Reviews

Feel It

Alien Nosejob Paint It Clear LP

I reviewed this Australian band’s HC45-2 EP early this year and expected this LP to contain the same kind of manic, freaky garage hardcore. Nope, totally wrong. Paint It Clear sounds like a whole different band, one fed on NEW ORDER and BUGGLES records instead of trashy KBD tapes. Whatever inspired this record, it works—this is a bouncy, fun collection of super catchy pop, complete with crispy drum machine beats, 808 claps, and infectious guitar lines. Paint It Clear is full of charm, with tracks like “Leather Gunn” and “Duplicating Satan” that are pure ’80s Euro-leaning synth-pop. I didn’t think I would be making this reference today, but the loping piano and keyboard ballad, “The Butcher,” sounds like it could have been written by George Harrison with lines like “It is hard to see the sun here / It’s hard to hear the sea here.” If you like power pop or miss the days of acid wash and crunchy bangs, check it out immediately. If you are a rocker with a sweet tooth, give it a listen for something different.

Cement Shoes Too LP

Fresh, rocking hardcore tunes from Richmond, VA. Right off the leash they remind my Bay-Area-bubble-living ass how fuckheaded life in the South must be with “Unite the Right in Hell,” which actually sounds akin to Damaged-era BLACK FLAG. “Big men all die / Pig men all die / Alt-right all die / I’ll take your head / I’ll take yo’ hat!” Staccato caveman vocal delivery blurts over varied tempos, boosting the character of what could otherwise be a really good but pedestrian punk record. Bizzare but musical punk with a punchy, thick production and enough hardcore sensibilities to appeal to a wider audience. Totally into it.

Cold Feet Punk Entity LP

Early-’80s-style USHC that injects XClaim sensibilities aligned most closely with My America: that wall of guitar, vocals in the middle of the snotty-tough spectrum, a specific Bostonian dissonance in some of the chord progressions (which can also be heard on Get It Away), with a more loose and irreverent up-and-down-the-West-Coast sensibility from the same time period, or perhaps some of the slightly later between-LP POISON IDEA odds-and-ends, which were probably drawing from the same well as the latter. In any event, one of the best hardcore bands to come out of Baltimore in years.

Fashion Pimps & the Glamazons Jazz 4 Johnny LP

Twisted, expertly-played art-punk wotzit courtesy of known quantities from the long-lived Cle freak scene. The list of current/former bands of those involved would be quite lengthy but let’s note DONKEY BUGS, CLOUD NOTHINGS, and RAZAK SOLAR SYSTEM. The vocals have an undeniable SPRAY PAINT waver, but the music is slippery, wriggling like an angry eel. Dipping a handful of toes in synth punk while lunging towards noise rock spazzery, FASHION PIMPS are like KITCHEN & THE PLASTIC SPOONS moonlighting on the Subterranean Records roster.

Freak Genes Power Station LP

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

Fried Egg Square One LP

This is one of the best releases I’ve heard in 2019. Imagine Damaged-era BLACK FLAG, with vocals that sound like HOAX, and some VOID-esque riffs thrown in the mix. The whole package—the music, the lyrics, the album art—sort of has this sense of yuckiness to it: the discomfort you might feel from, say, stepping in puke. Two things really bring that out: the sporadic BLACK FLAG-y single-note lead riffs, and the raw screaming of hella self-deprecating lyrics such as “Tongue turns to jelly / The thoughts in my belly / Fist to my forehead / Frustration” and “Existing for existence’s sake / Consuming for consumption’s sake / When it comes to things / I only take.”

Good Looking Son Fantasy Weekend 12”

This is some fantastic pop music. It’s soft and pretty and kind of reminds me of bands like the SHINS. I’m guessing these guys grew up on a steady diet of ’60s garage music with a sprinkling of folk thrown in. It’s got a certain etherealness to it. It could be the vocals or it could be the controlled and measured pace. I really dig this.

Leopardo Malcantone LP

I picture LEOPARDO being some kind of hippy, freeform communal group. Their music is an eclectic collection of styles. There’s the usual instrumentation—guitars, bass, drums—but also banjo, synths, percussion, drum machine. It gives you a feel of people just bringing whatever they want to the group and seeing what happens. Yet, this record still seems cohesive. There’s poppy songs. There’s psychedelic songs. Some are slow. Some are upbeat. It’s a record for listening while lying down.

Lysol Soup For My Family LP

LYSOL has been unleashing its freak vibe for awhile now, but it’s been a couple years since we last heard the gutter-dancing slop the band traffics in. Soup For My Family comes off like the U-MEN squeezed through a Crypt Records strainer. While foregrounding turbo-charged garage-punk (“C-4,” “Can’t Win”), the quartet finds enough cracks in the sidewalk to maintain their cool and swing like a rock band should. LYSOL is the kind of band that can turn a basement hardcore show into a whiskey-soaked bacchanal. While still outputting tons of wattage, LYSOL sounds kinda raggedy, but in a good way—like all those hangovers were worth it. I can’t imagine the members of MUDHONEY wouldn’t listen to “Glasgow Smile” and break into shit-eating grins. Or you, for that matter.

Man-Eaters Gentle Ballads for the Simple Soul LP

MAN-EATERS emerged from the corpse of TARANTÜLA who emerged from the corpse of CÜLO and if you know the lore of those bands you’ll be primed for Gentle Ballads for the Simple Soul being a sinewy salvo of chemically-altered rocking hardcore punk. You’ll get that, to a point, but you may be unprepared for how vast and preening the riffs are on this thing. A clear-as-daylight love of ’70s arena rock and proto-metal is baked into each of these ten songs: some of the solos could have been ripped from a NAZARETH record, or something equally archaic and pointedly pre-hardcore. The movie sample intros are like something you’d hear on an ELECTRIC WIZARD joint, and “Man-Eaters” (who among us doesn’t love a self-titled song?) tips things into FU MANCHU levels of gum-chewing dudeliness, but tempos here are generally amphetamine-fast. Danny Babirusa—formerly of BLEEDING GUMS, and the only non-ex-TARANTÜLA member—is the perfect vocalist for this sound, one which plenty of bands from POISON IDEA to TURBONEGRO to ANNIHILATION TIME have offered up before, but if anyone’s doing it as well as MAN-EATERS right now they’ve evaded my ears.

Man-Eaters Twelve More Observations on Healthy Living LP

Chicago’s bad boys of rock return to slay with their second LP! I don’t know if that’s really accurate, but it starts out this review with a nice bang. Members of CÜLO, TARANTÜLA, etc. give it another go as their hard-rockin’, head-scarf-wearing ’70s cock-rock alter egos. The combination of classic-era hard rock and punk is nothing new these days—bands like JACK SAINTS, FANTASY LANE, MÖWER, and most noticeably ANNIHILATION TIME have tread this well-worn path before. With BLACK FLAG, SAINT VITUS, and the OBSESSED as their godfathers, these Chicago gents do a fine job of dirtheaded guitar worship. It feels like MAN-EATERS are a little more on the tongue-in-cheek parody side of this genre though, and they definitely fall more on the THIN LIZZY side with lots of boogie guitar licks and high struttin’ ‘tude. My complaints here are that the guitar is not loud enough and the effects on the vocals are annoying as fuck. It’s a little too long for my attention span, but the artwork is cool and they’re probably a hoot(?) live. Smoke it…get high.

Morwan Зола-Земля (Zola-Zemlya) LP

MORWAN is the solo project of Kiev-based artist Alex Ashtaui. My worry prior to listening to this was that it was gonna be more ’80s Eastern Bloc post-punk cosplay, à la MOLCHAT DOMA (whom I like, but don’t need more of!). This is resoundingly not that! Tonally, it’s not dissimilar—it’s definitely on the gothier end of the punk spectrum, and I can see TikTok teens co-opting snippets to soundtrack their #sovietvibes videos. But the sound here is much more organic and relies on post-punk as a foundation to build atop rather than a sound to emulate. Vocals are multi-tracked chants that echo as though recorded in some imposing brutalist atrium. The guitar and bass lines remind me of the surf/psych instrumentals coming out of Pakistan in the late ’60s (like the MODS or the PANTHERS), and the drum patterns are intricate to the point of sounding programmed (in that respect, it even reminds me of AMON TOBIN’s 2005 album Chaos Theory). All of these elements are extremely rhythmic yet are woven together to create a sound that’s overtly melodic and much warmer than you’d think given its “Eastern European Post-Punk” label. But maybe most strikingly, this album makes me want to move—not necessarily dance—just…move. Really, it’s hard to overstate how original this record sounds and just how impressive it is. Absolutely fantastic!

Pleasure Leftists The Gate LP

In their first release since 2015, PLEASURE LEFTISTS return with ten brooding yet upbeat post-punk tracks. The songs are awash with emotion and interweaving layers of instruments, while singer Haley’s vocals cut through with dramatic melodies. The deathrock sound is still present, with a strong SIOUSXIE AND THE BANSHEES, ’80s-style undertow. What the band gains through restraint and thoughtfulness here leads to a sound that is solid, but a bit less adventurous than their original 2015 full-length, The Woods of Heaven. Recorded by Stan Wright of ARCTIC FLOWERS, it’s beautifully and intentionally produced without sounding over-produced.

Power The Fool / Give It All to Me 7″

Motherfucking POWER is back! I have to admit, I lost track of these Aussie faves after their supreme Road Dog EP. and heard rumors that they’d even broken up?! But fret not, for our heroes haven’t faded to dust, they’ve simply metamorphosed from mullet-headed Lobby Lloyd worshipers into a two-wheeled, leather-clad, NWOBHM loving monster. No poodle heads or spandex here, though. “The Fool” is fucking MOTÖRHEAD. Like if MOTÖRHEAD went on a three-day bender and had to sell a bass drum for speed money. Shredding. “Give it All to Me” is SWEET SAVAGE, FIST, and the first BLITZKRIEG single all rolled together, but hard and street, maybe a little like “Shylock” by BUFFALO. Totally great record that I’ve been spinning nonstop for almost a month now. I should try to sleep, but I can’t wait to see what these mates have in store next.

Protruders Poison Future LP

A loose and odd duckling from Montreal. PROTRUDERS try their hand at all manner of agitated sounds: A pumpin’ take on trad’ rock’n’roll that’s instinctively punk and off in the right sorta way. Their attitudinal reference points seem to (mostly) sprout from the world of Cle’ proto-punk, with “Wrong Way Sign” (the six plus minute centerpiece) recalling so much MIRRORS or ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS magic that I’m liable to cite that alone as worth the price of admission. After repeated listens (yes, it prompts them), I dig the longer, room-to-roam moments over the more direct numbers, but even the chopped and speedy “Stabilizer” crumbles coolly. Quality beef here, folks, ’specially for the zonked hairballs out there.

Qlowski Quale Futuro? LP

First, the future was denied. Then a different one was fought for. Then realist capitalism settled among us and absorbed and neutralized any hint of rebellion until it flattened reality and returned us to a path that is, in fact, a dark tunnel to nothingness. Nihil. The London band QLOWSKI wonders what future or futures can be envisaged under the current circumstances. And they do it with an impeccably well-constructed work, full of urgent, edgy, tense songs that use the tools of post-punk and new wave to create little treatises on the things that matter: the everyday vignette that glimpses a potent poetic image, frustration and weariness transmuted into dreams that invade real life, noise as a knife to tear the veil of suffocating reality, creating cracks for desire, possibility and hope to seep through. It is truly beautiful. Referentially, you can detect the early OMD melodic spirit, the cubist punk edge of SWELL MAPS, the majestic simplicity of New Zealand punk, the dark romanticism of after punk. The references are just that, references that serve to orient you in the hanging garden of QLOWSKI, a garden full of pleasures oscillating between melancholy and the golden light of twee, whatever that may mean to you. Two good songs to enter this world are “Larry’s Hair Everywhere,” with that wonderful noise freakout in the middle, and the track that closes the album, a Lynch-esque tour de force, “In a Cab to Work ft Les Miserable.”

Silicone Prairie My Life on the Silicone Prairie LP

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

Slump Flashbacks from Black Dust County LP

It’s funny. Since I quit doing drugs some time back, I find myself drawn more and more to dirgy, druggy music, especially of the lysergic variety. While this RVA band is nothing that I would listen to while tripping balls, this is a pretty great record. LSD-fused music rarely hits it right, as one person’s idea of what good acid rock is usually completely different from another’s. While mine is the BUTTHOLE SURFERS, ROKY, the FROGS, Saturday morning cartoons, or the sound of a running toilet, yours may be HAWKWIND or SPACEMEN 3, to which much of this platter definitely pays tribute, with all the endless Moog effects. CAPTAGON did this on their excellent demo tape a few years back but, alas, rocked much harder than these guys. Side two picks up the pace a little, and catches the ears a lot harder, but overall I really dig this record. For fans of the aforementioned bands, and ’90s favorites like the FLUID or CULT. Dare I say groovy. Ughh.

Smarts Who Needs Smarts Anyway? LP

I’m not exactly sure when meme-spawned punk subgenre classifications first officially entered the unironic press material lexicon, but we might have reached peak egg-punk with the debut LP from SMARTS—there’s an “egghead” joke just waiting to be made there. As seemingly mandated in Australia, there’s substantial member crossover between SMARTS and a number of recent OZ DIY all-stars, some less eggy (PARSNIP) than others (AUSMUTEANTS, HIEROPHANTS, ALIEN NOSEJOB, etc.), and while Who Needs Smarts Anyway? isn’t a major departure from anything that the latter subset has produced, it does kind of seem like it could have been generated through a machine learning algorithm designed to come up with a prototypical band in this style. The sort of uptight, hardcore-velocity anxiety hammering employed by URANIUM CLUB, blaring new wave-via-Lumpy Records (by way of the DEADBEATS) sax that’s not nearly as abrasive or punctuated as this kind of panic-punk truly calls for, snotty rapid-fire vocals delivering lyrics focused on the omnipresence of pocket computers (“Smart Phone”), the minutiae of everyday life as expressed through household products (“Cling Wrap”), and the inescapable iconography of corporate culture (“Golden Arches”)—check, check, double check. Been searching for a band even more to the right of the CONEHEADS and UROCHROMES on the egg/chain spectrum?

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.

Spllit Spllit Sides LP

Genuine oddball art-punk out of Baton Rouge, LA of all places. This duo, who’ve been making music together since 2019, wowed Feel It into issuing their vinyl debut, so you know it’s gonna be good. And it is! Slotting in somewhere among the contemporary minimal post-punk of the WORLD, the weirder tracks on the Red Snerts compilation, and, like, an all-marimba C.C.T.V. cover band, it’s easily the most “out there” thing Sam has released this year (not an easy feat when you look back on what he’s put out!). I want to say that the easiest comparison to make is to THIS HEAT’s Deceit, but that’s not quite right. This is maybe as experimental as that record, but Spllit Sides is much breezier and just more fun. And as much as I like Deceit and know it’s an absolute classic, I’m almost certain to revisit this LP more often. Anyway, this record has confounded me enough that I’m having trouble weaving these in organically, so I’m just going to list out the rest of the things it reminded me of at times: the German band TRIO, some prog rock band that I couldn’t put my finger on, WEEN (sans their cringy lyrics), the soundtrack to an Atari game. Just buy it already!

Spread Joy Spread Joy LP

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

Star Party Demo 2020 cassette

STAR PARTY is a GEN POP offshoot that throws down a glittering gauntlet on this teaser tape. Drenched in sheets of glorious early Creation Records fuzz, “No Excuse” hits hardcore velocity while singer Carrie Brennan is perfectly dialed in on the reverb. But it’s “Veil of Gauze” that really impresses. “Gauze” is so good that it can hold its own with the excellent version of the SHOP ASSISTANTS’ “Something To Do” that precedes it. And just when you think you know the score, STAR PARTY covers a BOB DYLAN-penned early CHER tune (“All I Really Wanna Do”) and conjures fond memories of the AISLERS SET. When’s the single?

Sweeping Promises Hunger for a Way Out LP

SWEEPING PROMISES is the latest project from Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug, who have been behind an ever-growing list of groups responsible for some of the best music to come out of Boston over the past few years (in particular, last year’s cassette collection from their coldwave outfit DEE-PARTS demands your attention). Hunger for a Way Out was recorded using a single microphone in a vacant concrete lab just before mass isolation became our collective reality, and the band’s stark, direct approach perfectly reflects both of the physical setting in which their debut LP took shape, as well as the greater social context in which it would be later received. One of my favorite PYLON songs is an ultra-lo-fi, pre-Gyrate practice space demo called “Functionality,” and SWEEPING PROMISES have extended the raw material of that one track into an entire full-length record: shocks of bare-wire guitar, rhythms guided by infinite-loop bass lines, and the deadly-serious repetition of lyrical demands (check that “Pick your jaw up off the ground / Take your seat” line in “Out Again”). Part of what made the school of ’78-’82 so inspiring was the idea of working within and embracing limitations (whether inherent or self-imposed) to create something interesting, and those lessons have definitely been applied in the overall minimalism-in-mono aesthetic of Hunger for a Way Out, but Lira’s powerful, expressive vocals ultimately push things to a place that transcends any typical off-kilter and untrained DIY art-punk reference points—her voice is so effortlessly perfect that any of these songs could have been massive pop hits if they’d been presented in a slightly different form. Album of the fucking year, y’all.

Teenage Cenobite Live cassette

Driving, nasty synth-punk. Richmond, VA has got something special here. Six songs recorded live and sounding better than a majority of demos I usually hear. TEENAGE CENOBITE originally began as a solo project, but after releasing their first cassette has become a full-on live band that, from the sound of this tape, are an unrelenting powerhouse. Not surprising that this is as good as it is having been released by Feel It Records, one of the most consistent labels these days.

The Cowboy Wi-Fi on the Prairie 12″

The simplicity of it all makes this hard to describe. Elements of HOMOSTUPIDS are apparent but this sounds even less blown out than the previous COWBOY release. Wi-Fi reminds me a lot of Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts in that it’s so simple and so catchy but there’s just little janky things that make it sort of odd, unconventional and seemingly unattractive. Imagine one those trippy SST Records “members of” groups but instead it’s What Makes a Man Start Fires-era MINUTEMEN combining with Metal Circus-era HÜSKER DÜ. That’s a bad description but you’ve got nothing but time now so you should just listen to it. Art by John Morton as well. An all-around great release.

The Cowboy Wi-Fi on the Prairie LP

Sophomore album from these former HOMOSTUPIDS folks. I have wavered on this lot’s prior efforts but am firmly on-board here. Wi-Fi On The Prairie seems a hell of a lot more focused, which is not to say there is a lack of flailing—their (very) specific attack is just executed perfectly. Can you be blind wasted and still completely “lock in”? Every cut here points to the affirmative: all-guitar steamrolling punk, seriously powerful sounds with occasional off-rail absurdities. A tough one to shake as well, repeating spins required. One that will probably rear its head come annual best-of time, assuming any of us live that long.

The Cowboy Feel the Chi Releasing From You flexi EP

I won’t buy a flexi disc just because it’s what’s available. It is the most annoying format. The band and their songs need to make it worth the hassle. I’m happy to report that the COWBOY passes the test. Three catchy, post-punk-ish-style songs. Jittery and choppy music with bended guitar strings and spoken lyrics. I’ll flop this piece of plastic on my turntable any time.

The Cowboy Riddles from the Universe LP

It’s almost hard to describe how much this record kicks ass. Across thirteen tracks, the LP wanders from just about every subgenre of punk, nailing everything from noise rock to garage rock in the best of ways. At times I hear the influence of bands like UNWOUND and POLVO, other times it’s a straight rip of JAY REATARD, done in the COWBOY style. It’s just lo­-fi enough to give the record a rough edge, but still polished enough to convey the intensity this record puts off. This is not the time to stand all high and mighty and be that picky listener. Put it on your to do list, mark your calendar, write it on your forehead for all I care; whatever you’ve got to do to remember this: listen to this fucking record.

The Cowboys The Bottom of a Rotten Flower LP

Holy pop, Batman! A new one from Bloomington Indiana’s COWBOYS, and it’s all pop. Somehow, they seem to channel more of an Anglo-centric UK sound, recalling some end of the ’70s first- wave poppers with a mix of straight riff o’ rama à la PROTEX/ UNDERTONES, and more angular sounds like XTC or THE JAM. The best part is they stay true to form, and these songs all top out around three minutes, so if you’re not feeling one song, it’s only about a minute to the next. Comes with a cool fold-out poster and the hype sticker is penned by Eddie Flowers of the GIZMOS.

The Cowboys Room of Clons LP

I don’t think I was familiar with this Bloomington band before I put their new record on, despite it being their fifth album or something. I must have listened to it five or six times since; I’m stuck at home with thousands of records and every song on the internet but I find myself coming back to this one over and over, and I discover something new each time. Ostensibly a garage punk act, this ambitious effort by the COWBOYS sees them traverse many songwriting styles, from the terse, staccato science-fiction post-punk of “Wise Guy Algorithm” to the pop-glam BOWIE worship of “Devil Book.” It’s unlikely there’s another record reviewed in these digital pages that spreads itself across so many genres. Part DEVO, part SPARKS; part ENO, part SOFT BOYS: Clever, but not too clever; art pop for the now generation.

The Cowboys Lovers in Marble cassette

The COWBOYS LP on Lumpy was a damn fine slab of weirdo garage punk. I friggin’ love that thing. I dug their further adventures but lost track of the band a few years back. Well, thankfully for us, the COWBOYS are still out there, still plugging away, still consistently putting out quality music. In fact, they released an LP in 2020, so this tape can be seen as riding sidecar. But make no mistake, these aren’t scraps. I’m pleased to report that the COWBOYS still got “it.” They’ve settled into what is perhaps their final form as advanced students of moody ’60s psych-pop. The sound honors the era, but still comes off as contemporary. There’s elements of the KINKS (“Lovers In Marble”) and early BEE GEES (“The Bell Rings Less”), while the best song here, “Saintlike Said,” recalls the brooding PRETTY THINGS. Nice job, ‘boys.

The Generics Cost Cutter EP

Previously released without a picture sleeve, Feel It Records has reissued this ultra-rare nugget with some enticing art and two previously unreleased tracks. I was previously unaware of this. The story goes: in 1983, three fresh-faced skater kids from Cross Lanes, West Virginia get introduced to some classic punk, get some instruments, play some parties and school events, record seven tracks in a studio, release two of them on a single limited to 200 copies, and then break up. The overall vibe of these tracks is somewhat limp, but the adolescent charm saves it as a historical document. That said, none of this material is going to be featured on my next mixtape or played on my non-existent DJ night. Still worth the top-quality release treatment for posterity’s sake.

The Soul Patrol Mara / Take Back the Night 7″ reissue

If all we can be assured of in life is death and taxes, we can at least add one more certainty to that depressing list—obscure, unheard bands from the late ’70s waiting to be unearthed for the pleasure of a new generation of fuck-ups and malcontents (that’s you and me!). Unappreciated Louisiana punks the SOUL PATROL private-pressed this single in 1979 and it remained rare as hen’s teeth until Feel It decided to let the rest of us in on its secret. Pre-dating fellow bayou-based punks like the SHITDOGS, the SOUL PATROL kicked out a decent racket back in their day. SOUL PATROL hit a sweet spot between bunk-acid hard rock and carburetor-dung garage punk. “Mara” is a slurry rocker that sounds like a soundtrack to inhaling dirt-weed and lusting after the cashier at the local burger joint. “Take Back the Night” appropriates an anti-violence proto-hashtag and blends it with some greasy-ass guitar to lay down some total KBD destruction that is guaranteed to improve whatever punk mixtape you’re currently working on.

The Toms The 1979 Sessions LP

This album apparently collects the “chaff” from Tommy Marolda’s three-day solo recording session that led to the TOMS’ self-titled album. I must admit I was not familiar with that LP, but it seems to be considered a power pop classic among aficionados. After listening to The 1979 Sessions, I had to immediately go and listen to it, because if these are the rejects, the songs that made the album had to be something else. The fourteen tracks here are a masterclass in jangling ’60s British Invasion guitar pop with an unmistakable BEATLES influence, with forays into spacier PROCOL HARUM or CREAM territory—it’s almost impossible to believe that one person played and recorded a couple of albums’ worth of this stuff in his home studio over a weekend (to make use of studio time vacated by a SMITHEREENS cancellation), but that’s how the legend has it, and if rock’n’roll isn’t about legends, what is it for? It doesn’t even sound home-recorded—it could have been tracked at Abbey Road. Essential stuff for the power pop fan.

The Zits Back in Blackhead LP

Hands down the winner for “Most Adorable Punk Record of the Year.” The ZITS are well (or not) known for their Killed by Death masterpiece, the “Sick on You / Beat Your Face” single, which the band pre-sold to their friends to get the dough to make. Both songs appear here remastered from the original eight-track tape, along with tons of surprisingly good-sounding demos and live tracks with hilarious in-between song banter. While the rest of the country was embacing the sounds of hardcore, these Oakton High School teens were cranking out sugary, innocently offensive numbers like “Bertha Was a Slut” inspired by early RAMONES and UNDERTONES (they cover “Can’t Get Over You” here). Other greats like “Opera Show” and “Euh Baby Euh” are criminal in the fact that they weren’t released until now. Feel It Records spared no expense in packaging and content, and there’s a great band history that I won’t bore you with here. Needless to say, the ZITS tragically ended when high school ended for these boys. If you can picture Ralph Malph and Richie Cunningham starting a punk band, you’d get an idea of what to expect here. It’s a clear sell, or is that Clearasil? Har har har.

V/A Days of a Quiet Sun LP

Days of a Quiet Sun is a compilation of recordings made by music producer Martin Gary between 1966 and 1973. Gary was the son of a record store owner who grew up immersed in the retail side of the music business. From there, he expanded to record producer and label owner by recording bands from his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The tracks on this compilation feature some of his earliest recordings and some are unreleased. They are surprisingly polished for a kid who was just learning the ropes, though probably a direct result of his record store experience. In the detailed liner notes, Gary recalls his processes of bringing bands he enjoyed seeing into studios in Washington, DC and Delaware due to lack of studios in Richmond. Gary would then release the records on his own labels and after getting local radio airplay, with some even becoming hits on the stations, he would bring the records to major labels trying to get the bands contracts. Though he was ultimately not successful in doing so, he was successful in his promotion of and preservation of these bands who might otherwise have been forgotten. Included here are the HAZARDS, the BARRACUDAS, KING EDWARD & HIS B.D.’S, BERNARD SMITH & JOKERS WILD, GROUP NINE, DUCK BAKER and the BOSOM BLUES BAND. Most started as teens playing at dances and frat parties. The music included is rock’n’roll, soul and blues similar to other bands at the time. The album title track by the BARRACUDAS features early use of a Moog synthesizer. Not surprisingly, the original records go for big bucks today. As a music connoisseur, I am always interested in the history of different scenes, what happened and why. Knowing next to nothing about the early Richmond music scene, I enjoy getting a sense of it through the ears of ones of its fans and participants. It is a nice collection.

 

Vanity Anticlimax / A Seat at the Table 7″

I think this is the most interesting thing they’ve put out? This version of VANITY features one of the most exciting/inventive guitarists of the past few years whose prior band VEXX was one of my faves. Definitely adds a sharper/wilder edge to their OASIS impulses ’n’ woozy rock’n’roll, and it feels more like a band than an attempt to recreate a sound which I think is the curse of the modern age! But…. I am still not sure I would reach for this again? It was a good time! But now it’s over.

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?

Why Bother? A Year of Mutations LP

Honestly, what’s more likely—that Feel It’s insatiable desire to release cool new music has reached a point where they can no longer find real bands to churn out product and have instead turned to throwing darts at a map and list of genres in order to foist a backstory on session musicians, or that Mason City, Iowa (the sixteenth most populous city in the country’s second most boring state) is full of enough cool people to fill out a band who just so happen to be into the odd combination of UK DIY and SPITS-y dum-dum sci-fi punk? Conveniently, the “band,” a supposed four-piece, is also content to be an 8-track recording project and has no intentions of playing live, so we may never find out. Anyway, regardless of how it came to be, the record is stellar. It sounds like a punked-up version of EXHIBIT A/SOLID SPACE with snatches of the same laid-back, boozy garage pop that made those early JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN recordings so compelling (particularly on a track like “Hum Drum”). Get on it!