Reviews

Matt Casteel

Bermuda Squares Outsider LP

Four-chord punk pop with a notable pedigree, BERMUDA SQUARES bang out a tight crop of ultra catchy tunes for you goobers. This album will especially appeal to pinheads, cretins, and glue-sniffers, along with fans of DARK THOUGHTS, CARBONAS, and MARKED MEN. Hailing from Minneapolis and featuring members of the SOVIETTES and NEO NEOS (among many others), BERMUDA SQUARES add a bit of grit to the formula and move things from the basement into the garage. Running the risk of being written off as generic, Outsider defies convention through the sheer force of delivery. Layers of harmonies are swaddled in a warm blanket of fuzzy saturation, and that gives the production just enough tooth to draw blood. If you’re an outsider, outside of everything, there’s a solid chance you’ll wanna bop to the BERMUDA SQUARES.

Brian Damage Previous Episodes cassette

I gotta say, I really dislike the name of this band. I say “band,” but from what I can gather, it’s actually the solo project of someone named Brian Baker (not the Brian Baker of MINOR THREAT, GOVERNMENT ISSUE, DAG NASTY, etc.) from Columbus, Ohio. One description I read stated that “BRIAN DAMAGE is the Brian child of Brian Baker.” Just yuck. I was hoping that the tunes on this release would transcend the goofy name and make me feel foolish for judging a tape by its title, but sadly, that just is not the case. BRIAN DAMAGE really wants to sound like WEEZER. Maybe if you really like WEEZER, you’ll find this charming, though I suspect not. What we have here is synth-forward, jangly guitar basement pop with an upbeat indie propulsion and irritating, fuzzy, post-nasal drip vocals. The songs are annoyingly indulgent, with many of them approaching or exceeding the three-minute mark. Oh, and to the surprise of no one, the album ends with an acoustic number. Is this just the tip of a gigantic ’90s revival iceberg? Please say it ain’t so.

Coffin Pricks Semi-Perfect Crimes LP

COFFIN PRICKS were a short-lived group from Chicago in the early 2010s. Featuring members of CIRCUS LUPUS, CAVITY, and DAYLIGHT ROBBERY, they made a bit of a splash in their time, but only managed to release a single three-song EP before disbanding. It turns out that the band had recorded a few more songs back in 2011, and following an apparent dose of friendly pestering from the good folks at Council Records, COFFIN PRICKS resurface in 2024 to grace us with all seven of their studio recordings, plus an additional seven cuts taken from a 2012 gig at Saki Records. While I’m often skeptical of both live recordings and posthumous releases by bands with abbreviated lifespans, Semi-Perfect Crimes upends convention on both fronts. COFFIN PRICKS embody the spirit of 1978 post-punk by striking a masterful balance between melody and aggression. The instrumentation is impressive without being too flashy and the vocal lines are catchy without being too obvious. I presume that the FALL is a big influence here, along with WIRE and MAGAZINE. This has me t-t-totally wired. 

Itchy and the Nits The Worst of LP

More stripped-down than a nudist on holiday, ITCHY AND THE NITS blast out twelve cuts of cave-beat rock’n’roll simplicity. Absolutely minimalist in their approach, it turns out that the “worst of” their output is actually pretty great. No time for bozos or searching around for that fourth chord, this power trio from Down Under gets straight to the point with their brand of budget rock bangers à la THEE HEADCOATEES or the DELMONAS. Not a single song breaks the two-minute threshold! Gritty, charming, and imminently replayable, there’s even a GIZMOS cover. What more could you possibly need?

Machine Go Boom Your Skin’s Been Peeling Off EP

The five songs that comprise this EP were recorded way back in 2010. I’m always curious about these posthumous releases from bands that made a regional splash before getting sucked into the vast and encompassing void of non-existence. At the heart of my curiosity is a burning, one-word question: “why?” Why do bands from yesteryear feel compelled to scrape the barrel of nostalgia over a decade later to see what detritus they can dredge up? Perhaps it’s what their fans demand. Maybe there are legions of MACHINE GO BOOM-heads out there just pining for a few more songs to help them relive the glory days. In 2007, NPR said they “pound out high-energy, upbeat pop.” Sure. To my ears this is the kind of generic ’00s indie rock that I would have actively avoided when it was fresh. How has this aged fourteen years after its conception? Do I really need to answer that question? If you have a soft spot for this band or loved them in their heyday, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled that this is seeing the light of day. Personally, I’d rather literally peel my skin off than have to listen to this again. 

The Dumpies / Night Court The Shit Split Part Duh split EP

Bold move to name your record after such an iconic split as the original BLATZ/FILTH Shit Split. The DUMPIES clock five fleeting cuts of mostly melodic pop punk with nasally vocals. The least melodic track, “Hats,” is also the shortest (a whopping 25 seconds) and most memorable of the bunch. Exhibiting a competence that comes with experience, it’s clear that the DUMPIES know their way around their instruments, but this batch of songs seems a bit undercooked. It’s like they are hinting at something greater than what has been committed to tape, and ultimately flame out before leaving the launching pad. On the flipside of the platter, NIGHT COURT wades even further into the syrup of jangly pop punk. This is the type of cloying, cavity-inducing, artificially sweetened pop that makes me long for the whine of the dentist’s drill. At least their songs are quite brief, too. Needless to say, this falls far short of the record its title references.   

Office Chairs Cross Passages EP

Artsy-fartsy indie synthwave that is an apparent collaboration between a lauded experimental composer and a shoe designer. If that sentence sounds confusing, just wait ‘til you hear the music. I may be too dumb to give this a fair shake, but I think I get what they’re going for. It’s as if LCD SOUNDSYSTEM was robbed of most of their talent and some of their gear. Or like an incredibly low-rent knock-off of ESG, minus the ingenuity and charisma. The vocals on this release have a limp half-spoken, half-sung thing going on that makes me legitimately want to take a nap. Aggressively boring, and yet reeking of condescension. Or maybe I’m just too dumb to understand the sophistication at play.

Fog Lamp Conversation? cassette

Seven tracks of synth-driven garage psych with a post-punk undercurrent. The sung vocals are stabbing in the direction of the BLACK ANGELS, though not exactly hitting the vein. Perhaps it’s due to the drum machine, but there’s something rigid and mechanical slurping the lifeforce out of these songs like a digital leech. What’s left is a brittle husk whose parts don’t comprise a unified whole. Even the BLITZ cover feels stiff and unnatural in its execution. For this kind of neo-psych stuff to really break through, the band has to flip the script in some form or fashion—otherwise it just withers in the face of more innovative, or competent, or better executed alternatives. FOG LAMP has a sense of style, but the substance is nowhere to be found.

V/A Failed States // Creative Reistances 3xLP

This triple LP compilation is truly something to behold! Across the six sides, we are treated to 43 cuts of blistering punk from Belfast in the north of Ireland, Banda Aceh in Indonesia, and Prishtina and Prizren in Kosovo. The impetus behind the project was to bring the three places into dialogue with one another, while providing space for each of the respective scenes to share and celebrate their unique identities within the broader context of global punk. To facilitate this, each record is curated by separate groups from each locale. It’s a massive undertaking that must have taken years to put together. I was immediately struck by the obvious care that went into the production. From the triple gatefold of the jacket with unique art for each record, to the thick slabs of colored wax, it’s clear that no detail was overlooked. The compilations themselves are no exception. Each curatorial group brought their own flavor to the effort. The Belfast record, Trouble Brews, is akin to a condensed retrospective of DIY punk from the region from 1978 to 2023, spanning the gamut of hardcore punk, ska, pop punk, crust, and more. Here again the care is in the quality, with bands like JOBBYKRUST, PINK TURDS IN SPACE, DEJA VU, and PORPHYRIA lending particularly memorable songs. The Banda Aceh record, Aceh Punx, is similar in the breadth of styles represented, but isn’t organized in the same chronological format. This change, while small, helps to achieve one of the aims of the project—the creation of dialogue across time and space. This record has more bands from the 21st century, and has more modern-sounding hardcore bands with metallic influences. Some standouts for me were GANDOE, MILISI KECOA, and ALAKAZAM OI. Punk KS takes yet another tack by skipping over the ’90s entirely and exhibiting bands from Kosovo in the ’80’s juxtaposed with bands from the last 24 years. Similar to the other discs, this album highlights bands across the broadest spectrum of punk, but once again stirs new ingredients into the recipe by pushing into more experimental territory than the other records. I was consistently impressed by many of the bands, but the ’80s groups in particular caught my ear, such as LINDJA, VIVIEN, GJURMET, and BANKROTT. All in all, this is an exceptional compilation. The initial pressing is limited to three hundred copies, and there is a two-year embargo on digital versions to allow the collection to circulate in the real world as a physical, analog artifact. Don’t be a dummy—if you see it, buy it!

Kuebiko / Military Shadow split EP

This split smokes! Two savage, snarling cuts from Tokyo’s MILITARY SHADOW on one side, and four utterly deranged bangers from Boston’s KUEBIKO on the flip. MILITARY SHADOW offers a pummeling take on the tried-and-true hardcore formula, reminiscent of CRUDE in the way that the guitar leads provide extra velocity and charm. Thick, meaty distortion reigns supreme, with each song hewing close to traditional song structures, but excelling where it counts by blasting the speakers to shreds with guttural howls and delectable riffage. KUEBIKO is also drawing from the deep well of Japanese hardcore, but their take is even more frenzied and unhinged. Their tracks are quick, blazingly concise, and have some exceedingly demented vocals. Like ZOUO on acid or HUMAN GAS on psilocybin. Play this for your straight-laced friends and laugh maniacally as they grimace.

Sun Children Sun Bizarre Feverre LP

Listening to this album gave me a bizarre fever! As I clumsily search for words to describe that which defies description, I’m reminded that punk is undeniably the most boundary-smashing, innovative music on planet erf. Bizarre Feverre has a lot going on, but at its core, it’s a raging punk record. The clean guitar tone and speed bring to mind fellow Japanese rockers MILK, but the comparison ends there, with SUN CHILDREN SUN embracing an epic and dense maximalist approach. The introductory track is a full-on orchestral arrangement that leads into a searing prog breakdown. Once the album really gets cranking, it’s slightly less avant-garde, but there’s still something that sounds like laser beams or mouth noises, whistles, chanted group vocals, and funky tempo shifts to keep you on your toes. If this sounds absurd, well, it is, but SUN CHILDREN SUN are nothing to scoff at. Many of the tracks go straight for the jugular, and even at their weirdest, the band keeps it all very musical. Totally eclectic hardcore that I enjoy more with each listen.

Except You / Trashworld DCxPC Presents Live, Vol. 26: Live at Lou’s split LP

I often struggle with live albums and, (with a few exceptions, try to mostly avoid them. Inspired by the VMLive series from the ’90s, these DCxPC albums have an interesting origin story, so I was determined to set my judgemental ass down and give this a fair listen. To start with, I listened to the entire EXCEPT YOU side on the wrong speed. At 33 ⅓ rpm, they sound like a metal-tinged grunge band. At the proper speed, they sound like a metal-tinged punk band. The vocals oscillate between singing and screaming, with an operatic quality in both modes. I don’t know if this is just a holdover from my too-slow first listen, but I couldn’t help but think of BABES IN TOYLAND, if they were, er, sped up. They wind down their side with a cover of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” which is always a solid move. On the flipside, TRASHWORLD tends more to the moshy side of things, with some chugging guitars and breakdowns that verge on metalcore. The insert mentions this being their second show ever, which I would not have guessed considering how tight the songs sound. The standout cut for me is “Fuck the Proud Boys,” for the title alone. The overall quality here is much better than those old VMLive records, and this is number 26 in the DCxPC series, so clearly there’s an audience for live DIY punk. Who cares about my cruddy opinion anyway!?

Vivisektio 1985 LP

Back in February, I had the privilege of reviewing VIVISEKTIO’s most recent album. It’s a great record and the band has a really fascinating backstory, which I won’t recount here but is worth checking into if you are even marginally interested in the intersection of Finnish punk and Trivial Pursuit. Listening to this material from the band’s formative period is like hopping into the most radical time machine back to 1985. The recording quality is all tattered edges, but the gold is in the grooves. Raw, raging, rowdy hardcore punk will always transcend fidelity as far as I’m concerned. Here, VIVISEKTIO sounds like a severely damaged KOHU-63 practice tape with any element of harmony extracted and fed to rabid dogs. Noisy, angry, and glorious. The record comes packaged with a full-color booklet that I presume enumerates the band’s historical significance, though I can’t say for sure since it’s mostly in Finnish (except for a reprinted MRR interview from 2015). A hidden gem of gnarly ’80s Scandinavian hardcore!

でぶコーネリアスEx / The Sensations SPLIT’24 split EP

Twenty songs on a split 7”!? Sick! Ten of the songs are contributed by でぶコーネリアスEX, who are certainly the more eclectic of the two bands. Genre-hopping madness with interspersed sound clips that truly defies classification. Obviously the songs are fast and short with many tempo changes, but they aren’t a powerviolence band…even though there is a song with blastbeats. There’s a ska part in one of the tunes, but no one would accuse them of being a ska band. My personal favorite track sounds an awful lot like ASSFORT, but it’s a bit of an anomaly, too. The connective tissue here comes in the form of ripping guitars, and many layers of wildly unhinged vocals. Do they close out their side with a Hawaiian vibe? Why, yes they do. The SENSATIONS are far easier to digest. Like でぶコーネリアスEX, they are hyper-energetic, but the song structures are straightforward and overflowing with poppy hooks. They’re so damn catchy! They have that frantic punk-pop sound nailed down just right. Like a perfect blend of the BANANAS and the BLUE HEARTS. According to the liner notes, this split is the culmination of over twenty years of friendship between the two groups, initiated by meeting at a show at the fabled Nishiogikubo Watts, “a live house where chaos and frenzy swirled every night.” Awesome! Not a single dull moment to be found on this sucker.

Skam No Name LP

Who doesn’t love a lost punk album from the ’80s? Check this one out: SKAM was a short-lived band from DC-area Virginia whose members were high schoolers, coming up right in the thick of one of the most fabled scenes in the history of the genre. After finishing up their math homework, these kids could bike down the street and catch SCREAM, FAITH, MINOR THREAT…what a time to be a pimply-faced teen. The songs captured on No Name were recorded between 1982–1983. Despite the era, geography, and what you may be expecting, SKAM was not a hardcore band. Rather, they seemed to be far more influenced by first-wave British punk like the CLASH and SEX PISTOLS, with clear nods to stateside bands like the DEAD BOYS and the STOOGES (this release includes a cover of “Search and Destroy”). I’d venture to guess that these lads discovered punk rock from the decade prior, before encountering the brilliant manifestation happening in their own backyard. That said, they do sound a bit like BLACK MARKET BABY, which I can’t imagine is a coincidence. Overall, I’m reminded most of Chicago teen punk favs EPICYCLE. So, if you’re looking for a lost gem of DC hardcore, this isn’t that (though one of the members did go on to be in NO TREND), but it is a solid batch of melodic ’77-style punk nonetheless. The title cut is a standout, bringing to mind the ZEROS. There are seventeen tracks in total, including four songs recorded live at their high school talent show. How rad is that?

Rejestracja Darmowe Wczasy LP reissue

REJESTRACJA is a somewhat elusive band. I remember first hearing about them back in 2006 when my old band spent a few weeks touring in Eastern Europe. Here it is over twenty years later, and I finally get to check them out! I’m not entirely sure of the provenance, but I believe this is a reissue of a cassette release from 1983. There appears to have been a version of this from 2017, but in any case, this is remastered and ready to burn up your turntable. REJESTRACJA absolutely rips! Fast, unrelenting political hardcore punk that has the perfect blend of hooks and aggression. There are tons of juicy riffs throughout the twenty songs, with great drumming and forceful vocals. The songwriting makes me thankful to own a copy of B.G.K.’s Jonestown Aloha!, which I think I’ll throw on next. In case it isn’t abundantly clear, Darmowe Wczasy gets a strong recommendation from me. Killer stuff.

Brix! Brix! CD

Seven original cuts of straight-ahead street rock and a by-the-numbers NEGATIVE APPROACH cover. BRIX! keeps things moving along at a brisk pace, which I appreciate. None of the songs crack the two-minute mark, and they play faster than many bands that they might be compared to. While not as refined as CONSERVATIVE MILITARY IMAGE, these lads are cooking with a few of the same ingredients, blending hardcore and Oi! As expected, the vocals are gravely with plenty of gang chants throughout. A touch of pub rock influence creeps in, culminating in a lifted “Back In Black” lick at the end of their eponymously titled song “Brix!”—I could’ve done without that, but it is instructive. They don’t sound like AC/DC, but they do sound like the kind of band that would randomly break into a tired AC/DC riff.

Zimna Wojna Zimna Wojna LP

Melodic punk rock from Wroclaw, Poland. This album reminds me of something Epitaph Records would’ve released in the ’90s. Slightly more aggressive than a band like PENNYWISE, ZIMNA WOJNA bears the hallmarks of that regrettable era of commercialized punk, when it wasn’t out of the ordinary to hear gratuitous “whoa-oh-oh”s and random ska breakdowns. This is a bleak reminder of the dark ages of punk, when RANCID was a mainstay on MTV and the OFFSPRING could be heard blaring from speakers in malls across the land. Basically, the soundtrack to my worst teenage nightmare. I found this album to be a truly painful listen. There are forms of torture that are more enjoyable than being subjected to this drivel. Do yourself a favor and avoid this at all costs. Yuck.

Toasty! MK PV Demo 2023 cassette

Hmmmm…anyone in the mood for a Mortal Kombat-themed powerviolence band? I’d love to say that this was surprisingly good, but sadly TOASTY! is uninspiring and altogether mediocre. Yes, the songs are very short, and yes, tempo changes and blastbeats abound. Heck, there are even the requisite Mortal Kombat sound clips (“Fatality!”). The problem is, they don’t sound enough like SPAZZ to pull off the novelty—unless the band members are literal children. There is no indication that this band is comprised exclusively of pre-teens, but if by some chance that happens to be the case, then this is actually quite ripping and awesome and I take back all the bullshit I said about this demo being mediocre. Otherwise, I’d say listen to more LACK OF INTEREST, CROSSED OUT, INFEST, MITB…and give it another go.

Grey C.E.L.L. Cursing Every Lesson LP

Driving hardcore punk that eschews convention by injecting unexpected elements of metal and post-hardcore. The vocals are severe, brutal, and out front in the mix. There’s a complexity to the songwriting that makes me think of something that Ebullition Records would’ve released in the late ’90s, but a bit more straightforward and modern. The drum work on this album is stellar, complimenting the discordant guitars. Overall, a great fit for the revamped Council Records, as they revitalize an amalgam of genres that had grown quite stale.

Scraps Demo ’85 12″

Part of a series of reissues for this long-running hardcore punk powerhouse, Refuse Records has dug deep in the vault to bring these demo recordings into the light of day. Compiling songs from three iterations of demos, this is the most raw, chaotic version of French pioneers SCRAPS. Seven songs of sheer noise and aggression, delivered with total abandon. This early incarnation of the band bucks against any sense of melody and dispenses with worn out traditional notions of musicality or talent. What is left is pure rage and unbridled anger, channeled into political punk that sounds something like KAAOS showing up at Dial House on a rampage with CRASS. There are times when the drummer and bassist seem to be playing totally different songs from the rest of the band. Sloppy, frantic, and pissed-off. Killer cover art. This rules.

Panic Defense I Don’t Give a Shit CD

Ahhh…this is a tough one to review. I’m not certain that this is a solo project, but in many ways it sounds like one. This is stylistically all over the map. There’s lots of shreddy guitar work and tons of tempo changes throughout the nine songs on this disc. Some of the tunes are rooted in punk, but there are grind parts, metalcore parts, and even some hip-hop thrown in for (not) good measure. I’ll just come out and say it: I did not enjoy listening to this. The guitar tone is frankly excruciating, and everything sounds very synthetic. I can’t quite suss out if the drums are electronic, but they are really shrill and tinny. Ordinarily, I’d have zero reluctance with my criticism, but there is an aspect of this release that has to be mentioned. Shortly after this project was completed, one of the band members (maybe the only band member?) passed away, and all the proceeds are going to his family to support his young child. While I can’t necessarily recommend picking this up for the tunes themselves, it sounds like a cause worthy of support given the tragic circumstances.

Death Ridge Boys Society Overdose / Turn the Tide 7″

Two tough cuts of pub-bound street rock from some stalwarts of the Portland, Oregon scene. If I’m counting correctly, this is their eighth release, and follows up the Too Much Bullshit LP from last year. “Society Overdose” is a catchy mid-tempo number with a shout-along chorus and lyrics about having your eyes opened to the ills of society through punk. There’s a line that says “Inside my head looks like the cover of Cause For Alarm.” So tough. The flipside slows things down and introduces more melody with an anthemic, straight-ahead rock approach. Another solid showing from some trusty punks.

Vivisektio Uusi Normaali LP

VIVISEKTIO has a uniquely fascinating biography. Having formed and operated for a brief three-year period in the early ’80s, the band hailed from the Lapland region of Finland and played most of their gigs north of the Arctic Circle. This fact apparently even inspired a Trivial Pursuit question! Following this initial stint, VIVISEKTIO reformed in 2008 and has been periodically releasing albums ever since. This latest offering bears all the hallmarks of classic Finnish hardcore, bringing to mind KOHU-63 and RATTUS. Most of the thirteen songs are short, fast, and jam-packed with riffs, but tracks like “Sotakuume” mix things up by injecting peace punk rhythms into the formula. Closing out the album, “Uusi Järjestys” is a downtempo cut that veers into post-punk territory with a nod to early KILLING JOKE. Altogether, a powerful release building on a compelling legacy. Highly recommended.

Disfear Everyday Slaughter LP reissue

The final installment of a series of DISFEAR reissues serves up a D-beat masterpiece that has been out of print since not long after its release back in 1997. It’s nothing short of a crime against punk that this album has been allowed to collect so much dust, but thankfully Havoc Records, et al. have rectified that grave oversight. Housed in a gatefold sleeve and including a bonus two-song 7” with the first hundred records, Everyday Slaughter sounds just as vital and crushing in 2024 as it did when I first heard it over twenty years ago. This is an undeniable, indisputable classic of the genre and it demands to be played loud. The riffs require it! Of the endless number of Dis-clones that have come and gone in the intervening decades, very very few have come anywhere close to the proficiency and sheer brutality demonstrated here. Look, if you like D-beat as a genre even slightly, then this is required listening. There should be an OG copy behind glass at that goofy-ass museum of punk rock (or whatever) that opened recently in Las Vegas, though I bet there’s not. Do yourself a favor and snag one for yourself before it goes back out of print again.

Soft Shoulder It’s All a Small World After LP

SOFT SHOULDER has been refining their brand of angular, no-kilter post-punk for quite some time. Calling them prolific feels like an understatement…at last peek, there were no less than 34 releases listed on their Discogs page, and a sizable grip of those appear to be lathe-cut 5”s. Incredibly niche. Aptly titled, It’s All a Small World After brings us sixteen tracks of unadulterated worship at the altar of the FALL. There’s just no way around the comparison when the vocalist sounds like a dead ringer for Mark E. Smith. When a group’s sound is so closely aligned with a classic band (essentially homage territory), the question of originality recedes and is replaced by the more immediate concern of execution. After all, aping the FALL is a bit different than trying to sound like the RAMONES (not that many have actually pulled that off very well either, in truth). I’m happy to report that they do in fact pretty much nail it. And, you know, originality may well be a long dead farce at this stage anyway. Worth a spin if you enjoy the modern sounds of URANIUM CLUB, COOL GREENHOUSE, VINTAGE CROP, ’80s UK DIY, or uh, the FALL.

Ratos do Beco Demo 1978 EP

Purported to be Brazil’s very first punk band, RATOS DO BECO never played a formal show in their brief existence from September to December 1978. Legend has it that their open-garage-door rehearsals would draw a crowd of curious onlookers, with motorists pulling over to get a closer look and listen. Founding member Miguel Barella (who would go on to form the excellent new wave outfit AGENTSS) captured one of these practice-cum-gigs on reel-to-reel tape, which all these years later, comprises the four-ish songs on this EP. “Saved from obscurity” releases like this are often propped up by their backstories, and in this case the story is providing a fair amount of propping. Calling it a demo is a bit of a stretch as it truly does sound like a hastily recorded practice, replete with aging tape interference and a snippet of a cover of “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.” So, does the music warrant a 2024 vinyl pressing complete with a sixteen-page booklet of photos and liner notes? Your mileage may be different from mine, but I’d answer that with a resounding “probably!” They sound like a rudimentary version of France’s finest first-wave punks, the DOGS. RATOS DO BECO play some dirty rock’n’roll that has enough snarl and feral energy to be called punk. Unlike so many of their contemporaries, they weren’t aping the SEX PISTOLS or (partial cover aside) the RAMONES. The band members appear to have gone on to have impactful careers in music. This EP portrays a partially developed snapshot of unbridled youth and rebellion in its most gestational form. A charming slice of South American punk history.

Excited to Die This is a Life? cassette

Does it get cold in Nova Scotia? Are they playing this fast to try and stay warm?? In any case, twenty songs in twenty-one minutes is gonna generate some heat, and there’s no denying it—EXCITED TO DIE’s debut full-length is a scorcher. The songs aren’t just short, they’re also blisteringly fast, harkening back to the classic era of USHC. Think JERRY’S KIDS minus the showboating behind the drum kit. EXCITED TO DIE clearly don’t have time for nuance, and that is working to their advantage. The vocals sound unhinged and scathing, projecting razor-sharp cynicism through a lens of appropriately negative thinking. The rhythm section is steering the ship with an enviable bass tone and tasteful tempo shifts. There’s just enough dirt on the guitar to give it a tube-driven warmth. It’s obvious that this band is building on a foundation of experience, so it comes as no surprise that their pedigree includes names like MUTATED VOID and BOOJI BOYS. I’d be psyched to see EXCITED TO DIE on a bill with the HELL or LAFFING GAS. Clearly they’re not here for a long time, just for a bad time…in the best possible way.

Why Bother? Calling All Goons LP

More psychotic sci-fi punk from the twisted mid-western minds of WHY BOTHER? Like a psychedelic showdown between TIMMY’S ORGANISM and the SPITS, Calling All Goons oscillates between hook-ladden stompers like “Enter Xterminator,” and disquieting somber numbers like “Climbing Out of the Sky,” where the synth adds the bulk of the color. The highlight for me was the odd sock, punk-pop goofiness of “I Wanna Be Like Pete,” with bassist Pamela lending vocals and a slight departure from the quasi-disturbing lyrical content found on songs like “What’s Wrong With Me?”. Apocalyptic themes course through the album like tributaries of toxic ooze, creating a pervasive sense of foreboding that is heightened by the layers of undulating effects and waveform patterns. This offers a nice contrast to the catchy riffs that drive much of the album. Delightfully demonic. For the goons, by the goons.

Spllit Infinite Hatch LP

Challenging, avant-garde post-post-punk, pushing beyond the outer bounds of the sonic parameter staked out on their previous album, Spllit Sides, also on Feel It. This is a dense collection of songs! Although SPLLIT sounds nothing like CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, I assume this would appeal to someone for whom Trout Mask Replica is casual listening. Or maybe fans of the RESIDENTS? Angular anti-pop with swirling, chirping synths and alternating male/female vocals. In their more motorik moments, I think of FAUST and NEU!, though SPLLIT is more often scratchy and abrasive, with jerky tempo changes and atypical time signatures. Is this what math rock for egg-punks sounds like?

Black Mambas / Lost Cat split 7″

This split features two bands from L.A. that sound like something that would have appeared on one of those Voxx Records Battle of the Garages comps from the early ’80s. LOST CAT, a self-described “all femme fatale four-piece,” contributes a fuzz-forward ditty reminiscent of the PANDORAS. The expected ingredients are all present—pulled-apart-Velcro guitars, harmonica solo, shankin’ tambo, raspy smoker vocals, reverb on everything. The look, the sound…it’s all so well curated that it seems a little perfect. BLACK MAMBAS trade in the fuzz for a ’50s-inspired, vocal-driven rave-up. “Love Danger” is quite a catchy tune, but I fear it may suffer the same affliction as the LOST CAT track of being too on-the-nose.

Single Bullet Theory c. ’79 12″

Here’s an interesting slice of rock’n’roll history, mined from the vault of a largely overlooked band hailing from Richmond, Virginia circa 1979 (hence the title). The story of SINGLE BULLET THEORY is one of near misses and many woes, exemplifying a struggle that I imagine was all too common in the world of late ’70s rock music—trying to forge a path in the music biz while holding down a day job, being on the cusp of breaking through without ever really breaking through. Despite supporting the PRETENDERS on multiple tours, and opening for the RAMONES, TALKING HEADS, and PATTI SMITH, things never quite fell into place for SINGLE BULLET THEORY. Their sole full-length from 1982 didn’t seem to capture the apparent energy of their live performances, and from what I’ve read, the band was often pulled in opposing directions by various producers and record execs trying to wring some cash out of their sound. The four songs here may well be the best representation of the band to find its way onto vinyl, 44 years later. These tunes would be right at home on one of the Teenage Treats comps, blending power pop, garage, and new wave with some impressive musical chops. Hints of the RAMONES, the PLIMSOULS, and the RASPBERRIES shine through and there’s just enough grit in the production to retain their own character in spite of the aging patina of corporate monkeying from yesteryear.

Neon Leon 1979–84 Singles Collection LP

Right out of the gate, I have to say that I would never have imagined that I’d find myself reviewing a record for MRR that features Mick Jagger on one of the tracks. “Neon” Leon Matthews is one of the true unsung heroes of NYC punk, and his story is truly the stuff of legends. Matthews’ was shredding with members of PURE HELL in Philadelphia in the early ’70s, before relocating to the fabled Chelsea Hotel at the urging of Johnny Thunders. It has been asserted that Matthews was the last person to see Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen together prior to her death. For more info on his remarkable life, check out Neon Leon Fast Track to Hell, his autobiography. Back to the matter at hand, Hozac has compiled all of NEON LEON’s singles from the late ’70s to the mid-’80s. The eight tracks span a range of sounds, from revved-up NEW YORK DOLLS-esque glam, to synth-tastic new wave, and a straight-up killer rendition of “Heart of Stone,” with none other than Mick Jagger contributing backups. It’s a wild ride! The opening cut “Rock’n Roll is Alive” is worth the price of entry on its own, with a phaser-laden drum intro (à la DEAD BOYS), unhinged guitars, and chorus reminding us that “rock’n’roll is alive in New York City!” From what I hear, NEON LEON is based in Germany and still performing. Killer! Snatching this up is a total no-brainer for fans of DEAD BOYS, WAYNE/JAYNE COUNTY, PAGANS, NEW YORK DOLLS, etc. NEON LEON rules!

Ladrones Máquina Caótica EP

Hailing from Atlanta via Puerto Rico, LADRONES have been consistently pumping out electrifying punk rock’n’roll since their 2019 self-titled debut on Slovenly. Following some lineup changes, the band has developed into a wild and energetic garage monster primed to lay waste to anything its path. The three cuts featured on this EP capture a raucous and rowdy vibe that can’t be manufactured. If ANGRY ANGLES had been from Atlanta or CARBONAS spent too much time in Memphis, we may have ended up with something similar to what LADRONES are up to, but they’re not quite that easy to nail down. This record hints at a powerful direction for the band. Can’t wait to see what nastiness they’ll spin up next.

Ancient Filth No More Hiding LP

ANCIENT FILTH has been churning out top-shelf hardcore punk since 2010, and their latest entry, No More Hiding, finds them their finest form. The album’s eponymously titled opening track sets the stage well, ratcheting up the speed and intensity quickly and succinctly from the totally ripping guitar solo to the full-on hardcore assault that follows. The musicianship is freakishly tight, but doesn’t feel manufactured or inorganic. The drumming is stellar, keeping the listener on their toes with tempos changing on a dime with a commanding exactitude. Blistering guitar riffs tear through the mix and cut in with some truly unhinged leads. Everything about this record is utterly crushing. Topped off with insightful lyrics delivered with characteristically memorable vocal hooks, No More Hiding is essential listening. Hardcore rules.

Vacant We Wear Our Traumas Well LP

Tough-as-nails hardcore punk courtesy of some stalwarts of the storied Minneapolis scene. VACANT cranks out fourteen tracks of four-chord nastiness that has a slightly metallic, somewhat melodic bent that conjures up the spirit of later-era POISON IDEA. Befitting of their pedigree, VACANT embodies a 2023 take on the kind of ’90s political punk peddled by Profane Existence. Anyone familiar with ASSRASH will instantly recognize Pignose’s distinct vocals. Musically, they build off the foundation of the members other previous efforts such as SCORNED and HELLSPAWN. VACANT isn’t as raw or unhinged as the aforementioned bands, but this makes for a more coherent if less energetic delivery. Given how long these dudes have been at it, I’d say they wear their traumas well indeed.

Ismatic Guru III cassette

Genre-bending madness at its finest—ISMATIC GURU is here to paint your skull with the trippiest colors of a poised rainbow, and plunge your mind down the most elusive of rabbit’s holes. With this third installment of an ongoing collaboration between John Toohill (a.k.a. SCIENCE MAN) and Bran Schlia (CLUMP), we are treated to a circus of absurdist surreality where  synthesizers warble, writhe, and do battle with undulating guitars and skronking bass. The cadence of the vocals calls to mind the misleadingly casual delivery of Henry Wood, with accelerated paranoia coloring the timbre. The musicianship is impressive, but never flashy or overly indulgent. Post-new wave crashes headlong into post-punk…from the wreckage emerges ISMATIC GURU. The results are dense, disturbing, and ecstatically deranged. Killer stuff. For the freaks, by the freaks.

New Berlin State of the Union LP

Following up their 2019 album Magnet, NEW BERLIN’s third full-length continues their exploration of post-indie garage pop. The album’s sonic terrain opens with a nod to raw minimalism, echoing the dissonant spirit of WIRE, then moves quickly into flirtation with the sunnier side of jangle-pop shoegaze. There’s a tip of the hat to honky-tonk country on the third and fourth tracks, before settling into a cleaned up LOU REED-esque groove that prevails for the remaining songs. The trajectory is a bit disorienting, though not incoherent or whiplash-inducing. While not revolutionary, State of the Union makes for great background music with pleasing aesthetics and digestible harmonies. If you want to be challenged by an album, this will not fit the bill, but for a laid-back palette cleanser, it just might.

Class If You’ve Got Nothing LP

Brilliant follow-up to their fantastic debut—CLASS drops a banger of an album courtesy of Feel It Records. Channeling some truly classic-sounding tones colored in the rosiest tint of ’77-style punk, If You’ve Got Nothing careens from sounding like the BOYS to the sneering power pop of WHITE HEAT. The wizardry of songcrafting is something to behold, with layers of harmonies propelling ordinary melodies into the orbit of a higher plane. CLASS doesn’t sound that much like the EXPLODING HEARTS, but they draw from the same wellspring of influences. The ratio of punk to pop varies from song to song, while the balance is kept consistent. This creates a cohesion that eludes most bands. Subsequently, If You’ve Got Nothing is more than a mere collection of songs that work well together. It’s a proper album, striking gold where others have come up empty-handed. There’s a deftness to what CLASS has achieved here that indicates there will be quite a bit more to come. It’ll be hard to top this, but I’ll be eagerly awaiting the attempt.

Pissy Mide Tus Penas cassette

Two-piece bass-and-drums combo PISSY creates a dense sonic geography through the use of kaleidoscopic effects and layers of noise. At times the concept of tonality seems firmly at odds with the jet-engine swirl of phasers, though the chorus-soaked bass lines do still bleed through. The staccato vocal patterns riff off the drums in a mechanical, nearly robotic delivery. Cold and clinical, PISSY creates an atmosphere of din and discomfort, colored in the grayest shades of post-punk coolness. As stark as a winter garden in Berlin.

Rebelión Anarcopunk Sus Limites Cruzar EP

Long-running Bogotá punks REBELIÓN ANARCOPUNK tear through four cuts of full-bore crust with wild abandon. The songs are blazing fast with shouted vocals, shredding guitars, and top-shelf drumming. Although there are some metallic elements—double bass, finger-tapped guitar solos, occasionally guttural vox—this is pure punk in the raw form, and doesn’t actually sound metal in the least. The title track “Sus Limites Cruzar” is my personal favorite with its over-the-top leads, manic caterwauls, and blastbeats. If the energy captured here is any indication, I imagine their live sets to be a true spectacle.

GG King Esoteric Lore LP reissue

Originally released in 2011, GG KING’s seminal album is back in circulation with a freshly remastered pressing, courtesy of State Laughter. Esoteric Lore embodies a pivotal moment in the modern history of Atlanta’s punk scene. Emerging from the ashes of the CARBONAS, singer Greg King’s new endeavor would essentially redefine the city’s iconic sound, in which said group had played an outsized role in establishing in the preceding decade. Rather than continuing on in that vein of desperately gritty power-pop-inspired punk, GG KING were to incorporate influences from a far more broad swath of genres. Esoteric Lore is gloriously messy and experimental, at times motorik, noisy, and angular—only to snap back into a familiar mode of melodicism now cracked and damaged. Gurgling up in the cauldron are nods to 100 FLOWERS, WIRE, NEU!, the FALL, and too many more to mention without completely losing the plot. The album is bookended by unstructured soundscapes, and many of the seventeen tracks have endings that fade out, which makes the whole thing feel hazy, fluid, and experiential. Then there are moments where everything suddenly comes into sharp relief, like the whiplash inducing cover of JOHNNY MOPED’s “Incendiary Device.” While Esoteric Lore may be unresolved, it is just as vital as it was twelve years ago. Taking into account how massively influential GG KING has been to punk in the Southeastern US (and far beyond), it’s hard to think of this album as anything short of a bona fide classic.

V/A Colorado Springs Underground 1983–1994: Volume 1 LP

A vastly interesting snapshot of a scene that I was heretofore entirely ignorant of. The seventeen bands featured on this compilation span a wide gamut of genres, offering up a little something for everyone. The KBD-style opener “Meister Brau” by DEAD HEIR is just what I had hoped for (and expected) from a record whose cover has a picture of some punk taking a dump. Beyond that are some proper hardcore bangers, barely decipherable noise punk, melodic skatecore, a goth-y industrial jam, as well as more standard punk numbers. Accompanying the album is a fat, 40-page zine that puts everything into context and has a write-up for each and every band. It’s a fantastic glimpse into a scene that clearly had a lasting impact on the lives of many of the folks involved, and tells a story that will ring familiar to anyone that grew up in a smaller scene where most of the bands share members. Since the recordings were mostly culled from old cassettes, the quality fluctuates, but what else could you possibly expect given the scope of the project? A lot of care went into making this collection. It’s limited to 300 copies with hand-numbered, screenprinted covers, and the aforementioned booklet. I’d consider this a no-brainer for anyone with an interest in obscure bands from lesser known scenes, and especially punks that hail from Colorado.

Busted Head Racket Junk Food 10″

Ah, the distinct pleasure one derives from holding the most loathsome vinyl format in their grubby hands…the reviled 10” record. Bands typically avoid the bewitching allure of the cursed middle size by either writing a few more songs and making a proper full-length album, or by exercising restraint and editing down to an EP. Well, BUSTED HEAD RACKET (or BHR) said “fuck all that!” So, a 10” it is. Eight songs of synth-driven, lo-fi, new wave-inspired punk. The vocals oscillate between understated/deadpan and howlingly feral, with flashes of harmony that compliments the undercurrent of pop that courses through the release. BHR would fit well on a bill with fellow Aussies ITCHY AND THE NITS, or really any band of the Warttmann Inc.’s roster of scrambled deviants. The closest reference point is SNOOPER, or perhaps one of the Northwest Indiana bands that undoubtedly inspired them, like C.C.T.V. Concise and energetic, BHR aren’t overly serious—the title track is essentially a shopping list of snack foods—and the goofy fun is quite contagious. A solid release that would make a worthy addition to the three or four other 10”s you might own.

Parasit En Falsk Utopi LP

An absolutely crushing entry to a discography replete with scorching råpunk. Sweden’s PARASIT have been cranking out killer records for over ten years, and En Falsk Utopi shows a level of refinement that comes from waging battle in the D-beat wars for a decade. The thick, burly production adds some extra gas to the flame, and this sucker is burning white-hot. Every track is bursting at the seams with pummeling guitar hooks and riffs stacked on top of riffs. The singer sounds remarkably similar to Thomas Lindberg. Surely any fan of SKITSYSTEM, DISFEAR, or even AT THE GATES will be salivating over this, as it straddles the line between blackened crust and metal. Brutal from beginning to end.

Anguished Life Shroud of Death LP

Dense and punishing, L.A.’s ANGUISHED LIFE ignites a D-beat bomb blast with this ten-song album. They don’t stray from the traditional sound, instead fully embracing the DISCHARGE blueprint in aesthetics and texture. The result is a merciless assault that never relents and rarely modulates. Fine by me. This shit rips! The riffs are on-point, with the rhythm section locked in with thunderous, pounding drums and some truly wild bass lines. The vocals are drenched in the kind of reverb that puts the right amount of space around them in the mix. Delivering bleak messages about the horrors of war and the corruption of its soulless enablers, the guttural shouts seem truly anguished. This one will be played loud and often.

Eyes and Flys / Personal Style Labor Day / White Strawberries 7”

Lo-fi garage psych from Long Beach, California. Musically, this is in the vein of BLACK ANGELS on the top side, with the flip, “White Strawberries,” being a more uptempo, straightforward garage affair. Both songs are hampered by a lackluster vocal delivery, where the vocalist tends to sing the riff. Coupled with a fairly obnoxious megaphone-sounding treatment, the songs are relegated to mediocrity at best. There’s a reason that most neo-psych bands drench their vocals in reverb and delay. If nothing else, this release makes a strong case for doing so.

Shove It No Comply LP

Given the band name and album title I was expecting this to be some raging skatecore à la BONES BRIGADE, but instead, SHOVE IT hits us with snotty punk rock that has a melodic bent. Fairly standard stuff that isn’t exactly pushing the envelope…but hey, it’s not like every band has to strive to break new ground. At their best, SHOVE IT sounds like a stripped-down version of HICKEY. That’s a high compliment! At their worst, they sound like one of the post-Larry Livermore Lookout! Records bands that never got traction. Mostly, they fall into the mediocre middle of producing by-the-numbers punk rock that in 2023 is bound to get lost in the fray.

Мир Mindecision LP

This unsung classic of ’80s USHC has me absolutely floored. Roanoke, Virginia’s Мир (pronounced “mihr”) are the archetypical small-town punk band that made a singular, killer recording that was nearly lost to the sands of time. The story essentially writes itself. Mindecision was recorded in 1984 by four high-schoolers from the middle of nowhere. Dredging up the forgotten gems can be a dicey affair, though. Often enough, the context is more compelling than the content—but not in this case! Мир is absolutely savage. The level of craftsmanship in the songwriting, coupled with impressive technical chops in the rhythm section, really sets this apart. The guitar tone is lush and colored just enough to make it sound unique. There are surf elements to the riffs that gesture toward some West Coast influences. I think of Мир as occupying a space that is the midpoint between BATTALION OF SAINTS and ARTICLES OF FAITH. They fit right into the regional context, with bands like the LANDLORDS from Charlottesville, and Richmond’s WHITE CROSS. Мир shared a bill with CORROSION OF CONFORMITY a number of times, as well. Add in what was happening at the time a few hours north in DC, and it makes sense that Мир would emerge from the cultural void of Southwest Virginia. Full disclosure, I live in Roanoke, and seeing this release get a proper treatment, including a fold-out insert with tons of photos and fliers, resonates in a significant way for me and takes me back to a time in the mid ’90s when as a teenager, I’d hear about bands like Мир from the older punks that were still kicking around. But trust me, this far exceeds the nostalgia-inducement factor. Beach Impediment has truly done us all a great service with this release. Any fan of ripping USHC will want to pick this up. Unquestionably one of the top releases of 2023.

Thirsty Giants Infinite Monkey Theorem CD

Self-described as “basement punk,” THIRSTY GIANTS sound like they’re having a great time making goofy tunes in the cellar. Organically lo-fi, most of Infinite Monkey Theorem is mid-tempo garage rock with some elements of ’90s alternative rock sprinkled in here and there. A couple of the songs bring to mind a stripped-down version of TIMMY’S ORGANISM. With so many bands taking themselves way too seriously, it’s refreshing to encounter a group that does their thing in pursuit of fun rather than notoriety.

Besta Quadrada The First Four Weeks cassette

Here’s a whirlwind of noisy punk lunacy. BESTA QUADRADA blasts out seven tracks of gritty hardcore oozing with character. Distinctive riffs are in abundance here, striking just the right balance between catchy and tough. Top-shelf drumming lends even the dirge-like numbers a propulsive quality. The vocals, dialed a touch back in the mix, tie everything together and draw the listener down into the mire. Not quite as frenetic as FUGITIVE BUBBLE, but not far afield either, I’m reminded of the short-lived JJ DOLL and a bit of the much beloved TYRADES. Killer stuff.  

Glass Praxis Demo 2023 cassette

Discordant post-hardcore with a metallic bent. Nothing whiny though, this is ugly, mean, and brutal. Reminiscent of bands such as PALATKA and REVERSAL OF MAN, though not as angular or chaotic. Which is not to say that GLASS PRAXIS is tame in any form or fashion! There’s a groove that they lock into that is not dissimilar to NO TREND. Heavy, dour skramz punk from one of the best scenes in the country, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Noisy and unsettling music for bleak times.

Nucler Blud Form Raze cassette

Blistering buzzsaw punk that goes straight for the jugular. More raw than dumpstered T-bone, this slab of hardcore is dripping with vigor and fury. Fans of the noisier side of Japanese hardcore should take note, as I’m picking up on strong influences from CONFUSE, KURO, and FRAMTID. While the tempos vary throughout the six cuts on this tape, things never slow down too much, and none of the songs crack the two-minute mark. I appreciate the unceremonious approach NUCLER BLUD has utilized. No build-ups, intros, outros, or really anything extraneous. Just laser-focused on pumping out the damaging frequencies, and it’s over before you know it. There’s also quite the interesting pedigree going on as well, with former members of NO STATIK, IN/HUMANITY, JUD JUD (!), and END OF THE CENTURY PARTY comprising this beast of a band. To Live a Lie doesn’t tend to fuck around, and this tape is no exception. NUCLER BLUD is a band to keep an eye on.     

Wristwatch II LP

Following up their 2021 debut, Wisconsin’s WRISTWATCH continues mining the vault of melodic, synth-heavy garage rock. The songs oscillate between straightforward gritty numbers like the opening track “Rules,” and more saccharine indie-inspired tunes such as “Sweet Tooth.” The unavoidable comparison is to the output of Jay Lindsey, particularly Lindsey’s contributions in LOST SOUNDS and as JAY REATARD. It’s so blatant that there are even “once removed” correlations at play. For example, the vocals on many of the songs don’t just sound like JAY REATARD—they sound like JAY REATARD trying to sound like T.V. Smith. The same could be said for the instances in which WRISTWATCH evokes SCREAMERS…they’re actually more evocative of when LOST SOUNDS would ape SCREAMERS. Not to discredit the deftness of songwriting exhibited by the two members of this band, Bobby Hussy and Ty Spatz. There’s clearly a lot of talent and creativity in the mix, even a glimmer of erudition to be found. I’m just left thinking there may be untapped ingenuity lurking just beyond the confines of pastiche.

The Steves Jerk! EP

Here’s an interesting pearl dredged up from the deep chasm of the early ’80s Boston underground. Jerk! is the third EP of STEVES material to be released this year. Unlike the reissues of Making Time and In a Room, Jerk! features previously unreleased songs that were recorded during the original sessions around 1980–1981, and have been unearthed and repackaged by Iron Lung Records. The STEVES played an eclectic blend of punk, proto-metal, and proggy power pop. I hear elements of BLACK RANDY AND THE METROSQUAD, DEVO, and the ZIPS, mixed with RASPBERRIES, FOCUS, and QUEEN. The ripping guitar solos and operatic layered vocals make the STEVES more interesting than a lot of the KBD-style punk they’ll inevitably get lumped in with. The three songs on Jerk! are not quite as potent as what you’ll hear on the two previous EPs, but they still pack a wallop. Recommended for anyone with a penchant for the quirkier side of obscure underground punk.

WWW Live From Del Valle Estadio EP

Four songs of Argentinian egg-punk, recorded live in the studio with crowd applause added for effect. I would’ve never known this was a live recording were it not advertised as such. The sound quality is excellent, as is the performance—WWW is tighter than a hipster’s refrigerated skinny jeans. Everything is really locked-in, from the precise staccato drumming, to the clean, jangly guitar. Unlike some of their contemporaries, WWW doesn’t rely too heavily on effects, and I believe that is part of what makes their delivery so crisp and snappy. There’s just enough atmosphere around the synth to give the vocals something to counterbalance. The songs are catchy and over before you know it, warranting multiple back-to-back listens. Leaning more towards garage punk than new wave, WWW lands somewhere between PRISON AFFAIR and REAL PEOPLE. Another solid release from Sweet Time Records.

Linda’s Mistake Lumberjack Love LP

I don’t know who Linda is, but my mistake was listening to this turd of an album. Take the worst of the ’90s RAMONES-wannabe bands, strip them of any wit, charisma, or musical prowess, and that will get you in the ballpark of how excruciating and awful this is. Most of the songs revolve around a singular, repeated lyric. “You’re Wearing a Bandana,” for instance, recites the song title followed by the inquiry “What’re you doing?” over and over. Longest 39 seconds of my life. Another song is called “Too Fat for a Belt.” Insert sad trombone noise here. While the attempt at humor is obvious, the lyrics are just too dumb to actually be funny. It is hard to express the unique and supreme discomfort this album elicits, but please don’t take that as an insinuation that it’s somehow worth checking out as a morbid curiosity. With the planet rapidly becoming a hellish inferno, it’s an affront to humanity’s future that precious (or otherwise) resources were expended to bring this loathsome album into existence.

Turquoise Sang, Larmes & Râles LP

Brain-burning, face-melting raw punk madness. From start to finish, TURQUOISE doesn’t let up even for a moment. The semi-clean guitar attack makes the bass and drums feel more pummeling, not unlike Canadian D-beaters BOOTLICKER. The vocals are deep and burly, never relenting or modulating, so they hit like a bomb blast. Following an equally killer debut, Sang, Larmes & Râles is unbridled käng perfection. There is even a hint of motörpunk on some of the tracks, which coupled with the rock’n’roll guitar licks calls to mind another Canadian band, INEPSY. But don’t let all this talk of Canucks confuse you, TURQUOISE are Scandi-core through and through—inspiration from HERÄTYS, INFERNÖH, and TOTALITÄR couldn’t be more clear. In fact, rumor has it that TURQUOISE had originally intended to sing in Swedish, but no one in the band knew the language well enough so they stuck with French, their mother tongue. In any case, this LP is absolutely savage. A+++.

Bladen McLaughlen + the Good Time Boys Good Time Noise CD

The experience of listening to this album is kinda like buying weed as a high-schooler. If you don’t know any better, a bag of schwag may not seem so bad, even if smoking it does leave you with a headache afterwards. If Good Time Noise serves as someone’s introduction to the wild and wacky genre that is punk rock, they could be forgiven for mistaking this as being decent, or even good. For me, it’s all stems and seeds. BLADEN MCLAUGHLEN + THE GOOD TIME BOYS can only be described as “boomer punk.” I have no idea if the band members are in fact boomers—nor do I care—but the songs they have committed to polycarbonate plastic substrate sound more dated than the medium on which they appear. One track begins with a George W. Bush sound clip, which is an odd choice of source material to sample in 2023, but I guess it relates to the song, which is titled “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Pete Townsend would be rolling in his grave, were he not still alive. By and large, Good Time Noise is riddled with boring, mid-tempo drivel that is simultaneously over and under-produced, somehow. I’d have snoozed right through this one if the hoarse, grating vocals weren’t so darn loud. Most of the lyrics seem well-intentioned, but the title track is excruciatingly dumb, even for a drinking song. And then there’s the ode to Portland, Maine—a majestic place of stunning natural beauty that I now wish to avoid altogether for fear that this release is representative of its current punk scene. Yikes.

Shimmer Bed Divine cassette

An eclectic mix of punk, garage, and psych rock that culminates into an album that is rather difficult to pin down. Something about the off-kilter, pseudo-melodic approach reminds me of Hate Your Friends-era LEMONHEADS, but more loose and fuzzy. Curiously, SHIMMER BED shares a member with GREEN JELLŸ, the “comedy rock” band best known for their 1992 fairytale adaptation “Three Little Pigs.” How this informs their sound is not for me to say, but there is a level of proficiency at play that signals that these guys have been at this music thing for a while. Divine was recorded live in the studio, and that lends the album an energetic quality that suits the general delivery. A bit raw, a bit sloppy, but intentionally so from what I can tell. Stylistically, this seems rooted in a bygone era, blurring the line between punk and alternative rock. If in description that sounds utterly terrible, in practice it’s not so bad…but also not so good. SHIMMER BED is based in Los Angeles, and that makes more sense to me than anything else about this band. Inoffensive, milquetoast L.A. rock, featuring someone that made a name for themselves in the ’90s. Guess I pinned it down after all.

Les Lullies Mauvaise Foi LP

French power pop punkers LES LULLIES are back with their second full-length album, a long-awaited followup to 2018’s self-titled LP also on Slovenly Records. Mauvaise Foi (which translates to “Bad Faith” for the non-French speakers) sheds the garage-y production elements of previous efforts in favor of a more deliberate and layered approach. Frankly, this is a big step up from the prior releases, which were already nothing to balk at. What emerges is an album that manifests both style and substance in spades. LES LULLIES don’t shy away from their influences, but their synthesis of ’77-style punk with power pop and ’60s garage rock yields results that are inarguably original. Their songs are hook-laden earworms that will burrow into your brain sac and extract your fondest memories of listening to the REAL KIDS, TESTORS, and the BOYS. If you’ve been jamming the DOGS’ recent The Melody Massacre Years collection, or EXPLODING HEARTS’ Guitar Romantic reissue, throw this in the rotation. You’ll be glad you did.

Spewed Brain Spewed Brain cassette

Egg-punk often feels like a reductive term, but SPEWED BRAIN is out to scramble your noggin’, and I gotta say it when the shell fits. Carrying the torch passed down from fellow Hoosiers CONEHEADS and LIQUIDS, SPEWED BRAIN plays the kind of tight, catchy lo-fi punk that is best served on cassette tape. Unlike their forebears, they veer away from worshiping at the altar of DEVO, choosing to inject some good ol’ rock’n’roll into the mix instead, with ‘50s-inspired guitar work and pop sensibilities. The vocals are rapid-fire and snotty, acting almost as an instrument unto themselves. The guitar riffs tend to be the driving force in most songs, but the drumming is certainly nothing to scoff at, with plenty of meticulous rolls and precise hi-hat work. Including the synth, everything rolls up into a nice, gooey, omelet. Fans of the GOBS, CHERRY CHEEKS, and GEE TEE will find something here to sink their decaying teeth into.

The Blowtops Zero Dance Singles 1998–2009 2xLP

The BLOWTOPS spew forth 27 blasts of industrial-tinged psychobilly, with vocals that sound just like an ELVIS from hell wrestling a microphone away from Lux Interior’s mummified corpse. Demented and fuzzed to oblivian (sic), there is indeed zero here to dance to. I imagine this is what PUSSY GALORE would’ve been like if Jon Spencer was on an actual homicidal rampage during the recording of Dial “M” for Motherfucker—I recently learned that the original title for that album (mysteriously rejected by Caroline Records) was Make Them All Eat Shit Slowly, which I’m convinced is what the BLOWTOPS desire for their listeners. Courtesy of Big Neck Records, Zero Dance compiles all of the band’s singles from an eleven-year span between 1998 and 2009, which is fitting considering that Big Neck’s inaugural release was the BLOWTOPS’ Voodoo Alley EP. The band’s trajectory goes from gnarly and blown-out to more gnarly and more blown-out, trading melody for mechanical noise along the way. Gross, disturbing, and quite possibly brilliant.

Skeezicks Discography 1985–1987 2xLP

It’s hard to deny interest in a release that offers a glimpse into the history of punk. Courtesy of Refuse Records, we get just such a peek in the form of a double LP compiling the output of one of Germany’s first hardcore bands to embrace the USHC sound. Among the 42 tracks, you’ll find covers of FAITH and NEGATIVE APPROACH, which is a good starting point for what SKEEZICKS were going for, but it also sets a high bar for comparison. More so than either of those bands, I hear nods to CAPITOL PUNISHMENT (especially in the vocal delivery), RICH KIDS ON LSD, and CIRCLE ONE. The songs are fast with a lot of gang vocals and palm-muted guitar riffing. Though not exactly youth crew, it came as no surprise to see that SKEEZICKS were straight edge. There’s a lot of material here! A few songs appear multiple times in varying versions, including some live takes. From what I can tell, SKEEZICKS had a blast during their brief existence and helped to pave the way for German hardcore bands like SPERMBIRDS and HOSTAGES OF AYATOLLAH. Fans of obscure bandana hardcore will want to give this a spin.

Willful Disobedience Dedication cassette

The first thirty seconds of this cassette might lead you to think that you’re in store for some doomy stoner rock, which is most assuredly not the case. Instead, WILLFUL DISOBEDIENCE plays fast and aggravated punk rock with bouncing bass lines and shouted vocals. There does seem to be a subtle metal influence creeping in, but I think it’s just the way the drummer uses a china cymbal to accent certain parts. The song “Butthole to Butthole” inexplicably sounds like a DWARVES B-side and detracts from a release that otherwise seems to have fairly thoughtful lyrical content. All in all, this isn’t terrible, but it’s hard to commend something so average in a time when there are multitudinous bands pushing the boundaries of what punk can sound like.

Pigmilk Demo 2023 cassette

Stripped-down, discordant, gnarly noise punk with screamed vocals. The tunes on this tape are not quite as disgusting as its cover art, but almost! Nothing subtle or melodic here. PIGMILK blazes through seven tracks faster than an electrical fire in a slaughterhouse, with nary ‘a one cracking the two-minute mark. Most songs are uptempo and brisk, but don’t be shocked by the occasional breakdown or off-kilter interlude. There’s something slightly left-of-center lurking beneath the surface, gurgling up in the angularity of shrill guitars and subverted harmonies. This is evident in “I Tried,” which is the most overt nod to emotional hardcore. “Know Thyself” reels that impulse in and delivers a no-frills ripper. Good stuff. Analogous with life, this demo is brutal and over before ya know it.

The Obsessions The Obsessions LP

Skuzzy, tough punk from Vienna. Not as fast as REGULATIONS or as tuneful as the VICIOUS, the OBSESSIONS are still somehow reminiscent of both. They keep things tight in the pocket with mid-tempo but propulsive beats, a wooly thick guitar tone, repetitive vocals, and driving bass lines. A sense of exasperated frustration cuts through in the stark choruses and punctuated hooks. I kept waiting for a blazing fast face-melter to kick things up a notch…but that never materialized. That’s just as well, because the OBSESSIONS still rip in their own way, trading in speed for attitude and anxiety. Best kind of bad vibes.

Reo Sobre Las Ruinas EP

Hard-stompin’ debut from these Spanish boot boys. Those familiar with the Tough Ain’t Enough catalog won’t be surprised by the four tunes on this EP. Big, meaty guitars with harmonizing leads lay the brickwork for gruff half-sung/half-shouted vocals, replete with anthemic choruses meant to incite a beer-drenched sing-along. The production is more polished than your oxblood Docs, which doesn’t exactly benefit the source material, but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience either. Do skinheads go to rodeos? If so, this certainly ain’t the first for the members of REO, having served in prior street rock acts like SHERRY SOLDIERS and SECOND DIVISION. “1880” is the standout for being the catchiest number, and would make a good candidate for inclusion on your next Oi! themed mixtape. Sobre Las Ruinas falls on the melodic side of the spectrum, but otherwise doesn’t stray far from the traditional sound of the genre.

Cutters Modern Problems LP

CUTTERS go straight for the jugular with six blasts of quintessential Australian punk. Mid-tempo, yet still driving, the anger and tension builds with each song, portraying a worldview fraught with paranoia of impending doom and destruction. The refrain in the title track’s chorus states it best: “I don’t know where I’m supposed to live!” CUTTERS would fit well on a mixtape with ROSE TATTOO, COLOURED BALLS, and COSMIC PSYCHOS…the soundtrack for a vicious pub brawl or a rowdy house party. “Surveillance Drones” is a particularly gnarly tune, the pinnacle of LP’s angst and aggression with a hardcore bent. The whole affair is bruising and unsubtle, featuring a tightly locked rhythm section, screaming guitars, and burly shouted vocals. CUTTERS are like the CHATS’ scary cousins, and they’re here to wreck your night.

Flop Machine Machine Beat Rock and Roll cassette

Nine songs of mid-paced, synth-driven garage punk out of Norway. If geography is indicative of genre, I would’ve guessed FLOP MACHINE to hail from Memphis, ‘cause this cassette has that Goner Records sound nailed. The vocals, in particular, feel very JAY REATARD-inspired. The layered yet lo-fi production is fitting, the guitar hooks are working, and there are some spicy little phrases being banged out on the keys, but my attention started to drift after a few songs that seemed to have the same tempo. After a closer listen, it became apparent that literally every song has the exact same BPM. Ah, the perils of drum machines! Gotta give that tempo knob a twist!! Setting that aside, FLOP MACHINE is clearly on to something. If you need more bleeps and bloops in your life, or just can’t wait for the next DIGITAL LEATHER album, flip on some FLOP MACHINE.

Ultimo Resorte No Hay Tiempo Que Perder LP

Here’s a delightful slice of punk history. ÚLTIMO RESORTE was an integral part of Barcelona, Spain’s punk-cum-hardcore scene in the early ’80s. Providing the connective tissue between the first generation of Spanish punk and the initial Spanish hardcore wave, ÚLTIMO RESORTE reflects this evolution in three releases compiled on one fat slab of wax. No Hay Tiempo Que Perder brings together the band’s seven-song self-titled 7” EP from 1982, their five-song 12” EP from the following year, as well as six bonus tracks from their 1981 demo. The band had quite a few lineup changes during their existence from 1979 to 1984, resulting in a hodgepodge of influences that pulled their sound in varying directions. Thankfully, their genre-dabbling produced killer results! Ranging from fast and gritty hardcore à la ELECTRIC DEADS, to more direct UK-inspired punk in the realm of VICE SQUAD, ÚLTIMO RESORTE managed to chart their own path with fierce vocalist Silvia Escario leading the charge. In an interview I read, Escario speaks of the impact that MDC had on the Barcelona scene, compelling the punks to play faster and write more politically-focused lyrics. Overall, this is an incredibly well-produced retrospective. The sound quality is great, even on the demo tracks, and the material holds up beyond its significance historically. Punk rules! Check this out if you need a reminder.

Claimed Choice Conséquences / La Part des Choses 7″

Following up their killer mini-album from last year, CLAIMED CHOICE return with two bruising cuts of stripped-down French Oi! The top-side track, “Conséquences,” eschews the Bovver glam of their previous effort for a dour mid-tempo stomper replete with straightforward, effective guitar leads and gang vocals. While this should make fans of RIXE begin to salivate, the flipside contains the real gem. “La Part des Choses,” is a bonafide earworm with catchy guitar lines and anthemic choruses, picking up right where We Won’t Give In left off. Gritty, melodic, and tougher than steel-toes, this song epitomizes the appeal of French Oi! in the 2020s. I love a proper 45, and this one does not disappoint!  

Crown Court / The Enforcers split 7″

Courtesy of Crossbar Records, we have a premium slab of close-shave rock’n’roll, featuring one track each by two of the best in the game. CROWN COURT lands a heavy blow with “Rich Boy,” which exhibits a particularly gnarly bass line. The guitar leads are tastefully employed, unlike the subject of the song’s derisive lyrics. Grab a mop ‘cause this is dripping with attitude. Speaking of attitude, the ENFORCERS sound genuinely pissed! From the moment the vocals kick in, “Collision Course” is full-bore street rock designed to pound your sorry ass into the pavement. Burly as hell and exquisitely executed, this song is that perfect blend of toughness and tunefulness. Great split!

Science Man Mince’s Cane LP

It’s a rare feat when an album can transport the listener to a place beyond the confines of quotidian cognition. Enter SCIENCE MAN. The brainchild of John Toohill, SCIENCE MAN embodies more than a band or project in that it is an amorphous entity that continually expands, contracts, and creates. Mince’s Cane is an ambitious undertaking that has spawned the seven utterly ripping songs found on this LP, along with a seven-part accompanying short film produced by Toohill and Lindsay Tripp which is available on a professionally duplicated VHS. The videos and the music are truly of a piece, however, they are crafted with such deftness that each can stand on their own. Listening to the album decoupled from the video component is interesting because the music is both imaginative and evocative in its own right. More explosive than a lab experiment gone awry, Mince’s Cane pushes the boundaries of hardcore punk in an unrelenting aural attack. Frenetic drumming undergirds blasting bass and guitar riffs that create a haunting atmosphere for the mutated wailing vocals. The lead guitar parts are forward in the mix, and provide the extent of what one could consider harmony. These leads are juicy, though! As a whole, the album is so ripe with character and perverse charm that it just oozes mystique. That’s where the sense of being transported to another realm comes into play. The songs feel bigger than their constituents, hinting at otherworldly psychotropic visions. Drop the needle and strap in, SCIENCE MAN will strip you of your mortal coil. 

V/A Mendeku Diskak Promo Kasetea, Vol. 3 cassette

This ten-song sampler gives a tantalizing peek at what Basque Country’s preeminent punk/Oi! label Mendeku Diskak has in store for our undeserving ears. For those familiar with the label’s previous output, what lies herein may not surprise, but it certainly will not disappoint. If you dig gruff punk, Bovver rock, and Oi!, then you’re in the right place. Tracks by COLLAPS and RÉSILIENCE stand out, but there are really no duds in the bunch. Mendeku Diskak expands out into blackened hardcore as well with the inclusion of PURO ODIO, and caps things off with an excellent garage-y number by LOST LEGION. All signs point to more great punk from a label that doesn’t really miss. Now, prepare your wallets for the impending onslaught.

Knickers Collection cassette

Well, this is a treat! I first heard KNICKERS shortly after the release of their excellent 2019 tape Bored. Collection compiles the eleven songs from Bored, plus a whole slew of new material as a complete discography. Strap in for an hour of top-notch, art-damaged punk. Graduates of the Mark E. Smith school of post-punk, KNICKERS pack in enough surprises into their tunes that an hour of music doesn’t drag or become repetitive—except for when they want it to be. There are some definite krautrock undertones, along with nods to GANG OF FOUR and SUBURBAN LAWNS. Despite all the references to bands of yesteryear, KNICKERS have a thoroughly contemporary sound. Crisp guitar tones, synth for atmosphere and texture, fantastic vocals…these cats really struck gold. Quirky punk with loads of character! I assume the release of a discography indicates they’re no longer an active band, and that’s unfortunate, but leaving behind a solid collection like this is nothing to balk at.

División Autista Hijo Marginal 87​–88 LP

Credited for their role in introducing straightedge to Latin America, DIVISIÓN AUTISTA were major players in the Argentinian punk scene of the late ’80s. The two songs they contributed to the extraordinary Invasion 88 compilation are among the very best, and stand out as being contemporaneous rather than peddling in nostalgia. Hijo Marginal 87–88 contains the two aforementioned tracks, an additional song from the same studio session, demo recordings, and eight live cuts. While the band was short-lived, they had an outsized impact on the scene in Buenos Aires and beyond. DIVISIÓN AUTISTA’s brand of fast, melodic hardcore punk is fully realized on songs like “Straight Edge” and “Hijo Marginal,” where the vocals are propulsive and the guitar work feels particularly innovative. The sound quality on some of the live songs is unsurprisingly on the low side, but the energy they exude makes up for the drop in fidelity. This has loads of charm, excellent vocals, and some wicked guitar lines. Absolutely worth checking out.

Chorus Pedal Typo Landscape cassette

Noisy, angular, effects-laden art rock. This falls on the indie side of post-punk, with jangly guitars and overdriven vocals layered between blankets of swirling phasers, tape loop echoes, and (I presume) emissions from the eponymous chorus pedal. This is the sound of knobs being turned. There is an undercurrent of no wave influence, so if you don’t find a band like DNA annoying, then CHORUS PEDAL will almost certainly pique your interest. The songs are fairly repetitive by design and contain sensible hooks and enough charisma to prevent them from being totally inaccessible. Not dissimilar to the INTELLIGENCE or the COOL GREENHOUSE.

Klint Klint cassette

Here’s something worth sinking your teeth into! Driving electro/synth punk utilizing a drum machine with tons of attitude. LOST SOUNDS pops into mind as a stylistic reference, but KLINT isn’t as guitar-forward, nor are they flirting with new wave in quite the same way. The vocals are overdriven and at times end up sounding robotic. In fact, it’s all vaguely robotic and suitably low-fidelity. The song “Noiseless” sounds like the SPITS if they were more obsessed with DEVO than the RAMONES. Fans of the PRODIGY or ATARI TEENAGE RIOT may find this appealing.

Polansky Y El Ardor Ataque Preventivo De La URSS EP reissue

Originally released in 1982 as a 12” EP, Snap!! Records has done a great service by reissuing Ataque Preventivo De La URSS as part of their ongoing Revival series. Although POLANSKY Y EL ARDOR was part of the second wave of punk to emerge from Madrid’s bustling scene, their sound is firmly rooted in 1977. The title track is an infectious ditty with a distinctive double-picked guitar line and sing-along chorus. Not far afield from the VIBRATORS or BUZZCOCKS, I’m reminded most of the utterly fantastic Finnish band 013. “​​Y No Usa Laca” is a killer tune as well and exhibits POLANSKY Y EL ARDOR’s use of a saxophone, which comes to prominence on the somewhat dour B-side cut, “Chantaje Emocional.” Beyond being a fascinating document illuminating a corner of Spanish punk history, this reissue also provides an excellent opportunity to get your hands on an underappreciated gem.

Heavy Mother Comical Uncertainty cassette

On the heels of their debut album from last year, HEAVY MOTHER drops a hefty slab of scuzzy rock’n’roll that just oozes with mojo. Three originals and three covers spread across twenty-six minutes of rowdy, raunchy garage punk featuring a bona fide all-star cast. Their lead vocalist, Eddie Flowers, was in the GIZMOS, for fuck’s sake! There’s a guest appearance by Craig Bell of ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS! We’re talking a Midwestern proto-punk hall of fame here, not to mention that half the members were in the COWBOYS. I’m often disappointed by these groups that sound so good on paper, yet HEAVY MOTHER exceeds expectations by exacting the sonic punishment their pedigree dictates: perfectly trashy, obnoxious, loud rock’n’roll. From the brilliantly depraved opening track “Friday Night (Blackout!),” to the phenomenal rendition of the VELVET UNDERGROUND’s “Foggy Notion,” HEAVY MOTHER is firing on all cylinders. An indefectibly stripped-down production gives Comical Uncertainty a ’60s-inspired haze, fueled by reverb. Toss DEAD MOON and ELECTRIC EELS into the cauldron along with the aforementioned bands and you’ll get a whiff of what HEAVY MOTHER is cooking up. Spicy!

Nightstick Justice Complete Discography cassette

Well, here’s a rip-roaring blast from the past. If you weren’t lucky enough to catch them within the brief window of their existence from 2006–2008, treat yourself to this absolutely blistering collection of raging USHC from NIGHTSTICK JUSTICE. Goddamn, this one really holds up. Twenty-four tracks compiled from three EPs and one long-player; the frantic hardcore on this cassette is up there with some of the era’s best like DIRECT CONTROL, STREET TRASH, and TEAR IT UP. Straight-ahead, no-frills, angry fucking punk. Stellar drumming, rabid shouted vocals, fuzzed-out bass, and riffs on top of riffs, on top of riffs! Listen to songs like “Control” or “Desensitized” and try not to smash anything. My only gripe is that they didn’t make more than 50 of these tapes. Grip one if you can!

Eye For An Eye Teraz LP

Including their 2005 split with the HUNKIES, Teraz is the eighth full-length album by this Polish powerhouse. EYE FOR AN EYE fires off ten tracks of their signature metal-tinged punk, with scorching female vocals and hardcore breakdowns. It’s obvious that EYE FOR AN EYE has been honing their craft for many years, and Teraz finds them at the top of their game. Alternating between brutal and melodic, each song feels like the result of the kind of chemistry that is reserved for long-running bands. The lazy comparison is to POST REGIMENT, due to the vocals and being from Poland, but EYE FOR AN EYE veers far more into an aggressive, metallic territory with lots of tempo changes and even some blastbeats. The production value on this album is quite polished, which detracts from the energy, but suits the mosh parts well enough. Overall, a strong effort from a group of seasoned hardcore veterans. 

Stalingrad 42 Skins’N’Punks LP

When I threw this on, the first thing that came to mind was that the vocals were vaguely reminiscent of Fuaim Catha-era OI POLLOI. That’s about the best thing that I can say about STALINGRAD 42, because it really goes downhill from there. While there are a plethora of Oi! bands currently pushing the boundaries of the genre, STALINGRAD 42 is taking a far less innovative approach. Skins’N’Punks is replete with overproduced, under-inspired songs that are so phoned-in, they should be charged for collect calls. The guitar lines sound like they were lifted from your dad’s butt-rock cover band. Oh, and there’s a ska song. This gets a hard pass from me.

Ardillas Canciones de Amor, Locura y Muerte LP

Songs of love, madness, and death, brought to you by some of Puerto Rico’s most notorious rockers. ARDILLAS predate DAVILA 666, with whom they share members, by a solid decade. They’re far less prolific—but hey, you can’t rush genius! Whereas DAVILA 666 was born of the garage, ARDILLAS seem to have emerged from the dense haze of a smoke-filled pub. This is premium rock’n’roll with just the right amount of grit to keep the sing-along choruses from getting too syrupy. More infectious than the boogie-woogie flu! After a few spins, these songs will be kicking around in the damp corridors of your noggin for days. Unafraid to embrace their prowess, ARDILLAS dig into big rhythms and expand out past the confines of your typical greasy-haired, leather jacket punk’n’roll. These cats (or should I say squirrels!?) know how to pen some quality tunes. There are nods to the HEARTBREAKERS, and FLAMIN’ GROOVIES. What more can you ask for? Here’s to hoping we won’t have to wait another decade for their next release.

Ordinance Ordinance demo cassette

Crushing raw punk done right. Hailing from the thriving hotbed of hardcore that is Richmond, Virginia, ORDINANCE plows through four songs in under seven minutes. Buzzsaw guitars blanket the entire production in a cocoon of harsh static, while the drummer pounds out pulsing D-beats. The slight delay on the shouted vocals allows for a touch of depth, tying it all together. This fits right in with fellow Richmond rockers FUTURE TERROR  and SPORE, with an injection of Swedish influence for good measure. I imagine ORDINANCE being raised on a steady diet of the SHITLICKERS, CRUDE S.S., and MOB 47, with Scandinavian jawbreakers served as dessert. My favorite track, “Hatestrung,” disrupts the formula with a tempo change that gets mean and stompy, but make no mistake, this demo is an ax-swinging ripper. Noise > music!

Nohz Nohz demo cassette

Right out of the gate, NOHZ digs into a devastatingly tough riff that sets the table for what is to come—a flagrant disregard of the safety of your eardrums. This is an altogether brutal affair, with extremely well-crafted songs that feel both fresh and familiar at the same time. Tempos fluctuate from track to track in a way that makes every cut feel like a singular accomplishment, yet does not detract from the effectiveness of the broader sequence of the release. There is a brooding quality to the music that is heightened by the evil as fuck vocal delivery. In that regard, I’m reminded of RASPBERRY BULBS for their wedding of punk and black metal, though NOHZ certainly skews more punk. Song titles like “Brief Lights, Forever in Pain,” and “Sundial Impailers,” should be a pretty clear indication of what we’re working with lyrically. Musically, this release is brimming with hooks and discordantly catchy riffs. It’s an ugly, ugly world and this demo provides a fitting soundtrack for a waltz through the wastelands. NOHZ beckons you to join the blood party…will you accept the invitation?    

Gluer Gluer LP

Gritty, grubby, nasty, and mean. GLUER bashes through fifteen songs of misanthropic, mid-tempo punk rock’n’roll. I would’ve guessed this band was from San Francisco rather than Stockholm. This is oozing with bad vibes in the best way possible, not dissimilar to LIFE STINKS or CRIME. Dirgelike but never plodding, GLUER delivers plenty of tough, catchy hooks both vocally and through instrumentation. “Weird Boy,” in particular, is a choice cut with a killer picked-out guitar riff and the howling cadence of the line “Look at that weird boy!”. Few things brighten my day more than some menacing downer punk. Excellent.

V/A Between the Coasts cassette

Heck yeah, this tape shreds! As you might guess from the title, Between the Coasts is a compilation of bands from the Midwest area of the ol’ US of A. Just when it seems like the big-city bands get all the glory, a release like this pops up to remind us that hardcore punk is alive and thriving in less obvious places. Featuring twelve bands contributing a single track each, this comp is chock full of stone-cold rippers. Highlights include vital cuts from RABIES BB, BIG LAUGH, WEAK PULSE, and ZHOOP. There’s a smattering of more eclectic numbers to keep things fresh, but front to back, there ain’t a dull moment to be found. Do yourself a favor and check this one out. 

Bulbulators Nie Nie Nie LP

Long-running Polish label Enigmatic is back on the scene after a fourteen-year hiatus from 2005 to 2019. Curiously, they chose to resurrect the BULBULATORS’ second full-length album from 2002, and reissue it on vinyl. Free of any nostalgic ties to this release, I struggle to get my head around why this needed to be dredged back up. That said, after a few spins, I admit that some of the songs have started to grow on me. There is a certain charm to the way they blatantly ape first-wave punk like the VIBRATORS or RAMONES. And while the BULBULATORS don’t actually sound much like either of those bands, it is clear that they genuinely embraced the spirit of ’77. I have a feeling that this album may, for some, inspire a glue-sniffin’ trip down the gutter of memory lane. For my part, I’ll stick with my worn-out copy of Pure Mania.

Dead Low Not for Sale EP

Four blasts of mid-paced street rock’n’roll with a melodic undercurrent. Did this band time travel from the ’90s? It’s like they were drinking at a pub with the WRETCHED ONES and fell into a wormhole that dumped them out onto a grimy modern-day Massachusetts sidewalk. One thing’s for sure, DEAD LOW won’t be accused of breaking new ground. The guitarist’s flirtation with metal is a trifle unnerving and the production is overwrought, but they do pack a punch with solid musicianship and anthemic shout-along choruses. If you ever felt like the TEMPLARS were too stripped-down, this might be worth a spin.

Fruit Tones Pink Wafer Factory LP

FRUIT TONES have the ’60s-inspired garage revival sound completely nailed down. From the jangle and chime of their lo-fi guitars, to the Jagger-on-benzos vocal delivery, these Manchester (UK) freaks deliver just the right blend of charm and sleaze to make things interesting. There’s a touch of early BLACK LIPS and a hint of REIGNING SOUND lurking beneath the paisley-patterned façade, but FRUIT TONES stick mostly to their roots. This album fits into the Alien Snatch catalog like Lux Interior fit into a pair of sweaty leather pants…exquisitely. 

Πυρ Κατα Βουληση Θ​υ​μ​α​τ​α Ε​ι​ρ​η​ν​η​ς LP

Hot damn! This smokes!! Absolutely raging raw punk from Athens, Greece. This album is packed to the gills with killer riffs. With the unrelenting pounding of an incessant D-beat and vicious buzzsaw bass, ΠΥΡ ΚΑΤΑ ΒΟΥΛΗΣH (“fire at will” in English) leaves a path of utter destruction in their wake. Not dissimilar to recent offerings from CHAINSAW or RAT CAGE, there are distinctive Scandinavian influences at play here—and like the aforementioned bands, ΠΥΡ ΚΑΤΑ ΒΟΥΛΗΣH wields those influences to great effect. From top to bottom, this just doesn’t let up. Robin Wiberg’s artwork perfectly encapsulates the paroxysms of outrage and anger found within. It’s undeniable; this is a top-shelf scorcher.  

Choke Cocoi Choke Cocoi LP

Releasing a full-length album is a significant moment in any band’s trajectory. For CHOKE COCOI, that moment was over twenty years in the making, and the results feel particularly noteworthy. Hailing from Lucena City, Philippines, CHOKE COCOI is one of the few all-women punk bands from their country. They have been a source of inspiration for legions of punks and metalheads across Southeast Asia and beyond. So, at long last we have their debut LP, and it’s a banger. Thirteen cuts of blistering, dark neo-crust with a prominent metallic bent. The band’s years of experience shine through in the precision and deliberateness with which the songs are constructed. I can only presume that these are the crème de la crème. There are lots of twists and turns to be found. Tempos change multiple times in each song—from moshy breakdowns to blastbeats—but this keeps things interesting and never seems gratuitous or contrived. There is a ferocity here that most bands only gesture at, with the vocals in particular delivering a pummeling, relentless aural assault. CHOKE COCOI is somewhat reminiscent of LUDICRA, if they were more punk than metal, or SCHIFOSI if they were more metal than punk. And while they bear resemblance to some of the finer bands of the mid-’00s wave of heavy melodic crust, CHOKE COCOI has clearly forged their own path. In a world where most bands actively imitate others, this is no small feat.  

Smirk Material LP

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, there was a certain subset of punks that, in a beleaguered search for a silver lining, would say “at least we’ll get some good bands out of this.” Along the same line of thinking, I suppose one could consider that Ronald Reagan was a bigger influence on hardcore than, say, John Lydon. In 2023, the impact of the (ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic on music is just beginning to come into focus. One aspect of this that has become clear is the proliferation of solo recording projects. Case in point: Nick Vicario’s SMIRK. What began as home-recorded “cassettes-de-quarantine” has become a fully realized entity. On the heels of 2021’s utterly fantastic seven-song EP on Total Punk, SMIRK has graced us with a proper full-length album. Material showcases Vicario’s songwriting brilliance on a whole new level. Everything here is so exquisitely dialed-in. The ten songs encompass a broad range of sounds. Flitting from the starkly angular, anxiety-ridden opener “Material World’s Unfair,” to the power-pop-inspired jangle of “Souvenir,” Vicario weaves it all together seamlessly. There are nods along the way to sonic pioneers like WIRE and MAGAZINE, but Material is largely free of anything approaching nostalgia. This is an album very much of its time. I’m not one to jump at a chance to call something classic, and certainly time will tell when it comes to how well pandemic-era projects hold up in the long term, but this record has been burning up many more turntables than my own, and sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. Nick Vicario is an alchemist and SMIRK is pure fucking gold.

Government Abuse Pigs in Pigs Clothing flexi EP

More lean than a ‘roid-raging gym rat, GOVERNMENT ABUSE tears through four songs in less than four minutes. Don’t be fooled by the ultra-generic band name—this flexi rules! It sounds as though these Swedish freaks immersed themselves in some classic USHC; URBAN WASTE springs immediately to mind. No breakdowns, elaborate intros, or other unnecessary bullshit to be found here, just full-bore hardcore with tasty riffs and pissed-off vocals. For reasons unspecified, this release took a while to see the light of day after being recorded back in 2014. I’m glad it has finally made its way onto a physical medium. Hopefully there will be more to follow.

Suspex Suspex demo cassette

Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, SUSPEX belts out five tracks of UK82-influenced punk, including a PARTISANS cover. Despite the technically deficient drumming and a fairly annoying “always on” guitar effect, I can’t help but to be charmed by this demo. It’s clear from the jump that SUSPEX are really pouring themselves into these songs. The charismatic vocal delivery is the linchpin here, injecting both character and energy. “Dead City” is a prime example; the harrowing shouts soar above the din of the instruments, giving the entire affair a boost. It strikes me that SUSPEX sounds like they’re having a blast playing their songs. What a novel concept! This gets a (circled) A for effort from me.  

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno Death to the Fuzz Family EP

Hans F. Ford and Patrick Delabie have been kicking around the Dutch punk scene for decades. Ford played guitar in WASTE, whose 1982 EP History Repeats is an undeniably killer record—due in no small part to the thick fuzztone that envelops the tunes. Forty-one years later, that same velcro buzz is blasting forth from FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO. Despite playing as a two-piece, FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO has a very full, layered sound with multiple tracks of harmonizing vocals and guitars. The name may lead you to believe that you’re in for some lo-fi garage punk revival, but that is not the case. On the contrary, the production value is rather slick. Stylistically, this bears far more resemblance to BETTY FORD CLINIC, Ford and Delabie’s eclectic ’90s endeavor. In fact, for as much as it is heralded as the quintessential element of the band, the fuzz often feels at odds with both the production and the songs themselves. Though clearly crafted by a deft hand, I have to wonder if a cut like “My Reality” would be more impactful if the instrumentation was more discernible. A heretical thought if there ever were one! Death to the Fuzz Family reminds me of a less sophisticated MARTHA’S VINEYARD FERRIES. I don’t mean that as a slight; sophistication is for the birds. My problem is that I’m still trying to determine exactly who FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO is for.  

The Necessary Evil Vida Desastre flexi EP

Three solid pogo punk boppers from a Chilean/Californian two-piece collaboration. Canabilina’s distinctive vocals are a natural complement to Eddie Spaghetti’s bouncing, guitar-driven blasts. The NECESSARY EVIL doesn’t attempt to tinker with the formula, but you can’t repair what ain’t busted. Vida Desastre is much more about attitude, and on that front, this EP delivers in spades. Featuring super vibrant art by Mister Sister and pressed on a flexi, this release fits right into the 1753 catalog. This is definitely worth a spin, but good luck tracking down a physical copy. It’s limited to an edition of 100, and will undoubtedly be sold out by the time you read this.   

Fuera De Sektor El Mundo Segue cassette

FUERA DE SEKTOR pulls off an impressive genre-bender with El Mundo Segue. The songs are bright and succinct, replete with catchy guitar riffs and superlative bass lines, but somehow they’ve cultivated a perceptible darkness as well. CHAIN CULT may be a good reference point, but FUERA DE SEKTOR is not nearly as dense or gloomy. Musically, I’m reminded of a bit of EASTER AND THE TOTEM, though here again FUERA DE SEKTOR eschews comparison by introducing subtle new wave influences and delivering vocals in a higher-than-expected register. Of the four songs on this tape, “En La Oscuridad” is the one that grabs me most, but they are all bangers. Barcelona has produced some extraordinarily fresh and innovative bands in recent years, and FUERA DE SEKTOR is clearly continuing that trend while adding to La Vida Es Un Mus’ ongoing hit streak. Recommended.  

Eteraz Villain LP

This album is absolutely punishing. ETERAZ rips through twelve tracks in a wild and noisy D-beat assault. The guitars have an extremely nasty, jagged tonal quality that is complemented by driving, buzzsaw bass. The crash-heavy drumming is top-notch, pushing everything deep into the red. Most notable are the vocals, which are shouted out in Persian. This really adds a lot of texture to the experience, and the higher-register delivery is an exquisite contrast to the rich bottom end of the production. “Terror” is a standout for me, but there’s not a single dud in the bunch. Gotta hand it to Iron Lung for consistently delivering the heat. Easily one of the top releases of 2022.

Himnos / La Cruz split LP

Both of these bands appeared on Crossbar’s excellent Oi! The Antidote compilation from 2021. Although neither of their contributions were among my favorites, I was looking forward to hearing what each would deliver on this split long-player. Hailing from Mexico, HIMNOS belts out five cuts of mid-paced street rock’n’roll. All the elements are present—tough, raspy sing-alongs, bouncing bass, four-chord guitars—but I’m left with the feeling that something is missing. There were a few surprises along the way. I wasn’t expecting to hear the whine of a harmonica in “419” for example, but that’s not the type of surprise I would ever champion. On the flipside, we have Spain’s LA CRUZ. Listening to this left me with the same basic impression that I got from HIMNOS: nothing is technically missing, yet something is missing. Again, we have some competent Oi! that meets but does not exceed expectations. LA CRUZ’s curveball is the saxophone that turns up on the rocksteady-inspired “Recuerdos.” Sorry (not sorry), but wind instruments get you nowhere with me. Despite it all, I’ll be watching out for both of these bands in the future. There’s obvious potential, this just falls a bit short.

Konventio Konventio cassette

Eight songs of blazing, frenetic hardcore punk from Finland. KONVENTIO aren’t trying to blend genres or reinvent anything here. Rather, they lock in on a tried and true recipe passed down from forebearers like KAAOS and RIISTETYT and just rip. That’s not to say that KONVENTIO is unoriginal—their sound is quite distinct—but they are able to capture the spirit of what made the aforementioned bands so great. The guitars punch through with killer tone and some tasteful rock’n’roll solos. The drums seem as if they’re on the precipice of falling apart, like the drummer isn’t in full control of the chaos they are unleashing. This adds a nice touch of character. The raging vocals are a highlight and really keep things moving. This is a solid first release!

Earth Mother Fucker IVF CD

Live recordings are a tough sell in the best of circumstances. I tend to avoid them, even with bands that I love. I do not love EARTH MOTHER FUCKER. They’ve apparently been around since the late ’80s, though this was my first time hearing them. IVF is a seven-song live set of bog standard angular noise rock. The bulk of the songs appear to come from the band’s early era. Maybe they sounded more inspired then. Their signature track is titled “I Fuck Therefore I Am.” Cool. This is like hearing JESUS LIZARD overdose on Ambien and boredom. Snooze.

Äni(X)Väx Schock und Drama LP

I wanted so badly to like this. On paper, ÄNI(X)VÄX (which is apparently code for “animal vaccination”) are legendary. Birthed from the fertile mid-’80s German punk scene, stories abound of post-gig punks-versus-police street fights, and something referred to as the “Odeon Pizza Battle of 1988.” Sick! Despite appearances on a handful of comps, they were unable to release any records during their five-year lifespan. That gives them mystique. One of their guitar players is named Fast Gonzo! What’s not to like!? Cue the first song…of the thirteen tracks on Schock und Drama, six are studio recordings and seven are live takes from various shows. Obviously, the sound quality is not going to be the best on some of the live tunes. That’s not the issue. What it really boils down to is that the songs are just not that interesting. It’s your basic four-chord, mid-tempo boilerplate punk. Sloppy but lacking chaos, the tracks overstay their welcome by being too repetitive. The vocalist has an uninspired sing-the-riff delivery that doesn’t hold my attention the way that the pictures and stories of the band do. To be fair, nothing here is egregious or even bad, but the mediocrity makes the disappointment somehow worse. ÄNI(X)VÄX, as represented here, just doesn’t compare to the heavyweights of the era. If you are interested in Deutschpunk, check out VORKRIEGSJUGEND’s excellent 1983 EP Heute Spass, Morgen Tod, INFERNO’s The Son of God EP from ’85, or the Let’s Have More Fun compilation on which ÄNI(X)VÄX appears. As a historical document, Schock und Drama is quite fascinating. I’m glad that it exists. It’s just a shame that the music falls short.

Elevate Stab From the Front cassette

Tough-as-nails hardcore from Indonesia. There’s a lot to like here. Stripped-down, concise songwriting with no time for bullshit or solos. A UK82 influence rears its head on tracks like “Torture Dance” and “Scum.” They must really know how to pogo in West Borneo! Cliches be damned, you can judge this record by its cover; the artwork by Renaldy Armanda is sick. The slow, mosh-y dirge of “Fool” doesn’t appeal to me, but it is the shortest of the five songs at least. All around, this is a solid release. Well worth checking out.

Force Majeure / Tchernobyl split EP

This split has me wondering if I should shave my head. Each band offers up two tracks of hard-charging, tough-as-nails Oi! sung in French. Montreal’s FORCE MAJEURE tread the more traditional path of the two. From the razor-sharp jangly guitars and prominent walking basslines, to the clenched hi-hat drumming—this just ticks all the right boxes. Expectedly, the vocals are gruff and forceful, with just a hint of tunefulness. These lads would fit nicely on a bill with SQUELETTE or REĆIDIVE. Hailing from Paris, TCHERNOBYL pounds the pavement with boots of a darker shade. Chorus-drenched guitars lend atmosphere to what might be described best as “Oi! for a rainy day.” Building on the legacy of CAMERA SILENS, TCHERNOBYL are dour and melancholic in the best possible way, à la SYNDROME 81. There’s not a dull moment on either side of this record. Time to lace up and call the barber.

Namen Namen Namen Namen CD

Modern-sounding garage rock with an indie twist from the Midwest. Swimming in the same stream as fellow Indianians APACHE DROPOUT and the COWBOYS, NAMEN NAMEN pulls from a broader stylistic range than the former, while being less imaginative than the latter. Fans of TY SEGALL and AUDACITY will find something here to sink their teeth into. The first cut, “The Horrors of Spider Island,” really shines, showcasing the group’s prowess with impressive guitar licks and layered vocal melodies. Unfortunately, the high production value is working against the band’s energy. Maybe record at a shittier studio next time? It’s a matter of taste, but I want music from a garage that’s grimy, dangerous, and on the verge of collapse. All the broken glass here has been too carefully swept up.

Old Death Dirty World LP

On their debut full-length album, Portland’s OLD DEATH serves up twelve cuts of messy, virulent punk rock. Dripping with more snot than an infected nasal cavity, Dirty World feels like an earnest ode to punk of yesteryear. OLD DEATH evokes the thrust and snarl of Back From the Pink Room-era PINK LINCOLNS in a serious way! The tunes are gritty yet melodic, with bitingly cynical lyrics with a political slant. There’s an unhinged quality to the music that keeps things from getting too stale, though the non-stop guitar wankery does quickly become grating. Most compelling are the sub-two-minute tracks where the drums are more propulsive and the vocal mucus is palpable. They start to lose me when they drift into the skronky breakdowns found in “21 Gun Salute” and “Sick City,” but if you have a soft spot for bands from the ’90s that played in the style of bands from the ’80s, then OLD DEATH just might be your thing.

Radiation Risks Welcome to Bad Boy City EP

There’s no speed limit in Bad Boy City. No stop signs, no traffic lights, and certainly no cops. Danger lies around every corner, but trust me, the trip is well worth the gamble. Spawned from the same primordial ooze that brought us SCIENCE MAN, BROWN SUGAR, SPIT KINK, and NERVOUS TICK AND THE ZIPPER LIPS, among many others, this posthumous EP may be the touchstone of RADIATION RISKS’ catalog. These stalwarts of Buffalo, New York’s enduring punk scene rip through seven tracks of innovative hardcore punk in under twelve minutes. Welcome to Bad Boy City delivers velvet-fisted gut punches through the use of clean guitar, not dissimilar to Japan’s MILK. This EP is chock-full of hooks and surprises. When least expected, RADIATION RISKS will flip the script and downshift from blazing thrash to inflective (dare I say jazzy) interludes, only to slam the pedal back down to the floor. The pervasive sense of wild abandon is not betrayed by these fleeting glimpses of musicality. Rather, it’s clear that RADIATION RISKS don’t take themselves too seriously. Why embark on such wild rides if not for fun? Featuring absolutely killer cover art by Tommyrot and limited to an edition of 100, these bad boys won’t be available for long. Snatch a copy before you can’t. RADIATION RISKS are coming for you!!!

People’s Temple 8 Track Demo cassette

Not to be confused with the Michigan psych rock band by the same name, Brooklyn’s PEOPLE’S TEMPLE pairs their acid with anarchy. This is a killer first outing. Here we find fast, dialed-in hardcore with riffs a-plenty. Featuring members of GLUE and GUNN, this calls to mind West Coast USHC like BATTALION OF SAINTS and CHRIST ON PARADE, with a touch of early POISON IDEA thrown in for good measure. Roachleg never fails to deliver the goods, and this cassette is certainly no exception. Pounding like a hangover headache, PEOPLE’S TEMPLE never really lets up, even as they modulate their tempo from track to track. These are well-constructed, memorable songs, with “Human Livestock” being a standout. Keep an eye on these freaks!