BIKINI KILL was my gateway band into DIY punk. I got into them when the first 12” came out, and then the year after they toured the UK with HUGGY BEAR, which was a life-changing experience for fourteen-year-old me. The fact that I have never heard these recordings at all is sort of funny to me now—I was such a maniac fan as a teen and I don’t get why I didn’t try and track this tape down! It’s so fucking incredible! This beautifully done reissue has the songs from their infamous demo and you can clearly see why this recording enabled BIKINI KILL to tour extensively without a record, exactly how they got so much notice/press in the pre-internet age. It’s simply incendiary. Like the Situationist and S.C.U.M. manifestos cut up with added teen girl diary fire. The music sounds eternal yet fresh, referencing early CA punk sounds—the AVENGERS, SIN 34, BLACK FLAG with added X-RAY SPEX. There are a million bands that pay homage to such possibilities and don’t get close to what this band achieve. I mean, it seems almost pointless to write about BIKINI KILL sounds. They are pretty much the MINOR THREAT of the ’90s, a band that transcended genre and had a global reach because of the true and total power and strength of their sound and message. They were a band that made girls and queers want to create their own version of the punk rock ideal, reaching lonely kids in isolated communities that maybe didn’t know about DIY punk. They were charismatic and cool, and listening to this it’s obvious why they were the catalyst for a new feminist punk reality. Kathleen’s voice sounds absolutely incredible, a totally incandescent force of power and fire. This may be the best recording of it I have heard, one that fully demonstrates how this band burned through the world and took over hearts and minds…It just sounds so good! There are two songs that made it onto vinyl back then as compilation tracks (on Give Me Back and one of the Yo Yo comps—and maybe a KRS comp too?!), plus demo versions of some classic songs from the split LP and the first 12” and three insane unreleased songs, which either didn’t fit on the demo tape, or were rejected for sounding unlike the other songs, depending on what you read. It’s really cool listening to these songs in light of what BIKINI KILL became. They very much situate the band’s sound in the context of the Pacific Northwest, providing an idea of them potentially being an almost FLIPPER-esque grunge group! The group love for BABES IN TOYLAND guitar tricks is real…At any rate it’s clear this LP is a must have for all punks, so grab one and then start your own feminist punk action force. This record is an instruction sheet not a rulebook! Make your own. (Layla Gibbon) (Bikini Kill)
Brooklyn’s AYE NAKO are back with their first release since their 2013 debut LP Unleash Yourself. I know that the band wanted to change their sound after that LP in an attempt to distance themselves from the “pop punk” label and even went as far as talking about releasing a hardcore EP. (I’d love to hear that since “Good Grief” from their demo is still one of my favorite songs of theirs). Instead of hardcore, they went in a completely different direction and delivered a lush, dense, guitar heavy, indie-shitstorm (that’s good) that recalls some of the melodic sensibilities of the best SUPERCHUNK stuff and the guitar noodle-ry (that’s a word) of TED LEO. I don’t use these band names to imply that they’re using these well-worn roadways as a blueprint. I use them as a signifier that AYE NAKO knows their history, they know what the fuck they’re doing and they build on those who have come before them to create their own new beast that is theirs to tame (or not tame) as they see fit. The whole presentation feels like a step up from the band’s previous record, which was no slouch but had moments that felt rushed or not quite fully-realized. There’s no wasted space here. The lyrics dig deep into thoughts on sexual abuse, race, the quagmire of eternal self-doubt, the fucking total-realness of never-ending white supremacy and the insidious ways that it continues to sustain itself. In a music scene that cannot stop focusing on white skin and cis-gender bodies, this record is unapologetically queer, defiant and brown. Plus, it has a lot of sweet hooks. All of these things are important. All of these things are good. I can’t wait to hear what they create next. (Greg Harvester)
MERCENÁRIAS – “Demo 1983” EP
There is probably no band like MERCENÁRIAS. This 3/4 femme Brazilian band, better known for their late ’80s post-punk repertoire, made an extraordinary first recording that seems out of time and place. Totally weird, awesome, and fierce: peculiar gruff vocals that predate grindcore layered over angular choppy rhythms making it sound like someone took a chainsaw to the rock song and assembled the hacked up pieces back together with lots of sharp edges sticking out all over the place. They were definitely ahead of their time with irreverent and unapologetic lyrics taking a shit all over patriarchy and scandalizing audiences (the song “Honra” never made it onto their recordings until now). The story in the booklet of sending a talent scout running after hearing one of their songs reminds me of the philosophy of Spain’s VULPESS, active around the same time, who got a TV program shut down in Spain for performing a song called “I Like Being a Slut.” Nice packaging with a semi-bilingual booklet in English and Portuguese containing old flyers, pictures, and lyrics. This is an important piece of Brazilian punk history and crucial international punk artifact with a renewed relevance in 2015. (Lena T) (Dama da Noite / Nada Nada)
DAN MELCHIOR’S BROKE REVIEW – “Lords Of The Manor” LP
The welcome return of DAN MELCHIOR’S BROKE REVUE after a ten-year hiatus (although Melchior himself has been anything but idle, cranking out scores of releases in the meantime). This new one reflects a slight change in tone since Dan relocated permanently to the USA. Musically loose and sprawling (only seven tracks spread out over the two sides of this album), vocally deadpan and sardonic. Instrumentation and arrangements are still pretty bare-bones: the rhythm section and keyboards lock into a repetitive groove while the guitar skitters, wails, and scratches over the top. If they discovered Neolithic standing stones on the outskirts of the Medway towns this HAWKWIND meets HEADCOATS sound would be perfect for the first solstice party. (Allen McNaughton)
(In The Red)
The brilliant promise of that first NEGATIVE SCANNER single was the way it oscillated between moody, off-kilter rhythmic trance and classic “Moon Over Marin”-style hookiness, and I guess they could have gone either way with their full-length. It seems like they mostly stuck with the latter, which was the one disappointment in my first go-around with this record. Maybe I’m just more rhythmically inclined, so don’t let my personal temperament steer you away. If anyone ever tells you that Chicago is a zero-tracks kind of town (everyone’s an expert since Martin moved away from the MRR compound), you can tune them in to “Would You Rather” (it’s incredible) or “Ivy League Asshole” after you name-check the EFFIGIES. Something about the way the guitarists play here is really forcing me to make my first WIPERS comparison in my career as an MRR reviewer (I was hoping to make it at least ten issues before this happened). Specifically it reminds of that eerie Youth of America-era open-chord type of sound, an under-tapped vein of inspiration. The beginning of “Forget It” has this incessant chime that gets cut through by an underlying guitar line that sounds like a cello or something. The winding and cresting surf guitar riff that opens up “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” is just sick; it’s raw, it’s classic. One thing really ties it together here: Rebecca Valeriano-Flores is an utterly devastating lyricist with a powerfully understated delivery, a tuff singer. All you other so-called songsmiths out there: step it up. More and more uncanny details come up as I spend more time with these songs. This one is either a winter record dropped in the wrong time of year or a summer record for that point late at night in a hot city when you realize you can’t stand it outside any longer. Backed. (Eli Wald)
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Out now! MRR #403 • Dec 2016
China punk special. Chinese punk history and discography, scene reports from Bejing, Wuhan, and Guangdong, reprints of MRR Chinese punk pieces, Chinese bands SUBS, DIDERS, and DEMERIT, photos from Toronto’s Not Dead Yet Fest, Brazilian tour diary from Slovakia's BETON.