Reviews

Alex Howell

Uranium Club Infants Under the Bulb LP

This is going to sound like a contrarian take, but I really wasn’t looking forward to more URANIUM CLUB. Don’t get me wrong—I love this band. 2015’s Human Exploration is easily one of the best records of the past decade. It still blows me away every time I put it on. But with each subsequent release, the band seemed to be leaning away from the wiry but dense, concrete-slicing panic punk that drew me to them in the first place, in favor of the more DISMEMBERMENT PLAN-y, smart-guy rock aspects of their sound. That’s not to say I disliked those later records, but by the time their 2019 LP rolled around, it really started to feel like I was listening to the album out of an obligation to some former enthusiasm. That was five very long years ago at this point. How many subpar soundalikes have we been bombarded with in the interim? So, yeah, that’s why I wasn’t super keen to dive into this one. I obviously wasn’t going to not listen to the album, though, so I was pleasantly surprised when “Small Grey Man” kicked things off and didn’t quite sound like more of the same. It was a little gentler and more thoughtful than their previous stuff—they’ve even woven some subtle horns into the mix—yet there was enough angularity and anxiety to clearly signal this was a URANIUM CLUB track. I really liked it! But as the record wore on, that novelty wore off, and I started to realize that the band has continued to evolve away from what I’m looking for. They’ve clearly grown as songwriters—the compositions are among their densest, and they’ve even pushed things in an AOR direction with the aforementioned horns and a handful of conceptual interludes that are a mix of Just So Stories and Discreet Music. I’d even go so far as to say it sounds like a great record, one they should be proud of and that I’m sure lots of folks will love. Maybe I just don’t know what I want from the band at this point, but I’m pretty sure it’s not this.

Rick N the Sickos RNTS LP

Two lads from the CHATS team up with some other Brisbane punk (who also maybe used to be in the CHATS) to write a punk’n’roll record. Fourteen songs that blitz by in about fourteen minutes, covering topics like how much they love to rock’n’roll, lack self control, shit their pants, shit the bed, etc. Imagine some mix of the PROBLEMATICS or CATHOLIC BOYS, Blood, Guts, and Pussy-era DWARVES, and the Wimpy-fronted QUEERS…had all those acts somehow been really into the MEAN JEANS. It’s a little too self-aware (bordering on totally phony) to be good. But I have a soft spot for this kind shit, which not too many folks are making these days, so I didn’t hate it. “Shut Up” kinda kills, even.

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno Fuzz Up Your Electric Chair, Baby! (Live at Studio 195) CD

Over the past three years, this act has blasted release after release at MRR with reckless abandon—we’ve done seven(!) reviews for them in that time, with six different reviewers being caught in the spray (poor Ron got hit twice!). I figured it  was just a matter of time before I needed to pay the piper, and, well, here we are. If you’re new to all of this, allow me to summarize: a couple of Dutch punks who’ve been active in the scene since the early ’80s start a studio recording project, playing garage-leaning punk. They love fuzz and hate the bass guitar. My fellow reviewers all agree that these dudes aren’t reinventing any wheels, but they really manage to crank out quite a beefy ruckus—thanks to all the fuzz, I guess! Some folks seem to like it; others seem to think it’s solid but unremarkable. At best, I fall in the latter camp. Anyhoo, this is a live studio recording, where they’ve added a third person to play second guitar. They run through eleven tracks, most of which come from their previous seven releases, in about twenty minutes. And I dunno. This just sounds like generic old-guy punk to me. I was fine putting it on and not paying attention to it, even thinking things like “this kinda rocks” every now and then. But every so often shit would start sounding a little too much like BAD RELIGION, and that I could not ignore.

G​​​ū​​​tara Kyō / Destroy All Gondolas split EP

Pete Slovenly has been putting out records for over twenty years now, and for whatever reason, he’s decided that it’s high time his label embraced the world’s worst format. That’s right, Slovenly’s first split 7”! Two bands giving you about two-and-a-half minutes apiece. I feel like this format is annoying even digitally, but whatever. First up, we’ve got the Venetian band  DESTROY ALL GONDOLAS with a track called “Death by Hamburger.” Now, you might be tempted, like I was, to assume that this is some bullshit, 2009-style food-themed garage pop. And I hate to have to spoil the reaction you’d have going into this thinking as much, but this is decidedly not that. This is closer to something like RESEARCH REACTOR CORP. mixed with MOTÖRHEAD. And if they’re singing about hamburgers or whatever, you can’t tell, because the vocals are heavily processed and really buried in the mix. It’s absolutely fucked and kind of rips. GŪTARA KYŌ is out of Kobe, Japan, and they’re giving us two tracks that are certainly less full-on than the A-side. Still a pretty rowdy affair. They play super blown-out garage punk, not unlike their compatriots GUITAR WOLF, with more of a noise rock edge, with things even getting a little dancy at points. Reminds me a bit of the pre-A FRAMES band BEND SINISTER. I’m into it! I’ll even admit that the two sides of this record kind of compliment each other nicely. Still, I’d rather have a 7” from each band.

Wireheads Potentially Venus LP

I’d somehow gotten the impression that this was a new band, but nope! Turns out this Adelaide sextet has been at it since the early 2010s, and this is their fifth LP! How about that? I guess that explains why they sound like they know their way around a song. In any event, you can file this record alongside your LPs by bands TERRY, UV RACE, PRIMO!, etc. WIREHEADS play a distinctly Australian brand of garage-y post-punk, heavily influenced by the VELVET UNDERGROUND, but also a little twee. Unlike those acts, these folks tend to go on more indie rock-ish digressions, at times getting closer to MODEST MOUSE or BUILT TO SPILL territory. But I think the thing that will stand out to most folks is the band’s technically poetic lyrics. The vocalist delivers them in a sprung rhythm full of alliteration, half-rhymes, full rhymes—basically all of the poetic devices—sounding like a mix of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mark E. Smith, and the dude from SLEAFORD MODS. It’s genuinely impressive and, at times, like in the first handful of tracks, tremendously satisfying. But over the course of eleven tracks and forty minutes, it can also feel tediously clever. Overall, I’d say it’s worth your time—there really are some fantastic songs on here.

Angel Face I Can’t Go Back / New Generator 7″

Tokyo punk lifers Fink (TEENGENERATE, RAYDIOS, RULER), Rayco (RULER), Toyozo (the FADEAWAYS), and a vocalist named Hercules (who appears to have spent time drumming in a handful of acts) team up to bring us this new group, which sounds like a true amalgam of their previous bands. Overall, things lean pub rock or power pop, but you can hear a little beat/garage in the mix as well as, of course, punk. It impressed the bigwigs over at Slovenly so much that they decided to simultaneously release this 7” and their debut LP. Both tracks are pretty great. “I Can’t Go Back” sounds a little like something that might have come off CHEAP TRICK’s Heaven Tonight had it been put out by a mid-’90s Rip Off Records band, and “New Generator” is more of a revved-up number that almost sounds like an Oi! band really leaning into their EDDIE AND THE HOTRODS and SLADE influences. I haven’t checked out that LP yet, but if this 7” is any indicator, it’ll be a ripper.

Screaming Urge Buy LP reissue

HoZac brings us the first reissue of this Columbus, OH act’s 1980 LP. Folks are probably familiar with these oddballs from their debut 7”, particularly the dum-dum power pop punker “Homework,” which appeared on Killed By Death #6 and the inaugural entry of the beloved Hyped to Death compilation series that’s named for the track. It’s for sure one of punk’s greatest shits! And the business-savvy folks over at HoZac clearly agree, as the two tracks from that 7” kick off this expanded, remastered edition of the LP. So, that alone probably warrants a look-in. But you should definitely stick around for the rest of the LP. The remaining nine tracks on the record should definitely appeal to anybody who digs the more celebrated stuff that was coming out of the Midwest around that time, like the GIZMOS or the BIZARROS, when punk wasn’t really a template you could follow but something that was actively being defined by a bunch of weirdos who wanted to rile folks up by writing and playing original songs. Highlights include the DEVO send-up/ode “Mono,” or the ultra-dumb protest number “War”. Real cool stuff!

Cel Ray Piss Park EP

These Chicago punks who share a name with a gross New York deli soda have teamed up with French label Six Tonnes De Chair for their second release. CEL RAY is clearly a band who’ve clomped around in the yolk that oozed out of NWI a decade or so back, but they’ve managed not to track too much goo onto the four tracks that make up this EP. By forgoing the brash cartoonishness of a lot of their contemporaries and balancing their DEVO stiffness with some loose, jazzier sounds closer to the MINUTEMEN, they avoid sounding like the straight CONEHEADS-core that is all too ubiquitous these days. It’s upbeat, energetic punk that reminds me bit of what I love about the pre-hardcore punk that came out of Southern California,  anchored by a strong vocal performance—Maddie Daviss delivers her lyrics about the mundanities of Midwestern living in a cool, deadpan talk-shout that every so often breaks into a full-throated song—with just the right amount of C.C.T.V.-esque jitteriness to give it more of a contemporary post-punk-y edge. Absolutely worth checking out!

Model Workers Cry EP

My initial thought upon putting on this expanded reissue from Northeast England obscuros MODEL WORKERS was that it sounded a lot like an Ed Ball and Paul Weller team-up. I know it’s a bit lazy to compare one band to another when describing an act’s sound, but I’ve never really figured out a good alternative. I’m also a little lazy. That said, I don’t just toss out comparisons lightly—I generally spend an embarrassing amount of time making sure they are apt. Seriously, I’ll waste hours queuing up stuff to find the exact songs that made a band pop in my head as a point of comparison. So, when I saw the label copy for this release specifically mentioning TELEVISION PERSONALITIES, the TIMES, and the JAM, I pumped my fist in celebration, partially in an “I just got a tough question right on Jeopardy!” kind of way, and partially because I knew I wouldn’t need to bother checking my work. Anyway! This is the band’s sole 7” (1981’s self-released “Cry” / “My Winter Of Discontent”), plus two 1980 demos and an eight-page booklet with newspaper clippings, lyrics, and other band ephemera. The studio cuts are two great poppy UK DIY numbers that probably should be more widely known. I particularly like “Cry,” which starts out as an unremarkable, nervy new wave track before a hook carried by an incredible yawny croon that’s equal parts Edwyn Collins and Tracey Thorn kicks in—real good shit! The two demos are much rougher and lean closer to mod pop than punk, but they are super catchy and definitely a welcome addition to what was already a worthwhile release. It’s a cool glimpse into what else this band might have done had they stuck it out longer than the year or so they were in existence. All in all, another essential record from the fine folks over at Sealed!

Drunk Meat Diagonale Du Vide LP

With a name like DRUNK MEAT and a location like Bordeaux, France, I was certain this was going to be some sub-Slovenly Euro garage. Au contraire! This is way more interesting. What we have here is some po-faced post-punk, somewhat in the vein of TOTAL CONTROL. DRUNK MEAT is actually just a duo, and nearly all of the ten tracks on this release are built around a synth and drum machine backbone. However, it doesn’t really sound inorganic—it’s more of a swampy groove that’s halfway between the SCIENTISTS’ “We Had Love” and JOY DIVISION’s “Heart and Soul.” But guitars are the stars of the show here. They break through the muck in shimmery walls of sound or glide on top as echoey surf licks. In that regard, it really reminds me a lot of late-period TV GHOST. I don’t know that anything on this record is as memorable as that band’s “Veils,” but it’s a pretty decent substitute if that’s something you’re pining for. Definitely worth a listen.

The Zeros They Say That (Everything’s Alright) / Getting Nowhere Fast 7″ reissue

Munster brings us the first reissue of the ZEROS’ third (and final) 7”, which initially came out on Test Tube Records back in 1980, two years after the “Wild Weekend” / “Beat Your Heart” 7” and right as the band began imploding—Robert Lopez had left by this point, leaving the band a trio. It’s clearly the third best single these dudes released, but that’s not to say the tracks aren’t worth your time. “They Say That (Everything’s Alright)” is one of the few tracks both penned and sung by Hector Penalosa—it’s a cool little slice of CREATION-esque mod rock. And “Getting Nowhere” is a classic Javier Escovedo RAMONES-worship. I mean, it’s the ZEROS, y’all know who they are and that they’re great. Now, do you need to shell out the $20 this thing is going to run you when you can still find vinyl copies of that Bomp! comp floating around for just a few bucks more? You do not. But 7”s are cool, so I’d understand the urge to pick it up anyway.

Pushups Empty Faces / Global Corporation 7″ reissue

As the extraterrestrial glam rockers ZOLAR X began to implode in 1979, two of its members, Ed Dorn and Zory Zenith, split off to form the synthy power pop band AURORA PUSHUPS. After releasing just one 7”, Zory exited the band, and Ed carried on, rebranding as PUSHUPS. What we have here is a reissue of that iteration of the band’s sole release brought to us by the Italian budget label Breakout. It’s two tracks of glammy new wave pop—imagine a mix of GARY NUMAN, MILK ‘N’ COOKIES, and, well, ZOLAR X. It’s fun stuff, for sure, and it probably would have been an essential pick-up had HoZac not released a compilation of the band’s complete recordings just a year or so back. Still, you certainly could find worse ways to spend your money.

Doc Flippers Human Pork LP

Second full-length from this Leipzig quintet, and it’s quite a confounding one. The eleven songs on Human Pork ping-pong from power pop to cowpunk to post-hardcore to dirge-y downer punk, with little holding things together beyond a mid-fi production and a persistent warble effect that seems to be thrown on pretty much everything. Oddly enough, though, that’s kind of enough to make this feel like a cohesive release. Still, it certainly has its ups and downs. The power pop tracks on here are some of the catchiest I’ve heard this decade—give “Steel Splinters” or “Celine Doom” a spin and try to not sing them to yourself as soon as you turn the record off. And “Human Pork” is one of the best bile-spitting downer punk numbers that I’ve heard since the demise of BLACK PANTIES. On the other hand, I’m absolutely all set on these “early COUNTRY TEASERS meets circusy egg-punk” tracks. On paper it sounds like it might be fine, but nah. And I don’t know that I’ve wanted to unhear a song more than I do “Stiffy Girl.” Woof!

Gym Tonic Sanitary Situations 12″

A quartet of Berlin-based grown-up punks bring us their second release, and it’s clear from the six tracks on here that they’re having a good time. Do you need to pick up a copy? Depends on how much you love perfectly adequate garage-y synth punk. Imagine something between LOST SOUNDS’ maniacal darkwave and SERVOTRON’s stilted robot rock, maybe mixed with a little contemporary egginess. Honestly, it could be worse. It’s also kind of educational, like a German synth punk THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS!  Did you know you could catch mono from someone’s tears? I certainly didn’t until listening to this record.

Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes The Cutest Hag in the Swamp LP

I’ve been aware of this band for a good chunk of the near decade-and-a-half that they’ve been in existence. They’re based out of Indianapolis, as am I, and for obvious reasons, you can’t help but notice when they pop up on a local bill. Yet this LP, their second or, like, tenth depending on how you’re counting, is the first time I’m actually listening to them. Some combination of their name and general aesthetic, which you might describe as Hot Topic circus troupe chic, had led me to believe this was firmly outside my area of interest. I’d imagined something like a cabaret-adjacent ten-piece that may or may not have a jug player. But, nope, turns out this is just a trio, and they play a mix of primitive garage punk, BABES IN TOYLAND-esque grunge, and budget surf guitar. It’s not bad! It can feel like an unwieldy tangle of influences at times, and the vocal performances can get a little too pronounced, almost like they’re doing a voice—the hard left turn from SHANNON AND THE CLAMS-y punky ’60s pop to cartoony hardcore on the album opener is a good example of both issues. Otherwise, this is a pretty solid release. I might even go so far as to say a track like “Dork Spit” is good.

Onyon Last Days on Earth LP

This four-piece out of Leipzig turned quite a few heads last year with their debut cassette. Among the folks wowed by their odd mix of primitive post-punk, drippy garage (think Help-era THEE OH SEES),  kitschy sci-fi timbres, and goth-adjacent art-punk were the good folks over at Trouble in Mind, who reissued that cassette in the US and are now here with the group’s debut LP. In her review of their last release, MRR’s Erika Elizabeth expressed hope that on their next record they might “lean even harder into the wild electro-art-punk impulses,” a sentiment I would have echoed at the time. The band, however, has leaned garage-ward. I think it still works, and fans of their debut should still find plenty to love across the twelve tracks on this LP. Any disappointment that I have stems from some potential I imagined from chalking the band’s initial sound up to a choice on their part, rather than something necessitated by their amateurism. In any event, they seem to be playing with more confidence now, the record has a beefier sound, and they really manage to craft a unique atmosphere, even if some of the songwriting is a little blander than I’d hoped.  Overall, I think it’s a cool record, and it contains some absolute bangers—“Alien Alien,” with its detuned extraterrestrial beach party vibe, is one of my favorite tracks of the year. At the very least, give that a listen!

Theee Retail Simps Live on Cool Street LP

Montreal’s premier slop rock act returns with another heaping helping of loose proto-punk, this time ditching most of the mid-’60s R&B influence of their debut in favor of some late ’60s/early ’70s sounds. Thanks to some STONES-y ballads, a horn section (if you can call two dudes with three horns a section), backup singers, and some budget funk thrown in among the Raw Power-ed spin age blasters, Live on Cool Street has more of an AOR vibe. Even their VELVET UNDERGROUND influence seems to have shifted out more toward Loaded or solo LOU REED. It’s tempting to say they’ve matured, but of course they haven’t. Just listen to a track like “The River,” one of the aforementioned ballads (not to mention an album highlight), and you’ll hear what I’m talking about. The first fifteen seconds of the song seem to signal a new, gentler direction for the band, but then the vocals kick in and it’s clear these are the same greasy party rockers who brought you that last record. They’re just letting some of their dad-ish influences show. And it works! This record rules.

Andy Stratton I Don’t Know / Evil Minds 7″ reissue

The small UK town of Yeovil, Somerset was home to a fairly bustling punk scene in the late ’70s/early ’80s, the most famous exports of which were the anarcho-punk band the MOB and their DIY label All the Madmen. Teenager ANDY STRATTON (né Barker, later of NULL & VOID) also hung around that scene and ended up befriending members of the MOB. At sixteen, he got a wild hair to make a pop record after attending the 1980 Stonehenge Free Festival. So he wrote a couple of tunes, recruited MOB-ster Graham Fallows to play drums, and came out with this 7”, the third release on All the Madmen. At the time, it was pressed in relatively small numbers (maybe 1000) and has since become all but forgotten. Thankfully Sealed, the archival wing of La Vida Es Un Mus, recognized this was a record worth shining some light on and are here with a faithful recreation of that release (plus they’ve added a lyrics insert alongside an interview with ANDY). “I Don’t Know” is a super catchy DIY power pop number that sounds like a mix of Pete Shelley BUZZCOCKS and TEENAGE HEAD. The lyrics are deliriously simple, as is the guitar riff, but it’s underscored by this incredibly energetic bass line that somehow really bumps up the maturity of the songwriting. It’s a pretty incredible track. “Evil Minds” awkwardly welds verses that sound like a new wave ode to “Nights in White Satin” to hooks that sound lifted from some POINTED STICKS song. It’s a little harder to get into, but at the very least it’s interesting. Still, probably worth it for the A-side alone!

Lothario Drunk Fuck / Black Hair 7″

I want to take a moment to commend Mr. Goodbye Boozy. I feel like the 7”—the best medium for punk!—is becoming an endangered format. Most labels are either abandoning them entirely, or charging, like, $12 a record to make them financially viable, which I have to imagine contributes to their waning popularity. Meanwhile, Goodbye Boozy is pumping them out like there’s still a market for stocking jukeboxes, and offering them up at fairly punk-friendly prices. And he continues to hook up with acts that are perfect for the format. Take for instance LOTARIO, a new recording project from Melbourne artist Annaliese Redlich (IMPERIAL LEATHER/Triple R’s Neon Sunset program). Here we’re getting two quick, catchy tunes, one per side, about being dumb and horny and bored. It’s part dum-dum garage punk à la BUCK BILOXI (who’s playing drums here), part An Ideal For Living-era JOY DIVISION, part something with a more industrial timbre, like late ’00s LILI Z, but also still a little melodic and gentle (particularly this B-side). It’s great! Do I need more than five minutes of it? I mean, I’d certainly take it! But let’s just appreciate this release for what it is: an easy-to-digest portion of cool punk and a lovely artifact that doubles as a great argument for the continued existence of the best format. You should buy a copy!

Collate Generative Systems LP

Scratchy Portland post-punks COLLATE deliver their second LP after about five years and a string of excellent EPs. And despite what’s felt like an eternity passing since we last heard from them (2021’s “Medicine / Genesis Fatigue” 7″), they pick up pretty much where they left off. Generative Systems opens with a bass-forward minimal post-punk number that’s equal parts GANG OF FOUR, the CONTORTIONS, and ROSA YEMEN. It’s energetic without being overtly dancy, and the production is cold and bone-dry—an invigorating way to kick off a record, like the aural equivalent of stepping outside on a crisp winter evening without a jacket. From there, tracks tend to follow a similar formula, maybe cranking up one of the aspects of their core sound—a little more noise here, a little more rubbery groove there, maybe pop in some cowbell and take things in a bit of an ESG direction. It’s ground they’ve tread before, and they continue to do it well. But where this record really shines is when they push things punkward. It’s probably more attitudinal than sonic, but this record definitely has more of a punk vibe than past releases. They strike a tone somewhere between angry and mean, and they really wear it well. A track like “Stocks,” one of my favorites on the record, just really conveys being fed the fuck up in a way that I haven’t heard from them before. It’s an excellent record from an excellent band. Handsome physical release, too. Pick this one up as soon as you get a chance!

Insane Urge My America cassette

Daammn! I went into this release, the second from this Austin five-piece featuring folks from STUNTED YOUTH and fronted by Stucco head honcho Jake Gulliver (Down South is part of the wider Stucco-verse), expecting more of the same muddy, hardcore-influenced garage punk that we got on their debut, but these dudes have apparently decided it’s time to stop fuckin’ around. All that DEVIL DOGS-y bullshit? Gone! And in its place, you’re getting nine short tracks of pure, unadulterated gremlin-y hardcore. Imagine This is Boston, Not L.A.-era JERRY’S KIDS with the franticness dialed up a few clicks. They still sound like feral punks on the verge of careening out of control, but by going straight-up hardcore and getting a little meaner, they’ve gained some tonal focus that, when paired with a much crisper, trebly production, really helps these tracks cut right into you. I really liked that last cassette, but this is way better.

Nohzdyve Nohzdyve cassette

I’m not a fan of the show Black Mirror. I find its bleak outlook and glib social commentary respectively unpleasant and annoying. So, it’s fitting that this Los Angeles act, named for a fake video game in that series’ Bandersnatch installment, similarly rubs me the wrong way. Musically, it’s not the worst. The six short tracks on the cassette are a jazzy spin on the same post-URANIUM CLUB herky-jerky, smart-guy rock you just can’t escape these days. It’s stuff I’m a little tired of, but it’s played competently enough. I could see this having an interesting no wave vibe if it were a little looser or noisier, but a chintzy drum machine keeps it an unpleasantly stiff affair. The main offense here, though, are these vocals. Throughout the release, some absolutely unforgivable lyrics (for example, “Onomatopoeia / Chia Pet supreme / Mary had a little lamb/ life if but a dream”) are delivered in the same cadence and rhyme scheme as a protest chant, as though cleverer words have never been uttered. Just top-tier annoying shit. Maybe give the instrumental “Mii Time” a listen.

Sweepers Demonstration cassette

Wow! It’s been a minute since I’ve been this bowled over by a release. I don’t know what I was expecting of this Philadelphia four-piece, but it definitely wasn’t oddball, free-jazzy clean hardcore on the subject of keeping a neat house (primarily by way of broom). This cassette is eight tidy tracks that zip by in a spick-and-span seven-and-a-half minutes and sound like some amalgam of MINUTEMEN, DEVO, NEON CHRIST, and a little contemporary herky-jerk. It’s strange, funny without being jokey, and absolutely exceptional. Get on it, you neat freaks!

Keno Scared to Update cassette

UK-based cassette label Gob Nation issues the debut release from this London three-piece that seems to feature at least one Aussie (either that, or the vocalist is adopting a fake accent). KENO plays a heavy mix of plodding noise rock and gloomy hardcore, with some goth-y trappings, like echoed, multi-tracked vocals and faint haunted house synths. If there was a midpoint between TOTAL CONTROL at their most ADOLESCENTS-y and PERVERTS AGAIN at their most metronomic, you’d probably find this tape there. For the most part, it’s a solid release, and I’d recommend you give it a listen. But I also think they could have tightened things up a bit and wound up with a much better record. For instance, just imagine if they dropped the keyboard on “Still Life,” stripped out most of the vocal overdubs, and the lead singer just really dove into his performance. It probably would have ended up sounding like a different thing altogether, maybe something more like WATERY LOVE, but I absolutely would’ve been into that.

The Stiffs The Singles Collection 1979–1985 LP

The STIFFS were a punky power pop band out of Lancashire, UK, initially active from 1976 to 1988 (they reunited in the late ’90s and are still somewhat active today). As the title suggests, this collection compiles their singles output from the first act of their career (plus their 1981 “Innocent Bystander” 7” that was shelved by their label), and, seeing as how they never issued any LPs, essentially functions as a complete discography. The stuff these guys play is pretty typical for the genre and time period—imagine a less catchy INCREDIBLE KIDDA BAND with maybe a touch more street punk/Oi! pedigree. What helps them stand out from similar acts, though, is also what I like least about these tunes. The vocal melodies (which, again, aren’t the catchiest) are almost always delivered in a nearly alien multi-part harmony, with the band members singing just enough out of sync to make it all just sound like a big mess. It’s a shame really, because I otherwise dig the tracks, especially the sub-three-minute rippers. Anyway, John Peel apparently really loved these guys, even going so far as to claim that “Inside Out” is “the greatest record in the history of the universe.” And who am I to disagree with that guy!

Dogs The Melodies Massacre Years LP

For those unfamiliar, DOGS (always sans the “the”) were a long-running punky power pop act out of Rouen, France. They formed back in 1975 around Dominique Laboubée, the primary songwriter and only consistent member, and were active pretty much until he passed away in 2002. Over that time, they released dozens of singles and nine LPs. This album compiles their first two releases, 1977’s Charlie Was a Good Boy EP and 1978’s Go Where You Want to Go 12”, both of which were, as the title of this LP suggests, released on the independent French label Melodies Massacre. And this is clearly when the band was at its most vital. The eight tracks on this record are a raw and immediate mix of early rock’n’roll-influenced punk with just a touch of pop around the edges. It brings to mind stuff like early SAINTS, the VIBRATORS, or the HEARTBREAKERS. Honestly, the thing that this record, particularly the more up-tempo tracks, reminded me of the most is TEENGENERATE. Like, imagine if those records were a little less blown-out and slowed down just a hair, and you’re pretty close to what DOGS are laying down. I even had to check to make sure Fink and co. hadn’t actually covered these guys before. I couldn’t turn up anything, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that they had some DOGS in them. Still, as much as I love all the fast tracks, the highlight of the record for me is the slower JOHNNY THUNDERS-meets-Pissed on Another Planet SCIENTISTS number “Go Where You Want to Go.” If for some reason you only listen to one track, make it that one! Anyway, I’ve loved so much of what Reminder puts out that it’s pretty much a guarantee at this point that I’ll recommend you pick up any of their stuff, but seriously, this is one you really shouldn’t miss.

Los Ignorantes Fenómenos Para Anormales EP

Paul Messis of Market Square Records and the SUBURBAN HOMES relocated from the UK to Gijon, Spain in the past few years, and recently started Manzana Podrida, another 7”-only label, this time featuring exclusively Spanish (or maybe just Gijon) acts. This EP is the label’s debut. LOS IGNORANTES, a five-piece out of Gijon, play ’66-style, Farfisa-driven Back From the Grave-worship (Tim Warren even mastered this thing!). It’s part LARRY AND THE BLUE NOTES, part LOS SAICOS, part SAM THE SHAM, and 100% a good time. I don’t know that it’s gonna win over any casuals, but garage turkeys will surely gobble this thing up.

V/A Illusion of Choice: A Girlsville Benefit Compilation for Feline Rescue, Inc. LP

Girlsville does the whole comp-for-a-cause thing the way it ought to be done, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering this is the same label that put out the excellent Be Gay Do Crime comp back in 2020. This time the cause is Feline Rescue Inc., a Saint Paul-based organization that runs a no-kill shelter and foster program for cats in need of adoption and compassionate care. The fifteen tracks on here come from a wide array of acts, some of which you’re bound to have heard of before and some of which you’ll likely be exposed to for the first time, covering a fairly broad swath of sounds—a lot of post-punk/dream pop/UK DIY, but there’s also a handful of straightforward punk and contemporary weird (eggy) tracks—with a good mix of fun covers, cool originals, and interesting demos. Highlights include an excellent BLONDIE cover from STAR PARTY, a clangy lo-fi post-punker from GERM HOUSE, and the exquisite dancy no wave freakout title track from CONDITIONER DISCO GROUP. Not to mention stuff from NEUTRALS, BILLIAM, and tons more! Do yourself and some cats a favor and pick this up!

Silicone Prairie Vol. II LP

Ian Teeple’s one talented dude. His unconventional guitar work is largely responsible for making WARM BODIES one of the most unique hardcore acts and all-around best bands of the ’10s. NATURAL MAN BAND, his egg-punk follow-up project, stood out in a genre largely defined by its sameness, even feeling somewhat like high art compared to the other records coming out of that same scene due to Ian’s unique, freewheelin’ style of making music. His first record as SILICONE PRAIRIE, a bit of a COVID-era solo-recording extension of what he was doing with NATURAL MAN BAND, saw him expanding his sonic palette, freeing him of some of genre constraints that were potentially hemming in his earlier work. Even through its Pure Guava-esque bedroom pop tape warble, you could tell My Life on the Silicone Prairie was an intricately produced labor of love absolutely brimming with creativity. Vol. II continues this trend—he’s jettisoned more of the herky-jerky punk that he made his bones with, and has replaced it with even more intricate compositions. A track like “Mirror on the Wall” starts out as another breathy WEEN pop number until some jaunty flute melody that wouldn’t sound out of place on a SUFJAN STEVENS track gets layered in, alongside some guitar that sounds like it was pulled from a sped-up version of the ISLEY BROTHERS’ “That Lady.” It’s certainly a unique sound. Overall, the record has more of a jazzy soft rock vibe than the last record, and it reminded me at times of stuff like the SEA AND CAKE’s Oui, STEELY DAN, a new-age infomercial, and even the STEVE MILLER BAND. It’s a record that I truly do have an appreciation for, and in a lot of respects it’s infinitely bolder and more creative than most of the stuff I like. But I have to stop short of saying that I enjoyed the album, because I do not really like any of the things that I reference above (except for maybe new-age infomercials—those rule).

Gino and the Sharks Just a Few Stitches EP

We’ve got another unearthed “classic” on our hands. But at least this one has a cool backstory! Gérard Mosiniak, aka Gino, grew up in a small mining town in the north of France. His grandmother helped him develop a passion for cooking, which led to him taking up an apprenticeship at a Michelin star restaurant. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, he became enamored with rock’n’roll via LITTLE RICHARD records and the local clubs, which would feature acts like the KINKS and JIMI HENDRIX. It became his second calling, and he vowed to one day sing in a rock band. In 1971, he learned that Keith Richards had recently moved to a villa on the French Riviera and was looking for a chef. Gino got an interview and won over Richards with his cool hippie style. As their live-in chef, he hobnobs with all sorts of famous music folks and eventually uses his ties to Keith to get a gig as a DJ in one of the hottest clubs in Cannes. While there, he falls in love with a Londonite, whom he follows back to England with hopes of making progress on his dream of fronting a rock band. To make ends meet, he gets a job selling souvenirs on Carnaby Street alongside a musician named Neil who’d also moved to London in the hopes of starting a band. Unfortunately, the two are unable to help each other due to a difference in genre preferences. Neil was looking to play stuff that’s a little heavier and a little more technical. Things work out for Neil, though—he moves back to Canada and ultimately hooks up with the band RUSH! Gino gets a job managing the now-famous Great Frog jewelry shop, where he meets plenty of musicians looking to get some sick skull rings, including Lemmy from MOTÖRHEAD, who gives him the advice he needs to start a band, and he eventually recruits the SHARKS, including drummer Pedro Ortiz, who’d go on to play with JOHNNY THUNDERS and DAVID BOWIE. They recorded this three-song EP in 1978, and it was supposed to come out on Stiff Records until their manager picked a fight with the label, and the record was shelved until now. The music is fine…maybe leaning good. It’s pretty typical stuff for first-wave UK punk—dumbed-down, recycled rock riffs that are glammed up a bit—but it’s a little rough around the edges and Gino’s broken English lends the record a bit of a KBD vibe. It’s nothing to get too excited about, but wow, what a story!

Spiral Dub Spiral Dub LP

Sanctuary Moon got my money as soon as I learned this was a project fronted by Chad Kawamura of the great Bay Area bands OUTDOORSMEN and LIFE STINKS. The output of those two groups constitutes a good chunk of my favorite music from the past fifteen years, so I trust any adjacent act to be right up my alley. But the teaser single “Rise and Shine” had me a little concerned. It’s not that I wasn’t a fan of the tune, it’s more that it was shockingly melodic and uplifting compared to, say, “Pornographic Stockpile” or “Endless Drag.” I’d seen that the band also features members of DIIV—a band that I’d written off as Pitchfork darlings, assumed the worst about, and never listened to—so my worry was that this was their influence tainting what could otherwise be more of the bummer punk I crave. Turns out that may as well be true, but insofar as it is, it’s also irrelevant. While this is certainly not another LIFE STINKS record, I cannot stop listening to it. The eleven tracks on here are some amalgam of, like, ”60s sunshine pop, STONE ROSES-esque neo-psychedelia, BRIAN ENO’s rock records, sneering glam punk, and ’90s alt-pop. And Chad’s hallmark pessimism isn’t totally absent. One of my favorite instances comes in form of an irresistibly dumb hook on what’s somehow one of the twee-est tracks on the record (it actually reminds me a lot of Melbourne duo HOT TUBS TIME MACHINE), where he talk-sings the lines “Punch me in the face / Once for luck, and once for the fuck of it.” Perfect! It’s hard to overstate what a compelling record this has turned out to be, and it’s one that I can’t recommend enough. I might even have to go back and give DIIV a listen!

The Boneheads Single 1978–79 EP

Punky garage rock band the BONEHEADS sloshed around the Philly punk scene in the late ’70s alongside acts like PURE HELL, SIC KIDZ, and the AUTISTICS. Their claims to fame seem to be frequently opening up for a slew of more beloved punk acts—RICHARD HELL AND THE VOIDOIDS, the B-52’S, and the FEELIES to name a few—and eventually evolving into the better known, though still relatively obscure, post-punk band BUNNYDRUMS. They had the intention of releasing this, their one and only record, back in 1979…until the masters disappeared and the songs were lost to time. However, someone recently unearthed a cassette recording of the same sessions, and ferried it over to the good folks over at Good Times Rock ‘n’ Roll Club, which is how this release came to be. So, do we now have some sort of a lost classic on our hands? Not quite. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good time! There’s four tracks on here, the first three of which are a mix of CRAMPS-y rock’n’roll Americana, straight up surf, and new wave pop. They’re fine. But the final track “Yesterday” is probably worth the price of admission by itself. It sounds like a wild mashup of HUBBLE BUBBLE’s “New Direction” and LOVE’s “7 and 7 Is,” over top of which the vocalist is singing more (better!) new wave pop in the stuffy-nosed style of EDWYN COLLINS. It’s fantastic! The record, pressed to green vinyl, also comes in a stylish silkscreened sleeve. My only complaint is that I wish it had come with some liner notes.

Mononegatives Facsimile EP

Dowd Records issues a limited release (150 copies pressed to yellow vinyl) of this prolific Canadian synth punk act’s 2021 cassette. The A-side features two tracks of clanging post-punk with a touch of post-hardcore at the edges, particularly in the guitar timbres. Imagine a cross between SERVOTRON and JAY REATARD at his most mechanical. Not bad. But this B-side is fantastic! The title cut sounds like DEVO teaming up with A FRAMES to cover one of the more tuneful tracks on WIRE’s 154 or something by GARY NUMAN—just an excellent mix of herky-jerk guitar interwoven with an assembly line rhythm section and soaring synth melodies. Also, the record as a whole just sounds great—it’s crisp in all the right places, the vocals are crystal clear and well-mixed, and the bottom end still really packs a wallop. Really handsome physical release, as well. All in all, no complaints!

Famous Mammals Instant Pop Expressionism Now! LP

Two years ago, Amber Sermeño (the WORLD, NAKED ROOMMATE), Stanley Martinez (RAYS, CHILDREN MAYBE LATER, also the WORLD), and Andy Jordan (a.k.a. ANDY HUMAN, also in the WORLD and one million other Bay Area bands) dropped a limited-run cassette as FAMOUS MAMMALS. It was an absolutely fantastic debut from an act that seemed to come out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. I’d assumed it was a throwaway project that just so happened to be great, but no. They’ve apparently spent the interim since that release going deeply method as a troupe of UK DIY musicians. This is no longer a Bay Area act pretending to be a band that grew up in high-rise flats above King’s Road or a council estate in Manchester—this is now that actual band. And the results are exceptional. If I hadn’t known the deal before going in, I’m sure you could convince me this album was assembled by some hitherto unknown, staunchly independent CRASS-like collective wed by a way of doing things rather than a particular output they’re striving for. The eighteen tracks on this record cover such a wide array of sounds and styles: a mix of early FALL discordant clang, “Lady Godiva’s Operation” grimy but gentle meandering, “Don’t Throw Ashtrays at Me!” noisy ambience, warbly They Could Have Been Bigger Than the Beatles dejected yet twee psychedelic rock, and stripped-down, talk-sung ballads that could be a cross between MARINE GIRLS and YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS; it’s hard to imagine this coming from just the three musicians. And while I just rattled off a ton of stuff this sounds like, I want to be clear that this is far from cosplay. The songwriting is so distinct and the execution (including what I would consider the perfect fidelity production) near flawless that you’ll have no doubt this is an original undertaking. Easily the best record I’ve heard all year.

Bunnydrums To Reptile 12″

Under what conditions do folks generally welcome a live release? When it’s by a seminal act with a relatively large back catalog of hits (It’s Alive)? When it’s a particularly exceptional performance (Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963)? When it’s by a beloved band that burned too hot or was shrouded in mystery and folks are clamoring to gain any additional insights (anything from Mark Winter bands)? When it’s aimed at a relatively large audience of sickos (the FUGAZI live series)? What we have here is a four-track 12”—the digital version has two bonus tracks—culled from a 1984 live performance by post-punk group BUNNYDRUMS. Does it meet any of the above conditions? It does not. BUNNYDRUMS, a Philadelphia act that grew out of the ashes of first-wave punk unknowns the BONEHEADS, are at best an interesting footnote in American post-punk history. They existed as part of an odd scene at an awkward time when new wave and post-punk were beginning to coalesce into alternative rock. Insofar as this release does anything, it perhaps provides a decent snapshot of that moment. But, honestly, I would think one of their two studio LPs, 1983’s P•K•D or 1984’s Holy Moly (the former of which is pretty good!), would better serve that purpose. That’s not to say this is bad. I actually quite like the instrumental track that closes out the record—it reminds me a lot of the early OH SEES, when they were at their CRAMPS-iest. I just don’t know who’s asking for this thing. It looks like these guys were big in the Netherlands for some reason-—it’s the only other country that issued their LPs, and this performance took place in Wageningen, so maybe the Dutch. For this label’s sake, I hope so.

Froggy & The Ringes Ringe Rock Pond Scum LP

A word of warning to anyone who dares give this record by self-described “mysterious” UK act a go: be prepared for a lot. Like, I enjoy garage punk bands, and if they want to throw an organ in the mix, great. Shit-kickin’, V-flickin’, overtly Bri-ish punk that’s boarding on faux punxploitation? I can get on board. I even dig dumb, cartoony novelties—one of my favorite releases of the year is almost exclusively about pubic lice. But as I sat blinking through the initial 30 seconds of this record, slowly realizing that I was getting not just all these things at once, but the maximum amount of each, it made me doubt whether I truly liked any of them individually to begin with. This sounds like a cockney Fred Flintstone fronting some Euro-garage punk act like the RIPPERS or MOJOMATICS, doing what sounds like a set of ARMITAGE SHANKS songs that have had their lyrics re-written to cover topics like being a sexy rock’n’roll frog, what it would take to make it with a sexy frog, and other frog-related shit. If that sounds like something that would be up your alley (or on your lily pad or whatever), well, here’s ten whole songs of it!

Stuck Freak Frequency LP

I imagine a lot of folks will like this record. The second LP from this Chicago act is eleven tracks of intricate (almost proggy) polyrhythmic post-punk that acts like URANIUM CLUB or VINTAGE CROP have made popular over the past few years. The music is smart, polished, catchy at times, tastefully noisy at others, with lyrics that take aim at contemporary ills while avoiding being too abstract or preachy. There isn’t much here that will rub you the wrong way. But it’s this lack of friction that I have a problem with. To me, this record sounds immaculate to the point of being antiseptic, impressively engineered but soulless. It’s pretty much the same complaint that I’ve lodged against another beloved contemporary art-punk act that I have to imagine is serving as a bit of inspiration here: PARQUET COURTS. Just imagine that band trading their affinity for dance punk and slacker rock for a love of TALKING HEADS and more overt DEVO worship. Again, it’s hard to point to any one thing and go, “That! That’s the thing that’s bad.” It’s more…well, I’ll just say this—every time I try to visualize what a fan of this music looks like, the image that keeps popping in my head is MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in casual wear. Does that make sense? Probably not.

Pyrex Pyrex LP

Hard to believe, but an eighth of an inch delayed the release of this debut LP from NYC noiseniks PYREX. It was supposed to drop earlier in the year, but a printing error caused the cover image to be ever-so-slightly off-center. Rather than roll with the punches, the band opted to reprint and delay. Were they being a little too particular? Probably. But if you ask me, they ultimately made the right choice. These matte covers on the reprint look a million times better than the glossy joints that Mr. Total Punk has since been using as distro packing fodder (and, to be fair, the off-center image did look shitty…although, I’m pretty sure the image on my copy is still a hair off). Anyway! This record is some pretty hot shit! Eight tracks of noisy punk very much in the same vein as aggro pummel punks like LAMPS, PAMPERS, and BRANDY. But it’s not all just brute force—there’s some finesse to their playing, particularly in the RIKK AGNEW-esque guitar lines that periodically bleed through the din. It gives the record more of a nihilistic edge that’s not too far from the vibes given off by fellow Total Punkers PREDATOR. Also, the vocalist employs a screaming howl to punctuate verses from time to time, and it’s one of the best I’ve heard since Hart was piercing eardrums with the HUNCHES. Real good stuff!

Romance Seven Inches of… EP

I know. This record cover is absolutely begging you to scroll on by. And I wouldn’t blame you if you did—I certainly let this thing sink to the bottom of my listening pile because of it. But do yourself a favor and listen to these tunes. ROMANCE is a four-piece who formed as part of First Timers, a 2018 Sydney music festival put on by Bryony Beynon (whom you might know from GOOD THROB, BB AND THE BLIPS, or numerous MRR contributions!) to promote representation in music. All bands who participate are playing their first live set together and meet two of the following three requirements: 1) at least one member has never played in a band before; 2) at least one member is a woman, a person of color, an LGBTQI+ or gender non-conforming person; and 3) at least one member is playing an instrument they’ve never played before. With this being vocalist Jane’s first time in a band and Ben’s first go at drums (he’s done non-drumming stuff in DUMBELLS and SHRAPNEL), I believe they meet all three. The band is rounded out with Max from BB AND THE BLIPS on guitar and Greg from DISPLAY HOMES on bass. This is their debut release, which is just seeing the light of day after being recorded back in 2019 and shelved for an extended time due to COVID. Speaking of GOOD THROB, it’s hard not to hear their influence on the six tracks that make up this EP. It’s a similar brand of rhythm-section-forward, garage-y post-punk with a nasty edge, provided in large part by a strong vocal performance seemingly delivered at the edge of sanity (Jane’s really going for it here, taking things to near Dani Filth registers at times—it’s quite impressive!). But whereas GOOD THROB leans post-punk, ROMANCE puts more emphasis on the garage-y side, almost pushing it in a surfy direction, while keeping things keenly focused on punk. Everything just sounds crisp and vital. It’s raw, it’s fun, it’s cool. It’s a great record!

Stallone N’ Roses When the Mountains Turn Blue LP

What if it was GUNS N’ ROSES but, like, also Sylvester Stallone? If you’re thinking that doesn’t really sound like a joke, I’m right there with you. But considering this Cincinnati band’s logo—the Appetite for Destruction cover art with various Sly characters irreverently photoshopped over the GUNS N’ ROSES members’ skeleton heads—that appears to be what we’re being asked to laugh along with. Lame sense of humor aside, the more interesting question this band is asking is: what if the SPITS were more power pop? And the answer ends up being: not bad! The lo-fi, dum-dum foundation that these guys lay down is more than sturdy enough to support a good melody, and more often than not, the tunes they end up crafting turn out to be listenable. In their best moments, the band comes off like a dumbed-down version of LIQUOR STORE. At their worst, they sound like a budget MEAN JEANS. The release ended up managing to exceed my expectations, but probably only by setting them so low with this band name.

Watermelon Watermelon LP

I love rooting for an underdog. So, despite a handful of red flags—bad record cover, self-described RAMONES-core, cringe-ass song titles like “Gimme Ritalin”—I was really determined to like this record. I mean, sure, this cover kinda sucks, but, at least the color combination is nice. And RAMONES-core unfairly gets a bad rap. The RAMONES are one of the best bands ever, why not sound like them? And, yeah, the song title thing is gonna be tough to get over, but these tracks could still be good! Unfortunately, underdogs tend to have trouble winning. WATERMELON, a three-piece out of Chicago, packs plenty of amateurish charm into the twelve tracks on this LP. The problem is that you can only coast so far on charm. This particular genre requires you to write some catchy tunes, and this act can’t quite muster that. The vocals are a big part of the problem for me. Not only are they tuneless and multi-tracked with just enough dissonance to let off a really unpleasant trill at times, they’re also really buried in the mix. I know that kinda sounds like a “this food is terrible…and it comes in such small portions” type of complaint, but it just sounds bad and wrong. I wish these folks the best of luck, as I did really like the cut of their jib, but I will not be will not be going back for another slice of this one.

Main Breaker Main Breaker cassette

Debut release from this Buffalo three-piece following a couple of short digital-only demos. Here you’re getting ten tracks of perfectly adequate, lowish-fi punk—a beige blend of early ’80s US punk, ’90s garage punk, and, like, late ’00s Fat Wreck Chords. Maybe the most memorable thing about this release is the band’s zany-face emoji sense of humor. Track titles include “You Can’t Fart On My Head & Get Away With It” and “Lemmy + Your Mom = 42.” LOL, I guess.

Delicious Monsters Freedom Plastic Realistic? cassette

Debut release from this Milwaukee four-piece, whose sound defies classification…according to the album copy on their Bandcamp page. But to be as fair as I’m being reductive, these folks play punky indie rock. That’s not to say that they aren’t pulling from a wide array of influences! Over the ten tracks on this cassette, I’m definitely hearing a broad mix of stuff—the stripped-down garage punk of the GORIES, surfy new wave that’s part NERVES, part B-52’S, bluesy riffing, ’90s melodic guitar rock, post-punk, etc.—all assembled in a kind of rough-and-tumble manner that feels genuine and a little goofy but also cool. But that’s pretty much the whole deal with indie rock! In any case, it sounds like the band had a good time making this release, and those vibes were infectious. I really enjoyed my time with this. The aforementioned ’90s melodic guitar parts make up a bulk of the album and provide an extremely pleasant backdrop for the singer’s upbeat, sort of tuneless but still slightly out-of-key rapping. It’s loose and jammy—I imagine a good chunk of these songs grew out of kernels planted in some improvised sessions—and there’s nice interplay between all the instruments, but it always manages to feel amateurish and fun. I imagine these folks could absolutely turn a party out! Worth a listen.

Le Pilgrim D​é​mo cassette

Genuinely weird shit coming out of Buffalo, NY! I couldn’t turn up anything about the band, so it’s unclear who all is involved with the project—their Bandcamp profile pic is just an image of what appears to be a teen plucked straight out of one of the audiences in The Decline of Western Civilization. In any case, this appears to be their debut release. It’s eight tracks (a quarter of which are sung in French) of what I would primarily describe as USHC, maybe on the skate rock end of the spectrum. But the production is pretty bizarre—the guitars are both thin and really fuzzy, while the vocals, which are pretty buried in the mix, sound like they were recorded in an abandoned mineshaft. Then, every so often a really faint keyboard kicks in, or a “Careless Whisper”-ass saxophone lick, or even a TALKING HEADS-esque vocal melody. Really bizarre stuff, all of which is wrapped in a J-card seemingly signaling you’re about to listen to some playful European post-punk. I don’t know that I loved this, but I’m certainly fascinated by everything about it.

Advoids Advoids cassette

The Los Angeles punk scene seems to be going through an atypically fertile period. New interesting bands are sprouting up all the time these days, a lot of which seemingly center around a handful of hyperactive weirdos who can’t help but compulsively start new projects. Take for instance this act, brought to you by the same folks behind DIODE and the FREAKEES. They play a cool mix of classic L.A. punk, funky hardcore, and jazzy no wave, sans saxophone. The five tracks on the release zip by in less than ten minutes, but they’re jam-packed with ideas and generally well-executed. I really dig this vocal performance, too—kind of a mix of Darby Crash, James Chance, and I’m even detecting a bit of Dave E., though every so often they throw a little more affect onto the delivery and it dips a little into Ian Svenonius territory, which I’m less into. Still, this is a solid release, and I’m stoked to hear more from them!

Data Unknown Cylinder 1 cassette

Indianapolis oddballs drop their fourth or fifth release since they began putting out stuff in early 2021. This time we’re getting six tracks of the fucked synthwave you’ve come to expect from this mysterious act if you’ve been following along. If you haven’t, it’s probably time to get on board—this thing is great! At times they sound like CHROME trying their hand at drum machine egg-punk, at others they sound like one of the weirder Ralph Records acts (probably SNAKEFINGER) covering, like, “Let’s Have a Party” by PSYCHOTIK TANKS. If only more acts were this eager to annoy while being this unbothered by trends!

Le Jonathan Reilly 7″, Demos & Other Rarities cassette

I guess we’re getting to a point where forgotten garage punk releases from the mid ’00s are ready to be rediscovered. Better start collecting those Douchemaster, Tic Tac Totally, and Boom Boom 7”s now while they’re just a couple bucks—it’s only a matter of time before some comp appearance really drives up the price! Valencia-based label Discos Peroquébien is doing their part to get the trend started by issuing this odds-and-sods collection from hometown heroes LE JONATHAN REILLY. It’s an eighteen-track cassette pulling songs from their two split 7”s (with TYRADES and CHRISTMAS ISLAND), as well as some compilation tracks and demos. They also put out a full-length album and a split LP with BLACK SUNDAY, but neither of those releases are represented here. The brand of garage punk these folks peddled was part CHEATER SLICKS’ detuned lurch and part COACHWHIPS’ aggro one-two stomp, but they managed to skirt straightforward turkeydom by letting just enough FALL and URINALS influence shine through. They’re also not afraid to stretch out a bit and let their guitars carry a melody—“A Question in the Answer” almost sounds like it could have been pulled off Daydream Nation. I don’t know that any of these tracks quite approach “lost gem” status, but I bet most folks (particularly in the US) were unaware of this act, and there are certainly enough cool tunes on this collection to make it worth your time.

Display Homes What If You’re Right and They’re Wrong​?​ LP

Debut LP from this Sydney three-piece following a couple of EPs, the earliest of which came out back in 2017. And this thing kicks off with quite a track! “Nitty Picky” starts out as a energetic post-punk number—the rhythm section provides a bit of a bounce but keeps things relatively stern, while jagged guitars stab into the track, and the vocalist blurts out her lyrics in a shout falling somewhere between NOTS’ tuneless contralto and WARM BODIES’ manic, sing-songy yelp. But about twenty seconds in, the track shifts gears. The bass line gets busier and more tuneful and the guitar launches into a shimmering melodic chorus—like Andy Gill and Dave Allen morphing into Bernard Summer and Peter Hook mid-song. The remaining nine tracks on the record also more or less teeter on that same seesaw with GANG OF FOUR on one end and something closer to new wave on the other, but it’s never as balanced as it is on that album opener. Nevertheless, it’s an extremely listenable record by a band that clearly reveled in the act of making music together and seemed capable of growing and delivering a classic in the near future. Tragically, this will be the last we hear them. The guitarist passed away suddenly about a year prior to the album’s release—something I was devastated to learn after spending so much time listening to the record and thinking specifically about how much life his guitar breathed into it. I can’t imagine the toll this loss has taken on the surviving band members or the scene that was touched by their music. It’s made subsequent listens tough. Still, I encourage you to give the record a spin. It’s music you can’t help but enjoy.

The Wasps Punkryonics: Singles & Rare Tracks 1977–1979 LP

The WASPS were an East London act who got together in 1976. They played a mix of ’77 punk, histrionic glam, and new age power pop (imagine a fairly organic mashup of EATER, the QUICK, and the POINTED STICKS). They put out one pretty great single (“Teenage Treats” / “She Made Magic”) on an independent label in 1977 that garnered modest acclaim. Then they spent the next couple of years tweaking their lineup and sound trying to court a major label, which they managed when they put out their less-great single “Rubber Cars” on RCA in 1979. It wasn’t particularly well received, despite the band claiming it was RCA’s fastest selling single the week that it was released (…OK) and was destined to be a number one hit had the label backed it (impossible to prove, but seems doubtful). In any case, the band imploded shortly after the record came out. This release is a vinyl reissue of an odd-and-sods collection that came out on CD back in 2003, now expanded with a couple of bonus live tracks. It features all of their studio recordings, some live tracks, and maybe some rough demos—seventeen songs in total. The studio cuts are pretty fantastic and are definitely worth your time if you’ve never heard the band. The rest is probably nice if you’re a fan of the act, but won’t be much of a selling point to anyone else.

Shadow 15 Days of Innocence 1983–85 LP

When it comes to the Twin Cities’ biggest punk exports, I hold the following apparently incorrect opinions: the REPLACEMENTS peaked at Stink (and fell off a cliff after Let it Be), and HÜSKER DÜ was better prior to joining the SST roster. Yes, part of that is due to being a compulsive contrarian. But I also just prefer punk and hardcore to the alternative rock these guys were better known for. So, when I saw this compilation hailed as “a hidden gem of alternative American alternative rock [sic]” by an outfit being compared specifically to those two bands, I braced myself for a bummer of a time. Thankfully, it’s not that bad! SHADOW 15 was a four-piece out of Nashville, TN and this ten-song LP compiles their total studio output (culled from an eight-song cassette and 12” EP released in the mid ’80s). And while it certainly is alternative rock that bears quite a resemblance to those aforementioned acts—it actually sounds a little like Paul Westerberg fronting New Day Rising-era HÜSKER DÜ, maybe with a bit of early R.E.M. in the mix—they’ve got enough of a punk edge to keep them from drifting too far off into emotional post-hardcore or proto-GOO GOO DOLLS territory. It’s also a little generic-sounding, like a band made up for a mid-’80s teen movie. Still, there are a couple of songs that bordered on being good, and the overall squishy production alongside a super snappy rhythm section added enough amateurish charm that I ultimately enjoyed my time with the record. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a hidden gem, but it’s probably worth your time if you like indie rock of the time period.

Deletions Stets cassette

Not sure if it’s intended to be an homage, but the graphic design on this cassette really brings to mind that period in the late ’90s where melodic hardcore bands were flirting with Midwest emo and sci-fi aesthetics (not a time I’m wistful for!). Like, compare this to the cover of, say, GRADE’s Separate the Magnets. Musically, that comparison isn’t too far off, either. I wouldn’t say DELETIONS, an act out of Harrisburg, PA, plays melodic hardcore by any means—this is closer to post-hardcore with more overt post-punk leanings—but there’s definitely an emo influence to the ten short songs on this cassette. Honestly, it sounds like this band is going for an A FRAMES vibe but knows their love of the PROMISE RING is going to bleed through, so their hope is they can add enough farty analog synth sounds that people won’t notice. It’s some real rough stuff. And that’s not even considering the lyrics, which are borderline excruciating! Still, their commitment to playing profoundly out-of-touch music with this much verve had me rooting for them. So, while I don’t recommend that you listen to this release, I can’t help but recommend that the band keep it up!

Ibex Clone All Channels Clear LP

Back in 2019, a handful of Memphis musicians (folks from NOTS and EX-CULT) put out an LP under the name HASH REDACTOR. The music they played was part wry post-punk, part brash noise rock, part swampy garage punk, and 100% my shit—easily one of the best records of the year. Alas, like most good things, HASH REDACTOR wasn’t made to last. About a year into the pandemic, they announced they were ramping down operations. But they also offered a silver lining: three quarters of the band would continue on as a new project, IBEX CLONE. So, when Goner announced this debut LP two-ish years later, I was stoked. Now, I don’t know what I was expecting from this outfit, but I did not foresee a pivot to adult-oriented jangly guitar rock. It’s gotten me all out of sorts. I’ve listened to this album countless times at this point, ready for it to click, but it just hasn’t. It’s certainly no fault of the production. This thing is sonically incredible, probably the best a guitar will sound on record all year! But the songwriting is leaving me cold. The label copy calls this “post-pop,” a term I’ve never heard before but instinctively want to say is inaccurate (for context, the band that popped in my mind was HOME BLITZ)—there’s just not enough pop here. They also mention XTC and GUIDED BY VOICES, which, yes, absolutely. If anything, I’m tempted to call this post-slacker rock, as it’s clearly indebted to the latter act while featuring enough of the former’s intricacies and proggy-ness to leave no doubt these songs weren’t just casually tossed off. But therein lies the problem. This is decidedly uncool music. It’s music for grownups—stuff that needs to be actively appreciated rather than passively enjoyed. And, look, that’s fine, it’s just not what I’m looking for in my punk records. I’m looking for drecksounds.

Street Sweeper Fallin Outta Love (With Myself) EP

Debut release from this hard rockin’, power poppin’ quartet out of Melbourne, comprised of folks from ALTAR BOYS, HYDROMEDUSA, and GRIM RHYTHM (a couple of those gotta be fake band names, right?). You’re getting three tracks that are a fine melange of ROSE TATTOO, COLOURED BALLS, SYLVAIN SYLVAIN, and THIN LIZZY—good-time RnR made by dudes with wispy Cliff Burton mustaches, equally suited for a night out at the pub with your mates or a night in the backseat of your Trans Am with your partner.

Future Suck Simulation LP

As their first foray into full-length releases, Rack Off Records issues the debut LP from this Melbourne hardcore act featuring folks from BLONDE REVOLVER and SUPER-X. FUTURE SUCK’s brand of hardcore is hard to peg down. Throughout the record, I would hear snatches of what to me sounded like pre-Crossover D.R.I., mid-’80s 7 SECONDS, or even early DAG NASTY (at least instrumentally). It’s all solidly played, but it’s a mix of sounds that I probably wouldn’t be that into were it not for this stellar, tough-as-shit vocal performance from Grace Gibson. There’s just something about the way that she delivers these lyrics that makes it seem like a genuinely nice person has snapped and things are on the verge of spiraling out of control, adding a welcome sense of danger to what may have otherwise been a pretty standard hardcore record. Cool!

Sharizza Hot Sauce cassette

Tireless German punk Franny Franzen, a.k.a. Maracuja Zitroune, finds time between her gigs with EX-WHITE, HOT CHICKS, and probably a handful of other Leipzig-area bands to issue this collection of solo recordings. The nine tracks on this release find Franny alternating between playful garage punk and artsier experimentation. The punker tracks are great—they’re a nice mix of contemporary herky-jerk, ’90s budget rock, and even more abrasive, almost industrial sounds. It reminds me a lot of some of the stuff LILI Z was putting out in the late ’00s. The other tracks sound more like she’s just farting around while rolling tape. But they’re never too annoying and do act as nice interludes between the rockers. It’s a cool cassette!

IZM IZM demo cassette

IZM, a four-piece out of Los Angeles, does the whole “punk band plus a synth” thing that I tend to rail against here in my reviews. To reiterate, my position is not that punk bands can’t have synths, it’s that if you have one, it’s way too easy to fuck things up, so to be safe, it’s best to avoid them altogether. The most common mistakes with these outfits are that they opt for some squiggly-ass timbre, making the act sound too jokey, or they put the synth too far forward in the mix, drowning out the rest of the band—often it’s both. But I’m happy to report that IZM commits neither crime. These fellas play grimy, knife-fight hardcore punk—not generally where you’d expect to encounter a synth! Thankfully, it’s buried in the mix, really playing more of a supporting role, and the cheap (but not too cheap!) haunted-house tone they use actually adds some menace to the record. I think I still would have dug these tracks had they been synth-free, but I’m pretty sure they would have been less memorable. Solid work!

Brain Bent Boilerplate 7″

Rhodehouse record brings us the vinyl debut from this Calgary quartet. These folks primarily play a mix of scratchy (nearly twee) clean-guitar punk and drum-forward, bombastic synth rock (think of the less surfy moments from Touch and Go-era MAN OR ASTRO-MAN?). They also manage to slip in some straight-up ’70s hard rock digressions from time to time, which may sound like an odd choice, but it kinda works. Musically, I think this record is cool. Lyrically, I have some notes. The two tracks on this 7” take aim at the corporate office world—a subject certainly worthy of derision—but the observations they’re making don’t feel very fresh. Like, a lot of what they’re complaining about isn’t that far off from the kinds of things covered in Office Space nearly a quarter of a century ago. I mean, a lot of that commentary still applies, but the corporate world has grown much more ghoulish in many respects, opening up new hells of worker alienation that I wish they were able to tap into instead. I think if these lyrics were harder to decipher, I wouldn’t have minded it so much. But they seem to be going for a bit of a URANIUM CLUB clever-rock vibe, so they’re right there front and center. I think URANIUM CLUB manages to skirt being annoying by keeping things abstract, but since BRAIN BENT is clearly trying to say something, they don’t have that luxury.

Gaffer Dead End Beat LP

Perth punks GAFFER dropped their debut demo back in mid-2020 then seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. Considering the times, I just assumed it was another COVID casualty. Bummer! I was really into what they were putting out—a blend of ’77 punk and early ’80s UK hardcore with just a smidge of post-punk at the edges, fronted by a plainspoken but charismatic vocalist. Fortunately, they’ve re-emerged just as unexpectedly as they disappeared and are finally back to deliver on the promise of that debut. They’ve resurrected a good chunk of the tracks from that demo here, added a few more to flesh this out to a twelve-song LP, and polished everything up just enough. The record has a nice trebly, mid-fi production that manages to make everything sound crisp rather than thin and really helps drill these tunes straight into your dumb head. It’s a solid LP. Give it a listen if you like cool stuff or if you’ve ever wondered what PREDATOR would sound like if they traded their love of the ADOLESCENTS for GBH and swapped out their nihilism for a little bit of class consciousness.

Itchy and the Nits Itchy and the Nits cassette

Let’s not beat around the lousy, unkempt bush—this is one of the best releases I’ve listened to in a while! ITCHY AND THE NITS, a new-ish trio out of Sydney, pair Raffaelli-era DONNAS worship with Pink Flag minimalism, as though the MUMMIES’ brand of budget rock was too opulent since it failed to trim the fat on traditional song structures. There’s no excess here. The average track length hovers right at 1:20, and the album employs exactly one extremely locked-in drumbeat. It gives the impression that these girls aren’t here to fuck around…despite the fact that most of the seven tracks on this cassette are about someone having crabs or whatever. What’s wild is that it never even feels like a gimmick. It comes off more like they set out to write some songs, and this is just what they happened to have on their minds. Nothing but good dumb fun for scabby dumb punks! Bozos need not apply.

The Fall-Outs Fine Young Men LP

Seattle-based record and book shop Hex Enduction reissues this band’s 1986 debut, originally an eight-song cassette put out by Green Monkey Records. It’s expanded here with two previously unreleased tracks, pressed to vinyl for the first time. Similar to the grunge scene taking shape around them, the FALL-OUTS pulled a lot of their inspiration from 1960s garage rock acts and 1970s punk. But if these dudes had copies of My War or Master of Reality in their record collections alongside their SHADOWS OF KNIGHT or UNDERTONES records, it ain’t coming through in their music. They lack any of the dourness you would typically associate with the Seattle rockers of that time, choosing instead to play their pop-punky garage rock very earnestly. It reminds me a bit of Tim-era REPLACEMENTS, but it’s also not a million miles away from what Lookout! Records would put out just a few years later (like, CRIMPSHRINE or early MR. T EXPERIENCE). I had a really good time with this, but I can also see folks cringing through a lot of the moments that I found super charming.

Gut Health Electric Party Chrome Girl EP

Well, this is an interesting one. On my initial listens to this Melbourne five-piece’s debut, I was having trouble nailing down points of comparison. I kept landing somewhere among the contemporary no wave/post-punk scenes of Oakland and Portland. The four tunes on this EP are built around sparse, bass-driven grooves, and harsh guitars play more of a percussive role. So, in that respect they’re not a million miles away from the stuff LITHICS, the WORLD, or COLLATE have made. But it would also be a stretch to say this sounds like any of those bands. It’s more like GUT HEALTH takes that same minimal post-punk foundation, cranks up the tempo, and, instead of making something funky, arty, or cool, layers in goofy synths and exuberant vocal melodies to create something that’s unabashedly new wave pop. Listen to a track like “Lethargic” to get a good sense of the uniqueness of this act—I wouldn’t say this “Kids in America”-meets-JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS chorus comes out of nowhere, but it’s definitely not what you would expect given the first 30 seconds of the song. It’s a formula that I think ultimately works due in large part to the tightness of the band and Athina Uh Oh’s commitment to this vocal performance. I’d be really interested to see how well this works live. On record, though, it’s good!

Eel Men Archetype / West Green Pirate 7″

Second 7” from this four-piece out of London. I wasn’t really able to turn up anything about the band, so I can’t tell you much about the players here or any other projects they’ve been involved in. In any case, they play pretty straightforward ’60s-influenced garage/psych pop. “Archetype” is a reverb-heavy number that sounds not unlike the slickest song you’d find in the STRAIGHT ARROWS catalog, except something about it sounds a little more intentional, like it’s been written by a pop band cosplaying as a garage band. It’s really giving me SUPERGRASS-channeling-BUZZCOCKS vibes. Same could be said of “West Green Pirate,” probably the better of the two tracks, which goes for more of a Piper at the Gates of Dawn sound and throws in a hook built around a “Be My Baby” drumbeat. I really don’t know what to think about this record. On the one hand, I want to say it’s really good—these are well-written songs that tick a lot of the same boxes a genuinely cool record would. But at the same time, something about it just left me cold. Like, I can easily imagine a world where one of these tracks appears in a Honda commercial. But that’s probably more on me than it is these dudes. So, give it a listen! Hopefully, you won’t have my same hang-ups.

Snailbones Tinnitus Alrightus LP

Three session musicians from Portland get together with vague ideas of forming a band. One dude is really keen on starting a NIRVANA tribute act. He’s “nailed” his Kurt impression and thinks it would be funny to name the band DUMB, but then put in much smaller letters “a NIRVANA Tribute Act.” The other two are considerate friends—they pretend to mull the idea over, but gently encourage everyone to keep thinking. Ultimately, they decide they should try their hand at doing originals. Stuff that sounds like a mix of their favorite bands—X, L7, MISFITS, DEVO, and, sure, even NIRVANA. It doesn’t matter that they’ve never written songs before, they’ll figure that out along the way and have a ton of fun in the process…or at least that’s how I imagine the SNAILBONES story goes. That would at least explain how this LP of slick-as-shit-sounding, cringe-inducing grunge-punk came to be. Does not explain how it ended up with this title, though. Yikes! To be fair, it does genuinely sound like they’re having a good time, and that’s not nothing. Still, this was a tough one to get through.

The Cardiac Kidz Get Out​ /​ Find Yourself a Way 7″ reissue

Reissue of this San Diego band’s 1979 KBD “classic”—two tracks that are certainly inept but manage to split the difference between power pop and punk in such a way that they somehow fail to qualify as either. If you’re not a fan of the Killed by Death comps (or ducked out after the first half-dozen), these tracks wound up on entries #007 and #12. I don’t know that I ever registered that both of these were from the same band. Even still, I always thought that they were some of the more forgettable/lamer inclusions, but Discogs prices on the original Lub Dub 7” seem to suggest that other folks are more into them. So, if you’ve been itching to get a copy of these tracks on the same release but haven’t wanted to fork out the big bucks to get an original, Breakout’s got you!

Helta Skelta Helta Skelta LP reissue

Despite having been a big fan of the Perth scene that birthed this band and an avid follower of the label that bears their name, I’ve somehow managed to avoid listening to HELTA SKELTA up to this point. I don’t really have an excuse, just never got around to it. Thankfully, Bad Habit is here with a reissue of their 2011 debut LP to make me feel like a big dummy for prioritizing whatever bullshit I was into back then. This thing smokes! It’s fifteen tracks (the eleven from the original LP, plus four from their 2010 Parasite demo) of blown-out, mid-fi garage punk ramped up to hardcore tempos. The music seems to be equally pulled from a variety of garage-y influences—the raw simplicity of the Back from the Grave comps, the artsy primitivism of LAMPS, and the bouncy, treble-heavy, soulful garage pop of contemporaries ROYAL HEADACHE. But the vocals are 100% hardcore—somewhere between the croaky holler of POISON IDEA and the grunty shout of G.B.H. Just an exceptional record that everyone should have owned since 2011!

Rotary Club American Tower / Planet 67 7″

Ah, yes, Iron Lung’s famed Systemic Surgery series—a collection of releases we’re all definitely aware of, bound together by a concept so apparent that it needs no explanation here. It’s been a mere three years since they dropped the third installment (of a planned five), so it’s quite a treat to be getting this fourth entrant so soon! Anyway, ROTARY CLUB is a four-piece out of Reno who play telephone-themed punk tunes (the members have names like Hotline, Operator, etc). The Bandcamp copy says they play Killed By Death-style punk, even going so far as to bring up the UNCALLED 4, a mid-’80s Texas act who actually tricked folks (including the compilers of Killed by Death 8 ½) into thinking they had been late-’70s punk obscuros. But I don’t think anyone’s going to be tricked by these folks. That’s not to say this isn’t KBD-ish at all—it’s just not the first thing I would have thought about the band. The production is pretty loose, but it doesn’t feel anywhere near as amateurish as, say, TEDDY AND THE FRAT GIRLS, and these tracks are much more melodic than what I’d expect from the KBD set. To me, this sounds more like a mix of what NOTS has been doing since they shed the amateurism of their early 7”s and some of the tamer tracks from JUDY AND THE JERKS, particularly in their adoption of multi-tracked talk-sung vocals. And when you pair that with awkward lyrics about wires and shit, as they do on “American Tower,” it really starts reminding me of SERVOTRON. “Planet 67” has more of a Dangerhouse vibe and is probably the better of the two tracks. Not a bad release by any means. I just wish I hadn’t read that comparison prior to listening, as it was all I could think about.

Feral / Judy and the Jerks Free Violence split cassette

I’m assuming everyone’s familiar with JUDY AND THE JERKS at this point. They’ve been around since 2017, making a blend of deliriously infectious hardcore that’s somehow both a straight homage to classic American scenes and distinctly contemporary. If it weren’t for them and Earth Girl (the label putting out this cassette), I doubt anyone would think of Hattiesburg, MS as being a punk town (it’s still wild to me how fertile that scene seems to be). Their side of this split is more of what you’ve come to expect from this act. That being said, the production here is much crunchier and more immediate than anything I’ve heard on their past releases. So, these five mainly sub-one-minute rippers really pack a wallop. FERAL shares 50% of its members with JUDY AND THE JERKS, who’re also maybe Atlanta-based now, so it’s not surprising that their side bears a lot in common with JUDY AND THE JERKS’ sound. But FERAL is a little less straightforward. The guitar and vocals on these four tracks are often bathed in effects that give their sound more of a psychedelic sheen. Reminds me a bit of the weird hardcore we got in the early 2010s from acts like GUTTER GODS. Both sides are great—definitely worth your time!

Kalle Hygien The Raft LP

I can tell you with close to 100% certainty that if I didn’t have an obligation to listen to this record, I wouldn’t have. Even if I somehow made it past this MEAN JEANS-ass record cover, I’m positive I would have shut it off within a few seconds of the jokey PET SHOP BOYS-meets-SLEAFORD MODS opener “The Raft.” This just isn’t the kind of shit I’m looking for when digging into any record, let alone one that purports to be punk. But we’re here to give this thing a fair shake, so let’s soldier on. KALLE HYGIEN appears to be the solo project of Kalle Jansson, whom you may know from the Swedish garage rock act the MANIKINS. This is the first LP from the project after a handful of EPs of aggro drum machine punk. But don’t go into this expecting more of the same! Aside from “Dope Him Up,” a cool rinky-dink dum-dum electro-punk number, this record bears little resemblance to his earlier releases. It actually sounds more like the GORILLAZ or an early BECK album. The winky rapping on “Snake in My Garden” has some punk bite to it, but it’s impossible not to imagine Damon Albarn yawning out that chorus. And the production on “Surprise Party”—one of the record’s highlights—really reminds me of the DUST BROTHERS maximalism you’d find on Odelay. Other tracks touch on chintzy ’90s neo-exotica or budget Red Mecca experimentation. Most of the tracks, even the ones I really dislike, are compositionally impressive, even catchy. They’re just not very punk. Probably worth checking out—I really did enjoy bits of it—but I wouldn’t blame you if you bail partway through.

Neurotypicals Something in the Attic cassette

This Jackson, MS act ends this cassette, their second release after their July 2022 demo, with two covers—the NERVES’ “Paper Dolls” and WIPERS’ “Mystery.” I don’t think either track works particularly well (I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a WIPERS cover), but it should give you a rough sense of what these folks are going for on the rest of the cassette. And I think it mainly works! Most of the six originals, although played much faster than either of the bands they’re covering, do kind of blend Sage’s straightforward, oddball melodic punk with the more overt pop of the NERVES. It ends up sounding a bit like a more fucked MARKED MEN, thanks in part to a tinny boombox production and some loose overdubs. I dig it! They do throw you one curveball, though. “Janie Says” is this weird semi-reinterpretation of the VELVET UNDERGROUND’s “Sweet Jane” mixed with the similarly named JANE’S ADDICTION track—an odd woozy ballad that runs for over four minutes smack dab in the middle of a bunch of sub-two-minute scorchers. At the very least, I guess it’s interesting.

Lousy Sue Artless Artifacts LP

Not that long ago, I wanted to get out of the house to write some reviews, so I headed to one of Indianapolis’s many millennial-ass coffee shops. It was a nice day, so I’d picked one that I knew had lots of outdoor seating. Only when I got there, I found that they were hosting some sort of crafts market. The outdoor seating I was counting on had been pushed aside to make a space for bands to play to the people shopping for artisanal soap or whatever. Not ideal! But the middle-aged folks who were setting up when I arrived looked vaguely punk, so I decided to stick around for a minute and see what they were about. They played inoffensive garage punk—a mix of originals that were solid enough and a tasteful selection of non-obvious covers. It was actually kinda good, and I found myself really enjoying it. Enough to remember the name of the band that was playing or what any of the members looked like? Apparently not! But they may as well have been LOUSY SUE, an Indianapolis-based garage punk act that I’d never heard of until now. This LP, their second release after a 2019 EP, is fifteen tracks—fourteen originals and one BUCK BILOXI cover(!)—of straightforward garage punk. It primarily sounds like one of the less memorable Rip Off Records acts with access to better recording equipment, but you’ll also hear some interesting influences bleeding in, like LAMPS, OBLIVIANS, or maybe CARBONAS. It’s pretty good!

Toeheads A Cruel Winner’s World LP

Garage punk played straight is a hard thing to make interesting these days. Emphasize too much of the garage side of things, and you end up sounding like you’re doing SONICS cosplay. Tip too far in the other direction, and now you’re some sort of Rip Off Records tribute act. That’s not to say you can’t do that kind of stuff well or it can’t be fun—it’s just that those types of acts generally have a tougher time standing out, especially with no shortage of contemporary projects vying for your attention. TOEHEADS, an act out of Detroit with a couple of tapes and split 12” under their belt, manage to hit the sweet spot on this debut LP by playing straightforward garage rock infused with enough vitality that it can’t help but be punk. The twelve tracks on here—ten originals and two classic covers—are loud, raw, sloppy, tuneful, and just a good-ass time. It reminds me of what I’ve loved about the GORIES, OBLIVIANS, NEW BOMB TURKS, or CHEATER SLICKS. Obviously, this isn’t on the same level as those classics—their songwriting isn’t quite there yet—but it’s close enough that it certainly warrants your attention. Pick it up!

Flea Collar Flea Collar LP

Spot, Sparky, Cookie, and Blitz—members of BAD NOIDS, BROWN SUGAR, and WOODSTOCK ’99 and current Cleveland weirdos—drop their debut LP on Feel It. Nine tracks of gremlin-y hardcore bound to induce the zoomies in all you puppers and doggos. Sounds like a mix of ’80s hard rock, the STALIN, and a survey of USHC from ’81–’95. Closing track “In the Abyss of the Eclipse” even has a bit of a dum-dum “Third Stone From the Sun” vibe because, well, why wouldn’t it? Real good stuff! Best of all, you get to see this gorgeous watercolor cover art and the lyrics lovingly rendered on a gatefold sleeve so you have no trouble reading along with tracks like “Buttcrack Man” and “Jacken It”!

Qinqs Edgar Allan Poe EP

Perth punks Alec Thomas and Matt Rodrigues team up to bring you this new recording project. Alec you may know from acts like GHOULIES or KITCHEN. Not sure what you’d know Matt from, nor is it clear who handles what across this five-song EP. In any case, they’ve made a pretty cool record! QINQS play a mix of the same brand of garage-y, ping-pongy, smart-guy post-punk that the URANIUM CLUB peddled and just straightforward COUNTRY TEASERS-core. That is, some of their songs fall into the former category (“Edgar Allen Poe,” probably my favorite track on the record), and some fall in the latter (“The Great White Wonder” and “Roadkill”). I guess the closing track “S.L.O.B.” is somewhere in the middle…or more in, like, INSTITUTE territory, and “(IM) in Hell” is a bit of outlier altogether (I’m having trouble putting my finger on what it reminds me of, but it’s somewhere in the arena of, like, the A FRAMES’ mechanical monotone and some sort of sing-songy sci-fi—this one really didn’t gel with me). Anyway, they maybe lack the wry wit or inimitable creativity of Ben Wallers—though, they certainly give it a go—but it’s really impressive how well they’ve otherwise emulated the COUNTRY TEASERS’ sound. I wish more bands would do that.

Green/Blue Worry / Gimme Hell 7″

This Minneapolis act featuring folks from the BLIND SHAKE and the SOVIETTES is once again teaming up with Feel It, bringing you their third release of 2022! And it’s a bit of a tonal shift from their prior two LPs. Where those records borrowed heavily from new wave, shoegaze, and indie pop to make dark but airy compositions, the two tracks on this 7” are much more straightforward, stripped-down, and anthemic. There’s still some darkness to be found here thanks to some overdriven one(ish)-chord riffs and thick, primitive drumming, both of which sound like they’ve been pulled straight from White Light/White Heat, really imbuing these tracks with some of that record’s seediness. Most of that is tempered by the vocals though, which are anything but dark. Annie Holoien and Jim Blaha tackle vocal duties together, simultaneously belting out melodies that are pretty sweet and uplifting. The end result is something like a bizarro-world version of the VELVET UNDERGROUND put together by the folks behind UP WITH PEOPLE. It’s a combination that I’d probably shy away from if I’d just read about it, but turns out it really works in practice. Give it a listen!

Przepych I Inne Zabawne Rzeczy CD

I know this is a lot to ask of you, but I need you to ignore this album’s cover. Maybe even scroll to get it off screen. Gone? Good. One more thing. The opening track is a bit of a throwaway number—it’s a disjointed collage seemingly composed of snippets pulled from the album’s remaining tracks. Maybe it succeeds in signaling that this is going to be a difficult listen, but it overstates how unpleasant things are going to be. Skip it! OK, now you can sit back and enjoy what’s left of this Wrocław, Poland act’s second (and apparently final) album—eight tracks of experimental but very listenable artsy/jazzy post-punk. The music is very much in the vein of THIS HEAT, particularly in the meandering compositions, manic freeform drumming, and fitful interplay between the guitar and bass. But instead of fully copying that act’s sound, they’ve opted to jettison some of the dronier aspects—their monotonous vocals or Krautrock digressions—and replace them with a little no wave ferocity and some more industrial vibes (provided at times by, of all things, a clarinet—wild!). A track like “Final Warning,” once you get past a 45-second intro that sounds like it was pulled off the Liquid Sky soundtrack, even sounds a bit like early SPECIAL INTEREST. It’s a cool and interesting twist on a type of music that doesn’t seem to get made much anymore. I don’t know what the deal is with all the apparent self-sabotage—the best I can figure is that it’s some sort of ploy to chase off the faint of heart—but this release is pretty great!

Garage Psychiatrique Suburbain Demos 1981–1982 LP

I gotta admit that my knowledge of first-wave Euro-punk is pretty limited. I know big acts like METAL URBAIN, or KBD-mainstays like the KIDS, HUBBLE BUBBLE, PACK, etc. And I’ll pick up the odd compilation of, say, Dutch punk or French fake punk when they come out, but I’ve never really gone deeper than that. So, it’s no surprise that I’d never heard of this act, who formed in the suburbs of Paris back in 1977 and played together until the late ’80s. But I’d be shocked if I was alone, at least among our (non-Francophile) American readers. Discogs prices on their first few Underdog records—the release that the final versions of these demos would end up on—suggest that they were pressed in pretty big quantities, which, along with the existence of this compilation, seems to suggest that these guys were hardly obscure, at least in France. But I’m not seeing much evidence that these really made it over to the US. It’s a little strange to get your first taste of an act via a demo compilation, but I still got a sense of what the band was about and I actually preferred the rougher demo cuts to the slicker versions that ended up on their records. The ten tracks on here are a mix of ’77 punk and poppy glam, bordering on bubblegum punk—I’d peg their sound somewhere among the CLASH, NEW YORK DOLLS, and PLASTIC BERTRAND. I prefer the poppier tracks—they’re definitely more memorable. “Quan Revient L’été” is a legit hit, and  I think RANCID stole their slow-jam schtick from “Peut-être à Jamais.” Also, it seems their guitarist/vocalist Tom Darnal led a pretty interesting life. After this band, he joined MANO NEGRA (an act that was pretty big in Europe), then moved to the US to become a tattoo artist but also spent a bunch of time in Cuba, which led to him forming a salsa drum and bass band. Wild! Anyway, this is worth a listen!

Imperial Leather Heavy Breathing EP

The first twenty seconds of this EP—this Melbourne act’s second following their 2020 self-released debut—sets you up for quite a rug pull. You’re presented with a minimal drums, bass, and keys arrangement accompanied by icy cool start/stop talk-sung vocals, and just as you’re settling in for maybe a “Chaise Longue”-type number—yank!—the song shifts into a higher gear and the muscle car on the record’s cover starts to make sense; you’re actually on your way to party rock city! Some Nuggets-esque guitars kick in, the keyboard that had up until this point merely been pecked at morphs into a sci-fi frat rock organ, and the vocalist slides into a Kathleen Hanna/Beth Ditto full-throated vibrato. It’s like the mashup of “Planet Claire” and “96 Tears” you never knew you wanted until now. “Lewis Lee” and “Smile Now, Cry Later” are still bouncy organ-driven numbers, but they’re closer to post-punk or new wave—the former reminds me a lot of fellow Melbournians TERRY, and the later features guitar melodies that are approaching CURE-like. But the EP saves the best for last—”Creep Stain” manages to split the difference between the rockin’ opener and the cooler tracks that follow, and the end result just sounds like really good punk with an excellent shout-along chorus. Real cool record!

Kitchen’s Floor None of That LP

Eternal Soundcheck and Petty Bunco once again team up to bring you some of the best racket found on the fringes of punk. This time we’re getting the fourth LP from this long-running Brisbane act. The ten tracks on the record are a mix of brash noise rock, downer punk, and slower (though still pretty noisy) acoustic numbers. The vocals are a little on the nasally side and often treated with pretty heavy effects—reminds me a lot of WHATEVER BRAINS or ISS. The slower cuts are great, particularly “Before Dawn,” and should appeal to folks who’ve been into the stuff DAN MELCHIOR has been putting out the past ten years. But I’m really into these noisier ones, which remind me of some of my favorite acts—UNSANE, the STABS, SATANIC ROCKERS/SACRED PRODUCT—without ever really sounding like any of them. Real cool record!

Marmalade Duplex Snot Bath! LP

Second LP of purposely obnoxious noise rock made by a handful of dudes—they’ve chosen the names Telly Salmonayonaise, Brad d. Slab, and Pectin Bungalow—from Guelph, Ontario, Canada (a small town about an hour west of Toronto). Depending on how you count, you’re either getting six or eleven tracks—the B-side is listed as a six-part single track that effectively functions as six separate songs. The music can be plodding and abrasive, like SCRATCH ACID at their slowest, soundscape-y, and meandering, or wacky and dance-y. The vocals are primarily spoken and often multi-tracked slightly out of sync. Imagine Fred Schneider, BOBBY “BORIS” PICKETT, and a ‘luded-up Will Shatter, and you’re somewhere in the ballpark. At times, it doesn’t sound that far off from stuff I really love, like PERVERTS AGAIN. There are also times where it doesn’t sound that far off from stuff I really don’t love, like CAKE. The lyrics can get a little cringey, and the whole release seems rife with inside jokes. Still, I imagine there’s a very small set of people that this thing would really appeal to. I’m not in that set, but I wouldn’t say I hated this.

D.B.R. Boogie Nights cassette

D.B.R. appears to be a solo-recording project from Denes Bieberich. The Bandcamp copy just attributes the recording to “…a mysterious being who interacts in German bands such as BENZIN, PIGEON, LIIEK, OSTSEETRAUM, and much more.” Bieberich also makes music under the name DEE BEE RICH, which would seem to seal my suspicions that he alone is behind this project. But DEE BEE RICH doesn’t sound all that much like what’s on this cassette, and there seem to be different vocalists from track to track. All the aforementioned acts seem to be pretty incestuous too, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those folks are chipping in. Nor would I be surprised to learn that the vocals are being pitched up on some of the tracks. It reminds me of Mark Winter’s shenanigans, particularly around his project GSB (a.k.a. GORDON SPICER BAND, a.k.a. GOLDMAN’S SEX BATTALION). Mark’s clearly providing a musical influence here as well. But this is by no means CONEHEADS-core. Instead, this project takes some of that scene’s trappings and applies them with a light touch to create mostly minimal post-punk tracks. Like, “Nuclear Family” almost sounds like YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS, but with skittery C.C.T.V. drums and very faint cartoony rubber band funk guitars. And though some of the other five tracks are less minimal, more punk, or more sci-fi, that’s kinda the gist of the whole release. It’s actually pretty cool!

Perros Plaga Rechazo cassette

I had no idea what to expect going into this release. The cover’s aesthetic suggested something somber and self-serious—maybe metal, or worse, metalcore—and the cassette title, which translates to “rejection,” gave me a very late ’90s vibe, really increasing my concern that this was going to be metalcore. On the other hand, “Plague Dogs,” the English translation of their name, gives off more of a shit-kickin’, V-flickin’ street punk vibe. Turns out neither impression was accurate. Not exactly, at least. This trio from Zapopan (a large city on the edge of the even larger Guadalajara), plays something in between melodic hardcore and post-hardcore, and this ten-song cassette appears to be their official debut. The music isn’t a million miles away from early HOT WATER MUSIC or LEATHERFACE—you know, stuff that’s not quite hardcore, not quite pop punk, but definitely bobbing in the wake of DC’s Revolution Summer. These songs are lower-fi than either of those acts, giving the recording a punker sheen, and, while it would be a stretch to say this is street punk, you’re getting that same sort of energy from the tuneless gang vocal shout-alongs. It’s not bad, and it’s a pleasant enough listen. But, aside from a few head-scratching detours they take in the opening track—some weird ANIMAL COLLECTIVE coos and space rock guitar flourishes—there isn’t a whole lot here that really makes the release stand out.

Hank Wood and the Hammerheads You Could Have It / I’d Rather Be With Me 7″

Vinyl reissue of their limited 2019 tour cassingle (which, if you’re keeping score, was issued thrice for a total edition of 560 copies). And it’s quite the upgrade! Despite the waning popularity of the 7”, I gotta imagine this would still be the preferred format over a two-song tape. Plus, this art looks great blown up, and you’re getting a hilariously unnecessary lyric sheet! This initially came out between 2018’s self-titled LP and 2020’s Use Me EP, and it definitely sounds like it. HANK’s still rapping, but he’s getting further away from the early ’70s JAMES BROWN-aping of that LP and closer to that Anthony Kiedis patter you got on the EP. “You Could Have It,” with its motorik, loud/quiet groove and searing but tuneful guitars, sounds like a more profane and anti-social EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING. It’s great! “I’d Rather Be With Me” sounds like it could have plucked off their 2018 LP, except it’s got this odd, atmospheric, almost indie rock guitar running through it. It reminds me a little of MODEST MOUSE’s “Float On”…which I don’t think I mean as a negative. In any case, HANK WOOD AND THE HAMMERHEADS are one of the most important acts of the past decade, and this release is accordingly essential.

Cherry Cheeks Cherry Radio EP

Portland-based Orlandoan Kyle Harms is back with six more tracks of his trebly mix of DEVO, JAY REATARD, and late ’00s garage pop. The Bandcamp copy notes that this was recorded in 2020 (though, the liner notes on the physical release are silent on the matter), which would mean that these tracks likely predate those from last year’s Total Punk LP. In any case, this session seems to have yielded a somewhat poppier crop of tunes. The songwriting is as crisp as ever and the production is busy—full of intricately-laid layers of buzzy synths and warbly guitar overdubs—but fun. Worth picking up, for sure!

Pat and the Pissers Soil cassette

You might be surprised to learn that Indianapolis has a pretty thriving punk scene. It certainly caught me off guard, and I’ve been living here since 2019. Had you asked me back then, I would have told you that Bloomington (not quite an hour away) was the more happening punk town. I’m pretty sure I would have been right, too. But there were a handful of bands in Indy starting up around that time, including PAT AND THE PISSERS, and slowly but surely a scene seems to have sprung up around them. All of a sudden, tons of new local bands are filling up bills, packing out venues, and actually enticing cool out-of-town acts to swing through. The scene skews hardcore, and PAT AND THE PISSERS are predominantly a hardcore band. But if you give this release a listen (and you should!), you’ll find that it’s not all that straightforward. The twelve songs on this cassette are a hodgepodge of hardcore sounds—I’m hearing snatches of early SoCal hardcore, I Against I BAD BRAINS, and, like, late ’80s Revalation Records—and brattier punk. On the hardcore end of things, you get songs like “Out of Style,” which sounds like a mash-up of CIRCLE JERKS and JUDGE, or “Konner,” which could have been pulled off LAFFING GAS’s last LP. While on the punker side, you get tracks like “Outsourcing”, which is more of a straightforward start/stop sneering punk affair (with sporadic hair metal leads!), or “Working Wage,” which sounds like a less sing-songy SAINTS, with its bratty talk-sung vocals. I think things could be tightened up a bit here and there, and these disparate sounds could be woven together a little more seamlessly, but overall I think these are pretty cool tunes. Excited to see what they do next!

Traps PS Prim Dicer LP

This Los Angeles act has been kicking around for over a decade at this point, and this LP is their ninth release. Really strong aesthetic on these guys’ releases, by the way! Each features some fairly minimalist collage art surrounded by a thick black band with the group and release names written in white script. Makes for a very striking Bandcamp page! Anyway, this is the first I’ve heard of them. They bill themselves as a funk band, which—look, I get it. But on a scale with the METERS on one end and, like, FRANZ FERDINAND on the other, these dudes will have you considering an extension of that scale. To be fair, there is some funk in the mix. Of the sixteen songs on the record, you’re getting some MINUTEMEN here or some CONTORTIONS there, but for the most part I’d describe this as math rock. Very 2002-ish! It’s not bad, I just wish the tunes were as remarkable as these record covers.

3D & the Holograms VR Execution EP

Sydney larrikins Billy (from RESEARCH REACTOR CORP.) and Ishka (from SATANIC TOGAS or TEE-VEE REPAIRMAN or SET-TOP BOX or every other band in Sydney) virtually team up with JJ from Olympia, WA’s the GOBS to bring you four tracks of the fucked punk you’d expect from this lot. With Billy on vocals, it’s gonna be hard for this thing to not sound like RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., but this stuff is faster, more full-on, and slightly less cartoony…for the most part. The first three tracks are drum machine punk takes on the REATARDS or PERSUADERS. It’s really good shit—some of my favorite tunes these dudes have cranked out, particularly “Projection.” Then there’s “MS-DOS,” which is the same type of stuff, but in more of a rubber band-y Sega Genesis (or, for the non-US world, Mega Drive)-rock vein. It’s borderline too silly, but I love these dudes too much to be that bothered by it. Cool record! Apparently, an LP is just over the horizon, to, so be on the lookout for that!

Flex TMG Whisper Swish 12″

Debut vinyl release from this Oakland duo made up of Hannah D’Amato (FAKE FRUIT) and Rob I. Miller (BLUES LAWYER). FLEX TMG pairs the hectic, dubbed-out avant disco of Y Records or the dancier side of the New York no wave scene with vocal melodies more reminiscent of the dance-pop of that same era. Each of the six tracks on the 12” are supported by an ESG-like groove assembled from lo-fi drum machines, various hand percussion, and rubbery, ass-rattling bass lines. Depending on the track, guitar gets layered in as meandering ambience, chicken scratch funk, or even acid jazz psychedelia. But it’s Hannah’s vocal performance here that sells this for me. On the opening track “Burn This Town,” you’re getting a half MAXIMUM JOY post-punk yelp, half an almost CRYSTAL WATERS hypnotic, sing-songy rap—it just sounds effortless and cool but approachable at the same time. Then other tracks find her doing more of an airy “Heart of Glass” thing…less approachable, but still very cool! It’s borderline magical, though, when she organically blends those three styles, as she does on the song “Ghost.” I’ve listened to this track dozens of times at this point, and it hasn’t lost any of its luster. That little yell that she gives out right after the mini-hook “felt like a ghost in that city” is probably my favorite moment on any record this year. It’s already such an upbeat song, but something about it really makes me feel alive. Just an exceptional track on a great record!

Billiam / The Vovos Vampire Club split EP

Melbournians BILLIAM (a.k.a. Billy “Gotta Go Fast” Twyford, whom you may know from DISCO JUNK or COLLECTIVE HARDCORE) and the VOVOS team up for a split 7”. BILLIAM is bringing you three tracks of his typically charming brand of hyperactive bedroom punk. Things are maybe 30% sillier this go-round, with a plethora of cheap synth sounds (and maybe even a melodica) in the mix, but I’m also detecting a bit of TWOMPSAX/CHER STRAUBERRY influence creeping in. All in all—pretty good! But the other side of the record is really what sells this thing for me! The VOVOS are a five-piece named after an Australian cookie, who’ve been playing together since they met at GirlsRock! Melbourne camp as teens. They’re fantastic! They play a mix of indie pop, ’90s indie rock, and punk—a combo of sounds that on paper I don’t think I would have gone for, but these girls weave them together in such an odd way, creating quite a compelling tapestry. “Jessica Day” sounds like TIGER TRAP playing the NEW PORNOGRAPHERS but with Super*Teem!-era DONNAS’ shout-along hooks. Then “Justice for Pretzel Man” starts as a minimal ramshackle guitar-and-voice number in the vein of MARINE GIRLS or the SOFTIES with what sounds like an early MODEST MOUSE-styled guitar-rock tantrum boiling just under the surface (though, never actually breaking through), then the song explodes into a chorus that nails the loose, shouty harmonizing of the RAINCOATS’ debut. I really loved both of these tracks, and I’m keen to hear more from them!

Spodee Boy Neon Lights EP

Goodbye Boozy teams up with Nashville’s Conner Cummins (SNOOPER, BODY CAM) once again to bring you another SPODEE BOY 7”. If you’ve been following along thus far, you should already know that this would be good. And I’m not here to dispel you of that belief—it’s excellent! If you’ve not been following along, this is a great place to start! I feel like Conner is really starting to come into his own as a songwriter. The four tracks on this EP are still heavily indebted to the COUNTRY TEASERS, FLIPPER, and STICKMEN WITH RAY GUNS, but it’s starting to feel less like a straight homage and more like something distinctly SPODEE BOY. For my money, “The Plan” is the hit of the record, but the title of the EP seems to suggest otherwise. In any case, just go ahead and listen to the whole thing because there are no duds. Limited to 300 copies, and, surprisingly, there appear to be a few left. Snatch ‘em up, y’all!

Drakulas Shame / Three Sisters 7″

What we have here is the tenth entrant in a series of 7”s where Portland label Drunk Dial invites a band to drop by the studio, drink to excess, then record an original track and a classic cover. How is this different from a typical recording session? Not sure! I listened to a handful of these, and none of them seemed overly loose or sloppy. I mean, that’s probably for the best, but then what’s the point of this concept? Anyway! Here we’re getting a couple of tracks from Austin band DRAKÜLAS, made up of folks from the RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS and RISE AGAINST. The original is a gothic pop punk number similar to the stuff fellow Texans HEX DISPENSERS were putting out back in the day, but a little slower and less catchy. It’s not great. But, hey, at least this cover is solid! They’ve picked “Three Sisters” from oddball new wave punkers the JIM CARROLL BAND. They play it straight, which is the right move, but they give it a punchier production and take the vocals in a glammier direction. It’s pretty cool!

Oog Bogo The Beat Sessions cassette

When this act dropped their Plastic LP earlier this year, I was not a fan. It seemed like yet another herky-jerky solo affair in an already overcrowded field, and the record struck me as being superficially wacky or out-there (an impression I think I got from its record cover). But maybe most significantly, the album’s production just kinda left me cold. The guitars sounded thin, squishy, and percussive—at times, almost like they’d been programmed on an SNES—and the vocals were too forward in the mix, really breaking the illusion that these songs were being played by a band. So, I hastily filed this away as being fine but not for me. Now, look, we all make mistakes. If you’re unfamiliar with the Beat Sessions series, the deal with them is that sound engineer Mike Kriebel invites a band to drop by his Golden Beat studio in Los Angeles for a one-day, high-quality, live-ish recording session that he then releases as a cassette (it’s essentially a modern-day Peel session). For this twelfth installment, OOG BOGO (a.k.a. Kevin Boog from MEATBODIES) is joined by a handful of folks to more or less re-record that entire LP in a looser, live setting. Seriously! Seven of the eleven LP tracks are represented here, along with three quarters of their 2020 EP and a KLEENEX cover (“DC10”). And this just worked for me this time…like, a lot! The songs are faster, and the production is much more immediate—this thing really beats the hell out of you like you’re in the room with the band. What’s wild is that pretty much all the parties involved in the LP’s recording (at least TY SEGALL and Mike Kriebel) are also present here, perhaps in slightly different roles. In any case, hearing these songs in a new context allowed me to appreciate them for what they are—well-written, intricately constructed, genuinely out-there bangers that are equal parts psychedelic pop, SPITS-y downstroke punk (particularly in their dum-dum harmonies), and whatever you want to call Here Come the Warm Jets or the A-side of DAVID BOWIE’s Low. Revisiting the LP, I still think some of my original complaints are warranted, but I’m willing to admit that I was wrong—it’s an excellent album. Still, this collection of tunes is nevertheless an improvement over that. Stellar stuff!

Whippets Kick EP

Did anyone else expect SNAPCASE’s “Caboose” to start playing after the opening drum lick on this EP? For your sake, I hope not! Anyway, we’ve got a new 7” from Goodbye Boozy, this time it’s the debut vinyl release from the Madison, WI-based act WHIPPETS. The project began as a recording outlet for Bobby Hussy (he seems to have started developing ideas for it as far back as 2013), but he’s since fleshed things out into a full band by adding frequent collaborator Tyler Spatz (the HUSSY, CAVE CURSE) on bass and Riley Heninger on drums. Broadly speaking, I guess the band plays post-punk, but from track to track the amount of “punk” or “post-” you get will vary. Three of the four tracks on this EP tread a lot of the same ground JAY REATARD laid with Blood Visions—tight, dynamic, start/stop songs that are as indebted to garage punk as they are gothic rock or any of its derivations—whereas “Cure” is more mechanical post-punk in the vein of A FRAMES. To top it all off, Bobby’s doing his best imitation of early-BIRTHDAY PARTY Nick Cave—to the point of caricature, though, so it’s more in TV GHOST territory. I don’t think any of these songs have quite as much character as ones put out by the aforementioned acts, but they’re definitely not bad. You should give it a spin!

Tuxedo Cats Out the Bag EP

The poindexters over at Reminder HQ have decided to momentarily shelve their obscure acetates, hang up their tweed jackets, and emerge from their hermetically sealed library to get out in the real world and experience some now-sounds. Of course, it’s been a minute since contemporary tunes have graced their ears, so it’s not surprising their first non-archival release bears a striking resemblance to the same music of yesteryear they’re accustomed to peddling. TUXEDO CATS, an excellently named five-piece out of Brooklyn composed of folks who once made up bands APACHE, TOUGH SHITS, and DANCER, play a catchy mix of all the typical Remider genres—power pop, glam, and punk. Out the Bag is their debut EP and features four tracks of snotty, hook-filled, dolled-up tough-guy scuzz rock. It’s all worth your time, but “Play it to Win”—a solid HEARTBREAKERS rip—has been bouncing around in my head non-stop since I first heard it about a month back. Pick this thing up!

Delco MF’s Bullshit EP

We got a wild one here, youse guys! DELCO MF’S is a solo recording project of Jim Shomo, vocalist/guitarist from Philly bands DARK THOUGHTS and LOOSE NUKES. The project bears more of resemblance to the latter of those two acts, except it’s way rawer and more unhinged. The five songs on this EP, four of which don’t even crack a minute, take the loose, feral hardcore of Cleveland’s BAD NOIDS and really amp up all the weird, gremlin-y aspects of their sound. To top things off, all the tracks are buried under an extremely murky production—the first time I played the record, I literally checked my needle to make sure it wasn’t coated in lint, which, contrary to what you might think, really manages to add to the out-of-control vibe of the record, kinda like wrapping up a roost of rabid bats in a blanket. This thing rips!

Mitraille Mitraille LP

Debut LP from this Belgian act who’ve been at it for about five years now, with a handful of EPs under their belt. My internet sleuthing didn’t turn up too much about the band, but everything I did come across wanted to inform me in some flippant manner that these guys play garage punk. And they do. It’s just not nearly as tossed-off and cool as their Bandcamp copy would have you believe. Actually, this is some pretty slick-sounding shit—you can tell some real work went into both the production and the songwriting here. These guys wanted these tracks to sound good. The problem is they just sound fine. They’re clearly aspiring to some big, catchy sound (or like the underground garage punk equivalent), but the songwriting isn’t quite up to the task and something about the execution sounds insincere. A rougher production might have helped hide these shortcomings, but the approach taken here really lays them bare. It ends up sounding  like a facsimile of the BLACK LIPS at their most anodyne, or an antiseptic band like PARQUET COURTS covering the URANIUM CLUB. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard, just exceedingly OK.

The Wild Boys Last One of the Boys / We’re Only Monsters 7″ reissue

Prior to joining the SPECIALS, Roddy “Radiation” Byers formed the Coventry, UK punk band the WILD BOYS along with his brother Mark, guitarist/vocalist John Thomson, and bassist Rob Lapworth. Roddy left the band in 1978, but the rest soldiered on without him, releasing their sole 7” in 1980. The B-side “We’re Only Monsters”—penned by Roddy—became a very minor hit in the UK, but the record was otherwise all but forgotten after the band fell apart in 1981. But like so many of the records Reminder rescues from the collector scum sicko set, this one needs to be heard! “Last One of the Boys” is a catchy little power pop number that sounds like a cross between the NERVES and the BUZZCOCKS. It’s good, but it’s easy to see why folks preferred this B-side—there’s so much to love! The delirious guitar hook, the busy-ass bass line, the infectious bubblegum streetpunk chorus, the singer’s aping of Pete Shelley to the point of caricature, all just superb shit! It’s hard to imagine how this record has remained this obscure for this long. In typical Reminder fashion, the physical edition of the release is a faithful recreation of the original 7”. However, the digital release comes with two bonus tracks—the only other songs the band recorded. These tracks are in the same power pop/new wave vein as the tracks from the 7”, but they were written for a musical called Risky City about Coventry’s violent underbelly. Incredible!

Rouge Rouge cassette

This has got to be like my sixth review for this label in as many months. We get it—y’all like music! Just make sure you continue putting out good shit if you want me to keep up this pace. Speaking of good shit, allow me to introduce to you ROUGE, a new four-piece out of Berlin who meld the new wave shimmy of the first B-52’S album with the drippy garage punk of THEE OH SEES’ The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In LP. The six tracks on this cassette kinda teeter between being more overtly punk and post-punk, but they all have a consistently gloomy vibe and a fairly unique sound overall! I’m into it!

Ex-White / The Gobs split EP

Turbo Discos, a cool new label out of Germany, aims to please. You all were clamoring for more split 7”s, so that’s what they’re delivering! That’s right—with their fourth vinyl release, they’re giving you two sides, two bands, two songs apiece. But bad format aside, this thing absolutely smokes! I think it helps that these two bands are so sonically similar—like, if you didn’t know any better, you’d probably just assume all these songs were coming from the same band. Both play blistering punk with a sci-fi, dum-dum edge. It’s loose, it’s noisy, it’s great. EX-WHITE, a four-piece out of Germany, play things a little more straight, with a couple of REATARDS-esque burners, while the GOBS, an act out of Olympia, WA, crank out two murky, SPITS-ophrenic numbers. So good it left me wanting more! Like maybe a couple more songs apiece…split over two releases…with each act getting their own 7”.

Remote Control Remote Control EP

REMOTE CONTROL is a new recording project from the ever-prolific Ishka Edmeades (SATANIC TOGAS, SET-TOP BOX, TEE VEE REPAIRMAN, and probably every other band out of Sydney). This time he’s opting to apply his sharp songwriting chops to some synth-free blistering punk tracks, and—big shocker—it’s cool! You’re getting three sub-two-minute corkers here (along with a couple of tracks of soundscape-y farting around). This is probably the closest Ishka’s come to putting out some straightforward USHC, but, of course, coming from this dude it’s not gonna be all that straightforward. It’s still a little cartoony and still sounds like something the weirdest kid you remember from high school might cook up. In other words, it’s real good shit!

Eyes and Flys / Nervous Tick and the Zipper Lips The Covid Collaborations: Vol. IV cassette

NERVOUS TICK AND THE ZIPPER LIPS is a solo recording project of MRR cassette reviewer extraordinaire Eric “Biff” Bafaro, and this is the fourth and final volume of his COVID Collaborations series. The deal with said series is that Mr. TICK invites another musician (generally a fellow Rust Belter) to join him in providing an original song, a cover of one of the other artist’s tracks, and vocals (and maybe lyrics) for a song written by the other artist. Here the collaborator is Buffalo musician (now out of Long Beach) EYES AND FLYS. The ZIPPER LIPS original is a jaunty garage-pop/lite-hardcore number with some sci-fi new wave touches—sounds like a Red Snerts track mashed up with Another Wasted Night-era GANG GREEN. I’m into it! The EYES AND FLYS original “Drive Slow,” not unlike the KANYE WEST track of the same name, is built atop a tight little sample of an obscure-ish classic—in this case, the INTELLIGENCE’s “Garbage in Garbage Out”—and ends up being a woozy lo-fi dirge. Also cool! I’m not familiar enough with either original these covers are based on, but the end results are fine enough. The two true collaborations are probably the most interesting tracks on the release (which isn’t to say they’re the best!). “I Need Time,” a ZIPPER LIPS track with EYES AND FLYS on vocals, is a druggy downer punk number that reminds me of LIFE STINKS. It’s maybe my favorite track on here. Then there’s “I Believe in Science Fiction.” EYES AND FLYS lays down a jangly psych track—complete with a harsh raygun organ outro!—and Lou Koller…I mean NERVOUS TICK croaks on about Captain Kirk and wanting to be blasted out into space or whatever. It’s certainly something! Anyway, both the concept and execution here are fun, and I wish more artists did stuff like this.

Curleys Curleys cassette

Are you folks here to fuck around? Because CURLEYS sure as hell ain’t! These Gainesville cretins only have one setting—full fucking on—so, once this record gets going, it’s not stopping until your stupid head is crushed completely flat. The eleven tunes on here find the band sounding like a methed-up TEENGENERATE ripping through a set of MODERN WARFARE covers inside a giant novelty plasma globe, and the vocals are quacky as hell but still retain just the slightest bit of tunefulness, kinda like the singer of the CARBONAS doing an impression of fellow Total Punkers the SLEAZE. Everything about this record feels hectic and out-of-control, but it’s actually being delivered with blinding, pinpoint accuracy—it’s the aural equivalent of stepping in the ring with Sugar Ray Leonard in his prime. Highest of recommendations!

The Out-Sect Out-Sect Theme EP

Sunglasses, leather jackets, Vox guitars, fuzz, use of the word “sect”—yup, we’re dealing with some genuine garage turkeys here! After a handful of digital-only singles, this Philadelphia outfit is dropping their debut 7”, featuring three originals and a cover of “Go Away” by ’60s garage punk unknowns the PLAGUE. I don’t know that the contemporary punk landscape has anything like a predominant sound, but this has to be the opposite of whatever that would be. I haven’t heard too many folks clamoring for a turn-of-the-millennium garage rock revival revival. But maybe we’re due! This thing rips. It’s a great pastiche of that mid-’60s sound with just enough modern punk thrown in to prevent it from seeming like total cosplay. Plus, it sounds real cool! Sims Hardin (MESH, TOE RING, SOCIETY) recorded and mixed this thing, and he’s given the record a really thin and buzzy production that nevertheless packs a wallop—it comes off sounding like someone wrapped the SONICS in wax paper. Give this one a go!

Prize Hog Sweat Farm cassette

PRIZE HOG is a four-piece out of Cleveland who play a sludgy mix of noise rock, grunge, and punk. It’s certainly ’90s-influenced and undoubtedly a product of Ohio. Also, there’s a theremin. Just as the opening track gets going, a ’50s sci-fi ray gun sound effect kicks in. You think it’s just a fun opening salvo to establish the tone of the album, but it just keeps going…throughout the entire cassette. It’s kinda playing the same role as the electric jug on 13TH FLOOR ELEVATOR tracks, but it’s way more prevalent in the mix. Over the course of the nine songs on here, I went from thinking the theremin was interesting to annoying to fine to back to annoying again. Point is, I devoted a lot more time thinking about that theremin than I did the songs it was featured on. Which is a shame, really, because they were pretty good! Had it played more of an accompanying role or had it been buried more in the mix, I think I would have been really into it. In any case, an interesting release—give it a listen!

Spooky Visions Spooky Visions cassette

Debut release from this mysterious recording project that’s maybe out of Buffalo. SPOOKY VISIONS plays downer-y synth punk, and their sound can be pegged somewhere among the broody/funky analog squiggle of early-aughts TRANS AM, the antisocial bile-spiting of GIORGIO MURDERER, and, like, the soundtrack to Doom (1993). Nothing mind-blowing going on here, for sure, but I found myself really digging this. Sometimes some meat-and-potatoes tunes by a lone weirdo yelling at you about digital slime or whatever just really hit the spot.

F.E.I.D.L. Wödmusik LP

Definitely not your typical punk record! F.E.I.D.L., a trio out of Vienna, follows up their 2020 7” with their debut LP—eleven tracks of oddball punk miscellanea. The record starts off with some barnyard animal noises then launches into a jaunty little intro that’s part BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA, part circus screamer. Maybe not exactly what I’m looking for in a punk record, but it’s an interesting detour and things seem to settle down quickly enough. The next two tracks are pretty straightforward, reverb-heavy garage punk numbers—they sound like an amalgam of Males-era INTELLIGENCE, TY SEGALL, and the stuff VISION 3D is putting out. It’s pretty good stuff! “Gusch” starts off in the same vein for maybe one of the most ripping tracks on the record, but then takes a hard left turn into, like, warped Balkan folk music. Subsequent tracks touch on anything from  MAN OR ASTRO-MAN?-styled ragers to numbers that wouldn’t sound out of place on a post-Swordfishtrombones TOM WAITS album. This strikes me as something that would really appeal to folks who worship at the altar of Mike Patton. For the rest of us, when it’s good, it’s good. When it’s bad, it sounds like GOGOL BORDELLO.

Pisse Lambada EP

“Komfortzone,” the opening track on the new EP from this HoyerswerdaI band, is exactly how you should do the whole “punk band plus a synth” thing. If you absolutely must involve a synth, let it play a supporting role—maybe have it provide a bit of atmosphere, potentially elevate your solid but pretty straightforward garage-y post-punk (or whatever) to something a little different, something interesting. PISSE maybe don’t strike the exact balance I’m looking for on each of the seven tracks here, but they do so more often than not, turning this into a much more memorable affair than it would have been had there not been a synth. It’s a cool record—give it a go!

Papas Rainbows & Potatoes cassette

PAPAS is a four-piece out of Boise, so I can’t tell if their name is supposed to mean “dads or “potatoes.” Similarly, I can’t tell if the title of this cassette is supposed to be twee as hell or if they’re going for a potato-themed, late-aughts party punk vibe. The music across these three tracks kinda splits that difference, so maybe all the ambiguity is by design. The opening track “I Ain’t Gonna Do it Your Way No More” is a cover of mid-’90s Dutch garage punk band the PERVERTS. It’s a ‘60s-style scorcher, complete with 2,000-lb bee fuzz and a production that sounds like the master was left out in the sun for a week. I love it! I’m less keen on the other tracks though, which sound like some garage-pop slop plucked straight outta 2009. “I Wanna Be Your Baby” with its woozy JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN-esque Southern swagger is probably the stronger of the two. Neither suck, to be clear! It’s just a sound I feel like we’d collectively moved past and I wasn’t particularly eager to revisit. Anyway, definitely give the opener a listen, and you might as well give the other two a shot while you’re at it, particularly if you’ve got a Sailor Jerry-style hot dog tattoo.

Rifle Holloway Demos cassette

Four-song debut from this London quintet. It’s a little bit ’77 punk, a little bit Keith Morris BLACK FLAG, and a little bit contemporary garage punk. Reminds me a lot of the stuff BITS OF SHIT was doing a few years back. The songs are neither bad nor particularly memorable. Cool vocal performance, though! I’m probably not going to dig this one back out too often, but I’ll definitely tune in for their next release.

No Knuckle No Knuckle 12″

Staunchly DIY label Tomothy Records might be releasing things at a slow drip—this is only their fifth release in the two years they’ve been at it—but that’s what happens when you eschew modern conveniences like digital recording and mixing. Thankfully, they make up for a lack of quantity by making sure they’re only releasing some real good shit. Like this debut LP from Portland’s NO KNUCKLE—a trio of dudes who were all in blistering hardcore act GIMMICK, like, a few seconds ago. But this ain’t no hardcore! Actually, if there’s an immediate comparison point to make for this album, it’s eluding me. At times it sounds like GANG OF FOUR playing lite-prog, and at others it sounds like the COWBOYS covering DRIVE LIKE JEHU. Throughout the nine tracks on the record, you’re getting a somewhat baffling mix of dubby post-punk, noisy post-hardcore, straightforward punk, and arty proto-punk. But it all ends up fitting together pretty spectacularly, thanks in large part to an excellent vocal performance. Gage Maurie (who does pretty great stuff under his own name, but also fronted GIMMICK and FIB) sounds like a teen with a flair for drama trying his best to channel a mix of Ian Svenonious and Ian McCulloch. I love it. Listen to a track like “Adult Supervision” to hear what I’m talking about, then buy the record because it’s great!

Vintage Crop Kibitzer LP

While other bands playing similar stuff have popped up, gotten more attention, and fizzled out, this Geelong act has quietly kept its nose to the grindstone. Kibitzer is the band’s fourth LP in six years, and it’s just as solid as anything they’ve put out. As with their previous records, they’re still peddling a mix of URANIUM CLUB-esque intricate, post-punk-y smart-guy rock and EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING-ish garage-y people’s punk—a contradictory meshing of attitudes that I think non-Aussies would have trouble getting away with. What maybe differentiates this record from some of their earlier releases is a more overt new wave influence. That’s fine when it takes the form of DEVO-aping, as it does on a track like “Casting Calls,” but less so when it shows up as some superfluous, squiggly-ass synth shit (why y’all gotta do “The Duke” like that!?). Also, vocalist Jack Cherry really tests the limit of how many words/syllables you can jam into a single line, a style choice likely borrowed from Brendan Current. I don’t remember that bothering me on previous records, but I didn’t love it here. Still, those small complaints aside, this is a pretty strong record that sounds great. Should appeal to folks who’ve been into the aforementioned bands or acts like PERVERTS AGAIN or SMARTS.

Germ House Lost Title EP

Warren, RI’s Justin Hubbard currently helms two solo recording projects that were once full bands—FAR CORNERS, reserved for his clangy post-punk musings, and GERM HOUSE, which leans a little more UK DIY. There’s never been all that much differentiating those two projects, but this five-song EP really blurs whatever line separated them. The two tracks that open the record are built on a foundation that’s equal parts bouncy TELEVISION PERSONALITIES jangle and trebly DESPERATE BICYCLES ramshackle (there’s even a weedy little keyboard running underneath the opening track that’s very “Don’t Back the Front”-ish), but the cold, multi-tracked vocals and psych-ish freakouts give the tracks an overall vibe that’s more garage-y post-punk. Fortunately, these are two sounds that sound great together—it’s maybe my favorite thing he’s put out. Highlight of the record for me is “Stacking Mistakes.” At first blush, it almost sounds like it could have been pulled off an early A FRAMES 7”, but it’s also somehow got this strange IRON BUTTERFLY quality to it—it’s great. Real cool record!

LASSIE Behold LP

Are you sexually attracted to the bat on this record cover? Yeah…I’m not either—definitely not drawn into its sexy, sexy eyes. Anyway, Leipzig fun punkers Lassie are back! This time in LP form. You’re getting thirteen tracks of mutant robot rock, combining the downstroke dum-dum sounds of the SPITS, the punk-pop of the Dirtnap roster, and the kitchy sci-fi fun of the REZILLOS. It’s party punk played with a sense of urgency that I bet would make for a wild-ass live show. A real good time!

Dan Melchior Loud Version LP

I think I’m turning into my dad. The man loved a lame high-concept cover album. JOE JACKSON jumpin’ and jivin’ through some swing tunes, RICKIE LEE JONES doing stuffy-nose jazz covers of kids songs, DREAD ZEPPELIN being an embarrassment to humanity—just absolutely his shit. I’d been subjected to so much of that kind of stuff growing up that when it dawned on me that this record was a collection of blown-out (“loud”) covers of MELCHIOR’s own back catalog (plus a couple of fresh covers), my eyes reflexively rolled right out of my head. But stripped of my sight, a heightened sense of hearing kicked in, and I think I came out really loving this record. The noisy production gives the taut, bare-bones numbers I loved from This is Not the Medway Sound (an under-appreciated record!) a fuller, looser vibe, while the relatively stripped-down versions of full-band tracks like “Hungry Ghost” really push MELCHIOR’s songwriting to the forefront. It’s kinda a shame that I don’t have any kids, because I can easily see myself foisting this on a car full of tweens who are neck-deep in Nintendo Switches or whatever and dad-splaining to them, “Now, DAN MELCHIOR has been making music for over twenty years, and on this record he’s playing louder versions of some of those older songs…,” and so on and so forth for the full 30-minute runtime of the album.

Tord Epònim EP

TORD is a solo recording project of Barcelona artist Blai Subirats Nuez, and this release appears to be their first solo effort (after a couple of splits). The EP is made up of four tracks of drum machine post-punk, pairing CURE-esque guitar atmospherics with industrial-ish beats. Some quacky vocals and a dash of eggy quirk help to keep this from being a totally rote affair, but it’s hard to say this packs any big surprises. This stuff ends up sounding best when they opt for harsher textures like on the track “Què Faràs Demà,” but everything here is listenable. A perfectly OK record!

Gage Maurie A Compilation (In No Particular Order) cassette

I alluded to this in the last review I did for the label, but it bears repeating. Spared Flesh rules! If for some reason you’ve been sleeping on them, it’s time to wake the hell up! Everything that dude has put out has been compelling (at the very least) to great. And this release is no exception. This time he’s serving up the first two demos (with the track lists reordered—hence the title) from Portland artist GAGE MAURIE, whom you may know as the frontman for acts NO KNUCKLE and FIB. It’s real good—fifteen tracks of lo-fi bedroom musings that touch on anything from slacker rock to the contemporary punk herky-jerk of the URANIUM CLUB or even woozy, Southern-fried psych folk. It reminds a bit of the stuff PRINT HEAD is doing but maybe a bit less noisy and less scattershot. Dig in!

Split System Climbing EP

Melbourne punks from STIFF RICHARDS, SPEED WEEK, and the BLACK HEART DEATH CULT joined forces to form SPLIT SYSTEM during one of the breaks between their city’s COVID lockdowns. Once back under lockdown, though, the band had to turn into an email project, with each member self-recording their parts at home. But you wouldn’t be able to tell from listening to this thing—it sounds great, thanks in part to a fantastic mix from Mikey Young. The four tracks you’re getting here are a bit early BLACK FLAG, a bit Raw Power STOOGES, and a bit EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING, which on paper sounds good as hell. But, I don’t know, these songs just aren’t doing it for me. There isn’t anything bad on the release, and everything is competently put together—it’s just that nothing stuck with me once the record was off.

1-800-Mikey Plushy cassette

If you’re a fan of all the varieties of punk that are barely punk and mainly pop, my dude 1-800-MIKEY has you covered! On this, his debut album Sydney-based recording artist Michael Barker is kicking out thirteen jams reminiscent of the lo-fi garage pop of early HUNX AND HIS PUNKS, JAY REATARD at his CHRIS KNOX-iest, or the punk-pop/pop-punk-stradling tunes of the MARKED MEN. But this project does not seem interested in replicating those acts’ kitsch, irony, or cool. Instead, MIKEY—decked out in some ill-fitting jeans and a bucket hat, clutching an oversized plush bear—is bringing unadulterated earnestness to the table. And, yeah, on paper that sounds even less punk, but it works. The songwriting is up to snuff, and he manages to keep the twee-ness to a tasteful minimum—even when a squiggly-ass keyboard rears its ugly head, it never overstays its welcome! I don’t know that this record is going to flip anybody’s wig, but it’s certainly a pleasant way to while away twenty minutes.

Delivery Personal Effects / The Topic 7″

This Melbourne act follows up a strong debut (2021’s Yes We Do EP), with a new 7”, a split release between Feel It and Spoilsport. You’re getting a song per side on this one. “Personal Effects” is a slower, sax-laden garage-y post-punk number—sounds a lot like Homo-era UV RACE, when that band was at their most VELVET UNDERGROUND-y. “The Topic” sees the band leaning into some of the noiser aspects of that same sound, speeding things up a bit, and underpinning the proceedings with a brooding new wave synth. The vocals are largely rhythmic, chanted by at least two of the members in unison, but there’s an understated melody to them that I found really compelling—like, you wouldn’t call it poppy, but it’s definitely hummable and plays nicely against the harsher elements of the track. Cool stuff! Can we get an LP, please?

V/A Good Times RnR Compilation, Vol. 3 2xLP

What I believe started as a few of the Sydney rock mutants (RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., GEE TEE, and SET-TOP BOX) fartin’ around and playing some covers has now morphed into a full-blown spectacle. After recruiting a bunch of like-minded bands and fleshing the project out into legit comp (2020’s GTRRC II), we now find them pooling their resources with labels Erste Theke Tontraeger, Legless, and Under the Gun to bring you 46—46!—tracks across two whole damn LPs from pretty much every band in the contemporary egg-leaning punk scene. And, look, there are some cool bands on here and some cool songs, but you already know you don’t need this. It’s basically the punk equivalent of a giant sack of Halloween candy. There’s plenty of good stuff in here, but there’s also quite a few Tootsie Rolls, some generic-ass orange and black wrapped taffies, and even a few toothbrushes and pennies. Some sickos are going to sit down and eat the whole bag, and some fun-haters are going to steer clear of it entirely. But most folks are going to pick at the good stuff, setting a few things aside to come back to later. For me that good stuff—the Snickers and Almond Joys, if you will—would include SPODEE BOY (covering STICK MEN WITH RAY GUNS’ “Hell to Pay”), C.O.F.F.I.N. (FUNKADELIC’s “Super Stupid”), SCIENCE MAN (ZZ TOP’s “Sharp Dressed Man”), MUTANT STRAIN (the GERMS’ “Strange Notes”), and SPINAL CRAP (I’m pretty this is SCHIZOS playing ROSE TATTOO’s “Nice Boys”). I’m sure your pile would look a little different.

Des Demonas Cure for Love 12″

In the Red brings us the latest from DC’s DES DEMONAS, a seven-song 12” of organ-driven garage rock that combines the musicianship and soulfulness of the REIGNING SOUND with the attitude of some of the rougher-hewn bands that popped up in the wake of the BLACK LIPS’ popularity—in particular, the record reminded me a lot of the Aussie band STRAIGHT ARROWS. Except, none of those bands are fronted by Jacky Cougar Abok, whose unique vocal delivery—a mix of barely tuneful yawping and rhythmic, non-rhyming rapping—is literally beyond compare. His voice also serves as a great foil to the backup vocalist, whose harmonies end up giving the songs like “Cure for Love” an almost alien quality.  While there’s maybe nothing on here as relevetory as “The South Will Never Rise Again,” there are also no duds—it’s a cool record.

Rudix Demos cassette

Dial Club, a new cassette label out of Japan, brings us this Buenos Aires duo’s first two demos combined into a single release. RUDIX plays bratty, frantic garage punk in the vein of LOLI AND THE CHONES, and the eight tracks on this cassette are loud, fast, tinny as hell, and over nearly as soon as they start—just as god (or at least Greg Lowery) intended! Real good shit!

Vision 3D Hypnose LP

Well, I’m a big dumb idiot. I sat on this record for nearly a month before giving it a spin because I was dreading reviewing it. I’d never heard of the band, their name seemed annoyingly generic, and I could easily imagine this cover being slapped on a record I hated. Plus it’s a whole damn LP! That means that I’m going to have to endure eleven songs and 30-plus minutes of music that probably sucks over the course of multiple listens. Except, it doesn’t suck. Not even a little bit. Turns out VISION 3D, a trio out of Toulouse, France, has cobbled together one of the best guitar rock records I’ve heard in a long time, by combining nearly everything I’ve loved about garage punk over the past twenty years. Throughout the record you’ll get snatches of the COUNTRY TEASERS’ detuned cowpoke post-punk, THEE OH SEES’ trebly reverbed-to-hell garage-psych freakouts, the early BLACK LIPS’ “I’ve Got a Knife” attitude, and, for good measure, MAN OR ASTRO-MANS?’s outer space raygun surf. Then that’s all topped with some great multi-tracked vocals that would fit in somewhere among a KLEENEX-ish yelp, the too-cool-for-school contemporary post-punk vocals of the WORLD, and the avant-garage-pop chanson of STEREOLAB or the LIMIÑANAS. Just an absolutely fantastic record put out by a band with an actually fitting name that, in retrospect, has a perfect cover. I wish I’d had an additional month with it.

I Am the Fly Pattern/Function 12″

I AM THE FLY is a synth punk duo out of Essen, Germany. The players here identify as “Musca domestica ♂” and “Musca domestica ♀,” so that should give you a pretty good idea of what we’re dealing with. The music is pretty by-the-book for this kind of stuff—skittery drum machine beats, post-punky bass lines, and kitschy sci-fi synths. The vocal delivery falls somewhere between a sing-songy chat and like a dry physics lecture. It’s clearly a choice—one that might even work were the lyrics less awkward! Instead we’re getting clunkers like “The least enjoyable part of my existence / Is your existence.” I’m sure I would have been kinder to the record had the lyrics been in German, but I still don’t think there’s enough going on here to say that I would have enjoyed these songs—an assessment I feel pretty shitty about making seeing as how I only speak one language and cannot, for the life of me, write music. So, if you’re less likely to be annoyed by lyrics and just love downer-y robotic synth punk, give this a go.

Peace De Résistance Bits and Pieces LP

Bits and Pieces is the first LP from this Moses Brown (INSTITUTE, GLUE) solo project, whose only other release was a limited-run cassette EP of fuzzed-out, lo-fi glam that came out back in 2020. The sound’s been cleaned up a bit for this here official debut, but it’s still a lower-fi affair that weds the grooves of T. REX’s Electric Warrior, the looseness of the VELVET UNDERGROUND’s Loaded, and the oddball lilt of JIMMY JUKEBOX’s “Motorboat”. Apparently, it’s also pulling a lot from Zamrock, a Zambian take on late ’60s guitar rock that evolved alongside glam (it’s a genre I was wholly unfamiliar with that I’m now keen to dig into). So, throughout the ten tracks on this record you get lite touches of psychedelia, dub (mostly in its exploration of studio space), and even Krautrock. Perhaps the most distinct element of the album—and the one most likely to rankle listeners—is Moses’ vocal performance. It’s certainly pulling from all the above influences, but at the same time it’s this bizarre sing-songy croak—like straight vocal fry—often delivered as though it’s being issued from the bottom of a k-hole. It really ups the records overall woozy vibe and helps this feel like a unique take on a familiar genre. My guess is that this isn’t going to be for everyone, but I love it.

 

Steröid S.M.O.K.E. Show EP

In the late ’80s/early ’90s, there was this syndicated cartoon programming block called The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. It featured classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons alongside crude, low-budget shows seemingly cooked up in an ’80s fever dream (see: Fantastic Max or The Further Adventures of Super Ted), and it was hosted by the Down and Dirty Dinosaurs—a trio of dudes in dinosaur costumes dressed in punk/hip hop garb. It was really something. Anyway, I bring this up because the contemporary Aussie punk scene—particularly the stuff coming from the rock mutants of Sydney—really reminds me of that show. And this latest 7” on Computer Human, a label run by the head scientist at RESEARCH REACTOR CORP, is no exception. STERÖID, the brainchild of ex-GEE TEE member Gordo Blackers, is a Hobart-based recording project that plays “eggy metal.” The five tracks on this EP (four originals and one OVERDRIVE cover) sound like the music that the heroes of Galtar and the Golden Lance might play if there was ever an episode that involved a battle of the bands for some reason. Just imagine mid-’80s montage music with chipmunk vocals written by a guy whose record collection was full of, like, RAMONES, THIN LIZZY, and NWOBHM records. It rules.

Neutrals Bus Stop Nights EP

If 2020’s Personal Computing 7” was NEUTRALS wearing their Ed Ball/TELEVISION PERSONALITIES influence on their sleeves, this four-song EP has them erecting a full-blown shrine. The title track kicks off the record, and from the jump you’re not only getting a riff borrowed from “World of Pauline Lewis,” but also a very similar guitar tone—it’s cleaner, brighter, and more sustained than what we’ve heard from these folks in the past. The production is maybe a little slick (which is true of the whole record) and the tune is a little poppier than you’d get from Dan Treacy and co., but the songwriting is still fantastic. It reminds me of a less ramshackle version of the stuff SO COW was putting out in the late aughts. Now, the following track, “Geoffrey Ingram”…I mean, “Gary Borthwick Says,” is a real hit! It’s a super catchy number recounting the exploits of a truth-stretching scamp that seems to combine everything great about …And Don’t the Kids Just Love It into one song. It alone is worth the price of admission! “Pressures of Life” is a good reminder that UK DIY and indie pop have more in common with Oi! than you’d generally think—just listen to that chorus kick in and tell me you can’t hear it as COCKNEY REJECTS-ish shout-along. The record closes with “New Town Dream,” which mixes in some of the post-punk brutishness you got on their fantastic Rent/Your House EP. I kinda wish there was a little more of that throughout the release, but I understand why there isn’t. Anyway, great record—definitely worth your time!

Paul Pecho Curtis Yellingmouth / Neatly Framed 7″

Folks may be familiar with PAUL PECHO (a.k.a. Paul Schlesier) through his work with Leipzig psych-rock outfit BLACK SALVATION, but this 7”, his first as a solo act, finds him exploring some of the less heavy recesses of psychedelia. Both tracks on this 7” sound an awful lot like the stuff TY SEGALL was putting out in the early 2010s—maybe splitting the difference between the garage-y Melted and the acoustic psych of Goodbye Bread. It’s mainly due to the vocals—he’s doing the whole blown-out, multi-tracked thing and howling in a similar register. But the songs themselves aren’t straight rips by any means. “Neatly Framed,” the better of the two tracks on here, takes disparate layers of garage-y riffs, noodly guitars, and woozy vocals and backs that with a  loose hearty drum beat to create a track that isn’t overtly psychedelic but has similar mind-altering effects. It’s not bad!

Star Party Meadow Flower LP

As soon as I heard this Seattle duo’s late-2020 demo cassette, I was all in. Their punky blend of pops, both dream and indie (imagine LUSH or RIDE playing SHOP ASSISTANTS tracks), was exactly what I needed at the time. While the production seemed to imply large, cavernous spaces that mirrored the cold, empty world I was seeing outside my apartment, the shimmery guitars and cozy melodies swaddled me in warmth, reassuring me that we’d be outside soon enough, enjoying a world full of the bright flowers depicted on the demo’s cover. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it—I needed more! Thankfully, Carrie Brennan and Ian Corrigan (GEN POP, VEXX) got to work, and about a year-and-a-half later, delivered just that. Meadow Flower is eight more tracks of dreamy, life-affirming pop—a perfect soundtrack to get back out in the world and revel in all the things it has to offer, fittingly released at the beginning of a literal and metaphorical Spring. It’s just lovely.

Schizos Fuck Music City EP

Holy moly! I think these guys have finally figured it out. This New Orleans-via-Nashville act got off to a rough start—their 2017 debut as, like, a minimal drum-and-synth OBLIVIANS tribute act really rubbed me the wrong way. Even still, I always felt like they had some promise. And sure enough, they’ve steadily improved from record to record. Their 2020 LP saw them going more of a straight REATARDS route with solid enough results. Then they really tightened things up on last year’s Come Back With a Warrant EP—a fantastic record! But I’ll be damned if Fuck Music City doesn’t manage to blow that record out the water somehow. It’s odd that the addition of Drew Owen a.k.a. SICK THOUGHTS (he’s providing “instruments”) ended up making the band sound less like the REATARDS, but that’s what we’re dealing with. The A-side of the record is three quick tracks that borrow as much from USHC as they do Memphis garage punk. It’s leaner and meaner than anything this project has committed to tape but still scuzzy as all get-out—just perfect shit! Then they get loose on the B-side with “Going South,” a track that runs three-and-a-half minutes and sounds like that period of NWOBHM that was still pretty heavily influenced by boogie rock. It rules. Buy this record!

Cupid and the Stupids 99 Ways to Fix a Broken Heart cassette

Spared Flesh continues their hot streak with a new cassette from this seven-piece Byron Bay outfit—fourteen tracks of loose, lo-fi jams recorded straight to four-track in a riverside shed. The release copy describes this as “cute-core” and “Broadway punk‘n’roll,” which aren’t entirely inaccurate descriptors. But don’t let that scare you off! The music here is way less annoying than you might be imagining. Really, this is more the sound of a group of friends having a great time making music—the end result might be cute, but it doesn’t come off as by design. The tunes themselves bounce around the lo-fi landscape—depending on the track, you might hear a little Flying Nun or Elephant 6 or Rip Off Records. To get a good sense of the variety here, I’d recommend listening to one of the gentler tracks, like “Burn the Mattress,” then flipping over to the absolute scorcher “Heartbreak Motel.” If neither floats your boat, this release likely isn’t for you…and maybe your broken heart ain’t worth fixing.

V/A Inkstains Across Atlanta cassette

Tired of digging through a wobbly stack of 7”s to find music by your favorite Atlanteans, only to put on a record that you then have to get up and flip a minute and a half later? There has got to be a better way! Introducing Ink Stains Across Atlanta, a collection of every Total Punk 7” by an Atlanta-based artist—fifteen songs on a single cassette! Total Punk? More like Total Convenience! Set adrift down the river of despair with GG KING’s “Joyless Masturbation,” soak in the healing aura of SLUGGA’s “Parasite,” experience pure ecstasy as the music of any one of a myriad of Brannon Greene-fronted projects (PREDATOR, NAG, HOSPICE) fills your ears, or journey into the unknown with a handful of unreleased and non-Total Punk tracks. To order this collection, take $7, wad it in a ball and put it in a bag with a SASE, and send it to Total Punk HQ, or simply log on to totalpunk.com using the browser of your choice.

John, Paul, George, Ringo & Richard Das ist die Zukunft, Aber Nicht Deine! LP

I can’t imagine this band name would work if you went with anything other than “Richard.” “Richard” just has this poncy air about it that really sells this dumb joke. Anyway, this project is the work of a single person—presumably a Richard—who’s been at it since about 2016. He peddles an oddball mix of noise, minimalist avant-pop, dub, yé-yé, downtempo electronica, and space age bachelor pad music. It’s out there, man! Depending on the track, it can sound like a more listener friendly MEN’S RECOVERY PROJECT, a less wacky MR. BUNGLE (Disco Volante-era), or, like, the entire Ralph Records roster covering the poppier cuts from CABARET VOLTAIRE’s Red Mecca. Dude may be a Dick, but he made a cool record. This is the future, but not yours!

Taulard Dans la Plaine LP

French band TAULARD brings us their second LP of upbeat, post-punky art-rock. As the opening track kicked off, I was immediately reminded of another song by another artist…that I annoyingly could not place. After listening to the song dozens of times over a week or so, pausing it every so often to run through a half-remembered melody in my head, it finally hit me—the song I was thinking of was BLONDE REDHEAD’s “In Particular,” in particular “En Particulier,” the French version of the track that appears on the Mélodie Citronique EP. With that sorted out, I listened to the songs back-to-back…and they maybe don’t sound as similar as I initially thought. “In Particular” was quite a bit slower and had a much more intricate production. Still, the melodies were similar, and both tracks were supported by a steady, driving beat. TAULARD even delivers their lyrics in the same cold, detached manner as Kazu, an attitude that both bands balance out with super cozy low ends. So, yeah, this doesn’t sound entirely unlike late ’90s BLONDE REDHEAD. And while the remaining ten tracks may get a little punkier or a little poppier, that’s true of the rest of the album as well. But TAULARD really ups that coziness I mention above by adding, of all things, a droning high-pitched keyboard. Very light, agreeable chords run under all these tracks, imbuing them with a sense of nostalgia that really makes for a pleasant listening experience. Now, I hate to leave you on a click-baity note, but I really don’t want to spoil an incredible moment on this record. If you want the full effect, you’ll have to listen to the whole thing along the way (do it—it’s good!), but there’s a moment shortly into the eighth track that literally made me exclaim “wow!”.

Gape Gape cassette

Los Angeles-area act brings us their second release, a five-song cassette of competently-made noisy hardcore punk. If you were to strip out the slower, artsy intros on the opening and closing tracks, you’d be left with a handful of sub-two-minute tracks whose sound falls somewhere between pure crust lust and the mean hardcore of a band like STRAIGHTJACKET NATION. Imagine taking the 2011 CONVERGE/DROPDEAD split and pulling the vocals from the COVERGE side and the music from the DROPDEAD side—you wouldn’t be too far off from what we’ve got here. If that sounds like your bag, give it a go. I certainly ain’t mad at it!

Soup Activists Riling Up the Neighbors cassette

Martin Meyer is arguably one of the primary architects responsible for our contemporary punk landscape. For better or worse, I don’t know that we end up with the chain/egg punk dichotomy without LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and their gooey aesthetic, or his label Lumpy Records and their “Feelin’ Eggy?” promo emails (not to mention Lumpy put out records by most of the bands originally labeled “egg-punk”). That aside, I’m also just a huge fan of the dude’s work. So, it came as quite a shock to just learn that he’s been making music under the SOUP ACTIVISTS name for the past two years, and this eleven-song cassette is his second release. Now, I go in blind when it comes to projects I’m unfamiliar with, so I had no idea who this was on my first listen. But my initial reaction was “Why did MRR give me this? It sounds like…SICKO or some shit!” To be fair, I think I was primarily picking up on the earnestness of the music—as I sat with it longer, I could tell there was actually a lot more going on. Still my primary point of comparison, at least on those first few tracks, would be something like the ramshackle pop punk of early FIFTEEN. Later tracks maybe feature more of the lo-fi jangle/strained tunefulness you’d find in an Eric Gaffney-sung SEBADOH track or some polish-free pop akin to, say, a DOLLY MIXTURE. Now that I know who’s behind the music, I can’t not hear that this is a Marty joint. But it would be hard to overstate how blown away I was to find that out. I’m still not sure that I really love the music here, but I have certainly loved the time I’ve spent so far trying to figure that out.

Lafff Box Master EP

New Berlin-based label Turbo Discos brings us the debut release from this German outfit, featuring members of LASSIE and EX-WHITE. “Master” kicks off the four-song EP with some hooky downstroke punk. It sounds not unlike early MEAN JEANS, particularly with its lightning-fast rhythm section and booming production. Fortunately that’s where the comparison ends. As soon as I figured out who this reminded me of, some warbly raygun guitars swoop in, the overdubs start getting looser, and a harshly shouted chorus starts up. This ain’t no pop punk! That track ends with its wall-of-sound production crumbling into a C.C.T.V.-ish chicken scratch guitar fadeout. It’s really something! The remainder of the EP is equally as compelling, sounding like a cool mix of contemporary robo-rock (e.g., SET-TOP BOX or RESEARCH REACTOR), the SPITS, and the industrial-tinged garage punk of LILI Z. A real ripper! Handsome cover to boot!

Ghoulies Reprogram EP

Synths and punk—it’s not that they don’t mix, but it’s tough enough to blend the two that it’s generally advisable to keep them separate. All too often, you’ll end up sounding like a punk band with a synth rather than a synth punk band. This is especially true when you opt for some squiggly new wave timbre. Now, I’m not sure GHOULIES—a Perth act featuring members of ABORTED TORTOISE and KITCHEN PEOPLE—avoid this pitfall entirely, but it definitely doesn’t sound like they just have a synth going in the background (or worse, drowning out the rest of the band). Over the seven tracks on this EP, they weave synth lines—often very silly ones—into their brand of frenetic, start/stop garage punk, and it really gives the record a delirious edge that pairs nicely with the unhinged, multi-tracked vocals you’re getting on a lot of these tracks. Not every track on here works, but the ones that don’t are still short enough that you’ll barely notice. At the very least, give the opening track “B.O.” a listen—it smokes!

Mononegatives / Mystery Girl split EP

I gotta say, I’d seen this record in distros and always assumed based on the cover that it was some synthy Factory Records-worship by a lone band—MONONEGATIVES. Turns out this record does feature a synth…that’s maybe wielded in a less new wave-y manner than I was imagining, but also there’s a whole other band on here! MYSTERY GIRL is not the name of the record. Instead, they’re a punky power pop band out of Albany, NY, who kick things off with a couple tracks. “Loveline” starts as a somewhat ripping garage pop track that crashes into an odd cooing power pop chorus with really off-kilter harmonies. It caught me way off guard at first, but I came to appreciate its strangeness by the track’s end. For their other song, they slow down the BOYS’ “Tumble With Me” and turn it into some NEW YORK DOLLS-esque swagger rock. It’s a cool cover! London, Ontario’s MONONEGATIVES close things out with three tracks of synth-drenched, garage-y post-punk. A track like “Time Warp” even justifies my inkling about what this record would sound like—the bass line could have been plucked from an early NEW ORDER track. But overall these guys’ vibe is way heavier, and they come off sounding like a less gimmicky and more overtly post-punk SERVOTRON…or maybe a weedier A FRAMES. Either way, I’m into it!

Dave & Lee Singles Collection LP

Mod teen Dave Burnett and his family emigrated from the UK and settled in Melbourne, Australia in late 1965. Shortly after arriving, he met local musician Lee Cutelle, and they quickly became life-long friends and forged a songwriting partnership—Dave wrote the lyrics and Lee wrote the music—that would last from 1966 to 1980. Reminder has pulled together their total recorded output from that period and packaged it in a very handsome gatefold sleeve with some sweet liner notes detailing their history. But to summarize, these guys would write some really catchy songs that should have been bigger than they were, fail to sell many records, then rebrand and adopt whatever sound was popular at the time. So, we start with the lone 45 from DAVE ‘N’ LEE, originally issued in 1969—two tracks of orchestrated psych-pop that fall somewhere on the spectrum between early BYRDS records and the COWSILLS. Next are the two 45s from BEAUT, named after an Aussie version of Tiger Beat and sounding like a mix of AM schmaltz and late ’70s power pop. After getting wind of the first wave of UK punk, they decided to toughen up a bit and release a 45 as BRANDED, where they played SWEET-like glam with just a dab of punk in the rough production. Then they tried their hand at punk proper in 1980, releasing a 45 as BRITISH JETS. It sounds like fake punk (because it is), but it produced what I think is the best song on the record. “No News”, which sounds surprisingly contemporary, is just some solid RAMONES-core with a catchy power pop chorus. It’s great! It’s hard to say this release is essential, but there’s plenty to love here if you’re able to stomach this much saccharine.

V/A Anti Human Trafficking Benefit Comp cassette

Literal twelve-year-old AJ Cortes, label boss over at the Miami-based Gravity Hill Records (a cassette label), has compiled sixteen slime-covered tracks from whatever strain of mutants have evolved in this post-LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS world. As you probably gathered from the title, this comp is meant to combat human trafficking in some sense. Although, it’s unclear whether the proceeds are going to a particular organization or if this comp is just meant to “raise awareness.” In any case, at just $4 for the digital release, you’re getting a pretty big bang for your buck. The compilation features a lot of folks who you’ve likely already heard and have opinions about—M.A.Z.E., PRINT HEAD, BILLIAM, and NEO NEOS to name a few. But it also features even more artists whom you’ve likely never heard of (or you’ve had your ear way closer to the ground than I have). We’re getting tracks from WWW, YOKE, GEORGE CRUSTANZA, MAYGE, and the SUXX—if you don’t like the first set of bands I named, you won’t like these either. Mr. Cortes supplies at least three of the tracks on here as well with his projects AJ CORTES AND THE BURGLARS and BENNY AND THE BOYS, the latter of whom cover two tracks by the WAD. You absolutely have to give “Nog Bag” a listen—the bass sound that starts the track is so insane and great that I might actually prefer this to the original. And it wouldn’t be a punk comp without a seemingly out-of-place/shitty track, and unfortunately that is provided here by HEARTLESS FOLK—this sounds like GOOD RIDDANCE or some other Fat Wrecks grunty pop punk. Anyway, this release really reminded me of what I loved about those early days of Lumpy Records—just a bevy of weirdo bands I’ve never heard of, not all of whom I like, but all of whom make me sit up and think, “Whoa! What the hell is this?!”

Aborted Tortoise A Album LP

If you, like me, mourn the loss of the great AUSMUTEANTS and are jonesing for that same mix of uptempo garage punk, DEVO-lved new wave, and American hardcore, you may want to turn to this Perth five-piece to get your fix. That’s not to say they’re a rip-off or a perfect copy. The songwriting here is a little less catchy, you get snake-y guitar lines in place of the synth riffs, and ABORTED TORTOISE is a little more DEAD KENNEDYS compared to AUSMUTEANTS’ MINOR THREAT (check out “R.L. Stine” or the surf instrumental “DLC”). But the overall vibes are very similar, particularly in the way the vocalist does that same talk-singing to Squeaky-Voiced Teen shout that was one of the hallmarks of AUSMUTEANTS. Where these guys stand out, though, is in the way they weave together their lead, rhythm, and bass guitar parts. The interplay on “CGI,”with all three switching between super busy lines and synchronized rhythmic punches, is super impressive. Give it a listen!

The Midnight Vein Kill the King Above / The Link cassette

Making music is not a problem for Buffalo madman John Toohill. My dude is never not releasing something! If I had to guess, I’d say the toughest thing for him would be deciding which of his many projects to attribute a song to—SCIENCE MAN, SPIT KINK, BRUTE SPRING, TURQUOISE WINDOW, the HAMILTONES, ALPHA HOPPER, ISMATIC GURU, etc. (I made up one of those, but I doubt he’d have any trouble cranking out something under that name). Anyway, he’s got two tracks for us here as the MIDNIGHT VEIN, his psych-rock outlet. “Kill the King Above” starts out as a stripped-down, acoustic psych number with a vocal melody that calls to mind “Sympathy for the Devil” in no small part due to the Mick-on-Quaaludes performance John gives here. The track slowly builds until it (fittingly) explodes into a Keith Richards-like lead freakout and fades back out. It’s cool enough—kinda reminds me of Goodbye Bread TY SEGALL. The real winner here, though, is “The Link.” It’s six minutes of primitive proto-punk that sounds like “White Light/White Heat” being bashed out on 80 guitars. Every now and then an unruly axe or two will emerge from the fray to absolutely blister your face, while John issues what sound like reprimands to whomever dares underestimate “The Link.” Real good shit!

Toe Ring Footage cassette

Up-and-coming cassette label Spared Flesh brings us four tracks from a new Philly-based recording project featuring MESH’s Sims Hardin and Leslie Burnette of JUICE and LOUIE LOUIE. Opening track “This is the End” should please anyone who came to this project as a fan of MESH—it’s pretty much the same sharp, garage-y post-punk that those guys peddle, only this track has Leslie on vocals. The remaining three tracks are more atmospheric and share a lot of the same DNA with contemporary post-punk bands the WORLD or NAKED ROOMMATE. But this duo’s take on that stripped-down dubby sound is a much lower-fi affair, and where those aforementioned acts get funky or dancy, TOE RING gets punky or weird. The backbone of tracks “Repeller” and “Collapsed Mine” is a looser version of the same driving beat you get on the opening track, but it’s accompanied by a bass that sounds like its strings are about to come completely unspooled. And the guitar is either completely absent—replaced with odd keyboard bleeps and blorps—or comes in sparingly as harsh echoic stabs, while the vocals just kind of float around in the ether. It’s all really cool stuff! But I think the most interesting track on the release is “Staring at the Sunn”. It sounds not unlike a stoner/doom metal track stripped down to just the bass and drums, but the production on the vocals and the synth-y atmospherics reminds me of trip hop. The overall vibe is still very post-punk—it’s just a neat way of getting there. Let’s hope we get more from these two!

Rik & the Pigs The Last Laugh LP

Olympia’s RIK & THE PIGS were absolutely one of the best bands to ever do it. And that 2015—2018 stretch of releases they put out was so flawless and so potent that there hasn’t ever really been a point where I haven’t had one of their records in my current rotation. It hadn’t even dawned on me that it had been nearly four years since we’d last heard from them until Lumpy announced that this LP was coming out. Crazy! Apparently, the act fell apart back in 2018, but not before they got together for a couple of recording sessions out in California. And that’s what you’re getting here. Side A is a four-song session with Mike Kriebel, who did all those Beat Session cassettes. Side B, which has more of a rough-and-tumble live vibe,  is five songs they did with Tony Santos (presumably in the titular garage from the COWBOYS’ 2017 Live at Tony’s Garage EP). You’re getting some new takes on some old classics (the two revved-up versions of “Off/On” are particularly fantastic), but you’re also getting some brand new tracks. In either case, you’re getting a version of the band that was firing on all cylinders. It’s among the best stuff they’ve put out.

The Gizmos The Gizmos in New York 1980–81 cassette

In the spring of 1980, the GIZMOS (at the time, Dale Lawrence, Billy Nightshade, and Tim Carroll) left their hometown of Bloomington, IN to make a go of it in the Big Apple—someone’s gotta teach those New Yorkers how to rock and roll! It was a brief sojourn, though—they would split up and go their separate ways by Summer of 1981. But it ended up being a pretty productive period for the group, and it even birthed one of their best known songs, the Red Snerts standout “The Midwest Can Be Allright.” This cassette compiles the complete recordings from that time period, including a lot of tracks that are getting their official debut. “Now I Wanna Go Fast” and “Pig Nose”—two revved-up punkers—are maybe the best of the bunch. I’d probably prefer to have this on LP, but any release in any format from the GIZMOS is going to be essential, and this is no exception.

Ouzo! State of Affairs / Balloons 7″

This feels like a decidedly un-punk opinion, but I love an aperitif. Lay out a dainty spread of snacks and offer me a high ABV fancy liqueur, and I’m in heaven. Were I at all musically inclined, I’d consider writing a “Heroin”-like ode to the sensation of slowly sipping something like an ouzo on an empty stomach, the immediate warmth you feel in your gut and the way it gently spreads throughout your body. Nothing gentle about consuming OUZO!, though! This Melbourne four-piece, who’ve been at it for a couple of years now, constructs songs by layering loose, sped-up psych riffs over an extremely tight rhythm section, then smashing that up against what sounds like the UNDERTONES had they chosen to emphasize downstroke punk and bratty glam over pop melodies. The two tracks on this 7″ are immediate and mean and cool and pack quite the wallop. Apparently, the Greeks frown upon going too hard on their most famous spirit with too little to eat, a practice they call going “dry hammer.” Coincidentally, that’s what it feels like OUZO! is smacking you with…in the best possible way. Get some in ya!

Leeches Return to Sludge cassette

LEECHES is a drum machine/synth punk recording project from Henrik Berg (the INSEMINOIDS) out of Gothenburg, Sweden. Dude’s been at it for about five years now, and he’s got quite a few releases under his belt, with this being his second for the Aussie cassette label Under Heat. The six tracks on this release are a cool mix of kitschy sci-fi punk, goth-y EBM, and late-night cable sleaze. This cassette might not be winning any points for originality, but these are some good-ass songs with a really big, almost cinematic sound. Worth checking out!

Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice Remember the Future? Vol. 2 & 1 LP

It appears as though this Melbourne act has been kicking around for a few years now, but this is certainly the first I’m hearing of them. But given this project’s name and song titles like “Super Speedy Zippy Wipper,” I had a sinking feeling that getting through this was going to be an uphill battle. And I wasn’t wrong. To be fair, the ten tracks on this LP are impressively crafted songs that are a bit post-hardcore and a bit post-punk, and the production comes off as very professional. But this sounds like the KILLERS playing DISMEMBERMENT PLAN songs to me. And I know that punk lyrics aren’t generally the most subtle, but lines like “Chasing infinite growth in dirty energy / But there’s no infinite growth if it’s clean and free” are really hard to take when presented in such a clever-rock context (even if I totally agree with the sentiment). I get the impression that others would like this stuff a lot more than me. So, maybe give it a go—you’ll probably be able to tell within a song or two whether or not this is for you.

Abi Ooze R.I.P. EP

We may be more than a half-decade out from its heyday, but the NWI scene is still pretty potent. Not only are veterans like LIQUIDS still churning out vital releases, but there seems to be no shortage of cool new acts popping up, like this recording project from Hammond’s Jade Baisa (who’s actually played in LIQUIDS and is backed here by Mat Williams on drums). This EP contains eight tracks of lo-fi punk covering a variety of sounds—some fashionable, some less so. A track like “ABA” sounds like C.C.T.V. mixed with the manic multi-tracked vocals of JUDY AND THE JERKS, and the ramshackle garage-y punk of “Liquidate” sounds not unlike those great early NOTS singles. But she’s also not afraid to slow things down or get poppy. The opening track “Into” has a borderline CRIMPSHRINE vibe, and it’s followed by an earnest slow rocker that reminds me just the faintest bit of some of the emo bands that you’d hear in the late ’90s. I don’t mention that as a slight, more so to point out that the track (and most of the record) is played with a sincerity you don’t really get much these days. It’s actually kind of refreshing and, when paired with good songwriting ideas, makes for a neat record. Unfortunately, this appears to be the final release from the project (hence the title). Bummer.

Print Head boringboring cassette

One of the like six or seven cassettes this project released in 2021. If you’re unfamiliar with PRINT HEAD, the anything-goes no-fi recordings of prolific Canadian Brandon Saucier, this is probably as good a place as any to start. The five tracks on this release are easier to digest than the potentially daunting (though very excellent) 25-track compilation cassette that Discos Peroquébien put out last year, and it’s less likely to rankle than his cassette of PARQUET COURTS covers. And you’re getting a pretty good idea of what PRINT HEAD is all about—minute-long vignettes exploring a variety of punkish sounds. The first few tracks hew a little closer to the garage-y end of the punk spectrum with a touch of DEVO-core (you just can’t get away from it these days!), but it’s never really eggy—think if early TYVEK was a little more herky-jerky. And the rest of the tracks take some of the tunefulness that you’d find in mid-’90s GUIDED BY VOICES and weds that to the concrete-slicing jazzy funk-punk of early MINUTEMEN. Really compelling stuff—give it a go!

Blonde Revolver Red Ruby EP

What we have here is the debut release from new Melbourne label Rack Off, who are looking to shed light on female-identifying and gender-diverse acts, and the debut EP from BLONDE REVOLVER, a new Melbourne six-piece with members from FUTURE SUCK, DELIVERY, and GUTTER GIRLS (among others). They apparently started as a BLONDIE cover band but now play plainspoken, fairly straightforward Aussie punk with a bit of a post-punk edge courtesy of an ever present synth that provides a sinister undercurrent—it sounds like a mix of AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS and the LOST SOUNDS. The five originals here are solid enough, and they do a really cool cover of the URINALS’ “I’m a Bug,” kinda turning it into a GARY NUMAN track. But the highlight of the record (and maybe my favorite moment from any release in 2021) is the little “waaa” that the singer yelps to punctuate the (pretty great) line “I’m an alpha baby, and you’re a beta bitch” on “Pocket Rocket”. Fuck—it’s good!

The Q-Tips There Are Those Who Drill Violently! EP

The Q-TIPS are a synth punk duo from Munich, made up of Ms. Juliette (sequencing) and Mr. Brotzeit (programming). They also apparently refer to themselves as “The Kids of the Drill Hole.” Anyway, they play trash can/KBD punk similar to the SPITS but with a harsher industrial sound,  interspersed with cartoony bleeps and bloops. The production on these four tracks really packs a wallop—the overall sound is crunchy and satisfying—and the vocal performance is pretty great. But—I don’t know—the songs just aren’t there for me. Maybe if they played them a little more straight or really leaned into the numbskullery, but as-is I found this to be a pretty middling release. I know you’re generally not supposed to do this, but I think if you take a look at the cover, you’ll be able to judge whether or not this is for you.

Men & Health Heroin on Reality TV EP

Well, we’ve certainly got a contender for dumbest release of 2021 on our hands. Look, I’m usually of a “the dumber, the better” mindset, but I’m having trouble getting on board with this one. MEN & HEALTH are a trio out of Copenhagen who take the ultra-minimalism of the URINALS, back it with a really cheap-sounding drum machine track Á  la COLLEEN GREEN, then sing songs about giving heroin to people on reality TV or being cold or whatever. I didn’t quite hate it, but I just kept wishing it sounded more like either of the records that Jeff Mahannah put out in the past few years (as MUZZY or I GET MYNZE). They hit the dumb/funny/catchy sweet spot on the track “Right On!”, but otherwise I just found this particular combination of lyrics and the vocals super grating (they got a good chuckle out of me by including a lyric sheet, though). Anyway, don’t listen to my gripes too much—this feels like a record I could come around on eventually. So, give it a listen…but only if you’re into the dumbest of punk.

Why Bother? A Year of Mutations LP

Honestly, what’s more likely—that Feel It’s insatiable desire to release cool new music has reached a point where they can no longer find real bands to churn out product and have instead turned to throwing darts at a map and list of genres in order to foist a backstory on session musicians, or that Mason City, Iowa (the sixteenth most populous city in the country’s second most boring state) is full of enough cool people to fill out a band who just so happen to be into the odd combination of UK DIY and SPITS-y dum-dum sci-fi punk? Conveniently, the “band,” a supposed four-piece, is also content to be an 8-track recording project and has no intentions of playing live, so we may never find out. Anyway, regardless of how it came to be, the record is stellar. It sounds like a punked-up version of EXHIBIT A/SOLID SPACE with snatches of the same laid-back, boozy garage pop that made those early JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN recordings so compelling (particularly on a track like “Hum Drum”). Get on it!

Twompsax Disgusting Me Out cassette

Hot on the heels of her excellent solo debut, Oakland-based artist Cher Strauberry is back with a seven-song cassette of 4-track recordings, this time under her TWOMPSAX moniker in preparation for a late 2021 tour. If you’ve been a fan of Cher’s work thus far, this is more of what you love—minute-long bursts of the lowest-fi punk (equal parts garage-, egg-, pop-, and hardcore) interspersed with odd snippets from ’90s movies. If you haven’t been a fan, you need to get with the program! One of the most essential voices in contemporary punk!

Screensaver Expressions of Interest LP

This might be the debut LP from these Naarm/Melbourne post-punks, but SCREENSAVER has existed in one form or another for a half-decade. The project started back in 2016, initially conceived as a way for Chris Stephenson (SPRAY PAINT) and Krystal Maynard (SWIM TEAM) to connect while being in an extremely long-distance relationship. Chris was based out of Austin, TX at the time with Krystal in Australia, and they would send each other recordings. Chris eventually joined Krystal Down Under, they recruited a rhythm section, began playing shows in late 2019, and started recording this LP just before COVID shut the world down. Thankfully, they were able to continue collaborating through their country’s various lockdowns to bring us this record, which is a very good one! Over these ten tracks, you can expect synth-heavy post-punk with a Krautrock backbone. It’s on the gothier end of the spectrum, thanks in part to Krystal’s excellent NICO-esque vocals, but it’s not quite as dark as, say, fellow Aussies NUN. It’s hard not to compare it to TOTAL CONTROL—a track like “Skin” even sounds like it could have come off Typical System. But where TOTAL CONTROL dips into harsher punk sounds from time to time, SCREENSAVER prefers to mix things up by going a little pop every so often, giving this album more of a new wave sheen. Just an immensely listenable record! For fans of CLAN OF XYMOX, GARY NUMAN, or early HUMAN LEAGUE.

The Yeasties Here for Flesh cassette

This St. Louis punk outfit is back with their second release, which is also apparently their last. The group is a bit of a Midwest supergroup with Olivia Gibb (WARM BODIES, BB EYE) on bass, Bethany Lumsdaine (co-creator of Bloomington, IN fanzine Shut Up and Listen) on guitar, Shannon Boyer (ROYAL BRAT) on vocals, and Shawn Durham (who apparently drummed for SNAIL MAIL at some point). They’ve reigned in their sound a little bit since their last cassette, which was pretty raw and wild, and end up with a more deliberate sounding collection of tracks. And, yeah, they clean up nicely! The three originals remind me a lot of the garage-ier Alicja-sung LOST SOUNDS tunes (sans synths), particularly in the vocals. They also do a sick cover of “P-E-R-V-E-R-T” by St. Louis first-wave unknowns the WELDERS. It’s a really cool cassette—wish we’d gotten to hear more from them!

The Prime Directive The Game EP

Three Palm Desert nerds bring you a four-song EP of Star Trek TNG-themed trash punk! What—doesn’t sound like your bag? Well, you’re probably right. But I’ll say this—it’s way less gimmicky than I was expecting and actually kinda good. It reminds me of those NO BAILS records that came out in the early 2010s. But instead of singing about 80s skateboarding games, Werther’s Originals, or whatever the shit, these guys are writing songs about some of the sillier TNG episodes. It’s never as infectiously dumb or hook-laden as NO BAILS, so I don’t think it’s going to win over any non-Trek fans. But it’s not quite a novelty—like, out of context you wouldn’t know it’s Trek-themed unless you really paid attention to the lyrics and knew a lot about the show. If there’s ever a Next Generation update of the 90s garage punk comp Fuck You Spaceman!, a track like “Skin of Evil” would fit on it nicely. Anyway, these guys seem aware that their potential audience would at best fill a runabout, so this is only being offered in a lathe-cut edition of 47. But I guarantee that the 47 people who end up with this thing are gonna be stoked.

Sewer Side Fuzz Beach EP

Back in 2017, Goodbye Boozy put out a single-sided 7″ from this project. As is generally the case with Mr. Boozy’s releases, the record seemingly came out of nowhere, was by an unknown artist, and offered zero information about the act in the liner notes (comically, the record insert was just a rough doodle of what looks like a really high dog). The music had an air of mystery to it as well—it was loose, fuzzy psych in the vein of early BLACK LIPS or STRAIGHT ARROWS, but the vocals were unintelligible, droney, and sounded like they were captured on some distant plane of existence. It also featured an odd smattering of warping and skipping effects. The whole record made you feel like you were on drugs. I loved it. So, of course I jumped at the chance to review this EP, the first released by the project since then. There’s still not a ton of information out there about the outfit, but this appears to be a solo endeavor from Geelong/Melbourne musician Julian Wild. And while I was hoping for another mind-melter, I’ll have to settle for four competent but fairly typical psych/garage tracks. The two tracks on the “Beach” side of the 7″ sound like the gentler stuff the OH SEES were putting out back in the late aughts, and the two on the “Fuzz” side sound an awful lot like what TY SEGALL was doing around that same time. Again, it’s a solid record, and there don’t seem to be too many folks doing this exact thing these days. So, give it a listen, but seek out that first 7″!

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.

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.

Spodee Boy Dark Times EP

Chunklet brings you the latest from Nashville recording project SPODEE BOY (Conor Cummins of G.U.N., SNOOPER), a five-song EP that’s offered in lathe-cut edition of…50! The physical version is of course long gone, but fortunately, you can still find it via all streaming services. And it’s worth seeking out! The opening track, “Dark Days,” takes the side-winding COUNTRY TEASERS worship of the Rides Again 7″ and cranks the tempo up to a hardcore pace—it’s really an incredible song, easily the best on the record. “Dark Nights,” “Man Of Tomorrow,” and “Suicide” are all variations on a Mark Winter theme but, still, solid takes on the sound. “Waiting Around to Die” is perhaps the most bold cut on the record. It’s a SMITHS-y dirge that’s probably the polar opposite of what’s popular these days and is also very goofy. Nevertheless, there’s something here, and you have to applaud his willingness to take a chance, which in and of itself is refreshing. Keep an ear to the ground for future releases from this guy—I get the sense they’re only going to get better.

Smirk EP 12″

It’s only been about six months since the world was treated to the debut LP from this project, but SMIRK—Nick Vicario (PUBLIC EYE, CRISIS MAN) doing the solo recording thing—is back! This time you’re getting an EP’s worth of tightly written, loosely produced pop-speckled punk. The four tracks on the A-side are a nice continuation of what you got from his debut. Rhythmically, these tracks are absolutely locked-in. But the tape warble, garage jangle, and tuneless vocals make it feel as though these songs are otherwise on the verge of falling apart, giving off quite a cool SWELL MAPS vibe—particularly in the Krautrock-y stretch of “Precious Dreams”. The three tracks on the B-side really up the pop factor—”So Original” even throws in enough vocal melody to end up sounding like the MARKED MEN. Overall, this 12″ further establishes Nick as a nifty songwriter who warrants your attention in an increasingly crowded landscape of solo recording projects. Initial pressing of the LP is sold out at the source, so grab it if you run across one in the wild! Otherwise, be on the lookout for the upcoming repress.

Custody / Spells split 7″

Denver label Snappy Little Numbers brings you a split 7″ featuring a song apiece from Finnish band CUSTODY and the label owner’s band SPELLS. According to Discogs, the former band features members from NHL 95, CIGARETTE CROSSFIRE, and BAZED, while the latter pulls from MAIL ORDER CHILDREN, DUST HEART, and CHARLIE CONTINENTAL. I’ve never heard of any of those, but they all certainly sound like band names! Anyway, the CUSTODY side starts off promising enough—the first fifteen seconds sound like the band is gearing up to launch into a sick MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? rocker. Then the vocals kick in. Remember back in the mid-to-late ’90s when emo rock bands were trying to make it big by playing music that could slot in nicely next to VERTICAL HORIZON or LIFEHOUSE? No? Well, if you want to get a taste of what that sounded like, give this side a spin. SPELLS deliver on the promise of their name and start their side chanting out “C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E” like the BAY CITY ROLLERS. They then launch into something that sounds an awful lot like early HOT WATER MUSIC trying their hand at posicore. I’m having trouble imagining who this 7″ would appeal to.

Set-Top Box Max Headroom EP

This has gotta be like—what—the fourth or fifth release by this guy just this year? For those who don’t know, SET-TOP BOX is one of the (at least) three solo recording projects of Ishka Edmeades (he also does stuff as TEE VEE REPAIRMAN and SATANIC TOGAS), which he finds time to work on while he’s not helping out in other bands/projects (RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION, GEE TEE, MAINFRAME, etc.), designing record sleeves (like this one—looks pretty good, right?), or running his label, Warttmann Inc. Dude is busy! But he’s still cranking out the hits. This four-song EP starts out with one of the catchiest tracks he’s written. “Nothin’ At All” takes that eggy start/stop jerk you can’t escape these days and smooths it out a bit with some rubbery cartoon funk, resulting in a little groove that would compel even the grumpiest of punks (like me) to nod along. It alone is probably worth the price of admission, but the rest of the EP is solid enough—it’s full of the Heathcliff-meets-DEVO punk you’ve come to expect from this project. He’s teetering on the edge of putting out too many things to pay attention to, but this EP ain’t tipping him over.

Suitor Communion cassette

Debut EP from this Cleveland duo, initially available as a digital-only release, now expanded and issued on cassette for the first time by Just Because. The base sound here is post-punk, but over these ten tracks you get to hear it applied across a handful of subgenres. The album opener “Communion” pairs a CURE-like instrumental track with lush dream pop vocals, which is then followed by a slower, stripped-down post-hardcore number. Other tracks touch on WIPERS-esque punk, garage-y post-punk (in the vein of the A FRAMES), indie pop, and even a bit of Krautrock. In addition to the production, the vocalist really helps tie this thing together. Her super sweet voice floats alongside the track like a narcotic haze, making it easy to enjoy the ride, even when the drive could be a little smoother. Worth a listen!

The Freakees Freakee Deakee EP

The FREAKEES have been kicking around the Los Angeles punk scene for the past five or so years, and in that time they’ve put out a bunch of stuff. So, it’s a bit surprising to learn that this is their first solo vinyl outing. Everything else has been a feature on split, a cassette, or a digital-only release. Well, they’re starting off with a 7″ to be proud of! They’ve toned down the vocals a bit from earlier material. They’re still wild, but they’ve been pushed closer to the front and are no longer drowned in reverb. It’s a welcome change. The A-side features three quick tracks of bratty, hardcore-influenced garage punk.They have some of the trappings of egg-punk, particularly the warbly effects on the guitar, but they give off more of a REATARDS vibe than you’d get from your typical DEVO-core band. It’s solid stuff. But let’s talk about this B-side—holy moly is it good!  “Freakee Friday” slows things down to a snail’s pace and allows the band to really wallow around in the muck. While the rhythm section lumbers along and the vocalist emits pure negativity (who even cares what he’s saying), both guitarists just kind of do their own thing—one plays sustained, feedback-y notes and the other alternates between noodly licks and half-assed rhythm guitar. It sounds like In My Head BLACK FLAG at half speed, but, like, way dumber—a fantastic little downer punk dirge to rival BLACK PANTIES or LIFE STINKS.

Romero Honey / Neapolitan 7″

Issued by Cool Death back in February of 2020, ROMERO’s debut was meant for a world that it has yet to see. The two perfect punk pop tracks that make up this 7″ should be blasted on a joyride with friends, to a sweaty venue crowd, or over the speakers at a late-night house party. Alas, the actual world has precluded any such activities. Fortunately, these tracks also sound great blasting in your headphones to whatever safe solo outing you’re stuck going on. The A-side “Honey” is built atop the same trebly, mid-fi garage punk foundation favored by fellow soulful pop aussies ROYAL HEADACHE, but the structure that ROMERO erects is decidedly more new wave—the melodic guitar line that kicks in at the ten-second mark could have been pulled off  NEW ORDER’s Power, Corruption and Lies, and the singer belts out her lyrics like she’s channeling a mix of Debbie Harry and Fay Fife. It ends up sounding so bright and kind of life affirming. The B-side “Neapolitan” has more of a Stiff Records strut-pop vibe similar to what you’d hear from someone like the EXPLODING HEARTS or SHEER MAG. It maybe doesn’t quite match the highs of the A-side, but it’s still fantastic and serves as a nice complement. The greatness of this record is clearly the result of an ensemble cast, but it’s hard to deny that vocalist Alanna Oliver is the star. She has such a powerful voice and soulful delivery (apparently she cut her teeth in a BLUES BROTHERS tribute act!) that you can’t help but believe every word that’s coming out of her mouth. I hope more people can hear it. I imagine if these guys weather this shitty pandemic, more people will. One of the most essential releases to come out in the past few years!

Dead Meat II EP

Meat-and-potatoes garage punk’n’roll out of London. As the title of the EP suggests, this is their second release. It’s also their second issued by long-running UK label No Front Teeth. Their Bandcamp page paints them as a modern KBD/Bloodstains act, but this sounds more like mid-aughts leopard-print shoes/bullet belt punk. It’s hard to find anything across these four tracks that really stands out positively or negatively—it’s a thoroughly fine record. It sounds like the NEW BOMB TURKS slowed down about 20% or one of those non-GG KING, post-CARBONAS bands where the songwriting isn’t quite up to snuff. The first pressing of the record comes packaged in a spray painted leather sleeve, so that’s something. If you’ve been jonesing for the sounds you’d get from some of the lower-tier Rip Off Records acts (not the easiest thing to come by these days!), this would probably scratch that same itch.

Heavy Metal V: Live at the Gas Station Fighting the Devil LP

I’ve never been too smitten with this band. I picked up their first LP back in 2016 after a punk distro or two said it was good, and, while I didn’t dislike it, it just never clicked with me. Mainly, I found the record confusing. With the bald over-the-topness of the songs and vocalist’s delivery falling somewhere between SLEAFORD MODS and the EDGE OF ETIQUETTE, I assumed that these guys were from the UK and probably fake, fake punk. But then I saw they were from Berlin—not a city or music scene known for its playfulness (or British accents)—so, like, what’s their deal? Turns out the band is made up of (at least) Jasper Hood (the BLACK JASPERS, SHAKIN NASTIES), originally from the UK, and Itchy Bugger (ITCHY BUGGER, DIÄT), originally from Australia. Jasper’s vocals don’t seem to be a bit (he sounds like this on every record he sings on), but maybe the band is. Whatever. I still didn’t love the songs and ducked out after that LP. Fast-forward to 2021: my compulsion to acquire every Total Punk record trumps my indifference to the band, and I grab this LP. Turns out it’s quite good! I think going in with that same indifference helped me to just sit back and hear this record for what it is—a collection of well-crafted songs that cover ’77 punk, glammy bubblegum, punksploitation, and contemporary weird punk. It’s good enough that I might even have to revisit their back catalog. If you only listen to one track, make it “Gebrannte Amore”—a cover of ELVIS’s “Burning Love” that they transform into a FIRST BASE-styled trashcan pop track.

Hawkbaby Stupid Music for Stupid People LP

Debut LP from these Clevelanders, featuring members of INMATES, FOLDED SHIRT, WETBRAIN, and a bunch of other bands. These guys take the irreverent, artsy, frat-rock punk of BLACK RANDY & THE METROSQUAD, add a dash of RICHARD HELL, then absolutely infuse the shit out of that with pure Ohio weirdness. Seriously, try to listen to this record and pretend it was made in any other state—you can’t do it! The LP is funny without being joky, deliriously nerdy, and just absolutely stupid. It’s great! Listen if you like any of the aforementioned bands, PERVERTS AGAIN (et al.), or FINAL SOLUTIONS. Highlight track is “Pop Punk SML.”

Beige Banquet Beige Banquet 10″

I grew up vacationing in Myrtle Beach, SC, which is full of Calabash-style seafood buffets. These restaurants offer an endless spread of fried sea creatures, hush puppies, and French fries. Your only non-fried options would be coleslaw that’s 80% mayo by weight or corn on the cob. It’s about as beige a banquet as you could encounter…and probably the metaphorical polar opposite of this band. BEIGE BANQUET is a London-based recording project helmed by Tom Brierley and has maybe been fleshed out to a full band on this four-track 10″, their second release. They play pretty straightforward drum machine post-punk that would fit squarely between contemporaries NAKED ROOMMATE and URANIUM CLUB. Tracks are built atop a motorik foundation with icy guitar lines, rubbery bass, chanted vocals, synthesized hand claps, and spoken-word lyrics layered throughout. Each element on its own seems cold and percussive, but when woven into a polyrhythmic blanket becomes warm, inviting, familiar, and actually not entirely unlike a meal of fried comfort food.

Gee Tee Live N’ Dangerous II 12″

Single-sided 12″ with nine tracks recorded live at Future TechLabs (I think just one of these dude’s apartments) for the 2020 Gonerfest live stream. GEE TEE, despite only being around for the past four or five years, feel like elder statesmen of the Sydney egg/garage punk scene (which also includes SET-TOP BOX, SATANIC TOGAS, RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., etc., projects that have shared members with GEE TEE). And you’re getting their hits here. The recording is a little hotter, faster, and looser than a typical GEE TEE release, with the vocals a little buried in the mix, specifically behind the synth (seemingly set on “clavioline”), which is pushed right up to the front. So, yeah, it sounds live. If you’re a big fan of these guys (I am), you’ve likely already grabbed this (I have). If you’re not or you are on the fence, you’ve probably already missed out on the physical release, and that’s fine. But it’s worth a listen, particularly if you’ve always wished these guys sounded a little more like DEL SHANNON.

Eugh The Most Brilliant Man Alive EP

This seven-track debut from Melbourne synth project EUGH (which is Vincent Buchanan-Simpson from KITCHEN PEOPLE) gets off to a strong start. “Junk Shop” is a perfect egg-punk/DEVO-core track—it’s tight and jerky in all the right places and weird and loose everywhere else, seemingly taking inspiration from one of the more underappreciated Mark Winter projects, HAIRLONG N FREEKY. Just fantastic stuff! Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. “Galactic Terror” is a harsh electropunk track Á  la TERROR VISIONS that would be cool were it not for its overly woozy production, which turns the track into a big noisy mess by the end. The rest of the EP either sounds like rote NWI worship or DEVO at their new-waviest fronted by GARY NUMAN at his poppiest. Still, as grating as most of this record is, it’s probably worth picking up for that opening track.

Spllit Spllit Sides LP

Genuine oddball art-punk out of Baton Rouge, LA of all places. This duo, who’ve been making music together since 2019, wowed Feel It into issuing their vinyl debut, so you know it’s gonna be good. And it is! Slotting in somewhere among the contemporary minimal post-punk of the WORLD, the weirder tracks on the Red Snerts compilation, and, like, an all-marimba C.C.T.V. cover band, it’s easily the most “out there” thing Sam has released this year (not an easy feat when you look back on what he’s put out!). I want to say that the easiest comparison to make is to THIS HEAT’s Deceit, but that’s not quite right. This is maybe as experimental as that record, but Spllit Sides is much breezier and just more fun. And as much as I like Deceit and know it’s an absolute classic, I’m almost certain to revisit this LP more often. Anyway, this record has confounded me enough that I’m having trouble weaving these in organically, so I’m just going to list out the rest of the things it reminded me of at times: the German band TRIO, some prog rock band that I couldn’t put my finger on, WEEN (sans their cringy lyrics), the soundtrack to an Atari game. Just buy it already!

Blu Anxxiety Plaay Dead LP

Nuke York mutants crawl out of the sewers…and into the club! First full-length from these dark freestyle practitioners who are unconcerned with how many letters you put in words! Speaking of words, here are some: “Dracula / Nightbreed / Trick or treat / Nightbreed! / Fuck the boys! / Smell my feet”—lyrics from the LP’s opening track “Internet Terrorist,” which Chi Orengo (ANASAZI, CHILDREN WITH DOG FEET) kinda yell-raps (think KANYE on “Black Skinhead”) over a mid-’90s-style industrial/acid techno track. It’s goofy as hell…and I love it! The rest of the LP is more of the goth post-punk/EBM that you’d expect given their 2019 7″. It’s solid, even if it never matches the high of that opener. For whatever reason, despite it not really even being in the same ballpark genre-wise, I can’t help but think this also sounds a little like OINGO BOINGO. Anyway, the other highlight of the record is a straightforward cover of REAL LIFE’s “Send Me an Angel.” Great song!

Rubber Room Chemical Imbalance EP

Sydney/Melbourne recording project from Kel Mason (GEE TEE) and Adam Ritchie (DRUNK MUMS, RED RED KROVVY)—Adam’s providing vocals, Kel’s providing the instrumentation. Apparently the duo formed back in 2017, looking to pay homage to the SCREAMERS. And—look—it’s pretty impossible to make a SCREAMERS record (in fact, the SCREAMERS couldn’t even pull it off). So, let’s just take that to mean that these fellas wanna make some synth punk. Which they accomplish! Nary a guitar is to be heard throughout the four tracks that make up this EP (at least as far as I can tell). And it’s good! Reminds me of the killer CONTROL TEST record that came out a few years back, or if  LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS were more cartoonishly sinister and squeezed in a SPITS-y chorus from time to time. Apparently this release has existed in one form or another since late 2019, but Cuerdas Fuera is doing god’s work here by pressing it to vinyl for the first time. If you can still find a copy, grab one!

Brick Head Thick as Bricks cassette

Another COVID recording project, this time featuring the songwriting of DEAF WISH’s Sarah Hardiman and drumming of Carolyn Hawkins (CHOOK RACE, PARSNIP, SCHOOL DAMAGE). On Thicks as Bricks you get nine tracks of loose, laid-back garage/proto-punk. The recording is warm and inviting, giving the whole cassette a bit of an intimate, live feel. You get the suggestion of loud music without ever getting the sense that it is loud (imagine the VELVET UNDERGROUND recording White Light/White Heat while trying not to wake the neighbors). It ends up giving off a bit of a late-aughts vibe, back when bedroom garage and one-ish-person bands were all over the place. Throughout these tracks, I hear stuff like the MARKED MEN or the KING KHAN & BBQ SHOW (and of course the artists who would have influenced them). But I also hear less cool stuff. The one comparison that I couldn’t shake was pre-Grand Theft Auto V BASS DRUM OF DEATH (which—hey—is the period of their work that I would revisit, were I to ever revisit any). Anyway, this cassette is mainly cool, so give it a listen.

Mainframe Employee / RIP 7″

Pretend for a minute you’re a mad scientist and you’ve got some crazy-ass experiment on the boil that involves weapons-grade plutonium, a fist full of Adderall, and—I don’t know—a Margaritaville brand “frozen concoction maker.” You’re working late, so you’ve got some lively tunes cranked to keep you from nodding off—a mix of LIQUIDS, C.C.T.V., and DEE DEE RAMONE. But—oh no—something goes wrong while you’re flipping a record! You turn around to see your now out-of-control experiment advancing across the room and watch as it engulfs a lab table, upon which sits a VHS copy of Rollerball that you had dubbed over with old episodes of Voltron and Beakman’s World. But as the smoke clears and dust settles, you notice the cassette…is…moving. It’s…it’s alive. A miracle! Realizing what a blessing this is, you do the only logical thing—make it form a band…a band that ends up becoming RESEARCH REACTOR CORP…OK, now take that same story and swap out the VHS with a thumb drive full of Snorks episodes. You’d likely end up with MAINFRAME! Anyway, MAINFRAME is an early-COVID email project between Sean Albert (SKULL CULT, BELLY JELLY) and the two RESEARCH REACTOR CORP. lads, Bill and Ishka (also from SATANIC TOGAS, SET-TOP BOX, etc.). It’s still fucked and fast like RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., but it’s brighter, sillier, and maybe even kind of pop. It’s almost certain to annoy the grumpier denizens of the punk world but be a fun time for everyone else. Single-sided 7″ too, so you don’t have to worry about your experiments going awry while flipping the record.

Mini Skirt Casino LP

It took a few listens for this record to click. On the first couple of spins I heard a competent take on the same type of thing EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING has been doing for years. That comparison is as lazy as it is fair—they’re both Australian (MINI SKIRT hails from Byron Bay), they play the same type of post-punk-tinged garage punk, they can ride a groove beyond the four-minute mark, and they’re led by an energetic, plain-spoken yobbo vocalist. What I missed initially, though, was just how important that vocalist is to this record. I suck at paying attention to lyrics, generally only noticing them when they are awful. But try as I might, it’s impossible to ignore them when presented this baldly. So, after a few play-throughs I started to notice their sincerity (refreshing when compared to the glut of egg-punk zaniness and post-punk remove that populates the modern punk landscape) and their atypical subject matter…at least for a band whose sound bares this much resemblance to pub rock. They deal with political nuance and the difficulties of getting older in a world that’s seemingly going to hell and run primarily by idiots, and the vocalist is able to wrench way more emotion out of these lyrics than you would expect given that he’s basically talk-shouting. It’s really an incredible performance, and I found myself genuinely moved at points. Anyway, somewhere around my fourth or fifth listen this record turned from solid to essential. Please give it a go!

Optic Nerve In a Fast Car Waving Goodbye cassette

Sydney hardcore band that’s been kicking around for the past few years issues their second release, a four-track cassette put out by Urge Records, the Sydney/Los Angeles label who have a track record for putting out cool shit. The Bandcamp copy on this release mentions JFA and MINUTEMEN as comparisons. I’ll give them the former, particularly in the vocals, but the latter is a bit of a stretch. Yes, the guitar is very trebly, but these guys aren’t really pushing the boundaries of hardcore in the same way D. Boon and company were, nor are they aping their sound in any noticeable way. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! In fact, these tracks are pretty solid, and the guitar tone certainly adds an interesting dimension. But rather than the punk/funk I associate with MINUTEMEN, I’m hearing more of a ’60s influence. A couple of these tracks even have a bit of a LINK WRAY/”Ghost Riders in the Sky” vibe. It’s an odd pairing but an interesting take on a familiar sound.

Chuzpe Women in Prison / Stealing Russians in Watchia 7″

Bachelor digs up two unreleased 1979 recordings from these Austrian oddballs. CHUZPE, arguably Austria’s first punk band, formed in 1977, initially playing pretty straightforward punk. Over time they would gradually morph into a full-on synth-pop band, but these tracks find them a bit closer to the punk end of that spectrum. “Women in Prison” is a punky new wave number where the synth is wielded like a frat rock organ, giving the song a bit of a B-52’S vibe. “Stealing Russians in Watchia” is more frenetic and post-punky with a circusy synth running throughout, sounding not unlike early WALL OF VOODOO. Probably inessential, but a cool enough record.

Jivestreet Revival My Boys EP

Second release from this Berlin-based act named like a late ’90s swing troupe. This four-song EP finds them channeling a mix of In My Head BLACK FLAG and the plodding grooves of early FLIPPER. When the primary vocalist is at his loosest, it sounds an awful lot like NIRVANA at their noisiest. The most distinct track on the record, “Suck My Watts” (seriously, these folks gotta get better at naming shit!), mixes things up with a female vocalist adding a full-throated early GOSSIP-like performance to the mix. I’m not sure that it works, but it definitely made me pay attention. And that pretty much sums up this release. Each listen left me feeling like maybe these pieces don’t really fit together. Nevertheless, I found myself compelled to go back in to make sure that was still the case. So, something interesting is going on.

Go Lamborghini Go Low 12″

Debut EP from this unfortunately named Berlin post-punk sextet. Apparently, the six tracks that make up Low were totally improvised, with only the vocals being written and added later. It certainly gives the EP a loose, jammy vibe. But the extended grooves the band locks into also serve as a nice reminder of the role funk has always played in post-punk. In fact, this record kind of feels like a survey of post-punk. “Repetition of High” sounds like a mix of early GANG OF FOUR and Remain in Light-era TALKING HEADS, “Truce” is an atmospheric goth-rock number that sounds an awful lot like the CURE, and “I’m Exhausted” has the same type of bass-driven melody you’d find on a JOY DIVISION track. It’s all very easy to listen to (aside from the minute-plus blast of noise that makes up “Cheap”) and really makes you wonder what they’d cook up were they to actually sit down and write some songs. Definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re a fan of the post-punky garage of EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING or the garage-y post-punk of INSTITUTE.

Tee Vee Repairmann Patterns EP

Latest project from Ishka Edmeades, whom you may know from his extensive résumé—he’s played in/as SET-TOP BOX, SATANIC TOGAS, GEE TEE, and RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION, and runs weirdo cassette punk label Warttman Inc. (co-releasers of this EP). But as great as those projects have been, Patterns might be his best release thus far. He’s taking that same NWI-worship you know from all his other projects, but this time he’s using it to construct some power/garage-pop tunes. His songwriting chops have always helped him stand out from the other eggs in the overcrowded DEVO-core basket, but hearing them applied in a slower, poppier setting really lets you appreciate all the disparate influences he’s working with. Throughout the four tracks on this EP, you can hear snatches of HUBBLE BUBBLE, SUPERCHARGER, HUNX AND HIS PUNX, the theme from the Heathcliff cartoon (…I’m only kind of joking), and of course DEVO—all tossed together into some seriously catchy numbers. Jump on it!

V/A Paul Henry’s Benefit Compilation cassette

Twenty-six-song cassette compilation benefiting Paul Henry’s, an art gallery and performance space in Hammond, IN that’s played an important role in nurturing the NWI punk scene. The cassette features tracks from a bunch of NWI bands and some other like-minded weirdos. You can expect plenty of the egg-punk/DEVO-core you’ve come to associate with the area, but there’s also some more straightforward punk, ripping hardcore, shoegaze, power pop, and more. Not all the tracks are great, but all the bands are interesting at the very least, and the variety is nice enough in of itself to make for a compelling listen. The physical cassette, which is housed in a handsome cardboard outer box with artwork from LIQUIDS’ Mat Willams, will only set you back $10. That’s less than 40 cents a track! Definitely worth it, especially when you consider how influential the NWI scene has been to punk in general these past five years or so! Highlights include tracks from LIQUIDS, RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., previously unreleased stuff from C.C.T.V. and BIG ZIT(!), and a song called “Jesus Christ Super Hard” by a band called WATERWORKS. Label says tapes will be available until people stop buying them, so go grab one!

Fugitive Bubble No Outside cassette

Second release from this Olympia band, and second to be issued by the Stucco label’s cassette-only imprint Impotent Fetus. It appears they’ve been whittled down to a three-piece since their debut, with the bassist taking over primary vocal duties, but I think it’s resulted in a net positive for the band. Where their last release sounded like a cartoony take on WARM BODIES (not a bad thing!), the six tracks on this cassette find them tempering some of that egginess with a little post-punk flair and ending up with a more distinct product. The vocals are more restrained and sing-songy, though still pretty monotone, and they’ve been double-tracked and reverbed, calling to mind LITHICS or later NOTS records. The guitar is a little cleaner and drenched in surf levels of reverb, but the band is still playing the same quick, nervy hardcore punk. It’s a familiar collection of sounds, but it feels like a novel assemblage. Cool stuff!

Soft Shoulder Formerly on Fluorescent Paper LP

Latest LP from this Sonoran noise rock recording project, who have apparently been going at it for around fifteen years now. This LP is made up of fourteen tracks, most of which clock in under two minutes, and touches on noisy post-punk, dance-y synth punk, and no wave. In its best moments it sounds a little like the A FRAMES with a late ’90s JON SPENCER production—in its worst, it sounds like the FAINT. I don’t know if I’ll be dipping back into this one, but the time I spent with it was enjoyable enough.

The Critics The Critics LP

All I knew about this band going in was they were an early ’80s new wave band out of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. And my initial reaction was, “Cool! I love Aussie bands…but you don’t usually see them coming out of Newcastle. Wonder if there was some sort of scene there—better check!” That’s when I came across maybe the most endearing site I’ve ever seen on the internet. And it actually had some good info on this band! Turns out they existed from 1980—1983, and in that stretch they released two singles and recorded this LP. However, the LP was shelved in 1982 for unknown reasons, only to be uncovered in the last couple years and released here for the first time. Quite the story! But what about the record? Well, it’s certainly new wave…but it’s also never not odd (maybe the first track aside). The vocalist sounds like Mark Mothersbaugh doing an impression of Richard Hell, the guitar tone sounds like early IRON MAIDEN, and the vaguely post-punk atmosphere and the lyrical content remind me of the ADVERTS or the WIPERS. On top of all that, some tracks pair TALKING HEADS funk with hair metal solos, and others feature full-on glam histrionics. To get a good sense of its strangeness, give the seven-minute, multi-part epic “Alien” a listen—it’s worth it!

Combat & Ruler The Loco-Motion / Action 7″

Third single from Tokyo band RULER (featuring members of TEENGENERATE, RAYDIOS, FIRESTARTER, etc.). This go-round they’ve recruited vocalist COMBAT, who’s apparently the drummer from the KANNANA SPEED CATS (she gets top billing on the 7″, which makes me think I should know who she is, but…I don’t). The A-side is a cover of the LITTLE EVA classic (written by Goffin/King), and the B-side is an original. It’s my favorite release of theirs thus far. This trashy—but not too trashy—take on “The Loco-Motion” is fantastic, and the original reminds me of what I loved about these folks’ previous projects. Give it a listen!

Gape Attack 2008–2010 LP

Philadelphia’s FDH Records brings us the total recorded output of Seattle lo-fi synth punkers/DIY new wavers GAPE ATTACK in a limited edition pressing of just 100 copies (looks like some are still available on FDH’s Bandcamp page!). While the overarching genre here is synth-driven post-punk, these guys are otherwise a little all over the map. There are a couple of punker tracks that sound like the SPITS (or their side project SPIDER), a handful of gloomy tracks that sound not unlike the Soviet-era darkwave that MOLCHAT DOMA has been peddling lately, and a couple peppier tracks that sound like early JOY DIVISION backed by Speak & Spell-era DEPECHE MODE. Fortunately their commitment to a DIY aesthetic really ties this all together, and this collection ends up sounding like an ode to the killer 1981 comp The Thing From the Crypt. It’s a very cool record. If you only listen to one track, make it the cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” It is great!

Headlice Vol. 1 EP

Debut EP from this Brisbane band fronted by the CHATS frontman Eamon Sandwith, and it’s certainly an interesting one. We’re treated to six quick tracks that, to my ears, call to mind a mix of NYHC, UK street punk, the DICKIES…and a goddamn synthesizer! Look, I by no means hate synths, but this one drowns out what I think would otherwise be some pretty cool tunes. Like, even 30% less synth, and I’m probably 100% on board. Recommended for people who think BAD NOIDS should sound more like the EPOXIES.

Predator Spiral Unfolds LP

After dropping the great GG KING record just a couple of months ago, Total Punk pulls a “While I’ve got you guys…” and ends up with a new LP from the other unsung heroes and elder statesmen of Atlanta’s punk scene, PREDATOR (who share two…maybe three members with GG KING). It’s technically their first LP since 2014’s The Complete Earth, but you’d be forgiven for not recognizing that, seeing as how one of the main creative forces behind the band, Brannon Greene, has also dropped a slew of records with his other projects NAG and GET HIGH BOYS—bands that sound similar enough that I (a true Predhead sicko) would have trouble differentiating were you to randomly play their songs at me. What’s maybe most surprising about this LP is how much it stands apart from previous PREDATOR releases (and other Brannon projects). There’s still plenty of the nihilistic post-punk-tinged hardcore that these guys have been delivering since 2009(!)—and it’s still great—but this is a much more varied affair than what we’ve gotten from them in the past. “Confessional” features an honest-to-god vocal melody, and “Hands Reaching Out” (maybe my favorite track on the album) could even be described as gentle. It’s just great to hear a band that’s been around this long doing whatever they want while clearly staying the same band and having it turn out this good. Also, quite the handsome sleeve on this one!

Collective Hardcore / Disco Junk split EP

What we have here is a double-dose of Melbourne teen go-getter Billiam, a.k.a. Billy Twyford!  You get a couple of tracks from his full band DISCO JUNK on the A-side, and three tracks from his solo recording project COLLECTIVE HARDCORE on the flip. I’ve had trouble deciding which I prefer, which I guess suggests both are pretty good. But I think the COLLECTIVE HARDCORE side takes it by a hair. The weirdo self-aware egg-punk (listen out for a CONEHEADS sample) works a little better than the straightforward, garage-y KBD stuff from DISCO JUNK. Plus, “Panic Attack” really smokes!

The Jacks Make ‘Em Cry LP

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

Psykik Vylence Psykik Vylence EP

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

Die Group / Tenement Rats split 7″

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

Dragnet All Rise for Dragnet LP

I take it this group of Melbournians are naming themselves after the FALL record, as this fourteen-track LP has a vaguely post-punk vibe, and they’re certainly cribbing the vocal stylings of Mark E. Smith. They forgo that band’s ramshackle charm, though, opting instead for the more fashionable, easier to imitate robotic rhythms of URANIUM CLUB or fellow countrymen VINTAGE CROP (now that I think about it, this might even be the same singer from that band). Unfortunately, the most distinguishing aspect of this release is also its most annoying. Throughout the record, the band peppers in these little lo-fi electronic interludes that come off more twee than what I imagine they’re going for. It’s a shame because it really undercuts what would otherwise be a fine, if not particularly original, record. The good news is these folks seem fairly young, so I imagine they’ll get another crack. And tracks like “Wipe it Off” showed enough promise that I’ll be keen to tune back in when they do.

Patti Good Big LP

Debut LP from this Brooklyn-via-Oakland art/dance-punk three-piece. This sounds like what you might get were you to raise a few DEVO-core mutants on What Makes a Man Start Fires-era MINUTEMEN and later PARQUET COURTS. It works best when they sound more like the former, less like the latter, and resist their basest mutant urges to showcase how “weird” they can get. The brand of half-hearted experimentation that they’re trying out here just sounds pretentious and annoying when paired with the otherwise straightforward punk funk or NYC-style dance-punk that they’re playing. Luckily, most of these sixteen tracks are sub-two minutes, so the more irritating songs are at least over pretty quickly. Not for the wacky-averse, but interesting enough to be worth a listen.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring All in Good Time LP

EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING, one of the best and most celebrated Australian bands of the ’00s, popped into the last few weeks of 2019 to drop a new LP with little fanfare, like they hadn’t taken most of the decade off. And while a lot changed in the interim between their last full-length, 2010’s Rush to Relax, All in Good Time finds the band sounding largely the same. With a couple of minor tweaks to their character settings—they’ve bumped up the NEU! slider a few notches and the PAGANS slider down a few (but left the TROGGS slider untouched)—they’ve turned in a gentler, more thoughtful album, one that will likely appeal to the tired ears of the fanbase that is now nine rough-ass years older. There’s nothing on here as manic as “Anxiety,” as explosive as “Sunday’s Coming,” or as revelatory as “Pitch a Tent,” but it’s still a treat to hear such an inimitable band play through a set of solidly crafted songs. They may not have rushed to get here, but this is the most relaxed the band has sounded—it suits them well. Now, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another nine years for the next album!

Nightclub Private Party LP

This Melbourne band featuring members of DEAF WISH, PARSNIP, and BITCH PREFECT has been kicking around for a few years, with a couple of cassettes under their belt. But Private Party, issued digitally in mid-2020 and pressed to vinyl later that year, is their proper debut, and it’s a good one!  NIGHTCLUB takes the ready-for-a-knife-fight attitude and amateur-psych production of the Teenage Shutdown comps and throws that on top of a punky homage to the VELVET UNDERGROUND and the STOOGES. Over the eight tracks on the LP, they conjure up images of empty streets, seedy backrooms, and amphetamine-fueled all-nighters. It’s like the audio equivalent of an early Jim Jarmusch movie, and it’s easy to imagine the distant sax that runs through these tracks being played by John Lurie’s character in Permanent Vacation. Even the seemingly odd choice to feature DUST BROTHERS-esque drum loops and production flourishes every so often adds to the surreal haven’t-slept-in-a-week vibes of the record. A real cool time!

Spodee Boy Rides Again… EP

SPODEE BOY is the solo recording project of Nashville’s Connor Cummins, whom you may know from G.U.N. or as one half of the duo SNOOPER. This is his third or fourth release, and it finds him breaking out of his egg punk shell to emerge as a sidewinding high plains drifter. It’s hard not to hear COUNTRY TEASERS in these four tracks, but it also brings to mind DEMON’S CLAWS or BRIMSTONE HOWL. But where those bands might make a fitting soundtrack for a drunken evening at a rowdy road house, Rides Again… would better suit a midnight shamble through Monument Valley after munching a fistful of Klonopin. You can even imagine the unbelievably tinny guitar naturally reverberating off those picturesque buttes. “Dress the Part” is probably the highlight of the EP, but the whole record is great. Such an unexpected and welcome turn for this project. Stellar stuff!

Bumbo’s Tinto Brass Band Cosmic Butter EP

When I get a review assignment for a release by a band I’m unfamiliar with, I try to go into my first listen context-free to avoid bringing any bias I may have about members’ past projects.That was not the best approach with these guys. Had I done a little research, I might have been able to brace myself for the wild-ass din that blasted out my headphones as soon as I put on the Cosmic Butter EP. BUMBO’S TINTO BRASS BAND is centered around Detroit-area bass player Brian “Bumbo” Krawczyk, whom you may know from noisy art-punk bands PIRANHAS or DRUID PERFUME. As raw and experimental as those bands were, BUMBO’S TINTO BRASS BAND makes them feel straightforward by comparison. Most of the seven tracks on this EP (one of which is a cover of a RESIDENTS song) sound like at least two songs being played at once—one by a PREENING-like, sax-heavy No Wave band, and one by a smooth, STEREOLAB-y modular synth, avant-pop band. These guys are here to freak squares the fuck out! I appreciate that BUMBO’S TINTO BRASS BAND is out there making palatable yet genuinely experimental music in a time when a lot of other bands are content to rehash shit we’ve already heard. But I’m also like 80% square, so,  while I dug a few songs, getting through the rest felt like a chore.

 

Ray Gun Jonesy cassette

RAY GUN is a trio out of Nashville who are sonically all over the map. This cassette (which I’m hoping is named after the cat in Alien) plays like a mixtape a friend with good taste might make you to let you know how much cool stuff they’re into. The cover’s collage even has the feel of something an artsy friend might whip up, really adding to the personalized mixtape vibe. Opening track “Ghost Machine” sounds like early TV GHOST riding a motorik groove out to a feedback freakout—it’s fantastic! “Black Candy” sees them turning a BEAT HAPPENING track into a HUNCHES-esque loud-quiet-loud garage punk ripper. There’s also an egg-punk track, a track that sounds like it could have been pulled off one of the more experimental mid-’80s SST records, a couple of synthy downer-punk dirges Á  la GARY WRONG GROUP, and even a straight-up FENNESZ-style ambient track—all extremely well done and tonally consistent. Good shit! Would love to hear an LP of this with some of these influences blended a little more seamlessly.

M.A.Z.E. II LP

It’s been nearly two years since we last heard from the Japanese band M.A.Z.E., and while they are clearly the same quirky post-punk-ish outfit from that last release, this latest LP is a much more manic affair. Their last 12″ was composed of sparse tracks built around rubbery bass lines and minimalist chicken scratch rhythm guitar that served as a backdrop for the vocalist’s KLEENEX-ish yelp. While Eriko still brings that same energy here, she takes a bit of a backseat to the guitar, which has become the star of the show. Most songs are built around hot, circus-y licks with a borderline synth sound that might give the LP more of a new wave-y vibe were they not played at such a frenzied pace. Overall, this LP sounds decidedly more punk than anything they’ve put out thus far. The blown-out beginning of “311” could even be mistaken for TEENGENERATE until the vocals kick in and they shift into an odd post-punk rhythm. And that’s kind of the defining trait of this unique LP—a song starts, they seemingly settle into a groove, shift into a weirder variation of that groove, shift again, then start a new song after doing that for a minute and twenty seconds. It’s great!

Cassie The Light Shines On LP

CASSIE was a short-lived Isle of Wight band. Their sole release, 1982’s “Change My Image” single, was about as perfect a new wave pop/bubblegum punk number as a band could write. Were it not for their mismanaged label’s inability to market the record, the single may have become the hit it deserved to be rather than languishing in obscurity. Fortunately, Reminder Records reissued that 45 last year, and now they have dug up the rest of the band’s recorded output for this compilation LP. While there’s nothing here as deliriously catchy as “Change My Image” (maybe aside from an earlier version of the song), the LP is still chock full of should-have-been hits. The fidelity across these fourteen tracks varies from rough studio cuts to even rougher demos, but the overall production is crunchy and immediate, highlighting the band’s energetic performances without getting in the way of the melodies. I imagine this could appeal to both grizzled punks and power pop wimps. Absolutely essential if you’re a fan of NIKKI AND THE CORVETTES, JOSIE COTTON, or early TEENAGE HEAD.

Ill Globo Check the Odds EP

My tolerance for puns is pretty low. So, I let out a bit of groan when I looked up this Melbourne band’s name to find out it’s a play on Il Globo, a publication that’s been providing news to Australia’s Italian community since the late ’50s. I’ll let that slide, though, because everything else about this release is great. ILL GLOBO burns through eight garage-infused hardcore tracks in about ten minutes. The songs are a nice blend of straightforward USHC (like CIRCLE JERKS) and some sunburnt Aussie punk’n’roll (like CIVIC). But the production here really sells it for me. I’m not sure if it’s a pedal or maybe a droning keyboard laid overtop (or both), but the overall effect is that the guitar sounds like a wasp stuck in the blinds. It’s great!

Dadar I’m a Töch EP

I don’t really know what a “dadar” is. Internet searches tell me it’s either a neighborhood in Mumbai or a type of Indonesian omelette. I doubt the band is going for either of those meanings. They’re not unlike an omelette, though—simple, maybe a little cheesy, but filled with enough interesting ingredients to be satisfying. Anyway, DADAR is a synth-driven garage punk band out of the tiny town of Rovereto in Northern Italy. This is their second 7″, and it’s got a couple of sub-two-minute originals on the A-side and a cover of a track by Italian art-punk band FHEDOLTS on the flip. The originals are good enough. “I’m a Töch” sounds like any of those BLACK LIPS copycat bands that popped up in the late ’00s, maybe with a little HANK WOOD thrown in, and “Calendarize” sounds like a reasonable facsimile of AUSMUTEANTS (in a good way). But I really dig this cover—the minimal post-punk synth melody and talk-sung vocals taken from the original sound great fleshed out with this band’s chunky garage punk sound. Definitely worth a listen!

The Cowboy Swimming With the Fishies EP

Cleveland noise punk band featuring members of HOMOSTUPIDS, PLEASURE LEFTISTS, FOLDED SHIRT, and more. This three-song EP was a stop-gap release between their 2017 debut on Fashionable Idiots and their 2020 LP on Feel It. The two tracks on the A-side run by quickly and sound like FLIPPER meets WATERY LOVE, while the B-side sounds more like an avant-garde take on post-hardcore. I think this stuff works better in album form. Still, this EP is solid. If you’ve liked any of their other stuff, you’ll like this. If you haven’t checked out any of their other stuff, this might be a good place to start—it’s pretty representative of their sound.

Speed Week Hey Hey It’s Speed Week 12″

SPEED WEEK is a newish band out of Melbourne who play pretty straightforward punky pub rock. Unlike their yobbo contemporaries the CHATS or AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS, who fall somewhere between a little winky and total caricatures, SPEED WEEK just seems like some lads who wanna get together up the pub and bang out some chunes. And they do on this mini LP—solid ones! What stood out most on this release were the lyrics. They’re as plain-spoken as you’d expect given the genre, but they’re also surprisingly earnest. One of the best tracks, “Equine Dream”, is an anti-Melbourne Cup tune (for Americans, think of the Kentucky Derby crossed with a frat party…or maybe just the Preakness). It’s written from the point of view of a racehorse who’s resenting his life of being drugged-up and trotted out to amuse dolled-up drunks. That may sound a bit silly on paper, but when the hook hit—”I’d rather be wild and living free in my equine dream!”—I genuinely found myself yearning for that exact same thing. Definitely not something I anticipated from some mulleted Aussies!

GG King Remain Intact LP

Have you ever gone into a hippie-ish coffee shop and gotten one of those homemade calorie-dense, no-bake energy bars? They’re full of seeds and nuts and dates and shit and are held together with peanut butter or maybe chocolate. All of the ingredients are unadulterated and easily identifiable but mixed in such a way that you get a taste of every element in each bite, and they combine to make a distinct treat that’s both nutritious and delicious. GG KING albums are kind of like that with their genre influences, and this latest LP, their third, is no exception. Throughout, you can hear KIDS-esque Euro punk, power pop, garage punk, horrorcore, deathrock, metal—but it’s never presented as simply as “Here’s our take on CHRISTIAN DEATH.” All those ingredients appear wholly present and unaltered, but they’re mixed into something rich and distinctly GG KING. This LP maybe feels more mature than their previous efforts—not in a “they’ve finally figured out their sound” kind of way, but more that the record’s tone—sonically and lyrically—feels a bit more grown up…or maybe I’m just being influenced by the fold-out photo of the band and their families on the insert. I was really bummed when Rich from Total Punk announced that he was throwing out his stamp pads and no longer putting out 7″s. But if he continues with this shit-hot streak of LPs, maybe it’s for the best.

Intelligence Un-Psychedelic in Peavey City LP

Back in 2015, I read an MRR  review of Vintage Future (the INTELLIGENCE’s previous LP) where the reviewer lamented the band’s pivot to “blog rock.” At the time, I was hitting the Lars Finberg Kool-Aid pretty hard—not only did he helm one of my favorite active bands in the INTELLIGENCE, but he had been involved in so many other projects that I loved (A FRAMES, DIPERS, PUBERTY, THEE OH SEES)—so I had trouble understanding how someone could dislike anything he’d put out. A lifetime has passed since then, which has allowed me to see this as a fair assessment. I’m probably still higher on that LP than the reviewer, but it’s certainly a much more sedate affair than you would expect given their past trajectory. Unfortunately, this latest album travels even further down the soft rock avenue, and I’m having difficulty finding much to enjoy. It pains me to say this, but the LP sounds like BECK at his sleepiest or some of the lamer FUGAZI records that appeal to folks who go to Burning Man. I’m willing to grant that Lars’s songwriting has matured in ways that I should learn to appreciate, and I wouldn’t want to sentence him to a life of endlessly cranking out iterations of Icky Baby or Males. Still, I need something with more bite than this.

Moth Machine Nation EP

MOTH is a new recording project from Darcy Berry, whom you may know as the drummer from Melbourne acts GONZO or U-BAHN. He’s playing all the instruments on this four-song EP, and the sound basically splits the difference between those two bands, like he’s pulling the tight, DEVO-esque start-stop rhythms from the former and the synthy post-punk atmospherics from the latter. The end result brings to mind a less wacky URANIUM CLUB or meaner AUSMUTEANTS. These songs are all covering very well-trodden ground, but the execution here is pretty flawless and elevates this EP to something worth seeking out (Mikey Young also mixed and mastered this, so of course it sounds great). Standout track is “Jealousy,” which features Veeka Nazarova (from indie pop band KOSMETIKA) providing lyrics and vocals (in Russian!).

Kneeling in Piss Tour de Force LP

Was I prepared to like a band called KNEELING IN PISS? Actually, yes—as far as band names go, this one is cool and good. Was I expecting a band with such a name to sound like this or to blow me away? I was not! KNEELING IN PISS is a Columbus-based project led by songwriter (and apparent novelist)  Alex Mussawir, and despite what their name might suggest, they don’t play black metal-infused hardcore, jokey thrash, or snotty punk. Instead, their debut LP is full of smart, funny, catchy, blown-out, lo-fi pop. The tracks range from goofy gentle numbers (“Feeling Romantic”) to flat-out rockers (“Song About Being Unemployed”) and remind me of any number of excellent bands (STRAPPING FIELDHANDS, COUNTRY TEASERS, DAN MELCHIOR, TYVEK, TALL DWARFS, the SHIFTERS) without ever sounding like a straight-up copy. It’s really an incredible record and easily the best thing I’ve listened to in a while. Get on it!

Satanic Togas X-Ray Vision LP

More NWI-worship from Down Under! This is the first proper LP from this Sydney project after a handful of cassettes and a split 7″ with GEE TEE. The group seems to be led by the same dude behind Warttman Inc., a cassette label that’s released stuff from like-minded Australian artists RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION, R.M.F.C., SET-TOP BOX, and the aforementioned GEE TEE. The TOGAS stand out from that crowd (and their NWI forebears) by leaning a little more heavily on some ultra-cheap synths and really letting their garage influence show. This album is full of good tracks, but definitely give “Skinhead” a listen. Not only does it showcase how they’re not just another CONEHEADS clone (it’s got kind of a WRECKLESS ERIC vibe, even), but it’s just so dumb and so great.

Freak Genes Power Station LP

Andrew Anderson (HIPSHAKES, PROTO IDIOT) and Charlie Murphy (RED CORDS), a couple of garage punkers turned synth-poppers, bring us their fourth LP as FREAK GENES and their first for Feel It. Anything that gets Mr. Feel It’s seal of approval warrants your attention, so I went into this with an open mind after (unfairly) writing these dudes off due to a string of bad album covers. I really dig this cover, though—great use of foil stamping! Anyway, the tunes! This is a solid collection of budget electro-pop. It’s punker than YAZ and poppier than FRONT 242. A couple of the tracks can get a little goofy/grating, but if you like well-constructed, catchy tunes and can stomach cheesy synths, there’s plenty to like on this LP.

Sex Cuts Cop Bait cassette

SEX CUTS is a four-piece out of Gothenburg, Sweden who refer to themselves as “anti-genre.” More accurately, though, they play po-faced, political post-hardcore. Cop Bait is their debut cassette…and it gets off to a rough start. Opener “Designer Thoughts” is an anti-“cancel culture” song, with lyrics that read like talking points for an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show. I’m pretty sure this isn’t their intention—they otherwise stick to pretty typical political punk grievances—but the chorus of a song maybe isn’t the right avenue to float a nuanced take on what is quickly becoming a core principle of the Republican platform. Anyway, this soured me on the rest of the cassette, which consists of five more tracks that sound like murky variations of  “Polish” by FUGAZI sans any of the melodic elements.

Finale Vision de Futuro LP

If you check out their Bandcamp page, you’ll see Valencia, Spain four-piece FINALE tagged as DEVO-core or egg-punk. While I’m certainly a fan of bands that have borne those labels, it was refreshing to dig into this LP and find neither to be appropriate. This lacks the hallmark herky-jerkiness of DEVO-core and isn’t really wacky enough to qualify as egg-punk (though, to be fair, I think I heard a faint mouth harp on one track—that’s pretty wacky, I guess). There are a couple of tracks on here that flirt with some funk rhythms, but for the most part this LP is full of loose, garage-y KBD punk with some great quacky vocals. It reminds me of BITS OF SHIT with cleaner guitars or, on the slower tracks, EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING. I’m into it!

New Vogue New Vogue cassette

I was not familiar with this band going in, so when I went to their Bandcamp page and noticed the pile of skulls in their banner image and mistakenly saw the cover photo of this cassette as a deformed animal skull, I braced myself for a red-hot dose of crust. Fortunately for you guys, my initial impression turned out to be way off (I can get down with some crust, but I’m definitely not qualified to write about it)! I also see now that this cover image is an oddly cropped, high-contrast, black-and-white photo of a lady…laying on a bear rug(?). Anyway, this is great! NEW VOGUE is a synth-y punk/post-punk band out of Montreal, and this eight-song cassette is their third release. If you’re a fan of TOTAL CONTROL’s punkier cuts, you’ll dig this. “Safe on the Autobahn,” one of the standout tracks, sounds like JAY REATARD covering a DEVO song that was written as a tribute to KRAFTWERK, which is not a far-off comparison for the rest of the cassette. There are some moments where they dip into some odd harmonies that don’t quite fit, or they put a little too much flanger effect on the vocals for my taste. But these are minor quibbles with an overall solid release.

R.M.F.C. Hive Volumes 1 & 2 LP

R.M.F.C. (or Rock Music Fan Club) is the bedroom recording project of New South Wales teen Buz Clatworthy, and this LP compiles his first two cassettes. This fits nicely alongside any of the recent spate of releases from fellow NWI-worshiping Aussies, like SATANIC TOGAS, RESEARCH REACTOR CORP, DISCO JUNK, GEE TEE, etc. What sets R.M.F.C. apart from those other bands is his willingness to slow things down a bit. While there are plenty of the lightning-fast tracks that you’ve probably come to expect from this lot, songs like “Television” and “Mirror” creep by in comparison and really allow you the time to appreciate the odd mix of influences these kids are working with. Maybe it’s just because I feel a little inundated with speedy DEVO-core lately, but I find myself preferring these slower tracks. Regardless, this is an impressive collection of tunes, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this kid comes up with next.

The Snakes The Snakes LP

Anti-Fade is one of a handful of labels that I follow religiously. But every so often I’ll have a crisis of faith and find myself willfully ignoring a release for no reason other than, say, unappealing cover art or a generic band name. The Snakes by the SNAKES was such a release. Fortunately, MRR intervened and I now see the error of my ways. This is quite a delightful LP! The SNAKES are a five-piece outfit from Melbourne, and they play an odd mix of organ-driven garage punk, sleazy proto-punk, and circus-y new wave. It reminds me at times of mid-’80s CURE, the MIGHTY GO-GO PLAYERS, the soundtrack to Liquid Sky, and Richard Hell (particularly the vocalist). I don’t know how much replay value this one has, but it’s definitely worth a listen if you’re down for an interesting time. I’m certainly keen to see what they do next!

Snooper Music for Spies EP

SNOOPER is a Nashville-based duo made up of Connor Cummins (SPODEE BOY) and Blair Tramel. This is their first release, and it’s quite an impressive debut. They cover so much ground over the course of these four tracks that I was genuinely surprised to see that the whole EP’s running time is just seven minutes and twenty seconds. The inevitable comparison here would be to the CONEHEADS, as they certainly crib a lot from the NWI sound. But they infuse it with enough other influences that it feels like a fresh take. I hear fellow Tennesseeans LOST SOUNDS in their explosive choruses and a little bit of the URINALS in their production. The best track on the EP might be the one that bears the least resemblance to Mark Winter and company. “Running” establishes a borderline Krautrock groove with a simple drum beat, a DEVO-esque bassline, and chanted vocals, then it alternately weaves in a fuzzy surf guitar line and a MINUTEMEN-like funk riff. It really is something. An essential release!

Penance Hall Covered in Shit / Take Me to the Bar Fight 7″

PENANCE HALL is a lo-fi downer/synth-punk duo made up of Robert Watson Craig III (a.k.a. BUCK BILOXI or GIORGIO MURDERER) and Michael He-Man (TRAMPOLINE TEAM). And each dude seems to get a side on this 7″. The BUCK side, “Covered in Shit,” sounds like GIORGIO MURDERER doing a chopped and screwed remix of a SPITS track. If you’re not a big fan of Mr. MURDERER’s work, this track likely isn’t going to do it for you, as it’s just a slight tweak to his usual formula (which I happen to love). But you have to give this Michael He-man side a spin! “Take Me to the Bar Fight” is a catchy little number that gives off seedier and more pessimistic vibes than a song about literally being covered in shit. Just absolutely stellar work!

The Freakees / Research Reactor Corp. split EP

Goodbye Boozy seems to be cranking out these split 7″s lately. While I’m not generally a fan of the format, I think they could have done worse with this pairing. The A-side is two quick tracks from Sydney-based torch bearers of the NWI sound, RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. And they are just excellent. RCC takes the CONEHEADS’ herky-jerk formula, adds some cartoonishness and menace, and leans a little more into that warbly direct-to-VHS-sounding production. I love it. The FREAKEES, out of L.A., give us two tracks of blown-out, bass-heavy garage punk that skews a bit more punk than garage. It reminds me of the band SCRAPER. Though, instead of deadpan, talk-shout vocals, you get an ear-splitting screech that’s reverbed to hell. I think these are pretty great tracks, but I found the vocals a tad much at times. But FREAKEES gotta freak, I guess!

Ond Tro Syv Sange EP

OND TRO (“evil belief”) is a punky hardcore band out of Copenhagen, who run through seven tracks (Syv Sange is literally “seven songs”) in around ten minutes on this EP. Now, I don’t know whether to blame this on my lack of Danish hardcore points of reference or a first impression that I just couldn’t shake, but this sounds a lot like a ’90s Victory Records band playing MARKED MEN songs. There are a lot of open hi-hat counts into tracks, and the production is overall pretty STRIFE-y. But listen to “Gra Skyer” and tell me it doesn’t sound exactly like a MARKED MEN track until the vocalist comes in to bark lyrics like a late-era Raybeez. Anyway, silly comparison aside, I had a good time with this.

Alien Nosejob Suddenly Everything is Twice as Loud LP

For the uninitiated, ALIEN NOSEJOB is the anything-goes solo project of Jake Robertson (AUSMUTEANTS, HIEROPHANTS, SMARTS). So far he’s put out records covering KBD punk, indie pop, straightforward hardcore, new wave, and disco. While previous releases have been more genre-focused (like the excellent USHC workout HC45 EP), this LP takes a more whimsical route through a handful of similar sounds. We’ve got some straight up RAMONES-core (“Television Sets,” “Black Sheep”), earnest indie pop (“Weight Of The World,” “Blending In”), and even some Horrendous New Wave-y new wave (“Spin Cycle”). Not every track is great, but when you take as many shots as this dude, you’re bound to chuck up a brick or two every now and then. Even still, this LP highlights what a gifted songwriter, musician, and producer Jake is. I’m stoked to see what direction he takes the project in next!

Eyes and Flys New Way to Get It EP

Are you wistful for, like, 2009? You know, the halcyon days when lo-fi garage pop and shitgaze ruled the (Myspace) airwaves, “Be My Baby” drum beats were de rigueur, your local Sparks and Four Loko-littered basement might host a bill of PSYCHEDELIC HORSESHIT and the BARBARAS, and your favorite band’s latest release could be put out by a hip economy car company? If so, have I got a release for you! To be fair, EYES AND FLYS, a recording project out of Buffalo, is a little more BLACK TIME (good!) than WAVVES (bad!), and it’s not like they’re singing about pizza parties or fake dance crazes. Really, it’s a solid take on this kind of sound. But it’s a sound that nevertheless reminds me of a feel-good time that doesn’t quite match the world’s current tenor. It makes it tough for me to enjoy. But that’s more on me than it is these tunes, which I suspect would have appealed to pre-doomer me. So, give it a listen!

Prized Pig PPEP EP

PRIZED PIG is a noise rock band out of Los Angeles, whose commitment to old school recording techniques and a DIY ethos is admirable. This whole EP was recorded, mixed, and mastered using analogue tape. They also designed and printed their own sleeves. Good stuff! And you can hear this same dedication in the performance—these guys are going for it! I can see this working really well live. Unfortunately, the tunes themselves are a little ho-hum. The opening track, “Mistake,” is maybe the best—the vocalist does a passable CRAZY SPIRIT impression over a sped-up, dumbed-down CHUCK BERRY groove with breaks for noise noodling. “Toothless Tom” sounds like a deconstructed dance-punk song. And “Race Car” sounds more like PRIMUS than I would guess they were aiming for (although, who knows—with that song title, it might be on purpose). I really like these guys’ moxie! I just wish I liked the songs more.

The Cool Greenhouse Alexa! / End of the World 7″

I went into this release skeptical. Actually, aside from their debut, a record I ordered on a whim because I thought Market Square Records was cool, I’ve been skeptical of every COOL GREENHOUSE release. I liked that first 7″, but I’d assumed this was a novelty project. The minimal, talk-sung songs with bookish lyrics were fun, and the detuned guitars with crap Casio accompaniment made for an interesting sound. None of that seemed sustainable, though. But with each release, Tom Greenhouse has done just enough with the project—including fleshing it out into a full band for the last LP (which was great!)—to keep the schtick from growing tiresome. Still, I had my doubts about sitting through clever ruminations on “Alexa” and a retread of the B-side from that first 7″. And, look—this sounds exactly like I had imagined going in…but it’s great. “Alexa” is maybe a bit too clever, but it’s probably as close to “catchy” as this band will get. But this B-side! I didn’t think something as simple as adding real drums could change the DNA of a song, but the full-band version of “End of the World” is such an upgrade over the original that I’m now declaring it the official version.

Science Man Science Man II LP+flexi

I thought I’d listened to SCIENCE MAN before. But I think I was conflating NATURAL MAN BAND and some of the more overtly sci-fi denizens of the egg-punk world, like POWERPLANT or RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. To be honest, that impression isn’t too far off. While SCIENCE MAN (one-man project of John Toohill from RADIATION RISKS and other Buffalo bands) may be more indebted to the NEW BOMB TURKS and less to DEVO than any of those bands, he’s still employing the services of a drum machine to make some “out there” music. This is pretty much lightning-fast garage punk laid atop an incessant, driving industrial track with some metal and prog flourishes thrown in (as I’m writing this out, I’m realizing that’s quite the odd set of genre bedfellows, but it works). Although there are nine separate tracks (the physical release also includes a flexi with an additional track), II functions more as a continuous 20-minute mix—once it gets going, it never lets up. This is all really impressive stuff, but I want to highlight this vocal performance. It’s like Greg Cartwright turned up to eleven. Definitely worth checking out.

Shrinkwrap Killers Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass / Merch Killer 7″

Third entry (of a planned five) in Iron Lung’s mysterious “Systemic Surgery” series. Aside from the limited run (only 200 copies pressed), deluxe packaging (hand-stamped labels, custom die-cut sleeves, risograph prints), and hitherto unheard-of bands (the first two entrants were from CLARKO and HOMELESS CADAVER), I have no idea what ties these releases together. At least Iron Lung was nice enough to let us know who’s behind the outfit this time—Oakland’s Greg Wilkinson (BRAINOIL, DEATHGRAVE, and Earhammer Studios). The title track is straight up SPITS worship that’s maybe a bit heavier on synths. The B-side also really leans on the keys and has more of a gothic pop punk vibe, in the vein of the HEX DISPENSERS. Neither cut is particularly memorable, and this stab at dum-dum lyrics needs more…or maybe less work.  Recommended only for those Systemic Surgery completists out there.

Piss Crystals Spielt Nicht Zum Tanz cassette

Noisy punk out of Budapest. Starts off promising enough. “Problem” is a ripping (if a tad generic) slice of garage punk with fantastic production—it’s trebly, sharp, immediate, and really fits what I imagine they’re going for (something along the lines of BLACK TIME). But that production is pretty much the only constant running through this cassette. It’s all certainly noise punk in some general sense, but it is as if they’re slathering that sound atop a different subgenre on each track. “AcsarorszÁ¡g” is noisy hardcore, “Glasshaus Zwei” is noisy metal, and “Promises (Still) Unkept” is noisy…emo! While that might sound interesting on paper, it never really clicked with me past the opening track. I don’t quite know what element to pin this on, but the whole tape kinda stinks of the late ’90s. I’m fine with that when it brings to mind late ’90s Load Records, but not so much when I get a whiff of AT THE DRIVE IN.

Stirling One Percenter EP

Unearthed 1996 recordings from this short-lived Essex band. Five quick tracks of noisy, dumbed-down punk ’n’ B. Sits somewhere between PUSSY GALORE’s garage-y din and early OBLIVIANS’ cro-magnon punk. Highlights are “R-E-V-E-N-G-E” and “Go Away,” the latter of which even sounds like an Eric O-penned tune. Maybe not an essential release, but certainly a welcome one! Fun fact: one of the guitarists on this release, Sam Knee, compiled the book A Scene In Between and runs the (great!) Instagram account @sceneinbetween, where he catalogs UK fashion and alternative youth culture from the ’80s indie scene.

Gimmick Quarantine cassette

Chunky hardcore out of the the Pacific Northwest. A little slower and less trebly than their regional cohorts ELECTRIC CHAIR and SUCK LORDS, but also a little less straightforward. The vocals are the standout here, provided by the aptly named Gag (expect lots of punk retching), and they add a nice layer of punk slop to the mix. The overall effect reminds me of BLACK PANTIES or other egg-adjacent hardcore. This stuff works best when they either slow things to a crawl and really let the negativity breathe, as they do on “Pickled Heart,” or when they really go for it and let the bile fly like on “Boi Shit.” Seven-song cassette—same program both sides—limited to 100 copies (and looks like Sorry State still has a few). A solid debut, and I’m certainly interested in hearing more from these guys!

Morwan Зола-Земля (Zola-Zemlya) LP

MORWAN is the solo project of Kiev-based artist Alex Ashtaui. My worry prior to listening to this was that it was gonna be more ’80s Eastern Bloc post-punk cosplay, Á  la MOLCHAT DOMA (whom I like, but don’t need more of!). This is resoundingly not that! Tonally, it’s not dissimilar—it’s definitely on the gothier end of the punk spectrum, and I can see TikTok teens co-opting snippets to soundtrack their #sovietvibes videos. But the sound here is much more organic and relies on post-punk as a foundation to build atop rather than a sound to emulate. Vocals are multi-tracked chants that echo as though recorded in some imposing brutalist atrium. The guitar and bass lines remind me of the surf/psych instrumentals coming out of Pakistan in the late ’60s (like the MODS or the PANTHERS), and the drum patterns are intricate to the point of sounding programmed (in that respect, it even reminds me of AMON TOBIN’s 2005 album Chaos Theory). All of these elements are extremely rhythmic yet are woven together to create a sound that’s overtly melodic and much warmer than you’d think given its “Eastern European Post-Punk” label. But maybe most strikingly, this album makes me want to move—not necessarily dance—just…move. Really, it’s hard to overstate how original this record sounds and just how impressive it is. Absolutely fantastic!

Schrankaffe 87-93 LP

SCHRANKAFFE (which translates to “Cupboard Monkey”!) was an arty punk band out of Hamburg, Germany. If you are unfamiliar with them (as I was), you might assume from the album title (as I did) that they operated in the late ’80s/early 90s and this is a collection of their total output from this period. But no! They existed for just three gigs back in 2008, and this is a collection of their total output from that time, initially issued as a CD-R in 2009 and reissued here on vinyl. The title’s significance still escapes me, but the music doesn’t sound unlike it was made in that era. The tunes are mainly mid-fi affairs that skew post-hardcore, but the punker tracks are the most interesting. The guitarist plays feedback-y lead throughout, like he’s assembling songs from variations on the first 30 seconds of BLACK FLAG’s “My War” or “Can’t Decide,” while singer, Itty auf Ex, adds upbeat talk/shout vocals overtop. The drummer will often pitch in vocals for a call-and-response verse or a gang chorus, generally to good effect. I don’t know that I’ll be dipping back into this one, but I found my time with it quite charming. Worth a listen.

Z-Cars This Is Z-Cars 7″

Z-CARS (pronounced “zed-cars” and named after what appears to be a UK take on the show Dragnet) is a power pop band that operated out of Melbourne in the late ’70s/early ’80s. This Is Z-Cars, their sole 7″, was issued in 1980 by Au Go Go and is reissued here by Meanbean Records. Truth be told, I’m not above a wimpy power pop tune, and I’m obsessed enough with Australian music that it doesn’t take much to sell me on any record from Down Under. So, it’s really surprising that this one just isn’t doing it for me. These tracks, both originals, sound like lackluster covers of some of the less memorable cuts from Nuggets II. The production is too clean to provide any punk edge, the not-quite-BEATLES-esque harmonies aren’t quite off-kilter enough to be interesting, and the tunes aren’t really catchy at all. Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking this. The liner notes—written by the singer—mention that the band “weren’t the best or most memorable band going.” I even watched an interview with the drummer where he, when presented with this reissue, noted that he’d completely forgotten about the band!