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.

Aküestix Parody of a Tragedy, Pt. 1 CD

Musically, this reminds me of something that would have been on Fearless or Hopeless in the ’90s. Lyrically, there’s a song about aliens. That was almost enough for me to write this off but…then I heard the song “Appear” and that kept my attention, as it was the standout track in my opinion. If you long for the days of Black Flys, bleached hair, two-row studded belts holding up Dickies shorts that always seemed two sizes too big, and perfectly-timed jumps in unison, then my friend, you will most likely enjoy this CD.

Cassie Change My Image / Will You 7″ reissue

This is a re-release of a single that was released in the UK in ’82. Apparently CASSIE was heavily influenced by BLONDIE, but to my ear this hits more like a funkier version of the STRIPES. The A-side “Change My Image” pairs bright, power pop guitar riffs and a classic rock’n’roll backbeat with intermittent bursts of saxophone, and what sounds to be a toy piano. The B-side alternates instrumentally between reggae and new wave, with singer Cassie’s throaty, melodic vocals stitching the transitions together seamlessly. If your collection includes X-RAY SPEX and the SELECTOR, this record would not feel out of place.

Chain of Flowers Amphetamine Luck flexi 7”

First new music in a few years from the Welsh diaspora’s preeminent dream-pop punx, and “Amphetamine Luck” is a one-song, one-sided flexidisc which finds them back at peak performance. There are a shit ton of guitars on this, be that due to multi-tracking or a surfeit of fellows who simply love to stick their six-stringed oar in, and the full, fulsome, sweetly ear-ringing sound—from the synth-y ambient intro on—is a credit to producer Jonah Falco and, more poignantly, the late John Hannon on mastering duties. Lyrics seem to aim for that moment in a party arc where chemical euphoria starts to bleed into chemical regret: “I just can’t seem to learn,” croons Joshua Smith, relatably.

Chill Parents At the Barricades cassette

Eight quick tracks of hard, crunchy punk with a political bent. Searching for a reference leads me all over the place. There are melodic riffs over impassioned protest lyrics reminding me of ANTI-FLAG on one track, then explosions of party-hardcore intensity on the next, running into some gruff ’80s-punk-style ranting and guitar chugging that reminds me of BUTTHOLE SURFERS on the next. Whatever this is, it’s not what you expected. Whoever you are, you’ll find something to love and something to hate here. As cool as it is to hear a band with a carefully crafted and cohesive sound, this tape reflects the reality of what bands are usually like in real life—a lumpy assortment of creative ideas and intermittently compatible personalities.

Dabblin’ I Was Almost an Astronaut Once cassette

At first listen, my very first thought was that this reminds me of Plan-It-X stuff, but if those bands paid their electricity bills and decided to trade in their acoustic guitars and washboards for amps and loud guitars. This thought remained with me while listening due to the vocals and the delivery of said vocals. My second thought was how fun seeing this band live must be. Eight songs total, with the last one being an acoustic song. All in all a fun release, and one I’ll surely be revisiting. If I had one complaint, it would be that I wish there were just a couple more songs here.

Education Parenting Style EP

After the excellent Culture LP also released on Symphony Of Destruction, EDUCATION is back with a new EP. Dark and primitive post-punk, almost like a gloomier version of DIÄT or a less crazy INSTITUTE. Parenting Style has four amazing tracks that will stick to you like glue. One of the best post-punk bands out there.

Fox Face End of Man LP

Milwaukee quartet FOX FACE makes a slow and soft but extremely sharp mind-melting version of Midwest punk. The band doesn’t rely on fast grooves or crushing riffs, instead allowing for the music to build in chaotic rhythm. No extra padding needed; just true guitar-led punk rock. The tracks on this LP are lyrically potent, describing our turbulent times in true sneering punk fashion. They take influence from a wide variety of punk bands all the way from VIOLENT FEMMES to SLEATER-KINNEY. Truly a very cathartic and timely release.

Golpe La Colpa È Solo Tua LP

Just as predicted in my review of the GOLPE’s Promo 2020 cassette, this album fucking kicks ass. Tadzio Pederzolli from KOMPLOTT and SEMPRE PEGGIO managed to keep expectations high and deliver an amazingly fresh D-beat-infused hardcore record. It’s great to see punk bands that use their political views as weapons against ignorance and prejudice, as not many bands these days talk openly about their beliefs. Just head on over to his Bandcamp and grab a shirt, with proceeds going to Brigate Volontarie. Everything about this record screams activism and solidarity. This is what punk is supposed to be.

Hallucination Hallucination cassette

I’ve been loving all the stuff that’s been falling on my ears from Philadelphia. What a great scene you have there! HALLUCINATION presents their self-titled first cassette, five tracks of obsessive guitar noise that meshes D-beat, rough punk, and crazed crust. Get the cassette tape for the exclusive POISON IDEA cover.  Songs are short and violent with riffs that replicate themselves as they morph into a destructive nuclear squall, scorching a city in just a few minutes. This EP is a place to inhabit, so take your time to listen to it repeatedly and grasp the slowly revealing melodies and hooks, catchy guitar riffs, and pounding drums between the manic thickness of the guitar tone.  Just play this loud and demolish your last vestiges of hope.

Health Plan Health Plan cassette

Must admit to having low-ish expectations for this one for a few jumbled reasons (artwork apparently completed in a two-minute time limit, recording process described as “we plugged guitars straight into a laptop,” members’ other bands USA NAILS and DEAD ARMS never truly doing it for me with their recorded product), but the debut release by London band HEALTH PLAN has some very agreeable moments of mangled punk electro No Wave. The nasty recording is actually a boon in fact, assuming you can get with clipping-heavy digital snowstorms, and the injections of sax skronk boost the gnarl nicely; vocals are largely semi-spoken and often buried in the mix. A sound I most readily associate with the first decade of this millennium—which makes it more fun to hear now!—HEALTH PLAN are working similar angles to XBXRX, PRE, and NO BABIES in times recent or less so.

Innuendo Losing Again demo cassette

Simple, straightforward, and brash, the head-bobbing hardcore on this three-song demo hits the spot. This Wisconsin band’s rockin’ mid-tempo style channels O.G. punk spirit in the vein of early BLACK FLAG and NEGATIVE APPROACH, and it sounds awesomely refreshing right about now. This one even slid onto my Top Ten for 2020 based on its pure potency, and get this—it’s just two guys: a vocalist and an everything-else man making this excellent racket. With any luck this strong little tape is just a teaser for a more comprehensive INNUENDO attack to come.

The Jacks Make ‘Em Cry LP

Reminder unearths another collection of recordings from a power pop band you’ve likely never heard of. This time we’re treated to the total recorded output of the JACKS, a Tulsa, OK band who only managed to release one record in their lifetime, 1980’s “Just Like Yesterday” 45, which they issued themselves on their own Debonaire imprint. Composed primarily of songwriting duo Mitch Griffin and Walter Kleinecke, a couple of acolytes of fellow Tulsan DWIGHT TWILLEY, the band seemingly spent most of its existence floating around the Midwest and managed to keep some interesting company along the way. In addition to TWILLEY, the band gigged around with the PAGANS while spending a good chunk of time in Cleveland, and they even managed to coax youngsters Bob Mould and Tommy Stinson into the studio to serve as session musicians after relocating to Minneapolis. The songwriting featured on this collection is solid, but it’s hard to say there’s much here that helps them stand apart from their contemporaries (even those represented on Reminder’s roster). Still, if you’re a fan of power pop, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here, and it is presented in a lovely gatefold sleeve with great liner notes. More fantastic work from Reminder!

Klapper Klapper cassette

More minimal grooves spawned from Berlin’s new wave of Neue Deutsche Welle, this time courtesy of the drum machine-abetted duo KLAPPER. Like hometown peers AUS and OSTSEETRAUM, KLAPPER is upholding the German tradition of disaffected, synthesized post-punk, but they’ve added some spacious, dub-inspired turns that both play into the starkness of that particular sound and moderate the overall severity of it. The reductive electro-punk rhythms of “Exciting Life” are paired with beyond-impersonal vocals chronicling the rote tasks of modern life (work, phone calls, trips to the post office, consuming food for sustenance) before ultimately landing on an ice-cold command to “be happy and satisfied” that cuts straight to the bone, while the similarly deadpan lyrical focus of “Success” (“Life is about success / And I have success”) hits a little differently against a white funk bounce of busy bass and writhing guitar. When KLAPPER descends into seedy synth-wave—really just on the instrumentals “Rattle Stork” and “Crane”—it’s not quite as compelling, but I’ll take the rest of it (that downer-ESG throb of “Born to Obey”!) in a heartbeat.

Motherfucker Teresa Old News is Still New News cassette

Erratic song structures and a recording that leans heavily on the high end amp the intensity of this dual-vocal Denver outfit. MOTHERFUCKER TERESA would have fit in nicely on a mid-’90s Gilman bill with BLACK FORK; jumpy lurches turn into nasty, guitar-driven political punk—and with tracks like “Me and Mitch McConnell in a Dark Alley,” I think you can pick up where they’re coming from pretty quickly.

Nancy Nancy Goes Country LP

This is the European version of the same album that was released in the US by Fullerton juggernaut Neck Chop Records. The opening track and album title are a satirical tease, suggesting that these pop-slop-punk veterans turned in their Chuck Taylors and Fenders for cowboy boots and steel guitars. Given this band’s hilarious character acting in their videos, I half believed it. I was expecting something like CLOROX GIRLS’ Justin Maurer’s recent forays into country and western music or the SUPERSUCKERS’ Must’ve Been High album, but the country joke ends after the first track. Which is fine, because the rest of the album is packed with their tight, witty two-piece power punk songs. I’ve been a fan since their 2013 debut, and they just keep getting better.

Plava Laguna Cobalt Blue cassette

PLAVA LAGUNA delivers an impressively fully-realized goth electronic sound, reminiscent of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES but with plenty of updates. It’s unusual to see a group in this format get everything this right, but PLAVA LAGUNA totally nails it. The moody electronic compositions, velvety and ethereal vocals, pacing, and mix are all seamless. This band sounds like they could be headlining goth festivals and I was just the last person to hear about them.

Psykik Vylence Psykik Vylence EP

ERIK NERVOUS goes hardcore! Or to sacrifice snappiness for the sake of accuracy, Erik Nervous, né Hart, (the person) has a new one-man recording project, PSYKIK VYLENCE, where he plays hardcore. Either way, it’s really good! This EP, initially issued as a cassette by Richter Scale in the UK and now pressed to 7” by Under the Gun, runs for about ten minutes and features Erik absolutely blazing through seven tracks, all of which bear little resemblance to his previous projects. There’s a touch of that herky-jerky, start/stop sound that you just can’t scrub out of these Midwestern kids, but otherwise this is straightforward, angry hardcore punk. He’s even replaced his trademark nerdy yelp with a booming crusty grunt. It’s quite a transformation! Calls to mind a quirkier, punker BREAKDOWN or a tougher, less trebly LAFFING GAS. Get on it!

Rata Negra Una Vida Vulgar LP

Finally, the highly anticipated new album of Madrid’s RATA NEGRA is here, and it’s a treat. It is a pleasure to realize that this ability for melody has become their main weapon. Each of the songs on Una Vida Vulgar (“A Vulgar Life”) have memorable choruses; you can imagine yourself singing them at the top of your lungs as soon as you hear them for the first time. We are facing direct and fresh songs, perfectly structured to generate the greatest emotional impact on the listener, the desperation and boredom of life in 2021 are reflected in the lyrics and in a hint of generational sadness that contrasts and makes more powerful the vital energy of the music: amphetamine pills for people who no longer have anything to lose, all with a sound that is already absolutely personal; dark melodic punk, desolate power pop. A new classic.

Stella Research Committee A Proposed Method for Determining Sanding Fitness LP

File under difficult listening. Imagine the sardonic noise rock of CHERUBS with the wild No Wave of DNA with the destructo synth of THROBBING GRISTLE, all played at the same time. Let’s throw some free jazz drumming in the mix too, just for funsies. Never not interesting, these tracks feature stuttering drum machine patterns with syncopated live drums on top, atonal strumming, and an ever-present synth whine. The tracks occasionally fall all the way apart, like opener “Murdurd,” but in a seemingly intentional way. They could honestly be dropping their instruments over and over, and I wouldn’t know the difference, but that’s not a criticism at all. “Dustkop” surprises by beginning with Krautrock rhythms that move into techno in a way that works but shouldn’t. What could come across as self-indulgent, inaccessible skronk worship is enjoyable in a “what the hell are they doing, now?” kind of way. I thought I was going to hate this, but I respect these folks for fighting the good fight with this brand of anything-goes freakery. If you have open ears for the really weird, check it out. Play it for that friend who is always like “I listen to everything,” and see what they say.

The Stools Live at Outer Limits 12-28-19 LP

My feeling on live records is it was probably better if you were there. The STOOLS are a rockin’, rollicking, fun-time band. This is better than your average live recording. The music is clear and has an energetic presence. The STOOLS play bluesy garage rock. They give it their all and the audience screams with delight. It sounds like it was a great time.

UNIT What’s It All For? 12”

A single-sided 12” slab from San Antonio’s UNIT, What’s It All For is full of fast and angry punk with an urgent and agile aura. When compared to recent standout acts from the region like GLUE and INSTITUTE, UNIT has a more classic hardcore approach, but the modern Texas mayhem comes through loud and clear in their sound. Catchy hooks and chaotic anxious energy propel these five songs forward seamlessly with little pause in between, and the title track closes out the record with an all-too-relatable sentiment of aggravated existential dread.

Witness Marker Witness Marker LP

Like growing up listening to hardcore and then moving to D.C. and discovering Dischord Records. Feels of RITES OF SPRING and an insightful, angsty DAG NASTY. Tempos varied well through songs, they’re able to slow it down and still bring a heavy attack often in the same track. A solid debut from Chris Werner and Bruce Ewell formerly of NO ONE’S HERO.

V/A The Stowaways Presents: Listen Up! A Benefit For Democracy Now! LP

Fifteen-band collection of catchy punk/indie/alt to benefit, as the title suggests, a public radio news program. The only artist I was familiar with was the FYP dude (yo, Todd—I’m still down to look after Boris if anything nasty happens), but I got turned on to loads of new shits. JASON ANDERSON wrote a straight commercial pop hit in “Buzzin,” PASTEURIZED MILK and RX are both minimal and addictive, LAYMAN and POST LIFE are favorites as well—the record cruises along between lo-fi indie and shoegaze and would-be mainstream songwriters with ease. All put together by a schoolteacher and zinester who uses independent reporting and media in the classroom to (hopefully) help a new generation of non-shitty humans find their collective voice/s, with art from Sophia Zarders, liner notes from Donna Ramone, and an issue of The Stowaways masquerading as a lyrics booklet. Thumbs up.

Appaloosa / BBQT split EP

The APPALOOSA side is a surfy number with conversational vocal delivery and a modern power pop ballad in the style of HAYLEY AND THE CRUSHERS, with some elements of the GO-GO’S as well. I think fans of modern garage rock with a melodic pop sensibility are the target audience here. It may come off as a bit tame for those who prefer the raw, punk-adjacent side of the power pop coin.

Baby Bones What Do I Do / We’re Done Talking cassette

Feisty and heavy Kentucky rock. “What Do I Do” verges on nü metal but still has lotsa hooks. “We’re Done Talking” hits me like a lost QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE cut with an infectious sing-along chorus. Let’s go.

Bloody Head The Temple Pillars Dissolve Into the Clouds LP

Even if much of this Nottingham band’s prior product was unlovely scum sludge for DRUNKS WITH GUNS huffers and the like, there was always something inherently trip-worthy about their vibe. Probably not a good trip, no, but…yeah. Either way, their second album leans more flagrantly than ever into psychedelia, opening number “This Could Be Paradise” wigging shaggily for eight-minutes-plus. Everyone sounds on top form here, vocalist Dave Bevan spitting the realest lyrics (“I’m 57 and I’ve never been sucked off / Imagine that”) and Ian Boult, who I daresay knows these guys’ steez inside out, recording them impeccably. BLOODY HEAD’s psych touchstones are the bad vibes bringers—STOOGES, SPACEMEN 3, BRAINBOMBS—but with the four-piece’s CV including MOLOCH, NADIR, and ARMY OF FLYING ROBOTS, they bring near-ceaseless riffs, too. Riffs they could probably sell to a younger, prettier band and watch as they toured the world with them—better they’re kept right here in this dank purgatory, though.

Candy Apple Sweet Dreams of Violence LP

Don’t let the band name fool you, because you are about to get some bitter taste after a bite or two. Fuzzed to the gills, crunchy and untamed hardcore full of bottled-up anger like S.H.I.T. or GLUE. Sweet Dreams of Violence is the follow-up to the band’s 2018 demo and 2019 Joyride cassette. The perfect record to let some steam out.

Colonial Wound Colonial Wound 12″

COLONIAL WOUND plays spacey, atmospheric post-hardcore that is as discordant and intimidating as it is smothering and embracing. Vocals are monstrous, but at moments subtly spoken, dream-like, and the lyrics are poetically miserable. This is a tight three-piece who play blackened ethereal hardcore with a dooming metallic tinge. Florida, in my opinion, is known for its ruthless grindcore and death metal. COLONIAL WOUND offers something new and more personal-sounding without being over-dramatic or emotional about it. This is polished, but certain instrumentations are gritty. Reminds me of the punk qualities of early CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, the dark warmth of ROSENKOPF, and the overall style of ISIS, all mixed together. Cream white vinyl as a picture disc on one side—a chain link fencing making an eye. A debut that is quite good.

Die Group / Tenement Rats split 7″

Tokyo label Episode Sounds, who specialize in wrapping some of the gnarliest low-budget punk in some of the most exquisite packaging, are here to bless us with another instance of everyone’s least favorite format—the split 7” (if you prefer these to a 10”, you are insane)! With a total running time that barely cracks three minutes, at least this one is short enough that you could theoretically just stand over your turntable while it plays to make spending merely a minute-and-a-half with each band as painless as possible. Anyway, we’ve got a track apiece from two L.A. punk bands here, and apparently the release was put together for their joint tour of Japan. The DIE GROUP cut is some solid downer punk with a little street swagger sprinkled in and a guitar sound that could cut concrete. The TENEMENT RATS track is fast, loud garage punk from what sounds like one of the rowdier bands in the Dirtnap stable. I get why this exists, and these songs are fine, but it could stand to have at least another track on each side.

Dry Socket Shiver cassette

Scathing and brutal hardcore out of Portland, Oregon that delivers an impressive wall of unflinching attitude. The record label described it as “unapologetic,” which initially sounded to me like kind of a generic punk descriptor—like, when have punks ever been apologetic (with the exception of Milwaukee’s chronically unsung the APOLOGETICS)? But, it turns out I agree that DRY SOCKET really drips with whatever it is that is the opposite of an apology. There’s plenty to love here with the heaviest of breakdowns, occasional weird guitar riffs, and experimental timing. But the real gem is the hurricane-force vocals, steeped in such a thick concentration of fury that they are legitimately kind of terrifying, an effect that keeps growing the more times I listen through.

Exposure Atonement LP

Mannheim-based metallic hardcore powerhouse EXPOSURE is back with a full-length. Atonement unleashes ten metallic hardcore tracks full of thrash metal influence that mainly comes from their geographical location, mixed with Cleveland-style hardcore like INTEGRITY or RINGWORM, and coupled with the H8000 legendary sound of bands like CONGRESS and LIAR. This concoction is deadly and can even get to fans of the crossover stuff like POWER TRIP. They did not discover fire but they can surely set everything ablaze.

Fake Last Name It’ll Happen Again cassette

Shape-shifting post-punk from a new Baton Rouge, Louisiana solo endeavor dubbed FAKE LAST NAME, with scribble-scratch guitar, limber bass lines, skittish beats, and perfectly affectless vocals all assembled in a series of quick, economical audio bricolages that are decidedly offbeat, but not at the expense of an accessible and sneaky playfulness. There’s the sparse, concise ROSA YEMEN-style No Wave exercises “FFSN” and “Demeanor,” backmasked loops circling behind abstracted spoken vignettes and a singular fuzzed-out bass note repeated into oblivion on “Persona,” cowbell-accented deconstructed dance rhythms pushing “Window” forward, and the anxious, agitated twitch in “Service!” (and its dryly acidic “thank you, thank you for your service!” refrain) that hits a similar nerve center as MARAUDEUR’s modern redux of DIY Euro-wave, just with a touch more of a late ’70s US art-punk preoccupation. The real freak sound of now!

Girl Guided Missiles Desperate Men / Fully Qualified Robot 7” reissue

This is a reissue of the GIRL GUIDED MISSILES’ only 7”, originally released in 1979. They have a catchy, amateurish sound that will be familiar to fans of late ’70s post-punk bands from the north of England. The songs are longer than most bands of the era, but they never lose steam. They keep on rockin’ out to the end. Two great songs. A great reissue.

The Gruesomes Cave In! LP reissue

You don’t need to know that the GRUESOMES were Canadian or that they formed in the mid-’80s or that this album was originally released around 2000, but that is all probably helpful information. Here’s some better information: this is some amazingly catchy garage pop that will grab your feet and just start moving them. It’s mid-tempo and super melodic and it’s got a fuzzy guitar sound that will transport you to a garage full of wild teenage kids back in 1967. A couple of key things: one, it’s on Alien Snatch. Two, if Jon von (SACRED COWS, MR. T EXPERIENCE, RIPOFFS) was Canadian, he’d have been in this band.

Hrdinové Nové Fronty Obyčejní Hrdinové 2xLP

HRDINOVÉ NOVÉ FRONTY was a punk band from Jihlava, about halfway between Prague and Brno in Czechoslovakia. A couple punks from the region have told me they were one of the more legendary bands pre-Velvet Revolution, and this appears to be their second offering from 1987, originally released as a cassette and here on vinyl for the first time. The production is simple but punchy, very vocal-forward, and from what I can tell through internet research it’s considered the pinnacle of HNF’s output. Imagine DEZERTER mixed with DEAD KENNEDYS demos, and maybe a dash of NOMEANSNO. It comes off both direct and sophisticated. PHR puts together a nice package, no translations for us non-Czech speakers but I don’t imagine many folks outside the region are asking for it. I was previously only familiar with the album Válečný Území, but Obyčejní Hrdinové (“Ordinary Heroes”) is more palatable and probably the best introduction to the band.

Lethal Model Citizen demo cassette

Oof. If you needed a convincer on the virility of the current NYHC scene, this oughta do the trick. LETHAL’s barreling and pointed brand of punk is the kind that fills the air with tangible electricity. If I can feel it in my house, it must be pretty intense live. The music is vicious and urgent, and this guy is screaming his ass off in a way that sounds like it’s going to hurt later. “Model Citizen” is a brutal way to start the show. The last song, “Poison Age,” somehow actually sounds poisonous. These tracks just rip right through you. Let’s hope for another dose of LETHAL soon.

Moron Moron cassette

Freaky and lighthearted hardcore from Berlin, that tends to bleed into some art-punk territory in its down-tempo moments. The track “Ants in My Pants” brings listeners back down to earth, like all the way on the ground, where everybody can get weird and nobody needs to be taking themselves too seriously. This is for you, if you are into fun and refreshing weirdo hardcore.

Nervous SS / Rat Cage Skopje vs Sheffield split LP

A battle between two hardcore bands that are a match made in hell. In the left corner is NERVOUS SS from Macedonia, a vicious TOTALITÄR-esque hardcore killing machine keeping the Scandinavian sound alive. In the right corner is RAT CAGE from the UK, same core as the above but with a more USHC influence from bands like POISON IDEA. Sometimes punk splits seem like a dumping ground for unreleased material. Not in this case—you get the sense that you are listening to a full album. So, who has won in this battle of Skopje vs Sheffield? The fucking punk scene!

Opposite Sex High Drama LP

OPPOSITE SEX from Dunedin, New Zealand has this fuzzed-out guitar sound that reminds me of the first GRINDERMAN LP. Without it these tunes could fall into conventional indie rock, but the noise, paired with an idiosyncratic delivery, eradicates any sentimentality or sweetness that would undermine the whole thing. My favourites are the tunes with a more hectic pace like the killer opener “Shoots Me Like a Knife,” or “Combine Harvester,” both songs featuring twisted, extended choruses in which Lucy Hunter’s vocals chant with an equal amount of joy and malice. I love how messy this record gets at times. Longer tunes like the “Dick on a Throne” (“Don’t call me a girl, I’m an adult!”) and “Owls Do Cry” show a willingness to have songs that space out and don’t adhere to normal song structures. Less-than-polished drums and slightly off-kilter vocals make it sound more legit and reckless rather than amateur hour. I understand their earlier stuff is less heavy, but High Drama is more KILLDOZER than Flying Nun.

Plague Thirteen Plague Thirteen LP

It’s dark. It’s heavy. It’s oppressive. It induces moshing. It’s the debut album from PLAGUE THIRTEEN, a crust punk band from Czech Republic formed by ex-members of LINK and SORE in 2019. Inspired by last year’s COVID lockdown, the band presents six songs that achieve a really satisfying balance between expansive arrangements (like the brutal breakdowns of “Eyes Wide Open”), guitar epicness, D-beat fury, and full-on assaults and melodic richness.  If you wanna sample the intense power they can produce, I command you to listen to “Saturated Black,” which veers into extreme metal territory with some vicious riffing and death metal growls.

Quit It! Let It Burn EP

Four tracks of socio-political anthemic punk with some well-placed street and Irish elements. A pandemic-midst project from the Calgary-based RIVER JACKS that hopefully will keep going. Sounds as if Jack Dalrymple of ONE MAN ARMY fronted AMERICAN STEEL. Those were both pretty good bands.

Repo Fam Whipped Cream EP

I liked this mix of sugary indie pop confections wrapped in gauzy distortion from Baltimore’s REPO FAM. “King of Marvin Gardens” sounds like SONIC YOUTH’S “Beauty Lies in the Eye” with its echoing spoken vocals and hazy strumming. If you’re going to nick the style, go for the best, so no hard feelings here. It’s a great song from a perfect influence. “Psycho Bombs” is a short noise-pop gem with simple catchy melodies and warm lo-fi production. “Whipped Cream” has a slightly atonal guitar/vocal interplay that gives a little art school scrappiness to the bedroom pop. “Here We Come” is a simple and effective garage stomper with the words “Here we come / Join the fun.” It sounds spooky and has some howling (from synth or werewolf, I don’t know) in the background. It’s fun in a stripped-down ’60s garage rock-meets-’90s indie way. If you have a sweet tooth for pop that’s rough around the edges, definitely check out REPO FAM.

Sectarian Bloom Sectarian Bloom cassette

A modern post-punk outfit that draws from well-established influences like BAUHAUS, SISTERS OF MERCY, and JOY DIVISION. Atmospheric guitars that sound like they are echoing through a gothic cathedral, and are accompanied by driving drumbeats and darkly melodic vox. Music for vampires to get down to.

The Slow Death Born Ugly Got Worse LP reissue

The tenth-anniversary reissue of this gem of an album has been remixed and remastered, so it sounds even better than it did a decade ago. This is still one of my favorite records by Mr. Thorson and company. The opening track “Ticks of the Clock” is and has been one of my favorite songs for the last ten years. That said, just about every song on this record is a hit in my opinion, and I’m thrilled that Rad Girlfriend has reissued it so that hopefully a new crop of folks can give it a spin and possibly find their new favorite band!

Trash Knife EP / EP LP

A collection of two EPs from Philadelphia band TRASH KNIFE. The first thing you will notice about this record is that the songs are tight as fuck. The band keeps in rhythm with the precision of a math-rock band and tracks flow one after the next with ease. The songs come down with pummeling chaos and frenetic energy. Think MELT BANANA meets LIGHTNING BOLT in some strange intersection of noise and hardcore. This is a really fun and energetic record. Enough to get you bouncing off the wall and furiously headbanging as any good record should do.

Worst Self Everyone is Replaceable LP

Modern hardcore that fluctuates from fast thrashy parts to metallic breakdown parts to softer quieter parts to almost jammy parts. Fans of bands like TOUCHE AMORE and MODERN LIFE IS WAR would probably dig this. The album artwork and the actual LP is what really caught my eye, though. The screenprinting on the LP is pretty cool. The OASIS “homage” of the band logo on the jacket and labels is cute. I assume that was intentional, but these days who knows. Limited to 100 copies, so if you wanna grab one, I’d suggest you do so pretty quick.

V/A Racism Sucks! S.H.A.R.P. Compilation CD

Yeah, racism sucks. Duh. In case you’re not convinced or want to beat the dead horse into the ground with some mediocre international Oi!, here you go. There’s a few passers like RECKLESS UPSTARTS’ “No Spirit,” “Proud Boys, Proud of What?” by FATAL BLOW, and Germany’s CURB STOMP doing “Sharp,” but most of this is pretty forgettable. This label does really good charity work for good causes, so what do I know? Give it a listen yourself.