Reviews

In The Red

100 Flowers Drawing Fire LP

When the URINALS wanted to expand their horizons beyond ramshackle, one-chord punk and simultaneously got fed up with hardcore’s increasing dominance in the LA scene, they changed their name to 100 FLOWERS and put out a handful of angular, art-minded post-punk records in the early ‘80s. This new reissue combines the five tracks from the band’s Drawing Fire 12” from 1984 with 1982’s Presence of Mind EP and a couple of compilation contributions, all packaged in a beautiful Independent Project Press letterpress sleeve just as the original 12” had been. There was definitely a certain econo approach in common with what they had done as the URINALS, but as 100 FLOWERS, the band’s songs took on a tightly-wound tension and structural complexity that was worlds away from the chaotic bash of “Ack Ack Ack Ack” and much more in step with what MISSION OF BURMA were doing around the same time (the combination of sharp, stabbing guitar and desperate vocals in “Bunkers” has Vs. written all over it), or how WIRE had similarly evolved by their second and third LPs. The thinking person’s punk music! A must-buy if the works of Happy Squid Records aren’t already fully represented in your collection.

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.

Alice Bag Sister Dynamite LP

ALICE BAG was one of the initial architects of LA punk and has had a hell of a life since, incorporating education and activism as well as music. Her 2011 autobiog Violence Girl is a crucial read in this respect, but if your current go-to reference point for ALICE is her stint as frontwoman of the BAGS, that’s still a more than serviceable foundation for getting max enjoyment out of Sister Dynamite, her third album under this name. It’s decidedly punkier and higher tempo than its predecessor, 2018’s pop- and ska-flavoured Blueprint, although her backing band and production crew remains pretty much the same. The thread back to that early Dangerhouse Records sound is fully, pleasingly audible, despite the (relatively) slick musicianship and new wave sheen, and there are Spanish-language songs (“Subele”) among paeans to queerness and denunciations of privilege.

CCR Headcleaner Street Riffs LP

Based chiefly off their previous album Tear Down the Wall (the one with the photo of a nude hippy smashing a flaming guitar into a vast stack of amplifiers), I had San Fran’s CCR HEADCLEANER loosely pegged as one of those post-COMETS ON FIRE kinda bands who brought hardcore aggression to their classic rock fandom. This holds from time to time on Street Riffs (“Half a Tooth,” the bits of “Office Buildings” that sound like BL’AST), but pound-for-pound there’s more triumphalist stoner rawk, CRAZY HORSE shimmery noodling, and even a little LUNGFISH mysticism. It’s fun as hell and contains multiple moments that’ll have you in a pie-eyed grin, assuming you can get on board with all the stuff I just mentioned, but it does feel like CCR HEADCLEANER are in a transitory period between noisy freek-rock and actual structured songwriting—without having mastered the second of those things.

Dum Dum Boys Let There Be Noise LP reissue

Let There Be Noise is a hard-to-find album of cut and bloody backstreet rock’n’roll from a sleepy town in Australia in ’81. The STOOGES, IGGY and British imports infected the minds of youth. I can see it now; sheep farmers rolling around in smashed beer bottles, cigarettes hanging from their lips, spitting as a new hobby, etc. “True Friend” comes off just like “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and I get heavily reminded of the stupid simplicity of COCKNEY REJECTS and SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS throughout. In the Red does a handsome job with some retrospective writing and improved art. All trendy assholes with DJ nights should buy it and play it so all those violent skinheads on a rampage can bop around and have some fun.

Lamps People With Faces LP

First off, I love the title of this album. Of course, a good title doesn’t mean anything if the music doesn’t back it up. This does. Tense music with screechy vocals. It’s distorted and echo-y leaving me in a state of agitation. Ideal sounds for the end of 2020.

Richard Rose Radiation Breeze LP

After putting out an incredible four tracks of oozing rock ’n’ roll last year, RICHARD ROSE is back with its debut full-length. Songwriter and guitarist Thomas Tripplet (under the pseudonym Thomas Rose) is joined by a band of heavy players, including Chris Shaw (EX-CULT, GØGGS) and Orville Neeley (OBN IIIs, BAD SPORTS). Given the body of work between those two, expectations were set high—and this might be each of their finest work to date. Radiation Breeze is mean, focused and couched in a suffocating murky atmosphere. The rhythm section stays in a motorized groove, leaving plenty of room for Tripplet’s snarling guitars and Shaw’s punk-perfected vocals. The band even goes full Funhouse in their nods to the STOOGES with extraplanar saxophone stabs throughout. All this comes to a head in the two-part title track which gives the group ample opportunity to stretch their legs through the course of a sprawling end-of-world jam that slams headlong into a wall in the bruising closing minutes. You almost want to commission RICHARD ROSE to go back in time and score an early Michael Mann film because these tunes are tough like neon through smoke.

The CIA The CIA LP

This doesn’t sound “influenced” by anything, it doesn’t seem like a replicant band idea or a recreation of a desired era—it seems more like a combination of people (from VIAL, TY SEGALL BAND and CAIRO GANG) that decided to make a total sound. Denee’s vocals definitely make the band: she has a classic, savage style that will make you dream of PENELOPE HOUSTON and DINAH CANCER, but with the fury of watching the SCREAMERS’ Target Video. The aesthetic of total devastation. I was a huge fan of her last band VIAL, who were truly incredible live, so I was really excited for this record. Watching them play last month was killer, and I would say if you have a chance to do so, take it! That experience gave different meaning to this record, which upon initial listen did not enthrall me totally. The bassonly attack made me think of that ’90s Touch and Go style, or maybe GODHEADSILO. But at any rate, I think the live experience altered my perception of the record.

The Lavender Flu Barbarian Dust LP

Prolific Portland Deadheads go into the NU SHOOZ studio and make something truly special. I wonder if these guys are into SIMPLY SAUCER, because to my ears Barbarian Dust has that kind of spaced-out, mantra-like proto-punk sound that I like in Cyborgs Revisited. The warped, string-raking of “Hair Lord” sets a pummeling tone before yielding to the more mid-tempo psych-pop of “Mow the Glass.” The whole record is full of so many good and surprising ideas. Unlike the more deconstructed-sounding (and also excellent) Tomorrow Cleaners, everything here sounds perfectly in place, even the tunes that end abruptly. It’s like it was meant to be even when they’re adding elements that are not typically punk. Is that an EBow on “Keyboard Christ”? It still works! To say nothing of the VENOM cover. I have listened to this so damn many times and the various sonic turns it takes are burned into my brain forever. I think people will still care about this record ten years from now.