Reviews

Extinction Burst

Away 4 Song Demo cassette

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

Become A Live Exercise cassette

Recorded live on KCSB radio on 10-25-2012. Hailing from Santa Barbara, CA, BECOME has the throwback Revolution Summer sound down perfectly. These songs are beautifully crafted, instantly familiar, and super well done, and all of this comes across even being performed live on a radio show. Personally, I probably would have cut out all of the horribly awkward banter with the radio host from the tape release of this, but to each their own. I see that the only other thing the band did was a demo tape on German label Take It Back Records, and I will be attempting to track one of those down now.

Deadream Deadream cassette

Fast hardcore punk. Five short songs, each clocking in well under a minute in length, most of which still finding the time to have a tough breakdown. Picture something mixed between LEFT FOR DEAD-type spastic riffs and tough CHAIN OF STRENGTH breakdowns.

Esperanza 1998–2001 LP

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

Head to Wall Demo 2019 cassette

Super chuggy, youth-crew-esque hardcore. Three songs that truly sound like they came from a different decade. You know the sound; singy melodic vocals with barked gang backups, driving main riffs, chugging tuff breakdowns. As I write this I’m discovering that there is an unlisted fourth song on the demo, a cover of “Under Fire” by 411. Not hiding where their inspiration comes from one bit with this choice of cover.

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.

Memory Leak Graduate Into Nothing cassette

Ambient indie/shoegaze from Tijuana, Mexico. Five long, pretty, meandering songs, two of them clocking in at over six minutes. As the tape began, I thought it was going to be all instrumental soundscape stuff, which had my interest and was pretty intriguing, but it only lasted the introduction to the first song. The packaging of this really caught my eye and it was the first tape I popped on when receiving my box of demos to review. A double-cassette case which looks like a miniature DVD case, fold-out lyric sheet, and a live photograph of the band. The packaging really is lovely.

People Person People Person demo cassette

Falling somewhere between Revolution Summer, hardcore, and melodic indie rock, PEOPLE PERSON is a bit of an enigma. Five toe-tapping songs with intelligently written lyrics, complete with song descriptions for each in the liner notes. These borderline-intellectuals have a lot to say, and they say it well. Packaging looks great, which is unsurprising with what I have seen come out of the Extinction Burst label.

Reclaim Break EP

Pretty damn good hardcore from California’s oft-neglected High Desert. These guys clearly know their NYHC as much as any other hardcore band in 2020, but they draw upon turn-of-the-millennium bands like CARRY ON and COUNT ME OUT too, especially on opening track “Bloom.” RECLAIM’s sadly terrible cover art will probably doom them to a localcore dungeon, but the tunes are pretty great. Recommended for ardent scene supporters and more discerning hardcore fans alike.

Silakbo Silakbo CD

While the foundation of opening track “Southpaw” is a drum machine hi-hat with a thick metal chug, it launches into a fiery D-beat and I’m thinking PAILHEAD’s “I Refuse,” and that sets the stage: SILAKBO drags you back to the 1980s, but they’re dragging sXe hardcore into the industrial techno clubs with you…and they’re feeding all the thugs and club kids a diet of anarcho-punk activism. A solo project that shines a light on injustice, a band that speaks from the heart of the Filipinx diaspora in California and the rest of the world, a killer hardcore band that offers their material with fucking purpose that surrounds the band like a shield. This first release is hopefully a harbinger—listen to the dark determination of “World of Death” and think about the sonic possibilities, especially when combined with the purity of mission and honest determination that fills every moment of this release.

Snakes 5 Song Demo cassette

Chaotic and aggressive hardcore is king. I mean, this is obvious. But when a band settles into melody, I want to hear HÜSKER DÜ and MOVING TARGETS, and that’s exactly where SNAKES land, with tinges of FUEL (and/or Dischord) in the mix to keep me guessing before they launch into more power. They maintain the balance well, and SNAKES spend five short tracks making their point and then exiting confidently.

Sweet Soul So Far No Further LP

From SoCal or close enough, this band does the alternative rock meets pop punk thing. This reminds me of softer BLINK-182 and ALKALINE TRIO or even SIMPLE PLAN. SIMPLE PLAN comparisons are never good. I’m not getting the pop skills feel of the first two mentioned bands, either. Moving on…

Thievery Thievery cassette

Lo-fi hardcore from Victorville, CA. From the little insert included I have gathered that this was a short-lived project from 2005 that wrote four songs and recorded live onto a four-track, released it as a demo, and played one singular show. This is a reissue of that same demo. It’s pretty cool, sufficiently pissed. The quality of the recording makes it a bit difficult to discern exactly what they sounded like. The mind fills in those garbled gaps, tho. Musically it falls somewhere between powerviolence, fastcore, and some tough-guy beatdown stuff.

V/A Behind This Wall EP

A 7″ comp from the Mojave Desert in Cali. Bands included on this are RECLAIM, NOBLES BONES, MARRÓN, COUNTY FAIR, and CEL DAMAGE. Pretty much a hardcore collection that stays away from generic thrash. A good start for a lesser-known scene.

Vacancy Last Rites EP

Upbeat, driving melodic punk rock here—tuneful hardcore that in a more innocent time may have been called emo. The guitars churn and glisten like early JAWBREAKER or RITES OF SPRING atop surging bass and drums. The interplay between all three instruments really stands out, while the dark, introspective lyrics are reflected in the vocals, which are laced with a tortured drama that reminds me of Andrea Zollo of AREA 51/DEATH WISH KIDS. Deftly cramming six tasty little numbers on a bright green 45 RPM seven-incher; wonder what VACANCY will get up to next?