Reviews

For review and radio play consideration:

Send two copies of vinyl (one for our archive, one for the reviewer) or one copy of CD-only or cassette-only releases to MRR, PO Box 3852, Oakland, CA 94609, USA. Maximum Rocknroll wants to review everything that comes out in the world of underground punk rock, hardcore, garage, post-punk, thrash, etc.—no major labels or labels exclusively distributed by major-owned distributors, no releases outside our area of musical coverage, no reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from! All vinyl records received are added to our archive, which since 1977 has grown to become the largest collection of punk records in the world.

Artificial Joy / Skitklass split EP

There are just some releases (and some bands, period) that you’d be a fool not to love. Tokyo kängpunk and BDSM enthusiasts SKITKLASS are such a band. If you don’t get what they’re doing, you get the sense the door is right over there and you can throw yourself out. Their side of this split consists of three previously released slabs of raw, pissed-off, Sweden-indebted punk re-recorded in Japanese, and other than that, their formula has hardly changed one bit (which is a really good thing). On the flipside you have a recently-formed and quickly buzzed-about L.A. band ARTIFICIAL JOY, whose two tracks are shrieking, contorting neo-classics that hold their own alongside SKITKLASS. If you aren’t already paying attention to this band, these songs will convince you to take notice; the energy is full on and the band seethes with self-assured chaos.  Altogether both sides of the split form a wonderful vibe check to the global punk scene. Get onboard or, you know, get lost.

Bad Batch Bad Batch demo cassette

BAD BATCH from Cleveland, Ohio’s latest demo release. Carries on the local tradition of LIP CREAM à la NINE SHOCKS TERROR’s (the band, not the album) approach to the late ’80s Japanese HC sound. Burning Spirits-style epic leads without being a complete replication of the bands they like. Recommended.

Beige Banquet Beige Banquet 10″

I grew up vacationing in Myrtle Beach, SC, which is full of Calabash-style seafood buffets. These restaurants offer an endless spread of fried sea creatures, hush puppies, and French fries. Your only non-fried options would be coleslaw that’s 80% mayo by weight or corn on the cob. It’s about as beige a banquet as you could encounter…and probably the metaphorical polar opposite of this band. BEIGE BANQUET is a London-based recording project helmed by Tom Brierley and has maybe been fleshed out to a full band on this four-track 10”, their second release. They play pretty straightforward drum machine post-punk that would fit squarely between contemporaries NAKED ROOMMATE and URANIUM CLUB. Tracks are built atop a motorik foundation with icy guitar lines, rubbery bass, chanted vocals, synthesized hand claps, and spoken-word lyrics layered throughout. Each element on its own seems cold and percussive, but when woven into a polyrhythmic blanket becomes warm, inviting, familiar, and actually not entirely unlike a meal of fried comfort food.

Chain Cult We’re Not Alone / Always a Mess 7″

Athens, Greece-based CHAIN CULT gives us a take on the pandemic through their post-punk lens with lines like “We always know / We’re not alone,” and “Now I pretend to be normal / When life used to be normal.” For a threesome, the sound is full in body, and Dino’s picked-apart guitar lines are maybe the most notable aspect of “We’re Not Alone” and “Always A Mess,” running parallel with many of Jason’s sung melodies and punchy bass lines. The production lends itself to a very clean and polished sound—no crust here—but it’s dark, driving, and leaves you in that gray space between defeat and hope. Take a listen and see where you land.

Cromo En Otro Lugar EP

This Spanish three-piece puts out a strong effort here. Kinda poppy, kinda dark, hella catchy. Musically this has elements that bring to mind the MARKED MEN, the LILLINGTONS, and SCREECHING WEASEL while remaining original enough to keep the listener interested. Six songs in total, one of which sounds like SCREECHING WEASEL’s “Hey Suburbia” with the chords slightly switched and in a different key, and one entitled “P.I.D. (Paul is Dead)” which has the vocal pattern of the BEATLES’ “Help” during the verses, which now makes me wonder if that was intentional?

Demokhratia No Religion, No States cassette

Originally released as half of a split LP with Tel Aviv’s MONDO GECKO back in 2012, this tape shifts the spotlight directly onto Algeria’s DEMOKHRATIA. With a band name that translates from Arabic to “Democrashit,” you get a pretty clear idea of what these guys are about, and political aggression can sometimes be more enjoyable when you don’t understand a single word of it. The pummeling drums and rapid-fire dual vocals give off a sense of urgency that sounds like the band has been holding these nine tracks in for too long and is finally getting them out. If you like this one, you’d probably like the HERO DISHONEST/YDINPERHE split EP that I reviewed a while back as well.

Disposición Negativa Disposición Negativa cassette

DISPOSICIÓN NEGATIVA is a grindcore band from Perú. This cassette is 21 short blasts of fury, including a cover of AGATHOCLES and another one of DISRUPT. Being grindcore, you know what to expect and the band delivers it: sick blastbeats, incessant and heavy riffing, and low-pitched growls. The sound is personal though, and you can tell the creative potential of the band in future releases. What I really enjoyed and want to emphasize is the haiku-like brevity, conciseness, and terrible beauty of the lyrics (all in Spanish), decrying the Western ideal of progress, neoliberalism, war, family, the church. Killer release.

Dorothy I Confess / Softness 7″ reissue

The all-time greatest THROBBING GRISTLE-connected record, go ahead and fight me. Before the arrival of PSYCHIC TV, Alex Fergusson of ALTERNATIVE TV crafted these alternate-universe pop hits in collaboration with the notorious Genesis P. and Dorothy Max Prior and released them as a one-off single on Industrial in 1980, with Dorothy subversively described on the back of the sleeve as a being a teenage ingénue when in reality, she was the drummer for mechanically-droning 4AD post-punks REMA-REMA and very much in her late twenties. The trio apparently tried and failed to enter A-side “I Confess” into the Eurovision song contest, which actually makes perfect sense—it’s readymade for department store speakers, with syrupy early ’80s electronics, a prefab shuffling pop beat, and Dorothy’s babydoll vocals naming her various favorite things, starting innocuously with “boys in Beatle boots” before eventually hitting an absolutely mind-blowing “musique concrète”/“SUBWAY SECT” rhyming couplet. They could have been the next ABBA! That said, the real smash hit here is the B-side “Softness,” a mutant disco dancefloor workout for the ages in which Dorothy coos over the most slithering and slinky after-hours throb of retrofuturist synth and snap-tight funk rhythms this side of a LIZZY MERCIER DESCLOUX joint. All culture jams should jam this convincingly; a mandatory acquisition!

Euromilliard Droit Dans Mes Bottes / Aux Aguets 7”

Second single from this Parisian group that features members of CHEVEU and VOLT, two of the finest electro-punk bands of the modern era. EUROMILLIARD cuts back on the ‘tronics for more rock power and it pays off handsomely. I hate to indulge in cultural stereotypes, but it’s curious how these Frenchmen can make such stomping tunes also seem somehow, I dunno, elegant? “Droit Dans Mes Bottes” welds a SLADE-like drive to chanted gang vocals that sound both inviting and celebratory and also vaguely threatening. Le paradoxe! “Aux Aguets” starts with a dirty bass lick and shifts into a chorus that could’ve come from a LES OLIVENSTEINS classic. A killer two-sider crafted by seasoned vets.

The Freak In the Beginning cassette

Kansas City hardcore punk. The FREAK seems to have near-limitless anger frothing up inside them. The kind of hardcore punk that is just seething rage, making you feel really glad that the people involved have found the outlet of hardcore, or who knows how many bodies would been left in their wake. Fast, crushing hardcore punk with pummeling heavy breakdowns. Short and pissed. The five-song demo is over very quickly, and thankfully the tape has a whole bunch of dead space after the music ends before the B-side repeats the same tracks, giving your heart rate a chance to reduce and letting your blood come down from its boil.

Gee Tee Live N’ Dangerous II 12″

Single-sided 12” with nine tracks recorded live at Future TechLabs (I think just one of these dude’s apartments) for the 2020 Gonerfest live stream. GEE TEE, despite only being around for the past four or five years, feel like elder statesmen of the Sydney egg/garage punk scene (which also includes SET-TOP BOX, SATANIC TOGAS, RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., etc., projects that have shared members with GEE TEE). And you’re getting their hits here. The recording is a little hotter, faster, and looser than a typical GEE TEE release, with the vocals a little buried in the mix, specifically behind the synth (seemingly set on “clavioline”), which is pushed right up to the front. So, yeah, it sounds live. If you’re a big fan of these guys (I am), you’ve likely already grabbed this (I have). If you’re not or you are on the fence, you’ve probably already missed out on the physical release, and that’s fine. But it’s worth a listen, particularly if you’ve always wished these guys sounded a little more like DEL SHANNON.

Hallelujah! Wanna Dance LP

I wish more dance punk from the early 2000s sounded like the throbbing racket HALLELUJAH! produces on this invigorating slice of anti-social electric sleaze. They are not asking if you want to dance, they are telling you that they want to dance, and the difference is crucial. “Champagne” is a crash course in collision, flying off the rails with no intention of hanging on. This is followed by a wacky version of a certain STOOGES classic that is short and weird enough to prevent you from giving the stereo the gasface, but the party really gets started with “Minipony.” HALLELUJAH! doesn’t skimp on the bass-in-your-face and that’s critical to elevating this kind of sassy punk damage (the distorted vocals giving many “fucks” helps too). After seven straight burners, the band slows things down to great effect on the vicious “Alter Ego”—somewhere, SIX FINGER SATELLITE is smiling.  

Hysterese Hysterese LP

Marking a decade since their first release, HYSTERESE hits us with their fourth self-titled album (an homage to ZEPPELIN by going self-titled and using the Hindenburg disaster photo on their second album? I just don’t know). But I digress; we’re here to talk about this 2021 release wherein Helen Runge takes us by force with the elegant power of her vocals. Of course they implement their signature use of rounds, which is what first struck me about this band—Runge’s floating melodies countered with screaming lines over a sort of glammed-up post-punk soundscape, best heard here on “Lock & Key.” Another fine piece of German engineering, and I hope they keep at it.

Imploders Dimwit EP

Made in Toronto, the unkempt punk of IMPLODERS saddles classic hardcore styles and sentiments with a modern-day level of jaded disaffection. Mid-paced ripping and stomping is delivered with a casual and sarcastic swagger that makes for a promising debut. Be careful with this one, as it sounds like it may stain your turntable.

The Jacklights Drift CD

Female-fronted melodic punk that just slightly misses the mark for me. I can’t quite put my finger on what cylinder this isn’t firing. I enjoy the vocals, and while technically there’s nothing bad here musically, it just isn’t clicking for me. Together it just comes off as generic and kinda boring at certain points. There’s just that little something extra missing here.

Kārtël / Ódio Social split EP

I have yet to grab my reviewer copy of this, but lucky for me I happened upon it at Black Water Records in Portland and picked it up. I had been hearing solid reviews of this from older punks and younger punks and all the mad D-beat heads, and it certainly does not Dis-appoint. KĀRTËL of NYC, comprised of members from Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico, plays pounding hardcore with militant force and fluid vocals. This is tough as nails and rhythmically flowing. Female lead vocals in Spanish rip through with the meter and pitch of KOHTI TUHOA, AFTER THE BOMBS, and SACRILEGE. This is one of the best voices of the year. Attitude and sheer power à la FORÇA MACABRA, oration as inferno like RIÑA. The writing is relentless and KĀRTËL plays it seamlessly. ÓDIO SOCIAL, native to Brazil, complements Side A in Portuguese with buoyant, loose bass and similarly tight speed-demon percussion. Dual vocals ranging from hardcore to more guttural crust to anthemic käng-stomp singing. This EP is essential Latinx hardcore and one of my favorite Vex releases. All those debating the sides of the NERVOUS SS/RAT CAGE split LP, give yourself a break, and check this out. A split EP of the year.

Jo Kusy Sixteen Wierd & Wild Lo-Fi Hits Vol. 1 LP

This is a collection of songs JO KUSY recorded between 2009–2017. His style is laid-back and confessional. The songs are catchy and intimate. I appreciate the little flourishes like the bicycle bell in “Girls on Bikes.” It’s a fun record.

Little Angels Little Angels demo cassette

You’d think that a little plastic shell cannot possibly contain all of this hotness. All of this wildness. But it does. They need a guitar tuner (like…badly), but Pittsburgh’s LITTLE ANGELS absolutely annihilate six shit-hot raw hardcore tunes that are blown to fucking smithereens right out of the gate. Listen to the vocalist barking at the start of “Party.” That’s not some reviewer speak for a vocal style, the singer is fucking barking. Like a dog. And then screaming: “Where’s the party?!” This demo is just out of control across the board—everything pumped harder and pushed rawer than everything else, and it’s everything I need right now.

Los Flixs Los Flixs demo cassette

Although they are based in Germany, LOS FLIXS appear to have two members originally from different South American countries. This makes a whole lot of sense, seeing as how LOS FLIXS has a very Latinx punk sound going on. RAMONES-inspired riffs with catchily sung and harmonized back-and-forth vocals between the different singers in the band. Incredibly poppy and head-bobbing. There’s eight songs on the demo and they go by far too quickly, prepare to continue flipping the tape and re-listening.

Melt Downer III cassette

Heavy rocking release from this Austrian band that nestles somewhere between post-hardcore and noise rock. Initially sounding like METZ and PISSED JEANS, these eight songs take so many interesting left turns that I never could guess what was coming next. “Gross White” has hardcore riffing with hollered reverbed vocals but quickly jettisons that for shimmering, atonal passages reminiscent of vintage SONIC YOUTH. “Corporate Identity” is built around such a massive doom riff that it sounds like the Earth cracking open to swallow lesser bands. Mike Pike wishes he wrote this; it’s that good. It then shifts through multiple time changes with spoken vocals before bringing the heaviness back. “Earth 2” brings us shout-along, non-melodic hardcore/bummer punk, which leads into “Massive,” a song with an extended polyrhythmic drum exercise and long feedback solo. There is some gnarled start/stop action here that spoke sweet nothings to my inner metalhead. Final track “Kind” is almost twelve minutes of what these folks do best, while the vocalist intones “Get to the point” over and over. Kind of a troll, maybe? Doesn’t matter—it’s worth the noisy punishment. Great release and highly recommended.

Mujeres Podridas Muerte en Paraíso 12″

Austin TX’s MUJERES PODRIDAS return in time to end your plague-filled summer with the perfect feel-good record for a vacation in hell. Their sound is fuller, the vocals and musicianship are stronger, and they veer out of the land of shred into some post-punk, surf, and darker themes of misery. Don’t get me wrong. You’ve still got members of CRIATURAS, VAASKA, and KURRAKA, so you know it’s still punk as fuck. They might  be compared by soft minds to SoCal’s STRANGERS and MACABRE, or they might easily be matched on a bill with Oakland’s DESEOS PRIMITIVOS or Brooklyn’s EXOTICA. Still, there is a certain weirdness and bleakness that only a band from Texas can provide, setting them in a class of their own and carving a deep cavernous path that lesser bands can sink in as they attempt to follow.  From the Craig Lee-like guitar thrasher “Te Odio” to the maybe JOY DIVISION-inspired hit single “OVNI,” you’ll be wearing out needles of all kinds from repeated listenings. Hot-ass packaging with a nauseating color scheme that only the sickest of minds can dream up makes this a must-buy for new loves and future enemies, so grab one up now.

Nehann TEC / Ending Song 7″

Japan’s NEHANN delivers a 7” of carefully constructed, goth-leaning post-punk. The first song starts with a bouncing bass line and clean guitar riff out of the JOY DIVISION handbook, followed by a slightly distorted guitar line that interplays with the first. Then, a third guitar enters to join the fun. That is what initially struck me about this release: the amount of effort and technique put into these two tracks is admirable. They both build atmosphere and boast thoughtful production so they sound like they were recorded in a cave, but a nice one with lamps and like a chair to sit in and read postmodern poetry. I also appreciate vocalist Hirotaka’s willingness to really go there with his vocals. He reaches for the high notes in a hair/glam metal fashion that might be off-putting in a record less earnest than this one. Likewise, there is a finger-tapping guitar solo near the end that works well, despite finger-tapping and solos being kind of ridiculous in general. NEHANN pulls it off though, and the song is a jam. “Ending Song” is a dreamy slow dance track with a flanged guitar opening over keyboards that sounds like FAILURE. A repeating catchy guitar riff carries through the entire song, and Hirotaka does his best BOWIE impression (it’s really pretty good, though). It’s a crush-worthy mixtape track for sure.

The Passengers Under the Cruel Light LP

Debut album by the goth/post-punk band from San Diego, the PASSENGERS. It seems that every month I’m telling you the same thing, but there is something sinister in the water in Southern California, where bands just pop out incredibly formed, with fully crafted statements, personality traits, and a carefully developed sound—case in point, the PASSENGERS. The band has a sense of dynamics within their songs that plays to their advantage, each song has a narrative arc with peaks and valleys, the faster songs are full of vitality while the mid-tempos are oppressive and brutal. The keyboard work generates oppressive or romantic atmospheres depending on what the song requires, the drums are powerful, the bass hypnotic, the guitars melancholic, and the voice tremendous. I want to highlight “The Plague,” “Strange Patterns,” and “Burning Pride,” great anthems that any follower of darker sounds should listen to now.

Rotting Hammer Clinging to Life cassette

The self-described D-beat poseur mower ROTTING HAMMER plays frothing-at-the-bit, sinister raw punk conjuring a ’90 squat scene filthcore-style, thinking POPULATION ZERO, VIRULENT STRAIN, DEATH MOLD…maybe even the more recent DEVIL MASTER. The drums are blistering D-beat with classic riffs riding with rapturing insolence. Vocals recall the more scathing, scratchy style of death metal. This is perfect plague pestilent death music, where we are at today. Nothing lives under the fall of the ROTTING HAMMER! A truly nihilistic sound with furious pace and aggression. I swear, if I had it in me this week, this review could be fraught with comparisons. Solid foreboding punk.

Suspectre Suspectre LP

A solid debut release from this post-punk trio from Bremen, Germany. Dark but with the right amount of pop and lyrical insight to keep it interesting and varied. A modern-sounding MAGAZINE, but like if Howard Devoto kept more of his BUZZCOCKS influences in there, and he could have foreseen the Berlin Wall falling.

Weak Ties Find a Way LP

The first thing that strikes you is the vocals. Laura’s snarl is formidable to say the least, and it stands in contrast to the clean (though damaged) guitar and advanced, inward hardcore attack. They drop “Sorry, Not Today Pt. II” near the end of the first side, and that’s when you truly start to feel the depth of WEAK TIES—this isn’t regular hardcore punk, this is more. It’s not just the power and/or emotional intensity of those slower moments, it’s the blasts from “With Every Step” that fucking explode out of “I” and it’s the way that they insert that depth into even (or especially) their more straight-ahead HC numbers. Find a Way is great, it dances all over the place a bit not because the band is trying to make a point; rather it feels like that is just where the songs, and the band, felt right. The whole record feels right…and holy shit, can these fools drop a mosh part when they want to.

The Animal Steel A Surefire Way to Get Sober LP

The first thing that struck me about this record was its cover art, a drawing of a deconstructed George “The Animal” Steele, pro wrestling legend and apparent namesake of this Denver-based quartet. The cover art is stylistically very reminiscent of that used by IRON CHIC, but that’s where any similarities stop. Well that, and the fact that both bands are named after 1980s WWF wrestlers. When I put the record on I was pleasantly surprised by the sounds that began to pump out of the speakers. Songs and melodies that are structured somewhere in between a less abrasive version of early SMALL BROWN BIKE and a punker, grittier BRAID or HEY MERCEDES. With each listen I find something else I enjoy about this record and a hankering to hear more. Good stuff, I can see exciting things on the horizon for this band.

Beatnik Termites Beatnik Termites 12″ reissue

I remember this band from the Punk USA compilation on Lookout! back in the ’90s. This reissue of their first 12” is a perfect distillation of their thing: sugary, poppy pop songs that gesture towards the RAMONES but don’t have any of the aggression of that act (not a knock). Lotsa vocal harmonies and hooks aplenty.

The Bench / The Bois split EP

Another in the Inflame singles series, this time pairing Russia’s very own the BENCH with the BOIS all the way from the Lion City. Not much in the way of anything earth-shattering here—the BENCH suffers from that over-produced clean sound that a lot of modern European Oi! also does, the sort of thing you’d see shortly after doors at Rebellion. Serviceable, but I’ve already forgotten the tune approximately 30 seconds after stopping listening to it. The BOIS offer something slightly different, having decided to pursue a more mod-type sound, which while not completely awful, basically does just sound like landfill indie, as if the ORDINARY BOYS or the RIFLES sang about racial unity rather than the seaside.

Cemento Killing Life cassette

I guess it’s all that sunshine that makes people uneasy and avid seekers of darkness, and they use post-punk and deathrock to paint an opaque shadow over the eternally sunny Southern California. I say this because that state, and L.A. in particular, has shown in recent years that the land is fertile in bands that seek to create bleak sceneries to inhabit. CEMENTO is one of those bands. Formed by members of SMUT and SMIRK, the band bets on the immediate power of good melodies, the great force of its rhythmic base, some very intense bass lines, and an extremely expressive voice. The guitar creates simple but elegant riffs, able to hook and generate dense, hazy atmospheres, ideal to dance all night long. “Cash Grab” is already one of my favorite tracks of the year in any genre, followed by the great “No Ambition,” but still, the rest of the album is full of great moments. I particularly love the very fast and fierce “Coming Down.”

Czarnobyl Zdroj Partyzancka Polska Młodzież LP

Pasażer is back again, unleashing quality vinyl reissues of obscure Polish punk tapes. This appears to have been CZARNOBYL ZDRÓJ’s debut from 1989. They sound like a party band, with abundant guitar noodling and recycling a lot of traditional rock‘n’roll bits through their brand of upbeat melodic punk, and even offer a bombastic SEX PISTOLS cover. This may not appeal as much to ’80s Polish hardcore diehards, but I still think it’s a nice introduction to an otherwise potentially forgotten band.

Desborde Ya No Kiero Ser Parte De Este Mundo demo cassette

Buenos Aires band DESBORDE’s first release (although they put two of this tape’s seven songs on Bandcamp in March of this year, if you deem that to count) is being released by a ton of labels in different parts of the world, and I can only assume they all had much the same “woah!” reaction as I did on first hearing. It’s synth punk, but pretty far removed from the post-CONEHEADS/NWI scene egginess that seems to be the default style for that sound at present: it wouldn’t surprise me if none of DESBORDE’s five members owned any DEVO albums. Instead, it’s super catchy, mid-paced street punk-adjacent stuff with sing-along choruses (if you know Spanish) and groovy keyboard fizz—the juxtaposition is kinda similar to NACHTHEXEN, although DESBORDE is on closer terms with punk orthodoxy, sound-wise. Gotta imagine this band would be amazing to see live where most people in the room knew the songs back to front.

Dropdead Live AS220 11/3/20 cassette

Lots of comedians, podcasters, and rock and/or roll musicians did live streams during the height of the pandemic, but this is the closest to feeling like a steamy hardcore show that came out of the suddenly inflated genre of live audience-less performances. In this case, if you didn’t know, you’d probably never guess this wasn’t in front of a crowd. The energy is there. The aggression is there. DROPDEAD is doing what they do best: fast, angry hardcore with a liberal sprinkling of animal rights. The first half of the set is made up of almost half of their newest album from 2020, Dropdead 2020. The rest of the set is made of a mix from the rest of their previous 30 years of existence. If you’re a newcomer, this is a perfect introduction. If you’re an old fan from way back, then you already know that you need to check this out. It’s easily in the running for best “live” release of 2021. “The Cost of an Animal,” one of their longer songs by clocking in at one minute and twelve seconds, is one of the standouts of the set. You can feel Bob Otis strangling the microphone while the rest of the band takes their instruments to their physical limits.

Eugh The Most Brilliant Man Alive EP

This seven-track debut from Melbourne synth project EUGH (which is Vincent Buchanan-Simpson from KITCHEN PEOPLE) gets off to a strong start. “Junk Shop” is a perfect egg-punk/DEVO-core track—it’s tight and jerky in all the right places and weird and loose everywhere else, seemingly taking inspiration from one of the more underappreciated Mark Winter projects, HAIRLONG N FREEKY. Just fantastic stuff! Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. “Galactic Terror” is a harsh electropunk track à la TERROR VISIONS that would be cool were it not for its overly woozy production, which turns the track into a big noisy mess by the end. The rest of the EP either sounds like rote NWI worship or DEVO at their new-waviest fronted by GARY NUMAN at his poppiest. Still, as grating as most of this record is, it’s probably worth picking up for that opening track.

The Faction Late Night Live 2xLP

I’m not sure that the kids are clamoring for an archival double live LP from 1984, but I admit this is a pretty good account of this classic skate punk band from San Jose. You get twenty live-on-radio renditions (a couple are interview segments) of selections from their first few records across four sides at 45rpm. The audio is great, basically raw studio-quality. Limited to 250 copies, this is for the skate punk ’80s USHC fanatics only.

Geo Geo cassette

GEO has a cowbell and they’re going to use it! The opening track of this Dutch quintet’s initial four-song cassette offering is called “Elasticate,” and that’s pretty much the modus operandi here—taut, rubbery mutant funk by way of some moderated Downtown 81/21 no wave tendencies, with conversationally depersonalized vocals, snaking bass-centered grooves, cling-clang percussion, frenetic six-string scratch sliding into restrained single-note punctuations, and brief squirming synth accents. In what seems to have become the dominant method of post-punk expression in our times, it’s all very clean and clinical (a means of forcing order upon highly unstable lived realities and certainly doomed futures?), with any pent-up kinetic urgency generally kept from spiralling out of bounds. “Hydrate” releases that tight grip ever-so slightly with its strangled shouts and squalls of jumbled guitar racket, but I’d personally love to see GEO really let loose and bump up the precarious FIRE ENGINES quotient by a couple of factors.

The Geros Weird Dance 12″

Continuing their streak of concocting peculiar tunes with no regard for the current musical climate, Osaka trio the GEROS flex and expand their pure punk energy on this first 12” effort. Released on the Tokyo-based Debauch Mood label, Weird Dance offers a twisted and eclectic bouquet of songs both sharp and satisfying. A powerful and unexpectedly spooky opening number, “Pressure” sees the group’s trademark spunky charm bent into a heavy, creeping, and hollow lament. This hypnotizing and sophisticated track provides us with a jaw-dropping standout right off the bat. And I’m not mad at all that they follow it up with a repeat in “Toxic,” an encore presentation of a great track from their 2015 debut Genocide or Suicide EP on the band’s own Killer Boy label. The evolved GEROS deliver the explosive bratty chugger with a little more swagger and speed this time around. Kicking off the flipside, “Be Bop A Noiz” brings us both the silliest name and toughest riff of the year in its refrain, adding a new entry to the list of the band’s best songs. The jazzy jump of the instrumental interlude “Ikue” ends with some spoken word, the only words of which I can decipher are “punk rock” and its title, which I believe is in reference to Japanese composer and musician Ikue Mori. Finally, the electric R&B-flavored title track “Weird Dance” wraps things up by setting conflicted and violent lyrical content to a snappy beat to get the kids moving and grooving, as well as leaving initiated “Flat Tire Punk” weirdos like myself drooling for more. A few years back I was semi-obsessed with the idea of going to Japan solely for the purpose of seeing these guys, the RAYDIOS, X-DISCOS, XL FITS, and other incredible bands live. The compulsion has long since left, but when the mailman brings me records like this I can start to feel that itch again.

Mixed Signals So Far Gone cassette

MIXED SIGNALS have made an album that somehow bridges the gaps between gruff-voiced punk, dreamy pop, and THIS BIKE IS A PIPE BOMB. On the surface this shouldn’t work, but somehow it does and it is fucking rad! This cassette is limited to 100, so if this sounds appealing to you I’d try and grab a copy with haste before they’re on the internet for an outrageous price. It’s that awesome.

Pressure Pact Discography cassette

Lads, I dunno about you lot, but I’m absolutely sick to bastard death of having to think. Leave that to the boffins in the white coats, send your brain on a holiday, and stick this tape on. Compiling the recorded output of this Dutch Oi!/hardcore mob to date, it’s a frantic mess of ferociously barked vocals, creepy-crawl riffs, and a rhythm section as taut as you like. It’ll bore straight through your skull and give you chimp brain a tickle; you’ll be unlocking your inner Neanderthal and sticking your head through a brick wall by track three. An abso-bloody-lute belter.

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!

Lorna Donley & the Veil Time Stands Still LP

Anglophilic Chicago post-punks DA broke up not long after the release of their 1982 Time Will Be Kind 12”, and by 1986, vocalist/bassist Lorna Donley and guitarist David Thomas had regrouped in a new project called the VEIL, tabling much of DA’s AU PAIRS/SIOUXSIE-style starkness in pursuit of something more unabashedly pop-oriented. The VEIL recorded throughout the late ’80s while trying to grab the brass ring of a major label deal, but never managed any kind of official release before ceasing to exist in 1989, with the ten selections on Time Stands Still actually having been first culled from an archive of cassettes that Thomas had surrendered to a thrift store. There’s a faint DA-shaped shadow cast over “Offa My Blox,” with its tense guitar/bass interplay and Donley’s solemn but powerful vocals, and to a lesser extent, the moody “A.C. Radio” (minus its ’80s radio-ready guitar solos), but just don’t expect any companion pieces to the icy and dead-serious classic “Dark Rooms,” as what’s on offer here is fairly straightforward and very much of-the-era new wave/college rock. There’s admittedly some duds in the mix (Thomas taking over the mic on “Your Hand in Mine” was not a great call), but there’s also some real gems—“Time Stands Still” and “Crack the Sky” follow in the strong Midwestern power pop tradition of SHOES and the SHIVVERS, and “Hold Me” is the sort of massively hooky and pleading jangle-rock belter that should have been in heavy rotation on Dave Kendall-era 120 Minutes in between, like, ROBYN HITCHCOCK and THROWING MUSES. A true historical excavation, with all respects due to forever-icon Lorna Donley (rest in power).

Blu Anxxiety Plaay Dead LP

Nuke York mutants crawl out of the sewers…and into the club! First full-length from these dark freestyle practitioners who are unconcerned with how many letters you put in words! Speaking of words, here are some: “Dracula / Nightbreed / Trick or treat / Nightbreed! / Fuck the boys! / Smell my feet”—lyrics from the LP’s opening track “Internet Terrorist,” which Chi Orengo (ANASAZI, CHILDREN WITH DOG FEET) kinda yell-raps (think KANYE on “Black Skinhead”) over a mid-’90s-style industrial/acid techno track. It’s goofy as hell…and I love it! The rest of the LP is more of the goth post-punk/EBM that you’d expect given their 2019 7”. It’s solid, even if it never matches the high of that opener. For whatever reason, despite it not really even being in the same ballpark genre-wise, I can’t help but think this also sounds a little like OINGO BOINGO. Anyway, the other highlight of the record is a straightforward cover of REAL LIFE’s “Send Me an Angel.” Great song!

Cryptid I Exist demo cassette

Crusty noise punk blitz from a foursome who appear to have hooked up in Melbourne and at least partly dispersed since: Kyle from SHEER MAG, drumming here, was pandemically confined to Oz but has returned to Philadelphia. Not sure where vocalist JonCon (also of ZODIAK) lives, either. So you may or may not see CRYPTID live any time soon, but their demo is rad—chaotic, sure, and pretty thrashin’ fast for a noise-not-music band, but fully holding itself together with a nail-hard rhythmic frame as all sort of swirling psychedelic gloop enters the fray. This was also released, just prior to the tape versions, as a cool looking lathe-cut on the Winter Garden label, which you are way late to get a copy of, but comes with this apology from the label guy for potential bad sound quality: “my dog Ruben bumped the gain up without my knowledge so some of them are flooded with distortion.” He means an actual dog, as opposed to his friend trying to help out in the studio.

Czarnobyl Zdroj Chory Mózg… O Szczęściu LP

A very welcome vinyl press of a 1991 cassette release—the brand of Polish hardcore that CZARNOBYL ZDRÓJ delivered absolutely deserves further examination. Cold, sharp-sounding punk vaguely along the lines of TZN XENNA, with chaotic and frantic guitars throughout. Occasional funky breaks are appropriate for the era, but are treated with wild and overpowering leads while stark, shouted vocals create an (almost) militaristic vibe. CZARNOBYL ZDRÓJ released a scant few punk cassettes before moving on to a more industrial sound, all are well worth your time but near impossible to track down…which is why I’m not gonna complain about floods of reissues clogging up my shelves. Excellent release.

Desintegración Violenta Desintegración Violenta cassette

This is some nasty and dark hybrid punk/metal. Think of the weird hardcore but quite metal Japanese ’80s punk bands, HELLHAMMER, and obviously, DISCHARGE. The band is a collaboration from Bogotá and Berlin, the lyrics are sung in Spanish, the riffs are heavy as a brick, vocals are demonic, the D-beat is omnipresent, the bass tone hits you directly in the face, and guitar solos are demented. All of that in only sixteen minutes. I think they are truly following the path of Colombian underground extreme metal legends like PARABELLUM or BLASFEMIA and I celebrate that. Get it as a cassette, all the proceeds (also the digital ones, btw) go directly to the band to be distributed to local collectives in support of the national strike in Colombia.

Dezerter Kłamstwo To Nowa Prawda LP

Another band survives the 40-year mark! Punk sure is getting old. Anyhow, what more is there to say about DEZERTER? Their “pandemic record” may not be anything particularly noteworthy among their extensive catalog, but it most certainly sounds like DEZERTER and can surely be considered relevant in contemporary punk. It is modernly polished but feels familiar, surprisingly fresh and youthful sounding for guys that must be well into their fifties. DEZERTER has experimented with their sound plenty over the decades but they’re sticking to an urgent and stripped-down approach with this one, which feels like a good place to be right now. Worth at least a listen for any level fan of the band.

The Dirts The Dirts LP

There ain’t nothing wrong with some dirty and desperate rock’n’roll, but I’m not telling you anything that the DIRTS don’t already know. Playing the type of static-shitty garage knockers that originated with the Teenage Hate-era REATARDS and were probably previously best emulated by Finland’s the ACHTUNGS, these self-deprecating Swedes nail the bluesy budget-rock style, complete with black-and-white Xeroxed aesthetics. Echoey, distorted vocals? Check. Songs about being a loser and hating stuff? Check. Earnest and amateurish guitar mini-solos? Check. Even the brooding “Getting Over You” and the damaged power pop of “Telling Me Lies” are in line with acceptable “look, we’re mixing it up a bit” styles for this type of loud lo-fi music. This is no Teenage Hate, or even Welcome to Hell, but I’m glad it’s here because we gotta keep this shit alive. I like to think Jay would be proud.

Exotica Discografía Exotica cassette

Definition of exotic—1: introduced from another country, 2: strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual. Based in NYC but with members from Mexico and Argentina, EXOTICA gives meaning to the word “exotica.” A ferocious mixture of UK82 à la DISORDER and South American punk like COLERA, creating a trampling, pogo-inducing sound topped with “angry at everything” vocals. Discografía Exotica is the compilation of all three Musique Exotique releases the band has done in the past through La Vida Es Un Mus. An unusual band that sounds fresh without changing much at all.