2021 Year End Top Tens, Part Three
And now, part three of MRR Year End Top Tens!
I’m the editor of Toinen Vaihtoehto zine, co-release records on Nunchakupunk, and I’m also involved with the annual Puntala punk fest, which, thanks to COVID-19, has been on a hiatus for two years now—let’s see what happens in 2022. I have listened to punk since the late ’70s, over 40 years, but I still love hearing new punk music just as much as I did when I was young. Listening to the UNIDAD IDEOLÓGICA 12″ makes me just as excited as listening to STIFF LITTLE FINGERS in the ’70s, DISORDER in the ’80s, LOS CRUDOS in the ’90s, TRAGEDY in the ’00s, or HERÄTYS in the ’10s did. Punk, it’s in my blood, it’s my culture, my tribe, my community, my family, my music, my fucking life.
As always there was a flood of great punk releases in 2021, with my “best of” list containing about 100 releases altogether, so I had to leave out 12″s like EXIL – Warning, KOMA – Internment Failure, GOLPE – La Colpa É Solo Tua, ATAQUE ZERØ – Ataque Zerø, ILLITERATES – Illiterates KRONSTADT – Quai de L’ouest, NUNCA NADA – Discordia, CRISPY NEWSPAPER – Судургу Тыллар, NO NO NO – No No No, MALADIA – Sacred Fires, KOVAA RASVAA – Tasaluvulla tulevaisuuteen, CHAIN WHIP – Two Step to Hell, PHANE – Phane, TOWER 7 – …Peace on Earth?, etc., and such 7″s as SIAL – Zaman Edan, SOCIO LA DIFEKTA – Kreski, TAQBIR – Victory Belongs to Those Who Fight for a Right Cause, TORSO – Home Wrecked, FARMACO – Descolonizar, ALAMBRADA – Muerte Preventiva, ZERO AGAIN – Out of the Crooked Timber of Humanity + Revert to Nothing, VENGANZA – La Fiera, OJO POR OJO – Paroxismo, REAKSI – Esok Hari Kepunyaan Kita, ELECTRIC CHAIR – Social Capital, etc. There were also loads of terrific demos/tapes by SLOI (check them out!), ABRAZIVA ARIDEZ (check them out!), TRAMADOL, TIZZI, SPIRITO DI LUPO, ANTRUM, INDRE KRIG, POLLUTER, GEL, TULEVAISUUS, EX-DOM, ASSISTERT SJØLMORD, TOTAL NADA, etc.
MUNDO PRIMITIVO – Paisaje Interior cassette (Static Shock)
This is punk. I loved Melissa’s former Colombian band ABUSO, and I madly love this new Australian band as well. Angry vocals, desperate music, superb tracks. Playing this tape electrifies me every time.
NAFRA – Nafra LP (El Lokal / Grans / Kamilosetas Muskaria / Kremón / Little Jan’s Hammer / Mulisec / Rat Produccions / Sarna Social / Toxico)
Oh fuck, how much I love NAFRA!!! This LP must be the record I have played the most in 2021 and I can’t seem to get enough of it. Absolutely top-notch high-energy punk with powerful vocals, sharp riffs, and catchiness. If you haven’t heard this LP you must have been sleeping. Perfection.
UNIDAD IDEOLÓGICA – Unidad Ideológica 12″ (La Vida Es Un Mus)
An absolutely raging twelve-incher. Passionate, angry, and desperate hardcore punk. This 12″ simply rips from start to finish. An amazing release. I’m out of words to describe how excited I am about it. Fuckin hell!
INFRA – Camisa De Fuerza LP (Going Postal)
These two magnificent demos came out already in 2019 and 2020, and I was pulling out my balding hair out of frustration hoping someone would release them on a 12″. And you know what? Wishes sometimes come true! This is catchy, UK82-inspired pogo punk of the finest form, and one of my favorite bands from the current hotbed of great hardcore punk, Bogotá.
SLANT – 1집 LP (Iron Lung)
Absolutely killer hardcore. Intense, tight, ripping, hard-driving, with mean, shrieked vocals. Nothing especially new here, just things done right. Very right.
PORVENIR OSCURO – Asquerosa Humanidad LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
I didn’t like this LP at first because the vocals sounded a bit monotonic to my ears, but when I finally bought it, I just simply had to play it every day. I became obsessed with it. I still haven’t quite figured out why, but clearly there’s something special in it. Well-done hardcore punk, taking influences both from Latin punk and UK82. Good stuff.
MORBO – ¿A Quién Le Echamos La Culpa? LP (Cintas Pepe)
Primitive and rough punk that makes me smile. Great riffs and bass lines, and songs moving from ’77 to hardcore punk and back. They have been around for twenty years but there’s nothing polished here, just raw but at the same time melodic and catchy punk. Think about early La Polla Records, or LIXOMANIA, or WARRIOR KIDS. Think about The Roxy in 1977. Think about a squat full of punks dancing, sweating, smiling, and singing along.
KOHTI TUHOA – Väkivaltaa EP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
The only time I feel pride about my country is when I listen to KOHTI TUHOA or some other current top-class Finnish punk band. Ice hockey? Nah, not a bit interested. KOHTI TUHOA? Oh yes, one of the best bands in the world! A band that certainly knows what they are doing.
ROTURA – Estamos Fracasando LP (Discos Enfermos / Distribuidora Soroll / El Lokal / Grita O Muere / Inhumano / Kink / Kremón / Vapaa Päivä)
Great melodic punk from Spain in the vein of RATA NEGRA, OBEDIENCIA, SUICIDAS, etc. Their demo (included here) was one of my most favorite demos in 2020, and the five newer songs are excellent, too. An album full of sing-along choruses and anthemic punk songs, with political lyrics and melodies that stick in your head.
PSICO GALERA – Le Stanza Della Mente LP (Beach Impediment / Static Age)
Clearly inspired by certain legendary mid-’80s Italian hardcore releases (by INDIGESTI, STINKY RATS, and CCM, for example), but taking influences as well from weird Japanese hardcore or Cacophony-era RUDIMENTARY PENI, and from here and there this band has given birth to a very special kind of hardcore punk album. It’s not your usual cup of HC, I can assure you. Expect tempo shifts, twisted elements, and a somewhat weird but intriguing atmosphere.
BEN C. TROGDON
The best thing, for me, about punk this last year was being able to see it live again! Here were a few of my favorite shows:
The show was in a dark park out in East Brooklyn. You had to wander around looking for other rocker people dressed in dark colors to find it. It was set up in a brick kinda-courtyard area big enough for like 100 or so people. People were rockin’ and moshing, kicking up dust and breathing in dirt. TOWER 7 has a part in a song where the drummer, Owen, hits everything at the same time as fast and as hard as possible. He pounds his drums into the pavement. Towards the end of the set, the cops came and lit up the show with swirling blue and reds as fans kept on slamming. Singer Joe, raised the mic into the air in glory. The cops never even left the car. TOWER 7 finished their set and the cops drove away. Fuck the NYPD.
This was the show we all were waiting for. A year-and-a-half of sitting inside our tiny, shitty apartments dreaming of something like this: a hardcore punk show in the back alley of a scrap yard under a bridge next to a poisoned creek. Most of the people I’ve ever met were there getting fucked up, releasing all the frustrations, tensions, and anxieties that a year inside with too many Zoom calls and Netflix will get you. I’m sure that if you have Instagram and are interested in DIY punk you saw evidence of this night. It was pretty wild. Honestly, I didn’t comprehend how wild it was until the next day when I saw everyone’s pictures and videos of the hundreds of people slam dancing and lighting off fireworks while a huge crane smashed up metal in the background. Tragically, some friends broke their feet and legs cuz it was so rowdy and drunk. A whole fleet of police came to break up the show. Fuck the NYPD.
This show was at the park at the base of the Manhattan Bridge on the Manhattan side. The men who live in the park seemed to be OK with the show happening. They were mostly sleeping, but at one point they did get up, smoke crack, and hang out with us show-goers. The guys who gamble at the park everyday did not look up from their cards or acknowledge anything different going on around them. Show-goers were dancing and rolling around and praising Satan. A woman from an apartment building next door yelled at everyone from the third floor and called us all degenerates and told us to get jobs. Cops came, Danny’s boss had gotten a permit for the show, but the boss had left the permit in the printer tray at his apartment. So while we waited for the photo text of the permit, Lara lit into this police officer. I honestly was kinda worried she was gonna punch this cop in the face and then get hauled off to jail. But the permit came through, and the cops were ejected from the park! KARTEL covered “Policia No” and continued with their set. Fuck the NYPD!
I love this band. I’ve listened to them for many years, but I’ve never seen em. Makes sense tho, cuz they’re from so far away—Conception, Chile. This October I finally got to see them—twice! And I heard they just moved to New York, so I guess we’ll be seeing a lot more of em around here, ha! Was so cool to experience a slice of life from the other side of the world. The IGNORANTES guy looked like a punky out-of-shape soccer player. He was wearing a perfectly bleached, wide, sporty mohawk, a yellow-and-black striped soccer jersey, and tight black punk pants with many zippers. He thumped his tummy to the drumrolls and gave the crowd confused and bewildered looks in between verses. I loved it when he did the ’60s “swim” dance move.
Maximum Rocknroll cassette reviewer, Feral Kid Records, Tetryon Tapes, Nervous Tick & the Zipper Lips
That’s a wrap! Another year in the damn books, and what a year it was for punk records! Some killer records came out this year. What I want to talk about, however, is the cassettes that have dropped this year.
As one of the select morons who excitedly await their monthly(ish) package from MRR to write tape reviews, my favorites of which I showcase on my sporadic MRR Radio show First Glimpse from the Crowbar Hotel, cassettes are what I listen to most throughout the year. A few months ago, one such package actually grew legs, and I had to track down the crumbum who stole it. “It was just music, man!” he said, trying to justify his mail theft as it not being a big deal before directing me to where he had savagely ripped open the bubble mailer, dumping the tapes on the ground. “Just music”? Had I not frantically scraped up the contents, how could I have been able to tell you all of the majesty continuing to come out of Hattiesburg, MS for example? But, I digress…
My Year End Top Ten will once again be demos and other cassettes only, because as any cocky punk rocker will make a point of telling you, nothing is as good as a band’s demo or first cassette.
BAD ANXIETY – Demonstration cassette (Earth Girl)
Speaking of Hattiesburg, here we have the COVID lockdown solo project by one of the blasterminds of that scene. Allegedly, this recording was done to stave off cabin fever—drums recorded first with nothing else written, and songs built around them. This has no business being as good as it is. I can’t help but hope our hero here has more boring days in his future so he can grace us with more flawless hardcore punk tracks.
COMMUNITY GUN – Target Practice cassette (Convulse)
Some of the most blistering, angry hardcore punk I have heard all year. Don’t believe me? Well, go listen for yourself if you’ve got four minutes to spare to hear this four-song tape in its entirety. I warn you, you will not play it only once, and may end up with some holes in your walls. Absolute mayhem!
DEMONIOS CHUECOS – Vol 1-2 cassette (self-released)
Nasty punk solo project from Mexico, which began as a way to keep some sense of sanity during COVID lockdowns. Carlos learned how to play bass and drums, as well as how to record in order to make this project a reality. Unreal. Super hard-hitting, pissed off hardcore punk start to finish. This cassette compiles both volumes of the recordings done to date.
FRANKY SHAMPOO – The Lost Tapes cassette (It’s Eleven)
The enigmatic FRANKY SHAMPOO dropped a posthumous release this year of the only eight songs recorded under this moniker. He remains a mystery to me, and although I reviewed this cassette half a year ago, I am still dying to learn more about him. An amalgamation of genres as strange as the promo photos included of our suds-engulfed friend, each song chock full of hooks galore! I absolutely love this cassette. In these messy times, it seems that Mr. Shampoo is needed now more than ever! Come back to us, FRANKY!
ISMATIC GURU – Ismatic Guru cassette (Swimming Faith)
I admit it, I am massively biased, but I’m constantly impressed and inspired by the magnitude and diversity of bands/projects that fellow Buffalonian madman John Toohill cranks out. Between this cassette, the new SPIT KINK cassette I released this year, the instrumental surf LP by THE HAMILTONES, and SCIENCE MAN becoming a full band that I am humbled to be a part of, it’s been another busy year for the kid. ISMATIC GURU was a recording project John did this year with another musician in an unconventional way. Noodling around and recording everything, then cobbling the “songs” together doesn’t sound like a formula I would expect to yield good results. Yet, here we are! There’s something wildly special about this batch of stream-of-consciousness songs.
LITTLE ANGELS – Demo cassette (Kill Enemy)
Earlier in the year, I had to take a somber trip to a friend’s memorial service a few states away. Two days prior, the tape deck in my van died, so before hitting the road my first stop was the scrap yard to pull tape deck after tape deck from similar model vans. After five or six tries, I found one that worked, and was on my way! That week, my buddy John Toohill surprised me with a gift and one of his life lessons: “if you’re buying a record, buy two and give one to a friend.” Well, he gifted me a copy of the LITTLE ANGELS demo, and I popped it in to christen the new tape deck. Six songs in just as many minutes of the angriest, nastiest, rip-roaringest hardcore punk imaginable! This absolutely kills! Members of ILLITERATES, who’s flawless LP that came out this year should be on your radar by now, so you know it’s gonna be top-notch. I’m not gonna tell you what percentage of that eight hour drive was spent listening to this six minute demo repeatedly, just go listen to it for yourself.
MEAL – Jimmy cassette (State Champion)
A cassette that eerily made me feel nostalgic from first listen, my enjoyment of MEAL from Helsinki, Finland has only increased. Post-punk with elements of indie rock, Revolution Summer, art-punk, and probably some other things that are over my head. Maybe that doesn’t seem like something I would be championing so hard, but I see that as a testament to how good the songs are. Fingers crossed this is merely the appetizer, and the second course of this meal will be served up to those of us hungry for more in the coming year.
MESH – Mesh cassette (Born Yesterday)
Quite possibly my favorite release of the year—this tape is perfect. Catchy post-punk from Philadelphia. How do we not yet have a record from this band? Screw it, I’m gonna message them as soon as this write-up is done and throw my hat in the ring, if nobody has jumped on it yet.
MÜLLHEIM – Kron cassette (self-released)
Mysterious and wacky, MÜLLHEIM bring us the absolute best in weirdo German synth-heavy post-punk. I spent so much time while writing my review of this trying to wrap my head around this band, driving myself crazy trying to pick up on handwritten clues on the back of beer bottle labels, leaving me more confused than when I began my search. All that really matters is that this tape is a bonkers experience, the likes of which I have found myself returning to time and time again.
THEE HEARSES – Thee Hearses cassette (Detriti)
One of my favorite new bands I discovered this year. I didn’t think it possible that Dr. X and his HEARSES would be able to top this, their debut synth-heavy dancy punk EP. Nevertheless, I tracked down and contacted the elusive Dr. X about releasing it on cassette. I was bummed when he turned me down, but thrilled when he contacted me with the band’s second EP, asking me to release it on Tetryon Tapes. To my surprise, it’s somehow better than the first! Weird monotonous vocals overtop minimalist synth and drum-machine shouldn’t pump me up as hard as this, but with each listen I just feel crazier and crazier! Two killer releases in one year.
HOLOGRAM – No Longer Human LP (Iron Lung)
This list is in no particular order. This, however, is definitely my favourite release of the year. Fast, complex, unpredictable, claustrophobic hardcore punk that will catch you completely off-guard time after time. You can listen to it ten times in a row (like I’m sure I must have) and not quite get your head around all of the intricacies. All of this ending with one of the greatest slow-burner tracks hardcore/punk has ever produced: the downright transcendent “I See a Pale Light.” Absolutely essential listening.
BIG CHEESE – Anymore for Anymore? EP (Cash Only / Human Dizcharge)
One of the UK’s finest acts at the moment is BIG CHEESE. After a super solid LP last year, this year they released this belter of a 7″ that is even better. World class NYHC-worship—probably the best band doing that sound right now—with added influence from bands like GBH. Do not sleep on this barnburner.
LAST AFFRONT – 10 Track EP (11 PM)
My favourite British band right now, LAST AFFRONT are a force to be reckoned with. Fast, loud, aggressive, abrasive hardcore punk, just the way that god intended. After a rather disappointing demo two years ago that failed to capture their live power, this new EP on 11 PM delivers on this front in spades and beyond. Essential listening.
READY ARMED SYSTEM – Demo cassette (Roachleg)
Play fast or die—this is the mantra of Texas’ READY ARMED SYSTEM. And it is a mantra that delivers irresistible results. This release is so incredibly abrasive and raw, as to be expected from any release on the superb Roachleg Records label. Fans of HERESY and other speedfreaks will go nuts for this. Very excited to see what READY ARMED SYSTEM has coming up next.
SLOGAN BOY – Demo cassette (Unlawful Assembly)
Midwest rules. Milwaukee’s SLOGAN BOY plays (can you guess?) fast and abrasive hardcore punk. Apparently all four of the original tracks on this demo tape were written on the spot within two hours—also known as the right way to do hardcore punk.
FATE – Demo cassette (P.M.T.)
A new band from Leeds, UK comprised of members of the FLEX, BIG CHEESE, HIGHER POWER etc. FATE creates dark and metallic hardcore in the tradition of ’90s NYHC bands like DMIZE. This is unrelenting, unashamed mosh music that demands the attention of any heavy hardcore fan.
QUARANTINE – Agony LP (Damage United / La Vida Es Un Mus)
Some more fast and angry hardcore punk, I love that stuff over here, as you can tell. Shit-stomping, Boston-style hardcore from Philidelphia featuring members of POWER TRIP, IMPALERS, CHAIN RANK, etc. QUARANTINE are pissed off at everyone and everything around them in this fucked-up world we live in…and they’re gonna let you know about it.
KOMA – Internment Failure LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Leeds-based KOMA decided to make this long-player their debut recording release—quite the bold move and a bit of a gamble but, in my humble opinion, it pays off. In the era of the “worship band,” KOMA manages to maintain a sound that is all their own—taking notes from D-beat bands like ANTI-CIMEX, Italian hardcore bands, Japanease hardcore bands, and the more gothic strains of punk/HC, but not directly taking from one more than the other. The atmosphere on this one is palpable. Uneasy listening in the best way possible.
REGIONAL JUSTICE CENTER – Crime and Punishment LP (Closed Casket Activities)
REGIONAL JUSTICE CENTER have been around for quite a while now and finally put out a full-length album, and it’s their most blistering set of tunes yet. This is some heavily distorted, fast and menacing powerviolence that really gets the blood boiling—as to be expected from the mighty RJC.
GAME – Legerdemain 12″ (Quality Control HQ)
After two fantastic releases over the past four years, GAME returns with this superb 12″ EP release. Delivering another monster slab of metal-tinged Japanese-style hardcore, lead by a powerful vocal style and some of the best riffs this year has produced. All of this culminates in a harrowing ending with “Release.” Fans of DEATH SIDE rejoice.
NERVOUS SS / RAT CAGE – Skopje vs. Sheffield split LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
MALADIA – Sacred Fires 12″ (La Vida Es Un Mus)
STRONG BOYS – Homo EP (Static Shock)
ELECTRIC CHAIR – Social Capital EP (Iron Lung)
REEK MINDS – Rabid EP (11 PM)
BLOOD SERMON – Never Stop the Madness LP (Svensk Hardcore Kultur)
VIOLENT SPIRIT – Fire EP (United Forces / Vinyl Conflict / Young Guns 2)
URIN – Afekt EP (Iron Lung / Static Age)
INSTRUCTOR – Private Execution CS (Maximum Labour)
NEOS – Three Teens Hellbent on Speed LP (Supreme Echo)
This is a reissue/compilation of a cult hardcore punk band from the early ’80s. The only reason it doesn’t make the list is because this isn’t a contemporary band.
Maximumrocknroller since 1991. DJ at KXSF 102.5FM San Francisco Community Radio and KALX 90.7FM Berkeley. President of the Punk Rock Film Critics Association™. Co-founder of the Coalition of Aging Rockers.
CAROLYN’S FAVORITES OF 2021
HEAVY METAL – V: Live at the Gas Station Fighting the Devil LP (Total Punk)
My favorite song of the year, “Walking The Dog,” is on this LP. It just makes me happy, and picks me up every time I hear it. The whole album is catchy and fun. I just love it.
ISS – Spikes cassette (self-released)
“Arrogance and misinformation bred pestilence and desolation. Unprecedented stress. Misrepresented deaths. No amount of bread-baking can ease a racist mess with benevolence in short supply. Need PPE? Maybe check your party line?” ISS makes me tense and on edge, but in a cathartic way. Their intensity and humor are much appreciated in this fucked up society.
DR. SURE’S UNUSUAL PRACTICE – Remember the Future? Vol. 2 & 1 LP (Erste Theke Tonträger / Marthouse)
It’s an audio rendition of everything that has been going through my mind this year. An optimistic view of a pessimistic world backed by wonderful music. A soundtrack for the pandemic.
TOADS – Toads LP (Sanctuary Moon)
Short blasts of attitude backed with aggression. Noisy and fun.
THE SMOG – First Time, Last Chance / Noise Noise 7″ (Episode Sounds)
The SMOG’s sound spans decades. Jittering guitars and coolly casual vocals. It’s so familiar, yet new and so catchy. It’s fantastic. The folded sleeve is really cool, too.
TAQBIR – Victory Belongs to Those Who Fight for a Right Cause EP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
It’s not that often you hear something once and it strikes you in the right place. TAQBIR’s music did that for me. I was immediately hooked. Rough musical sounds, high-energy and screeching vocals. Punk with a capital P. I want more!
LOBSTERBOMB – Go! Go! Go! digital (self-released)
Catchy, fun, high-energy music that has something to say. You want to sing along as loud as possible. “I Want Noise”! “Wake Up”! “Yes, Yes, Yeah”!
SCIENTISTS – Negativity LP (In The Red)
One of my all-time favorite bands releases another great record. What else needs to be said?
BILLIAM – Billiam Gets His Groove Back digital (self-released)
You have to belong to BILLIAM’s fan club to get this. You really should. Lo-fi, thrashy tunes belted out with anger and humor. Perfect.
DICKLORD – Pre Menstrual Attitude LP (Valve)
Everything about this record is offensive. Even when the lyrics embarrass me, I still can’t help smiling that they are taking it there. Too much and yet not enough. Thrashy, wild and fun.
Because picking only ten records is impossible, here’s some that should also be on the list:
PINK SUITS – Political Child LP (self-released)
SILICON HEARTBEAT – Implant EP (It’s Trash!)
THEE GOLDEN GEESE – “GG/BB” (self-released)
MICHAEL BEACH – “Societal Breakdown” (Poison City)
JACKSON REID BRIGGS – Fear/Move EP (Legless)
HIDEOUS SUN DEMON – Development Hell EP (Marthouse)
FREAK GENES – Power Station LP (Feel It)
ARRE! ARRE! – “Time for Some Mayhem” (PNKSLM)
THE COURETTES – Hop the Twig / Only Happy When You’re Gone 7″ (Damaged Goods)
MARTIN SAVAGE GANG – Fool’s Gold EP (Human Audio)
EYES AND FLYS – Asbestos Fiber In A Sunbeam / Sad Labor 7″ (self-released)
THE MARY VEILS – Somewhere Over The Rowhome digital (PNKSLM)
Plus FAVORITE REISSUES AND ARCHIVAL RELEASES OF 2021
V/A – We Are Not Devo: U.S. Synth Punk 79-84 LP (Energy Dome)
THE GORLS – Fall in Love 1992″—93 LP (Hozac)
PATOLOGIA CIĄŻY – Dziennik Trwa LP (Pasazer)
THE DENTS – 1979/80 LP (Hozac)
SCREAMERS – Demo Hollywood 1977 12″ (Superior Viaduct)
BEEX —The Early Years: 1979–1982 LP LP (Beach Impediment)
GIRL GUIDED MISSILES – Desperate Men / Fully Qualified Robot 7″ (Breakout)
GUARDIAN SINGLES – Guardian Singles LP (Trouble in Mind)
CASSIE – The Light Shines On LP (Reminder)
MONKEY 101 – Rusts, Smuts and Heart Rot LP (Sister Raygun)
BASKING SHARKS – Back From the Deep Water (Sharkive: 1981-1987) LP (Guerssen)
THE NURSE – Discography 1983–1984 LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Hey, how the fuck are you? I’m often Erick, but sometimes I’m also Creamo Coyl every Tuesday afternoon for Spin Age Blasters on WFMU. I make sounds on my lonesome as CYANIDE TOOTH and as half of MAXIMUM ERNST.
GREAT NEW THINGS
(in alphabetical order)
DAYDREAM – Mystic Operative LP (Dirt Cult)
Released mid-December 2020, this absolute scorcher of an album qualifies for special dispensation via executive order. This Portland band rips and shreds all manner of punk styles, tossing them into the arena to fight it out. DRIVE LIKE JEHU’s good name gets thrown around as shorthand for lame bands all the time, but DAYDREAM is the only one I’d pick for a run-through of “Bullet Train To Vegas.” The RITES OF SPRING bass licks on “Spies For Personal Peace” are a chef’s kiss that turns into a makeout sesh. The twangy MEAT PUPPETS riff that emerges halfway through “Conscious Raising” establishes DAYDREAM as leaders of the hardcore barnburner movement. Shoot, they could make a square dance.
EXEK – Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet LP (Lulus Sonic Disc Club)
Endlessly appealing songs and touched-by-an-angel sonics. The really frightening thought is: what if this band hasn’t yet peaked? The heavens quake.
FATHERFIGURES – Any Time Now…And High Time Too 2xCD (self-released)
Proper album by a proper band. Trace elements of MAGAZINE, THEATRE OF HATE, KILLING JOKE, and just so you know that it ain’t no nostalgic whinge, MCLUSKY and FUTUREHEADS. Songs you sing to yourself when you’re lost in the supermarket. I love that this is only on CD and comes with a bonus disc of remixes.
FUGITIVE BUBBLE – No Outside cassette / PILGRIM SCREW – cassette (Impotent Fetus)
Spicy as fuck. Punk as heck. I can’t find fault with anything on either tape by this crucial crew.
GOTOU – LP (Inu Wan Wan)
No wave power trio from Japan that makes all the right moves. Grinding bass, lumbering rhythms, vocals that sound like ominous premonitions uttered in an ancient cave—what else do you want?
MONONEGATIVES – Apparatus Division LP (Big Neck / No Front Teeth)
Like an advancing TUBEWAY ARMY glimpsed thru Blood Visions and a pair of A FRAMES, this is just a damn good punk record with a surplus of flair, grit, and force.
PREDATOR – Spiral Unfolds LP / GG KING – Remain Intact LP (Total Punk)
It’s no secret that the Atlanta punk scene is among the best in the world, but this gang had a stellar year even by their own high standards. Spiral Unfolds is DIE KREUZEN streamlined for the new(ish) century, while GG KING completed a hat trick of epic albums with perhaps their best one yet. And that’s before even acknowledging the killer digital releases by faves NAG and their coldwave offshoot HOSPICE. These busybodies have been crafting sick punk music while the rest of the world was on hold.
TARAKA – Welcome to Paradise Lost LP (Rage Peace)
Like ROYAL TRUX chopping up issues of National Geographic, Sassy, and The Paris Review to design the cover for a KATE BUSH tribute album. A public access television freak vibe permeates this record as intricate rock’n’roll splatter techniques are executed with enviable precision. Welcome To Paradise Lost is the heartbreaker younger sister of HELIUM’s The Dirt of Luck and the HOSPITALS’ Hairdryer Peace.
…also, first half of the KLAPPER kassette and the entire Mangel label’s output; ROLLTREPPE and BLAMMO are dry and w(i)ry while the LIPSCHITZ are soaked, in a good way; HEAVY METAL never fails to deliver the rotten goods; RIDER/HORSE dropped a concise statement with authority; STRAW MAN ARMY craft methodical mythologies with outwardboundless imagination; PREENING went out with class; and MAINLINER came roaring back.
THE DENTS – 1979/80 LP (HoZac)
The DENTS make scars irresistible. They sound like they would not hesitate to brain you with a brick or knife you with a shiv. They trafficked in liquor-soaked punk like only Ohio’s finest art rejects can. Pour a drink, light a smoke, and let the DENTS inflict some much-needed damage.
THE FALL – Live at St. Helens Technical College, 1981 LP + 7″ (Castle Face)
A no-brainer. A rare band in common form (reverse if desired).
LOVE 666 – Armed Resistance LP (Improved Sequence)
I dug LOVE 666 back when they were 90s AmRep oddballs, but this unreleased album’s appearance over twenty years after it was recorded made me realize that, actually, I love them. Their over-the-top, sly and stupidly perfect mix of MC5, SPACEMEN 3, BIG BLACK, T. REX, PUBLIC ENEMY, and JESUS AND MARY CHAIN now seems both brilliant and prescient. This album is a grassy knoll. Bang your motherfucking head.
MAGIC ROUNDABOUT – Up LP (Third Man)
A total lost classic that can hold its own with any of the noise-pop-shoegaze-VU acolytes of the late 80s UK neo-psych scene.
SPIKE IN VAIN – Disease Is Relative LP / Death Drives A Cadillac LP (Scat)
God-tier Midwest death rock with supreme “new” album from back when. Punk this good never fails to stay relevant.
SWELL MAPS – MayDay Signals 2xLP (Easy Action)
So much quality on this outtakes collection that reaches deep into the vaults. SWELL MAPS, the bedsit FAUST, bashing away in a cramped room, a tribe of ragamuffins boiling over with inspiration and turning it into mushroom tea.
VITAMIN – Recordings 1981 LP (Don Giovanni)
Top-shelf Boston art-punk of the vintage variety. Does exactly what you want while keeping you guessing. I’m a big fan of scratching that itch.
VONBRIGÐI – Hanagal 2xLP (Iron Lung / Reykjavík Record Shop)
Seeing VONBRIGÐI tearing up the stage in the 1982 documentary Rokk I Reykjavik shows what an awesome band these Icelandic punks were, but most of their recordings have vanished into the hot spring mists like so much water vapor. Hanagal collects nineteen early ’80s tracks and provides over an hour of proof that VONBRIGÐII were world-class purveyors of dour anthems. You’ll hear plenty of KILLING JOKE and BAUHAUS, and you can draw a line to SIEKIERA’s industrial-strength post-hardcore, but I’d point to Chicago’s burly yet danceable underground scene as a contemporary. VONBRIGÐII plants a marker for their tiny island nation.
XEROBOT – LP (Chunklet Industries)
A real labor of love, this comprehensive collection of Wisconsin’s mad scientist unit that concocted a relentless attack spliced from DEVO, BEEFHEART, the CONTORTIONS, VOID, VOIVOD, and probably the VOIDOIDS too. Intense as hell, but will also have you cackling at its bug-eyed beanings.
+ NIGHTINGALES expanded, GRAUZONE boxed, Brannon’s STATIC unearthed, LANDOWNER’s debut waxed, SCREAMERS, the EX, NOG WATT, BEEX, and Meat House Productions.
Greg Benedetto plays guitar in S.H.I.T. and has been making shows and tours happen for years.
Another fucking weird year, but punk did start happening again. I hope 2022 brings us all a bit more chaos—find space and place to make music happen. Record however you can. Play loud, etc. etc. The world can still feel like shit, but stay hell-bent on making the world around you a little bit better. Magic can happen if you do. Here’s ten things that mattered to me this year, no particular order.
ALGARA — Absortos en el Tedio Eterno LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Algara released a video on YouTube in advance of the release of this LP. While the LP itself is a perfect follow up to last year’s Enamorados Del Control Total, the video is the masterpiece of this release. Titled “Manual Para Una Guerrilla Sonora,” it’s a simple breakdown of how to record a punk band. I’ve always been a fan of bands that see their purpose as being greater than realizing their individuality. I liked ALGARA for their music, I love ALGARA for their propagandist vision.
HOME FRONT – Think of the Lie 12″ (La Vida Es Un Mus)
This record caught me completely off-guard. Some of the folks involved have been Alberta mainstays for a very, very long time—and this is unlike anything they’ve ever done. Somewhere in the past few years, it became acceptable to love Second Empire Justice, and this record is an unabashed tribute to the days where the thought of going new wave would find you excommunicated from punk. Not today, though.
HORRENDOUS 3D – The Gov. and Corps. are Using Psycho-electronic Weaponry to Manipulate You and Me EP (Whisper in Darkness)
This record is a fucking bulldozer, and proof that stealing riffs from BLACK SABBATH is still an effective way to write a good record. Everything on this record sounds incredible. Perfect tone across the board. That Whisper in Darkness would put this out is the absolute best fit.
MORBO – ¿A Quién Le Echamos La Culpa? LP (Cintas Pepe)
This record is exceptionally fun—melodic yet totally raw. It’s got this ramshackle quality to its recording, but the playing is so precise. Words can’t really convey how much I’ve enjoyed it this year. It’s the kind of record that only the kind of band that has been playing together for twenty years can produce, in the best way possible. Perfectly uncomplicated.
QUARANTINE – Agony LP (Damage United / La Vida Es Un Mus)
Proper USHC still has moments now and again, and the QUARANTINE LP is the high-water mark this year in the way PUBLIC ACID’s Condemnation was last year. When I first spun this, I had to play some songs two or three times in a row just to get a handle on what the fuck was going on. This record just rages from drop. Some strange intros here and there are the only respite you get. Two speeds on display—fast and faster. Proper hardcore.
THE CHISEL – Retaliation LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Well if it isn’t the fuckin’ CHISEL. Underneath all the hype, this band delivered a brilliant, top-to-bottom punk record. Taking loads of best things of the UK82 era, but reinjecting some of the melody of ’77 that got lost along the way. Someone told me that the entire premise for this band’s existence is that they just wanted to drink with their friends, so they started the band as an excuse to do so. That’s what this sounds like.
TOWER 7 – …Peace on Earth? LP (Roachleg)
New York City crust. In 2021. Named after WTC 7, the forgotten tower. After what was one of the best demos of 2020, TOWER 7 fuckin’ delivered a real-deal platter before 2021 clocked out. There hasn’t been much in this vein in a while. The record sounds like a freight train. Buried under the rubble are shades of the melodic sensibilities of both KALEIDOSCOPE and STRAW MAN ARMY, but when it comes down to it, this record is a charging brute. A cruel monster. Nasty as hell.
YLEISET SYYT – Umpikujamekanismi EP (Open Up and Bleed)
This one is straight-up fucking intense. Some familiar Finnish faces on the slab, but unlike where they appear elsewhere. Indebted immensely to early USHC, but with that early ’80s Finnish flare applied. Really fucking fast hardcore, without any of the cheese that often comes with it. Pure rage, the entire band is locked in. While I’m more often than not a fan of hardcore played by people entirely out of step with each other, when a band is dialed in like this, it’s just brilliant.
SARCASM – Creeping Life 12″ (Static Shock)
Never did I think we’d see another thing from SARCASM. Their Malarial Bog EP was a tense pleasure, tightly-wrought post-punk, so dry and driving. Creeping Life, years later and perhaps released post-disintegration, delivers just the same. I don’t think this band ever escaped London, but had they, they would’ve been counted amongst the masters of this art in this era.
ACAUSTIX – Asylum Test No.1 CS (Roachleg)
I used to be pretty anti-“labels releasing demos” (for real, do that shit yourselves), but holy fuck if Roachleg hasn’t been ground zero for some excellent first shots this year: READY ARMED SYSTEM, MONEY, HYSTERIC POLEMIX, FATAL WOUND, PEOPLE’S TEMPLE, INDRE KRIG, the ANARCHY, DISHUMAN, literally the best tapes of the year. But this ACAUSTIX demo? Fucking oof. Ripper. That perfect blend of metallic crust meets anarcho-punk. Must cop.
Huge honorable mentions to PRISION POSTUMO, LOW LIFE, KARMA SUTRA, GENTLEMAN JESSE, GAUZE, CEMENTO, TAQBIR, ALAMBRADA, DESINTEGRACIÓN VIOLENTA, VIVISECTED NUMBSKULLS, IDEATION, GAME, DOLLHOUSE, NUNCA NADA, PERSONAL DAMAGE, RATA NEGRA, and many, many, many more.
IRON LUNG RECORDS
I’m Jensen. I play in IRON LUNG and do most of the shitwork for the label with the same name. I purposely did not put any of our releases in this list, because that is just silly. There were many, many other records that came out this year that were truly great, and I am thankful for their help in making year two of no shows/no tours/no socializing a slightly smoother pill to swallow.
RUDIMENTARY PENI – Great War LP (Sealed)
I remember writing last year about how excited I was that Great War was finally coming out, and it completely lived up to all my hopes. I didn’t expect it to be a drum machine though, so there was that new element. At first I was missing Jon Greville’s drumming, since his style is so effortlessly cool and interesting. Dude is a major influence on me for sure. The more I listened to the songs and saw the utility of the relentless machine holding up the spine of the fuzzed-out dirges, then it all snapped into place. This band is like a butterfly, kind of. The earliest EPs were like the larva stage, Death Church and Cacophony were like the cocoon stage, Pope Adrian served as some new life after a long sleep that was still a little shaky, and then from The Underclass on, RP has become the band it was aiming to be: direct, ugly, graceful, minimal, steadfast, and exactly as busy as it ever needs to be.
HORRENDOUS 3D – The Gov. and Corps. are Using Psycho-electronic Weaponry to Manipulate You and Me EP (Whisper in Darkness)
Furiously crazed noise over endless pummeling paranoia. I think I beat my brain up pretty good with all the repeated listens. Not for the timid at all. I love it!
ALTAR OF EDEN – Chimeras cassette & Promo cassette (Sound Grotesca)
I don’t often try to talk to the people who make the music that strikes me if I don’t already know them. Something about keeping a part of the process mysterious really appeals to me. I did, however, reach out to Albert when Chimeras came out, because the strength of “Genesis” alone made me need to know more. “I love programming the drum machine as if it were real drums.” Perfectly executed. Punchy goth punk with excellent sounds all the way around. And man, chorus pedals are real one trick ponies these days, but this is by far the best use that I’ve heard in a long time.
MALADIA – Sacred Fires LP (La VIda Es Un Mus)
Upon first listen, SACRED FIRES really reminded me of some crackling mash of AMEBIX and CONFLICT. The grinding lurch of the former and the anthemic yet rapid attack of the latter. Quite the cocktail. I really loved this record.
TAQBIR – Victory Belongs to Those Who Fight for a Right Cause EP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
This is everyone’s favorite release of the year for good reason. It’s got all the stuff that makes instant classics. Power, mystery, production, hooks, message and presentation – all fire. Curious as hell to hear some new material since I’ve put about a million miles on these four tracks this year.
LAUGHING GEAR – Freak Lemons LP (Heavy Machinery)
I took a chance on this when I saw it in the Feel It shop, and I was bowled over. Freak Lemons is pitch-perfect grimy ’80s industrial antagonism, just drilling acid fingers into the open wounds of society and laughing in our faces about it the whole time. So glad these freaks rose to the surface. I can finally give my SPK and PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS records a day off.
MOONSCAPE – Monolith LP (Mouse)
Just when you thought crust was about as stale as it can sound, MOONSCAPE comes along and smashes the wall down. And they brought twenty of their friends along for the ride, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a punk record with this many guests on it. Having that much variety in one band serves well to keep a fresh sound for each song. Kind of like when the MG’s were the backing band for the entire Stax revue, or when WU-TANG decided to stick nine emcees on every song, but you know, punk. Great record.
CRASS – Christ Alive: The Rehearsal LP (Crass)
Probably the most artistic way I’ve ever heard anyone use shit quality practice room recordings. Fuck, I love this. Not to mention, I am a huge fan of BEETHOVEN too, so this is like the best of both worlds for me. Make noise not war.
FASHION CHANGE – Devil Laugh EP (Unlawful Assembly)
Pure vision. Raw as a hillbomb roadrash. Straight up harmful music.
Seven-way tie for last: WHY BOTHER – A Year of Mutations LP (Feel It), HEZ – Guerra Interior EP (Lógica Ciega / A-Z / Discos Enfermos), SNOOPER – Fitness EP (Goodbye Boozy), ANTIBODIES – LP 2021 EP (Sewercide), BOOTLICKER – LP (Static Shock / Neon Taste), SYSTEMA – Última Guerra LP (Symphony of Destruction), CHILD’S POSE – Eyes To The Right EP (Thrilling Living).
Year’s end is a heavy symbol for death. If my heart is in music (musique, muzak, m̶u̶s̶i̶c̶, x_music_x?), then it has to drift, and I always come back to the unifying features of things that read as separate. The scene is (was) at the bar near my house on the slow nights, and in the monetized and monitored pages of the web. The winters poured in over the fall-time dried up veg. Top of the Pops more than punx, but I tried to give back what could conceivably be worthwhile to the here and then of the last rotation. What bubbled up is what came with drums, guitars, and attitudinal texture; currency and full-length, no confusion. Adjacent-ness is evident to even the most ragged dogmatics, but hopefully a piss-off nonetheless.
SILICONE PRAIRIE – My Life on the Silicone Prairie Vol. 1 LP (Computer Human / Feel It)
It’s common knowledge that the wicked witch of the west is warm and well, at home in Kansas City. I think it’s a kinda singular study of a world gone mad. It’s sardonic as it is sincere, as volatile as it is tender. Speed and rubber limbs are the fuel, dime store theatrix and papier-mâché poetix the architecture. Just imagine these actions like a book that preceded the reality TV show of the simulation for the time being. All this cultural detritus and more felt deeply by the world’s most sentient and empathetic troll, gnashed and processed and spit up in a way the uncorrupted can understand and arm their hearts against.
SURVEILLANCE – Planet Serum cassette (self-released)
Spastic forays into collaged psychobabble do all but prep for the barrage of downer unrelent and mouldy disposition. Dave-E Burns’ saber-toothed snarl is a heaping helping of overbearing, only Rachel Fry’s direct and forceful operatic-mope can offer the nerve calming digestif required to persist through the tumultuous landscape of Planet Serum. The sweet and spicy mix offers dark, foreboding returns that supply cosmic comfort. Mental torture, surpassing the shell and contributing to communion.
FAMOUS MAMMALS – Famous Mammals cassette (self-released)
Ultimate ramshackle urgency, cataclysmic parameter shuffling, and brash disregard for your enjoyment—art-lurkers trading in roundabout and tunneled-in rock. TVP, GBV, THC…light emanating in the depths of the tunnel. And if you opt for the Golden Gate, then find yourself on the rainiest side of the bay. RAYS and REPTOIDS and French beatniks for the avant-minded, of a solitary breed of timeless popsters peering on through the space-time continuum. If this is in fact a cut-up, I’ve received confirmation that it is haute couture.
EMILY ROBB – How to Moonwalk LP (Petty Bunco)
Known guitar traipiser takes a long walk on that extraterrestrial brick o’ cheese. Axe-wielding starting points tangled with guttural beauty. Lilting melodic shards engulfed in extended tonal battery. Chucky B and Poison Ivy rear their heads like gasping cartoon characters coming up for air after being dropped in a bubbling vat! Form-free, pitched and pillaged, a plugged-in box played like the chump you had it panned out as. Motor city speedway, driving, and careening alternately, electric earthiness and improvised certitude.
EXEK – Good Thing They Ripped Up the Carpet LP (LSD Club)
Coagulated lysergic liquids intermingling in a warped Petri dish. Dub-ious racket and clanging reverberations with silky licks tucked between. Disjointed shuffling and time-lapse dance moves penetrate like stuttering clockwork with insidious ease. Two parts band, one part hypnotist, but hucksters they are not. This is the mental medicinal that keeps you coming back to the well with an ear-to-ear smile and a crooked brow. Maybe you’ve never been so happy as drowning in this syrupy broth, provided the buoyancy of a boulder and the will of a microbe.
THE MIND – Open Up the Window and Leave Your Body LP (Lumpy)
Cosmonautic vacay through your own cranial passage, abetted by the play of intergalactic transcendentals. Crunchy and brittle bits slotted side by side, a pastiche of fractured melodies and whispered guitar-moan-ees. Lackadaisical vocals through the grain of an aged and abstract photo, the lens in question made from the sands of a Martian shore. The band came to and formed on the equipment of the missing headliner, but when you woke up, you slept through the show altogether. Sway-chug-nervous still. Rehearsing Dracula skits, and dancing the dance in advance of the landing, just a slice of life in the pod.
SEX TIDE – Ohio LP (Feeding Tube)
Mourning the geographic truths of their existence, these barricaded melters chisel at the bone of their instruments ravenously. Seeking & destroying ’til a noisy kingdom cometh. Sax and guitar squall colliding with agonizing vocal scree in a hollow and narrow chasm, just like your husk of a thought chamber. The space in which these sounds were captured has been conquered, it’s walls are dripping with defeat. This is what you make instead of keeling over, and what you make of it is your threshold for pain. SEX TIDE is certified, bonafide, and two parts formaldehyde.
ABC GUM – Woodshed digital (self-released)
Only released on the web, with a scarringly twee digi-cover, this unassuming collection of bubblegum jabs and jests showcases the heat-seeking sensibilities of our de facto rock’n’rollicking heroes. Highlights like “Shape Your Mind,” “Stronger Together,” and “Trepidation” are timeless and inventive within their adherent nature. Bouncing and raucous music for/by witty scamps with a sweet tooth that snaggles. The simplistic vocab is diabolically clever, but I’m not talkin’ irony, no ma’am, just feeling and reeling. Scrap it out with the modern world, like the chewed-up, spit-out mother you’ve become.
PINK NOISE – Economy of Love LP (Celluloid Lunch)
On the Celluloid Lunch label, but under-appreciated nonetheless. Salty, barfly wiseacre and his suitcase of synthetic sounds re-humanize computer linguistics with unflinching imperfection and impolite attitude. A cast of talented characters add and subtract where needed, from the comfortable shadows on the outskirts of their brazen leader’s trip. Neon shmaltz and cocktail lounge sweepings invigorate through a dusty chemical fog that you’ll metabolize in jagged shards. When your eyes start bleeding, you’ll get it.
Kai Bosworth lives in Richmond, VA, and very occasionally posts at Stochastic Slide.
MUJERES PODRIDAS – Muerte En Paraíso LP (Beach Impediment)
Though composed of Austin regulars, MUJERES PODRIDAS’ full-length evokes Southern California punk more than Texas hardcore. I thought maybe this was because of the cover art’s tropical UFO vibe, but then again that could be a reference to Austin’s DELINQUENTS’ “Alien Beach Party”? Extra points for a judicious use of glockenspiel.
SPLLIT – Spllit Sides LP (Feel It)
Refreshingly varied and multi-genre, SPLLIT plays an intimate and playful style of punk that recalls the experimental nature of UK DIY and quasi-outsider groups like INSTANT AUTOMATONS or AMOS & SARA. With the exception of one obligatory CONEHEADS imitation, the tape collage and cut-up nature of these tracks defies expectations.
THE MIND — Open Up the Window and Leave Your Body LP (Lumpy)
Gothy in a dreamingly digital way, the MIND’s new 12″ is a pleasant escape from the trappings of the material world. Similar in some ways to the DONKEY BUGS record (members of, and all). Much like SOLID SPACE or CABARET VOLTAIRE, the MIND’s sound judiciously combines nostalgia and futurism, apprehension and excitement.
RUDIMENTARY PENI – Great War LP (Sealed)
I was as surprised as anyone to hear of this record’s release. I was even more shocked at its quality. It is difficult to describe it as sounding like anything except the dirgey noise rock of RUDIMENTARY PENI, which demonstrates the singular and enduring genius of the band even when reduced to using a drum machine.
FAIRYTALE – Fantasy EP (Desolate)
The kind of ripping modern hardcore that I deeply miss seeing live in a basement, where I’m sure it hits even harder. FAIRYTALE reminds me less of the experimental/weirdo New York tradition of recent years than more straightforward rippers like EXIT ORDER.
SIAL – Zaman Edan 7″ (La Vida Es Un Mus)
It was surprising to hear that SIAL’s single consisted of only two tracks, as their last 7″ fit six. Yet the Singaporean group maintains the energy across nine minutes of crushing hardcore. Though they take a tack reminiscent of LVEUM stalwarts such as UNA BESTIA INCONTROLABLE and SANG, something about the prominence of the percussive wood block here really hits the sweet spot.
COCHONNE – Emergency 12″ (Sorry State)
I avoided this record for a long time because the cover art seriously creeps me out in a reminder of JG Ballard’s Crash. The music finally overpowered my prejudice. The five-song 12″ is a lost art successfully resurrected here, as COCHONNE provides a varied set of different sounds all composed from the widest palette of post-punk: at times dancy or twangy, and others more austere and murky.
SPREAD JOY – Spread Joy LP (Feel It)
Though imitators of KLEENEX have productively multiplied, the sarcastic squeal of PLASTIX’s Andrea Bartl remains a moderately untapped sonic resource. Much like 2018’s AQUARIUM 12″, the vocals on SPREAD JOY’s LP seem to draw from the same well of chaotic German-language exuberance (“Kanst du” auch?). Bucking some genre convention, I appreciate the ethic that doesn’t let any song much surpass two minutes.
COLLATE – Medicine / Genesis Fatigue 7″ (Domestic Departure)
In some ways COLLATE is emblematic of the fruitful sonic world of West Coast post-punk, but I like this record—and “Medicine” in particular—for detaching its rhythmic guitar even further from convention, allowing a bit more freedom. It is a style that I associate with GANG OF FOUR, though COLLATE mobilizes a more DIY fashion.
LIQUIDS – Life is Pain Idiot cassette (self-released)
I have some trepidation in including Life is Pain Idiot, a record currently with only a digital and (presumably) hyper-limited cassette release, though the Bandcamp indicates “scary artwork/LPs available summer” (it is now winter). To be entirely honest, I had been feeling a little bit exhausted with the LIQUIDS project, somewhat same-y at times and inspiring legions of far-less-capable imitators. But the comma-less title and (placeholder?) artwork drew me back into this 27-track speed test. Though several LIQUIDS classics reappear here (“More Thana Friend,” “Sick Shit,” etc.), the new tracks really shine. We hear varied tempos, with some waltzy end-of-the-night ballads, some rawer almost hardcore tracks, and even a blues progression. Truly sick shit.
BONUS: MRR Radio
It’s a running joke that every YETT must begin with some pronouncement that this was a terrible year; I’m putting mine at the end. Even outside the state of the world more generally, it’s been difficult for me to discover much new music these days. None of my 2021 experience of punk was found in the physical joy of seeing a band in person (especially the somewhat spontaneous luck of catching an opening band that melts your eardrums). Much more of punk is now mediated not just by digital spaces, but their increasingly commercialized platforms. Social media makes everything promotion and image, Spotify is of course bloodsucking to artists, and even more neutral platforms like Discogs and Bandcamp have downsides. The unmonetized spaces of the internet are drying up; one wonders if punks are starting Substacks yet (I don’t wanna know).
In these conditions, I’ve found MRR Radio to be a lifeline. Though I’ve always enjoyed the show, I find myself almost completely dependent on it (and several others on Mixcloud) for human- rather than algorithmically-curated sounds. Recent guest DJs Giovanni and Jose have conducted some excellent guided tours of Chile and Peru, respectively. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here a bit, but if you’ve not listened to MRR Radio in a while, give it a whirl.
Sam runs Feel It Records.
2021 was a really fucking bizarre and challenging year. It has been nice to reconnect and leave the house, but like a lot of folks, I’ve drawn a lot more appreciation for the simple comforts of home. Here’s what I’ve been finding musical company with the most over the past twelve months.
DELIVERY – Yes We Do EP (Spoilsport)
Talk about a debut! Melbourne wins yet again with a new group that manages to combine the worlds of post-punk and wavy synth-pop. The guitar jangles on perfectly, the vocals are pure confidence, and the style is fresh and immediate. Utterly exciting and far from predictable.
THE ELECTRONIC CIRCUS – Direct Lines / Le Chorale 7″ (Iron Lung)
A piece of synth-pop brilliance that had been hiding in obscurity for far too long. 1981 one-off from Gary Numan’s former synth player Chris Payne. Direct Lines presents a deep and evocative sonic landscape fit for both the dancers and dreamers out there. Glad to see Iron Lung stepping into the reissue arena (the brilliant VONBRIGÐI 2xLP landed just outside my top ten).
EXEK – Good Thing They Ripped up the Carpet LP (Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club)
Imaginative and deep collection of tunes from the prolific Aussie group—released on the newly minted shop imprint of Lulu’s, which is perhaps the most vital and relevant community space for the current Melbourne scene. EXEK have a different way of looking at the world, whether it’s pulling from Krautrock, dub, post-punk, library music—their vision is unique and unprompted, relative in a futuristic sense, and full of replay value.
GENTLEMAN JESSE – Lose Everything LP (Beach Impediment)
Perhaps the best post-CARBONAS record that an ex-member has offered to date? The new GG KING album on Total Punk gives the GENTLEMAN a run for his coin, but Jesse emerges triumphantly with Lose Everything. Many bright, tuneful, and melancholic guitar pop records have been made over the decades, but it’s rare when one hits you this hard. GENTLEMAN JESSE has earned his rightful place as a truly accomplished songwriter, clocking out of 2021 with a near-perfect soundtrack to the storm of a year that its been.
First time at a larger-scale gig in a while. A ridiculously well-curated, well-run, and community-conscious event. About the nicest weather anyone could have asked for. One thousand percent worth traveling for, and I look forward to returning to Memphis for the next one in 2022! Hats off to Goner for keeping the fire burning—and also for Goner TV, which has made all of the Friday nights at home feel a bit more involved.
RIK AND THE PIGS – The Last Laugh LP (Lumpy)
My beloved PIGS’ last testament, rescued from two sessions recorded in California at the height of their powers as a live group. And it still sounds fresh some four years later now that RIK’s brother Lumpy has put the tunes on a spinning disc. Some ridiculously tight versions of prior hits, some previously unreleased winners—all brimming with RIK’s unabashed grin and prowess for writing a punk rock hit, backed by the stellar PIGS lineup. “Life’s a Bust” sure makes a lot more sense now, huh?
SCREAMERS – Demo Hollywood 1977 12″ (Superior Viaduct)
The world’s possibly-most-bootlegged punk band finally gets an official release?! Without a doubt, you’ve heard these songs unofficially—but when “Magazine Love” transferred straight off the master tape and pressed at 45 rolls off your stereo, it’s like a whole ‘nother world just arrived. An indispensable document of what many would consider the quintessential synth-punk band. Tomata’s screams have never sounded better!
SMIRK – EP 12″ (Total Punk)
Perhaps my favorite new punk band to arrive on vinyl in 2021? SMIRK seems to eclipse the whole DEVO-core thing, even though the production is similar at times. The surfy guitar lines wouldn’t mislead you towards thinking this is California made—but it’s way more than a retread of something Rodney would play on the ROQ. SMIRK have synthesized the punk genre into something contemporary, carefully and interestingly constructed, and delivered with, well, the same divine dystopian sense of comedy that’s become all too relevant.
TOWER 7 – …Peace on Earth? LP (Roachleg)
Apocalyptic and heavy tunes from the KALEIDOSCOPE crew in NYC. I rarely ride for anything in the, uh, crustier vein, but damn this is well-executed. Their home recording setup is totally honed in on this one, and the riffs are fucking deadly sounding, as are Shiva’s vocals. I really didn’t expect something as hefty and destructive, but holy shit—…Peace on Earth? is like a smoldering effigy to the heavy times of late. Well fucking done.
Where The Wild Gigs Were: A Trip Thru America’s Underground Music Venues book by Tim Hinely and friends (HoZac)
Legendary dives, makeshift spaces, and places that simply gave punks a chance to gig. We’ve all told stories of these places, yet probably never written them down until now. This has maybe been done in the sense of a regional tale of scenery, but never fanned out nationally—and I’ve gotta say, Where the Wild Gigs Were is a heck of a read. Full of tales that make me wish I no longer had to find out about/promote every gig via the internet. The kind of live music history that deserves to be preserved!