Reviews

MRR #456 • May 2021

A Burning Bus A Burning Bus LP

A somewhat new project from punk-blues band BASSHOLES’ frontman Don Howland, A BURNING BUS released a few singles earlier in the decade but have just now got around to releasing their debut full-length. This LP is most definitely the noisiest and most lo-fi release in Howland’s discography. Really gritty and abrasive blues guitars are pushed even further by a tight bass and drum duo. Reminiscent of bands like the GORIES or THEE HEADCOATS, possibly even early WHITE STRIPES and BLACK KEYS. Released on the legendary In the Red Records, this is a record worth your time if you like your garage rock wild and loose.

Academy Order To Wilt Without Shame cassette

ACADEMY ORDER is a band from the Philadelphia area, formed in 2021. It features current and former members of DRILL SERGEANT, FIXATION, STUD COUNT, and FLUORIDE. This is their debut, six songs of deathrock with some prominent synth work. Think Southern California staples like 45 GRAVE or the mighty TSOL with a great dose of SKINNY PUPPY-esque synths. My fave track is “Slice of Life,” a song with just the right amount of darkness and abandonment to dance the night away. I think the tape is sold out, but you can buy the digital version or ask for another run of tapes directly to the band. It’s worth it.

Afterboltxebike No Pasaran cassette

Mexican communist antifascist street punks…activate! Eight doses of mid-paced, tough-as-nails Oi! from Monterrey that implore the listener to think, to read, to learn. The music is no-frills, full of starter hooks, and it often lumbers more than it rages—allowing space for the lyrics to sink in so you can sing every chorus with them with a clenched fist. And it’s easy to get on the side of a chorus that chants “300 Nazis died…I forgive none.”

Alement Onward EP

ALEMENT is a crust band from Philly with a hideously dark guitar tone, trashy riffs, raspy vocals, fun solos, and furious tempos. Think AXEGRINDER, AMEBIX, and the like. Just three songs on this EP from last year, but you can expect a hell of a ride. “Sea of Consequence” starts with a full trash assault, reminiscent of ENGLISH DOGS in its most violently-induced slam riffery. “Dwell” develops with even more metal-sounding riffs, with some cool mid-tempo choruses and gigantic breakdown worthy of a wall of death. “Onward” ends the EP in a darker tone. It begins with a drone-y and doomy intro, followed by an amazing demonstration of killer after killer riff and epic solos, a real tour de force.

Alien Nosejob HC45-2 EP

Australia’s ALIEN NOSEJOB gives us a quick dose of freaky hardcore with this collection of six rippers in eight minutes. Check out the cover art for a visual preview of what’s inside: colorful gore delivered via box-cutter surgery. Egg-punks, but real ones. Blood everywhere. Likewise, these short bursts of hardcore frenzy have a lot of moving parts and seem to be on the edge of breaking apart at any second. But they don’t, and that’s the exciting thing. These tracks have a lot of USHC influence like early BLACK FLAG, CIRCLE JERKS, etc., but with added trebly guitar fills and near-constant drum rolls that reveal hidden complexities upon further listening. Listen to this and enjoy a modern take on the classic hardcore blueprint: very fast, snotty, and great.

Ammoniia Demo 1 cassette

While I freely admit that they almost lost me with the new school guitar mosh that closes the opening track, these Michiganders launch right into the devastating mid-paced slammer “Recalcitrant” and I’m back on board. AMMONIIA does an excellent job of harnessing late ’90s USHC’s discordant ferocity and injecting it into the stylish modern stomp, effectively creating something akin to the first couple of LARD records and/or mid-era SNAPCASE on mescaline. Likely these results are accidental, but I truly want to believe that someone set out to start a band that sounds like mid-era SNAPCASE on mescaline.

B.S.B. The End is Near EP

These guys from Poland are all riled up, playing thrashing and pounding hardcore with gang vocal choruses and some howling guitar thrown in. There’s nothing here that strikes me as particularly memorable, but it goes down smooth. Easy listening for hard-asses.

Beebe Gallini Pandemos CD

The first full-length (comprised of demos recorded just before the pandemic—hence the title, get it!?) from this girl group/garage band from the Twin Cities. The main players have been around for decades, and it shows in the easy confidence of these rockin’ originals (and some tasty nuggets covered). Power pop straight out of the garage (albeit must be a well heated one in those environs), replete with riffs, harmonies, and boppin’ beats a-plenty.

Bib Delux LP

If “weird guy hardcore” is your thing, this record will leave you drooling for more. Sometimes slow and primitive, sometimes fast and relentless, always snotty and ugly. Heavily delayed vocals on top of primitive hardcore like UNITED MUTATIONS, with some stranger moments of experimentation that could be on a NO TREND record. The obvious sound reference would be GAG as they use the same tropes, but BIB manages to be less “weird.” Overall a fun record for those gruelling days that you want to switch your mind off for some minutes.

Brux Guerra Mental cassette

Mate. In four short tracks, BRUX has created one of the releases of the year. Pairing PMS 84-style UK82 chaos in parts, with SYNDROME 81 skeletal post-punk and a hint of Second Empire Justice BLITZ overdriven claustrophobia in others. There’s also some good-time skinhead rock’n’roll baby, courtesy of a few taut RIXE-style bangers replete with swaggering riffs that the sainted LOBBY LOYDE would be proud to have in his tight, denim-clad back pocket. All tied together with some ferocious vocals that assault the senses like prime-era ARMS RACE. Belting.

Bumbo’s Tinto Brass Band Cosmic Butter EP

When I get a review assignment for a release by a band I’m unfamiliar with, I try to go into my  first listen context-free to avoid bringing any bias I may have about members’ past projects.That was not the best approach with these guys. Had I done a little research, I might have been able to brace myself for the wild-ass din that blasted out my headphones as soon as I put on the Cosmic Butter EP. BUMBO’S TINTO BRASS BAND is centered around Detroit-area bass player Brian “Bumbo” Krawczyk, whom you may know from noisy art-punk bands PIRANHAS or DRUID PERFUME. As raw and experimental as those bands were, BUMBO’S TINTO BRASS BAND makes them feel straightforward by comparison. Most of the seven tracks on this EP (one of which is a cover of a RESIDENTS song) sound like at least two songs being played at once—one by a PREENING-like, sax-heavy No Wave band, and one by a smooth, STEREOLAB-y modular synth, avant-pop band. These guys are here to freak squares the fuck out! I appreciate that BUMBO’S TINTO BRASS BAND is out there making palatable yet genuinely experimental music in a time when a lot of other bands are content to rehash shit we’ve already heard. But I’m also like 80% square, so,  while I dug a few songs, getting through the rest felt like a chore.

 

Carthiefschool Carthiefschool CD

Hailing from Sapporo, Japan, CARTHIEFSCHOOL delivers a unique blend of jazz, math rock, and screaming post-hardcore on their debut LP. The band’s three members immediately sound like technically adept musicians on the first track, with syncopated hi-hat rhythms and silky smooth bass lines. Vocalist/guitarist Tomoya alternates between a spoken vocal delivery style and a throat-shredding raw holler, sometimes changing back and forth on a dime. Their approach to music reminds me some of RUINS, in that jazz instrumentation and musical vocabulary is used to explore more traditionally aggressive genres. However, where that band creates cacophonous prog-noise, CARTHIEFSCHOOL mainly adheres to post-hardcore with occasional forays into noodly experimental territory. I prefer when the band goes full-tilt aggro, such as on opening track “蜜柑 (Mikan)” and “油 (Abura).” The shift from jazz fusion to raging hardcore is awesome. My only critique is that these moments are not incredibly plentiful. Many of the tracks stay in the jazz-rock lane, although they are definitely interesting in their own right. There is a playful musicality to many of these songs, like on “House” when the band plays through what is called in classical music circles, “the Tetris theme song.” The musicianship and willingness to experiment is admirable and worth checking out if you like a little jazz with your punk.

Char-Man Power of the Night LP

These self-proclaimed legends of Ojai punk (since 2003?!) feature Zarayn from LECHEROUS GAZE and his brother, along with Tony Melino from ANNIHILATION TIME. While being a much more restrained affair than the previously mentioned combos, this rocks in a good-time warm fuzzy way, like an Andy Shernoff-sung DICTATORS tune or the UNDERTONES. There are rougher moments like “War World,” but mostly this is all smiles and lukewarm cans of beer, and really, that’s not such a bad thing at all these days. Pick it up.

Children of God Pain Clings Cruelly to Us EP

CHILDREN OF GOD build on past efforts to create one colossally epic track, presented as repetitive movements and separated by morosely quiet interludes. While the NEUROSIS comparison is perhaps more blatant here than on some of their output, especially when the final section kicks in at the five-minute mark, the foundation here is still an amalgamation of metallic hardcore and screamo…which makes the bludgeoning all the more poignant and makes simple comparisons feel especially lazy. These folks are on their own trip, and they are evolving (check the ferocity of the recent demo recording for reference). One seven-minute track slapped on one-sided wax with a Rorschach (test, not the band) screen on the flip. Worth it.

Children With Dog Feet Curb Your Anarchy cassette

For those who think that deathrock has been on the down-low lately, here is the living (or undead?!?) proof in the form of Curb Your Anarchy from the Nuke York nightwalkers CHILDREN WITH DOG FEET. Equal parts goth and punk, this debut features four nightmarish tracks of spooky deathrock with a decadent punkier edge, creating a frenzy of RUDIMENTARY PENI-infused CHRISTIAN DEATH. Released by Toxic State, a label that always has its finger on the pulse of what is new in punk, and featuring members of ANASAZI, BLU ANXXIETY, and EXTENDED HELL. What could go wrong with this mix? This is for the night children, ghouls and fiends.

Christopher Alan Durham Peacetime Consumer 7”

This is my kind of weirdo rock. The two songs on this 7” are in different styles. The A-side “Gratoit Crawl” is a mad, drug-induced sounding jam. It’s all over the place, noisy and lo-fi. I want to just play it again and again. The B-side “50’s House Blues” is a more straightforward bluesy garage rocker. It repeatedly mentions potato vodka which makes me giggle and also has the great line “I’m as useless as can be.” CHRISTOPHER ALAN DURHAM is from outside of Detroit and is formerly of ROACHCLIP and the BIBS. Cool stuff.

Chunx Crawl cassette

Heavy, anthemic melodic punk rock. CHUNX sound fine-tuned and ready for action; file alongside acts like PLANES MISTAKEN FOR STARS or a slightly more metallic WESTERN ADDICTION, but with gruffer vocals and a youthful (youth-filled?) approach to the genre.

Chuzpe Terror in Klein Babylon LP

A compilation of demos and unreleased recordings from early Austrian punk group CHUZPE, this LP is a lasting document of old school punk in Europe. For being made up of mostly demos, the record is surprisingly high-quality. The tracks sound full and developed, but still rough enough to sound reminiscent of other late ’70s punk. If you’re looking for something to be nostalgic for then look no further. This is about as good as it gets when we’re talking about found recordings compilations.

Cliquey Bitches Scorpio Scorpio 12”

This synth-pop supergroup features Alice Bag, Allison Wolfe, and Seth Bogart, three seasoned musicmakers collaborating to create pared-down, catchy pop anthems that rarely pass the two-minute mark, and will be cycling through your head for days to come. Fans of BRATMOBILE and GRAVY TRAIN!!!! will likely dig CLIQUEY BITCHES—the fingerprints of Seth and Allison are all over this thing, with the genius addition of Alice Bag on keys and backing vox. It’s the soundtrack to a spiked punch dance party, delivering inclusive messages, melodic group vocals, and a snare hit that doesn’t quit.

Buff / Cress Government Monster / Choose Your War split LP

Apparently CRESS is a functional project again, and they have picked up right where they left off from Monuments and the DOOM split in the late 1990s. Their brand of spaced-out anarcho-punk fills a modern void, and I feel like the songs on their side are simultaneously present and timeless…a sound that is simultaneously familiar and inspirational (or maybe one because of the other). I listened to the CRESS side three times in a row, I confess that I was prepared to be disappointed by the flip and didn’t even want to turn the record over (but I have a job to do)…BUFF blew me away. Epic UK space-crust along the lines of IOWASKA or MUCKSPREADER, blatant HAWKWIND homages driven by electronic manipulations, later SUBHUMANS drawn-out reggae/dub interludes…and they have no problem delivering chaotic crust detonations. Far from a scattershot collection of sounds, Manchester’s BUFF treats their side of the split like a journey, and the listener is invited to join. I feel like I reacquainted with an old friend and I made a new one—absolutely brilliant split release.

Cyanide Cyanide cassette

This short EP comes directly from Tel Aviv. I have no clue about the Israeli punk scene, so it was really fun to listen to CYANIDE and their take on street punk. This is teenage angst in its purest form, nine songs played with earnest intensity by a bunch of teens with some kinship for BLITZ or the Killed By Death bands. It’s a blast. There is a short doc about the band, their life, and surroundings while they get ready for the release of this EP. You can easily watch online, it’s called “Dreaming Tel Aviv.” You can get the EP as a beautifully designed tape released by A World Divided, a collaborative non-profit label that promotes Mediterranean punk from places like Tunisia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, and more. You should check out their entire catalog.

Dark Web Decoy LP

It seems like whenever I discover a new punk record that’s exciting and innovative it happens to come from Philadelphia. This record is no exception. Extremely tight and punchy riffs and fast off-kilter grooves make this LP a totally fun way to spend 25 minutes. Mastered by Mikey Young of TOTAL CONTROL, you can hear the influence of Young’s jaded style of synth punk around the record. The vocals are sarcastic, almost taunting the listener. Spitting attitude, this is a release you don’t want to miss!

Data Unknown Promo cassette

Excellent rehash of classic synthwave—the kind that was born out of a background in industrial experimentation—and punk. But especially punk. DATA UNKNOWN leans heavily on the drums (not just the “beats,” per se, but the drums…even if they’re programmed). Electronic freak-outs with shouted choruses, think CHRISTIAN LUNCH by way of TUBEWAY ARMY…or imagine early punks turning primitive classics like HUMAN LEAGUE’s “Being Boiled” into infectious, danceable punk slogs. All of the sounds feel old, but DATA UNKNOWN is the freshest thing I’ve heard in ages.

Data Unknown Data Unknown cassette

As you might guess, not a lot of information is available for a band called DATA UNKNOWN. This is some pretty wild stuff, tho. Indianapolis, IN-based lo-fi drum machine-driven weirdo punk/new wave/noise/synth kookiness, and it all somehow works really well together. Ten tracks, all sounding wildly different from one another. Not sure if the band is suggesting that they’ve “got it made in the shade like Ra,” the benevolent Egyptian god of the son, or “Like Ra,” the corrupt, powerful Goa’uld bent on destruction and world domination from the other side of the Stargate, but either way I am all in to take that journey and find out which.

Declaration What is the Reason for Tomorrow? cassette

This is the sold-out cassette from Singapore’s DECLARATION. The city-state’s punk scene is rife with incredible bands, including this one, formed by members of SIAL, DAILY RITUAL, LUBRICANT, PAZAHORA, C.L.A.W., the SCUDS, FALLEN WORLD, and VAARALLINEN. The album was recorded during lockdown and it sure shows. The paranoia and profound disbelief of watching the whole world paralized delivered in eleven songs of pure and raw D-beat, executed with vigor and respect for the DISCHARGE legacy. The guitar tone reminds me of Swedish D-beat, plus there’s some really cool riffs in songs like “What Is The Reason for Tomorrow?,” “Always Restricted,” and “Lifelong Subscription.” I urge you to keep checking out the Singaporean/Malaysian punk scene, it is full of delight.

Chörnobyl / Deny split EP

A double-trouble split from two Swedish bands that immerse themselves in the Swedish hardcore sound. First up is the veterans DENY, whom you might recognize from their Dystopia LP, mangeling since 1995 and delivering three solid, classic Swedish hardcore tracks in the good tradition of WOLFPACK. Then the newcomers CHÖRNOBYL, who share members with MYTERI, bring three more songs to the table with a darker DISFEAR approach. At the end of the day we have two bands, old and new, that celebrate one of the most recognizable sounds in hardcore history and further the Swedish D-beat tradition.

Disco Zombies South London Stinks 2xLP

The DISCO ZOMBIES were cult heroes of the late ’70s heyday of John Peel-backed UK punk, and like so many other Class of ’77 acts that actually survived to the dawn of the ’80s, their modus operandi gradually shifted from buzzsaw three-chord anthems to more offbeat and moodier post-punk strokes over the course of those few years. South London Stinks is essentially an expanded version of Acute Records’ Drums Over London anthology LP from 2011 (now out-of-print and not cheap)—you get the three 7”s that the DISCO ZOMBIES released during their original run and some scrapped recordings from that same era, with the addition of a handful of songs recorded when the band was later rekindled in our current millennium, all chronologically sequenced for a tidy linear narrative. “Top of the Pops” and “Disco Zombies” from 1979’s The Invisible EP  have all of the melodic velocity and acerbic, tongue-in-cheek humor of the BUZZCOCKS at their prime, and there’s a whole set of outtakes like “The Year of the Sex Olympics” and “Greenland” exhibiting the sort of fractured avant-pop smarts that made UK DIY darlings of the HOMOSEXUALS and SWELL MAPS, but things really get interesting with the arrival of a primitive drum machine in 1980, guiding the DISCO ZOMBIES to sparse art-punk glory with “Mary Millington” and “Here Comes the Buts”—think a more sardonic, Messthetics-ready take on WIRE circa 154. Worth shaking off any lingering archival punk fatigue if you missed this the first go-round.

Disorder Perdition 12″ reissue

UK, 1982, what a special time for punk! Similar to many contemporary acts, DISORDER was traveling uncharted territories within punk. The Perdition EP single-handedly created a template for many of the noisier punk bands to come. Tracks like “Life”, that appears in the now legendary UK punk documentary UK/DK from 1983, became anthems in their own right, and “Remembrance Day” showed that DISORDER was also able to handle the more dark post-punk sound. This fine reissue by Puke n Vomit of the legendary EP includes a 24″x24″ poster. Heavily distorted and more metallic, this EP is a must have for any fan of the UK82 stuff.

Dollhouse The First Day of Spring EP

I had the good fortune of reviewing this New York City hardcore band’s self-titled demo a few months back, and this debut 7” picks right up where that excellent release left off. This is a great band. Raw, ripping punk with personal, vulnerable lyrics about mental health and abuse; heavy in both delivery and concept. First track “The Shadow Baby” was on the demo, but this version has rougher vocals and a killer riff that immediately creeps into your brain and nestles in. “This is Heaven” starts with a fast, dense vocal delivery that is spoken at first and then screamed. Like much of DOLLHOUSE’s lyrical content, the words are a candid and unsettling description of self-harm and sexual abuse. The song ends with “I was destined for fame at such a young age / But it was taken away by some pervert / And no one knows what really happened / I can’t remember a thing before eleven / This is heaven.” That is some heavy shit. The writing on this record comes across as someone grappling with trauma rather than just being shocking or exploitative, which cannot be an easy thing to do. Earnestness to this degree without some obfuscation of meaning or the distance of irony is rare and moving. “Die So Pretty” is a raw punk rager that has some references to angels, another repeated symbol on this and the previous release. “The First Day of Spring” is surprising for ending with acoustic guitar strumming with the punk mayhem. Tremendous record if you are okay with the emotional heft. Highly, highly recommended.

DONORS Donors cassette

Heavy landscapes of noise interlace with layers of complex rhythm—a sound that makes one think of URANIUM CLUB, PRIESTS, and other modern punk outfits, merging eggy weirdness with the distorted noise of post-punk/early alternative scenes. But DONORS’ song structure doesn’t feel tied to the confines of a specific genre. A fierce individuality comes through in this cassette—a willingness to take chances creatively that makes for an exciting and dynamic listening experience. Hopefully they get to tour this around at some point, I’m sure their live shows are a full-body experience.

Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice Remember the Future? Vol. 1 EP

Solid EP from this group of Melbourne nerds. This four-song EP has two distinct sounds: two songs sound like DEVO-inspired new wave pop hits, and two sound like math-y post-punk jams. It doesn’t seem like they would fit together, but they do. “Super Speedy Zippy Whipper” has buzzing synths, call-and-response vocals, and slightly wacky lyrics that combine into a fun, breezy jammer. Third track “Stitch Up” has a similar energy with keyboard lines and background “la-la-la-las.” The other two songs sound like FUGAZI with David Byrne doing vocals. “Collapse” has some slightly atonal guitar work with a bobbing bass line, while “Temperature Talk” has intertwining guitars dueling skewered arpeggios. Combine these elements with the aforementioned vocal style, and you get an odd mix. Synth-laden egg-punk with minor key noodling seems like a terrible combination, like ketchup and gravy, but it sounds good here. The band has the songwriting and personality to pull it off. They sound like PARQUET COURTS in parts, but they are unique enough to stand on their own. Worth checking out!

Dragnet All Rise for Dragnet LP

I take it this group of Melbournians are naming themselves after the FALL record, as this fourteen-track LP has a vaguely post-punk vibe, and they’re certainly cribbing the vocal stylings of Mark E. Smith. They forgo that band’s ramshackle charm, though, opting instead for the more fashionable, easier to imitate robotic rhythms of URANIUM CLUB or fellow countrymen VINTAGE CROP (now that I think about it, this might even be the same singer from that band). Unfortunately, the most distinguishing aspect of this release is also its most annoying. Throughout the record, the band peppers in these little lo-fi electronic interludes that come off more twee than what I imagine they’re going for. It’s a shame because it really undercuts what would otherwise be a fine, if not particularly original, record. The good news is these folks seem fairly young, so I imagine they’ll get another crack. And tracks like “Wipe it Off” showed enough promise that I’ll be keen to tune back in when they do.

Drill Sergeant Vile Ebb LP

Echoey and cavernous hardcore from this Philly-based band. Vile Ebb is their debut LP for Denver’s Convulse Records, after 2020’s The Cosmic Leash demo. DRILL SERGEANT walks a line between vicious ’80s hardcore and just full powerviolence assault. The songs are short, dynamic, and almost dramatic in their take-no-prisoners approach. Hard to have a favorite song; all the songs come in a line of successive brutal blows to the head, giving you a really satisfying punchdrunk feeling. But I’ll give it a try. I really like “Real Evil,” which is part INFEST, part NEGATIVE APPROACH, and the closer song “Sense of Community,” with its sonic barbaric battle against your senses.

Dropdead Dropdead 1993 LP reissue

Holy unruliness. DROPDEAD sounds more ferocious than ever on this remastered reissue of their 1993 self-titled release. Bob Otis’s vocals are ripping through the speakers, the bass is a gruesome gritty meld of bounce and rhythm. The drums are absolutely pulverizing and the cymbals glimmer. I had a cassette of this around 1996 and I used to blast it driving around New Haven, around the first time I saw DROPDEAD at The Tune Inn, and their sincerity and raw power completely floored me. No mercy for my ears, only for all animals. It brings back very fond memories hearing this again. Compared only at the time to locals BOILING MAN, I found DROPDEAD so overwhelmingly passionate when I first heard them. Messages you could not ignore or not admit were real. If “Unjustified Murder” into “The Circle Complete” to “Clone” doesn’t move you to live responsibly, and you claim to exist in a scene that cares, I don’t know what will. Thirty-four tracks of ruthless, grinding hardcore assault. If you never had this, this is the version you need right now, for a time right now. Remastered by Brad Boatright, this is a total pummel-fest that has never sounded so full and heavy while retaining the unmistakable DROPDEAD savagery and intensity, if that is even possible.

Dumspell Dumspell LP

Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s DUMSPELL presents their unique brand of weirdo slacker punk for our listening pleasure. Well-versed in winding, dissonant guitar melodies and matter-of-fact vocal delivery, comparisons to VATS or NOTS come to mind. This is a no-filler record; every song feels as though it’s been crafted carefully, and explored fully. If this sounds up your alley, it probably is.

Dyatlov Wound Man / Barren Lands 7”

I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback by the full-throated, noise-soaked roar that leapt off this single. No slow builders, these Dutch. “Wound Man” never lets up, and is all the better for it. On “Barren Lands,” there is a jaunty organ off-setting the ferocious deathrock, but these guys are about as friendly as a hitman on his day off. To quote the promo blurb: “DYATLOV doesn’t care about rock‘n’roll or anything it stands for. DYATLOV doesn’t care about themselves. And most importantly: DYATLOV doesn’t care about you.” A-fucking-men.

Eat Shit and Die Recoil Finger CD

Snotty Massachusetts punks blast their way through twenty doses of blistering hardcore. Equal parts classic New England grind/crust and West Coast sample-laden, turn of the century ‘core…stripped-down, no holds barred, don’t-give-a-fuck fuck-you shit punk. And who can fuck with not giving a fuck?

Eat Shit and Die The Early Year CD

In case you can’t tell from the band name, these guys are pissed! With members like Moe Pain and Ben Worse(!), you get a little warning of the intense Massachusetts modern floorpunching hardcore/grind meld pummeling you are about to receive. Not to be confused with the Ojai powerviolence grind combo of the same name, this band treads along similar waters with more of an East Coast DISASSOCIATE kinda vibe. There’s lots of shocking sound bites as they gun more for the offensive side of grind, such as on masterworks like “Fart Out My Dickhole.” They definitely have a sense of humor and I can’t really picture any of them being under 250 pounds, but these four EPs fly by in no time. I’m not really left wanting more, just empty and vacant and that’s not the worst thing.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring All in Good Time LP

EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING, one of the best and most celebrated Australian bands of the ’00s, popped into the last few weeks of 2019 to drop a new LP with little fanfare, like they hadn’t taken most of the decade off. And while a lot changed in the interim between their last full-length, 2010’s Rush to Relax, All in Good Time finds the band sounding largely the same. With a couple of minor tweaks to their character settings—they’ve bumped up the NEU! slider a few notches and the PAGANS slider down a few (but left the TROGGS slider untouched)—they’ve turned in a gentler, more thoughtful album, one that will likely appeal to the tired ears of the fanbase that is now nine rough-ass years older. There’s nothing on here as manic as “Anxiety,” as explosive as “Sunday’s Coming,” or as revelatory as “Pitch a Tent,” but it’s still a treat to hear such an inimitable band play through a set of solidly crafted songs. They may not have rushed to get here, but this is the most relaxed the band has sounded—it suits them well. Now, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another nine years for the next album!

Electraluxx Buzz-O-Ramma CD

A “vintage” collection of thirteen originals, clocking in at under 30 minutes (of course), straight out of the rock’n‘roll (hall of fame) garage. Not so much a return to the (CHUCK BERRY) source, more a stripped-down but perfectly executed collection of bubblegum surf songs that would make the RAMONES rock in their graves. Really rather good. Not least the sharp guitar work and tight vocal harmonies.

Evil I Official Bootleg LP

As far as archival punk labels are concerned, Chicago-based Alona’s Dream is near the top of the pile. Whether repackaging criminally-neglected albums or digging up shoulda-been classics, Alona’s Dream excels at presentation as well as content. This time, they rescue a 1983 cassette demo by a hardcore band that hailed from the Chicago suburb of Lombard. While distributed locally and garnering a few favorable reviews in national zines, EVIL I finally gets their due with this raging slab of wax. Holy hell, this fucker smokes! As the band tears apart everything in sight, the singer unloads her frustrations like she’s unleashing a hail of arrows from the top of the tower. EVIL I engages in whiplash time changes while never sacrificing the brutality or extending the songs with gratuitous parts. “So What?” (“if I die”) crams a catchy chorus into a little over a minute, but it’s “Trend” that is the out-and-out classic cut here. I can’t thing of a single early ’80s hardcore compilation that wouldn’t be improved by this total burner that spotlights a killer wah-wah solo amidst its breathtaking pace. The guitar playing matches the singer for pure vicious spite and the rhythm section is dextrous and punishing. Is “Bored of Education” a perfect hardcore punk song? Fuck yes it is. And of course it features more of that deliciously nasty wah-wah. Truth be told, the second half of this demo is an absolutely classic 7” that was never realized…until now.

Exit Stance Retch With Mother 10”

Anarcho-punk legends EXIT STANCE have a lot to live up to with their absolute classic Crime Against Humanity, one of the best EP’s to come out of the UK anarcho-punk scene. If not the best, certainly the angriest. After a shitload of bad luck, they called it quits in ’86 due to constant criticism…being judged all the time, attacked for not being perfect, people always wondering if we were conforming to the ‘”anarchist rule book”! Fortunately they came back from the dead, released Saying Nothing (But Speaking My Mind), and now Retch With Mother. The fire is still there, and by fire I mean the politically-motivated anger. Songs about sexism, animal liberation, and anarchist values. They sound like themselves: dark post-punk in a KILLING JOKE-meets-CRASS way. Some bands lose their ethos within a few years and conform to the “music machine,” but in some rare occasions you see bands like EXIT STANCE that stand the test of time.

Expose Expose cassette

Probably the most aggressively lo-fi release you will hear all year. This tape is a slightly more melodic version of punk. It combines reverb and delay-drenched vocals with punchy riffs and the irresistible sound of a wailing saxophone in the distance. It’s rough around the edges in every way possible. Overall, this isn’t a bad way to spend fifteen minutes.

Frustration So Cold Streams LP

Legendary French post-punk group FRUSTRATION returns with their first LP since 2016. Keeping in tune with a sound the band has cultivated over two decades, this record is a dissonant, dark, and synth-based take on post-punk. Imagine SUICIDE meets JOY DIVISION mixed with elements of LCD SOUNDSYSTEM. These tracks take their time, building and falling with a lot of grace and dynamics. There are moments of quiet bliss mixed with moments of unrestrained chaos. A track like “Brume” brings a real industrial or almost No Wave sound in the vein of Filth-era SWANS. Those No Wave moments give the record a really abrasive and caustic feel. A unique and interesting release in the FRUSTRATION discography, definitely worth checking out, at least for the die hard post-punk fans.

Gemstones Novel of Nothing EP

Sludgy pop hooks mastered up so lo-fi the drums just fuzz and blend into one long thunderous white sound. There’s early JAWBREAKER-esque vocals where you can only make out every third or fourth word, but you can figure out that they’re talking about something like what you wanted to hear. Four songs on black vinyl with a hand stamped center label and xeroxed sleeve in a poly bag—a little authentic DIY hope in an otherwise overproduced landscape.

Germ House Spoiled Legacy +7 cassette

GERM HOUSE is a jangly, poppy indie rock band out of Rhode Island. This is a US edition of their cassette with the addition of seven compilation tracks. The vocal style is laid-back yet defiant. The keyboard pops in at just the right moment. “Nothing is Like They Wanted” is my favorite track. It’s a GO-BETWEENS-style rocker with politically aware lyrics. It’s a sing-along anthem.

Girls in Synthesis Arterial Movements EP

Arterial Movements is the 2019 EP from riot-starting Brits GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS, featuring three new and previously unreleased songs. A little taste of what was to come before Now Here’s an Echo From Your Future, if you will. I was unfamiliar with this band so I had an unbiased mind walking into this, and holy hell! This one really got to me. Three tunes of unrelenting rhythm, Molotov cocktail-wielding anarchic punk in the good vein of the ’80s UK scene but with a modern edge. Intense, political, and catchy. Makes IDLES pale in comparison. Go get this!

Girls in Synthesis Now Here’s an Echo From Your Future LP

Intense and properly humourless power trio delivering ripping post-punk with a big sound. The upfront vocals make everything sound like an emergency and there’s a lot of inventive interplay between vocals and instruments. The opening tune “Arterial Movements” sets the parameters: high energy, distinct bass, and guitar that at times pierces, at other times drones, and other times expands into a sick echo. GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS are working in dangerous territory for a UK band owing a debt to GANG OF FOUR. So much of that sound was run into the ground in the Bush-era by bands like the RAPTURE and the ROGERS SISTERS. This reviewer is pleased to report that GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS do not fall into any such sonic cliches. I like how the slow grind of “Human Frailty” resolves into the lopsided, atonal sonic nightmare. They sound like they would be killer live.

Grauzone Grauzone 2xLP

Even squares dig “Eisbär” these days, but that shouldn’t prevent anyone from digging as deeply as possible into this pioneering Swiss group’s oeuvre. Here, across the span of two LPs, all of GRAUZONE’s work is collected for dilettante and connoisseur alike. Encompassing their sole LP and numerous EPs, I don’t think there’s a bum cut amongst these nineteen tracks. (There’s also a box set version that adds a complete 1980 live set and the requisite thick booklet.) The territory that GRAUZONE covers is vast: hallucinatory scene-setting (“FILM 2”), cave-wave (“Maikäfer Flieg”), proto-indie rock (“Marmelade Und Himbeereis”), radio-ready pop (“Der Weg Zu Zweit”), romantic crooning (“Ich Lieb Sie”), NDW bangers (“Moskau”), piano-laced desperation (“Ein Tanz Mit Dem Tod”), U2-like triumph (“Ich Und Du”), noise-pierced post-punk (“Raum”). The listener is in capable hands as GRAUZONE performs all of these modes quite well. The result of this eclectic approach is to display that, despite their brief existence and relative isolation, GRAUZONE was a force to be reckoned with, and made music that stands the test of time.

Herjaza Herjaza CD

Blasting proto-hardcore with some grind elements such as MIND ERASER but not as dark. More in the vein of LUDDITE CLONE or EIGHTEEN VISIONS. A cyclone of rage and fury. Vocals break out with desperation that could border on screamo, but rein and rasp back in just at the tipping point. In fact, that comparison dissipates track after track, creating an interesting crescendo of bitter hatred glazed with anguish. Compositions range from spaced-out psych-core to discordant metalcore breakdowns. Audiosiege, once again, brings a sizzling production to the forefront while accentuating the heavy hitting. Themes are angry for sure, but there is an irreverence in these songs from New York, that I as a native I can relate to. “Not If I See You First,” “Yeah, I Cuff My Jeans,” “Turd Eye Blind,” and “Sean Goes To Glee Concerts” being the most curious to me. There is a riff on “Ghost of Former Gods” that reminds me of MINISTRY’s “Scarecrow,” and I’m grooving on it. There are some really welcoming melodic vocal harmonies on the exit track too, which I am glad was not over-exhausted throughout. HERJAZA plays confounding powerviolence hardcore, with radiance and bizarre disturbing cover art by Alex Eckman-Lawn to boot.

Hyökkäys Antigobierno EP

HYÖKKÄYS translates to “attack”. And attack they do! This is pure Suomi hardcore worship played by Basque punks. Little is known about this band, which keeps things interesting, and one can solely focus on the music…erm…noise they make. Antigobierno is made up of eleven tracks, two of them are covers of HHH and KAAOS, and this mixture pretty much sums up their sound. Raw, primitive, and to-the-point. Another great gem from the Spanish punk scene.

Illiterates Illiterates LP

Imagine if the strong metal influence, basketball jerseys, and corporate co-opt never happened to hardcore in the ’90s. ILLITERATES from Pittsburgh have been hard at work keeping the grand tradition of making good, old-fashioned music-to-not-do-your-homework-to alive. Here we have twelve pure old-school U.S. hardcore blazers in the spirit of bands like JERRY’S KIDS, the F.U.’S, and ILL REPUTE, and it’s a job well done. My favorites on here are probably “LB Scheme,” “Stupid Privilege,” and closer “We’re Coming Out.” Turn your brain off and turn it up.

Imposition Man Resilience LP

Lo-fi post-punk from Berlin featuring all your favorite details: antiquated electronic drums, chorus-soaked guitars, and vocals that sound like an evacuation announcement broadcast to the subway platforms of hell. It works because they bring some real urgency to these short little ditties. Even in their most danceable, digital handclap-punctuated moments, IMPOSITION MAN doesn’t jettison their overall bleak vibe. “Resilience,” the title track and recurring refrain that I’m going to go out on a limb and say is ironic, bookends this release nicely, giving a unified vibe to a surprisingly short LP. If you recently dug CONSTANT MONGREL or DIÄT, this will scratch that itch.

Indonesian Junk Living in a Nightmare CD

I believe this is the fourth or fifth effort from this (now) quartet, specializing in the mid-’70s era of the punk/glam/power pop end of the rock spectrum. Think the HEARTBREAKERS covering SLAUGHTER (i.e. SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS’ second LP, when they’d shortened their moniker and slowed down a tad, with more power ballads), with a touch of the BOYS thrown in for good measure. And yup, it is that good, and catchy. Not so much bubblegum, but rather the bubblegum stuck on the sidewalk and trodden in for a week or so…

Instinct? Pray to Death cassette

Bands that use D-beat and more metallic riffs get labelled as “crust” but maintain a clean sound. Not in this case. Philly punks INSTINCT? drop a massive crust punk bomb with Pray to Death. This is true crust punk with a barrage of sound coming through with every song and a sense of impending doom. Bands like DOOM and E.N.T. come to mind, so you get transported to the UK in the late ’80s. Another great release from Bunker Punks.

Invisible Eyes Live at Glastonbury 2019 CD

I assumed they meant the Glastonbury Festival and since I don’t know anything about that, I checked the lineup for 2019. No INVISIBLE EYES listed. I guess they fooled me? The band also states: “Dan mixed this album whilst positive with COVID-19 with his head and ears exploding at war with the virus so it’s known as The COVID Sessions”. But who knows if that is true? Those pranksters. INVISIBLE EYES’ music is appropriate for a giant outdoor festival. The swirly guitars go off into extended fuzzy jams. The vocals are laid back and seem to be telling me a story, but I can’t seem to give them my undivided attention. Includes two previously unreleased songs.

Jade Dust 2021 Demo cassette

Cure your lockdown bummer with some Revolution Summer…JADE DUST is from Santa Barbara, but is clearly attempting to channel a strain of emotional sounds born a continent away and over thirty years ago. While heavily indebted to EMBRACE, IGNITION, et al, as well as West Coast proponents like FUEL, the songs have enough cathartic energy and passionate desperation to stand on their own. The demo itself has a rawness that actually enhances the experience: If you’re anything like me, when you heard music like this for the first time, it was likely via a scuzzy home-taped cassette on a busted Walkman.

Jane Doe Ensemble Pink Liquor / Respect 7”

Debut single from New York trio JANE DOE ENSEMBLE, featuring two experimentally-minded noise-pop songs that don’t just go outside the box, but set down stakes somewhere a few ZIP codes away from the box. A-side “Pink Liquor” starts out as a low-key waltz of jangly guitar, unsettling keys, and intersecting vocals (one voice nonchalantly sing-speaking, one voice offering sweeter and more melodic counterpoint), abruptly swerves into a brief, frantically-strummed and falling apart noise frenzy almost exactly halfway through its four-minute run time, and then drifts out on a gentle wave of abstract whirring keyboard. On the flip, “Respect” bobs and weaves with a little more art-punk abandon, guided by percolating keyboard and rattling percussion—think TABLE SUGAR’s loosest and most freewheeling side. There’s apparently an LP in the works, and I’m sure those extra inches will afford them even more room to go way out there.

Jodie Faster Blame Yourself LP

Seventeen songs here, with the longest clocking in at 1:29. Short, fast, hardcore songs that strangely don’t use distortion on the guitars. I don’t particularly know how I feel about this. The songs are good, but the lack of distortion is off-putting to say the least. I wanna like this, and I think I do, but the sound of the guitar is fucking with my brain. Like it’s seriously giving me a borderline panic attack. Hahaha.

Juicebumps Hello Pinky! LP

This is by far the quirkiest punk release I’ve heard all year. A mix of styles I can only describe as bubblegum post-punk. Recorded at the legendary Tiny Telephone studios in San Francisco, the instrumentation employs freaky synths, crunchy drum machines, and wiry guitars. Overall, this is a really fun record. It’s ridiculously catchy; the type of riffs that get stuck in your head for a long time. A definite must listen for fans of TOTAL CONTROL or TROPICAL FUCK STORM.

Körd Värld Total Distortion EP

I love to find out about new bands that get you excited about punk again, and it’s even more exciting when you find out that it is made by hardcore legends. Total Distortion is a killer hardcore debut from the two-headed monster that is KÖRD VÄRLD, featuring Charlie Claesson (of ANTI-fucking-CIMEX) and James Domestic (of the DOMESTICS). They already play together in the “hardcore gone jazzy” hybrid PI$$ER, but this time they went all-out hardcore. Equal parts ANTI CIMEX and POISON IDEA, this debut is a great show of hardcore, and how Scandinavia was always one step ahead from the rest. Great to see veterans in the game teaching the kids a lesson in hardcore.

Krimtänk Ditt Fel EP

Thirteen tracks of light speed Scandi-blast crammed onto one slick-looking piece of white wax. These Swedes seem laser-focused on MOB 47-style trash, but there’s a primitive Italian hardcore vibe that keeps derailing them in the best possible way. The recording varies (slightly) throughout, which puts everything just a touch on edge, but when the bass rumbles into the intro of “Lips På TV,” I don’t give a shit about anything except the incoming assault. The record looks incredible as well—hi-gloss white sleeve and insert plastered with illustrations that I can only describe as “refined adult crust.” I deserve ridicule for writing that, KRIMTÄNK deserves accolades for writing Ditt Fel.

Kyoufu Shinbun Death Training 3xLP

To boil it down, this is a collection of works from a one-man experimental punk project from Hokkaido, Japan, specifically a once-a-month tape series that was released from May 1993 to February 1994. Follow the Bandcamp link to the Bitter Lake site for all of the historical details and proper context for KYOUFU SHINBUN. There is a lot to take in here, 47 tracks in total, but the triple-LP format allows me to enjoy it in six reasonably-sized portions. I’ve been doing this randomly over the past few weeks, one side at a time, and I find it to be both enjoyable and consistent. It’s fairly 50/50 split between aggressive, eccentric punk and uncomfortable experimental music, drum machine-driven, with a good balance of distorted guitars and electronics. The songwriting seems intentional, more so than improvisational, even at its weirdest. One moment you might be swirling in a killer clown circus tent breakbeat nightmare, and then suddenly launched into a punky ADK-esque track. This release comes served up in a thick yellow box. Each disc is housed in a black dust sleeve, and then in a sturdy printed inner sleeve featuring original disturbing drawings and track info. There’s also a booklet consolidating all original art and bits of layout, as well as a couple photos and flyers. Stunning package goes a long way getting me engaged with something I previously knew nothing about, a thing that Bitter Lake knows how to get just right. Worth the price tag, which really isn’t all that high considering the high quality and massive content.

Liiek One Two EP

Berlin’s post-punk underground is absolutely one of the best localized scenes going right now, and it delivers yet again with the most recent release from the Allee Der Kosmonauten collective-affiliated trio LIIEK, who dish out three propulsive, bass-centered cuts on this EP that are dry enough to be cause for concern with the start of wildfire season just around the corner. “One Two” nicks a bit from GANG OF FOUR with an airtight combo of rubbery bass/Swiss watch-precise beats and quick cuts of trebly guitar, while the sternly shouted vocals from barely unclenched jaws and the darker, slightly anarcho-tinged direction of “Fog” and “Fitted and Lost” largely abandon any sort of rigid funk for the sort of no-hope, 21st century (post-)industrial repetitive paranoia of bands like RANK/XEROX and DIÄT. Full-on Brutalist bunker sounds.

Lost Cherrees Blank Pages LP

The LOST CHERREES story has been one full of unexpected turns, from member turnover, to genre evolution, to breaking up during a show in 1986, then reforming during the Napster craze of the early 2000s. It’s always fascinating to me when bands span decades, to try and understand what has kept them going, and fueled the creative fire for so long. In LOST CHERREES’ case, it seems that constant change has been a driving force in the forward momentum of the band. Bassist and founding member Steve Battershill has served as an anchor throughout all its incarnations. Politics are still at the forefront, with lyrics confronting issues like bigotry, animal cruelty, and sexual violence. Don’t expect this to sound like their early stuff, but a worthwhile listen for those who appreciate a more modern take on the genre.

M.A.Z.E. II LP

It’s been nearly two years since we last heard from the Japanese band M.A.Z.E., and while they are clearly the same quirky post-punk-ish outfit from that last release, this latest LP is a much more manic affair. Their last 12” was composed of sparse tracks built around rubbery bass lines and minimalist chicken scratch rhythm guitar that served as a backdrop for the vocalist’s KLEENEX-ish yelp. While Eriko still brings that same energy here, she takes a bit of a backseat to the guitar, which has become the star of the show. Most songs are built around hot, circus-y licks with a borderline synth sound that might give the LP more of a new wave-y vibe were they not played at such a frenzied pace. Overall, this LP sounds decidedly more punk than anything they’ve put out thus far. The blown-out beginning of “311” could even be mistaken for TEENGENERATE until the vocals kick in and they shift into an odd post-punk rhythm. And that’s kind of the defining trait of this unique LP—a song starts, they seemingly settle into a groove, shift into a weirder variation of that groove, shift again, then start a new song after doing that for a minute and twenty seconds. It’s great!

Mary Bell Bellatrix Boadicea LP

Grunge-infused feminist punk by way of Paris, France, with definite notes of BIKINI KILL, SLEATER-KINNEY, and similar bands of the American Northwest riot grrrl scene. It’s tough to paint this group with too broad a brush genre-wise; there are moments on this record that recall late ’70s punk and ’80s new wave, too. Moods range from playful to ferocious to introspective. At a solid fourteen songs, it’s clear this band has a lot to communicate with this record, and I think they succeed in that.

Material Support Specter cassette

Specter is the most recent EP from ultra-political Pinoy punks MATERIAL SUPPORT. After the excellent full-length Terror Prone Nation, they are back at it with extra anger and a bone to pick. Five agitation anthems that touch on capitalism, cops, sexism, racism; the whole nine yards. Sonically, it is pure ’80s hardcore worship of the NYHC orientation. Simple and based on the message. A great EP to vent out the bitter taste of anger that life provides on a daily basis.

Max Nordile Little Kicks cassette

Mark my words, the MAX NORDILE comprehensive box set that is gonna drop in like 2036 is going to blow people’s minds, and you will be able to tell your kids that you were there on the ground floor. No sonic experimentation seems to be off limits, and the near constant output is humbling.  Little Kicks is an improvisational adventure taking advantage of wind instruments (mainly but maybe not exclusively saxophone), sporadic percussion, and a damaged guitar with mumbled background vocal missives. No rules…the “noise not music” set needs to start focusing this direction, because if you inject this shit into some CONFUSE-obsessed motherfuckers, I think my life will melt in the best way imaginable.

Monty Vega & the Sittin’ Shivas Closed (No Fun) cassette

RAMONES-influenced rock that has a good bit of depth musically and lyrically. MONTY VEGA’s webpage cites paying musical respect to Joey and they also have a song entitled “Poor Dee Dee.” There’s a bit of GROOVIE GHOULIES here and the keyboards bring in some punk new wave à la the MINDS, which culminates in a great cover of “Goodbye To You” by SCANDAL. The social commentary video “Failed State” is worth checking out and furthers the case that this isn’t just a homage party band. Seems like this is a two-piece quarantine project, but post-COVID they should be back to a full band which gives me something to look forward to.

More Smoke Discografia Completa cassette

Eighty-plus tracks of shit-fi noisecore from Argentina. That’s the easy review. It gets harder when you try to delve into all of the different ways MORE SMOKE dissects the subgenre…how sometimes all you can focus on is the throat-shredding vocals or the percussive madness masquerading as drums, or sometimes you’re drawn in by the samples, or sometimes it’s just pure and inept noise and sometimes the guitar drops the most incredibly damaged half-riff for like three seconds before the band just falls the fuck apart. It gets harder when you try to explain to a casual listener the difference between “shit music” and “music expressly and intentionally created for the purpose of being shit.” MORE SMOKE is the latter, and I’m fukkn floored.

Moth Blood Mask / Echoes 7”

The latest from Copenhagen’s MOTH. The first song, a sauntering, reverb-soaked number, is reminiscent of the COCTEAU TWINS at their most morose. The second tune picks up the pace, for more of a post-punk/deathrock feel, and starts off with a bass line that would feel at home on a CURE record. Though not overly studied, this group shows a confidence of genre navigation that I imagine is at least partially the result of having been a band for nine-plus years. If you can still stand each other at that point, you can really make some magic.

Mundo Infernal Nunca Más cassette

Just listen to that trashy guitar riff intro and how the whole band comes pummeling through. “Aniquilación de Este Mundo Cruel” is just eight seconds in and it’s already one of the most powerful moments I’ve heard this year in heavy music. Just wait a little more and enjoy those epic guitar leads. “Sin Control” follows on Los Angeles band MUNDO INFERNAL’S Nunca Más cassette. A show of brute force and savagery en español. We’re talking about beautifully crafted hardcore: lyrics lamenting the current state of the world, heavy tone guitars, chokingly disgruntled screaming vocals, and a ceaseless rhythmic attack. The record it’s too damn short, just four songs, and it leaves the listener wanting more. Awesome feeling, by the way. Nunca Más was released as a cassette with a limited run, but I urge you to get it as a digital album and play it as loud as you can.

Nightclub Private Party LP

This Melbourne band featuring members of DEAF WISH, PARSNIP, and BITCH PREFECT has been kicking around for a few years, with a couple of cassettes under their belt. But Private Party, issued digitally in mid-2020 and pressed to vinyl later that year, is their proper debut, and it’s a good one!  NIGHTCLUB takes the ready-for-a-knife-fight attitude and amateur-psych production of the Teenage Shutdown comps and throws that on top of a punky homage to the VELVET UNDERGROUND and the STOOGES. Over the eight tracks on the LP, they conjure up images of empty streets, seedy backrooms, and amphetamine-fueled all-nighters. It’s like the audio equivalent of an early Jim Jarmusch movie, and it’s easy to imagine the distant sax that runs through these tracks being played by John Lurie’s character in Permanent Vacation. Even the seemingly odd choice to feature DUST BROTHERS-esque drum loops and production flourishes every so often adds to the surreal haven’t-slept-in-a-week vibes of the record. A real cool time!

No Friends Band To All My Friends LP

NO FRIENDS BAND is Kevin Cascell, formerly of TRUMANS WATER. The songs on this LP were recorded between 1999–2007. It is one of those albums that sends me back in time to the ’90s. The songs are country-tinged, bluesy garage rock with a cantankerous attitude. Cascell’s vocal style reminds me of Don Howland and I like it. The more I listen to this, the more I want to flip the record over and play it again. Also includes some great covers of BOB DYLAN, DEAD MOON, and PERE UBU. Fun stuff.

Nunca Nada Discordia LP

This was a total surprise. Composed of two ex-members of Spain’s darkwavers ANTIGUO RÉGIMEN and another one from TERCER SOL, Discordia is NUNCA NADA’s first album. It has a really stern sound: lyrics are direct, pointing out the futility of life, while guitar, bass, and drums sketch impressionistic sketches of gloom. Love the way the band allows each instrument space to breathe. It makes the sound truly expansive, like the songs could last forever and nobody would mind. The band takes its cues from WIRE’s precision and their less-is-more approach, the more melodically rich end of British post-punk guitar, and the doomy tones of the always magnificent WIPERS. They manage to make a personal and distinctive sound out of these key influences. Discordia is a pessimistic record you can dance to. A really good companion to the long night of capitalist decay.

Ojo Por Ojo Paroxismo flexi 7″

This is one of those recordings that transports you to the band’s place of origin. You can feel the tension that is living in Mexico City and all its unrest. Unsettling and dark as night, OJO POR OJO delivers a fist full of hate in the form of hardcore punk that sometimes resembles Pain of Mind-era NEUROSIS, when they still played straightforward hardcore, and Italian powerhouse NERORGASMO. Guitarist/singer Yecatl Peña’s previous band INSERVIBLES also serves as a blueprint for this sound that they make. Paroxismo is the two-track follow-up to their 2018 debut LP on La Vida Es Un Mus, and it was recorded by none other than Steve Albini. Shame that it isn’t longer!

OK Satán OK Satán cassette

Second cassette from Copenhagen, Denmark-based, two-piece drum machine-driven punk outfit OK SATÁN. Short, nasty, no-frills, no-bullshit songs. It seems everything was recorded on a 4-track in their practice space, but it’s not as lo-fi as one might expect from that description. Everything is perfectly discernible, and were it less dirty I think something would be lost with songs like this. “Stay on Drugs” is an absolute smash! Now to try and track down this band’s other releases…

Ona Snop Intermittent Damnation LP

Hyperdrive fastcore out of Leeds, UK, drawing from the millennial thrash wave and killing it for sure! Kind of like WHAT HAPPENS NEXT meets FUCK ON THE BEACH, or in other words fucking fast as shit! This isn’t some slopped out muck-violence either (no diss on muck-violence). This has those super-tight start/stops, interesting riffs for days, and sonic blast drums that will have your circle pits breaking the sound barrier. If you’re a totally thrashed blast freak, you’ve got to hear this one!

Oof Is This Really Happening? cassette

Walking the tightrope between post-punk and No Wave, OOF from Brooklyn, NY does a really cool job of keeping some of their mid-tempo songs feeling really driving. While some of this project is a bit too much on the artsy side of things than I would standardly like, some of it resonates really well with me. The skronking saxophone and occasional somber violin come off very tasteful and not overbearing at all. The dual vocals each sound kooky in their own respect, both are capable of being very pretty yet also bizarre at the same time.

Paranoias Napalm Springs EP

Total mean-streak punk obliteration from Perth’s PARANOIAS, guided by lean ’77-’79 switchblade slash and early ’90s blown-out budget rock as they crash land into some raw, neo-Bloodstains snarl for the digital dark ages. They’ve offered up four gloriously unpolished sub-two-minute ragers (plus a more mid-tempo closer that barely cracks that mark) on Napalm Springs, recorded straight to tape for that authentic KBD murk, with frenetic and deliriously catchy—don’t call it “surfy”—Dangerhouse-worthy guitar, the clamor of bass and drums pushed beyond the red, and vocalist Hannah’s wired and almost helium-pitched yelps and shrieks, the latter which really seal the deal here. I get a similar rush from the unpolished nervous energy of “In the Bin” and “Medium Rare” as I did when I first stumbled across any number of ragingly shambolic early ’80s obscurities by the likes of the NIXE, SCHUND, RAKKETAX, et al. A real ripper!

Patti Good Big LP

Debut LP from this Brooklyn-via-Oakland art/dance-punk three-piece. This sounds like what you might get were you to raise a few DEVO-core mutants on What Makes a Man Start Fires-era MINUTEMEN and later PARQUET COURTS. It works best when they sound more like the former, less like the latter, and resist their basest mutant urges to showcase how “weird” they can get. The brand of half-hearted experimentation that they’re trying out here just sounds pretentious and annoying when paired with the otherwise straightforward punk funk or NYC-style dance-punk that they’re playing. Luckily, most of these sixteen tracks are sub-two minutes, so the more irritating songs are at least over pretty quickly. Not for the wacky-averse, but interesting enough to be worth a listen.

Pöls Agrieta el Asfalto LP

Love it when bands like Madrid’s PÖLS get me to listen to styles I haven’t been exposed to or cared about in decades, such as melodic hardcore. Along with Barcelona’s ACCIDENTE, this band has taken that suburban sound and infused it with themes of anarchism, animal rights, ecology, and self-empowerment. And they do it by mixing up youth crew energy, heavy breakdowns, lots of “wooaahs,” and even rap. The contrasting relationship between the girl and boy voices keeps you interested for the whole record. They also feel free to experiment with flamenco-ish ending in “Barcelona” and rap with the last song “Pöls.” Intense energy and creative songwriting. Get it on vinyl.

Plexi Heart Blips cassette

Without question my favorite tape I was sent this month for review. Wow. PLEXI is relentless hardcore punk. Fast and pissed, heavy pit-worthy breakdowns, raspy/strained vocals that sound instantly familiar without feeling like they’re ripping something off. The intensity and forceful delivery of the vocals very much remind me of how Barb used to sing in I OBJECT. Eleven songs of unapologetically ripping hardcore punk. With no contact info and seemingly no internet presence, I am not sure how to suggest you track down a copy of this, but do yourself a favor and try.

Portabella Return to the Fountain of Olives cassette

Experimental, psych-tinged indie rock from this Spartanburg, SC duo. This collection contains frequently likeable lo-fi pop songs with whimsical journeys into synth exploration and nonsensical, lysergic lyrics. “The Wrong Way” sounds like a lost GUIDED BY VOICES gem in the best way: a jangly guitar confection with just enough bite in the refrain. Similarly, there are about six more enjoyable indie pop jams on this tape that hit the home-recorded indie sweet spot, even if they sound pretty close to their influences. For instance, the guitar solo on “Nothing Left” might as well be credited to J. Mascis for how close it sounds to DINOSAUR JR. And “Valley of Imploding Cups” sounds a whole lot like Slanted and Enchanted-era PAVEMENT. Now for the rest of the tape, I wrote the same note next to seven songs: “Sebadoh III outtake.” I like SEBADOH, and I like that particular album, but it has its share of shambolic, half-baked audio sketches that would be better left as demos. PORTABELLA seems to love this aspect of SEBADOH so much that half of this album sounds like a tribute to it. The vocals sound like Lou Barlow, the thrown-together, first-take approach to songwriting, the weird, left-field acoustic interludes, the occasional faux-angry moments. What is skippable on Sebadoh III is skippable here. PORTABELLA definitely has talent and ideas to spare. I am interested in seeing what happens when they step away from their record collections.

Marjinal / Potbelly Fuck Borders split CD

POTBELLY’s ability to combine anthemic political punk with heavy thrash is somewhat disorienting, to be honest, and takes a few tracks to really settle in. Gruff melodic vocals, guitars that can belt out big rock club open chords and then drop with into single-note death metal speed riffing…and then sometimes they remind me of the Biafra/DOA collaboration (“Destroy All The Monsters” in particular)—they’ve been in the game for twenty years, suffice to say they have honed in on a sounds that is definitely theirs. Jakarta’s MARJINAL should be well-known to most as Indonesian activist street punks who have been mainstays in Jakarta’s DIY punk scene seemingly forever. The incorporation of folk elements (and instruments) into their hard-hitting and addictive punk is just a part of what sets them apart, MARJINAL is addictive and transcends comparisons. What if there were a band that got stuck in your head like DROPKICK MURPHYS, rocked as hard as FORWARD, and inspired an unparalleled level of international and inter-scene support and networking? Well, there is. Listen to “Negri Ngeri” every day.

Print Head Happy Happy & Hardcore Pop cassette

Part Messthetics-informed outsider post-punk, part no-fi DIY hometaper pop, as performed entirely by one Canadian named Brandon Saucier. Happy Happy & Hardcore Pop collects the material from two earlier self-released cassettes and clocks in at a sprawling 26 tracks, of which only three are over two minutes long (and just barely at that)—an all-new PRINT HEAD tape actually popped up like a week or two after this one came out, and Saucier definitely seems like someone forever working at a Jad Fair/Mark E. Smith-like clip when it comes to songwriting (possible FALL reference in the project name is telling?). Opener “Repeat” rides a killer kinetic rhythm with a loping bass line and faux-motorik beat, then adds some heavy existential anxiety from detached vocals intoning lines like “What will you be thinking / While you die?” over barbed guitar clang and clattering percussion. And the hits keep coming: the blown-out, blink-and-you-missed-it “All is Over” recalls Siltbreeze-era TIMES NEW VIKING with some off-kilter hooks and junky keyboard, there’s a nod to the FIRE ENGINES on the dirty basement disco-punk instrumental “Instrumental,” “Went Out Last Night” pulls off some NWI-by-way-of-Hardcore Devo tricks…and that’s barely scratching the surface; veritable kitchen-sink weirdo punk to the max here.

Public Eye Music for Leisure LP

PUBLIC EYE’s Music for Leisure, a follow-up to 2017’s Relaxing Favorites, is perhaps not as laid-back as the title suggests, and is ultimately a solid outing. The Portland quartet keeps things mid-tempo, and instrumentally it’s as if mid-career IGGY POP took a Valium. The snappy, dry guitars are tone city and the riffage is more than capable and likely to get stuck in your head. The steady but low-key vocals hang back in a way that at times is similar to BEEF JERK, and in their more animated moments, bring PARQUET COURTS to mind. Only in “The Duet” do they break format and strip things down to bass and drums before breaking out into a caterwauling free jazz-style sax solo. Otherwise it’s stripped-down, it makes no mistakes, but doesn’t take any exceptional risks either. Pretty decent all around.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat Goblin Alert LP

Before the third wave of the great commodification, punk was always a safe haven for weirdos. Experimental and eclectic to the point of being true only to self. A place equally for anger, angst, and creativity. Thinking DEVO, TALKING HEADS, SPARKS. Following in that mind line come QUINTRON AND MISS PUSSYCAT. More theater kids, less leather. This full-length is filled with snotty, swampy anthems that are humorously political, socially scathing, and most certainly would fill a dance floor live. Disco beats, circus organs, homemade instruments, dueling majorette vocals, plus a talk box master. It’s like if John Waters managed the early B-52’S.

Ratos De Porão Carniceria Tropical LP reissue

Legendary Brazilian punk band RATOS DE PORÃO achieved this status with the classic album Crucificados Pelo Sistema. This album had unmatched ferocity and remains as one of the most important records in Brazilian music, not just punk. After a few albums they began to lean on a more crossover-influenced style, and it was on Carniceria Tropical where they achieved the perfect balance, the true RxDxPx sound. It’s thrashy, it’s punk, it has speed, it has melody, and most of all it is catchy as fuck. Songs like “Crocodila” or “Vá Se Virar” are now classic RxDxPx songs. Producer Billy Anderson was able to bring the best out of this punk outfit with a brilliant balance of crusty yet audible metallic sound. This reissue contains remastered tracks, an unreleased track, restyled sleeve, insert with lyrics and exclusive photos. Get this one or “vão se foder“!

Ray Gun Jonesy cassette

RAY GUN is a trio out of Nashville who are sonically all over the map. This cassette (which I’m hoping is named after the cat in Alien) plays like a mixtape a friend with good taste might make you to let you know how much cool stuff they’re into. The cover’s collage even has the feel of something an artsy friend might whip up, really adding to the personalized mixtape vibe. Opening track “Ghost Machine” sounds like early TV GHOST riding a motorik groove out to a feedback freakout—it’s fantastic! “Black Candy” sees them turning a BEAT HAPPENING track into a HUNCHES-esque loud-quiet-loud garage punk ripper. There’s also an egg-punk track, a track that sounds like it could have been pulled off one of the more experimental mid-’80s SST records, a couple of synthy downer-punk dirges à la GARY WRONG GROUP, and even a straight-up FENNESZ-style ambient track—all extremely well done and tonally consistent. Good shit! Would love to hear an LP of this with some of these influences blended a little more seamlessly.

Repeat Offender Demo ’20 EP

Playing early U.S. hardcore that’s been spiked with a bit of the ol’ Oi! Oi! music, REPEAT OFFENDER terrorizes listeners with treble, distortion, and monstrous vocals on their first outing. Banging out raucous punk in the style of bands like NEGATIVE APPROACH and SSD, this new L.A. group packs equal parts melody and menace into their short and powerful songs. They really kick the shit out of you on a couple of these tracks, but I like this band best when they pull out numbers like the punky “Consequence.” Despite their ominous moniker, this 7” demo shows promise, and I’m not offended at all.

Rexxx Pure Pleasure II LP

Folks, meet your next favorite Midwest indie/power pop powerhouse: REXXX. Their Milwaukee roots reach even deeper than these kids might realize—when I dig into these grooves, I feel the ghosts of TEMPER TEMPER, CALL ME LIGHTNING, WOLFBITE, and drunken fried pickles at the Palomino between sets at Cactus Club. There’s just enough glam to push Pure Pleasure II dangerously close to cheese, but if the burning addictive power of “Dead To Me” doesn’t win you over….you might be beyond help. It’s all here: ’90s indie/basement sing-alongs (“Hit N Run,” “Fuccboi”), classic power pop (“Can’t Help It”), bare-bones Rust Belt punk hooks (“Modern Demon”), and I can even give the sultry ballad (“4 Miles From Home”) a pass because the rest of the second side is so damn good. The band self released this on a solid gold cassette last year, but a candy-red slab of wax spinning hits at 45rpm could be exactly what 2021 needs.

Rival Squad Tierra cassette

From San Diego with hate. Tierra is a six-song, blastbeat-infused hardcore EP as intense and as thrashy as RATOS DE PORÃO and as vile as good ol’ American powerviolence. The guitar and bass tones are ear-crushing, drums are tight AF, and the screeching vocals help to get that aggression through. A straight killer cassette that hits that sweet spot.

Roäc 4 Song Mini LP 12”

Excellent combination of pure depressive power and the ability to unleash when necessary. MISERY and DEVIATED INSTINCT comparisons are easy, but they are also warranted here—the responsible personnel have been in the game for years, and it shows. Four doses of unassailable doom-laden crust, peaking with “The Path” that starts the second side with instantly familiar dark melodies, helping the listener realize that this trio bows to the same sonic idols that have brought more “recognized” bands something like underground “success”— somehow it hits just a little harder when you see a band churning it out in relative isolation. Even if you just casually dabble in the world of epic crust, ROÄC will straight up level you.

Rudimentary Peni Great War LP

Holy shit! For the first time in 26 years, RUDIMENTARY PENI have released a full-length, although Great War was recorded some years ago before the mysterious hiatus of the ever-shifting project. It works along the tracks of the 2009’s Wilfred Owen the Chances single, in which they take a more dehumanized bleak approach which just adds to the nightmarish sound that plagues their soundscapes. Once again the overlying theme and lyrics deal with anxiety and the ugly face of mental illness in this constraining world. The artwork is amazing as expected and has the ability to turn a record into wall art. One of the most amazing bands to come out of the UK´s anarcho-punk scene for sure, Nick Blinko has cast a shadow on punk music that will take a long time to disappear.

Seized Up Brace Yourself LP

SEIZED UP is a “supergroup” featuring members of BL’AST!, GOOD RIDDANCE, the NERVE AGENTS, and ALL YOU CAN EAT, and goddamn if they haven’t made a hell of a record. Pissed-off, at times very bass-driven, at other times just fast hardcore blasts, and while at times it’d be easy to compare this to BL’AST! especially due to vocalist Clifford Dinsmore, this is a much more straightforward hardcore record than most of the previously mentioned band’s body of work. I highly recommend hunting down a copy of this album and playing it as loud as possible, preferably while skating and/or driving.

Sensual World Feeling Wild LP

On this, their debut LP, SENSUAL WORLD has created a unique flavor of mid-tempo, doomy post-punk and soulful, melodic vocals à la mid-era GOSSIP or KING WOMAN. It is a sludgy trek through songs loaded with emotional intensity, like someone reading aloud to you from their journal. This is one of those records that creates its own environment in the listener’s mind. If you’re down for the journey, look these folks up.

Crack / Siberian Ass Torture split cassette

Split cassette of two current Japanese bands. SIBERIAN ASS TORTURE plays nasty mid-tempo noise punk. Their shorter songs are pretty cool, but the longer drone-y instrumentals lose my attention a bit. CRACK plays mostly very slow, repetitive, instrumental drone music but adds in noise elements with indecipherable screaming on top. All the songs on this split were recorded live. Not much information on this release or on either band seems to exist on the internet, and attempting to search for them just provided some very strange results, as you can potentially imagine.

Siekiera Jarocin ’84 LP

Polish punks SIEKIERA are best known for their Nowa Aleksandria post-punk album, but before that genre switch they were an intense hardcore punk force. Jarocin ’84 is a legendary live recording that took place at the Jarocin Festival. The recording has two parts; the competition and the final set. Rumour has it that when they played there, the audience responded with the biggest pogo ever in Poland. This is a piece of Eastern European punk history, and even if you are more inclined to their later post-punk stuff, you should check this one out. A freight train of hardcore punk in the vein of CHAOS UK and DISORDER.

Skiftande Enheter Lögn / Bättre Förr 7″

The latest from Gothenburg’s SKIFTANDE ENHETER was this lathe-cut single in an edition of 50 (already gone) copies, so save for a future repress on a less bespoke format, if you don’t already have it, you likely never will. That said, it’s an ace pair of songs—having started out as a URINALS/DESPERATE BICYCLES-style primitive punk combo before taking up the mantle of heavily FELT-accented C86 jangle, we now find our Swedish DIY heroes putting a Nordic spin on the sort of darkly psychedelic garage-drone that would usually bear a Flying Nun logo. There’s smudged GALAXIE 500 fingerprints all over the molasses-slow strum and extremely Naomi Yang-worthy bass line of “Lögn,” punctuated by some organ-saturated and ever-so slightly VELVET UNDERGROUND-ed rave-ups, with “Bättre Förr” channeling the moodier side of the CLEAN’s scrappy, homespun pop trances. Evolution is real!

Skism 2021 CD

This is kinda the solo project of Wynn Skism, the bass player for the KRAYS and other New York bands. It has that intimate feel of a bedroom punk project even though, I believe, it’s a full band. There’s personal introspective soliloquies like “Knocked Down With a 40,” political songs  about chemical warfare, the token “kill Nazis” number, and even a two-part serial killer rock opera. The guitar is an excellent buzzsaw tone and the vocals are shouted and enunciated  reminding me of LIMECELL. Good effort for one who’s been around the block a few twenty times. 

Slow Worries Careful Climb LP

Crisp, deftly performed indie rock that leans heavily on ’90s sonic motifs, in the shadows of TEAM DRESCH, SLEATER-KINNEY, LIZ PHAIR, the BREEDERS, or SHUDDER TO THINK. If you told me this was a lost classic from that era, I’d be inclined to believe you. The recording, musicianship, and especially the singing is completely on-point. I admit to being slightly thrown off by how American the band sounds, despite being from Holland; I don’t just mean the singer’s accent (I have lived in Amsterdam and know that many Dutch speak impeccable English), but even lyrical references. If anything, this album is a little more polished than the usual MRR fare, but recommended for fans of the aforementioned groups nonetheless.

Smirk Smirk LP

This one is too upbeat to be classified as a pandemic project. Yet, I suppose when you start something in 2020 it is impossible to avoid the connection. Under that sunny exterior lurks some annoyance and frustration. SMIRK is the solo project of PUBLIC EYE’s Nick Vicario, playing jangly, bright, minimalist pop. The vocals are a bit bratty. My fave is “Goons on the Beach,” which I will assume is about watching spring break idiots on TV. Good times.

Spastic Panthers Complete Pantherography LP

I can’t say I’d really heard anything by these Calgary thrashers since their Rock and Roll Beasts EP. Now I and maybe you can catch up on their complete six-or-so year career all in one sitting. Looking at their discography, I was struck by how cool most of their releases look with great artwork and bitchin’ splatter-colored vinyl, and this collection is no slouch, either. Musically, they reek of long-ago skate rock masters like JFA, SNFU, DAYGLO ABORTIONS, or even a little CIRCLE JERKS thrown in there. They don’t take themselves too seriously, thankfully, and this shows on songs like “(Party Like a) Ninja Turtle” or their cover tune choices, of which the BODY COUNT one is the funniest. Sadly the PANTHERS rock no more, but you can flick the light switch on and off as you slam to this platter and long for what might have been. Good times.

Spike in Vain Disease is Relative LP reissue / Death Drives a Cadillac LP

The tale of SPIKE IN VAIN is a story at least as old as tract housing—the American suburban development with dead-end streets that sealed off sites of impending blight. Formed in Cleveland, SPIKE IN VAIN kicked back against the familiar cul-de-sac of a life spent toiling in a factory, a life satisfied with being another faceless member of the grist mill that churns endlessly. They came howling from the suburbs, rampaging on ankle-high stages in fishnets and trenchcoats. It’s uncanny how many of these mutant hardcore bands were like modern-day sin-eaters—mad monks drunk on words and possessed with divine disillusionment. SPIKE IN VAIN and their ilk were future seekers, death-taunters, and they ran themselves ragged, sometimes straight into an early grave. NO TREND might come to mind when pondering this type of off-the-beaten-path hardcore, but SPIKE IN VAIN were even more feral, less calculated in their punk scene mockery, more likely to be found passed out by the railroad tracks. Despite switching off between instruments and vocals, SPIKE IN VAIN never lost focus or intensity. Even though hardcore was still chugging away, the music on these two albums can be seen as “post-hardcore,” in the sense that they were illuminating possible escape routes out of the fallow thrash fields that surrounded them. Disease Is Relative was released in 1984 and lit the torch so bright that it almost burned down all of Cuyahoga County (finishing off the job the river started fifteen years earlier). On all of their material, even the simpler punk songs, SPIKE IN VAIN sound much older than their teen ages suggest. Hell, SPIKE IN VAIN seems to have hit retirement age right after puberty, like coal miners—crawling around in the darkness—aging decades within months. The best moments come when SPIKE’s ambition and ideas take them far beyond hardcore’s borders—which is fitting as Disease is Relative was recorded in a little house in the middle of the woods on the distant outskirts of Cleveland proper. But Cleveland haunts this album like an angry ghost. “A Means to An End” is Dance With Me-era TSOL getting dragged face-first through a scrap metal yard on West 65th, right past Lorain Ave (one of the saddest streets in America). “God On Drugs” is an absurdist classic, an existential cry of despair that also doubles as a stupid, etched-into-a-desk joke that any misanthropic kid can appreciate. “No Name” has more in common with CIRCLE X’s doomsaying no wave than some rote hardcore angst. A haunted house take on BIG BOYS’ party funk, “E.K.G.” comes complete with a spastic bass solo. “Children Of The Subway” is as nihilistic and pugilistic as any hardcore coming from either coast; count yourself lucky if you make it to your stop after blasting this one on the earbuds. With its relentlessly shifting sections, “Disorder” keeps you off-kilter like prime SACCHARINE TRUST. Years before noise rock became codified, SPIKE IN VAIN was manipulating feedback like Foley artists, setting you up for shocks and scares and keeping your ears on a constant state of alert. Disease is Relative is a stone-cold classic and finally back in print, so that’s a reason to keep drawing breath for us miserable types. 

The unreleased follow-up, Death Drives a Cadillac, was recorded a year later and brings in Official Cleveland Treasure—Scott Pickering—on drums. At this point, SPIKE IN VAIN was distinctly not hardcore, instead approaching an early version of grunge and (singer/guitarist/Scat Recs guy) Robert Griffin’s later PRISONSHAKE. The band’s gutter literary aspirations were coming to the fore and they sought the darkness with renewed vigor. In the mid-’80s, cowpunk was trending in the underground, but SPIKE IN VAIN cast a pall over any sort of yeehaw-ing by coming across like urban cowboys from midnight city, armed with switchblades and baseball bats, not fancy spurs and a cowardly six-shooter. The other half of SPIKE IN VAIN’s creative axis was the Marec brothers, and their wayward energy helps power these tracks beyond genre exercise. “Rattlesnake’s Wedding” betrays a heavy GUN CLUB influence, while “Dogsled in Heaven” has plenty of slide guitar and even some tastefully applied Jew’s harp. “Escape From The Zoo” nails this new hybrid—a kind of roots-rock hardcore punk that doesn’t waste a good hook. “Party In The Ground” sounds like the REPLACEMENTS having a hootenanny in the cemetery, while “Gospel Motel” strains hard against its criminal-spiritual duality. While not as immediately visceral as their debut, Death Drives a Cadillac shows that SPIKE IN VAIN still had plenty of gas left in the tank.

Spodee Boy Rides Again… EP

SPODEE BOY is the solo recording project of Nashville’s Connor Cummins, whom you may know from G.U.N. or as one half of the duo SNOOPER. This is his third or fourth release, and it finds him breaking out of his egg-punk shell to emerge as a sidewinding high plains drifter. It’s hard not to hear COUNTRY TEASERS in these four tracks, but it also brings to mind DEMON’S CLAWS or BRIMSTONE HOWL. But where those bands might make a fitting soundtrack for a drunken evening at a rowdy road house, Rides Again… would better suit a midnight shamble through Monument Valley after munching a fistful of Klonopin. You can even imagine the unbelievably tinny guitar naturally reverberating off those picturesque buttes. “Dress the Part” is probably the highlight of the EP, but the whole record is great. Such an unexpected and welcome turn for this project. Stellar stuff!

Stinkhole Mold Encrusted Egg EP

Behold STINKHOLE, the unwanted baby of LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and MYSTIC INANE, left behind in a Berlin dumpster. This is some of the slimiest slime-punk around, with seven tracks of noisy, rudimentary outsider hardcore with a vocal delivery that sounds like a choke/slur/vomit combination. I honestly don’t know if the lyrics are in English or not because the dry heave singing is pretty hard to crack. This EP sounds like it was recorded in the basement of the building next door and is so lo-fi that it seems like the band taped over a random mixtape. Snippets of woozy easy listening and jazz sounds bookend some of these audio scabs. It’s not all just gross-out punk though: I distinctly heard a synth once on “Orange Juice,” and the credits list a trumpet. Final track “Slippin’ on Slug Slime” (let’s pause for a moment and appreciate the poetry of that title) has a cool one-bent-note guitar lead that gives it just the slightest amount of post-punk spice. I loved it. Just make sure to sanitize your hands after playing.

Sublevacion No Hay Futuro EP

Solid-as-a-rock hardcore straight from Barcelona. SUBLEVACION checks all the boxes in keeping the Spanish punk tradition alive. This EP is angry, raw, and punishing as Spanish punk should be. “There is no future” is the dread that gets to you with every listen. Did they borrow their name from INTERTERROR?

The 69 Cats Seven Year Itch CD

Man, this is some hokey shit. Spooky rockabilly-tinged rock featuring members of HEADCAT and NEKROMANTIX. “Graveyard Blues,” “Vampire Shuffle,” “Teddy Boy Boogie”…you get the picture. The vocals are done all deadpan talky style like a cross between ELVIS, ORVILLE PECK, and the guy from DEADBOLT. The musical backing sounds like a BLUE ÖYSTER CULT or STEVIE RAY VAUGHN house cover band at some awful L.A. rock club, but maybe not even that cool. Predictably, this is on the masters of washed-up spooky label, Cleopatra Records. Make me die now! And not in any kind of black-clad, makeup-wearing kind of way.

The Chisel Enough Said flexi EP

If there’s one thing you can categorically say about the CHISEL, it’s that they have not been sat about with their collective thumbs up their arse over the past year. Onto their third release proper, and still yet to have an actual live gig, they are undoubtedly a prolific mob. Comprising various elements of CHUBBY AND THE GANG, ARMS RACE, and the LOWEST FORM, it’s a proper who’s who of UKHC. They are also, very clearly, pissed-off. Pissed-off at muggy little cunts, at racists, at the Murdoch press, at divide and rule. It seethes with righteous Lancastrian fury courtesy of Cal Graham’s vocals which are akin to a lump hammer to the side of the head. Their sound is beefier than previous releases too, certainly more in common with that classic OI! sound we all know and love, even going as far as to record on the same piano that “Plastic Gangsters” was, as I am reliably informed. Rounded off with a joyful cover of the BUSINESS’ “Harry May.” Six minutes of flexi fun. Up the Weetabix skins!

The Chisel Come See Me EP

Fucking alright, yeah!  Your favorite yobbos from various UK bands unite for the best kind of good-time, feel-good classic Oi! You know…REJECTS, ABRASIVE WHEELS, 4 SKINS…ANDREW W.K.(?). Every song is the dog’s bollocks, even the cover of the original CRIMINAL DAMAGE’s “Criminal Crew.” Brilliant! It’s on Beach Impediment so, what the fuck, don’t be a wanker. I’m out of cliche British colloquialisms. Just buy it already.

The Cybermen You’re to Blame / It’s You I Want 7” reissue

Another necessary reissue from Italy’s excellent Breakout Records, “You’re To Blame / It’s You I Want” is an encore presentation of late ’70s pop punkers the CYBERMEN’s second record, originally released in 1979. A strong entry in the “UK pub-rock-turned-punk” category, the CYBERMEN were in a pub group called ESAX LUCIUS prior to catching the punk bug, and it shows. Sharp and clean with rockin’ grooves in the vein of the RADIATORS FROM SPACE or the CORTINAS, these boys played that catchy shit with a bit of commercial appeal. This single is presented as a double A-side (right on the sleeve!), but the actual A-side is the winner for me. “You’re To Blame” is a loose and spunky R&B number with a classic four-chord riff and ’50s rock character. “It’s You I Want” sounds a little more like an attempt at radio play and has more of a power pop feel to it (the handclaps are subtle), although there is some good ol’ twangy guitar jamming in there to help drive it along. Anyway, by the time I get to side two, I’m already sold on the record and ready to flip it back again. It’s great.

The In-Fuzzed The In-Fuzzed LP

A real-deal garage banger taking me back to my Rip-Off Records-laden glory days, this self-titled long-player from Berlin’s the IN-FUZZED is not only some of the best garage rock I’ve heard in a while, it’s some of the best I’ve ever heard. With a killer, collage-like spread of great songs that all feel authentic, this is a real anomaly for this particular strain of throwback rock’n’roll. Rather than riding a single fuzzy groove-style all the way to hell, or taking on a campy retro pose like many attempts at garage over the last couple of decades, the IN-FUZZED seem to pop around and play in the best bits of all aspects of the genre. And it sounds like they’re really having a blast doing it, whether they’re freaking out a bit and reminding me of Dutch ’90s legends the STIPJES on “Lost Time Rock N’ Roll,” playing ’60s punk à la the MAKERS on “Like Nitroglycerine,” rolling like the BEACH BOYS comin’ down a dirty chimney on the charming “Xmas Night,” or even dabbling in psychedelia a little bit on “Wall.” Playing very much like a compilation of fresh new garage groups instead of the effort of a single band, this is truly an amazing record. I wasn’t expecting this in 2021, but fuck yes, I’ll take it.

The Last Words Animal World LP

It’s an old story: UK/Irish expats in Australia form a first-wave punk group, then up sticks to London in search of a career. Despite John Peel airplay and an alternative chart hit single in “Animal World,” success never really came knocking for the LAST WORDS, but they did manage to record an anomaly of an album with an early credit for legendary producer Adrian Sherwood. That album makes up the bulk of the tracks here, bookended by the more urgent, snarling tracks from the early singles. Rough-hewn, catchy (but unremarkable) punk with STIFF LITTLE FINGERS-meets-CLASH melodies gets an experimental tape loop treatment that at least makes it memorable, not least on the ahead-of-its-time closing track, a ferocious, psychedelic dub-punk deconstruction of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s “White Rabbit.” Worth checking out for sure.

The Letter K Garage Magic cassette

Absolutely beautifully done packaging on this cassette of lo-fi pop music. Two-color screen print on both sides of the J-card as well as the tape labels themselves. Stylistically, this mashes a bunch of different aspects of pop music together. You get some modern indie-infused pop punk, some Plan-It-X “kid of summer” style pop punk, some dreamy bedroom pop, and other elements I can’t entirely place. It’s a very nice little tape if you are into the catchier realm of things.

The Mirrors The Lost 3rd Album LP

If you ask me, Greg Ashley is a goddamn genius. This motherfucker has written, engineered, played on, pissed on, passed out on, or thought about a theremin line for, well, name it—I’ll figure out how it connects to our boy Greg. Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-all, Ashley will make it better, one way or the other. Despite all this, his pre-GRIS GRIS group, the MIRRORS, still gets short shrift. Both of their early 2000s albums are classics, so you bet I was psyched to hear this lost puppy. And it doesn’t disappoint. While not quite scaling the heights as those millennium-era killers, The Lost 3rd Album is more than worth it for fans. Laying just slightly off the garage rock bombast of that earlier work, the nine cuts here are an obvious precedent for the GRIS GRIS and their seductive, hypnotic sway. Songs like “Patient Flowers Electric” and “Blush Sunshine” are the real Paisley Underground. But you’ve still got full-throated blare like “Gracie’s Pink Pussy Cat” and “Paranoia Blues,” so maybe rip some holes in your thrift store polyester. No one can channel the VELVETS, Roky, Townes VZ, and DREAM SYNDICATE like the Gash. This is dirty psychedelia for drugged-up romantic poets.

The Only Ones Live in Chicago 1979 LP

OK, I’m a big fan of this era of the ONLY ONES. I probably would’ve loved this LP if it was just half an hour of Peter Perrett tuning his guitar, but in all honesty, this is a great live record. The recording quality is clear, and the mix just raw enough that you know it’s live. The band sounds great, hitting all notes and breaks with the cool, poetic irreverence that makes them so special. Released on the brink of the pandemic, the timing of this record couldn’t be better. If live recordings are the closest we can get to the show-going experience, albums like this one are a worthy substitute for the real deal.

The Serfs Angelic Ritualistic Cruelty EP

Oh hell yeah, this authentic lo-fi synth eeriness from Ohio’s the SERFS is right up my alley. The whole thing just pops the second you put it on. The synth does a great job of making an otherwise straightforward song just a little off-kilter and uneasy. The first two tracks are direct post-punk ragers, but it’s “Debt World” on the flip that really wins me over. The arpeggiated synth and pulsing bass evokes KRAFTWERK’s Radio-Activity LP or the primitive industrial of early SKINNY PUPPY. A solid EP worthy of its Ohio punk pedigree. The snappy risographed cover is a bonus.

The War Goes On Assisted Armageddon LP

Hailing from Copenhagen, THE WAR GOES ON is on their second album with Assisted Armageddon. Dark and catchy as hell punk rock that owes as much to the US as it does to the UK, but with a somewhat “pop” sensibility. They strive for big melodies yet have a gritty approach to them. If you know HJERTESTOP or NO HOPE FOR THE KIDS, you know what you are in for, as the members share duties in both bands. To sum things up, this album could be on Hellcat Records.

THIRDFACE Do It With a Smile cassette

Super harsh, blasting hardcore from Nashville that brings in elements of powerviolence, psych, and a little metal. First track “Local” is a good indicator of things to come, with start/stop rhythms, blastbeats, and mini math-y breakdowns. The raw, shredded vocals are immediately arresting and have to leave the singer looking for a cough drop after shows. “Ally” is a good mix of everything THIRDFACE does well, with fast blasting, creepy-crawl breakdowns with sinister feedback, those awesome filthy vocals, and a noisy outro. It rules. They remind me of DESPISE YOU in parts because of how fucking thick and nasty everything is, but they are not afraid to get weird and stretch out with some spacy psych feedback jams like “Interlude.” Sounding like GASP, these moments are a perfect mix of heavy and experimental. We get some great thrash riffing on “Villains!” and “No Hope” that give glimpses of raw hardcore meets crossover for a few seconds at a time. Great release and highly recommended!

Great Falls / Throes split EP

If you’ve been sitting around with your face in your hands thinking “I’m about to fucking lose it right now,” then this record might be just what you need. Seattle’s GREAT FALLS drop a noisy post-hardcore dirge directly onto your terrified skull, leaving you a quivering pancake on the cold asphalt. This is on the less emo, more freak-out end of the post-hardcore spectrum, taking notes from late-’90s NEUROSIS, DAMAD, and even a little BASTARD NOISE for good measure. This song made me stoked to check out more from them for sure. Boise’s THROES pick up the pace significantly and plow right through you with some full-blast, face-shredding, metallic grindcore brutality. Sounds like some kind of bulldozer death race into a mosh volcano. Give it a spin and flip the fuck out!

Todd Briefly Demos cassette

It’s interesting to see a resurgence of bands doing humor which takes me back to my campus radio days of hearing KING MISSILE and the DEAD MILKMEN. TODD BRIEFLY, however, sounds nothing like those bands, but more closely resembles the COOL GREENHOUSE in their drum machine format. And it works! References a-plenty familiar to any modern rock weirdo: Fender Jaguars, banal chores, making fun of rich people, and hypochondria. It’s got that jerky DEVO-inflected mix of guitar and synth, and matched with some wit and songwriting skills to back it up.

Toro Bravo Tik į Priekį CD

This Lithuanian band has been playing tight, melodic Oi! since 1997. It’s catchy sing-along fun and I have no idea what they’re saying, but you know it’s positive and non-racist. COCK SPARRER, PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES, and SHAM done all modern and bristle-free. It’s a fun bit of ruck and I’ll probably not listen to it again but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Į sveikatą!

Tritonic Port of Spain CD

A blistering aural soundscape of a concept album (of sorts). Equal parts hardcore, metal, math rock, indie, and a smattering of pop, it’s all stitched into a whole cloth with samples and sound collages. BOY SETS FIRE mashing it up with KILLING JOKE doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s a start.

Béton Armé / Ultra Razzia Demo 2018 / Demo 2017 split LP

Two of the hardest contemporary Québécois Oi! bands join forces for this split LP. Bringing together on wax both of their respective demo tapes and sprinkling them with a bit of studio remastering magique to give them a bit of brawn. BÉTON ARMÉ’s side of the split is in keeping with the fine tradition of francophone Oi! (sans saxophone), replete with buzzsaw guitars that if you told me had been transported directly from 1985, I’d believe you. ULTRA RAZZIA takes a slightly rougher, more punk-tinged approach, in keeping with more modern offerings like COUPE-GORGE or TRAITRE. It also includes a joyous French-language cover of BLITZ’s “Razors in the Night,” which is almost worth the cost alone.

V/A Amenaza Mexicana cassette

Nice comp tape that grabs twelve current Mexican bands from all over the sonic DIY spectrum for consumption and consideration. A few bursts from the more polished and melodic side (RUFFLES, SYNESTHESIA, HOLLYWOOD BABILONIA) some raw hardcore (AUTOMATAS, BRIGADA ROJA, MALARI), bouncy punk (TRABAJO SUCIO, FLORES Y FUEGO), plus tracks from AFTERBOLTXEBIKE, COOPERATIVA PASCUAL, FILERO, and a killer low-end HC slammer from ROMPE EL CONTROL. Excellent quality throughout, from bands that were mostly new to me—which is why well put together comps (still) rule. Cheers to Rebel Time for making this one happen.

V/A Sweet Time RNR Comp 2xLP

This compilation double-LP was put together by Nashville-based Sweet Time Records after their annual Sweet By Sweet Time Festival was cancelled last year due to COVID. Label boss Ryan Sweeney complied 26 tracks on vinyl including local Nashville bands like SCHIZOS, MODERN CONVENIENCE, and SNOOPER, with outside standout tracks from PERSONALITY CULT, MIDNITE SNAXXX, ZOIDS, SICK BAGS, FRESH GRAVES, a great garage rocker from Johnny Otis Dávila of the defunct San Juan band DÁVILA 666, plus a ton more. It’s like an anthology for the syntho-weirdo-punko-garage scene. Also, all proceeds are going to support the venues that lost money from the festival cancellation.

V/A The Comp Vol. 1 cassette

One of my favorite things, when an unknown label does a compilation/mixtape showcasing what their label is all about. Wet Cassettes seem to have about twenty releases under their belt, and this comp has twenty tracks. To describe it the way they intended: “The Comp Vol. 1 features twenty previously unreleased songs from twenty Wet Cassettes artists of the past, present, future, and well, some that were just formed for this compilation.” This New Jersey-based label seems to dabble in a number of different genres, going from synth-punk to black metal to harsh noise to straight up grindcore. Personally, my favorite on the cassette is the Denmark synth-punk duo OK SATÁN whose cassette I also reviewed this month, or ARACHNID SALAD with their lo-fi cyberpunk track. There is a little too much emphasis on the pots’n’pans music for my personal taste (lo-fi grindcore, noise stuff, etc.), but all in all, this is a very cool introduction to a label I was previously unaware of.

V/A Unsolved Mystery cassette

A quick peek before I pressed play and I noticed tracks from LETTUCE VULTURES and FOSSIL FUEL so….well, I’m guessing this sixteen-band comp is gonna be a wild ride. I wasn’t wrong. Non-music, outsider dub, improvisational nonsense, outsider funk, damaged Americana, lo-fi psych…if it’s weird then it fits. “Sixteen musings on the unknown,” according to the cover. Pretty much sums it up. PEPPERMINT TEABAG, NIKOLAS KUNZ, TOXIC PILGRIMS, STILL LOOKING FOR COSMO, PIMP OF PERVERSION, and so much more. No contact information though, so the mystery is even deeper for you, dear reader.

Voice Imitator Plaza LP

Cool release from this group made up of Australian underground luminaries. VOICE IMITATOR has a few modes, but the songs are mostly based around taut WIRE-style post-punk rhythms, with sustained sheets of guitar and feedback like vintage SONIC YOUTH for good measure. There is a frequent high-pitched layer of synth noise that adds to the creeping build-up on tracks like “Chinese Hoax” and “Vilification Brunch.” The vocals on these rocking tracks come across as gruff and reverbed disaffected noise rock diatribes. There are also few unexpected surprises on this record, though. On three songs, the instrumentation is stripped down to slow, distorted electronics with spoken vocals on top, like a dread-inducing poetry reading. These tracks maintain the building tension that the more traditional rock songs have and sound like the quieter moments on a PRURIENT record. The final two tracks are remixes with heavier electronic instrumentation and work just as well as the rock originals. Strong album of serious, mature experimental punk.

 

Waste Man One Day It’ll All Be You LP

Not sure how they keep doing it, but Feel It has done it again; this album by New Orleans’ WASTE MAN achieves the rare feat of managing to be forward-thinking and diverse-sounding, while still being direct and danceable. I hate to use the word “mature” in a Maximum Rocknroll review, but (especially unusual for a debut LP) it kind of fits? Catchy seventies power pop songwriting stylings get a sharp elbow in the ribs from tetchy post-punk jitterings. Arty without being arch, punchy without punching anyone out—maybe if ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS hadn’t branched off to PERE UBU but channelled that weirdness into a Midwestern hardcore band?

Last Gasp / Who Decides split EP

Two choppy East Coast HC slammers from WHO DECIDES—nice an’ heavy with searing lead vox, a formidable wall of guitars, and a solid swing that really shines on “Your Fault.” LAST GASP answers with three sub-minute burners on the flip. Higher vocals and a classically “produced” hardcore recording. Definitely cleaner and more on the ‘crew end of the spectrum…the breakdown in “Throw Concrete” lasts maybe twelve seconds, and is perhaps the perfect closer. Killer stuffs.

Wood Chickens Live at Spicoli’s cassette

WOOD CHICKENS are a high-energy, punky rockabilly band from Wisconsin. This live cassette captures them in a full-swing rocking state. They sound like they are having a really good time. There are some fun song titles like “Return of Skunk Ape,” “We Skate in Boots,” and “Emilio Estevez,” too.

Dauðyflin / X2000 split cassette

After sharing (or destroying) a stage in Scandinavia back when gigs were allowed, these two pogo monsters consolidated their bond with a split. First off on the cassette is X2000 from Sweden, a creepy and eerie chorus-drenched beast of a band that hammers primitive hardcore like there is no tomorrow, complete with Spanish lyrics for that extra pinch of anger. Up next, DAUÐYFLIN from Iceland, who already have a name out there due to some releases through the excellent Iron Lung Records. This is dark hardcore full of pogo-inducing beats and an Icelandic coldness permeating the songs. If not for the lyrics, one might even think that these two bands were from Latin America. Overall a great split that shares a similar dark approach to hardcore. Will leave your “tupa-tupa” craving satiated.

Xerobot Xerobot LP

This discography collection is a goddamn public service. Presented within: 37 tightly-packed spasms as songs; 37 claustrophobic angular conniptions in miniature; a sonic Xerox of an EKG traced in crayon by an epileptic genius. And yet, despite all that blather, this is the sound of a band climbing up the stairs, not falling down them. XEROBOT is so methodical it’s as if AD(H)D itself was made flesh, formed a punk band, and then practiced incessantly with BLACK FLAG-like dedication. And all of this happened in the 1990s in the state of Wisconsin. It’s like a fairytale told by the janitor at your high school who is actually a mad scientist during his off-hours. This is maniacal and borderline insane music made by very smart young men who had problems, fetishes, and phobias that they couldn’t adequately express—except within these minute-long explosions of precise motion that walk the razor’s edge between innocent, demented fun and downright psychotic behavior. I find this music exhilarating, exhausting and absolutely hilarious. Included for your edutainment is an informative booklet-cum-oral history (alas, a zine) that puts it all in perspective for you. Take some time to peer through this cracked periscope. Crucial release.