Reviews

Dischord

Autoclave Autoclave LP reissue

The first thing I heard about AUTOCLAVE as a teen in the early ’90s was that they were an “emo” band, whatever that means! I mean I guess all music can be considered emotional? This is not paper-bag fall-on-the-floor flail, however! Featuring the otherworldly voice of Christina Billotte (SLANT 6, QUIX*O*TIC, CASUAL DOTS, etc.) and the wild guitar styles of Mary Timony (HELIUM, WILD FLAG, EX HEX, etc.) this is a DC supergroup in my mind, but this was their high school band I think!?? It definitely has a sincere seeking feeling, some sort of post-Revolution Summer dream haze, maybe that’s why the mailorder lumped it in with the early ’90s emo scene but I would place it in the realms of post-punk explorations if you must genre-ize every sound. For fans of ONE LAST WISH and WIRE?! Christina’s voice is truly beautiful, the lyrics are so perceptive and thoughtful and her basslines remind me of WIRE songs and Nikki’s and Mary’s chopped up guitars over it are a textural dream. They are able to create this urgent yet dreamlike quality that is quite a feat. This is a vinyl version of a CD that came out a few years ago that compiles the 10″ and 7″ with a couple unreleased songs, including a super sick cover of the Nintendo classic “Paper Boy!” This is truly the sound of my youth, a mixtape in my walkman skating round town, reading about the wild DC punk scene in Erin Smith’s Teenage Gang Debs and Tobi Vail’s Jigsasw fanzines and wanting to telepathically transmit myself to a zone where teenage girls knew about DEAD MOON and the WIPERS.

Beefeater Plays for Lovers LP

A band made up of musicians who know their instruments and how to make them create a new sound. Influences include funk, blues, and thrash. The vocals are rough, emotional, and from the heart! By far the most experimental band coming from Dischord, but it’s an album that definitely grows on you. Recommended.

Beefeater House Burning Down LP

A fine, star-studded, post-mortem release, rich with vocal and instrumental interludes, the classic dissonant balls-out rockin’ and the words…are inspirational. It’s a composition that’s well conceived, executed, and received. Too bad it’s the last.

Coriky Coriky LP

These eleven songs are an obvious extension of the EVENS. That’s not to say that Joe Lally on bass doesn’t add anything to the Amy Farina/Ian MacKaye duo—he does—but the overall feel of the record is dictated more by the songwriting style that Farina and MacKaye developed in the EVENS. It still has that moody, rolling, slow head-nodding music that sits in opposition to the strong vocal delivery. On the other hand, Coriky has more depth, greater dynamic shifts, and a little more grit. The bassline on “Inauguration Day” will give folks a brief FUGAZI flashback, and some of the songs, like “Shedileebop,” get a little louder, a little chunkier, a little more blown-out, but it’s nowhere near the “FUGAZI-light” that the internet has been throwing around. A solid record from front to back.

Dag Nasty Can I Say LP

Tight musical compositions plunge headlong into some serious topics of personal beliefs. A few good riffs that harmonize rather well and keep a steady pace as vocalist Dave Smallee croons his way with such an exceptional flavor. This man’s voice makes the record. He has a craft with his voice and uses it so well, the A-plus of this slab.

Dag Nasty Wig Out at Denkos LP

This time, DAG NASTY has less punch and more melody present, bringing the DESCENDENTS’ pop sound to mind. Could be because it’s almost a whole new band, but aside from a few catchy hummable tunes like “Safe,” most of this LP struck me as ineffective and rather weak. Get back to the grind guys!

Egg Hunt Me and You / We All Fall Down 7″

A studio band with Jeff Nelson and Ian MacKaye who document two incredible songs. Simple, strong, straightforward structure with interesting, powerful music and very inspiring lyrics. A great amount of creativity mixed with sincere effort make this record highly recommended. Beautiful packaging.

Embrace Embrace LP

The long awaited album by this now defunct band and after listening to this record it’s a sad fact the band was so short-lived. They strike a lot of mid-tempo similarities with a clean, complex RITES OF SPRING sound and when combined with the diversely intense vocals, a lot of interesting sincere music is created. The lyrics are thoughtful, critical, concerned and right on! Overall, a great record that has a lot to offer!

Government Issue Boycott Stabb 12″

At last! This EP is classic DC-style punk, with strong production and strong material. The arrangements are original, with both fast and slow parts and lots of effects, but no power is lost. These guys had fun in the studio, and although they came out a different band, they came out with a great record. Play loud.

Gray Matter Take It Back 12″

Underlying garage pop riffs and harmonies potently mixed with pounding drums and gut-wrenching vocals, the end result is nothing less than powerful. Six songs that are drowned in rawness and energy, and can’t help but grab our attention in one way or another. The lyrics lean toward personal concerns.

Hammered Hulls Written Words EP

So let’s just for a minute try to ignore the “former members of…” thing going on here. It’s pretty straightforward, basic, early-’80s style, mid- to up-tempo hardcore punk. What makes this record better than other? Hooks. They’re all over the place. Guitar hooks, bass hooks, whatever you want. Since our minute is up, the reason most people will buy this record is maybe the least interesting part. Not that Alec MacKaye’s vocals have lost anything, the other pieces are just real solid (they also have wildly long lists of amazing bands that they have played in). It’s real catchy, no-nonsense punk. If you are one of the many silent folks who prefer the FAITH side, you have to get this. Even if you don’t, check it out.

Iron Cross Skinhead Glory EP

This slice of American Oi drags a lot but the drill press guitar sound is hot. The lyrics are about fighting and at face value seem confused if not downright reactionary. Vocalist Sab told me that aside from ex-bassist Wendel’s “Psycho Skin”—a retarded homophobic diatribe—most of the other songs are based on specific incidents and advocate self-defense not mindless violence. Unfortunately that isn’t at all clear from the enclosed lyric sheet. When dealing with sensitive subject matter, it would be helpful if bands included more information on what it is they’re trying to say. After all isn’t the object of music to communicate feelings and ideas?

Marginal Man Identity 12″

A marvelous new release from Dischord. MARGINAL MAN combines a potpourri of influences to produce a heady musical stew. There’s a fine D.C.-type thrasher with distinctive guitar parts (“Pandora’s Box”), a haunting pop number (“Friend”), two grinding “pain” songs that I find tedious (“Torn Apart” and “Fallen Pieces”), and a bunch of superb fast and tuneful punkers that have a ZERO BOYS feel, especially in the ’60s vocal inflections. Yeah!

Minor Threat In My Eyes EP

Awesome thrash punk from DC. This band has the kind of power and commitment that most groups only dream about. Not only does this blast right off the turntable, but the songs really stand out. One of the two or three best releases of 1981, no doubt about it.

Minor Threat Out of Step 12″

Exploding turbulence thrusts forth eight new MINOR THREAT proficient arrangements. Increase the velocity of their first two powerful releases, step Brian up to second guitar, add new bassist Steve, and still more potent lyrical blitzes, and this 12″’s non-hesitant progression outbursts into the blazing best Dischord yet. Don’t miss.

Minor Threat Salad Days EP

For some reason, listening to this record makes me feel like shit (though it has little or nothing to do with the music itself). It’s just that it reminds me of the not-so-old days when one could feel genuinely enthusiastic and positive about the hardcore scene. Ironically, Ian seems to be dealing with this very issue in the great title cut, which is as bittersweet as it is reflective. The flip songs seem pretty lackluster by comparison, but then screaming at a wall apparently isn’t going to bring the motherfucker down after all.

Reptile House I Stumble as the Crow Flies EP

Very aggressive post-punk might be the best way to describe this four-song release. These medium-paced songs are driven by punk singing, backed up by a melodic yet ravish guitar-oriented band. The lyrics are pretty cryptic/bleak, but the music is a bit less depressing especially due to the sometimes snappy drumming and ringing guitar.

Rites of Spring Rites of Spring LP

One of D.C.’s most touted younger bands comes across with a melodic punk style that combines older-style punk and rock into a powerful force. With ringing guitars, chunky rhythms, and ruff vocals, they come across not unlike area-mates SCREAM in toughs but pop appeal.

Rites of Spring All Through a Life EP

Four songs from this now-defunct D.C. outfit are slow-tempo, simplistically melodic and clear of any hard edge this band had in the past. What remains the same are the personal poetic lyrics and raw vocals. Overall, this band seems to be restraining the energy they had on their debut release.

Scream Still Screaming LP

This is bound to be one of the best releases of ’83. Dischord has really got their production down—it’s the best in punk. An unrelentless record, musically and lyrically, containing powerhouse thrash with great hooks, choruses, and vicious guitars. I don’t care much for the few reggae-ish cuts, but otherwise I can’t say enough good about this one.

Scream This Side Up LP

A professional job here that doesn’t lose its bite. They thrash hard, rock hard, and hit you on the rebound with reggae and other changes-of-pace. The lyrics didn’t hit me too hard this go round, though, as their obliqueness left me wondering what exactly are they singing about. Nonetheless, they are delivered with passion, and that’s what’s important.

Scream Banging the Drum LP

Turn up the volume on this baby, and you won’t be sorry. Great production brings out the best here, and though the pace isn’t as frantic as before, the power is well directed, the hooks are there, and the energy flows hot. A welcome surprise.

Soulside Less Deep Inside Keeps LP

From the ashes of LUNCHMEAT, this band kicks out a strong melodic hardcore sound much like that of early SCREAM. Catchy riffs, clear vocals, pounding bass and personally political lyrics create memorable music backed up with true feelings. Good stuff!

Soulside This Ship / Madeleine Said 7”

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

SS Decontrol The Kids Will Have Their Say LP

Boston is happening! SS DECONTROL fired the shots heard ’round the world and generated a thriving hardcore scene. This great album shows why, with its ferocious thrash assault, committed delivery, and intelligent radical lyrics. Fan the flames!

The Faith Subject to Change 12″

What can I say? Wherever MINOR THREAT left off, FAITH might be able to step in. Even though I worry that they might be too much of a sound-alike, they’re cool. They play fast songs, slower songs, and songs with shifting tempos, to which they add interesting studio bits, a lot of spirit and energy, and sincere discussions about the day-to-day aspects of their lives. Could become a classic.

United Mutation Fugitive Family EP

A truly amazing record. UNITED MUTATION have combined the speed and intensity of basic thrash with some highly distinctive structural changes, a couple of nasty guitar leads, and the scariest vocals I’ve heard in a long time. Today’s trendy horror rockers will crap their pants and go into convulsions when they hear the singer’s raspy growl, which bears a striking resemblance to that of the demon in The Exorcist.

V/A Flex Your Head LP

A strong release of exceptional historical interest, but one that’s a bit erratic and not always up to the standards set by Dischord’s awesome 7″ catalog. This record includes outtakes from all the core bands, as well as a sample of material by defunct bands like the UNTOUCHABLES and new outfits like those on side 2. The thrash material ranges from good to great (MINOR THREAT, YOUTH BRIGADE) and the experimental punk of RED C and VOID is noteworthy for its power and originality. Oi clones IRON CROSS are a bad joke and the grooves are too compressed to yield maximum power, but these are minor gripes about a hot compilation.

V/A 4 Old 7″s on a 12″ LP

So you’ve been crawling up the walls trying to get these classic 7” EP’s, paying five times the original price for a copy, and now here it is for you all to experience. These are the roots of the original DC sound, with the TEEN IDLES (with Jeff and Ian of MINOR THREAT), S.O.A. (with Henry of BLACK FLAG), GOVERNMENT ISSUE, and YOUTH BRIGADE (not the LA variety ; this one had Bert of DOUBLE O/SECOND WIND) in their debut EP’s. Still classics, and should be part of your collection!

Youth Brigade Possible EP

A fantastic group with a chunkier sound and a slightly slower thrash attack than MINOR THREAT. “Pay No Attention” is an awesome musical steamroller and this EP would be perfect if they’d included the classic “I Object,” but you can’t expect everything.