Reviews

Dov Malzberg

Kometa Our Open Bodies Will Respond LP

This is melody-heavy indie rock with a somber touch. There’s a lot of harmony, a little reverb, and a bunch of light guitars played over PIXIES-esque bass lines. Several songs move at a dreamy pace as those faint guitar notes linger on for seconds. At one point, they stretch into a prolonged drone. It’s a nice-looking record with a clean, professional sound.

Curtains / Swift Knuckle Solution DCxPC Live Presents, Volume 7 split EP

I’m not a big proponent of live albums from the listener’s standpoint—most of the time, they don’t measure up to a band’s other releases. Even when they’re good, they’re often issued in order to fulfill a label deal or to make some cash for defunct bands (no judgment, punks gotta eat). I can’t say this record is better than either of the featured band’s studio recordings, but it’s not bad either. CURTAINS are right at the stylistic crossroad of pop punk and hardcore (think LEATHERFACE or LIFETIME). SWIFT KNUCKLE SOLUTION is a more cut-and-dry hardcore affair. This is a good showcase for each and a good excuse to give DIY bands some more cash.

Busy Weather Busy Weather 12″

Rough-around-the-edges pop punk from Asheville, North Carolina. For some of you, this says it all. For everyone else, a brief stylistic overview: the above description refers to a micro-genre of pop punk, mostly from the Southeastern US, typically without the smooth finish of an Epitaph or Fat Wreck release. There’s plenty of memorable guitars and vocals that are equal parts abrasive and melodic. The tempo rarely goes much over 150 BPM and sometimes it can slow to a sleazy crawl. This record competently covers all those bases. If you liked anything from ADD/C to FUTURE VIRGINS, this release sits comfortably alongside them in a crowded living room show.

Ella Se Peló Resiliencia cassette

ELLA SE PELÓ shifts musical gears throughout this record, usually at a manic pace. It’s not that thrash metal riffs, post-HC noise, or melodic hardcore are so different from one another, but the frequency with which they’re rotated here left me spinning. It felt like I was listening to a sampler of 30-second-long songs by different bands. Luckily, each of those bands was quite good. ELLA SE PELÓ is incredibly tight and executes all those riffs, breakdowns, and instrumentals with skill. Each part, however different, sounds great, if a bit brief. I would have preferred to stay with one or two styles the whole time, or for longer stretches.

The Wirms Live at the Lamplighter Lounge cassette

Not too fast, not too loud punk rawk in what sounds like a very crappy bar (not a complaint). The singer gives us a raspy yowl and a Jello warble while playing US ’76–79-style riffs with most of the flair scooped out. Much like cover song records, I just don’t think live albums are necessary. This one does not capture the qualities which make the band’s demo and other releases a lot of fun.

The Ejector Seats Brand New Catastrophe LP

Many songs on Brand New Catastrophe seem out-of-tune at first, but soon roll out a complementary riff and presto! It’s an earworm! It’s a gimmick, but a good one. Unfortunately, other gimmicks age poorly: I think the vox-thru-a-megaphone move peaked by 2002, and just because you can overlay a riff with a keyboard mimic (think My Brain Hurts-era SCREECHING WEASEL) doesn’t mean you should. But sometimes all these extra bells and whistles provide a nice kick, like an espresso shot in your coffee, which is good enough for me.

Call in Dead Patriarchy / Religious Wars 7″

What it says on the tin. Gender critique over blastbeats followed by a faithful rendition of a punk rock standard. Personally, I think covers are best reserved for live shows. However, this version is fine, but omitting the rapid-fire bass notes during the bridge’s opening? Really?! The aforementioned blastbeats sound best when played to the verge of pure noise, so when the band appears to ease off the pedal, I believe something is lost. Maybe it’s the production’s fault? I recommend using much crappier equipment and burying the result in your backyard for a few weeks.

 

Icepield A​ɪ​SP​ɪ​ː​LD cassette

I don’t know how to pronounce this cassette’s title, but I do know that this is late ’90s/early ’00s emo. The songs are on the sophisticated end of the genre: tense, scale-crawling guitar parts appear alongside layered power chords. The former come with occasional chugging riffs, which give it a pop punk tint. The vocals are a real SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE/BRAND NEW whine. The band mostly plays it safe musically but stretches the boundaries a few times, which kept me on my toes.

Pacino Sedm Sv​ě​tů LP

PACINO has real energy under their sometimes understated delivery. The bass and drums propel the songs, though you might miss them at first—behind the riffs, they’re defining and pushing the music forward. The guitars mostly play around the bass, providing complementary notes instead of a louder, more distorted mimic. The rough vocals have a wonderful harmony at their core. The band’s genre feels familiar, but I’m struggling to identify it—’90s alt rock? Lo-fi indie? If you’re interested in the answer, please give it a listen.

Under Pressure Vicious Bite & Vengeance Demo LP

Graffiti font! American flags! Outer boroughs! It’s the whole schtick. This re-release is pretty cut-and-dry late ’80s NYHC. It retains the short-fast-loud DNA with some post-YOUTH OF TODAY breakdowns and mid-tempo beats. There’s even Cause for Alarm-style guitar shredding for good measure. The poor audio quality makes this more of an historic document than a genre highlight.

Beex / L’Amour split LP

Two bands with a shared member and shared sensibilities. BEEX plays slightly rocked-up, boilerplate blues. Thankfully we’re spared lengthy guitar solos. L’AMOUR delivers more of the same with a RAMONES-y, MÖTORHEAD-y tilt. The sound on this LP is pro enough, though I suspect poorer quality would’ve been suitable, too. The soundtrack to a perfectly crappy bar.

Pembroke All the Brightest Pictures LP

PEMBROKE ties a bunch of different HC/punk genres together, which could sound dynamic or awkward depending on the listener. The writing and execution of any single riff or song is just fine, but the change between post HC riffs, breakdowns, crooning, and even reggae sounded forced to me. The production is nice and clean, like a ’90s Epitaph or Fat Wreck release.

No Dead Monsters Line Up / D Hall 7″

Punk, no chaser. The vocals are mixed louder than the guitars, usually a bad sound. Did we learn nothing from the first CLASH LP? The choruses are memorable and stuck in my ears after the finish. There’s only two songs here, the perfect length for a punk record.

Public Opinion Modern Convenience LP

The record begins with a stomping, almost hair rock riff and keeps that spirit throughout. This is a punk interpretation of rock, or maybe rock poured through a punk filter. The rhythm is steady, not raging, and there’s cowbells kissing the honky tonk breaks. The power chords are crisp and the singer is ready to “break down the door” ‘cuz they “were right all along.”

Touchhole Touchhole demo cassette

Lo-fi (and I mean low) bass, drums, and noise combo. It’s dissonant but not totally off-the-rails, i.e. there’s definitely a beat, vocals, and something resembling a melody. Imagine a hardcore record with vocals fed through an effects pedal and guitars sped up or slowed down beyond recognition. Kinda feels like TOUCHHOLE is trolling the listener, like “just how much of this can you tolerate hearing?” Your answer may dictate how much you like this.

Destiny Bond 2022 Promo cassette

DESTINY BOND dials back the distortion and lets the riffs and drums drive, and drive they do! They dispense galloping D-beats and floor-punchy breakdowns with expertise. The singer’s aggrieved, sarcastic gripe is a nice change of pace from being barked at. The mostly straight-line punk riffs occasionally insert melodic notes and fills but mostly keep it simple, which is as it should be.

Ottawa The Third Age 12″

This rerelease sure has a musical time stamp. Listeners will find plenty of mid-’90s USHC hallmarks: fast, occasionally breakneck tempos, blastbeats spliced in, and forays into crossover thrash territory here and there. The two vocalists trade high-pitched screams and a hoarse shout respectively. And of course, there are lots of (maybe too many) movie soundbites.

The Wilful Boys World Ward Word Sword LP

The WILFUL BOYS keep things loud, but also like to bring out their songs’ different qualities, be they aggro or poppy, lurching or raging. The vocals are a talky drone just as often as a hardcore snarl. My favorite songs restrain the ‘core just a little and dash in some pop or discordant noise. Sometimes it’s nice to get your angst sideways.

Milk TV Anorak / Bowery Swing 7″

MILK TV channels early ’80s post-punk and it’s coming in loud and clear. I heard a bit of DELTA 5, MERCENÁRIAS, and DEVO in the mix. The songs’ melodies and rhythms sneak up on you in a great way. They can seem awkward or aimless at first, but in no time you’re in the midst of a totally weird, totally danceable number and you realize you’ve been headed there the whole time.

Komplex Viny Pohřeb Všedního Dne EP

Czech Republic’s KOMPLEX VINY often runs up to and hops over the line between crust and metal. You’ll hear buzzsaw chords one moment and a bit of guitar shredding the next. The gruff vocals arrive complete with a gurgle at the back of the throat. The delivery is excellent, but the pro production quality (a common feature in this genre) feels out of place. I prefer my crust a little crustier.

Death Bag Death Bag LP

I think music benefits from a sense of fun, especially when it’s otherwise dark or morbid. Maybe DEATH BAG agrees? Their kinda deathrock, kinda psychobilly style benefits from danceability and larger-than-life vocals. Generally, the record is a goth-y bag of lower register tunes at a steady but driving pace and with a little mangled, weird guitar sprinkled throughout. Pair with your favorite monster flick or thunderstorm.

Kirkby Kiss Ouroboros CD

The sounds on Ouroboros rotate between staccato, rapid-fire guitar and more trad HC/punk rhythms. There are quieter, prettier build-ups which provide an almost screamo tinge. The band packs a lot into each song but keeps things short. That’s a good choice, because even when they’re boundary-pushing, most punk songs petter out after the two-minute mark.

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno Fuzz the Universe! EP

The music here is really driven by the roaring guitar. It sets the pace for the rhythm section rather than vice versa. It’s big, static-y, and yes, “fuzzy.” The band injected a few trad rock’n’roll elements: notes running down the scale and the occasional tamborine. The medieval imagery on this release (and all their others) adds a fun, out of left-field vibe to the music.

Ensor Stench of Morgue, Scent of Parties cassette

Stench of Morgue, Scent of Parties begins with a D-beat number, complete with spartan bass/snare thumping over reverbed vocals. The band quickly departs from that format while staying in the musical neighborhood. Throughout you’ll hear noisy, squealing guitar, a slower, blues-y beat under a fuzzy bass, and piercing single notes. Think of this as a kinda noise (not music) revue. Enjoy!

Canadian Rifle I’m Just Like You EP

CANADIAN RIFLE has long delivered pop punk via chugging guitars, floor toms, and agnst. That’s the sound for a host of bands from the early-to-mid-’00s. This record has the musical markers you’d expect: distorted but tuneful guitar, intentional dissonance, and earnest but irreverent lyrics. I think this record sounds just a touch sharper and leaner than past releases. If you spent your youth spinning the first BENT OUTTA SHAPE EP, or IRON CHIC later on, you might want to pick this up.

Angry Adults Obsessed (With You) EP

This record features six tracks of pop punk with a clean and crisp sound. The emphasis is on the “pop” here. The distortion isn’t loud or harsh enough to overwhelm the rhythm section, a sound I always associate with Epitaph and Fat Wreck records of the ’90s. The vocalist has nasal rasp to compliment all those pretty tunes. A good pick for fans of this genre.

Wirus Pychoza LP

The sound on Psychoza is tuneful and even a little danceable. There’s singing, not screaming, which is always a challenge for punk. But the vocals have enough growl and gurgle to keep the punx (or at least me) happy. The bass has a real sharp, treble-heavy sound which brings to mind KID DYNAMITE or the CHOKING VICTIM LP. The whole record has a great, consistent sound without becoming repetitive.

Side Effect Suicide Tuesday! 12″

SIDE EFFECT plays their punk by the numbers with power chords, great little earworms, and snarled, raspy vocals. All throughout they capably add additional melodies, briefly quiet down and ramp back up again. This record is short and sweet. Its catchy and shambolic style brings to mind the OBSERVERS.

Two Man Advantage DCxPC Live Presents: Two Man Advantage LP

NY’s TWO MAN ADVANTAGE are one the metro area’s longest continually-running punk bands. They have a formula and stick to it: standard-issue hardcore punk with a hockey theme. This LP features songs from NYC and Las Vegas shows. Personally, I don’t like live albums. They seem unnecessary for punk songs, which typically don’t vary much between the recorded and live versions. The mix here is nothing special and the second set is especially poor. TWO MAN’s strengths, honed since the 1990s, are better captured on their studio albums.

Dispo / Telesatan split LP

Both TELESATAN and DISPO feature a lot of feedback, clamor, and fuzz. TELESATAN plays fun, conventional punk defined by a big farty bass sound, cymbal crashes, and screeching guitars. The vocalists scream, yowl and taunt (think BLATZ’s side of Shit Split). Occasionally they slow to a FLIPPER-like crawl. DISPO’s songs continue in this vein. Both bands balance out the noise with catchy riffs and choruses.

Apatia Bóg, Honor, Ojczyzna Faszyzm LP

The music on APATIA’s 1992 debut varies a bit within its HC/punk framework. While the drums beat an even pace, the guitarist plays palm-muted riffs, conventional leads, or dissonant, almost math-rock scales along with the standard three distorted chords. They can also quiet down while the bass and drums lead. The band is innovative while remaining faithful to the genre. Unfortunately, the songs don’t always tie these different sounds together. They can sound like parts of altogether different songs spliced into one. But APATIA on record are an otherwise tight unit, even when their musical ambitions get ahead of them.

D.Y.E. D.Y.E. cassette

D.Y.E begins their cassette with a steady thump of bass and floor toms, accompanied by looming feedback. After that, they plow and plod through the next three songs. These qualities are staples of the ’80s US hardcore repotoire, which the band clearly studied. The demo’s moderate audio quality allows them to show off that attention to detail. The vocals are a touch lower than the guitars and drums, making it sound like the singer is screaming to match their volume. This can invoke a show in a basement, dive bar, or dive bar in a basement.

Radiation Risks Strawberry Quick LP

RADIATION RISKS’ punk rock is usually undistorted and accompanied by keyboards and sax, giving it a garage rock feel. However, they weave in different genres while keeping those trappings. That can risk sounding gimmicky or pastiche, but they make it work, mostly by finding the common musical denominator in all the styles. Occasionally, the genre jamming isn’t so smooth, though—the change from an otherwise straightforward garage track to blatant DISCHARGE riffs was so abrupt it made me laugh in surprise. The vocals are hoarse and scratchy, occasionally producing a LITTLE RICHARD-esque yelp, which sounds quite at home.