably always be biased towards the sound of older recording technology, the newer tracks definitely hold their own. I appreciate that the band has stayed true to their hard-hitting roots, while remaining open to the musical evolution that happens over years of playing. The Peel Session tracks capture the raw magic of a band at the height of their influence. The 2018 recording finds them exploring group vocals, and a greater range of instrumental tone/experimentation.

Sacripolitical Shove It Up Your Ass! / Gogol’s Nose 7″

This really isn’t very good. The music is plodding and not very interesting. The vocals are stiff and deadpan and the lyrics attempt to be witty but fall flat. It’s dads playing hardcore and that’s all fine, but what’s really interesting is reading the band’s history on the internet. SACRIPOLITICAL is a Marin County mainstay that’s been playing on and off since 1982! They’ve played with all your favorite bands in lots of long-forgotten bars, clubs, and in a glass warehouse with FANG!? They’ve been written up in this very magazine and were even interviewed on KPFA for the radio show. Sure, you’ve probably never heard of them, but their band history is hilarious and makes me nostalgic for another time. For that I think you deserve to give these people an honest listen, and maybe even throw them a couple bucks or chat them up at a future show.

Sarcasm Creeping Life 12”

The SARCASM tape—already half-a-decade old, I’m alarmed to read—and 2017 EP were glorious artefacts of their type, bare-brick rhythm-first punk that was somehow both punishingly direct and gnomically elusive. You didn’t expect or want this band to “progress,” whatever that means, and they haven’t exactly done that on Creeping Life (one of its six songs, “Digital Colony,” also appeared on the demo), but I just don’t see how their sound could get more platonically ideal than this. It’s not DESPERATE BICYCLES UK DIY or BAUHAUS goth or FLUX anarcho or GANG OF FOUR post-punk or even INSTITUTE updates on any combo of those things, but trace elements of each float around like the algal scum Luke McGuire sings about. His lyrics are neither reductive slogans or indulgent poetry, but use repetition really smartly and deploy imagery that haunts. I’m only half-sure what “Blinding scream, locked-in gaze / Creeping, breaking, a furious haze” is about (nuclear paranoia?), but damn if it doesn’t sound like deep shit when he intones it. All that, and bassist Alexandra Graves is still probably SARCASM’s M.V.P., in that their songs sound like they build from the basslines up.

Satélite Otra Era LP

SATÉLITE is a Spanish band with a dark, melodic, and beautiful post-punk sound. Otra Era was released in February but it missed my radar. The album’s second song “Estado Hipnótico” condenses the themes and sounds of the whole LP: prominent bass lines, chorus pedal guitar, gorgeous melodies, and vigorous drumming with lyrics that paint paranoiac landscapes of capitalist desperation and the urge of getting the hell out it, into a new era, with new ways of living. There’s a sense in all of these songs of trying to escape the new systems of control. Some of my favorites are the pretty “Otra Era” and the disquieting “Nuevas Maneras.” If you’re into Spanish post-punk bands like DÉCIMA VÍCTIMA, or early CURE, this is for you. You can get it both digitally or on vinyl. Really cool cover design, too.

Self-Immolation Music Demo 2020 cassette

Can you imagine a ’90s college dream pop band ingesting a heavy diet of PHARAOH OVERLORD? You get the white line fever 3 am highway monotony treated with a time-damaged MERCURY REV tinged with later KYLESA and it’s like you’re gazing at your shoes but through a thick-ass drug-induced fog. As a(nother) new generation of kids and bands and kids in bands draw influence from the music of my young adulthood, I look forward to bands like SELF-IMMOLATION MUSIC who are using discarded markers to guide them on their own path. Absolutely recommended.

Sexpill Anarchy and LSD EP

This EP starts with nuclear sirens, so you know you are in for a treat. Coming from Houston, SEXPILL is ugly-as-fuck hardcore punk like KURO on a bad hair day. The sound is disgustingly good if you are into noisy punk. And at some point, you realize that the sirens don’t stop, and go throughout the whole EP.

Boiled Tongue / Shitload split cassette

Lo-fi noisecore solo project split cassette. SHITLOAD from New Orleans I have reviewed releases from before, and this is more of the same. Drum machine sounding like a machine gun, fast riffs over top. It’s a bit hard to differentiate from song to song since they’re all essentially in the same formula. Speaking of songs being difficult to differentiate from one another, BOILED TONGUE from Gulfport, Mississippi lists their tracks on this release as just “(Untitled 1-17).” If lo-fi grindcore, powerviolence, or other forms of aggressive music are your bag, then this would presumably be up your alley. Both projects mix elements from all different forms of brutality into a single package.

Sidetracked Dweller cassette

Okay, the longest song on here is thirty-five seconds. The shortest is five. Yeah, it’s powerviolence/fastcore, with an emphasis on the power. A lot of vocal effects went into this. Vocals sound shouted out over the loudspeaker at Caldor or the drive-thru through an ugly sweater. Drums do the same roll over and over, though blisteringly fast, and then blast off a lot, too. I’m not sure what the story is here but I feel like I’m being drilled by an officer and forced drugs at the same time. It is extremely repetitive for a five-minute PV release and fucking clean. I want more slop and more mess. I want more grind, more surprises. It is heavily edited. Or maybe it’s not at all? I don’t have a moment to tell. I’m kind of nervous about this. If that makes you comfortable, go get it. You will. Understand.

Silicone Prairie My Life on the Silicone Prairie LP

Keeping the Midwestern punk freak flag flying high, Kansas CIty’s SILICONE PRAIRIE arrives with a dense, hooky, high-speed genre-hopping LP mixing elements of the FEELIES, DEVO, synth pop, folk, and even glam rock. This is the work of Ian Teeple from WARM BODIES and NATURAL MAN BAND, but unlike those outfits, SILICONE PRAIRIE takes a bit more work to untangle and get into. The songs are dizzying helium bursts of energy, taking wild turns combining familiar but irreconcilable (or so I thought) genres. It’s kind of an amazing act of dexterity. It made my head hurt at first, but so did PERE UBU the first time I heard The Modern Dance. It truly is one of those records that grows on you and reveals itself after a bunch of listens. I can’t quite figure out what is and isn’t satire here, but it is nothing if not inspired. “Silicone Prairie”—the song, not the band—is hook city, but could also pass for a phased-out- sounding theme to a ’70s sitcom. The song ejects before the two-minute mark and gives way to a folky number that smacks of 4-track lo-fidelity. Then there’s my favorite, “Song for Patrick Cowley,” a tribute to the electronic music pioneer that lacks the ironic detachment of the rest of the record. “Come Away” ends the whole affair on some worn-down cassette bedroom pop. A daring and oddball collection of music. I approve.

Sonny Vincent and the Bad Reactions Live at WCSB Cleveland cassette

Sonny Vincent, best known for his work in seminal NYC ’70s punk band TESTORS, and his backing band from 2012 the BAD REACTIONS performing live on a Cleveland based radio station. Starting things off with my favorite TESTORS song, this tape is relentless with similar style sleazy, driving rock riffs the whole way through! Aside from a three-song 7”, this is the only documentation of this project and it is absolutely worth a listen. Honestly, pretty inspiring stuff hearing aging rockers not losing their grit. If you dig TESTORS (and if you don’t maybe you should give them another shot), then you are definitely going to dig this.

Speed Week Hey Hey It’s Speed Week 12″

SPEED WEEK is a newish band out of Melbourne who play pretty straightforward punky pub rock. Unlike their yobbo contemporaries the CHATS or AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS, who fall somewhere between a little winky and total caricatures, SPEED WEEK just seems like some lads who wanna get together up the pub and bang out some chunes. And they do on this mini LP—solid ones! What stood out most on this release were the lyrics. They’re as plain-spoken as you’d expect given the genre, but they’re also surprisingly earnest. One of the best tracks, “Equine Dream”, is an anti-Melbourne Cup tune (for Americans, think of the Kentucky Derby crossed with a frat party…or maybe just the Preakness). It’s written from the point of view of a racehorse who’s resenting his life of being drugged-up and trotted out to amuse dolled-up drunks. That may sound a bit silly on paper, but when the hook hit—“I’d rather be wild and living free in my equine dream!”—I genuinely found myself yearning for that exact same thing. Definitely not something I anticipated from some mulleted Aussies!

Spray Paint Into the Country LP

SPRAY PAINT is a scuzzy noise rock band from Austin, Texas, formed from members of another Austin noise band from the mid-2000s called WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH. This is certainly the most No Wave-heavy release I have heard from either of the groups. Acoustic drums are almost completely stripped in favor of crusty, distorted drum machines. Melodies are replaced with metallic clangs and guitar feedback. Everything here feels more raw and primal than anything else. The record is spacy and moody rather than just purely aggressive. If groups like TEENAGE JESUS AND THE JERKS or DNA are your thing then this will be right up your alley.

Spread Joy Spread Joy LP

Après-punk Chicago-style, triangulated somewhere between the loopy contempo new wave of various Lumpy-backed outfits (PINEAPPLE RNR, NATURAL MAN, etc.) and the recent Midwestern iteration of cutting, tightly-wound post-DEVO precision (think URANIUM CLUB, but with a major Rough Trade fixation). Briana Hernandez’s giddy, animated shrieks and matter-of-fact narrations have a definite Su Tissue edge, slipping into German on the brightly Neue Deutsche Welle-tinted “Kanst Du” and even subverting the “don’t you want to wait around” vocal hook from KLEENEX’s “Ain’t You” on “Unoriginal” (with a knowing wink in that title?)—if you’re going to steal, steal from the greats. Ten songs in under fourteen minutes, truly econo-jamming, but when the anxious, spring-loaded rhythms relent just slightly and SPREAD JOY hits a looser, spiraling art-punk scratch on “Ba-Ba” and “Music for the Body,” I can’t help but wish that some of those minute-long tracks had been stretched to at least double or triple their running time for maximum human movement potential. Indulge!

SS/BLOCK Mob Violence EP

Amazing D-beat straight from Malaysia. This EP is the debut release of this band from Mentakab Pahang, and they’ve got a pretty cool demo that you should check out, too. Oh man, the sound. So raw, so furious, it makes my brain pogo against my skull. This EP is full of energy blasts, and with production values that accentuate their sonic attack, it feels like you’re listening to the constant and overwhelming noise made by some river rapids. The lyrics are highly political, as you might expect, being a punk in Malaysia ain’t easy at all. This band clearly likes DISCHARGE and delivers six songs within that frame, but their primal rage provides a distinctive sound. I really like the sing-along and shouty chorus of the track “Anti77-Fascist Society.” You should have this band on your radar, I hope they make an LP soon.

Stagger Abuse of Power cassette

The Philadelphia scene is full of talent and STAGGER is just one example of it. This is their first LP, and their first proper release since Thermobaeric Blues EP from 2018 (you should check that one too, it’s got a SUN RA cover!). What do we get here? A very cool cassette with nine songs, volume, distortion, and feedback all the way up to red; it reminds me of the raw energy of Mexican or Colombian hardcore from the ’90s. This is just eighteen or so minutes of pure D-beat mayhem sometimes verging on noise punk. That guitar tone is pure filth. I can’t really understand the lyrics but vocalist Mike’s tone is all you need to really get it. We’re talking about pissed-off commentary on the current state of the American empire. You can also tell Mike has an incredible ability to generate a pit in a split second just with an “uggg!” Their violent cover of “You Tear Me Up” by the BUZZCOCKS is just awesome.

Step to Freedom 2014–2019 Discography cassette

Churning, metallic Russian metalcrust. Like a blast from the early 2000s, STEP TO FREEDOM bulldozes their way through seventeen pieces of pure guttural filth, combining two earlier releases. 2017’s Cemetery For The Humankind is a ripping speed metal dervish with MISERY lurches throughout, while 2014’s Social Zombies opts for a more streamlined AXEGRINDER approach. To have all of this mania on one tape is nothing short of a gift.

Stiff Richards Dig LP

Blistering post-hardcore from the pivotal Melbourne scene that borrows from ’77 punk, street curb rock, and failed rehab. A modern day, faster Aussie take on MCLUSKY or PISSED JEANS but with a touch of humor and the stamina to party harder. There’s double guitars and crazy tight drums/bass that don’t slow down, but it’s Wolfgang Buckley’s scratchy, screaming, near-breaking vocals that make you want to pound your fist or start dancing or just Iggy strut around your quarantine hole wishing you could see them live.

Suck Lords Songs the Lords Taught Us flexi EP

Adding their own unique recipe of menace and mania to classic HC styles, SUCK LORDS from Portland are real men of the cloth as far as I’m concerned. Their sound draws comparisons to early POISON IDEA as well as some of the nastiest Japanese hardcore bands of the 1980s without being redundant. The five songs on this flexi come in so fast and ferocious sometimes that it feels like the beat is almost tripping over itself. They’re also able to impressively switch from this insane tempo to a more relaxed and rockin’ pace on a dime. This is sacrilegious and psychedelic old-school action on overdrive, and I support it.

Targets Existence Is a Mess, I Cannot Escape demo cassette

What words come to mind after my first listen of this demo, you ask? Disturbed, psychotic, nightmarish, motherfucking insane, maybe? Yes, all of those words do come to mind, but don’t let it scare you. This is the psychotic nightmare of a tape we’ve all been waiting for. Something that appeals to the GG ALLIN inside us all. The soundtrack to your bad acid trip. The tape you play to get pumped up for your satanic baptism. It puts you in an existential mood and inspires you to read a book about death. Wrapped in a lo-fi jumble of noisy guitars and distorted vocals, the demo quality only adds to the crusty vibe of the tape. Overall, it’s some of Denver’s finest hardcore. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys.

The Blips The Blips CD

A garage rock/pop supergroup of sorts—or so the one sheet claims. A bunch of pop punk singer/songwriters and multi-instrumentalists who have played and toured in a bunch of bands come together to write this debut effort, sharing instruments, and lead and backing vocal duties. It does sound pretty coherent, and definitely mining the vein of the ’60s-era garage Nuggets, and ’70s guitar garage pop à la FLAMIN’ GROOVIES. Definitely more driving pop than fuzz, which is absolutely fine by me.

The Cheap Cassettes See Her in Action! CD

When I first put the needle to the record, I wasn’t sure about this one. It seemed like it was a little too much indie rock and not quite enough punk or pop. But you’ve got to keep an open mind, man. Relax. It doesn’t take real long to kick into some serious power pop. There are a number of bands that have remained close to the punk/underground scene while enjoying some commercial success. I could see these guys fitting into that category. It’s bits and pieces of rock’n’roll, punk, power pop, college rock, and even Americana delivered with an irresistible catchiness. It might not be cool enough for some folks, but it strikes me as genuine and that carries some weight. (And of course, it’s a CD, not a “record.”)

The Cowboy Swimming With the Fishies EP

Cleveland noise punk band featuring members of HOMOSTUPIDS, PLEASURE LEFTISTS, FOLDED SHIRT, and more. This three-song EP was a stop-gap release between their 2017 debut on Fashionable Idiots and their 2020 LP on Feel It. The two tracks on the A-side run by quickly and sound like FLIPPER meets WATERY LOVE, while the B-side sounds more like an avant-garde take on post-hardcore. I think this stuff works better in album form. Still, this EP is solid. If you’ve liked any of their other stuff, you’ll like this. If you haven’t checked out any of their other stuff, this might be a good place to start—it’s pretty representative of their sound.

The Diapers Diaper Full of Love CD

I’ve often used the “dad” term as a derogatory cut-down for the endless aged punker dribble unleashed on me monthly, but it is actually the truth on this one. Self-described as a punk band for kids that wears diapers on their heads and has a baby for a lead singer (no, it’s not the new DWARVES album), they play a cutesy kid/parent-friendly combination of the RAMONES and CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN that’s fairly tolerable. You get songs like “Under My Bed” and “ABC’s and 123’s” to meld along with your favorite Sesame Street jams. I am in no way encouraging procreation, but if you’ve already made such a mistake, you could do a lot worse than picking up this CD. All the money goes to support kids at the border, so skip the organic baby slop for a month and pick this up instead.

The Fall Live at St. Helens Technical College, 1981 LP+7″

Even as an unabashed FALL obsessive, I’ve had significantly tempered expectations and legitimate hesitancy when it comes to some of the more recent additions to the band’s already sprawling discography—have y’all seen the cover art for that Bingo Masters at the Witch Trials live LP that came out a few years ago? But fret not, because this live album (yes, yet another one) is actually golden; an impressively sharp soundboard recording of the group in full Slates-era glory, with one world-beating classic after another preserved in the amber of audio tape. “Prole Art Threat” is absolutely withering here, with that raw, unyielding paranoid rhythm in complete service to Mark’s rapid-fire rantings, to say nothing of the blazing run through “Rowche Rumble” that barely clings to the rails, or the off-kilter rockabilly-from-hell delirium of “Fit and Working Again,” or the extra-frantic bashing given to “City Hobgoblins”…just a completely unreal set from the band to end all bands, at a point in time that was arguably their creative peak (although they honestly had a few of those). And the design work is even non-embarrassing, you can truly have it all!

The Gordons The Gordons LP + Future Shock EP reissue

The twin gold-standards of ’80s Kiwi DIY, newly reissued and made accessible once again (as they should forever be). Christchurch’s GORDONS laid down a fully-formed statement of intent on their debut, 1980’s three-song Future Shock EP, with flares of white heat intensity sparking against an unyielding mechanical grind—plenty bleak and austere in a post-JOY DIVISION trajectory, but always fully visceral. The title track is a nearly five-minute pressure burst of jagged, lacerating guitar and increasingly desperate vocals, like MISSION OF BURMA in total panic overdrive, with “Adults and Children” taking the insistent rhythmic jabbing of UK post-punk acts like GANG OF FOUR to its harshest (and loudest) extreme. That caustic sheet-metal clang stretched and sprawled into some extended drones for the GORDONS’ self-titled 1981 LP, existing in the liminal space between the cold, foreboding soundscapes of WIRE’s 154 and GLENN BRANCA’s guitar-driven No Wave wall-of-sound, to eventually be followed by SONIC YOUTH’s own reinvention of the latter. Both the EP and LP were originally self-released by the band, but given a wider re-release (for the first, and until now, only time) by Flying Nun back in 1988, and the significance of that retroactive endorsement by the most influential of labels in the NZ underground is major—this is about as far as you can get from common conceptions of the “Flying Nun sound,” and the GORDONS will absolutely dismantle any mental hierarchies of such that you might have already formed.

The John Buxton Experience Portal to Heck 12″

The JOHN BUXTON EXPERIENCE is a one-man band from Wisconsin, and I bet this is the first time anyone has ever typed that name out in all caps. I kid—this guy has chops and writes some intricate shit in addition to being proficient at both guitars and drums. The vocals here remind me of M.O.T.O. a bit, and the music ranges from straight hardcore (“A Disastrous Introduction”) to rock epics (“Pillar of Salt”), to weirdness like “Goin’ Mad,” which seems to channel both KING DIAMOND and M.O.D. at different points. Despite the eccentricity of the songs, he manages to pull together a rather tight sound. In fact, you might never guess this was all just one guy if I didn’t tell you. Try it on a friend. Or don’t. Either way, something tells me we haven’t heard the last of JOHN BUXTON.

The Maharajas Don’t Call My Name EP

Wow. Right off the bat, I’m intrigued. This sounds like some serious ’60s surf ballad stuff, like maybe it’s some sort of Nuggets/Back from the Grave-type thing. But the band members’ names (Lilja, Lindberg, Guttormsen, Karlsson) all look very Scandinavian, which makes me think it’s new. (Also, if you believe the “tags”, they’re from Bergen, Norway, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.) The Scandinavians are very talented at creating a sound. It’s like they all have degrees in Rock Music History. Musically, it’s measured, meaning it’s very deliberate, almost purposefully just a tad slower than you might expect, which creates a somberness that permeates the whole record. The B-side, it seems, is two covers. I’m going to wear this one out.

The Normal Ambition 1982–1985 cassette

More rescued dispatches from the margins of ’80s Kiwi post-punk: the NORMAL AMBITION was an Auckland-based quartet who released two cassettes on cult NZ label Industrial Tapes (run by Paul Luker of the great PHANTOM FORTH), now both compiled here in their entirety along with a pair of unreleased demos from 1982. The five tracks from 1983’s Watch It There could have been the product of an Oceanic outpost of Postcard Records—sneaky, dark pop given snap from taut GANG OF FOUR-ish bass lines, more conceptually aligned with JOSEF K and ORANGE JUICE than any kind of Flying Nun jangle—while the eight-song The Unanimous Notorious cassette from 1984 stalks some vaguely CHAMELEONS/SOUND-type shadows but in a much more lo-fi context, with drama-tinged vocals, foreboding keyboard flourishes, and starker, drawn-out rhythms; the two demo tracks (the urgent, acute-angle tension of “Seclusion” and new wave gloom of “Under the Blanket”) might actually top most of the material from those proper releases. The NORMAL AMBITION won’t be displacing, say, NOCTURNAL PROJECTIONS or the GORDONS from the top of New Zealand’s post-punk food chain anytime soon, but if your interests fall along that particular continuum, this collection should still be an interesting dig into a relatively underexplored corner.

Big Hog / The Resource Network split EP

Indianapolis punks BIG HOG and the RESOURCE NETWORK team up for a noisy split worth your time. BIG HOG starts their side with math-y guitar lines and a bouncing bass sound with LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS-style vocals on top. They would have been at home on Load Records with short capsules of frenzied hardcore skronk, giving me some ARAB ON RADAR vibes with the dial turned more to hardcore than noise rock. There is quite a bit of guitar/bass interplay going on under the snotty hollering with an occasional laser gun noise blast that gives these songs an unpredictable and good weird quality. The RESOURCE NETWORK’S side is not quite as frantic, but it’s definitely interesting, too. These three tunes blend elements of hardcore and new wave with anti-consumerist lyrics that sound like spoken poetry in the verses. “Artificial Flavors” sounds like URANIUM CLUB with the spoken vocals over busy, tinny guitar lines and clean bass. The final track has more of a traditional American hardcore sound like mid-era HÜSKER DÜ with busy bass and guitar work and an anthemic refrain. Check this split out for two cool bands doing their thing confidently.

The Tenderfeet Black Winds / Hold Back the Sunrise 7”

This is Volume Two in the “Moody Garage” series. That’s an understatement. Two cover songs that tell harrowing tales of broken hearts. The music is mellow and beautiful, but the lyrics are extra dark. The chorus to “Black Winds” includes “Oh lord, let me die.” “Hold Back the Sunrise” includes the line “Don’t let it shine for me.” If you enjoy pretty garage rock with extra downer lyrics, this record is for you. It’s definitely for me.

Albert DeMuth / Thot Audit split cassette

A split cassette with some of the most gorgeous packaging I have ever seen on a cassette release. We’ve got a four-color screen-printed O-card (with a single print on the inside of it even though it is glued shut), a two-color screen-printed insert, two-color screen-printed labels on each side of the cassette, and it all comes in a two-color screen-printed (inside and out) folding chipboard slipcase. It looks absolutely amazing and I very much applaud the amount of work that went into this. Now onto the music. It took me a few listens to fully understand what was going on with this tape. The two projects featured here both had members of the NY-based band COTTAGING. ALBERT DEMUTH is a solo musician who plays slow and meandering minimalist music with lackadaisical poetic lyrics delivered in a lazy LOU REED kind of way. THOT AUDIT, on the other hand, plays more driving, artsy, indie-based rock music with some mathy, all-over-the-place kinda riffs jangling away throughout their side of the tape. Some cool post-punk/gothy moments shine through at times. All in all, a very cool-looking and sounding release once I spent the time to get past my initial confusion.

Toeheads Animal House cassette

TOEHEADS are an angst-filled Detroit band. There’s lots of screaming and jerky rhythms and anxiety-inducing beats. But they also have a lo-fi garage rock undertone. “Graveyard Walk” reminds me so much of CHEATER SLICKS. This would be perfect if I was still driving my dad’s ’80s Pontiac that had that great cassette deck in 2001. The sound reminds me of the perceived freedom of my youth. Give me more.

Toro Bravo Mes Tokia Karta CD

TORO BRAVO ramps things up real high and never lets up, cranking out superb, high-energy Oi! from start to finish. These six cuts are wildly catchy, but not once do I feel them fall into any of the typical “melodic punk” traps—instead, they use cold, sharp, Eastern European sounds to stamp their take on classic UK punk…and lots of hard-ass rock’n’roll. STRASSENJUNGS and ROSE TATTOO and COCKNEY REJECTS come to mind and fuck, this is so damn good.

Tums Old Perverts and Horse Fuckers cassette

Fun tape from Chicago hardcore weirdos TUMS. These eleven tracks are bookended by what I can only describe as punk vaudeville routines, opening with grandma one-liners over a Casio beat and ending with “Yer Auntie Grizelda,” which sounds like a punk band covering an elementary school sing-along. It’s an odd frame that holds in the unexpected raging hardcore of the rest of the songs. The main tunes are short, lo-fi hardcore basement bangers with an emphasis on fun. These energetic bursts have sung, melodic vocals over the musical aggression that are really catchy (almost sing-songy in parts) despite sounding so raw upon first listen. From what I can tell without lyrics, the content is pretty light on the seriousness scale with songs about girls’ trips, beaches, and drugs (the track “TAQN” stands for “Take a Quaalude Now”). It’s telling that the angriest song centers its rage on a certain video-streaming app (“HBO GO”). Listening to this is like overhearing inside jokes among friends that are frequently pretty funny, even if you don’t fully get the context. I’m here for it—this type of lighthearted hardcore is a welcome break during these dark times.

TVO Alive! EP

Really great mutant swamp rock out of Philly. Post-it punk in theory reminding me of a fucked and angst-ridden SCIENTISTS, FALL, VENOM P. STINGER, SWELL MAPS, or more recently FREAK VIBE. “Watchlist” will eat you for lunch. Bad drugs for bad times. Kick me.

Twin Guns Black Moon in Woodstock Live cassette

Another live cassette on Primitive Screwhead, the Big Neck Records live cassette subsidiary label. TWIN GUNS play some sort of amalgamation of rockabilly, garage-y rock’n’roll, and psychedelia, with a bit of surf influences peppered in there, too. This live tape is somewhat amusing due to the few people that keep talking obnoxiously close to wherever the mic was set up, so you get occasional snippets of conversation coming through louder than the band. A fun new tape label that has me intrigued as to what will be cranked out on it next.

Twisted Thing Sacred Cement EP

The ladies in TWISTED THING stir up an enchanting and chaotic buzz on their pounding sophomore EP. Displaying a new level of maturity compared to their excellent debut cassette from 2018, the songs on this 7” are sophisticated and unforgiving. There’s some aspects to the sound that makes the record sound like it could have come out on a label like Sub Pop in the ’90s, but nah, maybe it’s a little too cool for that. They could probably play a great show with TANTRUM and maybe a couple of other bands in the city with similar dark and compelling auras. This is another strong entry in what seems to be a powerful new surge of female energy building in the NYC punk scenes, and I look forward to seeing how this particular plot thickens.

Unit X War on Self, War on Everything cassette

UNIT X gets straight to the point and continues reinforcing that point (forcefully) for ten minutes. Then you can breathe. Gnarly SXE hardcore from London, Ontario—killer breakdowns and no tracks over 90 seconds, but the lyrics go way deeper than the traditional ‘core fare. This is the kind of “posi” I’m after these days—realistic, honest, and not always positive: “All that I am, all that I said / The years pass by, but still I feel it’s a lifetime of regret / All that I’ve seen, all that I’ve done / I keep pushing forward, past the memories of when I was wrong.”

V/A Paper Doll: The Very Best of Sister Tiffany Lee Linnes cassette

This is a great collection. It is an assortment of songs from Linnes’ bands the STUCK UPS, ROYAL PAINS, the BUFFETS, the PAPER DOLLS, and the KILLER-DILLERS. Each one is a rollicking, garage rocking fun time. Linnes’ vocals are full of life, high-pitched and powerful. She’s my favorite kind of singer. You just want to sing along. Humorously, the STUCK UPS’ “Suicide” from their debut LP suggests drinking bleach. Hello 2020 from 2001!

V/A The Dog That Wouldn’t Die CD

A fascinating look into the worldwide punk underground circa 1986, this compilation was originally released as a 90-minute tape that came with a 32-page zine. Now, a resurgent C.I.A. Records has slapped this sucker onto a CD so that you, dear reader, can relive the glory days of MRR-classifieds-sourced comps. While most of the artists involved come from C.I.A.’s native Texas, there is a wide-range of sounds and ideas spread across The Dog That Wouldn’t Die. Hardcore punk, trashy rock’n’roll, and raw, lo-tech sample collages all find a place on this canvas. As for “big names,” not sure that these qualify but someone out there will thrill to hearing PAIN TEENS, MYDOLLS, THREE DAY STUBBLE, CULTURCIDE (who contribute the epic “Atomic Bomb”), and even FRED LANE. ANDERSON COUNCIL gives us the mellowest SEX PISTOLS cover ever with their acoustic “Apathy In The USA.” PARTY OWLS live up to their name with the lunkheaded punk of “Check Your Dick For Spots,” while PROBLEMIST takes a noisy deep dive into “Reagan’s Colon.” SOLID WASTE DIVISION throws down a cool sax-laden grinder that is followed by NAKED AMERICA’s spazztastic “Corporate Society.” Other highlights include MEAT & GLASS going off like HARRY PUSSY, POISON GAS RESEARCH unnerving feedback manipulations, and EKU’s bedroom rock concoction. The Dog That Wouldn’t Die is a time capsule that deserves a second look.

V/A Matado Por La Muerte Vol. 3 LP

I remember quite well the first time I listened to Matado Por La Muerte Vol. 1. I think it was 2008. It just felt like being hit in the face by a brick and just laughing about it while you bleed. It became an instant classic. This is the third volume (the second was released in 2015), with 21 exclusive tracks from eighteen Spanish-speaking bands. As always, the comp is full of gems and styles, all sharing the same iconoclast spirit. Here are some of the songs I enjoyed the best: CAMPAMENTO RUMANO’s PEGAMOIDES-meets-REZILLOS sound, the lo-fi fun of FINALE, the fury of Mexico’s CREMALLERAS, Peru’s MORBO’s street knowledge, Spanish SATÉLITE’s gothic notes on modern life, and the anthemic “España Me Pertenece” from TENDIDO CERO. This a really good introduction to current Spanish-speaking punk, hardcore, and post-punk if you’re interested in getting into it.

V/A Kaosa Euskal Herrian 2xLP

Taking inspiration from the classique Chaos En France series, this compilation of some of the leading lights in the incredibly healthy Basque Oi! and punk scene is a genuine joy to explore. Sung mostly in Euskara with a few potted exceptions, it’s a truly unique document of a clearly vibrant and overlooked community. Some of the names such as CUERO and REVERTT may be familiar to those of you who, like me, think the sun shines out of the fantastic Mendeku Diskak’s arse, but perhaps the most rewarding part is uncovering some of the lesser-known bands, too. BLESSURE has the speed and sneer of RIXE, whereas TEARS & BEERS can craft an ale-spilling chorus to rival BATTLE RUINS any day of the week. It’s not all boots and braces for any of you long-haired scruffs out there, though; GADAFISTE BROTHERS are pure bubblegum RAMONES-worship power pop as well. Extremely worth your time!

V/A Fear Of Noise: 2020 Compilation cassette

Fear Of Noise was released for (or, instead of) the San Diego gathering of the same name, and it’s a devastating collection of current West Coast DIY hardcore. FUTURA, THERAPY, SCREAMING FIST, ETERAZ, VIOLENCIA, AGONISTA, MEMBRANE, GRITOS…there’s no sense dissecting the comp because literally every fucking track bangs and every one of these bands is on point. But of all of the things I’ve listened to in the last year, of all of the records and tapes I’ve reviewed in the last year, nothing has made me miss live hardcore more than hearing Oakland’s PROVOKE open this comp with “Basura.” Period.

V/A Asiztyt: Korrupted Beggar cassette

Another installment of a four-way split cassette on a 30-minute tape from Philippines-based label Prevail Records. The release self-identifies as “Cyber D-beat Crust Rumble,” and who am I to argue with that description? This time up we have DYSTOPIATE, who are a real nasty, crusty, black metal type of band. DESASTYR, who was also on the previous one of these comps I had heard, with more of their noise/No Wave weirdness. DISGARCHE, who are the most straightforward band on the comp, playing nasty crust punk. And finally, TERMINATOR1, who seems to be based in Hungary and is real nasty, lo-fi, sloppy crust punk. Same as the last volume, a tape run of 35 copies with little to no internet presence. If this is up your alley, act quickly!

Vitamin Recordings 1981 LP

Genuinely out there art-punk from early ’80s Boston, one of the most underrated of all localized scenes for such things (go chase that Propeller Product discography!). VITAMIN was started by a fourteen-year old vocalist/guitarist and a barely-older teenage friend, eventually to be joined by a few actual adults—an art school-grad violinist who had spent time in the equally off-kilter GIRLS, and a drummer recently transplanted from San Francisco’s own formidable weirdo underground. Recordings 1981 collects the group’s four-song demo and a slew of live tracks captured that year at two different Boston clubs, and while the roughed-up soundboard material (including several songs that don’t overlap with the demo) is definitely interesting from an archival perspective, it’s still deeply disappointing that VITAMIN never really managed any kind of proper recorded output before they splintered. That historical wrong is made especially apparent in the total shambolic genius of the demo tracks, with nerd-sneer vocals, warbling violin scratch, and tangled rhythms all presented in crystal clear audio, fitting right into a turn-of-the-eighties international constellation of like-minded oddball post-punks spanning from TACTICS in Australia (think of “French Fries” as New England’s response to “Watch My Hands”) to UJ3RK5 in Canada. Beyond cool.

Warm Exit Sonny Cynar EP

Four tracks of synth-fueled punk rock pop that harkens the weirdness of early B-52’S with the angular-ness of GANG OF FOUR. It also has that current knowledge and feeling that “everything might fall apart at any moment” that one gets from NO AGE. Hoping they put out a full-length at some point. During my own travels and playing shows, I have often visited Rockerill in Charleroi, Belgium on European tours. Rockerill is that kind of place, not infrequent in Europe, where a huge industrial factory is tuned into a true DIY art/music/cultural center hosting art events and punk shows, and also, as it turns out, a recording studio and record label where this album was made.

Zhukov EP II cassette

New Zealand fucking rules, doesn’t it? I present to you the latest in a long lineage of NZ punk winners: ZHUKOV. Playing garage-y hardcore tunes with grooving guitars and exasperated growls for vocals, this band gets your head bobbin’ to an authentic and original sound. With a blunt anti-establishment motif that’s illustrated quite vividly on the album art as well as in the songs, these Christchurch lads urge you to “Join the Brick Throwers’ Union Today,” and I’ve already submitted my application.