Reviews

Matt McCracken

CHECK YOUR HEAD Walls of Pressure cassette

Malaysian straight edge. No frills here, just straight-up hardcore. Fast, mosh parts in all the right places, pretty solid outing here. The gang vocals sometimes miss the mark for me here, though. The whole point of having gang vocals is to accentuate a chorus. While there are points where this does happen, more often than not it almost seems as if they’re just kind of randomly inserted here or there. However, that’s a minor set back on what is a great hardcore EP.

First Day Out Cruel World cassette

This shit might be one of my favorites this month. Streetwise semi-metallic hardcore with “tough guy” lyrics, but not in the super cheeseball “B-boy gangsta meets NYHC” kinda way. It immediately gave me BLOOD FOR BLOOD vibes, but with not as much of an “I don’t give a fuck about you” attitude. My only complaint is the length. I wish there were a few more songs, but I suppose that’s a good thing. The ol’ “leave ‘em wanting more” trick.

Gear Man’s Search for Meaning EP

Pretty solid straightforward hardcore here from Hungary. Has a youth crew-ish energy at times, but it’s not overwhelming. Imagine if dudes from INTEGRITY met up with dudes from IGNITE and decided to write some songs. Good stuff.

Mercy Music Melody and Truth LP

This album kicks off with a song that sounds like it could be an out take from an OLD 97’S record. From there, the hits keep coming. There’s also a kinda subtle ONE MAN ARMY vibe here, too. MERCY MUSIC has made an unbelievably catchy album that I could see getting some decent rotation from anyone who comes across it.

Low Rats Ex-Crisis / Sweet Jane Doe 7″

Punk rock’n’roll. You know the type, played by Johnny Thunders-worshipping barflies who look like a ragtag bunch of souls, brought together through their mutual love of SLADE, RAMONES, COCK SPARRER, HANOI ROCKS, cheap whiskey, and cheaper beer. This is “getting ready to fuck shit up on a Saturday night” music!

Last Gasp The Storied Weight of It All LP

Cleveland’s LAST GASP has somehow successfully managed to make a record that merges fast hardcore with breakdown parts that don’t sound out of place and a vocalist that wouldn’t sound strange singing in something poppier. Almost reminiscent of RESTRAINING ORDER with more “welcoming” vocals. I can see this growing on me more and more with every listen. Extra points for the nod to Cleveland legends DEAD BOYS with the opening ring-out of “Sonic Reducer” on their song “One Last Drink.” A fun easter egg and classy nod to their city’s punk rock history.

Split District Invitation to Exile LP

OK…this record. Where to start. At first, when the opening song started, nothing really hit me. Then the vocals came in and I was immediately overcome with a NAKED RAYGUN sort of vibe. As the record played on, it became apparent to me that what I was reminded of musically was mostly SWINGIN’ UTTERS. Then as more time went by, the vocals also started to remind me of something else…boom! RADON. So then, what started out as nothing particularly special started to grow on me. SPLIT DISTRICT has managed to create an album that, while it has callbacks to other bands/albums, is original enough to have caught my ear. In a very good way.

Mid Rats Divisions CD

Hardcore skate punk that wouldn’t be out of place on Fat Wreck. Overall, it’s pretty good. Lyrics are a bit political-leaning as opposed to your common skate punk band and that’s OK. The singer’s voice took a bit to get into, it’s a weird mix of Trevor from FACE TO FACE, Davey Havok, and screaming. Not bad once you actually get into it. There’s a definite AFI vibe to the “whoa-oh” parts, for sure. All in all, not a bad outing.

S.M.I.L.E. Just S.M.I.L.E. cassette

Hardcore punk that has something for everyone. A little bit of metal-tinged guitars here, some RANCID-esque bass lines there, some breakdown parts, a dash of street punk, and mildly distorted vocals. S.M.I.L.E. is one of those bands that would appeal to all sorts, while simultaneously being an acquired taste to others. Definitely worth a listen, or three.

1000 Travels of Jawaharlal / Minority Blues Band split LP

A vinyl reissue of an album that was originally released on CD in 2000. MINORITY BLUES BAND kicks things off with five songs that are firmly rooted in punk but have underlying emo tendencies, with songs sung in English and their native Japanese. At times there’s a heavy CAP’N JAZZ vibe, albeit more in-tune and angry with a more controlled chaos. 1000 TRAVELS OF JAWAHARLAL are definitely holding it down with more of the same type of vibe as their comrades, but whereas MINORITY BLUES BAND is a bit more rooted in punk, I’d argue that JAWAHARLAL are screamo to the core. All in all, this is a great split and I for one am a huge fan of the split LP format, so the fact that this finally has seen a vinyl release is perfect.

Postage Postage LP

Gruff, melodic, catchy pop punk with an edge. The kind that appeals to the “Fest crowd,” no doubt. Their song “80-85” is a surefire anthem. Limited to 300 copies, and I’m sure the packaging will annoy more than a few people, but it’s a good sing-along record and that should make up for the less-than-conventional packaging.

The Ergs! Time and the Season EP

At long last, the ERGS! have returned and blessed the universe with a new 7″. Two originals and two covers make up this record, and these Jersey fellas haven’t lost a step. The originals are the highlights here. “Ultimate Falsetto Book” is a mid-tempo toe-tapper, while “Half Empty Strip Mal” is a faster, more upbeat ditty. Both are classic ERGS!. As for the two covers, the first is their version of “Say You’re Sorry” from ’60s garage band the REMAINS, which sounds like it could have been a lost DESCENDENTS song. Finishing up this EP is a cover of the ZOMBIES’ “Time and the Season.” This is pretty much a spot-on cover, just a bit beefed up. All in all, a solid and welcomed offering from Jersey’s best prancers.

The Deadline The Deadline demo cassette

Hailing from Brooklyn, the DEADLINE offers up four songs that have a heavy influence of early 2000s-era hardcore in the vein of AMERICAN NIGHTMARE, COUNT ME OUT, and even a little bit of Oi! in there as well. Pretty decent stuff, especially for a demo. There’s definite potential here, although the one thing that stood out to me at first listen were the vocals. At times they seem a bit strained, in an almost “running out of steam” kind of way. But first impressions can be deceiving, and upon multiple listens, I have deduced that the vocals are raw and that only adds to the charm.

V/A The First 100 2xLP

Ah, the glorified label sampler disguised as a compilation. Oh, how I loathe these. I mean all of these songs have been previously released, so other than different variants for the collector nerd, there’s really no reason to obtain this album. Unless…you are unfamiliar with the roster of bands and looking to discover some new-to-you bands and releases. Like every compilation, this has its hits and misses for me, although the misses outweigh the hits. That may sound a bit negative, but there are two reasons for that: I prefer more of the current releases from Triple B, and the lack of diversity in style here. I realize that Triple B is a hardcore label, it’s just that more often than not, a lot of the stuff here starts getting monotonous—with 50 tracks of hardcore that’s bound to happen. That’s not to say there isn’t some killer stuff on here, because there is, it’s just a bit much to wade through to uncover. That said, this is a tremendous undertaking to try and document 100 releases, so that in and of itself deserves a bit of praise.

Heartthrob Demo ’21 cassette

OK, so follow me here. Dan Yemin joins the ERGS! and writes a new KID DYNAMITE record. That’s pretty much what we’ve got going on here, and it doesn’t come off as hokey or contrived. Are there some songs that could have been left at practice? Sure, but what demo doesn’t have those? All in all, this is a solid effort from a band with a good idea of where they wanna go musically. There’s a DESCENDENTS cover and an ERGS! cover too, and both are pretty top-notch. Not sure what’s next from this band, but I’m up for it.

The Path / Psychic Weight Fight Death split CD

First up is the PATH. They have a straightforward punk/hardcore sound, screamed vocals, and the parts with gang vocals add an element of chaos, but in a good, fun, energetic type of way. Lots of soundbites within their songs and lyrics touching on subjects like trans rights, fucking the government, etc., and a WARZONE cover to boot. I don’t know why but, every time the gang vocals hit, I picture a massive dogpile and it makes me smile. PSYCHIC WEIGHT is a bit slower and more on the metal end of the spectrum, although that’s not to say they’re a metal band by any stretch. I mean, I’m pretty sure I heard some slide guitar in the first song. The lyrics paint a picture of a dark and dismal view of humanity. I probably could have done without the instrumental/soundbite clip in the middle of their offering, but that’s nitpicking. All in all, this split hits all the marks and does what a good split is supposed to: give you two bands that are not at all the same, but have enough in common that it’s not weird.

Verbal Assault ON/Exit LP

For some reason, VERBAL ASSAULT is one of those bands that has eluded my ears for years. In fact, it wasn’t until very recently that I’d even seen one of their records with my own eyes, and of course, I immediately purchased said record (the Learn EP, to be exact). So to see these two releases be reissued is phenomenal. Now to be perfectly clear, this is not the straight-up hardcore that was prevelant on the afformentioned record. These songs were originally released as two separate EPs in 1989 and 1991 respectively. With that, the face of hardcore had or was changing drastically at that point, and these songs, while still hardcore songs, have a bit more depth. There are times when I can hear the elements that likely influenced bands like INTO ANOTHER, etc., like phaser pedals and such, but it’s not overdone and adds layers to the cake. A solid reissue of some essential material here.

Parasites Retro-Pop Remasters LP

PARASITES are a band that, for some reason, never checked all the boxes with me when it came to their brand of pop punk. Unlike so many of their more contemporaries, they just seemed to lack something. Maybe it was that they’re a bit more complex than the average “1-2-3-4 woah-oh!” RAMONES-worshiping pop punkers. Listening to the reissue of this collection, I’m now realizing that maybe I should have had a bit more of an open ear to, at the very least, this album. More in line with, say, a band like WESTON than the QUEERS, these are straight-up pretty decent hard-edged pop songs. Maybe you subscribe to the aforementioned opinion given in the first two sentences of this review. If so, perhaps go ahead and give this a second spin. I do want to go on record and let it be known that I believe “Hang Up” is one of the best songs ever written, though.

Reckoning Force Broken State LP

Imagine the early Dischord releases played through a filter that made them all sound like they were being played by DISCHARGE. Yeah, dude. Gnarly, right? Well, imagine no more friends, because RECKONING FORCE has achieved that goal and it fucking rules. Holy shit. Everyone should snatch up a copy of this before it’s out of print.

Supercrush SODO Pop LP

SUPERCRUSH is made up of folks who cut their teeth coming up in the Pacific Northwest hardcore scene, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to their second full-length. This is some sugary-sweet alterna-rock that sounds like it was just unearthed from a time capsule buried sometime in the early-to-mid-’90s. Fuzzed-out, jangly guitars, breathy vocals, and hooks galore. This is the perfect record for driving on a warm spring day with the windows down and no destination, or just laying in some grass soaking up some rays, possibly while partaking in a jazz cigarette. I don’t know man, this record is just fucking really good, and I just feel relaxed when it’s on.

V/A Greetings From a Late Stage Capitalist Wasteland LP

The first thing that struck me is that this compilation, for whatever reason, comes off as more of a label sampler than an actual compilation album. I don’t really know why that is, nor do I actually know if it is indeed a label sampler, it just gives off that vibe. Fourteen bands contributed either new or previously unreleased tracks. The collection of bands on here really is a mixed bag, as you have everything from acoustic acts, instrumental stuff, hardcore-adjacent stuff, stuff that would appeal to The Fest crowd, and even some borderline nu-metal-sounding stuff. Perhaps this is what is adding to my suspicions of this being a label sampler. It doesn’t really flow in the way a compilation should, and everything just kinda seems thrown on here just for the sake of having enough material. I will say that the last half of this album is the strongest, but even that really doesn’t make me want to check out anything from the label or bands.

Never Ending Game Halo & Wings EP

On the surface this is some pretty cookie-cutter “tough guy hardcore.” It checks all the boxes. Breakdowns? Yep. Gang vocals? Sure. Lyrical content about being “hard”? You bet. Metallic riffs? Goddamn right. Borderline hokey drawing of some tattoo-like art on the cover? Of course. All the red flags are there that would turn me off to a record like this, but there’s something about this that I don’t completely loathe. I can’t quite pin it down, though. I wouldn’t go out of my way to put this on, but I wouldn’t turn it off if it was playing. I suppose that’s a win.

Toys That Kill The Citizen Abortion cassette

The debut from one of San Pedro’s best, given a cassette reissue for its twentieth anniversary. This album is still as great as it was when it originally came out. Rising from the ashes of the juggernaut that was F.Y.P., TOYS THAT KILL continued down the path of their predecessor by churning out snotty, fun pop punk that could have fit right in with the body of work of the previous band, and while Todd Congelliere’s vocals are unmistakable, it’s the addition of Sean Cole splitting up the vocal duties that really adds that extra element needed to not just write off this record as a new F.Y.P. album. Though twenty years have passed since this originally was released, it still sounds fresh, which is a feat especially when you consider the musical landscape twenty years ago—the mark of not only a great album, but a great band. If this album is not already in your collection and you’re down with cassettes, go get a copy now and hurry, because it’s limited to only 100 copies!

Action Park You Must Be This Tall to Die LP

This album opens with a soundbite of a commercial for the fabled/doomed amusement park from which the band takes its name, and from there the listener is treated to twelve poppy, melodic, hook-laden songs that sound like they were just unearthed from a time capsule buried sometime in the mid-’90s. There’s enough here to keep me interested while listening, just not enough to make me reach for this for repeat listens. That said, 1995 me would have been all over this record, for sure.

End It One Way Track cassette

Four songs here. The first two clock in at under a minute each, the next two get progressively longer, with the last track coming in at just over two minutes. There are things I really enjoy here and they definitely outweigh the things I dislike. Generally, this style of hardcore is not really my cup of tea, but I find myself enjoying this more and more with each listen. It’s pissed, the breakdown parts (when there are some) aren’t cheeseball, and unlike a lot of stuff of this ilk, it sounds genuine. Sometimes when I hear bands like this it comes off like an act, but this shit is sincere. END IT has made a new fan here. Can’t wait to hear more, these four songs leave me clamoring for it.

Latest God Latest God cassette

This Australian group wears their influences on their sleeves here. Hardcore in the vein of SWIZ, mid-period 7 SECONDS, DAG NASTY, EMBRACE, etc. Six songs in total here, including a cover of “Clique” by MINUTE MINDER who I am unfamiliar with, so I can’t speak to whether it is better/worse/different than the original. Musically, it’s exactly what one would expect when seeing the names listed above. The vocals go from singing to yelling at times, but what gets me here is the vocal delivery. While the singer has a style all his own, at times it’s reminiscent of Dave Smalley, and then there are parts that are full-on channeling Ian MacKaye. While LATEST GOD is definitely inspired by what came before them and is following the blueprint given, they are forging their own path.

The Copyrights Alone in a Dome CD

Fans of the COPYRIGHTS will not be disappointed with their debut full-length for Fat. The formula remains the same here as with their past outings: catchy, polished, harmony-laden pop punk that draws inspiration from all the usual suspects without sounding dated or like a carbon copy of something from years prior. Are there times when listening you could say “Hey, that part sounds kinda like…”? Sure, but those times are fleeting, and at the end of the day, this is a COPYRIGHTS record through and through. One that’s sure to please fans, new and old.

Velvet Horns All Heart, No Bullshit cassette

This kinda reminds me of some kind of Plan-It-X band, only louder and punker. You can tell by listening that they’re having fun playing and that in turn makes this a fun listen. The band features Mattie Jo from RVIVR on bass and backing vocals, and that’s a bit of a shame, because I enjoy their vocal stylings and just wish that they sang a bit more, but I’ll get over it. All in all, a fun listen, and the five songs here just seem to fly by. Cassette is limited to only 30 copies, but hey, that’s why we have the internet, right?

Rebuilder Live From 2021 LP

Hmmm…this is a live album. Not just a live album, an album of a livestream. I don’t know if this is/was necessary. I mean live albums are generally, to me at least, an ego stroke at best. They don’t usually sound that great, don’t usually capture the energy of actually being at a show, and are most of the time the last gasp of a band trying to keep it together. All that said, I guess if you are a huge fan of REBUILDER, you’d enjoy this. Again, I’m not sure this was necessary to release, especially on vinyl, given the current situation. Perhaps this should have remained a livestream and another band could have released an actual album of recorded material on LP, instead of a live set from the internet.

Speedway S.O.F. EP

I don’t know what it is about this record, but I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. Musically, it’s definitely got strong youth crew vibes, but it sounds fresh. It doesn’t sound like a note-for-note rehash of the Revelation Records catalog circa 1988—89. Perhaps it’s the vocals that set it apart from other bands of its ilk. Kinda screamy, yet with a hint of melody. Almost like if the dude from the BRONX was in a hardcore band or something like that. I really dig this EP and can’t wait to hear more from this group.

Enact Promo 2021 cassette

Two songs here from this Portland, OR-based band. The first song is a pretty basic run-of-the-mill hardcore song. Gang vocals, pick slides, “fuck you, you can’t hold me down/back” lyrical content, etc. The second song, however, is where this tape does its job and gets me interested in hearing more. “Rose” is about a grandmother who has passed away. Musically, it’s much more melodic than the first song, and lyrically and vocally you can tell that this song means a lot to the person singing it, as it should when writing and singing about something personal. The lyrics in the song that are sung in Spanish are what really hooked me, especially the chorus, as it is something I’ve heard my wife say to our child for years. My only gripe here would be that I would have liked to have heard maybe one more song, but that’s on me.

Rated X United Front LP

Hardcore that leans heavy on the punk rock. Featuring members of VIOLENT REACTION and the FLEX, so if you’re a fan of those bands, you’ll dig this for sure. Short bursts of pissed-off energy that blend hardcore, punk, and even some Oi! together for one hell of an album. There’s definitely something for everyone here, and even your most jaded friend who hates everything would dig this. If there’s one thing about this record that I would change, I’d have cut the last song as it is much longer than the others and doesn’t really flow well with the rest of the album.

Hinge Hinge CD

The cover of this album features a bunch of skeletons at a show while, presumably, the three members of HINGE clink some beer bottles together. Some of those skeletons are wearing NOFX and PENNYWISE shirts. So, before one even puts on the album, you get a pretty good inclination of what’s in store. As hypothesized by looking at the cover, what we have here is a carbon-copy of ’90s skate punk of the Fat Wreck/Fearless variety. There is a certain sect of people who never moved on from that stuff and still dig it and this is definitely geared toward them.

V/A Youth Crew 2020 EP

This compilation features eight bands from across the globe that are keeping the youth crew flame burning. While each band shares similar styles here, there is enough difference between them to keep things interesting. Standouts for me are HOMETOWN CREW from the Netherlands, NO EXCUSE from Indonesia, and TIDES DENIED from Germany (if only for the riff at the end that kinda sounded like the theme from The A-Team). By no means is this compilation gonna go down in the annals of hardcore classics, but it’s worth a listen.

Choice to Make Vicious Existence EP

Thrash-y, metal-tinged hardcore. The songs are short enough to not get stale, but it’s only six songs and I really need more here to knock me off the fence I’m riding in one direction or another. If I did have one swaying point, I suppose it would be the instrumental in the middle of the record. I am adamantly opposed to instrumentals in hardcore. It comes off as an unfinished song to me. Filler really, and for me the placement really kind of threw off my listening experience. I suppose if you must include an instrumental it’s probably better suited as a bookend.

Grand Scheme Grand Scheme demo cassette

Fast, short, and pissed-sounding. The vocals remind me of INFEST a bit, although musically it’s a little slower with some two-steppin’ breakdown parts. It’s hard to believe that this is a demo, because it’s super tight. Six songs in all, and it appears that this tape was limited to 100 and is already sold out, but thanks to modern technology, I’m sure it’s not hard to track this down.

The McGunks Going Out Early CD

This album reminds me of something that would have come out on Just Add Water or Mutant Pop or a label like that. It’s the kind of stuff that would fall under the umbrella of pop punk that has less of a RAMONES feel and more of a straight-up rock’n’roll influence. That’s not to say the RAMONES influence isn’t there—I mean, they have a song that name drops just about every song ever written by them. It’s pretty standard fare for this style, nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it did grow on me after repeated listens. The vocalist has a raspy style that definitely reminded me of the singer from A RADIO WITH GUTS, and once I figured it out, it all started to come together for me.

Dead Heat World at War LP

DEAD HEAT has delivered an excellent crossover album with World at War. From beginning to end, it feels like a throwback to early ’90s SUICIDAL TENDENCIES with a modern flair rooted in the hardcore scene. Oftentimes when bands attempt this style, it misses the mark and comes off a bit flat and sometimes hokey. Fortunately, that is not the case here. Thrash-y throughout, groovy when it calls for it, gang vocals that don’t scream “hey, we don’t need to be here,” pretty noodling intros that aren’t just noodling for the sake of it, but all with a deep-down punk aesthetic. Listening to this brought me back to my pre-punk days and made me nostalgic for riding my bike down to the 7-11 for a Slurpee while blasting a MEGADETH tape in my Walkman. This record is gonna get a lot of action on my drives to and from work for sure. Good shit here, folks.

Bulbulators Homo Polonicus LP

Imagine if the only bands you’ve ever heard were SWINGIN’ UTTERS, ONE MAN ARMY, and DEAD TO ME, but on top of that you’ve only had access to certain records from each. Now imagine that you took those influences and started a band of your own, but opted to sing in your native language instead of English and recorded an album that could potentially stand up against those records. Well friends, imagine no more, for that is what Poland’s BULBULATORS have managed to do with Homo Polonicus. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned bands, then I implore you to give this a spin.

The Moröns Today’s Special LP

Slick, rock’n’roll-tinged punk with some “whoa-oh”s and “oi, oi”s peppered in sparingly. If you removed the vocalist, I would swear that this was a DWARVES album that Blag had yet to put vocals on. I imagine that dudes who dress like Guy Fieri would fucking love this. For real. I’m not even talking shit.

The Faction Greatest Grinds LP

Skate punk legends the FACTION have reunited the original lineup to re-record twelve of their best in one convenient collection. All the favorites are here, including “Skate and Destroy,” “Lost In Space,” and personal favorite “Let’s Go Get Cokes.” Unlike most bands that have recently re-recorded classic material, this doesn’t come off as a phoned-in cash grab. The band still sounds great and the songs haven’t lost any of the energy of the earlier versions. Listening to this makes me wanna go skate in an empty parking lot right now.

Me the Guts Spilt Guts Over Rough Cuts LP

Before I begin, it should be noted that this band hails from Canada. Now, forget that I mentioned that. Cool? Let’s begin. My first thought was “man, this sounds a lot like PROPAGANDHI.” While I still feel that way, I should clarify that statement: musically, this sounds a lot like an album they would have written between Less Talk, More Rock and Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes. For the most part. There is an acoustic song that doesn’t really fall under that umbrella, but it does fit with the album. There are shades of other Fat Wreck bands here too, before we get too carried away with just the one former. A solid listen that should appeal to any fan of that style. Side note: I couldn’t really tell if this was part of the song or an intentional joke, but at the end of the last song they seem to start going into a KORN song and then don’t…thankfully.

Cromo En Otro Lugar EP

This Spanish three-piece puts out a strong effort here. Kinda poppy, kinda dark, hella catchy. Musically this has elements that bring to mind the MARKED MEN, the LILLINGTONS, and SCREECHING WEASEL while remaining original enough to keep the listener interested. Six songs in total, one of which sounds like SCREECHING WEASEL’s “Hey Suburbia” with the chords slightly switched and in a different key, and one entitled “P.I.D. (Paul is Dead)” which has the vocal pattern of the BEATLES’ “Help” during the verses, which now makes me wonder if that was intentional?

The Jacklights Drift CD

Female-fronted melodic punk that just slightly misses the mark for me. I can’t quite put my finger on what cylinder this isn’t firing. I enjoy the vocals, and while technically there’s nothing bad here musically, it just isn’t clicking for me. Together it just comes off as generic and kinda boring at certain points. There’s just that little something extra missing here.

The Animal Steel A Surefire Way to Get Sober LP

The first thing that struck me about this record was its cover art, a drawing of a deconstructed George “The Animal” Steele, pro wrestling legend and apparent namesake of this Denver-based quartet. The cover art is stylistically very reminiscent of that used by IRON CHIC, but that’s where any similarities stop. Well that, and the fact that both bands are named after 1980s WWF wrestlers. When I put the record on I was pleasantly surprised by the sounds that began to pump out of the speakers. Songs and melodies that are structured somewhere in between a less abrasive version of early SMALL BROWN BIKE and a punker, grittier BRAID or HEY MERCEDES. With each listen I find something else I enjoy about this record and a hankering to hear more. Good stuff, I can see exciting things on the horizon for this band.

Mixed Signals So Far Gone cassette

MIXED SIGNALS have made an album that somehow bridges the gaps between gruff-voiced punk, dreamy pop, and THIS BIKE IS A PIPE BOMB. On the surface this shouldn’t work, but somehow it does and it is fucking rad! This cassette is limited to 100, so if this sounds appealing to you I’d try and grab a copy with haste before they’re on the internet for an outrageous price. It’s that awesome.

Loose Behaviour 4 Songs in North Carolina EP

This band is made up of members of the ERGS!, the SLOW DEATH, the RAGING NATHANS, and the ARTERIES. Each of the four members contributes lead vocals to their individual track. These four songs, despite the vocal differences, flow together well. The biggest thing that calls out to me while listening to this is that even though the pedigree of this is decidedly anchored in the punk scene, this is more of an alt-rock vibe, dare I even say a “mature pop punk” record. I can’t stop listening to this. It’s that fucking good.

Quaker Wedding Russian Hill / Running List 7″

Okay. Here’s the thing, and I believe I made this point in another review. This is a lathe-cut 7″. Limited to 25 copies. Why? Why is this a trend? Why exude the energy of writing and recording these songs and then spend the money on pressing 25 records??? OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…on to the review. Two songs here that are heavy on the JAWBREAKER influence. If I were to treat this single as a one-on-one battle to the death, I’d put my money on the title track to come out the winner. Apparently the B-side is taken from an upcoming LP. I’ll reserve my full endorsement upon hearing said LP. I do, however, believe that given what I’ve heard here, QUAKER WEDDING has a promising future ahead of them.

Better Off Dead / Nueva Generación split EP

NUEVA GENERACIÓN kicks off this split with two mid-tempo songs that walk the line between almost sliding into pop punk territory, but are just a bit too dark and slow to fully cross that line, “whoa-oh”s aside. BETTER OFF DEAD also contributes two songs which are faster and more upbeat than the songs on the NUEVA GENERACIÓN side, with a dueling female/male vocal combo that works together well. While both bands don’t take a similar approach to styles, the contrast works well.

Outpatient Unreality cassette

There seems to be a crop of bands that are reinventing the early ’90s sound of “underground rock.” While a lot of these bands, to me at least, kind of miss the mark and end up sounding uninspired, OUTPATIENT isn’t one of those. Hooks, fuzz, “whoa-oh”s, a perfect marriage of early NIRVANA and the MUFFS. If I had one complaint it’s that four songs aren’t enough!!!

Needles//Pins Needles//Pins LP

There is a lot going on here. To say this is just a punk record is doing a disservice to all those involved here, but to say this is a rock record isn’t a fair assessment either. Melodic and catchy are words that I’d freely use to describe this, and while there are hooks abound here, it’s got just enough grit to keep it honest. If this record isn’t in heavy rotation on rock stations across their native Canada, that’s a crime. Truly.

Scene Killers Rev It Up 12″

The debut EP from Nottingham, England’s SCENE KILLERS is a total ripper. Members of the CRIMINALS, the HIP PRIESTS, and TV CRIME come together here like a punk rock Voltron to bring us six songs of total punk rock’n’roll badassery. The kind of record that makes you wanna brown-bag a 40 and cruise around town at night smashing shit. There’s even a cover of the REPLACEMENTS’ “Color Me Impressed,” which is especially fun to listen to with singer Jesse Luscious’ trademark vocal stylings that give the song a nice little kick in the ass. I’ll be counting the minutes until these fellas are able to come stateside for what will undoubtedly be a hell of a live show! An extra tidbit for all you nerds out there: the record comes in a bunch of cool colors.

El Sancho How to Kill a Zombie EP

Three songs of mid-tempo melodic punk. I believe that everyone contributes vocals here as there is an obvious distinction between the vocalist on the first two songs, the vocalist on the third song, and the backing vocals. All in all, this is catchy enough; the main issue I have with this release is that it is a lathe-cut 7″. While I appreciate the fact that you’re going ahead with committing to put these songs to a physical format, I’ll never understand the lathe-cut gimmick. For the most part they’re expensive to produce, most times they are limited to only a handful of copies, and they don’t sound that great. I’m just nitpicking here at this point. Anyhow, this is limited to 25 copies, so I’d suggest trying to get one quickly if that interests you.

Hung Ups Panic Attack EP

This is what I think of when I hear the term “pop punk.” Melodic, snotty, simple. A lot of bands that do this style miss the mark for me a lot of the time; fortunately, this is not one of those times. Think SCREECHING WEASEL, the NOBODYS, etc. and you’re on the right track. Five songs on a 7″? Cool. Blag Dahlia once said “I’m not going to Salt Lake City;” well, I found something worth going for.

Half Built Homes Southward CD

This is slick-sounding melodic punk that is probably heavily influenced by bands who have done stints on Warped Tour, probably have records on labels like Hopeless, Drive-Thru, and the like, and use the word “emo” to describe their sound. If things like Myspace and Warped Tour still existed, this band would probably be relatively “big,” I imagine.

Lone Wolf Together Alone LP

I was expecting something completely different when I first put this on and I gotta say, I’m really glad it’s not at all what I expected. What I expected was some run-of-the-mill pop punk bordering on “RAMONES-core.” What I got instead was a record that while still catchy, stays as far away from the aforementioned genre as possible. This record reminds me of a more subdued DEAD TO ME. I could easily find this in somewhat regular rotation on my stereo and possibly a contender for one of my favorite albums of the year.

Last Point A Beaten Path CD

Hailing from the central coast of California, LAST POINT plays the kind of melodic skate punk that wouldn’t be out of place amongst some of genre’s heaviest hitters. In fact, this album sounds like it was meant to be at the very least considered for a 7″ or a track on a Fat Music comp, but was just unearthed from some secret vault deep beneath the Fat Wreck office.

Aküestix Parody of a Tragedy, Pt. 1 CD

Musically, this reminds me of something that would have been on Fearless or Hopeless in the ’90s. Lyrically, there’s a song about aliens. That was almost enough for me to write this off but…then I heard the song “Appear” and that kept my attention, as it was the standout track in my opinion. If you long for the days of Black Flys, bleached hair, two-row studded belts holding up Dickies shorts that always seemed two sizes too big, and perfectly-timed jumps in unison, then my friend, you will most likely enjoy this CD.

Dabblin’ I Was Almost an Astronaut Once cassette

At first listen, my very first thought was that this reminds me of Plan-It-X stuff, but if those bands paid their electricity bills and decided to trade in their acoustic guitars and washboards for amps and loud guitars. This thought remained with me while listening due to the vocals and the delivery of said vocals. My second thought was how fun seeing this band live must be. Eight songs total, with the last one being an acoustic song. All in all a fun release, and one I’ll surely be revisiting. If I had one complaint, it would be that I wish there were just a couple more songs here.

The Slow Death Born Ugly Got Worse LP reissue

The tenth-anniversary reissue of this gem of an album has been remixed and remastered, so it sounds even better than it did a decade ago. This is still one of my favorite records by Mr. Thorson and company. The opening track “Ticks of the Clock” is and has been one of my favorite songs for the last ten years. That said, just about every song on this record is a hit in my opinion, and I’m thrilled that Rad Girlfriend has reissued it so that hopefully a new crop of folks can give it a spin and possibly find their new favorite band!

Worst Self Everyone is Replaceable LP

Modern hardcore that fluctuates from fast thrashy parts to metallic breakdown parts to softer quieter parts to almost jammy parts. Fans of bands like TOUCHE AMORE and MODERN LIFE IS WAR would probably dig this. The album artwork and the actual LP is what really caught my eye, though. The screenprinting on the LP is pretty cool. The OASIS “homage” of the band logo on the jacket and labels is cute. I assume that was intentional, but these days who knows. Limited to 100 copies, so if you wanna grab one, I’d suggest you do so pretty quick.

Jodie Faster Blame Yourself LP

Seventeen songs here, with the longest clocking in at 1:29. Short, fast, hardcore songs that strangely don’t use distortion on the guitars. I don’t particularly know how I feel about this. The songs are good, but the lack of distortion is off-putting to say the least. I wanna like this, and I think I do, but the sound of the guitar is fucking with my brain. Like it’s seriously giving me a borderline panic attack. Hahaha.

Seized Up Brace Yourself LP

SEIZED UP is a “supergroup” featuring members of BL’AST!, GOOD RIDDANCE, the NERVE AGENTS, and ALL YOU CAN EAT, and goddamn if they haven’t made a hell of a record. Pissed-off, at times very bass-driven, at other times just fast hardcore blasts, and while at times it’d be easy to compare this to BL’AST! especially due to vocalist Clifford Dinsmore, this is a much more straightforward hardcore record than most of the previously mentioned band’s body of work. I highly recommend hunting down a copy of this album and playing it as loud as possible, preferably while skating and/or driving.

Custody II LP

This sounds like a SAMIAM record. Like almost to a T. The only difference is this band is from Finland. So I suppose take that however you’d like. In fact….this is their bio on the internet: “We are a band. We make melodic music that makes us happy. We sound like Sergie Loobkoff having a knife fight with Matt Pryor and Mike Carter in the ’90s!” So it’s totally intentional, I guess. Fortunately I happen to thoroughly enjoy SAMIAM, so that helps.

Away 4 Song Demo cassette

This is, judging by the liner notes, a project recorded by two friends. Very heavily influenced by the Revolution Summer era of D.C. hardcore, with the lyrics all sung in Spanish. I really enjoyed this and was more than a bit disappointed when the four songs came to an end, as I wish there was a bit more. Perhaps there is more forthcoming but, if this is all that AWAY has to offer, it is a hell of an offering.

Young Harts Truth Fades LP

This sounds like something that No Idea would have put out when they were still a label, but not in the “bearded, gruff, drunken, Florida” way. In more of the “kinda street punk, kinda emo, hard to pin down” way. Kinda TED LEO with a sore throat singing for DEAD TO ME with slower breakdowns. I know that sounds like a confusing mess, but it works and I’m for it!

Bitpart Eat Your Mess LP

Emo-ish pop punk from France. The whole time listening to this album something was bugging me. I couldn’t figure it out. The feeling got worse as the two singers harmonized. Then I realized what it was. They reminded me of a certain band, but for the life of me I couldn’t place it. Finally it came to me. This band sounds like the ANNIVERSARY minus the keyboards. I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but this just sounds dated. That’s not meant as a slight, it’s good, it just sounds like a certain time and place, that’s all.

Somerset Thrower Paint My Memory LP

This is one of those bands that has been on my radar for a while now, but for whatever reason I’ve neglected to actually check out until now. Well, after listening to this record a few times now, I feel like an idiot. This is definitely something I should have been getting down with since day one. Heavy ’90s emo/indie rock vibes. Imagine a gruffer, beefier KNAPSACK. This just gets better each time I hear it. I’d put this up against any classic emo record any day. Mark my words, this album is going to be on “Top Albums of All Time” lists for years to come.

Attic Salt Get Wise LP

Sugary pop punk. Male and female vocalists who A) both sound pretty similar to one another, and B) both kinda sound a little bit like the singer of SMOKING POPES. Hella catchy. I could see this fitting nicely on a mixtape with the aforementioned POPES, VELOCITY GIRL, and From Here to Infirmary-era ALKALINE TRIO.

Daiei Spray Behind the Wall LP

Melodic hardcore from Japan that’s, at least in part, been heavily influenced by bands like DAG NASTY. The songs are all sung in Japanese, which to me is a plus. I think it sets bands apart when they sing in their native tongue, because while I may not know what they’re saying, it’s authentic and not just another (insert band here) clone. One last thing, I definitely hear the THUMBS in here a bit in some of the delivery and guitars and I’m super into it.

Alien Boys Night Dangers LP

Imagine, if you will, a world where the BOMBPOPS listened to too much later-era DISCHARGE and hair metal instead of listening to too much BLINK or whatever. Now imagine that they still had Fat Wreck production values. Imagine no more my friends, because ALIEN BOYS have made that fantasy world come to life! Not my particular cup of tea, but after a few listens I don’t wanna throw it like a Frisbee, so that’s something I suppose.

No Right Senescence CD

Metallic hardcore that uses a lot of technical guitar work, for lack of a better term. The first song starts out with some kind of guitar thing that sounds a lot like a drill. That shit is annoying and almost kinda ruins this from the jump. Luckily it’s not super prevalent in the rest of the songs. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, just your standard fare for this type of band. The bad? Aside from the weird guitar thing on the first song, the last song has one of those parts where there’s a sing-song-y dude that was all the rage like fifteen or so years ago. To me, that ruins a perfectly good hardcore band more often than not. The good? The vocals. While they may be pissed-sounding, the singer isn’t trying to sound to cookie-cutter metal/hardcore tough. Solid outing here, enough to have me interested in hearing more.

Truth Cult Off Fire LP

First thing that springs to mind here is SWIZ without, ya know, actually sounding like SWIZ. This is very heavily D.C.-influenced, which makes a lot of sense as the band hails from Baltimore, MD. They also recorded this with J. Robbins, adding to the Dischord-ian aesthetic. Vocally, I’m catching FUEL vibes, too. Everything about this record is striking all the right chords with me.

Meltcitizen Dullard cassette

Surfy, poppy, lots of reverb. Lots. Better than most bands of this persuasion, but for some reason, listening to this feels like listening to demos for the next GREEN DAY record or something Billie Joe-related. Did I mention the reverb?

Teenage Halloween Teenage Halloween LP

This record is hard for me to write about. On the surface it sounds like a bunch of “folk punks” traded in train-hopping and alcoholism for the ability to write hella catchy “pop” songs, although I understand that’s a pretty shitty analogy and I feel it’s a disservice to a band that has written a great fucking record. I will say this…in a perfect world, where the radio actually played real music still, TEENAGE HALLOWEEN would be fucking huge! I could listen to this record everyday and find something new I like about it every time.

Big Rig Expansive Heart EP reissue

1-2-3-4 Go! has reissued this overlooked gem. BIG RIG was a short-lived project whose members went on to play in SCREW 32, the NERVE AGENTS, and DANCE HALL CRASHERS, and featured Jesse Michaels of OPERATION IVY on vocals. This four-song offering is decidedly more punk (whatever that means) than Michaels’ previous band; in fact, there’s nary an inkling of ska heard here. My only complaint about this record is that I wish there were more songs! This is a perfect document of a moment in time, and I’m glad it’s been reissued so that more people have a chance to hear a perfect record.

Total Wolf Total Wolf LP

Do you enjoy fun? How about thrash? Yeah? Then chances are you would totally dig TOTAL WOLF. Listening to this, the one thing that keeps popping in and out of my brain is “What if MUNICIPAL WASTE wrote Apocalypse Dudes or GUTTERMOUTH played thrash?” Total fucking party record. It makes me wanna slam some shitty beers and circle pit around a bonfire and I don’t even drink anymore.

Lucy and the Rats Got Lucky LP

So you know that old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, I’m guilty. Looking at this record I automatically assumed some garage-y, RAMONES-y stuff. I am happy to say that I was not entirely wrong and at the same time not entirely right. Sure, there are definite garage-y elements at work here, but also this has a heavy ’60s girl group vibe going, too. Think THEE HEADCOATEES thrown in a blender with GO SAILOR and you’re headed in the right direction. Serious contender for best thing I’ve heard this year.

Indentured Resistance Etiquette CD

The one thing that sticks out about this EP is the production value. It sounds like they spent a lot of time and possibly money on this recording. That isn’t a slight, either. From a production standpoint, this is very pleasing to the ears. As for the songs themselves, it’s kind of hard to pin down an accurate description because calling this “standard punk” would be a disservice to the work put in here. Lyrically, though…that’s when they lost me. There’s a song about “the quarantine cruise line” and a song called “Karen” about…yup, you guessed it…a “Karen.” I mean, who am I to judge one’s lyrical content, I just don’t know if songs like these will age well is all.

Martha Love Keeps Kicking LP

Pop-punk with twangy guitar parts that was all the rage with the Fest crowd some years back. From what I gather, everybody contributes vocals individually, but the magic happens when they harmonize. Good stuff. Bonus points for having a song called “Wrestlemania VIII”!

Circle Jerks Group Sex LP reissue

The classic first album by this legendary Southern California band gets a fancy reissue on new label Trust Records. It’s been remastered and includes a 12″x12″ booklet full of photos, flyers, and anecdotes by a plethora of well-known fans and contemporaries. In addition to the original tracks, this new version also includes five bonus rehearsal demos taken from a boombox recording. In all honesty, these tracks, while cool, are not necessary and probably should have been left off this LP and instead been released on a bonus 7″, as they kinda throw off the listening experience of this record. All in all, if you’ve got the loot to spend and don’t already own a copy of Group Sex or if your copy is need of an upgrade, if I were you I’d spring for this version. (I believe that Frontier still keeps this album in print.)

Tough Age Which Way Am I? LP

Although I have been aware of TOUGH AGE for quite some time, for some reason this is the first I’ve actually heard them. At first listen, I was quick to write this off, but upon further investigation this record started to grow on me, and now it seems as though I have been missing out all this time. There’s a big time post-punk influence here underneath definite power pop vibes. Now if that sounds like a strange combination of sounds, it might be, but it works. I especially enjoy the contrast of the two vocalists. This is definitely gonna be in heavy rotation on my stereo for a while.

Big Bite Trinity LP

BIG BITE hails from Seattle, Washington and that fact is abundantly clear on their latest release Trinity. Eight tracks of fuzzed-out rock ’n’ roll that wouldn’t be out of place mixed in with your DINOSAUR JR. and SUPERDRAG records.

Vapaa Maa Vesi Nousee LP

Politically-charged Finnish hardcore in the vein of the HOLY MOUNTAIN and the like. The vocals are all in Finnish, but there are English translations. Standard lyrical content for the genre here (economics, politics, anti-homophobia, environmental, etc.). The production aspect is pretty slick compared with other bands of this ilk, which in my opinion hurts this album a bit. I prefer these bands to have a bit more of a dirtier sound, but again that is my personal opinion. If this sounds like your cup of tea I’d recommend giving this a listen.