Reviews

Pirates Press

Charger Watch Your Back 12″

This one-sided, one-track picture disc comes with a flexi disc of the same track. OK, it’s not actually a picture disc, Pirate’s Press emphasizes that this is a UV digitally-printed record that sounds better than a conventional picture disc. But realistically, people are not gonna buy this to play in on a turntable. You can download the track for a buck, if you want to listen to it. The front of the record has the band’s logo with transparent red glowing eyes, and the back has a full-color fisheye photo of the band playing at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland. They look genuinely stoked. The band is made up of RANCID’s Matt Freeman, guitarist Andrew McGee, and drummer Jason Willer of ALARIC, CROSS STITCHED EYES, and several classic punk reunion bands. The track sounds like MOTÖRHEAD and Matt Freeman’s unique vocals evoke RANCID’s first self-titled album. People who want this, you know who you are!

Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One All Are Welcome LP

This isn’t all that unique sounding as far as singer songwriter stuff goes outside of punk. This has moments of alt-country, folk, and guitar heavy indie rock. The rock stuff reminds me of BOB MOULD’s solo stuff as well as his ’90s band SUGAR, with a bit of twang, and the folk stuff reminds me of the WATERBOYS. Being a member of the NEW DARKBUSTER and STREET DOGS, I was expecting predictable punk folk, but this turned out more interesting. Solid release.

Lion’s Law The Pain, The Blood, and The Sword LP

The latest full-length from Parisien Oi! stalwarts LION’S LAW; the venerable Wattie at the helm as is de rigueur for most contemporary French skinhead bands worth their sel, and backed by a motley crew of skins and punks they serve up a thoroughly modern take on Oi! Dabbling as much in E-TOWN CONCRETE style hardcore as it does KOMINTERN SECT style oi! traditionnel, it’s varied enough to stop it being one note as so many releases can be these days. Vocals in both English and French are reminiscent of MOTÖRHEAD in parts, a suitably gruff accompaniment to the rugged riffs ’n’ rhythm underpinning the whole thing. Decent stuff.

Noi!se Price We Pay 7″

This is truly a document of how humans ate the earth. A one-song 7” by a oi!-inflected pop punk band from Seattle. Save the planet and think of all the wasted resources! Just because you can doesn’t mean you should! How many fans of this band are gonna play this thing more than once?! I assume the song is also on the LP or whatever? I don’t know. Maybe they aren’t pop punk?! It’s generic festival band music, package-tour-ready sounds for people that crave marketing gimmicks.

Noi!se Lost 12″

I can’t say I’ve been a fan of this Seattle Oi!/modern rock hybrid band in the past and I’m not much of a supporter of Pirate’s Press’s one-song UV-printed picture 12” format. Seems really wasteful and I don’t get the point. This release finds the band continuing in the slicker, bigger sound vein than earlier releases so it’s not really making me a convert, but their lyrics are well written and their musicianship and songcrafting are undoubtedly talented, veering this release into almost radio-friendly territory. I could see some fans of later DROPKICK MURPHYS or even the USED taking a liking to this one. Not for me.

Old Firm Casuals Holger Danske LP

This band clearly understood what people would think about a Viking-themed record with runes all over the place, and song titles like “Motherland” and “Thunderbolt,” because they’ve got reassurances in the lyrics and lyrical annotations, and there’s a reiteration of their anti-racist stance in the liner notes. I suppose it’s an attempt to reclaim old Norse imagery from the fascists. While the record is mostly the kind of catchy street punk / lite Oi! that the OLD FIRM CASUALS are known for, I really fuckin’ enjoyed the first track, which has a killer mid-period POISON IDEA feel. There are also some pleasant acoustic interludes, and some Hammond organ layered into the sound on the more epic-sounding tracks that really works. The very straight-faced, near-ballad about a zombie apocalypse that closes the record is unbelievably corny, but on the whole (outside of the very questionable graphic design choices), this record is not terrible.

Ramoms Problem Child EP

RAMOMS are the mom-punk RAMONES. Wincing yet? “Gritty Is A Punk” replaces Judy with the Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot. Oooooph. “Boogie Not Snot” is not a reworked “Carbona Not Glue,” but instead a cutesy gross-out on “Blitzkrieg Bop.” A faithful phone-in of “Rockaway Beach” rounds things out. Pure cringe-inducing novelty.

Ramoms Teacher’s Pet EP

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of parody bands, aside from maybe BETTER BEATLES, so an EP of RAMONES covers by four parents singing lyrics about their kids is not really something I’d choose to spin given my limited amount of time on this earth to enjoy music. That said, Teacher’s Pet has competently performed and recorded versions of three of humanity’s best songs ever, so I will cop to bobbing my head while listening, kinda in the same way that you see middle-aged norms at a grocery store or coffee shop unintentionally dancing when a loosely “funky” tune is playing on the sound system while they’re waiting in line. The RAMOMS probably had fun doing this, so more power to ’em, but how about some deep cuts next time around? “Mommy Says” (“Danny Says”) or “Eat That Vegetable” (“Eat That Rat”) perhaps?

Subhumans Crisis Point LP

One of the few bands from my teenage years that I can still listen to and rely on to affirm and validate my punk forever-ness. I was a little concerned not seeing the Bluurg logo on the rear of the sleeve, but Dick’s distinct handwriting is instantly comforting. So here we have SUBHUMANS’ second studio album since ’87, the last one being ’07s Internal Riot. Much like that one, Crisis Point proves that the band is still relevant in style, intention, and message. I can’t even think of another band that has lasted this long and never sucked or strayed. They certainly have not lost any urgency or creativity with age, nor has Dick lost his wordsmithery or wit. “See the diamond it’s forever disconnected / From the horrors of child labour, so intensive / Mining undermining our perception of expensive / Shiny lies to pacify the apprehensive.” Who wouldn’t want this guy as their poetry professor? They’re still on track with anti-capitalist, anti-xenophobic, and environmentalist calls to action, while not forgetting modern technology’s role in all the apathy and injustices. Never pretentious or preachy, always intelligent and critical. I almost failed to mention the giant SUBHUMANS stencil included in the package. Is anyone actually gonna use this thing? Maybe someone can rearrange the letters into a more pertinent slogan to paint our cities. All I can come up with right now is “Ass Bum.”

The Restarts / Subhumans split 7″

Holy fuck, man, I bet the RESTARTS were listening to a lot of SUBHUMANS when they were young punx just starting up their band in the mid ’90s. Flash forward damn near 25 years and they’re sharing a split together, both bands relative elder statesmen to their peers. Time is a funny thing, innit? Both offer up excellent tracks, with a clever 99% vs the 1% shared theme. The RESTARTS offer up “The One Percent,” a classic ripper in their metallic but anthemic punk style with a gloriously over-the-top guitar solo and super-catchy vocal hook. SUBHUMANS are a bit more subdued on their “99%,” nodding to their anarcho roots, but the poignant chorus is instantly memorable.

Territories Quit This City / Defender 2×7″

The A-side is a rock anthem-like number that’s super-catchy, but ultimately delivers a rather depressing message about the grittiness of life. It’s nicely done. It’s got a certain BOUNCING SOULS quality to it. The B-side is a more straightforward street punk number, but equally as enjoyable. These guys are big on harmony. This is worth making an effort to find.

Territories Short Seller 5″

This thing is playable on a record player but manufactured on a CD press. (Yeah, I checked Discogs to see how it’s classified, and “CD Record” is the actual format.) While the novelty may hold interest, TERRITORIES do not—one toothless tune only, complete with a few vague ’77 nods that are delivered a bit too slick for my tastes. I cannot pinpoint the appeal here, but this exists, and I’ve reckoned with it for you. You’re welcome?

The Drowns Hold Fast Demons 12″

Really, really mediocre Oi! pop pressed on a really wasteful one-sided, digitally-printed, partially transparent piece of slop. Seems more like a business card for Pirates Press than an actual release. I’m not super familiar with this Seattle band, and maybe they have a lot to offer, but it sure ain’t showing here. For fans of mid-period DROPKICK MURPHYS or BOUNCING SOULS. Kill me.

The Drowns Under Tension LP

Slick, big production Oi! from the Emerald City. I’d heard their Hold Fast single previously and if that got your sta-prest hard then you’ll cream all over this one. Catchy and upbeat to the point of nausea. If you like your street rock in the vein of the OLD FIRM CASUALS with a hint of STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and a little leprechaun dancing thrown in, then it’s almost payday. What are you waiting for?

The Restarts Uprising LP

The RESTARTS are at it again with gurgling, snotty, two-fingers-in-the-air London punk. Kieran hisses forth with an insane inferno in his throat. This record is as catchy as anything the band has done—I loved the System Error-era songs when I saw them in NYC a few times. But also, under its streetwise romping-stomping, there is sharp blade of political vitriol. The record starts with a quote from Greta Thunberg on panic versus hope. In all its pop punk nature and bright ska riffing, they return with a blistering, diminutive, punchy, outspoken brain beater. For fans of INFA-RIOT, CONFLICT, COCKNEY REJECTS, and even the RESTARTS! Favorite tracks: the snarling and powerful “Out and Proud,” and the glimmering macabre “The Fork.”

The Slackers Nobody’s Listening / Sleep Outside 12″

Two tracks recorded live, and presented in a rather stylish picture disc. The SLACKERS have been doing the reggae/ska/rocksteady thang for a couple of decades and counting now. I didn’t even know they were still going, to be honest, but these tracks are dripping with horns and keyboards, and bear more than a passing resemblance to the more soulful efforts of the REDSKINS and the more laid-back SPECIALS numbers. Spot-on lyrical sentiments, too; makes me reckon that these are pretty recent efforts.

This Means War Heart Strings LP

They look like skinheads. They sound like (early) FALLOUT BOY meets AVAIL, and then near the end of the first side, there’s one really exceptional track that sounds like the DARKNESS or JET (it’s called “Off With Their Heads” and I’m not gonna lie: I like it). Slick, polished, professional, radio-friendly alt-rock.