Artificial Joy / Skitklass split EP

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

Skitklass 世界の平等さようなら EP

Another fun little banger from Japan’s SKITKLASS. As with their many previous releases, this is energetic råpunk putting you in a time machine to Sweden in 1982. One of the most endearing things about this band is their retro guitar tone. Rather than a tuned-down, blown-out wall of distortion, we get the raw, jangly tone of the early ’80s. You could best compare this to bands like MISSBRUKARNA or HEADCLEANERS. The song structure fits in more with the aggressive style of ANTI CIMEX or SHITLICKERS, but the overall vibe is one of punk rather than hardcore—a subtle but important distinction to my ears. Lyrics are in Japanese, but I don’t think they are making any bold political statements. They continue the bondage mask motif from previous releases (which was TERVEET KÄDET’s skeez when you think about it). The standout track for me was “Animal Ghost.”

Crimex / Skitklass Disrupt the Order / Snutsvin split EP

SKITKLASS is a Japanese band playing in the ’82 Swedish style. The song structure is from the SHITLICKERS/AVSKUM/ASOCIAL/DISARM era and vibe of Swedish hardcore. But the guitar tone is actually kind of undistorted, more like UK82 or a band like TST. I love it when Japanese bands do these sorts of homages, replete with lyrics in Swedish etc. I think the bondage mask motif is a bit overdone, resurfacing on most of their releases. I didn’t get a lyric sheet, but judging from the song titles it’s rather tongue-in-cheek chaos punk fare about drinking and raising hell. This kind of thing is great fun, if not a super serious work of art. CRIMEX from Olympia play straight forward raw punk their vibe is perhaps a bit less contrived. They are on the faster and more furious end of the raw punk spectrum; I love the searing vocals and that classic ramshackle bass sound. Some solid riffs and cohesive delivery. Would have loved to see this band play a basement show or sweaty warehouse practice space with their friends in attendance, but they’ve since broken up.