Matt McCracken

Bent Blue / Sunstroke split EP

Two songs from each band, one original and one cover. BENT BLUE offers up some melodic hardcore with vocals that are reminiscent of Ari from LIFETIME a bit. They cover a ONE LAST WISH tune. SUNSTROKE is in a similar vein, although here, I enjoy their side a bit more, or at least their original tune. It’s a bit more energetic than the offering of their counterpart. They cover the CRANBERRIES, which is…OK. The vocals are a bit more gnarly. Almost, but not quite, full-on hardcore vocals. They are very reminiscent of something but I just can’t put my finger on it. Overall, a solid split. My only complaint would be that I would have liked one more song from each band.

Shitshow -+#!?$ EP

Seven songs on a 7”. That is the proper usage of the format, in my opinion. A nice little slab of hardcore punk. The vocals are mostly sung with a nice attention to melody, which makes this much more of a pleasurable listen than if they were mostly screamed/shouted. It also avoids falling into the trap that a lot of bands like this tend to fall into by sounding dated. You can hear influence, yet it still manages to sound fresh. This one’s gonna get a lot of time on the turntable, I reckon.

The Burn Vault Ignite LP

Greasy rock’n’roll-infused punk, mostly with lyrics about dead friends, aging punks, shitty cops, shitty landlords, etc. There’s a line in one of the songs about fucking Jeff Ott, which is stupid but it made me chuckle. Like, of all the people they could’ve name-dropped, they bust out Jeff Ott! The last song has a bit of a ska tinge to it and the outro is very, dare I say, epic, in a LEFTÖVER CRACK type of way. Interesting fact: the band name is a tribute to a friend of theirs who passed away from cancer. I thought that was a cool gesture.

Kids on Fire The Best of the Worst of Times CD

This is fine. Pop punk played by dudes who look like they should be in MUNICIPAL WASTE. It’s that version of the genre that doesn’t lean too heavily into any specific sub-genre. The songs are well-played and there’s nothing inherently bad about this, it’s just vanilla. There’s nothing that I find particularly memorable about this, nor does it make me want to listen to it again at any point. That’s just me, though. I need something to make me feel any sort of emotion at all. This is just sterile.

The Bollweevils Essential CD

Chicago’s BOLLWEEVILS return with a new full-length after a fourteen-year absence, and they haven’t missed a step. A solid outing here. Admittedly, I’ve never been a huge fan of this band—aside from their split with 88 FINGERS LOUIE and their Weevilive album, I’ve been mostly ignorant to their catalog. After giving this one a few spins, it’s got me interested in giving their back catalog another listen. I believe that those already familiar with the band will be more than satisfied with this offering, and those who are new to the band, or like me, kind of ignored them in the past, will be pleasantly surprised by what they hear.

Let Go We Men cassette

A collection of nine hardcore punk songs recorded throughout an eight-year time frame. Lyrically, these songs are personal, emotional, and somewhat introspective. It could use a better mixing job to level everything out better, but I think with what they had to work with (a digital eight-track), it’s pretty solid. This is about as DIY hardcore as one can get. I’d love to hear a 7” by this band with a solid mixing job. If everything was a bit more muddled down into the back instead of up front and in your face, not only do I think it would add to the mysteriousness of this band, but it would also benefit the style.

Interlocked Live on KXLU 1991 LP

A document of a relatively short-lived straightedge band from East L.A. This LP, as the title states, is their performance on L.A.-based college radio station KXLU, with six songs played live on air that were recorded onto a cassette by a friend of the band. Surprisingly, for a recording that is 32 years old, this doesn’t sound too bad. Aside from this recording, the band only released a demo (which is included on the digital version of this LP). INTERLOCKED doesn’t sound like the typical early ’90s straightedge band, as they utilize some effects pedals and the songs have really slow, drawn-out parts that all of the sudden burst into some blazing fast, almost powerviolence-ish parts. Reading the booklet that accompanies the LP, the band and the labels behind the release went back and forth as to which recording to release on vinyl, the demo or the radio performance—after listening to both, I think the right choice was made. This is a must-have for any fan or amateur historian of either early ’90s hardcore or East L.A. punk/hardcore. A well-put-together piece of obscure L.A. hardcore history.

What Tyrants Lo-Fi High CD

Indie rock-ish stuff that’s kinda lo-fi at times, mainly in the somewhat fuzzy vocals. The vocal delivery reminds me of Ian Svenonius at times and Howlin’ Pelle at others. Typically, this kind of stuff isn’t really my cup of tea, but I do find myself strangely intrigued by this—the resurgence of this type of pseudo-’90s alt-rock stuff, while mainly boring, does tend to have a few diamonds in the rough here and there. This might be one of them.

Jake Pinkney War! CD

I don’t understand the solo moniker when releasing something that’s not an acoustic record. I’d get it if you played everything, but it comes off as very ego-stroking to me. How hard is it to come up with a stupid band name? Maybe this doesn’t bother other folks, but there’s just something disingenuous about it to me. I will say that these songs are well-written, both musically and lyrically. The dude’s voice is a little grating, though. There’s a cover of AGENT ORANGE’s “Bloodstains” which is pretty spot-on, but for some reason makes me believe that this kid is in high school. I don’t know why I assume this, I just do.

Überflüssig Love, Peace, & Pleasure EP

Five songs that run the gamut of influences. The first song, “On the Way (Seeking of Tranquility)” has jangly guitars that make it sound like NEW ORDER wrote “Punk Rock Girl.” The next few songs continue with a “DEAD MILKMEN meets TOY DOLLS in a Fat Wreck harmonies class” type of vibe. The final song, “Go For a Walk (The Ballad of Maya Hawke)” is the only real skipper here. It’s a slower, mostly acoustic song that throws off the rest of this EP, not to mention that it’s over seven minutes long.

Virgin Whores Last Chance to Dance LP

There are songs on here that remind me at points of the fast, “uber-punk” QUEERS songs— at least stylistically, and especially the opening track “Gee Ma.” Having said this, this is not a pop punk record. There are hooks for sure, but it’s also gritty. I can see this appealing to various types of punks for different reasons. A real unifier, if you will. Personally, the thing that won me over was the last song “Pissed at the Pub,” which just happens to be a Christmas song, and I’m a sucker for a punk rock Christmas song, particularly with the lyric “Santa’s getting drunk tonight.” Top-notch.

Dirt Box Disco Rokapokolips CD

This is definitely a “don’t judge a book by its cover” situation. The cover and title of this album come off as something a hair-metal-loving bar band would use. Fortunately, the contents of the album are far from being what one would imagine by looking at said album cover. Instead, what is offered up is some solid, catchy, sing-along punk with subtle rock’n’roll, glam, and Oi! influences that all mesh together quite well without sounding dated. This is the type of album that gets better with every listen, but if I came across it in a record store, I’d sadly pass it over due to the artwork. That’s a shame, because it is actually a pretty good record, but I’m just being honest. Even with modern technology being what it is and almost everything being available at one’s fingertips at all times, sometimes the age-old tactic of checking something out due to what the cover looks like wins out, and in this case that would be a shame.

Niner Niner The Muck LP

Upon first listen, my thoughts were that this wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t without its faults though, as I started to think that every song was just maybe a hair too long and could have been trimmed—at a point, some of them went on so long that I wasn’t sure if it was the same song or a new one. As time went on, the singer’s voice also started to wear on me. It’s a very ’80s glam metal-sounding voice. Then the epiphany came: this in fact was very much a weird amalgamation of ’80s glam metal and generic alterna-rock that I’m sure would appeal to some group of human beings, but I am certainly not one of them.

Pure Intention No S***! CD

First thing is the cover art—it’s a drawing of three dudes, presumably the band members, pissing on a wall. It reminded me of both the Punk Uprisings compilation and the first MASKED INTRUDER album. So going into this, I was prepared for some snotty, probably RAMONES-inspired pop punk. Well, I couldn’t have been more off-point with that assumption. Instead, what I found was what I guess I would classify as “grunge punk”? It’s rocking with heavy distortion, some rockabilly-ish elements, and what sounds like echo effects on the vocals. I imagine this is similar to what it would sound like if Bleach-era NIRVANA played SUPERSUCKERS songs. At first it was a little off-putting, but after repeated listens, it’s grown on me…a bit. Only five songs, so it doesn’t run the risk of wearing out its welcome, although I will say that if they scrapped the first song “Pure Intention” and the third song “George Jesterson” and instead put the remaining three songs on a 7”, I would be way more into this.

Wrong Worshippers (Not Actually) Live From Hep’s Garage CD

As the title states, this is not an actual live album, rather an album with skits and the sound of audience members thrown in here and there. This concept is fucking stupid. It’s not humorous and adds nothing to this recording. Now let’s move on to the band. Bass, drums, vocals. OK. It’s actually not that bad, but for me, this is also something I would probably ever listen to again. Part of it is the dude’s vocals. They’re annoying in a less shrill, wannabe Biafra kind of a way. I just can’t do it. Musically, it’s fine. The whole thing just leans way more towards goofy alt-rock than I personally prefer…and there’s an “interesting” cover of TAYLOR SWIFT. Weird.

Operation Ibis Avian Overlords LP

OK. Let me start off by addressing this one thing: if you are in a ska punk band, perhaps you should reconsider naming your band “Operation” anything, let alone “Operation I-word.” I mean c’mon, really? Now that that’s out of the way…OPERATION IBIS offers up five songs of, as I mentioned, ska punk. Listening to this, three bands immediately come to mind for me: LESS THAN JAKE sans horns, a less crusty LEFTÖVER CRACK, and SNUFF. I’m not a huge fan of this type of thing, but I don’t mind this too much. It’s got that peppy energetic feeling you’d expect, but for some reason it’s not as annoying as I usually find this stuff. I suspect it’s the lack of horns. I don’t really understand this newest ska revival, but for the people that like this sort of thing, it’s something I think they’ll eat up.

Toy Tiger Take a Trip on the Tiger Side LP

Another edition of “don’t judge a record by its cover.” At first glance, I thought “Oh great, some uninspired Oi!/street punk stuff.” Again, thankfully, I was wrong. A solid mix of street punk and glam rock mixed up with a dose of heavy distortion on everything. This is rad. It’s got just enough elements from all of its influences that you can’t really pigeonhole it one way or the other. This one is gonna get some solid time on the ol’ turntable for sure. This is the type of record that should appeal to anyone into punk, no matter the subgenre. It’s a fucking banger.

Engage Eight Songs EP

Not to be confused with the Bay Area ENGAGE from the early ’90s, this Australian act plays straightforward youth crew-style hardcore. Short songs. No frills. The way a hardcore record should be. The one thing that stands out to me is the lack of gang vocals. Something that is usually prevalent on these types of records is the overabundance of gang vocal parts, and this has literally none. It’s a welcome change to me, and I think makes this a bit more palatable. The vocals were a bit of a letdown as they made it next to impossible to decipher what the lyrics were, but all in all, a solid performance.

Uphill Avenue Uphill Avenue CD

This is an interesting one. I don’t necessarily enjoy the recording, but I do think there’s something here. At times, this sounds like it was recorded on a boombox, especially when the vocals over take the music, but the songs are (mostly) strong enough to make me kinda ignore that. Usually I would be of the opinion that something would benefit from a better quality recording, but in this case I don’t know if that is valid. The recording is kinda what gives this an identity. That said, this isn’t something that I would go back to for repeated listens.

Spells What the Hell is Caution / Some Would Say flexi 7″

SPELLS are back with two new songs for your listening pleasure. The first thing that struck me while listening to this is how well they can craft an enjoyable, listenable song. I really enjoyed their last LP Stimulants & Sedatives, so this is a nice way to follow that up. While both songs are great, the first one (“What the Hell is Caution”) is the winning track here for me. It’s got a quality that melds great melodic punk with an almost ’80s pop rock vibe. Nice work!

Coconut Planters Upset Hopes CD

When I saw the name of this band and the album cover, my initial thought was “oh, a ska band.” I mean the name COCONUT PLANTERS screams upstrokes and “hep-hep”s to me, and the tiki-themed Kaiju on the cover didn’t help matters. I could not have been more wrong. The band actually plays nicely polished punk of the classic Fat Wreck/Hopeless/Fearless variety. While I’m generally not a huge fan of this type of sound, I can appreciate it when it’s presented well. All in all, a pretty solid effort. In fact, the only two skippers for me were the ska-tinged “Reggae For Yankeez“ and the last song, the acoustic ditty “San Antonio’s Fire”.

Grassface Skinwalker 12″

There are only seven songs here and that’s a shame, because this is pretty great. Gruff and scratchy male/female vocals that really compliment each other when sung at the same time, over some decent, almost J CHURCH-sounding stuff. Apparently this has members of CANADIAN RIFLE and THIS IS MY FIST, which would make sense as to why it sounds familiar while not sounding like a rehash. Let’s get some more of this stuff, stat!

Critical Response Critical Response LP

I can’t put my finger on it but something about this record reminds me of a type of sound that would have been prevalent in the ’90s. It’s a little bit rock’n’roll, it’s a little bit hardcore, it’s a little bit neither of these. The vocalist reminds me of Kirsten from NAKED AGGRESSION at times, and at others sounds like the vocalist of some kind of Orange County ska band. All in all, this has moments where I really like it. For the most part though, it’s just OK. It reminds me of a bar band, mostly.

The Hanging Judge The Hanging Judge CD

This band has members of the QUEERS, ANTI-HEROS, and AGONIZERS ATL, and that is enough for me to have been slightly intrigued. Add to that the fact that Joe Queer himself recorded this, and I was definitely curious as to what was going on here. Well, what we have is some pretty slick-sounding street punk. I suppose this would be a good starting point for someone not too familiar with this type of stuff, as it’s not too abrasive—kinda like street punk-lite. Much better than I would have expected, for sure.

Fake Lighters Missing the Boat LP

Melodic punk that utilizes upbeat bass lines, the occasional upstroke, and stop/start break parts, with a gang vocal “hey” and “whoa-oh” peppered in here and there. This is the epitome of some dudes getting together and saying “Hey, let’s start a band that sounds like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,” and I mean that in the best possible way. This is very enjoyable in that it is familiar. These dudes definitely aren’t reinventing any wheels here, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

Left On High The Red Album CD

This recording is awful. The band could potentially be alright, but this recording does them no favors. This sounds like it was recorded in a garage on a laptop with no mixing or overdubs or what have you. The only thing that sounds like it was done halfway decently are the vocals, as they sound marginally better than the rest of what’s going on here. I’m honestly in awe that they thought it was a good idea to spend money on putting this out into the world.

Grand Scheme Numbers Game EP

Hook-laden hardcore, but not in an overtly poppy way; it is as pissed as it is catchy. Seven songs that all clock in under two minutes each, with two that come in under a minute. Fast, short, angry, energetic, with enough variety stylistically to keep one’s attention and leave you going back for multiple helpings all while wanting more.

Tightwire Head Full of Snakes CD

There must be something in the beer out there in the Midwest, because I swear that region is consistently churning out some of the best pop punk. This has it all. Hooks, “whoa-oh”s, songs about drinking, cool guitar licks, melodies out the wazoo, a singer that has that kinda RAMONES yet kinda vaguely Dan Vapid-esque style while not being either of those things. This one is gonna be on repeat for a while. Solid album. I dig it.

Zxrx Community Siah Was Here EP

Four songs recorded by members of ZLODZIEJE ROWEROW, APRIL, and OREIRO as a tribute to their friend who passed away in the summer of 2020. Rather than write some songs of their own, they chose to play some VERBAL ASSAULT and SERENE songs and record their own lyrics. I can only guess that perhaps these were among some of their fallen friend’s favorite songs and the lyrics are in remembrance of them. The songs are sung in German so I’m just assuming here, but the last line of the last song is sung in English with the words being “We say goodbye,” so I’m pretty sure that it’s a safe bet that I’m right. All in all, it’s a cool way to honor a friend.

Counterweight Sculptured in the Flames of Victory and Blood LP

Vegan straightedge hardcore band from Poland that existed in the late ’90s. This LP collects two separate releases—the first five songs have a noticeable difference in sound quality from the latter ten, which leads me to believe the first release was a demo and the second was the album. This is very metal. Like yeah, they band is described as a hardcore band, and the album cover has camouflage and your standard “singer among the crowd” picture, but this is full-on metal. Not something I’d really find myself revisiting often or at all, really.

Confusion Lo Que No Es Simple Y Fácil De Entender No Puede Ser La Verdad cassette

Really fun stuff here from this Chilean group. Upbeat, rocking, poppy, wild, space-y at times, kinda garage-y too. The two vocalists complement each other well via backing vocals and their individual songs. The one thing that kinda throws me is that on a couple tracks, when the song ends, they throw in an interlude that sounds like the start of a new song but it just ends. I think that could have been done differently, but it’s minimal so it’s not really a big deal. All in all, this is a really fun listen. Also, there’s puppies on the cover. Puppies will win me over every time.

State Run Radio State Run Radio 12″

This is OK. Kinda boring, nothing particularly attention-grabbing about this record. Generic, homogenized melodic punk. Kinda similar to, say, NAKED RAYGUN, but with all the cool parts left out. Only six songs, so at least there’s that.

Broken Barcodes Get in the Van CD

Five songs of RAMONES-inspired pop punk. Nothing groundbreaking here. Your standard RAMONES-core fare, although the tempo of these songs is much slower than they probably should be for this type of stuff. If this was a bit more peppy, it’d serve them well. The cover art’s nod to the Henry Rollins book that this EP is named after was kinda “ha-ha” funny.

Suspect Demo EP

Five-song banger of a demo by this German outfit. Hardcore punk songs that all clock in at under two minutes. This has everything you’d want in a band like this. Fast parts? Check. Slower but not overdone breakdown parts? Check. The only downside to this is the recording itself. It’s a demo, so one should not expect a full-blown, highly produced recording, and really it’s not too bad. There’s just something off about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. That aside, this has potential to be awesome.

Crimetime …Let There Be Crime LP

First let me address the album cover. Band name, album title, and a drawing of the Hamburglar with boots and a baseball hat with a flipped-up bill. Simple, eye-catching, and most importantly, it really gives the listener no clue as to what this band is all about, which I actually prefer when going into hardcore records. Now, let’s talk about the record itself. Hardcore punk, fast and angry. Overall, pretty good. Some of the songs may be a bit too long for my liking when it comes to bands like this, but that’s personal preference. I think with a bit of spit and polish recording-wise, this could have been a pretty good-sounding record. Parts of it just don’t sound as good as they could, but all in all, a pretty decent outing. Even the last song with the ska parts didn’t bother me.

Blue Ricky (BR) LP

Pop punk stuff that has a bit more grime to it than others of this genre. If you’re a fan of ANGRY SAMOANS or the more punk, less bubblegum QUEERS stuff, this would be right up your alley. The cover art GERMS homage is cool, but it could be a potential deterrent for those who are quick to judge a book by its cover. Which would be a shame, because this is a pretty good record.

Surface Waves The Phantom Centre CD

Five songs that have a vibe like ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT minus the horns, meets SMUGGLERS at a TURBONEGRO show. Really well-done rock’n’roll-tinged punk. This stuff is really hit-or-miss a lot of the time, as it’s either a really bad rehash of something from decades before or really fresh sounding. Luckily, this falls in the latter category, and while it does have the feel of the aforementioned bands, it is something all its own.

New Dawn The Wicked Shall Not Rule 12″

Something tells me that between them, the members of NEW DAWN own every pressing of every record Porcell played on—even the YOUNG REPUBLICANS 7”. I kid (well, about the YOUNG REPUBLICANS record, at least). Seriously though, there’s some heavy YOUTH OF TODAY/JUDGE influence here. While they may not be breaking any new ground with their sound, it’s not stale by any means, and being that they only give the listener seven songs here, it’s over before it gets the chance to dry up.

What Me Worry? Friendly EP

On the second outing from Tampa, Florida’s WHAT ME WORRY?, they offer up two originals and a PAVEMENT cover. The cover is cool, but where the band shines is its other two offerings. “I Wanna Party With Bob?” is a friendly jab at the drummer of TILTWHEEL, who also hosts his own podcast called I Wanna Party With Bob. “Eckeled!” is the story of a houseguest overstaying their welcome. Fans of TOO MANY DAVES will find this very similar as the two bands share members, although I’d consider this more toned-down and less full-on party than the DAVES.

Iron Guts Kelly Good Luck, Get Fucked LP

Melodic hardcore punk that kinda runs the gamut of sounds. There’s elements of a little bit of everything here. The singer sounds like a mash-up of SICK OF IT ALL’s Lou Koller and RANCID’s Matt Freeman. This isn’t bad, and there’s definitely an audience for this kinda stuff for sure. That said, it’s not something I could see myself reaching to put on more than once or twice. Probably could have done without the OPERATION IVY cover…but that’s just me.

Spark Supernova LP

Hardcore that harkens back to the youth crew revival sound that was so prevalent around the start of the new millennium. Pretty decent stuff as far as sounding like more than just a rehash of what has come before. Lyrics are more on the personal and introspective tip than just singing about straightedge, which a lot of these types are guilty of. These kids may be straightedge, but they’re not throwing it in your face, which is welcomed. Solid effort here.

Compilations Powerless 12″

A four-song project that features a different guest vocalist for each song. The songs are very ’90s Southern California-inspired, along the lines of the stuff that was coming out on Dr. Strange in the mid-’90s. In fact, two of the songs feature vocals from Ken Conte of IMPLANTS/BROWN LOBSTER TANK and Jeff Caudill of GAMEFACE, both of whom released records on Dr. Strange. The other two feature vocals by Francis Garcia of POP UNKNOWN/FOURTH GRADE NOTHING and Robby Cronholm of TAXES/CRUMB, and Stella Maxwell of CRUISERWEIGHT, respectively. Three of the songs are original compositions. The fourth is a TOM PETTY cover. All in all, it’s a neat idea, and if you are a fan of any of the vocalists that appear on this record, you’d definitely wanna give it a listen, although I’m not sure how often one would go back for repeat listens.

The Kutoffs / Rath & the Wise Guys DCxPC LivePresents, Vol. 10 EP

RATH & THE WISE GUYS deliver three songs of high-energy, dirty rock’n’roll-tinged pop punk that brings to mind kindred spirits like NOBODYS, DWARVES, and even a little bit of ZEKE. KUTOFFS have a more straightforward poppy skate punk style, complete with the good ol’ “ooh”s and “ahh”s and start/stop breaks that are popular in that style of stuff. Both bands are pleasant enough, albeit not without faults, but it’s a live recording so I can’t hold it against them. This has piqued my interest enough to seek out studio recordings from both bands, so I suppose in that respect this split has done its job.

Red Die Number Nine American Dream CD

Lyrics that range from political, personal, and social, set to a musical background that is equal parts melodic hardcore, ’80s beach punk, and alternative rock. Vocally, the singer reminds me a bit of Kevin Seconds, a bit of Jeff Pezzati, a bit of Joey Vindictive, all blended together. I don’t know how I feel about this, really. At times it grabs me, but then it just kinda falls flat. This is a “give it a couple more spins” for me before I can truly make a definite verdict on my feelings about this one.

Full Stride Demo 2022 cassette

Youth crew-ish hardcore complete with the good ol’ gang vocals peppered in here and there. Songs range from fast to mid-tempo and there’s definite heart here, not to mention potential. The thing that kinda turns me off, while at the same time endearing this to me (I know that’s a mind-bender), is the recording quality. For the last handful of years, every time I’ve heard a “demo,” it’s sounded album-quality. This actually sounds like a demo. Like, you can tell the songs are good and with a bit more hammering and polish they could be great, but the recording doesn’t do them any favors. You know what I mean? Don’t get me wrong, though! This is exactly what a “demo” should sound like. Like, why would you go to a fancy studio and record some polished, album-quality recording of four songs to put on a tape that you made 50 copies of or put up as a free download? Fuck that. This is the proper use of the term “demo” and I am for it!

Weak A Guide to Adult Despair LP

This band should be on Fat. Like seriously. I’m not even joking. Why are they not already? Somebody send this to the right people, and if this “review” is the catalyst of that actually happening, I’d like a finders fee. Thank you.

Restos Fósiles Transparente LP

Slick, catchy, melodic emo punk from Buenos Aires that immediately reminded me a little of TUESDAY or something of that ilk. A bit more clean and pretty than I prefer, but there’s something about this that makes me want to listen more. I can’t tell if it’s because I slightly enjoy it, or if it’s because it reminds me of something specific and it’s bothering me that I can’t figure it out.

Cinderblock Breathe the Fire LP

CINDERBLOCK was an early ’90s hardcore band from Buffalo, NY whose members would go on to bands like EARTH CRISIS, SNAPCASE, TERROR, etc. Unlike the more metallic sounds of those bands, this collection of songs is much more melodic-leaning. These songs were originally written back in the early ’90s but recorded fairly recently, giving a fresh outlook to a throwback sound. I find myself going back for repeated listens, although I could see this not appealing to everyone.

Discomfort Creature Discomfort Creature LP

Melodic punk that kinda sounds like GREEN DAY, if they made a hard right at the fork in the road that led them down the rock opera path at the left. Cementing this opinion is the fact that the singer sounds so eerily similar to Billie Joe, both vocally and in the way some of the vocals are structured, that I had to make sure my headphones were plugged in to the right thing. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, this is a really great record. A very catchy, fun listen. Kinda like a more matured take on the pop punk sound.

I Recover Promo Tape cassette

Two songs from a forthcoming release, I guess. Melodic punk with emo tendencies. There’s a lot of spoken vocal parts. Like a lot. On both songs. I don’t know about that. Does that mean they do this on every song? Because that could get old pretty quick. Aside from that, it’s not bad. I don’t know if the two songs on this tape would make me want to get a whole album, but if they threw two more on a 7”, I could see myself getting down with that.

City Saints Punk & Roll CD

Slick-sounding, upbeat, almost poppy street punk, with songs sung in both English and Swedish. I would throw this in a “street punk starter pack” for anyone who was interested in the genre but maybe didn’t know where to start, as a way to ease into it.

Postage LP2 LP

I enjoy this record more than their previous LP, which I also liked. This one has much more of a raw, dirty, and desperate sound than the last one, which I find much more to my liking personally. Sonically, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Plan-It-X stuff, if those bands used electricity and turned up the volume and distortion. I’m not sure what they did differently this time around, but keep it up!

Iron Chic / Ways Away split 7″

It’s been a while since there’s been a new IRON CHIC track and this one does not disappoint. It’s a mid-tempo melodic masterpiece and everything one would expect from these Long Island punkers. WAYS AWAY offers up a track that is a great companion to the track on the other side. Melodic, bouncy, catchy. Good split all around. My only gripe would be that it’s a split single. Personally, I would have liked to have heard one more song from each band.


Martha Please Don’t Take Me Back LP

Melodic, catchy, and fun. There’s something familiar and warm about this album, like an old friend. I’ve enjoyed their past releases, but for whatever reason this one really strikes a chord with me. If you’re already a fan then you won’t be disappointed, and if you’re new to this UK band, you’re in for a treat if you enjoy well-crafted, toe-tappin’ indie/punk songs.

Strychnine Ninety Nine Divided CD

This definitely has ’80s Orange County vibes all over it. In fact, the singer kinda sounds like a mix of Casey Royer from D.I. and Stevo from the VANDALS. I dig it, but I also get the feeling that if the vocals were different, my feelings towards this would be different as well.

P​ö​ls Instinto LP

This album starts with an instrumental track and then kicks into high gear with a pretty good blend of punk, hardcore, and a dash of emo for good measure. The vocalist has a sugary-sweet voice that compliments the music quite nicely, but it’s the backup vocalist(s) that really adds that extra something special that hooks me.

What A Waste Demo 2022 cassette

Four songs here. Hardcore punk that has potential to be pretty good if given the chance to polish up the diamond in the coal here. Sound-wise, it definitely has some of the pitfalls implied given that this is a demo. Everything, while played well, sounds like it was recorded in a home studio with no options of layering vocals or guitars to give the songs a fuller sound or a decent mix. With that said, this is only a demo after all, and one is to expect such things. While I’m looking forward to hearing a future release from this band, it is quite refreshing to hear a demo that, in fact, sounds like a demo!

Going Off Destroy EP

Hardcore that’s short, kinda metal-ish, and somewhat directionless. What I mean by that is that there are a handful of songs here that just kind of end right when they seem like they should kick in to where the song really gets going. There are breakdowns in odd places. I don’t know, man—the whole thing sounds like a bunch of unfinished INTEGRITY songs to me.

Kill Your Idols / Rule Them All split EP

I have been aware of KILL YOUR IDOLS for a long time and have a handful of their past releases—in fact, they all happen to be splits. I always enjoyed the other bands on those a bit more, but that is not the case here. The KILL YOUR IDOLS songs are just a bit more up my alley this time around. I do find it a bit ironic that their song “Simple, Short, and Fast” clocks in at over three minutes. This is my first time hearing RULE THEM ALL, and i don’t know, man. It sounds like H20 on Quaaludes. It’s not bad, but it seems like it should be faster and the vocals seem subdued. I’d definitely give them another shot though, because like I said, it’s not bad…just might be one of those “takes a minute to grow on you” deals.

Addenda Or​ò​dic LP

Another album that opens with an interesting instrumental and then tears right into some melodic hardcore. The vocals are a little more higher-pitched than I would have expected and there are some interesting chord changes here and there, and just when I think a song might be running the risk of becoming too long…it’s over. They even managed to slide in a couple more instrumentals and a grindcore-ish song and it all flows really well. Well done!

Chimes of Bayonets / Personal Style split 7″

One song from each band here. CHIMES OF BAYONETS have a sound reminiscent of something like a harder-edged Midwestern “emo” band, perhaps. PERSONAL STYLE’s contribution sounds like a mix of ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT without the horns and SUPERCHUNK, but like…tougher. Both bands have their moments here that have me on the fence of wanting to hear a bit more, but ultimately those moments aren’t enough to get me off of that fence. Perhaps if there were one more song from each band on this release I could have been swayed, but unfortunately this was not the case.

Mechanical Canine Walls Covered in Mildew CD

This album starts out with a pretty boring guy singing over an acoustic guitar part, which had me doing the ol’ eye roll/groan combo, but then the rest of the band kicked in. From there it got better…thankfully. This is pretty catchy. There’s a lot going on musically, like synthesizers and such. I don’t know what to say about this. I don’t hate it. Like at all. I just can’t see myself listening to this. It’s like a punk version of the RENTALS or something, I guess. The singer kinda sounds a little like a mix of both Jon Ginoli from PANSY DIVISION and John K. Samson from WEAKERTHANS to me. Not really my bag. Seems like something young kids would go apeshit to at shows. Like twenty years ago, I would have probably gone to see this band because a girl I liked was into it. I probably would have had a good time, too. Now though, it seems like something I’d be annoyed by. What with people having fun and such.

Irish Handcuffs Transitions LP

Catchy melodic punk from Germany with personal lyrics about love, loss, and life, melding different aspects of bands like SAMIAM, NO USE FOR A NAME, and ALKALINE TRIO into a nice package that is totally their own. I’m of the firm belief that everything has been done to death, so to hear a band like this that doesn’t make me write it off as a carbon copy of something from a bygone era and make me reach for the original is refreshing. Well done.

Leatherface Cherry Knowle LP reissue

Full disclosure here, I love this band. Now, that said, I do not particularly love this album. It was, in fact, the first LEATHERFACE album I heard, and as such it will always have a certain place in my heart, but for me it’s probably somewhere in the middle as far as my personal rankings of their albums go. That’s not to say that it’s not a strong album. In fact, as my gateway to the band, it was strong enough to make me go see them several times, which then led to my eventual love of the band. Song-wise, there are some great ones here. I think it was initially the production of the album that didn’t win me over immediately, but now it’s endearing. I’m glad that it’s finally been reissued, as it is a great record, and the only one I actually no longer have a copy of. Pretty sure it sold out fairly quickly though, so it’s off to the internet I go to find a copy for a ridiculous price!!!!!

Lawsuit Models Unknown Ghosts LP

Mature pop punk? Is that a thing? Like, you can tell this band grew up listening to bands that fell under the umbrella of pop punk for sure, but there’s also some actual elements of something other than three-chord RAMONES-worship. There’s parts that kinda have that DESCENDENTS/ALL/HAGFISH vibe at times. At other times, I am catching ATARIS vibes. I don’t really know how to describe it other than a “radio-friendly” aspect. I suppose that’s not really an accurate term anymore, but I do believe it to be a fair description.

Berthold City When Words Are Not Enough LP

I’ve been following this band since early on in their career and own both of their EPs, so I was beyond stoked when an LP was announced—as hoped, it does not disappoint. Angry, fast, no-frills, classic straightedge hardcore that will always stand the rest of time. Unlike some bands that attempt this style, BERTHOLD CITY fucking nails it. A lot of the time, bands in this style overdo it with the gang vocals, or for whatever reason get overly metal with the guitars. None of that here, though. The gang vocals are inserted in the perfect places and there’s no hint of metal guitar parts anywhere! To me this is a near perfect hardcore record that, if I did one, would certainly be near the top of my year-end top ten list. This record fucking rips. My only gripe would be that the first run of vinyl sold out before I could grab a copy.

Kirkby Kiss It’s Gonna Cost You LP

I don’t know what’s going on here. Musically, this starts out as some decent post-hardcore-type stuff in line with Dead Reckoning-era SMALL BROWN BIKE with effects pedals, but when the vocals kick in, it’s wild. Like hardcore-as-fuck wild. Then a few songs later, it goes full-on DISCHARGE/HOLY MOUNTAIN, followed up by a song with spoken vocals that reminds me of some early ’90s Ebullition/DC-type vibe. This record is kinda all over the place while staying in a specific lane the whole time. It’s something that I could find myself revisiting on occasion, but not a lot.

Pet Mosquito The Plaza Records Sessions Vol. 1 CD

Lo-fi, fuzzed-out garage-y punk-y stuff. While this type of thing is cool on record, the recordings don’t usually do it justice, and these types of bands benefit from the live setting where the wild energy that always seems toned-down on records can shine. I feel like this is the same situation, and I bet they kill it live.

Today is Tomorrow Second Guest CD

There’s something about this that just doesn’t sit right with me. It just doesn’t hit right. It kinda sounds like a demo recording, but at the same time it doesn’t, if that makes any sense. It just sounds kinda hollow, I guess. As for the band themselves, the sound is very reminiscent of that wave of pseudo pop punk/”emo” that was big on Warped Tour a couple decades ago. At its core, it’s kinda punk, but in a loose “dudes covering radio ‘punk’ hits at a bar” kinda way. One song stuck out to me, though: “Parking Ticket” had something that sounded familiar to it and I couldn’t place it. Then it struck me. It kinda sounded like if Matt from SQUIRTGUN sang for HOT WATER MUSIC. There is a part that repeats through the song that is literally a part from a HOT WATER MUSIC song. Honestly, I think if the sound was a bit thicker I’d be more apt to give this a bit more of a chance. Maybe next time.

Man Dead Set Too Early to Be Late LP

The cover art is what really struck me here. At first glance, it resembles an old ROLLINS BAND cover. It would definitely pique my interest if I found this in a bin at any record store. On to the album itself: what we have here are ten relatively short, fast hardcore punk songs that are over before they become stale. Most stay under the two-minute mark, which is good, although there are two that go over that mark and while I personally prefer my hardcore songs to stay under one minute, it’s not unbearable, and is hardly noticeable when listening as the songs flow nicely. If you’re like me and constantly looking for something to pull you away from the old faithfuls, give this a spin.

The Soviettes LP LP reissue

A reissue of the SOVIETTES’ first LP from 2003. For those unfamiliar, the SOVIETTES were a band from Minneapolis that played what could be described as pop punk with tons of harmonies, and everybody sang. I like to think of them as something similar to the BANGLES-meets-DILLINGER FOUR. They released two albums on Adeline (this one and LP II) and one on Fat before calling it a day. I was a big fan, and was able to catch them once while they were still active and once during their reunion run, and I am beyond excited that this record was finally reissued on vinyl. The fine folks at Dead Broke and Rad Girlfriend have done a stellar job with this reissue. It looks and sounds great!!!!

The Flatliners New Ruin CD

OK. Full disclosure, I spent years actively avoiding this band. Like I’m talking about not listening to any of their records, hanging out at the bar or outside smoking if they were playing a show I was at, etc., all under the assumption that somewhere I had heard they were a ska punk band. Ha ha ha. What an asshole. Guess I learned my lesson, because that couldn’t be any further from the truth, on this offering at least. Instead, what we have is something similar to singer Chris Crestwell’s other band, HOT WATER MUSIC, at least in some of the ways the backups are presented and some of the melodies. I have been listening to this like every other day. It’s really good, surprisingly so. The one thing that did take a bit of getting used to for me right off the bat though was Crestwell’s vocals. Upon the first few listens, I couldn’t shake the idea that they sounded like a mixture of Chris Wollard, Geddy Lee, and the dude from MATCHBOX 20. It bugged me for a bit, but I actually dig his voice. I find myself enjoying this more and more upon each listen. Maybe next time they’re in town I’ll actually make a point of watching them!

These Roving Years These Roving Years CD

Mid-tempo punk with positive lyrics about not giving up and standing up for each other and such. It’s catchy enough for me to have found myself bobbing my head a bit, and if this was on in the background while doing something else my foot would be tapping for sure. The thing here for me was the lyrical content. While I enjoy positive, uplifting lyrics, this came off like a punk rock version of motivational speaking to me, and that kinda turned me off a bit. Like I’m not sure if it was the singer or the simplistic lyrical style, but it just kinda seemed hokey. I suppose there are worse things than having a positive outlook on life, though…I guess.

Grave Return / The Hamiltons DCxPC Presents, Volume 6 EP

Two songs each recorded live at The Danger Room in Orlando, FL. The concept of this series is very similar to the V.M.L. live series that was seemingly endless in the mid-to-late ’90s. In theory this is a cool concept, but as someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy live recordings, I’m not sure I’d pick this up unless I was a massive fan of the bands featured. As a collector’s piece though, this is limited to 150 copies and a nice document of a certain scene at a certain time and place, so that wins extra points with me for sure. The bands? GRAVE RETURN has a darker pop punk’n’roll sound; the HAMILTONS are “RAMONES-core.”

The Adamseed Dancing With Urban Folk Devils CD

This album starts out with some weird noise intro, then launches into some fairly bland rock music. For some reason, I’m compelled to compare this to something akin to SHELTER ditching hardcore in favor of becoming a generic alterna-rock band. Not my particular cup of tea, but I would offer one piece of advice to the folks in ADAMSEED: the internet can be your friend. Use it to your advantage. When searching for any info on this band, it turns out they have zero internet presence, at least as far as I could tell.

The Grabowskis DOXA LP

German punk with an early Fat Wreck vibe. Mostly sung in German with a few songs sung in English, including a song called “Dinosaur” that may be about an old fool or an actual dinosaur. Another song that is sung in English is “The Knight of the Night,” which has definite nods to IRON MAIDEN. All in all, a solid album and definitely worth a spin or two.

Florida Men Florida Men CD

These Dutch fellers make no bones about wearing their influences on their sleeves here. Pop punk in the vein of SCREECHING WEASEL, LILLINGTONS, etc. played with full-on sincerity and it shows. A lot of times I feel like this type of stuff misses the mark, but this hits it dead on. The homage to the weasel logo on the cover is a nice touch, and made me chuckle.

Ristrikt We Are All Just Human LP

Hardcore punk from Edmonton, Alberta that features members of SNFU and DAYGLO ABORTIONS. The “members of” tag is a bit of a “gotcha” to sell a couple more records, although I believe that by using that, it may actually hurt more than help. RISTRIKT has more in common with modern hardcore/punk than the old school sounds of the aforementioned bands, and I think that this record is strong enough to stand on its own rather than with the crutch of a “members of” line.

Frente Norte Ardiendo LP

If you were to pick up this record on cover art alone you’d assume that it was some kind of metal band and, well…you’d be wrong. Like way off. There’s a lot to unpack here. The vocals are gruff, but musically, this is kinda poppy but very simple-sounding; I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. It’s kind of all over the place musically and the vocals shouldn’t work with what’s going on here, but for some reason they do, and they are the biggest reason that I like this. The lyrics are sung in Spanish, which I think adds to the charm here. If they were sung in English, I think it would lose something. I think this record will be seeing a lot of time on the turntable around here.

Zooparty Skylten EP

Punk from Sweden that has a pop-punk-meets-street-punk feel. Kinda like if DAN VAPID sang for SWINGIN’ UTTERS at times, or something along those lines. These four songs have me tapping my foot and bobbing my head and looking forward to seeing what’s next.

Restraining Order / Warfare split EP

Two songs of short, fast hardcore/punk from each band here. Both bands play a style of music that is not easily pinned down. Is it hardcore? Yeah, but there’s also heavy street punk influences as well. I mean, hell, RESTRAINING ORDER’s song “Undercover Cop” almost sounds like it could have been a pre-Do or Die DROPKICK MURPHYS song. There’s definitely a little something for everyone here.

The Pagans of Northumberland The Pagans of Northumberland LP

Apparently there is someone who was (or may currently be) in CHIXDIGGIT in this band, which I find…interesting. Anyhow, the PAGANS lean heavy on a DROPKICK MURPHYS/RANCID influence. In fact, so much so that it kinda sounds like what I imagine a collaboration between the two would sound like if you let Matt and some of the MURPHYS handle vocals and sing songs about football. I usually tend to leave this type of stuff where it lies, but there’s something about this that is genuine and doesn’t come off as hokey, rehashed bullshit like so many of these types of bands do.

The Sad Tomorrows The Sad Tomorrows cassette

The SAD TOMORROWS are made up of members of several of the Garden State’s finest purveyors of punk. Much like in the members’ other bands, they have managed to churn out four finely written tunes—these are decidedly more pop-leaning, yet still have a kick to them. Unfortunately this is a one-time pressing, limited to 100 copies. Fortunately, dear reader, as we live in the information age, if you miss out on a physical copy, you can still enjoy these tunes via modern means.

Last Point A Broken Road CD

I’m fairly positive I reviewed the last album from this band, and well…they haven’t strayed at all from the sound of their last offering, proving that if you find something that you’re proficient at, why change anything? They nail the early Fat Wreck sound almost to a fault. Again though, this isn’t really my cup of tea and that’s cool. To me, this style just kinda sounds dated, but that’s not to say that there aren’t fans of this stuff who would eat this up, it’s just not me.

Protospasm Unreachable Summit LP

These Aussies have given unto the world an album that is equal parts well-written hardcore punk and slick-as-hell rock’n’roll riffage. Somewhat reminds me of L.A.’s SWEAT a bit, but with RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS/TURBONEGRO-ish riffs.

V/A Bonded as One, Volume 1 2xLP

Running the gamut of styles, mostly made up of melodic punk bands with some street punk, hardcore, and ska-punk peppered in here and there. This compilation is ambitious in its attempt, and the fact that this is “Volume 1” means that, in theory at least, the folks at Dead At Zero have plans for future volumes. While there’s not really a bad song in the bunch, perhaps they could have trimmed this down to the best of the best, made this an LP’s worth of songs/bands, and saved the other LP’s worth of material for a potential “Volume 2.” Not a bad first outing here. Definitely would recommend to anyone who grew up on the Punk-O-Rama and Fat Wreck comps, as this definitely has the same feel. There are a handful of well-known bands on here, although I’m not sure if any of this stuff is unreleased as there is really no info other than track listings. Additionally, when trying to get a bit more info on this thing, I scoured the internet and could only find an Instagram page, but no ordering info. So good luck with that.

Gentlemen Rogues Francy / I’ve Got a Match 7″

The latest single from GENTLEMEN ROGUES picks right back up from where their last 7” left off. Great, catchy, sugary sweet power pop that wouldn’t be out of place next to your SUPERDRAG and BOB MOULD/SUGAR records. Highly recommended to anyone who digs the aforementioned bands, or cruising with the windows down on a late spring day. Fingers crossed that there’s a full-length in the works.

2¢ Worth Living the 2¢ Life: 1997–2007 LP

So, this is an anthology of a decade’s worth of songs from this Las Vegas band. The problem with this is that there have apparently been multiple lineups of this band, and it’s a noticeable difference. On one hand, you have a band that sounds fun and vibrant and very much a punk band, on the other you have a band that is more akin to late ’90s/early ’00s alternative rock. The difference between the differing lineups is almost night and day, and perhaps the “punker” lineup and the “alterna-rock” lineup should have been separated by A-side and B-side so that the listener could literally choose a side.

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.

Melt Citizen 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.