Erick Bradshaw

D. Sablu No True Silence LP

In that cursed year 2020, CASUAL BURN’s David Sabludowsky put out a cool tape on which he played nearly everything. Taken By Static dipped its beak into a gamut of styles, ranging from in-the-red garage to new wave-y romantic swooners to sassy cheap-synth punk. There’s even a couple of sensitive ballads. It was almost a throwback, like a mixtape from when Terminal Boredom was a going concern. It showed promise, but was too scattered to leave a lasting impression. Well, it’s four years later, and D. SABLU’s got a band now. Coming correct outta New Orleans, No True Silence cranks the amps and goes for broke, recalling local legends like KAJUN SS. Although the music brings the aforementioned swamp-dwellers to mind, and even POISON IDEA on “Scandalous,” the general outlook doesn’t revel in the nihilism inherent in those bands. Sabludowsky acquits himself well on the mic, especially on the faster tunes, where he lets loose a scratchy wail. The album hits a peak during the five-song run where all the titles start with the letter “S.” “Spiral Out” pushes faster and faster, building up a head full of steam in search of a release that never comes. “Smut Date” could be a LIVEFASTDIE song, which is all I really need in life. You too, whether you know it or not. Stack these guys up to any of the new crop of Aussie rockers and crawfish country ain’t doin’ half-bad.

Vile Cherubs Lysergic Lamentations LP

VILE CHERUBS were one of the great teenage punk bands of the latter half of the ’80s, an out-of-time unit whose moment has finally come. Recorded by GRAY MATTER’s Geoff Turner in his garage (a.k.a. WGNS Studios), this LP remixes and remasters the legendary The Man Who Has No Eats Has No Sweats cassette onto its proper format. It’s frankly astonishing that a pack of high school kids could lay down these moody, intricate songs with such convincing authority and keen aesthetic sense. Hot off Revolution Summer’s aftermath, VILE CHERUBS looked through a glass darkly, and liked what they saw—Nuggets filtered through Flex Your Head. Bassist Seth Lorinczi channels John Entwhistle’s domineering style, providing big fat lines for the band to latch on to, while guitarist (and latter-day sonic restorer) Tim Green cranks the YARDBIRDS’ amps with hardcore’s take-no-prisoners attitude. Yet Lysergic Lamentations transcends being “merely” ripping punk with garage trappings—VILE CHERUBS peered hard through the 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS’ kaleidoscope, opening up their third eyes with youthful abandon and delivering a lost classic ripe for rediscovery.

Circus Lupus Circus Lupus LP

Belligerence and beauty collide on this foundational text by one of this writer’s personal faves from the last decade of the premillennial era. Former IGNITION bassist and FURY singer Chris Thomson had ventured north to Madison, Wisconsin where he hooked up with Chris Hamley (guitar), Arika Casebolt (drums), and Reg Shrader (bass) in CIRCUS LUPUS. In August of 1990, the new band traveled to Washington, DC to record at Inner Ear with Eli Janney. Most of these tracks ended up on a demo tape, but a few found their way to releases, including their debut 7”. If “Tightrope Walker” isn’t already a classic in your household, now is the time to get on the right side of history. Half of these songs were re-recorded for subsequent LPs, but don’t think these are inferior versions, especially as Tim Green’s remaster makes them hit as hard as they were intended to. Waxing the original version of existential punk slasher “Marbles” is enough of a reason for this record to exist, but if this album gets a younger generation into CIRCUS LUPUS, then the future of punk will at least have a chance to avoid completely shitting the bed.

Red Mass A Boy and His Robot EP

It’s hard to believe that Roy Vucino’s RED MASS project has been around for fifteen years now. An amorphous collective that can manifest as ten people on stage or just Roy at home with his four-track cobbling together lo-fi collage rock, RED MASS keeps you guessing as to what kind of mask they’ll be wearing when you pick them up for date night. On this 7”, they look backwards to the garage-adjacent rock they kicked their run off with. The title track recalls Vucino’s alien-in-our-midst contemporary Timmy Vulgar, but that unmistakable SEXAREENOS strut confirms that this is Vucino through-and-through. “Millionaire” nicks the guitar lick from GREAT PLAINS’ classic “Letter to a Fanzine” for a compact screed dissing the financially-advantaged, while “Addicted” finds Vucino and HPENNY DIVING’s Chantal Ambridge laying down a heartache-laden duet. Here’s to another fifteen trips around the yellow mass up above.

Pitchman My Angel Age EP

I bet you had a band in high school. I didn’t. I just abused an electric guitar while the four-track was rolling, discovering a love of noise coupled with happy accidents. But what if you had three friends that were cool and inspiring and intent on making a mark beyond the confines of your educational prison? Even then, you probably wouldn’t have slayed as hard as this group of Washington, DC teenragers did for one brief year in the early ’90s. Inspired by previous generations of DC punk, PITCHMAN clawed their way into the good graces of the egalitarian local scene and ended up playing with a cavalcade of older underground lifers like they were born to it. Now, thirty years later, you can hear what “the sound of young America” was all about. And it’s shockingly sophisticated! These kids weren’t banging out cheesy moshcore or four-on-the-floor cliches, they were learning in real time how to balance order and chaos, how to build up tension and hold fast until the release comes like a cleansing wave. No doubt inspired by producer Chris Thomson’s CIRCUS LUPUS, PITCHMAN unleashed ferocious punk that could be pigeonholed by a peabrain as “post-hardcore,” except there’s far too much arch adolescent sneering on display for such a humorless descriptor. The bruising “Standoff on the Top Stair” should be the fight song for every Final Girl, as Drée Thibert’s defiant pose is by turns inviting and threatening. Is it actually a song about being grounded? If only we could all transform our mundane experiences into such thrilling shapes. “Dead Girls” is a whirlwind of sardonic fury culminating in something like a manifesto—“It’s a natural disaster / Bite the adolescent fever.” “Route Thirteen” is a poison pen letter addressed to a partner-in-crime who has disappointed Thibert to such a degree that she is going to “meet you at the corner / and take you out with a punch,” ultimately concluding that “You’re just a crash landing.” What do the kids say now? I feel seen.

Gee Gee Decorator Gee Gee Decorator LP reissue

It’s been a hot minute since a true blue, bona fide WTF-is-this LP came down the pike, but the virtually unknown GEE GEE DECORATOR scores top marks in that particular category. Even the story of stumbling upon a copy in the wild—which involves Newark, NJ, the Sopranos, and assorted European actors—seems like a tall tale, but the real question is: does the music deliver the cannolis? Opening up with an expletive-riddled come-on (all the songs are untitled, or maybe someone forgot to pick up the jackets from the printer some 40 years back), GEE GEE DECORATOR is like if PUSSY GALORE was more into Stax than CRAMPS; there’s even clanging metal percussion strewn about these tracks like loose railroad spikes. The GEE GEE perspective is entirely irreverent, as the band seems to sneer at anything and everything, including “musicianship,” within their purview. You can almost hear them laughing off-mic, but that doesn’t mean this album is just a one-shot joke. It does have a peculiar charm to it, and you can tell it was put together with something resembling intention. In that respect, GEE GEE DECORATOR is reminiscent of art-damaged rock savants like ROYAL TRUX. Like the SHAGGS, GEE GEE DECORATOR come off as blissfully unaware of the outside world. It sounds like they locked themselves in a moldy basement studio, gave free rein to the drummer, and had a chemical-fueled blast for 48 hours straight. We can count ourselves fortunate that a vinyl spelunker uncovered this fucked-up little slice of heaven (New Jersey). Bada bonk.

The Pontiac Stags Nothing cassette

Nothing is a quirky little EP by a Detroit group without a clear sense of identity, but they do have a couple good songs, so that’s something. “Fur Coats From Outer Space” takes the CRAMPS on a pleasant Sunday drive, which is followed by the unmistakable BEAT HAPPENING homage “Higher Power.” “Arctic Eyes” slinks back into the goo goo muck with a decent little mover, but the last song is where a tighter focus would have paid off. It’s called “Down With Acid Punk,” but instead of a snide takedown of, say, Timmy Vulgar, or a savage example of the genre in the manner of many a classic piss-take, it’s just another pretty good garage rocker. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, he said, as he scratched his head.

Justifié X Paris S’ennuie EP reissue

Self-released back in 1983, this killer punk en français gets the reissue treatment with an extra cut added on. Despite the prime hardcore year of its provenance, JUSTIFIÉ X has more in common with first-wave French punkers like DOGS and GASOLINE. “Radio Libre” wasn’t on the original single, but it was recorded during the same session and fits in seamlessly. If this had come out in 1978, it would have ended up on more than a few want lists. But in the here and now, it just reveals how timeless this kind of rock’n’roll really is.

Las Mordidas Ex-Voto LP

A worthwhile snapshot of a killer band that snuffed out too soon, Ex-Voto was a long time coming. Composed of ex-members of DC-based firebrands, LAS MORDIDAS burned briefly, but brightly, circa 1993 into 1994. CIRCUS LUPUS had just called it quits, but singer Chris Thomson was already working his lungs in a new group alongside players from BEEFEATER, RAIN, and FIDELITY JONES. Ex-Voto takes LAS MORDIDAS’s demo tape and shuffles it with a few unreleased cuts and vinyl appearances. “Surrounded” is the hit, digging a furious, heavy groove reminiscent of I Against I-era BAD BRAINS as Thomson essays the volatile nature of everyday paranoia. (The glaring absence of ass-kicking B-side, “K.I.T.A.”, is probably due to its Dischordian provenance.) “Bad Man” shows that these dudes could cram a pop hook into a pummeling post-hardcore punch-up. “Not Again,” a heart-pumping punker distinguished by Jon K.’s Dr. Know-inspired fretwork, was LAS MORDIDAS’s side of a split 7” with queercore maniacs MUKILTEO FAIRIES (on Lance Hahn’s great Honey Bear label). “Surprise Goodbye” is another unexpectedly tuneful take on a sort of post-punk/grunge hybrid. “Solar System” starts out LUPUS-like, then gets bitey then beefy then beastly. “Life Preserver,” one of the never-released songs, is practically a commercial alternative radio rocker in the best possible sense; I guess WGNS counts? Ain’t gonna front—it’s nice seeing this one poking out of the stacks.

Skullture Skullture LP

SKULLTURE is a San Franciscan guitar/drums duo who do San Franciscan things like play generator shows in out of the way places and just generally make a big ‘ol racket with their portable set-up. These guys got passion steaming out of their pores, with songs about hot-button issues like climate change, Ursula K. Le Guin, incels, the murder of Jamal Kashoggi, the Mother of All Bombs, and Donald fucking Trump. The music walks a line between stripped-down garage punk and full-bore noise rock. After riding BART, you’d be stoked to find these dudes cutting loose on the street. Throw a couple bucks in the hat and let the rage dissipate.

Christopher Alan Durham & the Peacetime Consumers Kicks or Macabre LP

Here we have some dirtbag rock music with visions of private press glory dancing in its mulleted head. This kind of rock rolls out of bed with a complete Canadian tuxedo surgically attached to its skin. I bet this guy had his water shut off by the city and brushes his teeth with Budweiser. The one-sheet throws out JIM SHEPARD’s name, but this stuff is Miller Lite compared to Shep’s moonshine-grade libations. Even in his mellowest moments, SHEPARD was still breathing fire, still consumed with accessing some hidden truth. On Kicks or Macabre, DURHAM sounds like he discovered SYD BARRETT’s leftover Mandrax supply and downed the entire bottle. Throughout the album, there’s flashes of the kind of wonky groove a band like the CLAP achieved so naturally, but they are fleeting. One of the better tracks, “Shoot Through Me,” gives off downer GEORGE BRIGMAN vibes but still comes off light as a feather. I imagine “Party Store Suicide” is supposed to sound despondent, like it’s living on the edge of the gutter, but it just sounds deflated, hardly worth even stepping over on your way to purchase some whip-its. “C Street Blues” goes for a shitkicking barrelhouse ramble, but ends up sounding like a pisstake. There’s a difference between desperation and listlessness.

Steel Pole Bath Tub The Skulls Tape 12″

For a band that attained a modicum of notoriety and exposure during their early ’90s heyday, STEEL POLE BATH TUB has sunk a bit deep into the moors of history. There have been some reissues, but this 12” on No Coast digs up an early peak for the band. After decamping from their hometown of Bozeman, Montana for the foggy hills and cheap thrills of punk mecca San Francisco, STEEL POLE BATH TUB announced their presence on the scene with a self-released tape. Excellently entitled We Own Drrrills in its original incarnation, the EP now bears a more straightforward nomenclature (everyone loves skulls!). The sidelong “Kung Fu Love” demonstrates one of STEEL POLE’s signatures—employing television samples as texture and reference. As the trio hammers away at their jackknifed jams, fight flick snippets bubble up through the din. The flip features four relatively normal rock songs, by turns noisy or funky or melodic (“Rain Song” has a REPLACEMENTS lilt to it), and not far removed from Sub Pop bands of the era. A cool archival release for all the former subscribers to Your Flesh mag.

General Concern About Time… LP

Pacific Northwest rippers GENERAL CONCERN only succeeded in getting a 7” out during their initial run, but they did manage to record an LP’s worth of material with POISON IDEA’s Thee Slayer Hippy at the helm, and now, just for fun, you can see what the hell they were cooking up back in 1989. While definitely a product of its era, About Time… still delivers the goods in a myriad of ways. While nominally a hardcore outfit, many of GENERAL CONCERN’s songs bear similarities to bands like CRIMPSHRINE and CRINGER, straining at anthemic melodies with an earnest, energetic charm. The DC influence is also apparent, but GENERAL CONCERN tamps down the po-faced aspects, while retaining some of the elevated musicianship of that scene. There’s an endearingly snarky attitude to these quirky songs that erupt in bursts of speed and sometimes sound like SNFU gone (first wave) emo. Outside of the occasional region rock standout, this style of punk has fallen by the wayside, and even a cynical bastard such as myself feels pangs of reticence at its loss.

Beef Beef LP

Coming at you straight from the punk rock abattoir that is current-day Cincinnati, BEEF displays flecks of fine gristle amid its marbled fat. Strain the RAMONES out of the SPITS’ playbook, up the DEVO portion, throw in a pinch of spice, and you’re most of the way towards completing this dish. Not much on this LP is gonna last under the heat lamp, but it’ll keep you satisfied. There’s a pleasingly grimey texture to the eight servings offered here—you’ll be grinning like a fool with all that dirt stuck in your teeth. The stakes here are medium, but at least the eggs are relegated to brunch service only.

Salamirecorder & the Hi-Fi Phonos Goods for Conversation LP

If you’ve been wondering who buys every single variant of every single (and double) record that THEE OH SEES release, well, I found the culprits. They live in Vienna, Austria, and they seem like very nice chaps. Goods for Conversation is an enjoyable enough modern-day garage rock record, but hoooo boy, John Dwyer might have an impending case of copyright infringement on his already crowded docket. Within the opening seconds of this album, the singer lets loose with one of Dwyer’s patented cattle-call whoops (even the FX settings are perfectly dialed in). That vocal tic drapes itself all over this album like a bedbug-ridden blanket. Luckily, international law doesn’t give a hoot about such blatant shenanigans, and maybe you don’t either.

Blatant Dissent 1985–1986 LP

As a teenager growing up in the Midwest during the first half of the 1990s, it’s perhaps unsurprising that I enjoyed the rock band TAR. TAR was a kind of emblematic middle-of-America noise rock band—they constructed their guitars from aluminum and they put out records on labels like Touch and Go and Amphetamine Reptile. But unlike, say, COWS or LAUGHING HYENAS, TAR was actually kind of a straight-ahead band, playing a sort of glum, deceptively hook-filled mid-tempo rock music. They even pulled a neat trick by having their final album, 1995’s Over and Out, be their finest work. But before TAR, most of the members learned their trade in the post-hardcore group BLATANT DISSENT. This collection LP pulls together two different recording sessions that resulted in a couple 7”s and the Hold the Fat album, and includes unreleased versions of some tracks. The first side was recorded with famed engineer Iain Burgess, who recorded many classic T&G sides, while the ’86 side is the early work of one Steve Albini, who also remastered this material from the original tapes. What’s interesting is that a lot of the 1985 material isn’t that different from the sonic trademarks of Washington, DC’s concurrent Revolution Summer scene. Even the lyrical concerns, often addressing their fellow punks, echo these sentiments. Hell, “Undermine” is practically a straightedge anthem. “Is There a Fear?” channels NAKED RAYGUN like they were born to it, while “My Hands Are Tied” opens with a PINK FLOYD-like acoustic bit before erupting into a tuneful swift kick that isn’t far removed from a late ’90s “melodic hardcore” band. “Eleven Days” shows how the band is able to give shape to the bleak, colorless days that dot the Midwestern calendar year. “How Can I Lose?” and “Status Quo” are highlights, all nervous energy and killer hooks. For obvious reasons, the 1986 sessions reveal a far tighter and more powerful band. By this point, BLATANT DISSENT had locked down its sound and it was only a matter of time until they would craft their aluminum guitars and solidify the sound of TAR.

Psychic Graveyard / USA Nails split LP

I’m not sure if people understand what a force ARAB ON RADAR was when they emerged before the turn of the millennium. The first time I saw them—resplendent in their janitor uniforms—they hit “go” on the strobe light and the band jolted to life like Frankenstein’s monster. The entire crowd backtracked ten steps in two seconds flat. Maybe “scurried” is a better description. DEVO, US MAPLE, and BRAINIAC weren’t just getting thrown into the blender, they were swinging a lawnmower around, chopping up bodies Dead Alive-style. And ARAB ON RADAR continued to deliver the goods up until they split. Afterwards came CHINESE STARS, who I always found frustrating. They didn’t have the killer instinct of RADAR nor quite the methodical precision of SIX FINGER SATELLITE. DOOMSDAY STUDENT was a good-enough rehash of ARAB ON RADAR, but to those who witnessed the first go-round, it wasn’t quite as much of an illicit thrill. Featuring some of the same key players, PSYCHIC GRAVEYARD delivers on the electro-punk promise of CHINESE STARS and pilots it straight into the eye of the hurricane. “Building You a Rainbow” is a suitably mellow-harshing recounting of whatever new age bullshit has crossed your path this week. Singer Eric Paul lists the various permutations of this noxious blather with a withering tone. If “Love My Skeleton Too” is what passes for romance in PSYCHIC GRAVEYARD’s world, then sign me up for the next speed-dating night. PSYCHIC GRAVEYARD’s side of this split is a surprisingly enjoyable trawl through a battered and beautiful landscape. The UK’s USA NAILS are the perfect complement to PSYCHIC GRAVEYARD. The London-based trio has been around for almost a decade now and their noise rock pummel still hits as hard as ever. These dudes are one of the few bands that took the influence of a band like MCCLUSKY and further refined it. And when I say “refined,” I mean “beat the living shit out of,” cuz these cats don’t mess around when it comes to inflicting damage. But they got songs as well, which makes the squall that much more disorienting. “What Have We Become?” is an example of restraint even as it throbs menacingly. “God Help Us If There’s a War” pairs up understated vocals with seesaw bass and a melodic guitar line. Nothing but pure, uncut high-quality goods on this evenly matched ocean-spanning split.


The Honeymoon Killers Hung Far Low LP reissue

This last HONEYMOON KILLERS album originally came out in the Year Punk Broke (1991 A.D.) The KILLERS were mainstays of NYC’s downtown scum rock scene, while leaning towards the blues-punk side of the street. Two-thirds of the HONEYMOON KILLERS were of the female persuasion, which made them stand out from the rest of the unwashed masses. Even Cristina of BOSS HOG did her time in the band, but when this album emerged at the dawn of the ’90s, the HONEYMOON KILLERS were two-thirds BLUES EXPLOSION. With Russell Simins on drums and Jon Spencer on guitar and vocals, founding members Lisa Wells and Jerry Teel raised some hell one final time. You can definitely hear how Spencer and Simins’ post-modern take on trashy rock’n’roll influenced Hung Far Low’s direction, but Teel and Wells are still firmly in the driver’s seat. Listening to this album is equivalent to a Lower East Side booze crawl that doesn’t end until the sun comes up. You might not remember much about it, but you had a damn good time while it was happening. Shortly after the HONEYMOON KILLERS packed their bags for good, the BLUES EXPLOSION exploded on a national scale and Teel joined an even better band than the one he had just laid to rest—the CHROME CRANKS.

Divine Horsemen ‘Live’ 1985–1987 CD

What if Humphrey Bogart read some Flannery O’Connor and then began handling snakes and speaking tongues? Chris D. of the FLESH EATERS is the answer to that question; a man of exceptional intelligence and literary acumen who also happens to have the singing voice of one of the Lords of Hell. The way Mr. D. slips from inky-black noir crooning to blood-curdling, fire-breathing shriek is one of the great feats of the modern age. If you’re not familiar with the FLESH EATERS’ tremendous legacy, you owe it yourself to spend some time with those particular hellions. But if you’re getting up in years and need an occasional break from the punk racket, Chris D. formed the DIVINE HORSEMEN just for you. Joined by his wife at the time, singer Julie Christensen, the HORSEMEN was basically a latter-day ‘EATERS line-up repurposed into a more traditional blues rock set-up, yet still swampy as all get out. Christensen’s soaring vocals contrast nicely with D.’s ominous premonitions, off-setting the darkness while still hinting at a furious, doomed love. I can glimpse a world where the DIVINE HORSEMEN could have made the crossover into a radio-friendly milieu, but they got waylaid by addiction. A story as old as time. After leaving the HORSEMEN, Christensen went on to join LEONARD COHEN’s touring band and had an on-again/off-again solo career. D. continued to write books and make music. The band even reunited for an album last year. Down, but not out.

Woodstock ’99 Super Gremlin 12″

I’m 99% sure that WOODSTOCK ‘99 is former FRIED EGG-ers who pulled up stakes from Virginia to settle in Cleveland, where their style of ripping hardcore probably feels right at home. Opener “La Casa De Fuck You” was on a Tetryon Tape (the one with Fred Durst on the cover) that came out last year, and it deploys a great, nagging one-note piano hook like POISON IDEA wants to be your dog. Maybe it’s the CB radio vocals, but the first half of “$800 Lunch Meat” sounds like MULE of all bands, erupts for a brief flash, then comes back down into a weird alt-rock vibe that could pass as TOADIES (or SEASON TO RISK, if yr frisky). “Pickled Drunk Driver” walks a peculiar line between ignorant hardcore stomp and SOUL ASYLUM’s semi-psychedelic heartland thrash. The more straightforward moments are high-class POISON IDEA tributes and probably go over like gangbusters in an Ohio City basement. “Green Oyster Dick” jacks a Bay Area punk structure and could have been on a split 7” with GRIMPLE back in the day. “Budget Inn” is all wailing guitar leads like a SCREAMING TREES song, but instead of Mark Lanegan’s growl, you’ve got a French lady talking. The other vital piece of information that you need to be aware of regarding Super Gremlin is that every song ends with a gong strike, a creative choice which this listener can only respect. Rats off to ya.

Die Verlierer Die Verlierer LP

We’re only halfway through this latest trip around the sun, but I have no doubt that this debut will rate as one of the best punk records of 2022. There’s an appealing sleaze emanating from DIE VERLIERER. They wear suits like cooler-than-thou continental types, but they rock the fuck out like gutter-dwelling amphetamine enthusiasts. Debonair, but damaged. “Die Zeit” kicks off with thrilling, dark energy like SODS on Minutes to Go. This smashing opener is backed up by “Die Verlierer” (“The Losers”), which pulls a similar trick by effortlessly channeling Dagger & Guitar-era SORT SOL. But let’s not paint DIE VERLIERER into a Denmark-shaped corner—I’m just trying to establish the rarified atmosphere that we are floating in. A slashing guitar tears into “Intrige und Libido” and ratchets the tension up as the bass lands every punch it throws, and the barely-in-control singing is like DIETER MEIER at his incandescent early peak. I’ve probably listened to this song at least a hundred times in the last few months. Absolute punk perfection. “Plastic Life” is like the encore of a gloriously shambolic STRANGLERS gig; I can almost hear the crowd singing along like a chorus of shithoused angels. DIE VERLIERER can actually swing, and this skill alone sets them apart from a vast landscape of indistinguishable simulation rockers. “Mann im Mond” is the CURE reincarnated as street toughs; fierce romantics, sensitive brawlers. “Nichts Funktioniert” is desperate and flailing punk that demonstrates true mastery of the form. This is the kind of song to inspire hordes of punks to treat desolate urban sprawl as the adult playground it surely is. Structures, after all, are just objects to bounce ideas off; bodies too. Just keep your eye out for the cops. That’s when “X Ray Vision” comes in handy. “Deadgirl” is the kind of love song no one writes anymore. That could be a positive development—from a certain point of view—but hey, fatalism is hot, and always will be. Listen, I don’t make the rules. Speaking of which, “Into A” is an epic last gasp that shamelessly nicks the BIRTHDAY PARTY’s “Deep in the Woods.” If you’re gonna steal, do it from the best, and yeah, add some phased vocals to the funeral proceedings and drag that sucker out like a corpse ‘til it’s six feet under. Hell of a record here.

Nag Halloween 3 cassette

They say that when you’re a punk rocker, every day is like Halloween. At least, that’s what Al Jourgensen said back before he heard BIG BLACK. For the Atlanta punkers in NAG, I bet every day is like Flag Day. BLACK FLAG Day. Actually, maybe Veteran’s Day. Cuz these cats have been around for a minute now, and they slay every time they press record. As you can surmise, this live set was recorded last year on October 31st. Fuck it, let’s call it a “dead” set, and while there’s no Jerry in sight, it is full of satisfying jump scares. All of the songs come from last year’s Observer full-length, and while this is definitely FFO (for fuckfaces only), if you ain’t down with NAG’s vibe, then you can show yourself out.

Ex-White Estray 12″

A few years back, these folks did a split with the great LASSIE—and while this new 12” doesn’t quite get the blood pumping as hard as that loyal canine, there’s still plenty of quality punk on this perfectly-sized slice of tunes. EX-WHITE walks the fine line between new wave freak-out, hook-or-crook power pop and good ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll. As if led by a mohawked minister, “True Love” weds all three of these elements together in a short but memorable ceremony. The title cut is easily the standout track here, the kind of song that could have dominated college radio for a couple weeks in a different era. “Loser” ends things with plenty of melodic burn to spare.

V/A Thesaurus, Vol. 6: Panorama Punk Rock France 1982–1984 2xLP

If you haven’t gotten hip to Cameleon’s series of Thesaurus comps yet, there’s no time like right fucking now to rectify this grave oversight. The kingdom of heaven is within your reach! Your golden ticket is nearly 90 minutes of world-beating punk rock contained herein, slathered thick and heavy across four sides of wax. (Will this be the only culinary reference? Stay tuned.) The hit ratio over the course of these 34 songs is shockingly high, with almost nothing dipping below “fairly sick.” Who knew France’s punk bench was so deep? I mean, sure, there’s some classic early ragers and a couple of game-change type bands that pop up, but this particular installment covers the early-to-mid-’80s, so we’re wandering into uncharted territory. This era, of course, is prime time for hardcore, but the styles presented here cover the gamut. Just a smidgen of the greatness contained within includes: CRISE DE NERF uncannily predict PUSSY GALORE’s dented tin can approach to punk, even ANGRY RATS won’t survive these “New Clear Days” so they rage against the dying of the light, while MOPO MOGO advise you to “Fuck Off.” HUMAN BEING sounds righteously disgusted, much as ELECTRONAZE are full of piss, vinegar, and probably smoke 100 cigarettes a day. OMG ain’t text speak, heathens, but they are deadly punks whipping a drum machine and feedback guitar into a frenzy, while ELECTRODES play fast, urgent punk that reimagines DISCHARGE as a garage band. Speaking of garage rock, VONN’s “Bubble Gum” should have been an international hit. I dare you to remain still while this chewy little bastard plays! There are quality CLASH rips from HEROS and BRIGADES, killer rock‘n’roll rave-ups from BALL’S and TED DESTROYER, weird punk from KARNAGE on “The Cops Are Coming,” and it just keeps going. You might be able to dig up a lot of these gems if you spent a couple years in France, rummaging through every record store and thrift shop in the country. Or, you could just pick up this—excusez mon français—fucking awesome compilation.

The Fall A Part of America Therein, 1981 LP reissue

Oh, to be a fly on the wall as the FALL caromed about the US during the summer of 1981, plying their sui generis mixture of rock n’ roil repetition, surrealist non-sequiturs, and dagger-like bon mots—all while leaving a trail of empty beer cans and crumpled bags of speed in their wake. By this point, the band was functioning (at least on stage) as one unit, lashed together with the rhythmic clatter that they were bashing out like a pack of hungry wolves. Most of this set, patched together from recordings taped at an array of US cities, is a study in how the FALL subverted the dirge form and reshaped it into something approaching rock n’ roll. In this spirit, “The N.W.R.A.” opens things up, reveling in a monolithic patience while also utilizing, naturally, a kazoo. The run-through of “Totally Wired” doesn’t quite live up to its title, but it does feature some choice Mark E. Smith ad-libs mocking punks and quoting Hunter S. Thompson. Recorded in Houston, “An Older Lover” has a nice, down-the-hallway feel, emphasizing its petulant response to emotional devastation. Few songs embody wandering around barren streets in a broken-hearted daze like this sublime number. Ultimately, the Live at St. Helens Technical College, 1981 LP that came out last year is superior to this set, but, really, you can’t go wrong with the band in question. There’s always another hole to fall into…

Nicfit Fuse LP

NICFIT does lots of things right on this debut LP. In the grand tradition of many a punk band from Japan, NICFIT plays havoc with genre, executing hairpin turns where most would end up in the weeds. On these tracks, post-punk rhythms ride surf guitar riffs into noise rock pummel. Hell, “Rigged” opens with a snippet of CECIL TAYLOR-esque piano sputter. Oddly enough, NICFIT often resembles underappreciated mid-2000s band KAITO UK, which gets two thumbs up from these two hands.

Outerwear The Outerwear Limits cassette

Except for two cuts on the New Hope comp, Cleveland’s OUTERWEAR has been woefully under-documented. Praise be to Scat for gifting us a belated deluge in the form of 24 tracks recorded back in 1983. OUTERWEAR was two-thirds SPIKE IN VAIN and one-third Beth Scarf. They made quite a racket. Led by Chris Marec, OUTERWEAR would be the perfect house band for a serial killer mixer. I can see some joker putting a human-skin lampshade on his head while “Piss II” plays, followed by the damp, leaky punk of “Herpes Condo.” Although OUTERWEAR is more explicitly hardcore, parallels can be drawn to other scene oddballs like SCRATCH ACID and MIGHTY SPHINCTER. This late-blooming album is a glorious pisstake. If only all side projects slayed this hard.

Bzdet Nie Ma Nic cassette

It’s been fun for the last year-plus to clock the evolution of BZDET’s consistently excellent output. The mysterious artist(s?) has been cranking out a slew of tapes and digital EPs, portions of which get collected here. BZDET smears bass lines, synth-blurt, and pitch-shifted vocals together like a punk BLANK DOGS. BZDET would be right at home on a Ralph Records sampler, and would probably even steal the show. There’s a RENALDO AND THE LOAF kind of lurch to the more playful cuts and an undeniable CHROME frizz to the menacing ones. “Bad News” has a nasty edge to it until sliding into the demented “Wszyscy Wymrzemy.” Half the time the song just comes barging into the room, all sharp elbows and curled lips. And yet, they can do barren tundra post-punk as well as anyone currently scowling in the shadows. But really it sounds like all my fave-rave early ’80s German tapeheads who made punk with anything they could dig out of the garbage or find in the pantry. This isn’t even the best stuff! There’s already new material out from this busy musical formation. Have you caught the buzz yet?

Insane Urge Insane Urge cassette

The Stucco label and its offshoots (such as Down South) keep on shittin’ out the hits that hit the fans like a banana split of shit (w/ a cherry floating on top). INSANE URGE isn’t scaling the heights of faves like FUGITIVE BUBBLE or PILGRIM SCREW, but they do deliver a satisfying blast of filthy punk sure to delight everyone from pity dog owners to crypto-dog speculators—a scumbrella under which all may find shelter and also slam into each other like drunken heathens. INSANE URGE lands firmly on the rock’n’roll side of the punk fence, recalling baloneyheads like GIZMOS and SHITDOGS. “There’s a World” is a frantic ass-shaker that rockets straight from the Crypt (Records). Like most Impotent Fetus (by)product, the bass playing is key. Unlock the door and shake it like your momma told ya.

La Race Je Me Rapproche de Mon Squelette LP

Recorded in an abandoned Belgian brewery, LA RACE presents brutally stark, molasses-thick rock-noise. Finding a place just north of black metal hell, the absolutely shredded vocals sound more like KK Null ran out of lozenges again. All jokes aside, this band means fucking business. LA RACE channels BILLY BAO’s furious conceptual gambits, but with the unalleviated disgust aimed inward, like a cancer. When they’re hitting all cylinders, the band conjures the disembodied hardcore of FUSHITSUSHA, slabs of sound sparking like old ghosts tangled in powerlines. Even when it seems subdued, Je Me Rapproche de Mon Squelette (translation: “I’m Getting Closer to My Skeleton”) never lets up on the intensity. An unmistakable howl into the void, you can hear the wind blowing through this album. It won’t keep you warm but it might keep you company.

Thee Hearses EP II cassette

I bet you wouldn’t believe me if I told you that THEE HEARSES was a one-man electro-punk band that views the punk scene and modern life in general with a sarcastic slant. Songs about poseurs and frauds sung in a robotic monotone, with a clean drum machine drilling away and some synth noise coloring inside the lines. Well, believe it or not, this tape is actually a pretty decent listen—you’ve just heard this done before, and probably better. Still, this is what’s in the player so chill, aight? After all, “Space invader / You can fuck off” is the kind of chorus that we’ll make an exception for.

Angered Wrecks Bennies, Booze and R&R 1981 LP

At the turn of the 1980s, ANGERED WRECKS were Fredericton, New Brunswick’s coolest shitkickers. Way up north on the east coast of Canada, these four friends lived in a big old house and set up their gear in the main room for impromptu jam sessions. But these no-goodniks weren’t diddling around on some hippie drum circle nonsense, they were covering the new classics of punk rock and its immediate antecedents. Bennies, Booze and R&R 1981 possesses one-mic-hanging-from-the-ceiling fidelity, but these burnouts make it work in their favor. There’s a couple decent originals which lean towards NWOBHM and would sound right at home on one of those Jobcentre Rejects comps. Among the giants given the WRECKS treatment are songs by SUBHUMANS, DEAD BOYS, ALICE COOPER, MC5, BLACK SABBATH, DEAD KENNEDYS, DIODES, and multiple STOOGES cuts. It’s kind of like being at a bar rock gig, except that this bar is punk as hell and the drink specials include lines of speed.

Nag Observer LP

NAG is very close to the tip-top of the best punk bands in—at least—the United States. Ever since their 2016 demo, I’ve been all ears for anything this combo puts out into the world. Observer is the second NAG full-length, and it keeps the streak writhingly alive. These cats are all in other great Atlanta bands, but NAG crams all the influences into such a deadly and efficient package. NAG is the assassin at the party. Sometimes they sound like A FRAMES doing ADOLESCENTS covers and I’ve got plenty of time for that, but more often than not they are stalking the fringes, biding time until they can explode like on the astral plane murder punk noir of “Sweeping Observer.” “The Drum Demands Order” and “Present Time” have a lockstep dystopian bent, Philip K. Dick guest-ghost-writing lyrics for DIE KREUZEN. Lovecraft gets a reference on a slammer of a cut, but I’m more into the dust-in-the-eyes Rowland S. Howard sweep of “The Darkest Veil.” They even pull out “Identify” from the demo, an eerie and defiant hardcore ripper that raises the same neck-hairs as SPIKE IN VAIN. “Dead Air” and “Vomit” are beach-punk-as-black-metal, something I just invented but actually NAG did. Thanks, NAG.

Double Job Ohne Tanzen Planen LP

Stupendous post-punk agitation from this group, some of whom are in other excellent bands like MARAUDEUR. Nothing here sounds radically different from the currently abundant, similar-minded European outfits, but it’s as good as anything the new crop has produced thus far. Much ground is covered in a short span of time, and all sorts of sharp-angled tactics are deployed. Recalling bands like THINKING FELLERS UNION LOCAL 282, DEERHOOF, and CRACK UND ULTRA ECZEMA, DOUBLE JOB certainly earns its keep. “Aujourd’hui” throws dance punk and a toaster into the bath together, while “Decouverte” sounds like off-kilter ’90s noise rock, that kind that retains the hooks, like LAURELS or an ultra-scrappy 18TH DYE. “Nous Courrons” nails a fucked-up stutter-dub groove that could’ve gone on for three more minutes, but I appreciate the brevity. “Yes” is a late entry into best-in-album contention, rocking some kinda weird early MEKONS groove, an addictive ramble/wrangle with slathers of digital scrum. “Empfangsspiele” makes it seem like this scene looks at HANS-A-PLAST like Yanks look at SUBURBAN LAWNS, and that might be the best news I’ve heard in years.

BRNDA Do You Like Salt? LP

This DC quartet is virtually indistinguishable from similar dance punk units such as BODEGA and GAUCHE and PILL, except that those bands are better and they also don’t have complicated relationships with vowels like a large segment of the indie scene of the last ten-plus years. (They’re just letters, guys, no need to be so frightened!) The title “Year of the Hot Dog by Burger Gang” suggests some kinda excoriating dissection of the garage rock scene and all of its sexual predator-enabling, but alas, it’s just a goofy half-song with about ten seconds of musique concrète overdubbing trying in vain to rescue it from its fate as yet another yawn-worthy entry on this pointless album. Do I like salt? I fucking love it! How about you throw some in the closest wound and write a song about it! “The Avocado” almost sounds like it’s having fun, but, again, this track is way past its sell-by date and even someone like me—who is quite fond of this style—has to return this mushy product to the proprietor from which it was purchased. Hey man, got any poppers?

Silicon Heartbeat Implant EP

This 7″ is an improvement from SILICON HEARTBEAT’s last tape, but it still doesn’t quite tickle my funny bone the way I like it. Although he leans into the sci-fi punk trappings harder than most, it still sounds like a garage punk dude doing the one-man band thing, not like CHROME, which is an obvious inspiration. It’s hard to break those garage chains! CHROME didn’t give a fuck about garage rock (cept maybe “A Question of Temperature”); they were too busy taking acid and dressing up their mannequin friends for the cocaine orgy. Anyway, this record is alright, but it sounds like JAY REATARD just chugged some Robos and LOST SOUNDS is gonna take it easy at the show tonight, maybe skip last call and go home early. Hell, tomorrow’s gonna be a long day and we’re not getting any younger.

The Antelopes Breaking News cassette

Early ’80s UK collective the ANTELOPES have a colorful and winding history, ending their brief run as CLASS OF ’76, but unfortunately the music doesn’t compel one to follow all the membership twists and turns. Musical history is always worth the effort of excavation, but the tunes themselves don’t quite deliver. There’s clumsy attempts at smoky Eastern European late-night tavern jazz alongside awkward stabs at disco and power-to-the-people funk. On “Mississippi Line,” these Brits lay down an awful blues pastiche that makes the ROLLING STONES’ most ham-fisted takes seem legit. The dubwise post-punk of “Hour of Light” is pleasant enough, but it’s followed by the schmaltzy mush of “Keys to the Kingdom” that warbles on for six long minutes. As evidenced by this collection, not all the unearthed post-punk that glitters is gold.

The Ex Dignity of Labour LP reissue

A release of this nature—an artistic info-dump essentially—would overshadow many lesser bands’ music. There are scads of hardcore and crust records throughout the ’80s and ’90s where the information provided is important and relevant, but the music itself is a grab-bag of forgettable songs and stereotypical genre exercises. Alas, the EX are in a class by themselves, even back in 1983. Released concurrently with the excellent Tumult LP, all eight “Sucked Out Chucked Out” takes are dense with grinding machinery, as the band pushes its sound beyond agit-punk and into more experimental territory, employing accordions and tape loops. Originally released as a 7″ box set, Dignity of Labour was partially recorded in the remains of a Dutch paper factory that had stood since the 18th century, and even had played a role during the Netherlands’ battle against the Nazis. In the 1970s, the factory was purchased by a multinational corporation and began producing asbestos. In other words, a post-industrial death spiral, one which is detailed in the accompanying booklet. The EX soundtracks these events with rare prowess and raw ingenuity. As individual songs, these tracks aren’t as strong as the majority of the EX’s catalog, but taken together—as a material protest, as a piece of history, as an act of resistance—it is an impressive work.

Shitdogs Reborn cassette

This tape collects both of the SHITDOGS’ classic 1981 EPs—Present the History of Cheese (previously reissued by Last Laugh on double-7″) and You Bet! Crawling out of the Baton Rouge swamp, both these records show a band knee-deep in muck but one that isn’t shy from writing good, catchy songs. History on Side A is packed with KBD gristle like “Raw Meat,” which brings the punk snot but also acknowledges the band’s garage rock roots. You Bet! delves even deeper into the SHITDOGS’ love of Nuggets, culminating in the cemetery-cruising “Under Slithery Moons,” but not before cracking a couple jokes on “Can Opener.” Pop this sucker in your Suzuki Samurai’s cassette deck and flip the next kegger on its head.

Peace De Résistance Hedgemakers cassette

I’ll take a hedgemaker over a hedge-funder any day of the fucking week, and this cat probably concurs, as PEACE DE RÉSISTANCE is based in NYC, where the hedgers breed like rats. I dunno how or why GEORGE BRIGMAN keeps on coming up in my reviews lately, but the sumptuous guitar fuzz on this tape immediately reminds me of his swampy buzz. On the title track, things get loose in an almost Zamrock way, which becomes the dominant style. It’s a novel move for what seems like a slacker bedroom rocker project. Unfortunately, the vocals tend towards a more common modern problem—disaffection communicated via a nasal tone. But the grooves are airy and cloudlike and the riffs are solid, so I’m on the lookout for what’s next.

Cry Bummer cassette

Perfect-length EP of grimy synth punk à la Belgium. I hear former greats like KEBAB and SIGLO XX on Bummer, but CRY can manage their own songs with aplomb. The gnarly bass tone lends a helping hand on hooky bruisers like “Public Hate” and “S.C.U.M.” “Oh Shit” would back that ass up to SPECIAL INTEREST on the dancefloor. The vocals mean business and business is good. Buy now, CRY later.

Les YSS Boys A Funny Story EP

This EP takes the two 45s issued in the mid-’60s by this Congolese beat group and combines them into one smasher of a record. Like a well-curated sampler, you’ve got a little taste of everything on this platter. “A Funny Story” piles on the guitar fuzz and hair-raising screams and booty-shaking bass and just sounds like it’s got a permanent hotfoot. “For Ever” is almost like a lament, but it’s funky as hell. The drums are urging you to dance them blues away and the band chugs along as encouragement. “Langston Hughes” pays tribute to one of America’s greatest poets with more irrepressible rhythms, well-tempered fuzz and a fair share of JAMES BROWN-esque grunts. “Nobody Would Change My Mind” declares its love for a missing paramour and we can only hope they found each other again in the ensuing decades.

Chrome The Visitation LP reissue

CHROME’s 1976 debut LP sounds like coke sweats made flesh, like paranoia dripping from a ravaged sinus cavity, like the ’70s got sucked into a blacklight poster and emerged from a wormhole on the other side of the galaxy. It seems improbable that CHROME could exist without Helios Creed’s guitar wizardry front and center (or panned hard left/right), but this first version of CHROME has plenty to offer the wayward weirdos of the world. Like a speedfreak SILVER APPLES, “How Many Years Too Soon” comes thundering in on a jet plane and the panic rock only escalates from there. Someone left The Visitation out in the sun for too long—it’s got such a peculiar flavor, like it’s curdled but still delicious. Coming off like a degenerate PERE UBU, “Return To Zanzibar” is a moody garage-rocker that got kidnapped by space pirates armed with radio samples and primitive synthesizers, while “Caroline” is a pit stop at the sleaziest club in the quadrant. “Riding You” opens with a windblown sound piece that you’d expect to hear on a new age meditation tape, until it turns menacing like something nasty is coming over the horizon; the song itself is a slinking, winking rocker as if ALICE COOPER tried to write a disco track to impress someone. “Kinky Lover” takes that sound to its logical conclusion and only WICKED WITCH could dare draw back the heavy curtains that shrouds it. Sure, GEORGE BRIGMAN could have written “Sun Control,” but would he have bothered to add the backwards tapes and the chirping synths? CHROME creator Damon Edge is going for broke on this album, playing half the instruments and taking charge of the mic like he failed the KING CRIMSON audition and now he’s into punk so watch the fuck out. Final track “Memory Cords Over the Bay” perfectly sets the scene for Helios Creed to enter, stage left (hard-panned).

Vains You May Not Believe in Vains But You Cannot Deny Terror EP reissue

Before you even get to the music, all the branches that sprout from the VAINS’ tree make an intriguing story, like a hidden history of West Coast punk-related rock. Made up of three Seattle-area teenagers, VAINS existed for less than a year, but they planted a (black) flag and led the way for future generations with their sole release, a 7″ EP comprised of “three action hits.” How this single came about is one of those great rock’n’roll stories that seems too good to be true. In 1980, local music equipment shop American Music had a special promotion in effect—purchase $3000 worth of gear and the store would cover studio time and then press 1,000 copies of a single. Now, 3k ain’t cheap, even by 2021 standards, so VAINS must have been sporting a snazzy set-up. But instead of recording some wack KISS covers, VAINS laid down a grip of chunky, meaty punk that sits somewhere between DOA and the DEAD BOYS. They wrapped these songs in an excellent picture sleeve that featured yearbook headshots of fellow “school jerks” on the back. Maybe they didn’t go to high school with James Dean, but they did cut class with future members of the U-MEN and SILLY KILLERS. VAINS were just beginning their pedigree, which soon encompassed the FARTZ and, further down the road, some L.A. glam-rockers called GUNS N’ ROSES. Yes, bassist Nico Teen is also known as Duff McKagan and he remains the only cool member of the former Biggest Band In The World. All the people who were waiting so many years for Chinese Democracy need to bust out their Crosleys and get VAIN in the cold November rain.

Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977 12″

“You don’t love me / You love magazines!” Indeed, Mr. du Plenty, but all I’ve got is this cold digital space to let our readers know that SCREAMERS finally have an official vinyl document and it’s a sight to hold and to hear. I’ve spent a fair amount of cash on the SCREAMERS over the years, snagging whatever bootlegs trickled out featuring this legendary band’s multi-pronged electro-punk assault. Not to mention practicing my dance moves to SCREAMERS’ Target Video workout tape, which is highly recommended to those who care about their personal appearance or have a lurid interest in mime shock therapy (if both, HMU). In the ensuing years, SCREAMERS’ refusal to record a proper release seemed to be the ultimate self-defeating gesture, but from this vantage point, it comes off like the most brilliant long-game strategy in the punk rock playbook. Take Gary Panter’s iconic rendering of Tomata’s screaming head, season with breathless accounts of the group’s live performances, dollop with rare, smudged recorded glimpses of the band in lo-fi attack mode and serve to an audience eager to consume underground art in its most uncompromising state. Let it cool on the counter for forty-plus years and you’ve got an irresistible dish that can be gobbled down in just sixteen minutes. Though brief, the EP surveys self-flagellation (“Punish or Be Damned”), Hitchcockian psychodrama (“Mater Dolores”) and social anxiety (“Peer Pressure”) in a musically innovative configuration. Oh yeah, I forgot a crucial byte of info—SCREAMERS cut the guitars out of their rock, bringing the heat via electric piano and early portable synthesizers. In addition, they were hilarious and smart and they dressed really fucking cool. It’s an unstoppable combination of factors and results in one of the touchstones of punk’s original big bang, never to be tarnished by a misguided reunion cash-in. One of the many delicious ironies of the SCREAMERS is that a punk band that wanted to strike at the heart of the Los Angeles movie industry ended up finally making a mark in that field—drummer (now set designer) KK Barrett was nominated for an Oscar in 2013. Yet, as satisfying as it is to have this slab on the table, there’s plenty more SCREAMERS material, so it’s high time to let the dogs out, warts and fleas and all.

Laughing Gear Freak Lemons LP

LAUGHING GEAR is a synth punk duo outta Melbourne featuring former BRANDO’S ISLAND inhabitants, and hits some swell sweet spots well, combining cracked mirror reflections with solid songcraft. There’s a carnival aspect to this debut album that skews the proceedings sideways but an ever-present anxiety is its defining trait. Listening to Freak Lemons is like being trapped in an armoire with FAD GADGET, while calling to mind the more poptimist angles of the M Squared roster. What if one of the SEVERED HEADS was still hanging on by a thread? I bet, at the least, he’d be chuckling, “Get ur freak on.”

Hated Pressure / Stereotyped 7″ reissue / 4 Song EP reissue

It’s an immutable fact of life that even second-tier, second-wave SoCal hardcore punk is better than your stereotypical hardcore punk from any era and region you care to choose or pick out of a hat. These two self-released seven inches came out in 1982 and Meat House is doing us all a favor by re-spawning them for our current, no-so-different bleak times. “Pressure” segues from desperate beach-punk to a hesher-worthy breakdown and then surfs away on an anthemic chant—let’s see you do that in just over two minutes! “Stereotyped” is so good, it’s almost a cliche. Is this just a happy accident? Fuck no, these dudes meant this shit, and the sentiment still applies. Society is square and everyone should get fucked. The audio quality of the EP is a little compromised but the tunes are strong and you get double the pleasure. “Victim of Lies” is a classic Reagan-era sneer at Amerika and it hits like 7 SECONDS covering TOXIC REASONS, while “Enemy” sounds like it could have come off the first TSOL 12″. Totally killer.

The Lipschitz Chevron LP

It’s the year 2000 and I’m at my friend’s place and he walks up to his TV set-up and pushes a tape into the VCR. Clad in sunglasses and a rain jacket, Peter Ivers appears on the screen and in short order SUBURBAN LAWNS plays “Janitor” and I have a new crush. A couple decades fly by and now all songs are rags. Of course, I was twenty years too late to the party myself, but after forty years, it seems the world has finally caught up. Even though the LAWNS revival has been in full swing for several years now, I’m still charmed by a lot of the artists drinking from its sprinkler. This preamble is not to sell the LIPSCHITZ short—they are an excellent band that can stand perfectly well on their own. Hell, I don’t think there’s a duff cut on Chevron, and that’s fourteen chances to slip in a stinker with nary a false step. “Cobalt Car” is like if PLAGAL GRIND tried its hand at egg-punk, while “Yuggie” does the same neat trick to the CLEAN. “So What” has a jerky riff that screams “DEVO!” but if you’re complaining, then you’ve lost the plot. “Laclion” is like CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN without a recording budget but still hauling a trailer full of good ideas. There’s no question that songs like “Cutlet,” “Gross Finance,” and “Computer Sun” are drawing on the SUBURBAN LAWNS template, and it’s a great thing to see and hear and I would gladly trade a thousand mosh-friendly hardcore bands for a few score of these types of groups. Boom, boom, boom, boom.

Corker A Bell That Seems To Mourn cassette

Future Shock seems to have its fingers set square on the pulse of the Cincinnati scene. A throbbing Cinci scene? Tis true—there has been a spate of excellent bands rising from the silt of the Ohio River basin, and CORKER is yet another winner dredged up and slapped onto tape. With a hat-tip to PERE UBU, the four songs here nod northward towards Columbus, recalling recent (NECROPOLIS) and current (DANA) practitioners of one of the Buckeye State’s signature musical exports—avant-garage. There’s a shade more UK post-punk being aired out on this EP than most Midwestern bands of this ilk, but CORKER manages to turn damp into dank.

Soursob Soursob LP

Scottish trio SOURSOB plunks down snarly and gnarly punk gunk on its debut LP. Most of these eight songs are mid-tempo movers, buzzing with fuzz guitars and exuding displeasure with the world as-is. SOURSOB’s screeds about modern life recall GOOD THROB’s stick-in-the-eye punk POV. “Shoegaze” sports a down n’ dirty groove and LOL lyrics, while “Berlin” eviscerates the sheltered, moneyed culture tourists that seem ubiquitous in certain parts of the world. SOURSOB is further proof that bile never goes out of style.

V/A End of the Corridor: A Compilation of Belgian Cold Wave and Post-Punk 78-84 LP

There’s always room in this house for another compilation highlighting one of post-punk’s most overlooked scenes. End Of The Corridor is a journey through some of the best that Belgium had to offer in the late ’70s and early ’80s. You’ve got some of the more recognizable names (DE BRASSERS, CULTURAL DECAY, SIGLO XX) mixing it up with lesser-known but crucial outfits like STRUGGLER, SUSPECTS, and PROTECTION PLUS. Belgian post-punk tends towards monolithic, bass-heavy grooves that bask in a sort of fatalistic charm. In other words, these are life-affirming odes for the downtrodden. As most of these tracks are unreleased, this is an excellent collection for both the neophyte and those already familiar with the skills of the old Flemish masters.

Kina Se Ho Vinto Se Ho Perso LP reissue

Refreshingly, I don’t know a damn thing about this Italian hardcore band that started in the mid-’80s. This was their fourth LP, and it’s an interesting example of the time period. KINA’s sound sources its inspiration from Washington DC’s world-famous post-hardcore scene; bands like DAG NASTY, SWIZ, and SOULSIDE. The band can still rock pretty hard, but they tend towards melodic guitar lines that complement the earnest vocals. Recalling the HATED, KINA is not afraid of acoustic guitar and other “un-punk” elements. A track like “Cosa Farete” is closer to morose college rock than, say, INDIGESTI, but you can imagine them playing a show together at some thatched-roof squat on an abandoned farm outside of Turin. Interestingly, KINA’s mix of these influences prefigures a band that would become massive on an underground level less than a decade later—AVAIL. There’s a similar anthemic quality that is pretty damn hard to pull off convincingly, but KINA manages.

Baby Tyler Drumb Masheens LP

I suppose it’s fitting that this project is on the FDH record label, as BABY TYLER betrays a serious JAY REATARD fixation. Hell, a track like “In the Trunk” sounds like a sequel to “Hammer I Miss You,” but most of Drumb Masheens leans into the gnarlier aspects of solo JAY stuff like TERROR VISIONS. Although fairly slavish in its imitation, there’s good stuff here—these are songs not stylistic cul-de-sacs. “Gimme Gimme” has a cutting KBD-ness amidst the JAY-ness, while “Nothing” opens up just enough to break free of its aesthetic confines. Keep an eye on this kid.

The Soul Patrol Mara / Take Back the Night 7″ reissue

If all we can be assured of in life is death and taxes, we can at least add one more certainty to that depressing list—obscure, unheard bands from the late ’70s waiting to be unearthed for the pleasure of a new generation of fuck-ups and malcontents (that’s you and me!). Unappreciated Louisiana punks the SOUL PATROL private-pressed this single in 1979 and it remained rare as hen’s teeth until Feel It decided to let the rest of us in on its secret. Pre-dating fellow bayou-based punks like the SHITDOGS, the SOUL PATROL kicked out a decent racket back in their day. SOUL PATROL hit a sweet spot between bunk-acid hard rock and carburetor-dung garage punk. “Mara” is a slurry rocker that sounds like a soundtrack to inhaling dirt-weed and lusting after the cashier at the local burger joint. “Take Back the Night” appropriates an anti-violence proto-hashtag and blends it with some greasy-ass guitar to lay down some total KBD destruction that is guaranteed to improve whatever punk mixtape you’re currently working on.

Fashion Pimps & the Glamazons Jazz 4 Johnny LP

Twisted, expertly-played art-punk wotzit courtesy of known quantities from the long-lived Cle freak scene. The list of current/former bands of those involved would be quite lengthy but let’s note DONKEY BUGS, CLOUD NOTHINGS, and RAZAK SOLAR SYSTEM. The vocals have an undeniable SPRAY PAINT waver, but the music is slippery, wriggling like an angry eel. Dipping a handful of toes in synth punk while lunging towards noise rock spazzery, FASHION PIMPS are like KITCHEN & THE PLASTIC SPOONS moonlighting on the Subterranean Records roster.

Lysol Soup For My Family LP

LYSOL has been unleashing its freak vibe for awhile now, but it’s been a couple years since we last heard the gutter-dancing slop the band traffics in. Soup For My Family comes off like the U-MEN squeezed through a Crypt Records strainer. While foregrounding turbo-charged garage-punk (“C-4,” “Can’t Win”), the quartet finds enough cracks in the sidewalk to maintain their cool and swing like a rock band should. LYSOL is the kind of band that can turn a basement hardcore show into a whiskey-soaked bacchanal. While still outputting tons of wattage, LYSOL sounds kinda raggedy, but in a good way—like all those hangovers were worth it. I can’t imagine the members of MUDHONEY wouldn’t listen to “Glasgow Smile” and break into shit-eating grins. Or you, for that matter.

The Abstracts h.E.l.P. EP

First-issue of a 1980 session as performed by a band that came from the same place as some git named Billy Shakespeare. Ol’ Shakie put out a cracking debut and went on to take over the Globe (and then burned it down!), but what about these ABSTRACTS and how did they fare in the studio some forty-plus years ago? Not too shabby, it turns out. “Contrast” rides the same lorry as the NIGHTINGALES, the one that traffics in arch post-punk rock’n’roll. A total Messthetics masher, “Disco Beat” nails its sideways groove like one of the more straightforward HOMOSEXUALS cuts. “Make Up Girl” is no taming of the shrew, but things get a little more tempestuous on “In the Papers.” I’ll stop there as some leggings-sporting tosser mumbled “Brevity is the soul of wit” as he stumbled by—Marlowe, you have some nerve!

Chrome Scaropy CD

As society continues to suck on a tailpipe, you’ve gotta ask yourself: does CHROME age like fine wine? Accompanied by a cast of characters that includes the bassist from CHROME’s early ’80s firebomb heyday, Helios Creed keeps the flame, if not quite burning bright, at least lit. “H Of Spades,” with its tractor-beam guitar set to maximum gravitational pull, seems teleported in from one of his late ’80s AmRep albums. But the majority of Scaropy (oof) is tired goth rock with industrial overtones, like some kinda bargain bin ALIEN SEX FIEND (who already take up plenty of shelf space in the discount aisle). Much of this album sounds like backing tracks for a stripper scene in a straight-to-video dystopian thriller. “An Open Letter” has a decent edge even if its chorus is “I won’t / Take your shit.” As the end approaches, CHROME finally delves into the sounds that first distinguished the group all those years ago. “They’re Coming To Get You” takes an android shuffle and slathers it with the kind of warped voices that is practically a trademark, while “Kilauea” sinks even deeper into paranoid murk. Not a bad batch after all, but far from a triumph.

Euromilliard Droit Dans Mes Bottes / Aux Aguets 7″

Second single from this Parisian group that features members of CHEVEU and VOLT, two of the finest electro-punk bands of the modern era. EUROMILLIARD cuts back on the tronics for more rock power and it pays off handsomely. I hate to indulge in cultural stereotypes, but it’s curious how these Frenchmen can make such stomping tunes also seem somehow, I dunno, elegant? “Droit Dans Mes Bottes” welds a SLADE-like drive to chanted gang vocals that sound both inviting and celebratory and also vaguely threatening. Le paradoxe! “Aux Aguets” starts with a dirty bass lick and shifts into a chorus that could’ve come from a LES OLIVENSTEINS classic. A killer two-sider crafted by seasoned vets.

Hallelujah! Wanna Dance LP

I wish more dance punk from the early 2000s sounded like the throbbing racket HALLELUJAH! produces on this invigorating slice of anti-social electric sleaze. They are not asking if you want to dance, they are telling you that they want to dance, and the difference is crucial. “Champagne” is a crash course in collision, flying off the rails with no intention of hanging on. This is followed by a wacky version of a certain STOOGES classic that is short and weird enough to prevent you from giving the stereo the gasface, but the party really gets started with “Minipony.” HALLELUJAH! doesn’t skimp on the bass-in-your-face and that’s critical to elevating this kind of sassy punk damage (the distorted vocals giving many “fucks” helps too). After seven straight burners, the band slows things down to great effect on the vicious “Alter Ego”—somewhere, SIX FINGER SATELLITE is smiling.  

Pipyu Pipyu LP+7″ reissue

Bitter Lake unearths some flat-out fucking awesome Japanese punk from an ultra-rare 1985 cassette and augments it with a couple unreleased cuts. Although they were far too late for the trend, PIPYU would have slotted nicely on the classic Tokyo Rockers comp alongside bands like MIRRORS and S-KEN. Considering the era in which these songs were recorded, it’s interesting to hear PIPYU sounding more in line with the slashing art-punk of FRICTION than the monolithic Motörcharge sound that was sweeping the island nation. Then again, the pile-driving “その花は笑わない“ proves PIPYU had more than enough gas in their tank (or stunk). Tracks like “Let Me Kill” and “Noise” are manic thrill-rides with straight-into-the-board guitars sitting shotgun alongside the muscular rhythm section. Are you wondering if the singer sounds like he needs a mental health check and a rubber room? Have no doubt, this man owns at least one Artaud book. Even the ode to romance, “I Love Her,” knows that love is pain. But then how to explain “気狂いピエロ,” the original tape’s final cut? Here we have a moody seven-minute track dominated by bass and synth lines straight off of some classic UK DIY platter that just got remixed for a smartphone commercial. Music really is the international language!

Dale Jenkins Undesirable Element LP

Damn, 1985 keeps coming up in my reviewer rearview, and here’s yet another perspective on that mid-decade nadir. The first of three privately-issued LPs that Jenkins released in the ’80s, Undesirable Element is a true stew of the delicious, the tangy, and the questionable. JENKINS belongs to a lineage of oddball American originals that includes MICHEAL YONKERS, GEORGE BRIGMAN, KENNETH HIGNEY, and WICKED WITCH. Got Kinda Lost takes the LP’s original seven tracks and adds three more (the CD has a whopping nineteen cuts in total) to give you a well-rounded view of JENKINS’ eccentric muse. Recording everything himself, JENKINS utilized early drum machines and rack effects in interesting ways, although his basic style is still singer-songwriter at its essence. “Blind Faith” opens the album in snarling punk mode, echoing shut-in rockers like J.T. IV and JOHN BERENZY GROUP with its FX-drenched guitar leads and quietly panicked vocals. “Article Two (The Handgun Song)” is a subtly devastating examination of one of the USA’s biggest, stupidest, and most intractable problems, still so sadly relevant that the takes write themselves. Every lyric in this jaunty number is like a tweet aimed at your dumbest social media followers—”You pay your dues to the NRA / Armed with false statistics / They tell you what to say.” I can just see some red-hatted, Oakley-shaded numbskull getting worked up and trying to cancel Mr. JENKINS ex post facto. Some songs, like “Depression” and “Love And War,” dip dangerously into schmaltz, as if MICHEAL YONKERS nixed the righteous fuzz and Yippie indignation, but “Non-Surgical Lobotomy” rivals J.T. IV with its anti-social studio apartment rock. “Paranoid Song” and “Destitute” bring more of that bad acid/good times dichotomy like only a few damaged souls have been able to—think JIM SHEPARD or the aforementioned KENNETH HIGNEY. “Another Day” veers back towards the schmaltz but cuts it with some SKIP SPENCE let-it-all-hang-out vibes and ends things with a glimmer of hope. Who cares what year it came into being—Undesirable Element is an out-of-time gem ripe for rediscovery.

Tarzna Konkos Hadid Arroganza EP

OK, you’ve seen The Maltese Falcon…but have you heard Maltese punk? The ferocious noise of TARZNA is actually closer to no wave and they take no prisoners on their EP—this is truly some unhinged shit. We used to call this “scree,” and fuck me sideways if you can retain your sense of self or even your balance after this barrage of instrument abuse. Guitar and synthesizer fight a battle to the death while the singer free-associates primal scream therapy at anyone within earshot. TARZNA is kind of like MANISCH DEPRESSIV minus the punk riffs. Well, “U Joseph? U Joseph!” is kinda catchy, all 41 seconds of it. Templar your expectations just a tad, and ye shall be rewarded.

Landowner Impressive Almanac LP

One of my faves from last year, LANDOWNER’s Consultant was a true masterclass in smart-aleck punk as performed by young men who had ingested entirely too much coffee. For this re-release, Born Yesterday takes LANDOWNER’s debut cassette and commits it to the permanent record. If you dig LANDOWNER’s other two albums, you will be in familiar territory. Here, LANDOWNER is represented by principal architect Dan Shaw. He not only writes all the songs; on Impressive Almanac, he’s playing everything, including programming the drum machine. Shaw mines MINUTEMEN precision and RUDIMENTARY PENI mania to craft expert punk nervosa. Maybe it’s that drum machine that enables this initial batch of Shaw’s songs to seem even more frantic, sometimes coming off like the FEELIES trying out distortion-free powerviolence. It’s always been a bold move in the punk world to forgo the fuzz, but with LANDOWNER it pays off in dividends. This is head music for speed thinkers. The songs are always tense and driving, but the focus shifts to the greater whole, even as it’s constructed with tiny moments of meticulous concentration. Shaw often sounds like he is urgently whispering to you, and it makes you conscious of how much time you spend getting yelled at by singers (and teachers and bosses and cops). But it’s not all swift kicks and snarky lyrics, as there’s plenty of forceful yet twinkling tracks like “Shimmering Neck” and “Ancestral Home.” “Places to Put Cars” positions itself as the first in several key LANDOWNER songs about parking. Straight up—Shaw is currently one of the best songwriters in punk and this welcome reissue reveals that that has been the case for a while now. 

LASSIE The Golden Age Of… cassette

Collecting their killer tapes from the last couple years, LASSIE pulls me back from the brink…of the well. The one I was thinking of drowning myself in cuz there’s no mo’ fun punk bands that also aren’t just plain embarrassing and (forgive me) cringe. MEAN JEANS? Are you fucking kidding me? LASSIE kinda sounds like if LOST SOUNDS were more into the B-52’S than GARY NUMAN. Super-snotty and non-cloyingly goofy, LASSIE is a rare beast indeed. There’s not a bummer track here, but “Phonecalls on My Deathbed” is a hit if I ever heard one; where’s Dick Clark or Rick Dees or CDs….yeah. Hey, this is why I don’t write silly but endearing spazz-wave songs. LASSIE does, they’re really good at it. “Tiger in My Tank” sounds like the fucking RONDELLES! I bet they turn a boring bar into a total fucking blast. “QT Enhancer” is a pogo party in a can. If you like C.C.T.V. or LUMPY or DEVO, I don’t see why you wouldn’t like this. I feel like if this band was from California, they’d be big, or at least “opening for the SPITS” big. So, not that big. But they should be. They’re great.

Nog Watt Fear EP reissue

It’s not the make-up of NOG WATT that causes one to wonder, it’s the year! How did an undeniable, inarguable hardcore classic punch so hard above its weight … 1985?! Strange but true, and six songs at that, a proper EP a.k.a. “the hardcore LP.” There’s so much good punk contained within the opening cut “Going On,” it would take a lifetime to diagram. Holland was home for NOG WATT, yet there’s plenty of SoCal in their shadow-y DNA, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. These aren’t just blitzkriegs of speed, although NOG WATT jumps into that zone effortlessly and with a fistful of panache. This band has plenty of great riffs and enough swing to appeal to the full cross-section of the punk pyramid. “Hunted” and “Fear” are anthems of disaffection and dread, as the singer stares down your barrel and dares you to pull the trigger. Prime mover “Big Warning, Big Mistake” would open up the pit in a nursing home. The fucking bass runs! NOG WATT is never not aiming for your neck.

The Uptights It Is for Them That the Lights Twinkle LP

The UPTIGHTS are a Norwegian quartet with a mono fixation. Recorded over a sequence of years straight to cassette, you can’t accuse these garage rockers of being shiny or polished. By that description, you might expect in-the-red lo-fi puke punk, but the UPTIGHTS have a little something grander in mind. Unfortunately, the recording doesn’t help matters. Normally, I’m all about cramming as much sound as you can manage into that little box and letting the compression work its magic. But the cave setting doesn’t bring out the best in these songs; check, for instance, the over-modulated vocals of “Days.” The music is languid, almost a slowcore strum, but the mic distortion just craps all over it. Is it an aesthetic choice? Does it matter? After ambling through a few sedate instrumentals, those all-mid-range vocals come back with a vengeance and actually bring to mind an entire subgenre of badly-recorded emo from the 1990s. It’s an aesthetic pile-up and there ain’t a stretcher in sight. There’s genuine feeling here, and a couple good songs, but, ironically, the UPTIGHTS need to quit loosening the screws and get in the ring.

Clibbus Horsesatelite LP

This CLIBBUS album has knocked me off-course during my inter-dimensional travels and I have crashed-landed onto an alternate Earth where the marquee bands are PRIMUS, ALICE DONUT, and VICTIMS FAMILY (on this planet, early WEEN is like NICK DRAKE). It makes a lot of sense that this power trio hails from Rochester, New York. Rochester has a notoriously eccentric punk scene, full of skateboarding weirdos whose parents huffed a lot of Kodak fumes and birthed strange progeny who enjoy flouting genre restrictions and get off on letting their freak flag fly fucking high. After a manic opening instrumental, CLIBBUS gets down to bizness on “Exploding Child,” complete with half-rapped singing as the MEAT PUPPETS jam in the background, and don’t forget to pause for the BEATLES-esque soaring vocal part, and you know this sucker ain’t gonna end without some ironic whistling to bring it all back home. This is prog made by the kids in high school who were so into their own trip that they seemed to vanish into a hole that was probably actually a portal to another universe. You know the type: they invent funny-to-them names like “Beefus D’Aurelio” and “Lettuce Head” and they’re suspiciously good at their instruments. It’s exhausting, but in a bad way, like climbing too many stairs when the elevator is broken, not the good way, like screwing in your roommate’s bed when they’re out of town. I like weird shit made by smart idiots, but still I can’t fully endorse these goof-offs. Yet, I can see an impressionable ne’er-do-well witnessing these guys shred a basement show and get the itch to quit hiding the freak flag under their straight clothes and to that I say, “huzzah!” You absolutely should not cut that brief DOORS piss-take six minutes into that one song, and yes, the public does indeed have a bottomless appetite for wacky, pitch-shifted vocals. They might be from Rochester 2021, but to me CLIBBUS will always come from 1989 San Francisco and right now they’re pumping quarters into a payphone on Mission trying to get on a NOMEANSNO bill. Maybe Jello will be into it?

Mononegatives Apparatus Division LP

Smashing debut LP by this London, Ontario group. Twelve songs in just under a half hour—I like those numbers, those numbers bode well. And these are actual songs—Apparatus Division is modern punk done right. MONONEGATIVES posit a pretty straightforward equation: take ADVERTS-by-way-of-JAY REATARD, add a hint of CHROME, cut with some jacked-up A FRAMES, and you’re about halfway there. “Living in the Age” into “Neighbots” is as good a back-to-back as I’ve heard this year. “Trauma” is like hardcore punk TUBEWAY ARMY, but don’t assume it’s all android energy bouncing around, as MONONEGATIVES has got real rock’n’roll swagger behind the motherboard. After establishing a mid-tempo groove, “Circuits in View” erupts into a suitably swinging rave-up that hits like the speediest parts of ’77. “Career Attitude” is all pent-up energy but finds the space for a couple killer hooks, while “Today’s Adult” cracks a dozen egg-punk shells in the time it takes to lace up your boots. Apparatus Division has got a perfect balance between rock grit and synthetic pulse.

Cheap Meat Let’s Eat! cassette

All-killer/no-filler four-song debut from this quartet. Each two-minute track is a pile-up of great, knotty riffs and pummeling yet nimble rhythms. Top this winning formula with spiky, sardonic vocals that address both serious and frivolous subjects with a refreshingly jaundiced eye and you’ve got an EP better than most of the utter worthlessness committed to wax these days. CHEAP MEAT: less filling, tastes fucking great.

Eyes and Flys Anxiety Tools / God’s Management 7″

Seeing as this is their fourth 7″ in just over twelve months, EYES AND FLYS have certainly kept busy during the past year. And while I respect their work ethic, these guys’ music hasn’t quite hit the target for yours truly. EYES AND FLYS walk a strange borderland between partly-sunny near-goth and overcast garage-strum (a place called Buffalo, actually). Forsaking the punkier direction of the preceding singles, there’s an implied darkness and gloominess to these tunes, but it never settles into something truly compelling. The songcraft is definitely there, as you’ve got acoustic guitars and extra percussion jingles and jangles, but it remains on the other side of the river, just waving at me and there’s no thought of attempting a crossing. The B-side is some sort of heartland rock instrumental that wouldn’t be out of place on anything from a TOM PETTY record to a ’90s indie-emo platter on Caulfield Records. On the insert, in addition to the nice old-school touch of a phone number for contact, there is the inscription: “Getting by two songs at a time.” It’s a nice sentiment, but I think it’s time to make an album where this material might congeal into something worthy of its ambition.

Kaputt Movement Now / Another War Talk 7″

This Scottish sextet put out a pretty decent LP a few years back and this new single condenses all the good things about that album into an easily-digested, bite-sized nugget. KAPUTT composes manic music that has a sense of purpose. “Movement Now” is like SUBURBAN LAWNS sporting a CRASS sleeveless to the beach and now all the surfers wanna burn down the system. As counterpoints move in tandem—girl-guy vocals dodge guitar-sax licks—there’s more than a hint of ESSENTIAL LOGIC to “Another War Talk.” This release bodes well for future KAPUTT.

Special Interest Trust No Wave: The 2016 Demos LP

As we went to press, news off the wire is that New Orleans’ post-wave glam terrorists SPECIAL INTEREST have hooked up with storied post-punk purveyors Rough Trade to release the highly-rated group’s next full-length! Sorry, just testing out my music-weekly muscles. In anticipation, Disciples’ waxing of SPECIAL INTEREST’s first recordings arrives at the perfect time. Mainly, what these demos show is that SPECIAL INTEREST had it down from the jump—their sound was immediately striking and they have only managed to further hone it into something both freakier and more accessible. But you are not getting mere dregs and toss-offs here, these five-year old recordings more than hold their own. I kinda wish I could’ve seen SPECIAL INTEREST strafe an early 2000s electroclash party on Driggs Ave (Williamsburg, NY, USA), but it’s somehow far more satisfying to imagine them in an abandoned warehouse on the edge of a hidden New Orleans ward, camping coolers of Four Loko sweating as hard as the congregation of disparate strangers made instant friends by righteous noise bondage. These demos could have landed SPECIAL INTEREST anywhere: Wax Trax! in 1985, Industrial in 1979, Troubleman in 2003, Rough Trade in 1981 or 2021.

The Cybermen Cybernetic Surgery EP reissue

I always thought the CYBERMEN’s “You’re To Blame” was a charming enough second-tier second-wave punker perfect for filling out an all mod cons mix (pro tip: slot it next to EXPLODING HEARTS), but what I did not know was that their four-song debut is an even more satisfying slab of earworm. Cheers to Breakout for rescuing this not-cheap circa ’78 record for the rest of us. “Cybernetic Surgery” is way up on that neuromancer tip and has a great balance between fast rocker and weird robot energy. “Where’s New Wave” also crests early but often, another tricky balance struck between wrong-sided garage and mean-muggin’ mod. “Hanging Around” manages to be sullen and threatening and even finds time to phase in and out of existence. Just when you thought these jerks were irredeemable, “I Can’t Help” proves that it was all just an act and these punks have sleeves made of bleeding hearts. A bounty of riches, this single. No band named after Dr. Who’s lamest adversaries has any right to be this killer.

Die Atlantikschwimmer Die Atlantikschwimmer 12″ reissue

After their waxing of DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER’s debut cassette, Static Age reissues the German group’s self-titled follow-up. Originally coming out in 1985 on the legendary Zickzack label, this Atlantic swimmer is even more streamlined than its predecessor. The water this combo wades in resists being roiled, hanging out instead in the placid end of the pool. You’ll find no lack of ponderous bass tones and thudding drum machines, occasionally spiced with pre-modern instruments like accordion. There is an intriguing frozen quality to DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER’s impeccably produced songs; they flirt with pop structures but ultimately remain at a distance from mainstream aesthetics. Call it “Factory on the Rhine.” “Komm Mit Mir” repurposes a song from the debut and imparts the feeling of drifting along a canal as centuries-old buildings loom in the background. There is something undeniably romantic and—forgive this ugly American—European about DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER; yet, the album doesn’t quite satisfy whatever foolish notions this listener harbors about a lost weekend in a far-off city. All deserted streets and darting shadows, the whispered, seductive menace of “Film Mit Überlänge” is closer to my idea of a good time in an unfamiliar locale. Keep the carriage ride, gimme the foot chase.

Schiach 2 LP

Over the last five years, there’s been no shortage of TOTAL CONTROL-type bands on the international scene. I’m here to tell you that SCHIACH is one of the finer such units. Maybe that’s because their influences stretch all the way back to the original German post-punk scene and they utilize drum machines as effectively as they use guitars. In accordance with the genre, 2 is packed full of paranoia. All manner of clanking sounds ricochet around the agitated vocals, often sounding like a parody of industrial-influenced club music; a lo-tech MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, perhaps. But instead of sending up Christianity and hard rock, SCHIACH seems to be mocking modern surveillance culture, and that’s something this reviewer can get behind.

The Eurosuite Hot Off Depress LP

Hot Off Depress is a smorgasbord of unnerving but rocking noise punk with clear antecedents in CHINESE STARS and, closer to home for these Brits, USA NAILS. We’re talking dentist-drill guitars, sarcastic vox, pounding rhythms, and the rare ability not to overstay their welcome. The EUROSUITE even manages to employ electronics in an organic manner, often standing in for what would normally be a guitar feeding back. The desperate, sleazy synth-pop of “Stimulate” shows that the EUROSUITE ain’t just miscreants with tinnitus, and “Line/Void” ends the album with a lonesome piano playing in the next room while a man narrates an absence to himself. Cracking debut, lads.

Opus Good Procedures / The Atrocity 7″ reissue

I must admit: I’ve always been a little perplexed as to how this single came to be such a rarefied bonzer. Released in 1979 in a micro-edition of 200 copies (deepest of ironies that, considering it’s about the standard run these days), OPUS has spent the 21st century skyrocketing in value (Discogs clocks a $3,500 sale with no pic sleeve). OPUS was an L.A.-area band that played a few gigs and managed to squeeze out this two-sider before vanishing in a cloud of dust. As they continue to mine for rare gold, Meat House has been on a tear lately, so it’s quite a feat that they managed to secure such a “holy grail” for re-release and reappraisal. So how da tunes, you ask? Well, they’re fucking perplexing—”Good Procedures” is a head-scratcher of an A-side. It straight-up sounds like a demo of a mid-tempo rock song that sits somewhere between snoozeville AOR and the least-exciting almost-post-punk cut you can name off the top of your head (so proto-indie rock, basically). It is truly so underwhelming that someone out there should be demanding a $3,495 refund based on this side alone. But then you flip it over and “The Atrocity” comes ripping through the speakers and the current price tag almost starts to make sense (but not really, I mean c’mon, what the fuck). “The Atrocity” features gnarly guitar strangling at near-hardcore tempos and even has a hook, so there ya go—an actual punk rock song. At least this version comes with a guaranteed cover. For less than a twenty dolla holla, you too, can own an overrated slice of punk rock history.

Evil I Official Bootleg LP

As far as archival punk labels are concerned, Chicago-based Alona’s Dream is near the top of the pile. Whether repackaging criminally-neglected albums or digging up shoulda-been classics, Alona’s Dream excels at presentation as well as content. This time, they rescue a 1983 cassette demo by a hardcore band that hailed from the Chicago suburb of Lombard. While distributed locally and garnering a few favorable reviews in national zines, EVIL I finally gets their due with this raging slab of wax. Holy hell, this fucker smokes! As the band tears apart everything in sight, the singer unloads her frustrations like she’s unleashing a hail of arrows from the top of the tower. EVIL I engages in whiplash time changes while never sacrificing the brutality or extending the songs with gratuitous parts. “So What?” (“if I die”) crams a catchy chorus into a little over a minute, but it’s “Trend” that is the out-and-out classic cut here. I can’t thing of a single early ’80s hardcore compilation that wouldn’t be improved by this total burner that spotlights a killer wah-wah solo amidst its breathtaking pace. The guitar playing matches the singer for pure vicious spite and the rhythm section is dextrous and punishing. Is “Bored of Education” a perfect hardcore punk song? Fuck yes it is. And of course it features more of that deliciously nasty wah-wah. Truth be told, the second half of this demo is an absolutely classic 7″ that was never realized…until now.

The Mirrors The Lost 3rd Album LP

If you ask me, Greg Ashley is a goddamn genius. This motherfucker has written, engineered, played on, pissed on, passed out on, or thought about a theremin line for, well, name it—I’ll figure out how it connects to our boy Greg. Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-all, Ashley will make it better, one way or the other. Despite all this, his pre-GRIS GRIS group, the MIRRORS, still gets short shrift. Both of their early 2000s albums are classics, so you bet I was psyched to hear this lost puppy. And it doesn’t disappoint. While not quite scaling the heights as those millennium-era killers, The Lost 3rd Album is more than worth it for fans. Laying just slightly off the garage rock bombast of that earlier work, the nine cuts here are an obvious precedent for the GRIS GRIS and their seductive, hypnotic sway. Songs like “Patient Flowers Electric” and “Blush Sunshine” are the real Paisley Underground. But you’ve still got full-throated blare like “Gracie’s Pink Pussy Cat” and “Paranoia Blues,” so maybe rip some holes in your thrift store polyester. No one can channel the VELVETS, Roky, Townes VZ, and DREAM SYNDICATE like the Gash. This is dirty psychedelia for drugged-up romantic poets.

Spike in Vain Disease is Relative LP reissue / Death Drives a Cadillac LP

The tale of SPIKE IN VAIN is a story at least as old as tract housing—the American suburban development with dead-end streets that sealed off sites of impending blight. Formed in Cleveland, SPIKE IN VAIN kicked back against the familiar cul-de-sac of a life spent toiling in a factory, a life satisfied with being another faceless member of the grist mill that churns endlessly. They came howling from the suburbs, rampaging on ankle-high stages in fishnets and trenchcoats. It’s uncanny how many of these mutant hardcore bands were like modern-day sin-eaters—mad monks drunk on words and possessed with divine disillusionment. SPIKE IN VAIN and their ilk were future seekers, death-taunters, and they ran themselves ragged, sometimes straight into an early grave. NO TREND might come to mind when pondering this type of off-the-beaten-path hardcore, but SPIKE IN VAIN were even more feral, less calculated in their punk scene mockery, more likely to be found passed out by the railroad tracks. Despite switching off between instruments and vocals, SPIKE IN VAIN never lost focus or intensity. Even though hardcore was still chugging away, the music on these two albums can be seen as “post-hardcore,” in the sense that they were illuminating possible escape routes out of the fallow thrash fields that surrounded them. Disease Is Relative was released in 1984 and lit the torch so bright that it almost burned down all of Cuyahoga County (finishing off the job the river started fifteen years earlier). On all of their material, even the simpler punk songs, SPIKE IN VAIN sound much older than their teen ages suggest. Hell, SPIKE IN VAIN seems to have hit retirement age right after puberty, like coal miners—crawling around in the darkness—aging decades within months. The best moments come when SPIKE’s ambition and ideas take them far beyond hardcore’s borders—which is fitting as Disease is Relative was recorded in a little house in the middle of the woods on the distant outskirts of Cleveland proper. But Cleveland haunts this album like an angry ghost. “A Means to An End” is Dance With Me-era TSOL getting dragged face-first through a scrap metal yard on West 65th, right past Lorain Ave (one of the saddest streets in America). “God On Drugs” is an absurdist classic, an existential cry of despair that also doubles as a stupid, etched-into-a-desk joke that any misanthropic kid can appreciate. “No Name” has more in common with CIRCLE X’s doomsaying no wave than some rote hardcore angst. A haunted house take on BIG BOYS’ party funk, “E.K.G.” comes complete with a spastic bass solo. “Children Of The Subway” is as nihilistic and pugilistic as any hardcore coming from either coast; count yourself lucky if you make it to your stop after blasting this one on the earbuds. With its relentlessly shifting sections, “Disorder” keeps you off-kilter like prime SACCHARINE TRUST. Years before noise rock became codified, SPIKE IN VAIN was manipulating feedback like Foley artists, setting you up for shocks and scares and keeping your ears on a constant state of alert. Disease is Relative is a stone-cold classic and finally back in print, so that’s a reason to keep drawing breath for us miserable types. 

The unreleased follow-up, Death Drives a Cadillac, was recorded a year later and brings in Official Cleveland Treasure—Scott Pickering—on drums. At this point, SPIKE IN VAIN was distinctly not hardcore, instead approaching an early version of grunge and (singer/guitarist/Scat Recs guy) Robert Griffin’s later PRISONSHAKE. The band’s gutter literary aspirations were coming to the fore and they sought the darkness with renewed vigor. In the mid-’80s, cowpunk was trending in the underground, but SPIKE IN VAIN cast a pall over any sort of yeehaw-ing by coming across like urban cowboys from midnight city, armed with switchblades and baseball bats, not fancy spurs and a cowardly six-shooter. The other half of SPIKE IN VAIN’s creative axis was the Marec brothers, and their wayward energy helps power these tracks beyond genre exercise. “Rattlesnake’s Wedding” betrays a heavy GUN CLUB influence, while “Dogsled in Heaven” has plenty of slide guitar and even some tastefully applied Jew’s harp. “Escape From The Zoo” nails this new hybrid—a kind of roots-rock hardcore punk that doesn’t waste a good hook. “Party In The Ground” sounds like the REPLACEMENTS having a hootenanny in the cemetery, while “Gospel Motel” strains hard against its criminal-spiritual duality. While not as immediately visceral as their debut, Death Drives a Cadillac shows that SPIKE IN VAIN still had plenty of gas left in the tank.

Grauzone Grauzone 2xLP

Even squares dig “Eisbär” these days, but that shouldn’t prevent anyone from digging as deeply as possible into this pioneering Swiss group’s oeuvre. Here, across the span of two LPs, all of GRAUZONE’s work is collected for dilettante and connoisseur alike. Encompassing their sole LP and numerous EPs, I don’t think there’s a bum cut amongst these nineteen tracks. (There’s also a box set version that adds a complete 1980 live set and the requisite thick booklet.) The territory that GRAUZONE covers is vast: hallucinatory scene-setting (“FILM 2″), cave-wave (“Maikäfer Flieg”), proto-indie rock (“Marmelade Und Himbeereis”), radio-ready pop (“Der Weg Zu Zweit”), romantic crooning (“Ich Lieb Sie”), NDW bangers (“Moskau”), piano-laced desperation (“Ein Tanz Mit Dem Tod”), U2-like triumph (“Ich Und Du”), noise-pierced post-punk (“Raum”). The listener is in capable hands as GRAUZONE performs all of these modes quite well. The result of this eclectic approach is to display that, despite their brief existence and relative isolation, GRAUZONE was a force to be reckoned with, and made music that stands the test of time.

Xerobot Xerobot LP

This discography collection is a goddamn public service. Presented within: 37 tightly-packed spasms as songs; 37 claustrophobic angular conniptions in miniature; a sonic Xerox of an EKG traced in crayon by an epileptic genius. And yet, despite all that blather, this is the sound of a band climbing up the stairs, not falling down them. XEROBOT is so methodical it’s as if AD(H)D itself was made flesh, formed a punk band, and then practiced incessantly with BLACK FLAG-like dedication. And all of this happened in the 1990s in the state of Wisconsin. It’s like a fairytale told by the janitor at your high school who is actually a mad scientist during his off-hours. This is maniacal and borderline insane music made by very smart young men who had problems, fetishes, and phobias that they couldn’t adequately express—except within these minute-long explosions of precise motion that walk the razor’s edge between innocent, demented fun and downright psychotic behavior. I find this music exhilarating, exhausting and absolutely hilarious. Included for your edutainment is an informative booklet-cum-oral history (alas, a zine) that puts it all in perspective for you. Take some time to peer through this cracked periscope. Crucial release.

Dyatlov Wound Man / Barren Lands 7″

I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback by the full-throated, noise-soaked roar that leapt off this single. No slow builders, these Dutch. “Wound Man” never lets up, and is all the better for it. On “Barren Lands,” there is a jaunty organ off-setting the ferocious deathrock, but these guys are about as friendly as a hitman on his day off. To quote the promo blurb: “DYATLOV doesn’t care about rockn’roll or anything it stands for. DYATLOV doesn’t care about themselves. And most importantly: DYATLOV doesn’t care about you.” A-fucking-men.

Artistic Decline Four Song EP reissue

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for bands like ARTISTIC DECLINE. They emerged onto a crowded Southern California field and were too quirky to fit snugly into one of the many micro-scenes that dotted the punk landscape. Moody and tuneful and snide, ARTISTIC DECLINE surfed the same waves as SIMPLETONES, GEARS, and SECRET HATE. “Andy Warhol” is my pick hit, but out of the four songs here, the only semi-duff cut is the closing “Private Shack,” where the slower tempo doesn’t do them any favors. Still, a minor classic reborn, and here’s hoping their Random Violence LP gets the same treatment sooner than later.

Celebrity Handshake Bottom Of Your Bucket LP

I swear, for the last couple years, this Portland, Maine trio has had a record reviewed every other month here at MRR. I keep on seeing the name and I keep on not listening to the music. Now, dear reader, I’m strapped into the chair like Alex in that one movie about clocks and oranges and my ears are being forced open with an intricate series of chains and hooks. And I’m here to tell you a secret: This shit sucks. For some reason, I thought these guys were on a HARRY PUSSY tip, which would have at least resulted in a distracting blur. Does CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE think that they’re the second coming of ART PHAG? Listen, once was enough, you wangheads. This is half generic garage punk and half lame-ass improv with bad—like really fucking bad—singing. There’s all sorts of constipated growlers this guy reminds me of but I already listened to the goddamn record, so I ain’t gonna waste any more time conjuring up a couple “sounds like”s. It sounds like shit!

Crack Cloud Pain Olympics LP

After a few years of small-scale but intense anticipation, CRACK CLOUD’s debut LP landed with somewhat of a thud last year. Was the muted reception due to the coronavirus and its accompanying shutdown? To some extent, no doubt. Even though they seem to have spurned the US so far (a move I grudgingly respect tbh), the Vancouver-based collective appear to be a galvanizing live band, at least according to the toob. Not to mention their great/weird videos and of course the LP collection of their first couple EPs is some real (triple) fire (emojis). Despite CRACK CLOUD’s attention to detail on these meticulously constructed tracks, Pain Olympics is, at times, curiously underwhelming. But, due to the aforementioned virus, further listening has provided plenty of reward. “Post-Truth (Birth of a Nation)” opens with an authoritative take on CRACK CLOUD’s established style but takes a couple left turns into operatic territory. It’s sorta impressive but also kinda gratuitous. Hey, take a swing, I always say. Just try to make contact. But it’s an effective opener. “Bastard Basket” drills into downcast post-punk, while “Favour Your Fortune” is some kinda grime foray that, despite its boastful brevity, fails to land a punch. At first, “The Next Fix” resembles CRACK CLOUD’s electrifying early work but when the vocoded vocals come in, the song flirts with radio cheese and then a group chorus turns into the ARCADE FIRE and I try to comfort myself that it’s a Canadian thing (j/k, luv you loonies). An almost perfect DEVO imitation, “Ouster Stew” also harks back to their beginnings, and reveals how stale the recent batch of egg-punk has been. “Tunnel Vision” combines everything into the total package: it rocks, it’s danceable, it sounds great, it’s got those vocals with the weird cadence, hell it’s even got something resembling a guitar solo. “Angel Dust (Eternal Peace)” ends it all and confirms what you’ve always suspected: CRACK CLOUD are the dance-punk version of GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR. While not the world-beating collection some might have hoped for, Pain Olympics demonstrates that CRACK CLOUD is a force to be reckoned with, and you ignore them….at your own peril!

Exek Biased Advice LP reissue

Originally released in 2016, Biased Advice is EXEK’s debut full-length and still stands tall next to their subsequent triumphs. There’s no getting around the fact that EXEK’s biggest initial inspiration was PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, and “A Hedonist” is about as close to a perfect homage to said group as you could desire. It’s a testament to how good EXEK is that any and all comparisons to Lydon and Co. are swiftly rendered stale and reductive. “Replicate” is a masterpiece of seasick dub menace—an iceberg in this instance would come as a relief. A deep dive into a bottomless trench, “Baby Giant Squid” encompasses the entirety of side two and never loses its hypnotic sway or compromises the undercurrent of turbulence that roils throughout. On this epic cut, EXEK surfaces as sui generis. Kudos to Castle Face for reissuing this essential slab.

Ornament Und Verbrechen Tapetopia 001: Rotmaul Tape LP

The first of Play Loud!’s excavations of Germany’s cassette culture, Rotmaul Tape is one side from ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN’s debut release from 1988. That’s a bit too far down the autobahn of my preferred era of this fertile underground scene. ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN operates from a goth-drenched vantage point, but most of the music manages to rise above the faux-dramatic vocalizing. Still, as early sampler tech collides with snatches of noisy guitar, ORNAMENT UND VERBRECHEN, more often than not, ends up sounding like DEPECHE MODE minus the dance beats. “Surety” has mournful late-JOY DIVISION synth (s)weep and even whips out a harmonica for some extra WTF-ness. “Jesus” is simultaneously elegiac and discombobulating, which is a welcome set of conflicting reactions. The best use for a track like the vaguely SUICIDE-ish “Sally” is soundtracking a period-specific romance that occurs during the final thaw of the Cold War. The atmosphere of decadent banality is highlighted by KENNY G sax licks and elevator-worthy piano trills. Fortunately, “The Death By Heroin Of Sid Vicious” is the punkest cut here and sounds closest to the unclassifiable basement ooze that distinguished the early German tape scene.

De Brassers Alternative News LP

DE BRASSERS came out of the first wave of Belgian punk and proceeded to release a couple classic records in the early ’80s. I’m not sure if they ever broke up, but regardless, they re-emerged in the 21st century and continued down the path of intense, bass-heavy post-punk like a couple decades hadn’t slipped by. Alternative News is a live album captured in 2019, but don’t let that put you off. Not only is this set well-recorded, the band is in top form. There aren’t (m)any current post-punk bands that can match the expert execution of DE BRASSERS. You know you are in capable hands when the towering bass riff of “En Toen Was Er Niets Meer” (from their debut EP) comes lumbering into sight and then they back it up with “Eruit” into “Sick In Your Mind.” DE BRASSERS’ take on post-punk is really its own form of deathrock, stripped of all the usual trappings (blues/metal/etc.) and instead just brutally cold and efficient. One modern band that treads similar ground is Italy’s underappreciated HIS ELECTRO BLUE VOICE. For good measure, DE BRASSERS even cover WIRE and ALTERNATIVE TV on this worthy live album.

V/A The Dog That Wouldn’t Die CD

A fascinating look into the worldwide punk underground circa 1986, this compilation was originally released as a 90-minute tape that came with a 32-page zine. Now, a resurgent C.I.A. Records has slapped this sucker onto a CD so that you, dear reader, can relive the glory days of MRR-classifieds-sourced comps. While most of the artists involved come from C.I.A.’s native Texas, there is a wide-range of sounds and ideas spread across The Dog That Wouldn’t Die. Hardcore punk, trashy rock’n’roll, and raw, lo-tech sample collages all find a place on this canvas. As for “big names,” not sure that these qualify but someone out there will thrill to hearing PAIN TEENS, MYDOLLS, THREE DAY STUBBLE, CULTURCIDE (who contribute the epic “Atomic Bomb”), and even FRED LANE. ANDERSON COUNCIL gives us the mellowest SEX PISTOLS cover ever with their acoustic “Apathy In The USA.” PARTY OWLS live up to their name with the lunkheaded punk of “Check Your Dick For Spots,” while PROBLEMIST takes a noisy deep dive into “Reagan’s Colon.” SOLID WASTE DIVISION throws down a cool sax-laden grinder that is followed by NAKED AMERICA’s spazztastic “Corporate Society.” Other highlights include MEAT & GLASS going off like HARRY PUSSY, POISON GAS RESEARCH unnerving feedback manipulations, and EKU’s bedroom rock concoction. The Dog That Wouldn’t Die is a time capsule that deserves a second look.

Isolationsgemeinschaft Isolationsgemeinschaft cassette

For the last few years, the German underground scene has been spitting out one killer combo after another. These groups range from hardcore units finding new wrinkles in their chosen style to genre-defying post-punk projects that utilize new ways to incorporate electronics into a rock format. I.G. is a duo attempting to update Germany’s early ’80s Neue Deutsche Welle scene for today’s hyperspeed reality. This initial offering’s title (and presumably the band’s name) translates to English as “Isolation Community,” so you know they’ve got the quarantine blues something fierce. The music errs more towards OMD’s mersh aspirations than DAF’s razor-sharp electronic come-ons. This kind of understated new wave pomp (a contradiction in terms) needs really strong songs to pierce my veil of indifference. The aggressive “Gelande” comes close but is still betrayed by keyboard lines that sound straight out of a Sega Genesis game. “Schockstarre” is grimy and foreboding and probably my favorite track here.

Klick & Aus Tapetopia 003: AIDS Delikat LP

The ’80s tried its hardest to kill rock’n’roll. In 1984, KLICK & AUS didn’t give a fuck about rock’n’roll per se, but still they managed to tap into its eternal well-spring of possibility and indulge in reckless, ramshackle sounds. KLICK & AUS stitched their music together while adjacent to quarantine (West Berlin gazing at East) and that patchwork existence influences their output. This is human music, as modern as a car phone and thirty times more useful. At times, KLICK & AUS recalls similar collectives such as HANS-A-PLAST (“Halt Mich Fest”), LUCRATE MILK (“Gebt Mir Schnaps”), TUXEDOMOON (“Slow Virus”), and FAUST (“Das Schicksal Der Lymphozyten”). Unfortunately, due to format constraints, the entirety of the original hour-long cassette is relegated to the web, but the material that shows up on this LP is more than enough to kickstart your own scene where the rules get chucked out the nearest window (and of course that is recorded for future use).

Soft Shoulder Copy Machine Fall Down 7″

Gilgongo Records mainman James Fella is an industrious sort. His label is constantly releasing interesting, occasionally great, art-damaged records by an array of projects. His own group, SOFT SHOULDER, is the best of these, and for the last year, they have been on a tear, including two excellent LPs. This 7″ is the third single in the last twelve months, and it continues their streak. Both sides were stitched together from remotely-recorded parts, pandemic-style. “Copy Machine” features the band’s current line-up for a quick primer of their fractured aesthetic, while “Fall Down” brings in past members and associates for free jazz-like deconstruction. New LP coming soon!

Ike Yard Night After Night 12″ / Ike Yard LP reissues

Nearly forty years after the fact, and IKE YARD still sounds like the future. Both of these records function as aural documents of New York City and its varying levels of reality. IKE YARD belongs to the shadows, and it’s here, tucked away from the light, that the brilliance of this music shines forth. The creative use of analog synth alone qualifies these reissues as objects of interest. That the band can meld murky industrial rhythms, unnerving bits of sonic detritus, and scraps of junk guitar so perfectly is a testament to their vision. The bass slithers like an underground pipeline, linking up with the sunken floor disco beats. With his intimate declarations and observations, Stuart Argabright (also of the incredible DEATH COMET CREW) is a tour guide talking you through a field trip to the parts of the city that you try to ignore. This music has such a vivid sense of scene, style, and space. The description “cinematic” truly applies here. VANGELIS can take a hike, IKE YARD should have scored Blade Runner.

Toads Toads LP

TOADS are a bona fide Bay Area all-star punk band with the resume to back it up. From ICKY BOYFRIENDS to the hallowed (now hollow) halls of MRR itself, TOADS has a lofty rep to live up to. Fortunately, for all of us, TOADS deliver. Only a couple cuts even break the two-minute mark, and then just barely. You’re supposed to chill out as you age, but TOADS are as rambunctious as a pack of teenagers jacked up on Mountain Dew, spicy Takis, and cigs lifted from Mom’s purse. But this crew also has a hard-won panache that makes their city punk appealing to dwellers of all sorts. In just over sixty seconds, “Not An Artist” is the kind of infectious kiss-off that makes punk the best of all rock’n’roll styles. If you need further evidence, I direct you to “Another Year” and “Bad Cop” for proof. Case sealed, conviction assured.

The Insults The Insults LP

All INSULTS records should come prepackaged with a snot-rag. You will rue the day you cut the sleeves off your shirt after taking a couple spins around the block with the INSULTS. Apparently these are their final recordings from 1980 (a.k.a. the beginning of the end of the American empire). While nothing here supplants the immortal “Population Zero,” you couldn’t ask for a better guide to being a no-count during the late ’70s. “I Hate…” is like a punk 101 course that can be completed in under two minutes. But then the charming “Are You Lonely?”—a sweet/sour tug-of-war like a proto-REPLACEMENTS—proves that these dicks have hearts. “Romilar Romeo” could be a SIMPLETONES outtake. “Trans Am” lampoons the red-blooded patriots that swarmed all over conservative suburban California, soon to be running the country (into the ground). Punk has always been the canary in the coal mine, only with better riffs.

Skunks Mad Song / Persian Radio 7″

I confess to being a tad perplexed at this 7″. Australia’s SKUNKS released a four-song 7″ EP in 1982 called Scratch N’ Sniff. I imagine the opening song, “Dance With The Fuhrer,” raised a few eyebrows in their native Adelaide. Did the average punter grok the sarcasm of its stiff-armed salute outro? At first, I thought maybe the reason that only half the original songs appeared on this small-run reissue was that the band wanted to avoid any appearance of aligning—justified or not—with such reprehensible ideas. But then I saw that there was a faithful four-song repro released in Australia concurrently with this particular edition. Preserved On Plastic is based in South Korea, so perhaps there is a licensing issue at work? Regardless, on this version, we skip the two-step with Hitler plus a re-christened Xmas tune (“Violent Night”). What remains is “Mad Song” and “Persian Radio,” both of which slot nicely with contemporaries like JUST URBAIN and THOUGHT CRIMINALS.

Blóm Flower Violence 12″

On Flower Violence, BLÁ”M is dead set on destruction. A non-binary three-piece that calls the UK home, BLÁ”M hearkens back to the glory days of Load Records—ditching the guitar while reveling in squalls of bass-borne noise, maniacally-played drums, and desperate vocals. Frankly, it’s a great look. Each of the five songs here are seeded with little barbs of pleasure and pain. “Meat” finds space for a mosh break even as it stays on the move, cycling through one compelling part after another. “God” is all sick breakdowns and gnarly riffs, culminating in a stylish heretic nailing a manifesto to the church doors. An epic meditation on Crime And Punishment, “Ubermensch” starts out like one of the MELVINS’ death marches to the forbidden zone before finally erupting into a LIGHTNING BOLT-style frenzy. “Be Kind” brings it all back home as Geezer Butler nods on approvingly. BLÁ”M can’t be bothered with gently placing a carnation in your rifle barrel, they want to knock the gun out of your fucking hands.

Lié You Want It Real LP

LIÉ is a brutally efficient band. You Want It Real is the Vancouver trio’s fourth LP and they betray no sign of easing up on the intensity, much less letting sleeping dogs rest. The songs here fester like a wound, like an injury that serves as a reminder of a greater pain. “You Got It” lunges at you with murder in its eyes, then switches up suddenly and flirts with a sense of triumph, until its back to the lashing you so richly deserve. “Fantasy Of Destructive Force” wreaks the kind of see-sawing, poetic havoc that made UNWOUND so memorable. By this point, LIÉ have developed their own language consisting of the usual noise rock signifiers but used to form words we don’t have definitions for yet.

Dan Melchior Band Outside In LP

Dan Melchior’s vast discography boasts an enviable hit-to-miss ratio, even when compared to catalog hogs like John Dwyer or the late Jay Reatard. It might seem odd to place Melchior in such company, but they are closer contemporaries than initially meets the eye. Regardless, Melchior continues to release several LPs worth of material a year and most of it—whether home-recorded experimental blues stitch-ups or full band get-down engagements—is uniformly excellent. Outside In is perched somewhere between acid-fried garage boogie and a sort of modern choogle that pulls from all sorts of far-flung sources. Both the title cut and “Chinese Wine” have a Zamrock vibe; desert guitar moves join with sheltering sky FX as they zip across the panning spectrum. “Brownsville” and “Courtesy Flush” gild garage lilies with ENO-esque sound treatments. “Pheasant Plucker” is not only a fun tongue-twister to roll around your mouth, but also a rocker that kicks up dust like the BROKE REVUE, Melchior’s perpetually underrated old outfit. Outside In came out a ways back, but it’s luster ain’t faded none.

Silicon Heartbeat Earth Static cassette

Beaming in from Kalamazoo, Michigan, SILICON HEARTBEAT (not to be confused with SILICON PRAIRIE) trades in gloomy, fuzz-soaked synth-punk. Suck the fun out of the SPITS or slip a sedative to LOST SOUNDS and you’d have something close to this EP. SILICON HEARTBEAT is competent enough, but the relentless monotone that defines each song can be a hard wave to ride, even on what is essentially a 7″ (are there really only eighteen copies of this tape?). I’m guessing that this is a solo project and, thus, it rates on a sliding scale, but still, there’s little heat here. The digital download of Earth Static closes out with a perfectly fine ANGRY SAMOANS cover that is the aural equivalent of a flatline.

Collate Medicine / Genesis Fatigue 7″

Blame COVID for why there’s not a new COLLATE LP primed and ready to sit on your turntable. Still, the Portland trio does us a solid with a short but effective single. “Medicine” is begging to get a sweaty DIY dive packed with awkward weirdos grooving in something close to tandem. COLLATE doesn’t shirk on the ass-shaking aspect of post-punk nor do they let up on the jagged guitar or the eternally cool call-and-response vocals. This shit smokes, call the FIRE ENGINES! “Genesis Fatigue” is even rowdier and could have landed on any number of killer art-punk comps from 1981 and held its own in such hallowed company. Furthermore, as with all Domestic Departure output, this single looks fab.

The Smog Set in Stone / Lost My Mind 7″

People be loving the SMOG! This is the Japanese group’s third single and they’ve built a modest buzz based on their sharp, tuneful punk rockin’. “Set in Stone” threw me for a sec as it opens like GIRLS AT OUR BEST’s “Getting Nowhere Fast,” but then settles into a flavor profile that is closer to the JAM stirring a spoonful more garage into their mod stew. “Lost My Mind” gets slightly more angular and approximates what BLOC PARTY would sound like if they had any punk demos.

Fugitive Bubble Fugitive Bubble cassette

As 2020 pulled up stakes, FUGITIVE BUBBLE shoved this butterfly knife of speed-racket jerk anthems into its ribcage with zero remorse. It’s getting harder and harder to sort out this type of punk—the kind that is impossible to nail down with regards to its immediate antecedents. Sure, there’s some C.C.T.V. in the DNA, but with a heaping portion of KBD to make sure all six songs leave a mark. Check the boxes—jackhammer drums, rusty razor guitar spray, somersaulting rhythms, and super-sarcastic vocals that sound so cool you almost hope that they’re making fun of you. This debut tape is, no doubt, Cool Fucking Punk, which is good for you, cuz you are a Fucking Cool Punk. Whew.

Red Red Krovvy Managing LP

Having been around for a decade at this point, it’s quite a feat that Australia’s RED RED KROVVY has managed to remain so supremely agitated—they’re still pinning the needle into their color of choice and exorcising everyday demons like every good punk band should. Managing is their most consistent and satisfying collection of songs yet. There is a desperate, burned-out quality to RRK’s attack, but they cram enough down-turned hooks into each two-minute screed that the songs don’t end up an indefinite blur. “Before You Die” kicks off the album with a cathartic stare-down of existential dread and assures the listener that they will indeed leave a good-looking corpse. Singer Ash Wyatt (also of the excellent UBIK) possesses a memorable snarl and she uses it to great effect on cuts like “Company Job,” “Real Estate,” and “Despise The Rich.” Those titles give you an idea of where RED RED KROVVY’s head is at regarding the free market and its acolytes. Musically, there is a certain kinship with the dark side of SoCal beach punk. It’s tuneful but not poppy, fast but not ripping, and stripped of needless embellishment for the most part. Managing is a refreshing reminder that punk doesn’t need bells or whistles, just plenty of old fashioned spit and spite.

The Cowboys Lovers in Marble cassette

The COWBOYS LP on Lumpy was a damn fine slab of weirdo garage punk. I friggin’ love that thing. I dug their further adventures but lost track of the band a few years back. Well, thankfully for us, the COWBOYS are still out there, still plugging away, still consistently putting out quality music. In fact, they released an LP in 2020, so this tape can be seen as riding sidecar. But make no mistake, these aren’t scraps. I’m pleased to report that the COWBOYS still got “it.” They’ve settled into what is perhaps their final form as advanced students of moody ’60s psych-pop. The sound honors the era, but still comes off as contemporary. There’s elements of the KINKS (“Lovers In Marble”) and early BEE GEES (“The Bell Rings Less”), while the best song here, “Saintlike Said,” recalls the brooding PRETTY THINGS. Nice job, boys.

The Monsters I’m a Stranger to Me / Carpool Lane 7″

These MONSTERS are a Swiss trash-garage combo that started kicking rocks way back in the ’80s and are fronted by the honorable Rev. Lightning Beat Man. Beat Man runs Voodoo Rhythm Records, so the dude is not a stranger to loud-ass dirt rock, but I was still surprised by the grit that’s caked over these new recordings. The A-side is a hi-energy rave-up that shows a generation of Burger-fed youth how it’s done. Gnarly. “Carpool Lane” slows down just a hair so that herk-jerk verses can alternate with heavy bursts of fuzz as an analog synth zaps the aliens lurking on the side of the road. A cassette version slathers on a host of extra tracks.

Landowner Consultant LP

People, I am here to tell you how much LANDOWNER absolutely fucking rules. They play tightly-coiled rock music that is in constant motion while appearing to remain perfectly still. It’s a neat trick, this hummingbird punk trip, but these guys got songs too—LANDOWNER nags you with their flitting, arid smart aleck takes. Imagine NOMEANSNO stripped of their exaggerated bluster (to be sure, a large part of that unit’s charm) or the MINUTEMEN time-warped into the 21st century. “Victim Of Redlining” corkscrews into your head with a relentless bass riff, a D. Boon guitar lick, and lyrics spat out like the speaker has been sitting stewing in anticipation of five minutes of facetime. “Swiss Pavilion” dissects city planning with wit and brevity, addressing public spaces, parking concerns and the narrator’s desire to achieve urban nirvana. In the context of punk, LANDOWNER’s music is understated yet contains an undeniable ferocity. Despite its lack of a “sick riff,” “Being Told You’re Wrong” is closer in spirit to MINOR THREAT than a thousand generic straightedge bands. LANDOWNER utilizes clean tones, repetition, and interlocking guitar/bass lines to build spaces that are there to serve a purpose, more tool than structure. On album highlight “This Could Mean Something,” singer/mastermind Dan Shaw is “Talking to the wall / ’Til it starts talking back” as the band veers into US MAPLE territory. “Confrontation” adds synth and shares sympathies with PATOIS COUNSELORS, while “Mystery Solved” sketches an existential story of an IT worker over seven tense minutes. But don’t get it twisted—Consultant is occupied with churning, propulsive music. Hardcore is inverted. Pointillist-brutalism is engaged. Patterns are melodies and whispers are screams. This album leaves invisible bruises like pillowcases filled with bars of soap. A bright spot during these last dark months, no doubt.

Star Party Demo 2020 cassette

STAR PARTY is a GEN POP offshoot that throws down a glittering gauntlet on this teaser tape. Drenched in sheets of glorious early Creation Records fuzz, “No Excuse” hits hardcore velocity while singer Carrie Brennan is perfectly dialed in on the reverb. But it’s “Veil of Gauze” that really impresses. “Gauze” is so good that it can hold its own with the excellent version of the SHOP ASSISTANTS’ “Something To Do” that precedes it. And just when you think you know the score, STAR PARTY covers a BOB DYLAN-penned early CHER tune (“All I Really Wanna Do”) and conjures fond memories of the AISLERS SET. When’s the single?

Lewsberg In This House LP

The righteous, relentless chug of third-album-era VELVET UNDERGROUND has provided a valuable blueprint for enterprising buttoned-up rockers for decades. Based in Rotterdam, LEWSBERG found themselves trekking to this well so many times that they set up living quarters and now bathe in its replenishing waters every morning. On In This House, their second full-length, LEWSBERG dives deep, and if you’re partial to the charms of the MODERN LOVERS, GALAXIE 500, and BETTIE SERVEERT, then you will find much to like here. The album is evenly split between head-down rockers and songs that are reminiscent of a quietly devastating conversation over late afternoon tea. While they hit the marks of the former, LEWSBERG falls just short of nailing the mood of the latter. “The Door” is the kind of intimate yet foreboding studio apartment psych that YO LA TENGO mastered long ago, but LEWSBERG doesn’t quite have the damage to pull it off. The song contains echoes of HUMAN SWITCHBOARD’s “Refrigerator Door,” but falls short of that classic’s dramatic, gawky outpouring of romanticism. We could use a little more of that awkward, doomed, drunk poetry in today’s rock scene. But LEWSBERG aren’t trying to set the world on fire, they’re just trying to make it to the coffee shop and get things started. “Cold of Light Day” is the hit, projecting a casually cool, streetwalking confidence that sheds the leather jackets for corduroy and peacoats. With its wire-y guitars, “Through The Garden” satisfies on this front, but I can’t help hoping for an extradimensional “I Heard Her Call My Name”-esque feedback squeal to tear through the time-space continuum; alas, no such luck here. I wanted the “Interlude” to stretch its wings a bit more. I caught a brief glimpse of SPACEMEN 3 waiting outside the practice space door and I was hoping they’d come in and jam. The album ends with such a lackluster last minute that it seems like an inverted punchline. Your mileage may vary.

Sudden Impact Freaked Out EP

Guided by the expert punk archivists at Supreme Echo, SUDDEN IMPACT upgrades a semi-legendary demo to a fully formed EP. Before leaning into something closer to “trad” skate-thrash, SUDDEN IMPACT were making pits erupt in Toronto and the proof is evident on a blazing 1984 recording. Delivering ten cuts in thirteen minutes, this remastered EP is practically the platonic ideal of a hardcore punk 7”. Things back then were truly fast and furious, so much so that who even has time to come up with song titles? (“New Song” could use a little more work but still packs a punch.) “Freaked Out” sports enough bent corners that it could fit comfortably on an early Killed By Death volume (see KRAUT). True to form, the theme song (“Sudden Impact”) completely shreds and features the always-welcome sound of breaking glass to ensure that you’re paying attention. And then they wrap things up by covering TED NUGENT, because of course. NUGENT sucks, but AMBOY DUKES rule, and as far as hardcore covers of hard rock nuggets go, it ain’t half-bad.

The Lavender Flu Tomorrow Cleaners LP

Fuzzy Oregon freaks the LAVENDER FLU celebrate their state’s decriminalization of recreational drugs with their third album in a mere year’s time. D.A.R.E. to bend an ear to the FLU’s warped sensibilities as they curve rainbows in mid-air and turn falling raindrops into flying butterflies. Tomorrow Cleaners finds the LAVENDER FLU back on the Meds label and exploring the same ’shroom-strewn forest that spawned their double-shot debut, Heavy Air. The owls are not what they seem as they lead you to a secret swimming hole where the humidity verges on the psychedelic. These sounds are melting along with you and perhaps even melting inside of you. “Boca Ciega” cops a welcome WEST COAST POP ART EXPERIMENTAL BAND vibe, while “Romelas” is lovely and groovy and lets low-key axemaster Chris Gunn carve out some space with his stun guitar. These are the songs that JULIAN COPE was singing to himself when he was hanging out under that tortoise shell. Naked and afraid and happy as a loon. Ore-gone or orgone? Unlike the recent Barbarian Dust, Tomorrow Cleaners is no killer rock slab, but still chock full of intriguing paths less traveled.

Night Lunch Wall of Love LP

On their debut album, Montreal new wave quartet NIGHT LUNCH serves up something closer to a midnight snack. It’s all too slight—the keyboards, the vocals, the guitar, the cover art. I’m hungry, so angry and NIGHT LUNCH could probably use a second helping of something spicier (MEDIUM MEDIUM-hot salsa?). Wall of Love is finger food when a burrito as big as your head is needed. Sorry, you don’t like these food metaphors? Sorry, I don’t like this record.

The Down-Fi / Toeheads split 7″

This little platter is Issue #2 in the Good Times Rock ’n’ Roll Club Split Single Series. Whew, that’s quite a mouthful and might just have you questioning what decade you’ve landed in. Have no fear, it’s still that same cursed year, but don’t tell these bands cuz all they wanna do is rock and/or roll til the sun comes up. The DOWN-FI is notable for featuring a true underground rock legend in the irrepressible Craig Bell. Craig has been in ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS, the MIRRORS, SAUCERS and, most recently, X__X. If you figured that kind of resume would clue you in to the quality rock sounds contained on their side, well, goddamn maybe it’s time to take up fortune-telling. “You Won’t Like It” skips the art damage for straightforward bash ’n’ pop and was even recorded in “glorious mono” for extra salt-of-the-earth cred. Every town should have a band this good to drink their worries away to. TOEHEADS are from Detroit and you can certainly hear that in the attitude on display for “Jane Doe #59.” But it’s actually the PAGANS that this song most closely resembles. A sub-par PAGANS, but hey maybe it took 58 tries to nail “Her Name Was Jane.” The leopard print inner sleeve is a nice touch.

Max Nordile Building a Better Void LP

21st century renaissance man MAX NORDILE continues his assault on logic with another solo joint that defies expectations and rewards those predisposed to the counter-intuitive. You may know him from art-punk units like PREENING and UZI RASH, but when left to his own devices, Max gets into a heap of trouble and makes an intriguing mess—a “Public Pile” according to one track. Opener “Deep Face” sounds like ALASTAIR GALBRAITH having a bad day, while other cuts suggest CAROLINER playing it straight. “Diligent Pores” is an extended meditation that steeps coffee shop clatter and submerged guitar noise in a broken teacup. By the end of the album, the microphone is in the waffle iron and your head is in the radiator and everything is in its proper place.