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.

A Bunch of Jerks Shart Topping Hits CD

I reviewed this band some time back, and I can’t really say they’ve gotten any better nor any worse. They’re just treading that middle line like champs doing their nice top 40 BLONDIE kinda jam. Singer can sing and the band can play. Completely unoffensive in any way and safe for your next church social. They’d be more than happy to bleep out those bad words for the kids. The BOWIE cover is atrocious but the rest is what it is. MRR is well on the way to being the major forum of dad punk. Joy.

Brigada Roja 2007–2011: Discografia Incompleta cassette

A very fierce collection from Mexico’s BRIGADA ROJA. Guttural vocals, nasty guitars, and an approach that blends Y2K thrashy hardcore with classic clenched-fist Mexican punk. Nineteen doses of intense and powerfully anti-racist hardcore punk recorded between 2007–2011, given the treatment from the folks at Rebel Time because…this is real, and it needs to exist.

Call the Cops / Just Wär At War With Cops split LP

This is what I like to call “beer-drinking music” at its best. JUST WÄR from the Czech Republic is a great alternative for all the INEPSY maniacs out there that miss some MÖTORHEAD-influenced hardcore punk. They really know their MÖTORHEAD discography like the back of their hands and it shows on their four original tracks, with some extra influences here and there. On the track “Live on Fire,” they venture into black metal territory for a brief moment, but then resume to the street MÖTOR-charged punk they pull off so well. CALL THE COPS from Italy are pissed, angry at everything, and also really love MÖTORHEAD by the sound of it, but have their own street punk twist. Each band does four original tracks and a cover of the other band, something that is always exciting in splits and shows a sense of unity throughout. MÖTORHEAD? Check! Hardcore punk? Check! Hatred towards cops? Double check!!!

The Decayed Corrupt Politicians Will Never Set You Free LP

This chainsaw gut-rip from Chicago’s the DECAYED is their first LP after an EP a couple of years ago. A snotty warhorse of galloping metal punk; vocals are minimal and snarled. This teeters somewhere on a railroad track between thrash metal and street punk. Riffs are far-off horizon landscapes at times and fierce, punctuated hardcore moments later. The DECAYED have a groove that grabs you immediately. Vocal pace is stompy in a ’90s hardcore way, the metallic stylization is more modern. Punk passages are throughout each song, while being at the core a metal album. I like the standout, non-distorted bass call-and-response with the distorted guitar. This is sort of a mix between NAUSEA (vocal pace), MUNICIPAL WASTE (riffs), early RANCID (bass), FILTH (bitterness), the Pogo Attack compilation bands, and ’90s Epitaph bands. The DECAYED’s debut LP has a lot of different attitudes for sure, while maintaining something recognizably their own.

Fatal State Pura Rabia cassette

Maximum-speed political hardcore from Portland. Gruff backups make the high-end crack of the femme lead vocals even more powerful, highlighting a band that has taken the ’00s epic hardcore model and stripped away the bullshit to expose the intensity. Songs are short and to-the-point, just fist-in-the-air defiance in the form of metal-tinged riffs and a relentless anarcho-hardcore assault.

Girlfriends and Boyfriends Fallacy of Fairness LP

A very polished new wave style-revival (new-new wave?) from Vancouver, Canada. Definitely some heavy English influence, with guitar riffs that don’t stop, dreamy synths, and melodramatic vocals. Some of it errs on the cheesy side, like in “Colour Shining Bright,” which sounds synth-attack-y in the way DEAD OR ALIVE does. If you like this, and want to harken back to that English influence, check out the SAD LOVERS & GIANTS record I reviewed recently. Anyway, Fallacy of Fairness is an all-around fun and sappy album.

Glaxo Babies Dreams Interrupted: The Bewilderbeat Years 1978–1980 2xLP

Upstart Italian reissue label Lantern brings Cherry Red’s 2006 CD-only GLAXO BABIES compendium to vinyl for the first time, taking it from a dead format to a format that 2021 is trying very hard to kill. Almost all of the content touched upon here has been reissued elsewhere within the last decade and/or the OG pressings are still relatively inexpensive and easy to come by, so a straight vinyl redux of what was already an incomplete anthology is a little odd, but that said, GLAXO BABIES were responsible for some of the finest dub-conscious, acute-angled post-punk in a late ’70s/early ’80s UK scene that never lacked in that area, so however their legacy is upheld is fine with me. What you get: all of the tracks from 1979’s “Christine Keeler” single and This Is Your Life 12” (both essential) as well as the mutant funk “Shake!” 7” from 1980 (less so), cherry-picked (no pun intended) selections from 1980’s Put Me on the Guest List (viciously dry and minimal early demos to rival WIRE) and Nine Months to the Disco (the band’s descent into freeform avant jazz-funk) LPs, one comp offering, and a few orphaned tracks—Y Records’ 1980 Limited Entertainment EP is conspicuously absent. If it leads to even a handful of people being exposed to the scratchy, EX-like ranting repetition of “Police State” or the sax-skronked GANG OF FOUR-worthy groove of “Christine Keeler” for the first time, this collection will have more than justified its existence on wax.

Hated Innocent People / Seize the Middle East 7″ reissue

A rare KBD slab of fabled 1981 SoCal beach punk now officially reissued for those who don’t want to blow their rent money on an original copy. Honestly, I had never heard of the band, and couldn’t find much on them, but they seem to have been a second-tier group in the Cuckoo’s Nest/Orange County scene of TSOL and the ADOLESCENTS. Fun fact for whatever it’s worth to ya: HATED bassist/vocalist Joe Wood went on to replace Jack Grisham in TSOL during their goth/hair metal eras. Anyway, it’s a standard issue snotty two-sider of early HB struttin’ hardcore, clocking in under seven minutes, and often reminiscent of AGENT ORANGE—heavy on the ride cymbal and staccato surf guitar riffs, but with some very Rikk Agnew-admiring melodic leads.

Hüstler Hüstler cassette

Marrying the darling darkness of CHRISTIAN DEATH with creepy, metallic future-shock, New York’s HÜSTLER is on quite a unique trip on this ambitious cassette. The band lays out lengthy bouts of metal noodling over layered, menacing background clatter and robotic drums that create a borderline industrial feel at times. Production here uses seemingly all the knobs, lacing the record with countless effects that add to its chaotic persona. It’s even danceable at points, and somehow would still seem appropriate blaring out of an evil castle.

Keiketsu (経血) Scapegoat LP

It’s not hard to imagine why this record, originally released in 2017, sold out quickly. This repress is a bit of a godsend, making sure more people can hear the confident experimentalism of a band that is not content to anchor its sound to one genre but rather bob and weave through various strains of garage and hardcore with seemingly little effort. On tracks such as “思考停止,”the band plays with rhythm and time signature, locking into a syncopated groove that almost dips a toe into surf music. It all works, winning the listener over with sheer willpower and attitude. There are even, dare I say, near-ballads on the album that help compliment the more furious tracks. While this lends itself to a somewhat disjointed listen, you could never call it boring. It’s always exciting and crucial to hear such a brash blend of styles and genres. Now here’s hoping I can still find a copy.

Laughing Gear Freak Lemons LP

LAUGHING GEAR is a synth punk duo outta Melbourne featuring former BRANDO’S ISLAND inhabitants, and hits some swell sweet spots well, combining cracked mirror reflections with solid songcraft. There’s a carnival aspect to this debut album that skews the proceedings sideways but an ever-present anxiety is its defining trait. Listening to Freak Lemons is like being trapped in an armoire with FAD GADGET, while calling to mind the more poptimist angles of the M Squared roster. What if one of the SEVERED HEADS was still hanging on by a thread? I bet, at the least, he’d be chuckling, “Get ur freak on.”

Low Life From Squats to Lots: The Agony and XTC of Low Life LP

I haven’t caught up with these Aussies since their debut LP Dogging back in 2017, an album I loved, especially in headphones during the rainy months. Well, their third record has appeared in time for the rainy season again, and despite the years between listening, the band has returned with a record that has everything I found so appealing on Dogging, but just ever so matured and nuanced. I’ve always imagined the LOW LIFE sound being created by some smirking lads, loose and laughing on lager, having made off with the CURE’s gear circa Faith and Pornography, but starting a hardcore band with it instead. Stomping and pushing their chorus pedals to sound less blissed-out and distant than pharmaceutically blurry and smothering, replacing a limp strum with a harder attack. Sonically, there’s some special studio accents like trumpets, orchestral strings, and acoustic guitar textures; song-wise, there’s fewer barreling ragers and more moody meditations, but always brimming with desperation and frustration that frames the album’s spirit around the layers of watery chordage. LOW LIFE is in classically fine form and begs for repeat listening and time for full immersion.

Martin Savage Gang Fool’s Gold EP

The Swedes know how to deliver rock’n’roll. This is punk and all that, but this is rock’n’roll at its core. You can hear some STONES in there, but there’s also some T-REX. And maybe even some NEWTOWN NEUROTICS  By definition, that means it’s catchy. The second track picks up the pace and the aggression. The third and final cut maintains their aggression, but the focus on the keyboards sort of calms that. Great record.

Nature Boys IV LP

Kansas City’s havoc-seeking NATURE BOYS come firing on all cylinders on their fourth LP to date. Fast, rambling Midwestern grit, buzzy guitar riffs—never slowing down—this trio is pure punk rock’n’roll. Suzanne and Evan hardly stop yelling at each other as Danny keeps everything tight, against all odds. They’re rowdy and infectious, like some DEAD BOYS and DEAD MOON hybrid, and it’s banger after banger.  Turn up and thrash out.

Oi Boys Oi Boys LP

OI BOYS are a French coldwave band from Metz. They specialize in creating desolate atmospheres, ideal to enhance the acid sadness of the de-industrialized panorama of a decaying West. And they do it being absolutely melodic, joining their ability to create small personal hymns with a tendency to nostalgia and drowned hatred. An album that grows with every listen.

Pale Lips / The Sorels Do the Rumbar Rumble split CD

PALE LIPS deliver five cuts and the SORELS deliver four cuts on this split effort on Rum Bar. PALE LIPS focus on female-fronted bubblegum garage. Even their song titles lean that way (I wouldn’t say their lyrics always agree). The SORELS aren’t too dissimilar, though the image is a little tougher (just a little). Both bands are Canadian. Two female-fronted bands from Canada on a “rumble” album.  Finally, a split record that has a purpose! I ain’t calling a winner.

Poison Idea Get Loaded and Fuck CD

I witnessed the last incarnation of POISON IDEA as they rolled through town a few years ago. There was an incredibly intense microburst storm that tore the roof off a neighboring building, knocking out all power at the club for hours. When the lights finally returned, and faced with a strict curfew, POISON IDEA belted out an hour-long set in like twenty minutes. Jerry A. was calling out songs like JAMES BROWN and the well-past-40 band tore it up like shitty teens. Why am I telling you this story? It’s because this release is nothing new to anyone vaguely familiar with the band. Originally released as a cassette with this title in ’88, it compiled both the Filthkick and Getting the Fear EPs. All of this was further released on the widely available Ian MacKaye 12”. All of these versions, minus this titled one, have been rereleased many, many times. I guess the novelty here is the title, the sorta noticeable remastering job, and that it’s the only time (I believe) that it’s been available in the forgotten CD format. You might think this a bad review but these are some of the best POISON IDEA songs ever. No, for real. So give it to your little cousins, buy them underage booze, and let them loose to spread hate and venom on a world that truly deserves it. God bless Pig. God bless Slayer Hippy. Amen.

Spleen Spleen cassette

Noisy, female-fronted hardcore from Leipzig, Germany that absolutely rips. The tape opens with howling feedback and a nasty noise rock riff and just gets better from there. They are in good company with MUTANT STRAIN and LEBENDEN TOTEN in that the songs are 100% exciting and take unexpected turns at every opportunity. The vocals are a high-pitched staccato holler that fits the music perfectly. Just when the band settles into a creepy crawl plod, like on “Routine,” they do a time change into D-beat mayhem. This is all following a filthy, spidery post-punk guitar line that rules. Similarly, “Flower Basket” abruptly changes gears and speeds like a nervous student driver, always keeping you guessing and hanging on for dear life. I also award it for the only non-corny use of wah pedal in a hardcore song. Every song kills—seven tracks of furious, crazed splendor. If you like noisy, frenetic hardcore, check this out right now.

Tin Foil Two LP

TIN FOIL produces some quality Midwestern post-punk. It feels one part PROTOMARTYR and another part DEVO. There are points where I wish this record was a little heavier, but overall there’s a nice mix of psychedelic jangle and punk rock intensity. Across the runtime this LP doesn’t get stale for a minute. It’s a ton of fun so don’t skip it!

Unidad Ideológica Unidad Ideológica LP

Straight from the eye of the political storm of turmoil that is Colombia’s unrest, UNIDAD IDEOLÓGICA delivers a sharp, venomous attack to the system that is causing havoc among their people. Intense-as-fuck hardcore that sounds as fresh as it sounds like it’s the ’80s again. A raging mixture of full-on hardcore à la KURO/EXECUTE/DISARM/SHITLICKERS, conceived at Bogotá’s Rat Trap by dudes from other Colombian punk bands that you should already know about like MURO, ALAMBRADA or TRAMPA. If not, you have wasted your time! Colombian punk is killing it and some of the best modern bands are coming from there, as they never seem to disappoint!

Vacation Existential Risks and Returns LP

VACATION gives me big GUIDED BY VOICES vibes. It’s lo-fi, introspective garage-y pop with dreams of rocking the stadium. The songs are catchy and driving. The vocals have that flat, spoken style that are earnestly trying to get your attention. Then they suddenly fly off into the atmosphere. It’s an interesting combination of sounds that work well together.

The Whiffs Another Whiff LP

I truly and optimistically think guitar pop will never go fully out of style. Pop songs that leave a little sand in your teeth and have a little punch—they’re always worth the three-minute investment of time. So the WHIFFS were kind enough to give you fourteen good investments in one convenient package. This is like the album equivalent of when chefs say “fine ingredients simply prepared.” You can tell where all the influences are sourced from, but it’s all so well-presented and natural that it’s pure satisfaction throughout, without sounding like unnecessary nostalgia tripping (despite the “remember the good old days?” lyrical bent in the excellent head-bobber “Seventeen”). So keep on strumming those six strings and hammering out tightly-structured belters—I’ll keep on listening.

Anti-Machine Shut Up EP

“My mind is just a piece of shit this morning” says the “Winnebago Man” in the intro, which sets the tone for what follows next: an eruption of snotty hardcore punk that reeks of disdain for everyday life. A ferocious discharge of US hardcore punk that owes as much to POISON IDEA as it does to TOTALITÄR, but the vocals really shift the gears to another place. Gritty and snarling, they turn the songs into a cesspool of hate and rawness against the state, xenophobes, racists, and everyday shit situations. The punk on the cover being drilled in the head while being OK with it couldn’t be more appropriate for this banger. That’s what you get when you get NY seasoned veterans from CRAZY SPIRIT, SAVAGEHEADS, EXTENDED HELL, and SUBVERSIVE RITE together. Life is shit and they know it!

Bleakness A World To Rebuild 12”

A downbeat set of six from Lyon, France’s BLEAKNESS. At times sounding straight post-punk, then goth, and then almost new wave, particularly on the two synth-heavy “remixes” of songs that came off their debut LP Functionally Extinct. Within that range, and what I think gives theme to the whole piece, is Nico’s heavy, coarse vocals. Ultimately, the two-tone album cover and their name say it all.

Cocktails Catastrophic Entertainment LP

Excellent escapist power pop in the wistful spirit of PAUL COLLINS. Like a mid-tempo FLAMIN’ GROOVIES, their Bay Area antecedent, writing songs about hanging out with friends, falling through love, summertime on the West Coast, and an innocence that evokes earlier long-gone times. Beautifully crafted tunes with a sound like it could have come from ’70s power pop, ’80s suburban rock, or the Lookout! roster from the ’90s. Moog leads and guitar melodies with boy/girl vocals telling tales of innocent worries that make you want to put on your Radio Shack headphones and curl up in the bean bag chair and forget it’s 2021. Plus, they drop an excellent despondent country breakdown song in there with “Washoe County.”

Delivery Yes We Do EP

Like a lot of creative punks who found themselves cooped up over the past couple years, Melbourne duo Rebecca Allan (GUTTER GIRLS) and James Lynch (KOSMETIKA) started writing songs. Then, in one of the short stretches when their city wasn’t locked down, they fleshed out their project into a full band—adding players from SOURSOB, HEIR TRAFFIC, and the VACANT SMILES—to record this EP for Spoilsport. On the surface, DELIVERY plays that same mix of post-punk and garage that’s been so prevalent in the past decade, particularly in Australia. But they take that sound and infuse it with enough pop sensibility and even a bit of surf to help differentiate them from mere imitators, and in any case these are well-crafted songs. On a spectrum that has UV RACE at one end and TOTAL CONTROL at the other, tracks like “Floored” and “Brickwork” would fall smack-dab in the middle—not a bad place to be. “The Explainer” sounds an awful lot like an INTELLIGENCE track until an extremely early-SUPERGRASS bridge kicks in. It ends up being my least favorite song on the record (in no small part due to the annoying and unnecessary synth)—still, it’s hard to say it’s bad. “Rubber” settles into a pleasant groove and might be the track where this band’s disparate influences meld together best. It’s a solid enough record that I’m keen to tune back into whatever these folks have planned next.

Elastic Heads Elastic Heads LP

Oh baby, nothing will prepare you for the lo-fi goodness this record is dripping in. Somewhere between JOY DIVISION and FUGAZI with a hint of something garage like the GORIES, ELASTIC HEADS are the dark and crusty answer to your prayers. There’s a good balance between groovy soft tunes and gnarly riff-fests. Relentless, raw, sometimes beautiful.

French Girls French Girls CD

While there are lots of musical influences in play here—rock’n’roll, garage, doo-wop, new wave, punk, ’60s—the thing that binds it all together is a mid-tempo catchiness that’s delivered without taking themselves too seriously. That’s an important detail, at least for me. Some music was intended to change the world, but there’s nothing wrong with rock’n’roll just for rock’n’roll’s sake. That’s not to say there aren’t some important messages here, but rock’n’roll can also be fun. Female-fronted. Yes!

Gotou Gotou LP

The debut record from GOTOU, an unabashedly MALARIA!-devoted trio from Sapporo, Japan—the lifting of the iconic split portrait motif from the back sleeve of MALARIA!’s 1981 12” for one of the LP’s center labels, as updated with (I’m assuming) the faces of two GOTOU members, should be an immediate tip-off. Stark, severe rhythms are held up by repetitive bass grind and skittering drum beats, reductive no wave guitar clangs and scrapes sparingly, and deep, drama-tinged vocals (sometimes from one voice, sometimes from intersecting voices) weave in as a series of chants, moans, and howls that offer the only signs of emotion within this bleak musical landscape; you don’t need to understand the Japanese language to recognize that those emotions are largely just variations of anxiety and existential dread. The subtle electronic manipulations in “ワキ毛” and “Osorezan” play right into GOTOU’s faithful recreation of the surveillance state paranoia of ’80s Germanic post-punk, with comparatively kinetic tracks like “WET背” and “ァギナ・ユニバース” slithering along the broken-glass-strewn floors of the NEUBAUTEN nightclub. I’m sold, and I guarantee that GOTOU will age better than CHICKS ON SPEED’s MALARIA!-minded early-aughts NDW/electroclash pastiche.

Hated Pressure / Stereotyped 7″ reissue / 4 Song EP reissue

It’s an immutable fact of life that even second-tier, second-wave SoCal hardcore punk is better than your stereotypical hardcore punk from any era and region you care to choose or pick out of a hat. These two self-released seven inches came out in 1982 and Meat House is doing us all a favor by re-spawning them for our current, no-so-different bleak times. “Pressure” segues from desperate beach-punk to a hesher-worthy breakdown and then surfs away on an anthemic chant—let’s see you do that in just over two minutes! “Stereotyped” is so good, it’s almost a cliche. Is this just a happy accident? Fuck no, these dudes meant this shit, and the sentiment still applies. Society is square and everyone should get fucked. The audio quality of the EP is a little compromised but the tunes are strong and you get double the pleasure. “Victim of Lies” is a classic Reagan-era sneer at Amerika and it hits like 7 SECONDS covering TOXIC REASONS, while “Enemy” sounds like it could have come off the first TSOL 12”. Totally killer.

Kohti Tuhoa Väkivaltaa EP

Since their inception, KOHTI TUHOA managed to make a dent on the punk scene and they never disappoint. They are where they belong: at the top of the game as the true carriers of the Finnish punk torch. Väkivaltaa is a less chaotic and abrasive EP, a more controlled and mature experimentation with different routes to their sound. There are still pogo moments like DISORDER in songs like “Juokse Kovempaa” that point back to their earlier stuff but with a more garage feel to it, while songs like “Häpeä” invoke the early AMEBIX spirit, a step in a different direction for KOHTI TUHOA. The best quality of this EP is the dark feeling it conveys, perhaps a mirror of current times and the era it was crafted in. Towards destruction there is only violence!

The Limit My World at Night / Please Please Me 7″ reissue

Reminder Records is back with another record to keep you from forgetting that power pop is pretty great. This time it’s a reissue of the lone single from London obscuros the LIMIT. They’re rewriting history a bit here by promoting “My World at Night” to the A-side. But to be fair, that’s where it belongs. The A-side on the 1978 release is a punky yet forgettable rendition of the BEATLES’ “Please Please Me”—the kind of stuff that’s generally buried on the flip. “My World at Night” needs to be heard, though! The song structure and guitar melody are pure power pop wimpiness, but the execution is tough as shit. Within the first few seconds of the song—the way the singer snaps off the word “night” right as drums kick in—you know these dudes aren’t here to fuck around, and they certainly don’t for the remaining minute and a half of the song. It’s punker than like 90% of the music the CLASH was making around the same time. If you’ve been into any of the other Reminder releases, this one is probably essential.

The Lipschitz Chevron LP

It’s the year 2000 and I’m at my friend’s place and he walks up to his TV set-up and pushes a tape into the VCR. Clad in sunglasses and a rain jacket, Peter Ivers appears on the screen and in short order SUBURBAN LAWNS plays “Janitor” and I have a new crush. A couple decades fly by and now all songs are rags. Of course, I was twenty years too late to the party myself, but after forty years, it seems the world has finally caught up. Even though the LAWNS revival has been in full swing for several years now, I’m still charmed by a lot of the artists drinking from its sprinkler. This preamble is not to sell the LIPSCHITZ short—they are an excellent band that can stand perfectly well on their own. Hell, I don’t think there’s a duff cut on Chevron, and that’s fourteen chances to slip in a stinker with nary a false step. “Cobalt Car” is like if PLAGAL GRIND tried its hand at egg-punk, while “Yuggie” does the same neat trick to the CLEAN. “So What” has a jerky riff that screams “DEVO!” but if you’re complaining, then you’ve lost the plot. “Laclion” is like CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN without a recording budget but still hauling a trailer full of good ideas. There’s no question that songs like “Cutlet,” “Gross Finance,” and “Computer Sun” are drawing on the SUBURBAN LAWNS template, and it’s a great thing to see and hear and I would gladly trade a thousand mosh-friendly hardcore bands for a few score of these types of groups. Boom, boom, boom, boom.

Miami Death 2 Erfahrung Macht Krank EP

Six songs in eight minutes of pulverizing noise. We are looking at a relatively new project with people from bands from the Leipzig punk scene in Germany like CHEVIN, ROBERT PAULSON, CHOIR BOYS, and RANT. This is the band’s second EP, after a rather brutal debut in 2019.  A sound that oscillates between hardcore razor edge with powerviolence leanings and Europe’s most violent punishing grindcore. Kudos for “Döner mit nur Fleisch,” the track that closes the EP, a complete treatise of noise, aggression, and use of libidinal energy with the deliberate purpose of destroying eardrums. Excellent.

Normal People Normal People cassette

I don’t see much online about this band (except that several bands have the same name), but this is a solid four-song tape that sounds like the NWI weirdo punk of CONEHEADS and LIQUIDS. These short songs have tinny guitar with frequent guitar hero leads, bouncy bass, busy drums, and sung nerd vocals. I have heard similar bands do similar things, but I like it. Each lo-fi track has enough distinction to separate it from the others, like the snare rolls in “Hatched” and the two-chord chug in “Shaking” that brings to mind the MISFITS’ “Green Hell.” Pretty good first impression from NORMAL PEOPLE.

Pervitin 10 Tracks cassette

I absolutely love this. As self-described “No School Hardcore Crust,” PERVITIN is flooring my face off right now with dual-vocal, echoing death-chamber earslaughter. Anywhere between Phonophobia/Peel Sessions ENT or the FILTHKICK split, DISRUPT, ACCION MUTANTE, DEATH TOLL 80K, CETACEAN, INSTINCT OF SURVIVAL, DISASSOCIATE, SARCASM, NIGHTMARE FUEL, DEVASTATION, SOB, COP ON FIRE…this is obliterating 1000% crust. A five-piece from Tampere, this is a much heavier offering I’m being pummeled by at the moment than was expected. Refreshing as hell, too. All the song titles are in Finnish, and you get ten of ‘em! Non-stop crust onslaught from start to finish, how else should I even put this?? Just what you want if you dig this sound. Nothing too fancy, yet the lunacy of some vocals and the unison of others is very on-their-game in this day and age. Many bands want to sound this obliterating and manic. PERVITIN stands out. Very stoked by the introduction! Insane hardcore crust. Get this miserable little tape while you can.

Preening Discography 2016–2020 cassette

A discography-sweeping release, this tape combines almost forty tracks of saxophone-crunching no wave goodness. It’s angular, lo-fi, everything you want out of this genre. Fans of MARS, DNA, and JAMES CHANCE will absolutely adore what this tape has to offer. The only complaint I have is there are just too many songs to keep track of here, but if you’re happy to skip through to the cream of the crop then you have nothing to fear.

Stoner Cop Government Shutdown LP

SoCal goofy-core punkers with tongues in cheeks and something to prove. Sort of a jumble of Group Sex CIRCLE JERKS, SPITS, and UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND. You get dueling funny guy vocals throughout, and the opener “Stab Twist Crack Oblivion” is the winner for me. All songs clock in under a minute and rage pretty hard, but they lose me on the purposely dumb reggae numbers at the end. The cover is a nice parody of Pettibon’s  most parodied BLACK FLAG flyer. It’s a no brainer, literally.

Subculture Live ’86 cassette

Here’s a little time capsule action from Sorry State. Formed in North Carolina in the early ’80s, SUBCULTURE is one of those bands that weren’t heard by a wide audience during their run, but those who were familiar with the group get a wide-eyed look when you mention them. I’ve read at least one article on the web where someone calls them “the best punk band in the world” of their era. I don’t know about all that, but they were a cool group and pretty original. They played hardcore, but with more depth and variety in sound than many bands of the time, to the point where it’s difficult to make a wholesale comparison. The music is speedy and thrashy, but with an unusual sense of vulnerability. This cassette captures a boombox recording of a show they played in 1986 in all its glory—there’s an audible crowd, the tape is chewed beyond recognition in spots, and the guitarist tells his girlfriend he loves her several times between songs. Big ups to Debbie. At one point the singer kicks into a lengthy rap in which he name-drops Henry Rollins and calls himself “the magic man.” There are previously unreleased songs in this set, and apparently, even the band was surprised to hear them, as they had no recollection of writing or playing them. All in all, it’s fun stuff. Puke N Vomit did a bang-up job on the reissue of their sole LP I Heard A Scream a couple of years back, and this tape is a nice companion piece to it.

User Unauthorized Watch Them Fall EP

Five tracks of very serious, very pissed hardcore from this Austin band that sounds like it could have been released in 1984. This is USHC 101-style punk, modeled after the greats like BLACK FLAG (I hear similarities to “Police Story” in “F.O.S.” and “A.P.D.”), MDC, and MINOR THREAT (there is a distinct Ian vocal approach on “Full Speed Ahead”). So, these folks have their hearts in the right place and follow the standard punk protocol: they hate cops, Nazis, racists, the rich, etc. If this classic hardcore sound is your jam, check this out and stop reading this review. Still with me? I love classic USHC, but I have heard this well-intentioned, passionate record a hundred times. There is nothing new going on here, but to purists, maybe that’s okay. I wince a little at some of the lyrics, though. Check out the spoken interlude on “F.O.S.”: “All of you with your shit taste and your shit fake accents / You don’t give a shit about us / You just care that we’re going somewhere now / You just care about making yourself look all quirky and special / but you’re not fucking special / You’re all the fucking same.” Now, there is a time in my life (a long time ago) when that may have spoken to me, but it just comes across as immature and unsophisticated now. God bless them for keeping the traditional hardcore flag flying, but the genre and songwriting have really progressed beyond this.

ЯМА Блатноград cassette

Holy shit, this is a fucking beast!! Russia’s ЯМА (pronounced “yama”—definition: “pit”) simultaneously defies categorization while cramming everything you love about nihilistic, introspective hardcore into one unbelievable band. High-tension, high-end, dark mania—like HOAX and CELEST(E) and RUDIMENTARY PENI and AMERICAN HATE just fucking played at the same time. It’s harsh and abrasive beyond description, and fans of palatable family-friendly punk will find absolutely nothing here. It hurts to listen to, but ЯМА has created an absolute monster. Highest recommendation.

Antidote Thou Shalt Not Kill LP

This hooked-up reissue of NYHC pioneers ANTIDOTE’s action-packed 1983 EP includes a bunch of early demo tracks as well as a full live set from CBGBs, making it a rather hearty meal. The original record is great, exemplifying the kind of raw vitality and anthemic energy that New York punks would echo for decades to come. Like all the best hardcore from this era, it sounds pretty fresh even today. Unlike some archival releases, the extra material here is well worth a listen. Recorded at BAD BRAINS producer Jerry Williams’s 171-A Studio, the ’82 demo sessions provide a glimpse at the group’s scrappy beginnings and progression into becoming the furious first-wave thrash unit we know them as. The CBs material is particularly compelling, as it showcases dimensions of their sound from that era that don’t appear to be captured on record anywhere else. Live, the band’s proficient ripping is strewn with sinister instrumental panache that adds some awesome and unexpected depth to their identity (check out that sick rendition of “Deadly Rain”). None of the bonus stuff has ever been released in any sort of official capacity until now, and the LP comes with a 12×12” 16-page booklet with photos, flyers, and liner notes. There’s no denying ANTIDOTE’s rightful place in the hardcore hall of fame, and this record provides more proof than ever before. The reformed band is still at it too, and just played in Philly this month. 

Baby Tyler Vol. 2 cassette

Excellent hyper-spastic staccato punk hailing from Madison, Wisconsin. On my first blind listen, it had the feel of being recorded on a 4-track in an angry young adult’s bedroom while chain smoking Pall Malls, drinking Boone’s Farm, and reading too much David Foster Wallace. A few more listens and its layering emerged, with slow, emotive insights and complex change-ups balanced against the unhinged melodic bursts. This all makes sense, as the one man behind BABY TYLER is the similarly forenamed Tyler Fassnacht from the pivotally epic PROUD PARENTS. They are one of the current greats to take up the mantle of the frantic, melodic punk sound, like if the BANANAS and F.Y.P. were signed to Flying Nun Records.

Bad Anxiety Demonstration cassette

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have been a big fan of all the punk things that Hattiesburg, Mississippi has had to offer over the last bunch of years. The recognizable Earth Girl label let me know I was in for a treat, but I had no idea just how much of a treat! Lockdown solo project from Hattiesburg written and recorded all in one day, and it is absolutely flawless! Four songs of ripping, blistering, catchy hardcore punk that has absolutely no business being as good as it is considering it was written and recorded all in the same day. Go listen to this, buy tapes from Earth Girl, and next time you’re on tour, make a point to go through Hattiesburg, MS for a gig.

Corker A Bell That Seems To Mourn cassette

Future Shock seems to have its fingers set square on the pulse of the Cincinnati scene. A throbbing Cinci scene? ‘Tis true—there has been a spate of excellent bands rising from the silt of the Ohio River basin, and CORKER is yet another winner dredged up and slapped onto tape. With a hat-tip to PERE UBU, the four songs here nod northward towards Columbus, recalling recent (NECROPOLIS) and current (DANA) practitioners of one of the Buckeye State’s signature musical exports—avant-garage. There’s a shade more UK post-punk being aired out on this EP than most Midwestern bands of this ilk, but CORKER manages to turn damp into dank.

Crippled Fox 10 Years of Thrashing EP

This is a beautiful slab of fastcore: five tracks in the blink of an eye recorded down ‘n’ dirty in the band’s rehearsal space that indeed thrash, with just a taste of powerviolence to make things interesting. Party-violence? Is that a thing? This Budapest crew makes a pretty strong case for it, with a sound that’s equal parts SPAZZ and A.N.S. coated in about a foot-thick crust of grime. Perfect for basement beers and slamming your head into the wall.

DFC / Nunchaku Masters Nunchaku Masters vs. DFC split cassette

Yes!! In a (punk) world of bands trying so hard to be…something…it’s refreshing to hear a band (or in this case, two bands!) who are not just content to be themselves—they are fucking determined. NUNCHAKU MASTERS and DFC both hail from the Brazilian capital city of Brasília, and they share a love for pure old school thrash metal. We’re talking puffy high-tops and patched-up battle vests and long hair and politics just as in-your-face as the riffs. Anti-Nazi, pro-skateboarding, anti-asshole, pro-party, fist-banging, speed-picking thrash metal!!! NUNCHAKU MASTERS land more on the party thrash end of the spectrum, while long-running veterans DFC are decidedly darker, with a blistering Brazilian HC vocal attack backed by a brutally tight guitar attack more along the lines of countrymen DAMN YOUTH. Both bands absolutely shred these tracks recorded in the mid-’10s—and this release was a fucking blast to listen to!

The Embarrassment Death Travels West 12″ reissue

Last Laugh has been slowly working their way through the early EMBARRASSMENT catalog—all three records worth!—for a decade now, and they’ve just reached 1983’s mini-LP Death Travels West, the final record from the band’s initial phase (they would eventually reunite for a spell in the late ’80s). For the unfamiliar, the EMBARRASSMENT were four bespectacled Wichita, Kansas art school students with a nerdy, nervous sound not unlike a cornfield-surrounded FEELIES, if the FEELIES had been more fixated on the BUZZCOCKS than the VELVET UNDERGROUND; a prairie post-punk tornado of jangly guitar and angular bass, busy drums and boyishly melodic vocals, and lyrics that were at turns surreal, observational, clever, and sarcastic, with an eye toward everything from the serious (US imperialism) to the mundane (camp pop culture). In contrast to the shaky, almost MISSION OF BURMA-esque tension of their 1980 debut 7”, Death Travels West offers more of a window to the college rock/proto-indie direction that was to come from guitarist Bill Goffrier’s Homestead-backed, post-EMBARRASSMENT effort BIG DIPPER, but that’s not a diss in the least—the band’s unpretentious heartland weirdo charm still rules the school here, from the anthemic hyper-strum and lopsided pop of ”Drive Me to the Park” and “D-Rings” to the dark, brittle bass-driven rhythm of “Hip and Well Read.” The gold standard of the ’80s US geek-punk underground.

Final Dose Dark Places cassette

I was blown away by this solo project’s first demo of furious fuck-the-world blackened hardcore. This cassette couldn’t be a better follow-up. This is like someone took Ohio’s MIDNIGHT and ringed out all the fun like a dirty rag, and I mean that as a compliment. There are plenty of headbanging riffs and gang vocals, but the affair is imbued with such an impressive bleakness that it stands on its own ground. The black metal cold really sets in on standout track “Sick,” which is the perfect collision of Deathcrush-era MAYHEM and slamming D-beat. These tracks are engineered to destroy, perfect apocalypse catharsis, and the fact that it’s all performed, mixed and mastered by one person—B. Fusco—is pretty astounding. I wouldn’t change a thing, and I want more.