Reviews

Ruthless

Big Black Lungs 12″

This Chicago band produce an original sort of quasi-industrial sound reminiscent of early PERE UBU and DEMENTIA PRECOX. There’s all sorts of weird frills and noises that suggest hammers hitting anvils and pistons driving machines. But don’t think these guys are arty—their music has a vague punky sensibility and primal hypnotic rhythms. If depressed factory towns like Gary, IN ever need a theme song, they should turn to BIG BLACK.

Big Black Bulldozer 12″

Even though one member of this band erroneously believes that his personal taste represents some sort of universal standard of quality, it can’t be denied that the new BIG BLACK EP is vastly better than their debut, which was itself very good. Here (except for “Jump the Climb”), they drape the same rhythmic, quasi-metallic tone over a much heavier musical skeleton with real drums and a loud guitar, and the effects are quite stunning.

Big Black Racer-X EP

I love BIG BLACK for their heavy rhythms, crystal-clear production, and storybook lyrics. This new record is no different. But as much as I love any abuse I can get from these guys, and as much as I love some of their songs here—their material is getting slightly tired. Their new stuff keeps reminding me of their other past classics. Same riffs! This may be too harsh a criticism, though, as I’d recommend this record above most others. So, I still highly recommend it.

Circle Seven Suburban Hope 12″

Clever modern rock with some post-punk elements. Tasteful and distinctive twin guitars combine with a fluid bass and tight percussion to form engaging, tuneful material. CIRCLE SEVEN certainly won’t appeal to the hardest core, but anyone who appreciates groups like the EMBARRASSMENT should enjoy this.

Circle Seven Suburban Hope 12″

CIRCLE SEVEN has sort of a measured mid-tempo post-punk approach. They have a basic guitar-bass-drum lineup, some seductive drum-heavy rhythms, distanced singing, and good lyrics, but the music is a bit too much under control for my taste (except maybe on “Look What You’ve Got”). If they got wilder, more heads would turn.

Effigies Body Bag / Security 7″

I normally hate heavy metal punk, but the EFFIGIES do it so well that categories become meaningless. “Bodybag” is appealingly straightforward while “Security” has a dance-oriented beat with layers of metallic guitar and an occasional dubbed vocal. The production here doesn’t compare with their earlier EP, but they do include some hilariously uninformed literature about punk rock by right-wing (U.S. Labor Party) and left-wing (Progressive Labor) retards.

Effigies We’re Da Machine 12″

This four-track EP doesn’t live up to the EFFIGIES’ standard. The record’s title track has a notable guitar riff, and the thick, heavy metal-punk instrumentation keeps the excitement rolling; the compositions are less distinctive than usual, however. Rambunctious, but not exceptional.

Naked Raygun Basement Screams 12″

The long-awaited NAKED RAYGUN EP has finally been released, and musically it’s a beauty. The songwriting is extremely imaginative, the vocals are unbelievably catchy, and the unique fuzzed-out guitar work sounds wonderful. The only problems here are one klunky track (“Swingo”) and some suspect lyrics in “Tojo.”

Naked Raygun Flammable Solid EP

Another winner from NAKED RAYGUN. The three compositions on this EP mine poppier song structures, but don’t sacrifice a whit of abrasiveness when the situation calls for it. “Surf Combat”, with its inventive changes of pace, rates as the most notable song here, but the aggressive energy of “Gear” is also quite appealing. A highly original release.

Rifle Sport Plan 39 / Itself Sideways 7″

RIFLE SPORT had a record awhile back and it seemed that they had broken up. But now they’re back and while there’s still a nice, gruff Minneapolis punk sound in there, there’s also a new element. Probably due to producer Steve Albini (BIG BLACK), the sound is a little faster and more rhythmic, sort of a punkier BIG BLACK, okay?

Urge Overkill Strange, I… 12″

Dare I say there’s a Chicago “sound” gelling, epitomized by a powerful punk approach to post-punk (BIG BLACK, NAKED RAYGUN) and joining their vinyl ranks is URGE OVERKILL. Big bass and drum sound, loud production, and cryptic lyrics are the ingredients. Of the five tunes, two appealed, three didn’t.